Saturday, October 20, 2018

"And Will You Be Having A Virus With That...?"

     There's some kind of head cold making the rounds at work.  We've all been trying to be careful, lots of handwashing and disinfectant spray and all that.  But when I came home last night, I realized my throat was feeling a bit tender.

     Took an extra multivitamin and had a couple of cups of strong tea on the theory that it couldn't hurt.  Woke up this morning no worse than before, after a night of what I am assured is "not terribly bad snoring from the other end of the house."*

     So I guess we'll see.
* From time to time, it wakes me up.  And now I know what words without vowels sound like.

Friday, October 19, 2018

It's Cold Now

     And it's going to stay cold the rest of this month.  November is not notable for hot weather, so there it is.  No "Indian Summer" this year; temperatures went from eighties to fifties in the course of a day.

     The yard is littered with leaves and I am hoping Saturday afternoon, the yard will be dry enough to set the mower lower and see how much of the leaves I can mow up instead of raking.

     Possibly the roads will be dry enough I can ride my motor scooter a little; I have had very little time in the saddle this year and I miss it.  Between rain and road construction, this wasn't a favorable summer for riding.

     Of course, the gutters need cleared -- gutter screens would be an excellent idea.  Managed to clean them from a ladder instead of from the roof last time, a slightly slower but much safer method.  Maybe I'll try that Sunday.  It will be colder but the work is active enough to keep warm.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

And Now, Music

     You need something with good bass response and decent stereo separation to fully enjoy this.  It came on the radio on my drive home last night and I found it charmingly askew:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cold Weather

     The good thing about cold weather: the cats really like me.

    The bad thing about cold weather: the cats still don't get along all that well.  They can be pretty chummy if they both want to nap, but Huck is very playful and Rannie isn't interested.  Sometimes he pesters her out of what is probably boredom.  And sometimes it happens in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fungus Before The Cold

     It's turned cold here in Indianapolis; last week, it went from high-eighties to mid-fifties in a single day and it has stayed chilly.  Overnights have been flirting with frost and may have reached it last night.

     Before the sudden turn, the heat and moisture had allowed plenty of fungus to flourish in the yard, mostly puffballs and toadstools.  Over a week ago, coming back from taking the trash out, I saw a kind we hadn't had before:
     Shelf or bracket fungus.  Possibly "Artist's Conk," though I hope not, since that kind definitely does the tree no good.  This is on our oak tree -- "our" in this case including a neighbor, since the tree is right on the property line.  It does make for a nice early-Fall scene.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ballot Access

     Indiana is unusual in having three political parties with non-petition ballot access.  The third party is the Libertarian Party of Indiana.

     It's not a sure thing.  The last I knew, a party needed to get two percent of the votes for their candidate for Secretary of State in order to get and keep non-petition access to ballots.  That means they don't have to go out and collect signatures for each of their candidates; instead, the smaller parties have normal nominating conventions.  (Reaching the ten percent threshold would require them to run in the primaries, but only the Republicans and Democrats have that -- so far.)

     What this means is if you want to see the LP remain on your ballots, if you want that third choice, it's important to vote for their candidate for Secretary of State.   If you don't want them on the ballot, vote for someone else for that office.  This year, there are only three choices, but if you favor some other minor party, and they run someone for that office, vote for that person.

     It's not especially obvious and Secretary of State is one of those obscure offices that most of us don't think about much, other than hoping whoever has the job is honest and competent.  But it's an office where your vote does more than just determine who will get the job.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Beef Stew

     Last night, tonight and probably for lunch next week:
     A pound of stew beef, a half-pound of steak tips, a hot Italian sausage squeezed out of the casing, carrots, celery, onion, orange bell pepper, a big potato, fresh mushrooms, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, pinto beans, parsley,  garlic, basil, marjoram and rosemary.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Rogues Gallery

Here are my ballot choices.  Note that several races have only one candidate.  I don't think that's a good sign.  Is there no Republican or Libertarian who considers him- or herself a good (and electable) alternative to State Representative Ed Delaney?  No one from the LP or GOP wants to try for the job of State Assessor or Washington Township Trustee?  Constable of the Small Claims Court?  (A thankless job.  We should probably be happy anyone's running for the office.)  Of course, I'll be voting to remove all the judges.  Nothing personal, I just think they shouldn't get too comfortable.

The following lists all of the public questions that will be on your ballot during the next election. Please note that this list of public questions is supplied and maintained by the Indiana Election Division and counties. If this information appears to be incorrect or incomplete, please contact the Indiana Election Division. A VOTER WHO IS NOT 18 IS NOT PERMITTED TO VOTE ON A PUBLIC QUESTION.
Category Title Question
Court of Appeals Judge Retention COURT OF APPEALS JUDICIAL RETENTION DISTRICT 2 "Shall Judge Robert R. (Bob) Altice, Jr. be retained in office?"
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT Shall Judge John Chavis be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT Shall Judge Alicia A. Gooden be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Grant W. Hawkins be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Heather Welch be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge John F. Hanley be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Jose Salinas be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Steven R. Eichholtz be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Amy M. Jones be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Clark Rogers be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Helen Marchal be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge James A. Joven be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Linda E. Brown be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Lisa F. Borges be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Mark D. Stoner be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Sheila A. Carlisle be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge William (Bill) Nelson be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR JUDGE Shall Judge Clayton Graham be retained in office?
Ratification of State Constitutional Amendment PUBLIC QUESTION #1 "Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a supermajority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?"
Supreme Court Justice Retention SUPREME COURT JUSTICE Shall Justice Geoffrey G. Slaughter be retained in office?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Trick Question

     In the upcoming elections, there's a Public Question on the Indiana ballot:

     "Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a supermajority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?"

     Hey, sounds pretty good, right?  Sure -- except Art. 10, Sect. 5 currently reads:

     "No law shall authorize any debt to be contracted, on behalf of the State, except in the following cases: to meet casual deficits in the revenue; to pay the interest on the State Debt; to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or, if hostilities be threatened, provide for the public defense."

     It just says No.  Unless there's fighting in the streets or it's a penny-ante loan, N O.  There's no supermajority-sure-borrow-money exception.

     We should keep it that way.  Vote NO on the Public Question. Our Legislature had that kind of power once, and bankrupted the state.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Who Would Vote For That Person?

     People tend to view the politics of others through the lens of their own views. If you think government is a wonderful boon, someone who thinks of it as a necessary evil seems terribly wicked, and someone who points out that most of our interactions actually happen without or even in spite of government guidance or control will strike you as naive or peculiar.

      And yet each of those thumbnails (and all the gradations of opinion in between between, not to mention more extreme views) approximates the outlook of someone who is satisfied that it represents reality. That's the world we live in. It might be fun to think of everyone with a different take from your own as ignorant or evil, but it's inaccurate at a level that will trip you up badly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

It's Robert A. Heinlein's Future...

     We're just remixing it.  Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos?  D. D. Harriman.  Nehemiah Scudder?  Take your pick; there are plenty of candidates.

     And wouldn't you rather live in Heinlein's future than William L. Shirer's past?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018


     Indiana Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly and challenger Mike Braun agree on one thing: at last night's debate, they ignored Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton.  She was making good points, but she might as well have not been in the room as Mr. Braun and Sen. Donnelly rehashed their campaign ads at one another.  Repeatedly asked by the moderator to stay on topic, they never strayed from their talking points.

