Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Other Kind Of "Plumbing" Update

     After several days of, ahem, normal function, I skipped the Lomotil pill last night.  This morning, after it became obvious I shouldn't have, I took one.  So that's two a day, still plenty less than the suggested "one or two every six hours as needed," but what'm I gonna do after taking the last one?

     I'm enjoying (hahaha) a nice cup of plain Greek yogurt with a little salt and pepper.  Cottage cheese it ain't, but I bought some of that, too, for a reward if I finish this stuff.  Which I have, so I will.  Can they not make live-culture cottage cheese, or would that be awful?  What's so special about yogurt?

Plumbing Update

     I had not mentioned, but once the curbside shut-off was found, the plumbers came and went in half a day, and left behind a neater-looking installation than they found.  Better yet, it's not leaking.
     Price was as estimated, which was high, but I consider 65 percent of it as "Bobbi doesn't have to do the work," 20 percent as "Expensive tools you don't have and shouldn't buy," like the threading die for inch-and-a-half galvanized-iron pipe,* and that neatly leaves 15 percent to pay for the parts.  The finished job is clean, decent and there's a union about a foot into the horizontal run (not shown) that should simplify disassembly if we have to do this again in 92 years.

     Some reader is going to look at the blotchy black stuff in the floor and lecture me about black mold.  Wrong.  That's coal dust and maybe a little fuel-oil schmutz; smear a fingertip through it, sniff and you can smell it.  This house had a coal-burning furnace for years and years.  At some point, it was converted to oil.  Both are long-gone but, for those of you who remember neither, they're dirty fuels, and every hard-to-get-to or neglected corner of the house has a hidden freight of the stuff, especially the basement.  The plumbers were working right next to the main floor beam and a crawl space opening, and the longer they worked (as water dripped), the more black, oily dust drifted down and the worse that floor looked.  I'll be mopping it later today.
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* Or is that 1"?  Inch and a quarter?  Whichever; the kits aren't cheap and the experience to use one on ancient pipe about seven feet above floor level and crowded by a big beam and the gas line is even more costly. Better them than me, and better the learning takes somewhere other than in my basement.  --Speaking of experience, I've got unscrew a couple of aerators and remove the calcium deposits they've collected in the wake of the plumbing work.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Um -- It's Friday

     It's Friday and that's about as much as I've got.  Still having to take the medicine for my earlier problem, which is an ongoing kind of a thing and I don't know why.

     A busy weekend for me -- I have Saturday off, then I work early-early Sunday and Monday.  It may be the last of those for awhile, we hope: they've got someone to work the early-weekend shift and schedules for the rest of us will be shuffled around a little, which should put me back on my previous regular daytime shift.  I was offered an "opportunity" to work early Saturday and make up some of the hours I lost sick -- but between that and the water problem, I am behind on all manner of housework, so I had to pass.  The early shift is hard enough on my sleep/wake schedule without going for degree-of-difficulty points.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

We May Be In A Comic Book Graphic Novel

     A Facebook acquaintance posted the other day, "I wish Lex Luthor was real."

     So, kid, have you met Jeff Bezos?  Science-minded bald or shaven-headed guy with his own commercial empire and his own space program, who is in the process of building his own army of drones? True, he's probably not evil nor out to conquer the world in the traditional sense, but given our present lack of castaway Kryptonians and/or orphaned billionaires bent on balancing the scales of justice, that's for the best.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Better -- And Safe From Nerve Gas

     So, yesterday I was heading back to work?  Didn't happen.  The closer it got to happy-drive-to-work time, the worse my innards got.  I called in sick -- again! -- and headed to the drive-thru doctor.

     They listened to my symptoms, decided not to send me to a specialist -- in part because I was still within the reasonable upper limit for the duration of viral gastroenteritis -- and instead prescribed something for symptomatic relief:  Atropine!

     Actually, Diphenoxylate/Atropine, which works to, er, slow things down.  Scary-small pills with a long list of warnings.* It took the pharmacy until mid-afternoon to find any, and the first result of my taking one was to make me extremely drowsy.  I did not have to wake up every couple of hours, which was a huge improvement on most of the past week.  So far, so good, though there may be a price to pay by and by. 
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* Atropine is a "natural" substance.  You'll find it in deadly nightshade, Jimson weed (datura), mandrake and belladonna, among others. Yessirree. all-natural, how could it possibly be a problem...  Ahem.  Named, by the way, after Atropos, the one of the three Fates who decided when you were going to die.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

...And Back To It

     Gotta call The Water Co. this morning, to begin what promises to be a Kafkaesque effort to get them -- or any other responsible entity -- to locate the street side water shutoff.

     I tried poking around in the grass at the curb on Christmas day, to no avail.  The shutoff tends to become hidden as the dirt builds up in that strep between the sidewalk and the street.  (One of our neighbors landscaped this Fall and had just about a pickup-truckbed full of soil removed from that area to bring it back level with the sidewalk!)  The plumber had tried looking Christmas Eve eve, without success.

     It is, as they say, a mystery.  Meanwhile, I did something moderately clever with a funnel, a bit of garden hose and the original plastic shoebox water "bucket" that, if it held up through the night, should free us from having to get downstairs every three to four hours to dump leaked water from the shoebox: funnel is self-amalgamating-taped to the hose, shoebox holds it in place under the drip and the hose runs to the floor drain.  If it held up overnight, it ought to do for now; if not, well, the shoebox is right where it was, so it'll fill up again.  At least that's the theory.

     P.S.: The Water Company promises to come out sometime today and find our outside valve -- and to not shut it off.  Here's hoping!

     P.P.S: I am, intermittently, still sick.  This isn't good.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Racing Against Rats?

     Hint: if all about you in the contest are rats, you probably, are, too.  And likewise with idiots.  So I wasn't terribly surprised Christmas Day when a meme started making the rounds on F*cebook, urging Michelle Obama to run for President in 2020!  --And citing, matter-of-factly, her setting right the horrors of a Donald Trump Presidency. 

     I find several things wrong with that, starting with the obvious lack of a time machine, the idiocy of casting Presidents as magic-fairy philosopher-kings, the inappropriateness of partisan memes on one of the most "let's get along" of holidays, and her easily web-searchable lack of interest in the job.

     Catch that last item?  Consider this: a woman whose former condo neighbors describe as being notably more Type A than her husband, a woman who just spent four years next to the guy holding the highest office in the land, responded, when asked about running for the job, "No, no, no." Why, it is almost as if my long-held notion that POTUS is a crappy job just might be true.

     Come 2020 -- or 2018, more likely -- the Dems will be seething with politicians who actually want the job; the Republicans probably will, too, because that's how it works.  And the Libertarian Party will find some barely-Libertarian pol to give interviews and lose like the Druids when Rome rolled in, woad and all.  I'm pretty sure there's plenty of time to fret about that later.

    

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Holiday Greetings

Blogger or my computer is a little broken this morning, so this may not have a title.

     But 'tis the day of the season -- literally, for two of the world's great faiths, and we just missed the solstice (do Western Civ. and the various calendars ever manage a triple-play?) and therefore,
Merry Christmas!
or whatever other wish would be most appropriate for you.

     As I have written earlier, I don't feel the least bit hesitant about all-encompassing holiday wishes; you can wish a cautious "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays," and I'm fine with that -- or you can be just as specific as you like, religiously, culturally, whatever.  It is the thought that counts and for at least just this one day, at least in just this one, widely (and however tenuously) shared culture, with the Russians and the Greek Orthodox leaping a little ahead of their day and the various solar-calendar pagans lagging, let us wish one another well -- and mean it.

     The very best of holiday wishes to you and yours, from Tam, Rannie, Huck and me, here at Roseholme Cottage.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Better -- And Worse: The Plumber Is Merry

     Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling sufficiently better to head to the basement and find a fresh nightgown and robe.  There was a trickle of water on the floor -- well, the temperature had climbed way up and it's been raining.  I wasn't as much better as I thought and the activity ended with my fleeing back upstairs.

     Later, early evening, I was definitely better.  So, what about that water--

     What about it?  I went back downstairs to check. There was a lot more of water, a tricking rille from the furnace (which is up on blocks in a low-ish spot) over to the floor drain.  But the usual wall-to-furnace path was dry.

     It was dry because the water was coming from a wall a ninety degrees to the usual source, a higher patch of floor where I keep clothes on racks and hanger-rods mounted to the floor joists overhead.  I had to fold up the ironing board, move a defunct analog television* and relocate a few empty boxes before I found the source: the shut-off valve for city water was leaking.  Not around the valve stem, either, but a steady drip, drip, drip from underneath.

     Reaching down to touch the packing nut made the drip rate increase.

     This is the very first valve for the plumbing inside the house.  There's one in a (buried) valve pit out at the street but it takes a special wrench, which is how The Water Company keeps deadbeats from turning their own water back on after it has been shut off for nonpayment.  (Yes, of course there's a brisk, unofficial trade in the special wrenches if you know where to look.)

