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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

East Side’s Up (and the Battery’s Down)

(October still life, with Syclone).

OK- despite the success in starting all five major motors on Saturday there was one little kink. The new battery for the Syclone didn’t fit. Or rather, it fit well enough to get the 4.2 cubic inch turbocharged V6 to turn over, but only with the battery jammed into the engine compartment at a strange angle, resting against the air conditioning line.

I considered my options. Just live with it? The new technology does not have open cells on top like the old models, where you could add battery fluid. That, of course, would permit the acid to pour spill out, corroding the engine mounts, cement floor of the garage, or spray over the engine. The hell with it.

The Russians stopped by to give me two eggs, fresh from the chickens and show how advanced the coop production facility was. They were delicious, BTW, and we agreed to get together after they made a run to town, and I decided to take decisive action and get a proper-sized energy source for the truck.

The easiest way to ensure that I got one that actually fit was to simply drive the truck- which had not been on the road in more than a year. Less than two, I think, but wasn’t sure. With a new battery, I could ensure the tires were filled with air, and sluice off the dust and debris of its long winter (and summer’s) nap.

She started up like a champ, and I babied her out to the two-lane, gaining confidence as I went. I forgot how cool it was, how lively she handled when the turbo-charger kicked in. It shimmied a bit- I couldn’t determine if it was flat spots on the tires from the long storage, air pressure or alignment.

No matter. She got up to speed nicely on Rt. 29 and delivered me to the NAPA autoparts store in good order. They took the incorrect battery back without argument, and we installed the new one in the parking lot in the mist. The wipers worked intermittently. Syclone may be a day VFR ride now.

Then to the gas station to pump up the tires and top off the tank with high test. I have a little notebook that World Famous Bomber Pilot Dick kept from the first fill-up in 1992, and entered the information: place, amount of gas, price. It is a fascinating little document that covers all 45,874 miles of rolling life for the truck, and all the places it has been.

Then I drove around to find a coin wash, gaining confidence that this really was a pretty low-miles classy ride. Most of the grime came off under pressure at the wash rack on the east side of town, and I felt better about it. It needs to be detailed, of course, before the 4th of July hot rod show in town, but there is plenty of time for that.

I will deal with the Explorer next, but I drove it in the Spring, and it seems to run like a charm.
Then football and a very nice bottle of 2012 Virginia Cabernet Franc Reserve from the cellars of the Barboursville Winery with Natasha and Mattski, which was delayed, since deer were sighted and the bow season is on. Mattski was up in the Tree Fort with the new cross-bow, and the drinks were delayed until dusk when he abandoned the hunt.

We chatted and laughed and we felt a slow buoyant feeling as the level of wine in the bottle went down, and sensed a vast wet soggy air mass passing away to the East.

This morning there is blue sky above. The lawn and pastures are drying, and if I play my cards right, the last cutting of the year is going to happen shortly.

All trees survived the storm. All the motors start. It is enough to make your battery feel totally charged.


Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

Five Engines

(Three of the five engines successfully resurrected at Refuge Farm this weekend. Not shown is the ’59 Rambler and the ’04 Turf Tiger).

Never got to generate a story yesterday, Gentle Readers, though there was certainly enough on which to comment. One of them was really depressing. They took a classmate off the ventilator up in Michigan. She is expected to pass quickly.

That makes two pals in two weeks. I understand from some older friends that the pace of loss accelerates in this decade of life, then takes a bit of a break until we hit our eighties when the funerals start to get back-to-back. That is the way of things, I guess. Death, Taxes and the Weather.

All of in the national Capital Region have been glued to our radios, gasping in relief at the news from Traffic & Weather on the 8s that the hurricane was going to ruin the weekend of the citizens of Bermuda, and not us.

It was raining again, though, and I was concerned about the towering pine trees staying upright in the soaked soil if the wind came up, so I walked around the farmhouse on pins and needles, glancing apprehensively out the window if I saw the foliage begin to dance around.

I had an invitation to attend the Michigan-Maryland game, and accepted enthusiastically until I discovered that kick-off was set of 8:00 PM. I am normally in bed at that hour, so I regretfully backed out. That was before the news of the storm, which in turn caused the game to be rescheduled for a noon kick-off. I found that it was being carried on The Big Ten Network, on satellite channel 610.

I had no idea there were more than six hundred channels.

Puttering in the morning, I got my writer-junkie thing partly fulfilled exchanging impassioned notes on the events of the day- you know what they are- but I am growing reluctant to fully vent my feelings to the larger internet.

