Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Flash Of Realization

     A fundamental difference between my outlook and that of most people around me is that I am of the opinion that government is fundamentally flawed, small-minded, mean-spirited, ignorant, lazy and generally a dirty, sloppy, dangerous business and that is as good as it ever gets.

     Politics is better than conking one another over the head -- way better, in fact; but it is inherently imperfect.  "It is better that ten men go free than one man be wrongly punished," remember?  Government isn't stamping out Improved Gizmos and a 10:1 reject rate is considered fine as long as harm to the undeserving is minimized.

     I blame the Progressives -- not the current crop but the people, from the less-bad Roosevelt through Wilson and beyond, who decided government ought to be an agent of moral uplift, who decided that if public drunkenness was a crime, we ought to be rid of drink (and so on and on and on, including the long list of Texas felonies involving lobsters) and who didn't content themselves with hectoring and haranguing from the bully pulpit of elected office but pushed for laws to push around folks who were harming no one or at worst only themselves, and who established the idea that it was somehow the job of government to make us hapless citizens better people.  It is an idea that has stuck far too well.

     While there are wise and good men and women holding office -- and an awful lot of hard-working minor functionaries making the wheels go 'round on meager pay and less respect, embedded with the time-servers, no-hopers and don't-carers who make bureaucracy a bother -- most of government is dominated by the same Eddie Haskell types, snobs, hollow suits and authority addicts who ran student government back in High School.  They are the lowest common denominator, and any sufficiently large enterprise will sink to just that.  They are supposed to be uplifting my morals and yours, too?  Really?

     When a new law comes along, I automatically don't trust it.  Especially if it purports to cover something that's already been addressed.  In that vein, I'll leave you with this:

Indiana Constitution
Article 1
Section 2. Right to worship
      All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Section 3. Freedom of religious opinions
     No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience. 

Section 4. Freedom of religion
     No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent. 

     Did it really need to be graffitied by the current legislative session?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Super-Secret Salad Dressing

     Except I'll let you in on it: Good, flavorful olive oil, balsamic vinegar, "Mediterranean" spice mix, some extra chives, fresh-ground black pepper, a pinch of sugar and nice zotz of lime juice.  Let set, shake, taste, add salt or adjust the oil/vinegar/lime balance as needed.  It's tasty!

     (The basic ratio is three parts oil to one part of the acidic liquids -- count the vinegar and lime juice together.  You can often wing this; I find myself using a bit more balasamic.)

     I had it over a mixed-veggie salad: radishes, grape tomatoes, carrots, Anaheim pepper, exactly two olives (one black, one green), a pickled mushroom and just a little mixed-herb greens.  And I'm planning on taking the same thing to work tomorrow, only with sections of blood orange added.


     I'm not much for decorative art and no big fan of the turn-things-into-lamps school, but I very nearly bought this when I saw it at an antique mall Saturday:
[click to embiggen]
     Given the temperamental and operator skill-dependent nature of a classic flamethrower, I can't imagine a better use.  The bulb is a flame-patterned neon glowlamp, and probably flickers. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Public-Relations Disaster

     See that sign?  RFRA with a red oh-hells-no symbol across it. They're popping up on the doors of businesses all around Broad Ripple and elsewhere in Indianapolis.
     Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  It must have sounded like a great idea when they were kicking it around the Statehouse.  It must have looked good to 'em on paper: a bill that held out a hand to Indiana's large number of religious conservatives while giving notice to the gay-marriage people that while they might've got themselves the right to get married, the Hoosier government wasn't going to let 'em push around any bakers or caterers (etc.) as had happened in other states -- and best of all, the language of the bill followed closely on a relatively uncontroversial Federal law from 21 years ago.*  They must have figured they couldn't lose!

     They figured wrong.  They lost, big, and they're dragging the rest of us along.  They didn't even understand where the real battlefield was located.  Neither do most of the people protesting and holding rallies, pro and con.

