Monday, October 31, 2016

Meanwhile, On The Herbacious Border

     That's not Virginia Creeper in my yard.  Not even close.  Glossy dark-green pointed-oval, smooth-edged leaves with paler veins that grow singly is what I have, and nasty penetrating tendrils on it.  But Virgina Creeper has five leaves, each a sawtooth-edged pointed oval, and uses little sticky pads to hang onto the wall or whatever; it's considered relatively harmless, though you can't pull it loose without damaging the surface -- you have to cut the root, and then it will fall off on its own.  There's a little of the five-leaved stuff around Roseholme and it's well-behaved, at least compared to the other stuff.

     So what's infesting my yard, trees, fences and walls?  I don't know for sure.

What's On Your (Indiana) Ballot?

     Find out here!

     I'm not going to tell you "get out there and vote!"  There aren't a lot of good choices this year, especially in the Presidential race.  I wouldn't blame anyone for sitting this one out, or for not voting in contests where you don't feel you have anyone to vote for.  Sure, you can vote against, but that means you're probably still voting for a seriously non-ideal candidate.

     If I had a campaign sign in my front yard, it would read, "LOTSA LUCK."  We're going to need it.

     Bit of history: did you know the U. S. didn't even have secret ballots until the mid-19th Century, and most places hadn't had printed, government-supplied ballots until a few years before that?   At one point, legislators were arguing that voting was a public trust and if you let people vote in secret, they'd only vote for their own self-interest instead of considering the needs of the greater community.  What actually happened was voter turnout began to decline and has declined steadily ever since.  Correlation isn't causation but that one makes me wonder.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Leaves, Raked (Round Two)

     Bagged the leaves from front yard.  Raked up the back yard and spent a lot of time pulling up Virginia Creeper -- or, as I am coming to know it, "Yankee Kudzu."  It's slower but persistent and it makes raking difficult.  Got all that done in four and a half hours and kind of vegetated on the couch for a couple of hours afterward.

     So I still have five heaps of leaves to bag before it rains today.  Think I'll go let someone else cook me a healthy breakfast first.

     We are by no means done with the season's raking.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

I Slept In

     Rode my bicycle several blocks for lunch yesterday; rode back and thought, "Gee, I over ate; I'll just have a nap."  Woke up eight hours later, fiddled around a little, heard about Tam's day, went back to sleep and here I am.

     It's those darned swing shifts.  They really take it out of me.  Or on me.  Something. 

     I may be too old for this.

Friday, October 28, 2016

"T-t-tamara...? Guh-grease Fire...

     "I thu-think we're about to have a guh-grease fire!"

     And indeed there was, but it was a small one, a little dancing flame in the center of the gas burner that persisted, sputtering, after I turned gas off.

     There had been a lone potato left over from early in the week.  About medium-sized.  I had eggs but no breakfast meat, so I thought I'd make home-made potato chips, pour off the grease, and scramble a couple of eggs in the same pan.

     Slice a tater thin enough and you can't fit all the chips-to-be in even a 12" skillet with an eighth of an inch of olive oil sputtering in it.  The potato really wanted rinsing in cold water, and I left half the chips soaking in a small bowl while I fried the first group, sizzling merrily away.

     The second group was too damp -- I had tiny grease geysers! There's a price to be paid for that, in time spent scrubbing with household ammonia, but it's worth it for homemade potato chips.  Got the second batch done and on paper towel in a Pyrex pie dish, and went to pour out the oil into a custard cup--

     Hot olive oil has remarkable laminar flow properties, at least I think that's the term.  The Coandă Effect: try to pour it and instead, it follows the surface in an unexpected manner. (This is why those old cast-iron frying pans have a pouring spout; alas, my lovely modern non-stick pans don't.)  I got most of the olive oil into the cup and then noticed the spreading pool of olive oil on the top of the stove, flowing inexorably toward the recesses of the gas burners, one of which was lit.  I had a 12" skillet in one hand, the pie dish was atop the other front burner grate, a teakettle lives on the back burner and the skillet's large enough that if I set it on the free back burner, it would block getting at the one that was on--

     All of that went through my thoughts as quickly as a drop of hot grease melting through stryofoam.  I shut off the burner and saw the sputtering, ghostly oil flame at the center, turned and grabbed several sheets of paper toweling while stuttering, "T- T- T-" and then managed to get out the sentence I opened with while frantically mopping up the oil.  Got the grate fished out without burning myself or setting the paper toweling on fire, smothered the little flame and was working on the oil that had pooled around the burner when Tam showed up, looking alarmed.

     The chips were good.  I didn't scramble any eggs.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mother Said

    "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

     I'm all out of nice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bitten! Well, Nipped

     Tam has been gone for three weeks, a mix of work and vacation that just happened to line up in space and time.  For the last three weeks, I have been the sole provider for the two cats here at Roseholme Cottage.

     Tam's cat, Rannie Wu, always makes up to me when Tam is out of town.  Within 24 to 48 hours, Rannie will curl up next to me at bedtime, climb up me, purring, and try to smooth on my face when I watch TV, and so on.  She's a little affectionate when Tam is around but never as much; she considers me a secondary cat-mommy.

     Just how secondary was made clear this morning.  Rannie Wu is a small and elderly cat, who must be fed in a few small servings because her tummy is smaller than her appetite.  Between each serving, she tends to lurk underfoot, smoothing or pawing at my legs when she thinks the next installment is overdue.  Occasionally, she'll nip my calves.

     For the last three weeks, she hasn't nipped me.  Not even once.  Tam returned home late last night -- either that or someone started to steal the living room couch and the refrigerator but gave it up as a bad job, to judge from the clunkings and thumpings coming from the front part of the house around midnight.  (Evidence that it was not an inept burglary attempt include the undisturbed fridge and sofa, not to mention The Tamara herself, fast asleep in her accustomed spot this morning).

