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dogs

Shirts, Dogs, and Dogs in Shirts

The Front Range Bichon Frise Club held its (now expected to be) annual halloween party this past Saturday. Picture a dozen bichons in funny outfits tearing around club president Lindsay Van Keuren’s back yard on what could well be the last nice day this year. Carol cut a Party City grass skirt in half, and wrapped half around QBit and half around Aero. She did the same with a Party City lei and both again got half. It was a pretty effective costume, because QBit and Aero are aces at dancing on their hind legs waving their front paws in the air. The video I posted on Facebook prompted Dennis Harris to declare them the Duntemann Hula Hounds, which in turn reminded me that Marty Robbins had a song called “Lovely Hula Hands” back in the time that even time forgot. So could I write “Lovely Hula Hounds?” Sure. Will I? Maybe. I have to finish my filk of “YMCA” first. Sub in “bichon frise” for “YMCA” and you’ll see where I’m going with it.

Dash doesn’t dance on his hind legs, and in fact what he mostly does is get in trouble. So Carol bought a very appropriate costume for him that was basically a Depression-style prisoner outfit, complete with number, printed on a little T-shirt, plus a black and white hat to match. He got the award for “Scariest Costume,” which is itself a little scary.

Green Long Sleeve - 350 wide.jpgSpeaking of shirts…I discovered a wonderful source of everyday shirts a year or so ago: the US military. I bought a couple of used Army dress green shirts on eBay, and later found a couple of Air Force dress blue shirts, one of which I was wearing in the photos above. I found a few more at Glenn’s Army Surplus here in the Springs, and my friend Lt. Col. Powl Smith gave me a few more when he retired from the Army recently. The shirts have two pockets, which is a requirement for my everyday attire. They’re rugged, and can be had in both long-sleeve and short-sleeve designs. Best of all, you can toss them in the wash, put them in the dryer for ten minutes, and they’ll hang up without a wrinkle. Yeah, they’re polyester blends. For me this is a feature, not a bug. I paid $15 each for the new ones, and about $5 for the used ones. So far, no regrets.

I’ve been quiet recently in part because I’ve been studying. The desktop database development world has a shed a few skins since I learned it, and I’m going to have to learn it mostly all over again. But if I do that, I might as well take notes, so I can teach it to everybody else. Lazarus Database Development From Square One, anybody?

Could happen. Stay tuned.

Odd Lots

Ohm’s Law Is a Bitch

Jimi Henton, the local breeder from whom we got Aero, Jack, and Dash, brought me her dog grooming dryer some time back to see if I could figure out what was wrong with it. Carol has the exact same dryer, a Chris Christensen Kool Dry. It’s basically an SCR-controlled variable-speed fan in a box, putting out 114 CFM through a hose.

Jimi said it wasn’t blowing as much air as it used to, even after she cleaned the filter and made sure nothing else was gummed up with dog hair. It still blew, and the pot still varied the fan speed, but it wasn’t as loud and clearly didn’t have its out-of-the-box oomph. Worse, she’d had a new motor installed last year. The first one had gone for eleven years before dying; this seemed kind of premature.

I wanted to compare the two dryers to get a sense for how much air was being lost in Jimi’s. I have no way to measure airflow here, but sitting on the laundry room floor I noticed Jack’s little soccer ball, much reduced from its original size, but still round enough for my purposes. With only a little skill I managed to get the ball levitating over the nozzle, as any kid who’s bright enough to put a vacuum cleaner in reverse has done. On Carol’s dryer, the ball wobbled between 18″ and 24″ above the nozzle. On Jimi’s, it was maybe 4″.

So there was work to do, somewhere. Upon opening the dryer up, at least one problem was obvious: The 1,025 watt AC motor was wired to the speed control with #24 telephone wire, and too much of it. (You know, the stuff with the two-color, bands-on-solid insulation.) Close inspection showed two cold solder joints, coincidentally (heh) where the #24 wire hit the speed control pot. The plastic insulation on the phone wire was blackened with heat. The dryer slowly was cooking itself from the resistance of all that skinny wire. No need for a fork; it was done.

