Friday, January 30, 2015

...ßЯΣЖ₣▲§Г...?

     It was early.  Well, early-ish.  I'd managed to feed the cats without quite breaking the surface of the pool of sleep, then crawled back into bed, tumbling down, down into the deliciously-warm darkness of the land of That Horrible Sound You Sometimes Wake Up Making That Can't Possibly Be Snoring, Can It?  A distressingly-chipper Tam entered and I woke up midway through whatever it was she was saying:

      "....going to get some of those guzza skanax?  You want some?  Like on TV?"

     Me, squintingly, "Yeah?  Sure?"

     "Yum, the guntsa scanniks!  Back soon!"  And she whirled away as I sank back once more into the delightful nothingness behind my eyelids.

     I woke up suddenly a few minutes ago, wide, wide awake.

     I have no idea where Tam went or what she's bringing back.

     I hope it's good.  Guzda czenits?

     ETA: Tam explains.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yankee 1530: It's Magical!

    
You can just about read this. Click for bigger.
   It seems magical, at least.  At first glance, it looks like an ordinary hand-cranked drill and when I bought it (ostensibly as part of a set, but that's a tale for Retrotechnologist, by and by), that's exactly what I thought it was.

     It's not.  As the close-up image shows, there's something going on between the upper and lower bevel gears, something that includes a little gearshift similar to the one found on "Yankee" push-driven screwdrivers.  But where those only have three positions -- forward, locked and reverse -- this has five.

     In PLAIN, it works like any other drill.
     L.H. RATCHET makes it run only counterclockwise.  Turn the crank the other way and the chuck stays put.
     R.H. does the opposite: The drill only turns counterclockwise.
     LOCKED conveniently locks up the whole works, making loosening and tightening the chuck an easy operation.
     But I skipped one.  Here's the magic: select R. H. DOUBLE and it doesn't make any difference which way to turn the crank: the chuck always turns clockwise, with nary a hitch as you change the direction of the driving gear!

     There doesn't seem to have been a lot of use for this functionality, but if you needed it, there were no substitutes and North Brothers Manufacturing (and later Stanley) built this one and a larger size for many years.
A slightly wider view of the 1530
     The hollow handle unscrews with a nice threaded metal collar instead of the usual wood-on-wood threads (see above) to hold a set of small drills (the drills are missing from this one).  The original design was weak, especially when separated, and was modified a few years in for greater strength, resulting in the 1530A.  Finding a plain 1530 in as nice shape as this one is a stroke of luck.

Socialized Medicine?

     Look, all methods of providing medical care have problems; if there was a perfect system, everyone would be using it.  But this headline points up a problem in trying to centrally plan something that is inherently unpredictable:

     Patient walks into radio station in hospital gown after operation cancelled at last minute

     Yep.   That's what happened -- after the third time her surgery was rescheduled due to lack of hospital resources.

     I haven't got any sure-fire answers; I'm not even sure of all the questions, but that's not what anyone wants from any health care system.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"Save The Furnace" Bleg Officially Over

     ...Due to literally overwhelming generosity, I'm ending the request to tip Tam.  I'm bowled over; I have no words and yet you all deserve whatever of 'em can be mustered.

     Many of us -- me and Tamara and a lot of you -- have put $10 or $20 in someone else's tip jar if we had it to spare when they were hurting.  You do it and you move on.

     Tam's tip jar runneth over this morning.  The board is bought.  The furnace tech's labor is paid.  ...And a very nice reader decided we'd better shop for mattresses, too.

     You are an amazing, wonderful bunch of folks -- of friends.

     My thanks and Tam's thanks to each and every one of you.  I'll be a long time paying this forward, but I'm darned well gonna; and I'll think of all of you each time I do.

     At times blogging feels strange and lonely; you wake up in the morning and you write some stuff you hope will interest others, and sometimes they comment...but you rarely know.  You go read what other people have to say about their life, their observations, and that's interesting, too.  And there's a thread of a connection.  But today, right now?  I can see the web of mutual exchange of value and of empathy, and it's huge.