     Between feedings this morning, Rannie smoothed on my ankle a few times, reared up for a few pats at my knee, went back to all fours, glanced up at me, appeared to give the matter a little thought -- and then carefully nipped my calf, a good sharp pinch that didn't quite break the skin.  The message is clear: her real Mommy is back and I've been relegated to secondary status.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Era Of Bad Feelings

     See also, "Sore Winner," which is one of the things we'll see after the upcoming election is over, no matter which side wins.  Winning and then carping as badly as the losing side has become a feature of American politics and in my opinion, not one that reflects well on our parties and institutions.  What happened to the gracious winner?  --Dead on the scorched earth of the battlefield, trod into the dust and derided as a wimp, it would seem.  We'll miss the principle, by and by; the wheel turns and without mercy, it turns quite cruelly.

     There is still some reason to be uncertain of the outcome of this election, as there are indications the polling may be slanted -- though I would caution readers that polls can easily become self-fulfilling prophecy.

     What I don't doubt is that the party system is getting shaken up and I suspect over the next eight years, we'll see some changes.  A review of the "Era Of Good Feelings" would be in order, but for those too busy -- or too averse to reading, in which case, why are you here and not spray-painting a wall with the other mouth-breathers? -- one of the features of that "Era" was James Monroe's quiet, pleasantly-spoken strangling of the Federalist Party as it lay slumbering (or in a coma). When it ended, the Federalists were gone and, outside the U.S. Supreme Court, forgotten, and good riddance; but the lingering spirit of Hamilitonianism was infecting a new generation and in time, would lead to further problems.

     American politics can be viewed as about half a battle between authoritarians and ant-authoritarians, nearly always fought at the grassroots level -- and half a battle between competing bosses, especially at the highest levels.

     Come November, we'll get a new boss and he or she will be pretty much the same as the old boss.  Drone strikes will continue, the NSA's files on each and every one of us will get fatter (but hey, don't worry, only the machines will read it, at least until our individual Treasonability Index exceeds a pre-set threshold, after which who knows), there will be Some War Somewhere Overseas and Another Few Wars here at home on Drugs, or Mexicans, or Tax Cheats or whoever looks suitably scapegoaty to the Administration; commentators will wag their heads solemnly and the blood and money will keep right on flowing.

     And after four years, your money will be worth less and if you've got a raise, it won't have kept up with the rate of inflation.  Spin the wheel again but remember: when the books are totalled up, the house always wins.

     ...That's the best case.  Worst case?  We're about due for a civil war and a lot of idiots think it would be a fine idea.  If it comes, the survivors will know better.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ha! Leaf-Raking. Also, Polls

     I've got the yard about half-raked and perhaps a half of that bagged before I ran out of bags, so that's not too bad.  It appears we won't get rain again until Wednesday, so there's at least a chance I can get the worst of the fallen leaves up before they get soaked again.

     The strange people inside my TV tell me that Sec. Clinton now has a double-digit lead over Mr. Trump.  Remind me again, what he would have done differently if he had set out to throw the election and embarrass the GOP?  It's no use carping the mainstream media is in the bag for Sec. Clinton; you knew that going in and media favoritism certainly did not keep Richard Nixon from winning under similar circumstances.  This Presidential race was the Republican party's to lose and if the polls are to be trusted -- a legitimate concern -- they have.  As a libertarian outsider, I have watched the GOP's slide to the anti-intellectual social Right with concern: at one point, I could pick out the fiscal conservative/socially moderate candidates and vote for them with a relatively clear conscience, but they're a vanishing breed.  Guess that's my problem and not the GOP's and if you're happy with the present formulation of the product, keep on keeping on.

     The results of the downticket races this election will be instructive.  I don't know if either Presidential candidate has much in the way of coattails but you can bet the party apparatchiks will have a finger to the wind.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

So, About Those Leaves

     Saturday didn't go as planned.  A small breakfast -- one egg on toast -- and a nice soak in Epsom salted bathwater, and I was up and at 'em: took my bicycle to the stores, bought a fresh donut for later, had a nice lunch, rode around a little more, returned home, sat down--

     And promptly nodded off.  I was exhausted!  By sheer will, I got up, sorted and started laundry, loaded the dishwasher, sat down in front of the TV and dozed again.  Woke up when the washer stopped, loaded the dryer and started the dishwasher, puttered around a little and went to bed.

     So today, maybe some raking.  And nothing else very active.  I guess I still haven't fully recovered.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

And Here We Are

     It's chilly, the lawn is covered in wet leaves, I'm almost out of brown-paper leaf bags and there's plenty else to do. Including the gutters, also covered in wet leaves -- as is the roof, so I'll be working the gutters from a ladder instead of the quicker way from the steeply-pitched roof.

     On the up side, it's supposed to be sunny today.

     Next life, conifers.

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's Trash Day!

     Oh, wondrous trash day!  The day on which the City delivers fresh, new tra-  Oh, wait.  That's right: they take the old trash away.  This is a better arrangement.  Fincanced by my real-estate taxes.  Could be done privately and, in fact, the City contracts it out.  Do they take a cut and thereby increase what it costs taxpayers?  Please.

     It's also the lead-in to one of my increasingly infrequent days off, during which I will be raking up wet leaves.  A lot of them.  Won't that be fun?

     Meanwhile, in that strange wold inside my TV set, it appears that someone might win the Presidency.  This gives me cold chills down my spine.  Meanwhile, Oceania has always been at war with Eastaisia.  Always.  And I'm off for another day of throwing history into the furnace.