     Remember Dems saying, "Listen to the women?"  Ms. Brenton might as well have been hollering down a well.  And while the GOP likes to claim they embody old-fashioned, chivalrous politeness, that didn't appear to apply to listening and responding to points made in a debate.  She said it best: "These two gentlemen are part of the problem," she remarked during the debate.

      I'm not impressed by either man.

      And I'm still voting for Lucy Brenton.

Another Week, Another Hurricane

     Didn't we -- and by "we," I mostly mean the southeastern U.S. -- already go through this just the week before last?

     Yes, we kind of did -- and now there's another one bearing down.  It's one right after another!  --Not exactly.  Florence blew in from the Atlantic in mid-September and now Michael has ducked by Cuba and is headed in from the Gulf towards north Florida.  In between them, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk and Leslie all whirled up and earned names.  Most of them never quite made hurricane status and the ones that did didn't hit the United States.  The dates are overlapping; the storms keep on brewing up.  It's not one thing after another, it's one thing on top of another.  The sea is vast and storm tracks are unpredictable. 

     Keep the areas on Hurricane Michael's path in your thoughts.  It could be ugly.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Lasso Of...Truth?

     What doe s a "lie detector" detect?  Wired took a look at them and the answer is...maybe not a lot.

     I'd like to see a run-off between a polygraph and a good police detective.  People are pretty good lie detectors.  On the other hand, some people are extraordinarily good liars -- and the same coolness and "method acting" that lets such a person lie successfully to others would show nice, truthful responses on the machine.

     It's disappointing.  Who wouldn't like a reliable way to know when someone is lying?  And think of what it would do the political debates....  

Sunday, October 07, 2018


     Today is the eleventh anniversary of this blog!  

Rain? Heat? Humidity?

     We usually have toadstools and puffballs here and there.  This year, there's shelf fungus growing on one of the trees, that's how hot and humid it is.  Photos to follow, as soon as I get them from the camera.

     That will be after lawnmowing.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

So Far Apart?

     Maybe.  And maybe not.  The politicians have certainly drawn up lines.  Regular people?  Perhaps not so much as it seems.

     An interesting take on our division from a writer at the Atlantic sheds, for once, more light than heat.

Friday, October 05, 2018

So...How About That Weather?

     Writing something about the Kavanaugh vote is tempting, but you know what?  It's essentially partisan.  Democrats are not going to vote to confirm him.  Republicans will.  A handful of politicians will dither, possibly sincerely, but most of the votes will have little if anything to do with the facts of his judicial or academic record.  As for the allegations concerning his behavior, to the extent that there are any hard facts to be found, they are filtered through partisan viewpoints, exacerbated by mutual rancor and Mr. Trump's inability to keep his mouth shut even when it would best serve him to do so.

     "Dumpster fire" is too kind a metaphor.

     The Senate will vote and move on to the next mess, the Press baying at their heels.

Thursday, October 04, 2018


     Yesterday, I pointed at a piece of equipment at work...and stuck a finger past the screen on an oversized "muffin fan" and into the blades.  Sliced across the tip of my left ring finger pretty good and it would not stop bleeding.

     So I had to go off to our company immediate-care provider, expecting stitches.  What I got instead was medical-grade superglue and a bandage for padding. 

     Off to see how it survives that shower now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Late Night

     When the phone rings after ten p.m., it's probably not good news.  I had to go into work -- the North Campus -- late last night.  A power hit had managed to trip a breaker on a critical piece of equipment.  Going in, all I knew was that one of the important widgets had shut down and wasn't responding to remote-control restart. 

     It could have been any of several very bad things.  I'm glad it wasn't.  Sure hope this isn't a trend; in twenty-two years of power hits, that particular circuit breaker has not tripped -- and it was in one of seven identical high-power sub-widgets, three running and four spares.  It might be time to find out if the manufacturer's got any replacement breakers in stock.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Salmon Patties, Low Carb

     Salmon patties are a treat from my youth.  Mom added a generous dollop of Worcestershire sauce to the mix, which went well with the flavor of the salmon.  There are other good things in them, too: egg, vegetables (nearly always onions, at least), a little lemon or lime juice and seasonings, often a little Parmesan cheese--

     The problem is that one of the other major components is a generous amount of carbohydrates.  It was crushed saltines in Mom's version, Depression cooking at its finest; upscale versions use breadcrumbs.  Panko is said to work well.  Tasty...and not at all suited to a low-carb diet.

     Yesterday, nostalgia and idle curiosity had me web-searching "low-carb salmon patties" after the end of my work day and yes, there is such a thing.  In fact, there are lots of recipes.  The usual replacement for the carbs is smashed pork rinds!  It makes perfect sense.  Some sources suggest freezing them after smashing, to mute the flavor; others just throw them in.  Jalapeno or other hot peppers often replace or augment the Worcestershire or hot sauce and there are plenty of suggestions for sauces, many of them avocado-based.

     It looked good and I decided to try it.  Alas, our corner grocer had nothing so downscale as pork rinds.  The cracker aisle turned up some low-carb "cheese straws;" a quarter-cup would have 2.25 grams of carbs, and divided four ways between patties leaves just over a half-gram each.  They were made with Parmesan and aged cheddar, so there's that component as well.

     A mild Poblano pepper seemed like a safe bet, though hot Fresno and cherry peppers tempted me. Maybe next time. I did yield to the temptation of a dark red onion (and cried cutting it later, too).  And I forgot to get a lemon, lime or some concentrated juice.

     Back home, the cheese straws proved savory and nice.  Smashed a scant quarter cup of them, diced the veggies (chop them up fine. A generous tablespoon of onion and about as much of the pepper is sufficient; I may have doubled that) and added some black pepper, garlic powder, dried celery flakes, some Worcestershire, a dash of hot sauce, a little basil, and only then realized I had no tangy citrus.  But I do keep a little sumac on the shelf (it's nice on melon), and it very much has a lemony flavor; with a quick shake or two of that, a well-beaten egg and twelve ounces of well-drained canned salmon, it was ready to be mixed.  Stir it up well in a mixing bowl.  You want a fairly sticky mixture -- I fell just short of that this time.

     The patties were almost too wet to hold together. I could have drained the salmon better.  A full quarter-cup of crumbs and maybe even another egg would have helped.  With care, three of the four held up well enough to cook and turn intact..  I browned both sides (four minutes or more) in a little oil and served the patties with green salad.  Tam liked them and so did I.

     The pork rind version would be zero-carb.  This version was pretty low-carb.  Taste and mouthfeel were just as I remembered -- almost as good as Mom's. 

Monday, October 01, 2018

Chicago Exports

     There was gunplay at the Walmart in Hobart, Indiana last night.  Hobart would be a smallish town -- except it is embedded in the densely-packed cluster of cities and towns at the edge of Chicago.  It's far enough away that the shooting stands out from the background level of Greater Chicago's violence.

     The point I find of particular notability is not the shooting itself or the possible reasons for it, but the response: store employees had recently received active shooter training and acted on what they had learned, leading store patrons away from the danger.

