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 noting 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.
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* 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

Breakfast

     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.
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* 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, "...it'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.
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* 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

Gah

     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

9-11

     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?
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* 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.
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* 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.
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* 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.

     Interesting.

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!