Friday, April 16, 2021

Still Stop Making Them Famous

      It happened in Indianapolis: there was a mass shooting overnight at a FedEx Ground facility near the airport.  Nine people are dead and five more were injured.  The dead include the alleged shooter, who took his own life, apparently after an encounter with police in or near the building.  At least one occupied car was shot at in the parking lot.  The driver seems to have been uninjured and drove to another nearby lot; local TV news has shown enlarged images of three apparent bullet holes in the sheet metal.

      And that's all anyone other than the police know right now.  That's all there is.  It hasn't kept news organizations from speculating.  When the local station Tam and I watch elected to stay local rather than go to their network feed, we turned to the ABC affiliate, where a Good Morning America reporter assured us the weapon used "...was almost certainly an assault rifle." 

      Well...maybe?  At least one witness has reported seeing a rifle in the hands of the shooter.  The AR-15 is the most commonly-owned rifle in the U.S., and one of the most affordable.  But it's guesswork.  The reporter didn't show the bullet holes; Tam and I agreed that from the images, we were confident the weapon used wasn't any kind of .22LR and was unlikely to be a shotgun, but that's as much as the evidence supports.

      By the end of the day, we will know the murderous fool's middle name* and if he left some kind of screed or manifesto; pundits will be speculating on his motivation and reporters will be scrambling to interview family members, schoolteachers and the person in charge of whatever religious assembly the killer attended, if any.

      He will be made famous.

      You may have noticed this kind of multiple murder -- unexpected, not known to be linked to any kind of gang activity or robbery -- tends to run in clusters, in a way that looks similar to the phenomenon of "suicide clusters" seen in some populations (especially teens).

      You may have read that some mass shooters appear to have kept track of previous killers, almost as a sports fan might amass statistics of player performance.

      Whatever else their motives -- mental imbalance, loathing some person or group, wanting to begin war between sexes, races or religions, and so on -- all of these shooters give a credible impression of seeking attention.  Of desiring posthumous fame.  One strikes and is a three-day sensation in the news online and over the air, and others follow, time and again.

     We've got to stop making these horrible losers famous.  Whatever else we do -- and there's a long list of suggestions, from "ban all the guns" to "arm everyone," with stops at "put a policeman on every corner" and various sorts of profiling -- we have got to stop making them famous.
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* You won't read it here.  It has long been the policy of my blog that I don't share the names of mass killers in the news.  Yes, it's a tiny gesture, any search engine will reveal the name as soon as it is known, but it's what I can do and so I do it.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Rest And Respite

      Temperatures have dropped and so, I think, has the pollen.  A day of moving slowly (and very little)) seems to have helped, although parkour is right out.

      So, time to get stuck back in.  And it's Trash Day, on which we traditionally have carry-out or delivery for dinner, in order to free up the time usually used for cooking and clean-up to collect all the trash and take it to the curb. It's a nice change.

      The cats spent a lot of time with me, though some of that may have been the sunlight through the window, or that it was open just a little: I can't avoid whatever it is that triggers my allergies and I eventually adjust to it, so I might as well get a little fresh air.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Allergies?

      Who knows?  My balance started getting bad yesterday about noon, peaked that evening, and hasn't been great since.  I'm taking the day off, exhausted, and have spent most of it flat on my back.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Fact-Checkers

      Fact-checking has come under a lot of fire in recent years.  Certainly, it can be weaponized -- if only one side of a dispute gets fact-checked, it can warp perceptions, especially if both sides are indulging in the usual mish-mash of fact, factiod, misrepresentation and wishful thinking.

      Conversely, a good fact-checker can add clarity to a situation and even improve the utility of debate by nudging the participants away from handwaving and hyperbole (or at least pointing it out to onlookers).

      FactCheck.org has been impressing me for awhile now; they don't take any side except the facts.  A good example would be their take-down of President Biden's repetition of tired, old, false statements about guns.  Another is their balanced analysis of Georgia's election law and what politicians are claiming about it, which spares no one.

      "Spares no one" is exactly what I want a fact-checker to do.  Yes, they're occasionally going to gore your ox -- especially if that particular ox can't stick to the facts.  Tough; it's far better to live in reality, and it makes for a lot fewer unpleasant surprises.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Sunday

      Latkes -- and laundry -- notwithstanding, I was still feeling pretty lousy Sunday.  After the oxtail stew supper the night before and a nice brunch with plenty of turnip latkes about mid-day, I skipped making any dinner and snacked on home-made gorp* between laying down and the wash.

