Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Sick This Morning, Sick All Day

     No fun at all.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate: Round Two, Part One

     Tam watched the debate on her computer last night.  We don't have cable and whattaya know, the party that tells me they're there for the poor and downtrodden somehow managed to get their debate on a stream that's not distributed for free over the air.

     Mostly it was more of the same.

     Beto O'Rouke increasingly looks like the straight, toned-down "Pat Boone" cover of military veteran Pete Buttigieg.  I guess Beto's the man-of-choice for Democrats who wouldn't have one of -- delicate shudder -- "them" in the Oval office, and I don't mean Navy men.

     Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are just more and more themselves, or perhaps affectionate caricatures of themselves, and appeared to me to be the very worst about observing time limits.

     The rest of the candidates were, well, the rest, with the exception of Tim Ryan of Ohio, who stood out at the beginning as the only candidate who didn't put a hand over their heart for the national anthem.  What the heck, Congressman?  You're up there standing next your peers-in-running, some of them harshly critical of this country's government and even culture, but they all managed to do the respectful thing.  Why didn't you?

     Tonight is part two, with frontrunner Joe Biden, and I suppose Tam will want to follow that one, too.  So far, I'm not seeing any reason to not do what I usually do, vote for the Libertarian Presidential candidate in 2020.  We've tried having Presidents who are disliked by roughly half of Congress, let's go for someone they'll all loathe!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Procrastinated Drain

     Ever put off an onerous task for so long that it seems as if you'll never do it?

     Yeah, me, too.  Eventually there's no avoiding it.

     The kitchen drain here at at Roseholme Cottage has been slow for quite some time.  An embarrassingly long time.  When Tam was out of town for work last winter, I managed to get it pretty clear with drain cleaner, hot water and vinegar (yes, the first on the list neutralizes the last.  You don't use them both at once).  It was still slow.  A little mini-plunger action seemed to keep it running acceptably, though the dishwasher did tend to back up into the sink.  That's not good.

     It was long past time for action when, Saturday evening, the drain decided to try for Dead Slow.  Got there, too.  I promised Tam that fixing it would be at the top of the list, only Sunday I had a lot of laundry and the writer's critique group, so how about Monday?

     Monday it was, and a firm date, too.

     So last night, I got home in fairly good order with a deli-counter baked chicken, plus a container of green and black olives and little blocks of feta cheese.  I added some Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers* to mine, because they're spicy-sweet and it goes with the chicken and sides like polka and an acccordion.

     Dinner out of the way, it was time to get to work.  I changed into weekend clothes, put on thin nitrile gloves with heavy, long dishwashing gloves over them,† grabbed a nutdriver, a wire coat hanger and a couple of pairs of pliers and set to work.

     The kitchen drain passes above my ham radio setup and across nearly the width of the house on a diagonal.  Nearly the entire run is modern PVC pipe, glued together; there's a 90 at the wall and a pair of 45s to zigzag around the stairs before it meets up with old iron pipe, where a pair of 45s that lead into the waste stack.  There's a hose-clamped rubber coupler at that point, the only place you can open the drain after the sink trap.  Everything else on the ground floor feeds into the stack with short, direct runs, and they have all been working okay.

     So I started taking the coupler apart.  Nasty-smelling water started to drip.  I got a buckt under it and wiggling the pipes a little farther apart, at which point flow increased to the point where it seems like a good idea to just let it run before proceeding.  I warned Tam I'd be asking for her help pretty soon and watched the gray water run.

     And run.  And run.  It slowed and I moved the pipes farther apart, which sped it back up, but finally, it was slow enough that I yelled to Tam to "glove up, get a good flashlight and come on down."  (The waste stack goes up inside one wall of the office we share, so she was only about ten feet away.)

     When she arrived, I handed her a smaller bucket and had her hold it directly under the pipe connection.  Took the pipe connection all the way apart with some effort, and got even more water out.  I picked up the bright flashlight Tam had brought and looked into the stack connection.  It was blocked

     Nope.  Sludge: hard-water accretions combined with grease dish soap hadn't quite grabbed, accumulated tiny food particles, bacteria and...ew.  It looked gritty, like sandstone, only black.  The unfolded coat hanger helped rake out chunks of it into the bucket Tam was holding to catch the remaining water from the drainpipe and needle-nose pliers helped me fish out most of  the remainder. I was contemplating bending the end of the coat hanger into a more useful shape when Tam spoke up:

     "Hey, Bobbi?  This bucket is getting heavy.  And you might want to look into the end of the pipe, too."

     "You'd better take that bucket upstairs and pour it out in a far corner of the back yard."

     "I was planning on it."

     While she was on that and the pipe was dripping (still!) into the larger bucket I had on the floor, I moved around to look into the pipe.  More blockage, the same kind.

     It was starting to look bad.  How far back did this extend?  I bent a better crook into the end of coathanger and proceeded to slide it up the pipe, turn it and pull back out, bringing big lumps of the stuff with it.  After the first splashes, I waited until Tam came back down to hold the smaller bucket at the end of the pipe.  It took what seemed like forever -- probably five minutes or less -- until the pipe started to clear and the unfolded coathanger wasn't finding any obstructions even at full length.  I asked Tam to dump the bucket and fetch some blue shop "rags" (heavy paper towel) from the garage, which I had forgotten.

     I cleaned off the pipe and coupler and we put the back together, a fussy job, and I cleaned up the floor while Tam went to the kitchen to run water down the sink drain.

     So far, so good: the coupler's not leaking and the drain seems to be running well.  Tonight, we'll run the dishwasher when we're both home to deal with any leaks or backups.  Here's hoping!

     Cleaned up and cleaned up and cleaned up, floor and pipes and buckets.  Scrubbed the pliers, WD-40ed them, and washed and washed my hands, arms and face.  Disgusting.  But it had to be done.
* My weakness for pickled vegetables (and raw, finger-food ones) goes back as far as I can remember; possibly farther, as my Mom used to tell of my three or four year old self begging a sip of cider vinegar and being given a taste, with the thought that it would cure me of asking for that stuff.  Instead, I gulped down a teaspoon-full and asked for more!

