Friday, December 2, 2016

Things that circle outside the light...

On our front porch we usually keep a little Fall Tableau up until it starts to look "Christmasy" and it is time for those decorations.  Nothing elaborate.  A pumpkin, a few gourds, some corn. The odd purple things are a plant that I am too lazy to identify properly so I call it "Alien Cabbage".  They stay viable quite late in the season, no doubt having been bred hardy on the dark, radioactive plantoid of their origin.

With my wife out of town for a few days I was given discretion with respect to when the Fall Tableau got taken out to the compost bin.  The other day I looked down and saw that I was Too Late.

I don't know what kind of critter crept up in the dark and gnawed a hole in the pumpkin.  So many generations, such a gulf of time that separates us from our cave dwelling predecessors.

But still there are hungry things that circle just outside the light, just beyond our doorstep....

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Remembering Campaigns Past.....

Politics has never been an entirely safe topic to discuss among family and friends.  This was true even before people took their social relationships off into the Virtual world where it is much easier to have your meaning misconstrued, and where "Unfriending" is a public and irrevocable thing as compared to say, having a few days where you decided to not have a cup of coffee with somebody at work.

I've been around for more election cycles than most.  I will admit that this last one was an eye opener.  The results surprised everyone and I think that whether you like or dislike the outcome it is salutary to periodically re-evaluate your world view.  Some world views are being dismantled down to their very foundations and every brick and board being tested.  That is a good thing.

For the Record I did not vote for either Donald Trump or for Hillary Clinton.  You may express your opinion of my declining to support either of them but it was my decision to make. So I decided this year to write in my choices for President and Vice President.  I picked two individuals, one a Democrat and one a Republican.  Who? Again, my business, not yours but I picked two people who I consider to be among the few honest, capable, willing-to-put-country-ahead of party politicians who have appeared on the ballot for these positions in recent years.

This has caused me to go back and re-visit all the Presidential campaigns I can remember.  I made various choices in them which is only reasonable as I was a different person years ago than I am now.  And it was a different country.  Or of course from another perspective I and the country are not so very changed over time.  You judge.

my age: 7
my issues: plastic dinosaurs
my memories: I recall going with my mom when she went to volunteer at a campaign office for Barry Goldwater.  I remember it was downtown Minneapolis. It seemed like it was some kind of big garage or former auto dealership.  Signs were being made. For years there was a can of "Gold Water" soda on a shelf.  I think it was acquired that day.

my age: 11
my issues:  The Vietnam war was going on pretty actively at that time.  I do recall observing that all the bombing raids never seemed to actually hit anything important. This was a very turbulent election, probably crazier than 2016.  

my age: 15
my issues: I was in high school, so things that concerned me then are almost by definition all trivial in retrospect.  That was the year Richard Nixon beat George McGovern by a tally of 520 to 17.  A pretty bad Electoral College 'whupping' but a real nail biter compared to 1820 when James Monroe put it to John Quincy Adams, 231 to 1.  JQA came back four years later for the Win.

my age 19
my issues: I was in college.  I concerned myself mostly with inexpensive beer and interpersonal relationships that had no future potential.  This was the first year I could vote, and I cast it for Gerald Ford.  I felt then, and still do, that he was a fundamentally decent man. Jimmy Carter was one of those political peculiarities that come along once in a while.  He had bad luck with respect to the times and the circumstances he was handed.

my age 23
my issues: I was in medical school.  It was all rather overwhelming.  This was another time when neither major party candidate looked appealing.  Carter had an air of "malaise" about him. Reagan was a B movie actor.  Also he was old.  Well, I was young.  So the appeal of voting for a Third Party candidate was strong.  There was a guy named John Anderson running on a platform of not being either of the other two guys.  He had a full head brilliant white hair which on a fairly young guy looked striking.  This is the only Presidential campaign I have ever donated money to.  Anderson lost, and to boot seems to have sold my name and address to a bevy of fund raisers.  It was two more years before I moved out of the house I shared with my brother. The plaintive letters asking us to save the (Seals/Whales/Planet) were still going strong then.  The house has since been demolished.  In my imagination the fund raising appeals are still delivered to the north east corner of a modern day parking lot where they have just as much impact now as they did then.

my age 27
my issues:  Well by now I am married and in Residency.  I think I voted absentee for Ronald Reagan's second term.  I actually spent November of that year in a sleep deprived blur doing a high risk OB program in Houston Texas.  I suppose there were major issues that year but seem to recall it not being much of a contest.  The 525 - 13 Electoral College landslide buried Walter Mondale so deep under that I had forgotten that he was involved.

You'd think that my perspective on issues would have changed as I approached real world, working guy status.  But we were poor, newly wed and happy.  That was just fine.

my age 31
my issues: Maybe there were none.  I was now starting out in practice and a new father.  The country seemed to be running fairly well under the existing managment.  And Michael Dukkais seemed an unserious challenger.

my age 35
my issues: Having been around the health care system long enough to see that it was a jumbled, dysfunctional mess I decided to vote for Bill Clinton who said he was going to do somthing to fix it.  I had nothing against George H.W.Bush, but three terms of one party is almost always plenty.  Time for new ideas.

yes, 39. Where does the time go?
So much going on.  The Berlin Wall comes down. Scandal in the White House. Times are good economically.  My first "if this-then this" decision.  I felt Bill Clinton was the better choice for the country but I found his behaviour as a person to be repugnant.  So my decision was that if Wisconsin was looking to be a close call I would hold my nose and vote Clinton.  If it was not close, a vote for Bob Dole as a token of respect for a hero and patriot.

