Monday, July 23, 2018

Grilling!

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

     I think it worked out.

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


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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Possible Misallocation Of Vertical Time

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

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

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Search! The Search!

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

Orwell Called It "Physical Jerks"

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

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

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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Car Shopping

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

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

     Still looking. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Little Hope

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

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

I Sleep Easy

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Went To The Indianpolis Hamfest Today

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In Fact, Not Like A Good Neighbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wham!

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

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

Once More Into The Breach!

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

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fulminating

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

Sunday, July 08, 2018

No, A Thousand Times No!

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

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

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

     The pickled jalapenos have wreaked havoc on my digestion.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Chores, Chores

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

Friday, July 06, 2018

Another Busy Morning

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

Thursday, July 05, 2018

A Fifth

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

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Look Out Below!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Leftover Steak, Leftover Salad: Steak Salad!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 02, 2018

It's A Flame War

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

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Grapevine & the Fox: A Parable

     ...A slightly fractured parable.

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

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

     The Grapevine looked after the Fox in disgust.

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

     And it coiled itself back up, slowly and scornfully.

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