Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Second Rainy Day

     8:29 a.m.  Feels like eight-thirty at night.

     I've been up off and on since 4:30 this morning, the extra half-hour an artifact of using my phone as a back-up alarm set thirty minutes after the bedside clock-radio.  Fed the cats, napped, got up and made coffee and a bacon-and-egg sandwich.

     There's plenty to do today; I'm out of nearly everything and ran out of time and energy to go shopping yesterday after a morning spent trying to get caught up downtown and a forgettable late lunch at a Broad Ripple eatery Tam and I had not visited in some time.  I won't name the place -- frozen French fries, indifferent coleslaw and an adequate if over-cheesed hamburger are well below par for the neighborhood.

   Returning home, I realized I was barely keeping my eyes open, and after a little time at the computer, I went to bed.  Poor, wheezy Rannie Wu joined me; she's got a head cold, and had been to the vet that morning.

     Shortly after seven o'clock last night, I had a call from a guy at one of the major suppliers for the project that has me working such long days when the weather permits.  He need dimensions for some custom pieces, dimensions that I had been given to understand the tower crew had called in more than twenty-four hours earlier.

     They had not; they and the parts supplier had been playing phone tag.  It is a mystery to me why this would happen when everyone involved has e-mail and can communicate the dimensions accurately and unambiguously; but it did, and it fell to me to get up, go the the computer and telephone, discuss the matter with everyone concerned and sort things out.  By 8:15 p.m., everyone had what they needed and I went back to bed. These custom pieces are part of every installation using the same kind of components -- and there are thousands of them.  Everyone involved knew theses dimensions would be needed and most of us knew this was the week for them.  This should not have been a big deal or any kind of a problem.  Somehow, this project has been a SNAFU magnet and I don;t think that will change.

     Today is rainy and cold; they afternoon will be rainy and colder, with a wind advisory.  As far as I'm concerned, it's not a work day.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Didn't Beat The Rain

     Just over two hundred feet short of complete with the vertical work.  Today will be too rainy and tomorrow, well, there's a chance of snow or even ice.

     So here we are.  This should provide time to restock household supplies, do a little catching up at the Downtown parts of my job and maybe even do a little laundry.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Working Ahead Of The Rain

     Progress is being made on the big project; the last couple of work days have been spent putting things together instead of taking them apart. 

     The main effort is just a little short of half-way complete.  That's good -- but today will be followed by a day and a half or rain, or possibly two full days.  And near the very end of the tower work, we will need two or more custom-fit items that can't be made onsite; we've already called in measurements to the supplier and it's about fifty-fifty if they will be here before the rain.

     Yesterday was another twelve-hour day, though I had to take three out and get to a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment, all the way downtown.  At least it made a change in scenery.

Monday, October 28, 2019

And Today, More Of The Same

     Yep.  We are keepin' on keeping on whilst we endeavor to persevere, and you'll remember how that worked out.

     Nevertheless, we are at the stage where the boys are bolting stuff to the sky about as quickly as they can, with due attention to safety and the soft skulls of the groundlings far below, twenty feet farther with every new stick of line added to the stack.

     And I have discovered about 1500 more pounds of overlooked metal salvage!  Still not going to make any money on this deal, but we might not lose as much. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday, Back At It

     Rain all day yesterday, at times quite heavy, gave me a day off.  I spent almost the entire day on laundry and cooking. 

     The rain was accompanied by gusty winds and there were several loud thumps overnight as small (I hope) branches fell and hit the roof.

     Though it's still breezy now, the forecast calls for winds to fade to the single digits by mid-morning today, so the tower crew will be back at it, or so I hope.  The heaviest lift -- well, lower -- is done but there's a lot left to do.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

And Another Twelve-Hour Day, But...

     Yesterday, the crew took the big antenna down.

     How big?  It weighs 1,300 pounds, call it 600 kg.  It's sixty feet tall and about a yard in diameter.

     Since it was mounted about nine hundred feet up the tower, there's no lifting it down with a crane; instead, the tower is "rigged" with temporary "blocks" (think of a pulley on steroids) in interesting and complicated ways, a heavy cable is string up through them, the antenna is connected to the cable with a multi-part sling that hooks into several lifting eyes built into it, and a hoist sitting on the ground chugs away.  A "tagline" connected to the antenna and coming off at an angle to the hoist cable serves to steer the antenna as it is lowered.

