Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NRA Convention!

     Facing my usual, "It's seven o'clock, say something interesting" deadline, and for once, I've got a topic: the NRA Convention.  They've stuck a sign up on Lucas Oil Stadium* every bit of three stories tall and not even the Local Noooz Media can ignore it -- though the one I usually watch in the morning did follow with a story about how Indianapolis has been invited to submit a hosting packing for 2016 Democrat convention.  One local Partei light observed this "...would finally put Indianapolis on the map," presumably n the way that the NRA convention or, say, a century (give or take a couple World Wars) of automobile racing has somehow failed to. 

     At least I will (probably) be able to attend; at one point it was looking unlikely and I may still spend a fair amount of time hiding in the press room; but I am a-going there, braving the crowds, and we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

...The Next Day

     It's funny; I slept most of a day and most of a night and I'm still tired.  I could dive right back in for another six or eight hours and not mind a bit.  It's not an option.

     Fans of FX's irreverent animated spy-spoof Archer will perhaps be amused that in the second episode of the second season of Danger Man, there's a semi-retired British spy named Edmund Archer, who handles his fate with much the same off-the-cuff aplomb as Sterling Archer, and perhaps as little regard for the stakes.  Danger Man, the Patrick McGoohan series that preceded The Prisoner, is interesting in its own right.  McGoohan plays a secret agent more polished the James Bond -- and with coldly duplicitous superiors who might very easily have shipped him off to the strange, sunny, holiday gulag of The Prisoner.  --Yes, guess what I watched, waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in when I woke up with a headache in the middle of the night?

Monday, April 21, 2014

If Sisyphus Had A Daughter

     Remember Sisyphus?  Sneaky Greek king, whose chicanery earned him a spot in the afterlife rolling a boulder up a hill. As soon as he pushed it to the top, it would get away from him and roll back down and he had to start over.  My lot hasn't been much different.  I don't know who I may have chicaned (I don't even follow Formula One) and I don't remember being inhospitable to travelers, but I keep getting rock-rolled nevertheless.

     I worked an overnight shift last night with a couple of the best tower guys I've met.  We were changing a flashing top beacon light on a 1000' tower, replacing a very old (possibly 1957 vintage) incandescent fixture with a modern LED version, which takes less electricity and supposedly lasts longer.  And when I say "we," I'm the ground crew; 1000' up in the dark on something smaller across than the average apartment washroom is not something I do.

     Attempted the project with a different crew (good me) two weeks earlier and got stopped by weather: 40 mph winds aloft and gusting higher.  Last night was cool and calm, so hopes were high.

     Plenty of spare parts were on hand, extra wire -- nothing could go wrong!  Nothing!

     Well, except for something. After some false starts, they changed out the fixture, wired it up, I threw the breaker and the light began to flash: once, twice--

     "It's making a weird sizzling noise," they reported over the two-way.  "It stopped flashing."

     I knew that already.  The circuit breaker had tripped, a sad little tick of sound.

     "What'll we do next?" from up top.

     I had them disconnect the wires.  If it was the new light, we'd know about as soon as I turned the power back on.

     Several minutes later, they were all unhooked, and I flipped the breaker again.  On, on....tick.

     "It made that sizzling sound again."

     They'd only replaced a little of the wire, a kind of heavy-duty extension cord.  Because of the way things are put together at the very top, there was nearly a hundred feet more running down to the conduit that carries power from the ground all the way up.  We had wire and (barely) time; they replaced it.  It took awhile.

     Over to hours later,  I threw the breaker again and the light began to flash: once, twice--  You know the story.  SizzleTick.

     Tick and tock: there was no more time to experiment.  There was barely time for them to batten down what wanted battened and get clear of the danger-when-transmitting area before it was time to resume transmitting.

     Theories abound.  Maybe the breaker is old?  It wasn't tripped when the old, high-current lights burned out.  Maybe the flasher is bad?  It ran for a couple of weeks with no working lights on the far end.  Couldn't I try jumpering power over from one of the other lights?  Maybe, maybe--  But there's a wire up at the very top that goes sizzle when power is applied.  This is not the one-hand-clapping sound such wires are supposed to make.  It's three feet long.  I've got plenty more.

     And some night soon, I've got to to try rolling that boulder uphill again.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Electric-Fire Visegrips

     No, that was just how it felt.  I woke up having somehow worked up a nasty headache; woke again not too much later and fed the cats, trying to not open my eyes too far or make too much noise, fled back to bed and tried to run away from it.

     Doesn't work.  If you make your migraine chase you down, it's just that much more angry once Slumberland kicks your vagrant, furtive self protesting out into the daylight where it can get at you once again.

     And so it went for me.  I'm up now, coffee brewed, two slices of toast made, one eaten, two ibuprofen, working on the next slice of toast (with butter and, o wonder of wonders, grape jelly), and the hammering of my fingers on the keys is like unto the hammering of hammers on my skull.

     I'll be back later, when my life has less resemblance to a bad acid trip as described by Dante or possibly Spider Robinson.*
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* "[...] in the distance, a toad farted ominously."  S. Robinson.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Engineering

     Who needs it?  Y'know, it's all written down in books; most of what I use in my job, you could sit a smart, motivated kid with a smattering of math down with a handful of parts and VOM and explain the basics in an afternoon; yet the arguments people in my trade -- including me -- get up to are simply staggering.

     99.44% of the time, the problem is not that either side is wrong; it's that either or both hasn't fully put together everything they know.  It's stuff they apply fairly often but there's some gap in understanding on either (or both!) sides of the dispute that prevents reasoning from specific examples to the bigger picture and back to how the other person understands matters.

