Saturday, November 30, 2019


     Never have posted anything yet today, have I? 

     Okay, here's something.

     Would a rock & roll tribute band featuring a flutist and composed entirely of condemned murderers in prison be called "Death Row Tull?"

Friday, November 29, 2019

Turducken And Roasted Vegetables

     Tam's photo of our Thanksgiving main course:

     Had leftovers for dinner tonight.  Still tasty, I must say.

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet -- I'm Making Fried Mashed Potatoes

     Almost-latkes, I suppose, and certainly a Midwestern treat.  I think this dish is from Mom's side of the family, northern Indiana immigrant farmers who came over from Germany late in the 19th Century.  Oh, they might've come from Dad's side, out of the South Caroline/Georgia area by way of Missouri, because Southern/Cherokee/??? cooking is nothing if not unexpected, though a German origin is more likely; but either way, they were an uncommon treat in my childhood.

     I love 'em but I never paid enough attention to how Mom made them (her recipes for anything other than baking were as notional as mine) and I've been pursuing making a version that holds together well for the last several years.

     Hopes are high for the present batch.  Leftover mashed potatoes are rare in my kitchen; there was a cup and a half remaining from Thanksgiving dinner and with a couple of well-beaten eggs and enough flour (with luck!) to get the mix to hold together.  The other variable I'm working on is skillet temperature.

     The first one just came out of the skillet.  Not bad -- needs salt.  I added salt, pepper and a little onion to the remaining mix.

     Update: They worked well!  Very tasty.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving -- And Cooking

     I'm thankful to have things to be thankful for; there was a time when I had to dig pretty deep, and there are plenty of people far worse off than I was.

     This year was pretty good.  After crazy winds yesterday, so bad they were confusing the automatic garage door, it was cold but relatively calm.

     Calm enough for the grill.  Calm enough to grill a small turducken.

     Not the classic whole bird-inside-a-bird-inside-a bird, but a kind of turducken roll, five pounds of turkey breast and a little dark meat, some duck and chicken, with stuffing and sausage.  I added three strips of bacon on top for luck, and set it in a disposable pan over indirect heat from hardwood charcoal in the covered grill.  The grill reached 325°F rapidly* and I told the household robot to remind me in three hours; I set another reminder for ninety minutes, when I'd need to start cooking.

     There was laundry to do, and scrubbing out the big (but not biggest) soup pan to make the mashed potatoes.  Once it was done, I washed the spare water fountain for the cats, which I'd been putting off since I changed it two days ago.  (And soaking it in vinegar water -- Indiana water is very hard.)  A couple of grill checks showed the temperature steady and the turducken sizzling.

     By then, my ninety-minute alarm went off and it was time to scrub some Russet potatoes and set them to boil in salted water.  I cleaned a couple of ears of corn and set them aside.  Next, I cut up celery, baby carrots, an onion and added a couple of whole cherry peppers, and set them in the microwave for a couple of minutes while I rinsed chanterelle mushrooms; then I put the ears of corn in with the now simmering potatoes.  Back to the mushrooms, which I cut up and added to the vegetables and zapped that for another minute while I hunted up a TV tray, herded  the cats into the back of the house, set up the TV tray outside near the grill and took the vegetables out the microwave and the corn out of the potato water, and carried all that, covered, outside.

     By then there was only twenty minutes left on the three-hour timer.  I opened up the grill, poked the coals up a but, uncovered the vegetables and added everything to the pan around the turducken, the corn last, laying on top.  I closed the grill and peeked through the vent at my oven thermometer:  225°F.  Not great.

     Back indoors, I told the robot to time me a half-hour and got to work frying five slices of bacon; that takes a little while; once done, I let the rendered fat sit warm and ducked back outside: 275°F and sizzling.

     The bacon fat was still warm; I filled a measuring cup with cold water and started sprinkling flour into the bacon fat, stirring and watching consistency and color.  Once it seemed dark enough, smelled right and was thick enough, I began adding water and stirring; I crumbled the bacon into it a half-strip at a time, and when it was all in, turned up the heat to get it bubbling, adding cold water with an eye to thickness.  And there you go, bacon gravy.  (It cannot possibly be good for you.  I only make it once a year.  It can be salty, but it's so good!)  I covered it and turned off the heat.

