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.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dentist Today

     I've been dodging the dentist for weeks.  She wants to do fillings in a couple of teeth that aren't bothering me and I would just as soon not.

     We've reached the point where I can either get these teeth drilled and filled, or go hunting for a new dentist -- who will probably find even more work to do.   So off I will go today.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Problem, In One Headline

(With subheads)
Illegal Immigrant Kills Regional Administrator
--Victim was active in Wiccan church, ran home for winged primates
--Dorothy Gale of Kansas subject of intense manhunt; alleged to have dropped house on victim--

     See, if you don't control the medium, you don't control your message -- so it had better be as unambiguous as possible.  Sometimes, not even freeing all the Munchkins from under the ruby-slippered heel of their oppressor is enough.  (And that, if you were wondering, is one of my concerns about punching Nazis: the video people see is just some guy getting surprise-punched.  It makes him look sympathetic.  And the puncher gets into the legal system as "the accused."  Far better to be "witness for the prosecution," after the bad guy has done something aggressive, though more difficult to arrange.)

     --And you, everybody, might occasionally look down at your uniform, and around at your compatriots, and ask yourself, "Are we the bad guys?"  Commies, Nazis, Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, independent voters, Greens, don't just drift along. Make sure of where you are and what you're doing.  They're not all the same.  Some ideas are bad ideas; some people are bad people.  Bad people often try to sell bad ideas as good ideas.  Don't play along; don't get played.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Not Today

     Not up to anything too blamed fancy this morning.  The extent to which people are willing to carry water for utterly odious ideas, groups and systems of governance that have already been tried and found to result in pain, misery and death, often directly at the hands of what passes for government, depresses me.

     Look, Churchill was right.  "Democracy" in its various forms as seen around the world today sucks; but it sucks far less for more people than any other system.  "Freedom" is messy, ugly, undisciplined; the only thing worse is government control of the press, of what you can do or say in public.  "Capitalism" is a huge mess -- people often wind up working for lousy wages, employers often end up with lousy workers, distribution of material goods is uneven and it only too easily corrupts or becomes corrupt itself -- yet it has improved the lot in life of more people, more rapidly, than any other system of economics that has been tried.

     Democracy, freedom, capitalism: all deeply imperfect.  Sloppy.  Messy.  Inelegant. But they're better than any of the alternatives, by direct and bloody experiment.

     People died finding this stuff out.  They died in droves, desperately.  They didn't volunteer to be a part of the experiment.  They died of wars and autocrats and needless shortages, they died of prejudice and superstition and because it was easier to ignore them to death.  They're still dying of it and you can read about it in the news any day of the week.

     And yet we're still having to argue -- and worse! -- with dewy-eyed idealists and cold-eyed haters about ideas that were shown to be horrible nonsense when their grandparents were in diapers.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Basement-Dwelling Loser

     It's looking like the man being held for ramming a a car into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, VA killing one and injuring many is -- oh, surprise -- a sad-sack loser who may have lived with his Mom after washing out of Army basic training.  And it appears he was some kind of armchair Nazi, which jibes with his intended victims.

     While I'm careful to use the appropriate sort of hypothetical language -- innocence is presumed until guilt is proven in court -- there's little doubt he was the man behind the wheel.

     I'm only incidentally interested in the "thoughtcrime" aspect of his crime, since the embrace of a half-baked philosophy for losers that got slapped down hard the only time it ever managed to get much of a foothold* is, in fact, legal under the First Amendment.  You don't go plowing into a crowd of people -- or even only one person -- with an automobile, period.†

     The ability to peacefully assemble for whatever reason is an inherent right.  Not all reasons are especially nice or noble and letting it happen does not constitute approval: society doesn't operate under Robert's Rules of Order and silence should not be mistaken for consent.

     For that matter, counter-protesting shouldn't be mistaken for assault -- and vice-versa; punching someone might be sincere criticism but it is not protected speech.  But you know what even the commies didn't do?  --None of them committed vehicular mayhem and murder.

     Wave signs and shout all you like, for whatever bullshit you want to get before the public; being able to do so is a feature -- not a bug! -- of a free society.  But initiating force is a crime, initiating deadly force a particularly odious crime, especially against your fellow-citizens engaged in the free expression of their own views.

