Friday, June 30, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The FM-Band Station That Wasn't

     Here's a tale of geekery that I stumbled across yesterday morning.  It belongs over at Retrotechnologist but I'll debut it here.  Though it's about radio and TV broadcasting here in Indiana, the story begins in Turkey.

     The principal of the tale was Armenian.  He was born in 1900.  It was a bad time to be an Armenian in Turkey, and getting worse; his father saw this and in 1907, took the family to the United States.

     Sarkes Tarzian grew up with the infant science of radio and was a bright student; out of college, he worked for Atwater-Kent and, eventually, RCA.  He was a good engineer and a master of cost-effective designs.  When WW II ended, the 45-year-old engineer found himself in Bloomington, Indiana, at an RCA plant already back to building consumer radios, much like the Atwater-Kent factory where he'd started out.

     Rather than go back to the grind, he hung out his own shingle, a consulting engineer.  FM broadcasting was just getting started back up, settling into the new band RCA had managed to get it nudged into, but receivers were expensive.  The new mode didn't use spectrum as efficiently as AM, either -- and that left an opening for a sharp engineer: "All-American Five" AC-DC radios for the AM band were cheap to build -- and, if you knew what you were doing, cheap to convert to the FM band.  Detecting FM required plenty of additional, expensive parts -- but if a station transmitted an AM signal, the AA5 would do the job.  In early 1946, Tarzian put amplitude-modulated W9XHZ on the air on 87.75 MHz, built scores of up-converters into ice-cream tins so existing radios could pick up the station, and modified a few dozen "generic" AA5s built at the not-too-distant Meissner plant (Mt. Carmel, IL) as fix-tuned receivers.  It worked.

     However, the experiment had already been tried.  In the late 1930s through early 40s, "Apex" stations transmitting AM on frequencies from 24 MHz up through 50MHz had been on the air.  They worked, too -- but Major Armstrong's FM system worked better.  TV was starting to grow and by May, 1949, it had come to nearby Indianapolis: WFBM-TV was the first, on channel 6.  The sound carrier -- FM! -- for channel 6 is, oops, 87.75 MHz.  The FCC required Tarzian's station to shut down any time channel 6 was on the air and when the license (for by-then KS2XAP) ran out, that was the end.

     If you can't beat them, join them: Sarkes Tarzian and his crew got their own TV license (and a regular AM-band station, too, WTTS)  and by November of 1949, WTTV was on the air on Channel 10, with a transmitter and antenna built at the Sarkes Tarzian factory.  Five years later, they moved to channel 4, put up a tall tower midway between Bloomington and Indianapolis, and went head-to-head against channel 6.  Little love was lost between the two; noting that transmitter problems had put WFBM-TV off the air for an extended period of time in 1949, WTTV promoted themselves as "Indiana's oldest continuously-operating TV station" for years afterward. 

     Sarkes Tarzian got into the consumer side of television early on; realizing the tuners were the trickiest part of building a TV set, he designed his own sturdy, inexpensive version and built them in bulk for many manufacturers.  TV station WTTV was built with TV-tuner money!

     ...That's the story of how central Indiana had, for a few years, an FM-band station that wasn't FM.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bring On The Dystopia!

     In my line of work, the Engineering department ends up subscribed to a wide array of more-or-less-related magazines.  Our own trade magazines are pretty much gone, victims of a shinking, backwater industry, so we glean what we can from similar fields.

     One of the magazines that shows up is GCN, Government Computer News, aimed at data-herders and IT folks in the public sector.  It's a nice, glossy mag with lots of vaguely-worded ads.  The most recent issue had an article noted on the cover: 'Minority Report' for real.

     I was taken aback.  The film and original short story are tales of free will vs. determinism, and paint the "prediction" of crimes as a fraught, abusable and perhaps even poisonous gift, dangerous to use and invasive of freedom.  In  actual application, the biases and implicit assumptions of programmers can (and will) skew results.  The intersection of Big Data and "precrime" is not a good neighborhood for free people, and yet that's right where the article heads, lauding "New analytical leverage this digital ocean...."

     The piece is blithely unconcerned with potential problems or Constitutional issues, ending with a quote from a former NSA analyst now working in the private sector: "Humans have short lives and simple habits.  The basics of 'The Minority Report' are not only going to happen, they will happen sooner than we think."

