Friday, April 01, 2016

How to Keep a Nerd Out of Trouble

My family has a habit of collecting books. I get this from the distaff side, since Pop buys his history books, reads them, uses the data for his fun activities on the internet and touring, and then gives the books to the local college library, where he used to teach and I once attended a class or two. (I suspect, therefore, that my alma mater has the best Civil War and WWII selection of any school its size.)

Meanwhile, The Bat and I amass volumes. Between us, we managed to fill the pantry and kitchen with over a thousand cookbooks, and quite a few craft and art manuals. The downside to this is, one can never quite recall on short notice where a certain article or recipe is, and, if one does find it, one has to worry about smudging the pages or breathing in large volumes of accumulated allergens (yes, I have a dust allergy).

So, while my health is still fairly good, I decided to do something about both issues. Page by page, I'm putting the Bat's and my libraries into a digital form and storing it outside the house, in an online cache. I have a scanner, I have an internet connection (such as it is) and I'm not afraid to use it. This means stirring up all that dust, and even some mildew, so that all I will need for reference will be a phone or tablet.

I'm making myself sick for the greater good. Or, at least, for my own future well-being and comfort. I'm not sure how much of what I scan will fall into the category of public domain, so most will be stored behind internet walls. I hope to share my favorite pages with anybody who surfs into one of my public blogs, though. 

Besides the books, though, we have several ring-binder notebooks filled with pockets, each filled with loose-leaf projects, recipes, etc.

Like this one.

Click any image to embiggen

Because you know we all want to make an 18th-century-style wooden "fashion baby".

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Mom? Mom? Mom?

Ahhhh...nothing like a small creature to help you relax and sleep in, in the morning...

Friday, February 26, 2016

New Toy for the Cat

She played until she wore herself out... and then she sat and watched the little mousie scoot across the screen.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

One-Eye lives in peace

Little guy who feasts outside my bedroom window every day... I have no idea how his face got mangled, but he's getting along pretty well despite his loss.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Joy of Tech

I've been scanning some of The Bat's favorite recipe pages -- as well as my own -- from our rather extensive library of cookbooks. It's a fairly daunting task, considering how much we both like to cook and bake. But it just got a little more challenging, this afternoon, when my spiffy high-speed scanner decided to roll over and play dead.

Oh, don't worry. I do have another scanner. It's part of an all-in-one device I bought for an indecently low price at auction a few years ago. The part where I cry "Alas! Woe am i!" is when I consider the clock.

The backup unit is about as speedy at scanning as I am at walking. Sure, we get there, but having plenty of patience is necessary. With my good scanner, I was easily getting 140 pages scanned and filed in a single day. With the backup, I'll be lucky to get 40, because the scanner itself drags along, but also because each page file needs to be renamed before adding it to its proper folder. My poor dainty fingers cry out at this abuse it has not seen since...oh, four or five years ago.

I'd take the good scanner to the repair professionals first thing tomorrow morning, except my chariot and my accountant are both a thousand miles away (and I am not being figurative in stating that...well, not about the distance, anyway. The Bat is my accountant, and the chariot is a relatively late-model muscle car).

But I digress.

The scanner quit. It will not be repaired or replaced this month. I am going to continue to work on this family project, but will take better than double the expected time to do it.

I can tell your heart just breaks from my tragic circumstances.

Tree Rat Boogie

I see this character outside my window at least once every day.  He seems to have figured out that the cats are no threat to him, and, most of the time,  neither am I.

Plus, he pigs out on the free food...

Sunday, January 03, 2016

O Tannenbaum

Time to put the tree away again, until next year. After New Year's Eve, it was making me dizzy, anyway. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Like a Refugee

I've seen this meme floating about the web for a little while, now, almost always with some smug snark to head it, and tonight I finally decided that, before I try to sleep, I'd like to address this ridiculous Straw Man.

To begin with, very few people in this country have expressed any reluctance to take in true refugees from persecution in their home countries. Those who do object, generally have a problem not with the idea of helping those in need, but with being suddenly inundated with whole cities of people who have had no health checks, no way to check their backgrounds nor predict the likelihood of their becoming -- or being already -- a massive security threat that our own government not only invited in, but actually paid to come here,  using our own tax dollars.

But that's really the only reason most people have concerns about allowing a massive influx of refugees into this country. And, by and large, it doesn't stop most people from opening their hearts to true refugees.

