Monday, October 31, 2011


A lot of people wore costumes to work. I said that I was costumed as a human; several people remarked that it wasn't very convincing. Ah, well.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Car Mirror

While I was away in Arizona, not only did Virginia suffer from tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes, it also had a car accident. Involving my car. Most of the damage was to panels, but the driver's side mirror got clipped and was being held on by duct tape--the mount broken in a way that wasn't feasible to epoxy back together. The repair quote was $176.40 for the part, and more for the labor to install it. But we haz teh Interwebz....
  • Watch a video on how to install the mirror. No exotic equipment is required, just Phillips and flat blade screwdrivers and a 10mm wrench.
  • Locate the part for $37 including shipping. It's in black.
  • Determine the official paint color is #931 "Frosted Iris".
  • Find a local paint shop that will mix 931, which Sherwin Williams will. $31 for paint, sprayer, and gloss coat.
  • Mask the new mirror, then paint, paint, paint, glosscoat, glosscoat.
  • Take out three screws to pull back the door interior
  • Pull out the old mirror's electrical connection; unbolt mirror.
  • Install new mirror, insert make electrical connections
  • Test mirror adjustment, remove masking
  • Tight door panel
Did the painting last weekend; got the mirror installed today, during a break in the rain.

Friday, October 28, 2011

NaNoWriMo Pre-Kick-Off Party

At Kelley's Tavern again this year. Saw some of the same people back again this year.

Still need a plot, but hey, I have days and days before NaNoWriMo actually kicks off.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

St Crispin's Day

October 25th is St Crispin's Day, best known for the Battle of Agincourt although the Battle of Balaclava--known for the stand of the Thin Red Line and the Charge of the Light Brigade--was also on this day. The St Crispan's speech from Henry V :

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say, "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford, and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon St Crispin's Day.

The Three Musketeers (2011 version)

I can do no better than to quote Howard "Schlock Mercenary" Taylor:

Once we're done scrolling past a neat, toy-soldiers-on-map version of Europe, The Three Musketeers gives us a steampunk scuba diver emerging from the canals of Venice with repeating crossbows.

Okay, so it's going to be THAT kind of movie. I mean, if this is seventeenth-century Italy we can't even call the scuba rig "steampunk" because there aren't any steam engines yet.

Well, at least your expectations have been set. It's going to be THAT kind of movie. This isn't historical fiction by a long shot. It misses the romanticized historical mark by a wide margin as well. What you've got here is full-on, brass-balls to the clockwork-secret-passage-wall alternate history. And if you can make it past the waterproof repeating crossbows, you're in for a real ride.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gnomes of Zurich part 2

As mentioned a couple of years ago, a lot of the world's capital is controlled by surprisingly few investors. Now a new article lists the top companies and explains why so much money flows through so few connections. It's not a plot by the Illuminati. Well, it's not necessarily a plot. Fnord.

Dead Six

Just got Dead Six, by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari.

From Larry's blog, a description of the book:

The plot is big. The action is big, but we kept it plausible. The tactics/equipment stuff is solid. One of my proof readers is a guy that Jack Bauer would hang out with. We did our homework. Considering that we wrote this years ago and put in the Arab Spring, a narcotrafficante revolution in Mexico, and stealth helicopters, none of which (we knew) existed at the time, I’d say we were at least semi-plausible in our brainstorming process. We took some liberties with reality, all authors do, but we tried not to make them stupid liberties.

Also from Larry's blog, a description of his co-author:
This is Mike’s first book, and it is a darn good one that deserves to be read. For those of you who don’t know, Mike is an EOD Technician, currently defusing roadside bombs in Afghanistan. He will still be in Afghanistan, risking his life and being awesome, when his first novel appears in stores. Places like NPR can talk about thriller writer street cred, but Mike plays high-explosive chess against terrorist IEDs before breakfast. Most first time authors are super excited to do their first book signings, but Mike can’t because he’s deployed… Think about that for a second… He can’t do book signings for the really nifty book he wrote because he is too busy DEFUSING MURDER BOMBS.

For most authors, the most exciting part of our day is when we spill Coke Zero on our keyboard. EOD are complete lunatics that do something so absurdly dangerous that complete snake eating warriors look at them and say "F’ that noise, let the dude in the big suit play with the booby trapped death machine."