     Oh, and for those of you you don't follow me on F@cebook:
    "Milo Yiannopoulos is proof that Röhm wasn't built in a day."
     Dude, don't confuse the Browncoats with the Brownshirts.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It Rained Last Night

     We had water up to the curbs in low-lying intersections when I drove home from work.  People were driving into them at speed and throwing huge roostertails.

     The rain made for pretty pictures.

     It kept on raining last night.  So far the basement is mostly dry.  Not sure how deep the puddles on the roads will be.  Rain after the leaves begin to fall can be a problem: the drain grates get plugged.


     You may wonder if I've got anything on the debate.  I don't.  Word is, they both got a little better, but neither one is a patch on famous Presidential debaters of the past.  Seriously, Leader Of The Free World, and this the applicant pool?  I've maintained for years that it's a lousy job, but really, they're best there was?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Meet Yuja Wang. Meet Tchaikovsky.

     You boys'll start listening 'cos she dresses sexy.  You stay listening 'cos she's really, really good.

     That Russian was no slouch, either.

     Bonus link: you wanna see a warm-up?  She's machine-gun quick!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Still #1 On The Amendement Chart

     The North Dakota judge hearing the state's case against Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman tossed the "engaging in a riot" the charges out on their ear

     Reporting -- even reporting from, as the local prosecutor alleged and probably is correct about, "the sole viewpoint of justifying the actions of the protestors," acts up to and including crossing fences and closing emergency valves on an oil pipeline -- is not a crime.  It's a Constitutionally-protected activity.  Even if the reporter is a jerk; even if the reporter has in the past urged denying due process to persons or groups of whom she disapproves.

     There are accounts of similar arrests targeting journalists, specifically ones with a large following and a strong slant towards the anti-pipeline side.  Hello, North Dakota, meet The Streisand Effect.  Better you should maybe listen to your judges.

V For...Something?

     Sunset last night:

     Very pretty, but if it says "IV" in the sky tomorrow night, I'm going to get a train ticket out of town.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Take A Class, Learn Some Stuff,

     ...Find out you might not be terrible at this "writing" thing.  The Indiana Writers Center, of which I am again a member (oops!  My membership had quietly expired and I had to renew) offers verious weekend classes and one that turns up every few months is "Flash Fiction," which is what I knew as "short-short stories," except now they have grown up to 750 words or less and have become High Art.

     This, for me, requires a kind of willing suspension of something, perhaps modesty or good sense, as I don't aspire to much past Competent Craft: stories people don't fall asleep or wander off during, with a healthy side of Having Not Abused Grammar Beyond Reason.  Then there's the whole Room Full Of Strangers thing, but heckers, I can out-strange eight (seven if you live in a really big or very small city) of the next ten people you meet, so--

     So I went.  The instructor was both pleasant and pleasantly competent, one of those cross-disciplinary folks who see with both eyes what most of us peer at through a monocle. In her case, a career in Art History (paintings, that is, and how nice to listen to someone who knows who Magrite was and uses a Degas painting to illustrate a story arc) coupled with an insatiable itch to write.  Not to mention enough skill at it to be published and reprinted widely.

     She spent a lot of time describing and even more time showing examples.  We read aloud.  (One student demurred.  And I think I'm shy?)  We talked about the essential images in the stories, about using and having effects without being gimmicky, and by and by it was time for the part "we rarely have enough time for."  Writing.  From prompts.

     "Prompts?"  It's a germ; more how you will tell the story than what it is about.  Nothing specific.  For example:

     A. "Describe following someone: where, when.  Describe who you are following and the process of following.  Indicate your feelings.  Last of all -- why are you following them?"  And  Leatherstocking, Sherlock, Sam Spade?  You've got a whole 750 words in which to work.   

     B. "You're taking a journey  How do you feel about it?  What do you think will happen when you arrive?  Do you arrive?  What actually happens?"  You've got to tease a whole story from this, not just a vignette.  It's got to have a beginning, a middle and a satisfying end.  You're not supposed to ditch the reader on a train unless you can convince them that's how it was supposed to happen.

     C. "Describe two people in a relationship with emotional strain between them; then describe them in earlier times, in a romantic moment."  The instructor remarked that her students never wrote from that prompt.  Oh, lady: challenge accepted.

     I had my used Surface Pro* out already; I'd been working on something else when we took a break halfway through the three-hour class.  The other writers had pen and paper; I guess I'm just not romantic.  My handwriting is either legible or fast and thoughts are only too fast, so for me, keyboard beats pen.†

     Okay, I was cheating.  I already had my people; we last met them on the Hidden Frontier, watching a meteor shower and listening to the evensong of the trap-door weasel in the outback of Kansas II.

     300 words later (call it one double-spaced typewritten page or just over), I looked up.  "It's too short."
     The instructor shook her head.  "No such thing.  Is it a complete story?"
     "I'm pretty sure."
     "Then it's long enough."
     We had fifteen minutes left.  I spent it tightening things up, replacing a too-specific reference with a generic one and catching at least half the typos.

     Come reading-aloud time, one of the other students led.  She had a nice start, but it turned out to be a "Why I can't write this assignment" piece.  Disappointing, as she clearly could have -- if she'd felt she could.  Writing is an act of immense hubris -- no, really, it is -- and sometimes you daren't look down.
     Another student had an image-rich "journey" story; I won't crib his work here but it was nicely jarring.  He hadn't quite got an ending but you could see it through the fog.
     Yet another had picked up "following," and borrowed noir tropes only to subtly subvert them.  Good stuff.  Alas, he was not sure about how to end his, either.  --Hey, you try writing narrative haiku and see how far you get. The shorter, the more difficult.
      I lucked out: I knew my people.  I knew their situation.  I wrote 'em.  When my turn came, the story was well-received.  Even the instructor had only a little (well-founded) criticism -- and she does fiction-as-art, and gets paid actual money for it, too.  Okay, the typical pittance short fiction gets,‡ but in lit'ry circles, what you usually get paid in are extra copies of the book or magazine and the occasional coup-counting scalp.  Good enough to get paid for it means when she talks, I listen.

