Monday, April 28, 2008

Food: things I don't like (and those I do)

Given the last post and its comments, I thought this a fitting continuation. Here are some foods I don't like (and related ones I do):
  • Cheese (but I do like to eat nachos with cheese, mac & cheese, and pizza, but not Chicago-style pizza; when I get the Stack Attack at Wendy's, I always order it minus cheese; back when they had a two-cheeseburger meal at McDonald's, I'd order that minus cheese, too, since they didn't have a similar two-hamburger meal - on more than one occasion they actually took two hamburgers, wrapped them in cheeseburger wrappers, and put "special" stickers on them!)
  • Tomatoes (but I like salsa, ketchup, catsup (wait, didn't I already mention that? why is it spelled at least two different ways?), and tolerate spaghetti sauce)
  • Spaghetti (it's ok, actually; but I do like SpaghettiO's)
  • Chocolate ice cream (but I do like hot fudge sundaes - with vanilla ice cream - and vanilla with chocolate syrup and brownie a-la-mode with vanilla)
  • Most ice cream flavors other than vanilla (I do like - ok, really like, it's my favorite - the cinnamon at Marble Slab - especially with graham cracker mixed in - as well as their amaretto flavor)
  • Pickles (but I like cucumbers)
  • Lasagna (but I like Hamburger Helper's lasagna flavor)
  • Most Italian food (unless it's a canned variety, like Chef Boyardee, then it's usually OK)
  • Most things on the bone (ribs, chicken, etc; I like pork chops, though, even though they're typically served on the bone) - but this is probably my laziness and my lack of wanting to "dig in with my fingers" that bone-food requires (I'd probably not have been much of a caveman, but then again, I don't mind eating ants...)
Well, that's a start of a list. Maybe, if I think of more, I'll add it in the comments. Feel free to add your own to the list...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What to put on a hot dog.

I've recently discovered that Heinz 57 sauce is a great topping for a hot dog. An all-beef hot dog, anyway. I also have discovered that it's very difficult to find a decent, public-domain (or copyright-available) image of Heinz 57 sauce (feel free to share if you find one; I found a couple on Flickr, but one is a poor quality picture (with some alcoholic beverage in the background I'd rather not promote), and one is "all rights reserved" so I can't legally post it here; there is an image on the Heinz website, but the Heinz site doesn't allow you to use their images without written approval, and I don't want to wait for that before posting this blog). I also discovered I'm too lazy to grab the digital camera, walk into the kitchen, take a picture of the container, and upload it.

We had hot dogs left over from our recent M & M night at AWANA. That is, Missionary & Movie night. It's a pretty neat event where we have a missionary (this year it was a church member who regularly goes on short-term mission trips overseas; in the past, we've had both active & retired full-time missionaries), lots of great food (like "gourmet" all-beef hot dogs, chips, and tons and tons of both plain and peanut M & Ms, and popcorn for the movie), and a movie (this year we went back to the old faithful "The Prince of Egypt"). We overestimated the attendance and had a lot of hot dogs left over (better to have too much than too little, though), so we all got to take home hot dogs wrapped in aluminum foil.

Put 'em in the fridge, pull 'em out later, swap the foil for a paper towel, pop it in the microwave for a minute ("quick-on, 1" - fast, easy!), allow to cool. Apply Heinz 57 sauce. Really good! Interesting tidbit: the "57 varieties" was merely a moniker - they actually had over 60 varieties at the time they came up with the slogan (see Snopes article). They have over 1000 products now-a-days.

Other great hot dog toppings? Chili, of course (the cheap, 60-cent cans from the grocery store); onions; ketchup (or catsup, depending on your preferred spelling); possibly mustard; but I don't really care for relish or sauerkraut. I've also never put chocolate syrup, ice cream, or candy sprinkles on a hot dog, and probably never will (let me know if you try that), although that reminds me of a pizza I made and ate once (I'll spare you the details, unless you ask, but I'll let you know that it did have cat food on it... and cat food, especially when cooked at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, is really, really hard to bite & chew; there were no ants on the pizza, in case you're wondering, but there were things like chocolate chip cookies, peppermints, the aforementioned cat food, breadsticks, an entire bottle of oregano, other candies, pretty much whatever we could find in the kitchen).

Enough for now... go enjoy yourself a hot dog with Heinz 57 sauce!

