Friday, July 31, 2020

They Made A Pan For Me?

     A start-up that calls themselves Our Place has pretty much made my ideal pan.*  It's early days yet; I only got the Always Pan Wednesday.  But at this point, I'm pretty much sold; the only remaining question is durability, and time will tell.

     So far, it is everything the manufacturer promises. Kind of a cross between a small Dutch oven and a frying pan, it's not oven-safe but other than that, it'll do most anything you need it to.

     I was checking out the website a few months ago, and they were running a sale that took the price from "Should I risk it?" down to "Gonna have to try this."  The lead time was nearly three months but they were getting rave reviews.  And it's nice-looking.
     It ought to hold up well: the deep pan and high, domed lid are sturdy, simple aluminum castings, the included strainer/steamer is stainless steel, and the long handle and knob on the lid are some kind of high-temperature plastic that feels a little like Delrin.  There's an included wooden spatula that parks neatly on a short peg on the handle, with the business end hanging just inside the pan through a gap in the pan and lid -- and the gap lets steam exit when the spatula is removed, or you can rotate the lid slightly and close it off.  And the pan has pouring spouts copied from Grandma's cast-iron skillet and every bit as handy.  But wait -- there's more!

     The non-stick lining was promised as some kind of next-level ceramic, dishwasher-safe and slicker than, well, any other pan you've got.  I've had ceramic non-stick pans, but they were fussy to care for and not as good as the modern Teflon replacements.

     This one is not fussy and almost preposterously slick. 
It is much deeper than it looks in this photo, too.
     See that?  Nice picture of a pan, hey?  --I just cooked bacon and eggs in that pan, drained off the grease and wiped it out.  It hasn't been washed yet.  If it didn't have high sides, I'd be hard-pressed to corral a fried egg to flip it.

     I made Hoppin' John last night -- fried ham chunks, with a lot of fresh onion and a little celery and carrots (plus fresh mushrooms, because I am just that kind of heathen), and once that's all translucent and sizzling, you drain the grease, and add canned chilies, crushed tomatoes and blackeyed peas.  It's not the most pan-friendly of entrees, and to make matters worse, a small amount of leftovers sat in the pan while Tam and I watched two episodes of the second season of Homecoming.†

     The pan wiped clean as a whistle.  Even a little sauce spattered down the side and on the outside of the lid (the inside of it is nonstick, too) came away clean.  A little soapy water and a rinse and it's ready to go.

     I'm liking this pan.  Looks like just the thing for grilled cheese sandwiches or fancy pork chops and vegetables or just about anything else I might cook for dinner.
* They make some other housewares, too -- plates, bowls and glasses with a functional, pleasantly-shaped and no-frills design esthetic that I find appealing and that could fit in just about anywhere.
† Also highly recommended.  You have to watch the (marvelous) first season to know what's going on.  The narrative structure, cinematography and editing remain unusual and engaging, and the music is a wonder.  It's based on a podcast drama -- and the podcast is well worth listening to.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Wednesday Dinner

     So I cooked a brisket:


     Tamara took a photo of last night's dinner -- a chimichurri-marinated brisket slow-cooked in a sealed pan on the grill. I added potatoes, onion, carrots, red bell and Poblano peppers and sliced mushrooms about an hour or 45 minutes before the meat was done.

      I had some misgivings at about the one-hour mark, and added some water. The bottom did get a little well done, but the rest of the meat was very tender.  Next time, I'll cook it fat side down.

      Wasn't too sure about the vegetables and the chimichurri, but let me tell you, they were absolutely wonderful. Just a little heat to it.

      There's not really a recipe for this. Brisket gets about an hour per pound over indirect heat (rake the coals to the sides of the grill) and the veggies are added with about an hour to go. Use whatever vegetables you have -- turnips are good in this, celery would work, whatever your garden grew too many of. (Zucchini? Maybe. They kind of want tomatoes, and so it goes....) Keep it covered the rest of the time, let it sit a few minutes before slicing the beef and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

From An Away Game

     Posted elsewhere, a few days ago:

     "The Peelian principles of policing tell us that 'the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.'

     "Our own history makes it clear that the Press is the public and the public is the Press, the Press after all being simply members of the public who give (and draw!) attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

      "The cops are us. The reporters are us. The protesters are us. The people who choose initiate force are, alas, us. It really is that simple."

     I will note (for those convinced that "reporter" is just a guise) that a person holding a camera, a notebook or a smartphone has only got one hand free -- which makes it a hell of a lot harder to shoot fireworks at police, or even to chuck rocks with accuracy.

*  *  *

     My focus has been on Press-police interaction and what the First Amendment protects.  With attention to the wider conflict most visibly taking place at present in the Pacific Northwest:

     Historically, especially in post WW II history, terrorism and street-level violence intended to further a goal is often aimed to do so not as a direct effect but by stimulating a reaction.  It is entirely possible that, if there is any goal to the rioting past breaking things and making a mess, the goal is not to burn down a Federal courthouse or police headquarters, but to provoke a harsh and violent reaction from police -- any police at all, local, State or Federal.

