Thursday, November 21, 2019

Some Basic Truth

     The Oatmeal, on how our minds work and why some things are a lot easier to take than others. 

     It's well worth reading.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Another Day, Another...

     Another twenty-four hours of people giving the news out of Washington, D. C. a partisan spin -- and before you tell me, "Yeah, yeah, those damn [name of major party here], they distort everything, they lie, the facts are perfectly obvious," stop right there, because I'm hearing it from both Republicans and Democrats.

     My opinion of Donald Trump the man is not flattering.  I think he's an oaf and a boor.  Unlike the Dems, I'm not sure if he's actually up to any really devious criminality; unlike his fellow Republicans, I'm doubtful that he's actually solving anything.  We've had geniuses in the Presidency and they have a mixed legacy; we've had average(ish) men in the job and they varied, too.  The President of the United States is not a king or the Pope.  He's just Some Guy, put in there to do the exectuive stuff to keep the country running, and to shake hands with Kings and Prime Ministers.  He's the guy who signs treaties -- but Congress has to ratify them. 

     The average citizen, in the course of their average life, commits an average of three felonies a day, mostly without even knowing it.  It's unavoidable.  Does that make those felonious acts any less criminal?  Strictly speaking, no.  However, these crimes rarely rise to the attention of police and prosecutors, and when they do, we expect -- and are Constitutionally promised -- that the due process of law will be followed.  Saint or villain, we get our day in court.  As does anyone, including Presidents. Oh, the court is different; the bar is higher, for reasons the Framers of the Constitution deemed sufficient;* but the idea is the same and the process, while far more exhaustive and partisan than any Grand Jury you or I are likely to face, is not all that dissimilar.

     But all that side noise--  Don't we have Representatives from both parties, to sit at their high bench and make speeches (with occasional question-asking)?  Are there not witnesses a-plenty, to make their ostensibly noble and usually rump-covering opening statements and answers?  Politicians are their own cheerleaders and pep squads and I'm not going to get into spats with people online about hearings that neither they nor I have any direct influence over.
* They appear to have been concerned about "lawfare," that Presidents might find all their time occupied by minor lawsuits and malicious prosecution; but there clearly needed to be a way to hold Presidents accountable for egregious acts, and thus they came up with impeachment.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Kitchen Sink

     Not the sink, really, but the faucet.  I noticed last night there was a fine spray coming from it somewhere unexpected.  A mist.

     Had an O-ring failed, or some plastic part of the single-control faucet?  Was it a build-up of lime scale?  Indiana water is generally very hard and Indianapolis city water is no exception.

     Nope.  There's a pinhole on the underside of the spout.  I'm going to have to replace the entire thing.  Can't really afford a plumber right now and Tam dislikes overseeing repair guys, so I'll have to do it myself.  There's a basin wrench around here somewhere, but this will need to be a weekend project.  I'm not a big fan of plumbing work but I have done it before.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday Already

     The long weekend is ended.  At least I got a few things done -- the biggest one being the fallen leaf accumulation in the front ward is raked up and the patio is raked clear.  I did a lot of laundry (though there is more yet to do) and even cooked beef stew.  If my day goes as planned, I'll have the last of it for lunch today.

     I even changed out the water fountain for the cats.  I couldn't remember where I had put the other one, but it turned out to be in plain sight, on the bottom shelf of a set of rolling shelves.

     It's more and more difficult to make myself leave the house.  I have fought social anxiety for years and it doesn't get any easier.  But, "no bucks, no Buck Rogers," or any other science fiction, either.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


     Pancakes were good yesterday morning.  Made beef stew for dinner and it was good, too -- maybe even better today, since there was plenty left over.

     Leaves about a quarter done.  Guess what I'll be doing next?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Yeah, Well...

     I'm going to be eating Swedish pancakes in a couple of minutes.  Everything else can wait.

Friday, November 15, 2019

I Took The Day Off

     There was a scramble to use up remaining vacation weeks before the end of the year.  I had managed to schedule a couple of mine at times that turned out to fall in the middle of big projects.  So I deferred them.

     When I tried to fit them into this month and next, I had a day left over.  Today.  I fed the cats and had a cup of hot chocolate with piece of toast at six, then napped until ten.  Got up, made brunch and looked at television (the first episode of the final season of The Man In The High Castle, good stuff), did a little housework and realized I hadn't blogged yet.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Now, Just A Minute

     We've got fallen leaves on top of the snow?

     We do.  Winter bundled Fall off in such a hurry that there were plenty of leaves left on the trees.  Now they've fallen.

     The good news is, we're in a warming trend for the next week, with highs in the upper thirties and eventually, the low forties.  The bad news is, there goes my excuse to ignore the leaves.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Today's High, 32°F

     Alexa just told me it's 12°F outside, at least at the official measuring point.  It's a balmy 14 at the nearest measuring point.

     I'd just as soon stay at home.  But that's not an option and so off I go, to rinse out my sinuses if there's enough distilled water, and then get ready for another day of work, hoping all of it will be indoors.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

November, Indeed

     The cold rain started at mid-morning yesterday, changed to freezing rain and then to snow before stopping late last night.  There's at least an inch on the ground now.  Skies cleared and it was 11°F when I woke up.  Today's high will be 22°F.

     Tam and I just cleared away most of the fallen leaves from the front and back yards Sunday.

     I think the seasons may have changed.

Monday, November 11, 2019

After The Silence

     On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent all across Europe.  After years of war, after the ruin of a vast swath of France, the Great War was over and the soldiers and sailors could come home from the horrors of war.

     In the United States, this day now honors all veterans of all wars.  It offers a chance to thank the living.  War is indeed dreadful, abhorrent; and most dreadful of all is the price it exacts from those who must fight.  One day a year is the tiniest of respects to pay.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

So Much Catching Up

     Laundry, dishes, cat boxes, SLEEP...!  Still getting caught up.  And I have a hammering headache and mild dizziness to go along with it.  Took analgesics a half hour ago, just checked blood pressure (okay!  Better than my doctor's-office usual, in fact*), so I'm just going along with it.

     I need to pick up a prescription, which I will beg Tam to get for me, and I have a nice batch of beef stew from yesterday to reheat.  It was pretty good then and a night in the fridge usually lets the ingredients get to know one another even better, so hopes are high.

     Next stop?  A yard full of fallen leaves!
* I have "White coat syndrome:" doctor's offices put me on high alert.  Oh, I can suppress my reactions, and I do, but blood pressure doesn't lie.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Interview With The Robot

     "Alexa, how can a man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?"*


     Neither did the poet, little robot.  Neither did the poet.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Should Have Expected

     Didn't get Friday off.  And the suits are still waffling about what they want to do. 

     It's not my problem.  I was told to work half a day and whatever they decide, that's what I will do.

     There's a fair chance that the cold weather overnight has caused damage.  It needs to be checked.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Back On A Regular Schedule?

     Maybe.  More or less.  For a few days, I'm back to my usual hours.

