Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Don't Politics Much Any More

    I still pay attention to politics, for the simple reason that no matter which of the two big parties hold the upper hand, I'm in their crosshairs, one way or another -- or more accurately, I'm in the crosshairs of some of their politicians, some of the time.  I'm too old, too female, I own too many guns or I like the Fourth Amendment too much, or the First, or the Second; I'm too pale or too well-off or I work in the wrong industry and no matter what, I'm far too willing to get along with those horrible liberals and those vile conservatives.

     So any more, I mostly just watch.  At the Federal level, the two sides -- and I understand that many people favor one over the other, for reasons they find to be good and sufficient, and feel even the suggestion of moral equivalence is offensive -- have egged one another into positions from which they cannot compromise, not even on the simplest and least controversial of matters.

     About all I can do is watch, note where the fire extinguishers are and keep an eye on the exits.  I'd add, "review the number for 911," but the FedGov is supposed to be its own 911 and that system is pretty busy right now, mostly with its own helmet fires.

     Hey, at least nobody's rioting under the colors of their favorite chariot-racing team, right?  Not so far, anyway.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tetrazzini: As American As Apple Pie

     Possibly even more so; while the "Italian" dish you know as Turkey Tetrazzini was named for an Italian -- the extraordinary coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini* -- it was invented here in the United States, either at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where the singer lived, or at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New Your City.

    Better yet, there's no fixed list of ingredients.  Turkey, a cream sauce of some kind, some sort of vegetable, usually served over thin pasta.  May or may not be baked....

     So when inspiration hit last night, I didn't feel constrained.
     A daytime TV show cooking segment had included the reminder that most ground turkey is optimized to be just about zero fat -- and that keeps you from getting the flavor.  The speaker recommended looking for ground turkey with dark and white meat in it, not the ultra-lean stuff, pointing out that turkey is already plenty lean.  It reminded me that I hadn't made Turkey Tetrazzini for a long time.

     Our market turned out to not have anything but low-fat turkey -- but the very lean turkey and some sweet Italian sausage, about 50/50 by weight, seemed like a good compromise.  Browned, with fresh mushrooms and green onions added near the end of the cooking process, it was a great start.

     I added some diced sweet peppers, the small ones sold in bagged lots, and some greens--  My "old standard" recipe calls for spinach, but there was some spinach/arugula mix that looked good.  Pushed the meat and mushrooms to the sides, poured in the peppers and let them cook while I rinsed the greens.   Snipped the greens in atop the peppers, covered and let it go until they started to brighten up, then poured in cream of mushroom soup and a drained can of diced tomatoes.  I saved the drained tomato liquid and added just enough to the pan to get a nice, thick texture.  Covered and let it cook until everything was warmed through and bubbling.  You can serve it over pasta, or not, and a generous handful of shredded Parmesan on top adds a nice note to the flavor.

     Tam thought it was pretty good -- and so did I.
* She seems to have been remarkably well thought of, with a bubbly personality quite at odds with the stereotype of an operatic soprano.  Her singing is effortless-sounding, even the highest notes.

Monday, August 13, 2018

An Unsquare Egg To Start The Day

     Call it Toad-in-the-hole, or Gashouse Eggs, whatever: an egg fried in a hole punched in a slice of buttered bread.  It's good-tasting and quick.  Make it with sliced white bread, and it's a "Square Egg."  Me, I'm not so fond of store-bought white bread; growing up, we had home-made bread* or Roman Meal, and these days, rye or pumpernickel is my choice.  That gives you flattened-oval slices, and it's darned good.

     You can cook the disc of bread you removed, or break the egg yolk, tear up the left-over bread into little pieces, and drop it into the egg.  It's good either way.
* Mom usually made two or more loaves, because fresh-baked bread is a delight that tends to get eaten up as soon as it is cool enough; so you make one for now, and more for later.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Seventeen-Year-Old Cat

     The Mouse-Baby Song has been sung, long, low-pitched and mournful, sung holding the stuffed toy in one's mouth, of course.  It must be so; it is the only way to be sure the Great Cat will hear, and bring the prey near our waiting-place. The Mouse-Baby Song has been sung, and the mouse-baby itself deposited dead-center in a doorway, as is required.

    The ceremony is complete.  Good eating is assured for one more day, despite the blithe, utter unconcern of the monkey-Mommies with the proper rituals as they sit there, staring at the box that make flat pictures that smell only of dust.  They're so unaware of the things that matter!

Saturday, August 11, 2018


     Saturday at last.  I'm still fighting pretty serious depression and general twitchiness, which is almost certainly from the darned steroid.  It was prescribed over my objections and I only took it because I was filling in on the early morning shift and back pain was keeping me from sleeping.  I couldn't take the muscle relaxant or prescription pain medication for fear of oversleeping.  In hindsight, I would have done better to have toughed it out with OTC stuff and stoicism.

     The shift is about eight hours ahead of my usual shift and it's difficult to adjust to -- starting or ending -- over the course of a weekend. Waking time is an hour past my usual bedtime. 

     Still, for a person of my age and formal education, the rate of pay is little short of fantastic.  For the ability to own a house, to drive a fairly decent vehicle, to indulge my hobbies, I'll put up with some mood swings.  I have had mood swings and a lousy income, and if I can't change they first, it's certainly easier with the second.

     Prednisone is right out, though.  Even knowing it's chemical, walking around feeling worthless and sad is as bad as back pain, and more dangerous.

Friday, August 10, 2018

I Think It Might Be Friday

     I'm hoping this is the end of the week, anyway.  It's been a busy one, complicated by medical folderol. 

     Tamara is back, after a couple of weeks house-sitting for a well-known SF author.  She seems to have picked up a mild case of the fancy-pens bug, and even owns a nice fountain pen, which she uses.  That's a big deal for a left-hander; I've known other left-handed fountain-pen users and there are a number of tricks to it, most of which the user has had to figure out alone.  Both the SF author and I are taking credit for Tam's newfound enjoyment of good pens, but the truth is, equability pens sell themselves: she saw a particularly nice rollerball pen online, bought it and found the writing experience so much improved that she looked around for more of the same.  Fountain pens take more looking after than the other kinds* but much like the Chemex coffeemaker, for some people, the extra effort is worth it.

     The lost parts at work remain a mystery; the fellow who stored them says they're not where he put them, and no one else remembers having even seen them.  My basic replacement assortment arrived yesterday and I'm probably going to keep them in my desk.  We're still sorting out our expanded workshop area and I don't want to have to go through this again.  The bulk is so small that I can file them in a manila folder.
* Liquid-ink capillary pens like the Rapidograph, often used as drafting pens, do need similar care and perhaps more, since dried ink will clog them. I used them for many years before deciding they were just too fragile to carry; points for the old-style Rapidographs had become all but impossible to find.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

It Kept Getting Worse

     Going back to bed would have been a good idea yesterday.  Blogging about it didn't make the problem go away and as I struggled to get ready for work, it was harder and harder to do routine tasks.  I finally called in sick-but-hoping-to-improve, slogged through the rest of my morning routine as slow as tar in January (and nearly as brittle), and decided to brave the roads a little after noon.

     It wasn't fun.  Everything was moving too fast and too near.  The intentions of other drivers were difficult to read.  The light was too bright--  Made it in, stuck to small, simple tasks and by four o'clock, I wasn't having to grab corners and doorways to keep from running into them.  Things got a little better and the drive home was only slightly worse than usual.

     Prednisone was already on my allergies list because of how it affects me.  The doctor made a strong case for it this time and I went along.  That was a mistake

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A Bad Case Of The Klutz

     It's probably the prednisone.  Though I took the last yesterday, the stuff builds up and takes awhile to get out of your system.  Whatever it is, I have been clumsy and out-of-step all morning.  Woke up slowly and face-down and nearly fell getting out of bed.  Cooking breakfast went poorly -- the usual ballet that ends neatly with coffee ready, toast and egg done at the same time, juice poured and drank was instead a jumbled mess, bacon too cold, toast burned, egg barely kept from burning, coffee half-done.

      Later, I nearly dropped a book in the washroom sink.  Can't keep from falling over my own feet and if you saw this blog post before correction, the number of typos would amaze you.

     To make matters worse, yesterday, I was confronted what just how much of a steam-locomotive technician in an all-electric world I have become: I needed a few diodes for a project -- a couple of PTC205s or 1N4007s to sum two 5 Volt power supplies, a few 1N4148s to put across relay coils to suppress the inductive spike when you turn off the juice (and keep them pulled in just a little longer, a cheap "pulse stretcher" that can sometimes prevent problems).  We not only didn't have any, there wasn't even a place for them!

