Sunday, March 31, 2019

Just A Quick Placeholder

     I'm spinning my clock to cover an early shift and this is my bedtime -- or a little after, really.  I'll try to post more tomorrow.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Up Early/Slept In

     Yes, I did both.  I need to turn my days and nights half around to work a vacation fill-in shift next week.

Friday, March 29, 2019

So, It Didn't Work That Way In 1949?

     Or maybe it was 1975.  Or 1996.

     I spent spent far more time that I would have chosen yesterday being argued at by a guy who insisted that events that I had witnessed and been involved with that very morning, and the mechanism of which had been confirmed by the electrician who helped wire it up, could not possibly have occurred.

     In support of this, vague memories of past performance of the device -- I have those, too, and of management deciding it needed to work differently, in the exact manner I had observed only hours before -- to which he added a detailed description of an earlier generation of equipment, gone more than twenty years.

     There's a point where you just give up.  Sure, the entire staff and I hallucinated it.  That must have been what happened.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Working On Writing

     The class I took recently was a "writer's group:" every week, we'd turn in 1500 to 5000 words of fiction and the other writers in the group would go over it, looking for and commenting on the things that needed work.

     When the class ended, six of us decided to keep going.  Weekly was a bit much -- I don't know about the others, but analyzing and critiquing was taking nearly all of my free time through the week -- so we chose to meet monthly, with our manuscripts to be submitted no less than ten days in advance.

     Today is the deadline.  I'm over 10,000 words into what I am hoping will be a (short) novel and I've got maybe 2,000 words of new material to pull out, reformat and submit to the group.  So I've got to get on it.

     Wish me luck; if I can get this work done, it'll be a look at the Hidden Frontier back when Earth (the United States Space Corps) and the "Far Edge" rebels of the Federation of Concerned Spacemen were trying to wage an interstellar war.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

On Presidents, Investigations, And The Gen. Pop.

     So the Mueller Report has been turned in and it's got a little something for every side to cheer and/or bemoan. This should be no surprise -- muddles are something politics and government both do very well -- but the pundits are all making hay of it while the haymaking is good, hammer and tongs and sharp words and cash that check from Fox or NBC or WaPo quickly, while the story's still in progress.

     Because people will become bored by the details, no matter how juicy.

     Americans like to believe their Presidents are something special -- especially bad, especially good, and quite often, both especially clever and especially stupid at the same time.  Heaven forbid he should merely be mentally normal and roughly as moral as politicians in general, muddling his way from one crisis to the next.  Oh, no, we hear, Pearl Harbor cannot possibly have come as a surprise to FDR and Dick Nixon probably had a 1000-year Imperial Presidency up his sleeve, not just the next election.  And so on, at James-Bond-film levels of intrigue, and on and on.  If you like a President, they're a genius of benevolence; if you don't, they're idiots -- but idiot-savants when it comes Doing Bad Stuff.

     These extremes strike me as doubtful.  The smart money is on "muddle."  There's an unlimited supply.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


     I admit it, I'm not a huge fan of doodad-heavy Windows software. At least we're to the point where most of it actually does something instead of merely looking fancy and cluttered -- but it's still glitzy-looking flabware.

     WYSIWYG word processors, Word in particular, use a whole lot of icons and menus to accomplish what PerfectWriter did in 64k with embedded "dot commands" and a small assortment of keyboard shortcuts on a CP/M luggable.  I'm not a fan of the flashy stuff, and prefer to compose in Q10 (which can be made to look like an old, simple word processor)  or Notepad, which at least has slightly less junk on the screen.

     Apple's "Pages" has a cleaner user interface, but it's very much a creature of its world and doesn't share files comfortably with the more widely-used Windows software.

     I went looking for something else and found LibreOffice.  Its word-processor UI is slightly less cluttered than Word, it reads and write .doc and .docx files -- and there are versions of it for Mac, Windows and Linux!  They all look and work the same, too.  So I've got it on my MacBook, my Windows desktop and the little Raspberry Pi I've been playing with.  The cost?  Well, I kicked in a few dollars but it's all honor system -- and none of this hitting you up for a monthly fee, which is how the latest versions of Word want to run.

