Saturday, July 31, 2021

At Last, The Back Yard!

      Tam and I have...mostly ignored the back yard since Spring 2020.  --Other than this year's tomato patch, for which I have hopes.

      Today, we started doing something about it and made a lot of progress before knocking off to grill steaks, foil-wrapped corn on the cob and a little pot of Brussels sprouts.  It all came out well, and with few dishes. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Too Much Crazy

      Nothing to post.  Can't convince myself this awful world is real today.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Sauce For The Goose, Sauce For The Gander

      An interesting experiment for the amateur statistician would be graphing the overlap between people fighting mask mandates or avoiding the coronavirus vaccine and framing it as a matter of personal choice and personal responsibility, and people complaining about Simone Biles deciding not to fling herself through the air at risk to life and limb because she wasn't on her "A" game.

     Either individuals get to make their own choices about personal risk, or they don't -- and a gymnast who has a bad fall is a lot less likely to take a selection of onlookers along with her.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Strogan-what?

      It started with "boneless country pork ribs," a cheap and flavorful cut.  I scissored them into half-inch cubes with smoked paprika, Worcestershire sauce and garlic, and browned them well.  Next came a fancy mushroom assortment -- shitake, brown and white beech and golden oyster mushrooms.  Once all that was cooked well, I added a can of Amy's mushroom soup and small can of indulgence: black truffle sauce.  (About $10, I have the black or white truffle sauce about once a year).  That got a ten-minute simmer, covered.

      It's more-or-less pork stroganoff.

      Served over egg noodles with some parsley, it was darned good.  Italian (flat) green beans on side, and there's supper. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Still Socially Distant

      Yeah, I did it.  I've gone back to wearing a mask at the store.  I'll be wearing a mask to interact with co-workers.  I'm limiting my shopping trips again.

      But why?  After all, I'm vaccinated.  The odds are incredibly good that if the SARS-CoV-2 virus hits me, it will amount to no more than sniffles.  Or I might get it and never notice.  I'm as protected as anyone could be.

      Thing is, a good many other people aren't.  I could infect them without even knowing I was sick.  And while I have no problem with other people deciding to roll those dice, I don't care to roll the dice for them.  If someone wants to skip the vaccine for whatever reason, it's not my job to argue them out of it.  I'm not the boss of them.  Nevertheless, I don't care to be their disease vector -- and that is under my control.  Nope, it's not noble or selfless and I'm not smugly congratulating myself over it: I don't want the guilt.  It's like not sweeping someone with the muzzle of a firearm, even one I just checked and found to be unloaded: why risk it?

      It's a small thing, and yet -- I don't want to kill someone because I was lazy.  I don't want someone to fall ill because I didn't care to breathe through a filter for half an hour.  (I have worked weeks of eight-hour days in a full-face APR -- that's a gas mask, close as it matters -- and a taped-up hazmat "moonsuit" with hood, gloves and overboots.  A dopey little paper/cloth mask is nothing.)

      YMMV.  Make your own choices.  I'm not the boss of you, either.  I am the boss of me, and this is what I have decided to do until we get this damn bug under better control.  We can still stomp it flatter than smallpox, but the clock is ticking.

Monday, July 26, 2021

One Week On

      ...Having hot and cold running water in the kitchen remains a delight and a marvel.  Even better, the new faucet has a longer spout, allowing it to swivel over the center of the bowls of the double sink, or almost to the center.  The old one was a stubby, apartment-sized unit that could be frustrating -- all the more so since it was apparently about half-blocked by lime scale when I first moved in!

      Most of Indiana has very hard water.  While this means our plumbing is sometimes "self-healing," it also means narrow channels will close up over time -- and the structural properties of lime scale are nowhere near as good as those of copper or galvanized iron water pipe.  When a "healed" leak fails, it can be dramatic.

      While the old spout hadn't done anything spectacular, it had started leaking along its length early in the pandemic (but after our furnace had to be replaced) and I'd made a series of temporary repairs by wrapping it with layers of self-amalgamating tape.  This was only partially successful.  So I was living with a less than ideal setup long before it start leaking down into the basement.  This has served to increase my pleasure at having an ordinary, modern faucet on the kitchen sink.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Why Not Again?

     Going through the freezer yesterday, I found a couple of nice little New York Strip steaks that needed to be cooked before they turned into bricks.

