Friday, January 28, 2011

Are We There Yet?

For my pilot readers, yes, that is Jeppesen CSG-1P Slide Graphic Computer (E6B as we knew it as student pilots) used by Spock to figure the time before impact. I wonder if I still have one.

In a few weeks, as soon as the doc gives the OK, I need to get back out and get a checkride in an airplane for currency. I don't fly often but it's a skill set I not only enjoy, but don't wish to lose. Even if it means a checkride.

For, like any pilot, I hate taking exams.

Written or otherwise. I think it started in early school years when I got a question really wrong.

The question was: "Where do women mostly have curly hair?

Apparently, the correct answer was Africa.

Checkrides are the one part of the job that I think most civilian commercial and military pilots hate. Doesn't matter how many hours you have, how many missions you've flown. And they don't get any easier. Doing maneuvers to perfection while everything on the airplane seems to fail, one after another, while a check airmen is peering over one shoulder and those stripes on your uniform are resting on the other. It never mattered how many years I'd done it or the fact that I'd never failed one, taking that first step into the briefing room to start the oral, my mind would go completely blank. Circumstance and fear had a way of subtracting information from my brain with surgical precision.

Yet somehow, when the first question came up, everything resusitates, not by sheer brilliance but simply from the fact that I'd studied my rear end off for weeks ahead of time. To this day I can still draw the entire electrical system of a 727 on an unfolded cocktail napkin.

I think it looked something like this.

click to enlarge

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Recollection

"It has been said that crowds are stupid, but mostly they are simply confused, since as an eyewitness the average person is as reliable as a meringue lifejacket." -Terry Pratchett - Unseen Academicals

If I personally were to have a choice of witnesses to a tragedy to talk to, give me the child. Their view is simply what they have seen, normally unclouded by judgement, history, politics and expectations. Certainly intelligence bears into it and the developmental differences of the child. The child also needs be of an age where they can remember and describe events, understanding the difference between the truth and a lie. But they often pick up on things that the adults miss even if, in and of itself, it might not be admissible in a legal setting. Sure the technical detail is not there and children can often mix reality with fantasy, but often the heart of what they experienced is ascertainable, containing details often lost to others.

Those that piece together such places, unfortunately, have had to use such recollections before. You can watch all the TV shows you want, but unless you are a first responder or LEO you don't really realize what it is like. Air laden with smells of fuel perhaps and smoke, stale sweat and the dense coppery smell of death close up. The frantic sounds, shouts and fluid movements of water or people, trickling down to a slow drip as the EMS vehicles move away. Sometimes in a hurry, too often not, the sound expanding away from the hollow rumbles of voices left behind to glean the concrete fields of evidence, searching for words and actions that explain.

Sometimes there is a crowd, sometimes in that crowd is a youngster, looking around, taking it all in, while the adults eyes are frantically forming words in their head while look for a TV camera, or swaying in shock, zombie-like, eyes closed in almost drugged immobility.

A child's recollection is simple, not so much words, but sounds, smell, movement, direction,things others might have missed. With a parents hands hovering near, those movements we all know of protection, it will be asked if the child could give their remembrance, just as was done with any adults that were present, letting them make a statement of what they remember, to define the things already known. Sometimes their statements, made with simple words and hands, are startling in their detail; details that confirm the tangibles that are known at that time. Tangiles that can become evidence. With that the search for truth continues.

For some adults do not do so well in recollection. An event to one person is seen in a totally different way than another. Both believe they are totally accurate and it's often hard to derive the reality from their truths. I've read accounts in the newspaper of events I actively participated in, only to shake my head in wonder at how very inaccurately it was portrayed, the words written for sensation and effect, not for accountability. I've seen it in a court room, a place where even in the scrubbed emptiness, the smell of spent violence, lust, graft and vengeance are discernible. Where even in the quiet you feel the reverberations of badgering and bitterness, sinners and saints, actors in a role, while we the public hope for that one legal expert that can see through all of that to do what is right based on reality, not motivation.

