Thursday, February 27, 2020

Another Busy Morning

     In a rush.

    I had occasion to look up some interesting stats this morning -- someone on Facebook was chiding Canada's government for not going to 100% renewable energy, as Portugal is reputed to to have done.

     This is interesting.  There's a lot of hydroelectric power in Canada.  The population is about three, three and a half times as large as Portugal's.  Could Canada do it?

     There's one little problem.  Portugal has a much friendlier climate.  The mythical average Canadian* uses nearly five times as much energy as the average Portuguese.  They're gonna need a whole lot more dams, and windmills.  Solar?  I'd need to see the numbers but it may not be practical in most of the country.

     It's nice to dream, but to make dreams come true, you have to do the math.
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* As we all know, most Canadians are above average, but too modest to admit it. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ripped Off

     Yesterday morning, I had to torch my credit card account.  Someone in Los Angeles had used it to sign up with a kind of sketchy food-delivery service, ordered an expensive Chinese dinner, and the transaction had bounced because the place wasn't open.

     Or that's how it looked.  My bank called me after I'd spent some time online trying to puzzle it out and they took immediate and drastic action.  Since the card had been renewed only a day earlier, there weren't a lot of possibilities for physical theft of the number and the only place I'd updated it online was a major retailer with whom most of us have a love/hate relationship.

     Frustrating, scary and annoying, and the round of password-updating it set off was no fun, either.  And that's life in this century, I guess.

     I've been lazy about not carrying and using cash.  Time to go back to basics.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

At Least There's A Bagel Later

     Well, that was fun.  There wasn't a line at the phlebotomist's office/lab cubby and I was in the chair looking away from being stuck (I flinch if I watch) about as soon as I had my coat and zip-up sweatshirt off.

     She took three vials of blood and had me verify my name and birthdate was on each one once they were all full, having already had me hold a folded square of gauze over the puncture.  She put the vials in the outgoing stack, stuck a Band-Aid over the gauze, and that was that.

     There's a decent bagel joint wedged into one corner of the parking lot for the strip mall housing the doctorplex I go to.   It's a short stroll, despite a mean little wall that prevents walking directly from the big parking lot to the smaller one around the bagel shop.  What's fifty feet of sidewalk when a nice toasted, butter poppyseed bagel is on the line? 

     The lack of breakfast and coffee was gnawing at me pretty good by the time I sat down with coffee, bagel and a nice collection of the vitamins, supplements and analgesics I'd skipped earlier.  I was even missing the cranberry juice a little, but there's usually a bottle in the vend-o-bots at work, or at least "cran-grape."

     Few things taste better than a freshly toasted bagel on an empty stomach, especially with a decent cup of coffee. I darned near called in "human" and took the rest of the day off, but duty won out.

     P. S.: There wasn't any cranberry-grape juice in the machine at work.  Two dozen rows of sugary (or artifical-sweetenery) pop, one row of ghastly energy drinks that added extra caffeine, taurine and probably Ovaltine, betadyne or thiotimoline somewhere in the fine print, half a row of iced tea and no juice at all.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Normal

     Remember, it is entirely normal for a person to swallow an average of eight spiders in their sleep every year.* So it stands to reason that it's also normal to help ensure that your spouse, roommate or the person asleep next to you on an airplane is normal.

      Right?
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* No it isn't. That "eight spiders a year" factiod is specious nonsense.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Presidenting: It Varies

     Politico gives it a click-baity headline, but they take a look at the present and past of Presidential and Executive branch partisanship, press relations and the like that makes for interesting reading.

     I have pointed out before that being Roman Emperor was a position with responsibilities and powers that slowly accrued and evolved; sure, Caesar was the first guy to grab it and hang on until he got stabbed, but it didn't come from nothing and it grew and grew afterward.

     The United States has a long tradition of being willing to entertain doubt, to question our assumptions; it goes back to this country's roots and can be construed as anything from a Zen-like acceptance of contradiction to utter hypocrisy to Socratic self-doubt.  I think that ultimately, it is a strength -- and one we are going to be badly in need of, by and by.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Persistence Of Memory

     Salvador Dali had it right: our clocks are melting, all the sweet green icing running down.*

     Yesterday, a tanker truck carrying four thousand gallons of jet fuel was wrecked and burned on the east side of Indianapolis, shutting down the heavily-used interchange between I-70 and I-465.   Amazingly, no one was killed; passers-by rushed in and pulled the driver to safety.

     This morning, across several channels, TV news people were remarking on the unusual event, musing that nothing like it had happened before.

     But it has.  In October 2009, an LP tanker traveling on I-465 near I-69 on the the northeast side of Indianapolis flipped, caught fire and exploded.  A couple of passing drivers stopped and carried the driver away from the fire.

     History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes; given the amount of traffic on the ring freeway and the preferential routing of hazardous cargo away from surface streets, this is not unexpected.  The remarkable thing is that on both occasions, people stepped up and helped out at considerable personal risk.  --Or are remarkable people, brave people, decent people, a little more common than pessimists would have us believe?
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* No, the link's up there.  Click on the asterisk.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Last Night's Debate

     Tamara watched the first forty-five minutes or so of the Democratic debate.  I listened from the next room.  Even from there, it was obvious that Michael Bloomberg was coming in for a well-deserved drubbing.  For a pool of candidates who are already anticipating -- and occasionally, actively -- campaigning against an outspoken, big-money New Yorker who they believe to be racist and high-handed, the former Mayor was easy meat: his major differences to our current President amount to little more than hairstyle, hand size and a far more massaged social media presence.

     That doesn't mean he hasn't got a chance, but if there was one thing all the other candidates on the stage last night agreed on, it was that they disapproved of Mr. Bloomberg.  Made me feel all warm inside for nearly thirty seconds, it did, since it was the single notion that I knew we had in common.  For that matter, it's probably the only thing that they've all got in common with Wayne LaPierre.

     There was only one non-millionaire (at a minimum) on last night's stage (and Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg has years in which to catch up).  When even your fellow top-of-the-heap dwellers loathe you, that should be a message.

     Sometimes common ground is an awfully small patch of dirt.  Sometimes it's the size of Manhattan. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Books: Author In Chief

     It's a fascinating book, and so far scrupulously fair:* Craig Fehrman's Author in Chief.  He looks at past Presidents and Presidential candidates in a way no one else has: as writers.

     It's a useful angle.  Looking at what they have written -- or, in a few instances, caused to have ghostwritten -- sidesteps partisanship and even much of History's judgment to give us glimpses of the men themselves: Jefferson's contradictions, John Adams's uncontainable prose, Coolidge's reserve and dry wit.

     Too often, Presidential biography offers only a choice of hagiography, exposé or a tiresome compendium of dull detail.  Fehrman's having none of that; he moves right along, like a tour guide in a specialized library, picking up individual volumes, discussing their circumstances (the unfolding tragedy that drove Grant's Memoirs is a striking example), style, substance and the writer's literary background.  He looks at each man square on, describing flaws and strengths without rancor or bias, and then moves on to the next.  Like any good guide, his path is slightly discursive and looping, knitting together a coherent historical narrative.

     I find myself making notes on the books he mentions that I'd most like to read.

