Tuesday, December 01, 2015

It's A Joke, See?

     No, it's just divisive--

     If the punchline of your "joke" boils down to HURR HURR HURR LOOKIT THOSE IDIOTS REACT, please don't tell it to me and give serious thought to not telling it at all.  This includes donating to a cause not universally supported in the name of someone who opposes it.  It's not funny, merely tribal and, if the conflict is over deeply-held feelings, needlessly cruel.

     This applies even if "they'd do it to you."  There are people in this world who'd skin you alive for a pack of smokes and even so, you don't get to make lampshades out of them.  If you think you ought to, you are no better than they are.

     Be the grown-up you'd like to see in the room world.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Colorado Horror: Don't Be Stampeded

     In the scant few days since a lone gunman shot several people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, my TV and my Internet feed have been hemorrhaging the de-damnedest slurry of thin facts, howlingly partisan BS, grasping at straws, straining at gnats and swallowing Camels whole -- probably while they're still lit.  Everyone from the President of the United States, eager to ride his own gun-control hobbyhorse, to conservatives desperate to disclaim the killer -- really guys, look at him and ask yourself what is more likely, that this guy is C. Jenner's long-lost soul-sister, or that he was too busy being gnawed at by his own mind to tick the right box on a voter's registration form?

     Hey, you know what?  It's over; it was over the moment the police took him into custody and now there's nothing but a long, dull police-work slog back through the timeline, figuring out what happened when.  "Why" is probably always going to be at least a partial mystery: there is no perfect window into other people's thoughts.  Eventually, such facts as are findable will be found; eventually, this criminal will end up in court.

     What this isn't -- what no situation like this is -- is a shadow screen for anyone to project their pet causes on.  Not "progressives" trying to paint anti-abortion people with this crime (they didn't do it.  One individual did), not "conservative" pundits pointing to it as evidence of the chaos spawned when people don't do things as they were always done in some idealized past, not gun-banners or even those of us who think more people ought to get trained and carry sidearms.  The reality is you can't stop crazy, not 100%.  Never have, never will: given that society operates under a baseline assumption of peace,* the attacker will always have the advantage of surprise and whatever defense there is will be struggling to get ahead.  Given the will to do harm, harm will be done; you need look no further than the highly-controlled environment of a prison to see that this is true.

     Every person with an applicable agenda to push and a soapbox to declaim from will be trying to use this horror -- but remember the underlying reality: people are dead and one man initiated force to kill them.  Nothing will change that.  This is not how differences are resolved; it's not how the vast majority of even the most committed foes and supporters of abortion address their conflicts over the issue.
* Yes, it does.  Maybe you're in Condition Orange 24/7/365, but most people aren't.  And they're not going to be.  The majority of  people aren't wired up for that.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


     It's probably a good thing I'm a slow riser.  At least, good in terms of my eating a proper diet.  You see, The Dancing Donut is located between Roseholme Cottage and my work.  I can count on being able to stop by once a week, maybe twice if neither of my days off falls on Monday, when they are closed.

     If I could find time to go there every morning, I probably would.

     Their menu changes very slowly.  I have been working my way through it, starting with items I knew I'd enjoy, like "Nutella the Hun," a donut filled with Nutella-based cream and rolled in cinnamon sugar, and "Fritta Astair," an excellent apple fritter. 

     Yesterday, I bought a couple of innocent-looking, regular-sized powdered-sugar donuts, figuring they were nothing special, just a good, dependable standard.  They even call them the "Plain Jane."

     I underestimated them.  By a lot.

     At one time -- and it wasn't that long ago -- there were still a few hole-in-wall* coffee & sinkers joints left around town.  Most of them fried cake-type batter in deep hot fat, producing a slightly chewy-crunchy crust around a light and airy inside.  Served up still hot after a quick roll in cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, they were a genuine treat, one I haven't had in over twenty years -- and  the ones Dancing Donut makes are exactly that kind, but even better.  It's a taste treat from the past!  Not the cheapest place to buy donuts but my, oh my -- and their cappuchino's good, too.
* In some cases, without even much of a wall -- there was one by the 24-hour laundromat in Carmel in what appeared to be a former Fotomat booth.  It was worthwhile to time one's laundry to finish just as their first batch of the morning came off the cooling rack.  Yum!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"The Stuff You Only Thought You Owned"

     Intellectual property, that is.

     Amazon's The Man In The High Castle is wildly popular amoung my friends at work -- most of whom appear to be watching bootlegged copies, passed hand-to-hand on thumbdrives.

     They rave about the special effects, the detailed worldbuilding,* the way in which Arendt's "banality of evil" is shown and so on -- but they're missing something.  Dollars are votes; dollars are ratings points.  If you like this kind of detailed science-fictional drama and want to see more of it, the only way you have to signal that back to the people who produced it is to pay for it.

