Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Somebody Get Him Off Twitter

     Or, what the hell, leave him there.  It's a window into Mr. Trump's mind.

     In the run-up to the November election -- a "choice" between root canal and having a toenail removed -- I remarked that major-party voters were being asked to choose between a candidate who knew exactly what laws she wanted to get around and how to do so, or one who was unfamiliar with the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular.

     So thus we come to the President-elect's recent Twittering that flag-burning should not be allowed, and so doing ought to lead to loss of citizenship or maybe a year in jail (a rather interesting spectrum of choices).  This is wrong -- don't take my word for it, ask the Supreme Court -- for reasons fundamental to the very nature of the government the U. S. flag signifies.  Worse, the cockeyed notion that U. S. citizens are "allowed" various actions by their government is an inversion of the very nature of the relationship and assumes anything not permitted is prohibited.  That's not how it works around here.

     The flag is just a piece of cloth -- a symbol.  A deeply meaningful symbol.  One of things it symbolizes is freedom of speech.  Even obnoxious speech or expression.  Even disrespectful expression.  Burning the flag, for example. A flag you can't burn is a symbol protected by the force of the State, a limit on a citizen's free and peaceful expression.*  A flag for which respect must be enforced by men with clubs and guns does not stand for anything worthy of respect. And yet, when a protester (or a vandal) burns that piece of cloth, the symbol remains -- unless we besmirch it by damnfool infringements of the freedom of speech.

     "A republic, if you can keep it."
* Interestingly, a very strong case can be made against flag-burning in areas with a high risk of fire; if you set a flag on fire during a drought or in the middle of a crowded theater, the issue is a little more basic than freedom of speech.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Abite. Abscondas. Bellum.

     It looks better in Latin, though Tam points out it needs the imperative:* "Run.  Hide.  Fight."  This useful advice is getting more and more coverage in the wake of the latest outrage, a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University that was originally reported as a mass shooting by over-eager mass media.

     As chastened as they ever get by this mistake, reporter after reporter has been standing outside of the nearest higher educational institutional building, solemnly telling me what I already knew: when the unexpected strikes, you have three choices: Get away, get out of sight, or put up your dukes.

     None of these well-groomed talking heads have yet managed to point out that you must make a choice: "Freeze where you are" is how you get killed.   Observe, Orient, Decide, Act -- and do so with alacrity.  The order is important: if you can get away, you'll buy time summon help and/or take the subsequent options, if necessary.  At OSU, one student reported that after the cellphone warning, "military people" who were fellow-students in her classroom shut the door, directed the other students to get well away from it, and arrayed themselves to ambush anyone entering.  Unable to flee, they hid and prepared to fight.

     "Be Prepared."  "Semper Paratus."  What'll you do?  Take a little while to think about it now, so you can decide more quickly later if trouble comes your way.
* No Latin scholar, I get the too-verbose, "Oportet te currere. Tu oportet absconditus. Aut necesse est bellum," which I suspect (to the point of near certainty) makes a hash of the grammar.

Monday, November 28, 2016

That Glow Of Homeownerly Virtue

     Seven Eight bags of leaves on the porch.  Tam was a huge help in clearing the greater part of the back yard. Gutters cleaned and I have once more promised myself I'll install leaf screens.  More Northern Creeper pulled up and the heaped vines will probably fill four bags -- if I can bag it at all.  If not, it'll go in the Bagster we still haven't set up.

     The Northern Creeper is trying a desperation gambit: leaves on the driest parts are turning a brilliant scarlet!  Very lovely but it still has to go.  Without much in the way of a hard freeze so far (but just wait!), the ground is still soft and it's easier to pull up the long, wandering roots and runners of these vines.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's The End Of November And I'm Still Raking Leaves

     Three bags of leaves yesterday and still a small pile of leaves in the street, plus three big piles of them in the back yard.  And the gutters still need to be cleaned!

     Say what you will, it's better than snow.  Way better.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro Is Dead And I'm Supposed To Care

    Thing is, I don't. Yeah, yeah, the dude handed the former USSR their very own version of Airstrip One and together, they and JFK cruised to the brink of nuclear war, along about the time I lay in bed with rheumatic fever clawing at my joints, shrieking in pain any time footsteps made the floor move even a little (and what a treat that must have been for my parents, an annoyingly-sick kid plus the possibility of atomic annihilation. Or maybe Khrushchev dangling that sword overhead helped make it bearable: at least if the commies started WW III, my parents and pre-teen sister wouldn't have had to tiptoe every time they went down the hall).

     Thing is, civilization blundered through and past that and Cuba settled down to a long, hungry stretch of irrelevance.  Sure, there was the occasional airliner hijacking, misfit revolutionaries trying to export themselves to a country that had already had its revolution and didn't want any more, no thank you Mister yanqui.  And there was the far larger flow of people headed the other way on whatever they could manage to get floating or, tragically, not quite.

     But that was it.  Cuba was no worker's paradise, but then, it never had been.  Poor as it was, the inadequate provisions of a communist regime were still more than the majority of Cubans had known.  Propped up by Soviet largess, exporting sugar and a few luxury consumables to the Warsaw pact, Cuba tottered on.  Michael Moore praised Potemkin-villiage hospitals and missed the struggling, undersupplied health-care providers serving the vast majority of Cubans; the country exported doctors and revolutionaries wholesale and retail, and it still never much mattered.  Castro handed off the reins to his slightly younger brother and so what?

     Castro's dead and so what?

