Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Automotif CDLXVI...

Here's a first generation Chevrolet C/K pickup, obviously someone's half-done hot rod project (or entirely-done rat rod... it can be hard to tell the difference sometimes.)

The doors say it's a '64-'66, I think, although I'm hardly fluent in Old Truck.


Can I get an "amen"?

"[T]his disaffected bloc of Americans (and the poor souls living in swing states) will have to endure months on end of extreme partisan rhetoric, negative advertising, cable news vitriol, and people losing their minds on X, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok about other people’s political views and choices—all fueled by billions of dollars in unaccountable funds from wealthy sources and activist groups that are perfectly content to see the country break in two for ideological or financial gain.


The only rational form of self-protection from this madness is to refuse to engage in America’s misshapen partisan politics and to instead pursue other forms of citizenship.

Focus on something other than politics. Talk with friends and colleagues about anything other than partisan divides and culture war clickbait. Turn off and disable the media and tech sources spreading partisan negativity. Turn the mind towards something positive and constructive in life rather than imbibing party propaganda designed to make people anxious, confused, angry, or vengeful.
To be knee-deep in the Very Online kulturkampf these days is to drink from a firehose of negativity and panic and anger, because that's what gets the clicks and the donations and the virality.

To see a politician's TV ad is to be bombarded with images and messages suggesting the country is on the verge of ruin unless you vote for our guy... oh, and help us save America by giving us money by texting CANDIDATE to 12345.

The effect is to keep your "fight-or-flight" reflex on constant low burn, keeping your brain simmering in a 24/7 broth of stress hormones.

Unplug from that shit. Go a week without talking to anybody about anything political. Otherwise you're going to find yourself listening to a podcaster or vlogger rambling about how the CIA Deep State is rigging Taylor Swift to make Travis win the Vaccine Bowl for Biden or whatever cockamamie nonsense is making the rounds now. If you do find yourself watching that and nodding along, you need to go outside and touch some grass, friend.


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Retro Pockets

I used the Amazon gift card Bobbi gave me for my birthday to order a used Kodak Easyshare V1073.

Now I have a copy of each digicam I used before getting my first DSLR:
  • Sony Mavica FD88
  • Nikon Coolpix 990
  • Kodak Easyshare V1073
  • Canon PowerShot SX500
Now to go back and see if I can reshoot some things I shot back in the day, using the same gear, but do it better! The arrows are the same, but the Indian's gotten a bit better over the years, or at least I'd like to think so.

Alas, I won't be able to re-do the Lucky Gunner Blogger Shoot, or Knob Creek, or classes with Louis Awerbuck and Todd Green, or...

Kodak Easyshare at Knob Creek in 2011

Sunday, January 28, 2024

The Moment

Once upon a time, the cover of Sports Illustrated was the showcase for some of the best sports photography in the world.
"For sports fans of a certain age, the memory of running to the mailbox to see what was on the cover of the latest weekly issue of Sports Illustrated is indelible. For decades, the magazine’s photographers, writers and editors held the power to anoint stars and deliver the definitive account of the biggest moments in sports, often with just a single photograph and a few words on the cover. It was the most powerful real estate in sports journalism."
Over time, though, it became less an exhibition of action photography and more and more of a celebrity showcase.
"“It became less of a news thing and more of a personality thing,” said Al Tielemans, a staff photographer for almost 20 years. He described an evolution of editors’ wanting the key moment of the game, and then a good photo of the star of the game, and then a photo featuring the most famous person in the game, and then finally just a headshot of a star."
SI laid off all its staff photogs in 2015, and now the publication itself might be a goner.
"The internet, and social media platforms like Instagram, mean that more photography is showcased to more people than ever before. Now that fans see every angle of every game, with highlights and shots available instantly on social media, no single image has the same power that Sports Illustrated’s cover once did."
Checking their online schedule, it looks like the first weekday matinee home game for the Indianapolis Indians is on Wednesday, April 17th. I guess I'll mark my calendar and get ready to go larp as a sports photojournalist...

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Pew, Improved

The ability to swap mags from subsonics to supers and have, essentially, an MP5SD in the sheets and a Krink in the streets is a big improvement in utility.


And then there were two...

With the closure of the last Kmart store in New Jersey, there are only two remaining locations in the continental USA: one in Miami and one in Long Island.RX: "There are only two Kmarts left?"

Me: "In the continental US. There's one in Guam and another few in the US Virgin Islands. Six, total."

RX: "How does a business like that survive with only six stores?"

Me: "I think the question contains the answer."

Friday, January 26, 2024

Snail Mail

I used to gripe about peeking in the sheet metal box of crushing disappointment bolted to the front of the house, looking for checks. I haven’t done that as much lately. All my clients now, even the ones you’d think would be the most hidebound and retrograde, have gone over to direct deposit.

Except one. That one still wants to squeeze the berries to make the ink and sharpen a quill for a pen and lovingly hand-roll the papyrus, and then slip the paper check into the dispatch pouch by hand.

You’ll never guess which client’s check is about three weeks late at this point. (HINT: It didn’t involve electrons in any way.)

