Thursday, February 27, 2020

Another Busy Morning

     In a rush.

    I had occasion to look up some interesting stats this morning -- someone on Facebook was chiding Canada's government for not going to 100% renewable energy, as Portugal is reputed to to have done.

     This is interesting.  There's a lot of hydroelectric power in Canada.  The population is about three, three and a half times as large as Portugal's.  Could Canada do it?

     There's one little problem.  Portugal has a much friendlier climate.  The mythical average Canadian* uses nearly five times as much energy as the average Portuguese.  They're gonna need a whole lot more dams, and windmills.  Solar?  I'd need to see the numbers but it may not be practical in most of the country.

     It's nice to dream, but to make dreams come true, you have to do the math.
* As we all know, most Canadians are above average, but too modest to admit it. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ripped Off

     Yesterday morning, I had to torch my credit card account.  Someone in Los Angeles had used it to sign up with a kind of sketchy food-delivery service, ordered an expensive Chinese dinner, and the transaction had bounced because the place wasn't open.

     Or that's how it looked.  My bank called me after I'd spent some time online trying to puzzle it out and they took immediate and drastic action.  Since the card had been renewed only a day earlier, there weren't a lot of possibilities for physical theft of the number and the only place I'd updated it online was a major retailer with whom most of us have a love/hate relationship.

     Frustrating, scary and annoying, and the round of password-updating it set off was no fun, either.  And that's life in this century, I guess.

     I've been lazy about not carrying and using cash.  Time to go back to basics.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

At Least There's A Bagel Later

     Well, that was fun.  There wasn't a line at the phlebotomist's office/lab cubby and I was in the chair looking away from being stuck (I flinch if I watch) about as soon as I had my coat and zip-up sweatshirt off.

     She took three vials of blood and had me verify my name and birthdate was on each one once they were all full, having already had me hold a folded square of gauze over the puncture.  She put the vials in the outgoing stack, stuck a Band-Aid over the gauze, and that was that.

     There's a decent bagel joint wedged into one corner of the parking lot for the strip mall housing the doctorplex I go to.   It's a short stroll, despite a mean little wall that prevents walking directly from the big parking lot to the smaller one around the bagel shop.  What's fifty feet of sidewalk when a nice toasted, butter poppyseed bagel is on the line? 

     The lack of breakfast and coffee was gnawing at me pretty good by the time I sat down with coffee, bagel and a nice collection of the vitamins, supplements and analgesics I'd skipped earlier.  I was even missing the cranberry juice a little, but there's usually a bottle in the vend-o-bots at work, or at least "cran-grape."

     Few things taste better than a freshly toasted bagel on an empty stomach, especially with a decent cup of coffee. I darned near called in "human" and took the rest of the day off, but duty won out.

     P. S.: There wasn't any cranberry-grape juice in the machine at work.  Two dozen rows of sugary (or artifical-sweetenery) pop, one row of ghastly energy drinks that added extra caffeine, taurine and probably Ovaltine, betadyne or thiotimoline somewhere in the fine print, half a row of iced tea and no juice at all.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020


     Remember, it is entirely normal for a person to swallow an average of eight spiders in their sleep every year.* So it stands to reason that it's also normal to help ensure that your spouse, roommate or the person asleep next to you on an airplane is normal.

* No it isn't. That "eight spiders a year" factiod is specious nonsense.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Presidenting: It Varies

     Politico gives it a click-baity headline, but they take a look at the present and past of Presidential and Executive branch partisanship, press relations and the like that makes for interesting reading.

     I have pointed out before that being Roman Emperor was a position with responsibilities and powers that slowly accrued and evolved; sure, Caesar was the first guy to grab it and hang on until he got stabbed, but it didn't come from nothing and it grew and grew afterward.

     The United States has a long tradition of being willing to entertain doubt, to question our assumptions; it goes back to this country's roots and can be construed as anything from a Zen-like acceptance of contradiction to utter hypocrisy to Socratic self-doubt.  I think that ultimately, it is a strength -- and one we are going to be badly in need of, by and by.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Persistence Of Memory

     Salvador Dali had it right: our clocks are melting, all the sweet green icing running down.*

     Yesterday, a tanker truck carrying four thousand gallons of jet fuel was wrecked and burned on the east side of Indianapolis, shutting down the heavily-used interchange between I-70 and I-465.   Amazingly, no one was killed; passers-by rushed in and pulled the driver to safety.

     This morning, across several channels, TV news people were remarking on the unusual event, musing that nothing like it had happened before.

