Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Review

Spent three months recovering from 10 days in the hospital. Have avoided being admitted to one all year. Will continue to avoid them in 2014.

Saw the results of a CAD project: my X-11 decals on a Mexican car!

Also, this guy's a drumming badass.

Fixed my car.

Drove to Atlanta to pick up a spare X-11 engine. Drove the Tracker around for a few more months with the damn thing still there.

Went to San Francisco. Wish I could have stayed awhile. Three days isn't nearly enough. And I graffiti'd Fort Point.

Added Frisco's Fort Point to my CAD fort projects.

Rush made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

My car fixed me.

Another guy used my X-11 decals on his car.

Started building again on Revell's 1/96 Saturn V kit. Amassed close to 1 gigabyte of research pictures and YouTube clips.

I finished the Atlanta trip (finally) by getting the spare X-11 engine out of the Tracker.

My mom died. Still doesn't seem possible. Still haven't heard a thing from the Perdido Bay Muscogee Creek tribe folks. Nice.

Fixed my car.

Fixed my car.

Managed to read and review 12 books, up from 6 in 2012.

Wrote this post.

Goodbye to 2013. You sucked.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Song of the Day: Horrible 'O Holy Night'

Because someone somewhere played "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and that just deserves a nuclear response.

Enjoy :)

No Longer Selling Duck Crap...

That's right. This blog will no longer sell any "Duck Dynasty" merchandise.

We made this decision just to piss off the fundies, teabaggers, and the like.


--The Management.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pic of the Day: Glasshoppers!

Shot in December of 2006. I was going for the house lights in the background, but my camera wanted a few seconds of quiet time while it captured the low-light shot.

Then the light turned green. Happy accidental catch!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

X-11: Only Took Five Years...

When I first got the X-11 in January of 2009, both front brake rotors looked like this.

I completely re-did the rear brakes (new drums, new shoes, everything else cleaned up and lubed). About all I did up front was to drop new brake pads in and clean some of the rust off the calipers. I needed the car moving and new rotors could wait a little longer.

The replacement pads did a good job of scraping the rust off, but the rotors themselves were under spec and had grooves like little metal records. A good panic stop was very entertaining! I'd push on the brake pedal, then a little harder, then harder, watching that other guy's rear bumper getting closer. The X-11's nose would dive, but she'd stop with plenty of room between her nose and the other car's tail. Maybe she was testing my blood pressure for me.

More recently, though, I was hearing some occasional loud, low grinding noises like I was dragging granite blocks across cement.

For the record, no X-11 shipped with granite blocks.

Sounded really bad, and always after some moderate to severe braking. I started imagining the rotors getting worn down until they looked like these:


That is what happens when you don't get your brakes worked on like you're  supposed to. Those shiny "fingers" are the insides of the rotor--and the outer half of it is missing, ground down by metal-on-metal contact with a worn-out brake pad. Inevitably, the joker driving a truck like this will tell you, "It just started making noise this morning." Heh.

I saw one back in my Pep Boys days (1996-98) where the entire rotor had been worn down to the point where it fell off the hub. On both front wheels. "It only started making noise this morning," the woman said. "The brakes were acting funny, so I drove it here."

Then she wanted us to put the tires back on and let her drive it home because she couldn't afford new rotors and pads just then. We offered to call a tow truck, because that was the only way the thing was leaving. All it'd take was her hitting a bus full of kids and nuns and Pep Boys would be signing ownership over to someone new.

She left the truck and got the work done a few days later. This was a big full-size Ford pickup. Plenty of liability damage, there.

I had those images in mind when I ordered new pads and rotors back in August. Took me another 4 months to get myself together health-wise. All the usual stuff: one knee or the other, one foot or the other, or my right elbow would seem to flare up just as I was thinking it'd be a good day to work on the car. Add the trouble I have getting up and down and almost-constant tiredness and it seems to take a confluence of cosmic powers to get my ass out there.

I've still got things that need reinstalling after all the electrical troubleshooting back in May; a dead, rusty muffler to replace; a blower motor with a bad wire; an oil change 10 months late; and a lot of other stuff. Got the parts, but they won't install themselves.

I can tick the brakes off that list. Only took me two days, this time, to get them done. I have to relearn the brake pedal, but it feels amazing. Stops like a cat.