Friday, April 25, 2008


Do you ever feel like you have bugs crawling on you? I do sometimes. Like now. I'll feel like there's a bug crawling on the back of my neck, but when I go to squish it and wipe it away, nothing. The other night I felt like there were bugs on my lower legs, but again, nothing. Sometimes there really are bugs, and I guess the worst is spiders since you never know whether they're the dangerous kind or not. Once, when I was a little boy, I got bitten by a spider in-between two of my fingers (you know, in the "webbing" area), and it made an itchy bump. (Just felt a "bug" on my temple, but nothing; maybe it was just an itch in disguise.) I also used to be allergic to ant bites (really, really allergic, like my mom used to keep benadryl elixir on hand at all times allergic), but my occasional diet of ants may have reduced my ant allergy (either that or I grew out of it). However, I think I've told you all that story before.

I'm afraid I've not much else to say tonight (which is probably to your benefit). Go check out my new experiment (not-tional geographic) if you haven't already... I plan on adding some new material there soon. If it doesn't rain too much tomorrow I might go geocaching, but then again, I might just sleep. Later...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The nine lives of a Lexus

Well, maybe four for mine. Yes, the Lexus lives again! Woo-hoo! Took two weeks to get the part and about five minutes to install. But we're once again a two-(working-)vehicle family. Life just got easier!

Anyway, I'm a recovering sicko. That is, I was sick earlier this week. Didn't go to work on Monday (did I already mention this?), then for some reason didn't sleep Tuesday night (not that I didn't try, mind you!), but I did sleep last night (but had some weird dreams; I was trying to get these people on this bus, and then get the bus out of town, because something strange was happening, maybe the "end of the world" or someone was taking over the town or something, and I had this bottle of some alcoholic drink, and some guy kept complaining and trying to get us to open it, and I kept telling him we needed to wait, and eventually took the bottle and whacked the guy in the nose with it, and his face was all bloody, but he did shut up... but I don't remember a whole lot past that, other than we were trying to get out of the town for some, urgent reason, and it was difficult).

Anyway, I'm a recovering sicko (did I mention that?). But hopefully I'll be better soon. Thanks for your prayers (if you're praying). I'm sure money would help, too, if you feel like donating (it would take away some stress, and less stress = better health) - just let me know and I'll share my paypal account info so you can donate. I guess I forgot to take my Mt. Dew this time around. Actually, we don't have any Mt. Dew, and the Diet Publix Orange Soda I'm drinking says "0% Juice" so it's probably not a good source of extra Vitamin C to help me get better. It does say "Contents under pressure, handle with care." Yeah, as if I'm unfamiliar with the soda can concept... "What is this thing? How does it work? OW! MY EYE!"

Sorry, must be the illness... I'll quit writing now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The non-post

This isn't really a post. I didn't sleep last night (maybe an hour), so I'm pretty much running on fumes right now (that's figurative; I'm not overly flatulent at the moment). However, I thought I'd give a quick shout out to a new experiment of mine: not-tional geographic. I've still some work to do on the layout, so it may change over the next few weeks, but probably won't stray too much from this initial layout. I highly recommend it for your reading pleasure (of course I would, since I wrote it).

As far as this post, like I said, it's really not a post. We did have an interesting discussion over dinner tonight, something about a three-year-old who ran into walls more than normal for a three-year-old (which, of course, begs the question: "What is the normal rate of running into walls for a three-year-old?"), but you'll have to wait until I'm thinking clearly again before I post anything about that. That also reminded me of a guy at work who built this robot thing with a sonar sensor that was supposed to follow you around, and avoid running into things, but sometimes it got whacked and would just repeatedly run into the wall, and I commented, "Sounds like my kids." They got better. (Well, most of them, anyway.)

Ah, well, as I said, I'm kind of zombie-ish at the moment, so I think I'm going to turn myself in for lack of sleep. I still can't believe there aren't any comments on my last post (regarding robotic bodies)...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Under the Weather (and robotic bodies)

Sorry for the lack of posting these last few days... I've been a bit "under the weather." Now, that's a strange phrase... from where did it come? I mean, technically aren't we really always "under the weather" (even if you're indoors, you're still under the weather; there's just a roof between you and it). Anyway, I think I'm on the backside of it now... I was feeling better today, and went to work (I didn't go yesterday). Well, I was feeling better before I went to work...

