May 6th, 2008

#1046: The sunspot is fading out.

Just like the last two did, sunspot #993 is fading away as it crosses the sun's face. It was never any great shakes as a sunspot to begin with.

I wonder if this means that cycle #24 has, after all, not started yet? I wonder how they figure these things.

* * *

Monday, after getting back from the vitamin store, I actually got something done in the driveway!

I got the van put back together. Using the bench vise and the clamp for one of my two flaring tools, I carefully opened up the curve in the hard line that screwed into the back of the power steering pump. Having done that, I was then able to get the thing put back together and tightened down securely.

Filled it with fluid, took it for a 20+ mile drive, no problems, no leaks. Awesome. Now to clean it out, and get it to a Ford dealership for the recall....

Having gotten the van fixed, I was able to put the Escort behind it again, so now I can park the Jeep at the top of the driveway again, which means I can jack it up and try to figure out which u-joint is making the noise. I'm pretty sure it's the front outboard one, but I won't know until I check.

People with flat driveways don't know how good they have it. to get insurance on the Escort and start driving it while gas is over $3.60 per gallon....

Monday makes two days in a row I actually managed to accomplish tasks at home. It's incredible.

Sunday I actually got the grass mowed, for the first time this year. It wasn't even all that difficult--just a matter of having the right weather when I had a day off, really, and not feeling as if I'd been beaten with a shot-filled hose for six hours the night before. So I'm going to shoot for mowing grass on Sundays from now on.

It just doesn't seem to take as long to mow the grass as it did when I was 17. The plot isn't any smaller and the lawn mower isn't any bigger, though I will admit that the mower engine is probably a bit more powerful. (No idea, really. We never had anything stronger than 3.5 horsepower when I was mowing the grass as a teenager, but these days the engines are given "torque ratings". WTF does that mean? "Torque rating: 6.5." Okay, 6.5 WHAT? Foot-pounds? Newton-meters? Angstrom-AMU's? Furlong-tons? What?) (AMU=atomic mass unit)

Anyway, The Awesome was up to the task, though the grass on the "East 40" was thick enough that I had to take it easy in spots. Nonetheless I got it done in about 1.5 hours, give or take 15 minutes.

* * *

And that reminds me: while test-driving the van today I saw a sign advertising a plot of land for sale: "+/- 138 acres", it said.

Wait--you mean you'll buy 138 acres from someone if they're willing to sell? I think someone doesn't quite understand how to use the "+/-" symbol.

If you are willing to sell about 138 acres you should say "138 +/-". Saying "+/- X" means a quantity plus or minus X; "For sale, +/- 138 acres" means you are willing to sell negative 138 acres, which indicates that you're willing to buy land.

Or, heck, maybe it means they're willing to pay someone to take the land off their hands? I just don't know.

* * *

I have been seeing various cranes and herons around the area, which is pretty cool--seeing one of these birds used to be a serious rarity.

Also, the flying yellow pigs are back with a vengeance: there were seven of them going after the sunflower seeds on the patio.

I discovered that you don't want to put a "finch mix" in the feeder sock, particularly if that mix contains things like sunflower seeds, because then the squirrels go after it. I'm guessing squirrels don't like thistle seed, but I know they love sunflower seeds. Now we need a new finch sock.

Humorous note: the grass under the finch sock grew much higher--like eight inches higher--than the surrounding grass did. Apparently finch poop is good for grass.

* * *

And finally, Awesome. Guantanimo Bay has a resort.

What I really like about this article is the pants-wetting moron (PWM) who's protesting the whole thing:
"The tortures that the Americans use are wide-ranging and inhuman. One is to blast the cell with freezing cold air. Another is to pretend to take the prisoners to a country like Egypt where prisoners are tortured, even to the extent of taking them on a mock flight, so they can be treated in a barbaric fashion."

Katznelson continued: "Inmates are offered three meals a day, but there are eight prisoners who have been on hunger strike for over a year asking either for a trial or to be set free.

"These men are force-fed twice a day...."
Say it's not so! These poor prisoners are being tortured by having the air conditioning turned up! They're being subjected to imaginary trips!"

If I may ask, how is it America's fault that these idiots are trying to starve themselves? These are enemy combatants and they're not entitled to trials--they were captured in a war zone during a war action--and they're not even subject to the Geneva Convention. Technically speaking we could do whatever the fuck we wanted with these douchebags and it would be perfectly legal--and that includes actual torture, not the interrogation methods the PWMs are having hysterics about.

Anyway, this gutless wonder would be just as mad if we weren't force-feeding the douchebags: "Those cruel Americans killed those men!" they would scream.

"There are currently 280 prisoners sweltering in cages in temperatures of up to 100F." These are people from the middle east and I would bet many of them rarely encountered air conditioning when they were in their homelands. In any event, a hundred degrees is not a problem for a person if he can drink plenty of water and doesn't have to do much.