This is hair-pullingly frustrating. I’d been hoping that the fates would see that I got my paycheck for my birthday, but that wasn’t in the cards. Now I’m just hoping they get off their asses before bills come due at the end of the month.


"NO!" in a can...

I'd only recently found a good chart explaining the various "marks" used on pepper spray canisters. I knew that, for example, the one I'd carried in my pocket for so long was Sabre Red in a Mk.6 canister, and that POM Industries had recently expanded their line to include a Mk.3 canister, but what was the significance?

It looks like these dispenser sizes came from Defense Technology, one of the earliest companies selling OC. They have an explainer sheet in PDF form here.

The Mk.3, in the middle, is kinda chonky for pocket carry, and more at home on a duty belt (or maybe stashed by your front door). The one on the right is the Mk.6 size, which is about as big as you'd want to carry in a pants pocket, and only if your jeans aren't too snug. It takes a fairly roomy pocket.

On the left is the standard POM pocket/keychain sized unit, which sacrifices capacity for portability.

You'll note that Def-Tec's literature says that the Mk.6 is capable of "12-14 short bursts", while POM's advertising copy for its little pocket spritzer claims "up to 20+ half-second bursts". Yet the POM is a half-ounce canister while the Mk.6 has .68 ounces of payload. This is because in real life nobody gets a half-second spritz. It generally takes a good "One Mississippi" to paint a proper back-'n'-forth orange stripe across Sumdood's peepers.

I'll carry either the POM or the Sabre Red Mk.6. (And if you're ordering Mk.6 make sure it's not foam or gel, and that it doesn't have any goofy additives like CS, since the latter just makes decontam more of a pain without adding any benefits on the front end.)

Shark Size

Here's an interesting point made in an article about a scientific debate that's raging over the size and build of the extinct giant shark, megalodon.
It’s not unusual for paleontologists to disagree about ancient animal bodies — sometimes with a ferocious intensity. Gottfried recalled witnessing some scientists get into a heated disagreement over the angle of the thigh bone when assembling a triceratops specimen.

John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London, is part of the team that put forward the controversial 3D model of the megalodon. He said that the stakes are always high in science, but particularly when working on species that attract both public and scientific fascination.

“The more celebrity an extinct animal has, and the rarer it is, the more competitive or heated the disagreements can be,” Hutchinson said. “I know this all too well. I worked on T. rex.”

Hutchinson said that, early in his career, people used 2D illustrations of fossilized skeletons and shrink-wrapped skin around them, making them quite skinny. Based on these models, people believed Tyrannosaurus rex was around 11,000 pounds. But now, using various methods, scientists mostly agree that an adult T. rex would have been somewhere around 17,000 pounds.
The bit about shrink-wrapping the skin around the skeletons was interesting. I have a book on my Kindle shelf titled All Yesterdays that's a neat look at how illustrations of prehistoric animals have evolved over time, and also has some freaky-looking pictures of modern animals if they were reconstructed by yesterday's paleontologic illustrators from skeletal remains. You'll never look at cows... or your cat ...the same way.

When I was a kid, brontosauruses dragged their tails across the ground as the slid through the bog from one lake to the next, now they gallop in herds... and T. rex has feathers. Science is always on the move and adapting to new data.


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Automotif CDLXV...

1970 was the final year for the eighth generation of the Oldsmobile Ninety Eight. This iteration had debuted in the 1966 model year and, along with its GM platform mate, the Buick Electra, saw a light restyling and a 1" wheelbase stretch for 1969.

The '70 Olds Ninety Eight was available in a variety of coupe and sedan configurations, as well as a convertible, like this Rally Red example parked at a local shop (the same one that works on my rides.)

The Oldsmobile 98 and Buick Electra convertibles were the top of the General Motors totem pole for the buyer who wanted a sporty luxobarge, stickering right around five grand when optioned out, which was still about a thousand less than a Coupe De Ville.

The Ninety Eight ragtop only came with one powertrain in 1970: A 455 cubic inch Rocket V-8 hooked to a Turbo HydraMatic 400 3-speed slushbox. Featuring a single 4-bbl Rochester carburetor and a 10.25:1 compression ratio necessitating premium gas, it was rated at 365 SAE gross horsepower, enough to move two and a quarter tons of ragtop with reasonable alacrity.

Sorry for the somewhat potato-quality photos. The autofocus of the little Canon PowerShot SX500 IS budget superzoom gets confused and hunts around a lot in the light misty drizzle. (Also, I had inadvertently left the ISO set to 800 from some evening shooting I'd been doing the other day, and the little 1/2.3" sensor is crazy noisy at anything over 400.)


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

A Jog Around the Blogs...


There's a reason for that...

Blogger Comrade Misfit writes, regarding the just-announced Taurus 327 Defender TORO:
"If a K-frame-sized .32 is an offering, a seven-shot gun would be a better idea."
The answer, of course, is that the 856/327 revolvers from Taurus are not exactly K-frame sized, although they're a hair fatter than a J-frame. There's not enough meat in the cylinder for seven .32 charge holes. In fact, that's the reason that they still catalog the 5-shot 605 in .357 Magnum with the older, smaller diameter cylinder and there isn't a .357 Mag version of the 856.

