Thursday, November 30, 2023

There's A Chance...

     There is a chance Google will yank the account I use for this blog tomorrow.  It's not likely, but it's not impossible.

     If it happens, so long and thanks.  It's been fun.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

I'm Still Here

     Just not blogging much.  You know what I think of current politics, and there's only so much pointing-with-alarm one can do.  TV and movies of my youth led me to believe quicksand would be a far more prominent danger than it has turned out to be, but it also told me that dangerous religious fanatics would reliably be shaggy-bearded, wild-eyed, gaunt, white-haired patriarchs intoning Bible verses in a hollow bass; it told me political extremists would be kooks, bomb-throwers and never, ever gain elective office.

     It was all fatuous nonsense.  Except for the part about quicksand.  We have got problems, and they're coming from newly-emboldened fringes, trying to pass themselves off as the real center.

     Elsewhere, I have been busy with NaNoWriMo (I'm far, far behind schedule) and other writing; but I'm trying to write commercial stuff, which means I can't share it here.  And I am trying to keep up with my job.  My workplace changed greatly right before the pandemic and not, I think, for the better in terms of it being an interesting or engaging place to work.  But it still pays well and offers an excellent benefits package, so I'm sticking with it, enzombified as it now is.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Thanksgiving Dinner

     Tamara and I had a simple meal -- Turducken roll, slow-cooked in a covered pan on the grill with turnip, fennel bulb and apple; mashed potatoes made from scratch (and not boiled); and bacon gravy.

     The turnip, fennel bulb and apple was a great match for the turducken.  There wasn't much room in the roasting pan around the five pounds of birds and stuffing, but it all fit.  I made the mashed potatoes by cooking them in the microwave and mashing them skin-on in a pan* on the stovetop over low heat; ended up using a cup of milk and a tablespoon of water, plus butter, and they were great.

     The gravy?  I started with five strips of bacon, enough to get a quarter-cup of melted fat.  Set the bacon on a paper towel covered plate to drain, and added a quarter-cup of flour to the hot fat to make a roux, cooking over low-medium heat until it darkened.  Then a whole two-cup box of Kettle & Fire Mushroom Chicken Bone Broth, all at once, and I kept stirring and cooking as it thickened, with occasional breaks to snip bacon bits into it.  The end result was as smooth as velvet, rich with umami, and went wonderfully with the mashed potatoes and turducken.
* I mash potatoes in an old-fashioned way, starting by stirring them with a sharp knife, and switching to a large dinner-type fork once they're in small pieces.  It's not the fastest and it takes a little work, but I like the end result.

Thursday, November 23, 2023


     This is a day to be thankful.  And I am -- I'm thankful my boss tolerates my quirks and foibles, and that Tamara does, too.

     I'm thankful things are not worse, which they very easily could have been.  The human race dodged a near one with the coronavirus, and the United States had another close call in the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential election.

     We may yet have troubles; our species has long gotten by on the skin of our teeth -- but gotten by we have, and I am thankful for that.  Here's to keeping on keeping on!

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Failure Modes Of Bad Managers

     It is possible that my experience is not the usual thing.  I have worked for many different managers, both my direct supervisor and the levels above.  My line of work has long featured frequent changes in management.  I've worked for several remarkably good ones, and a lot of managers who were doing their best with what they had.

     The two ends of the bell curve stand out, the great and the abysmal.  The great ones were often inspiring leaders -- but even more often, they were men (and a few women) who would roll up their sleeves and do the work, whatever it was.  Everyone else would pitch in because, really, what else can you do?  There's the boss, hard at work, and what kind of a heel doesn't want to help out?

     The bad managers relied on bluster and bombast, on micromanaging the easy parts and leaving the conundrums for the "little people" to work out.  They were quick to blame their staff for failures, and quick to take credit for successes.  They rarely got their hands dirty.  And they could go on in this way for a long time.  But it never lasted.  They'd either flame out spectacularly in a fit or rage or pique, or they'd fade out, as staff sought better opportunities and they were left with burnouts, time-servers and unskilled weasels as venal as themselves.  The drinkers (and drug users) were eventually overwhelmed by their addiction to the point of not being able to function, at which point any decent person can only feel compassion (no matter how unwilling they might be to continue propping up the bad manager).  Sometimes, an overheard comment or behavior was enough, if the right person or persons hear or saw it.