The rotors didn't look too bad. Both of them were the original 32-year old pieces the car shipped with. Both were close to 3/16" thinner than their replacements (and very likely under the "REPLACE THOSE SUCKERS NOW!!" spec). That grinding I'd heard was probably from the pads I threw on in 2009, which now have grooves ground into them from the wear on the rotors.

Then (because I was feeling productive for the first time in months) I re-fixed the horn. That's two things off the list. Only 2-1/2 pages to go.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pic of the Day: Texas Devils

I'm gonna have to add an "assholes" tag if these two assholes keep popping up in public.

[ETA: that's Rafael "Ted" Cruz and his father, Rafael Sr. Do a little Google-fu on "rafael cruz dominion" to see why he's yucky.]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pic of the Day: The Garner Girls

This was only my second funeral. I sat out several before these. I said my goodbyes in quiet. But it didn't seem right to sit out those of my stepfather and my mother.

There's not really much for me, as far as the services go, especially the religious aspects. It's not like I'm sitting and smirking like the fundies' stereotypical atheist, barely restraining myself from jumping up and interrupting the preaching with smug superiority. I save that for here. Tremble before me, for I am mighty and stuff.

Actually, I'm just bored, tired, and concentrating more on keeping myself from nodding off. The preachers at both services followed a general structure of quoting the banalities that We The Family came up with at a previous meeting, meager summaries of something so complex as 82 years of life. From there, a few Bible selections, a couple of poems. None of us spoke at either funeral.

In both cases, however, the preachers did all the talking for us, and related personal stories of their own that didn't really fit. In both cases, they summarized a parent's decades of life to a minute or so of quoted material before making the service about themselves, their own beliefs, their own agendas.

The preacher at my stepfather's funeral was a fire-and-brimstone fellow who regaled us with tales of reborn dead, beloved family members who will one day rise again when That Day comes, the one preachers predict but don't really believe in. My zombie stepfather, my grandmother, a pair of aunts, my grandfather--and, now, apparently, my mother will be made whole and all that. This service had it all--somber organ music piped in over speakers, a couple playing a duet of a Hank Williams song and a hymn, admonitions to get right with the proper version of god. There were easily 40 people. I didn't recognize many of them. Might have been from the pastor's church. I think my stepfather went there a few times.

A long service. It might have only been 40 minutes, but these things can stretch to eternity fairly quickly. I imagine my stepfather was snoring. I nodded off a couple of times, myself.

There were no conflicts with his side of the family. Crazy Hank! didn't do anything crazy, his screechy accusation-slinging sister kept her pie hole shut, and all the relations who usually ignored my mother and I at "family" gatherings (hahaha) ignored us.

Then came the pall-bearing. I can't remember who or how many aside from Hank! and I. The mortal remains were transferred into a hearse, then a mess of us followed it to the gravesite. There was another service here, a shortened version of the one we'd just been through a few hours before. No singing, no organ. Shorter is sweeter. Long drive home from there.

Today's service was much less involved. There were about a dozen of us, and that's really sad considering all the people who Mom worked with over the years. Sixty years as a paralegal, mostly in real estate; she worked on some legal matters for the Poarch Creek tribe in Atmore, Alabama and for the Perdido Bay Creek tribe in Pensacola. Only one of the lawyers and his daughter showed up. No one from either tribe has so much as peeped. And, of course, nothing from the stepfamily.

The usual summary by the preacher, a few paragraphs that didn't tell anyone about her, not really. No mention of her being a wizard with a sewing machine and serger.

Nothing about her cooking, how she made cream cheese pound cakes right up until she couldn't remember how anymore, or her amazing rice and gravy. What about the wooden spoon I wrapped in aluminum foil one Thanksgiving, as a prize. She was proud of that silly spoon and kept it on display next to the kitchen window.

What about her life in 1950s Castleberry, Alabama, where she faced racism for being Creek and Cherokee? She was made to use the back door of most houses where she did peoples' hair. People called her "little black girl." It was good to see her bringing her heritage out and wearing it proudly in the last 20 years. I wish the Perdido and Atmore tribes had shown up to give her a better ceremony.