     The downside is, you get what you get; there's no version for IOS (Word has a subscription-based IOS version but it's not completely compatible) and the very latest version usually comes with some caveats and glitches.  Still, I'm liking it so far and if I change my mind, the files are are compatible with the Word 2010 I already own.
* The Pi doesn't seamlessly integrate with Dropbox -- I can download .doc and .txt files but uploading involves convoluted workarounds, so I'm better off e-mailing the finished work to myself.  It's not a big obstacle and the well-behaved little computer is worth the additional effort.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Saturday Brunch

     Tam and I took a long walk to Good Morning Mama's   It was full and running over, people waiting outside.  So we walked on around the corner to Gallery Pastry Shop.

     They were busy too, but they're fast. Oh, it's a high-end kitchen, very high end; they make pastries the likes of which are hardly to be believed, food art that is as pretty as it is delicious.

     Weekends, this level of skill and organization is applied to omelet, crepe and scramble brunches.  I could watch their kitchen crew all day long. It's really amazing -- the work space is very well organized and their prep is fantastic, but the smooth coordination of effort and clear chain of command is simply remarkable.
     It's not really a large kitchen, given that a chef de cuisine, sous chef and one of the chefs de partie are presiding over a row of nine single-burner countertop "stoves" that face a bartop from behind clear barriers, while at least three more chefs de partie work at a huge square table in the background.

     Filled-out orders come to the chef de cuisine, who lays them on a set-aside section of countertop in chronological order and parcels out work to himself or the other two front line chefs; ingredients are staged between the burners and clear barrier, a full set taking up just three burner's worth of space.  Behind them on the work table, stacks of clean plates and crepes are ready to go, and a couple of big chef-grade blowtorch-like gadgets are stashed where they're out of the way but reachable.  Ingredients are cooked, omelets made, and plated; the three back-row chefs compare orders to plates, load and torch-crisp crepes, and do any prep work that needs done.

     Fresh skillets are kept in under-counter bins in front of the front-line chefs, and they swap out as needed.  Everything is within arm's reach, including a fridge full of prestaged ingredient containers to replace any as they are used up; a dishwashing setup at the very back of the room (on the other side of a row of specialized pastry ovens and other mysterious machinery) is in frequent use by any chef presently at loose ends.  

     Waiters and waitresses dance in and out on a route that takes them in to the chef de cuisine's incoming order area and out past the row of filled plates ready to go, out of the way of the routine motions of the chefs.

      --And the big boss chef chef de cuisine is not at all above rinsing out a pan or four if he finds himself temporarily free of other duties. There's a definite heirarchy but there's a lot of trust, a real feeling that everyone in the kitchen is a professional who can be counted on to carry his or her share of the work.  It's a pretty "flat" power structure.

     There's really a lot to be learned by observing the staff do their jobs -- rapidly, efficiently and to a standard very few can achieve.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Breakfast Fried Rice

     I can give you the recipe for today's breakfast; that's easy.

     It's just applewood-smoked bacon, cold cooked rice fried in a very little bit of the bacon fat with a drizzle of good soy sauce, some freeze-dried diced onion and chives, parsley, a tiny hit of garlic, chopped black olives and three eggs scrambled over high heat in the middle of the wok after the rice is well-cooked and pushed up the edges.  (Set the bacon to one side and crumble it back in at the very end.)

     What I can't do is tell you everything you need to know about the rice: it's left over from Tam's portion of yesterday's Indian-delivery dinner.*  It's basmati rice, delicious when it arrives and even better after a night in the fridge.  But it's not just rice; it's has a little of this and a little of that in it, whatever spices the very best sort of Indian grandmother puts in the good rice, and I haven't got the least notion what that might be.†

     But it makes the best fried rice I've ever tasted.
* Our local Indian restaurant is outstanding.  On Saturdays and weekdays, they set out a lunch buffet full of wonderful, tasty dishes.  "Indian food" covers a broad range of cuisines and they offer an excellent sampling of North Indian dishes.