But getting to the heart of the matter is difficult. Look at the media, at some of the written chronicles on the Internet of recent tragedies, and the variances in discussing the same person or event, the same bit of history. Some are honestly detailed yet succinct, while others, especially when they feel they or their cause have been wronged, are so outside the realm of what happened that they do nothing but provoke incredulity.

Tragedies bear their own truth and it is usually NOT what is in much of the mainstream media.

Life is never easy, and finding out why things happen as they do remains something that haunts the edges of not just a crime scene, but our very lives. We want to know, desire it. Yet, unless we look at events with the clear eyes of a child, unmotivated by greed, political leanings or prejudice, we may find that the words we read, the blames being made, are no more sweet deceptions.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How about a Little Coffee with Your Cookie

Molasses Cookies With Espresso Sugar.

The sugar is from the amazing Artisano's in Indianapolis. I don't know if they ship, but their flavored sugars are something as are their other products. I tried the onion sugar sprinkled on some aspargus, drizzled with olive oil and roasted(mmm) and then had to figure out something to do with the espresso sugar I purchased. It's not table sugar mixed with finely ground espresso powder, it's chunky sugar crystals infused with espresso.

I made the recipe up, so there was no telling what the end result in the lab was going to be. I was cooking in a friends kitchen and I promised I wouldn't create too much mayhem. It didn't start well.

First off I broke the spatula.

Me: (walking into living room with object) "Mayhem has begun"

Friend: (laughing) "What!? I've had that spatula 20 years! That spatula survived college parties!! (meaning, that spatula survived pre med students and tequila).

Me: "Well, let me explain scientifically.

(No, wait. That's the plan for an impending date.)

Me - "It just, uh. . . broke".

I was forgiven when the first batch came out of the oven.

Soft, crisp just around the edges, a little chewy in the middle, but not too much. Flavored with nutmeg, Vietnamese cinnamon and ginger with the slightly sweet undertone of espresso, and rolled in more crunchy expresso sugar.

A lot of molesses cookies harden into little kevlar pucks on day two. Day two these are still soft. I have a feeling there's not going to be a day three.

click to enlarge photos

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sharks with Lasers

"You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that can't be done. Can you remind me what I pay you people for? Honestly, throw me a bone here." — Dr. Evil (from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)

Lasers. Occasionally misspelled "lazer" in fiction. Actually the name "L.A.S.E.R." is an acronym of "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation", since that's what lasers do.

The majority of us learned about lasers from TV. Laser weapons and Hollywood. Laser weapons on TV hit high on the cool scale but how real is it? Remember, Hollywood science rules and the energy weapons depicted usually move at the speed of light. In actuality, energy weapons move a lot slower than the speed of light (and sometimes slower than the bullets on the same show). The Hollywood ones can also be dodged. You're seen it, our hero sees the person aiming the ray gun at them and going for the trigger in in that split second he's able to hide behind a rock or whatever. If the bad guy is hit, he is instantly zapped and vaporized. If the good guy is hit, he just stumbles back a few feet. There were all kinds of such weapons in the movies. Retro ray gun was the death ray. Real handguns bowdlerized into energy guns were TV's version of space age family friendly firearms. A lot of it was simply made up, a lot of it was technology even now, terribly outdated.

But TV physics is TV physics. There's a common misconception that laser beams cauterize wounds, but trust me, real laser wounds are every bit as ugly and bloody as knife wounds. Heat from a laser only makes a tiny bloodless hole on TV. NOT. In reality, it can cause the water in the body to boil, expand and rip the surrounding tissues apart, mimicking the injury from high velocity bullet impact.

Energy weapons in fiction will always have knockback (which would be OK) and recoil (which makes absolutely no sense at all), in spite of the fact that energy has negligible momentum. Of course, no matter what the laser's frequency and the medium through which it is shooting, it WILL make loud futuristic ZAP noises. But laser weapons on TV aren't a realistic depiction of how real energy based weapons would work, they're not intended to be. They are stand in's for some real guns to appease the liberal producers or more often to simply establish the show as being sci fi (and thereby higher up on the cool scale). If you look at some of the very early futuristic TV and movies, the laser bolt effects looks a lot like machine gun fire using tracer bullets. This may be that many of the artists and engineers that worked on the earliest of such films have have been relating their own war experiences in inspiring that effect, many having served in WWII.

