The fix isn’t in

Okay, the subject line was funny: “Stop Home Repair.” Of course, what the email was trying to push was a way to stop home repair costs, which anyone who owns a home knows is quite impossible. (This may be the single most persuasive argument for renting.)

And what’s being sold, I surmise, is one of those third-party warranties that cover anything other than what just broke; I wasn’t about to follow the proffered link, but I get plenty of dead-tree offerings of this sort already.

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What blows around, comes around

This question is not only begged, it’s panhandled:

Are the dozens of tornados and twisters plaguing the Midwest Karma?

Karma for the countless midwest senators and Governors who tried to veto aid for the Northeast from hurricane Sandy?

There was no pork in the Sandy bill, and I doubt that term will even come up with discussions for aid for the Midwest, since the GOP panders to that region so much.

Just last week, Oklahoma Senator Inhofe claimed that his request for aid for his state was “totally different” from the Northeast requesting aid—–even though he himself tried to block aid to that region. The hypocrisy is overwhelming.

Are these series of Tornados some type of Karma against those who tried to spite the victims in the Northeast?

The asker didn’t much care for it, but the voters gave this response a boost:

Were karma reliable, pretty much the entire Congress would be set adrift on ice floes in the Arctic Ocean by now.

But no, weather does not respond to such things — or if it did, you’d be forced to conclude that Mother Nature is a selfish, vengeful trollop.

Me, I wouldn’t trust her around margarine.

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Can do

Most of you by now, even if you haven’t read Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, have seen this quote therefrom, and I concede up front that one quotes Lazarus Long at one’s own risk:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

I can do some of those things, though certainly not all of them.

One of the fringe benefits of being out on the network is the occasional contact with people who can do, and have done, lots of things. A particularly inspiring example:

I have a degree in art and art history, have traveled my fair share around the world, from Europe to South America to Australia, and also around my own country. I’ve stayed in German hostels and taken the train across the western U.S. with just a backpack. I have been involved in humanitarian work in Central America for nearly a decade. I’ve been a newspaper reporter and photographer, a public school teacher, and freelance designer and writer. I’m a small business owner/entrepreneur, published writer, artist, private pilot, and even a former pastry chef. I grew up on a farm, a Centennial farm, which has been a productive part of this state for over a century. I’ve ridden horses in the badlands and competed with others in horse shows. I like to camp, I play five musical instruments, and have carved trees with a chainsaw. I spent a week learning to weld and use a plasma cutter. I have season tickets to the BMSO and my favorite composers are Dvorak, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff. I love ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin. I like trap shooting, but do not like to kill animals. I do not support the death penalty. I care about the environment a great deal. I have regular charities I support. My great-grandmother homesteaded out west for a time, on her own, and I come from a long line of hard-working adventurous brave women who went out and did what they were going to do and didn’t allow their life to be one of victimhood. I always take every opportunity to continue learning, am well-read, and continually reading.

“It’s people like that,” Tom Lehrer once observed, “that make you realize how little you’ve accomplished… When Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years.”

Which Lehrer presumably said in 1965, when I was, um, twelve.

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Infiltration alert

I am regularly regaled with supermarket stories — I’ve told a few myself over the years — but this one is new to me:

I wheel the little cart up to the only checkout with a human in it. I recognize her of course; she works evenings. I’m still expecting things to go as usual at this point, because I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m the only one who hasn’t figured it out. Why is she just standing there? Staring down with a frown?

We are both still and silent for a moment.

“Oh no,” she says.

I’m still wondering why she isn’t checking out groceries. And then she drops a truth bomb that will reverberate in my brain ’till the end of my days:

“This is not our cart.”

This must be a Really Big Deal indeed, though it occurs to me that people wander through stores with canvas bags of unknown provenance every day, and so far as I know, not a word is said about it.

