Wednesday, 20 February 2013

08:28 – The website problems should be fixed. Dreamhost tech support checked the problem. It turned out that the Apache server that serves this site had been hanging.

I’m currently reading an excellent mystery that was written by one of my correspondents from Kelowna, BC. No, not Bill Grigg, although I suspect he could write a pretty good mystery novel if he set his mind to it. The one I’m reading is Speaking From Among the Bones, the latest Alan Bradley Flavia De Luce mystery. The series is set in England in 1950. Flavia is an 11-year-old girl who’s fascinated with chemistry–particularly poisons and explosives–and has access to a full chemistry lab tucked away in a disused part of their home. Barbara saw the first book at the library soon after it was published and grabbed it for me. She read it, too, and we both loved it. After I finished it, I emailed Alan to tell him that the book really resonated with me, because what Flavia was doing in her lab at age 11 in 1950 in England was pretty much exactly what I’d been doing in my lab at age 11 in 1964 in western Pennsylvania. The only real difference was that I didn’t keep coming across dead bodies.

UPS showed up yesterday with a delivery from one of our wholesalers. It was 250 test tube racks, and when they’d told me they were backordered I told them to go ahead and toss in something that wasn’t on my original order, a pack of 500 polypropylene radioimmunoassay vials with caps. My contact there had emailed me to say that they’d changed vendors for that item and that the item number had changed, as had the price. The surprise was that the price had fallen, to about 60% of what I’d expected to pay. When the shipment arrived, I found out why. Sure enough, there was a box of 500 vials, but no caps. I visited the manufacturer’s web site and found out why. The caps ship as a separate item, which my vendor hadn’t realized. I was afraid the caps would be backordered to India, which would mean a two or three month wait, but it turned out my vendor actually did have the caps in stock. They just hadn’t realized they needed to ship them as two separate boxes, so they’re shipping me a box of caps today. And, no surprise, the combined price of the new product, vials and caps, is about the same as the old one.

I plan to use these vials for packaging some items in the science kits that we’re currently packaging in coin envelopes. The vials will be faster to fill than the envelopes, and provide an air-tight seal. And, purchased in bulk, an RIA vial and cap doesn’t cost all that much more than a coin envelope


14:43 – I never expect to hear politicians say anything sensible, and that goes double for morons like Joe Biden. I have to admit, however, that Biden has actually offered some good advice about guns for self-defense. He recommends a shotgun. In fact, he’s made sure his wife has a double-barreled shotgun and shells for it, just in case the bad guys somehow get past her SS detail. To be specific, for people who aren’t experienced shooters, my recommendation is a double-barreled short shotgun with external hammers, usually called a lupara or coach gun, stored with both barrels loaded with #4 buckshot. With the hammers down, the gun is completely safe to handle, and can be stored for literally decades and still fire every time. Getting it ready to roll requires merely cocking the hammers. Meanwhile, it just sits there, inert. In Sicily, the traditional resting place was on two hooks immediately above the doorway. I like the manual external hammer shotguns for inexperienced people because I’ve seen too many inexperienced shooters, including some cops, short-stroke a pump, leaving them thinking a round is chambered when it’s not. That could prove embarrassing.

30 thoughts on “Wednesday, 20 February 2013”

  1. Unfortunately, the mystery would be “Why did I buy this book”?

    Kelowna must be a magnet for writers, as it is for artists. Alt-History author Jack Whyte lives here, as well.

  2. Whyte is another excellent author. His Camulod Chronicles series, which is written as a straight historical fiction retelling of the Arthurian legend without magic and other garbage, is one of my favorites.

  3. He is! I tore through his series a couple of years ago. I’ve been on a Roman bent for a number of years now, and at first I thought it was going to be a sword and sorcery fantasy with a Roman angle, but was more than pleasantly surprised!

  4. If you haven’t already, you should read Colleen McCullough’s First Man in Rome series. The woman really knows her Roman history and she’s an excellent story-teller. She makes people like Sulla, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Antony, Cicero, Cato, Octavian, and so on come alive. And I admit that I’m biased in her favor, since her prejudices with regard to their likely personalities largely align with my own.

    In fact, her historical fiction is good enough history that if I were homeschooling kids on the Roman Republic and early Empire, I might very well use this series in lieu of a standard text book. Well, I might use Durant to supplement it.

