Friday, August 29, 2014

The Anithixotropic Mechanical Oscillator Cozy

     We ate up the last of the hot dogs last night (don't worry, there's plenty more at the supermarket!) and as I was attempting to apply a condiment, having first vigorously agitated the container, it occurred to me that there was a solution to the "ketchup problem."

     It's a strongly thixotropic fluid; when it's sitting in a nice big glob, it wants to stay a nice big glob and when it decides to go, it lets go all at once, gloop, all over your hot dog or fried-potato product or hot dog.  If you're using the stuff a lot or you like mass-marketed catsup,[1] the simple fix is a squeeze bottle.  At Roseholme Cottage, where  broad-shouldered, thick-necked bottles of Heinz Chili Sauce[2] jostle Jalapeno Ketchup[3] and Asian Sweet Chili Sauce[4] for room in the fridge, that's not an ideal approach.

     However--  In mt bristlebot kits, I have medium-size pager "thumpers" or low-frequency buzzers.  Put a couple of those in cutouts in a can cozy, add batteries and a switch and slip it over the ketchup bottle and voila, the anithixotropic cozy!  Turn it on, wait a bit for the red lead[5] to get all agitated, pour, turn off.

     I've got to test this.  As soon as possible.
1. If you do, give Red Gold a try -- it's got a richer taste than most, at least to my palate.
2. Yes, it's "mass-marketed," too, but it's considerably less bland.  No actual heat, just a delightful flavor.  (Also, check out this hot mustard tip from the blog linked to above.)
3. A "limited edition" and very nice it is, too. Notice how Heinz shows up twice?  Yeah, they're that good at the red-tomato-stuff-you-put-on-sammiches thing. Tam swears by the Jalapeno version and I like it -- despite my not being a huge fan of jalapenos, Heinz does 'em right.
4. Not ketchup per se but a bit thixotropic.  Darned good in the usual ketchup applications and even better on roast chicken.  Better barbecue sauce than most barbecue sauces!
5. With a tip of the ol' Stetson to John Wayne.  Ah-yup.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


     I woke up early this morning, hungry, and tried another version of Eggs Pomodoro, eggs poached in tomato sauce.  And it was good; it's pretty hard to get the stuff wrong,

     Much later, I had a little creamed chipped beef (yes, on toast -- rye toast) for lunch and realized you could poach eggs in this stuff.  Most prepared versions are a bit salty and a couple of eggs would help tame that, too.

     I think it'd be awesome.  Then I got to thinking about various sorts of additions, like sauteed vegetables, maybe hot peppers for the adventurous or baby potatoes and pearl onions for "comfort food," and realized the other thing you could do with creamed chipped beef and [vegetables of choice] would be to pour it into a pie crust, roof it with more of the same, and bake until the crust was golden-brown.  More of a Fall or Winter dish, I think, but at the right time of the year, yum!

Science Fiction: Out Of The Gutter...Into The Dumpster?

     Way back when -- it was well before my time -- science fiction was trash.  Literally as well as figuratively: printed on cheap pulp paper in the form of cheap magazines, the physical artifact had a useful life measured in months.  Surviving examples are mostly faded to a deep tobacco brown and so brittle that each reading does observable damage.  Forrest J. Ackerman's archives were the single largest repository and (at least back then) he wasn't a scholar, just a driven geek with a powerful acquisitive urge.  Sure, there were talented writers as well as hacks; some very good writers worked in the pulp era and many of the best survived and went on to earn money -- a little, anyway -- and fame.

     By the time I was in grade school, SF (and its sibling, Fantasy) was on the way to a measure of respectability, helped along by Heinlein (and a very few others[1]) appearing in the "slicks," mass-market, mainstream fiction magazines modern readers would scarcely recognize (perhaps most notably, or at least most mainstream, the Saturday Evening Post, which offered readers a steady supply of never-banned-in-Boston fiction worth reading), a children's literature market that was chasing the baby boom, and a swelling college population that included plenty of kids who'd grown up reading the pulps.  Not all of them studied science or engineering; some of them were English majors.  Some of them stayed on.

     Fast-forward a few decades and you've got long-established college courses in SF and Fantasy -- and prestigious "collections," libraries of the very same material an earlier generation of academics despised.  Woo-hoo, happy days are here, the Jubilee has done arrived!

