Sunday, July 31, 2016

In Which I Rescue A Bat

     0915.  "Slumberland?"  Hah.  Slumberland has a landscape -- well, dreamscape.  There's stuff there, albeit occasionally terrifying and sometimes in black-and-white.  Where I was, there was nothing, a nothing somehow pure, soft, fuzzy, egoless black.  I was out.  O-U-T.  Something made a sound and suddenly I wasn't.

     Sound, beeping...beeping, phone.  The phone!  I opened my eyes, rolled on my side and scrabbled for it, fumbling as much with the concept of grasping as with the actual grasping.

     "Bobbi?  This is your neighbor."  The Democrat.  "There's a bat in my bathtub.  And I think another one is dead under a bucket.  Can you come over and get them?  I have another person I can call, but he'll probably kill it.  I know you won't."
     "Okay,  but it'll take a little while.  I was asleep."

     Fifteen minutes later, clothed, hair more-or-less brushed, clutching leather work gloves and a used flattish Express Mail cardboard box that I had opened and collapsed, I was at her front door.   She led me into her washroom, where a dark-brown towel was crumpled in the tub.  I held it up and checked both sides.  No bat?  No bat.

     Over the course of the next ten minutes, I checked every narrow, dark location in that tiny room that might appeal to a bat, and a few that weren't all that dark, in case the bat was desperate.  Nothing.

     "I'm not finding the bat."
     "It was in the tub.  The cats had been chasing it."
     She has between five and seven cats (and a half-dozen big and well-maintained litterboxes in the basement).  They've never hurt a bat but they deem them to be excellent toys.  A bat that has run the Democrat's cat-gauntlet is usually too exhausted to do anything but crawl to a safe spot and hang on.  A safe spot like a dark-brown towel.

     I picked up the towel again and gave it a good flap.  A small, dark-brown bat landed on floor next to the tub and clicked at me.  It looked like an angry version of the Batman logo.  I got a plastic tub over it and tried to get the flattened box underneath.  Nothing doing.  The bat was hanging onto the floor for dear life.  So I tossed the plastic tub to one side and opened the box just a little at the end nearest the bat, while keeping the far end pinched shut: a bat-friendly space, narrow and dark.  The bat thought this was a Very Good Idea and crawled inside.*

     "[Neighbor], I've got the bat!  Open the door."  She did, and with the cats following interestedly, we made a procession to the front door, where I shook the bat out into a Boston fern hanging in shade under her porch roof.  It crept into the stems and laid there, sides heaving.

     We went back for the possible other bat, but never found it.  She had thrown a jacket over it, and a plastic pail over that.  I went through the jacket three times without finding a bat, and it wasn't clinging to the inside of the pail, either.  She admitted it might have been the same bat, and given that the pail had only covered a little of the jacket, a bat could have sneaked out, especially if it was trying to escape cats.

     When I left (after spending some time with her and her cats), the Boston fern no longer held a bat.  It had fluttered off, we hoped to to safety.

     This is the second or third time I have rescued a bat at her house.  Remember, they eat skeeters!  Any creature that gets rid of mosquitoes is worth keeping around, in my opinion.
* I got a good look at the bat during this process and it had a normal dark nose.  White-nose syndrome has become a problem in Indiana, especially further south.  I think it's more common among cave-dwelling bats, some kind of fungus.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


     After a long day, I slept, got up to feed the cats...and went back to bed as soon as they were done.  Up now, but I want to make a donut run.

     Here's an abandoned Cold War bunker in Scotland to keep you entertained!

Friday, July 29, 2016

"Vote For Me Because I Have Breasts!"

     That seems to be Secretary Clinton's thesis after having had her selection confirmed as the Democrat nominee for the Presidency.

     As reasons go, I think it's slightly worse than "Vote for me, I have no filter and I have made a lot of money."*  Maybe a lot worse, since she's asking voters to vote so she can make a record, like being the first woman to climb Everest or trek to the sources of the Nile. Valentine Tereshkova and Sally Ride were inevitable; however, the inevitability was not theirs but their role.  Likewise, some day the U. S. will have a woman as President.  She does not necessarily have to be Hillary Clinton.

     Indeed not.
* "Vote for me, I'm good on trade and I have been a Governor," is looking better and better, if you ask me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Do What With What?

     My basic trade is electronics, learned in an age when analog was king and transistors were suitable for low-power, portable devices and while a few -- a very few! -- clever designers might be able to coax enough fidelity out of 'em for professional applications, if you needed real power, more than a Watt or two, you used tubes.  Professional equipment took at least two people to lift.

     It was a time when workbenches were kept clear -- clear-ish, anyway -- and big 75 Watt soldering irons hummed in their rests while analog volt-ohmmeters kept watch.  When we did mechanical work, it was drilling or punching a few holes in a metal chassis to clear sockets and transformers, potentiometers and pilot lights.  "Digital" was safely off in the exotic realm of computers, where conservatively-suited IBM techs swapped out module-loads of tiny tubes or simple semiconductors, while punched paper tape or Hollerith cards told the equipment what to do.

     Chassis gave way to circuit boards and an Engineering shop that built gadgets from scratch made space to set up an etchant tank (oh, okay, a glass baking dish under a heat lamp, if you insist on accuracy) and counted themselves among the elite -- and the elite's elite added another tank for tinplating the copper of the finished board.  Transistors shrank, got faster, FETs showed up, and all of a sudden a few dozen transistors on a single slab of silicon formed a whole building-block -- an analog amplifier or a digital circuit smaller than a stick of gum.  Parts kept getting smaller and smaller and by the time surface-mount components came along, you needed special equipment to do much work at the component level.

