Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Other Kind Of "Plumbing" Update

     After several days of, ahem, normal function, I skipped the Lomotil pill last night.  This morning, after it became obvious I shouldn't have, I took one.  So that's two a day, still plenty less than the suggested "one or two every six hours as needed," but what'm I gonna do after taking the last one?

     I'm enjoying (hahaha) a nice cup of plain Greek yogurt with a little salt and pepper.  Cottage cheese it ain't, but I bought some of that, too, for a reward if I finish this stuff.  Which I have, so I will.  Can they not make live-culture cottage cheese, or would that be awful?  What's so special about yogurt?

Plumbing Update

     I had not mentioned, but once the curbside shut-off was found, the plumbers came and went in half a day, and left behind a neater-looking installation than they found.  Better yet, it's not leaking.
     Price was as estimated, which was high, but I consider 65 percent of it as "Bobbi doesn't have to do the work," 20 percent as "Expensive tools you don't have and shouldn't buy," like the threading die for inch-and-a-half galvanized-iron pipe,* and that neatly leaves 15 percent to pay for the parts.  The finished job is clean, decent and there's a union about a foot into the horizontal run (not shown) that should simplify disassembly if we have to do this again in 92 years.

     Some reader is going to look at the blotchy black stuff in the floor and lecture me about black mold.  Wrong.  That's coal dust and maybe a little fuel-oil schmutz; smear a fingertip through it, sniff and you can smell it.  This house had a coal-burning furnace for years and years.  At some point, it was converted to oil.  Both are long-gone but, for those of you who remember neither, they're dirty fuels, and every hard-to-get-to or neglected corner of the house has a hidden freight of the stuff, especially the basement.  The plumbers were working right next to the main floor beam and a crawl space opening, and the longer they worked (as water dripped), the more black, oily dust drifted down and the worse that floor looked.  I'll be mopping it later today.
* Or is that 1"?  Inch and a quarter?  Whichever; the kits aren't cheap and the experience to use one on ancient pipe about seven feet above floor level and crowded by a big beam and the gas line is even more costly. Better them than me, and better the learning takes somewhere other than in my basement.  --Speaking of experience, I've got unscrew a couple of aerators and remove the calcium deposits they've collected in the wake of the plumbing work.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Um -- It's Friday

     It's Friday and that's about as much as I've got.  Still having to take the medicine for my earlier problem, which is an ongoing kind of a thing and I don't know why.

     A busy weekend for me -- I have Saturday off, then I work early-early Sunday and Monday.  It may be the last of those for awhile, we hope: they've got someone to work the early-weekend shift and schedules for the rest of us will be shuffled around a little, which should put me back on my previous regular daytime shift.  I was offered an "opportunity" to work early Saturday and make up some of the hours I lost sick -- but between that and the water problem, I am behind on all manner of housework, so I had to pass.  The early shift is hard enough on my sleep/wake schedule without going for degree-of-difficulty points.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

We May Be In A Comic Book Graphic Novel

     A Facebook acquaintance posted the other day, "I wish Lex Luthor was real."

     So, kid, have you met Jeff Bezos?  Science-minded bald or shaven-headed guy with his own commercial empire and his own space program, who is in the process of building his own army of drones? True, he's probably not evil nor out to conquer the world in the traditional sense, but given our present lack of castaway Kryptonians and/or orphaned billionaires bent on balancing the scales of justice, that's for the best.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Better -- And Safe From Nerve Gas

     So, yesterday I was heading back to work?  Didn't happen.  The closer it got to happy-drive-to-work time, the worse my innards got.  I called in sick -- again! -- and headed to the drive-thru doctor.

     They listened to my symptoms, decided not to send me to a specialist -- in part because I was still within the reasonable upper limit for the duration of viral gastroenteritis -- and instead prescribed something for symptomatic relief:  Atropine!

     Actually, Diphenoxylate/Atropine, which works to, er, slow things down.  Scary-small pills with a long list of warnings.* It took the pharmacy until mid-afternoon to find any, and the first result of my taking one was to make me extremely drowsy.  I did not have to wake up every couple of hours, which was a huge improvement on most of the past week.  So far, so good, though there may be a price to pay by and by. 
* Atropine is a "natural" substance.  You'll find it in deadly nightshade, Jimson weed (datura), mandrake and belladonna, among others. Yessirree. all-natural, how could it possibly be a problem...  Ahem.  Named, by the way, after Atropos, the one of the three Fates who decided when you were going to die.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

...And Back To It

     Gotta call The Water Co. this morning, to begin what promises to be a Kafkaesque effort to get them -- or any other responsible entity -- to locate the street side water shutoff.

     I tried poking around in the grass at the curb on Christmas day, to no avail.  The shutoff tends to become hidden as the dirt builds up in that strep between the sidewalk and the street.  (One of our neighbors landscaped this Fall and had just about a pickup-truckbed full of soil removed from that area to bring it back level with the sidewalk!)  The plumber had tried looking Christmas Eve eve, without success.