† There's a reason for this besides the "Ew!" factor of wanting a better barrier.  During clean-up, there's a point where you need to get rid of the filthy outer gloves but having something between you and ick-covered tools is still a good idea.  Start with two pairs of gloves and you're ready for it without fiddling around.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Week Of Vacation Ends

     There have been better vacations.  Certainly, I have no one to blame for myself for the excitement over my car keys.  And no one but me decided to begin by spending two days pretty much just sleeping and binge-watching HBO's Chernobyl.  (I don't regret watching the mini-series.)

     Even working Wednesday morning was optional, though it was a good idea to try to get up to speed on new stuff, since they're changing how we interact with Human Resources for benefits and the like  (You'll be shocked, shocked to learn it's web-intensive, a distant cousin to a system my department is setting up for our Engineering work.  Welcome to the future, here's a website and an app.)

     So, back at it, and maybe I'll do better at this vacation stuff next time.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Saturday Dinner

     Charcoal-roasted pork tenderloin with potatoes, fennel bulb and fronds, carrots, onion, mushrooms, paprika turnips, corn on the cob and a few pickled cherry peppers.
This is what we call food!
     Seasoned with salt and pepper on the meat, parsley on the corn, the aforementioned paprika on the turnips and rosemary crushed over the pan.  Two and a half hours (for the meat, the vegetables got less, with turnips and potatoes going in first) had the meat-falling apart tender.

     It was tasty!  The grocery had pork tenderloin at half off.  I'd been remembering my Mom's Sunday-dinner pork roast with vegetables, a rare treat, and cooking it over the grill meant I avoided several hours of oven heat building up in the kitchen.  Some hickory chips on the coals didn't hurt, either.  Served with sourdough rosemary rolls and Irish butter.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

It Might Be An Oncoming Train

     Or it might not.

     Got some slightly better news on the big medical bill: it's a paperwork foul-up. I checked with my health insurer and their records, rather than saying they've paid all they felt like paying and I'm stuck, say that they're "waiting on additional information from the provider."

     This is semi-accurate; armed with that information, I called the hospital's billing department, and the details at their end tell an even more involved story.

     You see, my heath insurer isn't my health insurer.  I work for A Medium-Sized Corporation, let's call them AM-SCo, headquartered in a nearby state.  AM-SCo, striving to keep up with the bigger outfits, shops aggressively for a health insurance provider for their entire corporation; for the last decade, they've used a company that's very strong in AM-SCo's home state -- but it doesn't have a presence in Indiana.  That's no problem, the insurance business is full of mutual backrubs and discount deals among insurers; the AM-SCo company health insurer shops aggressively and finds another insurer to partner with in Indiana.

     That information goes on the back of our insurance cards: "In the states of IN, XX, YY and ZZ, outside of Big Health Insurer's Area, call 1-800-555-NUMBER or send claims to P.O. Box NNN, Generic City, Generic State."   My fellow local employees and I make a point of reminding heathcare providers to check the back of the card for the Indiana-applicable procedure and all is well.

     At the end of 2018, the insurance carrier, shopping aggressively, discovered they could make a better deal for Indiana coverage with a different company than the one they had been shacking up with and they were on it like a duck on a June bug.

     In January, 2019, I visited the hospital with my little heart scare.

     In February of 2019, the hospital billed my insurance, using the information from my insurance card.

     In March of 2019, we were issued new insurance cards for 2019 with the new number and address to use for Indiana (and a few other states).  I had unknowingly given the hospital incorrect information.

     The old Indiana-covering insurance company bounced the claim and communicated to the main insurance carrier for AM-SCo.  The main carrier amended the paperwork and passed it on.  But the hospital had rebilled the 2019 Indiana insurance company and, faced with two identical bills via tow different path, they apparently vaporlocked, which resulted in my receiving the full bill, months later.

     The hospital swears they can straighten this out; I've contacted the main company insurance carrier (we're running perilously close to the cut-off for questioning a claim resolution) and the HR department, who are my local point-of-contact for this kind of thing.

     What I should have been billed for is 20% of the total, plus or minus some fine-print adjustments.  Still biggish, but that's the order of magnitude of deductible I had signed up for and can cover for normal ER-type things.

     The hospital has flagged my account as a snarl-up in the process of being unsnarled and this should avoid any untoward action toward me on their part, at least for now.

Friday, July 26, 2019

And Today, A Blinding Headache

     I'm like the mildly defective products they sell at reduced prices -- still functional, just unrepairably damaged.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

So, I Lost My Car Key

     I lost my one and only car key, that I was meaning to add another to--

     And couldn't find it.  Noticed last night at bedtime it was missing (I was absolutely sure I knew where it was, in the usual place, which means I was distracted when I put it away yesterday), searched for a couple of hours without results.  Slept, woke, and searched for six hours more.  That got me to noon and I gave up, called the dealer, called a tow service (because it's 2019 and your car has be told the new keys are friendly keys), and spent the afternoon getting my key replaced and another added, at a price that seems disproportionately high--

     But it's 2019 and my car's computer only trusts the dealer's officially authorized computer.

     And I still can't find that lost key!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I Mowed The Lawn

     Yes, I did, or mowed the front yard, anyway, which is the one that counts the most.  Even with the hot spell over, it's tiring work; afterward, I made a little dinner (chimichurri skirt steak, which Tam had picked up at the grocer) and went to bed soon after.

     And this morning, I'm hurrying around to get to a meeting at work about a new online personnel/HR system.  In the middle of a week off.  Because meeting.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Well, They Got Me

     Back in January, I went into the ER with chest pains.  It turned out to be a false alarm.

     Bills have rolled through insurance and on down to me ever since; my doctor sent me off for a stress test and my part of the bill for that was pretty high.  But I managed.  I paid them.

     By now, everything should be taken care of, right?  All paid?

     Nope.  A bill just arrived from from the hospital, payment due on arrival, with the notation, "Balance remaining after insurance [...] We have been advised that your insurance will not be paying the remaining balance on your account.  If you question this information - please contact your insurance company."

     It is for an amount in excess of six thousand dollars.

     Of course, I don't have it; and it's way over the supposed deductible of my supposed health insurance.  The slight-of-fine print -- new this year! -- is that they apply the deductible not to the incident as a whole, but to every individual bill.

     I don't have six thousand dollars just kicking around.

     There's no way I can pay this quickly.  Here's hoping they'll let me pay it slowly; otherwise, I'll be maxing out my credit card and scrambling to pay it off before the interest eats me alive.

