Saturday, July 24, 2021

Electrifying History

Fascinating stuff about the early days of electricity in England.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

It Can Happen To You

It can happen to you, it can happen to me. As the good Dr. William Aprill was fond of pointing out, nobody needs permission to wreck your life.

The jokes write themselves...

In her commentary on congressional committe shenanigans, Bobbi noted:
"The GOP says they'll make their own committee -- presumably without Bender's "blackjack and hookers,"..."
I would say that it would all depend on whether Rep. Gaetz was named to the committee or not.


Street Seen

So Zeiss has started shipping their compact(ish) full-frame ZV1 camera, which features WiFi and built-in Adobe Lightroom Mobile, allowing you to shoot, edit, and upload to the web all in one device.

Considering that Zeiss has a pretty good stable of full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless glass in their Batis and Loxia lines, the decision to make this thing a fixed-lens camera is mind-boggling. And the price tag puts it a in the price class of a Leica Q2.

If you're going for a chi-chi boutique fixed-lens street photography camera with a used car price tag, are you going for built-in Lightroom Mobile, or spend about the same and get the red dot? Bucks-up street photography cameras sometimes seem to be as much about signaling that you are A Photographer as they are about actually photographing things, and that red dot has a lot of signaling clout.

The ZV1 is almost twice the price of a Sony RX1R II, which is smaller... although it lacks the built-in Lightroom gimmick ...and the Sony also has a Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens and a higher resolution full-frame sensor, to boot.

Lastly, how much photo editing are you going to want to do with your index finger on a 4"-ish touch screen?

Hey, Zeiss, I already have a fixed-lens camera with true wireless connectivity, a big touchscreen, and Lightroom Mobile loaded on it. It's called my phone.

It's a feature, not a bug.

In a thinkpiece at the New York Times, a writer complains about the frequency of elections in the United States. He's especially mad about the biannual reelection scrum faced by Representatives.
"The two-year House term has profound consequences for how effectively American government can perform — and too many of them are negative. A longer, four-year term would facilitate Congress’s ability to once again effectively address major issues that Americans care most about.

For several decades, party leaders in Congress have come largely to view the first year of a new administration as the narrow window in which to pass big initiatives. In a midterm election year, leaders resist making members in competitive districts take tough votes. In addition, much of “policymaking” discussion in Congress — particularly when control of the House is closely divided — is about parties’ jockeying to capture the House in the next midterms.
He thinks it's hard to enact grand, sweeping structural legislative changes when everybody's got to worry about getting reelected. Thing is, he says this like it's a bad thing.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

When the Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Yesterday the smoke from the wildfires out west just made the sky a sort of silvery color instead of blue, but didn't have any effect at ground level. Not so much today...

Does not work that way.

HIPAA keeps your medical care providers and insurance company from releasing your health care info without your permission. It doesn't prevent anyone from asking you about it.


Sunny Day

Yesterday's weather was glorious. Low eighties and not too humid. It must have been a great day to be out and about in a 1947 Willys Jeep!

The dude on the little Honda C70 Passport sure seemed to be enjoying the weather.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

QotD: Gray Origin Edition...

Regarding the dueling space programs of billionaires, Roberta X points out that all of this has happened before, and it will all happen again:
"I wonder, when William Kissam Vanderbilt II (with help from a few of his wealthy and powerful friends) built the exclusive, private Long Island Motor Parkway in 1908, did critics gripe that he and his rich friends were going to use their motorcars to flee the city on that limited-access ribbon of smooth concrete and leave the poor trapped in urban squalor?"

Bang, Zoom, Straight to the Moon... what I was thinking while watching the Blue Origin launch on network TV this morning. The network color common-taters couldn't keep their pieholes shut and felt compelled to tell us what was going on. Never mind that I could see what was going on and they were talking over the mission control and capsule audio in the background.
"Yes, Armstrong appears to be stepping off the ladder now and he's saying something. Craig?"

"He's definitely talking, Tom. What would you be saying at a moment like this?"

"Well, it's pretty significant, so I'd try to say something important. Oh, it looks like he's completely off the ladder and walking around on the lunar surface now."

Here's the straight Blue Origin stuff with no network common-taters, starting at the good part.

Difficult Shot

Shooting nickeled guns is hard.

I mean firing them isn't any harder than blued guns, and the cleanup's easier, but shooting them with a camera is a pain.

Here's the first try with the Model 59, from back when I first got it in October of 2019.

I was using the EOS 40D with the EF 50mm f/1.4, shooting wide open like an idiot. That caused its own problem because the depth of field is so shallow with an aperture that big, even on an APS-C sensor. Notice how the hammer spur is out of focus? Yeah...

Anyway, with where the pistol was sitting on the patio pavers, the colors of the house are visibly reflected in the slide.

