Thursday, December 30, 2021

From discussion elsewhere...

Someone was soliciting recommendations for camera cases that would stand up to the gentle ministrations of airport ramp rats:
I was gonna say, my cameras ride up top with me. 😬 If I had kids, I'd check them into the hold before trusting the baggage handlers with my cameras.

"Make sure to text mommy if they try and put you in the unpressurized hold!"
I'm still recommending the Think Tank Airport Advantage, which you can sweetly and politely point out to gate personnel has been expressly designed to fit into the overhead bins of even the smallest Executive Mailing Tubes. 

(According to Amazon, I bought that thing in summer of 2018, coming up on four years ago, which means that it and the Peak Design Messenger Bag have been my constant travel kit since then. I went through three different travel setups between 2015 and 2018, and have used the same one since then. Camera bags are kinda like holsters that way...)

Tab Clearing

Hail, adventurer!

The man dancing drunkenly on the stack of old mattresses has two quests for you.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Santa's visit...

Santa left a Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 in my stocking. I'm assuming the jolly elf was tipped off by Bobbi regarding my hobbies and interests.

It was the ideal sort of gift, in that it was something I kinda wanted but never would have actually bought for myself. The "contact sheet" film looks interesting, with its black border and orange lettering. I need to get some B&W film for January's Shitty Camera Challenge: #GetMono.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Pure Liquid Umame

Look at this gently simmering pot full of goodness...

What could be lurking beneath that colorful, steamy surface?

Photos shot with Fujifilm X-T2 & 18-55mm f/2.8-4

It's a huge chunk of oxtail! Somewhere in there is a large slice of beef shank as well.

Served out in a bowl, it looked like this:

Bobbi has the recipe details up at her blog

The broth was absolutely delicious, and savory beyond belief. Sometime this week the leftovers of this will join the leftovers of the bison roast from Christmas in the stew pot.

This was our Boxing Day dinner, enjoyed while watching the second half of Hogfather on the telly.


Monday, December 27, 2021

I need to go shooting, but...

...there was no way I was going yesterday. I avoid ranges on the weekends on general principle, but avoiding them on the weekend right after Christmas is a hard and fast rule for me.

You know that Far Side cartoon? The one that goes something like "After 23 uneventful years at the reptile house, Dave had a cumulative attack of the willies", with the janitor all curled up and gibbering in the corner? Yeah, that'd be me at a public range yesterday.

A Honkin' Hunk o' Meat

A bison chuck roast for Christmas dinner, a gift from my friends at Lucky Gunner, done by Bobbi with her pretty well perfected charcoal grill slow-roasting method, detailed for your delectation here.


Russia Fines Google

A Russian court has decided to levy punitive fines on Google for allowing banned content and not un-personing opposition leaders.
The Tagansky District Court ruled that Google repeatedly neglected to remove the banned content and ordered the company to pay an administrative fine of about 7.2 billion rubles (about $98.4 million).

Google said it would study the court documents and then decide on its next steps.

Russian authorities have steadily ramped up pressure on social media platforms, accusing them of failing to purge content related to drug abuse, weapons and explosives. Earlier this year, the authorities blamed tech companies for not deleting announcements about unsanctioned protests in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
When I read the headline Russian court fines Google nearly $100M, I literally laughed out loud.

Google's 2020 revenue was 181.69 billion dollars. 

I don't know if the corporation keeps the sort of small change they'd need to pay a $100M fine in their "paying off tinpot autocrats" petty cash slush fund or not. They'll probably need to see if Page or Brin can break a B-note.


Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sunday Smithery has occurred...

...over at the other blog.

I'm not normally a fan of XS Sights, but the Standard Dot ones that came on this slide I got from Marko work okay enough out to the 7-10 yards I'm likely to ever shoot this thing. I can put hits on 8" steel out to 20 yards with it, but that takes work and is the opposite of fast, reactive shooting.



Molly was in her silver years and a bit hard of hearing, but once she figured out what was going on, she was more than willing to bust a pose or two for my Nikon D700 & AF Nikkor 70-210mm f/4.

(I was shooting from a dozen or more feet away in Aperture Priority at f/5.6 to get good subject separation from the background.)


The Wheels of Time

I got my driver's license in 1985. My folks had been holding it back as an incentive for good grades, but I was an incorrigible slacker and daydreamer and the GPA stayed relentlessly mediocre. With my 18th birthday approaching (and with it, my ability to go get it on my own stick) they relented and granted permission before I could present them with a fait accompli.