Self-censorship is an insidious reflection of the certainty that attracting attention can prompt a weaponized government to swoop down. I saw an interesting article by a former Attorney General about what happened to the Department of Justice lately, and of course the IRS, the most intrusive Federal organization, except perhaps for the Environmental Protection Agency.

You have heard about the Johnson Family’s little stock pond in Wyoming? Their little eight-acre spread is parched, and they keep a few head of cattle, which naturally need water. They secured the necessary permits from the State & Local folks and partially damned a little creek on their property. The got a nice little pond that the cattle and wildlife enjoyed, creating a little haven for them.

Then the Corps of Engineers and the EPA Region 8 gang showed up, claiming the Johnson’s were in violation of the new Waters of the United States Rule. Note that is isn’t a law; it is a bit of regulation thought up completely within the Agency and without approval of anyone.

(Johnson pond, permits granted by the County and State of Wyoming. Not the EPA, which levied significant fines, and could cost the Johnson family their home. Photo James Young, Deseret News).

We can comment on the proposed rules, of course, that is policy. But there is nothing in the policy that says they have to actually listen, and they don’t.

The Johnson’s are facing $16 million in fines from the EPA, and counting.

I will hang onto my vote and the other modest means of redress that the government allows us to retain. Not the way I thought we would enter our golden years. All that time on the ramparts against the forces of tyranny, and while we were gone, they moved into the family house and took over.

On the upside, I sat down on the big red couch as Michigan dominated Maryland, which was the centerpiece of my day, the part between the Alpha of Morning and the Omega of the cocktail hour.

I got the football bug again after the Utah game last week, which was a display similar to some triumphant Saturday in the early 1970s. This encounter started slow, and I got that familiar knot of anxiety in my stomach, thinking that my adopted home-town favorite Terrapins were going to rise up and smack the Wolverines on the snout.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 12.50.27 PM

It did not happen that way. The Wolves went into the half with a two field-goal lead, and I went out into the rain with my spelunker’s light attached to a spandex band around my head to shine a light into the inky engine compartments and start taking the cars apart.

The Syclone and the Explorer were both dead as door-nails- a circuit is out on the garage that once powered the trickle-chargers. I had to pull both batteries out, but the vehicles were enclosed by piles of crap left over from my parent’s estate and junk from the condo I sold back in Arlington.

I managed to fish them both out, back the Panzer up to the garage and load the batteries in the back to take to town. Then back to the television, where the Wolverines dominated the second half, shutting out the Terps.

I felt a little ambivalent, but happy that fortunes may have changed in Ann Arbor with the arrival of Jim Harbaugh as coach, a guy they are calling “Bo, model 2.0.”

I drove into town and bought tonic, D-cell batteries and wood for the fireplace. And then hit the NAPA store for replacement batteries. When I go back to the farm, another band of showers washed through, and I replaced the batteries on the truck and my son’s Explorer. Both started. The SUV has only been dead for a couple months, but the truck hasn’t turned over in a year or more.

I was on a roll. I backed them both out of the garage and let them run long enough to get up to full operating temperature. Then I lined them up in back of the Panzer, started the Rambler and jumped on the tractor.

They all ran, a modern miracle. That means I may be able to cut the pastures next week, since it is supposed to be sunny and things should dry out.

With the truck and the Explorer pulled out of the garage, I can get back to cleaning out some of the crap from Mom and Dad’s house, which came down here three years ago.

Then I think things settle down a bit. I hope, so, anyway. I think we will get through it, at least we will until we don’t.


Copyright 2025 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

(More) Cyber Craziness

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I am at the farm to get the place squared away for Hurricanes and a foot of rain this weekend. I think I have enough candles, batteries, lanterns, oil lamps and propane to get through any short-term disaster, and the tragic events in Oregon had me numb, even as the meteorologists were changing the prediction of Jouquin’s storm track away from us.

So, it has been busy. One of the nagging issues is the fact that I think I am being cyber-stalked. I have been getting phone calls- to my cell phone, no less- from some people with heavy south Asian accents. I presume it is a call center in Bangalore, India’s version of Silicon Valley. The last call was quite alarming- the woman on the phone said there were several alerts on my system that would preclude the Microsoft programs from running. They wanted me to go to my computer and turn remote control over to them. Since they seemed to think i was on a Windows machine, I demurred.


Since I have proudly boycotted Mr. Gates and his infernal operating systems for years, I sent a note to the support center for my MacKeeper security software to ask if they were attempting to contact me.

They were nice enough to send a note back that said: “No.” I don’t know what it was about- but I felt a chill that someone thousands of miles away was trying to manipulate my stupid computer in a very personal way.

