Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Can It Be?

     It's getting light earlier.  It's staying light later.  It's not quite as cold.

     I'm still not certain, but it could be that winter might be almost over.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Quantum Quanta!

     Einstein, referring to his skepticism about quantum mechanics, is said to have remarked "God does not play dice."

     Subsequent physics tells us that the dice are, indeed, rolled; and subsequent science journalism is something of a crapshoot, too.

     Sadly, the only probability in the latter is that the journalist, lacking subject-specific expertise and usually working against a deadline, will probably get something wrong.  If the subject is "quantum (whatever), that probability approaches certainty.

     It rarely matters.  Nobody's doing advanced physics using internet filler as a primary source, and the daily practical application you or I have for quantum (whatever) doesn't exist.  Sure, someday it may secure your electronic transactions or supercharge supercomputers, but it hasn't yet.

     Nor has it made time run backwards, but you couldn't've told that from the headlines when some research into the "arrow of time" got sort of quantum-interesting.  Those headlines led of counter-headlines explaining the experiment and its context, or trying to, H. G. Wells, Eloi and all.  And that led into deep and tricky water for one writer.

     He starts out talking about processes that run as well in reverse as forward and uses macro analogies, first an "ideal" model of the Earth orbiting the sun: "Look at that system going forward in time, and the Earth orbits in a clockwise direction. “Reverse” time and instead the Earth will travel in a counterclockwise orbit. Both are equally realistic."

      Yes, that's correct.

     "Or think of two billiard balls colliding. You can run the video in either direction and it still seems physically plausible."

      No! It's not even a good fake unless the pool table is frictionless and the billiard balls are mathematical ideals.

      Entropy is "time's arrow." We can fool our senses into ignoring it but in most physical examples, it's still there, though not always in ways we can see unassisted.

Monday, March 18, 2019

An Excursion

     My friend the Data Viking visited yesterday and we went to the 1500 -- where they were selling an H-bomb!

     No, no, not the real thing.  A training replica of the B61, matching the weight and balance.  The seller was taking bids starting at $10,000.

     I would have bought it, but you know how how it goes -- I get one, the neighbors have to get their own, then I have to get a bigger one, they respond and eventually, we'd all run out of yard space....

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Saturday Breakfast

     The Data Viking says, "It looks like it was already eaten."  Tsk.  It was good!
     Potato, sweet Italian sausage, eggs, mushrooms, sweet orange and red peppers (the long skinny ones), a couple of strips of bacon, Peruvian "Sweety Drops," a little parsley and chives.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Scene, Seen

     I was walking out of the grocery last night, pushing a small cart loaded with a couple of bags groceries when it happened.  A man was backing his SUV out of a space, alternating between looking over his shoulder and watching me and other pedestrians through the windshield.

     It's a tight parking lot, four rows of angled spaces packed into what would be a generous space for three.  With four rows, only the smallest cars can make a smooth job of backing out; most drivers have to do a little back and forth.  This guy was no exception.  He was on the second reversing leg, almost lined up with the lane--

     On the side of the lane opposite where he'd parked, an older long-bed pickup truck wasn't all the way into its space.  It wasn't over by much.  I'd noticed it as something to be aware of, thanks to its shiny wasabi-green paint job and sable-and-cream dual pinstriping.

     The man in the SUV hadn't, quite.  He reversed slowly, carefully, and put his back bumper right into the side of the SUV, behind the left rear wheel.  The pickup truck shuddered on its shocks and the sheet metal crumpled inward.  I'd been watching as I crossed the lane in front of him and did that intake of breath you do when something goes irretrievably wrong.

     By then, I was at the side of my car, thirty or forty feet away. The man in the SUV made eye contact with me, hard eye contact, and I wondered where my pepper spray was, just in case.  He pulled back into the space he'd been parked in before and seemed to be thinking.  I tried to watch him out of the corner of my eye, as he got out, checked his back bumper, and got back his SUV.

      As soon as he shut the door, another man, a redhead with a fringe of beard,  came out of the grocery, walked over to the truck, got in, started it up and looked around.  By then, I was frankly staring, entranced by the tableau.  (It would have been a good time to get in my car and leave, if my best path out hadn't been right between them.)

     The man in the SUV kind of shrugged like he'd made his mind up and rolled down his window.  "Hey, buddy!  Hey!"

