Sunday, June 30, 2024

I Grilled What?

     Today, I grilled a couple of inexpensive steaks, corn on the cob slightly steamed and wrapped in foil with a little "Mexican Street Corn" seasoning, and a mushroom pilaf in parsley butter with red onion, carrots and celery.  It was a tasty supper, but that's more or less the kind of thing everyone grills.

     Yesterday, I grilled...meatloaf.  Yes, meatloaf.  I like the stuff and with a wonky oven, I haven't made it in years.  Our corner grocery sells fresh meatloaf ready for the oven, at a price not much more than the ingredients, and without the investment in time and effort.

     Meatloaf gets baked at 325° to 350°F.  A charcoal grill will do 450°F with a little effort.  300° to 350° is typical for a covered grill.  So I tried it: built up a nice layer of coals, raked them to the sides for indirect heat, set the store-bought meatloaf in its little foil pan on a grill pan and let it bake for an hour.  I did add a strip of catsup (Heinz Chili Sauce -- try it!) down the middle; it's not really meat loaf to me without it.  I set an oven thermometer next to the pan and looked in at fifteen and thirty minutes.  The grill was making 325°.  After an hour, I used the digital thermometer to check for done-ness in the middle, and it was well past the 165° minimum.

     Off the fire, drained and sat for ten minutes, it was ready to slice and was as good as any meatloaf I have had.  I had a warmed-up slice for lunch today and I may have more for breakfast tomorrow.

     I'm working my way around to trying to bake bread in the grill, just to see if it can be done.

Saturday, June 29, 2024


     I'm still getting comments irrationally claiming that the worst thing that could happen in a second Trump term would be "mean tweets," while re-electing Biden is a sure ticket to "nuclear war over a wheatfield half a world away."

     Yeah, no.  Putin will keep on going if he gets Ukraine, and Mr. Trump has all but promised to let him have that country.  At that point, an expansionist Russia is right up against NATO and feeling stroppy, a sure promise of war in Europe even if Mr. Trump tries to play the "too proud to fight" card just as the odious Mr. Wilson attempted.  America stepping back to let Europe burn hasn't worked in the last two European wars that went global and it won't work a third time, either.  We can help put this fire out while it is small or wait until it threatens to burn the entire world before pitching in.  It was a close call last time and we'd be fools to roll the dice once more.

     With Mr. Biden, Russia's ugly little war is safely off NATO turf and it's highly probable the West can outlast Gospodin Putin's ambitions.  Russia's industry still falters; their supply chains are strained and production lags demand.  If you want to limit the scope of this war, the battlefield has got to be kept away from NATO member nations.

     Do you want a mumbler or a loose cannon?  "Mean tweets" are a tea candle to the book-burning bonfire promised by "Project 2025" from Mr. Trump's GOP.  He mishandled the pandemic and trashed the transition last time; this time, he and his allies are promising to do enormously more damage and they've set it out for anyone to read.

Friday, June 28, 2024

So, That Debate?

     Two old guys, both inclined to ramble and go off on their own tack.  They got into a beef over their golf handicaps.  It wasn't impressive.  Hoping for Nixon vs. Kennedy, we got a Hudson & Landry bit instead and not one of their best. 

     One of them is a lifelong politician; the other one whipped up a gang of thugs to assault the U. S. Capitol while Congress was counting electoral votes and has never admitted he lost that election fair and square.  One of them has had a fairly quiet term of office, despite conflict between other countries; the other inspired violence from Left and Right, and fanned the flames when it happened.

     I've got points of disagreement with the incumbent but he's not a disaster, and he bids fair to remain acceptable.  The challenger and previous President was big trouble last time and promises more of the same if he gets in again, only stronger and better-organized.

     Two old guys.  That's what's on offer.  Pick one or the other.  They're old.  They're not great speakers.  But they're not the same.  Mr. Trump will create chaos.  Mr. Biden will not.  Maybe it's not an ideal set of choices but they couldn't be more clear.

Another One Gone

     At closing time today, long-time surplus electronics dealer Fair Radio Sales of Lima, Ohio will be gone.  They've scheduled an auction for mid-August to clear out the final items and then that's it.  Finished.

