Saturday, October 31, 2020

Coldest Morning So Far

     At 30°F, this has been the Fall's coldest morning -- and the prognosticators are saying "coldest until Monday." 

     I ordered a new carbon monoxide alarm, the old one being both hopelessly susceptible to radio-frequency interference and several years past its expiration date.  The replacement will arrive sometime today and until then, I'm being very careful about running the furnace. 

     Roseholme Cottage was at 60° when I fed the cats at six this morning.  I let the furnace heat the house until it reached 64° and proceeded to cook a nice big breakfast.  Presently, we're holding at a surprisingly-comfortable 63°.  Sweatpants, one of my long flannel nightgowns and a warm robe have a lot to do with that, along with good thick socks and sandals.  "Gee, Aunt Bobbi, why did people wear so many layers of clothing in the olden days?"  Yes, such a mystery.... 

     Breakfast was a slice-and-a-half of applewood-smoked bacon (pretty thick slices, too), broken-yolk eggs cooked in a covered pan with a little butter, and a couple of Russet potatoes, diced and fried in the bacon fat (they got a little onion powder, too).  It's filling and the cooking added some extra heat.

      Today's supposed to get fairly warm, mid-fifties or better, so I am hoping to work on the shelf project.  And last night, the eye doctor texted that my glasses are ready, so that'll be the first order of business after breakfast and a shower.  I'm hopeful the new lenses will help with the headaches that have been bothering me since about mid-summer -- headaches, and some trouble focusing on computer monitors, which are almost to the, "Have you considered trifocals?" point.

Friday, October 30, 2020

So, Of Course

      With the furnace iffy, the official outside temperature hit 33°F last night.  That's out at the airport; in town, we can count on a couple of free bonus degrees, but still -- it's chilly.  The house was at 63 when I woke up.*

      I woke up with cats.  They were not much inclined to leave the bed, either, not until breakfast time.  Holden has caught on quickly to what Huck has known for years: once the TV turns on, chow is on the way.

     Cats fed, people-chow was next.  There was rice left over from last night's Indian take-out, so I made fried rice for breakfast and lingered over the wok, reminded that kitchen duty in Winter is still one of the better things to be doing.

      Early voting is probably not going to work out for me -- wait times at the site I pass on my way to work have varied from 354 minutes (!) down to a low, low 120.  Two hours seems like a long time to spend waiting in line with a random group of strangers, masked or not.  I'll keep an eye on it today -- there's a handy website for Marion County, indyvotetimes-dot-org -- but I'm not expecting today's sunny weather to make the lines any shorter than yesterday's cold drizzle had.
* This sounds worse than it is.  We keep the house at 66° in Winter, up a notch from 65 in deference to advancing age.  I did most of my growing up in a house with electric ceiling heat, possibly one of the least-useful heating systems: resistance wire embedded in the ceiling plaster, which heats up and more-or-less heats the room below.  A thick layer of insulation keeps from losing too much heat to the attic (we never worried much over snow and ice build up on the roof), but the heat tends to stay near the ceiling; bed and table level's chilly and the floors, well, you didn't go barefoot and socks alone didn't help much.  The family room, a converted attached garage, had a slab floor and a baseboard heater, and was usually preferable in wintertime: at least the warm air started out at your level!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

So, About That Furnace?

      The twenty-year-old furnace at Roseholme Cottage has a cracked heat exchanger.  Oh, it's not a large crack, just a long, lovely, meandering hairline.  It's not spewing CO into the house instead of up the flue, not yet -- but a little dab of that stuff will do you and the crack is likely to get worse.

      The heat exchanger is pretty much the heart of the system, so we'll be replacing the furnace.  It's a medium-efficiency two-stage gas type and we'll get another of the same.  Scheduled for the second week of November at the price of a high-mileage used car in good shape.  Ouch.