I guess you are only paranoid when they actually are not out to get you. Since the data breaches of all our personal data last year, I have been suspicious of everything in the cyber world. There is good reason for that- apparently the Russians made several attacks on Hillary Clinton’s server, and the reports do not include whether someone was dumb enough to click on the link that would have activated the malware that would have installed a back door on what was, de facto, a private official State Department network containing top secret information about weddings and yoga routines.

The whole thing is creepy and personal in a deeply personal way for me, you, the Secretary, all of us. I heard that TMobile subscribers- 55 Million of them- also just lost their Social Security numbers to persons unknown.

Taken with health insurance hacks, the OPM disaster and now this, my count is nearing 200 million disclosures of personal information to persons who do not wish us well.

Having written a little on the subject, I am sometimes mistaken for someone who knows what is going on. Accordingly, a pal wrote me to ask a question about something weird that was happening to his company.


Do you know anything about who this organization is that is using the address of a deceased employee of ours? Any idea why they might hack our corporation? We are pretty low profile. Any suggestions on how we contact the people who have appropriated a formerly valid email address without catching a virus?


I am a fool, but not an idiot. I immediately turned his inquiry over to Bob, a former Chief Information Officer at one of my favorite Agencies in town. I copied him on my return note:


I don’t know much about the mechanics of the hack or the purpose, except that they may be after your intellectual property- that seems to be the motivation for much of the Chinese hacking as a tool of State Security Services, while the Russians have that approach and a significant criminal component. The organization that has appropriated one of your email addresses could be a fellow traveler of any of the three.

The smartest guy I know in the cyber business is Bob, and I am going to copy him on this for his thoughts.

For Bob: Boats is an old shipmate of long standing. He is also a driving figure on a technology company called that is using innovative technology in unique applications. A formerly valid email address has been appropriated by a political activist group for unknown purposes which could involve intellectual property theft. Your thoughts?


Bob was kind enough to write back immediately with this recommendation, which I partly understand:

“My thoughts are that you should contact law enforcement, either the FBI or Secret Service. They stay busy and might not help much but it might correlate with something else they are tracking.

Also, consider updating your corporate cybersecurity policies to be in compliance with NIST guidelines.

And review your employee training to ensure everyone is on the lookout for anomolies.

Also, upgrade your endpoint defense. Check out the Invincea Corporation for their software.

And, ensure all accounts use two-factor authentication.


I wrote Bob to thank him for his speedy response, and saw that it had a direct impact on my pal’s company. Boats sent this to his management team:

Re: appropriation of a deceased member’s e-mail address by an extremist political organization. I’m afraid some of Bob’s advice would be appropriate to a larger organization with a real corporate computer system. As a networked organization using mostly personal e-mail addresses we probably have no need to some of the measures he describes. However, he does recommend contacting law enforcement, and suggests (probably correctly) that our eavesdroppers are after our intellectual property.

Certainly Bob’s suggestion that we all be on the look out for anomalies is spot on. It was an observation of this anomaly that led to the information that we have now. Moreover, the person that found it had to be a bit insistent with me about it to get me to really look into it.

It’s old hat, but as they say in the DHS “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING”. I don’t see an immediate risk here since most of our most detailed, technical stuff is not on the internet, nor do we usually transmit it by E-mail. Physical ring binders are our main technical data storage device, if you have any of them you know it, and I know it, let’s not let it get farther afield than that. Our lists of related authoritative literature have gone out only partially and piecemeal, and mostly are still confined to ring binders. I do suggest that as we move forward we be be very careful on what we put out on the internet, and send critical technical data by snail mail. Please keep all ring binders in a secure place.

I’ve said it long before we knew we were compromised, our only real protection for our intellectual property is trade secrecy. We should always communicate as if the walls have ears yet keep in mind that science has to be published for progress to occur. We simply prefer that progress be by American firms who have paid us for our efforts. Here are a few key elements in communications security that hopefully aren’t too obtrusive, will facilitate collaborative communications, and yet keep the keys to the Kingdom out of the hands of eavesdroppers.

1. When actual equations/calculations must be exchanged use snail mail not E mail. If over night surface mail is too slow consider FAX by prearrangement, as in not from your regular work fax, to a fax other than the regular work FAX of your addressee.

2. When narrative copy must be exchanged that contains details of research, especially final results suggestion No.1 above is good advice.

3. We do not want to discourage the science team from publishing, but please discuss any publication plans with me, I doubt that I will discourage publication, but I will definitely consider timing.

4. If you must use a computer for keeping your notes try to use one that is not linked into the internet. For example use a laptop not linked in and keep the data on a thumb drive not in your hard drive. Never put the thumb drive in the laptop when connected to the internet.