     I'm going to polish this thing and shop it around.  Why not?  And I'll file off the serial numbers and use it as the basis for a bridge piece in the Hidden Frontier "Stardrive Engineer Bobbi" arc.  There's nothing at all science-fictional in it but I can crib from my own work and I've got nearly 450 words for world-building and miscellaneous background.
* Surfacii (Surfacea? Surfectants?) are crazy-expensive new, at least looking from my pocketbook.  Vendors on Amazon offer used ones, clean-slate and checked out, for a third or less the price.
† Which means, of course, that keyboard >> sword.  It's all fun and games until some literal-minded type lumbers by and clonks you over the head with a plowshare.

‡ A recent survey set the average writer's income from short fiction at $7500 a year.  Pretty sure Steven King responded to the survey, so unless you're him, you might want to keep your day job.  Black Mask is gone; The Saturday Evening Post is gone in all but name.  New Yorker does one short per issue, the SF mags are still around, and all of their slushpiles are immense.  Past that, you'll be getting the price of cheese sandwich or less, if you get published at all.  (You can still read Black Mask online.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Arrest Reporters?

     Even trouble-making reporters?  Even addled ones?  Alex Jones and company like to see how close they can come; on the other hand (at least if we're charting from the French), Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman likes to start trouble.

     Trouble she's got.  Covering a confrontation between protestors and pipeline workers/security, she managed to get herself arrested and charged with "trespass" and "riot."  Trespass proving too tricky to prove, she's left having to answer to participating in a riot.

     I don't find Ms. Goodman especially wonderful; there's likely nothing we agree on and she's a real hands-on advocacy journalist, with all that entails.  But ah, there's that word: "journalist."

     We've got this thing called the First Amendment.  It protects even people we don't much like.  Larry Flint, Alex Jones...Amy Goodman.  Not just NBC, Matt Drudge, HuffPo or Breitbart; not just your local newspaper (if any) or the news department of your local radio stations (likewise).  Nope, it all starts with edge cases.  People you don't like.  Viewpoints you abhor.

     The principle is, you don't jail reporters for being on the wrong side of an issue, or for being jerks, or for being inconvenient.  If they do actually break the law, the burden of proof is quite high.  On the other hand, being reporters, they often can show proof in form of notes, or audio or video recordings -- indeed, sharing what they gather is a huge part of their job.

     So we'll see how this one plays out.  The pipeline is a huge issue, especially for those closest to it.  Who wants to freeze in the dark?  Who wants to roll the dice on an oil spill into their only water source?  Who wants ten-dollar-a-gallon gasoline?  --Nobody.  And there's probably a better way to resolve it than by yelling, throwing things, using tear gas and dogs and breaking heads.  Or valves.  So far neither side has found anything better and without reporters shoving this under the national spotlight, there's not a lot of pressure on them to do so.  The big guys at CNNBCABCBS/WaPoNYLATimes weren't paying a lot of attention until she and her ilk took an interest; it's tangled enough that you can't cover much in a minute-thirty or two column-inches and getting compelling images has a poor risk/reward ratio for them.  So we need edge cases out there.  We need agenda-driven reporters because they're the only ones willing to make the drive out to the middle of damn nowhere and send back words and pictures.

     Arresting them is kinda not so very good.

     Come Monday, we'll find out what the courts in North Dakota think.  Stay tuned -- even if you have to dig for the results.

     (You don't need to tell me what a terrible, terrible person she is in comments.  Consider that stipulated.  That's not at issue here; in fact, it had darned well better not be at issue in court, either.)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Basic Presidenting

     One of the fundamental jobs we expect Presidents to do -- and this is why we're shocked when they don't -- is to "model adult behavior."*  The President of the United Sates is supposed to be a grown-up's grown-up.

     It doesn't always work; LBJ was infamous for working with staff from the toilet with the door open and his "explanation" to a reporter why the U.S. was waging a war n Vietnam supposedly consisted of flashing his privates.  But in general, barring the odd deep bow to a king or vomiting on foreign diplomats, Presidents are supposed to behave in public with more dignity and decorum than the rest of us slobs.  It's part of the job, unwritten but nonetheless required: set an example.

     Look at the present field of candidates.  Harshly.  Be honest with yourself, do the Big Party bombastic, vindictive, petty contenders strike you as having much knack for graceful adulting?  Are they an example for the kids?

     You will live out your old age in a world run by people who grew up with one of them as a prime example of how to act.  Are you okay with that?
* And not "behave like an Adult model."  On the other hand, I'm willing to bet a pair of randomly-chosen porn stars could do a better job of acting as if they were running for President, though people would always be expecting "bow-chicka-bow-wow" instead of "Hail To The Chief," and then wondering why.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Stopped Watch Speaks!

"What's Sauce For The Goose Is Sauce For The Gander"

     It's a remarkably honest look at leaks, leaking and journalism-as-we-know it, especially as applied to the 2016 U. S. Presidential campaigns. It was published in The Guardian, which goes to show something, possibly only that it takes the breadth of an ocean and a low stake in the outcome to get any kind of perspective.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Voting At Gunpoint?

     By gosh, you've got to hand it to the Russians: they came up with the one gambit that had me thinking (for five or ten seconds, anyway) about voting for Ms. Clinton:

     Russia promises nuclear war if Hillary Clinton is elected.  And that's from NBC, "America's Network Of (broken) Record," so you know it must be true -- or at least as true any of Brian Williams's tales of derring-do in dire and desperate, er, derpumstances.