     Y'all are awesome.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Thank You!

     Tamara and I are overwhelmed by the response of readers and bloggers to this morning's furnace problems at Roseholme Cottage.

     Your kind gifts have made a huge difference -- and we will pay them forward.

A Morning Of Unexpected Expen$e

     The alarming odor that awoke me early this morning?  A component or components on the controller board for our furnace, with its nifty safety features, multi-speed blower, etc.

     And the furnace tech has just informed me that the replacement board is $550.  That's right, Five Hundred Fifty Dollars, American.  ...That's my money for a new mattress...that I didn't actually have and was putting off the purchase of therefore.

     I'm unhappy.  I might be able to fix the bad board myself, if it's stupid enough and if the active components aren't bespoke and don't have their identifying marks obscured.*   What I can't do is warrant that it'll have the same reliability and safety as the OEM part.  These days, that counts on matters like insurance.  It's why there's probably no "core credit" for the old board, too.

     It's galling to write this but -- Tam's got a tip jar.  I'm in a bind; the recent (and necessary) used-car purchase has my finances strained.  I can pay for this but it's gonna be costly money.  ETA: Your absolutely staggering response has solved this problem.  Completely.  I'm gobsmacked.  My attempt to begin to say thanks will be found a couple of posts on. 
 ________________________________
* Diodes, transistors and integrated circuits use a somewhat-scattershot assortment of European, JEDEC, trade-association and manufacturer's numbers that usually resolve down to one of a few thousand replacement parts per component type.  A competent electronics tech can usually find them.  But some makers remove the numbers and others -- big, vertically-integrated operations, mostly -- build their own parts and often won't sell them.  Passive components like resistors, capacitors and (less so) inductors are marked with common color codes or simple numeric shorthand.  Transformers?  Yeah, good luck with that.  Most OEM ones have nothing other than not-very-informative color-coded leads.

A Morning Of Worries

     Furnace may be acting up.  Repair tech expected by 8:30.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

They Call Him "Father Of The Constitution"

     This, too is true of the man:
     Make of it what you will.

Spot The Problem

     Found in the Prohibition exhibit at the Indiana State Museum, in the portion dealing with the efforts to ban liquor.  Can you identify the problem with this document?
     I'm of two minds about revealing the answer.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I'm On Vacation

     More or less on vacation -- as "more" as I can make it, despite getting a weekend day trimmed from each end.  Sunday, I celebrated with a sausage omelet:
     Sweet Italian sausage, a little extra Italian seasoning, shallots and chives, a little diced Hungarian peppers, a dash of paprika, some Colby Jack cheese to try to hold the ends together.  Turned out very tasty.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

This Is Not A Battery Charger

     It will, however, melt your battery or your starter into a heap of glowing slag.  Assuming you have the 480 Volts at 12 Amperes to feed it, anyway.  Which you probably don't.

     Word to the wise: this one had aluminum lugs on it.  That might not be the best of ideas.  Eventually, they start to get, well, melty.  This would be bad anywhere but it's worse when they're a fifth of a mile away.  A fifth of a mile, straight up.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Day Like Any Other Day, Except--

     It's Tamaraday!  Yes, born a mere one (1) day after John Moses Browning, Tamara Keel celebrates her birthday this very day, with fun, and festivities and...

     ...Well, the trash ran early today, crazy-early and a day later due to Martin Luther King Day earlier in the week, and we missed it.  I should have suspected they'd do something of the sort, and the rules do say "by seven a.m.," but it's a rare day we see them before eight, let alone so soon after seven that they must have started at the end of our block.  It was a frustrating start.

     I'm at work at present, so you might want to stop by View From The Porch and think some happy thoughts at Tam.

Friday, January 23, 2015

All Traveling Tower Crews Have A Dog

     It may be a rule.
     (In the photo, he's listening for His Person, just around the corner.)

     This guy was very friendly, and before his toys were unpacked, he found a small cardboard box to carry around.  He finally ripped it up, but only after being told it would be okay.  He's extremely playful with his owner (tugging at pants cuffs, dancing and trying to get him to play) and more restrained with others.  Very happy to be petted and will lean up against your legs to see if you'll give way.  Here's a hint: don't.

