Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cover That Cough!

      I'm still getting comments from people who think that masks -- simple cloth and paper masks -- are not effective against the transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

     Well, masks are effective.  When I try to explain it clearly, I get accused of being "condescending," when all I'm trying to do is cut through the fog of rumor and emotion.  And, yes, it's plenty awful to be required to wear a mask -- or use a seat belt, or obey the speed limit -- but it's easier to argue about those things if you're not dead.  There is plenty of causal, sloppy evidence -- here in Indiana, we didn't get transmission rates down until mask use in indoor, public spaces was mandated, and the drop in transmission continued against a background of steadily increasing testing for the virus.

     There's also plenty of expert advice and well-documented scientific evidence for the effectiveness of masks in limiting the transmission of the virus.  Oh, there's a catch to it, and the catch is tricky enough that many people have gotten hung up on it: masks are most effective at keeping people who already have the virus from giving it to others.*  Now, if this damned virus acted more like the common cold, using masks would be easy: put one on at the first symptoms and there you go!  --Unfortunately, the best evidence we have is that SARS-CoV-2 has a trick up its sleeve the common cold does not: you can walk around loaded up with the virus for days before you feel sick or develop noticeable symptoms, breathing it out with every exhalation and every word you speak.  So the only way to control the thing is for everyone to wear masks around one another, even though we're probably feeling fine.

     This rubs raw the American "You're not the boss of me!" reaction to most any government edict.  It irks me -- but I am the boss of me, and I decided that if I did get the virus, I damned well wasn't gonna drag anyone down with me.  So I wear a mask, not because the Great White Father in the state capitol or Mayor's office told me I had to but because I've read up on 'em, I know that they work, I know how they work† and I have made my own mind up to help.

     You can make up your mind to help, or you can fume, complain and cherry-pick disinformation (no small amount of it sown by foreign and domestic enemies of American civil order), but the evidence is in and the evidence says masks work.  They're not 100% effective, but they make a significant difference -- and so can you.
* One of my links, in fact, is to an NIH study, pretty early on, that suggests health-care workers dealing with infected people do best putting on a respirator at the start of their shift and not taking it off until they're done for the day; cloth or paper masks didn't do them a lot of good.  Putting the cloth or paper mask on the patients, on the other hand, was very helpful at limiting the spread and having doctors and nurses in respirators while the sick wore basic masks worked best of all.   Outside the hospital, where most of us are and the ratio of sick to well is very different, the best way to limit the spread was for everyone to wear a cloth or paper mask.

† For the tiny-virus crowd, remember that most of those viruses are floating out stuck to and in the warm, wet droplets of our exhaled breath.  It's not "a chain-link fence against mosquitoes," it's a chain-link fence against flea-infested chihuahuas: you may, in fact, find a few fleas on the other side, but most of 'em aren't going to hop off their ride.

Friday, September 25, 2020


      I woke up with a couple of perfectly enormous tomcats snuggling with me in bed.  It was wonderful and I kinda put off climbing out and starting my day for about a half-hour, just to enjoy it.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Louisville Is Burning

      It was inevitable.  Given the particulars of the case, the understandably high emotions it raised and the presumption of innocence inherent to our justice system, there was no way some of Louisville wasn't going to burn once the Grand Jury results in the Breonna Taylor shooting were made public.

     The only question was how bad it was going to be.  You could see it in the eyes of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron yesterday afternoon as he carefully detailed the Grand Jury process in his state, announced the results and asked for restraint in people's reactions.  He knew things were going to turn bad and was doing what little he could to keep from making them worse.

     It is entirely possible to be right on the facts, right under the law -- and wrong on emotions.  The powerful emotional reactions of masses of outraged people are why we have a justice system, why that system is supposed to presume the innocence of the accused, and why there is so much emphasis on procedure, eyewitness testimony and such facts as can be determined.  At each step of the process, the outcome isn't supposed to be emotionally satisfying; it's supposed to be the least unfair result mortal men and women can produce.  

     Sometimes that result feels very unfair to many people.  Sometimes it looks particularly unfair in the wider view.  But criminal proceedings are not about the wide view, nor ought they take account of public opinion.  Fixing guilt and fixing society are very different things.

     And in the gap between them, Louisville burns.  The time to stop that was long before three policeman knocked on Breonna Taylor's door and then knocked it in.

     (Wikipedia, though sometimes shaky in documenting this kind of situation, has links to multiple Louisville Courier Journal articles covering the case as it developed.  It's a complex and tragic farrago of errors.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Why The Rush?

      The amount of sanctimonious back-and-forth over appointing and confirming a successor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg amounts to an ear-splitting din, with accusations and counter-accusations being traded back and forth by politicians and the Party faithful on both sides, a war of quotes, accusations of hypocrisy and sound bites--

     That signify nothing in terms of Constitutional requirements and Senate behavior and history.  Here's what happens whenever there's an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court and one party holds both the Presidency and a Senate majority: they name their pick to the job.  Period.  The Constitution allows this and it happens.  It may be good or bad, a thumbing of their noses on the way out the door or a glowing gift to the ages but it definitely happens.

     So let's dispense with emotion and rah-rah nonsense -- remember, I keep voting for the Libertarian candidates, since I find the big-party candidates for Federal office little short of risible -- and see if we can work out why the GOP is in a hurry to get the job filled.  Aren't they confidently predicting victory in November?

     Projecting a confident image is a part of electioneering; Speaker Pelosi has made similarly glowing predictions for her party's slate this Fall and the better punditry sites are telling me the races for the Presidency and control of the Senate are too close to call.  We can be pretty sure all Senators can read the same tea leaves, no matter what they're saying in public, so let's run the outcomes.

     There are two choices: act now, or wait to let whoever wins act later.  There are four possible situations after the elections: a Republican President and Senate majority, a Democrat President and Senate majority, a Republican President and Democrat Senate majority, or a Democrat President and Republican Senate majority.  How do they each play out?

1. Republican President and Senate majority: acting now or later has the same result, the GOP's pick gets the job.

2. Democrat President and Senate majority: if the GOP acts now, their pick gets the job (and there's a chance the incoming Congress would add Justices to the court, though institutional inertia is likely make this difficult, especially with the major problems facing the country at present); if they wait, the Dems pick.  (This would leave the balance of the Court unchanged).  Pretty clear choice for the Republicans.

3. Republican President and Democrat Senate majority: acting now means the GOP's pick gets the job; acting later, they will have to vet their choice to get through a hostile Senate, and their chances would be better with a more moderate jurist.  So the GOP's best move would be to act now.

4. Democrat President and Republican Senate majority: acting now puts the Republican choice in; acting later means the Dems get to pick and the Senate Republicans get to pick that person apart.  Just as the prior situation, the choice will be more moderate thanks to divided government, but whoever it is still won't be anyone the GOP would have chosen.  It's another vote for their acting now.

     That's three votes in favor of acting now (one with a risk of the Court being changed in response) and one "doesn't matter."  This would play out exactly the same way if the Democrats held the Presidency and Senate and were facing a close election.  While there's plenty of high-minded moralizing over the choice on all sides, this is really what it boils down to.  The Republicans aren't going to wait -- and neither would the Democrats if they were in the same position.

     This is not about emotion or consistency; it's not about tradition or noble ideals.  It's a fancy kind of chess game, played for very high stakes in the real world, and the players are all considerably cooler-headed than they'd like you to believe.  They've all worked out this set of choices and results, and they are betting you haven't.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Pandemic Response And Liberty

      I keep stumbling over alarmist articles about how inimical the response of the various levels of government has been to liberty.

     Not seeing it.  If you want to point to widespread "lockdowns*" -- all now ended in the U.S. -- as economically damaging, you're right.  Since all the other kids -- oops, countries -- had jumped off that cliff, there was no getting around the macro-scale harm; local and state-level shut-downs have hurt small businesses not deemed essential.  At best, we've got a recession underway and it may be worse.  There's no undoing it.  And with the business shutdowns came limitations on the size of any gathering of unrelated people.†  As an early response to an unknown virus that was spread by prolonged close contact, that was just about the only measure public health officials could take until there was an adequate supply of masks.  

     Those sweeping restrictions have all been rolled back.  That's the nature of public health restrictions: they follow not the whims of officialdom but our best knowledge of the illness.  There are still limitations in many areas on the environments known to be especially friendly to the spread of this and similar viruses: a loud bar, with people check by jowl for hours, yelling at one another over the music, is a prime situation.  Dining too close together indoors is a known hazard.  So we've got limits.  They're less in places where you can leave your mask on, so much less that the retail establishments around here are almost back to normal, with maximum occupancy limits set at 75 percent of the Fire Marshal's pre-pandemic numbers.  Since they rarely got that crowded back then, it's the difference between a speed limit of 60 and one of 45 on a narrow, winding road.

