Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm a little confused regarding the various definitions of "irony," but I bet it fits here somewhere--maybe in Chapter 10: "Confronting Creationists"

This afternoon I had sat down to a late lunch and was browsing through my copy of Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things when the doorbell rang. I jumped from my seat quickly,endangering the integrity of my book's spine by laying it face down to keep my place, hurrying because Jillian had just fallen asleep for her nap and I didn't want the doorbell to ring again and wake her. I had a hint of what to expect, because out of the corner of my eye I thought I had glimpsed through the window a couple of sets of white shirts and black pants.

It was a couple of Mormons, Elders Someone-or-Other and Someone Else. They were the typical clean-cut young men who do their church's door-to-door operation.

There was a time when I would have been very annoyed; I take a dim view of door-to-door proselytizing in general, but I've mellowed in recent years. It used to offend me somewhat, and I entertained the idea (but never acted upon it) of causing trouble and vexation for people engaged in this activity. I really don't have a desire to do that anymore, though.

Also, the Mormons used to weird me out a little more than they do now. Sure, their oddball heritage and theology stand out in a broad field of weird things people believe. Over the past ten years, though, I learned more about them and met a number of them. Also, Salt Lake City is a neat town.

Theological disagreements and our strong differences regarding important social issues notwithstanding, I've found those Latter Day Saints to be pretty good folks. I wouldn't mind having them as neighbors; in fact, I've had some, and they were swell. In many ways, they really tend to have their acts together.

Anyway, the two Elders at my door engaged me in unwanted conversation. One of them had noted the "Feed a Starving Artist" bumper sticker on my Festiva, and asked about my art. It's hard to find a polite way to cut out the small talk, so I chatted for a few minutes, waiting for them to get to stop beating around the bush. Finally, they asked about religion and whether I was interested in learning more about Jesus--they gave me a card with a picture of the Saviour on one side and information on the reverse for ordering a free Jesus DVD. When I told them I wasn't interested, they inquired as to why, but I refused to answer. It's very true what they say about the wisdom of avoiding discussion of politics and religion in polite conversation, and I wanted our relationship to remain amicable. Even if I had been honest and forthright, I'm sure we could have spent a delightful couple of hours chatting, but my lunch was sitting on the table getting cold.

I told them I hoped that they would continue to enjoy the very pleasant weather, and wished them a good afternoon. I kept their card, and realized as I walked back to the table that it would make a perfect bookmark. It's now marking my place in the chapter on witch trial crazes.

Here is a picture of it. I think the artist captured Jesus' likeness remarkably well. I could tell who it was right away!
"Rejoice! For I have marked your spot."

Black walnut ink lightfastness test: The results are in!

Here is the result of the lightfastness test with my homemade black walnut ink. I’m pretty happy with the results. The ink that was exposed to sunlight shows some fading, but it’s not severe. There probably aren’t conditions much harsher, light-exposure-wise, than a car dashboard. I don’t know technical terms or categories, but I’d call this ink pretty lightfast.

Winter was a good period for this test, because it was cold and my windows were rolled up. I couldn’t conduct this test in the summer because the paper would blow around.

Nice weather

Today was a great day for a walk in the park. We played at the playground in Brown Park, then went over to look at the ducks. After that, a stroll by the creek.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

not detecting at Hounz Lane Park

I noticed that recently, bulldozers have stripped away the sod in a large section of Hounz Lane Park. At least, I think that's what they've done. It looks like the top couple of inches of soil is gone near the front of the park. I don't know what the plan is. Maybe they are re-grading the area, or putting down new sod or re-seeding. Whatever the case, I think that would be a nice place to detect; I wouldn't have to worry about damaging the turf, and the garbage near the top would be gone, leaving only old stuff. There might not be any old stuff, and it might be a totally fruitless search, but it would still be simple and easy.
Unfortunately, at the moment, any attempt to hunt that area would probably result in me sinking up to my knees in mud.


Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with Yahoo! Search.

Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke has died. It's been a long time since I've read any of his books, but they've stuck with me. 2001 and 2010 were great, although 2061 didn't have quite the same impact. Rendezvous with Rama was memorable. None of them were as good, in my opinion, as Childhood's End, which Santa brought when I was 11 or 12 years old.
You know that one scene in the movie "2001" when the researchers on the Moon are having their pictures taken in front of the monolith? One of my favorite sci-fi scenes ever. I don't think I'd want to listen to the soundtrack to the scene over and over again, though.


Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with Yahoo! Search.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Coin Club Meeting

The monthly coin club meeting was held yesterday, and it was packed. I don't know why there was such a large turnout. It was the most crowded I've ever seen it (47 attendees), and judging by the comments of the elected officers, it might have been the most crowded ever. Perhaps the large turnout was due to a combination of the nice presentation on large cents, the pleasant spring weather bring people from their homes, and an upsurge in interest in coin collecting. Also, anyone who didn't pay their dues by yesterday was going to be booted off the rolls, so maybe a desire to hand over a check motivated some people to show up.
I auctioned a small item for $2.00, and purchased a Fine 1931-D Lincoln cent for $3.50.


Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Probably not a good sign

Last evening, as Jill, Erin, and I ate dinner at the picnic table in the back yard—with a little snow still on the ground, and it being just March 13—I swatted and killed a mosquito. A mosquito.


Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Secret History

The night before last I finished Donna Tartt's The Secret History. It was a selection for the book club that some Otter friends started. Unfortunately, it was a selection from four years ago, and I just now got around to reading it, so I really don't have anyone to discuss it with. And that's a real shame; in many ways, the group of friends portrayed in the book reminds me of my college friends. Well, sort of. I don't recall many of my friends snorting coke, spending quite so much time drunk, or plotting a murder.
I found the book engrossing and suspenseful. I also had a mixed reaction to the characters; I don't recall many fictional characters from other books who evoked such a strong mix of attraction and revulsion.
So, in short, wonderfully written. My attention never flagged.
I feel like I'm on quite a roll, as I mentioned in a previous post. I've been reading more fiction than I have in years, and it's ranged in quality from very good to excellent. I can recall, a long time ago, when I used to read more, and occasionally I'd get a bum book. That was, of course, before the Internet provided me with easy and quick book reviews. It also helps that I've sort of save up books and recommendations for years.


Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

state quarter designs

All fifty state quarter designs.
Some I find quite striking, and some are horrendous. I really like the new Oklahoma one with the scissor tail flycatcher.
It's hard for me to say what makes a coin design appealing, but I think simplicity is fairly important. Balance is obviously key.
It's easier for me to say what makes a bad design. Anything with a state outline immediately gets points taken off. What a totally lame idea. There is no state quarter, or any other type of coin, that looks better as a result of incorporating a map.
Clutter looks bad, and many of the coins suffer from that, although some of the busiest coins (like Nevada's) still look great. Also, there's such a thing as too much simplicity. The Wyoming quarter is terrible in this regard.
Some of my favorites: Connecticut, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, New Jersey
Alaska, Montana
Some of the worst: Wyoming, Indiana, Louisiana, Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan
I haven't really made an effort to collect any of the state quarters, though I have kept some of the ones that I like the best.


Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with Yahoo! Search.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Obsolescence: A Tire-ade

After my car developed a vibration, I looked at the tires and underneath the car for signs of the cause. I'm not very good at that kind of thing, and I didn't notice anything at first. But after another week of the vibration, which seemed to increase and decrease in severity, and which was most pronounced at 5-20 m.p.h and over 60 m.p.h., I formed the opinion that it must be a tire.
I looked at the tires again, and noticed that the front driver's side tire had a subtle bulge that ran about half the tire's circumference, right at the edge of the tread.
That seemed like a dangerous thing, so I took my car and its seven-year-old tires to Goodyear, where the tires had been purchased.
It turns out that 1990 Ford Festivas are now difficult cars for which to buy tires.
"Those are 12-inch tires, and I can tell you right now we don't have any of those in stock," said they guy at the counter, after he had looked at the bum tire and announced that it was a manufacturer's defect that had caused my concern.
He checked his computer, and it told him that his Cincinnati warehouse showed a stock listing of "1."
"You only want the one, you said, right?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. All the tires are a bit worn ("and show signs of dry rot," said the guy at the counter), but with my car, I don't see the sense in replacing anything until necessary. I put on a new windshield wiper last week after the rubber blade of one of them flew off, and that made me feel like I was sinking a lot of money into it.
He said that since it was a manufacturer's defect, he could prorate the cost of the tire, but since the tire was so old, he would only be subtracting one-ninth of the new tire's cost.
That though bummed me until he announced, after clicking on his computer a little more, that the tires only cost $26.00 each. "Prorating it will take three dollars off of that," he said.
So he called his warehouse, but they could not find the tire. It's just one little tire, he explained, and in a warehouse full of 60,000 tires, it's hard to keep track of.
Then he called Ken Towery, and they didn't have the tire either. All his leads came up dry. "A twelve-inch tire is just hard to find," he said. "They don't even make wheels that size any more. They started phasing out that size years ago."
He suggested that I contact the dealer and find out about having thirteen-inch wheels put on the car. <i>No thanks</i> I thought to myself. I decided to visit Big O Tires, which is where Kim went after becoming dissatisfied with Goodyear a few months ago.
The guy at Big O looked at my tires, furrowed his brows, and exhaled deeply. "Boy," he intoned, "That's a tough one."
He didn't think he had any of those in stock, and a quick check confirmed it. Then he made a phone call.
This call was a success. "Oh, you do have some? Great!" he said into the phone.
They ordered the tire, which ended up costing me $76.00 (I guess it's now considered a specialty, novelty item now) and had it the next day.
If it gets to the point that I can't find the tires I need, I will complain to Ford. How dare they sell me a car with a tire size that eventually becomes obsolete? Whatever happened to product support, to standing by your merchandise? It hasn't reached that level yet. But it might, soon. My car is only 18 years old, dammit!


Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.


This weekend I made my first pot of chili ever. That's pretty weird; as much as I like to bake and cook, you'd think I'd have lots of chili experience. I've even talked about it a lot, but my talk has never led to action until the middle of this weekend's snow storm.
I pureed a can of kidney beans and dumped it in; Kim said she would try it that way.
And she did. It was the first time Kim had eaten chili.


Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Over the past two weeks, I've spent three lunch breaks metal detecting--once at Hounz Lane Park, and twice at the grounds of the former orphanage/children's shelter. My tally for the past two weeks: One corroded penny.
I have, of course, found lots of garbage. My most exciting find yesterday was a nail.
Today, though, I had a very nice "hit" on my machine and commenced digging. About six inches down I finally found a convex piece of metal with lots of round holes in it. Yes, you guessed it! Cool. An old drain cap.
At least, I suppose that's what it is. I'll clean it up and have a closer look before forwarding pictures to the Frazier Museum.


Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with Yahoo! Search.


Last weekend we made some pizza. The recipe for dough that I used this time was the easiest yet, and it came out very nicely.
The girls really seem to enjoy helping in the kitchen, and working with dough is one of their favorites. I don't use the bread machine as often as I used to, and one of the main reasons for that is their great enjoyment of kneading with their hands. They also liked the rolling pin.

On another geek note:

I received three different e-mails from friends notifying me of the death of Gary Gygax, co-creator and founder of the D&D game. Each email included a joke; two about Gygax failing his saving throw, and one about the need for a cleric. Oh, and one also contained a joke about 45-degree corridors.


Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.