† Online recipes include fresh onion, salt, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and cumin seed.  Good luck!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

So, I Survived

     But mind that third step -- it's a doozy!

     Went in for a cardiac stress test.  Since I have that bum knee, the treadmill was out and that left chemistry.

     To start with, they plumb you with a nice IV and shoot you up with some nice thallium, from a syringe that lives in a nice lead-lined container.  That percolates around a good long while and then they stick you in an X-ray machine, where (if you're me), some part of the process sends interesting lines of white light through your closed eyes.*

     So far, so good.  Heck, you can even get a warmed blanket for the X-raying if you'd like one, which I did.

     But that's just the baseline state.  They need to see what it looks like when the blood's really getting everywhere.  If you can't accomplish this with exercise, you're going to have to get a vasodialator drug.

     Here's a fun fact: do you know what happens to the pressure inside a closed space if the enclosed volume suddenly expands?  It decreases.  Dramatically.

     For this step, they put you on a hospital bed, elevated like a chaise lounge.  You're wired up to an EKG and an automatic blood pressure cuff.  A computer keeps track of the data and spits out a classic EKG chart as it goes. 

     They would not put you in that bed if it wasn't going to be necessary.  At the beginning, my blood pressure was markedly higher than usual -- I have white-coat syndrome and, look, I was scared, okay?

     There's a cute plumbing attachment for the IV with two syringe ports at ninety degrees and a tiny valve.  The nurse has two sets, fully populated.  They check the IV and hook up the first set, one full syringe, the other, and disconnect it and hook up the next.  That one's got one plastic syringe like the first two and another in a thick, science-fictional metal jacket, which is more thalliu--


     The world suddenly got very small and far away.  I got very dizzy very fast.  The blood pressure cuff cycled about then and I was about aware enough to glance over and get the numbers, 125 over a ridiculously low figure.

     The nurse finished the final two syringes and looked at me.  The other nurse (yes, you get two, though the secondary one is helping everyone else, as well) leaned in and asked, "How are you feeling?"

     "Disassociative."  It might not have been the right answer, so I tried again.  "Distant.  Disconnected."

     She told me, "It'll pass pretty soon,  Just lay here a bit."

     I did, and passed the time by watching my blood pressure go up every time the cuff cycled.  When she came back, she asked, "Coke or Diet Coke?"

     Yes, there are refreshments: your choice of Coca-Cola.  Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor and a good one.  They could hand out pills but Dr. John Stith Pemberton's concoction is inexpensive, shelf-storable and delivers a consistent, patient-metered dose to reverse the effects of the vasodilator now that its work is done.

     Once my blood pressure was back to normal, they sent me out with a hall pass and told me I could have lunch if I liked, just be back in forty minutes.

     Tam had come with me.  There's a cafeteria in the basement of the place (the lobby smells wonderful!) and we lost no time in going for food.  A cup of hot coffee and a lean grilled low-sodium hamburger later, I had my second trip through the X-ray machine and they set me free.

     I was exhausted.  I came home, sat down, nodded off, went to the computer, sat down, nodded off, and then it was almost sundown.  Tam hauled me out for supper and I managed to stay awake through it but I was asleep again not long after we returned home.

     I hope they don't have to do this to me again soon.
* I noticed this when they did a 3-D CAT scan of my head, looking at the hole(s) in my left cheekbone.  When the beam passed though the right spot, it made white circles in my vision!  This is not a superpower -- zap energetic wavicles through the visual system and you will get a reaction.  Apollo astronauts reported seeing occasional "white streaks" with their eyes closed, as cosmic rays passed through their eyes.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Have To Post And Run

     Last night, I was up late making a retirement trophy for a co-worker who's taking early retirement.  Look for a photograph of the thing later.

     This morning, I am running late.  Tomorrow's post will be better!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Can It Be?

     It's getting light earlier.  It's staying light later.  It's not quite as cold.

     I'm still not certain, but it could be that winter might be almost over.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Quantum Quanta!

     Einstein, referring to his skepticism about quantum mechanics, is said to have remarked "God does not play dice."