     Yeah. "...short lives and simple habits..."  Please face the telescreen, Comrade! Bloody hell, they really do think Orwell was writing a guide to governance, and that Philip K. Dick's amphetamine-fueled paranoid fantasies are police manuals.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


     Another day when I don't have much.  Plenty to rant about, I suppose, things like the Supremes yet again flinching away from a Second Amendment case, while they continue to chip away at other fundamental rights, but what good would it do?  Either you know it already or there's no reaching you.

     Meanwhile, the world turns as ever, the press indulges in spin and hyperventilating and continues to increase the distance between who they think they are (noble defenders of Freedom and Good!) and how they are perceived (a pack of partisan shills out of touch with reality).  The truth is something very different: they're just there to help sell you cars and soap flakes.  Stop watching and the people behind them will come up with some other shiny thing to catch your eye.  --Of course, you've already slowed your consumption of mass media like newspapers and television, and are enjoying the targeted echo-chambers of online interaction.  It's fun, but if we don't hang together, they will indeed hang us out to dry separately.
     Big Data thinks it knows you, predicts you, runs you.  Does it?  Will it?  Or will it come crashing down under its own weight?

     Damned if I know.

Monday, June 26, 2017


Here's a look at the wildflower garden I planted in the raised bed.

     Not that they're all wild:

     I don't know what these are, but I like them.

     This is an interesting experiment.  I'm not much of a gardener, so this nice an outcome is really pleasing.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


    This is just a placeholder.  I worked a late shift last night, filling in for a vactioning peer (more or less peer; the weekends include a few operational tasks I am not especially good at).  So I'm awake late with much yet to do. 

     Possibly more later!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pretty Amazing

     To live in a time and place in which a "light breakfast" can consist of marbled rye/pumpernickel toast with truffle butter is, really, stunning.  Ancient Rome at the height of its power couldn't deliver this, not even to the Emperor: grit-free bread, fresh butter -- with truffles?  Eat your heart out, Caesar.  And the poor sods didn't even know they were missing out on coffee.

     There's a reason things didn't really start rolling until coffee, tea and chocolate started to be consumed in quantity across the world.  You could make a case for tobacco as well -- nicotine is a positively effective drug and if it wasn't, nobody would have tolerated inhaling the smoke -- but the delivery mechanism has serious downsides.

     (For that matter, it'd make me even happier if a local grocer would start stocking flageolets verts, too.  The old Atlas Supermarket had 'em, and plenty of other canned veggies we don't usually see in these parts.  Those French green kidney beans were particularly tasty.  But goodness, how obscure is that?

     Whatever.  Those Moon-shotting tea- and coffee-drinking smokers, with their chocolate bars and big dreams, slide rules and limited-stock companies, built a pretty amazing world.  I'd be a fool not to enjoy it.

Friday, June 23, 2017


     The Google Doodle of the last two days fascinates me.  It's based on the work of Oskar Fischinger.

How Not To Get Shot By The Police

     I can't promise you any sure answers on that.  The legal aftermath of the Philando Castile shooting -- police officer acquitted -- is all over the blogosphere and social media, and everyone is looking at it in the tinted mirror of their own politics and holding forth.

     I'm not going to hold forth about the situation.  I wasn't there.  "Things went terribly wrong," is about the best I have.  That's no comfort at all for the man's survivors and does nothing to fix matters for them.  Nor does it provide a guideline for police retraining.  Two nervous people interacted and one of them was killed as a result.  It wasn't the policeman.

     Do what you can to manage your encounters with the police.  The officer is well-armed, has backup and works under qualified immunity; courts will tend to defer to his or her opinion.  You?  You're just some gal or some guy.  Oh, probably a citizen, and you like to think of yourself as a good citizen.  When Officer Friendly stopped you, awarding a Good Citizenship medal was probably not the reason.  So you're already behind the eight-ball, more so if you're visibly off the average, and who isn't? Play it cool.
  •      Minimize the reasons you might be stopped.  All vehicle lights working, no big obvious cracks in the windshield, obey speed limits, etc.  (I do badly at this -- I have a sidelight that needs fixed and, typical city-dweller, I'm an habitual flow-of-traffic speeder.)
  •      A police stop is probably not the time to engage in political protest.  Unless you were setting out to make a point, maybe get some bad policy or law challenged in court, concentrate on what you need to do to get through the experience unscathed.  Is this humiliating?  Is it something no decent citizen of a democracy ought to have to endure?  Probably -- but there you are.  Do you want to sleep in your own bed that night?  The alternatives are a thin mattress at the jail or a cold slab at the morgue.  They suck.
  •      If you are stopped, engine off (if driving) and no sudden moves.  Do only what the officer tells you, offer only the information requested and remember the stakes: your life and freedom.
     Greg Ellifritz offers advice for law enforcement officers.  Read it, and consider the implications for you.