A few months later in May of Cursed 2020, I took another crack at it, this time with the Nikon D3000 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 combination.

Mindful of the issues with the previous shot, I was more careful to get enough depth of field and carefully positioned the pistol on the patio so it wouldn't be reflecting the house... and instead managed to capture my own reflection in the slide.

Yesterday morning's attempt was with the 5DS and EF 24-105mm f/4L. This time I stood well back and shot at 105mm, from an angle that showed no reflections in the pistol, and I had a high, thin overcast providing a soft and even light since the morning sun hadn't burned it off yet. I think this is about as good as I'm going to get with available light and no reflectors or other aids.


Monday, July 19, 2021

Black belt in BJJ, but a white belt in Logic.

So, granny's gotta win three bouts before she can shoot a prowler? GTFO of here with that idiocy.

This is so poorly reasoned that I'm wondering if it is an example of where getting punched in the head for a hobby can lead. I think he might have been choked out a couple times too many.


BRB, watching a video...

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #202...

I gotta say, it's a sharp-looking blaster in nickel, even if it's a pain to photograph. The small parts are nicely blued, with a blue-black sheen that's hard to capture. It's almost too pretty to shoot. Looking at the muzzle end of the barrel, it hasn't been fired much; the bluing on it is pretty much unmarred.

I mean, if I just gotta shoot a double stack Smif nine, I have that 5906.

This nickel 59 is just so Generic Seventies Cop Show Chic. It makes me want to find a period belt holster, and... Ooh! This one was made in 1978, and I have that nickeled Model 37 Chiefs Special Airweight that was made in '76. 

I should get a period correct ankle rig for that to match! Then I could get someone to yell at me "You're a loose cannon! You're off the case!" and then I'd try and find the bad guy on my own before the credits roll and everything goes back to status quo ante at the end of the episode.


The things you don't think about...

I was reading an article that had been linked in a blog post and this bit caught me up short:
"First, some background. I started my watch reporting career just before Hayek arrived on the Swiss watch scene in the early 1980s."
Somehow I had never realized the "wristwatch journalism" was an actual career field. Then I felt silly, because I basically earn my daily bread from reporting on a niche hobby. I'll bet "fountain pen journalism" is a thing.

Incidentally, Swatch Hayek doesn't appear to be any sort of close kin to "Road to Serfdom" Hayek.


Tab Clearing...

  • Here is a listicle of pet photography tips.

  • "We're number two!" I find it interesting that the city fathers of Vienna were pleased to announce that their metropolis was no longer the European espionage capital.

  • I am somehow unsurprised to learn that noted neurotic mess Margaret Atwood had issues with learning to drive.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Pharmacological Dreams

I hadn't seen this 1936-vintage Happy Harmonies cartoon before. This was obviously long before cartoons were considered strictly kiddie fare.

It has an article at Wikipedia, which makes a good jumping off point for a vintage animation wikiwander.


Automotif CCXXXI...

Standing on the street corner, minding my own business, when all of a sudden...

Hello! What's this, then?

It's a '42-'47 Packard Super Clipper Club Sedan!

The "PACKARD" vanity plate is to help out the people who didn't see the glorious swan hood ornament or the "Super Clipper" badges. There's a listing at Sotheby's for one that sold back in 2019 that has some detailed interior photos. The dashboard on these is quite grand; they were quite top-o'-the line in their day. In fact, early postwar Soviet government limos were fairly obvious Packardskis.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Comrade Carlson!


#duet with @road_rage_actual

♬ original sound - Chris


This is some straight-up horseshoe theory wack stuff right here. This guy's gone so far right he fell off the edge and landed in Marx's lap. And the absolute best part is that there are beer-swilling illiterati wearing "I ♣︎ COMMIES" t-shirts that are cheering along to this rhetoric.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Back to the Future

The Nikon F5 shooting 35mm film at eight frames a second means you could burn up an entire roll in barely more than a quick count to "four Mississippi". It also means you can use a still film camera to shoot artsy movies...

This one shot on Fomapan 100 looks especially old-timey thanks to the very vintage look of the film stock and the jerkiness of the slow frame rate.


In the weeds...

Driving down to visit Henry Holsters' new production facility yesterday, I noticed something red and old in the grass alongside U.S. 231, so on the way back I pulled over and snapped a photo.

I didn't get out of the car because I didn't want to go tromping around in some dude's yard, but I did have the 24-120mm f/4 VR on the D700 and it had adequate reach.

That's a 1949 Chrysler New Yorker sedan. Chrysler was the last of the Big Three to tool up fresh designs after World War Two; the '48 New Yorker was basically a warmed-over 1942 model. The '49 had all new sheet metal, although the 323.5cid straight-eight and four-speed "Presto-Matic" semiautomatic transmission carried over from the '48 model. 