     But it has.  In October 2009, an LP tanker traveling on I-465 near I-69 on the the northeast side of Indianapolis flipped, caught fire and exploded.  A couple of passing drivers stopped and carried the driver away from the fire.

     History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes; given the amount of traffic on the ring freeway and the preferential routing of hazardous cargo away from surface streets, this is not unexpected.  The remarkable thing is that on both occasions, people stepped up and helped out at considerable personal risk.  --Or are remarkable people, brave people, decent people, a little more common than pessimists would have us believe?
* No, the link's up there.  Click on the asterisk.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Last Night's Debate

     Tamara watched the first forty-five minutes or so of the Democratic debate.  I listened from the next room.  Even from there, it was obvious that Michael Bloomberg was coming in for a well-deserved drubbing.  For a pool of candidates who are already anticipating -- and occasionally, actively -- campaigning against an outspoken, big-money New Yorker who they believe to be racist and high-handed, the former Mayor was easy meat: his major differences to our current President amount to little more than hairstyle, hand size and a far more massaged social media presence.

     That doesn't mean he hasn't got a chance, but if there was one thing all the other candidates on the stage last night agreed on, it was that they disapproved of Mr. Bloomberg.  Made me feel all warm inside for nearly thirty seconds, it did, since it was the single notion that I knew we had in common.  For that matter, it's probably the only thing that they've all got in common with Wayne LaPierre.

     There was only one non-millionaire (at a minimum) on last night's stage (and Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg has years in which to catch up).  When even your fellow top-of-the-heap dwellers loathe you, that should be a message.

     Sometimes common ground is an awfully small patch of dirt.  Sometimes it's the size of Manhattan. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Books: Author In Chief

     It's a fascinating book, and so far scrupulously fair:* Craig Fehrman's Author in Chief.  He looks at past Presidents and Presidential candidates in a way no one else has: as writers.

     It's a useful angle.  Looking at what they have written -- or, in a few instances, caused to have ghostwritten -- sidesteps partisanship and even much of History's judgment to give us glimpses of the men themselves: Jefferson's contradictions, John Adams's uncontainable prose, Coolidge's reserve and dry wit.

     Too often, Presidential biography offers only a choice of hagiography, exposé or a tiresome compendium of dull detail.  Fehrman's having none of that; he moves right along, like a tour guide in a specialized library, picking up individual volumes, discussing their circumstances (the unfolding tragedy that drove Grant's Memoirs is a striking example), style, substance and the writer's literary background.  He looks at each man square on, describing flaws and strengths without rancor or bias, and then moves on to the next.  Like any good guide, his path is slightly discursive and looping, knitting together a coherent historical narrative.

     I find myself making notes on the books he mentions that I'd most like to read.

     The author himself, I learned this morning, is a local boy, more or less ("lives in Indiana," which covers a lot of ground).  The book is national in scope.  It's worth reading.
* A mark of our times: the book stops with the Obama administration.  Somehow, The Atlantic reviewer nevertheless managed to give our current President three fat paragraphs of prose in which political and literary disdain heterodyne in a remarkable jeremiad that has only the least thread of connection to the book under review.  I grew up in a world in which otherwise sane people were seeing Communists under every bed and were even on rare occasion right, a world in which a President evoked vein-throbbing anger, but not even Richard Nixon or the Reds ever managed to be so omnipresent through journalistic loathing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It's The Berries!

     Ordered a "pi-top [3]" Raspberry Pi-based laptop recently.  It arrived last night and I put it together.  Quite a nice toy -- excellent display, good keyboard, built-in battery and it comes with a breadboard that plugs right onto the easy-access bus for experimenting!  Aimed at bright kids but works for adults.

     Not the cheapest pi, but one of the handiest form factors and very useful for hardware I/O.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Why, Bill?

     Big Windows update last night seems to have changed my desktop background.  That's what I get for using the default, but it's still annoying.

     Y'know, the old Bell System could be pretty high-handed, but they never showed up unannounced and repainted my telephone overnight.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Good Old Ford Wrench

     Sometimes known as a "monkey wrench," for no discernible reason, the early smooth-jaw adjustable wrench has largely been supplanted by worm-drive Crescent wrenches and copies, but the older type is nevertheless handy.

     A problem is that many of the old ones are worn out and wobbly.  Old, soft steel, heavy use and designs with weak spots contribute to this.

     So imagine my surprise when I encountered videos of a guy rebuilding old tools using such a wrench that looked new.

     It turns out he sells them.  I saved up and got myself one.  Nice wrench!
     (It's laying on a very rough plot outline for The Veteran, a story I keep tinkering with.)