     I called a plumber around eight p.m.  I kinda ended up getting a little weepy -- hey, I was sick for three days!  Plumber (from Hope Plumbing, our local Zen philosopher-king plumbers; they took over the "fine, antique plumbing" work when Steck's shut down, and bless 'em for that) showed up ten-ish, took a look, tried the valve -- leaks like mad when you start to close it, which is typical -- looked at the meter base or setter, looked at the plumbing, and admitted he didn't have what he needed on the truck and wasn't going to be able to have it until Tuesday.  The meter base is of a type no longer allowed and will have to be replaced. (I haven't seen one like it, and I've lived n older homes most of my adult life.)  It's looking like $700 in parts and labor.  The meter base and inside shut-off valve appear to date from 1924, when my house was built, though they could be as late as 1940s. The leak is actually from a little venting widget, a part of the valve that is made in a way that dates to not later than WW II.

     The plumber looked for the curbside shut-off in the dark but it's nowhere to be found.  They tend to sink into the dirt -- actually, the dirt on the strip between sidewalk and curb slowly builds up and buries them, but the result is the same, you have to have The Water Co. come out and find the thing.  And they're closed for Christmas, too.

     So there's a little plastic shoebox under the leaking valve (it's too close the the floor for a bucket), and there's a steady one-per-second drip into it.  In about three hours, the box is as full as you'd want and ready to be emptied.

     On Tuesday -- if I am lucky! -- I'll spend the big bucks getting this fixed.

     It could be worse; there are plenty of people on this Earth for whom sufficient clean water to let the stuff drip out and pour down a drain would be insane wealth.  This is America, where even bad plumbing is a reminder of relative luxury, and we toss out working TV sets because they're in the way.

     Merry Christmas, Bobbi.
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* A big, bulging-screen RCA easily twenty years old -- I wrestled it up the stairs (!) and it's on the patio under a big trash bag pending proper disposal.  Does it still work?  Probably.  Is it worth keeping?  No.  I said "big," but by present standards the screen is small though the device is large and heavy.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cats In Sunlight

     Huck had found a nice sunny patch on the window seat and was basking when I made a pan of broth.  Rannie, displaced from the bed when I got up, had joined him.  In an uncommon display of mutual sweetness, the two cats were laying side-by-side, enjoying the sun's warmth.  I dished out a "coffee bowl" of broth, a thing half-way between a mug and a bowl equipped with a nice handle, and had taken it back to office to post something, when Miss Rannie began spluttering in outrage.

     I shuffled back to the library, to find both cats still on the window seat, but Rannie was all but on tiptoe, looking at Huck in horror.  Huck had decided his back was warm enough and had rolled over to expose his tummy -- and had flashed Rannie, bold as can be!

     We might reasonably suppose she was simply upset that the Giant Cat was moving around -- her perch on the edge of the sunlit area was a little precarious -- but her reaction and his indifference to it reminded me of nothing so much as a recurring Ruth Buzzi and Artie Johnson sketch from Laugh-In:

Oh, Go Away, Bug!

     My digestive difficulties continue.  Since a breakfast yesterday that I wasn't able to finish, I've had only bullion, broth, crackers, water, and tea.  A nice mug of hot chocolate yesterday noon didn't end well and a couple of slices of pizza (I know, I know -- but I was hungry) that evening verged on disastrous.  The longest stretch of sleep I have had was five blissful hours. That was an exception.  Generally, the demons down below clamor for attention every two or three hours.

     It will run its course.  I've got Imodium and Pepto-Bismol.  Surely they and the Tincture of Time will work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Uh-Oh

     Either a stomach bug, the messed-up hours or the off-brand Cajun lunch I had Monday has done my digestion ill.  I struggled with it off and on all day at work yesterday and thought the matter was settled after some unpleasantness last evening.  Woke up around 0300 for another round and again after the alarm went off at 0600.  Yuck!  Finally took some medicine after the 0300 event.

     And in other (but somehow similar in its recurrent ickiness) news, now that the Electrors have cast their votes, will the Other Parties please stop with the make-it-didn't-happen whining?  Especially the biggest Other Party?  Yeah, I'm not all that thrilled by the guy, either, but I was even less thrilled by Ms. Clinton and so was a majority of the electorate.  Your candidate lost just like mine did (only more so), and histrionic bewailing of the outcome is not going to change that.  Grow up.  Take a pill.  Mr. Trump frets you?  Then gin ya up some Congressfolk who will do stuff instead of just grumping around.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

An Automatic Good Morning To You

     This is a recording.  Because of a situation that surely must make sense to some accountant or high executive somewhere, I worked late tonight and will go in earlier than usual tomorrow.  There are a couple of crash-urgent, must-be-done-by-Christmas projects going on, neither one of which needed to be an emergency and one of which is really warm-weather work and yet, here I am, needing to be in two places at once.  Again.  Mind you, other than not having any time or energy left for actual Christmas, the extra pay does sort of constitute as close to a Christmas bonus as I have ever seen from these people.

     The pay is good, yet in my line of work, the people who do the hands-on stuff are considered more of a bother than ever -- and then higher-ups ask you to do even more.  I've checked and it's the same everywhere else. That actually doing actual things with your hands, even at a keyboard?  It's considered horrid, untouchable stuff, the sort of thing no decent person would do.  Somehow, those of us who do what I do are both an utter necessity and of no great value.  Why is this?  I don't know.  I really don't know.  I probably wouldn't want to know if I did.

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's -1°F

     So of course, I have to go assist a mechanical engineer and his helper with some outside work at the North Campus -- unless they cancel.

     As is ever the case with this kind of skilled-trade outcall, I probably won't know until they don't show up.  This isn't the day I would pick for the measurements they'll be making, but if I knew as much as they knew, we wouldn't have needed to hire them.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

As Predicted, Minus Ragnarök

     Very late last night, the occasional sleet-heavy drip of rain out my bedroom window gave way to the distinctive rattle of icefall and I knew the front was here.

     It iced pretty heavily for a short while, then faded away to be replaced by a light, reluctant-seeming snowfall that was still venturing a timid flake or two late this morning.  Streets and sidewalks have a glaze of ice under a dusting of snow, and temperatures in the teens will be maintaining them for the next few days.

*  *  *
     Meanwhile, in state capitols and in North Carolina, two more kinds of Ragnarök roll on -- or maybe they're the same kind, each a mirror-image of the other: (some) Democrats are trying to get Presidential electors to change their votes from the decision of their states and (some) Republicans grump about this violation of well-established custom while Dems point out that it is, in fact, not illegal; the opposite is happening in North Carolina, where the GOP-majority legislature is busily reducing the power of the Governor ahead of a newly-elected Democrat taking power -- while Dems grump about such a violation of long-established custom and the GOPpers retort that it is, in fact, not illegal.

     Irony is presently laying in state in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, one of the few places in Washington, D.C. where she was still recognized; it is hoped that the differences between the two parties can be resolved to allow for a timely funeral but the two sides are far apart: the Democrats want her interred at the National Cemetery at Arlington, while the Republicans insist she should be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Nice Storm?

     No, not a nice storm, not at all, and not a full-on ice storm -- still, there's a glaze of ice on everything, especially the roads.  Temperatures were expected to get above freezing shortly after midnight but it didn't happen.  It's barely 33°F as I write this, with an off-and-on sleety drizzle that's just adding a layer of lubrication to the ice.  Interstate on- and off-ramps have proven especially treacherous.

     If you don't have a pressing need to travel, then don't.  No matter how careful and safe you are, no matter how fit your own vehicle is for this weather, there are always the other drivers and in weather like this, they are more likely to be risk-takers than not.  Temperatures are finally climbing and conditions will be better later today.  Sunday will be much, much worse: more sleet and back into the deep freeze, with single digits by Sunday night.  Buy your bread, milk and eggs now!

     Tam and I may walk to one of the nearby eateries for breakfast and I just might try a grocery run myself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

It Is Indeed Late, Gentle Readers -- And The Rest Of You, Too.

     I am off today, having worked the early-early watch Sunday and Monday in what we call the "sore thumb" shift.  I shall probably be working it every other week through the end of January, at which time one of four things will have happened: my counterpart who works it the weeks I do not will have quit, I will have quit, we both will have quit, or the IS guy we're supposedly training to work the early shift on weekends will be up to speed.  Or I suppose they could dump all of Engineering and IS and hire a couple of guys on H1Bs, who will sleep in the mezzanine and cover everything.

     What has prompted this is that the third member of our merry band of victims has had enough and will be retiring once January's in the rear-view mirror.  Since he's a subject matter expert on several critical systems, we've all got to be picking his brain while we can -- and those early-early shifts are nearly entirely solo.