    In the most recent rearrangement and expansion of Engineering, we added three more workbenches and revamped parts storage.  We kept a good stock of connectors and basic passive components, mostly resistors and capacitors, a few relays.  The consensus was that our stock of TTL and CMOS discrete logic could go -- either to deep storage or a surplus dealer -- because it was long past its time.  Anything you once did with TLL or CMOS is either simple enough that now you can just use a relay, or complicated enough to merit an embedded microcontroller.  And as for transistors and diodes, we'd keep a few basic types that would cover most of our needs: 2N3904 and 2N3906 transistors are an NPN/PNP pair that will do for most relay driver and small-signal work, a fairly tough rectifier like the 1N4007 or PTC205 (1kV/1A and 1kV/2.5A respectively) for power supplies, and a smaller diode like 1N914/1N4148 or 1N4001 for other uses.  Add some three-terminal regulators (78nn and 79nn positive and negative regulators in 5V and 12V versions), and that's nearly everything you might want.  With 15-Volt regulators and NE5532As, we'd be set for audio work as well -- and that's not even a shoebox full of parts.

     Yeah, well, nobody saved the shoebox, as near as my bosses, peers and I can tell.  We used to have a wall of ICs, transistors and diodes, neatly sorted by type and number, and they're all gone.  Every last one of them, along the with the little drawers they were stored in.

     I have a few of the parts I need here at home, so I'm providing them for this project; I have ordered more for my employer and they'll restock what I have used.

     But think about it: a whole wall of parts vanished and no one noticed (except, presumably, the guy who threw them out).  Parts that were once critical to the kind of work I do.  At one time, I prided myself on having a foot in both camps: it was 1937 in my basement workshop, and five minutes into the future in my shop at work.  Any more?  Pick your flavor of "old," because that's all there is.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Oh, What Fun

     Transitioning back to my regular shift after a week on the 3:00 am - 11:30 am shift isn't easy.  Doing so while still on the Prednisone the doctor prescribed for my post-wreck back pain is...frustrating.  I go to sleep dizzy and wake up about 3:00 am, my mind racing.  Between the drug and the lack of sleep, I'm clumsy.  On the last full day of the stuff now, so it will pass, and at least the dose has been low enough that I haven't been too outspoken, but it's darned annoying.

     I made Swedish pancakes this morning.  Figured if I was going to be frustrated, I could at least get a treat out of it.  Rannie Wu was getting underfoot and at one point, I looked down to realize she was sitting, watching me, with her tail in a saucer of olive oil I'd poured for her earlier.  But it worked out; a lot of making those pancakes is letting them cook, which left time to scrub the olive-oiled tail of the Ancient Wu.  --It's a title of respect, she's got awhile to go before she's ancient in years.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Sunday Work, Sunday Supper

     Lawn mowed, a lot of the fallen branches picked up, another few feet gained on the "jungle" that grows in the narrow space between one side of my garage and the fence,* branches removed from the roof and the gutters slightly cleared, and once again a reminder that the very worn soles of my calf-high Carolina Pole Climber boots are not safe on the steep roof of the house.

     Cleaned up after that, spent a little while on a spare laptop with a too-full hard drive (it ended up needing a fresh start, and then more cleaning-up to get rid of the pre-installed stuff I didn't want), then went to the megamart and the grocer's for a start on the week's supplies.  On returning home, I discovered during the unloading process that the temperature and humidity had gone way up.  Just hauling bags in from my car had me perspiring.

     So I made myself a treat, Tam being busy elsewhere: pseudo reverse-sear New York Strip steak, a green salad, and the better grade of instant mashed potatoes.  (Yes, yes, but they're so much easier.)

     Grilled corn and a steak cooked over hardwood charcoal would have been nice.  At 91 degrees and humid, grilling was going to be pretty miserable work.   I seasoned the steak and let it sit out while I considered the options -- steak cooks better and tastes better if it doesn't start cooking cold. There was a little truffle butter left, so I melted that over low heat in a small frying pan, popped the steak in, put another little blob of butter on top of it and let it alone for five minutes.  Kept turning it every five minutes until it felt done enough, while boiling water for the potatoes.  Uncovered the steak and raised the heat a bit while making the potatoes -- "Remove water from heat, add potato mix, stir with a fork until fully blended, let sit for one minute" -- and I'd already made and dressed the salad.  Loaded a bowl of salad and put meat and mashed potatoes on a plate, ready for supper.

     This left a nice pool of pan drippings and truffle butter in the frying pan.  H'mm, mashed potatoes of the blander sort, and that stuff--  Dipped a finger in and gave it a taste, and it was better than I could have hoped, steak and truffle flavors blended.  I made a well in the potatoes and poured it in.  It didn't elevate the instant to match home-made, but it stepped them up quite a lot.
* Every Spring, I tell myself that this year, it's not going to get ahead of me.  With the knee problem, this year I didn't even reach the point of being able to lie to myself about it.  As time and weather permit, I have been chopping back a few feet and spraying it with brush killer.  I might reach the far end by Autumn.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

"Round Like A Circle In A Spiral, Like A Wheel Within A Wheel..."

     The windmills of....breakfast?

     I slept in and woke up, hungry and wanting a change from the usual.  A refrigerator check turned up one (1) round slice of Colby Jack cheese and nice deli salami, thin-sliced and nearly the same diameter.

     Several years ago, Tamara returned from a house-sitting gig* praising the usefulness of a single-egg frying pan for solo breakfasts.  You've probably seen them, about the diameter of a DVD, looking like dollhouse hardware.  They heat up quickly and most have a relatively thick bottom, so the heat is very even.  They'll fry an egg nicely in minimum time.  Of course, I had to buy one; they're inexpensive.

     At the stove, tiny skillet on the burner, a bit of butter melted, egg dropped in with a broken yolk† on top (I pour 'em in and then take a toothpick to the yolk) and cooked 'til the bottom's nearly done.  Flip, lay a slice of cheese on it and and a slice or two of salami over that.  The turned side will be cooked pretty quickly, so you flip the whole thing, add another slice or two of salami on that side of the egg, give it no more than thirty seconds and flip again for another thirty.  At that point, you will have strata of warmed-up salami, cooked egg, melty but not molten cheese and more salami.  The who thing should be set on doubled paper towel to drain and cool a bit.

   I had mine between two slices of toast, buttering the toast with what was left in the little frying pan.  It would be good all by itself, or with some other starch; hash browns, for instance.  H'mm, hash browns -- maybe I need a second one-egg frying pan for them!

     Oh, the post title?  Here:

* Yes, it's true: I send my lodger out to house-sit for science-fiction writers, hoping she'll soak up the ambiance and re-radiate it on her return.  It's just one of the little things I do instead of writing....

† You may prefer the yolk intact.  In that case, you'll probably want to drape a piece of salami over the egg before you flip it.  This should help with overcooking and breakage.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Better Corned Beef Hash

     Canned corned beef, diced fresh potato, a little spice (parsley, onion flakes, black pepper) and a quarter-cup of water or a little more:
     Ten minutes in a covered skillet, flipped, cook a little uncovered to dry it, add an egg on top and give it five-plus covered, until the egg is as done as you like.

     Much better than the canned version.  You can beat it with deli or home-cooked corned beef brisket, but those take a lot more effort.

Friday, August 03, 2018


     My RX350 has tire pressure sensors.  Probably.  So far, I have good tire pressure and a warning icon showing on the dash.  I'm either doing the setting procedure wrong or some part of the system isn't working.

     So there's a project for the weekend.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Breakfast Omelet

     A nice little omelet, filled with, oh, gee, a little bacon, a little Canadian bacon, a little salami, some chopped green onions and small sweet peppers, and a tablespoon or so of leftover elote corn salad -- corn, crumbles of pale cheese, cilantro and a little mild heat from some manner of hot pepper.

     It's a tasty combination!

*  *  *
     I occasionally get mildly snarky comments about the amount of food blogging I do, amid the philosophizing and commentary.

     Here's the deal: I think food, enough of it and a variety of it, is essential to civil society.  Yes, yes, you'll die without it, but it's more than that.  People who are just getting by, or who aren't getting by, people who spend all their time trying to provide the basics, food, shelter, they're easy prey for any fast talker who promises more; they're closer to deciding that other people are merely resources to be exploited; they'll buy into the idea that if only some group or class is wrung out, driven out, eliminated, everything will be better.  They do this not because they're stupid or gullible, not because they're criminals, not because they were born hating, but because they are human, and they're hungry.

     It's nice to think that the desperate are all noble Jean Valjeans, doing horrible things only because they must.  For too many people, it becomes a way of life.  It's best stopped before it starts.  Hungry children can easily grow up to be misfit adults.

     Conversely, in a healthy society, there's plenty to eat, of many different sorts.  We're omnivores; we are comforted by having food around and all the more so when it's not a supply of identical bland, balanced bars of survival rations.

