Tuesday, May 31, 2022

So, Of Course

      Yesterday, I was running around and getting nerve up to go work at the Main Campus for only the third time since coronavirus dispersal in March of 2020.

      I'm old and out of shape.  I took a short soak in bathwater loaded with Epsom salt.  Ahh, relief!

      At least, I was relieved until I opened the drain for a quick rinse and the water didn't drain.   Worked the valve a few times and the level sank a bit; rinsed off, dried, started getting ready and tried the one of those disposable clog-grabbers.  It felt like it grabbed a clog, all right, but I couldn't pull it out -- and the draining process came to a stop.

      I fiddled with it for far too long, was late to work, and returned home eight hours later to several inches of standing water in the tub.  This morning, I made a little hook out of thin steel wire and cleared the clog, using needle-nose pliers on some of it.  Yeah, the standard hair-clog that afflicts anyone with hair of greater than crew-cut length.  And no, I'm not pondering a shorter 'do for summer, thank you very much.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day

      I'm working today.  I'm also stopping for a moment, and remembering.

      Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, a day for cookouts and picnics, right?  Sure.  It's also, and most saliently, a day to remember the fallen.  There are people we should thank for their service today -- but they're unable to reply.

      Our pleasant holiday exists because men (and women) put themselves between their fellow citizens and the terrifying destruction of war, just as other men and women in other lands are doing right now.  War is not normal; war should not be the default state of life on our planet.  But wars exist, and wars chew up soldier's lives, always.  Reluctant or resolute, they served and fell.  Remember their sacrifice.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Working The Weekend

      Yesterday was my birthday.  I don't do birthdays well, so I was just as glad to have to work.  On the other hand, the day ended a little early, so I grilled a couple of steaks, cooked some fresh mushrooms in a pot on the grill (with butter, garlic powder, a diced radish and a chopped shishito pepper), baked a couple of potatoes and made a simple salad (and simpler dressing: extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, "Italian" seasoning mix: three times as much oil as vinegar, seasoning to taste, pour into a small container with a good lid -- an old glass spice bottle -- and shake thoroughly).  Sounds like a lot of work?  It was a little over an hour from uncovering the grill to sitting down to dinner.

     I picked up half an apple pie, too, and I was going to have some heated up, with vanilla ice cream.  But it turned out the steak dinner was more than enough.  So I had that dessert after breakfast today.

     That's plenty of celebrating.

Saturday, May 28, 2022


     Friday got away from me.  I'm working this weekend and had Thursday and Friday off, so that's weird to begin with; Saturday is usually my laundry and housecleaning (such as gets done) day.  The developing mess with Uvalde police response and fallacious early statements kept drawing my attention.*  Trying to get things done with open wounds on my left hand and wrist (4 - 6 washings and dressing changes per day) is another distraction and time sink, and by the time I was doing the last of my chores, it was past bedtime already.  So no post.

     And today, you get this.
* I try not to second-guess police, especially early on -- we have the Press, politicians and, when necessary, the courts for that -- but the LEO response appears to have been far short of optimal and the originally-claimed timeline is starting to look more and more like some kind of CYA under the banner of "fog of war."  This manner of horrific crime shouldn't happen -- but they do, and when they do, the law-enforcement response should not be to stand back while innocent lives are under immediate threat.  In coming days, we will all know more about why and how that happened, and I hope law enforcement will be working on ways to never do so again. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Another Horror

      This one worse than the previous mass shooting, though I recoil from the idea that any murder is less bad than any other.

      I'm writing about yesterday's mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.  Nineteen elementary-school children, two adults and one murderer, all dead.  And this just days after an attention-seeking mass killer in Buffalo, NY, a stopped-early attempt in California and what appears to be a gang-related shoot-out in Chicago that killed two and injured eight.

      Wikipedia has a list.  Like any such list, there are plenty of details to quibble over, but that won't make the victims any less dead.

      Public figures all across the political spectrum have all said the expected things.  After years of this kind of tragic attack, anyone who pays much attention to the news knows where they stand and a lot of us have near-reflex responses.  That's not a good thing; no matter what your opinion might be, the events that give a reason to share it shouldn't be as common as they have become.  This shouldn't be a habit.

