Wednesday, October 31, 2018


     It has a long history in Western culture.  Antisemitism is the worst sort of xenophobic nonsense and it brings out the worst in people.  It has no basis in fact.

     Pre-Revolutionary America was a better place for Jews than Europe -- and even here, they were not allowed to participate in elections (community councils and the like) until the founding of the United States.

     The Pittsburgh killer explicitly stated antisemitism was his motive.  This is entirely unAmerican, counter to the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, and should be repugnant to all decent people.

     There's a gun show in town this weekend and I was thinking about going.  I still might -- but there are a couple of vendors who show up from time to time* that I would have a very difficult time not calling out.  They always have significantly fewer browsers than the other tables -- unfortunately, it's still a non-zero number.

     This pernicious notion is the precise opposite to the American ideal of tolerance and freedom.  It should be opposed vigorously whenever it shows up.

     If you're thinking about making a "Yes, but..." comment or worse to this post, do us both a favor and ban yourself now.  I won't have it.  I'm not obliged to tolerate poison and I won't.
* Neither of them sell guns; each specializes in an only slightly firearm-related thing, different to the other.  At least the guy selling bath towels and coffee mugs with pictures of Nazi leaders on them stopped showing up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Thing About Kings

     The thing about kings is, traditionally, historically, they're both cause and blame.  A good harvest?  The king  -- or the pharaoh -- must have done all the right things; a bad harvest must mean he has done wrong.  Sometimes things got bad and stayed that way, and kings were sacrificed (or just killed) to placate the gods.

     Culturally, we've got kings -- and perhaps a few of the old gods -- lurking in the background.  These days, Presidents fill much of that role.  If the economy is doing well or poorly, it must be the President's doing!  ...It usually isn't.

     Do the times make the man, or does the man make the times?  President Trump has condemned the recent violence -- mail bombs, what appears to be a racially motivated double murder, the horrific killings in Pittsburgh -- and one of the reactions I'm seeing is that "he has encouraged it."  I'm not so sure; I think his speech (and Twitter messaging) is often rash; he's got a personal battle with the Press going, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Richard Nixon and he's been all in favor of roughing-up hecklers -- but that doesn't constitute approval of hate-motivated crimes.

     He's very easy to blame; he's a polarizing figure, whose personality is not terribly endearing even to many of his supporters, who campaigned to enthusiastic crowds on a strongly "America first" agenda; he's pretty blind to the historical usage of many of the terms he employs, deliberately or otherwise.

     But he didn't conjure up the outrage-fueled crowds; and for their part, actual mob violence has been rare.  This country's crop of crazed loners is always present; it has been for lifetimes.  A roster of successful and would-be presidential assassins alone turns up mostly men and women who had a very shaky relationship with reality.

     The manner in which the Trump administration and Mr. Sessions' Justice Department in particular handles this recent spate of crimes will have a great deal of effect on public perception.  Mr. Trump's habit of sniping at the press -- whether it is justified or not -- will be an impediment.  It will likely have an effect on the mid-term elections.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Box Of Purses

     I think it's a sign of something.  Age, probably.  Sunday, I started in straightening up my bedroom and I kept finding purses and bags and the occasional laptop case.  Eventually I had a big storage tub full of them even after throwing out the worn-out ones.

     Once I finish, I guess I'll go through them one more time, sort out a few useful ones, and take the rest to Goodwill.  Didn't expect to find so many!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"Destroy This Mad Brute"

     The title is from a WW I Allied enlistment poster featuring a slavering subhuman in a pickelhaube, bloody club in one hand and a fair maiden representing Liberty or Justice* or Democracy in peril clutched in his other arm.

     Real life isn't that easy.  It wasn't even that simple then.  Today's monster lives just down the street -- or in a Pittsburgh apartment block.  There aren't any sure ways to stop such people ahead of time; we can work to build a society where the kind of sentiments he is reported to have expressed are unacceptable among decent people, but there will always be be people who express them anyway.  You can say, "Shoot back," but though it's a satisfying thought, it's not always a practical solution for the average person (or even the average concealed carrier) -- and may be unacceptable to some groups.