      In the meantime?  No running the furnace overnight, or when no one is home.  We have a radiator-type space heater that will keep the place warm on its lowest setting* if outside temperatures stay above 45 F, and it only gets used when there's someone to watch it. Here's hoping for no cold snaps.
* The lowest setting would be the one that doesn't produce noticeable heating at the receptacle.  This is important if you're going to run the heater for long periods of time: once heat has changed the temper of the contacts in the wall socket, they'll start to get loose.  The looser they fit, the more they'll heat up.  The more they heat up, well, you get the picture.  Eventually the plastic parts soften. That would be bad. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Sore Winners

      What's a "sore winner?"  A lot of media attention has been focused on the possibility of sore losers, especially in the Presidential contest, endless Democrat-demanded recounts in the aftermath of a Trump victory, refusal to move out and court challenges if Biden wins.  Sore losers (or at least grounds for the feeling) are far from unknown.  We've had close elections before: U. S. history includes two Presidents elected by the House of Representatives, one Vice-President elected by the Senate, and the Bush - Gore recount and court case in 2000.

      But what worries me as much are sore winners. I've written about it before and it's only become worse.  Many political campaigns are so bitterly fought these days that after the election, the winner often takes (or retakes) office determined to be the utter and complete opposite of their opponent* -- incumbents harden their positions, and if the office changed hands, the first order of business is not doing the things their platform promised but undoing as much of their predecessor's work as they can.

      Some of that is normal enough -- if there wasn't any difference between candidates, why would we even bother to vote -- but it often spills over into bitter personal division, and runs down from parties and candidates to the the electorate.  It's pointless and counterproductive; when the election is decided, it's decided, and we've got the bulk of the next two, four or six years to get through before rejoining the fray.  In the meantime, the people we elect do have other work to do besides winning elections and positioning themselves for the next one -- or at least, they should.  As citizens, we ought get after them to do that work, even if it's just sitting on their hands and trying to stay out of serious trouble for their term of office.

      There comes a time to stop spatting and do the job.
* Sure, they'd better be different, but these days, it is sometimes taken to extremes, from "Coke vs. Pepsi" to "a shiny tar-pit vs. a bubbling pool of red-hot lava."  And all you wanted was a cooling drink.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Polling Place

      The route I  take to the North Campus passes right by one of the "satellite" early voting locations.  TV news had shown huge lines and wait times of five hours or more over the weekend, the first day they were open, but I figured a weekday would be be better.

     Maybe it was -- people weren't lined up outside.  However, the very large parking lot was overflowing, with cars pulled onto the muddy grass along the side streets, bumper to bumper.  Indianapolis/Marion County has six of these sites; Hamilton County, next county north and with just over a third the population, has eight!  The state promises they'll do better next time.

     Me, I just want to figure out who I need to vote for to make elections boring again.  Either that, or at least make the process a little more efficient.  Alas, the election-day free coffee at our former polling place, an enormous Methodist church, won't be available this year, and the experts say we should bring our own pen to fill out the ballot.  It seems a small price to pay.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Thanks, Blogger

      Blogger ate my morning's post!  No time to re-do it, either.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

No Shelf Work

      Did everything but shelf work -- started straightening out the basement, because we'll have the furnace looked over for Fall on Wednesday; vacuumed registers; did yet more laundry; added wire baskets under some shelves; slept very late (oops!).

      I did make an omelet for brunch -- mushrooms, Swiss cheese, a little bacon and some Castlevetrano olives.  And do-not-call-it-chili Midwestern red stew for dinner, with ground beef, chorizo, fresh onion, a little diced carrot, small sweet peppers, canned chilies, diced tomatoes and mixed beans, along with good seasoning: chipotle salt, black pepper, chili-type chili powder, a dash of Kashmiri ground chili, tarragon, cilantro and bay leaves.  The resulting dish is not quite the Midwest "chili" of my youth (it'd need elbow macaroni) and not at all like the Tex-Mex stuff, but it's tasty and filling.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Work, Work, Work....

      Thanks to one of us planning breakfast and the other planning supper, we started the day with little breakfast steaks, hash browns and fried eggs, and we'll be finishing with charcoal-grilled filets, mushrooms, baked potatoes and "popcorn" asparagus.  Such a life!

     Between the two, I have done most of my week's laundry, a little housework, and assembled all of Tam's new bookshelves except for one tricky part, a storage compartment that can't be completed until the glue is dry.  Hoping to sand it and do the last part tomorrow. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Yesterday, The Weather Was Lovely

      We had sunshine and warm temperatures yesterday.  Birds were singing, a soft breeze was blowing and I'm told the Fall colors were stunning.

      I spent a lot of the day in bed with the covers pulled up, shivering.   I was increasingly dizzy all morning and along about shower time, it occurred to me that shutting my eyes while standing was a very bad idea -- and that standing in general was becoming less and less advisable.

