Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When You Wake In The Night

     Or when I wake in the night, at least, there's a pretty good chance it's because a calf cramp is coming on.

     I'm usually a bit fuzzy and I lay there, trying to remember: which way should I move my foot?  One direction will forestall or at least reduce the pain; the other will make it far worse, and the clock is ticking.  Any second, the cramp will spasm and then it will be too late.

     This week, I have been walking considerably more than usual, since I don't want to park my car where globs of thick, dark-colored grease will fall on it from a great height. Yesterday evening, feeling spry, I added to the total with a brisk walk down the Monon for a snack.  Three times last night, incipient cramps woke me.  Each time, I was just a little late remembering to move my foot so as to stretch the muscles of my calf ahead of the cramp.  After the second one, I put the heating pad under my calves and went back to sleep.

     Gentle stretching exercises are the order of the day. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

In The Country Of The Hearing-Impaired, The Tone-Deaf Man Is...?

     I don't know.  He's certainly not king.  He's not the court jester, either, though you've got to read carefully to find out:

     Indiana Representative Jim Lucas figures if you're okay with licensing the public practice of one Constitutionally-protected right, you can't really argue against doing the same for the rest of them.  Irresponsible journalism can cause great harm, he points out, so why not start there?

     It's heavy-handed satire.  Rep. Lucas has long been a proponent of bringing "Vermont carry" to Indiana, but the hit dog yelps, especially in a news cycle dominated by President Trump's ill-informed* Twitter-fight with network news.  So of course, the Press bit.  And of course, the Press missed the point.

     Rep Lucas, never one to mind wrestling a pig, seems to have tried to use even more satire to clear things up.  It is working about as well as you might expect.

     Meanwhile, I'm sitting over here remembering that Mussolini was a journalist long before he became a fascist dictator, and that Mein Kampf and Das Kapital have, between them, prompted the murder of tens if not hundreds of millions of people. Guns are indeed dangerous -- but so are ideas and the ready promulgation of them.

     And so, too, is dangling temptation before the foolish and short-sighted.  Today, it's satire.  Who will the laugh be on tomorrow?  Personally, I support the unlicensed carry of journalists; they're only as dangerous as the person wielding them.
* Networks don't have licenses; individual stations do.  Only a tiny fraction of U.S. TV stations are actually owned by the network they carry.  Most people don't know that and assume that the station they watch ABNBCBS on must, in fact, be that network.  So when a President Tweets, "Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!" he is channeling H. L. Mencken's Everyman, and threatening his waiter for the misdeeds of the cook.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Morning

     I'm fresh out of commentary.  Hollywood is just a creepy as most people feared and California is burning -- though not, for some reason, burning down the people who deserve it, just big, wide swaths of Averageville, and where's the justice in that?

     Here in Indiana, the weather has turned sharply cooler, which is not going to be helpful for the ongoing tower work.  Beggars can't be choosers; this was  a last-minute job and id we get sunshine and no more than the mildest of breezes, I'll be happy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Well, That Was...

     ...I don't know.  Refreshing?  On the advice of my doctor, I just laid around most of the weekend.  I was working terrible hours all last week and fighting some kind of infection, so by the time I showed up at the doctor's office at 1:30 Friday afternoon, having been awake since 11:00 the previous night, I was kind of exquisitely exhausted.

     After discussing the hours I'd been working and how I was feeling, she looked at me and asked, "Do you work tomorrow?  Because I can write a note right now that you should be off for a couple days..."  This from a practice remarkably unreceptive to malingerers, if the things I have overheard in many years of going there are any guide.

     So I didn't do a whole lot yesterday -- a lovely day, though one that set my allergies tingling -- and today was cold and gray, fine weather for staying indoors and mostly horizontal. 

     Has it helped?  I think so.  Still not a hundred percent, but much better than most of last week.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lieutenant Who?

     Can you go wrong asking the robot, "Alexa, play Prokofiev?"  Maybe, though I don't know how.  This morning, she dished up the Lieutenant Kijé Suite, which ranks up there with Peter And The Wolf and the March from For the Love Of Three Oranges* as accessible highbrow music -- and those two are by Prokofiev, too.
     Lt. Kijé is The Officer Who Never Was, created by a slip of the pen, but enjoys a brilliant career despite not existing -- or his close associates and wife do, anyway.   And then one day, the Emperor sends for this loyal and clever officer, now a General....

     How is it that SF film makers have overlooked this amusing, twisty plot?  Sure, Hollywood is not too bright collectively, but there are a few with wit here and there.  Bigtime, sweeping space opera is overdue to be sent up and this delightful lampoon of Imperial bureaucracy, connivance and managerial befuddlement both accidental and deliberate would be just the thing.
* An opera for people dislike opera.  Find all that stagy singing and stomping about in Foreignese too high-toned and stuffy?  Sergi'll fix it!  He was supposedly a good Marxist (or willing to go along) but for this work, it's Groucho, Harpo and Chico, not Karl.  (Perhaps more Chico Marx, as the story comes from an Italian play based on an Italian fairytale, which is at least twice as Italian as Chico.) I can't find a synopsis that does it justice; the cast includes a lonely Prince, an evil witch, giant enchanted oranges, three beautiful Princesses, an over-involved Narrator, and planted audience members who appear to believe the opera is real life and try to "help" the protagonists out of the difficulties the plot puts in the way. Prokofiev being Prokofiev, the opera mixes bittersweet and slapstick -- and gets away with it brilliantly.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Because We're Soooo Unique, That's Why

     Crew Chief for the team greasing the guy wires* on the very tall tower for which I am responsible:

     "I don't know what it is about you people in Indianapolis. Everyplace else in the country where we work, they just toss us the keys and say, 'Let us know when you're done.'  We come here, and we've worked on almost every tall tower in Indy, and every one of 'em, they have to have someone there all the time we're working.  You Indianapolis people don't want us to have keys, or gate codes or anything!"

     Guess it's just that good old Hoosier diligence.  Or paranoia -- random vandalism, from mild to theft of all outdoor air-conditioning equipment, has a long history at towers here.  Me, I just do what my bosses tell me to do along those lines.
* "But why grease them," you might wonder, "do they squeak?"  They do not, or no more than necessary; what they do is rust.  Unless you do something, the heavy wire rope accumulates water and rusts from the inside out.  That could ruin your whole day, or at least mine. You can't paint them but a nice, thick coat of heavy grease, well packed in, makes a good barrier to the entry of water.  The downside is, it has to be renewed every few years.  This is best done during very hot weather but it doesn't always work out that way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What Day Is This?

     We're short-handed and over-projected at work.  We had people on vacation and that was pretty well covered -- until one of the operating techs when to the doctor for a checkup and got an ambulance ride and immediate surgery.  Prognosis is good but returning to work is weeks away.

     That left Engineering with more tasks to cover than we have people.  There was no one move that could be made to cover what needed to be covered.  There were, however, a lot of little ones--  Everyone picked up a little overtime, an hour or so per day wherever our skill sets fit.

     But we were still short.  We needed to cover multiple locations at multiple different times of the day, doing everything from sitting at a console recording video and remotely steering cameras to supervising a crew doing dangerous work high above ground.  We needed someone with a wide array of skills.  Someone who could work three hours here, catnap, and go work two hours there, with a stop at a third location later.  Someone who could use some overtime pay.

     It turns out that I am someone.  Where I will be at any given time is difficult to predict -- home?  Work?  The North Campus?  It should all add up to at least my normal hours plus a little extra.

     I'm using Blogger's scheduled posting ability to at least give my writing here some semblance of regularity. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017


     There are all kinds of toughness or backbone.  At one time, I worked for a company that had been founded as a family firm in the late 19th Century and was still largely controlled by family members.  They're still around, but they recently ran out of patriarchs and are now pretty much just another corporation.

     But back in the day -- starting several generations back -- one august pillar of the community followed another, well-fed, soft-spoken, hard-bargaining men in suits who actually were pillars of their community, endowing the local college, taking on major charitable projects, and running all the branches of their company in an old-fashioned, frugal but not grasping manner.  By the time things came down to the last of them sitting in the CEO's chair, none of them had needed to do a moment's hard physical labor in their lives.  It showed -- co-workers were known to remark that shaking hands with the Big Boss was like touching as baby's bottom: he didn't even have a writer's callus!

     And, as people who do some degree of physical work for a living, they looked a bit down on him for it.  About the most effort he'd ever gone to was reading contracts.

     One Autumn, he visited all of the corporation's facilities and gave short talks -- pep talks, really, appreciations of his employees and of the company, and he shook hands with everyone who attended.  Everyone.  Without exception.  Shook hands, smiled, looked us in the eye and said a word or two, often addressing people by name.