5. Now that we know we are compromised let’s avoid putting our personal cell phone numbers that most us use to communicate in E-mails, If you need someone’s number and don’t know it call me, and I’ll find it and get it to you. I highly doubt that any of our phones are tapped at the moment.

It seems like our present eavesdroppers are politically motivated vice professional industrial espionage practitioners. We may also always presume that U.S. Government three lettered agencies tap in on us every now and then. We ply them for grants, our work has some distant potential national security benefits possible, but we are not working anything CLASSIFIED at the moment.

If we move into a classified realm any time in the future we will have a communications stand down for training, and a complete revision of our communications systems. Meanwhile the Feds are unlikely to steal our intellectual property. In short we have nothing to hide from the Feds and they are listening, in looking for people with something to hide , not trolling for opportunities to steal intellectual property, especially since they may end up owning major parts of it through the grants we are always chasing anyway.

6. Don’t worry excessively about our being watched. Remember that we are many years away from real pay dirt. Most would be IT thieves sell to corporations that want a pay day in terms of a fiscal quarter or year at best. It will take a lot of unprofitable patience to get anything useful out of us.

7. I will do my best to confuse the issue for our illegal watchers, especially once we get the corporate blog going by putting out disinformation from time to time, raising their expense of effort. Meanwhile let’s all follow Bob’s advice and be on the look out for anomalies.

I’ll take on the task of communications security manager for the time being. Keep in mind however, that I’m basically a consultant and not a corporate officer, so if we do call in law enforcement as Bob suggests this could get a little time consuming and they will want an official decision maker to work with.

I believe this incident has been a good event in terms of raising awareness. I doubt that we have experienced any damage. I think we can all get back to the immediate task at hand which is completion of the required 4 pager preliminary doc for the DOE grant with rather minimal concern for communications safety. However we must all be aware that this concern must grow over time. This incident should serve to encourage us to get up to speed sooner rather than later. When we reach the point that we must have a consultant and purchase systems, as this e-mail chain indicates I know where to start looking.

Many thanks to Bob for responding to my inquiry so quickly. Kudos to our alert employee who spotted the anomalies and being persistent enough to make me act. I’m aware now, and accept that I’m the only one available with some understanding of “ComSec” and enough time to deal with it, though my dance card is getting very full. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

Thanks Everyone,


I was impressed by the speed with which the policy for the company was upgraded to…essentially snail-mail for security. What a world we live in now. I wish all of us the very best of luck in this mess.

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303


Happy Birthday, Ethel

(Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in custody, 1951. Photo Associated Press).

Well, they didn’t shut down the Government, which had a lot of people concerned here in town, but I didn’t notice any difference. What is topping the charts is Hurricane Joaquin who is arcing north and which, combined with a stalled low-pressure front, threatens to dump a foot of rain on our heads.

We don’t do weather well here in Your Nation’s Capital, and I think a discerning person would get the hell out of the way. I will head down to the farm, and maybe pick up some batteries on the way. I know the oil lamps will work as well, just in case.

So taken with the jitters that the weather brings, you can imagine the rest of what passes for news kind of ran by in a blur. They executed that woman down in Geeroge- Kelly Gissendaner was her name. Apparently she conspired with a lover to bump off her husband. First woman executed in several decades, so it was news. The curious thing was the guy who actually killed the hubbie is doing life in the slammer, not pushing up daisies.

I have a generally uneasy feeling about the death penalty. I am concerned any time the State determines that it has the power of life and death over citizens and exercises the option to kill. On the other hand, there are some crimes that are so unambiguously evil that the perpetrator should not live at the taxpayer’s expense, and the object lesson to others is well worth it.

Yeah, yeah, I know it is possible for the innocent to be convicted, and believe that death sentences ought to have the strictest standards for review. I just read a book about a heinous crime committed in Casper, Wyoming, back in 1973. It is called “The Darkest Night,” by Ron Franscell and is a compelling, if horrifying, read.


A couple dirt-bags kidnapped two young sisters and hurled them off a bridge after terrorizing and raping one of them. The younger sister died from the fall, while the other survived with horrendous injuries. They were convicted and got the death penalty, but were saved by a Supreme Court decision at the last moment. One died in jail, and as far as I know, the other is still alive.

The most poignant part of the story is that the girl who survived was unable to deal with the consequences of the trauma, and threw herself to her death from the same bridge years later.

Like the author, I think the pair should have been executed, though I can understand that reasonable people can disagree on the matter. Then I saw something in the Wall Street Journal that brought me up short in amazement.