     Subsequent physics tells us that the dice are, indeed, rolled; and subsequent science journalism is something of a crapshoot, too.

     Sadly, the only probability in the latter is that the journalist, lacking subject-specific expertise and usually working against a deadline, will probably get something wrong.  If the subject is "quantum (whatever), that probability approaches certainty.

     It rarely matters.  Nobody's doing advanced physics using internet filler as a primary source, and the daily practical application you or I have for quantum (whatever) doesn't exist.  Sure, someday it may secure your electronic transactions or supercharge supercomputers, but it hasn't yet.

     Nor has it made time run backwards, but you couldn't've told that from the headlines when some research into the "arrow of time" got sort of quantum-interesting.  Those headlines led of counter-headlines explaining the experiment and its context, or trying to, H. G. Wells, Eloi and all.  And that led into deep and tricky water for one writer.

     He starts out talking about processes that run as well in reverse as forward and uses macro analogies, first an "ideal" model of the Earth orbiting the sun: "Look at that system going forward in time, and the Earth orbits in a clockwise direction. “Reverse” time and instead the Earth will travel in a counterclockwise orbit. Both are equally realistic."

      Yes, that's correct.

     "Or think of two billiard balls colliding. You can run the video in either direction and it still seems physically plausible."

      No! It's not even a good fake unless the pool table is frictionless and the billiard balls are mathematical ideals.

      Entropy is "time's arrow." We can fool our senses into ignoring it but in most physical examples, it's still there, though not always in ways we can see unassisted.

Monday, March 18, 2019

An Excursion

     My friend the Data Viking visited yesterday and we went to the 1500 -- where they were selling an H-bomb!

     No, no, not the real thing.  A training replica of the B61, matching the weight and balance.  The seller was taking bids starting at $10,000.

     I would have bought it, but you know how how it goes -- I get one, the neighbors have to get their own, then I have to get a bigger one, they respond and eventually, we'd all run out of yard space....

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Saturday Breakfast

     The Data Viking says, "It looks like it was already eaten."  Tsk.  It was good!
     Potato, sweet Italian sausage, eggs, mushrooms, sweet orange and red peppers (the long skinny ones), a couple of strips of bacon, Peruvian "Sweety Drops," a little parsley and chives.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Scene, Seen

     I was walking out of the grocery last night, pushing a small cart loaded with a couple of bags groceries when it happened.  A man was backing his SUV out of a space, alternating between looking over his shoulder and watching me and other pedestrians through the windshield.

     It's a tight parking lot, four rows of angled spaces packed into what would be a generous space for three.  With four rows, only the smallest cars can make a smooth job of backing out; most drivers have to do a little back and forth.  This guy was no exception.  He was on the second reversing leg, almost lined up with the lane--

     On the side of the lane opposite where he'd parked, an older long-bed pickup truck wasn't all the way into its space.  It wasn't over by much.  I'd noticed it as something to be aware of, thanks to its shiny wasabi-green paint job and sable-and-cream dual pinstriping.

     The man in the SUV hadn't, quite.  He reversed slowly, carefully, and put his back bumper right into the side of the SUV, behind the left rear wheel.  The pickup truck shuddered on its shocks and the sheet metal crumpled inward.  I'd been watching as I crossed the lane in front of him and did that intake of breath you do when something goes irretrievably wrong.

     By then, I was at the side of my car, thirty or forty feet away. The man in the SUV made eye contact with me, hard eye contact, and I wondered where my pepper spray was, just in case.  He pulled back into the space he'd been parked in before and seemed to be thinking.  I tried to watch him out of the corner of my eye, as he got out, checked his back bumper, and got back his SUV.

      As soon as he shut the door, another man, a redhead with a fringe of beard,  came out of the grocery, walked over to the truck, got in, started it up and looked around.  By then, I was frankly staring, entranced by the tableau.  (It would have been a good time to get in my car and leave, if my best path out hadn't been right between them.)

     The man in the SUV kind of shrugged like he'd made his mind up and rolled down his window.  "Hey, buddy!  Hey!"