Despite the tall grass, the car was in great shape, including fresh-looking rubber, and showed every sign of being maintained and driven regularly.

It was a gorgeous day and US 231 was perfect for a bit of top-down cruising in the Zed Drei...

Bonus Sighting: A 1979 W72 Trans Am, last hurrah for the 400 cubic inch Pontiac pony car...

Migrant Invasion

If you're in to dawn-of-civilization type history, this find from Spain is pretty interesting.
"Beginning in the Bronze Age, the genetic makeup of the area changed dramatically. Starting in about 2,500 B.C., genes associated with people from the steppes near the Black and Caspian seas, in what is now Russia, can be detected in the Iberin gene pool. And from about 2,500 B.C. much of the population’s DNA was replaced with that of steppe people.

The “Steppe Hypothesis” holds that this group spread east into Asia and west into Europe at around the same time—and the current study shows that they made it to Iberia, too. Though 60 percent of the region’s total DNA remained the same, the Y chromosomes of the inhabitants were almost entirely replaced by 2,000 B.C. That suggests a massive influx of men from the steppes, since Y chromosomes are carried only by men.

“It looks like the influence was very male dominated,” says Miguel Vilar, a genetic anthropologist who serves as senior program officer for the National Geographic Society.

Who were these men—and did they come in peace? Vilar, who was not involved with the study, speculates that the steppe men may have come on horses bearing bronze weapons, hence ushering in the Bronze Age to the area.
More Western Steppe Herder evidence, apparently.

I'm fascinated with this period in history. Now I want to go reread Wolves of the Dawn.


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Automotif CCXXX...

Maserati Ghibli, Nikon D3, Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF

A foolish consistency...

As Bobbi just remarked, the essence of current party politics seems to be "I don't care what it says on the knobs, just twist the one that gives me what I want right now."

Tuesday, July 13, 2021


It's Holden! He seems grumpy that clumsy human footfalls have awakened him from his nap.

The 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 is easily my favorite lens I've used in Nikon's CX format. Even with the little 1" sensor it can still manage to deliver some subject isolation via background blur when shot wide open. (The crop factor of the CX format makes the 18.5mm focal length the rough equivalent of 50mm on a full frame camera, so this is the "Nifty Fifty" of the Nikon 1 line.)


Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #201...

What's a 5" all-steel, single-action, single-stack .45ACP pistol with a crisp factory three-and-a-half pound trigger pull that's not a 1911? A Smith & Wesson Model 745, that's what. 

There's something about this pistol for everyone to hate on, as well as a lot that's pretty cool.

The trigger is probably way too light for toting purposes, and I'd definitely want a holster that was designed to pin the safety in place.

(I'd posted this one before in Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #160, but that photo was poorly lit and taken with the somewhat disappointing Leica D-Lux 3, to boot. This time around, with better natural lighting and the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 lens on the old 40D, it has a bit more pop.)


Important safety tips...

Greg Ellefritz has an article worth reading if you think you are likely to ever intervene to stop an active shooter:
"I’ve written about the danger of being shot by responding officers after intervening in an active killer attack many times, but I’ve never given precise guidelines about how to handle the post-shooting procedures in order to reduce the chance of being mistakenly killed. This article describes exactly what you should consider doing to keep from being killed by other first responders during an active killer attack..."
Greg is a smart dude and has put a lot of thought into this scenario. You should go and read the whole thing.

This is a big factor in why, unless an incident jumps off literally right in front of me, that my preplanned course of action is going to be to head toward the nearest exit away from the gunfire. 

Not only might there be arriving officers, but some unknown number of fellow CCW carriers might also have decided to get involved. I don't want to be running around with a gun in my hand while a bunch of people are running around looking to shoot people who are running around with guns in their hands.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Trippy Triplane

In the course of trying to chase down info on the Supermarine Nighthawk the other day, I stumbled across this oddity:

That's the Lloyd 40.08 Luftkreuzer ("Air Cruiser"), a three-motored triplane intended as a long range strategic bomber to more effectively hit back at the Italians, whose own Caproni trimotors were bombing the Habsburg Empire almost at will. Some madman has scratchbuilt one in 1/72nd scale.

To get a feel for the nature of the Austro-Hungarian air campaign against Italy, I recommend the adventures of the fictional Otto Prohaska in The Two-Headed Eagle: In Which Otto Prohaska Takes a Break as the Habsburg Empire's Leading U-boat Ace and Does Something Even More Thanklessly Dangerous.

Basically, the Luftfahrtruppen were a hot mess, facing an uphill fight against their own military culture as well as production limitations caused by the relatively backwards nature of the empire's industrial base.
Wartime production totaled 5,180 airplanes for four years of war; by comparison, Austria-Hungary's major foe, Italy, built about 18,000 in three years.

