Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bubble wrap as decor?

Miss D. and I bought and used an outsize roll of bubble wrap to protect our more sensitive belongings during our move to Texas last month.  While unwrapping them, I found out something about bubble wrap that I didn't know before.

Bubble wrap is so much more than a protective cushion in packing boxes. The irresistible popping plastic has inspired questionable fashion choices, spawned numerous fan pages and even has its own day of appreciation (every last Monday of January).

But bubble wrap’s original purpose was far different from what it’s used for today.

Engineers Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes stumbled upon the product in 1957 when trying to create a textured wallpaper. The duo initially sealed two shower curtains together in a way where air bubbles were trapped in between, giving the material a textured appearance.

Their home decor innovation never did catch on. Perhaps, fortunately so or we would never be able to leave our houses until we’ve popped every bubble on the wall.

There's more at the link.

The thought of popping the wallpaper is amusing, to say the least!  There's also the two-wheeled version, courtesy of comedian Eric Buss.

And then there's Mythbusters' take on the product.

Dare I say, "Finger-poppin' good!"?


Still rockin'!

I've enjoyed the music of the Moody Blues since my youth, and recently came across this live version of their 1971 hit 'The Story In Your Eyes'.  It was recorded during a 2010 live performance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, complete with orchestral backing.

They're still rockin' after all these years . . .


Ereptile dysfunction?

I'm left dumbfounded by this report.

Gator wasn’t on the menu but one did make an appearance inside a Wendy’s just east of Loxahatchee in Royal Palm Beach. And it wasn’t by choice.

. . .

FWC officials say 23-year-old Joshua James pulled up for his order and after a server handed over a drink and turned around James reached into the back of his truck and tossed the 3-and-a-half foot gator through the drive-thru window.

The incident report showed a picture of the gator inside the restaurant.

There's more at the link.

Why?  Why would anyone toss an alligator - even a small one - into a fast food restaurant?

  • Because he wanted a gator burger?
  • To speed up the service?
  • Because the gator was hungry?
  • Because there were too many customers and the servers were swamped?

Your suggestions are welcome in Comments.


Doofus Of The Day #880

The Telegraph reports:

While driving through Drumquin, Northern Ireland, this man pulled over after seeing two men attempt to roll a large, orange sofa down a street using a narrow dolly.

Both appear to have had one too many, and their teamwork soon disintegrates into an uncensored parody of ChuckleVision.

What ensues is a drunken struggle of epic proportions that results in a ridiculous amount of swearing.

No kidding!  Language alert for the more sensitive among us.

Perhaps I should establish a special "Drunken Doofus Award" category . . .


Monday, February 8, 2016

Boys and their highly explosive toys

This is what happens when a 1998 Nissan Maxima is loaded with 49 pounds of Tannerite and detonated with a bullet.

Not much left of it, was there?


What a great idea!

I'd never heard of this method of tunnel construction.  Odysseus, who first posted it at his blog By Other Means, called it 'Grown Up Lego'.  That's not a bad description.

I wonder if the truck has to be left in that configuration permanently, or whether they can dismount or uncouple the tunnel-shaped thingamajig to use the truck for normal work, then reattach it when it's needed once more?  Also, can the same technique be used for larger or smaller tunnels, or is it basically limited to what can be fitted to the truck?  If anyone knows the answers, please tell us in Comments.


I feel older and angrier just reading this

According to MarketWatch:

Americans will likely waste more than 900 million hours waiting on hold this year, according to an analysis of more than four million phone calls from consumers to businesses released this week by mobile advertising analytics firm Marchex. And a survey by text-message service TalkTo found that more than half of Americans say they spend 10 to 20 minutes every week — or 43 days of their life — on hold.

To consumers, this is incredibly irritating: One survey found that being put on hold was one of consumers’ top three phone pet peeves (the other two were automated attendants and the person on the other line having bad manners, or having a bad attitude).

There's more at the link.

What's even worse is to speak to a 'customer service representative' whose English is sub-standard, whose accent is incomprehensible, and who appears to be incapable of understanding or doing anything other than what's in the script in front of him or her.

"Sir, you need to reboot your router and see whether the signal returns."

