Such a good feeling.

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Tom and Matthew, who like each other just the way they are.

We watched Matthew Rhys and Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood this evening, and I sort of billed it as “after seeing Rhys do a super somber Perry Mason, this will be a wonderful palate cleanser.”

Well, not exactly. Matthew Rhys plays a guy “broken” in all kinds of different ways than Perry and Russian spy Phil Jennings in The Americans. But he did a great job, and we enjoyed the movie, and I certainly enjoyed all the late 1980s video tech, even though the filmmakers can’t help but use more movie-people jargon than tv-people jargon (this is a critique only relevant to people who have toiled in the fields of television, and yeah, that’s a distinct subset of the content consumers out there.)

I think the movie did a decent job of communicating Fred Rogers’ talent for speaking to humans of all ages, making them feel safe, and explaining the ways we connect to each other. All with quirky puppets, a large traffic light, a trolley, and heart.

In college, I worked a lot of afternoons as a “duty director,” the guy who puts Misterogers Neighborhood and Sesame Street and Lilias, Yoga and You on the air, and makes sure the little breaks between the programs come off smoothly. Fred Rogers and Grover and Kermit the Frog are therefore in my memory vividly and permanently.

High side, low side.

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

On a hot day in rural Michigan, we needed to recharge our otherwise stalwart pickup truck. That is, it needed some refrigerant. Why? There might be a very small leak, or some other complex complication. Bottom line was, on a mid 80 degree humid afternoon, you want some cool air blowing in your face.

Having had something similar happen a decade ago with our venerable (what’s with these adjectives? Venerable! Stalwart! Driven hard!) Ford Explorer in yet another hot and humid July in Michigan. When we got it back to Atlanta a quick trip to a local auto parts place gave me cans of R134a refrigerant and this hose doohickie that attached to what was a lot like a spray can without a nozzle and dispatched the stuff into the low side of the vehicle air conditioning system.

Yes, I did some reading up on the internet. And a decade later, I did much the same browsing, learned about all kinds of subtle things that might be wrong. I paused a moment, and said, you know what? The heck with it, let the folks who are doing our oil change (it was time for the truck’s oil change) do the recharge and they’ll probably charge a premium but they’ll do it right.

An hour or so later, I came upon our truck in one of the bays, hooked up to this device on wheels whose job was apparently to flush and fill refrigerant in precise amounts. The first service guy and called the older service guy over, and they got the manual out and started scratching their heads. Yes, the manual for the device on wheels. A third guy joined them. Apparently the filters on the device had recently been changed and it was beeping and reporting an error message. They had accomplished nothing in the refrigerant department.

So apologetically, I told the service “advisor” I had to go, and paid for the oil change, we disconnected, and I left them poking at their defective device.

And (see above), I went to the local auto parts place here and got cans of R134a refrigerant and this hose doohickie. Once I carefully checked which was the high side connector and which was the low side connector, I hooked it up and dumped in the stuff. In a matter of seconds, cool air was blowing into my face.

So far so good. At least good enough until we can take it to a dealership in Stone Mountain and let them use their fancy beeping devices on wheels to check it out.

Statewide.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

After the Georgia runoff election for the primary Tuesday, where the winning republican candidate in the 14th congressional district is a nut case who has used the language of racism and Qanon conspiracy garbage to win her race, I heard more of those “how can you live in Georgia?” questions. “But, but,” I say, her district is way up there in the northwest corner, far from the metropolitan voters in Atlanta, Athens, Savannah, and Macon. Far away from our comfortable, humane, intown Atlanta neighborhood.

It’s the same if you live in the rural counties of upper Michigan. The political view from around the lakes and cornfields there look pretty darn red, and can be disturbing until you do the math and discover that the populous southern part of the state, way more diverse, way more democratic, will likely carry the state comfortably into the blue column in the 2020 election’s ultimately Electoral College determined contest.

This is true in Ohio. In Illinois. In California. In New York.

We are a diverse country divided somewhat arbitrarily into states, and those states are either diverse or (in some cases) they are not. There are those who want to hold onto the Electoral College system as some sort of leveler don’t really want people who live in more urban, clustered-together environments to have their full numbers count.

I however, do.

Some more smiling.

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Kamala Harris
It’s a long way to November. There’s a lot of crap between now and then.

But a lot of people are smiling this afternoon and evening in reaction to the news that Joe Biden’s running mate will be Kamala Harris. That assertion is not a “all eyes are on” cliché of reporting…I’ve been looking at the faces on the split screens of cable news and scrolling by in the Twitterverse, and so many are unabashedly smiling.

