Monday, April 23, 2018

I Cleaned The Gutters Sunday

     I raked leaves afterwards, too.  This is about as physically active as I have been in months, so it's a big deal.

     Gutter screens are on my "to-do" list this year -- the roof is dangerously steep and I'm not getting any younger.

     Hoping to pick up some bags of good dirt and wildflower seeds for the front flower bed this week.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Meet The -- I Say, Kid, Listen To Me When I'm Talkin' To Ya, Listen -- Press

     NBC's long-running political talk show is starting to resemble Foghorn Leghorn provoking George P. Dog in its efforts to get a rise out of the President -- who is himself as willing to do futile battle as the WB cartoon dog.

     It's a far cry from H. L. Mencken and yet we owe the Baltimore cynic for Meet The Press.  Tamara's addicted to it, so I get to hear it -- and her occasional mocking laugh or chiding words -- every Sunday.   The program began in 1945 on the Mutual (radio) network* as American Mercury Presents: Meet The Press, to promote the Mencken-founded American Mercury magazine, which Lawrence Spivak had purchased after years as its business manager.†  In 1947, General Foods bought the television rights and the TV version aired on NBC.  The radio host/producer, who served in the same role on the TV version for several years, was Martha Rountree (just in case you thought women doing serious news on TV was a recent development).

     Mr. Spivak and Ms. Rountree are long gone; American Mercury was run into the ditch -- or perhaps the sewer -- by later owners; Meet The Press soldiers on and while Chuck Todd's politics are predictable, he genuinely loves his beat and I think does a good job covering it. 

     But I am still sourly amused when they sneak up on a hot topic like a cartoon rooster carrying a gong towards a sleeping barnyard dog, and go clattering and banging away, hoping to get a storm of outraged attention.  I suppose it keeps all the participants from finding worse mischief.
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* Yes, there were four radio radio networks for a long while.  Mutual was the smallest and in many ways the cheapest, but their journalism was as good as any of their competitors.  And they owed it all (or quite a bit, anyway) to the The Lone Ranger!

† If you're an SF or mystery  fan, "Mercury Press" might sound a little familiar: Spivak's company also published the highly-regarded Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in their early years.  Small world, hey?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Goodbye, Barbara Bush

     I didn't leap on the bandwagon when she passed but I'll miss Barbara Bush.  She was a dependable image of what a First Lady ought to be, supportive of her husband but willing to voice her own opinions, gracious but not distant.  She was a good example to subsequent First Ladies -- not all of them heeded it, but that's how it goes.  I think she did her honest best.

Friday, April 20, 2018

What's In A Name?

     Sometimes a name becomes too closely linked to a group to ever get free of the associations -- modern-day Communists prefer "Socialist," and hope you'll think of voluntary self-help societies, food co-ops and early unions, not food shortages and Tienanmen Square.  Only the most rabid of Nazis fly that banner openly, and so on--

     And yet, as the Greatest Generation dies off, we have no shortage of "America First" groups.  Putting one's own country first seems sensible enough, and it's a handy slogan -- but it's got a history.

     The oldest America First Committee tried to keep this country out of WW II.  Aviator Charles Lindbergh was one of its most visible faces and the group explicitly rejected racism and and anti-semitism; when war came, the organizers packed up and got behind the war effort: "We have been stepping closer to war for many months. Now it has come and we must meet it as united Americans regardless of our attitude in the past toward the policy our government has followed. Whether or not that policy has been wise, our country has been attacked by force of arms and by force of arms we must retaliate." (Lindbergh, 1941). On 11 December, 1941, in the wake of a formal declaration of war against Japan, the leaders voted to dissolve the committee.  --But despite good intentions, they had not been able to control the messengers: Aviatrix Laura Houghtaling Ingalls had been giving speeches for the committee of a distinctly pro-German or even pro-Nazi bent; the FBI had been keeping a close eye on her and in December of 1941, she was arrested, tried and convicted of being an unregistered agent of a foreign power.

     That left a bit of a taint on the name and it was about to get worse.  Gerald L. K. Smith,† a former associate of "Kingfish" Huey P. Long and one-time director of Long's "Share The Wealth" program,* decided to use the name for a political party in 1943 -- and Mr. Smith was a former Silver Shirt who'd been rejected by the old America First Committee for anti-semitism. The America First Party ran its own slate of candidates and barely made a dent in the national consciousness; in 1947s, perhaps a bit wary of their own past, they changed their name to the Christian Nationalist Party; in 1952, both that party and a remnant or reorganized America First Party tagged General Douglas MacArthur to be their Presidential nominee, though neither bothered to ask his permission.  The America First Party name has resurfaced periodically since, generally by candidates on the far-Right to over-the-right-edge side of the spectrum.

     So when I get a message on my phone from Mike Pence, telling me he'll be speaking at an America First rally this weekend, my awareness of history makes me flinch; at best, using the tag is appallingly tone-deaf.  At worst?  I think we can rely on the Press to find plenty of "at worst."  As for me, at one time I always voted for the GOP's candidate whenever there wasn't a Libertarian seeking the same office; now I'm going to need to do a lot more homework on the downticket candidates.

     I miss the boring old state-level Republican Party of my youth.
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* The degree to which the former populist and even Socialist political types came to overlap the very far Right is a bit surprising, at least to me.

† In Studs Terkel's Hard Times, Smith, then consigned to the political wilderness, is given remarkably even-handed treatment.  Terkel was after a snapshot of the Depression and Gerald L. K. Smith was certainly one of the more striking images.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Went To The Doctor Yesterday

     Actually, I went to the doc-in-a-box, my own doctor having a lead time on appointments of over a month, but it comes to the same thing, right?  They're like automobile mechanics: it's not easy to find a really good one but when something breaks, you can usually find some outfit to get your car running.  And most of them are honest workers, or as honest as they have to be.

     I left with a referral to a specialist and a prescription for better painkillers -- non-opioid, which suits me fine; this is not a high-minded stance about addiction, it's the intestinal slowdown opioids cause that I find extremely offputting. 

     Went back to bed after a quick meal when I got home and I feel better now.  Hoping it will last.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I'm Going Back To Bed

     Just an hour or two more of sleep and then to the doctor.  I went to bed at eight last night, never slept longer than three hours at a stretch, and woke at six as tired as when I went to bed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hey, It's Not Snowing

     It snowed most of the day yesterday, though here in Indianapolis, none of it stuck.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sleight Of Word

     Yesterday's blog post had been drastically edited from the original.  I am once again having some mild but annoying health issues, and I started to whine.  Oh, dear!  So -- remove a few words here, trim a couple of paragraphs there, add a photo and taa-daa, nice walks and ice cream!

     I loathe whining.  Oh, I do it well, as well as most people if not better, and there's a certain dull, childish comfort in it.  But it solves nothing, cures nothing and invites hapless onlookers to indulge in well-meaning -- if often half-baked -- quack-doctoring.

     The weekend had good points.  It had not-so-good points and I'm starting the week with a little uncertainty -- well, so do we all, every week.  I shall drink my water and take my acetaminophen and ibuprofen and in all probability, my health will be fine.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

How To Spend Saturday Morning

     Yesterday, Tam and I walked to The Gallery Pasty Shop for their delicious weekend brunch, and (because I had only an omelet, no sides) on the way home, I got a small vanilla ice cream cone, in a real waffle cone, at Tiny House Treats.

     A wonderful late-morning it was. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

If House Cats Were Larger

     Acquaintances -- non cat-people acquaintances -- have told me, "Cats aren't really domesticated.  They're vicious predators.  If they were larger, they would hunt us and eat us."

     This is, of course, arrant nonsense, a vile canard.  Out cats love us.  If they were larger, they wouldn't eat us, they'd eat our neighbors; our neighbor's cats would eat us.

Friday, April 13, 2018

And They're Off! And They're Further Off! Oh, They're Way Off...

     In the three-way Republican race to unseat Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly, a very-nearly Blue Dog who paints himself even more blue, the candidates have almost achieved Peak Accusation: none of them (if you listen to the others) loves President Trump enough to be worthy of the job!

     Self-positioned outsider (despite two terms in the Indiana House of Representatives) Mike Braun hit first, accusing his more experienced opponents, U. S. Representatives Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, of being "almost identical" and having "voted to fast-track Obama's trade deal," while he's the guy "President Trump needs."

     Congressman Rokita hit back, calling out the other two as "not conservative;" his ad describes two-term GOP state legislator Braun a "lifelong Democrat" who "voted for Hillary or Obama" and "hiked our taxes forty-five times," while Messer is named a "never-Trump lobbyist" who "supported amnesty for illegals and raised our taxes by a billion dollars."

