Saturday, February 29, 2020

Farewell, Miss Wu

     Rannie Wu, Tam's cat Random Numbers J. Wu of the Underfoot Wu sept, has departed this world.

     She had been sick off and on since Autumn, fighting a sinus infection that kept coming back; she'd get over it, go for a month or a week or a few days and get sniffly again.  The vet had begun talking to Tam about quality of life issues, and of the importance of evaluating how the ancient and venerable Wu was coping.  At eighteen and a half, her age was roughly 90 in people years.  She'd been fighting kidney disease for at least four years.

     The most recent sinus infection, she wasn't bouncing back from.  Early this week, the vet gave her subcutaneous fluids and renewed her antibiotic prescription.  She took the drugs well, but she'd stopped eating and nothing would tempt her.  Then she stopped drinking.  She was still sleeping in the crook of my elbow every night.   She was spending her days on my bed atop a woolly throw or in her cat-egg on the window seat in the dining room, and painfully making her way to a register any time the furnace ran, so she could bask in the warm air.  But she kept losing weight.  She had stopped blinking.

     She was already scheduled to return to the vet for further evaluation and hydration in the coming week.  Tam rescheduled the appointment for this morning.

     Rannie was limp as a dishrag and painfully thin.  She slept in her usual spot and even went to the register while I was getting cleaned up but she was listless.  She'd been crying out in pain the last several days.

     At the vet's, the doctor gave Rannie a thorough exam, then consulted with Tam and they decided it was time.  We were able to spend quite awhile with Rannie Wu.  Poor, dear Rannie Wu.

     I miss her.  What a fine cat she was, and how long she carried on.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Corona, Corona

     The pandemic fad worries me more than the pandemic itself.  Most recently, it has mutated with this quadrennial's version of Presidential Derangement Syndrome and produced two new variants, one of them a slight variation of a recurrent strain of the disease and the other a new type:

     COR20-T1(coup) claims Mr. Trump will use the virus as an excuse to postpone the 2020 elections (forever) and seize the reins of power.
     There is a vaccine, which is to remember that the individual states run the elections, parties essentially run their own primaries and that the State and local Election Boards and local party organizations are grubby little petty fiefdoms, with a tight hold on their own power.  If you think your local organizations are going to step aside because the Chief Executive in Washington has taken the Imperial crown from the hands of the Pope and crowned himself, you haven't been paying any attention to how things work in this country.  The party out of power will howl loudest, of course, but neither one will go along.

     COR20-T2(dupe) says the coronavirus will bring Mr. Trump down and rubs its hands in glee, welcoming the virus as a liberator.
     Presumably this will occur in much the same way as the influenza pandemic of 1918 brought down President Wilson,* which it did not.  I do not care to speculate about the smallness of a mind that is delighted by the prospect of a pandemic disease sweeping this country and the world, or that thinks it will do anything except bring Americans closer together in the effort to cope with it, rallying around the banner of our shared response rather than for or against any particular politician.

*  *  *
     As for the actual coronavirus, it's not here yet and when it does arrive, you're not going to get it from the handle of a shopping cart or a toilet seat.  It will be sneezed to you.

     Yes, it can linger on surfaces, but you're washing your hands before you touch your face or make a salad, aren't you?  Everything I can find online from actual medical sources says this thing isn't spreading by greasy handprints but by bad manners.

     Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; if you haven't got a hankie or a tissue, use the inside of your elbow -- and then go wash up.  (If you were a real sport, you'd wear a disposable face mask as soon as you realized you were sick.  Sneezing in one is unpleasant, but it's contained.)  Hot water and soap work; hand sanitizer works; good manners work -- if you use them consistently.
* The odious Wilson, who re-segregated the Federal government.  I make a point of mentioning this, because his racism is all too often whitewashed and it did untold damage to this country.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Another Busy Morning

     In a rush.

    I had occasion to look up some interesting stats this morning -- someone on Facebook was chiding Canada's government for not going to 100% renewable energy, as Portugal is reputed to to have done.

     This is interesting.  There's a lot of hydroelectric power in Canada.  The population is about three, three and a half times as large as Portugal's.  Could Canada do it?