     Might even get the weekend off and even -- if nothing comes up -- have Friday off, too, since I worked Sunday.  That's a chicken I won't count until it is hatched, has grown feathers and is laying eggs of its own, but even the prospect of it is thrilling.

     What's not so thrilling is the amount of work still left on my project and all of things I will have to get caught up on.  But it's a job and thank goodness for that.

*  *  *

     I haven't been writing, which bothers me.  Reading a bit, and fairly wide-ranging, at least.  The writer's group I was attending (and have had to skip the last two meetings of) has gone ion a direction I'm not sure about -- from the usual workshoppy mutual critiquing of 2,000 - 5,000 words by each member every month to concentrating on one member's long-form work every meeting, 10,000 - 25,000 words from a single member, a different person very month.

     Part of that's no big deal -- it's the same number of words, and if you haven't guessed by now, in addition to the direct benefit of having other writers analyze your work, a big part of these groups is learning how to read fiction like an editor -- what works, what doesn't, if the focus and points of view are sensible and consistent, word use, sentence length (you're not going to believe this, but I have an issue with habitually building sentences that even James Joyce might have looked at and suggested they might be a little long) and a zillion other things that one does not, generally, look for when composing first or even second drafts of a written piece.  That practice, first applied to other people's prose in which you haven't got an emotional investment, then helps you learn how to look at your own work with a critical eye.

     So that part's fine.  What isn't fine for me is the change means there's very little pressure to do my own writing between meetings.  I think I need that; it's too easy for me to get distracted or busy and write nothing.

     It's something I'm still mulling over.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

A Last-Minute Glitch

     It's an obscure technical problem, a mechanical issue that comes from having a long length of steel supporting a long length of a non-ferrous metal: something worked out wrong on the spring-loaded suspension system and things that should not be in contact, are.

     I'm confident that it will be worked out.  Or I'll have someone defenestrated, probably a project engineer who has never even been to the site.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

It's Election Day!

     Okay, they're mostly little elections around here, but large or small, the people around you are voting at you!  Hadn't you better get out there and vote right back at them?

     It appears that I've got a Mayoral race, and a...non-race; there's only one guy running for the City-County Council seat that represents this part of town, which annoys me no end.

     No elected position should be so "safe" that the other parties just give up on it.  Councilman Unopposed is a Democrat, and maybe nothing any further Right will fly here in town, in an arsty neighborhood.  Maybe the Libertarian Party of Indiana hasn't a chance (though counting yard signs during presidential years, I'm not so sure that a candidate willing to wear out shoe leather and listen to the people, one on one, could not succeed).  But why isn't anyone trying to get around him on the Left?  Where are our Greens, our Socialists, the suit-wearing versions of the wild-eyed sign-wavers?  Did they all give up and go home?

     City-County Council might not be much, but poor decisions there can make an up close and personal mess of things with a speed and thoroughness the State and Feds only wish they could manage.

     I'll go do my civic duty, one vote and one abstention or write-in, but if nobody steps up next time, maybe I'll run for the seat.  No one should stand for election unopposed.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Topped Out!

     They made the connection. The last little gap was closed up about mid-afternoon yesterday.

     There's still plenty to do, including removing thousands of feet of rigging and multible blocks from the tower, hauling the old antenna around to the scrap pile and picking up (and throwing away) a truly remarkable amount of trash, discarded packing and crates.  I'm hoping to knock the wooden crates down and keep the best of the wood, but it's not a priority; it can wait for the next dumpster, but no longer.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

And Even More Almost

     We're within an inch and a half of connecting everything at the 900-foot level.

     Paradoxically enough, this is worse than being off by a foot and a half: there's a minimum length for the custom-length sections, due to the interesting way the inner conductors are connected (long, tapered, springy "bullets" made of plated brass), and it's way more an inch and a half.

     So the crew is going to have to move heavy things, a great distance above the ground, in a controlled and very accurate way.  ...And the two most experienced members of the crew left to take care of a previous commitment a couple of days ago.

     By the time this was discovered, winds at ground level had kicked up to chilly, blustering gusts and at 900 feet they were approaching gale force; having to hold on with both hands gets in the way of getting anything else done.

     So they knocked off for the day, about an hour ahead of the usual time, and I got home ahead of schedule but even more tired than usual.  I looked at TV (Danger Man, Patrick McGoohan's first spy/adventure series) while enjoying a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a few candied cherries on top and went to bed.

     Today?  Well, today we'll try again.

Saturday, November 02, 2019


     The installation phase of the tower work is almost done.  There's still at least one custom-length section, which has to be made offsite and brought up, some last bits of assembly and some work at nearly ground level.

     Then the electronic side of things begins -- a lot of measurement and adjustment, using nifty gadgets that we don't have, operated by a specialist while I look over his shoulder.

     I still have work of my own, including adding some analog monitoring that we expected the equipment to have as a matter of necessity.  It would seem that in this day of network-accessible graphical user interfaces, "necessity" isn't what it used to be.  Our basic remote control system still is all steam gauges and contact closures, though, and so I'll try to work something out.

     It should be interesting.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Back To Work, In The Cold

     November has swept and and brought winter with it.  The outside temperature is 26°F at present.  With luck, we'll reach 46 today.  The forecast calls for highs in the low fifties next week, with lows at or below freezing

     We still have tower work to do.  Some of it quite fiddly.  The crew -- nearly all from far warmer regions of the country -- was planning to buy warm clothes during our rained-out days and I hope they haven't under-estimated the chill at altitude  There's nearly always a breeze once you get above a hundred feet above ground.  It can be lovely in the summer but once it gets cold, well, up there, it's colder still.

     We're expecting some critical parts to arrive today. I think we'll need more before the job can be finished but it's getting close.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Second Rainy Day

     8:29 a.m.  Feels like eight-thirty at night.

     I've been up off and on since 4:30 this morning, the extra half-hour an artifact of using my phone as a back-up alarm set thirty minutes after the bedside clock-radio.  Fed the cats, napped, got up and made coffee and a bacon-and-egg sandwich.

     There's plenty to do today; I'm out of nearly everything and ran out of time and energy to go shopping yesterday after a morning spent trying to get caught up downtown and a forgettable late lunch at a Broad Ripple eatery Tam and I had not visited in some time.  I won't name the place -- frozen French fries, indifferent coleslaw and an adequate if over-cheesed hamburger are well below par for the neighborhood.

   Returning home, I realized I was barely keeping my eyes open, and after a little time at the computer, I went to bed.  Poor, wheezy Rannie Wu joined me; she's got a head cold, and had been to the vet that morning.

     Shortly after seven o'clock last night, I had a call from a guy at one of the major suppliers for the project that has me working such long days when the weather permits.  He need dimensions for some custom pieces, dimensions that I had been given to understand the tower crew had called in more than twenty-four hours earlier.

