- Our night-time low here dropped into the 50s last night for the first time since we got back here in late July. The pool water is now down to 81, sigh. Autumn is icumin in; cul sinks the pul.
- One reason I’ve never written a sequel (much less a series) is that I have a terror of becoming boring by writing about the same people in the same setting multiple times. Pam Uphoff discusses this well on MGC. It’s not inevitable, but it has to be done…carefully. (I’ve dipped my toes in the water by writing several stories and a short novel set on the Drumlins World.)
- Melatonin may act against migraines. If that’s an issue for you, give it a shot…but keep in mind that melatonin does affect your sleep cycles, and taking it any time except before bed can be hazardous. Also, when I was trying it for insomnia after Coriolis imploded, my sleep timing went nuts, which isn’t typical but is clearly a possible side effect.
- The sugar industry bribed scientists back in the ’60s to push the blame for obesity from sugar to fat. Furthermore, the scientists they bribed were at all-powerful Harvard. Lessons: Science is corruptible (we knew that, from science fraudster Ancel Keys) and Harvard is just an ordinary university with a highly inflated rep and 35 billion dollars.
- I’m an inflation hawk. Here’s a good explanation of why. (Also see Adam Fergusson’s superb book When Money Dies .) I have a postage stamp here on my desk from Weimar Germany with the value 50 million marks, to remind me what’s at stake. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.)
- Measuring sea level accurately (like, to millimeter accuracy) is well-nigh impossible for a whole ravening horde of reasons. The studies mentioned suggest that AGW contributes very little to sea level changes, and what contribution is real may not be determinable. (Thanks for the link go to Charlie Martin.)
- More from the sagacious McMegan: It’s almost impossible to determine how many people have gained insurance because of Obamacare. It might be 15 million people. It might be 20 million. Or 10 million. The problem, of course, is that it shot the policies out from under millions of other people (Carol and I included), who were enraged because we were promised from The Very Top that this simply would not happen. Period. End of story.
- Here’s a good, detailed explanation from Dr. Eades of the glycemic index and why it may not be as useful a measure as we’ve come to think. It’s probably a lot more useful than the BMI, which is not only worthless but damaging.
- From Esther Schindler comes word that American cheese is not as bad as you think. Then again, as with tomato soup and other things we had incessantly when I was a kid, I may have had quite enough of it, thanks.
- Whew. We’re in Phoenix, now permanently, with the Colorado house on MLS. Much remains to be done, but the immense project of getting our house emptied and ready to sell has been nailed. The Smaller But Still Significant Truck Full of Stuff has emptied itself into our living room, and we have a week or two of sorting and sifting and putting away. Overall, we’re in good shape.
- Iconic Mad Magazine cartoonist Jack Davis has died, at 91. I’ll readily admit that I used to read Mad while I was in high school, though not where my parents could see me. Humor mattered to me, as it does to this day. The only Mad artist who rivaled him in my view was Mort Drucker, who is still with us. (“I don’t believe your ears either, Mr. Spook.”)
- I’m wondering if it would be possible to write a Windows-like user shell for Windows 10 IOT, which is available for the RPi. (You would be perfectly justified, this time at least, in asking “Why would you want to do that? Answer: Because it would be a cool hack, and it would probably annoy Microsoft, which is always a plus.)
- Do you see the sunspot? I don’t see the sunspot.
- We have now gone a record 129 months without a major hurricane making landfall on the US mainland. One of my friends continues to argue that Superstorm Sandy was a major hurricane because of the damage it caused. Ok…except “major hurricane” is a technical term in climate science, with a technical definition: Class 3 or above. Sandy was Class 2 when it hit the Atlantic Coast, and not a hurricane at all when it did the most damage. We’re talking about sustained wind speed, which is the only way we have to objectively classify hurricanes and get a handle on hurricane trends over time.