     ...Arrived and (hit that fast-forward button again, kid, willya?  What, you'll "just click farther ahead on the timeline?"  Uh, whatever)...turned into dull old stuff.  Turned back into trash.  That selfsame Sturgeon short that was hot, hot stuff in 1952 and still pretty snazzy in 1970 has been stripped of context by time; when a modern-day toiler in the Grove of Academe stumbles over the October, 1952 issue of Galaxy, all she sees is a collection of strangers, mostly male, all white and a good many of them smoking -- and she is more minded to prune than preserve.  Besides, e-books take up way less space and are a lot less likely to have suspicious-looking titles like If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister.[2]

     Something like that is happening right now (and to SF/F work by plenty of non-male, non-white non-smoking writers as well as Bradbury, Leiber and Heinlein) to the Eaton Collection at UC Riverside. Yes, that'd be the University of California, and if CA isn't safe for the crunchy mix of nuts, flakes, loose screws, strong sisters and swingin' swords that comprise (in some mad and sometimes mutually-antagonistic manner) the world of SF and Fantasy, the rest of us had better look the heck out.

     Consider joining in with your friends and (yes) those despicable weirdos over in some other corner, and pushin' back.  It's not so much about getting the love and respect of Lit-ratchure professors -- many of 'em they don't truly love anything that anybody else can parse -- as it is keeping our kewl junk from gettin' thrown out.

     Garbage pail to recycle bin within living memory?  Oh, let's not.
1. Writers who "colored outside the lines" helped, too; while Kurt Vonnegut explicitly rejected being identified as an SF writer and cited the contempt of critics as the reason why, Michael Crichton just wrote near-future and contemporary speculative fiction and ignored any crossover with the robots-and-spaceships crowd.  You can bet a goodly percentage of their readers went looking for "more stories like these" and found SF and Fantasy.

2. Which is not the Sturgeon short to which I refer.  You can hunt that one up for yourself; I left plenty of clues.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BlogMeet Ahoy! Abaft The August Stern...

     Or some such nautical thing.  It will be after the Indy 1500 Gun Show this coming Sunday.  Official start time is just a little earlier than full "after:" 3:00 p.m. at the Broad Ripple Brew Pub, we will be having an Indy BlogMeet.  Be there!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bug Minions! Attack!

     It's cicada time again at Roseholme Cottage (and the neighborhood).  It's an off year for them, so just a skeleton guard of reserve forces is out, occasionally sputtering into silence for a heat-shocked minute or two until, oppressed by the silence, one lone fellow sings out, "Hey, baby, baby, baby, yeah, YOOOOOOOO!!!" and the rest join in again.

     Twice now, I've gone outside in the morning to discover an empty husk clinging to the foundation while nearby, the new-freed adult is waiting for his wings to set, patiently immobile, almost done.  Both time, they have flown, buzzing, right over my shoulder when I got too near.

     Naturally, I'm starting a new collection of empties, those two and two more found nearby:
     I'm gathering my forces!  Today the window ledge, tomorrow--  Who knows.  The sky's the limit, at least for the few, hot, cicada-haunted weeks as they do their duty and produce a new generation to haunt underground for years, quietly feeding until that day when the heat and time elapsed combine to produce the irresistible itch to climb up and up towards the light, to molt, climb higher, and yell their fool heads off, muting their on ear while they sing.

     Ugly bugs or silly, romantic trolls? Possibly both.  I continue to like them, singing the song of summertime.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What I Did Over The Weekend


The Sweltering

     It was hot this past weekend, beastly hot and humid.  Doing much of anything outdoors meant perspiration-soaked clothing, and I mean flippin' wet.

     Slightly daunted but undeterred (and equipped with several day's supply of T-shirts), I set out to complete the project I had set for the week off: expanding my office bookshelves.
     Petty snazzy, huh?  It's all done except for the shimming and Kreig-fastening to the full shelf next to it.  This one has a tall shelf at the top for microphones and smaller one below it for old cameras and telegraph keys.

     The vertical support at the far right is rabbeted and the shelves are notched to lock the assembly together and keep the vertical flush with the back of the shelves.  This solves the problem of clearance and access, or at least lets me decide on a shelf-by shelf basis which one gets precedence.

