Friday, November 30, 2018

Weather? it's 41 degrees and climbing, and we've got fog so thick that when I heard a loud snorting and groaning and felt the house shake a little, I was looking for a dinosaur rather than the garbage truck with its fancy hydraulic can-grabbing claw.

     But it was a truck that emerged from the mists and just as well -- I'm pretty sure my insurance doesn't cover thunder lizards.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Well, It's Warmer Today

     It's much warmer today.  In the upper twenties to low thirties, in fact.  What an improvement!  --Except for the freezing drizzle, of course.

     Yeah.  Here in town, at least so far, it's still just wet, though I won't be surprised if there are patches of ice.  Out where things begin to thin out, it's worse, including my current worry at the North Campus, where some things that shouldn't ice up probably are, while I try to coordinate specialists to help us do something about that.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Wind Chill Is Nine

     Nine degrees above zero, mind you; I wouldn't want people to think I was exaggerating.   The thermometer sits at nineteen, which is plenty cold enough.

     Over the weekend, the weather did call for a cold snap followed by gradual warming late in the week and a return to seasonal temperatures over the weekend -- but not this cold.  On the other hand, the early forecast missed the snow, too, and we've had plenty enough to make streets and sidewalks slick.

     Not much to be done except remember August.  And think of the Spring.  Three months and a few days to go!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What Did Happen At the Border?

     It's yet another incident where you'll see what you brought to it -- some people I know were horrified that the U.S. used tear gas on refugees while others were concerned about an attempted invasion.

     There is an actual procedure for people seeking asylum in the United States.  It doesn't include climbing a border fence.  It is slow -- a few hundred a week at the San Ysidro port of entry where many of the marchers have gathered and where the attempted illegal crossing and tear-gassing took place.  This is a governmental process, a bit more involved than getting a driver's license, and those wheels turn slowly.

     The miracle is that they turn at all.  The MS St. Louis -- carrying over 600 refugees fleeing Nazi Germany -- was refused by Cuba and the United States in 1939; about a third of the passengers were eventually allowed into Great Britain, and as for the rest, "Two hundred fifty-four passengers in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands after that date died during the Holocaust. Most of these people were murdered in the killing centers of Auschwitz and Sobib√≥r; the rest died in internment camps, in hiding or attempting to evade the Nazis."

     Things like that are why there are laws and international treaties on the granting of asylum to refugees. Those laws aren't perfect but they're a good-faith effort, a balancing act between national security and helping innocents get out of trouble.

     NPR has a fairly neutral round-up (if you make allowance for labels: are these self-described asylum-seekers "migrants?") of what did happen at the border, what led up to it and what might happen in the future.

Monday, November 26, 2018

It's Monday In Indianapolis

     The TV news just reported part of the ring-freeway around town is closed due to a bus fire.  And it's snowing.

     Definitely Monday.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Oh, Blogging!

     I admit it -- I've been goofing off most of the last four days.  I really should have done more.  But I did make some headway on the fallen leaves today, and got a lot of laundry done yesterday.

     What I didn't do, and should have, was winterize my scooter.  That's pretty much a must this week.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

When Life Gives You Leftover Mashed Potatoes

     Fry 'em!
     Pretty good with bacon and eggs.  Mashed potato patties with a little seasoned flour on them, fried in a mixture of bacon fat, butter and sesame oil.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday After Turkey

     I slept late, rushed the leaf bags out to the curb in my housecoat when I heard the truck come grunting down the road, checked the mail and found a pretty big check from an interesting retirement realignment.

     It was properly made out (to my bank, for me) to, knock wood, not impact my taxable income.  I'm not going to leave a piece of paper like that in the house any longer than necessary, so I got cleaned up quickly and ran to the bank to get it where it belonged, in my very own IRA, already set up.

     After that, Tam and I had a light meal at Marco's, a nice and dependably-good local place that has withstood Broad Ripple's foodie avalanche by keeping on keeping on: their menu always includes well-executed classics and the service is always friendly.  You can go in there for a meal and know what to expect.