     Threats, bullshit and histrionics only take a boss so far; built on hot air, fear and fantasy, their efforts eventually collapse, sometimes taking down a department, an enterprise or a government.  The bigger they have grown, the worse the fall.

     You have to wonder how that's going to play out on a national scale, by and by.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Quick Roundup

     Here it is, all you need to know in the shortest time:

     U. S. domestic politics is awful.

     World politics is awful.

     War is terrible.  No civilian non-combatant ever deserves to die, even if they hold truly horrible opinions; however, letting combatants use your basement for their HQ disqualifies you from "non-combatant" status.  Also, bombing hospitals is never a good idea, even when it is.  And war is still terrible.  We should have fewer of them, and smaller.

     Please smile at other people and be nice to them; if you need encouragement, consider that some of them -- probably the ones you like least -- will really, really dislike it if you're polite and friendly.

Friday, November 17, 2023

The U. S. Senate, Red In Tooth And Claw?

     It's been all over the news, all over social media -- junior Senator for Oklahoma Markwayne Mullin offering to fight Teamsters President Sean O'Brien in the course of a Senate committee hearing.  He was chided by his Senate colleague Bernie Sanders, a man never overly concerned with decorum, practicality or even reality, which ought to have been humbling but probably wasn't.

     Senator Mullin and Teamsters boss O'Brien have been sniping at one another for months; I don't expect them to be great pals, not the former owner of a big, open-shop plumbing company* and union guy, not a Republican Senator and a labor boss: they're natural antagonists.  However, politics is the tool we invented so we don't have sort matters out by knocking one another over the head, and I do expect a United States Senator and the President of a national union to avoid actual physical conflict, even while being about as lousy to one another as they can manage.

     The Teamsters are proud of their roughneck image -- but even they have had to admit that might doesn't necessarily make right.  I damned well expect a U. S. Senator to understand it.  Tolerating this sort of behavior is a very poor sign for the present course of the GOP.  Senator Mullin citing as precedent pro-slavery Representative Preston Brooks beating anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner with a cane after Sumner had spoken harshly of slave owners in 1856 does not speak well of him -- the incident is generally understood as the one of the precursors to the Civil War.  The Senator also mentioned President Andrew Jackson's overly-pugnacious behavior, which is shaky ground indeed; Jackson's legacy is at best, mixed, and his temper is more infamous than admired.

     I don't expect Senators -- or even U. S. Representatives -- to engage in hand-to-hand combat or feats of strength.  That's not what I'm paying them to do; it's what I am paying them to avoid, and to manage the conflicts that would otherwise lead to violence.

     This bully-boy nonsense is strictly for the funny papers.  Or the history books, brown/silver/black shirts and all.  (Can you name the countries where each group sullied the public streets?)
* The plumber's union is a big one, one of the surviving 19th Century American Federation of Labor craft unions,† and historically, they're known to be quite touchy about jurisdiction.
† In contrast to the younger, scrappier Congress of Industrial Organizations unions.  They're long merged now, but while an AF of L craft union organized workers in skilled trades, the CIO (splintering from AFL in 1935) organized entire establishments, from the sweepers to the top of the hourly pay scale.  There was no love lost between craft unions and industrial unions for twenty years, but by the mid-1950s, they remembered they had a common enemy and got back together.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Just In Time For Christmas

     I've got it: the hot new toy.  It's a Tesla Cybertruck in the style of the "Transformers" toys, only when you transform it, it's a dumpster, complete with flames shooting out the top!

     Yeah, that thing isn't being welcomed with open arms by anyone anywhere besides the fanniest of fanboys; it's coming up short in terms of styling, fit and finish, and the basic necessary functions of a working truck, and that's before you consider the seething sociopolitical mess the lad at the top keeps dipping himself into.

     I miss the days of geeks who stuck to geekery and business types who immersed themselves in the accumulation of wealth while avoiding visible involvement in politics and most scandals.  You can point out it was often plenty rotten under the surface, and you'd be right; but at least there was a surface over the worst of it.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Kerosene Stove

     My paternal grandmother cooked on a kerosene stove.  She preferred them.  She would have grown up with wood-fueled cookstoves and a kerosene stove is a lot less bother to use.  The first good kerosene stoves started showing up when she was a young bride: in the very early 20th Century, John D. Rockefeller, eager to find new markets for oil distillates, helped fund efforts to develop improved kerosene stoves that resulted in the "Perfection" long-chimney burner, in which the flame never touches the pots and pans and the long path produces better combustion.  Unlike earlier, pressurized, Primus-type oil stoves, the fuel is gravity fed and a simple wick adjustment controls the temperature.  (The controls on a Primus stove are something of an art.  Similar pressurized white-gas Coleman stoves are considerably simpler, thanks in part to the more-volatile fuel.)