     The murderous outrage in Pittsburgh is the most recent example.   In response, police agencies across the country have stepped up patrols near synagogues or even stationed patrol cars at them during religious services.  Religious freedom is a foundational element of the United States and the overwhelming majority of citizens and residents will not tolerate attacks on worshipers.

     The usual partisan hue and cry has been raised; the President has spoken out against this crime, as he did against the mailbomber, and has been blamed for both nevertheless.  Me, I'll blame the people who commit the crimes; I don't think individual decent, sane people are lured to commit such acts by mainstream political figures.  While the "average guy" may indeed be capable of atrocity,† he does so by "going along to get along," as humans have done since time immemorial.  These  lone killers are something else -- dangerous lunatics, uncontrolled by moral concerns or societal norms.  The Internet makes it possible for them to find like-minded others, just as innocent quilters and cat-lovers congregate.  If there's a way to sieve the truly dangerous from the general mass of noisy Internet creeps and nutters, neither Facebook nor the NSA has figured it out yet.

     Be careful out there.  Practice being nice to others -- and keep a wary eye out for deranged violence.
* That would explain her off-the-bosom dress.

† See the book Ordinary Men, if you have a strong stomach.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


     Two cups of coffee and I'm still sleepy.  I didn't get a lot of sleep last week.  Maybe I'll have a nap.

Friday, October 26, 2018


     I could offer up my commentary and insight on current events, but it's just too depressing.  Hey, you know what?  Be respectful and polite to those around you.  Don't go out of your way to "push people's buttons."  Don't be a jerk.  And oh, yeah, don't send mail-bombs to people.

     I'm hearing a lot of claims of "Extremist Trump supporter!" from liberals and "False flag!" from conservatives about the mail-bomber.  Yeah, about that--  Probably None Of The Above.  Mail bombs are notoriously unreliable, in both activation and target selection.  Who believes ex-Presidents and Congressthings open their own mail?  --Lunatics, that's who.  This will turn out to be the work of some kind of a nutjob.  Left, Right or Center, what they won't be is an "operative" or a regular member of one party or another.  Come on, think this through -- you don't do this sort of thing, I don't do this sort of thing and neither does the schoolteacher who lives down the street and went off to march in Washington in a pink knit hat in 2016.

     Normal people don't send explosive packages to other people, even those they loathe; normal people don't send fake explosive packages to people to "game the media," especially when most of the media are their friends anyway.   Even most crazed would-be assassins tend to opt for more accurate methods and professionals just plant repugnant pornography on their target's computer or fly in a drone, depending on the desired degree of subtlety. 

     Paranoia is addictive.  Don't smoke that stuff, kids.  It's not good for you.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


     Picking up the asterisk from yesterday's post:

     * Yes, "rack room," or occasionally "rack compartment," looking not very much different from a modern-day server farm.  I was Chief on the freighter Billy How before things were quite so digital, though even then, the early '90s, it was well begun and any fool could see the trend was only going to grow.  Still, the end is the same; then it was mostly screwdriver adjustments with oscilloscopes and meters to see the result; now it's all keyboards and screens for the same job. 

     "Rack" is an overused word.  Small to medium sized equipment gets installed in racks nineteen inches wide and standardized to a pattern that goes back to late 19th-Century telephone equipment; when we had computer and audio tapes aboard starships, they got "racked" on the machines instead of "mounted" and "re-racked" instead of rewound.  You even sleep in a rack -- well, you do if you're a regular grew member; as Chief Engineer I rated a compartment of my own, much too handy to Engineering and nearly large enough to turn around in.  Somehow the meaning is clear in context -- and the galley never serves rack of lamb. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Problem With Captains

     It was the problems with the data-loggers on the old Billy How that clued me in that the ship's new owners were going to be difficult to work for.  Cincinnati Group was something well beyond frugal and had installed a Captain and XO who came aboard determined to show us a thing or two about how starships should be run.

     See -- or maybe you don't; it's been decades and all of the technology has changed -- back then just as now, everything having to do with maneuvering the starship was recorded.  Intercom chatter, control inputs, telemetry, inertial navs, all of it was saved and at that time,, that meant magnetic tape.  Some tracks were digital, some analog; one track was nothing but a clock.  The idea was that if anything went wrong, you'd have a record of it and with any luck, enough information to put things right.