     Bite me, Russian government.  I decided on Gary Johnson early, when neither party had anything even close to an acceptable candidate* and that has not changed.  Point an H-bomb at me? You did that already! Naval Avionics has been in Indianapolis since before the Cold War and the Army has been writing paychecks for every soldier in this town for almost as long: I'm already a casualty of WW III.  I was born dead.  Every town I have ever lived in was a target.

     I was born on (or just after, historians squabble) the very tail end of the Baby Boom.  I grew up with this playing out inside my head.
     What you call Hell, I call home. Bring it. Vlad. Let's make the rubble bounce and we'll see which side bred the best cockroaches afterwards.  Are you so stupid that you really think we have any reason not to?

     In other news, I'm exhausted all the time and I am tired of trying to turn the gibberish that comes off my fingers into intelligible text.   The Prednisone side effects linger and so does the atypical pneumonia.  I can't keep waking up and coming up with new stuff every morning any more.  I'm going to try preloading interesting items as they occur and see if I can't buy myself some time.

     Found out yesterday I'll be working random shifts through this weekend and then getting one day off the weekend after next.  Meanwhile, the leaves continue to fall.  The overtime doesn't add up to enough to pay for yard work.
* "Acceptable:" you know, Bernie Sanders didn't look all that bad compared to the eventual nominees: Presidents have limited powers and while Democrat politicians like to talk socialism, the overwhelming majority of them are owned by mechantilist capitalists who, however mealy-mouthed they are, shudder at the thought of "feeling the Bern."  He couldn't've done all that much harm -- no more than Mr. Obama has, at least, which is plenty but the trains are not less on time than they were eight years ago -- and Congress would have spent four years wetting themselves in fear, waiting for their owner's banks and telecom companies to get nationalized by Executive fiat.†  In hindsight, that image is pretty appealing.  Seriously, him or Sec. Clinton, which one is worse?  I'm going with her.

† Not an actual power of the President.  Not that it has stopped them in the past.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Here's a Llama

     A tiny one, at that:
The dollar bill is for scale.  I'm tempted to name this gun "Sting."

     The Spanish .380 showed up at our local gun store (Indy Arms Co.) for a song.  Intrigued, I sang.  Except for the external extractor, it's more a miniature 1911 than any I have seen, right down to the grip safety and sliding trigger.

     Yes, it's a Llama, and the finish shows it.  However, the safeties work, the sights are pretty well lined up and it's been running fine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Two Things

     First thing: the Prednisone (and not very much of it) has turned out to have had a nasty side-effect or two on me, the worst of which is that my verbal censor is down and I have had to be very careful to keep my body language muted, or I'm gesturing like a clumsy puppet.  This is far from unknown and should fade away over time.  For now, it sucks out loud.  And it sucks worse to know what's going on and still get blindsided by it.  It's one thing to say stuff as you think it; finding yourself saying it while the thought is still forming is frightening.  (On top of it all, I am still having chest pain and coughing.)

     Second thing: came across an article in Wired about cash-strapped civic governments unpaving roads to save money, gravel being a lot cheaper than asphalt. (I'd put in a link but Wired and I are having a little disagreement about my using an adblocker to read their increasinly ill-written content.) This is straight out of the eerie post-industrial heartland of Atlas Shrugged -- and is no real surprise.  In the real world, there's no John Galt; we can take some comfort that the villains are nowhere near Rand-scale, but not very much comfort.

     I'm having a little trouble with the optimism this morning.

Monday, October 10, 2016

And The Sun Rises On A New Day

     Lord help me, I looked at the debate.

     Oh, not much, furtive glances over supper, really, while I tried desperately to find something, anything worth watching that was under an hour long.

     For me, the debate was like a car wreck: you drive by, drawn but not wanting to look, certainly not so long a look that you begin see enough to sort body parts from automotive wreckage.  Yet traffic slows to a crawl, stops, and you look, look away, look again--

     If you have a major-party candidate you like or at least can vote for without agonizing mental gymnastics, I'm happy for you.  How wonderful to not feel despair!  For me, well, I didn't think much of either one of them going into the debate and what I saw did nothing to change that.  Afterwards, Mr. Trump's supporters and Ms. Clinton's supporters both declared victory and posted hasty memes to that effect on social media.

     The capper for me came this morning, when I stumbled over a hand-wringing piece on Vox (somewhere to the Left of the Left) annoyingly written in the present tense by a fellow who'd abstained from the 1968 Presidential election because at the time, he didn't see any difference between Richard M. Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey.  He proceeds to recount the traditional litany of horrors of the Nixon Presidency, including a number of items Nixon had nothing to do with, musing all the while that it would have been better under Humphrey.  --I doubt that; he offers nothing in support of his notion past an axiomatic acceptance that Nixon was, in fact, the Devil. In 1968, things were screwed up, delicately balanced, and any touch was going to have disproportionate effects.  Humphrey probably would have made a different mess but he would have made a mess.  Bigger, smaller?  I don't know; I don't know in 2016, either.

     Go vote, you can't make matters any worse all by yourself and your neighbors are probably going to be voting at you.  Make your choice.  Refuse to regret it.  There is one person you can decide for, one person for whom you can speak, one person whose moral character is under your control: yourself.  That's all you've got.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

I'm Betting The Canary Lives

     So, the various pundits, saladins, paladins, celebrities and Great Minds are all calling for Mr. Trump's head, including no few in what had been starting to look like His Very Own Party.