     Mask requirements aren't an infringement of your liberty, no more than the health requirements to wear shoes and shirts inside businesses.  The whining and outrage over a simple piece of cloth or paper mystifies me.  And the spread of misinformation is simply staggering.  (I have sat in doctor's offices three time since this began, masked and with a blood-oxygen monitor clipped to my finger; it reads the same 98 to 97 percent that it did when I wasn't wearing a two-layer cloth mask.  True, I wasn't running a marathon or bricklaying, but I endure doctor's offices in a kind of harshly suppressed panic, so I'm not exactly "at rest," either.)

     All of these things will run their course, and go away as soon as we're through this pandemic.  That's the nature of public health actions; eventually, the mumps or scarlet fever run their course and the County Health Commission takes the sign off the door and you don't have to get your groceries delivered.

     It's easy to glibly claim that government restrictions once imposed are never lifted -- and it is true that due to government interference, still aren't allowed to dig your well right next to your privy, those despots! -- but public health measures put in place to combat the spread of disease end once the disease has run its course or been fully controlled.  If this were not the case, we'd still all be wearing masks that were required during the 1917 - 20 influenza pandemic and all the public swimming places closed in response to polio outbreaks would still be shut down.  Government incursions like taxes, payroll withholding and professional licensing only persist if they're getting something from them. Cui buono?  If it doesn't put money in their pockets, it doesn't stick around.  Especially if it irks the electorate.

     Governments don't like depressions, and strive to avoid them.  They're not happy with pandemics with big death tolls and multiple days of lost work sweeping through the populations that elect 'em, either.  There's nothing good in that for them.

     I do not trust the goodwill of government -- and I don't have to.  I can rely on their greed and self-interest to set them to work getting us through this mess in the best -- and most taxable -- condition they can manage.

     If all you're doing is whining and spreading misinformation (a lot of it sourced from Russia's FSB-run rumor mills and "news" outlets, when you can track it back), then I don't have time for you.
*  You were never locked down, Karen.  Nobody nailed your door shut and you could go out jogging or even drive the Audi whenever you liked.  But the Snip'n'Blow was closed, and that charming little antique store where you found those lovely lamps, and you couldn't get into Kroger or the IGA unless you wore a mask and isn't it just so awful.  No, it isn't.  Grow up.

† If you had ten children, four grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles all under one roof, or if your entire commune amounted to a larger population than the smallest towns, nobody was going to roust you out.  It's not just gathering in one group, it's that the group shares the same volume of air, and then goes home to their families -- or to other groups.  That's how illnesses spread.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Political-Ad Season

      Ah, the wonders of every even-year Autumn!  The crisp air, the apple cider, the bountiful garden harvests -- well, other people's bountiful garden harvests, we kind of dropped the ball* -- and the endless political ads.

     I'd like to tell you this year they're a cut above, issue-focused commercials from smart politicians with clear plans, but it's the same old glurge only worse, two motherhoods and an apple pie in every pot and a promise to follow their Party's line, just as soon as they know what it is.

     Give me a set of Punch & Judy puppets and cage of inebriated monkeys, and I'll give you a collection of candidates for political office -- and the monkeys will throw less dung.

     This regular performance should help keep us from becoming too fond of our office-holders, and yet willing to allow them to entertain one another with their feats of loyalty, camel-swallowing and gnat-straining.  I have a very short list of candidates I approve of, a longer list of ones I will vote for just to spite the twits, and a tiny list to hold-my-nose-and-vote for.  But I need to do more research before my loathing is ripe.
* The tiny garden has nightshade and pokeweed, violets and honeysuckle, and some feral garlic chives. I think we got rid of all the poison ivy in it, at least.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

And Yet...

     Nasty comments about the recently-departed Supreme Court Justice continue to arrive.

     Look, if you didn't like her decisions, well, she's gone.  You don't need to keep pouring vitriol on her corpse.  I won't let you do so in the comments section of my blog.

     Also, why are you even reading my blog?  I'm an anarcho-libertarian, not a conservative.  You're not going to get a steady diet of ideas you will like from me.  And I am not going to join in your childish game of personalities.

     P.S.: I have sidelined any comment that was in any way critical.  Even the mildest.  Go make comments about someone who can answer them back.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

An X-ray Of The Soul

      The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has certainly offered a peek into the hearts of many of my Facebook "friends."  It has not been a uniformly pleasant or uplifting look.

     Okay, fine, her opinions differed from yours.  On many issues, they differed from mine, too.  But she was a good lawyer, she took her job seriously and she did her homework.  She was a little old lady and now she's dead.  It's not weakness to show a little respect.  If you can't do that, at least keep your fool yap shut until she's had a proper funeral.

     I'm sure there will be a knock-down, drag-out fight over the next Supreme Court Justice (not to mention the meta-fight over the question of digging into it now or waiting until after the election).  Why can't you at least wait until that mess gets underway? 

Friday, September 18, 2020

New Day, Same As Before

      No, I'm wrong -- today also includes my desktop computer and/or Firefox acting up after I absent-mindedly left it on all day yesterday. I have backups, including the nice old MacBook I keep in my bedroom. I did have to shut the door to keep the cat from jumping on it, poor guy. He wants attention and can usually get it when I am on a computer.

     I have nothing else to say that doesn't boil down to "Get off of my lawn."  You don't care to read that and I don't care to write it.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


      Sorry, it's another morning of nothing to say.

     Well, the truth is, I have a lot to say, but half of it is depressing and other half will start arguments.  Haven't we all got something better to do?

     And so I say nothing.  Go read a book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

"Look How Well Sweden Is Doing!"

      Without comment, COVID-19 deaths per million for Sweden, other Nordic countries (which have broadly similar cultures and governments) and the United States as of 16 September 2020:

Sweden.......574.6 deaths per million population
U.S. ........598.8

     This can be taken as a rough proxy for hospitalizations at ten or more times the rate, and as an even rougher proxy for infections.  As treatment improves, the ratio of deaths to hospitalizations (or to infections) declines -- and the lower the rate, the more people will get the advantage of those improvements.

     While the U.S. doesn't look so great in that chart, if you lump us with all of the EU, our death rate puts us somewhere in the middle third of the group, neither the worst nor the best.

     Sources: Statista's "COVID-19 deaths per capita" page and "Mortality Analysis" at Johns Hopkins.  The JHU page gives deaths per 100K, so you've got to move the decimal for deaths per million.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

So, Tuesday

     And here we are, Tuesday.  I'm still not getting enough sleep.  Can't I just hibernate until 2020 is over?

Monday, September 14, 2020

Got That Done, Too

      The "next phase" of my long bedroom project was to hang my lightweight clothes hamper from the closet door.  This allows me to keep the hamper parked in front of that door -- just about the only space for it -- and still get at the closet without having to slide it out of the way.

     It's an aluminum frame with a mesh bag in it, so that's workable, at least as long as I don't load it up with wet towels.

     I'd gotten as far as working out the bottom support -- a shelf hanging from ornate brackets of the general type I like to use where there's sufficient clearance -- but attaching top so the thing wouldn't go flying when I moved the door had me working through a series of unwieldy, ugly solutions.  Then I realized one-hole conduit clamps would work nicely if I could find a size close enough to the tubes of the support frame for the hamper.  Shaped like a question mark, the clamps are hidden by the mesh bag in the hamper and the "half-inch"* size was just right.

     After this, I'll build either a big wardrobe/TV cabinet or a set of skinny shelves that will fit between my bed and the wall and hold another 11" shelf for storage cubes near the ceiling at the same height as the ones already along two walls.   The big cabinet will be tricky; it's got to have doors to keep cats out of the clothing and the size means I'll need to use a different style of construction, 2 x 2 frames holding lightweight panels (maybe perforated masonite) for the sides and probably 1 x 3 frames and panels for the doors.
* Conduit "trade sizes" are related to the inner diameter, but it's best to just accept them as relative designations and move on instead of getting too fussy over matching the size to a measurement.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Desk Surround Progress

      I spent some time yesterday and today working on the desk/dressing table surround in my bedroom, along with a  new high shelf that is anchored to it with loose dowels.
     It's coming along pretty well, I think.  There's still clutter to sort through and one more phase of the project, but so far, it's worked out about as I had hoped.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Feeling Better

      I was still feeling pretty bad through late Friday afternoon, and had made a doctor's appointment for Saturday morning.

     But late Friday, things improved suddenly.  It all appears to have been a new version of my nemesis, kidney stones.  The doctor concurred.

     Highly not recommended, but oh, what a relief when it is over.  Details will not be provided.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Superspreader? Supersoaker? Superscience?

      None of the above?