      I don't have any answers or proposed solutions.  Killing so many preteens is especially heinous.  The apparent racial motivation of the Buffalo murderer is despicable but it's familiar, even if most racists are content to merely wave signs and rant at one another and passers-by.  But once again, the news cycle made the perpetrator famous: name, history and manifesto.  At least now, most of the news services flutter fans and deplore the practice -- but they do it anyway, lest the competition beat them to it.  And when one of these twisted losers gets the spotlight, others too-often follow.

      Twitter succumbed to pin-the-killer-on-the-other-guys, with at least one truly inflammatory red herring achieving brief prominence.  It's not a helpful practice; it just adds to the churn and the glitter of attention.

      The United States has roughly as many firearms as people.  Every single one of them can do serious harm to innocent others.*  Rounding them all up and locking them away is not just impractical, it's impossible.  (And that's without addressing the serious individual rights issue and the likely civil response to such an effort.)

      These kinds of killer -- indeed, most mass and spree killers -- appear to be largely male and between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.  Men in this age range do seem to have greater issues with modulating their emotions, with judgement and impulse control, precisely why armies invented sergeants.  Is that a significantly contributing factor?  I don't know -- but it's the kind of thing we need to start figuring out, instead of shouting bumper-sticker slogans at one another across the scene of the most recent outrage to make headlines, because mass shootings aren't stopping.  Better ways to make our familiar old arguments won't slow the murders down and the next bloody-handed loser is already staring at TV screens, newspapers and websites in rapt attention as they proceed to make Uvalde and the killer there tragically infamous.
* If you're seeing ambiguity over "them" being people or guns, you're right.  Both can do great harm.  Only one has volition.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Hi, Bye

      Not much to report, other than I am completely swamped in routine (and non-routine) housework, paying work, next door cat care and wound care.  Filled my car up yesterday evening, at over five bucks a gallon for high-test, and what I want is a Vlad Putin "I did that" sticker.  Without his halfwitted war, we might be paying more for gas, but it wouldn't be anywhere near this much more.

     My injuries appear to be healing okay so far.  I was overdue for routine blood work when that happened and I had put it off.  It requires fasting for twelve hours before, which is no fun.  But here I am, enjoying a nice water and no vitamins, getting ready to shower and go annoy the long-suffering lab tech.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

That Was... Not Much

      What did I get done this weekend?  Almost nothing.  I discovered Friday night that I was supposed to be taking the antibiotic twice a day, not once.  Also that I was supposed to be washing out my injuries a lot more often than I was -- four to six times a day.

      So I did that, I did laundry, I got dishwashing gloves and finally caught up on dishes.  I got to where I needed to be at a minimum.

      I have a number of "progress" tasks on my list, like emptying everything portable out of the washroom and scrubbing the place down, cleaning out the kitchen and scrubbing the floor, building one more bookshelf for the living room and putting a few more books (and collectibles) in some kind of order.  I made no progress at all.  I'm tired and I don't want to stress the wound across the back of my ring finger.

      Then there's the serious need to take a weed-whacker to the weedier spots around the yard, especially at the side of the house and along the fences.  No progress.  The vibration from the weed-whacker is trouble enough when things are normal.

      So I'm keeping up.  I'm keeping the neighbor's cats fed, with some help from Tam.  That's going to have to be enough for now.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Chatting With The Automaton

      "Alexa, who would you vote for?"


     I think we're all on board with that.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Antibiotics And A Warning

      The RapiDoc (not its real name) went well, but came with a short lecture.  No, it wasn't about not startling the cat (I think that has sunk in) but on monitoring the deep slash across the back of my left ring finger and what to do if it shows signs of infection: go to the ER.  And the doctor meant go: I am not to give it time or try some different topical goo, just get in the car and get to the hospital.

      They have me on the latest, greatest antibiotic pills and if those are overmatched, the only next steps are things you need a hospital for.  So that was sobering.  My normal inclination is to clean and bandage minor injuries, then ignore them until they heal.  This time, I'll need to be a little more proactive.