- I got the impression (see above) that I was supposed to bow my head and whisper, “Hurricane Sandy was a horrible tragedy,” every time I talked about hurricane physics. Uhhhh…no. That’s like requiring me to say, “Nuclear bombs are horrible things,” every time I talk about the physics of nuclear fission. Sorry. Not gonna happen. Emotion has no place in science, except to politicize discussion and demonize dissent.
- Where do Americans smoke the most weed? No points for guessing Colorado, though central Maine has a surprising constituency. What else do you do during those interminably miserable winters? (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)
- Speaking of which, Donald Trump supports allowing states to legalize marijuana, a position neither our president nor Hillary Clinton has taken. This is truly the weirdest presidential election in my considerable lifetime.
- To be honest, I’m more interested in nootropics. Here’s a light article worth citing because it mentions a nootropic I had not heard of before: L-theanine.
- Which is best used in conjunction with the oldest and probably best nootropic of all. Drinking coffee significantly reduces the risk of suicide. Well, caffeine raises mood, therefore acting against depression, and depressed people are those mostly likely to kill themselves.
- Oh, and coffee acts against prostate cancer, too. I never drank coffee regularly until I was 33. I hope that wasn’t too late.
- We had numerous Nash Ramblers when I was a kid. The company just turned 100, even though they became AMC and got devoured by Chrysler years ago. Nash did a lot of good stuff, some of it far earlier than their competition.
- Why do I have to say this so much? Genuine virtue does not need signaling. I’ve come to the conclusion that all signaled virtue is fake. The rest of us are onto you. Just stop.
- If you’re of the increasingly rare human subspecies called “morning people,” consider watching the predawn sky for the next few weeks. Once Mercury gets a little higher above the horizon at dawn, you’ll be able to see all five naked-eye planets in a line: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter.
- Here in Arizona, I don’t even have to get up early. I’ve been spotting planets at 7 AM, when we take the dogs out. (Sleeping until 7 is sleeping in for us.) No Mercury yet, but all the others are there, and easy. And here and there I see a meteor, which is yet another advantage to the contrarian morning-person position.
- Astronomers are looking at planetary perturbations again, and doing some math suggesting that a gas giant bigger than Neptune out beyond Pluto. My question: Wouldn’t anything that big have been spotted by now? It should be possible to calculate the range of visual magnitudes for a gas giant of typical composition at various distances from the Sun. Even if it’s as faint as Pluto, the Hubble could snag it with one secondary mirror tied behind its back.
- One downside to claiming that every summer hot spell means global warming is that the public then unrolls the syllogism and comes to believe that every winter cold spell means global cooling. Climate means trends that extend cross 30-50 years. Everything else is weather.
- A new model of the Sun’s internal mechanisms suggests that solar activity may fall as much as 60% by 2030. That number is misleading for a number of technnical reasons, but if the Sun is indeed the primary driver of climate, I’m glad I’m in Phoenix–and I’m staying here this time.
- If you haven’t reviewed it lately, it’s time to go and read ESR’s very cogent description of “kafkatrapping,” which is a common logical fallacy that cooks down to, “If you’re not willing to admit that you’re guilty of <whatever>ism, that proves that you’re guilty of <whatever>ism.” I see it all the time. I and many other people in my orbit consider kafkatrappers to be utter morons. We may not say it out loud, but we do. Don’t go there.
- Newspaper subscriber numbers are in freefall. I like newspapers, and once we’re really quite sincerely residents of Arizona, we’ll likely pick up the WSJ again. In the meantime, I think I’m doing what most other people have been doing for some time: picking up news on the Web.
- The appendix could be the body’s Federal Reserve Bank for gut bacteria. I’ve often wondered if overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the explosion of obesity cases since the 1970s, by narrowing the range of beneficial microbes in the lower tract. There are solutions, and although they may seem ukky, they do seem to work.
- Watch what happens when you pour molten aluminum onto dry ice, and (a little later) liquid nitrogen.
- And even though I vividly described what happens when you drop fifty pounds of of cesium into water in Drumlin Circus, if you don’t have a thingmaker to cough up a fifty-pound ball of cesium for you, here’s what happens when you drop 25 grams of cesium into water. Do the math.
