Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Didn't I Already Have Some Of That Stuff?

     Some of us are naturally packrats.

     I know I am.  This has often been the cause of good-natured joking at work; downtown, I usually have a rough mental inventory and a pretty good idea where to look.  There was some major rearranging about a year ago that jumbled my mental files but I managed to get back on track pretty quickly.

     Up at the North Campus--  Well.  Back in the Olden Days, when the stuff up there took a lot more looking after, the bulk of my time was spent at that site.  It was seriously disorganized when I started, the result of several years of "fireman" maintenance: show up, do the quickest fix possible, and get out.  There was an underlying order -- my predecessors had seen to that -- but it was being buried.  You couldn't find anything quickly and things were starting to be piled up wherever they fell.

     So I started sorting out, grouping similar items, throwing away what was no longer needed (or simply overlooked trash) and getting the remainder stowed in marked bins, boxes and drawers.  And I maintained a "junkpile."

     Not an actual pile; but scraps of conduits, reusable fittings, larger odds and ends of sheet metal, wood,  etc, sorted and grouped, everything from the electrical stuff being sorted by size to the wood and scrap metal being stored in separate bins in admittedly-haphazard assortment.

     This has persisted, though nowadays starting it from scratch would take an impossibly-large amount of Engineering time; but it's there and it only takes a few extra steps to put things where they belong.

     Yesterday, it bailed me out.  Part of an ongoing project called for about five feet of 1-1/4" thinwall conduit, with hangers* and end fittings for it.  It's not the most common size and our stock of new stuff was all smaller, 1/2" and 3/4" conduit and fittings for wall-socket juice; we hire actual professional electricians for anything bigger.  I was putting together a list and morosely contemplating the ten-foot "stick" of conduit I was going to have to buy and somehow get into my car, when it occurred to me -- didn't I have some of that?

     A trip to the storage areas produced end fittings, a nice plastic bushing for the open end, hangers and a piece of 1-1/4" conduit just over the right size: I already had everything on the list!

     That part of the project proceeded much more quickly than expected, and let me move on to the next phase, setting the first big piece of the new equipment:
     I can't explain much about it, but it's pretty interesting (in geek terms) and I am hoping it will work well.  You can just see the end of the conduit, peeking over the top of it from behind.  It's coming up from the basement.  Notice the lighter patch of tile it's sitting on?  I installed that!  Tiling is drudgery in a big room but a little fill-in isn't too difficult.
* Known to the trade as "minnies," presumably from the Minerallac Company, around since 1894 and probably where they were invented.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fun? Let Me Tell You!

     Sat down yesterday to fill in a position my department shouldn't even be staffing, but we do so to help out another department.  All very cut-and-dried stuff, variable, but tasks that have to have beeen scheduled well in advance since the process is automated and the automation "script" has to be put to bed* at least fifteen minutes before it starts.  For that matter, a lot of the far end of those tasks has been in position for hours before things start.  There's a computerized scheduling setup to keep track of it all, a kind of spreadsheet that looks like a well-organized schedule board.

     Nothing on the board; I asked the guy who will run the thing in real time once it starts, and he allowed as how there were going to be two events, and "the info should be showing up any minute now."

     It did -- after the first one had called in and I'd set it set up.  Then two more popped up as things were getting underway.  Things were already running when three more appeared and I had to rearrange settings and equipment assignments in a hurry so it would line up with the automation presets (which cannot even be directly seen; you have to ask).

     "No good deed goes unpunished;" I'm starting to think we're not "helping" so much as "enabling."  Most of the last-minute scramble was completely unnecessary; the information was known for all but two of the events and the rest could have been set up well in advance and been ready, if the information had been shared with the position that does the setting up.
* An old newspaper expression; the paper is "put to bed" when the pages of hot-type and dot-grayscaled images are locked down and ready for the printing press.  This persisted into the age of offset printing and on through computerized layouts; radio and TV picked it up and a news script is "put to bed" when it's put into final form ahead of airtime.  Of course, unlike a newspaper, TV and radio can rearrange on the fly if necessary, but you don't make a habit of "winging it;" you get all your ducks in a row so that if something crash-urgent happens, the rest of the newscast is already taken care of.  Nowadays, all news is breaking news -- but it doesn't all break during that thirty, sixty or ninety minutes.

Monday, September 16, 2019

But The Gutters Are Clean!

     About all I did yesterday was cook breakfast.  Well, that and laundry.  And run the dishwasher -- "background" tasks.

     Saturday, I cleaned the gutters.  This requires a lot of ladder-moving.  I used to climb up and do them from above, but the steep pitch of Roseholme Cottage's roof has always made that chancy; as the years go on and my balance has become worse (especially once the leaf-litter from the gutters starts getting my allergies riled up!), it's a better idea to do all the work from a ladder  instead of leaning over the edge of the roof.

     It's a lot of work and after circumnavigating the house Saturday, followed by a little raking and stacking up fallen wood, I remarked to Tamara (herself busy mowing the yard) that there was probably going to be a price to be paid.

     There was.  Sunday, I slopped around the house in nightgown and robe, doing small tasks and resting a lot.  Still -- I got nearly all my laundry done!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Hash Experiments, Continued

     The foodstuff, not the Schedule I Controlled Substance: chopped-up meat, potatoes and whatever, fried in a skillet.

     I've been frustrated by Mary Kitchen Sausage Hash: the meat is a little...overpowering.  I hadn't tried it since I started adding ground grain to the skillet, and I wanted to, especially after having good results with a 25/75 percent flour/cornmeal mixture under corned beef hash.

     So this morning, I did.  Started with a nice layer of cornmeal, flour and a little pepper in the pan.  There was half a mild Jalapeno and a whole small dark-red bell pepper left, so I diced them and mixed them into the hash with a little dehydrated onion (it's a crutch), with a little basil, parsley and oregano.  Turned that out over the "crust" and let it cook, uncovered for five minuted, covered for five more, uncovered for five and a broke an egg over it, covered it, gave it another five or more and then cooked it uncovered until the egg looked done enough.

     Success!  The cornmeal steals just enough of the sausage's thunder that it doesn't dominate the other flavors.  Now the problem is to not overeat....

     (Epicurious has a nice guide to hashing at home!)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Morning Omelet

     With street-sweepers howling in the distance ("Why do I keep hearing sirens, faintly and far away?"*), a garden-style omelet was just the thing this morning:

     Two eggs, crushed tortilla chips, water, dehydrated minced onion, Italian seasoning, parsley, black pepper, and that's the batter; add everything but the eggs, let it sit several minutes, then come back and beat the eggs into it, way more than you think is necessary.

     Three large green olives, sliced; a little purple pickled cauliflower, likewise.  Some cheese of choice -- I used the aromatic three-cheese mixture we put on marinara sauce.  Set aside. 

     A handful of small carrots, sliced thin (a little more than a heaping tablespoonful); a small dark-red sweet pepper, diced small; half a large mild Jalapeno pepper (plus/minus to taste), likewise.  Saute in a non-stick ten-inch skillet† with a little butter and set aside.

     Now pour the batter into the skillet, lower the heat, set it a little off-center and let it cook until it starts to dry around the edges, especially the part that is more nearly over the fire.  Once it reaces that point, you can center it up and slowly add the vegetables and cheese on the half that was nearly off the fire, alternated between the cooked and uncooked ingredients.

     By the time you have all that added, the omelet may be ready to fold.  Test by slipping a thin, flexible spatula‡ under the unladen half and seeing if it will lift. If it will lift, just fold that half up and over, and carefully smooth it down.  You can usually slide the folded omelet back from the edge after it sticks togther, but it may require holding for a little while first.

     After that, cook until done, rolling from side to side in much the same manner as the initial flip.  Don't get fancy!  That's one of the ways things go wrong.  To judge done-ness, you want the outside to darken a little and be dry, but not too dark or leathery.  Inside should be cooked through  Can't tell?  Take the spatula and cut it into two quarter-circles; that will give you a look through the cross-section and it's an attractive way to serve it.

     Mine was delicious -- heat from the Jalapeno (but not too much), salt from the olives, flavor from all the ingredients.  Didn't need a thing added.
* This would be the kind with big brushes and a giant vacuum cleaner, not the kind with shotgun shells and a $200 transfer tax.  We're within easy earshot of a city storm-warning siren, so I was pretty sure that wasn't it.