     And one of the other two -- I can't find the ad now -- has found a quote from Todd Rokita critical of President Trump and is featuring it in their commercials.

     According to each of them, the other two are not nearly Trumpian enough.  Possibly they're all correct.

     All three men are four-square against abortion -- just like incumbent Joe Donnelly -- anti-(illegal)-immigration (the incumbent's a little wishy-washy) and pro-gun (Good Ol' Joe is A-rated by NRA, but he's squishy and took part in the 2016 Democrat filbuster for gun control).  Each of the Republican candidates promises to be President Trump's BFF.

     Meanwhile, a series of lower-key pro- and anti-Joe Donnelly TV commercials both feature frequent mentions of his name and images of the Senator himself, in all his suit-and-tie glory.  After either one, you're left with a strong impression of his face and his name -- which may be the point.

     Senator Donnelly is rated as one of the most vulnerable of the Democrat incumbents up for re-election in 2018.  I'm starting to see why the incumbent so often has an advantage: by the time the general election comes around, the other party's primary fight has given them all the opposition research they could hope for, free and clear.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

What? WW III?

     I am fortunate to have a live-in war/history/foreign policy nerd.  When politicians arch their backs and commence hissing, analysis is no farther away than a yell down the hall:

     "Tamara, will there be war?"

     "What?"

    "You know, toe-to-to with the Russkis, sort of thing...?"

     "What?  Wait a minute, I have to turn down the television.*  Now, what?"

     "World. War. Three?"

     "Oh, that.  No, nobody's that crazy.  Oh, there might be some tit-for-tat over Syria, and if we lose a destroyer....  But Putin's not crazy."

     I hope not.  The Army and Air Force still process their payroll and Accounts Payable right here in Indianapolis (well, Lawrence, IN) and that made us a fine target during the Cold War: capitalist troops would surely refuse to fight if they weren't getting paid!

     Also, who knew H-bomb torpedoes and depth bombs were a thing?  (No, you can't call them depth charges: they're too big.)  And Tom Lehrer's still around to write the soundtrack!
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* It was either Jeopardy or a newscast.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sick Again

     I shan't dwell on it -- I have a buddy in hospital right now who has a great deal more to deal with -- but I've been slightly ill the past week or weeks, and only Sunday hauled myself to the doctor.

     Yes, this is exactly the behavior over which I chided Tamara recently.  We're both too good at denial and both too fond of one of the worst habits of the Stoics: we want to believe that most physical ills can be solved by gritting one's teeth and outlasting them.  Lovely if true, and it probably was true in a time when 50 was elderly.  We get a lot better mileage from our meat machinery these days but the price of that is an increased need for skilled maintenance.

     Going to the doctor late Sunday meant the pharmacy closed before they filled my prescription; I didn't start drugs until Monday night and spent nearly all of Tuesday in bed.  Much of the day (and evening, not to mention both nights) I was blessedly asleep, and perhaps it has had a restorative effect. 

     I can only hope my friend is feeling better at a similar rate, if not even more quickly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Water, Water...Everywhere?

     The mighty brains who write books about why your brain is going to melt unless you follow their advice often share an amazing new insight my Mom was well aware of all her life: drink tap water.  It's good for you,* full of essential minerals and trace elements.  There's such a thing as too filtered.

     On the other hand, if you want me to laugh at you, even if you have a Ph.D. and say you've got a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study Alzheimer's disease and women's brains, just say this:

"Purified and distilled waters are just fluids," [she'd love the free mention] said. "There is nothing hydrating there."

     Stop and let that sink in.  Here, let me help:  "...water...there is nothing hydrating there."  I'm not a Ph.D. biologist, but I did all right in etymology, and when water has ceased to be hydrating, both studies are too broken to be of any further use.

     Or, a-hem, it might just be pretentious nonsense to sell fad-nutrition books.

     Drink your damned water.  If you're the kind of idiot who drinks distilled water, take your vitamins and, you know, electrolytes -- or wise up and switch to tap water or the tastier water they get from taps elsewhere and bottle up as spring water. 
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* This presumes you don't live in Flint, Michigan, and that if you're on a well, you haven't dug it too close to your privy or a leaking tank of benzine, etc.  Most city water and well water is clean and wholesome, or at least until TV ratings time, when they'll set it on fire and explain how it will kill you dead.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Tom Lehrer Is Turning 90

     Tom Lehrer, whose lyrical wit hovers between "acerbic" and "acidulous," in sharp and delightful contrast to his upbeat, Broadwayesque tunes, turns 90 this month, and he is, notably, still turning.

     He's not turning out new songs; he's not written much since Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973,* an event he said, "Made political satire obsolete."

     It's a pity.  Agree or disagree with some of his more-partisan stances, you can hardly dislike such gems as "National Brotherhood Week," "Lobachevsky†," or "The Elements."  Tom Lehrer made erudition a doorway to humor -- and with eloquent cleverness, lampooned a lot of things too often taken for granted.   We could use more of that.
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* In fairness, Kissinger tried to give it back after the Vietnam cease-fire failed.  Turns out the Nobel doesn't work that way, no doubt to the acute relief of later winners.

† "...Some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder, therefore, how they got that way...." always gets a smile or a snicker from me.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

AARP, Unrepresentative Lobbyists And Lifeboat Ethics

     The late Robert A. Heinlein remarked that though elderly retirees made great political volunteers, they were a dangerous constituency, since they had no direct long-term stake.

     I'm on the threshold of joining them; at 59 I have, with luck, twenty mostly-hale years left, followed by a decade or two of decline, maybe even three, which is the stuff of Greek tragedy.  My Mom was more fortunate than most and I wouldn't wish her final decade on anyone, with falls and clumsy care-givers and frequent hospital trips.

     But despite my years, the AARP just loves me and wants to be my friend, sending promotional mailers almost weekly and look at all the lovely perks they offer -- discounts for travel and dining out, and my-oh-my, the insurance.  Yes, the insurance -- AARP's co-founder Leonard Davis went on to found the Colonial Penn Group insurance company, and who did they partner with for years and years, right up until a 60 Minutes expose prompted competitive bids?  You won't have to guess.

     The elderly, supposed beneficiaries of AARP's vast clout (their membership makes them one of the biggest lobbies in Washington, D.C.), are a captive market and one with no say about what the organization might lobby for or against -- and AARP doesn't have to care what they think: wait a decade, and most of the critics or supporters of this or that bit of legislation will be dead or incapacitated.

     There's only so much room in the lifeboat.  There are only so many dollars in the Federal Budget.  How will you spend it?  Who will you save?  My goodness, Granny is in dire straits -- and so are the thugs trying to use her as a flotation device.

     I haven't joined AARP.  You know what the biggest difference is between them and the NRA?  No, not politics; sure, one leans left and the other right, but not so much you won't find their well-suited flacks at the same D.C. parties, grabbing after the same mixed drinks and laughing politely at the same tired jokes.  Here's the difference: I get to vote on NRA board members and they send me surveys to get an idea of what matters to the NRA membership.  I have some input into what they do and how they go about it.  AARP has none of that; they just keep pushing those lovely discounts and that fine, fine insurance.  (Income from lending use of the "AARP" name to products is a bigger source of group's income than membership dues.  Consider that A Clue.)  Maybe someday I'll have to join up to get supplemental insurance -- but not today, thank you very much, and not if I can find some other way.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Silent Cal Speaks

     Today's aphorisms come from President Calvin Coolidge:

     "The words of a President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately."

     "I think the American people want a solemn ass as a President and I think I will go along with them."

     Ah, those were the days.

Friday, April 06, 2018

We Want A Mastermind; I Hope We Never Get One

     The more I watch domestic politics, from tragedy to humor to the dry, crunching gears of bureaucracy, the more I'm convinced that what the public wants in high office more than anything is a mastermind.  They'd like a saintly, subtle genius, but they'll take a comic-book supervillian -- or even an idiot savant -- but nobody's comfortable with what we usually get, men struggling to keep up with an impossible job and not always succeeding.

     The Presidency was a crazy idea to begin with, a working Head of State with a short fixed term instead of a King who'd grown up expecting the job and looking forward to a lifelong term: Americans were planning to run their government with an amateur, his hands largely tied by an elected (the House) and appointed (the Senate) legislature that controlled the budget, had final say on treaties and had the power to declare war at a time when no country did things that way.  The Presidency turned out to be a job that made Washington grumpy, Jefferson peevish, and came close to killing several of their successors from overwork.