Jimi had ordered the motor from the manufacturer and then had somebody local put it into the dryer. She called him an amateur. No. I’m an amateur, with a callsign to prove it. I do electronics because I love it. Whoever installed this motor was…an idiot.

All fixed now, using some #14 stranded wire and soldering skills I learned when I was eleven. Both dryers now loft the soccer ball two feet hgh. Ohm’s Law is a bitch, dude. Please go back to sharpening scissors.

Summer Doldrums

Yes, I’ve been gone for awhile, and for any number of reasons found it inconvenient to put anything together until this evening. I’ve been having some trouble with that old book-hauling injury in my left arm, spent ten days in Chicago, fixed some stuff (including an interesting repair on a dog grooming hair dryer) and learned some new things that I didn’t expect to learn, including a few that I probably didn’t need to learn.

In short, I’ve had nothing much to report, and in the summer heat just felt better reading books and taking it easy in the cause of getting my whiny supinator to shut the hell up. The gruel here is on the thin side, but that’s summer.

My younger niancee, Justine, made me aware of something called Prancercise by demonstrating it in front of the whole family. Damn. I thought she was kidding. Then I watched the video. Wow. It has nothing on the Invisible Horse Dance, but it could be the next craze at weddings. Or maybe not.

Weddings. We did attend a terrific wedding, of the daughter of my oldest friend Art. At her reception I saw something called the Casper Slide–not to be confused with the skateboarding stunt of the same name. And if you are confused, you’re not alone. I think this is why the real name of the dance is the Cha-Cha Slide, developed by a Chicago DJ named Casper. I watched the dance, and apart from some stomping, it looked a lot like the Electric Slide. But hey, what do I know about cultural tropes?

Another bit of knowledge that was true but unwelcome is that Barnes & Noble comtinues to come apart at the seams. Their CEO quit the other day over the failure of the Nook tablets to capture any significant part of the tablet market. The Nook division is for sale, and Microsoft is making slobbering noises. The Nook guys have been on my you-know-what list for some time, for pushing down updates that freeze in mid-install and can’t be removed. (I don’t use AMV, but I wonder if it works at all after the installer gets stuck.) Leonard Riggio wants to take back the retail division. A lot of stores are closing, and half the remaining stores have leases that expire in 2016. And everybody’s wondering what happens after all this happens. Especially publishers.

I learned that the Chicago Tribune has a page dedicated to documenting every single homicide that happens in Chicago. That this would be a big, frequently updated page is bad enough. That is exists at all is worse. I guess Chicago is a terrific place to be from.

There’s a video on domesticated fox, pointed out to me by Pete Albrecht. I mentioned the Russian research on Siberian fox years ago, but this is the first time I’ve seen videos of the animals themselves. It’s sad in a way; the poor things are stuck somewhere between fox and dogs, and are at best unreliably tame. It’s pretty clear to me, however, that this was the same process our ancestors used to turn wolves into dogs. And it didn’t take thousands of years.

I learned that the backlight behind the controls of my new car stereo changes color continuously.

Ok, ok, I can see eyes glazing over. That’s it for tonight. I hope to get back on my usual schedule shortly.

The Lost Hobby of Microscopy

Carol found some very small insects crawling around on Dash’s neck yesterday while she was brushing him. She dropped several of them into a pill bottle followed by some alcohol. These were tiny bugs; I’m guessing the biggest one wasn’t quite two millimeters long, and most were at best a millimeter. We squinted and used the magnifying glass that I keep in my desk drawer, and the best we could say is, Yeah, that’s a bug.

I knew what I had to do next, and it took me way back. For Christmas when I was eight (the end of 1960), my father bought me a microscope. It was small and lacked a fine focus knob, but it had an iron frame and decent optics. For the next two years until I discovered electronics, looking at very small things was one of my main hobbies.

My father helped me get the hang of it. He had had a simple microscope himself in the early 1930s, and I still have it somewhere: A black crinkle-finish tube about five inches high, with an eyepiece at the top, a slot for inserting slides, and a tilting mirror in a large milled cutout toward the bottom. He bought me a book called Hunting with the Microscope, by Gaylord Johnson and Maurice Bleifield (1956) and I spent a couple of years hunting for all the microscopic things the authors had painstakingly drawn on its pages.