     Allergies?  I don't know but they seem likely.  The chills were kind of an added bonus: as the day went on, I just could not keep warm.  I went back to bed with a laptop computer for work and did some digging into manuals for the various widgets and gadgets we're using at work, some of which have recently been set up to e-mail status reports (and they have a lot to say!).  I had a nap for lunch.  It didn't do much good.

     Tamara got us a nice carry-out meal for supper (gyros, hummus and for her, saganaki) and I adjourned to my room with the debate playing.  About a half-hour in, my chills stopped and pretty soon, I had a realistic (and uncomfortable) perception of the upper-seventies temperature.  Crawled out from under the covers for the rest of the debate, napped off and on and finally fell asleep on top of the covers as the debate was winding down.*  Whatever it was, it seems to have abated this morning aside from some residual dizziness and sneezing.  That's not unusual for me in the Fall.
* In terms of "4:00 a.m. phone calls" and facing down unruly autocrats, I was kind of favoring the moderator over either candidate.  Not in terms of politics, but she seemed a lot more likely to wake up quickly and not take any guff.  But apparently she doesn't want the job and the leading applicants are what they are; if you are strongly favoring one or the other, I envy your confidence.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

And The The Waters Receded

      "...the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, [...] the tops of the mountains were seen."

     Only nowhere nearly as dramatic.  There was standing water in the basement yesterday morning and I wasn't in a position to do anything about it.  I had a prior commitment.

     So, having no other choice, I went and got my eyes checked.  My usual eye exam in in the early Spring, and they had largely shut down early in the pandemic, at least for anything that wasn't urgent. Even after they re-opened, I wasn't too sanguine about going in -- there's a lot of high-touch equipment and a lot of sitting for long periods of time in small rooms.  I figured they could work out new procedures and policies with patients who don't qualify for a senior discount and who hadn't spent twenty years as a smoker.

     Then my vision started to get noticeably worse.  I blamed it on dirty eyeglass lenses, gunk in my eye, allergies....  It didn't get better.  My eyes have never stopped getting worse.  The progression slowed down for a time in my 30s and 40s when I wore contacts a lot, but almost every visit since my nearsightedness was discovered in third grade* has resulted in a new and stronger correction.  So it was time.

     It was reassuring to find they have good screening measures in place, and while they have always been careful about wiping equipment down between patients, they have become even more so.  They're leaving exam room doors open and there appeared to be more airflow than I remembered.

     Turns out it was time for a slight adjustment in my prescription (astigmatism is also getting worse) but the main reason I'm having trouble is cataracts in one eye.  So that's on a watch now and I'll be back for another exam in six months, pandemic permitting.

     The eye doctor took twice as long as I had allowed, or a little longer.  When I returned home, the puddle on the basement floor was smaller.  Not a lot, but enough to give me hope.

     I went into work, actually got a few things done, and was home again by 7:30.  Once I had dinner started, I checked the basement: only a few damp spots remained!

     The dehumidifier will struggle to get rid of the last little bit of water, but the drain worked: the backflow valve had done its job and once the stormwater level in the sewer main was low enough, it opened back up.
* I managed to fake it for two and a half years of not being able to tell what was on the blackboard, but they finally found me out.  At which point, it dawned on my Mom why I always sat so close to the TV at home.  Nearsightness doesn't run in either side of the family.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

And For Wednesday, Basement Water

     It rained heavily yesterday evening and overnight.  I went to bed with storms and woke up at five a.m. to loud thunder and lighting -- and the sounds of a deluge.  Went down to the basement a few minutes ago on a hunch, and there's a good-sized puddle of clear water on the floor.  Clear is a good sign -- it means it came in along the foundation.

     Looks like there may be an inch of water at the lowest point, which is the drain, and which probably means the backflow valve in the floor drain has closed.  Yes, we still have combined sanitary and storm sewers, and if too much ran falls too quickly, it can back up.  The next-highest drain is the laundry sink, two feet or more above floor level, with the top of the sink at maybe a yard above the floor and after that, well, I hope I won't find out.

     The backflow has a little history of sticking, so the next step will be to put on boots and apply a plunger.  I'll probably wait a while -- the rain has ended, but only just, and there's still water running to the storm drains.