"I've already done that three times, and my computer as well."

"Please do it again, Sir."

"You don't understand.  I used to be a computer systems engineer.  I know what I'm talking about.  The router isn't the problem."

"Yes, Sir, but you need to reboot your router before we can continue to the next step."



'Warp Resonance' - another great read for SF/F fans

My friend Cedar Sanderson is a pretty amazing person, IMHO.  She's come out of a very dark situation, hauling herself up by her bootstraps, so to speak, and is rebuilding her life, studying for a degree, and raising her kids as best she can.  I had the privilege of assisting with her wedding at Libertycon last year.

Cedar is also a writer with her own particular perspective on fantasy, place and perspective.  I was privileged to write the Foreword for her latest collection of stories, and said in it:

There is occasionally – all too rarely – a moment that comes when reading something new, a sort of mental frisson, when one realizes that one’s reading something special. This isn’t just another run-of-the-mill book or story, but something that is reaching out of the page and grabbing one by the throat and dragging one into its world and storyline, absorbing, entertaining, sometimes even enthralling. That’s what happened to me the first time I read Cedar Sanderson’s work. It was her novel, “Vulcan’s Kittens”, and I’ve never looked back from there. She’s one of the few authors whose work I’ll buy sight unseen, knowing that it’ll intrigue and challenge me and make me think.

Cedar's latest book, 'Warp Resonance' has just come out.

I highly recommend it to those who like to be challenged by space opera.  Cedar has woven some of the darker experiences of life into a science fiction universe which focuses on character rather than technology.  The technology is there, all right, but human beings have been pretty much the same for generations, centuries, even millennia;  and I'm willing to bet they'll be much the same in space, a few centuries and millennia from now. Civilization and political correctness are only skin deep.

Cedar puts the dilemmas of life, its moral and ethical complications, into very readable form.  'Warp Resonance' is free to members of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited subscription lending service, and only $2.99 if you want to buy the e-book.  Highly recommended.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Doofus Of The Day #879

Courtesy of Australian reader and frequent contributor Snoggeramus, today's award goes to a demented lawnmower driver in that country.

A MAN who attempted to cut some laps of Australia’s fastest racetrack — Mount Panorama, Bathurst — on a ride-on lawnmower has been hospitalised after crashing into a fence and being flung over the concrete wall.

. . .

“Ride-on mowers don’t have brakes, so he was just on the horn and trying to get people out of the way,” said one witness, who wished to remain anonymous.

Other witnesses said the out of control ride-on nearly mowed down race drivers and other people who were walking around the circuit to inspect conditions before the cars hit the track on Friday.

The crash occurred at the notorious Forrest’s Elbow, a steep and sharp curve that leads onto the fastest and longest straight in Australian motorsport.

There's more at the link.

Lawnmower racing is an established sport . . . but those vehicles have upgraded suspension, engines and other bits and pieces to allow them to cope at the higher speeds involved.  To take a conventional, unmodified ride-on mower around a race track at high speed is asking for trouble.  Guess he found it!


Better not do business with the State of Illinois . . .

. . . not if you want to get paid, that is.

Illinois has not had a budget for 8 months and counting.

Unpaid bills pile up having now reached a record $10 billion to $12 billion according to state comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger.

Vendors are furious. One vendor has lost 40% of staff that once numbered 1,000 because it has not made its payroll for 14 weeks.

. . .

  • Unpaid: $2 million to Ashley’s Quality Care.
  • Refused: A Department of Human Services rehabilitation counselor in Downers Grove sought a taxi for a client and received an email that “all service is on hold due to non-payment.”
  • Paid: A New Jersey landlord threatened to evict Illinois Revenue Department tax auditors from their rented home in that state unless he received five months’ rent totaling $37,936.20. The bill was paid, I suspect illegally without a budget.
  • Unpaid: Water and sewer bill at the 1848 Mt. Pulaski Courthouse.
  • Refused & Unpaid: An Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission arbitrator’s personalized date-stamp broke, but it wasn’t replaced because the supplier was awaiting $511.06 that was past due.
  • Refused: Springfield store refuses to sell all-purpose Fabuloso Cleaner for the Secretary of State’s office.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s $10 billion to $12 billion in unpaid bills.