Mike is humble. You probably won’t ever hear him talk about that kind of thing. Luckily for him, I’m not humble at all. :-)

The Headlight Saga

Generally I prefer to do a repair myself, if I can, instead of paying someone else to do it. There are times when the frustration level makes me reconsider my decision...
A headlight went out on the van. I've changed headlights before, no problem. Undo the locking ring, pull out the bulb, work the bulb out of the socket, then replace it with a new bulb (being careful not to touch the glass) and re-install. So, feeling confident, I pick up a #9004 bulb, come home, and open the hood. And discover that in this van, there's not enough room to get your hand behind the bulb to pull it out. Do you have to remove the whole headlight? I come inside and hit the search engine. Yes, you have to remove the whole flipping headlight.
And to do that, you need a 10mm wrench. I spray WD40 and tried pliers. No good. I try a 3/8" wrench (about 9.5mm) and a 7/16" (about 11mm). No good. We search the tool closest; no metric wrenches. Okay, back to the shop and get a 10mm wrench. With that, the top bolt and two nuts come off; the third nut is not quite inaccessible but I can only turn the wrench through 16° of arc at a time, so it takes approximately 26 hours of hunching over the car to slowly, slowly work the nut off. Mosquitoes gnaw on me. I finally get the assembly off, pull the locking ring back, and get the bulb out of the socket. Put the new bulb in the socket and test it--yes, it works. Put the bulb in the headlight and try to seat the locking ring. It doesn't seat. Push, twist, turn, no luck. Happy mosquitoes. The sun is setting. Okay, let's take the bulb out of the socket and try this one piece at a time. The bulb doesn't seat. Look at the back side of the headlight--there are three little teeth on the ring, and the bulb has notches which should match those teeth. Twist, rotate, push, no good. The mosquitoes have called their cousins and aunts. I compare the new bulb to the old bulb--the notches are almost, but not quite, identical. It is 5:49 pm. I call the parts store. They're closing at 6pm. Yes, the #9004 is the correct bulb, they say. I drive down (in the other car), arriving at 5:56, and go check the bulbs. Here's a Sylvania 9004, here's another brand, here's a third, the notches are the same on all of them. I look at the original bulb again--hark! It's a 9007, not a 9004! Mystery solved. Do I have the receipt for the original? No...but if you'd like to stay open even farther past your quitting time than it is now, I can go back home and get it. Heh. The kid hands me the new bulb and I return to the van. The bulb slides home, the locking ring locks, the socket snaps in place. Test the light, it works. Put the assembly back in place, tighten the nuts, we're done.
Three morals to the story:
  1. You will solve a problem faster by looking at it and figuring it out, rather than by continuing to try to force it when force didn't work the first time.
  2. Use the right tool. In retrospect, I should have gotten 10mm socket wrench instead of a normal wrench; that would have made two of the nuts a lot easier.
  3. Sometimes you should just pay the shop $25 and let them do it.


There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness. ”

— Robert Burton

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10 Seconds of My 15 Minutes of Fame:

I got mentioned by Professor Reynolds of Instapundit:

UPDATE: Reader Chris DeBoe writes: “Shades of The Peshawar Lancers by SM Stirling, which posits a comet hitting North America and Europe during Victoria’s reign, and the British government relocating to India. And the Great Game still goes on.” Several readers made that connection, which I should have caught. I read that book and it was good — one of several that made my list of recommended alt-history reading.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Planning Australia

Diana is already planning our trip to Australia. That didn't take long. (Probably not actually going until March 2012 or so).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thomas the Rhymer

I'm still not sure what to make of Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer. It's a retelling of the Childe Ballad story: Thomas meets the Queen of the Elves and asks for a kiss; she takes him to the Fairy Lands to be her lover; seven years later he returns to the mortal lands, with the gift of prophecy. He becomes known as True Thomas--he is unable to say anything except the truth.