     And the next time I feel bad?  I've learned my lesson.  There's no way I'm going to the ER.  If it's chest pain, I won't even go to doc-in-a-box, because they'll just send you to the ER and bill you for the referral. Nope; if I'm not unconscious, I'm not going.  Maybe not even then.

Weather Leads, Sinus Follows

     The weather took a change last night and is still turning; temperatures won't rise much today and they're predicting a low in the fifties overnight.  Last night, humidity was ninety percent or more and it's supposed to drop like a hot rock* all day.

     I should know this without looking it up, since the pain in my ears -- it's painfully bilateral -- dizziness and so on is an absolutely certain sign of changing weather, and as intense as it has been this morning, it's a large change indeed.  Who needs a barometer?
* You'd think a hot-enough rock would fall a little slower, but no, not enough to notice.  9.8 meters per second squared is plenty enough.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


     No, I'm not talking abut opposition to the government owning the means of production, or even  fighting against Scandinavian-style "social safety nets" supported by higher taxes.

     Nope, I'm thinking about proposing a form of government in which direct interpersonal contact is kept the the bare minimum.  Automate the DMV!  No more press conferences: Top government officials will receive a printed list of questions to answer weekly, by letter or e-mail.  Congressthings will be required to remain seated, eyes front, when the House or Senate is in session -- wireless microphones will let them address their fellows.  And, of course, lobbyists will be required to use the mail.

     Let us have a government of laws, not of men.  And let the men (and women, and you over there with your very own pronoun) we do have to have keep to themselves.  There's no need to get chummy; just do your job and clock out at the end of the day.  No autographs, no press-the-flesh meetings, none of that.  Baby-kissing will be prohibited by law.

     Next step: all election campaigns to be conducted via plain-text direct mailings, and all mailings to be fact-checked by a bipartisan committee and a broad variety of news organizations, with their checks clearly attributed.

     Dull?  Darned right it would be dull.  There's no reason politics should be a three-ring circus.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

"3.6 Roentgen...."

     The weather was dreadful today, "killer hot" and no hype about it.  So I stayed in and binge-watched HBO's Chernobyl.

     It's well-told and gives a much better look into the terrifying near-miss; the outcome could have been so much worse.  And it's a story of the dangers of politically-driven engineering, a story of overconfidence and of what happens when you forget that failure is an option and Murphy never sleeps.  --Especially not when hazards are not communicated.

     This is the story of many engineering disasters: when engineering bumps up against politics, politics often triumphs; the dam must hold, the lower temperature limit for Shuttle launches is just a guideline, the power grid is sufficiently robust....  Political numbers are often nudged, adjusted, massaged; what's a few billion dollars or rubles here or there?  Engineering numbers don't work that way; even the "wiggle room" is part of the calculation.

     ...You can't fudge it; you can't cajole it.  If you built mistakes into the technology, hiding them doesn't make them go away.

     Chernobyl is an engrossing docudrama.  At the very end, there's a short segment explaining the simplifications used to tell the story, the large science staff distilled to just two people, one real, one composite.  There's no similar segment directly calling out the dangers of misinformation, of concealing information from the people in a position to understand and apply it.

     All around you, every day, there are plenty of potential small-scale engineering disasters.  And plenty of politicians who don't know how that stuff works are making decisions about it.  Below them, plenty of non-technical managers who can't tell genuine reasons for concern from under- or over-reaction.  And an Internet full of bad information.

     None of us can know everything.  Each of us knows a few things -- some of which is true.  Be certain of what you know; be wary of both complacency and panic.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday At Last

     And I'm (mostly) off next week -- just an orientation session for some stuff for a couple of hours one day, and possibly the delivery of a half-million worth of new equipment at the North Campus.

     The delivery has been specified as absolutely, positively needing to arrive in a truck equipped with a lift-gate.  We've never had a loading dock there, large deliveries being extremely infrequent.  I'm predicting that the delivery vehicle will most likely not have a built-in lift or, if it does, it will be too small for things we need to unload.  Past history makes this almost certain: trucking companies find it inconvenient and so they either overlook the requirement or assume it isn't really necessary -- after all, what place doesn't have a dock?

     So that could be fun.

     Past that, I've got lots to do around the house and a lot of sleep to catch up on.  The present predictions call for the weather to not be quite so brutally hot.  Sure hope they're right!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

What's A Taylor Pork Roll?

     It's kind of Spam's ancestor, dating back to the 19th Century, invented by John Taylor of Hamilton Square, New Jersey and originally sold as "Taylor's Prepared Ham," a lunchmeat-diameter roll of, well, finely diced ham, or at least smoked pork and some spices.

     In 1906, Uncle Sam promulgated an official definition of ham, and Mr. Taylor's product wasn't included.  So it became, officially at least, "pork roll," and in New Jersey, they argue over which of the two names is right.  Of course they do; there's no fight like as family fight, after all.

     But whatever they call it, they eat it, often as a breakfast meat.  Some Taylor Pork Roll showed up in the "grab & go" presliced meats at our local grocer's deli counter and, being me, I bought it to find out what it was.

     Last night, casting about for something for a light dinner for Tam and me, I fried up four slices -- two just about cover a slice of rye bread with a little overlap in the middle -- melted a dab of butter in the pan, layered two slices of pork roll with a slice of Pepper Jack cheese on each side and slices of rye outside that, and fried the resulting sandwiches in the butter.

     Yum!  They might be onto something in New Jersey.  Those were just about the best fried ham & cheese sandwiches I've had!  Okay, fine, it's not legally "ham;" but it'll do, pig, it'll do.

     (Served it with cauliflower pickled with beets and garlic, which is another very fine treat from the grocery.  I'm going to have to use that, and maybe some regular pickled beets, to make purple pickled eggs, a rare but treasured treat from my youth.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Car Goes Back To The Shop

     If things go as planned, my car will be fixed in the next few days and it'll be back to air-conditioned bliss.

     The most recent loaner was a cute little Volvo wagon, a bit worse for the wear but still pretty luxy. I'm finding that the tall, SUV-esque Lexus has spoiled me in an unexpected way: it's a lot easier to get in and out of than conventional vehicles.  It's not an obvious benefit but it is indeed a plus.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Looking At Politics These Days

     If you stare into the dumpster fire that is current U.S. politics for more than a few seconds, it starts staring back with crazy eyes.  Not to mention tweeting, counter-tweeting, polemicising and viewing-with alarm. 