     There's one little problem.  Portugal has a much friendlier climate.  The mythical average Canadian* uses nearly five times as much energy as the average Portuguese.  They're gonna need a whole lot more dams and windmills.  Solar?  I'd need to see the numbers but it may not be practical in most of the country.

     It's nice to dream, but to make dreams come true, you have to do the math.
* As we all know, most Canadians are above average, but too modest to admit it. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ripped Off

     Yesterday morning, I had to torch my credit card account.  Someone in Los Angeles had used it to sign up with a kind of sketchy food-delivery service, ordered an expensive Chinese dinner, and the transaction had bounced because the place wasn't open.

     Or that's how it looked.  My bank called me after I'd spent some time online trying to puzzle it out and they took immediate and drastic action.  Since the card had been renewed only a day earlier, there weren't a lot of possibilities for physical theft of the number and the only place I'd updated it online was a major retailer with whom most of us have a love/hate relationship.

     Frustrating, scary and annoying, and the round of password-updating it set off was no fun, either.  And that's life in this century, I guess.

     I've been lazy about not carrying and using cash.  Time to go back to basics.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

At Least There's A Bagel Later

     Well, that was fun.  There wasn't a line at the phlebotomist's office/lab cubby and I was in the chair looking away from being stuck (I flinch if I watch) about as soon as I had my coat and zip-up sweatshirt off.

     She took three vials of blood and had me verify my name and birthdate was on each one once they were all full, having already had me hold a folded square of gauze over the puncture.  She put the vials in the outgoing stack, stuck a Band-Aid over the gauze, and that was that.

     There's a decent bagel joint wedged into one corner of the parking lot for the strip mall housing the doctorplex I go to.   It's a short stroll, despite a mean little wall that prevents walking directly from the big parking lot to the smaller one around the bagel shop.  What's fifty feet of sidewalk when a nice toasted, buttered poppyseed bagel is on the line?

     The lack of breakfast and coffee was gnawing at me pretty good by the time I sat down with coffee, bagel and a nice collection of the vitamins, supplements and analgesics I'd skipped earlier.  I was even missing the cranberry juice a little, but there's usually a bottle in the vend-o-bots at work, or at least "cran-grape."

     Few things taste better than a freshly toasted bagel on an empty stomach, especially with a decent cup of coffee. I darned near called in "human" and took the rest of the day off, but duty won out.

     P. S.: There wasn't any cranberry-grape juice in the machine at work.  Two dozen rows of sugary (or artifical-sweetenery) pop, one row of ghastly energy drinks that added extra caffeine, taurine and probably Ovaltine, betadyne or thiotimoline somewhere in the fine print, half a row of iced tea and no juice at all.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020


     Remember, it is entirely normal for a person to swallow an average of eight spiders in their sleep every year.* So it stands to reason that it's also normal to help ensure that your spouse, roommate or the person asleep next to you on an airplane is normal.

* No it isn't. That "eight spiders a year" factiod is specious nonsense.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Presidenting: It Varies

     Politico gives it a click-baity headline, but they take a look at the present and past of Presidential and Executive branch partisanship, press relations and the like that makes for interesting reading.

     I have pointed out before that being Roman Emperor was a position with responsibilities and powers that slowly accrued and evolved; sure, Caesar was the first guy to grab it and hang on until he got stabbed, but it didn't come from nothing and it grew and grew afterward.

     The United States has a long tradition of being willing to entertain doubt, to question our assumptions; it goes back to this country's roots and can be construed as anything from a Zen-like acceptance of contradiction to utter hypocrisy to Socratic self-doubt.  I think that ultimately, it is a strength -- and one we are going to be badly in need of, by and by.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Persistence Of Memory

     Salvador Dali had it right: our clocks are melting, all the sweet green icing running down.*

     Yesterday, a tanker truck carrying four thousand gallons of jet fuel was wrecked and burned on the east side of Indianapolis, shutting down the heavily-used interchange between I-70 and I-465.   Amazingly, no one was killed; passers-by rushed in and pulled the driver to safety.

     This morning, across several channels, TV news people were remarking on the unusual event, musing that nothing like it had happened before.