     The TV is treating him like a movie star.  It wasn't a movie, people.  It was real and it still is.  You want to know the truth about economic systems?  Compare Florida and Cuba, 90 miles apart at their closest approach.  90 years and a century of progress; the difference between the poorest Cuban and the poorest Floridian can be measured by the dumpsters they dive into seeking dinner -- well, the Floridian does; Cubans still can't afford to throw edible food away.

     Capitalism, much like democracy, sucks; but in practice, it sucks way less than any other economic system the human race has devised.

     Castro's dead.  The only-slightly-better-off-than-before Cuba he built remains.  Talk about that, TV.  Even just a little.

Friday, November 25, 2016

'Twas The Day After Thanksgiving

     Or, as I often know it, the Day I Work While My Family Does Thanksgiving -- but bear in mind that every other member of the family has children and we're at a point in the generational cycle where the kids are all at diapers-through-grade-school ages, so the holidays are built around them.  Which I think is as it should be.  I'm especially pleased their parents don't try visiting all of their extended families in one day; that's no fun even for adults.

     For me and Tam, the day started with a couple of mashed-potato pancakes and a slice of delicious applewood-smoked bacon.  I added a fried egg.  There may better breakfasts, but none of them are very much better.  I even had a small glass of eggnog!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

We Ate This

     Tam's plate, Tam's photo:

     Turducken, skin-on mashed potatoes (with a few other root vegetables added) with bacon-mushroom gravy, smoky and rich; green beans and store-bought biscuits.  I have Vernor's Ginger Ale to drink and she had... Gose?  Okay.

     I liked it.  She seemed to, too.

Yes, It's Thanksgiving

     So why are you on the Web?

     Oh, that.  Alone.  Been there, done that.  Hey I'm thankful you stopped by; at least there's that.  For whatever comfort is in it (rather a lot) with the Internet, with modern mass media, no one needs to be entirely alone; it takes effort to get away unless you're already in the back of the beyond, past the end of the streetcar lines and out from under the RF footprint of the last cellphone tower.

     Here at Roseholme Cottage, I am fixing to prepare to put the turducken in the oven -- no idle string of words, that, since I store baking pans and a couple of specialized skillets in the oven, all of which need temporary locations elsewhere, and I want to recheck under the stovetop after The Great Grease Spill Of Several Weeks Ago.  I think I got it all but it's better to be sure.

     Coffee and toasted cinnamon-raisin bread first, along with a little blogging.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gotta Be Thankful

     A recent quote I encountered on the web points out, "...There is no 'cause:' poverty is the default state.  We should be figuring out what causes prosperity," or words to that effect.

     It's got a visceral reality for me because I have been poor, "working poor" as they put it, which is a kind of prosperity in and of itself.  At one point, I was working two full-time jobs that paid barely above minimum wage: two different shifts, four eight-hour days, three 16-hour days, and no days off except for the occasional holiday.  I was able to keep my nice rented house on the outskirts of Broad Ripple and my nice (no it wasn't) Chevy Cavalier and so on.  You come to appreciate 24-hour supermarkets and extended-hours "doc-in-a-box" places when you work like that, but it's a delicately-balanced thing and when my Chevy got rear-ended about 1:00 a.m. one weekday (by an AAA-contractor's wrecker, no less), it unraveled.  A month later, I was down to one job and living in a 400-square-foot apartment, mostly on ramen noodles and hot dogs.  I did that for nearly a year, and then they laid everyone off from that job--

     Yeah, life's tough and at no point was I living in a cardboard box; I ended up in the spare room of my parents house, with all my things stacked up in their garage and did that for six months, working weekends at a radio station for gas money.

     My present job is what pulled me from what looked like a dead end.  This job has been better than it is now -- and it's been worse, too.  I'm thankful to have a job when so many people don't.  There are plenty of people who'd find instant noodles and a hot dog a huge upgrade from their regular diet. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Not Quite How It Was

     Good Girls Revolt is an Amazon Original fiction series loosely based on a factual book by Lynn Povitch (who was there for it all) about the ground-breaking lawsuit filed by researchers at Newsweek over the magazine's sex-based employment practices* -- and you've frowned. haven't you?  Wait, wait--

     Good Girls Revolt is a lush and generally faithful recreation of a news magazine's office in 1969-70, with a cast better-looking than real people ever are; the women all pretty and the men seem to have been picked for period-actor looks, with a Robert Redford-ish reporter front and center and Martin Landau copy in a supporting role.  Costuming is remarkable, at least to my eye: I was twelve in 1970 and the cast is wearing what I remember as "grownup clothes," note-perfect and often a bit fashion-forward for the time.   They're behaving very much as an office-ful of mostly-young, bright, newsy-type people would have behaved, too.† The office looks about right, too, clunky metal desks, rolodexes, dial telephones and typewriters--

     Then, jarringly, the camera serves a close-up of someone dialing a telephone -- with the writing end of a clicker-type ballpoint.  No, no, you didn't do it that way, because it would scratch the numbers on the dial plate; you used the rounded end where the clicker is and you were more likely to use the eraser end of a pencil or the rounded plastic end of a cap-type ballpoint (boys, you do this to spare your manicure -- still do, in fact).  But there was something else that bugged me about the reporter area and the "pit" where researchers toiled.  Last night the light finally dawned: nearly everyone has their typewriter sitting front and center on their desk, just where you'd put a computer keyboard!

