Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Up Early, Moving Quickly

     There's a huge project going on at my part of my work, and when I say huge, I'm mostly talking about cost and height -- a small crew of arcane specialists is taking apart about nine hundred vertical feet of rigid, flanged coaxial radio-frequency transmission line and installing the same amount of replacement line, just about twenty feet at a time.

     Inside the building, I am working with a tech from an equipment manufacturer to complete the assembly and adjustment of the equipment that connects to all this, having already worked with an electrician to get the primary power connected to it.

     It makes for long days and an early start -- the riggers like to be setting up when twilight starts hinting along the horizon and aloft in time to greet the dawn.  Their day will end when they run out of light or they begin to hit physical limits.  It's a long way down and they must always leave sufficient reserve to get back to the ground safely.  (And you thought your job was difficult?)  Simply climbing is one thing; climbing and doing useful work is a whole other level of challenge.

     Meanwhile, the inside work often runs into the early evening.  Things come up, processes cann't be interrupted until complete, and so on.

     As the only representative of my employer at the site, I have to be there for all of it and I have work of my own connected to the project to get done, too..  With all of that, I'm working eleven to twelve hours a day.  So postings are short and will arrive at slightly irregular times until this project is done.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Road To The Stars Ran From Moscow To "2001: A Space Odyssey?"

     Well...maybe. The 1957 Soviet documentary/speculative film The Road To The Stars has many images and techniques that were later found in Kubrick's 2001.

     It's probably nothing more than that the curved floor of a large rotating space station makes for a compelling image that no director with vision would pass up, and as for picturephones, they had been a mark of "the future" for years.  Even the clever simulation of weightlessness by filming a suspended actor from directly below is probably a simple example of parallel development.

     Still, the old Russian film is an interesting bit of work, especially the second half with sets and models reminiscent of the Disney space travel trilogy Man In Space, Man And The Moon and Mars And Beyond.

Monday, October 14, 2019

How It Used To Be Done

     The world I grew up in and took for granted has nearly vanished.  Skills and technologies that were once commonplace have become the stuff of museum exhibits.

     Such is the case with Ben's Mill.  Ben is gone and the place has been cleaned up, whitewashed and now gawkers walk through, looking at all the funny old gadgets; but once, and not too long ago, it was a man's workplace, and a short documentary was made about it.

     It's worth watching.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Got Some Guys Here Who Want To Build A Space Station

     The Gateway Foundation has big ideas, but they're not starting at full-scale; they want to build a small commerical space station before tackling a big one -- but even their idea of "small" is pretty big.  Von Braun Station will use flight-proven hardware, tools and techniques.

     Will it happen?  I don't know, but you've got to start somewhere and I am glad to see them try.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

And Now, The Rest Of The Amendments

     As you might have expected, here are the rest of the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    It's another quick read and quite a mixed bag, everything from the most noble of ideas (13th through 15th) to nitwitted social engineering (the 18th), from clarifying succession (20th, 25th) to dubious notions (16th, 17th) and one of my favorites, the 19th. Or did I scramble those references?  You'll have to read it to find out!

     For those who were dreaming up crazy outcomes if impeachment and trial by the Senate were to remove President Trump from office, food for thought from Section 2 of the 25th Amendment:
     "Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress."
     Find me a prospective Veep who can pass through the eye of that needle, and you'll have found one heck of a politician.

Friday, October 11, 2019

As Promised, The Bill Of Rights

     This one's even shorter to read than the U.S. Constitution.  Short -- but vital.  The Bill Of Rights.

     The Framers of the Constitution thought they had it all covered: the powers of the Federal government were carefully described, and that was that: if something wasn't listed, it was clearly going to be Hands Off for the Feds, right?  Sure it was!  Who doesn't trust a big, powerful government to exercise voluntary restraint?

     If you're looking sideways at that claim, you're in good company.  Like James Madison -- U. S. Representative Madison, who ran for office and won on a promise to fix that lack of a "Hands Off!" list, sat down and started rewriting the Constitution to fix the problems.

     Yes, "rewriting."  The amendments comprising the Bill of Rights were to be stuck in where appropriate, with edits.  Representative Roger Sherman wasn't good with that, nor were many of the other House members; we got our Bill of Rights, but we got it added on at the end, all together, and the body of the Constitution stayed as it was written.  That procedure has been followed to this day, making the document itself the prime source for understanding its history.