     It is, as they say, a mystery.  Meanwhile, I did something moderately clever with a funnel, a bit of garden hose and the original plastic shoebox water "bucket" that, if it held up through the night, should free us from having to get downstairs every three to four hours to dump leaked water from the shoebox: funnel is self-amalgamating-taped to the hose, shoebox holds it in place under the drip and the hose runs to the floor drain.  If it held up overnight, it ought to do for now; if not, well, the shoebox is right where it was, so it'll fill up again.  At least that's the theory.

     P.S.: The Water Company promises to come out sometime today and find our outside valve -- and to not shut it off.  Here's hoping!

     P.P.S: I am, intermittently, still sick.  This isn't good.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Racing Against Rats?

     Hint: if all about you in the contest are rats, you probably, are, too.  And likewise with idiots.  So I wasn't terribly surprised Christmas Day when a meme started making the rounds on F*cebook, urging Michelle Obama to run for President in 2020!  --And citing, matter-of-factly, her setting right the horrors of a Donald Trump Presidency. 

     I find several things wrong with that, starting with the obvious lack of a time machine, the idiocy of casting Presidents as magic-fairy philosopher-kings, the inappropriateness of partisan memes on one of the most "let's get along" of holidays, and her easily web-searchable lack of interest in the job.

     Catch that last item?  Consider this: a woman whose former condo neighbors describe as being notably more Type A than her husband, a woman who just spent four years next to the guy holding the highest office in the land, responded, when asked about running for the job, "No, no, no." Why, it is almost as if my long-held notion that POTUS is a crappy job just might be true.

     Come 2020 -- or 2018, more likely -- the Dems will be seething with politicians who actually want the job; the Republicans probably will, too, because that's how it works.  And the Libertarian Party will find some barely-Libertarian pol to give interviews and lose like the Druids when Rome rolled in, woad and all.  I'm pretty sure there's plenty of time to fret about that later.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Holiday Greetings

Blogger or my computer is a little broken this morning, so this may not have a title.

     But 'tis the day of the season -- literally, for two of the world's great faiths, and we just missed the solstice (do Western Civ. and the various calendars ever manage a triple-play?) and therefore,
Merry Christmas!
or whatever other wish would be most appropriate for you.

     As I have written earlier, I don't feel the least bit hesitant about all-encompassing holiday wishes; you can wish a cautious "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays," and I'm fine with that -- or you can be just as specific as you like, religiously, culturally, whatever.  It is the thought that counts and for at least just this one day, at least in just this one, widely (and however tenuously) shared culture, with the Russians and the Greek Orthodox leaping a little ahead of their day and the various solar-calendar pagans lagging, let us wish one another well -- and mean it.

     The very best of holiday wishes to you and yours, from Tam, Rannie, Huck and me, here at Roseholme Cottage.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Better -- And Worse: The Plumber Is Merry

     Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling sufficiently better to head to the basement and find a fresh nightgown and robe.  There was a trickle of water on the floor -- well, the temperature had climbed way up and it's been raining.  I wasn't as much better as I thought and the activity ended with my fleeing back upstairs.

     Later, early evening, I was definitely better.  So, what about that water--

     What about it?  I went back downstairs to check. There was a lot more of water, a tricking rille from the furnace (which is up on blocks in a low-ish spot) over to the floor drain.  But the usual wall-to-furnace path was dry.

     It was dry because the water was coming from a wall a ninety degrees to the usual source, a higher patch of floor where I keep clothes on racks and hanger-rods mounted to the floor joists overhead.  I had to fold up the ironing board, move a defunct analog television* and relocate a few empty boxes before I found the source: the shut-off valve for city water was leaking.  Not around the valve stem, either, but a steady drip, drip, drip from underneath.

     Reaching down to touch the packing nut made the drip rate increase.

     This is the very first valve for the plumbing inside the house.  There's one in a (buried) valve pit out at the street but it takes a special wrench, which is how The Water Company keeps deadbeats from turning their own water back on after it has been shut off for nonpayment.  (Yes, of course there's a brisk, unofficial trade in the special wrenches if you know where to look.)

     I called a plumber around eight p.m.  I kinda ended up getting a little weepy -- hey, I was sick for three days!  Plumber (from Hope Plumbing, our local Zen philosopher-king plumbers; they took over the "fine, antique plumbing" work when Steck's shut down, and bless 'em for that) showed up ten-ish, took a look, tried the valve -- leaks like mad when you start to close it, which is typical -- looked at the meter base or setter, looked at the plumbing, and admitted he didn't have what he needed on the truck and wasn't going to be able to have it until Tuesday.  The meter base is of a type no longer allowed and will have to be replaced. (I haven't seen one like it, and I've lived n older homes most of my adult life.)  It's looking like $700 in parts and labor.  The meter base and inside shut-off valve appear to date from 1924, when my house was built, though they could be as late as 1940s. The leak is actually from a little venting widget, a part of the valve that is made in a way that dates to not later than WW II.

