Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Conspiracy Klutzes

     I have said it before: I do not so much mind the notion that some secret cabal or camarilla is running the world from their secret headquarters in Zurich or Duluth.

     What I mind is that they do such a lousy job of it.  If the Hidden Rulers Of Everything were even a little bit on the ball, there'd be intercontinental ballistic passenger rockets, robot valets and a luxury hotel on the Moon -- with, of course, a totally secret members-only club where the HROE could hang out, paneled in Lunar diamonds and the scalps of their enemies.  For their convenience, there'd be air-droppable, solar-powered cellular telephone hubs (tapped, of course, by the HROE) and scalable, air-droppable power plants in both atomic and solar, with a sideline in wind and ocean-thermal versions, all built under patents the HROE control, in HROE-owned factories.  They'd desalinate seawater and (being greedy plutocrats) sell it to the thirsty at prices that'd keep them alive to come back to buy more, day after day after day.

     But they don't.  We have none of these things  -- and neither do they.  If there are secret rulers of the world, they're idiots.  Clods.  They could be plundering an entire solar system and living off the fat of the land behind high walls, supporting bread, circuses and streetcar lines to placate the masses out of petty cash.

     We need a better line of hidden despots.  The ones we have -- if we do -- suck at the job. They sow only panic and reap only famine, poverty and failure.  I'm starting to think they just might be imaginary.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Good Old American Jury-Rig?

     A good many Americans pride themselves on their ability to make do -- even if you have to come up with a terrible kludge, you go ahead and get the job done, right?  And it's as American as apple pie!  We're can-do people!

     Except, you see, while we're good at that, darned good at it, so are a lot of other people.  Oh, it's not quite the same.  Every culture has its own flavor, and yet it's always a similar dish.  Our linguistic neighbors, the Brits, just bodge something together and muddle through; over in India, the quick fix or improvised solution is a jugaad, and they're so good at it that there's an entire class of junk-based utility vehicles and a management technique both known as jugaad. The French put on their thinking caps and apply "System D," and hack not just technological systems but socioeconomic ones was well.  The Germans have "Trick 17" and the frugal German-speakers in Switzerland have saved up and made it "Trick 77," while the Finns think "Trick 3" is handier.

     And so on.  The human race is a clever bunch -- and one of the things we're most clever about is getting by.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mission To Zyxx? Yes!

     I'm three episodes in.  It's an interesting podcast -- improv science-fiction comedy, with a basic setup that's been done just about often enough to make a good foundation for comedy: the evil Galactic Monarchy has been overthrown by the way less-evil Federated Alliance -- or is it the Allied Federation? -- in what is totally not a lateral move.  They're sending diplomatic missions everywhere and scraping the bottom of the barrel for diplomats.  The Zyxx region has probably not been a very safe place to send ambassadors, at least none of them have ever been heard from again, and now a very assorted and perhaps less-than-qualified crew is being sent there to try again....

     Not for the kids.  Clever and funny.  Mission To Zyxx.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's A Chilly Morning

     I had a left-over potato, evicted from the beef stew last night on account of carbs -- wait, beef stew?  Yes, this:
      Beef stew with oxtail, beef shank, Italian sausage and stew beef, along with a couple of nice fat turnips, carrots, celery, onion, a few cherry tomatoes, some fresh mushrooms and a very little banana pepper for zing.  A store-bought crusty roll on the side.

     But back to breakfast: here's this huge baking potato that needs to be used or towed out to sea and sunk, and wouldn't that be a waste?

     Also, it's kind of cold in the house, what with the change in the weather, cheapskate landlady and all.

     So: four slices of bacon, anointed with smoked Spanish paprika and rubbed sage, fried.

     One double-fist-sized baking potato, sliced very thin and fried in a mixture of paprika-sage bacon fat, garlic-ginger stir-fry oil and tasty olive oil, with some "bread-dipping" Mediterranean spice mix dusted over.  Even with a 16" skillet, this takes time -- and warms the place up.

