February 15th, 2020

#7027: Uh...maybe not.

So, had a bit of downtime today and had a gander at the web site for the place that has that Jeep Wrangler that caught my eye.

Asking price: $24,000.

...eep...

2016 Wrangler Sport, 32k miles, V6, 4WD, etc. NADA says $22k is about the right price for the thing. I did the math and concluded that as long as I got a reasonable deal, and the interest rate wasn't too usurious, I'd pay about $375 a month for it. That's paying $22k for the thing, putting down $1k and getting $1k for the Cherokee as a trade-in.

Probably a bit optimistic on one or two fronts. Pessimistic assumptions, $400 a month.

Doable--I can afford it--but do I want to?

The real problem here is that the Wrangler is Jeep's signature vehicle. It's got serious off-road chops and isn't a grocery-getter SUV. And they're priced accordingly; you can pay $60,000 for a brand-new Jeep Wrangler variant if you really want to. And that's probably not even the upper limit.

The thing is, I don't want to take out that big of a loan, especially not for a used car. Let's face it: a brand-new Renegade runs, list price, about $30k, as do several other SUVs out there on the market. FFS I bet I could get a 2020 Cherokee for $27k or so, with some shrewd bargaining and a bit of luck. I priced them not long ago; that was with a 6-cylinder engine and 4WD. (I just now priced one: MSRP is under $28,000. So maybe $26k.)

Anyway, that price took the wind out of that particular set of sails. If I end up replacing the Cherokee, I want to get something that's as capable, but I'm not going to be foolish about it.

But now I know why that Wrangler, pretty as it is, has sat there as long as it has: why spend $24k on a used truck when you can buy a new one for a few thousand more?

My parents paid $20k for the house I live in, FFS.

* * *

Lately I've been amusing myself with little cartoons featuring Gilgo Gaggins, who is a weird-looking guy with an oblong head and a tiny body. First thing I drew was him saying, "I haz to go on adventure!" and I was hooked. I started drawing highlights from The Hobbit, like him standing on a floating barrel saying, "Dorfs in barrlz!" and a moan ("oooooog") coming from the barrel itself. Other scenes, which ought to be obvious to those who've seen the Rankin-Bass cartoon version:

"I Gandold, wiz!
"So what go away."

"Well, you thief! Go down and rob stuff!"
"okay"

Elrind: "Stand by rock / when bird knock / then the sun / shine on lock."
Dorfs: ooo ooo
Gilgo: ooo

"die super-spids!"
"run away we are no match for Stong"

"o no Thorne's ded"

"neato the ding makes me unseen"

...and I find it all so compelling I can't stop trying to think of more and more scenes. Today I drew Krodo Gaggins (Frodo) standing by some doors with Bormor.

"They haz cave trol"
"o no"

Meanwhile Gandold is yelling, "Fool of a Take!" And Popin is looking downcast and saying, "i bad"

*sigh*

This is the kind of thing that only I find amusing, I know, because I'm weird and stupid.

Just livin' the dream, here.

#7028: Well, let's get this out of the way right now.

We here at the Fungus wish to extend our condolences to the family of Mike Bloomberg should he win the election and become President. "Short Stuff" Bloomberg will have had, if elected, one of the shortest tenures as President of the United States in history, but his vice President, Hillary Clinton, will honor his memory by taking over as swiftly as possible once what's-his-name's funeral is over and the body is buried so no one can ever contest the official narrative that so-and-so died after he stumbled in his new elevator shoes and tragically struck his head five times on the corner of the Resolute desk.

I think Bloomberg expects that his security is better than the Clintons' hit men. Gambling with his life, isn't he?

* * *

I take exception to this, of course.
As a biologist I find this whole argument of more than two genders to be patently absurd. You are a man or a woman period. If you're a male and want to identify as a woman then your gender is female and visa versa.
No it isn't.

If you're a "biologist" and you think that "identify as a woman" makes a man into a woman, you certainly don't understand your science very well.

* * *

Dust cloud? Sunspot? Something else? Betelgeuse just keeps getting weirder. Turns out the record low luminosity is due to an asymmetrical darkening of the star.

This image is years old, and it's an artist's impression rather than a photograph, but it gives a sense of what we're looking at:



Betelgeuse is big. If placed at the center of the solar system, its photosphere would extend almost to Jupiter's orbit. That image shows a gas and dust plume the star emitted some years ago and shows how big it is, with our solar system shown for scale.

It's also lumpy. It's not a serene sphere like the Sun; it's fulminating and churning and turbulent. And because it's in the end stage of its life, occasionally it ejects huge plumes and clouds of dust and gas.

The recent images of Betelgeuse show that half the star's disk has turned dark, but we don't know exactly what that means. It's a dust cloud, it's a sunspot, it's something we don't understand--smart money is on "dust cloud", but we've never had this good of a look at an end-stage red supergiant, and for all we know this could be the last thing it does before it goes supernova.

Let's face it: the thing is ten astronomical units in diameter, close to a billion miles across; why would it dim all over if the dimming was due to the beginning of iron fusion?

Well--we won't know the thing is blowing up until it blows up, because this is the first supernova that we've had a front row seat for since we invented telescopes. I guess we'll just have to see how it goes.

* * *

Favorite satellite TV memory: after TNT's set of car shows had ended (long before it was "Powerblock") a fishing show came on, and after the opening theme with montage, the host introduced himself and said "Today, we're gonna show you how to unhook a fish!"