     They had not; they and the parts supplier had been playing phone tag.  It is a mystery to me why this would happen when everyone involved has e-mail and can communicate the dimensions accurately and unambiguously; but it did, and it fell to me to get up, go the the computer and telephone, discuss the matter with everyone concerned and sort things out.  By 8:15 p.m., everyone had what they needed and I went back to bed. These custom pieces are part of every installation using the same kind of components -- and there are thousands of them.  Everyone involved knew theses dimensions would be needed and most of us knew this was the week for them.  This should not have been a big deal or any kind of a problem.  Somehow, this project has been a SNAFU magnet and I don;t think that will change.

     Today is rainy and cold; they afternoon will be rainy and colder, with a wind advisory.  As far as I'm concerned, it's not a work day.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Didn't Beat The Rain

     Just over two hundred feet short of complete with the vertical work.  Today will be too rainy and tomorrow, well, there's a chance of snow or even ice.

     So here we are.  This should provide time to restock household supplies, do a little catching up at the Downtown parts of my job and maybe even do a little laundry.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Working Ahead Of The Rain

     Progress is being made on the big project; the last couple of work days have been spent putting things together instead of taking them apart. 

     The main effort is just a little short of half-way complete.  That's good -- but today will be followed by a day and a half or rain, or possibly two full days.  And near the very end of the tower work, we will need two or more custom-fit items that can't be made onsite; we've already called in measurements to the supplier and it's about fifty-fifty if they will be here before the rain.

     Yesterday was another twelve-hour day, though I had to take three out and get to a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment, all the way downtown.  At least it made a change in scenery.

Monday, October 28, 2019

And Today, More Of The Same

     Yep.  We are keepin' on keeping on whilst we endeavor to persevere, and you'll remember how that worked out.

     Nevertheless, we are at the stage where the boys are bolting stuff to the sky about as quickly as they can, with due attention to safety and the soft skulls of the groundlings far below, twenty feet farther with every new stick of line added to the stack.

     And I have discovered about 1500 more pounds of overlooked metal salvage!  Still not going to make any money on this deal, but we might not lose as much. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday, Back At It

     Rain all day yesterday, at times quite heavy, gave me a day off.  I spent almost the entire day on laundry and cooking. 

     The rain was accompanied by gusty winds and there were several loud thumps overnight as small (I hope) branches fell and hit the roof.

     Though it's still breezy now, the forecast calls for winds to fade to the single digits by mid-morning today, so the tower crew will be back at it, or so I hope.  The heaviest lift -- well, lower -- is done but there's a lot left to do.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

And Another Twelve-Hour Day, But...

     Yesterday, the crew took the big antenna down.

     How big?  It weighs 1,300 pounds, call it 600 kg.  It's sixty feet tall and about a yard in diameter.

     Since it was mounted about nine hundred feet up the tower, there's no lifting it down with a crane; instead, the tower is "rigged" with temporary "blocks" (think of a pulley on steroids) in interesting and complicated ways, a heavy cable is string up through them, the antenna is connected to the cable with a multi-part sling that hooks into several lifting eyes built into it, and a hoist sitting on the ground chugs away.  A "tagline" connected to the antenna and coming off at an angle to the hoist cable serves to steer the antenna as it is lowered.

     Once the hoist has taken most of the weight of the antenna -- but no more! -- men working on the tower remove the multiple huge bolts that have been holding it in place, and if everything works out (there's a lot of radio chatter and specialized gesturing), the antenna is "floating" as the last bolt is loosened.

     Ours jumped a little when the final bolt was taken out -- less than a foot -- and the riggers were able to carefully push it away from the tower.  The first steps of the lowering process proceed with painful slowness; a mistake here could cost fingers, hands, limbs or lives.

     As the antenna begins to move down, strain is applied to the tagline.  Riggers keep pushing the antenna clear of other structures on the tower and if the angle of the tag and hoist lines was correct, by the time it's too far away from them to reach, the antenna is clear of everything on the tower.

     Don't forget, the antenna has to kept clear of the heavy guy cables, too!  This is trickier while it's close the tower; as it is lowered, there's more room.  But you can't move it too far out -- towers are designed to withstand huge vertical forces; the lateral loads one them are much lower, largely the result of wind.  It's much more than you might think,. but not so much you can hang a 1,300-pound antenna hundreds of feet away from the tower while raising or lowering.

     It all calls for a lot of planning and well-informed, experienced judgement before the work ever begins.  Mistakes here make headlines.
Click to enlarge.  You can see the antenna hanging to the right of the tower.  The angle isn't a mistake -- that's how the manufacturer specifies it is to be suspended for hoisting operations.
     This effort made no headlines; once the antenna was out of reach, the men working aloft rode the elevator to ground level, arriving at when the antenna was about halfway down, and went out to the area where the tagline turned skyward.  One of the ground men fired up a small tracked forklift (a large "Bobcat" with forks) and as one end of the antenna touched down, they steered it to a gentle landing, cradled across the forks.

     Unrigging the antenna and securing the cables for next week's work only took about 45 minutes.  Taking care of some four thousand feet of cable, strung through blocks 950 feet above ground, is not quite like running out a clothesline!
      It was just about full dark by the time everyone was finished.  Rain today and on Sunday?  More work, raising a smaller replacement.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Twelve Hour Day

     Yes, twelve hours yesterday, with some trouble with the big transmitter as well as the ongoing project.  I am so worn out that I can hardly string words together.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

And It Keeps On

     Got a lot done yesterday, on the tower and inside the building, too.  Of course, you can do that in a ten-hour day (for the tower workers) or an eleven-hour day (for me).  They drank up all my bottled water the day before yesterday and used up the last of my coffee creamer today.  Hey, kids, guess what isn't going to be kept where you can get at it?

     Had a few interesting technical problems, too, but I think they're all solvable.

     These long days are cooking me.  I have three days of socks left, so between now and the end of the week, I need to have at least one nice, short eight- or nine-hour day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Productive Day

     The weather cooperated, the crew cooperated, the equipment -- well, we had to clean a summer's worth of bird's nests out of the limit-switch box for a kind of very basic elevator before it was entirely happy, but with that out of the way, it worked and we got a lot done; and when I say "we," I mostly mean the tower crew.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

And Then Yesterday, It Rained

     Rain wiped out the work yesterday.  The tower crew got a couple of hours in and did useful work aloft, climbed down and did what needed to be done on the ground as the storm washed in, and then left.  It's a long way down and dripping-wet surfaces make it a little too easy to get there rapidly.

     This was a huge relief to me; after fighting with the front gate -- photoelectric safety monitors and a lack of shrubbery-trimming  is not a good combination -- I went home, did laundry and made a big pot of chicken soup.