     No one questioned it at the time.  He was known to do similar things on occasion, though this was a bit more personal than usual.

     Three or four months later, a memo came out: the CEO had passed away.  He'd been ill for over a year, it said.  Cancer.  He'd had an inoperable tumor.

     Now tell me, just how tough did that soft-handed man have to be, to visit every person and place in his company, tell us what a fine company it was, how good its continued prospects were, how our efforts had helped make it what it was, look us in the eye, smile and...say goodbye without ever letting on anything was wrong, without ever tearing up or saying, "...this will be the last time..." or showing anything but good fellowship?

      I don't know that I could do it.  Could you?  Not every kind of toughness is obvious at first glance.  

Monday, October 09, 2017

Breakfast Steak

     It's self-indulgent to take a nice, two-inch thick filet mignon and cut it into two thinner breakfast steaks, but it certainly is good!

     Slow-cooked, mostly covered, with fresh mushrooms and served with cherry tomatoes and a fried egg, it's very nearly (I left out the potatoes and bacon) a "full Bobbi breakfast," which is similar to a Full English Breakfast, only not exactly.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

It's The Weekend And Mom's Back In The Hospital

     You can guess where I'll be spending part of my day off. 

     I might spend some of it at Doc-In-A-Box, too.  My own woes, minor though they are, do not seem to be getting better.

Friday, October 06, 2017

It's A Derpfire

     I've been feeling lousy for the last week and a half -- allergies, flu shot, another kidney stone, I don't know and I'm not going to list my symptoms; I pay people to doctor at me, dislike it intensely and I don't want Random Internet Diagnosis. thank you.

     But it's jaundiced my mood, so when I read Facebook Commandos exhorting Not One Inch and furiously excoriating the NRA for "caving in on bumpfire stocks," I just want to backhand the dumb clean off of 'em.

     Alas, it doesn't work that way.  But they do not understand the fight they're in.  Bumpfire hardware was pretty much doomed at the first images of the hardware the Las Vegas mass murderer used, and that was just the thin edge of it; AR-15s and other rifles that look like military rifles, "high-caliber"* rifle ammunition, semi-autos -- they're all in the spotlight and the gun-banners are braying for blood.

     Bumpfires were never anything more than a nose-thumbing, combining the ammo-eating expense of full-auto with the accuracy of a broken squirt gun.  On principle, I dislike throwing anything at all to the wolves jackasses, but if it'll buy a little time to regroup and salvage what we can, it's worth giving up -- among other things, the SHARE Act is likely going to need a kick-start, from the way "good, solid" GOP Congressinvertibrates have been hemming and hawing over it.

     All of a sudden, thanks to one lunatic of a hobby gambler, a guy with a nice, comfortable two-airplane kind of life who decided to go kill a lot of people who never did him any harm, us working types with about $0.09 to spare if we skip lunch, are in another blamed fight over common, ordinary rifles and accessories that are in wide use.  That's a real fight, and a bitter one.  Many of the high-profile antis are staring retirement full in the face from smooching distance; they're spoiling for a big fight and would love to "leave a legacy" way bigger than outlawing a stupid toy.  Let's not let them.
* Yeah, I don't get it, either, some halfwitted portmanteau of "high power" and "large caliber" which is then applied to the .223, a small, medium-power round.  And what's that tell you about the attitude of those who seriously use that term for .223 towards the .308 Winchester for your deer rifle, or anything of like size and power?  Nothing good.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Thoughts In The Aftermath

     In the wake of terrible events like the recent mass killing in Las Vegas, the people with an axe to grind are out in huge numbers, from Concerned Citizens to Internet Experts to elected and appointed officials.

     Grant them this -- they want to Do Something.  For the majority of them, it's an emotionally-driven urge, which, sadly, rarely carries much logic along in the headlong rush to render aid.  Heart-rending, but rarely helpful.*

     So let's review: in the attack at Las Vegas or anything similar, the only effective response the victim pool can make is to get elsewhere, as quickly as possible; in a crowd, this carries additional risk.  Getting under effective cover -- something that might actually stop or at least seriously slow incoming fire -- is good, but many people in Las Vegas accepted concealment instead.  If carefully chosen, it's some help because it removes you from the shooter's view.  But when the shooter is simply sending fire into a large area, it's not much protection.  The fellow out in the open who stood up, took a sip of his beer and flipped a middle finger at the source of fire probably (and inadvertently) made a correct assessment that it wasn't going to materially increase his risk,  It was not a situation in which shooting back was an option.  The only carried item that would have been of any use would have been a first-aid kit.

     Once the event is over and the killer stopped, the social engineers start to opine.  I have yet to hear an original suggestion; it's always more of the same things either side offers up.  Let's try facts instead -- here's a correlation study between civilian gun ownership and murder rates, per state.  The quick read is, they're not.  It's not "more guns, more murder" and it's not "more guns, less murder."

     There may well be things we can do -- but effective programs would be focused on people, not hardware.  That's the conclusion of Leah Libresco, formerly a writer at FiveThirtyEight and who still says, "I don't want a gun in my home."  She wants fewer murders, and in the course of researching how that might be accomplished, came to interesting conclusions.

     The journalistic and social-media response to a madman or criminal with a gun mirrors the response of the prospective victim: it focuses on the gun.  Been there, done that, the muzzle looks big enough to walk down when it's pointed at you: you see that thing rather than the person holding it.  --But it's not made nicer if the aggressor has a club or a knife or brute force; it's only better if the aggressor is never there.†  Less lunatics, less crime; less desperation and hopelessness, less crime.  More education, less crime.

     Start there.  Start with that, not reheated ideas from political hacks.  Armed drones, attacks on Constitutional rights, DHS screeners at every high-rise hotel...?  Fantasy.  It's what people do instead of hard work.  It's what people do instead of calling up their weird uncle and seeing if he sounds okay.  It's what people do instead of helping a ne'er-do-well young relative to seek work or training.

     What will you do?
* I've already been taken to task for not assuming each and every one of 'em is a Nancy Pelosi or worse, out to take all our guns and generally be evil.  While there is no shortage of politicians who would sleep far more soundly if they could disarm the citizenry and who look on us as something between insects and cattle, don't confuse them with the lady down the street who weaves daisy garlands and wants everyone to Get Along.  Most people's intentions are good, even when they are short on facts and logic. 

† And in second place, if you were not there, either.  "Don't go to stupid places with stupid people, especially at stupid hours" is a rule that would have spared me no end of trouble, had I followed it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Doctor, Doctor?

     I'm off to the ENT this morning, to see if there's anything obviously wrong inside my sinuses, causing my bad headaches, etc.  Slight chance of it -- but I'm not getting my hopes up.

     Ms. Tamara is holding the fort, so you'd better be good.

     ETA: And the attempt was totally thwarted by my digestion.  This is getting out of hand.

     ETA: And I ended up spending the day home, sick.    

Monday, October 02, 2017

Horror In Las Vegas

     As I write this, people in Las Vegas -- and around the nation -- are reacting to a horrific act: an outdoor country music festival was sprayed with what appears to be automatic weapon fire from high up in a nearby hotel. Over a hundred were injured and around fifty people are dead.  How many were hurt by bullets and how many by the ensuing panic is unknown.

     Police located the source of the shooting and report one man,* who they describe as a "lone wolf" killer, is dead.  They're seeking his "female companion," who may be anything from willing accomplice to first victim.

     And that is exactly as much as anyone knows.  Hours of television and page after page on the Web are filled with "more information" that amounts to trivia, lurid photographs and cellphone videos of the shooting and aftermath, speculation and empty blather.  Bear in mind that early information past the most basic facts is frequently wrong.

     We can count on the usual sources trying to exploit this heinous act to push their own causes.

     Facebook, where I first saw mention of this when a friend reported himself safe, is filled with offers to help, many from people quite close by -- offers of food, water and shelter.  Those are the sorts of people you are surrounded by: decent people.  Caring people, who want to help.  Killers -- and those who exploit their crimes -- are a tiny minority of humanity.  Don't let 'em win.  Don't be hypnotized by the horrible aftermath of a dreadful crime.
* They've released his name.  This blog, as a matter of policy, does not name mass killers.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Yes, Here I Am

     And pondering -- "I saw all the rain down in the woods," is unequivocal but, "I saw all the trees down in the woods," is either a description of a nature walk or a clear-cut statement.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

D'ye Want The Fried Calms With That?

     You can "clam up," but you can't clam down. Conversely, you can "calm down," but no one ever calms up. And yet they're not opposites -- it's totally possible to calm down and clam up.