     "Feed a man a fish, and he eats a meal; teach him to fish, and he'll have food for life."  And teach him to set up and run a fish farm, and he'll feed his family, your family and a whole lot more -- and at every level of eating, catching or raising fish, he's likely to be too busy to stick a knife in you.  Engaged in activites, he's likely to become more engaged in the society around him; able to look farther ahead than the next day's meal, he's likely to make better decisions.

     So I blog about food.  It's not just food.


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

That's Not How This Works

     Way Scarier If You're Ignorant Department: "Donald Trump will be totally responsible for every downloadable plastic AR-15 that will be roaming the streets of our country." --Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, quoted in the New York Times.  It's almost fractally wrong.

      The reality is something else -- there are no undetectable plastic rifles and even the Defense Distributed 3-D printable one is only a smallish part to which a lot of big metal parts need to be attached, like a barrel, bolt and trigger assembly. There are no plastic versions of rifle barrels, period. There are no all-plastic bullets, period. There is a single-shot, mostly plastic handgun...but it needs a metal firing pin and metal bullets to be anything more than a paperweight.

      In a world where there are 3-D printers and thumbdrives (not to mention peer-to-peer file sharing over networks), this fight is already over. About all we can do is pass laws that are 21st-century versions of the 19th-century British law that required a man with a red flag had to precede the dangerous menace of horseless carriages to protect the public. Call me Pollyanna, but I think we'd make more progress, faster, if we set to work to fix the things that make a man want to harm his fellow men.

     Human life has never been worth more, over more of the world, than it is right now.  Not because we banned things, not because one particular religion is ascendant, not even because we're better people -- but more people are working at being better people, and more of them are better-off.  And more of them have the time to do this: they live longer, they're more literate, they're not having to spend every single minute just struggling to make it through the day.  Want a better world?  Figure out how to do more of that, for more people, without pushing down the ones who already have it.  It doesn't have to be a perfect answer.  It only has to be good enough.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


     Here it is:

     I like the black-and-white look. 

     The car needs a name and I'm not sure what to call it; I have named recent cars after science-fictional space ships: my Hyundai Accents were "The Hot Needle Of Inquiry," "The Hotter Needle Of Inquiry," and "The Even Hotter Needle Of Inquiry," followed by "The Skylark Of Space" for the RX300.  "Skylark II" is pretty obvious; I thought about "Discovery One" but I don't want the onboard computer to get any ideas.

Monday, July 30, 2018

I Bought A Car

     Saturday, I bought a 2007 Lexus RX350.  It's very similar to the 2000 RX300 I drove for four years.  Dash isn't quite as nice (in my opinion), but it's got all the usual controls and indicators.  And when you shut the car off, the steering wheel moves up and towards the dash, out of your way.

     Interior is in great shape, body and and paint (a kind of white) look good.  Whatever else might be going on -- with 11 years on it, it's got plenty of miles on the odometer -- all of the Lexuses I have driven still had that high-end driving experience; not isolated and wallowing like the big Detroit iron of my youth, but very comfortable and solid-seeming.

     Hoping to run it past the luxy car mechanic Tam uses for her Z3 and have them see what it might need. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sefton Delmer, Radio Warrior

     Sefton Delmer was a UK journalist and  a master of radio propaganda in WW II, a man who set up apparently-clandestine German radio stations to undermine their morale and spread misinformation.  His earliest success was a shortwave fake that attacked Hitler and his henchmen for not being Nazi enough; a prominent British politician, on hearing of it, said, "If this is the sort of thing that is needed to win the war, why, I'd rather lose it."

     Later efforts rose to absolute mind-bending sleight-of-hand; when German broadcast stations shut down during Allied bombing,  Delmer would have the UK's 600 kiloWatt "Aspidistra" transmitter (probably the most powerful in the world at the time) put on air on the same frequency and a skilled crew would expertly mimic the German programming, subtly inserting bits of misleading, demoralizing news.

     He wrote a two-volume autobiography, Trail Sinister and Black Boomerang.  You can't find the first one for much under $40 and prices for the second, covering his WW II radio work, appear to start at $100.  The Sefton Delmer Archive has them as online PDFs, but they're difficult to navigate.  And that's a pity; he was a fascinating man, and I think there's much to be learned from him applicable to our present day mish-mash of news, opinion -- and deliberate misinformation.

     Semi-related, I am considering changing my "What Would Gutenberg Do" tag, or adding a new one: "What Would Tyndale Do?" Or possibly what Michael Servetus, the unknown original of many an Internet debater, would do.  Neither was a man willing to shut up, and while that can be annoying, it's a good counter to the general human tendency to fall in line, march in step and not make waves, no matter where the mass of men is headed.  They each died of it, but their memory lives on.

Friday, July 27, 2018

In Praise Of Chemex

     Chemex is a good company.  I have used their coffeemaker for years and find it makes excellent coffee -- and their customer service is great!

     Awhile back, I set up a coffee-making corner in my department at work.  The vending machine coffee is expensive and not all that great and other departments have their own coffeemakers, so why not?

     It's a copy of my home method, with an electric water boiler, a Chemex (my spare from home) and a thermal carafe.  My supervisor chipped in with official endorsement and a nice little counter-height table and the whole thing runs on beneficence* and the notion that people can contribute in kind if they feel it's worthwhile.  We don't charge for coffee -- that would be competing with the vending people -- but users bring in coffee and filters and so on, and leave it there for others to use.  What do they and I get out of it?  Decent coffee, any time we can spare a couple of minutes to brew it.  So far, it's working well; with a half-dozen coffee drinkers in the department, the user pool is small enough that everyone feels like a stakeholder.  (You have to let go to make this work, and you can't have too many people involved; some of my peers are sloppier about coffeemaking than others, some prefer stronger or weaker coffee and it's vital to treat all these things as ordinary foibles and not dire offenses against How Things Should Be.  Don't like what's in the carafe?  Make more!)

     Gathering the initial supplies, I needed some filters and ordered them (along with some swag) directly from Chemex.  The box duly arrived...with a small forklifty fork-looking hole punched in it (and one of the boxes of filters) and missing the cork coasters.  I e-mailed them, they asked for a photo of the damage and I sent a couple of snapshots in reply.  Replacement filters and coasters arrived a couple of days later -- no quibbles, no fussing over details past establishing the damage.  They made it right.

     I'm impressed.  Chemex is first-rate.
* Beneficence is, roughly, the notion that "I've got mine and there's plenty left for others."  My neighbors on each side and I chipped in to add gravel to our short driveways and about a third of our shared alley, from the farthest contributing house to the paved city street.  There are several other houses along that third and yes, they got fresh gravel on the alley for free.  So what?  My neighbors and I got what we wanted and the additional traffic just helps pack down the gravel .  That's beneficence.  Some potholes showed up over the winter and I noticed someone added clay (Indiana dirt often has a lot of it) and when a couple of rains turned that into mud, someone filled the holes with fresh gravel.  That's beneficence, too.  There's no central authority, nobody is obliged to participate; people fix stuff because it benefits them and don't worry that other people might get some good from it, too.  There are situations where this stuff works.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


     Sat down at the keyboard and...I don't have much to say.  Time goes on and some verities endure.  As a society, we learn little and learn it slowly.

     The derp rolls on.  "Point shooting" keeps showing up as some wonderful new idea, instead of a discredited notion two or three generations old.  Yeah, look, okay -- if you're fighting at grappling distance, at knife-fight distance, you're liable to be wielding a firearm in a way not too different to a knife or a fist (and with all the risk that entails); but you have that firearm and it has sights so that fights can be waged at a much greater distance whenever possible.  Run away!  --And get enough distance use your sights if you have to engage.

     U. S. politics is, has been and will continue to be a sideshow crossed with a soap opera.  It's nothing new -- Jefferson and Hamilton started spatting as Cabinet members during George Washington's first term as President.  Come to think of it, each man, one time or another, expressed concern that the other would be the end of this country, and subsequent politicians and their followers have kept up the chorus.  Oh, do be concerned; do support causes, parties and politicians you think will be best, and do keep watch on and protest those that worry you.  But don't fall for the apocalyptic rhetoric; the closest this country has come to that end was the Late Civil Unpleasantness Between The States, and look at how it lined up: the breakaway States promptly formed their own federal government and the wider socioeconomic issues map without much effort into a conflict between Jeffersonian South and Hamiltonian North.  There's a necessary tension in our system of government.  It's not broken, that's how it works.

     The media is in the business of selling your attention and will do nearly anything to get it.  Cross this with politics and you get a Mencken quote:
      "Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."
     Understand this, and don't let yourself be herded.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Not A Big Truck?

     Tam says it's a Toyota Hilux in a party dress: the Toyota 4Runner. 