     Alarm is not unwarranted.  This country is dealing with a degree of open division unmatched since the run-up to the Civil War.  When the population of a country becomes so at odds with one another, bad things can follow --  except, possibly, in Canada; when I was much younger, an independent Quebec seemed inevitable.  Somehow they evitated.

     Americans are not Canadians.  Nobody here's much inclined to say, "Sorr-rey," and try to patch things up.  And the loudest voices are yammering at everyone to pick a side.

     Really, we don't like to pick sides; historically, we have done so with great reluctance.  The United States was late to join both World Wars and staved off our own Civil War until it boiled over.  The war in Vietnam muddled along precisely because of waffling.  Is our present mess about to bubble over?

    Say what you wish about our current President -- you will anyway, after all -- but the man has a tendency to pour gasoline on fires that would be better extinguished.  He's the most visible but he's not at all alone. People spat over which group is pushing division the hardest, farthest and/or loudest, much like children trying to blame a fight on one another.  It takes two (or more!) to tango and a hell of a lot of people on all sides are walking around with a rose in their teeth, an ear cocked to the distant beat.  Drums or cannon?  I can't yet be sure.

     With all its flaws, we've got a nice country here.  Break it and it won't go back together easily, if at all.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Sleep? Yeah, Sorta

     Last night, I was exhausted. I went to bed early.  Woke about 9:30, 10:30, 11:30....3:00, 3:15, 3:30, 4:00 - 4:30, 5:00....

     Don't know what I did wrong.  Strained my back a little, hauling a heavy typewriter up the basement stairs for initial testing (inconclusive) and then back down again, but that's pretty much par.  Clearly, I need more practice!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Indy Hamfest Goodies

ADAPT, IMPROVISE, OVERCOME.  Or at least use your "spot" connectors on things that have 1/4" mono jacks.
      It took at least an hour to get back to the Indianapolis Hamfest Saturday.  Traffic was significantly worse than Friday.  The merge onto the freeway is another long, multilane collector, combining an on-ramp from 56th St. (with runs East-West) with an off-ramp to Shadeland Avenue (a North-South road).

     When I realized traffic on 465 was all but stopped, I continued on around to southbound Shadeland, congratulating myself on my cleverness and attempting to use the voice input of my smartphone get directions from Google Maps.  --Yeah, me and everyone else.  The Googles weren't responding: overloaded.

     It wasn't until traffic on Shadeland slowed and began frantically merging into fewer lanes that I realized the city had checkmated me: there's major construction on Shadeland, too!

     Still nothing from my phone, which was very hot and only getting one syllable in three -- incorrectly.  And remember my car's lack of air-conditioning?  I certainly was!  Does it still count as a "glow" when it soaks through your T-shirt?

     Okay, fine, the hamfest is at the Marion County fairgrounds, the fairground is off Southeastern Avenue and Shadeland has got to intersect Southeastern.  I don't need no stinkin' map!

     Yeah, well--  Got through the construction, made wonderful time for several miles, and darned if Shadeland didn't merge right back into 465 in a confusingly unfamiliar way.  The freeway was at least moving, but very busy.  As I made my way into traffic, I looked over to realize -- too late! -- that Southeastern exited from the very same collector that merged Shadeland onto 465.

     It was two miles to the next exit, which was also very busy.  Got turned around and back on the freeway in a mere ten minutes, perspiring freely all the while, and made it back to Southeastern and into the hamfest without further trouble.  Yesterday's tickets were still good; I parked and headed over to the flea market, where a few vendors were already packing up.

     Between the flea market and the indoor sales area, I found a few things:

     Here's a National ACN "Velvet Vernier" reduction drive dial with spare scales, and some dial scales for the smaller "SCN" as a bonus, all for $5; a roll of speaker wire; an old power pentide tube; a $5 FM/TV tuneable notch filter that, if it works, I'll use at my job (I've got way more than $5 worth of junkbox components from them), a home-made tuneable field strength meter for (probably) six meters with a National MCN dial that I'll probably mine for parts, a dual 100 pF variable capacitor, a knife switch, a set of guy wire insulators, a couple of 90-degree coax adaptors, a set of end and center insulators for a dipole antenna and a variable "roller" inductor, useful in an antenna tuner, though it needs some readjustment. Also found the adptor pictured above.

Started looking through a box of crystals and the seller spoke up: "Make me an offer for the whole thing."
     So I did just that and he took it, and for what I was going to pay for a handful of crystals at $5 each, I got a nice WW II storage box, all of the crystals, and one socket adaptor.  I've been stacking crystals in a desk drawer, so this should be an improvement.

     The drive back -- oh, I was so clever, I found a better route, Southeastern to Rural (which becomes Keystone because why not?) and back to Broad Ripple -- was about as bad as the drive there: much hotter, mostly bumper-to-bumper and with a long stop for a train. 

     Got home, toweled off, ordered dinner and went to bed early.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Freeway Parking Lot

     Despite continuing improvements -- most of which really are improvements, too -- the interstate highway system around and through Indianapolis routinely grinds to a near-halt at rush hour.  My work hours and usual worksite offer a nice view of the evening rush hour on the "inner loop" (not an actual loop, for various reasons) and it's pretty awful.

     Oh, other cities have it worse, and down at stoplight level, if you know your way around, rush hour's not so bad.  But make no mistake: at peak times, highway traffic regularly slows to a crawl.

     When I took Friday afternoon off to go to the Indianapolis Hamfest and Tam wanted to go along, I asked her to be the exit timekeeper: "We need to be headed towards the gate by four."

     She kept close track; after a break while she took pictures of a classic TransAm in the parking area, we were in my saunamobile and headed for the gate about a quarter after four, and navigating our way around I-465 minutes later.

     Tam was minding the exits; that stretch of 465 grows to five or six lanes across, which are then peeled off in a series of "Exit Only" lanes, one after another, and being in the wrong one at peak times can be a problem.

     Traffic was moving along briskly -- 70 mph or more in the middle lanes, and yes, it's all posted at 45 to 55.  I had swung out to get around a truck in the thickening traffic when she told me to start getting over.  Moved over one lane, two--  The traffic ahead suddenly erupted in brake lights and in seconds, we were at 35 miles an hour or less.