      The nurse and doctor had me soak my hand in something mild for several minutes, swabbed every cut and puncture with iodine, coated it with triple antibiotic and bandaged it up a little differently to my first efforts.  When I picked up my prescription, I bought some self-sticking tape and non-stick bandages so I can copy what they did.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Doc In A Box

      Headed to the instant doc shortly.  Setting it up online wasn't so instant.  But my bandaid job from last night is not entirely adequate, so off I go. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

And Today, It Rained

      It rained off and on all day.  The good news is that the temperature dropped.

      I startled Holden the cat this evening and he went off like a hand grenade.  He was sneaking across my desk, which he knows he shouldn't do, intent on getting to a very narrow spot near the printers, which he knows is off limits.  It's a tricky process, especially since I have set things up to make it harder for him to get there, and I guess he didn't realize I had put my left hand under his tummy until I started to lift him--

      Panic!  He lashed out every which way at once and I dropped him in my chair, but not before he'd managed to rake my left hand pretty good.   There's a deep gash diagonally across the first knuckle of my left ring finger, a smaller one on my left index finger and a handful of scratches on the underside of my left wrist.  I applied a paper towel and pressure (and sobbed a bit) then washed them all out well -- twice -- and poured alcohol across them before bandaging it all up.  (Yeah, it's icky to wash out an injury but after a certain point in life, you just accept that it's going to not be much fun for a few seconds in exchange for being less trouble in the longer term.)

      Every last drive-in doc is closed this time of night and I'm not going to the ER for scratches.  Poor Holden seems a bit dazed by it all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

OMG, What If I'm Not -- Kewl?

      Now, commenters are warning me that they might not sit with me at lunchtime!

      Guys, I eat lunch alone.  Always have.

      I get that a lot of the Right and the Libertarian Right has jumped down a fantasy rabbit hole, but I'm not even slightly inclined to follow.*  And it doesn't matter if a lot of people agree with my analysis, or if no one does.  We count votes to determine large-scale imponderables -- what kind of nitwit we want representing us in local, state and Federal legislative bodies, what kind of nitwit we want in the various Executive offices, and the election or retention of some judges, many of whom are nitwits or at least lawyers who failed to attract clients.  They're not great and at any given time, at least half of us dislike them, but it's what we've got.  Better voting for a selection of mostly-temporary nitwits than Leaders-for-life.

      Matters of personal belief or personal opinion aren't up for a vote, and if you change yours to run with "your crowd," well, a lot of people do, but I don't.  I look at the facts, I look at why I think things are factual and if that can be tested, and I make my own conclusions.  And yes, I look at my own tastes and my own opinions -- just as anyone does.  I don't care if that leaves me nodding along with most of the people around me, or on the front steps in my bathrobe yelling at clouds.

*  *  *
     Another commenter complains, "you chose to censor anyone who disagreed with you."  Nope.  I won't publish comments that are promoting racism or pernicious nonsense.  That's not "censorship," they can go publish that stuff elsewhere or shout it on streetcorners.  Or scribble it on their rifle like a loser.  I publish comments that disagree with me that do have some basis in fact, or that at least don't assume large-scale domestic villainy on the part of groups of Others.  ("Devil theory" thinking is a sure-fire indicator of bullshit.  The Bad Guy tends to be more symptom than cause, and the GOP's current Magic 8-Ball is a fine example of that: take him away and there are a half dozen others eager to step into the role.)  If you're not getting published here, it's because I think what you are writing is crazy or irrelevant.  If that stings, the treatment for it is to go publish elsewhere; I haven't put a gag on you.  I certainly don't owe anyone a forum on my own blog except myself.
* Most Nolan Chart tests I have run put me at top center, neither Right nor Left.  My parents were lifelong Republicans, socially conservative (but tolerant if you kept the shades firmly drawn), patriotic, fiscally conservative, commonsensical and interested in current events.  They snickered at conspiracy theories -- and Richard Nixon resigned while I was in High School, so there was plenty of conspiracy BS around.  Mom and Dad didn't fall for it and I doubt they'd've fallen for the craziness their party has leaped into, either.  The party of Donald Trump has very little in common with the party of Gerald Ford except for the name.  I can't pull anyone back from the brink but I will continue to point out that they're dancing on the edge of a volcano.

