Thursday, May 31, 2018

Got Tam To The Doctor

     That's about all I managed to do yesterday; we had to stop and gas up the car, and, closer to home, do a grocery run and pick up some things for Tam's work nearby, but that was all I could manage; we returned home, ordered take-out food and I collapsed on the couch with an ice pack on my knee and pretty much stayed that way until it was time to turn the couch into my bed and swap out ice packs.

     Hoping to do more today.

     Ms. Tamara's visit was anticlimactic.  It seems medical thinking these days is very much against "figure-eight" support after a broken collarbone; research showed it didn't improve outcomes and made the process more painful.  They do, however, make much better slings, which I am told are more comfortable.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


     I'm not exactly the best person to handle an unflaggingly hectic schedule.  With Tam out of action as far as housework is concerned and me slowed by a bum knee, it's a bit of a dance to stay ahead of things when nothing goes wrong.

     Unlike Tam, I can't sleep comfortably on the futon when it's in couch-like mode; I have to sproing it out flat, and have my sheets and quilt and big wedge pillow.  Take note of that, it'll be significant shortly.

     The new normal morning routine is, I get up, feed the cats, start water for coffee and a pan of breakfast, then go make up my bed and turn it back into a couch while breakfast is cooking, one cat is busy eating or having an after-breakfast grooming session and the other cat is shut up in the back of the house.  Then I can put an ice pack/soft brace combo on my knee (which needs it by then) and leave it on until shower time.

     This morning, I got breakfast started, turned to the living room....and discovered Rannie contemplating a good-sized pile of fresh cat-yak she had just disgorged.  Not on top of the quilt, but right on the bottom sheet.  At least I'd made the futon up with a fluffy quilt between the futon "mattress"* and top sheet, and thus the mattress itself was somewhat protected -- if I acted quickly.

     1. Turn down fire under breakfast.
     2. Remove cat from bed and clean up mess.
     3. Strip bed, sort bedding into "wash immediately" and "wash later" piles.
     4. Check breakfast; pour just-off-boil water over coffee.
     5. Go to basement, start laundry, make hasty check for replacement thick quilt (none) and flannel sheets (ditto).
     6. Dash back upstairs with two not-so-thick quilts, turn breakfast, pour more water over coffee.
     7. Sequester both cats in the back of the house.
     8. Lay quilt on bed, start to tuck under, check breakfast, flip breakfast.
     9. Go to basement, find regular sheets.
     10. Check breakfast, finish pouring reheated water over coffee, finish quilt, start bottom sheet.
     11. Take bacon off fire, start egg.  Tam shows up for caffeinated soda.  Dodge Tam. Start toast.
     12. Finish bottom and top sheet; start to lay out top quilt, realize it's not enough, realize egg may be getting unhappy, return to kitchen.
     13. Dodge Tam, turn egg.
     14. Go to basement, find light blanket.
     15. Lay out blanket, begin to unfold sheet, hear "thump-thump-thump of unbalanced load from washing machine in basement.
     16. Hobble back to kitchen, dodge Tam (now digging out ibuprofen to go with soda), limp downstairs, find washing machine has wobbled itself askew on concrete half-blocks† and turn it off.
     17. Call washing machine a bad name, get all four feet back up on blocks, rearrange heavy wet quilt, restart washing machine.
     18. Go back upstairs, remove egg from pan.
     19. Finish making bed and tun back into couch.  Release cats from back of house.
     20. Assemble breakfasts, squabble with Tam (shockingly, we're both crabby this morning).
     21. Carry coffee to office, start computer.
     22. Put on ice pack at last!
     23. Take breakfast office.
     24. Figure out something to post -- but what?   Oh, I know!

     Mornings like these are better remembered later than experienced in the moment.

     Edited To Add: And I seem to have blown up my knee, possibly on the basement stairs.  I'm out; I couldn't make it across the parking lot at work with my briefcase and lunchbox.
* We don't use the word "futon" in English the same way it is used in Japanese, I'm told -- for them, the fluffy soft mattress is the futon, and the futon frame has its own word.  Possibly "spanner."

† The washing machine and dryer came with the house.  They were up on half-blocks, which I found convenient and only later realized should have been A Clue that the basement occasionally takes on water.  I need to improve it from the present one-block-per-corner system, and use blocks that don't have old mortar lines making them wobbly if placed wrong.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tuesday Ramblings