     The plumber looked for the curbside shut-off in the dark but it's nowhere to be found.  They tend to sink into the dirt -- actually, the dirt on the strip between sidewalk and curb slowly builds up and buries them, but the result is the same, you have to have The Water Co. come out and find the thing.  And they're closed for Christmas, too.

     So there's a little plastic shoebox under the leaking valve (it's too close the the floor for a bucket), and there's a steady one-per-second drip into it.  In about three hours, the box is as full as you'd want and ready to be emptied.

     On Tuesday -- if I am lucky! -- I'll spend the big bucks getting this fixed.

     It could be worse; there are plenty of people on this Earth for whom sufficient clean water to let the stuff drip out and pour down a drain would be insane wealth.  This is America, where even bad plumbing is a reminder of relative luxury, and we toss out working TV sets because they're in the way.

     Merry Christmas, Bobbi.
* A big, bulging-screen RCA easily twenty years old -- I wrestled it up the stairs (!) and it's on the patio under a big trash bag pending proper disposal.  Does it still work?  Probably.  Is it worth keeping?  No.  I said "big," but by present standards the screen is small though the device is large and heavy.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cats In Sunlight

     Huck had found a nice sunny patch on the window seat and was basking when I made a pan of broth.  Rannie, displaced from the bed when I got up, had joined him.  In an uncommon display of mutual sweetness, the two cats were laying side-by-side, enjoying the sun's warmth.  I dished out a "coffee bowl" of broth, a thing half-way between a mug and a bowl equipped with a nice handle, and had taken it back to office to post something, when Miss Rannie began spluttering in outrage.

     I shuffled back to the library, to find both cats still on the window seat, but Rannie was all but on tiptoe, looking at Huck in horror.  Huck had decided his back was warm enough and had rolled over to expose his tummy -- and had flashed Rannie, bold as can be!

     We might reasonably suppose she was simply upset that the Giant Cat was moving around -- her perch on the edge of the sunlit area was a little precarious -- but her reaction and his indifference to it reminded me of nothing so much as a recurring Ruth Buzzi and Artie Johnson sketch from Laugh-In:

Oh, Go Away, Bug!

     My digestive difficulties continue.  Since a breakfast yesterday that I wasn't able to finish, I've had only bullion, broth, crackers, water, and tea.  A nice mug of hot chocolate yesterday noon didn't end well and a couple of slices of pizza (I know, I know -- but I was hungry) that evening verged on disastrous.  The longest stretch of sleep I have had was five blissful hours. That was an exception.  Generally, the demons down below clamor for attention every two or three hours.

     It will run its course.  I've got Imodium and Pepto-Bismol.  Surely they and the Tincture of Time will work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


     Either a stomach bug, the messed-up hours or the off-brand Cajun lunch I had Monday has done my digestion ill.  I struggled with it off and on all day at work yesterday and thought the matter was settled after some unpleasantness last evening.  Woke up around 0300 for another round and again after the alarm went off at 0600.  Yuck!  Finally took some medicine after the 0300 event.

     And in other (but somehow similar in its recurrent ickiness) news, now that the Electrors have cast their votes, will the Other Parties please stop with the make-it-didn't-happen whining?  Especially the biggest Other Party?  Yeah, I'm not all that thrilled by the guy, either, but I was even less thrilled by Ms. Clinton and so was a majority of the electorate.  Your candidate lost just like mine did (only more so), and histrionic bewailing of the outcome is not going to change that.  Grow up.  Take a pill.  Mr. Trump frets you?  Then gin ya up some Congressfolk who will do stuff instead of just grumping around.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

An Automatic Good Morning To You

     This is a recording.  Because of a situation that surely must make sense to some accountant or high executive somewhere, I worked late tonight and will go in earlier than usual tomorrow.  There are a couple of crash-urgent, must-be-done-by-Christmas projects going on, neither one of which needed to be an emergency and one of which is really warm-weather work and yet, here I am, needing to be in two places at once.  Again.  Mind you, other than not having any time or energy left for actual Christmas, the extra pay does sort of constitute as close to a Christmas bonus as I have ever seen from these people.

     The pay is good, yet in my line of work, the people who do the hands-on stuff are considered more of a bother than ever -- and then higher-ups ask you to do even more.  I've checked and it's the same everywhere else. That actually doing actual things with your hands, even at a keyboard?  It's considered horrid, untouchable stuff, the sort of thing no decent person would do.  Somehow, those of us who do what I do are both an utter necessity and of no great value.  Why is this?  I don't know.  I really don't know.  I probably wouldn't want to know if I did.