Speaking of feeling bad, I was just thinking, why don't I replace my organic body with a mechanical, robotic one? I could plug it in when I'm "in bed" or at work to recharge its batteries, and I could "feed" the remainder of my organic self (you know, the head/brain part) with a sugar-mineral water mix that's kept in the robotic storage part somewhere (and it would monitor the various levels in the blood it's pumping into my head and supply the optimal amount of nutrients, and filter out the waste products from the blood like my kidneys do now). Then I wouldn't have to worry about stomach aches, kidney stones, or any of that stuff. Maybe I could block off the air passages in my nose & mouth, too, and I wouldn't have to worry about allergies so much anymore, as the robotic part could filter the incoming air it would supply to my artificial lungs. Pretty cool... wonder how much that would cost? Maybe I'll just keep saving for Visian Implantable Collamer Lenses to fix up these eyes that don't see very well instead (and by "very well" I mean that, without my glasses, I can't read my laptop screen sitting about a foot and a half from my head - and that's from near-sightedness, meaning I can't see far - far being, apparently, anything beyond a foot). After all, I do like playing my sax and guitar - two things that would be difficult to do without the sense of touch and variable pressure that my organic limbs and digits provide, and I imagine my wife wouldn't be overly fond of the "new me" either. Yeah, I guess I'll just keep this ol' flesh & blood body as long as God allows.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The upside of expensive gasoline

For those upset by the current (and increasing) fuel prices, let me point out the upside to rising fuel costs: convenience. Convenience in the form of reduced effort needed to refuel. Previously, when fuel costs were "reasonable," the 5 cent difference between gas stations meant about a 2.5% difference in cost (assuming $2/gallon). Now the 5 cent difference means just a 1.25% difference in cost (assuming $4/gallon, which it will reach very soon, unfortunately). For a $50 fillup, that translates to $1.25 at the 2.5% rate, but only 62.5 cents at the lower rate. As the price rises, the percentage will get lower & lower, and the savings will result in less of a gallon that you'd be able to buy with the savings. And the amount of miles (and time) you spend to get the lower cost fuel won't be worth the hassle anymore.

Thus - convenience, one upside to rising fuel cost.

This brings me to another point, though: the price difference. This reveals, I think, the arbitrariness in fuel pricing. I mean, the price difference - shouldn't that be the same percentage regardless of the base cost? I mean, if station X prices the fuel 5 cents below station Y when the cost at station Y is $2/gallon (so station X is $1.95/gallon), then when station Y is selling at $3/gallon, shouldn't station X be at $2.925/gallon? (Ok, probably $2.929/gallon, since they always add that 9/10 of a cent on there.) Then when Y gets to $4/gallon, shouldn't X be at $3.80/gallon? Thus, the price is arbitrary - station X is setting their price at a certain number of cents less than station Y, not at a certain percentage. The price is rather arbitrary. (Yes, I understand there are some flaws in my reasoning here, but it's not completely ludicrous... it does demonstrate that there is some arbitrariness to the pricing you and I pay for fuel at the pump.)

On a not-quite-related note, I don't think there's any anti-steroid regulation in "professional wrestling" (like the WWE - note: the link is only for info; I don't endorse any of the content at that site). Unfortunately, it also seems like they've lowered their acting skills, too... either that or they've lost all their good choreographers. Yeah, they're big, athletic guys... too bad they've given themselves to (bad) acting instead of some professional sports. (Then again, they'd probably get busted for doping in a regulated, professional sport.)

This brings me to another point: "virtual visitation." You can have a conversation with someone via messenger while simultaneously watching the same show in different places and laugh in unison at the horrible acting of the WWE.

I don't normally watch wrestling... my wife doesn't like it. But I do like American Gladiators...
I can't wait for the next season to start. The old show was better in my opinion, but the new one's still entertaining. Find out for yourself - watch it when it returns.

Ok, back to watching wrestling now...

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Why is it called de-odorant when it's actually fragrant? It doesn't remove odor, it covers it up (and adds its own, which sometimes, in some cases, might be worse than what it's trying to cover). My son suggested perhaps it used to be called odorant, as in back in Boston when people would say, "Go get de odorant from de store!" And it became shortened to "de-odorant" and then simply "deodorant" (ok, he made up the short version, and I expanded it).

Oh, and why is it "anti-persperant" and "de-odorant"? Why the two differing prefixes? And why is it prefixes and not prefices (you know, like "matrix" and "matrices")?

