Saturday, August 08, 2020

Annoying At Best

     I spent a couple of hours fighting with Firefox and my anti-virus software this morning.  Lots of crashing.  Time to replace the anitivirus, I think -- it's getting bad reviews.  What do you use?

Friday, August 07, 2020

Puzzled By Coronavirus?

      If the way this virus behaves puzzles you, take a seat right over there next to the immunologists.

     They've got more of a clue than, say, a random journalist or some person on social media -- it's still a puzzle, but they're filling in the edges and trying to sort out the pieces.  It's complicated.

     Lots of people think science works like storybook wizardry: you look up the magic formula or incantation, you consult a seer or a computer, perhaps inspiration strikes, and voila!  It's all laid out, neatly and in full detail.

     The reality is quite a bit more raggedy, a piece here and a chunk there, filled up like a junk-picker's shopping cart and maybe, eventually, assembled into a more-or-less coherent whole.  --And then reassembled, over and over, old bits taken off and now ones added, because that's how discovery works.  Science rarely gets to see the whole elephant all at once; they've got to stick the parts together.

     They're trying.  They're highly motivated; they have parents and families, too.  They miss movies and crowded restaurants and swapmeets and working side-by-side with people whose faces they can see and  all the rest of it just as much as you do.


Thursday, August 06, 2020

Breakfast And

     I enjoyed a nice omelette for breakfast -- bacon, fresh mushrooms, Iberico cheese, a couple of Castlevetrano olives and a little grated Parmesan, with some Italian spice mix and tarragon in the batter.

     And I have been "enjoying" a nasty headache all morning.  They're certainly not getting any better.

     Blogger has kicked me over to the new interface -- which is like a large-print-with-pictures version of the old interface.  That should tell us something, which I will leave as an exercise for the reader.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Shelves, Some Pictures

     A reader asked for "in the works" pictures of my current shelf project.  In the crowded garage, some fuzzy smartphone photos are are the best I can do right now, but they show some of the work.

     The first is a view of most of it, seen from the back,  The cross pieces that help keep it stable and (mostly) square are a little clearer than the flat drawing, as well as the bracing piece that should help keep the top shelf from sagging without losing any depth.  The wood's only slightly wider than the fabric storage cubes that will fill most of the space, and losing three-quarters of an inch to a cross-piece won't do.

     The second picture shows my rough joinery, a bit of a stencil and a couple of pencil lines, one to locate the guide for routing the shelf dado and another that carries the line of that dado to the opposite side of the board.  There's a slight difference in width between the shelf and the vertical: some of the wood was bought new and some is salvage.  When working with dimensional lumber at full size, you run the risk of this.  The front edges are aligned, planing will even out the back a little and past that, I'm willing to accept a sixteenth of an inch error in a mostly-hidden place.  A real cabinetmaker, working with something fancier than pine, buys oversize and uses a planer and jointer to get the wood to the necessary dimensions. This wood has a lot of "character," but you have to accept the irregularities that come with that or spend hours trying to pretty it up.

     There is exactly one non-mortised joint in this entire project, where the short vertical supporting the three small shelves meets the full-width shelf above it.  I thought about it, but the complexity of ensuring everything would fit was already pretty high and it didn't seem necessary.  The short shelves may get a triangular brace under the lowest shelf, to carry downard force over to the main vertical on that side and provide some additional lateral stability.

     The next step will be to wipe it down with methylated spirits to remove the pencil marks and mute some of the stencil markings on the wood.  That calls for having the doors and windows open -- and Tam's car farther away!  It's nosed right up to the shelves

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Two Screens?

     Sometimes a metaphor takes on a life of its own, and becomes a badge.  Sometimes it even gets in the way of thinking more deeply.

     I think both of those have happened with "One screen, two movies," attributed to Scott Adams as a description of current U. S. politics.

     It's compelling image, but it shuts off discussion.  When alluded to in a conversation, it's generally used as to indicate the speaker is on Team Red, but that's not such a big deal -- most people pick Red or Blue and few of them are shy about sharing their choice.

     The big deal is, if people aren't seeing the same movie, they have no common ground.  The metaphor implies the two main parties have no common ground.

     We need them to have common ground.  Sure, the President is just one person, so he (or, eventually, she) is going to be from one party or another.  But Congress is supposed to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to making laws and setting up the various Bureaus, Departments and Commissions that comprise the Federal Government, and that's a whole lot of of people -- a whole lot of people who need to find compromises they (and, I hope, we) can live with.  To do that, they need common ground.