- Finally, while we’re talking exotic metals, here are some cool videos of gallium doing freaky things.
Colorado really didn’t want us to leave Colorado, and did its damndest to follow us down to Phoenix. We got underway Friday afternoon, having spent the morning tidying up the house and making sure that everything else was in order. There was a snowstorm on the forecast for Saturday, and I really wanted to get over Raton Pass before the first flakes fell, tired as we both were.
The weather was gorgeous, and we got over the pass late afternoon, stopping in Las Vegas NM for the night. My intuition was valid: We awoke Saturday morning to a glowering sky and much lower temps. So we piled the Pack into the Durango and blasted south. By Albuquerque it had started to snow. We got onto westbound I-40 with the wipers still on intermittent, and got almost to Grants before things got ugly.
And once they got ugly, they got ugly fast. We could see the cell on Weatherbug’s radar. It went from nothing to red in almost no space at all. The glowering sky became a blizzard in the space of half a mile or less. Visibility was only a few hundred feet. Predictably, there were crackpots blasting past us at 80+ MPH. I considered stopping, but the right shoulder was relatively narrow and we were a biggish target. So we slithered on, with snowflakes the size of “Have a Nice Day” stickers splatting against the windshield.
As quickly as it began, it ended. The splatting and slithering, however, were not over. We got another hundred miles or so, and crossed the state line into Arizona, before the skies opened again. This time it was sleet. The cell wasn’t as intense, but it was a great deal larger, and I white-knuckled it for over forty minutes until it faded out into rain and then mist. The universe suffers no shortage of crackpots, all of whom were determined to get to Winslow by noon or die trying. A couple of them had to be doing 90…in a sleet storm. What was truly boggling is that we only saw one car in the ditch, with no evidence that it had rolled or struck anything else.
Fifteen miles past Winslow the sun came out. By the time we got to Flagstaff it was 4 PM and the roads were dry. We spent the night at a Quality Inn that was just a notch and a half shy of false advertising. The rooms didn’t even have fire sprinklers, and the outside stairways to the second floor were falling apart and roped off with yellow “Police Line” tape.
The next morning it was sunny, and four degrees above zero, mostly par for Flagstaff in mid-December. We hung out in Flagstaff until the Sun had had some time to work on the road ice. But once we blasted south on I-17, the sky was clear and the pavement almost entirely dry. We got down the Mogollon Rim with knuckles no whiter than usual, and rolled into our new driveway at 2:30 PM.
Colorado wasn’t quite done with us. We emptied the car under cold (by Phoenix standards) but clear skies, and after an excellent meat lovers’ pizza at Humble Pie, we mostly sat around reading trashy novels and trying to make our hair lie flat again after a long day of dancing with freezing storm cells. I dipped into Monster Hunter Nemesis, trying to dope out what it is that makes Larry Correia’s adventures so damned good. In short (for this volume at least): Monsters, guns, endless action, more guns, and, well, Frankenstein as a sort of paranormal Man in Black. I powerfully recommend the Monster Hunter International series, with one caveat: Start at the beginning. There are running jokes, background character arcs, and much else that will leave you scratching your head unless you start with Book 1 and go from there.
Come Monday morning, the Arizona Sun was gone, and it was once more cold and raining. It rained off and on most of the day. This morning, it was 30 degrees with a frost on everything exposed to the sky. Like I said, Colorado didn’t want to let us go. Phoenix barely gets frosts in February, much less before winter actually begins. We didn’t mind; frost kills scorpions, and the fewer scorpions around here, the happier I’ll be. Besides, if Global Cooling ever becomes a Real Thing, I’d rather be here than Up Nawth, staring down blizzards every weekend and monitoring glaciertracker.com with a nervous eye. My hometown was once under a mile of ice, and whereas I often think it’s only what they deserve, I’d just as soon not have Robert Frost’s (!) marvelous little poem come true. (My long-term research suggests that hate trumps desire.)