      This is one of the great mysteries of the the English language.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Orville, Four Episodes In

     Looks like we have a St@r Tr*k series back, only it's not smug or pompous.  The Orville is still The Original Series-type stories on a The Next Generation-level budget, playing with familiar tropes in a competent manner.

     Episode Four cribs from Heinlein and Asimov -- and they were cribbing from Tsiolkovsky and Emerson (or at least playing off their work) when they wrote their versions two generations ago, or perhaps three. 

     My hope is that it it is ST-like enough to keep the network happy, while getting enough Barney Miller effect* from the humanizing effects of humor to remain enjoyable.
* Though it was a situation comedy, Barney Miller is consistently rated as one of the most realistic police TV shows by working law enforcement personnel.

Puerto Rico: This Is An Actual Emergency

     While The Nation was fuming over the people of Peurto Rico left suffering without air-conditioning thanks to cold, uncaring Mr. Trump, various agencies both public and private were rushing aid to the battered U.S. Territory.  The Feds bestirred themselves to wink at the 1920 Jones Act, which limits cargo transport between U. S. ports to U.S. flagged vessels, and lo, the containers are piling up on  the docks--

     And piling up and piling up.  No phones, no fuel, torn-up roads and running out of places to set cargo containers down, open 'em up and get out the helpful items inside: how's any of that going to move to where it is needed without communications or haulage?

     Mass communications are down to a handful of surviving radio stations* and unless commercial power is restored soon, they're going to start going dark as they run out of fuel for their generators.  Point-to-point comms is limited to radio -- public safety, amateur radio, CB and FRS -- and it., too, is only as good as its power source.

     This is going to be a slow-motion humanitarian disaster.  People are going to die.  There's already a lot of finger-pointing, doom-saying and feckless optimism, depending on the source, but none of it means a damn.  The rural poor are best off in this kind of situation: if you already lived in a shack and got your water from an open well or hand pump, you're unlikely to be much worse off.  Poor as the territory is, most people aren't at that point, don't know anyone at that point and may not have access to clean water or possess the skill set to get by for long without access to a level of civilization you might think pretty meager -- but which is nonetheless essential.  Refrigeration alone changes the patterns of people's lives and vanishes as soon as the power goes away.

     There will be a lot of posturing and shouting but won't mean much.  Even "sending in troops" (what troops, from where?  The 2075th Airborne Roadbuilders, the Marine Lineman/Generator Corps and the USAF Parachutable Cellular Tower Bombers have been just sitting around buffing their nails? Seriously, the part of the .mil devoted to rebuilding stuff is already busy; I'm sure they'll lend a hand but it's going to take a lot of hands, in a place that's having a tough time feeding the people who are already there) won't make a big difference, quickly.

     Puerto Rico will be a long time recovering.  No amount of speeches in D.C. will fix it and stacks of dollars are of slightly less immediate use than those stacked-up cargo containers on the docks.   There are going to be locals working for three hots and a cot for themselves and the kids for quite awhile before things begin to look as if they might be on the way back to something approaching the previous level of normal life there.
* Inshore AM stations with relatively short or strong towers appear to have survived best; this should not be surprising and it's actually helpful.  In terms of sheer coverage, old low-fi AM gives the most coverage per Watt: that means for a given amount of fuel, you can run the AM station longer than an FM with the same coverage.  But the remaining stations are not only low on gas, they're short on people -- and the people are, like everyone else there, short on food and water.  The clock is ticking and prioritization of resource allocation has to start at a very basic level: pretty much every assumption you might make runs up against needing to fix the stuff to fix the stuff to fix the stuff to get things to the people who need them.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Had This Been An Actual Emergency..."

     There was another national-level test of the EAS -- the modern synthetic replacement for the old-fashioned Emergency Broadcast System -- yesterday and it appears this will be a yearly thing.

     For decades, the FCC had been assuring various Federal civil-emergency agencies (of late, FEMA)  that EBS and then EAS was absolutely spiffing, all worked out, set up and ready to go, yessirree Bob!  --Then several years ago when worried FEMA staffers, I'm told mostly the nuts-and-bolts type who have to make things work rather than bureaucrats, insisted on trying it, it failed pretty miserably.  A low-bidder system used to send spoken messages from the Feds to the very first level of big radio stations conked out and a big chunk of the nation heard a mumbling garble instead of "...This is only a test...."

     Since then, the system has been cleaned up, augmented by an all-new Internet-based emergency message collection/distribution system, and generally revamped under the (respectively) watchful and worried eyes of FEMA and the FCC.  Last year's test wasn't too bad and this year?

     This year, it mostly worked.  The magic black boxes at "broadcast stations in your area" grab the first tagged message they get from whatever source and file any later duplicates.  Stations that received the Internet-delivered version had pretty good audio quality; stations that got the station-to-station-to-station relay first had, in large part, adequate fidelity.*  A few, out at the end of long chains of pass-it-on, didn't fare quite so well.  Along with the audible message, TV stations and cable/satellite systems send a text "crawl" over the picture with content delivered over the same system and those came through just fine.

     So, for whatever its worth, had it been an Actual Emergency, you would have got the message -- and there's a whole other part of the system that pushes alerts to mobile phones that has yet to get a national-level test but is already in use for localized bad weather and "Amber Alerts" for children in imminent danger.  Five years ago, neither of those would have been true -- but thanks to a handful of people at FEMA who wanted to make sure, it's working.
* In order to get the most reach from the fewest Primary Entry Points, national EAS messages begin on a few dozen powerful AM stations, who receive it from an Undisclosed Location (usually Mt. Weather but I'm sure that's only one of several possibilities) near Washington, D.C. via, ahem, "secure means."  In Indianapolis, the state primaries listen to signals from Cincinnati and some muddiness and static is normal: it's quite a distance and their receiving locations are all right by busy highways.  The station-to-station part of EAS is, however, fast, and that path beat the Internet-delivered one to Indy by about a minute.  So that's what people here heard.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Heard On The Radio

     On my morning commute, I usually listen to WICR, an FM station owned and (student) operated by the University of Indianapolis that picked up the classical and jazz programming once carried on WIAN-FM when that station became an NPR affiliate.*  The station plays classical music weekday mornings from what is now Classical Music Indy and used to be the Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis, and the light, pleasant fare of  Performance Today is my normal soundtrack.  Yesterday, they were playing "Night On Bald Mountain," perhaps best known from its use in Disney's Fantasia, and I tuned in near the end, when the music has turned lovely and lyrical--

(Here's a link.  I'd embed it, but YouTube has removed or hidden the feature that let me shrink the window to fit my blog's column-width.)

     "H'mm," I pondered, "Is that Mussorgsky or Rimsky-Korsakov?"  I couldn't remember and decided to check later.  Both, as it happens! Mussorgsky worked on the original for years and never got to hear it performed before an audience.  Rimsky-Korsakov published his own arrangement five years after Mussorgsky's death and that's the version we know.
* Indianapolis is underserved for non-commercial radio compared to many cities of similar size. The history of it is tangled, but here's what I have puzzled out:  Butler University's WAJC, once the city's primary NPR station, had a commercial license and was sold in 1993 to operate as one; the Fine Arts Society had put an FM station (WAIV) on the air in 1961 but by the late 60s, decided to get out of the uncertainties of ownership and sold their station, which became WTLC, something of a legend for soul music programming.  About the same time, the Indianapolis Public Schools expanded WIAN to make it a full-power non-commercial station. WIAN and the Fine Arts Society worked out an arrangement to provide classical programming when that station wasn't presenting educational material.  WIAN also carried jazz and big band shows, and things went along that way until Butler sold their station and full NPR affiliation became available. (I'm a little hazy on  the history of local carriage of National Public Radio, as I'm only a casual listener.) IPS's WIAN was acquired by PBS TV station WFYI and became WFYI-FM, a fine example of an NPR station and these days, the programing provider to many of the smaller university stations throughout central Indiana -- and the Fine Arts Society's programming (and jazz) moved to the U of I station way down at the low end of the FM dial, which had moved their transmitter in with channel 6 TV to cure a mutual interference problem and incidentally upgraded their coverage a great deal.  "HD Radio" has given WICR additional program services on the same FM carrier and these days, the main FM has classical mornings, jazz in the afternoons and U of I sports and various public affairs-type shows (including a unique call-in history program presented by the indefatigable Nelson Price), while their HD2 operates as "The Mirror," playing jazz when the main plays classical and vice-versa...and HD3 is a contemporary music station.  Not bad for what started out as a ten-Watt FM that covered their campus and not much else! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In My F*cebook Feed...