     Looking for Lexus RX-series crossover/SUVs and vehicles like them landed me on a 4Runner, one with the manufacture's better interior -- leather seats and all! -- and I can pay cash.  Runs well, looks good, drives nice.  Predictably, it's not as luxurious as the Lexus; on the other hand, it's a little bit more serious, with all-wheel drive and a built-in receiver for a trailer hitch.  (I'm not expecting to do much trailering, but better to have it an not need it than the opposite!)  Interior room is about the same, ride is slightly more truck-like and the climate controls appear to have been designed by Martians.  (The RX300 spoiled me, with clever controls that could be auto'd, set to a desired temperature, and ignored from then on.)

     It does need to go back to Toyota for a replacement side-impact air-bag controller -- a few of them seem to have gone off unexpectedly and the manufacturer issued a recall to replace the thing.  So I'll be checking on the price of that before proceeding.

Monday, July 23, 2018


     Tam returned from a trip to one of her writing spots bearing gifts: two steaks, "spring mix" salad, asparagus tips and oyster mushrooms.

     I think it worked out.

     The asparagus got the "popcorn" treatment, which I think I have described here before. 
The mushroom dish is interesting; last summer, I bought a little "grill saucepan" at Meijer, just a heavy, nonstick pan with "screen-door" handles, about 6" across and 3" high.  Just loaded it with oyster mushrooms, a tablespoon of truffle butter, a sliced clove of garlic and some dehydrated onions and chives, and set it on the upper level of the grill before I started the steaks, By the time they were done, so were the mushrooms and they were wonderful!

     When I bought that pan, I wasn't even sure I'd use it on the grill but it is handy as can be.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Possible Misallocation Of Vertical Time

     (I have been reading Iain M. Banks's novels of "The Culture," a post-scarcity society dominated by AIs that have a slight tendency to meddling; many take the form of starships with quirky names and it tends to...rub off.  The stories mainly look at exciting part: the meddling, which means readers get an OSS/CIA-level look at the society he dreamed up, but he's done an honest job of approaching how a post-scarcity society might work.)

     Had a very fine writing class yesterday, then met up with Tam and the Data Viking for lunch.  Planned to look at cars afterward, but instead, stopped off at home and ran out of steam.  I had eight-plus hours of sleep the night before, and even more the night before that, but nevertheless, I was definitely not tracking.  I was horizontal by five and pretending to watch TV, but mostly I dozed off and on until bedtime at nine, slept through to cat-feeding time at six, and went back to sleep until half-past eight once the cats were fed and reunited.

     Hoping it's just the knee healing and post-accident stress.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Search! The Search!

     Managed to go look at a car yesterday.  Lacking cash-in-hand and with actual (as opposed to notional) other buyers looking at the car at the same time, I didn't purchase it, but at least a used RX330 seems not out of reach and offers a driving experience very similar to my dear, totalled RX300.

     It appears more (all?) of the later models have all-wheel drive; the one I looked at had an electrically-operated rear hatch (!) and plentiful 12-Volt outlets.  That was nice.  A rather gadgety electrically-controlled double-door opening for the center console storage compartment left me cold: when I was growing up, gussied-up minor items failed first and were more trouble to repair than they were worth.*  Overall, though, it's a wonderfully-nice car and the example I looked at was nicer with nearly 150k miles on it than the only new I car ever bought† was the day I drove it off the lot.

     The rental car won't cost too much to keep for another week.  It's a nimble little Kia Soul, which would be on my list of cars to look at if only it were a little larger; as it is, I have a bit of trouble getting in and out (bad knee and all), and it probably can't carry 8-foot lengths of lumber.

     Tam's on deadline and I have a writing class this morning.  Hoping to meet the Data Viking for lunch and an update on his adventures this afternoon.
* Unless you had mechanically- and artistically-inclined youngsters to put on the job, which my Dad did: my siblings and me.  I do not.  On the other hand, having been exposed early and often to the idea that if somebody made thing in the first place, someone else -- me -- could fix it, I'm not terribly put off by the idea of doing minor repairs myself.

† A 1982 Chevy Cavalier, built to a price, possibly without looking too closely.  Certainly I didn't look too closely; it was shiny and pretty and for the first time in my life, I was within financing distance of buying a brand new car!  The cost to fix subsequent interesting problems, not all of them endemic to the vehicle, pretty well cured me of buying new cars: you get a lot better value for money buying gently-used ones.  My Dad knew this very well, but, wanting the lesson to stick, let me learn it for myself. I don't think he expected me to go buy an MGB in need of attention when clogged oilways and a warped head sidelined the Cavalier for months, but I could not have kept the thing running without having learned how to approach the job when I was too young to drive.  He was a source of good advice and slightly-exasperated pride the whole time I had one MGB or another as my daily driver.  As for me, having driven a car that handled nicely, I eventually sold the Chevy and kept an MG!  Despite needing looked after like a light airplane, it was more reliable and fun to drive.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Orwell Called It "Physical Jerks"

     But my physical therapy people are much nicer than that.  Anyway, I'm off early and then maybe I'll look at cars and later, go do something interesting. 

     The downtown visits I have wanted to make -- the Kurt Vonnegut Library and the Ray Bradbury Museum -- have not happened.  Traffic is very heavy downtown and it scares the dickens out of me!  But I've got to get over it.  After the wreck, I managed to take the freeway back to work from the car-rental company, leaving via the same ramp as the person who hit my car.

     Walks much longer than a block wear me out.  It's the bad knee.  I can do it but I end up napping on the couch afterward.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Car Shopping

     With the old Lexus totalled, I'm looking for another RX300 or one of the newer models and somewhat constrained by a lack of funds.  There will be plenty when the insurance comes through, but that will take awhile and until then, it's cash on hand, which would just about buy me another high-mileage 2000 RX300 and leave nothing for groceries.

     Some people are not a fan of Lexus.  The tow-truck guy had lots of complaints about, "Those darned Japanese imports."  Well....  He's not wrong; Toyota's certainly a Japanese company and the RX300 (etc.) isn't made in the United States.  But he's not that right, either: they're built in Ontario and only a quarter of the parts come from Japan.

     Still looking. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Little Hope

     My car -- a 2000 Lexus RX300 luxy sort-of SUV -- is officially totalled.  If the insurance company isn't funning me, the settlement will pay about $5090, or ninety dollars more than I paid for the car in November of 2014.  In nearly four years, all that car has cost me is gas, oil and a set of brakes.

     Pretty impressive and it predisposes me to look for another used Lexus of the same general style.

Monday, July 16, 2018

I Sleep Easy

     Ninety percent of the world's nuclear weapons are controlled by two men who are on TV right now.  I think of them's a clod with a gift for PR and the other's a sneaky spymaster .  And yet I sleep pretty well, because one of them is also a Republican President the Press finds particularly loathsome; he can't so much as scratch his backside without some network, wire service, website or newspaper pointing out in bold type how the man is disrespecting the National Pants.

     Is our President Up To Something, with or without the assistance of ol' KGB Vlad?  Probably.  We stick Presidents and the top Russian muckety-muck of the moment, Czar or Party Secretary or however you spell "El Capo" in Cyrillic, into these summits in the somewhat forlorn hope they'll remember all their kewl stuff is on this planet and therefore conspire to promote and promulgate peace.  And if we are very fortunate, they are watched by the Press as narrowly as a bird of prey watches a mouse and with greater suspicion.

     The Press will ask good questions.  They'll ask stupid questions.  They'll investigate, speculate, and some of them will make things up.  In the end, the truth will come out. 

     Governments rule with the consent -- tacit or overt -- of the governed.  The Russian government and people know it better than many, having had two entire systems of government fall apart twice in the span of single long lifetime.  The U. S. FedGov and Us, The People know it, too; we throw the old bums out and install a new set with remarkable regularity -- and occasionally hound sufficiently unpopular elected officials out of office, or at least away from re-election.

     Yes, it's a proper sack of bastards who rule the world.  But they're less inbred than ever, far less "Divinely entitled" than ever, and far more removable than ever.  Don't like some of the present crop?  Bide a wee, vote as hard as you can, and there will be a new set.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Went To The Indianpolis Hamfest Today

    I worked past midnight last night, so the hamfest was pretty much it for me today, after five hours of sleep.     
     Spent most of my afternoon/evening time Friday on the above gadget.  There's no fast way to do it if you want it to be moderately neat.  Only 110 individual connections!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In Fact, Not Like A Good Neighbor

     My car insurance is affordable -- I "bundled" it with the loan-required homeowner's insurance when I bought Roseholme Cottage, in fact, which meant changing from the extremely responsive insurer I'd had for many years to another and larger outfit.  I didn't think it would be much of a change; my coverage was the same and after all, insurance is insurance, right?

     As it happened, I was driving a succession of Hyundai Accents at the time.  People kept hitting them.  It's a small car, with a somewhat generic shape; perhaps other drivers thought it was farther away than it was.

     The first wreck was on my old insurance.  They offered what they called "concierge" service, which is basically hands-off: you give up control of things like what body shop gets used and where your rental car comes from and in return, you get zero hassle; they get you in a rental ASAP and your old car goes away to be fixed or totalled.  It was great!