     No, no, a thousand times no.  Those desks have, I'll bet, perfectly good pull-out or swing-out typewriter shelves, set lower than the desktop and with good reason: typewriters are way taller than computer keyboards.  Many of the reporters have IBM Selectrics, the ne plus ultra of its day and still mighty desirable, if your desires turn that way.  But the Selectric's spacebar alone is a good three inches above the surface it sits on, if not more!  Nobody who writes for a living (and most who do so for fun) can comfortably use one on top of a thirty-inch high office desk for long.   And yet every foregrounded character in the series does just that, with Selectrics or full-sized manual typewriters, even researchers who can't be more than five feet tall in high heels.  So here's this wonderful set dressed with new-appearing period pieces and filled with wonderful people in 1969-70 clothing, a past recreated with nearly otaku-level devotion on three levels plus staircases, and on every level, you will need to look carefully to find a typewriter in its proper place. You might not find even one.  

     Story and cast deserve a lot of credit: I didn't consciously notice this until idly watching an episode for the second time as "background noise" while I had supper, when suddenly realization jelled -- and jarred.

     How many things do historical dramas get wrong that we never even notice?
* Men wrote.  Women "researched," which could consist of a full first draft of a story and at a minimum was a file of information they'd hunted up, and then did a full fact-check of the finished story, citing a source for every assertion. This process was routine at news magazines at that time, and yet they could still get things wrong: all reporting is subjective. What wasn't routine was the institutionalized segregation of task by sex; Time did so from the outset and Newsweek followed suit.  By 1969, it was "the tradition."  It was also illegal and had been since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but no one had noticed.  It mostly got ironed after the EEOC complaint and subsequent lawsuit but institutional habits linger and Povitch's book, by no means a screed or polemic, sheds interesting light on just that.

† Well, mostly.  Some of the the people who worked at the real-life Newsweek during that time have suggested the TV series may have downplayed the amount of sleeping around that went on -- which is surprising, considering there's a lot of it at the fictional News Of The Week by modern standards.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Luggage?

     Decades before Terry Pratchett, I seem to have encountered The Luggage in Harry A. Franck's Vagabonding Down The Andes:*
     If only Edison would take a day off to invent a baggage on legs that would trot, dog-fashion, after its owner -- just a modest little baggage of, say, fifty pounds -- it would revolutionize life.
     [ibid, pg. 197]
     Yes, there it is, The Luggage, give or take a few pounds, extra legs and a more-truculent attitude, trotting along in Mr. Franck's imagination.  Who knew?
* I should warn 21st-Century readers that Franck, writing in 1916 or so, was very much a man of his time, which is to say causally and by default racist, and willing to attribute to ancestry any number of traits we would today lay to poverty, poor nutrition, isolation or lack of opportunity.  That said, he's a fairly keen observer once his prejudices are taken into account, and his story of a walking trip though areas about a remote as any that could claim to be civilized in a day before radio and with only the slenderest threads of communication with the wider world is eye-opening.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Home Made Hash Browns

     C'mon, there's just about nothing in them -- oh, I added a little pepper, dehydrated onion, chives and a dash of salt, but really, all it takes is potatoes, an old-fashioned kitchen grater* and some manner of cooking "grease:" oil, butter, bacon fat, lard, duck fat (!) or perhaps a modern synthetic (do they still sell olestra? I never took to it).   Shred the potatoes coarsely into a bowl, drain it if you'd like (less liquid makes for slightly faster cooking and a crunchier texture). Form into patties, mash flat and fry in a lightly greased skillet until golden brown, or darker if you prefer, turning as needed (the thicker they are, the more times you'll flip them).  I sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on the top before the first turning, I guess for luck.

     I shredded and drained a couple of left-over Russets that were in danger of going soft and fried them up four patties at a time.  My four are still in the skillet; Tam says hers were plenty tasty.  (Update: and mine are done and mostly eaten.  Not bad, I must say.)
* The one I use is so primitive -- a sheet of stainless steel bent over a thick wire formed into a rectangle that serves as a handle at the short ends, the sheet stamped with coarse, medium and fine graters plus a simple slicer -- that I can't even find an example in Wikipedia or at Amazon.  It's inexpensive and works well enough, if you mind what you're about.  Whatever you use, all of these graters trace back to a 16th-Century cheese grater, invented by a fellow who presumably figured there were better things to do than finely chop hard cheese by hand with a knife.  Box graters are an upgrade and can be had for under ten dollars.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

What A Luxury!

     I slept in until 8:30, then made coffee and a simple treat -- scrambled eggs with pan-toasted cubes of leftover sourdough garlic bread from last night's supper, kalamata olives and sliced tomato on the side.

     The cold wind is whipping chimney smoke sideways and making the trees shimmy.  Earlier, we had thin sleet and spitting snow, but the sky seems to having given up on that.
     A good day to stay indoors!

     (Last night's supper?  Three-meat chili: a little ground sirloin and a little stew meat cut up small, rolled in plenty of dark chili powder, plus a chorizo sausage, fresh-ground pepper, a little salt and browned with onion, a couple of carrots, a poblano pepper and a couple of fresh tomatoes [added in that order with a little time between -- be nice to that poblano, they don't like being overcooked], and then  a small can of mild Hatch chilis and a couple cans of tomatoes -- one cubed, the other diced -- added and the whole thing cooked down for a half-hour or so, and served with [yes, I am a barbarian] sourdough garlic bread.  Also some fresh chopped jalapeno peppers to add to taste -- I do like them raw.  This is a fairly mild chili that can easily be "revved-up" by the individual diner with the jalapeno or some hot sauce.  Tonight it will get Midwesternized by the addition of red beans and I think maybe canned corn, too, and some Pepper Jack cheese to top it.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Dozen Bags Of Leaves

     That's what's sitting out at the curb, or they were last time I looked.  Tam set most of them out; I grabbed the four from the back yard early this morning and added them.