     Violence happens; while some people decry the need for such training, it is one of the few things that definitely makes a difference.  Knowing what to do, even just thinking about what might happen before it happens, helps people make a better response to a terrible situation.

     There have been no fatalities reported from the shooting so far.  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Headlight Washers?

     When I first got my current vehicle, Tam pointed out an odd button on the dashboard:  "Look, this car's got headlight washers!"

     I was doubtful, and pointed out there weren't any wiper blades or the like on or near the headlights, just a couple of funny-looking raised spots, hole plugs on the front bumper where they'd be if my car had them, which it obviously did not.

     So the matter rested.

     Yesterday, the car needed gas, and since there was some dispute if it needed regular or premium gasoline,* I handed her the owner's manual to look it up while I drove.  She kept on leafing through it as we went to the five and dime,† and then read a review of the car on her iPad on the way to the grocer's afterward.  As we pulled into the lot, she told me, "I'll bet you there really are headlight washers.  Park and get out; I'll push the button."

     I agreed.  Pulled into a space, left the lights on, and walked around and gave her the high sign.  She leaned over and suddenly, those two "hole plugs" popped straight out, sprayed the headlights, and retracted back to where they'd been.  I let out a little whoop as they did so, surprised and pleased.

     Tam opened her door and leaned out, "Now you go push the button while I watch!"

     Darnedest thing I have yet seen on a car.
* Premium, barely.  Lexus set the minimum octane rating within a single digit higher than the typical "regular" grade around here.  It'll run all right on regular if need be, but it runs better on high-test.

 † Oh, all right, Target.  And it was chess night at their coffee shop, four tables of intent players and spectators.  There are many things to like about this part of town.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Gosh, I'm Tired

     Between the work I put in last week and the lovely mess in D.C., I'm just worn out.  I didn't do much yesterday and my expectations are low for today.  I need to go grocery-shopping.  I might make some dinner.

     Just getting through.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Cats To The Vet

     It's time for their checkup.  I like to think Tam and I have have helped our pets live a better life.  Be kind to some person or animal today -- kindness is in short supply, it seems, yet the need for it is undiminished, if not increasing.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Off Today

     It's been All Kavanaugh Hearings, All The Time at Roseholme Cottage today.  It's like the McCarthy hearings -- if Charlie McCarthy was sitting in for the opposition party.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

It Worked!

     The thing I was working on came down to one long-odds try.  I had three very obsolete versions of the data-compression widget, one much more obsolete than the others, and that was the only one that was working properly. That oldest version is larger and much more fragile; they're especially difficult to transport.  You have to remove all the 14" square plug-in circuit boards from the mainframe, move it in pieces, and put it back together on the far end, or it will not be working; the card-edge connectors are delicate. 

     The particular example I had was once moved with the cards in it.  Luckily it has a lot more slots than cards; with help from the manufacturer (it was still supported back then), I moved cards around, got it working, and decided never to move it from that location, ever.

     "Never, ever" is about a decade long.  Today, I took it back apart, moved it across town, and put it back together in a new location.  So far, it's working.  This is moderately big deal; I did not have high hopes but there were no other immediate options.

     And that caps the last four days.  I think I'll take the rest of the week off.

V-a-c-a-- No.

     This week was my vacation.  It was supposed to be.  We'd had something go a little bit bad at work, on a portion of the system that I have kept running using devices that were dumpster-bound; I need to relocate one of them, a large, fragile data-concatenating/compression computer, and opted instead to leave it running and clone its functions on one of a pair of newer, smaller versions we'd kept around just for that purpose.  They're all long obsolete, no longer supported by the manufacturer, but I've gotten along with them okay over the last twenty years.  I was going to come in Sunday and get it done in half a day.

     For eight hours Sunday, I worked at making one of them run.  Never did get it running; at about the six-hour mark, I gave up and tried the other.  Success!  But that took another couple of hours, it was nearing midnight, and I was pretty punchy.  Better to finish it the next day.

     Monday started well...until I looked at the output.  The main things it needed to do, it was doing fine.  There's another side function, a "virtual table," by which it tells the equipment it talks to (and the end-user) its name and a number.  It was giving the wrong name and number.  They're loaded from another computer, a server that communicates similar data sets to multiple similar computers, but that part wasn't getting through.

     The device that sends the name and number (and other information, which was getting through) is not obsolete, not yet, so Tuesday, I spent over four hours with the support team for the server that sends out that information, and they couldn't make it work.  They haven't had to try communicating with one of the obsolete machines for nearly ten years and that job was for my employer.

     Today, the large, fragile device is going to get moved.  If it doesn't survive?  Well, we're done; the only fix is to buy a very expensive replacement.

     The good news is, I'll get a few days of vacation either way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Rewatching Babylon 5

     Amazon's Prime Video released the entire run (around a hundred episodes) of Babylon 5 to subscribers not too long ago and I have been watching it ever since, one episode every day or so.

     At that rate, the rate of improvement in sets and acting is impressive.  The early effects don't hold up as well, in part for technical reasons (they were shot in 4:3 and then enlarged and cropped for the extant 16:9 footage, while the live-action was shot in 16:9 originally; there's a huge mismatch in resolution even before you get to the odd textures of early CGI) but if you overlook that, it's pretty slick by the third season and still improving.  Even the effects improve and by the fourth and fifth season, they're at least not jarring.

     As one of the first long-form SF series (it could be argued that Men In Space and the film and TV serials were the very first), Babylon 5 showed that it was not only possible to have very long story arcs, but that the genre was well-suited to them.

Monday, September 24, 2018

...I'm Allergic To It

     Now, if only I knew what it was!  Or is.  Spring and Fall, there's something in the air my sinuses don't like.  The week of rain kept it down and it ramped up slowly afterwards, but it was fogging me yesterday and, in hindsight, the day before.  Just took a an OTC 24-hour allergy pill, which usually makes it better.

     It could be worse.  Sure, sneezing and snorking isn't nice, but when I was a child, the Spring/Fall allergy caused my knees and elbows to get bumpy and itchy and, in short order, scabby.  Mom called it "the elbow disease," perhaps because nobody in our house had allergies; having allergies was considered to be a self-indulgent affectation of the well-to-do.  Much like orthodontia, it was looked on as a little bit suspect.  Decadent, even.  As I grew up, "the elbow disease" faded -- and seasonal sinus problems followed.  I suffered through for decades; it was probably Tamara who bought the first OTC allergy pills and shared them.  They worked.

     Holy cow, it turns out I'm like the title character in The Princess And The Pea, a delicate flower.  With an allergy.  I just keep forgetting to take the medicine for it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

It Will Kill You Dead

     It's fried potatoes (with corned beef)!
     This is not at all tricky or "foodie."  It's canned diced potatoes, drained and fried in a little butter with some cut-up scraps of corned beef left over from making sandwiches, seasoned with fresh-ground pepper, dehydrated onion and parsley.  I added a dollop of chow-chow to the bowl, a mildly hot cabbage/onion (etc.) version packed in a vinegary sauce that works well with the other ingredients.  The combination is surprisingly good.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Kavanaugh Hearings

     Oh, to hell with it -- the Judiciary Committee needs to subpoena everybody who has even been mentioned, haul 'em off to D.C. and make 'em testify.  On TV or not, in public or in camera, I don't care; I'm just tired of people tap-dancing around, remembering just enough to suit themselves, setting conditions, "indicating they won't testify."

