Thursday, March 26, 2015


     No photo -- it's colorful, but either your mouth waters as the notion of a three-pepper omelet with red chile, yellow Hungarian wax and pale-green Anaheim peppers in it, or you'd just as soon not see it.  A strip of bacon (in a big, three-egg omelet for two) provides some umami and a dab of African peri-peri sauce provides the heat, since these early peppers are flavorful but have no fire.

     Still, if you like peppers, this is a pleasant treat.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Presidential Paragon

     In comments to yesterday's post, I was asked who I'd tap for the Chief Executive job, having rejected Senator Cruz?

      Good question.

     I'd want someone who was serious about the job.  And not so set on making his mark on History or The World or Progress.  We elect these smiling bastards on the premise that they're some kind of savior.  They run campaigns as Men On Horseback, promising to "usher in a new day."

     I don't want a "new day."  I don't much want the "old days" back, either.  I sure don't care to see any Great Leaders: when you get a large-enough crop of them at same time, they foul up the whole world.  I just want the President (and Congress, and the Supremes) to do their jobs in a way that doesn't have me (or any other honest person) looking over my shoulder, wondering if it's time to head for the hills.  I want 'em to do their jobs in a way that minimizes the opportunities for people to go for one another's throats.  When metaphorical fires break out, I want 'em to put metaphorical water on them, not gasoline.

     I want to see -- just once!  -- a competent Chief Executive, someone who appoints the various Directors and Cabinet members on the basis of ability, not on how much money they donated, how stalwart a partisan they are or even plain chumship.  I want a President who'll hold 'em to account and send them packing if they screw up.

     I don't care if he or she is any good at giving speeches.  I don't care if the rest of the world loves them or hates them.  I don't care about the President's age, ugliness, gender, ethnic background, marital status or religion. I'm hoping not for a hawk or a dove but for someone who is slow to anger and measured but decisive in action, who acts only when action is truly necessary.

     I'd like another Calvin Coolidge.

     I'm not gonna get one.

     Voting in Presidential elections is a thing I do with great reluctance and after much deliberation.  They're all pompous, ego-driven fools and I'm reduced to trying to do the least harm with my vote.  I can usually vote for the Libertarian Party candidate with a clear conscience.

Monday, March 23, 2015

No Thanks, Ted

     It feels redundant to put any text here.  I have seen the Ted Cruz announcement and he was almost fractally unlikeable by my lights.  Oh, he kinda talks a good fight on a very few things, but most of them are things the President hasn't got the power to do.

     Mr. Mencken still snickers.  

     If you are a religious conservative, he may be your man.  That's fine.  I'm not and he isn't.

     (Sidebar: Ted Cruz is caricature-ready, from the slicked-back hair to the slicked-back accent, and as a result, I predict he will be a media darling for several weeks while they work out the best angles for his skewering and figure out who on the SNL cast will play him.  It will be interesting to see how he takes it.)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Too Soon Old; Too Late Smart

     The curse of age: the older you get, the crazier politicians become.

      If you are lucky, it'll only be about half of them. If you're me, it'll be around 97 percent.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Okay, I'm Awake Plus The Famous Exploding Manholes Return To Downtown!

     ...And my back hurts.  Been hurting all week.  More stones?  Oh, please no.  I'm drinking limeade, which is supposed to help.  Messed up and had a cola with supper two nights ago and that's a no-no.

     Meanwhile, downtown Indianapolis is in exploding-manhole mode again -- just in time for the Final Four!  Much unhappiness.  These are transformer explosions: old, overstressed transformers fail, covers pop off, oil sometimes spills and burns, but it happens in concrete transformer vaults under the street, with the prime danger being flying manhole covers. The local power company has been upgrading the power system downtown but it's a very slow process -- there's not a lot of redundancy, the hardware is costly, and they have to close off and dig up streets to do the work.  --They were also supposed to have installed retention cables on the manhole covers to limit how high they fly and how far they travel, but the news pictures I've seen so far suggest that's not completed, either.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Ode To The Foods Of Our Neighbo(u)r To The North?