     I knew water ran downhill.  I never dreamed it would run out.  There are a few places left, but Fair was one of the last left to deal mostly in military surplus electronics.  RF Parts and Surplus Sales of Nebraska are still around, still selling odds and ends of old stuff, but it's increasingly scarce and prices reflect that.

     A lot of my better test equipment came from Fair Radio and thanks to them, I'm still set up to be an outstanding 1970s-80s radio station Chief Engineer.  There's not a lot of call for that these days.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Debate Night

     It looks as if it will happen tonight: the big Presidential debate, Mr. Trump vs. Mr. Biden.  Polls say sixty percent of us will tune in.

     Both men claim to be raring to go.  My expectations are low; one man is 78 and the other is 81.  One struggles with a lifelong stammer and the other tends to ramble.  Having their microphones muted while the other candidate is speaking is widely pointed out as likely to frustrate Donald Trump more than Joe Biden but they're both used to people having to listen whenever they speak.

     The debate still might not happen.  If it does, it could be a huge mess.  One candidate might come off as more alert and focused than the other -- but these are not young men and neither is an especially polished speaker.  I suspect, barring anything really glaring, people will see whatever they expect to see and tomorrow will bring both sides claiming victory.

     It's more like an announcement of new car models in a year where no major changes are being made: we all know who we think these men are; they're going to step onstage in their best debate suits, and they're both going to try to show off their best angles.  If you're a Ford* fan, you're going to like the Ford; if you're a Chevy fan, you're going to like the Chevy.  And even without anything startlingly new, you're going to want to watch.
* The car company, not the President between Nixon and Carter.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Frame By Frame

     Nostalgia over-the-air broadcaster MeTV, which rose to prominence by distributing a pitch-perfect simulation of an independent TV station from the late 1960s - 70s* as one of the extra "dot channels" on digital TV, has introduced MeTV Toons, an over-the-air, 24/7 channel of nothing but animation, everything from Bugs Bunny to Scooby-doo.

     I may never leave the house.

     Over-the-air TV has reached the point where in a lot of the country, it offers slightly more variety than most cable TV systems did in the 1970s.  Throw in streaming for TV and movies on demand, sports and some "premium" shows and you've got more entertainment than would have been conceivable back then, most of it free or inexpensive.
* The reason they do that so well is because they are one; owner Weigel Broadcasting became the last independent TV station in Chicago in the mid-1990s after having been a hardscrabble UHF station picking up scraps from the big guys (WGN and WPWR) since 1964.  Along the way, they branched out into early low-power TV and needed separate programming to feed those stations.  When TV stations started filling up their leftover bandwidth after the digital conversion in 2009, Weigel was able to get in on the ground floor.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Saturday Supper

     Through this heat wave, Tamara and I have started having lighter suppers -- fruits and cheese, olives, maybe a little crusty bread.  It's tasty, easy, doesn't heat up the kitchen and is capable of great variation.

     Still, sometimes you want a change.  I had seen Alessi pasta and sauce mixes at the grocery, and purchased one to try for supper on Saturday, their Cacio E Pepe: noodles in cheese, seasoned with black pepper.  Not expensive, and when you open the bag, it's the familiar powdered sauce with dry noodles.  A couple of cups of water and four minutes on the stovetop or eight in the microwave -- I chose the latter -- and what you get will make you turn your back on mac & cheese.

     Of course, I customized it a little, crumbling in a couple of strips of cooked bacon; prepared "bacon bits," even the vegan kind, should work okay; it's just a grace note.  Or you could use pancetta, which can be purchased in tiny cubes.  I added a shake of parsley and some grated Parmesan (or "Italian mix") cheese when serving.  It was still quick and easy to make.  

     An interesting variation to try would be to stir in a well-beaten egg while the mix was piping hot (but off the burner), to make a kind of Carbonara.  You want enough heat to soft-poach the egg but not make it cross-link (harden).  It's tricky but not that tricky, and the end result would be quite a treat.

     The mix is as shelf-storable as the old familiar macaroni and cheese, but the taste and texture is a cut above.  (They're not paying me; it's good stuff, at a time when a lot of storable quick mixes aren't.)

Sunday, June 23, 2024


     One evening a few days ago, I went out the back door and nearly ran into a firefly hovering at face  level.  He turned toward me -- and flashed his little light!