      I did re-level the washing machine, which helped.  That reminded me that the previous homeowner had used salvaged concrete half-blocks with bits of mortar still stuck to them to elevate the washer and dryer, which works about as well as you think: they tend to wobble and force out the tapered shims no matter how careful I am about wedging and leveling.

      A half-dozen new half-blocks have been on my wish list for a couple of years, and the old ones can go into the back yard on the sidewalk at the low end.  The basement gets just enough water in a heavy rain to be inconvenient.  It used to be worse, before the city repaired the storm sewers† and I had the valve in the floor drain replaced.  Even now, an inch of water on the floor once or twice a year isn't out of the question.  So elevating the washer and dryer is a must, and not with nice storage drawers.

      A little cooking, a little trying to keep the washer lid from falling on me and a little laundry was as much as I was up to doing yesterday.  I'm feeling better this morning.
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* 50/50 salted and unsalted roasted sunflower seeds, with roasted pumpkin seeds, raisins, and a little bit of cashew pieces and pistachios to keep it interesting.
 
†  I'm pretty sure the sewers in my neighborhood are still semi-combined, much as I might hope otherwise.  Certainly many houses around here still have gutters that feed into their sanitary sewer, though the city makes you disconnect them if you make any improvements that require a permit.  This can really overload the sewers in a heavy rain.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Turnip Latkes? They're Delicious!

      Yesterday afternoon, I made oxtail stew for supper.  It takes time; once you've got the oxtail sections well-browned and added a little stew meat, it's best left to simmer for two or three hours in broth or stock before you add vegetables and get the meat off the bones and remove the excess fat.  Then it gets another hour simmering, with the big, ugly bones added back in: there's a lot of good flavor in them.

     Tam had made a soda-pop run and I asked her to pick up a turnip.  I was expecting one of the near-giant ones our corner store stocks -- but they don't carry Tam's preferred soft drinks.  The store that does have it sells medium-sized turnips in bags of five or six.

      After adding a couple of turnips to the stew (along with a potato, onion, carrots, celery and a small can of tomato paste), there were three left.  Frustrating, because they don't keep as well as potatoes.

      This morning, it occurred to me that most of the ways we cook potatoes can be applied to turnips, often with tasty results.  Home-made turnip chips are a real treat, crunchy and with a complex, slightly-sweet flavor.  So what about latkes? 

      My favorite recipe calls for a couple of large potatoes, shredded or coarsely grated and with the liquid pressed out; three peeled turnips is about as much volume.  The binder is a half-cup of flour (I shorted it a bit and added cornmeal to make up the difference), two teaspoons of coarse salt, a teaspoon of baking powder and a half-teaspoon of freshly-ground black pepper.  That gets mixed into the shredded vegetable along with a couple of beaten eggs.  You're supposed to grate an onion, too; I'd used the last one the night before, so a generous amount of onion powder, a little garlic powder and a couple of teaspoons of dried chives filled in for the fresh onion.

      The end result looked pretty good and the oil was sizzling in the skillet; I dropped in the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls, gave them size minutes and flipped them for another six.  They smelled wonderful and came out golden brown, not as textured as potato latkes and a bit soft -- but delicious.  I knew from the first taste they were a winner.

      The second batch got a little more cornmeal in the batter -- the shredded turnip was still adding liquid to it and it needed to be a bit more dry.  (They don't drain quite as well as potatoes.)  It didn't do them any harm.

     Tam had hers with salt and pepper; I started out eating them plain, then tried a little hot sauce, which was a nice touch.  I think these would be good with applesauce or sour cream, just like the potato version.

      So, yes, turnip latkes.

     [TAMARA KEEL PHOTOS]

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Two Shot

      On Friday at 1:17, I did it.
      I had my second COVID-19 vaccine.  It's Pfizer's version, so if I turn into an ear of corn, you'll know why.  It has hit me pretty hard -- muscle aches and exhaustion, starting this morning and getting worse all day, much worse by afternoon.  That's not an unusual reaction, and the medicos say it's a sign one's immune system is sorting things out, getting ready for a fight should the virus arrive.

      Me, I'm not so much for fighting, so I'll continue to socially distance, wear a mask indoors with strangers (still a rule in Indianapolis) and so on.  In a couple of weeks I may take short, masked, socially-distant excursions to antique stores and used book stores, something I have not done during the past year.

      For right now, though, I'm going to go lay down.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Mirror, Mirror

      Back on 29 March, in writing about the new election laws in Georgia, I pointed out that partisan, "mean-spirited 'gotcha!' jabs" by elected officials might thrill their base, but only empower their opposition.

      Ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit Two, this time making the Democrats look bad and giving the Republicans a powerful issue, courtesy of President Biden:  David Chipman, his nominee to be Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.*  Most recently a Senior Policy Advisor at the anti-gun rights group Giffords, which is seriously motivating in and of itself, as an ATF Field Agent he was up to his elbows in the Branch Davidian mess in Waco, Texas.

      Yeah, no.  I don't expect any U.S. President, especially not a Democrat, to pick a rootin', tootin' reincarnation of Teddy Roosevelt to run ATF; I can even see why this President might think it's cute to tap a gun-grabber.  But David Chipman could be the greatest Federal administrator since Herbert Hoover† and it wouldn't improve his chances of getting though the Senate confirmation process when he shows up reeking of the smoke from Waco.

      Once again, a mean-spirited jab might delight a party's base -- but it's pure fuel for their opposition.  Thanks, President Biden; the NRA needed a fund-raising boost to help getting through their bankruptcy and re-organization, and you've been a big help!  Look for this to show up during the mid-term political campaigns, too.
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* Imagine if the President could've found someone from the Women's Christian Temperance Union to take the job, and restart the battle that ended in 1933!  It's odd, there's broad agreement on helping people cope with alcoholism and stop smoking without any bans of high-potency distilled spirits or assault cigars, and yet if you agree that people ought not shoot one another unless there's an imminent deadly threat but don't want to ban some or all guns, you're a horrible evil person who hates children and the poor.
 
† Look it up -- he was so gifted that Harry Truman set him to working out improvements in the fed.gov after WW II.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

So...

      Yeah, I've got nothing.  Slightly rainy morning, wildflowers (fine, call them weeds, violets and little white flowers) blooming in the yard, ants apparently busy elsewhere bailing or moving house.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

No Breakfast, No Water, No Fun

      I've got to go do some medical imaging this morning and it's been "NPO"  -- nothing by mouth, only in Latin -- since 4:30 this morning.

      This does nothing for my mood and less than nothing for my headache, so I will spare you my opinions this morning.

      Since my scooter wreck in 2006, I have taken such orders seriously.  I had been returning to work after picking up a nice sandwich -- corned beef on rye -- and I had, for some reason, taken the bag along in the ambulance when I grabbed my purse as they were loading me onto a fancy gurney.  The ER was more than full.  I'd been parked at the big desk in the middle while they waited for X-rays to come back and figured out what to do next.  The sandwich smelled wonderful and when the physician who'd conducted the initial exam stopped by, I asked him if I could eat my lunch.*

      "Oh, I don't know why not.  You can't have more than a bad sprain, or you'd be hurting a lot more."

     Rye bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese, a touch of mustard -- oh, that sandwich was good!  I was just finishing up when a different doctor showed up, carrying X-ray images.

      "Ma'am, looks like you have a spiral fracture of your right femur.  There's an orthopedic surgeon in this evening and we'll--  Say, is that corned beef?"  I nodded and there was a long pause.  He looked at the wall clock.  "Okay, we'll be admitting you and you'll have surgery first thing tomorrow morning."

      I spent the night on pain meds with my leg strapped into an immobilizer.
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* The sandwich place was right across the street from the hospital.  So I ended up right back where I'd ridden from, having wrecked my motorscooter right outside the main gate to work.  This worked out well; my co-workers snagged the scooter and left it in our warehouse until I could arrange to have it repaired.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

It's Ant Season

      The ants are back, tiny collectivist monarchists scurrying on the kitchen counter.  Not quite randomly and I suppose they do some good: they have already prompted me to check the crumb tray in the toaster, which was long overdue for emptying.  I brushed out the inside of the toaster while I was at it, too.  Shop elsewhere, you six-legged pests!

      I dislike them.  Tamara loathes them, with the white-hot revulsion of someone finding out her cornflakes have been colonized.  By and by, we'll be setting out some tempting, tasty (and, oh dear, deadly) treats for them to take home to the Crown.  They seem to be getting more wary with each passing year, but once I have everything else in plastic containers and freezer bags -- alas, no more twisting the waxed paper around a stack of crackers tight and calling it good -- they'll have no other choice.

Monday, April 05, 2021

The Chauvin Trial

      It's predictably a partisan lighting-rod: the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on charges of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

      I'm not going to comment on it directly; the trial is ongoing and we'll all know the decision of the jury in due course. 

      Indirectly--  Residents of the U. S. generally expect the police to deliver the people they arrest alive.  Yes, this is not always possible.  Very few people greet the prospect of their own arrest with happiness and a significant proportion of them resist with force.  To that end, police officers are equipped with a wide variety of tools, from pepper spray and handcuffs to radios (and backup), batons and firearms.  The expectation holds: it's the job of the police to get the immediate situation and suspects under control and deliver those they arrest to the justice system, largely intact.  We don't expect or want police to be judge, jury and executioner.  Dead suspects are a failure.

