Friday, January 31, 2014

Nazzo Fast

     This morning as I was ladling out breakfast,* Tam was bemoaning that she "...needed to turn out 500 words for Z_____† today," and I remarked, with my usual sensitivity and tact, "Aw, you can do that without even sweating blood."‡

     And now here I am, mind as blank as a fresh snowfall before dawn.  That'll learn me to crack wise! Or not.
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* French Toast. This does not normally call for a ladle, even here at Roseholme Cottage, but some mornings...!

† Z_____?  Yes.  "X_____"is clearly useless here as a synonym for "J. Random Contextually-Defined Placeholder Name Instead Of A Real One That Wouldn't Mean Anything To Most Readers Anyway" and I can hardly be expected to spell it out except for this once, so: Z_____.  There's only one problem, that readers may confuse it with "Z," the nickname of Owen Zastava Pitts, whom it ain't and who slays other sorts of monsters in another sort of world.  So that's settled.

‡ Based on the well-known principle that states, "Writing is easy.  All you have to do is stare at a blank page until your eyes bleed."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ow

     My neck hurts.  Still.  Maybe another night's sleep...?

     ETA: Oh, and guess what?  If the replacement part arrives today (Friday), I get to do the same thing that hurt my back all over again!

Your Back, Let Me Strain It For You

     It was either wrestling with tires -- a mess largely resolved by mid-afternoon yesterday, I'm pleased to say, and I drove the Hot Needle of Inquiry home yesterday evening -- or working on an especially awkward rack of vehicularly-mounted RF equipment, but something has done my back no good at all.

     How awkward?  Lay on your belly.  Do so on a porch or landing such that your calves are hanging in the air.  Okay, now rear up so you can reach over a 7" barrier, and reach into and see into a vertical opening 5.25" high by 18" wide by just about two feet deep. On the far back wall of this space, there is a device with a couple of fine-thread F connectors at top and bottom, parallel to the wall and right up against it.  Okay, here's a 12 mm wrench;* disconnect 'em and barrel them together.  There's a 4-degree-F breeze blowing up your coat, the cables are dressed so tight they can't flex back as you loosen the connectors and the uplink vehicle has been out of service for a week and a half.  No pressure!

     By the end of the day, after that and related gymnastics only slightly less awkward, along with giving a high-precision TCXO time to actually stabilize (far longer than you might expect), the thing was, at least, working.  Lacking the widget I bypassed, it is slightly less convenient to operate (you have to set up the same frequency on two different inputs of the monitoring receiver, one for uplink-monitor out and another for the actual return from the satellite) and this is being put forward as a Major Failing, never you mind that it's $250 L-band RF switch not actually required to make the million-dollar truck do its job.

     Come to think of it, the pain in my back is about half sore or strained muscles and half sheer annoyance at being expected to excrete a specific component or make Radio Shack start carrying it in a blister pack for $1.298.  Umm, make that three-quarters real, one-quarter mental.  No, seven-eighths real.

     Aw, to heck with it.  I'm gonna go soak in the tub.  There's a mandatory staff meeting today, probably to tell us how wonderful we all are except for not being wish-granting rainbow unicorns and then announce pay cuts.  I can't hardly wait.
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* Every male F connector in the universe is 7/16" across the flats.  All of them.  Always.  ...Except for the (very high-quality) ones made by Canare.  This works fine if you were expecting it, rather than finding it out after you have got yourself into a position only a contortionist could love and have dropped your very own personal 7/16" wrench into a space you cannot see into and are fishing around for it blindly, hoping the people who built the truck were considerate enough to not put any exposed 120 VAC or high-current 12 VDC back there where you're groping.  Since I am neither dead not burned, you may assume either they were or I was lucky.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Ignored The State Of The Union

     I often do.  Some well-off Harvard or Yale graduate, nattering on, a little about things he doesn't have a firm grasp of and a whole lot of empty, rah-rah claptrap?  Got better things to do with my time, thanks.  (Like change a flat.  Entertainment-wise, it's a step or three better than POTUS SOTU.)

     But the Chicago politician had to return to the topic of gun control like a dog wandering back to snack on a well-remembered pool of his own sick: when it comes to gun control, limiting the basic human right of self-defense, Mr. Obama averred, "I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress...."

     Probably without, especially after the next round of elections.  Philosophy aside for the momemnt, it's a losing issue outside of LA, SF, Chi and the festering oligarchies of New England but he just can't keep his tongue off that frozen flagpole.  How many more tries before his tongue freezes to it, I wonder?

     Philosophy back on: that's even before we come to "morality" of makin' a law-abiding Granny walk home from the store through a bad neighborhood unarmed, while young scofflaw hoodlums get their choice of weapons to use against her.  Mr. President, most folks with gray hair don't get their own Uzi-toting Secret Service Praetorian Guard.  Maybe you forgot that?  --Or maybe you just don't care.  Some well-off Harvard or Yale graduate, what's he know about a fixed income or a paid-for house in a neighborhood going downhill?

Gonna Hafta Deal With That Bad Tire Today

     ...Time was, I could just let the menfolk take it behind the shed with a shotgun and blammo!  Problem well, not really solved; we'd still had to go to the junkyard and find a wheel with a decent-enough tire on it.  In This Modern Age, it'll mean a trip to garage where I bought the tires.  With any luck, they'll be able to stick a new stem in the thing and the tire will still be in good condition, or good enough; I can take it to work and maybe get a garage downtown to put it back on my car, thereby avoiding further messing-about with the teensy-weensy car jack, the itsy-bitsy spare and all the other saccharine bits and bobs comprising the tiny-car spare-tire kit.

     Anyway, that's the plan.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Composed Of Suck, Fail And Triumph

     This day.

     I did finally solve a nagging problem with an accursed Ku-band uplink system, which could have been collateral damage caused by either A) a loaner encoder that suffered a power supply failure that made the case "hot" to ground by 120 VAC or so, ahead of the fuse or B) a fancy dual-source, automatic-switching power strip that decided to add series resistance in the neutral of one source -- and connect it to the neutral of the other input, while also showing signs of control-electronics-insanity.  The problem (in a well over $100,000.00) piece of equipment was, however, not that.  Nope; it was actually fine.  But the replacement-loander encoder wasn't sending out any 10 MHz reference along with the modulated L-band, and that was driving the widget (an SSPB, an' don't we love our alphabet soup?) nutso.  All I had to do was be reminded of that by a factory support engineer, and then dig through the menus to turn the reference output on, and voila, it worked.

     Here's what didn't work: in cold weather, my car tires tend to leak.  Every three days or so, left rear and right front have to be topped up.   There's free air at work, in the equally-free dark and cold, but who's complaining? I started up my car at the end of my day, let it warm for a minute* and pulled over to the overhead door nearest the air.  Left rear, from 20 (!!) to 30 psi, all okay.  Right front, put the filler on it and it started hissing.  So I reseated it.  Still hissing.  But there was  a pressure reading, low, and I brought it up to 28, disconnected, still hissing.  Oh, thinks I, the valve, she are stuck.  Put the filler back on, blip it--  Hissing.  Repeat -- and soon after taking the filler away, POP!  The end of the stem flew off!  I put my thumb over  the open end on the wheel, 'cos I am clever like that, muttering, "Oh, no, no, no..."  But it was Too Late.  The stem had broken at the lowest thread and carried the valve with it.  There was nothing to be done but let the air out and put the spare on.