     The author himself, I learned this morning, is a local boy, more or less ("lives in Indiana," which covers a lot of ground).  The book is national in scope.  It's worth reading.
_______________________________
* A mark of our times: the book stops with the Obama administration.  Somehow, The Atlantic reviewer nevertheless managed to give our current President three fat paragraphs of prose in which political and literary disdain heterodyne in a remarkable jeremiad that has only the least thread of connection to the book under review.  I grew up in a world in which otherwise sane people were seeing Communists under every bed and were even on rare occasion right, a world in which a President evoked vein-throbbing anger, but not even Richard Nixon or the Reds ever managed to be so omnipresent through journalistic loathing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It's The Berries!

     Ordered a "pi-top [3]" Raspberry Pi-based laptop recently.  It arrived last night and I put it together.  Quite a nice toy -- excellent display, good keyboard, built-in battery and it comes with a breadboard that plugs right onto the easy-access bus for experimenting!  Aimed at bright kids but works for adults.

     Not the cheapest pi, but one of the handiest form factors and very useful for hardware I/O.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Why, Bill?

     Big Windows update last night seems to have changed my desktop background.  That's what I get for using the default, but it's still annoying.

     Y'know, the old Bell System could be pretty high-handed, but they never showed up unannounced and repainted my telephone overnight.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Good Old Ford Wrench

     Sometimes known as a "monkey wrench," for no discernible reason, the early smooth-jaw adjustable wrench has largely been supplanted by worm-drive Crescent wrenches and copies, but the older type is nevertheless handy.

     A problem is that many of the old ones are worn out and wobbly.  Old, soft steel, heavy use and designs with weak spots contribute to this.

     So imagine my surprise when I encountered videos of a guy rebuilding old tools using such a wrench that looked new.

     It turns out he sells them.  I saved up and got myself one.  Nice wrench!
     (It's laying on a very rough plot outline for The Veteran, a story I keep tinkering with.)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Another Day Of Not Posting

     I woke at the usual time, fed the cats and went back to bed.

     Up later, did a little laundry, had a snack, did more laundry, moped about, had a late launch, did some more laundry and now I am going back to bed.

     Fatigue is an increasing problem for me.  I never seem to get enough sleep -- eight hours isn't doing it.  There's a good chance I know what's going on, and I have been on medicine for it before.  I'll talk to the doctor about it at my yearly physical in a couple of weeks.

     Need to eat more seaweed.

Friday, February 14, 2020

It's Two Degrees, Or Maybe Seven

     When I woke this morning, it was nine degrees outside, or perhaps three.  It depends on which device you ask.  The television is reading the lowest, so I'll go with that.

     The national map shows a wide swath of single-digit temperatures, from Kansas and the Dakotas though Maine.  Most of the upper South is at least within kissing distance of freezing and a drive from Chattanooga to Jacksonville this morning will net you at least three of the four seasons, from an overcoat to short sleeves. If you're not on a coastline (and south of Virginia or fronting the Pacific), it's pretty cold where you are.

     This may be winter's last big push.  Tomorrow, we're expecting a high in the low forties. I'm looking forward to it.

     Roseholme Cottage is still a balmy 66°F, though the dish cupboard is not nearly as warm and the floors, well, the floors are why we don't walk around barefoot.  Coffee cups can be prewarmed, but toes are better kept warm.  The cats are generally avoiding the floor, though Huck overcame his dislike to pursue efforts towards stealing my breakfast (two attempts this morning, both thwarted) and removing clothespins that hold the litter box liner (one attempt, unsuccessful) and a quick game of "chase and be chased" (two of each -- he escaped both times and caught me both times, and is quite proud of it).

     Hibernation still seems like a good idea, but I have checked the company handbook and there's no provision for it, so off I go.

     

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Winter Checks In

     Yesterday afternoon, sleety rain turned to wet snow.  Snow that had actual impact as it fell.  Snow that made a sound as it hit.  The sound wasn't the glittery, cricket-like crunch of freezing rain nor the whooshing rush of ordinary rain, but a series of tiny thuds and thumps, pattering down relentlessly.  By early evening, streets, sidewalks and cars were all coated with an inch or two of heavy, wet snow.

     It was slick, too.  On the drive home, I saw (and veered carefully around) the results of at least two rear-end collisions, and with each on, I was more inclined to hang back, to slow down smoothly and well in advance, and to check my rear-view mirrors a little more often.

     Of course, there are always the drivers who think slick roads mean all the rules are off.

    One of the most striking -- or nearly -- was the clever lad who got himself half in the bus lane, sitting there with his turn signal on waiting for a chance to pull a U-turn.  He came very close to being the filling of a sandwich with a bus on one side and a big SUV on the other, surviving only because everyone else was willing -- and able -- to give way.

     This was followed up by the driver who hung back at a "NO LEFT TURN"-posted green light, waiting for the bus-specific signals to change and the bus to move on so he could force his way into the bus lane and turn left, instead of proceeding to the next traffic light two blocks north like a common citizen.

     As any fool will demonstrate, when it snows, green lights become optional, yellow ones are green and red stoplights are really just yellow with a tiny frown.  Who knew?

     One more thing: clear the snow off your rear and side windows, you ignorant heathens.  I don't care if you just came off a decade driving tanks for the Army, peering out at the landscape through a tiny gap is not how we drive motor vehicles out here in snowy civilianland.  Most examples of that clever plan were moving at about the speed of a WW I tank, which would have been more of a comfort if their taillights and turn signals weren't almost totally obscured, too. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

We Missed The Stump Grinder

     He stopped by while Tam was at lunch yesterday.  Much later, I received a faintly aggrieved voicemail from the tree service: their guy had stopped by and all the gates were locked!

     Yes, they most certainly were.  They still are.  That's why we have fences and gates, to keep people out.  It's for their protection.  I left the tree company voicemail back, suggesting that calling first or at least knocking on the front door would improve the odds of getting access.  This wasn't a problem for the tree removal: they named a day well in advance, and knocked at the front door when they arrived.  The next day they worked, they called the afternoon before.  I didn't expect the stump grinding work to go any differently.

     It wasn't until much later that it came to me that one of the tree stumps is outside the fence.  It was dark when I got home and it's dark now, but I don't expect I'll see a neat pile of sawdust where it used to be.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

You Might Be A Geek If

     The desk for your ham radio station looks like this....
     Telegraph keys from five different countries and across a span of 80 years, plus a 1930s oscilloscope.  And a few other things.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Sunday Sunrise

     I glimpsed it at an angle, out  the kitchen window, and laened over the sink for a better look.  The eastern sky was lit up in neon-pink.

     Tam was awake, but barely.  "Tamara?  You might want to bring a camera out front."

     "What?"

     "Sunrise!"
     I grabbed my camera and took a snapshot while she was selecting the proper camera from her collection to take a proper photograph.   There was a dusting of snow and the winter-bare trees were silhouetted against the sky.  Even running in auto-everything, it's a pretty picture.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Saturday Hamfest

     Got out on the road yesterday, with my usual reluctance to travel, and made my way to Danville, Indiana, for the Hendricks County Hamfest.

     There were a few things of interest there, and a few old friends.  I saw an interesting little Simpson product, an upscale version of a combination power/SWR/modulation meter, and got the price down to something I didn't mind paying.

     Then this showed up:
Owned by a little old lady, who only put it on the air on holidays and never at full power.
     It's a Globe Scout, made sometime in the 1950s by World Radio Laboratories, a medium-power transmitter in the low range of "medium," 65 Watts for Morse code and 50 Watts AM.  The power cord was pretty crunchy, with a couple of breaks clean across, the kind that promise fireworks if you plug it in.  The seller had a different idea: "I had that on earlier."

      I gave him the old raised eyebrow. "You did?"

