What we Learn by Flailing in the Dark

Before we recite my mistakes, and then some notes from writer’s groups and other sources, I have an announcement:

 

I will be in Kingman this Saturday for KABAM (a book festival)

396605_334727969870661_1100850398_n

More information on KABAM on their Facebook page. I will have copies of Beanstalk and Beyond on hand, as perhaps copies of my hiking guides as well.

Now..

My son owns a 2003 Cadillac Deville, which broke down recently because of course it did.  I went to help him, and that grew into a 12 hour day until I finally sprung for the tow truck.

  • Removing the water pump, and  the pulley above it both require special tools, which, happily, you can “rent” from most auto parts store with just a deposit.
  • To remove the water pump you also need a 3/4″ socket, and to turn the thing the opposite direction of what you would want to.
  • Once you realize it’s not just the belt – it’s the water pump, you are past where you can do the deed curbside. Tow the thing to somewhere you can actually work on it.

Because the shadows, and our collective exhaustion were defeating our efforts to remove that damn water pump. (Also, we were doggedly twisting it the wrong direction).

Do not wipe all the cookies from your browser just because they freaked out a part of your credit union’s website. The website still doesn’t work, and now I have to re-enter a bunch of passwords – which I hate.

At Brazen Wonk, we notice how Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination troubles are entirely of his own making.

There is also, after a long lapse, a new page of the 64 webcomic.

I haven’t made anything like word-count the last few weeks. I have been distracted by my son’s car disasters (I only mention the smaller crisis here) and romance. That’s right. But not here – you’d have to ask me in person.

Except this – I haven’t been getting much sleep,. and yet I still have a bunch of energy. Like back to being hyperactive sort of energy.

But let’s step past that rabbit hole and get to notes from writer’s group sans meaningful context:

The Uncanny Valley is when an android is almost convincing, but not quite. TV Tropes sums it up here. Stranger Dimensions has examples.

Someone in the group knows Loren Coleman – Cryptozoologist.

 

camas_pocket_gopher_wikiwand_0

Not just a collection of random nouns

Pocket gophers, specifically the Camas Pocket Gophers are real creatures, and not just a collection of random nouns.

 

 

Those two items are actually unrelated.

 

Finally we cannot reccomend strongly enough Toilets with Threatening Auras on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Vice wrote them up a bit, if you need to know more.

Now we know.

Advertisements

Back to Old habits: sports and wringing groups.

Here are some things we learned since our last entry, in no particular order.

My daughter has gone back to NAU where she belongs.

Clay Buckholtz is now firmly the #3 starting pitcher for the Diamondbacks, who are inexplicably leading the NL West at this writing. You can point to Paul Goldschmidt if you want, but the real reason they are ahead of the Dodgers and Rockies is solid pitching and league leading interior defense. If Nick Ahmed doesn’t win a gold glove this year something is rigged.

Feels good to be jabbering about sports here again.

I have kinda committed myself to producing a distributable PDF version of Go Action Fun Time by month’s end, which may impair other projects. I am looking at making it a Drive Thru RPG product to test the market if no other reason. I’m pretty happy with the text (V 1.4) but there are a lot of details regarding layout that will suck up a lot of time.

We have some notes from tonight’s writer’s group.

One of our alumni has pushed a project into print!

Ivy Millicent Learns About Diabetes was work-shopped in our group a few years ago.

51-wxg06lyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

Alas, the phrase “in the limelight” has nothing to do with plague bodies being tossed into glowing lime pits. That would be awesome, but the internet disagrees.

Limelight comes from the chemical lighting process that replaced gas lighting in theaters by the 1860’s, and was the standard for lighting vaudeville and melodrama until practical electric lights came about by the 1920’s.

Finally, the Zapfino font:

 

zapfinoone

Available here.

Now we know.

Weird facts about my Soul

KIMG0762

A few years ago, I traded in my Chevy Sonic for a 2013 Kia Soul. My children rejoiced, saying, “Look! Dad finally has a soul. I mean, it’s black inside and full of garbage, but he finally has a soul.”