     They were fiddly beasts.  Billy How had six of them in two groups of three, one set in the rack room* just off the Command deck and another down in Engineering/Power, the combined space for the Jump exciter, reactor controls, and suchlike. The two-inch wide tapes spooled slowly, each one holding twenty-four hours of recording on one big reel, and we "bicycled" ten reels of tape thor each set of recorders.

     They were supposed to spool slowly, that is.  The set up on Command had gotten squirrely, racing through a tape in a few hours during the Jump in the Kansas II system.  Once we were back in normal space, I dug into them,  running the setup procedure from the manual, and they weren't behaving as they should; the speed control, a lovely complex setup with tachometers on the drive and reel motors and a triple phase-locked servo, wouldn't stay locked.  The signals from the tachs were ragged, and when I went to look for replacements, all I found were a few empty boxes with a note from three years before: "Order more ASAP."  Before my time as Chief but I should've checked already.

     By the time I'd got that far, we were close enough to get a reply back from Kansas II in a few hours, so I messaged the chandler Cincinnati Group preferred to deal with and had a price back on replacement parts by the start of my next watch.  They weren't cheap.  Between all six units, we needed eighteen of them; not all the tachs were bad, but at least half had failed the rest probably weren't far behind.

     The new Captain was in his quarters just off the Command bridge.  "Cap'n Wheat?  About the loggers, I'm going to need some parts."

     Gregory Wheat was a young man as starship captains go, only a few years older than I was at the time.  He looked up from the papers on his desk and frowned, "And what parts would those be, young lady?"

     I kept smiling.  Captains get a lot of leeway.  "Tachs for the speed control.  About half ours are worn out and I'd like to stock replacements for the remainder.  So eighteen, at just over seven hundred dollars per deck."

     His eyebrows went up.  "You want...over four thousand dollars worth of parts?"

     "Didn't have any replacements in stock, sir.  That's on me; I missed the empties on the shelf."

     "Why don't you have another look at those recorders, see what you can do.  I'll get back to you."

     I kept on smiling.  "Yessir."

     I took the old tachs apart and cleaned them up again -- they're optical, and any grime on the moving disc will mess them up -- but it didn't do much good.

     Shortly after chow, the Captain called me up to the bridge.  "I'm going to get you some help.  The Kessler is at Kansas II.  It's a Cincy-Group freighter a bit larger than us.  I was XO there and they've got a real sharp Chief.  He'll come aboard after we reach K-two and help you with those loggers."

     I was thinking he wasn't going to be much help if he didn't bring any tachs with him, but you don't say that kind of thing to the guy in the worry seat, so I nodded and replied, "I'll look forward to that."

*  *  *

     The trip in was uneventful.  Once we were parked in orbit around Kansas II, Kessler sent a squirt-booster over and I met their Chief at the airlock -- a dapper young man, who was not, in fact, carrying any replacement tachs.  We shook hands and exchanged names -- Jim MacAlheny, he was and I asked if he had any luggage.

     He laughed.  "No, just me and a green tweaker."  The ubiquitous pocket screwdriver -- we all carried one back then; it was practically a badge of office.  "I'd better check in with the Old Man."

     I told him, "Okay; then we can see about the tachs on those loggers."

     The Captain was in his quarters; I waved the Kessler's Chief in ahead of me, and Capain Wheat stood up, his hand out.  "Jim!  It's been too long.  How're you doing?"

     "Greg, you've come up in the world!"

     "Yes, well -- close the door.  We've got some catching up to do."

     With that, he shut the hatch in my face.  I went back to Engineering; there was plenty to do.

*  *  *

     Jim didn't  show up again for several hours.   I kept myself busy checking the replacement parts stock; finding one set of empty boxes had me worried there were others.  I didn't realize the next watch had come on until my number two stuck his head in the storage compartment.

     "Chief Bobbi?  Cap'n Wheat's on the 'com for you.  Says he wants you up on Command."

     I gave him a smile.  "Always good to be wanted, right?"  I wiped my hands and got moving.

     The Captain was at his desk and Jim was in the visitor's chair.  I squeezed in and Captain Wheat told me to close the door.  He gave me a look I couldn't quite read. "Jim tells me those tachs are shot."