     But it has.  In October 2009, an LP tanker traveling on I-465 near I-69 on the the northeast side of Indianapolis flipped, caught fire and exploded.  A couple of passing drivers stopped and carried the driver away from the fire.

     History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes; given the amount of traffic on the ring freeway and the preferential routing of hazardous cargo away from surface streets, this is not unexpected.  The remarkable thing is that on both occasions, people stepped up and helped out at considerable personal risk.  --Or are remarkable people, brave people, decent people, a little more common than pessimists would have us believe?
* No, the link's up there.  Click on the asterisk.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Last Night's Debate

     Tamara watched the first forty-five minutes or so of the Democratic debate.  I listened from the next room.  Even from there, it was obvious that Michael Bloomberg was coming in for a well-deserved drubbing.  For a pool of candidates who are already anticipating -- and occasionally, actively -- campaigning against an outspoken, big-money New Yorker who they believe to be racist and high-handed, the former Mayor was easy meat: his major differences to our current President amount to little more than hairstyle, hand size and a far more massaged social media presence.

     That doesn't mean he hasn't got a chance, but if there was one thing all the other candidates on the stage last night agreed on, it was that they disapproved of Mr. Bloomberg.  Made me feel all warm inside for nearly thirty seconds, it did, since it was the single notion that I knew we had in common.  For that matter, it's probably the only thing that they've all got in common with Wayne LaPierre.

     There was only one non-millionaire (at a minimum) on last night's stage (and Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg has years in which to catch up).  When even your fellow top-of-the-heap dwellers loathe you, that should be a message.

     Sometimes common ground is an awfully small patch of dirt.  Sometimes it's the size of Manhattan. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Books: Author In Chief

     It's a fascinating book, and so far scrupulously fair:* Craig Fehrman's Author in Chief.  He looks at past Presidents and Presidential candidates in a way no one else has: as writers.

     It's a useful angle.  Looking at what they have written -- or, in a few instances, caused to have ghostwritten -- sidesteps partisanship and even much of History's judgment to give us glimpses of the men themselves: Jefferson's contradictions, John Adams's uncontainable prose, Coolidge's reserve and dry wit.

     Too often, Presidential biography offers only a choice of hagiography, exposé or a tiresome compendium of dull detail.  Fehrman's having none of that; he moves right along, like a tour guide in a specialized library, picking up individual volumes, discussing their circumstances (the unfolding tragedy that drove Grant's Memoirs is a striking example), style, substance and the writer's literary background.  He looks at each man square on, describing flaws and strengths without rancor or bias, and then moves on to the next.  Like any good guide, his path is slightly discursive and looping, knitting together a coherent historical narrative.

     I find myself making notes on the books he mentions that I'd most like to read.

     The author himself, I learned this morning, is a local boy, more or less ("lives in Indiana," which covers a lot of ground).  The book is national in scope.  It's worth reading.
* A mark of our times: the book stops with the Obama administration.  Somehow, The Atlantic reviewer nevertheless managed to give our current President three fat paragraphs of prose in which political and literary disdain heterodyne in a remarkable jeremiad that has only the least thread of connection to the book under review.  I grew up in a world in which otherwise sane people were seeing Communists under every bed and were even on rare occasion right, a world in which a President evoked vein-throbbing anger, but not even Richard Nixon or the Reds ever managed to be so omnipresent through journalistic loathing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It's The Berries!

     Ordered a "pi-top [3]" Raspberry Pi-based laptop recently.  It arrived last night and I put it together.  Quite a nice toy -- excellent display, good keyboard, built-in battery and it comes with a breadboard that plugs right onto the easy-access bus for experimenting!  Aimed at bright kids but works for adults.

     Not the cheapest pi, but one of the handiest form factors and very useful for hardware I/O.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Why, Bill?

     Big Windows update last night seems to have changed my desktop background.  That's what I get for using the default, but it's still annoying.

     Y'know, the old Bell System could be pretty high-handed, but they never showed up unannounced and repainted my telephone overnight.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Good Old Ford Wrench

     Sometimes known as a "monkey wrench," for no discernible reason, the early smooth-jaw adjustable wrench has largely been supplanted by worm-drive Crescent wrenches and copies, but the older type is nevertheless handy.