I have told you before about the campus across the street from where I live. There is a long relationship between Arlington Hall Station and the spook community. It is the George Schultz Center for Foreign Service Training these days, but in World War II it was the HQ of the Army code-breakers, and then when the war was done, the Armed Forces Security Agency, the immediate predecessor to NSA. It was there that a remarkable piece of code-breaking was achieved.

The Russians had used an enciphering system based on “one time pads,” a means by which the code is used only once, and is considered to be impervious to any analysis. Turns out that there was a brief hiccough in the Soviet system. Due to the pressure of the advancing Nazis, some codes were used multiple times between 1942 and the end of the war. That gave the Army cryptanalysts a chance to start to break them, or at least until an NKVD spy assigned to Arlington Hall got word back to his Soviet masters that they had been compromised.

The program was called VENONA, and for what it was worth, the spy was a US Army officer named Bill Weisband. The messages from the Soviet Embassy in Washington outlined the activities of hundreds of dedicated Americans who served Joseph Stalin’s thugs.

I don’t know what causes people to become traitors, but I do despise them. Anyway, the WSJ article was by a fellow named Ron Radosh. He wrote in amazement that the New York City Council issued a proclamation this week honoring Ethel Rosenberg on what would have her 100th birthday. Monday was designated the “Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan.”

You probably recall that the Rosenbergs were part of the ring that stole the Atomic secrets from the National lab at Los Alamos, and transmitted them to the Soviets, significantly assisting their efforts to develop their own A-bomb. I don’t know about you, but I find Communists armed with nuclear weapons to be an alarming development. I suspect most people back when Stalin tested his first would agree.

Think about Iran with the bomb, only worse. The Cold War went really icy in 1949 with that blast.

The folks up in Manhattan praised Ethel’s work as a labor organizer and activist. Her sons- orphaned when their mother and father were electrocuted at Sing Sing in 1953- were there to push their claim that their Mom was “wrongfully executed.” They went on to call for the Feds to acknowledge “a terrible injustice.”

At the City Hall ceremony, Daniel Dromm who represents the Borough of Queens claimed that Ethel was the victim of what he called a “rush to judgment” after “a lot of hysteria was created around anticommunism.” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer called the execution “a terrible stain on our country.”

Their version of the story is that Julius Rosenberg was an inept but sincere guy who didn’t really help the Russians that much. And Ethel was an innocent housewife who didn’t know anything. The bad guys in this fantasy were the FBI agents who busted them, and the prosecutors who got them convicted.
I am not sure when white became black, and everything passed through the looking glass. It started immediately, and people have been defending the Rosenbergs since they were sentenced. That is the same crowd that defended the despicable traitor Alger Hiss all those years.

Diplomat Hiss really was a spy for the Russians, and his denials were lies, plain and simple.

And as far as Ethel is concerned, Radosh puts it this way:

“A Nov. 21, 1944, VENONA decrypt has Julius telling the KGB that he and his wife both recommend the recruitment of Ruth Greenglass, David’s (a Los Alamos employee) wife. On Nov. 27, a KGB agent named Leonid Kvasnikov cabled that he considered Ethel “sufficiently well developed politically. Knows about her husband’s work” as well as that of other agents. He characterized her “positively and as a devoted person.”

That is confirmed by records smuggled out of Moscow by a Russian defector
who now lives in Britain, Alexander Vassiliev. His papers, copied meticulously from the KGB archive, demonstrate convincingly Ethel’s deep involvement in her husband’s espionage ring.

So New York has honored a traitor who helped to make the enemies of her country a nuclear power.

I suspect that the prosecutors back then would have preferred to handle the matter some other way. The other atomic spies did not even get life sentences. Ethel could have provided the truth about her involvement and plea-bargained her way out of the electric chair. People in the DoJ later said she had “called their bluff.”

But the depth of her commitment to Uncle Joe and his butchery was such that she was willing to orphan her children for The Cause. I will grant a grudging respect for that level of determination, even if I think her acts were despicable.

But I really am concerned about the level of delusion in New York, from the Mayor on down. If they want to have a commemoration of Ethel’s birthday, don’t you think they really ought to have it in Moscow? Or maybe Havana?

(Cuban stamp honoring the Rosenbergs. Didn’t we almost have the end of the world over something in Cuba one time? Photo Wikipedia).

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

The Weather, or Something Like That

(The close of business yesterday, making neat stacks).

I feel a little weird. Maybe it’s the weather, or something like that.

It is gray outside, deep gray, not raining enough to stop the pounding on the concrete I sit at the computer most of the day, either commenting on the follies committed in our town or railing at the lunacies being perpetuated overseas.