      Legislators, welcome to 2015, where states are jostling for business in a down economy and where perception is all it takes to alter a state's standing in the competition. Indiana is now seen as backward-looking -- which is always an easy sell to non-Hoosiers anyway.

     Forget about your and everyone else's sex life, or religion, or wedlockery or the extent to which they're willing to infuse a business transaction with religion and/or politics.  This state needs jobs.  J-O-B-S.  And what was conceived as, face it, a shout-out to the Republican base is backfiring on that whole "attract new and expanding employers to Indiana" front.  The massive Angie's List headquarters expansion project is on hold; they moved here from Ohio, in search of a better business climate, and they can move elsewhere; their business is mostly a massive database and communications support, just as easily run from Missouri or Inner Mongolia as Indianapolis.  The NCAA -- headquartered downtown along the Monon Canal -- is making noises about taking their Final Four business elsewhere.  And we're only a few days downwind of Indiana's RFRA.

     I keep hearing de jure readings from the Right pointing to the "strict scruntiny" requirements and how limited that makes this law; I'm getting plenty of de facto interpretations from the Left about how it's really a wink and a nod to kick LGBT folks outta the pool.  Both sides are invested in the issue. Lovely, really, but it doesn't matter.  That isn't what's at stake here. You can't put much in the collection plate if you don't have a job -- and you're darned unlikely to put together a big fancy wedding from the unemployment line.

     RFRA is a public-relations disaster.  In a Rust Belt state short on corporate HQs, competing with the other 49 states and the rest of the world for a shrinking pool of jobs, any edge you have matters -- and so does any edge you lose.  All the Legislature had to do was stay shut up and let Hoosiers work things out among themselves, while the state's generally pro-business laws and taxes did the heavy lifting.  They couldn't restrain themselves.

     Any time one party gets a firm hold on the Executive and Legislative wings of our triple-lobed gummints, foolhardy base-pandering is soon to follow.  In Indiana, it was GOP's turn and sure enough, nobody among them looked at the wider issues.

     The older I get, the more the phrase "legislative gridlock" appeals to me.  It's probably the best we can hope for.  We didn't get it this time 'round and look what happened.

     Indiana's RFRA is headed for the courts as soon as someone manages to establish standing.  The damage has already been done -- done to all Hoosiers, straight, gay, religious, secular, conservative and liberal alike. 

     ETA: Legal analysis here.
* Relatively uncontroversial: in 1997, application of the Federal RFRA to the state and local governments was challenged and fought all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that this Federal law applied only to the Federales.  It's an interesting case.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Oh, Really?

     Out and about yesterday and it was snowing.  Overnight lows were in the teens.  --Okay, possibly this is lamb-like behavior compared to the roaring snowfalls earlier in March, but this is getting tiresome.

Friday, March 27, 2015

TV Ads

     Maybe I don't hear ads on the TV properly -- when the woman in the commercial says, "Now I enjoy smooth skin every day," I'm thinking it's good she found a meal she likes, but she really ought to get more variety in her diet.

     The auto dealer's jingle runs, "[Dealer name]'s got your truck, man !" and I wonder why he'd steal some guys truck.

     They claim, "Buy now and save," and I compare the supposed "savings" with not buying and find the balance coming up negative.  They tell me, "Thirty days same as cash," and I'm wondering if it works like a court  sentence -- "Thirty days or one thousand dollars."  Heck, I might take a month off to huckster furniture in exchange for a new living room suite!

Thursday, March 26, 2015


     No photo -- it's colorful, but either your mouth waters as the notion of a three-pepper omelet with red chile, yellow Hungarian wax and pale-green Anaheim peppers in it, or you'd just as soon not see it.  A strip of bacon (in a big, three-egg omelet for two) provides some umami and a dab of African peri-peri sauce provides the heat, since these early peppers are flavorful but have no fire.