I'm Off To Work Early

     And I'll try to post something interesting eventually.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What's The Weather Like Up Th-- Oh, Breezy Again?

     As usual.  It is so rarely not that riggers don't mention it; they key up their handi-talkies and you hear the "breeze" howling in the background.
     While my interest is in the two electrical enclosures, you may find the distant ground fascinating.  This was taken about 900 feet up a local tower -- and not, let me add, by me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Does This Look Like A Problem To You?

     It may be more of a symptom.  Efforts continue.
     The stranded wire is about 5/8" in diameter.  The terminal it used to connect to is an inch on a side.  It melted into the other wires.  Yeesh.

Fusion Cuisine?

     The latter might be debatable but I'm pretty sure using smoked bratwurst as the meat in a spicy Korean-style stir-fry qualifies, though cooks from either country's kitchens might look askance at the "Seven Whole Grains" mixture I used in place of rice.  Hey, there's rice in it!

     Whatever you call it, the combination worked well.  I cut the meat into rounds, stir-friend rice once it was well along, then added some fresh carrot/broccoli/cauliflower mix, cut up bite-size.  The sauce was a packaged pour-over-and-simmer from the corner market.  I bought it on a whim and the mild heat paired up well against the smoky brat and grain mixture. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ha! Beat The Alarm, I Did

     Don't know why.  Woke up several minutes before it was set to go off.  The cats didn't know what to think at first, then decided if I was up, it was time for them to be fed.

     It's probably a sign I should get ready for the doc.

     --Oh, woke from a not-quite bad dream: I was living in a much larger house with a much larger workshop, though my bench was still cluttered.  Showing a couple of visitors around, one of them lifted up a "breadboard" (as used to build prototype circuits -- originally, just wood) to see what was under it and a bunch of irreplaceable Bakelite parts sitting atop it went sliding and almost fell off.  I made the visitors leave.  That's probably a sign, too.  A sign I should clean off my bench.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Inflamed Eyelids?

     Appears I've got 'em.  Scheduled to see the eye doctor tomorrow at 8:55 a.m.  "Blepharitis," which sound to me like what you call it when an elephant suffers severe wind.

     Until I see the doc, the professional advice is to wash one's face with baby shampoo and lay off the makeup. Have been doing and will keep on doing.

     No well-meaning advice, please, and especially if you've never had this.  No silver, no half-onions, none of that.  We pay a class of arcane specialists to work on this stuff and they're better than you think.

"The Man In The High Castle," A TV Series?

     Maybe.  If enough people like it.  Amazon has a pilot for a series based on the Philip K. Dick alternate-history classic, set in a 1962 where the victorious Axis powers have divided the U. S. between a Japanese-ruled West Coast and the Greater German Reich on the East Coast and South, leaving a "neutral territory" between the two.  And somewhere in that area, a guy in a fortified home is busy turning out anti-fascist tales of a world where it turned out differently.  They're banned, of course....

     The Amazon version has the "Man" in the title's "High Castle" making films.  Dick's original has him writing books.  It's an understandable change.

     I liked the pilot.  Tam liked it.  If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free!  Then use the "Send us Feedback" link at the lower right here to tell them if you liked it.  Amazon has a lot of pilots out and only the ones with the most positive feedback will be made into series.  If you'd like The Man In The High Castle to be a series, step up!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Grab-Bag

     -Once again, I have gone to a gun show (with both Turk Turon, Friday; and Tam, Shootin' Buddy and the Data Viking, Saturday) and returned without firearms.  I did buy metalworking items, a small display case for pens, and a book. DV scored a Smith & Wesson pre-Model 17 .22 revolver in excellent shape and Tam made progress towards owning even more obscure semi-autios, a .25 Pieper and a .25 H&R auto derived from the old Webley & Scott self-loading pistol.  The Indy 1500 was incredibly crowded both Friday and Saturday and the crowd was their usual big-city mixture of Random Anonymous Strangers, Bubbas, Women Of All Hues And Classes, Collectors, Oriental Tourists, Hunters, Plinkers, Guys Who Look Like Gang Members, Cops, Soldiers, Fake Soldiers (kid, they're laughing at your "uniform."), the occasional fellow with a generally disapproving expression and just plain folks.  While gun shows skew "white" and "old," the big 1500 pulls in a lot more kinds of people than you'd think if you'd never been there -- and we all got along, despite being cheek-by-jowl and having to squeeze though.