That’s great. We needed a day like this. And I think this puts the Biden/Harris ticket in a powerful spot against two very very misogynistic Republicans, Trump and Pence.

That certainly should mean that she’ll be our next Vice-President, part of a team that has so, so, so much cleanup work to do. I was thinking about how we thought about how Obama had such a tough task, to hit the ground running and orchestrate a stimulus package to clean up the mess of the 2007-8 economic recession. And he did—and he and his VP did a great job patching things back together.

But this America that will be left for the next administration to repair, to re-create, to heal… oh, my.

Harris is a great choice in the face of all that. Another smart Biden decision.

Anger management.

Monday, August 10th, 2020

I was thinking about all the anger escaping through fissures public and private throughout 2020 America, and I looked back quickly to see exactly when I talked about anger (specifically that word, although frustration, that’s a good one too.)

On April 20, 1999, I wrote about the NAB, the Cotton Mill fire in Cabbagetown, and I used the a-word obliquely in reaction to some reader mail (hey, back when I had readers) about Kosovo. Kosovo!

Then on June 22, 1999, I wrote about a documentary that discussed the origins of Apple’s Steve Jobs, who (they asserted) turned his anger over being adopted into the energy to create a company that is beyond huge, 21 years after that was written.

On March 15, 2006, I wrote about the Writers’ Guild frustration and, yes, anger (quoting them) about the microscopic cut they got from Disney from a digital download of a movie or TV show. Funny, I was hearing a similar story and complaint from musicians who are getting a pittance from streaming services like Spotify. What goes around.

And then on June 9 of this troubled year, I talked about voting in this year’s pandemic-overlaid Georgia Primary:

We have a fair amount of confidence that our votes counted […] we also have a fair amount of anger that many of our neighbors had to stand in line for hours, and some probably still couldn’t do what our country, our state, our county, our city has asserted is one of our highest civic responsibilities.

I guess I’m amazed after decades of typing stuff into this website-blog-thingie, I haven’t broken out the a-word more frequently. But maybe that’s just my perspective from where we are in this year.

Wind direction.

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

I had bookmarked a web page for the Dark Sky people, who have a very successful iOS app and, until recently, one for Android too. But then Apple bought them, and has plans, one presumes, to integrate Dark Sky’s technology and approach to laying out hour-by-hour forecasts right into the various Apple operating systems.

The web page still works great, though, at this moment, and it’s bookmarked for the exact place in rural Michigan where we are, and for the most part, it seems to offer good, although changeable, information. That is, we look at when it might start raining late this evening (1 am, it said this morning) with an eye to making plans for when we close the windows and so on. So then later in the day today the pattern of precip had…evolved, where now it was starting later in the overnight and settling down to just being mostly cloudy in the first part of the morning, and then more rain Monday afternoon. It’s certainly understandable (especially up here) that the predictions shift and drift one way or another. These large lakes cause meteorological turmoil, and all that Canadian wind…well, as I say understandable.

It’s a very simple presentation at the top levels, and then you can drill down to a remarkable amount of detail. For me, it might suffice to see “rain,” but Sammy will often ask the cogent question: which way is the wind coming from? It’s there, with a click or two.

I have no idea how long the website will continue to function, since they have already yanked the Android app and the API that allowed a bunch of other weather apps to get data. Probably one day I’ll call up the page and, yeah, it’ll be a placeholder.

A similar ebb and flow happened with our previous favorite weather site, Weather Underground. Founded as a quirky independent site in 1995, it was absorbed in 2012 by the Weather Channel people. That website/cable channel itself was sold at least once in the intervening and is—I think—now owned by IBM and the components of the Weather Underground site seem to be stripped off one by one and I presume at one point it will only sing the song “Daisy” to Astronaut Dave Bowman.

There’s always the official government weather site at weather.gov, but I guess I have my concerns about its health after watching the administration’s machinations with the United States Postal Service.

Too dangerous a season.

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

I read this afternoon the Mid American Conference—that’s the MAC—have decided to cancel the fall football season, or, to put a positive spin on it, they’re going to try to do football next spring.

I don’t really follow the leagues and the teams and so on—I got confused when the Big Ten became an association of …what is it? 12? 31? A lot of teams. And the Big East? Not particularly East. And that virtual first down line thing, that’s just wizard magic of some sort. It’s not even there!

But the MAC was and is the league, or team grouping, or conference, or whatever that Ohio University plays in, and Ohio University is one of the two schools I attended. (The other had zero inter-school sports. I think there was some frisbee and volleyball.)