     If you will only watch it if it is free, eventually all you're going to see is content produced cheaply enough that it's worthwhileto give it away; you'll get embedded commercials and you'll learn to like them, and/or utter drek, badly written, poorly acted, clumsily shot.  Or you'll see ever-stronger digital rights management, and ever stricter legal punishments for breach of same.

     Dollars are votes.  If you like it and want more, don't steal it, buy it.
* Though I could swear in the pilot, the license plate "WGG 055" showed up on more than one vehicle.  Details like this are the bane of continuity and prop people.

Friday, November 27, 2015

You Know, It's Odd...

     ...My fried mashed potatoes are not all that great as such things go (they really need a binder -- either mix in an egg or coat them in plenty of flour or even roll them in grated raw potato) but I sure do eat them up fast when I make them!

     Bacon, eggs and mashed potato pancakes, my favorite next-day breakfast after a holiday meal.  I'd post a photograph but, yes, they didn't last that long.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner

     The deviled eggs were a new addition.  I had three hard-boiled eggs in the fridge -- but no mayo!  (I don't use it as a condiment; Tam often keeps a little but today, no.)  But it turns out coarse mustard and a little milk is all you need to mix with the egg yolk for a very tasty filling.

     Turducken, skin-on mashed potatoes with bacon gravy (plus turducken drippings) and a nice green salad filled out the bill.  I had coffee and a Pimm's with lemonade, Tam a soda and a nice craft beer.


     "Shaddup, smile and enjoy the turkey!"

     ...I say this because for some of us, that's what our memories of this holiday -- any holiday -- are: something to be got through.  Here at Roseholme and with Tam as co-conspirator, I have largely reclaimed the day, with traditions like turducken, bacon-based gravy and taking a little time out to remember what we are thankful for (regular paychecks, cats, readers and friends, among others).  It's a good day.

     But in honor of years upon years of polite silence and gentle -- albeit forced -- smiles, here are The Rules Of My Family's Thanksgiving Dinner (etc.):

     1. No matter what you brought, it was a disappointment and/or someone can't eat it or dislikes it.  This works like mortar and pestle with:

     2. Rejecting the food is rejecting the person and you are bad and wrong to do so, no matter how politely you demur.

     1 and 2 concatenate ratchetwise rather than algebraically: When  $RELATIVE turns their nose up at the dressing you spent great time and effort on and made both with and without oysters,* there will be raised eyebrows and treacly sympathy that your cookery has never been very good; when you pass up the candied/mashed/French fried yams, you who have never eaten yams other than a horrifying taste every year to recall that the taste, texture and combination of seasonings used on them are all repugnant to your palate, why, you're a horrible person, especially after $RELATIVE_A, $RELATIVE_B and $RELATIVE_C  all spent hours over their particular preparations of the dire root.  Don't you love any $RELATIVE?

      3. After the meal, $THE_MEN will sit and hoot at sporting events on the television, while $THE_WOMEN are required to retreat to a world of table-clearing, dish-washing, changing poopy diapers, and rendering permissive babysitting and minor first-aid† to $THE_CHILDREN.  No member of any of the three groups -- or worse, any combination thereof -- should ever, ever take a half hour out from the fray to read a book and recharge.  That's just utterly antisocial, uncaring and probably evidence of unAmericanism. (And this in a family of readers.  I don't understand it.)

     4. No matter what, someone will leave in tears ($THE_WOMEN and $THE_CHILDREN) or cursing ($THE_MEN).  These are firm lines and should any of the first two groups say as much as "drat" or "shit-oh-dear," there will be tsk-tsking at the very least. $THE_MEN, of course, do not cry; they just turn the television up louder.

     5. No matter what you wore, it was wrong, either too casual, too formal, or just plain weird.  Family Thanksgivings at their peak looked like a particularly unimaginative masquerade, and no one approved of anyone else's choice.

     Earlier this morning, I made three pieces of toast and dropped one.  I called it Very Bad Names and Tam told me to not stress out.  She doesn't entirely realize how very much less stressed I am, compared to the past.

     I'm thankful for Thanksgiving at home, in my house, eating things Tam and I both like.  I believe this is the seventh one, and one of the few where I won't have to scurry off to Family Thankspurgatory a day or two later; this year, they're having it on my work day and a considerable distance away.  Yeah, y'all have fun with that, mmmkay?

     Incidentally, Tam loathes yams, too.
* Surely mine is not the only family that makes oyster dressing?  It's good.  Haven't had it in years; you see, mine was never really up to par in the serving line....
† Temporary and moderately indulgent child-overseer is the best of these jobs, if you ask me.  Too many members of the distaff subset of $RELATIVE pick fights over the dishes, which is then a good excuse to dash from the room weeping and get some time alone.  Turns out you're still in dutch if they catch you reading, though.  Um, so I hear.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pro Tip

     Do not shake the milk bottle after loosening the top.  Really don't.  Especially if it's a new, full bottle.

Turducken: Found!