      "Yep. I was picking stations up, too."

      That rated both eyebrows. "That's kind of unusual. " (The Globe Scout is a transmitter.  It has no receive function.)

      He hemmed and hawed a little as it dawned on him what he'd said.

      I came back later and bought the thing. The price was right, and what a great story to go with it!

Saturday, February 08, 2020

It Did It Again!

     Temperatures got just above freezing yesterday, then dipped back down and we had a nice coat of snow overnight.  Oh, not much, less than an inch, but enough to make everything slick.

     February is determined that we won't miss out on winter. 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Slippin' And Slidin'

     Schools are delayed this morning, at least in the "ring" counties surrounding Indianapolis.*   Last night when I left work, up at the isolated North Campus, the long, paved lane was a sheet of glass; we'd had snow and sleet all day, with the temperature hovering near freezing.  Overnight wasn't much different, except for being just cold enough to freeze all the water already on the roads and add a layer of wet snow.

     It's not much snow.  If you live where the stuff piles up all winter and the drifts have, by now, passed ear level, you'd barely notice.  But that's the problem: roads change from damp to wet to frozen without looking any different -- the tires of you car know the difference, though, and so will you, sometimes just a little bit too late.

     It's no fun.  It's less fun when you many motorists around you have yet to learn that four-wheel drive does not carry over to four-wheel stop.

     Be careful on the roads today, please.
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* Indianapolis and Marion County being one and the same, thanks to Unigov.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Sick Day, With Men In The Trees

     Yesterday, as I typed my blog entry for the morning, I was fighting an increasing headache and dizziness.  It just kept getting worse, adding ear pain, tingling fingertips, and worsening typing and spelling.

     I kept on, doing my best to ignore it and remember what the Stoics had to say.*  Along about getting into the shower time, I realized that walking wasn't going well, standing still was even more difficult, and as for showering--  If you're seriously nearsighted, the shower is pretty daunting on a good day: I have to find soap and shampoo, nailbrush and washcloth by color and touch, and rely heavily on keeping things in the very same spot.  As unsteady as I was, the process was going to be unsafe at best.  After dithering and waiting just a little longer to see if the aspirin and acetaminophen was going to help any more than it already had, I gave up and called in sick.

     Back to bed for most of the morning.  Around eleven, my phone rang.  It was the tree service.  Yes, they'd planned on next Monday, but today's job had gone quicker than expected, and did I mind if they worked on my trees today?

     Bad weather was closing in -- rain, snow and cold.  But it was just overcast and chilly, and the ran wasn't supposed the start in earnest until late afternoon.  This time of year, outdoor work chases the weather.  Of course I said yes.

     Tam moved the cars out of the way and the crew showed up ahead of schedule.  By noon, a half-dozen guys were trimming the hackberry stump in the back yard as low as chainsaws could manage, followed bu parking a crane truck above it.  They ran a tracked knuckleboom with a basket in from the front yard and with an hour, they were taking down the poor old broken maple, cutting away big sections and hoisting them up over the house and the power drop to set them on a flatbed or feed their woodchipper.

     They were, in fact, hoisting the sections of tree right over my room on the way from the side yard to to the flatbed.  I adjourned to the living-room couch and then to the office when I decide the living room was too close and too noisy.

     The rain started in about three in the afternoon, just a cold, light mist.  The crew had the tree down to one short and one long trunk by then, and kept on; as the rain got stronger, they took the last several sections out, removed their heavy machinery, and cleared the away the debris with powerful leaf blowers and plain old rakes.  They were done long before sundown, just as the rain turned to sleet, and I went back to bed.

     We're just about out of trees.

     I woke up in late evening and watched The Court-Martial Of Billy Mitchell all the way through.  An interesting film, though it rearranges history and personalities a little to tell the story.  Nevertheless, you can set him down with Hector Bywater as someone who had a pretty good idea how things might go in the Pacific, and Bywater published a few years after General Mitchell.  Mitchell's ideas about air power were thoroughly vindicated -- much too late for him; he was court-martialed in the mid-1920s, essentially for stubbornness and a lack of diplomacy, and died in 1936.  He stood up for what he believed, at great personal and professional cost.  Few people do.
___________________________________
* Most Stoic advice along those lines can be reduced to, "It won't get any better if you pick at it."

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

No Love Lost; History Honored

     Tam insisted on watching last night's State Of The Union address.  It turned out to be quite a show.

     Mr. Trump stayed on-message and on-script.  An awkward skipped-handshake moment with Speaker Pelosi at the beginning may have prompted her omission of "I have the high privilege and distinct honor of..." from her introduction of the President.  And she capped it at the end of his speech by tearing up her copy of the text.  During the speech, she did applaud a few times, interspersed with rather a lot of grimacing and mouthed phrases, quite unbefitting to the decorum of her office and role.

     Is this the same Speaker of the House who shushed her fellow Democrats for cheering the announcement that the House would seek to impeach Mr. Trump?  It seems petty.  Did she expect him to come out in sackcloth and ashes?  You'd think she'd know the man better than that by now.

     I'll give her this, she managed to make Representatives Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (and a few of their peers) look positively diplomatic in boycotting the event: why show up if you're only going to mug disapproval (especially if you can issue a solemn-sounding tweet instead)?

     It was a well-delivered speech, carefully stage-managed and generally successful.  I continue to doubt that U. S. Presidents have quite as much influence over the economy as they have all claimed since at least FDR, but Mr. Trump is no different from his predecessors in that regard.


*  *  *

     The next time the seats in the House of Representatives are re-upholstered, can we lobby them to not use a "Greek key" pattern?  I don't care how historical it is, I'm tired of handing fuel to the idiots on the Left and the Right, who look at the intersection points and draw entirely the wrong conclusion.


*  *  *

     Many of the Democrat Congresswomen wore white, in honor of women's suffrage and the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920.  The TV commentators took note of it, but missed something more subtle.  On wide shots, I began to notice odd colors on the men.

     Red and blue are popular necktie colors among male politicians, and various versions of the yellow "power tie" are a perennial favorite.  You can expect those three colors to predominate.  But audience shots showed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was wearing a bright purple tie, then cut to Representative Jerry Nadler, who was wearing a tie of a particularly bilious green hue.  This seemed unusual, and I kept watch for anything similar.  Across both parties, a plurality of the Congressmen were wearing purple or green ties -- and those colors are not-so-coincidentally the other colors of the Women's Suffrage movement.  Most often seen on a sash or scarf, or as the outside bands of a three-striped ribbon.

     This is a crowd that knows symbolism.  They didn't pick those ties (or, possibly, their wives didn't pick those ties for them) by accident.  It was a nice touch.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Suddenly, No Tree

     It was a good tree.  It was, sadly, no longer a sound tree; the center was split internally.  And yesterday, it was taken apart and the very largest parts were hauled away intact, to go do some good in the world. The branches and limbs were turned into chips and I'm told there are uses for that, too.

     What we're left with is a stump in the back yard, a stump that is six feet across at the widest point: it was a big tree.

     Removal involved a large, man-carrying, caterpillar-tracked knuckleboom; a telescoping crane with an arm about a hundred feet tall, a woodchipper truck and a flatbed, plus a good-sized crew and an assortment of chainsaws.  It was not a small effort. 

     The stump will be ground up in a week or two.  Today, weather permitting, the crew will come back and work on the smaller tree, a maple that has been shedding twigs for a couple of weeks now.

Monday, February 03, 2020

They're Here!