     If this is so, then playing the game at the surface level is a losing strategy.  This is not some 19th-century Napoleonic War set-piece.  The only way to win is to embrace and, essentially, co-opt the non-violent elements while discrediting the violent ones.  It worked in Indianapolis.  I don't know if it can work in Portland; a tipping point may have passed.  But what's happening there now hasn't been improving the situation.
*  *  *

     P.S. A commenter -- whose comments I have not been publishing for some time now -- has leveled an accusation:  "Yet, oddly, you have censored all the comments that disagree with you."
     This is untrue on its face, since I have published some comments that disagree.  And it demonstrates precisely why this person's comments aren't getting published, since he or she shows a deep lack of comprehension of who is limited and what is protected by the First Amendment: I choose not to publish comments that I find ill-informed, intemperate or invidious.  I'm not the government; I can publish or not publish whatever the hell I like.

     And so can you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

I Give Up

     No matter how carefully I explain it, I still get comments that amount to, "But why can't the police just stamp on anyone who disagrees with them violently enough, along with everyone else in the vicinity including the Press?"

     Did you feel that way during the Obama administration, when a routine Federal bulk-buy of ammunition via a long-term contract had many of my Right-wing gun-owner friends running around, waving their hands and talking about the Feds ginnin' up for a war on the Heartland?  Every power you let the Feds exercise unchecked is available to whoever is running the show, and we've been alternating parties in power pretty regularly for quite awhile now, with no sign of it changing.

*  *  *

     I also keep getting told how the "major media" is "100% behind" all the destructive civil unrest.

     So, first off, nobody reads National Review or Breitbart?  Fox News is not "major media?"  Because the last time I checked, they had slightly better viewership ratings than CNN.

     And second off, even CNN was decrying indiscriminate destruction and looting.  When protests here in Indianapolis gave way to graffiti, fire-setting and window-smashing, every single one of our local TV news operations -- we have five -- condemned it, along with the shambling remains of our local newspaper.  Four of those newsrooms are run by major network affiliates; the fifth is an interesting also-ran, the former CBS affiliate, and if there was anything extra to be had from siding with the destructive elements, they're hungry enough to try it.  They didn't. 

     Locally, there appeared to be very little personnel overlap between daytime protestors and nighttime wreckers.  After IMPD decided to be less confrontational and more interested in making sure everyone went home okay, it looked like the protesters displaced the would-be rioters and looters: there were still as many police officers around, but they were guarding the people waving signs and chanting slogans instead of staring them down.  The officers were guarding the city, too.  We had a few marches that went on well past curfew after that change in tactics -- but we didn't have any more smashed windows and eventually, things wound down.

     If you meet strongly-motivated protests with force, you just get more force; and once those gloves have come off against one group of protesters, there's no reason to not take them off against another.  Unless you're eager to see a Second Amendment activism day or weekend at some state capitol go very badly, you should be concerned about police use of force.  It's certainly not always wrong -- but it is far better to avert a riot before it starts, and in a way that defuses escalation.

     Our governments operate with the consent of the governed.  You cannot manufacture consent with tear gas, pepperballs and less-lethal weapons.  You cannot beat or shoot people into embracing the virtues of our system of government.

     And I can't thump any sense into the heads of people who are so mired in the rah-rah excitement of the Red vs. Blue contest that they cannot remember any history or conceive of any future.  Go get yourself another beer, and keep swearing at the TV screen.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Bill Of Rights Is Not A Menu

     You don't get to pick and choose among the items in the Bill of Rights.  They all apply.

     Whenever I write about the First Amendment, I get the same kind of pushback and quibbling that shows up whenever use-of-force, especially firearms, is under discussion.  In use-of-force, people ask, "So I can shoot the bad guys when...?" and spin scenarios.  It's the wrong question, framed the wrong way.  It's not "can" or even "should."  It's "must," as in, "When must I shoot?"  Certainly, no sooner the necessary and only in response to an articulable deadly threat; persons with far more training and experience than I have are better able to address that.

     On the First Amendment, people still think it must have implied exceptions and secret codicils -- surely it cannot protect unpatriotic thoughts or writings?  Surely it doesn't protect silly people who think being required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance constitutes flag-worship?*  Surely the press can be be chivvied away or even arrested when their presence inconveniences the police?

     The last question is usually phrased, "When the police have issued a lawful order to disperse...." Such orders are usually issued to rioters; if a reporter is directly participating in the riot rather than gathering news, sure, the order applies.  By the same token, a person in a blue vest marked PRESS, taking pictures, shooting video, recording audio or taking notes is, in fact, not rioting, and the order to disperse does not apply to them.  Doesn't make any difference if they're on the sidelines or in the rioting crowd, though the latter location does expose them to whatever dispersal methods the police might then use.

     No, journalists aren't special.  What is protected is the activity, and it is essential to our freedoms.  When police can operate in secret, hidden in night and fog, suppressing reports of their actions, there is no check on them.  Conversely, a police force that attempts to conceal public acts cannot be assumed to be operating in the public interest.

     A free country does not suppress ideas.  A free country does not abide police acting in secret when public demonstrations get out of hand.

     You cannot defeat bad ideas by suppressing them -- and the best way to show up violent nitwits as dangerous fools rather than role models is to shine a light on them, and on fair and responsible police and civic action to render justice.  That can't be done in the dark.