     There was still plenty of charcoal left in the grill -- the lovely thing about a covered grill is you can "turn it off" and save unused charcoal after grilling by shutting the vents and closing the lid.  I added a little more and built a tic-tac-toe grid of split pine and hardwood with crumpled newspaper in the bottom center, then piled up charcoal around it to form a chimney open at the bottom.  A match at the front and another at the back for luck soon had it roaring and I fed leftover small pieces into it until I was satisfied.*

     The meat had thawed overnight and was sitting out, seasoned (coarse togarishi salt, black pepper, a very little ginger and garlic) and covered, while I built the fire.

     Before the meat went on, I assembled another mushroom pilaf: oyster mushrooms, chopped carrot, celery and a couple of cherry tomatoes, chopped piparra peppers and capers, seasoned with garlic, parsley, rosemary, basil and thyme. (I think I have mentioned before that Simon and Garfunkel's similar list in song lyrics is what you use to season baked chicken.  Those wistful, romantic lyrics?  They're thinking about dinner!)  A teaspoon or two of butter and it sat on the back of the grill while the steaks cooked.

     Some water-soaked hickory chips and the steak followed -- mine first (medium) and Tam's later (very rare).

     While all that had been going on on, there was one more thing in the pipeline: water heating up in a big pot on the stove (and the electric teakettle, it's faster) with a dash of salt and a teaspoon or so of chorizo seasoning.  Corn on the cob takes about seven minutes in boiling water, and keeps for quite a while in the hot water.

     It all came together right on time and enjoyed a nice supper (hickory-grilled steak and corn on the cob is hard to beat!) while watching Turn: Washington's Spies, an espionage thriller set during the Revolutionary War (ours).
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* Charcoal-lighting fluid?  Just say no -- and say no to briquettes, too.  Hardwood lump charcoal will make to eager to grill, and the emotional reward of starting a fire with one or matches is a nicemood-booster.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Grilling!

      Grilled a couple of little filet mignons for supper tonight,  Small because A) meat is so expensive now and B) it's better for us.

      They were very good quality, and cooked nicely over hardwood charcoal.

      On the side (literally!), I had a little pot bubbling over the coals with oyster mushooms, sliced carrots and celery, onion and garlic powder and parsley, and four shishito peppers on top.  This is a tasty side and takes just about zero effort other than prep -- you wash and slice the mushrooms and veggies (the peppers only need to have the tops cut off), put it in the pot and set it on a corner of the grill.  It's done when the steak is done.

      A couple of sliced and seasoned cherry tomatoes and (of course) baked potatoes finished on the grill, wrapped in foil rounded out the menu.  The potatoes are a conceit; most of the cooking takes place in the microwave.  But that last five or six minutes over the coals does seem to add a certain something.

      A good dinner calls for good entertainment.  Tam and I watched The Courier, a Cold War spy tale based on real events.  Well done and nicely told.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Screening Keeps The Bugs Out

      Yet another comment didn't get through the screening process this morning, due to partisan crap-stirring and an apparent misreading of what I wrote.

     Hey, fine, you only came here to dunk on The Other Party -- but I ain't your Other Party.  Not a Democrat, not a Republican and ever since many of them went nuts in 2020, not a Libertarian, either.  I do not consider "they make people I dislike boiling mad" to be adequate criteria for supporting any politician or party. 

      Right now, too many Republican politicians are whining and too many Democrat politicians are gloating, especially at the Federal level.  I'm not impressed by it.  I'm even less thrilled when other citizens do so.

      Crimes were committed by some of the protesters at the U. S. Capitol on 6 January 2020.  The Feds are busy rounding up the malefactors, who will be given fair trials and will face serious consequences if found guilty.  I have no problem with that, just as I have no problem when rioters and looters elsewhere are arrested, charged and brought to trial.  I don't care about any of their politics, it's their unlawful and destructive behaviors that matter.  We don't police opinions in this country, only actions.