     Got that birthday out of the way -- also spent a little while yesterday afternoon with my leg brace on, weed-whacking the back yard, since it had become too high to mow.  I may -- may, mind you -- try running the mower a little bit at a time over the course of this week, weather and knee permitting.
*  *  *
     Tamara's ongoing travails hardly bear repeating -- hardly bear it because they are so obviously painful despite her best efforts to pretend otherwise.  Tomorrow's orthopedic doctor appointment should help with that.
*  *  *
     I haven't mentioned the recent "school shooting" in the greater Indianapolis area -- up at the bedroom community of Noblesville* -- in part because the media already did, in part because seeking fame and attention seems to be a common thread with these shooters. It has garnered all kinds of national attention while they ignore Chicago's daily death-toll, even though no one has died as a result of the Noblesville outrage.   One man stopped it: seventh grade science teacher and middle school football coach Jason Seaman tackled the shooter, "swatted his guns away," and was shot three times in the process.  He is still in the hospital, doing well.  The shooter also shot and injured a student; she is in the hospital and said to be "steadily improving."  One man's actions made the difference.
* A county seat in its own right, in the same county as Carmel.  At one time, Carmel was the "poor relation" of Hamilton County -- how things have changed!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Happy Birthday...To Me

     Yes, it's my birthday.  One of the ones that ends in a zero.  I'm not really good about it.  When did I get so old?

     Tamara gave me a really fine Waterman fountain pen.
*  *  *
     It's Memorial Day.  A day to remember the fallen.  Do that.  They answered when  the call came, and many never returned.  Spare them a minute, at least.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Heliox Bridge

     When saturation divers die valiantly, are they welcomed to the Halls of Valsalva?
N.B.: in saturation diving, panic can be deadly, as you will begin to breathe faster than your equipment can supply fresh and take away the bad.  Divers call this "breathing past your hat," the "hat" being their helmet.  Some of us can do much the same in free air at sea level -- don't.  Be like the deep-sea saturation diver.  Slow yourself, and live to come back up to the light.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Knee, Knee

     Starting to look like I have finally worn out my damaged knee.  The doctors warned me it was ticking  timebomb.  In 2006, after my scooter wreck, broken thighbone (a spiral fracture that started at the "distal condyle," one of the two knobs of bone on the end that are part of the weight-bearing surfaces of the knee joint), cartilage damage and  surgeries, I was told it was only a matter of time and that I might get ten years from the existing joint.

     Well, I got twelve years, so there, doctors!  Replacement knees are never as good as the real thing and have a limited lifespan themselves, so however far I could kick that can down the road short of retirement counts as a win.

     The knee brace helps and I used my cane all this past week.  At work Friday, I knocked a desoldering iron off the workbench.  Caught it -- they're heavy, fragile and relatively costly -- but someone had left it plugged in, and wouldn't you know, the bacon smell* was coming from the web of my left hand, right where the handle of the cane goes when you shift your weight over to it while the right foot is on the ground.  Skin thickened up and there's a blister underneath, a nice example of a second-degree burn.  So I'm sure hoping the knee brace is going to work out for a few days while that heals.

     Trying to get scheduled to see an orthopedic specialist -- maybe it's just something simple they can patch up and I get another four or five years, then swap the part out right before retirement.
* Dreadfully enough, it would smell tasty if you didn't know the source.   You know what happened to the other hominids?  I'm thinkin' maybe our ancestors had them over for dinner.  Aw, shuddup and finish your Denisovan, it's been a long, cold winter.  Or to quote NatGeo, "Early results already suggest modern humans underwent genetic changes involved with brain function and nervous system development, including ones involved in language development, after splitting from Neanderthals and Denisovans."  Yes, language, which you need to communicate recipes

Friday, May 25, 2018

My Bank Is As Helpful...

     ...As a bag of wet mice.  My bank won't answer any question online, not the simplest of "is there a tax penalty when one transfers funds from a type X acount to  type Z account?"

     Nope, they want to have a meeting, or at least a phone call.  Their phone tree is of such complexity that you cannot reach anyone by name, and by-department is iffy at best.  The people with desks do have direct numbers -- but if that number is off-hook, the system often sends you to the entry point of the phone tree.  But say you're lucky; say you do get to leave voicemail for the subassistant vice-undermanager in charge of pipsqueak accounts: does he call back?  Oh, no, hell no he does not.  His assistant or maybe someone from the steno pool calls back, to "set a meeting."

     If I had free time to go have a meeting at the bank, I would have simply gone to the bank, and sat there in the bank's pretty glass-walled waiting room in my art-bedecked T-shirt and hoodie, Carhartt dungarees and hiking shoes like a sow hog in a church pew, until they had shown me to an office and an Important Fellow in an Important Suit just get my horrible declasse self out of their nice, clean bank.

     I have been lucky enough -- once -- to get a requested call back from someone at the bank who wasn't pushing me to refinance my house.  I had a straightforward question about IRAs.  She promptly try to upsell me on a CD!

     All banks suck.  Smalltime customers like me really are just a waste of their time, but they're kind of obliged to deal with us almost as though we were an important client, and to attempt to wring as much value from the interaction as they can.  My bank seems to be sucking especially badly these days and perhaps, after thirty years (and at least three different names on the bank), it's time for me to move on.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Fustratioon

     It's Trash Day here in the neighborhood, since trash collection is tomorrow morning.  So that's probably all I'll get done this evening -- except somewhere in there, I need to pick up various kitchen staples and more cat litter.