     Another quick check on the grill: 250°F and sizzling.  I blew on the coals through the front vent until they were glowing.  Had I started with enough charcoal?  (I had, but more might have been better.  The grill is just big enough to hold enough charcoal for this process, since you can't have big coals directly under the pan.)

     Inside, I got out milk and butter, drained the potatoes, then tumbled them in the pan with the burner on until it was dry. (That last step is the key to getting fluffy, flavorful mashed potatoes.)  I make skin-on mashed potatoes, which about have to be boiled to get the skins soft.  Next step, stir them with a knife until they are in small chunks, adding a little milk and butter.  Once that's done, add a little more milk, a little more butter and go after them with a big fork (my preference) or a potato masher (if you'd rather).  Mash, stir, and add milk until the end result is right -- it will look, smell and feel right.  I add a little salt, pepper and parsley near the end, but very light on the salt -- the bacon gravy has plenty.   The Russet potatoes have the most marvelous smell when freshly mashed -- like Autumn and outdoors, like Sunday dinner and comfort.

     (Yes, I make the gravy and potatoes "by ear."  There's really no other way and it's not that hard; it took me more than a few tries to figure out flour gravy but it's like riding a bicycle once you learn.)

     I covered the potatoes and went outside with a cookie rack (for under the foil pan) and the meat thermometer.  Opened the grill and it smelled wonderful.  The thermometer zoomed right up to 170°F; 165 is done, so it was ready.

     Carried it inside, peeled off the bacon, cut off the netting and began slicing it up and loading plates for Tam and myself.  I had a taste of the bacon and it was wonderful!

     The turducken, mashed potatoes, bacon gravy and mixed vegetables were even better.  And the corn on the cob, steaming in the turducken/vegetable steam, smoked by the hardwood charcoal, was fantastic.

     (Tam took pictures.  I'm hoping she will share one or two.)

     I'm thankful I can afford good food and the means to cook it.  I'm thankful for the skills and attitude about cooking my Mother taught me.  And I'm darned thankful to have a friend to share the meal with.
* The grill has a small upper rack.  I lay an oven thermometer on it, sitting so it can be seen through the vent.  It's a simple but useful trick.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Stir-Fried Jambalaya Rice?

     Why not?  Last night, after putting a couple of hours work on my day off (hey, they pay me, or I get the time back), I made Zataran's "Jambalaya," a boxed mix that's basically nicely spiced rice, to which you add a pound of whatever meat is handy.

     What I had were a couple of Italian sausages, one hot and one mild.  They didn't quite add up to a pound.  What else I had was a little can-replacement box of garbanzo beans, chickpeas.  Not everyone likes them, but I do.

     Cooked the meat, drained the beans, added them, then used the liquid from them and some water to add to the rice mix.  From there on, it's simple: you bring it to a boil, cover it, turn the heat down and leave it to simmer for 25 minutes.

     So I did.  It turned out great.  It also turned out four servings, and there I was, home alone (Tam was off visiting).

     Cooked rice will keep overnight.  Cooked rice that's had awhile in the fridge is ideal for fried rice.  And cooked rice that's been sitting in nice Cajun seasoning with good sausage, well, that's even better.  I fried up the rice, sausage and garbanzos in the wok, pushed it to the sides and scrambled a couple of eggs in the middle.  Mixed it all together and with a dash of hot sauce, it's as good a breakfast as anyone could want.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

High Hopes

     Another off day.  Though there was rain in the forecast, it started out sunny and bright, and I briefly entertained fantasies opf getting out my motor scooter and going for an Autumn ride. 

     Made breakfast first, and somewhere between starting to mix an omelette and pouring it into a pan, the day went gray and dark.  My headache ramped up into a full-on, pots & pans bangin' throb and I...set my sights considerably lower.