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's -1°F

     So of course, I have to go assist a mechanical engineer and his helper with some outside work at the North Campus -- unless they cancel.

     As is ever the case with this kind of skilled-trade outcall, I probably won't know until they don't show up.  This isn't the day I would pick for the measurements they'll be making, but if I knew as much as they knew, we wouldn't have needed to hire them.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

As Predicted, Minus Ragnarök

     Very late last night, the occasional sleet-heavy drip of rain out my bedroom window gave way to the distinctive rattle of icefall and I knew the front was here.

     It iced pretty heavily for a short while, then faded away to be replaced by a light, reluctant-seeming snowfall that was still venturing a timid flake or two late this morning.  Streets and sidewalks have a glaze of ice under a dusting of snow, and temperatures in the teens will be maintaining them for the next few days.

*  *  *
     Meanwhile, in state capitols and in North Carolina, two more kinds of Ragnarök roll on -- or maybe they're the same kind, each a mirror-image of the other: (some) Democrats are trying to get Presidential electors to change their votes from the decision of their states and (some) Republicans grump about this violation of well-established custom while Dems point out that it is, in fact, not illegal; the opposite is happening in North Carolina, where the GOP-majority legislature is busily reducing the power of the Governor ahead of a newly-elected Democrat taking power -- while Dems grump about such a violation of long-established custom and the GOPpers retort that it is, in fact, not illegal.

     Irony is presently laying in state in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, one of the few places in Washington, D.C. where she was still recognized; it is hoped that the differences between the two parties can be resolved to allow for a timely funeral but the two sides are far apart: the Democrats want her interred at the National Cemetery at Arlington, while the Republicans insist she should be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Nice Storm?

     No, not a nice storm, not at all, and not a full-on ice storm -- still, there's a glaze of ice on everything, especially the roads.  Temperatures were expected to get above freezing shortly after midnight but it didn't happen.  It's barely 33°F as I write this, with an off-and-on sleety drizzle that's just adding a layer of lubrication to the ice.  Interstate on- and off-ramps have proven especially treacherous.

     If you don't have a pressing need to travel, then don't.  No matter how careful and safe you are, no matter how fit your own vehicle is for this weather, there are always the other drivers and in weather like this, they are more likely to be risk-takers than not.  Temperatures are finally climbing and conditions will be better later today.  Sunday will be much, much worse: more sleet and back into the deep freeze, with single digits by Sunday night.  Buy your bread, milk and eggs now!

     Tam and I may walk to one of the nearby eateries for breakfast and I just might try a grocery run myself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

It Is Indeed Late, Gentle Readers -- And The Rest Of You, Too.

     I am off today, having worked the early-early watch Sunday and Monday in what we call the "sore thumb" shift.  I shall probably be working it every other week through the end of January, at which time one of four things will have happened: my counterpart who works it the weeks I do not will have quit, I will have quit, we both will have quit, or the IS guy we're supposedly training to work the early shift on weekends will be up to speed.  Or I suppose they could dump all of Engineering and IS and hire a couple of guys on H1Bs, who will sleep in the mezzanine and cover everything.

     What has prompted this is that the third member of our merry band of victims has had enough and will be retiring once January's in the rear-view mirror.  Since he's a subject matter expert on several critical systems, we've all got to be picking his brain while we can -- and those early-early shifts are nearly entirely solo.

     Today is worse than usual; while I normally crash pretty hard on the sixth day, last night I worked very late and shuttled between the Main Campus and the North Campus, a nice 11-mile run in stop-and-go traffic.  Managed to solve a vexing interface problem -- running steam-powered RS-232 serial data over a microwave IP link with a SOIP* system that wasn't working.  Brought the two pieces of equipment together, plugged them in and they were happy; plugged them into the two Startech boxes, side-by-side and talking directly to one another (they'll do that, no crossover required) and happiness continued; added a very "dumb" network switch in the middle, everything was still happy; plugged both cables into an only-slightly-"smarter" h/p† switch and...only one end was talking.  No happy activity lights on the smarter switch for one of the two SOIP boxes. Power-cycling was of no avail.
     So, okay, I'm not the best IT person on the planet, but I'm only about half stupid: so I could say I had tried everything, I stuck the "dumb" switch between the non-talking SOIP box and the smarter switch -- and the system started working!  Taking it out killed things again, so I left it in, picked up all the bits that needed to be at the other end, went down there, plugged right into the smart-ish switch at the other end and...nothing.
     Fine.  If the trick worked once, would it work twice?  I dug out my last saved, can't-be-managed, please-don't-use-them-here, dark blue, four-port, dumb Netgear network hub and stuck it between the SOIP box and the oh-so-clever switch and the thing lit right up and worked.  --Yes, you can use a horrifically fast IP link‡ to carry a 9600 Baud RS-232 link eleven whole miles, if you can find stupid-enough hardware to connect the interfaces to.
     Why this worked, I don't know.  I'll ask our IS guys later but my hopes of having any light shed are not high, as the issue may not be sufficiently esoteric for them to grasp.