     There were occasional gaps and I kept on working my over to the next-to-rightmost lane as exits went by.  Tam had been a little quiet, thinking about something, and then she spoke,

     "From 70 to Castleton, it'll be down to one lane all weekend.  There's some big project."

     "You don't think they got an early start?  Surely not."


     The traffic was getting grim, packing tighter and slowing.  A few impatient souls were slipping across lanes from  gap to gap with NASCAR levels of clearance, which wasn't helping.  I concentrated on getting through it.  Our exit is a long, two lane "collector" that combines two off-ramps and an on-ramp, with a four-lane weaving section in the middle of the run.  I was in the innermost of the two right lanes, so we should be okay, right?


     Tam: "Bobbi!  We're missing our exit!"

     I had forgotten: only one lane peels off, splitting into two immediately.  Luckily, three cars to our right had taken the farthest-right lane as soon as possible, leaving a good-sized opening.  I checked the mirrors, glanced to my right, and hit the gas, making the exit at the last possible second, trespassing only a little over the white line.

     Freeway driving!  You can have it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Just Six Years

     Not even all of six -- in January 2025, I'll be able to retire with full Social Security.  And don't think I won't take the Federal check, as long as it holds out: having been forced into contributing to FDR's* New Deal "safety net," I have paid in far more what I'll get back and as long as the system is still operating, I'd like to have that small return, thank you all the same.  That and my (tiny) IRA should get me by, assuming I live very frugally.

     If I hold out longer, Uncle Sam will allow me a little more -- but there's a catch:

      Present projections have the system's reserve assets crossing zero in 2034, with a choice after that of cutting benefits about 25 percent and running it right off the incoming tax, cranking up the retirement age (again), or increasing the payroll tax that funds it (to a chorus of, "Boomers ruin everything," from the generations still working).

     It's a race against time!  So why am I not in the least excited about it?
* Like most of the New Deal, this was a reaction to a more radical proposal; in this case, the Townsend Plan: elderly physician Francis Townsend was pushing the notion of paying every (non-criminal) retiree over sixty the remarkable sum of three hundred 1933 dollars every month, but they had to spend it all within thirty days.  That's around $3800 in 2019 dollars!  It was getting pretty popular, too; as ever, the trouble with the elderly is they have little to lose and plenty of free time.  Congress and President Roosevelt ginned up Social Security by 1935, a tearing hurry at Congressional speed, and headed off Dr. Townsend at the pass with a higher retirement age and a smaller payout.
     Alas, it's a pyramid scheme, and relies on population growth, inflation and a retirement age set late enough that a significant percentage of the prospective recipients die before receiving full benefits.  Medical advances get a lot more of us past 65 -- or even 67 -- these days, so small wonder it's running on empty.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Annoyances Of Car Ownership

     Having to get one's car worked on is one of the most annoying things about owning them.  Even having resigned oneself to the inevitable surprise -- "They used a special veeblefletzer in this model, and they're hard to get.  So the part alone is $500 instead of the usual $50, and where it's mounted, well, we'll have to pull the engine...."

     Okay, fine.  The bill will be high.  It will be high everywhere, and about the same, since they're generally ordering from the same wholesaler and calculating labor from the same how-long-should-it-take reference (and hoping to beat the actual times listed, getting more work done in eight hours than the mythical average mechanic).  One grants these things.

     One of the best compensations for them is getting a loaner vehicle.  I take in a defective car, and drive one that works while mine gets fixed, heck of a deal.

     --Until the shop reneges.  My car's in the shop now; the air-conditioning hasn't worked this year and after six weeks of highs in the upper eighties to low nineties, I can no longer ignore it.  They called me yesterday afternoon:

     "Miz Ecks?"


     "Hey, your air-conditioning compressor is locked up bad.  It killed the engine when we tried it!*  It'll have to be replaced, and we'd better do the belt.  It dumped all your refrigerant.  It's gonna be $XXXX.XX to fix."

     The number was in the low four digits.  Painful but worth it.  "Okay."

     "You asked us to look at the water pump, and it isn't any worse than last time.  That's still $XXX.XX.  But the timing chain cover?  There's a little drip there, it's not much but you'll want to keep an eye on it.  That's $XXXX.XX if we replace it, 'cos we do have have to pull the engine...."

     The price quoted for that last was a little over half what I paid for the car.  "Look, let's just do the oil change and get the AC working, okay?"

     "Okay.  We'll have to order parts for the air conditioning, be three, four days.  How soon can you get that loaner back to us?"

     Utter confusion on my part.  "You want it back?"

     "Yeah, we're open 'til five-thirty, could you get it up here?  I have it assigned to somebody else tomorrow."

     "I'm downtown and I'm on until at least six-thirty."  It's over a dozen miles from my work to the garage, on one of the most crowded commuter routes in the metro.

     "Oh, we can leave your car out for you."
     "I only have the one key."

     "Oh, we leave 'em out like that all the time."

     "Not my car, you don't.  I'll get the loaner back to you in the morning."

     Deep unhappiness from the mechanic.  Yeah, well, sucks to be him.  Sucks worse to get back into my saunamobile for three or four more days -- make that six, with the weekend.

* It was enough for me to turn it on and hear the engine falter; letting it kill the engine seemed like a step too far.  Clearly, I lack the investigative finesse of a trained mechanic.  Also, I know who burned the belt they're telling me needs replaced, and it wasn't me.  Worth the extra $45 to not bust my own knuckles but blow me no smoke, pal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Benjamin Franklin, Reformed Internet Troll?

     By his own account, wise old Benjamin Franklin was something of a troll in his youth, "disputatious" and fond of direct contradiction and of voicing very positive opinions.

     Eventually, he realized that all it did was increase argument and further disagreement; he came to realize he made better headway by Socratic questioning, and better still by modestly expressing his opinions and conclusions, in the form of, "It seems to me...," "I think that..." or even, "I feel...."  (This is a very modern approach, sometimes described as "owning your own opinion" as opposed to stating it as some universal truth.)

     His own biography shows him in adulthood as something of master manipulator, guiding group actions for what he believed to be the greater good -- and it worked, too; Franklin's efforts resulted in the first lending library in America and the earliest organization of volunteer firemen, institutions which were widely copied soon afterward.