     It's not much -- I'm not hiking ten miles one way for clean water, and (so far!) we're not in the middle of a civil war or even an uncivil one.  But it's a sudden ramp-up of activity and I would really rather be icing up my bad knee.  I've got a leg brace or two, and they're coming out of storage.  Awkward things and they work better under a skirt than over dungarees, but it's time and past that I admitted my knee isn't getting any better.

     But there's good news: Tam tells me the two end of her collarbone came together yesterday afternoon.  She had me tighten up the sling when I got home last night and so far, the bone is staying in place.  It's a relief; that's the normal course of healing for such a break but it's not a sure thing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Last Night's Dinner

     Ground chuck, sweet Italian sausage, onion, a fennel bulb, carrots and a Poblano pepper.  Canned crushed and diced tomatoes, a few kalamata olives and some little red "sweetie" peppers from the deli.

     Serve with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese over steamed yellow squash "noodles" that had a big lump of white truffle butter melted on them:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

And So, Day Two--

     I'm not much of a nursemaid.  So it's a good thing Tam's determinedly self-sufficient.  Yesterday, she managed to feed the cats, quite literally single-handed.

     "So what," you reply.  Ah, you see, the cats of Roseholme Cottage include Huck, the Mighty Eater, who is spent his childhood as a feral cat and who will eat any food available.  Putting the food bag in a kitchen cabinet counts as "available:" he will open the door, chew through the bag and eat until caught.  Thus, the door to the cat-food cupboard has a stack of heavy boxes in  front of it -- and there's a stack of heavy boxes next to that. after he managed to move the first stack one afternoon and got the door open.  All that is in the far back corner of the galley kitchen.  So Tam had to move those two stacks, then bend down to the corner and get the heavy cat food bags out, all with her left arm in a sling, while Huck was frantically trying to help.

     I made up a couple of pre-measured baggies of food for the cats this morning, and stashed them in a disused cookie jar: I know Tam can feed them by herself if she has to, but the risks are non-trivial and I am home an hour after cat-feeding time at the earliest.

     On the subject of "earliest:" the orthopedic doctor had no open appointments until 30th May!  So it'll be eight more days of coping until there's a medically-approved course of treatment and plan of action.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Drive To And From Dayton Was Hard Going

     I need to work out a better way to attend the Dayton Hamvention if I intend to continue going.  The drive was very rough on my body.  Several encounters with rain so heavy it slowed interstate traffic to a crawl didn't help -- I tense up as visibility drops, especially in traffic, and there's no using cruise control.  Add in walking on slippery, muddy ground and wet gravel at the Hamvention itself before driving sixty miles to the hotel and half again as much to Indianapolis the next day through another band of heavy rain, and my right knee is aching.  Iced it up some last night and the night before.  Lower back isn't so great, either, though sleeping on the futon last night might have helped.  Staying in a hotel near the halfway point undoubtedly helped; I don't think I could have made the trip at all otherwise.

     "Sleeping on the futon:" The futon frame in the living room converts into a bed.  Tam's attic isn't very well climate-controlled and so that's often one of her spots.  It's my spot now; with a broken collarbone, Tam can't unfold the futon.  The narrow space left for access once it is unfolded is a problem, too.  So she's got my bedroom, with the swing-out keyboard/laptop tray over the bed and a TV set conveniently in one's line of sight.

     Now to reschedule my dental checkup (it was going to be this morning), get Tam scheduled for the orthopedic specialist, and take care of housework....

     This morning's quote: I was getting a bit flustered being Chief Cook, Cat-Wrangler and Empress of Disorder, which had me stammering over something while groping for a word, and I was already limping around....  After the fourth try and still not getting the word, I looked over at Tam and muttered, "Nobody better serve me any mushrooms!"

     She got it.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tamara Keel Needs Your Help

     She's going to fuss at me for this, but oh well.

     Tam fell and broke her collarbone early Sunday morning.  This is not a good bone for an adult to break, since about all they can do it put you in a sling or immobilizer while it heals, and it hurts considerably if you move wrong.  It hurts a lot more than that before treatment; she made it as far as the dining room before deciding that calling an ambulance was the only way forward.*

     The ER checked her over, did a set of X-rays and gave her a basic sling along with a prescription for a few days of painkillers and quite firm instructions to check with the orthopedic specialists come Monday.

     It won't be cheap.  She needs a working collarbone to continue doing the work to write the kinds of articles her readers enjoy, like the 2,000-round tests of a wide range of handguns, modern and classic.

     There's a PayPay tip jar on Tam's blog.  She's got a Patreon, which also gets you valuable extra snark and informed opinion.  Some money in either one -- or both, if you choose to -- would be a huge help to her.  Even warm, positive thoughts will be helpful.