The Twenty First Century
The issues that concern me have become more weighty.  In recent years I have had to ponder the nature of work and retirement, of being a parent and a grand parent.  More things bother me now than in the past,  perhaps that comes with age.  More things delight me than in the past, perhaps that comes with experience.

It is always more recent history that becomes more contentious.  My decisions have become less predictable even to myself.  I have donated to two more campaigns at the local level.  Both were to friends who were running as Democrats.  In each instance - one won, one did not - it looked to me as if politics did not do good things to them.  I found myself sometimes voting different ways when the same individual stood for election in two different cycles.  I have voted for one of the recent political dynasties and against another.  

I wonder if we will ever see a "normal" election again.  Candidates can't realistically influence people by newspapers or television any more.  Most of the money spent in any given cycle serves only to enrich consultants and to clog land fills.  Large segments of the population simply won't, or perhaps can't, get their minds around anything other than party line allegience. 

It is sobering to realize that you have more four year increments behind you than ahead of you. But for what it is worth, and I'm not sure how much that is, the strangest times probably lie ahead. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

After the Feast

A photo from after Thanksgiving dinner.  

The human of  course has every reason to lie back -hand atop belly- and take life easy.  The canine of course knows full well that he is not supposed to be on the furniture.  But standards get relaxed a bit on holidays, albeit not as relaxed as either of the two family members seen above.

The dog's name is Bruce.  He is the "older brother" to a toddling Next Generation.  Said youngster's first word was "BRuuuuuuuuuuuu..". This gets Bruce some permanent tolerance points. Interestingly, just as Eskimos have many words for snow, Toddler has devoted about half of his identifiable vocabulary to this very important feature of his life.  In addition to "Bruuu" there is a five or six syllable version of the word "Doggie".  He also knows "P.U." but that could apply specifically to the dog or generally to assorted other family members including himself.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Boring Project

Sometimes in machining you need to make a large hole in a piece of metal.  Maybe larger than the drill bits you have around or can fit into your equipment.  Also, you might need this hole to be accurate to 0.001 inch.  Why I am not sure.

OK, time to deploy a milling attachment called a Boring Head.

It spins around and around shaving off a few thousandths of an inch of metal at a time.  Every few minutes you have to stop and adjust it again.  

This gets rather tedious.  And actually the term "boring" dates from the late 1700s, and is felt to be a figurative extention of "moving slowly and persistently, as a boring tool does".

I can certainly see how a machinist doing this task regularly would have been very happy when CNC milling came along and automated things.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Under the Science Museum

Welcome to St. Paul, capitol of the fine state of Minnesota.  As you can see it is right on the Mississippi River.  Note also that the entire city is perched on some impressive sandstone cliffs.  The combination of cliffs, early settlement and a heavily German citizenry made it a major center for brewing. 

 I have stopped by St. Paul a few time already to look at Forgotten Brewery Caves, for instance:  HERE and HERE.

Today a peek at a well hidden cave site.

The Science Museum of Minnesota is built right into the side of the bluff.  If you go into their parking ramp and peek over the side you will see far below, the characteristic archway of a brewery cave.

But there is no need to admire it from afar, just go down to the lowest level of the ramp.

And a little closer up.

This appears to be the cave used by The City Brewery, which was started by a Dominic Troyer in 1855.  In 1860 Troyer decided to return to Europe and sold the brewery to a partnership of Funk and Schwitzer.  Through a few more ownership shuffles it eventually became the Frederick Emmert Brewery, and at a peak production of 6,000 barrels a year circa 1880 it was a major player.  After his death in 1889 Emmert's sons ran the brewery until the turn of the century after which it was sold to the rival Hamm's Brewery who used it for storage.

A pilgrimage to this cave site is clearly no problem.  I suggest a visit to the Science Museum too, its very well done.  St. Paul of course has many brewery caves.  You can read about some of them in other corners of the Internet but I am not going to publicize any of the more famous ones.  

The problem is that brewing beer in St. Paul was such a great success that the breweries excavated some whopping great caves, especially in the 1870s when their original pioneer locations became too cramped.  Some of these caves are decidedly unsafe and there have over the years been a string of fatal accidents associated with them. 

This would be an excellent time to mention again that just because brewery caves are fascinating is not a reason to go into them.  Some are deadly.  Outside one of the bigger cave complexes in St. Paul you see this somber sign:

Good advice.  It should be so obvious.  But although the city keeps sealing the entrances to the caves, foolish young people keep finding new ways in.  In 2004 three more teens died in the same caves, again from carbon monoxide poisoing.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Jewish Versions!

In general Americans tend to get along much better in life than in death.  Hence the tradition of separate cemeteries for Protestant and Catholic folks.  I'm not sure what people are worried about, do they think that the Archangel Gabriel when blowing the Final Trumpet would get mixed up and bar the Pearly Gates based on who you had been "nonliving" next door to?

One hopes Heaven is run more efficiently than that.

In any case Jewish folks certainly had their own cemeteries wherever a community of sufficient size existed.  Outside of Sheboygan was this nice little spot, the Hebrew Cemetery.  And I was delighted to find Jewish variations on Tree Shaped Tombstones.

Above we have the Classic Style but with some nice personalized touches.

As this is a somewhat newer cemetery that was one of the few early markers, but across the way we find this little "grove" of newer style tree markers.  Here we see them from the back.

This one tells a story....

These later style markers always have an insert at eye level.  This is a bronze plaque from the Jewish War Veterans Association.  The local post is named after Lieutenant Marsak.

Other markers go for something more basic.  

The structure of these markers does not really lend itself to another long standing Jewish tradition, that of placing stones atop the monument.  But that was very much being upheld elsewhere in the cemetery.