     Will this let me finally unpack all my radio books?  Probably not.  But it's a big step in that direction.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ahhh! Cool Air!

     I don't care what the Lovecraft character said.  When it's hot outdoors, I like cool air. 

     The weather has turned disagreeably hot this past week.  Roseholme Cottage has air-conditioning sufficient to keep the place generally comfortable, but it also still has the original 1924 layout of registers and cold-air return.  By the evidence (glass-brick coal scuttle, marks of the old coal bin walls in the basement floor and on the joists overhead, the floor-footprint encircling the present furnace) back then, a coal-burning monster heated the place, possibly without even benefit of forced air and for cooling-- Well, there are plenty of windows.  There are plenty of registers, too: one per room.  In 1924, you didn't want to run supply ducts any farther than necessary and as a result, registers in the bedrooms are just one side of the doorway.  As a result, cooled or warmed air is pumped in...and promptly high-tails it down the hall, around a corner, and back into the return grille in the dining room!

     One fix for that is to head into the basement with ductwork, tin snips and chopsaw, proceeding to relocate the supply registers next to outside walls far away from the doorways -- but that takes time and money, not to mention moving a lot of furniture.  It's not that much trouble in the winter; warm air tarries at the ceiling and circulation is adequate.  Summertime, my room is okay, Tam decamps from her attic to the living room futon, but the office--!

     The office is toasty by mid-afternoon, sweltering by evening.  Two PCs, monitors and peripherals add their heat to the air and all the cold air goes out the door as soon as it arrives.  Something had to be done.
     This is "something."  Two feet tall, hastily-hacked, it makes a big difference in the room.  Throwing the cool air out and up, it turns over the air in the room, helping to push hot air out and providing a gentle breeze for the occupants.

     I have been muttering for years about buying a couple of the big cylindrical cardboard forms sold for pouring deck foundations and using them as elevated duct extensions -- but they are heavy, large and would be awkward. (Also, Huck the tomcat would climb them.  Madcap highjinks would ensue, endangering fragile items.)  This scaled-down version is doing the job so far.  Why didn't I try this sooner?

Saturday, August 23, 2014


     A bacon-Hatch chili-radish-olive-Kentucky bourbon BellaVitano cheese omelet:
     It was gooood. Bacon kissed with mixed pepper before frying, a little dehydrated onion in with the chilies, a few sesame seeds in the pan right before the egg mixture went in (some mashed saltines, some milk and a dab of water), and a sprinkle of hot paprika and cilantro right before serving.  'Cos I can.

Posting From Bed

     Tamara has been using a Microsoft Surface for laptop-type tasks for some time now.  I liked the look of it but Microsoft's prices sounded crazy to me until, earlier this week, I found refurbished Surface RTs for sale at prices well within what last week's overtime earned me.

     The crazy little dime-thin keyboard works well and while Blogger complains about the browser, it does seem to work.

     And thus I find myself having vacation-overslept, posting from bed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

There's No Accounting For It...

     She's best known for the anti-suburban anthem Little Boxes. I kinda like Malvina Reynolds' songs, though I'd be hard pressed to say why.  Politically, we couldn't be farther apart on most issues, other than a certain suspicion that too few people have too much power (though I do share her chortling glee when the underdog strikes back, as in The Battle of Maxton).

     On the other hand, there's no hidden agenda with Reynolds; she was who she was and never shied away from it.  (Sometimes she was decades ahead of her times, in a most disconcerting way: she was denied a high school diploma because of her parents public opposition to U. S. involvement in the war -- World War One, that is).  Reynolds was, indeed,  a "Social Justice Warrior," but with her, it was no fuzzy, comforting groupthink: like her lyrics, it went right to the bone.  I respect someone like that, even while disagreeing.

     More songwriter than songbird, most of her work was written and performed while in her 60s, an age when most people's singing voices have picked up an excess of "character;" her songs are better known in cover versions and perhaps none more than Little Boxes, of which I am happy to link to Sammy Rae's fun and graceful version.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Little Spot Of Sunlight -- Or Possibly Whiskey...