     But the omelette's pretty good!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Firefox Is Very Crashy

     Busy this morning -- took the day off to do more yard work.  Firefox has been crashy today and as a result, I didn't blog much.

     Here's a small can of corned beef hash, with an egg on top and a little flipped over to show the cornbread crust.  Parsley and pepper on the egg.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Vindictiveness Is A Bad Habit

     Here and on Facebook, I will sometimes post something that's kind of anti-divisive, or that points out that we don't need to carry the bull-headed stubbornness of our elected servants over into our relationships with our fellow semi-hapless voters even when they're wrong.  Every time -- every single time! -- a certain appallingly large proportion of the commenters use the posting as a launching pad to make points-scoring, nasty cracks about how the other side (whichever side is "other" for them) is stupid, evil, enthralled by foreign powers and/or controlled by Big Money, whilst their own side are a bunch of, if not saints, at least  great benefactors to The Common Man and The American Way Of Life.

     Buying vanilla or a chicken sandwich has become a political decision, completely unmoored from the quality of the product.

     If you are walking around with nonsense like that in your head, the person who writes horoscopes for your morning paper or your favorite news-and-features website knows more about the world and human nature than you do.

     Politicians are as human as you are.  We're all wired up to make patterns from what we see and hear, patterns that we build based on our knowledge, prior experience, opinions and emotional state.  This works really well if you're a savage hunting dinner with a sharpened stick, wary of big cats; you may see a few tigers where none exist but you're all the more likely to return home intact and probably bearing game.  In today's complex, stimulus-rich, BS-rich world, it can make us see lots of things that aren't there -- and miss the big picture.

     If you think your worst enemy are the Democrats or the Republicans, guess again; if you think it's big business or those kids who dress in black and smash windows and heads, bzzzt, nope!

     Russia and China would love to see the West fail.  Uncle Vlad doesn't care who wins U. S. elections as long as he can get us to doubt the validity of the election process.  China snickers at democracy and stamps on it in a manner not seen since Nazi Germany started turning out the lights in Europe. Every time you question the Constitutional provisions of the Federal government, you aid their cause.

     There's a lot wrong in this country, just as there's a lot wrong everywhere.  There's a lot that's unfair.  But the people who wrote the Constitution -- and who made provisions for amending it -- did try to keep from baking in the unfairness so deeply that it couldn't be rooted out.  They left deep flaws in place, flaws that darned near tore this country apart not once but twice, and yet somehow we got through.  Somehow, slowly, painfully, with great tragedy, our better natures prevailed.  One reason this happened was because our basic institutions were able to buttress the good while giving up on the bad.  We didn't have to burn the village to the ground in order to save it.

     We still don't.  No foreign power, no internal conflict can make you do so if you don't go along with it.

     Stop being Putin's chump.  Stop helping Red China make us look like fools.  Grow the hell up.

     Edited to add: And I have a few comments already that repeat divisive and alarmist nonsense, cherry-picked headlines, and slanted intepretations.  You're not helping.  Rush Limbaugh and Rachael Maddow are not sources you should accept without both fact-checking and context checking.  If you won't do your homework, you're not going to be able to keep the freedoms you've got, and will be befuddled by your own paranoia until it's too late.

Friday, November 22, 2019

More Leaves!

     I raked and cleared the front yard, so it's not too bad yet.

     The back yard--  I had cleared the patio and raked leaves off the sidewalk and away from some of the places where they build up.  Now they have covered the yard to the point that they can be mowed up again.  Still very wet.  I'm hoping they will dry out over the next few days 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Some Basic Truth

     The Oatmeal, on how our minds work and why some things are a lot easier to take than others. 

     It's well worth reading.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Another Day, Another...

     Another twenty-four hours of people giving the news out of Washington, D. C. a partisan spin -- and before you tell me, "Yeah, yeah, those damn [name of major party here], they distort everything, they lie, the facts are perfectly obvious," stop right there, because I'm hearing it from both Republicans and Democrats.