     I've noticed some of my Facebook friends being careful to condemn both sides.  Yeah well--  Most people's political views and philosophies offend me, since they generally come down to ways in which the person expressing them thinks other people ought to be pushed around for some supposed greater good.  I hate that idea.  So what?  I'm not the boss of the inside of their head, or of the crap they scribble on a placard, post on social media or shout from streetcorners.  I'm not a hall monitor, this is adult life.  You don't go beating up people who aren't a physical threat; you don't go ramming into them with a car, or shooting at them or--  That is obvious, basic stuff; there's no need to be "even-handed" about it, it's immoral; it's a crime.

     Here's to a fair and speedy trial and a quick, clean end; or at least a couple of lifetimes in prison.  There were a lot of people in Charlotteville, VA.  One of them has unequivocally demonstrated he can't be trusted around others.
* It does amaze me to see anything past the "...But they sure had kewl tanks," level of appreciation.  Communism has the excuse of high-sounding ideals and over a century of good PR from the credulous.  But Nazism has stunk on ice from the outset, profoundly and expressly incompatible with American culture, the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  It's an either/or, public libraries on one side and book-burnings on the other.
† This is, of course, going to prompt one of those supposedly-awkward hypotheticals about "What if it's Pol Pot, Stalin and Jack the Ripper with flamethrowers and they're running towards a group of kindergartners?"  Tellya what, when that happens, you can call me up collect and I'll advise you. Until then, please don't go wandering around without a minder, since you plainly have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Donald Vs. Mr. Top Nork

     It was days ago now, and the newsies and comedians -- but I repeat myself -- are still all over it: the prospect of "...thermonuclear war.  Toe-to-toe with the Russkis North Korea..."

     Yeah, "This is it, boys."  Maybe.  North Korea screams threats, POTUS blusters back -- and suddenly, he's the bad guy.  Or perhaps just a Nixionian pseudo-madman, inadvertently or not.

     The thing is, for all his flaws, what better sort of background than President Trump's ought a fellow to have in order to understand the mind of a pampered, overfed autocrat with demonstrably bad taste?  This may be the one thing about which he is outstandingly a subject matter expert -- but don't expect him to get any credit for it.

     It's another "crisis" the world will muddle though, probably with far more ink, paper and whizzing electrons than any splash of nuclear fire.  Kim Jong-un's military is remarkable for poor marksmanship and the DPRK is unlikely to be able to bluff their way out of a live-fire miss as a "warning shot."  Therefore, I don't expect them to shoot at all.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Missing The Point

     A recent New Yorker online cartoon -- quite longform for them -- suggests that since our civilization is doomed (presumably by some combination of President Trump and global warming), we ought to leave not merely time capsules, but deliberately confusing ones, for Reasons.

     But that's all we can leave; it's all our forebears have left us, and what we make of them is, at best, a guess.  We're often wrong.  The fine details of people's lives are generally lost or at best distorted.

     We will leave puzzles.  This is brilliantly spoofed in David Macaulay's Motel of the Mysteries but it's a fact.  There's no need to work at it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Um, No

     I was off today, but my sinuses are so painful that I'm going back to bed.

You Know What's Fun?

     "Fun" is exactly not when work calls you at 4:30 a.m. with a problem they should have called you about twenty hours earlier.  It was too late for an easy fix when they did call -- and they were too short-handed to fix it promptly.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Last Tycoon; The First Spaghetti Carbonara

     Amazon Video got me -- started watching "The Last Tycoon" night before last. Now I'm three episodes in and I'm hooked.

     Like "Remember WENN," which it kind of resembles, right down to the perky gamine viewpoint character (though she certainly doesn't come from "Moosejaw or Elkhart or whatever combination of animal name and body part..."), it's a little hazy on year-specific style and fashion; but hey, it is Hollywood, right? The story is engrossing as can be and the sets are fabulous! Kelsey Grammer is a treat -- the man was born to play bastards -- and Matt Bomer is too handsome and knows it. I take issue with hairstyles; the men with hair wear it much too long around the ears -- about ten years too soon for it -- and the women's hair is mostly early-1930s and not always consistent with their socioeconomic status. Still and all, it's great good fun, a voyage back to an era both better and worse, full of glamor and desperation.