We’re doing errands today, and generally vamping until tomorrow morning, when The Big Truck O’ Stuff shows up and things get aerobic again. We don’t yet have Internet at the house and are waiting for Cox Cable to dig a new trench from the node in the alley to the house. So again, what you see here has been uploaded from a coffee shop or restaurant, which we at best will visit once a day. I’ll be a little scarce until Cox builds our own personal Information Superhighway. Then again, it’s not like we won’t have enough to keep us busy between now and then, whenever “then” happens to be.
There’s much to write; in fact, not writing at length for over a month has left me very antsy. It’s almost a physical need, and right now it’s not being met.
I’ll keep you posted as best I can. In the meantime, I gotta go throw a couple of old bedsheets over my oranges, lemons, and limes. The world may be warming somewhere. It’s sure as hell not warming here.
- I posted The Cunning Blood on the Kindle Store 61 days ago, and in those two months it’s earned just a hair over $3,600. 46% of that came from KU page turns. Fellow indie authors, I think we have us a business model.
- Tom Roderick sent me a link to a very nice graphical COSMAC ELF emulator, designed to look as much like Joe Weisbecker’s unit from Popular Electronics (August, 1976) as possible. You can toggle in opcodes like we did almost forty years ago, and run them. (The Q line drives an LED.)
- In cleaning out the garage, I took a look at the motor/battery module of my robot Cosmo Klein (which I built in 1977-1978) and realized it wouldn’t take much to get it running again. The original Cosmo had two COSMAC systems and a glass-screen TV for a head (which made him very top-heavy) along with a cranky robotic arm. (Here are some photos of my COSMAC projects and Cosmo himself.) I could hide an RPi2 in that thing and you’d never find it. Funny how stuff changes in 38 years…or maybe not funny at all.
- From Astounding Stories: Spacemen beating the crap out of one another in zero-G with…yardsticks. By Edmond Hamilton. Not sure of the year, but you can download the whole thing.
- From the Weirdness-I-Just-Learned-About Department: The tontine, a financial arrangement in which a pool of people contributes equally to buy a pool of assets, and as they die, each deceased’s share is distributed to survivors. Apart from an inceptive to murder your tontine siblings, what could go wrong?
- In the fever of a house hunt, I missed this item: Amazon is going to create its own line of house brands for food. I have a peculiar curiosity about house brands, which is a sort of shadow business that doesn’t get much press. Why would an industry-leader cereal manufacturer sell its cereal in bulk to other companies to sell as competing house brands? It happens, but nobody wants to talk about it. Big store chains have house brand versions of many products, including most mainstream cereals. There’s a book in this somewhere, though I don’t intend to write it.
- If you’re not a balls-out supporter of nuclear power generation, I don’t want to hear a word out of you about global warming. We need base load, and neither Sun nor wind can provide base load. In truth, all that stands between us and a completely nuclear future is fear (i.e., political tribalism) and money. The money issue can be fixed. Alas, the gods themselves, etc.
- It’s been 119 months since a major hurricane (Class 3 or higher) has hit the American mainland. Unless Joaquin goes ashore along the east coast somewhere in the next several days (and current winds argue against that) it’ll be 120 months–ten years–come October 24. That’s an all-time record since records have been kept. Global warming causes everything else; why not better weather?
- And you wonder why I’m a global warming skeptic. Hey, fellow (potential) morlocks: I hear that our Educated Elite is delicious with melted butter.
- Americans are embracing full-fat foods, thus spitting in the face of government advice. As well they should: The War on Fat is based on fraudulent science put forth by ace scientific con-man Ancel Keys, whose only real talent was getting government to take his side. Go butter, eggs, and meat. You’ll lose weight, and feel better.
- Yes, I bring that up regularly, because I’m trying my best to ruin Keys’ reputation. His deadly advice has killed tens of millions, and is still killing them. “I’m supported by the government. I’m here to kill you.”
