Friday, January 31, 2020

Oh, What To Write?

     It's Friday, and that's good.

     I spent yesterday working with some speech-to-text software that had...problems.  It was supposed to ingest a specialized lexicon from a particular source.  The process was...buggy.  It ingested, all right -- taking in misspellings, abbreviations, phonetically-spelled dialog and a whole lot of other things it wasn't supposed to.  Then it gave them preference over common English words and correct spelling.  Calling the end result "horrendous" is too mild.   The manufacturer swooped in late in the day and did some updates that cleared it up, but oh, my.

     Made me feel good about my various typos and bad keyboard habits.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Why Won't These Puppies Stay In The Box?

     Slate manages to misunderstand both science fiction and how stories work.

     It is, I suppose, impressive: swinging wildly, Slate's man-on-the-scene manages to tease out the "Hero's Journey" at the heart of many cyberpunk stories -- not to mention each and every one of John D. MacDonald's "Travis McGee" detective novels* -- and deems it a rut, a weakness:
     "Indeed, even when they reject it, these new subgenres often repeat the same gestures as cyberpunk, discover the same facts about the world, and tell the same story. Our hacker hero (or his magic-wielding counterpart) faces a huge system of power, overcomes long odds, and finally makes the world marginally better...."

     There aren't very many plots in the world.  "Hero's Journey" is one of the oldest and one of the strongest.

     Nevertheless, Slate thinks we got stuck at "punk."

     While cyberpunk has spawned a host of semi-sorta-subgenres ending in "punk," that's no more than a handy tag for kind of gadgety fun that SF has offered readers since before Gernsback; 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Verne, 1870) is essentially steampunk -- or perhaps electropunk -- and the first modern steampunk novels (for instance, K. W. Jeter's Morlock Night or Thomas F. Montelone's The Secret Sea, both published in 1979†) precede the invention of the term "cyberpunk" (1983).

     No, the last time I checked -- yesterday -- Science Fiction had kept on moving.  Not in any one direction, and much as Slate's sources may like to be moan "... publishers always want to find evermore-narrowly-sliced microgenres, hoping to squeeze every aesthetic niche dry," publishers don't write this stuff and most books are not written to some puppetmaster's prescription. Books stem from the writer's imagination and succeed or fail based on how well readers connect with them.

     Science fiction writers and readers have always been the literary world's punks,  scruffy and not given much respect.  Is it any surprise that they have held onto the term once it came their way?
* Or the first Star Wars film, the Hunger Games series, and on and on.
† They have something else in common, as well, which I will leave as a surprise for the reader.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Silver Lining?

     The impeachment trial lumbers onward, and let us thank due process for making dull what could have been far more acrimonious.

     There's a gemstone amid the dross, though -- I have never heard or seen so much mention in mainstream media of the Constitution, the men who drafted it and The Federalist Papers.

     The last item on this list (along with and often published with The Anti-Federalist Papers) constitutes a remarkable record of what the Framers (and their critics) thought about the meaning and intent of the Constitution at the time it was devised.

     If even a tiny fraction of the people reading or hearing of it are motivated to go look it up, the country will benefit.

     This country's Federal government has an operating manual and a considerable body of expert commentary from the men who dreamed it up.  It is readily available; it's not a secret, or couched in obscure language.  It's out thereSo are the counter-arguments.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Junk Food For Thought

     Apparently -- and who would have guessed?  -- a lie can still make it halfway around the world before the truth has even got its pants on:

     Researchers at MIT ran a study showing what most people already suspected: fake news -- of any stripe --  outweighs real news in the fast-moving, sociologically "hot" environments of social media.  Just like your Middle School days, exciting rumor and glittering half-truth is way more engaging than dull stuff like history, social studies or science.  (And as for spelling, well...  Most of our Facebook and Twitter posts would come back covered in red ink.)

     Forewarned is forearmed: if it confirms your brightest hopes or deepest fears, if it's remarkably novel, you'd better check it out before you pass it along.  Better see if you can independently verify it.

     The truth has to walk a long, long road before it can catch up to lies, let alone give them the beating they deserve.

Monday, January 27, 2020


So I open up the box of my new IKEA silk scarf, and there it all is:

-A mulberry sapling
-A dozen caterpillars
-Two itty-bitty knitting needles
-And 482 pages of utterly incomprehensible pictographic drawings.