It is not epic. No battles, not cast of thousands, no clever system of magic, no life or death decisions. Just a few people, interacting with each other, and one of them is the elf queen. It is definitely not a "buy multiple hardback copies", but then again, not many books get that rating. It is well written, lyrical; certainly the author deserves some support, so it comes in above "buy secondhand" or "check library". I'm going to call it "buy paperback" and expect some disagreement.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Across the Pacific

Josh had intended to fly from LA to Sydney on United, but the flight was overbooked and he didn't make it on. So here he is, solo in LAX, having been awake since 5:30am, and it's now 1:30am the following night (all times in US East Coast time, not local) and no plane. A lot of people would have taken a shuttle to the first available hotel and tried again the next day, but Josh is not willing to be stymied by a little detail like "there are no more planes until tomorrow." He checks other options with United--could he go from LAX to San Francisco and then to Sydney, or from LAX to Auckland to Sydney? United has flights but no spaces that he can use with his ticket. Meanwhile, while he deals with United, he has me check with Qantas; Qantas is excellent and they had a few seats but they don't take stand-bys, the cost of a ticket was $2500, and also he'd only have twenty minutes to get his luggage from United and haul it across terminals to Qantas. That won't do. He gets his gear back from United and marches over to Cathay Pacific. Yes, they'd be happy to book him for tomorrow night. "No", Josh says, "I have no interest in waiting till tomorrow night." Josh had the nickname "Bear" before he was large, bulky and furry; now that he is all of the above, he's even more ursine. He digs his fingers into the counter, leaving claw marks like a grizzly, and glowers with bloodshot eyes glowing red. Oh, well, sir, says Cathay Pacific, actually, we have a flight leaving in half an hour.
Josh got on it. Departed 4:30am Friday, arrived at Hong Kong at 7pm Friday night, changed planes and arrived in Sydney at 6:30am Saturday--I'm assuming that's what Gwen's text "THERE HE IS!" meant. :-)

When he got to Hong Kong he opened a chat to let me know he'd made it.
I replied "Yay! I'll alert the media."
Josh: "Make sure you mention how awesome Cathay Pacific is.
Me: "Will do. I'm proud of your determination on getting a flight."
Josh: "Bear. I just clawed at people until one of them handed me a boarding pass."
Me: "I was going to say you remind me of Mile Vorkosigan"--Miles is a character famous for "forward momentum", being totally focused on his mission and not stopping merely because it's impossible. One of Josh's favorite characters, by the way.
Josh: "Bear Miles. Miles Bearkosigan!"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Departed (or: Reasons to Move to Australia)

Took Josh to Fairfax yesterday, with a stop in Fredericksburg for lunch with his grandparents (who had driven five hours to get to Fredburg), then visiting with a couple of his friends--Caroline, the other Josh, and Richard. Richard came by the hotel and Josh and I may have persuaded him to move to Australia also, using arguments such as:

  • "Hot babes, Richard. Hot. Babes."
  • "You can play seven man Diplomacy and you won't lose any friends over it, because they won't be your friends yet." (Richard said "I'd say you're the only person in the world who would make this argument, but I'm sure your dad would make it too." Which I would).
  • "Australia has a labor shortage."
  • "You're in DC, Richard. Number one target in the world. You know how many terrorist plots have gotten foiled in Melbourne? None. Because there aren't any."
  • "Kangaroo. Kangaroo. Tastes delicious and it's good for you."
  • "No one will mistake you for your twin brother any more."
  • "Close Action. With my brilliant tactics and your Kunkel Fail Field, we'll devastate the opposition. We can even tile the floor with blue hexagons to match the Close Action maps. Close Action, Richard. You know you want it."
  • "Did I mention the hot babes?"
  • "You like wine? You think the Australians export the good stuff?"
  • "Snow? Yes, there's snow. Gwen goes skiing in the Alps. The Australian Alps. Yes, they have them."
  • "Melbourne is one of the top three cities in the world to live in. In. The. World, Richard."
  • "You have a cat? You can bring your cat, but you could also get a wombat. There is no cooler pet than a wombat, Richard. None. But bring your cat carrier if you must."
  • "You can go scuba diving with me."
  • "You don't have to go. Making a decision like this is not for everyone. In fact, millions of people have failed at life and been completely blotted out by the tide of history. No pressure."
  • "You want to climb to the top of a bridge? You can do that. You want an opera house? Got one."
  • "People are going to be lining up for the privilege of being my roommate. There will be fistfights. You know this. You need to get your name on the lease now."
  • "The Great Barrier Reef. It's great. It's a reef. It's a barrier. It has glowing fish. Clams. Purple luminescent clams, Richard. How can you say no to purple glowing clams? And China is close by. You can pop over and see the Great Wall, which is like the Great Barrier Reef was before it got water and fish and was pretty."
  • "Basically, I'm not hearing any reason you should stay, except you don't want your parents upset. But you'll be in Australia. Are they going to call you to fuss about it, at three dollars a minute for a phone call? They are not. Come to Australia, Richard. Coooome .... tooooo ..... Australiaaaa ...."
Richard escaped before actually signing anything but he looked like he was seriously considering it.
We got up at 5:30am, got an approximation of breakfast, and took Josh through the rain to Dulles. He was eager to go; Diana and I got a little misty-eyed but held it together.
Right now he's in Los Angeles, waiting for the plane to Sydney.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