     In the pickup, the driver looked around, then rolled his window down.

     "Yeah, buddy?" Mr. SUV got out and walked over to the green truck. "I-- I backed into your truck."

     The redhead said something back, and got out.  Both men walked to the back of the truck and looked at the damage, talking quietly.

     The SUV driver reached for his back pocket.  By then I had put my groceries in my car, and was standing where I could duck behind it.  When he reached back, I flinched.  But he was going for his wallet.

     The redhead held up a hand and shook his head, speaking loud enough that I could hear him, "No.  No, it's okay.  I can fix this myself."

     The two men shook hands, got back in their vehicles and, one after another, pulled out and left.

     Make of it what you will, but if nothing more, it's a pretty good example of how to act like an adult, from both of them.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Tragedy In New Zealand

     Some half-baked loser or group of losers has killed a lot of people in mosques in New Zealand.  Some kind of racist manifesto supposedly linked to the murders has been posted to Web on social media, and is being taken down when found by people who run those venues.

     Part of it allegedly claims one of the reasons the shooter(s) used guns was to get Second Amendment attention here in the United States, which is why I'm commenting.

     I condemn the killings, as any decent person would.  These people were defenseless, at prayer.  It was a heinous attack.

     New Zealand has strict firearms laws, a program of vetting and licensing owners, and restricts access to "military-style semiautomatic rifles."  As ever, evil people intent on evil acts were not deterred by the law. 

     Police in New Zealand have several people in custody.  I expect the rest of the murderous punks will be rounded up shortly.  Say what you will of our modern world, those who commit wicked acts have fewer and fewer places to run, fewer and fewer places to hide.  They will be found and brought to trial.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


     The doctor's appointment wasn't quite as bad as I had feared.  She did chide me, but not too harshly.  She's recommending more oatmeal and less bacon, so it's a good thing I like oatmeal.

     The tentative diagnosis of my sore knuckle is "trigger finger," a tightening of the tendon.  She's written a prescription for a topical ointment.

     Spent the work day at the North Campus, mostly clearing away accumulated stuff and taking apart some of the abandoned-in-place stuff.  Took a long walk around the site, checking fences and locks.  The weather was warm and the ground was only a little muddy.  A lot of the site is gets really squishy in the spring, so this was a good chance to check things out.

     Winter might starting to wind down.  It's about time!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Gone Doctorin'

     Off to the doctor for me this morning.  It's not going to be fun.  She wanted me to try an additional medication and the pharmacy slathered the bottle with "May cause drowsiness/Do not drive or operate heavy machinery" warnings.

     This, after I thought I had raised my concerns that the last time she tried this, the (different) stuff had made it nearly impossible to do my job and had put a stop to all my hobbies.  Look, it's great to keep the ol' machinery made out of meat running, but if the process hobbles the software that runs it, what's the point?  And it's great to get regular medical attention -- but I pay for that by working and if I can't work, well....  She's not going to like this line of thought.  "Big picture" concerns don't mean much to her and she expects her dictates to be followed.  So I may be looking for a new doctor.

     Since her office is not available for anything on short notice -- they want to you take your bad cold or non-urgent injury to the doc-in-a-box -- and she usually pooh-poohs any health concerns I bring -- I can just about count on the swollen knuckle, sore joints and fatigue being shrugged off -- I don't suppose it will be all that much a loss.

     In all the time I've lived in Indianapolis (and nearby), I have only had two doctors I liked and trusted.  Lost track of one of them years ago when I was between jobs; he's the guy who diagnosed and treated the rheumatic fever fare-up I had nearly forty years ago.  The other one fell ill and died much too young.  I really miss him -- he was an absolutely up-front, cards-on-the-table guy, entirely confident in his medical judgement and willing to hear patients out and discuss their health and course of care.  He was a self-admitted hold-out in a world of assembly-line medicine, a man wryly amused that it took a staff of five to run his office, not counting nurses and himself.  The likelihood of ever finding another physician like him is somewhere between zero and none.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Annual Review

     Survived another one. 