     But through it all, it was largely a shirtsleeves pursuit, done mostly at tabletop scale.  These days, a lot of it is done on a computer, configuring and provisioning very clever boxes for their particular task.  Good, honest, clean work.

     So why do I have a "tools for work" list on the Roseholme Cottage dry-erase board reading, "string, level, 25-foot measuring tape," why am I glad I have an extra pair of work gloves, why am I wondering if I might want decent boots today instead of my hiking sandals and why, oh why, am I contemplating spending most of the day working in a lift about 15 feet above the floor?

     Just lucky, I guess.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Busy, Busy

     I'd post more if I could. 

     For now, if you don't like what you hear on NPR news, why not try rearranging it?  "Don't Play With Your News" is an art/game website that lets you assemble newscast snippets (choose your anchor) and then play them back.  Fascinating.

     This software uses a remarkably intuitive user interface that would make editing spoken-word programs a snap.  It relies on good speech-to-text software, which is only getting better.  It's a toy now, but you're looking at the future.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Claire Wolfe Could Use Your Help

     Claire's moving.  Backwoods Home stopped paying their bloggers -- it's a return on investment thing, they're not a charity -- and she's working on a new blog.  And on propping up her house.  Might as well lend a hand -- you know it's going to a good cause!

All Systems Of Government Fail; Some Fail Uglier Than Others

     Venezuela is just the latest proof: socialism doesn't make the poor -- it makes them poorer.

     Think it through: if nobody has hardly anything and a government comes along to redistribute it, while siphoning off even a little bit to pay the redistributors, what's left to hand back out?  Less.  Whereas if people were left to get on with taking in one another's laundry, babysitting, swapping excess green beans for a  set of spark plugs and so on, they'd at least stay even and, given external input in such minimal form as repairs that take only skill, free-range eggs* and wild-gathered fruits and vegetables (etc., etc.), might make some upward progress.

     ...Mind you, throw a bank in there operating under modern U. S. regs, which all but bar them from taking a very long view, and they'd make a mess of things, too.  And there's another lesson in that.
* Supposedly, at least where there is forage, this can result in a significant reduction in feeding costs.  This works if you have a low-density population of hens for their ranging area -- and there's something there for them to eat.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Shooting Zen

     You know why I work to shoot well?  So I won't have to.  --Not exactly true, but  the better you shoot, the more likely you are to want to avoid having to shoot someone.  If you want highfalutin' self-defense philosophizing, there you are.

     Tam posted a video recently of some goofy "tactical training" for beginning shooters, complete with quickdraw exercises and a shooting posture that involved getting up on tiptoe.  Meanwhile, many of the novice shooters were leaning back, holding the firearm loosely or without enough hand wrapped around the grip, and making similar uncorrected mistakes.  But the beginners sure had the jerky faux tai chi moves down cold!

     Don't be like them.  At the very beginning, you will be sitting at a table, with the instructor pointing at drawings and/or handing around a plastic model, explaining the controls and operating function; later, you will practice loading and unloading with inert plastic "cartridges."  Learn these basics!  You may find it dull but it is background you must have.

     Eventually, you'll go out on the range to actually shoot.  It's not really that hard.  Keep the muzzle pointed downrange and concentrate, again, on basics.
Fifty rounds of .22 at 21 feet from a Ruger Mk. III with a Millet red dot sight. Four or five in the ten ring.  All the rest in the X ring.  If you have fair eysight and motor control, you can do this -- probably better.
     Plant your feet, fairly wide but comfortably.  Bend your knees -- and lean forward.  Not so far you go off balance, but you're basically hurling pebbles very, very fast, so lean into it, for pity's sake!  Get a good hold with both hands wrapped around the grip, not some of the silly holds you see on TV.  You can look this up online but your dominant hand grabs the grip, your other hand grabs from the other side and wraps the gun and the first hand.  Both thumbs end up on the side away from your trigger finger.  If there's any grip showing between your hands, that's probably a sign you haven't quite got it.

     Getting your grip and stance right is the instructor's job. Keeping you mindful of safety is the instructor's job too.   Close-order dance drill with blue plastic guns?  Not so much.  It looks kewl on YouTube but you know what looks better?  This.
This target was shot 54 times from 21 feet away using an H&R "Sportsman" top-break, double-action revolver and iron sights.  The trigger pull is long and not silky-smooth; the sights are just plain flat black.  It's not as close a grouping as the one above -- there's even one in the 9 ring! -- but it's a lot more challenging a gun to shoot accurately.  This is not supergood shooting: it's adequate shooting.
     Pay attention, know the basics, practice, and you'll be able to do this years quicker than I did.  I started out with very little good instruction and it took time to unlearn what I'd got wrong.  Don't do that -- and look out for fast-talkers selling "gunjitsu" and their very own sooper-special holsters and Secret Techniques.  There are only two secrets: fully grokking the basics and practice, practice, practice.

