Friday, December 31, 2010

Time heals some wounds better than others.

Lunch with friends today at bd's Mongolian Grill, always fun and filling. Spring the extra for the all-you-can-conquer buffet, and if you leave there hungry it's your own fault.

Like many a Mongolian-style restaurant, there's a moderately Genghis-toned theme to the place, leading me to ask my dining companions how many hundreds of years they thought it takes, on average, to make a really extroverted genocidal conqueror into a cute'n'kitschy sales motif. I mean, when are we going to see Wacky Adolf's House of Schnitzel? And can you imagine what the kiddie menu would be like there?

When "should" turns into "must".

With a couple days of above-freezing temperatures and a bit of gentle rain, I can see the lawn (and the street) for the first time in nearly three weeks.

We're scheduled for an unseasonably balmy New Year's Eve before returning to our regularly scheduled winter by Sunday.

That'll mean more opportunities for shoveling snow. Like many cities, Indy has sidewalk-clearing ordinances, although I’ve never heard of them being enforced. Fortunately, I don't have to deal with any petty frozen precipitation tyrants like the one Marko wrote about:
...a perfect example of what happens when a powerful bureaucracy gives a little man a badge, a ticket book, and legal authority to lord it over his fellow citizens. He doesn’t just do his job impartially; he relishes the power he holds, and he looks forward to using that power as often as he can.
I know I shovel our walk (and our neighbor’s) just for the smug sense of superiority it gives me to be one of the first people on the block to have a tidy, well-shoveled sidewalk. (I shovel the neighbor’s because it’s no big deal while I’ve got the shovel out. And she mows our front yard while she’s doing hers.) I can guarantee that if I had to deal with an Inspektor Tankle, my shoveling would be a lot more grudging, and I'd only do the minimum required to avoid the fine, mostly out of sheer cussedness.

This is a splendid example of the joys of government, which will always turn a “you should” into a “you must”.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Whole lotta shakin' goin' on...

Yet another earthquake in Indiana and I didn't feel a thing.

I feel a little cheated, actually. I mean, I don't want to experience an actual, you know, earthquake-type earthquake, but a minor tremblor that didn't actually break anything would be interesting. I mean, you only get to see the planet once, you might as well try and experience the whole show while you're here.

Worth the hassle?

The author of wilsonblog ran into a clerk at Wal-Mart who obviously didn't normally haunt the sporting goods department and was none too pleased to be there, forced to actually touch icky ammunition. She awkwardly went through the whole "pistol or rifle?" cash register script, which Wilson, being quite obviously over 21, had never heard before.

You know, I'm occasionally amazed that any of the big chains even deal in guns and ammunition anymore, given the risk-to-reward ratio. It's one thing for a specialty store that can (at least theoretically) train its employees in the intricacies of federal and state gun laws, but it's another thing for some giant retailer who stands to take a fiscal bath if some kid from the infant sleepwear department gets transferred to sporting goods to cover a vacation shift and makes a mistake. What percentage of a suburban Box-Mart's sales come from ammunition? What percentage of its legal exposure comes from same? It's no wonder that so many have dropped firearms and ammunition sales like a live grenade.

Oh, sure, they make pious noises about it to try and make some PR hay out of what was a calculated business decision, but the fact of the matter is no Mart-Mart chain is as much "anti-gun" as they are "pro-money" and "anti-risk".

There is no word in the German language for "fluffy"...

...and there is no word in Russian for "ergonomics".

In an epiphany that I'm sure will interest about three of my readers, while I was reading a book yesterday, I was looking at a cutaway of the Russian T-34-85 tank and it suddenly hit me that they sat their loader on the right side of the gun's breech. Either they have a lot of left-handed young men in Russia, or the guys that designed them didn't actually spend much time riding around in them...

(For those unaware, the loader's job is to, in a cramped space, pick up a fairly long, bulky, heavy shell, stick the nose of it in the breech, ram it home with one arm, and then quickly get that arm clear of the breech mechanism. Ideally, this would be the stronger and more... er... dexterous of his two arms...)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

QotD: ΒΑΚΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ!

Jim at The Travis McGee Reader on food prices and possible long lines at the bacon counter:
As bad as 2010 is, next year looks worse for the two basic food groups, i.e., (1) bacon and (2) everything lese.
We need to tap the national strategic pork belly reserves in that salt cave in Louisiana.

Commandos are not exempt.

Posting may be light; Call of Duty: Black Ops just arrived for my Nintendo DS. Looking at the cover illustration on the box, I thought I was seeing a classic video game error before I realized that the gun on the right was an XM-177 and therefore it actually shouldn't have a bayonet lug. Props to Activision for getting that detail right.

I always get a smile when the models in a video game or book cover or advertisement are posing with ban-compliant rifles. I've seen "Rangers" with no bayonet lugs and "SWAT teams" stacked on a door with AR carbines and nary a flash hider in sight.

You'd think in the era of airsoft that this would no longer be a problem.

Well, speaking of airsoft, actually one of the funniest was Dick Marcinko on the cover of Rogue Warrior posing with an "MP5K" that was obviously a Daisy Model 15 airsoft gun, although that may have had something to do with the felony convictions...

Hoosier jihadi?

So they were interviewing one Kathie Smith on local TeeWee this morning. At least I assumed it was her. They said it was, but your average bank robber is more identifiable than someone wearing a burkha.

Anyhow, apparently a video of her had gone viral on the net. Said video has her posing with her husband, Salahudin Ibn Something-or-other, while they wave rifles and yammer on with the usual "Allah this" and "Jihad that" and "Yay, Osama" and praise the freedom fighters for killing the evil American soldiers, and now she's upset because... get this... she's getting death threats on the internets. Imagine.

I'm sure that when she and her snookums were yelling "Jihad" in the video, they meant "Internal spiritual struggle. With AK-47s." She's obviously being persecuted for her Muslim faith; I bet this never happens to Reverend Phelps.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The new iThingy...

The built-in video camera in the G5 iPod Nano has got me wanting to scoop it up and take footage of nearly everything, but that wasn't the feature that most surprised me. No, the feature that most surprised me is this:

Yesterday, when driving home from the grocery store, an orchestral piece came on that I didn't recognize. Engaged in the act of driving, I blindly reached over to the passenger seat and punched the button in the middle of the click wheel to bring up the video display so that I could lift the screen to eye level as soon as I made my next turn, and before I could do so a ghostly voice wafted over the car's speakers, saying "Untitled. Guns and Roses."

Huh! Robbie the Robot will tell me what I'm listening to without me even having to look at the screen. This modern Jetson's world of yours is fascinating!

Ghosts of the past.

I'm busy reading Peter Heather's Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe, and in it he describes an interesting archaeological dig.

The Romans patrolled their river frontiers with vessels called lusoriae. A lusoria was like a brown-water patrol boat; a miniature version of the seagoing warships of the period, down to the ram on the prow. In an archaeological dig along the Rhine near what was the Roman town of Civitas Nemetum (modern-day Speyer in Germany) archaeologists came across the wreckage of some Germanic rafts that had apparently been caught by a squadron of lusoriae in the late Third Century while bringing some wagonloads of booty back across the Rhine.

Now, bear in mind that the Rhine river during the first half of the First Millenium was a microcosm of modern globalization: On one side of the river was a wealthy and sophisticated civilization, complete with plumbing, coinage, literature, the rule of law, and what-have-you. On the other side of the river were the have-nots: clans and tribes run by strongmen, whose primary industries were amber, raw materials, slaves, and plots for how to get across the river and get a slice of la dolce vita waiting on the other side.

The booty the archaeologists uncovered contained the contents of a wealthy Roman villa of the late Third Century. And by "the contents", I mean the entire contents: silverware, cooking pots, gardening equipment, the works. Everything but the hinges from the doors.

For some reason, the image that sprang to mind was that of scientists in the year 3700 AD digging up a sand bar on the Rio Grande and uncovering some john boats with the entire contents of a ranch house: Not just the 52" flatscreen TV and the good silverware, but the coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, and the weed-whacker, too...

He's a growing boy.

The way Huck reacts when I open the cabinet with the food in it, you'd think we were starving him to death.