     "Well, why is that?"

     "Age, sir?  Those loggers run all the time.  It's a wear part."

     That got a frown.  Beside me, Jim said nothing, his expression neutral.  "Well, why didn't you say so?"


     "That we needed tachs."

     "But sir--"

     "I had to fly Jim over here at great expense to the company, because you didn't know how to fix those loggers!"

     "Sir, I said--"

     "I really hope this does not set a pattern, Roberta.  It does not bode well."

     Jim still said nothing.  I gave him a closer look, silent appeal.  Nothing.

     "Yes, sir.  It will not set a pattern."

     "Indeed.  Jim has ordered the parts we need.  I trust you will be up to installing them?"

     I was boiling mad.  But you don't get mad at starship captains.  You can't.  "I believe so, sir."

     "You believe?"

     This was well past tolerable.  Nevertheless, it's a long walk home and there's not much to breathe along the way.  "I can and I will.  Sir."

     "See that you do.  Thank you."  Captain Wheat waved a hand in dismissal.

     "Sir."  I opened the hatch and got out, shaking mad.

     And that was when I realized working for Cincinnati Group might not be a long-term career for me.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018


     As we approach Halloween, a verse for the season:

Arch-wizard Worthington Wells
Was entirely too careless with spells
He used them to play
In a most perilous way
Now he's stuck in his own private Hells.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

So How Bad Is The World?

     These are parlous times, right? I keep hearing people saying everything's falling apart, it's all getting worse--

      Wrong. Things are getting better, and they have been getting better for years. Decades, even. But that's not just the opinion of a Midwestern, libertarian spinster. Vox Media is way to the left of me, in part the brainchild of Ezra Klein, and they've got the facts in charts and graphs. Doom and gloom is easy to sell and there's enormous room for improvement; but fewer people are starving, more people can read, and people are, by golly, actually climbing out of the worst kinds of poverty.

     The world isn't perfect.  But it's not as bad as it once was and it's getting better.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

"And Will You Be Having A Virus With That...?"

     There's some kind of head cold making the rounds at work.  We've all been trying to be careful, lots of handwashing and disinfectant spray and all that.  But when I came home last night, I realized my throat was feeling a bit tender.

     Took an extra multivitamin and had a couple of cups of strong tea on the theory that it couldn't hurt.  Woke up this morning no worse than before, after a night of what I am assured is "not terribly bad snoring from the other end of the house."*

     So I guess we'll see.
* From time to time, it wakes me up.  And now I know what words without vowels sound like.

Friday, October 19, 2018

It's Cold Now

     And it's going to stay cold the rest of this month.  November is not notable for hot weather, so there it is.  No "Indian Summer" this year; temperatures went from eighties to fifties in the course of a day.

     The yard is littered with leaves and I am hoping Saturday afternoon, the yard will be dry enough to set the mower lower and see how much of the leaves I can mow up instead of raking.

     Possibly the roads will be dry enough I can ride my motor scooter a little; I have had very little time in the saddle this year and I miss it.  Between rain and road construction, this wasn't a favorable summer for riding.

     Of course, the gutters need cleared -- gutter screens would be an excellent idea.  Managed to clean them from a ladder instead of from the roof last time, a slightly slower but much safer method.  Maybe I'll try that Sunday.  It will be colder but the work is active enough to keep warm.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

And Now, Music

     You need something with good bass response and decent stereo separation to fully enjoy this.  It came on the radio on my drive home last night and I found it charmingly askew:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cold Weather

     The good thing about cold weather: the cats really like me.

    The bad thing about cold weather: the cats still don't get along all that well.  They can be pretty chummy if they both want to nap, but Huck is very playful and Rannie isn't interested.  Sometimes he pesters her out of what is probably boredom.  And sometimes it happens in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fungus Before The Cold

     It's turned cold here in Indianapolis; last week, it went from high-eighties to mid-fifties in a single day and it has stayed chilly.  Overnights have been flirting with frost and may have reached it last night.