- Some good news: A judge kneecapped champion patent troll eDekka by invalidating its only significant patent.
- And more…for some people, least: Charlie Martin pointed me to an article from Harvard summarizing a study on the beneficial effects of coffee. Coffee appears to delay, improve, or prevent just about everything but insomnia. And what’s my main problem?
- There! A month’s worth of grouchiness in one Odd Lots! (With a few other items thrown in for spice.) I don’t do that often, but it feels good when I do.
- I’d like all-year-round DST for this simple reason: By November 1, it’s generally too dark to grill on my back deck, even as early as 5PM. And as early as we are said to eat, I don’t want to have to pull the steaks off the grill by 5.
- I’m not entirely sure what this is. It’s about Neanderthals. It’s worth reading. (Thanks to the many who sent me the link, starting with Bruce Baker.)
- The story’s a year old now, but still excellent long-form journalism: How Merck developed suvorexant, the designed-from-scratch next-gen sleeping pill approved this past August for sale starting January 1, as Belsomna.
- Solar cycles have been growing weaker since Cycle 19, which was the strongest cycle in recorded history. (As the late George Ewing used to say, you could work Madagascar on half a watt into a bent paperclip.) Here’s a nice graphic showing the marked decrease in strength from Cycle 21 through the current Cycle 24. If solar cycle strength correlates to climate (suspected but not proven) my retirement will be cold and 6 meters dead.
- There’s now a Raspberry Pi A+ board, which surprised a lot of people, including me. Eben Upton explains the product. I’m getting a B+, actually.
- Here’s a piece on the most popular pocket radio…in American prisons. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- I write a lot about AI, but I’m not entirely sure I believe in it, because we know so little about how the brain works that we can’t model it. This may be an unsolvable problem.
- From the Words-I-Had-Forgotten-Until-Somebody-Reminded-Me Department: Muggletonianism, a very peculiar Christian sect dating back to 1551, which taught (or didn’t teach–evangelism was not on their menu) that God is between five and six feet tall. They were among the English Dissenters, in there with the Grindletonians and the Diggers. If ever I were to call something Dadaist Christianity, this would be it. And I love their name. (Thanks to reminder Pete Albrecht.)
- I missed it when this item was first-run: The titanic Saturn V F-1 engine has been reverse-engineered, and it or something based on it could fly again…assuming we remember how to make it. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for the link.)
- I wouldn’t have predicted this: After being an online tech magazine for 20 years, CNET is going to launch…a print magazine. God love ’em and good luck–they’ll need it. I miss magazines, but I can’t imagine a new gadget book could get much traction today.
- It’s called the Hipster Effect: If everybody tries to look different, everybody ends up looking the same. At the heart of it is the fact that nobody wants to be the only one who doesn’t adopt a fad. (Throughout most of my life, that nobody would in fact be me.)
- Orthorexia nervosa (obsessive concern with clean or healthy diets, to the point of insanity) is about to get a formal definition, which might allow it to join the gazillion other mental health disorders in the DSM. I eat sugar now and then. I eat a lot of fat, because research tells me that humans evolved on fat. I have some fruit, and all the vegetables I can choke past my gag reflex, which, granted, isn’t a lot. More to the point, I know that this is a statistical exercise, not a holiness code, and I can thank my essential sanity for that.
- Sales of the Raspberry Pi board are closing in on four million. Wow. I’m an optimist, but I’ll confess that I wasn’t that much of an optimist!
- Some ISPs have apparently begun blocking encrypted traffic (especially VPNs) because VPNs make it difficult to throttle traffic based on what that traffic is. Basically, a user of Golden Frog’s VPN software started streaming Netflix in the clear and saw all sorts of stutter and other signs of throttling; the user then streamed Netflix through the VPN and the signs of throttling vanished.
- Internet toll roads? More evidence.