     The news and news-like items Facebook decides I should see tend to be pretty eclectic and I find value in that: it sends me headlines I might never encounter otherwise -- or at least not from that angle.

     Such was the case yesterday, when it decided I should read a Bernie Sanders (!) entry linking to an article in The Nation (!!) slugged, "The U.S. Government Fails Puerto Rico Again" (!!!).  It's a rambling, unfocused piece, ostensibly about how the island territory has been wrecked by the latest big hurricane (true) and the Feds haven't done a darned thing (patently false).  That's WTF number one -- I see the FEMA emergency and disaster declarations as they are released (over the President's signature, BTW); there's an e-mail listserver and I'm on it because part of my job involves making sure such information goes on the air when needed.  99.9% of the time, that list is a waste of my time (and I hope it stays that way) but it is publicly available information, no farther away than an Internet connection and a search engine.

     WTF number two: the article manages to blame the current Administration both for failing to make Puerto Rico a state and for not granting the territory independence! (Mr. Obama's Administration seems to have overlooked the matter as well, and so on back to 1898, but oh, that dastardly Mr. Trump...)  Interestingly -- and to all appearances, unknown to the writer and editors at The Nation -- the processes by which a U. S. Territory may gain statehood or independence are largely bottom-up, not top-down: the people who live there start the ball rolling, something Puerto Rico does with regularity.  Recent voting has suffered from indecisiveness and/or low turnout; readers can sift through those tea leaves as they will.

     WTF number three is the extent to which "Presidential Derangement Syndrome"* causes the writer to link the President's recent Twitter-fights over NFL player behavior during the national anthem and with North Korea to A) racism and B) a lack of concern over the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, to the point of comparing the number of tweets on each subject.  Now, if they were comparing with, say, tweets about the storm damage in Texas or Florida, or tracking FEMA performance across all three, they might be onto something; but the behavior of a celebrity President on a short-attention-span social media platform is not actually indicative of what the parts of the that actually do things (or at least write memos and checks that get others to do things) are actually doing.

     I'm not a big fan of Mr. Trump.  I didn't vote for him (nor Sec. Clinton, either) and I still think we'd've been better off with the Libertarian candidate sitting in that office right now (though I'd advise caution around the baked goods in that case).  But one thing I'm sure of: he could Tweet about Puerto Rico all day long and it wouldn't get help there any faster than ships can haul the goods and equipment they need.  I'm not at all sorry to see FEMA handling that while the Executive himself swaps barbs with NFL players and a fat little autocrat.  Each to his area of skill -- or, as Senator Sanders and The Nation might prefer, "From each according to his ability...."
* An ailment suffered not by Presidents but by The People, usually most prevalent among those who voted for the other major party's pick.  It causes Presidents to appear bigger, more evil, and more organized than they actually are, and their Administrations likewise.  Personally, I'm taking more and more comfort in the knowledge that the job is really too big for any man.  YMMV.

Monday, September 25, 2017

I Can't Complain, But...

     No, I really can't.  Houston (etc.) is a mess.  A lot of Florida is a mess.  The Keys are in sad shape and they're all way ahead of the U. S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and less well-known places in the Caribbean.  A lot of that part of the world looks like a war zone and with widespread power outages, telephone service out, damaged infrastructure and a lack of people and parts to fix them, it's far from over.

     Here in the Midwest, we've had--  Well, hardly anything.  Over a week of 90 or more degree highs and humidity to match, so bad you can break a sweat hanging laundry.*   And every time I feel like complaining, pictures of smashed house and sagging dams crowd it right out.  Hot?  Humid?  So what!

     Our weird weather is likely to sort itself out this week.  The damage from two powerful hurricanes in a row will take a long time to put right, in places that can scarcely afford to and can't possibly afford not to.
* So why would you?  I like to hang-dry quilts, blankets and sheets going into the Fall, trapping a little bit of the scent of warm outdoors for the Winter.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Okay, I'll Level--

     I have not been well this past week.  Had a flu shot last Friday (and they usually zap me for a couple of days), had some nasty dental work Monday, I've been fretted over my Mom and related issues since getting crosswise with my big sister a couple of weeks ago* and maybe it's just the combination of all that.  Maybe I'm feeling old.  Next Spring, I'll turn 60 and I'm not ready for it.  (Maybe I'll start over at 50 instead.)

     But I haven't been 100% and neither has the blog.  Sleeping most of the time, not eating much, getting nothing done.  I'm not happy with this.

     Time for more vitamins and coffee.  Might not be a long-term fix but sometimes you need to use a cane for awhile before you start walking without one again.
* Something the two of us are very good at.  It's easy for each of us to blame the other but I suspect it's the combination.  We react like vinegar and baking soda, two harmlessly inert household substances that foam and fume when combined.  Alas, we don't neutralize one another in the process but remain as base and acid as before.

Friday, September 22, 2017


     Sausage and eggs and this and that....
     It was good!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

And Then My Phone Rang

     It's work.  They broke something kind of important, by doing something that shouldn't break it.  And now I'm troubleshooting over the phone.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Multicultural Square Eggs

     Because if pastrami and Swiss cheese on rye is good for lunch, why not sneak it into breakfast?  I was making a "gashouse" or "square" egg for breakfast, which is an egg fried in a hole punched in a lightly toasted slice of bread.

     Rye bread, as it happened, which reminded me that I still had sandwich makings in the fridge.  So when I flipped the egg-and-bread over and laid a slice of Swiss cheese on it, I already had a thin slice of pastrami cooking next to it (the pre-packaged stuff is too moist anyway!),  As soon as it was warm, the pastrami went on top, I set another slice of it warming, and flipped the whole stack over for a bit to make sure the cheese was melted.  Add the second slice of pastrami to serve and there you go -- adjust times and quantities as desired; I break the egg yolk and cook 'em firm but other people like runny yolks with this.

     It was delicious.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oh, Darn It

     The eggs have (as the carton says) expired -- as of 25 August.  I'm certain we bought them after that, which is a mistake on the part of the store.

     Refrigerated eggs are essentially "fresh" two to three weeks after the "sell-by" or "expiration" date marked on them and should be edible for another couple of weeks after that, though you might not be able to make nice fluffy meringue with them.  But we're on the edge where occasional surprises happen and I'm just not up to rolling those dice this morning, especially atop corned beef hash.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Early, Early

     It's 6:30 a.m. and I'm the only mammal awake in the house.  Tam is asleep in front of a droning television; her cat Rannie is at the foot of the futon, unable to stay awake.  Huck, my cat, is napping, half hidden on the next-from-the top platform of carpet-covered "tree" that is all his, sprawled out like an apex predator who doesn't have a care in the world.  (Accurate enough; he's the biggest tiger in this jungle by a wide margin, hunter of the wild long-legged centipede, assorted tiny spiders and any flying creature that blunders into his domain.)  Even the television seems to have foregone its normal shout in favor of a calm retelling of recent events.*

     Breakfast is done and I'm here at the computer with no demands on my attention other than the keyboard and screen, a precious moment of quiet before the hubbub of the day.
* I suppose the demise of the yelling, hard-sell automotive huckster in the wake of the bankruptcies and dealership implosion nearly a decade ago is not a positive economic sign, but I am still having a hard time missing them.  On the other hand, my paycheck is dependent on those TV ads and they are a lot different to what they were a dozen years ago.  Entertaining people over the air free for nothing except hearing a few ads used to seem recession-proof -- it was even, almost, Great Depression-proof! -- but the entertainment's got a lot of competition these days and the ads, at their peak, were more and more of an assault on ear and eyes that could, eventually, turn their attention elsewhere.  Your radio and television were a nice big home for a lot of us; your cellphone is suddenly more crowded and the accommodations aren't all that deluxe, either.  Yes, Miss Desmond, "'s the pictures that got small!"  Literally.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

So, There May Be A New Orson Welles Film In The Pipeline

     On the other hand, The Other Side Of The Wind has been in the pipeline so long, it may have curdled.  Highly experimental, it may be an artifact of its time (early to mid 1970s).  Or it could be timeless.  Either way, Indiegogo and Netflix are finishing what Showtime could not -- and there's a lesson in the changing  nature of mass media right there.  Even the editing technology is nothing Welles would have known, though I'd like to think the man who lined up multiple Movieolas* so he could move from cut to cut while skilled minions stuck the cut film together in his wake might have enjoyed an all-electronic 4K editor that sticks "footage" together as rapidly as you can mark the in and out points (and unsticks them just as fast if you change your mind).