     -Many of science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum's short stories are available online.  Weinbaum is notable for being one of the first, perhaps the very first of the "modern" or Campbellian SF authors -- except he did so before John W. Campbell became the editor of Astounding (later Analog) and died eighteen months after his first story was published.  ...And kept on getting published after he died, thanks at least in part to his sister Helen Kasson.

     -Bud Webster has written a fine series of biographical sketches of Weinbaum, R. A. Lafferty, and other SF authors, published in the Grantville Gazette and found here.

     -It is past time for me to do some old-tools articles over at Retrotechnologist.  Work may intrude today but I am thinking about what and how.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This Shouldn't Happen

     This thing shouldn't be covered in ice.  It's supposed to heat up and melt the ice as it forms.
    
     That part isn't working.  Did I mention it's about a thousand feet above the ground?  Tried to send a crew up for a closer look yesterday but the ice was starting to melt and fall in big pieces and even with hard hats and tennis racquets, it was too dangerous.

     Are we having fun yet?

     Fun like this, I would as soon not have.

     For scale, that's a normal-sized ladder at the lower left.  The red part is a little over a hundred feet from end to end.

Friday, January 16, 2015

4G And 1920s Refrigerators?

     So I was looking up frequencies used for 4G cell service in North America and noticed that while everyone else is LTE, Sprint was mostly WiMax -- and the thumbnail illustration for that showed something that looked unusual:
     No, that's not really a "Monitor Top" fridge on the left, nor a smaller contemporary on the right.  But it sure seemed so at first glance!

     Found here.  And here's some Monitor Top history.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

You Have To Hold Your Mouth Right

     "Made of high-tech carbon fiber" -- superkewl.

     "Woven from old pencil leads" -- not cool.

      Who knew?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Books Semi-Reviewed

     I wanted to like Calvin Cobb, Radio Woodworker, I really did.  Even the cover art is splendid.  Roy Underhill -- yes, the PBS woodworking guy -- is a likeable fellow and handles the language well.  The good news is that his book, set in the mid to late 1930s, does a great job getting the technology and architecture right.  He starts out with an engaging cast of characters and it grows.  There are even plenty of good scenes.  But it's got problems.  The worst one is that Roy is an uncertain ringmaster -- is he writing about 1930s people and situations as seen from the 21st Century, or from the '30s?  And alas, his characters are cardboard.  Two-dimensional.  They are very good 2D characters, who would be well at home in a ripping pulp yarn...but that's not what this is; there are plenty of 3D issues in the book, not just racism, anti-semitism and 1930s political turmoil (of which the U.S. had plenty) but female soldiers (we had 'em in WW I and some were dreadfully hurt in that dreadful war), the disabled, a hint of homophobia, xenophobia, data processing and the disruptions it can cause, and just offstage, a loudly-rumored gay J. Edgar Hoover.  I don't mind if an author's politics and pet issues are different to my own -- I think Kim Stanley Robinson and Ursula K. LeGuin are among the best writers around, and we're worlds apart -- but I do mind that he treats his characters as more than mere plot props.  Alas, Calvin is callow, his love interest seems to have been trotted in for eye appeal and Red-flag waving, and his villain shows up late with a big ol' sign on his back reading I AM THE BAD GUY.  --Which he is, very, and better-drawn than some of the more-sympathetic characters; but we never really meet him, either.  The rest of the cast fares no better and it's a pity; they deserved better.