      The nature of the incursion into the Capitol was almost unique.*  It merits careful investigation, with an eye to keeping protests outside (look, if you leave the keys in your car and someone steals it, they're the criminal -- but you still screwed up) and Congresspeople worrying about re-election rather than possible physical harm.  What it doesn't merit is any whining or gloating, not from Congressthings and not from my commentariat.  Twitter and Facebook is full of that sort of thing, any flavor you like; newer social media and the old blogosphere have even more.  I'm sick of it, heartsick over it.  Our political system only works if most of us are not trying to smash it up.  It's not perfect; it's clumsy and slow, but it does work, it does have mechanisms that tend (however crudely) to self-correct and it's supposed to aim for fairness.  Shoving a stick in the spokes as the wheels turn does not improve matters.
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* Our good, good friends the British did rather worse back on 24 August 1814.  I suppose subsequent history shows that even huge differences can eventually be reconciled. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

They'd Rather Fight Than Find Out

      ...And that's as much agreement as we're probably going to see over the House Select Committee to investigate the 6 January mass break-in at the U. S. Capitol.  The Dems got seven picks (and filled one with Republican Liz Cheney) while the GOP got five.  Speaker Pelosi rejected two of them.  She can do that, but it's something no speaker has done before and in response, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy bowed out, removing all five of the Republicans he had chosen.

      Indiana's got a dog in this fight: our very own Representative Jim Banks was one of the two men the Speaker nixed.

      The GOP says they'll make their own committee -- presumably without Bender's "blackjack and hookers," and so anyone who was hoping for a single answer, however unsatisfactory, to "What happened?" is not going to be getting one from the House.

      Alas, the honorable Mr. Banks wasn't impressing me with his logic when he said, in part, the Speaker's refusal to seat him and Rep. Jim Jordan showed that, "...this was never a serious effort on their part, it’s all a political witch hunt. They want to make this all about Donald Trump, dragging Republican members of Congress through the mud and attacking 75 million people that voted for Donald Trump.” (Source here.)

      I was watching TV on 6 January with a kind of horrified fascination.  While there were quite a few people breaking doors and windows, it wasn't 75 million, and trying to drag them into the mob action -- which Speaker Pelosi has not done and Rep. Banks has -- strikes me as more than a little unfair.

      I'd like to see a fairly rancorous and fully bipartisan House or Senate committee investigate 6 January, in public view and with plenty of shouting and a long witness list.  It looks like that's not going to happen.  I'm far less interested in the Democrats and Republicans suiting up and playing press-conference ping-pong, more concerned with accusing one another of bad faith, ill-will and lousy tipping (not to mention their Moms dressed them funny) than unpacking the chain of events that led to an angry mob breaching the U. S. Capitol instead of merely milling around outside, waving signs, scaring passers-by and annoying Congress from a safe distance in the normal (and generally First Amendment-protected) manner of most protests. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

California Is Burning

      ...Again.  California catches fire every year, at least the parts they haven't paved.  I'm starting to think they might be better off if they just went ahead and finished the job; at least collecting and transporting water would be easier with a smooth surface.  But I'd miss the National Parks and other natural wonders.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Smooth

      Blue Origin's New Shepard flight today was very much within their engineering philosophy -- carefully planned, carefully engineered, and executed without a bobble.  If SpaceX is a "move fast and break things" company, Blue Origin believes in "never show unfinished work," and have exercised a great deal of control in both their experimental program and access to it.  When they're ready to pull back the curtain, they're ready.

      It paid off today.

      There are many paths to success and I am pleased to see a variety of successful approaches to the difficult work of spaceflight.

      Jeff Bezo's space program is not just an up-and-back outfit, either.  Blue Origin's orbital rocket, the New Glenn, may fly as soon as late next year.  Those rockets launch from Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, just down the road (and across the line between KSC and CCSFS) from SpaceX's current launch location, 39A, and very near (by spaceport standards) to LZ-1 and 2,* the SpaceX ground landing locations.

     Looks like the high frontier's finally opening up.
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* Not this LZ-1 and 2!

Monday, July 19, 2021

We've Been Here Before

      At the recent Indianapolis Hamfest, I picked up a copy of Alice Clink Schumacher's biography of Hiram Percy Maxim.  While he's mostly remembered as one of the most prominent early amateur radio enthusiasts and a founder of the American Radio Relay League and the International Amateur Radio Union, and to firearms enthusiasts as the inventor of the silencer, his professional career began in the early automobile industry.  The gun silencer came about as a result of his successful efforts to quiet the internal combustion engine.