     So pay him a little heed: he stopped arguing with strangers (and friends) and managed to accomplish great things instead.*

     And what did you do on social media today?
* That said, and perhaps despite his own best efforts, Franklin was no plaster saint, entirely willing to use inside influence to further his own business and to reward family and friends with political patronage when he was in a position to do so.  Both were pretty much SOP in his day, for whatever excuse that provides.  On the whole, he nevertheless did far more good than  harm

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

More Reading

     Most recently, Relic and Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, linked monster-thrillers in the "don't pay too much attention to the science, just sit back and enjoy the ride" vein.  The cast is well-drawn, maybe a bit close to pulp at times, but only the very best pulp, and the story in each is exciting. Great fun!

     Presently, I have just made a start on Benjamin Franklin's autobiography.  So far, he's an engaging and impressively modern writer, give or take a few flourishes of style.  Franklin was a complicated man and the work reflects it.

Monday, July 08, 2019

NRA Meltdown

     The current mess the NRA is in alarms me.  I've been following it at a bit of a distance, and it appears to be a multi-level failure, based on the mistaken belief that the organization was an endless "cash cow."

     NRA is often accused by opponents of "leveraging fear" in fundraising, as if that was somehow wrong; donations to the Electronic Frontier Foundation go up when online freedoms appear most under attack; the American Civil Liberties Union is quick to issue press releases on abuses of Constitutionally-protected rights and lo, this affects their take.  Surprise, people donate when causes they support are under threat.

     Get a Republican in the White House, especially if there's a GOP majority in the House and/or Senate, and NRA donations dwindle.

     After eight years of President Obama's support of antigunners, however hollow, NRA executives and their deeply-entwined ad agency were fat, happy and overly complacent.  The fight was on!  Until late 2016, when suddenly it wasn't.

     It is clear the rot had been building for awhile.  Now the pool of dollars was shrinking and however you care to characterize the tussle between Wayne LaPierre, Oliver North, ad agency Ackerman-McQueen (to which PR had been hugely and expensively outsourced) and various factions of the Board of Directors, one thing stands out: they're fighting over money.

     Gun rights ain't in it.

     Ack-Mac never gave a flip about the Second Amendment, and why should they?  They're an advertising agency; caring about anything but the bottom line is a huge drawback in that line of work and the way you keep an ad agency toeing the mark is to ensure that getting your message across is crucial to their income.  Instead, Ack-Mac was given a great deal of freedom to determine what the message should be, and the end result was more than a little inward-looking and self-serving.  And out of touch with a lot of the membership.

     NRA's executives, meanwhile, isolated from much of the hurly-burly of messaging and outreach, appear to have relied on what Ack-Mac was telling them, and on having a compliant, bloated Board of Directors that could be counted on to rubber-stamp whatever the leadership wanted.

     Nobody, save a few members of the Board, was listening to the membership. 

     When the money started to get tighter, pretty much everyone reacted to save their jobs and didn't look to survival of the organization as a whole.

     Until Chris Cox got the axe, I was mainly just watching.  Watching in no little alarm, but figuring NRA would weather the storm and emerge, leaner, meaner and with a renewed sense of mission.  I'm starting to doubt that.  Wayne LaPierre's got the survival instinct of a cockroach -- and is just as much of a team player.  Whoever he's got to push overboard to stay in power, he will.  Board members who have spoken out publicly are finding themselves kicked off of committees -- pardon me, not invited to continue serving.

     Is it going to continue to be the National Rifle Association, or is it just hanging around to keep a few people living in the style to which they'd like to remain accustomed?

     2020 is coming.  Bloomberg's pockets are deep.  There's a even chance we're going to have a Democrat President in the next go-round, and the odds aren't much worse that he or she will have a (slim) Congressional majority as well.  If the NRA isn't focused in their core mission by then, it's going to mean a lot more than an executive or three losing their phony-baloney jobs.

     NRA's going off the rails and I don't know know how to fix it.  The people who can do the most, soonest, are in Fairfax, Virginia.  It's time they got to it.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A Quick Note

     I felt pretty lousy all day today, and did pretty much nothing except a little laundry.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Dizzy All Day

     I don't know if it's some kind of a bug or just the weather, but I have barely managed to attain and maintain verticality all day, and the sound effects inside my skull have been, well...unnerving.

     Did the sinus rinse thing a couple of hours ago and I'm better, but exhausted.  You know the saying about having backups for critical items, "Two is one and one is none?"  Days off seem to work like that for me.

Friday, July 05, 2019

A Glorious Fourth

     Okay, other than a small fire, we didn't take the advice of John Adams, who wrote of Independence Day, "It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."*

     We nevertheless celebrated.  Our neighbors provided a lot of "shews ... [sounds like unto] guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations," Indiana having pleasantly few restrictions on what kinds of fireworks can be sold to the general public and the law allowing considerable leeway over the holiday in setting them off.

     Shopping Wednesday, the neighborhood market offered a special meal package for the holiday: four lovely hamburgers (USDA Prime!), big tasty ciabatta buns, choice of cheese (Colby Jack for us), ear corn and potato salad.  When they make things that easy and offer a substantial discount to boot, why fight it.  I wasn't all that sure of the potato salad -- their deli tends to err on the side of caution in terms of seasoning, but I couldn't've been more wrong: it was as good as the best home-made, rich and complex, with exactly the right amount of sweet pickles.

     Fired up the grill, which has seen all too little use in this rainy Spring and early Summer.  Tam and I cooperated to clean the corn (partially de-silked and with a bit of husk as sold; we cleared the rest of the silk, made sure the husks were clean and damp, and wrapped them in foil with a little butter, Chipotle salt and butter).  By then the coals were going well, so I put the corn on.

     The burgers had been out a while, salted, peppered and Worcestershire sauced.  You don't want to start them still cold!  Once the corn had a fair head start (it wants fifteen minutes on a hot grill; I had it around the edges, to get a little more time), I oiled up up a perforated grill pan, loaded the hamburgers on board and set it over the coals.

     Time passed.  My little covered grill is not super hot as such things go and the grill pan slows it even more.  Getting a burger to medium rare takes upwards of twenty minutes, all that lovely hardwood lump charcoal smoke swirling around them the whole time.  I took the corn off first and stacked it on a plate in the oven, then brought in three of the burgers and we prepped them, dished out potato salad, and unwrapped corn.

     It was wonderful!  Once my plate was loaded up, I fetched the fourth burger, now cooked to medium well, and prepped it like the others -- Coleman's mustard (how's that for ex-Colonial effrontery?), Heinz Chili Sauce (it'll make you sneer at ordinary catsup) and a slice of Colby Jack.

