Monday, April 24, 2017

Finally, A Garden...?

     Not quite.  After a year (a year!) or tarping-over the raised bed in front of the house, I laid down permeable barrier cloth and began to commence to start over -- about two bags of topsoil short of the mark!  There was enough to start the solitary herb that will live among the flowers (rosemary) and to cover most of the barrier. 

     Tamara, who already provided the rosemary, will pick up a couple more bags of topsoil today and with any luck, I'll be planting mixed-wildflower seeds this evening.

     Meanwhile, the hostas and ditch-lilies flourish, the stonecrop is doing well (and I'd like to add to it, more stonecrop and possibly tall yarrow at the back) and the wild violets are running wild and the little white flowers that carpet the front yard have passed their peak.  The little patch of mint is doing all right but might like a bit of the topsoil to help out.  This is gardening-by-default: I'm growing what grows mostly on its own.  The stonecrop and mint are additions that have worked out; the rest was already here.

     First mowing of most of the front yard was last week and the rest of it it will have to be tonight or tomorrow night, ahead of predicted rain Wednesday.  I'm always reluctant to get too aggressive as long as the little wildflowers are blooming; grass and weeds are one thing but it seems wrong to be buzz-cutting flowers.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Return To Peru

     To the Peru Hamfest, that is -- it's an amateur radio swapmeet, officially the North Central Indiana Hamfest, organized by ham radio clubs in Cass, Maimi and Grant Counties and the city of Kokomo, which includes a lot of my "old neighborhood," neighborhoods being kind of large in rural Indiana.

     It's always a good one, not huge but full of interesting items.  I passed up a few I probably shouldn't, like big variable capacitors and roller inductors, but I came away with several vacuum tubes (6BG6s, a kind of 6L6 with a plate cap or an 807 with an octal base, a "sleeper" beam power tube that is often overlooked) and a wooden-boxed Western Union-tagged AC voltmeter built by Daven, with a nice Weston meter.  If the meter itself is still good, it may be a useful item.  If not, it'll at least be decorative.
     Here's the meter.

     One the way back, Tam and I stopped off at the Grissom museum.  Grissom AFB (formerely Bunker Hill) was a big SAC base, now AF Reserve, and the little museum there has a nice assortment of unusual aircraft -- including one of the odd-looking drones intended for the SR-71!   Tamara got a lot of photographs before we proceeded onward to Kokomo and dinner at a chain steak joint,* and the on to a good-sized antique mall on the south side of Kokomo.

     I found an interesting device -- while the little buzzer/light/code key toys aren't uncommon, this one is, an "Official Scout Signaler," with a wrinkle-finished metal case.
     Good luck trying to signal a Scout with it: Boy Scouts haven't been required to lean the code in decades and from my experience, Girl Scouts never were.  The water-slide decal is starting to curl and I'm not sure what to do about it.
Tamara Keel photo

     I also bought a set of full-sized "gas burner pliers" in good shape.  Small ones are still made and either size has two or three sets of jaws milled into the gripping end, intended to grip round surfaces.  They're pretty handy.  The same seller had nice small green-shaded hanging lights, fully restored.  I bought one for my hamshack and it looks like it will be a better fit than some of the ones I have looked at in the past.

     A fun day!  We got home around 4:00 p.m. and I laid down and promptly fell asleep for four hours: quite a lot of driving, and it does wear me out.
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* The Amish place across from the museum looked pretty darned busy. Plus I think Tam harbors a secret fear they'll kidnap her to a life of children, kitchen work and the church.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

No One He Knows Voted For The Guy

     Adam Gopnik at the venerable old New Yorker magazine can, on a really bright day, almost see himself in a mirror -- but he still can't see what's over his shoulder.  In this regard, he has less vision than the late Pauline Kael, who was self-aware enough to muse, “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”

     Mr. Gopnik seems to feel only outraged disappointment at the voting public, and pure outrage not only at Mr. Trump, but at any reporter or commentator who looks for the least scrap of Presidential behavior by the current President.  --Where Mr. Gopnik was when then-President Obama responded to a critic with, "We won," I don't know, but cheering from the sidelines is probably a good bet.