We took Josh to El Taco Loco for his last dinner before departure. The owner sat at our table with us for a few minutes, and paid for Joshua's dinner, and told him to look for a good restaurant location in Melbourne.
Three suitcases and the scuba bag are by the front door.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Josh and I went to the used book store on Great Neck at First Colonial. After hunting through the shelves for an hour, he had a stack and we went through them together. "I haven't read any of these. This was good. I know I read that one but I don't recall anything about it. That one was fun to read once, I don't know that it's worth reading twice. That one is a classic but I'm certain you can find it in Oz if you want it." Between the two of us, we got about $60 of books. And one more priceless hour together.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


We went to lunch with Tom Paul and his grandmother at Bubba's, just east of the Lesner Bridge on the Lynnhaven Bay. I had the Bubba burger, which is a hamburger plus bacon, cheese and a lump of crabmeat. The crabmeat doesn't add anything that I can tell; the hamburger is cooked "well done" regardless of whether you wanted it medium or medium well. But it had bacon, so that was a good point.
The view out across Lynnhaven Bay is nice, and you get to see boats motoring right past the restaurant. Josh wants a rowboat with four jet engines, giving a nice healthy power-to-weight ratio. He also wants a sailing yacht, although he's willing to have a couple of propellers below the surface. It should be big enough that he can put his rocket-boat on it. And a helicopter, with should be able to carry a motorcycle. He's going for the triphibian approach. One of the vehicles was also supposed to be submersible but I'm not sure whether that was the yacht or the helicopter...

After that we went to the beach and Josh took half an hour on a jet ski. Zooming along, bounding over the waves like he was riding a horse at full gallop. The Aqua Pathan rides again! There were half a dozen other jet skis out there but it was always easy to tell which one was Josh's. "Which one is going fastest?--that's Josh".
There was a pod of dolphins in the Bay, which we couldn't see from the beach, but Josh did.

We played the Salamanca scenario from Command and Colors Napoleonics again, and Josh's Brits beat my French again.

Concentration of Wealth

"I fear a concentration of wealth, regardless of any improvements alleged to happen because of it."

So we're agreed. The government should be deprived of assets and income. I mean, is there a more frightening concentration of wealth than the state itself, with armed force and law to enforce its monopoly?

--Michael Z Williamson

Friday, October 7, 2011


On this day in 1571, Don John of Austria led a contingent of ships from Spain, Venice, Savoy, Genoa, the Knights of Malta and the Papal States-- 208 ships, 23000 soldiers--against a Turkish fleet of 251 ships and 31500 soldiers. Despite being outnumbered and having a dis-unified command--several of of the factions in his fleet were hostile to each other--the Christian fleet defeated the Ottomans, capturing or destroying over 180 ships and freeing over 8000 Christian galley slaves. It was the last significant naval action fought in the Mediterranean between galleys, and marked the beginning of the end of Ottoman expansion.

Wet suit

We got Josh a wet suit today, as a pre-Christmas present--since Christmas will be warm and sunny in Oz, he should be able to use it then.

I understand the Australian contingent is getting some exotic cable deal so Josh can watch real football and feel a little more at home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Jobs Agenda - By Kevin D. Williamson - The Corner - National Review Online

A Jobs Agenda - By Kevin D. Williamson - The Corner - National Review Online:

"Once you figure out why your cell phone gets better and cheaper every year but your public schools get more expensive and less effective, you can apply that model to answer a great many questions about public policy. Not all of them, but a great many."
"I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it."

Monday, October 3, 2011


I just found out tonight that Gwen's job at the Aussie Bureau of Agricultural research is....

"everything sheep-related."

Yes, I'm serious.

Those of you who are aware of Found Me A Sheep and related activities may now ROFL.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 Preparation

One month till the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. Get ready now.

Close Action: The Happy Return and Cape Henry

Tracy came from Hampton, and Richard from Fairfax, for Josh's last Close Action games before departing for Australia. Battle reports at for The Happy Return and Cape Henry at Battle Honors