This preacher seemed to be rushing it. We still had the piped-in organ (which sounded like we were trapped in a Whitney Houston song), but no duets, no zombie relatives, no fire and brimstone. No fire, really: this guy was a mechanic in a funeral assembly line, thirty minutes and on to the next. A little preaching, a few Bible quotes, a few bits of filler about himself...well, actually, two thirds of the thing seemed to be more about him. Before he dies, he really ought to record himself at several of these quickie funerals and just have the preacher preaching for him play it back, since he's already got the patter. It'd save some time. His might only take 20 minutes.

No pall-bearing, no following the casket up to Castleberry.

By height and by age: their mother and the three sisters.
This will be the first time they've all been together since 1991--and the first time poor John Garner has had all four of them in one place since 1965. Tremble!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pic of the Day: Eyes That Shine, 1931-2013

We just got the call from the Hospice folks. She's gone.
There's no way I want to remember her the way she was the last few weeks, so here's a shot from the mid-90s, when she was active in the local Muscogee Creek community. Chief Bobby Johns Bearheart  named her "Eyes That Shine."

She made the jacket herself, if I remember right. She used to do presentations at schools, college classrooms, anywhere she could tell her stories. She certainly earned her name. Her eyes never shone brighter and she was never happier than when she was interacting with students or visitors full of questions.

She had to put it on the back burner to care for my stepfather as he wasted away from Alzheimer's, only to suffer the same fate.

She was a steely-eyed badass, a force of nature, and a damn fine woman who had one hell of a good  ride even with bumpy roads.

[Edit: She was born in 1931, not '32...fixed.]

Monday, November 4, 2013

X-11: In Which I Accidentally Make Things Better...

It's been a few months since I inconvenienced an a-hole by being unable to start my car.

I still haven't figured out what caused the problem. Haven't been able to reproduce the problem since then. In the last month, as a matter of fact, it seems like I fixed the supposed engine/battery/starter problem by replacing an exhaust hanger.

It'd be pretty damn cool if that's what happened.

About 6 weeks ago the car's rearmost exhaust hanger failed. I was in traffic, heard a CLUNK and clanging, heard the catalytic converter grinding as I pulled into the driveway. When I looked under, the converter and the outlet pipe leading to the muffler were a few inches off the ground. The muffler itself was dangling at a 45 degree angle, the exhaust tip nearly touching dirt.

I dug through my camera box. That's not as random as it might sound.

Back in 2008, I bought a few sets of exhaust hanger straps, U-bolts, and a mess of 1/4"-20 screws for making lightweight camera rigs. One of the hangers and U-bolts made a good clamping mount for a bicycle handlebar. I'd been planning to use that on one of the "hike & bike" rides out to Fort Pickens.

All the hangers and parts were in a bag. Once I sorted through it all, I had three complete hangers ready to go. Free is better than shopping for all new stuff.

It took a few more days to get my legs convinced to let me go out (all the going up and down stairs in the cellar the day I picked the spare X-11 engine off the back of the Tracker messed up my left knee). Took half an hour to get one of the hangers modified to fit the car's factory hanger bracket.

Man, the muffler is a mess. When I first got the car nearly 5 years ago, the thing seemed solid. Some burn-throughs in places, probably from too-rich, too-hot exhaust. One scary detail: the right rear bumper guard, a piece of hard black rubber, is partly melted. It sits several inches above the exhaust tip. Looks like there was a hell of a flaming exhaust problem at one point. Yikes.

Anyway, the muffler's belly is torn open and it's spilling rusty muffler guts everywhere. Got a replacement on the way, nice and shiny and keeping its guts inside.

Back to that hanger. Some previous owner had rigged up a hose clamp to replace the rusted/broken original strap. The hose clamp finally gave up, snapped, and dropped another project in my lap. A freaking hose clamp.

Took another couple of days, but I went back out to replace the other two hangers, certain that they were all snapped, given how low the exhaust was hanging. Hell, I've been needing to replace them since I got the car. Knew it, kept putting it off. Even knew about that stupid hose clamp. Hitting a speed bump or something at the wrong angle would get me a loud, embarrassing grinding racket or even a momentarily much louder exhaust as the spring joint at the front end was pulled open. Fun, fun, fun!

Didn't have to worry. Middle hanger was fine, next one needed to be adjusted. And that brings us to the accidental making things better. For the past year or so, I've had some random problems with a crappy idle after driving long enough to get the car warmed up, going into a store, and trying to drive it after letting it sit hot for a few minutes. More recently, it was the starting issue, where the hot engine seemed to get harder to turn over (or the engine heat was overloading the starter).

