Sunday, May 19, 2019

Vim, Vigor And Being My Age

     Or, what the dickens, being a bit younger.

     In our last exciting installment, Tamara and I got the yard mowed.  After that we bicycled a few miles for dinner and back home.

     We had plans to hit the five and dime and drugstore for various things, but I wanted to rest up.  I wenrt to my room and laid down, thinking I might look at televis...

     Out like a light.

     Woke up thirsty about an hour later, with Rannie Wu the cat curled up at my feet, using one of my ankles for a pillow.  Had a drink of water, thought I'd lay back down and maybe look at a little tele...

     Asleep before I even knew it.

     Woke up an hour and a half later.  Rannie was curled up next to me.  It was just about full dark.

     Not much else was going to get done.  Certainly no shopping.  I went to the office and finished up the writer's group stuff, puttering around with this and that until it was time to go to bed for the night.

     The exercise was good; I need to do more of it.  And when the energy's used up, there's no reserve.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Left-Over Chicken; Lawn Work

      Tam mowed the front yard this morning.  It turns out out that if you feed her well enough, The Tamara is all kinds of useful.

     Last night's supper was all manner of "enough."  I'd bought a whole baked chicken (garlic and herb butter) Thursday, along with good, old-fashioned vinegar/pepper coleslaw and elote corn salad.  We each had a drumstick and a little white meat, but there was plenty left; I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.

     Friday, I picked up a box (oh, this modern packaging) of chicken-mushroom bone broth and a can of French vegetable soup on the way home from work.

     Got home, poured the broth into a saucepan to simmer, and cut up the chicken into it, skin and all, with special attention to all the hard-to-get-at meat.  Brought that up almost to a boil and added the corn salad, then the can of soup.

     I was wonderful!  There's just a little heat to the corn salad that helped out the soup; the broth was very rich and full of flavor (and meat!).  I think a little lemongrass might have made it even better but as it was, it was very good indeed.  Tam had a big bowl and a little more.  So did I.

     Full of vim and vigor (after sleeping in until 8:30 this morning!), I took a weed-eater to the back yard.  With the recent rain, it had gotten well beyond what the mower could handle.  It should be just fine for the mower by next weekend.  

Friday, May 17, 2019

No Hamvention This Year

     I had planned to be in Dayton -- well, Xenia -- for the Hamvention today.  As the date approached, my car was having issues; the air-conditioning isn't working and the last time it was in for service, they told me the water pump might fail soon.

     That was Strike One.

     Strike Two was the bill for my cardiac tress test.  My part of it came to over $2500!  I kind of have it, if I make only the minimum credit-card payment, watch my expenses and carry a kind of ugly balance for a few months, but I hadn't planned on it and Hamvention's not much fun if you're broke.  Plus, if my car did act up on the trip, that would push my finances right over the edge.

     Strike Three: Last year, the drive to and from and/or a minor slip while walking hurt my right knee badly enough that I was using a cane for a long time and had to have a couple of months of physical therapy, which took time and money I would have preferred to apply to other things.

     So, no Hamvention this year.  Maybe next year.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

"...Completely Predictable Machines..."

     If only we knew all the variables.  Maybe.  "Indistinguishable from magic," Arthur C. Clarke wrote of sufficiently advanced technology, and I've been thinking he meant the wonderfulness of it, producing marvels from thin air before our eyes -- but it can just as easily be taken to refer to the ill-understood incantations and rituals, the unpredictable results and the sometimes cruel or ironic misreading of commands one finds in stories about magic.  Possibly my chalk circle around the desktop had a gap in it.

     My Surface and the inexpensive Acer laptop that is its backup took the update fine, even though it was a pretty large pile of stuff.  The Surface actually did a stealth-update on me between uses at work!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

So, That Windows Update?

     It updated.  Got home from work and my desktop was still hung.  Hit the ol' "developer switch" and when it came back up, it was happy.  Update all loaded, running okay. 

     So I'll give 'em a glitch.  Now to see about updating my Surface.

Thanks, Windows

     I'm on the "toy computer" (a Raspberry Pi B+) this morning, because at shutdown last night, my desktop offered "Update and shut down," "...and restart" and "...later" as options.  I'd read earlier that there are apparently some big, sneaky holes in the system architecture and Microsoft is frantic to patch them.

     Okay, then.  Has to be done.  But after this morning's boot-up, my desktop has spent the last ten minutes with the Window 10 "blue window" logo and a spinning wheel of dots on the screen.  It's lovely, Microsoft, but why didn't you do that last night?

     The Surface is probably going to want to do this today and unless the update has bricked my machine, I'll park it on a corner of my desk at work and let it get down with itself; and likewise my other backup, a skinny (and now outdated) Acer laptop that I picked up cheap a few years ago.

     If I didn't have the Pi and the very used MacBook,* this would be a lot more annoying!  As it is, well, Microsoft is going to make a Linux user out of me yet, and/or drive me into the arms of Big Brother Apple.

     ...And we're now at fifteen minutes of "I'm thinking about it" from the desktop -- if only it was as amusing as Milton Berle!
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* I'd include the iPad, but I still haven't knuckled under and subscribed to Word for IOS.  You can't just buy it, as far as I know, and the monthly fee is slightly non-trivial.  Being able to hand off documents between platforms and edit them easily is a large part of the usefulness of my computers, though.  Like my desktop -- presently at the twenty minute mark without ETA! -- I'm still thinking about it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Various Items

     - I'm pretty sure by the time of the 2020 conventions, every Democrat politician will have offered themselves up for their party's nomination.  Do they figure it will be a cakewalk for their side, or is it that Mr. Trump is so dire a menace that each and every one of them sees him- or herself as the One True Knight who is the only person who can vanquish the dragon?  Or is it just the old Will Rogers principle, "I don't belong to an organized political party.  I'm a Democrat," yet again?  I do think their convention's going to be interesting.  Possibly as in split-in-the-party interesting.

     - Don't count the GOP out for surprises in 2020, either.  Sure, it looks like a sure thing for the incumbent now, but you have to wonder who's waiting in the wings, waiting to swoop down and land with a thud.

     - Does it even matter what the Libertarians will be doing in 2020?  I'll probably vote for their candidate anyway. When the choices are Coke or Pepsi, I prefer Dr. Pepper.

     - Guess who didn't take her allergy medicine last night?  It was so cold and rainy, after all....  Yeah, that didn't make any difference and by this morning, I had to take it.

     - I had no idea we had done underground nuclear testing on a tectonically unstable Alaskan island, most recently in 1971.  It survived.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Oh, Monday

     My old nemesis!  Started out to write one thing, ran into Firefox slowness due to cookie overload, and had to clear up that before proceeding -- and ran out of time.

     It was a fairly moot rant anyway; the deal is all but done and downtown will be losing more parking -- in an expansion of facilities at the Fieldhouse intended to draw more people to downtown!  They say the project will include a plaza "bigger than Rockefeller Square."  You know what Manhattan has that Indianapolis doesn't?  An effective, extensively interconnected and widely-used public transit system! 

     The city's part of the deal will be paid for with an extension of the "innkeeper's tax," a few more pennies on the dollars that pay for hotel rooms.  'Cos what're visitors going to do if room rates go up, use some online service that presently doesn't pay that tax...?  Oh, that's right, they might just do that.  Better yet, local news sources are claiming "it won;t cost taxpayers a dime;" taxpayers who vote in Marion County, that is.

     They'll get their plaza -- with ice-skating in the winter, just like we used to have at the Soldiers and Sailors monument.  And I'm sure it will be a great triumph, just like the Union Station revamping into chic shops and the Circle Center Mall -- the one now an occasionally rented-out venue and the other fading like last decade's newspaper.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Corned Beef Hash, Semi-Homemade

     I think I have the canned corned beef and fresh potatoes version figured out.

     Cubed the potatoes and piled up the cubes in a bowl of cold water with some rosemary and parsley.  Poured off about half the water and warmed it in a big skillet until it was boiling; took away a little more water, added some freeze-dried onion and let it simmer while I cubed up the canned corned beef.

     The meat was Kroger's house brand.  It's all South American canned corned beef, in those trapezoidal cans, and the price was good.  (It also had an expiration date over four years in the future, so I'll be stocking a few cans of that stuff for rainy days.)

    Added the meat, mixed everything together, smoothed it with the back of the spoon and let it cook uncovered until it was about as dry as I wanted; covered it and let it cook awhile longer (and made myself a fried egg for on top, in a separate one-egg pan).  Cooked it uncovered just a bit more, so it would brown some on the bottom, then served it up.

     It was good.  Not too salty, which is always a concern with canned corned beef.  The potatoes did brown a little and they were well-cooked.

