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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Ambassador Harrock's LiveJournal:

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Friday, April 14th, 2017
11:07 pm
Decamping to DW
...with a different username, "fearless_prime". Because I am that way.
Friday, July 20th, 2012
9:48 am
Word of the day
metricute -- verb 1: to put into effect a system of measurement; 2: to measure as provided or required by an operational procedure; 3: to measure to death in compliance with a standard

Usage examples are solicited

Current Mood: mischievous
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
11:08 pm
A Territorial Dispute
When we moved in here in 2004, there were a couple of cats living across the street. One (Apollo) has always been super-friendly, and the other (Snowball--you can imagine what she looks like) started out very aloof, and slowly became willing to be scritched on the head, and nothing more.

Last year, another neighbor got a new cat named Princess, who in recent weeks has been out and about for the first time. Of course, there are now some territory squabbles. Princess can mostly defend her front porch and her water bowl, but that's about it. Sucks to be the new cat on the block.

Today, I go for a walk, and see Snowball right outside my house, so I go to pet her. All good. Then I see Princess outside, and start ambling over toward her, because she shows signs of being a possible future lap cat. Snowball--ordinarily just as happy to be ignored as to be petted--positions herself between me and Princess, hissing at Princess. OK...walk across the street, around Snowball, toward Princess. Snowball moves to intercept, plants herself between us, and continues intimidating Princess.

OK. Walk away. Snowball walks with me. Turn around, walk toward Princess. Snowball walks with me. I'm covered.

Go away on my walk, come back half an hour later to find Snowball ensconced in her usual spot in front of her house. (She's kind of hilarious that way. In the middle of the summer, that's behind some very leafy bushes, so she can barely be seen, so it's a fine hidey place. Right now, she's a white cat sitting in a yard full of dirt. Fortunately, no predators in this environment; just people who want to pet her.) As I walk past, she jumps up and escorts me to my house. Not that Princess is even within sight at this point; Snowball is taking no chances.

I'm the territory. Who would have guessed?

Current Mood: amused
Saturday, April 3rd, 2010
10:18 am
Ask LJ: Heating Edition
We're thinking it may be time to replace our furnace. It's 17 years old and has been getting more and more cranky lately. (We're not under the impression that it will calm down after it goes to college and learns how hard it is to support oneself.)

The current furnace uses oil, but we have a gas line to the house, so we could go either way. I'm happy to hear opinions on oil-vs-gas heat from anyone who has researched it, but I would also like to know whether anybody can recommend a heating system contractor.

Oh LJ, will you give me your wisdom?

Current Mood: receptive
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
12:56 am
Election Spam
I recall thinking, back when Arlen Specter switched parties, that having 60 Democratic votes (nominal or otherwise) in the Senate would be a bad thing, because it would encourage unrealistic expectations among liberal voters, it would also encourage Democrats in Congress to overreach, which would in turn rile up the Republican base. I'm satisfied that all of those predictions came to pass. (Too bad I didn't make them in a public forum...)

Calling the 60-vote mark a "magic number" is an apt description, since magic is (in my estimation) in the province of imagination. It created the illusion that the Democratic Party would have a 2-year window to make whatever laws it wanted without having to take into account any pesky Republican dissent. The reality is that 60 Democrats, like any other 60 members of the Senate, have some pretty diverse ideas of what they want, and most of them have a basic understanding of how leverage works. *Any* 60 votes are hard to corral on a high-stakes issue, but once you insist that they be 60 pre-selected votes out of 100, you're basically saying that the sky is the limit on what you'll give away to get them. (The other reality is that the window turned out to be 1 year, not 2.) Furthermore, the illusion of Vast Cosmic Power means that all of your allied interests are screaming "I want it all!" at the top of their collective lungs. Is there any way to have less room to maneuver than the Democratic party had in this supposed period of omnipotence?

So, the illusion is gone. I'd prefer it hadn't happened by having Ted Kennedy succeeded by a Republican, but on the strategic level...good riddance. If the existing health care legislation gets burned down and rebuilt with different compromises, so be it--maybe with 70-80 votes in play, we'll actually get something better than we got with 60 in play. It'll turn out to be a lot of political capital invested by the Democrats for a lot of Republican advantage, but that ship has sailed, and it's time to learn to live with it.

I don't absolve the Republicans in Congress for their obstructionism--for example, it looks like they are planning to drop their holds on Executive Branch appointments some time in the 2013 or 2017--but they are not my problem at this time.

