Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Home As The Cow Flies, Home To Roost

     Or something like that.  The Sandman's bill came due several hours early Monday.  By 4:00 that afternoon, I was having trouble walking because the darned floor wouldn't stay level -- and neither would the walls.  When it finally dawned on me that I could either drive home now or be carried out on a shutter at quitting time, I asked the boss if he could spare me early.  By good luck, the evening shift was fully staffed (we're already in vacation season), so I made my cautious way home and was in bed within the hour.

     Eleven hours later when the alarm went off, I resented it only mildly.  Maybe I'm finally caught up on sleep.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Three Day Weekend!

     Done the hard way: came home Friday (late), slep, got up (early) and did the hamfest/Grissom Museum trip.  Slept, woke up about 9 p.m., went into work, worked, came home, slept, woke up about noon, got my taxes done and visited Mom X in the hospital.

     She sounds great and is in good spirits, but she looks just like anyone would who had fallen face-first onto a concrete floor.  The hospital's given her a very nice room, practically a hotel room with hospital fittings.  She's hoping to be released early this week -- and planning to spend some time with either home heath care or in an assisted-living place, once she finds one she likes.  Too many falls in recent months.  She's looking at long-term options and I'm not pushing; she's very much in command of her faculties and well aware of her fragility.  It's not easy for her. She has always been very active.

     Back into the relentless maw of work for me, and bearing bad tidings to boot: the weekend overnight work mentioned above was nipped in the bud by uncooperative weather and now I get to explain that to folks who look askance at the wind at 1000' being greatly different to the wind at ground level. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Qualified Impunity

     Police can be bad enough they get sent home without supper -- or any police powers.  IMPD's David Reese did something Friday -- details are sketchy, just two counts of battery and one of "residential entry" -- that earned him suspension without pay, loss of police powers and some time with IMPD's "Wellness" program.  And some other time in court.

     What happened, exactly?  Couldn't tell you.  And neither can our local media outlets.  Thin blue line is running a wee bit opaque at present.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Not Much Blog Today

     I have a very busy day, on the heels of a busy day, to be followed by...  Well.

     Road trip this morning, overnight work at work (weather permitting) and taxes tomorrow.  Friday afternoon, my Mom fell again and she's back in the hospital for evaluation and treatment of minor injuries.  I took her cell phone to the hospital after a late day at work (it had been left at her house when she went in) and found my siblings and partners filling Mom's room but no sign of Mom.  She was getting some form of imaging.   The room was crowded even with the rolling ER bed gone, so I went home: when the only function you can serve is to get in the way, the best thing to do is get out of the way and let the professionals work. (This is naturally taken of a sign of indifference, coldness and a failure to respect the gods of the household shrine.  Well, maybe; but I'd rather that than be a ghoul.)  Me, I'll "think good thoughts" her way and show up later, when the medicos have things sorted and she'll be wanting company.

     (If ever I go in hospital, I hope my previous pattern holds true and it takes hours if not days for anyone other then me and the docs to know about it.  Early on, anybody without some flavor of EMT, RN, LPN, N-P or M.D. after their name or driving a mopbucket is mostly in the way, just one more knot of worry to afflict the patient. Who has, in case you haven't noticed, more pressing problems than playing a foil to your desire to emote.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Voice Of Spamerica?

     "...[T]hey broadcast from...a world that no longer exists. I view these stations, Voice of America and Radio Liberty, as spam on our airwaves." That's what our good, good friends the Russians say, or at least it's what the .gov.ru  official who turned down VOA's routine request to renew their contract to broadcast via transmitters inside Russia said.

    RIA Novosti general director Dmitry Kiselyov sent a one-sentence refusal but has since has plenty to say to Russian media outlets, dismissing charges that he's suppressing dissenting voices, "This does not have anything to do with freedom of speech because Voice of America and Radio Liberty do not talk about anything original."

     Ah, it's voices-from-the-ash-heap-of history time again is it?   VOA -- like other shortwave broadcasters -- has been steadily shutting down transmitting facilities (with the possible exception of Greenville B),* but -- again, like other traditionally shortwave services -- maintains considerable web and satellite presence. While they're no longer on boomboxes in Russia, VOA is still pumping out signals to all the world, for anyone who cares to listen.

     Spam?  Better check the supermarket shelves, Dimitry: that stuff still sells.
* The big Crosley-built site in Bethany, Ohio is long gone except for the building.  Dixon, California is shut down, as are Delano in CA and Greenville A in North Carolina. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wimmen Only: Is It Just Me...

...Or do like one in three Revlon lipsticks end up spontaneously ejecting the actual lipstick from the lipstick tube at some point in their useful life?

     (A post which illustrates the old folk-wisdom that anytime women talk about anything, men interrupt with blithe unawareness of the appropriateness of their incursion..  Boys, it's cute but there really are times when you should stand silent.)

Frank James Is Recovering

     Mas Ayoob paid him a visit and has good news!  Frank is one of the most impressive people -- and best shooters -- I have ever met.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


     H'mm, I got nuthin' -- Hey, didja hear the Rooooshians, in the closing ceremonies for the Sochi Winter Olympics and Farewell Party, played the instrumental version of a song about reclaiming Alaska? 

     Welcome to the run-up to WW III.  Be sure'n take your iodine tabs.