     Featuring a mid-song change of heart:

Canadian Cooking
(to the tune of American Woman)

Canadian cooking, stay away from me
Canadian cooking, let that stuff be

Don't come 'round my kitchen door
Don't wanna see round bacon no more
I got less tasty things to do
Than spend my time gettin’ fat with you

Leaf maple,* stay away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Canadian cooking, stay off my plate
Canadian cooking, it’s an awful fate

Don't come 'round my kitchen door
Don't wanna see round bacon no more
Butter tarts can hypnotize
Feed someone else those backward pies

Leaf maple, go away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Canadian cooking, I said, get away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Don't come 'round my kitchen door
Don't wanna see round bacon no more
I don't need your hot poutine
Rappie pie or baked beans

Butter tarts can hypnotize
Feed someone else those backward pies

Leaf maple, go away
Canadian cooking, nohow no way

Canadian cooking, stay away from me
Canadian cooking...peameal bacon, please

I dunno, I gotta get a plate
Maybe, I’ll get a taste, otta try poutine

I'm gonna eat like a Canadian
I'm gonna eat like a Canadian
Y’know I’m gonna try
I’'ll maybe eat lots and sigh

A-yum yum, a-yum, yum
Yum yum, yum yum

Tastes so good to me and it’s so good for you
(Canadian cooking )
I’ll fill my plate right full up, that’s what I'm gonna do

I'm gonna eat ‘til I’m stuffed, that's what you better know
(Canadian cooking)
I'm gonna eat it oh yeah, I want to so

I gotta try, I gotta try Canadian cooking, yeah

(ETA: You may freely repost this parody provided you credit me, "Roberta X," and link back to this post.  Some people seem to have forgotten how this works.)
* It has been suggested that the French phrase "feuille d'erable" would work better.  Right number of syllables and yes, it's "maple leaf" and a proper nod to Canada's other language.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So, I Read More McDevitt

    This one a post-apocalyptic number called Eternity Road.  Different story, same problems: good characters, smooth writing, okay plot -- and utterly no grasp of the failure modes or speed of decay of concrete and asphalt roads in a midwestern- and northeastern-U.S. climate.  Additionally, the characters have books (including a precious few ancient printed ones), jewelers and gunsmiths but not moveable type; they understand what concrete is (there's a trick or two to concrete and the secret has been found and lost many times in human history) and take it for granted.  And so on.  At one point, a character describes a steam engine -- all except for the actual engine!

     He doesn't know what he doesn't know.  If he's dealing with technology so advanced it might as well be magic, he does fine.  If he's dealing with primitive tech, he does fine.  Stick him in an 19th-Century machine shop or a 20th-Century electronics lab and he's lost.

     Well-written books if you're an English major.  If you want to read post-apocalypsos you can dance to, try Kim Stanley Robinson's The Wild Shore or Stewart's Earth Abides.  Andre Norton liked the general theme, too, and had a better eye for what lasts and what doesn't.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Sure Sign Of Spring In The City

         Warmer weather must be here at last: on my way into work at oh-dark-thirty yesterday morning, the hookers and hustlers were still on their patches, visibly perking up at the approach of a fancy-looking car with only one person in it and fading back into the shadows when my speed never changed.

          This is not only an indication of better weather but of a still-lousy economy. The worse it gets, the more people you see working the street -- I'm not sure if this is because there really are more of them or if it's due to a decline in clients but outcome is the same either way.

          Cities have their advantages but on a dark-enough morning, the scales barely balance.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

H'mm, Again. Also: Books I Have Mixed Feelings About

I thought the Terry Pratchett announcement would be a good place to stop the blog but ideas keep floating to the surface. So maybe not. However, my health is still not what it should be and posting may be a little catch-as-can for awhile.

Recent reading has included three Jack McDevitt novels in the "Priscilla Hutchins" series. They are splendid trainwrecks; McDevitt has the mechanics of writing down pat and his science is good enough. His characters are often interesting but they're too often unnecessarily foolish. Alas, his technology is risible, starships engineered in ways that make absolutely zero sense and cardboard McGuffins he couldn't sell if you spotted him ten bucks and a fake expert. Also unsellable, in these books, set some two hundred years in the future, the culture of North America has barely changed, give or take union between the U. S. and Canada plus several feel of sea-level rise. To call this implausible is to give it too much credit -- consider the alien gulf between today and 1815. It just doesn't fly. The assemblage of nicely-drawn, well-meaning muddlers he trots forth are likeable and relatable, but none of them are especially competent. The books would be a better read if he could stay out of the engine room -- and could keep his people in the middle ranks, where most of them belong. It looks like hard SF but it's space fantasy with a good paint-job; the tech shrinks and expands as needed to fit the plot, FTL radio is tossed off with nary a handwave and FTL travel is apparently easier than a solo drive down the Isthmus of Panama. Frustratingly enough, there are occasional gems in this mud, wonderful stage-settings and edge-of-your-seat scenes, moments that carry you along through the silliness hoping for another flash of the good stuff. Flashes are all there are. These are "buy at the terminal/leave on the plane" books. If you're technically inclined, be warned: you're going to keep stumbling over the painted backdrops, canvas flats and foil-covered props. (McDevitt also wrote Ancient Shores, also long on sense of wonder and a bit fast-talking about tech and how long technological objects might last in working condition.)