     Came home, messed around a bit and had a nap.  I have been short on sleep for a week and a half.  Time to work on remedying that.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Bacon-Wrapped Turducken

     Every Thanksgiving, I cook a small Turducken. Even a small one is good-sized -- four and a half pounds of turkey, duck, chicken, stuffing and sausage. Typically 30 to 45 minutes per pound at 350, which is a long time in the rarely-used oven--

      The weather was supposed to be clear and not too cold, so I looked into the idea of charcoal grilling in my closed-top grill instead. It turns out that this is a thing people do. You use indirect heat, which means there's no fire directly under the pan; and you do use a pan. Many people that had tried it, liked it. I bought some disposable foil pans, and made sure there was still some charcoal left.

      This morning, I emptied the grill's grate (saving the big lumps of charcoal for reuse), cleaned the grill bars, and pondered what to do. The turducken has a kind of stretch cord netting around it to hold it together, and it's always awkward taking it off afterward. Tam and I had a nice morning walk and stopped by the grocer's to see if they were open. They were. So I bought extra bacon. Who needs a net when you've got smoked pork?

     It worked!
      Here's how it went: Back home, I started the grill with a little pyramid of six fatwood sticks filled by two pages of newsprint, a loose cairn of lump charcoal piled over it. It was larger than usual and I used a couple of matches to light the newsprint in several places.

      Once the flames had slowed down, I closed the lid (vents open) and went inside, where I wove a 4x3 mat of bacon, un-netted the turducken and laid it on top of the bacon. Then I wove another bacon mat on top of the turducken, pinned it in place with several toothpicks, then went around the circumference, bending the lower mat up and pinning under to the top one and to the meat. I added a few more toothpicks for good measure. Went back outside, spread the glowing coals to the sides, added some soaked hickory chips to them, set the grill bars in place and put the pan in the middle with an oven thermometer next to it. Closed it up, set Alexa to time an hour and did other things.
An hour later, the back yard smelled wonderful and the pan was sizzling. Checked the thermometer -- 340°F, though you lose heat fast with the lid up -- dropped in some small pieces of charcoal and more smoking chips, and set timers for one hour and two and a quarter.

      After another hour (and more charcoal and smoking chips), I made skin-on mashed potatoes and oyster mushroom/bacon gravy (fry a few strips of bacon, set it aside, saute oyster mushrooms in the bacon fat, set them aside and drain liquid from them back into the pan, then make a roux with the mushroom-flavored bacon grease and once it's cooked medium-brown, add water to make gravy. Add back mushrooms and as much of the bacon as you like. Other than a little pepper on the bacon, it needs no seasoning). I prepped asparagus for sauteing and the last timer went off.
Outside, a meat thermometer told me the turducken was done. The bacon was nicely browned and the pan held lots of drippings (next year, I'll add a small cookie rack inside the pan). I added some of the more interesting stuff from the drippings to the gravy and sauteed "popcorn" asparagus while the turducken rested on a cutting board. The asparagus takes less than five minutes, then it was time to take a taste and load up plates.
            The gravy and potatoes were great (if I do say so myself). Popcorn asparagus is always good, The turducken was ambrosial! Moist and flavorful. Sure, it's utterly crazy -- but it worked.


     Thanksgiving morning.  First one without my Mom.  Planning to concentrate on cooking and crafts.

     Perhaps an essay later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


     Homecoming is a TV series on Amazon Prime Video,  based on a podcast of the same name, written by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg (who wrote the original podcast) and directed by Sam (Mr. Robot) Esmail. 

     It is billed as a "psychological thriller," which is true enough, though with a strong science-fictional element and a background of corporate greed that probably caught Esmail's attention -- on some levels, Mr. Robot is more or less Atlas Shrugged retold for anarcho-anticapitalists.*  Homecoming is a different kind of story, with far more light in its darkness, very much "in the Gothic mode," which is to say there's a good guy or two, a bad guy or two, we come to know which is which, and the story works out to an entirely satisfactory and nearly complete conclusion.  --Nearly complete; there's another season yet to come.  Nevertheless, the first season stands very well on its own and I recommend it to my readers. 