     It would have been a pretty wonderful device at the time.  The Perfection  design worked so well that it is still being made.

     The timeline fits well with the now-demolished brick house my grandfather built for his growing (and eventually large) family.  She would have had a modern kitchen and the kerosene stove would have been the centerpiece.  (I don't know if the house had a matching water heater, but they were certainly available).  Along with city running water and a nice icebox, it would have been very much of the times.  (Ice was cheap and easy to come by for a long time; I don't know if the family ever had a monitor-top refrigerator or if they kept the older technology through WW II.  Mom's family had natural-gas refrigerators by the mid-1930s, when her father worked for a southern Indiana company that made them.  When my father bought a used but upscale travel trailer in the late 1970s, Mom was delighted to discover it had a propane refrigerator.)

     Despite the 19th Century gas boom -- or perhaps because if it -- early gas stoves had an iffy reputation for safety.  Lacking a pilot light and with valves that were easy to turn on by accident, asphyxiation and explosion were definite hazards for the first gas ranges.*  A kerosene stove might leak, but that wasn't much more of a risk than kindling.  They were popular for many years.  I'm told my grandmother kept using hers well into the time of safe, modern gas and electric ranges, until she was finally convinced to replace it with an electric range a few years after my parents married.
* My first apartment, in a turn-of-the-century building in a town near the center of the Indiana Gas Field, had a minimalist cast-iron stove, bracketed to the wall.  Two burners, no oven, and all of it right out in the open.  The valves were quarter-turn types with 90-degree handles, and the landlord supplied wooden kitchen matches.  Handle horizontal was off, handle down was full on: not exactly fail-safe.  It sat next to a sink made of folded and soldered sheet zinc, mounted on similar cast-iron brackets -- and a modern refrigerator, dating from at least the 1950s.  That last item was a relief.  I'm not sure I would have been up to hauling blocks of ice up three flights of stairs and by the late 1970s, nobody was delivering.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

11 November

     The current received wisdom is that veterans are a bit irked by pro forma thank-you-for-your-service recognition of the day -- and of their service.

     These are, by and large, lousy jobs.  Difficult jobs, between danger, boredom, physical effort and long, grinding workdays.  While it is true that officers at all but the smallest bases enjoy access to amenities nearly as nice as the country club in any county seat served by two different railroads, none of 'em signed up for the golf.  And ditto for the somewhat more limited perks available to enlisted personnel.  I'm darned glad people are willing to do the work and impressed by how many of them thrive.  It rates more than a stock phrase and a once-a-year discount at fast-food joints.

     Our choice of date is instructive: America chose not the date of a famous battle, or even a famous victory, but the day the guns fell silent.  Our armed forces exist not to make wars but to end them.  Quite often, that means fighting them all the way through; but there is a "through."  There is an end point.  Unbroken peace may not be something humans can manage, but we're not doomed to eternal war, either.  A few of us step up and work directly to that end; it's not an easy job and sometimes it doesn't get much respect -- but it should.  One day to mark it seems barely enough.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

So Much To Do

     Busy at work, busy fighting this lingering cold, busy watching politicians....

     I watched some of the Republican runners-up debate last night, the Island of Misfit Toys, and even in that group, Vivek Ramaswamy stands out as a jerk.  Yes, in a profession of largely jerks, in a party that has embraced boorish jerkness, amid a collection of alpha jerks, he was still an outstanding jerk.  I wouldn't accept a free sample of snake oil from him, let alone a political idea.

     The rest of 'em were all just what it's been saying on the label.  Chris Christie still wants to be The Man Who Learned Better but he comes off as insincere -- New Jersey politicians don't stay bought but they're usually on the hook for the duration of the lease.  Ron DeSantis still looks to me like six chickens in a human suit, Tim Scott appears to be a tent-meeting revival preacher who has blundered into a political convention by mistake and is going with it, and that leaves Nikki Haley, who almost looks like an old-time normie Republican until she reels off a few paragraphs of carefully memorized touch-the-base stuff.

