Archive | April, 2009

>Pandemic? Lost Business?

30 Apr

>Either way the coin comes up, Indianapolis loses: in just about a month, we’ll be havin’ the big, big wrap-up to a huge event that takes over the little town of Speedway and turns the race track for which the town is named into one of the larger cities in the state all by itself.

That is, we’re planning on it happening that way. If fear of Swine Flu keeps people away, that will hurt the local economy; if it doesn’t, we’ll have a huge concentration of people from all over the world with a population density rivalling that of Harlem between the World Wars, a lovely situation to spread an illness like influenza and pretty good odds at least a few of them will be carrying it.

Heads, we lose; tails, flu wins. And there’s no way to quit the game.

Could be quite a ride.


>Oh The Awfulness

30 Apr

>Okay, for years the lefty Press — even the Press that passes itself off as “center!” — has been warning you of the vile hive of scum and villainy that is the mind of Ann Coulter. And she does sometimes make even me wonder if she’s had all her shots.

For almost as long as they have been gibbering there-is-a-blonde-monster-under-the-bed, that same press has been reporting, well, murmuring like a flasher tryin’ to get you to look under his raincoat, about torture.

Put the two together (no, no, Ms. Coulter writing about torture, you and your sick, sick mind) and what do you get? Several gleeful column-inches of “Do ’em again harder and then make ’em Methodists!” maybe?

Um, no. Not even close. But she does relate the horrible details of the mind-numbing … goofiness. It even involved caterpillars. (Cheshire cats, Mad Hatters and/or dormice appear to have been ruled out). Dear heavens, I think there might not have even been breaks at teatime!


30 Apr

>What I said about my knee this morning? Wrong. Whistling past the orthopedic specialist, even.

Oh, it felt better, all right. But it started aching again in the course of my morning ablutions and primping, or whatever it is I do between coffee and leaving that takes so much time for such little result.

Stayed pretty steady on No Fun ’til I had to work on my knees with my head stuck inside a huge, awkward piece of starship equipment, swapping out a circuit board: went to stand up and realized my knee was not wanting to straighten out.

Managed it and moving helped, but this blamed knee is not right. And I don’t have time to fool with it right now. Having to gimp around puts me in a remarkably vile mood, everything takes half again as long if it requires any walking and some things I just can’t do at all.

So here I lay all ibuprofened up, blogging from bed with the cyro-cuff running. Hey, at least I’ve got that gadget!


29 Apr

>…The bump in the middle of the week. Folks call it “hump day” but it’s more of a sump, really.

Not to whine overmuch — my bum knee is a bit better after four solid nights of sleeping with a high-tech icepack on it, interspersed with days being one of those perpetually-irked cane users,* all of which has helped enormously. I count myself lucky it is so readily treated. (And that I have such a fine excuse for being crabby. Hooray?)

Besides, today is Duke Ellington’s birthday! (Also that of the namesake and founder of Vassar, but we’ll give him a break ‘cos the institution he founded kept Grace Hopper in pretzels & beer ’til the Navy realized they needed someone who grokked electronic computers even before there were any).

Good news (of a sort) from the Atomic Nerds about Swine Flu, flu in general and the coming Zombie Plague. The last item’s been called off. In all probability. Also? Gitcher dang flu shot. Now.

More good news, the weather might be just barelydecent enough (i.e., neither storming nor pouring rain) to ride my scooter to work. If I get movin’ now, that is!
*I’m minded of a former co-worker, one of the few since Salk who still get hit by polio; he had used the same leg braces and forearm crutches for years and was something of a human volcano. One of those guys whose temper is a tourist attraction. He changed docs and the new one asked him when was the last time he’d looked into leg braces? …Next thing we knew, he was an altogether different man: brace tech had improved to the point where he didn’t need those sticks and the impact it had on his outlook and demeanor was enormous. Humans stood up on our hind legs to free up our hands — anything that interferes with that leaves us, at best, ticked off.

>"The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Heard"

28 Apr

>The title quote? It was said by reliably Democrat cheerleader and Today Show co-host Matt Lauer, as the show cuts away from a nice little cornering of DHS capo Janet Napolitano about yesterday’s airplane panic in New York City.

Today first interviewed Ms. Napolitano about this Spring’s wave of Swine Flu, then asked her to wait; they followed with a story about the foolish flyover (a backup Air Force One plane, followed by a jet fighter, low over Manhattan, gee, that’s not a…problem, izzit?) complete with cellphone-shot fleeing-crowd footage resembling nothing so much as a Godzilla movie, then cut back to the suddenly stone-faced DHS Director to ask, “Howcome?” and “What were you thinking?”

It was clear the matter had never so much as reached her desk ahead of time. The interview sputtered along to the predictable “Mistakes were made” conclusion, camera cut back to Matt Lauer and cohost as he shook his head and uttered the line I’ve used for a title.

All you folks to the left who spent the last eight years referrin’ to the Prior Occupant and his administration as a bunch of insensitive clods? Looks like your team just showed they can go President Bush’s guys one better. And even their pet media notices.

Common sense: rarely found in D. C.