Monday, May 16, 2022

You're Not The Boss Of Me

     Complaints, my, don't I get complaints!  "Your blog is usually interesting as long as you stay away from political rants," for instance.

     Look, sonny, if it's not interesting to you, go read something else.  You're probably late for a Bund meeting anyway.  I'm not writing for punks and fools -- Right, Left or just plain loony.  Don't like that?  My heart fair bleeds for you, except it doesn't.

     This is my blog.  I do it to amuse myself, not you.  I'll write about what I darned well want to, and if people don't like it, they're not obliged to read it.  

     The same griper takes me to task for not commenting on "Row v. Wade," which I think is in re the possible U. S. Supreme Court overturning or altering of their previous decision in Roe v. Wade.  Two things about that: one, it hasn't happened yet, so people on all sides of the issue are running around like headless chickens on spec; two, I believe that the only people with relevant opinions on abortion are A, pregnant mothers and B, doctors.

     My belief will not change no matter what the courts say.  Abortion, like guns, drugs and alcohol, is something legislatures and courts can make rules and decisions about all day long, but all they are really deciding is who they're going to make into criminals if the police can catch them; human behavior will go on, not much altered, no matter what the mostly well-off men in nice suits who went to nice colleges have to say about it in fancy language.  They can legalize and have some hope of controlling and limiting the related behaviors, or they can illegalize it and pretend it won't happen -- but it will, and it will be largely unrestrained, uncontrolled and unlimited.  That's the actual choice.

Stop Feeding Murderous Trolls

      The weekend saw another deadly nitwit of a mass shooter, this time in Buffalo, New York.  All the usual kinds of politicians came out and said the expected things (including blaming magazine capacity!).

     In a country of over 330 million, the supply of even one-in-ten-million people who want to work out a grievance by shooting strangers is plenty large.  You can even claim that with so many  people, violence is inevitable, and perhaps it is.  330 million includes plenty of aggressive criminals and violently insane people.

      I don't know if it necessarily includes this kind of criminal, someone so hopped-up on xenophobic rage-mongering that they set out to kill specific subsets of their fellow humans.

      There's an entire slice of news-and-commentary devoted to exploiting just this kind of anger.  There are serving politicians in both major parties who return to the well of bile over and over.  --But conservatives own the Buffalo shooter, who appears to have explicitly endorsed "Replacement Theory" in his crazysauce purported manifesto, the very same pernicious notion some GOP pols and Fox talking-head Tucker Carlson (among many others) like to slip in and wink at, knowing it's red meat to a base of worried WASPs.* Out of 330 million people, if you keep pushing buttons, you'll eventually come up with a bloody jackpot, a ticking timebomb who might have just screeched away in comments sections and chatrooms, who might have tripped over his own feet -- and instead gets fired up and motivated to go do something.  Something very bad.  Something I'm sure all the frontline, big-audience politicians and pundits would disavow.  They never meant that!  And perhaps they didn't.  Perhaps they don't understand that it is loaded.

      In the more-obscure (but hardly hidden) corners of the Internet are plenty of people who who damned well know they're handing out dynamite, and they cheer the blasts.  At one time, such ideas had no path to the mainstream.  Now they do. 

      Time to grow up.  Time to push such racist poison back into the universal disrepute it so richly deserves.  Time to stop feeding killer trolls.

       (I'm sure I'll get some both-siderism gripes.  Look, a killer is a killer is a killer; a mob is a mob is a mob.  I don't care what particular kind of murderous crap they espouse, it's wrong to go injure and kill others over it.  All citizens have a duty to stifle it -- starting with whatever part of it is within their easy reach.  What, you're afraid you political foes won't do their part?  Solve that at the ballot box.  Solve it in the public square -- without violence.  You can be the grown-up.  C'mon, it's not that hard.  Lots of Americans do so every day.)
* And to a considerable tranche of Catholics and Jews.  History suggests those groups are still on thin ice with the worst of the worst at the political extremes, but the human capacity for self-delusion is almost limitless.  It's a nasty day when that balloon pops.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Yes, I'm Still Blogging

      About what, I'm not sure.  Even the weather is a fraught topic these days.

