Thursday, October 28

Time Traveler?

All abuzz on the internets today is the possibility that a time-traveler may have been in a Charlie Chaplin film from 1928.

Is the person carrying - and speaking into - a cell phone? Naysayers say no, as there weren't exactly any cell towers back then, or satellites for that matter. A mini-corder, then?

No one may ever know, but isn't it interesting that this should happen to be revealed during the 25th anniversary of the Back to the Future franchise?

Tuesday, October 26

Obama! A Modern U.S. President (musical spoof)

On Fox this morning:

Monday, October 25

Rake The Cat

Trouble keeping all that cat hair at bay? Use the new Cat Rake!

Sunday, October 24

You Just Never Know About Photoshop

So this morning I was off looking for source images to use for a Fark Photoshop I was working on. Though I did find several items that were of interest - like how a Star Trek communicator looks like a modern cell phone, and how iPads look like their 24th-century counterparts, what I found was more Star Wars. I couldn't help but stare at it for the longest time.

Yes, I've seen the original of the following image, but I'm pretty sure that the aircraft had a propeller and not some form of ion propulsion.

Damn good Photoshop.

Saturday, October 23

Pedantism (n)

pedant (n) A person who over-emphasizes rules or minor details.

Pedant is a wonderful word, particularly if you want to comment on ones' knowledge of grammar or lack thereof. I'll admit that at times I'll flub a line and make a train wreck of something I'm writing. At those times I would suffer the fate of a grammar pedant. Like Stephen Fry:

This. Is. Not. Possible.

Wednesday, October 20

What Is He DOING?

Marilee just said that.

"Chewing on himself? At least that's what it sounds like."

Morning Wednesday. Marilee isn't feeling well to the point she's asked me not to leave.

Bowser, just out of my line of sight, is making "sounds." I really don't know what he's doing; Marilee has a more direct line of sight, but has Lexie and Bambi blocking her view.

So I say "...well, whatever the hell it is that he's doing, he's obviously enjoying it.

"...and being otherwise quiet about it."

Saturday, October 16

Black Market Dishwashing Soap?

Phosphate MoleculeIt's more likely than you may think.

Don't be surprised if you haven't heard about this - it's not widely known. But I'm sure dishwasher manufacturers have noticed an uptick in sales.

Why? Because folks' dishwashers aren't working as they once did. One such owner in Lancaster County, PA, found out the hard way, after shelling out $759 for a new dishwasher. After seeing that her dishes were still not coming out clean, she learned that the dishwasher soap manufacturer had changed the formula.

Cue the similarly-sounding commercial from the '70s that said "Let's remove the ingredient from the dishwashing soap that actually cleans the dishes and see if anyone notices."

Well, folks, even we noticed, and I bet you have, too. Take a gander at the box of Cascade under your sink and see that it, too, says "Phosphate Free." Due to a ban on phosphates last year, phosphate-laden soaps of all kinds cannot be purchased anywhere. In the United States, anyway.

Even the manufacturer's website explains what the new formula contains - or does not contain:

Phosphate is the main ingredient in most automatic dishwashing detergents and serves many functions. For example, phosphate helps with dishwashing performance by facilitating food removal, removing the calcium that binds these types of foods together and reducing spotting and filming during the wash cycle. Phosphate also aids in grease removal, helps control water hardness, and suspends soils within the wash water so they are not redistributed onto plates.

So... what can the consumer do? Adding back the phosphate is one idea, provided you can actually find the stuff. TSP (tri-sodium phosphate), sold for decades at hardware and home improvement stores is itself sold as "phosphate-free" in some locales, which I suppose turns it into, well, TS.

Tough sh!t?

Sunday, October 10

Well, That's Just Grand


I SO hate car problems. I'm not a "car guy" in the sense that I love getting deep into the guts of a car. When there are problems that I cannot handle - read "have the tools for" - I take the thing to someone who does that sort of thing for a living.

I can change a tire - the tools come with the car.