     TL;DR version: Oh, ghu, I gotta quit arguing on the internet.  It only frustrates me and annoys the pig. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

About Mom X

     She is now comfortably ensconced in a furnished 1-bedroom suite, getting "Respite Care" for awhile at a place just up the road from her house.  She chose it and is there to get healed up for some (minor) surgery that should help her get even better; and after she's healed up from that, she (and her kids including me) will figure out what's next.

     The place is pretty much a fine hotel with a nice dining room, 24-hour nurses and falling-down monitors.  I think she'll be safer. I hope she'll worry less.  I think I will.

Glibness Isn't Understanding

     F'rinstance: The Very Serious Man in the TV told me yesterday, "We know more about the surface of the Moon than we do about the depths of the sea." Yes, but we also know more about the surface of the Moon than we know about Brooklyn -- because any fool with a telescope can look at half of the Moon but to look at Brooklyn, you have to go there or fly/orbit over the place! (Also, we don't really know all that much about the far side of the Moon -- a scant handful of mapping flights have yet to get a complete image of that side.)

     All too often, we -- and perhaps especially The Media -- substitute some half-baked fragment of common lore for the truth: "We only use ten percent of our brains." (Wrong)  

     Remember, it's not what you don't know that's the problem -- it's the things you think you know that aren't so.  Me, too, only more so

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance In America's Richest Bedroom Community

     I'm not kidding about either one; Mom X, by virtue of the power of annexation, lives in Carmel, IN, the wealthiest little city in the nation.  As it happens, her corner of it used to be a collection of shacky little houses, dog runs, and pickup trucks mostly up on blocks, with a name you'll still find on maps (Homeplace) but lacking incorporation; but by the Sixties, they'd thrown up some nice subdivisions outside the auto-body-shop and greasy-spoon core of the un-town, and that's where Mom and Dad X came home to roost[1] in the mid-1980s.

       Enter the Nineties, and the Highway 31 corridor that formed the western boundary of Homeplace sprouted office towers like feral hemp springs up in a northern-Indiana ditch.  By the Noughties, hospitals and medical centers followed and these days, from about 91st street to well past 131st, there's a great big wall of suit & stethoscope voodoo lining the highway like a City of Gold gone wrong.

     Now comes Your Heroine, struggling with the electric monstrosities of an induction cooktop and a Keurig[2], squinting northwest out the west-facing kitchen window at the arc-welder glare of--  The rising sun?  Well yes and no, too:  the good old sun still rises in the East, even in this howling, savage-haunted wasteland, and reflects most harshly from the glittering mirrorshaded office tower a block north and two streets over, and right into Mom X's kitchen window.

     But I swear to you, for just a moment the entire Earth spun and swung, unmoored beneath my unfamiliarly slipper-socked soles.
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1. Hey, didn't I just use that already?  Ah, well.  It was entirely true for Dad: a brisk walk back to the center of the community took you, until they pushed it over a few years ago, to the little brick house where he, a half-dozen brothers, on sister and a few cousins had grown up, while a walk about as far in the other direction reached the more-rural corner where once has stood the house in which he was born.  Mom X lived on the good side of the tracks in Carmel proper, a bit too far to walk, and only since Jr. High.  But the place is certainly well within their teenaged watershed, for all that it was a woodland back then.

2. I'm sure that's also the name of a city in Turonistan, where Turk Turon once served as Mayor, Chief of Police, Dogcatcher and restaurateur.  (Hint: avoid the "catch of the day.")

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Home As The Cow Flies, Home To Roost

     Or something like that.  The Sandman's bill came due several hours early Monday.  By 4:00 that afternoon, I was having trouble walking because the darned floor wouldn't stay level -- and neither would the walls.  When it finally dawned on me that I could either drive home now or be carried out on a shutter at quitting time, I asked the boss if he could spare me early.  By good luck, the evening shift was fully staffed (we're already in vacation season), so I made my cautious way home and was in bed within the hour.

     Eleven hours later when the alarm went off, I resented it only mildly.  Maybe I'm finally caught up on sleep.

     (P.S., If you think "cow flies" was a typo, you ain't lived in the country.  It's not the cows themselves that attract them, mind you; but I'll always wonder why they named 'em horseflies.  They like cattle better. Or, rather...  Ahem.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Three Day Weekend!

     Done the hard way: came home Friday (late), slept, got up (early) and did the hamfest/Grissom Museum trip.  Slept, woke up about 9 p.m., went into work, worked, came home, slept, woke up about noon, got my taxes done and visited Mom X in the hospital.

     She sounds great and is in good spirits, but she looks just like anyone would who had fallen face-first onto a concrete floor.  The hospital's given her a very nice room, practically a hotel room with hospital fittings.  She's hoping to be released early this week -- and planning to spend some time with either home heath care or in an assisted-living place, once she finds one she likes.  Too many falls in recent months.  She's looking at long-term options and I'm not pushing; she's very much in command of her faculties and well aware of her fragility.  It's not easy for her. She has always been very active.

     Back into the relentless maw of work for me, and bearing bad tidings to boot: the weekend overnight work mentioned above was nipped in the bud by uncooperative weather and now I get to explain that to folks who look askance at the wind at 1000' being greatly different to the wind at ground level. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Qualified Impunity

     Police can be bad enough they get sent home without supper -- or any police powers.  IMPD's David Reese did something Friday -- details are sketchy, just two counts of battery and one of "residential entry" -- that earned him suspension without pay, loss of police powers and some time with IMPD's "Wellness" program.  And some other time in court.

     What happened, exactly?  Couldn't tell you.  And neither can our local media outlets.  Thin blue line is running a wee bit opaque at present.