     The tree guys arrived, neither too early nor too late.  They are presently looking up at the very big tree in the back yard and pondering.

     It's not impossible; it's not even the most difficult one they've seen this year.  But it's not easy -- there's a lot of tree, not very much yard, and rather a lot of power and telephone wiring that passes under the canopy.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Taking Them Down

     Today, my ham antennas have to come down.  Partially, anyway, because starting tomorrow, the tree service may begin removing the giant hackberry tree and the two-of-three-trunks-remaining maple.

     Both trees have been involved in supporting my antennas, though the hackberry was not a major part of the supports for my G5RV.  The "Carolina Windom" off-center-fed multiband dipole is another story -- the feedpoint transformer hangs from the maple.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to to anything with it before Spring.

     My guess is that they'll show up inconveniently early or not at all.

     The tree service started out strong -- established firm, professional estimate, in line with other estimates I'd gotten for the work in the past -- and then, once I'd accepted he estimate but before any money had changed hands, they went silent.  No reply to e-mail.  Okay, they were busy, then we had the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but then....  I telephoned them last week, and they were nice but non-committal (bear in mind, these are big trees in tight quarters, power and telephone drops strung on each side of them, calling for specialized equipment), then called back that afternoon and asked, "How about next Monday?"

     Okay.  So down come the antennas, the grill and firepit get tucked in the narrow walkway between the garage and the fence and I'll see what happens next.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Don't Want To Wake Up

     There is a non-zero chance that my life since about, oh, 1989 or '90 has simply been a lengthy, detailed dream. '94 at the latest.

      Things as simple as Amazon: there used to be a purveyor of Victoriana/Civil War-era stuff called "Amazon Vinegar & Pickling Works," and I ordered items from their mail-order catalog. What if they were online and sold everything, especially books?

      The World Wide Web is just the old e-mail+Usenet News Internet revved up and in full color.

      eBay and Etsy? Wouldn't it be great if there was a hamfest/junk store that was open 24/7/365?

      The Freewrite/Alphasmart/The Writer devices are just my old manual typewriter, made convenient and paper-free.

      Blogging and my pal Tamara Keel? I'm a very shy, introverted person and a bit agoraphobic. Wouldn't it be great if there were a way to meet people that wasn't in person and didn't involve leaving the house? And what if one of them became my best friend?

      And on and on. Of course, now I'm starting to feel the touch of age, with arthritis and poor eyesight; the dream may be taking a dark turn. I still think there's a small but non-zero chance that I have been hallucinating for thirty years, and God only knows what kind of terrible real world is really out there.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Oh, What To Write?

     It's Friday, and that's good.

     I spent yesterday working with some speech-to-text software that had...problems.  It was supposed to ingest a specialized lexicon from a particular source.  The process was...buggy.  It ingested, all right -- taking in misspellings, abbreviations, phonetically-spelled dialog and a whole lot of other things it wasn't supposed to.  Then it gave them preference over common English words and correct spelling.  Calling the end result "horrendous" is too mild.   The manufacturer swooped in late in the day and did some updates that cleared it up, but oh, my.

     Made me feel good about my various typos and bad keyboard habits.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Why Won't These Puppies Stay In The Box?

     Slate manages to misunderstand both science fiction and how stories work.

     It is, I suppose, impressive: swinging wildly, Slate's man-on-the-scene manages to tease out the "Hero's Journey" at the heart of many cyberpunk stories -- not to mention each and every one of John D. MacDonald's "Travis McGee" detective novels* -- and deems it a rut, a weakness:
     "Indeed, even when they reject it, these new subgenres often repeat the same gestures as cyberpunk, discover the same facts about the world, and tell the same story. Our hacker hero (or his magic-wielding counterpart) faces a huge system of power, overcomes long odds, and finally makes the world marginally better...."

     There aren't very many plots in the world.  "Hero's Journey" is one of the oldest and one of the strongest.

     Nevertheless, Slate thinks we got stuck at "punk."

     While cyberpunk has spawned a host of semi-sorta-subgenres ending in "punk," that's no more than a handy tag for kind of gadgety fun that SF has offered readers since before Gernsback; 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Verne, 1870) is essentially steampunk -- or perhaps electropunk -- and the first modern steampunk novels (for instance, K. W. Jeter's Morlock Night or Thomas F. Montelone's The Secret Sea, both published in 1979†) precede the invention of the term "cyberpunk" (1983).

     No, the last time I checked -- yesterday -- Science Fiction had kept on moving.  Not in any one direction, and much as Slate's sources may like to be moan "... publishers always want to find evermore-narrowly-sliced microgenres, hoping to squeeze every aesthetic niche dry," publishers don't write this stuff and most books are not written to some puppetmaster's prescription. Books stem from the writer's imagination and succeed or fail based on how well readers connect with them.

     Science fiction writers and readers have always been the literary world's punks,  scruffy and not given much respect.  Is it any surprise that they have held onto the term once it came their way?
______________________________
* Or the first Star Wars film, the Hunger Games series, and on and on.
† They have something else in common, as well, which I will leave as a surprise for the reader.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Silver Lining?

     The impeachment trial lumbers onward, and let us thank due process for making dull what could have been far more acrimonious.

     There's a gemstone amid the dross, though -- I have never heard or seen so much mention in mainstream media of the Constitution, the men who drafted it and The Federalist Papers.

     The last item on this list (along with and often published with The Anti-Federalist Papers) constitutes a remarkable record of what the Framers (and their critics) thought about the meaning and intent of the Constitution at the time it was devised.

     If even a tiny fraction of the people reading or hearing of it are motivated to go look it up, the country will benefit.

     This country's Federal government has an operating manual and a considerable body of expert commentary from the men who dreamed it up.  It is readily available; it's not a secret, or couched in obscure language.  It's out thereSo are the counter-arguments.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Junk Food For Thought

     Apparently -- and who would have guessed?  -- a lie can still make it halfway around the world before the truth has even got its pants on:

     Researchers at MIT ran a study showing what most people already suspected: fake news -- of any stripe --  outweighs real news in the fast-moving, sociologically "hot" environments of social media.  Just like your Middle School days, exciting rumor and glittering half-truth is way more engaging than dull stuff like history, social studies or science.  (And as for spelling, well...  Most of our Facebook and Twitter posts would come back covered in red ink.)

     Forewarned is forearmed: if it confirms your brightest hopes or deepest fears, if it's remarkably novel, you'd better check it out before you pass it along.  Better see if you can independently verify it.

     The truth has to walk a long, long road before it can catch up to lies, let alone give them the beating they deserve.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Flatpacked

So I open up the box of my new IKEA silk scarf, and there it all is:

-A mulberry sapling
-A dozen caterpillars
-Two itty-bitty knitting needles
-And 482 pages of utterly incomprehensible pictographic drawings.

SKÖRF

     ...Rattling around in the bottom of the box, a little metric Allen wrench that doesn't fit anything.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Busy Day

    Late to post.  This morning, I looked around and realized the kitchen was approaching -- if not past -- the Quentin Crisp limit.

     No, that does not mean it really, really liked other kitchens.  Crisp was infamously averse to housework, and notably remarked, "After the first four years, it doesn't get any worse."

     There were corners of the kitchen that were fixing to prove him wrong.  It had to be set right.  I had chamomile tea from 2015 at the bottom of the stack!

     Still a lot to do, but matters are much improved.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday At Last

     After a week of never getting enough sleep (and other stress -- the new General Manager visited North Campus, which is A: my responsibility and B: not getting as much of my time and attention as it should; but I'm told he came away with a positive impression), the weekend is here!