I can't stand fishing shows. I don't like "catch and release" because that's just tormenting animals for fun. If you don't intend to eat the fish, don't catch them. Leave them alone.

* * *

Our Valentine's day celebration included taking my wife to urgent care to get her hip looked at. It was bad enough that she had trouble walking. We got home from there between 11:30 and midnight.

After I put her to bed I was sitting in my rocking chair in the dark listening to music, and gradually I came to realize, Damn, it's cold in here. About 2:30 AM, heading for bed, I had a look at the thermostat: 66°.

*sigh*

Went downstairs, pulled the ignition propagation sensor out of the furnace, cleaned it, put it back in. Got to bed at 3 AM. Was up at 9 to go get pills for my wife's hip, waited 90 minutes for union shop Jewel Osco to fill three prescriptions.

"The British-Leyland Concerto in four parts," Basil Fawlty said, "all of them slow, with a half-hour tea break in between." Never have I heard a better encapsulation of what unions do for productivity.

Current temp: 70°.

#7029: Okay, that does it

The bloody thing can reinfect you after you survive the first bout. Novel coronavirus 2019, now dubbed COVID-19, can reinfect people who've survived it once, and then can kill them pretty much immediately.

"For some unknown reason, however, China still refuses to grant US scientists access to ground zero." Maybe because the bloody thing is an engineered bioweapon, and we'll all find that out just as soon as anyone from a quasi-free country has real access to the hot zone.

Okay, an agent that has properties like HIV; which can both reinfect someone who's previously had it and can kill upon reinfection; which has an incubation period of up to twenty four days where the patient will be asymptomatic but fully capable of spreading it; and the antibody in previously infected patients makes the second infection worse rather than alleviating it.

Bioweapon. Definitely. Accidentally released during development; the Chinese had been trying to make it less effective against asians rather than more.

* * *

Philippines ejecting American military and I've got a fiver that says it's because the Chinese offered Philippine president Duterte a better deal.

Whether or not you are intimidated by my strange talking money, those tea leaves are not all that difficult to read. And if China is providing defense for the Philippines, it solves a big problem for the Chinese.

The fact that the Philippines eventually end up being a Chinese possession has not occurred to Duterte, I think. "I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further."

* * *

"I wish we could choose our baby fathers" complained the woman who apparently doesn't understand how basic biology works.

* * *

My wife is watching an ep of Saturday Night Live from 1980, and as it turns out, it's the ep where Al Franken's existence first entered my consciousness. He appeared in the news segment, and spent about a minute or so talking about (I think) Selective Service and the "Al Franken Decade" and the humor was supposed to come from the way he said his own name over and over and over again, and every time he said it, it appeared at the bottom of the screen.

In 1980, it wasn't even remotely funny. I remember watching this and wondering, Who the hell is this moron? (And of course the following thought: Well--Al Franken, obviously. But who the hell is Al Franken?) Today, it's still not even remotely funny.

That sketch is why I refer to him as failed comedian Al Franken.

Anyway, it's nice that I was able to put a year to the thing. 1980, because they made fun of the Republican primary, and had a Reagan campaign ad for the New Hampshire primary which consisted of Reagan making racist jokes. (Did Reagan make a racist joke? Or is this typical leftist straw man horseshit? I'm betting the latter.)

It's the ep with Kirk Douglas. A fiver (more of that weird talking money!) says it's in the wake of the release of Final Countdown.

* * *

So, just took a banana cake out of the oven. First time baking an actual cake from scratch. I've baked other things like banana-walnut bread from scratch, and of course cookies and such--never a cake.

Stand mixer made it amazingly simple, of course. Put butter and sugar in a bowl, then turned it on, and just added ingredients until it was ready to pour in the pans.

Once it's cool I turn them out of the pans and frost with cream cheese frosting. Then serve a slice to my wife, for whom I baked this as a (now belated) Valentine's Day treat.

I was going to make oatmeal cookies, too, but the recipe I have starts with two and a half sticks of butter and I just didn't feel like making five dozen cookies. Oh well.

* * *

Didn't sleep well last night, so I ended up napping this evening. Went to bed at 3, got up at 6 for bathroom, then again at 9 to go get wife's pills; came home, wrote post, went to bed for a while--then up again, then back to bed again. *sigh*

* * *

For Valentine's Day, my wife bought me a book, Recursion by Blake Crouch. Story is driven by people having "False Memory Syndrome" (FMS). The main character is introduced to us in the middle of trying to keep a woman who has it from committing suicide.

The idea is that people suddenly find themselves remembering things which didn't actually happen to them. Meanwhile, there's a scientist who is working on memory reading and writing technology.

By the end of the first third of the book, I know what is happening with these cases of FMS. I can't really explain it without giving away a major plot point, but it's all set up rather well, I think, and the story certainly is suspenseful enough.

My biggest problem with it thus far is that it was written in present tense, which I absolutely cannot stand. It's why I won't read Stephenson's Snow Crash. (Wait--or was it Cryptonomincon?) Anyway, can't stand present tense, even when it's an author I like, and I never heard of this guy until I unwrapped the book. I know why authors pick it--and considering the story this book is telling, it makes sense to use it here--I just don't like it. Personal taste, is all.

Still, if you don't have that prejudice, as of 33% read I can recommend this as a good read.