     And we want that guy to be something special.*  Some of the funniest and most satisfying Saturday Night Live sketches showed President Reagan transitioning from a doddering, grandfatherly type greeting visitors to a high-pressure schemer talking his henchmen through detailed plans to control the world -- and President Carter calmly answering question after question on topics from nuclear reactor emergency repairs to coping with a bad acid trip in great and accurate detail.  Even when we don't like a particular President, we cook up complex and nefarious activities to impute to them; one of the more amusing aspects of critics of the most recent President Bush was that they never could decide if they thought he was an idiot or a smart sneak out to enrich himself and his cronies by stealing oil from the Middle East.  We elect engineers and college professors to be President...and at best, they acquit themselves no better than career politicians in the same job.

     So now we have President Donald Trump.  His critics tell me he's a clever criminal, busily looting the fed.gov and enriching his pals; his fans tell me he's a deep and brilliant negotiator, playing the game seventeen moves ahead of everyone else, and they both are selling the notion that he's a -- what else? -- mastermind.

     Imagine their mutual horror were he to turn out to be a big-talking real-estate developer, struggling to keep up with an impossible job.
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* Admit it, you were uncomfortable when I referred to a couple of Founders as "grumpy" and "peevish."  Yet they were mortal men, as moody as any other.  Washington's writings occasionally give the impression of a man who'd like to use bad language and put his fist through a wall, but is too aware of the critical gaze of History to do so.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

A Good Argument For Hibernation

     But if we sleep through it, we'll miss all the fun?

     "Fun."  Only not.  Between the weather and the nitwit who decided to shoot people at YouTube -- but who didn't fit the profile and has therefore scrolled right off the news -- I'd've stood in bed if I could.  (ETA: Tam tells me, "Not so fast.  The YouTube shooting was the third story at the start of NBC's Today show."  Okay, I stand corrected on that point -- but I'm standing pat on the next paragraph.)

     Interestingly, the YouTube shooter was a California local -- and here the Brady Center tells me that state is A-rated for gun control.  It's almost like that doesn't work to control determined killers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Hahahaha, Springtime -- Also, The Saps Are Running

     Monday, two inches of snow.
     Tuesday, thunderstorms and a high of 68°F, with heavy rain and tornadoes.  Thousands of people without power overnight, most of them in an adjacent county.
     Today?  High winds, light snow and a high that might get out of the 30s.
     Thursday, I don't know -- earthquakes, or just a rain of frogs?
* * *
     Meanwhile, Indiana's in the run-up to primary elections.  We've got a Senate seat up for grabs, which the the Democrat incumbent won 50% to 44% last time. The top local GOP contenders -- two U.S. Representatives and a relative outsider -- are basically all contending to be more Trumpian than President Trump.  It may be a winning strategy here in the Rust Belt, but they're getting a bit catty and I don't know that any of them are so ideologically pure (or whatever; pick your adjective) as to bear close inspection on that score.  Meanwhile, Senator Joe Donnelly is about as conservative a Democrat as you'll find these days, and it's not doing him a lot of good with the middle-to-left of his own party.  There's even a series of pro- and anti-Donnelly commercials running, in an uncontested party primary!   With three clear leaders from what began as an eight-way race among the opposition to unseat him, they'd better mind what they throw at one another: the Donnelly campaign is taking notes for November.

     It looks to be an interesting season, one way or another.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

"Climate," Weather," "Indiana Spring"

     Only the first two of them are predictable, at least compared to the third.
     Yesterday morning, we had a couple of inches of snow on the ground -- and on tree limbs, overhead wires and my ham radio antenna.  The day turned sunny and warmish and Tam's got a nice collection of photos of green grass and optimistic flowers poking through the snow, and of whole streets where Winter reigns on the shadowed side, while birds frolic and lawns are green across the block where Spring's sun shines.

     Today?  Today, a thunderstorm is slam-banging through as I write, lightning flashbulbing the sky, thunder booming and rolling, and it has already rained so hard in some spots that the Highway Department is using snowplows in an attempt to squeegee water off the interstate.  Pea-sized hail is falling to our south and melting after it hits.  There'll be a high of 68°F -- and perhaps as much as four inches of rain!

     Wednesday, it's going to snow again.

     Of course.

   

Monday, April 02, 2018

Oh, Monday--

     Another day that started by being awakened too early by a headache.  It's an effective waking method but I can't recommend it.

     On the other hand, last night I decided to see how "popcorn" asparagus worked with a little cut-up ham in place of the usual salt.
TAMARA KEEL PHOTO
     Darned well, is how!  The asparagus is cut at an angle into one-inch sections and quick-cooked in a closed pan in a little oil -- sesame oil, if you have it, though any mild oil with toasted sesame seeds added will work.  I had some Bertolli Extra Light olive oil, which is about ideal.*  You need to shake the pan so it will cook evenly, a bit like making popcorn.  I am very fond of asparagus cooked this way; it's much better than the usual steaming or microwaving.  It comes out crisp-tender, not the usual mush -- and goes bright green instead of olive-drab.  I added the ham about half-way through the cooking.
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* It is very light, a good all-around cooking oil.  This is the only brand and kind of oil the cats will drink -- and they seem to like it a lot.  It may be an odd endorsement but I think they have good judgement.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Runnin' On Fumes

     For some reason, I ran out of energy very early yesterday.  Got up, took Tam off to the doc-in-a-box, and then, at her suggestion, went to a franchise wings place.

     It was...not good.  "Mild" boneless wings were over-spicy and dry; adding ketchup did nothing good for them.  Side "cool-off" veggies were of dubious quality: carrots chalky, celery soggy and browning at the cut ends.  The fries were adequate and my drink (lemonade) was fine.  And of course the music was too loud.

     Got back home and went to change from shoes to sandals; that seemed like such a good idea that I swapped my dungarees for soft lounging pants and y'know, the bed was an inviting placed to look at a little TV from.

     I watched the 2004 production of "A Wrinkle In Time," the movie edit (it had aired as a four-hour TV mini-series), and nodded off briefly a few times.  This is not a negative reflection on the movies, which is an honest effort, marred by small effects budget and somewhat plodding directing: it's all there and there are occasional brilliant touches (Kyle Secor's Man With Red Eyes is spot-on) but the pacing is not quite what it should be and it is an unsubtle reading of the original book.*

     After that, I fell asleep.  Woke up around eight to make a little dinner -- leftover picadillo, mine topped with an egg (very good!).  Thought I would nap a but after and instead slept the night through, woke to feed the cats at six, and slept until Meet The Press came on.

     Friday, I went into my yearly Employee Review on about four hours sleep, concerned that the huge recent changes at work (everyone between me and the Chairman of the Board was hired within the last three years; I've been there for thirty) are squeezing out my job.  Instead, I learned they like the quality of my work, want me to be "a little nicer" and are concerned about the same deadline-slippage that bothers me.  I must have needed the rest. 
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* Having recently read the book helped a lot, especially with the scenes between departing Camazotz without Charles Wallace and returning to save him, which were barely explained. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Stubborn As A Mule

     Tamara's been fighting some sort of thing -- respiratory infection, most likely -- since suffering a torn intercostal quite some time ago, coughing and hacking.  Over the past week or so, it has grown to include upper respiratory troubles, which she is describing as "just a cold."

     Maybe it is, maybe it isn't; either way, I am having trouble convincing her to see a doctor, or even a nurse-practitioner.

     Swelp me, she's goin' today, even if I have to drag her in at gunpoint. Stubborn?  Sure she is.  I am, too.

    Follow-up: Took her and, surprise, she's sick.  But on proper drugs now.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Dinner Last Night

      Dinner last night: Picadillo, or as close as I get to the real thing, anyway.
TAMARA KEEL PHOTO
      The basic setup is a pound and a half of ground meat (I used a pound of ground beef and a chorizo sausage), an onion (I used three "spring onions," which are a little more delicate in flavor, but just see what you find), a bell pepper (I used one orange bell and an Anaheim, but again -- whatever; you can heat it up here if you wish but ponder the spice palette first -- read on!) and some garlic -- you can use fresh, I used the powder.

     Since I had chorizo, I started with the meat. Some versions will have you start with the veggies. A little good olive oil, some garlic (I'd like to tell you how much, but you know what you like), some cumin (seeds or powder, maybe a quarter-teaspoon?), a dash each of nutmeg, cloves (ground or a few whole) and cinnamon, maybe a little black pepper and the meat; get it browning and be breaking it up as you slice the onion, add it, and do the same with the bell (or whatever) pepper. Use your nose: you want it to smell good. Add more of any of the spices that appeal to you but don't go wild. Depending on the meat, you may want to drain the liquid and separate the grease/fat from the broth -- add the broth back in.