     A problem is that many of the old ones are worn out and wobbly.  Old, soft steel, heavy use and designs with weak spots contribute to this.

     So imagine my surprise when I encountered videos of a guy rebuilding old tools using such a wrench that looked new.

     It turns out he sells them.  I saved up and got myself one.  Nice wrench!
     (It's laying on a very rough plot outline for The Veteran, a story I keep tinkering with.)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Another Day Of Not Posting

     I woke at the usual time, fed the cats and went back to bed.

     Up later, did a little laundry, had a snack, did more laundry, moped about, had a late launch, did some more laundry and now I am going back to bed.

     Fatigue is an increasing problem for me.  I never seem to get enough sleep -- eight hours isn't doing it.  There's a good chance I know what's going on, and I have been on medicine for it before.  I'll talk to the doctor about it at my yearly physical in a couple of weeks.

     Need to eat more seaweed.

Friday, February 14, 2020

It's Two Degrees, Or Maybe Seven

     When I woke this morning, it was nine degrees outside, or perhaps three.  It depends on which device you ask.  The television is reading the lowest, so I'll go with that.

     The national map shows a wide swath of single-digit temperatures, from Kansas and the Dakotas though Maine.  Most of the upper South is at least within kissing distance of freezing and a drive from Chattanooga to Jacksonville this morning will net you at least three of the four seasons, from an overcoat to short sleeves. If you're not on a coastline (and south of Virginia or fronting the Pacific), it's pretty cold where you are.

     This may be winter's last big push.  Tomorrow, we're expecting a high in the low forties. I'm looking forward to it.

     Roseholme Cottage is still a balmy 66°F, though the dish cupboard is not nearly as warm and the floors, well, the floors are why we don't walk around barefoot.  Coffee cups can be prewarmed, but toes are better kept warm.  The cats are generally avoiding the floor, though Huck overcame his dislike to pursue efforts towards stealing my breakfast (two attempts this morning, both thwarted) and removing clothespins that hold the litter box liner (one attempt, unsuccessful) and a quick game of "chase and be chased" (two of each -- he escaped both times and caught me both times, and is quite proud of it).

     Hibernation still seems like a good idea, but I have checked the company handbook and there's no provision for it, so off I go.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Winter Checks In

     Yesterday afternoon, sleety rain turned to wet snow.  Snow that had actual impact as it fell.  Snow that made a sound as it hit.  The sound wasn't the glittery, cricket-like crunch of freezing rain nor the whooshing rush of ordinary rain, but a series of tiny thuds and thumps, pattering down relentlessly.  By early evening, streets, sidewalks and cars were all coated with an inch or two of heavy, wet snow.

     It was slick, too.  On the drive home, I saw (and veered carefully around) the results of at least two rear-end collisions, and with each on, I was more inclined to hang back, to slow down smoothly and well in advance, and to check my rear-view mirrors a little more often.

     Of course, there are always the drivers who think slick roads mean all the rules are off.

    One of the most striking -- or nearly -- was the clever lad who got himself half in the bus lane, sitting there with his turn signal on waiting for a chance to pull a U-turn.  He came very close to being the filling of a sandwich with a bus on one side and a big SUV on the other, surviving only because everyone else was willing -- and able -- to give way.

     This was followed up by the driver who hung back at a "NO LEFT TURN"-posted green light, waiting for the bus-specific signals to change and the bus to move on so he could force his way into the bus lane and turn left, instead of proceeding to the next traffic light two blocks north like a common citizen.

     As any fool will demonstrate, when it snows, green lights become optional, yellow ones are green and red stoplights are really just yellow with a tiny frown.  Who knew?

     One more thing: clear the snow off your rear and side windows, you ignorant heathens.  I don't care if you just came off a decade driving tanks for the Army, peering out at the landscape through a tiny gap is not how we drive motor vehicles out here in snowy civilianland.  Most examples of that clever plan were moving at about the speed of a WW I tank, which would have been more of a comfort if their taillights and turn signals weren't almost totally obscured, too. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

We Missed The Stump Grinder

     He stopped by while Tam was at lunch yesterday.  Much later, I received a faintly aggrieved voicemail from the tree service: their guy had stopped by and all the gates were locked!