     The shortcut to homemade chicken soup is cooked chicken breasts from the deli, some chicken stock, and fresh celery, carrots, onion, mushrooms, a small potato, jalapeno pepper and sweet red peppers.  Started with a little bacon, sauteed the diced vegetables in bacon grease, added the  mushrooms and chicken, sauteed them a bit, and poured the stock over.  Let that simmer a half-hour or more (more is better) with some bay leaves and whatever else in the spice cabinet that looks good (rosemary and some garlic salt, a sprinkle of parsley),  and you have soup for a day or two.  I crumbled the bacon in, then added fresh chopped onion and celery before serving.  Leftovers are in the fridge right now, waiting for later.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Miserable Excuse For A Parody Of A Farce Of A Farrago Of A Travesty

     And Sunday, on overtime, the tower crew rearranged the deck chairs on their own personal Titanic hoist rigging on the tower.  Twice.  And load-tested it.  Twice.

     The good news is, they let one fellow go.  The bad news is, that made for another late start, which the former rigger had compounded by being over an hour late to the jobsite.  And it made them short-handed -- about a quarter of a man short by my count, though I may be too generous.

     There was also rather more interpersonal drama over the art of rigging temporary cables to carry heavy, awkward objects to and from a great height than I have learned to expect in 32 years of overseeing contractors working on a very tall tower.  Why this should be, I do not know, though I suspect the huge demands made on the available pool of talent by the FCC's two-year schedule to rearrange RF spectrum occupancy has meant some very primo prima donnas are being coddled.  They'll have a rude awakening once the effort is complete.

     Meanwhile, I spent ten hours at work and have very little to show for it that I didn't do with my own hands.  At least the tower work was a fixed-price job.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Parody Of A Farce Of A Farrago Of A Travesty, Possibly On Ice

     Words fail me.  Eleven and one-half hours of work yesterday, for which the project had to show....a relocated hoist block.  And a hoist cable drooped so low across the private drive that it's a safety hazard, and I had to set out portable bollards.

     To be fair, the relocation is a miserable job for an experienced crew, moving heavy pieces and parts from 300 feet above ground to 900 feet, up the outside of a tower, while hauling along the free end of a heavy rope which gets heavier with every foot you climb.  It's half a normal day's work if there's nothing for it to snag on -- and we've got plenty.

     It is not, however, as much work as it was made to be.  Snarls in the winch cable, argument over rigging, so on and so forth.  Not a bit of the actual work all this is in aid of actually happened today.

     At this point, I consider it a good day if the same number of people drive away at the end of the day as drove in at the beginning.

     I wonder if Sisyphus was getting paid by the hour?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Farce Of A Farrago Of A Travesty

     The hoist engine conked out yesterday, and wasn't running until mid-afternoon.   Nevertheless, as Robert A. Heinlein wrote in Delilah And The Space-Rigger, "Sure, we had trouble building Space Station One -- but the trouble was people."

     Two riggers got bored, offered to make a fast-food run around lunchtime, and vanished for the day.  That was two-thirds of the crew aloft and without them, nothing was going to happen.  The rest of the crew left about 2:30 p.m.; I went home, did laundry and made supper.

     Today is a work day, too.  I wonder if it will include any, you know, work?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Yesterday I Learned...

     Did you know this?  It's an interesting fact, though I may not get all of the terms quite right.

     If you have, say, a big old transportable hoist, and you need to get a new cable put on it in a hurry, a hurry so bad the job gets done after hours, on overtime-plus, and the crew doing the work is, well, in a hurry to clock out and go home, they might -- might, I say -- spool the new cable on a little hastily and leave finishing the ends to the new guys.  Now if -- if --  they were not careful about maintaining proper tension when they did their part, you could, just possibly, end up with multiple layers of loosely packed, jumbled cable wrapped on the drum.

     And if the end-user started small, with only a little cable paid out and light loads, and worked their way up to longer lengths and heavier loads, there is a tiny little chance they might find the load jumping and the cable slipping and catching and slipping again.

     If that happened, the only real fix is to gather all hands, pay out all (or nearly all) of the cable and respool it, with due care and attention to how tight it is and how it lays down on the drum, a process that takes a lot of space and a lot of time.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Gift Of The Weather

     Work actually ended after only nine hours yesterday -- the weather was so cold and blustery that my tower crew decided it would be more productive to take off a little early and go pick up one more rigger.

     They were likely right; part of the work they're doing calls for thin gloves or no gloves.  No matter how motivated you are, in the cold you get slower and slower as your hands get colder and colder.  With more people on the job, the coldest tasks can be rotated from one to another, giving everyone more time to warm back up as they glove up and work on other elements of the job.

     The inside work that need a factory technician had ended even earlier; he's on to the next installation, with my thanks for all his help and training.

     I came home, started laundry (two new pairs of Double-Front dungarees had arrived!) and made beef stew, with stew beef (of course), hot Italian sausage, a little corned beef snipped up, multicolor carrots, fennel bulb, onion, shiitake mushrooms (too strong, I fished three-quarters of them back out.  Portabellas would have been better), canned crushed tomatoes, some beef stock and half a can of cannellini beans.  Seasoned with smoked paprika, freshly-ground pepper, basil, parsley, sage, a few bay leaves and a hint of garlic.  Salt to taste.  I tossed in a very small amount of purple pickled cauliflower at the last minute, for fun and a touch of color.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Up Early, Moving Quickly

     There's a huge project going on at my part of my work, and when I say huge, I'm mostly talking about cost and height -- a small crew of arcane specialists is taking apart about nine hundred vertical feet of rigid, flanged coaxial radio-frequency transmission line and installing the same amount of replacement line, just about twenty feet at a time.

     Inside the building, I am working with a tech from an equipment manufacturer to complete the assembly and adjustment of the equipment that connects to all this, having already worked with an electrician to get the primary power connected to it.

     It makes for long days and an early start -- the riggers like to be setting up when twilight starts hinting along the horizon and aloft in time to greet the dawn.  Their day will end when they run out of light or they begin to hit physical limits.  It's a long way down and they must always leave sufficient reserve to get back to the ground safely.  (And you thought your job was difficult?)  Simply climbing is one thing; climbing and doing useful work is a whole other level of challenge.

     Meanwhile, the inside work often runs into the early evening.  Things come up, processes can't be interrupted until complete, and so on.

     As the only representative of my employer at the site, I have to be there for all of it and I have work of my own connected to the project to get done, too..  With all of that, I'm working eleven to twelve hours a day.  So postings are short and will arrive at slightly irregular times until this project is done.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Road To The Stars Ran From Moscow To "2001: A Space Odyssey?"

     Well...maybe. The 1957 Soviet documentary/speculative film The Road To The Stars has many images and techniques that were later found in Kubrick's 2001.

     It's probably nothing more than that the curved floor of a large rotating space station makes for a compelling image that no director with vision would pass up, and as for picturephones, they had been a mark of "the future" for years.  Even the clever simulation of weightlessness by filming a suspended actor from directly below is probably a simple example of parallel development.

     Still, the old Russian film is an interesting bit of work, especially the second half with sets and models reminiscent of the Disney space travel trilogy Man In Space, Man And The Moon and Mars And Beyond.

Monday, October 14, 2019

How It Used To Be Done

     The world I grew up in and took for granted has nearly vanished.  Skills and technologies that were once commonplace have become the stuff of museum exhibits.