  5. You might also like Ruth Downie’s Medicus Investigations series, and of course Lindsey Davis’s Falco series.

  6. I concur with our host’s recommendation of McCullough’s First Man in Rome Series, with the caveat that the last two aren’t as good as the rest. In particular, the one on Antony and Cleopatra was, IMHO, terrible.

    The Gordianus the Finder series by Steven Saylor is set in the same time and is a Roman hard-boiled detective series. All excellent. He also has written a long historical novel that starts at the founding of Rome and traces the rising and falling fortunes of two of the families up through the end of the Republic. A sequel, which I don’t have yet, picks up and covers the Empire.

  7. Agreed, mostly wholeheartedly, on McCullough’s Rome series and using Durant as a supplement; I’d also recommend, depending on the ages and abilities of the kids being home-schooled, primary sources like Tacitus, Seutonius, et. al. Hey, tie it in nicely with Latin!

    For American history from the time of the Revolution through mid-20th-C, I’d recommend the late Gore Vidal’s series, although I wasn’t that impressed with the later volumes as I was with “Burr” and “Lincoln.”

  8. Saylor and Downie are too slow to keep up to my needs!

    I’ve just concluded a third pass through McCullough’s Masters of Rome series (AKA FMIR), and agree with Bob about her books being almost capable of teaching Roman history. Luckily, I also have Durant on my shelves. She does presume some things, and deliberately changes others, but she also explains what and why at the end of each book. I’ve only read the original six and not the late comer Antony & Cleopatra. Based on the reviews I’ve read, I may give it a pass. I have been unable to locate an ebook version, and won’t bother with a dead tree version, unless someone I know raves about the book.

    Keep the suggestions coming! I liked Follet’s World Without End series, as well (just not the show).

  9. The Antony and Cleopatra book by McCullough is/was available for Kindle, that’s how I read it. It looks as if she has taken to writing modern mysteries, the “Carmine DelMonaco” series. Anyone read them?

  10. Ray wrote:

    “http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/20/17029237-new-zealand-cops-find-hatchback-full-of-shackled-sheep?lite

    Sounds like date night in New Zealand.”

    From the article:

    The men, all locals, weren’t teenagers pulling a prank. Their ages were 35, 22 and 21, Callahan said, adding that stolen sheep are generally slaughtered and eaten.

    Lies!

    They missed a step, probably someone in NZ trying to clean up the Kiwi’s image. Stolen NZ sheep in this situation go through several days of exhausting “relations” with their captors before either being slaughtered and eaten – in the proper sense of the word – or just on sold. Usually there are no misrepresentations by the sellers about “virgin lamb”.

  11. Greg, your familiarity with the details makes me wonder.

    My NZ correspondents tell me that it’s the Aussies who are into sheep-shagging. The lady doth protest too much, methinks. The only question is, is it the Aussies or NZed’s that doth protest too much? Or both?

  12. Regardless of his familiarity with the details, Miles_Teg’s obsession with sheep shagging has to make you wonder. Even if he allegedly has never been between a ewe’s thighs, his inability to drop the subject makes you wonder just what repressed desires are coming out through the keyboard.

  13. Um, guys. Ray brought the topic up. With him being from eastern Tenn I think I know why. Yes, I know human cousins are preferred there, and in western and north-central NC, but it’s known that the hillbillies, and even the occasional immigrant from Penn regard sheep as a close second preference.

    Nothing much happens to sheep in Australia except that they get shorn, slaughtered, cooked and eaten. Visitors from NZ have to wear tracking bracelets and if anything happens to a sheep the cops just arrest the nearest Kiwi.

  14. I just upgraded to LibreOffice 4.0.0.3. Took over 25 minutes for the install (Windows). Lost all my preferences EXCEPT font defaults. Figure that one out. I don’t know why I do these upgrades. Every time a program tells me there is a new version, I fall for it. These days I immediately regret it about half the time. Arrrgh!

    Be careful out there.

  15. The thing I hate is that I get nagged like hell if I don’t upgrade. I wish there was a “stop your freaking nagging button” I could tick.

  16. Sheep:
    Aussie vs Kiwi My correspondents tell me there is a lot of finger pointing going on in both directions. And if they stuck to the fingers, the sheep would really appreciate it.

    Firing Shotguns aimlessly:
    A Biden firing a shotgun in the air will have 40+ Secret Service agents responding to it. Sounds like a good idea. For a Biden. The rest of us should aim.

  17. Bill, admit it. Your knowledge of this stuff is limited to Wikipedia.

    We know what the Kiwis do, they say we do it too, but that’s just to deflect attention from their own evil deeds.