She can be "meh" all she wants. As for me, that extra inch of barrel and the factory Hogue neoprene banana, plus the night sight, give me the wantsies something fierce.

The 2" 327 with the boot-style grip is a handful with .327 Fed ammo, it's really more of a .32 H&R Mag gun. But with a little more weight out front and more to hold on to, .327 Gold Dots might actually be viable.

I wanna put one on the clock...


Light and Shadow and Texture

With the right lighting and some raindrops, even a slightly rumpled old VW Passat in the grocery store parking lot can shout "Hey! I'm ready for my closeup!" as you walk past.

This was snapped with my Nikon D3 and a late-'80s vintage push-pull AF Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom.

That old push-pull zoom is about the cheapest pro-grade constant-aperture telephoto zoom out there. It lacks stabilization and uses the in-body focus motor, so autofocus performance is decidedly sluggish by modern standards, but it's extremely nice glass and that fast maximum aperture makes up somewhat for the lack of stabilization.


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Meme Dump...

Automotif CDLXIV...

Here's an unusually rust-free '83-'84 Dodge 600 sedan. 

The 600 was the next step up in the '80s Dodge sedan hierarchy from the Dodge Aries. It rode on what Mopar called the "E-platform", which was the K-car platform with the wheelbase stretched three inches. This longer platform was not only used for the 600, but also the higher-zoot Chrysler New Yorker.

The steel wheels and and lack of hood vents or fender badges on this Garnet Red example mean there's no turbo lurking under the hood, so power... such as it is ...comes from either the base throttle body injected 2.2L Mopar four cylinder rated at 99bhp, or the optional Mitsubishi G54B "Silent Shaft" 2.6L four cylinder, which put out 101bhp. While the Mitsu unit was rated at almost the same power, it put out 140 ft-lb of torque at 2800 RPM, versus the 2.2's 121 ft-lb at 3200.

Sunday, January 21, 2024


DeSantis kisses the ring.

Via the NYT…

Getting torpedoed in the Granite State ahead of a tossup for third in SC has apparently made Ron decide 2028 discretion is the better part of 2024 valor.


They're not wrong...

A Storm of Sparrows

One of the houses that backs up to the alley leading to Fresh Market has a small tree in its back yard that is laden with red fruit in the winter months. I believe it's a choke cherry, but I used woodcraft as a dump stat, so I have no real clue.

At any rate, I'm strolling down the alley in the bitter cold on the way to lunch when I hear a frantic racket of chirping coming from its boughs.

I glance over and there's a small mob of sparrows, little spherical feathered balls that frantically bouncing up and down and hopping from branch to branch and yelling for all they're worth.

Normally, being at eye level in the bare branches there, if I turned and looked right at them, they'd skitter off to someplace safer, but their attention is absolutely fixed on something other than me, so I glanced up into the tree to see what had them so worked up.

Ah, trespassers!

The cardinals around here have been extremely camera-shy in my experience. Just turning and looking at them will have them dart away to safety before I could even get my camera to eye level, but these two were as intent on the sparrows as the latter were on them.

Mr. and Mrs. Redbird obviously wanted to horn in on the smaller birds' winter larder.

I found myself wishing for a longer lens or more megapickles. The 70-200mm on the APS-H sensor of my EOS-1D Mark III gave me an effective maximum equivalent focal length of 260mm, and the 10MP sensor on the older DSLR didn't allow for a ton of cropping. I'm keeping an eye out at Roberts, hoping they get a good used 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS lens in on trade. That would be a good lens for shooting classes and matches, too...

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Be Wary of Predictions...

Do be sure to note the date on this memo...

If a butterfly flaps its wings just a bit harder or softer, the downstream effects are nigh unpredictable.


As Time Goes By...

When I was in my twenties, my big source of disappointment at sunrise on Saturday was that the party had wound down and it was time to go home and get some shut-eye.

Nowadays my big disappointment at sunrise on Saturday is that I only get crosswords in the NYT and the WaPo, because The Atlantic doesn't do a Saturday crossword.

Tempus fugit.


Friday, January 19, 2024

Automotif CDLXIII...

From the outside, the 6th Gen Camaros may have the best lines of the current crop of pony cars.

Too bad they drive like you're trying to conn a machine gun bunker while peering through the firing slits.

Photographed with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III and EF 70-200mm f/4L IS.


Performance Center

I was pretty happy with how this photo for RECOIL: Concealment turned out. The article's not half bad either, if I do say so myself.

It's on newsstands now, or you can get a genuine dead tree copy from BezosMart.


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Dress For Success

There's a great piece here by Erick Gelhaus on matching your gear in a class with the realities of your life and the aim of the class.

Erick, dressed for success.

In my journey through the firearms training universe, I've interacted with two broad groups. One was kinda centered around Tom Givens and the Rangemaster crew, as well as Craig Douglas and his Shivworks collective. There was a fairly strong emphasis on CCW-oriented skills. You'd find those folks at Pistol-Forum, the old TPI board, and the like.