     Oh, and as for "gun-fu?"  Those targets were shot at a rate of about one round per second.  Do that, consistently, and you can start thinking about draw speed and/or the "action" type shooting competitions.  (I figure if I can get my centerfire skills back to this level, I might be able to shoot bowling pin competitions again.) Just get a solid grasp of the basics first.  Don't be sold a fancy bill of goods.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


     The Data Viking visited!  He and Tam and I had breakfast and then hit the range.  He brought three of the nicest old S&Ws I have seen in a long time.  It was a good day.

You Know What Ends Republics?

     Caesarism, that's what ends republics.  If you don't trust the Romans, ask the French; they've had republics get whacked from within and without by Great Leaders.

     Just an idle thought.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yes! Fire 7 HD Supports Text Editing!

     I had hoped my first Kindle Fire might be as hand for writing as it was for reading, but somehow forgot to check again after it turned out the early subset of Android software for it didn't include a text editor.

     There are several text editors for the Fire 7 HD -- and it's got Bluetooth.  Which means this:
     Yes, it's paired with the Qwerkywriter keyboard, which was a huge indulgence back when I bought it but is now far, far less so.   Now to find something a little quieter for the road.

     (As an aside, I shorted myself on sleep last week.  Perhaps worse than I realized.  Slept in today, Tam and I went to the five and dime -- okay, Meijer -- then Twenty Tap for dinner, and I had a nap after we returned home.  Yes, that tired.  Planning to go back to bed pretty soon, too.) 

Friday, July 22, 2016

I Probably Don't Remember How To Work For Sane People

     I'm up to my earlobes in a huge project  -- a huge wrench'n'screwdriver and spending $2k on materiel three times a week project -- that I had kind of hoped to dodge.  And it is merely in support of a far larger (though entirely invisible to the suits up on Management Row) project, which seems to be jumping from vaporware to jackhammering without ever passing through that fiddly measuring tape and blueprints stage.

     All of that on top of ongoing capital projects left from earlier this year, on top of trying to catch up to much-deferred maintenance, on top of trying to repair a minor but critical system that the manufacturer went non-support on five years ago -- and it depends on another gadget that went the same way even earlier!

     --Not that any of that dull old stuff matters because -- shiny!  Can't you hear  the staccato siren song of something new and badly planned?  About the time I'll be able to come up for air on the huge project and the fifty ugly orphan ones it shadows, it'll be panic-fixit time on the actual mess it enables, as the sweeping lack of detail gives way to the hard, cold reality of trying to put 25 pounds of tech into a glitter-covered five-pound plastic purse.

     Once upon a time -- long ago and far away -- I worked at a trade where we put things down on paper in detail and planned and checked and revised and worked it all out just as well as we could before the first bit of framing or conduit was cut and shaped.  None of my co-workers will even pretend that they think such a process ever happened anywhere in our business; they scoff at trade magazine articles describing exactly that process as being a pack of self-serving lies.  They sincerely believe that everyone jumps out of the airplane with a mulberry bush, a couple of caterpillars and a pair of knitting needles, hoping to have a parachute made before impact.

     It may yet drive me plain batty.  Possibly even fancy batty, which is the same thing but with lace antimacassars.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Vice-Presidential Hijinks: Maybe It's A Message?

     If so, it's not one the bosses of the two big Boot On Your Neck parties want to hear.  From Wikipedia, editing mine:

     "Vice Presidential voting has been problematic since the beginning, as [...] it provides for mischief, as was the case in 1972's Democratic Convention where the vote was scattered between 50 'candidates' and 1976 Republican convention, where the vote was also scattered widely. In 1988, both parties decided to have the designated candidate nominated by 'suspending the rules' and declaring him or her nominated by 'acclamation.' The last Vice Presidential roll call vote was at the 1984 Republican convention."

     Yeah, that's right, you got it: delegates to the Party conventions, about as sure a group of sure things as you could find outside of tourists lined up to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, started putting up some fuss and bother over the Veep, an office once described as being "as useful as a pitcher of warm spit on a hot August day,"* kept doing it year after year in both parties, and the response was to...find a workaround. 

     So, they didn't think it was a message, and maybe more than "we're bored," then?  There's your two parties and their concern for responsiveness and democracy: they just want a nice, smooth coronation. 

     Maybe that's a message, too, but hardly anyone notices.
* Probably bowdlerized by the Press, as it was a long time ago, back when we pretended no role model ever, ever swore.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Be Thankful You're Not

     ...Not in my line of work at the GOP convention in Cleveland!  Engineering heard from a News Photographer (videographer)  at the convention yesterday: he'd broken the write-protect tab on one of the (mildly proprietary, they use some sooper-sekrit formatting) memory cards for his camera,* and did we know of any secret way to make the card writeable again?

     Sure we did.  They all involved tools.  There are not a lot of tools inside the secure perimeter and the ones that are on there are closely guarded by the people who cleared them through.  All you need is a solid thing in the "unsafe" position, and that only if the interface is designed to sense write-protection, which is ("Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.") optional.  As far as I know, no memory cards have an actual internal switch; the switch is in the reader.  Yes, the fancy pro gear we use is all about write-protection; nobody wants to record over important material by mistake.

     But if you don't have a penknife, if you don't have a source of hard-plastic scrap (business card material will do, but it's iffy) and cellophane tape, you're done.  The card will not be being written on.  When last heard from, our guy was hoping to find the on-site support from the manufacturer of the equipment (common at big events -- Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Fuji and the specialized battery and lighting makers usually have a tech-support presence), and had moved on to his next memory card, leaving one not five percent full as a problem to be solved later.