     Mr. Underhill gets all the details right -- he really, truly, delightfully does† -- but his big picture just doesn't work.  Torn between writing a fast-paced pulp novel and incisive social commentary, between a 1930s period piece and a modern look backwards, he ends up with not enough of either.  His story and characters suffer for it, by turns too simple and overly complex, sometimes in the same paragraph.  Better luck next time and I do hope there is one.

     In contrast, a couple of books set in roughly the same period of time and written long afterward by people who had Been There and Done That hold up very well.  Mary Motley's Devils In Waiting relates her time in the French Congo, where her husband served as a military attache.  By present-day standards, her attitude towards the locals can seem at times shockingly patronizing; but she does genuinely care.  She's even aware of the dreadful death toll* of the then recently-completed railway that remains the country's lifeline, though she never fully connects the dots between the somewhat wrecked and demoralized populace and the forced labor that built the railway.

     Canadian writer Thomas H. Raddall has a deft touch, well-shown in The Nymph And The Lamp, set in Nova Scotia and on Marina Island in 1920-21.  Something of a romance (but don't worry, fellows, there's no mooning around), one of the main characters is a wireless operator who has served on Marina for many years.  It's a much deeper story than first appears and with Raddall's first-hand experience in the merchant marine and early wireless (including the shore station on the real-life counterpart of Marina), there's not a wrong note.  He neither shys from nor obsesses over issues of class, race and the social and personal upheaval occasioned by the Great War, all of which you will find in background and foreground.  Highly recommended, both to my readers and particularly to Roy Underhill.  Thomas H. Raddall should be better-known and and his books more widely available in the States than they are; Amazon.ca lists quite a few that Amazon.com does not.
______________________________
* Between 30,000 and 15,000 depending on who you trust, and that's only the workers.  The toll in families uprooted or torn apart and their casualty rate is unknown. Bypassing the impassible rapids of the lower Congo has had immense benefits but the human cost was horrifying.
  
† With one exception: unless I missed something, he doesn't quite get the complex issues around the use of transcriptions in early radio.  This is about as hair-splitting as geekery gets and it won't bother most readers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hi, There!

     I went into work around midnight, Sunday/Monday and worked right through until 11:30 a.m.  Came home, went out for Indian buffet (yum!) returned, sat at my desk and fell almost asleep sitting there.  Eventually got to bed and other than a short bit of wakefulness about midnight, that was it. My head is just about as empty as a big old empty thing.

     However, driving past Hedlund's Hardware, their big billboard atop the building, which has movie-marquee style changeable text is touting a new product: "BEDBUG KILLER POCKET KNIVES."  Tamara took a photograph, which I hope to post here.
     Man, I have got to get me one of those!  Never fear sleeping in a strange hotel room again, you would.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

T-Shirt! Oh, I'll Get Rich...

     It will so work: T-shirts with this warning:

THE PERSON ON YOUR TELEVISION IS LYING

     It's sufficiently vague enough to appeal to everyone and best of all, any way they take it, they'll be right!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Two-Thousand-And-Froze"

     The cats woke me at six, hungry. I fed them, shutting the door that closes off the back of the house so Huck wouldn't eat up all of Rannie's breakfast.  The TV came on and perkily informed me it was eleven below.  I went back to bed and turned up the electric blanket.

     Around about eight, I heard a mild commotion: Tam had awakened and realized she and Rannie were shut away from Huck, me...and the litter box.  The TV was still claiming subzero temperatures.  I went back to sleep, pulling the covers over my head.

     Along about nine-thirty, the tiny, two-dimensional people inside my TV* were finally reporting "warmer" temps: two above.  (For you seafolk -- Canada, Czechoslovakia, Chile -- that rounds to -17). So I got up, despite not wanting to.

     Cold as it is, breakfast is a matter of "what's in the larder?"  A little extra-lean ground sirloin, some bacon, eggs, canned diced tomatoes, canned black beans, an onion and some green olives, along with various spices.

     Fried up two slices of bacon, drained off ninety percent of the fat -- look, you have to fry the lean stuff in something -- and had a look at the onion. Moldy.  Gah!