Many of the drawn microorganisms were said to be found in rivers and ponds, and my friends and I haunted the banks of the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers in the summer with mayonnaise jars in hand, scooping up slimy water and the even slimier mud on the riverbottom beneath it. Holding up the jars against bright light showed them to be absolutely crawling with minuscule thingies in constant motion. I had a well slide and managed to corral some of the little monsters in it, but they didn’t slow down long enough for me to identify them. None followed the corkscrew path that paramecia were said to exhibit. We saw no volvoxes nor stentors, cool as that would have been. Water bears too were AWOL. Most heartbreakingly, we never cornered an amoeba, which we longed to see eat something by engulfing it, which would be akin to watching The Blob in miniature–always a draw for ten-year-olds.

No, most of the critters that moved slowly enough to identify were microscopic worms. When my mother heard us talking about worms from the corner of the family room when my friends and I were gazing into my microscope, she made us dump the mayonnaise jars into the toilet and wash our hands. My mother was an RN, and although we didn’t learn it first-hand until we were 13 (another story entirely, though a good one) both rivers were flood relief for Chicago’s and suburban sewers. After even a modest rain, runoff would cascade from overflowing sewer mains right into the rivers, carrying raw sewage with it. So these weren’t exactly earthworms we were watching.

I’m honestly not sure what became of my little microscope. The good news is that Carol received a much better one she when was fourteen (a Tasco 951 with a fine focus knob) and earlier today, I pulled her microscope down off the high shelf and set it up on the kitchen island where the light was good. I looked at a few of the pickled-in-alcohol bugs, but they had been picked off Dash with a tweezers and were not in good shape. We cornered Dash and hunted until we spotted a live one. I carefully snipped the little tuft of hair to which the bug was clinging, and with some prodding managed to tack the bug to the sticky strip on a white Post-It. (Gaylord Johnson would have been proud.) Under the microscope, it was unmistakable: Linognathus setosus, the dog louse. The tacky Post-It strip kept it from walking around, and we were able to see how it clung to a strand of dog hair with its hooked legs.

Dash got a prompt treatment with the usual doggie bug meds, and in a day or two whatever lice remain will be gone. In the meantime, I have to wonder what happened to the microscopy hobby. Astronomy and electronics are both big business, but beyond some Web sites (like this one) I don’t see much to indicate that anybody is digging through river mud looking for water fleas anymore. The instruments are cheap compared to good test equipment or telescopes. You can get used stereo microscopes on eBay for $250 or less, and used student microscopes like Carol’s for under $50. Rivers are a whole lot cleaner than they were fifty years ago, and I’m thinking that if I sampled the Chicago River today I might score a stentor or two, and maybe even an amoeba. Granting that Google is a much better way to identify the stuff you’re looking at, I might order a copy of Hunting with the Microscope, just for fun. No, I don’t really need another hobby, but I want to be ready the next time something really small comes calling, and I need to know what it is.

My Security System

BewareBichons500Wide.jpg

Multiply your terror by four. Then divide by the square root of pi. Or something. (Sign available at Scandical.com.)