     The Bill of Rights isn't an a la carte menu; undermining part of it weakens all the rest.
* It most certainly does, though it took a whole series of court cases to decide.  I cited the case in my previous post.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The First Amendment: Freedom vs. Authoritarianism

     It pains me to have to write this.  It's probably going to cost me some readers.

     But it's an important principle, one at the very heart of our country's strength, and it appears to me that we're in danger of losing it:  The First Amendment.

     Freedom of thought; freedom of belief.  Freedom of expression.  Freedom of the press.  These are very basic things, things that are supposed to be set outside the government's grasp.  They apply not only to ideas we like, or to ideas that most people agree with -- they also apply to unpopular ideas.  Repugnant ideas.  Wrong ideas.  The most effective way to fight bad ideas is to counter them with better ideas, not by attempting to suppress them.

     In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court wrote, "There is no mysticism in the American concept of the state or of the nature or origin of its authority.  We set  up government by consent of the governed and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. [...]
     "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. [...] Freedom to differ is not limited to things  that do not matter much.  That would be a mere shadow of freedom.  The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order."

     When I wrote about law enforcement apparently targeting journalists, in reports a Federal judge found so credible he granted a temporary restraining order, I received a few comments.  They were...heated.  Vitriolic.  The people who wrote them are free to hold such ideas, of course.  I'm not obliged to post them on my blog, but I will quote from them in order to address the significant concerns they raise.

     Let me be clear: to the extent that modern "cancel culture," largely a phenomenon originating in the Left, focuses on silencing unpopular opinions, it is a bad thing; and to the extent that that it turns government powers to that end, it is contrary to the Bill of Rights.  But the fact that one side of a conflict is bad does not necessarily mean the opposing side is good; they can both be bad, and to varying degrees.

     When a commenter writes, "I am so tired of watching Portland Antifa and their I'll get away with arson and battery etc that I want to see the mobs machine gunned into hamburger. I want to see Portlands gutters running with the blood of these idiots. If that includes a bunch of lefty so-called journalists, it's just collateral damage and no great loss," the course of action he endorses is completely contrary to American values.

     Individuals who commit arson and battery indeed ought to be arrested by police and changed with their crimes -- but the person standing next to them, waving a sign and jeering, is not equally culpable.  In any event "machine-gunning" is not how the government should or, Constitutionally, can respond -- and if they could, there would be nothing to keep a future, Left-leaning Administration from doing the very same to a rioting mob of Right-wing protestors.

     As for "lefty so-called journalists," there's nothing in the Bill of Rights that limits press freedom to one political leaning or another: John Stossel, Glenn Greenwald, Sean Hannity, Rachael Maddow and some nitwit with a blog are all protected from government interference, even when they're offering up nothing but opinion.  It is generally understood that the government is expected to not shoot them, especially when they have taken pains to make themselves identifiable as "press."

     Dreams of  "gutters running red with blood" are best left to authoritarians: fascists and communists, either of whom will kill you just as dead for saying the wrong thing.  That's not how it is supposed to work in the United States of America.  When you urge it, you are urging the overthrow of our system of government.

     Another commenter was irked at the press:
     "I duuno but I have not seen any evidence of a true independent reporter for some time."
     I'm not sure what this means, especially in a world of blogs, Twitter and YouTube videos open to anyone.  Most professional journalists do work for some entity, and they answer to some kind of an editor -- but they operate pretty independently: it's the only way you can cover a developing event.  And it is true that if we send reporters working for National Review and The Nation to cover the same event, they're going to deliver very different views of it -- not because they got their marching orders from above, but because they freely chose where they wanted to work, based in part on congruent outlooks.

     "Also the police know that if a protest is not broadcast in living color it can die out."
     That doesn't give the police the right to censor or deny coverage.  That would be the opposite of a free press.  Still, it seems nonsensical; I have seen everything from long-term "Occupy" camp-outs to Second Amendment rallies get lots of attendance despite receiving only cursory TV coverage.  It takes more than the chance to grace TV screens to get feet on the ground -- especially for more than one day.

     "We saw that with the Vietnam war. Put all the losses up and cover up the wins and before long you have a vibratent anti war faction."
     This is a distortion of history -- of something that was on TV screens every night of my childhood and teens.  Opposition to the war in Vietnam started in 1965 with opposition to the draft, especially in the age group subject to it.  Protests grew after that, still focused on the draft, escalating to the mass turning-in of draft cards in October, 1967.  The Tet offensive in early 1968 resulted in the first press coverage implying the U. S. military in Vietnam was weak -- with causality lists to support that impression.  The truth was closer to a strong U. S. military, fighting a war under conditions and with aims that were so misaligned with reality as to make the war unwinnable: they'd been a given a mission that left them stuck throwing men into a meatgrinder.  Under such circumstances, a "vibrant antiwar faction" was inevitable.  You're blaming the media for what should be laid on Congress and the Presidents who were running that "police action."