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It ain’t necessarily Byrd Avenue

The goldfinch, the very species that’s sat on the front page for the last eleven years, is usually a placid sort of bird: it will vigorously defend a nest under construction, but it’s otherwise not particularly aggressive. Unless, of course, I’m totally wrong about Carduelis tristis:

[T]wo mornings in a row have found a tiny goldfinch perched haphazardly on the screen of my office window pecking away at the fine mesh. Are there tiny bugs infesting the screen? Is there lint mixed with the dirt on the panes? Is he attacking his reflection? I don’t know. Dr. Doolittle did not deign to teach me to talk with the goldfinch. I do know the cute little bastard has torn holes in my screen.

I always wondered if the woodpeckers two blocks over were plotting a coup.

(Title swiped from Spanky and Our Gang.)

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Creeping dimensions

Now what could I do with a 3D printer? Fabricate a new radiator support for the car? Add a couple of weapons to the arsenal?

Or maybe just make myself dizzy:

Also available in Derpy:

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Crafty remarks

She keeps saying this word, and I think it means exactly what she says it means:

[W]hen I say “craft,” I am thinking of the long tradition of skilled people who make stuff by hand, especially stuff that is useful — potters and knitters and weavers and cabinet makers. But when I say “craft” I think lots of people hear “novelty loo-roll covers” and get turned off.

That definition may be informed, or perhaps deformed, by Arts and Crafts classes in grade schools several decades ago, in which the objective, so far as I could tell, was to produce something that looked vaguely like the picture in the book.

And, as the young folks say, THIS:

I don’t know if it’s possible to “reclaim” the term “craft” or to come up with something new. But there needs to be a term for something that’s not really art in the sense that it’s something you might use every day (most art, I think of as being too fragile or precious to use) but that is beautiful and well made.

Furthermore, these days, apart from fragility and preciousness, rather a lot of art seems to be transgressive for the sake of transgression, and critics, aware on which side their bread is buttered, are often not inclined to note that the Emperor lost his last garment — a faux-leather belt festooned with 57 pointy studs, once for each state — several blocks ago.

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Tired eyes

Visualize whirled rubber:

205/55R16: sidewall height 112.75 mm, circumference 1985.17 mm, ride height radius 315.95 mm.

215/55R16: sidewall height 118.25 mm, circumference 2019.73 mm, ride height radius 321.45 mm.

(Dimensions courtesy of McGrefer UK.)

If you can distinguish the two at a glance, you have better sight than I do, Gunga Din.

Yesterday I was making the Long Trip (a bit over 10 miles) home, and noticed that Gwendolyn was favoring her right side just a little: nothing heinous, but nothing to be encouraged either. First stop was the Oklahoma Gazette office, to snag a copy of the alt-ish weekly, and as I returned to the car, I saw: whatever the heck that was, it was a long way from 33 psi.

Okay, fine. I’ve got just enough time, and probably just enough inflation, to make it to the tire shop. Let them worry about it. (Probably just random storm debris, of which we have an abundance of late.) The shop duly looked over the offending tire, and pronounced it fixable, maybe — but these things are five years old, and they won’t last much longer.

Still in “okay, fine” mode, I bade them replace the lot. Which they did, although they ran a bit past closing time. Handling seemed a little squirrely, but I attributed that to unfamiliarity with the new rubber.

But then I got home, and the shadow on the garage wall looked, well, wrong. Just a little too short. I fetched a light and inspected the sidewall. Yep: they’d put on 205s instead of 215s.

So the tail end of this afternoon was devoted to swapping them out yet again. (I’d run up just under 30 miles on the 205s.) No harm, no foul, but still plenty weird.

As for the tires themselves, they’re Cooper CS4s, which have the dual distinction of (1) being made in the States and (2) being offered by no automaker anywhere as OEMs. Compared to the old Dunlops, they’re one speed rating lower — H instead of V, though since the actual OEM specification is for H, this presented no issue — and a bit more relaxed on crummy pavement, of which we also have an abundance of late. I didn’t need a $700 hole in the pocketbook just now, but there’s no point in prolonging the inevitable.

Sort of aside: We are told that the treadwear ratings don’t necessarily imply anything, other than that a 200-rated tire will last twice as long as a 100. The OEM Bridgestones on my old Mazda, which bore a 500 rating, crapped out at 50,600 miles. The Dunlops being replaced were rated at 460; they made it to just over 43,000. I reserve the right to draw whatever conclusions I want from this. (CS4: 560.)