Several authoritative tweets I stumbled across said that this decision will likely put pressure on the bigger-deal conferences with larger schools to just call the whole thing off this year. I would suppose the pressure from the players themselves would be a big factor, but when you factor the massive economic impact this football has in big schools all over, I’m sure there are a lot of secret conference calls where executives and administrators are saying “well, let’s just put on the table—how many new cases would be OK to play through? How many hospitalizations? How many deaths?”

Yee gads.

We heard from our family who lives in Athens, Georgia (they have a big school and a big football program, perhaps you’ve heard) that UGA continues to plan for a season of some kind. They are going to require mask wearing in the enormous outdoor arena that is Sanford Stadium.

It just all seems so desperately experimental. And again, the test subjects are the kids we all send off to school, and the families they come home to. Us, in other words.

Alone among peers.

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Late Friday night, after a pleasant evening of shared content consumption, I paged through the Friday online papers. Or online representations of the print front pages of the…well, you get it.

The Columbus Dispatch, which is now printed, I understand, in some state which is not Ohio, had stale reporting on the Ohio Governor testing positive for Covid-19. (This very blog had the same stale reporting, but hey, I went to bed early that night, and, besides, I am not a reporter.)

Governor DeWine tested positive on the rapid-answer, you’re about to see the President test, but then later that day the Ohioans went for some more maybe-more-thorough, maybe-more-specific testing.

The Governor’s office then issued a statement that said:

“A PCR test was administered to the Governor and members of his staff this afternoon. The PCR test looks for the specific RNA for the SARS CoV-2 — in other words, the genetic material specific for the virus that causes COVID-19. The PCR test is known to be extremely sensitive, as well as specific, for the virus. The PCR tests for the Governor, First Lady, and staff were run twice. They came back negative the first time and came back negative when they were run on a second diagnostic platform.”

Well, OK then. If I had a bit more energy, I might point out that the confidence most Americans have in the quality of the testing results is about as variable as these results.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution had a big story bannered “School hallway photos cause stir.” This refers to the Paulding County students who posted pictures of crowded hallways. In one interview, student/photograher Hannah Watters, suspended at one point for the act of photoing and posting, said “this is some good and necessary trouble.” The spirit of John Lewis lives on in northwest suburban Atlanta. The school district subsequently “erased” the suspension after a sufficient level of shame had swirled around the administrators.

And the Washington Post had a story on the New York AG’s legal efforts to dissolve the NRA. The New York Times said (to quote the headline) the US is alone among its peers in failing to contain the virus.

And with those notes, the first week in August shambles to a close.

Only the first Thursday of August.

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

It’s only Thursday? Uh-oh, might have to crack open this fresh shrink-wrapped collection of Five Centered Asterisks™.

* * * * *

Two kids in Paulding County Georgia who posted images of overcrowded schools have been suspended. That’s so wrong from a first amendment standpoint, but I’m happy they’re out of that school.
* * * * *

A Chatham County Georgia 7-year-old (that’s near Savannah) died from coronavirus, and many online said this was fake news. No, no it wasn’t.
* * * * *

The Republican Governor of the State of Ohio tested positive for coronavirus right before he was scheduled to welcome the President to the Buckeye State.
* * * * *

The Attorney General of the State of New York is suing the National Rifle Association, citing widespread corruption. She wants the organization to be dissolved entirely. The New York state news release cites “dozens of examples where the four individual defendants failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel.” The NRA is registered as a 501(c)(4) not-for-profit, charitable corporation in New York State, so, yeah, I think they may be in a bit of trouble.
Also, you know, they took lots of money from Russia.
* * * * *

I relinquish the balance of my asterisks!

Unsafe practices.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

A picture of a crowded locker-lined hallway “went viral” today, in these pandemic times.

It was, Atlanta’s wsbtv.com reported, taken on the first day of school around dismissal time at North Paulding High School by a 10th grade student named Hannah.

Paulding County is west and north of Atlanta about 40 miles.

The superintendent, Dr. Brian Otott, issued a “Message from Dr. Otott” (reported by WSB) to parents, which said the images had been (say it along with me) taken out of context. When you have a high school of more than 2000 students and they change classes (I’m paraphrasing), you get some of this..uh, congregating and it’s an area that they’re working on. Adjustments may need to be made. Apparently they did in-person teaching Monday through Wednesday this week and then Thursday and Friday kids will be learning remotely so that “all of our schools can step back and assess how things are going so far.”