Automotif CCXXIX...

1970 Buick LeSabre, Canon EOS Rebel T1i, EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6  IS STM

Bobbi and I were having a late lunch at Twenty Tap when this '70 Buick ragtop rolled past. Fortunately I was able to stand up and grab a shot before the light turned green. The 18-135mm travel zoom let me take a shot that didn't require trying to Photoshop a bunch of diners out of the picture.

The LeSabre nameplate denoted the most basic of Buick's full-size cars, originally beneath the Invicta and Electra. The Invicta eventually got subsumed by the Wildcat (which was in turn replaced in '71 by the Centurion.) Now that I know to look for the "Sweepspear" on Buicks, I can't not see it.

Also note the three vestigial chrome "Ventiports" on the fender behind the front wheel well. If it were the more upmarket Electra, it would have had four. 

The base engine would have been a 260bhp 350 with a 2bbl carburetor. There were two optional 4bbl 350s; a low-compression one that would run on regular gas that was rated at 280 SAE gross horsepower, and a premium-fuel-only 10.25:1 compression version rated at 315. Top of the line was the then-new 370bhp Buick 455cid V-8, which was also a high-compression engine that required premium gas.


Non Canonical? (Or: The Bugs Bunny Apocrypha.)

As I've mentioned, the first hour of the Saturday morning cartoons on Me-TV is "Popeye, Pink Panther and Friends", with the first half hour being old Fleischer Studios material and the second being the Freleng/UA Pink Panther and associated shorts. 

This past Saturday there was a pre-Production Code episode of Betty Boop. In fact it was the last pre-Code Betty Boop, Betty Boop's Rise to Fame, which was released on May 18th of 1934. Enforcement of the National League of Decency-inspired Hays Code began in June of that year.

That's actual vocals by Cab Calloway and Maurice Chevalier. As Bobbi pointed out, in the early days of animation Fleischer Studios had an advantage over the West Coast studios in being located in NYC, which at the time gave them access to a much larger local talent pool for music and vocals.

After that comes an hour of MGM cartoons, billed as "Tom & Jerry and Friends" and finally the main event of Saturday morning, an hour of Warner Brothers, which is all classic material. 

Well, mostly. 

I read the title card of the first WB cartoon Saturday and was like "MCMXCII? What kind of non-canon Jar-Jar Binks shit is this?" and left to go do other stuff for five minutes until they cued up the next one. As it turns out, I probably should have watched it. I mean, it was from the same era that Animaniacs was in peak form, so...


Sunday, July 11, 2021

...and in the darkness, bind them.

 Here's a cool piece that's a retrospective from the vantage point of twenty years after Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring dropped into the middle of nerddom like a strafing run by an ancient giant red dragon.

I still remember being at my ex's house back in April of 2000, taking a break from a Diablo LAN party to do a bit of surfing, and stumbling across this video at The One Ring...

...and by "remember", I mean I was drinking a Sweetwater 420 and, when the video loaded over the shiny new DSL line, I blurted "Ohhhh, shit! They're really going to do it and it looks like it's gonna be good!"

At the time, I'd thought that our chance at seeing a good live action LotR adaptation was blown for a decade by the Lucas/ILM vehicle Willow turning in a less-blockbusterish-than-expected performance in theaters despite the most intensive marketing campaign I can remember for a fantasy flick up to that time. 

Back in 1988, I watched Willow in its first run and was actually upset. They obviously had the technology to do a Tolkien movie if they wanted to, and instead they squandered it on this project, which wasn't funny enough to be Time Bandits, wasn't serious enough to be Dragonslayer, and wasn't self-aware enough to be The Princess Bride. I'd thought that the chances of a good live-action adaptation of The Lord of the Rings were toast for for the foreseeable future, but Peter Jackson managed to secure studio interest by the mid-late Nineties.



Kind of a salty tweet from Bezos and crew, but I guess when you're competing to sell quarter of a million dollar thrill rides to the ultrarich, you gotta expect some shade-throwing in the ad campaigns...
Similarly, the Virgin Galactic engineer narrating the launch today kept dropping subtle hints about how reassuring it must be for the passengers to know they have crew alongside them for the whole ride. (Blue Origin sightseeing flights will be entirely spam-in-a-can autopilot rides. I guess Bezos trusts his robots since he has warehouses full of them.)

Well, that was pretty cool...

Branson's rocket plane ride went off without a hitch. Obviously their pilots and engineers are more competent than the sound crew for their ridiculous "postgame concert".


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Skynet bags my groceries.

Some people complain that they don't want to use "U-scan" self-checkout services because they aren't being paid to act as a cashier. On the flip side, you could go all in and let Cyberdyne bag your groceries...