     Still, if you like peppers, this is a pleasant treat.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Presidential Paragon

     In comments to yesterday's post, I was asked who I'd tap for the Chief Executive job, having rejected Senator Cruz?

      Good question.

     I'd want someone who was serious about the job.  And not so set on making his mark on History or The World or Progress.  We elect these smiling bastards on the premise that they're some kind of savior.  They run campaigns as Men On Horseback, promising to "usher in a new day."

     I don't want a "new day."  I don't much want the "old days" back, either.  I sure don't care to see any Great Leaders: when you get a large-enough crop of them at same time, they foul up the whole world.  I just want the President (and Congress, and the Supremes) to do their jobs in a way that doesn't have me (or any other honest person) looking over my shoulder, wondering if it's time to head for the hills.  I want 'em to do their jobs in a way that minimizes the opportunities for people to go for one another's throats.  When metaphorical fires break out, I want 'em to put metaphorical water on them, not gasoline.

     I want to see -- just once!  -- a competent Chief Executive, someone who appoints the various Directors and Cabinet members on the basis of ability, not on how much money they donated, how stalwart a partisan they are or even plain chumship.  I want a President who'll hold 'em to account and send them packing if they screw up.

     I don't care if he or she is any good at giving speeches.  I don't care if the rest of the world loves them or hates them.  I don't care about the President's age, ugliness, gender, ethnic background, marital status or religion. I'm hoping not for a hawk or a dove but for someone who is slow to anger and measured but decisive in action, who acts only when action is truly necessary.

     I'd like another Calvin Coolidge.

     I'm not gonna get one.

     Voting in Presidential elections is a thing I do with great reluctance and after much deliberation.  They're all pompous, ego-driven fools and I'm reduced to trying to do the least harm with my vote.  I can usually vote for the Libertarian Party candidate with a clear conscience.

Monday, March 23, 2015

No Thanks, Ted

     It feels redundant to put any text here.  I have seen the Ted Cruz announcement and he was almost fractally unlikeable by my lights.  Oh, he kinda talks a good fight on a very few things, but most of them are things the President hasn't got the power to do.

     Mr. Mencken still snickers.  

     If you are a religious conservative, he may be your man.  That's fine.  I'm not and he isn't.

     (Sidebar: Ted Cruz is caricature-ready, from the slicked-back hair to the slicked-back accent, and as a result, I predict he will be a media darling for several weeks while they work out the best angles for his skewering and figure out who on the SNL cast will play him.  It will be interesting to see how he takes it.)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Too Soon Old; Too Late Smart

     The curse of age: the older you get, the crazier politicians become.

      If you are lucky, it'll only be about half of them. If you're me, it'll be around 97 percent.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Okay, I'm Awake Plus The Famous Exploding Manholes Return To Downtown!

     ...And my back hurts.  Been hurting all week.  More stones?  Oh, please no.  I'm drinking limeade, which is supposed to help.  Messed up and had a cola with supper two nights ago and that's a no-no.

     Meanwhile, downtown Indianapolis is in exploding-manhole mode again -- just in time for the Final Four!  Much unhappiness.  These are transformer explosions: old, overstressed transformers fail, covers pop off, oil sometimes spills and burns, but it happens in concrete transformer vaults under the street, with the prime danger being flying manhole covers. The local power company has been upgrading the power system downtown but it's a very slow process -- there's not a lot of redundancy, the hardware is costly, and they have to close off and dig up streets to do the work.  --They were also supposed to have installed retention cables on the manhole covers to limit how high they fly and how far they travel, but the news pictures I've seen so far suggest that's not completed, either.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Ode To The Foods Of Our Neighbo(u)r To The North?