     Once the hoist has taken most of the weight of the antenna -- but no more! -- men working on the tower remove the multiple huge bolts that have been holding it in place, and if everything works out (there's a lot of radio chatter and specialized gesturing), the antenna is "floating" as the last bolt is loosened.

     Ours jumped a little when the final bolt was taken out -- less than a foot -- and the riggers were able to carefully push it away from the tower.  The first steps of the lowering process proceed with painful slowness; a mistake here could cost fingers, hands, limbs or lives.

     As the antenna begins to move down, strain is applied to the tagline.  Riggers keep pushing the antenna clear of other structures on the tower and if the angle of the tag and hoist lines was correct, by the time it's too far away from them to reach, the antenna is clear of everything on the tower.

     Don't forget, the antenna has to kept clear of the heavy guy cables, too!  This is trickier while it's close the tower; as it is lowered, there's more room.  But you can't move it too far out -- towers are designed to withstand huge vertical forces; the lateral loads one them are much lower, largely the result of wind.  It's much more than you might think,. but not so much you can hang a 1,300-pound antenna hundreds of feet away from the tower while raising or lowering.

     It all calls for a lot of planning and well-informed, experienced judgement before the work ever begins.  Mistakes here make headlines.
Click to enlarge.  You can see the antenna hanging to the right of the tower.  The angle isn't a mistake -- that's how the manufacturer specifies it is to be suspended for hoisting operations.
     This effort made no headlines; once the antenna was out of reach, the men working aloft rode the elevator to ground level, arriving at when the antenna was about halfway down, and went out to the area where the tagline turned skyward.  One of the ground men fired up a small tracked forklift (a large "Bobcat" with forks) and as one end of the antenna touched down, they steered it to a gentle landing, cradled across the forks.

     Unrigging the antenna and securing the cables for next week's work only took about 45 minutes.  Taking care of some four thousand feet of cable, strung through blocks 950 feet above ground, is not quite like running out a clothesline!
      It was just about full dark by the time everyone was finished.  Rain today and on Sunday?  More work, raising a smaller replacement.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Twelve Hour Day

     Yes, twelve hours yesterday, with some trouble with the big transmitter as well as the ongoing project.  I am so worn out that I can hardly string words together.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

And It Keeps On

     Got a lot done yesterday, on the tower and inside the building, too.  Of course, you can do that in a ten-hour day (for the tower workers) or an eleven-hour day (for me).  They drank up all my bottled water the day before yesterday and used up the last of my coffee creamer today.  Hey, kids, guess what isn't going to be kept where you can get at it?

     Had a few interesting technical problems, too, but I think they're all solvable.

     These long days are cooking me.  I have three days of socks left, so between now and the end of the week, I need to have at least one nice, short eight- or nine-hour day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Productive Day

     The weather cooperated, the crew cooperated, the equipment -- well, we had to clean a summer's worth of bird's nests out of the limit-switch box for a kind of very basic elevator before it was entirely happy, but with that out of the way, it worked and we got a lot done; and when I say "we," I mostly mean the tower crew.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

And Then Yesterday, It Rained

     Rain wiped out the work yesterday.  The tower crew got a couple of hours in and did useful work aloft, climbed down and did what needed to be done on the ground as the storm washed in, and then left.  It's a long way down and dripping-wet surfaces make it a little too easy to get there rapidly.

     This was a huge relief to me; after fighting with the front gate -- photoelectric safety monitors and a lack of shrubbery-trimming  is not a good combination -- I went home, did laundry and made a big pot of chicken soup.

     The shortcut to homemade chicken soup is cooked chicken breasts from the deli, some chicken stock, and fresh celery, carrots, onion, mushrooms, a small potato, jalapeno pepper and sweet red peppers.  Started with a little bacon, sauteed the diced vegetables in bacon grease, added the  mushrooms and chicken, sauteed them a bit, and poured the stock over.  Let that simmer a half-hour or more (more is better) with some bay leaves and whatever else in the spice cabinet that looks good (rosemary and some garlic salt, a sprinkle of parsley),  and you have soup for a day or two.  I crumbled the bacon in, then added fresh chopped onion and celery before serving.  Leftovers are in the fridge right now, waiting for later.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Miserable Excuse For A Parody Of A Farce Of A Farrago Of A Travesty

     And Sunday, on overtime, the tower crew rearranged the deck chairs on their own personal Titanic hoist rigging on the tower.  Twice.  And load-tested it.  Twice.