Current Mood: eh.
Monday, January 4th, 2010
5:04 pm
A Little Time Warp
In this year's incarnation of Double-Secret-Eastern-Orthodox-Christmas*, we are flying to Oakland with a connection in Long Beach. Long Beach is an itty-bitty** airport, where you disembark on the tarmac, and the terminal building has palm trees growing next to it (and also towering over it). Overall, it has a bit of an old-school feel that made me remark to firstfrost, "This is like a '50's movie. I kind of expect to hear some bouncy California-type theme music." Whereupon, as we approached the terminal building, we heard the theme music being played on outdoor speakers.

All serving to remind me that my premonitions are not always bad.

Mood has improved markedly over mid-December. I am becoming increasingly confident that a new approach to work is necessary in order to preserve what's left of my mental health.

* firstfrost's family gathers for Christmas in early January, to avoid scheduling conflicts. I add the double-secret modifier because the Eastern Orthodox church actually has other reasons for this.

** My standard of comparison is Madison, Wisconsin, where the airport is pretty small, but they actually use jetways for most aircraft. Anything smaller than that is classified as itty-bitty in my database.

Current Mood: amused
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
8:46 pm
Northwest Airlines, PR Genius
I can imagine why you might prohibit seat selection prior to checking in. It irritates me, and I doubt it serves any actual purpose, but I can see a thought process that leads to it.

I can understand, in this oversold/overbooked world, that when you check in, you might check in and select seats late enough that there are no longer two adjacent seats left for you and your travel companion (both tickets bought as part of the same transaction), and hence be forced to sit apart. I mean, if you've oversold the flight, you have an excuse (though not a good one) to not bother to at least pencil in adjacent seats for people who bought their tickets months ago.

But I'm really at a loss to understand why, if I check in 22 hours ahead of the flight and there actually *are* two adjacent seats available, not in a premium row, not in the very back row, or in any other condition (that I'm aware of) which could possibly prejudice me against selecting them, the site would *not* auto-select the adjacent seats, and instead, auto-select two middle seats.

Sure, it's true that I can now change them. But really, once you've started by refusing to allow seat selection until 24 hours before the flight, and you've oversold all of your flights, why put that extra little cherry on top, saying, in effect, "We would really prefer to screw you, if we were given the choice."

We learned about Northwest's seat-selection treachery last year, when we checked in at the airport and got split up, not having selected our seats beforehand. This time, it's true, I chose to go to dinner instead of being at my computer at 5:55pm this evening; but I barely managed to avoid the natural consequence of my irresponsible behavior at around 8 o'clock, with just two adjacent seats left to grab.

I am usually willing to pretend that the airlines are interchangeable, and compete only on price, but I think it actually is time to start selecting against Northwest. I've had it.

Current Mood: aggravated
Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
10:56 pm
It's a screwed-up database, but there is stuff in there...
Was getting a ride home from fredrickegerman, and on the radio, we heard a bit of something that was obviously Wagner, but I couldn't immediately place it. He thought it might be "Ride of the Valkyries", but I didn't think so.

After getting out of the car, thinking ahead through this piece that I barely remembered, I came across the orchestral passage which was attached in my mind to the following lyrics:

Be vewwy quiet...

I'm hunting wabbits...

Which of course means that it was Ride of the Valkyries.

Current Mood: amused
Saturday, July 4th, 2009
5:29 pm
Wednesday, August 27th, 2008
11:27 pm
Blackjack is fun...
Tonight, the entertainment at my conference was Casino Night. I went in fairly early, managed to avoid sitting through a product demo to get my chips, and then settled down at a blackjack table, noodling around with the smallest denomination chips, as is my wont, regardless of whether the chips are worth real money. I know the theory of counting, and it's fun to try in a lazy and ineffective sort of way, since I don't have sufficient concentration to do it well. That is apropos of nothing very interesting, except to explain why I find blackjack for worthless chips to be entertaining enough to spend a few hours on.