† A little smaller or larger is fine, but mind the batter isn't spread too thin.  Extremely well-seasoned cast iron will do -- but be sure!  You'll also want to clean it promptly.

‡ Spatulas are to the kitchen what clamps are to woodworking: it's nearly impossible to have too many.  Get them in as many different styles as appeal to you. My go-tos are thin plastic and metal ones for general flipping of things, heaver slotted ones for burgers and salmon patties, and a big, semicircular type that will fold an entire 12" omelet once you lift the edge with a thin one.  Several sizes of the soft-plastic ones are handy for sauteing, stirring and applying -- I was just about fully-grown before I ever saw an icing knife.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Passive-Aggressive Paper Towels

     Went to open the package and saw this:
     You're not the boss of me!  I do what I want!

     I don't think I have purchased paper napkins in thirty years.  Why bother, when paper towels work better and are suitable for so many other tasks, too? 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

He Invented The Shotgun Guitar, You Know

     Ain't a-kiddin.

     Oh, and that shotgun guitar?  Look here.

     Of course, he's from Indiana.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

We've Lost Dustbury

     Charles G. Hill was in a car accident recently, which has resulted in his passing.  He will be much missed.

     Tribute here.

     I'm at a loss for words.


     Two days of antibiotics have got Rannie Wu eating again.  She seems to be feeling a little better.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Worry, Worry

     Rannie Wu the cat is on an antibiotic, and Tam will be checking back with the vet tomorrow.  The cat may have a bad sinus infection.  She's not very interested in food.  So I'm fretting, and trying not to pester the cat too much; she is drinking and will sometimes nibble on a treat.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Hermes "Rocket"

     It's a small portable typewriter.  One of the smallest ones, in fact.  Hermes has an excellent reputation, so when this one showed up at a reasonable price and supposedly in good shape, I leapt at it.

     Showed up and it didn't shift.  Shift keys didn't feel like they were even connected to anything, just moved loosely from one position to the other.

     In a larger typewriter, this is a long linkage and I figured it might have broken or fallen out.  I decided to open it up and see:
     Every key lever has an interesting scissors-looking linkage, just behind that flat shiny part with five screws in it. I think this arrangement gets them more leverage in the very short space available.  The two pieces for the shift keys had popped out of alignment, perhaps due to jolting in shipment.  I was able to work them back into place.  The fractions key had a similar problem and stuck when I tried it; getting it back took several minutes of careful effort.

     After that, I cleaned and lubricated where I could, and it's working pretty well.  Needs a new ribbon and it seems to not want to double-space, but still, I'm not unhappy so far.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Sunday Worries

     Tamara's cat, Random Numbers "Rannie" Wu, is very old; we call her "Venerable Wu," often as not.  And now she is ill, with some kind of upper respiratory infection.  It became obvious yesterday. She will be going to the doctor Monday, if not sooner.  She's mostly sleeping, with occasional trips to the water bowl or litter box. 

     Rannie has taken to sleeping in the crook of my elbow at night, which I find absolutely charming; at one point after the move from Knoxville to Indianapolis, she was so vexed with me that I couldn't bring a hand near her without it being hit.  Forgotten, though probably not forgiven: Ms. Wu does enjoy her grudges!  Nevertheless, I think we're friends now, and I worry about her.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Ongoing Corned Beef Hash Experiments

     Current-production corned beef hash benefits from sprinkling a thin layer of flour in the skillet before adding the hash on top and carefully smoothing it out; there's enough grease* and water in the stuff that the flour naturally forms a nice, crunchy not-quite-piecrust.

     I have been wondering how cornmeal might do for that, or cornmeal and a little flour, that being the usual thing.  This morning, having found some actual cornmeal† on a shopping expedition, I resolved to try it.

     It works!  Cooks up just fine and goes very well with my hash, supercharged today with some snipped-up pickled cherry peppers and dehydrated minced onion.‡  An egg cooked on top and a little sprinkle of Italianate three-cheese mix before serving makes a nice treat!

     Cornmeal -- or even cornstarch -- might help tame the Mary Kitchen Sausage Hash, too; it's good but the sausage spice has a bit of an edge that could use some moderation. Anyway, it's another kitchen trick that comes in handy.
* Even with the flour substrate, I find myself applying paper toweling on edge around the hash several times during cooking, to soak up the excess grease.

† Our not-too-far-away Meijer stocks it.  Serving an interesting assortment of neighborhoods, they have four or five times as much shelf space devoted to flour as they do to cornmeal and cornmeal-containing mixes.  The flour sections were stocked almost to the edge; cornmenal was down to the last two or three rows, way at the back of the shelf.  That's what we call a "hint," Meijer; Indiana might be "up North" but an awful lot of our cookery isn't.

‡ Say what you will, dehydrated minced onion and celery are secret weapons in the kitchen, filling in flavor when fresh is unavailable or would require too much time or effort. Paprika will sub for sweet or slightly-hot peppers in a pinch and that's the "trinity" of Cajun soup, stew and sauce bases.  Throw a little filĂ© at it and you're halfway there.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Thursday Dinner

     Last night, Tam and I collaborated on another of the "she buys, I cook" meals, in which she picks up ingredients that appeal to her and I see what can be done with them.

     The grocer was having a special on ground sirloin (!) and their sweet Italian sausage was looking good, so she got rather a lot of that.  Then she added turnips, onion, dried chanterelle mushrooms and (surprisingly spicy) Poblano peppers.

     So I started with that.  I started the mushrooms soaking* and got the meat browning with a little salt, pepper and Italian seasoning mix on the beef.  While that went on, I peeled and sliced the turnips, and put them on a plate to microwave for a few minutes.  It was an experiment; turnips (and even more so, rutabagas) normally take a fair amount of cooking and I was looking for a shortcut.

     I had some left-over diced raw carrots, so they went in the pan.  The turnips were tender after just a couple of minutes, so I diced them and added them as well.   Then on to the onion, and I let it cook a bit while I checked out the Poblano and looked through what I had on the shelf and in the fridge.  a small container of black olives looked good to me, so in they went.  Poblanos followed, and by then the chanterelles were ready to be rinsed and join the cookpot.  I had half an Enjoya sweet pepper that wanted used up; diced and sauteed in the middle and then--

     It was looking a little dry.  I had a small can of generic tomato sauce, so I put that in as well, covered the pan and let it all simmer for a few minutes.

     It cooks up like this:
     We had one bowl each and had to remind ourselves to not go for seconds -- it was tasty!  It's similar to a Cuban dish I've made before.
* Tam had hoped for fresh; she's a real fan of chanterelles.  Dried mushrooms are usually quite good and these certainly were.  Two ways to rehydrate them: overnight in the fridge in a bowl of cold water, or thirty minutes at room temperature in bowl of just-boiled water.  If you're making something that takes a little cooking, it's easy enough to let them soak while you're doing other things.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Sprocket Printer

     A little while ago, I bought a hundred-dollar HP Sprocket portable printer.  The output is tiny, sticky-backed glossies two inches by three,* but so is the printer.  Barely bigger than a fat smartphone, it is about as science-fictional a gadget as I have seen.

     Some recent events have left me with a little -- alas, very little -- extra money and it was so very tempting!  So I bit.

     I finally had a chance to try it last night, and I'm hooked!  Durability and longevity remain to be seen, but the hardcopy is glossy, colorful and the adhesive appears to work well.  I printed a simple image, an eight-bit, beret-wearing, bearded revolutionary† in black on red, with "VIVA LA RESOLUTION" across it in white, and the print out is as sharp and clear as the original.  The application I'm thinking of is simple labels and fun stickers, and this may be just the thing for that job.
* There's a whole family of these devices, from camera/printers that sell for $90 through plain printers; one version prints even larger images, 2.3" x 3.4" and some versions of the big one are also about $100.  This is not a Speed Graphic or a dot-matrix printer; it cannot be used an an emergency weapon and you don't want to drop it from very high up.  But for what they are, they're pretty kewl.
† In keeping with long-established policy, this blog does not give the names of mass killers.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

September: Month of Projects

     Managed to dodge it last year; my department at work always used to get into a terrible rush at the end of the year, finishing projects that had money allocated for them that would be lost if they weren't done by the last day of December.