      You'll want 1/3 to 1/2 cup each of raisins (the store had some nice golden ones, but again, whatever) and good pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced. You'll probably want to slice them while the meat and veggies are cooking.

      With the meat well-browned and the onion translucent, give it a little Worcestershire sauce (A teaspoon? More if you like it, leave it out if you don't) and add a 16-ounce can of diced tomatoes, followed by the raisins and olives. You're trying to balance the salt and sweet here, so once it starts bubbling, give it a taste. Put some oregano in it (start with a quarter-teaspoon). You can float a bay leaf or two, if you like (don't break them up and be sure to take them out before serving!). Basil's never really out of line, either. Add garlic, cumin (light hand, that stuff can take over), nutmeg, cloves and/or cinnamon as needed -- they're what makes this work. Cover and let simmer for five or ten minutes. It is not at all soupy; you don't want lots of liquid.

      It gets better if it goes longer but it's essentially ready after that. Refrigerate for the next day.
Flavor is complex and fragrant, with bursts of sweet from the raisins and salt from the olives over a solid meat/onion/tomato background.

      You can put a few capers on it for serving. Some versions add diced potatoes and/or a little beef stock. Without potatoes, it is often served over rice. Black beans are good on the side or even mixed in.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Insight Is Where You Find It

     Yesterday morning, I was chatting at Tam and mentioned my admiration for Robert E. Howard, the Texan writer who created Conan the Barbarian and launched "Sword and sorcery" fiction.  Howard's prose could be as purple as the pulps that published it, but he had remarkable imagination, good discipline and an excellent ear for dream-like narrative.

     Robert E. Howard's mother was ill with tuberculosis all of his life.  He helped take care of her and they were very close.  The disease eventually resulted in her death, which appears to have prompted  his suicide.  His mother and father were somewhat estranged to one another, though they stayed married and lived together.

      People -- perhaps F/SF fans especially -- being what they are, the mother-son closeness and his suicide led to all manner of speculation, some of it quite smarmy.  But -- as I remarked to Tam, "It may have been no more than his despair at having failed to keep his mother alive."

     I choked on the last few words and felt unexpected tears rising in my eyes.  Had I failed to keep my mother alive?

     Sometimes it feels that way.  Maybe if I'd been a better child, less of a disppointment, more dutiful, quicker to reconcile...?

     No.  I might've had more time with my family -- stressful though I often found it -- but Mom's heart wore out on her long before she passed.  She kept going for years on pluck and determination, and I am glad we had as much time together as we did.  I still miss her.

     Comments are closed.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Placeholder

     I have nothing for you.  I'm old (as old as I've even been) and I am feeling pretty down.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Am In A Lousy Mood

     Seriously lousy.  This whole "interacting with people" thing is reaching at least a middle for me.

So Who Do They Want To Control?

     On social media, links to a New York Times article about the process to legally buy a gun in fifteen different countries are being posted by gun-control supporters.

     --But even the NYT piece admits that illegal purchasers in any of those countries don't have to do anything but hand over cash and take their gun.  All those lovely, well-meant laws and requirements are no barrier to sellers and buyers who won't abide by them.

     And never mind that the home-inspection requirements of many nations violate the Fourth Amendment.  I guess we're not supposed to notice that.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Children's Crusade

     You know, there probably wasn't a "Children's Crusade" as the term is commonly understood; even the best accounts aren't very clear or especially trustworthy.  One of the connections scholars have made that seems to hold up is to the use of teenagers as soldiers in that time; not exactly "children" by the standards of the day, the bulk of armies were made up of young men in exactly the age range at most risk of committing or suffering violence in the modern world.

     This past weekend's "Children's Crusade" also uses teenagers for foot soldiers.  They are, after all, excellent cannon fodder: idealistic, inexperienced, and full of the belief that they can Fix Everything.  But who are the generals?  Follow the money, and it circles back around to Michael Bloomberg's "Everytown "organization, relying on subsidiary "Mothers Demand Action" and the Gifford anti-gun organization for organizational help and logistics.  Yes, Mr. Bloomberg and his big, well-funded anti-gunners are hiding behind children in the manner of Saddam Hussein. 

     Ah, but the media tells us kids are being shot at school in ever-greater numbers, and we must do something?  No, kids are not.  School shootings are on the decline.

     But the U.S. is a horribly violent places, isn't it, third worst in the world, and we have got to address that?  No, we're not.

     And the big, bad NRA is buying Congressman, aren't they?  The New York Times tried pushing that, and came up with small change as political money goes -- and they had to use career-total funding plus non-coordinated advertising to do so. NRA is nowhere near the top-spending lobbying groups.

     On the other hand, donations to the political activism division of NRA are up.  So all the marching and rallying has done some good, after all.

     Interestingly, all the links above are to Left-leaning or neutral groups and organizations.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Saturday, March 24, 2018

It Begins

     I slept as soundly as ever -- which is to say, not hardly -- and every time I woke up to commune with nature, ease a crick in my neck, or shift to a position that didn't make my fingers tingly or my left ear hurt, I looked out the window, because Snowmageddon was coming.  It's been all over local TV and Internet for the last few days: White Doom From Above!

     The initial prediction called for the snow to begin late Friday night.  It kept not arriving.  Along about 6:00 a.m., non-local double-daylight time,* it was 38°F and the back yard looked pretty nice -- dry, leaf-piles ready for the Spring clean-up, sky overcast but not especially threatening.

     Seven-fifteenish, in the middle of making an indulgent breakfast,† I glanced out the window: sidewalk still dry.  Well, dry-like.  Or not. Kind of blotchy, really -- I looked up: snow is just starting to swirl down.

     It's here.
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* Indiana is on the far western edge of the Eastern Time Zone.  Come Daylight Savings, the sun rises late and stays up partying until long into the night. Tamara loves it (it's good match for her, if you substitute "writing" for "partying") but I do not.

† Three slices of bacon, one egg and a stack of "Swedish" pancakes, basically thick crepes served with butter and sugar (or, traditionally, lingonberry jelly; I like blueberry jam on 'em but the good stuff is spendy), which I dearly love.  I feel guilty making them just for myself -- but I'm home alone this weekend, which somehow makes it okay.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Tick-tock, Tick-tock....

     The Spring Winter Storm approaches inexorably, and I still haven't laid in full French Toast supplies.

     Worse yet, I'd made arrangements to meet Saturday to meet with techs from one of the few outside users of vertical space at my employer's North Campus, so they can swap out some equipment -- and yesterday, they sent me e-mail asking, "So we're still on and the place will be ready, right?"

     Um, no.  We've got one (1) guy on snowplow (and emergency assistance) duty, and he will be doing that at the Main Campus with a working staff of around twenty (20) people, many of them needing to be traveling and returning in the course of their duties, not the North Campus with a normal working staff of zero (0) people.  Our facility up north is down a long, winding private lane that crosses a couple of swales on short embankments, easy places to nosedive a car in heavy snow and just high enough to make for trouble when you do.

     Haven't heard back.  Perhaps they'd not been paying attention to the forecast.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Hahaha, It's Spring, We're Out From Under, We're....What???

     Thought we'd made it, did you?  Ha!  Figured the big bad storms had sated themselves on the East Coast, did you?  You've watched Hollywood horror films, right?  It's just when you think you're safest that you get this:

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
National Weather Service Indianapolis IN
356 AM EDT Thu Mar 22 2018

INZ021-028>031-035>042-046>049-056-057-065-221600-
/O.NEW.KIND.WS.A.0002.180324T0600Z-180325T0000Z/
Carroll-Warren-Tippecanoe-Clinton-Howard-Fountain-Montgomery-
Boone-Tipton-Hamilton-Madison-Delaware-Randolph-Hendricks-Marion-
Hancock-Henry-Shelby-Rush-Decatur-
Including the cities of Lafayette, Frankfort, Kokomo,
Crawfordsville, Anderson, Muncie, Indianapolis, and Shelbyville
356 AM EDT Thu Mar 22 2018

...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE FRIDAY NIGHT THROUGH
SATURDAY EVENING...

* WHAT...Heavy mixed precipitation possible. Total snow
  accumulations of 3 to 6 inches, with localized amounts up to 8
  inches, and ice accumulations of a light glaze are possible.

* WHERE...Portions of central Indiana along and north of
  Interstate 74.

* WHEN...From late Friday night through Saturday evening.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Plan on difficult travel conditions.
  Significant reductions in visibility are possible.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A Winter Storm Watch means there is potential for significant
snow, sleet or ice accumulations that may impact travel. Continue
to monitor the latest forecasts.

&&

$$

For more information from the National Weather Service visit
http://weather.gov/ind

     Oh, damn.