The dealer, a guy with a name tag of "Mr. Bill", who looks to be near retirement age, does this as a second job because it's fun. He's an Olde Tyme Card Counter, so in addition to the basic blackjack dealer service of telling you what you should do based on the board situation, he was also able to tell us what we should do if we'd been counting. He has many entertainment shticks suitable to this second job, or hobby, as it may be; he would engage us in random trivia questions (and give us free chips if we got them right), and chat about stuff. He also spent some time working in France, so has rusty but functional French with which to speak to some of the conventioneers who are French. And there were the kids of said conventioneers, who he entertained by theatrically tossing chips into their piles when they won, kind of slot-machine style, while trying to explain the game to them in their own language. Once, after a particularly discouraging hand where the players were drawing aces into the mid-teens, and then got beat by the dealer drawing to 21, he picked up all of the aces and shuffled them back into the shoe. When people busted out, he'd offer them some chips if they seemed to want to stay. Anyway, a great guy to have as your dealer at Casino Night.

Drunken network engineers, not so much...Collapse )

Other than that, I actually had quite a good time, thanks to Mr. Bill and his talent for helping everyone in sight have fun.

Current Mood: tired
Thursday, July 17th, 2008
11:39 pm
Warning: Cat won't take no for an answer.
There's a tuxedo-colored cat on Meacham Street, who I first met several months ago. He's medium-sized, but in the genre of "short-haired and solidly-built" rather than "long-haired and secretly wispy under all that hair". With the slightest invitation, he will jump into your lap and purr.

On the way to the orthodontist this morning, I spotted him lounging in a driveway, so I hunched down on one knee to scritch him some.

As all cats will do in this situation, he got up and walked around some, including some just out of reach. Already being down on one knee, I wasn't so keen on scootching around to reach him, so I just tried to tempt him in for more scritches without moving much.

Then, in a move which I have never observed a cat to make, he walked around behind me, leapt up onto my back, flopped over (onto something resembling a cat perch, between the random stuff in the bottom of my backpack, and my upper back), and started purring.

Now, if you know cats, even if you like them and the cat is purring, that's a little bit scary, since once a cat is off the ground, if its platform becomes unstable, there's no telling whether it will gracefully exit, or dig in claws and hold on for dear life. And this ain't one of those wispy all-hair cats. If he digs in, it could be bloody.

I explained to him that this really didn't work for me, and I had to get going, then I tipped him off my back without incident, petted him some more, and went on my way.

It was all quite warm and fuzzy until the orthodontist, where my lower braces went on today. Actually, it was fine until hours later, when the dull pain in all of my lower teeth started, which I expect to continue for a couple of weeks.

When I came back home after work, he was out in his yard again, all ready for more scritching, and that made things better.

Current Mood: okay
Sunday, June 29th, 2008
11:37 am
All done but the packing...
Yesterday's second round of air combat went better than the first. This round was a historical 1-on-1 engagement from the Vietnam War. I had the right idea for what to do with my 'plane, but I didn't exercise quite enough patience to execute the tactic correctly. I scored enough points to pull me out of dead last for the tournament. mjperson did well at his table, and took second place in the tournament.

After that, we went back to my favorite place to eat in Columbus, the Japanese Steak House. (When I first heard of it several years ago, my response was "OK, it's a Japanese Steak House, but what's it called?") This place has the whole Theatrical Chef thing going, and the food is always quite excellent. This year, the Chef Routine has been jazzed up a little. There's always been the traditional thing where the chef cooks the shrimp appetizer, doing the whirlwind slicing-and-dicing thing, and then flipping the shrimp tails into a bowl behind his back, up into his shirt pocket, up on top of his chef hat, etc...this year, it seems to be standard to pick out a poor unsuspecting soul at a nearby table, and bounce a shrimp tail off his chest. Last night our chef called the shot ("guy in the red shirt") and then pointed at me while the startled victim gathered his wits. It was great. Toward the end, mjperson tried to refuse extra vegetables, and the chef gave everyone else some extra, then gave mjperson some vegetables with the stern admonition: "This is not Burger King! You can't have it your own way!"

After dinner I got brainwashed into trying Squadron Strike, which is sort of a re-imagining of Starfleet Battles in a 3-D environment with a less granular turn sequence. (i.e. none of the 32-impulses-per-turn stuff; you just all plot, all move, then all fire.) The design uses some of the 3-D conceptual infrastructure that was developed for Birds of Prey, which is very familiar to me. The combined firepower of the Klingons, Romulans, Feds, and Tholians blew up the Cylon base star without too many horrible casualties.

Now it's all over except for a last turn through the dealer's room....

Current Mood: tired
Friday, June 27th, 2008
12:18 am
Not quite what I was hoping for...
Day 2 at Origins. Woke up feeling kinda draggy, for obvious reasons.