     My opinion of Donald Trump the man is not flattering.  I think he's an oaf and a boor.  Unlike the Dems, I'm not sure if he's actually up to any really devious criminality; unlike his fellow Republicans, I'm doubtful that he's actually solving anything.  We've had geniuses in the Presidency and they have a mixed legacy; we've had average(ish) men in the job and they varied, too.  The President of the United States is not a king or the Pope.  He's just Some Guy, put in there to do the executive stuff to keep the country running, and to shake hands with Kings and Prime Ministers.  He's the guy who signs treaties -- but Congress has to ratify them. 

     The average citizen, in the course of their average life, commits an average of three felonies a day, mostly without even knowing it.  It's unavoidable.  Does that make those felonious acts any less criminal?  Strictly speaking, no.  However, these crimes rarely rise to the attention of police and prosecutors, and when they do, we expect -- and are Constitutionally promised -- that the due process of law will be followed.  Saint or villain, we get our day in court.  As does anyone, including Presidents. Oh, the court is different; the bar is higher, for reasons the Framers of the Constitution deemed sufficient;* but the idea is the same and the process, while far more exhaustive and partisan than any Grand Jury you or I are likely to face, is not all that dissimilar.

     But all that side noise--  Don't we have Representatives from both parties, to sit at their high bench and make speeches (with occasional question-asking)?  Are there not witnesses a-plenty, to make their ostensibly noble and usually rump-covering opening statements and answers?  Politicians are their own cheerleaders and pep squads and I'm not going to get into spats with people online about hearings that neither they nor I have any direct influence over.
* They appear to have been concerned about "lawfare," that Presidents might find all their time occupied by minor lawsuits and malicious prosecution; but there clearly needed to be a way to hold Presidents accountable for egregious acts, and thus they came up with impeachment.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Kitchen Sink

     Not the sink, really, but the faucet.  I noticed last night there was a fine spray coming from it somewhere unexpected.  A mist.

     Had an O-ring failed, or some plastic part of the single-control faucet?  Was it a build-up of lime scale?  Indiana water is generally very hard and Indianapolis city water is no exception.

     Nope.  There's a pinhole on the underside of the spout.  I'm going to have to replace the entire thing.  Can't really afford a plumber right now and Tam dislikes overseeing repair guys, so I'll have to do it myself.  There's a basin wrench around here somewhere, but this will need to be a weekend project.  I'm not a big fan of plumbing work but I have done it before.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday Already

     The long weekend is ended.  At least I got a few things done -- the biggest one being the fallen leaf accumulation in the front yard is raked up and the patio is raked clear.  I did a lot of laundry (though there is more yet to do) and even cooked beef stew.  If my day goes as planned, I'll have the last of it for lunch today.

     I even changed out the water fountain for the cats.  I couldn't remember where I had put the other one, but it turned out to be in plain sight, on the bottom shelf of a set of rolling shelves.

     It's more and more difficult to make myself leave the house.  I have fought social anxiety for years and it doesn't get any easier.  But, "no bucks, no Buck Rogers," or any other science fiction, either.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


     Pancakes were good yesterday morning.  Made beef stew for dinner and it was good, too -- maybe even better today, since there was plenty left over.

     Leaves about a quarter done.  Guess what I'll be doing next?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Yeah, Well...

     I'm going to be eating Swedish pancakes in a couple of minutes.  Everything else can wait.

Friday, November 15, 2019

I Took The Day Off

     There was a scramble to use up remaining vacation weeks before the end of the year.  I had managed to schedule a couple of mine at times that turned out to fall in the middle of big projects.  So I deferred them.

     When I tried to fit them into this month and next, I had a day left over.  Today.  I fed the cats and had a cup of hot chocolate with piece of toast at six, then napped until ten.  Got up, made brunch and looked at television (the first episode of the final season of The Man In The High Castle, good stuff), did a little housework and realized I hadn't blogged yet.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Now, Just A Minute

     We've got fallen leaves on top of the snow?

     We do.  Winter bundled Fall off in such a hurry that there were plenty of leaves left on the trees.  Now they've fallen.