     In the pickup, the driver looked around, then rolled his window down.

     "Yeah, buddy?" Mr. SUV got out and walked over to the green truck. "I-- I backed into your truck."

     The redhead said something back, and got out.  Both men walked to the back of the truck and looked at the damage, talking quietly.

     The SUV driver reached for his back pocket.  By then I had put my groceries in my car, and was standing where I could duck behind it.  When he reached back, I flinched.  But he was going for his wallet.

     The redhead held up a hand and shook his head, speaking loud enough that I could hear him, "No.  No, it's okay.  I can fix this myself."

     The two men shook hands, got back in their vehicles and, one after another, pulled out and left.

     Make of it what you will, but if nothing more, it's a pretty good example of how to act like an adult, from both of them.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Tragedy In New Zealand

     Some half-baked loser or group of losers has killed a lot of people in mosques in New Zealand.  Some kind of racist manifesto supposedly linked to the murders has been posted to Web on social media, and is being taken down when found by people who run those venues.

     Part of it allegedly claims one of the reasons the shooter(s) used guns was to get Second Amendment attention here in the United States, which is why I'm commenting.

     I condemn the killings, as any decent person would.  These people were defenseless, at prayer.  It was a heinous attack.

     New Zealand has strict firearms laws, a program of vetting and licensing owners, and restricts access to "military-style semiautomatic rifles."  As ever, evil people intent on evil acts were not deterred by the law. 

     Police in New Zealand have several people in custody.  I expect the rest of the murderous punks will be rounded up shortly.  Say what you will of our modern world, those who commit wicked acts have fewer and fewer places to run, fewer and fewer places to hide.  They will be found and brought to trial.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


     The doctor's appointment wasn't quite as bad as I had feared.  She did chide me, but not too harshly.  She's recommending more oatmeal and less bacon, so it's a good thing I like oatmeal.

     The tentative diagnosis of my sore knuckle is "trigger finger," a tightening of the tendon.  She's written a prescription for a topical ointment.

     Spent the work day at the North Campus, mostly clearing away accumulated stuff and taking apart some of the abandoned-in-place stuff.  Took a long walk around the site, checking fences and locks.  The weather was warm and the ground was only a little muddy.  A lot of the site is gets really squishy in the spring, so this was a good chance to check things out.

     Winter might starting to wind down.  It's about time!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Gone Doctorin'

     Off to the doctor for me this morning.  It's not going to be fun.  She wanted me to try an additional medication and the pharmacy slathered the bottle with "May cause drowsiness/Do not drive or operate heavy machinery" warnings.

     This, after I thought I had raised my concerns that the last time she tried this, the (different) stuff had made it nearly impossible to do my job and had put a stop to all my hobbies.  Look, it's great to keep the ol' machinery made out of meat running, but if the process hobbles the software that runs it, what's the point?  And it's great to get regular medical attention -- but I pay for that by working and if I can't work, well....  She's not going to like this line of thought.  "Big picture" concerns don't mean much to her and she expects her dictates to be followed.  So I may be looking for a new doctor.

     Since her office is not available for anything on short notice -- they want to you take your bad cold or non-urgent injury to the doc-in-a-box -- and she usually pooh-poohs any health concerns I bring -- I can just about count on the swollen knuckle, sore joints and fatigue being shrugged off -- I don't suppose it will be all that much a loss.

     In all the time I've lived in Indianapolis (and nearby), I have only had two doctors I liked and trusted.  Lost track of one of them years ago when I was between jobs; he's the guy who diagnosed and treated the rheumatic fever fare-up I had nearly forty years ago.  The other one fell ill and died much too young.  I really miss him -- he was an absolutely up-front, cards-on-the-table guy, entirely confident in his medical judgement and willing to hear patients out and discuss their health and course of care.  He was a self-admitted hold-out in a world of assembly-line medicine, a man wryly amused that it took a staff of five to run his office, not counting nurses and himself.  The likelihood of ever finding another physician like him is somewhere between zero and none.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Annual Review

     Survived another one. 

     I dread Annual Reviews.  Working my way up, the only time anyone had a "review" was when they were not meeting expectations; there was some hope of improvement or the person would have simply been fired, but it was an indicator of a desperate situation.