     Too, residents of the U. S. ought to be able to expect encounters with the justice system to be fair.  Not necessarily nice,* but impartial and reasonably safe.  To the extent an individual does not have that expectation, there has been a failure.

      A decent system of policing and justice should not require the police, prosecutors and judges to be saints, geniuses or heroes.  It ought to work sufficiently well and fairly enough even when public employees are tired, bored, hung-over, angry or a little stupid.  If it does not, that's a failure.

      Ideally, real-world policing and the courts should be about like the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, only with guns (etc.) and attorneys: dull, frustrating, annoying, slow...and not unsafe. 

     So when people tell me, heatedly, that Derek Chauvin and/or George Floyd should have done something other than the actions that led to the death or Mr. Floyd and the disgrace of Officer Chauvin, I think yes; yes, you're right -- but they didn't.  The system failed.  Their expectations failed them. 

      And now it's in the hands of a jury.  Will we learn anything from it, or repeat last summer's pattern of protests (from well-meaning to scarily pissed off) and opportunistic riots?  Either way, one man is dead and another is ruined.

      Edited To Add: I'm getting comments mentioning other interactions between police and citizens with bad outcomes, plus suggestions that George Floyd was somehow more deserving of a bad outcome by dint of being on drugs at the time.  This is all beside the point: in our culture, it is generally expected that if the police arrest you, they will deliver you alive for the next part of your involvement with the criminal justice system.  When that doesn't happen, some or all of the participants in the process have screwed up -- and we do (and should) expect the police to be the "adults in the room" in these situations. 
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* Night Court and Barney Miller notwithstanding, there's no way spending the night in a county lockup can be nice.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Roast Pork Tenderloin

      I made slow-cooked pork tenderloin in the roasting pan on the grill Saturday, and oh, my, was it ever good!

     Used my standard pork recipe, marinating the two and a half-pound tenderloin in soy and balsamic vinegar, with some ginger, garlic and, on a whim, a couple of teaspoons of za'atar.  It's a Middle-East spice blend, and despite that, it goes very well with pork.

     I set the tenderloin on a strip of bacon for luck (it was pretty lean) and set timers for two and a half hours and an hour and a half.

     The second timer was to tell me to add the vegetables, to turn this:

     Into this!
     Veggies included a potato, an apple, a turnip, carrots, a red bell pepper, a few shishito peppers, fennel root and golden oyster mushrooms.  Plus some capers.  I was out of onions, and made up for it with a few shakes of onion powder.

     It was delicious! 
     Needed a bit of liquid added before serving, and I should have done so while it was cooking (or just started with more), but I'll do so next time.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Hey, Remember When...?

      Once upon a time, government intrusion into the interaction between a private business and its customers was routinely described by American conservatives as unwarranted interference.

      Not any more!  At least not if you're a business -- say, a private university -- in Florida.

      Let strangers sneeze on you in close quarters all (or more than) you like, Floridians.  Think of it as evolution in action.*

      And don't come crying to me when it breeds up a variant worse than the ones already brewing and spreading.

      There are legitimate reasons to look with suspicion at any government-mandated requirement of fitness before you can do a thing and there ought to be a compelling justification for them. Driver's licenses, licenses to operate radio transmitters, pilot's certifications and others have been deemed to have societal ultility. So have the vaccines required of children attending public schools.   These are legitimate subjects of debate and legislation.  But barring a private business from requiring vaccination of customers or employees?  How is that anything but meddling?
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* Unless you've got a problem with that, too.  In which case it's fate or the ineffable workings of the Divine that killed your friends or family, and what a comfort that will be.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Friday, At Least It's Sunny

     Think I'll skip saying much this morning.  Regular doctor's appointment this afternoon and I am not looking forward to it.  Skipped my mammogram this year and I can either try for a walk-in this morning, or let her chew me out.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The Question Answered

      At least now, when TV network executives cancel a series I enjoyed and I ask myself, "What were they thinking?  Were they high?" I will have the comfort of knowing the answer to the second question is very probably, "Yes."

      It's not much comfort -- they were already likely to be enjoying the warm glow of brain cells dissolving in alcohol and the confident, malformed judgement that comes with it -- but it's something.

      Somewhere in the hereafter, Harry Anslinger is seething.

      (Although I am very nearly teetotal myself and not even slightly tempted by herbacious inhalations, the tragic damfoolery around pot has done for it precisely what Prohibition did for alcohol use and abuse, not to mention organized crime.  Comes a time to face up to what doesn't work and try something else.  True in 1933, true today.)