(H/T to Chuck Pergiel.)

Automotif CCXXVIII...

Friday afternoon I was sitting in Fat Dan's in SoBro, finishing up lunch. The weather was clement and so the garage doors that front the sidewalk were raised. I'd already received my check and was sipping the last of my drink when the corner of my eye caught the distinctive contours of a Shelby Cobra making an (illegal) left turn from the southbound lanes of College Avenue into the Fresh Market parking lot.

Damn! I had the Rebel T1i, but wearing the 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens. Nowhere near the length I needed to shoot across the street. I shoved my half-finished drink, check, and iPad at my friendly bartender, imploring "Watch these for a sec, please!" and jogged out the door and down to the corner, intending to cross and get pics of the car parked in the grocery lot. Except that before I reached the corner, here came the Cobra again, now motoring westbound on 54th, having used the Fresh Market lot to turn around.

Dejected, I returned to Fat Dan's, finished up my drink, and paid my bill. Before I headed back home to Roseholme Cottage, however, I decided to circle the block via the alley behind the restaurant...


These things still get me right in the feels, kit car or no. Hnnf.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Habit Forming

Someone left this comment on YouTube, apparently, to which Caleb Giddings replied on his Bookface page:
"This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this dumb opinion, and it’s still super dumb.

The entire point of blue guns (and all clearly inert trainers) is so that we can do things with gun-shaped objects that would be unsafe to do with a live gun. This can include force on force, weapons based grappling, instructor demos in the classroom or pointing towards students for better visibility, and a whole other mess of things.

If you treat a blue gun like a real gun, you remove any training value that a blue gun has."

I'll agree with Caleb, albeit with one caveat: I will turn into Judgy McJudgerson if I see you waving a blue gun around like it's a generic chunk of plastic.

I won't SAY anything to you because it's not an actual safety hazard, but you are telling me volumes about how important you consider building good gun handling habits. Whether it's a real gun, SIRT gun, blue gun, whatever, it should never be waved around like it's a can of soup. It should be aimed intentionally, held in a muzzle-aversion ready or carry position, or in a holster or case.

Doing anything else is just rehearsing for an eventual screwup. You're essentially getting reps in for a potentially disastrous mistake.

(Also, if you're an instructor, I'd say that it's probably "Industry Best Practices" to ask a student before you go pointing blue guns at them. Some people get nervous about that for various reasons, so make sure you and your paying customer are on the same page before pointing fake guns at them. You are supposed to be a professional offering a service to clients, not larping your R. Lee Ermey fantasies.)


Rebel, Rebel

I had intended to start a project describing the various tiers of DSLR cameras. There's a lot of misinformation and confusion around what separates the different models in a maker's lineup. At the height of things, there were nearly a dozen different DSLR models in Canon's catalog, ranging in price from less than four hundred dollars to more than six grand. This isn't made any less confusing to the neophyte when they learn that the cheapest camera has an 18MP sensor and spending ten times the money gets them... a 20MP sensor.

Using older models that were much cheaper to acquire, I figured I'd highlight the differences at each price point of Canon and Nikon... then the project got shelved and by the time I got back around to it, the DSLR market had more or less completely collapsed.

Oh, well, let's finish this thing. We'll start at what was, originally, the bottom of the Canon barrel. Canon model designations are harder to decode in the US, where the inexpensive consumer models use the "Rebel" name, followed by an alphanumeric designator. In overseas markets, the fewer digits in a Canon's model number, the farther up the totem pole it is, with the professional grade bodies only having a single digit: 1D, 5D, 7D, et al. This camera is sold in Europe as the 1100D, but here it's the Rebel T3.

The Rebel T3 was sold as an even cheaper alternative to the T3i, Canon having settled somewhere around 2010 on the T# and T#i naming convention for their entry-level and upper-entry cameras. Generally these would be the two tiers of DSLRs that you would run into on the shelves of big box stores, and they were marketed basically head-to-head against Nikon's D3xxx and D5xxx bodies.

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I've been running around with the Rebel T3 wearing an old EF 28-80mm kit lens.

This lens was the kit lens for Rebel film cameras in the Nineties, and it is exceedingly janky. It has a plastic mount. It doesn't use nice fast quiet ultrasonic ring motors to focus, and the little micro motor it uses instead has developed a hideous squealing noise... or maybe that's just how it sounded when it was new in 1996 and I've just been spoiled by whisper-quiet USM.

The T3 body itself feels very bargain basement, too. It actually creaks and flexes minutely when gripped tightly. It's amazing that Canon was able to cost-cut even more to carve out one additional tier *beneath* the T3/1100D before the collapse of the DSLR market.