     "But sure, let's make a protected class that wants to tear down civilization. That will end well."
     The men who wrote the Bill of Rights, and who got the Amendment passed in the U. S. Congress and the legislatures of the States, were convinced that by protecting freedom of belief, freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of the press from government meddling and limitation, they were protecting the exchange of ideas fundamental to the United States of America.  I'm quite sure there are reporters, commentators and editors who would love to "tear down civilization," everything from radical Islamic fundamentalists to black-flag anarcho-communists to pipsqueak Nazis to some kinds of crazy I can't even conceive of.  Our best weapon to fight them is to address and counter their destructive nonsense with constructive sense, with better ideas -- ideas that include freedom of the press.

     You cannot improve a free society by making it less free.  That road only leads to one place, and it's not freedom.

     History is unmistakably clear about that.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Targeting Journalists

     Whatever is going on in Portland, Oregon, it's ugly.  Trying to set an occupied building on fire is evil, no matter who the fire-setters and their prospective victims might be.  Trying to ambush someone with a hammer is not a legitimate act of protest.  Waving signs and chanting slogans?  A-okay.  Blocking traffic?  Not so much.

     --Precisely where on the scale of despicable actions one might rank turning pepper spray and less-lethal weapons on clearly-identified journalists who are not in the body of a crowd of protesters, rioters or plain old malefactors is an open question, but it's not admirable.  Especially not when it is done by law enforcement personnel.

     That's not just my opinion; the U. S. District Court for the area thinks the behavior is credible enough and disturbing enough to rate a temporary restraining order, telling the various law enforcement agencies operating in Portland that they cannot target journalists covering the protests and unrest.  (Here's one news story summarizing it.)

     There are reasonable exceptions -- if J. Random Newshound has gotten him- or herself into the midst of a violent mob that gets tear-gassed (etc.), that's just part of the risks of the job.  But deliberate targeting of a journalist is now officially forbidden.

     What have we come to, that it is necessary to remind the people charged with enforcing the laws and maintaining order that the First Amendment is a fundamental part of the body of this country's laws?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

This Just In--

     The National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda has issued a Severe Brainstorm Warning for all of the United States.  At 7:45 a.m.m Eastern Time, mental disturbance "Stone" was expanding, and may strike anywhere, at any time.

     Persons in the warning area are advised to seek a comfortable area in the living room, family room or bedroom of their home.  Comfort food, favorite movies and TV shows, children, pets and other family members should be close at hand throughout the storm.  Even favorite songs will be of some assistance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

It's Not A Football Game

     The interesting thing about street-level politics -- from the most civil of electoral contests to scuffles on the asphalt, from sign-waving to brick-throwing, is that it's not a ball game or a Western: you are not obliged to pick sides, and even if one side is less worse than the other, that doesn't mean they can't both be in the wrong.

     Which brings us to lovely Portland, Oregon.  All I know is what I read in the papers -- and half of that is wrong.  For sure they have civil unrest, violence, rioting.  It looks like the rioters are the usual mix of sincere activists, would-be Marxists, and people who just showed up to set fires and break things.  For sure there is a Federal response, using officers who appear to have missing or obscured nametags.  The Mayor doesn't want them there and neither does the state's Governor; DHS showed up, and refused to speak to local reporters.

     Even well-connected local media can't come up with answers.

     Many of my Facebook acquaintances are cheering on the Federal actions in Portland, despite the Constitutional reservation of general police powers to the States.  How is it jackbooted thuggery when the Feds take on a bunch of well-armed, frustrated ranchers and yet not jackbooted thuggery when the targets are Left-of-center and dreadlocked instead of Stetsoned?

     I don't know.  I'm not at all in favor of violent protest or setting fire to Federal offices, but I'm not real keen on the kind of arrest-tag-charge or release of persons not on Federal property we're seeing from the Feds, either.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

And It All Lurches On

     I have stopped asking "What's next?"  I don't want to know. 

     Increasingly, it looks like our species' present troubles are the answer to the Fermi Paradox.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Did Not Feel Well Today

     So I didn't post any thing.  I worked outdoors a lot Saturday and it was not a good idea.  I was exhausted and achy all day Sunday and Monday was not much better.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Truth About White Knights

     It's a bleak little parable, I suppose, but a hopeful one, too.

     Start with the fairy-tale paradigm: the weeping princess imprisoned in a tower, under some threat or another, while a white knight rides to her rescue.

     Pretty thrilling, hey?  But it's just a story.  In real life, the white knight's got a vested interest in keeping the princess locked in the tower: as soon as she is rescued, he's out of a job.

     Worse yet if the princess gets out on her own.   If someone happens by and tells the princess there's a ladder from her cell's balcony to the ground, just out her sight, the white knight will become enraged.

     Me, I have always had to be a self-rescuing princess (with a hint or two about finding the ladders), and I figured out the truth about white knights a long time ago: they don't have your best interests at heart, only their own.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Pork Chops!

     I did the pork chop thing again the other night, marinated chops cooked with fruit and vegetables:
     This is right after adding the sliced peppers; they need to cook just a bit more.  It was delicious!

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Whimble!

     Against expectations, I seem to have acquired a whimble.

     No, this doesn't call for pills or an ointment.  A whimble is a kind of carpenter's bit brace with an offset upper handle (the "pad" end), useful when extra torque is needed for boring large holes or in hard wood.  Or they're run faster in softer woods, though perhaps with some risk of making less-neat hole.