     Healing time for a broken collarbone is around three months, minimum, and she'll be off shotgun use for awhile longer.
* Tam and I both view calling for a flashing-lights-and-siren ride as a last resort, and aspire to a Stoic ideal.  Aspiration is one thing -- broken bones tend to trump that ace, decisively.  Accepting the inevitable is a Stoic virtue, too.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dayton Hamvention 2018

     Friday, I went to the Dayton Hamvention.  I overslept, having gone to bed around 11:00 p.m., in part due to a series of silly time-wasters that consumed my packing time Thursday morning: late departure, late arrival, overslept.

     Perhaps it was just as well.  But I'll get back to that.

    The second year in the new Hamvention venue finds the parking area is still a swamp.  If you don't have 4WD or at least high ground clearance, consider one of the off-site parking and shuttle bus options.

     The flea market remains good.  The food choices are widely varied -- I had a BLT for lunch as good as any I've ever had!  The big halls for the various vendors are pretty nice, though I almost missed the Vibroplex booth, and Begali keys had a nice large, working display of all their keys.  Pietro Begali has perfected the "sideswiper" key and I am longing for one -- alas, the price is high (as befits so lovely and wonderful an example of design and construction) and it is massively heavy, or I would already have one.

     I never did find where they have located the smaller organizations.  (It was on the program but I never found a place to sit down and open it up.) ARRL and RSGB were very much in evidence and AMSAT practically had their own wing, as befits amateur radio's own space program.

     The drive from Richmond to Xenia was terrifying: I kept encountering bands of extremely heavy rain, rain so hard traffic speed would drop and drop and drop; we'd all be down to 40 mph and I would still be unhappy with how draw ahead I couldn't see.  About a third of the semi-trailer rigs opted to pull to the side for the worst downpours.  It didn't start to clear up until I reached and mostly passed Dayton, and took a long, meandering arc down a U. S. high and through part of Xenia, Onion near Antioch College.  It almost out-Bohemians Broad Ripple, complete to an eatery named "The Smoking Octopus," with a very octopodean brick wall along the sidewalk. Just what it might be smoking, I'm not sure -- possibly itself.   So I was kind of wobbly and post-white-knuckly when I parked at the fairgrounds, not much helped by a breakfast that had consisted of a couple of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (love 'em!) and a cup of coffee.

     The drive back was better and I'm actually writing this Friday evening, after a drive-through dinner on my way back to the hotel.  I plan to go to bed early, and hope to get a nice breakfast tomorrow morning.  The charger for this Surface RT was left behind when I packed, so I decided to get the next blog post done while I could.

    The Hamvention was okay this year.  I didn't buy anything big, though I was tempted -- I want a Globe King transmitter, or one of the big old desktop Collins AM transmitters.  There were several of the latter in the flea market, at attractive prices -- but I cannot lift them, I have no place to keep one at home right now, and most of them had been rained on.  It's like the grapes said in the old Greek fable, "The fox was probably toothless anyway."

     That fractured fable is a pretty good indication of my level of exhaustion -- I walked and walked and walked, most of it on muddy gravel.  Off to bed now.

Friday, May 18, 2018


     First time I have not woken up in my own bed in at least fifteen years.  And I don't trust the weird turbo-coffee machine in here well enough to hazard a cup.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Check? No

     Well, this is...interesting?  Getting things together for my Dayton trip, I realized I'm out of personal checks. 

     Off to the bank this morning to see how the modern electronic age handles a cash withdrawal.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dayton Hamvention

     I've made my mind up.  I'm going to try to get to the Dayton Hamvention.  Last year, the additional drive to the new location and back home in one day made the trip difficult, even though I didn't make a long day of it at all.   So I'll be doing half the drive a day ahead.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Up Early: Corned Beef Hash Edition

     Woke up early Monday to try an experiment: home-made corned beef hash.  I've made it before, and the "cheater version," with deli corned beef cut thick, has been disappointing: too salty, too chewy.  (Using left over home-cooked corned beef works well, though it's different from the classic, more hash browns with corned beef.)

     Clearly, the meat needed to be cooked closer to the falling-apart stage.  Cubing it and cooking in a little water seemed promising, so I was determined to find out.

     Started with the potatoes, and they were soon bubbling gently in the skillet (with a little dehydrated onion for luck); cut up and added the beef, covered and let it cook until the potatoes were soft, uncovered to dry it a little and then added a handful of yellow bell pepper for a bit more cooking with the lid back on.

     The taste was exactly right!  Textures tell me I should start with the meat next time; it should be a little softer and the potato could have been firmer.  Nevertheless, the basic process does just what I wanted it to do.

     It only took forty-plus years to figure out.