Some later shows confused lasers weapons with plasma weapons, which fire really hot gas, not light beams.. Necessarily, plasma weapons can't use light speed projectiles as, having mass, they would be susceptible to all sorts of physics that make approaching the speed of light extremely difficult.

Plasma weapons are almost always depicted as producing ludicrous (usually green) glowing puffballs that somehow avoid mixing into the air, sometimes hand waved as magically auto generated magnetic containment. An actual plasma weapon might be as useful as a gun that shoots steam; sort of like your very own flamethrower, only hotter.

Laser weapons are here, and they're being continually refined. One of the first known to the civilian science geek was the Airborne Laser and THEL. The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed, (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system is a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F. Designed primarily as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) while in boost phase, the YAL-1 with a low-power laser was test-fired in flight, at an airborne target in 2007. A high-energy laser was used to intercept a test target in January 2010, and the following month, successfully destroyed two test missiles. (1)
It's pretty impressive. The COIL, is comprised of six interconnected modules, each as large as an SUV turned on-end and weighing about 6,500 pounds. When fired, the laser produces enough energy in a five-second burst to power a typical American household for more than an hour. (2)

The cooperative Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) Demonstrator ACTD was initiated by a MOU between the US and the Government of Israel in 1996. The THEL is a high-energy laser weapon system that uses proven laser beam generation technologies, proven beam- pointing technologies, and existing sensors and communication networks to enhance active defense capability in counter air missions.

The joint program was initiated to develop a THEL demonstrator using deuterium fluoride chemical laser technologies. THEL uses a Deuterium-Fluoride (DF) laser. NF3 and C2H4 are first reacted in multiple, side-by-side, high-pressure combustion chambers using an oxidizer (NF3) rich mixture that generates free F atoms. After ignition the combustion-generated F atoms, mixed with combustion by-products and a He diluent, flow into the laser cavity. A mixture of He and deuterium is also injected into the laser cavity, and DF is generated in an excited state as deuterium reacts with the free F atoms. The laser cavity is now ready to produce a laser beam.

Can I say "awesome" without sounding like a nerd?

THEL uses both Hydrogen Peroxide and Nitrogen Trifluoride. Nitrogen Triflouride (NF3) NF3 is used as a fluorine source in high-energy chemical lasers. Two applications are THEL and MIRACL (Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser) at White Sands Missile Range. Type 70 Hydrogen Peroxide is a critical element in the Anti-Ballistic Laser (ABL) and THEL Programs. Chemical lasers are the only class of HEL able to achieve megawatt power levels at century's turn. The MIRACL is a deuterium fluoride (DF) laser operating at a wavelength of 3.8 microns that has been in operation at the megawatt level since the mid 1980s at the White Sands HEL Systems Test Facility. It suffered from inherent propagation losses at full power in the operational wavelengths. DF technology found a home in the US Army/Israeli THEL, where propagation losses were mitigated by lower power levels and a crossing target.

Lasers - Deadlier, cooler.
Then, there is DARPA's HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System), light enough to fit on a fighter jet or drone aircraft, yet powerful enough to fire a 150 kilowatt beam of energy.

The Star Wars laser cannon may be closer than we think.

There have been high energy laser weapons in development powerful enough to bring down missiles (i.e MEHEL Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser). However their sheer size and weight (from the cooling systems needed) has precluded placement on just the largest aircraft.