     Reaching out to geek peers who I knew were likely to be engineering inside the convention didn't turn up anyone who'd been allowed even a pair of blunt-end scissors inside once the pre-convention setup was complete. For the media, not even cigarette lighters had made it in (as reported by a very annoyed smoker, who was presumably having to bum lights from delegates and political hangers-on).

     The inside of a high-security event is a very strange place -- and that's well before you get to the actual event itself.  I wonder if anyone at the Constitutional Convention back in the 18th Century saw this coming?  It seems unlikely.
* Videotape is dead, dead, dead and we opted for no-moving-parts recording media.  Naturally, the photogs have come up with new ways to break it.  This is not so much a measure of carelessness on their parts as it is of sheer hours on the equipment: you take snapshots on vacation; a serious-amateur still photographer like Tam may shoot an average of five or six pictures in a day; a news photographer will generate three or more hours of video in an average day and the camera will only leave his or her hand while driving, eating or editing.  In the heyday of print journalism, newspaper photographers put similar hours on their still cameras, with similar wear on the equipment.  Photogs working big news events go through film/tape/discs/memory cards at a staggering rate.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I'm Torn...

     Is it "train wreck" or "dumpster fire?"

     Nick Gillespie sets 'em up and knocks 'em down.

     Hey, look -- Whigs!

     Also, why does the convention logo look like the elephant is threatening a small bronosaurus?
     Remember, the Libertarian party is on the ballot in all fifty states, the Greens in 47, and there are lots of other choices.  The two big parties have given us decades of the same old suck and fail.  Let's try something else.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Asymmetrical Ruination

     Police are imperfect.  Humans are imperfect.  And just like everyone else, individual officers vary.  Some are jerks; most are not.  Some aren't very good at police work; most are at least competent.  And just as the jerks and bumblers rely on the respect most people have for the badge and the uniform, the good ones bear the ill-will engendered when things go terribly wrong.

     And when things go wrong?  There are plenty of angry, murderous, warped people out there and some of them are moved to act against police generally.  Violently; Texas and Louisiana are only the most lurid recent examples.

     It's like nuclear fission: Action, reaction, reaction2, reaction3...  If there's a critical mass, it keeps growing.

     Various groups are planning to protest at the RNC in Cleveland, and good for them!  It's the American way: wave signs, yell, try some attention-grabbing stunts, get your face and your cause on the news.  Maybe the suits and bosses will hear you.  Some of the groups -- the Black Panthers and at least one nativist bunch -- say they will be open-carrying, which is as legal in Ohio as church on Sunday; thousands of Buckeyes open carry without problems.  (And generally, the groups that do so as a protest or message have a good grasp of this kind of edgy street theater.)

     Reaction? "'Gov. Kasich [...] could very easily do some kind of executive order or something -- I don't care if it's constitutional or not at this point,' Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, told CNN."  [Emphasis mine]

     Ohio's Governor, aware that he was not elected God-King, has pointed out that such an action is not within his power.

     Threepers have been telling the rest of us for years that a very small minority willing to employ force can effect change.  It turns out that they're right -- and that a lawless few can distort public discourse, public confidence, police attitudes.  (See, there's this about methods and means: they don't have sides.  They're just tools.)

     Violence, violence, action, reaction --  Not a bit of it does a damned thing to address a very real demographic skew in who gets arrested, who gets shot being arrested, and who goes to jail.  I think it's largely economic, but there's no denying the stats.  I think a little of the Black Lives Matter movement is grandstanding at the top and and an excuse for looting at the bottom -- but in between, there are a lot of essentially decent, frustrated people who want things to be better, just like all those decent, hardworking police who are neither saints nor simmers, and who also want things to be better.

     If you could get right down to the core of most of the people who will be protesting in Cleveland, you'd find most of them just want things to be better, too.

     If you could get right down to the core of the bastards shooting at police from hiding?  I'm certain they want things to be worse.

     You want to pick a side?  There's your sides: do you want things to get better, or do you want them to get worse?  As a society, we need to sort that out first; only then can we argue, with means short of fists and brickbats or worse, about what and how.

Sausage Hash?

     Sausage Hash!  I had never seen it before but Hormel's Mary Kitchen brand -- which makes the only canned corned beef hash worth eating -- puts the stuff up in cans and Meijer stores stock it.  I bought it on sight, of course, and this morning, I'm eating it.

     It's pretty darned good.  The sausage is a moderately spicy country-style, not overly greasy.*  It cooks up well and the flavor nicely complements a plain egg cooked on top of it.  I'll be buying more.

     For egg-topped hash, get the hash good and hot, stir it around, then smooth it, push a little depression in it, and crack one or more eggs over it, then cover and cook until the egg is as done as you;d like.  I break the yolk; many people prefer to leave it intact and still liquid, which can be very good.  In a 10" skillet, you get a decent bottom crust with a nice layer of well-cooked hash on top.  If you like it crispier, use a larger skillet and spread it thinner.
* With any canned hash, mind the amount of grease around the edges and if seems excessive, blot it up with a paper towel.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I'm Here, Mike Pence Isn't. Get Used To It

     I'd like to say something witty and trenchant about Indiana's SoCon (but solid on guns and not terrible fiscally) Governor being tapped by Mr. Trump to run for Veep, but frankly--

     Frankly, I don't care.  Mike Pence was going to have a hard fight with his walrus-y opponent, the folksy (if perhaps a bit too much so) John Gregg.  Republicans Todd Rokita (a fairly solid guy on most issues I care about) and Susan Brooks (not bad, though more of an old-money Republican than Rokita) have stepped in to run, both of them dropping out of the re-election races for their seats in the House of Representatives -- and they were pretty much shoo-ins.  Only one will get the GOP nod to run against Gregg, who is already running plenty of campaign ads.  It's hard to see a lot of benefit to Indiana Republicans from Governor Pence's departure.