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Love minus zero, plus something

Somewhere down the fanfiction road, I’m tempted to talk Twilight Sparkle into dividing by zero, just to see what happens. In the meantime, Mark Alger, no slouch of a storyteller himself, is playing with the concept, starting, sensibly enough, with Dolly telling him you can’t do that:

Well, properly speaking, you can, but the answer is out of the normal bounds of our concepts of numbers. And, of course, computers lose it when you try to make them calculate it. But, really, it makes logical sense. Zero zeroths is a whole zero, right? I mean, it’s nothing, but it’s ONE nothing. A slippery concept, I’ll admit, but not as weird as n dimensions.

And this also requires admitting that dividing zero by itself to get one is a special case. And what if that means that 0/0=1 is also 0/0=∞? Talk about your special cases. And what does that imply about the question raised in the linked article as to whether infinity actually exists in the real world, or is just a mental construct? See how that blows your dress up.

The reason we have mental constructs in the first place, I suspect, is as placeholders for things we actually haven’t found yet. (Think “Higgs boson”; it explains much, even in its “well, we think we saw one” status.) If you push me, I’d say that infinite anything probably violates at least one law of physics — and that a hundred years from now, those laws will have probably been updated somewhat.

That said, there are transfinite numbers, which I understand barely if at all, and hyperreal numbers, which are at least easy to explain:

The hyperreals, or nonstandard reals, *R, are an extension of the real numbers R that contains numbers greater than anything of the form

1 + 1 + … + 1.

Such a number is infinite, and its reciprocal is infinitesimal.

I never expect to see a number that is truly infinite, though its reciprocal I see every month on my bank statement: it’s the interest rate they pay me.

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Put away that sprinkler

In case they didn’t make it clear the first time, the city has sent out a brochure linking back to their water-consumption site — and it’s a neat trick, putting a link in a brochure, n’est-ce pas? — saying straight out that watering restrictions are never, ever going away.

What they’re not saying, at least for now, is the actual aggregate lake level, which is presumably over 50 percent or we’d be in Stage 2 (two days a week instead of three or four). Canton Lake, tapped during the dry winter, is not much over 20 percent, though the local reservoirs are, um, flush for the moment, what with rains out the wazoo of late.

Oh, and I went to okc.gov to see if there was any supplemental information to be had. There wasn’t, but there was this tornado-related announcement that struck me as a trifle, um, insensitive: “Call 297-1030 if your home was destroyed.” (This is the newly-minted Storm Debris Line, and rather a lot of folks have rather more storm debris than they’d like.) At least it’s not on the radio.

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Smaller Government Motors

Fifty million shares of General Motors go on the block today, thirty million from the Treasury, twenty million from the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, in the hopes that the General’s return to the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (also today) will hype the price a bit.

Of the $49 billion taxpayers put up to bail out GM, almost $32 billion has been recovered; assuming a price in the low-to-mid-30s, the Treasury offering should bring in a billion more. Officially, Treasury plans to exit GM entirely by next April; it’s not likely they’ll break even, but the company may well be helped by losing the stigma of being “Government Motors” — at least in the States. Canada and the province of Ontario, which hold about 9 percent of GM stock, aren’t selling at this time.

Treasury, I have to figure, isn’t particularly thrilled by the fact that much of GM’s market momentum is being propelled by the arrival of new trucks, but I also figure that fiduciary responsibility trumps green posturing elsewhere in Washington. And if it doesn’t, well, it should.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Living large-ish

Brylane Home, whose parent company once upon a time was associated with Lane Bryant but is no longer, now has a catalog called “plus+size living,” which opens with several pages of the same flimsy-looking patio furniture everyone else sells, but with higher weight capacities: the semi-traditional outdoor rocking chair made of funny-colored resin is expanded to 19½ inches wide, wider than some of the seats in Kansas City’s Sprint Center, and holds, they say, up to 600 lb.