     Today is worse than usual; while I normally crash pretty hard on the sixth day, last night I worked very late and shuttled between the Main Campus and the North Campus, a nice 11-mile run in stop-and-go traffic.  Managed to solve a vexing interface problem -- running steam-powered RS-232 serial data over a microwave IP link with a Startech.com SOIP* system that wasn't working.  Brought the two pieces of equipment together, plugged them in and they were happy; plugged them into the two Startech boxes, side-by-side and talking directly to one another (they'll do that, no crossover required) and happiness continued; added a very "dumb" network switch in the middle, everything was still happy; plugged both cables into an only-slightly-"smarter" h/p† switch and...only one end was talking.  No happy activity lights on the smarter switch for one of the two SOIP boxes. Power-cycling was of no avail.
     So, okay, I'm not the best IT person on the planet, but I'm only about half stupid: so I could say I had tried everything, I stuck the "dumb" switch between the non-talking SOIP box and the smarter switch -- and the system started working!  Taking it out killed things again, so I left it in, picked up all the bits that needed to be at the other end, went down there, plugged right into the smart-ish switch at the other end and...nothing.
     Fine.  If the trick worked once, would it work twice?  I dug out my last saved, can't-be-managed, please-don't-use-them-here, dark blue, four-port, dumb Netgear network hub and stuck it between the SOIP box and the oh-so-clever switch and the thing lit right up and worked.  --Yes, you can use a horrifically fast IP link‡ to carry a 9600 Baud RS-232 link eleven whole miles, if you can find stupid-enough hardware to connect the interfaces to.
     Why this worked, I don't know.  I'll ask our IS guys later but my hopes of having any light shed are not high, as the issue may not be sufficiently esoteric for them to grasp.

     So, anyway, what with one thing and another, I came home quite late, ate okay-but-not-great pizza (a compromise: for edible delivery pizza, we have the slow place, the place with crust Tam likes and the place with crust I like), fell over into bed, slept until cat-feeding time, and went back to sleep for nearly four more hours after they'd been fed.  And now here I am.
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* Serial-Over-IP.  Blasted things won't do Cheerios or Froot Loops at all, no matter how finely you mash 'em.  I tried adding milk but the hardware just made fizzy sounds.  Is that a problem?

† This stands for Hewlett-Packard, and was routinely used in the company's literature back when they built very good and innovative test equipment.  That part of the company got spun off and now makes pretty forgettable stuff that's (IMO) no better than anyone else's.  The present computer/peripherals company using the name has a similar logo but a howlingly different corporate culture.  Somewhere between the two, the h/p I knew and loved has vanished.

‡ There's a lot of other digital payload on the microwave link, a few tens of gigabytes per second each way -- the serial data is a flea on an oxpecker bird on the back of a hippo strapped to asteroid the size of Manhattan hurtling along at seven-tenths of the speed of light; I do hope they'll be all right.  That little RS-232 circuit is, however, carrying mission-critical control and telemetry information, without which all the rest of the payload might come to naught.  Now you know why I say that as far as my family and non-geek friends are concerned, I might as well be working on a starship for real.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It's Five Degrees (F) Out There

     Or three degrees.  Or one.  Or even less.  And there's a good stiff breeze, too, 15 mph, more or less.  The TV news is full of advice on how to dress (from a man standing outdoors, hatless and ungloved!), how to wait for the bus (in your car, with your parents, none of this, "Mom, Billy left the Audi running at the end of the driveway again," stuff, at least not until Billy is in the fifth grade) and how to avoid accidents (mostly in the form of reports about people who did not.)

     Me, I'm layering up and taking it slow.  After an adulthood with a great many cars that tended to leave me afoot, I try to dress for the weather even when I am pretty sure I'll only have to endure it while dashing between buildings and vehicles: after the engine (and heater) quits, it's too late to revise one's wardrobe.

     Worst video of the morning is from a few days ago: a cable TV line tech was working in a bucket truck along a two-lane county road and had set out the regulation number of orange cones at the regulation distance -- which was too few and too close for the slick, slushy road.  Cars were speeding (literally speeding, too fast for conditions and several over the posted limit) towards the truck, trying to swerve too late and sliding off the road, into ditches and yards, occasionally colliding with one another.  It is a measure of human decency -- and plain luck -- that the cable TV truck, with a man in the elevated bucket over the cable and phone wires,* was never hit.  There aren't any seat belts in there; he's supposed to be on a lanyard but that's a fall restraint, not a "flipped out of the bucket like a shot from a trebuchet" restraint.  Be careful out there -- put your phone away!
     "Do as I say, not as I do?"  Nope. This (phone camera) shot was grabbed in stopped traffic -- there's an accident about a block head, a spun and stuck van closing down one lane, no cones, no flashers and the police were busy with far worse accidents elsewhere.  Naturally, no one was merging until the last minute and the "let 'em in" rate was less than one-to-one.
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* The higher you go on the pole, the higher the voltage.  Cable TV and telephone are the lowest levels, often close enough to get in one another's way.  They're usually not best pals and that's part of why.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Holidays

     --And I mean it.  Geez, c'mon, people, how hard is it to take statements at face value?  I don't know what holiday it is you -- in your wonderful special specialness -- happen to celebrate late in December (and I can't stop and ask each and every one of you what it might be), but I'd like for it to be a happy one for you.

     Merry Christmas (and around here, odds are good that's your holiday -- not 100%, but it's likely), and I mean that, too, even if you're actually gonna go home, put a great big log on the fire, wear a holly wreath, dye yourself blue with woad and celebrate Yule.  Or cut the head off a chicken or whatever.  Enjoy the season, have a nice holiday; that's what I mean to be saying.

     Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Winter Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa -- whatever your holiday(s), here's appropriate wishes and no snide subtext about it.

     ...And by the way, that "X" in "Xmas?"  Not an X, kids, it's a Greek letter chi, as in the first letter of "Christ," and it goes back centuries, possibly even older than the emperor Constantine, with a long and respectable history* in religious texts.  They're not Xing out anything.

     Hey, let's us just have a nice holiday and express the hope that our fellow-humans can and will do the same, and not be nasty little weasels about it -- look the other person in the eye and wish 'em well.  It's just the one month; you've got the other eleven in which to be all paranoid and butt-hurt.
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* Yeah, Snopes -- but this entry cites a source, a book from 1975, which you are advised to go look at.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Winter Is On The 9:15 Bus And It Looks Irked

     Or that's what they're telling us: it's supposed to begin snowing this morning and keep snowing all day, accumulating an inch or two of snow, maybe even three -- if we're lucky.

     Lucky?  Yes; the snow/ice/rain dividing line is predicted to be not far south of I-70, which runs right through town, taking a big jog as it does so, and these predictions are never exact.  Given the certainty of precipitation, I'd rather have a snowstorm than an ice storm.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Wakeup Music

     Or, Fun With Your New Accordion:


    ...Get back to me when you can play this, okay?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Up And At 'Em In The Wee Small Hours

     Ain't it grand?  I had about two-thrds of a day off Saturday, with donuts (yay!), a trip to the bank (had to: no cash), lunch out (O'Charley's, as Tam and I wanted a change; in fact, she wanted prime rib and they've got it.  It was okay, but this is Broad Ripple and I prefer the little independent places), a stop at the pharmacy (this getting old stuff isn't for the chicken-hearted), and, finally, at long last, I picked up the raffle-rifle!

     It's nice.  Ruger includes a sturdy nylon-canvas case to hold and protect the two halves of the takedown 10-22 and all the usual trimmings -- shoulder strap, a substantial lock, etc.  This one has a synthetic stock and looks nice.  I probably won't be able to shoot it until next weekend -- looking forward to that! My thanks to Mr. B and his friend Ed.

     Now, having slept for nearly seven hours, I'm enjoying a home-made breakfast scramble (sausage, potato, egg and onion, topped with fresh-sliced cherry tomatoes) prior to going in at a preposterously-early hour.  I may be on this shift every other week for a while but I hope not a long while -- it's not easy to get enough sleep and we're getting into weather in which driving sleepy isn't a good idea, even in the big city.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

10 December: Hit The Holiday Wall

     That's enough Christmas cheer for one year already, thank you very much.  Yes, wassail you right back, now just go, please?  Go.  And take 2016 with you.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Thought For The Day

     "Be pleasant and kind to everyone you meet, and always remember they may be a dangerous nutjob."

     It's "The most won-der-ful time/Of the year,"  Except for some people it's a huge ball of stress.  Let's not help push them over the edge.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

History, What Is It?

     I failed to mark the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor yesterday, an error made worse by the rapidly diminishing numbers of people who were there and remember the attack first-hand.  In 2016, the attack that precipitated U. S. involvement in the (already two years on) Second World War is almost as remote in time as Spanish-American War when I was in High School, and exactly as long ago as the Philippine-American War, which I never even knew of up until this morning.

     While there's small danger of WW II being lost in a footnote, recent history rests on the shifting sands of fools and hasty thinkers; one TV network promoted their coverage in ads with a script that featured the line, "Seventy-five years ago, Pearl Harbor was under siege," which completely misstates the event with a single word: Japan was in no shape to stage a siege and never planned on one.  Pearl Harbor was a hit-and-run effort.  They'd hoped to cripple the U. S. Pacific fleet with a single stoke, leaving that ocean open to their advance.  They nearly succeeded; British and U.S. possessions fell to Japan throughout the first half of 1942. It wasn't until the battle of Midway in June of that year that the odds began to turn.