These are terrorists, people who would kill Americans given the chance--and would have long before their capture--and I'm supposed to feel sorry for them?

Big surprise, the PWM in question here represents 28 of the detainees prisoners of war.

The most depressing thing about this article is that the resort portion of Guantanimo Bay is only open to service personnel. I'd go next winter if I could! I mean, where else can you pay $42 per night to stay in a Caribbean resort?

#1047: Nothing today.

Just nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing I want to comment on. Nothing in the blogroll, nothing in the news, nothing about anime, manga, cars, weather, cats, food, science fiction, or whatever the hell else I usually blather about.

How pathetic.

* * *

"How pathetic" is funny because I used to watch World's Wildest Police Videos, when it was still generating new episodes, religiously. It was my one "dumbass TV" indulgence, and the thing that kept me coming back was the sarcastic comments made by retired sheriff John Bunnell.

When I bought a used PSOne in 2005, and visited GameStop for a new game or two, I bought a used copy of the video game because it had him on the cover.

That show--and the game it spawned--could not have been what it was without John Bunnell doing the narration. He delivered excessively cheesy lines in this disdainful voice without a shred of irony. "Years of delivering pizzas have taught him to drive this way." "Going from zero to felon in six seconds." Etc.

But my all-time favorite line came from a short montage segment of people doing the "smash-and-grab", where they'd break a window, grab whatever they could, and then flee. In one cut--video from a security camera--two women busted in the glass door of a liquor store, ran in, grabbed a few bottles each, and ran out again.

John Bunnell: "Risking a charge of breaking and entering for a few bottles of cheap booze." Pause. "How pathetic can you get?"

I missed what happened next; I was too busy laughing. From that point on, I began watching for places to say, "how pathetic" in everyday communication. And I still do.


* * *

But WWPV ended up generating another laugh for me. At the time, my friends and I were playing an Alternity campaign, and one session involved a chase scene in space. Starting from there I wrote a page of script for World's Wildest Alternity Adventures in which John Bunnell narrated an "in-cockpit video" of the player characters being chased by whoever it was in the game who was chasing them (it was ten years ago. Sorry). The GM said it was really entertaining.

In the script, I specifically mentioned that "Retired Sheriff John Bunnell" was wearing a gold spacesuit. This was an homage to--! Ha ha! I won't tell you! Either you're a big SF fan like me, in which case you know what it's a reference to, or else you won't think it's funny anyway. So F it.

* * *

The DVD recorder that I was so proud of repairing a few months back has died again. Same issue: "invalid disk", and I haven't bothered to check if it works with CD-Rs. I've pretty much decided that I'm going to buy a new DVD recorder. There's a nice Panasonic at work for $180 which ought to fill the bill. It doesn't have a tuner in it, but I have never used this unit's internal tuner anyway.

The Panasonic also has SD FLASH and USB ports on the front, ostensibly for playing MP3s and showing JPGs.

I would love to have a DVD player which can play video files. Problem is, of course, there are so many damn codecs out there that there's no percentage in it: a player would only be able to play a limited selection of videos, depending on how they were encoded, and the average consumer would be frustrated when A.AVI would play, but not B.AVI, C.AVI, or D.AVI--and he would blame the manufacturer.

This isn't an issue with Quicktime, of course, but Quicktime has its own irritations--and I have never downloaded any anime in .MOV format anyway. And, let's face it, downloaded anime is the entire reason I would like this feature. I would have to re-encode it into QT from whatever format, and if I'm doing that, I might as well just author a DVD on the computer.

* * *

Wow. That's a whole lotta nothing going on.

#1048: A new addition to the blogroll.

The Anchoress.

Highly religious--Catholic--such that an avowed Christian like me won't have any problems reading it even though I'm a Protestant. Those of you who are less enthusiastic about the entire concept of Creator etc may wish to skip it.

Still, this post on modern mating practices echoes a lot of my own opinions on just how badly the "Sexual Revolution" and the 1960's counterculture screwed up our society.

She also makes some excellent spiritual points here and there and everywhere, honestly thought-provoking stuff.


* * *

Besides which, I finally got a freaking clue.

I have been trying to remember to subscribe to Knights of the Dinner Table for I can't even recall how long--more than 18 months, certainly--and only today did it hit me.

Brian Dunbar has periodically prompted me to go look at Heavy Ink for manga needs (usually when I am complaining about something that's not out yet).

I got to wondering about going to Kenzer's web site and subscribing on-line, and then somehow a couple of neurons shorted together: "Wait, what about that one web site?"

The result. all I have to do now is figure out how I want to handle this--do I want to buy a bunch of individual issues and subscribe, or just subscribe?

Either way I have to wait until after next payday, because I dropped over $600 on bills yesterday and my checking account is gasping for mercy. *sigh* Still: CTRL-D.