      I missed a small family reunion picnic yesterday because it took me too long to get enough gumption to attend -- and then on the way I promptly stumbled into some rebuilt/changed freeway that resulted in missing an exit and having to wander around to get to where I needed to be.  (City freeways are not my friend.  Interstate highways, I can more-or less manage, but this business of navigating tangled interconnections at speeds in excess of 60 mph overwhelms me.  In part it's due to lousy eyesight -- I effectively have no peripheral vision -- and in part due to having to keep track of too much in my visual field at once.  And in part it's because I dislike it intensely.)

Saturday, May 14, 2022

I Aten't Ded

      Kinda missed blogging yesterday.  I've been feeling physically lousy, and then there's the conceptual side of things: what's the point? 

      Old alignments have broken down and significant portions of the old blogosphere have bought into political nutjobbery of a kind that I had thought only grabbed public imagination (and the posturing of politicians) these days in the Third World and the struggling (not to mention occasionally backsliding) governments of the former Warsaw Pact.

      As near as I can figure, all it took was for the last survivors of the Holocaust and the last WW II veterans to die off, for memories of Stalin* to mellow against Russia's 20th/21st Century economic unrest and turmoil, and suddenly the idea of the Great Leader, of Caesar, was back and throbbing with blood, soil, and feel-don't-think bullshit.  People are cheering for it from Moscow to Warsaw, from France to...well, to right here.  The good old U.S. of A.  The French dealt the damnable notion a hard blow in their recent elections but the brass bands are still blaring here, and...I don't know.   When one party's leaning into the Leader Principle and the Big Lie good and hard, and the other party is milling around, rearranging their same old deck chairs and hoping the sinking will stop on its own, there's not much to look ahead to.

      Blogging as I once did about Those Clowns in Washington has become just another form of deck-chair Solitaire -- this does not mean our elected nitwits have suddenly become less clownish, just that there's less use in pointing it out; nobody's listening to anything bad about their favorite clowns.  Though some of the clowns are more evil than usual (and in a way that is structurally dangerous), the audience here under the Big Top is cheering and laughing louder than ever.

      Fates help us all when the lion-tamer shows up, pistol on his hip, cracking the whip.  A whole lot of people are gonna line up to go into the cage -- especially if they'll have a chance at the red meat of the fellow citizens they despise most.
* In case you're thinking, "He helped win WW II!  He industrialized Russia!  How bad could he be?"  Bear (ahem) in mind he was so bad that Nikita ("We will bury you!") Khrushchev officially denounced him...once he was safely dead and embalmed, and not one second earlier.

Thursday, May 12, 2022


      Last night, I woke up after midnight spluttering and coughing, having inhaled an unknown amount of acid reflux.  I was choking on the remainder of it.

      This despite years of sleeping on a large wedge pillow.

      Some delightfully-tasty horseradish slaw is the most likely culprit.  It was not overwhelmingly seasoned with the stuff, but there was enough that I didn't finish my portion.  It would seem that what I had was too much.  Didn't sleep much after that, and arose in the morning to a world that is tilting slowly back and forth.  It has not ceased, and I keep nodding off.  Perhaps I am lulled by it, like napping in a hammock or in a small boat.  Either way, it was obvious I wasn't going anywhere.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Migraine, Dizzy -- But...!

      Vladimir Putin didn't do anything especially awful yesterday.  Just his typical awfulness of trying to stomp a civilized country back into the don't-call-it-USSR, plus some downscaled parades and a speech that mingled the Usual Historical BS with the Current Warmongering BS.   I'm callin' it a win for the West: there is a point that the civilized nations of the world will consider to be too far, and he hasn't got the nerve to cross it.

      Me, on the other hand, I'm not going to be up to anything fancy today.  My goal is staying vertical and hydrated.  Can I achieve it?  Maybe.

Monday, May 09, 2022

That's One Round

      Yesterday and Saturday, I filled a thirty gallon trash bag with dandelions, mostly from the back yard.  That's not all of them, but it's as many as I could find.  Unfortunately, between that, laundry and Sunday dimmer (grilled flank steak, fresh mushrooms in a pot on the grill with garlic/parsley butter, baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts), I got nothing else done. 