     If you like Theodore Sturgeon's science fiction, I think you'll like this series.  Unusually for modern television programs, each episode is a half-hour long and they often end with something unresolved; not (usually) quite a cliffhanger but close enough.  Having only a half-hour to work in -- fifteen minutes less than a commercially-interrupted "hour" of drama -- forces the writing, acting and direction to be remarkably efficient and Horowitz, Bloomberg and Esmail manage it with skill and unexpected touches.
* Albeit with a side order of Chinese cyber-warfare and a hero with severe social anxiety.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Geekery For Girls

     Don't do it girls.  Just don't.  Avoid geekery and find something else to do.  It's too frustrating, climbing over walls that aren't there for the boys, over and over and over.

     In my work, I have both general and specific skills, and both general and specific duties and responsibilities.  Any more, the general stuff -- working as one of a half-dozen electronics techs at a communications facility -- makes up the bulk of my work.   Connect this, install that, unsnarl some bit of legacy improvising, work out and build interface gadgets, respond to user problems (often under considerable time pressure), assist managers in long-range planning -- that's most of what I do.  It's the basic skill set of my line of work.  But on top of that, I have considerable experience and training in the installation, maintenance and operation of high-power radiofrequency equipment, including cooling requirements.   I've been doing that for nearly forty years.

     It doesn't make any difference in terms of trust.  Time and again, I diagnose a problem and propose a solution, only to have to explain and justify the entirely predictable and understandable behavior of that specialized equipment at great length, unless I can get a man to tell management exactly the same diagnosis and propose the same solution, at which point it is accepted without question.

     The impression I get -- from several different managers over the years -- is that at some barely-conscious level, they just can't convince themselves that some woman could possibly know what I know.  And yet many of them have resented my attempting to explain in detail so they can follow the observed symptoms and my reasoning as to the cause and remedy.  There's no way around it.  When I can, I'll use factory support engineers or consultants as cut-outs to short-circuit the cycle of skepticism and cautious explanation, which wastes time and effort.  It works.

     But I reach a point where it's all I can do to keep myself from saying, "I told you so, I've been telling you so and how I can fix it, but you won't believe me," clearing out my desk and going home. Who needs it?

     Edited To Add: Things went better than I had expected.  I was able to explain the particular problem that I was concerned about with sufficient clarity that my bosses were confident about the nature of it and my proposed remedy.  The new guys are not the old guys -- there's still the problem of always having to prove myself in a way the boys do not, but it helps considerably to be working for people who are not impervious to reason.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Oxtail Stew Photos

     Tam had visitors in town over the weekend.  I had a lot to do (major laundry, leaf-mowing/raking* and such), but managed to have brunch with everyone Saturday and Sunday.  Sunday night, I heated up oxtail stew leftovers with a can of no-beans chili, and was reminded to ask Tam for her pictures of the stew from Friday:

      Once the sweet Italian sausage and turnip cubes were cooked, the oxtail starts like this: (Click to enlarge.)
     It makes me happy that I decided to find out what the big deal was about oxtail.  Always did like the Knorr dehydrated soup (Campbell's used to make a version, too) but they're smooth, beef/tomato soups.  Cooking down actual oxtail and snipping the meat from the bone produces wonderfully flavorful results.
* The cordless electric mower does a great job on dry leaves, though the bag fills up rapidly and has to be emptied.  Still better than clearing leaves by hand.  It's slower on wet ones, so on Sunday I raked up the damper areas and kind of turned the piles of fallen leaves over, to help them dry.  Guess what it's doing outside right now?  The online weather called it "a soaking rain."  As opposed to a dry rain, maybe?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

"As I Was Travelling To Saint Ives...."

     Tam was out of town for work (and vacation) during nearly all of October.  The first week she was away, I cut the tip of my left ring finger at work as the result of gesturing carelessly near a ventilation fan with a coarse blade guard.

     The wound was small but fairly deep, right across from side to side, and it wouldn't stop bleeding.  After an hour or more of bandaids, pressure and ice, I went to the company's Official Doc In A Box...which also happens to be a pay-for-plasma center, which I prefer to avoid.  Official policy calls for a manager to accompany the injured employee, so off we went and the doctor superglued the cut in my finger.  Fixed just about as quickly as it can be described, all better!

     There's just one caveat: you're not supposed to get it wet.

     Waterproof bandaids do the trick most of the time.  There's one exception.