- Here’s a 3-D printed pump-gun that folds and fires paper airplanes. This should be on the cover of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog before Christmas… (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
- Stanford University reports that GMO foods appear not to bother farm animals at all; maybe we should look harder for cause and effect in humans. Conventional wisdom can be deadly.(Thanks to Jim Fuerstenberg for the link.)
- Deadly? Ancel Keys’ fraudulent science (which soon became conventional wisdom, once government got behind it) has killed many millions. Fat is good for you. Sugar is deadly. (Thanks to Tony Kyle for the link.)
- Adobe’s Digital Editions ebook reader sends your reading logs back to Adobe. As best I can figure, it’s DRM gone nuts–which is precisely what you would expect of Adobe. Don’t use Digital Editions.
- Whoops. Silly boy. Adobe isn’t the only one doing this. Once it becomes general knowledge, more and more people will pirate ebooks and sideload them, which will ultimately hurt publishers and retailers more than covert data mining will help. (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)
- Lazarus/FreePascal 1.2.6/2.6.4 has been released. The damned thing is getting good.
- The Great Lakes’ water temps are about four degrees colder than average, (and six degrees colder than this time last year) after some lakes didn’t shed the last of their ice until June. It’s going to be an interesting winter here on the weather front.
- Scott Hanselman thinks that I might as well be Thomas Watson. (Go to 1:30 on the video and watch for a bit.) Alas, not only do I not think there will never be more than five computers in the world, there are already over five computers in this room. (Thanks to Ben Oram for noticing.)
- 18 English words that should never have gone out of style. “Spermologer” doesn’t mean quite what you’d think. Nor do “pussyvan” and “wonder-wench.” Me, I’d add “cerate” to the list. Look it up. (Thanks to Dermot Dobson for the link.)
- Stonehenge may be the largest neolithic monument in its immediate area, but it is not alone: New research shows that dozens of smaller monuments exist around it and may be related to it.
- Here’s a beefy, detailed description of how the B-2 stealth bomber could have been something else entirely, if Lockheed’s Skunk Works had won the day.
- That piece led to this one, about the deep roots of the F-117 Nighthawk.
- Iceland’s Holuhraun eruption is throwing off a growing cloud of sulfur dioxide that has reached 1 ppm in eastern Iceland, and has been detected all the way across the Atlantic in Norway and Scotland. Please let this not be another Laki.
- Reports like that make me wonder if this won’t be a buttwhumping winter in the Northern Hemisphere. We had our first snow of the season yesterday, which is earlier than I’ve seen since we moved to Colorado Springs in 2003. Last winter was brutal.
- Most people outside the US do not refrigerate eggs. Here’s why. (Thanks to Tony Kyle for the link.)
- As I’ve said several times, Carol and I no longer refrigerate butter. A stick lasts us about five days (used to be a week before I started eating two eggs fried in butter every morning) and that’s nowhere near long enough for butter to go bad. Part of the reason is the salt. I find it intriguing that not one of ten or twelve sites I read about butter spoilage would quote a time limit of how long butter can sit “out” without refrigeration. This suggests that the answer is “so long that we would lose face for admitting it, so we won’t.”
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Orthorexia, an eating disorder characterized by obsession with “righteous eating;” that is, making yourself sick over whether or not you’re “eating healthy.” (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for bringing this to my attention.)
- Cell phone location data is imprecise, to put it mildly. (I’d use stronger terms if I were in a worse mood.)
- A lousy article about apples. Plus a good one.
- I may have posted links to one or more of these DRB collections before. I don’t care. You just can’t have too many pictures of screwy little tiny cars, plus a little tank and other minuscule laughable things having wheels.
- Or screws.
Carol and I just got back from a month-long driving trek to Chicago. I generally don’t talk much about my travels until I get back home, hence my silence here for the last few weeks. As usual with Tripwanders, this entry will be a sort of long-form Odd Lots, and not a coherent essay leading toward any particular point, beyond the epiphany that there are many different colors of bugsplat.