Today's plan was to defend Stalingrad all day and then shoot down enemy planes in the evening. The Stalingrad plan was a little rocky, though. First, we had an rules debate, where one person was objecting to his incorrect understanding of what I wanted to do. It was a fine lab exercise in the evolution of an unnecessary argument, but I don't need to get on a plane and dodge tornados to do that... And second, the same prickly guy who I argued with later saw fit to disappear for two hours in the middle of the afternoon, at the start of his side's turn, without deputizing his fellow Russians to move for him. He had a fine reason for wanting to disappear (wanting an early crack at the dealer's room, and wanting to get the things on his hit list, having been traumatized by hesitation before), but he could at least have told people to go ahead without him. Bah.

I have a small part in that game, which could easily be handed off; and I didn't so much mind having a small part, because I never get to play that game, and I don't mind saving most of my mental energy for air combat. But loitering around half of this afternoon was not cool, and has convinced me that I should cut bait and do something else tomorrow during the day.

Air combat tonight was the practice round, with tournament rounds tomorrow evening and Saturday morning. It was a 2-v-2 battle, Ethiopia vs Eritrea, with both sides using the best export planes the USSR produced before it collapsed. These planes have some pretty scary weaponry, such that one would reasonably expect it to end quickly in a bloodbath, but only one plane was shot down, with three copies of the scenario running. People seem to have the basic defensive tactics down pretty well. I was pretty distracted while trying to re-introduce my wingman to this particular air combat game. He was doing pretty well for a while, but he faded late in the evening, and we almost got shot down for that. The short version is, at a moment where he had to play a guessing game with the enemy, he went a little too far into risk-avoidance mode, and forgot to place himself in a threatening position.

Meanwhile, mjperson was over at the newbies table, and got the only kill of the evening. Then they remembered that he'd shown up for the practice round two years ago and was the only person to get a kill that time too. I think next time they'll remember that he's played the game before.

Now I am hoarse from debating rules and explaining rules, and sleepy.

Current Mood: tired
Thursday, June 26th, 2008
1:09 am
A veritable whirlwind of activity at Origins
Starflt and I went to Wright-Patterson AFB to see the Air Force Museum. It was excellent. We heard the rain and thunder outside, and thumbed our noses at it, then drove back into Columbus with a grim-looking sky off to one side.

Then, we went to my favorite restaurant in all of Columbus, The Japanese Steak House, with surakofb5 and mjperson. Mmmm.

Then we took a turn back through the convention hall, not expecting to find much started up yet. The War Room, which was in previous years exiled to the most remote possible corner of the convention, has been exiled to half of the room in the most remote possible corner of the convention, on the second floor of the farthest-out wing, behind a "beware of leopard" sign. However, I was lucky enough to find a monster wargame in progress which is way too big to set up at home, so I stuck around and wormed my way into it by reminding some desperate players of helpful rules that they had forgotten.

Round 11:30, we could hear thunder and heavy rain outside, which we ignored, because the Russians has just unleashed a major offensive near Stalingrad, not to mention everywhere else on the map, including my area. It's hard to withdraw large armored formations from a trap when they have no fuel, see. So when a guy came in and made a PSA that the county was under a Tornado Warning, we all said, eh, that's nice, but the Germans have more serious problems than that. Then I overheard someone laconically mentioning something about "...rolling up I-70", while shuffling his counters, and the guy next to him, sounding only the slightest-bit concerned, asked "you mean a tornado?", and the first guy answered, "nah, just the storm".

Yeah. That's my kind of people. I mean, we have one panzer division surrounded and disorganized, and about to be crushed, and three more in danger of being surrounded, plus several infantry divisions surrounded and more on the chopping block, not to mention that if our buds get beaten badly enough at Stalingrad, we're gonna lose our entire supply line. We just don't have time to sweat the small stuff.

A little later, convention people came in and ordered everybody to get our butts down to the first floor, into interior rooms. That would be the first time in about twenty years that I have actually had to do that. Being from the Midwest, I find that my reptile brain still has a fear of tornadoes, but it's linked to the ritual, not the reality, so trooping off to a place of relative safety actually gave me anxiety that being in a large, semi-exposed second-floor ballroom did not.

The gamers of Origins bravely went on with their business, down in this utility hallway. They scrounged up chairs and tables, broke out their copious supply of games, and speculated about how a bunch of random people being herded into a shelter during a tornado is a fine little setup for a horror RPG. The tornado warning is long over, but no doubt some of them are still there...lurking...