     Drain-worrying times like these remind me that they make "soaping valves" for showers.  It's more often seen in regions that are short on water, a little sliding valve that goes between the supply pipe and the showerhead so you can shut off the water, lather up and scrub without changing the settings for temperature and amount.  If I ever have the washroom redone (I'd love to but it's expensive), that's something I should add.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Big Debate Tonight

      Nope, not the Presidential race -- much as that promises to be a laugh a minute, come Thursday night* -- it's the first debate in the three-way Indiana Gubernatorial race.

     In more normal times, the election would be between calm, competent incumbent Eric Holcomb and a couple of goobers filling their party's slots on the ticket with no hope of winning.  Indiana voters like quiet, low-key Governors and generally reward them with re-election.

      These are not normal times.  Governor Holcomb has managed Indiana's response to the pandemic with careful moderation, generally preferring strong recommendation over mandates until circumstances require the latter and even then, enforcement has focused on voluntary compliance rather than draconian measures.

      The Governor's approach has been criticized from both sides -- the more strident conservatives fuming that he has gone too far in requiring masks, closing nonessential businesses and limiting gatherings, while the most worried liberals think he never went far enough.  And each of those groups has their guy: Libertarian Donald Rainwater is a staunch opponent of mask mandates and group size restrictions (and, it appears, vaccination), while Democrat (and physician) Woodrow Myers is of the opinion Indiana's state government hasn't done nearly enough to control the spread of COVID-19.

      At the very least, Rainwater may be a position to act as a "spoiler" in the election and materially improve the election prospects of Dr. Myers.  Depending on how many Republicans are willing to split their ballot (and for that matter, how many Democrats are okay with the restrictions we have but don't want more), it could be a close three-way race.

      The debate will take place with the moderator and all three candidates isolated from one another.  There was some discussion of testing them beforehand, but isolation moots the need and avoids any uncertainty in the results.  The format will be challenging -- and considering the sharp divisions among them, it may be one of the more interesting debates of this election season.

Monday, October 19, 2020

And Here It Is, Monday

      Yesirree, it's Monday, all right -- cold rain and all.  It could probably be even more Monday, but this will do.

      I'm still haunted by a milder version of the same headache that dogged me all weekend.  I'm six months overdue for an eye exam and it's starting to be obvious that I should get new lenses, so perhaps that's part of it.  I kept putting off the appointment, waiting for things to return to normal.  Instead, things are getting farther away from normal, and I am beginning to think I'd better act now, before it gets any worse.

      Might as well get a good view of the mess.

Sunday, October 18, 2020


      This was not a good day.  Dizzy and out of it the whole time.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Why Of It

      I happened across an interesting article.  It's about why some people won't wear masks to help control COVID-19, and why most of the approaches to talking about it don't change anything.

      Your choices about mask use are up to you.  I'm not very good at convincing people to change their behavior.  The article explains why that is -- and does so without calling anyone out.  We're wired up the way we're wired up and we get the results we get. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday Was Here

      My day started a little early, with a not-quite emergency from work.  So I didn't post anything this morning and now I'm catching up.  Or at least filling in.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Expanse Is Returning

      Season Five of The Expanse starts 15 December, and will continue into next year.  It's still following the books, and will include an arc for Amos that fills in a little of his backstory.

      The trailer promises much!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


        Firefox is unhappy again.  Or maybe it's my hardware.  

        Either way, this is exactly why the Raspberry Pi sits quietly on one of the pull-out typewriter shelves, ready to be powered up.  I can troubleshoot the big machine once I've made a blog post.

        Oh, here we go: a massive Windows update has jammed things up. That'll do it. Guess it's time to give the Windows-based laptop and Surface a quick drive around the block, too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Change Of Season, Sinuses Unhappy

      Actually having a little trouble hanging onto my chair right now.  Had a bad sinus headache yesterday, right ahead of a storm rumbling through, but this is worse: bad dizziness, and ramping up.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Back To Work

      After a week off, it's back to work.  I don't want to go.  There's plenty to do at home -- but only work produces that lovely paycheck every other Friday.  So off I go.