     There were changes in management in the last couple of years, reallocations of responsibility and things smoothed out -- fewer surprises, a little more in the way of useful chiding through the year and a lot less scrambling at the end.

     This year, we're back to the old rush.  A sudden tumble of unexpected work is hitting planned projects that had to be co-ordinated with other companies and Federal agencies and which were already set for the end of the year; the result is, starting next week, I'm going to be pretty darned busy for awhile.

     Working this week to try to get as much lined up in advance as I can, before there's barely time left over to scratch,

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

And Right Back Into It

     Okay, now that We-moved-it-from-May-To-September-hoping-you-wouldn't-spend-all-summer-shoving-wooden-shoes-in-the-gears* Day is over (and the Wobblies have, once again, not succeeded in inciting a general strike -- it's like they don't even care anymore), it's right back into the eternal battle with sloth and entropy!

     The older I get, the better sloth looks, but it doesn't pay well and the benefits are, face it, lousy.
* Most of the world celebrates labor on 1 May, and events in the U.S. are at least part of the reason why: the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, a terrible, bloody mess that began over workers demand for an eight-hour day.  Somehow, commemorating a labor rally that ended when a bomb was thrown at police followed by police firing into the crowd was not a notion Congress could get behind.  All the more so when socialists, communists and that era's anarchists adopted May Day as their own -- so we got the first of September.  It's a better day for picnics anyway.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Labor Day Breakfast

     Ham and eggs (with a little onion, parsley and black pepper)...
     ...on a cornbread pancake!

     In texture, though not in flavor, the cornbread reminds me of the flat sourdough bread used as both plate and eating utensil in Ethiopian cuisine, and if I'd had the foresight to make a little sauce for the food -- salsa, perhaps?  -- I would have eaten it that way, too. 

     This was the last of the Bob's Red Mill "gluten-free" mix that remains an outstanding counter-example to the usual grim breads without gluten; made it with a little more milk, egg and melted better than you'd use for for a loaf or muffins and it's fine stuff.

Sunday, September 01, 2019


     Did some stuff this morning, fell asleep in front of the tooobe this afternoon and I think I will cap it by going to bed early tonight.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Kind Of A Recovery Day

   I slept in, did a lot of laundry and worked around the house.  Managed to make Swedish pancakes for brunch and a second iteration of Friday's "Hoppin' John From Tins" that added French country vegetable soup and smoked beef sausage to the original.

     The original?  Look, I was sleepy after work Friday and didn't want to shop; I had canned crushed tomatoes, canned blackeyed peas, frozen mirepoix (that's onions, carrots and celery, all chopped) and a can of...Spam.

     Yes, Spam.  We always have a few cans and use them up and replace them so it's reasonably fresh.  I diced it and browned it so it would have some texture, then added the mirepoix (handy stuff, though fresh is better) and a little paprika, thyme and sage for luck.  Got that cooked enough, added the beans and tomatoes and a few bay leaves and let it simmer.  Not bad with little hot sauce, especially over rice.  Adding smoked sausage and the rich vegetable soup today gave it some depth, plus I'd poured off about half the liquid yesterday before freezing the leftovers, so it was nice and thick.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Improvised Green Tomatoes

     Yesterday evening I happened to find myself in possession of a couple of large green tomatoes -- never you mind just how -- along with a nice sweet red pepper and a jalapeno.

     This meant only one thing: fried green tomatoes for dinner!

     Unfortunately, our corner store didn't have any cornmeal -- not a bit.  But they did have a nice-looking organic corn muffin mix; it was better than nothing.  It's got cornmeal, flour, plus baking soda and a dash of sugar.

     Got home, washed and sliced the vegetables, mixed up a little egg/milk batter, and poured out some of the muffin mix into a bowl.  It looked about right, especially after I ground some pepper over it.

      Got out one of the good old skillets, Mom's Revere Ware* with nice tall sides, and got 1/4" of olive oil with a little butter nice and hot.

     The muffin mix doesn't stick really well -- I had to kind of work it into the tomato slices.  But it stuck well enough, and first batch was sizzling away pretty quickly.  I had to ask Tam to fetch me a plate with some paper towel on it to drain them, but after that the production line went smoothly, tomatoes, sweet peppers, Jalapenos.  Tam came back into the kitchen, remarked on the smoke, and had me start a couple of dill pickles though the process while she opened a window and set up a fan (the range hood is a recirculating type, not very useful).

     By and by it was all cooked, other than left-over muffin mix, egg/milk batter and skillet of by now very dark oil; so I mixed the first two and poured it into the pan of hot oil, which produced a kind of terrifying corn fritter that we, of course, sampled (better than you'd think) and simplified clean-up.

     How do the tomatoes taste?  Darned good!  I wouldn't use muffin mix if I didn't have to, but it does well enough.  The peppers were good, too; the process calmed the Jalapeno down sufficiently that I had a couple of rings and the sweet pepper was delightful.

     P.S.: I had a little more of the corn fritter later (still good), and broke it open to look at the texture: light and fluffy!  Then as I proceeded to put things away, I took a closer look at the label on the bag of corn muffin mix: gluten free!  That's why it didn't stick so well.  But for taste and texture, at least when pan-fried, Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free mix is indistinguishable from regular cornbread, which is saying quite a lot.
* I ended up with most of her Revere Ware; the oldest pieces date back to 1949 when she married Dad. She loved it and he kept adding to it through the years, most recently in the 1980s, and it's all the good copper-bottomed stuff.  Not as easy to clean up as non-stick but it's wonderful to cook with.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Ground War Against Allergies

     Since "nuking it from orbit" proved to have near-disastrous fallout, I'm struggling with my allergies the hard way: OTC analgesics, sinus rinses and stoicism.  Well, make that last "quiet whining."  And lots of what we are pleased to call "facial tissue," the good people at Kleenex® being understandably vexed at genericizing their name.

     So much fun.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Man They Love To Hate Is Hating On What They Love?

     No, it's not the President, for once.

     Whole Foods CEO (and bright green more-or-less libertarian) John Mackey professes skepticism about the various recent non-meat "meat" products, pointing out they're highly-processed foods.  He's also of the opinion that you can retrain your palate to enjoy more traditionally-vegetarian (and far less processed) foods.

     He's right about the latter; when I was younger, the various sorts of vegetarians I encountered, from hippies to blue-eyed Buddhists, generally served up flavorful (if unfamiliar) foods that were what they were, without trying to pretend to be anything else.

     This world is full of good food, from raw fruits and vegetables both familiar and uncommon to tasty dishes you and I have never heard of.  While the various "Beyond Impossible" fake meats are said to be palatable copies of the meats they resemble, that's faint praise; as the comedian said of exotic game meats, "If it 'tastes just like chicken,' why not just eat chicken?"  Your palate deserves better.  If a burger that bleeds beet juice keeps you from trying delicious dhal, it's not doing you any favors.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

And Just Like That

     ...I'm sick again.  Or something.  Allergies, I suppose.  Sinus is mildly back despite the OTC nostrum, which has side effects: I almost hit a car this morning.  Coming right towards me though an intersection, too, third in a well-spaced row while I waited to turn left, nose well out into the cross street, one car through, two, started to turn--

     Slammed my brakes when I realized I was about to turn right into car number three, which I had not noticed.

     My timing was off at four-ways; I saw pedestrians in time, but not as early as usual.  And I was a bit dizzy.

     Dizziness got worse at work, as did the scary kind of dozing off, where you wake up with your head moving towards the desk--

     An hour and a half after lunch, I realized it was getting worse by the minute and that if I didn't leave for home soon, I was going to be a menace to others and myself in traffic.

     Let's see-- if I don't take the allergy remedy, my sinus run and run and run, and I have headaches that aren't tamed by the usual remedies; if I do take the pills, I'm only barely present.

     It's time to do some research.  If one allergy medication isn't working, there are others.

I Have Been Successfully Marketed To

     They're selling tiny printers now.  I guess they have been around awhile, gadgets not much larger than a cellular phone that spit out photo-type prints 2" by 3" or a little larger.