     Such is the case with Ben's Mill.  Ben is gone and the place has been cleaned up, whitewashed and now gawkers walk through, looking at all the funny old gadgets; but once, and not too long ago, it was a man's workplace, and a short documentary was made about it.

     It's worth watching.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Got Some Guys Here Who Want To Build A Space Station

     The Gateway Foundation has big ideas, but they're not starting at full-scale; they want to build a small commerical space station before tackling a big one -- but even their idea of "small" is pretty big.  Von Braun Station will use flight-proven hardware, tools and techniques.

     Will it happen?  I don't know, but you've got to start somewhere and I am glad to see them try.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

And Now, The Rest Of The Amendments

     As you might have expected, here are the rest of the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    It's another quick read and quite a mixed bag, everything from the most noble of ideas (13th through 15th) to nitwitted social engineering (the 18th), from clarifying succession (20th, 25th) to dubious notions (16th, 17th) and one of my favorites, the 19th. Or did I scramble those references?  You'll have to read it to find out!

     For those who were dreaming up crazy outcomes if impeachment and trial by the Senate were to remove President Trump from office, food for thought from Section 2 of the 25th Amendment:
     "Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress."
     Find me a prospective Veep who can pass through the eye of that needle, and you'll have found one heck of a politician.

Friday, October 11, 2019

As Promised, The Bill Of Rights

     This one's even shorter to read than the U.S. Constitution.  Short -- but vital.  The Bill Of Rights.

     The Framers of the Constitution thought they had it all covered: the powers of the Federal government were carefully described, and that was that: if something wasn't listed, it was clearly going to be Hands Off for the Feds, right?  Sure it was!  Who doesn't trust a big, powerful government to exercise voluntary restraint?

     If you're looking sideways at that claim, you're in good company.  Like James Madison -- U. S. Representative Madison, who ran for office and won on a promise to fix that lack of a "Hands Off!" list, sat down and started rewriting the Constitution to fix the problems.

     Yes, "rewriting."  The amendments comprising the Bill of Rights were to be stuck in where appropriate, with edits.  Representative Roger Sherman wasn't good with that, nor were many of the other House members; we got our Bill of Rights, but we got it added on at the end, all together, and the body of the Constitution stayed as it was written.  That procedure has been followed to this day, making the document itself the prime source for understanding its history.

     You live in a time when detailed, high-quality information is free for the asking, usually in a well-presented, easily-absorbed form.  If you're spreading clickbait rumor and woo instead, you are part of the problem.  Knock that off.  Educate yourself.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Today's Posting: Reading!

     And here's what we will be reading: the Constitution of the United States of America!

     It's not very long.  The whole thing (not including Amendments) fits on a web-page only a bit longer than the top page of this blog, and includes all sorts of interesting original language.

     But it's not a blog post.  It's not just some person's opinion.  It's not a collection of nice notions that we might kind of want to think about applying: it is the basic framework of the Federal government of the United States, and an outline of how it is supposed to work.  It is the controlling legal authority.

     Presidents, Congresscreatures and plenty of others in the swear an oath to defend (or protect) and support it; they are bound by it and most of them -- even the ones with crazy ideas about government -- are serious about it.

     It's time you got serious about it, too.

     Tomorrow: the Bill of Rights!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


     Apparently, some people slept though Civics/U.S. Government class.  Apparently, some people missed out on the impeachment of President William J. Clinton and the attempted impeachments of Presidents Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

     So let's take it by the numbers:

     0. An impeachment is not a conviction.
     An "impeachment" is precisely analogous to an "indictment."  Neither indicates guilt, only that sufficient evidence has been presented to justify a trial.  President Andrew Johnson was straight-up impeached, missed being found guilty by one (1) vote, and served the remainder of his term.

     1. What constitutes an impeachable offense?
     The U. S. Constitution says "high crimes and misdemeanors."  A "high crime" is one that you are only enabled to commit by being an office holder -- a Federal judge who takes a bribe to throw a case has committed an impeachable offense, but if you slip a bum a five dollar bill to commit perjury for you, that's just a regular crime.  A "misdemeanor?"  It really is what it sounds like, a petty crime, though presumably also modified by "high."  Yes, one might attempt to impeach a President for jaywalking, especially if he had the Secret Service stop traffic.  The nature of possible offenses is broad and as a practical matter, an impeachable offense is anything the House of Representatives says it is.  Don't like it?  Take it up with the men who wrote the Constitution.

     2. Yes, the impeachment process can (and normally does) start in a House committee.
     They're not going to tie up the whole House until they think they've got something they can get the House to vote for -- besides, Representatives get better screen time in committee.

     3. Yes, Congress has subpoena powers.
     Even over trivial nonsense, House, Senate and committees thereof can haul you in and have you answer questions under oath.  It turns out that "Contempt of Congress" is an actual crime, unlike holding Congresspersons in contempt.  There are all sorts of interesting complications where this intersects Executive Privilege and National Security matters, which will no doubt make for fascinating scholarly papers, but the basic principle isn't in any doubt.

     4. If a President is impeached, there is a trial.
     The trial is held in the Senate, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding.  Verdict is determined by vote and it takes a two-thirds majority to convict.  Conviction results in removal from office, period.  Nobody goes directly from the White House to the Big House.  (For Federal officials other than the President, the President of the Senate presides.  You may know him as the Vice-President of the United States; presumably, a Vice-President who'd been impeached would recuse himself and let the President Pro Tem preside.)

     5. Succession is clear.
     Remove the President, the Vice-President steps up.  That's how it works.  There's no ambiguity to it; Congress doesn't get a "twofer" and a Vice-President who succeeds a President gets to name his own Vice-President.

     So, Republicans who are fuming that the present hearings are a "coup," Democrats salivating over how they'll shove out the Chief Executive in a trice?  Yeah, no.  To both groups.  This is a thing that will take its due course.  It's something the Federal government does pretty regularly these days.  It will play out and you can either watch and learn, or spend all your time spun into a web of fantasy.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Faux Sous Vide?

     Maybe it is and maybe it isn't -- I went to the grocer's hungry yesterday evening and came home with a couple of nice filet mignons.  Not the top-of-the-line, twenty-nine dollars a pound (!!!) stuff, but their second-tier, which sells for about half as much.  They were a couple of inches thick and fair-sized, so call it under seven dollars per steak; how much would you pay in a restaurant and get a lesser cut?

     I picked up some good fresh mushrooms, too, and some seasoned, halved Brussels sprouts to microwave.  That left the question of how to cook the steaks.  The grill was out; it had been a long day and I was indeed hungry.

     I have a large nonstick saucepan -- more of a skillet with tall sides, with a nice clear glass lid.  That seemed like just the implement for the job.

     Set the steak out with salt and pepper on it, butterflied mine, and put the rest of the groceries away.  Don't start with a cold steak!  Readied the Brussels sprouts,* rinsed off half the mushrooms, got out the big pan, pondered, and melted a little butter in it over medium-low heat.  Dropped in my steak, put the lid on and told the robot to remind me in four minutes.  Rinsed off the rest of the mushrooms while the timer counted down, and when it went off, I turned the steak, added about half the mushrooms and put the lid back on.  Asked the robot to count out another four minutes.  It was starting to smell pretty good.