     Spin, spin, spin.  I've already read people claiming the President didn't say what he said on tape, with a handwavy "editing" offered in explanation.  Yeah, no, nobody's that good; more to the point, Bob Woodward's not that good: audio editing is as much art as science and you don't get good at it without doing a lot of it, hundreds and hundreds of hours.  Even then, it leaves traces, abrupt changes in background noise, changes in breathing patterns, changes in speech patterns.*  The comments are almost certainly context-stripped; conversations, especially lengthy ones, wander and expand and unless you have the entire tape, you'll never know quite how any snippet of it came to be.

     But, as I pointed out recently, it doesn't matter.  If you liked the President, you still will.  If you disliked him, you still will.

     The Sturgis motorcycle rally is another example.  Leading up to the event, it was already established that having a large number of people in confined indoor spaces for an extended length of time was an ideal situation to spread a respiratory virus, no matter if it was COVID-19 or the common cold.  ("Con crud," the nasty colds that run through science-fiction conventions, is an example that goes back decades.)  Outdoor events are much less predictable -- and Sturgis mixes both.

     Bikers, you may be surprised to learn, are not lab rats; they're not even very good experimental subjects.  There is no tally of who attended, where they came from, what routes they took or where they went afterward.  There's no "control group" of bikers who stayed home to compare them to.  There's no real data.

     Some economists did a study and inferred a fairly high number of additional infections among rally attendees, their families, and those with whom they came into contact; I read far enough into the news reports to glean that fact and marked it as "interesting but unsubstantiated."  The actual known case count -- people who were at Sturgis for the event, went in for testing or treatment afterward and tested positive for COVID-19 -- is two or three orders of magnitude smaller.  This all very interesting, but it doesn't tell us much; it just sets a lower and upper limit, with a very wide error band in between, and if you are engaged in a heated argument over it, you're fighting fog: we don't really know a darned thing either way.

     Telling people to "get the facts" when there aren't any facts isn't helpful.  Calling yourself a "skeptic" when your mind is made up is simply incorrect. 

     The world is, in fact, duller and less convoluted than it appears.  Most everyone is muddling through.  Some have less mud in their way; some have got a nice collection of tools to help cope with the muddiness; but the only people with a crystal-clear vision are either mistaken or delusional.  Not only is there a lot we don't know, there's a lot we can't know -- not because it's secret, sneaky machinations but because it is unknowable: life does not take place under laboratory conditions.

     It is very difficult to see what is really there instead of what we want to see, especially peering into the haze of uncertainty that is our actual world.  It's nevertheless rewarding to make the effort.
* One of the best analog-tape editors I have known learned her trade producing a talk show hosted by a local writer on public radio.  The host had a nice turn of phrase and an easy manner; he was a natural interviewer.  He also had a huge "um, er, ah, I meant to say..." habit that required hours of razor-blading to remove.  Edited, he was witty and erudite, moving deftly from topic to topic.  Unedited, his verbal grace was significantly less evident.  It was fun to play "find the edit" when listening to the show -- and became more difficult with every new one she did.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

You Probably Think I'm Going To Comment On Current Events

      Wondering what I have to say about the story that's leading TV newscasts and making headlines this morning?

     Keep wondering.  I've got nothing.  Oh, it was mildly surprising, but here is the thing:  It's not going to sway the opinion of a significant number of voters either way.  People's minds are made up.  So it's moot.

     Between now and November third and barring natural disaster or sneak attack, the only thing that might -- might -- change the opinions of voters would be, to update an old line to accommodate Ms. Harris, catching a Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate in bed with a dead member of the opposite sex or a live member of the same sex, and I'm not entirely sure even that would do it.

     Come November, you have your choice of septuagenarians, each one with a VP chosen to appeal to their base. Or, of course, the various third-party candidates.  I usually go for the LP's pick -- not because I think they will win, but because I'd rather see them in the job than either of the candidates that are going to come in first and second and that's the only way I have of communicating my opinion.

     But I'm not going to tell you how to vote.  We all pull the lever and take our chances.  Even bad choices are better than no choice.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Pro Tip

      If your comments are paranoid speculation, they're not going to get published.  That goes double if they are highly partisan and triple if you're pushing conspiracy-theory nuttiness. 

     I do not think well of either major political party here in the U. S. and I have an even lower opinion of the fool idea that, "The other guys are so evil that you must support the side I favor."  This is the United States; I don't have to like any side at all.  I'm not required to vote for any person or party -- I'm not even required to vote at all, and neither are you.

     If you are unable to grow up, at least go peddle the crazy somewhere else.

2020: Direct To Video

      2020 is the worst monster movie ever.  This remake of The Andromeda Strain is lousy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Should Have Written About Labor Day

      ...I should have written about Labor Day (like why it is when it is in this country), but the way this year is going, we should probably get Labor Week.

     "Should," like so many things for those of us who work for a living, is not that same as "is" and so off to work I go.

Monday, September 07, 2020

You're Soaking In It

     An online acquaintance, someone at least thirty years younger than I am, was viewing-with-alarm the other day: "I don;t want the world to become a kind of electronic panopticon, infested with a social credit system like Red China, where people get deplatformed or "cancelled" for Wrongthink!"

     It's a noble sentiment, but I think it's too late, possibly -- possibly! -- moot and askew from human nature.

     Taking those points one at a time:

     Too Late: I grew up in a world where you got a Social Security number when you entered the workforce, and were issued a flimsy little piece of cardboard with some of Uncle Sam's nice engraving, your name blurrily picked out in all caps by some kind of computerized printer, and a neatly-printed little notice: "NOT TO BE USED FOR IDENTIFICATION."  My parents had received theirs about the time they first got their own ration cards, and their parents--  Their parents had taken a dim view of the whole notion, another one of that over-reaching Roosevelt's schemes, this one cribbed from that scary lunatic Francis Townsend.   In that long-ago world, you might have been able to look up someone's name from their phone number or address, if you went to the library and looked it up in a city directory -- and your local library probably only had a current one for your town.  The librarian and the clerks at the bookstore and the five-and-dime were the only people who knew what books you were reading.  --And we were worried about invasions of privacy by things like yearly automobile inspections* and all those nosy questions on  the U. S. Census.†  As long as you kept the shades drawn and avoided breaking the law, nobody know what you were up to inside, John Bircher and Commie alike (though all those IMPEACH EARL WARREN stickers on the thicker corner fenceposts made it pretty clear which group was in ascendance.) Mow your yard oddly, though, and you might be the talk of the street.  This was the world that my grandparents thought was a bit too privacy-invaded by The Government and my parents admitted, well, yes, it was, but what are you gonna do?

     Possibly Moot: The Internet still interprets censorship as damage, and still routes around it.  It does the same thing with platforms.  The Eternal September eventually killed Usenet; MySpace collapsed of its own...something or other, possibly inertia.  Today's huge, dominating platform is very likely to become #YesterdaysNews, especially once it commences pushing people overboard for any flavor of wrongness.  Of course, this works as well for bad people as it does for nice ones -- possibly better.  But it always has.  The ISPs and national/international regulation of them is a weak point (with one bright spot), but the genie (GEnie?) is well and truly out of the lamp and it's not going back.

     Askew From Human Nature: Let's go back to the earlier generations I was writing about.  My grandparents grew up in tiny communities.  You could leave your past (mostly) behind by pulling up stakes and moving far away -- but you had to put them back down again at your new location.  People gossiped.  People visited.  If you never dusted behind the furniture, your neighbors knew about it.  If you had loud arguments, your neighbors knew about it.  If you were scrupulously honest in your dealings -- or not -- everyone knew about it.  No radio, no TV: idle talk was a major form of entertainment. 
       My parents grew up in small towns, often on the edge of larger ones; they graduated from the same High School a few years apart, with each class having less than fifty people,.  By the time I was twelve, I knew all their names.  Just from overhearing.  I only met a few, but they all kept in touch with one another; they knew what the others were up to.  They, well, gossiped.  And they kept track of the other people they went to a school with, and their neighbors and their teachers, shopkeepers and civil servants. A very few of them did things of which the rest disapproved, and were ostracized for it. Is any of this starting to sound familiar?  Social anonymity is a relatively recent phenomenon.
     This is how human beings are wired up. Inserting some electronics and code into the process does not change its fundamental nature.

    So, Panopticon? You're soaking it it. Just as all you ancestors did. Most of them didn't have electric lights; few of them enjoyed running water. Social interaction has gotten the same kind of technological upgrade, but the people driving the interacting have not changed.
* Bit of a scam, bit of a good idea: cars wore out a lot faster back then and if you were, say, a teenager driving a twenty-dollar Ford Falcon, you were probably not going to replace the brake shoes until they'd scared you, or a turn-signal bulb until a policeman had warned you.  On the other hand, plenty of garages either used them to drum up business, or give your car a lick and prayer and handed over a sticker for a small and rapid profit.