     So, the ebola patients in Atlanta are cured and walkin' around, as free as lepers; the Missouri Mishandling continues to run its inevitable course (if I lived there, I'd be leaving, several days ago; as used to be the case with ebola, it will just have to burn all the way through.  Like leprosy before modern medicine came up with a treatment, it's going to be disfiguring.)  The news is, as ever, bad trending to worse ("So be sure to tune in next time and remember, kids, that's Borax Powder®™ and Bleach®™ for effective treatment -- but not mixed together!"), so let us turn our attention back to a simpler, happier time, when beat cops occasionally handed out impromptu street justice and Federal Agents hunted down alcohol distributors with tommyguns and Coast Guard cutters.

     Meet William Frederick McCoy (bootlegger), as Wikipedia calls him; he called himself "an honest lawbreaker" and looked to John Hancock as a model.  An innovative entrepreneur, McCoy is credited with the notion of smuggling vessels parked just outside the three-mile limit as well as the handy prism-shaped package of six bottles, padded, stacked 3-2-1 and sacked.

     His criminal career came to an end when government enforcers dug out and dusted off the Maritime Act of 1790, which extended the territorial limit from three miles to twelve in cases of vessels engaged in fraudulent pursuits.  This was the beginning of the present twelve-mile limit, blessed by international agreement in 1982, and the end for Bill McCoy, who was stopped and boarded by the United States Coast Guard.  The Coasties found a good stock of booze belowdecks and that was that.

     No mobster, McCoy plead guilty, admitting, "I have no tale of woe to tell you. I was outside the three-mile limit, selling whisky, and good whisky, to anyone and everyone who wanted to buy." He served less than a year, invested in real estate and boat-building upon release, and returned to the sea he loved, this time without a cargo deemed contraband by Constitutional amendment.   He lived well past Repeal and died at sea aboard his private yacht in 1948, the last of the honest pirates.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Frikkin' Ferguson

     One of the most frustrating thoughts for me about the mess in MO is that for every person each side of the nightly confrontations-and-worse, there are at least ten people at home nearby, huddled with their hands over their ears, or listening all too alertly for much too long, hoping it will all go away.  Armed or not, if the mob turns on them, it may not matter much.

     And everyone -- all of us -- see it through a filter, ours and whatever else gets by unawares, and so it becomes a story about police militarization, opportunistic criminals, about the way a young African-American can't get a break or why hitting a cop is a majorly bad idea, about racism or stateism, about people too ready to protest without knowing the facts or cops too ready to escalate, on and on, yadda-yadda and somewhere in there are four-year-olds who don't know why Mommy is so scared or how come there's shouting outside at night.  And y'know what?  I think that's who the story is really about, and and we're not gonna find out how it turns out for another fifteen or twenty years.

     That is, we won't find out for that long unless one side or another manages to burn the place to the ground along with innocent bystanders stuck in the middle, Moms and children included.

     Oh, I'm not claiming moral equivalence, I'm not even really telling you "think of the children" (if Mom had any sense, she'd be getting out of town by daylight -- though how would you feel if that was your house and your kid and your long walk to the Greyhound station?). The various police agencies involved haven't been saints and some of them have been well less than clever, but they're largely reactive and are, at least in the long term, accountable and could even be made to sweat considerably by the kind of legal and political pressure that could be brought to bear by the dimes and influence of the sheer number of night-time protesters alone...if they were doing something along the lines of stroking the media, lawyering up and renting a few politicians instead of posturing, throwing things and generally trying to bring back the kind of terror Vikings once brought to the British Isles.  But fond though I am of order and quiet, it's costly and difficult to keep when purchased by the blood of brutes and fools -- a well-run police state is quiet and orderly but it's not free.

     Ferguson is unwinnable for either of the recognizable sides; only the barbarians can win and their victory will be ash and ruins.  If you're on the side of the police or you think Michael Brown was murdered, either way the side you need to be on is the one that involves courts and lawyers, charges and trials.  The mess can't be fixed by riots nor by riot police.  Maybe the underlying problems can't be fixed at all but they won't play any more sweetly knee-deep in blood.

     But as long as every last blind one of us looks at the elephant and imagines it to be like something we think we already understand, it will keep being a problem until the loudest get bored.