     So there's the trick.  Cook the potatoes by boiling first, don't add salt.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Almost Missed A Day

     Okay, look, I slept all day.  Some sort of awfulness has been making the rounds; Tam had it badly earlier in the week and I kind of just pushed through the same thing on Thursday and Friday. 

     Today was a day of recovering.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Plants Are Goin' At It

     This year's pollen season is proving painful for me.  Sadly, when the plants are doing their thing outside your bedroom window, throwing a bucket of water on them doesn't stop them; quite the opposite, as the Spring rains are demonstrating.

     Three out of the last four mornings, I have woken up with intense sinus pain; the fourth morning was the same, only not as strong. And this despite over-the-counter allergy pills.  After the second time, I tried a sinus rinse.  That worked, at least it took the wosrt edge off -- and used up the last of the distilled water.  Tam picked up more yesterday, which I'm looking forward to using this morning.

     It might hurt, but at least the grass is green and lush, the trees are leafing out and there are flowers everywhere!  And no snow.  Yeah, kind of worth the tradeoff.  Maybe.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Racing A Deadline

     It's no less a deadline for being self-imposed: manuscripts for the writer's group I'm in are due today.  I'm not quite a quarter of the way done with my project.  Finally -- barely! -- above the minimum word count but I'd like to hand the group a completed story. 

     It may not be possible.  Still, there's time left and I hope to make progress.

     If I can get this done, if it's not too clumsy, if I can slog through the formatting, I may try to release it via Amazon's "Kindle Direct Publishing." 

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Nos-spy-stalgia

     Remember when "Russian agent in Washington D.C." meant something like the deep-cover covert illegals on the TV series The Americans, skulking about and doing skullduggerous things?

     Now they've got their own radio station! WZHF AM and a "translator" on 105.5 FM carry "Radio Sputnik," and whatever you think about the various English-language voices on it, most of them U. S. citizens, the programming is run by the government of Russia.  Oh, Senator, tune to a different station, quick!

     At least they're not sneaking around, right?

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

A New C. J. Cherryh Alliance-Union Novel

     A couple of days ago, I mentioned C. J. Cherryh, and specifically one of her fictional settings that I enjoy, the "Alliance-Union" universe.  At the time, it struck me that we'd probably seen as much of it as there was going to be; in 2009, she'd wrapped up several loose ends in Regenesis, and most of her work in recent years has been on another (and possibly loosely-linked) series that follows human/alien interaction down a very different track.

     Turns out there's at least one more, novel Alliance Rising: The Hinder Stars.  Listed as a collaboration with Jane Fancher, the tone and style match the earlier books well.  It's set at a critical juncture in the overall arc of fictional history.  Like Downbelow Station, it uses several viewpoints to tell the story.

     It's enjoyable so far, and the task is no small one: the Alliance-Union novels are set all throughout the history of the development of a star-spanning civilization with three centers of power and the development of at least four technologies with substantial cultural effects.  Any new novel has to fit into the previously-established timeline.  At this point, that means a lot of cross-checking!  In a character-focused set of novels covering a couple of centuries or more, some discrepancies can be waved away as the distortions of history and personal recollection; but you can't bend it too far.

     Cherryh has a knack for the "lived-in future;" her stories read as if they're being told by someone who has Been There and Done That.  I can see where some of it may come from, but that takes nothing away from the end result.  If you liked the first season of The Expanse, you've already seen an SF setting that owes a huge debt to C. J. Cherryh; Heavy Time (1991) and Hellburner (1992), very early in the Alliance-Union timeline, will be familiar territory.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Scooter At Last -- Lawnmowing, Too Soon

     It wasn't really too soon to mow the yard.  The little white flowers had passed their peak, the violets are flourishing, and the dandelions--  The dandelions have much too good a foothold.

     Sunday, the weather was nice: not overcast, not rainy, not chilly.  It wasn't even very windy.  After Meet The Press, Tam had range work (followed by her weekly appointment with ribs at Fat Dan's Deli) and I had a nice long soak in warm water.  By the time she back, I was ready for the day.

     Tam had loaded the dishwasher before she left.  I started a load of laundry, checked the lawnmower batteries and put the low on on the charger, and went to work finishing up the new battery in my scooter.

     One of the cell covers had been misplaced and once I had the old battery off, I borrowed one from it.  With the new battery in place -- which is only awkward, the rubber strap that holds it in place is tricky to fasten -- I tried a rubber stopper for the open cell in the old battery.  Too big!  I managed to whittle it down to fit and packed the battery away in the box the new one had come in, with a little baking soda for luck.  I had looked and looked for missing stopper all the previous week without finding it.

     I kick-started the scooter without too much trouble (but that's why the year's first start isn't electric; you can run a new battery flat that way) and let it idle until it was happy while I checked and refilled the tires, checked the lights, and realized with a sinking heart that I hadn't updated the sticker on the plates -- and I had no idea where the paperwork had got to after my desktop water spill last month.

     Went in, babysat the washer though a spin cycle (it tends to get out of balance) and went back to the garage to get the mower out.  Naturally, there were snow shovels and snow-sweeping brooms piled atop it; by the time I had the thing out, it was time to watch the second spin cycle and then load the dryer.

     Meanwhile, the lawn care crew for our neighbor to the north had been and gone and our new neighbor to the south had finished her mowing -- and the vegetation in the front yard of Roseholme Cottage was standing high and wild between them, starting to look like a set for Tarzan-of-the-Chipmunks in contrast!

     Time to fix that.  The grass was high enough -- and still damp from the week of off and on rain we'd just had -- that I set the mower to its highest setting.  The strip between the sidewalk and house went fast enough, and I had the front yard about two-thirds done before I needed to empty the clippings.  The rest of the front and the narrow side yards filled up the clipping bags again and I'd started on another before it was done. Gave the back yard nearest the house a quick pass just for luck, before I put the lawnmower away.

     Inside, to get cleaned up a little and see if Tam was interested in dinner (she was not; a nice rack of falling-off-the-bone ribs is a substantial meal), and see if maybe, just maybe I would find the 2020 stcker for the scooter plates.  It turned out to be right about where I'd hoped it would be!

      So I gathered helmet, gloves, riding jacket (it appears to have shrunk since 2006!), put on boots and clomped out to the garage.  In short order, I was zooming up the block, free as a bird.

     The scooter's feeling pretty good so far this year, at least for a few trips around the block.  So I took it for a quick grocery store run: minute steak, Brussels sprouts, baking potato, sandwich fixings for work, Cajun snack mix for Tam, what was I forgetting? Something. 

     Back home, it takes some maneuvering to line the scooter up to back it into the garage.  A couple of feet away from the apron, I happened to look down and there was something black amid the pale gravel -- a squirrel-gnawed walnut hull?  Dead leaf?  Hey, is that--

     It was the missing battery cell cap.  I stowed it, parked the scooter, rinsed it off  and had it in place on the old battery before I took the groceries inside.

     So the old battery is ready to go back, the scooter's back in service -- and I'd forgotten to pick up sugar.  Oh well, the confectioners 10X sugar needs used up anyway.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Writing

     Or trying to write, anyway.  I have a short story, maybe even a novelette, written in first person.  It's not bad but there's a lot of background to impart, which will work better if it's written in "close third person," looking over the character's shoulder, knowing what she thinks, but able to take in a wider world than only what she sees.

     That's tricky.  It tends to veer off into first person or omniscient viewpoint.  The first is, well, lazy; you can tell great stories that way (Raymond Chandler uses it for his "Philip Marlowe" yarns) but it's a little like training wheels or a clip-on necktie.  The second is old-fashioned; I've read a lot of classic fiction written just that way, but modern readers find it dull.

     SF writer C. J. Cherryh has a real knack for close third person; many of her stories of people caught up in the interstellar struggle between Earth, Union and the Merchanter's Alliance are told that way -- Merchanter's Luck, Finity's End, Tripoint and Rimrunners are all good examples of this.*  The last on the list does an exceptionally good job of maintaining the distinctive voice of Elizabeth Yeager, the main character, while not leaving the reader stuck in her skull (it begins with a different character's view of her, and then moves to follow her).  So I pulled the book from my shelf to use as a reference, and once again, I'm drawn into the story!

     Still learning from it, but I'm re-reading the novel for the I don't know how-manyth time.  There's a lot to be gleaned from her work: Cherryh's characters live in a complicated, high-tech world and she's quite happy to leave you to work out the details on your own.