     Stay alive, stay out of jail, and write your Congressthing.  Write your state-level representatives.  Call 'em up.  Let your local government know when they or theirs are getting over the line.  And help prevent the next police encounter gone wrong.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Opioid Problem

     This country has one, and I'm not talking about a radio host getting nicked for popping pills.  Nope; from hardscrabble ex-factory towns and rural hamlets where the grain elevator is the tallest thing on the horizon for miles to the mean streets of the big city, people who can't get pills to pop are shooting up heroin (bad) or various versions of fentanyl (way worse).  A significant proportion of them are overdosing, too: it seems that while old-fashioned, street-grade heroin tended to a roughly consistent strength and was generally sufficiently diluted that rule-of-thumb dosage measurement was survivable, fentanyl's another thing.  From Wikipedia: "its extreme potency requires careful measurements of highly diluted fentanyl in solution."

     This is a high-falutin' way of saying that while a little dab'll do ya, an only slightly larger dab will do you in.  Working yesterday near a set of scanners covering police and fire in the Indianapolis city-county* only, I heard two "overdose" calls in the first twenty minutes -- with no "suspected" or "probable" tacked on, either -- and several more over the next hour.† 

     Opioids have a seductive allure (remember that radio host?).  If you're taking them for pain (and I have, quite long-term at times), they work great, but that warm & fuzzy feeling, a glow similar to a couple of mixed drinks in quick succession, is dangerous without the undercurrent of pain.  Oxycontin pipeline shut off?  Stronger drugs let the user clock out of life for awhile -- and the rest of the time, gives them something other than the grinding, hollow emptiness of a country with a shrinking middle class.  Not a good thing -- see William Burrough's The Junky's Christmas for a horrible-yet-sanitized version -- but a thing.

     I don't think we're going to fix this one treating it as a crime or merely addressing the overdoses by putting a supply of single-dose Naloxone injectors in the pockets of every police officer, fireman and paramedic in the country: by the time a user is standing on the threshold of death, it's been too late for a long while.  In conservative Indiana, a lack of needle exchanges has also led to clusters of HIV and hepatitis infections among users.  The state has -- finally -- been allowing counties to set up needle exchanges‡ for about a year now; it's not easy, and in in least one county, has been stymied by a severe "NIMBY" reaction.  So, Mr. and Mrs. America, is a dead junkie on the back porch a better solution?  Maybe it is; maybe the kindest thing to do is to let the addicts die off -- but there will be more, and their dying weighs on the tax rolls. 

     A comparative study of results in the United States and some country that treats use and addiction as public health issues might be informative; as it is, I have seen no more than anecdote.  Even that much has me wondering if something other than the present approach might offer improved results compared to making cops and EMTs haul people back from the edge of death time and again, until, inevitably, the day that help doesn't arrive in time.
* Back when Marion County was a thin and ugly doughnut and getting smaller all the time, city and county governments merged.  Except it was more like a hostile takeover.  This essentially replaced two tottering monstrosities drowning under their own paperwork with one; and that's progress.  Dick Lugar orchestrated the change and gave it the totally non-Soviet name, "UniGov."

 † Plus the usual things you hear over a police scanner -- a man who locked himself in a business's washroom for two hours, responding only "I'm in here!" when they got worried and knocked; an apparent hostage standoff at a motel complete with multiple officers and directions how to stay "out of the line of fire" that eventually ended without a shot being fired.  It also appears we have an officer who sounds exactly like the late Larry "Bud" Melman.  I'd like to think that somewhere in the city, a short, dumpy, white-haired policeman in thick-lensed hornrimmed glasses is plodding though the challenges of modern policing, gamely triumphing over the entire panoply of modern dangers with a faint smile.