     The spare in a Hyundai Accent, at least of a certain vintage, looks like a joke and not a nice one.  It's below tiny, an appetizer-sized tire on a monstrously distorted, undersized, deep-dish wheel.  I prised it free from the ancient padding where it has been since the car was new, took a good look and called Tam for a ride home.  But my car was still blocking an overhead door and I was going to have to put that wee little tire on it and move it to a real parking space.  There was no other option.  Cold, dark, and out of options.

    The jack is twee, too, and I couldn't find the handle.  Nor could I find the Company's nice floor jack, which I would've borrowed and never thought twice.  So I borrowed a honkin' big Philips instead.

     Oh, the temperature was in the vicinity of 4.  F.  And the asphalt was darned cold.  I borrowed a scrap carpet square, broke the lug nuts free (this involved me doing an impromptu Tarantella on a cross wrench. Inelegant but it works), jacked the car up one half turn of fine metric threads at a time, got the wheel off, manhandled the spare into place, lowered the jack with the same endless repetition of half-turns, and watched the tiny spare compress, compress...  There was a vertical inch and a half, easy, between the wheel and the parking lot when it took the weight from the dinky jack.  And my phone was ringing.

     Tam.  Outside the fence in the visitor's lot (from which my location was quite effectively screened), wondering if I had been abducted by the NSA or what.  I mumbled some kind of explanation, put the borrowed tools and kneeler back, and eased my car into a nearby space.

     Oh, when I was putting the jack, trunk floor and so on back, guess what I found hooked to the underside of the trunk floor?  Guess?  ...Yeah, the jack handle.  Well, how convenient.

     I eventually let Tam in the gate, we moved the tire to her car along with my briefcase, etc., etc. and headed home.  And that, dear friends, that is the "suck and fail" portion of the festivities.

     The tire needs a new stem.  It may need a new tire, too.

     On the other hand, double gloves and a ushanka-style cap made a huge diffidence in comfort. So at least there's that.  And I have certainly now broken in my new gloves. 
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* Look, unless you're leaping right onto the high-speed freeway or driving a very, very old car, that's all it takes.  Really.  

Geosynchronized

     The Russians are watching!  The Russians are watching!

     --India, they're watching.  This is the Clarke-belt view from an Elektro-L weather satellite 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside

     And not in any cute-1940s-duet way either; it's just blamed cold: 3 degrees, 30 mile an hour winds (with gusts overnight as high as 50!).  Get stuck outdoors in this stuff and you're at risk for frostbite almost before you start to feel cold.

     The sirens never stopped running last night.  Between slick-frozen roads, space-heater mishaps and trees falling before the combination of temperature and wind speed, emergency services have not lacked work.

     The Midwest isn't Hell -- but at the right time of year, you can buy a bus ticket to the coldest circle from here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Whole Wide World

     The title of this post is the title of a 1996 film about the life -- or some of the life -- of pulp writer Robert E. Howard, perhaps best known as the man who breathed life into Conan the Barbarian.  He wrote considerably more than that; in fact, he wrote quite a lot, especially for a man who took an early exit.

     Howard's own story is altogether too complex to cover in a blog post.  The Whole Wide World doesn't even try; based on a memoir by Novalyne Price Ellis, who dated him off and on for several years prior to his death, it's a fascinating look at the writer at the peak and abrupt end of his career.  Well-written, the brilliant Vincent D'onofrio sinks right into the character of Howard and Renee Zellweger seems equally at home as Ms. Price. 

     It's a relatively understated film but has considerable emotional impact.  Unless your taste in movies runs to nothing but, well, barbarian swordsmen and fighting sailors, you might like it, too.

The Snoozer(s)


     Rannie, napping next to Tam this morning.  One of them didn't want to be in the photo.

Ow

     Jeepers, my back hurts!  I did hardly anything yesterday -- swept snow from my car and the walks, shoveled a very little -- but perhaps even that was too much while still recovering.  I certainly slept with great enthusiasm, all of last night and most of yesterday during the day.

     Today will be mostly indoors, I think, and nothing too strenuous.  By Monday morning, we're supposed to get another 3" of snow, plus or minus.  Once that's fallen, back to the digging-out, or sweeping out if it stays cold enough (or gets cold enough again -- we may flirt briefly with 40 degrees this afternoon, forty above, that is).  That's one virtue of the extreme cold, at least the snow stays lightweight.  But will the warm-ish spell augur wetter, heavier snow?  Stay tuned for our next exciting episode!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Sun-Worshipper


OMG, 0400?

     There's such a thing as an 0400?  I thought it was just a legend!

     As it turns out, I'm not the only special little snowflake who has been ill recently; this morning, I'm on standby for another tech who was out all week.  Seems he was just certain he could be in this morning -- but he was sure Friday and then kind of tripped over his own digestion and couldn't.  BTDT myself, so--  Off to the shower with me.

     It's 21 degrees F out there, which is positively balmy by recent standards, and the online weather tells me there's a "Giant Asteroid Headed Our Way."  What?  "Light snow and a 30 percent chance of an extinction-level event?"  Gee, thanks.  ("Projected to miss the Earth by 300,000 miles." Okay, then.  I guess.) 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sherlock In Bed

     During my little illness, I did enjoy one treat: the new series of BBC's Sherlock has begun, and the famous investigator stages -- or tries to stage -- his return.  He's been quite convincingly dead for two years, so...  Well.  "Madcap hijinks ensue," at least for a certain range of values for both "madcap" and "jinks greater than zero."

     Some of the tension is artificial but it was a fine episode nevertheless.  He's trying to be a bit more human, occasionally with distressingly aspie results and if -- if! -- the series can maintain this precarious balance, it will be great fun.

     Word is Auntie's on board for a fourth series (three episodes).  Show creators Stephen Moffatt and Mark Gatiss say they're got plots for a fifth season as well.  The largest hurdle is talent schedules; the main and supporting players have plenty of other work.  It's a remarkable updating of the character and somehow leaves both Holmes and Watson more like their originals than most "faithful" adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.

Better!

     Perhaps it is no more than a good night's sleep -- I went to bed about 8:00 last night and didn't claw my way back to wakefulness until 6:15 this morning -- and having Seen A Doctor.  Perhaps the meds (and/or Placebo Effect) have already kicked in.  Maybe all of that.

     Dunno.  I was still pretty dizzy the first time I woke in the night, a little less so later and quite a bit less so this morning.  This is a gift horse I have no intention of allowing to bite.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Doctor (Doctor!) Mr. M. D.--

   Can you tell me/What's ailing me?

     So, we went to what now calls itself "Urgent Care," but is still the same doc-inna-box, where strugglin' young doctors (and a few older ones) work in volume and pass the savings on to you.  If anybody knows what kind of ickinesses and sicknesses are moving up the Top-40 Aliments charts right now, it's them.

     Old lyrics and overextended metaphors aside, it's "Dx: Vertigo," for me and I've been issued some anti-tumbling pills, a fistful of Amoxicillin for luck and a gentle suggestion that the Tincture of Time be left to do its work; so either I'm irretrievably doomed or it's nothing much and, absent any compelling evidence for the first, I'll go with the second.

Day 2: My Spacecraft Continues To Tumble

     Or maybe it's just me.  Got up several times during the night, each time discovering myself face-planting against the wall'o'dressers opposite the foot of the bed: yes, I was managing to fall across rather than down. Cooked a sailor's breakfast, which is just like a regular breakfast except you hang onto the stove while the galley seems to be pitching and yawing.  (Reminds me: why can't you still buy Sea Toast?)

