Thursday, March 06, 2014
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
State Of The Union
I'm relatively sure that no one walks away with a new perspective after having watched the State Of The Union Address, so why bother watching it live? If you hate the President, you'll reiterate that. If you love him, you'll underscore that.
In the meantime, check out this interesting piece that charts that words used by past U.S. presidents in their State Of The Union addresses, entitled "Hindsight Is 20/20." The words that most used certainly indicate what was on the mind of the President at the time.
Lines Of Departure
So, my friend Marko Kloos today celebrates the release of the second book in his science fiction trilogy. In his first big release, Terms Of Enlistment, Marko introduced us to the not-too-distant future world in which Earth is colonizing as fast as it can, and needs extra-terrestrial Terran military to assist in this (and to quell the riots back home on a rapidly-deteriorating Earth.).
Now, his protagonist is a veteran, who has relationships in the military, and takes the next step in his career as an off-world soldier.
I've read a couple of chapters today, and it's smart writing that reads easily.
I hear that one might should keep an eye out for certain characters that we may know, too.
One of the joys of having a Kindle and an Amazon account is being able to instantly download Lines Of Departure for $4.99.
Marko is a good writer, who can do that magical thing, wherein he conjures up characters out of whole cloth, and keeps them true to their nature. When one questions whether a book is plot-driven or character-driven, the answer ideally should be "both," because the nature of the characters develop the plot. Marko Kloos writes plots, with characters whom you know, after awhile.
In this one, his spacefaring soldiers address 80-foot-tall alien invaders who are taking over planets that Terrain colonists have been terraforming. For starters.
Friday, January 24, 2014
--The guys who built a 30 foot tall bronze statue of Nelson Mandela weren't allowed to sign their work. Whether this was because of unease about having white South Africans be recognized for the work, or just to maintain that the statue was for all is unknown, but they decided to add a signature to the statue. They put a bunny in the ear.
It turns out that they were pushed to work quickly, and the Afrikaans word for "haste" is "haas," which also translates to "rabbit." Now they've admitted that it's there, and have been ordered to remove it. This seems odd to me. Would we as a nation have minded if Bartholdi had signed the Statue Of Liberty? (Maybe he did. I don't know.) Did we demand that the little o be fixed when we discovered that the engravers who designed the U.S. penny intentionally wrought "UNITED STATES oF AMERICA" on our 1¢ piece? Heck, no. We embraced it for over half a century.
--I'm afraid that I'm going to have to buy a Glock 42.
--The new S&W model 69 5-shot L-frame .44 Magnum looks interesting. Now, can they make a 369, with an alloy frame and titanium cylinder? Oh, I wouldn't much want to shoot Magnums through it, but it would be fun for carrying Specials in, with the chance for magnums in bear country.
--But of course, the M396 has taught us that it would probably become a kinetic bullet puller. Question: If you loaded the gun with 5 light-bullet loads (say, 165g or less), and one magnum heavy load for the first shot, would it be more or less likely to make the 4 remaining loads jump their crimp? What if the first round was a Special, and the second shot was a heavy bullet? How did they deal with the problem when they made the 329PD?
--Chief O'Brien had a bad job. This one made me giggle. Well, so did this one.
--I've had the theme song to The Love Boat in my head, for the last three days, now. I'm certain that I've never actually watched a full episode of that show. I will say that my voice bottoms out in the opening words pretty well, though I can't help warbling the word "new" like a lounge singer:
"Love. Exciting and new...."
--If the weather gets warmer this week, I plan a shooting date to try out a carbine, but not a high-dollar one. Stay tuned.
--It's 14 degrees here, but no precip. Down in Houston, they're expecting about .20" accumulations this morning. Big stuff for that southern Gulf Coast Texas city. I know this makes my friends up north giggle.
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
The beginning of 2014.
--This day-by-day map depiction of World War II in seven minutes is fascinating. I knew that the Axis started to really begin falling in early 1944, but this map shows how the Allies stopped their forward momentum in November of 1942.
--A friend and hunting buddy this morning announced that it was 6 times warmer than it was yesterday, by virtue of the fact that his thermometer showed 12 degrees Fahrenheit today, and just 2°F yesterday. Thinking that he was joking, I mentioned that his quantities might be off. He asked why. (This guy is VERY smart. He's a paramedic and a computer whiz. So no slamming him.) I responded:
"Well, degrees Fahrenheit don't actually measure absolute heat. However, degrees Kelvin *DO*. Fahrenheit set "zero" on his scale of temperature as being the lowest temperature that he could achieve, using ice and salt. He set 100 at what he thought was the human body temperature. (Look, it was the late 17th century. Cut him some slack.) Kelvin uses centigrade units above absolute zero. Zero degrees Fahrenheit is actually 255.37K. When it was 2 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday, it was 256.483 Kelvin yesterday. At 12 Fahrenheit today, it is actually 262.039 Kelvin, which is 1.004358... times warmer than yesterday, relative to Absolute Zero."