Place: The Des Moines Sheraton. Time: 5:38 AM. I awaken from my usual dream of trying to teach evil cosmic forces how to use their silverware correctly to find a xenon strobe flashing in my face, one pulse per second. WTF? The room is utterly dark. There is no fire alarm, nor any sound at all beyond that puissant pop! of the triggered strobe. I am on my back, and the damned thing is centered in my field of view. I began counting pulses while waiting for some sort of hell to break loose, or at least try to push peas onto a fork with its fingers. 26 pulses, and then darkness again.
So much for that particular Saturday night. I lay there and fumed until Carol woke about an hour later. There were in fact three strobes in the ceiling of our room, two attached to fire alarms of some sort, and one solo. The solo strobe was the one I had been staring at. I went down to the desk a little later to complain, or at least ask for an explanation. The clerk told me that the strobe I’d seen was…the doorbell. Sure enough, there was a doorbell button to one side of our door. If you’re hearing-impaired and order room service, how else would you know your dinner had arrived?
We were in a handicapped room because that was what there was, and we’d gotten the room for $88 in a hotel where most of the rooms went for $150 and up. My only hesitation in getting handicapped rooms is that some handicapped person might come to the hotel an hour later and want it. I never quite understood why they were so cheap. Now I do. As the clerk explained that they’d had a very large and rowdy wedding that night (which we’d seen as we checked in) with drunks wandering the walls until dawn, I could see some staggering fool noticing the button and pressing it. Works as designed.
Other odd things we saw in the middle of the night included little red LED smiles on the front edges of LG TVs in hotels. I never noticed them until our first night out, when I reached for the switch on the nightstand light at a Holiday Inn Express, and saw something grinning at me in the darkness. I discovered that I’m a little apprehensive about glow-in-the-dark smiles (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the psychological condition somewhere) and parked my briefcase in front of it.
Part of the challenge of summer road trips taken with dogs is that you can’t leave them in the car while you catch a meal. This means that we eat fast food a lot. This isn’t a health hazard, though Southern Style Chicken meals can get old after a few days. One lunchtime at a McDonald’s drive-through (in Nebraska, I think) I got a penny in change with two footprints punched all the way through it.
Defacing currency is a crime, which is why I always wondered if the Where’s George site would get into trouble. The same guys who protect the President are also tasked with going after penny-punchers, which says something about something, albeit nothing coherent. As it happens, coin art is legal as long as you don’t try to pass off a coin as a different coin. I was told in grade school that you can sand a penny down on the sidewalk until it would pass as a dime in a payphone, but it seemed like a lot of work to earn nine cents, when the local empty lots were lousy with returnable Coke bottles.
It didn’t take much Googling to find out that the penny had been sold as a sort of inspirational good-luck token based on the well-known Christian fable “Footprints in the Sand.” I’m going to toss it in my weird coins cup, though I do wonder where all the little copper-coated zinc footprints ended up.
One of my goals this trip was to trek out to Third Lake, Illinois, to see what (if anything) was left of the summer place our family had owned there from 1965-1991. I knew the cottage itself was gone, after a tree fell on it in the mid-1990s, and I was more interested in the neighborhood itself, which had been a constant summer haunt in my young teen years. Telescopes and dark skies, model rockets, slopping around in the slightly green lake, my first attempt at target shooting–it was formative in ways I didn’t realize for decades.
I had gotten in touch with a couple of the “kids” I used to hang out with there, and spent a little time with Rob and Tim Smyth, walking around the area while they pointed to things that used to be there. The garage Uncle Louie built in 1977 still stands, but after that it was slim pickins. The adjoining Picket Fence Farm, where we would chase Angus steers while stepping smartly around cowpies, is now a forest preserve, with grass as high as my nose. I’m guessing that launching model rockets there would now be a felony.
I did find, to my delight, that the Dog ‘N’ Suds drive-in is still there in nearby Grayslake, essentially unchanged since the 1950s. I had a coney dog and a bag full of sumptuously greasy fries, and for a moment it was 1968 all over again.