     It'd better be "One movie, two interpretations."  Sometimes those interpretations are deeply, fundamentally different -- but we'd all better hope they're seeing the same movie, or what's the point?


Monday, August 03, 2020

Cardinal Bribery?

     With Tam having got herself into the hobby of bird-feeding, we are both in the habit of glancing out the kitchen window to see what's happening at the feeder

     One of the better sights is a squirrel sliding down the feeder pole backwards from the anti-rodent device with a disappointed expression.  It's the most effective stop I have seen: a large-diameter tube concentric with the feeder support pole, closed at the top and open at the bottom.  Just large enough to fit a squirrel, too long to get around, too fat to climb, and far enough off the ground that they can't leap onto it.  They're welcome to glean fallen seeds under the feeder, which they do, along with the shy and speedy chipmunks.  Usually all I see of the latter is a flash of red-brown and an excited, "Chip!" when I open the back door.

     We found some small holes dug under the fence, into the neighbor's yard and the pile of maple stump-grindings in the side yard. Tam thought they were chipmunk burrows; I thought they were a bit large, but we weren't sure until the morning last week when a common or Norway rat was seen to slide out of the bird feeder's squirrel-thwarter.  We spotted at least two different individuals over the next few days and called an exterminator, who has already set out the usual solution.  (We may lose a few chipmunks; since one of the rat sightings was one of the bastards eating a mostly-dead chipmunk, we're going to call it collateral damage.  Chipmunks are widespread and they will repopulate.)  It's a city; there are rats.  They're usually not in back yards and it may be that the decline in dining out and the richly-filled dumpsters that result has driven some of them to look elsewhere.

     A more attractive and interesting sight are the cardinals.  We've had a lot of them this year, the bright-red males and drabber females.  They have raised quite a crop of youngsters this summer, and they're starting to arrive at the feeder, too.  They're a motley-looking lot, feathers coming in every which way, the boys in a kind of junior version of their adult plumage, bits of red and brown.  Accompanied by an adult, they flutter clumsily to perch on the arms of our feeder stand, looking like sulky teenagers hauled out to a grown-up restaurant.   The adults gather at the feeder, winkling out choice seeds -- and then they take the seeds over to their fledglings and feed them, beak-to-beak! 

     The young birds haven't fully mastered flight; landing on a swinging feeder has got to be tricky, and then digging out goodies from the seedcake, well, it's a lot to ask.  So Mom and Pop chivvy 'em over the feeder and bring them tasty treats, probably hoping the kid will eventually take a hint and start to figure out how to feed themselves.

     I can imagine the conversation:
     Ma Cardinal:  "C'mon, Junior, let's fly over to Tamara's feeder and we'll bring you your favorites.  Just hold onto the crossbar, you'll be safe enough..."
     Fledgling: "Aww, Mooom!  It's soo far!  Can't I just hang out in the nest?
     Pa Cardinal: "Nothing doing!  And don't argue with your mother.  You don't want to be a student pilot forever, do you?
     Fledgling: "Awwww. ...Well,  okay...."

     It sure looks like that's how it goes!

Sunday, August 02, 2020


     I finally completed assembly of the somewhat-complicated set of shelves that will, if all goes as planned, wrap around my dressing table and add more storage in my room.
     The design is something I have been fiddling with for over a year.  I started measuring and cutting wood over a month ago.  Dodging rain and working in terrible heat and humidity, progess has been slow.  Eventually I had everything cut, and this last week I routed grooves for the shelves and cross pieces, and yesterday, I started assembly.

     Had to recut a couple of cross pieces; I changed the plan on  the fly, messed up the new measurements, and had to revert to the original design (shallow dados in the verticals rather than full-thickness notches where the cross pieces connect.  But it worked out.

     It still needs to have the offset added at lower left, and both of the verticals need to be cut to clear the baseboard.  Then it will get cleaned (pencil marks mostly wash off with methylated spirits), planed, sanded, finished (probably linseed oil again) and then taken apart into a few subassemblies so I can bring it in and put it together in place.  Maybe another month of spare time in all that.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Mushroom Season

      They've shown up in small numbers a few times after rain, but this week had just enough rainfall to make the mushrooms happy, especially on the mound of stump-grindings where the hackberry tree once stood.  Interestingly, the clusters have sprung up mostly over places where I had dug into it and added hardwood charcoal ash from my grill.
     They look like tiny Fae barrios
     They are very short-lived; some colonies were already falling into disrepair.