As to the part about electing governments which don't bomb the hell out of countries to make all those fugitives...well, the majority of the current batch of refugees hoping to mass to our cities seem to be coming from countries like Syria, Somalia, Rwanda, Venezuela, Guatemala, Haiti, even Mexico...none of which has, in this century, been subject to "bombing the hell out of," or other means of slaughter by anybody but their own governments or other regional adversaries (e.g. Boko Haram or the Hutu/Tutsi animus).

Further, the government of our country now has been effectively under the control of Democrats for nearly a decade. It's time the Left took responsibility for the messes its own leadership created, instead of blaming the Bush Administration, the Crusaders, the Roman Legion or whatever figure from deep in history is their favorite  target du jour for impotent rage. 

You, along with millions of others of your mindset, voted in the current "Warmonger in Chief" and his current batch of cronies, who managed to turn two hard-earned victories in Asia (such as they were) into one giant cluster...grenade, enveloping northern Africa as well, thus endangering our allies worldwide. So stop deluding yourself that your vote produces nothing but skittles-pooping, rainbow-farting, winged unicorn kittens, and that the people who voted against your particular flavor of political animal are cloven-hoofed, fire-breathing demon spawn come to rape the planet and murder babies for fun and profit. That kind of nonsense makes you look ignorant, parochial, adolescent, narrow, and dogmatically partisan, any one of which fails to enhance a discussion, but in combination they are stultifying, and contagiously so.

TL/DR: just stop. You look like a dipstick and you make your party look like dipsticks, too.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Call Racism By Its Name, and Stop Right There.

In the shadow of the murderous assault at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, this week, there has been a demand – from both left and right – for the "white community" to "once again call racism by its name".

As stated by the young man who murdered nine good people, it was his aim to kill "those people" in order to start a race war, which makes his actions clearly racially motivated. Ergo, he is a racist.

But as of today, I have not seen anybody refuse to admit there is racism in this country. Not one. Indeed, there is no clear evidence before me that anybody has said white people can not be, are not bigots, have no trace of racist thoughts within them. We all know, and most admit, that there will always be those who prefer the company of those who look like themselves, disregarding the other commonalities. In a free society, it will always be their prerogative to be ignorant, to choose poorly. That does not mean the whole of society is driven by that ignorant behavior.

What I have seen is a years-long habit of labeling disagreement over policy as racism. What I have seen is a decades-long habit of calling crime statistics "evidence of racism" in law enforcement, without taking into consideration other factors. What I have seen is a justice system being labeled as racist because "a black man can't get a break" even when Michael Jackson, Orenthal J. Simpson, and others with money walk, despite the overwhelming evidence the public sees against them.

Even now, there are those who use the social media to "prove" the racial bias of law enforcement by displaying side-by-side photographs of a black scofflaw who died while resisting arrest and the non-confrontational capture of the very white Charleston terrorist. Obviously, to the people who post the paired images, there is nothing but open racism on display. There is no possibility in their minds that, ultimately, the behavior of each criminal is what will define the end result.

Again, I am in no wise saying there is no such thing as racism in this country – that would be an absurd statement no matter how peaceful our neighborhoods. What I am saying is, for years there have been cries of of racism a reasonable person would ascribe to other factors. It doesn't matter to some. The accusation makes it so. In this manner, as long as the accused continue to deny that racial bias has been the primary factor in X or Y or Z, then when a clear case of bigotry comes along, the accusers feel justified in shouting, "See? See? Racism is everywhere! And you're a racist to deny it!"

If there is no possibility of any other motivation, then  people should go ahead and call it by its rightful name, call it bigotry. But it dulls the meaning and stops real conversation when it gets tossed willy-nilly into every disagreement. And, where good people argue that racism is not the cause at hand, it is equally counterproductive to claim that there has been blanket denial of the presence of any such discrimination.

This is antithetical to free discourse. It is absurd. And it needs to stop.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What explosion and fire?

Around 5:30 yesterday morning, my alma mater, Monmouth College, suffered an accident which first required the help of the city fire department and then one of those professional cleaning crews. From what I was told later in the day, there was an explosion in the chemistry lab of the new business and science center, involving an organic compound in faulty storage.

My source tells me that the probable cause of the fire was several containers of ether having been stored in a somewhat-less-than-safe refrigerator. Said fridge, as its thermostat directed, would switch off and on, and each time it came back on, would create a small electrical spark in the motor...ultimately igniting vapors of the ether within. This caused an explosion which shook the entire building, causing "at least a half a million dollars in damages" to the newest academic building on campus.