     There should be no need to point out the remarkable confluence of changing technology and pure luck that led to victory in the Pacific: all of the Navy's aircraft carriers were at sea on maneuvers on 7 December 1941.  The submarine fleet was undamaged.  Repair facilities and oil supplies were left largely intact.  With those tools, and an angered nation (not to mention Congress!) behind the effort, Japan was beaten back.  While submarine warfare was well-established in WW I, the airplane and aircraft carrier combination were still relatively new, a huge change for naval thinkers.  They were able to adjust, with remarkable results. 

     Nevertheless, the attack was a major blow to the U.S. Navy.  Admiral Hara Tadaichi summed up the Japanese result by saying, "We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war."

     There are many lessons to be learned from Pearl Harbor; that may be the most important one.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Books -- Also, If You're Reading This

     ...Then my plan to save time has worked.  I need to make an early start of it today, so I'm posting tonight.  Wait, that doesn't make sense -- you're reading this about nine hours after I wrote it.

     Posting about what?  How about Lionel Shriver?  I finished her novel The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 several weeks ago and found it rewarding reading, a close-up look into the abyss of economic collapse through the lens of several generations of an extended family.  Generally well-written and ultimately humane; Shriver has one visible seam typical of mainstream writers doing speculative fiction -- but it's a forgivable one, no worse than anything you might find in Vonnegut.  She is a storyteller, her prose usually effortless, her plotting not quite invisible but deft enough. 

     Having read one Shriver novel, when The New Republic showed up at the used-book store, I didn't hesitate.  This one, too, is a kind of spec-fic, seeing as how it's set in a part of Portugal that does not, in fact, exist.  It's a story about journalism, terrorism, and just how far bored or desperate men might go.  By turns funny and profound, with an interesting ending.  I liked it.

     Shriver is an outsider's outsider and her perspective is rarely predictable.  If you read Rand and Vonnegut, R. A. Lafferty and Avram Davidson, you might enjoy her work.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

An (almost) English Breakfast

     No photos -- this is the time of year when it cools down quickly and between cats and my own clumsiness, I used up my picture-taking time.

     Oh my, it's good: a "banger" sausage, fresh mushrooms, a fried egg and (rye) toast, the last being where the "almost" comes in.  I lightly browned the sausages and then left them to cook in a quarter-inch or so of boiling water under a lid, which essentially steams them; you do have to top up the water from time to time.  Then I sauteed the mushrooms in a non-stick skillet with a very little butter and once they were almost done, pushed them to one side and cooked the egg in the mushroomy flavor.  The flavors all kind of dance together, with the strong, umami-rich sausage setting the tone.

     I've been reading Terry Pratchett the last couple of days, A Slip Of The Keyboard,* which collects his shorter non-fiction.  It's amusing and poignant -- and saddening, since many of them were written after Sir Terry was diagnosed with an insidious variety of Alzheimer's disease.  He wrote in the growing awareness that there were only so many more years or months or days left in which to write, and one reads knowing time already ran out.  A good English-style breakfast helps soften that, somehow.
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* You could visit Tam's and use her handy link to Amazon to get your own copy.  And maybe add A Blink Of The Screen, which collects some of his short fiction.

Monday, December 05, 2016

From A Cancelled Christmas Special

     Apparently, this song was the breaking point, and National Geographic and The Hallmark Channel have dropped their plans for the "Olduvai Gorge Christmas Special."

     Still, I thought it was cute:

I want an australopithecus for Christmas
No other fossil hominid will do
No ancient frog
No thunder lizard toy
I want a australopithecus to play with and enjoy

I want an australopithecus for Christmas
I don't think Santa Claus will mind, do you?
He won't have to use
A dirty chimney flue
Dig him up under the floor
That's the easy thing to do
I can see me now on Christmas morning
Creeping down the stairs
Oh what joy and what surprise
When I open up my eyes
A fossil homind is standing there
I want an australopithecus for Christmas
No other kind of hominid will do
No Neandertals
No Homo Habilisuses
I only like australopithecuses
And australopithecuses like me too.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Cat Social Dynamics

     The subtitle should probably be "Food First!"

     The Huck and Rannie dynamic is uncomplicated -- he's a great big, bouncy, rambunctious tomcat in his middle years, while she is small, slender, elderly, and rarely interested in roughhousing.  She usually says terrible things to him in Cat if he gets too near; he sometimes tries to get her in a half-Nelson when he's in a playful mood and when he does, she complains in language that nearly turns the air blue.  She rarely raises a paw to him, though, perhaps because she knows he'd only take it as play.  Meanwhile, he ignores her growls and yowls with what looks like a shrug. 

     Both cats are now eating prescription diets.  Rannie Wu is on food to help her liver (and which she seems to have a lot more luck keeping down than regular cat food), while Mr. Huck gets something to help prevent the formation of crystals in his bladder.

     Neither cat minds the special food; in fact, they appear to prefer it. Rannie started on her diet a week or two before Huck, and when we went to pick up his food, all the veterinarian had was the canned version.  We put the dry version on order and bought several cans to tide him over.

     The cats are fed separately because Huck's appetites are truly immense and unless prevented, he will gobble down his meal, shoulder Rannie to one side and eat her food.  We've fed them apart for years.  With plain (though high-quality) kibble, Huck always finishes first.  He's slower with the canned food, taking time to polish every last bit from his bowl

     Rannie figured out something was going on when we began opening the can of Huck's food in the kitchen, but aside from looking up and sniffing, she didn't seem very interested.

     A couple of days into the canned food, Tam had fed them and on noticing Rannie was done, opened the door into the back of the house and followed Rannie to the office/cat room.  Huck still had a little food left and was working on it.  Rannie Wu walked over, looked at it, turned and shot Tam a "How could you?" look -- and then turned back, reached out and popped Huck good and hard on the back of his head!

     I'd like to tell you he took it to heart or was at least startled, but Tam says he didn't appear to even notice.  I stopped by the vet the next morning and got a half-dozen cans of Rannie's special food the next morning and I think she's forgiven us.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Quick Keyboard Note

     Today, I unearthed the little Bluetooth dongle for my PC and connected the Quirkywriter keyboard to it.  This is one part of a multipart attempt to "civilize" my desk, with a lower typing surface and -- I hope! -- the monitor on a repositionable arm.  That's yet to come.  For now, keyboard.

     This may speed the next steps:
     1. Finish clearing off the actual desk surface.
     2. Install the aformentioned monitor arm.

Why Is A Mouse When It Spins?

     Surprisingly few people know the answer these days.

Omelette

     If you're keeping track, deli roast beef, black olives, Havarti cheese and some freeze-dried chives makes a fine omelette filling.  Especially if you add some Italian seasoning to the eggs.

Friday, December 02, 2016

"Unseemly"

     I participate in a little neighborhood online bulletin board, mostly by reading. My neighborhood, like many these days, is home to a few chicken-owners. Perhaps more than average, since SoBro is home to Agrarian, an upscale version of the good old feed & seed co-op and an excellent source of small domestic fowl* and everything you need to raise them.

     This is supposed to be a "new trend" but in fact, it's a very old one.  My Mom, who grew up in the 1930s and 40s, was a city girl and her family kept chickens everywhere they lived -- and milk-goats, too, if they had a big enough lot.  This was not unusual at the time, at least in the Midwest.  Mother never tasted cow's milk until she attended public school.†  (She and her siblings tended to make pets of the surplus goats despite being warned not to, which caused an occasional very awkward dinner.)

     A recent posting to the neighborhood thing complained of a rooster crowing at 5:30 a.m. (which is, by the way, a very fine time for a rooster to crow -- that whole 5:30 to 8:00 a.m. block, is exactly when they're supposed to be rousting folks out of bed) and wondering if the owners can't silence it? 

     There is only one way to effectively silence a rooster; the owner responded, saying the rooster was already overdue to go to the Great Beyond or possibly a crockpot, and screen after screen of horrified comments ensued: "Don't kill it, rehome it!" "Send the rooster off to a farm to live out its natural life!"  --The "natural life" of excess roosters on a farm is to get fed to the hogs, if they're lucky; but don't try to tell moderns that.

     But the capper was the commenter who mused, "...I don't think many of us realized that people who own chickens in the city were using them for anything other than eggs. There's something about butchering an animal in an urban residential area that just seems generally unseemly."

     Lady, it's a chicken. If you're not the kind of "wit" who cuts off their heads and lets them run all over the backyard while they're expiring, it's no more "unseemly" than what the local high-end butcher does with a side of beef and a collection of cutting instruments that may include a stainless-steel bandsaw, in a tiny shopping district in the middle of an urban residential area. It's a good deal less unseemly than what any of your neighbors who hunt will be up to in their garage if they're lucky enough to bag a deer.