     Now I need to get back to work on that story.
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* All of these novels share a common theme, too, of outcasts finding a place where they fit in, though not after considerable uncertainty and struggle.  You can find them all in hardcopy, new or used; presently, I find only one available for Kindle: Merchanter's Luck forms half of the compilation Alliance Space, with the interesting Forty Thousand In Gehenna as the other half.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Slept In Again

     Friday was....not a great day.  Had a lot to do, got most of it done,. some stuff went wrong. 

     Today, I slept late, napped in the afternoon, and I'm off to bed now.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Late Start

     Sleeping in was a wonderful treat today, thanks to work schedules being rearranged for a special event this weekend.  Oh, I'll have to work late, too, but I've been staying up pretty late this week and that should help.

     Slept with a window open, too.  Look, if I'm going to have to take allergy medicine anyway, I might as well enjoy the fresh (if pollen-laden) air.  The cats enjoy it; even Tamara's cat, as determinedly indoor a cat as you will meet, spent some time sitting in the window and gazing out at the yard.


Thursday, May 02, 2019

Another Sure Sign Of Spring

     This morning, I made myself a nice cup of steaming-hot coffee -- cream, sugar, one teaspoon of each -- stirred it and three ants floated to the top, all deader than a nail or a pop star past his prime.  (Now that's good coffee!)

     Checking, yes, the Sugar In The Raw, with its handy (but hardly hermetic) metal pour spout, was thoroughly infested with tiny ants.

     The coffee area next to the stove is a new place for them to show up; in previous years, they have preferred the sink and microwave side of the long, narrow kitchen here at Roseholme Cottage.  But I shouldn't have been surprised; after all, sugar, ants.

     I have backup sugar, because of course I do; usually there's a box of sugar and a jar of coffee creamer warming up on the sidelines.  It just so happens that I hadn't picked up the next box of sugar yet but I always have a box of 10X confectioner's sugar in the cupboard and usually one of brown sugar, too.  That's just how it's done.  (Thanks, Mom!)  I went with the confectioner's for this morning.

     Time to rig the kitchen for summer.  It's a good excuse to go through it and straighten things up.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Cauliflower Rice?

     "Cauliflower rice," consisting of that brassica chopped fine, turns out to be something I should only consume in moderation.

     Made a big wokful of "fried rice" using the substitute last night: steak tips, mushrooms, carrot, onion and celery with a nice sesame-ginger sauce.

     I like rice.  A big old steaming bowl of rice with some veggies and meat in it is one of my favorite ways to make a meal, anything from Thai-spiced tuna and steamed soybeans over microwave brown rice* to good old Sino-American fried rice to Hoppin' John.  So when big packages of "cauliflower rice" started showing up in the produce section at the grocery, I knew it was only a matter of time until I was going to try it.  After all,  Tam's avoiding carbs, I like rice dishes, what's not to love?

     The next day's effects, is what.  Oh, nothing dire; but I had a plate and a half of the stuff and that translates into a lot of walks down the hall to the porcelain office.  It tends to get in the way of accomplishing one's work.

     I'll stick to real rice in the future, thank you all the same.
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* This is a fancy-looking one-bowl meal you can make with some deli "edamame salad" or microwaveable shucked green soybeans, Bumblebee or Starkist spiced tuna in tiny cans, and one of those little nukable plastic rice cups.  Set the skinny red pepper to one side unless you like it hot.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Oh, NRA Board...

     So, the NRA Board elected a new President.  You might expect they would choose a real Boy or Girl Scout type, squeaky clean and inoffensive; after all, the group's many opponents would start digging just as soon as the name came out. 

     At that level, the likely candidates are going to be civically and politically active; that's normal.  NRA's Board runs to conservative people, and that's normal, too.  We just had Oliver North as President and....  His was not an untarnished reputation.

     With the ongoing issues with Ackerman McQueen and the investigation launched by the hostile New York Attorney General Letitia James, you'd expect the Board to proceed with caution.  Indeed, new NRA President Carolyn Meadows is active in her state's Republican Party and on the board of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC.  Unfortunately, as Media Matters gleefully points out, she's also the chairperson of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association -- yes, the great, big nationally-divisive carving of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis on the side of Stone Mountain in Georgia.

     I am not interested in refighting the Late Civil Unpleasantness Between The States on my blog.  It ended a long time ago and as a nation, we have been coping with the aftermath ever since.  Part of that aftermath is that people have heated, divergent -- and often unrealistic -- opinions about it.  Northerner, Southerner, conservative, liberal, no matter where you are on those lines (and many others), there are plenty of people who disagree with your fool notions and will yell at you about it all day long.  It's a third rail and the NRA Board has apparently decided to bite down on it.

     Oh, it may not matter; they could have elected a saintly aesthete with no political ties and an entirely bland personal history, and Mother Jones and The Trace would still run multi-part articles about that person kicking dogs, jaywalking and buying caviar from a babushka with a suspicious accent.  Still, is this they best they could come up with?

     Man, they'd better get shut of Ack-Mac and set their finances in order in a genuine New York minute, and perhaps President Meadows, retired from a fiscally-responsible position with the Lockheed-Martin employee store, is just the woman for the job.  I sure hope so.

Monday, April 29, 2019

NRAAM 2019: Impressions And Afterthoughts

     "It's all over but the shouting," is just about literally true of the 2019 NRAAM: there's a Board meeting today, which will likely include some serious discussion of finances, NRA's relationship with their long-term PR firm and the ongoing State of New York fishing expedition investigation into the organization.  Oliver North's departure is a symptom, not a cause; the name to watch for is the PR firm, Ackerman McQueen.  Information from the Board meeting will likely be slow-developing, but it's the real news of the NRAAM.

     The exhibit hall was briskly busy Sunday and the only protestors reported outside yesterday were protesting, of all things, circumcision. Maybe they had confused NRA and AMA?  Whatever, several friends and friends-of-friends reported run-ins with them.

     Inside, several technical developments caught my eye:
  • An affordable (under $1000), electric, automated AR-15 magazine loader, literally rounds into a hopper, magazine seated at the bottom, push the button and step back!  
  •  A fully (and I do mean fully) configurable, mostly-aluminum Glock clone: grip, frontstrap, backstrap, magazine well, dustcover and slide all changeable, with the "serialized part" a little sliver of frame -- and you can buy the whole kit.  Zro Delta makes it.
  •  A semi-auto handgun with a whole new take on toggle-locking.  Tam's looking into that.  Bore axis is low and the barrel doesn't move much as it cycles, both of which may do very good things to felt recoil.
  • Trijicon's SRO red dot sight is exceptionally nice in person.  I became a fan of red dot optics about five shots after getting the inexpensive and fairly early red dot on my Ruger Mk. III .22 pistol sighted in: they work, and with my middle-aged eyesight they work far better than iron sights.  The SRO's big ring is more "sight-like" than the long tube on my Ruger and should the three-year battery life run out on you, you're still okay: at most practical handgun distances, if it's in the ring, you will be able to hit it.  (If not, more range time might be a good idea.)
     I have photos of a few things but I've got an appointment this morning and there's not time to post them.  Maybe tomorrow -- and perhaps by then, we'll be starting to find out what went on at the Board meeting.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Downtown Patachou!

      Patachou On The Park, within spitting distance of our State Capitol building — not that you should.  Endless coffee and wonderful food!

The Last Camel Died At Noon

     ...But the press room wi-fi seems to have lived on.  I have multiple photos to edit and post and have seen amazing things and met amazing people.  Lunch next, I think.

     No actual camels were harmed during this event.

NRA 2019, At Last

     Ollie North is out and I’m in....  In the press room.  I made a beeline for the coffee, Tam made a beeline for the show floor (wrong, food court: no breakfast today) and I am headed to the big hall next.

     May liveblog if I can — the press room shuts down early.  I don’t know if they’re taking their wi-fi when they lock the door.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Annnd I'm Sick

     No hamfest or NRA today.  Scooter battery?  Maybe.  If the room stops spinning.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Idiots, Misinformation

     IMPD or reporter error?  Either way, a local media outlet is misstating Indiana firearms carry laws:

     "Individuals must have an Indiana license to carry a handgun in public."

     Nope!  Indiana recognizes your carry permit from anywhere.  Any state, any country: if they trust you to carry, the government of Indiana trusts you to carry.

NRA, Reaching Out

     Seems some of the demographic outreach of Gun Culture 2.0 is even registering with the mainstream media!

     Of course, the article also mentions the possibility of "hundreds" of protesters on Hudnut Plaza across the street from the convention center (oooh, clowns for the kids!).  That's against the 87,000-plus attendees at the 2018 NRAAM, or 75,000-plus when NRA was last in Indy in 2014.  It's the United States, after all, and there's plenty of room for everyone to make their opinions known -- even if those opinions are risible.