He dashes into the kitchen, then jogs back to the office, weaving between my ankles, hoping I'll trip. As I start pouring the food into the bowl, he will thrust his head forward and start crunching, oblivious to the stream of kibble pouring onto the back of his head and streaming off his ears.

I will then go out into the dining room, where the other food bowl is, and top it up, too. It's usually still more than half full, proof that he wasn't particularly hungry, but as Huck hears the sound of kibble being poured, he comes running out of the office to try and get some of the fresh chow out here. Once I'm done pouring, he's done eating. It's not so much the food he gets excited about, as it is the act of being fed.

He's growing like a weed, and still rangy; he has yet to grow into his snowshoe feet and he's already only a few inches away from being able to grab doorknobs between his paws. I'm afraid I'm going to wake up one morning with him trying to get my head in his mouth so he can drag me up a tree on the Serengeti...

The ingredients of gun school...

In an effort to warm myself up in the depths of winter, here's a photo from a sunny day in August:


That's your three basic ingredients of gun school right there:
  1. Sunscreen. This is so you will not be cindered and start sprouting tumors on Day One from being out in the sun all day. Do not say to yourself things like "It's October. What do I need sunscreen for?" When you're standing out in his rays all day, Mr. Sun will burn you as happily in October as he will in July.
  2. Water. Lots of water. And drink that stuff. It's hard to learn stuff when you're lying flat on your back, everything's fuzzy around the edges, and everyone's voice sounds like it's echoing down a tunnel. Besides you really can't learn anything when all anybody says to you is "Are you okay? Hello? Quick! Call 911!"
  3. Ammo and mags. Lots and lots of ammo and mags. Check with the course requirements or contact the instructor for a recommended minimum. The more mags you bring the less time you'll spend loading, and you'll still spend enough time jamming rounds into mags that your thumb will be sore for a day or two afterward.
I forgot my sunscreen and didn't drink enough water at Blackwater and darned near made a heat casualty out of myself. I didn't get everything I could have out of day three because I was just flat hanging on my chinstrap. Don't be like me. Hydrate and stuff.

Ammunition and mag requirements vary from instructor to instructor, and by the type of class you're taking. At Louis Awerbuck's three-day carbine/pistol course, I burned up something like 450 rounds of carbine ammunition and maybe 200 for the pistol, whereas the 2-day Aim Fast Hit Fast course with Todd Green used up nearly every bit of a thousand rounds of .45ACP.

Magazine requirements are usually more vague, and will vary based on how much time you want to spend stuffing rounds in magazines. Todd helpfully suggests to bring enough magazines to AFHF to allow you to bring fifty rounds up to the firing line. On the other end of the spectrum, I've watched a guy taking Handgun I with only the two mags that came with his Walther PPS. It seems like literally every second he wasn't shooting, he was pulling loose rounds from his pockets and thumbing them into magazines; it's gotta be hard to listen to the instructor when you're doing that.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Synchronicity...

As the car was rolling pleasantly down well-cleared College Avenue, the iPod was playing the dreamy, tranquil title cut from the Cocteau Twins' Heaven or Las Vegas. Literally just as I turned off onto the side streets near home, just as the slipping and sliding began, the soundtrack switched to Ministry's "You Know What You Are" off The Land of Rape and Honey.

How does it know?

Overheard in the Hallway:

Roomie was in her bedroom getting stuff together for work as I was exiting the bathroom. Huck the cat came trotting down the hall, dragging a pink striped knee sock like a freshly-killed squirrel.

Me: "Uh, you should see what your boy has caught here. And, come to think of it, you probably shouldn't be leaving your makeup all untended on the vanity with him around. I know how you feel about it."

RX: "'Feel about it'?"

Me: "Yeah. That stuff costs money. If Huck were to leap up on the vanity and knock it to the floor, you'd..."

RX: "Be peeved?"

Me: "Well, I was going to say '...lose your $#!+', but the judges say they'll also accept '...be peeved'."

Phoenixes, Helldivers, and Flying Circuses.

On this date in 1922, the Imperial Japanese Navy commissioned the world's first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the Hōshō. Prior to this, the few carriers in service with other navies had been conversions built on battlecruiser hulls; the Hōshō, which means "flying phoenix", was designed from the keel up as a floating airport.

By the time the Second World War was well and truly under way, the Hōshō was a little long in the tooth; small and cramped for the latest generation of high-performance monoplanes, she carried a squadron of eight obsolescent Yokosuka B4Y biplane bombers into battle near Midway. In the American order of battle at Midway, the star of the show was the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber operating from the famous US Navy flattops. Relegated to the background, on the island of Midway itself were a few of the "Speedy D's" predecessors in the dive bomber role, the Vought SB2U Vindicator.

The Vindicator was an older aircraft, old enough that one of the planes it had competed against in trials was the Curtiss XSBC-3, which was adopted into service as the USN's last combat biplane, the SBC Helldiver. The "Helldiver" name, along with the "Hawk" moniker, was used by Curtiss for a whole range of military biplanes and monoplanes, which they shopped to nations around the world during the Depression years of the Thirties. The SBC's immediate ancestor, the BFC-2, was sold overseas as the "Hawk II".

Fighter-pilot-turned-sycophantic-junkie Hermann Göring allegedly enticed his old Jagdgeschwader 1 squadron-mate Ernst Udet, the highest-scoring WWI German ace after Richthofen, into joining the Nazi party by dangling the purchase of a couple of these hot ships in front of him. One, still in the colors it was wearing when Udet flew it in aerobatics over the 1936 Munich Olympics, was found in a field outside of Kraków. After Udet's suicide, it had become part of Hermann's personal collection, which had been moved to the remote site to escape the Allies' aerial leveling of Berlin. It can now be seen at the Polish Aviation Museum.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just not getting that 1337 vibe, man...

Apparently Yemen is trying to stand up some elite counterterror units to go after the Al Qa'eda tangos that infest the back country.

The linked article shows a Yemeni troop riding in the back of a DShK-equipped pickup, looking like an extra from Black Hawk Down, and I'm just not getting that whole elite vibe, man. Has there been an Arab army worthy of that designation since... well, the fall of the Umayyid Caliphate? And don't give me Saladin, he was a Kurd.

Twistmas Carols!

Jennifer sings some of the various silly carols folks have been putting on their blogs over the past week!

(I'm one of those people whose singing sounds like a sack of cats being beaten with a tennis racquet, and so people who can really sing always make me feel a little awestruck.)

It is awesome! And I'm not just saying that 'cause one of them is from Bobbi and I...

More snow...

...but not here.

Indy only got an inch and change of snow on Christmas, which wasn't much, but was still enough to boost this to the third snowiest December ever.

Meanwhile, Atlanta had its first white Christmas since 1882 and Birmingham, Alabama had its first since... well, since anybody who cared about Christmas and snowfall and could write things down was in the neighborhood we now call "Birmingham".

Meanwhile, they're getting a record-book-level dollop of snow in North Cackalacky...

They're calling for a warmup by this weekend here, though. I can't wait.

Seasonal cheer?

In what seems to be a holiday tradition, the TeeWee was showing the Hallmark Production of that feel-good family classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, in which Corporal McHale shows Private John Boy the ropes in the middle of the epic three-way struggle between armies of German soldaten, French poilus, and corpse-eating rats. Then everybody winds up face-down dead in the mud. Bring the kids! (Although I will note that back when it was released, I was in the 4th grade, and Scholastic News, or whatever that propaganda they give to kids was called, contained a viewer's guide and synopsis. Myself, I just thought it was pretty neat that our teachers encouraged us to watch a war movie.)

The production values are very good, and it's a nice period piece. (Although for some reason the fact that the Jerry infantry Gewehr 98's were postwar Wiemar refurbs with tangent rear sights instead of the correct lange vizier "rollercoaster" rear sights bugged me inordinately on this viewing. If you are a normal person, this would probably not impact your viewing pleasure in the slightest.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas dinner...

...was bangers & mash with onion gravy and cabbage on the side. It was deeeeeluxious!

We'd have saved y'all some but I ate it all.

Before my long winter's nap...