Ever since I tightened up the exhaust, though, no trouble. Engine cranks and starts more easily cold or hot. No trouble restarting even after a long drive. The only thing that makes sense is that the drooping exhaust was causing a restriction that kept the engine from breathing properly.

Saved myself the cost and effort of replacing the starter, and the disappointment of realizing that the starter wasn't the problem. What the hell, an accidental fix still counts.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Last of the 'Garner Girls'

It's all over, now, but for the waiting.

Early last year, my mother had a stroke that seemed to open the way for Alzheimer's to wreak its havoc upon her mind. She had been having memory problems and other symptoms of dementia, but until then it had been manageable.

She was trying to cut up one of the quilts her mother had made by hand, decades before. She was trying to eat crossword puzzles. She forgot to turn the stove off after trying to make coffee--in an empty pot.

She was convinced someone was trying to steal her car and would go outside several times a night to catch them.

She was convinced that my nephew was poisoning her.

She's never looked so old as she does now, at nearly 83. Dealing with her husband's Alzheimer's took a massive toll on her. She'd already lost her two sisters and her father to it. My stepfather lost his mother to it.

Mom gradually improved after last year's stroke, moving from the hospital to a nursing home that smelled of paint and disinfectant. Every visit was painful. Her memory was shot, so we were on a constant loop of "Where am I?" and "When can I go home?" and anything else that occurred to her.

Several weeks later, she was showing improvement and moved to an apartment-like retirement home. In October, her doctors decided that she was well enough to come back home. Or maybe it was an insurance thing.

Mom was still prone to paranoia about her car, still convinced my nephew was up to no good, but she was manageable right up until early September. I don't know if it was another stroke (if it was, it wasn't a big one). She was combative. When she was taken to the ER, the nurses had to sedate her and put big foam mitts on her hands to keep her from pulling IV's and other tubes out. She kept trying to eat the blood oxygen sensor on her finger. And once again, every conversation was a series of repetitions.

Doctors asked why she'd been allowed to go back home (good question) and had her moved to a home set up for Alzheimer's care.

Less than two weeks later, she fell trying to get out of bed and broke her left femur in several places (where the HELL were the staff people who were supposed to be watching her?). She had to wait more than 24 hours before a surgery slot opened. The doc put a rod in her thigh from hip to knee. Now Mom faced several weeks of rehab.

Now, though, all that is past. A week ago she was rushed to the ER with a massive infection. Her white blood count was something like 64,000 instead of 4,000 or whatever the norm is. At first, the ER docs were talking liver cancer or leukemia, but tests came back for clostridium difficile, courtesy of that effing nursing home. They put out a warning to call in the family. Her organs were shutting down and the infection was everywhere, including her brain.

We okayed surgery to try to stem the infection; her colon was removed. But Mom didn't want heroic measures. No machines, no tubes. Do Not Resuscitate. We agreed that this should be the one big attempt to save her.

The last time I saw her lucid--as lucid as she's been these last few weeks--we couldn't touch her. Every visitor had to wash up, put on a paper gown and gloves, and wash again on leaving. She didn't want us to leave her. The next morning--surgery day--she had been intubated and sedated. She never regained full consciousness afterward. She would react to people in her room, but never gave a sign of recognition. That was Friday.

The docs had Mom's feeding tube removed this morning. Now she's just on morphine and antibiotics and saline. There's been no improvement. Could be a few hours, maybe a day. For what it's worth, I'd rather it be this way, a reasonably peaceful ending, denying the Alzheimer's its long, drawn-out destruction.

My stepfather used to tease Mom about her mother and sisters. Those "Garner Girls" were always a handful, he'd say, but never spitefully. They're all buried together. The last of them will be with them soon.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Road Trip: "If You Want It Done Right Tour" ends...

...and it only took me 6-1/2 months.

Ever since I took to the highways of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia to get my own damn engine thanks to a less-than-helpful...acquaintance, I've had that engine tied down in the back of the Tracker.

It's been entertaining. The tail-dragging Tracker was skittish and threatened to bottom out on every bump.

The original plan was to get the engine out the morning after I got back from Atlanta. Medical stuff and too-cold March weather became medical stuff and too-wet April weather, then I went to San Francisco for a week. All the airport walking kicked my ass...and then it was too hot outside.