     I won't kid you, it was flattering.  At my age, you take positive attention where you can find it.  But it wasn't to be.  I told him he was kind, and gently wafted him away from the back stoop and sidewalk so he'd hover over the grass and have better odds of finding his match.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Never Left The House

     It's too miserable out there.  I've got enough food and household goods to last through Monday, so why go out into the heat?

Friday, June 21, 2024

The Same Old Future

     The run of too-hot-to-stay-outside weather -- along with current trends -- has reminded me of LA 2017, a brilliant (at the time) science-fictional episode of the TV series The Name of the Game.  From the stifling orange smog that has forced survivors underground to inept corporatized government to advanced technology delivered in barely-useful crappified forms, the broad outlines are a little too familiar even as the details are hopelessly dated.

     Our modern times may have more in common with the world of John Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar, in which an overheated, over-hyped media environment makes reality a thing only distantly glimpsed and despair an epidemic.  His world, another late '60s - early '70s look at the future, had too many people in too little space; ours still has room to stretch out but too often, we're standing knee-deep in bullshit and being told it smells like roses.

     It doesn't.  It never did -- you've got to manure the roses to make 'em grow, but that's not the scent anyone pursues.

     Those were lousy futures.  We should stop trying quite so hard to make them real.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

I Don't Know

     And here's the thing: you probably don't know, either.

     Let's all just try to get along with the other talking primates today, okay?  We're much too good at not getting along already.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

He Loathes Travel

     Poor Holden Wu!  His yearly vet visit was this morning and despite getting the relaxed-kitty drug, he does not relax.  He went into the carrier without much trouble, but began to complain on the way to my car and through most of the short ride.  He had more to say, all of it sad-sounding, when we arrived at the vet.

     Once in the exam room -- and they get you right in -- he wasn't interested in leaving the carrier and had to be lifted out.  Once out, he couldn't decide at first between hiding in the little shelter they provide and huddling at my side, between me and the carrier.  Eventually, being next to someone familiar won out, and he stayed put until it came time to be carried to the exam table.

     The vet had brought along a spare towel for him to hide under and it helped.  He got through the exam without panicking, had his shots and was headed for the carrier again when she decided to take a closer look at some of the parts cats are embarrassed to have inspected.  But he got through that just fine, and climbed inside the carrier with visible relief, only to cry again when I left him for several minutes to pay the bill and sort out upcoming appointments.  It turns out he hasn't been brushing his teeth, so he's probably going to get dental work next month.

     He rode back home, not without complaint, and became impatient when I carried him through the garage and into the house, rushing back and forth inside.  Home at last!  safe on the kitchen floor, he emerged from the carrier with a happy burble and followed it with a longer sentence when he was sure he was really home. He was sprawled on the floor in the library surveying his kingdom when I went to the office to write this.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

It's Raining!

     It's not much of a rain, but it is raining, listless from the heat like everything else right now.  I'll take it; it will cool things down a degree or two, and every bit helps.

     The air-conditioning here at Roseholme Cottage is keeping up, barely; we have to chase the outside temperature up and down a couple of degrees at a time so the cooling doesn't freeze up, but it's doing the job so far, controlling humidity and keeping us from melting.  It will run better after service, but that'll be awhile.

     Having grown up without air-conditioning, it continues to be something of a miracle to me.  Summer nights used to be a dark and sweaty misery haunted by the roaring of fans, laying awake on top of the covers until you conked out from sheer exhaustion.  Having cool, dry air pumped out of the floor vents is amazing.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Lies Sprint, Truth Plods

      A few comments have come in, pushing back against my blog post about U. S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

     I've got no problem with the man having strong religious beliefs, or looking to them as the foundation for his personal morality.  My issue is that his recent remarks imply that he thinks the government ought to be imposing such beliefs on citizens and residents of the United States.

     Commenters have taken me to task because after all, weren't most of the Founding Fathers inclined to religiosity, Christianity in particular?  Yeah, well, about that -- scratch the surface and you'll discover they followed a polyglot assortment of beliefs, roughly centered around the Christian faith.  This is not how that faith was practiced in, say, England, with an official Protestant state church, the Church of England; a lot of Europe at the time was under governments officially Catholic (and a few Protestant); further East, the Orthodox church filled a similar role, intertwined with the State.  This system was weaker in the American colonies but not non-existent; Congregationalists in Massachusetts are the most outstanding example, supported by state taxes and being an assumed-default faith well into the 19th Century.