 ‡ While this clearly runs counter to the "whatever you subsidize, you get more of" rule, with Narcan injectors, society is already subsidizing addiction and the choice becomes one of disease-ridden addicts vs. addicts without additional health challenges.  The latter group at least has long-term prospects.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Another Day, Another $36.95

     They seem to be promising rain, which will gratify the flowers.  Unfortunately, I have a very large (folded-flat) cardboard box and a big paper leaf-bag full of lawn clippings to get properly stowed before the skies open up, so that just got added to my morning task stack.

     Ah, but the flowers...!  I need to add photos, but the old square raised bed in the front yard that I cleaned up and sowed with "mixed wildflower" seeds, former location of a former tree,  is really coming into its own.  A row of maroon-and-yellow marigolds led off, followed by little white flowers and for awhile, I thought that was all there was.  Recently, some fuzzy purple blooms have popped up along with a couple of lovely, delicate pink blossoms that look like (but are not) what we called "wild rose" when I was growing up.  There are plenty of buds that haven't opened to look forward to, as well.

     There's also a rosemary plant in that bed.  We managed to keep one going for several years there (and added twigs from the dead bush to the coals in the grill for years after) and perhaps this one will last as long.  So far, the weed barrier cloth I put down is working; there are one or two plants in the bed that I'm giving the hairy eyeball and which will get the old heave-ho if they turn out to be deadbeats, but considering that two years ago, before I tarped it for an entire year, that flowerbed was solid weeds, I'm not unhappy.  Elsewhere, the daylilies are doing all right -- they're pretty much on their own, though the ones along the house may get a little help this year -- and the hostas continue to prosper.  Like the orange lilies, they came with the house; unlike them, they didn't "just happen."  The realtor had transplanted extras from her own yard, and expressed uncertainty how they'd do over the long term.  Coming up on ten years and still going -- they were even completely dug up and lived in big pots for a few months when I had the house painted.  That move paid dividends: there were enough plants to divide up and add another group of hostas to the bed on the other side of the front steps.  There's mint growing there, too; I'd like to grow a little more but I'm happy to have it.

     I'll be happier if I get the paper products taken care of before the rains arrive, though.  Time to start back at it!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Singing To My Cat

Tam Keel photo
Huck, Huck, the giant cat
Reached for my food as I sat.
Thinks to claim it with a touch
Because his hunger is so much.

Sixteen pounds in striped fur,
Small for a tiger and he purrs--
He wants my breakfast, lunch and dinner, too.
Huck, eggs and a banger aren't good for you!

Singing To Tam's Cat

Tam Keel photo
Rannie, Rannie, Underfoot Wu,
How do you say "I love you?"
With winks and blinks and sometimes nods,
Which no one thinks is even odd.

You purr and beg for table scraps,
Or mice we've caught in humane traps.
You'll let no one tell you what to do,
Rannie, Rannie, Underfoot Wu.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A New Monday

     A day I approach with some trepidation.  Today marks the start of a new, all-online timeclock system at work, replacing not the old-fashioned kerchunking gadget that stamps a card, but a pen-and-paper "honor system" that has been in use as long as I have been working for the place.

     It will be a big change, and one that will require a lot of getting used to.  I wouldn't want to be the accountant or manager who has the explain the sudden uptick in overtime, as workers accustomed to working over fifteen or thirty minutes a day and "forgetting" to report most of it when they fill out their timesheet at the end of the week are suddenly obliged to keep track; but the flip side is that Federal wage & hour regs frown on unpaid work and tend to blame employers for it.  The edge of that coin is that a lot of the "forgetters" are highly creative types, who become engrossed in projects and lose track -- or who have so many going at once they they have no choice but to work over.  They and their work are difficult to replace and we'll be finding out how well that square peg fits into a round hole.*

     So chalk up another win for the forces of piling up laws and more laws, ever more detailed and yet supposedly one-size-fits-all.  I just don't know yet what the prize will be.
* Ah, but here's the thing--  How do you suppose they held wooden ships together?  Everything from ropes and pitch to a kind of proto-rivet consisting of big iron nails clinched over a flat washer inside the hull were used, but one of the most popular methods used "trunnels," which are big squareish hardwood pegs...that are hammered, quite securely, into round holes!  On the other hand, this is the trade that developed the "whimble," a kind of offset bit-brace that is operated in a manner akin to rubbing your stomach while patting your head, so....

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

I Broke The Kugel

     Yes I did.  Set it down in the edge of the countertop while trying to sidestep a cat.  Set it down overbalanced and on down it went, crashing onto the tiled floor.