† I dodged the Census twice because of discomfort with all the questions.  "Enumerate," fine, but until the flush toilets in my house get the vote, I still don't see any reason for the Federal government to know how many I have.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Well, Now

      Firefox was very crashy; I cleared out the fattest cookies, deleted Cache2 and did a "restore Firefox," which is supposed to cure such ills, which that made it much, much worse instead.

     Dammit.  I don't like Edge and I don't want to have to try to move all my saved stuff over to it.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Maybe Later

      Today's blog post of any content will have to be written later.  Today is a mess -- misremembered the time for a doctor's appointment, feeling lousy in a slightly new way, and so on.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Where Did I Have Them Last?

      Not much change, but one minor triumph -- after a lapse.

     Wednesday, abut dinner time, I needed the spare set of house keys.  There's a hook we keep them on, but when I went to get them, the keys weren't there.

     I wasn't entirely sure when I had last used them.  Checking all the obvious places didn't turn them up.  Eventually, I gave up and went to bed.  It would be easier to find them with daylight anyway.

     Woke up this morning and still felt lousy, but between trying to work from home and napping, I kept looking.  I kept going back to the jeans I wore to the doctor's on Sunday, folded over a pile of pillows for later, since I'd only had them on for a couple of hours.  Nothing.

     In early evening, I was looking for my favorite leather belt.  I'd misplaced, it, too, but it showed up under the jeans and a pillow.  As I picked it up, something else hit the floor with a clunk.  I couldn't find it at first; I was looking for something larger than what the cause turned out to be.

     Yes, the spare keys, which had probably fallen out of the jeans pocket when I first put the jeans there -- fallen onto a pillow, silently.

     Another reminder to put things back in their proper place promptly after use.  You'd think I would have learned that by now. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Keeping On

      Nothing else to be done, really.  I'm taking my prescribed medicine, doing what the doctors tell me to do, and things seem to be slowly improving.  Actually went in to work yesterday, and got some things done.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Is There Nothing People Won't Try To Spin?

      On one level, I get it.  We're the optimistic primates, who will try everything when confronted by adversity and figure out what works by seeing who survives. We're the species that understands the joke about the fellow who jumps off a very tall building, and when someone yells, "How's it going?" as he passes the halfway point, he shouts back, "Okay so far!"

     This is who we are at a very basic level.  It crops up over and over in our myths and our genetic history: we squeak our way through long odds and one of the reasons why is that we tend to make up our own version of reality and stick to it -- and the people whose version was too far askew, well, they encounter abrupt correction from the physical world and adapt, or they're not around later.

     But this trait, frustrating and admirable as it is, gets in the way of just looking at the evidence and not trying to hammer it into the pattern we want to see.  And yet that's the first step in understanding anything: seeing what's really there and no more, without preconceptions.

     It's hard work.  Peel away one layer of "It ought to be.." and "It's supposed to be.." and there is another one underneath.  But it's worthwhile work.

     Not everything is hype.  Not everything fits neatly on one "side" or another.  We would do well to remember it.

Monday, August 31, 2020


      Maybe I'm a bit better today.  I was home sick all day, still very dizzy.  One step at a time.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

And Then It All Fell Apart

      I felt much better Friday evening, all that night, and much of the day Saturday.

     In the evening, most of my symptoms came back (at least I wasn't drifty and out of it).  An online/telephone doctor's visit led to an in-person appointment late Sunday morning -- what a joy the drive to and from was -- and now I'm on a different antibiotic.

     This experience is not recommended.  Zero stars out of five, would not try again.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Less Muzzy, More Dinner

      Yesterday was not a great day.  I was out of it most of the day, still having chills and overheating.  Never felt entirely awake -- or even entirely present.  I slept most of the afternoon and woke up around 7:30 p.m.

     And suddenly realized I was all there.  Still weak, still didn't have much wind, but I wasn't drifting in a fog. 

     Tam had bought some vegetable kebobs -- four skewers loaded with slices of green and yellow zucchini,* yellow bell peppers, red onion and lovely thick mushroom caps.  She also bought a ribeye steak, having asked the butcher for one "thick enough to make a couple of breakfast steaks."

     You really need a grill to do vegetable skewers properly, so a little creativity was called for.  I got the steak out to warm up and set a nice knob of butter melting in my Always pan† while I salted and peppered the vegetable skewers.  The contents of three of them made a nice layer covering the bottom of the pan.  I added some likely spices (a little garlic powder and parsley flakes), put the lid on and gave it a few pancake-flipping shakes to get everything evenly coated and let it cook over medium heat. 

     Time to split the steak!  You can have the butcher do it, if she's not too busy,‡ but a decent cutting board, a sturdy serrated knife -- you want one with a blade that will not flex -- and a good eye are all it takes.  Find the straightest edge, stand the steak up on it and grasping it with with your off hand, fingers on one side and thumb on the other, judge the center, then start cutting slowly from the top, checking to make sure the cut stays centered and working from end to end.  Don't be in a hurry, your fingertips are about as soft as raw steak!  (Butterflying a steak is much the same process, just pick the most-coherent edge to cut towards and stop short of cutting all the way through.)  The steaks got salt and pepper, and I set Tam's aside to add later.

     The vegetables wanted another big shake; I gave them that and found a small spatula, and after a little while, took the lid off and used it to make room for my steak.  I gave it a minute uncovered over higher heat, then set the heat back down, put the lid on for four minutes, turned the steak over, and gave it four more.  Tam's steak joined then, with the vegetables piled on top of both steaks, and got three minutes a side before I turned the heat to low, put the cover on, and set up TV trays -- we're still watching The Umbrella Academy and I didn't want to miss an episode.

     We had dinner plated and were eating in short order, one rare steak, one medium well and plenty of good vegetables.

     The steak was our local grocer's "Prime Choice" grade, which is actually their pick of the best USDA Choice, and it was as good as any USDA Prime ribeye I have had (Tam agreed).  Maybe it was the butter and vegetable juices, but it was a nice cut of meat.

     This morning, the contents of the remaining skewer, diced and sauteed, made a nice omelette filling along with a Poblano pepper given the same treatment, several strips of bacon, Manchego and Swiss cheese and a couple of Castlevetrano olives.  Possibly a little over the top, but it all fit when folded, sot it must not have been too much.
* A remarkably versatile vegetable, and good-tasting, too.  Stuffed zucchini flowers turn up in the cuisine of countries that had been part of the Ottoman Empire and they sound delicious -- keep an eye on for them on the menu at your favorite Middle Eastern restaurants, especially in the Spring.

† For those of you who have been keeping track, the Always pan is still living up to its promise.  Easily the best general-purpose pan I have owned.

‡ Maybe it's just Midwestern manners, but if there's a line at the butcher counter, I think it is impolite to ask for special service.  People are under stress enough right now, I'm not going to make it worse.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Chicken Pesto Pasta

      Feeling as poorly as I have been (and still am this morning), grocery shopping has been out of the question.  We used up the last of the fresh meat Sunday, and had dinner delivered Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday, I made corned beef hash with well-rinsed canned corned beef, a large fresh potato, a little fresh carrot and celery, and some onion powder -- pretty good, but a dish I have described before.

     Last night I wasn't sure what to do.  I wasn't up to any fancy cookery and pickings were slim.  On the other hand, the idea of another delivery dinner wasn't appealing.

     I'd bought a little jar of basil pesto for shelf stock awhile back.  It keeps pretty well and it can be a nice change.  We have pasta on hand as a matter of routine; it keeps splendidly and sure, it's "just carbs," but it's good fuel when you're hungry.  So there was a start.  A protein would be nice to add...  It turns out that chicken and pesto go well together, and there are number of different approaches to the combination.

     Checking the canned meat, we had Spam, corned beef, salmon, tuna and there it was, chicken.*  "Swanson Premium White & Dark Chunk Chicken in Water, 9.75 oz," to be exact, which means a good-sized flat can of fairly flavorful (that "white & dark" combo) chicken.

     For pasta, we had radiatori,† one of the more interesting and sauce-holding shapes, not to mention the most Art Deco.  I cooked it in well-salted water with a dash of "Italian mix" herbs and some of Tam's mixed hot-pepper flakes, and when it was about half-done, I drained the chicken and heated it up over low heat in a small saucepan, adding the pesto once the chicken was warmed through and stirring it well.  Pesto separates when stored, so make sure it's thoroughly mixed.  I left it on very low heat.

     As soon as the pasta was cooked, I drained it (don't rinse pasta, please!  A lot of the flavor goes down the drain!) and added the chicken and pesto.  Stirred that up, and there was dinner: filling, nice-tasting, and made entirely from shelf-storable ingredients.
* I was keeping canned meat stocked in the pantry long before the pandemic and protests turning violent, but I have expanded the variety and amount.  Most kinds are good for at least a couple of years.  It's good to have.