     But I had some dehydrated onion -- this is why you stock such stuff, after all -- and once the water was bubbling from the beef, I added it, neatly solving the "do I drain the ground beef or not?" issue.  A little this and that from the spice rack (parsley, thyme, hot paprika) went in as well. Then I snipped up a dried hot Chinese pepper, read the label ("Add whole while cooking.  Remove before serving."), fished out all the bits and put in a whole one.  Drained the canned tomato, added it, got it bubbling, tossed in a little basil and some Italian seasoning (also basil, plus some other things).  The black beans were marked "Low Sodium," so I snipped the cooked bacon and a few olives into the wok, drained the beans well, added about half and decided I liked the proportions.  Cooked all that down a little, drained off the nice-looking broth into a Pyrex measuring cup and parked it over a pilot light,† pushed everything to the sides, and quick-scrambled a couple eggs in the center.  Mixed it all together and served with a bit of the warm, spicy broth poured over: tasty! Surprisingly low-to-no heat and a complex set of flavors.

     If I was doing it again, I'd skim the broth for luck , add about half the black-bean liquid to the broth with a drop of hot sauce, and cook it a little, possibly thickening with a little arrowroot or cornstarch.  (Arrowroot can be found in small containers in the spice section.  It costs like gold or Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee but it's a wonderfully unobtrusive thickener.‡) 

     And now here I am, for about a half-day of whatever, since I'm scheduled to go in early tomorrow.
_______________________
* Nothing personal, Kellie and Naomi; the process of televising does that to all its vict subjects.

† This is why we cook over gas ranges, that and the very fast response to control inputs. Oh, and the ability to stack up burner separators to get very low-heat simmering, and....  It's the mature cooktop technology.  Ovens, on the other hand, you're much better off with an electric.

‡  For instance, you can use it to help the egg white get more structure when making "egg nests," or "eggs in a cloud," though that version doesn't.  If you have time, this is a versatile treat -- people make it on top of toast/ham/cheese, or add well-cooled bacon to the egg white, or various cheeses.  Oh, great, now I'm hungry again.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Downtown: Snow, Cold, More To Come

     Downtown Indy last night.
     The little horizontal blue dash in the sky just to the right of center is the lighting on the Chase Tower, about eight blocks away from the parking lot where I took this photo.  You couldn't even see the flashing red lights atop the spires.

     March is only seven weeks away!

We're All Charlie Now

     I haven't commented on the cowardly terrorist nitwits who shot up the editorial staff of the French Satire magazine but it's not for lack of noticing; I figure you don't need me to read you the news and if you are reading this blog, you don't need me to point out that murdering the staff of, say, National Lampoon because they disrespected your religion is plain evil, authoritarian garbage behavior.  Persons who do such things should be shot in the act and it is a great sadness to me that the two most recent affronts to civilization happened in nations where armed self-defense if difficult if not impossible.  (L. Neil Smith has addressed this,* pointing out that these attacks are "a diffuse phenomenon, best dealt with by diffuse means."  Shoot back!)

     The current outbursts of Islamanoid terrorism are based on an approach to the world that makes Racoona Sheldon's The Screwfly Solution look humane.  It's not the way the guy who runs the corner Middle-Eastern restaurant thinks or lives (at least, at the one in my neighborhood) -- and the solution to the present mess depends not only on stopping evil but encouraging good.
________________________________
* Help a brother out! I was alarmed to learn that LNS suffered a stroke last summer. Evidence is he's recovering well but if you were ever inclined to tip me -- or if you weren't but you'd like to help out L. Neil -- tip him instead.  You'll find ways to do so in the essay linked above and at this article.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Livin' In A Winter Wonderland

     ...It's highly overrated.  -6°F this morning!  That's -78 Centrifugal, of course, and cold enough to freeze your socks clean off either way.  TV weatherkins are begging viewers to "wear several layers of loose clothing" and that's just to stay inside and lookit the various flavors of timesuck screens -- if you actually go outdoors in suboptimal clothing, you've got about ten minutes before frostbite begins to set in.  In another ten, the synovial fluid in your joints freeze and you're stuck in whatever pose you were in until someone comes along with a teakettle-ful of warm water and thaws you out.