     This is a problem.  The Kugel is a spherical thermal carafe from the German company Alfi and it's got a nice glass vacuum flask inside.  They'll last for decades if you keep them clean and, you know, refrain from dropping them.  On the outside, it looks like an old-fashioned road flare with a handle, or at least the matte-black ones I like do.  Here at Roseholme Cottage, we fill ours with coffee hot from the Chemex and it stays hot for hours.

     Alas, it sounded more like iced tea when I picked it up, a kind of slushy, liquid-damped tinkling as the bits of the former vacuum flask sloshed around in the coffee, which was dripping out through gaps and cracks in the outer shell.  I put it in the trash.

     Steaming gently on the counter was a cup of coffee I had just poured, the very last cup I was ever going to get from that carafe.

     It turned out that they're something Amazon offers Prime customers free same-day delivery on, so when I got home from work, an exact replacement was waiting.  Sometimes this living in the future thing is pretty nice. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Got Nothing, Really

     Be nice to one another today, okay?  Just try it for one day.  Shucks, I don't think I will even yell at anyone in traffic today.  Or at least I will try not to.

     ETA: Well, I got about five blocks before breaking that resolution.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Tragedy In Alexandria

     At least the would-be killer was foiled quickly; at least he (so far) didn't kill anyone.  The murderous nitwit who shot at the GOP team practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game certainly intended to.

     I have to wonder -- as Democrat pundits did in 2011 on a much less tenable basis -- just how much influence the current violent partisan rhetoric had on the would-be killer?  In a year in which we're told that it's okay to punch out armchair Nazis who are doing nothing more offensive than stinking up the lecture circuit (and revealing the obnoxiousness of their twisted philosophy in the process), in which mobs wield improvised weapons to prevent invited speakers from speaking on college campuses, is it really a surprise when a particularly deluded loser decides to go hunting politicians who are members of a party of which he disapproves?

     Politics is a rough game; talking smack is a game for adolescents and nitwits.  At their intersection, bad stuff happens, the kinds of things that can screw up a civilized government.  I'm sick and tired of hearing that this President (or his predecessor, and on and on back) is the end of everything, a threat that needs to be rubbed out--  Oh, nonsense.  They're all temporary jobs, for a couple of years, or four, or six, and then we can throw 'em right out if they're a problem.*  Talk against them if you don't like them?  Oppose the polices you think are bad (and cheer on the ones you like)?  Sure, do that.  But try to be a grown-up about it -- because a few of the nominal adults around you aren't.
* All right, except for Supreme Court justices.  Still, having grown up in a rural county with "IMPEACH EARL WARREN" stickers on the fence posts at every third or fourth intersection leaves one aware that there's a way to remove them, too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gems In The Sewer: Television Shows

     Sure, 99% of it is dreck, like the word-guessing program Tam watched last night in which a contestant, given the puzzle, "A STREETCAR NA_ED DESIRE," asked, "Is there an "K?"*

     On the other hand, the suburbanite soap/spy thriller The Americans recently wrapped up their most recent season with a very strong finish with the major protagonists as ambiguously murderous and empathetic as ever.  Covering the (quite fictionalized) tale of a family of Soviet "illegals" in Washington, D.C during the Reagan years, it adroitly weaves the conflicts between their cover and their espionage/black ops work.

     Orphan Black, the American Beeb's medical SF thriller set about five minutes into the future and starring Tatiana Maslany in, at last count, fourteen different roles, five of them central to the story, has just started its fifth and last season.  Strong so far, though possibly veering near the edge of the same kind of fantasy that damaged the final years of the otherwise good-fun The Pretender.  Still, if any TV show can pull it off, Orphan Black can and I'll just have to see what turns up as the layers of the villain of the piece -- a mysterious organization that calls itself "Neolution" -- are peeled back.  So far, vagueness and mystery have served the series well and we'll just have to see how it all holds up as it heads into the grand denouement.

    Streaming video-on-demand has left me a lot happier about what's on the TV, turning it from a fat sewer pipe that runs at full throttle if allowed to run at all, intro something more like the books on my shelf (or in my Kindle).  Thus tamed, I can mudlark out the shiny parts and avoid most of the rest.
* Presumably there is, in the same universe in which William Burroughs wrote The Named Lunch.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

No Time -- And The Air-Conditioner Is Fading

     Up early and out of time already.  I spent some of the morning dealing with a frozen-up "A" coil* and now I have to get in the shower.

