A Backlog of Odd Discoveries

The plastic in common plastic drink containers can leach toxin – or not. Full treatement in my other blog: Are We Lost Yet?

The day you always knew was coming: robotic penguins.

Bill Moyers with David Simon, one of the creators of The Wire on HBO. Simon says, “This is what happens when you have a whole class of people that the economy has no use for…” That notion has been bothering me all week.

Earth Day came and went with the revelation that my children are more ecologically minded than I am by a full order of magnitude – and I’m relatively green by my generation.

For humans on earth, under relatively normal conditions, the size of an object that can be visually discerned in 1/500th of the distance of the observer. That’s just to identify that something’s there. So, at 500 meters, you could make out one meter objects – but you couldn’t tell if they were bumps or windows or painted squares. Identification starts at about 100/1.

That information derived from here. Yes. Really.

20/20 vision is normal – not perfect. Sharp-eyed humans can get to about 20/12. The 20/20 standard is actually fairly arbitrary – it refers to how far away the chart is. In Europe its 6/6 – six meters vs 20 feet.

Fun facts from NPR Science Friday:

Got skunked? Don’t waste yr time with tomato juice. Try this method instead. (Including the basic chemistry of skunk sprays…)

Basic info on the agave plant.

Now for the Writers:

YA Fiction gets no respect.

A 12-step program for publishers (Good luck with that…)

And WSJ on E-books and the future.

Did I mention I’m not sold on Kindle – or any other dedicated book-reader? I’m not. The price point is too high for something that isn’t much of an improvement over your PDA (which also does other useful things…).

Now You Know.

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Just throw strikes…

The Suns are out. For those who get their NBA news from my blog.

Mule line, the flat line somewhere between rope and string that we use to pull cable through conduit is expensive – but so is labor. At some point, you just gotta cut the line, tie a new one, and move on with the job.

It’s a lot more expensive to change plans after the conduit is in place – a lot.

If your first instinct is that you probably can’t quite get the boom basket around the obstruction from this position – you’re right. Proving that to yourself is a slow and frustrating exercise.

You all know that North Korea will never actually launch a nuclear missile at the US, right? The whole country operates like its run by kindergarteners, and this is just one more tantrum for attention. We gotta calm down and be the grown-ups. Really.

Much as I like the Obama admin, they still live in fear, at least in foreign policy. [sigh..]

In little league, you can hit a ball three feet from the plate and still score a run on that very play.

And the team my son’s team faced last Tuesday – they’re the terror of the entire league. My son’s team is closer to the middle of the pack than that game would indicate.

And they played well tonight. And Ben scored his first run (walk, two stolen bases, walk home on a bases loaded HBP). His team played well and won. Don’t worry – I’m not going to update in this sort of detail all season.

Now you know.

Bullets, bats and sharks.

My son’s baseball team learned that if you don’t listen to the coach in practice – you get shelled – and I mean shelled – in your first game. Now, the other team had some higher skill levels (where my son’s team is still working on basic base running, they were working on steals), but the athletic talent was about even. The lopsided score was the difference between working on your game and making excuses.

There’s an ammo shortage in the United States. Between wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and – ahem – Mexico, plus the 30-50% increase in sales since O’Bama took office (the gun-lovers are a fearin’ new laws and/or taxes) both gun shops and police departments are struggling to stay fully loaded, as it were.

I sent a version of the query letter for Jack (the title is The Beanstalk and Beyond) to Query Shark. The letter was sufficiently off main sequence that I felt some more objective eyes might be useful. My letter isn’t up at this writing and there is no timetable for it (the agent who writes QS does this in her “spare” time). We’ll see what comes of it.

What’s the value of Facebook? My 20+ hit day (24 March) came after announcing my blog update on FB.

Now you know.

Fun With Brazen Poppycock and many other strange facts

Some housekeeping: The WHWL for the writer’s group is going pack to the main blog (here – below) because adding a sub-page takes like 15 minutes in WordPress and I got things to do. Also, the material is as much general interest as the antics of octopi or urinals around the world or any of the other strange subjects I post about.

A whole generation of kindergarteners, including my son, learned to write the lower-case “a” backwards. That’s starting to drive middle-school teachers nuts.

When you live with middle-graders, April 1st means being updated with brazen poppycock every 15 minutes.

I’m actually quite recently fond of the term “brazen poppycock”.

On a Technobeam button box (and if you know what I’m talking about – you’re already cringing) you have to edit all the common parameters on the Techno’s first, record a cue, and then go back and fix the lights individually. If you solo-select a light before recording a cue, all the other Technos revert back to default values, and you say bad, bad words. And you spend 1.5 hours programming a four step chase, until you realize the above fact, and slap it down in 20 minutes.

Now, for the Wed Nite Writer’s Meet-up:

April 1st is poetry month. The challenge is a poem a day (I’m already behind) with or without the WD contest.