     The good news is, we're in a warming trend for the next week, with highs in the upper thirties and eventually, the low forties.  The bad news is, there goes my excuse to ignore the leaves.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Today's High, 32°F

     Alexa just told me it's 12°F outside, at least at the official measuring point.  It's a balmy 14 at the nearest measuring point.

     I'd just as soon stay at home.  But that's not an option and so off I go, to rinse out my sinuses if there's enough distilled water, and then get ready for another day of work, hoping all of it will be indoors.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

November, Indeed

     The cold rain started at mid-morning yesterday, changed to freezing rain and then to snow before stopping late last night.  There's at least an inch on the ground now.  Skies cleared and it was 11°F when I woke up.  Today's high will be 22°F.

     Tam and I just cleared away most of the fallen leaves from the front and back yards Sunday.

     I think the seasons may have changed.

Monday, November 11, 2019

After The Silence

     On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent all across Europe.  After years of war, after the ruin of a vast swath of France, the Great War was over and the soldiers and sailors could come home from the horrors of war.

     In the United States, this day now honors all veterans of all wars.  It offers a chance to thank the living.  War is indeed dreadful, abhorrent; and most dreadful of all is the price it exacts from those who must fight.  One day a year is the tiniest of respects to pay.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

So Much Catching Up

     Laundry, dishes, cat boxes, SLEEP...!  Still getting caught up.  And I have a hammering headache and mild dizziness to go along with it.  Took analgesics a half hour ago, just checked blood pressure (okay!  Better than my doctor's-office usual, in fact*), so I'm just going along with it.

     I need to pick up a prescription, which I will beg Tam to get for me, and I have a nice batch of beef stew from yesterday to reheat.  It was pretty good then and a night in the fridge usually lets the ingredients get to know one another even better, so hopes are high.

     Next stop?  A yard full of fallen leaves!
* I have "White coat syndrome:" doctor's offices put me on high alert.  Oh, I can suppress my reactions, and I do, but blood pressure doesn't lie.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Interview With The Robot

     "Alexa, how can a man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?"*


     Neither did the poet, little robot.  Neither did the poet.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Should Have Expected

     Didn't get Friday off.  And the suits are still waffling about what they want to do. 

     It's not my problem.  I was told to work half a day and whatever they decide, that's what I will do.

     There's a fair chance that the cold weather overnight has caused damage.  It needs to be checked.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Back On A Regular Schedule?

     Maybe.  More or less.  For a few days, I'm back to my usual hours.

     Might even get the weekend off and even -- if nothing comes up -- have Friday off, too, since I worked Sunday.  That's a chicken I won't count until it is hatched, has grown feathers and is laying eggs of its own, but even the prospect of it is thrilling.

     What's not so thrilling is the amount of work still left on my project and all of things I will have to get caught up on.  But it's a job and thank goodness for that.

*  *  *

     I haven't been writing, which bothers me.  Reading a bit, and fairly wide-ranging, at least.  The writer's group I was attending (and have had to skip the last two meetings of) has gone in a direction I'm not sure about -- from the usual workshoppy mutual critiquing of 2,000 - 5,000 words by each member every month to concentrating on one member's long-form work every meeting, 10,000 - 25,000 words from a single member, a different person very month.

     Part of that's no big deal -- it's the same number of words, and if you haven't guessed by now, in addition to the direct benefit of having other writers analyze your work, a big part of these groups is learning how to read fiction like an editor -- what works, what doesn't, if the focus and points of view are sensible and consistent, word use, sentence length (you're not going to believe this, but I have an issue with habitually building sentences that even James Joyce might have looked at and suggested they might be a little long) and a zillion other things that one does not, generally, look for when composing first or even second drafts of a written piece.  That practice, first applied to other people's prose in which you haven't got an emotional investment, then helps you learn how to look at your own work with a critical eye.

     So that part's fine.  What isn't fine for me is the change means there's very little pressure to do my own writing between meetings.  I think I need that; it's too easy for me to get distracted or busy and write nothing.

     It's something I'm still mulling over.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

A Last-Minute Glitch

     It's an obscure technical problem, a mechanical issue that comes from having a long length of steel supporting a long length of a non-ferrous metal: something worked out wrong on the spring-loaded suspension system and things that should not be in contact, are.