     Tentative plan: shower.  Neti pot.  If still unstable -- physically unstable! Oh, hahaha -- it's off to Doc-Inna-Box.  If spinning ceases,* work.

     And outside, it's No degrees, fondly Fahrenheit.  Gack.

    Later: Hahaha, guess what?  Plan failed well ahead of shower.  Can't actually stand up for that long.

     Also later: Keebler tossed Sea Toast overboard.  It is defunct.  Heck, they even beached the trademark and left it to rot.  :(  Crown Pilot crackers are close but they ain't quite the same.
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* And thus sufficieth us.  As they say.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Guess What It Was Doing Around Nine Tonight

     Yeah, just guess:
     H'mm.  Must be winter.

Sick Day

     Vertigo, stabbing muscle aches, elevated temperature: I'm thinkin' flu.  Whatever it is, I'm no good for the road.

    --Add in chills. Nasty, ice-cubes-in-the-spine chills.  Gosh, isn't this fun?

     (Worst so far: fifteen seconds of absolute sword-under-the ribs pain, so bad I couldn't take a breath.  Where's that even come from?)

Comment Moderation Is Enabled

     Annoying?  Yes, but what it's sparing you is more so.  I'd explain further but we're not setting out troll food, not on my patch we're not.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Ox-Tail: What's It Good For After The Ox Is Gone?

     By golly, it works right well in beef stew.

      I stopped off at the market on the way home, thinking "beef stew."  I had a little red cabbage left, and this and that; I picked up a pound of stew beef and, on impulse, a big ol' hunk of ox tail, about 3" x 4" x 2" with a nice bit of bone or suchlike through the middle.

     Browned all the meat in a dab of olive oil with some "Montreal Steakhouse" blend -- pretty much just salt, pepper and garlic -- and as it was getting well-browned, I added a chopped-up red onion and a handful of carrots; cooked that a while and added a little red cabbage.  I kept worrying at the ox tail with kitchen shears, brown it, flip it over and snip some meat off, and as soon as the onion went translucent, I poured water and some mild beef stock stock over the whole thing, added a large, cut-up potato and a package of fresh mushrooms, covered it and went after some more needs-used-up from the fridge: two nice ears of sweet corn.  I just cleaned them and hacked them into 2" lengths like you'd do for a crab boil (et-boiled-dinner-cetera) and popped 'em in the pot.

     Set the timer for twenty minutes and went to do other tasks.  By the time it beeped, the stew was smelling pretty good but it needed something.  I had a can of crushed tomatoes nearing expiration, and another of kidney beans, so in they went for twenty minutes more.

     Came back to a deep red-brown assemblage that smelled wonderful.  I further stripped meat from the ox tail and ladled out a couple of bowls, sliced Tam's corn off the cob (she's not a fan, after the stuff cost her a tooth she rather liked), salted and peppered to taste.

     Mmm, goooooood.

     I saved the leftovers.  We'll be having more of this tomorrow night.  My only regret is I ran out of storage containers with a half-cup of broth left over.

     And if you see an ox tail sectioned in the butcher's case?  Give it a try.  It's full of flavor!

Shooting At Purdue?

Shooting at Purdue University, supposedly around noon. Not much information yet. More here but not a lot more. Supposedly one person in custody and the usual ant-nest mess.  The Purdue Exponent has the most complete information I've found.

Bang!

     Jeff at Alphecca has scooped me on a local story, or local enough -- seems the Connersville Police Chief was at his local gun store looking at  nice, new Glock,* very much like the official one he carries every day, and somehow (ahem!), he managed to shoot himself in the leg with his own gun.

     "Somehow."  Well, NDs do happen, and he doesn't seem to have been badly injured; but there's a reason the "N" in Negligent Discharge stands for "negligent."  As in "neglect;" as in, "they really are all loaded all the time."

     One of the things that makes gun store employees cringe back from the counter and that prompts gun stores to post either "No Loaded Firearms" or "Holstered Guns Must Stay Holstered" is the "holster check:" J. Random Customer is looking at the latest-greatest, and wonders aloud if it'll "...fit the same holster as Ol' Betsy..."  Next thing you know, he's hauled up his jacket and is unlimbering his sidearm in accordance with his usual habits, good, bad or indifferent as they may be.  Sometimes this results in a "bang."  Other times, it doesn't, or perhaps there's no loud noise and excitement until he re-holsters.  Mostly it goes okay -- but betting on "mostly" is a game for suckers.

     Even Police Chiefs can lose at it.  I don't know if that's exactly what happened in Connersville but I wouldn't bet against it.

     Carry it.  Stop touching it.  If you need to draw, draw; otherwise, hands off.  Quoth Chief Councellor: “I need to pay more attention,” he said. “I know what the dangers are. It was pure carelessness on my part.”

     Yep. Four Rules. --And a fifth bit of advice: stop touching it.
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* Now someone's going to say, "Well, Glock..."  Except there's not really so much difference between a Glock trigger and a well-run DAO trigger, and no firearm is immune to careless handling.  See what the Chief said?  That.  Take it to heart. 

And Now, The Weather....

     (Title should be familiar to anyone who's listened to any episode of  Welcome To Night Vale all the way through.)

     It's snowing outside, pure-white snow so light, so fluffy it ought to be sponsored by King Biscuit[1] or Gold Medal.[2]  Appropriately enough, it's accompanied by a mournful old freight-train wind, carrying those light flakes so far and wide that every square inch of the 12 x 12 porch here at Roseholme Cottage is evenly covered, from the exposed outer corner to the most sheltered spot next to the front door.

     There's an inch-and-a-half to two inches of snow on the ground and more falling, falling, falling, tiny flakes glittering on the wind, lovely and dangerous.  The weather service says it'll keep on falling until at least ten this morning.

     Time to get t'shoveling.  If it doesn't kill me, I'm gonna be able to give Alice the Goon a good scaring at arm-wrestling.
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1. The original King Biscuit Time is the longest-running regular radio show in the United States, every weekday since 1941 from KFFA, 1000 Watts on 1360 AM outta Helena, Arkansas. Back then, it was a daytime-only station but influential far beyond range of the station's signal.  The most obvious example would be the rock-radio concert series of years past, the King Biscuit Flower Hour.  Meanwhile, the KFFA blues program, originally sponsored by a flour company, has even had the same host since 1951.

2. Growing up, Gold Medal was the standard, dependable as clockwork -- or as snow during an Indiana winter.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fighting Something

     Tam and I both appear to be coming down with something.  Darned if I know what it might be; I got the flu vaccine as soon as it came out this year.  You just about have to get yearly flu shots in my line of work, since we have an entire department that gets paid to go wander the far corners of the Earth, interact with The Public and return to use the same darned break room and community refrigerator as the rest of us.  (It's a darned wonder the thing isn't full of fleas.)

     But we're getting hit with something involving generalized ache, dizziness and feeling yeech.  Perhaps it's an overdose of Winter, in which case we'd better brace ourselves, since there's more than a mere hair of the dog that's biting us readying up: another one-to-three (1,2,3?) inches of snow by tomorrow and lows falling well below zero -- with even more snow! -- rounding out the week.

     What's the calendar say, not quite six weeks 'til March and the promise of Spring?  Just keep sloggin'.  One darned day at a time.  The Sun will come back; the astronomers promised.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nice BlogMeet

     Tam took pictures.  At the BlogMeet, that is.  Me, I am not feeling so hot.  I cleared the walks before showering before the BlogMeet and I seem to have worn myself right out.  (I dunno how well late lunch is setting, either.)  I've been in bed and I'm headed back there.  Y'all be good, now.