     The remaining mushrooms got a dash of garlic powder for luck.  I gave my steak a little longer when the timer began chiming, then turned it over, added Tam's full-thickness filet and the rest of the mushrooms, covered it and gave it another four.  Started the Brussels sprouts once it was going; they just get six minutes and don't need tending.

     A turn and four more minutes, and Tam's steak was rare, mine was medium-well, the mushrooms were done and there was a a nice amount of mushroom-steak-butter broth in the pan.

     It's not low and slow enough to qualify as sous vide, but it's not pan-frying, either.  The meat was tender but well-textured and flavorful.  I'd never cooked them quite this way and I wasn't sure how well it would work.   Just fine, that's how.
* If you have only ever had boiled-to-nothing Brussels sprouts, you've been cheated.  Cut in half and quickly sauteed in a pan, conventional oven or microwave, they're tasty and slightly crunchy.  Our grocer sets them up with diced red bell pepper, a garlic clove and some good olive oil, ready to go.

Monday, October 07, 2019

A Visit Or Two

     Sunday was a busy day, even though I didn't do all that much.  My big sister's birthday, and for a wonder, my little brother was in town with his wife and two kids, so we all got together at my sister's house (along with her elderly black-and-white tomcat, who wandered around getting petted and occasionally exclaiming in wonder at all the attention).

     Family gatherings have been...checking...non-existent since our mother passed away early last year, so that was something.  Stressful; we are very different people and we manage an uneasy truce, but still, we do manage.  It's not like we're going to get a new set of siblings, so we make what we can of it.

     Afterward, I went home just time to meet Tam and The Data Viking, and go to lunch at The Gallery, which is both a high-end pastry shop and sets out a brunch menu that is, simply, astonishing.  On weekends, it's crowded to near-impassibility; in nicer weather, they have a couple of patios that more than double the seating capacity, and they fill those, too.  Sunday was rainy, so everyone was inside and we counted ourselves lucky to have only a twenty-minute wait.  Omelettes, crepes, jowl bacon and hash browns arrived in due course, along with plenty of good coffee.

     After lunch, back to Roseholme Cottage for a visit; eventually I had to excuse myself on account of both exhaustion and needing to get an early start today, which I had best be about.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Cool Weather, Sleeping Warm

     They make soft, cardigan-like "sleep sweaters" along the lines of old-fashioned "bed jackets," but longer.  This turns out to be just the thing for when the weather turns cool but it's not quite time to add a few extra blankets, and maybe even past that point, since it keeps one's shoulders and arms warm.

     An old thing, new again.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Working For The Weekend?

     Working on the weekend?  At least it's not "work" work, though on the other hand, that means I'm not getting paid for it, either.  There is quite a lot of yard work to be done, plus shopping for a family member's birthday. 

     Naturally, Tam chose to spend all night online, and so will not be available to help until much later.  I woke at five a.m., as old ladies do, and she was still at it, probably one of her marathon writing sessions.  Which was in all likelihood more necessity than choice: her review work is extremely weather-dependent, since you can't chronograph on an indoor range.  A few days of rain or the range being unavailable at the wrong time makes for frantic catching-up later.

     An hour and a half later when I got up for the day, she'd finally got her head down.  Our schedules diverge so radically that we just don't cross paths much any more.

     I am about to head into a couple of weeks of intense work at my day job, sunrise-to-sunset six days a week until complete, so getting a head start on the yard is a necessity.  I'd just as soon stay in bed half the day, but that's not going to help.

Friday, October 04, 2019

They Still Smoke Pork, Don't They?

     I'm hoping it's just the lack of nearby grocers in between "twee" and "mega-mart," but I haven't seen "seasoning ham" or just old-fashioned rough ham on the bone for a long time.

     The first was usually a jumble of scraps and pieces that had been closest to the smoke, extremely well-suited to adding a bit of umami depth to home-made bean soup; the latter was the generic, non-canned "ham" of my youth, usually served in hot slabs or slightly thinner cold slices, and decidedly not "honey-glazed," "maple-smoked" or "Black Forest," those being the kinds of things that show up at our closest grocer's deli counter these day; nor was it the too-uniform, barely-textured (and nearly flavorless) pink stuff that can be found cubed, diced, sliced and whole at the Big Giant Store of Everything.

     At least the tiny, "foodie" grocery has some variety, and last week, they actually had "ham off the bone" (said so right on the label) in their grab'n'go meats.  I grabbed some for myself and what do you know?  It's the good old stuff.  I hope they intend to keep it in stock.

     Maybe they'll even have some "seasoning ham" by the time the weather turns chilly enough to simmer a pot of bean soup all day!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

What I've Been Reading

     Typically, I have one or two books going on the Kindle, and another actual paper-pages book for reading where a Kindle would be inappropriate, notably the bathtub.

     These days, I lean as much towards space-travel history, classic noir detectives and essays as I do science fiction; on my Kindle at present is a collection of Dashiel Hammett's lesser known work, The Hunter And Other Stories; Jay Barbree's history of his career as a journalist covering the space program, Live From Cape Canaveral; and United States: Essays 1952 - 1992, a collection of Gore Vidal's wonderfully acerbic non-fiction.

     Vidal is best enjoyed in small doses, but despite his political leanings and personal predilections, if you enjoy the work of Florence King, her mastery of language and her distaste for posers, fools and witlings, you'll likely enjoy his essays: equally at home with the language and at least as dismissive of hype and nonsense.

     Hammett's mastery of storytelling and gift for character hardly needs pointing out, and finding more (he wasn't hugely prolific) is a treat.  The collection contains some fragments, character studies and starts, which I enjoy; as someone with many more stories begun than finished, a look into another writer's files -- and a master of the art, at that! -- is instructive as well as entertaining.

     Jay Barbree has Been There and Done That from the earliest days of NASA well into the Space Shuttle era, covering every U. S. manned spaceflight to date.  Many journalists struggle to slow down and tell a long-form story but he does an excellent job of letting the reader look over his shoulder in triumph, disaster and the day-to-day work of the space program.

     In actual book form, when I realized I'd started but never finished the C. J. Cherryh-helmed series, "Merovingen* Nights" because not all of the books showed up at the used-book stores I was browsing, it was easy to fill the gaps via Amazon and Alibris.  With the entire series in hand, I dug in.  It's an interesting concept, a "shared world" of deliberately narrow scope, all of the action taking place in a Venice-like city on a technologically backward world.  And the overall story's good one, a tale of love and political intrigue.  The series ends abruptly, though satisfyingly enough; I think there was at least one more book in the material but publishers base their decisions on other factors.  An entertaining read nevertheless, and a well-conceived world in Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe.