     It's supposed to rain and turn sharply colder tonight, so we may be out of the leaf-raking business for awhile.  Forty big 33-gallonish paper bags of leaves so far.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cowardice? Misinformation?

     Magical thinking?  I want to know what the overlap is between the people who were convinced President Obama "could do more about guns" as in gun control but for some reason wasn't, and the people who are professing abject fear at what President-elect Trump is going to do to their own "community" or some other group once he takes office.

     Dammit, that's not how it works.  Presidents do not have all that much of that kind of power.  In addition, the inertia of the Federal bureaucracy is simply mind-boggling, and not for lack of trying: they really do have to do obsessive dotting of "i"s and crossing of "t"s and painfully-detailed bookkeeping in order to keep the behemoth staggering along.  Remember reading about FDR having the Japanese-Americans rounded up and put in camps during WW II?  Ain't ever gonna happen again; the war'd be over before they'd set up a committee to generate the form to fill out (in multiple copies) to establish the office to hire the people to make the lists to hand to the cops to go around door to door and start rounding people up.

     I never thought of the U.S. Constitution as being particularly abstruse but it might as well be written in Latin on bronze tablets buried inaccessibly beneath the Washington Monument for all the understanding of it many people are presently showing.

     U.S. Presidents aren't magical -- they are not magical good and they're not magical evil.  Oh, they try sneaky stuff, each and every one of them, and you can thank the vast, slow morass of the for most of the corner-cutting tricks they try; but they get caught at it with monotonous regularity and the more visible their target, the more quickly they get caught -- and, usually, stopped.

     As a general rule, Republicans get a fishier eyeballing from the press than Democrats.  That's just how it goes; reporters tend to lean that direction and no matter how even-handed they set out to be (and some don't), it's the stuff that gets under a person's skin that gets reported on.

     I don't think Mr. Trump is a saint.  I think he has the attention span of a housefly and he appears to have the social graces of a tipsy carny.  I'm leery of many of his political associates.  But I know he's being watched by people eager to catch him putting a foot wrong, and not merely the easy "gotcha" journalism of finding crass comments made into live mics -- there's a whole press corps out there, looking for Watergate-level skullduggery.

     And yet there are people quaking in their boots over him, anticipating wickedness on a grandiose scale.  Gotta tellya, I don't think he's up to it.  I know he couldn't get away with it.  The United States has been lurching along with Presidents who were messed-up enough to want the lousy job for a very long time now, and the checks and balances do a fine job of keeping Congress and President and Supreme Court busy trying to throttle one another.

     I still think we'd've been better off with Gary Johnson in the White House.  But noooo, the majority never wanted a free-trade hippie, especially a slightly silly one.  Okay; we've got what we got, and somewhere offstage, H. L. Mencken is snickering at members of both major parties.  Don't give his ghost reason to snicker at you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Optical TDR?

     Nothing too deep this morning.  I'm just wishing I had access to an expensive piece of test equipment -- or that I had been able to hunt up the much cheaper flashlight-and-light-meter gadget we used have at work.  There's a piece of damaged, multi-strand fiber optic cable about seven hundred feet up in the air -- it's supported on a structure, though not one I can climb, I'll send up a professional -- and I need to determine if it's a little broken, or a total loss.

     This could be interesting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Idiots; Paint; The Rule Of Law

     So, inartistic -- and generally inarticulate -- ijits have been spray-painting other people's walls at what may be a greater incidence and with possibly a greater proportion of racial or religious or hookedy-crossedy sentiments?

     First off, where were you since "tagging" started to be a thing, outside of your nice little whitebread communities?  Second, if you've spent the last eight-plus years telling little Tommy and Billy and Susie the Republicans are, to a man, The Debbil and warning them that if they don't eat up all their bumbershoot and carry vegetables when it rains, the Big GOPper will get 'em, you're part of the problem -- because when those kids reach the age of rebellion, some of 'em are gonna go paint the nastiest, vilest things they can think of on walls, and some of 'em will be especially brazen about it if they figure Pure Evil is in the catbird seat.

     Thirdly: kids, I know you think you're just badass as can be, but about the first time you cross paint streams with a gen-u-ine gang-type tagger, they are going to mess you up.  And if they don't, remember those wicked, nasty, heartless Republicans you are figuring will wink at your petty-ante wickedness?  They've got their flaws but most of them are foursquare in favor of property rights having mondo precedence over your right to express yourself on other people's walls.  Cross paths with, oh, the police, and you'll be lucky if Community Service is all you get.  Cross paths with the wrong householder and it could be worse.

     It was rude and illegal to paint stuff on walls that don't belong to you last year.  It's still illegal.  It's still nekulturny.  --And if you are minded to paint stuff on your own walls and blame punks, to score points or get fifteen minutes of fame?  Why, that's illegal, too.  So let's everybody play nice, or play a tune on the jailhouse bars with a battered tin cup. -- At best.

Monday, November 14, 2016

N. B.: Names

     I will be continuing to refer to Presidents -- -elect, ex- and standing -- along with other prominent political figures, by using honorific and last name, full name, naked patronymic or on rare occasions, by first name. 

     This making-up of cutesy-insulting distortions of people's names, dredged-up ancient versions the family hasn't used since Ellis Island and/or combinations with the names of infamous dictators is childish.  Don't like the person?  Say so.  Better yet, say why.