The other largely orbited Pat Rogers, and they posted at Primary & Secondary, M4carbine, Arfcom, and was very .mil/LE-centric. Even the private citizens who showed up at these classes would have war belts and tactical gear, and things were very carbine-heavy. 

At one of the old Friends of Pat events, I remember mentioning to one of these dudes that I'd never attended a class where I didn't shoot my day-to-day carry gun from concealment. He thought I was joking.

I don't own a "classtume" and, of the sixty-some classes I've taken, only four even involved using a carbine. (And the first one, Carbine & Pistol with Louis Awerbuck, I was using the back pocket on my jeans as a mag pouch. I joked that if I wanted to be really authentic in the class, I'd have taken it in pyjamas and a bathrobe, since that's almost certainly how I'd be dressed should I ever have to use a carbine for realsies).

In shoothouse classes, armor is a necessity. If you're LE or .mil. it might make sense to take a class in rifle plates. But if you're just the typical private citizen and you're taking ten carbine classes to every pistol one, and that one pistol class is run with a Safariland SLS on a war belt instead of your daily IWB rig, you're probably not allocating your training budget in the most efficient way possible.

Not that there's anything wrong with that! It's a free country and you can take all the entertrainment classes you want, but at least be honest with yourself about what it is.

Not my actual pyjamas.


Photo Books

Over the last couple years I've begun to accumulate photo books...

End of the Caliphate is probably the most traditional photo book of the bunch. A coffee-table-sized hardcover tome, it's light on text, other than a short introductory essay by Anthony Lloyd and an afterword by the photojournalist, Ivor Prickett. What it's heavy with is glossy, gripping photos by Prickett, who spent a great deal of time embedded with Iraqi SF as they evicted the Islamic State fighters from Mosul and northwestern Iraq.

Shooter: Combat From Behind the Camera, another book of coffee table dimensions, is more text heavy, combining the reminiscences of SSgt Stacy Pearsall, USAF Ret., with the photos she took while embedded with U.S. Army troops, mostly in Diyala Province. 

Car Sick is book-as-art. It's a collection of photos by Tim Vanderweert, the blogger at Leicaphilia, whose eye and wit we sadly lost almost exactly a year ago. I didn't provide a purchasing link because unless you stumble one of the limited number of existing copies getting re-sold out there, they're all gone. Tim agonized over the quality of the printing and almost certainly lost money on these.

The most recent addition is Vinyl Village, a softcover photo essay by Jim Grey, who blogs at Down the Road. Jim's mostly lived in cities and only recently moved to the Indianapolis 'burbs. The book is an illustrated essay based on his musings while walkabout in his new environs during the Year of the 'Rona. It's a print-on-demand type book, rather than a glossy art book, but as the photos are more documentary-type black and white film photos, that's not as much of a distraction as it could be.

Maybe someday I'll have enough photos to make a book.


Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Unsolicited Firearms Industry Opinion

If you’re launching a brand new pistol at SHOT ’24 and it uses adaptor plates to attach slide-mounted optics, you are three years behind the curve. 
Adaptor plates are a retrofit kludge for existing designs. New pistols need to direct-mount the most size-appropriate footprints (RMR and 507k on full size double-stacks, 507k on compact/single stack.)
FN’s Reflex knows what time it is. That optic is attached directly to the slide.

When Japan First Challenged Germany

In 1985, Road & Track magazine tested a top-of-the-line Honda Accord SE-i versus the entry-level Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3. The premise being that Japanese build quality had gotten to the point where it was challenging the Germans, a then-startling claim. (Honda was still a year or so out from launching its Acura brand in the U.S., but it was on the horizon.)

Option-wise, the Accord SE-i was loaded. It had power windows, door locks, and outside mirrors, leather upholstery, and even a few features the Benz lacked, like remote trunk and fuel filler door releases.

The 190E, on the other hand, had features the Accord didn't offer, such as power seats and antilock brakes.

Interestingly, the Mercedes and Honda both had 5-speed manuals. When's the last time M-B offered a row-your-own transmission on this side of the pond?

Both cars had fuel injected SOHC four cylinders. The Honda's was a 101bhp 1.8L driving the front wheels, while the RWD Benzo's 2.3L motor was rated at 120 horsepower.

The cars' 0-60 times were almost identical: 9.8 seconds for the Accord versus 9.9 for the Mercedes. The Honda also edged the 190E on the skidpad, at .79g to .77g. The Mercedes, at 114 mph, was a bit faster on the top end, and its ABS let it outbrake the Accord from sixty mph by ten feet.

The big difference was in the prices as tested, where the thirteen thousand dollar Honda was over ten grand cheaper than the M-B.

1985 was basically about the dawn of the modern car era: Computer-controlled fuel injection, power doodads becoming increasingly common, expected automotive lifespans increasing...

But it's pretty wild to see how far we've come since then.

I remember reading this article in my senior year, in the back row of my AP U.S. Government class.


Short Attention Spans, Long Air Campaigns

Every time another round of strikes goes into northwest Yemen, the media acts faintly surprised, as if to say "I thought we blew up the Houthi's missile stuff two news cycles ago?"