     There is some question about getting into the North Campus.  Thanks to a jammed up front gate and a contractor whose crews can't seem to figure out how multiple padlocks on one chain are supposed to work at the back gate, I had to climb the fence twice, the week before last.  After the second time -- a tough scramble up and a hard landing -- I told my boss that unless it's an emergency, I'm done climbing high, barbed-wire-topped security fences* into an isolated and otherwise unoccupied location.  Inside a locked gate is not a good place to have a broken leg or ankle!  If I'm locked out, I'll call in and do something elsewhere until the problem is resolved.
* The main reason for those Y-shaped barbed-wire supports on top of a ten-foot chain-link fence is to add an unmistakable, "And we mean it!" to the "No Trespassing" signs.  A good pair of gloves and a determined attitude will get you over it.  Places that need better security use higher fences, fine mesh over the chain link to deny finger and toe-holds, razor wire in place of barbed wire and even electrification.  But a non-governmental site has to be careful not to make fences too daunting; courts have held that an overdone fence presents a "challenge," and attracts efforts to breach it.  A good fence is just enough trouble to get through that most malefactors -- and the idly curious -- will pass it by in search of easier prey.  The main risk I run climbing in is having to explain myself to local police from two different jurisdictions, who make a point of passing by fairly often.

Sunday, October 11, 2020


      Tamara K: "The news says the chenopods are bad in the air again today.  It sure feels like it outside.  And what even are they, other than pollen?"

      Roberta X: "I think they're like pinnapeds.  Or maybe tardigades.*"

      Tam:  "We should find out."

      A few minutes later -- and after I detour to tasty Indian cuisine (yum, chana pods!), because I have only heard the word, while Tam knows how to spell it -- we have the answer.

      Chenopods.  Or possibly pigweed; it really is a fine line.  But the first turns out to be a meaner cousin of quinoa and either one can make you sneeze.
* Sometimes I live in a much more interesting world.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Busy Day

      Today was for laundry, carpentry, and trying to get caught up with the writer's group.  Some progress on all fronts, so that's good. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

A Tale Of Two States

      Or possibly four states -- and yet they are all the same state, Michigan.

     Like many another state, Michigan declared a state of emergency as the coronavirus pandemic ramped up; their Governor issued some kind of emergency order and the legislature extended it, an extension that ran out at the end of April.

     Every state has a different procedure for this sort of thing -- and this particular sort of thing is unusual enough that laws already on the books don't always fit.  Most of state governments have kept attorneys busy trying to figure out what they can and cannot do and how they need to go about the things they can.  In Michigan, the (Democrat) Governor and the (Republican-majority) legislature came to different conclusions. 

     The Governor kept on issuing emergency orders with the same general kind of restrictions we have seen in most states, stay-home orders, group size limitations, social distancing and mask requirements.  Just as in every state, not everyone thought this was a good idea.  There were multiple reactions:
  •   The legislature expressed doubt about her legal authority to issue those orders, and took it to court.
  •   Armed protesters showed up at the statehouse waving signs, got in people's faces and got themselves on the news.  The usual pundits predicted the usual Dire Consequences which, as usual, did not happen.
  •   A petition was circulated to repeal the law under which the Governor claimed authority to issue emergency orders.
  •   A small and remarkably maladroit group of conspirators ginned up a plan -- well, what they thought of as a "plan," at least -- to kidnap the Governor and then Do Something.  Exactly what isn't clear; murder, arson and some kind of "trial" were all possible.  And of course, one (at least one) of the group was an FBI informant -- which hardly seems necessary, since they did a lot of their discussion on Facebook.  I'm surprised they didn't just rent a few billboards.  Unlike the preceding three approaches, this one's a plain old felony.
     One of these approaches got results desired by its proponents.  Guess which one.  --You peeked, didn't you?  Yes, it was taking the Governor to court.  The Michigan Supreme Court decided the legislature was reading the law correctly and the Governor was mistaken.  Her emergency orders have been yanked and it's up to the Michigan legislature to figure out what to do next as their number of daily cases continues to ramp up.*
* As they are presently increasing in Indiana and several other states.  This may be trending towards an unpleasant surprise for everyone, especially the "It'll all end the day after the election" crowd: it's looking like the infection rate could be getting ugly by Thanksgiving, if not earlier, and we may once again see some restrictions to limit the spread.  Not looking forward to another round of "spirited debate" about that, either.  Hey, nobody likes those restrictions, okay?

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Last Night's Debate

      The Vice-Presidential debate last night was much better than the first Presidential debate, in the same way that falling from a branch twenty-five feet up is better than jumping off the top of a six-story building.