     You live in a time when detailed, high-quality information is free for the asking, usually in a well-presented, easily-absorbed form.  If you're spreading clickbait rumor and woo instead, you are part of the problem.  Knock that off.  Educate yourself.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Today's Posting: Reading!

     And here's what we will be reading: the Constitution of the United States of America!

     It's not very long.  The whole thing (not including Amendments) fits on a web-page only a bit longer than the top page of this blog, and includes all sorts of interesting original language.

     But it's not a blog post.  It's not just some person's opinion.  It's not a collection of nice notions that we might kind of want to think about applying: it is the basic framework of the Federal government of the United States, and an outline of how it is supposed to work.  It is the controlling legal authority.

     Presidents, Congresscreatures and plenty of others in the swear an oath to defend (or protect) and support it; they are bound by it and most of them -- even the ones with crazy ideas about government -- are serious about it.

     It's time you got serious about it, too.

     Tomorrow: the Bill of Rights!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


     Apparently, some people slept though Civics/U.S. Government class.  Apparently, some people missed out on the impeachment of President William J. Clinton and the attempted impeachments of Presidents Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

     So let's take it by the numbers:

     0. An impeachment is not a conviction.
     An "impeachment" is precisely analogous to an "indictment."  Neither indicates guilt, only that sufficient evidence has been presented to justify a trial.  President Andrew Johnson was straight-up impeached, missed being found guilty by one (1) vote, and served the remainder of his term.

     1. What constitutes an impeachable offense?
     The U. S. Constitution says "high crimes and misdemeanors."  A "high crime" is one that you are only enabled to commit by being an office holder -- a Federal judge who takes a bribe to throw a case has committed an impeachable offense, but if you slip a bum a five dollar bill to commit perjury for you, that's just a regular crime.  A "misdemeanor?"  It really is what it sounds like, a petty crime, though presumably also modified by "high."  Yes, one might attempt to impeach a President for jaywalking, especially if he had the Secret Service stop traffic.  The nature of possible offenses is broad and as a practical matter, an impeachable offense is anything the House of Representatives says it is.  Don't like it?  Take it up with the men who wrote the Constitution.

     2. Yes, the impeachment process can (and normally does) start in a House committee.
     They're not going to tie up the whole House until they think they've got something they can get the House to vote for -- besides, Representatives get better screen time in committee.

     3. Yes, Congress has subpoena powers.
     Even over trivial nonsense, House, Senate and committees thereof can haul you in and have you answer questions under oath.  It turns out that "Contempt of Congress" is an actual crime, unlike holding Congresspersons in contempt.  There are all sorts of interesting complications where this intersects Executive Privilege and National Security matters, which will no doubt make for fascinating scholarly papers, but the basic principle isn't in any doubt.

     4. If a President is impeached, there is a trial.
     The trial is held in the Senate, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding.  Verdict is determined by vote and it takes a two-thirds majority to convict.  Conviction results in removal from office, period.  Nobody goes directly from the White House to the Big House.  (For Federal officials other than the President, the President of the Senate presides.  You may know him as the Vice-President of the United States; presumably, a Vice-President who'd been impeached would recuse himself and let the President Pro Tem preside.)

     5. Succession is clear.
     Remove the President, the Vice-President steps up.  That's how it works.  There's no ambiguity to it; Congress doesn't get a "twofer" and a Vice-President who succeeds a President gets to name his own Vice-President.

     So, Republicans who are fuming that the present hearings are a "coup," Democrats salivating over how they'll shove out the Chief Executive in a trice?  Yeah, no.  To both groups.  This is a thing that will take its due course.  It's something the Federal government does pretty regularly these days.  It will play out and you can either watch and learn, or spend all your time spun into a web of fantasy.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Faux Sous Vide?

     Maybe it is and maybe it isn't -- I went to the grocer's hungry yesterday evening and came home with a couple of nice filet mignons.  Not the top-of-the-line, twenty-nine dollars a pound (!!!) stuff, but their second-tier, which sells for about half as much.  They were a couple of inches thick and fair-sized, so call it under seven dollars per steak; how much would you pay in a restaurant and get a lesser cut?