     And here I was thinking from earlier forecasts that Saturday might be a wash but maybe I was going to want to replace the battery in my motorscooter for Sunday....  Not!

     I'll be stocking up on French Toast supplies tonight.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

It's A Winter Springtime Wonderland

     In the abstract, it's pretty -- fluffy white snow on the ground, big, fat, white flakes drifting and spiraling down to join them....

     Except it's the the first darned full day of Spring!  We seem to have annoyed the Weather Gods.  Oh, not as badly as the people out East (Northeast), who have had snowstorm after snowstorm.  Still, we must've trod their corns, or burned the wrong sort of barbecue upon the ancient, storm-wracked stones of their altar.*

     Oh, well.  I made chili last night, or maybe red stew† (it's not my fault, really it isn't -- the grocer's decided to add a little kale, broccoli and carrots to their "fajita mix," half of which I stir-fried with mushrooms Monday for side vegetables to go along with a couple of little pan steaks, and it needed to be used up).  I'll grab some leftover chili for a stay-in-the-office-lunch and hope to be able to avoid the worst of the weather until the temperatures get above freezing this afternoon and stay there for the next twelve hours, which is what the weather prognosticators say will happen.  Of course, that's the same group of mages, charlatans and arch-priests who claim Winter is over, which any fool can see is self-evidently wrong.
_______________________________
* Man, if you want to see people square off to restage WW I, only with at least four sides and better chemicals, get a nationwide cross-section of cooks going on just what exactly does, or does not, constitute "barbecue."  But step back smartly once you light the fuse -- it'll heat up fast!

† And once the barbecue fight cools down -- along about 4:43 p.m. on the 32nd of Never -- you can have them start in on the essential nature and ingredients of "chili."  Texans and Sooners on one side, Upper Midwest church ladies on the other, Cincinnatians way out there in left field with the cloves and cinnamon, and accusations of "filler," "inedibly spicy" and "what even is that stuff?" flying as thick and fast as dark-red kidney beans, hot peppers and elbow macaroni.  Shredded stew beef or hamburger, and who's that over there with ground turkey?  Infidel!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Quickly....

     I must type and dash.  There's an exciting day ahead -- well, for, "Oh damn what is this" values of exciting: snow and sleet incoming and the Statewide Tornado Drill.

     If the snow/sleet/Welcome To Springtime weather is bad enough -- and if lines of authority are clear enough -- the cat-herding exercise that is the Statewide Tornado Drill will be called off.  The thinking is that John and Jane Q. Public, fighting their way to the grocer's, doctor's office or neighborhood bar through sheets of Nature's Lard will be confused enough without wailing sirens and, as the Rolling Stones foretold, "...[T]he man come on the radio/He's tellin' me more and more about some useless information/Supposed to fire my imagination."*  Under sufficiently-bad real weather conditions, the Statewide Drill is liable to fire only indignation or confusion, and no one wants that.

     But I'm betting the process will proceed as planned -- they've already sent out the e-mail, after all, and the forms were filled out in ink.
________________________________
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, (1965) Jagger M. and Richards K., a brief essay about lack of physical and emotional companionship amid relentless commercialism.  You're already humming the guitar riff.

Monday, March 19, 2018

What I Did On A Day When I Didn't Do Anything

     Yesterday began with reduced expectations.  I wasn't feeling great and had slept poorly.  Still, a day so sunny and warm -- outside temperatures officially reached 55, and felt warmer in the sun -- cried out for doing something.

     Something it was.  I went to fetch the trash can from the curb and stayed to pull up the stalks of last summer's hostas and wildflowers.  That out of the way, I rested a bit and then went to the garage to look for a gadget that should be out there somewhere.  Didn't find it, but I did start up the scooter, and take it up and down the alley slowly before deciding that I'd better replace the battery, which I didn't get out before winter temperatures plunged into the single digits and stayed there.

     After another rest and a bit of lunch, I decided to assemble a typewriter stand I've had for several years.  It turned out to be nice enough that I replaced the ribbon in my Oliver portable to celebrate.  And I did a little --  a very little -- sorting and straightening up. 

     Not bad, I think, for a "sick day."  And I'm taking my medicine and starting to feel better.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

And I Have Cancelled The Day's Activities

     Broken sleep last night and I'm still not feeling great.  Taking my meds and I need to get to the store sometime today.

     Still haunted by sadness and loss.  So many gone.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Overtired And Underwell

     I'd been feeling lousy since late February, but with everything that was happening, I was ignoring it and hoping it would pass.

     Kind of hadn't.  Mostly sinus stuff, the details of which I will spare you, along with dizziness, lightheadeness and stabbing (occasionally bilateral) earches.  The last had gone away after my sinus surgery in December and I was hoping maybe forever.*  Early last week, I called my ENT's office and left a message; a day later, her nurse called me to go over my symptoms and two days later called back with prescriptions and the news that the doctor was sick herself ("a sinus infection, wouldn't you know?"), thus the delay.

     That was Thursday.  I was deep in a project and got home too late to get to the pharmacy, so it wasn't until last night that I picked up the heavy-duty antibiotic and some kind of a steroid.  She'd put me back on an OTC spray decongestant, too, which I was able to start Thursday.

     I hadn't been sleeping well -- stabbing pain is an effective alarm clock, but follows its own schedule.  Last night through this morning, I finally got a little over eight hours and it seems to have helped.  Vertical is still a slight challenge, though, so I'll be staying around the house and resting today.
________________________
* Maybe not.  Any kind of aggressive treatment in the affected area will often result in immediate relief, since the body tends to mute jangled pain signals while healing.  This is typical of trigeminal neuralgia.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Spring?

     At least we've had sunshine the last couple of days, and more is in the forecast for today.  Saturday?  Rain in the morning.  But Sunday should be sunny and maybe even a bit warm.

     ...Which is good, because the first day of Spring is Tuesday and the prediction calls for snow!  So far, it doesn't look like the kind of nor'easter (which is not, you may note, in any way representative of the speech of New England sailors*) that's hammered the East Coast over and over, and which we have been spared.  So I mustn't complain -- despite the cold, this winter has been mercifully free of heavy snowfall here in Indianapolis.

     But it seems spiteful to deliver even a small snowfall on the first day of Spring.
_______________________________
* Alas, Edgar Comee passed away not too long after his fight against what he called "a pretentious and altogether lamentable affectation" got national attention.  He was 88.  Think of him every time a weatherperson smiles at you out of the tube and talks about a "noR'easteR," and remember people up that way say, "nu'theastuh," precisely as one might expect.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"The First Hit Is Free"

     Tam has loaned me her old iPad 2 -- as in clean-slated it and handed it over -- so I "can see what it's like."  I have been a Windows/Android user ever since they yanked MS-DOS out from under me and dumped me into a world of colorful, simplified icons.

     For those of you who aren't old, or who had successfully avoided computers until they became ubiquitous, to many of us the abandonment of MS-DOS for Windows felt like a step back, or at least a step toward the softly-safe Apple world, where you could do whatever you wanted just as long as you did it Apple's way, with Apple's fully-tested-and-approved software and hardware.  If you'd started out with grotty mainframes (the "big machine" my extension campus had timeshare access to was a DECsystem10, sixty miles away in Indianapolis; the smaller, slower one was a PDP-11, or one of the PDP-series, at another campus), moved up to CP/M (the last operating system I was really comfortable with) and nice little Kaypro-II (which -- except for color and fancy graphics -- did more in 64K than modern computers manage with 2 Mb*) and then clawed your way into desktops running MS-DOS, with all the crazy frustration of trying to make the pieces work together and do useful things, the Apple world looked like a coloring book and when Microsoft decided to do the same, it appeared to be a betrayal.  Having been hauled into GUIs kicking and screaming, there was no way me or any of my peers were gonna go Apple.  Nope, nope, nope....  (Meanwhile, one of the most user-friendly remote-control devices at my workplace ran on touchscreen Macs, and the system ran great right out of the box.  Thank you, Michelle Unpronouncable and your coworkers at Troll Technologies!)

     And here I am, multiple versions of Windows on, poking at the screen of an iPad.  If I can get it to recognize one of my (supposedly) dual-system wireless keyboards, it's going to be interesting to play with.  After all, this going from one to the other hasn't done Tam any harm -- and CP/M or MS-DOS isn't staging a comeback, last time I checked.