      On the other hand, that was quite a lot, and I did clean out the grill, too.  The last time I used it, I had absent-mindedly left the lid up instead of closing it and shutting the vents.  I found it after dinner but by then, there wasn't much fuel left.  So that cost me a about an hour's worth of hardwood lump charcoal.  Aside from a few unburned pieces of charcoal, it left only nice fluffy ash, easy to pour into a trash bag.  I don't mind building up a nice bed of ash in the grill, but once it gets higher than the fire grate, it doesn't draw as well.

Sunday, May 08, 2022


      Voice one: "What'cha reading?"

      Voice two:  "An article on how to take things less personally.  But I know you're judging me for it."

Saturday, May 07, 2022

A Gift From Nature

      The first lawn mowing of the season has come and gone, and with it all the tiny, white flowers with hints of pink.  The violets rebound (and so do any overlooked dandelions) but the five-petaled white flowers are gone for the year.

      So I was surprised to walk from the back yard to the front and see clusters of small white flowers, a bit larger than the ones that were mowed down last week.  They have four-lobed (actually six) petals, too.  I took a closer look.

      On a walk through the neighborhood in an earlier stretch of warm weather, I had noticed white violets in a few yards.  Yes, the same kind of wild-growing weed-violets, but white instead of purple.  And now we've got them too.  The yard has patches of white and patches of purple, along with a few yellow wild strawberry blossoms and the tiny, lighter-purple, almost blue flowers on the Creepin' Charlie.

      Sure, they're weeds.  I still like them.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Here's How It Is

      Everybody, everywhere, all of the time, is just muddling through.  Oh, we have our areas of competence -- surrounded by far larger areas about which we think we know more than we do -- but generally, we're all faking our way through.  Not wickedly; not as a cheat: we're looking at the other humans around us, and either doing as they do or deciding to not do so because we don't like that way, or don't like the people who do it.  Rationality scarcely enters into it, because on most subjects, we don't know enough for rational analysis. 

      Rationalizing, on the other hand, is something each and every one us can accomplish with grace and aplomb, as smoothly as a swan gliding over water, and we do it all day long.  If there's a great deal of splashing and thrashing about hidden under the surface, well, no one notices, perhaps not even the swan.

      If we meet aliens some day, that's exactly how they'll get through their lives, too.  Because no one can know everything.  Most things, we take on faith and manage by guess and by gosh.

      We're just careful to hide that truth from everyone.  Even ourselves.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Off To The Doctor

      You'd think it would be related to vertigo caused by culture wars, but nope.  Just routine.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

The Primaries Have Run, Here And Ohio

      And what do you know?  Trump-leaning GOP candidates generally did well; on the other hand, there weren't very many non-Trumpy Republicans running.  Possibly none at all.  Ohio's batch varied from the centrist (but willing to nod along) Mike DeWine to the MAGA-rific and Trump-endorsed J. D. Vance.  Indiana was much the same except for a distinct lack of DeWines on the ballot.

      Pundits had pointed to these primaries as tests of Mr. Trump's continuing power within his party and were prepared to cast the results as confirming or disproving it.  It makes great press but the real test was in the candidates who stepped forward to run, and you'd look in vain for any friends of Liz Cheney among them.  It was obvious long before election day.

      That's where that party is, at least here in flyover country, an observation as unexpected as finding vanilla on the menu at an ice-cream stand.  The appeal of a big, loud, strong personality should not be underestimated, and it doesn't matter in the least if he's peddling pernicious stuff and nonsense.  Mr. Trump's line has become Party orthodoxy.  Whatever their private opinions, the public utterances of the party's office-holders and especially candidates for office are going to adhere to it.  It's what Republican voters want to hear.

      The real test will be in November.  Like the primary, it will not be test of truth or rightness, only of electability.  There are many months between now and November; war rages in Europe, supply-chain woes persist, COVID-19 is (still!) simmering in the northeast U.S. and parts of China, and only a fool would be entirely confident in any prediction for the upcoming election.  The old rule was to play to one's base in the primary and aim for wider appeal in the general; I don't know if either party's* candidates are willing, let alone able, to do so.