     Today is a work day for me and I am hoping to dodge the road closures associated with Executive Branch visits.  It should all be well south of the Skunkworks where I toil.  --Should be.  I don't know how far north they have welded the manhole covers* and occupied the rooftops, and I don't suppose I want to know.
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* Embarrassingly, our local power company's transformer pits occasionally blow their tops, sending manhole covers skywards.  What happens if the cover's been welded down?  I don't want to know that, either, and neither do they.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Working Press! Comin' Through!

     Tam and I headed downtown about 1:30 p.m. to pick up our press credentials.  We just got in under the wire at one of the nearby parking garages -- $10 for the first hour, though the rates ramp down significantly after that.  The garage was under renovation, with a couple of floors propped up by a dense and unnerving grid of scaffolding and girders.

     NRA's press room is in the same place as last time they were in town, off the north side of northernmost hallway, about three-quarters of the way west from the entrance.  They've got good wi-fi but alas, the iPad Mini isn't signed into my blog.

     So here's what I wrote:
     Here we are, in the exciting (and well-provisioned) Press room for NRA 2019!  Even though the exhibitor hall is not open until Friday (some booths are still frantically setting up), there are already a lot of people in the Convention Center; the NRA Store is up and running (and looked to be doing a brisk business), as are the food concessions.  Tam wants to keep moving, so off we go; next stop, the camera store.
 *  *  *
     As it turned out, the people in the camera store were anticipating seeing plenty of "NRA people" over the weekend.  The event is definitely photographer-heavy, so that's hardly a surprise.

Heard About The Buggy Windows Update?

     I heard about Microsoft fouling up people's Win10 machines with the most recent update, but thought I'd dodged that bullet.

     Guess not.  Firefox (another source of bugginess but I'm fond of it) started getting weird last night and this morning, it was far worse.  Well, okay, thinks I, Edge will work--

     Edge wasn't much better.  Looking at local TV station sites for a short article on the foolishness of fretting over "an influx of people carrying guns" in a county with one of the highest proportion of firearms carry permit holders in the entire United States, Edge started to flake out badly.

     Malwarebytes just finished scanning and gives the machine a clean bill of health; I did a restart and it seems to be hung up.

     So I'm writing this on my "toy computer," a Raspberry Pi running Raspberian, their Linux variant.  Chromium (essentially a port of Google's snoopy Chrome browser) comes with the operating system and works perfectly well.

     What is it the high speed/low drag types say, "One is none and two is one?"  Yeah.  "Have a backup" applies in plenty of situations.

     And that Windows desktop is still trying to restart.  It may be time to push the developer switch.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

NRA Convention

     The doors open tomorrow on the 2019 NRA convention here in Indianapolis!

     All the big names will be there, as will the protestors across the street.  I was amused when a announcement of and open invitation to the protest gathering on the "Next Door" forum for my neighborhood tuned into virtue-signalling for and against, until a moderator shut it down.  Look, this is the United States of America, where you can peacefully protest any darned thing you want and just as peacefully cheer it on, and when either happens, it's better to look at the issues and the optics than impugn the character and/or the intelligence of the people waving signs.

     Some of the people opposing causes you support are indeed fools or thugs, or worse; others are sincere.  And the same on your side.  This tells us nothing about the legal or moral aspects of the issue at hand.

     But sometimes, people play dirty -- one or more of the anti-gun groups is encouraging businesses to put up "No Guns" signs during the convention that are phrased in such a way as to legally deny entry under Indiana law; this gives them more leverage to have the police come and throw you out, should you happen to mistakenly wander in while visibly armed.  Here's the skinny: in Indiana, you can carry a gun with a carry permit from anywhere, but property-owners (and, IIRC, leaseholders) can ask you to leave -- and if you refuse to leave, that's trespassing and they can call the police.  The wording on the signs amounts to a preemptive request to GTHO.  Don't be a test case; take your money to a business that wants it instead.

     Me, I'll be at the convention Thursday and possibly Saturday and/or Sunday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Protip

     When a meme supporting or criticizing the President uses the word "insalubrious" when referring to blighted neighborhoods?  That's either Russia's FSB or a plain old nitwit and you'd better fact-check the claims it makes.

     Effective political memes use plain language.  Effective advertising uses plain language.  Who'd perambulate well over a kilometer for an even-toed ungulate with a distinctive fatty hump on its back?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Busy Morning

     Not much time to post this morning.  Last night, I found out my out-of-pocket costs for the cardiac stress test are a couple of orders of magnitude greater than expected.  So that's going to be...interesting. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

It Would Seem

     That I posted nothing today.  Kinda emblematic of the day, though I did reattach vinyl siding to the garage where the wind had peeled it off.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Paged In

     I was thinking about staying home and housecleaning.  Work had other ideas; I had to go in and fix something.  Tried to talk the guys through it over the phone but I didn't explain well enough.

     So I drove to work and fixed it.  Tam hitched a ride and I dropped her off at a camera store a few blocks away.  After I was done and she'd finished shopping, we had lunch on Mass. Ave. (at Bru Burger) and I wrote a little, moving the point of view in a story from first-person to "third person close." We returned home in the chilly drizzle, and have done nothing since.

     And now I'm headed for bed.  Oh, the excitement!

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Mueller Reports

     As near as I can tell from the news coverage, the Mueller Report says whatever you were wanting it to say, managing somehow to find the President (and/or his campaign) both did not collude with the Russians and yet was up to something skullduggerous that Congress must make up their own minds about after a full and complete study of the 400-page report and related evidence followed by thoughtful reflection -- which, of course, various Congressbeings did, fully fifteen minutes after they were given a copy to read.

     Don't you wish you were as clever and as capable of absorbing written information as rapidly as a U. S. Congressthing?

     Yeah, right--  What I'm noticing is that the dance hasn't changed; here we are, a day after the report was released and nobody, nobody has changed their opinion -- not a single member of the House or Senate, not a single TV expert, no pundit, no polemicist, zip, zilch,  none.  And there's all the information I need.

     Politics is what we do instead of sticking one another with swords.  The Mueller Report is an épée with a tip at each end and no grip, which sets off the scoring light and buzzer at the least jostle -- and boy, are the politicians and commentators jostling!

     Same old, same old.  The Russians are still getting what they wanted: chaos.  We're all helping, aren't we?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

I Had A Blog Subject All Picked Out

     It would have taken only a little research and been interesting.  I remember that much. 

     Darned if I can remember what the topic was; I was distracted by one of the more dimwitted aspects of the Culture Wars: people making up childish variations on the names of candidates and politicians, complete with semi-obscene speculation on their personal habits.

     Look, I have no doubt this kind of thing goes way back; read the graffiti at Pompeii and Herculaneum to remove any doubt, or look up some of things people from Pharaohs to workaday scribes wrote about enemies from the guy next door to foreign invaders in the various Egyptian kingdoms.  If we could read cave paintings, we'd probably find more of the same.

     Grow up: either politics is serious business, worth the intelligent attention of mature adults, or it's a tribalist exercise in playground-level name-calling.  You can't have it both ways; there's no calling the politician you don't like "Mr./Ms. Poopyhead" and claiming the intellectual high ground.

     I'll give you one or two; even Buckley and Vidal resorted to name-calling and threats of fisticuffs when they first crossed swords.  But for all they disagreed and loathed one another, they managed to figure out that scuffling like schoolkids meant they both lost the debate together.  --All right, Gore and William F. were indeed unusually smart.  But it shouldn't take a self-styled intellectual to figure out (after a mulligan or two) that names like "Drumpf" and "Fauxahontas" don't add anything to our understanding of the issues involved -- or even of the personalities.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Beneficence: That $339 Million?

     One of the more common criticism of libertarianism, minarchism and anarchism is, "Nothing requiring public funding could ever be accomplished."

     As a counter-example, let me point to Notre Dame, where the first day's $339 million has now swelled to a billion dollars.  Even by Washington, D.C. standards, that's serious money.  No government shook them down for it; the Pope isn't handing out extra next-life goodies to the donors.

     If a big project is sufficiently important to enough people, it will be funded.

*  *  *
     An interesting aside to this is, who owns that famous building?  Nope, it's not the Catholic Church -- it's the very secular French government!  But the Church occupies it rent-free and maintains and staffs the place.  This is perhaps another example of "the French do things their own way," and much like French engineering, it works for them even if it's not how you'd expect it to be set up.

     In a larger (and more figurative) sense, Notre Dame belongs to the world, in much the same way as the Taj Mahal or the Empire State Building.  And that's how "the world," everyone from business moguls to academic institutions to schoolkids, responded to the fire damage.   

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame: What's With That Roof?