     I don't dislike chickens, though I think they're dumber than a bag of rocks and considerably more smelly.  I'd need to be a lot hungrier before I'd kill and dress one, though I do love fresh eggs, especially when laid by a critter that lives outdoors and gets to eat bugs.  But calling out the normal process of slaughtering and eating non-productive hens (and perhaps even roosters, though IIRC, they're a bit tough and gamy) as "unseemly" when you only know it happens because your neighbors said so, is just about the silliest thought I have seen expressed today. Possibly this week.
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* They also sell ducks.  This is a great temptation to me: as a child, I had a duck and so did my baby brother.  They are pleasant, garrulous creatures if you have enough yard to ensure the duck splat doesn't get too concentrated, who wander around all day "talking" to one another and eating whatever they find that looks edible.  Ours each laid an egg a day, rich and strong-flavored, excellent for baking and just fine fried.  Alas, Roseholme Cottage doesn't have enough yard for two ducks and a solo duck would be too lonely: they're not very bright but they're quite social.

† For reasons I have never fully understood, she managed to avoid public school until third grade. Both of her parents were fully-qualified schoolteachers and the family was moving around a lot at the time, so perhaps it was just easier.  On the other hand, she was the youngest child in a very large family and though Mother's mother was an unsentimental person, I do wonder if my grandmother succumbed to the temptation to keep her youngest at home for just a couple more years.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

I Seem To Have Been Raffled A Rifle

     The call came in last night and, eating dinner in the far corner of the house, I missed it.  The message was from a club in the northern part of the state and when I called back, they confirmed I'd won a Ruger 10/22 in a charity raffle!  A friend had entered Tam and me in it some weeks back and there were some nice guns to be won.  This one is third prize, a 10/22 Breakdown, easy to carry to and from the range.

     Still working out delivery details, but it's interesting.  I have my Dad's old Remington 941 and a much newer Savage, both .22s.* Adding a Ruger will be nice.
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* While it's not true that I don't have much use for any caliber other than .22, I am very fond of it.  Light enough to shoot several hundred rounds in a single practice session, it's what I originally learned to shoot with and face it, if you can't hit the target with a .22, you don't have much hope of doing so with anything bigger.  Would you rather be missing at fifty cents a round or ten cents?  Or just over nickel per, if the last sales flyer the Data Viking shared wasn't a typo.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Somebody Get Him Off Twitter

     Or, what the hell, leave him there.  It's a window into Mr. Trump's mind.

     In the run-up to the November election -- a "choice" between root canal and having a toenail removed -- I remarked that major-party voters were being asked to choose between a candidate who knew exactly what laws she wanted to get around and how to do so, or one who was unfamiliar with the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular.

     So thus we come to the President-elect's recent Twittering that flag-burning should not be allowed, and so doing ought to lead to loss of citizenship or maybe a year in jail (a rather interesting spectrum of choices).  This is wrong -- don't take my word for it, ask the Supreme Court -- for reasons fundamental to the very nature of the government the U. S. flag signifies.  Worse, the cockeyed notion that U. S. citizens are "allowed" various actions by their government is an inversion of the very nature of the relationship and assumes anything not permitted is prohibited.  That's not how it works around here.

     The flag is just a piece of cloth -- a symbol.  A deeply meaningful symbol.  One of things it symbolizes is freedom of speech.  Even obnoxious speech or expression.  Even disrespectful expression.  Burning the flag, for example. A flag you can't burn is a symbol protected by the force of the State, a limit on a citizen's free and peaceful expression.*  A flag for which respect must be enforced by men with clubs and guns does not stand for anything worthy of respect. And yet, when a protester (or a vandal) burns that piece of cloth, the symbol remains -- unless we besmirch it by damnfool infringements of the freedom of speech.

     "A republic, if you can keep it."
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* Interestingly, a very strong case can be made against flag-burning in areas with a high risk of fire; if you set a flag on fire during a drought or in the middle of a crowded theater, the issue is a little more basic than freedom of speech.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Abite. Abscondas. Bellum.

     It looks better in Latin, though Tam points out it needs the imperative:* "Run.  Hide.  Fight."  This useful advice is getting more and more coverage in the wake of the latest outrage, a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University that was originally reported as a mass shooting by over-eager mass media.

     As chastened as they ever get by this mistake, reporter after reporter has been standing outside of the nearest higher educational institutional building, solemnly telling me what I already knew: when the unexpected strikes, you have three choices: Get away, get out of sight, or put up your dukes.

     None of these well-groomed talking heads have yet managed to point out that you must make a choice: "Freeze where you are" is how you get killed.   Observe, Orient, Decide, Act -- and do so with alacrity.  The order is important: if you can get away, you'll buy time summon help and/or take the subsequent options, if necessary.  At OSU, one student reported that after the cellphone warning, "military people" who were fellow-students in her classroom shut the door, directed the other students to get well away from it, and arrayed themselves to ambush anyone entering.  Unable to flee, they hid and prepared to fight.

     "Be Prepared."  "Semper Paratus."  What'll you do?  Take a little while to think about it now, so you can decide more quickly later if trouble comes your way.
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* No Latin scholar, I get the too-verbose, "Oportet te currere. Tu oportet absconditus. Aut necesse est bellum," which I suspect (to the point of near certainty) makes a hash of the grammar.

Monday, November 28, 2016

That Glow Of Homeownerly Virtue

     Seven Eight bags of leaves on the porch.  Tam was a huge help in clearing the greater part of the back yard. Gutters cleaned and I have once more promised myself I'll install leaf screens.  More Northern Creeper pulled up and the heaped vines will probably fill four bags -- if I can bag it at all.  If not, it'll go in the Bagster we still haven't set up.

     The Northern Creeper is trying a desperation gambit: leaves on the driest parts are turning a brilliant scarlet!  Very lovely but it still has to go.  Without much in the way of a hard freeze so far (but just wait!), the ground is still soft and it's easier to pull up the long, wandering roots and runners of these vines.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's The End Of November And I'm Still Raking Leaves

     Three bags of leaves yesterday and still a small pile of leaves in the street, plus three big piles of them in the back yard.  And the gutters still need to be cleaned!

     Say what you will, it's better than snow.  Way better.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro Is Dead And I'm Supposed To Care

    Thing is, I don't. Yeah, yeah, the dude handed the former USSR their very own version of Airstrip One and together, they and JFK cruised to the brink of nuclear war, along about the time I lay in bed with rheumatic fever clawing at my joints, shrieking in pain any time footsteps made the floor move even a little (and what a treat that must have been for my parents, an annoyingly-sick kid plus the possibility of atomic annihilation. Or maybe Khrushchev dangling that sword overhead helped make it bearable: at least if the commies started WW III, my parents and pre-teen sister wouldn't have had to tiptoe every time they went down the hall).

     Thing is, civilization blundered through and past that and Cuba settled down to a long, hungry stretch of irrelevance.  Sure, there was the occasional airliner hijacking, misfit revolutionaries trying to export themselves to a country that had already had its revolution and didn't want any more, no thank you Mister yanqui.  And there was the far larger flow of people headed the other way on whatever they could manage to get floating or, tragically, not quite.

     But that was it.  Cuba was no worker's paradise, but then, it never had been.  Poor as it was, the inadequate provisions of a communist regime were still more than the majority of Cubans had known.  Propped up by Soviet largess, exporting sugar and a few luxury consumables to the Warsaw pact, Cuba tottered on.  Michael Moore praised Potemkin-villiage hospitals and missed the struggling, undersupplied health-care providers serving the vast majority of Cubans; the country exported doctors and revolutionaries wholesale and retail, and it still never much mattered.  Castro handed off the reins to his slightly younger brother and so what?

     Castro's dead and so what?

     The TV is treating him like a movie star.  It wasn't a movie, people.  It was real and it still is.  You want to know the truth about economic systems?  Compare Florida and Cuba, 90 miles apart at their closest approach.  90 years and a century of progress; the difference between the poorest Cuban and the poorest Floridian can be measured by the dumpsters they dive into seeking dinner -- well, the Floridian does; Cubans still can't afford to throw edible food away.

     Capitalism, much like democracy, sucks; but in practice, it sucks way less than any other economic system the human race has devised.

     Castro's dead.  The only-slightly-better-off-than-before Cuba he built remains.  Talk about that, TV.  Even just a little.

Friday, November 25, 2016

'Twas The Day After Thanksgiving

     Or, as I often know it, the Day I Work While My Family Does Thanksgiving -- but bear in mind that every other member of the family has children and we're at a point in the generational cycle where the kids are all at diapers-through-grade-school ages, so the holidays are built around them.  Which I think is as it should be.  I'm especially pleased their parents don't try visiting all of their extended families in one day; that's no fun even for adults.