     The good news is, they let one fellow go.  The bad news is, that made for another late start, which the former rigger had compounded by being over an hour late to the jobsite.  And it made them short-handed -- about a quarter of a man short by my count, though I may be too generous.

     There was also rather more interpersonal drama over the art of rigging temporary cables to carry heavy, awkward objects to and from a great height than I have learned to expect in 32 years of overseeing contractors working on a very tall tower.  Why this should be, I do not know, though I suspect the huge demands made on the available pool of talent by the FCC's two-year schedule to rearrange RF spectrum occupancy has meant some very primo prima donnas are being coddled.  They'll have a rude awakening once the effort is complete.

     Meanwhile, I spent ten hours at work and have very little to show for it that I didn't do with my own hands.  At least the tower work was a fixed-price job.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Parody Of A Farce Of A Farrago Of A Travesty, Possibly On Ice

     Words fail me.  Eleven and one-half hours of work yesterday, for which the project had to show....a relocated hoist block.  And a hoist cable drooped so low across the private drive that it's a safety hazard, and I had to set out portable bollards.

     To be fair, the relocation is a miserable job for an experienced crew, moving heavy pieces and parts from 300 feet above ground to 900 feet, up the outside of a tower, while hauling along the free end of a heavy rope which gets heavier with every foot you climb.  It's half a normal day's work if there's nothing for it to snag on -- and we've got plenty.

     It is not, however, as much work as it was made to be.  Snarls in the winch cable, argument over rigging, so on and so forth.  Not a bit of the actual work all this is in aid of actually happened today.

     At this point, I consider it a good day if the same number of people drive away at the end of the day as drove in at the beginning.

     I wonder if Sisyphus was getting paid by the hour?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Farce Of A Farrago Of A Travesty

     The hoist engine conked out yesterday, and wasn't running until mid-afternoon.   Nevertheless, as Robert A. Heinlein wrote in Delilah And The Space-Rigger, "Sure, we had trouble building Space Station One -- but the trouble was people."

     Two riggers got bored, offered to make a fast-food run around lunchtime, and vanished for the day.  That was two-thirds of the crew aloft and without them, nothing was going to happen.  The rest of the crew left about 2:30 p.m.; I went home, did laundry and made supper.

     Today is a work day, too.  I wonder if it will include any, you know, work?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Yesterday I Learned...

     Did you know this?  It's an interesting fact, though I may not get all of the terms quite right.

     If you have, say, a big old transportable hoist, and you need to get a new cable put on it in a hurry, a hurry so bad the job gets done after hours, on overtime-plus, and the crew doing the work is, well, in a hurry to clock out and go home, they might -- might, I say -- spool the new cable on a little hastily and leave finishing the ends to the new guys.  Now if -- if --  they were not careful about maintaining proper tension when they did their part, you could, just possibly, end up with multiple layers of loosely packed, jumbled cable wrapped on the drum.

     And if the end-user started small, with only a little cable paid out and light loads, and worked their way up to longer lengths and heavier loads, there is a tiny little chance they might find the load jumping and the cable slipping and catching and slipping again.

     If that happened, the only real fix is to gather all hands, pay out all (or nearly all) of the cable and respool it, with due care and attention to how tight it is and how it lays down on the drum, a process that takes a lot of space and a lot of time.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Gift Of The Weather

     Work actually ended after only nine hours yesterday -- the weather was so cold and blustery that my tower crew decided it would be more productive to take off a little early and go pick up one more rigger.

     They were likely right; part of the work they're doing calls for thin gloves or no gloves.  No matter how motivated you are, in the cold you get slower and slower as your hands get colder and colder.  With more people on the job, the coldest tasks can be rotated from one to another, giving everyone more time to warm back up as they glove up and work on other elements of the job.

     The inside work that need a factory technician had ended even earlier; he's on to the next installation, with my thanks for all his help and training.