     No pictures of mine yet; it's pretty rough and will need some shimming where the chuck attaches, but it seems to be working okay.

     A whimble was the last type of brace I didn't have.  So now, if there is some urgent need for a whimble and a capable person to operate it it, I stand ready.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

It Keeps On

     Now I have to change the IPs of a bunch of simple widgets -- that all have to see one another.  And they're all multi-channel input-output devices with considerable setup per channel, which will be awkward and sloe to rebuild if I lose it.  So, you know, no pressure.

     All this is because IP networking is apparently voodoo rather than technology.  There have got to be tools that would let us analyze the traffic problems that occasionally jam everything up, but all of the highly-trained experts tell me no, no, it can't be done -- and warn me not to try.  "Can't be done."

     Okay, then.  Let me just press these cuneiform letters into soft clay, and as soon as it hardens, we'll run it through and see if it works.  And if not, well, there's plenty of sticky mud left.

     There's no such thing as a Wireshark, hey?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

You Know What's Not Fun?

     It's not fun when you put in weeks of work on a poorly-documented project, only to discover the physical side is largely moot, while most of the software set-up you have done turns out to have been actively harmful and has to be removed and redone from scratch, thanks to an undocumented but known bug.

     Gee, thanks.

     On the other hand, I get paid the same, if my efforts are productive or useless.  Which turns out to be way less fulfilling than it might be -- the money's nice and every other Friday is a little party in my bank account, but an ornamental stone dog might be able to do most of my work just as well.

     One more frustration in a time of frustrations. 

*  *  *
     Meanwhile, in Miami, the infection rate is 28% and they have testing lines that stretch for blocks.  Maybe they're standing too close to one another while they wait?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


     I woke up tired this morning.  Fed the cats, thought about it for a couple of minutes, and went back to bed with the alarm set for an hour.

     An hour and a half later, I was...better.  A nasty, bilateral version of the one-sided migraines that have dogged me for years is well underway, but as soon as the OTC painkillers kick in, they should take the edge off.

     It's probably stress -- the ongoing coronavirus mess and some pressure at work to complete my part of a major project have combined to give me a lot to worry about.  There's a hell of a lot of that going these days, of course, and complaining about it doesn't make it go away.

     On the other hand, I enjoyed a nice roast beef sandwich for lunch yesterday, with curly fries.  That's the first fast food I have had in months.

     And the "wild canaries" are showing up!  They're really American Goldfinches and according to the experts, there are some around Indiana throughout the year -- but they wear dull-colored plumage in Winter and only in Summer do the males turn brilliantly yellow with black wings; the females become a little more resplendent too, and we get bright streaks of color, bobbing around, raiding small seeds and swooping away.  It makes me smile to see them. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It's Off To Work....

     And so on.  But I think I will splurge today.  I have not been to a drive-through since the pandemic shut-downs, but today, I think I'll give it a try.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Project Day

     I spent most of today working on a project -- more shelves.  These wrap around a dressing table, and provide space for many more of the 11" fabric storage cubes:
     That's drawn in LibreOffice's "Draw," which at least as nice a simple drawing program as I have used, quite comparable to the MicroSoft product for this kind of work -- and if you are in the habit of "thinking with a pencil," it is great for noodling around to see what fits where, especially since it will work to scale.  This is just a front elevation; all the parts are 11" pine boards except the three cross-braces, rabbeted in at the back.  The little stairstep at bottom left is an offset to clear the baseboard.  I'll have to cope the verticals at the back for baseboard clearance as well.

     The second page -- you can see a thumbnail at the left -- is a cutting guide.  Today I got all of the pieces cut and routed grooves for the top two shelves.

     This won't be a quick project.  I'm willing to let it take however long it takes. The next step is to do more routing.  After that, I'll sand it, assemble it -- it's too big to maneuver into place in one piece, so some parts will be glued, others just held together with screws -- plane, sand, clean it and apply some kind of finish.  Probably more linseed oil, though I'm wondering about the darker "Danish Oil."  It will take days of spare time.  There's one other piece, a plywood backer that will hold a mirror over the desk, but that will go in after the rest is all in place.

     I finished up the day by grilling meat on a sword!
     Our corner market had chimichurri marinated Brazilian-style steaks, three little ones bent into U shapes and impaled by a flat skewer, almost a pound and a half total.  Grilled over the good hardwood charcoal and accompanied by grill-cooked fresh mushrooms, stir-fry vegetables (microwaved from a bag -- hey, it was a project day!) and some nice spiced rice/quinoa mix, it made a good dinner to end the day on.

     And next, Monday.   Oh, well.

Saturday, July 11, 2020


     We got the blame thing working.  I still suspect somebody, somehow managed to block the exact octet we had been using, somewhere in the chain of more-or-less managed switches between here and there -- but I also don't care, as long as it's working.  Someone else can unearth and defuse that UXB at some future date; it won't be me.   The likes me and my old-technology peers of aren't allowed into the managed switches because, well, golly, if the specially-trained professionals can foul them up so badly, think of the damage us ignorant, blundering Philistines might do? A-hem.