     ...Rattling around in the bottom of the box, a little metric Allen wrench that doesn't fit anything.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Busy Day

    Late to post.  This morning, I looked around and realized the kitchen was approaching -- if not past -- the Quentin Crisp limit.

     No, that does not mean it really, really liked other kitchens.  Crisp was infamously averse to housework, and notably remarked, "After the first four years, it doesn't get any worse."

     There were corners of the kitchen that were fixing to prove him wrong.  It had to be set right.  I had chamomile tea from 2015 at the bottom of the stack!

     Still a lot to do, but matters are much improved.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday At Last

     After a week of never getting enough sleep (and other stress -- the new General Manager visited North Campus, which is A: my responsibility and B: not getting as much of my time and attention as it should; but I'm told he came away with a positive impression), the weekend is here!

     And with weekend, a front coming through, which has triggered a remarkable headache.  It's snowing pretty steadily outside.  The temperature is flirting with freezing and the snow is sticking, half-melting, and then sticking.  Trees have snow on the upper parts of the limbs -- and water droplets along the underside.  This would be minor or very messy, depending on the temperature going up or down. 

     As for the headache, it could go either way, too.  I've taken my usual, one acetaminophen and two aspirins, and it's a little slow to take effect but I think it's helping. 

     Rannie the cat seems to be feeling better.  She has been eating more, and not sneezing and wheezing as much. So of course, Huck has decided it's happy playtime!  He tries to get her to mock-fight, by the simple expedient of attacking.  She loathes it, and cries.  I've been squirting him with the water bottle, which breaks it up, but he can't quite grasp why anything to happy and fun could possibly be bad.  They're napping now; I hope they spend the midday as cats should, half-asleep.

     There's a load of laundry running.  As soon as the washer is finished and I've loaded the dryer, I'll start the dishwasher and then make breakfast.  Picked up the makings for Swedish pancakes on the way home from work last night and I'm looking forward to them.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Another Week

     And plenty of rain.  We've been fortunate this winter; had it been cold enough for our spells of rain to have been snow instead, it would have been pretty deep by now.  There have been a few bad winters in my life, and I'm not a fan.
*  *  *
     I wasn't a fan of the can of blackeyed peas I opened up last night, either.  They were....dry.  Something had gone wrong.  When I discovered this, I was a half-dozen green onions, half a bell pepper, half of a leftover cooked pork roast and a can of diced tomatoes into cooking a dish of Hoppin' John.  This made it a little vexing, and I may have uttered a few words one really should not say.

     At Roseholme Cottage, we keep canned beans on the shelf as part of the rotating stock of staples and while I would have preferred blackeyed peas (possibly my favorite bean), black beans made a fine dish, served over rice with some hot sauce, just thing for a rainy, chilly evening.  The dish is flexible, though Wikipedia tells me that using black beans makes it "Hoppin Juan!"  Good by whatever name; like oxtail stew or colcannon, this is another of those combinations that shows up all over, under different names, and everyone claims it for their own.  They're all probably right.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Not How That Works, Part Whatever

     I was cooking breakfast and half listening to the morning news on TV when a story caught my ear: There was a new report out that ranked traffic safety in each state.

     Wondering how Indiana had placed, I paid attention, and what do you know: we're about in the middle of the pack.

     But the rating isn't for the death rate, or the accident rate -- it's for the number and kind of driving safety laws each state has!

     Show of hands, class -- who can explain why this metric is risible?  All of you?  Very good!

     But just in case, let's go over it: counting "safety" by looking at the rules intended to promote safe behaviors tells us nothing about how well those rules work.  It tells us nothing about how faithfully those rules are obeyed.  It doesn't even tell us how well those rules are enforced!

     It's still an interesting report.  You can read it here.

     For data at how safe it is to drive in the various states, you can look here, and get the fatality rate per 100k population and per hundred million miles traveled.  At a glance, Indiana's about in the middle there, too.

     What I'm not finding in a quick search is any kind of correlation study, not even an informal comparison of death or accident rates versus laws aimed to make drivers safer. You'd think that would be a key piece of information for planning, and yet--  Nothing.

     More laws does not necessarily mean better laws; if you were thinking that logical fallacy only showed up in the hotly-contested debate about gun laws, guess again.  Driving safety is a far less divisive issue, with statistics that are much easier to find, and yet here we are.