Adjustments, needed adjustments. That phrase was sprinkled multiple times in his “message”. So his “missing context” mostly was: “we’re adjusting.”

School should not be an “adjustable” community science experiment.

Crossroads.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

I like carved signs, too. This one looks like it would stand up to subzero winters and close brushes with snowmobiles, and that’s good, because this fine sign is a few hundred yards from Lake Superior. (It’s off to the left, beyond the trees in this picture.)

Today the sign basked in the temperate sunshine. In February, that would not be the case.

Dofasco!

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I was taking a picture, a closeup picture. Enhance!

A detailed picture of, literally, big iron. Well, to be even more specific, the wheel assembly of a train, the part that holds the wheels, which has its own cool name, a bogie.

But what the heck was a Dofasco? Turns out, like the township of Germfask, Michigan, Dofasco’s name, actually once a nickname, was an amalgam of Dominion Foundries and Steel Company. Nowadays, with mergers and so on, the Hamilton, Ontario steel producer is formally known as ArcelorMittal Dofasco.

Amusing (maybe only to me) that I called it (maybe erroneously) an amalgam, I guess, although that is yet another word I needed help with. I thought it simply meant “alloy” of any kind, but turns out it has to have mercury as a component for it to be an amalgam.

And let’s now zoom out and do the opposite of ‘enhance’ and you can see the locomotive these wheels support:

Bracket of life.

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

We were talking about the life of Erle Stanley Gardner in the context of Perry Mason, the new version that’s currently running on HBO.

I was surprised to hear that in this new one Mason was a veteran of World War I and that much of the action is taking place in 1932. Maybe it’s my consumption of season after season of Perry Mason episodes (the CBS version) that fixed Mason in my head as an artifact of the late 1950s and 1960s America.

But sure enough, Gardner published the first Mason story in 1933. And Gardner himself lived from 1889 to 1970. Sammy said “that’s my grandmother’s lifespan.” And I was thinking how filled with change a time it was, with wars and pandemics and depression and so on.

We don’t get to pick when we’re born, and the changes in technology, politics and all the ways we live are very much calibrated in our memories by how old we were when we experienced this, or that, or the other thing. We live our lives out in between the brackets of our birth and demise.

For me, CBS Perry is a record of the beginning of my life—it began airing way before I was old enough to even look at a TV, but the last couple of seasons were definitely on in their orignal airings at our house.

Depression-era Perry is something else entirely. I’ll have to see what they make of that.

I might have to read some old Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason stories with a sharper sense of when they were written and when they became popular. It’s a lot earlier than Raymond Burr, a 1957 Thunderbird, and a Los Angeles growing into the 1960s.

Month 8.

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

It’s a quiet Saturday, give or take a dirt bike dad sputtering up the road with a dirt bike kid in tow. The lake isn’t awash in jet skis, and the orbiting birds have settled on muted background tones. Inside, the ceiling fan and the floor fan are generating just about the right level of white noise.

The kind of cacophony you would expect from the Twitterverse is still there, if you’re compelled to mash the button that summons it up onto a nearby screen. I’m sure it’s a loud bemoaning of Trump’s mismanagement of all things and a noisy fretting over Biden’s choice of running mate and, well, the grinding sounds of lies beyond calculation.

But the thing is: if I don’t mash the button, it remains just kinda out there, like the very distant call of a loon.

And August thus begins more peacefully.

Waiting…loading…

Friday, July 31st, 2020

WiFi-delivered internet is a fast thing. LTE-delivered internet can be a fast thing. But when you’re trying to configure a new phone (not mine, for a friend), which on a theoretical level should be a walk in the park. But if the people developing the software assume you have a nice stable broadband connection on both your devices and in reality, the LTE connection on your device is through a cranky sluggish oversubscribed tower, well, patience becomes your guiding principle. The irony of course is that each and every bit of all these apps (and content) exist right here on the old device, and exist here on the encrypted backup of the old device, but no, the new device wants to get them fresh from the app store, in the cloud, y’know, just to be sure.

So this is how July ends. Waiting…loading…

Patterns on the land.

Thursday, July 30th, 2020


Some guy (?) guys? cut the hay in our neighbor’s field (he’s a little old to be steering a tractor.) It made a nice pattern, disturbed the Sandhill Cranes a bit, and as Sammy noticed, a lot of the progress happened in the late afternoon and evening, so the cutter may have a day job.

So the right side of the picture, the green stuff, that’s to the south. That’s our land. Feels funny saying that. But it’s true.