† Pasta shapes are remarkably varied.

Thursday, August 27, 2020


      I managed to get to work yesterday (Wednesday) and got some things done.  Today (Thursday), not so much.

     Worked from home as much as I could, stitching eight hours between naps, dizziness, breaks to catch my breath, and finally trying the "rescue inhaler" my doctor prescribed some time ago, "just in case."  It helped but it wears off.

     Whatever is going on is still going on and it's got me slowed to a standstill. 

     Did manage to put together a light supper from what we had in the pantry.  Maybe I will write it up for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Better, But...

      I guess I had no real idea just how sick I was, or just what a long, slow ramp-up there had been.  Yesterday, I was alternating work and sleep, trying to get something done when I could.  Just about every waking was a slow struggle, but once I surfaced, something or other would be hurting less, or I'd be less dizzy, or just a little more able to formulate a coherent thought without having to go back over it a half-dozen times.

     Went to bed early last night and kept waking up, but each time, I slept longer, finally finishing the night with a glorious nearly three hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Laugh if you like, it was a real luxury to me.

     The only bad part of this is that being sick seems to have ramped up joint pain in general.  Over a month ago, I took two or three nasty falls, catching myself on my knees on hard floors each time.  As everything else ebbs, it's becoming more and more obvious that my knees are are really not happy.  At least it's a familiar problem.  I own canes and crutches if I need them in the short-term, and over the longer term, the orthopedic surgeon who fixed my knee (and then repaired the repair!) is still around; I've gone back to them in the past when my knees have acted up.

     Took another set of the prescribed pills this morning. One of them, the pharmacy told me my insurance wouldn't cover, and named a fairly high price.  I told them I would be happy to pay it -- gee, feel better for the price of three hour's after-taxes pay or not, what to do? -- and then my actual price at the drive-up was less than half.  Nice surprise!

     Being sick, I have not seen much of the GOP convention.  Between-sleep glimpses have bordered on the surreal.  Nevertheless, there don't seem to be any surprises there, and I wasn't expecting any.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Dammit, I'm Sick

      The reality is, I have been sick since at least last Thursday, and tried to ignore it.  I didn't want to be whiny, I had stuff to do, and surely it would pass on its own.  I mean, don't most minor ailments eventually succumb to the tincture of time?  Right?

      Maybe not this one.

      After feeling lousy Thursday, working despite chills and dizziness Friday and feeling worse Saturday (but still getting some housework done), I had a respite Sunday morning.  That's why I started on the shelves. Didn't feel too awful, wanted to get them in the house before the weather got hot and sticky again -- and they were in the way in the garage.

     The shelf work went slowly, with moments of confusion.  Early on, I started to mark the baseboard clearance cuts on the wrong side of the vertical that still needed them!  Caught myself, though not after making dark pencil marks all over it that had to be rubbed out with mineral spirits.  After that, I went more slowly and kept checking, and it all worked out.  Nevertheless, I was pretty well worn out by the end of the day.

      I was up frequently that night.  Monday was worse, nasty chills, dizziness, bloating and pain.  So I made notes about my symptoms, signed up for the "Teledoc" service my employer provides, eventually got through to a physician and, yes, it was just what I suspected.  The doctor called in a couple of prescriptions and I spent most of the day in bed.

      Up about every hour and a half last night; I made coffee and toast, took my pills, called in working-from-home and went back to bed until it was time to actually work.  Now here I am at lunchtime, feeling a little better but not much.

      Maybe next time I won't try to play the Stoic.  We've got better medicine than they had, and correspondingly less reason to grit one's teeth and endure an illness that can be readily treated.

Monday, August 24, 2020


      Over the weekend, despite not feeling very well, I managed to install the custom shelves in my bedroom.  And even grilled a couple of steaks in celebration!

     Darned near didn't get the shelves in.  Because they are very large -- 95" x 63" x 11" -- I designed them to come apart in five pieces: left side; right side with three 11"-wide shelves attached; the top two shelves, vertical divider and horizontal brace; and  two horizontal braces, one at just about desktop height and the other about 10" above the floor. All held together with rabbets, wood screws and, in one spot, a pair of small 90-degree brackets.

     Taking it apart was easy: I laid it face-down on four pieces of scrap wood to keep the front off the garage floor, removed the wood screws, and tapped it apart, stacking the pieces to one side.  I had to make clearance cuts for the baseboard at the back of the right side (and erred way on the side of caution), but that's easy with a small chairmaker's brace, a 7/8" auger bit and nice Japanese keyhole saws.  A little bit of sanding and some wax, and it was ready to bring indoors and sit awhile to get used to the colder, drier environment.

     Things began to go off the rails come assembly time.  There's (barely) not enough open floor space in my room to reverse the disassembly process.  Nope, the shelves had to be assembled in the hallway, on one side, with a lot of clamps to hold things together while the screws were put in.  I laid the heavy vertical (the one with three additional narrow shelves) on the floor and thought about it.

     The first problem: the screws for the full-width shelves go in from the outside -- which would be the inaccessible side laying on the floor.  Easy enough: a couple of 24-packs of a soft drink cans elevated it nicely to set the screws from underneath with a stubby driver.  I have never been more grateful for Tam's soft-drink habit!  A couple of long pipe clamps and short bar clamps got everything seated, aligned and held it while I drove the screws.

     That got the top two shelves in.  The desk-height brace (and the one nearer the floor) sit in 1/2"-deep rabbets along the back and are held with screws that go through the brace and into the vertical -- plenty strong enough when the shelves are all together, laying face down or standing up, but way too vulnerable sitting sideways and held at only one end, especially when I tried to fasten the other vertical in place on top.

     The answer was a handscrew, one of those big, old-fashioned wooden clamps with a couple of threaded handles. I held the brace in place, cranked the jaws of the handscrew tight just above where it fit into the upright, and used a short bar clamp to hold the brace to the vertical.  Another bar clamp from the front front of the vertical to the back of the brace squeezed it tight into the rabbet.  I tightened down the wood screws and left it clamped in place.

     The (temporarily) "top" vertical was a challenge.  The long pipe clamps were adequate to hold it steady while I lined everything up with short bar clamps and screwed the top shelves and middle brace in place.  That left the lower horizontal to be installed; it slotted right in, got clamped down, and fastened.

     Now I had a fully-assembled shelf sitting on two boxes of soft-drink cans and nearly filling the hallway!  I got the boxes out from under just as Tam showed up.

     "Wow, it really was cleverly designed to come apart and go back together!  You need a hand with that thing?" She looked skeptically towards my room.  "Is there going to be room to stand it up?"

     I told her, "Sure."  I was, in fact, not sure.  Especially if I wanted the TV to still have a screen afterward.

     We got the shelves slid into my room.  They were still on one side and 90 degrees away on two different axii from where I needed them.  Standing them was going to require a complicated 3-D rotation, with deflections to clear my bed, the high shelf above the room and closet doors, and the ceiling fan* in the center of the ceiling.  It was about all both of us could do, but we managed.  Barely. Once the shelves were right way up and near their final location, Tam looked at the narrow gap where I had the old desk moved out for clearance and the limited wall space the shelves were planned to fill.

     "Is this going to go in there okay?"

     "Guess we're gonna find out."

     In fact, it did, with a quarter-inch to spare.  The desk fit right into the space, clearing the shelves and the floor register that I'd worried might be slightly blocked.  Nope!  After dinner, I used a small wedge and a couple of little angle brackets to get the shelves firmly in place, and started loading them up.  No pictures yet; the shelves and the room-organizing they required is still very much a work in progress.

     But by gosh, they're in.  And they fit as planned.  Man, that's a nice feeling.
* It came with the house.  I don't have much use for ceiling fans, especially on 1920s tube-and-knob wiring, but it's a big job to take one out.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

I Saved A Bat This Morning

      The text popped at 7:30 a.m.:  BOBBI THERE IS A BAT IN MY KITCHEN.  CAN YOU COME GET IT?   It was our neighbor to the north, whose neat, Arts & Crafts-furnished bungalow is remarkably bat-magnetic.

     I threw some clothes on, masked up, grabbed a pair of heavy leather gloves and headed over.

     She has a sign over the archway to her breakfast nook, proclaiming "This is a cat-friendly house," with several cats in silhouette around the letters.  Make that  several cat shapes...and a sleepy-looking little brown bat, clingin to the top of the frame.

     Our neighbor has seven cats (and eight litter boxes, which she keeps clean).  Three of them were very interested in the bat and two more were hanging nearby, just in case.  The poor bat must have thought it had found a gateway to bat hell!

     We set up a stepladder and I climbed up.  The bat wasn't happy, and said so, well above my range of hearing.  They're kind of fragile, so you don't want to just go grabbing.  There was an empty cardboard box left that the cats had been playing in; I asked for it and held it up near the bat, hoping to chivvy it in.