     And with weekend, a front coming through, which has triggered a remarkable headache.  It's snowing pretty steadily outside.  The temperature is flirting with freezing and the snow is sticking, half-melting, and then sticking.  Trees have snow on the upper parts of the limbs -- and water droplets along the underside.  This would be minor or very messy, depending on the temperature going up or down. 

     As for the headache, it could go either way, too.  I've taken my usual, one acetaminophen and two aspirins, and it's a little slow to take effect but I think it's helping. 

     Rannie the cat seems to be feeling better.  She has been eating more, and not sneezing and wheezing as much. So of course, Huck has decided it's happy playtime!  He tries to get her to mock-fight, by the simple expedient of attacking.  She loathes it, and cries.  I've been squirting him with the water bottle, which breaks it up, but he can't quite grasp why anything to happy and fun could possibly be bad.  They're napping now; I hope they spend the midday as cats should, half-asleep.

     There's a load of laundry running.  As soon as the washer is finished and I've loaded the dryer, I'll start the dishwasher and then make breakfast.  Picked up the makings for Swedish pancakes on the way home from work last night and I'm looking forward to them.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Another Week

     And plenty of rain.  We've been fortunate this winter; had it been cold enough for our spells of rain to have been snow instead, it would have been pretty deep by now.  There have been a few bad winters in my life, and I'm not a fan.
*  *  *
     I wasn't a fan of the can of blackeyed peas I opened up last night, either.  They were....dry.  Something had gone wrong.  When I discovered this, I was a half-dozen green onions, half a bell pepper, half of a leftover cooked pork roast and a can of diced tomatoes into cooking a dish of Hoppin' John.  This made it a little vexing, and I may have uttered a few words one really should not say.

     At Roseholme Cottage, we keep canned beans on the shelf as part of the rotating stock of staples and while I would have preferred blackeyed peas (possibly my favorite bean), black beans made a fine dish, served over rice with some hot sauce, just thing for a rainy, chilly evening.  The dish is flexible, though Wikipedia tells me that using black beans makes it "Hoppin Juan!"  Good by whatever name; like oxtail stew or colcannon, this is another of those combinations that shows up all over, under different names, and everyone claims it for their own.  They're all probably right.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Not How That Works, Part Whatever

     I was cooking breakfast and half listening to the morning news on TV when a story caught my ear: There was a new report out that ranked traffic safety in each state.

     Wondering how Indiana had placed, I paid attention, and what do you know: we're about in the middle of the pack.

     But the rating isn't for the death rate, or the accident rate -- it's for the number and kind of driving safety laws each state has!

     Show of hands, class -- who can explain why this metric is risible?  All of you?  Very good!

     But just in case, let's go over it: counting "safety" by looking at the rules intended to promote safe behaviors tells us nothing about how well those rules work.  It tells us nothing about how faithfully those rules are obeyed.  It doesn't even tell us how well those rules are enforced!

     It's still an interesting report.  You can read it here.

     For data at how safe it is to drive in the various states, you can look here, and get the fatality rate per 100k population and per hundred million miles traveled.  At a glance, Indiana's about in the middle there, too.

     What I'm not finding in a quick search is any kind of correlation study, not even an informal comparison of death or accident rates versus laws aimed to make drivers safer. You'd think that would be a key piece of information for planning, and yet--  Nothing.

     More laws does not necessarily mean better laws; if you were thinking that logical fallacy only showed up in the hotly-contested debate about gun laws, guess again.  Driving safety is a far less divisive issue, with statistics that are much easier to find, and yet here we are.

     Quantity is a wonderfully useful metric for ball-bearings or new home construction and all manner of mass-produced goods.  Intent, too, is a fine metric: you certainly ought to know what you're setting out to accomplish.  For laws, however, it might be useful to look more closely at quality and results, preferably in as impartial a manner as possible.

     Just a suggestion.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

And There Was No Violence

     Monday's Lobby Day at Virginia's state capitol came and went without anything more untoward than one attendee who managed to get herself arrested for wearing a mask.  Upwards of twenty thousand people showed up, people of every hue and a wide assortment of political beliefs, and a lot of the people outside the official no-gun perimeter were visibly armed with big ol' evil-looking rifles, and nobody fired a shot.  Nobody so much as got into a fistfight.

     It would have taken just one malign fool -- and nobody wanted to be That Guy bad enough, while many people had already decided they weren't going to let anyone be That Guy.  It worked.  The Press seemed a little let down.

     Did the effort help?  Maybe.  Some.  If you live in Virginia and gun rights matter to you, vote carefully and keep writing your elected officials.  It's going to take a lot of convincing.

*  *  *

     Tuesday's Post-Impeachment Senate Trial in our nation's Capitol got underway without anything more untoward than some Senators struggling to stay awake and a rare opportunity for members of the House and Senate to snipe at one another.  They are inherently at odds -- the senior body slow, deliberative and resistant to change while the junior one is scrappy, (relatively) quick to act and responsive to the electorate.  The spectacle of the House lecturing the Senate, and the Senate getting its back up over it, is rare indeed.  Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schiff were bowed up like tomcats.

     High points included a network news analyst quoting another pundit, "Never underestimate the amount of hard work the U. S. Senate won't do," and the delicious realization that the trial was proceeding under rules from the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial: the Senators (and everyone else) are "commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment."  For a modern touch, no personal electronic devices were allowed in.  The entire Senate had to sit down, shut up, and at least pretend to pay attention.

     Low points?  I'm not too keen on this rule where they start in the afternoon and run for at least twelve hours.  It was criticized by Senate Democrats and they've got a point; it makes for long days and may tend to keep any real dramatic points a little less visible in live coverage.  The flip side is, we can't have the circus in town for a month or more.  The Senate does have other things to do.  Another downer: this isn't as neat and tidy as the courtroom scenes in an episode of Perry Mason.  It's a real trial, run by people with law degrees or at least a keen personal interest in rules and procedure.  A lot of the trial will be as dull as ditchwater.

     Politics is what we do instead of fighting in the streets, and if takes some dull stretches to keep it that way, I'm in favor of of them.  The underlying fight is no less intense for all that it is cloaked in high-sounding language and procedures first formulated in the late 18th Century.  Don't kid yourself -- Madison and the other Framers knew this day would come.  You don't add a utility to the firmware if you don't think it will ever be needed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Impeachment Trial-Watching

     This afternoon, the U. S. Senate will do something they rarely do: put the President on trial.  The process is written in out Constitution, in broad brush-strokes that assume much about the common sense and good will of the participants -- possibly more than most of us might credit some or all of the participants with possessing.  But they've done it before and they'll get  through it this time, too.

     Don't watch in anger.  Everyone involved is going to play up the drama. They all want your emotions involved.  We're in an election year and nothing gets people into voting booths like strong feelings!

     They're not wrong.  But this is history on the hoof and how you feel about it as it is happening will not change the outcome.  That's in the hands of the United States Senate.

     This is an uncommon event and none of the players are in their usual, comfortable roles.  How they behave can be revealing.

     You can watch and learn or you can watch and fume -- fume about the President, fume about the Senate and its leadership, fume about partisanship or grandstanding, and before it's all over, you may even find a reason to be annoyed at the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Watch angry and when it's over, you'll be working on an ulcer while all or nearly all of the participants in the Senate Trial will get their nice, fat paychecks, same as every payday. 