     "Religious tolerance" at the time meant the government wasn't going to go after you for being, say, a Baptist -- or a Unitarian.  John Adams and John Quincy Adams were Unitarians, at a time when that meant a very Christian-looking church and service, with one crucial difference: they didn't believe in the Trinity.  It's a difference men have been burnt at the stake over; it is, in fact, heretical according to every mainstream Christian church.

     There's a lovely story about George Washington, a little better attested than most stories about the man, in which he adds a new chaplain to the Continental army and the other chaplains complain to him, because the new guy's a Universalist, a faith that had decided a truly loving God must surely give fallible humans one more chance to repent -- after death.  Heresy again, and Washington's chaplains wanted none of it; how could the Army support such an outrage?  Washington, who would later write of religion as "a public utility," offered no philosophy or politics in response; he pointed out that Universalism was a very common faith among his troops, and did they not deserve to have their own chaplain?

     Deism was common among the Founding Fathers, who appear to have considered it as compatible with conventional religion as Freemasonry -- and there was no shortage of Freemasons among their numbers.

     Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists isn't law or a legal opinion, but it's insight into how a Founder viewed the issue.  You can read it in its entirety (along with the letter that prompted it), but here's a highlight: "religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship...."

     In addressing this issue, I'm up against some very slick and persistent liars.  Foremost among them is David Barton, preacher and amateur historian, a man known to edit quotes heavily and even make up his own "facts" when the reality is inconvenient to his ends.  He peddles Christian nationalism and he's a persuasive writer -- until you check his source material.  Most people don't. The lies get told and retold, and grow in the telling, and next thing I know, they show up in my unpublished comments or Facebook timeline.  There are entire podcasts, by actual historians, devoted to debunking his fables, but it's difficult to push back a well-greased lie told to the willingly credulous.

     The Federal government of the United States was not formed on the basis of religion, or to promulgate religious ideas.  It exists, in part, so you can practice your own religion free of interference; and if that prompts you towards moral behavior, then it, as George Washington wrote, is indeed of public utility: it serves society as a whole.  But the is not there to chivvy you into church, and there is no "return to a place of Godliness" (as Justice Alito would have it) for a secular government that was, by design, never Godly to begin with.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

"You maniacs! You blew it up!"

     So I'm online looking* for a Bourns Knobpot™, which was a precision multi-turn potentiometer fully integrated with a precise-readout knob that had a little clock-like dial, only with ten major divisions instead of twelve.  They had a big hand and a little hand, and the little hand incremented one minor division for every full rotation of the big hand (and knob).  They were about three-quarters of an inch in diameter.

     Simple to install, easy to read, relatively inexpensive.

     Not simple enough.  The clever little clock face is gone, replaced in current versions by a three-digit mechanical digital readout, like a tiny version of an old-fashioned odometer.  I suppose it is simpler, using existing parts.  Fancy versions of this type (often as a stand-alone knob to be installed on any multi-turn control) have been available for over fifty years.

     I'm still a bit sad to find the clock-face version gone.
*Not looking too seriously.  I'd like to use one to replace a twenty-turn control in a thing at work, a control that requires lining up a very small screwdriver through an off-center hole to adjust.  But I won't.  It would be too big a modification and would be too easy for curious knob-twiddlers to adjust, which would be quite bad indeed.  I'm going to take a reamer to that off-center hole if I get a chance.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Breakfast And Supper

     Today was a good day.  I watched cartoons, did a heap of laundry and little yard work -- and made a couple of tasty meals.

     Breakfast was four strips of bacon, fried and set aside (and the rendered fat reserved), followed by a large Idaho potato, diced into small cubes, soaked in cold water and rinsed a few times, and then fried in a tablespoon of bacon grease with some Bragg's spice mixture and a little Cajun seasoning.  When it was about done, I snipped a pickled Piparra pepper into the pan, followed by three pitted Kalamata olives sliced.  I pushed it to the sides of the skillet and scrambled four eggs in the middle, crumbling the bacon in and adding a sprinkle of parsley once the eggs were done.  Served with a little shredded cheese and hot sauce, it was just what I needed to fuel the day.