      Maxim's earliest work pre-dates the "brass lamp" era and continued well past it.  The first commercial motorized road vehicles were used by industry -- and by the very wealthy.  The early auto companies were often set up by businessmen who had already made a lot of money in other fields.  Passenger cars were very much a toy for the rich in their first decade or more.  Heavier vehicles were bought by industry and governments.  Nobody else could afford one.

      Barring any last-minute changes, Blue Origin, the spaceflight company set up by Jeff Bezos, will have their first crewed launch tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. EDT.  Passenger spacecraft are very much a toy for the rich; larger, more capable vehicles are sold (or their services leased) to governments and industry.

      I wonder, when William Kissam Vanderbilt II (with help from a few of his wealthy and powerful friends) built the exclusive, private Long Island Motor Parkway in 1908, did critics gripe that he and his rich friends were going to use their motorcars to flee the city on that limited-access ribbon of smooth concrete and leave the poor trapped in urban squalor?  Of course, it didn't work out that way; in 1938, LIMP was handed over to the city, an out-dated white elephant that had never made a cent, while Robert Moses snaked modern multilane public highways through Greater New York.  By then, a poor man in a beat-up Ford flivver enjoyed speed and freedom Vanderbilt had only dreamt of.

      Space travel has yet to produce a Henry Ford (or even an Elwood P. Haynes).  Maybe we'll get Frank J. Sprague or George Pullman instead.  What we're not going to get is plutocrats ruling from orbit.  Like their predecessors at the controls or in the passenger seat of a 19th-Century automobile, the crazy rich (and their employees) will serve as self-funded beta testers until the new wears off and the risks shrink.

      Then it'll be our turn.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

And Now, The Dishes

      It's not that I haven't been using the sink all along -- but hauling water a dishpan-full at a time has been annoying.  Then there's using the electric teakettle as a source of "hotting up" water, not to mention the rinse process...

     There's a small amount of dishes to do and I'm almost looking forward to it.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

It's Done

      Couldn't put it off any longer.  This evening, I shut the water off, cut the old pipes, and installed the new faucet on the kitchen sink.

     I won't say it's done.  Not until it's had twenty-four hours or more.  But it's in and it works.

     Topside looks pretty good.

     Below, I had to change my plans (a connection hose was a little too short to reach the shutoff I was going to put it on), and I'll probably leave the dishwasher disconnected until we replace it, since I had to swap connections between it and the hot water.

     The connection stubs from the new faucet were very short and I didn't have a large enough open-end wrench for the flexible fitting.  A half-inch stubby combination wrench held the line from the faucet well enough but trying to swing a crescent wrench for the hose connectors in the space between the basin and the wall was difficult.  The basin wrench I bought worked great for unscrewing the nuts that held the old faucet.  I might have been able to work a ratchet and extensions in to reach them but it would have been tricky.

     Now we'll see how well it holds up.  The spout is a bit longer than the old one, so that should be an improvement.

     Also, I think I'll shop for some larger combination wrenches, including a 7/8" stubby.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Fear Of Plumbing

      There's a relatively minor plumbing project I should have done a few weeks ago.  I keep putting it off. It's pretty straightforward, replacing the shutoff valves and faucet for the kitchen sink, and I have done it before at other houses.

     It's just a little daunting.  Nevertheless, tomorrow I need to gather up my gumption and get it done.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Mid-Year Resolutions

     I’m making some resolutions. Sure, we’re more than halfway through the year, but there’s no time like the present. Literally; the now is the only hammer we’ve got and everything is a nail.

      Not every nail should be whacked. I have resolved if anyone in my circle of acquaintances decides to get vaccinated going forward, I’m not going to chortle or crow, no matter how skeptical or reluctant they have been in the past.

     Likewise, anyone I know who plans to avoid the jab isn't going to get any nudges from me. It’s raining soup and if you don’t want a bowl, then you don’t.

     We are where we are in the pandemic. The roller coaster is long past the initial ascent and this ride will play out however it plays out.

     In politics, what I have learned is that I have no home. By gradual degrees, the notion that “libertarian” means “super-Republican” has taken over, even as the GOP has crept away from the type of conservatism it once embraced and moved towards an authoritarian (and European-style) Right. The Democrats remain nearly as chaotic as they were when Will Rogers decribed his membership as “not belonging to an organized political party,” but the center of the chaos is still a deep faith that an unlimited central government is an unlimited good, and I just don’t share it. Whatever anarchists we have left all appear to be of the bomb-throwing and/or anarchosoclialist variety, and that’s actively repugnant to me.  Socialists, communists and the alt-Right all get a hard no from me, based on my reading of history.