     It's not going to be easy to avoid writing "The Donald" or "Hils," or (because I delight in obscurity) making reference to Marlo Thomas's long-suffering television boyfriend, but I'll make the effort.

Leaves, Leaves...

     Tam and I raked up leaves yesterday -- five bags already, and five leafpiles that will probably fill two or three more.  This is about as good a job as we have done keeping up and I am hoping to have them all bagged and gone before the first snowfall.  We only manage that about half the time.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's Sunday

     Time for some real Brotherhood-of-Man stuff.

     You know why all men are, well, cousins, at least?  Because, generally, your ancestors couldn't keep their pants on.  Punch that horrible person over there, and you've hit your g'g'g'g'grandparent's descendant.

     We're all made out of meat.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"I Don't Feel Safe"

     That's the catchphrase -- people who think Mr. Trump's election to the Presidency has put them in danger.

     Listen up, kid: you weren't safe on 7 November, either, or 7 October, or, by golly, 12 November.  The laws of the land have not changed and neither has the fact that a very few of your fellow-humans are willing to do you harm.  Nevertheless, it's still illegal to beat people up, unless they hit you first and you win the fight by main force.  The same haters that worry you now were around earlier in the year and they were just as hateful -- and just as much a tiny fraction of your fellow citizens.  Your friends are still there, as are all of the in-between people, from the ones who like you well enough all the way to the ones who can't stand you but won't bestir themselves even so far as to scowl across the bus station at your purple hair or the "I LIKE IKE" sticker on your valise.

     It's the same world and you can still turn to the cops for protection -- no, really, you can; even the most stereotypically-mean officer of the law finds it hard to turn away from a scared person asking for help, and the mean ones are, yes, a tiny percentage of the force.

     This is the reality we live in: most people aren't out to get you.  Don't confuse jerks, fools and the occasional artist spray-painting walls (usually in the dead of night or at least when nobody's looking) with every man's hand being raised against you.

     Most people just don't care that much.  Personally, I take great comfort in that; on the other hand, I'm a tall, vaguely butch-looking* mostly-white† woman, and when I can't blend into the background, I can usually loom and get by with no more than muttered insults and dirty looks.  Not everyone has that luxury and that's got to make for greater worry.

     Sure, elections matter.  Who won matters.  But it doesn't change the laws of the land; it doesn't change the norms of civilized behavior.  On a practical level, the Feds aren't going to change state laws or city ordinances because they can't; and they're unlikely to go after settled Federal law because A) they are not as ambitious as all that, and B) it's a can of worms they dare not open.  You think there are people protesting in the streets now?  Ha!

     And about those "people in the streets:" hell, I'm scared.  Not of folks marching with signs and chanted slogans; yes, do that.  Smash windows and burn cars, throw stuff at people, block freeways?  Don't do that.  It's fraught with danger.  There are plenty of scared kids and scared adults who don't need to be any more scared and your signs show up a lot better when there aren't drifting clouds of tear gas or muddy bootprints in the way.

     If safety-pin "safe person" badges don't get politicized with a crapload of barely-related side-issues in the same manner as the Gadsden Flag, I'll wear one.  I'm not here to make anyone but genuine initiators of force feel afraid and if I can make somebody worry even a mite less, I'd count that as a good thing.  What kind of dreadful person wouldn't?
* Not so butch as all that -- I barely own a flannel shirt and I wouldn't be caught outside the house without lipstick and mascara.  But I wear Carhartt dungarees by choice and carry a Leatherman tool on my belt; nobody sends me to fetch coffee and they're surprised that I sew, at least well enough for mending.  Don't think my somewhat-forbidding "look" cannot be leveraged when needed or that I would refrain from so doing.
† As I may have mentioned before, we're not sure what the remainder might be -- Cherokee and/or "passing" African-American, so long ago that my ancestress is barely a memory and a line on a census tally.  I just hope she had a happy marriage and a fulfilling life.  I hope she felt safe.

Saturday! Slept In!

     Yes, I did.  I slept in.  An hour.  Oooo, I'm a rebel.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Stop, And Remember

     There will be parades today, parades of men and women, old and young -- a lot of young men, many of them maimed.

     Isolationist or hawk, pacifist or convinced that the compelling and immediate power of organized violence ought to be used to further the ends of the State: no matter what you believe, you owe these people respect.  They stepped up and put life and limb on the line.  They didn't set the policy; they didn't decide where they would be sent.  They volunteered to be the tip of the spear, the edge of the blade, to work long hours for low pay and risk blood and breath in the process.  It's not much for you to stop a moment, to wave or nod or bow your head, very little compared to what they put on the line, and no matter what you think of this country's wars and the politicians who choose them, the warriors are just people like you, who have faced risks and privation you will never know.  Give them a smile, a nod; acknowledge their service.

     On this eleventh day of the eleventh month, I try to stop and put myself in the position of those who, at the eleventh hour, saw the meatgrinder of the first truly modern mechanized war finally grind to a halt.  The world was young then, young enough for grandiose gestures and grand thoughts, and thus it was that the "War To End All Wars" was ended at 11:00 on 11/11.  It didn't stick and perhaps the most cynical and war-weary knew it wouldn't; but they wanted it to. 

     The years from a little before the turn of the century to 1914 were years of great progress and great change; they were good years, especially for men of European descent in Europe and North America.  When war broke out, many on both sides expected a short, victorious conflict; in the United States, most Civil War veterans were of dozing-by-the-fire age.  Few expected the war to be as terrible as it was. 