     We had supper about seven, and it was a rare treat: I had some holiday pay from working Memorial Day, and the grocery had nice New York strip steaks, their second-tier quality, at a price I could justify.  I seasoned them with coarse salt left to sit for fifteen minutes and a little pepper, then grilled them over hardwood lump charcoal, very rare for Tam and medium-well for me.  Using the good charcoal and starting it with nothing but paper, kindling and a match helps get the most from even less-expensive meat.  Add in a couple of baked potatoes* and microwave butter-steamed mixed vegetables (zucchini, pea pods, carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli), and it was quite a repast.
* Honest, I almost never have potatoes twice a day.  Well, hardly ever.

Friday, June 14, 2024

And Another Thing

     You may believe American are insufficiently Godly.  Or you may believe they are sufficiently Godly, or that they are far too much so.  It's a range of opinions that may be held by any resident of this country -- and not just held, but expressed.

     You might even be of the opinion that our governments -- Federal, state, local, whatever -- ought to be involved in that.  You can think it, you can say it, you can write to the newspaper about it.  It happens to be wrong; we've got a First Amendment that covers the precise issue and a pack of clamoring, competing religions, secular organizations, sects and denominations who want to make sure Uncle Sam doesn't back the other guy's horse.  Nevertheless, you can have your own opinion.

     If you happen to be a U. S. Supreme Court Justice, you get to have your own opinions, too -- but you're expected to be mindful that your every word potentially carries the weight and might of the Federal government behind it; you're expected to be circumspect; you're expected to have thought the whole thing through.

     So when I hear of a Justice being a-okay with the idea that "We've got to return the nation to a place of Godliness," I'm gobsmacked.  Our government is a secular affair, and they're not supposed to be putting a thumb on those scales.

     It's ugly when the Justices are found hobnobbing with wealthy pals who have axes to grind and. occasionally, cases that come before the Court; they can be dazzled.  The black-robed Nine are making about $300,000.00 a year,* which would delight me, but is modest by Washington-attorney standards or compared to a gazillionaire oligarch's lifestyle.  It's worse when they appear to be committed to ideologies they hold higher than the Constitution of the United States of America.

     I used to have faith that even when I disagreed with the ruling, the Justices would have carefully considered their positions, and would support them with honest reasoning based on foundational documents and sound jurisprudence.  I'm not so confident now.
* A little more for the Chief Justice and a little less for the others, and it looks like they even have buy their own lunch at the cafeteria in the Court building if they didn't bring a sandwich from home.  If we could better secure the independence of their thought by paying them far more, it would be cheap at the price; but it's extremely unlikely to help.

Thursday, June 13, 2024


     Your church -- and many other organizations -- probably doesn't pay any Federal taxes.  And any donations you make to it are likely tax-deductible.  It's a 501(c)(3) organization to the IRS; they had to file some paperwork and prove they really were a church in order to get that status.

     The history is murky.  26 U.S.C. § 501(c) has been around as long as the IRS but the detailed test IRS uses to help figure out if an applicant is a church or not only dates to 1980.  I'm not finding any quick and easy history of the sixty-seven years between 1913 and '80.

     501(c)(3) status comes with a caveat: the church (or other organization) can't get involved in partisan politics, which IRS reads to mean they can't be for or against any particular candidate or party.  If your church wants to open up for even-handed debate, or make sure people know where their polling places are and what the ballot or voting machine will look like?  Great, go for it!  They just can't tell people who to vote for.  They can't hold rallies against or in support of a party or candidate.  If Pastor Smith wants to hold forth on the evils of being intolerant, or of being too tolerant?  Fine; IRS can't say boo.  But he can't extol the virtues of one candidate or lament the failings of another.

     So I was interested to note recent news that a mega-church in Arizona had hosted a town hall sponsored by a partisan political organization and featuring a candidate for President.  There was some shocked -- shocked, I say -- commentary that the candidate had said a bad word, and the crowd had chanted it back in response, but that's nobody's business but his, the crowd's and the venue's; maybe they're wide open to the wildest of free speech.  Maybe they think it's fun to cuss in church.  On the other hand, while IRS doesn't go hunting around for 501(c)(3) violations, this one is on video and is getting attention.