The Storm track for Hurricane Joaquin has been published. The possibilities, as they are for everything, range from no big deal to catastrophic. A pal sent me the graphic so I could plan my trip to the Class Six Store accordingly. It never ceases to amaze me that we have such a variance in the possibilities of a single storm, and everyone accepts it, while simultaneously accepting the assertion of the climate community that they are certain they can predict with “High Confidence” what the atmosphere is going to be doing in thirty or fifty years. Of course it is easy to have that level of certainty about things that may- or may not- come about after we are safely in our graves.


But perhaps I was just letting the weather get to me. It was a cool summer and all I can do is pray that this winter will not be as brutal as the last one. I was thinking about that in the late afternoon gloom yesterday. I glanced at the clock. It was just about the right time to be headed out to Willow. Which no longer exists, of course.

I think it was the the first time I realized that it really was, no shit, over. Not going to the office any more I am down a quart on real daily human contact. I get a nice hug from Rhonda in the morning when I check for the mail, and stay plugged in to various crises in the building, and who has died. But that is about it during the day, and it only now is hitting home that the dozens of people I would see each day, and the little circle of acolytes at the Amen Corner with all our collective issues, romances, affairs, disasters, triumphs and tribulations.

I sat down in my brown chair. I could have gone over to Lyon Hall and continued the process of meeting a new crowd. I shrugged as the workmen outside put up the temporary barriers at the end of their day to keep people from stealing 700-pound chunks of concrete. I turned on the flat screen to watch the news, and something had knocked out the cable box.

There were some old shows I could watch, I thought, since the internet was still up. I couldn’t mash the buttons to make it happen, though. The silence was oppressive and it started to make me squirm.

Ah, I thought. This is what loneliness feels like. I had forgotten why I started to go to Willow to begin with.

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

Concrete and New Year’s Eve

(The guys drove the Bobcat tractors around the edge of the pool, punching through the concrete in preparation for the front-end loader to pry up big slabs and stack them).

It is a special time of the year for Budget Weenies and book-keepers of the Federal Flavor. I was in the Finance Committee meeting last night instead of Willow, a disconcerting thing, but the books for the condo association look pretty good. Downtown the bureaucrats are rushing to close the books on Fiscal 2015, which ends tomorrow night at midnight. That makes this the actual eve, though a lot of Government folks will push it right to close of business tomorrow. That includes the Congress, whatever it is those estimable lawmakers are up to. Maybe they will close the Government again. I have not been paying that much attention.

We are looking for some heavy rain, and it is hitting Refuge Farm as we speak. The guys on the pool deck are keeping a weather eye out, but are making real progress in peeling the thick concrete up and stacking it neatly by the opening in the fence. The dust is cloying. I hope the rain beats it down a bit.

It is comforting to think about things like that. I have been reading a couple interesting books over the last few days, listening to the boom of the concrete-breaker hitting the pool deck. I like the freedom to read as I try to recover from the fall that left me unable to navigate normally. The stack of things piling up in the “to do” is getting daunting.

To avoid thinking about it, or about the myriad of really strange things going on in what passes for the Republic these days, I took a cushion and a mask and went out to watch real people do real work.

It was sort of refreshing, and I wasn’t at all worn out by the activity.

(They are making real progress this morning).

(To the right is the business end of the punch that drives through the six inches of concrete).

(A view of Joe’s patio. That is going to go as well, all the way down to Jane’s place, the one I used to own. I will be interested to learn if they have to knock out the brickwork to get the machines next to the building).

(Stacking the chunks of the pool deck down by the deep end. The stacks will be removed with a fork life attachment on the Bobcat. The are neat machines. I think I want one of those!)

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra 2015
Twitter: @jayare303

Demolition Men

(The pool was completely drained yesterday. When we lived down in Florida, that came with the risk that the ground pressure from below would push it up and damage the integrity of the concrete. I guess we will see).

Well, there is an upside to all this. I think. I am not talking about anything political. That is so toxic at the moment I am just going to ignore it.

At least the demolition has begun, which is the critical point in getting it, and the reconstruction done.

Spike and I moved Joe’s patio table over to my side of the ornamental shrubs yesterday, and The men showed up his morning with their big truck, and the trailer, and the cement crusher, and Leo the Engineer was out there looking at the pool and they cut the chain link fence and it is going to start.

(The truck, left, that brought the tractors and crusher is going to make parking problematic. The chain link fence has been breeched to provide access. Management told us not to use our ground floor exits for the duration of the project).

I asked Leo if they were going to crush the concrete on mine, and if I needed to clear everything off. He said “No, they are going to stop at the edge of Joe’s. Funny. His looks fine, but I will leave this to the professional crushers and pourers.