Snow Everywhere, Back To Bed

     T'heck with this weather.  I'll see you at the BlogMeet this afternoon.  Meantime, I'm gonna go lay down.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Go To Gun Show, Come Back With Gun

     But only one.  (Loan me $575 and I'll buy another -- there's a .380 Savage autopistol at the Indy 1500 that I want want want, bad).

     I did buy a sixgun:
     It's an old Charter Arms Pathfinder .22!  Yes, another plinker.  I just can't pass 'em up.

Here We Go Again...

     It's snowing and snowing outside (at least not inside!) and they keep revising the duration and expected accumulation upward....

Incoherent

     The TV set in the next room just came on, with a weatherperson chirpily claiming, "...We do expect the heaviest snow to be arriving between three and midnight this afternoon."

     I don't know about you but in my world, snow in wintertime is to be expected; on the other hand, midnight falling in the afternoon?  Now that's disturbing!

     Gore-bal warmening: now it's destroying the orderly progression of time.  Eeeeee.

     (In other news: the teevee has just found out the NRA convention is coming to town.  They are, as you can imagine, shocked to learn the city-run Convention Center is happy to have 'em.  Biggest convention of 2014!)

Flag Controversy: The Rest Of The Story

     You may remember the fuss from 2009, when an 89-year-old decorated WW II veteran was told by his Home Owner's Association that he had to take down the flagpole where he flew the U. S. flag -- even though the HOA had no rule against flagpoles.  They wanted to stop him for "aesthetic reasons."  (Whatever that means -- it's difficult to imagine how a plain flagpole in one's own yard could be "unaesthetic.")

     The story went national and as you might expect, he eventually won.

     But did you know how then-Tech Sergeant Van T. Barfoot earned his Medal of Honor -- or that he was of Choctaw ancestry

     Colonel Barfoot passed away in 2012, at the age of 92.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Snowstorm Rides Again!*

     It's not the almost-a-foot we had just last week -- at least so far -- but it's snowing and snowing out there, with attendant school delays and freeway slide-offs and rollovers.  The human-looking creatures inside the TV box were happy to tell me I missed a snow squall that slammed through around 0200, and there may be snowfall off and on all day.

     It's winter, innit?
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* Title after the Max Brand novel -- now if only we could get this lousy weather sent to prison, I might help with the frame-up job.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flat-Pack Plywood Bike?

     Yes, it's a bicycle after the general Ikea concept.  The maker claims you can ride away 45 minutes after the deliveryman drops off the box but I believe I'd go slower first time 'round.

     It's not cheap -- over a grand, American -- but it's a pretty thing and an interesting notion.

Indiana Governor Takes The High Road

     Or tries, at least; in his State of the State speech, he addressed gay marriage:

     "Reasonable people can differ, and there are good people on both sides of this debate. No one, on either side, deserves to be disparaged or maligned because of who they are or what they believe," Pence said.

     I kinda goggled at the TV screen.  Mike Pence is exactly what it says on the bottle: a social- (and fiscal-) conservative Republican.  Like him or loathe him for it or just shrug, "Meh," it's never been a secret that he's a traditional-marriage guy.

     He continued:

 "Let's protect the rights of Hoosier employers to hire who they want and provide them with benefits that they earn. And let's resolve this issue this year once and for all."

     Ah, there's the Governor.  Still, all manner of props to him for striking a conciliatory tone.  He'd clearly like to be rid of this hot potato, especially if it can be done gracefully.  To judge from comments at the linked article, the fed.gov may yet fix it for him, if he and the legislature can keep on shuckin' and jivin' long enough; then they can all point and say, "'Tweren't us!"

     (Speaking of grace, State of the State started on the dot at 7:00 p.m. and the entire speech ran something like 28:30, leaving stations carrying it just enough time to tag it, run a station ID, a commercial, and start the next show.  Don't think for a minute the timing wasn't carefully planned.  The days of pols leaving any room for pontificating pundits are long past.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Covering Guns And Educating Journalists

     He's aiming to be a resource: Covering Guns is an attempt (and a pretty good one) to provide journalists a non-partisan source for firearms info.  If they never manage more than to keep the ".9mm/45 gauge" type errors in check, they'll have done a great service -- but with actual safety-training-and-shooting classes for journalists in anti bastions like Chicago, Washington and Maryland, he's set his sights plenty higher:

     I have a simple goal for this website.  I want to help journalists cover the complex and politically tricky topic of guns and gun control. But this is NOT a pro or anti gun site. I strive to present as many sides of the story as I can. You will see links to the NRA and to anti gun sites.

     Gotta start somewhere.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Archer"

     I have just watched the season premiere of Archer, the animated spy spoof.

     It was epic.

     Mind you, it takes a certain outlook to truly enjoy the show; the characters set new records for dysfunctionality and pathological personalities and yet at the same time, they do kind of remind one of some of the OSS/SOE types from WW II. And the writing, cultural references and all, is simply outstanding.

Snark-Hawley

     I have had a link to an article about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act open in a tab for weeks now, planning on saying something clever about it, but you know, the more I dig, the more I realize there's no cleverness to be had.  We're now a long lifetime after the thing -- nearly three 30-year generations -- and economists are still arguing over the role, if any, that it played in causing (through the run-up debate), prolonging, or steering the Great Depression and while they've all put forward pet theories, grand notions and entire books of scholaresque bloviation, the takeaway is, "We dunno."

     That's a definitive indictment of central planning: If you don't know what the knobs do or how to read the meters, even in hindsight, stop trying to run it!

     Economics ought to be an observational art, not a predictive one: descriptive, not prescriptive.

     And thus endeth today's lesson. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hoosier Weather!

From this:
video
To this:
In 48 hours!

Back To School

     So, I was off all last week -- I had hoped to swap a day or two out of that week and into the prior one, but an attempted redefinition of eligible vacation times at work has everything locked down worse than trench warfare while all parties, their agents, their attorneys and their agents' attorneys argue over just when, precisely, "and" may be construed as "or" as opposed to when both "or" and "and" are to be understood as meaning "is."

     I only wish I was exaggerating.  (This nonsense is so toxic that I avoid it as much as possible, even when I could probably do a little better for myself in the short-term by rollin' in the mud with the lot of 'em.  Life's too short.)

     The upshot was that I spent a week of the worst weather we've had in several years cooped up in the house and while it wasn't much of a vacation, it beat having to beg rides on the company 4WD and work 12-hour-plus days while worrying if the power was still on and the cats were all right at home while Tam was in Knoxville.

     And now I'll be heading back to face whatever kind of mad improvisation got done while I was out, to the tune of fascinating (and possibly even true) stories that begin, "It's true!  There I was, facing a wall of snow and frantic, sex-mad Yetis...."

     I'm so sad to have missed it.  Right?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Old Technical Books

     If you follow such things, you know Lindsay's Technical Books is gone.  Lindsay retired about a year ago.

     Your Old Time Bookstore has stepped in to fill the gap and yes, they carry all the good old Lindsay-published titles and can point you to sources for even more.  Check 'em out.  Buy something -- you know you want to!

Amazing

     So, Fast and Furious gets people killed, and it's barely a blip in the news; Slow and Mildly Irked partially shuts down a bridge between New Jersey and NYC for a little while and the media is crawlin' all over it with microscopes.   Governor Christie is hardly John the Baptist (though I'm sure he'd be up for a nice plate of honey and locusts) and not my favorite Republican -- but if the weird little people inside my TV and the three who still write newspapers keep making like a combined Salome and Herod, he'll certainly end up a martyr.