The inexpensive body is paired with a pentamirror viewfinder that feels dim and cramped if you're used to the big bright pentaprisms on pro bodies, but Canon assumed that the person fondling cameras at Target or Best Buy was unlikely to realize that. It also only shows 95% of the actual image area, which is something to be aware of when composing.

Not only is the plastic of the body thinner than the T3i, but the T3 also disposes of the textured faux leatherette and is notably slipperier in the hand. Fortunately the grip is amply-sized, even on this relatively tiny DSLR. Another cost savings versus the T3i is achieved by doing away with the separate SD card door on the side of the camera; on the T3, the SD card slot is in the battery compartment on the bottom, which isn't a big deal if you don't need to change memory cards while the camera's on a tripod.

Still, the basic guts of the camera are competent. It's got a 12MP sensor and DIGIC 4 image processor looted from the corporate parts bin and previously used on higher-end camera, and it also brought 720p video recording to the bargain basement end of the DSLR market.

With decent glass on it, it does just fine...

With the old kit zoom, it was still possible to get usable photos. It's not for pixel-peeping, that's for sure. But in a world where most photos are viewed on cell phones or tablet screens, it's adequate.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

"That's no sunspot, it's a space station!"

Pretty wild backdrop for an ISS photo...

That's super cool!


"Like God clearing his throat..."

The second-generation Corvette is still my favorite, from an aesthetic standpoint.

Photos never do these things justice. When they're out in the wild, among Camrys and Grand Caravans, they are just eye-grabbing.
"Cool car! What year?"

"It's a '67. Your car is pretty cool, too!"

"Thanks! I've had it for twenty years now."

"The guy I bought this from had it for fifty years! Hold on to it!"
The hood scoop says "big block", which in '67 meant one of several flavors of 427.

Those side pipes sounded apocalyptic when he cranked it, like God clearing his throat. I waited a second before starting the comparatively dainty six in the Zed Drei, the better to enjoy the acoustics as he idled off through the parking lot...


Tuesday, July 06, 2021

How festive.

Some jackass got my debit card number (including the expiration and three digit code) and linked it to their PayPal account. 

I found this out by suddenly being on the hook for two eBay purchases totaling a bit over five hundred bucks. My bank and PayPal have both been super helpful and it looks like everything's going to get put right in a few days, hopefully, but that's five bills I really didn't have right now. Also, I had to cancel the card and now I get to go to the bank and try and get a new one.

Not how I planned to spend my Tuesday.

The dude at PayPal was super helpful and told me that the scammer had the two fraudulent purchases shipped to an Indianapolis address. That info, combined with the date of the first one (two days after I'd arrived home from NH) narrows it down to either the local pizza joint or the restaurant around the corner from my house. Neither is super palatable to think about. With the pizza joint, at least I can go to online ordering through a service like DoorDash rather than reading my card number to someone on the other end of the line.

This is only the second time this has happened to me in over a decade, but it's never fun. 


Monday, July 05, 2021

Automotif CCXXVII...

With Afghanistan winding to a close, it has freed up personnel for stepped-up mounted patrols in South Broad Ripple.

(Shot with an EOS 40D and an EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 lens, fairly heavily cropped.)

Happy 'Murrica Day (Observed)!

Philly Connection

Depending on what runway is in use and the weather, you can usually get a good look at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia, as well as the drydocks of Philly Shipyard, when you're on short final into PHL.

Mostly a bunch of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates waiting to be given up to the breakers or perhaps friendly foreign navies who need a hull on the cheap.

Although the little huddle of three ship-ettes there on the right is interesting. Those are the three Cyclone-class patrol ships that are apparently going to a foreign buyer.

...and a bit of Googling tells me that this is the USNS Charlton, a Watson-class vehicle cargo ship, in the Philly Shipyard for an overhaul. 950 feet long and a 106-foot beam is a big ship, which should give you an idea of the size of that dydock. The Watson class are built right to the Panamax limits.


Sunday, July 04, 2021

Things I don't want to think about...

How many tax dollars went to a bizarre animated cartoon from the federal government asking people to not poop in the pool this summer?

Prince Charles has revealed some of his favorite songs -- including one song that would give him "an irresistible urge to get up and dance."

Something like twenty thousand redcoats, hessians, and tories died so that I wouldn't have to picture that jug-eared goober trying to cut a rug, and yet here we are.

Please, Liz, hang on for all you're worth. Maybe send him a mix tape of sick beats and he'll spasticate his way across the shimmering veil while you're still on the right side of the rose garden and spare us a King Chuck coronation.


Early Evolution in Aerial Warfare

While military technologies like submarines, armored vehicles, and aerial bombing had made appearances in larval form before, World War One saw their first effective mass application.