We are all very lucky that this occurred when few students were awake and in the building.

We are not so lucky in this community when it comes to information. I learned details of the incident fully thirteen hours after it occurred, and then only because a member of the family spends his days on campus, and explained to us at dinner what all the fuss of the morning had been.

We have a daily local newspaper. Our neighboring city has a daily newspaper. Neither of them has seen fit to run anything about this on their web pages yesterday afternoon or this morning, about why the Monmouth fire department sped to the scene in the pre-dawn hour. And I guess none of the regional television news teams has anybody tipping them to real events in our sleepy little village, because I can't seem to find any mention of the accident anywhere -- even though one of them had a charming article about a cat stuck in a tree.

I am grateful to the powers that be for the news that there were no injuries in the explosion (I shudder to imagine, had it been later in the day, with the building full of people). I would also be grateful, though, if the news had come to me through something other than private channels. As a member of the community, I would like to believe we are better served than this.

Monday, March 30, 2015


When I saw the amount of fuss over the latest version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I began to believe the new law included admissions that they were, indeed, beginning to set up the pyres for gays and other non-Christians in the state next door to mine. After all, nobody would make such a fuss over a legislative act simply structured to permit an individual or a private business to use deep and abiding faith as a legitimate courtroom defense for refusing to perform some professional service against his strong beliefs! That would be absurd and bigoted, right?

My bad.

Some of my own best friends are scrawling all over the social media in defense of the right of gays to bully Christians into making offerings at their temple of hedonism. That is their right. You can believe whatever you want about the law. You can even, as a private citizen, act upon your beliefs.

As a private citizen, you may at any time throw your own personal weight around, gather your friends together and threaten a boycott, or use all other forms of private persuasion to get businesses to do your bidding. But now the law of the land of Indiana matches that of the nation, in saying that you may not use the force of government to compel an individual or business to perform something which goes against its religious teachings. It states that deep and abiding faith is a fair defense, in court. It doesn't say that it's a good idea. It doesn't mandate the barring of gays or blacks or the out-of-shape from public parks or private parties, and doesn't reinstate laws against sodomy, miscegenation, or wearing a thong bikini at a public beach, even if many people would welcome the return of some form of discretion as applies to such lunar events. All it does is reiterate that the right you are born with – the right to defend yourself – is protected by law.

The gay community is far from endangered by the possibility that a few of the faithful own and operate businesses which will not grant them their every whim. Indeed, in this country, the gay community is so far from endangered they'd need the Hubble scope to spot any light of said threat. It should show up on NASA's monitors in a few aeons.

Yet in the most recent cases of Christians who were forced by the courts to participate in rites which were strongly against the teachings of their own faith – or, ultimately, go out of business – it has been made obvious there is a threat in the other direction. There is clear evidence that more than a few Christians have seen themselves targeted for not going along with the groupthink du jour. In the case of the baker who would not make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple's union, the baker believed the couple were her friends. She was not refusing to do any business with the couple – in fact, she offered several alternatives, and even suggested other bakers who might be eager for the business. But this couple had to make their point, that the Christian was depriving them of their right to force her to do their will.

The law says you have to give in to our demands, because yours is a service industry, and service means you're a servant, and servant means obey or be punished. Sadly, a court seems to have agreed. The bakery has been closed down as a result of the complaint and subsequent legal and financial tangles.

But this new Indiana law means you can ostracize me for being gay!

Well, no. The law, to quote Dickens, is a ass…but not that big a ass, this time.

The law had already said the government may not compel you to pay tithes or make other offerings to a church to which you don't belong, which may be argued as to apply to creative works and others' ceremonies and rites. An artist has also traditionally had great latitude in deciding where his works would end up. That seems to be changing, depending upon the politics of the parties involved.

Even so, this new Indiana law does not add to or subtract from that. This was, in its barest essence, reestablishing the right of persons of faith to a hearing, if some person or group tries to force the issue.

A hearing.

The right to be heard, and to attempt defend their actions (or inaction). 

Nothing more, nothing less.

While we're waiting for the enthusiastic repeal of the rights of Christians (and members of other faiths) to defend themselves, I'm sure we'll see a rash of Indiana businesses suddenly putting up signs in their windows with long lists of the kinds of people they will no longer serve, because that sort of thing is always good for business, isn't it? – especially in competitive times. Gays and nazis and atheists and agnostics and blacks and women should stock up on what they want, because any day now, we'll all be locked out of every store, every business, every service, because…Christians!!!!