     We did get a little sun the last couple of mornings, hooray!
     The snow is not too deep and remains fluffy wherever it has not been compressed or thawed.  But I'll tell you what, along about Thanksgiving, the squirrels around here were getting fatter and fatter, until some of them could barely manage the usual dramatic leaps and were just lumbering lumpishly along, clambering up the fence posts and pausing to catch their breath before waddling along the tops of the boards to the nearest tree, where they'd blink up at it a bit, trying to work out how it'd got so far away, then push off, drop out of sight, and reappear making their way up the trunk with painful effort.  Now I know what they were putting on all that fat for.  Haven't seen a one since the snow and cold started.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Senator Scary-Go-Boom Rides Again

     Indiana State Senator Jim Merritt, who appears to be frightened of loud noises, is once again trying to restrict the sale of Tannerite, a high-stability binary explosive used to make reactive targets.*  --He's a Republican, so don't tell me any one party has a lock on wanting to be Nanny.

     Two years ago, the Senator went on a crusade to ban sales of the explosive to anyone under 18 -- despite the fact that you can't set Tannerite off with anything but a high-velocity rifle round, and guess who can't, per Fedral law, buy high-velocity rifles?  Yes, persons under 18.  His bill got, well, not exactly laughed out of committee, not in public, but it didn't make any progress, either.

     Like a quivering zombie with shot nerves, he's back with the same tired tales of foolish people doing foolish things and proving the flip side of Darwinism, about which There Ought To Be A Law.  This despite the fact that there already are laws about building bombs, as opposed to filling up a bag or cardboard box with something that will go "Ka-BLAM!" when you shoot it with an AK-15/AR-47.

     He'd also like to limit the amount that any one retailer could sell you at one go -- forgetting, I guess, that a person enamored of big booms could save the stuff up, or enlist the aid of a few few friends.

     Hey, kids: don't surround your reactive targets with shrapnel.  Get adult supervision if you want to blow up old refrigerators or junk cars and remember, the thing about an *explosion* is that using anything you can buy off the shelf, it goes in all directions -- including the desk of Nervous Nellie Jim Merritt.

     At present, the chairman of the committee looking over the bill isn't convinced.  He doesn't see the need -- and neither do I.  Senator Merritt's district sprawls across northeast Marion County (Lawrence Township and a tiny piece of Washington) and  southern Hamilton County (Fall Creek Township).  It might help lead him back to reality to hear from you.
___________________________
* Also to trigger avalanches and scare off birds.  So try not to avalanche yourself, either

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Hey, Look: Winter

     When I went to bed last night, it was doing this outside:
     It continued all through the night.  There's four inches of snow on the ground now, or a bit more.  More photos may follow; I'm going to have to bundle up and see what I can get cleared away.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Three-Pepper Soup

     Dinner tonight: three-pepper soup de jour of the day! Take a fair-sized stewpot and cook a half-slice of bacon, a half-pound of stew beef (salted and peppered), a (large) chorizo sausage snipped into rounds, half a red onion, a little bit of fennel root (I'm pretty sure that was what it was; raw, it tastes mildly of liquorice), browned/sauteed together in that order. Yes, the meat gets a bit of a head start -- I got it going, then cut up the vegetables, and the timing worked out. When the meat looks good, add enough water to cover and a whole container of beef stock, and cover while you cut a big potato into 3/8" cubes (do not measure!) and add to the pot. Liquid should cover the contents. If it doesn't, add more.

      Heat up a very little oil or butter in a non-stick skillet -- you really only need enough to pretend -- while you dice the rest of the onion and an Anahiem pepper and add to the skillet. Cut carrots in the pan (I used baby carrots and kitchen shears. I cheat), saute until the onion goes translucent. Let it cool a bit, the add to the stewpot. Cover, let it simmer, go do something else for at least ten minutes.