German bombing of English cities started in 1915 and immediately posed a problem, since air-to-air combat was in its infancy. There was an outcry to Do Something, but what could be done?
"Then we saw the Zeppelin above us, just ahead, amid a gleaming of clouds: high up, like a bright golden finger, quite small (...) Then there was flashes near the ground – and the shaking noise. It was like Milton — then there was war in heaven. (...) I cannot get over it, that the moon is not Queen of the sky by night, and the stars the lesser lights. It seems the Zeppelin is in the zenith of the night, golden like a moon, having taken control of the sky; and the bursting shells are the lesser lights." -D.H. Lawrence

"Hey, go get shot by a Maxim gun because there's not much we can do about the bombs" isn't much of a morale boost, but in those early days it was extremely difficult to down a zeppelin. 

The German airships operated at 9,000 feet or more, and the most common British biplane in the home islands, the B.E.2a, took nearly an hour to get to that altitude. Once there, it had barely a 10mph advantage over the zeppelins, making for impossible stern chases unless it had been vectored right into the path of its target.

Further, the zeppelin was protected by defensive gun positions in its gondolas.

One solution suggested was for a plane that would patrol at altitude, like a destroyer picket looking for intruding enemy ships.

Meet the Supermarine Nighthawk...

No faster than the B.E.2a, and taking an equally interminable time to climb to altitude, it was supposed to (at least according to the design brief) have the endurance to orbit up there for nine hours or more.

In the nose was a steerable searchlight, powered by a separate gasoline genset, maybe the first airborne auxiliary power unit. Above the top wing was a gunner with a 37mm recoilless gun with which to engage targets.

It failed to live up to performance expectations and the engines were terrifically unreliable and, by the time it finally flew in 1917, there were conventional fighters like the SE.5a which had the speed and altitude to intercept zeppelins conventionally. Besides, the slow and obsolescent B.E.2's had already been successfully shooting down the dirigibles by using an upward-firing Lewis gun loaded with incendiary ammo.

It sure did look steampunk, though.


Saturday, July 03, 2021


This is absolutely sick. Has a curb weight like two old Cadillacs. Has as much horsepower as five old Cadillacs. Has a robot launch control mode that will distort the driver's eyeballs with a 3.0 second 0-60 sprint in a vehicle with more square feet than some apartments I've rented.

Clickbait, Rageporn, and Irritainment...

[T]here’s a downside to all this. Actually, there are several downsides—assuming something can have more than one downside in three-dimensional space. First, it’s not just that we’re drowning in fluff, it’s that everything is being flattened. The human brain has only so much capacity for attention. And every day we’re barraged with fluff like flak over shock-and-awe in Baghdad. The ratio of noise to signal is becoming overwhelming, to the point that it’s hard to figure out what’s truly important because we’ve become accustomed to thinking that whatever grabs our attention must be.

In this context, we fall back on familiar patterns that allow us to make sense of the chatter. I’m trying to avoid the word “narrative” these days, given how overused it is, but I can’t think of a better one. It’s as if editors tell their staff, “Scour the internet for anecdotes that support conclusions our audience has already reached.”
He's not wrong.


Automotif CCXXVI...

1976 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, the year of peak size for the big GM C-bodies. 

The 130 inch wheelbase is almost three feet longer than that on my little euro roadster. Stretching 230.7 inches from bumper to bumper, it casts a full six feet more shadow on the asphalt than the BMW Z3, too. 

According to Wikipedia, "[t]he new GM full-size bodies, at 64.3 inches front shoulder room (62.1 inches on Cadillac) and 63.4 inches rear shoulder room (64.0 inches on Cadillac) set a record for interior width that would not be matched by any car until the full-size GM rear-wheel-drive models of the early to mid-1990s."

The standard... and only ...engine option was the 500 cubic inch V8. This had begun life as an Eldorado-only performance option. When it debuted in 1970 it had a 10.0:1 compression ratio and was rated at 400 SAE gross horsepower. In 1975 it became the standard engine in all the Caddies except the new "compact" Seville. By then the compression ratio had been dropped to 8.5:1 for the sake of emissions and fuel economy. Add in the more restrictive catalytic-converted exhaust and power in this '76 model had dropped to 190bhp SAE net, or 215bhp with the optional Bendix fuel injection.

Not a lot of motive force when asked to propel two-and-three-quarters tons of velour, vinyl, and Galloway Green Firemist paint down the boulevard.

EDIT: Looking more closely at the grille and the interior, this is a '75, not a '76. That Jasper "Maharaja cloth with leather" interior wasn't available in '76. (Nor was fuel injection an option.) 


Friday, July 02, 2021

Automotif CCXXV...

Used the little RX100 to snap this photo of an F82 series M4. Twin-turbo 3.0L straight six churning out 425bhp in a ~3500lb car makes a pretty speedy little coupe.