     (But if someone wants to port PerfectWriter for any modern computer?  Oh, where do I sign up to support that!)
_________________________________
* PerfectWriter spoiled me for word processors, with easily-implemented standard TEXT/PAGE NUMBER headers or footers, automatic building of tables of contents and footnotes, and a clear set of inline commands -- and it was seamlessly integrated with the database and spellchecker.  The awkwardness involved in setting up Word to produce plain, standard-formatted manuscripts never fails to frustrate me -- PerfectWriter did it with a simple command.  Q10 is as close as you can get, but lacks much of the dot-command formatting features. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rereading

     I found my copy of A Wrinkle In Time (and a couple of sequels) a couple of days ago.  It was right where I expected it (after Lem, Stanislaw and ahead of Lewis, C. S.), but I was looking for larger "trade-sized" paperbacks.  Nope, mine are standard-sized paperbacks, and a bit old.

     The story is fairly simple but the language is not, and Mrs. Who's lovely quotes in multiple languages are rendered in their original and translated after, not the sort of thing one encounters often in books for younger readers.  The relationships are fully-developed, though our viewpoint is an early-years teenager and we see them as she sees them.  It's not super-duper, tightly-plotted hard-SF but it's a good story, well told.

     And I have to tell you, if they play it right -- if she plays it right -- Oprah Winfrey's not a bad choice for Mrs. Which in the film: she's been occasionally speaking in the same manner for decades.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Wrinkle In -- Hey! That's Not Your Billboard!

     I was looking forward to seeing Hollywood's take on A Wrinkle In Time.  I have fond memories of reading the book in childhood, one of the first overtly science-fictiony books to cross my young horizons, and with a female protagonist, no less!

     Of course, the big (or little) screen never tells the story the way you read it; some things can't be staged or CG'd -- fewer and fewer, these days -- some casts don't offer much in  the way of visual appeal or "star-worthy" roles, some stories for children are a bit preachy and some screenwriters and directors Just Don't Get It.  (Exhibit A, Starship Troopers.)  Sometimes, Hollywood does get it right -- The Maltese Falcon is as perfect an example of how to film a book as you will ever find, with one exception: Humphrey Bogart, wonderful in the role, doesn't look a thing like Dashiell Hammett's description of Sam Spade!*  My expectations are never high; in the case of Madeleine L'Engle's classic, casting Oprah Winfrey meant the cinematic Mrs. Which was likely to be significantly different from her literary original.  This is just the kind of thing that happens in the leap from book to screen; sometimes it's okay -- Jeremy Brett or Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes aren't quite the fellow from the stories but we recognize them readily enough -- and other times, you get Robert Downey, Jr.

     Meg gets a makeover too, one I find entirely plausible for a young lady who frets over her unmanageable hair.  This is what Hollywood does: unable to easily let you overhear a character's thoughts, they use shorthand, hints and cultural tropes.  I expect it.

     What I didn't expect was a frikkin' social justice (pro and con) war in the reviews.  Reviewers all across the political spectrum use the not-100%-lily-white cast as a banner to wave, one direction or another, and get so tangled up in it that they're not telling me much about the film itself.  Look, it may or may not be carrying the weight of Hollywood's present preoccupations and that may be occasion for cheering or jeering, but that stuff is just background noise for the story.  Very few of the reviewers, perhaps dazzled by Ms. Winfrey, appear to have realized there's a story happening. Oh, I see "choppy" used a lot, but the book is choppy; that's essential to the narrative.  And not a one of the reviewers has bothered to bring a child along and ask them about the movie, either.  After reading reviews and looking at Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, I know a little more about human nature but I learned more about the film itself from the trailers.

     Clearly, I'll have to go see it for myself.
_______________________________
* Seriously different: “He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.” ... “He was quite six feet tall. The steep rounded slope of his shoulders made his body seem almost conical—no broader than it was thick.” 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Getting Back To --

     No, I can't write it, not yet.  "Back to normal?"  Not going to happen.  I can't call up Mom.  She was there forever, as far as I knew, and now she isn't.

     Both of my parents were hypercompetent people.  At least it seemed that way to me as a child, as a young adult.  Even with maturity (such of it as I have found) and time to provide scale and perceptive, they were outstanding.  Baffled by their children sometimes, but what parent isn't?

     I started this blog about six months after my father passed away.  Now Mom is gone.  Sometimes I still want to ask a grownup what to do -- and then I remember that's my job now.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday

     Spent the day clearing off the dining room table, which has been a catch-all for several years.  Still not done -- but I took a break at dinnertime for the year's first grilling of steaks.  Yes, the good hardwood charcoal in the closed-top grill.  Tasty!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Shape Of -- Theodore Sturgeon

     Tamara and I went to see The Shape Of Water today.  It's a remarkable film, and more than merits the awards it has won.  It's all of a piece, as well-crafted as classical Greek sculpture, and tells a marvelous story, a sort of fairytale for adults.  I would rate it with the very best science fiction films, as good as Gattaca, and the visuals are simply stunning, scene by scene and in they way they tell the story.  The soundtrack is wonderful as well, and the cast--  All I saw were the people they played. 

     And the story...!  Simply remarkable.  There was something familiar about it; not the plot or character, but something -- the tone, the heart of it: about halfway through, I realized it's a Theodore Sturgeon story.  Not literally, but if you like Sturgeon's work, you'll like this film.  It's a love story; it's a story about people doing the right thing, not always for good reasons, and about people who think they have good reasons for doing wrong.  It's about recognizing the human in the alien and seeing the strangeness of everyday life.

     If you haven't seen it, maybe you should.

Friday, March 09, 2018

There's Not Sleeping Well, and Then

     Then there's being really bad at sleeping.  I have been sleeping poorly for the past week or more, insomnia, waking for no reason, backaches, difficulty getting up in the morning and, yes, nodding off in the afternoon.

     Last night, after getting up due to hydraulic pressure, waking up when cats were spatting, evicting a cat that was trying to bite my Kindle and succession of episodes of wondering what the weather was and falling asleep before the screen loaded, I capped it with an episode of sleep paralysis.

     I used to suffer sleep paralysis when I was growing up and in early adulthood, and found them utterly terrifying.  I'd be awake but trapped in my own body, unable to move, unable to even open my eyes and sure of a looming doom.  I was in danger!  Or so I thought.  My heart would beat faster and faster as I struggled to regain control and fear fed fear.  I'd either finally get my eyes open to find nothing out of the ordinary or fade back into sleep, still struggling to move.  I had no idea what it was about and I was darned well not going to tell anyone about such a crazy-sounding experience.  It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I plugged the symptoms into a search engine and discovered that it wasn't uncommon and wasn't life-threatening in and of itself.  Armed with that knowledge, I was able to shrug off such episodes, which became more and more rare.

     But last night, after all the other fuss and bother, I thought I heard a cat throwing up.  Great, after everything else, I was going to have to clean that up!  I tried to open my eyes and roll over--  Nothing.  Couldn't move.  Could not move!  I wasn't very awake.  I fought and fought and started to panic.  After what seemed like hours, I got my eyes up, drew a shuddering breathe, and said, "Help," in a voice barely above a whisper. 

     Never did find the cat-hork.  It might have been a dream.  When the alarm went off forty-five minutes later, I shut it off and just laid there while the TV talked to itself.  I didn't get up until I heard Tam feeding the cats.  That's usually my job but they must have pestered her after giving up on me.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

And Overnight, It--

     You know the drill.  Snow.  Yesterday was chilly but only partly cloudy; it was above freezing and by evening, the snow that had fallen was gone. 

     We got more.  And the temperature dropped and kept on dropping.  It was snowing pretty well on my way home last night.  This morning, we have a coating of snow -- and patches of "black ice" on the roads.  Stretches of interstate highway have been closed, just as rush hour begins -- and the first batch of drivers appear to have found the slick spots the hard way.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

And Today, It Snowed

     I woke up about 4:30 this morning and looked out to see big, fat snowflakes, falling thick and fast.  It has slowed down, but yards and roofs have a nice (?) covering of snow.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Tuesday

     Back to work.  Kinda dreading getting caught up.

     Here's a photo of a good-looking young couple.  I first met them a few years later: my Mom and Dad.

Monday, March 05, 2018

I'm Exhausted

     I should post something today, but I'm just exhausted.  Got up this morning to help my sister with her cat at the vet.  The poor old tomcat had ingrown claws!  He wasn't wanting anyone to touch his front feet, but he let the vet soak them and trim his claws.

     Tam and I had brunch after that and I have mostly just sat since.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

In Memory

     Here's my family in Christmas time, 2016, I think the last time we were all together until just last week. 
     Today is my Mom's funeral service.  At least it's a pretty, sunny day.  She would have liked that.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Power Outage

      Woke up at 5:45 this morning in pitch-darkness. I usually fall asleep with a seven-and-a-half Watt light on, but sometimes I turn it off. No blue-green glow from my nightstand clock, either, and that was unusual. Very quiet—
 
      I sat up and leaned over to the window, pulled back the curtains: dark. No security light shining on the back yard, no streetlight glow from the alley, no lights on in any house I could see.