      So that means when it comes to politics, I’m a guest here. While I’m not going to refrain from criticizing politicians – and we sure have some doozies! – I will endeavor to not criticize the politics of private individuals. After all, no matter how crazy or awful or even wonderful their opinions, they’ve only got one vote, just like me, even if they don’t believe it got counted. (I’m not even going to argue about that. What’s the use?)

      I do think we’ve got about ten years to fix our political and cultural problems, starting with restoring faith in our institutions and getting people of every party involved at more than the rah-rah rally and protest level. I don’t know what I can do about that but I’ll look for opportunities to make a positive contribution.

      Positivity is an important factor. If you find yourself supporting policies or personalities because they infuriate the opposition, I beg you to take a step back and reconsider. For conservatives, I’ll point out that Buckley’s stiking image was standing athwart the tracks of relentless change shouting “Stop!” not hurling insults at the locomotive’s engineer. Progressives would do well to look at the post WW II history of the United States and realize that no mandate lasts more than an election cycle or two. 

     Both sides had better figure that the last two Presidential elections have gone to the candidate who was the least odious to the greatest number of voters apportioned state-by-state and no matter how shiny their own candidate may have looked to the base, the margin of victory relied on the percepton that the losing candidate was lousier. That’s not a good sign for the future. We should expect more from Presidential candidates than sucking less than the other guy, and certainly more than they send the other side into fits of rage. The office was never intended to have the kind of power than could raise the stakes that high.*
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* The power to really mess things up seems to me to have been Constitutionally reserved to Congress; the Executive branch appears to have been intended to keep the chaos patched up and more-or-less running day-to-day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Why Is It...

      The space programs of Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are decried in some quarters as prime example of "the evils of capitalism," and yet their principals are deeply engaged with the goods and/or services their respective companies sell and appear to have an emotional as well as a financial stake in outcome.  Conversely, the scads of companies run by Boards and Managers who care only about maximizing shareholder returns and are indifferent to the precise thing the outfit makes or provides so long as the money's rolling in, get nary a frown.  They make no headlines, attract no criticism, and could just as easily be strip-mining away mountaintops or building landmines as making manatee food or purifying water.

      It's really all about whatever's shiny at the moment; one then views it through whatever lens suits the desired end result.  I've got to remember to not do so myself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Well, That Was...A Read

      Got caught up on the thing Tam found.  It's...interesting.  But it doesn't make me any happier.

      I wish I had some deep insight to offer, but I don't.  Many people are jerks.  Lots of people enjoy conflict, and will pick the dumbest stuff to get axle-wrapped over.  And then tell you how special they are.

      Okay, then.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Have I Mentioned....

     This is a vacation week for me!  I have no plans, as usual.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

There's One!

      One zillionaire has been to space -- or near it; fight that out among yourselves -- and come back safely now.  In a little over a week, another one will go for a ride, slightly higher and arguably wilder.

      They're even spatting with one another about which vehicle system, Bezos or Branson, offers the spaceiest space experience, and the safest.

      The usual loathe-the-rich folks are complaining about the eeeeeevils of capitalism -- no doubt using handheld computers sold for dirt-cheap prices, laptops more powerful than the best supercomputers of 25 years ago, or cheap, refurbished desktops with more computing power than was available in all of Europe in 1977.   Apparently -- as Tam pointed out -- for some of our fellow humans, when mostly-military personnel go to space at the behest of cold-war competing national governments, that is okay-fine, wave the flag and hurrah, but when competing billionaires do the same thing, it's terrible. awful and no good.  Well, that's one way to look at it, I guess.  (Others do get it.)

      Me, I'm just happy to see people go to space, and if a few of the ultra-wealthy want to be self-funded beta-testers, good for them!  It takes people willing to spend six figures a ticket to ever start to get the price down to something affordable for you and me.  (For that matter, there's nothing quite like having a guy who can buy his own island strapped into the passenger seat, with his armies of lawyers waiting on the ground, to help ensure the hardware really is at least as safe and reliable as promised.  I can't afford to sue 'em honest, but there are lots of people ahead of me in the boarding queue who can.)

