Sunday, February 27, 2011


Took the mutt out on Chick's Beach (named not for the cute girls nor the baby birds, but for Chic's, a now-defunct restaurant) and did about five miles of walking, from the Chesapeake Bay bridge almost to Lynnhaven Bay, and back. After a couple hundred yards of plowing through dry sand, I went down by the water and accepted that I was going to get wet feet as the tide came in; walking on packed sand is a lot easier. The mutt started off all bouncy and frisky and running around to investigate everything; by the end, she was dog tired. Nothing much of note on the beach, although there were more cargo ships than usual at anchor in the bay.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jury Nullification

The Volokh Conspiracy » Suppression of Jury Nullification Advocates’ Speech Outside Courthouse has a good discussion of jury nullification.

Bacon day

The Iowa House of Representative has promulgated a resolution recognizing February 26, 2011, as Iowa  Bacon Day.
WHEREAS, the people of Maine have lobster, the people of Idaho grow great potatoes, and the folks of Texas make great chili, we Iowans have bacon —— nature’s perfect food; and
WHEREAS, whether plain or apple-wood smoked, whether store-bought or artisan-made, bacon is a meat for any meal; and
WHEREAS, as America’s top pork producer, Iowa stands tall as the nation’s source of high-quality bacon; and
WHEREAS, the 4th annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival is set for Saturday, February 26, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Des Moines;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, That the House of Representatives recognizes February 26, 2011, as Iowa Bacon Day and invites all Iowans to take part in the festival and to celebrate bacon.
I don't see why they limit it to Iowans. Mmm, bacon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Condo board

Our condo association board meeting was tonight, and one of the first items of business was to elect a board member. Two of us were running. Mano a mano. Mark your ballots. The tension grows. And then someone said "Can we only have six board members? Can't we have more?" And the administrator said "You've only had six, for the past three years, but you can have up to ten." So we both got voted in by acclamation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three Days to Never

Three Days to Never, by Tim Powers. I occasionally imagine that, if I knew a lot more and researched a lot more, I might be able to write the sort of urban fantasy books that Tim Powers writes. But I'd rather read his.

In Three Days to Never, Einstein worked out a mystical form of time travel. The protagonists don't know what they have; but the Mossad is trying to get hold of it, so is a shadowy group of occultists called the Vespers, and so is the protagonist's long lost father, who turns out to have been murdered.

If you haven't read Powers, this might not be the best one to start with--I enjoyed On Stranger Tide more, although that may simply be due to the historical period it was set in--but it's certainly worth reading. Not a "can't put it down till I'm done", more of a "read till 1am, then put it down."

Powers' works remind me of some of the later Saberhagen Dracula books--not for the subject, but in the general feel.

Another book, which I'm not reading, is Space Captain Smith, by Toby Frost. The omission of an Amazon link is deliberate. Page two has something along the lines of "I intend to take a mettle at them, and show them my crack! Except the other way around." Hilarious. I kept reading, solely because I was stuck in the car for three hours with no other books available. A couple pages later we find an engineer telling Captain Smith that his ship has an android pilot, "female, so of course it can't read a map or use reverse properly." That was about the point where I dug the car's owner manual out of the glove compartment and read that instead. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Saturday night Zombies

Josh's laptop realized it was a week or two out of warranty, and expired. He needed a computer, I have a spare computer; so we agreed that he and his buddy* Richard would meet me at the halfway point, outside Richmond, and make the exchange. The rendezvous point is 108 miles from my house, and the speed limit is 70mph for most of the way, so it should have taken about an hour and a half. Reality was coinciding with theory pretty well, right up to Mile Marker 214 or so, at which point traffic slowed, then slowed further, and then got down to "I really could walk faster than this." It never came quite to the point of turning off the ignition, but it was close. Eventually we crept up to the Rte 609 exit, where everyone had to get off the Interstate and follow Rt 60 parallel to the Interstate for twelve miles--and watch the eastbound lanes moving just as slowly as our westbound traffic--until we got to I295 and got back up to speed. I'd left the house at 5:48 and got to the rendezvous at 10:02, so roughly 4.25 hours. Coming back, they'd re-opened the highway so it was 1.5 hours.

The interesting question is, why was the Interstate closed? The main newspapers in the area didn't mention it at all. The signs that directed us to the detour said "Accident Ahead" but it would have to be a pretty impressive accident to close both sides of the highway.  One of the tiny local papers said the closure was due to brush fires, and on the trip back, I smelled smoke; but I didn't smell any smoke on the way up, or see flames. And the "highway department" trucks closing off the highway were white, and the workers wore white jump suits; but VDOT's color has always been orange. I don't recall seeing a man in a black suit and black tie and sunglasses at 8:30, but then I wouldn't remember that, would I? I do remember thinking about having seen him, though.

So it appears there was some kind of unusual activity in the area. Zombies? Mutants? Aliens? Killer sheep? I don't know. But it's certain that something happened, that some mysterious agency dealt with it, that "brush fires" destroyed the evidence, and local news didn't report it. I'm getting more shotgun ammo, just in case.