I bring this up because the year 1985 was nineteen years after the last Studebaker, a 1966 Cruiser, rolled off their Canadian assembly line. Their South Bend, Indiana plant had been shuttered a few years earlier, in December of '63.

Growing up, Studebakers were old cars. I don't really recollect seeing any around when I was in high school, but this was still the era when domestic cars had five-digit odometers and were considered a pretty well-knackered hooptie when one passed the 100k mile mark. This was also the days before galvanized body panels; it wasn't too bad down south, but north of the Ohio River, cars would often be rotting before your eyes before the note was paid off. (I vaguely remember family members exclaiming at visible rust on my uncle's fairly new Camaro during a holiday visit back north.)

Anyway, if high school student in 2022 goes to get her driver's license, nineteen years in the past is 2003.

Oldsmobile produced its last vehicle in 2004*.

2001-2004 Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan

Plymouth went under in 2001, and Eagle...the last non-Jeep vestige of AMC, by then just a division of 1998.

To the Zoomer, the names "Oldsmobile" and "Plymouth" are as quaint as "Studebaker" and "Packard" are to Gen X, with the difference being that by the 1990s rust-proofing and cars that would run with some degree of reliability for a couple hundred thousand miles had become a thing.

*Which makes the 1997 book Setting the Pace: Oldsmobile's First 100 Years sort of poignant, in retrospect. 


Saturday, December 25, 2021

Bargain Bin Shootout

If the end of the beginning for serious digital photography was the 1999 launch of the Nikon D1, the first all in-house digital single lens reflex camera from one of the Big Two Japanese camera makers, then the beginning of the end for film SLRs was in 2003. It was triggered by a digital SLR price war caused by Canon's launch of the EOS 300D.

Known in the U.S. as the Digital Rebel, the 300D sported the 7-point autofocus system and 6.1MP sensor like that on Canon's semi-pro EOS 10D, but where the 10D sold as a body only for a $1,999 MSRP, the Rebel could be had for $999 complete with an 18-55mm zoom lens.

How was this done? Well, firstly some features were deleted (and some disabled). Also, the bright, but heavy and expensive, glass pentaprism viewfinder was replaced with a lighter, dimmer, cheaper pentamirror. Finally, the rugged magnesium shell of the 10D got binned in exchange for a thinner plastic body.

The launch of the Digital Rebel brought DSLR cameras in range of the casual photographer and kicked off a price war between Nikon and Canon that reached its apogee... or perigee? 2008-2009, the years that arguably saw the final maturing of the DSLR market. Since then changes in DSLR cameras have been mostly evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

The five years between the introduction of the Rebel and '08-'09 saw furious competition between Nikon and Canon as each tried to grab a bigger share of the entry-level DSLR market by packing ever-cheaper beginner cameras with ever-better features until something had to give.

So Canon and Nikon each peeled off an even cheaper model to serve as an enticing price leader in boxed kits sold in big box stores, leaving the original entry model to continue accruing more advanced features without as much of an eye toward absolute minimum MSRP.

Canon followed the original 300D/Rebel with the 350D/Rebel XT (8MP, same $999 kit price), then the 400D/Rebel XTi (10MP, $899 kit), and then the 450D/Rebel XSi (12MP, $899 kit). Then in 2008, while the Rebel XSi was still fresh on the market, Canon slid an entirely new camera beneath it in the lineup: The Rebel XS, called the 1000D overseas; in Canon's numerical marketing, the fewer the digits, the higher-zoot the camera, with the ultimate pro DSLR body being the 1D series.

Relative to the Rebel XSi, the Rebel XS lost the "i" suffix, as well as a handful of features. It recycled the 10MP sensor from the XTi, and the 7-point autofocus system from the XT. While the XSi had moved to a higher resolution 3" rear LCD display, the XS used the same 2.5" screen as the XTi. These and other shortcuts allowed Canon to drop the price of the basic kit with an 18-55mm zoom lens to only $699, a price point starting to put the squeeze on higher end point-'n'-shoot "bridge cameras".

From this point on, Canon designated their better US-market Rebels with a "T" prefix and an "i" suffix: T1i, T2i, et cetera. The cheaper entry-level models lost the "i", like the T3 below.