     I went by the grocer's almost by chance last night; I'd been planning to pick up a couple of nice Cajun meals at Yat's but (as usual) there were no parking spaces for a couple of blocks in any direction.  So I went to the market instead.

     The meat counter only had one person at it, so I gave the row of cooler cases a looking over -- and there were three boneless* turduckens just sitting there, unclaimed!  Seen and asked for, quick as that.

     Hadn't been sure what we to do for the entree, come the day (I was pondering a day-before cooked whole chicken or turkey breast from the deli counter) and now it's solved itself.  I picked up some good applewood-smoked bacon to make gravy, plus some salad.  Potatoes were already in hand and there we go.
* I don't think there is any other kind.  Fresh Market nevertheless labels them that way every year, so I'm passing the verbiage on to you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Eye Doctor Follow-Up/Nightmare In Gold

     Went back in yesterday afternoon, too see if things had stabilized.  They had, which I had thought would be the verdict.  My big gray floater has mostly moved off to the side, the flashes seem to have ended, the black specks still hover at the edge of my vision (leaving me, from time to time, reacting to things that only I can see but which are really there, just very near and tiny instead of farther away and huge) and the hordes of tiny ones are as ignorable as ever.

     It's more weird than horrible and remember, this is the good outcome.  As I understand it, if you're nearsighted enough, it's practically inevitable that something like this will happen -- and the other things like this involve retina tears or detachment.  Instead, the big blob of gel that fills the eye came away from my retina and some floaters got in, really the lest-bad outcome by a very wide margin.

     This is all well and good but in the meantime, arranging things so the ophthalmologist can take a very good look involves not the usual simple set of eye drops but three different ones: a topical numbing agent (!) and two different dilating ones.  Last time, it was a fine gray fall day and I went out for leisurely lunch afterwards, shielded by my sunglasses.  Yesterday, the plan was to go back to work.

     That was the plan, and a fine cold, clear day it was.  I put my sunglasses on as the doctor walked me back to the lobby and even there, I was noticing light sources and brightly-illuminated surfaces had a bit of a glow, a sunburst or "glory" effect. It was a bit after 4 p.m. when I paid up and walked out, squinting -- and was blinded by the glare when I turned to go west on the sidewalk!  If I looked up facing the Sun, there was nothing but a golden fog, though which slightly darker shapes drifted.

     By looking down and holding up a hand, I made it to the corner and around to my car.  I flipped down sun visors and managed to drive slowly down shady side streets to home, a bit under a mile and all stoplights or 4-way stops, and by that point, I was plain done.  The sun was streaming into the kitchen over the cafe curtains* and bouncing from the tiled surfaces and it was somehow worse than outdoors.  Bright golden lances were coming in the dining room widows and through the "piano window" high in the living room wall, but at least it was dimmer.  My bedroom is set up with blackout shades and curtains; I threw my coat on a hook and headed there mostly on somatic memory.  Sat in the dark and thought; called my boss and confessed I was not going to be back and why, and laid down. Ten minutes later, work rang back with a trivial question, which was both insulting and predictable: it was a fine, sunny day, and I suppose someone whose pupils weren't so dilated you could barely see the iris might've been tempted to play hooky.  Me, after that call I tried looking at Facebook on my phone through sunglasses (not a good idea, too bright), then laid in the dark until I fell asleep.

     The cats woke me at their dinner time, which was after sundown -- sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat proved necessary to cope with the overhead lights and I still found looking up was not a good idea.  The computer room/study was a particular nightmare; the kitchen was bearable  I grabbed myself a little snack while the cats ate and returned to the blissful darkness.  At some point, I woke up again and changed to sleepwear,† turned on my Kindle with the brightness way way down, and started a new story in the anthology I was reading.  It was about a landing on Mercury that turned out to be too close to the sunward side.‡  For some reason it was particularly vivid.  I still fell asleep halfway through.
* Boys, that means the curtain rods are only about halfway up the windows.  This is normally a nice, sunny arrangement.  Yesterday it was more of a nightmare.  I find I have a little more sympathy for vampires than previously.
† For the imaginative, I am sorry to ruin whatever image you have but at this time of the year, heavy flannel is standard.
‡ It was an old story -- it turns out Mercury isn't stuck with one side facing the Sun after all, and there went some striking SF images.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Learned The Truth, It's Seventeen

     (With apologies to singer-songwriter -- and SF fan! -- Janis Ian).  I was going to write a brrrr-ific post about how the outside temperature was in the 20s and only a couple of days ago we were still enjoying highs in the 50s and whine a little bit about Nature and Its Wonders and maybe snark a little.

     Then I thought, I'd better check the temp or some petulant neckbeard will show up in comments and chide me over it having "...ackshully been thirty degrees...."

     Yeah, dream on.  As I write this, the official Indianapolis temperature is 17ºF, with wind chill making it feel like 8ºF.  Eight. Flippin. F. Degrees.

     I got nothin' for that.  I'm gonna go snuggle with the cats.  You call me up about Springtime.