     Low working fluid, again.  I'll have to call the HVAC tech, and sooner rather than later.
* Why is it an "A" coil, and does that make the one in the compressor unit outside the "B" coil?  It does not.  The shape of most of them, set to allow maximum contact with the air flowing by, is like a capital lambda; larger ones may have a cross-brace, and this, seen end-on, forms an "A."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Oh, Robot...!

     So, I'm cooking some stuff* Sunday afternoon and I need to keep track of time:

Bobbi: "Alexa, set a timer.  Seven minutes."
[seven minutes elapse]
Bobbi: "Alexa, stop."
Tam: "Alexa, thank you."
 Bobbi: "Alexa, Tam is currying favor."
Bobbi: "I'm telling you, she is."
...Some people!  Some robots!
* What is is, is a kind of chili-with-beans version of Eggs Pomodoro -- except the base for the "chili" is some heat-to-eat Indian food, because it turns out they make a perfectly fine version of Midwestern spicy chili in Madras, with cumin, onions, tomatoes and chilis (plus lentils and some other tasty bean); they just don't happen to call it "chili."  I added a can of Red Gold diced tomatoes and some other items, heated it up, dropped in a couple eggs, covered the pan and left them to poach.  I ate mine over rice; Tam took hers straight.  Italian/Mexican/Indian/American fusion? 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Drunk-Driving Officer Is Out Of Jail

     Former IMPD officer David Bisard has a problem: he drinks and drives.  In 2010, while on duty, he plowed his police car into a group of motorcyclists waiting to make a left turn, killing one and injuring two more.  His blood alcohol was twice the legal limit.  Those are all facts, subsequently established in open court.

     In the aftermath, misleading information was fed to the press, evidence (a blood sample) was mishandled in what appears to have been an attempt to make it useless, and IMPD leadership underwent significant changes.  Meanwhile David Bisard, free and awaiting trial, wrecked his father-in-law's truck and was discovered to have been driving it while drunk.

     He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years -- effectively eight, unless he misbehaved behind bars.  Possibly a little light for a man who would not even admit to having been drunk when he killed someone, but pretty heavy time. Eight years of a dangerous serial drunk-driver off the streets.

     Except he's out now, having served only three and a half years.  The families of his victims are vexed.

     I have known and worked with several drunks.  High-functioning alcoholics, every one of them.  They rarely change.  None of the ones I knew did.  One of them drank until his liver put him in the hospital.  Told he could go on to live many more years -- as long as he never drank again -- he got into a treatment program and within a year, drank himself to death.  Three more derailed their careers; one was caught nursing a nice can of some soft drink and vodka at work, sent for blood work and discovered to have a quite astounding blood alcohol level for someone who was upright and talking.  Another worked support for a celebrity's public appearances one drink-friendly holiday, gratefully accepted all the lovely beer he was offered, and was pulled over by police early in the morning of the next day, speeding one of his employer's vehicles the wrong way down the freeway.  The third apparently downed a bottle of some unscented liquor on his way to work -- perhaps just a bit more or more rapidly than was his usual -- then when trying to park, damaged his car and suffered slight injury.  There was blood, so policy called for an ambulance. Downtown ambulances are generally preceded or shadowed by police.  Good police officers are a bit suspicious by nature and the truth will out -- or at least it did then.  None of those four were especially bad guys -- okay, one was a horse's ass sometimes, this is real life -- the point is they weren't foaming-at-the-mouth axe murderers but they were a danger, a largely hidden danger, to themselves and others. Each of them had opportunities for treatment; some of them may even have availed themselves of it.  It didn't help.  Someone who will drink heavily while working or driving is likely to keep on so doing.  Most of them manage to only cause minor harm while they do.

     David Bisard, more dangerous than any of those examples, has been released with a few years on probation and it seems premature.  It is probably only a matter of time before he's back in jail and if the rest of us are very, very lucky, he won't have killed anyone with a vehicle first.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A-Geeking I Will Go, Early In The Morniing

     I'm off to help in some fairly major electrical work -- and by "help," I mean "stay well away from the hot stuff, while doing what I can to ensure that the bare essentials of of what The Starship Company does will, in fact, continue to get done."