     The next wreck was on my new insurance.  Let's call the company "Agricultural Prison."  They say they're your good neighbor.  They're more like paranoid Mrs. Kravitz across the street.  First question from them was "Where do you want it taken?"

     "A body shop," was, as it happened, not the answer they were after.  When I pointed out they dealt with a lot more body shops than I did, and that I would happily accept their judgement,* they demurred.  They didn't want to "endorse" any particular shop; they wanted me to "make my own choice."  Because after an accident, who doesn't want to be spending time researching auto-body shops?

     Car rental was equally burdensome.  The rental company's agent turned surly when I told him the name of my insurance company; the insurance company promised to fax him required documentation but he wanted my credit card and approval on file, and I went along because I was working swing shifts while moving into Roseholme and I needed a car, quickly.  Twelve hours later, I got an angry call from the rental company -- where was the insurance documentation?  They wanted it or their car back, stat!  It was early in the morning and I had just got off work; I was on a short turnaround with only ten hours between shifts and I needed sleep desperately.  I pointed out they had my credit card, I didn't have time to sort this out and they could just change the terms to an ordinary rental until we sorted things out.  Two hours later, while I was asleep, two of their minions took the rental car, dumping my toolbag (with about a thousand bucks of specialized hand tools inside) and briefcase on the front porch and hammering on the door before zooming off.   I called the rental company and got a lot of backtalk; I worked my way up to the regional V.P. and after a lot of trouble, got an apology and a much nicer rental delivered to my door after that day's work.  The insurance company had dropped the ball and the rental company, with a long history of being ill-treated by them, had acted with an excess of haste and zeal.

     For some damn reason -- it's bundled with my homeowner's policy, after all -- I stayed with the insurer.  I should have dropped them like a stinking hot rock with leprosy.

     Fast-forward to yesterday.  The first thing my auto insurer told me was that I should "work it out with the other person's insurance company myself."  When I pushed back, they claimed they were trying to save me the $500 deductible, because "you might not get that back for up to a year."  They were a little reluctant to help even after I told them $500 was a small loan to make if it meant I didn't have to spend hours on the phone sorting this out, but they set me up with a rental and made arrangements to have my car taken to their inspection center.

     Well, I thought they'd set me up with a rental, delivered to my work.  They told me to expect a call from the rental company.  When that didn't come, I called the rental people myself.  They knew from the claim number that I needed a car, but didn't have my phone number and didn't know I needed it delivered.  And -- whattaya know, the local rental office was closed already.

     I'm just a little bit annoyed.  This company is the shoddiest bunch of second-rate slackers I have encountered, and they're consistent about it. It's been ten years since their first poor performance and they're not doing any better this time around.

     They aren't there like a good neighbor.  They're more like acne or hemorrhoids.
* My mother was an insurance adjuster for years and did a lot of auto work during that time.  The adjusters know which shops do good work and which are rip-offs, and while they are paid to not spend any more than necessary, they're also paid to retain you as a customer: a good insurance adjuster will get you a good value-for-money on car repairs -- oh, nothing extra, not a bit, but if they're honest and good at their job, the repairs will be be good and honestly priced.  Contrarily, "Agricultural Prison" insurance is cheap and understaffed, and if they can avoid one of their adjusters getting involved, they will.  And pocket the savings.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


     My car got T-boned on the way to work.  A person driving a similar SUV came off a highway off0ramps, ran a red light and plowed into the driver's side of my car.  Her airbags deployed; mine didn't but the driver's-side door is dented and sprung.  It moves under its own power but it's not street-legal (can't open the door!) and it's probably totalled.

     The car that hit me was a rental.  Enterprise.  My past dealings with them have not left me with a good impression of the company.

Once More Into The Breach!

     Or perhaps I should write "breeches."  It's back to physical therapy again today.  For that activity, I have taken to wearing soft, comfortable no-they're-not-yoga-pants that flare out from the knees down so they almost look like a long, divided skirt.  They could hardly be less like the heavy Carhartt "Double-Fronts" I routinely wear for work and play, denim canvas with an extra layer of material down the font side of both legs, hence the name.  I feel like "mutton dressed as lamb" in the lightweight britches but it's actually practical wear for the task.

     Still, there's a niggling sense that anything one can do so lightly attired probably doesn't really need doing.  Some intersection of a lifetime spent doing (not usually strenuous) physical work and Mom's solid German-farmer background has me believing that any light or pretty clothing is entirely impractical and no sensible person would be caught wearing such stuff, at least during the work week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


     There are a lot of things in the news I ought to have a strong opinion about.  But I don't.  I'm burned out on being outraged, irked or even worried.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

No, A Thousand Times No!

     What kind of a lunatic puts pickled jalapeno peppers on a Ruben sandwich?  No!  They don't go there.

     Also, applying separate layers of mayonnaise, ketchup and that hot-dog relish that is a shade of  bright, deep green not found in nature does not constitute Thousand Island dressing; despite the ingredients, it's not even close.

     Jalapenos aside, it's a good sandwich, pan-toasted rye with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, thick-sliced corned beef and the aforementioned condiments.  But it's not really a Ruben.

     The pickled jalapenos have wreaked havoc on my digestion.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Chores, Chores

     Trash picked up -- after being gathered and taken out last night while I was falling asleep in motion.  Breakfast cooked and eaten, bed made and turned back into a couch, litterboxes changed, and a big pile of bills waiting to be gone through.  This is my one day off of the weekend, a short day at that (bedtime will be around 5 p.m.); there's plenty done and plenty left to do.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Another Busy Morning

     Doctor yesterday, physical therapy today.  The orthopedic specialist wants me to continue with therapy for another six weeks.  It's been helping so far.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

A Fifth

     My time is severely limited.  At 8:30, the orthopedic specialist will be checking to see what progress I have made and their office is on the far north side, so I'll have to scoot.

     I hope you had a glorious Fourth, and I hope you took a little time from cookouts and fireworks to consider the Declaration of Independence, what it meant at the time, and the men who wrote it.  They took an enormous chance; they brought something new in the way of government into the world and we have benefited enormously from their effort.  Bear it in mind -- and remember how different they were to one another, from widely-scattered regions and cultures.  Despite that, they found common ground for agreement, a set of broad principles and noble ideas that the sought to live up to.  If they did that, can we ask any less of ourselves?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Look Out Below!

     When I got home from work Monday, I found this:
      A big branch, one I had noticed was dead and was planning to call our tree guy to remove, had fallen off and landed partially on the garage roof.  Plenty tired, I rolled it off and figured I could clean off whatever else was up there on the 4th.

     When I was leaving for work Tuesday, I looked back at the garage before closing the overhead door -- and there was a nice, bright patch of sunlight just to one side of the person-door!  Yes, a stubby limb of the branch (or is it the other way around?) had punched through the roof, shingles, roofing felt, surprisingly-thin OSB and all.

     It took ninety minutes (and a call to my boss) before I had a tarp over the hole.  It's got to cross the roof peak, or it's useless to keep the rain out.  That took a lot of tarp, six concrete half-blocks (up a ladder.  With a bad knee.  There's a trick to it), a long piece of rope and improvised ground anchors. 
     Afterward, I was soaked to the skin; while doing the work, I was perspiring so heavily I had to get Tam to bring out a roll of paper toweling: there was so much sweat in my left eye that I couldn't keep it open long enough to navigate and the right one was almost as bad.  That convinced me to put my hat on before continuing.  It took a good half-hour to get cleaned up and dried off; nothing I'd been wearing was dry enough for work.

     Work went well enough but once home, I fell asleep on the couch after a microwaved dinner.  Barely got awake enough to unfold the futon and put on my nightgown and enjoyed seven blissful hours of slumber before Huck realized it was 0600 and he was going to starve to death unless he was fed immediately.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Leftover Steak, Leftover Salad: Steak Salad!

     Down in South America and around the Pacific, they make ceviche, which would be sushi if it wasn't for the citrus juice or other acid, which as-good-as* cooks the fish, and if it had fewer ingredients.  By the time the dish had worked its way as far north as Mexico, some clever cook had looked at carne apache, and dreamed up a beef version of ceviche.

     One of the Broad Ripple brewpubs has had a "ceviche salad" on the menu for years.  It's good, but it uses cooked beef, which is more suited to pub fare.  (I don't know if they cook it ahead of time or keep it sliced in thin strips and ready to go on the grill; either way would be quick and safe).  I like it, and have kept the notion filed away for trying at home.

     Monday night, I had leftover rare steak and leftover salad with plenty of fixings; on Sunday, I taken Tamara to the grocery hungry and ended up cooking three steaks for the two of us that evening. Steak number three was left over.  Grilled steak keeps well for a short time; I ziplock-bagged it, squeezed out the air and put it in the freezer.

