Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Off-Beat Path

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

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

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

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

     You can also find this: "Always Together:"

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

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

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

† I'm not going to explain this.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Oh, Yay, Sinus

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

Now It Can Be Told

     I've been on the 3:00 a.m. to 11:300 a.m. shift all this week, which I find difficult.  Sleep is elusive, concentration fragmentary, digestion uncertain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Going Back To Electoral College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Starship Engineering

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

I Live In A City Of Easily-Confused Drivers

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

As Memory Fades

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Buy Kits, Build Kits

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

     Time to build them both and compare!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Dinner And Breakfast

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

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

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019

From The Immovable To The Unreachable

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

They Updated Windows Last Night

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

     It's nice to have an alternative!