     Quantity is a wonderfully useful metric for ball-bearings or new home construction and all manner of mass-produced goods.  Intent, too, is a fine metric: you certainly ought to know what you're setting out to accomplish.  For laws, however, it might be useful to look more closely at quality and results, preferably in as impartial a manner as possible.

     Just a suggestion.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

And There Was No Violence

     Monday's Lobby Day at Virginia's state capitol came and went without anything more untoward than one attendee who managed to get herself arrested for wearing a mask.  Upwards of twenty thousand people showed up, people of every hue and a wide assortment of political beliefs, and a lot of the people outside the official no-gun perimeter were visibly armed with big ol' evil-looking rifles, and nobody fired a shot.  Nobody so much as got into a fistfight.

     It would have taken just one malign fool -- and nobody wanted to be That Guy bad enough, while many people had already decided they weren't going to let anyone be That Guy.  It worked.  The Press seemed a little let down.

     Did the effort help?  Maybe.  Some.  If you live in Virginia and gun rights matter to you, vote carefully and keep writing your elected officials.  It's going to take a lot of convincing.

*  *  *

     Tuesday's Post-Impeachment Senate Trial in our nation's Capitol got underway without anything more untoward than some Senators struggling to stay awake and a rare opportunity for members of the House and Senate to snipe at one another.  They are inherently at odds -- the senior body slow, deliberative and resistant to change while the junior one is scrappy, (relatively) quick to act and responsive to the electorate.  The spectacle of the House lecturing the Senate, and the Senate getting its back up over it, is rare indeed.  Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schiff were bowed up like tomcats.

     High points included a network news analyst quoting another pundit, "Never underestimate the amount of hard work the U. S. Senate won't do," and the delicious realization that the trial was proceeding under rules from the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial: the Senators (and everyone else) are "commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment."  For a modern touch, no personal electronic devices were allowed in.  The entire Senate had to sit down, shut up, and at least pretend to pay attention.

     Low points?  I'm not too keen on this rule where they start in the afternoon and run for at least twelve hours.  It was criticized by Senate Democrats and they've got a point; it makes for long days and may tend to keep any real dramatic points a little less visible in live coverage.  The flip side is, we can't have the circus in town for a month or more.  The Senate does have other things to do.  Another downer: this isn't as neat and tidy as the courtroom scenes in an episode of Perry Mason.  It's a real trial, run by people with law degrees or at least a keen personal interest in rules and procedure.  A lot of the trial will be as dull as ditchwater.

     Politics is what we do instead of fighting in the streets, and if takes some dull stretches to keep it that way, I'm in favor of of them.  The underlying fight is no less intense for all that it is cloaked in high-sounding language and procedures first formulated in the late 18th Century.  Don't kid yourself -- Madison and the other Framers knew this day would come.  You don't add a utility to the firmware if you don't think it will ever be needed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Impeachment Trial-Watching

     This afternoon, the U. S. Senate will do something they rarely do: put the President on trial.  The process is written in out Constitution, in broad brush-strokes that assume much about the common sense and good will of the participants -- possibly more than most of us might credit some or all of the participants with possessing.  But they've done it before and they'll get  through it this time, too.

     Don't watch in anger.  Everyone involved is going to play up the drama. They all want your emotions involved.  We're in an election year and nothing gets people into voting booths like strong feelings!

     They're not wrong.  But this is history on the hoof and how you feel about it as it is happening will not change the outcome.  That's in the hands of the United States Senate.

     This is an uncommon event and none of the players are in their usual, comfortable roles.  How they behave can be revealing.

     You can watch and learn or you can watch and fume -- fume about the President, fume about the Senate and its leadership, fume about partisanship or grandstanding, and before it's all over, you may even find a reason to be annoyed at the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Watch angry and when it's over, you'll be working on an ulcer while all or nearly all of the participants in the Senate Trial will get their nice, fat paychecks, same as every payday. 

     Most of us will be working, at least for the first few innings; but I plan to watch what I can as coldly as a hawk.  It's a rare opportunity and I don't want to waste it.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Oh, Come On

     Apparently, a pretty thorough debunking of a far-Left historian has recently been published.    Good stuff, hey?  Demolishing invidiousness with truth, right?


     Increasingly, pundits are trying to counter prejudice and jingoism, slanted takes on history, by pushing just as hard in the other direction.

     It works in physics, right?