     The meal was -- if I say so myself -- delicious.  It was also way too much food.  Tam and I watched a couple of episodes of The Orville, munching steadily, and after a custard cup of potato salad each, our second ear of corn, and a few bites into the second burger, we looked at each other.  Tam spoke first, "This is great, but I don't think I have room left to finish it."

     I agreed.  I had nice sweet cherries in the fridge for dessert and never got them out.  Those hamburgers were huge!
     So it was a glorious Fourth, fireworks sizzling and popping outside and plenty of food on the table.
* Of course, he thought we'd celebrate on the Second, instead of adding in the couple of days Congress spent faffing around with the Declaration.  Alas, John, no.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

It's Independance Day

     Set your arguments aside for one day.  You are free to have them thanks to the edgy, far-out thinkers who thought the common man ought to have a voice -- a determining voice -- in the government that set his taxes and boundaries.   ...Eventually, the common woman got in on the deal, too.

     No other country started in violent revolution has ever made the kind of progress the United States has made across so many fields.  That's a fact, no matter what your politics are; I don't think it was luck and do think it is entirely related to our form of government.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

"And Another Thing Broad Ripple Has Ruined Me For..."

     ...Is bacon.  Tam made the remark after blind taste-testing this morning but it could have as well been me, when I cooked up some supposedly high-end bacon I'd ordered from Amazon Prime Delivery Monday after working all night and being to sleepy to shop in person.

     You know, the kind of bacon sold sealed in plastic?  We just don't buy it; the corner market's got the good stuff, applewood-smoked in big slabs and sliced on arrival.  Per-pound cost is not much more than the best prepackaged stuff and I can buy it in small amounts, avoiding the problem of using up a whole package of bacon before it begins tasting stale.

     It has made us bacon snobs; even the fancy thick-sliced applewood and cherry-smoked bacon I cooked this morning, fresh from vacuum-sealed plastic, is just "meh" compared to the butcher-shop stuff.

     Okay, that's the pretty much worst sort of 21st-Century food-hipsterism, but is it still pretentious when there's a real difference in taste and quality?

     (An omelette cures many ills -- as part of a filling with diced portobello mushroom caps and Swiss cheese, this assembly-line* bacon is okay.)
* But isn't it all assembly-line, really?  All commercial meat comes from an assembly, or more properly, disassembly line; some meat, like bacon and ham, then gets additional processing (and some gets even more).  I suspect the real difference in bacon comes from a slightly less-aggressive use of preservatives and shorter time from smoking to selling for the stuff we buy wrapped in brown paper at the butcher counter, versus the pale-pink and curiously-regular plastic-sealed flitches I grew up eating, two slices at a time.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

2 July

     No, I don't have any comments on tennis-shoe patterns, activism or the overly-shallow treatment of what passes for historical knowledge in many circles these days.

     Nope, here's what I've got for today: we celebrate it on the official date, the Fourth of July, but it was on this date that an assorted group of thinkers, politicians, polemicists and "direct action" men, all of them white, many of them well-off, many of them slave-owners, put their signatures on the document that touched light to the fuse of events that would result in the ethical, moral, political and technological advances that would, over not too many years as history is counted, put an end to slavery.

     At least some of them knew it, too.  And signed anyway.

Monday, July 01, 2019

The Lack Of A Posting This Morning

     Awake at six a.m.?  Check.  Cats fed?  Check.  Not ill?  Check.  Slept?

     ...Um.  Not so much.

     Along about dinner time last night, I had a call from work.

     "Along about dinner" being that point in the process where I had two New York strip steaks and a batch of mushrooms in a cast-iron grill pan on the stove, having decided it was too hot to grill outdoors.  My right knee was hurting and while I hadn't quite been in pajamas all day, what I was wearing wasn't suited to anything more formal than weeding a garden, and maybe not even that.

     Dinner was at that point where you either finish cooking it and eat it, or you throw it away. Dinner for two.

     So the phone rings and it's one of the Master Control techs, reporting a pressurization issue at the unstaffed North Campus.  We monitor a couple of things up there that are kept dry by keeping them full of dry air (from a sophisticated compressor-dehydrator*) or, as a backup, dry nitrogen from tall, 3500-psi tanks of the gas.  The system only runs 5 psi above ambient, but it's a critical 5 psi; what we're keeping dry runs a thousand feet, carrying high voltage, high-current VHF and UHF energy and if it gets wet, the connection points (one every twenty feet) can begin to arc and heat up, melting their support insulators.  This doesn't end well.

     Dry air is fed into the system from a single point but there are two different monitors.  I am rewiring alarm connections, and one of them failed shortly after my last work.  It had been intermittent; I thought I had found the wiring problem but I had not.  Hey, no problem, we have two alarm sensors; I asked Master Control be especially vigilant until I could return to the North Campus.

     And that was why the tech had called: the second alarm had tripped. 

     Maybe it was a false indication, maybe not.  There's a while left once the alarm goes, at 2.75 psi.  Nothing for it but to finish cooking, eat dinner in some haste, change into slightly more civilized attire (it's always 65°F at the North Campus, unless something has gone very wrong), grab a few bottles of water, and head out.

*  *  *

     Arrive to discover the compressor was dead.  D-E-A-D, no breakers tripped, motor windings reading less than half the normal DC resistance. 

     System pressure was just under 2 psi.  I started up the dry-nitrogen system and the regulator was wonky: the tank was low.  I set flow rate with the valve so it was sitting at 3.5 psi to repressurize, loaded all one-hundred and fifty pounds of the compressor-dehydrator onto a cart, and hauled it to the the workshop in the far end of the building.

     A few more checks later, it was obvious there was no fixing the compressor this side of an electric-motor shop.  I have a spare, of course.  It's tricky to change; you can't get at the mounting bolts, so you remove the support plate from the shockmounts.  The plate is held by bolts through the rubber shockmounts from underneath and, you guessed it, they won't support the 60-some pounds of the thing  upside down or sideways and the feet of the unit aren't tall enough to let you reach under.  Nope, one hangs the enclosure over the edge of the cart and removes one bolt at a time.  A bit of un-plumbing, some electrical, and it was out.  The same thing in reverse to install the replacement (after a spine-freezing moment when I read "230V/50Hz" at the top of the label on it, until I read on down to the description of how to strap it for 120V and the maker's admission that it would run on 60-cycle power, too).  Checked it was set up for wall-socket juice and proceeded to test the finished installation.  This is quick to write but it's nearly two hour's work.