     Present evidence is they're all running for a footnote in the history books, something kids will have to memorize for tests for a few years before they fade away like Thomas A. Hendricks and Schuyler Colfax.  Few of them will be around and still in politics by the 2028 contest -- if there is one.

     Meanwhile, the two most likely contenders for 2024 are also very much what it says on the label -- a label that for both of them starts with "elderly men," and continues unflatteringly.  Mr. Trump is way worse than Mr. Biden but I keep thinking we could surely do better.  Last night's GOP debate only showed that we could do worse.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023


 * I never filled in the footnote for yesterday's asterisk, so here it is: it would be easy to complain about rheumatic fever having given me a gimpy knee and slightly dodgy joints, but I got off lightly: if you have a brush with the stuff, there's a good chance it will go after your heart, too, and leave you with damaged valves and a heart murmur.   I avoided that.  My sister also had rheumatic fever and her heart's okay, too.

     We were lucky.  We were born after antibiotics were available and we didn't suffer heart damage.  Things could have gone far worse for either of us.


     This is the time of the year when the various hues and patterns of stink bugs -- each one with an "X" on their back -- are found posed on walls and fences, expired in mid-stride wherever they happened to run out of stink.

     There's one on the wall outside the back door here at Roseholme Cottage, stuck eternally reaching upwards in the general direction of the wall-mounted light, or anyway, for however long it takes a hungry bird to notice.

     But give them credit: they stay on-task, busy in their insect missions until the bitter end.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Isn't This Fun?

     Having a gimpy knee is no fun.  My right knee was a little messed up in the wake of rheumatic fever at the age of five* and I tore it up badly in a motor scooter accident in 2007, splitting the end of my thighbone in a fracture that spiraled upward and damaging the cartilage.  Recovery was long and unpleasant, and I have had trouble with it off and on ever since.

     After my recent bad cold, it's been mostly "on," making stairs, walking and even bending down quite painful.  Even my left knee's been aching.  That's bad.  What's worse is, "knees acting up after a crummy cold" is a fair fit for another round of rheumatic fever: it's an autoimmune disease triggered by (usually) a strep infection.  That would be bad, and the treatment hasn't changed much in the last six decades: lots of aspirin to manage the inflammation and antibiotics if there's any suspicion the strep is lingering.  There's no "magic bullet" or vaccination, no wonder drug past the first, wonderful category.  (My parents did their growing-up before penicillin, when an infected paper cut could kill you and a wound under less-sanitary conditions was likely to be a problem.  We have forgotten how remarkably antibiotics changed the world.)

     Sunday, I did aspirin, ice and -- between household chores -- bed rest.  It appears to have helped a little and I'm hoping to fake my way through the week, enriching the Bayer company and pretending nothing is wrong.  Swapping out the faucet on the kitchen sink was worse than it ought to have been, thanks to the occasional jolt of pain if I got my knee wrong.

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Plumbed, Again

     The new kitchen faucet only lasted a little more than 27 months before the spout corroded through on the underside and began spraying water from the break.  I ordered a replacement that I thought was better, but put off installing it as long as I could.

     I was going to do the work over my most recent week of vacation.  Didn't happen -- I was sick all that week and a few days more.  I'm still recovering, productively coughing and sneezing far less often but it hasn't stopped.  And I  get short of breath very easily.

     Chemistry and physics don't care.  Neither does entropy.  The spout kept getting worse.  I tackled it today and the job is no less awkward than last time.

     Next time, I'm going to buy longer armored flexible connectors, those fancy hoses that run between the pipes and the faucet.  The ones I used last time are just barely too short to hook up both sides of the new spout above the sink where it's easy.  The hot side barely reaches and cold requires an awkward crawl-and-reach trick.  But the new one's in, it works, and so far I'm not finding any leaks.

     The bad news is that it's the same model as last time, only in brushed nickle instead of bright chrome.  It's probably going to fail again in a couple of years.  Indiana water is hard.