     The problem is, history in all its forms, from today's TV news to the morning paper all the way to weighty multi-volume, small-print works, does not work that way.  Handedness doesn't count for much.  The real divide is different: you've got material that is true and real -- source documents, eyewitness accounts, good-faith objective writing and frankly-labeled subjective analysis -- on one side, and on the other, there's nothing but varying flavors of specious BS.  The vectors of slanted reporting don't cancel and no matter how hard you try to titrate the acid of one political leaning with the powerful alkali of the other, the result isn't salt water, it's just more BS.

     So when you read this stuff, do so with a skeptical eye; do so with a search engine handy, and check the claims.

     What I have read so far (yes, I have named neither the book nor the historian it debunks) is not what I had hoped.  There are no pages of footnotes listing authoritative sources or serious refutations of his allegations.  There's quite a lot of talk about other bad-faith historians, and about the man's own politics and habit of lifting material from other, often slanted, writers instead of going closer to the source.

     But there's no direct refutation.

     It's useful to point out propaganda, to hang a sign on bad information.  It's more useful to supply accurate information.  And yes, lies and misleading claims often have a delicious candy coating that is much more difficult to apply to the truth.  That doesn't mean it is not worth the effort to try.

     I'm going to do some more reading before I decide about buying the book, but it's not looking good.  Dammit, we're drowning in horsecrap.  It can't be remedied by adding to the pile.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

9:30 a.m., 11°F And A Raging Headache

     ...But at least it isn't raining, right?

     We did get a dusting of snow last night.  It wasn't enough to cover anything taller than an ant, just a hint of powdery white crystals scattered where the wind left them, leaving the impression that even the snow decided it was too cold and gave up on the job until things warmed a bit.

     The temperature and pressure changes left me fighting headaches yesterday and today's been more of the same; I slept in as late as I could, with Rannie the cat dozing by my side.  Finally had to give in, get out of bed and make some breakfast.  As soon as I get outside of half of it, I'll take some analgesics and think about what to do next.
*  *  *
     In the wider world, there's a sense of ticking anticipation.  Richmond, Virginia will see some kind of organized protest of the Legislature's planned new gun laws, a grab-bag that runs from the expected (reintroduction of that state's previous "one gun a month" purchase limit) to provoking (a ban on indoor gun ranges, written in such a way that the only range in the state that would be affected just happens to be the one at National Rifle Association headquarters).

     It's supposed to be a day of intense lobbying/personal contact with State legislators in their offices: "Hi, there, Mr./Ms. Elected Lawmaker, we're voters and this is an issue we care about deeply."  There's an hour or so set aside for speeches outside.

     Pretty much everybody affected is worried things will get out of hand (aside from a rotten few who hope for it).  The state-level gun-rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League has issued guidelines for attire, deportment and what not to carry (confederate flags, for instance); the Governor -- who appears to have firm plans to be elsewhere -- banned firearms from the entire area around the state government buildings, with only one entrance and, presumably, screening of everyone who passes through.  Police agencies will be limiting street traffic and even a self-described "antifa" group has spoken up -- interestingly enough, in opposition to the planned gun laws and urging restraint and avoidance of confrontation.

     What will happen?  I don't know.  Nobody knows.  Any decent person hopes that everyone involve will refrain from initiating force, and that the worst we'll see will be some heated speeches and small, quickly-resolved shouting matches over trivia.

     It's not helping my headache any.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A New Chair

     It looks like an old chair, the classic old-time wooden office chair on a caster base.  It closely resembles the chair it has replaced.  But my much-repaired office chair -- last worked on four years ago -- has reached a point of needing to retire to service elsewhere, where it won't be used as much.  It is likely twenty-five years old by now, so I think I have got my money's worth.

     The new one is a little more lightly built, but seems pretty solid.  Warned by reviews, I bought a better set of casters at the same time,  Put it together this afternoon and I'll see how it does.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Pushing Buttons

     Yesterday's post got a link from Instapundit.  The predictable Instalanche followed, and wow, the glory days of blogging were back!  Thanks to Insty and everyone who read.

     Many people commented on my two examples, on Facebook, at Instapundit and in comments submitted here.  I didn't publish any of the ones that came in here, because in order to make the point, I played a bit of a trick on readers: neither example was factually accurate.

     Oh, they're close, and what's more, they're commonly treated as if they were true by some people, some of the time -- and they push buttons.  So far, no one refuting or correcting them has done so on the cold basis of the historical record; no one has cited any actual sources.  But everybody commenting about them had a little heat behind what they had to say and a few were downright angry.