       Many Senators are attorneys; most of them have even worked as actual trial lawyers, prosecutors or other Perry Mason-esque jobs.  They have worked with witnesses before, eager, reluctant, hostile, and/or scared witnesses, and they still can. If it's necessary to subpoena every person who went to the high schools involved at that time, fine, do it.  Line 'em all up and build up the big picture.  It may or may not be as dreadful as claimed but I promise you it will be unflattering to all concerned: kids are kids; rich kids tend to be obnoxious little entitled punks.  Some of them grow out of it once they get out into the real world, or at least learn to fake it.  Just what sort of angel were you at seventeen?  Pimples, bad poetry and social awkwardness are about the best you'll see in an unsympathetic look back.  Should your fitness to do your job today be based on who you were at that age?

     Remember when the salacious doings of rich kids at private schools was the stuff of cheap, sweaty paperbacks rather than the occasion of (so far) offstage accusations laid before Congressional Committees? Let's Make Politics Boring Again!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Up And At 'Em

     Might as well -- you know what the late bird gets?  Maybe nothing, if the early birds were hungry enough.  With all the road repair work going on, I'm the "late bird" far too often.  I'm having to duck clear across Meridian Street, and even the one-way streets on that side are often down a lane due to work here and there.

     In theory, Meridian, the main route into downtown from the north,* is paralleled by a number of one-way thoroughfares but they're very much creatures of their day, packed with houses, apartments, schools and churches.  And construction -- apartment construction on Central Avenue (and along 16th Street) has been moderating traffic speeds far more effectively than signage for about a year. 

     That may be a "hidden benefit" to all the construction.  Too many of us drive too quickly in town -- me all too often among them.  And there's another reason to get moving earlier.
* Indianapolis doesn't have a north-south limited-access highway.  U.S. 31 is an old "blue highway" and officially ducks around the city on I-465.  Since 465 closely approximates the county boundary, that leaves a lot of town to get through on surface streets.  Old 31 is a fine road, two lanes in both directions; around 56th Street, it reverts to lanes that were wide for a Ford Model A and stays that way all the way through the city center.  The parallel one-way routes generally have wider lanes and slower posted speed limits.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Well, That Had Legs

     Tam posted about our weekend oxtail-and-beef-shank stew and Instapundit picked it up.  This is pretty flattering.  They both made a point about the "lesser cuts" of meat, less pretty but tastier and (in the common understanding) left to the underclasses.  It's a good point and from a seat at the High Table, it makes sense: it's roasts and steaks that the fancy fellows get, maybe done up in a pastry castle and served with a fine sauce--

     But the cooks and scullery maids and even the turnspit dogs have always known that the fancy sauce was made with fat and pan drippings; it's no good without them. Likewise, m'lord's lovely cup of consomme is made with meat full of cartilage and tendon; shin meat, tough and full of gristle, is just about essential to the flavor.  Cook that down, clarify it and you have broth fit for royalty.

     The best meat-based soups and stews rely on "ugly" meat, lots of bone (and marrow!) and connective tissue, simmered for a good long time; it's one of the reasons why humans invented such dishes, to get at the nutrition too difficult to winkle out more directly.

     You'll find some version of "oxtail" served just about anywhere they eat beef, from Spain (Rabo de Toro!) to Hungary, from Korea to  modern-day RomeSoup or stew or braised, it's tasty stuff and people who have eaten it usually want to have it again.

     Beef shank is another wonderful-tasting meat.  It's got a lot of chewy stuff in it and needs plenty of cooking; but what a reward!  (Plus, of course, a nice big soup bone or two, loaded with goodness.)

     So, sure, this is the left-over, ugly stuff (one article on the Roman version of oxtail mentions butchers and cooks calling the tail the "fifth fourth" of the cow, bull or ox) and it's often attractively priced but the people living off the fat of the land ate such things often, far more than they realized, while the kitchen help got by on tea, toast -- and, with a little luck and foresight, wonderful leftovers.

Monday, September 17, 2018

And Today, A Change In Routine

     Changing my routine is not something I welcome.  Habits are useful -- getting up at the same time every day, bathing at the same time, taking the same route to work--

     That last one isn't easy.  For years, I drove down Central Avenue for over half my commute, a nice, wide, one-way and little-used thoroughfare; sure, it ran though a seedy neighborhood -- but so does traffic-choked College Avenue, a few blocks away.  And it was not without bright spots; a neighborhood church runs a co-op vegetable garden (with plenty of flowers) and has rehabilitated a little corner diner, posting delicious-sounding specials on an A-frame chalkboard out front every day; across the street, an ever-changing "Art Is--" billboard always had something interesting up.

     Then the city decided the Central Avenue bridge over Fall Creek needed repair.  They were right; most of the bridges over Fall Creek north of downtown date to the late 19thg or early 20th Century and most havn't had much more than a lick and a prayer (and occasional repaving) as traffic has increased.  But once they started, they found the banks of the "creek" (in many places, it would count as a river), built up and reinforced back when internal combustion engines were cutting-edge tech, were undercut, weak and would require extensive work before they could even think about rebuilding the bridge. 

     That was two years ago.  I've been commuting on College ever since.  It will likely be another year before the Central Avenue bridge is back, well past schedule.

     Having found one bad bridge across Fall Creek, the city took a closer look at the others and yes, of course, they weren't in great shape, either.  They've patched up the Delaware Street bridge and they planned out fixing the rest.  They filled out the calendar in ink.  The College Avenue bridge gets work starting today.

     Meanwhile, the humongous DigIndy sewer diversion/storage project, which involves digging a nearly thirty-mile-long tunnel under the central city and down to the sewage plant south of town, has closed parts of Meridian Street, the major north-south traffic route in and out of downtown, just north of the street's bridge over Fall Creek..

     By my count, there's one bridge left east of Meridan and a couple of brides on one-way streets (one in each direction) west of it.  The east bridge is on Delaware Street, which is one-way south on the north side of Fall Creek and one-way north on the south side of Fall Creek -- and, if I remember correctly, two-way over the bridge with some interesting sorting-out on each side.  Many drivers will be encountering that for the first time today.

     Me, I'm looking for another route.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Problem Gives Own Answer

     An article in Foreign Policy on "Why Growth Can't Be Green" popped up in my feed.  The author makes a strong case for his thesis, which he seems to think is quite the Gordian knot.

     He's concerned "...that there are physical limits to how efficiently we can use resources," and pontificates, "Our planet provides more than enough for all of us; the problem is that its resources are not equally distributed."

     Sure, you can do that, and in the end we'll all get exactly the same weight in cockroaches for dinner.  On the other hand, early on he tells us, "Even under the best conditions, absolute decoupling of GDP from resource use is not possible on a global scale." 

     The emphasis is mine.  There's a whole Solar System out there, with lots of iron and copper and other metals, plenty of ice to use for water, air and fuel -- and staggering amounts of solar energy to power the process.