     So, anyway, what with one thing and another, I came home quite late, ate okay-but-not-great pizza (a compromise: for edible delivery pizza, we have the slow place, the place with crust Tam likes and the place with crust I like), fell over into bed, slept until cat-feeding time, and went back to sleep for nearly four more hours after they'd been fed.  And now here I am.
* Serial-Over-IP.  Blasted things won't do Cheerios or Froot Loops at all, no matter how finely you mash 'em.  I tried adding milk but the hardware just made fizzy sounds.  Is that a problem?

† This stands for Hewlett-Packard, and was routinely used in the company's literature back when they built very good and innovative test equipment.  That part of the company got spun off and now makes pretty forgettable stuff that's (IMO) no better than anyone else's.  The present computer/peripherals company using the name has a similar logo but a howlingly different corporate culture.  Somewhere between the two, the h/p I knew and loved has vanished.

‡ There's a lot of other digital payload on the microwave link, a few tens of gigabytes per second each way -- the serial data is a flea on an oxpecker bird on the back of a hippo strapped to asteroid the size of Manhattan hurtling along at seven-tenths of the speed of light; I do hope they'll be all right.  That little RS-232 circuit is, however, carrying mission-critical control and telemetry information, without which all the rest of the payload might come to naught.  Now you know why I say that as far as my family and non-geek friends are concerned, I might as well be working on a starship for real.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It's Five Degrees (F) Out There

     Or three degrees.  Or one.  Or even less.  And there's a good stiff breeze, too, 15 mph, more or less.  The TV news is full of advice on how to dress (from a man standing outdoors, hatless and ungloved!), how to wait for the bus (in your car, with your parents, none of this, "Mom, Billy left the Audi running at the end of the driveway again," stuff, at least not until Billy is in the fifth grade) and how to avoid accidents (mostly in the form of reports about people who did not.)

     Me, I'm layering up and taking it slow.  After an adulthood with a great many cars that tended to leave me afoot, I try to dress for the weather even when I am pretty sure I'll only have to endure it while dashing between buildings and vehicles: after the engine (and heater) quits, it's too late to revise one's wardrobe.

     Worst video of the morning is from a few days ago: a cable TV line tech was working in a bucket truck along a two-lane county road and had set out the regulation number of orange cones at the regulation distance -- which was too few and too close for the slick, slushy road.  Cars were speeding (literally speeding, too fast for conditions and several over the posted limit) towards the truck, trying to swerve too late and sliding off the road, into ditches and yards, occasionally colliding with one another.  It is a measure of human decency -- and plain luck -- that the cable TV truck, with a man in the elevated bucket over the cable and phone wires,* was never hit.  There aren't any seat belts in there; he's supposed to be on a lanyard but that's a fall restraint, not a "flipped out of the bucket like a shot from a trebuchet" restraint.  Be careful out there -- put your phone away!
     "Do as I say, not as I do?"  Nope. This (phone camera) shot was grabbed in stopped traffic -- there's an accident about a block head, a spun and stuck van closing down one lane, no cones, no flashers and the police were busy with far worse accidents elsewhere.  Naturally, no one was merging until the last minute and the "let 'em in" rate was less than one-to-one.
* The higher you go on the pole, the higher the voltage.  Cable TV and telephone are the lowest levels, often close enough to get in one another's way.  They're usually not best pals and that's part of why.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Holidays

     --And I mean it.  Geez, c'mon, people, how hard is it to take statements at face value?  I don't know what holiday it is you -- in your wonderful special specialness -- happen to celebrate late in December (and I can't stop and ask each and every one of you what it might be), but I'd like for it to be a happy one for you.

     Merry Christmas (and around here, odds are good that's your holiday -- not 100%, but it's likely), and I mean that, too, even if you're actually gonna go home, put a great big log on the fire, wear a holly wreath, dye yourself blue with woad and celebrate Yule.  Or cut the head off a chicken or whatever.  Enjoy the season, have a nice holiday; that's what I mean to be saying.

     Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Winter Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa -- whatever your holiday(s), here's appropriate wishes and no snide subtext about it.

     ...And by the way, that "X" in "Xmas?"  Not an X, kids, it's a Greek letter chi, as in the first letter of "Christ," and it goes back centuries, possibly even older than the emperor Constantine, with a long and respectable history* in religious texts.  They're not Xing out anything.