For those who may have missed the Wednesday Night Jokes (because you don't work in our AWANA office), here you go:
  • pediatricians: men of little patients
  • insanity: the desire to have children
Ok, not so good, perhaps. How about this one, then: "ABCDE" - a phrase you might hear when a striped insect visits an ophthalmologist or optometrist. (Think about it for a while if you don't get it right away, and perhaps try saying the phrase out loud, sort of slowly; leave a comment if you don't get it and I'll explain in more detail.)

Still waiting on the seatbelt part I bought off e-bay (it took a long time for the paypal transaction to clear). This one-car lifestyle isn't exactly inducive (yeah, I made up that word) of ease-of-... well, life. Ah, soon, soon... anyone got a free (working) car they are looking to donate to a family in need? :) I know, I know... learn to be content, all that...

Monday, April 14, 2008


No, I'm not asking you to donate to my PayPal account (but if you feel that's a worthwhile thing to do, let me know and I'll give you whatever details you need to contribute!). Anyway, a reader recently commented that she'd closed her PayPal account due to (potential?) hackers. Well, I wanted to let you all know that PayPal now has a new security option: the "secure token device." What's that you ask? Well, even if you didn't ask, I'll tell you. It's a little thing with an LCD screen and a button. When you press the button, it puts numbers on the LCD screen, six of them, I think. When you sign into your PayPal account, you enter your user name, your password, and the six numbers on your secure key LCD screen. These numbers change about every 30 seconds (but don't worry: you typically will have a 1-2 minute window in which you can use a code). How does this help secure your account? A hacker will not only have to get your user name and password right, he'll have to get the 6-digit code right as well, and he'll have a very short period of time before the code changes. Thus "brute force" attacks, where they try various combinations in sequence, will be even harder to encode. We had some of these for our VPN ("Virtual Private Network") at work for a while, although they've switched to software tokens now.

On another note, thanks to Dean (and to Jan Owen who pointed this out to him) who recently mentioned a great little blog: "Stuff Christians Like." As a warning, some of this may be a little over the top depending on your normal reading preferences, but in general it's really, really amusing, and yet a good, hard look at "modern Christians." Convicting in a good way at times. And typically not too long on each post (unlike this blog, which seems to be long and unfocused at times). Enjoy! (But, please, think about coming back here to read this blog every now and then, too, once you've finished catching up on "Stuff Christians Like" - thanks!)

State of society

WARNING: the following may be considered insulting or condemning to some, and I absolutely do not mean for it to be taken that way! If I offend you with what I write here, please forgive me - that is not my intent. I'm speaking generally, not to specific instances. With that warning, I will proceed.

Hmm... I just noticed the text on one of the Facebook "meet people" (dating-type) ads. (NOTE: I am happily married and normally don't even pay attention to these; I was in Mob Wars, waiting on some health to regenerate, and noticed the line: "Meet cool and hot people" - and did a second glance because of the "cool and hot" part since I hadn't really read it, just sort of noticed it.) I read the remainder of the text, to see if they had any other strange phrases, and read this: "Single or taken, you have an option here." Really? Is that where our society has come? Now the online personal ads sites are no longer targeting just singles, they're blatantly appealing to "taken" people as well (I assume this includes relationships both with and without wedding vows). What has happened to the sanctity of marriage, the commitment we make (you know, the "until death parts us" thing)? Please note: I'm not trying to condemn anyone who's been through a divorce - that is not the point of this post. What I'm getting at (or trying to, anyway) is the lack of respect for the institution of marriage in "modern" society.

It seems that marriage has lost the status it once held, the status that it was intended to hold. "From the beginning it has not been this way." "Male and female he [God] created them." "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." Marriage is a special bond between two humans; it should be treated with the respect that God gave it, not like (for instance) a contract between a sports figure and his team, where the team may decide to shop around and trade the player for another (ok, this may be a bad analogy since the sports contract is a limited term, while a marriage contract is - or is supposed to be - for life; however, the point can also be made that the marriage contract isn't like the sports contract in that it isn't supposed to expire after a limiter number of years). Again, I'm not trying to be condemning, nor do I speak to specific cases. I am speaking generally: it seems marriage has lost its status, to the point that even "personal ad sites" are now advertising to those "taken" - in a relationship - that there are "options" available. That is my point and my concern. That is where we need to make a difference: in the mindset of the general population. (I have other things I could say, such as how humans are intended to be different than... well, nevermind, that might really be considered offensive some.)

