The Sticky Beaks

We are having a new driveway put into the front yard of our house.

This is exciting, and so far successful, but also somewhat of an interesting window into human behaviour. The behaviour of the workmen who lifted the old one, removed the lawn and retic, then proceeded to do site works, forms, and eventually the aggregate pour was impeccable. When you see people who know their job and do it well, you just supply coffee and biscuits and let them get on with it.

We were favoured by a week of fine weather that allowed the thing to go down and set before today’s rains. Next week we should be able to retrieve the family cars from the street and park as per normal. It’ll be a while before the landscape crew get back to do the rest of the yard but I don’t mind it looking like Verdun for a month or so – the precise part has worked well.

I joked with the workmen that I was going to make a landing field out of it all, and if I could get away with a control tower in the small patch that was lawn I would do it in an instant. A centre line down the street and a squadron of scale model B-17’s would be heaven.

But the sticky beaks? We’ve had everyone in the street ” casually ” stroll by and goggle at it and so far two visits from people who pull up, get out of their cars, photograph the curbing, and then drive off. It is either council nosiness or some new form of fetish. Fortunately, if it is the first, we submitted plans and have permission from Melville City Council and if it is the second I’ll buy a closet full of exciting underwear…

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Shopping For A War – Part Five – The Reader’s Digest…

Or will it be ”  War And Peace “?

You have to decide when you enter a keyboard dogfight whether you want to fight it down to the deck until you all run out of ammunition and are reduced to ramming each other, or whether you just want to make a quick firing pass, zoom up, and fly away.

The first approach – what I like to call the Zeke – is for those who wish to become legends in their own lunchtime. Heros who do not care whether their reputations, bank balances, or underwear are shredded in the fight. People who sacrifice themselves whenever they can – possibly for the pleasure of being hurt. There’s probably a PhD somewhere in there but you’d have to write footnotes to get it.

The indefatigable keyboard fighter never gives up, even when they have passed from being questionable to being wrong – and then gone on to being ludicrous and irrelevant. They cannot quit, as quitting would involve them in the suspicion that they were fools and have been suckered into an intellectual Lufberry Circus by smarter thinkers. They generally die in a blaze of inglorious prose against some hillside.

A second fighting style is know as the Thunderbolt. The writer knows that they have one chance only to drop on their opponent with overwhelming force, let ’em have the whole nine yards, and then use the moment of stunned and horrified silence to zoom away and disappear. It is not a case of cowardice – just judicious use of advantage and tactics. Dodging and weaving whilst making the escape is also not a bad idea. They never have to return to fight that opponent again.

A third approach is to enter unobtrusively, throttle back whilst close to the victim, drop a delayed-action meme, and then slide over the horizon before the thing goes up. Make no mistake – no-one will be in any doubt who dropped it. You will get credit, if only in curses.

The NBN Scam

Here in Australia we are just a phone call away from India. And in the case of our house that phone call is at 4:05 every afternoon.

The amazing part is that it is a different caller each time – apart from the silent ones or the hissers – and there is a slightly different pitch thrown with every one.

Today’s was the ” NBN “-  supposedly our developing national Broadband Network. It’s an ongoing fustercluck from both the federal government and a private quasi-corporation who pretend it is going to replace wires with optical cables and then up the speed of our internet connections. If it promised to connect us to unicorns and Judge Crater I would give it some serious credence, but as it is…

Now the Indian scammers have picked up on it and are ringing with either threats or promises to get us to allow malware to be installed in our computers. Today’s question revolved around technical work that was going on and what download speed we had. I suspect it was a complex shell game to allow some sort of ” test ” that would install a spyware program looking for passwords.

When the confused girl asked what speed we were experiencing I told her that we generally got about 350 MPH but this fell to 320 with drop tanks. Full throttle and water injection could up it to 385 but if you ran the computer too long at this setting the exhaust manifold would burn away. I was dead serious about this.

I’m not sure I cleared up her confusion.

Confusion Is Optional – Apply For Our Brochure

We are contemplating digging a missile silo into our front lawn and installing an old Minuteman I we got off eBay. I initially wanted an Atlas D but the wife said she isn’t going to get up at night to pump in the liquid oxygen because it would disturb the cat. I am going to have to have a solid rocket and be satisfied with that. I agreed if I can have a concrete door that slides aside on rollers.

The problem with this is when you go to the BGC or Midland Bricks display at the Homecrafts exhibition they have any number of concrete options to choose from. And they also put them on their website. Unfortunately the numbers on the website don’t match the samples at the exhibition. You can’t really be sure if the colour you choose is the one that will be delivered.