     The price has come down a lot and so I have purchased one to try.  It's got to charge up and I need to load an app on my IOS or Android devices -- probably the IOS ones, since they've got room to add one more app while my old Samsung phone is loaded with stuff for work.

     "Marketed to" is not "sold;" I'll try it and see if I like it.  See what it might be useful for.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Roast Pork Hash

     Our grocery store has a nice deli counter.  They often have small pork roasts in their hot food case, which I'll build supper around on nights I am too tired or busy to cook.  I did so last Friday.

     Even a small pork roast is more than enough for two adults; I stashed the leftover roast in the freezer that night and moved  it to the fridge Saturday night.*

     By late Sunday morning, I was up, feeling much better and hungry, too.  There was a potato that wanted cooked, an onion in the fridge, and that nice big pork roast...  Say, couldn't I make hash with all that?

     I could.  I did.

     It cooked up nicely; I added a little this and that (rosemary, fennel seed, salt and pepper) and snipped in some pickled cherry peppers; add a fried egg on top and there it is:
      Roast pork hash! Lots of flavor; might've been even better with a few shishito peppers, which go well with pork, but even without, it made for a fine breakfast.  Served with a little pickled okra on the side, just because.

     I'll be making this stuff again.
* My cold-or-whatever had become really bad by then.  I could barely breathe through my nose.  I figured Tam could carve herself a slice or two of pork roast for her Sunday dinner while I tried to get through the cold.  Early Sunday morning, well before sunrise, I realized the ailment didn't quite have full head-cold symptoms, took an OTC allergy pill, and hey, presto!  Within hours, I was cured!  It was the worst allergy attack I've ever had.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Off-Beat Path

     I don't often recommend articles from The New Yorker; while the writing is of indisputably high quality, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency drove their editorial staff into a frenzied zeal that had the man showing up multiple times in every issue, simultaneously evil mastermind and bumbling moron.  It got to be too much; it would have been even if they loved him because, well, the amount of Presidency I enjoy in my lit'ry reading is somewhere between a pinch and a dot at most.  POTUSes loom large in the news cycle and you can pick up news about 'em most anywhere.

     Conversely, really good writing, writing by people with a crazy love for the color, heft, texture, taste, scent and sound of words like a kid with a bag of licorice allsorts and an open account at an old-fashioned candy store, that's a thing you can hardly find; I've been known to unearth moldy old essays by Buckley and Vidal* just for the joy of reading words from men intoxicated by the language.

     The Trump-Era New Yorker serves up mainly absinthe.  Straight.†  But not always and not today.  Today, they've poured the good stuff, bottled in bond.

     There was a fellow named Stephen Cheng  who emigrated from Shanghai to the United States after World War Two, ending up in New York.  He was a classical Chinese singer, who studied at Juilliard, worked on Broadway, and by the 1960s was touring widely, with occasional television appearances, performing both pop and traditional Chinese music.  He passed away in 2012.  A working musician who moved to teaching later in life, he raised a family and you can find a few of his recordings of Chinese folk music on YouTube.

     You can also find this: "Always Together:"

     It's a minor gem of Rocksteady (a Reggae precursor), recorded in the late 1960s, copies passed from hand to hand since then and reissued as recently as 2010.  It was a minor mystery to Reggae scholars: Stephen Chen was only in Jamaica once, recorded only the one song, and didn't leave much of a trail there.

     He apparently never mentioned the recording to his family, either; in 2017 his son Pascal was looking up his father's recordings on YouTube and the site's algorithms recommended "Always Together;" as he writes, "...until recently, [I] had no idea that he had recorded this song. I accidentally discovered it on YouTube. I am pretty sure that he was not aware of its popularity as a rocksteady classic."

     As we move through life, we leave ripples.  We don't always know what shores they will reach.
* Which man, do you suppose, wrote, "Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could," and which of them wrote, "Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so."  Among their better shared attributes was their deep loathing for one another.  One doesn't often see feuds of that quality and longevity.

† I'm not going to explain this.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Oh, Yay, Sinus

     Woke up early, got ready for the gun show, felt awful, didn't go.  I was -- and remain -- dizzy, congestion-haunted and out of it.  Other than a brief trip for a late lunch with Tam and the Data Viking, I haven't been out of the house all day,

Friday, August 23, 2019

Now It Can Be Told

     I've been on the 3:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. shift all this week, which I find difficult.  Sleep is elusive, concentration fragmentary, digestion uncertain.

     This was compounded by Tam being out of town for the first couple of days of the week.

     I've been working on a short story in the I Work On A Starship universe for just about forever and in the last month, words have been coming slowly, if at all.  For some reason, I'd convinced myself that August would end on a Sunday and the last-Sunday-of-the-month writer's group I'm a member of would be meeting on the 31st.

     The 31st is a Saturday.  As it turns out -- and perhaps this is a surprise to you as much as it was to me -- there is no August 32nd.  Writer's group is this coming Sunday!

     There is a gun show this weekend.  The Data Viking will be visiting Saturday and we're darned well going to attend.

     After managing to get within shouting distance of 2000 additional words on my story and e-mailing it off to the group, I have four of their stories to analyze and comment on before Sunday afternoon -- and no phoning it in kind of job, either.  I spent too many years unable to find anyone at all to read my stuff and offer useful feedback to not do my best to return as good as I'm getting.

     So it looks like I'm going to be a little busy.

     I did finally manage to get seven really solid hours sleep last night and my day starts with a kind of fly-the-chair tech work that is "bursty," short interludes of frantic busyness at not-quite random times among a lot sitting and waiting.  Might at least manage some pre-reading.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Going Back To Electoral College

     Some of the people I encounter online, including a few friends, have taken a particular dislike to the Electoral College.  They think it's unfair.

     Most of them were not at all pleased by the outcome of the most recent Presidential elections, and after all, didn't their candidate rack up the most popular votes?  Why didn't she win, they ask, and isn't this a democracy?  The most recent complainant keeps calling the Electoral College "feudalism" and is sure other countries do this in a better way.

     These notions presuppose a number of things.  First and foremost, that the individual states, as distinct political entities, shouldn't have any voice in the election of the Chief Executive of their Federal union.  This idea strikes me as inimical to the very idea of federalism and the organization of Legislative branch into two houses, one of population-proportional representation and the other with equal representation by each state, clearly shows the intent of the Framers.

     As for "feudalism," it requires upward loyalty -- knights swear fealty to lords, lords swear fealty to a King; that's not how any part of the Electoral College works.

     Do other countries have a better method?  The United Kingdom is one of the oldest democracies around -- and the Crown appoints the Prime Minister from seatholders in the party holding a majority in (usually) the House of Commons, typically the Party leader; no one votes for him or her to hold the office.  Canada and Australia use a similar method, with their respective Governors General acting for the Monarch.  The roots of this system do, in fact, lie in feudalism, though about all that's left of that are the titles and ceremonies.

     What about the French?  Surely they've got a handle on it!  It starts promisingly enough for critics of the Electoral Collage: the President of France is popularly elected every five years and serves as Head of State, with control over foreign policy and defense.  But there's a catch: the French President is obliged to appoint a Prime Minister to actually run the government -- and the Prime Minister is chosen from members of Parliament in the party holding a majority, usually the party leader.  Once again, citizens don't get to directly pick the PM.  (This occasionally results in a President having to choose a PM from a party in opposition to his own, which is probably a maturing experience for everyone involved.)

     The method used in the United States is closely coupled to the majority vote, albeit weighted to resemble the distribution of power in Congress.  The Electoral College is supposed to be a safeguard against demagogues and mass enthusiasms; in fact, recent court rules have clarified that electors may, in fact, be "faithless:" they are not obliged to follow their state's popular vote when casting their ballot.  On closer examination, you'd think the people who didn't like the outcome of the most recent Presidential contest would be all in favor of that.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Starship Engineering

     As a practical matter, the spacetime "bubble" used for faster-than-light travel has seventeen dimensions, one less than the eighteen of normal space. When you ask an FTL navigator why this is, he or she will usually reply, "So the seams line up when you fold it." As near as I can tell, they're serious.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

I Live In A City Of Easily-Confused Drivers

     The city's "Red Line" bus project, which installed a dedicated bus lane and station-like bus stops from downtown to Broad Ripple, has caused a lot of traffic rearrangement.  I've tried to bear with it; I'm not a fan, but we're getting streets repaved and left-turn lights at intersections from this, so it's not without direct benefit.