I hope I haven't offended you; that wasn't my intent. Besides, if you leave, then there will only be one or two readers left. :) Oh, and let me say: I'm happily married, have been for 16+ years (it'll be 17 in May), and intend to keep it this way for as long as we're both around.

On a lighter note, I just noticed there is a freeze warning in effect for this evening. In Alabama in April! Then again, I do recall one year in Birmingham where we had a 5" snow in April, so I guess these things do happen. Anyway... freeze warning in April in the south... I'm sure "human induced global warming" has something to do with that. :) (Yes, I'm being facetious. If you're new to the blog, go back and read some old posts for my opinion about "human created" global warming. I'd suggest you take a look at the label cloud, but it isn't working at the moment, not really sure why, but I don't have time to look at it right now. Especially after writing all of this!) Have a great week!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Yet another serving size blunder...

I was eating from a tub of cotton candy (we got a six-pack at Sam's today), and decided to check on the nutrition facts (you know, have to make sure I'm eating healthy spun sugar!). That's when I noticed what you can read to the left:
Serving size: 1/2 tub (30g)
Servings per container: about 2
Huh? Um, when did "about two halves" make a whole? That doesn't make sense! On top of that, the "serving size" (1/2 tub, remember?) is listed as "30g" - but the net weight of the container is 57g (see picture to the right; click on it to enlarge if you can't see it). What? 30g is 1/2 of 57g? Seems they've forgotten basic math in Chicago (the place from whence the cotton candy originated).

Ow... I just tried to move. Spent the afternoon working in the back yard (affectionately known as our weed garden, although it sometimes resembles an unkept plain or jungle, like it did before we attacked it this afternoon). Think I overdid it (well, probably not that; it's probably my overly-sedentary lifestyle causing any physical exertion to quickly become "overdoing it"). At least the weeds (and that slight bit of grass back there) are cut.

Friday, April 11, 2008

And Friday makes five.

Yep, this post marks the fifth straight day in a row that I've posted a blog entry. Woohoo, can you say, streak? And I don't mean running around unclothed (which I'm sure you all appreciate!).

This kind of story is what really makes you proud to be an American. Or, at the very least, proud of our troops: a completely selfless act, costing his life, and saving the lives of those around him. Let me take this moment to say "Thank you!" to all those who have and are sacrificing, both great and small, for our freedom. Of course, there's one who sacrificed everything for our ultimate freedom; find out more here.

On a completely different note, have you heard about the "On-Time Device"? It's a little electronic ignition interrupt that is timed to your payment cycle at in-house financing places (like local Madison auto sales place Chase Cars, which is where I first noticed the device). It gives you a warning when you get close to your payment due date; once you've made the payment, you get a code to enter into the device, which will activate it until the next payment date. If you don't make the payment on time, it interrupts the ignition so that you can't start the car once you turn it off (I suppose you could just attempt to leave the car running if you're late on your payment...). Allows places to feel a bit more secure in lending to people with credit problems (like me, thanks to my stupid spending habits).

For one last change of subject, if you're in need of an antenna for over-the-air digital TV (you are getting your converter boxes, right? with the coupon you can get one at Wal-Mart for $13 or so after tax), and you don't want to spend a lot, check out this video:

Coat Hanger HDTV Antenna: Better Than Store Bought! AMAZING! - More amazing video clips are a click away

Yep, clothes hangers. And, yes, it does work. I did it myself. Granted, it's not great, but I also didn't spend a lot of time making it "perfect." It does about as good a job as my amplified, store-bought antenna, and that's with a super-cheap, poorly done one! I didn't even have the right UHF/VHF transformer - I just hooked up one of the old "here's how to connect your rabbit-ears to a cable-type connector" things. It even does a pretty good job pulling in current analog signals, too. Actually, I currently have both antennas hooked up through a splitter (although the coat-hanger one is going to the "in" on the splitter and the amp'ed one is going to one of the four "out" connections on the splitter, a second "out" goes to the converter box, and a third "out" goes to the TiVo for analog recording). But it all works pretty well together. I think I may look at similar designs to put an antenna in my attic, which might get better reception than the antenna leaning against my TV stand.

Have a great weekend! Of course, if you're reading this in the middle of the week, have a great middle of the week, I guess.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Irony... live!