Monday, May 14, 2018


     So, older sister and I visited the cemetery, with silk floral arrangements for our Mom and for Dad's Mother, who died when I was two and sis was eight.  It's an old and nearly-forgotten place, unmowed so far this year, dandelions all gone to seed.  But there are many trees and there's a creek not too far away, and it's quiet and peaceful.

     Three generations of my father's family are buried there, and some of his and Mom's friends from High School are there, too.  It can make walking through the place unexpectedly poignant: "Oh, here's Goldie...and there's Marvin...."  people my parents knew, people my sister and I knew, at least a little; people whose names are are on buildings and streets in the little  neighborhood where they all lived.  Yes, there's an "X" street, too, named for my grandfather, who owned an auto garage not far from it.

     We left a little quieter than we arrived.

*  *  *
     I picked up a new battery for my motor scooter Sunday afternoon.  I didn't get the old battery out before the weather turned so terribly cold last winter and a short test ride a couple of weeks ago convinced me it was puny and not charging well.  Nobody makes a sealed storage battery of the right physical size and storage capacity to fit the available space, so I end up having to pour acid into the shipped-dry batter, which I don't much like doing.

     Last year, when I was turning in the previous defunct battery and acid container, the friendly countermen at the neighborhood auto-parts store offered to prep the next one for me.  So this year, I took them up on the offer.

     They filled the battery with a casual (but careful) grace that spilled not a drop (I have to keep a box of baking soda and a bottle of water handy), credited me for the dud and sent me on my way.  Once home, I stashed the battery near the scooter, to put in later.  Remember that.

*  *  *
     It was good grilling weather and the corner grocer had a deal on steaks.  It's been hot enough that I was hankering for cucumber-onion salad -- just sliced cucumber and onion, in sweetened, diluted vinegar with a little salt and pepper (and maybe a hint of garlic), so I picked up fixings for that, along with a baking potato and some green salad.

     The grill and hardwood charcoal worked their usual magic; the green salad and potato were great. The cucumber-onion salad was okay, but wanted re-seasoned; this is easily done by pouring off the liquid, making a new batch (sweeter and less salty, with a bit of black pepper) and pouring it over the veggies: these "unpickles" are good for at least a week in the fridge and get better over time.

     After dinner and another episode of The Expanse (Tam is catching up), I went out to the garage to install the new battery in my scooter.

*  *  *
     Everything on an old-fashioned scooter is tiny.  The battery is no exception, easy to sit on its little shelf and strap into place.  Bolt the lugs on the terminals, and you're almost done: it's a conventional battery and there's a vent that needs to have a plastic tube installed.  It's shipped capped, and I noticed the auto-parts guys had left the cap on.

     Heavy "dishwashing" gloves are my preferred protective wear when working with batteries -- even a sealed car battery is pretty filthy after years under the hood and they help avoid that burning sensation.  They're not terribly clumsy to work in but the tiny rubber cap over the vent connection was tricky.  I tugged at it and--
     I stepped back smartly while saying, "Yow!" and dropping the little cap.  There was a faint rotten-egg smell in the air; I stopped inhaling as soon as I caught it, stepped out into the driveway, expelled as much air as I could and breathed in.

     Of course pressure had built up in the battery; the auto-parts clerk had likely assumed I'd be putting it in almost immediately, given the afternoon was pretty good riding weather and we're looking at a week of rain.  I hadn't. I'd left it sitting for several hours in 80-plus -degree heat and thus I'd got a surprise.

     The battery was fine and after a few minutes to let the fumes clear, I finished the job, put the cowling back in place, and rode the scooter up and down the alley a little.  Looks like it'll do!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day

     The first one on which I have no mother to call.  My sister and I will probably visit the cemetery today.  Kind of morbid, but where else do we have to go?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Desk Clearing

     I have a bad habit of letting mail pile up on my desk.  Bills go between the keyboard and monitor and are, in theory, routinely dealt with.  Junk mail hits the trash about weekly or sooner.  The in-between stuff just piles up to the right of my mousepad: various credit offers, holiday cards, medical paperwork, instruction booklets, handwritten notes for stories or about interesting music or items I might want to buy.

     It's a recipe for clutter.  The pile grows and grows, occluding pen and pencil containers (a corned beef can and a soup can, washed, deburred and sprayed with clear enamel; a nifty urn-shaped jar that once held olives; the cap/cup from a defunct Thermos and a toothbrush rack that hold fancy fountain pens) and hiding tools and projects -- a math book by the brilliant Bill Eddy, Arch Brolly and others; a set of Brush Development Co. crystal headphones with a bad element from which I hope to salvage the good one to repair my crystal microphone;* the soft paintbrush I use to clean the keyboard and which I have been very puzzled about misplacing, since it was right around here somewhere.

     All of which I have sorted and uncovered, starting last night with a first pass to separate paid bills, "keeper" papers, insurance receipts and checking/credit statements into individual piles.  Those piles were further sorted and disposed of this morning starting about 9:00 and I am only now, as the clock approaches 1:00 p.m., able to get to the keyboard to log on and post something.