...I'm chillin' out with some cheerful Christmas reading: Wars of Blood and Faith, by Ralph Peters, which is a compendium of his columns over a period of several years.

Peters seems to have replaced the departed David Hackworth as the military's stormcrow. Although the topics are different, more strategic than tactical, reflecting the fact that Peters was an intel type while Hack was an infantry officer, the tenor is largely the same. He seems to delight in poking the establishment and making dire predictions. Whether you agree with him or not, it makes interesting reading...

I did not know that...

A Wikiwander that started with Lebanon bologna took me to the article on cold cuts which took me to the article on bologna which took me to the USDA's regulations for hot dogs and bologna, which included the following tidbit:
The definition of "meat" was amended in December 1994 to include any "meat" product that is produced by advanced meat/bone separation machinery. This meat is comparable in appearance, texture, and composition to meat trimmings and similar meat products derived by hand. This machinery separates meat from bone by scraping, shaving, or pressing the meat from the bone without breaking or grinding the bone. Product produced by advanced meat recovery (AMR) machinery can be labeled using terms associated with hand-deboned product (e.g., "pork trimmings" and "ground pork").
Huh. The government changed the definition of "meat".
'To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.' -often attributed to Otto von Bismarck
I wonder when the definition of "law" was amended to include laws that were made by advanced law-making machinery (ALM), consisting of batteries of high-pressure lobbyists and bowing & scraping staffers, rather than traditional laws hand-crafted by statesmen?

Merry Christmas!

A very merry Christmas to all of you out there from all of me here at View From The Porch!

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Practicality...

The local Big Supermarket had, in amongst its holiday specials, cheap polar fleece blankies shrink-wrapped into foot-long sausage-shaped cylinders for $9.99 per three.

I grabbed a trio: One for the futon here at Roseholme Cottage, and one each to toss in the trunks of both roomie's car and the Zed Drei. Now I have a bright red fleece blanket in there next to the folding shovel and the first aid kit. The bright red color is nice because most of my winter outer garments are in muted hues that are hardly likely to help steer rescuers to my position should I spin off the road...

Last minute things...

Had to run to the grocery store today for some last-minute stuff. Actually, grocery stores, since some things would need to come from a real supermarket while most of the food-type stuff could be had at the Fresh Market.

The driving conditions on the side streets had gotten interesting, what with all the snow having been packed down tight, then covered with a glaze of ice last night, and the intermittent sun putting a film of meltwater atop the ice. I brought the Bimmer to a halt at the end of the alley without triggering the ABS, a feat of which I was extraordinarily proud, only to have it start slipping forward down the gentle slope toward the street as soon as the tires had stopped turning.

The parking lot at the store was absolutely jam-packed and, worse luck, had just been strafed by a flying saucer using the area-effect "Morono-Ray", which cuts the IQ of its targets in half. Considering that your average person needs every neuron they can muster just to keep from stopping stock-still in the middle of the grocery store aisle and staring at their cell phone like a duck in thunder, let alone to navigate the family bus around the crowded lot, you can imagine the scene.

Inevitably, after nearly being run over by more than one driver who imagined that rear-view mirrors were for sissies or that it was perfectly okay to take your half of the road from the middle, I got my bare handful of stuff and stood in the express lane while waiting for somebody who was trying to buy a pack of gum, 27 sweet potatoes, and a two liter bottle of ginger ale with a counter check from the First Bank of Bangladesh and using a Blockbuster membership card as their sole piece of ID. When I rule the world, that will be a flogging offense in any retail establishment from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

How was your morning?

Every year around this time...

...I get to thinking that a heated seat in the smallest room would be just the awesomest thing ever.

Seriously, the right gear can make going outside to shovel snow with the temperature hovering in the teens a... well, not "pleasant", but at least not finger-numbingly cold experience, and yet a good enough cold spell and my every visit to the bathroom is punctuated by a yelp as I encounter Frosty the Toilet Seat.

There has got to be a better way, and one that doesn't involve accidentally electrocuting my butt.

I aten't ded...

...just off to a slow start this post-Festivus morn.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From the VFTP Mission Statement:

I always feel free to use jargon, acronyms, foreignese, and twenty-five-cent words on my blog, and I don’t provide them with hyperlinks, either.

If someone comes across something they don’t understand, and are unable to figure out what it means despite being hooked up to the largest and most ridiculously easy-to-use information network in the history of the human race, they deserve whatever suffering and distress it causes them, plus a thorough application of the bastinado.

In a perfect world...

This is not the best of all possible worlds, because in the best of all possible worlds, I could call in airstrikes and arty on stuff that annoys me.

"Redleg, Redleg, this is VFTP Six. Adjust fire. Target, bad driver in the open..."

I would only use my powers for Good. Such as calling in DPICM on those giant twenty-foot inflatable snowmen in people's yards.

iStuff.

So I was a latecomer to the whole iPod thing, being gifted a third generation iPod Nano almost two years ago. I like it; it's not big and bulky, and yet videos are totally watchable on the crisp little 2" screen, should the urge strike you. What I mostly used it for was listening to music in the car, connected by its umbilical to the head unit in the dash.

I noticed the evolution of the iPod Nano had turned it into a seriously handy little Swiss army knife of a gizmo by its fifth iteration: It had added a radio and a video camera and a microphone and so on. I thought it might be a worthwhile upgrade, but I wasn't really unhappy with the one I had. The video camera might be neat if I needed to take a picture of something while driving, but...

Then Apple forced my hand. They announced the newest version of the Nano this fall, and it had lost video recording and playback which, while disappointing, was no dealbreaker. But they had also fitted it up with a teeny 1.5" multitouch display, and that made it completely useless for me.

Let me make a little digression: Younger readers might not realize this, but domestic American automobiles used to have a singular triumph of ergonomic engineering: The headlight switch. In pretty much every American car, by whatever maker, was a round knob on the dashboard just to the left of the steering wheel. Pulling it out one click turned on the parking lights and pulling it out all the way turned on the headlights. Rotating it clockwise brightened the instrument panel lights and turning it all the way clockwise turned on the overhead dome light. Genius. It could be operated totally by feel and it worked the same way in your car, your drunk friend's car, or a rental car on a dark and rainy night far from home. Random agglomerations of buttons and rotary switches placed anywhere the styling department could find room are no improvement.

The iPod's click wheel is like this. With audible and tactile feedback, I can skip songs, go back, fiddle with the volume or whatever, all without having to take my eyes off the road to select menus or read screens. Because the iPod has a long side and a short side, I don't even need to look down to see how it's oriented in my hand to know which part of the click wheel is the "top".

The newest Nano has none of this, and I don't think it's any kind of improvement in the car audio role for which I use my iPod. Now if I wanted to upgrade, I was going to need to either shop used or find New Old Stock, and if I wanted a good one, I'd better get cracking. It was quickly apparent that I was not the only one who felt this way, as used 5th Gen Nanos rapidly started selling for as much or more than new 6th Gen units on Amazon. I wound up getting a factory refurb directly from Apple, since apparently they hadn't gotten the word on the desirability of the older units and were selling them for less than the new ones.

It arrived, a 16GB black unit, and it is handier than a pocket on a shirt. Not much bigger than a stick of gum and it holds thousands of songs, takes home movies, and can play back TV episodes. Neat. And I can operate it without taking my eyes off the road.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Try to relax, kitty...

Huck was on the futon, sleeping on his back and looking completely unstressed, but unfortunately the camera powering up and charging the flash seems to have caused him to wake up...

We're Number Three!

Some of you outside Indy may have heard of Don's Guns:



Don is a former bodyguard for Jimmy Hoffa who may have been one of the last people to see Hoffa alive.

He runs an extremely shady gun shop in Indy that, to nobody's surprise, has yet again made it into the top five list for guns traced back from crime scenes. Whenever local media sources need an anti-gun soundbite, they know to go to Don, who will be happy to get on camera and loudly abhor "assault weapons" or whatever this week's shibboleth happens to be. Then he goes back to his store and sells cheap zinc pistols by the bucketload to whichever straw purchaser comes through the front door and passes a background check.