My daughter's school had a "Stomp the Violence" thing this evening, where they did various things to promote "PLUR" (as she said it: "Peace, Love, Unity, and [I forget what the 'R' was, maybe 'Respect']"). Her (school) choir was singing for their part of the thing. What did they sing? A song about Jericho. Isn't that great? To promote "Stomp the Violence" (a play on words, of course: "Stop the Violence"), they sing a song about war, including the utter destruction of a town. (Yes, I know it was God's direction: I'm not disputing that, nor making any comments about His divine judgment in handing Jericho over to the Israelites; I just found it funny: singing a song about war for a "Stomp the Violence" thing.)

In other news, I'm still waiting on the seatbelt I bought on eBay (paid through PayPal, and it says it'll take a little bit before the payment is cleared from my bank through PayPal to the seller). In the interim, we're back to one vehicle for the time being (yes, the Lexus has airbags, so I suppose I could drive it even without the seatbelt, but I'd rather not, thanks).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thinking about the last post

In thinking about the last post, I think maybe I was incorrect and overly harsh on Lexus. Only the seatbelt retractor is probably made of plastic. The part that locks the belt in an accident, and the part that pretensions the belt, are probably metal. You're probably safe.. After all, they do test these things. Not after 170,000 miles and 14 years, probably, but tested nonetheless. Of course, if the retractor breaks, it's highly unlikely that the belt will be fitting you properly (snugly) before your accident, so the other parts wouldn't be able to do their job. Oh well. I bought the belt on ebay, so now I just have to wait on it to arrive.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I broke the Lexus. Well, its driver seat belt retractor, anyway. I was trying to tighten it a bit more and to find out where the solenoid is that locks the high-tension retractor when the latch is buckled. Anyway, I was tightening the retractor, then there was a pop, and no tension whatsoever. Oops. I pulled off the cover that says "do not remove" and found that the piece that the metal retractor axle fits into, a piece of plastic, had broken. Yep, there's a piece of plastic that is holding your seatbelt to keep it from pulling out when you're in an accident. Plastic. Plastic that breaks when you overtighten the retractor. Plastic. At least, if you're in an LS400 (1990-1994), it's plastic. Makes you feel safe, eh? Oh, if you're going to try the "tighten your retractor spring" trick, be careful! I think the solenoid trick might be useful, just trace the wires up under the carpet and disconnect the smaller (white, I think) connector (the one with the smaller wires, not the one with the yellow and black wires which goes to the explosive seatbelt pretensioner, which cinches up the seatbelt if you're in an accident, assuming the plastic doesn't break).

Anyway, I'd called the local Lexus dealer a couple of days ago, and the seat belt (from Lexus) is $300, and they only come in grey now (the one in my car is an oak color). I've found one on eBay for $65 (plus $15 s/h), but it's black ("agate" - but it looks like black to me). I wonder, though... maybe I could buy that one and just use the retractor from it (i.e., replace the black seatbelt part with the oak one - or, more accurately, remove the black seatbelt from the retractor and replace the broken one on my Lexus with the one from eBay). It's a used one (near as I can tell), but if it retracts the seatbelt, that's all that really matters.

Frustration, frustration... maybe I should just start walking or biking everywhere.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Just Stuff

Sorry for no posts recently...

Tonight I (I think) corrected a problem with the dash on the Lexus. You see, when it is cold out, the dash wouldn't light up. Which means you can't see anything - speed, temp, fuel level (and the fuel gauge doesn't read when the dash isn't lit due to lack of power anyway). Yes, it's "analog" (not digital), but when it's not lit, it's all black. Anyway, there's a little capacitor on the dash power supply board that, over time, loses its capacitance when the temperature is low. So I pulled the instrument panel from the dash (good tutorial here), removed the bad capacitor (C212 on this image), and installed a new one. Ok, not quite so simple: I tried to desolder the old capacitor while gently pulling and rocking it with a pair of pliers, and managed to rip the capacitor from the PCB - along with its traces (the copper on the PCB that carries the current wherever it's supposed to go). That wasn't so bad, though... one of the traces I'd already identified with a through-hole on the PCB (those allow the connection to go from one side of the board to the other), and the other side I tracked to the common ground on the PCB. For the common-ground one, I just used a knife to gently scrape away some of the PCB overlay, revealing a small portion of the copper common ground underneath, and soldered the new capacitor to that. After soldering the new capacitor on, I checked the continuity of the capacitor wires with the other side of the connection (i.e., a point along another end of the PCB trace), found near-zero resistance (i.e., a good connection), reinstalled the instrument panel, turned it on, and the gauges lit up. Success! Now I just have to hope that it'll work when it's cold, too (which I assume it will, since it's a brand new capacitor; as long as there aren't any others that are bad, anyway).