     Afterward, I went for a walk in the very breezy outdoors and visited the biggest milkweed patch that I can get to -- sweet-scented and filled with bugs, including a gracefully flittering Monarch butterfly.  They're home to many of the good old red-with black spots, capsule-shaped milkweed beetles, who will test your hearing by chittering at you in very high frequencies if you pick one up and hold it to your ear -- if you can; they're wily and quick, and will drop like a rock if your shadow crosses them.  I can't hear them any more, so I don't try to catch them.  The milkweed, some plants standing nearly six feet tall, is also popular with iridescent, metallic-looking Japanese beetles, an invasive species but interesting-looking.  But it's the big bumblebees that like them most of all; I only saw one one honeybee* but every plant had at least two bumblebees fighting the breeze to hang on, and one cluster of blossoms had three of the large bees, getting in one another's way as they loaded up with goodies to take home.

     It doesn't take away the stress, but it makes it easy to bear.  Just about to the end of this project and then I'll see what's next.
* Apparently milkweed is a risky venture for the smaller bees -- they can be trapped by the flowers!  Man, nobody's got easy work, not even the bugs.

Friday, July 10, 2020


     Over the least couple of weeks, I have been beating my head against a wall over a couple of essentially penny-ante network configuration problems at work.

     There has long been a conflict of expectations at my work between my department of old-school geeks and the IS/IT department of new-style geeks.  Merging our departments didn't help.  IS/IT still has their own command structure and while they want (and generally get) access to everything my department works with, it is not a two-way street: everything they work with is deemed far too mysterious and arcane to be touched by those of us in the pocket-screwdriver crowd.  We think 99.9" uptime is risibly inadequate; they think it's a golden achievement.

     I can't get too specific -- even that last paragraph is pushing too much, but I'm so frustrated that I don't much care.

     We have a big job underway and one corner of it needs to be on the network.  That's a simple task, one we have done over and over, but this time, it's somehow -- and unexplainably -- Just Too Hard.  I've been just going along, doing what I am told, and I'm sick and tired of it; unless there has been some sudden huge flash of insight on the part of my opposite numbers, today I'm going to see how big a sword I can take to this Gordian knot to get the project moving forward.   I'm not spending another afternoon doing piddling tasks and staring anxiously at my e-mail every few minutes and sending an inquiry every hour, only to be told at the end of the day that "they forgot."

Thursday, July 09, 2020

So... Um, Nope. Nothing.

     I am pretty much drawing a blank.  There's not a lot to talk about that isn't highly-politicized, or at least an on-ramp to a highly-politicized argument, and that can of worms is already rancid.

     Tam and I are watching Stranger Things, which is...interesting.  I'm not usually much of a fan of TV and movies with teens and kids in the leading roles, but the series setting of "Hawkins, IN" is very loosely based on Marion, Indiana* (minus the Mississinewa River and plus more hills than actually exist) and I just happen to have spent several years there.  That bought it time enough to draw me into the story.  It's interesting so far.
* This is from some web-published material that includes a series-official map of the town.  There is a case to be made for a Southern Indiana location based on later events, but Season One includes references to Jonesboro as a nearby small town, which puts Hawkins very near Marion, so...  There are even quarries around Marion.  Nothing so grand as the one in the TV series, but they exist.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Right Up The Ol' Nose

     I had to get tested for an active COVID-19 infection -- again -- yesterday.  My doctor wants to see me in her office (so much for skipping that*), but my symptoms were close enough to their criteria for a lingering version of the stuff that testing was mandatory.

     And of course, there's a significant mismatch between how long it takes to get the results (three to five days) and when her staff wanted to schedule me (Friday).

     The test itself?  A lot of waiting.  No Lilly-style drive-through assembly line this time.  The parking lot was pretty active, people pulling in and out, people getting tested in their cars every half-hour or so by sweating spaceman, but turnover was slow.  You were supposed call in from your car on arrival.  I did so and promptly got put on hold for twenty-plus minutes of repetitive music-on-hold.

     I was reading a book from Kindle in my lap and holding my cellphone in my off hand when I nodded off  and dropped the phone, which vanished under the driver's seat, speaker blaring.  I had to get out, open the back door, and grope blindly until I found it.   That was about as exciting as the process got.  Eventually  then the office picked up, took my information, asked what I was driving, and promised someone would be out "shortly."

     Shortly had become pretty tall when, forty-five minutes later, a young man came clumping out in a moon suit, sample kit in hand, headed for my car.  After the usual "name, spell it, date of birth" exchange, he had me look up at the doorframe and leaned in, distressingly-long swab in hand, warning that it was going to be "irritating like a turned up shirt-collar label."

     That's another thing that's not like the test at Lilly: this was no soft and gentle sterile cotton swab, but a nasty little sponge on the end of a long plastic wand.  It was indeed irritating.  Having the thing up in my sinus cavity made me cough, which I tried to suppress without a lot of success.  There was a good reason for the nurse's moon suit.

     And now it's tic-tock, tic-tock, for results Friday at the earliest.