      Passengers went to space today and came back.  In a few days, paying passengers (at least one) will be going to space.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

We Went To The Hamfest

      Getting there was the first freeway driving I have done since the last pre-pandemic hamfest I attended -- probably the 2019 Indianapolis Hamfest, in fact.  I dislike driving on the freeway intensely -- there's too much going on at too high a speed to suit me, with cars moving in from both sides at once.

      But we got there; I don't like driving on a busy multi-lane limited-access highway but I can do it.

      The hamfest, held at the Marion County Fairgrounds, was small; the outdoor flea market was maybe as third as big as it has been.  The indoors area was full but uncrowded.  This is still much better than 2020, when there was no hamfest at all, and about what I had expected.

      2022 may be better.  On the (we all sincerely hope) dwindling far side of the pandemic in the U. S., a lot of people still haven't got back to the usual swing of things.  It will take time.

      I picked up a couple of tubes, a couple of books, some odds and ends of connectors, and eight nice lever switches (at $2.50 each!  Unboxed but never used.   The same thing new runs about $24 new -- when you can find them).  The books are a biography of Hiram Percy Maxim and a book on troubleshooting by the prolific and talented Howard S. Pyle, W7OE.  He passed away a year before I was first licensed, but I owe a lot to the books and articles he wrote and I won't pass up a Pyle book.  His work is generally full of solid information, good sense and the kind of ham radio wisdom sometimes known as "owl juice."

      We arrived a bit before noon.  Rain was threatening and some of the outside vendors had already started to pack up.  The "prize table" was in another building, along with the ARRL table, the Boy Scouts and an exhibit of old equipment -- Regency scanners and a homebrew receiver from 1934.  We dropped off our drawing entriee and headed for home, about an hour and a half after arriving.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Recent History

      Tamara stumbled onto one person's effort at making sense of science fiction fandom's "Sad Puppies" mutual shoelace-flailing.  She mentioned it to me and I had to go have a look.

      Since "the Puppy thing" was the proximate cause of the abrupt and steep decline of any interest I had in science fiction fandom, and a corresponding though less intense drop in the amount of writing I was doing in my own fictional universe, I kinda had to start reading it.  Maybe I can lay some of my own upset to rest.

      While a particular kind of Left/Right divide with each side viewing the other in alarmed horror has existed in fandom since at least the first Worldcon -- and you can barely find a report that isn't filtered through the politics of the person writing it up -- the "Puppy" mess was especially ugly and everyone was expected to choose a side.  Despite science fiction already being a literary outcast, and fans especially so, you were expected to love Heinlein and loathe LeGuin, or vice-versa, and so on right down the line.

      I have too many books, in too wide an assortment, to start sortin' 'em out by who I think the author might've voted for (and in the case of Heinlein, do I stick his early stuff with the Lefties and the later stuff on the Right?  The man worked on Upton Sinclair's EPIC, after all).  I'll read most anyone who writes well, without paying a whole lot of attention to their politics unless it gets in the way of the story.

      Being told I had to pick a side didn't sit well with me.  I dropped friendships and took a couple of big steps back.  I have never recovered the momentum I had -- and that's on me; I got discouraged too easily.

      If I can get more interested again, maybe it'd be easier to do more writing.

     No links; I'm not bringing this monster into my own comments section.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Indianapolis Hamfest

      It looks like the 2021 Indianapolis Hamfest will happen as scheduled!  Last year was, unsurprisingly, cancelled.  So this will be the 50th, on the 51st anniversary of the event.

      I'm planning on going -- my first hamfest in well over a year.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Time's A-Wastin'

      A storm came thundering through this morning, so I put off firing up the big desktop computer.  It's probably just superstition, the machine is not much more vulnerable powered up, but it's a habit.

      Our backyard flowers came through okay.  The tomato plants were looking a little beaten down, so I'll check later to see if they're springing back.  They usually do.  I planted them too closely, so I'm not sure how they're going to do -- these were a gift, and grow much larger than the cherry tomatoes I have planted in the past.

      Hoping to do some actual gardening next week, clear weeds from the hostas and plant some flowers out front.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Monday, July 05, 2021

A Holiday Dinner

      The grocery had "aged hanger steaks."  They looked good -- and, I admit, the price was right.  Brugge used to serve them with frites (Belgian French fries) and eggs, but the restaurant fell on hard times and is gone now.  