Now... what about the fuel for the LS? I filled it up today for $64. Yuck! It seems, however, that we do have a ready supply of liquid hydrocarbon in our solar system... at Saturn's moon Titan. It seems that Titan has great lakes of liquid hydrocarbon, each of which has more liquid hydrocarbon than all the natural gas and liquid petroleum reserves on the earth. In fact, it rains liquid methane there! So what we need to do is harvest all that liquid hydrocarbon and transfer it to earth. How? Well, we could attempt to move Titan into an earth orbit, but it might mess up the methane cycle during transit. So I guess we'll have to colonize titan. Now, we could try to do it all with robots, but it would probably be more fun with people. The one-way trip took Cassini something like 7 years. However, I have a few suggestions to improve this. First, assemble the ship going to Titan in a very high earth orbit, thus reducing the force necessary to exit earth's gravitation pull (I could be off on this point, but I figure a rocket of similar capability of the one that launched Cassini from earth, if ignited from orbit, would result in a higher initial velocity and would thus not require as much of the Venus/Earth slingshot to increase the vessel's velocity for the interplanetary voyage). This would be the initial harvesting mission.

A second series of vessels would be sent in periods such that they would create a Saturn/Titan and earth orbit... sort of like a comet. We might want to put these in a solar orbit. These vessels would simply be transports... they would remain in this earth/Saturn/Titan orbit. The actual cargo vessels, those transporting the liquid hydrocarbon from Titan to earth, would be launched from Titan, dock with the transport, fire a booster (thus slowly increasing the velocity of the transport as these transports occurred), make the journey to near-earth, disconnect from the transport and dock with an orbiting space station, and then be transferred to a shuttle-like landing craft for final transport to earth. In the meantime, an empty cargo vessel would dock with the transport, fire its booster (again, boosting the velocity of the transport), and be transported back to Titan for filling with liquid hydrocarbon. Thus, once the cycle was in place with a number of the transport and cargo vessels in operation, a periodically-continuous supply of liquid hydrocarbon (fuel) would be made available to earth. Yes, the initial time to harvest would be on the order of 10-15 years, but after that initial delay we'd have a constant supply of fuel for our vehicles, heating, etc.

That's my solution to the rising fuel prices. NASA could do exploration and research, the government would fund the project, and abundant fuel, not controlled by a minority of the earth's governments, would be available to consumers. And who wouldn't want to say "My car is running off space fuel!"?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Movie Renters Anonymous: my wife needs a 12-step program. Everytime she "returns" a movie, she rents two more... ack! Help! :)

On the topic of man-made global warming...

Wow, 18 states are suing the EPA for not acting to regulate greenhouse gases from automobiles (technically, they're suing that the EPA hasn't made a decision as to whether or not to regulate automotive emissions; I personally think "no decision" is a "'no' decision" - which is fine with me!). What I find really amusing is Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's statement about "incontestable dangers" - um, these "dangers" are highly contested at various levels! For instance, consider James Spann's take. James is a meteorologist (since 1978). I liked his comment on Rick & Bubba the other day, something like: "If they can't predict the weather over a 7-day course, how in the world can they claim to predict it tens to hundreds of years in advance?" (Not a direct quote, but it was something like that.) Besides... Martha Coakley... she has a bachelor of arts degree in "History of Ideas" and a law degree... I don't think she's necessarily qualified to indicate whether these so-called dangers of global warming are incontestable. (Info about Martha Coakley came from her resume, available on her web site.)

Seriously, go read the James Spann article; it bring out a lot of how the hype of "man-made global warming" is really a political issue, not a weather or climate issue (e.g., some experts want to take certification away from meteorologists who don't support the man-made global warming craze; and there's always the financial aspects of what happens to the support money if it's not really an issue after all... lots of people will lose their funding). Please, just do some research. Real research, not just reading what the media likes to promote. And it does make sense that the average temperature has been rising... as James points out, "we are at the end of the ice age in which ice covered most of North America and Northern Europe" and "the warming in the last 10 years is not much difference [sic] than the warming we saw in the 1930s and other decades."

Once you've done all that, take a look at the video attached to this article... what a great role model for our young tennis enthusiasts! :) Anyway, gotta go...