     I know it has become fashionable these days to decry space as a place where the rich will flee to escape us clods -- but in fact it is harsh and desolate, a set of environments where recycling isn't just a nice idea but a near-necessity -- and where conditions are such that you're already set up to work with harsh and dangerous processes while being isolated from them.  We can extract exotic metals and process radioactives on the Moon all we like and not endanger a single newt or squirrel -- or person, if they do it right -- and the aftermath won't be a spreading contaminated lake in China or a massive disposal problem in the Pacific Northwest. 

     Or, I suppose, we can hunker down in shared, egalitarian* poverty and every year there will be less and less, until one day, it'll all be gone.

     I know which future I prefer.
* Some of the important people, the ones who write articles for Foreign Policy and suchlike, will get a double helping of cockroaches.  Maybe even with salt.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Today, I Cooked....

     Stew: oxtail, beef shank and stew meat, browned and, as it cooked, cut up.  This is especially interesting with oxtail -- you cook it and then you start fishing it out, taking it off the bone, and letting it cook more.  Ideally, you cook it until it is ready to fall off, but it needs some help even then.

     Once the meat was well-browned and mostly cooked, I diced a big old rutabaga, and let it cook and deglaze.  Added diced carrots, then worked on a nice big fennel bulb, and once it was in and cooking, chopped up a large onion.  I sauteed all that together and once the veggies were done enough --rutabaga soft, onion translucent -- I added a big can of crushed tomatoes and beef stock.  Cover and ignore, other than periodic attacks on the oxtail and beef shank.  Sharp scissors help with that, and the marrow cooks out of the shank bones and enriches the broth.  Once it warmed through, I added basil, parsley and three bay leaves, because it was a big pot of stew.
      It cooked away with the lid on for another 45 minutes and was ready enough.  Tam and I dug in and it was good indeed.

     There's plenty left for tomorrow

Friday, September 14, 2018


     Like Thunderdome, but with different rules: "Two men enter: enter, men, two."

     Yeah, that's as good as the jokes get this morning.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

And I'm Off

     Off to the rarely-visited North Campus today, or at least that's the plan.  The good side?  Access to a Five Guys burger joint for lunch.  The bad side: not sure if I'll have a lunch break.

     The kitchenette up there has been largely non-functional since the Mouse Invasion of 2017 despite remediation efforts, so it's brown-bag all the way and no fridge.  Well, we had was a 1950s Ford/Philco refrigerator and a 1970s microwave oven when I started, and they'd had to sneak the microwave in by calling it a communications link. The place was renovated a decade later and there were many years with Kenmore's finest in the break area, plus a good coffeemaker.  The coffeemaker didn't survive the first long stretch of no regular visits; the rest lasted well over twenty years.  With zero staffing, there's not much point in spending on creature comforts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


     I didn't mark 9/11 yesterday, even though I'd met one of the TV techs who were killed -- murdered -- at the World Trade Center that terrible day.

     On December 7, 1958, plenty of people remembered and there were indeed ceremonies, but it was not an occasion for requisite shows of patriotic fervor: a sneak attack led to a war and in the end, we got the perpetrators.  We put an end to the threat.  In that war, the stakes were the same, though the threat was more imminent and the price to defeat it was higher.

     Reading Sefton Delmer's autobiographical books, Trail Sinister and Black Boomerang, is instructive as the young Briton grew up an enemy alien in WW I Germany, was repatriated in 1917 and educated in England, then returned to the Continent as a newsman to cover pre-Crash Weimar, the Spanish Civil War and the preparations for and beginning of WW II.  Old resentments and insults poisoned Europe and the ashes of the First World War were the birthplace of the Second.  The United States should not copy Europe in this regard.  We should do as we have done: win the war and move on.

     Remember the past.  Honor its dead.  Do not be ruled by it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Trash: A Batch Process, Or What?

     There are basically two kinds of manufacturing: a continuous process, like Henry Ford's assembly line, which keeps moving along, building as it goes, or a batch process, like making a cookies: you gather the ingredients, mix up the batter, measure out dollops on the baking sheet,  put the cookies in the oven for a set amount of time, and move them to cooling racks, and there's one batch of cookies; if you want more, you start mixing up batter again.

     A big cookie factory might use a continuous process instead, with batter mixed in quantity and a fresh vat of it always ready to replace the one in use, while the cookies move through an open oven for the required time and are unloaded onto cooling racks as they come out -- RCA used a similar process in making color CRTs, only at temperatures hot enough to fuse and anneal glass.

     Taking out the trash can be a batch process or a continuous one: the various trash containers in the house fill up and are emptied into a larger container once filled, which is dealt with as needed; or they can be kept up with until "trash day," at which time a special effort is made to empty all the trash containers, put in new bags, and gather all the trash at a common point for disposal.

     They're not that much different and how you approach it depends on how you were raised -- and possibly when and where. 

     I grew up mostly in the country, at a time when people still burned their trash.  (Yes, we did, even plastic.)  Back then, in the interregnum between Sears & Roebuck mail-order and online ordering, accumulating big pile of cardboard boxes was a rarity; junk mail wasn't a major industry yet, nobody was recycling cans and soft drinks were mostly sold in refillable glass bottles anyway, and (other than at Christmastime) a week's worth of trash never filled the burn barrel.  So trash was a batch process: you collected it, hauled it out back, loaded up the barrel and watched it burn.  In my parent's house, the job fell to Youngest Responsible Child and it was a big deal when your turn came -- it quickly became an annoying chore, of course,  It was a batch process.

     Tam grew up in the 'burbs, where the trash truck came by weekly (instead of the once or twice-a-year ash removal I was used to); you emptied in-house trash containers as they filled and you took the big trash can to the curb on the scheduled day.  It was essentially a continuous process, punctuated by setting the can out for pickup.

     Our approaches to trash day are very different.  The end results are very similar.  She wonders why I bustle about; I wonder why she saunters.  The trash gets taken out either way.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Up Early: License Plates!

     My new car needs plates.  (One plate; we haven't yet succumbed to the tyranny of front plates, though we did give in to the 123 ABC format some years back.*)  Yesterday, I realized the clock was ticking and I need to get them today or tomorrow, and in Indiana, with a new-to-you car it's not something you can do online.  So won't this be fun.
* The old passenger-car plate format was a two-digit county code, a letter and up to four numbers.  The county code was formed by the county's place on an alphabetical list, 1 - 92, with "overflow" for populous counties starting at 93.  By the end, I think they'd broken 100 on overflow.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sunday Morning

     It's raining still.  Oh, not with the intensity of the last couple of days.  It's just drizzling down, a cold, gray day that promises to continue with more of the same.

     Think of it as a readjustment.  This summer's been pretty dry and the scales are balancing. 

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Rain And Turnips

     The good news is, you can cut turnips into thin slices and fry them in bacon grease -- they taste great!  They don't get crisp the way potatoes do, but they're pretty good.  I think cubed turnips and corned beef would be pretty good; you'd want to start the turnips well ahead, and maybe add some onion and diced bell (or other) pepper with the meat.  Might even boil the turnips a little in the skillet; I'm of two minds about that, since the flavor is a little delicate and might be lost that way.