     Me, I'm reminded of the story about the venomous critter that wants to cross a river, and assures its host there's no possible way it's going to do harm while being carried --"After all, we'd both drown!"  Of course, over the very deepest part, the critter strikes and as they go under, the hapless host wails, "But you promised," only to be reminded, "Hey, I am venomous."

     The GOP has been snakebit.

     Lose control of tens of thousands of classified e-mails -- offstage, awhile back, abstractly?  The public yawns.  Show up on lovely color tape with hi-fi sound, talking the way men talk when the wimmens aren't around?[1] The public sits up.  Clickbait is around because it works -- and it works the same way blood sports worked for Rome.  Is it a hatchet job?  Yeah -- but Mr. Trump left the hatchet laying out and it's a way shinier one than any of the ones Ms. Clinton's got scattered about. 

     Like him or not, Mr. Trump shot himself in the foot, years in advance.  He didn't go alone.  A rising young celebrity reporter known as Billy Bush[2] was chortling right along with him  On Saturday, NBC's political analyst Chuck Todd declared the election was over.  Oh, the outrage!  We have a canary in that coal mine: On Monday, we shall see if Mr. Bush is back at his most recent post, co-anchoring a later hour of NBC's Today Show.
  •   If he's gone for good (he won't be), you'll know that the network is a fine, upstanding supporter of Genuine American Moral Character.  Double points if they apologize officially!
  •   If he's "on assignment" or otherwise shoved into the background, they're hedging their bets.  Maybe the flap will blow over.  And what if (cue dramatic organ) Mr. Trump wins?  They'd be in the deep doodoo if they'd given Billy the ax!
  •   If he's there, business as usual, maybe another pro forma "I was young and foolish and with bad companions," then forget it; it's just more cynical crap from an industry that has perfected and concentrated cynical crap into a form so toxic that just to stand near it is contaminating.
     I know which way I'll bet.  (Update: he's off the show, "pending investigation." Because the very same behavior that in inexcusable on the part of one man might be okay fine by another, if he's a TV host with a winning smile? Or will we go with "youth and bad influences?"  It's a hedged bet, is all.)

     Gary Johnson still gets my vote for President, same as he had since before the conventions.  He's got serious flaws.  He's probably a crude-ass, too, but he's more careful about live mics and cameras.  If you can't stop being Junior High School barbarians (and in my darker moments, I think no human ever can[3]), you can at least learn to fake being civilized, right alongside everyone else trying to remember which fork to use and what not to stare at no matter how enticing.  I think Gary could manage that, if he got the chance.

     This election?  There really aren't words strong enough.  I miss Nixon and Humphrey.  I miss George McGovern.  I'm starting to miss John McCain, even at his crankiest.  Herbert Hoover or Harry Truman would be a real relief about now.
1. Boys, you can fool your mothers, you can fool your wives or girlfriends, maybe you can even fool your sisters, but you can't fool me.  I'm working so quietly at the bench in the back of the room, or up on a ladder overhead, or behind the equipment racks that you forget I'm there -- and in your heart of hearts, engineers don't have boobs anyhow, so I'm under the radar even if it pings a little.  How you do talk when you think the chicks are away! Many of you are pigs, kept civilized by social pressure; many of you are primarily outraged at Mr. Trump from envy that he might indeed have been getting away with "Russian hands and Roman fingers" all over pretty young things and you rush to condemn him lest anyone suspect you might ever think or say what you have thought and said many times over.  (And by the way, sometimes we look at the best of you with lust in our hearts, too.  Don't take it as carte blanche to be crude.)

2. That would be young Mr. William Hall Bush, of those Bushes.  NBC loves having a tame Bush on staff, much as the Persian Emperor had ex-Roman Emperor Valerian kept around as a stepstool.
3. What, me catty, gossipy and superficial, tending to form cliques and so on and on?  Yeah, some.  If boys get "crude," we get a social environment that can make dinner with the Borgia's look tame.  And if you duck it, you're the one being gossiped about.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Elite Frenemies?

     Maybe they were frenemies; it was the impression I had received, the only time I ever saw Gore Vidal[1] and William F. Buckley, Jr. share a TV screen, late in their lives and careers.  They lit up, clearly pleased to not have to pull any punches: they knew they were well-matched.  Oh, the blades were concealed; no blood was shed.  But the daggers were there, keen, pointed and deftly wielded.

     Possibly too they were too well-matched.  Possibly each man saw in the other a kind of terribly-distorted reflection of himself.  Both elites, though from families only a generation or three in from the rough, they viewed the American government with a proprietorial air.  A crueler eye might suppose they were both concerned that the poor and under-represented were about ready to start eating the rich, and Buckley and Vidal only disagreed over the best way to prevent the process.  But I think it ran deeper; I think they both worried the very soul of the country was in danger of being lost.

     Last night I watched and enjoyed the documentary Best Of Enemies, which has the Buckley-Vidal ABC-TV debates from the 1968 Republican and Democrat conventions at its core.  Long story short, in '68, ABC was an also-ran network, in third place nationally only because there was no lower spot. Literate and charming in their individual ways, Vidal and Buckley loathed one another, loved the United States (also each in their own very different way) and the network figured they'd make for good television.

     It was compelling TV, anyway; face-to-face, Buckley called Vidal "feline" and was in turn painted as a war-monger -- no, make that a nuclear warmonger.  In their better moments, the sparring was marvelous; at their lowest ebb--

     I had thought it was during their first debate.  I had thought it was in 1964.  I thought civil relations between the two had improved.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  In the next-to-last debate, the urbane gentlemen worked themselves down to barroom argument.  In the midst of a rising dispute about not only freedom of speech but how one ought to react to persons who pushed the boundaries of it, Vidal -- perhaps a bit too comfy with himself from a habit of rehearsing debate zingers to appreciative newsmen -- called Buckley "the only sort of pro- or crypto-Nazi I can think of...," far more serious fighting words between men who had both served during WW II than we might grasp today.  Buckley rose to the bait, calling Vidal out with " queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face, and you'll stay plastered."  Live, on network television, in 1968.  Howard K, Smith, the abruptly-onscreen face of ABC's news coverage, looked as if he had swallowed a spider. 