     (And remember, if horrible things happens to mostly-brown people in Mexico, it's a yawner -- but when nice white folk in New York City are inconvenienced?  Migawd, an outrage.  But that, for some reason that escapes me, isn't racist.)

Um, Hello?

     Look, I'd post something, but the shifting weather (pushing 40+ today) has given me a raging headache so bad that right now, I'd fail the Voight-Kampff test even if you gave me a crib sheet and spotted me the turtle.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday Dinner

     Since Tam had (mostly) missed it earlier -- not to mention we both like the stuff and the market had 'em on sale! -- I made corned beef brisket again.  This time, the beef got a lot of company: a beet, a turnip, a red onion, purple cabbage, a couple of potatoes, carrots and -- oh, why not? -- a big container of fresh sliced mushrooms.

     The resulting broth is a very deep red-brown, the cabbage gets to stay mostly purple and the end result is delightful.  Color me a fan of the humble boiled beet; they come out with a rich, faintly earthy flavor that complimented the meat, the mushrooms and the other vegetables nicely.  The only one that wanted any seasoning at all was the potato, which tasted a bit drab in contrast; salt and pepper fixed that up.

     I saved the leftovers and the only question remaining is: soup tomorrow, red-flannel hash, or a bit of both?  Tam's not as fond of beets as I am, but it was just the one, so it'll hardly dominate.

     No photos.  It went from pot to plate to palate to tummy in very short order.

Huck On The Porch

     But held, as otherwise he would go hunting.  (Ignore the strange-looking elderly woman.  I have no idea who she is.)

     He's fascinated.

     He'd like to discuss this whole "can't go hunt" thing.
      ...And he's serious about it!

Friday, January 10, 2014

I Aten't Ded (Again)

     I slept in.  There was a lot of snow-shoveling yesterday, and just plain shoving (of the snowblower through deep snow) and it adds up.  Even after having gone and soaked in a bath of epson salts, it adds up.

     The Big Melt is supposed to begin today, with prolonged temperatures in the low forties persisting late into the night and returning tomorrow.  The odd little people who live inside the TV chirpily mentioned at least three times every hour all morning, "Don't forget to clear out the storm drains on your street," which I sleepily thought was a darned good idea, as it would be an excellent place to hide a nagging bundle of photons after strangling.  Awake, I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way and would be rude if you could anyway.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Dinner Tonight

     Skin-on mashed potatoes with a touch of garlic and two strips of bacon crumbled in; cabbage wedges treated with wine vinegar, fresh-ground mixed pepper and sugar, then fried up in the bacon fat; alongside, the last of the corned beef brisket, sliced and heated up.

     It was darned good.  I wanted something warming, something colcannon-ish, and this filled the bill.  (Tam qualified for the Clean Plate Club, in fact)

     Still on my list to try, the interesting Spanish take on mashed potatoes-and-greens-and-smoked-pork, called trinxat.  Olive oil instead of butter?  Sounds delish!

Hey, Do You Know What It's Doing Outside Right Now?

    You'd never guess.  Not in, like, a million, zillion years.

     It's snowing.

     Swell.

     Here are some pictures from earlier in the day.

     Roselholme Cottage, shovelled out:
     (Note the "mature trees," and don't fret the leaner, it's actually one-third of a triple-spread maple.  The other two trunks are in line with one another from this angle.)

      The miser oak holds onto its leaves for a long time--

     --And only gives up a few, grudgingly.  (See the well-pocked snow?)
    The craters and divots are from snow falling off the trees, wires, etc.

    Here's how much snow is still piled up on trees and roofs:
      Ain't we got fun?   I think I'd better learn to drink vodka.

Urgh. Snow.

     Cleared a place for Tam's car and re-re-reshoveled the front walk, sidewalk, neighbor's walk...  I'm hot, I'm sweaty and I can't feel my toes. 

     Photos -- of snow, not toes! -- will follow.  After I go soak in the tub, starting with a cautious toe-reheating.

This Is Heinlein Territory

     The created -- well, chopped and channeled from English, more like -- language "E-Prime," which builds on the interesting notions of of Alfred Korzybski, dodges faulty or misleading usage of the various forms of "to be"/"is."

     Korzybski would be the fellow who explained to Heinlein that "the map is not the territory" and that humans are, perhaps uniquely, time-binding animals.  Startin' to sound familiar?  Thought so!  

     One does have to wonder if the Wikipedia entry has been looked over lately by any General Semantics types; the sentence, "This* was developed into the language "E-Prime" by D. David Bourland, Jr. 15 years after his death," has me suspecting otherwise.  Either that or he's a zombie.
______________________________
* "This" being the notion that one ought to be aware of and avoid sloppy or misleading usage of "is."

Snowshoveling Causes 3 a.m. Heartburn

     At least it does for me.  So now I know.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Hunh

     Leon Trotsky's granddaughter is the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse -- the U. S. government's National Institute on Drug Abuse.

     Make of it what you will.

Recent Movie Viewing

     At the picture-palace: Saving Mr. Banks, a very nice piece of story-telling about a very difficult person who I quite liked -- but I would; I like curmudgeons.  Half told in flashback,the story's two arcs meet in an understated, thoughtful manner.  And -- surprising for a Disney film -- Tom Hank's portrayal of Walt Disney himself is refreshingly human.  Perhaps not entirely accurate, as Disney had learned hard-edged business practices at the same time as he learned animation; but he's not the star of this picture and his depiction is not without nuance.  Nor is it without Tom Hanks, for all he is working hard to be the role and not himself.  P. J. Travers is another matter, coming across on the screen as, simply, Travers.  A good film and worth seeing -- and it made me want to take a look at the books, something seeing the film (and singing most of the songs from it, the theme of the Big Musical Presentation of my second-grade class back when the Giant Sloth and Wooly Mammoth roamed) never managed.

     On video, on demand: Elysium.  Um-  It's an action pic.  Nice sets, interesting concept, silent-film melodrama characters and plot.  Really, it's a couple of moustache-twirls short of a Vitagraph melodrama.  Wonderful sets and the actors do a fine job with the script they were given -- but the story is spread thinner than a miser's margarine.  Also, huge downchecks for Plain Bad Science.  Fun to watch, but you'd be better off for content with a comic book.

     Conversely -- and despite a trailer so misleading I won't even post it here -- Europa Report mostly gets the science right and tells an actual story, largely in found-footage style. A lot of it bears a striking resemblance to video from the International Space Station[1].  This could easily have been a horror film but it's not.  Nor was it a big-budget film and sometimes it shows; but Europa Report is one of the best near-future SF films I have seen.  Aside from a wrong-for-visual-drama sequence near Jupiter[3] and another one landing on Europa[2], there aren't any holes in it.

________________________________________
1. Am I the only person who remembers the first crew named it "Space Station Alpha," to much shushing and head-shaking on the part of both Mission Controls?
2. But it's very pretty.
3. No, no, no: lander is seen landing from the rest of the spacecraft, which is in orbit around Europa, and the two stay synched while the moon's surface rolls below.  C'mon, darn it, how clever do you have to be to know that's not gonna work when lander touches moon?

Well, That Was Fun

     Last night was the second night in a row (or was it the third?) that I have awakened along about 0300 choking on stomach acid.  The first time, I thought it was from sleeping without a pillow, which I was doing becuase my neck was sore.  So, last couple of nights, I have used a big wedge pillow.  Hasn't helped.