     So, yeah, I don't much care.  Mike Pence was a stick-in-the-mud SoCon but I believe he was sincere about trying to do the right thing and, with his feet held to the fire, he even backed down a bit over the RIFRA mess.  Representatives Brooks and Rokita were reliably consistent and the latter even showed an occasional streak of economic libertarianism.  I think Mr. Gregg is shoddy at best and perhaps two-faced; I don't trust him.  Overly creative district-mapping may preserve the two House seats for the GOP, but I don't know what the party is going to dig up to put in them and with today's GOP, they could be far worse than what they replace.

     Looks like I'll be voting a straight Libertarian ticket, my first single-party vote in a long time. I'll be looking at the results to see if my votes show up.  And so it goes.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Amazon Good!

     Amazon totally came through on the Fire HD7: the replacement arrived this morning and it is the grown-up version.  My books were already available on it.  Hooray for Amazon!  Their customer service continues to be first-rate. -- please use the link at Tam's.


     Pancetta, queen of all bacon.  Oh, like all royalty, a little goes a long way; the inheritors of Rome's glory do not spare the salt.  It's as ticklish as a Manhattan Project physics experiment to fry, too.  All of that is no matter before the melt in your mouth taste and delicate texture.  It's a rare and wonderful treat and Tam and I had it this morning. 

     That is all.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Must I? France.

     You're probably expecting an essay on the outrage -- the murders -- in France.

     I don't have to.  You don't need to read it.  The dead tell their own story.  The murder weapon tells its own story, too: a rented truck.

     Let that soak in: a rented truck.  The killer had a gun -- not all that easy to come by in France -- but he used a truck.  There are reports the killer had one or more grenades, too, but he used a truck.

     Not quite twelve hours ago, I was pointing out that a couple of tons of vehicle moving at 20 mpg -- the upper limit for Pokemon Go -- is a deadly weapon, packing more kinetic energy (72,518 Joules*) than the total of every bullet in a 30-round AR-15 magazine (1,767 J x 30, 53010 J); and the truck doesn't need to be reloaded for hours.

     Civilization is vulnerable to those who have no use for civilization.  Radical Islam is a mind virus, closely akin to violent racism, nazism, and communism (etc. If you're willing to go kill the innocent over it, you're one, too). In the hands of individuals and groups only a generation removed from goat-herding, to whom electricity is a novel luxury, such mind viruses can deadly to an advanced culture.

     On one level, you can blame T. E. Lawrence, though this is a lesson the fuzzy-wuzzies have been learning for themselves since the first Neandertals stole fire from their neighbors and used it to burn them out.  Still, a peek back at the First World War in the Middle East yields this gem: "The Arab Bureau of Britain's Foreign Office conceived a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. [...]. The Arab Bureau had recognised the strategic value of what is today called the "asymmetry" of such conflict."  Once the "War To End All Wars" was won, the strategic tool eventually turned on the wielder.

     Crazed, violent Islam may, eventually, run its course.  I think it will; even with a talent pool marinated in the faith and the promise of everlasting rewards in the sweet by-and-by, a short, violent career ending in ugly death isn't that great a seller.  (ISIS's "old-time religion and a quartet of child-brides" gets a lot more takers and presents a greater danger over the long term.)  The problem of murders, mass-murderers, turning the devices of modern civilization against modern civilized people will not go away.  It's been a problem since fire, since irrigation, since a baddie stole a cleverer guy's atl-atl and tried to wipe out the family down the hill from a safe distance.  The more powerful our devices, the greater the danger. All I have by way of advice is to be alert -- and to understand that on a scale of more than minutes, the odds are always against the killers.

     Despite them, we build.  Despite them, we co-operate.  Mourn the dead but do not be cowed.
* Unless I have dropped a decimal or gone askew on a conversion.  20 mph, 4000 lbs., many of my readers are better at classical physics than I am. The sheer mass of a motor vehicle makes it far more destructive than a single rifle bullet.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Amazon Fire HD7? No, Wrong. Amazon Screwup

     So, on Prime Day, I splurged: $60 for a Fire HD7, to replace my Gen 1 Kindle Fire, now a bit long in the tooth and worn of charging socket, not to mention flaky of firmware.  But it still works!

     The new one arrived today and I was looking forward; I reminded Tam to watch for it, so the box wouldn't get rained on or stolen.  Unpacked it, very nice, Fire HD7, slim and light, yes, yes, plugged it in, did the registration thing and...

     Up pops, "Register your KID'S EDITION to your child!"  No, skip that-- And when I do, it deregisters me entirely, pffft.  So I start over and at the end of the process, you guessed it, "Register your KID'S EDITION to your child!"  They sent me the hard-coded kiddie version.  This is in fact not what I ordered.

     I've sent them e-mail.  I'll report on what they do to make this right.