If you know the rules regarding what spider-bots will and will notlook for, its pretty easy to hide a website from search engines.

Two good sources for remedial Search Engine Optimization strategies:

SEO 101 ” It’s counter-intuitive, but you get good rankings by ignoring rankings and focusing on quality.” But he talks about how rankings work anyway.

SEO How To With basic advice about starting with good content and worrying about ranking strategies later because : “High rankings are worth a LOT of money and people don’t work hard to become experts just to give that information away.”

Remedial Podcasting info:

Liberated Syndication a commercial service.

Pod Camp AZ an “unconference” for podcasters and wannabe podcasters.

We learned the correct spelling for Rock-Paper-Scissors (the French term that I’m not even going to try here). AC? Some help?

And finally, query letters to agents are a lot like medieval alchemy. You would intuitively think that there would be some common guiding principles, but no one can seem to agree on any of them.

WD’s Best of Agents Who Blog

And from that list: Query Shark – for those willing to take the trial by blood, in front of the whole internet.

Now you know.


Random revelations from a fun weekend

Because we could all use a fun weekend…

The AMC bowling alley near Chris-town has Guiness on tap. A family of four can bowl and eat pizza for about $65 (not including black & tans), and watch as your children discover that real bowling is not at all like the Wii.

With current construction conditions, it is 2.5 hours door to door from the Padegimas house to the Kinsey residence in Tucson. (Half of the eight people who read this know who I’m talking about. A fourth of them live there.)

Watchmen is rated R for good reasons. Don’t bring the kids.

The Gifted and Talented Education  (GATE) program in Arizona is largely funded by federal grants, and so survives the state budget ax better than a lot of programs you might think more vital.

By the time I’m finished, the hardware for my new gate might cost as much as the lumber.

You can fit a 9′ board inside a Malibu.

The Rio Solado project, along the banks of the Salt River as it “flows” through Phoenix (though it currently has a fair bit of water) makes for a good, easy hike if you’re out of shape, and don’t want to prepare for an expedition to get your mileage in. But there is NO convenience store within walking distance of the trailheads.

My Beloved Suns are running out of time to win their bet with GM Steve Kerr and make the play-offs. They must win a LOT of games to overtake Dallas – who they play next – for the 8th spot in the West. Perhaps some mid-court defense would be in order after all…

Now you know.

Three very different challenges to my sanity

First, some notes from my daughter’s birthday party last weekend:

If you give a seven year old a whistle – you will end up taking it away from her. This particular girl never grew tired of blowing her whistle. At first, we wondered about her sanity, but soon feared for our own.

“That’s a pretty whistle you have. Can I see it for a second?” … [CRUNCH!]

I didn’t really do that to her. But I thought about it – a lot.

There’s probably a good transition into Sunday morning talk shows from there, but the kids do not actually sleep at sleepovers, and most of my Sunday was spent putting out the nmerous little fires when exhausted children try to play with one another – or simply eat breakfast.

On Moday, I learned about bid bonding – the insurance bond contractors must provide to bid on a project. I won’t bore you with the details – but that’s what I learned.

Bidding a project isn’t about the math. It’s not that difficult to figure out the amount of money you’d prefer to get for doing a project. The tough part is deciding how far below number A you’re willing to go to get the bid – and then living with that decision. Isubmt that bid today, and then I’m done with spreadsheets for a while, and I’m back to the part of my job that requires a five-point safety harness.

Tuesday we did taxes. I learned that mileage fr your day job, your sole proprietorship and non-profit activities all use different calculations, and that those calclations changed md-way through the tax year. Even so, around 1400+ miles driven to write the hiking guide. Didn’t wipe out my profit (for tax purposes) but it came close. (I also bought a lot of hiking gear – which is all business expense in my universe).

How did we do our taxes before Excel?

Now You know

Baseball and straight lines learned later in life than one would suppose

My son, who has somehow reached the age of 11 without playing so much as an inning of organized baseball, decides he wants to join Little League. At 6th grade, you’re supposed to be automatically placed in the upper division (which they call the “majors”) but there exists a by-law that allows them to put a 6th grader in the “minors” if everyone signs off on it.

6-8th grade pitching really maxes out at 70mph, which is fast enough from a 60′ mound, but Little League pitches from a 42′ mound (distance from home plate – for the non-sporting), which reduces the decision-making window to the equivalent of a major league fastball. It s simply unsafe to put a raw beginner in the batter box under thosee conditions.

Ben was bummed, but he’s better off learning the basic-basics with other kids who are the same situation. They spent a lot of time in the first practices just figuring out the rules of base running.

I can’t stress enough how kind and cool everyone in our local league has turned out to be.

My daughter, who turned 10 last week, somehow got to that milestone without learning how to draw a straight line using a ruler.

Now they know.