     The smaller groupings can be very attractive.

     By evening, most were folding down, like tiny umbrellas. Maybe they'll be back tomorrow.  I doubt these are edible -- usually the more interesting a mushroom looks, the more likely it is to be dangerous to eat.  But they're nice to look at.

Friday, July 31, 2020

They Made A Pan For Me?

     A start-up that calls themselves Our Place has pretty much made my ideal pan.*  It's early days yet; I only got the Always Pan Wednesday.  But at this point, I'm pretty much sold; the only remaining question is durability, and time will tell.

     So far, it is everything the manufacturer promises. Kind of a cross between a small Dutch oven and a frying pan, it's not oven-safe but other than that, it'll do most anything you need it to.

     I was checking out the website a few months ago, and they were running a sale that took the price from "Should I risk it?" down to "Gonna have to try this."  The lead time was nearly three months but they were getting rave reviews.  And it's nice-looking.
     It ought to hold up well: the deep pan and high, domed lid are sturdy, simple aluminum castings, the included strainer/steamer is stainless steel, and the long handle and knob on the lid are some kind of high-temperature plastic that feels a little like Delrin.  There's an included wooden spatula that parks neatly on a short peg on the handle, with the business end hanging just inside the pan through a gap in the pan and lid -- and the gap lets steam exit when the spatula is removed, or you can rotate the lid slightly and close it off.  And the pan has pouring spouts copied from Grandma's cast-iron skillet and every bit as handy.  But wait -- there's more!

     The non-stick lining was promised as some kind of next-level ceramic, dishwasher-safe and slicker than, well, any other pan you've got.  I've had ceramic non-stick pans, but they were fussy to care for and not as good as the modern Teflon replacements.

     This one is not fussy and almost preposterously slick. 
It is much deeper than it looks in this photo, too.
     See that?  Nice picture of a pan, hey?  --I just cooked bacon and eggs in that pan, drained off the grease and wiped it out.  It hasn't been washed yet.  If it didn't have high sides, I'd be hard-pressed to corral a fried egg to flip it.

     I made Hoppin' John last night -- fried ham chunks, with a lot of fresh onion and a little celery and carrots (plus fresh mushrooms, because I am just that kind of heathen), and once that's all translucent and sizzling, you drain the grease, and add canned chilies, crushed tomatoes and blackeyed peas.  It's not the most pan-friendly of entrees, and to make matters worse, a small amount of leftovers sat in the pan while Tam and I watched two episodes of the second season of Homecoming.†

     The pan wiped clean as a whistle.  Even a little sauce spattered down the side and on the outside of the lid (the inside of it is nonstick, too) came away clean.  A little soapy water and a rinse and it's ready to go.

     I'm liking this pan.  Looks like just the thing for grilled cheese sandwiches or fancy pork chops and vegetables or just about anything else I might cook for dinner..
* They make some other housewares, too -- plates, bowls and glasses with a functional, pleasantly-shaped and no-frills design esthetic that I find appealing and that could fit in just about anywhere.
† Also highly recommended.  You have to watch the (marvelous) first season to know what's going on.  The narrative structure, cinematography and editing remain unusual and engaging, and the music is a wonder.  It's based on a podcast drama -- and the podcast is well worth listening to.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Wednesday Dinner

     So I cooked a brisket:


     Tamara took a photo of last night's dinner -- a chimichurri-marinated brisket slow-cooked in a sealed pan on the grill. I added potatoes, onion, carrots, red bell and Poblano peppers and sliced mushrooms about an hour or 45 minutes before the meat was done.

      I had some misgivings at about the one-hour mark, and added some water. The bottom did get a little well done, but the rest of the meat was very tender.  Next time, I'll cook it fat side down.

      Wasn't too sure about the vegetables and the chimichurri, but let me tell you, they were absolutely wonderful. Just a little heat to it.

      There's not really a recipe for this. Brisket gets about an hour per pound over indirect heat (rake the coals to the sides of the grill) and the veggies are added with about an hour to go. Use whatever vegetables you have -- turnips are good in this, celery would work, whatever your garden grew too many of. (Zucchini? Maybe. They kind of want tomatoes, and so it goes....) Keep it covered the rest of the time, let it sit a few minutes before slicing the beef and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

From An Away Game

     Posted elsewhere, a few days ago:

     "The Peelian principles of policing tell us that 'the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.'