     Today, I've got to go get some blood work plus a COVID-19 antibody test, one my doctor says is highly reliable.  And won't that be fun?
* Blood pressure medicine aside, I'm questioning why I even have a family doctor.  What's the point, really?  They run doctors like machines on an assembly line these days, so there's none of the long-established personal relationship one used to have with one's physician.  I'm too old for my robust good health and happiness to matter -- nobody is more invisible than a middle-aged woman, in healthcare or elsewhere -- but not so old that I'm fragile.  There are doc-in-a-box places everywhere and plenty of good ERs nearby if anything actually noticeable happens.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Doctor Today

     Just a regular doctor's appointment -- which I had forgotten until the medical outfit's automated system sent me a text Thursday of last week, after their close of business.  Too late to ring them up and ask if if this trip was really necessary, and could we not just do it over the phone?

     Yeah, thanks for the short notice.  I don't want to go.  It has been my intention to avoid medical facilities until we got to the other side of this pandemic* unless there was dire need for it.  Had I remembered this appointment in time, I would have cancelled it or tried to change it to online.  I went to the website, where you can ask for prescription refills, ask questions of the doctors or nurses, pay bills, fill out forms....  In fact, just about anything except cancel an appointment, which it specifically mentions Cannot Be Done Online.

     Hold on, my cellphone is ringing.... 

     Just got off the call.  It was my doctor's office.  Guess what?  It's a video visit after all!  I'd better take my temperature and blood pressure first, then.
* Which may not be the word to use, for a very encouraging reason: the death rate has to be above a certain level for CDC to call a spreading virus a "pandemic."  The death rate in the U. S. from COVOID-19 has been dropping and is now quite close to that threshold.   It may head back up again; for obvious reasons, deaths lag new infections by several weeks.  Conversely, the medical profession has learned at lot about managing the worst cases, which is helping survival rates.  For the present, there's a chance this thing is turning less deadly. 

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Pork Roast At Roseholme Cottage

     It was something I'd been wanting to try for awhile: a version of my Mom's Sunday Pork Roast, a dish that cooked slowly in the oven for hours, filling the house with a maddeningly tantalizing aroma.  For the last hour, it would be joined in the pan by potatoes, onions, carrots and celery, which cooked in the juices under a little aluminum-foil "tent" and emerged darkened and flavorful.

     The oven here at Roseholme cottage is not so great; the elderly gas range is overdue for replacement.  With temperatures in the 90s, running it for several hours is a non-starter.  I do, however, possess an entirely adequate charcoal grill.  It's not going to make the outdoors noticeably hotter.

     Our neighborhood grocer has been stocking nice-looking pork roasts recently -- and the price is a fraction of the cost of beef.

     Obviously, I had to try it.  With a pork roast in hand -- or in a very large freezer bag -- I made a marinade of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, a little garlic powder and a teaspoon of onion powder, some thyme and rosemary, black pepper and shichimi togarishsi, and gave it a day to soak.  (Some kind of fruit would have been a nice addition -- cherries, a fresh pear, an apple, possibly even citrus.)

     Yesterday, I stoked the grill.  I've been using excelsior -- plane shavings -- from nice pine to start the hardwood kindling and charcoal, and they work a treat.  I built a big chimney of kindling and charcoal, and set it going with a single match.  It turned out to be barely enough charcoal to do the job -- but enough, nevertheless.
     After a mere two and a half hours, hey, presto!  I thought some chili peppers would be nice to add.
     Done enough to add vegetables.  We had a few to use up: potato, onion, carrot, celery, turnip, radishes, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts (Yes, I dropped a mushroom.):
     I covered the pan with aluminum foil.  After an hour that included some desperate poking together of coals and blowing on them to to get the heat up, it looks good--

     --From any angle.
     And just as good on the plate!

     It was very tasty, a bit spicy, and the roast was plenty moist.  I'll be trying this again, and starting with a little more charcoal.  Was it as good as my Mom's?  Probably not.  But I wouldn't have been ashamed to serve it to her.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

A Glorious Fourth

     It should probably be the Second, but 18-Century editorial processes being what they were, it was the Fourth when the Declaration was in final form, so here we are.

     And it is glorious, the significant opening move of the most successful revolution in the history of the world.  You may not see as many fireworks this year; you may not be spending time at the show pressed check by jowl with strangers and friends (and, look, that's for the best), but there are still backyard and small-scale or socially-distanced "...Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more," as John Adams wrote, and even a little of his "...Pomp and Parade...," just from a safe physical distance.

      And the best part of it, a degree of freedom unparalleled in human history, a set of basic assumptions about the inherent individual rights of everyone that would later be partially codified in the Bill of Rights as a list of things that the government was to keep its sticky hands off?  We still have that, too.

     I have seen and read a lot of fussing over public health measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  And they are annoying at times.  The shutdowns go well beyond mere inconvenience, but we've already had 'em, so big a lump that if there are more, it's not going to perturb the economy at anywhere near the same scale as has already irrevokably happened.  But masks, handwashing, social distance?  Those things are not infringements.  Not only by custom of long standing -- John Adams and his Revolutionary peers lived in a world of epidemics and pesthouses, of risky and sometimes compulsory variolation* followed by quarantine -- but by black letter law and judicial decisions.

