A hundred miles a day for eight days

Between driving a stakebed out to a distant golf course and back for a show, cross-valley errands, and a camping trip to the Rim, I drove about a hundred miles a day for the past eight days, gaining some wisdom in the process.

First, the Equinox photo I promised:

2006 Chevy Equinox

That photo is near General Springs on the Mogollon Rim. If you can see them, the decorations drawn in the dust on the side of the car are courtesy of the children.

Eight busy days later, and I have learned a lot of things:

Three layers of mark-up will seriously impair the viability of a competitive bid.

Burn Notice is the secret re-boot of the A-Team.

Everyone in Little League is a volunteer, except the guys in the national office – who are paid – and this is reflected in the league dues.

My informal and random poll indicates that  0 out of 19 education professionals believe that No Child Left Behind (as implemented) is actually helping to educate children.

One guy calls the truck pack – and all the other logistical geniuses on the call need to live with that guy’s decisions, or you add an hour to load out.

If you have a crew loading out a show on a golf course, and you lock the only restroom, this will not prevent the crew from relieving themselves. It will only prevent them from relieving themselves in the toilet.

One simply cannot underestimate the importance of worklight when loading out in an open field in the middle of the night. Moonlight is not an acceptable substitute.

When launching model rockets, bring extra batteries and fuses.

The RXC went camping at Bear Canyon Lake, on the Mogollon Rim. Some notes about that site can be found on my other blog:

Are We Lost Yet?

Hammock at Bear Lake

When taking middle-graders camping, they all need chairs, or none of them need chairs. Musical chairs around the campfire is a recipe for discontent.

The kids get their own campfire.

The kids get their own campfire.

American adults car-camping will never run out of food. They always bring too much. This was, however, the first trip in a long time where we did not run out of booze. Perhaps we’re growing wiser.

Pie irons still rock! Especially now that we know how to use them.

New vocabulary: Bailing wire = “ranch tape”

I have established that the Equinox can bounce through the Buick Filter. Though I damn near found the Equinox filter (its still a 2WD) on our way to General Cabin Springs. We were scouting a multi-day bacpacking trip taking the General Crook Trail east from Clear Creek to its intersection with the AZT (near General Springs), then taking the AZT north to Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Having scouted that, I have concluded it wuld be far easier to start at Blue Ridge and head down to Clear Creek. But it would be even easier just to stay n the AZT and go down the Rim to Pine. I’m still noodling on these things.

But there is a marked section of the GCT that follows AZ 260 from around Camp Verde to the Rim. We found a blaze by following a randomly selected dirt road off the highway. I love the Equinox.

Camp Verde State Park s closed on Tuesdays.

Some links:

World Food Program trying to bring disaster relief over the objections of the Myanmar government. “The people of Myanmar do not eat biscuits…”

The Onion reporting on President Obama’s visit to Denny’s.

Now You Know

Land of the Lost Car Dealers

We traded in the Buick for a 2006 Chevy Equinox. Partly to have a vehicle we can haul kids/dogs/bikes in w/o multiple trips, and partly to solev my Buick Filter issues on forest roads.

Here’s what we learned:

* All the young, high-pressure sales guys that used to prowl the lots are gone. Only the old, undermotivated guys who have been doing this forever are left to slowly show you cars.

* If you can find something between the car you really want (we looked at a 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe  with less than 10K miles) and the car you could easily afford (a 2006 Jeep Patriot with power-nothing. Nothing!) for which you can make the beans work out, take it.

* Subaru seats are too close to the floor – even for folks like my wife and I who have no legs.

* I defy you to find a working clock or timepiece visible in a car showroom.

* If you just accept going in that a dealer is going to screw you on your trade-in (because that’s where they really make their money), it takes a whole lot of stress out of the process.

* Walking in with a pre-approved load also takes a whole lot of stress out of the process. Because now, they’re not trying to inflate their margin thru mystery financing. Thge best they can hope for is to beat your pre-approved offer (which happened).

* It’s a whole lot easier doing this with a trade-in that still runs well, and middle-aged finances.

On an obliquely related note, SF Channel ahs been running a Land of the Lost marathon. I used to worship that show as a child – though I remember giving up on it mid-way through the third and final season because the writing was getting lazy. L of L hads a lot of weird fun ideas going on all at the same time, and if you got past the 70’s kid TV show pacing and the horrific SFX, there was some good Science Fiction underneath, and decent character development by Saturday morning standards.

The biggest difference you’d find now – past the SFX – is that a competent adult parent was a central character in the show. This hardly ever happens on kids’ TV.

Another difference was that Mom was dead – and they talked about every once in a while. My kids watch iCarly all the time, and after seeing every episode for three seasons, could not tell you what happened to her mother.

For all of that, four episodes in a row is my limit.

Now You Know.

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.

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.