*  *  *
    Discovered pasta carbonara a few days ago and realized I had never had it.  It sounded delicious, but none of the Italian places close by offered the dish.  Finding it in the classic original form is unlikely -- you have to add raw eggs to very hot but not presently-heated spaghetti and pork, and form a sauce without actually scrambling the eggs: there's no small risk of undercooking.  Do it right and you get a lovely, silky end result.

     So I determined to give it a try myself last night.  The experiment was a success. Beginner's luck, maybe: the egg and cheese mixture neither scrambled nor ended up underdone! I was downsizing the recipe on the fly and made too much pasta, easily remedied. Used two kinds of cheese, Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, with a bit of bacon and a bit of pancetta. I should crumble the meat up more next time, but I was very happy with how it came out.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


     Haven't much today.  Working on some ideas, trying to process stuff in my life.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017


     My mother is once again in the hospital.  Been there several days and when she gets out, it will be to a place with better nursing support and, I am sorry to say, much smaller rooms.

     Where she has been living simply hasn't sufficient staff to give her the level of care she needs.  They had trouble remembering to change her breathing mask at bedtime and back again in the morning, and it is just too fiddly for Mom to do on her own.  This has contributed to her recent hospitalization and thus to the choice to move her.

     It's not an easy choice for any of us.

Monday, August 07, 2017

How I Stopped Time Getting Donuts

     It was 1977.  I was young, foolish and nearly broke.

     ...So, I'm working at a lousy part-time medium-market radio job after having dropped out of college and spending a summer working for The Worst Consulting Engineer In The U.S. (he's out of the biz by request now, so no worry), and my part-time hours include the Sunday Morning shift. It's wintertime, cold and dark. There's a place a half-mile down the road that starts turning out hot, fresh, deep-fried donuts -- and super-cheap donut holes by the bag! -- at 0630 or earlier.  They're best eaten fresh; let them cool down and they're kinda greasy lumps. Alas, the AM was a daytimer and not due on the air for another hour or more. There's no one to make a donut run! So I lace up a taped half-hour *paid* religious show on the deck in the production room where we played every other taped show on Sunday, lock the place up, speed down the road to the donut place with the radio blaring my station, get my treat, hop back in the car and halfway back to the station, the radio says, "...and in thoossse daaayyyssszzzzz bloooooooop........" and falls silent. I floor the accelerator.

      Hit the door running and see that the takeup reel had fallen off, there's tape all over the floor, the Maggie 1022 deck had (for some reason) kept running, and it all probably would have been okay, except the tape had started looping, tied a knot, built up and dragged the capstan motor to a stop. Hastily I hit Stop, pull it all clear, rip the tape (stretches into a nasty thread, of course), grab an empty takeup reel and set it to playing again -- all on the air.

      The conversation with the Operations Director on Monday was...epic. It did *not* include the word "donuts." There was no way I was going to admit to having left the building, a total no-no in 1977. Instead, I claimed to have been in the washroom, which (conveniently!), did not have an air monitor speaker for the FM. Somehow, I didn't get fired, and hung on long enough for my wisdom teeth to come in (do NOT do Beautiful Music hopped up on Anacin and Dr. Pepper, kids!) and a full-time job to open up at a "coffeepot" AMer closer to where I was living.

      But the levels were right all through that. Except when they weren't there at all.  Because that's just what you do.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Charlie Jade

     Charlie Jade is a film noir SF TV series, a Canadian/South African co-production from 2005 that takes place across three difference universes, one of which is our very own here and now.  And ours is in terrible danger....

     I just finished watching this tale of cosmic disaster narrowly averted and I recommend it.

     It's very nearly a familiar trope but the treatment is far from trite; Canadian SF writer Robert J. Sawyer wrote the show's "bible," or overall guideline, and he did a nice job of it.  So, too, did the cinematographer and director, who use different tonalities for the three universes (SF fans may be more familiar with this from its use in the the Firefly episode "Out Of Gas.")

     Some critics have disparaged the editing, which is in much the style of Homicide: Life On The Street, with repeats and jump cuts and odd camera angles: if you didn't like the NBC crime drama's editing, which had the harsh realism of the Baltimore Police Department to anchor it, you're unlikely to enjoy it in Charlie Jade.

     But what about the story?  I think it's darned good; more "graphic novel" than "novel" in places, but fully developed in a way not often found in graphic works -- or most television. There's a genuinely insane bad guy -- or is he? -- and a wildly varied cast, each struggling to figure out what's really going on.  The twists are nearly always unexpected and our heroes have plenty of pluck and grit.