Ann from upstairs hit me up on ChatHead to say that she has an unobstructed view of what is about to happen. The guys are putting up black plastic cloth to mask some of the dust and debris that are going to be flying, and there is word that they are going to Demolition chew up the patio decks starting with my neighbor Joe, and down past the little efficiency I used to own.

It is going to be ugly here for a couple months. And noisy.

Nice day, though.

I got my brother delivered to DCA yesterday for his flight home after what he called The RamblerQuest. It is his story to tell, but I recently did a drive in the Panzer on the stupid mini-spare that was much longer than I liked and had me white knuckled all the way. His drive north was a nine-hundred mile epic, punctuated by rain, wipers that did not work, and fake white walls that separated from the tire and began to thrash the inner wheel-well at speed.

Now comes my part. I am going to be getting right on it. All we have to do is get the car plated in Virginia and then get it to Indiana, where it belongs….I love white knuckle driving…

(The claw of the crusher is visible to the right from my forbidden foray onto my patio. They are crushing away now, cutting a line just beyond the tile at the edge. No naps until the project is done).

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303



(Two bar stools from the Amen Corner of the Willow Restaurant at their new home in Culpeper.)

It was another emotional and tumultuous day. Two of my pals have lost their dogs; there is not a great deal more emotional in life than that, so my heart goes out to them. I was all worked up over politics and the prospects for the future of the Republic, sorry, and there was a continuing sense of unease over the progress of my brother, on the road in the 57-year-old automobile.

He had flown into Pensacola on the Red Eye arriving Thursday morning. He was picked up at the airport by got Dave, the seventy-year-old car salesman who had traveled to the Panhandle coastal town thirty years before with his wife and never left. Dave had picked a car off the lot for the taxi duty when my brother called. He said: “Look for a Lexus with the numbers “$16,995” on the windshield.

Mike, the guy who sold us the car, had a box that Spike had FedExed to Ward’s Autosports the week before. He didn’t know what was in it, but it contained two aircraft-style seat belts, since the car didn’t have them. Spike tied the ends of one of them to a likely cross beam as the dealer put the temporary tag on the rear end. With the temporary Florida registration in hand, five minutes later the Cotillion Mauve station wagon was heading up the Blue Angels Parkway, and eventually to the interstate north toward Montgomery, AL.

I didn’t come into the movie until Spike called from the highway there. “Car is working great. Cruises at 70. Not too sure about the brakes, but hoping I won’t need to use them. I hope to get north of Atlanta before I sleep.”

I wished him good luck, but had the vague sense of unease the rest of the night. Friday morning I got a text informing me that he was leaving at first light, and would be seeing me at the farm that afternoon.

I looked around and realized I really should get my ass in gear. I had that box of opened liquor bottles from Willow, and the two bar stools in the back of the Panzer, and I needed to make the trip soon, since I had been driving around all week with open booze containers in the back and if I got stopped, the Police would be unlikely to look favorably on the product of the emotion and general chaos that has been my life over the last few weeks.

The trip down was uneventful except for the stop to get a piece of artwork I had commissioned, which is a habit that I am reluctant to give up, even though I will have to. Transaction complete, I was rolling down Highway 29 as my brother rolled up toward Charlotte. The phone went off, and I could hear a sense of anxiety in Spike’s voice.

“Is the car working?” I asked.

“Sort of. I am getting uneasy going up hills and something isn’t right. And the gas gauge doesn’t work.”

“Be safe,” I responded. “If you have to have a wrecker tow it up here, don’t worry about it.”

Nothing after that, until I was at the farm, which looked a little forlorn after what seemed like a month away from the place. I unloaded the Panzer, and discovered the bottle of Canadian Club had tipped over and delivered the contents onto the mat in the storage area. A clear case for Febreze, I thought, and attention to my speed until I could spray the passenger compartment.

Then I paced around, hoping I would not have to launch on a rescue mission.

The ringtone on the phone sounded and I jumped at it. It was Old Jim, calling from someplace he called “Illinois.” I promised him Las Vegas was now on the travel menu, and that his barstool was at the breakfast counter at the farm if he needed it. Checking the mail in the box, I discovered the mouse had moved back in, and made a nest with half of a notice to pick up a envelope sent “certified mail” at the post office last week.

I wondered if I was being sued again.

Then the phone went off again while I was pacing. “I am just short of a place called Staunton,” Spike said. “gassing up.” I checked Google Maps and saw it was two hours to go, if everything worked right.