      Picked up the flashlight I keep on my nightstand and went out to the dining room: no lights from next door on the other side, no lights out the kitchen windows. Out the front windows, the houses across the street have power. They're on a different distribution branch and it is rare for both sides of the street to lose power at the same time. 

      Went back to my room. Cellular phone service was working, so I went to our power utility's web site. Checked their outage map and we were not on it. Reported the outage, received bland, automated assurance, and Tam walked in.
T: "So, power is out.  That shoots my morning all to hell."
RX: "I reported it. Do you want coffee?"
T [cheering up a little]: "I do!"

      Of course, when I went back to the kitchen, I started to pour water in the electric teakettle. Caught myself, looked at the old teakettle that lives on a back burner and decided to wash it before use. Making coffee took a few more minutes than usual, but pretty soon we both had mugs of the stuff and the thermal carafe was nearly full with more.

     Now here I am, composing this offline as the sun begins to rise. I'm hoping Tam will let me post it using her phone as a hotspot, if power's not back on shortly. —No sooner did I ask her about that than the power came back on!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Lot To Go Through

     Spent time with my sister this morning, sorting through Mom's jewelry: earrings and necklace for her, things for the older granddaughters and oldest great-granddaughter, costume jewelry for the younger great-greats, some interesting coin collections for the great-grandsons.  Sister's got a lot of the family art (fewer bookshelves, though not for lack of reading!), which was nice to see again.  We never got around to going through photos, with breaks for recollections and tears.

     Oh, this isn't easy.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Glorious Sunset

     The evening of 27 February.  I like to think this is for my Mom.
     She would have loved it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

21 May 1931 - 27 Feb 2018

     My mother passed away this morning.  It was a beautiful, sunny morning and there are trees and grass and shrubbery outside the window of her room.  The sky is lovely and blue, with just a hint of high, wispy clouds.

     I wasn't there.  I had to work and I'm still at work.  There are men nine hundred feet up a tall tower counting on me to run the elevator and make sure the transmitters are turned down low enough to keep them safe.  There isn't anyone else to do this job.   But I know the window blinds were set to allow light in when I saw her last night, and I'm sure the sunlight lit her way onward to that land from which none of us return.

     It's impossible to thank your mother for the daunting task she took on in getting you to adulthood as intact as possible; or in keeping you going once you were on your own.  It's too big for any conventional thanks.  All you can do is go on and try to be as good as your Mom thought you were.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Even Dying Is Hard Work

     It certainly looks that way.  Maybe that's a crass observation, but it feels wretched to have to watch someone beyond all help, well beyond any real help you can give -- simply worn out by time -- with good painkillers (but not so much of them as to induce unconsciousness), with supplied oxygen, with nurses and lovely surroundings, with familiar pictures on the wall, familiar belongings on dresser and nightstand, live flowers on the windowsill and she's having to -- only able to -- just lie there, eyes shut, mostly asleep, sometimes dreaming, sometimes awake enough for a word or two.  For all the peace, prettiness and soft music in the hallways, it still looks like desperately hard work.

     To watch you own mother go through this is pain almost beyond enduring.

     Mom had a bad few minutes while I was visiting tonight.  We were waiting for the nurse with her medicine and Mom moved and cried out, quietly.  My sister, my brother and I gathered around, talking to her, patting her, telling her we were all there and we loved her.  She never opened her eyes, but she calmed and said, a bit indistinctly, "I love you," as she relaxed.

     She was sleeping fairly peacefully when I left.  I hope she dreams; I hope her dreams are pleasant.

     It's not like the movies.  It's hard work.  Terribly hard.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

So Do Something

     Yes, there was a horrible atrocity on the 14th, and all of us want to do something.

      We disagree over which "something."  Having the same old arguments over and over isn't actually "doing something." Demonizing people and institutions isn't "doing something."
 
      I'm going to try something else. Something more difficult: I'm going to smile at people. I'm going to talk to them. I'm going to try to treat people as something other than obstacles.

      I might not do it very well. I might not do a lot of good. But I will have done *something.*

      Wanna try?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Try To Be Good To One Another

     Just put in the effort to treat people as you would like to be treated.  Give it a try.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Don't Be A Mouthpiece For Vladimir

     Interestingly, every bit of coverage of the FBI's Russian election-interference case, from NPR to NBC to Fox News reports that the ongoing Russian effort is to find divisive issues and fan the flames -- not just pushing for (then) Mr. Trump, Sen. Sanders and Ms. Stein in the 2016 election, but anything else they can grab, including the recent school shooting. They are pumping out lots of extremist noise on both side of the issue.

     Have an opinion about that atrocity; have an opinion about what should be done in response to it. Express your opinion anywhere that'll let you, if that's what you want to do. But take a close look at memes you share; take a close look at tweets and opinion pieces you pass along. Is it from a source you know, or is it pot-stirring from some clickbait mess? If it cherry-picks quotes, does it provide a source or link for the full text, audio or video?

      Debate is an important and useful part of political discourse. Saying your piece and standing up for your beliefs is one of the ways we process horrors like the Parkland mass shooting -- but don't be played by Mr. Putin's online culture-warriors.
 
      We stick different bumper stickers on our cars but we all drive together on the same roads pretty peacefully. That is one of our great strengths as Americans. Remember it.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Saw Mom Yesterday

     She's in better spirits.  She...flickers: she knows you for awhile, and then not so much, and then she remembers again.  But she's happy, not scared or sad.  And they're keeping an eye on her blood chemistry and adjusting her medications accordingly.

     The situation isn't great but it's about as good as it could be, in light of her age and health.  Mom grew up during the Great Depression and WW II, at the very tail end of what's been called the "Greatest Generation," people who not only endured by persisted and triumphed.  But no one wins their last battle; the best any of us can hope for it to enter it unafraid.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Worry About My Mom

     I'm getting better but I'm Ssill not quite up to snuff.  Some of it is the muscle relaxer.  Some of it is...I don't know.  Worn out. 

     My Mom's having some more serious difficulties.  Any prayers, positive vibes and good thoughts you'd send her way will be much appreciated.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Nominally Off This Week

     Though I am on call if the weather gets better.  And I'm still sick.  I did a poor job of taking my medicine on schedule over the weekend, and now I am keeping track.  Maybe that will help.

     Something I dislike even more than the way people shout talking points past one another in the wake of firearms tragedy is the level of personal attack to which many descend.  It is actually possible for people to have deep, fundamental disagreements without either one of them being evil or uncaring.  But not, it seems, without them accusing one another of it.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

It's Not License To Be A Jerk

     I'm sick and tired of people behaving like arseholes and when they are called on it, shrugging it off by claiming to be "on the spectrum."

     That's not how it works.  If you're on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, you're not any different than anyone else with a disability who is able to function in the wider world: sure, decent people treat you fairly, and decent -- or at least ADA-compliant -- workplaces and businesses have removed physical barriers, but if you're on wheels or sticks, if you can't hear or have lost a limb (and so on), you've still got to work harder than the person who isn't challenged.  I watched a blind man cross a street the other day; he read the signals fine by ear and with his cane leading the way, crossed briskly, found the curb, stepped up (the cut is offset and he'd missed it), crossed a patch of grass to the sidewalk and worked his way over to the traffic-light pole to press the button so he could cross the intersecting street: it was more work for him than you or I encounter accomplishing the same task. 

     And if you're not so good at social interaction, that's not a license to be obnoxious.  It means you're going to have to work harder at saying "please" and "thank you."  If you're not so good at reading nuance, you're going to have to ask people for clarification. And you're probably going to have to figure out how to phrase it in advance.  It's not a badge of specialness or a get-out-of-awkwardness-free card, it's a problem, and one that you must deal with.  Deal with it.  Work at not being a jerk.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thursday

     Wednesday hit with a thud at mid-afternoon, when TV news devolved into the kind of close attention given to a disturbed killer that disturbed killers crave--

     The predictable talk of "too many guns" and "violent video games" and so on followed; they are cheap and easy things to blame but boys have always played violent games  (remember cap guns and tin soldiers?)  and this country has long had widespread firearm availability and ownership.  What nags me is that no one seems to much care about identifying and maybe even straightening out the killers before they strike.  There's a pattern of torturing small animals, of social alienation, threats of violence and so on that appears to be common to many people who later commit horrific crimes, and it is largely ignored.  Instead, there's a focus on the means -- guns for mass shooting, the hardware of imprisonment for abductors -- or the victims (who indeed rate attention) or the now-outre personality and behavior of the criminal.