     The curtain rises on our stage almost a month later.  My fingertip has healed.  It's Tam's first morning home, after having arrived sometime in the night and fallen asleep on the couch.  I'm in the office writing, having already awakened, made breakfast and coffee, and left a couple slices of bacon in the oven.  She's barely up, and has shuffled into the kitchen, poured herself a cup of coffee and retrieved the plate of bacon.  She turned to get a sheet of paper toweling, and came to a full stop.  The silence was thick for fifteen seconds or more, then she called to me,

     "Why's there a rubber glove next to the sink with three fingers cut off?"
     I was a little distracted.  "Oh, that.  Yes."
     "No, why?"
     "Dog condoms?"
     "Ew, no."
     "An experiment?"
     "Um, for SCIENCE!"
     "No, come on, can't we just throw this out?"
     "Okay.  I cut my finger while you were out of town and I using a glove finger and a rubber band to keep it from getting wet when I wash my hair in the shower.  But they're not 100% water tight and they're hard to dry, so...."
     "I am throwing this thing away!"

     Heh. I guess it was a little disconcerting, at that.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Oxtail Stew!

     Tam called from the grocer's: "They've got oxtail!  Shall I get us some?"

     "Sure.  Get some vegetables, too."

     "I will.  And steak tips.  Maybe some sausage...."

      The way this works is, Tamara buys whatever appeals to her, and I turn it into a meal.  We already had canned tomatoes and some beef stock, which, with the oxtail itself,  are the essential ingredients.  Whatever else you add is an additional layer of flavor and texture.

     Tam arrived with a couple of nice, meaty sections of oxtail, a bag of steak tips, and a decent amount of bulk (uncased) sweet Italian sausage.  Her vegetable choices were turnips, white onions and Polano peppers, with a nice-looking contianer of oyster mushrooms for goods measure.

     I looked at this collection and thought about it.  Turnips can be a challenge; they take a bit of cooking and can be a little bland, though they lend a certain underpinning to the broth (similar to the effect of cabbage) essential to really good flavor.  I peeled and cubed them, added sat, pepper, marjoram and garlic and started them over low-medium heat.  After they were a bit cooked, I added the sausage and a teaspoon or so of rosemary, covered and let it all cook down, opening the pot occasionally to turn and break up the sausage.  Once it was well-browned, put all of that in a bowl and put the bowl in the oven to stay warm over the pilot light.

     Browned the oxtail on all sides in the sausage/turnip grease (drained more from the bowl), and once  it was well underway, I added the streak tips, and pulled out each oxtail in turn, letting it cool and removing as much meat as possible.  I diced a big onion and added that, covering the whole thing.  While that cooked, I cycled the oxtail through several cook/remove meat cycles.  (If you have more time, you can just let it simmer until the meat falls off, though it nearly always takes a little scissor-and-knife work to get it all.)  Added the mushrooms once the beef tips were mostly cooked, then diced up a huge Poblano and added it.  Pulled out the oxtails and cleared them more while sauteing the peppers and mushrooms.  Once the Poblano was brightened up, I added the sausage and turnip, a cup or so of beef stock and a can of diced tomatoes, stirred it all up, covered and let it simmer for fifteen minutes.

     After that, it was time to fill up the bowls.  I tasted a spoonful of the broth and was very happy; Tam showed up, took a taste and kind of murmured in joy, "Yum!"

     Yeah, that worked out.  Cooking the sausage and turnips together first is a winning strategy: the turnip cooked all the way through and is flavorful.  The broth was silky and rich.   Photos later, if the household photographer sends them to me.

Friday, November 16, 2018

What's In Your Trunk?

     Yesterday's sleetstorm in Indianapolis -- which has turned into record snows in the northeastern U.S. -- prompted me to return my "winter kit" and "responder kit" to my car, along with the nice FEMA-type emergency-supplies knapsack I won at a recent industry conference.

     You should carry a few things in your car, no matter where you live.  Just what depends on what you encounter, but there are some basics.