  18. How does an Australian eat mutton?

    One leg over the left shoulder and one leg over the right shoulder.

  19. I never expect to hear politicians say anything sensible, and that goes double for morons like Joe Biden. I have to admit, however, that Biden has actually offered some good advice about guns for self-defense. He recommends a shotgun. In fact, he’s made sure his wife has a double-barreled shotgun and shells for it,

    Biden’s gun selection advice, but the rest of what he said is worse than not saying anything at all. Since I haven’t fired a gun since Boy Scout summer camp 30+ years ago, I’ll point you to this article.

    Actually I will rip apart Biden’s advice based on my own expertise. You should never fire any gun into the air, unless you are shooting skeet or hunting birds. That wasn’t the worst part though. Anyone who would empty his gun of ammunition firing warning shots would do less harm by giving their unloaded gun to a criminal. Is a double barreled shotgun with two spent shells any more useful than a pump action shotgun that has been short stroked?

    The comedian Yakov Smirnoff gave better advice about warning shots than Biden. He said in Russia police fire warning shots and explained, “when they shoot you, is warning to next guy.”

    Bob is probably right about the pump action shotgun and inexperienced shooters. In normal times, I’d disregard Bob’s advice and go buy a pump action shotgun and enough ammo from Wal Mart and go to a range with Mrs. B. and shoot until we are no longer inexperienced. However, since Wal Mart is out of stock on all guns and ammo nationwide, I guess we won’t do that.

  20. SteveF wrote:

    “How does an Australian eat mutton?

    One leg over the left shoulder and one leg over the right shoulder.”

    I don’t get it.

  21. Wow Dave, a conservative in this forum who doesn’t have a gun? I’m sure Lynn or OFD would give you one of theirs. Oh, I forgot, all theirs is at the bottom of the Brazos and Lake C, respectively.

    I’m sure Wal Mart isn’t the only place in Indiana that stocks guns?

  22. Which reminds me of a list I saw decades ago of actual quotes from police reports. My second-favorite was the guy who’d had a head-on car collision with his mother-in-law. In his statement, he said, “I had to swerve three times before I hit her”.

    But my favorite was the statement by the guy who’d been the victim of an attempted mugging and shot and killed his attacker. He said, and I quote, “I fired three warning shots into his chest”.

    Yeah, Biden is, as I said, a moron. I wasn’t endorsing his other advice, merely his recommendation of a good self-defense weapon.

    As to you and your wife, the fact that it’s difficult to buy a shotgun for each of you now is no reason not to start practicing. Visit a sporting clays club. Tell them it’s your first time shooting, and they’ll have someone who can introduce you to the basics and get you started. They have shotguns available for rental, so you can try out different models and gauges. The light loads used for clays are pretty inexpensive. Plan to spend at least a couple hours at the club and to shoot maybe two or three rounds your first time out. (A round is 25 clays.) Don’t expect to hit much at first. Then visit the club periodically until you and your wife have each shot at least 20 or 30 rounds (500 to 750 shots). At that point you may still pretty much suck at hitting clays, but you’ll have a reasonable degree of familiarity with the shotguns and shooting them. (People are a lot easier to hit than clays, unless you’re Louis having peasants tossed.) Then, once you’re both comfortable, buy shotguns for you and your wife and put at least 100 rounds each of serious loads through them.

  23. “OFD, you might have an opinion on a comment…”

    I wouldn’t presume to do so, not having read Ringo’s books, nor very much of Neechee or that filthy bugger Rousseau. Hobbes is another story, and one with which our hero “Framers” were very familiar, much more so than Locke or anyone else in the historical mythology surrounding them. I am currently plowing through Hobbes’s translation of Thucydides’s history of the Peloponnesian War, before moving on to a re-reading of “Leviathan” and “Behemoth.” It is an interesting experience; a few pages in and you see that Hobbes IS Thucydides and vice-versa. Amazing work.

  24. Ringo’s book “The Last Centurion” should be read by all modern day warriors. Basically, it is about a worldwide plague that occurs while the USA has soldiers in the middle east. The plague causes such a destruction in the USA that many of the soldiers are not brought home and left to fend for themselves in country. The book is written in blog style for a Army Lt company commander. Recommended.
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Centurion-John-Ringo/dp/1439132917/

  25. I don’t get it.

    Turns out Kubrick is not the only one who has not watched enough porn movies.

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