*Possibly "sidekick" or "minion" would be more accurate than "buddy". Josh has read all the Miles Vorkosigan books, and applies them. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Savion Glover

Savion Glover makes it clear that he thinks of tap dancing as as form of percussion music rather than as a form of dance. I've heard that at one show, he had the lights turned off--the point is to hear, not to watch.
He played at the Sandler Center with another "hoofer" and a flamenco guitarist, a flamenco vocalist, a jazz trumpeter, and a bass player. It was about an hour and three quarters of jazz, with the lead not being guitar or sax or piano, but percussion. Here's a clip from the same show in Philly a few days before we saw him. It would have been pretty repetitive after a while, except for two things. One, we were three rows back from the orchestra pit, so we could see his feet--and it was unbelievable how fast he is. And two was just how happy he was. Sometimes he was concentrating, but most of the time he was just floating there, clearly having a wonderful time, loving what he was doing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Giving the customer what he wants

In 2000 and 2001 I was selling translation and localization services to corporations like Sun Microsystems, TSYS, and DuPont. We'd take whatever text and images they gave us and analyze it--so many text strings, so many images, etc--then put it into whatever language they wanted, usually FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish) or CCJK (simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean).
On one occasion I bid $19,000 to do a job, and waited. Usually I got the contract from this company within a few days, but this time I didn't; so after a week, I called the purchasing agent and asked him about it. He said they'd gotten two other bids, at $23K and $24K. Since the other two bids were so much higher than ours, he said he was worried that we'd missed something about the project. So I said "You know, we've done this for you before and I'm sure we've got it right--but I tell you what. I can add another round of editing, that would be, um, 3500, so that would put our bid at 22,500. I don't think we'll need it, but in case we do, you're covered. Would that make you feel better?"
And he said, "Yes, it would", and he gave me the contract.


Josh advised us that a girl he met in Australia may be The Girl (or perhaps he said "is" instead of "may be"; he was talking to Diana and I didn't hear the exact wording). He wants to move to Melbourne.
I'd kind of thought that might happen with someone he met during his term at university there; but no, it's someone he met during the three day scuba trip in Cairns. So he's known her four days in person, plus no doubt innumerable emails, Facebook postings, Skype calls etc.Well, I can hardly complain about that--most of my friends I know primarily through the Web--but still.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


There are visible signs of Spring--mainly that when I leave the office at 6pm, there's still a little daylight left.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Playing Diplomacy at  The interface is a little quirky--in one game, I have no units or supply centers left, but I'm still an active player--but it works.

Starting to plan my Arizona trip. Canyon de Chelly, Grand Canyon, what else? I've had some recommendations for Sedona.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


The Richard Stravitz gallery had an open house for Valentine's today. We wandered around, sipping mimosas,  looking at sculptures and paintings, and talking with Delores, who is a Fine Art broker (and a descendant of  Tadeuz Kosciuszko). We already have a copy of Nude in Repose; there were a couple other pieces which looked good but nothing up to the "I have to have that" level.. It was a fun way to spend a pre-Valentine's afternoon, though.

Proposing to do good

Anyone who proposes to go good must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly, even if they roll a few more upon it.
--Albert Schweitzer

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February snow

Two inches of snow and more coming. No polar bears visible; they must have moved south.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sick day

Had a cold for a couple of days now; since I can't talk without coughing, and since my job is talking to people, I've called in sick. The problem with that is, I think about all the things I could be doing with this free time, but I don't have the energy to do it. Mostly it's been sleeping, reading light fiction since I can't focus on anything more demanding, and sleeping some more. Bleh.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Knight

Gene Wolfe's The Knight is an odd book. The premise that that the world has seven levels; we're on Midgard, below us are the Elflands, and below that is Muspel and Niflheim; above us is Sky, and a couple more above that. The main character, Sir Able of the High Heart, starts off as a normal American teenage boy (or at least that's what it looks like), but then he meet the Queen of the Elves, and falls in love with her. After that he goes off on adventures, trying to become worthy of her...but he gets sidetracked from time to time. He'll start off to rescue someone, and then he gets taken up or down a level, and in Midgard a year passes during the few subjective days he's gone. The Norse mythos predominates, but there's enough Celtic in there to throw a few curves. I suspect that if I wait a month and go back and reread it, I'll find all sorts of things I missed the first time round.
Since I'm not sure what to make of it, here's another review.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday afternoon

It wasn't exactly warm, but it was warmer than it has been. Decent enough for me to wash and wax the car (which I do every five years or so, whether it needs it or not), and later to grill on the back deck (perfectly done steak, loaded baked potato, a little red wine, yum). I even thought about hauling the kayak out, but then my good sense kicked in again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Books on Order

Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell

The Thirty Years War, by C V Wedgewood

Now we're waiting for the Amazon box to arrive, so I can add the books to the stack which covers my nightstand and is taking over an increasing section of the floor...

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Back about twelve years ago, I was working for a company that sold industrial plastics. Some of these materials  were expensive; some of them were very expensive. One of the expensive ones was a DuPont product called Vespel.

One day someone called up and said "I'm looking at your catalog, and I like the look of this stuff on page 146, the 3 1/2  inch diameter rod. Looks like walnut, I could carve it. What's the price on that?"
Me: "You're looking at the catalog right now?"
Him: "Yeah."
Me: "You're looking at the picture of the 3 1/2 inch rod?"
Him: "Yeah."
Me: "You see the line immediately below that picture, where it says the price is $7000 per foot?"
Him: "Yeah?"
Me: "That's the price."
Him: Pauseclick

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I picked up Gene Wolfe's The Knight and Hugh Cook's The Walrus and the Warwolf  , largely because I receive more Borders gift cards than I know what to do with. They'll give me a bit of  break from a history of the Thirty Years War, a history of fencing, and a history of naval warfare.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bishnu Shrestha

A retired Gurkha soldier named Bishnu Shrestha was on a train when 40 men, armed with knives, swords and guns, began robbing the passengers. He sat tight while they took his wallet; but when the thugs grabbed the next passenger, an 18 year old girl, and began cutting her clothes off, the soldier stood up, pulled out his kukri, and went to work. In twenty minutes he killed three bandits, disabled eight, and chased the rest off the train.
His regiment has un-retired him and promoted him, and the Indian government is giving him a cash bounty in addition to several medals. Ayo Gorkhali!