     I dread Annual Reviews.  Working my way up, the only time anyone had a "review" was when they were not meeting expectations; there was some hope of improvement or the person would have simply been fired, but it was an indicator of a desperate situation.

     Praise and blame were both rare.  If your bosses thought you were doing your job well, they told you so by continuing to employ you.

     The bean-counters stuck us with annual reviews over twenty years ago.  Initially, it was something of a joke, a few minutes with your immediate supervisor going over a year of work that you both knew very well, let's fill out this form and make the second floor happy and no, we're still not handing out merit increases in pay--

      Then we got a supervisor who had, shall we say, a difficult personality.  He'd save up negative things to bring up in your review in closed-door sessions that might take an hour, sometimes more, with doubts expressed as to one's fitness for this sort of work, more in sorrow than in anger, etc. etc., until you left wondering how you'd been managing give him such a perfect impression of a pathetic loser and half-wishing he would have just fired you and got it over with--

     Do a decade and a half of that and the process begins to get a little stressful. 

     Things have changed at work and it's not like that any more.  Oh, the new guys would be quick to push you overboard if you weren't pulling your weight, and my line of work gets leaner and meaner with every passing week, but they're not big on playing games.  If you're out, you're out; they don't save up for a yearly inquisition and nobody's got time to make the toilers squirm just for a show of managerial keenness.

     So I had my review and it wasn't awful.  Here's hoping I can keep them that way. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

School's Out?

     Last night was the last formal class of the writing group, the last gathering of that interesting bunch of people at the offices of the Indiana Writers Center.

     It's not necessarily over.  The group is organized around an e-mail reflector where we have been sharing our manuscripts and critiques, and it's not going away.  Several of us expressed an interest in continuing the process, and so it will.

     It was a big group, ten at the start.  A few dropped out -- "life happens," especially for part-time writers with full-time jobs and even more so for my classmates who have children.  One, the youngest, never really got started, thanks to persistent e-mail problems and a lack of free time to resolve them.  At least that student was able to audit all but the last class, and I hope it was useful.

     One thing I have learned: my glacial writing pace won't cut it.  I need to write a lot more than I do.

     And another lesson: that swollen and painful knuckle serves as a reminder that the clock is ticking.  If I want to write this stuff, now's the time.  It's easier to type it than to speak it and much easier to edit.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Colcannon For Dinner

     This was our treat yesterday:
     Colcannon, mashed potatoes with greens and some kind of smoked pork, seasoned with onion and parsley.

     This version was made with ham and nice curly kale, lightly cooked before adding to the potatoes.  The milk was heated with chopped green onions, salt and pepper, and it's as good -- and as filling -- a meal as you might expect.  To serve, you make a little "well" in it and fill with butter and parsley flakes.

     There were leftovers.  This morning, I added a little more milk, an egg and a small amount of flour, and fried up potato pancakes.  They were delicious!

     If you have been looking at kale with suspicion, you should try it in this.  It's wonderful.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Saturday Morning

      I went to bed early yesterday -- by which I mean that I sat down on the side of the bed about six, laid back and went out, just gone, no dreams no nothing, crosswise on the bed and on top of the covers. Woke up an hour later, sat up and said, "Wow!  Was I ever asleep."

     From down hall, I heard Tamara, "You were snoring."


     "Sort of pre-snoring, anyway."

     So I thought, What the heck? and went to bed.

     We'd had a busy day and spent the afternoon visiting Indy Reads Books, a used bookstore/charity that runs literacy programs, followed by a late lunch or early supper at the Massachusetts Avenue Yats.

     The return had called for a seven-mile drive in rush-hour traffic, which is not one of my strengths.  The preparatory work for the Red Line bus route has College Avenue narrowed to one lane as it enters SoBro and -- of course -- even after weeks of this, it's all a terrific surprise to many drivers and there's a frantic merging right before the enormous, illuminated, blinking arrows that follow a succession of bright-orange "LANE ENDS" warning signs.  So I had some reason to be tired.

     I woke up around midnight and did some more critiquing for my writing class, neither of them especially easy, though for different reasons. 