     I came home, started laundry (two new pairs of Double-Front dungarees had arrived!) and made beef stew, with stew beef (of course), hot Italian sausage, a little corned beef snipped up, multicolor carrots, fennel bulb, onion, shiitake mushrooms (too strong, I fished three-quarters of them back out.  Portabellas would have been better), canned crushed tomatoes, some beef stock and half a can of cannellini beans.  Seasoned with smoked paprika, freshly-ground pepper, basil, parsley, sage, a few bay leaves and a hint of garlic.  Salt to taste.  I tossed in a very small amount of purple pickled cauliflower at the last minute, for fun and a touch of color.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Up Early, Moving Quickly

     There's a huge project going on at my part of my work, and when I say huge, I'm mostly talking about cost and height -- a small crew of arcane specialists is taking apart about nine hundred vertical feet of rigid, flanged coaxial radio-frequency transmission line and installing the same amount of replacement line, just about twenty feet at a time.

     Inside the building, I am working with a tech from an equipment manufacturer to complete the assembly and adjustment of the equipment that connects to all this, having already worked with an electrician to get the primary power connected to it.

     It makes for long days and an early start -- the riggers like to be setting up when twilight starts hinting along the horizon and aloft in time to greet the dawn.  Their day will end when they run out of light or they begin to hit physical limits.  It's a long way down and they must always leave sufficient reserve to get back to the ground safely.  (And you thought your job was difficult?)  Simply climbing is one thing; climbing and doing useful work is a whole other level of challenge.

     Meanwhile, the inside work often runs into the early evening.  Things come up, processes can't be interrupted until complete, and so on.

     As the only representative of my employer at the site, I have to be there for all of it and I have work of my own connected to the project to get done, too..  With all of that, I'm working eleven to twelve hours a day.  So postings are short and will arrive at slightly irregular times until this project is done.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Road To The Stars Ran From Moscow To "2001: A Space Odyssey?"

     Well...maybe. The 1957 Soviet documentary/speculative film The Road To The Stars has many images and techniques that were later found in Kubrick's 2001.

     It's probably nothing more than that the curved floor of a large rotating space station makes for a compelling image that no director with vision would pass up, and as for picturephones, they had been a mark of "the future" for years.  Even the clever simulation of weightlessness by filming a suspended actor from directly below is probably a simple example of parallel development.

     Still, the old Russian film is an interesting bit of work, especially the second half with sets and models reminiscent of the Disney space travel trilogy Man In Space, Man And The Moon and Mars And Beyond.

Monday, October 14, 2019

How It Used To Be Done

     The world I grew up in and took for granted has nearly vanished.  Skills and technologies that were once commonplace have become the stuff of museum exhibits.

     Such is the case with Ben's Mill.  Ben is gone and the place has been cleaned up, whitewashed and now gawkers walk through, looking at all the funny old gadgets; but once, and not too long ago, it was a man's workplace, and a short documentary was made about it.

     It's worth watching.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Got Some Guys Here Who Want To Build A Space Station

     The Gateway Foundation has big ideas, but they're not starting at full-scale; they want to build a small commerical space station before tackling a big one -- but even their idea of "small" is pretty big.  Von Braun Station will use flight-proven hardware, tools and techniques.

     Will it happen?  I don't know, but you've got to start somewhere and I am glad to see them try.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

And Now, The Rest Of The Amendments

     As you might have expected, here are the rest of the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    It's another quick read and quite a mixed bag, everything from the most noble of ideas (13th through 15th) to nitwitted social engineering (the 18th), from clarifying succession (20th, 25th) to dubious notions (16th, 17th) and one of my favorites, the 19th. Or did I scramble those references?  You'll have to read it to find out!

     For those who were dreaming up crazy outcomes if impeachment and trial by the Senate were to remove President Trump from office, food for thought from Section 2 of the 25th Amendment:
     "Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress."
     Find me a prospective Veep who can pass through the eye of that needle, and you'll have found one heck of a politician.

Friday, October 11, 2019

As Promised, The Bill Of Rights

     This one's even shorter to read than the U.S. Constitution.  Short -- but vital.  The Bill Of Rights.

     The Framers of the Constitution thought they had it all covered: the powers of the Federal government were carefully described, and that was that: if something wasn't listed, it was clearly going to be Hands Off for the Feds, right?  Sure it was!  Who doesn't trust a big, powerful government to exercise voluntary restraint?

     If you're looking sideways at that claim, you're in good company.  Like James Madison -- U. S. Representative Madison, who ran for office and won on a promise to fix that lack of a "Hands Off!" list, sat down and started rewriting the Constitution to fix the problems.