     Note to self: take that last ibuprofen long before bedtime, 'kay?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Digging Out The Car

     I don't have a "before," but there was at least 6" on my car -- and 8" or more on the drive behind it!
    In front of the car, the snow was nearly as high as the hood. (Brits, that's the "spanner," right?)

     Dug out, and a neighbor with a 4WD had been  "driving out" ruts up and down the alley throughout the snowfall, so it has been fairly clear all along.  My car started, with only a little reluctance at first.  Hyundai makes a tough little engine.

     The drive to the vet's was even less fun for the cats than usual -- the plowed-smooth, snow-covered back roads are better than the main streets, where four inches of compacted snow gives way irregularly to wet/icy blacktop: temporary potholes!   My highest speed was 30 mph and I was a bit nervous about even that.  Most traffic was no faster but there was traffic.  Not much, but not the empty landscape of Sunday and Monday, either.

     An overlooked bottle of water in the garage: frozen rock-hard.  Fourteen below will do that.  (The other water usually stored in the garage has been in the house since Sunday.)

Friendship Forged In Adversity

     At least for now:
The electric blanket is on -- but it's been on every night for days and they haven't slept this close.
      I have never seen them sleep that close to one another.
   
     The cats went to the vet together, in separate carriers, each complaining in their own way on the trip down, wails from Rannie and the occasional worried "Mew?" from Huck.  Despite my warnings about his strength, Huck fought 'em when they drew blood, and returned from his visit to the labs with a small bandage and an "I showed them" swagger.  Rannie was wide-eyed with terror, loathe to leave her carrier, doing her best to ignore the whole world once back in it and when I got them home, I figured she'd be in hiding for a day or more.

     Nope.  Both of them were a bit more outgoing than usual, checking out an empty box; Huck played in it and Rannie curled up next to me in the couch for most of a movie, head pillowed on my hand, purring.

    As for the car trip, it was...an experience.  More about that in my next.

Ice Station Roseholme

     It's fourteen below out there.  The basement has dropped to 50 near the center -- and closer to 40 along the walls.  (That's 277.59 Kelvin for you metric people.)

     With an electric blanket and two cats, my bed was toasty warm last night; but I had to get up, lest Mister Huck become so frantic he'd try to make his own breakfast, probably from my toes.

     As for me, I cooked up home-made corned beef hash, a dish so different to the stuff they put up in cans as to practically need another name--
Clean the kitchen, one over hard, garden squeezings and a hot blonde in the sand! (Translate here)
     Yum!  It went well with a fried egg. coffee and a nice glass of vegetable juice -- all right, V-8, just like Mister Ford put in cars, once upon a time -- and I'm about as ready for the day as I'll ever be.  Is the day ready for me?  Probably too ready; I've got to try starting the car and taking the cats to the vet for their shots and physical exams.  Wish me luck!

Monday, January 06, 2014

"Soup Of A Monday, Beautiful Soup!"

     (Is that the Mock-Turtle singing?)  If I was Brigid, I'd serve this up with hot, crusty French bread.  I'm not and I won't chance a walk to the store, so peppery crackers and some thick corn chips will do:
     I made plenty.

     This is vegetables (potato, onion, turnip and carrot) from last night's corned beef pot, plus a wedge of cabbage, all of them cut down to soup size, in broth from both in a ratio of 3 or 4 to 1, corned beef to cabbage.  I added a can of commercial French vegetable soup, a browned/drained Surry sausage in slices, and cubes of (some of) the corned beef. Some of the corned beef spices are still floating around in there, but even the peppercorns have been broken to harness by now.

It's heaven in a bowl, is what it is, and it should be even better tomorrow.

Snowpocalypse Monday Afternoon

     It makes my teeth hurt.  The cold, that is; and it's not so much when I'm out in it (I'm pleased to tell you layering and vigorous physical activity copes okay with ten below, though my boots/socks are marginal at best) as it is when I am back inside, warming up.  Makes my back hurt, too, but that's from shoveling snow.

     The official total is 11.1", an inch short of the 1901 record of a foot and a tenth.  My snow gauge says a little less is piled up:
      Call it 8.5"

     The front walk disagrees:
     That's a foot of snow, easy.

     Here's an example of the real worry: look at those trees!
     I expect more power fluctuations this evening and overnight as the temperature plummets.

     The basement here at Snow Station Roseholme was 42 F at mid-morning.  Running all the (incandescent!) lights, dryer and a small space heater has brought it up to 54 or so, which is a big improvement considering the outside temperature has been falling all day.

     There's a big bowl of home-made soup waiting for me -- broth and veggies from last night's dinner plus a can of Amy's French Vegetable, a sliced and browned Surry sausage and a couple of slices of corned beef brisket cut up small.  The smell is driving the cats wild and I'm not far behind them.

Second Breakfast!

     So, earlier, I awoke, arose, fed the cats, ran the dishwasher and snacked on ibuprofen and Cheerios™.  Posted something on my blog and the Book of Face and went back to bed.  That rather quickly attracted cats and we all napped off and on until an hour ago, TV murmuring gently, "Stay home.  Stay indoors.  Pray the Frost Giants do not find you," which struck me as sound, sensible advice.

     Sensible it was, but sooner or later all good things come to an end.  Hydraulics being a good servant but an unyielding master, eventually I had to get up again.  What the heck, coffee was made and in the thermal carafe, might as well get to it: I have sorted and started laundry and made  and devoured a nice bacon-and-egg sandwich.

     Also made a cat-sized peephole in the frost on Huck's favorite window, cautioning him to not get his little cat nose frozen to the glass.

     Across the way, there's a man shoveling his sidewalk.  He looks far too lightly dressed for the job, but who am I to judge? That's between him and his dermatologist.  I am not so much tempted myself, other than possibly trying the "toss a cup of boiling water in the air and it flashes to snow" trick.  It appears even those carriers unstayed in the swift completion of their appointed rounds by "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" are, in fact, put right off their feed by -40° wind chills* with a 99% chance of frostbite and I can't say I blame them a bit.  With that and the official "stay home" decree in mind, there appears to be little reason to shovel the front walk just yet.
___________________________________________
* Minus forty degrees, minus forty degrees,
   How I admire thee,  forty negatee,
   Neither requiring nor needing an F or a C.
     (© 2014, me)

Morning: Snow, Cold

     There once was a sailor from Malawi
     Who was constantly asking "Where are we?"
     Captain told him one day and he decided to stay
     So now he lives in Hawaii.

     And if he sent me an airplane ticket, I don't think I would even take time to pack anything (but the cats).  It's seven below out there and falling.  Wind and additional snow has reshaped the surfaces and erased all but the deepest footprints.  Even their edges are blurred. Photos may follow but they will probably be taken from indoors.

     The cats slept the night with me.  I woke several times -- I'm not even sure why, but I did.

     Now I'm up, online and hoping to get a few things done before people hit the roads -- and the telephone poles.

Fighting For The Power

     Four degrees as I write this -- and at least that's 4 above.

     Local utility Indianapolis Power & Light has an outage map online.  It divides the county into nine squares and of those nine, precisely one has no outages at all.  My neighborhood and most of the central-to-northeast parts of Marion Country are in the red.

     They've got crews working on it.  It's not like it's going to get any warmer today.

     Yikes.

     Update: It's working on them, too.  There is now no part of the county without some outages.  It's something of a Red Queen's race for Power & Light.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Liveblogging The Snowpocalypse

     It has kept snowing, though not quite as fast as earlier; trees and roofs still occasionally shed their overburden with muffled* thunder and now the wind is picking up.  Temperatures have dropped a little but nowhere near the dreadful lows yet to come.