     Hey, let's us just have a nice holiday and express the hope that our fellow-humans can and will do the same, and not be nasty little weasels about it -- look the other person in the eye and wish 'em well.  It's just the one month; you've got the other eleven in which to be all paranoid and butt-hurt.
* Yeah, Snopes -- but this entry cites a source, a book from 1975, which you are advised to go look at.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Winter Is On The 9:15 Bus And It Looks Irked

     Or that's what they're telling us: it's supposed to begin snowing this morning and keep snowing all day, accumulating an inch or two of snow, maybe even three -- if we're lucky.

     Lucky?  Yes; the snow/ice/rain dividing line is predicted to be not far south of I-70, which runs right through town, taking a big jog as it does so, and these predictions are never exact.  Given the certainty of precipitation, I'd rather have a snowstorm than an ice storm.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Wakeup Music

     Or, Fun With Your New Accordion:

    ...Get back to me when you can play this, okay?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Up And At 'Em In The Wee Small Hours

     Ain't it grand?  I had about two-thrds of a day off Saturday, with donuts (yay!), a trip to the bank (had to: no cash), lunch out (O'Charley's, as Tam and I wanted a change; in fact, she wanted prime rib and they've got it.  It was okay, but this is Broad Ripple and I prefer the little independent places), a stop at the pharmacy (this getting old stuff isn't for the chicken-hearted), and, finally, at long last, I picked up the raffle-rifle!

     It's nice.  Ruger includes a sturdy nylon-canvas case to hold and protect the two halves of the takedown 10-22 and all the usual trimmings -- shoulder strap, a substantial lock, etc.  This one has a synthetic stock and looks nice.  I probably won't be able to shoot it until next weekend -- looking forward to that! My thanks to Mr. B and his friend Ed.

     Now, having slept for nearly seven hours, I'm enjoying a home-made breakfast scramble (sausage, potato, egg and onion, topped with fresh-sliced cherry tomatoes) prior to going in at a preposterously-early hour.  I may be on this shift every other week for a while but I hope not a long while -- it's not easy to get enough sleep and we're getting into weather in which driving sleepy isn't a good idea, even in the big city.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

10 December: Hit The Holiday Wall

     That's enough Christmas cheer for one year already, thank you very much.  Yes, wassail you right back, now just go, please?  Go.  And take 2016 with you.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Thought For The Day

     "Be pleasant and kind to everyone you meet, and always remember they may be a dangerous nutjob."

     It's "The most won-der-ful time/Of the year,"  Except for some people it's a huge ball of stress.  Let's not help push them over the edge.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

History, What Is It?

     I failed to mark the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor yesterday, an error made worse by the rapidly diminishing numbers of people who were there and remember the attack first-hand.  In 2016, the attack that precipitated U. S. involvement in the (already two years on) Second World War is almost as remote in time as Spanish-American War when I was in High School, and exactly as long ago as the Philippine-American War, which I never even knew of up until this morning.

     While there's small danger of WW II being lost in a footnote, recent history rests on the shifting sands of fools and hasty thinkers; one TV network promoted their coverage in ads with a script that featured the line, "Seventy-five years ago, Pearl Harbor was under siege," which completely misstates the event with a single word: Japan was in no shape to stage a siege and never planned on one.  Pearl Harbor was a hit-and-run effort.  They'd hoped to cripple the U. S. Pacific fleet with a single stoke, leaving that ocean open to their advance.  They nearly succeeded; British and U.S. possessions fell to Japan throughout the first half of 1942. It wasn't until the battle of Midway in June of that year that the odds began to turn.

     There should be no need to point out the remarkable confluence of changing technology and pure luck that led to victory in the Pacific: all of the Navy's aircraft carriers were at sea on maneuvers on 7 December 1941.  The submarine fleet was undamaged.  Repair facilities and oil supplies were left largely intact.  With those tools, and an angered nation (not to mention Congress!) behind the effort, Japan was beaten back.  While submarine warfare was well-established in WW I, the airplane and aircraft carrier combination were still relatively new, a huge change for naval thinkers.  They were able to adjust, with remarkable results. 

     Nevertheless, the attack was a major blow to the U.S. Navy.  Admiral Hara Tadaichi summed up the Japanese result by saying, "We won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor and thereby lost the war."

     There are many lessons to be learned from Pearl Harbor; that may be the most important one.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Books -- Also, If You're Reading This

     ...Then my plan to save time has worked.  I need to make an early start of it today, so I'm posting tonight.  Wait, that doesn't make sense -- you're reading this about nine hours after I wrote it.

     Posting about what?  How about Lionel Shriver?  I finished her novel The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 several weeks ago and found it rewarding reading, a close-up look into the abyss of economic collapse through the lens of several generations of an extended family.  Generally well-written and ultimately humane; Shriver has one visible seam typical of mainstream writers doing speculative fiction -- but it's a forgivable one, no worse than anything you might find in Vonnegut.  She is a storyteller, her prose usually effortless, her plotting not quite invisible but deft enough. 