     The literary work took until three; I fell asleep again, woke up from a vaguely detective-story nightmare probably influenced by reading Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man and rough novelizations of the next two films.  The general storyline and characters were all very familiar, as if the dream was the latest installment of a long-running series.

     Read a little and drifted off, to wake again much later, from a worse nightmare, one of those "something's gone badly wrong at work" types.  Man, that'll get me out of bed and back into the real world! 

Friday, March 08, 2019

Well, That Was Fun

     Not.  I had forgotten the phlebotomist at the my doctor's office -- an outside contractor, so she works for the lab that does analysis -- is deeply, quietly disappointed in pretty much everyone.  Whoever you are, she's over it.  A smile and "Hello" receives a barely perceptible nod; she's got the art of saying the barest minimum required to get the blood-draw done down flat.

     In a way, it's nice -- you're in and out of the room rapidly and smoothly -- and in a way it's heartbreaking, because the impression she leaves is that she has been let down and kicked by everyone she ever met and she's not giving anyone the least flash of personality ever again.

     I've sat in the two-chair "waiting area," a wide spot in the hallway, and witnessed every patient get the same treatment: not unfriendly, not friendly, efficient, resigned and quick.

     I left as I always do, humbled and amazed that anyone could maintain such armor and hoping there's some spot of sunshine in her life and that it never, ever goes out.  I get the impression she'd drown without a word, annoyed as the waters rose but calmly certain no one would ever throw her a lifeline.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Awake And Phlebotomous

     I'm fasting, slowly.  It's no fun.

     I've got to get all shined up and go get some blood drawn for analysis before I can consume anything more interesting than water.  At least I managed to get a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


     Really ought to post something.

     I'm a little sick today.

     To make matters worse, yesterday, I had washed my hands and was flipping excess water off my fingers into the sink, and suddenly something felt terribly wrong at the base knuckle of my left social finger.  It hurt like the very dickens!  It's still hurting, and now swollen and something is rubbing in the joint.  Don't know if I should do something about it or not. I've got some topical stuff that seems to be helping.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Writing History That Never Happened

     After the other writers in my crtique class mentioned "needing more background" about the Hidden Frontier and a little discussion, the consensus was that I needed a "thumbnail history."

     You often find this in series books, in one form or another -- an introduction, a series of historical digressions by a character, a simple "what when on before" synopsis -- and I have known I needed to write one.

     It's no simple task, thanks to the complexity of the Hidden Frontier timeline and the need to deliberately obscure some facts, like the how the Steam Amish ended up where they are and why they're so skittish, makes it a challenge.  The way the "war" is never quite a real war, due to the vast distances involved and the unwillingness of the Edgers to strike directly against Earth and its vast human-friendly biome (at least compared to everywhere else), the internal struggles during and after the war on Trinity, the difficulties after the war on Frothup, Ryall and A-10, the first breaking away to join the Earth-aligned worlds (the Moon, Kansas II and Blizzard) and the latter two, distant and obscure, becoming, briefly, grotty little central-planning economies -- it's a lot, really.

     The trick, of course, is doing as historians have always done: hit the high points.  The Magna Carta, the battle of Trafalgar, Yorktown, the Constitutional Convention, the War of 1812, the Late Civil Unpleasantness Between The States, and so on.  Then, in in given use of the thumbnail, leave out what doesn't apply.

     For example, I have mentioned in a couple of stories that a "Sergeant Snodgrass" was the first man to land on the moon, sometime in 1951.  This (and the other complications of the early top-secret OHAP* and the budget fight that nearly did it in until a key U. S. Senator's sudden death) does not need to be mentioned in every use of the history.  The fact that OHAP did happen, and resulted in the FCS conspiracy, does,  And so on.

     It's not completely done, but I think I can come up with a useful template that can serve as a general introduction or be used to inform a character's comments as needed to get readers up to speed on the timeline.
* "Outer Hebrides Agronomy Project," cover name for the black-budget program to develop the stardrive and use it to establish a secret missile base on the Moon.