     Featuring a mid-song change of heart:

Canadian Cooking
(to the tune of American Woman)

Canadian cooking, stay away from me
Canadian cooking, let that stuff be

Don't come 'round my kitchen door
Don't wanna see round bacon no more
I got less tasty things to do
Than spend my time gettin’ fat with you

Leaf maple,* stay away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Canadian cooking, stay off my plate
Canadian cooking, it’s an awful fate

Don't come 'round my kitchen door
Don't wanna see round bacon no more
Butter tarts can hypnotize
Feed someone else those backward pies

Leaf maple, go away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Canadian cooking, I said, get away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Don't come 'round my kitchen door
Don't wanna see round bacon no more
I don't need your hot poutine
Rappie pie or baked beans

Butter tarts can hypnotize
Feed someone else those backward pies

Leaf maple, go away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Canadian cooking, stay away from me
Canadian cooking...peameal bacon, please

I dunno, I gotta get a plate
Maybe, I’ll get a taste, otta try poutine

I'm gonna eat like a Canadian
I'm gonna eat like a Canadian
Y’know I’m gonna try
I’'ll maybe eat lots and sigh

A-yum yum, a-yum, yum
Yum yum, yum yum

Tastes so good to me and it’s so good for you
(Canadian cooking )
I’ll fill my plate right full up, that’s what I'm gonna do

I'm gonna eat ‘til I’m stuffed, that's what you better know
(Canadian cooking)
I'm gonna eat it oh yeah, I want to so

I gotta try, I gotta try Canadian cooking, yeah

(ETA: You may freely repost this parody provided you credit me, "Roberta X," and link back to this post.  Some people seem to have forgotten how this works.)
* It has been suggested that the French phrase "feuille d'erable" would work better.  Right number of syllables and yes, it's "maple leaf" and a proper nod to Canada's other language.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So, I Read More McDevitt

    This one a post-apocalyptic number called Eternity Road.  Different story, same problems: good characters, smooth writing, okay plot -- and utterly no grasp of the failure modes or speed of decay of concrete and asphalt roads in a midwestern- and northeastern-U.S. climate.  Additionally, the characters have books (including a precious few ancient printed ones), jewelers and gunsmiths but not moveable type; they understand what concrete is (there's a trick or two to concrete and the secret has been found and lost many times in human history) and take it for granted.  And so on.  At one point, a character describes a steam engine -- all except for the actual engine!

     He doesn't know what he doesn't know.  If he's dealing with technology so advanced it might as well be magic, he does fine.  If he's dealing with primitive tech, he does fine.  Stick him in an 19th-Century machine shop or a 20th-Century electronics lab and he's lost.

     Well-written books if you're an English major.  If you want to read post-apocalypsos you can dance to, try Kim Stanley Robinson's The Wild Shore or Stewart's Earth Abides.  Andre Norton liked the general theme, too, and had a better eye for what lasts and what doesn't.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Sure Sign Of Spring In The City

         Warmer weather must be here at last: on my way into work at oh-dark-thirty yesterday morning, the hookers and hustlers were still on their patches, visibly perking up at the approach of a fancy-looking car with only one person in it and fading back into the shadows when my speed never changed.

          This is not only an indication of better weather but of a still-lousy economy. The worse it gets, the more people you see working the street -- I'm not sure if this is because there really are more of them or if it's due to a decline in clients but outcome is the same either way.

          Cities have their advantages but on a dark-enough morning, the scales barely balance.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

H'mm, Again. Also: Books I Have Mixed Feelings About

I thought the Terry Pratchett announcement would be a good place to stop the blog but ideas keep floating to the surface. So maybe not. However, my health is still not what it should be and posting may be a little catch-as-can for awhile.