     I was hoping for balance and what I got was a screed; I'm no fan of Mr. Trump (and was far less a fan of his opponent) but like Mr. Obama, he did indeed win.  Screaming and whining, especially under the headline, "The Persistence of Trump Derangement Syndrome," communicates only one thing: TDS is here to stay.  I already knew that.

     On the wider stage, Presidential Derangement Syndrome has been with us for at least decades and probably longer; it is easier for most people on the losing side of an election to believe the current President is a scheming thug than admit that, state by state, a majority of their fellow citizens* made a choice they dislike.  Yeah, well, they do.  They have been doing so all my life.  Get over it and move on, or continue to be led by addled commentators.  Commentators like...ahem.  Oh, hi, Adam.
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* "...state by state, a majority..."  This is how the Electoral College works.  It's how it has always worked. And it's okay to dislike the outcome; you are not also obliged to disparage the process simply because you don't like the current results.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Oh, The Dentistry!

     Yes, I'm up at oh-dark-thirty because I'm due -- overdue! -- for a cleaning and exam.  I try to schedule these things outside of work hours, helped by the fact that I start my work day after the bankers (but it ends well after the cows have come home).  All the dentist had available was the very first appointment of the day, and her day starts before the rooster crows.

     Which is why I'm up so early, and perhaps explains why this odd mix of livestock and bankers are milling around in front of my mind's eye.

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     On another medical note, maybe the prescription anti-inflammatory is doing something. It had better; since all I can take is acetaminophen and I'm trying to stay at 50% of the maximum dose so I have some reserve capacity if things get bad, I'm out of OTC painkiller options.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Physical Security: It Works

     They say, "Locks only stop an honest man," but down at Bradis Guns, on the southwest side of Indianapolis, locks, block walls and a stout door stymied would-be thieves, who tried to use a couple of stolen cars to ram their way into the building and then tried to shoot the lock off the front door.

     It didn't work.  They drove away empty-handed.  Police are looking for a black Hyundai Accent, presumably a bit dented.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

About Those Anti-Inflammatories

    So far, less effective than the ibuprofen.  Kind of a lot less effective.  But I'm only 24 hours into them.

Then The P.S.

     So I went and saw the doctor yesterday; she added an anti-inflammatory to the witch's brew of colorful candies I'm taking and told me to stop taking ibuprofen, as the two work in similar ways and taking them together is too darned much.  (Tylenol is still on the menu, as is a baby aspirin per day.)  So, fine, fine, in and out with minimum damage and something new to try--

     And then, after a perfectly lovely day working in the construction zone at work, barely ahead of the carpeting crew and getting in the way (a little) of the electricians hanging lights and the ceiling-tile guys (a lot) on their tall stilts, I get back to my desk and my cell phone, which has the message light blinking: Nurse Adam, calling to tell me that the doctor meant to send me over for labs, and could I please drop by at my convenience?

     Yeah, sure.  But not this morning, because it was more convenient to make a mushroom, mozzarella and bacon omelette, in compensation for my English muffin and coffee breakfasts the past two days and the "probably none at all" I will enjoy (?) on Friday before heading up to see the dentist before dawn is hardly broken.

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     By the way, it works perfectly well to microwave the mushrooms (2 - 3 minutes) instead of taking the time to pan-fry them, and it's probably better for you.  Portobello, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, a nice combination and sold in about the right amount for a three-egg omelette.  I added exactly one (1) crumbled Ritz cracker to the egg mix, which worked fine, cooking just a bit fluffy and quite sturdy enough to fold over.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Off To The Doctor Again

     Eye doctor yesterday, regular doctor today.  I feel like I should start a long, pointless and vaguely horrifying story about lumbago or psoriasis or possibly geloso,* but I won't.  That medical stuff is pretty dull or pretty dire and either way, best not explored in detail.  No, I don't have any of those ailments.