Instead of putting Mobbed-Up Don under the microscope, however, the BATFEIEIO is busy elsewhere, making sure that law-abiding dealers have crossed every "T" and dotted every "I". Maybe they're hoping that if they leave him alone, Don will eventually tell them where to dig and they can scoop the FBI?

It's already the 6th snowiest December in Indy ever...

...and we're only two-thirds of the way through it.

The average Indianapolis December sees six inches of white, fluffy precipitation. This year we've had almost fifteen so far, with more on the way.

We're also experiencing the coldest December in a decade.

Last winter will be a tough act to follow, but it didn't really get cranked up until after the first of the year. This time 'round, it looks like winter is getting a good running start.

QotD: At the Speed of Bureaucracy Edition

So Governor Christie did the right thing and turned Aitken loose. Or, at least, he started to get the paperwork moving to get Aitken turned loose. TJIC ponders on the concept of bureaucratic delay and, as an alternative, offers an appropriate ceremony for use on such occasions:
In my idea society, freeing a man from wrongful imprisonment by the state would be a high ritual: as soon as the pardon or appeal was read, trumpets would sound, cops would halt traffic so that the the governor and his retinue could march directly from the court house to the jail, ceremonial sledgehammers with carved ironwood handles would be used to break the hinges off the cage, the free man would be draped in a sumptuous cloak and have large over-boots fashioned out of bearclaws laced over his shoes, and then he would be led out of the cage, across the prostate backs of the original judge and any cop who testified in the case, as the trumpets continued to blow.

It appears to be spreading.

Apparently whatever it is that makes our local police get liquored up and drive around in their squad cars is spreading from the city into the 'burbs.

Yesterday, in suburban Hancock County, a sheriff's deputy crashed his squad car on duty and subsequently blew a .16 on the ol' breathalyzer. As an added bonus, he'd been on duty for almost four hours before the test, so either he came to work really sloshed, or he'd been tipping back a few wet ones on the job. I suppose he can take solace in the fact that if HCSD gives him the axe, he's got just the resume for the IMPD.


(As an added bonus, the linked article actually has someone in the comments calling for alcohol prohibition. 'Cause it's all demon rum's fault, see?)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

As predicted...

...more snow.

Traction control or no, the summer-tread-pattern steamrollers on the back of the Zed Drei are useless on side streets covered in inches of snow, slush, and ice. The few, widely-separated grooves instantly pack with snow and I might as well be running slicks on the rear, turning my local driving into an adventure.

See, the city plows the main thoroughfares, but as a money-saving measure, they only plow side streets if we receive six inches or more of snow at a whack. In a normal Indy winter, with its sequence of snow-and-melt-and-snow-and-melt, that makes sense. This winter, however, there hasn't been a melt yet, and the snow keeps stacking up. Yesterday it was touch and go getting the Bimmer the couple of blocks to the nearest plowed street and with the couple-four inches added last night, I'm on foot except for the most urgent of errands.

Now, I'm not one of those types that's going to whine "Lower my taxes! And plow my streets!" but I'll note that the unplowed side streets would be much more palatable if they were part of some huge and visible citywide austerity program, but when you're living in a metropolis that just pissed away $33.5 million on a loserville basketball team, it's hard to square that with penny pinching on the snow plows. I mean, you don't have to be some frothing statist to see which is a more arguably legitimate function of government: Keeping the streets clear? Or lining the pockets of acromegalic rap video extras?

Spineless weasels.

So Frank Straub still has a job because the Indy city council is full of invertebrates.
Democrat Vernon Brown said the vote didn't matter. He says the mayor could have kept reappointing Straub, whether the council liked it or not, so he voted for Straub.

"If the whole council votes no, he'll still have a job tomorrow, right? We don't have the authority to get rid of him, it's unfortunate," said Brown, a Democrat.
I haven't heard a more mealy-mouthed, pusillanimous excuse from a politician since George W. Bush signed off on McCain-Feingold.

It's been a long time since I've seen an elected official worth the match it would take to set them on fire.

Monday, December 20, 2010

There is a crack in everything...

So there's a total lunar eclipse on the night of the winter solstice for the first time in nearly half a millennium, perhaps to commemorate Sunday night's Senate shenanigans. It'll be the darkest night in 456 years, and naturally the folks who natter about the spiritual origins of polyamory backstage at every RenFest are in a tizzy.

Me? I'll commemorate the occasion by beating a hippie senseless with a golden bough...

QotD: Five Year Plan Edition:

From Brian J. Noggle:
Gah, being an economic central planner is hard. Fortunately for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, being a cheerleader for central planning is still easy.
Commuter Rail: Yet another perpetually money-losing way to make you eat your vegetables.

Liberals like commuter rail because foreigners have commuter rail and foreigners are better and hipper and more foreign than you. I mean, who really doesn't secretly wish that they were Dutch or Japanese? Then you'd have a sophisticated accent and you could watch foreign films without subtitles and everybody at the coffee shop would positively genuflect to your coolness!

Lighten up, Francis.


One of the staff members at a popular firearms board posted the following:
"At the local gun range I see all those zombie targets for sale, and can't help but feel it makes us gun owners look really juvinile [sic]. I train against lifelike images of real bad guys, not undead corpses."
i r srs shooter! guns r srs business! I mean, God forbid anybody should have any fun with their heater...

Well, that's the short answer, at least. The longer answer is more complicated.
  1. Zombie targets are seen as more socially acceptable in some circles than photorealistic people. What's antisocial about shooting at made-up monsters, after all? You get to shoot an anthropomorphic target, the people on the next lane over get to train their 8-year-old daughter to shoot her Cricket without feeling a little uncomfortable, and everybody's happy.
  2. Zombies are one of them metty-for things, serving as a symbolic stand-in for whatever end-of-the-world scenario preys on the zeitgeist at the moment. (Currently it's economic collapse and rioting in the streets; in the '50s it was commie infiltrators and in the '70s it was post-nuclear wastelands...)
  3. Amongst Gen X and Gen Y types, who have grown up with a media saturated with portrayals of "survivalists" as racist far-right looney-tunes, it's a way to be prepared for any eventuality without your friends thinking you're about to move to rural Idaho and start yelling "Sieg heil!" a lot. Remember: If you're prepared for the dead to rise and walk the earth in search of human brains, then getting laid off at work or getting socked by a Cat 5 hurricane is really no big deal. Crack open a case of Spam and drive on...

Fire Frank Straub.

In his continuing push to be a one-term mayor, Indy mayor Greg Ballard's pet New York import, Frank Straub, goes up before the city council today to (in all likelihood) get rubber stamped to another stint as public safety director.

Hey, Mayor Greg, I don't care if you rent a dozen tables at every gun show, okay? As long as you keep this loser on the public payroll in Indianapolis, you'd better be keeping your resume updated, because you're going to need it come 2012.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The festive time of year.

Judging by the tire tracks in the snow, somebody in Broad Ripple last night thought that the well-shoveled sidewalks made a much better path for their pick-'em-up truck than the snow-covered street.

Without even needing a breathalyzer or a blood draw, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that a few pints of tonsil polish were involved in that particular decision tree.

A carol in progress...

Tiny 'bots with their eyes all aglow
Will be turned loose to seek tonight...

You know that Santa's gonna slay,
Naughty boys and girls had better pray.
And every mother's child is gonna cry
As reindeer drop napalm from the sky...

Bobbi and I were working on this one at the grocery store the other day. I didn't notice any strange looks from fellow shoppers, but to be honest, I wasn't really looking.

What did you make yourself for breakfast, Tam?

A big ol' bowl of fried meat. With bacon crumbles.

And a can of V8 juice. You know, to be healthy and stuff.

You might be a fanboy if...

So ToddG at pistol-training.com had a little contest running with a prize for the person who guessed the date and time of when the 50,000th shot would be fired from his HK45 test gun and who would be the shooter.

To close out the contest, he posted a teaser closeup of the pistol actually being fired, and some of his commenters piped up with "That's Larry Vickers! I recognize his hands!"

Recognize his hands? Y'know, there's a line between fanboyish and stalkeriffic, and that's tap-dancing right on it.