     For me and Tam, the day started with a couple of mashed-potato pancakes and a slice of delicious applewood-smoked bacon.  I added a fried egg.  There may better breakfasts, but none of them are very much better.  I even had a small glass of eggnog!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

We Ate This

     Tam's plate, Tam's photo:

     Turducken, skin-on mashed potatoes (with a few other root vegetables added) with bacon-mushroom gravy, smoky and rich; green beans and store-bought biscuits.  I have Vernor's Ginger Ale to drink and she had... Gose?  Okay.

     I liked it.  She seemed to, too.

Yes, It's Thanksgiving

     So why are you on the Web?

     Oh, that.  Alone.  Been there, done that.  Hey I'm thankful you stopped by; at least there's that.  For whatever comfort is in it (rather a lot) with the Internet, with modern mass media, no one needs to be entirely alone; it takes effort to get away unless you're already in the back of the beyond, past the end of the streetcar lines and out from under the RF footprint of the last cellphone tower.

     Here at Roseholme Cottage, I am fixing to prepare to put the turducken in the oven -- no idle string of words, that, since I store baking pans and a couple of specialized skillets in the oven, all of which need temporary locations elsewhere, and I want to recheck under the stovetop after The Great Grease Spill Of Several Weeks Ago.  I think I got it all but it's better to be sure.

     Coffee and toasted cinnamon-raisin bread first, along with a little blogging.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gotta Be Thankful

     A recent quote I encountered on the web points out, "...There is no 'cause:' poverty is the default state.  We should be figuring out what causes prosperity," or words to that effect.

     It's got a visceral reality for me because I have been poor, "working poor" as they put it, which is a kind of prosperity in and of itself.  At one point, I was working two full-time jobs that paid barely above minimum wage: two different shifts, four eight-hour days, three 16-hour days, and no days off except for the occasional holiday.  I was able to keep my nice rented house on the outskirts of Broad Ripple and my nice (no it wasn't) Chevy Cavalier and so on.  You come to appreciate 24-hour supermarkets and extended-hours "doc-in-a-box" places when you work like that, but it's a delicately-balanced thing and when my Chevy got rear-ended about 1:00 a.m. one weekday (by an AAA-contractor's wrecker, no less), it unraveled.  A month later, I was down to one job and living in a 400-square-foot apartment, mostly on ramen noodles and hot dogs.  I did that for nearly a year, and then they laid everyone off from that job--

     Yeah, life's tough and at no point was I living in a cardboard box; I ended up in the spare room of my parents house, with all my things stacked up in their garage and did that for six months, working weekends at a radio station for gas money.

     My present job is what pulled me from what looked like a dead end.  This job has been better than it is now -- and it's been worse, too.  I'm thankful to have a job when so many people don't.  There are plenty of people who'd find instant noodles and a hot dog a huge upgrade from their regular diet. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Not Quite How It Was

     Good Girls Revolt is an Amazon Original fiction series loosely based on a factual book by Lynn Povitch (who was there for it all) about the ground-breaking lawsuit filed by researchers at Newsweek over the magazine's sex-based employment practices* -- and you've frowned. haven't you?  Wait, wait--

     Good Girls Revolt is a lush and generally faithful recreation of a news magazine's office in 1969-70, with a cast better-looking than real people ever are; the women all pretty and the men seem to have been picked for period-actor looks, with a Robert Redford-ish reporter front and center and Martin Landau copy in a supporting role.  Costuming is remarkable, at least to my eye: I was twelve in 1970 and the cast is wearing what I remember as "grownup clothes," note-perfect and often a bit fashion-forward for the time.   They're behaving very much as an office-ful of mostly-young, bright, newsy-type people would have behaved, too.† The office looks about right, too, clunky metal desks, rolodexes, dial telephones and typewriters--

     Then, jarringly, the camera serves a close-up of someone dialing a telephone -- with the writing end of a clicker-type ballpoint.  No, no, you didn't do it that way, because it would scratch the numbers on the dial plate; you used the rounded end where the clicker is and you were more likely to use the eraser end of a pencil or the rounded plastic end of a cap-type ballpoint (boys, you do this to spare your manicure -- still do, in fact).  But there was something else that bugged me about the reporter area and the "pit" where researchers toiled.  Last night the light finally dawned: nearly everyone has their typewriter sitting front and center on their desk, just where you'd put a computer keyboard!

     No, no, a thousand times no.  Those desks have, I'll bet, perfectly good pull-out or swing-out typewriter shelves, set lower than the desktop and with good reason: typewriters are way taller than computer keyboards.  Many of the reporters have IBM Selectrics, the ne plus ultra of its day and still mighty desirable, if your desires turn that way.  But the Selectric's spacebar alone is a good three inches above the surface it sits on, if not more!  Nobody who writes for a living (and most who do so for fun) can comfortably use one on top of a thirty-inch high office desk for long.   And yet every foregrounded character in the series does just that, with Selectrics or full-sized manual typewriters, even researchers who can't be more than five feet tall in high heels.  So here's this wonderful set dressed with new-appearing period pieces and filled with wonderful people in 1969-70 clothing, a past recreated with nearly otaku-level devotion on three levels plus staircases, and on every level, you will need to look carefully to find a typewriter in its proper place. You might not find even one.  

     Story and cast deserve a lot of credit: I didn't consciously notice this until idly watching an episode for the second time as "background noise" while I had supper, when suddenly realization jelled -- and jarred.

     How many things do historical dramas get wrong that we never even notice?
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* Men wrote.  Women "researched," which could consist of a full first draft of a story and at a minimum was a file of information they'd hunted up, and then did a full fact-check of the finished story, citing a source for every assertion. This process was routine at news magazines at that time, and yet they could still get things wrong: all reporting is subjective. What wasn't routine was the institutionalized segregation of task by sex; Time did so from the outset and Newsweek followed suit.  By 1969, it was "the tradition."  It was also illegal and had been since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but no one had noticed.  It mostly got ironed after the EEOC complaint and subsequent lawsuit but institutional habits linger and Povitch's book, by no means a screed or polemic, sheds interesting light on just that.

† Well, mostly.  Some of the the people who worked at the real-life Newsweek during that time have suggested the TV series may have downplayed the amount of sleeping around that went on -- which is surprising, considering there's a lot of it at the fictional News Of The Week by modern standards.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Luggage?

     Decades before Terry Pratchett, I seem to have encountered The Luggage in Harry A. Franck's Vagabonding Down The Andes:*
     If only Edison would take a day off to invent a baggage on legs that would trot, dog-fashion, after its owner -- just a modest little baggage of, say, fifty pounds -- it would revolutionize life.
     [ibid, pg. 197]
     Yes, there it is, The Luggage, give or take a few pounds, extra legs and a more-truculent attitude, trotting along in Mr. Franck's imagination.  Who knew?
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* I should warn 21st-Century readers that Franck, writing in 1916 or so, was very much a man of his time, which is to say causally and by default racist, and willing to attribute to ancestry any number of traits we would today lay to poverty, poor nutrition, isolation or lack of opportunity.  That said, he's a fairly keen observer once his prejudices are taken into account, and his story of a walking trip though areas about a remote as any that could claim to be civilized in a day before radio and with only the slenderest threads of communication with the wider world is eye-opening.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Home Made Hash Browns

     C'mon, there's just about nothing in them -- oh, I added a little pepper, dehydrated onion, chives and a dash of salt, but really, all it takes is potatoes, an old-fashioned kitchen grater* and some manner of cooking "grease:" oil, butter, bacon fat, lard, duck fat (!) or perhaps a modern synthetic (do they still sell olestra? I never took to it).   Shred the potatoes coarsely into a bowl, drain it if you'd like (less liquid makes for slightly faster cooking and a crunchier texture). Form into patties, mash flat and fry in a lightly greased skillet until golden brown, or darker if you prefer, turning as needed (the thicker they are, the more times you'll flip them).  I sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on the top before the first turning, I guess for luck.

     I shredded and drained a couple of left-over Russets that were in danger of going soft and fried them up four patties at a time.  My four are still in the skillet; Tam says hers were plenty tasty.  (Update: and mine are done and mostly eaten.  Not bad, I must say.)
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* The one I use is so primitive -- a sheet of stainless steel bent over a thick wire formed into a rectangle that serves as a handle at the short ends, the sheet stamped with coarse, medium and fine graters plus a simple slicer -- that I can't even find an example in Wikipedia or at Amazon.  It's inexpensive and works well enough, if you mind what you're about.  Whatever you use, all of these graters trace back to a 16th-Century cheese grater, invented by a fellow who presumably figured there were better things to do than finely chop hard cheese by hand with a knife.  Box graters are an upgrade and can be had for under ten dollars.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

What A Luxury!

     I slept in until 8:30, then made coffee and a simple treat -- scrambled eggs with pan-toasted cubes of leftover sourdough garlic bread from last night's supper, kalamata olives and sliced tomato on the side.

     The cold wind is whipping chimney smoke sideways and making the trees shimmy.  Earlier, we had thin sleet and spitting snow, but the sky seems to having given up on that.
     A good day to stay indoors!