     Having read one Shriver novel, when The New Republic showed up at the used-book store, I didn't hesitate.  This one, too, is a kind of spec-fic, seeing as how it's set in a part of Portugal that does not, in fact, exist.  It's a story about journalism, terrorism, and just how far bored or desperate men might go.  By turns funny and profound, with an interesting ending.  I liked it.

     Shriver is an outsider's outsider and her perspective is rarely predictable.  If you read Rand and Vonnegut, R. A. Lafferty and Avram Davidson, you might enjoy her work.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

An (almost) English Breakfast

     No photos -- this is the time of year when it cools down quickly and between cats and my own clumsiness, I used up my picture-taking time.

     Oh my, it's good: a "banger" sausage, fresh mushrooms, a fried egg and (rye) toast, the last being where the "almost" comes in.  I lightly browned the sausages and then left them to cook in a quarter-inch or so of boiling water under a lid, which essentially steams them; you do have to top up the water from time to time.  Then I sauteed the mushrooms in a non-stick skillet with a very little butter and once they were almost done, pushed them to one side and cooked the egg in the mushroomy flavor.  The flavors all kind of dance together, with the strong, umami-rich sausage setting the tone.

     I've been reading Terry Pratchett the last couple of days, A Slip Of The Keyboard,* which collects his shorter non-fiction.  It's amusing and poignant -- and saddening, since many of them were written after Sir Terry was diagnosed with an insidious variety of Alzheimer's disease.  He wrote in the growing awareness that there were only so many more years or months or days left in which to write, and one reads knowing time already ran out.  A good English-style breakfast helps soften that, somehow.
* You could visit Tam's and use her handy link to Amazon to get your own copy.  And maybe add A Blink Of The Screen, which collects some of his short fiction.

Monday, December 05, 2016

From A Cancelled Christmas Special

     Apparently, this song was the breaking point, and National Geographic and The Hallmark Channel have dropped their plans for the "Olduvai Gorge Christmas Special."

     Still, I thought it was cute:

I want an australopithecus for Christmas
No other fossil hominid will do
No ancient frog
No thunder lizard toy
I want a australopithecus to play with and enjoy

I want an australopithecus for Christmas
I don't think Santa Claus will mind, do you?
He won't have to use
A dirty chimney flue
Dig him up under the floor
That's the easy thing to do
I can see me now on Christmas morning
Creeping down the stairs
Oh what joy and what surprise
When I open up my eyes
A fossil homind is standing there
I want an australopithecus for Christmas
No other kind of hominid will do
No Neandertals
No Homo Habilisuses
I only like australopithecuses
And australopithecuses like me too.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Cat Social Dynamics

     The subtitle should probably be "Food First!"

     The Huck and Rannie dynamic is uncomplicated -- he's a great big, bouncy, rambunctious tomcat in his middle years, while she is small, slender, elderly, and rarely interested in roughhousing.  She usually says terrible things to him in Cat if he gets too near; he sometimes tries to get her in a half-Nelson when he's in a playful mood and when he does, she complains in language that nearly turns the air blue.  She rarely raises a paw to him, though, perhaps because she knows he'd only take it as play.  Meanwhile, he ignores her growls and yowls with what looks like a shrug. 

     Both cats are now eating prescription diets.  Rannie Wu is on food to help her liver (and which she seems to have a lot more luck keeping down than regular cat food), while Mr. Huck gets something to help prevent the formation of crystals in his bladder.

     Neither cat minds the special food; in fact, they appear to prefer it. Rannie started on her diet a week or two before Huck, and when we went to pick up his food, all the veterinarian had was the canned version.  We put the dry version on order and bought several cans to tide him over.

     The cats are fed separately because Huck's appetites are truly immense and unless prevented, he will gobble down his meal, shoulder Rannie to one side and eat her food.  We've fed them apart for years.  With plain (though high-quality) kibble, Huck always finishes first.  He's slower with the canned food, taking time to polish every last bit from his bowl

     Rannie figured out something was going on when we began opening the can of Huck's food in the kitchen, but aside from looking up and sniffing, she didn't seem very interested.

     A couple of days into the canned food, Tam had fed them and on noticing Rannie was done, opened the door into the back of the house and followed Rannie to the office/cat room.  Huck still had a little food left and was working on it.  Rannie Wu walked over, looked at it, turned and shot Tam a "How could you?" look -- and then turned back, reached out and popped Huck good and hard on the back of his head!

     I'd like to tell you he took it to heart or was at least startled, but Tam says he didn't appear to even notice.  I stopped by the vet the next morning and got a half-dozen cans of Rannie's special food the next morning and I think she's forgiven us.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Quick Keyboard Note

     Today, I unearthed the little Bluetooth dongle for my PC and connected the Quirkywriter keyboard to it.  This is one part of a multipart attempt to "civilize" my desk, with a lower typing surface and -- I hope! -- the monitor on a repositionable arm.  That's yet to come.  For now, keyboard.