     Yes, they most certainly were.  They still are.  That's why we have fences and gates, to keep people out.  It's for their protection.  I left the tree company voicemail back, suggesting that calling first or at least knocking on the front door would improve the odds of getting access.  This wasn't a problem for the tree removal: they named a day well in advance, and knocked at the front door when they arrived.  The next day they worked, they called the afternoon before.  I didn't expect the stump grinding work to go any differently.

     It wasn't until much later that it came to me that one of the tree stumps is outside the fence.  It was dark when I got home and it's dark now, but I don't expect I'll see a neat pile of sawdust where it used to be.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

You Might Be A Geek If

     The desk for your ham radio station looks like this....
     Telegraph keys from five different countries and across a span of 80 years, plus a 1930s oscilloscope.  And a few other things.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Sunday Sunrise

     I glimpsed it at an angle, out  the kitchen window, and leaned over the sink for a better look.  The eastern sky was lit up in neon-pink.

     Tam was awake, but barely.  "Tamara?  You might want to bring a camera out front."


     I grabbed my camera and took a snapshot while she was selecting the proper camera from her collection to take a proper photograph.   There was a dusting of snow and the winter-bare trees were silhouetted against the sky.  Even running in auto-everything, it's a pretty picture.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Saturday Hamfest

     Got out on the road yesterday, with my usual reluctance to travel, and made my way to Danville, Indiana, for the Hendricks County Hamfest.

     There were a few things of interest there, and a few old friends.  I saw an interesting little Simpson product, an upscale version of a combination power/SWR/modulation meter, and got the price down to something I didn't mind paying.

     Then this showed up:
Owned by a little old lady, who only put it on the air on holidays and never at full power.
     It's a Globe Scout, made sometime in the 1950s by World Radio Laboratories, a medium-power transmitter in the low range of "medium," 65 Watts for Morse code and 50 Watts AM.  The power cord was pretty crunchy, with a couple of breaks clean across, the kind that promise fireworks if you plug it in.  The seller had a different idea: "I had that on earlier."

      I gave him the old raised eyebrow. "You did?"

      "Yep. I was picking stations up, too."

      That rated both eyebrows. "That's kind of unusual. " (The Globe Scout is a transmitter.  It has no receive function.)

      He hemmed and hawed a little as it dawned on him what he'd said.

      I came back later and bought the thing. The price was right, and what a great story to go with it!

Saturday, February 08, 2020

It Did It Again!

     Temperatures got just above freezing yesterday, then dipped back down and we had a nice coat of snow overnight.  Oh, not much, less than an inch, but enough to make everything slick.

     February is determined that we won't miss out on winter. 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Slippin' And Slidin'

     Schools are delayed this morning, at least in the "ring" counties surrounding Indianapolis.*   Last night when I left work, up at the isolated North Campus, the long, paved lane was a sheet of glass; we'd had snow and sleet all day, with the temperature hovering near freezing.  Overnight wasn't much different, except for being just cold enough to freeze all the water already on the roads and add a layer of wet snow.

     It's not much snow.  If you live where the stuff piles up all winter and the drifts have, by now, passed ear level, you'd barely notice.  But that's the problem: roads change from damp to wet to frozen without looking any different -- the tires of you car know the difference, though, and so will you, sometimes just a little bit too late.

     It's no fun.  It's less fun when you many motorists around you have yet to learn that four-wheel drive does not carry over to four-wheel stop.

     Be careful on the roads today, please.
* Indianapolis and Marion County being one and the same, thanks to Unigov.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Sick Day, With Men In The Trees

     Yesterday, as I typed my blog entry for the morning, I was fighting an increasing headache and dizziness.  It just kept getting worse, adding ear pain, tingling fingertips, and worsening typing and spelling.