     The bad news?  It's raining.  A lot.  My bad knee has meant I wasn't keeping the gutters clear.  The bill came due last night, with a little water in the basement, so I got out the extension ladder and cleared them in the rain today, six feet at a time.  My hat got soaked, my sweatshirt got soaked, my jeans, shirt, gloves and hands got soaked and I got soaked.   And I did my right knee no good, if the pain and swelling is any indication.  But the gutters and downspouts are clear.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Still Working On This Money Thing

     It's not something I have much aptitude for.  Most of my efforts to manage big chunks of money -- buying a new car or a house, coping with a disastrous IRS audit back when I owned rental property -- have been instances of trying to minimize the damage and muddling through.  So this stuff worries me.  I know I'm going to lose money and the question is how to minimize the loss.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

I Need To Find Professional Financial Advice

     My visit to the bank was disappointingly unsuccessful.  They're the opposite of helpful.  The IRA specialist pooh-poohed my plans before they'd even been fully explained and had nothing to offer in their place.  ("My" bank is on the third ownership and name since I moved my account there, thirty years ago.  It's too much trouble to move my money elsewhere, but PNC is not much of a bank for small fry like me.)

     A couple of financial things -- income of various sorts -- have me wrapped around the axle, trying to figure out what to do with the money (even, in one case, how to receive it) to reduce or delay being gouged by IRS.  I'll pay 'em what I owe 'em when it comes due, but I am given to understand in the case of retirement income there are ways of arranging it so the money becomes taxable only after one is in a lower tax bracket.

     Are any of my readers in the financial-planning business?  Do any of you know of financial-planning firms who don't mind pipsqueak amounts of money in the hands of someone who is strongly opposed to any form of high-risk investment and who would prefer to pay a fee for good advice instead of handing over the principal and letting them skim any return?  That principal is a pittance -- but it's a pittance that, if I don't squander it, could make the difference between eating tuna and eating cat food after I retire.

     Retire I will.  All of a sudden, I'm old, six years away from full company retirement, eight years from full Social Security (if any).  It'd be nice not to arrive broke.

     P.S.: I have some rule for comments.
     1. Try to not be overly avuncular.  Just the facts.
     2. If there is anything -- anything -- you'd like to share in the way of traditional bank-connected ethnic slurs, and you know what I mean, please consider yourself banned for life in advance.  Seriously.

In A Hurry

     Off to the bank early this morning, and here's hoping they're interested in providing me the banking service I have selected instead of selling me on a complicated course of action that would provide a greater margin of profit for the bank. 

     Banks are like every other business these days, looking for their best deal plus any loose change forgotten under the sofa cushions.  I don't blame them -- but I am also not the least interested in playing junior financier, since experience has taught me that I have no knack for it.  Time before last, they took that admission as bit of a rebuke, which it isn't.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

"Collusion?" That's What The Senate Runs On!

     I woke up this morning to headlines from right-leaning news sources about how those mean ol' Democrats had "colluded" to disrupt the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.  It would seem they called one another up and discussed what they would do--

     --Which should be no surprise; deals and partisan or issues-based prearrangments are a big part of the normal functioning of the United States Senate.  I know, I know, you want high ideals and grand debate, the slow and decorous prodeedings of the nation's oldest and most deliberative legislative body....  It never existed.  Politicians are a contentious, deal-making lot.  They sneak around.  They keep score.  And after the GOP sat on President Obama's final-year U. S. Supreme Court nominee for nearly three hundred days, payback was inevitable.

     Payback has arrived.  The Republicans still have a narrow majority ion the Senate and in the early going, it looks like the Democrats are more likely to have a Senator or two break ranks than the Republicans.  That makes Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation* extremely probable -- and the protest and disruption no more than political theatre.

     Let the Senate be the Senate, and try not to be too shocked when it looks like a remake of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington with the Jimmy Stewart part left out.  Remember what they say about laws and sausages?  It's not a joke.
* CBS seems to believe that popularity with the public is an important component in the selection of Supreme Court Justices.  Not how it works -- and as for popularity afterwards, having grown up in a county well-plastered with IMPEACH EARL WARREN stickers, I'm convinced that doesn't matter, either.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

"Fake News," "Enemies Of The People," And General Folderol

     Richard M. Nixon became President when I was nearly eleven, resigned while I was in high school and the very first election I voted in pitted his former Vice-President Gerald Ford against Jimmy Carter.*  During that time, I was part of the news staff of a school newspaper and, later, of the closed-circuit TV station, which produced a short newscast every weekday.   My parents were lifelong Republicans; my Mom even held an appointed office (Township Assessor) under the elected County official.  The press's war with Mr. Nixon and his war with them was a constant feature of my growing up.  President Reagan and the Presidents Bush got similar treatment, not quite so harsh, and in the case of Mr. Reagan, there was an element of "happy warrior" on each side: he and the Press gave as good as they got.

     So when the Press took off after candidate and then President Trump, it was more of the usual; I figure all Presidents need plenty of oversight, and if it's harshly critical, well, that comes with the job -- and so does pushing back.

     I'm not especially comfortable with President's Trump sweeping and often-repeated characterization of journalists as "enemies of the people."  It's dirty pool.  (Which is not to say he doesn't come in for unsubtle, dirty-pool digs from the Press, as well).  "Fake news" is an oversimplification, sloppily piling together overt bias, unconscious bias and the context-stripping necessary to a focused report, but it's got a grain of truth.  Calling out the news media as a whole under a turn of phrase still reeking of Stalinism, that's something else.

     Of course the media has counter-attacked, and of course a lot of it was predictably partisan, as overheated as anything tweeted from the White House -- but not all.  Azcentral -- part of the USA Today conglomerate -- published an editorial more sensible than most by a large margin.  I think it's worth reading.  The tl;dr version?  "Just do your job."  It's good advice.

     Journalists -- by which I mean reporters and editors who cover news  -- are not noble, shining heroes; they're people doing a job.  You should look on their work as they, ideally, look on the world: with a healthy dose of skepticism and an eye for the underlying facts.  The best of them try to be unbiased, but they're as opinionated as as anyone.  A lot of them have vastly different notions about politics than I do -- even so, I don't think they're enemies of The People.
* An interesting measure of the transition resulting from that election is that I know he was President James Earl Carter, Jr., just as I know Gerald Ford's middle initial was "R." but I couldn't possibly use his full name without it reading oddly.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Labor Day

     It's in September to keep it from being on 1 May, where it is in the rest of the world and where it has a deep and abiding connection to Socialist and Communist politics.  The American labor movement wasn't without such connections, but it played out differently here, and so, hey, we get a nice end-of-summer holiday.

     You can read a lot into it -- you can go wave a purple or red sign and march with whoever, if you like, this being a free country and all -- but the reality is, that's all it is now, a nice holiday marking the end of summer.  Enjoy it.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

White Night

     Went to bed about 10:30.  Up again at 11:30, midnight, and so on.  A throbbing sinus headache was most of at and by 2:30 this morning, I gave up and used my sinus irrigator.  That opened the floodgates and it was another hour before laying down didn't result in sitting back up and reaching for a tissue. 