     You see, we're going to shed as much electrical load as we can, shut down incoming power, kill the standby generator (though the last two not, I hope, in that order; but that's not my department, even though it should be) and run on the big UPSes though what is supposed to be some quick work; then we'll power up the UPS inputs while leaving turned off nonessentials like lights, air-conditioning and the cute little automatic faucets in the washrooms.  Oh! And the big coolers in the break area, oopsie.  (If you are visiting my workplace next week, might wanna avoid the vendononautomatic, at least the milk, salads and sandwiches.  Make 'em take you to one of the places across the street for lunch!)

     We're gonna need a whole lot of D cells.  The top brass are hoping the big UPSes will be having a really good day; my immediate supervisor, my peers and I have set up a large vehicle with a husky onboard genset and strung hundreds of feet of temporary power wiring to the places that really, really must have juice* and we'll be putting ourselves on shut-off patrol, looking for and powering down any nonessential loads on the UPS we missed prior to the shutdown.

     Will it work?  I have my doubts; but to the extent that sweat and forethought and keen sense of where we might've slipped up in assigning devices to UPS or commercial power can make it work, I'll be in there trying.
* Slang, 'Splain Me That Department: wall-socket power and above is "juice" but radiofrequency energy is "the soup."  I don't know why, but I'd kinda like to learn the terms steam engineers used for their working fluid; it might be instructive.

Friday, June 09, 2017

About My Blogroll

     See, here's the thing: I dislike change. At some mule-stubborn, foolish level, I kind of feel as if I can resist it by keeping the things I can control from changing too much or too fast. 

     If you're a Discworld reader (and kept up with the books), you'll know what I mean when I say retaining their old links kept Frank W. James* and Jeffro "alive in the clacks" long after they had passed on.  There are other bloggers who seem to have stopped blogging but are still around, and I hope they start up again some time.  So those links remain, too.

     And some remain simply from inertia.  I dislike change.

     If you don't like this, remember you don't need to use my blogroll.  It's mostly there for my convenience.
* Sadly, his last blog was hacked into and became a dangerous place to visit, so I eventually had to drop the link.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

Keyboard Sadness, Keyboard Opportunity

     Well, darn.  My nice big Unicomp mechanical keyboard has started to forget the "V" key and the left-hand "SHIFT" has become touchy -- press it with your pinkie too far to the right, and though it feels right, the switch hasn't swootch.  Coming up on four years of middling-heavy use and I have had it apart once, so I shouldn't be surprised; there's probably debris I missed getting in the way.  I still like them better than any other keyboard.

     I've had an Azio 104-key MK Retro* with old-fashioned round keys since I found out such things could be had.  The keys are okay but not quite the nice clickative Cherry or buckling-spring keyswitches (though they may be Cherry or a competent clone -- just not as clicky as I'd like).  The layout is conventional and not appreciably larger or smaller than the Unicomp -- and, seeing as the latter is an IBM Model M in all but name, which was closely scaled to the IBM Selectric and Model B typewriters that preceded it, it is my standard of comparison.

     If I can't fix my old keyboard, I'll likely save up and replace it.  In the meantime, this Azio is well worth trying.
* Whoosh!  Prices seem to have gone up since I bought mine.  Look around, if you like the style -- versions without the number pad begin to approach affordability.  Some the the Far Eastern manufacturers are producing interesting variations, too. Like the look but not the prices?  If you have Bluetooth, the under-$30 Logitech K380, with a nearly full-size keyboard and a clickless but very definite keyboard feel, is my choice for portable use.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Stressful Times

     My mom is still in the hospital.  Slowly improving, but still there.  There's nothing I can do to help.
*  *  *

     The business I work in is...shrinking.  Indirect competition from online services is siphoning off the advertising money my employer relies on, and while they're online, too, it doesn't monetize in the same way or on anywhere near the same scale as the traditional model that the entire industry was structured around.  Less money means less people -- and in a business that ultimately runs on fast talk and BS, and which idolizes a kind of "robber baron" approach to management, it means yearly rounds of layoffs have become twice a year events, quarterly looms on the horizon and, like the smallest adults on the Russian troika pursued by wolves after the last child has been thrown out to appease the predators, my co-workers and I are all looking at one another and wondering not, "Who's next," but just, "I hope I get eaten last."