     I'm confident that it will be worked out.  Or I'll have someone defenestrated, probably a project engineer who has never even been to the site.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

It's Election Day!

     Okay, they're mostly little elections around here, but large or small, the people around you are voting at you!  Hadn't you better get out there and vote right back at them?

     It appears that I've got a Mayoral race, and a...non-race; there's only one guy running for the City-County Council seat that represents this part of town, which annoys me no end.

     No elected position should be so "safe" that the other parties just give up on it.  Councilman Unopposed is a Democrat, and maybe nothing any further Right will fly here in town, in an arsty neighborhood.  Maybe the Libertarian Party of Indiana hasn't a chance (though counting yard signs during presidential years, I'm not so sure that a candidate willing to wear out shoe leather and listen to the people, one on one, could not succeed).  But why isn't anyone trying to get around him on the Left?  Where are our Greens, our Socialists, the suit-wearing versions of the wild-eyed sign-wavers?  Did they all give up and go home?

     City-County Council might not be much, but poor decisions there can make an up close and personal mess of things with a speed and thoroughness the State and Feds only wish they could manage.

     I'll go do my civic duty, one vote and one abstention or write-in, but if nobody steps up next time, maybe I'll run for the seat.  No one should stand for election unopposed.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Topped Out!

     They made the connection. The last little gap was closed up about mid-afternoon yesterday.

     There's still plenty to do, including removing thousands of feet of rigging and multiple blocks from the tower, hauling the old antenna around to the scrap pile and picking up (and throwing away) a truly remarkable amount of trash, discarded packing and crates.  I'm hoping to knock the wooden crates down and keep the best of the wood, but it's not a priority; it can wait for the next dumpster, but no longer.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

And Even More Almost

     We're within an inch and a half of connecting everything at the 900-foot level.

     Paradoxically enough, this is worse than being off by a foot and a half: there's a minimum length for the custom-length sections, due to the interesting way the inner conductors are connected (long, tapered, springy "bullets" made of plated brass), and it's way more an inch and a half.

     So the crew is going to have to move heavy things, a great distance above the ground, in a controlled and very accurate way.  ...And the two most experienced members of the crew left to take care of a previous commitment a couple of days ago.

     By the time this was discovered, winds at ground level had kicked up to chilly, blustering gusts and at 900 feet they were approaching gale force; having to hold on with both hands gets in the way of getting anything else done.

     So they knocked off for the day, about an hour ahead of the usual time, and I got home ahead of schedule but even more tired than usual.  I looked at TV (Danger Man, Patrick McGoohan's first spy/adventure series) while enjoying a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a few candied cherries on top and went to bed.

     Today?  Well, today we'll try again.

Saturday, November 02, 2019


     The installation phase of the tower work is almost done.  There's still at least one custom-length section, which has to be made offsite and brought up, some last bits of assembly and some work at nearly ground level.

     Then the electronic side of things begins -- a lot of measurement and adjustment, using nifty gadgets that we don't have, operated by a specialist while I look over his shoulder.

     I still have work of my own, including adding some analog monitoring that we expected the equipment to have as a matter of necessity.  It would seem that in this day of network-accessible graphical user interfaces, "necessity" isn't what it used to be.  Our basic remote control system still is all steam gauges and contact closures, though, and so I'll try to work something out.

     It should be interesting.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Back To Work, In The Cold

     November has swept and and brought winter with it.  The outside temperature is 26°F at present.  With luck, we'll reach 46 today.  The forecast calls for highs in the low fifties next week, with lows at or below freezing

     We still have tower work to do.  Some of it quite fiddly.  The crew -- nearly all from far warmer regions of the country -- was planning to buy warm clothes during our rained-out days and I hope they haven't under-estimated the chill at altitude  There's nearly always a breeze once you get above a hundred feet above ground.  It can be lovely in the summer but once it gets cold, well, up there, it's colder still.

     We're expecting some critical parts to arrive today. I think we'll need more before the job can be finished but it's getting close.