      They didn't interrupt one another often; they spoke in complete sentences.  They managed basic civility towards one another.  But neither one wanted to shut up, neither one did a great job of sticking to the point or moving on when a new question was introduced and Mike Pence was particularly poor at minding the moderator's reminders that he was out of time.  For her part, Kamala Harris came across as invidious and prosecutorial in a kind of mouse-trapping way.

      And as an audience, the gen. pop failed: the single most compelling image and concept to emerge from the debate is the fly that landed on Mike Pence's head and decided to hang around.  This is our takeaway?  Really?

      In a democratic republic, voters tend to get the government they deserve.   Uh-oh.

      (If you're looking for further information, here's a pretty good fact-check of Senator Harris and Vice-President Pence's debate points.  It doesn't cover everything but it hits the main items.  Turns out those two crazy kids might've shaded the truth a little, here and there.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2020


      I fear that when future historians write of these times, 2020 especially, they will have to use Crayons.  And very simple words.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Masks At My Doctor's Office

      I have been in and out of my doctor's office several times during this pandemic season, just my usual constellation of minor ills mostly associated with advancing age and having lived a, shall we say, somewhat active and under-doctored lifestyle for many years.

     The first time, you had to call from the parking lot.  They came out, asked about your mask -- "Pleated paper or double layer cloth, or do you need one of our masks?" -- checked your temperature with a non-contact thermometer, asked if you had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or had any symptoms, and, if you passed muster, walked you in.  The lobby hadn't been changed from what Tam calls "pre-war" conditions but it wasn't being used.

     The next time, you walked in.  Two of every three chairs were gone from the lobby, leaving generous six-foot or larger gaps.  The receptionist windows had new clear barriers up that left only a small opening for handing insurance cards through.  They did the same screening: mask questions ("Pleated paper?  Two-layer cloth? Or do you need a good one?"), temperature check, exposure to symptoms.  If you passed, you waited and nurse came to the lobby to collect you.

     Yesterday was even more different.  Same sparse lobby and barriers, but about two-thirds of the seats were occupied, and the first words from the screener were, "You're next.  Before you go back, you'll need to replace your mask with one of ours."

     I must have looked incredulous.  I have been using plain, decent-quality two-layer cloth masks since about a month into the recommendation to wear them (and pleated cloth or paper before that).  Then I thought about the scene in the lobby.  Six people: a woman in an extensively bedazzled fashion mask that looked kind of porous, an older lady in a mask like mine (but a nice print fabric), a guy in a slightly askew and grimy-looking paper mask and another fellow who could not seem to keep his mask in adjustment, constantly fiddling with it, pulling it away from his face and reseating it, smoothing it over his nose and chin.  At that point, the receptionist spoke again, "It's policy now. Everyone has to use one of our masks."  She was holding one out to me.

     I nodded and took the mask. The office has no control over what you wear in the door and they're not in the business of evaluating your choice; they hand out standard, one-size-fits all paper ones and there's no need for debate.

     So I swapped my mask for theirs and the nurse took me back, asking screening questions about exposure and symptoms along the way.  Now they shoot your forehead temperature right before they weigh you and ask how tall you are.

     The doctor is pretty sure my heart's not going to blow up this week.  Over the next twenty years, she's not so sanguine and so they've added another drug to my routine.  She told me no, I can't just promise to cut down on the bacon and ride my bike more so I can skip this one.   But at least I asked.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Current Events

    Summer has given way to Fall -- and Fall seems to be courting Winter altogether too well this morning.  It's 36°F out there right now.  And this is none of your scientific, 100-steps-from-froze-to-boiling stuff, either, but good old two-fisted Fahrenheit, established with buckets of slushy brine and the feverish body temperatures of Daniel Gabriel  Fahrenheit and his wife, which is how come we ended up with 98.6 as the normal body temperature.