There's more at the link.

The problem is the dispute between the Governor and the legislature over how to fund state expenditure.  We noted in August last year that lottery winners were no longer being paid automatically, due to the same problem.  As I pointed out at the time:

The budget impasse in Illinois is because the Democratic Party-controlled legislature wants to continue to borrow billions upon billions of dollars to fund entitlement and social spending, while the Governor wants to curtail borrowing and live within the state's means.

As far as I'm concerned, the Governor is doing the right thing by sticking to his guns and refusing to cave in to the legislature's pressure tactics.  Unfortunately, that means businesses waiting for payment will just have to go on waiting . . . until they go bankrupt, if necessary.  I'd say the easier solution is to simply refuse to do business with the state of Illinois unless it's on a cash-on-delivery basis.


The transformation continues

We're slowly but steadily making inroads into the bags and boxes that we brought down from Tennessee.  In the process, we're transforming our new residence from a house into a home.  It's a good feeling.

Miss D. has got the kitchen and pantry area set up to her satisfaction.  (Even though I'll share the cooking with her, I know better than to intrude on the organization of that space!)  I've been hard at work unpacking my books and putting them in order in the shelves.  I'm about two-thirds of the way through that task now.  My 'man cave' and writing office is taking a back seat while I concentrate on getting the living-room, dining area and guest room organized, because next week Phlegmmy is holding her annual Phlegmfest blog gathering, and we'll be sharing in the hosting activities.  We want the place to look clean, neat and welcoming.  My office can wait until that's over.

Some 'progress' has been less welcome.  It looks as if our geothermal system's compressor has packed up, and possibly its control board as well.  We had to call in a technician after hours on Friday to get the emergency heating system working.  Next week we'll have to navigate the tortuous requirements of the short-term major appliance insurance policy provided by the previous owners, to see whether repairs and/or replacement parts are covered.  (It's been my experience, and that of friends, that such insurance is often not worth the paper it's printed on.)  If the insurance will pay, all well and good.  If not . . . well, we may just have to live with space heaters and window coolers for a few months until we can replenish our savings and afford to pay for the work.  That's the sort of thing that goes with home ownership.  No sense in fretting about it.

We and our friends here are settling into a three-meals-a-week routine.  Miss D. and I will cook for the group on Tuesday evenings;  Old NFO will entertain us on Thursdays;  and Phlegmmy and Lawdog will host us on Saturday night.  It's a joy to be part of the group.  The conversation covers everything under the sun (and a few things besides), the food has so far been excellent (and so has the wine), and generally it's an enriching experience for all of us.  Since two out of the five of us are already writers, and two more plan to join our ranks soon, our sessions together are great incubators for ideas and discussions about the field.

We installed our new-to-us washer and dryer yesterday, with muscular help from Old NFO and Lawdog.  (The law enforcement profession seems to add as much to one's vocabulary as military service, if profane remarks during the installation are anything to go by.)  Since my fused spine and damaged nerve make such heavy-duty heaving and hauling almost impossible, I was very grateful for their help.  Miss D. plans to wash almost every item of our clothing and bedding, to remove travel dust and Tennessee allergens.  I guess we'll be giving our new appliances a real workout for a week or two.

(On the subject of Tennessee, I hadn't realized how the damper cold of Nashville in winter had affected us, or how the local allergens were taking a growing toll of our everyday health.  Both of us have found the dry cold of northern Texas to be much easier to handle, and much less painful to our respective long-term injuries;  and we're less congested, with much less coughing and sneezing, than we used to be in our former home.  We didn't move here specifically for our health, but to our surprise it looks as if that will be one of the hidden benefits of relocating.  We probably couldn't handle the humidity nearer to the Gulf of Mexico, but up here we're far enough away from that to be comfortable.)

Now it's off to unpack more boxes of books and fill another bookshelf.  By Tuesday night we want our living-room and dining area to be fully sorted out and ready for guests.  There's a lot to do before then.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bail out Flint, MI?

The Washington Post opines that Flint, MI may need bailout money - big bailout money - to fix its water system.