     Frikkin' morons.  Y'know what the upper-limit boundary* to the time between really honkin' big wars is?  The lifespan of the participants in the previous one.  Seriously, check your history books.  Oh, you'll get a few outliers and there's regional variations, but about the time the bulk of the guys who fought amidst massive loss of life are dead, another opportunity to look at people's inside on a large scale comes along.  The species may be programmed for it in our hardware.  It only takes a few bastards to flip the switch and then...it's on.

* The lower limit is, of course, the time it takes to re-arm.  Twenty years, more or less, is the modern record.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Warning

     Sir, is that...Limberger?
     Becky-Sue, dial 9-1-1!

Beretta Builds A Gun That Is Actually Smart

     Nope, it doesn't know who you are, nor does it care.  I've never shot one and I have no idea how they perform -- but the ideas informing the A400 Xcel shotgun design apply modern electronics and mechanical design to the Old Reliable "shotty," and end up with the hybrid offspring of an M41A Pulse Rifle* and a classic hardwood-and-blued-steel Remington Model 11.*  Love it or look askance, it's an interesting machine.
* You guys do realize I don't have to look any of this up, don't you?  Not because I know, but because at Roseholme Cottage, all you have to do is shout, "What's that rifle in Alien with the LED round counter?" and "What was the first semi-auto shotgun?" and the question is answered, in full.  Yep, with Tam around, who needs a reference book or a search engine?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Your Tax Dollars At (Inept) Work

     So, the very same Federal Gummint that likes to listen to your phone calls and read your Internet traffic, and had to build a giant server farm in Utah to save copies of it all, can't keep track of the drawings and docs for nuclear weapons.  They don't even know who had made changes to the drawings they can find, nor if they're notes for improvement, as-builts or somebody's idle fantasy.

     Okay, okay, NNSA is not NSA, but still, you'd think atom bomb plans would rate a little closer attention than, oh, I dunno, frikkin' wiretaps.

     I sure wouldn't go shopping in any junk stores around Amarillo; no tellin' what kind of burn-before-reading stuff might be stuffed in the back of the drawers of some surplus file cabinet or desk.  ...Yeah, I wish I was joking.

     The fed.gov: can't keep its own secrets, wants to know yours.  Probably already does know, and doesn't that make you feel ever so much safer? 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Charles Stross: Merchant Princes

     I'm currently working on the fourth of six books in Charles Stross's six-episode "Merchant Princes" series.*  Or halfway through the middle book of the trilogy, if you purchased the most recent recombining; it seems the original set only ended up as six books when some bean-sorter decided they'd be dauntingly fat as a trilogy. (You know how us readers just hate finding a good long book to keep up the entertainment.)

     Whatever.  Six or three, they're great fun.  I'd put off looking into them because at a glance, they sounded like fantasy and I find most fantasy unreadable, even by writers whose other work I enjoy.  (Heinlein and Pratchett are exceptions and the whole Unknown magazine-shading-to-Lovecraft axis usually works for me.)  I was wrong, wrong on all counts: it's not exactly fantasy, no more than Piper's "Paratime" or Laumer's "Imperium," and Stross's worlds and storyline are a fresh look at what had seemed an old notion.

     The essential "one different thing" is that some people, a very few, can shift themselves and as much as they can carry to an alternate world and back again -- one world.  Ours.  Theirs is...different.  A civilization stuck at a late-medieval level, perhaps as far along as double-entry bookkeeping and three-field crop rotation, with feudal power structures and a whole lot of peasants tilling the fields and doing the grunt work.  The world-walkers, originally a single family of tinkers, have clawed their way into the aristocracy over the course of a century and a half years, thanks to their access to rapid communications, medicine, advanced weapons and so on.  They're also making a fortune in our world by smuggling: it's impossible for Customs or cops to intercept goods carried, albeit by slow wagon, in a different Earth.  Into this setup, Stross throws a lost noblewoman, orphaned and marooned on the Earth we know for 30-some years, who suddenly discovers her heritage.

     Because he is who he is, so far the narrative has run from investigative journalism to court intrigue to action adventure, with side trips into Dynasty reruns playing on a flatscreen TV in a drafty castle dining hall, steampunk, the drawbacks of garderobes, revolutionaries under severe threat and what moving from one world to another does to one's blood pressure.  Plus Dealing With Bureaucracy, something that comes as naturally to him as Stupid Diplomat Tricks did to Keith Laumer.  (I think the Dynasty thing is a bit of a "hanging a lantern on it," since the series can sometimes resemble a nighttime soap opera -- one with battle scenes, misplaced nukes and steam cars, mind you.)

     My only real quibble is that the our-Earth action takes place in the U.S. and while Stross does a good American accent in dialog, some Briticisms do creep in, usually in the form of turns of phrase that pass unnoticed in his home country.  There's also rather a lot of firearm use, generally competently described despite a couple of minor slip-ups in the fine details (or at least terminology) of the purchase and licensing of same and their bearers. Since one of the primary POV characters is a Bostonian, such glitches are darned-near inevitable -- I don't think I understand the gun laws of Massachusetts well enough to avoid bobbles, and I have the advantage of being a firearms-hobbyist and living in the U.S.  (A big problem for writers in our very-connected world is getting trivia right without veering into pedantry. Stross does this well.) 

     I won't synopsize farther. I don't want to spoil the fun -- and these books are fun, a complex adventure that just keeps recomplicating, cliffhangers and all.  Read 'em. They're new stuff as good as the best of the old stuff.
* And for those of you concerned about excessive sibilance, an incipient lisp or a whistling upper plate, "Charles Stross's six-episode Merchant Princes series" is about as good a test phrase as you could get, even at gunpoint (which would be a damfool way to ask).