     Me, I chickened out on the back yard and made a new snow gauge instead:
     Can't get a good picture of it but in inches, that's just under 8.  It's sitting on a flowerbed-edge 4x4, where the snow has been undisturbed since the first snowfall last week, so it's the same measurement baseline as the other gauge.

     It was a tricky shot, as the weather is doing this:

     ...Except when it is doing this:

     My "backup heat" plan was to start cooking and keep cooking.  French toast for breakfast, cantaloupe with fresh-squeezed lime juice for midday snack and this for dinner, simmering for hours:
     Corned beef and cabbage, with potatoes, turnips, onion and carrots.  All except the cabbage cooked with the corned beef -- and in hindsight, I wish I had fried the cabbage instead.  But it's pretty good as it is, and just the thing for the end of a long day filled with snow-shoveling.  (That turnip!  It'll steal your heart away from spuds, or at least make a good try.  Alas, the turnip, with such a delicate flavor, is homely and too-often overlooked.)

     Still having power issues -- went way low a few minutes ago, then shut off and came back.
___________________________________
* Not just a muffler -- mittens, snow pants, heavy coat and a warm hat.  That muffled.

More On Snow

     Snow gauge, as of 1225:

     Call it 4.75"  Well past that now.

     Still not the safest time to visit the back yard, so I'm making a new snow gauge and I'll get measurements out front, where there are fewer overhead wires -- and fewer snow-dumping trees.  A few of the snowdumps have shaken the house, which I find less than reassuring.

     I'm still trying to decide if I should turn up the thermostat or not.  I don't keep it very warm in the winter, as I find that messes up my ability to adapt to the cold (it also drains my bank account).  On the other hand, there's something to be said for going into supercold weather with as much warmth as possible.

     Here's an updated view out the back door:
     Yowza.

1430 Hours: Power Flickering

     We've got 6" of snow as of ten after two; I had to move my cardboard snow gauge after a big dollop of snow fell off an overhead cable onto the pile in front of the scale.  There would be a  picture but all my gear is wet and I need to dig out the backups.

     I walked to the store (I had corned beef, tatties, carrot, onion, a turnip -- and no cabbage!)  The lights flickered once while I was in the supermarket.  When I got home, the lights dimmed and brightened a few times.  I shut down my desktop and I'm on the laptop now -- on batteries and I'll charge it when it needs it, if the power stays on.  We've had a few more power hiccups, so wish me luck!

     The walk to the store, plus shoveling prior to it, is why my coat, gloves, etc. are soaked -- I had too many layers on and the wet snow was falling.  Perspiration and snowdamp never met but it was a near thing.  You don't want that.

     The Hackamore tree out back dropped a small limb as I got in the back door.  Earlier, while several neighbors and I were shoveling the sidewalk, a big (75'?  Taller?) pine tree had a huge limb crack away; it's hanging on the lower limbs now, not a good situation.

     So.  There we are.  Photos as and when, and it looks like I won't be doing any laundry or running the dishwasher until the snow settles.  If the power goes out altogether, the cats and I hole up in the kitchen -- smallest room and I can just keep cooking.

4" at 11:00 a.m.

See?

In Soviet Broad Ripple, snow shovels you!
      TV is starting to report accidents, mostly minor -- Indy and surrounding county authorities are reminding urbanites and suburbanites to stay off the roads.  They are, for once, plowing for all they're worth, running full shifts 24 hours until the snow ends and main roads are cleared.  On Sunday, there's not enough traffic to have been beating down the snow, so your options are: dead slow, stuck, wrecked, stuck behind a snowplow, struck by a snowplow and/or ticketed by Officer Friendly if the red hood and picinic basket don't convince him you and Yogi Bear were on your way urgently to Grandma's.

0900 And A Quarter-Inch

You see this here?  This here is some snow, Mr. Gore.
     Bringing the total to a nice even 3.5".

     This is a very wet, heavy, sticking snow.   It's too heavy for the snowblower and may be too heavy to shovel for very long at a time.

     When the deep freeze hits, this stuff is going to become a solid mass.  I'm giving serious thought to moving my car around front, as the alley may become impassible.  I'd say, "I can walk to the store," except when it hits -15 (wind chills of -45 or worse), I probably can't. Oh, my, the fun we have! 

     My sibs and I are all on "Mom X Alert," in case she loses electricity.  She says she'll just build a fire in the fireplace, and we're all invited to stop in and get warm if we lose power.  Yes, that's my mother, all right.

     Shot out the kitchen window:

     Out the back door -- and I just swept that walk an hour ago!
     The streaks and blobs of white?  Great clumps of snow, drifting down like tiny, white anvils.

Snowfall*

     This is at 0800, as the snow is just beginning to fall.

     3.25" already, so whatever we get will be on top of that.
     (Click to embiggenate!)

     I'll try to do updates every hour or so.
_________________________
* Title is a reference to the classic Isaac Asimovshort story, "Nightfall."  Which you should read if you haven't.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

And Then

     Went to clear the tub drain before taking A Real Bath (instead of a shower): slid the spiny hair-clog-removing gadget down the drain, took a good grip on the tab, pulled gently and--

     It came off in my hand, leaving about seventeen inches of Zip-It stuck in the drain and no way to get it out.  I tried fishing it out with another one -- they don't usually break! -- figuring the first one was stuck in the inevitable hair clog* and would come out with it.  No dice.  I did get the plastic blade cover from one of those cute little pink razors and a big glob of hair, which helped the drain speed, but the broken Zip-It is still in there.

     I'll still use them; they're practically a necessity here.  But I'm going to be looking them over very carefully from now on.

     If I didn't have things to get done today, I'd go right back to bed and pull the covers over my head.  This day hasn't started very well.

     Update: And I lost one of a $67.00 pair of gloves at the five and dime -- the mega five and dime, where I had joined a few zillion fellow locusts citizens in clearing the shelves of anything edible.   Retraced my steps, checked at Lost & Found -- nothing.  This day certainly could have been worse but it's not been much fun.
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* Two women in this household and neither of us is Susan Powter: hair clogs are a fact of life.

No Trash For...Me

     So, gathered up the trash, headed out, and--  Too late.  I missed the trash pick-up.  Missed it by some hours, from the looks of things.  Never heard the truck. 

     Having a wonderful time.  Wish you were here.

     Geesh.

Snow? SNOW!

     ...Which is the morning news in two words.

     Current forecasts call for eight to ten inches of snow on Sunday, along with record cold temperatures.  It will be a mess.

     Of course, the easily-panicked have been busily clearing sore (and formerly groaning) shelves of bread, milk and eggs -- along with, I'm told, a lot of the meat.  Just to add to my fun, last night I unknowningly lost the battle of the refrigerator door and the darned thing spent six hours with the door a half-inch ajar.  So I'll have to get out there and join them, in hopes of replacing the nice corned beef brisket I'd set back for Sunday and the Surry sausages  for later on.  Oh, and milk and butter, dammit.

     (Effective immediately, boxes of soda cans are banned from the fridge.  They interfere with things in the door, especially if those things shift.  Grabbing a quick snack should not involve solving a 3-D puzzle.)

     Imminent weather nightmare!!!!1!!!eleven!  Plus the trash runs today and I have yet to get it out there.  So...check back later for pithy insight or whatever.