     Spent some extra time at work last evening, running last-minute wires. The network cable we ordered showed up.  The carpet guys showed up, unloaded half their stuff, left "to pick up the rest" and flaked off for the day instead of returning.  A win for my side, not so great for the contractor's project manager.  Flooring crews tend to be sensitive, artistic types, or perhaps just finicky because the other trades literally walk all over them.  Good to get done but it takes its toll -- got home way late, did laundry while eating pizza Tam had ordered, and went to bed.
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* The latter actually a brand of amateur radio equipment by Italian-American John Geloso, who went back to the Old Country after WW II to build it, doing well while doing good.  But I wanted to throw in a ringer and it seemed to fit.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Can't Think Of A Headline

     (Title with a tip of the ol' poetic license to Vincent Furnier, who knows how to hang a lantern on a lack of inspiration.*)

     Had a lovely shopping trip yesterday afternoon and picked up some of the materiel needed to get the raised flowerbed out front going.  It was a weed-filled disaster last year; I finally put a tarp over it and gave up.  This week, as time permits, the worst weeds under the tarp will get dug out, I'll lay down a barrier cloth (which I have), secure it with landscape pins (which I don't have), cover it with decent topsoil and sow with assorted wildflowers, plus a few taller ones at the center.

     It's also time to get some more stonecrop for the formerly bare spot next to the steps.  I like the look of the plant and it does all right on that patch or ground; I have been filling it in with more and more of them for the last few years.  The mint and hosta bed wants raked out, too, and I spent a little while sorting out the "Creeping Charlie" (a pervasive though harmless and somewhat decorative edible weed with purple flowers) from the mint -- it likes to sneak in among the fragrant herb and the leaves of the two plant resemble one another, especially early on.

     My front yard is once again overrun with with small white flowers and wild violets, which I am reluctant to mow.  The strip between the sidewalk and street must get mowed this week and sooner rather than later.  In the back yard, the battle between me and the Winter Creeper continues -- I keep pulling it up but it's determined stuff, nowhere near as friendly as the Creeping Charlie.  Winter Creeper attacks trees and will kill them if not kept in check; it grows on fences and gets into the wood of them, too.  There are still plenty of violets out back and --despite my best efforts -- no shortage of dandelions.  I spent some time Sunday evening on a "lion hunt" in the near section of the back yard and out front.  Can't get them all but they can be kept in check -- and I don't really mind one or two, just don't let them know that!
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* As in "We can't even think of a word that rhymes," one of the most recursive lyrics ever, found in the song School's Out.  Yes, that Vincent Furnier.  And now that I have written my piece, I could easily find a title, but I think I'll leave the one I started with for the sake of this footnote.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's Sunday And I'm Still Tired

     I'm sure I have an interesting post for the day in my head somewhere, but this one isn't it.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Work, Work, Work

     I started yesterday at about 10:30 a.m.  I ended about 3:30 a.m.

     See, we have this big construction project at work.  An entire department -- a big department -- has been moved out, their old space stripped to the bare walls, floor slab and the bottom of the floor above, and then rebuilt.  Most of the work is being done by a general contractor -- fixed price, firm timeline, penalties for not meeting milestones; it's nothing to do with me or my peers.

     But we have a little techy infrastructure to put back in, and we're adding a bit more and--  "firm timeline, penalties..." means the contractor has only barely left time for our stuff in their schedule, and even at that, we're dodging electricians on ladders and in the halls, trying not to get tromped on by suspended-ceiling guys on drywaller's stilts, having to untangle fat multicables the elevated-floor crew has trapped around supports, and so on. There's an immovable event starting Monday: carpet is being laid over the elevated floor.  Once it is down, we will have only limited access to underneath at preplanned (and possibly awkward) places.  There were a bunch of wires and cables still to run at the end of the day Thursday and so I got my routine stuff out of the way first thing Friday and then started in as the construction crews faded away early, this being a holiday weekend and all.