     Followed that with Fatherland by Robert Harris, a thriller set in a 1964 Germany in which the Allies lost; the lights all across Europe are indeed out and a police detective sets out to solve a murder that it turns out higher authorities did not want solved.  That crimes connects to others and the whole things grows--  You'll have to read the book (or watch the HBO movie) to find out what follows, but all may -- barely! -- not yet be lost.  Well-researched and chilling, though I have my doubts about the long-term success of thugocracy holding up for twenty years after victory.

     The latest physical book I'm working on is Aftershocks, the most recent novel from Marko Kloos.  I've hardly begun but it promises to be at least the equal of his previous work, in a setting with considerable historical resonance.  (Full disclosure: Mr. Kloos is a friend of a friend.)
* From the name of the city where the stories take place, "Merovin," and having no connection to the Merovingian dynasty of fifth through eighth-century France.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Gotta Run

     Busy day at work -- the company I work for was sold to new owners awhile back and now we have to sign up for new insurance, a whole new set of choices.  Some fun!  Or not.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

So, Did You Hear The One About....

     An Oxford comma skipped work after lunch and spent the afternoon watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Up Early, Underway Early?

     Sure hope so.  It turns out there's a weekly conference call for a set of projects -- a call right at the very first instant of my work day!

     All of us Engineering clock-punchers have shifts that begin and end at uncommon times, done in order to ensure there's someone around and not changing shifts at the most critical times.  It works well until you've got to interface with the salaried types who work conventional hours and then--

     Well, then my time, costly though it is, is worth considerably less then theirs, so it's up to me to adjust. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Kind Of Liberating

     It's just me and the web-crawler bots again; I can post or not, depending on how I feel.  It's a weight off my back.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

This Blog May Have Come To An End

     Or at least a serious slowdown.  Posting every day has become an annoyance, especially given that I'm just not interested in commenting on politics any more.

     I'd like to thank everyone who has read my blog over the years.

     Blogging is dead; it's all short snippets on social media any more and about a third of those are out-of-context stuff chosen to rile up people's emotions with little concern about accuracy or nuance.  Civil discourse is dead.  Everything gets hammered over to the Left or the Right and it's all just pernicious bullshit.  I'm sick and tired of it.

     I'm also sick and tired of how my life is organized.  I want to make some major changes.  I don't know what they are, but it may involve a lot less stuff and a lot less people. 

     It's time for me to shed excess, slim down my possessions if I can bring myself to do so, and shut down my social life, which is largely a source of stress and unnecessary expense.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Most People Are Basicially Lazy, Which Is Why They're Good

     "Most people are basically good" is untrue but useful; over ninety-five percent of the people you interact with aren't much minded to do you any harm and nearly all of the remaining five percent are in no position to do so.

     It's not really because they are nice or good -- it's because it's easier to get along than not, easier to smile and nod than clonk you over the head with a club and try to evade the consequences.

     You are surrounded by dangerous primates, the single most deadly species on the planet, proven killers; and you're safe because for nearly all of them, harming you is simply too much bother.  You're in far more danger, orders of magnitude more danger, from the things they do carelessly than any deliberate act.

     Smile, nod, be friendly.  Being pleasant will make your own life more pleasant; but do remember, those creatures are dangerous.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Valuable Lesson

     Yes, I have learned important things - all manner of geekery, electronic theory and application, shop technique, shortcuts, organization and documentation--

     But the most important lesson I have learned never seems to stick; I keep getting tripped up by it over and over:

     Never, ever make an honest report of problems encountered and how you have or plan to overcome them.  Just solve it, shut up and move on.  Only show finished work.

     If you actually describe the process, even in the simplest of "problem>solution" terms, they'll just assume you're griping and can't actually do the job.  Even if you have told them them you've already solved it or have the solution well in hand.

     This may be something I am categorically unable to understand.

     Nobody bloody well cares about the details of whatever it is I do down there in the engine room.  They just want the whistle to blow when they pull the cord.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Furlongs Per Fortnight

     At work, the project I have been working on -- a replacement for the auxiliary or maneuvering stardrive, pretty much -- incorporates subsystems from all over the world: the control system, power amplifier and cabinetry was designed in Japan and built in Brazil; the exciters, the very heart of the electronics, were designed and built in Massachusetts and the output section has a high-power coaxial switch from New Jersey;* a multi-kiloWatt test load built in Ohio and a lovely RF filter and aluminum extrusion frame† made in Italy.

     If you're thinking that means at least two different measuring systems -- if not three, there's no telling what those heathens in Massachusetts might be up to -- then you're right; but this is 2019, standard equipment racks everywhere use 19" wide panels in heights that are dimensioned in units of 1.75" which everyone calls "1 RU" (so as to avoid admitting that they're measured in inches), and for everything else, you can look up the conversion online if you can't do it in your head.  Modern CNC machine tools move in incredibly fine increments and unless you measure it carefully, you can't tell the difference between something that was milled in millimeter-decimals or done in thousandths of an inch.  Right?


     Well, usually.  That big coaxial switch -- and it's not even that big, compared to the typical sort in the stardrive business -- hangs from a mirror-milled slab of aluminum nearly an inch thick, supported by four nice, fat 3/8"-16 bolts--

     That is, it would be, if some machinist in Italy hadn't decided it would be better to be a few thou' under rather than over.

     Picture the scene: here's Your Correspondent, having admired the lovely slab of aluminum (vertical, by the way, and at a height to make a nice mirror) and the precise, countersunk holes through it; and having looked over the well-crafted coaxial switch; and having discovered mounting hardware was inadvertently omitted, she has located stainless-steel bolts of the proper thread and length: there she is, awkwardly supporting the heavy, fragile switch in one hand and trying to run a bolt through the shiny slab with the other, and the blamed thing won't fit.

     It looked like it would fit.  So obviously right I hadn't even questioned it.  I set the switch back down on the workbench and checked all four mounting holes with the bolt: it won't go though.  Will. Not.  Oh, almost.  The chamfered end of the bolt kind of fits; but there's no wiggling or lining it up perfectly to get it to pass through, it's a no-go.  Got out my cheap plastic dial caliper and measured: the hole is a 32nd under.

     One thirty-secondth of an inch less than clearance for a 3/8" bolt and I'm at a dead stop.  You can't redrill that with a hand drill; it will stick and bind and chew up the hole, if it doesn't break the drill first.  ("Drill bit," most people will call it, which is technically wrong.)  I can probably take the slab off the frame and drill it in the press, but even then, odds are good a twist drill will jam up.  A step drill would do the job -- if the hole wasn't deeper than the height of the steps, which it is.

     Most standard, tapered hand reamers used in electronic work top out at 3/8", a standard bushing size for volume controls and quarter-inch jacks.  I've got reamers.  I can use them to work the holes to size.  But I found the problem a half-hour before quitting time and the reaming will be very, very slow.

     Guess what I'll be doing today?

     And just as well: the counterbore won't clear a hex-head bolt anyway; it requires a capscrew head.  I ordered them yesterday and with luck, they should arrive this morning.