     Here's how they put it: "The IRS may begin a church tax inquiry only if an appropriate high-level Treasury official reasonably believes, on the basis of facts and circumstances recorded in writing, that an organization claiming to be a church or convention or association of churches may not qualify for exemption[...]."

     Anyone who has been seriously crosswise with our Federal tax officials can tell you: it's no fun.  Why any group would want to wave a red cape at a Federal bull is beyond me, especially when there are plenty of halls to hire that don't have that particular eagle-with-an olive-branch-and-a-balance hanging over them.  Might as well toss an illegally-possessed handgun in the trash and call the cops.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

In The Interest Of Fairness

     Since I did write a single piece on former President Trump's recent trial and conviction, I'd better give the trial and conviction of Hunter Biden (not a former or current President and has never held elected office) the same.

     He lied on a BATFE 4473 form and got caught; it went to trial, the prosecution presented the facts and he was held guilty.  Simple as that.  The surprising thing that he was found out and prosecuted; skylined by having a President for a father and addicted to a particularly stigmatizing drug, his odds of skating by were worse than most.  In a country where 38 of 50 states have legalized a Federally illegal drug (marijuana), 24 of them for recreational use, there must be stacks and stacks of 4473s with entries constituting a felony, just ticking away -- something it would be reasonable for a jury to expect a man with a law degree like, oh, Hunter Biden, to understand.  It's not as if BATFE made it a trick question:
     "21. f. Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside."

     While the Feds periodically update the form (it now includes a tickbox for "Non-Binary" in the answers for question 14, which makes sense given that they want ethnicity, race, height, weight, hair and eye color, too, all so they can pick you out of a crowd) they've wanted to know if you were breaking Federal drug laws for as long as I've been filling out those forms, and they ask because Uncle Sam has decided drug users shouldn't be owning guns.  You don't even have to be an addict to get the downcheck.

     So the bottom line is, if you're smoking the Devil's cabbage (et illegal cetera), don't go buying guns.  It's a Federal crime to lie on the 4473 form and it's a Federal crime to possess the firearm.  If they can do it to Hunter Biden -- and they most certainly did -- they can do it to you, too, and you're probably not an attorney nor especially rich, and it's a cinch your Dad isn't President.*  Sure, maybe they'll overlook you (it usually takes an arrest for something else first), but I wouldn't count on it.
* Even if he was, he'd probably do the same thing Joe Biden has done, and refuse to pardon you.  Call it a strong moral stance or call it a cynical ploy, the result is the same.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

So Much Stuff

     I didn't post yesterday.  My first day back at work after a week off, after dealing with the flea mess (relief is underway, but I have bags and bags of pillows and quilts to wash, most of them marinating in a spray of cedarwood oil flea destroyer) was too much distraction, especially with Tam out dog sitting for most of last week.  She's back today.

     The flea issue prompted me to replace the curtains and Roman blinds on the windows the cats enjoy sitting in, and what a change it has made!  I didn't expect it would be so striking.  I wanted more opaque blinds in the library and wow, did the place end up darker.  And the complicated, Victorianesque triple curtains (light floral-pattern sheers facing out with heavy green-brown Arts & Crafts-pattern tapestry curtains on the room side and a matching valence) in the living room have been replaced by simple Roman blinds with a striped pattern; I was sorry to take them down and the cats loved them, but they were a flea circus -- a Dry Clean Only flea circus, at that.  The old curtains kind of pooled on a couple of windowsill-high cabinets; I added a pair of washable cat beds on the cabinets instead and that's working out.

     It's been a lot of work and expense I wasn't expecting.  I haven't been quite able to zero out my credit card since the pandemic began, and it's not going to happen this month, either.  Clearly, I need to finish and sell a novel.

     Of course, I also need to keep working on bookshelves.  That's what I had planned to do last week.  It didn't happen.  Bookshelves and other types of shelves -- I have ambitious plans and have gathered prices at the lumberyard.  I've got wood for a small bookshelf for one end of the window seat and the other projects all need to be budgeted.  I have found that drawing software is a huge help; Visio and LiberOffice Draw let you work at scale and I can figure out raw materials and minimize left-over pieces right on the screen, creating a shopping list as a part of the process.  (I have mentioned the book Nomadic Furniture in the past, James Hennessey and Victor Papanek's 1970s book on DIY furniture; the ideas and especially the principles they wrote about have been a huge influence on how I think about and build furniture.  It's still in print -- use Tam's Amazon link for brownie points -- and has aged far better than bellbottoms.  My first copy, forty-plus years ago when the book was between printings, was a bootleg photocopy.  I have since made that up by buying the genuine article.)