     Compared to people starving in [wherever], this is a minor thing.  It's still annoying.

Pokemon, No!

     On the one hand, it's brought an amazing number of gamers up from the basement, to blink in the sunlight and sneeze the pollen-laden air, stumbling down sidewalks and through parks they might never otherwise visit--

     On the other...  Look, stereotypes exist for a reason, and "socially-inept nerd" is a real thing.

     Put them together, and you get a spate of news stories about Pokemon Go going on in the Holocaust Museum, in Arlington National Cemetery, and much closer to home.

     Tl;dr is that Pokemongers are haunting a cemetery in Plainfield, Indiana, and a young widow who goes there to spend time at the grave of her late husband finds it obnoxious.  There's a sign at the gate, "Out of respect for others, NO GAME PLAYING." It's not working.

     Sadly, this is a Westboro-Baptist problem: you can expect a degree of mutual courtesy from others and usually you will get it -- but not always.  If the disrespectful behavior is not causing you harm -- the Jeffersonian construction is that it "neither picks your pocket nor breaks your leg,"-- recourse is limited, even when the offending behavior is quite distressing.  If the cemetery can't afford to police the actions of visitors, then all it can do is ask.  Not everyone responds to a polite request as we might wish.

     Life's hard.  It's harder if you let the ijits get to you.  And some days I'm embarrassed to admit I'm a human being.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Better Today, Or--

     Or To Hell With It, I'm Going In Anyway.  I think I am doing better today; at least my sinuses have slowed down and earlier, I was able to drink a glass of juice without coughing.  My voice is still not quite back, but most people who know me would consider that a positive.

     Besides, say I'm wrong; say I'm a-gonna swoon later today.  Would I rather do so at home, where Tam might be at the range, or wouldn't it be better done at my work, blocks away from several hospitals and surrounded by healthy young people who can help load me onto a gurney?  I think the choice is clear!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Yeah, Sick

     Doc-In-A-Box called me yesterday and upon description of my symptoms, consulted among themselves and came up with an antibiotic.  They think I picked up a secondary infection.  I feel lousy, with a bad cough and icky sinuses.  Temperature up and down. 

     I'm going back to bed.  Again.  Next drugs at 3:00 pm.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Off To The Dross Mines

     My health has taken a turn for the worse -- low fever, sore throat, sinus congestion and drainage.  I didn't sleep very well.  Still on the early shift today and there's no backup, so I'm up, fed, and ready to get ready.

     Ah, show biz.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hamfest Findings

     Start with this pile, more or less L-R: a commercial 4:1 balun, which I may sub for my HB one to see if there's any difference.  The gadget with the meters and big knob is a benchtop variable autotransformer -- with some kind of a low-voltage DC supply.  Alas, the DC is not isolated from the power line, so that will all take looking at.  Nice cabinet, the autotransformer looks okay, the meters are value items but pretty rugged.  On top of it, a box containing a dozen leaf-type lever switches, bought for $4 because "you're the only person who has shown any interest."  Interest I've got, I have been buying these on sight for an old broadcast console I hope to restore.  On top of the switches, a Bakelite project box and on it and to the right, a lot of commercial plug-in transmitting coils; I passed on them last year at the marked prices; this year I got them at just over half price. A couple of bags of decent coax connectors in front, along with some books and a little, inexpensive vise.  Last but not least, a "grab bag" of parts.  It included a handful of RF chokes and microswitches, and the price was right.

      Small stuff!  Tube sockets, including breadboard types and backshells for inline plugs or sockets, a ceramic-base knife switch, calibrated dials, tiny alligator clips (great for coil taps!), two ceramic pilot-light sockets, some Teflon-insulated wire, a couple of small speakers and Indiana-made telegraph key parts (fingerpieces for a Les Logan bug, a pendulum weight for a Vibroplex Original or Blue Racer)  in the tiny bags with "Made in USA" flags.  Some 10-32 taps (for a buck each?  Yes!), a vernier knob, another that says "INCREASE OUTPUT" and some 90-degree headphone jacks.
     Plus I got to meet my friend Don, who I rarely see outside of hamfests but who is one of the nicest guys I know.   Had to keep my distance lest he catch this cold but it's always good to chat awhile.

The Full Bobbi Breakfast

     So, still kinda sick -- I was okay at the Indy Hamfest but the sinus/chest congestion came roaring back in tha afternoon and evening -- but I'm working the early-early shift and filling in at the controls for a co-worked with an ailing spouse, so there's no resting up.

     That leaves only one alternative: the Full Bobbi.  Akin to The Full English or The Full Scottish, except on the right side of the road:
     A small "breakfast steak" consisting of a nice, thick filet mignon sliced into two slightly thicker than usual brekky steaks, and shared or one saved for later.
     A slice of applewood-smoked bacon. Oh, okay, two.
     A fried egg.
     Fried mushrooms.
     Tomato -- several grape tomatoes, sliced and sprinkled with Italian seasoning mix and let set for at least ten minutes.  Best to do these at the very start of cooking.  Basil works about as well.
     Toast -- hand-made rye today.
     Coffee and juice.

     At the very least, there should be enough additional iron, zinc and vitamin C to help me get through the day.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Hamfest Today!

     It's the Indianapolis Hamfest!  My upper respiratory tract infection lingers but is down to sinus congestion, so I'm goin'.