     Most of us will be working, at least for the first few innings; but I plan to watch what I can as coldly as a hawk.  It's a rare opportunity and I don't want to waste it.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Oh, Come On

     Apparently, a pretty thorough debunking of a far-Left historian has recently been published.    Good stuff, hey?  Demolishing invidiousness with truth, right?

     Well--

     Increasingly, pundits are trying to counter prejudice and jingoism, slanted takes on history, by pushing just as hard in the other direction.

     It works in physics, right?

     The problem is, history in all its forms, from today's TV news to the morning paper all the way to weighty multi-volume, small-print works, does not work that way.  Handedness doesn't count for much.  The real divide is different: you've got material that is true and real -- source documents, eyewitness accounts, good-faith objective writing and frankly-labeled subjective analysis -- on one side, and on the other, there's nothing but varying flavors of specious BS.  The vectors of slanted reporting don't cancel and no matter how hard you try to titrate the acid of one political leaning with the powerful alkali of the other, the result isn't salt water, it's just more BS.

     So when you read this stuff, do so with a skeptical eye; do so with a search engine handy, and check the claims.

     What I have read so far (yes, I have named neither the book nor the historian it debunks) is not what I had hoped.  There are no pages of footnotes listing authoritative sources or serious refutations of his allegations.  There's quite a lot of talk about other bad-faith historians, and about the man's own politics and habit of lifting material from other, often slanted, writers instead of going closer to the source.

     But there's no direct refutation.

     It's useful to point out propaganda, to hang a sign on bad information.  It's more useful to supply accurate information.  And yes, lies and misleading claims often have a delicious candy coating that is much more difficult to apply to the truth.  That doesn't mean it is not worth the effort to try.

     I'm going to do some more reading before I decide about buying the book, but it's not looking good.  Dammit, we're drowning in horsecrap.  It can't be remedied by adding to the pile.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

9:30 a.m., 11°F And A Raging Headache

     ...But at least it isn't raining, right?

     We did get a dusting of snow last night.  It wasn't enough to cover anything taller than an ant, just a hint of powdery white crystals scattered where the wind left them, leaving the impression that even the snow decided it was too cold and gave up on the job until things warmed a bit.

     The temperature and pressure changes left me fighting headaches yesterday and today's been more of the same; I slept in as late as I could, with Rannie the cat dozing by my side.  Finally had to give in, get out of bed and make some breakfast.  As soon as I get outside of half of it, I'll take some analgesics and think about what to do next.
*  *  *
     In the wider world, there's a sense of ticking anticipation.  Richmond, Virginia will see some kind of organized protest of the Legislature's planned new gun laws, a grab-bag that runs from the expected (reintroduction of that state's previous "one gun a month" purchase limit) to provoking (a ban on indoor gun ranges, written in such a way that the only range in the state that would be affected just happens to be the one at National Rifle Association headquarters).

     It's supposed to be a day of intense lobbying/personal contact with State legislators in their offices: "Hi, there, Mr./Ms. Elected Lawmaker, we're voters and this is an issue we care about deeply."  There's an hour or so set aside for speeches outside.

     Pretty much everybody affected is worried things will get out of hand (aside from a rotten few who hope for it).  The state-level gun-rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League has issued guidelines for attire, deportment and what not to carry (confederate flags, for instance); the Governor -- who appears to have firm plans to be elsewhere -- banned firearms from the entire area around the state government buildings, with only one entrance and, presumably, screening of everyone who passes through.  Police agencies will be limiting street traffic and even a self-described "antifa" group has spoken up -- interestingly enough, in opposition to the planned gun laws and urging restraint and avoidance of confrontation.

     What will happen?  I don't know.  Nobody knows.  Any decent person hopes that everyone involve will refrain from initiating force, and that the worst we'll see will be some heated speeches and small, quickly-resolved shouting matches over trivia.

     It's not helping my headache any.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A New Chair

     It looks like an old chair, the classic old-time wooden office chair on a caster base.  It closely resembles the chair it has replaced.  But my much-repaired office chair -- last worked on four years ago -- has reached a point of needing to retire to service elsewhere, where it won't be used as much.  It is likely twenty-five years old by now, so I think I have got my money's worth.

     The new one is a little more lightly built, but seems pretty solid.  Warned by reviews, I bought a better set of casters at the same time,  Put it together this afternoon and I'll see how it does.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Pushing Buttons

     Yesterday's post got a link from Instapundit.  The predictable Instalanche followed, and wow, the glory days of blogging were back!  Thanks to Insty and everyone who read.

     Many people commented on my two examples, on Facebook, at Instapundit and in comments submitted here.  I didn't publish any of the ones that came in here, because in order to make the point, I played a bit of a trick on readers: neither example was factually accurate.

     Oh, they're close, and what's more, they're commonly treated as if they were true by some people, some of the time -- and they push buttons.  So far, no one refuting or correcting them has done so on the cold basis of the historical record; no one has cited any actual sources.  But everybody commenting about them had a little heat behind what they had to say and a few were downright angry.

     Many commenters went immediately to extreme cases -- communists vs. (or in cahoots with) nazis, people being marched off to gulags or lined up against walls and shot.  That's not how politics works in this country, at least not in my lifetime, and that's not what I was writing about; I stated the parameters quite clearly early in the essay.

     There were a few "see, this is how women are, it's all emotion, they can't be objective" reactions,* and one saying I was blaming everyone for not being creatures of cold logic.  There was even one ticked-off "Speak for yourself!" (And for who else would I be speaking?)

     Your emotions are involved in your political behaviors.  Pride, fear, love, loathing, anger and happiness are in play -- and they will bite you where you sit down if you're not aware of them.  Likewise, the other ordinary people in your world have their emotions all bound up in their politics.  Each of them has one vote, which limits the actual electoral villainy they (and you) can get up to.  You are not going to reason them out of their dearly-held political beliefs, nor can they do the same with you. 

     You want to change people's ideas?  Be a good example.  Be someone they look up to and want to emulate.  Involve their hearts as well as their heads.
_______________________________
* Yes, the male of the species is the sole repository of reason and rationality; for a good example of this, observe them watching a hotly-contested sporting event.  Ahem.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"When Will They Admit They're Wrong?"

     If your question amounts to the headline of this posting, and it's about politics, then the answer is "never."

     It shows up over and over on social media, from Democrats and Republicans, from conservatives and liberals.  If it's a longer version and they've laid out their reasoning, it's often quite logical, frequently plausible; sometimes it takes a highly partisan slant to see things the same way and sometimes it doesn't -- and it matters not one whit.

     Politics isn't about logic.  It's not about common sense and very rarely is "the greater good" at the forefront of the minds of legislators when they draft laws or the Executive branch when they implement them.  It's not even the first concern of judges or juries, and as for your neighbors, when he or she goes to vote or stick a campaign sign in the front yard, they're probably not either.

     Oh, we and the politicians we vote in like to invoke the idea; we all like to think we are sensible, rational beings and that if those partisan halfwits on the other side would just shut up and listen, the scales would fall from their eyes and they, too, would see the pellucid wisdom of the policies and ideas we hold dear.

     But that's not how it works.  It's not how it works for "them" (whoever they might be) and it's not how it works for "us" either.

     It's a bitter pill but here's the truth, the real deal: it's about emotion. It's about rationalization, and wow, are humans talented at rationalizing whatever we have chosen to commit to.  Once we have, it seems perfectly sensible to us and divergent views look wrong.