     Downtown, the Red Line used up a bike lane on a one-way street.  The city had a solution: widen the bike lane on the next street over, already one-way in the other direction, and make the bike lane a two-way path with dedicated signals, leaving car traffic one-way.

     Drivers are finding this confusing.  The bicycle signals have a silhouette of a bike on the light, but apparently that's not enough.

     It's not ideal -- but downtown traffic has never been ideal; this is just a new way for it to be a compromise.

Monday, August 19, 2019

As Memory Fades

     Funeral services for Hoosier -- and Holocaust survivor -- Eva Kor were yesterday.  She was just ten years old when her family was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp.  Only she and her twin sister survived.

     Eva Kors devoted a great deal of her life to sharing her experiences; late in life, she embraced forgiveness as a way to come to terms with the evil that had been committed against her and so many others, but she never forgot.

     As the last of the soldiers pass away, as the last survivors of the horrors of WW II are lost, society loses the sense of immediacy; we lose track of the reality that so many despicable acts were committed by and against entirely ordinary people.

     "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and some parts of the past are too dreadful to repeat.  Let us not forget.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Buy Kits, Build Kits

     Don't be like me -- I bought a radio crystal checker kit for a few dollars from one of the big auction sites, and then the other day I was looking for something on my workbench and realized I'd bought a kit for a much fancier version at a hamfest a couple of years ago.

     Time to build them both and compare!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Dinner And Breakfast

     Last night's supper was a New York Strip steak...
     Cooked with mixed mushrooms and whole shishto peppers, a nice combination.  I had a few slices of small-diameter French bread, too.

     And for today's breakfast, corned beef hash, with onion, pickled cherry peppers and a fresh shishito pepper
     More of the fresh peppers would have worked well; they go very well with the corned beef.

     Plus a fried egg!
     Made with canned corned beef and frozen hash browns, which worked out well.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019

From The Immovable To The Unreachable

     All day yesterday, I was at the North Campus, working on removing an old gadget -- about the size of  two or three refrigerators -- which will be replaced by a new gadget of about the same size but a different shape.

     Unwired it last week, and removed all the small bits; even got an associated rack about twenty inches wide, a yard deep and over five feet tall unbolted from the floor and carefully moved off the old tile, all by myself.

     By myself again yesterday, first rearranging the random scatter of junk filling the forty-foot-square garage* to make room for unloading the new gadget and associated things, and then taking apart the remainder of the gadget that's got to be removed.  It breaks down into two big cabinets -- once you've found all the bolts holding them together -- and each one is too heavy for me to move, even with all the easily-removable parts taken out.  Finding that out took half a day.  We've got a hobbyist who will be happy to take them away (there's a power supply in each one you would not believe, which sharply limited the pool of people who could make safe use of them), if they can be safely moved.

     Today, it looks like I'll be trying, yet again, to track down the suppliers and contractors for the new gadget.  The people who made the thing would really, really like to ship it to us; the people who will do the associated and largely outdoors portion of the work and supply the parts for it have stopped returning calls.  Their facility is half a day's drive away and there's a point in this project where the best use of my time would be camped out in their lobby, seizing project engineers and corporate vice-presidents by the lapels and asking where our stuff and our crew might be.  We're not quite there yet.  Not quite.  And so I'll do much the same thing by telephone, working my way up the food chain and probably ending up with my boss pulling me into his office, asking why I called that company's president; he won't be officially happy when I tell him it was part of carrying out his instructions that I make contact with them and get an update on the project timeline, but it's what he wants nevertheless.

     This kind of thing is the real core of what I do, just as I have been working on the "top priority" removal job only one day a week; there are, it seems, other top priorities, which mostly involve responding to urgent pages at the main office having to do with bad batteries, preventable damage and mis-typed passwords.  Sarcasm?  No; those things really are urgent, if you want to get decent work product from panicked non-geek people.  It's got to be done so we can go do the more-interesting things as time permits.
* "What all men own, no one owns," and that garage is a prime example.  The space belongs to no single department; it's got our only overhead beam hoist and a higher ceiling than any garage or warehouse type space my local employer owns.  It's supposed to be available to whoever in the company needs it.  When I spent most of my time at the North Campus, I was able to keep it pretty squared away; between me and Building Maintenance, we even kept the worst of the dust swept.  That was years ago.  The place turns into a maze, filled with office furniture "too good the throw out," tag-ends of multi-conductor wire on big spools, company-truck parts, maintenance supplies, project leftovers and plain junk.  A morning's work (in 85-degree heat) gained me a clear area twenty feet square (well. clear once I remove a golf cart and a snowplow attachment from one side) and one fifteen by twenty and a wide aisle connecting them, which should be sufficient.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

They Updated Windows Last Night

     So, of course, my computer was a long time starting up this morning.  Firefox frequently has issues with Windows updates.  While everything was getting reacquainted on the big desktop, I started up my Raspberry Pi and I'm posting this as a safety, in case there's a conflict.

     It's nice to have an alternative!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Unclaimed Something

     The Indiana Attorney General's office runs the Unclaimed Property Division.  Periodically, they place ads in the newspapers, listing names of people who've got something (generally money) claimable.

     My sister texted me the other day: I was on the list. 

     So was my late mother.  She's got several small listings, in fact, and I need to tell my brother (who has a couple dollars waiting from the BMV himself), since he's her executor.

     As for my unknown amount, I went to their site, entered the name and -- there I was.  There are forms to fill out with various identifying information; I did so and the state says they'll send me a check in a few weeks.

     Okay, this is pretty much the modern-day version of finding a twenty-dollar bill and seventy-five cents in cash between the sofa cushions, but hey, money that would have otherwise been missed. -- and direct benefit from My Tax Dollars At Work.  Shouldn't pass that up.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Shelves

     They use one shelf I'd cut and finished four or five years ago and about given up on installing, plus a long one I had used in the kitchen of my previous house:
     The long shelf was finished with boiled linseed oil, which on pine darkens over time to a pretty color.  The shorter one, I used some stain/finish combination and I'm not as happy with it.  "Beading" on the edges of the shelves was done with a tool made by driving a large, slotted, flathead woodscrew into a small scrap of board; the sharp edges of the slot cut a nice groove, with the distance from the top and bottom of the shelf set by how far above the surface the head of the screw sticks out.

     Vertical supports are just pipe flanges and precut pipe sections.  You can buy flanges really inexpensively online, but the quality isn't great; some castings weren't square to the tapped hole and some needed to have the mounting-screw holes drilled out.  1/4"-20 carriage bolts hold them to the shelves.  If I had used the same size pipe for each level, the flanges could have been back to back

     The table was from one of the big chain stores, an inexpensive Mission-style side table.

     Equipment in the picture includes a big RME-45 receiver, a Multi-Elmac AF-68 transmitter, and a Millen transmatch, with a homebrew antenna switch, a Ten-Tec transmatch and an RME VHF converter

Sunday, August 11, 2019

I'm Here...

     Working on pipe-supported shelves for my hamshack.  I have had the material for months and it was starting to bother me.

     Pictures later, if I am not too unhappy with it.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Of All The Luck....

     Tam and I rode our bicycles to the Indiana State Fair yesterday.  I took the day off work for it.

     A quick tram ride* had us at Pioneer Village, home to a couple-three† dining tents run by various Hoosier meat producers.  Lunch!   Tam and I had meat (look, I'm not going to say what kind, for reasons that will become obvious) sandwiches and soft drinks.  I added a condiment from a big pump jug; Tam did not. 

     Once we were fed, we ventured out to look at steam tractors -- one running a sawmill, with the sawn hardwood boards offered for sale -- a one-cylinder gasoline-powered field tile machine, old quilts, chipped-flint knives and other delights.

     About fifteen minutes after lunch, I suffered, ahem, "acute gastrointestinal distress."  The fairgrounds are very well supplied with washrooms, no problem there; but it kept happening, every twenty minutes or so.  Our general route was toward the exit anyway, so I made frequent stops while Tam enjoyed the fair and we left early.