     Around five, I nodded off and didn't wake until Tam sat on the foot of my bed to look at the news and commiserate with the cats about their lack of breakfast, shortly after six.  I fed the cats (Tam can fend for herself, after all) and stumbled back to bed, sleeping through hours of news and occasional foot-of-bed commentary.  9:30 or so, the lack of coffee drove me to my feet again and now, a cup of lightly-cinnamoned coffee and a bacon/olive/Parmesan omelet later, here I am.

     Giving serious thought to going back to bed.

Friday, August 31, 2018

On "Obstructionism"

     People -- in the media and everyday types online -- decry "obstructionism" in politics, as though a failure to march shoulder-to-shoulder was some kind of failing in Federal, State or local government.

     It's not.  It's baked right in to the way our system of government is set up, and not by accident.  This country was created by and for a large group of people with disparate -- indeed, divergent -- ideas.  It's why the Bill of Rights lists things the government is supposed to keep its hands off -- including some vague, sweeping language about how if it's not mentioned, Uncle Sam can't fiddle with it.  The three branches of the Federal government are each set up to thwart, stymie, slow and trip up one another.  None of this is an accident or an oversight; it's done to keep us from riding roughshod over one another.

     It's not perfect.  It's not even all that successful at limiting government, though it does a better job of that than any other approach.  It's definitely not efficient.  It wasn't meant to be.  The is not stamping out blivets or growing cotton; our elected and appointed pols aren't foremen (forepeople?) or overseers, and thank whatever big thanking-thing you like for that!  --And thank the clever, flawed men who drew up the Constitution and the men and women who amended it.

     Yeah, you didn't get everything you hoped from the Feds, and you got lots of stuff you didn't want.  So does everyone else.  The problem isn't that it's not efficient or united enough -- the problem is they didn't spend enough time and effort fighting one another and whittling their work down to the least-invasive and most widely-supportable version.  "Obstructive?"  They're not nearly obstructionist enough!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Garage Door: Fail And Fix

     The automatic garage door has been acting...odd.  It was stopping randomly during the closing cycle -- it would stop, the lights would go out, and it would do nothing for a few seconds.  I thought it was either bad contacts on a relay or the motor was stalling, and planned to check it out this coming weekend. 

     Yesterday, it failed badly on Tam; she got it to shut but when I left, later, it balked opening and closing.  So I called in the experts and they showed up this morning.

     It's not a relay.  It's not a mechanical issue cause the electric motor to flake out on excessive torque.  Nope it's a tiny, designed-in flaw, one that took the overhead door tech about five seconds to find: the power transformer is soldered to a circuit board, and hangs from it in one corner.  Over time, the solder joint and foil in the very corner breaks, and you've got an intermittent board.  Often, the substrate cracks as well: heavy transformer, inexpensive circuit-board material.  Repair is iffy, since the thing's already stressed and you're just slopping on more solder.  Not usually stocked, since it's an older board, and about two weeks lead time.  I resoldered the bad joint (it was sure-enough broken) but it was pretty ugly, and by the time I was back up from the basement, the tech had found a new replacement board on his truck. 

     Not cheap, in the way repair at the whole-board level usually is costly, but it's working and perhaps I'll get another ten years or more from it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Identity Politics Applied To Outer Space

     Sure, why not?  Ever since the film Elysium made the heavy-handed point that the rich were going to head off to clean, well-planned sybaritic lives Innnnn Spaaace and leave the rest of us losers starving on this polluted, used-up ball of mud, it's been taken as a given in some circles.

     Here's why not: there's no air, water,* bacon, broccoli, caviar, bread, carpet, chairs, iPads, condoms, Sansabelt slacks, and so on and on and on.  There are no functioning ecosystems in space and to date, nobody's built one.  ISS recycles quite a lot of water and processes some air, but everything that's up there was brought up there.  Figuring out how to establish an even minimally-closed environment will be a long, slow process and people will die learning.  I doubt any of them will be millionaires.

     What's the use of being the richest man in the Solar system in a space suit at the end of a long supply chain?  Sitting on the Moon, twiddling one's silent-film-villain mustache and sneering down at the planet all your stuff has to be shipped up from?

     Not gonna happen.  About the time you can transport a Caribbean island paradise to the Moon, intact and with a good big hunk of the surrounding sea and all its life, maybe you'll start to see a plutocrat or two in space.  Maybe.

     It's not a refuge for the rich.  It might keep the human race from getting stomped flat by planetary disaster -- but we're going to need viable off-Earth settlements, and that's at least a century away.  It'll be even longer before the livin' is at all easy.
* There's ice.  Given ice, sunlight and a whole lot of money and time, you can get most anything else -- eventually.  But it takes hands.  Working hands.  With all due respect to the accomplishments of Mr. Bezos and Mr. Musk, it's not going to be their hands, it's going to be a bunch of people working for wages.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Another Socilaist Success Story

     Venezuela through the eyes of the BBC.  "Auntie" is in no way a hardline critic of socialism, but they can't overlook this mess.  Venezuela used to be obnoxiously rich; many Venezuelans used to be.  Not all of them were rich and the middle class wasn't all that big a group; there was a sharp divide between rich and poor and not many paths up from poverty.  As oil prices rose and fell, so did the national economy, with the poor and middle class affected the most. Socialism promised to fix that!

     You could say it did: now just about everyone is grindingly poor, living hand to mouth when there's anything to eat, short on everything that makes modern civilization.  --Well, everything but gasoline, heavily subsidized by the government.  But gas smugglers are a problem thanks to the cheap gas and the socialist wizard running the place is talking about letting gasoline prices seek their level.

     It was a rich country.  Now it's not.  They've still got enormous oil reserves, but it turns out of you break the economy, if you shake down everyone who's got more than his neighbors, instead of leveling out, the money....drains away.

     That's what's at stake with the current crop of "Democratic Socialists" here in the U.S.  I don't think they mean ill, just as I'd be surprised if Hugo Chavez had thought of himself as a villain.  Nor would the U.S. fall apart as rapidly as Venezeula's single-commodity economy.  But the end would be the same: a border-to-border slum, the equality of the starving, the kind of paradise a fool creates.

     One of the things that worries me about the wild flip-flops at the Executive level and the deep divide in Congress is positive feedback: every swing goes farther than the preceding one and roughly half the electorate eggs it on each time.  We're in a barely-controlled bus careening down a mountain road, hard rock on one side, a sheer drop-off on the other, and the passengers are cheering every swerve.  How long 'til it goes smash?


Monday, August 27, 2018

Jacksonville Shooting

     When it popped up in my newsfeed, I thought, "Oh, no, here we go again."  A mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida -- was it going to be political?  Was the shooter a deranged loner?  A hardened criminal?

     ...I didn't expect an outraged chump with a sense of entitlement.  A sore loser, writ too large.  What can anyone say about that?  It's not really a mental health issue, at least based on what has been reported so far.  It's not about poverty or asymmetrical warfare.  It's just...wrong.

     Police were on the scene rapidly, within two minutes according to some accounts.  Despite that, two people were killed and nine more injured.  There's a lesson there, but it's mostly that low-probability events can kill you.