     Before the sudden turn, the heat and moisture had allowed plenty of fungus to flourish in the yard, mostly puffballs and toadstools.  Over a week ago, coming back from taking the trash out, I saw a kind we hadn't had before:
     Shelf or bracket fungus.  Possibly "Artist's Conk," though I hope not, since that kind definitely does the tree no good.  This is on our oak tree -- "our" in this case including a neighbor, since the tree is right on the property line.  It does make for a nice early-Fall scene.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ballot Access

     Indiana is unusual in having three political parties with non-petition ballot access.  The third party is the Libertarian Party of Indiana.

     It's not a sure thing.  The last I knew, a party needed to get two percent of the votes for their candidate for Secretary of State in order to get and keep non-petition access to ballots.  That means they don't have to go out and collect signatures for each of their candidates; instead, the smaller parties have normal nominating conventions.  (Reaching the ten percent threshold would require them to run in the primaries, but only the Republicans and Democrats have that -- so far.)

     What this means is if you want to see the LP remain on your ballots, if you want that third choice, it's important to vote for their candidate for Secretary of State.   If you don't want them on the ballot, vote for someone else for that office.  This year, there are only three choices, but if you favor some other minor party, and they run someone for that office, vote for that person.

     It's not especially obvious and Secretary of State is one of those obscure offices that most of us don't think about much, other than hoping whoever has the job is honest and competent.  But it's an office where your vote does more than just determine who will get the job.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Beef Stew

     Last night, tonight and probably for lunch next week:
     A pound of stew beef, a half-pound of steak tips, a hot Italian sausage squeezed out of the casing, carrots, celery, onion, orange bell pepper, a big potato, fresh mushrooms, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, pinto beans, parsley,  garlic, basil, marjoram and rosemary.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Rogues Gallery

Here are my ballot choices.  Note that several races have only one candidate.  I don't think that's a good sign.  Is there no Republican or Libertarian who considers him- or herself a good (and electable) alternative to State Representative Ed Delaney?  No one from the LP or GOP wants to try for the job of State Assessor or Washington Township Trustee?  Constable of the Small Claims Court?  (A thankless job.  We should probably be happy anyone's running for the office.)  Of course, I'll be voting to remove all the judges.  Nothing personal, I just think they shouldn't get too comfortable.

The following lists all of the public questions that will be on your ballot during the next election. Please note that this list of public questions is supplied and maintained by the Indiana Election Division and counties. If this information appears to be incorrect or incomplete, please contact the Indiana Election Division. A VOTER WHO IS NOT 18 IS NOT PERMITTED TO VOTE ON A PUBLIC QUESTION.
Category Title Question
Court of Appeals Judge Retention COURT OF APPEALS JUDICIAL RETENTION DISTRICT 2 "Shall Judge Robert R. (Bob) Altice, Jr. be retained in office?"
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT Shall Judge John Chavis be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT Shall Judge Alicia A. Gooden be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Grant W. Hawkins be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Heather Welch be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge John F. Hanley be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Jose Salinas be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Steven R. Eichholtz be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Amy M. Jones be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Clark Rogers be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Helen Marchal be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge James A. Joven be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Linda E. Brown be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Lisa F. Borges be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Mark D. Stoner be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge Sheila A. Carlisle be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE Shall Judge William (Bill) Nelson be retained in office?
Local Judge Retention MARION COUNTY SUPERIOR JUDGE Shall Judge Clayton Graham be retained in office?
Ratification of State Constitutional Amendment PUBLIC QUESTION #1 "Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a supermajority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?"
Supreme Court Justice Retention SUPREME COURT JUSTICE Shall Justice Geoffrey G. Slaughter be retained in office?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Trick Question

     In the upcoming elections, there's a Public Question on the Indiana ballot:

     "Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a supermajority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?"

     Hey, sounds pretty good, right?  Sure -- except Art. 10, Sect. 5 currently reads:

     "No law shall authorize any debt to be contracted, on behalf of the State, except in the following cases: to meet casual deficits in the revenue; to pay the interest on the State Debt; to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or, if hostilities be threatened, provide for the public defense."

     It just says No.  Unless there's fighting in the streets or it's a penny-ante loan, N O.  There's no supermajority-sure-borrow-money exception.

     We should keep it that way.  Vote NO on the Public Question. Our Legislature had that kind of power once, and bankrupted the state.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Who Would Vote For That Person?