     A few cherry tomatoes, split and fried and eggs to match, and there you have it: Serious Breakfast!  Tamara even declared a "cheat day" and had six or seven (this is cheating?) chips.  There'd be photos but it didn't last all that long.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sometimes You're Just Mommy (And Don't Realize It)

     Even without children, even no more domestic than I am--

     I was rattling around the kitchen last night, irked and short-tempered;  Tam and I had planned on going somewhere for dinner but it has dawned on the tower crew that there is very bad weather incoming (possibly as early as noon today) and they worked aloft until sundown and chased the very tail end of civil twilight out the gate; so I got home late, having stopped at the corner grocer on the way home and stocked up for dinner and the next morning's breakfast, or so I had thought.

     In the freezer, there was a little left-over beef stew and I thought I had a can of relatively low-carb French Country Vegetable Soup to eke it out, but no, what I had was Beef And Barley (ironically, lower in carbs) and it simply wouldn't do.

     Tam was conciliatory: "Look, there's enough there for one.  You have that, and I'll fend for myself."

     I was still annoyed.  She's been away the better part of a month and it turns out a big part of my self-image is being able to, you know, feed the various creatures under my roof: cats, Tamaras, and so on.  Cooking and serving a meal is soothing.  Not being able to, even when the "cooking" is no more than reheating leftovers and opening a can is frustrating.

     Having the cats come to me to be served breakfast (they're quite insistent) and snuggle up to me whenever I relax is soothing, too.  I'm definitely a "mommy" to the cats.

     I made an omelette this morning.  "Sweet" Italian sausage, mushrooms, a Poblano pepper, a few Kalamata olives and some Manchego cheese. Tam was just retreating to her couch as I was getting up (a night-owl to begin with, she's been out West and hasn't readjusted to Eastern time), but she said she'd be up for breakfast, so I've saved her a portion.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Too Much To Do

     Didn't get any really good pictures yesterday.  Today, I have another CAT scan early in the morning, followed by a busy day, so, well, I'll try to post something interesting tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

In Haste

     Much to do this morning.  I'll see about taking some pictures.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Yes, It's Fall

     Cold and wet, as Indiana sometimes is at this time of year, but I can at least hope the pollen and other allergy-inducing this will be greatly reduced.  The amaryllis has come inside for the year, to spend the cold months in the basement (and will need to be trimmed back) and if things dry up again by the weekend, it will be time to return to gathering up the leaves.

     And I still need to buy Halloween candy! Time not only flies, it's supersonic.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Autumn Is Here

     Overnight, it turned chilly, rainy and gray outside.  Well, not quite gray yet; that will have to wait on the sunrise in a half-hour or so.

     I'm still kind of yeechy with back pain and on tenterhooks for worse.  Still, I will take this constant and relatively low-level pain (along with waking frequently because of drinking a lot of fluids) over the far worse alternative.  Back to the doctor later today and I'll see what she has to say.

     The weather is probably going to interfere with the outside work I have been supervising (for very low levels of supervision).  Where to report today -- the main facility or the usually unstaffed North Campus -- remains an open question and probably will until I hear from the workers.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Well, That Went Well

     Wait, it didn't.  A lot of hurting and drinking of water and so on.  But I have stuff to do that I didn't get done yesterday  and it needs to be done today.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


     My back hurts (kidney stones).  My head hurts.  I had big plans but I'm going back to bed.

     --I have figured out that "classic" Far Edge starships (1950 through 1980 or so) look like a cross between submarines and Rocky Jones spaceships on the inside.

Friday, October 20, 2017

"Gentlemen Do Not Read One Another's Mail:" A Biography

     Like hell they don't, when the "gentlemen" involved are the governments of countries--

     But they didn't use to, or not much, for the very simple reason that they were rarely able to get at one another's mail.  Letters in a courier's pouch, slips of paper carried by a pigeon: needles in a haystack and worse, they're extraordinarily difficult to intercept without revealing that they have been intercepted.  Technology began to change that.  Wired telegraphy is difficult (but not impossible) to tap with 19th-Century technology but it is inherently insecure; operators can be bribed, trash rifled through for carelessly discarded messages, sharp eyes and ears in the office can read messages from the wire as easily as reading over someone's shoulder....  And then came radio, nearly as open as shouting from the rooftops: suddenly, the "gentlemen" might as well be throwing their letters through each other's transoms!* 

     They were not, however, writing them in plain text.  Codes and ciphers were the thing, and so was decoding them, or trying to.