     Many commenters went immediately to extreme cases -- communists vs. (or in cahoots with) nazis, people being marched off to gulags or lined up against walls and shot.  That's not how politics works in this country, at least not in my lifetime, and that's not what I was writing about; I stated the parameters quite clearly early in the essay.

     There were a few "see, this is how women are, it's all emotion, they can't be objective" reactions,* and one saying I was blaming everyone for not being creatures of cold logic.  There was even one ticked-off "Speak for yourself!" (And for who else would I be speaking?)

     Your emotions are involved in your political behaviors.  Pride, fear, love, loathing, anger and happiness are in play -- and they will bite you where you sit down if you're not aware of them.  Likewise, the other ordinary people in your world have their emotions all bound up in their politics.  Each of them has one vote, which limits the actual electoral villainy they (and you) can get up to.  You are not going to reason them out of their dearly-held political beliefs, nor can they do the same with you. 

     You want to change people's ideas?  Be a good example.  Be someone they look up to and want to emulate.  Involve their hearts as well as their heads.
* Yes, the male of the species is the sole repository of reason and rationality; for a good example of this, observe them watching a hotly-contested sporting event.  Ahem.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"When Will They Admit They're Wrong?"

     If your question amounts to the headline of this posting, and it's about politics, then the answer is "never."

     It shows up over and over on social media, from Democrats and Republicans, from conservatives and liberals.  If it's a longer version and they've laid out their reasoning, it's often quite logical, frequently plausible; sometimes it takes a highly partisan slant to see things the same way and sometimes it doesn't -- and it matters not one whit.

     Politics isn't about logic.  It's not about common sense and very rarely is "the greater good" at the forefront of the minds of legislators when they draft laws or the Executive branch when they implement them.  It's not even the first concern of judges or juries, and as for your neighbors, when he or she goes to vote or stick a campaign sign in the front yard, they're probably not either.

     Oh, we and the politicians we vote in like to invoke the idea; we all like to think we are sensible, rational beings and that if those partisan halfwits on the other side would just shut up and listen, the scales would fall from their eyes and they, too, would see the pellucid wisdom of the policies and ideas we hold dear.

     But that's not how it works.  It's not how it works for "them" (whoever they might be) and it's not how it works for "us" either.

     It's a bitter pill but here's the truth, the real deal: it's about emotion. It's about rationalization, and wow, are humans talented at rationalizing whatever we have chosen to commit to.  Once we have, it seems perfectly sensible to us and divergent views look wrong.

     There may, in fact, be a clear right and wrong side to a political issue, one that would be obvious to a disinterested observer; but you and I are not disinterested observers.  We're inside the social machinery and it's well-nigh impossible to take a colorful pill and step out.

     There are people who went to their graves convinced poor Dick Nixon was unfairly railroaded out of office; people sitting right there next to you who are certain that lying to Congress about sexual horseplay in the Oval Office with an intern does not constitute an impeachable offense.  Maybe you agree with one or the other or both; maybe there's a red flag in there for you.  --Your reaction, whatever it is, is emotional, not logical.

     Bear that in mind as the present political drama plays out across TV screens and social media.  It's engrossing; you have strong feelings about it and so do a lot of other people.  It's not worth getting in fights over.  It's not worth puzzling over why those wretchedly obtuse people who disagree with you can't just wise up and see things your way.  They're not going to.  Even if you're right.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday And Foggy

     Foggy as all get-out out doors.  Foggier still on my TV.  National politics used to be easy to comment on; now I just want to point at it and shrug.

     At the state level, our Governor gave the yearly State of the State speech last evening.  It looks like we're doing better than the neighboring states in terms of unemployment (three percent-ish), job growth, solvency of the state government and other metrics -- but when two of the neighboring states are Illinois and Michigan, looking better by comparison is kind of playing on the "easy" setting.  Still, the state's doing well and more people are moving here than moving away, so that's good news.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

It's Warm

     Or warm for January, at least.  Today's high will be in the upper fifties, possibly even sixty or more. 