Then, “Can we borrow your soul Dad?”

And so forth.

My 2011 Chevy Sonic, for context, was a panic buy to replace my beloved Equinox, which had a gas tank issue. Once your wife is envisioning your vehicle going up in a ball of flame, you have no choice but to sell it.

The Sonic is like a sports-car made by east European communists. It’s is surprisingly fast (because it uses the same engine block as the larger cars in Chevy’s fleet car line) and handles decently, because it is small. And everything in the interior feels cramped, just like a sports-car. But it is a fleet car, engineered to fall apart after 80k miles or so.

While I could drive it like a maniac, putting four adults inside felt like a clown car stunt, and things were starting to fall off. So we went to the dealership and came home with the Hyundai Veracruz, and my Soul.

Early on in my ownership of it, someone asked me about it, and I told them that it was the best MP3 player I had ever driven. They do seem to have put more thought into the media system than any other part. The speakers have LED rims that change color with the music. I never saw that as a selling point when I purchased it, but they have come to amuse me.

KIMG0760

Its is boxy, mediocre in both acceleration and climbing, and the fuses jiggle loose from time to time. It has no roof rack. You will feel every bump in the road – every one. Those are my complaints. All of them.

Four adults can fit within with some dignity. I can actually fit a lot of things in it – for boxy=roomy. When I moved 1000 feet north, most of the things made the journey in my Soul. My lawn furniture and gas grill came home in my Soul. But it’s not a truck, so people don’t ask me to move stuff for them all the time.

It has a tight turning radius and a relatively high ground clearance. It gets around 20 mph even when I drive it the way I do. I made it 80K miles before it needed any major service.

KIMG0761

This might be its best feature!

Of course, I need it to go another 60K miles at least. I have three years left on the $15k note secured by my Soul that is generously valued at about $5k. How the hell do you get $10k upside down on a car loan?

You wreck a car without the means to make a cash down payment, or even cover the insurance deductible. So you find yourself at the mercy of whatever scheme the dealership puts together. The Soul (and the Veracruz) were the fourth generation of cars coming off the lot with this debt still buried in the financing somehow.

When we bought it, this Kia Soul had a big rebate, so magically, this is the car they buried that debt inside.

I owe a lot more on my Soul than my Soul is worth. My Soul has been used to hide previous sins.

KIMG0759

I do not own my Soul.

Somehow the only name on either the title or the loan paperwork is that of my (soon-to-be-ex) wife. She does not know how that happened either.  She has a completely different car now. The Soul remains my primary vehicle, even though, after the divorce, I will have no legal ownership of it.

Sometimes, when I project the payments out over time, I daydream about saving up a down payment, and just leaving this thing in the parking lot of the credit union that actually owns it. But that would be Wrong.

After all, I’m the one who wrecked that car I have yet to finish paying off.

In a year at RC Lurie I put 20k miles on that car. That’s a fact that will shut a car salesman up about leasing options. Those are hard miles, city traffic, construction sites, lost on back roads. My Soul has already taken a beating.

I have become fond of the Soul I am driving to death without any real hope of ever paying off. Good thing, because I just dropped $800 on brake repairs and a long list of maintenance items.  (My local mechanic is a master of never fixing just one thing, and since I cannot abide multiple trips to the garage, I am his lawful prey here).

So I choose, for now, to keep my Soul, even if it isn’t legally mine. It works for me. And there is speculation that Kia cars can go 200k if treated right. So maybe I can get mine to 140? We shall see.

And I can always add a roof rack later.

Consumer Reports on the 2013 Soul. They even make a little joke about the interior.

Lessons from our 2016 vacation

In late July 2016 (about two months ago) my family took what might be our last vacation as a single nuclear family, heading across California and then up the west coast into Oregon. All told we spent 14 days on the road and traveled just shy of 4000 miles.

Here’s some of what we learned, in approximate order of occurrence:

We learned that the Salton Sea is ringed with a layer of dead fish – and all the magic that comes with that.

In Bishop, California we learned that if you’re not in town before 9pm on a Sunday night, your choice for dinner is Denny’s.