     They're starting the sticking-together process now, an amazing development to anyone who has followed even a little of the occasionally bitter feud between Oja Kodar and Beatrice Welles over which of them owns the rights to what parts of the late actor-director's work.
* Or so I read.  The editing-room footage in F For Fake shows flatbed editors instead, which spool faster and are gentler to the film. All I ever ran for film editors were tiny Super 8 versions, though I have stuck 16mm film back together in splicers, themselves streamlined artifacts unchanged since before WW II and now undoubtedly rusting away in scrap heaps.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017


     I had raw vegetables (with hummus and alleged pita bread.  Alleged hummus, too) from the vending machine at work for lunch the other day.  They were a bit long in the tooth and it has put me way off my feed.  Dinner last night was Not Much and breakfast this morning is not sitting as well as I would like.  It's too darned distracting.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Orville

     Fox, inept as ever when it comes to SF, has been pushing The Orville as some kind of boffo-laughs sci-fi comedy.  It isn't.

     It is, however, pretty good for what it is: a kind of cousin to the original Star Trek with a thin "fourth wall:" The Orville is self-aware SF adventure with some humor.  The writers, director and actors know when they're wading through familiar tropes, and they know you know -- and they're not averse to throwing the audience a quick wink over it.

     Despite that, the world-building holds up far better than you might expect, helped along by slightly rumpled uniforms and a future universe that isn't quite as slick as it aspires to be.  If the writers can continue to walk the tightrope -- especially in dialog -- between stereotype and satire, between too real and too cute, it's going to be great fun.  And if they fall short, it will still be fun.

     Rolling-on-the-floor, bigtime laugh riot?  Nope.  This show is too fond of its source material to go for the easy laugh, at least in the pilot.  Instead, it delivered a fun drama -- verging on melodrama -- with a couple of narrative threads and clever solutions to familiar problems. 

     Watch it while you can.  There are 13 episodes ready to roll and from there....  I have no faith in Fox not meddling with or cancelling the series and that's too bad; it deserves a good run.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017


     I deliberately didn't post about it this morning.  A lot of good people -- heck, a lot of people who were, on average, average, and what's wrong with that? -- died as the result of a small group of violent bastards; more have died since, from the same root cause.  I mourn those people, most of whom died not as heroes but unsuspecting.  There were heroes, and plenty of them: first responders, the passengers who kept the hijackers on Flight 93 from completing their plans, and others.  It is right to remember all of the fallen.

     What's not right is to wallow in the end of an illusion, the illusion that nothing bad could happen in the continental U.S.; that's simply crazy, and anyone who remembers learning about 1812 and 1861-65 should darned well know better.  This country is a special place, but it's not charmed.  Our specialness is not inherent but an act of will, an ongoing effort to live up to the promise of the U.S. Constitution.

     And nobody can take it away by wrecking buildings and murdering people.

It's Monday

     A lot of Florida is messed up and Texas is still wringing out.  Give 'em hand, if you can.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Torn Apart By She-Bears

     I'm not going to explain the post title, other than to remind readers, "Really don't make fun of bald guys," and to explain that today's screed is about--

     Well, it's about faith, I suppose, and True Believers and confirmation bias and if it's right to leave someone up to their neck in alligators because you think they have been rubbing the wrong shade of blue mud in their navels.

     The continental United States (and Mexico and countless Caribbean islands) is being hit by dreadful weather, wildfires, earthquakes and tsunamis.  These are facts.  You can watch some of it happening right now, in real time, via your computer or television.

     Let's start with confirmation bias, or perhaps Idiotic Smugness: I have seen a couple of instances on social media of people pointing out, "See, all this is happening right after the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement!"
     Sure, but even if you believe the Agreement is funding some sort of Captain Planet-type corps of superheroes pushing back against the cruel thermometer of Wicked Industrial Mankind (it isn't), there's one tiny problem: "The Paris Agreement (French: Accord de Paris), Paris climate accord or Paris climate agreement, is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020."
     Catch that last?  Twenty-twenty.  So far, Paris hasn't produced anything but fancy talk and high-falutin' plans.
     In fact, though President Trump most certainly has announced the U. S. would withdraw from the Agreement, it works out that the very earliest date by which this country could be out would be 4 November 2020, which just happens to be the day after the next Presidential elections, making this one of those safest of Presidential promises, slated to occur after the promiser's term of office has ended.*

     A little sneakier and more smug are those who say, "With all this horrible weather, now you/politician/whoever have to admit Global Warming is real!"
     Yeah, no.  For the sake of argument, stipulate Anthropogenic Global Warming is real -- and then explain to me how a people in general and the political class -- overlapping groups that includes flat-earthers, far-out conspiracy theorists and hardcore young-Earth creations -- will be persuaded by by yet more evidence.  And the cited evidence (recent weather), while suggestive, is far from incontrovertible: weather isn't climate.  Climate isn't weather. Looking back, the short-term "noise" of weather is huge compared to the long-term trendlines of climate: there's a lot of jitter.  On the scale of geologic time, the climate shows lovely rising and falling curves, Ice Age to Warm Period and back again, a bit sawtooth-y; zoom in to the span of a single human lifetime and the big curve vanishes under warm spells and cold snaps, floods and droughts.  At no time has the planet been entirely Edenic: it's a tough place for individual naked apes and it's not all that great for the other critters, either: mortality is 100%.

     I'm also unimpressed with the people who claimed Houston's lack of "proper zoning" and Texas's GOP-dominated, business-friendly state government made the hurricane damage there worse than it could have been.  The city got as much rain in four days as it normally receives in the course of a year.  When that happens anywhere that gets rained on regularly, terrible things follow.  People drown in their own attics. Industrial facilities are washed out...and into people's back yards.  You can't zone for it and the political climate and party in power are insignificant against the power of a storm -- as Hurricane Sandy showed, when plenty of code-compliant seaside homes were destroyed as far north as New Jersey and New York.

     The lesson here is not that "The thing I want to believe about climactic trends and our ability as a species to affect them is the Absolute Truth," no matter which way you lean.  The lesson is Bad Things Happen.

     Are you gonna pitch in to help the victims or not?
* Which is not to say Mr. Trump won't run again, or that it is outside the bounds of possibility that he might win, at which point that chicken is going to need roosting space.  Nevertheless, it hasn't even hatched yet.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Tamara's Back!

     After nearly a week away, Tam is back!  This is good.  The cats get irked when they are fed late and me--  Well, I'm a worrier.  It's a lot better for me when there's someone around to keep an eye on things.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Okay, Let's See...

     There's a massive hurricane barreling towards Florida, as people in Texas continue to recover from their own hurricane; hackers grabbed the personal data of over 700 140 million people from Equifax, one of the three companies that keeps track of our credit ratings; North Korea is making saber-rattling noises about whacking North America with a thermonuclear-airburst EMP that would wipe out most computers (including, one supposes, the compromised computers at Equifax), and we just had the biggest solar flare since 2006 and the geomagnetic storm it will trigger is going to hit some time today--

     Yeah, it's Friday.

     P.S.: I have been reminded that much of the West is presently on fire, too. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

DACA: At Least It's A Normal Mess

     Say what you will of the Trump administration's announced end to DACA -- actually a phase-out, since the system will ramp down over several years and not just "end" in six months as headlines claim* -- it is, at least, a normal kind of posturing between the White House and Congress.

     A little history: Federal attempts to resolve the issue of the children of non-citizens raised in this country date back to at least 2001, when the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in the Senate.  There was a lot of back-and-forth in Congress and it has been revised, rewritten, argued over and voted on, but by 2012, was still stalled.  The Obama Administration, feeling that urge to Do Something that mars most Presidencies, decided they had some precedent in the occasional Executive use of "prosecutorial discretion"† in allowing refugees from bad weather or worse governments to enter the U.S. without the usual constraints, and established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, essentially doing what the DREAM Act intended without waiting for Congress to pass it.  The apparent intent was to buy time and try to chivvy Congress into acting.  The latter effort failed.

     And there's the rub or at least a point of friction -- temporary humanitarian relief is one thing,  permanent programs of this nature are the business of the Legislative branch, not the Executive.  This conflict gives both sides wiggle room to argue legality and I have heard a lot of it.  Which side is correct?  Probably both, or neither: a fairly clear distinction has been made fuzzy.

     Pulling the plug on DACA is now being cast as an effort to -- wait for it, wait for it -- chivvy Congress into acting.  Possibly the White House needs to keep a mule around as a reminder.