     The bike ride home was a character-building experience for me.  Once home, I changed into my nightgown and took to my bed.  By this morning I was well over it.

     Not at all fun and I'm blaming the condiment (which happened to be one that didn't contain a significant amount of vinegar).  Other than a different choice of soft drinks, it was the only thing we didn't both eat that day.
* Indiana State Fair trams are a remarkable institution, consisting of medium-sized tractors (running on soy diesel!) pulling three or four trailers that consist of outward-facing wooden benches with footrests on each side.  A narrow aisle between the seat backs leaves room for a conductor, one per trailer; it's a dollar per ride, no matter how far or short you go.  With a top speed of perhaps ten miles an hour, they run a big loop through the fairgrounds, making frequent stops at marked locations.  It's about as Hoosier a mass-transit system as could be, and it's both effective and popular.  Each tram train -- there are several -- runs at or near capacity, with trains being added or removed from circulation as demand warrants.

 † Usefully, a number between two and six depending on how you parse it.  We did not try the mutton.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Felony Stupid, At Best

     At worst, another loser hoping to get famous.  It's been all over the news -- a young man showed up at a Springfield, Missouri Walmart, videoing himself, carrying an AR-15 and wearing some kind of vest or plate carrier, hung with pouches.  He is reported to have been carrying "a hundred rounds of ammunition" (probably meaning three full 30-round magazines) and a handgun.

     Unsurprisingly, people in the store reacted with fear; even without the recent horrific attacks, the man was wearing what amounts to the "uniform" of mass killers as described in news reports.

     He does not appear to have made any kind of aggressive move with either gun and eventually another person, described as an "off-duty firefighter" (in other words, an ordinary citizen) drew his own concealed handgun and held the young fool until police arrived.

     Was he planning something terrible?  Was he just a nitwit with a grudge over Walmart's 21-and older limit on ammunition sales?  We don't know.  If he gets a good lawyer, we may never know for sure. 

     At the very least, his behavior was "felony stupid."  In most states, it's legal to open-carry a long gun; some states may require a permit and a few prohibit it.  It is, however, rarely a wise choice unless you're hunting, target shooting, or the like.  --Yes, in Miss Bobbi's Libertopia Wonderland, no one would bat an eye, but that's not where we live.  "Don't scare the average citizen" is a good approach to life; it was even before "Get Clean For Gene," but that's probably the best example.

     In 1968, both the incumbent mainstream Democrats and challenging Republicans were in favor of the War in Vietnam.  Democrat Senator Eugene McCarthy got into the race as an anti-war candidate, and all the hippies (well, most of them) were for him.  It was a candidate's dream, a ready-made pool of enthusiastic door-knockers and envelope-stuffers.  There was just one problem: Mr. and (especially) Mrs. Average American were not about the open their door to a dirty, long-haired hippie, even if they were registered voters of the proper party to support the Senator's primary bid, even if they had doubts about the war: hippies scared them up close and personal, while Washington D.C. and Vietnam were far away.

     The answer, of course, was a shave, a haircut and a clean white shirt.  Even a bath, if necessary.  "Get Clean For Gene" was a success.  The McCarthy campaign ultimately failed, impaled on the candidate's gaffes and loss of momentum when Robert Kennedy entered the race -- but not because his campaign workers "scared the normal people."

     It's a good guideline.  Push boundaries a little at a time, if you want to see something different in the world.  Don't commit "felony stupid."

     (P. S., the U.S. eventually left Vietnam.  Did those scrubbed-up hippies help "move the Overton window" on debate about that war?  Probably.)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

An Abundance Of Festivities

     Not only is the Indiana State Fair running for the next couple of weeks, this weekend also includes the Broad Ripple Carnival at Broad Ripple Park!  Plus the Indiana Historical Radio Society's summer meeting.

     I'm pretty sure I'll keep busy this weekend.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Wednesday? It's National EAS-Test Day!

     H'mm, it will be Wednesday all day.  But it's only test day once a year, and then only for a few minutes.  (Around 2:20 p.m. EDT, last time I checked.)

     There's another big test of the national Emergency Broadcast System this afternoon, this time checking the "analog" station-to-station relay system that now backs up the internet-based distribution system.  This is the part that hard-failed the first time FEMA convinced FCC to run a full national test.

     The analog backup has worked fine in tests since, but FEMA and FCC want to see if there are any holes in it they haven't yet found.  I have to give the FCC credit -- after decades of just assuming the system would work, once FEMA goaded them into finding out for real and discovering it kind of didn't work, FCC has been enthusiastic about running yearly tests, collecting data from the participants, and working to correct the problems the test reveals.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

So, Um...How 'Bout That Trade War?

     Our dear, dear pals in Red China have upped the ante. They're still at the table and nobody's ended up with aces-and-eights yet, but it's not what you'd call a friendly game.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Twisted Killers Don't Have A "Side."

     Sure, they have some kind of point they think they're making, some political aim or some horrific trolling; maybe both. 

     But they don't have a "side" in the sense that you, me, Elizabeth Warren or Mitch McConnell have a side; their rantings never add up and they're not a real part of actual politics.  The instant they chose to pick up a gun (or any other means) and start killing unsuspecting innocents, -- and on this scale, even a prison exercise yard full of violent felons are innocents -- they're nothing but killers. 

     It's not even terrorism.  Terrorism has some organizational structure working towards some kind of at least theoretical victory condition -- the UK out of Northern Ireland, everyone on the planet under Sharia law, the violent overthrow of a government, cowing a supposed underclass -- that, when achieved, will end the terror (yeah, rarely gets there and when it does, the violence often just changes focus; nevertheless).  The kind of mass shootings we've seen in the last few days, months and years doesn't have any kind of genuine end state; it's just striking out.

     So when people immediately head off to Facebook and Twitter and whatever information experts pull from the killer's computer or scrawled notebooks with an eye towards finding out what the killer's political leanings were, what his party affiliation might have been--  It's futile.  It's pointless.  Normal politics in this country, no matter how wingnutty or moonbatty, doesn't involve shooting a bunch of fellow-citizens who are just going about their lives.  (It also doesn't involve dressing up in all black, covering your face and breaking windows, either; but that's for another time.)

     This isn't normal.  Stop trying to jam it into normal partisan molds. That's not where it goes.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Two Days, Two Mass Shootings

     And the toxic little warts who committed them are already famous, too.  We've got to stop that.

     We've got young men growing up with no socially-approved "tribe" at all; not even as "approved" as hippies and preppies once were, and then we're surprised when the ones they carve out for themselves are so awful?

     Most mass shooters -- and the online culture that seems to foster them -- are the flip side of urban gangs, essentially the same thing only organized online and financed by nothingburger jobs and cheap housing in Mom and Dad's basement instead of being organized in person and funded by crime and drug dealing. Seething resentment?  Check.  Need for some kind of social order that is satisfied in the coarsest way?  Check.  A general feeling of not having a future?  Check. An inability to confine their violence to one another?  Check.

     There's a hole in their lives.

     This is a void that cannot be stamped out; you cannot get rid of a hole by digging it wider and deeper.  It's got to be replaced.  Filled in.  Right now, a purulent mess of bad ideas and worse behavior is what fills it.  Egging one another on is what fills it and then spills over to harm innocents.

     The bulk of the participants are of "warrior age," and that's exactly what they'd've been up to in a simpler and more violent time.  Here and now, they have no meaningful or socially useful enemies to fight, not enough work and too much petty distraction.

     I don't know how to fix it.  I do agree that "thoughts and payers" are not a solution, but I'm not seeing any laws new or old that could fix it, either.  We're going to have to fix it at the source, somehow, and the source is not hardware or "society" or even "the Internet:" it's individual people, individual relationships, and tribal-scale culture and cultural institutions.

Saturday, August 03, 2019


     Spent the afternoon sweeping off the concrete-block patio (the huge hackberry tree in the back yard drops green seeds everywhere) and assembling a new "fire bowl," the kind of screen-covered above-ground fireplace the city doesn't object to  The old one had rusted out after a dozen years and a rip in the cover that I had missed.