     In the First World War, the United States barely had a cryptological effort.  The military did what they could, eventually resulting in Herbert O.Yardley's "Black Chamber," MI-8, but well before he was up and running, they had to turn to civilian help.  (I will note Yardley was a Hoosier.  This may be significant.)

     Enter Riverbank Laboratories (still around today: same location, but they pursued another of the lab's interests.  And the original building would hardly be out of place in a spy film!).  Enter eccentric millionaire George Fabyan, his eccentric (but by no means unshared) belief that Francis Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's works, and the eccentric theory that this information was somehow encrypted in the earliest printed versions of Shakespeare.  And to decode that, a millionaire needs a staff of cryptologists working in his private labs on his private estate.

     It's a story right out of a--  I was going to write, "pulp magazine," but it's too wild for that.   It's straight out a dime novel.  Picture an estate sprawling along and across the Fox River near Geneva, Illinois, complete with a home remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright, a Dutch windmill grinding grain, a private zoo, a Japanese garden, a Roman swimming pool on a island in the river; picture over a hundred people working on various projects that had struck Fabyan's fancy, from acoustical levitation to improved grains, from trench design to cast-concrete art.  Picture it not in a book or film, but in real life.

     Bacon having written Shakespeare was a bust; the "biliteral code" theorist on Fabyan's payroll was, it seems, self-deceived.  But the cryptology effort had attracted other talented people and among them were geneticist William F. Friedman and Elizebeth (yes, with three e's) Smith, the latter of Huntington, Indiana.†  When WW I --The Great War -- began roaring through Europe, the government turned to Colonel Fabyan.  Fabyan turned to his staff; specifically, to Smith and Friedman.

     Smith was the scholar of language, Friedman the analyst -- but between them, technique and skills developed rapidly; before the war was over, they had not only decoded huge numbers of messages but written a series of booklets that still comprise an introductory course to cryptanalysis, a science they named and were instrumental in developing.

     As inevitably as in, well, a dime novel, the two fell in love and married--  And after the Great War ended, they fled Riverbank: Fabyan was still an eccentric millionaire, with all that entails, and had been intercepting Washington's job offers to the two of them for quite some time.

     The two of them went from strength to strength and adventure to adventure after that -- helping to catch rumrunners, aiding in the efforts to crack Japanese codes, and so on.  I'm in the midst of reading a fascinating biography of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, and it's still the stuff of spy novels -- only better.  It happened; she and William really did these things.
* I'm not going to explain what a "transom" is.  I have lived in a building that had transoms, and they can be a very great relief in summer's heat and winter's stuffiness, a lost grace note. Unless you have neighbors who frequently cook cabbage.

† I keep running into Hoosier cryptologists and spies. Are we a state of geeky romantics?  And is it related to why are there so many Hoosier comedians, as well?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Putting A Name To Discomfort

     So, I have had some symptoms recently that didn't entirely add up -- pain here, discomfort there, fatigue (Imagine!  After a week of shift work) and so on and so forth.  It seemed vaguely familiar, but what...?  Went to the doctor, who called for a few tests, and she suspects I have another kidney stone.

     Imaging this afternoon (insurance permitting) to make sure. In the meantime--

     In the meantime, it's like walking around with a ticking time bomb.  These things can produce excruciating pain, depending on where they land in your plumbing, and they do so with little warning.  I figure I might as well go to work, where there's a good chance the floor I curl up on will be carpeted and there are plenty of people around who know the number for 911.  The long drive between downtown and the imaging place is a worry, but there are places to stop all along the way.

     We'll see.  I slept fifteen hours, which may've helped with the fatigue.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When You Wake In The Night

     Or when I wake in the night, at least, there's a pretty good chance it's because a calf cramp is coming on.

     I'm usually a bit fuzzy and I lay there, trying to remember: which way should I move my foot?  One direction will forestall or at least reduce the pain; the other will make it far worse, and the clock is ticking.  Any second, the cramp will spasm and then it will be too late.

     This week, I have been walking considerably more than usual, since I don't want to park my car where globs of thick, dark-colored grease will fall on it from a great height. Yesterday evening, feeling spry, I added to the total with a brisk walk down the Monon for a snack.  Three times last night, incipient cramps woke me.  Each time, I was just a little late remembering to move my foot so as to stretch the muscles of my calf ahead of the cramp.  After the second one, I put the heating pad under my calves and went back to sleep.