     Or so the story goes.  The truth is a little more complicated: 0°F was supposed to be the temperature that water, ice and ammonium chloride stabilize at, 30°F the freezing point of water and 90°F the normal human temperature.  But that's sixty divisions from frozen to you, not all that easy to rule by eye. Fahrenheit was working in the 1720s, a time when precision work was very much a do-it-yourself process, and it's simplest to use a power of two for that: you can keep on dividing down using, well, dividers, a process that can yield surprising accuracy in skilled hands.  64 divisions work out, putting water's freezing point at 32, body temperature at 96 (and there, probably, are our feverish Fahrenheits -- but not so fast) and, conveniently, the boiling point of water right around 212°F

     Time wore on, and not very much time, either, before scientific dignity and convenience looked for a better way to define that high end than lining up a few select friends and sticking thermometers in their mouths.  Boiling water was a lot easier to come by and, as long as you hung out at sea level, a nice, stable reference that wasn't going to catch a cold and throw the whole process out of whack. In 1776, Henry Cavendish of England's Royal Society proposed setting exactly 212°F at the boiling point of water, and there we were.  There's no telling what Fahrenheit might have thought of it; after a busy career of science, instrument-making, teaching and invention, he died in 1736 at the age of 50.

     Physicians, meanwhile, were still stuck using our normal temperature as a reference point.  If you're like me, you grew up being told it was 98.6°F (and Cavendish had doctors and nurses sqinting to examine thermometer scales for the decimal).  But possibly medical science was still in the fever-swamps of measurement when they picked that; these days, 98.2°F seems to be the standard for oral temperature, and there's a wide band of acceptable temperatures.

Sunday, October 04, 2020


      Roberta X: "In the marketplace of ideas on social media, some of these people are selling rotten fruit and empty rinds that have been stuck back together."

      Tamara Keel: "Yeah, and monkey turds.  Poorly-wrapped monkey turds.  The Christmas version is in 'Happy Birthday' paper that has clearly been re-used."

     RX: "And the customers are arguing about it: 'My monkey turds are way better than the rotten fruit you bought!'" 

     Tam K: "And then they start flinging them at one another."

     2020, the year that just keeps giving.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Busy Today

      The ongoing redecorating (and cleaning-up) project in my room kept me busy today.  I have finally mounted a large mirror that I bought in 2007, shortly after I moved in.  Some other bits and pieces showed up, too.  And some other things went away: I found my old exercise leotards, several of 'em, and while it says "one size fits most," one size certainly does not flatter most.  I threw them out.  A baggy T-shirt and shorts will do fine for exercise these days, thank you.

     Still some more small shelves to build an install, and then I will start looking at a big project.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Unfortunate And Nearly Inevitable

      Unless you are living in a hole in the ground in the middle of the deep woods without a telephone or radio, by now you know that President Trump and the First Lady have tested positive for COVID-19.

     I hope he has only a mild case and recovers quickly.  I do not much like Mr. Trump -- he reminds me of every bad, blowhard boss I have ever had -- but I do not wish him ill.  He's over seventy and while national-level politicians get the very best medical care, there still no cure for this thing; once you've got it, doctors can't do a lot they couldn't have done in 1918.

     Mr. Trump is not the first Chief Executive of a country to come down with this virus and he probably won't be the last.  While the dimmer bulbs among our peers will be snarking about chickens coming home to roost, the fact is that you cannot do the day-to-day running of modern nation-state without coming into relatively close contact with a great many people, who in turn are in contact with many more, and so on.  A lot of the work cannot be accomplished with a Zoom meeting, or even Microsoft Teams, for reasons of security and clarity.  Presidents and Prime Ministers are at major risk of contacting this coronavirus and I am impressed the White House was able to hold it off this long, especially after a couple of close calls early on.  I was starting to think the President was going to be able to dodge this bug.

     But he's got it now, and I wish him and Mrs. Trump a speedy and full recovery. 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

The Point, It Eludes

      Hey, look, when I linked to the Kennedy - Nixon debate, I was talking about the deportment of the men involved and how they treated one another.  My point had nothing to do with partisanship, or if either or both of the candidates were being strictly honest, or even if the moderator and questioners were biased.

     No, ignore all that, or better yet, assume Nixon and Kennedy were dissembling and hated their opponent, assume the moderator loathed the Vice-President and that the reporters asking questions favored one or the other and that everyone had bad breath.  Assume the worst -- and then look at how they behave: they're polite.  They don't talk over one another.   They generally use titles and last names to refer to each other.  Questions get pretty direct replies.  Participants mostly speak in complete sentences.

     As the debate proceeds, you get a fair idea of each candidate's platforms and positions, and what they think about the other candidate's plans and proposals.  Whatever you might think about the participants, candidates and media alike, that debate provided useful, solid information to the voting public, in an orderly, understandable way.

     Last Tuesday's debate did not.