     "Our own history makes it clear that the Press is the public and the public is the Press, the Press after all being simply members of the public who give (and draw!) attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

      "The cops are us. The reporters are us. The protesters are us. The people who choose initiate force are, alas, us. It really is that simple."

     I will note (for those convinced that "reporter" is just a guise) that a person holding a camera, a notebook or a smartphone has only got one hand free -- which makes it a hell of a lot harder to shoot fireworks at police, or even to chuck rocks with accuracy.

*  *  *

     My focus has been on Press-police interaction and what the First Amendment protects.  With attention to the wider conflict most visibly taking place at present in the Pacific Northwest:

     Historically, especially in post WW II history, terrorism and street-level violence intended to further a goal is often aimed to do so not as a direct effect but by stimulating a reaction.  It is entirely possible that, if there is any goal to the rioting past breaking things and making a mess, the goal is not to burn down a Federal courthouse or police headquarters, but to provoke a harsh and violent reaction from police -- any police at all, local, State or Federal.

     If this is so, then playing the game at the surface level is a losing strategy.  This is not some 19th-century Napoleonic War set-piece.  The only way to win is to embrace and, essentially, co-opt the non-violent elements while discrediting the violent ones.  It worked in Indianapolis.  I don't know if it can work in Portland; a tipping point may have passed.  But what's happening there now hasn't been improving the situation.
*  *  *

     P.S. A commenter -- whose comments I have not been publishing for some time now -- has leveled an accusation:  "Yet, oddly, you have censored all the comments that disagree with you."
     This is untrue on its face, since I have published some comments that disagree.  And it demonstrates precisely why this person's comments aren't getting published, since he or she shows a deep lack of comprehension of who is limited and what is protected by the First Amendment: I choose not to publish comments that I find ill-informed, intemperate or invidious.  I'm not the government; I can publish or not publish whatever the hell I like.

     And so can you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

I Give Up

     No matter how carefully I explain it, I still get comments that amount to, "But why can't the police just stamp on anyone who disagrees with them violently enough, along with everyone else in the vicinity including the Press?"

     Did you feel that way during the Obama administration, when a routine Federal bulk-buy of ammunition via a long-term contract had many of my Right-wing gun-owner friends running around, waving their hands and talking about the Feds ginnin' up for a war on the Heartland?  Every power you let the Feds exercise unchecked is available to whoever is running the show, and we've been alternating parties in power pretty regularly for quite awhile now, with no sign of it changing.

*  *  *

     I also keep getting told how the "major media" is "100% behind" all the destructive civil unrest.

     So, first off, nobody reads National Review or Breitbart?  Fox News is not "major media?"  Because the last time I checked, they had slightly better viewership ratings than CNN.

     And second off, even CNN was decrying indiscriminate destruction and looting.  When protests here in Indianapolis gave way to graffiti, fire-setting and window-smashing, every single one of our local TV news operations -- we have five -- condemned it, along with the shambling remains of our local newspaper.  Four of those newsrooms are run by major network affiliates; the fifth is an interesting also-ran, the former CBS affiliate, and if there was anything extra to be had from siding with the destructive elements, they're hungry enough to try it.  They didn't. 

     Locally, there appeared to be very little personnel overlap between daytime protestors and nighttime wreckers.  After IMPD decided to be less confrontational and more interested in making sure everyone went home okay, it looked like the protesters displaced the would-be rioters and looters: there were still as many police officers around, but they were guarding the people waving signs and chanting slogans instead of staring them down.  The officers were guarding the city, too.  We had a few marches that went on well past curfew after that change in tactics -- but we didn't have any more smashed windows and eventually, things wound down.

     If you meet strongly-motivated protests with force, you just get more force; and once those gloves have come off against one group of protesters, there's no reason to not take them off against another.  Unless you're eager to see a Second Amendment activism day or weekend at some state capitol go very badly, you should be concerned about police use of force.  It's certainly not always wrong -- but it is far better to avert a riot before it starts, and in a way that defuses escalation.

     Our governments operate with the consent of the governed.  You cannot manufacture consent with tear gas, pepperballs and less-lethal weapons.  You cannot beat or shoot people into embracing the virtues of our system of government.

     And I can't thump any sense into the heads of people who are so mired in the rah-rah excitement of the Red vs. Blue contest that they cannot remember any history or conceive of any future.  Go get yourself another beer, and keep swearing at the TV screen.