While it's not like we're hunting Viet Cong supply columns in triple canopy jungle, or even Serbian tanks and artillery among the forested slopes of the Balkans, we're still trying to knock out a stockpile of mobile cruise missile and drone launch vehicles that are sometimes as small and mobile as a pickup. The Houthis have been stockpiling these over the course of years of shipments, mostly from Iran, and even our most confident estimates were that the initial round of airstrikes only degraded their total missile and drone capability by twenty to thirty percent.

Fortunately that corner of the Arabian peninsula is the armpit of the world and largely devoid of natural overhead cover. At the same time, this isn't like the jump-off of Desert Storm or Iraqi Freedom, where we've been spending a month or more developing targeting data for a mammoth airstrike package. This one is largely happening on the fly.

The Houthis are eager for the shoot 'em up, as you'd expect from a bunch of dudes with "Death to America" right on their flag.
Despite efforts to deter them, the Houthis have refused to back down, vowing to retaliate and welcoming the prospect of war with the United States with open delight.

“Yemen is not an easy military opponent that can be subdued quickly,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a senior Houthi official, said in a post on the social media platform X after the American-led strikes.
Thing is, we have no intention (or desire) to fight the Houthis in Yemen. We're all regime-changed-out over here. The Yemenis are just going to have to sort out their problems on their own.

We're just going to hang back and blow up anything the Houthis have that can be used to attack shipping. Of course, this also requires interdicting incoming replacement armaments, and we need to do that, too.


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Little craters full of sweet and salty.

I'd forgotten how perfect a toasted English muffin is as a delivery device for melted Irish butter and orange marmalade.

I'd thought they were about as English as Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent, but Wikipedia says that they do have them in the scepter'd isle, but they just call them "spanners", "muffins".


Fashionably Dumb

My eye started twitching the first time I heard about books being sold by the foot, available in whatever colors were needed to complement a room's decor.

This site, for instance, sells "Authentic books for interior design, décor, wedding centerpieces, movie props, staging and more!" At least they sell "authentic" books. If that's too much trouble, or you want to avoid the musty smell of pages full of knowledge in your living room, you can buy fake ones online at BezosMart. Ironic, if you ask me, given Amazon's humble origins.

Since social media can ruin anything, even something as awful as decorative books, it's now working on doing it to this trend. Interior Design TikTok has come up with a name for it: "Bookshelf Wealth".
Kailee Blalock, an interior designer in San Diego, posted a video to TikTok last month that sought to define bookshelf wealth and school viewers in achieving the aesthetic in their own homes.

“These aren’t display books,” Ms. Blalock, 26, cautions in the video, which has been viewed over 1.3 million times. “These are books that have actually been curated and read.”
I wonder if I can get a job working for an interior designer where I break the spines on books, dog-ear a few pages, scribble a random note or two in the margins, and maybe leave a yellowed old Fresh Market receipt in the pages like a bookmark.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Something's Amiss Among the Wing-Wipers

Ah, the USAF Air National Guard, America's thirty-seventh line of defense... 

I kid, I kid. Thanks to post-Vietnam reorganization, the U.S. military actually depends pretty heavily on National Guard components for its combat power. The Hoosier Air National Guard, for instance, includes the 122nd Fighter Wing out of Fort Wayne, currently in the process of transitioning back to F-16's from A-10's.

But I gotta say that some of the Air National Guard's junior enlisted didn't exactly cover themselves in glory in the media in the Year of Our Lord 2023.

There was, of course, the high-profile incident of A1C Jack Teixeira back in April, who got busted for trying to impress his fellow dorks in a video game chatroom with the classified documents he copied from his day job as a Guard bum at a Massachusetts ANG intel wing.

What flew beneath my radar was that the same month saw A1C Josiah Garcia of the Tennessee ANG decide he wanted to be a hitman, using his 1337 TNANG combat skills (he claimed his nickname in the unit was "Reaper".)

So he went to a parody rent-a-hitman site on the internet and... get this ...he sent them a resume.

The parody site helpfully hooked A1C Garcia up with a not-at-all-a-parody FBI agent who offered him real money to ice an imaginary person. Garcia accepted the bogus assignment and the real bucks and is now looking at time in the graybar motel.

Folks, all that hire-a-hitman stuff doesn't work in real life the way it does in the movies. 

When I'm shopping for a store-brand John Wick, I look for a dude with his finger on the trigger of a derp tier AR that looks like a Cheaper Than Dirt catalog threw up on it.


Automotif CDLXII...

For the 2004 model year, the Chevrolet Malibu nameplate was migrated over to the midsize GM Epsilon platform, which had debuted as the '02 Opel Vectra.

The four-door sedan was joined by this funky five-door wagon, called the Malibu Maxx. It had a glass moonroof over the rear seating area like an old Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. While the sedan had a four-cylinder as the base motor, the Maxx came with the GM High Value LX9 3500 V6, a pushrod motor displacing (as you might guess) 3.5 liters, and rated at 201bhp. For a dull rental car looking transportation module, the Maxx was reasonably quick.