     As terrible as it was, it was not a lasting lesson to governments on the avoidance of war, and as much at odds with our comfortable, modern civilization as the waging of wars may seem, we should never forget that WW I came as no less of a jar, in a time equally as forward-looking.  Wars, it seems, are more inevitable than progress and the threat of force hovers unspoken over all diplomacy.  Force not in abstract but in the concrete form of individuals, of "boots on the ground."  Soldiers.  Sailors.  Airmen.  Warriors.

     We should never forget those who step forward, away from comfort and complacency, to serve.  This day is a day to look them in the eye and to thank them; a day to see them not as symbols but as individuals, neighbors, relatives, spouses.

     Thank you for your service.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Protests In The Street, You Say?

     Riots and near-riots over the election of Donald Trump?  --Don't come to me about Barack Obama having received the most hostile reactions of any President-elect, okay?

     I happen to think dissent is a good thing, no matter which party's candidate wins and no matter where that individual's ancestors hailed from.  Presidents ought to be questioned, checked, fact-checked, their trash dug through and they should receive vociferous disagreement from people with differing notions.  It keeps 'em honest, or as honest as politicians get.

     For that matter, if you agree with the winner, hold his feet to fire to pay off on his actual campaign promises.  Tam just now remarked there was much rejoicing in the editorial offices she gets paid from.  Now the associated political-action groups are looking to the incoming class of legislators to come though on their issues -- and to the President as well, though as I have to keep pointing out, U. S. Presidents don't make laws.*  (They do, however, veto them, though I think they do so far too rarely.)

     We didn't elect a King and his Royal Advisors; we elected a big-talking business mogul to the office previously held by a haberdasher, college professors, sons of privilege, small-time lawyers, would-be Supreme Court Justices (look it up) and engineers. We're gonna make him live over the store and he'll be on call 24/7/365.  We also elected members of two of the oldest cut-from-whole-cloth deliberative bodies in the world.†  In 2017, they'll roll up their sleeves and go to work.  Do you intend to let them do so without proper supervision?
* Yes, yes, Executive Orders, blah, blah, blah.  They can do some things.  It's really not so much, and liable to get slapped down by the other two branches of the if they try to go too far.
† A mere babe in arms compared to the Isle of Man's Tynwald, Iceland's Althing, and several other Scandanavian legislative assemblies; even the UK's Parliament dates back to the 13th Century.  But they evolved; ours came about like Athena from the head of Zeus, and has endured.  Most don't.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

I Had Not Expected This Outcome

    Fell asleep over a close race for Chief Executive, with Sec. Clinton having a thin margin over Mr. Trump -- and woke around 1:45 this morning to discover NBC's pundits working their way through the Five Stages of Grief and declaring the contest for Mr. Trump.

     While I figured it for a close race, I had thought the high turnout and hot-button issues would give Sec. Clinton a slight edge and tip the balance in the electoral college.  I hadn't counted on the electorate being as fed up as they have shown themselves to be.  I wasn't looking forward to four years with a vindictive, wrong-headed authoritarian in the White House. 

     Instead, we'll have four years of a feckless authoritarian in the Oval Office.  The press will loathe him with a loathing hitherto reserved for Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew,* which is one of the most sure checks and balances we've got.  Given only a choice between a conniving person who knows exactly what laws she's got to sneak by or subvert, or a high-concept guy who still seems hazy on the Constitution as amended, to say nothing of the broad sweep of Federal law and custom going back to George Washington, I suppose I'll take the latter, whose own party has a vested interest in keeping him from going off the rails and who will be "...scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize and study the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water,"† by both the media and his political opposition.  He's got big dreams, Mr. Trump has, or at least big talk, but he's got the same old Constitution and the same old Congressional mulishness over their powers and prerogatives.  He'll have many of the same bureaucrats.  They'll do what they were intended to do: be gumbo mud under the hooves of any Man (or Woman) on Horseback.  The job may not make the man, but it tends to make him color inside the lines or face the consequences.

     The other positive is that once again, we have reminded the rest of the world, especially Europe, that the United States of America is, by their standards, absolutely crazy.  This is, though they deny it, reassuring to them; they rely on America having a basement full of guns and gunners when they get into a spat or become worried about their nearer neighbors, and while they'd never admit it, Europe worries when the U.S. looks to be becoming too much like them.  Based on their campaign utterances, Mr. Trump is actually less of a hawk than Sec. Clinton, but that fact matters not in the face of overseas public perception.

     The "alt-right" will claim Mr. Trump's victory for themselves but they're a by-blow, freeriders; Americans have never much liked Nazis and, soon or late, they stop overlooking hateful fascists.  Eventually, the white-sheeted bravos kidnap the wrong woman and it all comes crashing down.  I'll be watching them closely and calling them out when merited; the alt-right is a greater enemy to freedom than Bernie Sanders could manage on his best day.