     I picked up some good fresh mushrooms, too, and some seasoned, halved Brussels sprouts to microwave.  That left the question of how to cook the steaks.  The grill was out; it had been a long day and I was indeed hungry.

     I have a large nonstick saucepan -- more of a skillet with tall sides, with a nice clear glass lid.  That seemed like just the implement for the job.

     Set the steak out with salt and pepper on it, butterflied mine, and put the rest of the groceries away.  Don't start with a cold steak!  Readied the Brussels sprouts,* rinsed off half the mushrooms, got out the big pan, pondered, and melted a little butter in it over medium-low heat.  Dropped in my steak, put the lid on and told the robot to remind me in four minutes.  Rinsed off the rest of the mushrooms while the timer counted down, and when it went off, I turned the steak, added about half the mushrooms and put the lid back on.  Asked the robot to count out another four minutes.  It was starting to smell pretty good.

     The remaining mushrooms got a dash of garlic powder for luck.  I gave my steak a little longer when the timer began chiming, then turned it over, added Tam's full-thickness filet and the rest of the mushrooms, covered it and gave it another four.  Started the Brussels sprouts once it was going; they just get six minutes and don't need tending.

     A turn and four more minutes, and Tam's steak was rare, mine was medium-well, the mushrooms were done and there was a a nice amount of mushroom-steak-butter broth in the pan.

     It's not low and slow enough to qualify as sous vide, but it's not pan-frying, either.  The meat was tender but well-textured and flavorful.  I'd never cooked them quite this way and I wasn't sure how well it would work.   Just fine, that's how.
* If you have only ever had boiled-to-nothing Brussels sprouts, you've been cheated.  Cut in half and quickly sauteed in a pan, conventional oven or microwave, they're tasty and slightly crunchy.  Our grocer sets them up with diced red bell pepper, a garlic clove and some good olive oil, ready to go.

Monday, October 07, 2019

A Visit Or Two

     Sunday was a busy day, even though I didn't do all that much.  My big sister's birthday, and for a wonder, my little brother was in town with his wife and two kids, so we all got together at my sister's house (along with her elderly black-and-white tomcat, who wandered around getting petted and occasionally exclaiming in wonder at all the attention).

     Family gatherings have been...checking...non-existent since our mother passed away early last year, so that was something.  Stressful; we are very different people and we manage an uneasy truce, but still, we do manage.  It's not like we're going to get a new set of siblings, so we make what we can of it.

     Afterward, I went home just time to meet Tam and The Data Viking, and go to lunch at The Gallery, which is both a high-end pastry shop and sets out a brunch menu that is, simply, astonishing.  On weekends, it's crowded to near-impassibility; in nicer weather, they have a couple of patios that more than double the seating capacity, and they fill those, too.  Sunday was rainy, so everyone was inside and we counted ourselves lucky to have only a twenty-minute wait.  Omelettes, crepes, jowl bacon and hash browns arrived in due course, along with plenty of good coffee.

     After lunch, back to Roseholme Cottage for a visit; eventually I had to excuse myself on account of both exhaustion and needing to get an early start today, which I had best be about.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Cool Weather, Sleeping Warm

     They make soft, cardigan-like "sleep sweaters" along the lines of old-fashioned "bed jackets," but longer.  This turns out to be just the thing for when the weather turns cool but it's not quite time to add a few extra blankets, and maybe even past that point, since it keeps one's shoulders and arms warm.

     An old thing, new again.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Working For The Weekend?

     Working on the weekend?  At least it's not "work" work, though on the other hand, that means I'm not getting paid for it, either.  There is quite a lot of yard work to be done, plus shopping for a family member's birthday. 

     Naturally, Tam chose to spend all night online, and so will not be available to help until much later.  I woke at five a.m., as old ladies do, and she was still at it, probably one of her marathon writing sessions.  Which was in all likelihood more necessity than choice: her review work is extremely weather-dependent, since you can't chronograph on an indoor range.  A few days of rain or the range being unavailable at the wrong time makes for frantic catching-up later.

     An hour and a half later when I got up for the day, she'd finally got her head down.  Our schedules diverge so radically that we just don't cross paths much any more.

     I am about to head into a couple of weeks of intense work at my day job, sunrise-to-sunset six days a week until complete, so getting a head start on the yard is a necessity.  I'd just as soon stay in bed half the day, but that's not going to help.