      Dice at least half a bell pepper -- I used a red one. Whatever -- and a poblano pepper. start up your saute pan, throw in the red pepper, push it around some. Then add the poblano. --You have to be nice to poblanos. They should not be overcooked. The trick is that it will start to smell really good, and the second it does, take the pan off the heat, let it cool a bit, and add the contents to the simmering stewpot. Let it simmer at least ten more minutes or until the potato is soft. Add salt (etc.) to taste at the table.

     The end result is a kind of red-brown broth stew or soup. In general, the longer this simmers, the better it will be. You can add hotter peppers for more of a bite. You can add a can of diced tomatoes (or you can add them and various other canned veggies the next day). If you let it sit in the fridge overnight, some fat will come to the surface, depending on how fatty the bacon and chorizo were, and it can be skimmed.

     With dark bread, crusty rolls or crackers, it's a warming meal on a cold night.

Most People Are Good People....

     But just like the way one "Aw, sh!t" wipes out ten "Attaboys," a single encounter with a bad person can contaminate an entire week.

     Try'n remember that most folks aren't like that jerk.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Back To Normal Hours In An Abnormal World

     With something very like a feeling of relief, I work up at six this morning and actually woke up.  I've been stumbling around in the morning, feeding the cats and heading back to bed.  Today, I was awake.

     ...Just in time for some interesting weather, gusts of wind that shook the house!   The forecast said it would be gusty, along with sharply falling temperatures, and so far, they have been right.

     I have been resolutely avoiding politics.  There's no good news there.  Sure, one side is much worse on issues that immediately impact me -- but over the longer view, the other's about as bad.  These days, neither one is especially willing to leave people be and that's a pity.

     There's been a big push on to show support for the police but I find myself leery.  Most LEO's are decent folks, who face both dire risk and appalling boredom, along with working hours at least as lousy as those of my own trade -- but their baddest apples are very rotten, and many don't get tossed out until they have done great harm.  Faced with a choice between rioters and police, I'm most likely to side with the police but I'm nagged by the feeling that if civic officials had done their jobs just a little better -- and that includes running the police department -- we might not be having riots.  An old saw has it that the rot runs from the head down: hand the Long Arm Of The Law an untenable situation and you're going to get unpleasant answers -- and unpleasant people providing them.  I'm left with great sympathy for good cops and little inclination to screw in a blue porch light: changing light bulbs is not gonna help.  Might as well be rearranging deck chairs while the band plays Nearer My God To Thee.  --And you know where it all starts?  Most of those "civic officials" are elected.  You can blame a lousy pool of nominees or a damfool electorate (probably both), but it's a marginally-circular process, made all the worse by those who didn't bother to show up at the voting but are only too happy happy to get in on the looting and/or head-bashing end.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Oh, All Right, I'm Up.

     Observers will note that I have been sleeping in, reclaiming the sleep debt I managed to build up through the holidays and perhaps trying to bank away a little for the future.  Sure, it doesn't work that way; but it feels as if it does.

     This afternoon, I have some actual things to do, like try reading the smog code my car is on about and shipping this and that to here and there.  It's rainy but not cold, and this may be my last chance to clear the gutters before we get temperatures below zero.  Between the rain and the steepness of the roof here at Roseholme Cottage, that'll be a pure ladder job.

Friday, January 02, 2015

New Year's Food

     New Year's Day went without much hitch, barring a sub-optimal head of cabbage:
     Good corned beef (the flash was unkind to it), excellent vegetables otherwise.  I don't know what was up with the cabbage; I found it acrid.  Too long in the tooth?  Possible.  And here I was saving back a wedge to have some to put on a hamburger.  (The old Penguin Point drive-ins did that instead of lettuce and if you ask me, it's far superior; on the other hand, my lineage possesses a fondness for the brassicas that would do credit to a Pratchett character)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015 And All's...

     It could certainly be a great deal worse.  On the other hand, it's two-thousand-fifteen and there's nobody living on the Moon; there's a space station but it's more of a mobile home.

     On the other hand, while your car still fails to fly, it does some amazing things; the gas mileage alone would have sounded insane to your parents or grandparents.  And we have not managed to blow up the planet or even a major city this century.  So far, so good.