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!

Sunday, August 02, 2020


     I finally completed assembly of the somewhat-complicated set of shelves that will, if all goes as planned, wrap around my dressing table and add more storage in my room.
     The design is something I have been fiddling with for over a year.  I started measuring and cutting wood over a month ago.  Dodging rain and working in terrible heat and humidity, progess has been slow.  Eventually I had everything cut, and this last week I routed grooves for the shelves and cross pieces, and yesterday, I started assembly.

     Had to recut a couple of cross pieces; I changed the plan on  the fly, messed up the new measurements, and had to revert to the original design (shallow dados in the verticals rather than full-thickness notches where the cross pieces connect.  But it worked out.

     It still needs to have the offset added at lower left, and both of the verticals need to be cut to clear the baseboard.  Then it will get cleaned (pencil marks mostly wash off with methylated spirits), planed, sanded, finished (probably linseed oil again) and then taken apart into a few subassemblies so I can bring it in and put it together in place.  Maybe another month of spare time in all that.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Mushroom Season

      They've shown up in small numbers a few times after rain, but this week had just enough rainfall to make the mushrooms happy, especially on the mound of stump-grindings where the hackberry tree once stood.  Interestingly, the clusters have sprung up mostly over places where I had dug into it and added hardwood charcoal ash from my grill.
     They look like tiny Fae barrios
     They are very short-lived; some colonies were already falling into disrepair.

     The smaller groupings can be very attractive.

     By evening, most were folding down, like tiny umbrellas. Maybe they'll be back tomorrow.  I doubt these are edible -- usually the more interesting a mushroom looks, the more likely it is to be dangerous to eat.  But they're nice to look at.