The residents of this battered city have lived for years under some of the worst conditions in urban America: soaring levels of violent crime, poverty, unemployment and blight. Now, for many, the catastrophe of a water supply that may be poisoned indefinitely appears to be the final insult.

. . .

Less than a month after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) declared a state of emergency, only one thing is clear: Resolving the crisis will be very expensive. Mayor Karen Weaver has estimated the cost of removing lead service lines from 15,000 homes at about $45 million. Combating the potential impact of lead poisoning in the 9,000 children exposed to tainted water starts at $100 million, according to Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who is proposing the multifaceted program.

Overhauling Flint’s water­ distribution system, if necessary, could cost more than $1 billion, a tab only the federal government could pay.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

In so many words, they're arguing that the federal government should pay for the overhaul or replacement of Flint's water system.  To that, speaking as a federal taxpayer, my answer is not just "No", but "Hell, no!"

The screw-up in Flint was the result of a wrong decision by a state-appointed emergency manager, who was trying to sort out decades of municipal mismanagement and corruption.  The problem is local, and was caused locally.  Why on earth should taxpayers all over the country be forced to pay for something that was not, is not and never will be our problem?

Sorry.  If Flint needs a bailout, it should come from local and State resources.  The city has no legitimate claim, moral, ethical, legal, constitutional or otherwise, on national taxpayer funds.  Any attempt to provide the latter to solve Flint's problems would be nothing more or less than robbery of the national exchequer for partisan political ends.  (Of course, that's happened often enough - on both sides of the political aisle - that it may well happen again.  That doesn't mean we should let it go without a fight, and doing everything we can to stop it.)


Another trip to la-la land for conspiracy theorists

I thought I knew most, if not all of the conspiracy theories floating around about just about anything - that the Moon landings were faked, that Elvis is still alive, and a host of others.  However, I've just come across one of the more lunatic-fringe conspiracy theories that has me shaking my head in disbelief.

A statue showing a young girl holding up what appears to be a laptop - complete with USB ports - has sparked a frenzy among conspiracy theorists.

The statue, ‘Grave Naiskos of an Enthroned Woman with an Attendant’ is in The J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California.

‘I am not saying that this is depicting an ancient laptop computer,’ said YouTuber StillSpeakingOut.

‘But when I look at the sculpture I can’t help but think about the Oracle of Delphi, which was supposed to allow the priests to connect with the gods to retrieve advanced information and various aspects.’

There's more at the link, including a photograph of the statue in question (and an excerpt from a 1920's Charlie Chaplin movie, claiming that it shows someone using a cellphone many decades before their invention).

I hadn't come across time-travel conspiracy theorists before . . . and I wish I hadn't still!  When will these idiots learn that correlation (of shape, or statistics, or whatever) does not imply causation?  Just because something resembles something else doesn't mean that it is something else.



Very conspicuous consumption

I was mind-boggled to read that a 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti has sold for a stratospheric price at the Artcurial 2016 Retromobile vehicle auction in Paris.

A 1957 Ferrari driven by the great British motor racers of the 1950s broke the record for the world’s most expensive racing car sold at auction after fetching just over €32 million [about US $35.7 million] on Friday.

Despite the stratospheric price at the Artcurial auction in Paris, the buyer cannot use the vehicle on the roads as it was designed purely for racing.

Only four Ferrari 335 S Spider Scagliettis were ever produced, and this one had been in the hands of a private French collector for more than 40 years – hence the feverish excitement at the RĂ©tromobile classic car show in Paris, where the auction took place.

The previous record for a racing car was for a 1953 Mercedes W196 racing car driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, sold for £17.5 million Bonhams auction at Goodwoods festival of speed in July 2013.

. . .

The sale – precisely €32,075,200 – was fresh proof that Ferrari auctions are going stratospheric, with a particular penchant for late 1950s and 1960s models, seen as hailing back to the golden age of motor racing.

Other highlights of the Artcurial sale still up for auction was the last ever 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, made in 1963 and estimated at £6.8 million to £9.1 million. An ex-Gianni Agnelli 1986 Testarossa Spider meanwhile sold for twice its estimate at €1.21 million.

There's more at the link.