Recent reading has included three Jack McDevitt novels in the "Priscilla Hutchins" series. They are splendid trainwrecks; McDevitt has the mechanics of writing down pat and his science is good enough. His characters are often interesting but they're too often unnecessarily foolish. Alas, his technology is risible, starships engineered in ways that make absolutely zero sense and cardboard McGuffins he couldn't sell if you spotted him ten bucks and a fake expert. Also unsellable, in these books, set some two hundred years in the future, the culture of North America has barely changed, give or take union between the U. S. and Canada plus several feel of sea-level rise. To call this implausible is to give it too much credit -- consider the alien gulf between today and 1815. It just doesn't fly. The assemblage of nicely-drawn, well-meaning muddlers he trots forth are likeable and relatable, but none of them are especially competent. The books would be a better read if he could stay out of the engine room -- and could keep his people in the middle ranks, where most of them belong. It looks like hard SF but it's space fantasy with a good paint-job; the tech shrinks and expands as needed to fit the plot, FTL radio is tossed off with nary a handwave and FTL travel is apparently easier than a solo drive down the Isthmus of Panama. Frustratingly enough, there are occasional gems in this mud, wonderful stage-settings and edge-of-your-seat scenes, moments that carry you along through the silliness hoping for another flash of the good stuff. Flashes are all there are. These are "buy at the terminal/leave on the plane" books. If you're technically inclined, be warned: you're going to keep stumbling over the painted backdrops, canvas flats and foil-covered props. (McDevitt also wrote Ancient Shores, also long on sense of wonder and a bit fast-talking about tech and how long technological objects might last in working condition.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bloody Ferguson

     Unless you totally ignore the news, you already know that two police officers were shot and injured in Ferguson, MO around midnight last night.

     It was an all-too-familiar scene in the crappy little hamlet, protesters and police faced off at the police station.  The number of protesters was up a bit, though down from earlier yesterday, presumably in reaction to the announcement that the police chief would be resigning in a week.  ...And then someone well behind the row of protesters took shots at the police, striking two.  No one has reported seeing the shooter, which strikes me as likely: the officers had their attention on closer troubles and the opposite side wasn't looking in that direction.

     Yes, nothing improves a situation quite like shooting policemen, right?  --It's really difficult to see how anyone local (and of at least moderate sanity) had anything to gain.   Indeed, recent events were favoring the protestors -- a DOJ report critical of the way law enforcement and courts operate in Ferguson, MO, followed by a spate of firings and resignations among them officers, the police chief, a judge and the city manager.

     Every time there's even a hint of some resolution -- unsatisfactory but possibly sufficient, which is about as much as anyone can home for in a mess as spawling as Ferguson, Missouri -- more idiotic crap happens.

     I'm starting to favor a Solomonic solution.  Take a look at the map: Ferguson is embedded in the greater St. Louis metroplex.  Carve it up.  Hand it off in chunks to the surrounding towns.  If Ferguson's got such an outstandingly bad culture, replace it.  Surrounding towns aren't bleeding and burning at a rate that makes headlines; they must be doing something that if not right, is at least less wrong than the established habits of the government and people of Ferguson, MO.  Borders and town names are man-made artifacts, just labels and lines on a map.  Redraw 'em.  Rub out the mess.  Ferguson delenda est. 

     If that doesn't work, there's always what the Romans did to Carthage. --And heck, this is the 21st Century: give everyone two months to move out before knocking down all the buildings, uprooting all the plants, and sowing the ground with salt as a warning to all who pass: Don't be jerks.  They won't pay the lesson any heed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


     Let's try it again, shall we?  Oh, wait, I guess it's just me so very late off the blocks.  Feeling much better this morning, though every little twinge from my back triggers a chain reaction of thoughts: ohheavensno, is that another one?  How bad was that? Izzit on the right side this time?  Upper or lower?  Ow.  Do they happen four inna row?  --Four at a time?  Will it keep happening and happening...? And so on.

     Well, that's life.  We are indeed temporary structures, simultaneously tougher than we expect and more fragile than we might think, a marvelous self-repairing biological mechanism until some invisible internal process throws the wrong switch and we've got gout or RA or, yeah, kidney stones.

     Third paragraph -- right here's a good place to thank all of the people who have been concerned, made caring comments, remembered me in their thoughts and prayers.  You compassion has made it easier to deal with this little surprise.