It was too hot outside yesterday morning, too, when I finally had enough and dragged myself out to finish the job.

The most difficult part: my new, unused engine hoist was still in pieces, still boxed up, and still in the cellar from the morning I bought it in mid-2011. No way I was going to be able to haul the thing myself, but I'm a pretty smart guy--and modest. Used the Tracker and a tow strap to pull it up.

It might have taken a half-hour without all the medical stuff. Took 2 hours to get this far, with frequent rest breaks. As soon as it was on the ground, I quit and sat in front of a fan for a few hours.

It only took 30 minutes to put the crane together and just a few to spot the Tracker into position.

Picked it up and drove the Tracker out from under it. Finally!

I'll need to get that blue beast on a stand and safe from the weather in the next day or so. From there I'll be able to start figuring out just what engine I've got.

I'm just glad that road trip's over.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pic of the Day: Bagged a Deer!

It happened in April of '07, so it might have been out of season.

I was out on a delivery run and one of the shops was throwing this monster away. I nabbed it to put into storage for a few months, thinking that Toys for Tots would be getting one big donation from me that year.

When I got back to the store, I left it on the back of the truck. Went inside and told everyone I'd hit a deer. Broke its leg and neck.

Made it easier to fit into the Tracker, though!

I don't know whether the thing ever made it to a kid once I dropped it off at Goodwill. If not, I don't want to know. I'd rather think that there's a kid somewhere with a big, dopey red-nosed Rudolph to play with.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pic of the Day: Revell 1:96 Saturn V build, Part 6--Still on the S-IC

Calling this "Part 6," though I haven't been diligent in numbering all the previous Revell Saturn V posts. Sorry. Just go here or click on the "Saturn V" label at the end of the post to see the others.

Still working--very slowly--on the S-IC. I did make some significant progress in recent weeks after almost 2 years of leaving the thing in the box.

I wrote about the big, ugly gaps along the edge of the two wraps forming the O2 and kerosene tanks back in August. Did something about them shortly after that.

First thing was to cut the systems tunnels (the big "pipes" along the sides of the stage). I was going to remove all four of the kit pieces, but realized that the lower halves looked fine. The wrap for the kerosene tank (the lower "half" of the stage) didn't look nearly as bad as the upper one did. I left it alone.

It took some careful work with a straight/chisel X-Acto blade to cut the pins holding the two upper halves. The stage is pretty big and bulky and I didn't want to cut into the wraps, but everything went smoothly.

Once I had the O2 tank wrap exposed, I got to work cutting the overlapping end away. This amounts to a 1/4"-wide strip, as seen above. Then I ran some liquid model cement under the new edge of the wrap and held it with my fingers until it set, working a little at a time. There's still an overlap, but at least it will be covered by the upper half of the systems tunnel when it's glued on.

Here, the upper ends of both systems tunnels have been glued and clamped. No more gap at the midpoint.

There's still a gap under one of the tunnels along the length of the kerosene tank wrap. I'm filling this in with gap-filling "Super Glue" a layer at a time.

I've yet to glue up the second and third stages, but I'll be using the lessons from this one to do them both right the first time.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pic of the Day: A Room Full of Saturn V F-1 Rocket Engines

It never fails to amaze me how big the Rocketdyne F-1 is, or how complex they are. Here we've got several in various stages of construction:
--a pair of thrust chambers to the right waiting for their plumbing followed by several more that have been plumbed. It looks like the last one in line has a red shipping cover like the last one on the left.

--the first on the left is getting something welded (pretty neat that the guy's head is mostly clear, but his welding mask is blurred as if he was shot in the act of flipping it). From the looks of some of the other engines, I think he's welding those rectangular tabs onto the "hat bands." These have threaded studs on them for later attachment of insulation blankets to protect the engines from each others' exhaust plumes during launch and flight.

--the last on the left looks like it's being shipped out; it's on a cart and has a shipping cover, but I wonder where the interface panel on top is?

If you zoom in on the closer ones, you can see the tubing that forms the bell-shaped thrust chamber. There are 178 of the larger ("primary") tubes forming the top end and 356 smaller ("secondary") tubes forming the lower end, all brazed together and reinforced by "hat bands". Each primary is brazed to a pair of secondaries. Kerosene fuel is directed to the "down" primaries and their associated secondaries and flows all the way to the bottom, collecting heat as it goes. The hot fuel is redirected upward through the "up" tubes and into the engine injectors to be burned. This "regenerative cooling" keeps the thrust chamber from melting.