     Gentle stretching exercises are the order of the day. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

In The Country Of The Hearing-Impaired, The Tone-Deaf Man Is...?

     I don't know.  He's certainly not king.  He's not the court jester, either, though you've got to read carefully to find out:

     Indiana Representative Jim Lucas figures if you're okay with licensing the public practice of one Constitutionally-protected right, you can't really argue against doing the same for the rest of them.  Irresponsible journalism can cause great harm, he points out, so why not start there?

     It's heavy-handed satire.  Rep. Lucas has long been a proponent of bringing "Vermont carry" to Indiana, but the hit dog yelps, especially in a news cycle dominated by President Trump's ill-informed* Twitter-fight with network news.  So of course, the Press bit.  And of course, the Press missed the point.

     Rep Lucas, never one to mind wrestling a pig, seems to have tried to use even more satire to clear things up.  It is working about as well as you might expect.

     Meanwhile, I'm sitting over here remembering that Mussolini was a journalist long before he became a fascist dictator, and that Mein Kampf and Das Kapital have, between them, prompted the murder of tens if not hundreds of millions of people. Guns are indeed dangerous -- but so are ideas and the ready promulgation of them.

     And so, too, is dangling temptation before the foolish and short-sighted.  Today, it's satire.  Who will the laugh be on tomorrow?  Personally, I support the unlicensed carry of journalists; they're only as dangerous as the person wielding them.
* Networks don't have licenses; individual stations do.  Only a tiny fraction of U.S. TV stations are actually owned by the network they carry.  Most people don't know that and assume that the station they watch ABNBCBS on must, in fact, be that network.  So when a President Tweets, "Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!" he is channeling H. L. Mencken's Everyman, and threatening his waiter for the misdeeds of the cook.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Morning

     I'm fresh out of commentary.  Hollywood is just a creepy as most people feared and California is burning -- though not, for some reason, burning down the people who deserve it, just big, wide swaths of Averageville, and where's the justice in that?

     Here in Indiana, the weather has turned sharply cooler, which is not going to be helpful for the ongoing tower work.  Beggars can't be choosers; this was  a last-minute job and id we get sunshine and no more than the mildest of breezes, I'll be happy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Well, That Was...

     ...I don't know.  Refreshing?  On the advice of my doctor, I just laid around most of the weekend.  I was working terrible hours all last week and fighting some kind of infection, so by the time I showed up at the doctor's office at 1:30 Friday afternoon, having been awake since 11:00 the previous night, I was kind of exquisitely exhausted.

     After discussing the hours I'd been working and how I was feeling, she looked at me and asked, "Do you work tomorrow?  Because I can write a note right now that you should be off for a couple days..."  This from a practice remarkably unreceptive to malingerers, if the things I have overheard in many years of going there are any guide.

     So I didn't do a whole lot yesterday -- a lovely day, though one that set my allergies tingling -- and today was cold and gray, fine weather for staying indoors and mostly horizontal. 

     Has it helped?  I think so.  Still not a hundred percent, but much better than most of last week.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lieutenant Who?

     Can you go wrong asking the robot, "Alexa, play Prokofiev?"  Maybe, though I don't know how.  This morning, she dished up the Lieutenant Kijé Suite, which ranks up there with Peter And The Wolf and the March from For the Love Of Three Oranges* as accessible highbrow music -- and those two are by Prokofiev, too.
     Lt. Kijé is The Officer Who Never Was, created by a slip of the pen, but enjoys a brilliant career despite not existing -- or his close associates and wife do, anyway.   And then one day, the Emperor sends for this loyal and clever officer, now a General....