     Yes, "rewriting."  The amendments comprising the Bill of Rights were to be stuck in where appropriate, with edits.  Representative Roger Sherman wasn't good with that, nor were many of the other House members; we got our Bill of Rights, but we got it added on at the end, all together, and the body of the Constitution stayed as it was written.  That procedure has been followed to this day, making the document itself the prime source for understanding its history.

     You live in a time when detailed, high-quality information is free for the asking, usually in a well-presented, easily-absorbed form.  If you're spreading clickbait rumor and woo instead, you are part of the problem.  Knock that off.  Educate yourself.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Today's Posting: Reading!

     And here's what we will be reading: the Constitution of the United States of America!

     It's not very long.  The whole thing (not including Amendments) fits on a web-page only a bit longer than the top page of this blog, and includes all sorts of interesting original language.

     But it's not a blog post.  It's not just some person's opinion.  It's not a collection of nice notions that we might kind of want to think about applying: it is the basic framework of the Federal government of the United States, and an outline of how it is supposed to work.  It is the controlling legal authority.

     Presidents, Congresscreatures and plenty of others in the swear an oath to defend (or protect) and support it; they are bound by it and most of them -- even the ones with crazy ideas about government -- are serious about it.

     It's time you got serious about it, too.

     Tomorrow: the Bill of Rights!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


     Apparently, some people slept though Civics/U.S. Government class.  Apparently, some people missed out on the impeachment of President William J. Clinton and the attempted impeachments of Presidents Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

     So let's take it by the numbers:

     0. An impeachment is not a conviction.
     An "impeachment" is precisely analogous to an "indictment."  Neither indicates guilt, only that sufficient evidence has been presented to justify a trial.  President Andrew Johnson was straight-up impeached, missed being found guilty by one (1) vote, and served the remainder of his term.

     1. What constitutes an impeachable offense?
     The U. S. Constitution says "high crimes and misdemeanors."  A "high crime" is one that you are only enabled to commit by being an office holder -- a Federal judge who takes a bribe to throw a case has committed an impeachable offense, but if you slip a bum a five dollar bill to commit perjury for you, that's just a regular crime.  A "misdemeanor?"  It really is what it sounds like, a petty crime, though presumably also modified by "high."  Yes, one might attempt to impeach a President for jaywalking, especially if he had the Secret Service stop traffic.  The nature of possible offenses is broad and as a practical matter, an impeachable offense is anything the House of Representatives says it is.  Don't like it?  Take it up with the men who wrote the Constitution.

     2. Yes, the impeachment process can (and normally does) start in a House committee.
     They're not going to tie up the whole House until they think they've got something they can get the House to vote for -- besides, Representatives get better screen time in committee.

     3. Yes, Congress has subpoena powers.
     Even over trivial nonsense, House, Senate and committees thereof can haul you in and have you answer questions under oath.  It turns out that "Contempt of Congress" is an actual crime, unlike holding Congresspersons in contempt.  There are all sorts of interesting complications where this intersects Executive Privilege and National Security matters, which will no doubt make for fascinating scholarly papers, but the basic principle isn't in any doubt.

     4. If a President is impeached, there is a trial.
     The trial is held in the Senate, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding.  Verdict is determined by vote and it takes a two-thirds majority to convict.  Conviction results in removal from office, period.  Nobody goes directly from the White House to the Big House.  (For Federal officials other than the President, the President of the Senate presides.  You may know him as the Vice-President of the United States; presumably, a Vice-President who'd been impeached would recuse himself and let the President Pro Tem preside.)

     5. Succession is clear.
     Remove the President, the Vice-President steps up.  That's how it works.  There's no ambiguity to it; Congress doesn't get a "twofer" and a Vice-President who succeeds a President gets to name his own Vice-President.

     So, Republicans who are fuming that the present hearings are a "coup," Democrats salivating over how they'll shove out the Chief Executive in a trice?  Yeah, no.  To both groups.  This is a thing that will take its due course.  It's something the Federal government does pretty regularly these days.  It will play out and you can either watch and learn, or spend all your time spun into a web of fantasy.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Faux Sous Vide?

     Maybe it is and maybe it isn't -- I went to the grocer's hungry yesterday evening and came home with a couple of nice filet mignons.  Not the top-of-the-line, twenty-nine dollars a pound (!!!) stuff, but their second-tier, which sells for about half as much.  They were a couple of inches thick and fair-sized, so call it under seven dollars per steak; how much would you pay in a restaurant and get a lesser cut?

