atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#1798: A new indian summer tradition

Sit on the front porch in the sun and listen to the ladybugs smack into the vinyl siding.

Every year, when we have some warm autumn weather, the ladybugs come out. By the dozen. I'm not kidding; this past week I've seen more ladybugs than I saw in the first 30 years of my life combined. These are the "asian" variety, the muddy brown kind.

It used to be that ladybugs were red. I guess this variety out-competed the red ones, because I haven't seen a red ladybug for years. And I haven't seen one in summer for a similar period of time. But man, we've got tons of the brown ones....

They land on me a lot; and the ones which don't land on me go buzzing off in some random direction, and every so often, thwack! one runs into the house.

What the hell: at least they're not box elder bugs. In Iowa around this time of year there were always plagues of the damned things, and they're not nice bugs like ladybugs. A ladybug isn't very squishy and it's kind of cute, but a box elder bug looks disgusting, and they're very smeary if you squish them. And where one or two ladybugs will get into your house, a dozen box elder bugs will.

* * *

Wednesday was eaten by locusts. I slept; I got up; I went for food and automotive fluids; I went back to bed.

I slept from around 2-ish until maybe 8 PM? And after getting up and having a couple tacos, I went back to bed and slept until 2 AM.

At least I have an excuse to be this tired: I worked my ass off for five hours straight on Tuesday, trying to get that engine into that car. I took a minute here, a couple of minutes there, to catch my breath and guzzle some lemonade; but otherwise I worked steadily the entire time. My arms are still tired.

It's interesting to me how quickly I get hungry when I'm working like that; not just while the work is taking place but afterwards, when my body enters "repair" mode. Even a meal like a Big Mac and fries is only good for a 2-3 hours' respite from hunger.

Tuesday, after finishing up, I had a salad and tortellini for dinner; and about two hours later I needed to eat again. Two hours.

Anyway the weather is supposed to be nice and warm again this weekend--upper 60s warm--and I may just wait another day before resuming work.

Then again, I may not: on the way home from the parts store Wednesday I was thinking about going back to work on the car. I did decide against it, but I really do want to get this finished; I'm in the home stretch, now.

Fluids cost $53. I bought:

4 quarts of Mercon V transmission fluid
5 quarts 5w30 engine oil
1 gallon antifreeze (pure; need a gallon of water)
1 oil filter
1 pkg suspension joint grease boots

The latter is for the ball joint grease boot I had to rape in order to get the right side steering knuckle off the car. (If I ever EVER replace the engine in an Escort again, I'll pull both axles out, entirely.) I needed to use a pickle fork on the knuckle to free it from the ball joint, and that is never kind to the grease boot.

The transmission fluid is for the gearbox and power steering; Ford specifies auto trans fluid for both. I got five quarts of motor oil because I have no idea how much oil will "disappear" into various passages and pockets inside the engine; right now it's totally dry inside except for the thin coating of oil I left to prevent rust, and of course the assembly lube I used during assembly.

I had intended to buy the premixed antifreeze, but WTF: buying enough of the premixed kind would have cost me about 3x what the single gallon of unmixed did; add water and I've got the same amount of dilute coolant for 1/3 the price of the premixed. (Premixed: $11 per gallon. Undiluted: $8 per gallon.) The Escort needs more than one gallon of coolant, and for $15 I can mix it my own damn self.

* * *

Stores are doing better! I knew we'd be hearing this stuff this year. There is, after all, a Democrat in the White House.

In the very last paragraph: "...sales remain at 'depressed levels....'" The article says sales have increased one percent on the year, after declining 4.2% in the prior year. we're 3.2% below where we were in October of 2007? Do I understand that correctly?

I'm going to be keeping an eye on the reporting of holiday sales. We'll see how things go: this may be a real improvement, or it may just be due to early discounts.

But count on this: if it was McCain in the White House, the tone of the article would have been entirely different. "Though sales in October rose by a scant 1%, sales are still much lower than in previous years, and retailers are worried...." instead of "Retail sales are going up again! It's a sign the economy is improving! It means factories will start producing more goods!"

* * *

Now, this is interesting.

Casseopeia A is 11,000 light years away. It's a supernova remnant, and at the center of it is a neutron star. But it's tiny--about 400m in diameter--and that's too small (it was thought) for a neutron star.

Apparently the thing has a carbon atmosphere: it's been fusing hydrogen from the supernova remnant all the way to carbon--and the degenerate matter atmosphere makes the thing 12km across.

400 meters across--it's a bit bigger across as an aircraft carrier is long. Of course, that 400 meter ball of neutrons contains most of the mass of a stellar core: get too close to it and you'll end up an atom-thin smear on its surface in very short order, even if you do manage to somehow protect yourself from all the radiation a superhot ball of neutrons gives off.

* * *

Solar minimum:

The number of days the sun has not had any sunspots this year is 237. The typical solar minimum is about 485 days long. That means that 2009 has--so far--had 49% of the spotless days of all the spotless days of a typical solar minimum.

And this solar minimum has had about 1.54 times as many spotless days as a typical minimum.

An interesting point: the solar wind blows Mercury's atmosphere away. I gather that it's mostly sodium ions, and the "tail" formed by Mercury's atmosphere is less extensive now than usual, because the solar wind is at the lowest levels we've ever measured.

I wonder if I'll need my parka this winter.

* * *

Anyway, I'm going back to bed. It's only 5:30 AM.

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