     My friends and I are a hopeful lot, many with an engineering bent, and so first thoughts are that if only the right grade of bolt, or a fast-enough op-amp or better-written code could be applied, all would be well.  It doesn't work that way and while medicine has indeed become big business, doctoring hasn't quite: listen to me well when I tell you that if an onion half could draw out fevers or an inexpensive suspension of silver did even half as well as sulfa drugs (which themselves aren't as widely or powerfully effective as antibiotics), the smalltime, independent M.D.s would be using them, with a line of patients out the door and SchmidtClineAstoZydecoBeechnut would be working up a branded version quicker than you could say Joe Lister.

     I'm telling you there aren't any "miracle cures," and as for "secrets the doctors don't want you know," bullshit. The only people who say that are people who either a) don't know any doctors and/or b) want to separate you from your money.  Most physicians are overworked, or at least under considerable pressure, much of it from patient's expectations, and even with all their wonderful medicines, imaging devices and surgical advancements, they know they have not really got that much on the practitioner who took care of Julius Ceasar's ingrown eyelashes.  You want doctor's secrets?  Don't smoke.  Don't drink to excess.  Keep your weight down.  Watch your blood pressure, which is affected by salt intake.  And, listen good to this, it takes time to heal; your body does most of the work; pills and surgery just clear the path.  Doctors aren't hurting for patients, not now or ever; few of us -- heck, few enough of them -- take their advice and even those who do are eventually tripped up by time.

     I'm dealin' with the doctors and learning what I need to learn.  Illness isn't amateur hour for anyone but the sufferer. And, whine in public though I do -- and have to face up to it afterwards -- healing it is not really a spectator sport.

      Your good wishes helped a lot.  They are the very best medicine any person who's not a doctor or nurse can share.  Thank you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I'm Sorry, Gang

     Today is just not going to happen.  My back hurts plenty and I'm having to take the prescribed narcotic pain pills.  Keep thinking, "Okay, I've rested enough," but when I move, I start to hurt and my temperature spikes, followed by chills, followed by laying back down.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Dammit.

Monday, March 09, 2015

A Quick Personal Note

     Something changed about one or two this morning.  I'm still weak, incredibly sore and get occasional chills but the back pain has ramped down significantly.

     I have managed to keep a slice of toast down for about twenty minutes now, the first substantial thing I have eaten since early Saturday evening.  I haven't managed any ibuprofen since midday Sunday -- even taking it with a little food, I just couldn't retain it.  At least the antibiotics and heavy-duty pain pills mostly stuck with me.

     Really hoping this trend will hold.  It's a huge effort just to get from the bed to my desk, though, so I don't think I'm going anywhere today.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Save Daylight, Save The World

     Upset about having an hour taken from you while you slept?

     For shame!  Daylight Savings Time serves the common good: the hours we all lost overnight are collected by a temporal co-op, then washed, combed and spun into skeins of time and given to poor children, who are paid a "fair-trade" wage to knit them into sweaters that will be donated to homeless veterans.

     In Autumn,  the naturally-fallen homeless with be sustainably harvested, pressed and distilled to provide the extra hour that is freely redistributed to the people so we can set our clocks back.

     So you see, it's all part of the Great Circle Of Organized Collective Life.

Still Not Feeling Too Good

     At least I got some sleep.  Tummy upset, so you'll 'scuse me if I don't say too much right now?

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Oh, Darn It

     Seems I'm sick again.

     Off to the doc.

     Update: Because of both the hour and my symptoms, "doc" was the closest ER.   The diagnosis was not what I expected and, in fact, the personable young physician said, "You nearly fooled me; the symptoms matched but you were much too calm."

     Apparently, most people with kidney stones don't drive themselves -- and they usually demand and are put on IV pain meds early and often.

     Hunh,  And he'd even asked me about the "trigeminal neuralgia" that pops up at the head of my electronic file, which is fancied-up doc-speak for what I prefer to call migraines.  In fact, I hadn't taken any ibuprofen this morning, in case my innards were already working overtime, and the throbbing in my head was duking it out with the fires down below and making a pretty good showing.