     So there I was, thawing steak in the microwave (ours has a "thaw" function that works pretty well).  I fried a strip of bacon while the steak was thawing.  Once thawed, I sliced the still-cold steak into strips about 1/8" by 1/4" by an inch, browned it quickly in the bacon fat and set it on paper towel on a plate under a saucepan lid to drain.

     The salad was a "spring greens" blend, to which I added celery, carrots, sliced green onion, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and black olives.  I snipped up the greens with scissors -- I love greens, but there's no need to munch through a whole leaf at a time! --added the cut-up veggies, dressed (a good Italian), added the steak and mixed like a madwoman.

     It was marvelous!  The steak still had plenty of the grilled flavor and aroma, and all the freezing, thawing and recooking had only made it more tender.  It's a dice roll whenever you do something like that, but it worked out nicely this time.
* In terms of flavor, that is.  Wikipedia goes on about the risks, which are the same as the risks for sushi.

Monday, July 02, 2018

It's A Flame War

     Modern voting patterns, that is.  "Vote for crazy, vote for the person who most makes the other side the most angry.  Just don't vote for more of the same old same old."  It explains a lot.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Grapevine & the Fox: A Parable

     ...A slightly fractured parable.

     One day a beautiful bunch of grapes hanging from a Grapevine on a tree limb high over a trail saw a Fox approach.  The grapes were ready to burst with juice and the Grapevine longed for them to be eaten.  The Fox stopped and gazed up at the grapes, tongue lolling.

     The Fox was far below, and the Grapevine did its slow, vegetative best to uncoil and drop lower.  The Fox jumped but came far short.  The grapes swayed in the breeze, slowly lowering; the Fox tried a running leap, the grapes kept dropping, but they never came close enough.  The Fox tried and tried, and finally stalked off, head high, tail in the air.

     The Grapevine looked after the Fox in disgust.

     "What an idiot I have been, wearing myself out to try to get a toothless old fox to eat my lovely ripe grapes and scatter the seeds.  Foxes don't even like grapes."

     And it coiled itself back up, slowly and scornfully.

     There are many who pretend to despise that which is beyond their reach.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

That Went Well

     Steak grilled over hardwood charcoal (with a little truffle butter I needed to use up), sweet corn roasted in its own dampened husk over the coals, baked potato and salad: all the food I cooked was ordered over the Internet and delivered to my door fresh, and as good as if I had picked out out myself.
     Tasty, and well worth the Sun King "Sunlight" cream ale I had with it, a very rare indulgence.  (Grape tomatoes and radish enhancing the salad, I already had on hand.)

Living In The Future?

     Just ordered the makings of a grilled steak dinner from Amazon Prime Now.  We'll see how it works out.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Maryland Newsroom Shooting

     It didn't happen out of the blue; the shooter had a long-running grudge against the newspaper (since a 2012 report on a harassment suit against him) and when discussing filing a restraining order, one of the staff had told the paper's attorneys that "this is a guy who will shoot us."

     He used a shotgun, not an "assault weapon."  He was almost certainly legally prohibited from possessing firearms.

     Maryland's gun laws are strict; the Giffords Law Center seems to have taken over from the Brady people on handing out letter grades and they rate Maryland A-, just like New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and a few other states.

     But the paper never filed a restraining order; the killer was able to walk right up to what are described as the "glass doors" of the newsroom with a longarm and shoot them to smithereens, which suggests that physical security was inadequate.

     Blame the gun?  Shotguns are one of the most widely-owned and least-expensive firearms in the United States.

     Blame the law?  Maryland has nearly every law gun-controllers might want.  It didn't stop him.

     Blame the paper?  --True, they made an inadequate response to a known threat -- but newsrooms deal with angry people bearing grudges every week, if not daily.  It's been a part of the "background noise" of the news business for decades and winnowing the real threats from the idly irked or harmlessly loony is difficult if not impossible.*

     Blame the NRA?  They didn't put the shotgun in his hand; and if he was indeed prohibited from owning guns as a result of his criminal history or a restraining order, that's a law the NRA is happy to see enforced.

     I don't have any easy answers and I'm not about to test the ire of concerned people by offering "thoughts and prayers."  This is an outrage; murders are always an outrage, always a tragedy.  I don't think there are any nice, neat ways to prevent them.

     We can expect the usual arguments to be thrown back and forth.
* My workplace puts a greater emphasis on security than many others in the news business -- but we've got bigger budgets.  The dreadful calculus is that you get as much of the security your bosses think you need as your employer can afford.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Here We Are

    Well, that was fun -- Tam showed up at my work noonish and I drove her over to the orthopedic specialist, so she'd have a (nominally) responsible adult around if they decided to get really interventionist about her collarbone.  We arrived at the office with a comfortable ten-minute margin, only to be told by the I-couldn't-care-less young woman at the counter that Tam's appointment was still forty minutes away, at 1:10 p.m. rather than 12:40, "And they're all at lunch, anyway."

     Tam checked the Official Text on her phone, which still read: Appointment, 12:40.  Okay, there's always slippage.

     Lunch sounded like a pretty good idea to me, so I asked, "Where do people go for lunch around here?"

     Miss Congeniality reluctantly admitted there was a cafeteria on the ground floor.  I gathered up my things -- hat, purse, cane -- and as Tam and I turned to go, it suddenly dawned on on the medical recptionist that we were, in fact, leaving, and she chided us, "If you leave now, I can't keep you checked in and if anyone gets back from lunch early, you'll miss out."

     No lunch, then.  We picked chairs in the waiting room and sat down.  The only other person there had rolled in on her own chair, so there were plenty of choices.  Over the next few minutes, more and more people showed up, one with her cellphone notifications set on maximum volume, which charmed Tam.

     What we didn't know -- from the evidence later, what no one in the waiting room knew -- was that the extra half-hour was for X-rays, which has its own waiting room across the hall but which is all "walk-in;" and they stagger their lunches, so the work never stops.

     So one after another, patients were parceled out to exam rooms, nurses did the usual pulse and blood pressure checks, Physician's Assistants followed for intake and imaging review...and sent them, one-by-one, across the hall for the X-rays that should have been shot when they first showed up.  Why the Muse of Unhelpfulness at the intake counter was unaware of this -- or at least didn't stoop to mentioning it -- remains a mystery.

      The doctor says Tam is healing well.  Handstands are still out of the question but she's on track to be back to normal, probably before summer ends.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Taking Tam To The Doctor

     It's Tam's follow-up appointment with the orthopedic specialist today.  Hopes are high but your positive thoughts would be appreciated.  Has her collarbone started to knit up?  She'll know a little bit after noon today.  She'll likely still be stuck wearing a sling for the next few weeks either way, but progress is progress.

     My next ortho appointment is still a couple of weeks away and it's anyone's guess what they'll say.  Still using a cane most of the time; at this point, I can't even fake it well enough to visit a big-box store without limping and needing a cart to hang on to.  I can just about get through our neighborhood grocery store without limping much, if I don't dawdle.  Ice packs every night and during that day when possible, but my darned knee still feels hotter to the touch than the rest of me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

They Have Convinced Me

     One of Indiana's Senatorial seats is up for election this year.  Democrat incumbent Joe "Almost a Blue Dog" Donnely and Republican challenger Mike "The Working Man's Pal" Braun (and their various Committees To Support...)  are continuing to wage negative campaigns, focused on the alleged venality and duplicity of their opponent far more than their own qualifications to serve. Both men are sons of the wealthy families, working hard to seem like "plain old guys" and entirely blind to the source (or even the existence) of the crease in their slacks and the shine on their shoes.

     After months of it, I have come to the conclusion they're both right: neither of them are to be trusted with anything with a bigger budget or payroll than a lemonade stand.  I'm taking each man at his word about the other: the United States Congress is the last place either one should be.

     The Libertarian Party of Indiana is running someone: Lucy M. Brenton.  She's good on the issues, a right-down-the-middle Libertarian.  She's raised a passel of children, which I figure is probably better preparation for serving in the Senate than being the boss's son.

     Does she stand a chance?  Not if you don't vote for her!  Why throw your vote away on some guy who hasn't even got the decency to be who he is, and instead plays at being someone like you?  You can do better: vote for someone who is at least an outsider to the political power structure, someone who is most likely to go off to D.C., do her homework and vote her principles!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Yes, It's Monday

     Another weekend of big plans and small achievements is past, my knee is swollen and painful despite sleeping with an ice pack on it, and I've got to go do physical therapy again.

     I'd like to be cheerful and upbeat -- and I'll probably manage, at least a little, for the sake of those around me, but I'm feeling more beat-up than upbeat.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Farewell To Jack The Cat

     He was 26. He was a long-haired, gray and white feral tomcat who lived next door. He would always "talk" to me and often came to the fence to be petted. He loved attention, and would purr and smooth on your hand for as long as you'd let him.