Monday, March 04, 2019

I'm On Vacation

     All this week.  I'd forgotten about it until Friday.  I kind of took today off from everything.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Attention, Web Designers

     Don't let robots truncate your headlines to fit the available space:

     Yes, that's the entire image.  Seems like that might hurt.

     The article itself (in Vanity Fair) is a predicable hatchet-piece on a childishly easy target.  Ask anyone who grew up with plenty of money about an employment or poverty-related issue and the odds of getting an answer that is tone-deaf, clueless and/or plain wrong are staggering.  No bread?  Eat cake instead!  Yeah, no.

     I don't think the Green New Deal's "iron rice bowl" plan is even remotely practical, nor do I think it would work any better here than Mao's version did in Red China, but the opinions of a child of third-generation wealth on this subject are not worth much -- not even to rant about in the press.  I'm guessing Bess Levin takes candy from babies, too.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

My Car Is Back!

     Hooray, hooray, my car is back!

     The service shop called in the afternoon and I faced a long drive from downtown to far northeast side, outside the I-465 ring freeway that roughly parallels the Marion County line.  Call it a dozen miles, more or less.

     A dozen miles on a Friday afternoon, most of it on a major, divided-lane, non-freeway route out of the city that turns into an interstate highway once it ducks under 465.  A few places, traffic got up to sixty, at which point the Volkswagen uttered a polite bing! and displayed a warning message on the dash:
60 MPH
     It was good to know, but considering I was locked into bumper-to-bumper traffic, not something I could do much about.

     Things slowed down soon enough.  Most of the last half of the trip was done in "parking lot" mode, as traffic inched through stoplights in fits and starts.

     The cherry on top was the very last bit: the road turns into interstate at the cloverleaf with 465 and I needed to take the very next exit, so close you've got to scramble through two lanes of merging traffic to get to it.  I, um, "dislike" is too weak a word for how little I enjoy this kind of driving.  Traffic was brisk; the VW chided me a few times about going too fast for snow tires, but I got there, put myself in the correct lane, and after a few more turns, navigated the car into the twisty maze of shopping-center and light-industrial streets that wind back to the fancy-car garage with a feeling of great relief.

     Those roads are cratered badly enough to resemble the aftermath of a modern civil war.  The sleek, low-slung VW CC was not the car for them.  I dodged and weaved and finally arrived at the garage.

     My Lexus Opera Assault Vehicle was waiting out front, sparkling-clean.

     I paid with hardly a wince -- buy the fancy car, pay for fancy service -- and climbed in, dreading the return trip.

     Missed my exit to the freeway so I took the next turn and and put myself on a once-familiar north-south arterial.  Took it down to a stoplighted cross street and got back on the divided-lane boulevard to downtown.  There wasn't nearly as much traffic headed into downtown as there was trying to escape; the outbound lanes were solid and slow but traffic in my direction buzzed along at the limit.

     It was good to be back in my own car.

Friday, March 01, 2019

And Another One

     The repair shop put me in a VW CC, a sporty little sedan that somehow has an enormous trunk -- I mean, you could put an MG Midget in there.  I think I would have known I was in a German car once I sat down in the cockpit even without the VW logo on the dash: there are three (3) clocks visible from behind the wheel!

     It's very pretty, sleek and low-slung.  The bucket seats are covered in soft leather, but it's already making my back act up.  Mostly the getting in and out, I think.  Possibly in part the driving a very nice car that isn't mine in traffic without the height and sightlines of the Lexus SUV-in-a-party-dress.

     That said, it corners like a go-kart and putters along with a Jetsons-esque burble at fifty mph more smoothly than most cars I have driven did at thirty-five.  All of the controls fall naturally under your hand and other than the futuristic keyless key (the fob is the key*), there aren't any surprises to be had in operating the car.

     This is an automated posting because I need to get into work early tomorrow.  With any luck, my car will be done and I'll need to drive out to pick it up.  It's a long drive and is likely to take more than my usual lunch break.
* Although there is, in fact, a key hidden inside the fob for emergencies.  Oh, it won't start the car, that's not how the keyless ignition works, but it will unlock the doors if the battery goes flat.   Oh yeah, German car.