My buddy made a rude noise.
--It staggered me, the first time that I found out that there was a temperature below which nothing could go.
--And I didn't know until today that the Triple Point of water is used as part of the scientific definition of the Kelvin unit. ("The kelvin is defined as the fraction 1⁄273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water (exactly 0.01 °C or 32.018 °F).")
--Every year, my wife and I hold off on giving each other Christmas gifts, and then agree together to buy something that we both want in January or February. Well, this year, she broke the agreement, and surprised me by unilaterally purchasing a Rancilio Sylvia espresso machine. I've owned small consumer espresso machines before, but they were the sub-$100 sheet metal stamped variety that turned out indifferent results. This thing is superb.
When you turn it on, it will build up the pressure, and then turn out the light like a waffle iron to tell you that you're good to go. You then punch the switch for espresso, and the double spouts will begin to push out dark rich espresso with a bit of crema atop it. Hit the switch for foam, and open the valve and vigorous foam makes milk magical. Flip the switch to hot water, and you get water perfect for tea or to add to your espresso for an Americano.
It weighs a young ton.
It takes up very little counter space.
There is a bit of a learning curve to pulling a perfect shot.
It's the nicest thing that I've been given in a long, long time.
We're going through about a gallon of milk a day in this house, now.
--I have yet to have built a "Gay Cynic Special": 8 shots of espresso served over ice. Even in Seattle, the barrista's eyes widened at that order.
--In terms of style and distinctiveness, I think that the other states envy the Texas flag. Well, Arizona, New Mexico, and Alaska don't. And probably not Tennessee.
--What's the deal with the crescent moon on the SC flag?
--One of our cats two went missing 6 days ago. We've since had several sub-20 degree nights. I suspect that the neighbor shot it. I have not approached him; I cannot be objective. He told my colleagues that he threw out a firecracker to make the cats stop fighting at night. Semi-outdoor cats run a risk, and we knew that. My younger daughter, who had a serious cat crush on that animal, wakes up crying and saying that she dreamt that he was on her bed. I've had offers of a new cat. I can't. I don't need another creature in my heart, or in my daughter's heart. I need a break.
--One of these days, some boy will make my daughter this sad. And I'll have to deal with my initial reaction there, too.
--Here's a well-rendered map of the contiguous continental United States yesterday, showing that the average temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit. I like how they put clear delineations at the freezing point of water and at zero degrees F.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Random thoughts in mid-December.
--It's finally bright and sunny today. The last of the ice has crept back into the darkest northern shadows, 10 days after our big ice storm. Someone brought up on the radio that this is the coldest stretch of weather for this past 20-something days for this area since 1899. Water still drips from the melting ice in the trough on my roof. I know you northern types giggle at my amazement, but I many times was not dressed inappropriately when I went out to play with my Christmas toys in a T shirt and jeans. Heavy ice lingering from early December is unusual for us in North Texas.
--Speaking of heavy ice, I have again been reminded that I was born and reared in the wrong period. I wish I had been born in, and had the means to take part in, the Heroic Age Of Antarctic Exploration. Just to think that such an era was named (and is Wikipedia official!) is something. Like the Golden Age Of Flight (Which apparently is NOT Wikipedia official.) (What are your favorite "Golden Age Of _____" eras?)
--I started thinking about the HAOAE when I came across these amazing color photos taken by Frank Hurley whilst aboard (and cast away from) the Endurance when it became icebound in on the Weddell Sea of the Antarctic coast in January of 1915. The ship wash crushed in October and sank the next month, and the crew weren't rescued until August, yet none of the party under the leadership of Sir Ernest Shackleford perished. I believe that I shall be purchasing the story right now. Why hasn't a movie been made of this?
--I spent 5 hours this morning early working on paperwork at the office, off-duty, trying to meet my goal of catching up completely by Christmas. 90 minutes of that was on the phone with Tech Support over a computer issue, finally deciding that I needed a new optical drive. When's the last time you had one of those crap out on you? Strange.
--I was just now trying to figure out why I felt tired and kind of sick. Then it hit me: Coffee. I hadn't had any all day. To the French press! I ground some Community Coffee beans (hey, when the sealed pack of whole bean is marked down for $1.99 a 12 oz pack, you'll buy five pounds, too.), and filled that chambourd right up. I'm feeling much better now.