     Nor did the feud end there.  The two sparred and escalated in the pages of Esquire, which led to a matched set of lawsuits that went for years, right down to the wire until the magazine (also named in the suits) settled their part and left the men a way out.

     But there's a note of sadness.  In later life, Buckley expressed regret over his word choice[2].  In later life, Vidal kept a series of framed photographs of the two men debating -- on the wall over the bathtub in his Italian home.  Outliving his opponent, Vidal's poison-pen thumbnail Buckley eulogy to a reporter held this wistful gem: "...hell is bound to be a livelier place..."

    With both of them gone, the world is a less-lively place.  Neither was entirely comfortable with directions American party politics has taken; Vidal the flaming liberal went so far as to observe, "...essentially, there is no difference between the two parties."  Mind you, he thought them both too right-wing, too concerned with "property," in the sense of what those who controlled the parties already owned: most of the country. He had a point.

     Moderns will find much to disagree with in the expressed views of both over time; but so did they, growing and changing with the times.  The two men were snobs, they were elites, they were, in many senses, effete.  But they loved this country.  They loved language, and accusing one another of maltreating it. They were, when on their best behavior, delightful to watch clashing swords.  They were never going to be friends.

     Best of Enemies offers an insightful glimpse of both men, in the kind of documentary that has become all too scarce: a lot of material straight from the original sources and speculation only on the part of interviewees.  If you want to see history while it's still settling, this film is for you.
1.  Almost Eugene Louis Gore Vidal, Jr., by the way, and aren't we all fortunate to have been spared that? You can thank him, as it was changed by his own choice.
2. Of course, he went on to say Gore Vidal was "an evangelist for bisexuality," which is indeed accurate.  Harsh, perhaps, but fair; and there's William F. Buckley, Jr. for you in a nutshell.

Friday, October 07, 2016

More Reading

     I posted in great haste yesterday and in the process, left off one of the better books I'm reading -- yes, I have several going at any one time, usually one on the Kindle and one on paper, with occasional overage.

     The present paperbound "overage" is an excess of delight and practicality, typewriter collector Richard Polt's The Typewriter Revolution, covering history, use, maintenance, philosophy and esthetics of, yes, the typewriter.  It's got everything from tool-selection guidance to polemics and (partially tongue-in-cheek) propaganda, clearly written, lavishly and nicely illustrated, all in a lovely buckram binding with a bound-in bookmark in the form of red-and-black typewriter ribbon.  It's A Compleat Thing, an artifact at once practical and pleasant.  If you like typewriters, you should have this book.

     Lines to love?  This fellow Richard Polt, with such a deep appreciation of an obsolete, clunky technology, could have signed himself Dr. Polt (he didn't); he's a Professor of Philosophy at Xavier and no slouch at it, either, if a quick web search is to be trusted.  Here he is on fixing your own typewriter, a few pages away from a photo of his neatly-organized workbench:

     "I was never the kind of kid who took apart alarm clocks, but I was able to teach myself typewriter repair as an adult with patience and logic."

     ...Which is how we learn anything, from Heidigger to harmony, the application of patience and logic; a knack alone rarely cuts it.  It shouldn't take a philosophy professor to point it out but I'm kind of glad it did.

     This is a good book; you'll read the parts that appeal to your take on the hobby and save the rest for when you need it.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


     Things I am reading:

     The Washington Frickin' Post, or stories from the first couple of pages of each section, anyway.  Their app arrived installed on my Kindle Fire 7 and it makes for interesting reading, as their utter horror at Mr. Trump, glee over every stumble from Gov. Johnson and not-quite-concealed disdain for Secretary Clinton makes it clear that they, too (and by their own dim and twisted lights) are trying to put the best face they can on an election with less-appealing main contenders than a back-alley bumfight.*  Good luck with that.

     Crap about clowns: someone needs to start running a clowns-in-the-news aggregator, because it is becoming a regular item and not in a good way.  Seriously, WTF, over?  Juggalos run amoker?  Fans (ew, squick) of John Wayne Gacy?  Idiots?  A "news flap," largely self-sustaining, fueled by hoax and rumor?  --Logic favors the last two on the list.  We were better off with Bigfoot and flying saucers.  Remember when clowns were merely creepily cheerful and amused children?  No?  Me, neither.

     Bloody Acquisitions, Drew Hayes: the third book in a series about Fred, the Vampire Accountant.  A bit dry, perhaps, but Fred's a decent guy whose concentration on business -- even the undead have to keep financial records and file taxes -- blinds him from seeing just what an inadvertently brave and stand-up fellow he is.  Luckily his friends, a mixed bag of parahumans, do notice.  Scary hijinks ensue.  These are fun books, best read in order, and if you were wondering what the less-apocalyptic side of Larry Corriea's MHI universe might look like, this is it.  Well-written pulp, interesting characters, engrossing plots and, hey, accountancy.  What more do you want?