This Medium Gray Metallic example is starting to show nibbles from the rust monster around the rear wheel arches, and the driver's side fender looks a bit rumpled, but it's overall pretty straight. They only made the Maxx for four years, discontinuing it after the 2007 model year.


Sunday, January 14, 2024

I was today years old...

...when I learned the word "mondegreen", and I already love it madly.

Per Benjamin Dreyer:
"Perhaps you’ve run across the term “mondegreen”? I’ve long known it to mean a misheard lyric or bit of poetry, but its full meaning I learned only minutes ago — because I finally deigned to investigate. “Mondegreen” was coined in 1954 by writer Sylvia Wright to commemorate her having misapprehended the phrase “laid him on the green,” in this line from a Scottish ballad: “They have slain the Earl of Moray / An’ laid him on the green.” Wright heard wrong, thinking there were two slaying victims, the earl and “Lady Mondegreen.”"
Bobbi's been pushing me to read Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, and I think the linked column has pushed it to the top of my to-read pile.



It is currently two degrees below zero, fondly Fahrenheit out there.

A reminder to my fellow Hoosiers that 0°F is not, in fact, an arbitrary number like the internet memes say, but is instead the freezing point of brine.

You know what brine is, right? That's the stuff they spray on the roads to keep them from icing up. Well, it's not working quite as good as it should until we get a little warmer today. (And we're only going to get a little warmer. The forecast high is supposed to be a balmy 5°F sometime late this afternoon.)

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Interesting Analysis

Big if true, as they say.


Odds, Stakes, and Realistic Threats

From an article by David Merrill about using NFA items for home defense:
"Unless you’re involved with the illicit narcotics trade and living in a trap house, or your place is home to an underground gambling ring, the number-one threat won’t be armed men breaking in raid-style, but instead theft — people breaking in when you aren’t home and burgling your stuff. When we talk about home-defense firearms, there’s a balance to be struck; you want the firearm to stay safe from tiny hands and sticky fingers while still being easy to access."
From a piece by Greg Ellifritz on threat assessment:
"Have you ever considered the difference between being in a dangerous situation and being in one where you have limited response options?

I think a lot of us in the gun/self-protection world get those feelings confused.
That post linked above is one that a lot of the "rawr I'll never go anyplace where I can't carry a gun rawr" crowd need to read and heed. As Melody Lauer put it, “Don’t let your desire to protect your life keep you from living a life worth protecting.

Remember: Millions of people go unstrapped yet remain unclapped every day. The gun is just a tool, and one with a very limited and specific use case, at that. If you need it, odds are good you've probably already made some mistakes. If I had to choose between perfect, omniscient situational awareness or perfect, turboninja pistol skills, I'd choose the former every time and just nope on out of situations where I'd need the latter.

Wordle Wobble

I used to use fairly random start words for Wordle, a different one every day. Eventually, though, I settled in on the one the WordleBot used for hard mode: "SLATE".

Well, they've juggled the dictionary and now WordleBot's favorite hard mode start word is "TROPE". I'm sticking with "SLATE". I don't care what the robot says, the letter P is not found in the sacred name of Etaoin Shrdlu.


Friday, January 12, 2024

Inevitable Pivot…

Now that the U.S. led coalition has started cratering the launch sites of the missiles and drones that Houthi rebels have been using to harass international shipping in the Red Sea, I’m wondering how long until the MAGAverse pivots from “This would never have happened if the world didn’t perceive us as weak because our guy isn’t in the White House” to “Whaaah! Why are Democrats launching attacks that will only suck us into another pointless foreign war?”

It’s the “Heads, I Win. Tails, You Lose” school of politics.

EDITED TO ADD: Less than 24 hours, as it turns out. Although watching Rashida Tlaib and Matt Gaetz singing in perfect two-part harmony is novel.

Rocket the Kasbah

So, last month I wondered...
...whether the west is going to keep shooting down $20k RPVs from Ali's House of Discount Drones with multi-million dollar SM-2 and Sea Viper missiles, or are we going to try a strike using carrier aircraft and cruise missiles to knock out Houthi launch sites and storage facilities.
Well, we have the answer to that question, as yesterday saw airstrikes by Navy Super Hornets and RAF Typhoons, as well as a barrage of sub-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles on Houthi launch and weapons storage facilities in Yemen.

The Houthis, of course, immediately protested and resorted to argumentum ad Israelium.
"A Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdul Salam, said on social media that the group would remain by Gaza’s side. He said there was no justification for the strikes on Yemen because its actions do not threaten international shipping, and vowed that the group would continue to target Israeli ships and those heading to Israel."
Which seems like a weird thing to say when you've been launching drones and missiles at random ships which have nothing to do with the Israelis, but the Houthis don't exactly strike me as a very organized bunch.  Also, "I blame the Jooooos!" focus groups well, especially in that corner of the world, so I guess it's worth a try.


O hai Jack Frost

I was wondering when winter was going to get here for realsies. It's been unseasonably balmy for the last couple months and we've only had a couple half-assed attempts at snow. Nothing that even rated sweeping the walks clear thus far. (There's no point going out there in the freezing cold with a broom or shovel before dawn if it's all gonna melt off by lunchtime, after all.)