There's a picture of my carry gun in Oleg Volk's galleries to which I linked earlier this year, and someone asked if that was my hand holding the gun, and I had to look closely and think about it and I still replied "I believe so..." and I had a hand right here to compare it to.

Snowpack.

"You know what I love? Spring in Minnesota! When the snow melts and there's money and gold on the ground, or maybe grandma from where she ran away at Christmastime..." -Craig Anton
My experience with Indianapolis winters is limited to the last few, but up 'til this year snow has been the same kind of phenomenon it was back down at home, only deeper: Something that falls, sticks, and then melts. With an average daily high in December in the low 40s, there has usually been some degree of thawing between snowfalls, so that by the time the next one arrived, the previous one had been reduced to a few ragged patches in the deep shadows.

Not this year. We haven't broken out of the 20s but a couple days so far this month. The four inches that fell last weekend have been joined by another few late in the week and it looks like tomorrow's bringing more... and hasn't any of it melted.

This is weird to me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Mexican Blackbird...

The El Paso drone story triggered a bunch of chatter in certain corners of the blogosphere yesterday.

Somewhat interesting to me were the comments about the "violation of sovereign airspace"...

I'd like to ask a couple of questions:

1) Does anybody know for sure that the drone was not operating with the complete knowledge of the U.S. .gov, perhaps as part of ongoing interdiction operations against narcotraficantes?

2) How often do you think U.S.-operated drones penetrate Mexican airspace along the border, at least to the extent this Mexican drone did? (Hint: It's within a long Fernando Valenzuela line drive of the border fence...)

3) How many U.S. drones have crash-landed in Mexican territory?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions myself, but I figured they might be germane to the issue before I start writing any "REMEMBER THE MAINE!" posts...
.

Speaking of David Drake...

His website seems to have been rather comprehensively revamped since last I looked at it.

If you're a fan, it's worth a browse...

Another world, another time, in the Age of Wonder...

As regular readers know, I dearly love good historical fiction. One period I wish was visited more often is the very dawn of civilization, along the fuzzy demarcation between the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age.

Having finished Harry Turtledove's Between the Rivers, I pulled out the only other book I have that takes place in a roughly contemporaneous time, Wolves of the Dawn, by William Sarabande. Instead of Mesopotamia, this one takes place on the British Isles and attempts to put historical flesh on the bones of Celtic legends, making real people of Balor and Cethlenn, Nemed and Morrigan. Against a Chalcolithic background of Beaker Folk trading posts and Aegean merchants, the story feels plausible and the characters seem real. I've had my copy for many years and read probably four times and it's starting to deteriorate and I started to worry a little because it had been out of print for years. It was a relief to check Amazon the other day and see that it's back in print; I think I'll get a fresh copy so I don't have to worry about the cover falling off this one.

One of the few other stories I've read that is set in this time period is David Drake's short "King Crocodile", set in a small village in Egypt immediately after the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt and told from the point of view of a retired officer in Menes' army. It's available in the anthology Vettius and His Friends.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Does this make me a bad person?

A comment troll turned up someplace I was reading this morning. So I went and looked at her blog, because I believe it is important to understand those who dwell in strange parallel universes. In one post, her very second sentence was “When was the last time you danced?

Hmmm. Good question...

Well, I did do a little jig the morning I heard that Ralph Nader had been strangled with Noam Chomsky’s entrails, at least until I realized it had all been a dream.

Contempt of cop?

I know I've linked to Popehat once already today, but for those of you who have been following the Joel Rosenberg case in Minneapolis, the conversation remains lively in the comments section of the lovely legal dissection posted there by Patrick last week.

It's about seventy-odd (some very odd) comments long now, but worth reading.

What a fascinating modern world we live in...

Check out the cool video at Unc's.

That's about the neatest thing I've seen this week.

All standard disclaimers apply.

Do you know why we need tort reform in this country?

Not only because ridiculous, frivolous lawsuits have jacked the prices of everything through the roof...

Not only because ridiculous, frivolous lawsuits have taken all the fun toys away from kids and tasty food away from grownups...

Not only because ridiculous, frivolous lawsuits have made multimillionaires and political éminences grise out of a cabal of slimeballs and sociopaths who in a more civilized society would have been horsewhipped across the town square before being hanged as teenage pickpockets...

But mostly because we're reduced by legal departments to mumbling mealy-mouthed weasel phrases like
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not endorsing that citizens participate in this manner," Tolpin said. "But under this particular circumstance, it was very commendable of her."
instead of giving her a medal and a seat on the float in the city's Independence Day Parade.

Buy stock in Reynold's Wrap.

So something winds up in the no-fly zone over Israel's nuke plant and doesn't take the hints to leave and gets smoked by Air Zahal. They haven't found the pieces yet, so CNN's blurb read:
UFO shot down over nuclear plant
Great job, CNN! That'll get the Reynold's Wrap yarmulke crowd good and spun up first thing in the morning.

I hope it was tangos in an ultralight or a homebrew UAV and not some poor lost schmuck in a Piper Cub whose radio had crapped out.

I got all excited, too...

TeeWee footage of a WWF-style chair-slingin' brawl in a parliamentary chamber this morning got me all excited, until I realized it was in Kiev, and not Sacramento or Boston like I had originally hoped.

Passing dumb laws should hurt, and carry at least a small risk of taking a suplex or a piledriver right there on the statehouse floor. Plus, the more time legislators spend busting furniture over each other's heads, the less time they spend stealing our money and getting all up in our business. They could even put the really good dust-ups on pay-per-view and use the proceeds to help fund some of the more useless government programs.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How had I not seen this site before?

War Is Boring.

I've been intermittently down the rabbit hole all day...

...the hobgoblin of my little mind.

I just bought myself my Christmas present from Brownells: A set of VZ "Gatorback" grip panels for my CCA custom 1911. The double-diamond checkered Ahrend's Cordia wood panels that are on there now are pretty, but less grippy than I'd like. More importantly, both the other guns have the Gatorbacks, and I like them all to feel the same in my hand. Consistency makes me happy.

The Gatorbacks are pretty much bombproof, and the thing I like best about them is that they don't get slippery when my hands get all sweaty on a hot summer day at the range.

.44 very Special.


I have a soft spot for the .44 Special cartridge. Oh, the .44 Magnum is fine and dandy, but it's a bit much for a casual day at the range; it's quite frankly overkill for most non-big-game-hunting applications. On the other hand, there's no denying the popularity of the .38 Special, but the holes it leaves in the target are smaller and harder for me to see past fifteen yards.

The .44 Special lofts a pretty good-sized chunk of lead, makes a respectable hole, and does so without heavy recoil... at least in the great big guns for which it was intended.

I also have a soft spot for medium-frame short-barreled revolvers with five .44 caliber charge holes instead of six .38s. These guns do not recoil gently. Even the heavier steel-framed ones are pretty zippy, and the alloy-and-titanium ones are borderline vicious.

I've owned a Charco Bulldog Pug in the past. It was beaten to death in only about 300 rounds of 240gr PMC ammunition: By the end of that time, the frame had stretched enough that there was distressing endshake, and the nickel was flaking off the topstrap and forcing cone, giving the gun a leprous appearance. I traded it away.

Later, I had a Rossi 720 "Covert", a fixed-sight 3-inch gun with a spurless hammer. It was ugly in a way that only a Brazilian revolver with faux-stag grips can be, yet actually had a fine DAO trigger, despite once being used as a hammer to put together some particle board bookcases. Sure enough, though, it would lock up during range outings with jacketed 240gr PMC ammo, which was about all I could afford to feed it at the time. It wound up as trade fodder, too.

I had a Smith & Wesson 696 for a while, but never really used it much. The five shot .44 snubbie I've owned the longest is the 296 that has been a constant companion since some time in 2001. Its superlight construction won't let it fire bullets heavier than 200gr without turning into a kinetic bullet puller: This is where the gun recoils briskly enough to the rear that the bullets in the unfired cartridges take a fraction to catch up with it, hanging in space for a moment like Wile E. Coyote after he's stepped off the cliff. They can creep far enough forward in their cases to actually prevent the cylinder from turning.