      If I had my way, I'd make prospective candidates take -- and pass -- Civil Service exams or at least the government's Occupational Questionnaires and manage a seventy percent score or better before they could run for office.  But the worst of them would just cheat and sail through with the highest scores, so....
* If I've left the Democrats out, it's because they ran single candidates if any for the offices they have no hope of winning in the Fall and the few contested spots were not a test of anything except how well the candidates campaigned; that's the hard work of running, but it's rarely blogfodder or even newsworthy unless one of them sets out to shake every hand in their district and succeeds.  It doesn't appear that anyone from either party cared that much this time around.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

It's Primary Election Day In Indiana

      If you are a member of either one of the two big parties, today is your chance to help select candidates for the November election, and I encourage you to do so.

      Must admit, I'm sitting this one out.  I'm not a member of either party, and we're back in Andre Carson's U. S. House district.  He's a Democrat, in a strongly Democratic district, and he's a "legacy," having succeeded his aunt in the post.  He's also an excellent campaigner.  I don't agree with many of his positions, but he's the guy we've got and he will probably hold the office just as long as he still cares to.  So there's no point in voting in the Democrat or Republic primaries in that race.  That's the single most significant contest on my ballot and it's not a real contest, despite lots of other people running for it in both party primaries.

      I'll go with whoever the more strongly partisan voters want, and choose among the primary results this Fall.  At this writing, I am very likely to vote a straight Democratic ticket: there's a real lack of sane Republicans and if I'm forced to pick between candidates with whom I have policy disagreements on one side, and the other offers candidates actively hostile to free elections, freedom of the press, individual rights and our system of government, I'll vote for the side with office-seekers who are merely mistaken.  If the GOP gives up fantasy and conspiracy theories, or at least produces candidates who neither buy into nor go along with such nonsense, I'll consider them for my vote.  But not until then.  

Monday, May 02, 2022

Food Prices And Cooking

      Food prices started up as the pandemic grew, driven by a combination of intangibles -- consumer worry and uncertainty -- and very tangible issues: most kinds of food processing require a lot of "touch labor," busy hands, often in close proximity.  So food processing work, especially for meat, easily became a kind of "superspreader."  That meant lengthy shut-downs, expensive modifications to production lines and even pay increases.   (It's a tribute to the industry and an insight into how the virus spreads that outbreaks were limited to workers and people they came into direct contact with, not consumers.)

      There are over 35,000 food processing facilities in the U.S., ranging from little regional potato-chip makers to vast factories employing tens of thousands.  We never ran out of food, though at times ham or big-brand chicken got scarce, while beef prices just kept going up.

      The latest panicky rumor going around is that food shortages are right around the corner, egged on by comments from politicians concerned about the war in Ukraine and overhyped reporting of over a year's worth of fires at food-processing facilities.  It has been showing up as memes claiming from eighteen to twenty-two "mysterious" fires.  But they're not mysterious; any search engine calls up multiple articles investigating the issue.  The causes of most of the fires were quickly determined (insurance companies and fire inspectors being sooo picky about these things) and the simple truth is, twenty-some fires among 35,000 different joints turning critters and plants into breakfast and dinner isn't even statistically unusual.  It's what the insurance actuaries expect, as is the range of damage.  The fires have affected 0.063% of the facilities, taking the largest figure and including one that was, in fact, a long-empty building.

      So no, we're not going to run out of food, and that includes the kinds of wheat and rye grown in Ukraine.  The U.S. and Canada are net exporters of both grains.  Third-world countries aren't going to fare as well.  (Russian grain exports will also likely fall, largely due to sanctions.)

      On the other hand, we're paying more for food these days.  Having spent a lot of my adult life with an income in the lower end of middle class or lower, I'm used to food being costly in terms of how many hours I have to work to buy a couple of bags of groceries.  There are tricks to dealing with it.

       One of the most powerful and basic is, you can trade time for money when you buy and cook food.  Dry beans are tasty, filling and nourishing -- but even after soaking overnight, they have to simmer for most of a day and they take looking after.  If you get weekends off, you can cook up a big batch, freeze meal-sized amounts, and parcel them out over time.  Frozen cooked beans keep well -- the trick is to freeze them in containers with a lot of surface area so they'll quickly freeze all the way through.  Gallon-sized freezer bags work well, if you freeze them flat and don't stack them until after they're frozen.