Well, if Weather Underground is to be believed, we won't be seeing the far side of freezing for at least a week. Not much in the way of snow though. I have mixed feelings about that. I'm generally not a huge fan of the white stuff... see the above enthusiasm regarding shoveling ...but bone-numbing cold without snow feels like a ripoff. If you're going to freeze me half to death, Gaia, you could at least be scenic while you're doing it.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

QotD: Misanthropy Edition

From a web discussion elsewhere:
”Morons are nature’s original renewable resource.”


Automotif CDLXI...

When a road trip takes me across Illinois, I always pause to gas up in Terre Haute, just this side of the border. Due to the esoterica of CCW laws, there's no problem with me being strapped while driving across the Land of Lincoln, but I can't get out of the car to get gas with my heater on, lest I... I dunno, go all Hoosier on them or something.

At any rate, this most recent trip out to the St. Louis area, I extended my gas stop long enough to grab a burger at Mickey Dee's, too.

I was glad I did because I spotted a Mazda MX-3, which is not at all a common sight.

They were only imported for a few years, from '92-'96. The performance version, the MX-3 GS, had a twee little 1.8L V-6 under the hood, with variable intake geometry and a 7,000 rpm redline.

The lack of aero doodads and the stamped steel wheels lurking behind the plastic wheel covers tell us that this Brilliant Black specimen is the more pedestrian RS coupe, which would have had a fairly tame 1.6L four-banger.


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Artsy Fartsy

Once upon a time, taking pictures on film was just photography. It's how you made pictures.

Now it's "film photography", the province of hobbyists, some die-hard holdouts in the art photography world, and also hipsters who have injected a lot of hand-wavery and woo into what was just a fairly straightforward and scientifically understood process. Kind of like tube amps used to be just "amps" and now there's... but that's a whole different thing, and one on which I'm not at all qualified to comment.

I am, however, qualified to talk about how minilabs worked, back in the days when they were still wet-printing with light shone through a negative onto photo paper.

Basically, you'd have different "channels" on your printer for different film types. To calibrate the channels, you'd shoot prints of these test negatives (called "Noras" for reasons that should be obvious) and then check the grayscale target with your densitometer, which would let you know if the calibration had drifted.

You needed the different channels because films handle color differently, and even have different tinges to their substrates. (Normie Fuji negative film, for example, has a more magenta tint to the negative as opposed to the familiar orange of normie Kodak Gold.)

You'd then twiddle things into calibration and be off to the races.

As long as your processor was running right and your channels were properly calibrated, gray would be gray, no matter what film you put through it.

That was the science part of it.

The art part was that lab tech sitting there squinting into the glowing window and looking at the negative and... if they were good and they cared ...making on-the-fly corrections as needed. If you have old prints from that era and look on the back of the photo, you might see a string of dot-matrix printed digits something like "N +1 N N", which indicate what adjustments had been made from the default channel setting.

I considered myself pretty good, and the paper waste numbers on my shifts backed me up. See, you'd weigh the contents of the shredder at the end of a shift. Having to reprint a whole 36 exposure roll of 4x6's put a fair amount of paper in there, and that Kodak paper wasn't free.

There was nothing more cringe for me than going to pick up some prints from a 1hr lab and finding the color off. It told me the staff just didn't care.

It was harder to notice in normie color photos unless there was a lot of sky, or people wearing white, or whatever. One place it was hard to hide, though, was if you'd had some of the C41 process monochrome film printed: Kodak BW400CN or Ilford XP2. This was black and white film that was designed to be processed in color chemistry. It's hard to hide your colors being out of calibration on your channel when there shouldn't be any color in there in the first place.


Automotif CDLX...

My first Lyriq sighting in the wild.

This photograph doesn't do the car justice, as it was just a quick waist-level snap with the little Nikon 1 J1. I didn't want the lady in the driver's seat to think I was a weirdo by circling the car while looking for the best angle through the big D2X DSLR hanging around my neck.


National Enquirification Proceeding Apace

With their departed host Tucker Carlson reduced to flirting with flat eartherism to attract eyeballs and harvest clicks on The Website Formerly Known As Twitter, Fox News's prime time replacement has to get really weird to keep up.

I gotta admit, I didn't have "The MAGAverse gets assmad about the very existence of Taylor Swift" on my bingo card.


Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Enshittification Finally Caught Me

I'd heard others complain about the the current parlous state of Amazon search results before, but had yet to really experience them for myself.

I mean, if I'm going to go get some Pom pepper spray from the Pom store or a box of Surefire CR123 batteries from the Surefire store or a Terry Pratchett book from Kindle, there's not a lot of searching involved. I know what I'm looking for and going right to the thing, like way back in the day when I won a bet with a friend by going into a Gap store and finding the shelf my jeans were on with my eyes closed.

And when I'm buying groceries direct from Amazon Fresh, they're unlikely to try to steer me to a third party vendor selling DIET MOUNTIAN DAW.