     It was the roof "frame" and the structure of the spire that burned.  They were covered in lead, great stuff for the job from the 1100s (when the building was underway) through the 19th century (the last major restoration): it's waterproof, doesn't burn, and sheets of it are easily joined together.  Hundreds of tons of lead -- and the environmental laws and rules in the EU aren't any softer on lead contamination than the ones in, say, California.  Expect to hear more about that in coming weeks.

     The trusses themselves were a "queen-post" design, fairly strong for their weight and with an open space in the center, allowing for access (as seen in this CNN article).  The roof mainly keeps water away from stone arches (six-part rib vaults) below it, arches that carry compressive force from the buttresses on each side.  When news articles talk about the danger of interior collapse, damage to those limestone arches is a big part of the worry; while I snarked on Facebook about the kind of idiocy that manages to set a stone building on fire, the heat of structure fires is a great danger to limestone architecture.

     I'm not finding a lot on the interior structure under the spire in a quick search.  The dramatic interior photograph that has shown up everywhere seems to show a great lump of debris right under the crossing and it could be very bad.

     At the base of the spire was a group of statues: the twelve Apostles, in four groups of three, each group preceded by one the animals symbolizing the four evangelists, and all of them -- all but one -- facing out towards Paris.  The lone exception?  St. Thomas, patron saint of architects. He was looking up at the spire -- with the face of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, mastermind of the extensive 19th-century restoration.  All of the statues had been removed only days before the fire; no doubt both the saint and whatever records Viollet-le-Duc left are going to be getting a lot of attention in coming months and years.

     This isn't the first time Notre Dame has been badly damaged; the 19th-Century work largely addressed damage caused during and in the aftermath of the French Revolution.  Nor is it the first time the modern world has had to address this kind of disaster: Reims Cathedral was reduced to ruins in a very similar manner during World War One.  Restoration started immediately after the war and the cathedral re-opened twenty years later.

     As of this morning, over $339 million had been pledged by private donors to rebuild the cathedral of Notre Dame.  During the fire, brave firefighters rescued irreplaceable artifacts.  As dreadful as things look, it is not lost.  It will be rebuilt.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Wait A Minute...

     It's a totally unbelievable premise for a science fiction story: it's 2019, and most people buy their books, clothes and household goods from a bald billionaire with an army of robots and his own private space program?  Come on -- no one's going to find that plausible. 

     How about one where the world is polluted, overcrowded and so short on food that they're turning corpses into kibble?  And we'll set it in 2022.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

New Eyeglasses, New Battery, Half-Done

     At least I got my glasses!  Nearly a decade ago, when I still wore contacts daily,* I bought a pair of Julbo "Vermont Classic" sunglasses from the discount/overstock section of Campmor.  If you're light-sensitive they're wonderful, big, round lenses with side and center shields so no unfiltered light gets in.  I liked the look of them.  They're solidly-made and priced accordingly. 

     I thought about having prescription sunglasses made from a pair, but I could never find more.  I thought they'd been discontinued.  Then a few months ago, a targeted-marketing discounter  (Massdrop, who specialize in a number of specific geek interests) offered the exact model of sunglasses at well below retail prices.  I bought a pair and set them back, thinking maybe next time I got glasses, I'd find out-- 

     Yes, they can fit my lenses to them, in a fair match to the tint; they're not as dark as the darkest Julbos, but there aren't a lot of glaciers to climb around here, either.  And they're certainly not the usual sort of thing!

*  *  *
     The new battery for my scooter didn't go as well.  There's no sealed battery in the right physical and electrical size (really, really small), so it's got to be conventional lead-acid.  I should have had the parts store fill it.

     The process never works right for me, no matter how slowly I pour: the cells don't fill, don't fill -- then they're suddenly too full.  It's sitting in the garage right now, and as of last night, the two end ones are too full and the middle four have hardly any acid to judge from the front.  Looking in the top, at least two more looked plenty full.  I'm going to have to go buy a hydrometer or something to reduce the level of the over-full ones.

     Had to move the whole set-up so Tam could run to the five and dime, and managed to lose one of the cell caps!  I've borrowed one from the old battery for now.

     The online tutorials always show the cells of these little batteries obviously filling right up, no time lapse tricks, you can see it through the translucent case.  I have never had that happen; there's a huge lag between pouring and seeing results and sometimes it never does show. 

*  *  *
     The probable kidney stone is making me tire easily.  Yesterday, Tam and I went up to "downtown" Broad Ripple about noon, got my glasses and had a little lunch.  Back home, I worked on the battery and then bicycled to the grocer's while she wrote.  I came home, put groceries away, had a very light dinner and watched a little TV, and realized I was exhausted.  Went to bed by nine p.m. and other than feeding the cats at six this morning, I was not out of bed for more than a few minutes until Meet The Press came on at ten a.m.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

New Eyeglasses?

      If I can get to the optometrist's in time, I can pick up my new eyeglasses!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Politics, Schmolotics

     I was going to write about it, but--  It's not worth it.  Go read your favorite news outlet; go read the news outlet you like least.  Noodle around, get a feel for who's saying what and make up your own mind.

     Newsflash: Congressbeings of opposing parties don't much like one another.  There's even some dissent among members of the same parties!  Representatives are especially outspoken, Senators more subtle.  These aren't bugs, they're features!  That's how it's supposed to work. Those people are the distilled essence of our opinions (Senators were supposed to be the distilled essence of our States' opinions but the 17th Amendment undid that, alas) and -- when necessary -- they're supposed to find some resolution we'll all dislike in roughly equal measure.

     Politics isn't about what's best, it's about what works.  As Winston Churchill pointed out, representaive democracies* are terrible -- almost as bad as every system that's been tried or proposed. "Almost" is the important caveat: it's the best we've got, with the best chance of correcting the things it does wrong, sometimes before it gets entirely out of hand.  It's inherently imperfect, just as we are, but like the best of us, it aspires to be better than it is.
_______________________________
* Yeah, yeah, ours is "A republic, if [we] can keep it," but as a general thing, it's Western Democracy, so we're going with the easy term.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Worrying About Rannie Wu

     The real-life Random Numbers Wu is a very old tortie cat.  She wasn't feeling at all well yesterday -- and to make things worse, Huck, my yellow-striped tomcat, was pestering her.  So they got assigned different parts of the house.

     Rannie slept on my office chair and may be feeling better this morning.  Alas, Huck decided to be very swashbuckling and playful and upset her -- and she won't swat or bite him, she just wants to get away and swears at him in a very human-sounding manner.  So Huck's spending some quality time with Tamara while she watches the news, and Rannie and I are doing the same in the office.

     Meanwhile, my own back pain is localized enough that I'm pretty sure it's the early stages of a kidney stone.  Not looking forward to it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Better, I Hope

     Slept off and on all day yesterday, and all night last night.  This  seems to have put an end to the lingering sore throat and fatigue.  I think my back feels better, too.

     Here's hoping!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Headache

     "Headache!"  It's what workers yell if they drop something while working overhead.

     I wish someone had yelled it at me.

     Did my usual morning stuff - coffee, breakfast, Internet -- stood up to get ready and realized I wasn't so well.  Whacked with a one-sided headache, the dizzying kind with visual distortions and a kind of numb spot on my face.  I'm pretty sure the numb spot is just a muscle spasm but it's unnerving.

     Update: Things got much worse, rapidly.  I called in sick and went back to bed, where I slept for more than a couple of hours.  Up now and still nowhere near okay, but at least my face stopped being numb.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Writer's Group

     The writer's-group meeting yesterday was interesting. 

     There was a little confusion at the restaurant, which had apparently misplaced our reservation, but it got sorted out and we had our own meeting room, with electrical outlets and everything.  My computers don't much like the wi-fi, but since I do my critiques from hardcopy, that wasn't a problem.

     An effectively infinite supply of potables was nice to have; several of us enjoyed beer in moderation, I had all the coffee I could want, and there was iced tea and soft drinks for the others.  Appetizers and a light meal didn't get in the way at all -- and our waitress was outstanding!  Finding appropriate gaps in the discussions of workshopping writers to take orders, deliver food and refill drinks is something of an art.

     We didn't make great use of the table; I should have been more proactive in who sat where, to ensure everyone had enough room for papers and laptops/iPads.  But it was an excellent room, adequately quiet and with good acoustics.

     This first on-our-own meeting was less structured and more social, without a firm time limit for each critique; it worked okay and we probably needed that informality to get re-acquainted, but next time we'll want to be a little more aware of the clock.