It made me happy to see friend Matt find hisself a big-bore snubbie. I would counsel using lighter bullets.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Miss Manners says...

If you really want to kill yourself this holiday season, please nip off out into the woods someplace and do it quietly, okay? Don't drag a bunch of innocent bystanders and police officers into your crazy little world; it upsets people's digestion and makes a mess on the carpet.

It reads like the punchline to that old joke.

Cat survives gunshot wound and getting hit by a car, is FIV positive and missing his tail and a leg, and yet is oddly named "Big Bob" and not "Lucky".

In other feline-related news, Huck is recovering well from his little visit to the vet.

I had a feeling it was going to play out like this.

The first time I saw one of the little Diamondback .380-cal pocket pistols in a dealer's showcase, I let out an involuntary squee. The thing looked like a prop gun from that Disney classic, Honey! I Shrunk The Glock! Unlike the plethora of Kel-Tec-alikes out there, it looked like a tiny copy of a service pistol and not some gun-shaped key fob you get out of a gumball machine.

I wanted to like it. I wanted it to work, but I wasn't holding my breath. I've learned to be very wary of completely new pistol designs; for every success story, it seems like there are a half-dozen that aren't ready for prime time yet. I'm just not the early adopter type.

So when Caleb wrote that the Diamondback he was testing was a malfunctioning ball of fail, I was disappointed, but not what you'd call "surprised".

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Keep this gun off the street!

Every time an Evil Black Rifle finds a new home, an angel gets its wings...

Good on ya, Borepatch!

Ho! Ho! Yo! Ho!

You mean you haven't heard of Pirate Santa?

He's like regular Santa, but he wears an eye patch and comes down the chimney with a dagger in his teeth to take the presents away from the little scurvy dogs. Arrrr!
.

It's the most wonderful time of the year...



There'll be much mistletoeing and pirates yo-ho-ing

And plenty of beer;

It's the most wonderful time of the year!
I'm sorry, I just always hear the carol that way. That, and "Chipmunks roasting o'er an open fire..."
.

Enjoying the warmth...

I want to bask in the balmy 7° air, because tonight it's supposed to get down to 2°F. (That's almost seventeen below zero in French degrees.)

I would like to note my strenuous objections to these temperatures.

"Shoots flat!"

I've owned a couple of Glock 33's in my time, which is Glock's itty-bitty subcompact in .357SIG. They were a hoot to shoot: Lots of flashenbangy with target ammo and they'd throw the brass into the next county.

Like half the .357SIG shooters on the internet, I'd crow about how "flat-shooting" the round was...

...which, in retrospect, made me look a little dumb.

See, at the time, I did almost all my shooting at an indoor range, and at seven yards, all pistol bullets shoot flat. At 21 feet, there just is not one lick of difference in trajectory between any two handgun rounds. At 25 yards, there's hardly any, and even 'way out at a hundred, beyond where most people will ever shoot a handgun, there's only about 7 or 8 inches of difference between the trajectories of a lumbering 230gr .45ACP and a zippy 125gr .357 Magnum.

This is because trajectory is mostly affected by speed¹. Bullets start falling at 32ft/sec² the instant they leave the barrel; the faster they're going, the more ground they'll cover before they fall. And pretty much all handgun rounds are travelling about the same speed, which is "slow", at least compared to rifle rounds. Seriously. There is a larger velocity spread between the slowest and fastest commercial .30-'06 loads than there is between a "slow" handgun round and a "fast" one¹, and the "lumbering, rainbow-trajectoried" .45-70 will outrun your "zippy" 5.7x28 wonderpellet.

Differences in handgun velocities and the resultant trajectories might be important if you're trying to whack a coyote at 100+ yards in a soybean field, but if you're only shooting at 7 yards at the indoor range, don't pop off a magazine and then turn to your buddy and natter about how "flat shooting" your favorite heater is, okay? It's like walking up to a painting and saying "Hmmm... Interesting use of negative space!" or swirling a mouthful of wine around and saying "Pretentious, yet understated!"; it makes you look kinda goofy.

__________________________________________
¹ And velocity is affected by ballistic coefficient, and... but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

²The velocity spread between a "slow" handgun bullet at ~900fps and a "fast" one at ~1400fps is less than the difference between a 125gr .30-'06 at 3100fps and a 220gr .30-'06 at 2400fps.

Monday, December 13, 2010

That was annoying.

I made roomie a sammich for lunch.

This meant I had bags of Lebanon bologna and pastrami open on the counter and was more or less constantly nudging Huck away with my feet as he stalked the wild lunchmeat.

Unlike Rannie, he has not had nine years of conditioning to learn that We Don't Try For Mommy's Food. He will learn, though. Oh, yes, he will learn...


UPDATE: In the flurry to get out the door early this morning, roomie forgot the sammich. This means that I will eat it in front of the cat, saying "Mmmm-MM!" the whole time.

Why I'm not complaining about the snow.

I kinda like the snow. When I lived in the ATL or K-town, I'd get sad when it would snow but not stick; something that happened several times every winter. I guess I still subconsciously associate snow with getting to stay home from school.

Indy seems to get about the right amount for me. It rarely sticks around for more than a few days at a lick, and they get the streets cleared pretty quickly, so even with the Zed Drei on summer tires I'm only homebound for a few days out of the year. Living where I do, that's no great hardship since I can easily walk to grocery stores and whatnot. (And if it were, I could at least go to all-season tires...)

Overheard in Roomie's Bedroom:

There was a Chia Pet commercial on the Televisor:
Announcer: "...and don't forget everyone's favorite ogre, Shrek!"

RX: "Shrek doesn't have hair!"

Announcer: "And Scooby Doo, too!"

RX: "Neither does he! What's next? Chia Telly Savalas? Chia Yul Brynner? Oh, wait, if you order those, I'll bet they send you dead seeds."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blizzard cataclysm.

No, not the computer game, the storm that collapsed the roof of the Metrodome.

Luckily, we're on the southern fringe of that, and so snowfall totals aren't supposed to be much worse than 4" or so. The 30mph+ wind gusts are making things lively, though. Bobbi and I ran an errand to Target and the place was crawling with intrepid Christmas shoppers; on the drive home, we had about one block's worth of visibility...

Future is now!

My Mateba revolver came with an hilariously-translated owner's manual which read like Italian stereo instructions, complete with the slogan "Future Is Now!"

For some reason, I think of that phrase every time I see a "retro custom" 1911. I can't deny that I'm not completely immune to the Old School Look; after all, when I had my '66 Colt painted, I went with a black slide and gunmetal-colored frame as a sort of homage to those early '80s customs, which sported a hard-chromed or matte nickeled frame practically as a matter of course.

Anyhow, the retro custom 1911, best epitomized by these from Ted Yost, is very much the "flavor of the month" right now.

If you look carefully, you'll note that the hammer is bobbed to prevent bite and the sights are huge (and therefore actually usable) compared to GI units.

Once upon a time, beavertails and extended safeties and Novaks looked "custom" because regular 1911's looked GI. Now that every Filipino slag gun on the market comes with a ski jump, how are you gonna differentiate your multi-kilobuck custom from the herd?

The retro trend started back in the early 'Aughties, and will peak as soon as a factory house starts making them. My bet is Kimber. Then the fashionistas will be looking for something else, I guess.

Overheard in the Hallway:

My roomie is in her room. The TeeWee has cut on. I am in the hallway.

Voice on TV: "Ask me what it's like to sleep on a cloud!"

RX: "Ask me what it's like to ride a camel."

Me: "What did you say?"

RX: "I said, 'Ask me what it's like to ride a camel'!"

Me: "Oh, thank gawd. I thought you'd said 'Ask me what it's like to ride a clown'!"

RX: "Oh, clown rodeo! There's the cowboy in the chute atop ol' Bozo. He's a mean one! The gate opens and off he goes, bucking across the ring..."

Me: *helpless, shrieking laughter*

RX: "...and then they have those specially-trained bulls to distract the clowns and keep 'em from trampling riders when they get thrown."


I have not been able to get the image of clown rodeo out of my head all morning...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Brilliant!