     My basic winter kit or "crash bag" is similar to a bug-out bag.  It's a small canvas duffle or large gym bag, black, a bit beat-up. There's a change of clothes (two changes of undies and socks, plus extra heavy socks) and a nightgown, toothbrush and toothpaste plus grooming supplies, a pair of work gloves, a penknife, a few band-aids, some cough drops and a silly "survival kit in a tin" that takes up little room.  I used to keep a paperback book or two in it and I still should -- you can't always charge a Kindle or smartphone.

     The "responder kit" is related to my job.  In the wake of the devastating hurricanes that hit the East and Gulf Coasts, emergency management agencies and industry groups realized that the people who maintain radio and TV transmitters, wireless internet providers and cellular towers sometimes needed to get into areas that were otherwise off-limits due to natural disasters (etc.), so that these communication services could be kept running or restored to operation.  In my state, it resulted in a program that includes training in FEMA's "modular" emergency management system, itself a result of working to correct muddled chains of command and areas of responsibility in the aftermath of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina,* sessions with the State Police on how to interact with emergency personnel, a background check and an ID card.  We're obliged to wear basic safety gear if we use the card -- hard hat, high-visibility vest, gloves, boots -- and I keep that all in a bright orange bag in my trunk.  I keep a nice crowbar strapped to the outside: I got locked out of the North Campus one day; it didn't happen to be an emergency, but what if it had been?  Stanley sells the answer!  Also in that bag, surplus binoculars: sometimes you need to get a look at something far away.

     The FEMA-type kit...I'm still learning what's in it.  I need to lay it all out on my bed and take inventory.  (I ought to add written inventories to each bag, too.)  A lot of First Aid supplies, from bandaids to slings.  Heavy  gloves.  Latex or nitrile gloves. Hard hat (yes, another one).  Adjustable wrench and pry bar.  Flashlight.  Emergency radio covering AM/FM/Weather bands.  All packed to occupy minimum volume in a decent-quality nylon backpack (dark green and a bit nondescript.  This prize is from a presentation by a County-level Emergency Services manager, a very hands-on guy who's read some of the same books I have).

     That pretty much occupies the back half of my trunk.  I keep bathroom tissue (the North Campus doesn't get a lot of attention from Facilities) and bottled water in there, too, though the water supply is minimized in wintertime and I check it for freezing.

     There are things that aren't in the bags, because they live on my belt, in my purse or in my pockets -- a lighter, pocket knife, multi-tool, two-way radio (work and ham frequencies), sidearm, pencil and paper, phone/Kindle charger (a lighter-plug adapter), spare lipstick and a flashlight (prior to the FEMA kit, I didn't have one in a trunk bag -- I don't like long-term battery storage; you need to check them monthly for leakage and change them out twice a year) plus other small items.

     I have been snowed in at work a few times and on a couple of occasions, problems with remote-control equipment have effectively stranded me at an isolated location until I could get it working.  Having the basics always on hand can be a big help.  I had unloaded my old car after it was wrecked and hadn't put the bags in my new car until the bad weather yesterday reminded me.

     If you don't carry an emergency kit, ask yourself what you might need on short notice -- and why you don't have it already.
* It's easy to poke fun at FEMA but they're serious about their work and the midlevel people who do the heavy lifting (and their staffs) are actually good at it and were allowed to apply their planning skills after the hurricane response made headlines.  The modular management setup provides a flexible framework with clear areas of responsibility and reporting paths.  Properly applied even a little, it makes a big difference in getting help where it is needed and avoiding jurisdiction squabbles.  It is obviously the work of people who never want to have to deal with unsnarling another huge cluster of fail again.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Winter's Here

     Oh, not officially -- but onset of Winter weather has announced itself with an overnight ice storm.  So far, Indianapolis/Marion County* has escaped the worst of it but to go one county north and it's not good.  The site I call the "North Campus" is right in the transition area.  I left my phone up there last night and it may have to stay awhile.  Only a little to the north, schools have been closed for the day due to slick roads.

     Out the back door, we appear to have not had a heavy layer of ice; surfaces are pebbled with maybe a two-thirds coverage of eighth-inch diameter ice droplets.  It's more than enough to need scraping, and just enough to make the roads slick.