     The overall story arc is satisfying; while there's room left for a second season, the 20 episodes stand up well as a complete story.  If you're willing to work with the director a little, there's a lot of SF enjoyment here.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

DIY Ribbon Microphones

     It's totally a thing.  People build their own ribbon mikes.  It seems to have started with an influx of inexpensive, Chinese-made ribbon mikes, which could be improved with better transformers, thinner foil for the ribbon, changes in internal lead dress and so on.  Eventually, some of the people making mods decided the ribbon pickup itself, the "motor," was simple enough that they might as well build their own.

     Modern materials and methods -- rare-earth magnets, 3-D printing, strong glues -- have made the construction process  far easier than it once was and tiny, powerful magnets give good output in a small package.

     Why do I care?  You see, I own a couple of the most affordable of the classic ribbon microphones: the Electro-Voice V-2.  Well, almost two; at some point after they'd stopped making ribbon mikes and run out of replacement parts, E-V began "repairing" them by removing the motor, hacking at the supports, and bolting in a simple dynamic microphone pickup!  Fraud, you say?  It was an inexpensive mic in its day; users sent in a dead mic and received back a working microphone, more rugged than the one they'd sent in. I'm sure they and E-V at the time saw it as okay.

     One of my V-2s (a V-2A, with a multi-impedance output connector) is one of those "repaired" mikes.  The years have not been kind to the old dynamic element and it doesn't sound all that great.  I'd like to make it a ribbon mike again -- and if the kit I found this morning will fit, it looks as if I can!  Otherwise, I'm in for some finicky bench work; but either way, it's possible.

Friday, August 04, 2017

True, Not True, Speculation

     True: the Indianapolis Colts are making a concerted effort to adopt a more aggressive style of play, tougher and more physical.

     Probably not true: the Colts have posted memos reminding players that as a result of this, so-called "smoky eye" makeup is right out for both practice and game day, and will result suspension and possible disciplinary action; and advising cheerleaders that actual fighting with members of the opposing squad is absolutely forbidden.

     Speculation: there's an internship opening at the offices of the Colts.  Duties include general office work, helping with public relations and ensuring memos are posted to the correct bulletin board.
     Prompted by a recent sports report on the hopes of Colts for this season and a memo about tryouts for their cheerleading squad that showed up at work.  Apparently, "fresh, natural faces" are in these days. Picture me with an eyebrow raised skeptically.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Oh, That Was No Fun

     Spent most of yesterday getting beat up by my own innards.  I don't know what caused it.  It was a miserable way to spend a day at work, compounded by the somewhat-different shift I have been working to cover a co-worker's vacation. 

     Here's hoping for better today.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

That Was A Surprise

     So, I'd sent my boss a mildly exasperated e-mail about the state of affairs at the North Campus, pretty much just for the record, expecting the kind of pro forma response I was used to receiving from his predecessors.

     Nope.  He said, "Yes, the place needs to be checked regularly and it has become very disorganized.  You will be making regular visits.  To start, we will meet up there with [the building maintenance guy, whose boss he also is] and come up with a plan to straighten things out."

     The place has become half giant junk room and half a museum to its own past.  I must admit, some of the "museum" aspect will be difficult to give up.  Nevertheless, it's time to get the North Campus into the 21st Century.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Keep Moving

     You know what's sadder than going back to a place where you once spent all your working day, five days a week?  Going back and discovering your coworkers have been treating the place like their own private junkyard!

     I had occasion to work at the no-longer-staffed North Campus yesterday.  The place was in the middle of a mouse and ant invasion, ruining the toaster, French-press coffeemaker and paper/plasticware in the kitchenette (and so on), in part because staff making use of the site are throwing away food waste in the building instead of in the dumpster outside; a cold-water valve had managed to fail open at the janitor's closet slop sink and was merrily fountaining away; someone had left a storage battery charging on a wooden workbench in the huge, hot garage and dilute battery acid was spattered on the benchtop.  The place was a mess.  I'm going back to doing weekly walk-throughs and if the boss complains, I'll start doing them on my own time: when neglect-induced major failure hits, I'll be the one who has to clean it up, so I'm ahead if I can forestall it.