     I think we got a lot done.  The weekly classes called for 2000 to 5000 words of new material; our new meetings, more or less monthly, have an upper limit of roughly 7500 words and several people pushed the limit.  It allows for a little more of a narrative to develop, and proved to not be overwhelming to read and critique (Word and compatible word-processors have great commenting/tracked editing tools) in the weeks leading up to the class.

     We plan to continue.

     And yes, readers, I'm still working on the same novella (or whatever).

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Annoying

     Yesterday, I knew I was still recovering from the week of early shifts, but I'd slept a lot and I figured it wasn't much.  I managed to get several things done that I'd put off, like paying my taxes and picking up a package waiting at the Post Office (a Pelikan green highlighter fountain pen -- I have a yellow one but their yellow ink is a little pale).

     Got caught up on laundry -- the first casualty of weird shifts the laundry.  I ordered a battery for my scooter and paper and ink for my color printer, and picked them up an hour later.  Grilled a steak for supper, worked on critiques for my writer's group and hey, it was getting on towards ten p.m., time to think about sleeping.  I knew I was getting a bit mentally fuzzy.

     But first, what about a sign for the writer's group?  We gave it a new name to reflect the reduced membership, and it lends itself well to visual representation.*  I was looking at some writerly props and realized one of my better fountain pens was a little dry.  No problem, I'd already grabbed a bottle of water to set on my nightstand.  Open that up, dip in a fingertip, apply a drop of water to the nib, hey presto!

     Set the water aside and went back to looking at props.  Bumped something, kept looking, thinking--

     Holy cow, what's that glugging sound?  I hadn't put the lid back on the water bottle and I'd knocked it over!  On my keyboard, the nice round-keys Azio retrokeyboard.  Stood the bottle up, stood up, reached over my desktop computer and started groping at back of it to unplug the keyboard -- and failed to notice I had knocked the water bottle over again, this time on my desk.  Water was running across the desktop and dripping onto the chairmat.

     My computer sits on top of a small two-drawer gadget that holds envelopes, well above the desk, but the desktop is very cluttered with pens, gadgets and papers.  I stood the bottle back up, turned the computer off at the power switch, grabbed the office roll of paper towel and started mopping.  Eventually, I was able to wipe off the keyboard and turn it over on a mat of paper toweling; I got the desktop unloaded as best I could, and dried off mousepad, mouse, wrist rest....  I kept finding little pools and puddles.

     I think I got it all.  The Azio keyboard proved tricky to open up, so I dried it more and will let it set.  After an hour's work, I was extremely ready for bed.

     This morning, I had another check for water, got out a backup keyboard (Qwerkywriter S -- the latest version has a wired-connection mode), put the now dry mousepad, mouse and wrist rest back in place and started up the computer.  Let's not tempt the Fates but at least I have got this far.
______________________________
* I'd tell you, but it's a secret.  As R. Buckminster Fuller said, "Never show unfinished work," and ours is as unfinished as cheap furniture.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Okay, Now...

     Now I'm back on days, at least for the weekend and Monday (I checked).  The weather today is supposed to be remarkably nice, so I'm hoping to charge up the scooter battery, or find out if I need to buy another one.  Also maybe get a few things done in the yard - there is a scattering of leaves to be raked up, twigs and small branches to be gathered, and I might even do some weeding and add a layer of dirt to the raised flowerbed out front.

     It's going to be nice to get some sunlight.

* * *
     Meanwhile, out in the wide world, India has tested a satellite killer and created an ugly scattering of orbital debris.  Why?  To show that they can.

     I think that's every member of the Space Club having demonstrated some version of antisatellite capability except the EU's ESA, and they still remember WW II (and sat through Moonraker five times).  So could they all please stop now?  There's are people up there, and phone calls,  and the Internet and your pocket navigation system; there's a future up there, if we will only reach for it.  So don't screw it up.

     Also, if you want to see Russia and the U.S. suddenly find common ground, hit the ISS with some damaging debris that injures the crew and see how long it takes for Donald and Vlad to let you know you don't have a space program any more, both cheered on by their domestic opposition and backed up by anti-antisatellite systems that'll leave the rubble bouncing.

Friday, April 05, 2019

One Week On The Early Shift

     It was difficult.  I used to have trouble adjusting to working the early shift when it was five a.m. to one p.m.; it was moved to a three a.m. start some years back and has been trouble for me every time I have to fill in for the techs who usually work it.

     Even using the weekend to gradually change my hours didn't help much.  I was muzzy when I woke, staggered through getting ready, managed to be fairly alert for the trip in and for about the first hour and a half of my shift, then I'd just run out of energy.  More than once, I woke up face-down on my desk, just slumped forward in my chair.  Yesterday, it was a struggle to stay awake while walking.

     Need to do a better job moving my body clock the next time I work this shift.  I've slacked off on the vitamin B and some of that might have helped, too.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

On The Other Hand

     Two or three hours into my shift yesterday, I looked down and realized I was wearing mismatched shoes.

     Yes, I'd been that out of it while getting ready.  I prefer a particular make and style of show for work -- Merrill "Moab 2" hikers -- and buy them in different colors.  Mine were in two hues.

     The previous night (my night, that is), I'd awakened after about three hours and then spent at least two hours trying to get back to sleep.  Spent my lunch break with my head down on my desk, dozing.  I was still pretty muzzy all that day.

     When I got home, I had a light meal and took one of Tam's melatonin pills, and that knocked me out pretty well -- with the addition of the radio version of Dragnet playing on my Kindle!

     It's not that Jack Webb is boring; I'd found the programs while looking for a script as an example of how he used simple, straightforward sentences in natural-sounding language without becoming dull.  He did it very well; even the TV version of Dragnet got away with a lot more straight exposition than usual, thanks to Joe Friday's matter-of-fact voiceovers.

     That calm speech pattern comes very close to my childhood memories of falling asleep while my parents and occasional visitors spoke quietly in the living room down the hall.  Couldn't even make out the words, just the soft ebb and flow of conversation. Jack Webb's character even sounds a little like my father did.  So the radio shows are a win-win: an interesting story if I'm awake enough to follow it, a soothing background when I'm sleepy.

     Speaking of sleepy, I just realized I didn't pick up my coffee mug, but one of Tam's with a similar design and colors! 

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

This Shift Has Drawbacks. It Has Compensations, Too

     I'm coming to dislike going to bed with an idea for a post, or waking up with an idea, and then by the time I'm sitting at the computer, it has fled.

     Yesterday did have a nice side.  Tam and I had a nice lunch at Brugge, the nice Belgian restaurant in Broad Ripple.  We went with simple fare, hanger steak and eggs over frites, that Belgian dish you know as French Fries.  They've got a huge selection of dipping sauces for the frites and the meal comes with a choice of two; I picked pesto and horseradish while Tam had pesto and curry, which pairs nicely with the steak and eggs, too.

     Tam pointed out a sign: just upstairs from Brugge is Txuleta, a Basque cider house!  It's a fairly recent addition, open in the evenings.  In Basque country, cider houses are a seasonal treat, serving hard cider and hearty dishes, and "discovered" by gastronomes a few years back.  Our local version appears to be offering the foodie take on this tradition and it makes my mouth water -- have a look at their menu and gallery at the link!  We'l be finding out what that's about.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

So, Then

     Really, just another placeholder -- and a reminder, politicians are scum; your neighbor who votes for them is just a nitwit.  The distinction is important; we can get along with nitwits.  And they can get along with us.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Civics, Who Needs It?

     Not Indiana high school graduates, I guess.  The state legislature had considered adding the test required of prospective U. S. citizens as a requirement to graduate high school, but decided not to because it would be too much of a burden on the schools.

     That's right, turning out graduates with the basic knowledge required to become a naturalized U. S. citizen is too much to ask of our high schools.

     And yes, they'll be voting.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Just A Quick Placeholder

     I'm spinning my clock to cover an early shift and this is my bedtime -- or a little after, really.  I'll try to post more tomorrow.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Up Early/Slept In

     Yes, I did both.  I need to turn my days and nights half around to work a vacation fill-in shift next week.

Friday, March 29, 2019

So, It Didn't Work That Way In 1949?

     Or maybe it was 1975.  Or 1996.

     I spent spent far more time that I would have chosen yesterday being argued at by a guy who insisted that events that I had witnessed and been involved with that very morning, and the mechanism of which had been confirmed by the electrician who helped wire it up, could not possibly have occurred.

     In support of this, vague memories of past performance of the device -- I have those, too, and of management deciding it needed to work differently, in the exact manner I had observed only hours before -- to which he added a detailed description of an earlier generation of equipment, gone more than twenty years.

     There's a point where you just give up.  Sure, the entire staff and I hallucinated it.  That must have been what happened.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Working On Writing

     The class I took recently was a "writer's group:" every week, we'd turn in 1500 to 5000 words of fiction and the other writers in the group would go over it, looking for and commenting on the things that needed work.