Canon didn't iterate these bargain-bin models as frequently, so the 2011 T3 is the direct successor to the XS. It picked up the 12MP sensor and 9-point autofocus system from the XSi, the DIGIC 4 processor (then-current across the Canon DSLR line, but long in the tooth and about to be replaced in the higher-end models), and added the ability to shoot 720p video.

So in 2011 the customer who went looking for a DSLR at Best Buy or in the camera aisle at Walmart or Target (hard to believe now that just ten years ago Wally World and Tahr-jay had a whole aisle of cameras) had their choice of two boxed Canon kits: the 18MP T3i with an 18-55mm lens for $899, or the 12MP T3 with the same lens for only $599.

The price-conscious shopper wasn't going to care about details like a body shell of smoother, thinner plastic, the lack of a separate door for the memory card (it shared the compartment on the bottom with the battery, which was cheaper, but precluded swapping cards while mounted on a tripod), or the fact that the T3 was built in Taiwan rather than Japan. The T3i also had a bigger, articulated LCD screen on the back, the ability to shoot 1080p HD video, and other details... but three hundred bucks is three hundred bucks.

In 2009, Canon's biggest competitor reorganized their entry level line as well. The big box store DSLR shopper would find a pair of kits from Nikon: There was the D5000, which competed head-to head with Canon's T1i. It had 12MP, an articulated LCD, could shoot 720P video, and came with an 18-55mm lens for $850.

Competing with the cheaper Canon Rebel XS was the new Nikon D3000. It was extremely stripped down relative to the D5000, and much smaller. It lacked video recording and an articulated screen, but this wee little DSLR came with a wee little price tag; with the kit lens included, the tariff was only $449. 

Essentially, Nikon was using the 10MP CCD sensor and 11-point autofocus sensor from its old D200 semi-professional camera, hooked to the new EXPEED processor.

The D3000 had a built-in tutoring "Guide Mode" for novices, and had a minimum set of physical controls, with fewer buttons and most settings controlled via a menu on the rear LCD screen.

Comparing the extreme entry-level cameras from the two companies (and it's a generalized comparison as the T3 is an iteration newer than the D3000), the Nikon feels more solid in the hands. It combines beginner friendliness in its minimal buttons and "Guide Mode" with features of more expensive cameras that the budget Canon lacks, like the soft textured rubber on the handgrip and the separate side-mounted door for the memory card. The viewfinder on the Nikon is noticeably brighter, although that's relative; both are cramped and dim compared to the pentaprism finders on pro cameras.

The kit lenses both have pretty much identical specs, including "VR" Vibration Reduction on the Nikon and "IS" Image Stabilization on the Canon, as well as the same range of focal lengths and apertures, and are (other than the lens elements themselves) constructed of plastic from the filter ring to the mounting flange. However the Nikkor DX AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR feels much more upmarket compared to its rival; once mounted on the camera where you can't see its plastic flange, you could be forgiven for thinking it cost a good bit more than it did, while Canon's EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II never stops letting you know it came in the box with the camera like a prize with some Cracker Jacks. 

Literally the only place the Nikon feels chintzier is in the diopter adjustment for the viewfinder, which is a fiddly sliding bar arrangement instead of the normal dial on the Rebel T3.

When I'm done with this DSLR project, I'm going to sell or give away the Rebel T3, but I'm keeping the Nikon D3000. When you get done with Guide Mode and don't need the beginner's training wheels, you can do like I did and go into the menus and switch the status display on the rear LCD screen from its cartoon-like simplified graphic look to the normal white-on-black status display other Nikons use. While in the menu you can also correct the only real physical control shortcoming by reassigning the "Fn" function button on the front of the camera, which comes from the factory set to start the self-timer, and switch it to be the ISO control button.

The basic 10MP CCD sensor and 11-point CAM-1000 autofocus core of the D3000 is still plenty adequate for solid work if you don't need to shoot video; after all, it's the same guts as the Nikon D200 I used as my main camera for years, just in a smaller and lighter package.

These entry level cameras were key to Canon & Nikon's marketing plans for over a dozen years, intended to bring in new buyers and entice them to move up inside their respective manufacturer's ecosystems to bigger and better things. The Nikon entices you by feeling like a real camera, while the Canon makes you maybe wish you'd spent the extra money for the next level camera from the start...or perhaps bought the Nikon in the showcase next to it.

(Crossposted at Digital Fossils)


Merry Christmas, one and all!

May your day be merry and bright!