     There may, in fact, be a clear right and wrong side to a political issue, one that would be obvious to a disinterested observer; but you and I are not disinterested observers.  We're inside the social machinery and it's well-nigh impossible to take a colorful pill and step out.

     There are people who went to their graves convinced poor Dick Nixon was unfairly railroaded out of office; people sitting right there next to you who are certain that lying to Congress about sexual horseplay in the Oval Office with an intern does not constitute an impeachable offense.  Maybe you agree with one or the other or both; maybe there's a red flag in there for you.  --Your reaction, whatever it is, is emotional, not logical.

     Bear that in mind as the present political drama plays out across TV screens and social media.  It's engrossing; you have strong feelings about it and so do a lot of other people.  It's not worth getting in fights over.  It's not worth puzzling over why those wretchedly obtuse people who disagree with you can't just wise up and see things your way.  They're not going to.  Even if you're right.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday And Foggy

     Foggy as all get-out out doors.  Foggier still on my TV.  National politics used to be easy to comment on; now I just want to point at it and shrug.

     At the state level, our Governor gave the yearly State of the State speech last evening.  It looks like we're doing better than the neighboring states in terms of unemployment (three percent-ish), job growth, solvency of the state government and other metrics -- but when two of the neighboring states are Illinois and Michigan, looking better by comparison is kind of playing on the "easy" setting.  Still, the state's doing well and more people are moving here than moving away, so that's good news.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

It's Warm

     Or warm for January, at least.  Today's high will be in the upper fifties, possibly even sixty or more. 

     I am taking as much comfort in this as I can, because it has also resulted in remarkably intense earaches and sinus discomfort.  --And bad as it is, it's still better than having to deal with bitter cold.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Again

     Didn't we have a Monday just  last week?  Really, we've had enough of these, and yet--

     Some days, it's like crawling inside a Klein bottle: no matter how hard you try, you're stuck on the outside.  Which is also the inside.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Gun Show

     After a delicious breakfast at Northside Kitchenette, The Data Viking, Tam and I went to the Indy 1500 Gun (and Knife) Show yesterday.  The State Fairgrounds were busy with multiple events including a huge RV Show.  It was a miserably rainy day and between the three of us, there's a badly broken (and badly rehealed) ankle, a pair of shins rebuilt with titanium and stainless, and a once-broken knee that is slowly unwinding the cartilage from the upper hearing surfaces of the joint.

     So of course we were directed to park halfway across the sprawling fairgrounds from the event venue, despite having a blue-spaces placard borrowed from one of our vehicles* and pointing it out.  There were no shuttle buses running through the race-track infield where they put us, and there was puddle between us and the pedestrian underpass, a wide, long and in places deep pool of water.  We limped our way to the best place to cross, and wended down and through the low-ceilinged, dank tunnel under the track before walking a couple of blocks to the show.

     The show was...crowded.  The firearms selection was pretty good but had nothing really outstanding; the prices for things I'm interested in (an S&W Bekeart .22 target revolver or one of the models that followed right after) were pretty high.

     The main booksellers vanished several shows ago; they'd been struggling with a bad vehicle and worse health and we figure they set up shop wherever they were or wherever they could get to when life on the road became too much.  Their main foes -- literal foes, the show had to keep them at opposite ends of the very large building and there were still occasional arguments -- had dropped out even earlier.  There are a few other booksellers who show up at every second or third show, and they weren't at this one.  The usual tool guys were nowhere in evidence.  One has been headed that way, selling off what appeared to be the lighter contents of Grandpa's machine shop, four table-loads at a time, an endeavor with a definite end point.  The other one is a perennial, with a decent mixture of industrial surplus, sorted garage-sale finds and Chinsesium; I don't know why he wasn't there, but his usual tables, backed up to a guy who sells chemistry glassware and related items, were empty.  There was one guy doing knife sharpening and he was pretty busy, so I skipped it; time to get out the coarse stone and diamond hones and sharpen my pocketknife myself.

     Yes, I do realize that I go to gun shows and look for things other than guns.  There were a lot of knife sellers at this one, including some very high-end stuff, both "big name" makes and craftspeople selling their own wares.

     Some of our Usual Suspects were there, too -- the guy selling Cold War surplus and offering free anti-semitism with every sale and the fireworks guy with "cute" (not at all) names for his products that harken back to the worst crimes of the WW II Axis powers.  It's convenient of 'em to hang it right out there; the First Amendment protects them but I wouldn't buy gold bars from either one even if they were selling them twelve for a dime.

     On the other hand, the local chapter of the National African-American Gun  Association had well-staffed table with a nice display behind it and were running a raffle.  The local chapter is the Indy Red Tails Gun Club, named after the distinctive paint job of the Mustangs flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.  It was good to see them there; there's always a contingent of serious African-American hunters at the show and the usual young men one sees at the 1500 includes young men of color in demographic proportion, but this level of organization is relatively new and I'm happy to see wider Second Amendment support.

     I don't know if it's the Fairgrounds or the 1500, but increasingly, they set up very narrow aisles between the rows of tables in both sides of the building (with one wide aisle in the center of the larger side), and then leave a big empty space at the far end.  For me, this resulted in skipping a couple of aisles altogether: the crowd was at a standstill and there was no way through.  They need to either institute one-way aisles (good luck with that!) or make them wider.

     At the end, the Data Viking and I both bought nothing.  Tam picked up some ammo and we headed back to Roseholme Cottage, where DV and I watched a couple of episodes of The Expanse while Tam went to the range.  Later, her friend Shootin' Buddy stopped by and we all had a nice early supper at Marco's.

     Not a bad way to spend a gray, rainy day.
_____________________________
* I'm not saying whose it was, but all three of us qualify.  Usually, we'd rather leave those spots for people having a much harder time of it, but the Fairgrounds are huge and the parking staff is always overworked; they need to get you to a spot ASAP, so they can get the five hundred or more people behind you into parking spots, too.  If it's a long way away from the event you're attending, oh well.  There are usually shuttles but they were so busy we only saw one the entire time we were outside the show -- and the posted route didn't include the infield parking area.  It's not badly run but really busy days tend to almost overwhelm the staff; they're always friendly but they have no time to sort anyone out.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Browser Computer Frustrations

     Another morning of frustration with my browser -- but it's not just the browser, it's everything.  My "refurbished" desktop computer has never been entirely happy and is becoming less so.  Time, I suppose, to be looking for another.

     In the meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi booted up fine and other than screen size, a couple of pieces of software and issues with saving files on Dropbox, it's an adequate machine.

Friday, January 10, 2020

This And That

     Ended up sleeping most of the day yesterday, other than a light lunch and light dinner.  It didn't prevent me from getting a full night's sleep last night, so it must have been what I needed.

      The TV news has seemed preoccupied - or co-preoccupied, anyway -- with the current goings-on of the Windsor family.  We fought a war so that we didn't have to pay attention to them, and yet somehow we can't quite look away.  Ignore all the "throne of Empire" -- well, Commonwealth -- stuff and you've got a young couple stepping back from the family business to go their own way, a story that plays out every day all across the planet.