      Meat is the same way.  London Broil is among the more affordable cuts of beef and Boston Butt pork is ringing up at $3.99 a pound at our local grocer.  Beef stew meat is generally the same price as ground beef, and makes a nice treat.  Every one of those needs to be cooked for hours, low and slow; you can't slap it in a pan or on the grill and serve it up rare in under ten minutes.  Marinating helps.  And making big batches, then freezing the leftovers for later lets you make use of available cooking time.

      With vegetables, the more work you have to do, the cheaper they are.  Frozen or canned is still pretty cheap and keeps well, but for familiar vegetables, buying fresh is much cheaper.  Potatoes and onions keep well in a cool, dark cabinet; other root vegetables will stay happy in the fridge for roughly a week if not longer.  The above-ground stuff usually doesn't last as long; I wrap celery in aluminum foil to make it last but it's still a race to use it up before it goes brown.  If you have time to prep and cook them, it can be much cheaper to buy fresh vegetables and in my opinion, they taste better. (Canned beans are an exception.  They're one of the cheaper canned foods and keep well.  They're about as good as dried or fresh, but look out: they often have excess salt.  This can can make it more difficult to cook them with ham, especially "seasoning ham," which can be plenty salty itself.  Low-salt versions are becoming more available and rarely cost more.  You can also add a couple of cut-up potatoes; they'll balance the flavor by soaking up the salt and make for lower salt per serving.)

      The freezer and fridge are your friends, and so are those old cookbooks gathering dust.  Time can be an ally -- one of the worst periods of my life was when I was working two full-time jobs to make ends meet, three sixteen-hour days and four eight-hour days every week.  There was barely time to do laundry and there wasn't time to cook.  I ate what was quick and affordable, and pined for my own cooking. 

      Though most of human history, we have struggled to get enough to eat.  One of the great wonders of modern civilization is that more people than ever before get sufficient food (and, tragically, some still do not).  While abundance has made food less expensive, you still pay extra for convenience -- and you can save considerably by leveraging inconvenience.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

A Pot

      Not just any pot, the companion to my Always Pan: the Perfect Pot.  I've been wanting one since they introduced them, but I didn't actually need one.

      On the other hand, the nice ceramic nonstick is a lot easier to hand wash than stainless steel.  And the pot is exactly in between my large RevereWare pot and my big stewpot.  Since the one is sometimes slightly small and the other is so big that it's a chore to deal with, I was tempted.  Then the From Our Place people had a sale (It's still going on as I write) and prices dipped from "Maybe someday" to "Why not today?"  It arrived Friday.

      Mine is a bright acid-green (apple green or wasabi green).  I used it last night to make a kind of pot roast, with a London Broil in the starring role.  It's nice, heavy enough to distribute heat well and the nonstick interior is just as good as the pan.  The lids are compatible in size, though of different design, and the clever spoon-holding handles work nearly as well with my silicone spoons as they do with the purpose-made wooden spoon that arrives with the pot.  The body of the pot is thick cast aluminum, with a colorful exterior and a gray ceramic interior.

      Drawbacks?  The cast-in handles are like the short one on the Always Pan and they heat up just as much as it does, so you need an oven mitt or hot pad to lift it using them.  (A high-end Le Creuset dutch oven in the same size has the same kind of handles -- at well over twice the sale price.)  I have ordered some silicone grabbers made for that kind of handle and we'll see how that works.

A Mastermind

      What could be better than trying to finish the laundry you didn't get done the day before and discovering you had let a large load of socks run the night before in the dryer with the hot air off?  Once the tumbling-only was over, they sat all night, damp and unhappy.  Of course, I only found them after I had started a load of towels and washcloths, so now everything is out of kilter.

      The towels are drying now with the hot air on* and the socks are in the washer, hoping for redemption through rewashing.
* I do realize modern dryers have more settings than those two, it's just in my experience those settings are RUIN CLOTHES, DAMAGE CLOTHES, DRY CLOTHES and AMUSE CLOTHES.  That's two more than my Mom's 1949 Sears Kenmore dryer had, but the same number of useful ones.  Mom used that dryer until the 1980s -- it never broke, but she wanted a newer one that was higher off the floor.