Friday, December 24, 2021

Don't Look Down

I watched the first third or so of The Alpinist over a late lunch yesterday. It's a great documentary, and when I watch it, I understand what normal folks get out of watching scary movies. 

See, regular horror flicks don't do much for me. I know that ghosts and zombies and vampires and stuff aren't real. But you know what is real? Gravity. The frickin' ground. And just watching that stuff makes me horripilate and my palms sweat.

Anyway, the climbing this LeClerc kid did was just nuts. When Alex frickin' Honnold says things that amount to "This guy's a wild man and I have no idea how he does the stuff he does", that's saying something.

Beyond the Poe's Law Event Horizon

Either this person's Twitter ID, @FallerForIt, is some deeply meta trolling, or irony is dead. Imagine falling for that bogus headline.

Gruber und Gruber

On this date in 1818, the world heard the first performance of Stille Nacht, better known to us Anglophones as Silent Night

The words are from a poem by Josef Mohr, a Catholic priest, and the music was composed by church organist Franz Gruber. That first performance, however, the organ was busted and so Gruber accompanied the priest on guitar.

Thus was Christmas heralded a hundred and three years ago.

One hundred and seventy years later, Christmas was rung in by another Gruber, the criminal mastermind Hans, plummeting to his death off Nakatomi Tower. Captured on film, the event heralds the start of the holiday to this day.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

One to Watch

I will be interested in seeing the content from Prof. Yamane's new video project.

Choking the ol' kangaroo...

It sounds like a weird euphemism, but it's actually a news item from the northern Nashville 'burbs, where a Tennessee man strangled his neighbor's kangaroo. Literally.
The neighbors went onto the fenced-in property, where the female neighbor was assaulted by the kangaroo. The husband then stepped in, strangling the kangaroo.
Man, you don't get to write news stories about choking the neighbor's marsupial just every day. You want to savor that assignment.

Can you imagine the conversation amongst the dispatcher and responding po-po?


Character Voices

It has been fifteen years since I last read Heinlein's The Number of the Beast.

It came up in conversation recently, and I remembered that I liked certain parts of it rather a lot, but that the novel as a whole was wildly uneven and not one of Heinlein's better efforts.

So I set off to reread it and see what I thought now. I'm about a quarter of the way in and, even before I can write any kind of review, I have to note a glaring annoyance: Heinlein alternates viewpoint characters from chapter to chapter between the Professor and Hilda and Zeb and Deety... but they all talk exactly the same

Open the book to a random chapter and you'll be challenged to find out whose eyes you're supposed to be looking through until they think or say something explicitly expository.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Choctaw Bingo

Automotif CCLXXIII...

A 1989 or 1990 Cadillac Fleetwood coupe in Medium Garnet Red Metallic. You can narrow down the year because they restyled the Fleetwood in '89 and bumped the engine displacement to 4.9 liters in 1991; this one has a "4.5 Litre" badge on the decklid.

The 1989 version of the 273 cubic inch Caddy V-8 had a throttle-body fuel injector and was rated at 155 horsepower. For 1990 it got port fuel injection and a new intake manifold to go with it, which boosted output to 180bhp.

The "Fleetwood" name itself was actually that of a coachbuilder, Fleetwood Metal Body, in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania that had been bought by Fisher Body, with the latter being absorbed into General Motors.

Fleetwood Metal Body was moved to Detroit in '31, and originally only made the bodies for the highest-end Cadillac models, like this V-16 powered '32 Fleetwood Madame X.

It wasn't until Cadillac introduced the front wheel drive C-body DeVille that "Fleetwood" became a model of its own, basically a more upmarket version of the DeVille. It's kind of a downer that the "Fleetwood" name went from gracing only the most upscale Caddies to sharing a platform with the Buick Park Avenue and Olds 98.


A jog around the blogs...

The latest thing that has the nerd factions riled...

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Amish Paradise... Seriously

Very cool vid from the Beeb on the resort town in Florida that's a popular vacation spot with the various Anabaptist spinoff sects in the US. The photographer's page is here.

(h/t to The Online Photographer)

Automotif CCLXXII...

Photo shot with Olympus E-510 & Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6

An absolutely eye-catching murdered-out '21 or '22 Cadillac Escalade Sport in Raven Black. The black 12-spoke wheels, gloss black "Escalade" name badges, and monochrome Caddy crest on the grille indicate it's an Onyx Package, a $2500 addition to the base Slade Sport.

