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May 31st, 2014

09:36 pm: The Red Menace
The VIN plate on the door of my 1990 Miata says (in clear) that it was built in "MAY 1989"

Which means it's now over 25 years old (!) (It's at just over 178,000 miles.)

NYS says that I can get "Historic" plates for it in the following calendar year, so, Jan. 2015.

(A quick Google didn't turn up a VIN decoder that would tell me the actual DAY it came off the line; but it might be about Miata #4,000 - pretty darn early. The last I knew, total production to date was about 900,000.)

Current Mood: bemused
Current Music: Beethoven: Complete Edition
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August 8th, 2010

03:27 pm: Globalization
When I was about 5, my family took me on a family vacation that included a factory tour of Hershey's. I seem to have been deeply imprinted by the experience of meeting a 1000-gallon open vat of liquid chocolate.

In the mid-80s, I took my new bride to Hershey - only to discover that THEY NO LONGER GAVE FACTORY TOURS. (Instead, they tried to send you on an amusement park ride that described the process. Not the same. No.)

With a little research (this was pre-internet...), I discovered that Hershey of Canada still offered factory tours - so the next year (1986?) we went up to Smiths Falls, Ontario, and took the tour.

This year, I was going to take my kids to Ontario, and figured I'd check out Hershey.

"The factory that produced Hershey Kisses and other confections for 45 years closed its doors in December 2008, when the chocolate giant relocated its manufacturing operation to Mexico.

"The move put 400 townspeople out of work and took with it the town's main tourist attraction, which drew about 425,000 visitors per year.

This is my Sad Face :(

Current Location: Candy store
Current Mood: sad
Current Music: REM Don't go back to Rockville
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March 27th, 2010

01:07 pm: Oh, Internets, I love you so
Teach Yourself Na'vi

This pretty much HAD to exist, didn't it?

(Hey, what's the Klingon for "That's the geekiest thing I've ever seen?"?)

Current Location: Pandora
Current Mood: amused
Current Music: Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans
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March 17th, 2010

07:41 pm: Set theory
I figured that SOMEWHERE on the planet, there must be a Hotel Hilbert.

(And you could go up to the reception desk, and INSIST that they find you a room. . . "FULL? How can the Hotel Hilbert be FULL?")

A Google search for "Hotel Hilbert" turns up a "Hotel Brigadier Sh De Hilbert Mario", in Santa Fe, Argentina - - but the sign on the door there says "Hotel Brigadier". Not good enough.

But there IS a Pension Hilbert in Greiz, Germany.

Oddly, it claims to hold fewer than 50 guests.

Now I know where to stay on vacation.

Current Mood: curious
Current Music: One is the loneliest number
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March 5th, 2010

05:39 pm: Acronym of the day: SPUI
I finally found out what's going on up at Exit 6 of the Northway:


Scroll down to see the "Single Point Urban Interchange".

(They're widening the overpass from the current seven lanes to ten or twelve or so.)

Current Location: sitting in traffic

April 13th, 2009

01:17 am: One of the eternal questions
I went to college at a place that bills itself as "A Technological University", so lots of my friends from those days are engineers and the like: people with a higher-than-average propensity to build stuff.

E.g., I know guys who etch their own circuit boards. I know a guy who was taught how to build a Dobsonian telescope by John Dobson.

One of the questions we've kicked around, is "What's a reasonable household toolkit?"

Yes, every home needs a pair of Vise-Grips - but does every household really need a welding rig? How about a generator? (I can recall helping a friend at school fix his car at the curb; and then his roommate came out to help, carrying TWO toolboxes. He dropped the first: "Wrenches." Then dropped the second toolbox: "Other stuff." Uh, thanks.)

Esquire magazine (of all places) addresses the question this month in an article called "31 Things Every Man Should Own". THEIR list ranges from the obvious to the silly:

Cast-Iron Skillet
Valid Passport
Multipurpose Tool
Waiter's Corkscrew/Bottle Opener/Knife
Cordless Drill
Weekend Shoulder Bag
Giant Wool Blanket Never Removed from the Trunk of the Car
Chain Saw
Work Gloves
Carpenter's Level
Boots for the Shop
Boots for Everywhere Else
Claw Hammer
Chef's Knife
Flying Disc
U.S. Road Atlas
Air Pump
Jumper Cables
Charcoal Grill
Card Holder
Pocket Knife
Lucky Charm
$1,000 Hidden in Your House
LED Flashlight
Money Clip
Joy of Cooking

Well, I suppose it's a start on a list. I'm trying to think if anybody I know owns "a lucky charm". Or if anybody I know here in the snowbelt DOESN'T own a pair of boots. Or why a "flying disc" is such a high-priority item (in the Top 31?) Or why they spec a simple "shoulder bag" and not some sort of pre-packed "go kit".

Admittedly, it's a general list of "things" and not just "tools", but either way, it seems woefully incomplete.

So, what did they miss?

Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Music: Talking Heads
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March 20th, 2009

03:24 pm: A Meme for All Seasons: the 1999 All-Time Readers Poll Short Story List
A Meme for All Seasons: the 1999 All-Time Readers Poll Short Story List

borrowed fromjames_nicoll 

"The usual rules apply: bold the ones you've read. Strike the ones you've read that you don't think belong on this list. Post a peeved comment about stories you think should have been on this list but weren't (Extra credit for complaining about the lack of inclusion of stories published after this list was compiled)."

"Jeffty Is Five", Harlan Ellison (1977)

"'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", Harlan Ellison (1965)

"The Star", Arthur C. Clarke (1955)

"I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream", Harlan Ellison (1967)

"'All You Zombies—'", Robert A. Heinlein (1959)

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", Ursula K. Le Guin (1973)

"The Game of Rat and Dragon", Cordwainer Smith (1955)

"The Nine Billion Names of God", Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

"A Sound of Thunder", Ray Bradbury (1952)

"The Green Hills of Earth", Robert A. Heinlein (1947)

"Day Million", Frederik Pohl (1966)

"It's a Good Life", Jerome Bixby (1953)

"Aye, and Gomorrah…", Samuel R. Delany (1967)

"Light of Other Days", Bob Shaw (1966)

"The Last Question", Isaac Asimov (1956)

"There Will Come Soft Rains", Ray Bradbury (1950)

"Or All the Seas with Oysters", Avram Davidson (1958)

"Requiem", Robert A. Heinlein (1940)

"Air Raid", Herb Boehm  (John Varley) (1977)

"That Hell-Bound Train", Robert Bloch (1958)

"The Lottery", Shirley Jackson (1948)

"The Country of the Kind", Damon Knight (1956)

"The Liberation of Earth", William Tenn (1953)

"Harrison Bergeron", Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1961)

"Sundance", Robert Silverberg (1969)

"When It Changed", Joanna Russ (1972)

"Love is the Plan the Plan is Death", James Tiptree, Jr. (1973)

"The Third Expedition" ("Mars Is Heaven!"), Ray Bradbury (1948)

"Passengers", Robert Silverberg (1968)

"Cassandra", C. J. Cherryh (1978)

"Helen O'Loy", Lester del Rey (1938)

"The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories", Gene Wolfe (1970)

"The Long Watch", Robert A. Heinlein (1949)

"Space-Time for Springers", Fritz Leiber (1958)

"Speech Sounds", Octavia E. Butler (1983)

"The Way of Cross and Dragon", George R. R. Martin (1979)

"Corridors", Barry N. Malzberg (1982)

"Out of All Them Bright Stars", Nancy Kress (1985)

"Robbie", Isaac Asimov (1940)

"Narrow Valley", R. A. Lafferty (1966)

"The Hole Man", Larry Niven (1974)*

"The Pusher", John Varley (1981)

"That Only a Mother", Judith Merril (1948)

Good heavens: I'm reasonably sure that I've read all of these.  (...talk about a misspent youth....)
The Tenn, the Malzberg, and the Cherryh are the only three that don't come immediately to mind, but I've read enough of each author to give myself the benefit of the doubt.

Note that the most recent story here is from 1985 - which is why I know so many of them. 

*I argue with the inclusion of the Niven, but only because his "Inconstant Moon" made much more of an impression on me at the time.

Current Mood: geeky
Current Music: Rubenstein playing Franck
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February 28th, 2009

05:27 pm: What kind of liberal are you?
Seen on the blog "Suburban Guerrilla" ( http://susiemadrak.com/ ) - - the quiz seems to be an ad for a book, but the results were fun enough:

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Working Class Warrior, also known as a blue-collar Democrat. You believe that the little guy is getting screwed by conservative greed-mongers and corporate criminals, and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Current Music: "The Internationale"
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January 26th, 2009

10:33 pm: the self-referential OCD experience
One of my kids saw an episode of "Monk" at somebody's house, and expressed an interest in seeing more. (We don't have cable....)

One of the local libraries has it, but their run (five seasons, twenty?-some discs already) was (of course) all jumbled at random on the shelf.  And it's only logical to start watching it from the beginning, right?

So in order to find and bring home the earliest disc they had, I found myself carefully arranging their run of "Monk" DVDs into chronological order...

Current Location: Checking the stove
Current Mood: anxious
Current Music: Talking Heads
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January 23rd, 2009

10:05 pm: There's a simple explanation, really
Inaugural Day: we saw two Supreme Court Justices.

Both of them are Republican appointees.

One of them is 88 years old, and was tasked with administering a 74-word oath, and does it perfectly.

The other is 53 years old, and completely botched the administration of an oath only 35 words long.

So what's the obvious difference here?

The one who was hopelessly incompetent at the simplest aspect of his job was the Bush appointee.

Current Location: A new America
Current Mood: amused
Current Music: listening to the replay
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