     Lionel Shriver, The Mandibles: A Family 2029 - 2047.  Speaking of the Apocalypse, or an apocalypse, near-future calamity novels faded away as the Cold War and The Bomb came to feel routine.  Shriver's brought the sub-genere back on a wave of bad debt rather than radiation, and it may be more frightening than Fail-Safe, Alas, Babylon or On The Beach.  This future is mostly-linear extrapolation and the prediction perhaps errs on the gentle side -- but it's no walk in the park.  I'm about a third of the way in.  Turk Turon sent me the book with a note, "I read it thinking you'd be fascinated."  So far, he's right: fascinated like a rabbit mesmerized by a snake, knowing the strike is inevitable and hoping it won't hurt too much.  Every time I fill up an old-fashioned paper bag at the grocer's for over $50, I think thoughts of the sort Shriver puts on paper elegantly and well.  I don't know how it ends, so don't spoil it.  But it can't end well and we'd be wise to heed that.
* Look, if you are finding yourself favoring one of the Big Two candidates, I'm happy for you; just try to bear in mind that, rightly or wrongly, they are two of the least-liked people to ever run for President, and I'm including Richard Nixon in that tally.  The people who don't like them -- and there are a lot who don't -- really don't like them and we're all going to have to live with that.  Invest in an effigy factory and you can't go wrong.  Make sure they'll burn nicely!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Well, That's Better

     Managed to work only eight hours, actually made some progress, learned about 1950s elevator controls,* discovered we would not be using the tower elevator in the downward direction that day  -- "Kid, we don't carry parts that old on the truck," which I will take from someone who is both my senior and so obviously knows his trade -- got out roughly on time and made it to the drive-thru doc.

     I drew a physician's assistant, who didn't hear any crackling from my lungs (I did, in bed in the middle of last night, but I've got to be listening close and I had to experiment to make sure it wasn't my sinuses) but wasn't at all happy with the sore throat, cough etc.  Symptomatic treatment was the order of the day, some good strong cough syrup I can only take around bedtime and Prednisone as an anti-inflammatory: a "stop hurting, stop coughing and buy time" approach that makes sense to me; the Tincture of Time cures a lot of things if the symptoms don't drive the patient to distraction.  The corticosteroid isn't without its own set of possible effects but it's not for very long, in a hit hard and taper off regimen that ought to help.

     The Ancient Greek were probably right, though -- for serious doctoring, there should be some incense and a snake or two around, just so you can be impressed more.  There's a boatload of headology in regular-type medical practice: they're mainly arranging things so your body can do the work.  It doesn't hurt to breathe on the dice before you roll 'em.

     However she did it, I was able to get a decent night's sleep and my outlook this morning is considerably less dyspeptic than it had been.  This is a good thing, as I was about ready to sell a kidney, pay off the house, and retire.
* From the 1920s onwards, unless it says "Otis" on the elevator controls and possibly even then, C. J. Anderson built it.  Sure, there's someone else's name tag on it, but those beautifully-wired slate or thick metal panels full of open-frame relays, with everything dressed neatly, flat roadmaps of wire held by soft-metal strips?  Odds are good C. J.Anderson built it up near Chicago, IL, and odds are they still have repair parts for it.  Don't try this at home; elevator repair is a job for experts, and that's who they sell to.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Who Am I, And Why Am I Here?

    It was a better line before the spin-doctors got hold of it.  Sadly, my present state is closer to how it was perceived afterwards.

     Worked nearly 16 hours yesterday and I'm doing a short turnaround today, into a day that may itself run long.  I'd like to say it's worth it, but increasingly, it is not.  I'm running with a persistent and intermittently productive cough, a nasty sore throat and occasional dizziness.  I'll probably go from work to the doc-in-a-a-box, who will give me some patent nostrum that won't do much.

Monday, October 03, 2016

To Add To The Fun

     Not only am I on the early shift, I'll be working a double or near-double shift today, too.  Okay, they pay me for it, but I'm still recovering from the pneumonia-or-whatever, with a nagging sore throat, sore chest and mostly-dry cough.

    Well, either I'll get through it or it'll knock me flat for another couple of days.  Or both.  Plenty of time to sleep when the docs won't let you do anything but, right?  And until then, the clock's ticking.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

I'm Here

     Just didn't have much to say.  I'd like to tell you I slept in, but in fact, it's my lunch break.  Oh, the glamor!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Icebox-And-Pantry Omelet

     It's not wise to skip grocery-shopping when you know you're low on staples, but I was sleepy last night and needed to get home to feed the cats only a little later than normal because Tam (who usually gets their evening meal) was out of town for the day.

     But I had and there I was at 0500, hungry and wondering what I could come up with.  Eggs we had, but no breakfast meat.  Bread but I didn't want to just do toast...  Half an onion, some black olives, some hard-toasted French bread rounds (think giant croutons) left over from Midwestern "chili"* the other night and a little balsamic bellavitano cheese: clearly, the Fates wanted me to have an omelet!

     A couple of the rusks broken up and with some water over them sat and soaked while I chopped and cooked a little onion (with black pepper and paprika).  I beat two eggs into the bread and water with a pinch of sage and thyme, took the onion out and poured the eggs into the pan. Once the omelet was starting to set, I added most of the onion, diced  cheese and a few olives, folded the omelet and finished it: yum!

     That combination works well.  Sorry, I ate it as soon as it was plated rather than taking a photo.
* The skeptical quotes are a compromise, as Tam and people in the southwestern U.S. look askance at what we call chili up here in soybean-and-corn country.  It's a flavorful stew with ground beef, canned tomatoes, red kidney beans, onion, a little chili powder and, typically, elbow macaroni.  I skipped the pasta and added a small can of mild green chilis, some hot Italian sausage with the beef, a single fresh tomato along with the canned, and good dark chili powder.  It's still nothing a Texan would call chili, so I put the word in quotes or name it by describing the contents, in order to avoid a long conversation on what does and does not constitute chili.  In truth, "chili" is whatever you call chili, usually a red stew with meat, much as "science fiction" is whatever science fiction readers read, usually about the future.