     When the class ended, six of us decided to keep going.  Weekly was a bit much -- I don't know about the others, but analyzing and critiquing was taking nearly all of my free time through the week -- so we chose to meet monthly, with our manuscripts to be submitted no less than ten days in advance.

     Today is the deadline.  I'm over 10,000 words into what I am hoping will be a (short) novel and I've got maybe 2,000 words of new material to pull out, reformat and submit to the group.  So I've got to get on it.

     Wish me luck; if I can get this work done, it'll be a look at the Hidden Frontier back when Earth (the United States Space Corps) and the "Far Edge" rebels of the Federation of Concerned Spacemen were trying to wage an interstellar war.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

On Presidents, Investigations, And The Gen. Pop.

     So the Mueller Report has been turned in and it's got a little something for every side to cheer and/or bemoan. This should be no surprise -- muddles are something politics and government both do very well -- but the pundits are all making hay of it while the haymaking is good, hammer and tongs and sharp words and cash that check from Fox or NBC or WaPo quickly, while the story's still in progress.

     Because people will become bored by the details, no matter how juicy.

     Americans like to believe their Presidents are something special -- especially bad, especially good, and quite often, both especially clever and especially stupid at the same time.  Heaven forbid he should merely be mentally normal and roughly as moral as politicians in general, muddling his way from one crisis to the next.  Oh, no, we hear, Pearl Harbor cannot possibly have come as a surprise to FDR and Dick Nixon probably had a 1000-year Imperial Presidency up his sleeve, not just the next election.  And so on, at James-Bond-film levels of intrigue, and on and on.  If you like a President, they're a genius of benevolence; if you don't, they're idiots -- but idiot-savants when it comes Doing Bad Stuff.

     These extremes strike me as doubtful.  The smart money is on "muddle."  There's an unlimited supply.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

LibreOffice

     I admit it, I'm not a huge fan of doodad-heavy Windows software. At least we're to the point where most of it actually does something instead of merely looking fancy and cluttered -- but it's still glitzy-looking flabware.

     WYSIWYG word processors, Word in particular, use a whole lot of icons and menus to accomplish what PerfectWriter did in 64k with embedded "dot commands" and a small assortment of keyboard shortcuts on a CP/M luggable.  I'm not a fan of the flashy stuff, and prefer to compose in Q10 (which can be made to look like an old, simple word processor)  or Notepad, which at least has slightly less junk on the screen.

     Apple's "Pages" has a cleaner user interface, but it's very much a creature of its world and doesn't share files comfortably with the more widely-used Windows software.

     I went looking for something else and found LibreOffice.  Its word-processor UI is slightly less cluttered than Word, it reads and write .doc and .docx files -- and there are versions of it for Mac, Windows and Linux!  They all look and work the same, too.  So I've got it on my MacBook, my Windows desktop and the little Raspberry Pi I've been playing with.  The cost?  Well, I kicked in a few dollars but it's all honor system -- and none of this hitting you up for a monthly fee, which is how the latest versions of Word want to run.

     The downside is, you get what you get; there's no version for IOS (Word has a subscription-based IOS version but it's not completely compatible) and the very latest version usually comes with some caveats and glitches.  Still, I'm liking it so far and if I change my mind, the files are are compatible with the Word 2010 I already own.
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* The Pi doesn't seamlessly integrate with Dropbox -- I can download .doc and .txt files but uploading involves convoluted workarounds, so I'm better off e-mailing the finished work to myself.  It's not a big obstacle and the well-behaved little computer is worth the additional effort.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Saturday Brunch

     Tam and I took a long walk to Good Morning Mama's   It was full and running over, people waiting outside.  So we walked on around the corner to Gallery Pastry Shop.

     They were busy too, but they're fast. Oh, it's a high-end kitchen, very high end; they make pastries the likes of which are hardly to be believed, food art that is as pretty as it is delicious.

     Weekends, this level of skill and organization is applied to omelet, crepe and scramble brunches.  I could watch their kitchen crew all day long. It's really amazing -- the work space is very well organized and their prep is fantastic, but the smooth coordination of effort and clear chain of command is simply remarkable.
     It's not really a large kitchen, given that a chef de cuisine, sous chef and one of the chefs de partie are presiding over a row of nine single-burner countertop "stoves" that face a bartop from behind clear barriers, while at least three more chefs de partie work at a huge square table in the background.

     Filled-out orders come to the chef de cuisine, who lays them on a set-aside section of countertop in chronological order and parcels out work to himself or the other two front line chefs; ingredients are staged between the burners and clear barrier, a full set taking up just three burner's worth of space.  Behind them on the work table, stacks of clean plates and crepes are ready to go, and a couple of big chef-grade blowtorch-like gadgets are stashed where they're out of the way but reachable.  Ingredients are cooked, omelets made, and plated; the three back-row chefs compare orders to plates, load and torch-crisp crepes, and do any prep work that needs done.

     Fresh skillets are kept in under-counter bins in front of the front-line chefs, and they swap out as needed.  Everything is within arm's reach, including a fridge full of prestaged ingredient containers to replace any as they are used up; a dishwashing setup at the very back of the room (on the other side of a row of specialized pastry ovens and other mysterious machinery) is in frequent use by any chef presently at loose ends.  

     Waiters and waitresses dance in and out on a route that takes them in to the chef de cuisine's incoming order area and out past the row of filled plates ready to go, out of the way of the routine motions of the chefs.

      --And the big boss chef chef de cuisine is not at all above rinsing out a pan or four if he finds himself temporarily free of other duties. There's a definite heirarchy but there's a lot of trust, a real feeling that everyone in the kitchen is a professional who can be counted on to carry his or her share of the work.  It's a pretty "flat" power structure.

     There's really a lot to be learned by observing the staff do their jobs -- rapidly, efficiently and to a standard very few can achieve.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Breakfast Fried Rice

     I can give you the recipe for today's breakfast; that's easy.

     It's just applewood-smoked bacon, cold cooked rice fried in a very little bit of the bacon fat with a drizzle of good soy sauce, some freeze-dried diced onion and chives, parsley, a tiny hit of garlic, chopped black olives and three eggs scrambled over high heat in the middle of the wok after the rice is well-cooked and pushed up the edges.  (Set the bacon to one side and crumble it back in at the very end.)

     What I can't do is tell you everything you need to know about the rice: it's left over from Tam's portion of yesterday's Indian-delivery dinner.*  It's basmati rice, delicious when it arrives and even better after a night in the fridge.  But it's not just rice; it's has a little of this and a little of that in it, whatever spices the very best sort of Indian grandmother puts in the good rice, and I haven't got the least notion what that might be.†

     But it makes the best fried rice I've ever tasted.
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* Our local Indian restaurant is outstanding.  On Saturdays and weekdays, they set out a lunch buffet full of wonderful, tasty dishes.  "Indian food" covers a broad range of cuisines and they offer an excellent sampling of North Indian dishes.

† Online recipes include fresh onion, salt, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and cumin seed.  Good luck!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

So, I Survived

     But mind that third step -- it's a doozy!

     Went in for a cardiac stress test.  Since I have that bum knee, the treadmill was out and that left chemistry.

     To start with, they plumb you with a nice IV and shoot you up with some nice thallium, from a syringe that lives in a nice lead-lined container.  That percolates around a good long while and then they stick you in an X-ray machine, where (if you're me), some part of the process sends interesting lines of white light through your closed eyes.*

     So far, so good.  Heck, you can even get a warmed blanket for the X-raying if you'd like one, which I did.

     But that's just the baseline state.  They need to see what it looks like when the blood's really getting everywhere.  If you can't accomplish this with exercise, you're going to have to get a vasodialator drug.

     Here's a fun fact: do you know what happens to the pressure inside a closed space if the enclosed volume suddenly expands?  It decreases.  Dramatically.

     For this step, they put you on a hospital bed, elevated like a chaise lounge.  You're wired up to an EKG and an automatic blood pressure cuff.  A computer keeps track of the data and spits out a classic EKG chart as it goes. 

     They would not put you in that bed if it wasn't going to be necessary.  At the beginning, my blood pressure was markedly higher than usual -- I have white-coat syndrome and, look, I was scared, okay?

     There's a cute plumbing attachment for the IV with two syringe ports at ninety degrees and a tiny valve.  The nurse has two sets, fully populated.  They check the IV and hook up the first set, one full syringe, the other, and disconnect it and hook up the next.  That one's got one plastic syringe like the first two and another in a thick, science-fictional metal jacket, which is more thalliu--

     BAM!