It didn’t use to be this tough. In Australia there was a lot of concrete used for building  – sometimes delivered by trucks or sometimes mixed on-site by Italian grano workers. You pretty well got one standard product – grey – and you could paint over it later if you wanted to be flash. Now there’s integrated colours plus choices in the sort of rocks in the cement. You can have it all exposed and polished it you wish, but that costs more. I’d be satisfied with a simple 3 metre-thick blast door in plain grey but the wife is fussy. She’s looking at colour cards and trying to match the paint on the missile fuselage. I’m smart enough to shut up but it is all going to take forever…

I feel like just parking a mobile SS-4 trailer in the drive and making do with that.

 

Army And Navy Surplus – Retail Clothing Part Seven

I was a child when there was Army and Navy Surplus that meant something. My father bought a bomber engine at an RCAF surplus auction in Airdrie, Alberta and ran it in our basement. He also bought lightweight drafting equipment from the RCAF that used to be on the navigator’s flight table. I aways wanted him to bring home the Fraser-Nash gun turret that was on sale as well, but my mother was a spoil-sport…

I mention this as a preface to gently prime you for a fact of life; there is no army and navy surplus any more. The bomber engine was left over from WW2. The army and navy now need all the stuff they have and are frequently engaged in horse trading amongst themselves to gather enough of it together in one place to operate on. They don’t have any spares to sell.

What is sold in the surplus stores is cheap imports from Pakistan, India, and worse places. If it can be made of bad cotton or brass – if it can be made crudely but with a certain brutal flair – if it can be sold as an aid to camping, or fishing, or genocide – the stores will get a sea container of it in and sell it. Whichever category it fits into and whatever it is, you can find one common thread – it will be overpriced.

Don’t avoid the surplus stores because of this. Go into them, by all means. Education is always expensive and shopping there is no exception. Set yourself a price limit that is painful but not horrifying, and go spend to that number. Who knows – you may need the fake ammunition box or the Pakistani exploding alcohol stove – or the Confederate flag or the 70 cm folding knife – for some legitimate purpose.

Just don’t ask for Fraser-Nash turrets…

The Extremely Wild Blue Yonder

Never having been in any army, navy, or air force means I am disqualified from writing about military service. But I am allowed to read about it and to think about it…

I’m also allowed to look at maps and clocks and do mathematics. Recently I considered the twin bombing campaigns of the Second World War in Europe that were conducted against the Axis by the RAF and USAAF. By and large they came from much the same areas in the UK and went to much the same areas in Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy. What they did there is different but that is the subject of another post.

First let’s consider the ranges: from the UK to the deepest part of Germany – about 800 miles. Anything less is a shorter distance. If you get shot down you only have to fly the one way.

Night Time: RAF, Bomber Command. Lancasters, Halifaxes, Stirlings, etc. Speed of laden aircraft: about 250 miles per hour. They needed about 3 and a half hours to get there and somewhat less to get back. If they were going to drop their bombs in the darkest part of the night – about 2:00 AM – they needed to start from the UK at about 10:00 or 10:30 in the evening. Which meant the crew would have started to get ready to go at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Day Time: USAAF, 8th Air Force. B-17’s and B-24’s. Speed much the same. Bomb load sacrificed for defensive capability. Again the same time there and back but with more flak and fighters. What time did they want to be over the target? Well, enough light to let the Nordens see the ground, but hopefully while the locals were still reeling from the night attack. So, perhaps early in the morning?

That would have meant a takeoff at 3:30 AM with the difficulty of setting off in darkness and forming up before dawn. If you are going to fly and fight in a box formation, trying to get into it in the dark would have been murder.

Or did it matter all that much – did they just accept that they were going to get pasted all the way in and all the way out and just opt for an easier takeoff when there was light? Off the ground at 5:00 and over Vienna at 8:30 then back either by noon or never again?

I wish I had more information about the timing of the actual bombing raids. There must have been some occasions when the planners had to do traffic cop duty to keep the returning stream of bombers separate from the outgoing one.

The Air Force Haircut

Mickey Spillane – the novelist who wrote the Mike Hammer series of detective thrillers – was a man with a head – and his head grew hair. As he was not a violin player he had to get it cut frequently and he is reported to have favoured barbers located outside Air Force bases as they knew how to give their clients an Air Force haircut.

I think Mickey was a wise man – because every time I go to the barber these days I get a hairdresser. If I wanted to have my hair dressed, I would take up violin playing…

Thankfully, this week I discovered how to get what I – and Mickey  – wanted from the barber. When I was asked how I wished to have it cut I told him do it Air Force short. Further enquiry tried to specify a comb size so we did an experiment starting at a high number and racking it back until it looked like I wanted it to look. I appear to be a No. 2 comb – a little more hair than basic training but pretty even up there.

I do not imagine I will get the same barber next time – they seem to belong to a travelling trade – but I will remember the Air Force line and the No. 2 comb.