The trip, of course, was centered around the wedding of our younger nephew Matt and his high-school sweetheart Justine. They met as sophomores, which means that they have Carol and me beat by almost two years. As I would expect, the ceremony at St. Thomas church was beautiful, and the reception (at the tony Boulder Ridge Country Club) spectacular. The open bar included Chicago’s infamous Jeppson’s Malört, and whereas I toyed with the idea of trying it, I went for the pinot noir instead. After eating all that McDonald’s on the trip out, I figured my tongue had suffered enough. Besides, my camera was conked and there was no way to get a picture of my inevitable Malört face.
The weather had not been helpful. As we were milling around Carol’s sister’s house 40 minutes before the ceremony, I went outside and could see a very ugly front glowering its way toward us out of the northwest. The WGN radar on my phone painted it in red and (worse) dark red. I suggested to Carol that we needed to leave right damned now, and although we did, it wasn’t quite soon enough. Just after we pulled into the church parking lot, a thunderstorm the likes of which we rarely see opened on our heads. I took Carol as close to the building as I could, and then tried to wait out the sheeting downpour in the parking lot. As the minutes ticked past, the storm abated only slowly. Finally, just a few minutes before the ceremony was slated to begin, I opened an umbrella and ran for it. It crossed my mind that I was dashing through puddles under a lively thunderstorm carrying a metal spike in one hand. I like ground rods, and have used many in my time, but never felt any desire at all to be one.
Things began a little late but turned out well, with the storm rising and falling and rattling against the skylights in the church ceiling. During the exchange of vows, a second front rolled through, with deafending thunder while Matt declared his love for his bride. People laughed, but I had been through something very like this before, and knew the truth: It was God’s applause, for two young people who had made us all very proud, and would almost certainly continue to do so.
Of course, we both got colds toward the end of our stay, which has happened before, and we made the long trip back amidst coughs and sniffles. The dogs were peevish and unruly; Dash has taken up howling whenever Carol isn’t in his immediate vicinity. So when we rolled back into town on Monday night, both of us were abundantly glad that the trip, as good as it had been, was over.
Much to do here, but I’ll try to post a little more often than in the immediate past.
- A guy is working on 3D printing with molten steel, via TIG welding.
- I’m really good with words. Maybe that’s why a college friend said 40-odd years ago: “The trouble with you, Jeff, is that you’re too damned happy!” Everything is connected, I guess, and now there’s science indicating that human language is biased toward happiness.
- More research on ice ages: They may be made possible by the isolation of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by the Ithsmus of Panama. (Full paper here.) I’ve heard this before, but there’s more data behind it now.
- Some recently discovered fossilized poop in Spain suggests that I’m not really a Neanderthal after all. Bummer.
- I’ve always been of two minds about Mensa, for reasons I really can’t talk about here. Now there’s a Mensa dating site. I think I’m of three minds about that. Maybe five.
- There’s an exploitable software flaw in the Curiosity rover, stemming from arcane math in the Lempel-Ziv-Oberhumer compression algorithm. I hope the rover isn’t running XP, or (judging by the hype) it would have been totally pnwed since April 10. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- This guy says he could tornado-proof the Midwest with a couple of 1,000-foot-high walls. Me, I say, implement STORMY. Then stand back.
- Meditation may not always be the unalloyed good that its proponents insist it is. I’m researching this further and will do a full entry on it at some point, as it’s a matter of serious interest to me. I have a theory that meditation is only one half of a single effective psychiatric process, and without its other half it can aggravate psychosis and even cause a drift toward schizophrenia.
- Here’s a terrific collection of photos of steampunk gear from Dark Roasted Blend. Follow the links to the mechanical calculators page if you haven’t seen it before. (It’s old, and I linked it from here some years back.)
- DRB publishes periodic “feel good” collections of visual odd lots that are mostly 50s and 60s nostalgia. Here’s the latest. Too many actresses, not enough classic cars. But if you like classic actresses, well, wow.