The tailgate had this "600" badge which I had to go look up. Caddy has decided alphanumerics look Euro and upmarket and so they indicate the potency of the car with this number plate. Except it's not the displacement or the horsepower, it's the torque. And it's not the torque in decent American foot-pounds, but in newton-metres, which is metric torque. And it's not the actual torque in newton-meters, which would be 624, but rather rounded to the nearest hundred newton-meters, since "600" looks better on a badge than "624".

You can tell it has the 6.2L EcoTec3 gasoline V8 and not the 3.0L Duramax inline-6 turbodiesel, because the latter would have a "600D" badge. (Both engines have the same peak torque, but the diesel's shows up 2600 RPM sooner on the tachometer.)

Say what you will about it being a gussied-up Tahoe/Yukon, but they ain't having a hard time moving Escalades. It's been a consistent hit for Caddy, with enough badge recognition that it kept its name through the alphanumeric soup era of Cad model designators that saw even venerable nameplates like "Eldorado" and "DeVille" get replaced with random Scrabble hands.

Storage Wars

The various formats of storage media have been stable long enough that it's easy to forget that a war raged on this battlefront not long ago...

In the beginning, tape ruled the universe. Movies were stored on it, sound was stored on it, data was stored on it. 

Tape's biggest problem was that it was entirely linear. In the case of computer software, this meant that if the bit of data the program needed was at the other end of the tape, the tape drive had to spool back the entire reel to get to it. In the case of videocassettes, this meant that if the start of the movie was at the other end of the tape, the rental joint would charge you a buck and the clerk would think you were an ill-mannered savage.

To solve this problem, magnetic data migrated to spinning discs, which had the advantage of the read/record head being able to jump around from sector to sector like a hyperactive sand flea, rather than sitting still and waiting for the transport motors to bring it the bits it was looking for. The 3.5" Verbatim floppy in the photo above held 1.44MB of data compared to the 256kB of the Digital Data Pack cassette tapes on my Coleco Adam, and was loads faster.

It was sufficiently more compact and faster than cassette-type storage that some early digital cameras from Sony even used 3.5" floppies to store photos.

With Moore's Law roaring along at full speed, it took very little time for 1.44MB of data to go from "a lot" to "not very much at all" and the search was on for more capacity. CD-RW and Iomega Zip drives had their moments in the sun, but one of the weirder technologies around the turn of the Millennium was the SmartMedia card, one of which is at the top left in the photo.

Toshiba came up with SmartMedia, envisioning it as a straight-up replacement for 3.5" floppies. In fact, it was originally going to be called the SSFDC, or "Solid State Floppy Disc Card", which hardly rolls trippingly off the tongue, so you can see why it was changed. You could even buy a "FlashPath" caddy that was inserted in 3.5" floppy drives that allowed the computer to read the enclosed SmartMedia card with the right device driver installed.

While it was never a big hit in computers, SmartMedia enjoyed brief popularity in digital cameras, being used by both Fuji and Olympus in their early offerings.

Thing is, it was still fairly large, at least in terms of height and width, and cameras were shrinking. Further, camera resolution was growing faster than card capacity; in 2001 both Fuji and Olympus were selling cameras in the three-to-five megapixel range and the very biggest SmartMedia card was only 128MB. With a 5MP Olympus E-20, you'd only get about a dozen RAW files on a 128MB card.

So Fujifilm and Olympus came up with their own card format, the xD Picture card. The name stood for "eXtreme Digital", which was very on-brand for the year 2002AD.

The xD format was eventually expanded all the way up to include 1- and 2GB card sizes. They were fairly cheap because, like the SmartMedia they were replacing, they were completely dumb storage devices, with no on-board controller. Unfortunately, because they were completely dumb storage devices with no on-board controller, every time a new generation of bigger cards was released, the older cameras couldn't read them unless they received a firmware update. Friends, there is nothing the owner of a thousand-dollar-plus DSLR loves more than hooking their camera up to a computer, waving a chicken foot over the cable, and hoping they don't brick their baby by getting a step wrong or having an ill-timed blackout.

When Olympus put dual slots on their Four Thirds DSLRs, they acknowledged reality by making one of them a Compact Flash slot, like every other DSLR at the time was using, but the other was for their nearly-proprietary xD.

Olympus E-3 with slots for CF and xD

Fuji bailed on the format around 2008, joining the rest of the world in SD card land. Olympus, though, clung on like grim death for another couple years, during which it performed what may be the tackiest cynical corporate douche move in the history of tacky cynical corporate douche moves. 