I shrugged and mixed a drink. It was either going to work or not, and the die was cast. At least the vehicle was in the Old Dominion. An hour later there was another call. “Lost in Charlottesville.” We worked it out his location on the computer until he saw a sign for Rt-129 north, and I began to relax.

The last call was from the business bypass south of Culpeper. I gave him final terminal directions, freshened my drink, and walked out to wait by the mouse in the mailbox.

In a few minutes, I could see headlights coming up the little hill by Summerduck Run, and what was unquestionably a vehicle from some other time, far away.

He pulled into the gravel driveway and climbed out, leaving the engine running. “Funny it doesn’t stall now,” he said.

“Welcome to Culpeper, Brother,” I said. “That Cotillion Mauve sure looks pink.”

“Her name is Rosey,” Spike announced. “She is an interesting technical ride.”

I looked up her sleek flanks at the amazing fins. “I should certainly think so.”

Then we hugged and drove Rosey into the garage, and out of the elements.


Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

Interesting Times


It won’t be the first time we have laughed about the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Hard on the heels of the Holy Father’s visit to Your Nation’s Capital, we have the visit of Chinese President Xi. There are a couple of interesting announcements associated with the visit. One will be implemented by Executive Order, of course, since that is the way business is done here in Washington these days.

As you have gathered, not everyone is wild about that.

Tangentially related to the Papal visit, at least in timing, and coincident with the Chinese Leader’s visit, Speaker of the House John Boehner, he of the orange tan, has announced his resignation and departure from Congress at the end of next month.

The right wing of the GOP has been hounding him for months, accusing the Speaker of being too accommodating to the Administration. A Government shut-down over the Planned Parenthood issue is looming as soon as Wednesday.

The Senate will vote for a clean funding bill- one that does not include the PP issue. Unless…

Anyway, today is the one I will mark as a tipping point- 25 September, 2015. You might want to make a note of it, too. Regardless of what happens with the Government shut down, there is going to be open conflict between the Executive and the body that holds the purse-strings.

Forgive me if I do not have a good feeling About this. The budget is not the only cliff we are looking at.

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

Still Life, Before Demolition

(Big Pink’s Old School Pool before the project begins next week).

There is a lot we could get to in this edition of The Daily, now that things are pretty much buttoned up from the summer. Old Jim, Chanteuse Mary and Camus the Wonder Hound are driving to Las Vegas this morning.

The Pope of the Holy See is addressing the Congress of the United States as I peck at the keyboard. I am not a member of his church, but applaud his energy, if not all of his issues. I am going to stay away from all of them this morning.

The region has been nuts since the Holy Father touched down at Joint Base Andrews and rode in his little Fiat 500 into town, surrounded by a hulking cordon of up-armored Secret Service SUVs.

I could talk about the impending visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. I have a lot of issues with China these days, not the least of which is my anemic 401Kand was morbidly interested to read that the Office of Personnel Mis-management announced that the large-scale breach of its servers resulted in the theft of 5.6 million sets of fingerprints, rather than the 1.1 million previously thought to have been “lifted,” if I may be permitted the term.

The total number of individuals affected by the two breaches announced last summer remains the same, at 21.5 million. The smart money says Xi’s people were responsible, and scooping up the SF-86 security clearance applications (along with air travel data bases) was a bonanza for the PRC’s intelligence services.

With the two data streams, they can identify travel by Intelligence Community people, cleared people with Chinese ancestry, and potential exploits for all sorts of counterintelligence mischief.

To reassure those of us affected, OPM also helpfully included in the announcement that “the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited.”

That may be true, but in the search for biometric means to authentic personal information, I have my doubts.

Anyway, there is one last thing to close out the season. I wandered out of the unit yesterday to check the temperature. Cool but not cold, pleasant, really, and the pool beckoned as seductively as a Hong Kong honey pot trap. It was deceptively normal, though quiet:

(Yesterday, from my patio).

I walked around the fence snapping shots. I could have gone down to the desk and got a key to something else that works in the lock on the pool gate, but didn’t want to get in trouble with Leo the Engineer.

(Yesterday- just as it is supposed to be).

Just a few moments ago I heard some scraping outside the unit and went to investigate. Peter and the Building Porters were just finishing up removing the last of the pool deck furniture out.

(This morning).

They will start draining the pool today and tomorrow.


Major demolition starts Monday. It is going to be a major pain for those of us who live next to the chaos. But I have always thrived in that sort of environment, and if they actually fix the pipes buried deep under the concrete, maybe the heater will actually work and the shimmering blue water will not be so painfully cold next season.

I guess we will see, won’t we? What could go wrong with the low-bidding contractor?

Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303