     Meanwhile, the DACA protectees are about as demographically assorted as any group of people in their age range living in the U.S. -- a little poorer, a little more likely to be speaking Spanish at home, but you can sort through them and find med-school students from sub-Saharan Africa and hairdressers born in Russia, heroes and nobodies and people you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley in roughly the same proportion as in a group of citizens.  They're not, aside from their legal status, all that special.  Singling them out for deportation as their protection expires is about the same thing as a state changing its firearms laws and seizing the rifles owned by those dutiful gun-owners who registered their "assault weapons" before they were outlawed: the people who followed the rules are the least likely to problematic. On the other hand, if The Law Is The Law in one case, it certainly is in the other and if we're picking and choosing, that'll take some serious explaining.

     Congress has at least four bills floating around that would Do Something, if they are so minded.  They might.  They might not; this entire thing is exactly the sort of can of worms they like to pass around, make impassioned speeches about and hope it goes away.  If it does go away, a lot of pretty average folks will be facing serious consequences.

     But the Executive and the Legislative branches playing "I dare you" is, at least, the normal sort of thing that goes on in the Federal government, and that aspect of it comes as almost a relief after months of tabloid-worthy drama.
* Vox, of all places, has an article that includes some factual charts and graphs along with tear-jerking photographs.  If Congress does nothing, the final group of DACA protections will expire in the Spring of 2021.

† This is more usually invoked when J. Random Badguy kicks down Grandpa's door in the middle of the night, Grandpa beats him half to death with a baseball bat as he is digging through Grandma's jewelry drawer and the prosecutor declines to bring charges against Grandpa.  You can't rely on it happening.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

This Is Why They Sell Pepper Spray

     It's one reason why they sell the stuff: Bloomington's got a serial flasher and he's chasing after young women. The prime suspect was already out on bail for a similar crime here in Indianapolis in February.

     A little behavior modification would go a long way in reducing such crimes.  Averse conditioning in the form of pepper spray, for example; if there was a one-in-four chance of being pepper-sprayed, and if we let flashers learn that via experience, it'd do a whole lot to reduce the number of such incidents.

     College students, young women in particular, consider carrying pepper spray: small, portable, non-lethal -- and used judiciously, it contributes to the betterment of society.  Flashing is a crime of intimidation, usually committed against women, and it is best stopped early, before the flasher goes after bigger thrills.  A reminder that such behavior is intolerable would go a long way towards correcting it.  It is unlikely to do them lasting harm and may prevent injury to others and a long jail sentence for the perp.

     Won't you please do your part to help?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Tick: A Little More

     Finished watching the first half of the current TV series of The Tick.  It is pleasantly nuanced, especially for a superhero satire, and delivers more in the way of cliffhangers and thrilling fight sequences than the television versions of Superman or Batman ever did.

     While The Tick has always had a little more depth (or at least inner turmoil) than most superheroes and Arthur is memorably human, frail and worried, the humanity and depth of the characters in this version may well be traceable to character creator (and main writer) Ben Edlund having written for Joss Whedon's* series Firefly, Angel and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on the time between the last two incarnatioins of The Tick and this one.  I see another another writer from Whedon's Firefly stable in the credits, too: Jose Molina.  It shows.

     The first half of the season ends with a biggest cliffhanger so far.  I'm looking forward to the next group of episodes.
* I'm not a big fan of his politics but he's an extraordinarily talented storyteller.

Monday, September 04, 2017

I Pretty Much Took Labor Day Off

     Tam and I had big plans.  They never happened.  I napped, then grilled a couple of steaks, did some laundry and ran the dishwasher. 

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Pye Wacket/The Hidden Frontier

     Lenticular spacecraft are nothing new in the nearly-real world of defense studies.  Nevertheless, the notion of a lenticular missile came as something of a surprise to me.

     ...And then I scrolled down to the chart labeled "UFO Reports Per Month," covering 1935 - 2005.

     It fits extremely well with the timeline of the Hidden Frontier, especially the not-quite-a-war fought from the late 1940s through 1987 between the U.S. (with selected NATO allies) and the "Far Edge" refuseniks of the Federation of Concerned Spacemen.


Saturday, September 02, 2017

Secret Submarine NR-1

     I've been reading about the smallest nuclear submarine in the U. S. Navy, the NR-1, which was, in some ways,  more like a spacecraft than a submarine.  Fascinating stuff, or at least the parts the people involved can talk about are.  The little sub (probably) did a lot of of interesting Cold War-ish things and plenty of it is still a deep, dark secret.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday At Last!

     And yet, it's not quite my Friday -- I have to fill in a few hours for a vacationing co-worker tomorrow.  The rest of you, celebrate!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nerf/NIMBY Culture, 2.0

     Or maybe it's The Horrors Of Capitalism, Part Whatever, as expressed by people with computers, smartphones, automobiles, kitchen gadgets and abundant food, none of which is the product of a non-capitalist economic system.

     There's a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas that has already had a few explosions and which will have a nasty fire.  There's no getting around it.  They brew all manner of chemicals at the site, twenty miles away from downtown Houston and most of them have to be kept "very cool" to prevent explosions.  Commercial power failed, but they had a backup generator; when water got to it, they transferred the stuff to diesel-powered refrigerated storage, but the water kept on rising.  By that point, Arkema was in contact with local authorities and they evacuated a mile-and-a-half radius around the site.

     Also by that point, my Facebook feed was blowing up with people bemoaning Arkema for being so "negligent" and comparing the situation to the Fukushima Daiichi reactor mess.

     This is way off; Arkema in Crosby is a firecracker to the Fukushima hand grenade.  Moreover, engineers working for the Japanese power company that operated the reactors had identified the risks (far more probable than the flooding in Texas) and recommended measures to prevent bad outcomes.  The operator made very few of those improvements.  Arkema had two levels of backups for keeping their chemicals cool.  It's a lower risk and better prevention.

     Then the location was criticized. Facebookers asked, "Why did they put the plant on a flood plain?"   They didn't; you can pull up the maps and the site isn't even on the 500-year (0.2%) flood plain.  Others, taking the generic chem-plant photos used to illustrate web news stories as on-scene images, griped at the "lazy" company putting a dangerous plant right along the water (it isn't) or in a residential area (it isn't).

     This isn't a good situation and no doubt Arkema will be rethinking locations; they're going to lose this plant and all the product stored there and it may not be covered by their insurance.   It's hardly criminal negligence to fail to plan for fifty inches of rainfall in a few days in a place that normally gets that much over the course of a year.

     Most Americans live within thirty miles of a hazard as dangerous as the Arkema plant, if not more so.  We fertilize farm fields with ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia, we build high dams, pump natural gas across the continent in huge pipelines, etc. etc. With modern conveniences come modern hazards and when they crop up, it takes only minutes to do your homework instead of playing Chicken Little on social media -- but few people bother.

     It took me a minute last night to pull up a map of the Arkema locations near Houston and find the one near Crosby; it was a couple of minutes to get a flood plan map and compare the two.  This morning, I spent maybe five minutes reading updated news stories on the situation and reviewing articles on the Fukushima Daiichi reactor catastrophe to get a sense of the relative scale.  Information has never been so available in human history and yet the bliss of ignorance still appeals

     Bliss is over-rated.  Be uncomfortable.  Do the easy homework.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"The Tick" Is Back!

     Amazon has brought the beloved -- or least least well-liked -- superhero back to television for the third time.  Yes, bad men, beware: the blue salmon of justice is swimming upstream yet again!  For a parody superhero who began as the newsletter mascot for a chain of comic-book stores (back when we still called them that), he's come a long way.

     He's just as charmingly askew (and slightly dim) as ever.  I was initially concerned; the pilot had a few (only a few) rough patches, with both The Tick's costume and The Tick himself a little off-model.  They have more than fixed it in the remainder of the series,* which is as surreal as both of its predecessors (animated and live-action, the latter with Patrick Warburton in the title role) while somehow managing to plant one foot squarely in reality.

     Tam and I are three episodes into the first half of the season.  Half-hour cliffhangers, six episodes have been released and another six will be released this Fall.
* And were good enough to hang a lantern on The Tick's costume changes -- in the second or third episode, reluctant sidekick Arthur gives him a quizzical look and remarks, "You look...different."  The Tick shrugs it off, as you might expect.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Teacher? Me?

     Unlikely as it seems, I have to get to work early today, because I will be teaching a couple of classes on using a computer-based audio recording system I recently installed.

     I'm hoping to make a few converts to using the software to do basic editing and level-correcting functions.  For years, we have been using it ("Audacity," shareware if it's for home use) as no more than a digital cassette-tape recorder, when it can do quite a lot more.  But I'll be happy if I can just get users comfortable with the simplified hardware we've put in place, a two-input, high-quality USB analog/digital interface and microphone preamp.  The previous system used a small sound-reinforcement-type mixer, with upwards of a hundred knobs in an 18" by 24" space.  It was thought to be a little daunting.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things I Don't Need To Comment (Much) On

     A short list of stuff that I have noticed but don't need to go in any depth or detail about:

     The ongoing natural disaster in Texas -- and now moving into Louisiana.  It is indeed awful.  When radar last week showed a storm about the size of Texas moving into Texas, nobody thought it was going to be minor.  Getting a yard of rainfall over a couple of days is the stuff of nightmares and Texans are coping amazingly well.