     The little fireplace gives me a way to use up the fallen twigs and branches, and it can be kind of nice to sit by as the evenings grow cooler (and the mosquitoes die off).  I'd ordered the thing before my unexpected medical bill showed up and I might as well get some good from it.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Poignant Salvage

     I spent yesterday on the early stages of removing a two thousand Watt analog transmitter I installed nearly thirty years ago.  It was a pretty good little transmitter; I shepherded it through a major channel change, through the original manufacturer changing hands and then passing the device-specific parts replacement/repair off to a third-party, and moving from brand-new to rebuilt transmitting tubes.  (Kennetron, by the way, is the last of the independent tube rebuilders and did very good work for us, at about half the price of new).

     The OEM and the brand-specific aftermarket guys are gone now, and the transmitter itself has been out of service for nearly a decade.  But it wasn't worth removing until we needed the space, which we do.  What I'm doing is disconnecting wiring and readying up the transmitter and related equipment; it's on the very last patch of the original gray and green floor tile* in the building, which will require a specialist to remove.

     It's something of a trip through old memories, from the time I was trying to figure  out a mess of wiring in the poorly-lit rack next to it and, tugging on a wire, launched a very dead bird right past my face to the day I was retuning it and realized the factory tech who'd said, "Oh, the solid-state amplifiers are wideband, shouldn't have to touch those" had no idea I was moving the thing from one end of the UHF band to the middle and I was, in fact, going to have to retune the entire transmitter all the way from the low-level stages to the high-power output.  That turned out well, one of my earliest successes at keeping the little secondary station running using mostly what we had on hand or could dig out of dumpster-bound storage.

     Some of the parts are destined for salvage but most of it will just join that same "e-waste" storage, waiting for the recycler.
* I wanted to keep the checkerboard floor pattern when we redid the building interior, which made the architect's industrial designer snicker.  Nope, we got a nice, bland shades-of-gray pattern.  Drop a machine screw and it blends in invisibly.   

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Better -- And Off To The Dentist.

     Not a hundred percent this morning, but better.

     Remembered last night that I have a regular dental exam this morning.  Too late to cancel and I'm pretty sure my illness was the result of a frozen dinner that disagreed with me, so off I go, hoping for the best.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Sick This Morning, Sick All Day

     No fun at all.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate: Round Two, Part One

     Tam watched the debate on her computer last night.  We don't have cable and whattaya know, the party that tells me they're there for the poor and downtrodden somehow managed to get their debate on a stream that's not distributed for free over the air.

     Mostly it was more of the same.

     Beto O'Rouke increasingly looks like the straight, toned-down "Pat Boone" cover of military veteran Pete Buttigieg.  I guess Beto's the man-of-choice for Democrats who wouldn't have one of -- delicate shudder -- "them" in the Oval office, and I don't mean Navy men.

     Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are just more and more themselves, or perhaps affectionate caricatures of themselves, and appeared to me to be the very worst about observing time limits.

     The rest of the candidates were, well, the rest, with the exception of Tim Ryan of Ohio, who stood out at the beginning as the only candidate who didn't put a hand over their heart for the national anthem.  What the heck, Congressman?  You're up there standing next your peers-in-running, some of them harshly critical of this country's government and even culture, but they all managed to do the respectful thing.  Why didn't you?

     Tonight is part two, with frontrunner Joe Biden, and I suppose Tam will want to follow that one, too.  So far, I'm not seeing any reason to not do what I usually do, vote for the Libertarian Presidential candidate in 2020.  We've tried having Presidents who are disliked by roughly half of Congress, let's go for someone they'll all loathe!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Procrastinated Drain

     Ever put off an onerous task for so long that it seems as if you'll never do it?

     Yeah, me, too.  Eventually there's no avoiding it.

     The kitchen drain here at at Roseholme Cottage has been slow for quite some time.  An embarrassingly long time.  When Tam was out of town for work last winter, I managed to get it pretty clear with drain cleaner, hot water and vinegar (yes, the first on the list neutralizes the last.  You don't use them both at once).  It was still slow.  A little mini-plunger action seemed to keep it running acceptably, though the dishwasher did tend to back up into the sink.  That's not good.

     It was long past time for action when, Saturday evening, the drain decided to try for Dead Slow.  Got there, too.  I promised Tam that fixing it would be at the top of the list, only Sunday I had a lot of laundry and the writer's critique group, so how about Monday?

     Monday it was, and a firm date, too.

     So last night, I got home in fairly good order with a deli-counter baked chicken, plus a container of green and black olives and little blocks of feta cheese.  I added some Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers* to mine, because they're spicy-sweet and it goes with the chicken and sides like polka and an acccordion.

     Dinner out of the way, it was time to get to work.  I changed into weekend clothes, put on thin nitrile gloves with heavy, long dishwashing gloves over them,† grabbed a nutdriver, a wire coat hanger and a couple of pairs of pliers and set to work.

     The kitchen drain passes above my ham radio setup and across nearly the width of the house on a diagonal.  Nearly the entire run is modern PVC pipe, glued together; there's a 90 at the wall and a pair of 45s to zigzag around the stairs before it meets up with old iron pipe, where a pair of 45s that lead into the waste stack.  There's a hose-clamped rubber coupler at that point, the only place you can open the drain after the sink trap.  Everything else on the ground floor feeds into the stack with short, direct runs, and they have all been working okay.

     So I started taking the coupler apart.  Nasty-smelling water started to drip.  I got a buckt under it and wiggling the pipes a little farther apart, at which point flow increased to the point where it seems like a good idea to just let it run before proceeding.  I warned Tam I'd be asking for her help pretty soon and watched the gray water run.

     And run.  And run.  It slowed and I moved the pipes farther apart, which sped it back up, but finally, it was slow enough that I yelled to Tam to "glove up, get a good flashlight and come on down."  (The waste stack goes up inside one wall of the office we share, so she was only about ten feet away.)

     When she arrived, I handed her a smaller bucket and had her hold it directly under the pipe connection.  Took the pipe connection all the way apart with some effort, and got even more water out.  I picked up the bright flashlight Tam had brought and looked into the stack connection.  It was blocked

     Nope.  Sludge: hard-water accretions combined with grease dish soap hadn't quite grabbed, accumulated tiny food particles, bacteria and...ew.  It looked gritty, like sandstone, only black.  The unfolded coat hanger helped rake out chunks of it into the bucket Tam was holding to catch the remaining water from the drainpipe and needle-nose pliers helped me fish out most of  the remainder. I was contemplating bending the end of the coat hanger into a more useful shape when Tam spoke up:

     "Hey, Bobbi?  This bucket is getting heavy.  And you might want to look into the end of the pipe, too."

     "You'd better take that bucket upstairs and pour it out in a far corner of the back yard."

     "I was planning on it."

     While she was on that and the pipe was dripping (still!) into the larger bucket I had on the floor, I moved around to look into the pipe.  More blockage, the same kind.

     It was starting to look bad.  How far back did this extend?  I bent a better crook into the end of coathanger and proceeded to slide it up the pipe, turn it and pull back out, bringing big lumps of the stuff with it.  After the first splashes, I waited until Tam came back down to hold the smaller bucket at the end of the pipe.  It took what seemed like forever -- probably five minutes or less -- until the pipe started to clear and the unfolded coathanger wasn't finding any obstructions even at full length.  I asked Tam to dump the bucket and fetch some blue shop "rags" (heavy paper towel) from the garage, which I had forgotten.

     I cleaned off the pipe and coupler and we put the back together, a fussy job, and I cleaned up the floor while Tam went to the kitchen to run water down the sink drain.

     So far, so good: the coupler's not leaking and the drain seems to be running well.  Tonight, we'll run the dishwasher when we're both home to deal with any leaks or backups.  Here's hoping!

     Cleaned up and cleaned up and cleaned up, floor and pipes and buckets.  Scrubbed the pliers, WD-40ed them, and washed and washed my hands, arms and face.  Disgusting.  But it had to be done.
* My weakness for pickled vegetables (and raw, finger-food ones) goes back as far as I can remember; possibly farther, as my Mom used to tell of my three or four year old self begging a sip of cider vinegar and being given a taste, with the thought that it would cure me of asking for that stuff.  Instead, I gulped down a teaspoon-full and asked for more!