     Here's a little to tide you over: The other day, I could've sworn one of my friends had "cast iron cookware" in a bug-out bag list.   She didn't; she was discussing prepping, in a very bug-in way.  I can promise you I will never carry cast-iron, unless it's the twenty feet from car to cookfire.  For bugging in, sure, 100%.  You should have that stuff, seasoned and ready to use.  She couldn't be more right -- and make that 200% at your secondary location/retreat/redoubt/bunker (if you have one): it's durable, long-lasting, excellent to cook in and makes great swapping stock, if it comes to that.  But carry it?  It weighs like, well, like cast iron!  There are plenty of reasons not to like lightweight hiker's cookware, but every pound less of cooking-container you carry is another pound of clothing, food or ammunition.  Run out of the last two and less-than-ideal cookware is the least of your problems.  ...Deciding when to dig in and when to trek out, that's a whole other story, and then there's the issue of having somewhere else to go.  (Me, I don't; for me, it's impractical.  My tripwires aren't that good and neither's my freedom to cut'n'run, at least until it's essentially too late -- but YMMV.  I still think it's best to already be elsewhere full time, if "elsewhere" is on your disaster plans and you can manage to make that work.)

Friday, January 03, 2014

Snow Pictures, Preliminary

     Why is it getting up and having to face this:
From the Earth to the Moon, House to Garage, whatever, it's a hostile environment.
     Makes me want to do this?
Big cat, little cat: Huck and Rannie practice detente.
     'Strewth.  And there's plenty of shoveling yet to do.  Maybe even trash -- that should be postponed until Saturday but I need to see if the neighbors know better.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Canaries In Coal Mines And The Art Of The Possible

     There's a fellow out there on the Internet who has replaced the arch-Threeper as my prime coal-mine canary.  There's no doubt he's on a list; a lot of lists.  And I have no doubt that at some point in the frog-boiling process, his door is gonna get kicked in by Agents Of The State.  What happens after that is liable to be somewhere on the spectrum from "Took an honor guard with him to Hell" and "...disappeared..."  In the meantime, I monitor him, not so much for what he says but for when -- not if -- he either goes silent or makes the evening news.

     'Cos that'll be a real bad sign.  That'll mean it's time to jump.  Or bunker down.*

     His latest essay is all about "burning it all down."   'Cos, he says, it's rotten to core and headed for the Pit anyhow, and the only way to build a better nation/society/comity/polity/WTFever is on the ashes of the old one.

     I have a problem with that.  No, I have two; one's very simple, even crude, and the other is subtle.

     Here's the simple one: I like indoor plumbing, electricity, telephones, the Internet, bein' able to buy good gasoline, fresh vegetables in Winter, fresh eggs without having to own chickens--  I like these things and I detest "roughing it."  I've done it.  I have shivered over a hole in the ground in snow higher than my rump, cooked over a fire, counted myself lucky to have good dry straw to sleep on and by golly, I aim to avoid it. Edison and Ford, Tesla and Einstein and the nameless, wonderful geniuses who invented fire-making multiple times (not to mention soup) were aimin' at something more and I'd just as soon they didn't work in vain.

     The subtle one is actually the one that scares me worst.  Okay, if I have to live like a bear -- or like a bear with a rifle, I hope -- I can do it.  I'll gripe, I'll hate it, but I can do it.  But it frets me every time one of these Internet commandos starts in on how The Gummit is one-hundred-percent Bad, Rotten, Awful and should be burnt to the waterline and rebuilt...  And presumably, perfected.  Presumably with the "bad element" removed.

     Perfected how?  Removed to where?  Re-education camps?  Do they become the core of the new prison population in a nation with the highest percentage of its denizens behind bars, a system that has worked so well that we've got about as much crime as any other modern industrial country?

     The Founders and Framers did their level best to build, not a perfect system, but a system that worked despite having mostly-flawed people running it.  Do you really think Jefferson and Washington were unaware of the chasm between their fine words about Man and Rights, and the slaves in the rude sheds behind their respective grand houses?  D'ya suppose anyone -- including the man himself -- failed to grasp that Thomas Paine was so innately contentious that few people could stand him for very long?   Do you really think those men didn't see in their fellows at least, the vanity, greed, concupiscence, quarrelsomeness, all the failings of mortal men?  They knew the system would be gamed; they tried to keep the game fair (or, at least, fair for white, land-owning males who could keep their wits about them; but that's another sort of rant). They knew the system would be run by jerks; they tried to set it up so as to get some work out of them -- and to keep them out of everyone else's hair.  They didn't try for perfect; they knew perfection to be unattainable.

     You know who aimed for perfection?  Pol Pot.  Lenin.  The Owenites.  The French Revolution.  Hell, GODWIN even the GODWIN Nazis claimed to be GODWIN reaching for the ideal.  And every one of them ended in greater or lesser sorrow.

     Is the system imperfect?  Yes.  Very.  And it's getting more lopsided by the minute--  But you can't fix it by "burning it all down;" you'll only create a fresher, bloodier hell.

     If there is any hope at all, it is in technology.  The System is slow; The Establishment is inherently hidebound.  The Internet, small-scale CNC machining and 3-D printing may have poked the established order full of holes already.  Only time can tell.

     Conversely, we may be riding an inevitable -- and long, slow -- decline.  Republic may have to become Empire, and Empire sink slowly into to rubble, over and over again.  Our culture's fates may be written into our genes and our memes.

     But "burn it all down?"  All you get from that is ash!  Or ash and blood; ash and tears.  "Carthago delenda est" didn't work out too well if you happened to be Carthaginian.  It's a damn fool canary that asphyxiates itself for spite.

     Yes, we've got a mess.  It wants fixing -- or falling apart; but you don't need to push a man who's already teetering on a ledge. Some other folks are liable to get squished, too.
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     *If things get extremely bad enough, fast enough, I'm most likely to end up behind Federal lines, helpin' to transmit "news and official information" about evacuation routes and where the Red Cross kitchens are, hoping listeners/viewers can read between the lines.  I have made my peace with that. --See, if any ol' crunch comes to call, my odds of ending up in a camp no matter who wins are close to 100%.  I'm too contrary, awkward, opinionated, out of place.  But I will by golly strike out swinging, not looking.

Oh, Would You Look At The Time Weather?

     I'd love to sit here and chat, but four inches of fresh-fallen show are tellin' me what I need to be doing is pulling on yesterday's jeans, stout boots, bundling up and getting out there and clearing the stuff away.

     Last night around about ten p.m. or earlier as I went to bed, the yard, sidewalks and street were utterly snow-free.  A generous sprinkling of fallen leaves over fading-green grass in the yard, pavements dry....  Woke briefly at two a.m. and peeked out the window to find a powder-sugar dusting of snow, photogenically pretty.

     What's out there now is to a "pretty dusting of snow" as a full-gown bull moose is to Bambi.  It's been falling fast, thumping down, since the tiny hours and it hasn't stopped.  Peering up into the still-dark sky, you're like an ant looking up at sugar pouring into a spoon.

     And like the proverbial ant, I can't fiddle my morning away but must, perforce, work.  To the shovels!

     Come back later: I may have some photographs.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

     Hap-pee New Year!  Hooray!  A fresh, brand-new year! I'm a-opening it up and a-divin' in...!

     ...Hey!  Waiddaminnit...  This year's already been opened.  Dog-gone it, it's probably done gone flat.  Who did this?

     (Indistinct words from Tam, offstage)

     What?

     Tam:  You did!  You came home last night half in the bag and opened up the New Year!  Right at midnight!

     Oh.

     I guess that's how it works, innit?

     Okay, then.  Happy 12-hour-old year!!!