We learned that Yosemite National Park is aswarm through July with bugs; that they are more paranoid about bears than Yellowstone (we were asked to put even our toiletries in bear lockers); that by 11 am, Yosemite valley is flooded with tourists, like Las Vegas/Disneyland densities; that stocking the lakes with trout decimated the local frog population – which aggravates the mosquito problem, that the rangers make really strong coffee, that Tuolumne Meadows – where we camped – has one of the few general stores that is less than an hour’s hike from the Pacific Coast Trail – so consequently it was often filled to overflowing with backpackers; and that Glacier Point is totally worth the drive.

We also learned in Yosemite how our 2009 Hyundai Veracruz handles twisty mountain roads (decently, to our fortune). This sort of driving would turn out to be the rule rather than the exception.

We learned we really, really like our Veracruz for this sort of expedition. The only drawback is that there is an electric motor for every damn thing, and when they fail, the thing fails. Our sun-roof is now sealed with duct tape because it locked up without quite closing. We also learned that no one on the internet seems to know anything about the sun-roof on this particular model.

We learned from Penny’s relations in San Jose that it is possible to become just as trapped by high real estate prices as by low real estate prices.

We learned that the John Muir Woods are overrun by local joggers, and you can’t just expect to park there and look around.

We learned that Point Reyes National Seashore is a worthwhile detour, even though your best hop is at least five hours, and that it is riddled with hiking trails and fearless deer.

tumblr_oas9o9yoyp1sesm5bo1_400

Bongo (and the rest of the family) at Point Reyes National Seashore

We learned that the California coastal redwood is the tallest tree in North America, but it’s inland relation, the Sequoia, is the largest by mass.

As the highway leaves any small town, and goes down to a single lane, you will find yourself behind the ubiquitous LTDS = Local Truck Driven Slowly.

We learned that you can BBQ oysters, and that you can make them into a hamburger.

The the southern coast of Oregon is beautiful in every direction; and that nothing ever really dries there. Ever.

Ben learned that hammocks are defenseless against mist.

We learned that the ocean is colder than the rivers.

Penny and I discovered that we could be totally happy living in Coos Bay, Oregon – if we could find a way to make a living with our big city skill sets. (More a problem for me than Penny).

tumblr_oas9cuuxqf1sesm5bo1_400

Bongo in Empire, OR, which may or may not be a part of Coos Bay.

 

We learned that you can’t take a bad picture of Crater Lake, but you can spend more in their snack bar than we did in a Lost Coast tourist restaurant and I had oysters and whisky on the Lost Coast.

tumblr_oas99rdkh21sesm5bo1_400

Bongo at Crater Lake National Park

We learned that by day 10, your teenage kids are totally OK with you leaving them in the hotel for a few hours in order to have a couple drinks in a local bar. Totally OK. “Go on, you guys. Have fun. We’re fine.

We learned that 850 miles is perilously close to the most you can drive in a crowded van without everyone losing their mind.

We learned that you can spend $100 in Farrell’s Ice Cream Shoppe, and still not really enjoy yourself. This has nothing to do with the food quality or the service. It has to do with the over-sized portions of everything, and – yes – the cost.

We learned that even when it’s 100F in LA, our kids still want to go to an amusement park.

We learned that two straight weeks of vacation is long enough.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qb-Uw4C46eJCMGwqBSMbHv7hWFY&usp=sharing

 

It all depends upon expectations

Every 18-24 year old male in the United States will likely undergo that time-honored ritual wherein they wreck a car for no good reason. My son has just crashed through that rite of passage, and now we know that the waiting room at an impound yard is, in fact, the fourth circle of Hell.

We also learned that the daily storage fee was $32/day – not $15 a day like the Scottsdale police officer told my son. And getting it towed there – at police insistence – counted as his free tow under our roadside assistance plan.

Vehicular mishaps are excessively burdensome upon the working poor, because you can’t budget for them, and they have no other resources to re-direct. Consequently, the patient if bored folks behind the thick glass have to keep repeating the same sad litany of fines and documentation.