     People tend to view the politics of others through the lens of their own views. If you think government is a wonderful boon, someone who thinks of it as a necessary evil seems terribly wicked, and someone who points out that most of our interactions actually happen without or even in spite of government guidance or control will strike you as naive or peculiar.

      And yet each of those thumbnails (and all the gradations of opinion in between between, not to mention more extreme views) approximates the outlook of someone who is satisfied that it represents reality. That's the world we live in. It might be fun to think of everyone with a different take from your own as ignorant or evil, but it's inaccurate at a level that will trip you up badly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

It's Robert A. Heinlein's Future...

     We're just remixing it.  Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos?  D. D. Harriman.  Nehemiah Scudder?  Take your pick; there are plenty of candidates.

     And wouldn't you rather live in Heinlein's future than William L. Shirer's past?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018


     Indiana Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly and challenger Mike Braun agree on one thing: at last night's debate, they ignored Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton.  She was making good points, but she might as well have not been in the room as Mr. Braun and Sen. Donnelly rehashed their campaign ads at one another.  Repeatedly asked by the moderator to stay on topic, they never strayed from their talking points.

     Remember Dems saying, "Listen to the women?"  Ms. Brenton might as well have been hollering down a well.  And while the GOP likes to claim they embody old-fashioned, chivalrous politeness, that didn't appear to apply to listening and responding to points made in a debate.  She said it best: "These two gentlemen are part of the problem," she remarked during the debate.

      I'm not impressed by either man.

      And I'm still voting for Lucy Brenton.

Another Week, Another Hurricane

     Didn't we -- and by "we," I mostly mean the southeastern U.S. -- already go through this just the week before last?

     Yes, we kind of did -- and now there's another one bearing down.  It's one right after another!  --Not exactly.  Florence blew in from the Atlantic in mid-September and now Michael has ducked by Cuba and is headed in from the Gulf towards north Florida.  In between them, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk and Leslie all whirled up and earned names.  Most of them never quite made hurricane status and the ones that did didn't hit the United States.  The dates are overlapping; the storms keep on brewing up.  It's not one thing after another, it's one thing on top of another.  The sea is vast and storm tracks are unpredictable. 

     Keep the areas on Hurricane Michael's path in your thoughts.  It could be ugly.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Lasso Of...Truth?

     What doe s a "lie detector" detect?  Wired took a look at them and the answer is...maybe not a lot.

     I'd like to see a run-off between a polygraph and a good police detective.  People are pretty good lie detectors.  On the other hand, some people are extraordinarily good liars -- and the same coolness and "method acting" that lets such a person lie successfully to others would show nice, truthful responses on the machine.

     It's disappointing.  Who wouldn't like a reliable way to know when someone is lying?  And think of what it would do the political debates....  

Sunday, October 07, 2018


     Today is the eleventh anniversary of this blog!  

Rain? Heat? Humidity?

     We usually have toadstools and puffballs here and there.  This year, there's shelf fungus growing on one of the trees, that's how hot and humid it is.  Photos to follow, as soon as I get them from the camera.

     That will be after lawnmowing.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

So Far Apart?

     Maybe.  And maybe not.  The politicians have certainly drawn up lines.  Regular people?  Perhaps not so much as it seems.

     An interesting take on our division from a writer at the Atlantic sheds, for once, more light than heat.

Friday, October 05, 2018

So...How About That Weather?

     Writing something about the Kavanaugh vote is tempting, but you know what?  It's essentially partisan.  Democrats are not going to vote to confirm him.  Republicans will.  A handful of politicians will dither, possibly sincerely, but most of the votes will have little if anything to do with the facts of his judicial or academic record.  As for the allegations concerning his behavior, to the extent that there are any hard facts to be found, they are filtered through partisan viewpoints, exacerbated by mutual rancor and Mr. Trump's inability to keep his mouth shut even when it would best serve him to do so.

     "Dumpster fire" is too kind a metaphor.

     The Senate will vote and move on to the next mess, the Press baying at their heels.

Thursday, October 04, 2018


     Yesterday, I pointed at a piece of equipment at work...and stuck a finger past the screen on an oversized "muffin fan" and into the blades.  Sliced across the tip of my left ring finger pretty good and it would not stop bleeding.