Current Mood: anxious
Thursday, April 10th, 2008
12:16 am
Also on liking America
A while back, dpolicar mused on the subject of the whole "liberals hate America" myth. It has taken me a while to think of a useful contribution to the question, especially given that he already had 50+ comments before I saw the post. Those comments went over much of the ground that I might consider covering.

I've been thinking about how I would try to explain to a red-blooded conservative why I think criticizing America is an act of patriotism, not of treachery. Unfortunately, I fear I've digressed off into something that has way too many words, and twists, to convince anyone of anything. But here it is...

This is probably not why they put him on the $2 bill, but still...Collapse )

Current Mood: thoughtful
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
12:33 am
Ask a silly question...
Today, a guy came by and asked us if we could add hours to the day. He's a guy we like, and he works hard (hence his question), so we wanted to help him out. And it's not like half of the questions that come by our desks actually make more sense than that. I told him that his best bet was to inflate the planet some, because conservation of angular momentum means the rotation has to slow down if mass and distribution remain constant. (Maybe I shouldn't have started with "blow up the planet", as that got things off on the wrong track for a while.) twe got stuck explaining that just moving to a larger planet doesn't necessarily solve the problem, since it could very well be rotating faster. treptoplax thought the practical strategy would be to just start putting bricks on top of things, preferably very tall things. I believe greyautumnrain was busy catching up on other things at the time, having already given us the lowdown on blowing up asteroids before they kill us all, earlier in the day.

The guy walked off, saying that he'd never ask us any questions again. I don't get it. I ran after him and tried to explain that we wanted to help, but this didn't seem to make an impression. I mean, people are constantly wanting us to do actual impossible stuff like changing the speed of light and other physical constants, building systems that violate causality, reading minds, yada yada. I was looking forward to something easier to tackle. Now I'm forced to ask myself--where did we go wrong?

Current Mood: quixotic
Friday, January 11th, 2008
6:52 pm
I'm sitting in the airport for several hours...I really have nothing else to do but post. :)

The miracle of EggsCollapse )

What exactly does wireless mean, anyway?Collapse )

Worst Uncle *Ever*Collapse )

Irrational ExuberanceCollapse )

Current Mood: late!
Sunday, May 6th, 2007
12:09 am
Musical update
New track for the Hippocratic Oath CD: Storm Warning. This is the music that's playing when the Outworlders are gathering at the Farseer's place on Pierogi (in the pilot episode), and also later when they're on the Orbital, seeing the Tarn Decider fleet come in, and Jayla is punching the distress beacon. The strident violin is Jayla, and the harp is the Farseer. The ominous low strings are the Deciders.

I do have plans to add a choir to Condition Black, but that is still waiting for me to know the voice instruments well enough to do what I want for this track. (This link has the same music as the old link, but in theory, this file understands that it's track 2 of 2.)

The original "Condition Black" that was posted on my web page defaulted to very low volume when I put it on my iPod. I think I've got the default volume on both of these tracks reasonable, but any input would be appreciated.

Next up: probably the track that comes between these two, when the debate between the Inworlders and Hegemonics about "exactly what the heck is going on" is interrupted by receipt of the distress signal, and Hippocrates lifting off. Hopefully this will not take a year.

Current Mood: creative
Wednesday, March 14th, 2007
10:53 am
Origins PSA
Anyone in the Boston area who's thinking of going to Origins this year, now may be a good time to scream and leap. I got tickets from BOS->CMH, leaving July 4th, returning July 8th, at reasonable times, for $98 plus taxes/fees, adding up to $134.

This has been a public service announcement.

Current Mood: surprised
Thursday, February 1st, 2007
12:23 pm
Don't step in the leadership...
Well, thank god our so-called leadership is all over this massive bomb conspiracy. I was feeling worried there for a bit that the foul perpetrators behind this scheme to terrify our fair city would not get what's coming to them. But the news that one of those responsible may be deported back to his native Belorussia fills me with confidence that, like all serious terrorists, he will disappear en route and end up in Gitmo, where he belongs.

Memo to those in charge: there's no popular hysteria to feed off out here. The media circus is all you, and you look like idiots. Which I don't mind so much, except that some of you purport to represent me. You want to shake down Time-Warner for cash, that's fine, but dropping a 16-ton weight on the two hapless guys is unnecessary, and does not serve any public interest that I can think of.

I say, if we're subsisting on paranoia and sound bites, let's go all the way. Denethor for Steward in 2008. Who's with me?

Current Mood: annoyed
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