Sunday, June 09, 2024

N. B.

     "You're just as sweet as paint chips," might not be a compliment.

Saturday, June 08, 2024


     When I go to the home-improvement store and I am looking around in the lumber section, the last thing I want to be smelling is woodsmoke.

Friday, June 07, 2024

Knocked Out

     Oh, not literally, but dealing with the flea infestation is really taking it out of me.  This week was supposed to be a relaxing vacation.  Tam is away most of the time dog-sitting, and all I had to do was sleep, eat, and breathe (etc.)

     Instead, I'm not getting good sleep, I've got laundry running most of the time, and I need to hang multiple new curtains -- after I take down and bag up the old ones.  Which will happen after I have stripped the bed, bagged the bedding and pillows and treated the mattress.  I've bought curtains, a pillow, and various flea treatments.

     I've been through worse; when Tommy the cat and his sisters were little, well over thirty years ago, my well-carpeted duplex was swarmed with fleas; my next-door neighbor was just short of being an animal hoarder and the little black cat who was Tommy's mother had been feral (and ran away to that life as soon as the kittens were weaned).  Back then, I slept with flea collars on my ankles for a month (don't do this now, they've changed the chemicals), while cycling everything washable through the laundromat at least twice.  But it's no fun to deal with, even with my very own washer and dryer and no next-door source of replacement fleas.

Thursday, June 06, 2024


     It was on this date in 1944 that the Allies began to take back Europe from Nazi Germany -- and it probably wouldn't have been possible even then if the USSR hadn't been pushing back, hard, for a year and a half in the east.*

     The successful invasion of Europe came at a terrible cost in human life, and it took nearly three months of fighting to cover what is now a three hour drive from the landing sites to Paris.  Victory in Europe took eleven months from D-Day, and left smoking ruins.

     There is war in Europe again today, with an authoritarian regime invading a smaller, weaker neighbor.  The United States is beset by "America First " isolationists and a small, vocal contingent of outright fascists, just as we were in 1939 - 41.  Along with our European allies, we're providing materiel support to the invaded nation, while trying to stay clear of the fight.

     Will echoes of the events of WW II -- which themselves echoed the Great War only a generation earlier -- ring across Europe again?  The price of inaction is paid in blood, in labor and goods lost in the flames of war, and it is always high.  Civilization won last time and the time before, but victory is never certain.

     Remember the past.  Understand the present.
* A source of tension between Russia and the rest of the WW II Allies that persists to this day is that the USSR lost around eleven million soldiers and seven million civilians, and Russians don't think the other Allies ever fully recognized the extent of their losses.  It's a resentment Vladimir Putin exploits now, when he demonizes NATO.


     I knew the cats were itchy.  I was a little itchy, too, and for two days, I thought it was allergies.  Huck was especially miserable, scratching and grooming almost all the time, and I ran a lint roller over him, just in case.

     It collected a fine crop of fleas, some still twitching.

     After consultation with the vet, last night they got the approved treatment, and as of this morning, everyone is doing better, even me.  There's rather a lot of vacuuming and laundry in my immediate future, though. I don't know where they came from; Tam and I both take long walks; many of mine in the open fields of the North Campus at work. We've both done yard work and since she likes to take a long lunch and write at nearby eateries, she meets a lot of people's dogs. And both of us have been keeping screened windows slightly cracked on cool days and nights, where long-haired Holden Wu likes to nap. Any of those things could have let fleas get in.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Step Forward!

     It looks as if we've once again got volunteer tomatoes in the backyard garden patch here at Roseholme Cottage.  They're probably the small, fast-ripening cherry tomatoes that came back last year.