     This hamfest is put on by a consortium of local radio clubs.  The biggest -- and originator of this event -- is the Indianapolis Radio Club, one of the oldest local clubs still in existance.  The club started in 1914!

Friday, July 08, 2016

I'm Better. The Outside World, Not So Much

     Tempted to spend today hiding under the bed.  Hey, Americans, here's a thought, let's not kill anyone today unless they are running at you ready to do harm, hunh?

     Just one damn day of saying "please" and "thank you" no matter who you are; just one damn day of not being crazy-mad, stupid or scared or clumsy, just one day of being fully aware how terribly, terribly fragile you and all the other walking bags of water around truly are, please?  Just the one day?

     The hotheads and halfwits of all stripes would love to push the rest of us right over the edge of civilization.  Don't let them.  Nobody wins when that happens.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Still Sick

     Better, but weak, achy, sore of throat and unhappy of sinus.  The Drive-Thru Doctor says this is a viral upper respiratory tract infection, for which treating the symptoms and applying Tincture of Time is the effective treatment (and luck of the draw, I got the friendly-compassionate young woman this time; all of the M.D. staff at Immediate Care are pretty darned good, especially at the kinds of ailments that fall squarely in their specialty, but she's one of the ones that treats patients as more than puzzles to be solved with politeness and speed).  Doc-inna-box Inc. called in a 'scrip for high-test naproxen sodium* but it does not appear my pharmacy noticed; paracetamol and aspirin have answered nicely instead.

     Nevertheless, a house that seems "kinda warm" to Tam is chilly to me except when my fever spikes, and I'm mostly sleeping or puzzling over the strange way in which gravity seems to have increased and gone subtly askew.  Doc says 48 hours (+/-) is the typical run of these, a median figure I'll be hitting along about 8:30 or 9 tonight.  I should be delighted to find myself average in this respect.
* Which spell-check insists should be "provenance sodium."  Oh, well-played!  But wrong.  I don't care where it came from.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Unexpectedly Ill

     Don't know what happened -- got home later than usual last night thanks to some trouble at work, bicycled to the grocery for a take-home dinner (more of a snack), and before I was done eating, I was shivering, aching and dizzy.  I was watching a TV show and before it was halfway through, I had paused it and gone to bed, taking an extra blanket, a warm sweatshirt and a heating pad.

     I kept waking up overnight, with pain in my long bones, chest, fingers and toes, thirsty (and with the normal consequences).  Every 90 minutes or so, awake!  At some point I warmed up a bit and shed the sweatshirt and hotpad, leaving three blankets and a quilt.

     Yesterday morning, I woke with a sore throat and that never got any better.  I assumed I'd laid wrong and been snoring.  Maybe not.

      Off to doc in a box.

     (There will be no comments, as the temptation to quack-doctoring seems well-nigh irresistible.  'Druther stick with the normal practice of medicine myself, and I'm not minded to argue about it.  YMMV -- elsewhere.) 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Welcome To Tuesday!

     Now, get back to work.

     The Glorious Fourth is followed by the workaday but no less Glorious Fifth -- no, sir, not that kind!  Put that down, it's barely gone 0700 -- on which many of us get to go back to pushing the big wheel around.  While I think our civilization has grown altogther too many "Big Wheels" of both the people and the big-stupid-enterprise kind, and especially of the Political sort, we're still doing better all around than most people in history ever dared dream of.

     What rises can fall, just as the humble may become mighty.  While it helps to have chosen the right grandparents, pedigree is no guarantor of success -- nor is it a sure prophet of failure.  This notion of social mobility, along with the ideal that Americans are whoever is willing to become American,* are things that distinguish this country.

     Bear 'em in mind.  You're not locked in.  Sure, you may have debt, you may not like your job or some elements of it; maybe age has begun to blast around you, taking friends and strength.  Maybe you're fretting over a passel of children.  But you are free in ways that few humans in all of history ever were, and likely to be wealthy in ways previous generations would have found incomprehensible.

     To live is to struggle -- get out there and help take a bite out of entropy!
* And what were those Civics classes, if not an exercise in becoming?

Monday, July 04, 2016

Independence Day

     4 July 1776?  In some senses, it's an odd day to pick -- hostilities (as in shooting) had begun over a year earlier and guerilla action nearly a year and a half prior to that.  The war was not to end until until the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Despite the British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781 serving as an effective end to the war, 30,000 British troops occupied New York City, Charleston, and Savannah. Parliament voted to end military action in 1782.

     And yet we mark 4 July 1776 as Independence Day.  It wasn't the day the war begin.  It wasn't the day it ended.  Unlike other breakaway colonies, we certainly don't mark the day the Crown granted our independence; we threw those bums out!  We don't even mark the day the Continental Congress voted for independence, or that day in August 1776 when the Declaration of Independence had gathered sufficient signatures to make it 100% official.

     Nope.  In the United States, we mark the day of the public announcement of an idea. The day the wild notion had been written down, ratified by Congress, and widely disseminated.  The crazy notion that a people had the right of self-determination and even self-government.

     And that's why you're standing in the yard with some kind of firework-y amusement right now, or grilling tasty food, or singing patriotic songs, or just sitting with a beverage.  It's why Uncle Sam asked your boss to give you the day off, so that you might celebrate and in the midst of your celebration, pause for just a moment and reflect on how wildly unlikely this place and the idea that motivated it looked back in 1776, when Kings rode high, wide and mighty, occasionally -- barely! -- restrained by Parliaments and the supposed Divine right of some men to rule over others was all but unquestioned by any decent, civilized person.