I remain impressed with the sensor and lens in the tiny Sony. For a shirt-pocket-sized camera it turns in some really great results. Look at how crisp that is, and the way shooting wide open on the 1" sensor actually gives a bit of subject separation from the background. The physical size difference between a 1" sensor and a 1/1.7" sensor is, relatively speaking, as great as the difference between APS-C and Full Frame.


Winding down at last?

It was ten years and two days ago that I wrote:
"Personally, I don't think Iraq should have ever happened and Afghanistan should have been a punitive expedition where we toppled the Taliban, shot up the countryside, and tossed the keys to the country to whoever wanted them, along with a note that said "Don't make us come back here.""
I still think we should have looked under every bed in the country for OBL and, when we didn't find him, we should have tossed the keys to a UN peacekeeping force and gone home.

Well, now it looks like we're finally giving up the whole thing as a bad idea, for reals this time.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s district administrator for Bagram, Darwaish Raufi, said the American departure was d one overnight without any coordination with local officials, and as a result early Friday dozens of local looters stormed through the unprotected gates before Afghan forces regained control.

“They were stopped and some have been arrested and the rest have been cleared from the base,” Raufi told The Associated Press, adding that the looters ransacked several buildings before being arrested and the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) took control.

“Unfortunately the Americans left without any coordination with Bagram district officials or the governor’s office,” Raufi said. “Right now our Afghan security forces are in control both inside and outside of the base.”

The deputy spokesman for the defense minister, Fawad Aman, said nothing of the early morning looting. He said only the base has been handed over and the “ANDSF will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism.”
I sincerely hope we expedite doing right by interpreters and others who we'd otherwise leave swinging in the breeze when the inevitable Taliban-crewed T72 smashes through the US embassy gates in Kabul.



Drifting across my Twitter feed the other day was a link to a site with which I was unfamiliar.

Covert Shores is dedicated to, well, pretty much anything submarine related. Profusely illustrated and featuring some pretty spiffy cutaways, I wound up spending the entire morning doing a deep dive (get it?) into sub-specific nerdery, and I'd barely scratched the surface of the archives. Recommend!

Picture of tiny SSN-21 Seawolf for interest

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The nick of time.

Good piece on the Florida condo collapse at the WaPo, profusely illustrated. What grabbed me, though, wasn't the technical and engineering explainers, but this resident's account:
"Sara Nir, a resident, told The Post that shortly before 1 a.m., she noticed loud “knocking” noises that she assumed were caused by construction work. Around 1:14 a.m., she heard a noise that she thought sounded like a wall crashing down, and she left her ground-level apartment to complain to a security guard in the lobby.

She estimated that about a minute later, while she was in the lobby, she heard a very large boom and saw that part of the surface-level parking area — and part of the pool deck — had collapsed into the underground parking garage. She and the two of her children who were home at the time then ran from the building.

Nir’s son called 911 at 1:19 a.m., he said, a time that he said he confirmed by checking the time stamp on his phone. About a minute later, a dispatcher with Miami-Dade County Fire and Rescue called for an engine to respond to an alarm at the building, audio shows.

According to additional EMS audio, the building collapsed between 1:24 and 1:25 a.m. while Engine 76 was en route.
Talk about someone who needed to quickly go and buy a lottery ticket.

(The piece is likely paywalled. Archive sites are your friend.) 

Don't give me that Saab story.

I like the funky automobiles from Trollhättan. They're quirky and unique, from the ignition switches on the floor (Where does your hand go when you get in to start the car? To the parking brake and gear shifter, right? So why not put the ignition switch there?) to the heavily curved cockpit-like windscreens. 

By the end of the line they'd lost a lot of their uniqueness, being shoehorned into commonality with Opel and other GM brands. Still, they attract their share of slightly masochistic fans, like Alfa Romeo but with lutefisk instead of ossobuco.

Apparently someone's keeping the flame alive in North Carolina:
"Like any normal person with healthy internet habits, I sometimes venture onto Craigslist, type in "Saab," and see what pops up. Will I find a decrepit 9-5 wagon moldering in the tall grass of an unkempt lawn? Or maybe a 9-3 convertible in that acid green? Perhaps there will be a 900 or a 9000, but probably not, because North Carolina isn't exactly the heart of Saab territory. Saabs come from the land of the ice and snow, where the synchros fry and the head gaskets blow. So imagine my astonishment when I discover 10 listings—9-3s, 9-5s, even a stray 900—all in the same place. Against all odds and logic, somebody is running a functional Saab dealership a couple of hours away from me. This I have to see."

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Do we shoot too much in shooting classes?

A conversation between a couple of very knowledgeable dudes...

Lee knows his way around a blaster, too...

You might recognize the dude on the right, who is no slouch with a pistol.