     The bat climbed right in without being urged!  I closed the box up quickly, climbed down the ladder and headed for the front door.

     We were thinking we could hang the bat in one of her really tall flowers.  I opened up the box -- and the bat worked its way to the edge, spread its wings, and leapt off!

     He fought for altitude at first, swooping crazily the way bats do, picked up speed and height as he crossed the street, and sped towards the trees behind the houses on the other side.

     That's the most cooperative bat I have encountered yet.  Godspeed, little bat.  Godspeed.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Chimichurri Pork

      Tried a variation on the dependable formula:

     A couple of nice, meaty "country style boneless pork ribs," marinated overnight in chimichurri sauce with a little balsamic vinegar added.

     Then I sauteed some fennel bulb.  It's kind of like super-celery and kind of not, with a delightful aroma; fresh, it's a little like root beer!*  Chopped it up into 3/8" thick slices, and then chopped the long, U-shaped slices into chunks.  Along with it, some baby carrots chopped into about 3/8" sections, and as that cooked, I added a bunch (it's a unit of measure, the standard amount they sell 'em in) of chopped green onions and a peeled gala apple, and then made room for the pork without the marinade, cooking the meat just long enough to brown each side well.  As it was browning, I diced three small sweet peppers and sprinkled them over everything.

     With the pork browned, I poured the marinade over it, added a little diced ginger (maybe a half a teaspoon?  To taste) along with a couple of bay leaves and covered the pan while I sliced up a container of fresh mushrooms, then layered them on top with fresh-ground pepper and a little salt.  Covered it back up and let it be for a half-hour, tuned the pork and cooked it until the meat thermometer said it was done.

     The end result was delicious!  The pork was moist and the sauce was pretty special.  Fairly strong, vaguely akin to Carolina barbecue, with a little sweetness from the ginger and apple, but not too much.  I served it over Spanish rice, which soaked up the flavor and calmed it while enhancing it.

     Variations: you could use hotter peppers, and/or add a chopped potato to the vegetables instead of the rice. Moisture from the mushrooms adds to the sauce, so if you leave them out, you may need more liquid.
* Raw fennel bulb is great in salads -- cut it fairly thin for that.

Friday, August 21, 2020


      Hoping I'm better today.  Yesterday was unpleasant. Tam wrapped it up looking at convention coverage, which was, at least, soporific.

     That's actually what I want in politics, especially here in the U. S.: keep it dull.  This was supposed to be a country where it was safe to turn your back on the Federal government and all the politicking associated with it -- and that's not something that's on the menu from either of the two candidates.

     But the politics of this year's Presidential election are so fraught already that anything I can say is about like throwing a full five-gallon gas can into one of the wildfires presently roaring through parts of California: it's not going to change the conflagration other than possibly adding some shrapnel I'd have to endure.  Come November, get out there and vote -- or stay home and vote.  Whatever suits you.   Just participate, and we'll have it out of the way for another four years.

     And hey, here's a thought: make up your mind now that you will be gracious in victory and courteous in defeat.  We run a Presidential contest every four years, just like the Olympics (outside of plague years), and nobody gets to win all the gold medals every time.  We've got a surplus of regular voter-level assholes in this country; about half of them are waving red-elephant banners and about half are waving blue-donkey flags and they are all frothingly angry at one another.  But we elect people to do that for us.  That's what the House and Senate are for, in much the same way that the Presidency is a handy place to heap praise or blame depending on your alignment.  Can we not, just for a little while, leave the bulk of the ire there in Washington, DC where it fits right in?

     Fat chance, I suppose.  Still, I keep hoping we can do better.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Not So Good

      Yesterday, I did not feel well.  In fact, I felt lousy.  Managed to get a little work done, puttering around online, but I never got out the door.

     Doing my best to not repeat that today.

     Tam's still watching the Democrat convention.  I'm starting to feel a little sorry for Elizabeth Warren: try as she might when she delivers a speech, she just doesn't seem to be able to not sound as if she's scolding or at best, chiding the audience.  Conversely, President Obama remains one of the most effective speakers his party has found.  I still don't agree with most of his politics, but he's got a good handle on civics and the get-out-there-and-vote parts of his speech apply no matter what your party or your opinion of the incumbent.  (Mr. Obama's opinion of President Trump is not at all good, and he didn't dance around it -- you expected anything else?  But credit him for frankness.)

     Political speeches tend to make me bilious at the best of times, which yesterday wasn't; I nodded off being hectored by voices down the hall from one or another of the night's speakers and was relieved they didn't pursue me into my dreams.

     Edited To Add: And it turns out I am still sick today. Starting to think I have had a brush with a contaminated onion.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Salmon Patties

      It's Depression cooking: canned salmon, a quarter-cup mashed-up saltines or a slice of stale bread, an egg or two,  If you have fresh onion or celery, chop some up and add it.  A little fresh bell (or whatever) pepper is good, too.  In a pinch, any of the vegetables can be replaced with the spice-rack version: onion powder, celery flakes or even seed, paprika.  Mix well, form into patties and fry in a little oil or bacon fat, and there's your main dish.  It's tasty and filling.

     We had salmon patties from time to time when I was growing up, possibly for the same reason I have them now: to rotate the stock.  Canned salmon will keep for three or four years, while crackers or bread and eggs are pretty much staples.  So it's a dinner you can always have the supplies for on hand, and not especially costly.  Amazon/Whole Foods house brand pink salmon is about $4.50 for a 14.75 ounce can as of this morning.  You can buy fancier salmon -- the red sockeye is supposed to be especially good -- but the pink is just fine for salmon patties.

     There were some canned goods and fresh mushrooms to use up, too, so we had sliced mushrooms, sauteed and then heated up with a small can of peas and a large can of sweet corn, seasoned with tarragon* and Italian blend herbs, a combination that was remarkably better than expected.
* I hadn't used tarragon in years.  Picked up a bottle of the dried herb on impulse and I'm trying it here and there -- a nice mild heat and interesting flavor.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Of Course You Watch Them -- Otherwise, They'll Raid The Till!

      Over on Facebook, a couple of my true-red conservative and pure-gold LP friends have proclaimed, with a kind of outraged purity, that of course they weren't watching the Democrat convention!  Why, you couldn't pay them to watch!

     That's one way.  The problem with it is that if you don't keep an eye on 'em, politicians will rob you blind.  Every four years, the two biggest parties go to the trouble of telling us (at least in part) just how they plan to work the heist -- and who would pass up that kind of advance notice?  Sure, they cloak it in fancy rhetoric and stirring speeches, usually accompanied with the kind of the-crowd-goes-wild rah-rah that covers up the more hand-wavy parts.

     I let 'em run as background noise, rarely looking at the screen.  If someone well-known or unusual speaks (a Republican former Governor, for instance), I'll pay a little more attention.  Tam actually watched parts of it, but she's the bigger political junkie of the household.

     Not much in the way of huge cheering crowds for the Democrats this year, and all the better chance to see what they would do if they had their 'druthers.

     Not a lot of surprises.  Michelle Obama turns out to be a surprisingly effective speaker, in a kind of reading-stories-to-kids manner -- and you might chortle at that, but it's a version of the folksiness that took Ronald Reagan a long way.  Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, I keep waiting for him to say, "They loved me in the Catskills," and launch into one-liners from a classic Borscht Belt standup.  (Sorry, Bern; I grew up when former vaudeville acts still set the standard for TV comedy and accents similar to yours were a sure sign the speaker was going to be hilarious.  You, sir, are no Uncle Miltie, and we're all the poorer for it.)

     Political speeches don't come much more purely political than at a national convention -- and it turns out the more ringing they are, the flatter they fall without the hubbub and spectacle.  Will it matter come November?  I don't know.

     But the Dems pretty much laid out their campaign strategy last night, right there where anyone could see it -- if you took the time to listen.  It will be interesting to compare their performance to that of the Republicans next week.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Another Monday

     They show up one in seven, after all.  I shouldn't be surprised when another Monday arrives.

      One way to make Mondays easier is to have better weekends.  Sunday was pretty good -- along with the long slog of attempting to achieve something resembling civilized life in my room, we had grilled steaks for dinner!

     The hardwood charcoal ran out the most recent time I used the grill.  The lump hardwood charcoal -- actual pieces of wood, not reconstituted briquettes -- ran out much earlier and I had been using up the less-good stuff.

     Tamara, being a big fan of steaks from the grill, went on a quest to find more lump hardwood charcoal.  It's not terribly uncommon, but few stores stock it in much depth, so there's an element of luck involved.

     Tam struck gold.