I can change a battery - hell, I work on [expletive deleted]'s and have the tools for that.

But Saturday the conditions were such that it was necessary to call in an expert - well, the expert's assistant: Chris.

The story starts a few weeks ago - Marilee and I were off to do some serious yard-sale-ing, and were off on the east side of the valley. It was a bee-yoo-tee-ful day, windows open, enjoying each others' company. In this one neighborhood, there were several hills and valleys - and dips. And, as we are wont to do, we started making fun of DIP-everything. DIP-thong... DIP-wad... DIP...


This next DIP was going to be a doozy. Unfortunately, I saw how far the drop-off was at the last nanosecond, slammed on the brakes - alas, too late.

Now, while the Rodeo IS a four-wheel drive vehicle, it's geared more for the weekend warrior type off-road excursions, not for one- or two-foot drop-offs in a residential area. In other words, the ground isn't soft. It's blacktop, after all.

I don'[t know how high we bounced. It took several exasperated moments for us to collect ourselves, and we were on our - clank - way again.

We were only about a block - clank - away from our destination, so got ready to - clank - turn the next corner.

"Did you hear that?" said Marilee.


"That clanking sound."


"Oh, THAT clanking sound."

Suffice to say that once Chris and I started looking at the brakes - yeah, you saw that coming - we realized I didn't have the necessary tools to do the job. Enter the expert who came over later yesterday afternoon.

And for the time being, we were down to one serviceable vehicle - my work truck, which left us with a bit of a problem - three un-serviceable vehicles in the driveway. That would be Jenn's old Dodge Avenger, the Rodeo, and Marilee's Grand Am. Ah, yes, the Grand Am.

You may recall this repair job from August 2008:

It's still attached, so I must have done something right, car-wise - for a change. But to have so many un-serviceable cars made me cringe. No just so much that there were dollar signs dancing in my eyes, but what, exactly, was I going to do about the Grand Am THIS time?

The problem? Dead battery. Yes, the battery had been replaced some time ago. And the electrical system checked, at least from the charging/alternator perspective. But anything else? Was it time for a professional?

Screw it, and I turned to Google.

The dead battery was just the end result. The primary symptom? The parking lights were on all-the-time. Even when the ignition switch turned off, and the lights turned off... well, that's not entirely true.

In Pontiac's - and General Motors by association - infinite wisdom, there's no friggin' off switch. There's a three-way headlights-parking lights-AUTO switch. Auto meaning the car's "computer" decides when the lights should be on.

It's wasn't turning the parking lights off AT ALL.

So... a Google search for "grand am" "parking lights" resulted in several good possibilities, including re-programming the computer. Dollar signs. Not an option.

This WAS an electrical problem, was it not? Should be a simple solutio...

Another promising suggestion was to swap the horn relay with the parking light relay. At least you'd know from the nasty looks from your neighbors in the middle of the night with a horn that wouldn't turn off.

What turned out to be the problem was dirty relay contacts at the fuse block. Now, I've been in the electronics business for over thirty years, and wondered just who the rocket-scientist engineer was that decided this circuit should be wired the way it is. In an idle state - ignition switch off, and the switch in "auto" - with basically an open circuit, suggests that the relay is wired as normally closed; energizing the relay makes them turn off.

Who. The. Hell. Does. That?

I bet the engineers who design these circuits probably don't have to fix them.

Now, where have I heard that before?

About That 10/10/10 Thing

There's actually a lot going on today, and none of it appears to be threatening.

Over at HalogenTV is a post saying "...thousands of people around the world will document their stories – what inspires them, what they’re creating, what their lives are like on that day. Filmmakers Kyle Ruddick, Brandon Litman and Michael Klima will combine their stories into a shared documentary film, One Day on Earth."

From WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York: "...Brides and grooms across the country set to wed on 10-10-10 say they hope the number will bring them good luck. Numerologists say the date reflects a couple who is achievement-oriented, and powerful."