     How is it that SF film makers have overlooked this amusing, twisty plot?  Sure, Hollywood is not too bright collectively, but there are a few with wit here and there.  Bigtime, sweeping space opera is overdue to be sent up and this delightful lampoon of Imperial bureaucracy, connivance and managerial befuddlement both accidental and deliberate would be just the thing.
* An opera for people dislike opera.  Find all that stagy singing and stomping about in Foreignese too high-toned and stuffy?  Sergi'll fix it!  He was supposedly a good Marxist (or willing to go along) but for this work, it's Groucho, Harpo and Chico, not Karl.  (Perhaps more Chico Marx, as the story comes from an Italian play based on an Italian fairytale, which is at least twice as Italian as Chico.) I can't find a synopsis that does it justice; the cast includes a lonely Prince, an evil witch, giant enchanted oranges, three beautiful Princesses, an over-involved Narrator, and planted audience members who appear to believe the opera is real life and try to "help" the protagonists out of the difficulties the plot puts in the way. Prokofiev being Prokofiev, the opera mixes bittersweet and slapstick -- and gets away with it brilliantly.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Because We're Soooo Unique, That's Why

     Crew Chief for the team greasing the guy wires* on the very tall tower for which I am responsible:

     "I don't know what it is about you people in Indianapolis. Everyplace else in the country where we work, they just toss us the keys and say, 'Let us know when you're done.'  We come here, and we've worked on almost every tall tower in Indy, and every one of 'em, they have to have someone there all the time we're working.  You Indianapolis people don't want us to have keys, or gate codes or anything!"

     Guess it's just that good old Hoosier diligence.  Or paranoia -- random vandalism, from mild to theft of all outdoor air-conditioning equipment, has a long history at towers here.  Me, I just do what my bosses tell me to do along those lines.
* "But why grease them," you might wonder, "do they squeak?"  They do not, or no more than necessary; what they do is rust.  Unless you do something, the heavy wire rope accumulates water and rusts from the inside out.  That could ruin your whole day, or at least mine. You can't paint them but a nice, thick coat of heavy grease, well packed in, makes a good barrier to the entry of water.  The downside is, it has to be renewed every few years.  This is best done during very hot weather but it doesn't always work out that way.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What Day Is This?

     We're short-handed and over-projected at work.  We had people on vacation and that was pretty well covered -- until one of the operating techs when to the doctor for a checkup and got an ambulance ride and immediate surgery.  Prognosis is good but returning to work is weeks away.

     That left Engineering with more tasks to cover than we have people.  There was no one move that could be made to cover what needed to be covered.  There were, however, a lot of little ones--  Everyone picked up a little overtime, an hour or so per day wherever our skill sets fit.

     But we were still short.  We needed to cover multiple locations at multiple different times of the day, doing everything from sitting at a console recording video and remotely steering cameras to supervising a crew doing dangerous work high above ground.  We needed someone with a wide array of skills.  Someone who could work three hours here, catnap, and go work two hours there, with a stop at a third location later.  Someone who could use some overtime pay.

     It turns out that I am someone.  Where I will be at any given time is difficult to predict -- home?  Work?  The North Campus?  It should all add up to at least my normal hours plus a little extra.

     I'm using Blogger's scheduled posting ability to at least give my writing here some semblance of regularity. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017


     There are all kinds of toughness or backbone.  At one time, I worked for a company that had been founded as a family firm in the late 19th Century and was still largely controlled by family members.  They're still around, but they recently ran out of patriarchs and are now pretty much just another corporation.

     But back in the day -- starting several generations back -- one august pillar of the community followed another, well-fed, soft-spoken, hard-bargaining men in suits who actually were pillars of their community, endowing the local college, taking on major charitable projects, and running all the branches of their company in an old-fashioned, frugal but not grasping manner.  By the time things came down to the last of them sitting in the CEO's chair, none of them had needed to do a moment's hard physical labor in their lives.  It showed -- co-workers were known to remark that shaking hands with the Big Boss was like touching as baby's bottom: he didn't even have a writer's callus!

     And, as people who do some degree of physical work for a living, they looked a bit down on him for it.  About the most effort he'd ever gone to was reading contracts.

     One Autumn, he visited all of the corporation's facilities and gave short talks -- pep talks, really, appreciations of his employees and of the company, and he shook hands with everyone who attended.  Everyone.  Without exception.  Shook hands, smiled, looked us in the eye and said a word or two, often addressing people by name.

     No one questioned it at the time.  He was known to do similar things on occasion, though this was a bit more personal than usual.

     Three or four months later, a memo came out: the CEO had passed away.  He'd been ill for over a year, it said.  Cancer.  He'd had an inoperable tumor.