     So I had to go off to our company immediate-care provider, expecting stitches.  What I got instead was medical-grade superglue and a bandage for padding. 

     Off to see how it survives that shower now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Late Night

     When the phone rings after ten p.m., it's probably not good news.  I had to go into work -- the North Campus -- late last night.  A power hit had managed to trip a breaker on a critical piece of equipment.  Going in, all I knew was that one of the important widgets had shut down and wasn't responding to remote-control restart. 

     It could have been any of several very bad things.  I'm glad it wasn't.  Sure hope this isn't a trend; in twenty-two years of power hits, that particular circuit breaker has not tripped -- and it was in one of seven identical high-power sub-widgets, three running and four spares.  It might be time to find out if the manufacturer's got any replacement breakers in stock.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Salmon Patties, Low Carb

     Salmon patties are a treat from my youth.  Mom added a generous dollop of Worcestershire sauce to the mix, which went well with the flavor of the salmon.  There are other good things in them, too: egg, vegetables (nearly always onions, at least), a little lemon or lime juice and seasonings, often a little Parmesan cheese--

     The problem is that one of the other major components is a generous amount of carbohydrates.  It was crushed saltines in Mom's version, Depression cooking at its finest; upscale versions use breadcrumbs.  Panko is said to work well.  Tasty...and not at all suited to a low-carb diet.

     Yesterday, nostalgia and idle curiosity had me web-searching "low-carb salmon patties" after the end of my work day and yes, there is such a thing.  In fact, there are lots of recipes.  The usual replacement for the carbs is smashed pork rinds!  It makes perfect sense.  Some sources suggest freezing them after smashing, to mute the flavor; others just throw them in.  Jalapeno or other hot peppers often replace or augment the Worcestershire or hot sauce and there are plenty of suggestions for sauces, many of them avocado-based.

     It looked good and I decided to try it.  Alas, our corner grocer had nothing so downscale as pork rinds.  The cracker aisle turned up some low-carb "cheese straws;" a quarter-cup would have 2.25 grams of carbs, and divided four ways between patties leaves just over a half-gram each.  They were made with Parmesan and aged cheddar, so there's that component as well.

     A mild Poblano pepper seemed like a safe bet, though hot Fresno and cherry peppers tempted me. Maybe next time. I did yield to the temptation of a dark red onion (and cried cutting it later, too).  And I forgot to get a lemon, lime or some concentrated juice.

     Back home, the cheese straws proved savory and nice.  Smashed a scant quarter cup of them, diced the veggies (chop them up fine. A generous tablespoon of onion and about as much of the pepper is sufficient; I may have doubled that) and added some black pepper, garlic powder, dried celery flakes, some Worcestershire, a dash of hot sauce, a little basil, and only then realized I had no tangy citrus.  But I do keep a little sumac on the shelf (it's nice on melon), and it very much has a lemony flavor; with a quick shake or two of that, a well-beaten egg and twelve ounces of well-drained canned salmon, it was ready to be mixed.  Stir it up well in a mixing bowl.  You want a fairly sticky mixture -- I fell just short of that this time.

     The patties were almost too wet to hold together. I could have drained the salmon better.  A full quarter-cup of crumbs and maybe even another egg would have helped.  With care, three of the four held up well enough to cook and turn intact..  I browned both sides (four minutes or more) in a little oil and served the patties with green salad.  Tam liked them and so did I.

     The pork rind version would be zero-carb.  This version was pretty low-carb.  Taste and mouthfeel were just as I remembered -- almost as good as Mom's. 

Monday, October 01, 2018

Chicago Exports

     There was gunplay at the Walmart in Hobart, Indiana last night.  Hobart would be a smallish town -- except it is embedded in the densely-packed cluster of cities and towns at the edge of Chicago.  It's far enough away that the shooting stands out from the background level of Greater Chicago's violence.

     The point I find of particular notability is not the shooting itself or the possible reasons for it, but the response: store employees had recently received active shooter training and acted on what they had learned, leading store patrons away from the danger.

     Violence happens; while some people decry the need for such training, it is one of the few things that definitely makes a difference.  Knowing what to do, even just thinking about what might happen before it happens, helps people make a better response to a terrible situation.

     There have been no fatalities reported from the shooting so far.