     I picked up some good fresh mushrooms, too, and some seasoned, halved Brussels sprouts to microwave.  That left the question of how to cook the steaks.  The grill was out; it had been a long day and I was indeed hungry.

     I have a large nonstick saucepan -- more of a skillet with tall sides, with a nice clear glass lid.  That seemed like just the implement for the job.

     Set the steak out with salt and pepper on it, butterflied mine, and put the rest of the groceries away.  Don't start with a cold steak!  Readied the Brussels sprouts,* rinsed off half the mushrooms, got out the big pan, pondered, and melted a little butter in it over medium-low heat.  Dropped in my steak, put the lid on and told the robot to remind me in four minutes.  Rinsed off the rest of the mushrooms while the timer counted down, and when it went off, I turned the steak, added about half the mushrooms and put the lid back on.  Asked the robot to count out another four minutes.  It was starting to smell pretty good.

     The remaining mushrooms got a dash of garlic powder for luck.  I gave my steak a little longer when the timer began chiming, then turned it over, added Tam's full-thickness filet and the rest of the mushrooms, covered it and gave it another four.  Started the Brussels sprouts once it was going; they just get six minutes and don't need tending.

     A turn and four more minutes, and Tam's steak was rare, mine was medium-well, the mushrooms were done and there was a a nice amount of mushroom-steak-butter broth in the pan.

     It's not low and slow enough to qualify as sous vide, but it's not pan-frying, either.  The meat was tender but well-textured and flavorful.  I'd never cooked them quite this way and I wasn't sure how well it would work.   Just fine, that's how.
* If you have only ever had boiled-to-nothing Brussels sprouts, you've been cheated.  Cut in half and quickly sauteed in a pan, conventional oven or microwave, they're tasty and slightly crunchy.  Our grocer sets them up with diced red bell pepper, a garlic clove and some good olive oil, ready to go.

Monday, October 07, 2019

A Visit Or Two

     Sunday was a busy day, even though I didn't do all that much.  My big sister's birthday, and for a wonder, my little brother was in town with his wife and two kids, so we all got together at my sister's house (along with her elderly black-and-white tomcat, who wandered around getting petted and occasionally exclaiming in wonder at all the attention).

     Family gatherings have been...checking...non-existent since our mother passed away early last year, so that was something.  Stressful; we are very different people and we manage an uneasy truce, but still, we do manage.  It's not like we're going to get a new set of siblings, so we make what we can of it.

     Afterward, I went home just time to meet Tam and The Data Viking, and go to lunch at The Gallery, which is both a high-end pastry shop and sets out a brunch menu that is, simply, astonishing.  On weekends, it's crowded to near-impassibility; in nicer weather, they have a couple of patios that more than double the seating capacity, and they fill those, too.  Sunday was rainy, so everyone was inside and we counted ourselves lucky to have only a twenty-minute wait.  Omelettes, crepes, jowl bacon and hash browns arrived in due course, along with plenty of good coffee.

     After lunch, back to Roseholme Cottage for a visit; eventually I had to excuse myself on account of both exhaustion and needing to get an early start today, which I had best be about.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Cool Weather, Sleeping Warm

     They make soft, cardigan-like "sleep sweaters" along the lines of old-fashioned "bed jackets," but longer.  This turns out to be just the thing for when the weather turns cool but it's not quite time to add a few extra blankets, and maybe even past that point, since it keeps one's shoulders and arms warm.

     An old thing, new again.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Working For The Weekend?

     Working on the weekend?  At least it's not "work" work, though on the other hand, that means I'm not getting paid for it, either.  There is quite a lot of yard work to be done, plus shopping for a family member's birthday. 

     Naturally, Tam chose to spend all night online, and so will not be available to help until much later.  I woke at five a.m., as old ladies do, and she was still at it, probably one of her marathon writing sessions.  Which was in all likelihood more necessity than choice: her review work is extremely weather-dependent, since you can't chronograph on an indoor range.  A few days of rain or the range being unavailable at the wrong time makes for frantic catching-up later.

     An hour and a half later when I got up for the day, she'd finally got her head down.  Our schedules diverge so radically that we just don't cross paths much any more.

     I am about to head into a couple of weeks of intense work at my day job, sunrise-to-sunset six days a week until complete, so getting a head start on the yard is a necessity.  I'd just as soon stay in bed half the day, but that's not going to help.