     The world suddenly got very small and far away.  I got very dizzy very fast.  The blood pressure cuff cycled about then and I was about aware enough to glance over and get the numbers, 125 over a ridiculously low figure.

     The nurse finished the final two syringes and looked at me.  The other nurse (yes, you get two, though the secondary one is helping everyone else, as well) leaned in and asked, "How are you feeling?"

     "Disassociative."  It might not have been the right answer, so I tried again.  "Distant.  Disconnected."

     She told me, "It'll pass pretty soon,  Just lay here a bit."

     I did, and passed the time by watching my blood pressure go up every time the cuff cycled.  When she came back, she asked, "Coke or Diet Coke?"

     Yes, there are refreshments: your choice of Coca-Cola.  Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and a good one.  They could hand out pills but Dr. John Stith Pemberton's concoction is inexpensive, shelf-storable and delivers a consistent, patient-metered dose to reverse the effects of the vasodilator now that its work is done.

     Once my blood pressure was back to normal, they sent me out with a hall pass and told me I could have lunch if I liked, just be back in forty minutes.

     Tam had come with me.  There's a cafeteria in the basement of the place (the lobby smells wonderful!) and we lost no time in going for food.  A cup of hot coffee and a lean grilled low-sodium hamburger later, I had my second trip through the X-ray machine and they set me free.

     I was exhausted.  I came home, sat down, nodded off, went to the computer, sat down, nodded off, and then it was almost sundown.  Tam hauled me out for supper and I managed to stay awake through it but I was asleep again not long after we returned home.

     I hope they don't have to do this to me again soon.
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* I noticed this when they did a 3-D CAT scan of my head, looking at the hole(s) in my left cheekbone.  When the beam passed though the right spot, it made white circles in my vision!  This is not a superpower -- zap energetic wavicles through the visual system and you will get a reaction.  Apollo astronauts reported seeing occasional "white streaks" with their eyes closed, as cosmic rays passed through their eyes.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Have To Post And Run

     Last night, I was up late making a retirement trophy for a co-worker who's taking early retirement.  Look for a photograph of the thing later.

     This morning, I am running late.  Tomorrow's post will be better!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Can It Be?

     It's getting light earlier.  It's staying light later.  It's not quite as cold.

     I'm still not certain, but it could be that winter might be almost over.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Quantum Quanta!

     Einstein, referring to his skepticism about quantum mechanics, is said to have remarked "God does not play dice."

     Subsequent physics tells us that the dice are, indeed, rolled; and subsequent science journalism is something of a crapshoot, too.

     Sadly, the only probability in the latter is that the journalist, lacking subject-specific expertise and usually working against a deadline, will probably get something wrong.  If the subject is "quantum (whatever), that probability approaches certainty.

     It rarely matters.  Nobody's doing advanced physics using internet filler as a primary source, and the daily practical application you or I have for quantum (whatever) doesn't exist.  Sure, someday it may secure your electronic transactions or supercharge supercomputers, but it hasn't yet.

     Nor has it made time run backwards, but you couldn't've told that from the headlines when some research into the "arrow of time" got sort of quantum-interesting.  Those headlines led of counter-headlines explaining the experiment and its context, or trying to, H. G. Wells, Eloi and all.  And that led into deep and tricky water for one writer.

     He starts out talking about processes that run as well in reverse as forward and uses macro analogies, first an "ideal" model of the Earth orbiting the sun: "Look at that system going forward in time, and the Earth orbits in a clockwise direction. “Reverse” time and instead the Earth will travel in a counterclockwise orbit. Both are equally realistic."

      Yes, that's correct.

     "Or think of two billiard balls colliding. You can run the video in either direction and it still seems physically plausible."

      No! It's not even a good fake unless the pool table is frictionless and the billiard balls are mathematical ideals.

      Entropy is "time's arrow." We can fool our senses into ignoring it but in most physical examples, it's still there, though not always in ways we can see unassisted.

Monday, March 18, 2019

An Excursion

     My friend the Data Viking visited yesterday and we went to the 1500 -- where they were selling an H-bomb!

     No, no, not the real thing.  A training replica of the B61, matching the weight and balance.  The seller was taking bids starting at $10,000.

     I would have bought it, but you know how how it goes -- I get one, the neighbors have to get their own, then I have to get a bigger one, they respond and eventually, we'd all run out of yard space....

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Saturday Breakfast

     The Data Viking says, "It looks like it was already eaten."  Tsk.  It was good!
     Potato, sweet Italian sausage, eggs, mushrooms, sweet orange and red peppers (the long skinny ones), a couple of strips of bacon, Peruvian "Sweety Drops," a little parsley and chives.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Scene, Seen

     I was walking out of the grocery last night, pushing a small cart loaded with a couple of bags groceries when it happened.  A man was backing his SUV out of a space, alternating between looking over his shoulder and watching me and other pedestrians through the windshield.

     It's a tight parking lot, four rows of angled spaces packed into what would be a generous space for three.  With four rows, only the smallest cars can make a smooth job of backing out; most drivers have to do a little back and forth.  This guy was no exception.  He was on the second reversing leg, almost lined up with the lane--

     On the side of the lane opposite where he'd parked, an older long-bed pickup truck wasn't all the way into its space.  It wasn't over by much.  I'd noticed it as something to be aware of, thanks to its shiny wasabi-green paint job and sable-and-cream dual pinstriping.

     The man in the SUV hadn't, quite.  He reversed slowly, carefully, and put his back bumper right into the side of the SUV, behind the left rear wheel.  The pickup truck shuddered on its shocks and the sheet metal crumpled inward.  I'd been watching as I crossed the lane in front of him and did that intake of breath you do when something goes irretrievably wrong.

     By then, I was at the side of my car, thirty or forty feet away. The man in the SUV made eye contact with me, hard eye contact, and I wondered where my pepper spray was, just in case.  He pulled back into the space he'd been parked in before and seemed to be thinking.  I tried to watch him out of the corner of my eye, as he got out, checked his back bumper, and got back his SUV.

      As soon as he shut the door, another man, a redhead with a fringe of beard,  came out of the grocery, walked over to the truck, got in, started it up and looked around.  By then, I was frankly staring, entranced by the tableau.  (It would have been a good time to get in my car and leave, if my best path out hadn't been right between them.)

     The man in the SUV kind of shrugged like he'd made his mind up and rolled down his window.  "Hey, buddy!  Hey!"

     In the pickup, the driver looked around, then rolled his window down.

     "Yeah, buddy?" Mr. SUV got out and walked over to the green truck. "I-- I backed into your truck."

     The redhead said something back, and got out.  Both men walked to the back of the truck and looked at the damage, talking quietly.

     The SUV driver reached for his back pocket.  By then I had put my groceries in my car, and was standing where I could duck behind it.  When he reached back, I flinched.  But he was going for his wallet.

     The redhead held up a hand and shook his head, speaking loud enough that I could hear him, "No.  No, it's okay.  I can fix this myself."

     The two men shook hands, got back in their vehicles and, one after another, pulled out and left.

     Make of it what you will, but if nothing more, it's a pretty good example of how to act like an adult, from both of them.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Tragedy In New Zealand

     Some half-baked loser or group of losers has killed a lot of people in mosques in New Zealand.  Some kind of racist manifesto supposedly linked to the murders has been posted to Web on social media, and is being taken down when found by people who run those venues.

     Part of it allegedly claims one of the reasons the shooter(s) used guns was to get Second Amendment attention here in the United States, which is why I'm commenting.

     I condemn the killings, as any decent person would.  These people were defenseless, at prayer.  It was a heinous attack.

     New Zealand has strict firearms laws, a program of vetting and licensing owners, and restricts access to "military-style semiautomatic rifles."  As ever, evil people intent on evil acts were not deterred by the law. 

     Police in New Zealand have several people in custody.  I expect the rest of the murderous punks will be rounded up shortly.  Say what you will of our modern world, those who commit wicked acts have fewer and fewer places to run, fewer and fewer places to hide.  They will be found and brought to trial.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Yesterday

     The doctor's appointment wasn't quite as bad as I had feared.  She did chide me, but not too harshly.  She's recommending more oatmeal and less bacon, so it's a good thing I like oatmeal.

     The tentative diagnosis of my sore knuckle is "trigger finger," a tightening of the tendon.  She's written a prescription for a topical ointment.

     Spent the work day at the North Campus, mostly clearing away accumulated stuff and taking apart some of the abandoned-in-place stuff.  Took a long walk around the site, checking fences and locks.  The weather was warm and the ground was only a little muddy.  A lot of the site is gets really squishy in the spring, so this was a good chance to check things out.

     Winter might starting to wind down.  It's about time!