     The next four year promise to be interesting.
* Seriously, young'ns, W had it easy compared to Nixon, largely because he's more likeable and enormously less hostile towards the press.  Agnew had a more nuanced relationship to the press: mutual hatred, tempered by his remarkable quotability, a combination of good speechwriters and innately grandiose habits of speech.  If you're a reporter on the beat, happy days are indeed here again!
† Wells, H. G., The War Of The Worlds, 1898.  We've turned it on Martians -- or the lack thereof -- and you can be assured that we'll turn it on The Man, at least for a given value of "we."  He's not going to be able to open a bottle of beer in the Rose Garden without hostile eyes spying out the label and making snarky comments.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

As You Go A-Voting

     Remember to vote just the once, if indeed you vote at all.  Edgar Allen Poe may have died of over-voting and a careful search through the tinfoil-hat sites of Left and Right will likely unearth at least one suspiciously-vague tale of modern fraudulent voters being led to slaughter and dumped in an anonymous ditch once their usefulness has passed.  Don't be like them:* vote no more than once and be on the qui vive when you do!
* This also includes not being the flamboyantly imaginary product of a disordered mind.  Avoid that; it can't possibly be nice.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Yes, It's Swing Shifts

     And thus I am awake at what, to most people, is the middle of the night, or at least very late.  It's early from where I sit, though none too early; there's breakfast in front of me (simple "breakfast hash" of fried potatoes, bacon and an egg), a couple of pairs of jeans in the dryer, and an entire Monday ahead, stretching out for hours.  Of course, to me it's "Tuesday," since I had Monday on Sunday, and no Sunday at all.

     For two pins, I'd bundle up and ride the scooter -- at least until I remember the several pins in my knee and the difficulty of reading downtown's pockmarked road surfaces by headlight and streetlight.  It's chilly enough to keep all but the most desperate of desperadoes indoors, and that's kind of tricky to weigh, too.  Four and a door feels safer than two and none, though it is largely a notional sort of safety. Tuesday may rain but the remainder of the week is forecast to be sunny and seasonal.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Go Team Us!

     On Saturday, Tam and I managed to rake up all the leaves, bag all of them in the front and side yards, and mow the front and side yards.  That's more than I thought we'd manage.

     Still to be done, bagging the back yard leaves and mowing that part of the lawn.  Also some string-trimmer work along the fences and the stubby driveway.  And I think we have two piles of leaves raked from along the curb to bag, since the City only runs a street-sweeping machine on our street twice a year, if that..

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Another One-Day Weekend, Another--

     Oh, screw this.  I have leaves to rake and a litter box to change.  I had hoped to do something almost NaNoWriMo-ish this year, but between the demands of work* and me being too flippin' much of a sensitive snowflake, that is looking unlikely.

     Life's tough all over and mine, sucky though it can be, is of such relative luxury that 99% of the human beings who ever lived would think I was royalty.  Three generations back, my ancestors had dirt floors and relived themselves in a hole in the ground -- if they were lucky.  Luckier still if they got the Sears catalog. So waah, and move on.
* I have two "number-one priority" tasks at present, each very time-intensive, and it depends on complex alignments among my bosses and their bosses which one I work on at any given time.  Then I'm often the only person in the Engineering shop, and a fair amount of our work is walk-in, along the lines of, "Hey, I need this widget for something that has to get done today, but all the knobs fell off and it came apart.  After I tried to get the mud out of it...  Oh, from when it went into the swamp...   Because my dog was chewing on it, and when I chased him, he ran down there.  That was after I plugged it in and sparks came out.  I need it in fifteen minutes." or, worse yet, we get jobs over the intercom or PA system, "Engineering to Room B," and you run down there empty-handed, to learn that a programming error has run two very expensive robots into one another and they need to be back online right now! Then when I return to the workshop, one of my three bosses is there and I get a stern look or a talking-to about Staying On Task.  I smile and thank them for doing such a nice job of riding herd on scatter-brained little old me.  Why?  Because it pays the Big Bucks, or as big as spinster with no formal education has any right to expect. But wow, some days I hate it from the flower right down to the roots, and every night I grind my teeth in my sleep.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Compare And Contrast

     From the lede para. of a 2014 Slate article on Global Warmening:
     "...[N]onindustrial areas, such as Greenland and the Antarctic, experience the industrial pollution generated in the United States and in Russia, to mention just two countries."

     Why, those filthy, black-hearted bastards in the States and Russia!  Don't they care about the starving poor in, oh...China?*

     From a 2014 article at
    China produces and consumes almost as much coal as the rest of the world combined

     Hey, kids, do you know what's the dirtiest stuff you can burn to make energy? ...Coal. And did you know which country does the least amount of stack scrubbing to clean that stuff up? C'mon, guess.

     Life's tough.  It's tougher if you're stupid.
* In fairness, the article does make passing mention of China's emissions, three paragraphs down, though it fails to point out that country's commanding lead in pollution production.

Conversation In The Washroom

     So there I am at work, washing my hands, when one of my friends -- I'll just call her "D," since that's not any of her initials -- steps up to the next sink over and remarks, "This election's getting close, isn't it!"

     I roll my eyes, "Ohgawd, we're really doing this next Tuesday, aren't we?"

     She laughs, "No, I mean it's neck and neck.   ...But I see your point."

     I laugh too.  "And yours.  Either way, a lot of people aren't gonna be happy."

     Wednesday, look for monumental hangovers.  At best.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

And In Sports News

     I'm told some not-really-local sportsball team named after a baby creature, a team widely followed hereabouts despite greater proximity to a different, red-legged sportsball franchise, has done something unusual by winning an end-of-season competition they had not won in 108 years.  Also, there's another thing about a goat, I'm not sure what -- perhaps they serve goat meat at the arena, or use them to crop the playing surface?  Anyway, I'd like to express my congratulation's to Chicago's Immature Animals, and to all of the Immature Animal sportsball fans!

     ...I hope all of you realize this comes at a cost, as it is A Sure Sign Of Doom and there's still a giant meteor hurtling in our general direction, possibly marked "C.O.D., Earth."