     Measure twice, then think it through and measure again.  Then cut -- once.  Or someone else will have to.
* And I'll take the opportunity for a shout-out to the good people at Myat, who make a wide variety of high-power, arcane coaxial RF transmission line and related components.

† T-slotted aluminum extrusion is one of the more versatile notions ever dreamed up.  The most common version is square, with a T-slot down each face and an X-shaped cross-section.  A huge variety of fasteners and attachments let you build almost any shape while making only square cuts.  Available from multiple makers in inch and metric dimensions, in sizes from miniature up to 3" square and beyond, it's fairly standardized, strong and looks nice. The "frame" I refer to is nearly six feet tall, four feet wide and 30" deep, and arrived flat-packed like an Ikea cabinet.  Here's one U. S. source of the extrusions.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Summer Fades Into Fall

     It felt like it yesterday, too.  Today will be more of the same, but by the weekend, we'll be unseasonably warm again.

     I intend to enjoy it.  I'm no fan of winter and if we get a little extra summer, that's okay.  I rode my bicycle to pick up a take-out supper last night and it was as fun as ever -- sure, it takes work, but hardly any.  Even an older, mid-price modern bicycle is miracle of lightness compared to the steel-framed one of my childhood.  I do still miss my late-70s Schwinn; it was rugged and dependable; but the bicycle I ride now weighs a fraction as much and carries more, thanks to front and rear baskets, gliding along like magic with multiple bags of groceries.

     It is a bit strange to ride home with nearly-silent electric buses gliding up to the center-lane stations, small roofed cyberpunk islands with displays showing the next arrivals, a modern grocery store on one side and buildings pushing a hundred years old on the other three corners.  From streetcars to Red Line electrobuses in a single long lifetime, from corner shops to slow decline and back from genteel Bohemianism to the present bustling businesses: it runs not in circles but a spiral, always coming back around but never to quite same place.

Monday, September 23, 2019

She Moved Them

     The mother cat moved her kittens to a new hiding place sometime yesterday.  It was likely she would; she is wily and shy.  My neighbor is the only person who has been able to get close to her.

     We think we know the general area -- another backyard -- but we're not going to bother her by looking.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Unexpected Kittens

     Yesterday afternoon, I worked up the gumption to change out of my nightgown and robe, and start weedwhacking the back yard.

     Cleared the main spaces, a long run north of the garage from the big hackberry tree to the fence plus a nice open area between the house and garage, and started on the last little bit.  

     It's awkward to work in.  There's a  hallway-width space between one side of the garage and the fence, which has stepping stones back to a gate we don't use. It grows up in a kind of little jungle that I trim a few times every summer.

     Worked my way back into it with the string trimmer, paused to reel out more string, did one corner of the gate, started to swing the weedwhacker over to the other -- and saw pale motion!

      Stopped and took a look, and it was a couple of little kittens, eyes open but blue, moving but still a little bit wobbly. One with trying to climb up the corner, and the other was hunkered down, trying to be invisible. The climber was white with yellow stripey patches; the hider was white with black and yellow patches.

      I set the string trimmer down in a hurry and picked them up to check if they were okay. They were. I carried them to the patio and parked them in the former fire bowl. The old cover for it is folded up in the bowl, so I put them on it, under the wire-grid dome, and went next door to check in with Meredith, our neighbor and the neighborhood cat lady

      She and I had been remarking that one of the ferals, a pretty calico, was looking pregnant, and Meredith told me that the cat was in her back yard right then, pacing and acting agitated. So we decided to put the kittens back.

      The kittens are one boy and one girl (the three-color one, of course).
I gave them a closer look-over before returning them to their corner.  They appear to be in decent health and not overrun with fleas.  The little tomcat hissed and swatted at my (gloved) finger when I reached to pick him up!

     I put food and water on my patio, about as far as you can get from the corner where they were and still be in my back yard, but on the mother's path between my yard and Meredith's.

     I'd seen the calico going into the narrow space next to the garage a few times and noticed she was very skittish about it, but I hadn't put two and two together. She'll probably move them now, I hope to a safe place.  Or maybe not -- I shined a flashlight down that way about ten last night, and has cat's eyes glowing back at me.  I'm torn between going back to see and leaving them alone so she won't risk moving them.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Hash Experiments, Sleeping In

     Roast beef hash with a Poblano pepper and fresh onions, cornmeal crust, Swiss cheese on top: tasty!  Will make again.

     Still kind of tired from the week, so I have slept in and I'm thinking about sleeping more.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Ow. Also, Ow

     This morning opened with a backache, a bit reduced from the one I went to bed with.  Despite taking care to not lift heavy items improperly nor for very long, the project I'm on requires a lot of bending and reaching, and it is taking its toll.

     That wasn't so bad, not really, but a headache has decided to chime in, in full visual-distortion and facial-pain glory, and that's a bit much.  I'm off to soak in Epsom-salts water in the tub until things improve.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

I Have Used Up All My Time

     In the midst of a civil exchange on gun control with a thoughtful but not at all pro-gun friend.  I wouldn't say he's anti-gun; he's anti-harm.

     We should all be anti-harm.  Maybe we won't all implement it in the same way -- I doubt there will ever be a gun in my friend's house, even unloaded and under lock and key; meanwhile, Tam and I, childless spinsters, keep the doors locked and stash our carry guns out of our immediate control only when we sleep, and check any gun that passes from one of us to the other as soon as we have hold of it: "not having any" and "maintaining safe habits" are both approaches to firearms safety and both work to reduce accidents.

     A healthy society accommodates both.

    I think a healthy society also looks to the root causes of violence and strives to eliminate them.  FBI's uniform crime statistics show a long-term downward trend in the murder rate that says we are making steady progress but I think we can do better.  One simple way to do so is to treat one another better; to see others as fellow humans.

     The flip side of "seeing one another as human" is to recognize human fallibility: avoid getting into bad situations; many criminals do have poor impulse control.  In the 1970s, a series of anti-car-theft PSAs reminded people to lock their cars and not leave the keys in the ignition (yes, kids, we used to do that, at least in rural/small town America: what if someone needed to move your car out of the way?).  The theme was "Don't help a good boy go bad," and while it is questionable just how good a boy (oh, that was such a long time ago!*) who steals cars might be, there's no question that he'll have a lot harder time of it without the keys and an unlocked door.  The career thief will still bash in a window -- but those locked cars did chip away at the rate of auto theft.

     "Chipping away" sounds silly, futile; but chipping away is how we get things done.  The old line asks, "How does a tiger eat an elephant?" and the answer is, "One bite at a time."

     Be nice to someone today.  Be friendly to people and aware of your surroundings, and don't treat anyone badly that you don't have to.  Maybe it's not much, but it's just one more chip.

     And don't just lock your darned car -- look for ways to expand on that idea.  Try to make it easier for those around you to choose to do right than otherwise.
* My immediate impulse was to add "...or girl.." to that, despite joyriding car theft being almost exclusively committed by young men.

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.