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.
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* 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.
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* 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.
TAMARA KEEL PHOTO
      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

Palindrome!

     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

9/11

     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 Amazon.com 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.
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* 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.
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* 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.
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* 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.