From Paramus, New Jersey: "Circle 10/10/10 on your calendar. That's the date. The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community," so notes climate activist and author Bill McKibben."

Of course my inbox was full of ads for 10/10/10 sales going on today - you can find those for yourself, I'm sure.

Thankfully, nothing sinister.

I rate that a ten.

Saturday, October 9


So here we are, typical Saturday - except that I'm on call and that makes it far from typical - and Marilee turns to me and says:

"Anything going on tomorrow?"

Me: "Not that I'm aware of." Of course, since I'm on call, I was thinking about sleeping in, something that I've never really been able to do, but there's always that hope.

She: "Well, it's 10/10/10 tomorrow. Anyone saying anything?"

Me: "So you mean like world-wide dread of a plot or something?"

She: "Mmmm hmmm."

So I Google it.

Me: "Nope. Nothing in particular."

Other than the 14th most popular search on Google, that is.

I created a Google news alert anyway.

Friday, October 8


The word "mirth" came up in conversation today, in regards to someone's expression. And it wasn't I who said the word.

Don't get me wrong, mirth is a great word. Mirth conjures merriment, but doesn't necessarily work in common, every day conversation. Mirth fits a place where any other word just wouldn't work.

Consider telling someone once a year "Mirthy Birthday". Then again...

Anyway, to me, "mirth" brings to mind a court jester of olde. Like this:

Then come jesters, musicians and trained dwarfs,
And singing girls from the land of Ti-ti,
To delight the ear and eye
And bring mirth to the mind.
—Sima Xiangru (ca. 179-117 B.C.), Rhapsody on the Shanglin Park

Sometimes the words just write themselves.

Monday, October 4


Maximum cuteness:

Sunday, October 3

Brilliantly Stimulating?

Yeah, about that. Not so much lately. You may have noticed.

As a good friend said recently - when was it? Jeez, it was a month-and-a-half ago:

"I don't know what the doctor is feeding you but I miss the snarky & witty banter!"

As far as I can tell, it's the anti-anxiety meds he's "feeding" me. Anti-anxiety meds are actually good for me; it helps me make it through those weeks I'm on call. I tend to freak out for that once-a-month stint for a week. The other three weeks I'm my old self, except for one thing: My creativity tanks. OK, that's not entirely true - my creativity is non-existent.

Over the years, I realized something pretty important about my thought processes, as I tend to think outside the box. In fact, I don't even see a box. Call it what you will, free-thinking I suppose. Maybe fuzzy logic.

Even Marilee has noticed a change, as well she should. She sees the difference on a daily basis. Just last night she observed "You haven't blogged or taken pictures lately". Lately equates to my only taking four pictures during the entire month of September. And blogging? My last "snarky banter" - read "brilliantly stimulating" - post was TWO MONTHS AGO. By my estimation, about the time my anti-anxiety meds went into full swing.

So what the hell does that have to do with anything?

Now, I'm not one - usually - to take as fact some saying or other. How many times have we all heard a phrase or quote from someone famous and thought "Hey, that sounds like me!". But this one hits far too close to home:

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.” – T.S. Eliot

Yeah, that T.S. Eliot.

I'd commented on that quote to my cousin, and she said that maybe I was reading too much into it. That, for whatever reason I was using it as an excuse for how I was feeling at that particular moment. Maybe. But as I have learned in the last little while, T.S. Eliot isn't the only one who has made that observation.

In the book "Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament", Kay Redfield Jamison states "...many creative people are reluctant to be transformed by psychiatric treatment into "normal, well-adjusted, dampened, and bloodless souls" no longer moved to create. And their fears may not be unfounded. Current psychotropic drug therapies can offer some relief from the painful, destructive features of mania and depression. But according to Jamison, there is a price to pay -- these drugs can "dampen a person's general intellect and limit his or her emotional and perceptual range".

Hmmm... maybe I will be having a talk with my physician after all...

[Portions of the above post derived from "Creativity and Mental Illness" by Laura Gosselink at Serendip.]
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