My son is technically working poor, but he has literally no other expense he has to worry about at the moment. So even though he thinks his life is over, this is actually a nuisance for us and not a crisis. Not everyone in that dingy, airless room was so lucky.  There was one party literally wailing.

Another guy, though, was super-stoked that no one at the impound yard stole anything out of his vehicle. “That’s the way to run a business.” he exclaimed loud enough for me to hear him some distance away. It all depends upon expectations, I suppose.

Business Insider reports:

After decades of stagnant wages, 73 million Americans — nearly one quarter of our population — now live in households eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit exclusively available to the working poor.

This is all in argument for raising the minimum wage:

We have been raising the minimum wage for 78 years, and as a new study clearly reveals, 78 years of minimum-wage hikes have produced zero evidence of the “job-killing” consequences these headline writers want us to fear.

A consume driven economy needs a large, viable consumer base or, you know, there’s a crash.

And now our friends the octopi – who are multiplying wildly, and no one knows why.

http://gizmodo.com/swarms-of-octopus-are-taking-over-the-world-s-oceans-1777790453?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Which leads to this:

 

And finally, over on Curious Continuity, Legends of Tomorrow is Breaking My Heart.

Now you know.

A Few unrelated standards

Watching your child’s team get clobbered in basketball is decidedly less painful than watching then get clobbered in baseball. Bad basketball is still kinda funny. Bad baseball is just painful.

That said, while I’m not boycotting the Suns’ lost season (this one), I’m not arranging my life around Suns games anymore.

If you divide the world GDP by the global population, you get $8400 – or thereabouts per year for every human being. I was curious.

The standard speed of a motorized hoist for a theatrical application is 179’/minute. That was the closest they could get a commercial gearbox (from Hoffing – so this is sometimes called the Hoffing Standard) to the actual speed of three stagehands hauling a fully-loaded batten. I don’t have the numbers the stagehands achiueved, but that’s where the 179′  came from.

For the writers – the scientific plausibility of a work of science fiction is called – among fandom – its “hardness”.  TV Tropes compares it to the Mohs Scale of geologic hardness. Mike Brotherton has a similar scale, and better thought through.

Learning via You-Tube – gravitational lensing

Now you know.

Notes from my new and nifty sky chair

Which I bought at the Renn Faire with money I made from phxsunsnews.com

It’s like a hammock – only a chair – and mine has armrests and a cup-holder -because its a deluxe!

If it had a fold-out desk and a plug strip – I’d live in the damn thing.

I added the sheet clipped to the thing for shade.

[photo by Julia Padegimas]

Also at the Renn Faire, my kids learned to make noise for digereedoos. We all learned how predatory birds have far more relative grip strength than humans. And we learned that jousting at the Renn Faire has more in common with pro wrestling than with the rodeo.

According to the American Psychiatric Group I have autism or nothing.

They found the part of the brain that governs spirituality

Boredom doesn’t cause death, but it causes behavior that leads to death.

On that subject, I have been assigned by my day job to comeup with a power point tutorial on basic theatrical carpentry.However dull that sounds – it’s actually worse than that. Power Point is like a slide show, only with bullet [yawn] points, and without the exciting possibility that a slide might be upside down or jam.

Writer’s Group Notes

We couldn’t remember the name of the software that kept track of plot threads for you, so here’s a round-up of the better writing software.

It’s Ross Sea – not Ross Bay. My bad.

Space elevators are only practical at or near the equator, since they rely on inertia from the Earth’s rotation tohold ther tension. At or near the pole (like my fictional Ross Spaceport) you need something like a Space Fountain. Cooler anyway.

Other random nonsense

Zombie fiction authors,in general, are apparently relatively conservative. Witness the fall-out to the possibility of gay zombie fiction.

Zombies are also at war with Unicorns. I don’t know why? Unicorns are liberal?

Ok – who wouldn’t want to slaughter such a thing?

“The First Follower can make the difference between a leader and a lone nut…”

Finally, some props to Eric Turner – who didn’t steal my blog title after all.

Now You Know