     You are free.   Free to make your own decisions, for good or ill.  But you are not free to make decisions for other adults, and that includes the decision to be exposed to a dangerous pandemic.  Go look the fireworks, or set off a few yourself, and reflect on our history, which is far more than a collection of partisan talking points.
* No less a personage than George Washington ordered soldiers of the Continenal Army to undergo this early method of smallpox immunization.

We Got The Good Tech

     It was the same guy who unsnarled things the time, in December of 2014.  In a world of overworked and undertrained telephone techs, he's only the first item, too busy: the man knows what he is doing and works at it calmly and methodically.  I don't know what he found (it is the Phone Company, and there are things mere mortals are not meant to know) but apparently it was over at the box that turns our connection from the phone switch (the former CLifford CO) into a POTS line, a couple of streets over.

     We're back in business, dial tone, DC, Internet and all.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Technical Note

     The Phone Company is supposed to come out today and fix our dial-up line at Roseholme Cottage.  If they show up at all, odds are better than 50-50 that they'll kill our Internet access, since it's on a different pair in the same drop.

     So I'm posting this now.  If you don't see anything from me for a day or two, it will most likely be an AT&T-created outage.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Cooking By Short-Wave

     The twelve-year-old microwave oven failed last week.  Tam bought it not too long after she moved in; my dinky 700-Watt zapper with a balky mechanical timer wasn't enough oven to keep her fed.  She got a modern one, 1100 Watts and big enough to warm up a whole ham.*  It worked well for years.

     Last week, the microwave finished failing: the "buttons" on the control panel have been gradually dying for a couple of month.  It's a problem Litton and Amana solved in the 1970s, with non-tactile glass-surface touch controls -- but the solution didn't stick.  Membrane switches are cheaper to produce and less finicky.

     But they do fail.  The "1" and "6" buttons when first, then the whole left half of the number panel and, slowly, all but the rarely-used controls at the top and the "start" and "stop" buttons.  It wasn't much of a problem, really.  On that model, pressing "start" calls up a thirty-second run and additional presses add thirty more seconds, up to a total of five minutes.  If you're mainly using the microwave to bake potatoes and defrost leftovers (the "defrost" button worked until the last), it's not a problem.

     Then the "start" button died.  Punching around, the only one that still worked was "popcorn," a three-minute, 100% power cycle.  That was usable but it was clearly time.  I ordered a new microwave and it showed up yesterday.

     Why didn't I fix the old one?  Membrane switches is why.  It'll be a bespoke layout, conductive material screen-printed and fused onto plastic.  If it peels apart -- not all will -- you can clean them up, even paint new conductive goop over the old pads, but it's a short-term fix.  There's not much to work with there and nothing will hold up as well as the original.  It's a hundred-dollar-or-less consumer good.   The part that does the actual microwaving?  That's all working fine.

     The Amana RR9 chassis I remember fondly from having been a tech in the factory of a subcontractor that built the controllers for them, way back before the not-yet-public Internet snuck off college campuses?  That thing cost as much as a crummy used car.  The limitation was magnetron life, and those were field-replaceable.  The controller interface was simple -- power in, switched power out, and a pair of leads for a temperature probe in the higher-end models, all on a Molex connector.  In a pinch (or, say, a test equipment maintenance shop), you could replace the controller with a toggle switch; add a pushbutton in parallel to pulse the tube to make popcorn.  Sell a family one of those ovens, and they'd have a microwave for thirty years -- if they could afford to buy it in the first place.  Which is possibly why cheaper, overseas-made ovens displaced them from the market.
* This is not to imply that Tam considers a whole ham a proper snack.  My old microwave, though, wouldn't even fit a some dinners.


Wednesday, July 01, 2020

"Accidental" Dinner

     There was a nice smoked ham steak in the fridge.  Not a lot in the way of vegetables -- some canned stuff, plus half a red bell pepper, fresh carrots and radishes.  I was due for a trip to the grocery, but my work day ran late.

     I didn't want to make Hoppin' John again -- besides, I didn't have any onion or blackeyed peas.  Maybe fry up the ham steak and make succotash with canned corn and cannellini beans?  I thought about that on the way home but it seemed a bit...thin.

     In the kitchen, I looked at the available ingredients, and cubed up the ham with a little garlic powder and a teaspoon of onion powder, then chopped up a half-dozen baby carrots and a couple of big radishes, following with the bell pepper, diced, once the rest was well-cooked.  Adding a can of the white beans, about half drained, and then the corn, well-drained, resulted in a nice-looking mixture.  I put in three bay leaves, some sage, parsley, celery seed, basil and some black pepper, covered it and let it simmer for ten minutes.

     The result was a thick and flavorful stew, a few steps away from ham and beans.  We ate it with some garlic naan left over from chili the night before,* which worked very nicely.
* The Indian bread is hardly cornbread but pairs well with chili -- and keeps better than any cornbread you can buy.  Think of it as a puffy flour tortilla.

The Vice-President Says "Mask Up!"

     Yesterday, Vice-President Pence joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in advising Americans to wear a mask to help control the spread of COVID-19.  Could we please go back to planting signs in our yards and putting bumper stickers on our cars to show our political affiliation now?