    Expect the usual political aftermath.  One punk shoots up a gamer championship and everyone else gets chided.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Skipping Another Gun Show

     Tam and I were going to go to the big Indy 1500 Gun Show today but I find that I just can't.  I was ill all day Friday and worked anyway; I felt pretty lousy Saturday.  I'm better today but my knee had started throbbing Saturday night, up and down the basement stairs doing laundry, and as I was getting ready today, well behind my planned schedule, I realized I wasn't looking forward to the show, I was dreading it.

     The years take their toll.  2018 was probably my last year for the Dayton Hamvention, what with the months of knee problems that followed.  The new venue takes a miserably long drive, the weather's been terrible and for me, it's no longer the same event it was at Hara Arena.. 

     Shuffling through the 1500, jammed elbow-to-elbow with everybody, has always been difficult for me and anymore, if my right knee gets irritated, it could take weeks to get things back to normal.  That's too much to risk.

     Tam's just as annoyed as you might expect, and with good reason -- my avocation is her work.  We'd been going to the show together less and less -- her local friends who spend more time shooting usually take her -- but she'd hoped to this time.

The Only Thing The Media Loves More

     The current news cycle has reminded me that the news media's second great love -- after young, lively Democrat politicians -- is an elderly, dead Republican politician, especially when he can be contrasted with living ones in a way that makes them look bad.

     It's odd.  They told me John McCain was a scary, dangerous warhawk when he was alive; now that he can no longer cast a vote in the Senate or run for President, he's a distinguished elder statesman. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

There's a Storm Rolling In

     It's giving me a headache.  I didn't feel too great anyway -- something I ate yesterday morning spent most of the day disagreeing with me -- and the storm, which has turned the sky greenish-white and has been rumbling with nearly continuous, distant thunder for an hour now, has pretty much decided me: I'm not going anywhere today.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Remember When...

     Gosh, remember when the possibility of more embarrassingly tawdry bedroom antics was an additional reason not to elect another Clinton?

     Back in 2016, I saw the main choices as being between a petty, a vindictive person who had a good handle on how Washington works and a petty, vindictive person who didn't.  While I voted for a third choice, the electorate went with the outsider and here we are.  There was going to be a lot of clashing no matter who won and it is interesting when Presidential Derangement Syndrome flips sides.

     I thought there was no really good answer in 2016; the judiciary's getting an influx of Federalist Society-approved judges, at least, and as for the rest--  Time will tell.  Outside of appointed offices, I'm of the opinion that the scope and power of the Presidency is overrated, especially by Presidents and the The Press that covers them; the real action is in Congress, swarming like a busy anthill, complex and difficult to parse.  People don't like that; reporter or Average Citizen, they like to hear about Caesar: one man, easy to follow, noble or venal, Nero, Augustus or Caligula, hate them or love them, it doesn't matter, because it's easier to feel than to think.

     It's a lot more difficult to be fooled if you think rather than feel, though.  Why be anyone's fool? 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Cicadas Are Getting Quieter

     The weather has turned a little cooler for a few days, but the cicadas began singing less before it changed.  They must be pairing off -- and alas, once cicadas have wooed and won, the clock is ticking; they've only got a month for their entire adult lives and once the females have laid eggs in little grooves they scratch into tree branches, they're not going to be around for much longer.

     Eggs in the branches, for a creature that spends most of its life underground?  Yep.  You thought kangaroos had it tough?  Newly-hatched cicadas, tiny white insects, plummet to the ground and dig, searching for roots to tap for the sap they live on.  Depending on the breed, they'll be at that for anything from one year to seventeen.  That is, the survivors will; the mortality rate is as high as 98 percent.  So, if you think you've got a lot of them in peak years, bear in mind it could be far more.

     One more odd fact: cicadas sweat!  When it's too hot, they drink heavily and let the excess moisture evaporate through their skin.  If you're thinking most insects don't do that, you'd be right.

     Last night, it sounded like there was one (1) cicada still singing in my neighborhood, and he was slow and mournful -- a bit like this.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Kevin Baker Needs Your Help

     Kevin Baker, long-time blogger at The Smallest Minority, is facing some daunting medical issues and needs your help.  Go here to pitch in.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

It's Raining Again

     We had a moderately dry summer...until recently.  A bit late for the garden but the lawn likes it.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Lawn Mowing, Cicadas And Big-City Nature

     Tamara's battery-powered lawnmower makes pretty short work of our yard.   Faced with the size vs. torque vs. efficiency of DC motors, the maker opted for two small blades with their own motors instead of a single big one.  The resulting swath is wider than any non-riding motor I have operated* and it doesn't mind the occasional overlooked stick.

     Yesterday, I manged to mow all of the front yard and most of the back before my clothing was soaked through from perspiration.  The humidity way way down -- almost fifty percent when I began -- and that made the mid-eighties heat easier to take.  I even cleared away another two feet of the yard-wide "jungle" between the garage and the fence!  Might have a path all the way to the gate yet this year.  I've been trying to clear a few feet every weekend and give it a shot of weedkiller.  There actually stepping stones and gravel all the way, but possibly no barrier cloth underneath. 

     The cicadas have been very vocal this summer and they're starting to hum in unison between the louder cries.  This may indicate those crazy kids are starting to get together.  One has decided the screen of our kitchen window overlooking the back yard is a great place to spend the night, and has been parking itself there a little after sundown.  The day's singing has ended by then, so we don't mind it.  It's a nice green-and-black cicada; Tam tried to photograph it through the window last night, but no dice.  

     There was a chipmunk camping out in the old chimenea for awhile but the neighborhood cats may have got him.  The chipmunk population is well-controlled by our feral cat population -- the rabbits may be a little ahead this year and adult squirrels are a bit large and aggressive for most cats, but they do well against the smaller rodents.  Our possums are pretty stable; there's one or two working the back yards, raiding cat food and eating ticks. The neighborhood raccoon colony remains well-behaved.  Maybe that should be "is well-behaved again," since earlier this year, one claimed our neighbor's garage and refused to be convinced it was a bad idea.  That one got relocated and the rest of them have kept to the storm drains, taking to the trees during rain.  I'm not sure what they eat, other than cat food left out for the feral cats; they're good about staying out of garbage cans.  Raptors remain the biggest predators commonly seen, though coyotes and foxes are occasionally spotted.  We've got a lot of wildlife, for deep inside a large city.
* When I was growing up, my Dad found, after giving up on an enormous (and kind of scary) semi-pro mower that came with the house, a riding mower that hinged in the middle to steer!  The mower deck was underneath, three blades that covered more than three feet per pass.  It was about as kid-safe as lawnmower could be, and so he gave lawn mowing chores to my sister, me and our little brother in turn, as we each were old enough to operate the thing.  That still left the bombshelter/stormshelter "hill" in the back yard, which was too steep for a riding mower and dangerous to mow with a powered push mower.  My Mom spent many summers experimenting with low-growing ground cover, hoping to avoid anyone having to mow it, and eventually settled on crown vetch.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Went To The State Fair Yesterday

     Tam and I went to the Fair.  It was fun!  I was worried my knee might not hold up, but so far, so good.
     Finally rode the Skyride!  Saw baby goats, old steam engines, old tractors, new hand-crafted chairs and hand-knapped flint and obsidian knives, ate Indiana beef, honey ice cream and a bacon-wrapped sausage on a stick.