     I am taking as much comfort in this as I can, because it has also resulted in remarkably intense earaches and sinus discomfort.  --And bad as it is, it's still better than having to deal with bitter cold.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Again

     Didn't we have a Monday just  last week?  Really, we've had enough of these, and yet--

     Some days, it's like crawling inside a Klein bottle: no matter how hard you try, you're stuck on the outside.  Which is also the inside.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Gun Show

     After a delicious breakfast at Northside Kitchenette, The Data Viking, Tam and I went to the Indy 1500 Gun (and Knife) Show yesterday.  The State Fairgrounds were busy with multiple events including a huge RV Show.  It was a miserably rainy day and between the three of us, there's a badly broken (and badly rehealed) ankle, a pair of shins rebuilt with titanium and stainless, and a once-broken knee that is slowly unwinding the cartilage from the upper hearing surfaces of the joint.

     So of course we were directed to park halfway across the sprawling fairgrounds from the event venue, despite having a blue-spaces placard borrowed from one of our vehicles* and pointing it out.  There were no shuttle buses running through the race-track infield where they put us, and there was puddle between us and the pedestrian underpass, a wide, long and in places deep pool of water.  We limped our way to the best place to cross, and wended down and through the low-ceilinged, dank tunnel under the track before walking a couple of blocks to the show.

     The show was...crowded.  The firearms selection was pretty good but had nothing really outstanding; the prices for things I'm interested in (an S&W Bekeart .22 target revolver or one of the models that followed right after) were pretty high.

     The main booksellers vanished several shows ago; they'd been struggling with a bad vehicle and worse health and we figure they set up shop wherever they were or wherever they could get to when life on the road became too much.  Their main foes -- literal foes, the show had to keep them at opposite ends of the very large building and there were still occasional arguments -- had dropped out even earlier.  There are a few other booksellers who show up at every second or third show, and they weren't at this one.  The usual tool guys were nowhere in evidence.  One has been headed that way, selling off what appeared to be the lighter contents of Grandpa's machine shop, four table-loads at a time, an endeavor with a definite end point.  The other one is a perennial, with a decent mixture of industrial surplus, sorted garage-sale finds and Chinsesium; I don't know why he wasn't there, but his usual tables, backed up to a guy who sells chemistry glassware and related items, were empty.  There was one guy doing knife sharpening and he was pretty busy, so I skipped it; time to get out the coarse stone and diamond hones and sharpen my pocketknife myself.

     Yes, I do realize that I go to gun shows and look for things other than guns.  There were a lot of knife sellers at this one, including some very high-end stuff, both "big name" makes and craftspeople selling their own wares.

     Some of our Usual Suspects were there, too -- the guy selling Cold War surplus and offering free anti-semitism with every sale and the fireworks guy with "cute" (not at all) names for his products that harken back to the worst crimes of the WW II Axis powers.  It's convenient of 'em to hang it right out there; the First Amendment protects them but I wouldn't buy gold bars from either one even if they were selling them twelve for a dime.

     On the other hand, the local chapter of the National African-American Gun  Association had well-staffed table with a nice display behind it and were running a raffle.  The local chapter is the Indy Red Tails Gun Club, named after the distinctive paint job of the Mustangs flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.  It was good to see them there; there's always a contingent of serious African-American hunters at the show and the usual young men one sees at the 1500 includes young men of color in demographic proportion, but this level of organization is relatively new and I'm happy to see wider Second Amendment support.

     I don't know if it's the Fairgrounds or the 1500, but increasingly, they set up very narrow aisles between the rows of tables in both sides of the building (with one wide aisle in the center of the larger side), and then leave a big empty space at the far end.  For me, this resulted in skipping a couple of aisles altogether: the crowd was at a standstill and there was no way through.  They need to either institute one-way aisles (good luck with that!) or make them wider.

     At the end, the Data Viking and I both bought nothing.  Tam picked up some ammo and we headed back to Roseholme Cottage, where DV and I watched a couple of episodes of The Expanse while Tam went to the range.  Later, her friend Shootin' Buddy stopped by and we all had a nice early supper at Marco's.

     Not a bad way to spend a gray, rainy day.
* I'm not saying whose it was, but all three of us qualify.  Usually, we'd rather leave those spots for people having a much harder time of it, but the Fairgrounds are huge and the parking staff is always overworked; they need to get you to a spot ASAP, so they can get the five hundred or more people behind you into parking spots, too.  If it's a long way away from the event you're attending, oh well.  There are usually shuttles but they were so busy we only saw one the entire time we were outside the show -- and the posted route didn't include the infield parking area.  It's not badly run but really busy days tend to almost overwhelm the staff; they're always friendly but they have no time to sort anyone out.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Browser Computer Frustrations

     Another morning of frustration with my browser -- but it's not just the browser, it's everything.  My "refurbished" desktop computer has never been entirely happy and is becoming less so.  Time, I suppose, to be looking for another.