     It never goes as you planned.  Some time after starting, I looked up and realized it had gotten dark outside and I was hungry.  Went and had a vending machine burger and went back to it, my dark-brown work dungarees* paled to taupe by the dust, and didn't see the end of it until three, when, a bit punchy and clumsy, I cleared away tools and remaining materiel, put them in their storage locations,† and headed for home.

     At one time, I made that trip at about that time in the other direction twice every three weeks; the drunks aren't any less worrisome when you are headed north instead of south.

     But I think -- I hope! -- that I have enough done that we'll be able to work with it and perhaps add a few extras next week right under the feet of the carpet-layers, without their even noticing.

     I have also once again proven that when you have to pre-measure and cut cables before installing, you need to leave plenty extra: pulling 50-foot-plus cables into a dead-straight "as the crow flies" run that measured 41 feet left me two feet to connect to at each end.  Where's the extra thirty inches?  It's a mystery!
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* Carhartt Double-Fronts.  I swear by 'em.  They are sturdy, comfortable, and have lots of pockets.  Sizing has become kind of variable after they moved production offshore, or maybe just from one offshore location to an even cheaper one, but so far the material and workmanship are still excellent.

† Sadly, not everyone does this.  You want to leave your own stuff out?  Fine.  But shared resources are another thing -- put that stuff back, so the next poor fool can find it!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Police Beatings 101

     You know what the first rule of Police Fight Club is?  You don't want to join it.  Yes, even in this day and age of The Distributed Panopticon and multimillion-dollar lawsuits, there is no amount of money that will bring back the teeth you grew yourself, or make a broken bone heal any faster.  If you want to fight 'em, hold your tongue, hold your temper, bide your time and hire a lawyer.  You won't make as much money, but you'll still be alive to count it.  Remember the maxim popularized by Chris Rock, among others: "If the police have to come after you, they're bringing a beating."

     It would be nice if this weren't so.  It'd be nice if government and civil service jobs were entirely filled by cool, wise philosopher-kings,* too, and while we're at it, how about a cookie?  But that's not how it works.  In the real world, these jobs are filled by the same range of slobs you find in any other line of work.  Most are okay.  A few are jerks.  However -- and here's the critical distinction -- while most everyday encounters are on or very nearly the same level and a determined (or at least stubborn) person can expect to prevail much of the time, this does not hold when you interact with police.  One of you has "sovereign immunity;" one of you has a radio to summon lots of armed help, backed by the full force and might of city, county or state government.  It's not you.

     Does anyone "have a beating coming?"  Under our legal system, no; under the common custom and morality or our time and place, no.  Not ever.  If they do have "something coming," that's for the courts to decide, not the cops.  But alas, Johnny Law has a limited range of options, all of which he is allowed to use if circumstances merit, and only one of them is "gentle persuasion;" every one of the remainder involve some level of force.

     After the fact, it may not be justified; or it may be a lawful use of force that still rankles the popular perception.  Maybe it's an outrage to be followed up by a week of riots. But someone has, nevertheless, suffered a beating.  You don't want to be that guy.

     Want to stop this?  Get more cameras on more officers, in every sense of the phrase.  Write your legislators.  Boycott airlines that offend you.  Wave signs, raise hell!  --Just don't argue it out in the heat of the moment, because in that situation, there is no strategy that can result in you winning. Remember there is one human constant: Police will respond to force with force and it is inherently disproportionate.  You can whup 'em in the courts; you can beat 'em in the media; you can run 'em ragged in City Council or the legislature.  By the side of the road, in an airliner seat, on a sidewalk...?  Not so much.
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* Based on experience, I'm starting to think these Platonic creatures are like unicorns and the Easter Bunny. Never met one.  Don't believe I ever will.

N.B.: I'm going to get some pushback in the form of people accusing me of saying folks ought to knuckle under to jackbooted thugs.  No.  Wrong.  What I'm saying is choose your ground; fight in venues where you've got a fair chance of winning.