     The steaks were large, so I bought only one.  Today, I chopped it in half and grilled the halves over slow hardwood charcoal, two great lumps of meat.

     About three times as much as Tam or I could eat, in fact.  It's a relatively tough cut, but very tasty.  The trick is to slice it thin and across the grain.

     Served with baked potatoes, oyster mushrooms cooked in a little pot over the charcoal with a diced red bell pepper and some spices, heirloom cherry tomatoes cut and sprinkled with some "Italian mix" seasoning and a little bit of store-bought vinegar slaw, it made a fine holiday meal -- and there was no question of not getting enough to eat!

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Independence Day

      The Republic, it should be noted, still stands; stands despite disease, inequality, civil unrest and the overheated pronouncements of demagogues.

      Indeed, we the people of the United States remain much as we began: a great, unruly and largely ungovernable collection of individuals, with divergent ideas about how things ought to be, under State and Federal governments that, ultimately, can do little more than nudge us.  And since the people who comprise those governments are selected by and drawn from us, we can nudge right back.

      In our worst moments, we and our government do more than nudging. As a nation and as a people, we have made grave and terrible mistakes.  But our loose and sloppy system has built-in error correction.  It's not fast, it's not especially granular and its workings can be, at times, horrifically unjust.  Our critics, internal and external, say it is an awful system -- but every other system that humanity has tried so far has shown itself to be much worse.

      Sometimes the best compliments come from enemies.  U. S. history was a subject of great and abiding interest to scholars in the former Soviet Union, since no other country has ever made so much progress, so rapidly, after violent revolution and civil war as the did United States of America.

      Our Independence Day is remarked upon far outside our own borders.

      No matter if you're going to a fireworks show, setting off your own, or quietly observing the day mindful of the upset the racket creates for people with PSTD and for pets, you live in a special place.  You are a part of it, not an outside observer, and your vote counts just as much as anyone's else; your letter to your Congressperson matters, and the actions you take are a part of the vast, contradictory tapestry that is the United States of America.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Friday, July 02, 2021

Attention Mark Matis

      Congratulations!  You have been mentioned by name!

      Unfortunately for you you, this is because you continue to leave rumor-driven, easily disproven comments that do not get published.  You have now earned the coveted status not ever getting another comment published on this blog.  Perhaps you should go read blogs more in accord with your opinions.

      I'm not here to try to change your mind, nor will I debate against risible nonsense.  You have chosen a path.  Please use it to go away.

      For readers who are a little better at grasping math, BBC has a story that addresses the panic-mongering, as does WebMD.

      Math and science work.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Back To Normal?

      Indianapolis/Marion County, the last chunk of Indiana with coronavirus restrictions, has lifted them as of today.  Capacity limits are back to whatever the Fire Marshall said was okay and there are no City-County social distancing or mask rules.*

      The latter had been made untenable by the previous rule, which had mandated mask-wearing only for unvaccinated people -- but did not require proof of vaccination to go without a mask.  Unvaccinated persons skeptical of the virus or just crossgrained simply did without masks and bragged about it in their social circles, like kids playing chicken with a third rail that's only electrified some of the time.

      I get the impression that public health officials have decided just about everyone who wanted a vaccine has had one, and have decided to let the thing run its course.  The shots are still available and news of flare-ups (if any) may spur some of the reluctant to take action -- and if not, well, I'm thinking of it as evolution in action.

      Note well that dire predictions of a biomedical dictatorship have not come to pass.  The positive side of public heath measures to limit the spread of infectious illness is that they are driven by publicly-available metrics; with infection and transmission rates falling to new lows over the last several weeks and some forty percent of Hoosiers being vaccinated (48% as of 2 July), there was no longer sufficient justification for restrictions.

      The more-transmissible Delta variant is still poised to become the prominent SARS-CoV-2 strain in the U.S. and it poses a significant risk for people who do not have immunity.  But if someone is still choosing to roll the dice after all the deaths and damage we have seen over the last year and a half and with vaccines widely available, there's no stopping them.  It's a free country.
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* I won't be at all surprised if medical facilities continue to require masks for quite some time.  Where else are the sick and vulnerable in such close proximity?  We may also see grocery-store and food-service personnel in masks for awhile yet, due to company-wide mandates and perceived PR benefits.