     Meanwhile, the cars and suits of the men at the top get fancier, while the next level or two down of salaried managers work harder and harder to put a good face on it: they, too, merely hope to be eaten last.  Their nice suits are getting a bit shiny at elbows and cuffs -- or have been replaced by casual wear -- and the clued-in managers and assistants who once had a place at the table are increasingly frozen out, seen as more liability than asset, especially if they have the temerity to point out where "bold, forward-looking vision" ignores a lack of workers and space for them to work in.

     It's a rerun; twenty-five or thirty years ago, a different branch of the business hit a huge, unexpected snag (or set of snags) and shrank to fit the diminished resources (just as it had twenty-five years prior to that).  It's still shrinking, after rounds of consolidation resulted in mountains of debt; the very largest players are not expected to survive the next two years intact, if at all.

*  *  *

      The clock is ticking; it is no longer a matter of "if' but of "when." 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Oh, Boy: Monday!

     I don't even mean it sarcastically, or at least not very.  After working sick all last week, sick enough that I had a nap for lunch one day and probably should have on others, today I am feeling sufficiently better that I can hope to accomplish more and maybe -- just maybe! -- do so in something other than a zombie shuffle.

     Right now, just about everything is hovering near empty.  My pens need filling and so does the car, while I'm personally about a quart low on coffee.  An egg fried in pumpernickel is helping fill the void and I'm working on the rest of the list.

     Colds and/or allergies have long been my nemesis.  At least this one never quite kept me home.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Work, Work, But At Least At Home

     Saturday, the Data Viking visited and he and Tam and her friend Mike and I all had breakfast (at Taste -- lovely stuff!) and went to the gun show.  Just about walked myself out -- and I'm still getting over the cold.  After, most everyone had something else to do.  What I had to do was mow the lawn, which I did by sheer force of will, burning through three bottles of water in the process.  With that done, I came back inside, peeled out of my sweaty glow-y clothes, got into light PJs and took a nap until bedtime.

     Today was kinda more of the same: cleaned the gutters, grilled a nice late lunch/early supper, got Tam's help reattaching a strip of vinyl siding to the garage (clearly a lowest-bidder job), and repaired the support that gets the open-wire feedline for my main ham radio antenna past the gutter and above roof level: the Linedragon!

     Still needs some adjustment, maybe drill to clear another line spacer.  The old one succumbed to the elements. The replacement got a few coats of linseed oil and we'll see if that helps.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

It Wakes!

     I'm up, I feel like a bad job of reanimation, I'm headed for the tub. Or shower.  Whatever.

     Perfectly lousy week, thanks to the cold.  Going to try to have some fun -- at least a fancy breakfast! -- today, maybe get some outdoor work done, and then hibernate Sunday.

Friday, June 02, 2017

You Have Been Reading Too Much SF When

It starts turning into cheap poetry:

Crabbity-Crabbity hated spin gravity
Had to leave L-5 and go home.

When she got there, lack of forces Coriolis
Meant she could barely pour out
The tea she'd boil for us. 

     Ah, well.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Summer Cold

     Cold or allergy or whatever it was.  That thing; it appears to be on the wane.  Whatever it was, it put my sinuses into overdrive, gunked up my ears, annoyed my throat and left me with a nasty, rattling cough.  Not a lot of fever but my head felt like it was stuffed full of old, damp washcloths and every thought was a slow slog through that dreamscape underbrush.

     Woke up this morning drawing breath through both nostrils for the first time since Sunday evening.  Almost didn't know what to think about it.

     This comes with the territory in my line of work.  It's the reporters: they get out there, each and every day, covering The News and therefore mingle with The Public.  Unlike the checker at your neighborhood grocery, they rarely have a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby.*  So one -- just one! -- reporter encounters someone with a cold or flu; he or she then goes back to the ol' cubicle farm, only News did away with cubicles nearly a year ago so as to build a collaborative work environment and they all sit cheek-by-jowl and/or elbow -- and even before, they didn't have half-walls between one another.  So they pass it on to another reporter, a couple of producers and a photographer, all of whom visit the break room, and next thing you know, anyone in the building who is susceptible has got it.

     I'm pretty sure Patient Zero of the latest outbreak grabbed a quick snack while I was eating lunch last Friday; in retrospect, her symptoms are only too familiar....

     So, probably not an allergy, then.  Better yet, likely to be just about over.
* "All Employees Must Wash Mind Before Returning To Work." Ya think?