     We are the inheritors of a mob of thinking rabble, of wild-eyed dreamers, of secret schemers, of Colonial kids with a rifle who were generally underpaid and often longing for home.  People rich and poor, clever and foolish and merely average died for a strange new idea that you grew up taking for granted, taking it as all the same as the sun and sky overhead and the ground beneath your feet -- ground claimed by their ideas and watered by their blood.

     Remember it as you look up and say "ooh" and "ahh."  The true wonderment is all around and despite the tarnish of years, despite blots of bad judgement and ill-will, it shines and glitters still.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Voting: A Rant

     Yeah, I took the morning off.  So sue me for the free ice cream being late....

     F@ceb00k -- that sink of vice, depravity and sound-bite thinking (but, like the first cigarette of the morning, it tastes so damnably good as it kills you just a little bit more) -- has been ringing to the familiar cry of "The Libbety-tarians can only lose!  Vote for Trump or Clinton: vote for a candidate who can win!"  There are varying degrees of emphasis from fans of Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump, from those who are embarrassed by pot-smokers, fat bastards in Speedos and/or pink-haired women with Statue of Liberty diadems or who just want to be comfortably among the winners -- or at least end up in second place. Oh, they say, I'd vote for Libertarian Candidates, if only they'd win--

     But they'll never win if you don't vote for them.  And it's not just the LP; there's a fertile crapload of other parties out there and most are growing.  The LP is now a 50-state party.  The Greens show up on ballots in nearly every state and while I think they're Stalinists with flowers in their hair, I'm not every voter.  There are Constitutionalists and Whigs and straight-up Communists out there--

     And there you are, longing for 7up or Dr. Pepper, RC or OpenCola, seeing they're available at the fountain, then telling yourself you have got to choose Coke or Pepsi, because everyone else does--

     Except they don't.  Except if you don't go for what you want, what you like, the outcome you would prefer if it was all up to you, all you will ever get is the same red- or blue-label corporate gloop that can barely be told apart in a blindfold taste-test.  And this time around, polls of voter revulsion are telling me both formulas have become pretty unpalatable to a lot of people.

     The "big tent" parties have failed.  One of 'em is running a deep-Establishment "same as usual only harder" candidate and the other has been overrun by the worst elements of an incoherent nativist Know-Nothing populism that party upstarts had been exploiting with some success.  Both Presidential candidates have staggering negative reactions in the polls; people hate the other other candidate more than they like their own.

     Those two big parties notice election results; they listen to their own more-successful upstarts -- don't think Senator Sanders hasn't sent a shiver down the spine of moneyed Democrat power-brokers -- and they pay attention to "third parties" that finish well.  If you only give them what they want, if you act as if R or D is your only choice, that's all you will ever get -- and the only change you'll see from either one is liable to be for the worst.

     "Vote for a winner?" If the candidate you're voting for doesn't share your values, what, exactly, will you win by voting for them? What's in it for you, the vague hope of slightly-better Federal appointments?  More efficient global police-actions?  If either big-party wins, you can count on more drone assassination, and unlike a sniper, the collateral damage is considerable to both bystanders (guilty and innocent alike) and in public opinion.  You can count on more addled meddling from On High, by regulators and legislators long out of touch with the everyday lives of the ordinary and the unusual citizen alike. As for world affairs, we'd probably do more good if foreign policy was decided by fifty people chosen at random from the Duluth, Minnesota telephone book.

     We've got idiots in D.C. and few if any realize they're idiots.  With that dread caveat in mind,you should vote for the outcome you want.  If you'd be happy with a President Trump or a President Clinton, vote for 'em; if you are only settling for one or the other, if you are going to have to hold your nose to vote, consider the alternatives.  If you never order Triple XXX Root Beer, you'll eventually find it stops showing up.  If you never vote for a better government....

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Independence Voting Day?

"Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
     Passed by the Second Continental Congress on this day in 1776, 12 of 13 colonies in favor and, prophetically enough, New York abstaining.

     You can thank Richard Henry Lee for the resolution, a Founder who barely saw the new republic formalized: he was a U. S. Senator from 1789 - 92 and died in 1794.

     This is the day John Adams figured we'd be letting off fireworks and whooping it up in the streets.  He'll get just that from Roseholme Cottage this year, as it's supposed to rain pretty well for the other two days of the extended weekend.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Another Week?

     When did they start going past like telegraph poles from a moving train?  I took Amtrak west from Chicago decades ago and once the train gets out on the wide, flat prairie,  they open the throttle to whatever the track will bear; back then, there were places where it was upwards of 80 mph, deceptively smooth on modern welded rails.  Looking out the window, distant towns and grain elevators (but I repeat myself) glide by in a slow panorama -- but up close, darned close if you're used to clearances for automobiles, the poles whiz by like artillery shells, or better, a WW II Russian multi-rocket launcher: Fwoom!  Fwoom! Fwoom!

     And so it is with weeks.  Blink and it's Friday.  Blink and you've spent five days swimming in mud.  Just as you begin to get a glimmer of how precious time truly is, it runs through your fingers like fine sand.

     I'm pretty sure the emergency brake doesn't work the way we might wish.