     Unlike several characters in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle,* I am not going to undergo lithotomy -- just a course of medication designed to dilate the channels, along with powerful modern painkillers and -- by the physician's command -- plenty of good old Vitamin I. 

     This, too, shall pass.  It had damned well better.
* Utterly brilliant historical-fiction SF that out-steampunks steampunk seven ways from Sunday.  I already liked Stephenson -- Cryptonomicon settled that -- but this three-volume, eight-book story made me a total fangirl.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Goodbye, Handsome Dave

     My former co-worker, the man who was in many ways the model for the character "Handsome Dave" in my I Work On A Starship stories, passed away unexpectedly two days ago.  He was 54.  He had quit his job last April; he'd been doing plenty of outside work, where his remarkably wide array of skills and knowledge, along with his careful attention to getting things right, had earned him well-deserved respect.  At our mutual employer's, I always thought he was taken too much for granted; he was assigned to a lousy swing shift instead of it being shared across four techs.  (After he left, that same shift was split between three of us; it's still lousy and is certainly an inducement to find other work.)

     Always low-key, he resigned without fanfare (not even a going-away party -- after thirty years on the job!) and was said to be doing well, much relieved to be his own boss.  I kept meaning to call him, just to say hi, but figured he was busy.

     Dave valued skill and he was an exceptionally good listener; he was able to draw people out. The entire world was his school and he was an avid pupil.  He shared his knowledge, too; everyone in my department benefited from what Dave learned and then showed us.  He was the primary technician for our RADAR site, a somewhat cobbled-together collection of technologies that was abandoned by the contractor who performed the more recent upgrade nearly a decade ago.  Dave was among the small group of us that rolled back the messy, undocumented, hide-your-work-under-a-sheet tradition that had dominated the Engineering department.

     More than that, he was a friend.  Several years ago, during a run out to a machine shop in a mostly-Hispanic neighborhood, I pointed out the many nice little Mexican bakeries along the way; there'd been one in the small town where I grew up and, at least there, the pastries were outstanding.  A few weeks later, he called me, "You'd better get out to the warehouse.  I was coming back from the machine shop, stopped at one of those bakeries and bought way more than I should have.  It's your fault and you're going to have to help me eat this."  That was Dave.  (And the baked goods were better than I remembered.)

     Over six feet tall, with an iron-gray flat-top haircut (his hair stood straight up anyway, and he'd long ago decided to just go with it), he was usually dressed in Carhartts and hard-toed boots.  He looked like an action-adventure hero.  He deserved the nickname I gave the character, though he would have blushed to hear that..

     With his passing, the world got a little dumber, a little less competent.  It was too soon and too sudden, and none of us ever had a chance to say goodbye.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Speaking Of The Cinema, Dr. Watson--

     The Brits have got a Holmes-out-of-retirement flick to be released this summer. It stars Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes, deep into retirement in 1947, tackling an unsolved case.  I don't know the source material, but it could be interesting.  Alas, the trailer at the linked site is country-exclusive and the 'States aren't on the "kewl kids" list.

     Oh, here it is--

     Could be good.  Could be heart-wrenching.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

"Oh, no, no, no, NO!"

     I was getting out a plate for my dinner tonight (ham salad on a toasted "everything" bagel with diced radish) and a couple of saucers caught on the edge of the plate as I tugged it, one-handed, from the stack.  I had a radish and a paring knife in my other hand.  I didn't have my head in the game (I'd just realized I'm overdue to renew my license plates) and the saucers were falling before I realized it.

     A frantic grab secured one but I was out of hands for the other; I tried to get a leg up and slow the fall, and the whole time I was saying, "Oh, no, no, nonononoNOOOO!"