Friday, October 04, 2019

They Still Smoke Pork, Don't They?

     I'm hoping it's just the lack of nearby grocers in between "twee" and "mega-mart," but I haven't seen "seasoning ham" or just old-fashioned rough ham on the bone for a long time.

     The first was usually a jumble of scraps and pieces that had been closest to the smoke, extremely well-suited to adding a bit of umami depth to home-made bean soup; the latter was the generic, non-canned "ham" of my youth, usually served in hot slabs or slightly thinner cold slices, and decidedly not "honey-glazed," "maple-smoked" or "Black Forest," those being the kinds of things that show up at our closest grocer's deli counter these day; nor was it the too-uniform, barely-textured (and nearly flavorless) pink stuff that can be found cubed, diced, sliced and whole at the Big Giant Store of Everything.

     At least the tiny, "foodie" grocery has some variety, and last week, they actually had "ham off the bone" (said so right on the label) in their grab'n'go meats.  I grabbed some for myself and what do you know?  It's the good old stuff.  I hope they intend to keep it in stock.

     Maybe they'll even have some "seasoning ham" by the time the weather turns chilly enough to simmer a pot of bean soup all day!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

What I've Been Reading

     Typically, I have one or two books going on the Kindle, and another actual paper-pages book for reading where a Kindle would be inappropriate, notably the bathtub.

     These days, I lean as much towards space-travel history, classic noir detectives and essays as I do science fiction; on my Kindle at present is a collection of Dashiel Hammett's lesser known work, The Hunter And Other Stories; Jay Barbree's history of his career as a journalist covering the space program, Live From Cape Canaveral; and United States: Essays 1952 - 1992, a collection of Gore Vidal's wonderfully acerbic non-fiction.

     Vidal is best enjoyed in small doses, but despite his political leanings and personal predilections, if you enjoy the work of Florence King, her mastery of language and her distaste for posers, fools and witlings, you'll likely enjoy his essays: equally at home with the language and at least as dismissive of hype and nonsense.

     Hammett's mastery of storytelling and gift for character hardly needs pointing out, and finding more (he wasn't hugely prolific) is a treat.  The collection contains some fragments, character studies and starts, which I enjoy; as someone with many more stories begun than finished, a look into another writer's files -- and a master of the art, at that! -- is instructive as well as entertaining.

     Jay Barbree has Been There and Done That from the earliest days of NASA well into the Space Shuttle era, covering every U. S. manned spaceflight to date.  Many journalists struggle to slow down and tell a long-form story but he does an excellent job of letting the reader look over his shoulder in triumph, disaster and the day-to-day work of the space program.

     In actual book form, when I realized I'd started but never finished the C. J. Cherryh-helmed series, "Merovingen* Nights" because not all of the books showed up at the used-book stores I was browsing, it was easy to fill the gaps via Amazon and Alibris.  With the entire series in hand, I dug in.  It's an interesting concept, a "shared world" of deliberately narrow scope, all of the action taking place in a Venice-like city on a technologically backward world.  And the overall story's good one, a tale of love and political intrigue.  The series ends abruptly, though satisfyingly enough; I think there was at least one more book in the material but publishers base their decisions on other factors.  An entertaining read nevertheless, and a well-conceived world in Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe.

     Followed that with Fatherland by Robert Harris, a thriller set in a 1964 Germany in which the Allies lost; the lights all across Europe are indeed out and a police detective sets out to solve a murder that it turns out higher authorities did not want solved.  That crimes connects to others and the whole things grows--  You'll have to read the book (or watch the HBO movie) to find out what follows, but all may -- barely! -- not yet be lost.  Well-researched and chilling, though I have my doubts about the long-term success of thugocracy holding up for twenty years after victory.

     The latest physical book I'm working on is Aftershocks, the most recent novel from Marko Kloos.  I've hardly begun but it promises to be at least the equal of his previous work, in a setting with considerable historical resonance.  (Full disclosure: Mr. Kloos is a friend of a friend.)
* From the name of the city where the stories take place, "Merovin," and having no connection to the Merovingian dynasty of fifth through eighth-century France.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Gotta Run

     Busy day at work -- the company I work for was sold to new owners awhile back and now we have to sign up for new insurance, a whole new set of choices.  Some fun!  Or not.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

So, Did You Hear The One About....

     An Oxford comma skipped work after lunch and spent the afternoon watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.