     Praise and blame were both rare.  If your bosses thought you were doing your job well, they told you so by continuing to employ you.

     The bean-counters stuck us with annual reviews over twenty years ago.  Initially, it was something of a joke, a few minutes with your immediate supervisor going over a year of work that you both knew very well, let's fill out this form and make the second floor happy and no, we're still not handing out merit increases in pay--

      Then we got a supervisor who had, shall we say, a difficult personality.  He'd save up negative things to bring up in your review in closed-door sessions that might take an hour, sometimes more, with doubts expressed as to one's fitness for this sort of work, more in sorrow than in anger, etc. etc., until you left wondering how you'd been managing give him such a perfect impression of a pathetic loser and half-wishing he would have just fired you and got it over with--

     Do a decade and a half of that and the process begins to get a little stressful. 

     Things have changed at work and it's not like that any more.  Oh, the new guys would be quick to push you overboard if you weren't pulling your weight, and my line of work gets leaner and meaner with every passing week, but they're not big on playing games.  If you're out, you're out; they don't save up for a yearly inquisition and nobody's got time to make the toilers squirm just for a show of managerial keenness.

     So I had my review and it wasn't awful.  Here's hoping I can keep them that way. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

School's Out?

     Last night was the last formal class of the writing group, the last gathering of that interesting bunch of people at the offices of the Indiana Writers Center.

     It's not necessarily over.  The group is organized around an e-mail reflector where we have been sharing our manuscripts and critiques, and it's not going away.  Several of us expressed an interest in continuing the process, and so it will.

     It was a big group, ten at the start.  A few dropped out -- "life happens," especially for part-time writers with full-time jobs and even more so for my classmates who have children.  One, the youngest, never really got started, thanks to persistent e-mail problems and a lack of free time to resolve them.  At least that student was able to audit all but the last class, and I hope it was useful.

     One thing I have learned: my glacial writing pace won't cut it.  I need to write a lot more than I do.

     And another lesson: that swollen and painful knuckle serves as a reminder that the clock is ticking.  If I want to write this stuff, now's the time.  It's easier to type it than to speak it and much easier to edit.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Colcannon For Dinner

     This was our treat yesterday:
     Colcannon, mashed potatoes with greens and some kind of smoked pork, seasoned with onion and parsley.

     This version was made with ham and nice curly kale, lightly cooked before adding to the potatoes.  The milk was heated with chopped green onions, salt and pepper, and it's as good -- and as filling -- a meal as you might expect.  To serve, you make a little "well" in it and fill with butter and parsley flakes.

     There were leftovers.  This morning, I added a little more milk, an egg and a small amount of flour, and fried up potato pancakes.  They were delicious!

     If you have been looking at kale with suspicion, you should try it in this.  It's wonderful.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Saturday Morning

      I went to bed early yesterday -- by which I mean that I sat down on the side of the bed about six, laid back and went out, just gone, no dreams no nothing, crosswise on the bed and on top of the covers. Woke up an hour later, sat up and said, "Wow!  Was I ever asleep."

     From down hall, I heard Tamara, "You were snoring."


     "Sort of pre-snoring, anyway."

     So I thought, What the heck? and went to bed.

     We'd had a busy day and spent the afternoon visiting Indy Reads Books, a used bookstore/charity that runs literacy programs, followed by a late lunch or early supper at the Massachusetts Avenue Yats.

     The return had called for a seven-mile drive in rush-hour traffic, which is not one of my strengths.  The preparatory work for the Red Line bus route has College Avenue narrowed to one lane as it enters SoBro and -- of course -- even after weeks of this, it's all a terrific surprise to many drivers and there's a frantic merging right before the enormous, illuminated, blinking arrows that follow a succession of bright-orange "LANE ENDS" warning signs.  So I had some reason to be tired.

     I woke up around midnight and did some more critiquing for my writing class, neither of them especially easy, though for different reasons. 

     The literary work took until three; I fell asleep again, woke up from a vaguely detective-story nightmare probably influenced by reading Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man and rough novelizations of the next two films.  The general storyline and characters were all very familiar, as if the dream was the latest installment of a long-running series.

     Read a little and drifted off, to wake again much later, from a worse nightmare, one of those "something's gone badly wrong at work" types.  Man, that'll get me out of bed and back into the real world!