     Make that the the recently-cleaned keyboard.  Sure happy to find that paintbrush!
* Nothing doing -- both elements are broken.  I'll have to keep an eye open for another.  Turning crystal "cans" into microphones is a  simple 1930s ham radio trick that works very well.  It's roughly contemporary with the Astatic D-104 crystal microphone, a classic that was made well into the 21st Century, and that's no accident: the two hams who founded Astatic had a friend who worked at Brush.  The three of them were interested in making affordable microphones for amateur use and at the time, Brush was not -- but the company was happy to sell them Rochelle-salts crystal transducers.  The result was an enduring product.  However, while the product (or products -- Brush crystal headphones were the only "hi-fi" option until Koss came along) was enduring, the crystals themselves are fragile and sensitive to heat, humidity and applied voltage, so these days, it can take a little looking.

Friday, May 11, 2018


     The aftermath of my mother's death has left me dealing with a small financial windfall, which led, by divers means, to talking to my bank about refinancing my home.

     Now, this is something I really should do; I bought at the wrong point in time, my initial lender was Countrymark, which was snapped up by Bank of America who are, after all, BoA, with all the warmth and personal touch you might expect from a mega-megabank.  The interest rate is terrible--

     But I'm used to it.  With homeowner's insurance and real-estate tax rolled in, my house payment is a predictable expense, and setting up a mortgage was stressful enough once.  Still, shaving five years off my remaining payments for a 10% increase in home much I pay each month is certainly appealing.

     My bank's home-loan guy is...too eager.  Pushy, even.  It gets my back up, and all the more when he exhorts, "Do it now!  Lock in the rate!  It's going up!"  Yes, well--  It's been going up for awhile now, and it's still not close to the rate I'm paying.  Plus, the appraisal process seems intrusive and time-consuming.  So I don't think I'll be doing it just yet.

     Banks used to be less annoying.  Stuffy, sure.  Stodgy.  Snooty.  But they'd by-golly take a hint and back down.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"Windows Update"

     You got it, too, unless you're within the Apple/Mac ecosystem or are some kinda *nixer.  Twenty minutes of "Windows is updating.  Do not turn off your computer" and a count that reached "48% done" twice.

     Twenty minutes of my life that I'm not going to get back.  At least I was running hot water into the bathtub and eating breakfast while I watched the spinning dots.

     And once it is all over, after I have found out the battery in my hand-me-down iPad is dead and my Surface RT has decided it doesn't want to play nice with the Bluetooth keyboard (a Lofree, excellent keyboard but they keep tweaking the colors and raising the price), then the machine boots and I learn it has All!  New!!  FE4TURZ!!! none of which I wanted.

     Where's the "patch the problems but leave the rest of it alone" option?  I'm getting along with Windows 10 pretty well, almost as well as with its predecessors, though never as well as with MS-DOS and certainly not as comfortably as I did with CP/M.  (Oh, how I miss CP/M and the tiny computers it ran on, which forced programmers to write tight code if they wanted the stuff to run at all; but I digress and besides, it didn't do color or pictures, which makes it about the same as landline telegraphy to the modern mind).

     It's 2018 and my computer's into self-improvement.  Physical Jerks on the telescreen are next, I suppose, and participation is mandatory.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

"...Interesting Times..."

     It certainly seemed like interesting times yesterday, with the Administrating repudiating one nuclear-limitation deal with one worrying country while angling to set up a similar deal with another worrisome nation.

     How you feel about the situation is likely to hinge on partisan politics: Mr. Obama's Administration made the Iran deal and Mr. Trump has been vocal in calling it a bad bargain; meanwhile, what might happen with North Korea remains highly speculative, with nuclear disarmament no more in evidence than a flicker of exposed ankle at a Victorian party.

     I'm suspicious of party politics as the sole lens through which to look at world events, but what else do can you do?

      Turns out there is another tool.  It's cheap and easy to use, though limited: it will tell you the impact of a major policy or action, with a fair indication of magnitude, but puzzling out if the impact is a good thing or a bad thing for you or wider world requires interpretation: the daily graph of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  Investors -- "the market" generally -- like stability and predictability for the world in which they cast their knucklebones.*  The market reacts to news -- scare them and it contracts; give them happy news and it soars.  There's a quick "bobble" yesterday afternoon, peaking around 2:30 p.m., dipping down and then returning to par for the remainder of the day: the market wasn't terribly worried by the President's announcement.  If they're not, I likely don't need to be, either.
* The child of Depression babies, I grew up with the belief that "playing the market" was the very same thing as "playing the ponies," only on a larger scale and done by better-dressed bettors: people with money to burn risking it in the hopes of making more money, an activity limited to those who could afford to lose and nothing a decent, hardworking middle-class person would do.  I'm told that's no longer the prevalent attitude, but when people talk about investing their 401k in stocks, it strikes me as an insanely foolish risk: that's your retirement you're gambling with!  YMMV.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

New NRA President: Oliver North

     If Charleton Heston represented the best of my parents generation, Lieutenant Colonel North represents....what?