     She found the charcoal at the supermarket across the street from Kincaid's Meat Market, a long-established and outstanding butcher shop.  Since she was already in the area, she crossed the street and found a couple of wonderful ribeyes.  We had potatoes, mushrooms and side vegetables, so there's dinner.

     And what a dinner it was!  The steaks got the usual treatment: salt, pepper and let them come up to room temperature right before grilling.  I sliced the mushrooms with a large green onion, a couple of small sweet peppers and bacon fat, added a shake of tarragon and a sprinkle of chipotle salt, and set that in a small pot on the upper grill rack.  Potatoes were microwaved until mostly done, wrapped in foil and set on the grill, and some ready-to-cook fresh squash primavera (five minutes in the microwave) rounded out the menu.

     We cleared our plates.  There's something about the good charcoal that elevates even a good steak, and the mushrooms benefit from the smoke, too.

     Started the fire with a single match, a stick of hardwood kindling, a stick of pine and pine shavings.  The pine shavings work so well that I think I'm going to have to keep on building furniture in order to maintain a steady supply.  It's a little more difficult to build a "chimney" of charcoal with the lump version, but it works out.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Day Two

      I'm now tackling the difficult ascent to the top of my dressing table -- or descent, as it turns out.  I have just let layers and layers of stuff pile up -- notes that seemed worth saving, things left over when transferring to a new purse, and on and on.

     Way too much stuff.  I really should throw out the stub-ends of lipstick, instead of thinking, "that's a nice shade, I'll just keep that for reference."  Inevitably, they ended up in corners and under things and now I keep finding them.  Including some shades Revlon no longer makes.

     So, no shelves yet.  Maybe some time this week.  And my room is already a lot less cluttered!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Busy...And Humbling

      I spent most of the day straightening up my room so I can install the new shelves without excessive awkwardness.

     It's pretty hard to keep telling yourself you have a handle on that "organization" thing when you are moving a box of twenty-year-old bank records you didn't know you had to get at what turns out to be the box of a Bersa .22 pistol you don't remember buying, and under it is a two-year-old map to the Indiana State Fair and the ticket stub from a 2017 hamfest.

     The cats have enjoyed the effort -- there were corners under my dressing table they had only hoped to get into before today.

     Maybe tomorrow, I'll get it finished and be able to try to install the shelves.

Friday, August 14, 2020

ZZZ? Gnxxzzz?

      I have slept.  And had a light meal, and slept some more.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

     I can't say I'm 100%.  Maybe 80.  And that's going to have to be enough, even if I did kind of gray out a little just now.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sick Day

      Woke up, felt awful, made a light breakfast, ate it and felt worse.  Ended up working from home, kinda slowly, awkwardly and with frequent breaks.

     Napped for lunch, napped after the end of work, and I'm barely awake now waiting for Tam to bring home dinner, a nice and uncommon treat.  Unfortunately, there is a chance she and the Zed Drei have encountered the slow-moving nightmare that is Keystone Avenue between Kessler Boulevard and Broad Ripple Avenue, or, at best, the clogged mess of an intersection at the north end of it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Green Omelette

      No, it's not a forgotten radio-drama superhero (although...).  It's what I'm having for breakfast.

     There were leftover blue corn chips.  I like to use something to give my omelettes a little structural integrity -- smashed saltines, bread crumbs, even broken potato chips or a little cornmeal.

     Blue corn chips result in a mottled green batter, with bits of yellow and blue.  A little tarragon and some Italian herb mix for flavor rounded it out.  (I've been using a heavy juice glass* in a measuring cup as a mortar and pestle to crush whatever cooked-grain product I use.  It works well.)

     I'd fried bacon and then some fresh mushrooms in the bacon grease, poured the grease out (yum, mushroom grease -- worth saving if you're going to pan-cook lean meat within a day or two) and wiped the skillet down; you don't want more than the least film of oil or grease when making an omelette in a non-stick pan.  A finely diced radish and Manchego cheese completed the filling.  The end result looked, well, a bit scary -- should an omelette be that color?  Those colors?

     Yep, it sure could.  It was as good an omelette as any I've made.
* French-made Duralex.  I happened across one years ago (yes, most of my dinner service was thrift-store stuff, used or cheap; the nice Corningware "Bountiful Harvest" pattern plates, bowls and cups were a real point of pride when I got them!)  and used it for over a decade until it got knocked onto a hard floor.   Not long afterward, I was looking for new small glasses,  remembered how nice the Duralex one had been, and went looking.  Couldn't find the exact style but a half-dozen plain ones weren't expensive and have held up well, with just the right balance between delicacy and durability.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The New Blogger Interface?

      Yeah, about that?

      It removes blank lines between paragraphs.  I can't seem to get them back easily.  There may be a way to slap in some HTML, but what an annoying fix.

     It removes or impedes font size commands.  This is annoying to me, since I routinely set footnootes in a smaller font that body text.

     This text should be small and this should be smaller.

     This text should be large and this should be larger.

     ...And suddenly it all works again.  Go figure.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Ways Of The Wu

      A Wu moves water
      It's a thing that they do.
      It's an essential part
      Of being a Wu.

      I have a small, green bowl of water on the floor in the kitchen, in front of the cabinet to the right of the stove. It's right inside the door from the dining room. There's just enough room to park it out of the way. It's a supplement to the large cat water fountain in the office.

      Holden Wu, our very large young tomcat, will carefully move it out until it is barely inside the doorway, just far enough that an incautious foot can catch it. He moves the water fountain around, too.

      His predecessor, Rannie Wu (no relation), was also a water-mover.

      My yellow tomcat, Huck (also very large), is not interested in relocating water dishes. It seems to be a Wu thing.


Sunday, August 09, 2020

You...Make The Call!

      There's a still from an Indianapolis Black Lives Matter march going around, and on the face of it, it's shocking stuff: two men armed with handguns are standing in the road, in front of a pickup truck they have apparently stopped.  It's usually accompanied by some outrage-inducing text, and on Facebook or blogs, it brings forth a long string of posturing comments about "driving through."

     There are a number of problems with this narrative.  Oh, the photo is real enough; it's from a video, a minute or so in.  The video puts things in better context.

     Everyone involved is in the wrong, including the driver of the truck.  The march appears have been done without a parade permit; the marchers seem to have stopped in front of the studios of at least two local TV stations,* blocking traffic while making statements a bullhorn about a recent police shooting.  While Indianapolis doesn't have a jaywalking ordnance,† they do have one about "obstructing traffic."  It's a misdemeanor.

     Some background for the video: the segment with the truck happened on Meridian, between 12th and 11th streets, where the elevated portion of the "inner loop" freeway crosses overhead.  The camera points West/Southwest most of the time.  Protesters/marchers appear to have fully blocked the street near the 11th St. intersection.  When we first see it, the truck is moving South -- in a Northbound lane.  So something has already happened.

     I have been driving through this intersection almost every work day for over thirty years; I have lived in this neighborhood and one of my work locations is nearby.  At one point, I was parking in a lot North of 12th and walking a block and a half to work.  I know the area at least as well as I know the street in front of my house.

     There is a man holding a handgun at "low ready" in front of the truck, and he is quickly joined by another person doing the same thing.  Indiana has no "brandishing" law; it's a felony to point a gun at someone but having a gun in your hand is not per se illegal.  (There are many situations in which it's a damn stupid idea, however, and I think this is one of them.)

     As the scene develops, the conflict appears to be that the people with guns (and others near them them) want the truck to turn around and leave, while the driver makes several attempts to go forward and towards the group blocking Meridian Street, including crossing to the Southbound lanes; eventually the driver turns the truck around and heads back North.

     Take the politics out of this -- you or I are driving our nice blue truck, maybe down Meridian, maybe headed West on 12th and turning South, when we realize there are people all across the street, doing something,  We slow down and see they've got the street blocked and people are holding signs.  There we were, on our way to [generic location] and they have the street filled up with some kind of a protest!  They're telling us to turn around.  One of them's got a gun.

     You make the call!  Do we:
     A: Get the hell out of there, pronto,
     B: Keep trying to press forward.

     If you picked B for any reason, you're a fool.  Don't think people ought to be in the street?  Call the police; clearing them out is not something one person in a truck can accomplish. 

     I keep seeing commenters complaining, "But they've got no right..."  Indeed, they almost certainly have no right at all to do what they're doing in the way they are doing it; but there they are, lots of them, and there is one of you.  A couple of them are armed, and you have a truck.  You can certainly both manage to injure or even kill one another, and then what next?  You're definitely not going to get wherever you were going.

     In this kind of encounter -- in any kind of encounter with large groups of people doing unexpected things, or with armed people -- your goal is to survive, as intact as possible.  This is real life, not an action movie, and no matter how badass you are, no matter how justified you think you might be to take action against them, if flight is available then fleeing is the best course of action.  It exposes you to the least immediate risk, and it exposes you to the least short- and long-term risk of negative outcomes from threatening or harming others.