     In the meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi booted up fine and other than screen size, a couple of pieces of software and issues with saving files on Dropbox, it's an adequate machine.

Friday, January 10, 2020

This And That

     Ended up sleeping most of the day yesterday, other than a light lunch and light dinner.  It didn't prevent me from getting a full night's sleep last night, so it must have been what I needed.

      The TV news has seemed preoccupied - or co-preoccupied, anyway -- with the current goings-on of the Windsor family.  We fought a war so that we didn't have to pay attention to them, and yet somehow we can't quite look away.  Ignore all the "throne of Empire" -- well, Commonwealth -- stuff and you've got a young couple stepping back from the family business to go their own way, a story that plays out every day all across the planet.

     The other news preoccupation is the President of the United States and what may or may not be going on with Iran.  Whatever it is, it's not going to end soon; we're three (or is is five?*) Administrations into the current troop-heavy version of the Great Game and the only constant is, we can't get out without leaving a power vacuum that will soon fill with the worst possible replacement.  Some of my left-leaning Facebook contacts are sounding the alarm about how Mr. Trump's got to be removed and I'm reading it, thinking the impeachment process is, in fact, underway, so what are they urging that they haven't already got?  The storming of the Winter Palace?  Well, the weather in Florida's not so bad this time of year, but I think the golfers will object.
* Possibly more.  U. S. involvement in Iran goes back to at least the Eisenhower administration.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

No Fun

     Rannie the cat and I have something in common.  I think mine is milder, but it does seem that I've been fighting a sinus infection over the last few days.  It hit pretty hard this morning and after trying to ignore it, I finally had to admit defeat.

     I called in sick and went back to bed.  Slept like a log until about ten minutes ago, so I guess that was what I needed.

     Last night's dinner was a deli pork roast from the hot food cabinet (and darned good); I'd browned left-over slices of it for breakfast and made a couple into a sandwich for work, so that's my lunch.  With a little horseradish to help my sinuses!

Presidents Making War: Another Conditionally-Bad Thing

     Ensuring that the Federal Government follows the Constitution in that only Congress may declare war is a grave and urgent task -- if the President rattling sabers isn't from your party.  Or you can wink at the war police action if you're a Congressthing who figures it will be unpopular and you're hoping when public opinion turns, it will drag the other party down with it.  Or, what the heck, in an excess of patriotic zeal, real or feigned.  (See Public Law 107-243 or 107-40 for examples.)

     Congress has tended in recent years to tell the President to "do the right thing" and leave him alone with the Joint Chiefs while they look on from the sidelines and wash their hands, the specific enumeration in Article One, Section Eight notwithstanding.

    Wikipedia tells me, "The last time the United States formally declared war, using specific terminology, on any nation was in 1942, when war was declared against Axis-allied Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania...." Congress, it appears, has been asleep at the switch or just waving the Executive Branch on by, all through the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War (euphemism bedammed withal), Grenada, Panama (okay, that was more like a drug bust) and the specific manifestations of the War On a Noun in Iraq and Afghanistan, to ignore U. N. "peacekeeping" expeditions and name a few war-ish actions that spring to mind.

     Then an extremely polarizing President authorized the military killing a man who was a known sponsor of terrorism.  True, he was very highly placed in the Iranian government -- and the person in day-to-day charge of their version of the SOE.  Congress -- especially the Democrats in Congress -- is not happy.  Nope, they are riled and they're talking about reining him in, starting some time next week.

     And never mind that it's been Congress who have let the reins out all this while.

     Who knows?  This might even spell the beginning of a whole new era of Congressional responsibility!  But I think you'd be wise to not bet any more money that you can afford to lose on that.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Poor Rannie!

     Tamara's cat, Random Numbers "Rannie" Wu, has another upper respiratory infection.  She started getting sniffly over the weekend and by yesterday, she was wheezing, sniffling, burbling and sneezing.

     She refused breakfast yesterday.  Tamara took her to the veterinarian yesterday afternoon.  The diagnosed a bacterial infection and we started her on antibiotics last evening.  She's still recovering and not feeling very well; refused breakfast again this morning and is due for her medicine shortly.

     Huck, my huge yellow-striped tomcat,  is not at all understanding.  He keeps trying to get Rannie to play by bounding up, throwing a foreleg over her shoulders, and attempting to wrestle, a behavior she doesn't like very much even when she's not sick.  Is he being a pill or is he trying to cheer her up?  It's hard to say.