     Now tell me, just how tough did that soft-handed man have to be, to visit every person and place in his company, tell us what a fine company it was, how good its continued prospects were, how our efforts had helped make it what it was, look us in the eye, smile and...say goodbye without ever letting on anything was wrong, without ever tearing up or saying, "...this will be the last time..." or showing anything but good fellowship?

      I don't know that I could do it.  Could you?  Not every kind of toughness is obvious at first glance.  

Monday, October 09, 2017

Breakfast Steak

     It's self-indulgent to take a nice, two-inch thick filet mignon and cut it into two thinner breakfast steaks, but it certainly is good!

     Slow-cooked, mostly covered, with fresh mushrooms and served with cherry tomatoes and a fried egg, it's very nearly (I left out the potatoes and bacon) a "full Bobbi breakfast," which is similar to a Full English Breakfast, only not exactly.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

It's The Weekend And Mom's Back In The Hospital

     You can guess where I'll be spending part of my day off. 

     I might spend some of it at Doc-In-A-Box, too.  My own woes, minor though they are, do not seem to be getting better.

Friday, October 06, 2017

It's A Derpfire

     I've been feeling lousy for the last week and a half -- allergies, flu shot, another kidney stone, I don't know and I'm not going to list my symptoms; I pay people to doctor at me, dislike it intensely and I don't want Random Internet Diagnosis. thank you.

     But it's jaundiced my mood, so when I read Facebook Commandos exhorting Not One Inch and furiously excoriating the NRA for "caving in on bumpfire stocks," I just want to backhand the dumb clean off of 'em.

     Alas, it doesn't work that way.  But they do not understand the fight they're in.  Bumpfire hardware was pretty much doomed at the first images of the hardware the Las Vegas mass murderer used, and that was just the thin edge of it; AR-15s and other rifles that look like military rifles, "high-caliber"* rifle ammunition, semi-autos -- they're all in the spotlight and the gun-banners are braying for blood.

     Bumpfires were never anything more than a nose-thumbing, combining the ammo-eating expense of full-auto with the accuracy of a broken squirt gun.  On principle, I dislike throwing anything at all to the wolves jackasses, but if it'll buy a little time to regroup and salvage what we can, it's worth giving up -- among other things, the SHARE Act is likely going to need a kick-start, from the way "good, solid" GOP Congressinvertibrates have been hemming and hawing over it.

     All of a sudden, thanks to one lunatic of a hobby gambler, a guy with a nice, comfortable two-airplane kind of life who decided to go kill a lot of people who never did him any harm, us working types with about $0.09 to spare if we skip lunch, are in another blamed fight over common, ordinary rifles and accessories that are in wide use.  That's a real fight, and a bitter one.  Many of the high-profile antis are staring retirement full in the face from smooching distance; they're spoiling for a big fight and would love to "leave a legacy" way bigger than outlawing a stupid toy.  Let's not let them.
* Yeah, I don't get it, either, some halfwitted portmanteau of "high power" and "large caliber" which is then applied to the .223, a small, medium-power round.  And what's that tell you about the attitude of those who seriously use that term for .223 towards the .308 Winchester for your deer rifle, or anything of like size and power?  Nothing good.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

I'm Sure I Have Something Trenchant And Pithy

     ...Wait, wait....  Nope.  Don't seem to.  Be nice to one another.  And to yourself.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Thoughts In The Aftermath

     In the wake of terrible events like the recent mass killing in Las Vegas, the people with an axe to grind are out in huge numbers, from Concerned Citizens to Internet Experts to elected and appointed officials.

     Grant them this -- they want to Do Something.  For the majority of them, it's an emotionally-driven urge, which, sadly, rarely carries much logic along in the headlong rush to render aid.  Heart-rending, but rarely helpful.*

     So let's review: in the attack at Las Vegas or anything similar, the only effective response the victim pool can make is to get elsewhere, as quickly as possible; in a crowd, this carries additional risk.  Getting under effective cover -- something that might actually stop or at least seriously slow incoming fire -- is good, but many people in Las Vegas accepted concealment instead.  If carefully chosen, it's some help because it removes you from the shooter's view.  But when the shooter is simply sending fire into a large area, it's not much protection.  The fellow out in the open who stood up, took a sip of his beer and flipped a middle finger at the source of fire probably (and inadvertently) made a correct assessment that it wasn't going to materially increase his risk,  It was not a situation in which shooting back was an option.  The only carried item that would have been of any use would have been a first-aid kit.