Odd Lots

  • Carol and I are now home from Chicago, still bumping into walls but doing better. If you haven’t heard from me in a couple of weeks that’s why.
  • Chicago burned on October 8, 1871. The cow did it, right? Well, there were a lot of other serious fires around the American midwest that same night. Tucking my ears into my tinfoil hat here: What if a cluster of biggish small meteorites hit the country that night, sparking fires wherever they fell? The more Russian dashcam videos I see, the less outrageous I think the idea is. (Thanks to Michele Marek for the link.)
  • And for people who say that the Russians seem to attract meteorites, look at this. I’d say The Curse of the Splat People has been laid upon northern new Mexico.
  • Why am I so fascinated by the Neanderthals? Aside from the fact that I may well have a Neanderthal-ish skull and ribcage, it’s hard to beat our big-brained, musclebound brothers for idea triggers. I had never considered Taki’s startling question: Would they vote Republican? Or would they just tear your arm off for asking? (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
  • Search Google Patents for Edward F. Marwick, and you will find 205 different patents filed by my very own late high school physics teacher. He told us about a few of them (like this one) in 1969. We thought he was kidding. The man was a damned good physics teacher, and he thought big.
  • Bill Beaty posted a comment on Contra for my September 7, 2011 entry describing a very simple solid-state equivalent using an MPF102 and a 9V battery. A full description is on his site, and it’s worth seeing if you have an unscratched itch for a half-hour project.
  • I think I aggregated the Steampunk Workshop before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Beautiful stuff, startling craftsmanship. Like this Mac Mini mod. Wow. (Thanks to Bill Cherepy for pointing it out.)
  • Carol and I had to cancel our entry of Dash and Jack in the big Rocky Mountain Cluster dog show for obvious reasons, but one of our Bichon Club members posted a wonderful video of her seven-year-old son Adam showing their puppy, Ruby. Ruby and Adam got a blue ribbon. The kid is amazing. Sheesh, when I was that age I was still throwing mushrooms at my sister at the dinner table.
  • I guess this was inevitable, at least in Washington State and/or Colorado. I suppose the research is useful. (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)

Odd Lots

Odd Lots, Thanksgiving Edition

  • Some brilliant if loopy stuff came out of the 70s, and one of the most brilliant is the episode of WKRP in Cinncinnati where they shoved live turkeys out of a helicopter and were surprised when the turkeys soon hit terminal velocity and went splat. (No turkeys were harmed–nor even shown–in that episode.) Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.
  • There are in fact turkeys that fly. Carol and I bought a heritage turkey of the sort that can and probably did fly, if not very far nor fast. Although it’s still thawing as I write this, the theory is that the meat will be darker and juicier coming from muscles that are actually used in the bird’s daily life. We’ll know soon.
  • I often eat eggs two meals a day, and don’t quail at eating eggs at all three meals. Which made me wonder if you could get turkey eggs somewhere, and what they’re like. They’re a little bigger (about 25%) and considerably pointier–and almost unavailable. Why? They’re lots more valuable as turkeys than as eggs. As so often, Cecil Adams has the last word.
  • Leave it to The Wall Street Journal to highlight a conflict I would not have imagined on my own: the issue of putting Marshmallow Fluff in the sweet potatoes. People have evidently come to blows over this.
  • I was astonished to learn (from the above article) that Marshmallow Fluff has existed since 1920. I’ve tasted it exactly once (as best I remember) when my poor mother attempted to use it in gingerbread house roof frosting circa 1960. The frosting softened the hard gingerbread slabs and the roof caved in.
  • The obvious question to arise after you cease boggling over putting Marshmallow Fluff in the sweet potatoes: Is there a marshmallow-flavored liqueur? Yup. Smirnoff has it. And a bald woman in their product advertising, egad. Like a marshmallow, get it?
  • If that doesn’t seem odd, well, consider other weird cordials from around the world, including cannabis liqueur, smoked salmon flavored vodka, and (yukkh!) baby mice wine.
  • No, I didn’t find a turkey-flavored liqueur. However–and I am not making this up–Jones Soda sells (among other things, including Green Bean Casserole soda) Turkey & Gravy soda. How does it taste? Do not fail to read the description in the article.
  • I failed to find turkey-flavored vodka, but I did run across a recipe for 100-proof vodka-flavored turkey. Hic.
  • We’re long past Marshmallow Peeps season, but here’s an entrepreneurial idea: sell pre-staled Peeps. It takes a year or so to get them stale enough to pass muster with aficionados, but I have it on good authority that they don’t get moldy. Don’t ask why; you don’t want to know. Twinkies were not outliers in this regard.
  • As for Thanksgiving itself, the holiday and the state of mind, I will simply refer you to what I said in 2008. It’s all still true–and since then Jackie has lost a good deal of weight and become ours. Be thankful. Live mindfully. Appreciate those you love and who love you. And thanks to everybody who takes a detour out of their busy online lives to read me here!

Odd Lots