     My "china" is glass (Corelle, "Abundance," off-white with a harvest kind of pattern, a wide maroon stripe at the outside, a gap, a narrow dark-blue stripe, a wide gap and then a ring of leaves, vines, oranges, grapes in two colors and and cherries just inside the flat portion).  The saucer hit the ceramic-tile floor and all but exploded into tiny, sharp shards.

     I got my breath and projected. "Tam?  Tam, get the cats and shut them up in back with you! I dropped a plate."

     Roseholme Cottage has a door between the living room/dining room/kitchen and the hallway, bedrooms and bath.  Tam rounded up the cats, shut the door on them and offered to cancel her evening's online RPG.

     "Nope, it's my mess and I'll clean it up," twenty minutes of sweeping, mopping and wiping the flow down with damp paper towels, checking under and behind things and feeling for the telltale scritching of a shard of glass.

     And the whole time, I was slowly realizing that the slowed-time interval of watching the saucer falling irrevocably down, down to the hard floor and certain destruction is just a sped-up, compressed version of the way I feel about Time's arrow, pushing us all down the slope of entropy: No, no, NO!  But there's not a darned thing to do but save what you can, as much as you can, and try not to panic.

     At least dinner was good.

A Heinlein Film?

     Hollywood's taking on The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress again, after the first two tries melted away in Development Hell.  Jose Molina  Tim Minear (late of Firefly) had written a script a few years ago, but his name's nowhere to be seen on this incarnation.  (Corrected.  I knew better, once.)

     Will Tinseltown mess it up, if indeed the project moves forward?  It's a big, complicated story with a number of elements that are still mostly Big Science.  Minear's script, a sympathetic treatment by a guy who knew the source material, was drastically simplified and featured an old-fashioned printing press for set dressing and a showdown battle with the Warden, so, yeah, I think we can count on it.  If we're lucky, they'll get the look of the places right and maybe even the HOLMES IV, but I wouldn't expect more than that.  Update: Expect less.

     One of the biggest problems with efforts to put SF books on film is that as a general rule "movie" does not equal "novel."  "Novella," maybe, and a short one at that.  The best TV SF and fantasy programs got this right; many a classic Twilight Zone or Tales Of Tomorrow* episode is based on a short or even short-short story.  The movies aim higher -- and nearly always fall short.  Philip K. Dick's work makes it onscreen well -- changed, but it works.  Past that, I can't think of any SF films-from-SF-stories that are really worth watching outside of Destination Moon -- and it's become a period piece.
* TOT is not up to TZ's standard. The sets are often hokey; the acting is frequently not of the highest caliber; the old kinescopes are rough.  But it's almost the only other place you'll find classic SF from the likes of Kornbluth and Sturgeon on the screen.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


     Wow, the difference modern meds and a decent night's sleep -- almost a night and a half, in fact -- makes!  But now I gotta git: Mother Nature decided to ice up the roads this morning, making me just one of what the Network TV News tells me is over 125 million in the U.S. under some kind of weather Watch or Warning.  We need to grow thicker skins -- and start settling some other planets.  The domed-over or dug-in cities with central heating, air-conditioning and air renewal are looking better and better.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Yes, I'm Here, Patient 0.1β Of The Zombie Apolocalypso

     Went into work at 0230, went to the doc-inna-box after I got home, and have just now returned from the pharmacy.

     The schedule alone would send most people up the Zombezi at the helm of a padiddle,* or at least wanting to stock up on brains, and being sick on top if it is more than a mere garnish.  Picked up something nasty during my ailment weekend before last and now I've got two weeks of big ol' capsules to take -- and some little pills, to boot.  Ain't modern medicine grand?  Ain't havin' to call on it lousy?
* I debated leaving you hanging, but okay, grab an eyepatch and off ya go!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

That's Enough Winter, Okay?

     Dishes being swept out:

     Me after the first round of sweeping:

     Followed by getting the half-dozen sat dishes on the roof (fifteen-foot ladder climb!) and another round through the five at ground level a few hours later.
     Sure, sometimes it's kinda pretty.  Don't care.  I'm over winter.