     Look, I get that it's not at all satisfying to your ego -- but neither is getting shot in the face through your own windshield.  For that matter, no matter how much you may loath the other person's politics, if you run someone over with your car, you will be tangling with the criminal justice system over it, and that's costly even if you don't face charges, more costly if you are charged and found not guilty, and life-changingly bad if you are found guilty of even the lightest charge. 

     Even worse, by engaging the crowd in a way that implies your errand is more important than the risk to their lives from your driving through the crowd, you are confirming their narrative: your behavior tells them their lives don't matter to you.  You are, in fact, making things worse for everyone.

     There's a public-safety campaign about avoiding flooded streets that uses a simple slogan, one that applies even when the street is flooded with people: Turn around and live.

     Didn't you have something do that was more important than street theater?
* Good luck with that, kids: due to coronavirus precautions, there are no more than four of five people in those TV station buildings, none of whom is allowed to conduct outside interviews.  Field crews edit on their laptop computers and send in video over the Internet or by cellular-phone links.  Most of them haven't been anywhere in their station's building for months except for the lobby, to swap out broken equipment.
† Typical of Indiana law, it works the other way around: you can cross the street anywhere you like, but the only place where pedestrians are preemptively given the right-of-way is in a marked crosswalk.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Annoying At Best

     I spent a couple of hours fighting with Firefox and my anti-virus software this morning.  Lots of crashing.  Time to replace the anitivirus, I think -- it's getting bad reviews.  What do you use?

Friday, August 07, 2020

Puzzled By Coronavirus?

      If the way this virus behaves puzzles you, take a seat right over there next to the immunologists.

     They've got more of a clue than, say, a random journalist or some person on social media -- it's still a puzzle, but they're filling in the edges and trying to sort out the pieces.  It's complicated.

     Lots of people think science works like storybook wizardry: you look up the magic formula or incantation, you consult a seer or a computer, perhaps inspiration strikes, and voila!  It's all laid out, neatly and in full detail.

     The reality is quite a bit more raggedy, a piece here and a chunk there, filled up like a junk-picker's shopping cart and maybe, eventually, assembled into a more-or-less coherent whole.  --And then reassembled, over and over, old bits taken off and now ones added, because that's how discovery works.  Science rarely gets to see the whole elephant all at once; they've got to stick the parts together.

     They're trying.  They're highly motivated; they have parents and families, too.  They miss movies and crowded restaurants and swapmeets and working side-by-side with people whose faces they can see and  all the rest of it just as much as you do.


Thursday, August 06, 2020

Breakfast And

     I enjoyed a nice omelette for breakfast -- bacon, fresh mushrooms, Iberico cheese, a couple of Castlevetrano olives and a little grated Parmesan, with some Italian spice mix and tarragon in the batter.

     And I have been "enjoying" a nasty headache all morning.  They're certainly not getting any better.

     Blogger has kicked me over to the new interface -- which is like a large-print-with-pictures version of the old interface.  That should tell us something, which I will leave as an exercise for the reader.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Shelves, Some Pictures

     A reader asked for "in the works" pictures of my current shelf project.  In the crowded garage, some fuzzy smartphone photos are are the best I can do right now, but they show some of the work.

     The first is a view of most of it, seen from the back,  The cross pieces that help keep it stable and (mostly) square are a little clearer than the flat drawing, as well as the bracing piece that should help keep the top shelf from sagging without losing any depth.  The wood's only slightly wider than the fabric storage cubes that will fill most of the space, and losing three-quarters of an inch to a cross-piece won't do.

     The second picture shows my rough joinery, a bit of a stencil and a couple of pencil lines, one to locate the guide for routing the shelf dado and another that carries the line of that dado to the opposite side of the board.  There's a slight difference in width between the shelf and the vertical: some of the wood was bought new and some is salvage.  When working with dimensional lumber at full size, you run the risk of this.  The front edges are aligned, planing will even out the back a little and past that, I'm willing to accept a sixteenth of an inch error in a mostly-hidden place.  A real cabinetmaker, working with something fancier than pine, buys oversize and uses a planer and jointer to get the wood to the necessary dimensions. This wood has a lot of "character," but you have to accept the irregularities that come with that or spend hours trying to pretty it up.

     There is exactly one non-mortised joint in this entire project, where the short vertical supporting the three small shelves meets the full-width shelf above it.  I thought about it, but the complexity of ensuring everything would fit was already pretty high and it didn't seem necessary.  The short shelves may get a triangular brace under the lowest shelf, to carry downard force over to the main vertical on that side and provide some additional lateral stability.

     The next step will be to wipe it down with methylated spirits to remove the pencil marks and mute some of the stencil markings on the wood.  That calls for having the doors and windows open -- and Tam's car farther away!  It's nosed right up to the shelves

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Two Screens?

     Sometimes a metaphor takes on a life of its own, and becomes a badge.  Sometimes it even gets in the way of thinking more deeply.

     I think both of those have happened with "One screen, two movies," attributed to Scott Adams as a description of current U. S. politics.

     It's compelling image, but it shuts off discussion.  When alluded to in a conversation, it's generally used as to indicate the speaker is on Team Red, but that's not such a big deal -- most people pick Red or Blue and few of them are shy about sharing their choice.

     The big deal is, if people aren't seeing the same movie, they have no common ground.  The metaphor implies the two main parties have no common ground.

     We need them to have common ground.  Sure, the President is just one person, so he (or, eventually, she) is going to be from one party or another.  But Congress is supposed to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to making laws and setting up the various Bureaus, Departments and Commissions that comprise the Federal Government, and that's a whole lot of of people -- a whole lot of people who need to find compromises they (and, I hope, we) can live with.  To do that, they need common ground.

     It'd better be "One movie, two interpretations."  Sometimes those interpretations are deeply, fundamentally different -- but we'd all better hope they're seeing the same movie, or what's the point?


Monday, August 03, 2020

Cardinal Bribery?

     With Tam having got herself into the hobby of bird-feeding, we are both in the habit of glancing out the kitchen window to see what's happening at the feeder

     One of the better sights is a squirrel sliding down the feeder pole backwards from the anti-rodent device with a disappointed expression.  It's the most effective stop I have seen: a large-diameter tube concentric with the feeder support pole, closed at the top and open at the bottom.  Just large enough to fit a squirrel, too long to get around, too fat to climb, and far enough off the ground that they can't leap onto it.  They're welcome to glean fallen seeds under the feeder, which they do, along with the shy and speedy chipmunks.  Usually all I see of the latter is a flash of red-brown and an excited, "Chip!" when I open the back door.

     We found some small holes dug under the fence, into the neighbor's yard and the pile of maple stump-grindings in the side yard. Tam thought they were chipmunk burrows; I thought they were a bit large, but we weren't sure until the morning last week when a common or Norway rat was seen to slide out of the bird feeder's squirrel-thwarter.  We spotted at least two different individuals over the next few days and called an exterminator, who has already set out the usual solution.  (We may lose a few chipmunks; since one of the rat sightings was one of the bastards eating a mostly-dead chipmunk, we're going to call it collateral damage.  Chipmunks are widespread and they will repopulate.)  It's a city; there are rats.  They're usually not in back yards and it may be that the decline in dining out and the richly-filled dumpsters that result has driven some of them to look elsewhere.

     A more attractive and interesting sight are the cardinals.  We've had a lot of them this year, the bright-red males and drabber females.  They have raised quite a crop of youngsters this summer, and they're starting to arrive at the feeder, too.  They're a motley-looking lot, feathers coming in every which way, the boys in a kind of junior version of their adult plumage, bits of red and brown.  Accompanied by an adult, they flutter clumsily to perch on the arms of our feeder stand, looking like sulky teenagers hauled out to a grown-up restaurant.   The adults gather at the feeder, winkling out choice seeds -- and then they take the seeds over to their fledglings and feed them, beak-to-beak! 

     The young birds haven't fully mastered flight; landing on a swinging feeder has got to be tricky, and then digging out goodies from the seedcake, well, it's a lot to ask.  So Mom and Pop chivvy 'em over the feeder and bring them tasty treats, probably hoping the kid will eventually take a hint and start to figure out how to feed themselves.

     I can imagine the conversation:
     Ma Cardinal:  "C'mon, Junior, let's fly over to Tamara's feeder and we'll bring you your favorites.  Just hold onto the crossbar, you'll be safe enough..."
     Fledgling: "Aww, Mooom!  It's soo far!  Can't I just hang out in the nest?
     Pa Cardinal: "Nothing doing!  And don't argue with your mother.  You don't want to be a student pilot forever, do you?
     Fledgling: "Awwww. ...Well,  okay...."

     It sure looks like that's how it goes!