Being a supporter of individual freedom and the free market (and, as a former pastor, of religious freedom, of course), I have no moral or ethical problem with someone enjoying the fruits of their labors, and spending all they like on something they want.  Nevertheless, I can't help feeling sad to know that so much money has been spent on something that'll end up as rust and scrap metal in due course.  At any rate, I suppose the old question, "But is it art?" has been decisively answered by the buyer - with his wallet!


Friday, February 5, 2016

The perils of aging furniture

Perhaps I should title this post 'The perils of aging cheap furniture'.  In my days as an active pastor, not so very long ago, I bought half a dozen 36"x72" bookcases to hold my library.  To my surprise, units made of 'real' wood simply weren't available.  Those I bought - the best of those available in local shops - were made of chipboard with a veneer coating.  I spent some time assembling them and loading them up with my books.

They've been with me through a few moves (the last being at the end of January, coming down to our new home in Texas).  Despite their relatively cheap construction, they've stood up to the strain of being carried to and fro . . . until now.  It seems that one of them has finally had enough.  Its cheaper chipboard can no longer securely hold the pins that support the shelves.  After two collapses in quick succession this morning, I had to run out and buy some L-shaped support brackets.  I'll have to drill holes for them and screw them into the shelves and the sides, to make sure my books stay where I want them.  A couple of others have enlarged support pin holes, and I've had to plug them and insert conventional wood screws to hold the shelves instead.

It's frustrating to find that the only bookshelves available for normal consumer purchase (i.e. at less than nosebleed prices) are made of cheaper materials like chipboard or fiberboard.  In browsing through online vendors, I couldn't find a single bookcase at an affordable price that was made of solid wood, the way I remember them growing up.  I suppose I could make my own if I had the time, space and facilities to do so, but I can remember them being in every furniture store in the 'good old days'.  Apparently wood's become too expensive, or is too heavy to be shipped at a reasonable cost when assembled into furniture.

The same thing applies to so much in the way of furniture that I see in the shops these days.  It's all cheap chipboard and stapled artificial fabrics that rip or come loose as soon as you look at them.  There's nary a screw or support bracket to be seen.  When I was growing up, a young family starting out could buy cupboards, or bookcases, or chests of drawers, or sideboards, in the sure knowledge that if they looked after them, they'd still be usable well into their retirement.  Not today.  Everything seems to be disposable.  You buy it resigned to the knowledge that in a few years, maybe (if you're lucky) a decade or two, you'll have to replace it.

Color me unhappy.  Yeah, I'm an old curmudgeon . . . but I miss the higher-quality world of my youth.


A measurement graph we can all appreciate

Borepatch says, 'Now that's a pie chart'.  He's right, too.  It's very communicative.  Click over there and see it for yourself.


Americans may die because of this folly

It seems that the US government is determined to allow illegal aliens to infiltrate across our southern border whether we like it or not.

The Obama administration has revived the maligned illegal immigrant “catch-and-release” policy of the Bush years, ordering Border Patrol agents not to bother arresting and deporting many new illegal immigrants, the head of the agents’ labor union revealed Thursday.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Congress that Homeland Security was embarrassed by the number of illegal immigrants not showing up for their deportation hearings, but instead of cracking down on the immigrants, the department ordered agents not to arrest them in the first place — meaning they no longer need to show up for court.

Mr. Judd said the releases are part of President Obama’s “priorities” program, which orders agents to worry chiefly about criminals, national security risks and illegal immigrants who came into the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2014. Mr. Judd said illegal immigrants without serious criminal convictions have learned that by claiming they came before 2014 — without even needing to show proof — they can be released immediately rather than being arrested.

“Immigration laws today appear to be mere suggestions,” Mr. Judd testified to the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee. “That fact is well known in other countries.”

There's more at the link.

What this means, of course, is that terrorists, criminals and other low-lifes are going to take full advantage of our lax policy enforcement.  I have no doubt whatsoever that some of those now streaming across our southern border are going to commit crimes in this country, whether 'conventional' ones or acts of terrorism.

When Americans die because of these unbelievably stupid, short-sighted, ideologically-driven policies, will the person or persons who gave the order(s) to implement them be held responsible and called to account?  I won't hold my breath . . .