Knowing my roomie's proclivity for tossing together an appealing breakfast out of whatever's at hand, I ran around Fresh Market this morning throwing things in a basket: baby bella 'shrooms, avocados, a poblano pepper, ground sausage, bacon, andouille sausage, a wedge of Gouda, some Yukon Gold taters, stuff like that. I knew there were carrots and onions and radishes and shredded mozzarella back home.

I figured she'd improvise something pretty awesome out of that pile of stuff, and I was right!

'Tis the season...

Speaking of CNN, they had a list up of "geeks' most beloved holiday movies".

If you were a gun geek, that list would obviously include Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but...

CNN was all dead Edwards, all the time this morning, including reminders that they'd be covering the funeral live. Apparently, all you gotta do to get national coverage of your funeral is to get cheated on by a Democrat politician, (which is pretty easy to do in places like Hyannis Port or Little Rock.)

This is the estranged wife of a one-term senator from a small state, a one-term senator whose main claim to fame in this world, other than being a philandering cad who never should have left the back cover of the phone book for a political career, was that he got stomped to a paste as a vice-presidential candidate despite running against the weakest GOP ticket since WWII that didn't have Bob Dole on it in some capacity or another.

So, anyhow, live coverage of her funeral? I mean, I get that the Democrats and their pals at CNN love them some bed-hopping politicians and everybody associated with them but, come on, she's not even a Kennedy!

I'd love to chat, but...

...after last night's big bout of insomnia, I wake up this morning to discover that there are no breakfast meats in the house. Quick! To Fresh Market!

Mmmmm... applewood-smoked bacon...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Strange searches #745,916...



Well, okay, then...

"I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

The way the UN works, it's like sitting down with one of your co-workers, two grocery baggers from the local supermarket, a striking UAW worker, and three unemployed bums and voting on what you should do with your paycheck.

You may not get your bills paid that month, but there'll be plenty of MD 20/20 and Detroit Lions tickets to go around.


(H/T to Improved Clinch.)

Tales from the land between the rivers...

True story:

I've known that hippopotamus meant "river horse" and that mesozoic meant "middle critters" since I was old enough to say them, but I blithely used "Mesopotamia" well into my twenties before even stopping to think that it literally meant "between the rivers"; for some reason it had been filed as a proper noun that didn't require translation for all those years. I wonder what Kleenex is Greek for?

I'd always subconsciously read Mediterranean as "middle of the world", but maybe I'm more likely to try to process Latin, being all interested in the Roman history and stuff? And what does Caribbean mean? I couldn't give a legume, really.

Anyhow...

I had fallen into the internets the other day reading on Jaynes' Bicameral Mind theory, which is far too clever to be true, but fascinating nonetheless, and that got me reminded of a Turtledove novel called Between the Rivers which takes place at the dawn of civilization in Mesopotamia and deals with a city where the people are clever enough to not be directly ruled by their god. Instead, Engibil is content to sit in his temple and allow them to go about their business largely unsupervised as long as they bring him shiny trinkets, unlike the cities around them where the people are mere puppets of their own city gods...

So now I'm re-reading Between the Rivers.

Overheard in the Kitchen:

RX: "The new cat is a bacon hound. He just had to sit around in the kitchen when the bacon came out, staring and sniffing."

Me: "That's because it came into the house with the shrimp yesterday. It was just a bag of wondrous smells, and he sat there sniffing and sniffing."

RX: "'Bag of Wondrous Smells', coincidentally, was Joe Biden's college nickname."

Me: "It'd make a great album title, wouldn't it? 'Jumbo Lunchbox and their debut album, Bag of Wondrous Smells!'"

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Just add agents provacateur and stir!

When the government went on about the dangers of home-grown terrorists, I didn't realize they meant that they were the ones actually growing them.

The FBI is beginning to remind me of a guy I used to know who would mutter "I just saved your life!" every time he drove past a pedestrian in the street.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step...

I'm not trying to be judgmental here, but if you find yourself getting all liquored up and then driving off down the street while watching wank videos on your portable DVD player instead of, you know, the road in front of your car, then you have a problem. Several problems, as a matter of fact, and the one with the cops is probably not the least of them...

(Although it's not clear whether IMPD pulled him over to write him a ticket or offer him a job...)

Speaking of the IMPD, fire Frank Straub!

Annoying.

I just spent the time which I otherwise would have used in composing the morning's post cleaning out the copypasta of some godawful spam sweatshop. I wonder how many times those poor schlubs have to decode a capcha and hit "ctrl+v" to make a penny? I know this drone was rocking a 3-spams-per-minute clip. Anyway...

When I discovered a bunch of heathen Chinese WoW gold farmers spamming old comments and some kids using the comments section of an old post as an impromptu BBS, I reluctantly turned on comment approval for posts older than a couple days. I really, really don't want to turn it on for all posts, because it makes it too hard to hold interactive discussions, and I also don't want to mess with some third-party comment app, because those are nothing but drama from what I can see.

Generally Blogger's new spam detection system is pretty good, and errs on the side of caution; I find myself scooping legitimate comments out of the filters once or twice a week. How it missed this spammer (who went by the ever-so-subtle handle of "wedding dresses" and sported four links in a two sentence post) is beyond me.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Kings of the High Frontier...

One of the grandest days in human history since Yuri Gagarin had a rocket strapped to his ass passed quietly under our noses today: The first private orbital spacecraft was launched, completely overwhelmed in the news by some class-warfare-obsessed bolshevik in the White House making a concession speech to his groupies and, bang-bang-shoot-shoot!, the annual commemoration of Mark David Chapman's lousy marksmanship (poor Mark David Chapman; three feet to the right and he could have been a hero!)

Meanwhile in Lafayette...

The big news of the week was the town Christmas Parade, where a dude dressed as a pint of Guinness took a header off a float:

Six degrees fondly Fahrenheit...

It's six degrees out there. If I moved to Minne-frickin'-apolis (perhaps due to severe head trauma or something) I'd only be one degree colder. They're predicting a high of 32°F tomorrow, which still misses the average daily high by a good ten degrees. After the last four days, though, I saw that "3" as a first digit and thought "Practically sunbathing weather!"

POSTSCRIPT: That high of 32? Yeah... no. The mercury climbed to thirty before giving up and heading back down.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Marketing (evil) Genius.

As recently as the early 1990s, a "1911" pistol meant a GI-looking gun from Colt or Springfield or one of a tiny handful of other manufacturers.

At the same time, USPSA was going strong and IDPA was gestating and a more-or-less standard configuration of "upgraded" 1911-pattern pistol had become established. These guns had a fairly consistent suite of modifications:
  • "No-snag" sights.
  • A beavertail grip safety and "Commander" hammer to allow a higher grip while eliminating hammer bite.
  • An extended "combat" thumb safety.
  • A long, alloy trigger with lightening holes.
  • A flat, checkered mainspring housing.
  • Forward cocking serrations.
  • A full-length guide rod.
  • A slightly extended magazine release.
  • A beveled magazine well opening.
At the time, getting all this done was expensive, since the parts needed to be sourced through the aftermarket and most had to be installed by a gunsmith. Further, since many of them required grinding on the metal of the gun itself, the weapon would need to be refinished. The total bill could run into four figures for parts, installation, and refinishing alone, not counting the cost of the original gun.

It was a market niche just waiting to be exploited.

Sure enough, someone figured out how to fill it. The company that bought the old Kimber rifle company realized that, if the upgrade parts were bought in bulk and installed when the gun was made, a "custom" 1911 could be brought to market for not too much more than a standard "Government Model"-looking piece from one of the more established makers, and thus was the "Kimber Custom" born.

Kimber started out small, and quickly built an enviable reputation for near-custom levels of features and quality at a production-level price. Of course, as word got out, orders skyrocketed and there was soon trouble in paradise. With the need to ramp up production volume while holding the price point steady, cost-cutting measures had to be introduced, and by 2001 many shooters were noting that Kimber had maybe become a victim of its own success.