>Another Day, Part 9

28 Apr


The next day, I’m up, knockin’ around in what passes for a kitchenette about this flying junkyard. My 400 square feet costs extra — standard housing allowance for a tekkie rents a nine by twelve cabin with private, zero-G-ready bath, built-in bunk (zig-zagged with your next-door neighbor: one side gets an upper bunk, the other a lower), built-in desk (with telephone, looking nothing like yours at home), built-in dresser, built-in closet (zig-zagged with your other neighbor) and just about enough room to turn around once you bolt down a tiny fridge and a comfortable chair.

Me, I would just as soon have more space; standard-issue was a big step up from a ‘Drive Engineer’s berth on the Schramm but that was just about indescribable to anyone Earthside who hasn’t served aboard a submarine, or so they tell me. So my 20×20 has a bunk-in-a-cubby like the standard but there’s room for two walls of bookshelves (with mandatory retaining bars) and something kitchen-like on the far wall: tiny microwave, an actual sink (with zero-G lockouts and a extra tap for near-boiling water), a smallish fridge, cabinetry and countertop including a breakfast bar. No range — there’s a section of countertop where one can be swapped in but you would not believe the extra cost, especially what it does to one’s insurance rates. Still, maybe someday– Or not; what I have now suits me very well.

I was pondering the thrills and excitement of recent events (sounds better than “horror and tragedy” even though that’s closer. It’s the frontier. People die — and you don’t get used to it) while watching coffee drip through the Chemex (probably another item that’d drive my insurance up if I’d bothered to ask) and the microwave count down to hot oatmeal. The last especially noteworthy happening during my time on the Lupine was when one of the ship’s librarians had smuggled a Slow Loris aboard and the critter had, in its methodical way, wandered off and vanished. No harm, no foul that time: the little prosimian had turned up in the break area for the Central Power Room, being tickled and fussed over by a group of electricians and fusion techs to their mutual delight. The group was blissfully unaware their new friend had poisonous elbows; the librarian was reprimanded and fined but the Captain spared the Loris after meeting it. It now resides in a well-appointed garden cage in the center of the small hardcopy portion of our library, looked after by a group of trained volunteers, including the smuggler.

No such fairytale ending this time, just a dead stranger who’d been closer to the ‘Drive field array than I was comfortable thinking about. She’d had a tattoo on one forearm, a design that had looked familiar. Where had I seen that stars and rifles pattern before?

The microwave went bing! as realization dawned: Far Edge Marines. It’s not something seen much this side of the nebulous intersection between the Earthside sphere of influence and the advanced but elusive Far Edge, but there’s trade and contact at settled planets throughout that overlap. In my second and third years on Lupine, the ship had made the long swing out as far as La-a (“La-DASH-a” and don’t ask; there’s no parsing the planetary naming process at the Far Edge) and back, and F. E. Mil/Space (it’s just our side calls ’em “Marines”) had been recruiting heavily; the logo and their motto (“Peace Through Strength”) had been all over. Our mystery corpse had been a Space Marine! –Or, less likely, involved with one. It’s not a mark to bear lightly.

Oatmeal and coffee forgotten, I went to the phone and called Sherriff Mike’s office. Rang right through to him; I babbled my clever observation.

“And y’think I might’ve missed that?” he replied.

I stammered something, caught up in belated wit. Mike’s ex-USSF and second-generation at that; in his office on the bulkhead opposite his desk there’s a large photo poster of the ruins of the never-finished Lunar missile base the Far Edgers took off from and his computer desktop image is the ice plain on Io where the only real battle between USSF and FE troops was fought, inconclusively for all but the fallen. The latter group included Mike Senior.

I managed, “But– What’s a Space Marine doing on the Lupine?

“There’s the question, Nancy Drew. Maybe I should give you a hand with the Stardrives?”

“…I had that coming, Mike. Okay.”

“I know y’want to help. It’s my headache.”


>Google FAIL

28 Apr


Today is Samuel F. B. Morse’s birthday! (What did you get him? An iPhone?)

Google gave him “Google,” spelled out in Morse Code! Only not. Here’s a screencap:And indeed, this does spell out “Google” in the most commonly-used telegraphic and radiotelegraphic code. There is just one wee little problem with it: It’s not the telegraph code Morse (and Alfred Vail) invented!

Nope. It’s in International Radio Code*; what Morse invented is known as “American Morse Code” or “Railway Code.” It uses a more complex arrangement of symbols, one in which O is . . not – – – and L is a longer than usual dash though not as long as the even longer dash used for for zero. American Morse has a higher symbol rate for a given “clock” speed than International but it’s trickier.

But hey, Google: the “G’ and “E” are right! Hurrah, you!

International Radio Code is used by many anateur radio operators, a few shipboard operators and a few militaries even today; American Morse is preserved by a largeish handful of dedicated hobbyists, including some of the few remaining ex-railroad operators. Most of the latter are staggeringly fluent in both kinds of “Morse Code” and an encounter with one of them on the amateur bands is a delightful experience. In skilled hands, telegraphy is as much a language as whatever it is you speak or sign; sadly, there are fewer of those hands with every year.

Google, at least you tried. Half a point and a chance at a retest. Next time, do your darned homework!
* Vulgarly called “International Morse Code” or even just “Morse Code,” but invented in Germany. And not by Mr. Morse.