     It ran fine!

     Hauled it back to the far end of the building, plugged it in, and started it up without connecting the output.  The compressor feeds a finned cooling section and then a pair of "molecular sieves" that remove the last bit of moisture from the air.  There's a clever arrangement of valves, one of them run by a solenoid controlled by a thirty-second timer: every half a minute, one of the sieves gets backflushed to clear any captured moisture, while the other is online.  Thirty seconds later, they trade places.  If the thing has been shut down, you need to run it to clear them both out, a process that can take up to an hour.

     The dry air is held in a small tank at about 70 psi, and fed out through a regulator at 2 to 10 psi, so the compressor can run at a reasonable pressure and comfortable duty cycle, and so there's sufficient pressure for the backflush.  Drying it out, all you need to do is let it spill air into the room and make sure compressor run time isn't excessive.   --For an hour or more.  There's a nice front-panel light to show when it's making dry air again.

     I passed the time checking nitrogen pressure and flow, and pondering if I was too sleepy to change out a big tank if necessary.  Cleaned up the shop, puttered around at this and that, and an hour later--

     An hour and a half later, there was still a big "Humidity Alarm" light.  It hadn't sneezed any water out the drain line, either.  And the more I listened, the more that solenoid valve cycling sounded just a little wrong.

     Replacement valves are amazingly expensive.  Rebuild kits for them aren't and I keep a couple on hand whenever the budget permits.  (Okay, I admit it: I sneaked the second one in years ago.  There are a lot of fiddly little bits to replace and "Two is one and one is none," if one of the pieces goes missing!)

     Unplugged the compressor-dehydrator and horsed it back onto the cart, all 175 pounds of it.  Back to the shop, cover off, the valve is buried deep in the guts of the thing but I have been at it before; there's a trick to it.

     Two of the air connections are "prestolock" types and there's no removing them in situ, period.  Out of situ, maybe, but it's not worth it.  The drain line is nothing, just a short section of flexible tubing that pokes through the back panel. The fourth connection is a section of flexible line I replaced a decade ago, softer line connected with a hose clamp and barb.  That, you remove with a razor blade, and lose a short section every time.†

     The valve is tucked into a tiny gap in the middle of air line, wiring, tanks, molecular sieves, the compressor and sundry ancillary items.  You can unbolt it from the back panel, then wriggle it up far enough to remove the solenoid coil (thank you, ASCO "Red Hat" design!), set that to one side. thread the drain line out, cut the input line at the barb, and move it out and rotate the assembly so you can get at the four 1/4"-20 bolts that hold the two halves of the valve together.  There's barely room to get a wrench on them and they're snugged down tight, but it is possible to take it apart.

     That gives you one half still plumbed into the machine, with one dual valve seat and four O-rings on it; and another half with the four-part solenoid plunger assembly -- no, make that five parts -- a complex double-ended commutating inner valve, a single valve seat and two more O-rings.  Except for the threaded outer solenoid tube (got your 1" box wrench handy?), it's all force-fit and stuck together with a couple of years worth of gloop.

     Take everything apart, clean it with alcohol, dry, lube the O-rings with silicone grease and the valve seats with a tiny dab of molybdenum disulfide in silicone, keeping any excess away from the rest of the valve.  The solenoid plunger has a key that engages the commuting valve, and an internal spring and brass tube that complicates the task.  The other end gets rebuilt in place; the seat is very tight and has to be prised out with tiny screwdrivers, and the far side takes a pair of tiny O-rings that you'd never find if they hit the floor and rolled away.

     (It was at this point that I noticed my right knee wasn't taking weight very well.  Oh, well, the job still has to be done.)

     The two halves get mated up and awkwardly bolted tight, it's moved close to position and the coil assembly is slid back on, and a new retaining clip is installed.

     New retaining clip-- Rats, I'd left it on the workbench.

     Left it, in fact, right next to a short coil spring that goes inside the body of the valve, around the solenoid plunger right where it engages the commutating inner valve.  You know, the thing that's not all that easy to put in even when you follow the correct procedure.
The solenoid plunger tube sticking out of the valve body and the spring that's supposed to be inside the brass part.

     Nothing for it but the valve's got to come back apart.  That takes time but eventually the big half is back on the bench.  Rather than unscrew the plunger tube and risk tearing up the O-ring, I used thin needlenose pliers to hold the plunger as I slid the commutating part out, put the spring on, and slid the inner valve back in place.  It only took three tries to get everything all lined up.

     Next, reassembly, with all the fun that entails, and by then I was getting a little punchy, having to slow down and check myself at every step.

     Got it all back together, tightening down the last hose clamp, plugged it in and hit the switch.  The compressor started up, gauges fluttered up the scale and thirty seconds later, the drain line sneezed out a couple of tablespoonfuls of dirty water as one of the molecular sieves ran its first purge cycle.

     I put the outer cover back on, hauled it back to the far end of the building, wrestled all 200 pounds of the thing off the cart, plugged it in and started it.  An hour and a half later, the "Humidity Alarm" light went out for good (after a half hour of off again/on again: one sieve was a lot wetter than the other) and I reconnected it, shut the dry-nitrogen valves at tank and manifold, then watched, adjusted, waited and adjusted again to get the system back to normal pressure.

     I limped around putting tools away while getting it all stabilized and finally left after another hour. Total time from arrival to departure, eight hours.  On no sleep.  My knee was hurting bad enough to make up for it, at least.

     Driving back home just ahead of sunrise was, well, "interesting."  I texted my boss, ate a snack and took ibuprofen, and made it to the bed right before I fell soundly asleep.

     That's why there wasn't a post this morning.
* You can think of it as being like the thing in your garage you use to air up tires and maybe operate small tools, but it's not.  The compressor itself and its motor is a single unit the size of a sewing machine and twice the weight; the output is cooled, regulated and run through a "molecular sieve" to remove any trace of moisture.  The whole assembly is about the size of three sewing machines. They cost about what I usually pay when I buy a used car.

† There are various barb designs and some of them purport to be more removable than others.  In my experience, after a year or more of being compressed, the hose cannot be removed by anyone of normal strength.  YMMV.