     Tam's poor cat prefers to nap on hot pads and furnace registers, hoping to feel better.  She's taken to turning her back on the room, a sure sign she's not happy.

     The antibiotic helped a lot the last time she had a sinus infection.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

What, Me Blog?

     There's an entire blog devoted to the history -- most of it pre-Mad magazine -- of Alfred E. Neuman.

     Turns out that guy has been on the job a lot longer than you might expect.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Epic Tweet Battle?

     I guess it's the new platform for war -- or maybe I'm just hoping.  Given the inconclusive nature of many modern wars (or war-type endeavors), a Twitter fight doesn't look like such a bad idea; the body count would be less and most world leaders have a great less to lose when they start doxxing.

     Just don't bet money it'll stay at that level.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

My Brain Is Full

     I spent most of yesterday and today critiquing about a hundred and fifty pages of someone else's fiction and boy, is my brain tired!

     It's much easier to write "unclear -- fix this" or "Did the Mongols really use carrier pigeons?" in the margins of a manuscript you didn't write and won't have to rewrite or research, that's for sure, and supposedly it's good practice for digging into one's own work.

     Meanwhile, I'm messing with Scrivener more.  It's got some interesting cross-platform capabilities that I am hoping to use.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

That Was Close!

     Rousted out of bed this morning under threat of decaf!

     The neighborhood grocery stocks a wide array of ground coffee -- wide, but not very deep. In recent months, they've been out of the house-blend "Jamaican Mountain Blend" that I like.  They nearly always have it in whole bean (and when they don't, there's always Tanzanian Peaberry to fall back on), so I've been buying that instead.

     I have also been keeping a little decaffeinated coffee on hand, most recently a Kona blend; it's a nice hot drink with supper, less sugar than soft drinks,* and especially welcome in the winter.  That stuff is ground coffee, ready to go.  Fresh, it's not bad, but even in a vacuum carafe, it doesn't keep well.  Hasn't got that edge.

     This morning, I was sleeping in.  Got up, fed the cats, and laid back down, with a hot pad under my back and, eventually, Rannie the cat curled up next to me.

     I was jarred back to full consciousness by being asked, "Where's the coffee?  I've got the kettle on.  Shall I just use this Kona?"

     The beans don't get ground until needed; at a pot of coffee a day, that's a grinder-ful every other day.  I stash the ground coffee in an unmarked, air-tight container and there's no way to tell what's in it or how long its been there.  Our coffee grinder is old and a bit arcane to operate.

     Tam was being helpful but I'd left her without any clues where the good stuff was. 

     So there was nothing for it: if I wanted morning coffee with caffeine, I had to accept that it was my own darned fault the right stuff wasn't more obvious and get up and make it myself.

     Which doesn't take all that long, really, nor much effort, either.

     Just finished a cuppa and a heel slice of nice, fresh sea salt and rosemary-crust bread with Irish butter.  I think I'll crawl back under the covers and see if I can entice the cats to join me for an hour.
* Even the way I drink coffee, with creamer and a teaspoon of sugar, it's better for you than soda pop.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Here We Go Again

     Lots of people "have got it coming;" few of them ever get it.

     War...doesn't work that way; drastic action is often taken against important centers of command.

     And in a state of almost-war?  Cold War?  Over-arching principles are rare, plausible deniability is common -- but not the rule.  Sometimes actions are overt to the point of challenge.

     U. S. forces killed a top Iranian officer.  A drone strike in Iraq, near Baghdad.  It appears he was instrumental in a lot of damage to our people. 

     What happens next, I don't know.   

Thursday, January 02, 2020

New Year's Meal

     Tamara took this photo right after I'd stuck the thermometer in the meat and started adding vegetables; it was up to the "Beef - Rare" point shortly afterwards.
     We were short on charcoal and I had trouble getting the grill up to 250°F and keeping it that hot, but it all worked out in the end.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

New Year's Day

     Corned beef is soaking, protected (I hope!) from Huck's attention by a lidded pan.

     Tam saw the New Year in with fireworks; I was in bed by then, awake but barely and with one cats snuggle up next to me while the other one occupied my legs.  We all have our own ways of celebrating; I'm not sorry to see the old year chased off and we'll see what the new one will bring.

     It's trite, but why not play the song?