     This may speed the next steps:
     1. Finish clearing off the actual desk surface.
     2. Install the aformentioned monitor arm.

Why Is A Mouse When It Spins?

     Surprisingly few people know the answer these days.


     If you're keeping track, deli roast beef, black olives, Havarti cheese and some freeze-dried chives makes a fine omelette filling.  Especially if you add some Italian seasoning to the eggs.

Friday, December 02, 2016


     I participate in a little neighborhood online bulletin board, mostly by reading. My neighborhood, like many these days, is home to a few chicken-owners. Perhaps more than average, since SoBro is home to Agrarian, an upscale version of the good old feed & seed co-op and an excellent source of small domestic fowl* and everything you need to raise them.

     This is supposed to be a "new trend" but in fact, it's a very old one.  My Mom, who grew up in the 1930s and 40s, was a city girl and her family kept chickens everywhere they lived -- and milk-goats, too, if they had a big enough lot.  This was not unusual at the time, at least in the Midwest.  Mother never tasted cow's milk until she attended public school.†  (She and her siblings tended to make pets of the surplus goats despite being warned not to, which caused an occasional very awkward dinner.)

     A recent posting to the neighborhood thing complained of a rooster crowing at 5:30 a.m. (which is, by the way, a very fine time for a rooster to crow -- that whole 5:30 to 8:00 a.m. block, is exactly when they're supposed to be rousting folks out of bed) and wondering if the owners can't silence it? 

     There is only one way to effectively silence a rooster; the owner responded, saying the rooster was already overdue to go to the Great Beyond or possibly a crockpot, and screen after screen of horrified comments ensued: "Don't kill it, rehome it!" "Send the rooster off to a farm to live out its natural life!"  --The "natural life" of excess roosters on a farm is to get fed to the hogs, if they're lucky; but don't try to tell moderns that.

     But the capper was the commenter who mused, "...I don't think many of us realized that people who own chickens in the city were using them for anything other than eggs. There's something about butchering an animal in an urban residential area that just seems generally unseemly."

     Lady, it's a chicken. If you're not the kind of "wit" who cuts off their heads and lets them run all over the backyard while they're expiring, it's no more "unseemly" than what the local high-end butcher does with a side of beef and a collection of cutting instruments that may include a stainless-steel bandsaw, in a tiny shopping district in the middle of an urban residential area. It's a good deal less unseemly than what any of your neighbors who hunt will be up to in their garage if they're lucky enough to bag a deer.

     I don't dislike chickens, though I think they're dumber than a bag of rocks and considerably more smelly.  I'd need to be a lot hungrier before I'd kill and dress one, though I do love fresh eggs, especially when laid by a critter that lives outdoors and gets to eat bugs.  But calling out the normal process of slaughtering and eating non-productive hens (and perhaps even roosters, though IIRC, they're a bit tough and gamy) as "unseemly" when you only know it happens because your neighbors said so, is just about the silliest thought I have seen expressed today. Possibly this week.

* They also sell ducks.  This is a great temptation to me: as a child, I had a duck and so did my baby brother.  They are pleasant, garrulous creatures if you have enough yard to ensure the duck splat doesn't get too concentrated, who wander around all day "talking" to one another and eating whatever they find that looks edible.  Ours each laid an egg a day, rich and strong-flavored, excellent for baking and just fine fried.  Alas, Roseholme Cottage doesn't have enough yard for two ducks and a solo duck would be too lonely: they're not very bright but they're quite social.

† For reasons I have never fully understood, she managed to avoid public school until third grade. Both of her parents were fully-qualified schoolteachers and the family was moving around a lot at the time, so perhaps it was just easier.  On the other hand, she was the youngest child in a very large family and though Mother's mother was an unsentimental person, I do wonder if my grandmother succumbed to the temptation to keep her youngest at home for just a couple more years.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

I Seem To Have Been Raffled A Rifle

     The call came in last night and, eating dinner in the far corner of the house, I missed it.  The message was from a club in the northern part of the state and when I called back, they confirmed I'd won a Ruger 10/22 in a charity raffle!  A friend had entered Tam and me in it some weeks back and there were some nice guns to be won.  This one is third prize, a 10/22 Breakdown, easy to carry to and from the range.

     Still working out delivery details, but it's interesting.  I have my Dad's old Remington 941 and a much newer Savage, both .22s.* Adding a Ruger will be nice.
* While it's not true that I don't have much use for any caliber other than .22, I am very fond of it.  Light enough to shoot several hundred rounds in a single practice session, it's what I originally learned to shoot with and face it, if you can't hit the target with a .22, you don't have much hope of doing so with anything bigger.  Would you rather be missing at fifty cents a round or ten cents?  Or just over nickel per, if the last sales flyer the Data Viking shared wasn't a typo.