     (Last night's supper?  Three-meat chili: a little ground sirloin and a little stew meat cut up small, rolled in plenty of dark chili powder, plus a chorizo sausage, fresh-ground pepper, a little salt and browned with onion, a couple of carrots, a poblano pepper and a couple of fresh tomatoes [added in that order with a little time between -- be nice to that poblano, they don't like being overcooked], and then  a small can of mild Hatch chilis and a couple cans of tomatoes -- one cubed, the other diced -- added and the whole thing cooked down for a half-hour or so, and served with [yes, I am a barbarian] sourdough garlic bread.  Also some fresh chopped jalapeno peppers to add to taste -- I do like them raw.  This is a fairly mild chili that can easily be "revved-up" by the individual diner with the jalapeno or some hot sauce.  Tonight it will get Midwesternized by the addition of red beans and I think maybe canned corn, too, and some Pepper Jack cheese to top it.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Dozen Bags Of Leaves

     That's what's sitting out at the curb, or they were last time I looked.  Tam set most of them out; I grabbed the four from the back yard early this morning and added them.

     It's supposed to rain and turn sharply colder tonight, so we may be out of the leaf-raking business for awhile.  Forty big 33-gallonish paper bags of leaves so far.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cowardice? Misinformation?

     Magical thinking?  I want to know what the overlap is between the people who were convinced President Obama "could do more about guns" as in gun control but for some reason wasn't, and the people who are professing abject fear at what President-elect Trump is going to do to their own "community" or some other group once he takes office.

     Dammit, that's not how it works.  Presidents do not have all that much of that kind of power.  In addition, the inertia of the Federal bureaucracy is simply mind-boggling, and not for lack of trying: they really do have to do obsessive dotting of "i"s and crossing of "t"s and painfully-detailed bookkeeping in order to keep the fed.gov behemoth staggering along.  Remember reading about FDR having the Japanese-Americans rounded up and put in camps during WW II?  Ain't ever gonna happen again; the war'd be over before they'd set up a committee to generate the form to fill out (in multiple copies) to establish the office to hire the people to make the lists to hand to the cops to go around door to door and start rounding people up.

     I never thought of the U.S. Constitution as being particularly abstruse but it might as well be written in Latin on bronze tablets buried inaccessibly beneath the Washington Monument for all the understanding of it many people are presently showing.

     U.S. Presidents aren't magical -- they are not magical good and they're not magical evil.  Oh, they try sneaky stuff, each and every one of them, and you can thank the vast, slow morass of the fed.gov for most of the corner-cutting tricks they try; but they get caught at it with monotonous regularity and the more visible their target, the more quickly they get caught -- and, usually, stopped.

     As a general rule, Republicans get a fishier eyeballing from the press than Democrats.  That's just how it goes; reporters tend to lean that direction and no matter how even-handed they set out to be (and some don't), it's the stuff that gets under a person's skin that gets reported on.

     I don't think Mr. Trump is a saint.  I think he has the attention span of a housefly and he appears to have the social graces of a tipsy carny.  I'm leery of many of his political associates.  But I know he's being watched by people eager to catch him putting a foot wrong, and not merely the easy "gotcha" journalism of finding crass comments made into live mics -- there's a whole press corps out there, looking for Watergate-level skullduggery.

     And yet there are people quaking in their boots over him, anticipating wickedness on a grandiose scale.  Gotta tellya, I don't think he's up to it.  I know he couldn't get away with it.  The United States has been lurching along with Presidents who were messed-up enough to want the lousy job for a very long time now, and the checks and balances do a fine job of keeping Congress and President and Supreme Court busy trying to throttle one another.

     I still think we'd've been better off with Gary Johnson in the White House.  But noooo, the majority never wanted a free-trade hippie, especially a slightly silly one.  Okay; we've got what we got, and somewhere offstage, H. L. Mencken is snickering at members of both major parties.  Don't give his ghost reason to snicker at you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Optical TDR?

     Nothing too deep this morning.  I'm just wishing I had access to an expensive piece of test equipment -- or that I had been able to hunt up the much cheaper flashlight-and-light-meter gadget we used have at work.  There's a piece of damaged, multi-strand fiber optic cable about seven hundred feet up in the air -- it's supported on a structure, though not one I can climb, I'll send up a professional -- and I need to determine if it's a little broken, or a total loss.

     This could be interesting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Idiots; Paint; The Rule Of Law

     So, inartistic -- and generally inarticulate -- ijits have been spray-painting other people's walls at what may be a greater incidence and with possibly a greater proportion of racial or religious or hookedy-crossedy sentiments?

     First off, where were you since "tagging" started to be a thing, outside of your nice little whitebread communities?  Second, if you've spent the last eight-plus years telling little Tommy and Billy and Susie the Republicans are, to a man, The Debbil and warning them that if they don't eat up all their bumbershoot and carry vegetables when it rains, the Big GOPper will get 'em, you're part of the problem -- because when those kids reach the age of rebellion, some of 'em are gonna go paint the nastiest, vilest things they can think of on walls, and some of 'em will be especially brazen about it if they figure Pure Evil is in the catbird seat.

     Thirdly: kids, I know you think you're just badass as can be, but about the first time you cross paint streams with a gen-u-ine gang-type tagger, they are going to mess you up.  And if they don't, remember those wicked, nasty, heartless Republicans you are figuring will wink at your petty-ante wickedness?  They've got their flaws but most of them are foursquare in favor of property rights having mondo precedence over your right to express yourself on other people's walls.  Cross paths with, oh, the police, and you'll be lucky if Community Service is all you get.  Cross paths with the wrong householder and it could be worse.

     It was rude and illegal to paint stuff on walls that don't belong to you last year.  It's still illegal.  It's still nekulturny.  --And if you are minded to paint stuff on your own walls and blame punks, to score points or get fifteen minutes of fame?  Why, that's illegal, too.  So let's everybody play nice, or play a tune on the jailhouse bars with a battered tin cup. -- At best.

Monday, November 14, 2016

N. B.: Names

     I will be continuing to refer to Presidents -- -elect, ex- and standing -- along with other prominent political figures, by using honorific and last name, full name, naked patronymic or on rare occasions, by first name. 

     This making-up of cutesy-insulting distortions of people's names, dredged-up ancient versions the family hasn't used since Ellis Island and/or combinations with the names of infamous dictators is childish.  Don't like the person?  Say so.  Better yet, say why.

     It's not going to be easy to avoid writing "The Donald" or "Hils," or (because I delight in obscurity) making reference to Marlo Thomas's long-suffering television boyfriend, but I'll make the effort.

Leaves, Leaves...

     Tam and I raked up leaves yesterday -- five bags already, and five leafpiles that will probably fill two or three more.  This is about as good a job as we have done keeping up and I am hoping to have them all bagged and gone before the first snowfall.  We only manage that about half the time.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's Sunday

     Time for some real Brotherhood-of-Man stuff.

     You know why all men are, well, cousins, at least?  Because, generally, your ancestors couldn't keep their pants on.  Punch that horrible person over there, and you've hit your g'g'g'g'grandparent's descendant.

     We're all made out of meat.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"I Don't Feel Safe"

     That's the catchphrase -- people who think Mr. Trump's election to the Presidency has put them in danger.

     Listen up, kid: you weren't safe on 7 November, either, or 7 October, or, by golly, 12 November.  The laws of the land have not changed and neither has the fact that a very few of your fellow-humans are willing to do you harm.  Nevertheless, it's still illegal to beat people up, unless they hit you first and you win the fight by main force.  The same haters that worry you now were around earlier in the year and they were just as hateful -- and just as much a tiny fraction of your fellow citizens.  Your friends are still there, as are all of the in-between people, from the ones who like you well enough all the way to the ones who can't stand you but won't bestir themselves even so far as to scowl across the bus station at your purple hair or the "I LIKE IKE" sticker on your valise.

     It's the same world and you can still turn to the cops for protection -- no, really, you can; even the most stereotypically-mean officer of the law finds it hard to turn away from a scared person asking for help, and the mean ones are, yes, a tiny percentage of the force.

     This is the reality we live in: most people aren't out to get you.  Don't confuse jerks, fools and the occasional artist spray-painting walls (usually in the dead of night or at least when nobody's looking) with every man's hand being raised against you.

     Most people just don't care that much.  Personally, I take great comfort in that; on the other hand, I'm a tall, vaguely butch-looking* mostly-white† woman, and when I can't blend into the background, I can usually loom and get by with no more than muttered insults and dirty looks.  Not everyone has that luxury and that's got to make for greater worry.

     Sure, elections matter.  Who won matters.  But it doesn't change the laws of the land; it doesn't change the norms of civilized behavior.  On a practical level, the Feds aren't going to change state laws or city ordinances because they can't; and they're unlikely to go after settled Federal law because A) they are not as ambitious as all that, and B) it's a can of worms they dare not open.  You think there are people protesting in the streets now?  Ha!