     Once the event is over and the killer stopped, the social engineers start to opine.  I have yet to hear an original suggestion; it's always more of the same things either side offers up.  Let's try facts instead -- here's a correlation study between civilian gun ownership and murder rates, per state.  The quick read is, they're not.  It's not "more guns, more murder" and it's not "more guns, less murder."

     There may well be things we can do -- but effective programs would be focused on people, not hardware.  That's the conclusion of Leah Libresco, formerly a writer at FiveThirtyEight and who still says, "I don't want a gun in my home."  She wants fewer murders, and in the course of researching how that might be accomplished, came to interesting conclusions.

     The journalistic and social-media response to a madman or criminal with a gun mirrors the response of the prospective victim: it focuses on the gun.  Been there, done that, the muzzle looks big enough to walk down when it's pointed at you: you see that thing rather than the person holding it.  --But it's not made nicer if the aggressor has a club or a knife or brute force; it's only better if the aggressor is never there.†  Less lunatics, less crime; less desperation and hopelessness, less crime.  More education, less crime.

     Start there.  Start with that, not reheated ideas from political hacks.  Armed drones, attacks on Constitutional rights, DHS screeners at every high-rise hotel...?  Fantasy.  It's what people do instead of hard work.  It's what people do instead of calling up their weird uncle and seeing if he sounds okay.  It's what people do instead of helping a ne'er-do-well young relative to seek work or training.

     What will you do?
* I've already been taken to task for not assuming each and every one of 'em is a Nancy Pelosi or worse, out to take all our guns and generally be evil.  While there is no shortage of politicians who would sleep far more soundly if they could disarm the citizenry and who look on us as something between insects and cattle, don't confuse them with the lady down the street who weaves daisy garlands and wants everyone to Get Along.  Most people's intentions are good, even when they are short on facts and logic. 

† And in second place, if you were not there, either.  "Don't go to stupid places with stupid people, especially at stupid hours" is a rule that would have spared me no end of trouble, had I followed it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Doctor, Doctor?

     I'm off to the ENT this morning, to see if there's anything obviously wrong inside my sinuses, causing my bad headaches, etc.  Slight chance of it -- but I'm not getting my hopes up.

     Ms. Tamara is holding the fort, so you'd better be good.

     ETA: And the attempt was totally thwarted by my digestion.  This is getting out of hand.

     ETA: And I ended up spending the day home, sick.    

Monday, October 02, 2017

Horror In Las Vegas

     As I write this, people in Las Vegas -- and around the nation -- are reacting to a horrific act: an outdoor country music festival was sprayed with what appears to be automatic weapon fire from high up in a nearby hotel. Over a hundred were injured and around fifty people are dead.  How many were hurt by bullets and how many by the ensuing panic is unknown.

     Police located the source of the shooting and report one man,* who they describe as a "lone wolf" killer, is dead.  They're seeking his "female companion," who may be anything from willing accomplice to first victim.

     And that is exactly as much as anyone knows.  Hours of television and page after page on the Web are filled with "more information" that amounts to trivia, lurid photographs and cellphone videos of the shooting and aftermath, speculation and empty blather.  Bear in mind that early information past the most basic facts is frequently wrong.

     We can count on the usual sources trying to exploit this heinous act to push their own causes.

     Facebook, where I first saw mention of this when a friend reported himself safe, is filled with offers to help, many from people quite close by -- offers of food, water and shelter.  Those are the sorts of people you are surrounded by: decent people.  Caring people, who want to help.  Killers -- and those who exploit their crimes -- are a tiny minority of humanity.  Don't let 'em win.  Don't be hypnotized by the horrible aftermath of a dreadful crime.
* They've released his name.  This blog, as a matter of policy, does not name mass killers.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Yes, Here I Am

     And pondering -- "I saw all the rain down in the woods," is unequivocal but, "I saw all the trees down in the woods," is either a description of a nature walk or a clear-cut statement.