When Oly released the E-420 and E-620, the penultimate all-new Four Thirds DSLR bodies ever, back in 2009, they added a special Panorama mode that would stitch together panoramic photographs in-camera...but only if an Olympus-brand card was in the  xD card slot. Not any ol' xD card, but an Oly-branded one. Considering these were just dumb cards, there was no reason for this except to move card inventory.

When Olympus released its final Four Thirds DSLR in 2010, the E-5, it was aimed at the professional market and, sensibly, it sported a CF slot and an SDHC slot, like pretty much every other pro DSLR on the market at the time. The day of xD was done. Nowadays unless you get used cards on eBay or occasional new-old-stock that pops up on Amazon, you're hosed for xD card availability.


Monday, December 20, 2021

Teaching Grandpa to Suck Eggs

Senator Manchin of West Virginia announced that he wasn't on board with the Build Back Better bill in the middle of the talking head show time yesterday morning, which obviously made for lively panel discussions on This Week and Meet the Press.

On ABC's show, Yvette Simpson of Democracy for America tried punditsplaining to Manchin, insisting that the voters of West Virginia would really benefit from the BBB programs, so of course they would support it. Considering that Manchin was first elected to statewide office in West Virginia in 2001, when Ms. Simpson was still in undergrad, I'm going to bet that he has a better idea of what the voters there want than she does.

Are there voters in WV who wanted to see that bill pass? Oh, I don't doubt it at all. But...

Sunday, December 19, 2021

She's not wrong.

I will forever blame weebs for this.


Pop Tart, aka "Poppy", is an adorable, friendly, and well-behaved Silken Windhound.

I had the Olympus E-510 and Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 with me. I was glad I had a camera with me that had a lens with more reach than a cell phone. Still, at 42mm (on a Four Thirds sensor, so equivalent to 84mm on a full-frame camera) the little Oly kit zoom can only open up to f/5.6. I would have liked slightly longer, faster glass.


You have got to be kidding me.

Look, just because you have the right to keep and bear arms doesn't mean you have to exercise that right.

For instance, if your self control is so poor that you go running down the street in your underwear, chasing down a car full of teen and preteen girls, literal church youth group members, and drag their adult chaperone out of the car by her hair and hold a gun to her head... well, maybe firearms ownership isn't a good fit for you, dude.
Multiple girls inside the car reported hearing the sheriff ask the woman who she was and say "I will f----shoot you," according to investigators.

The youth group leader, who grew up in the house next to Rowland and considered him a family friend, said she told Rowland her name and that she was his neighbor, but added that the words did not seem to register.

"That's when I really got scared because the gun was still at my head and he didn‘t know who was," she said, according to the affidavit.
And you certainly have no damn business being the sheriff of anything.


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Automotif CCLXXI...

The original Dodge Intrepid, from the '93 through the '97 model years, seems to have a fairly low survivorship rate, at least in these parts, relative to its Ford Taurus and Chevy Lumina competitors of similar vintage. You can't swing a shopping cart in a Walmart parking lot around here without hitting a twenty-plus year old Ford or GM hoopty, but Mopars of the era have apparently oxidized away to nothingness or been consigned to the crusher.

I like the looks of the LH platform cars, and the Intrepid was a tremendous aesthetic improvement over the baroquely retrograde Dodge Dynasty it replaced. Of course, by the Nineties the majority of domestic midsize sedans were sold as fleet vehicles, so who knows how important styling is to Hertz and Avis?


Friday, December 17, 2021

Too Twee for Words

A few years back, Bobbi gifted me the most adorable little charging stand for my Apple watch...

Well, it turns out there's a newer version, every bit as twee as the original.

I've half a mind to set up an iMac on my desk again, just to serve as a DVD player.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021


I missed this when it was released. This is a movie I'm down to watch, but it seems difficult to find; it's not streaming anywhere at the moment, as best I can tell. 

You may be familiar with the most famous photo from Smith's time in Minamata.


Sociology of Guns

Reading the thoughts of the students who've taken Professor Yamane's Sociology of Guns seminar at Wake Forest is always interesting. The first essay from the latest batch is up now.

EDIT: ...and the second went up while I was typing, apparently.



In a three-hour gun duel with the shore batteries protecting the city of Cherbourg, USS Texas took a couple hits. One wrecked the pilot house, causing almost a dozen casualties including the only KIA aboard BB-35 during the war; another hit was one of those freaks of coincidence...