But generalized search is a hot mess, apparently. Per Cory Doctorow:
"Searching Amazon doesn't produce a list of the products that most closely match your search, it brings up a list of products whose sellers have paid the most to be at the top of that search. Those fees are built into the cost you pay for the product, and Amazon's "Most Favored Nation" requirement sellers means that they can't sell more cheaply elsewhere, so Amazon has driven prices at every retailer.

Search Amazon for "cat beds" and the entire first screen is ads, including ads for products Amazon cloned from its own sellers, putting them out of business (third parties have to pay 45% in junk fees to Amazon, but Amazon doesn't charge itself these fees). All told, the first five screens of results for "cat bed" are 50% ads.
The other day I realized I needed a fresh batch of winter socks and so, not wanting to drive over to Meijer, plugged "wool socks" into Amazon's search dingus.

Now, I'm no connoisseur of insulated hosiery, but I'm pretty sure that I'd never heard of XoxOY or Insoool or these other companies offering me $3.99 six-packs of wool socks with thousands of positive ratings written in some dialect of ESL whose origin was hard to pin down.

Fortunately I recollected that Browning licensed their name to a line of outdoor clothing and I'd had their wool socks before, so I plugged "Browning wool socks" in and found some that looked like the ones I'd had and were sold by and shipped from Amazon proper.

Then this morning I noticed it was supposed to piss-pour rain all day and frankly my sole remaining umbrella is on its last legs. So, hey-ho, off to BezosMart!

Friends, if I'm uninformed on socks, I'm positively ignorant on umbrellas. My umbrella-buying experience has generally been limited to grabbing a Totes off the rack at the drug store or Target and tossing it in with the soda and chips in my basket.

I'm sure there is an umbrella equivalent to a Glock: durable, workmanlike, reasonably-priced. Likewise there's probably a Rolls Royce of umbrellas, made by English brolly craftsmen to exacting standards of workmanship and constructed of the best materials well enough that your grandkids will be able to use it to stay dry at their parents' funerals.

I have no idea what those umbrella brands are, though, but I'm pretty sure that they're not being sold in three-packs for $7.99 by WOW-DRY. I'd be afraid to open one of those umbrellas for fear of finding a note written in Malay saying "Help, I'm being held prisoner in a Sihanoukville umbrella factory!"

In the end I bought one that seemed not too terribly scammy or gimmicky and was priced reasonably commensurately with its purported features.

We'll see how it goes.


Class Warfare

If you've read much Peter Turchin... and you should ...then you're familiar with his concept of "elite overproduction".

In Kevin D. Williamson's latest (paywalled) newsletter, he gives a good example of what the results of "elite overproduction" actually look like at the street level:
"As a cynic might expect, the credentializing and professionalizing of these institutions has not always led to excellence: In the golden age of American newspaper journalism, reporters and editors were in the main people who had not graduated from any college with any kind of undergraduate degree, much less one in journalism. In this, the toilet age of American newspaper journalism, promising prospects and leaders are expected to have graduate degrees in journalism from Columbia, Northwestern, or Penn. Dozens of big tech firms started by dropouts and uncredentialed upstarts celebrate the romance of their garage days but would need an extraordinary reason to even consider hiring someone like one of their founders for the most ordinary job, while the HR departments are barnacled over by otherwise unemployable grievance-studies graduates. Public libraries that were run for generations by volunteers or by bookish generalists now are in the care of people with advanced degrees in something called library science, under the management of whom our libraries have been turned into makeshift mental wards and masturbatoria for vagrants making the most of the public internet connections."
(Williamson signing on at The Dispatch is what pushed me into subscribing.)

Monday, January 08, 2024

Automotif CDLIX...

It's a size of car that the British call a "spanner"... no, wait, that's what they call a biscuit. This size car they call "Executive", meaning it's larger than a compact but smaller than a "Luxury Saloon".

In America it's a midsize, and Mercedes has been making them since the Fifties. Nowadays it's referred to as their "E-class", sized between the compact C-class and full-size S-class. It's the equivalent to BMW's 5-series or a Ford Taurus or whatever Chevy's currently calling the Maluminpala.

When the generation shown in the picture debuted back in the mid-'80s, it was just the known in-house as the W124 platform. Back then the letters went on the end of Mercedes model, and the "E" in 320E would have stood for "einspritzmotor", signifying a 3.2 liter fuel-injected car.

For the '94 model year, the letters got moved to the front of the model designation on Benzes*, since referring to a car as having an "einspritzmotor" in 1994 would have been as redundant as referring to it as a "vierräder". So from '94 on, the E320, like the '94-'96 wagon in the picture, was a midsize E-class with a 3.2 liter motor.

In this case, that 3.2L motor was a DOHC inline six putting out 217bhp. The '96 E-class was the last hurrah for the classic M-B straight six, with six cylinder Benzos using V-6 motors until 2017 saw the revival of the inline, with the turbocharged M276.

*Causing a great deal of distress for car nerds like me who had actually gone to the trouble of cracking the alphanumeric code on Jerry decklids. Don't get me started on how the numeric designations on Mercedes and BMW models only have the most tangential relationship to engine displacement now.