HELLADS has a unique cooling system to save weight. The high-energy laser uses a liquid that has the same angle of refraction as the mirrors inside the blaster. That way, the "ray gun" can fire away, even while it's being cooled. Currently in development, the demonstrator device will be tested and scaled to achieve the low weight specifics and size needed for smaller airborne vehicles. Then the final phase of engineering, fabricating, integrating and demonstrating the complete HELLADS weapon system on a tactical platform. (3)
This sort of compact system is getting very close to what science fiction writers since H.G. Wells have envisioned when writing about the heat rays. More recently, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote about laser cannon in their 1974 novel Mote in God's Eye:

"The intruder came from here. Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon, or a set of laser cannon - probably a whole mess of them on asteroids, with mirrors to focus them - for about forty-five years, so the intruder would have a beam to travel on... "

Solid-state pulsed lasers, which fire bursts of energy and which are lighter than fluid-based lasers, but harder to cool, and electrolasers which ionize the air so that electric current can be sent along the beam's path, are already in development. More science than we ever saw watching Star Trek as children.

In actuality, these characteristics make lasers far more effective, and terrifying as weapons than anything we see in TV or movies, sharks not withstanding. It's probably also why we're not seeing realistic laser weapons in children's shows ("I love you, you love me. ZAP !!")

Since I won't get to play with any of these such toys, I'll happily embrace laser technology as I need and can obtain to protect my world. Viridian makes one of the better laser sights on the market, hands down, and they have their new catalog out.

Why green? The guys on TV got that part right. Green is much brighter and more effective than red in most conditions. Ordinary red lasers can be next to impossible to see in most daylight conditions. The benefit of a green laser is that it is much more visible, allowing for it to be used anytime, day or night, indoors or outdoors, permitting the LEO or civilian defense or sport shooter to track the target point quicker and more accurately. Additionally, because green lasers are so much more visible to the human eye, you can actually see a very intimidating visible beam in low-light conditions.
Nothing knocks the fight out of bad guys like the sudden appearance of a C5 equipped sub-compact. The brilliant green laser says “don’t mess with me", 24 hours a day.

For may not have to worry about storm troopers but I do have to worry about home invasions, muggers and murders. I'll take the best technology out there, and craft it for my use.

1) DoD 4120.15-L, Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles. U.S. Department of Defense, May 12, 2004. (2) Grill, Tech. Sgt. Eric M. "Airborne Laser fires tracking laser, hits target". Air Force, March 21, 2007.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dessert - A How To Guide

How to cheat at dessert.

Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

It uses a cake mix, and a few simple ingredients, mixed in one bowl. You don't even have to marble the batter, it does it as it bakes. With pistachio and dark chocolate, with a subtle undertone of vanilla and orange, it will score as high with your household as any time consuming creation.

click to enlarge photo, come on, I know you want to

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A View From the Edge, and Back

The biopsy report came back from the pathologist today. The tumor was invasive but NOT malignant. Surgery over, no further treatment is required other than to just take it easy for a few more weeks.

I can't thank everyone enough for their prayers. Somewhere up north the sun is shining and my guardian angel will be resting a little easier after his mission today is done.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A View From the Range

In the reloading shop, high speed bovine. (click to enlarge).

The day started with a conversation about flying cows and ended up with my own batmobile. Welcome to life on the Range. I wasn't up to the blog meet, still a bit puny, though on the mend, so part of the blog meet came to me. Og, Ed Hering (Atomic Fungus), Mr B and Midwest Chick stopped by to visit with me WITH a Batmobile, still in the original packaging (to sit next to my bat phone).

There was also a get well gift of a Green Hornet Black Beauty model kit from the show The Green Hornet (known as The Kato Show in China), complete with paints, brushes and some model glue (either for the model or for the fact that Indiana is a dry state on Sunday), two Gina Koch books, and a bag of Midwest Chick's infamous brownie cookies.

Yes, we DO accept cookies (especially these).

Throw in some pie from a nearby restaurant, some conversation involving, knives, gun shows, oversexed oompa loompas (don't ask) and it was, as always, a good time. Good friends, good fun, and laughing so hard we hurt.

Now tonight, conversation with family and just hanging out with my favorite airman, and dreams of another day. Life didn't turn out the way I planned lately, but boy is it still good.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

SHINY! Saturday Food Porn

h/t XKCD

I'm starting to get bored, I'm starting to want to get out of the house and go to the range.


Even better, I'm hungry.

Let's see, ham in the freezer, in the fridge just staples, butter, onions, milk, some various cheddars. Oh yeah, this will work.