     He came up on our front porch this afternoon, talking away, and I went out to pet him. His fur had gotten very matted over the winter and he'd been getting thinner and thinner, despite our neighbor feeding him every day. The neighbor came over soon after and remarked he'd been to see the neighbor on the other side of her yesterday. She said he hadn't been eating much recently. He was a little shaky as he walked around.  But he burbled and purred as we petted him.

     My neighbor called several hours later. She'd found Jack curled up in her garage, in pain and unhappy. She took him to the vet. He died there, with her petting him.

      We'll all miss Jack. He couldn't stand to be indoors for very long at a stretch but he was a good cat. I'm glad he visited me to say goodbye.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Head Full Of Bees -- Plus A Nightmare

     Sheesh, what a headache!  --I've taken something, well, a couple of things (paracetamol and ibuprofen) and I'm waiting for them to kick in.

     I woke from a nightmare this morning, got out of bed and padded down the hall to do as one often does on awakening.  Nearly bumped into Tam on the way, gave her a shocked look and asked, "Why'd you do it?  Why wreck all the phones?"

     She was confused by this question, as anyone who hadn't wrecked all the phones would be.  My dream started with me inadvertently making a mess in the kitchen, a huge mess, and while I was cleaning it up, Tam and her oddly anonymous boyfriend had dumped out some chemical compound that was smoldering and was going to ignite the drums of explosives in the basement (!!!)* -- and they'd taken all the cellphones and smashed all the landline telephones in the house.

     In the dream, I was running from one wired phone to another in the larger-than-reality house, which had a lot more connected wired phones in it than our actual house, and my own oddly anonymous boyfriend was doing much the same, only puzzled and more slowly, perhaps because he didn't realize the place was going to blow up soon.  It had just occurred to me that we needed to hightail it out of there and find someplace with a working payphone† when I--  woke up.  The dream was still with me when I walked down the hall.

     Missed the explosion, at least.
* No, there aren't any.  A couple of ammo cans of 7.62 x 39, another of .22LR and my box of assorted uncommon pistol-caliber cartridges is as close as it gets.

†1975 just called.  It wants its quarter back that the phone ate.

Friday, June 22, 2018

All Growed Up, With Cats

     Dinner cooked and eaten; dishes in the dishwasher and I started it at bedtime.  In the meantime I ran (and folded) a load of laundry, collected all the trash and set the big collection bin at the curb, and put new bags in all the the trash containers.  And washed Rannie-the-cat's tail with dish soap!

     That last calls for explanation.  I often keep a saucer of olive oil for Rannie Wu in an out-of-the-way corner of the kitchen: she likes olive oil, it's good for her, and there's never much in the saucer unless I've just added more, usually by request.

     But Huck was in a rambunctious mood and had cornered the venerable (and slow-moving) Random Numbers Wu in the olive oil corner; she had panicked, struggled, turned, and ran her tail through the half-full saucer several times.

     I heard the spat from the basement.  By the time I limped up the stair, Tam had broken it up.  I went back to sorting and folding and it wasn't until dinner was ready (it had been simmering while I folded) that I noticed dark, crescent moon-shaped stains on the hardwood floor that I figured out what had gone on.  Wiped those up, found more, found blotches on the ceramic tile in the kitchen and realized the Rannie needed found and cleaned up.  She objected mightily to having her very oily tail wiped down with paper toweling; I turned down the stove burner under dinner -- Eggs Pomodoro in a thick, ragout-style sauce that had plenty of meat and vegetables -- and asked Tam, "Can you wait five minutes?"

     She said, "Sure," so I got a folded square of paper towel damp with dish-soapy water, told the robot, "Alexa, set a timer.  Five minutes," ("TIMER SET.  FIVE MINUTES.") and shut Rannie and myself in the washroom.  There was a lot of pathetic complain, most of it from her, as I scrubber her tail n both directions, worked up a lather, and rinsed her off in warm water under the tub spout.  Now I had a wet, unhappy elderly cat and the air-conditioning was running -- so I dried her with a hand towel.  She was still damp and complaining, so I took a bath towel and made a cat burrito.  The timer went off right as I opened the door, the swaddled cat in one arm like a baby.
     You'd think they'd hate it, but a wrapped-up damp cat being cuddled and fussed over is usually a not-unhappy cat.  Tam was so charmed she got her camera out and took a series of snapshots: dinner could wait another few minutes.

     The Eggs Pomodoro was good; there was a new episode of The Expanse to watch while we ate and Rannie curled up on the couch between us, leaning into my hip, grooming desultorily and occasionally reaching out to rest a paw on Tam and blink up at her, oil-free in the tail department and at peace with the world.  Mr. Huck sulked on his fancy cat-perch in the corner the entire time.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

You Say "Clown Circus" Like It's A Bad Thing

     The two complaints I see directed at the Trump Administration are that A) everyone involved is Pure Evil and B) they're incompetent.

     As for "evil," well, there's plenty of that; it's pretty hard to be POTUS without being at least mildly evil.  It can be (and usually is) argued that many of the wicked things Presidents do (and considered all by itself, an act like, say, destroying the power distribution and civil government of a region or country is, in fact, evil: innocent people will die from it, no matter how "surgical" the airstrikes) are done to stop or prevent even greater evils.  And Presidents routinely do just that, or at least just about all of them during my lifetime have done that --- even really nice Presidents, darlings of the media, have to wear the Commander-in-Chef hat.  So I'm going to posit the evil part, suggest it is inherent in government and add that a big government is more able to commit great evils than a small government.  YMMV, but it's difficult to find exceptions.

     Incompetence is another matter.  We have a government that was originally set up to be operated by amateurs.  Part-timers.  People who had other work, who took two or four or six -- or twenty -- years away to serve their country, to represent their state or district or shake hands with kings and try to keep the place from going off the rails, or to sit as judges.  The first generation of Federal officials included plenty of hardcore hobbyists, more than a few genuine idealists and lots of men with prior govenmental experience, but they were, nonetheless, amateurs, and we've had a good many in Congress and the White House since -- engineers, college professors, farmers, former military officers.  The country has survived them, survived the people they appointed, survived their sometimes less-than-wonderful Cabinet choices.  Incompetence may, in fact, be a virtue, in that people who aren't sure how it all works and are learning on the job have a lot less time and opportunity to get up to really big, complicated badness without being tripped up or found out in the process.  All first-term Presidents are new at the job; even second-term ones have only been at it for four years and after four more, they're out for good; they'll never do that work again.

     I'm not hugely impressed by Mr. Trump's Administration.  It think it tends to flounder.  It looks very ad-hoc to me.  But I don't think it is The End Of The Republic; among other reasons, it's thoroughly (if somewhat paranoiacally) watchdogged by the Press and the opposing party; the biggest risk there is missing substantive issues among wild confabulations of sky-falling speculation.

     Might as well enjoy the popcorn.

Oh, Lovely

     Went to put away the Aircast icewater ice pack system this morning (after having slept wearing it) and got off-balance with my feet wrong in the narrow space between the opened-out futon and media/storage area with a fat, insulated container of icewater in one hand and the knee-cuff in the other, took two quick half-steps to stave off a fall, and came down pretty hard on my right leg for the third one.  That's the leg with the bad knee.

     Sitting here typing with a big gel-type ice pack on that knee now, hoping to stave off anything worse.

     On the good side: having the first breakfast of more than buttered toast of this week.  I had medical appointments Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, which left only enough time to make coffee and not even really that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

And Here I Am, Hurrying Again

     I'd like to post something interesting and complicated; I'd like to catch up on my online correspondence.

     Instead, I need to catch the 7:00 a.m. shower express, and see if maybe I can get to physical therapy on time.  My knee kept me up half the night despite an ice pack; I have been too sleepy in the evening to set up the Aircast icewater-sleeve system for days now, so at bedtime, I put on a big gelpack, good for a couple of hours, and then nothing.

     Wah, wah.  Won't get any better unless I work at it, and sitting here at the keyboard won't do that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Up Early

     ...And off for more doctorin'.  Isn't this fun?  Not really.  But it beats what's in second place.

     Of course, work called, with what appears to have been a small problem, one I can shelve until later and which may even have cleared itself by the time I get a closer look.  Probably a power hit.*
* In meetings at work during the run-up to Y2K, I made a number of suggestions about power conditioning and UPSes.  They were pretty routine and most of them were implemented before the year 2000.  In making them, I pointed out the power-distribution infrastructure was aging and there was a lot of construction around our two main sites, concluding, "we may be entering a time when commercial power is less reliable than we're used to."  There was much harrumphing at that crazy notion.  Now we're getting two or three glitches on the power every week, and ugly hits that take a fair amount of rebooting slam us a dozen times a year, despite a big UPS that carries the critical loads.  I'm not happy about being proved right. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

And It's Physical Therapy Again!