There's an extensive tech writeup on the thrust chambers' construction here, at Heroic Relics.

Each one of these monsters burned my car's weight in kerosene and liquid oxygen every SECOND. Just one engine put out some 1.5 million pounds of thrust--more than 1-1/2 times the total thrust of all five of the dinky J-2 engines on the Saturn V's second stage.

Some trivia:
Weight 18,500 pounds dry
Height 19 feet
Diameter 12.3 feet
98 production engines
82 development engines
7 serialized mockups
1 shop-floor engineering model
65 engines flown on 13 Saturn V missions
Most of the R&D engines were destroyed in testing
37 engines remain as museum displays or whatever; MSFC disassembled at least one F-1 in 2011 to study for possible restart of F-1 builds (or derivative engines) for the new Space Launch System.


As a tie-in for the Revell 1:96 Saturn V project, the kit's engines have some sketchy outside detail, but nothing inside the bells. Granted, you're not really expected to pick the model up to look in the engines, since it's supposed to be displayed standing vertically. The engines aren't correct, anyway, since they're covered in insulation blankets before the rocket's rolled out to the launch pad (good picture of the blanket here, at Up-Ship's Unwanted Blog. RealSpace Models sells a set of properly blanketed F-1's for about $30.

I'm not planning on doing any superdetailing on my Saturn at the moment. I'll be content with cleaning up the existing engines and using different shades of silver to make them look...well, better than this:

Lazy astronaut dude wouldn't stand up. Had to discipline him.

Labor Day repost: I Made the 1% Rich

Labor Day is a good time for a repost from October of 2011, in the midst of the Occupy! days.

According to that pizza-making idiot who wants to be president next year, it's my fault I'm not an entitled elitist rich raging asshole like him.

But actually, it's because of minimum-wage workers like me that he's an entitled elitist rich raging asshole. He didn't get there on his own, no matter what he wants you to believe.

No. His millions came because of waitresses and kitchen staff in his Godfather's restaurants, people who worked for whatever the company could get away with paying. His money came from regular people like me busting their asses for 40 hours a week, or maybe working more than one job.

I knew people like that in my last job, as a delivery driver for one of the national auto parts chains. I hired on in early 2007, working full time and getting a little more than $7 an hour. Because it was February, once my 90 day probation was done, I still couldn't get into the health plan, since enrollment only happened in January.

But their plan was utter crap; the one I could afford wouldn't cover much of anything. The one I needed was too expensive. I did without.

No raises for ANYbody. Most of the other drivers and counter staff who'd been there as long or longer than me hadn't gotten a raise in years. Every time someone brought it up with management, they'd get runaround, or told to talk to the district manager, who would just give more runaround and excuses.

But the store managers got their bonuses. The DM got his bonus. His boss got his bonus, and so on. Us non-management types got a share in the "store bonus," which was based on overall sales for that store. If your sales are down, you don't get the extra few bucks.

All the while, the DM was screaming that payroll had to be cut, no new hires, no overtime for anyone. This meant that everyone but the store managers got cut back to 30 hours or less and the stores were running on skeleton crews. Customers would complain--both walk-in and commercial--because there weren't enough people to handle the workload. There were only 4 people in my store in the morning: two drivers, one at the Commercial desk (selling parts to local repair shops), and the store manager running the front, alone, until the afternoon guy came in. This freed the manager to go do paperwork, make the bank deposit, and grab lunch. The Commercial side closed down at 5 pm, the store manager left, and the evening guy came in, leaving two people to run the store to close.

And so both walk-in and commercial customers would go to the competition, because the store managers couldn't do anything about it--can't hire anyone, can't bring extra people in to help--and so the DM would scream about getting sales up.

We two drivers did an awful lot to help--checking in stock, putting it on the shelves, helping customers, re-stocking, putting up displays, answering phones, cleaning, anything and everything. I knew the system well enough to do parts lookups and run a register, run the test equipment (batteries, starters, alternators, ignition modules) and brake lathe, maintained the delivery trucks, maintained store equipment (I rigged up a drain for one of the air conditioners when its pipes got clogged up, re-stocked half the hard parts when the part numbers changed or new stuff came in), and other stuff that a "delivery driver" didn't need to do. This is assuming I wasn't out on a run, where I interacted with the customers, listened to their complaints about how long it was taking to get their parts, told them about the company's cutbacks, and asked them to call Corporate and give them an earful.