     On the one hand, he's plenty smart, and used to being disliked; he's written books, hosted TV shows and is one of the go-to military experts for Fox News.  On the other, he's Oliver North, a sneak who colluded with Manuel Noriega, got caught, was tried and convicted -- and then the prosecution turned out to have not been sufficiently careful to distinguish between testimony for which he had been granted immunity and non-immune evidence, and who (including the jury) saw what when and hey-la, LtCol North was acquitted on appeal, thanks to the efforts of the ACLU.  On the other other hand, his military record as a leader of men, in combat and the classroom, looks very good indeed.

     Tam sees this development as NRA nailing their SoCon flag to the standard -- but that was the case before his election, too.

     So NRA's got a media-savvy President with high name recognition, who most of the media already didn't like and who is used to facing hostile interviewers: it could have been much worse, some milquetoast or off-kilter firebrand (I'm not saying the name "Nugent" but when you think of self-igniting dumpster fires...) and it may turn out pretty good.

     But going to wait and see.  

Monday, May 07, 2018

Off To The Bank

     I have got to go talk to the bank about some financial stuff.  Nothing bad, just some loose ends left from sorting out Mom's estate.  Looks like I won't be getting the gold-plated Rolls-Royce, but it never got good mileage after the plating anyway.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

I'm All Right

     It just all piled up on me yesterday -- I was going in to work overtime, since we're so short-handed at work that there's no way not to, and it all hit.

     May is a tough month anyway, but facing Mother's day so soon after Mom's death, and then her birthday on the 19th, well, that's too much.  (It's the anniversary of my father's death, too.)   My brother's birthday is the 21st and a week later, I get slammed with a birthday ending in zero, one of the bad ones, one of the, "You're well past the halfway point now," birthdays that aren't easy to take.

     Nobody is spared this if they last long enough but it's still not a light burden.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

You Know What?

     I feel lousy most of the time.  I try not to, but I still do.  And I get tired of always working so hard to look on the bright side.

     Kids, old is just old.  Enjoy what you have while you have it.  Sleep less.  Dance more.   Or write, paint, whatever.  Do it while you can.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Are They Hiring Geyser Technicians?

     Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano erupted yesterday, in one of the inevitable-but-when events that characterize the relationship between the people who live there and the ground beneath their feet; a telling line from one of the affected residents was that he knew it would someday happen when he moved to the area fourteen years before.  Volcanoes aren't good neighbors but for some people, the appeal of living in a tropical paradise outweighs the risk of having to walk away.  The island's volcanoes are, generally, a disaster you can escape afoot and often, an industrious person with a wheelbarrow could get most of their belongings away, too; living comfortably as I do in a city that could find itself in sorry shape if the New Madrid fault* decided to let go again, I haven't any room to criticize Hawaiians for living on the edge of potentially lava-spewing lands.

     CBS, on the other hand, has lost their thesaurus, or perhaps it has slipped the leash.  In reporting the eruption, they delivered this gem:   

     "Volcano officials said they couldn't predict how long Thursday's eruption might last."

     I've been looking and I can't find any executive-level members of the management of Kilauea Volcano; the place doesn't even seem to have a press office!  The island is well awash in vulcanologists; the U.S. Geological Survey is all over it and they even have a Hawaiian Volcano Observatory staffed with highly qualified geophysicists and geologists and managers and techs and janitors and so on.  But volcano officials?  Not a one.  It's almost as if the things were a natural phenomenon!

     I'm tempted to regard this as an example of the actual unconscious bias in the news business: the notion that if there's something happening, someone must be in charge of it.
* In looking that up, I encountered the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, much closer to home.  Not terribly comforting -- and don't get too comfortable where you are, either.  This beautiful planet is a dangerous place.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

A Clue! A Clue!

     Indiana politics can be strange, and never stranger than when our Democrats -- who are generally not much less rural than this very rural state -- are trying to charm voters with Good Old Hoosier Values.

     Oh, they're not being especially disingenuous; most Indiana Democrats (Rep. Andre Carson excepted) are about aligned with the average New York or California Republican on many key issues.  But this is Indiana and thus even in a primary, some demur at mentioning their actual party.

     I've mentioned Winnebago-driving Senator Joe Donelly, the man who dares not speak his party's name and who the GOP is pretty sure they can replace, if only Mssrs. Rokita, Braun and Messer can get the voters to figure out which one of them is President Trump-loving, anti-abortion, wall-building and swamp-draining enough to become the Junior Senator from Indiana.