     From the TV down the hall, I'm hearing reporters not too far afield talking about rain changing to snow.  The temperature's due to climb back up.  By the afternoon, the snow will change to rain.  Temperatures in the 40s on Friday and over the weekend, so we only have to get through today.  (Slow down, please, and stay in your lane.) I'll be staying in the big-city "heat island" today, if I can.
* Nearly identical, except for towns like Lawrence and Speedway that didn't want to join the UniGov collective.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Another Early Day

     Yes, and up at the North Campus, too, where -- weather permitting -- there's some outside work.  My part of it should be fairly light and as long as I remember to dress warmly -- as in, not leave my Winter hat at home like I did yesterday -- I shouldn't get too cold.

     There are tasks left over from Monday, when work expanded to fill the available time and kept right on expanding.  We're hoping to get them done today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee Is Gone

     He wasn't young -- 95?  Few people ever get there -- and I wasn't a huge fan of comicbooks* and yet--  It's surprisingly saddening.  The guy who wrote those funny/snarky things in the back of the better comics and signed off with "Excelsior," gone?  The fellow who put in a cameo in movies featuring characters from magazines he edited, always there in the background, no more?

     It's painful.  I'm going to miss him. A little of my childhood goes with him.  A little of a lot of people's childhoods goes with him.

* His preferred version of the word, according to some sources. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Dinner And A Story

     My early start this morning meant an early departure -- so I met Tam at 20 Tap for dinner...

     ...a Pork Mojo Bowl, which has lots of pork and plenty of mojo...

     ...and a story!
     Still in progress.

Early Day

     In a hurry -- more later, if things go as planned.  Probably even if they don't.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

One Hundred Years Ago

     ...The guns fell silent in Europe.  It had been a horrendous war, a "war to end wars," fought until the very last second at the insistence of the leaders, and surely the Western world had learned a lesson--

     Two months shy of twenty-one years later,* they did it again, for over six years.  And we still haven't put an end to evil -- or even to the conflict of moral equals.

     Never forget this.  And never forget the blood and toil of the men and women whose lives and labor are given to resolve these conflicts, as much as they can ever be resolved.  History isn't markers on a map, it's people.
* Even earlier in Asia, September 1931 or July 1937. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Sleep, That Knits Up....

     I don't know what sleep really knits up -- I'm told the way we read the Shakespeare quote is slightly askew to the original meaning* -- but it certainly sent me on a journey.

     Sleep and I are not best friends.  Oh, I love sleeping as much as anyone, though it can be fugitive.  It's the laying down that doesn't work for me.  A thin pillow and flat on my back makes for snorking, possible reflux and numb fingers and toes.  No pillow spares the fingers and toes but the reflux risk is worse.  A big wedge fixes all that, but makes my lower back hurt.  Side sleeping can work but the cats complain, and if I don't lay just right, my neck hurts in  the morning.

     Yeah, yeah, life's tough when you're sleeping in a big ol' bed under a heated comforter--  Not complaining, only describing.  I'm used to all that, and making occasional adjustments in the night.

     But last night was long (I went to bed early) and when I awoke at six this morning to feed the cats, my right knee, the bad one, ached like never before, worse with weight on it, one hot, bright spot of pain at the lower left and radiating outward.  I hobbled through cat-feeding and went back to bed, fearing the worst.  Slumber fell on me like a load of gravel.

     Three and a half hours later, sleep ebbed away and I sat up, still worried.  H'mm.  No pain from the knee.  Flipped back the covers, sat up, stood up--  Not hurting.  Took a few steps.  My right knee is fine.  Like it never even hurt.

     Don't know what that was about but I'll take it.
* A "ravelled sleave" referred not to part of a garment but to a tangled mess of yarn, which needed to be untangled and "knit up" into a ball or skein to be useful.  Or so I read.

Friday, November 09, 2018

On Mass Shootings And Wall-To-Wall News Coverage

     There's an institutional tropism in news organizations to want lurid news and to linger over it when it happens. I'm not sure there's any conscious individual intent past the cynical awareness that "If it bleeds, it leads." And this unacknowledged, unrecognized hunger may be a far worse problem than deliberate malice could ever be.