     Where was all that when the kid was a Cub Scout?  Where was the concern when he kept tripping fire alarms?  It it enough to expell a child with behavioral problems from school, and let the wider world deal with them?

     For every person who commits a headline-grabbing crime like this, a few dozen more are committing lesser violent crimes; or among the homeless, and perhaps preying on their fellows.  If we're determined to be "doing something," let's direct our energies at people, not objects.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Read It. Read The Links.

     Reason magazine may have found the next Michael A. Bellesiles: Nancy MacLean, author of a hatchet-job bio on one of the early lights in the Public Choice movement.  She certainly has an agenda, and is quite willing to dream up quotes to match.  Have a look.  Don't sperg out, follow the links.  Paging Mr. Fisk....

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It Wasn't.

     They guessed wrong.  The tower guy started up one of of my employer's towers in a nice sunny downtown location, got about thirty feet up, said "Whups!" and became very meticulous about maintaining two points of attachment as he climbed higher.  Ten feet on, he shook his head and called down, "There's ice on every horizontal surface!"

     That was it for tower work yesterday.  I had plenty else to do.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Can It Be...?

     After weeks and weeks of (well-justified), "Not in this weather," the tower crew is thinking this is the week.  We'll start with (what I hope is) a small task today, and -- weather permitting! -- move on to the big job tomorrow.

     Given that the outstanding feature of the weekend was sleet and today's forecast calls for a high of 33°F, I'm a little surprised.  But I've worked with these guys for years and they have a very finely calibrated sense of the possible when it comes to weather and high places.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What's On The TV?

     It might look like a penguin, but it's actually a Russian cop show, Gentlemen Comrades. No, really -- set in Moscow in the aftermath of the October Revolution, with the ongoing Russian Civil War raging in the distant background, a time and place for which "interesting" is an understatement.  The city is a mess, crime runs rampant, the Bolsheviks are grabbing power with both hands while trying to consolidate what they already have.

     There's a functioning secret police/political police, the Cheka* (of course), but regular police forces, the newly-formed Militsiya, are struggling, understaffed, inexperienced and overwhelmed.  And it's these ordinary cops, the "Criminal Police," who are the focus of the series.  The first character we meet is a "revolutionary sailor" -- which means he's an earnest rube, something like a patriotic, unsophisticated farmboy -- freshly assigned to the Moscow militsiya as an investigator.  The second is more complex: a former detective for the Czar's police, now out of work, under considerable suspicion and drinking heavily.  Events unfold; the young sailor meets Dornbergs, his boss and (apparently) the top man in  the Criminal Police, and is assigned to stop a strange gang of leaping, white-robed criminals.  Meanwhile the same gang attacks a friend of the former Imperial detective, frightens his sister, and leads him to sober up and offer to help the militsiya for just this one case.  Dornbergs accepts (over the objections of his Cheka liaison), pairs him up with the young sailor and the hunt is on.

     It's about as accurate as Have Gun, Will Travel, or perhaps Hec Ramsey, and for similar reasons of national myth and cinematic convention (parts of the past were considerably filthier than you'd care to see).   Production values are excellent.  The acting and story-telling is first-rate and the overall sweep and structure reminds me of the first season of Homicide: Life On The Street, with an emerging ensemble cast of well-developed personalities.  Each story arc takes up at least two hour-long episodes, allowing for fairly convoluted plots; gun geeks may enjoy the Nagant revolvers, Broomhandle Mauser "Bolos" and other early 20th-century firearms used by police and bad guys.  The contrast between the eager greenhorn and experienced detective is well-played, as are various subplots.

     English subtitles appear to have been translated by a native Russian speaker, with some of the foibles of number and article typical of that tongue; they're clear enough, and the substitutions of "Mr. [Last name]" for "firstname + patronymic" and "KGB" for "Cheka" are actually useful clarifications for English speakers.

     I'm a half-dozen episodes in  and still enjoying it.  Sure wouldn't want to have to live through it at the time!
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* "The All-Russian Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage," no less, later changed to, "All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption," which developed from a similar organization operating in Petrograd.  "VCheka" and "'Cheka" are the short versions of the name, from Vserossiyskaya chrezvychaynaya, "All-Russian Extraordinary." Over time, they became the GPU, OGPU, NKVD and, yes, KGB. Ordinary crime was at best outside their remit.  At worst?  H'mmm, remember how the FBI and the Mob were said to work together during WW II? Yeah, that.  For decades.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

I Got Ripped Off

     As ripoffs go, it was small one: ordered more Chemex coffemaker filters though Amazon, and it's not an item they stock; you have to buy from one of the little suppliers who sell through Amazon.  This has never been a problem -- until "Kitchen Eco."

     As of today, they have eight reviews, all one-star; the earliest is from 7 February and the most recent is from me.  They all say the same things: fake filters.  Not the right ones.  Too small to be useful.  Counterfeit box -- too small, multiple misspellings.  And wouldn't you know, now there's nothing in "Kitchen Eco's" virtual storefront on Amazon.

     I've ordered some filters directly from Chemex.  Shipping is costly but the per-box price of the filters is lower and it works out to a lower overall price.  They'll be awhile arriving; Tam is out right now on an urgent mission to our nearest Chemex stockist, in hopes they'll have one of three versions of the standard, chemistry-lab type filter that fit our coffeemaker.*  Yes, it's extra effort.  They make such great coffee that we think it's worth it.
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* In the event of an emergency, I'll do a batch of coarse grind and get out the vacuumatic -- almost as good but tricky to get the proper strength and clarity.  (Spellcheck suggests "traumatic" in place of "vaccumatic."  Hey, it's not that difficult.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Howdy!

     In a bit of a hurry this morning, so this is what you get.  Well, this and a link to a commercial with an earworm-worthy jingle.  Wouldn't begin to tell you one way or another about the product but between that and their "Princess Bride" commercial for the same client, I think highly of their ad agency.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Well, That's Better

     Spent most of yesterday horizontal.  I took my pills and slept.  By evening, my back was much improved.  Today, I'll take anti-inflammatories alone and see how I feel after work -- I can certainly take the muscle relaxer in the evening if needed.  It's a definite non-driving medication for me.

     I certainly hurt a lot less this morning.  In hindsight, I've been in a fair amount of pain for a couple of weeks and have been refusing to face it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Sick Today

     I'm one of the worst kinds of sick for someone raised in the middle-class virtues of thrift and hard work: my back is acting up.

     Only a little, but when it hurts to move between sitting and standing, when getting up from sitting on the floor* is a difficult and complex process as well as painful and well-nigh impossible unless there's something to grab to help haul myself up, when the pain distracts excessively--  That's sick enough.

     I've been ignoring the problem  for several weeks.  January 14th at the most recent Indy 1500 gun show was when it first hit hard enough to be a problem; walking the floor in heavy boots, my lower back started aching and I ran out of energy.  Ahead of the rest of the party, I shuffled through the last few aisles, found a chair, and waited for my friends to find me.  Since then, I've tried to get enough sleep (and mostly succeeded), used a heat pad almost nightly, soaked in Epsom-salted baths, changed how I was sleeping (wedge pillow, flat pillow, none) and been careful to avoid side-sleeping on the wedge pillow.  None of it helped a lot.

     Yesterday afternoon, after a day spent somewhere between "Dead Slow" and "Stop," punctuated by the tricky task of moving from standing to sitting to floor-level work, it seemed like a trip to the doc-in-a-box might be in order.  Preferably while I could still drive.

     Managed to hit the place at a fairly slack time, only two people ahead of me, and in short order found myself talking to a nice young doctor.  He asked questions, poked and prodded and said it sounded and felt like muscle spasm, triggered by strain.  That's not impossible; I do occasionally have to move heavy things and we've been doing a lot of it at work.  He prescribed anti-inflammatories and a muscle relaxant.

     Filled the 'scrip last night, took the first installment, became quite dizzy/tipsy, went to bed and drifted off to a lovely dreamland.  I woke at six this morning only long enough to feed the cats, take more drugs and return to bed.  Called in sick at some point, and didn't fully wake until about an hour ago.

     Made myself a little breakfast, rice and left over "chili mix" vegetables (red and green bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and onions) stir-fried with scrambled eggs and a little bacon. Plus a pot of coffee.

     Now I'm fed and feeling better, living in a world where things drift by in the most delightful undersea manner, and contemplating a return to bed.  I have got to get this under control ASAP and if it takes twenty-fours mostly spent horizontal, so be it.
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* The installation I'm working on changing has got connection panels from about a foot and a half above floor level to a little over four feet up.  There are few grabbable points and they're not much.