     Nazis, neo-Nazis and nitwits cosplaying their ideas: still bad. Thuggery is no fit basis for a system of government.  Communism: still not a viable way to run a large-scale economy, let alone a government.  On a small scale, an electorate dedicated to making a participatory system of government work can make pretty much any of them work -- but systems in which a small, empowered "elite"or "vanguard" run things inevitably become abusive.  How many times does our species need to run the Stanford Prison Experiment at nation-state scale before we fully grasp that?

     The Presidency is still a train-wreck.  Didn't vote for him, didn't vote for his big-party opponent.  I'm not terribly surprised at how things are turning out and I don't think they would have been any less messy, though differently so, under Ms. Clinton.  We're probably looking at the new normal and I will once again remind readers that while Presidents can routinely ruin your day, Congress can -- and does -- routinely ruin your decade.  WW III and similar fantasies aside, which one ought we be keeping a closer eye on?  I'm happy they all watch one another and if you think it's a circus now, wait until the mid-terms.

     Much closer to home: Touch-typing. Still working on it.  I added a wrist rest a few weeks ago and it helps.  It's nice to be able to watch the screen as I type but not quite habitual yet.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Viginti Epitonii

     Twenty Tap is back -- and it is as if they never closed!  A small kitchen fire ("...flames less than an inch high...") near the end of February managed to crawl up the wall, get into the ceiling and required the Indianapolis Fire Department to squelch.  Afterward, a combination of inspections, permitting and kitchen remodeling (presumably in aid of preventing future congflagrations as well as updating the equipment) kept putting off the re-opening.  Thursday last, they finally threw the doors wide (after a couple of days of trial-running for family, friends and returning staff) and the place was packed!

     Tam and I visited Saturday evening, after a day of window-shopping (at least for me) at the Indy 1500 Gun & Knife Show.  I had a pork bahn mi (basically a barbecue sandwich with a salad snuck in) and she enjoyed a steak salad.  It was the dinner hour, just gone six, and they were hopping busy -- despite which, service was as fast, attentive and pleasant as ever.  I'm happy to see 'em back.  This is one of the places in Broad Ripple where you can show up during the slow hours, get a bit to eat, and write on your portable device.  We've both missed it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Diesel Over Steam

     We all know that modern, efficient diesel-electric drive systems replaced steam as the prime mover of locomotives, but did you ever wonder why?  A large steam engine is fairly light and simple for a given horsepower, especially compared to a diesel, and that goes much more so for early diesels.  

     It turns out Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the WW II Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, is one reason.  In 1908, while an ensign and in command, he managed to run a destroyer into a mud bank (or possibly a sand bar, accounts vary) and was court-martialed, given a letter of reprimand and, perhaps not coincidentally, shunted off to the submarine service.

     U. S. Navy submarines burned gasoline at the time and it was about as bad as you might expect: volatile fuel vapors, occasional exhaust leaks, and every problem you might imagine from a brass-lamp-era automobile, only underwater and on a larger scale.  In 1913, after having worked his way up though the command of successively larger and more complex submarines and then command of the entire Atlantic Submarine Flotilla, Nimitz spent the summer in Germany, studying diesel engines.  He liked what he saw and the U. S. Navy began to go diesel, beneath and above the waves.

     Nimitz managed to get his career back on top of the water and continued to rise; meanwhile, in 1932, "U. S. Navy opened a competition for the development of a light-weight diesel engine, more suitable to submarines than any currently in production. While the number of engines which might be purchased for submarines was too small to justify the investment, there was a large commercial market waiting in the wings: the railroad." (Italics mine.  Found at World Submarine History Timeline and bring your lunch, you'll be awhile.)

     A World War slowed changes to civilian infrastructure but afterwards, the big diesel locomotives came roaring in.  If Ensign Nimitz hadn't found a mud bank to get stuck on, barely before the first Model T had rolled off the assembly line, it might have taken even longer.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Y'know What I'm Eating?

     Chorizo sausage, cooked up with a fire-roasted Hatch chili, green onion, black olives and scrambled with three eggs, split between two people.  It's darned good!

     Adding some diced Manchego or Iberico cheese to this right before serving would be delightful.  Wish I'd thought of it before I sat down and started eating.  Next time I will.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"It Won't Shut Off!"

     Yesterday, I texted Tam as I was clearing up my workspace before heading home.  Twenty Tap -- which has an excellent kitchen to go with those twenty taps -- reopened the day before yesterday and I was hoping to go there for supper.

     Kind of in passing, I asked how the new air-conditioning was working.  As we texted, Tam was wondering through the house and, finding her cat on my bed, she'd sat down and petted her.  The cat was curled up tight and almost shivering--

     Which was when it dawned on Tam that she was feeling pretty chilly herself.  And that she'd never noticed the air conditioning cycling off since the new installation was done and the techs had left, five hours earlier.

     While texting, she tried all the usual things -- turn the the thermostat up and wait, then when that did nothing over the course of several minutes, flip the switch from "Cool" to "Off" -- and yet the fan played on, still pushing cold air.

     I called the HVAC company and got the after-hours robot.  I've used it before and they are usually quick to respond; I left a detailed message and within five minutes, the on-call service tech called back, asked the usual questions, and decided he was headed my way, pronto.

     He arrived a few minutes after I got home, looked over the work, tried a few things at the thermostat, and said, "Looks like you're getting a new thermostat.  I don't know why we don't just routinely put a new one in on jobs like this.  They tend to fail."*  He proceeded to install a nice new thermostat, checked that it was working, remarked, "This is why we have that warranty," and left without any paperwork at all.

     So that was an interesting coda to the air-conditioning adventure.  Cats and resident bloggers are all comfortable now.

* * *
     My profound thanks to everyone who has hit Tam's Tip Jar to help out with this unexpected expense!  We're all happier when she can be maintained at the proper operating temperature.
* Why?  I didn't ask, figuring I had probably pulled him away from dinner and questions would only slow him down, but in our case, the thermostat was likely as old as the air-conditioner and got dinked with quite a lot yesterday when the installers checked their work.  Tam says she could feel the bimetallic element klonk over, but the contacts may have been stuck. There was at least one broken wire and by the "make it work and go home" approach to service work, what you do is reterminate the wiring, stick on a new thermostat and count the problem solved.  At least that's how I would have done it. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

HVAC Techs Are Here

     Right on time and ready to swap coolness for dollars -- just like in the big city, though ours will be an objectively measurable sort of coolness.

     Speaking of cool, the weather has done just that.  Pretty comfortable sleeping last night.  I am not fooled.  This is Indiana.  It'll get sticky-hot again, by and by.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cool Air: $2600

     The A-coil in the air-conditioning system here at Roseholme Cottage has had a slow leak for at least three years now.  Each spring, that has caused it to super-cool, freeze up and it has taken an expensive topping-up to get it running again.

     It happened this Spring.  It also happened yesterday.  This morning, we had the HVAC tech out and he say's it's the A-coil, the one that lives in the ductwork above the furnace and chills the air.  Good news and not: you can still get them.  You can still get the R22 refrigerant this 20-year-old system uses, too -- for another couple of years.  But this whole thing is going to be an unloved orphan in a few years, if the phase-out proceeds as planned.     I could roll the dice, the current Administration isn't friendly to this kind of EPA meddling; but they're unlikely to be in place forever and the companies that make this stuff are mostly giant multi-nationals: R22 -- Freon plus a little of this and a dash of that -- is going away.  It's time to get away from it before everybody is having to and the price goes up.

     Which means Roseholme Cottage needs a new A-coil, a new outdoor unit and some fancy copper line.  And I'll be out $2600.00, American.

     Not fun -- I'm still feeling the pinch from the price of the car I bought a few years ago -- but it was not great sleeping last night and miserable trying to get ready this morning in the heat and humidity, despite open windows and electric fans.  It's got to be done.  What if Tam melted and I had to buy the Internet a replacement?  Way more expensive!  Besides, I've read the H. P. Lovecraft story and I'm not goin' out like that.

     This is actually a pretty good deal compared to the going rate in Indianapolis at this time of year.  They start work tomorrow morning.  Should take about half a day.