† There's a reason for this besides the "Ew!" factor of wanting a better barrier.  During clean-up, there's a point where you need to get rid of the filthy outer gloves but having something between you and ick-covered tools is still a good idea.  Start with two pairs of gloves and you're ready for it without fiddling around.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Week Of Vacation Ends

     There have been better vacations.  Certainly, I have no one to blame for myself for the excitement over my car keys.  And no one but me decided to begin by spending two days pretty much just sleeping and binge-watching HBO's Chernobyl.  (I don't regret watching the mini-series.)

     Even working Wednesday morning was optional, though it was a good idea to try to get up to speed on new stuff, since they're changing how we interact with Human Resources for benefits and the like  (You'll be shocked, shocked to learn it's web-intensive, a distant cousin to a system my department is setting up for our Engineering work.  Welcome to the future, here's a website and an app.)

     So, back at it, and maybe I'll do better at this vacation stuff next time.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Saturday Dinner

     Charcoal-roasted pork tenderloin with potatoes, fennel bulb and fronds, carrots, onion, mushrooms, paprika turnips, corn on the cob and a few pickled cherry peppers.
This is what we call food!
     Seasoned with salt and pepper on the meat, parsley on the corn, the aforementioned paprika on the turnips and rosemary crushed over the pan.  Two and a half hours (for the meat, the vegetables got less, with turnips and potatoes going in first) had the meat-falling apart tender.

     It was tasty!  The grocery had pork tenderloin at half off.  I'd been remembering my Mom's Sunday-dinner pork roast with vegetables, a rare treat, and cooking it over the grill meant I avoided several hours of oven heat building up in the kitchen.  Some hickory chips on the coals didn't hurt, either.  Served with sourdough rosemary rolls and Irish butter.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

It Might Be An Oncoming Train

     Or it might not.

     Got some slightly better news on the big medical bill: it's a paperwork foul-up. I checked with my health insurer and their records, rather than saying they've paid all they felt like paying and I'm stuck, say that they're "waiting on additional information from the provider."

     This is semi-accurate; armed with that information, I called the hospital's billing department, and the details at their end tell an even more involved story.

     You see, my heath insurer isn't my health insurer.  I work for A Medium-Sized Corporation, let's call them AM-SCo, headquartered in a nearby state.  AM-SCo, striving to keep up with the bigger outfits, shops aggressively for a health insurance provider for their entire corporation; for the last decade, they've used a company that's very strong in AM-SCo's home state -- but it doesn't have a presence in Indiana.  That's no problem, the insurance business is full of mutual backrubs and discount deals among insurers; the AM-SCo company health insurer shops aggressively and finds another insurer to partner with in Indiana.

     That information goes on the back of our insurance cards: "In the states of IN, XX, YY and ZZ, outside of Big Health Insurer's Area, call 1-800-555-NUMBER or send claims to P.O. Box NNN, Generic City, Generic State."   My fellow local employees and I make a point of reminding heathcare providers to check the back of the card for the Indiana-applicable procedure and all is well.

     At the end of 2018, the insurance carrier, shopping aggressively, discovered they could make a better deal for Indiana coverage with a different company than the one they had been shacking up with and they were on it like a duck on a June bug.

     In January, 2019, I visited the hospital with my little heart scare.

     In February of 2019, the hospital billed my insurance, using the information from my insurance card.

     In March of 2019, we were issued new insurance cards for 2019 with the new number and address to use for Indiana (and a few other states).  I had unknowingly given the hospital incorrect information.

     The old Indiana-covering insurance company bounced the claim and communicated to the main insurance carrier for AM-SCo.  The main carrier amended the paperwork and passed it on.  But the hospital had rebilled the 2019 Indiana insurance company and, faced with two identical bills via tow different path, they apparently vaporlocked, which resulted in my receiving the full bill, months later.

     The hospital swears they can straighten this out; I've contacted the main company insurance carrier (we're running perilously close to the cut-off for questioning a claim resolution) and the HR department, who are my local point-of-contact for this kind of thing.

     What I should have been billed for is 20% of the total, plus or minus some fine-print adjustments.  Still biggish, but that's the order of magnitude of deductible I had signed up for and can cover for normal ER-type things.

     The hospital has flagged my account as a snarl-up in the process of being unsnarled and this should avoid any untoward action toward me on their part, at least for now.

Friday, July 26, 2019

And Today, A Blinding Headache

     I'm like the mildly defective products they sell at reduced prices -- still functional, just unrepairably damaged.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

So, I Lost My Car Key

     I lost my one and only car key, that I was meaning to add another to--

     And couldn't find it.  Noticed last night at bedtime it was missing (I was absolutely sure I knew where it was, in the usual place, which means I was distracted when I put it away yesterday), searched for a couple of hours without results.  Slept, woke, and searched for six hours more.  That got me to noon and I gave up, called the dealer, called a tow service (because it's 2019 and your car has be told the new keys are friendly keys), and spent the afternoon getting my key replaced and another added, at a price that seems disproportionately high--

     But it's 2019 and my car's computer only trusts the dealer's officially authorized computer.

     And I still can't find that lost key!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I Mowed The Lawn

     Yes, I did, or mowed the front yard, anyway, which is the one that counts the most.  Even with the hot spell over, it's tiring work; afterward, I made a little dinner (chimichurri skirt steak, which Tam had picked up at the grocer) and went to bed soon after.

     And this morning, I'm hurrying around to get to a meeting at work about a new online personnel/HR system.  In the middle of a week off.  Because meeting.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Well, They Got Me

     Back in January, I went into the ER with chest pains.  It turned out to be a false alarm.

     Bills have rolled through insurance and on down to me ever since; my doctor sent me off for a stress test and my part of the bill for that was pretty high.  But I managed.  I paid them.

     By now, everything should be taken care of, right?  All paid?

     Nope.  A bill just arrived from from the hospital, payment due on arrival, with the notation, "Balance remaining after insurance [...] We have been advised that your insurance will not be paying the remaining balance on your account.  If you question this information - please contact your insurance company."

     It is for an amount in excess of six thousand dollars.

     Of course, I don't have it; and it's way over the supposed deductible of my supposed health insurance.  The slight-of-fine print -- new this year! -- is that they apply the deductible not to the incident as a whole, but to every individual bill.

     I don't have six thousand dollars just kicking around.

     There's no way I can pay this quickly.  Here's hoping they'll let me pay it slowly; otherwise, I'll be maxing out my credit card and scrambling to pay it off before the interest eats me alive.

     And the next time I feel bad?  I've learned my lesson.  There's no way I'm going to the ER.  If it's chest pain, I won't even go to doc-in-a-box, because they'll just send you to the ER and bill you for the referral. Nope; if I'm not unconscious, I'm not going.  Maybe not even then.

Weather Leads, Sinus Follows

     The weather took a change last night and is still turning; temperatures won't rise much today and they're predicting a low in the fifties overnight.  Last night, humidity was ninety percent or more and it's supposed to drop like a hot rock* all day.

     I should know this without looking it up, since the pain in my ears -- it's painfully bilateral -- dizziness and so on is an absolutely certain sign of changing weather, and as intense as it has been this morning, it's a large change indeed.  Who needs a barometer?
* You'd think a hot-enough rock would fall a little slower, but no, not enough to notice.  9.8 meters per second squared is plenty enough.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


     No, I'm not talking abut opposition to the government owning the means of production, or even  fighting against Scandinavian-style "social safety nets" supported by higher taxes.

     Nope, I'm thinking about proposing a form of government in which direct interpersonal contact is kept the the bare minimum.  Automate the DMV!  No more press conferences: Top government officials will receive a printed list of questions to answer weekly, by letter or e-mail.  Congressthings will be required to remain seated, eyes front, when the House or Senate is in session -- wireless microphones will let them address their fellows.  And, of course, lobbyists will be required to use the mail.

     Let us have a government of laws, not of men.  And let the men (and women, and you over there with your very own pronoun) we do have to have keep to themselves.  There's no need to get chummy; just do your job and clock out at the end of the day.  No autographs, no press-the-flesh meetings, none of that.  Baby-kissing will be prohibited by law.

     Next step: all election campaigns to be conducted via plain-text direct mailings, and all mailings to be fact-checked by a bipartisan committee and a broad variety of news organizations, with their checks clearly attributed.

     Dull?  Darned right it would be dull.  There's no reason politics should be a three-ring circus.