     And about those "people in the streets:" hell, I'm scared.  Not of folks marching with signs and chanted slogans; yes, do that.  Smash windows and burn cars, throw stuff at people, block freeways?  Don't do that.  It's fraught with danger.  There are plenty of scared kids and scared adults who don't need to be any more scared and your signs show up a lot better when there aren't drifting clouds of tear gas or muddy bootprints in the way.

     If safety-pin "safe person" badges don't get politicized with a crapload of barely-related side-issues in the same manner as the Gadsden Flag, I'll wear one.  I'm not here to make anyone but genuine initiators of force feel afraid and if I can make somebody worry even a mite less, I'd count that as a good thing.  What kind of dreadful person wouldn't?
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* Not so butch as all that -- I barely own a flannel shirt and I wouldn't be caught outside the house without lipstick and mascara.  But I wear Carhartt dungarees by choice and carry a Leatherman tool on my belt; nobody sends me to fetch coffee and they're surprised that I sew, at least well enough for mending.  Don't think my somewhat-forbidding "look" cannot be leveraged when needed or that I would refrain from so doing.
  
† As I may have mentioned before, we're not sure what the remainder might be -- Cherokee and/or "passing" African-American, so long ago that my ancestress is barely a memory and a line on a census tally.  I just hope she had a happy marriage and a fulfilling life.  I hope she felt safe.

Saturday! Slept In!

     Yes, I did.  I slept in.  An hour.  Oooo, I'm a rebel.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Stop, And Remember

     There will be parades today, parades of men and women, old and young -- a lot of young men, many of them maimed.

     Isolationist or hawk, pacifist or convinced that the compelling and immediate power of organized violence ought to be used to further the ends of the State: no matter what you believe, you owe these people respect.  They stepped up and put life and limb on the line.  They didn't set the policy; they didn't decide where they would be sent.  They volunteered to be the tip of the spear, the edge of the blade, to work long hours for low pay and risk blood and breath in the process.  It's not much for you to stop a moment, to wave or nod or bow your head, very little compared to what they put on the line, and no matter what you think of this country's wars and the politicians who choose them, the warriors are just people like you, who have faced risks and privation you will never know.  Give them a smile, a nod; acknowledge their service.

     On this eleventh day of the eleventh month, I try to stop and put myself in the position of those who, at the eleventh hour, saw the meatgrinder of the first truly modern mechanized war finally grind to a halt.  The world was young then, young enough for grandiose gestures and grand thoughts, and thus it was that the "War To End All Wars" was ended at 11:00 on 11/11.  It didn't stick and perhaps the most cynical and war-weary knew it wouldn't; but they wanted it to. 

     The years from a little before the turn of the century to 1914 were years of great progress and great change; they were good years, especially for men of European descent in Europe and North America.  When war broke out, many on both sides expected a short, victorious conflict; in the United States, most Civil War veterans were of dozing-by-the-fire age.  Few expected the war to be as terrible as it was. 

     As terrible as it was, it was not a lasting lesson to governments on the avoidance of war, and as much at odds with our comfortable, modern civilization as the waging of wars may seem, we should never forget that WW I came as no less of a jar, in a time equally as forward-looking.  Wars, it seems, are more inevitable than progress and the threat of force hovers unspoken over all diplomacy.  Force not in abstract but in the concrete form of individuals, of "boots on the ground."  Soldiers.  Sailors.  Airmen.  Warriors.

     We should never forget those who step forward, away from comfort and complacency, to serve.  This day is a day to look them in the eye and to thank them; a day to see them not as symbols but as individuals, neighbors, relatives, spouses.

     Thank you for your service.

    

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Protests In The Street, You Say?

     Riots and near-riots over the election of Donald Trump?  --Don't come to me about Barack Obama having received the most hostile reactions of any President-elect, okay?

     I happen to think dissent is a good thing, no matter which party's candidate wins and no matter where that individual's ancestors hailed from.  Presidents ought to be questioned, checked, fact-checked, their trash dug through and they should receive vociferous disagreement from people with differing notions.  It keeps 'em honest, or as honest as politicians get.

     For that matter, if you agree with the winner, hold his feet to fire to pay off on his actual campaign promises.  Tam just now remarked there was much rejoicing in the editorial offices she gets paid from.  Now the associated political-action groups are looking to the incoming class of legislators to come though on their issues -- and to the President as well, though as I have to keep pointing out, U. S. Presidents don't make laws.*  (They do, however, veto them, though I think they do so far too rarely.)

     We didn't elect a King and his Royal Advisors; we elected a big-talking business mogul to the office previously held by a haberdasher, college professors, sons of privilege, small-time lawyers, would-be Supreme Court Justices (look it up) and engineers. We're gonna make him live over the store and he'll be on call 24/7/365.  We also elected members of two of the oldest cut-from-whole-cloth deliberative bodies in the world.†  In 2017, they'll roll up their sleeves and go to work.  Do you intend to let them do so without proper supervision?
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* Yes, yes, Executive Orders, blah, blah, blah.  They can do some things.  It's really not so much, and liable to get slapped down by the other two branches of the fed.gov if they try to go too far.
  
† A mere babe in arms compared to the Isle of Man's Tynwald, Iceland's Althing, and several other Scandanavian legislative assemblies; even the UK's Parliament dates back to the 13th Century.  But they evolved; ours came about like Athena from the head of Zeus, and has endured.  Most don't.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

I Had Not Expected This Outcome

    Fell asleep over a close race for Chief Executive, with Sec. Clinton having a thin margin over Mr. Trump -- and woke around 1:45 this morning to discover NBC's pundits working their way through the Five Stages of Grief and declaring the contest for Mr. Trump.

     While I figured it for a close race, I had thought the high turnout and hot-button issues would give Sec. Clinton a slight edge and tip the balance in the electoral college.  I hadn't counted on the electorate being as fed up as they have shown themselves to be.  I wasn't looking forward to four years with a vindictive, wrong-headed authoritarian in the White House. 

     Instead, we'll have four years of a feckless authoritarian in the Oval Office.  The press will loathe him with a loathing hitherto reserved for Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew,* which is one of the most sure checks and balances we've got.  Given only a choice between a conniving person who knows exactly what laws she's got to sneak by or subvert, or a high-concept guy who still seems hazy on the Constitution as amended, to say nothing of the broad sweep of Federal law and custom going back to George Washington, I suppose I'll take the latter, whose own party has a vested interest in keeping him from going off the rails and who will be "...scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize and study the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water,"† by both the media and his political opposition.  He's got big dreams, Mr. Trump has, or at least big talk, but he's got the same old Constitution and the same old Congressional mulishness over their powers and prerogatives.  He'll have many of the same bureaucrats.  They'll do what they were intended to do: be gumbo mud under the hooves of any Man (or Woman) on Horseback.  The job may not make the man, but it tends to make him color inside the lines or face the consequences.

     The other positive is that once again, we have reminded the rest of the world, especially Europe, that the United States of America is, by their standards, absolutely crazy.  This is, though they deny it, reassuring to them; they rely on America having a basement full of guns and gunners when they get into a spat or become worried about their nearer neighbors, and while they'd never admit it, Europe worries when the U.S. looks to be becoming too much like them.  Based on their campaign utterances, Mr. Trump is actually less of a hawk than Sec. Clinton, but that fact matters not in the face of overseas public perception.

     The "alt-right" will claim Mr. Trump's victory for themselves but they're a by-blow, freeriders; Americans have never much liked Nazis and, soon or late, they stop overlooking hateful fascists.  Eventually, the white-sheeted bravos kidnap the wrong woman and it all comes crashing down.  I'll be watching them closely and calling them out when merited; the alt-right is a greater enemy to freedom than Bernie Sanders could manage on his best day.

     The next four year promise to be interesting.
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* Seriously, young'ns, W had it easy compared to Nixon, largely because he's more likeable and enormously less hostile towards the press.  Agnew had a more nuanced relationship to the press: mutual hatred, tempered by his remarkable quotability, a combination of good speechwriters and innately grandiose habits of speech.  If you're a reporter on the fed.gov beat, happy days are indeed here again!
 
† Wells, H. G., The War Of The Worlds, 1898.  We've turned it on Martians -- or the lack thereof -- and you can be assured that we'll turn it on The Man, at least for a given value of "we."  He's not going to be able to open a bottle of beer in the Rose Garden without hostile eyes spying out the label and making snarky comments.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

As You Go A-Voting

     Remember to vote just the once, if indeed you vote at all.  Edgar Allen Poe may have died of over-voting and a careful search through the tinfoil-hat sites of Left and Right will likely unearth at least one suspiciously-vague tale of modern fraudulent voters being led to slaughter and dumped in an anonymous ditch once their usefulness has passed.  Don't be like them:* vote no more than once and be on the qui vive when you do!
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* This also includes not being the flamboyantly imaginary product of a disordered mind.  Avoid that; it can't possibly be nice.