--While getting my dopamine back in shape with caffeine, I thought of when I recently invited my dad to join me for a cuppa at a coffee shop run by a privately-run religious-based self-enrolled halfway house. The coffee there is excellent, and I shot this picture of my pot of French Press with my camera phone while I waited for Dad to join me. When he arrived, Dad took a puff of his vapor cigarette, and was told by one of the staff there that there were no drugs or addicting substance allowed. I had just ordered my second pot of French press for us to enjoy. They didn't seem to see the irony in this.
--I'm ordering on Amazon as fast as I can. I know that I've put stuff off a bit too long, now.
--Man, the caffeine is really kicking in. I'm typing faster than I was at the beginning of this post by a factor 1 : 1.5.
--Apparently, I'm going to take part in a CO chili cook-off next year. I seriously need to step up my game over what I brought this year. Sure, 25+ lbs (or was it 30lbs?) of chili all sold, but it wasn't the right texture, and frankly, it was a tad bland this year. I was experimenting with pork and a new kind of red chili paste (way better than powder, BTW). Foolish. Go with what you know. Dad contributed the pork for that, BTW, with that big sow he shot this April with his .45-70.
--Funny thing: when Dad and I were picking up some items at WalMart during our duck hunt this November, a lady saw Dad wearing that same British smock jacket, and asked about where she could get something like it for her husband, whom she was shopping for a gift for. We were in Weatherford, TX, which isn't too far out in the wilds or anything, but Dad and I laughed and responded that the only other one like that for 50 miles or more (most likely) was being worn by our friend Stephen, who had just flown it in with him from London for the purpose of hunting, and he wasn't selling it, as he needed it the next morning. (You can also see Dad wearing it here, just before I sniped a passing Gadwall that was about to leave us for good after having passed by three times without landing, despite what a certain Ambulance Driver may say about premature shooting.:) )
--I give my friend A.D. a lot of hell, both here and to his face. But he's one of my dearest and trusted friends.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I recently shot my qualification course for my PD recently with my little 637 Airweight. Afterward, I called my friend Joe Speer and thanked him for the good work that he had done on the trigger, and bobbing the hammer with serrations over the back of the bob. Frankly, for 50 rounds, I shot like I really knew what I was doing. I was a rock star, even though I was shooting the entire course with 158g +P loads out of a 15 oz revolver.
I could use some work on my reloads, though. If I'm only acceptable with reloads on the range, how well do I expect to be in an incident where the balloon goes up?
The single most realistic movie depiction of a revolver reload when the adrenaline is pumping is in The Silence Of The Lambs, in this scene here. Keep in mind that (temporary) Agent Starling has just gone through extensive training, and is at 27 years old probably in the best shape of her life, but she can barely get that M13 reloaded, for all the involuntary shaking.
Sure, we're seeing an actor portray it. But I've had fight-or-flight adrenaline flowing through my veins before, and my motor coordination was about like that, too. Reloading a magazine is a darned sight easier under that kind of stress.
Oh, the work-out yesterday was a good one, but that's not why I'm sore.
The training with the fire department yesterday was good, but that's not (directly) why I'm sore.
Well, maybe a little bit, it was.
See, we still had two and a half inches of ice on the approach at the fire station. Our captain used a novel method of hose training: make the BTU's work backwards. Instead of using the water to lower the temperature, we used the water to raise the temperature of the ice, and pushed great sheets of it off the pavement in the afternoon.
At sundown, the temperature dropped from 36 degrees to 28 degrees in under an hour. With almost no wind and a high humidity, the water on the pavement didn't evaporate. So we took a 2.5" layer of 6 day-old rough ice, and replaced it with a 1/8" layer of shiny ice. No big deal; it should evaporate by 10 AM today.
Which I forgot about before leaving the firehouse this morning at 7:00AM.
You know that something is wrong as you see the sun breaking over the horizon between the toes of your boots, while you're walking.
Friday, November 29, 2013
We could have used a couple of items yesterday, but I was adamant that we were NOT going to make any purchases on Thanksgiving Day. I never actually left the property all day yesterday. The vast majority of people working retail are paid very little, and while I believe that it's the right of the retailers to be open on Thanksgiving Day, I think that it's pretty sorry to do it. I won't be part of the problem; I don't shop on that day.
Likewise, I won't take part in mobs. Maybe wall-sized million DPI televisors are available for $20 bills. I don't care; I'm going to miss out. I've got a 30" CRT screen that only plays Netflix and Amazon and DVDs, so I'm a bit behind the curve, anyhow.