     My goodness, am I having fun yet? 

     Picked up some clothes for PT yesterday, much to the amusement of Tamara -- I was looking for opaque tights and she kept pointing me to some heavier spandex leggings on hangars.  Described what I was looking for and she sighed, "Oh, sure, they're right next to the leg warmers, in the 1980s."

     Not entirely true.  We eventually discovered even the big-box store has tights -- in your choice of black or black.  All right, then, black tights it is, just like I was a Theater student, though I was hoping for bright colors not found in Nature outside the Tropics. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I Almost Didn't Post Anything Today

     It was a busy day, and dreadfully hot.

     I mowed the lawn in the morning -- leg brace and all -- and in the afternoon, Tam and I picked up prescriptions, shopped at the big-box store for exciting things like cat litter and bottled water, then hit the grocer where, to my very great delight, Tam snuck off and bought a couple of lovely big steaks.

     The grill has been needing cleaned out, reusuable charcoal separated from ash, and the steaks were a good excuse for it.  Hot (somewhere between 95 and 100°F) and a bit messy but the results were worth it, a nice clean, hot fire of lump hardwood charcoal that did the steaks justice.  I cooked sliced mushrooms in truffle butter in a little grill pan on the upper level, and the aromatic smoke made them a real treat, too.  Added a salad (mixed greens with grape tomatoes, radishes, carrots and red bell pepper), and there's supper.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Yeah, Not

     In a lousy mood this morning.  Maybe I'll be more entertaining later.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Bit Of A Blank

     It's Friday, and the work week is just about done -- and I have chores at home left to do from last weekend.  Miss Tamara is taking a nice handful of pills every morning, calcium supplements, OTC anti-inflammatories, a popular joint nostrum (Gluclosamine/Chondroitin*) and vitamins. My regimen is similar, plus exercises.

     We're getting better.   Far more slowly than we would prefer, but better.
* Current medical research suggests that the combination at least does no harm.  Does it help?  They're not sure; different studies have produced different results.  MSM may be snake oil, though there haven't been as many studies, possibly reflecting doubt on the part of researchers.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Onward! Because It Beats What's In Second Place

     Roseholme Cottage is a changed place these days.  With Tamara out of action for most household tasks -- it's a revelation how many chores are two-handed, how many one-handed expedients involve not having one arm in a sling and just how often we move both shoulders even when only one arm is in motion -- I'm "it" for a lot of what gets done -- or doesn't.

     So through the week, the housekeeping gets pared to an even smaller minimum than in the past, and weekends I find myself looking forward to clearing out the fridge or freezer, or a healthy session of flattening cardboard boxes.  With any luck (this translates as "a faint hope at best"), this weekend will include clearing out some of the interesting items clogging the living room (my bedroom) to make space for a small nightstand-type table.  Oh, the excitement!

     In the midst of all this the short story I've been working on has not been getting much attention.  Tam's urging me to collect some of the more recent "Hidden Frontier" stories into some kind of publication and I am planning to do so sometime this year.  It is unlikely to be very soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Physical Therapy Again

     "Twice a week," the prescription says, so twice a week it is, along with daily exercises.  Too early to tell if it's going to help, though I do have hopes. 

     Turns out my graceful and/or decorous habits are Very Bad for the old knee -- sitting with knees together and legs crossed at the ankle, or one knee over the other?  That's right out.  Moving from a seated position to standing and keeping knees together?  Nope, not supposed to.  They'll have me chewing tobacco and driving a pickup truck* next.  Perhaps I shall learn to say "ain't" or even "pas du tout" and stop depilating.  ...On the other hand, no.
* Too late, I already did back in the mid-1980s, a lovely Ford F150 with a stickshift that was like rowing a boat.  The biggest problem with owning a truck is that all your friends and family know you have one, and are only too happy to borrow your services to haul things.  On the other hand, you're a lot more popular....  At the same time, my Dad's "second car" was a snarling behemoth of a 1950s International panel van, with a nose like a school bus, an electric-blue paint job and a shag-carpeted interior.  He'd bought it from a young man whose enthusiasm had outstripped his ability to keep the ancient thing running.  Together, we made quite the caravan, and could move quite a lot at one go.  Driving the International was a different experience -- it had a "granny low" first gear, used only to get the thing rolling when fully loaded or to climb vertical walls, and woe betide you if you forgot to have it in second gear at a stoplight: that first upshift needed to be immediate and even so, acceleration was glacial.  Once you were at speed -- 55 mph, if you were brave enough -- a hand throttle eased long drives, enlivened by the need to adjust it for any hills or valleys.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What's Hoppin'?

     I had my taste buds set for something that I hadn't made for a long time: Hoppin' John.

     It turned out Tam had not had the stuff in so long, she'd forgotten what it was!

     At the most basic, it's a fairly dry stew of blackeyed peas and smoked pork, served over rice.  Typically, good strong ham, some onion and a pepper of some kind are cooked with the two-tone beans, and the flavor can be anything from mild to hot.  "Foodie" versions found on the web use thick bacon* and that's a nice variation, but I had something else in mind.

     A chorizo sausage, some cubed panchetta, and a small package of diced ham.  The ham was mostly there to add some more meat; with Tam doing low-carb, the blackeyed peas couldn't dominate.  Once the meat was mostly cooked (and the fat poured off), I added half a red onion and as it cooked down, diced Anaheim and yellow bell peppers.  As son as they were bright, I added the blackeyed peas and the (rinsed) ham and let the whole thing simmer for about ten minutes.

     Easy and quick.  Served with chopped raw green onion and (pickled -- fresh is better if you have it) diced hot red cherry pepper for toppers.  Tam skipped the rice and pronounced the stuff delicious.

     If you like it hotter, capicola could replace the ham.  Mind the salt -- you won't want to add more if you use canned blackeyed peas, and inexpensive ham should be rinsed to reduce its saltiness.
* If you like umami-range flavors in your food, try blackeyed peas with straw mushrooms and bacon.  The first two ingredients are sold canned; just fry up the bacon, drain it, and crumble it into the beans and mushrooms.  It's wonderful!

Monday, June 11, 2018


     Up early today, so I can go get physical therapy for my bad knee.  Am I looking forward to this?  I am not.

     But I hope it helps.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Grilled Steaks

     Sunday dawned nicely enough, and I planned a nice treat: good steaks, grilled over hardwood charcoal.

     The weather had different plans. Beginning in the late morning and continuing until the present time, a string of rainshowers and thunderstorms came thumping through town.  Grilling was out.

     Tamara and I had our mouths set for steaks.  I'd bought a couple of nice filet mignons already.  I thought about the cast-iron grill pan, but it's tricky to clean and I have no shortage of housework.

     So...  We had bacon, the good, applewood-smoked stuff.  I had some fresh Portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus, which is the most common mushroom sold) and Tam had picked up a bag of dried chantrelles.  I got the steaks out and salted and peppered them and left them on the back of the stove to come to room temperature.

     Started the bacon in a good steel skillet, copper-bottomed Revere Ware that Mom gave me when she was no longer cooking, and let a couple of slices cook while the chantrelles were simmering in chicken broth in a small saucepan.  I sliced the fresh mushrooms, fished out the bacon when it was nice and crunchy, put in one more slice and the fresh mushooms, and let it cook and build up some lovely stuff in the pan.  That's important -- lacking smoky coals, you need to do something to add an extra layer to the flavor, and I don't mean shake another spice over the meat.

     The timing worked out nicely -- when the fresh mushrooms were done enough to set on paper toweling with the bacon, the chantrelles in broth were about reconstituted and I used a a few tablespoons of the broth to deglaze the pan and dropped in my steak, butterflied, and slid it around in the pan juices.  Over medium-low heat, it got five minutes to a side and a little more, and then I added Tam's steak, giving it two minutes each per four sides (it was a big block of steak!).  That put hers at very rare and mine at medium rare; I set her steak on a plate in the oven over the pilot light to rest and added the fresh mushrooms back to the skillet, snipping the bacon and drained chantrelles into small pieces and stirring it all around. 

     Meanwhile, the broth got poured through a coffee filter to clarify it.  Once I was happy with my steak (on the rare side of medium), I put it on a plate next to Tam's, poured the mushroom-chicken broth into the pan with the mushroom-bacon mixture, and deglazed and let it reduce a little.

     Served by spooning the mushroom-bacon stuff over the steaks, and they really needed nothing else.  Mine was a good a steak as I have ever made indoors, wonderfully tender and flavorful.
     For sides, zucchini Parmesan (a fresh take-home-and-nuke item from the grocer) and baked potatoes with truffle butter for me. The small "Yukon Gold" potatoes got microwaved by themselves for a few minutes and then rode with the zucchini, which worked out well.  Do it properly and a "nuked" potato is as good as one that's spent a long time in a hot oven.