It's apparent from the shape of the hole that the 240mm shell had keyholed when it hit the hull, possibly having skipped off the water. The unexploded projectile was found in the bunk of the ship's clerk. It was later disarmed by EOD techs in England and remained on the ship as a trophy.

The duel with the Cherbourg shore batteries was intense. Texas fired a third as many 14-inch shells in a few hours as it had in eleven days stationed off the Normandy beaches. 


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Automotif CCLXX...

On the one hand, I bemoan the way the entire car market in the US has been swallowed whole by giant bro-dozer trucks, SUVs, and weird blobby crossover thingies like this X6 M50i.

On the other, it's hard to be mad at anything with a twin-turbo V8 thumping out more than 500 horsepower that will do 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and scorch the quarter mile in the low twelves. Those were numbers associated with race cars and sportbikes when I first got my driver's license, and everyone was sure that the automotive future of 2021 would be little 3-cylinder diesels and glorified electric golf carts.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Cinco de Patrick


Early yesterday morning, a Kentuckian tweeted some photos of tornado damage he'd shot from a drone over Mayfield.

Just before he'd done that, I'd been in Google Maps' satellite view, locating the candle factory that had been hit.

With the distinctive x-shaped building (an old folks' home) from his drone photos and the location of the candle factory to serve as endpoints, I went back to the Googlesat and looked at the track the twister must have taken through the city...

Yikes. That was a bullseye right through the town square.

More news and photos have obviously since been released and it did indeed basically track right through the town square.

CNN has some current satellite shots in composite photos with sliders for before and after, and it's pretty terrible looking; Dresden-esque, Hiroshima-like. The total magnitude of loss won't be known for another day or two at least.

Google's satellite view can sometimes show sobering things. I was nosing around Pensacola Naval Air Station the other day to see if the Blue Angels were home when the satellite flew over (they were) and in the subdivisions nearby I wondered "Why are so many roofs blue? Ohhh..."


Friday, December 10, 2021

Overheard in the Hallway...

I shouldn't have enjoyed it...

So the live-action Cowboy Bebop has followed Firefly into one-and-done sci-fi television oblivion. At least they showed Cowboy Bebop in order, which was a good thing because the show kept a season-long story arc moving in the background through a string of "monster-of-the-week" midseason episodes. That's a neat trick that's not often done.

Apparently fans of the original anime were all up in arms about it, but that's anime fans for you, amirite? We're about a dozen episodes into the original and I think the live action series captured its flavor pretty well, while obviously being a different-but-similar story told via a different medium.

Probably the thing that bums me the most is that the end of the first season was obviously a setup for the start of season two and left the thoroughly likable Spike, played by John Cho, as down-and-out as it was possible to be without actually having a midget in a clown suit run out and kick him in the junk right as the credits rolled.

Anyway, I blame anime fans.

Neo-Fëanorian Trinket

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Doing Donuts on the Moon

The last Model T rolled off of Ford's assembly line in May of 1927. Just forty four years later, on the last day of July in 1971, David Scott would drive an electric dune buggy on the moon.

That was the first of three Lunar Roving Vehicles that NASA sent up during the Apollo program. Cernan and Schmitt climbed off the last one, LRV-3, for the final time in the evening of December 13th, 1972. That was forty nine years ago.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

"Tough" on "Crime"

When politicians campaign on being tough on crime, it's important to research how they define the terms "tough" and "crime".

Overheard in the Kitchen...

RX: "The Hoppin' John tonight had three kinds of meat: ham, hot Italian sausage, and an Irish banger..."

Me: "An Irish banger? Like Seamus 'Ice Dog' McGillicuddy?

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Long Dark Lunchtime of the Soul

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Automotif CCLXIX...

I first spotted it rolling past in late October, but didn't get the camera up in time to do anything but get a snapshot of its ass end at the traffic light...

A couple weeks later, it pulled into the parking lot next to Fat Dan's and, as the owner went in to get his carryout, I jogged past him with my camera in hand. "Hey, dude! Awesome ride! I gotta snap some pictures."

It looks (and sounds) the business, and that cooked license plate is just... *chef's kiss*.


Superior Cat Technology

Saturday, December 04, 2021


Boy howdy, did Bitcoin...and cryptocurrencies in general...take a dump last night or what?

From the Wall Street Journal:
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies fell sharply Saturday, another sign that investors were pulling back from riskier bets after this week’s stock-market selloff.