     I kept on, doing my best to ignore it and remember what the Stoics had to say.*  Along about getting into the shower time, I realized that walking wasn't going well, standing still was even more difficult, and as for showering--  If you're seriously nearsighted, the shower is pretty daunting on a good day: I have to find soap and shampoo, nailbrush and washcloth by color and touch, and rely heavily on keeping things in the very same spot.  As unsteady as I was, the process was going to be unsafe at best.  After dithering and waiting just a little longer to see if the aspirin and acetaminophen was going to help any more than it already had, I gave up and called in sick.

     Back to bed for most of the morning.  Around eleven, my phone rang.  It was the tree service.  Yes, they'd planned on next Monday, but today's job had gone quicker than expected, and did I mind if they worked on my trees today?

     Bad weather was closing in -- rain, snow and cold.  But it was just overcast and chilly, and the ran wasn't supposed the start in earnest until late afternoon.  This time of year, outdoor work chases the weather.  Of course I said yes.

     Tam moved the cars out of the way and the crew showed up ahead of schedule.  By noon, a half-dozen guys were trimming the hackberry stump in the back yard as low as chainsaws could manage, followed bu parking a crane truck above it.  They ran a tracked knuckleboom with a basket in from the front yard and with an hour, they were taking down the poor old broken maple, cutting away big sections and hoisting them up over the house and the power drop to set them on a flatbed or feed their woodchipper.

     They were, in fact, hoisting the sections of tree right over my room on the way from the side yard to to the flatbed.  I adjourned to the living-room couch and then to the office when I decide the living room was too close and too noisy.

     The rain started in about three in the afternoon, just a cold, light mist.  The crew had the tree down to one short and one long trunk by then, and kept on; as the rain got stronger, they took the last several sections out, removed their heavy machinery, and cleared the away the debris with powerful leaf blowers and plain old rakes.  They were done long before sundown, just as the rain turned to sleet, and I went back to bed.

     We're just about out of trees.

     I woke up in late evening and watched The Court-Martial Of Billy Mitchell all the way through.  An interesting film, though it rearranges history and personalities a little to tell the story.  Nevertheless, you can set him down with Hector Bywater as someone who had a pretty good idea how things might go in the Pacific, and Bywater published a few years after General Mitchell.  Mitchell's ideas about air power were thoroughly vindicated -- much too late for him; he was court-martialed in the mid-1920s, essentially for stubbornness and a lack of diplomacy, and died in 1936.  He stood up for what he believed, at great personal and professional cost.  Few people do.
* Most Stoic advice along those lines can be reduced to, "It won't get any better if you pick at it."

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

No Love Lost; History Honored

     Tam insisted on watching last night's State Of The Union address.  It turned out to be quite a show.

     Mr. Trump stayed on-message and on-script.  An awkward skipped-handshake moment with Speaker Pelosi at the beginning may have prompted her omission of "I have the high privilege and distinct honor of..." from her introduction of the President.  And she capped it at the end of his speech by tearing up her copy of the text.  During the speech, she did applaud a few times, interspersed with rather a lot of grimacing and mouthed phrases, quite unbefitting to the decorum of her office and role.

     Is this the same Speaker of the House who shushed her fellow Democrats for cheering the announcement that the House would seek to impeach Mr. Trump?  It seems petty.  Did she expect him to come out in sackcloth and ashes?  You'd think she'd know the man better than that by now.

     I'll give her this, she managed to make Representatives Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (and a few of their peers) look positively diplomatic in boycotting the event: why show up if you're only going to mug disapproval (especially if you can issue a solemn-sounding tweet instead)?

     It was a well-delivered speech, carefully stage-managed and generally successful.  I continue to doubt that U. S. Presidents have quite as much influence over the economy as they have all claimed since at least FDR, but Mr. Trump is no different from his predecessors in that regard.

*  *  *

     The next time the seats in the House of Representatives are re-upholstered, can we lobby them to not use a "Greek key" pattern?  I don't care how historical it is, I'm tired of handing fuel to the idiots on the Left and the Right, who look at the intersection points and draw entirely the wrong conclusion.

*  *  *

     Many of the Democrat Congresswomen wore white, in honor of women's suffrage and the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920.  The TV commentators took note of it, but missed something more subtle.  On wide shots, I began to notice odd colors on the men.