     The other news preoccupation is the President of the United States and what may or may not be going on with Iran.  Whatever it is, it's not going to end soon; we're three (or is is five?*) Administrations into the current troop-heavy version of the Great Game and the only constant is, we can't get out without leaving a power vacuum that will soon fill with the worst possible replacement.  Some of my left-leaning Facebook contacts are sounding the alarm about how Mr. Trump's got to be removed and I'm reading it, thinking the impeachment process is, in fact, underway, so what are they urging that they haven't already got?  The storming of the Winter Palace?  Well, the weather in Florida's not so bad this time of year, but I think the golfers will object.
____________________________________
* Possibly more.  U. S. involvement in Iran goes back to at least the Eisenhower administration.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

No Fun

     Rannie the cat and I have something in common.  I think mine is milder, but it does seem that I've been fighting a sinus infection over the last few days.  It hit pretty hard this morning and after trying to ignore it, I finally had to admit defeat.

     I called in sick and went back to bed.  Slept like a log until about ten minutes ago, so I guess that was what I needed.

     Last night's dinner was a deli pork roast from the hot food cabinet (and darned good); I'd browned left-over slices of it for breakfast and made a couple into a sandwich for work, so that's my lunch.  With a little horseradish to help my sinuses!

Presidents Making War: Another Conditionally-Bad Thing

     Ensuring that the Federal Government follows the Constitution in that only Congress may declare war is a grave and urgent task -- if the President rattling sabers isn't from your party.  Or you can wink at the war police action if you're a Congressthing who figures it will be unpopular and you're hoping when public opinion turns, it will drag the other party down with it.  Or, what the heck, in an excess of patriotic zeal, real or feigned.  (See Public Law 107-243 or 107-40 for examples.)

     Congress has tended in recent years to tell the President to "do the right thing" and leave him alone with the Joint Chiefs while they look on from the sidelines and wash their hands, the specific enumeration in Article One, Section Eight notwithstanding.

    Wikipedia tells me, "The last time the United States formally declared war, using specific terminology, on any nation was in 1942, when war was declared against Axis-allied Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania...." Congress, it appears, has been asleep at the switch or just waving the Executive Branch on by, all through the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War (euphemism bedammed withal), Grenada, Panama (okay, that was more like a drug bust) and the specific manifestations of the War On a Noun in Iraq and Afghanistan, to ignore U. N. "peacekeeping" expeditions and name a few war-ish actions that spring to mind.

     Then an extremely polarizing President authorized the military killing a man who was a known sponsor of terrorism.  True, he was very highly placed in the Iranian government -- and the person in day-to-day charge of their version of the SOE.  Congress -- especially the Democrats in Congress -- is not happy.  Nope, they are riled and they're talking about reining him in, starting some time next week.

     And never mind that it's been Congress who have let the reins out all this while.

     Who knows?  This might even spell the beginning of a whole new era of Congressional responsibility!  But I think you'd be wise to not bet any more money that you can afford to lose on that.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Poor Rannie!

     Tamara's cat, Random Numbers "Rannie" Wu, has another upper respiratory infection.  She started getting sniffly over the weekend and by yesterday, she was wheezing, sniffling, burbling and sneezing.

     She refused breakfast yesterday.  Tamara took her to the veterinarian yesterday afternoon.  The diagnosed a bacterial infection and we started her on antibiotics last evening.  She's still recovering and not feeling very well; refused breakfast again this morning and is due for her medicine shortly.

     Huck, my huge yellow-striped tomcat,  is not at all understanding.  He keeps trying to get Rannie to play by bounding up, throwing a foreleg over her shoulders, and attempting to wrestle, a behavior she doesn't like very much even when she's not sick.  Is he being a pill or is he trying to cheer her up?  It's hard to say.

     Tam's poor cat prefers to nap on hot pads and furnace registers, hoping to feel better.  She's taken to turning her back on the room, a sure sign she's not happy.

     The antibiotic helped a lot the last time she had a sinus infection.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

What, Me Blog?

     There's an entire blog devoted to the history -- most of it pre-Mad magazine -- of Alfred E. Neuman.

     Turns out that guy has been on the job a lot longer than you might expect.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Epic Tweet Battle?

     I guess it's the new platform for war -- or maybe I'm just hoping.  Given the inconclusive nature of many modern wars (or war-type endeavors), a Twitter fight doesn't look like such a bad idea; the body count would be less and most world leaders have a great less to lose when they start doxxing.

     Just don't bet money it'll stay at that level.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

My Brain Is Full

     I spent most of yesterday and today critiquing about a hundred and fifty pages of someone else's fiction and boy, is my brain tired!

     It's much easier to write "unclear -- fix this" or "Did the Mongols really use carrier pigeons?" in the margins of a manuscript you didn't write and won't have to rewrite or research, that's for sure, and supposedly it's good practice for digging into one's own work.

     Meanwhile, I'm messing with Scrivener more.  It's got some interesting cross-platform capabilities that I am hoping to use.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

That Was Close!

     Rousted out of bed this morning under threat of decaf!

     The neighborhood grocery stocks a wide array of ground coffee -- wide, but not very deep. In recent months, they've been out of the house-blend "Jamaican Mountain Blend" that I like.  They nearly always have it in whole bean (and when they don't, there's always Tanzanian Peaberry to fall back on), so I've been buying that instead.

     I have also been keeping a little decaffeinated coffee on hand, most recently a Kona blend; it's a nice hot drink with supper, less sugar than soft drinks,* and especially welcome in the winter.  That stuff is ground coffee, ready to go.  Fresh, it's not bad, but even in a vacuum carafe, it doesn't keep well.  Hasn't got that edge.

     This morning, I was sleeping in.  Got up, fed the cats, and laid back down, with a hot pad under my back and, eventually, Rannie the cat curled up next to me.

     I was jarred back to full consciousness by being asked, "Where's the coffee?  I've got the kettle on.  Shall I just use this Kona?"

     The beans don't get ground until needed; at a pot of coffee a day, that's a grinder-ful every other day.  I stash the ground coffee in an unmarked, air-tight container and there's no way to tell what's in it or how long its been there.  Our coffee grinder is old and a bit arcane to operate.

     Tam was being helpful but I'd left her without any clues where the good stuff was. 

     So there was nothing for it: if I wanted morning coffee with caffeine, I had to accept that it was my own darned fault the right stuff wasn't more obvious and get up and make it myself.

     Which doesn't take all that long, really, nor much effort, either.

     Just finished a cuppa and a heel slice of nice, fresh sea salt and rosemary-crust bread with Irish butter.  I think I'll crawl back under the covers and see if I can entice the cats to join me for an hour.
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* Even the way I drink coffee, with creamer and a teaspoon of sugar, it's better for you than soda pop.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Here We Go Again

     Lots of people "have got it coming;" few of them ever get it.

     War...doesn't work that way; drastic action is often taken against important centers of command.

     And in a state of almost-war?  Cold War?  Over-arching principles are rare, plausible deniability is common -- but not the rule.  Sometimes actions are overt to the point of challenge.

     U. S. forces killed a top Iranian officer.  A drone strike in Iraq, near Baghdad.  It appears he was instrumental in a lot of damage to our people. 

     What happens next, I don't know.   

Thursday, January 02, 2020

New Year's Meal

     Tamara took this photo right after I'd stuck the thermometer in the meat and started adding vegetables; it was up to the "Beef - Rare" point shortly afterwards.
     We were short on charcoal and I had trouble getting the grill up to 250°F and keeping it that hot, but it all worked out in the end.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

New Year's Day

     Corned beef is soaking, protected (I hope!) from Huck's attention by a lidded pan.

     Tam saw the New Year in with fireworks; I was in bed by then, awake but barely and with one cats snuggle up next to me while the other one occupied my legs.  We all have our own ways of celebrating; I'm not sorry to see the old year chased off and we'll see what the new one will bring.

     It's trite, but why not play the song?