     It took about eight hours from the first shot fired until we knew the California mass-murderer's middle name and a thumbnail biography had been promulgated.  Don't think the next frustrated, unhinged, attention-seeking or otherwise borderline types pondering the fame that comes from causing grievous harm to large numbers of people weren't taking note.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

California Mass Shooting

     There's been a mass shooting in California -- eleven people dead, plus the asshole that did it.  Just in time for Nancy Pelksi's re-ascension to the Speaskership, in the state the Gifford Law Center To Prevent A Civil Right  rates literally A1 for its efforts to keep the wrong sort of people from laying hands on the wrong kind of gun.

     As I write, TV networks are gleefully dancing in the blood, reporting with puzzlement that despite law-enforcement efforts to locate an "assault rifle," all they've turned up is a handgun -- possibly with "illegal high-capacity magazines," since California banned the sale of new, normal-capacity magazines some time back and only allows magazines that hold not more ten rounds.*

     Me, I'm disgusted.  There will be mainstream-media punditry pointing an accusing finger at "lax gun laws," and (mostly non-mainstream) counter-punditry pointing out that the strict gun laws of the California Republic pretty much insured no one was equipped to stop the killer shortly after he began shooting.  None of them -- not one! -- will ask what it is that we as a society are doing that makes shooting large numbers of innocents so attractive to the crazed and desperate.  The United States has had crazy people since before there was a United States; we've owned large numbers of personal firearms for that long, too: compared to most other countries, the United States of America has always been "awash in guns" and has always been a welcoming environment for people whose grip on reality was a little bit askew -- and yet the high-profile mass shooting is a relatively recent phenomenon.

     Interestingly, so is 24-hour cable and online news, hungry for sensation and doling out gobbets of cheap, low-grade fame on an hourly basis.  Correlation isn't inevitably causation but maybe this one rates a closer least until the next spin of the news cycle pushes this mass shooting out of the spotlight.
* It's more complicated than that.  Proposition 63, passed in November 2016, would have banned the sale or transfer of any magazine holding over ten rounds and made it a misdemeanor to own one.  In 2017, a judge blocked enforcement of the latter, and allowed Californians to keep their "grandfathered" pre-2001 normal-capacity magazines.  Oh, if only the state were more like Manzanar!  I'm sure they'll manage that, by and by.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Well, We Had An Election

     With record or near-record turnout for a midterm election, the American people have decided.... (drumroll, please!) ...that they didn't want so much decisiveness.  With Congress split, the Democrats dominating the House (albeit with an interesting coalition of their far-out Left, old party stalwarts and a few Manchinesque mugwumps that their Speaker and Party Whip will be hard-pressed to keep marching in step) and the GOP still in control of the Senate, getting any legislation passed will be a lot more difficult.  Mr. Trump will need his very best sales skills to keep things moving and while the pundits predict spluttering outrage and the Dems have vowed to investigate everything they and their kid's grade school class can think up about him, the man has a history of confounding the wise; I wouldn't count him out just yet.

     Meanwhile, H. L. Mencken counsels us, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." 

     Of course, he also pointed out, "The state — or, to make the matter more concrete, the government — consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods."

     What was up for auction in your state, and who won it?

     For whatever it's worth, with 88% of the votes counted, Indiana's Libertarian Party candidate for Secretary of State has 3% of the vote.  The party needs for him to get at least 2% to retain ballot access. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Early Bird Gets....

     I dunno.  Probably the Early Bird at our polling place still gets to stand in line and maybe say Hi to our neighbor, The Democrat, who has a high degree of civic involvement and who, being self-employed and able to free up the time, works every election helping check people in -- in Indiana, you show ID and they (it's a team of two, who check one another) look you up on a big list, put a tick mark next to your name if/when they find you and have crosschecked your address, and hand you a ballot.  She and the other election workers will be at that for most of a very long day, which rates all kinds of extra points with me no matter what one's party affiliation.

     We have a new polling place, a big Methodist church right on Meridian Street.  Unlike the previous location, there's all kinds of parking.  The lot has entrances and exits right on very busy Meridian Street, and maybe off quiet(er) Illinois Street as well, so traffic arrangements could be interesting.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Or Not Early Voting

     I drove by on my way to a writing class* and there was a pretty good line.  Not to worry, I thought, my class ends an hour before the early voting location closes, I can hurry back and stop by then.