     Red and blue are popular necktie colors among male politicians, and various versions of the yellow "power tie" are a perennial favorite.  You can expect those three colors to predominate.  But audience shots showed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was wearing a bright purple tie, then cut to Representative Jerry Nadler, who was wearing a tie of a particularly bilious green hue.  This seemed unusual, and I kept watch for anything similar.  Across both parties, a plurality of the Congressmen were wearing purple or green ties -- and those colors are not-so-coincidentally the other colors of the Women's Suffrage movement.  Most often seen on a sash or scarf, or as the outside bands of a three-striped ribbon.

     This is a crowd that knows symbolism.  They didn't pick those ties (or, possibly, their wives didn't pick those ties for them) by accident.  It was a nice touch.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Suddenly, No Tree

     It was a good tree.  It was, sadly, no longer a sound tree; the center was split internally.  And yesterday, it was taken apart and the very largest parts were hauled away intact, to go do some good in the world. The branches and limbs were turned into chips and I'm told there are uses for that, too.

     What we're left with is a stump in the back yard, a stump that is six feet across at the widest point: it was a big tree.

     Removal involved a large, man-carrying, caterpillar-tracked knuckleboom; a telescoping crane with an arm about a hundred feet tall, a woodchipper truck and a flatbed, plus a good-sized crew and an assortment of chainsaws.  It was not a small effort. 

     The stump will be ground up in a week or two.  Today, weather permitting, the crew will come back and work on the smaller tree, a maple that has been shedding twigs for a couple of weeks now.

Monday, February 03, 2020

They're Here!

     The tree guys arrived, neither too early nor too late.  They are presently looking up at the very big tree in the back yard and pondering.

     It's not impossible; it's not even the most difficult one they've seen this year.  But it's not easy -- there's a lot of tree, not very much yard, and rather a lot of power and telephone wiring that passes under the canopy.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Taking Them Down

     Today, my ham antennas have to come down.  Partially, anyway, because starting tomorrow, the tree service may begin removing the giant hackberry tree and the two-of-three-trunks-remaining maple.

     Both trees have been involved in supporting my antennas, though the hackberry was not a major part of the supports for my G5RV.  The "Carolina Windom" off-center-fed multiband dipole is another story -- the feedpoint transformer hangs from the maple.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to to anything with it before Spring.

     My guess is that they'll show up inconveniently early or not at all.

     The tree service started out strong -- established firm, professional estimate, in line with other estimates I'd gotten for the work in the past -- and then, once I'd accepted he estimate but before any money had changed hands, they went silent.  No reply to e-mail.  Okay, they were busy, then we had the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but then....  I telephoned them last week, and they were nice but non-committal (bear in mind, these are big trees in tight quarters, power and telephone drops strung on each side of them, calling for specialized equipment), then called back that afternoon and asked, "How about next Monday?"

     Okay.  So down come the antennas, the grill and firepit get tucked in the narrow walkway between the garage and the fence and I'll see what happens next.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Don't Want To Wake Up

     There is a non-zero chance that my life since about, oh, 1989 or '90 has simply been a lengthy, detailed dream. '94 at the latest.

      Things as simple as Amazon: there used to be a purveyor of Victoriana/Civil War-era stuff called "Amazon Vinegar & Pickling Works," and I ordered items from their mail-order catalog. What if they were online and sold everything, especially books?

      The World Wide Web is just the old e-mail+Usenet News Internet revved up and in full color.

      eBay and Etsy? Wouldn't it be great if there was a hamfest/junk store that was open 24/7/365?

      The Freewrite/Alphasmart/The Writer devices are just my old manual typewriter, made convenient and paper-free.

      Blogging and my pal Tamara Keel? I'm a very shy, introverted person and a bit agoraphobic. Wouldn't it be great if there were a way to meet people that wasn't in person and didn't involve leaving the house? And what if one of them became my best friend?

      And on and on. Of course, now I'm starting to feel the touch of age, with arthritis and poor eyesight; the dream may be taking a dark turn. I still think there's a small but non-zero chance that I have been hallucinating for thirty years, and God only knows what kind of terrible real world is really out there.