Other manufacturers responded with their own "factory customs", such as Springfield Armory's "Loaded" models, and Kimber's formerly private pidgin was threatened. Kimber's answers were largely marketing-oriented, and I have to give them credit for their success. In much the same way as a certain German company, Kimber coasted on past innovation and glories, and offered cosmetic packages and contracts with high-profile elite organizations as proof that they were something special, when in reality, their guns were, on average, nothing that you couldn't now buy elsewhere for less money.

To this day, though, fans remain loyal. When you buy a Kimber, you're buying the Kimber Mystique, and no matter what the naysayers claim, you'll put up a fight if someone claims it's not a better gun than a Springfield, Colt, or S&W. It's truly commendable that Kimber, which has been around for a comparative eyeblink, has developed a brand-name cult following as loyal as it has; you expect that with Colt (or Harley Davidson or Levi's) but not with a company that, at least in its current incarnation, wouldn't even be old enough to vote.

Truth be told, from my experience, if you're planning on leaving your 1911 stock or using it as a home project gun, you're as well off with a Taurus or a Filipino slag gun. If you're going to use it as a pistol kit on which to have a professionally-done custom built, then it doesn't make much difference whether you buy a Kimber or a Colt or a Springfield or a Smith.

But that's not what the marketing says...

Slow start, but a start nonetheless...

It's been one of those days where I'm having great difficulty convincing myself to change from fluffy house socks to actual socks and shoes.

There is a new cat in the house, and this morning's lesson for the little tyke was that just because you can reach the plate of aged smoked Gouda and Italian dry salami in mommy's lap doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to try it.

I'm about to muster up the energy to take out the trash and run an errand or two, as well as do some writing. I wish I'd learned better organizational habits in my younger days, but I'm afraid I've never really developed them; everything's pretty much done on the wing in my life.

This is why I find people like TJIC so interesting; the dude's a fiend for organization and, as a result, the sheer amount of stuff he gets accomplished is amazing to someone like me, who spends an inordinate amount of time simply woolgathering.

Yesterday he wrote out a little Organizing For Dummies post with some pointers I may try appropriating. I'm not foolish enough to think that the SS Slacker is going to reverse course, or anything, but maybe I can steer into more productive waters.

Movie apprehension...

I haven't seen either of the Narnia movies out so far.

Wait, I take that back... I've seen some of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; I don't have any real objection to watching them, but they didn't have enough machine guns and dead Nazis to make me want to see them in the theatre, and I don't want to see them badly enough to actually go buy the DVD. (I don't rent DVDs; when used ones are available all over the place for $5-$9, I just buy the stuff I want to see...)

However, the one about to be released, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is my favorite book of the series, and the only one I kept as an adult. I kinda want to see this movie... but I'm picking up the vibe from the commercials that they've pretty thoroughly borked the original story in favor of pumping up the action figure sales. If there are Ewoks fighting Wookies on the forest moon of Endor, I'm gonna be righteously peeved.

Today In History: A date which will live in infamy.

You know, in retrospect, I'll bet a bunch of Japanese pilots spent their last minutes floundering about in the flaming wreckage of the Chrysanthemum Fleet off Midway, wishing they'd slept in on this date sixty-nine years ago.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Cut us off, please!

So a bunch of newspapers just decided to add themselves to the "We Don't Want Any Web Traffic" list. Scrooem.

The buggy whip manufacturers seem determined to not go down without a fight!

Stepping boldly into the 1930s...

Surefire is apparently now pimping a quad-column magazine for the AR platform.

The four-column magazine is not really anything new, of course. I had a SITES Spectre pistol back in the mid-'90s that ate out of 30- or 50-round sticks, and the concept's use in modern firearms apparently runs back at least to the Finns and Argentinians in the 1930s.

The metallic cartridge firearm is really very mature technology, and there is very little new under the sun.

The Boberg XR-9's feed system? Similar in many respects to the Gabbet-Fairfax Mars.

The Calico's helical magazine? That concept looks kinda familiar too.

And then of course, there's the novel idea of putting a little safety nubbin in the middle of the trigger face...

No Drama.

There has been a sad lack of shocking revelations in this whole Wikileaks scandal so far:
When are we gonna get to the real dirt? Like maybe finding out that an official visit by the Secretary of State got messed up because Bill and Hillary's girlfriends aren't speaking to each other?

Nine degrees.

Nine. Degrees. Fahrenheit.

But that's okay, because it's supposed to get up to a balmy 18-20 this afternoon, depending on who you ask.

They're predicting single digit lows and ~20 degree highs for the next two days, too. The average high for this time of year is, like, 42 degrees, and we're not going to get even halfway there. Some of you people aren't driving your SUVs enough.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Important safety tip:

When loading magazines, a prudent shooter actually looks at the rounds as they are inserted to ensure that they aren't misshapen, sporting inverted primers, or missing important features such as extractor grooves.

Remember, even "quality factory ammunition" is put together by humans.

First Snow Follies.

So yesterday was the first real snow of the season. It started late Friday night and dribbled down through most of the morning on Saturday. Although I understand it was deeper off in the southwest corner of the state, we didn't get much here in the Circle City; about three inches of wet stuff that was pretty halfhearted about sticking to pavement. That didn't stop people celebrating in the traditional fashion, by sliding into ditches and backing into interstate median dividers at speed.

The TeeWee showed an Indy citizen eagerly using his snowblower on the sidewalk in front of his house. A snowblower! For three inches of snow! I used a broom on the first inch-and-a-half and salted the walk to scare off the rest.

It got cold last night, the roads all froze, and I woke up to the news that I-74 west of town was closed for three hours by an 18-wheeler that had performed an inverted Swan Lake all across the travel lanes.

Also, some good ol' boy celebrated the upcoming anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition by drinking a whole bunch of beer on Friday, stumbling around his yard, answering his kinfolk's pleas to come inside with slurred negatories, slumping down to sleep in a lawn chair, and freezing to death overnight.

It's the holiday season in Hoosierville!

Party like it's 1929!

On this date in 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, ending the criminal stupidity of alcohol prohibition in the US, a dumb social experiment that gave us organized crime, gang turf wars, the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the Kennedys. (Proving we Americans are slow learners, we then decided to give Mexican gangsters a license to print money by banning a plant that grows wild everyplace from roadside ditches in Oaxaca to hydroponic trays in the closets of college dorms.)

I'd commemorate the occasion with a bottle of champagne, but I'm in Indiana, which shares the dubious distinction with Connecticut and Georgia of banning outside sales of the Devil's Juice on Sundays while schizophrenically allowing you to get smashed at a restaurant. Only Jews, Muslims, and Seventh Day Adventists can get spontaneously likkered up at home on the Sabbath without engaging in the kind of careful advance planning necessary for Protestants and Catholics.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

QotD: Guns and Money Edition

Jim at The Travis McGee Reader is discussing going to a gun show loophole this weekend and closes with this piece of condensed awesome:
When the world was a better place, I'd always toss in a few pieces I was tired of for trading stock. No more. I and most of my comrades have adopted the never-sell-a-gun philosophy. We keep them all on grounds that the Messers Bernanke and Geithner can't press a computer key and create 60 billion Colts and Winchesters out of thin air.
Win!

Guns on a train!

I cannot believe the hysterical mouth noises being made by the pro-Victim Disarmament crowd about the whole firearms-on-Amtrak thing.

I mean dig this ABC headline:


The article goes on to use the phrase "carrying guns on trains", even though the regulations specifically forbid, you know, "carrying guns on trains", and are actually stricter than the ones that apply to flying with firearms. Having just flown with guns in my luggage, I can assure you that the only person who "carried guns" on that plane was the ramp rat at the top of the luggage conveyor belt.

As an added special bonus, a lawyer sucking at the teat of all that sweet Joyce Foundation cash working for the Brady Center to Criminalize Effective Self-Defense goes for the Big Lie:
"You don't go through metal detectors or security to get on the train. This allows anyone who can have a gun to bring it onto the train."
No, you thimble-headed gherkin, it is still just as illegal to carry the gun on the train as it was last week, when apparently the lack of metal detectors wasn't a problem for you at all. (And even if someone did bring a gun on board, what would they do? Wave it around and yell "Take this train to Havana!"?)

If at first you don't succeed, lie, lie again.