Just for laughs, I decided to see if they had a bathroom scale. They have a couple. One maxes out at 550 lb, the other at 400.

Some of the kitchen stuff, like the double deep fryer, drew mirth. Then there’s the electric mandoline, which grates or juliennes or just slices; it’s the first such I’ve ever seen, irrespective of size considerations.

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Drive toward Google

T-Mobile is killing off its MobileLife Album at the end of this month, so people who have used that online photo storage facility will have to find some other place to play. Now obviously I’m not hurting for storage space — I can get a terabyte from Flickr — but T-Mo has offered to set me up with Google Drive, about which I know nothing except that it’s a cloud-based service. (I experimented briefly with cloud storage, decided it was too cumbersome, but figured maybe it was just the implementation.)

So this is a tech bleg: if you’re using Google Drive, I’d like to know what you think of it, and whether it has any worthwhile advantages to offset its parent’s Skynettish tendencies.

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Heartier parties

I admit to having never really been a Scene Kid, inasmuch as when there became things recognizable as a Scene, I was no longer a kid. However, I do try to pay attention to cultural phenomena, and with that in mind, I direct you to this historical artifact featuring local DJ Ed Crunk:

The current social media and flow of fashion and ideas come from the new aged generation that just breached adulthood. We are the unrecognized leaders of ideas and movements that create what we know as “the scene”. Now think about it, 20 years ago, the 80’s just ended and 90’s taking music to a completely new idea. I wish I could go back to this time. Spending most of my days worry free doing whatever I felt like as long as it didn’t bother anyone else. Which is where the drugs took their part in the creation of the sound we have today. Metal and Hardcore on the rise going harder than ever before. For the scene it was a peak and it seems we are climbing back to that peak.

I didn’t see the Nineties as being particularly worry-free, but then I was fat and fortyish and worried about everything imaginable. But that 20-year timetable makes sense: it’s about a generation wide, about the distance from your first cry in the delivery room to the first time no one questions your fake ID. (By no coincidence, Ed’s been DJing here for just about 20 years.)

After the jump, Ed at work.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The wide, wide whirled

The National Weather Service ruled yesterday that the El Reno tornado on the last day of May, the one that briefly was headed toward me before turning away and then fizzling out, qualified for EF5 status with winds briefly clocked by mobile radar at 296 mph. Or more.

Further, the width of the thing maxed out at 2.6 miles, which is considered the national record for such things, although mobile radar (again!) suggested the width of the storm that took out half of Mulhall on 3 May 1999 (there’s that date again) might have been as much as 4.3 miles. At this point, can you even call it a funnel?

As for the controversy over whether it was appropriate for a local TV Weather God to suggest trying to flee the storm, I’m going with “In times of dire emergency, lots of things are said, some of them stupid.” I may say some of them myself. But I’m not about to go outside in that stuff. Mere hail — which did a mere ten grand worth of damage to my roof three years ago — will bring traffic to its knees as people look for something they can hide under. And this was several thousand times OMGWTFBBQ worse than mere hail. I knew traffic wasn’t going anywhere, and neither was I. Your mileage may vary.

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Circular firing squad

There are several reasons why a Democratic candidate might lose an election, ranging from failure to secure the correct endorsements to insufficient bribery. However, there’s only one way for a Republican candidate to lose. Robert Stacy McCain reports from the sideline:

This never changes — the Articulate Elite point the finger of blame at the yammering mob of right-wingers as scapegoats for the defeat, while the yammering mob claim they were betrayed by fainthearts and establishment insiders who rigged the game to nominate a weak-kneed RINO who proves that there’s Not a Dime’s Worth of Difference, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

A lot of this is really just the Dougherty Doctrine: “At the end of the day, the arguments all seem to boil down to something similar: If it were more like me, the Republican Party would be better off. It’s failing because it’s like you.”

Bottom line: The Democrats have enforcers who can actually enforce. The GOP? If they had an actual machine, it would spend most of the time in the repair shop.

As for the proverbial Dime, it takes at least a quarter to impress the likes of me.

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