Faux-Glazed Pork Chops

     Last night's dinner was a last-minute thing: I was thinking I hadn't had pork chops in a long while.  It turned out the market had some nice shishito peppers, and this and that...  It all came together okay:
Tamara Keel photo
      That "glaze" is just the pan juices.  Started with the pork chops seasoned pretty heavily with chipotle sea salt, alderwood-smoked salt, black pepper, chili-mango mix and smoked Spanish paprika (bittersweet). Started on both sides in a little bacon fat (and I should have seared the edge fat), then just a little Pinot Grigio poured in and covered. Let it go for a least 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat. You want it just barely bubbling. Add wine as needed; you want to keep a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. Turn and give them another 15+ minutes, maintaining liquid level, and then turn up the heat. When it gets hot, add the shishito peppers, turning as needed. You'll be deglazing and adding liquid often. Cook until peppers are done -- they puff up a little and may even "pop." I used a 10" non-stick saucepan with the clear lid, very handy for this kind of cooking.  To serve, the pan juices get poured over the plated chop and peppers, which have added a tiny hint of heat.

     Why Pinot Grigio?  Chance.  Walking toward the checkout, I decided a little wine would help the chops cook.  Looking for white wine, I saw the Pinot Grigio and had vague memories of it being flavorful and having a little "edge." After I'd eaten dinner and was cleaning up the dishes, I chanced to look at the wine label: "Delicate floral aroma...overtones of citrus, pear and apple...."  So let's make that "lucky chance."

     This is actually low-effort cooking: the asparagus has a little olive or sesame oil on it, and is microwaved for 4 minutes plus or minus with some fresh garlic, salt, and a couple of slices of red bell pepper.  The neighborhood grocer's sells it made up, ready to cook.  The tomatoes are just quartered, sprinkled with "Italian seasoning blend" and allowed to sit for five minutes.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Please Bite The Sun

     The way things are going in this country, I'm forced to conclude that it's either Peak Stupid or people have simply lost their flipping minds.  So if you're part of the problem, out raising or meta-raising hell over stuff most people don't even notice over the ringing silence of empty factories and the hot hum of  angry minds all around, go ahead, look right at the eclipse; those stories about it being bad for your eyes are probably just a leftist conspiracy or a capitalist plot.

     ...Or maybe, just maybe, as you start to glance skyward, it'll dawn on you that not everything is the result of some wicked, ill-defined Them, and you'll look away.

     But I doubt it.
     Title borrowed from a Tanith Lee novel about a character who wants to grow up but can't quite manage to, and modified to fit.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I'm Burned Out

     This country is rapidly approaching "peak stupid," and I'm sick of all the noise.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


     So, try this on for size:  You're a dog-fancier.  You have written on the Internet about how much you like dogs.  In fact, you like big, mean bitey dogs, because yours will only bite people you don't like.  There's a city a couple states over that has had a dog park for a long, long time, and the city council has voted to replace it with a cat park.

     You're not happy about this, and when a rally of dog-fanciers who oppose it is announced, you're interested, especially when the artwork shows plenty of big, bitey dogs.  Those are your kind of people!

     Cat-lovers are unhappy.  The most vocal of them are way over the top -- they own tigers and lions, and been heard to wish they could set their big cats to wiping out dogs.  A lot of them have been saying dog-lovers should be slapped, and lot of them have done just that.  The cat-lovers are going to protest the rally.  The dog-lovers aren't nice and the cat-lovers aren't either.   There don't seem to be many fans of lapdogs or housecats at the event or counter-protest.

     You go anyway.  You find yourself, for whatever reason, walking into a big crowd of cat-lovers, but you keep on walking.  One of them shoves you, hard, and your reaction is to start running and shooting into the crowd ahead of you.  Your shots kill one person and injure others.

     Do you think that shooting is justified?

*  *  *
     I've spent a couple of hours over the last two days arguing on Facebook with people who think I am being unfair to the Charlottesville killer, or siding with antifa when I call him a murderer, or that I, as a private citizen, am somehow obliged to refrain from expressing an opinion until the courts have ruled.

     Nonsense.  The killer is known to be an admirer of Nazism at the very least, and not in the "they sure had kewl planes and tanks!" way, but the "they sure had kewl ideas!" way.  I have watched all the video of the event I can find and it looks to me like a deliberate act.  At the very best, it is manslaughter, and would be if the driver was a blameless nun, Stalin or von Ribbentrop.  It would be if the crowd were innocent schoolkids or hardened felons.  You don't go smashing cars into people.  Especially when backing out before anyone gets hurt is an available option.

     Decent people aren't obliged to be nice to Nazis, or to "antifa," either.  We are obliged to refrain from punching (or otherwise aggressing against) people who are not offering a direct physical threat, despite what antifa would prefer.  But not punching them doesn't mean you approve of them.

     When I started carrying a gun, I learned to avoid situations in which I might have to use it.  If you have a choice to go or not go someplace with a high probability of needing to shoot in self defense and you don't have to go, you shouldn't go there.  A car is a deadly weapon, too -- and can be even by mischance.  If you have a choice to not drive into a crowd, even at well under five miles an hour with a lot of smiles and waves all around, you should avoid the crowd.  The killer in Charlottesville did not -- and he was moving considerably faster than 5 mph.  There's no justification for it.

     There was a lot of low-level violence in Charlottesville (and it's only "low-level" if it's not you on the pavement) .  That doesn't excuse vehicular attack.

     A lot of people on both sides want this to be a "Democrats vs. Republican" thing.  It isn't.  Don't fool yourself; the conventional two big parties aren't in this fight.  The principals explicitly reject their philosophies.  The LP isn't in this fight.

     Comments are closed, go defend Nazis on your own blog if you are so inclined.  Comments to this post made in the comments sections of other posts will be deleted with prejudice: this isn't the public square, this is my blog.  Nazis, KKK, those types are not welcome here.*
* And neither is antifa or other "direct action" lefists.  They're all jerks.  In terms of, "Would I care to sit next to these people on the bus," I say no to both sides. Give me a stolid, silent car thief to sit next to instead.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Overheard While In "The Chair"

     "H'mm, gosh.  We'll be working that tooth -- there's a new spot of decay on the outside, and more decay around an old filling on the inside, so that one will have to come out and get redone.   But the tooth in front of it, the filling it it doesn't look great...."

     (A minor infinity of awkwardness, drilling, vibration both shrill and coarse, rinsing, suctioning, "Turn just a little toward my assistant, okay" and so on.)

     "So, we've got the old filling out -- my, wasn't it a big one! -- and I can get a really good look at the teeth on each side and their fillings.*  That one filling looks really loose.  Let me just see if I can..."  And she picked and prodded at it with various instruments.  Nope. Filling remained stubbornly in place.   "I guess it's okay.  It just looks like it's in there funny."

     I have had the same dentist for over twenty-five years; she took a few years off to look after her parents but other than that, if I have a filling,† she did the work.  She proceeded to fill in the other two fillings with silver (et heavy metal cetera) amalgam,‡ which I didn't know was still used much; turns out it is still stronger and does a better job inhibiting decay than the nice tooth-color stuff.  Finally, she got to the smoothing-out and sculpting stage of the filling:

     "Okay, I'll just run some floss down each side and make sure you'll be able to get between them," which she then did, a little.  I felt an odd sensation and she interrupted herself with, "Hunh, that's funny..."  Long pause.  "It fell out!  That filling I was working at earlier?  It just fell out." She took the lump of metal off my tongue and spent some time peering at the void.  "Doesn't look real good in there--"

     There was another small eternity of drilling and clearing and rinsing and drying and medicating and filling and smoothing and--  She got it done.  I was late to work.

     Ahh, dentistry!  Those were my two best chewing teeth -- yes, when it comes to molars, I'm down to that -- so it's been an interesting and slow-eating 22 hours since.
* Other than my two upper front teeth and one of the lower, all of the teeth I have left have fillings.  My dental hygiene as a child wasn't any better than any of my peers -- but I inherited teeth of problematic durability from both sides.   

† Or a band around a tooth, which I had for awhile, in an attempt to save a molar.  She applied that in a hurry, shortly before her time away, and somehow it didn't get noted on my chart.  My first checkup with the dentist who was filling (haha!) in for her, he came to that tooth and exclaimed, "A ring!  How did that get on there?"  I didn't remember; it was an 0700 appointment and I was half-awake.  "It got married?" I ventured.  He had to ponder that for a second.
‡ Yes, there is still some mercury in there.  Hey, I shoot, I solder electronic things; the mercury from a few fillings, it's way too late to fret over.  My dentist hasn't gone mad yet, and she not only works with the stuff every day, she's got as many fillings as I do.