Quote of the week

To set this up, here’s a WaPo headline: “Baby boomers are killing themselves at an alarming rate, raising question: Why?”

Now if you look at that URL, you’ll discover that in place of “raising” is the word “begging,” which is not what’s being done here, although “begging the question” is seriously misunderstood as a concept of late. As to “Why,” though, I can quote you the opinion of Vox Day:

The generation that has had to put up with the vagaries of the Baby Boomers for literally its entire existence knows very well why they are killing themselves at an unusually high rate. It is because Baby Boomers are disproportionately inclined to be narcissistic, selfish, short-sighted, superficial bastards who don’t give a damn about anything except themselves, and they are psychologically incapable of grasping the basic concepts of mortality or graceful old age… The realization that 65 is not, in fact, the new 18, and they really and truly are not cool anymore, is simply proving too much for them to bear.

Having never been cool, I’m having less trouble with the concepts of mortality and/or graceful old age.

Still, there’s an upside, according to Day:

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to think Generation X is actually inclined to celebrate these rampant Boomer suicides. It doesn’t fill us with glee to know they are offing themselves en masse, merely a modicum of appreciation for the first positive and non-selfish consequences their generation’s actions have ever produced. Say what you will about them, but at least they are saving us an amount of effort.

Although I have to look at this in connection with a popular whine among Boomer kids, many years ago: “I didn’t ask to be born!”

The proper response, of course, is “If you had, the answer would have been No.” Day, I think, could appreciate that.

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I’ll be working on my maintan

Autoblog posted this item on Thursday:

Autoblog screenshot

Whatever “maintance” is, apparently you get two years’ worth on your new Impala.

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Peevish birds

Yesterday we linked to an item about a (possibly) rogue goldfinch. This is not, I hasten to point out, a species-specific phenomenon:

A furious swirl of birds came swooping over the deck, tumbled around over the garage and then zoomed in wide arcs near the trees over the side fence. The sound they were making was without doubt screaming. They’d keep flying back towards a big tree on the opposite side of the yard where a wild chittering was happening. They’d keep doing the wide arc alarm flights towards every compass point and occasionally stop to light on the branches of the big tree. The chittering never stopped.

This was an interspecies event. Single birds would come from wherever their morning bird business was going on and they would also light near the tree. I couldn’t tell you what kinds of birds they were — they all looked black against the sunny sky — but I could see that the main swirl of alarm birds were all the same size and some of the new joiners were smaller.

If I’m Tippi Hedren, I’m looking for a bomb shelter right about now. (Disclosure: I am not actually Tippi Hedren. Below the jump: Actual Tippi Hedren, circa last summer.)

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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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