     On the dishwashing front, on the one day of activity I managed over my vacation, I found the exact dishwasher I wanted and priced out installation and hauling the old one away -- and it was pretty cheap.  Hooray!  Except they only had the floor model and it wasn't for sale.  "You can go to our Carmel store."  Yeah.  You bet.  Like I had time, wanted to deal with the inevitable snotty Carmel attitude, and futz about with some plumber who was having to burn up an hour or more in travel time to do the job.  They weren't interested in shuttling one between stores or ordering one from the manufacturer for me.  So I haven't bought a dishwasher yet.  I'm still doing dishes by hand.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Party Of Political Osteopaths

     This is something I may have written about before: the typical U. S. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is as good a doctor as a typical M.D.   Both of them undergo rigorous schooling and internship. 

     There's one difference: the DO has several hundred hours of training in osteopathic manipulative medicine.  This was the original basis for osteopathy: the notion that all of the body's ills -- including infectious disease -- could be cured by the right sort of thumping or adjustment.  This assertion is not well-supported by evidence or research.  A modern DO may well use OMM to treat musculoskeletal conditions, which it has been shown to help.  Past that?  Well, gee, I dislike being sued.  I'm told that at osteopathic schools, the OMM department is usually way off on its own and you can draw your own conclusions from that.

     So, two kinds of doctors, both of which can set a bone, dress a wound, diagnose what's wrong with you and prescribe the right pills.  One of 'em's got to acknowledge some fairly whackdoodle nutjobbery in order to get their degree.*

     The two main political parties have gone that way, only more so.  While a few Democrat and Republican office holders are little more than quacks peddling snake oil and fantasies, most elected officials at least appear to be trying to do their jobs; they may be ill-informed, misinformed, stupid or goofy, but the majority are putting in an honest effort.  But in one party, if they intend to stick around, they've got to kowtow to pernicious, whackdoodle nutjobbery that has become party orthodoxy.  And it's not isolated from the rest of their practice; it's pervasive.

     The Dems have the virtue, such as it is, of being chaotic; if AOC gets under your skin, there's always old Joe Manchin, miles to her Right, and an entire ragged mob of different opinions in between.  Meanwhile, the GOP keeps running out anyone who won't sign onto the Big Lie of a stolen 2020 election, anyone who points out the violent insurrection of 6 January 2021, and so on.  Ken Buck of Colorado is the latest to throw up his hands and walk away; he won't run for reelection when his term is up.

     Invasive nutjobbery can be contained and compartmentalized; or it can take over the whole shootin' match.  I can't say I'm real impressed with the trendline in U. S. politics.  I'll leave the last word for Congressman Buck: "Too many Republican leaders are lying to America, claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, describing Jan. 6 as an unguided tour of the Capitol and asserting that the ensuing prosecutions are a weaponization of our justice system. These insidious narratives breed widespread cynicism and erode Americans’ confidence in the rule of law."
* You will note that I have not, in this statement, specified which one.  Lawsuits and all that.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023


     The cold is still receding -- and my lungs and sinuses are still emptying.  It's not fun.

     I don't have much to say about current events.  Things are generally awful and working on getting more so.  Is there any good end in sight?  I don't know, but optimists are likely to be disappointed.  Accelerationists are assholes, who don't give a darn about you, your family or the future, and if you run with them or just wink at their nonsense and allow it to stand, you are in the same position as a civilian in the Gaza Strip: you're an ablative meat shield. 

     I have been doing a lot of writing, mostly on a PI series I'm not going to detail.  I did turn out a short story based on an idea I liked: what if there'd been a roadhouse run by a member of the New Jersey Mob* across the country lane from the Wilmuth farm when Orson Welles landed invading Martians there on October 31, 1937?  I don't think a well-connected gangster would have had much patience with the Martians, or been as cautious as the New Jersey State Patrol and the U. S. Army were in the radio drama.  I'm hoping to place the story, though if so, publication might have to wait until next Halloween.
* Members of what I will call, for the sake of brevity, the actual Mafia did provide useful assistance to the government's war efforts during WW II -- and why not?  They liked living here too!  So perhaps that part of the story isn't so far-fetched.  The Howard E. Koch radio script took several liberties, notably compressing the time scale of travel from Mars to Earth and of the Martian invasion, but between his gradually accelerating storyline and the dramatic skills of Mr. Welles and company, audiences barely noticed.  (Howard Koch was among the Mercury Theatre of the Air staffers who headed to Hollywood shortly afterward, but Welles already had a film script.  So he bounced around, picking up work, and was eventually handed a mess of a script for a movie already in production, in the hopes he could salvage something.  He did indeed; the film was Casablanca.)