     Indiana's Ninth Congressional District is another interesting race, with GOP incumbent Trey Hollingsworth facing a challenge from inside his own party and three Democrats vying to fill the other side of the ballot.  One of the latter's been running an interesting ad with nary a mention of her party, beginning, "For five generations, my family helped build Indiana.  Each one did a little better than the last...," a fine tale of upward mobility.  She continues, "I've spent a career fighting in the courts and to change laws and to level the playing field," language a bit mangled but hey, she's in there fighting for the little guy.  She goes on to accuse the incumbent of having, "...rigged the system against us," so, she's running against the GOP incumbent in the primary? Wait, what's her party affiliation?  And then she follows with "I believe affordable healthcare is a right...." Ah, not in the Republican primary, then.  But not one word about her in-party competitors for the same job, let alone what party that might be.  Maybe she's a Whig?  Nope.

     On the one hand, I admire her refraining from internecine mudslinging; on the other, Indiana doesn't have open primaries, so people getting the primary ballot that includes her aren't going to be voting for Congressman Hollingsworth -- he's not among the choices!

     And never once does the word "D-m-cr-t" pass her lips.  Aw, c'mon outta that closet, at least for your own party's primary!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Spring Beauty

     That's the name of the tiny white flowers that, along with a profusion of wild violets, cover the front yard here at Roseholme Cottage, along with much of the back yard.  They're why I delay the first lawn mowing of the year, too.  The violets come back but Spring Beauty declines considerably after it has been mowed.

     I have been out with my old-fashioned dandelion puller, waging slightly-futile war with the lawn-dragon; I like them, but they are prolific and would take over if left unchecked.  So, too, would the Winter Creeper that lurks along the fences around the back yard, snaking tentacles toward the garage and trying to climb the hackberry tree.  Keeping after it takes constant work.  (There's "Creeping Charlie," too, with a square stem, ruffled semi-circular leaves and an appealing aroma when cut, but it's better-behaved and has been used as a spice; I don't bother it much unless it goes after the tree.)

     But it's worth it.  I have yards full of flowers, for a very little effort.  I need to get some more topsoil and replant the wildflowers in the front flower bed.  Tam has been hinting about clearing the back raised bed for vegetables -- and time's a-wasting!  It's got a lot of violets, a lot of leaves, and a patch of half-wild green onions we'll probably want to keep.

     Winter might finally be over.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Goin' To The Candidates Debate

     Last night was the third of three debates among the Republicans running for the U. S. Senate seat presently occupied by Democrat (though he hates to admit when he's home) Joe Donnelly.

     It has been an ugly campaign.  Each man has been trying to run to the Right of the other two, a process in which shoving your opponent Left works just as well -- and that is, perhaps, good, since they're running out of room on the Right.

     They ran out of truth quite some time ago, but their supply of factiods, inferences and accusations about one another appears to be inexhaustible.

     And meanwhile, Just Plain Joe runs ads with himself at the wheel of a Winnebago,* tieless, opened-collared, smiling broadly and talking about Just Plan Hoosier Values.  Does he believe in them when he's in Washington?  ...As long as his party doesn't yank his chain, sure; but make no mistake, he knows what party he's in when it counts.

     And meanwhile, the GOP's Three Stooges are falling all over themselves to each be a bigger booster of Mr. Trump than the other two, which again is a process in which you score just as many points if you show your primary opponents haven't been onboard the Trump train as early, often or unreservedly as yourself.  They're all just shy of swearing personal-loyalty oaths, and they might get that far by Election Day.

     It doesn't strike me as a good sign.  I don't think there's a dime's worth of difference between them, and even if you threw Senator Donnelly into the soup pot and boiled them all down, there's wouldn't be enough gravitas among the group to move a feather, nor sufficient substance to float one.

     Come the general election, I am considering writing in for one of the orangutans at the Indianapolis Zoo.  Azy looks like a good bet -- he has fair computer skills, is considered the "peacemaker" of the group, enjoys meeting new people and it appears he wouldn't be easily intimidated.  That's already greater qualifications for the job than the incumbent and his challengers have demonstrated.  Or perhaps Katy, another computer-literate problem-solver, and she gets along well with men, a prime asset in Congress.  But would six years in the U. S. Senate be fair to either one? 

     Probably not.  We're going to have to send one of the human fools angling for the job off to the Senate.  I'm hoping the Libertarians will run someone for the office, preferably someone sane; I'll vote for 'em but an orangutan would have a better chance of winning.

     And I'd expect it would run a better campaign than we've seen so far, too.

     Political analysis by Simon & Garfunkel:
     Going to the candidates' debate
     Laugh about it, shout about it
     When you've got to choose
     Every way you look at this you lose

* Or some other big RV.  Many brands are built in northern Indiana, and you can count on his team to have picked one of them.  That little touch should be a warning to whoever goes against him this Fall.