     It was ten 'til closing time when I returned.  The parking lot was full of cars and the line was nearly all the way across the city-block-long row of storefronts.  Looks like I'll be lining up on Election Day.
* "The Basics of Self-Publishing," not so much writing as what to do after you've written something.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Dutifully Civic

     I'm giving serious thought to voting today.  Tuesday could be quite busy and our voting location is at a school* with just about no on-site parking -- so that means a long, unarmed walk.  The closest early voting location has a large parking lot and they're supposed to be open today.  I have some errands over that direction anyway.
* Until they moved to be closer to their congregation, our voting location was a synagogue, a lovely building with book-lined hallways; these days it's the gymnasium of a Catholic elementary school.  The election staff are nearly all volunteers, of course.  At the citizen level, election-day voting in America is a wonderfully grassroots, amateur effort.  I've never tried early voting, so I'll see how it compares. 

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Sending Troops To The Border, OMG!

     Yeah, well, the Federal government can send them, but they still cannot do the job of police -- that pesky Posse Comitatus Act doesn't allow it.  It appears the United States Coast Guard is exempt, but they're not being sent in.

     So what, exactly, can the Army do?  Mostly good things, as it turns out, or at least neutral ones:

     1. They can render humanitarian aid.  This is good, since it's rather difficult to sort out refuge-seekers, plain old border sneaks and the skullduggerous if they're dying of thirst.

     2. They can lend logistical support, carrying Border Patrol personnel to where they can do the most good.  This also includes repairing fences and the like.

     3. They can do aerial reconnaissance and similar intel work, keeping track of who's where.

     These are jobs which should help defuse situations and ease worries, not escalate matters.

     Presumably, if the "invasion" turns into an actual invasion, buncha dudes rushing the border waving clubs or something, then the .mil could repel them.  But this seems unlikely.  It's a stunt at worst, a photo-op in the run-up to the mid-term elections, a bloody shirt both big parties can wave over their own slogans and the marchers are being treated as little more than props.  It is likely many of them are fleeing bad conditions at home; it is uncertain if those conditions qualify them for refugee status under UN treaties and U.S. law -- but there is a formal procedure for figuring this out, which the Border Patrol is quite familiar with and the Army troops will be told what the rules are.  I expect this to fizzle out in the usual bureaucratic border morass, with the usual posturing by people with an axe to grind. 

     The little guys -- J. Random "It's-got-to-be-better-elsewhere" and family, J. Random low-ranking soldier and J. Random low-ranking Border Patrolman -- will end up doing all of the sweating and improvising, while nice people in nice suits have nice press conferences and photo ops in nice surroundings.  If that doesn't irk you, perhaps it should.  People get shoved around like pawns in a chess game way too often while the chessplayers walk away fat and happy.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Industry Conference

     Spent all day yesterday at a conference for my line of work.  It's set up in an interesting way -- they used to have a separate awards banquet, atttended by general managers, department heads and creative talent, and then (on different dates for each, spaced over the year) all-day workshops for managers, creative folks and engineers.

     Starting a few years ago, they combined all of them into one slightly long day, with two or three "tracks" of workshops for each group, plenty of time in between sessions for browsing a sales/showcase area for vendors serving our business, and a big awards luncheon where everyone mingles.  This seems to be working well, and helps with some crossover between specialties.

     The food's pretty good, too.  The one drawback for Engineering types?  They went from a nice breakfast buffet -- pastries, coffee, bacon, eggs, potatoes, cereal, milk, juice etc., etc. -- and a modest lunch at the engineering-only workshop to a coffee-and-cakes breakfast and a huge lunch at the all-inclusive event.  I do miss that breakfast. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Okay, It's Trivial, But...

     There's an inverse relationship between needing a lint roller and being able to find one.  Tam and I routinely keep on in the kitchen near the paper-towel holder; I found another one over the weekend when I was straightening up my room.

     Today, I need to dress a little more like an adult than usual.  I even brought brand-new black Carhartts (my usual double-front work dungarees) and with two cats in the house, a lint roller would be quite handy.  Naturally I can't locate any of them!