     This is a pretty good trick.  Tomatoes are not a perennial; they're not even close.  Originally a jungle plant, tomatoes are not a natural fit to most climates in North America.  The little cherry tomatoes have a couple of tricks: they are very dense, so it's easy to miss the little tomatoes until they are too ripe -- and they go from ready to eat to overripe in a twinkling.  I tend to bury the too-ripe ones where they fall, or chuck them along the fence, where I'm hoping another patch will take root.  So far, the fence weeds have defeated my efforts, but the roughly circular garden patch, dominated by a sprawling and overly aromatic sage plant, has paid off.  I let the autumn leaves pile up on it and try not to disturb it until late Spring.  (We're in that three-week interregnum, after the beginning of meteorological summer but with astronomical spring lingering until the solstice.)

     The sawtooth-edged tomato leaves are distinctive, as is the tiny-tree structure of the new plants.  There may be some lookalike weeds fooling me -- nightshade is a close cousin* and the young plants look similar -- but I didn't have any in the patch around the sage last year, so my hopes are high.
* But not that close, at least around here.  It has a less-dense structure with purple flowers and fewer of them, compared to the bushy leaves and yellow flowers of the tomatoes.  The fruit is mostly empty, too, with prominent segments.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Speaking Of Outraged Screeching...

     I can't wait* to see what our far and loony Right makes of the outcome of Mexico's Presidential election.  No doubt they'll be hopping mad, hopped up on conspiracy theories, and ready to leap into war -- though somehow the pundits and politicians manage to never have to hump a rifle and full pack into battle personally (PDF).
* By which I mean it will be boringly predictable and I certainly can wait.  The annoyingness of, "Let's you and him fight," is only increased by stirring in desperate blood-and-soil blather.

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Trials And Tribulations

     I'm not going to dwell on the latest twists and turns in the long, convoluted story of Donald Trump, former President of the U. S. and current candidate for that same office.

     My attention is not on the trial so much as the necessity of the trial.  People seeking the highest elected office in the country should refrain from the kinds of behavior that necessitate paying hush money -- or at least, having done so, they'd better play it straight and not try to hide that they've handed over a large sum of money that could be counted as a campaign expense.

     Just as the discovery of a large trove of classified documents in Mr. Trump's possession appears to have prompted President Biden and former Vice President Pence to check their garages and attics for similar papers -- and they found a few, and turned them over without fuss -- I would like to hope the current crop of candidates are pondering their dalliances (or sighing in relief at the lack thereof) and whatever they may have done to try to keep them out of the public eye.

     But I would prefer that the vast majority of office-holders and candidates have conducted their lives with no more than the usual set of speeding tickets, overlooked items, and no genuinely lurid fooling around.  My biggest objection to the present set of circumstances is not the trial or its outcome, or the other pending litigation; it's that people running for the job ought to have refrained from the kinds of behavior that would land them in criminal court (or civil court, for that matter, and it might be interesting to review the personal legal histories of past Presidents as a standard of comparison).  I don't care if the person running for office is a suit-wearing combination of Jesus, Gandhi and Thomas Jefferson: if they can't keep their nose clean, they shouldn't be running for office, period -- and their political parties shouldn't let them.

     Outrageous, you say?  Too high a standard?  And yet you have managed it.  The majority of my readers will have never faced any criminal charges greater than a misdemeanor; personally, I even managed to get crosswise with the IRS and clear it up without being charged with an offense.  Avoiding criminal activity isn't that much to ask, especially of any citizen above the poverty line.  If a candidate for office stole bread to feed his starving children, we'd all have to parse the situation -- but it hasn't happened yet and it is unlikely to in the future.

     Mr. Trump's last two trials have hinged on tawdry behavior, stuff you wouldn't tolerate from a family member or a guy running for dogcatcher.  Having millions or billions of dollars and loads of cheering followers shouldn't excuse it.  "Oh, "They're out to get him?"  Then he shouldn't have done the kinds of things he could be "got" for.  Not banging porn stars and having to hide that you're paying them to keep shut up about it, not sexually assaulting women: this isn't the kind of thing that a guy getting an office tower or casino built could just fall into over a misplaced decimal or comma.

     And that's my opinion.  I expect the usual screeching, emotional nonsense and thinly-veiled threats in response.

Saturday, June 01, 2024

One Thing In Common

     If I was told my life depended on finding ten people with a sense of humor from a group consisting of a thousand Objectivists and a thousand Marxists, I would update my will.