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market value, plunged more than 20% to $42,000 at midnight Eastern Time on Saturday before bouncing back, according to data from CoinDesk. It was trading at $49,127.60 around 3 p.m., down about 9% in 24 hours.

The declines were widespread across the cryptouniverse. Other widely traded cryptocurrencies including Solana, Dogecoin and Shiba Inu coin lost more than a fifth of their value.

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #209...

If "roller-locked short recoil semiauto pistols" were a Jeopardy! category, it would only have one question: What is the CZ 52?

Commercial Sellier & Bellot 85gr FMJ averages over fifteen hundred feet-per-second out of this thing, with the traditional fireworks display at the muzzle and brass flung somewhere into the weeds on the berm.

These, along with the Makarov and various Tokarev variants, were among a trio of Cold War commie blasters that were imported in such numbers to actually have a bit of an aftermarket. Hogue does hardwood replacement grip panels, both smooth and textured, and some holster makers have supported it. Prvi Partisan even loads JHP ammunition, if you're so unfortunate* as to have to rely on one for carry.

Also, unless you're absolutely certain that the decocker has been checked out to be safe (or the gun's been modified to make it so) do not trust that thing. In a distressingly large number of them, the decocker essentially functioned as a second trigger. We spent a summer making the decockers safe to use on several thousand of them back in '03.
  • Open the crate. 
  • Pull the slides off all the pistols. 
  • Put the frames on a cart and wheel it over to Shannon. 
  • Shannon would huck the frames up in the mill, take a pass across the rear face of the takedown latch so the slide would sit a teeny bit further forward, and then hit the hammer face a lick on the grinder. 
  • Wheel the cart of finished frames back to me. 
  • Cold blue all the hammer faces. 
  • Reassemble the slides onto the frames. 
  • Pick the pistols up one at a time and hit the hammers a whack with the handle of a screwdriver to make sure they stayed cocked. 
  • One at a time drop a dowel down the barrels and use the decocker to make sure the dowel didn't budge. 
  • Put the pistols back in the crate. 
  • Open the next crate. 
My car smelled like cosmoline all summer. (The Zed Drei was still fairly young back then and still whiffed of leather upholstery on warm Knoxville summer days. When it was ninety degrees out, I'd get in the car to drive home from the shop and the combination of the leather smell and the cosmoline that clogged all my pores and coated my jeans made a combination that whiffed of mildewed sweat socks and high school gym locker rooms. I have PTSD.)

*Look, when these were under a hundred bucks, you could argue that it beat a handful of nothing for a broke college student. Nowadays they're a collectible going for damn near new Glock prices and there have to be literally hundreds of better options for self defense in that price range.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Automotif CCLXVIII...

This example of the last iteration of Jaguar's XJ line of sedans was shot with an Olympus E-3 & a Zuiko 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II lens. The beaded water caught my eye for some reason.


Does Not Work That Way

Look, Alec, I get that you're absolutely gutted by this. 

I could be convinced that you legitimately believe that you did not pull the trigger. Our brains... our egos... will tell us some amazing lies in order to protect our id. Even though I think you're a huge asshole, on some basic human to human level, I feel bad for you, because this is obviously a horrible experience.

But guns, and most specifically Colt Single Action Armies and their clones, do not work that way.

If it were some striker-fired semiauto, we could concoct some bizarre and cosmically unlikely hypothetical whereby the sear broke at the same time as the aliens from planet Zoltar beamed the firing pin safety out of the gun, but not on that smokewagon you were holding. You had to at least manually cock the hammer on that replica hogleg while pointing it at someone.


Funk-B-Gone Recall

I'm not gonna lie, when I saw the link at CNN, I clicked through with almost morbid eagerness...

"Cancer causing chemicals in body spray? I wonder if it's something nasty and radioactive in Axe?" I wondered, visions of a popped-collar apocalypse dancing in my head.

Apparently not. Instead, it's benzene in aerosol deodorants like Secret and Old Spice, which have already been recalled. So be on the lookout for increased rates of armpit cancer in Old Spice users in twenty years or something.

In other news, "Increased Rates of Armpit Cancer" will be the title of the debut album from my next group, Popped-Collar Apocalypse.


Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Single Sentence Sci-Fi. Ready? Go!

Sense of Proportion

They're talking like he helped him fix a parking ticket or offered to be a character witness in a shoplifting case.