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Today's Post

     Posting today was much delayed by an early start occasioned by my car going into the shop, followed by what I am embarrassed to admit was my first motor scooter commute of the year.

     A slightly scary commute, too, headed to the North Campus in gusty winds: three bridges and one overpass, not including the canal, and doesn't the wind just howl at every crossing!  But I made it, with a very heavily-laden scooter: purse, briefcase, lunch box plus some parts for the too-often-ignored machinery at that site.

     An hour shy of lunchtime, the garage called.  My car was done.  Took it in for routine service plus what sounded like a hole in the exhaust system, possible brake issues and a sidelight that needs replaced (someone scraped it and broke it.  I have the new part but it's a mystery how to install it).  So, what was the verdict?  Brakes, a-okay.  Exhaust, just a little flex section that needed replaced.  Oil change, fine. Light, oh hells no, you have to pull the entire bumper cover; their advice was, "Have a body shop do it."  Cost of all that was reasonable.  But there was one more thing wrong: tires.

     The tires have been questionable for some time: deep cracks in the sidewalls.  Yeah, deep dry rot: they were dying of old age.  They also weren't very grippy, even for little-old-lady, city-driving values of "grippy."  It's an RX300, with big SUV-sized wheels, and that meant I dropped about six and a half C-notes on new shoes for baby.  Ouch. 

     Big ouch.  Beats the heck out of skidding sideways through an intersection saying bad words, or trying to change a tire by the side of the road with the delightful kit of tools found in most modern cars.  Gotta go back in Monday or Tuesday and have 'em check lug nut torque, just to be on the safe side.

     Anyway, I was happy to avoid evening rush hour on two wheels; I left most of the cargo at work, scootered home and Tam ran me to garage, where I picked up my now-quiet car and returned to work.  Wow, it's like driving a Lexus or something.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Aggressive Vine In Question

     I wasn't entirely accurate on the leaves, they're a little saw-toothy and tend to grow in pairs:
     The smaller ones are about 3/4 of an inch long, call it 18mm if you lean that way.  Any ideas?  The stem grows lots of fine, aggressive roots on a vertical surface, and it makes long horizontal runs just under or just above the soil.  The stem gets brittle as it grows larger.

Making A List, Checking It Twice

     I printed out my ballot listing and made a set of first-round selections.  Most of them are easy choices, since the majority of downticket contestants are not particularly rabid and they're generally upfront about their positions if you do a little research.  --Not that you'd know that from the TV ads, which rarely mention party affiliation unless it's already well-known.

     Democrat Evan Bayh is a sort of kindly-seeming Bond villain, a second-generation U. S. Senator who moves in a cloud fragrant with entitlement and toes the party line while trying maintain a crumbling facade of being a good old aw-shucks Hoosier youth.  He is waging a vicious smear campaign with Republican Todd Young, a fresh-faced former Marine hoping to move from the House to the Senate.  If you went by the ads, you wouldn't vote for either one, though Bayh seems to have been up to a little more barely-okay stuff than his challenger.  Meh.  I went by which one I can trust on firearms laws and invasive government, which gives Young the edge.  Remember, kids, the President gets up to all kind of highly visible nonsense but he doesn't make laws; it's the House and Senate that can really mess things up long term for you and me, usually with POTUS as a distraction.

     The U. S. House race has been much more quiet, perhaps because incumbent Susan Brooks and Democrat Angela Demaree haven't got up to much in the way of mischief.  Or -- hey, it could happen -- perhaps they've got more decorum than the boys tussling over the lucrative Senate seat.  The LP has a horse in that race but Matthew Whittlief is starting way back.  Brooks is a known quantity in a pretty safe district and I'm betting we'll see her win.

     Down the ballot, the GOP is running a Ruckleshaus for state senate, a long-familiar last name in Indiana politics, and I need to see what he's about.  I'm leaning towards the LP's Zachary Roberts on anti-dynastic grounds, but I'm persuadable.

     Way, way down, we've got the non-partisan Indianapolis Public School Board at-large candidates.  Most of them have barely a web presence and their mailers are long on pretty pictures and empty phrases.  I try to find the one who has done the most public service with the greatest amount of "sweat equity," with an eye towards small businessmen over rising politicians (though there's a lot of overlap).  It's a thankless job and you need people who understand there's hugely more work to it than headlines.

     We've also got a couple of ballot questions, one on a state constitutional amendment preserving the right to hunt and fish -- a resounding Yes from me -- and the other wanting to establish a special tax for the city to replace a crummy, low-use bus line with a crummier, dedicated-lane electrified bus line with the main purpose of shuttling hipsters and old yuppies between downtown and Broad Ripple.  This line will tear up College Avenue, my main route to work, for a year or more, permanently remove one lane* from it, and stuff big bus stops into the center at numerous intersections.  People who park on the street will lose spaces, which will hurt the various small businesses. No, No and Hell No.

     There are a lot of other offices up for grabs.  Assume I'll be voting Libertarian by default -- and I never vote to retain a judge. If that was supposed to be a lifetime job, Your Honor, the legislature would have made it a lifetime job.  They did not.
* To be fair, we only have three lanes on College Avenue because there used to be streetcar tracks up the middle.  We did not, however, had big ugly streetcar stops up the middle; the thing just stopped and people got on or off.  If it was raining, they carried umbrellas and they always wore hats.  Also, the streetcars carried low- and middle-wage workers between home and work, not from one area of trendy bars and hip apartments to another area of the same.