Homestyle Mac and Cheese

Start with some smoked ham sauteed in butter and some caramalized onions.

Next a roux made from scratch and poured all over the top. This isn't your average roux. In addition to half and half, it has garlic, nutmeg, parsley, kosher salt, and a dash of Crystal Hot Sauce.


if you don't click to enlarge these photos you may regret it.

Feedback page: Would definitely make again.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Fate lies within some blades of grass,
the cosmos in the morning dew.
Tread infinity as you blindly pass,
and lose what you never knew.


Saturday, January 8, 2011


click to enlarge photo

I'll be home in a day or two and that thing about burgers for dinner was JUST a rumor

Friday, January 7, 2011

Off I go

Turn your sound up!


What? You thought I listened to Enya while driving my truck home each day?

If you are reading this, (thanks to my offspring) the surgery was moved up due to a scheduling change or a sudden leak and is either done or going on now and is going well. (There was a post drafted if it wasn't going well but that involved a picture of Nancy Pelosi, an ice flo, and starving wolves).

I will be released to the care of friends who I will stay with until I'm less wobbly. Og asked that I bring my eebook to the hospital for some "posts on drugs" but I think I will pass, so I asked a friend to update everyone.

I tried to talk the doc into throwing in some extra lifts and tucks while he was at it but then thought better of it, not wishing to wake up looking like Joan Rivers shar-pei.

Thanks for the prayers, the calls and the notes.

UPDATE: B. did fine. The tumor was removed surgically and sent to the pathologist with what it was attached to. It was pretty large but all by its lonesome. In about 10 days they'll have the cross section and biopsy results. It was not a fibroid but the doctor was optimistic. And Brigid said to tell Audie Murphy that the song is by Tab Benoit but I'm not sure that statement makes sense. - M.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Not much that can't be fixed by. . . .

part of this complete breakfast, click to enlarge photo
Dessert for breakfast. Blueberry crumble. Pardon my French, but screw the healthy weekday morning meal. :-) I can have my usual grapefruit juice and Cheerios tomorrow.

Yes, that is ice cream on top. At 6 a.m. I couldn't decide on something pie-like or a dessert with chocolate so dark it has its own gravitational pull. The blueberries called to me (plus you only have to be half awake to make this).

Thank you all for everything. Surgery will be right after the 12th, I'm getting the best doc in the state for this sort of thing so there was a week wait, one I will happily do so I don't wake up missing parts I may use later. I am not going to write further about it unless there is a major change. Just come on back for some sporadic but usual fun and shooty goodness. Until then, your wishes meant ever so much.

If I could share this bit of blueberry goodness with each of you I would.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

The question remains, just WHAT holster to wear concealed carry with the latest in hospital wear.

"The latest in hospital tactical wear. An off-center breast telemetry pocket allows secret squirrel gadgetry to pass through a buttonhole inside the pocket, staying out of sight. The over sized pocket conceals. Sleeve length guarantees easy access to your own defense items. Demure print will draw your mugger's eyes away from that .357 magnum, ensuring no extra harm will come to you (hospital cafeteria not withstanding)."

Blogging will be light for the next couple of weeks (thank goodness for a few saved posts and a couple old favorites I can repost for the new readers).

I am going to be scheduled for surgery pretty quick. I walked into the doc for a simple follow up check today and next thing you know I'm picking out proper concealed gear for the latest in "show me your junk" wear.

It's a tumor where there wasn't one last time anyone actually looked that close. It's likely nothing, but in either event, I may be getting turned from family sedan into sports model here soon, with a "act now and get a free biopsy!" special with my tactical hospital wear.

Prayers are always welcome, but no need to fuss, I'll be fine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


New Year - the possibilities are endless.

Especially with Warm Vanilla Sugar Drop Biscuits. Made with 2 1/4 cups Homemade Baking Mix, and 2/3 cup milk. Mix just until moistened, drop on cookie sheet and sprinkle with Vanilla Sugar. Bake 10 minutes at 450.

click to enlarge photo, warning if you are hungry