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As the temperature slides back down below zero (F) here, the supper dishes are done, and I lean back to savor the memory of home-made stuffed peppers, and for dessert a good sharp Stilton cheese chased with Middle Sister Rebel Red wine. It was very close to a carb-free meal, consisting of some 85% ground beef with a little rice to thin it out, mixed with salsa and scooped generously into some very Christmas-y red and green pepper halves. Oh, I’ll maybe have a little egg nog later on, the season being what it is.

What the season actually is, is early. I’m not used to below-zero temps two weeks before winter begins. It certainly hasn’t happened in the ten years we’ve lived here. I get screamed at every time I suggest that we may be entering a cooling spell on the Third Rock, but from all I’ve seen in the stats it sure looks that way. At some point my strongly suspected Neanderthal genetics may come in handy.

Carol’s still scooting around the house on her knee walker. She’s improving day by day but there’s still some pain that her surgeon will have to consider when we go back next week. I hung a little canvas pack on the knee walker so she can carry things around. My father brought the pack home from WWII, and it sat in a box in my mother’s attic until we sold her house in 1996. It then sat in a box in my sister’s garage for another ten years, until we unpacked it and I took it home. I have no idea what sort of pack it is, and if you recognize it (see above) give a shout. Now, the other mystery: How could something that old and neglected not smell? It doesn’t. It’s clean and looks almost unused. Whatever my father did with it back in the day, it’s become useful again. He would be pleased if he knew. Someday I hope to tell him.

I turned in a ginormous chaper today for The Book I Still Can’t Tell You About. I’m well over half finished with the gig, and certainly hope the next chapter won’t cast off to 55 book pages all by its lonesome. It’s certainly something to do while waiting for a quick trip outdoors to cease being a near-death experience.

Michael Covington mentioned to me that Lowes is now selling Meccano parts in those marvelous little bins of odd bits in the hardware aisle. I got up there a few days ago to take a look, and it’s true: A company called The Hillman Group provides little bags of zinc-plated steel girders, plates, and brackets, all with the Meccano standard 1/2″ hole spacing, the holes sized to clear an 8-32 bolt. They’re expensive compared to haunting eBay for beat-to-hell and incomplete modern Erector sets, but the parts can be damned handy. Here’s an Arduino-powered cat teaser built from some servos and Hillman parts.

Tomorrow I dive into Chapter 5. Should be easier, as it’s about programming, not hardware. Now, can we ditch this absurd obsession with curly brackets? What part of BEGIN and END don’t you all understand?


  1. Bob Fegert says:

    Her walker has a really cool retro army surplus look to it 🙂

    It’s very cold here in MO! 4 degress F is expected tonight..brrr
    and we have a foot of snow. It’s VERY early in the season for such
    conditions here.

    I just love erector sets and low-carb I’m having great results with my low-carb eating. I once saw an image of a very early experimental artificial heart prototype .. it was built using erector set parts. Wish I could find the picture.

  2. Erbo says:

    I’ve been told too many curly brackets make your code look “girly.” Someone alert Kernighan, Richie, Stroustrup, and Gosling!

    (You could always go with Python, which uses indentation to delimit blocks…it seems weird, but it works…)

    1. Part of Chapter 5 will involve illustrating major programming language concepts via Python. I’m brushing up. Something else interesting appeared on my radar that you’ll appreciate: Tkinter. Going on twenty years ago I installed TCL/Tk and wrote quite a bit in it, guided by Ousterhout’s book and later on by Harrison & McLennan. I’ve given away a huge number of computer books since then, but those two have always followed me around, and some weird hunch told me not to dump them, even though I haven’t touched TCL since the 20th Centuy. Now, abruptly, Python and Tkinter have made them useful again.

      Ordinarily I don’t like whitespace to be significant, but there’s something about Python that appeals to the contrarian in me. That, and no damned curly brackets!

      1. Yes, it’s an M-1936, as many have emailed to tell me. I don’t consider it a haversack because it lacks its own backpack straps, and is clearly intended to be clipped on to a shoulder strap, suspenders, or a larger pack. Online descriptions refer to it as a “musette bag,” and Chris Gerrib over on my LiveJournal mirror says that such bags were used to carry books and messages. This makes it a kind of combat attache case, which I could well believe. (My father read a lot, and he was a radio operator during WWII.) Carol uses it to carry books and the telephone handset around, so it remains true to its mission, almost 70 years after the fact.

        I think it survived as well as it has due to it spending about 18 months in the North African desert at an AACS radio/radar base in Mali. Moisture was not an issue there.

        1. Bob Fegert says:

          So, your dad was a “sparks” in WW2.

          I bet he was familiar with my favorite radio from that time.
          The AN/GRC-9 Usually they were mounted in jeeps but were
          light enough that many were carried in packs. They had a nice
          wooden fold-out seat with a crank generator. This rig is great
          to have around in case of EMP 🙂

          You can see it used a lot in the film “Kelly’s Heroes ” and see it
          passed off as a German field radio in “The Guns Of Navarone”

          1. My dad was part of the AACS (Army Airways Communication System) first in Italy and later in Mali. He used a Hammarlund Super Pro SP-200 receiver. He told me what the transmitter was, but I never wrote it down and have long since forgotten. He could copy Morse at 30 WPM in his head, and took it down on the mill as fast as the mill could run, which (having had a 1919-era Underwood Standard myself) was not necessarily that fast.

            Now, was the Angry Nine used in WWII? I thought it appeared circa Korea. I know it was used in Viet Nam.

            My dad worked a station in the back of a truck of some sort that followed the Army up the boot of Italy. That radio may have been a BC-1306, but the radio in Mali was some huge thing using crystals half the size of your fist. No pictures, alas. I’ve always regretted that.

          2. Bob Fegert says:

            You are right, I was confusing the angrynine with the BC-1306, they look almost identical. I suppose the nine is just an upgrade of the earlier rig.

  3. Tom Roderick says:

    My Father had a pack just like the one in the picture that he brought back from WWII also. His was not nearly as pristine. He served in the CBI theater and since I was right next door during the Vietnam War I know how the climate there mildews, and rots everything.

    When I was between 10 and 14 or so I was permitted to use it for day hikes in a wooded area near our house.

    He called the pack a rucksack I think. It ended up getting stored in a damp location in our house in the 1960’s and the Atlanta climate did to it what the tropics could not. The only thing left were the metal buckles and they were not in good shape.

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