Basically--and this isn't an exaggeration--I did everything. Most of us in that one store could handle someone else's job and chip in, because we HAD to. Most of us were making about the same, without raises, with our hours cut, and we heard the same bullshit from Corporate--"More sales! Less payroll!"

We got a new DM in January 2010, the third one since I got hired. This asshole went on vacation in February, but not before showing everyone a sales brochure for his $50,000 boat. Nice.

He started shuffling people around. I got moved to the hub store, which warehoused more parts than the others. I was back on a 40-hour week, which was good, and all I had to do was make 8 circuits a day from the hub to two other stores and back. During one stop, I learned that the Company had posted record profits for 2009, $300 million. The Company guys simply gushed about it on the employee indoctrination information website. We were expected to gush, as well, because we're all one big happy family!

Record profits--but at the cost of cutting payroll hours, running stores with minimal staff, running off customers who weren't getting good service, freezing any raises...basically fucking us over for their big profits.

It was people like me who made that $300 million for the Company, people like me who made those sales and helped those customers, people like me who busted our asses so the Company assholes could enjoy their bonuses and record profits while we decided whether to pay the electric bill, the phone bill, or insurance this pay period.

Car broke down? Crap...got to juggle the bills around. Maybe one of the shops'll cut me a deal. At least I get a discount on parts.

Lights got cut off? They want HOW MUCH to turn them back on? Well shit, there goes that paycheck. Guess we're hitting Dollar General for mac & cheese, ramen noodles, and tuna sandwiches for the next two weeks.

But did you SEE the District Manager's new $50,000 boat?! It's got wells for keeping bait, it's got a cooler under this seat, a stereo...everything an entitled asshole could want! Maybe if we're productive enough, he'll let us buy some of the fish he caught on vacation while we were keeping his stores alive for him and earning him his next bonus!

Since the Aorta Fairy visited me last year, things have actually gotten worse for my former coworkers. No raises, payroll cut ever further, and the Company's entitled elites making ever more money.

No, we don't owe the fuckers any thanks for allowing us to work for them and bask in their light. They owe us for making them rich. They owe us better wages, better working conditions, some fucking respect for all the work we do to keep their companies going. Without us, their companies die and the money stops flowing. Without us, their customers go somewhere else.

They owe us the courtesy of keeping American jobs in this country, instead of sending them to places where people will work for much less than we will.

Fuck you, Herman Cain.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pic of the Day: NASA's badass Saturn V S-IC

This is a time-lapse shot of one of the Saturn V first stages being put together at the Michoud Assembly Facility just outside of New Orleans. I found it at Heroicrelics. He's got a much larger scan of it there.

Boeing's full-scale item has much better detail than my Revell 1/96 kit...

...but then theirs cost a lot more and was made of stronger stuff.

I haven't done anything with mine since December of 2011, when I scribbled my last review of the kit. In the past few weeks, I pulled the model out, looked it over and decided that I can work with it.

I'm still not thrilled with Revell's design decisions, where each of the three stages are made of solid styrene end-caps joined by rolled-up styrene sheets. There's an ugly, very visible overlap, especially on the upper half (click on the picture and look along the left side). I didn't use enough clothespins to clamp the thing together.

The other big issue is that the "systems tunnel" (the long pipelike structure on the left, used to clamp the rolled-up sheets into a cylinder) is in two pieces, which don't meet in the middle. There's another such tunnel 180 degrees around on the stage. At this scale, that's a one-foot gap in each of them.

Time for some surgery. I'm going to cut both systems tunnels off, glue them up separately, and re-install them after trimming the excess sheeting off. Hopefully the sheets don't just tear themselves loose when the pipes are removed.

This should be a lot simpler than the approach I was going to use when I first saw how jacked up the thing was. I was going to throw some plastic filler in the gaps and try to sand things smooth.

I'm playing it smarter with the remaining two stages. I'm going to roll the sheet sections up and put them into hot water so they'll stay rolled, then glue them up a little at a time to their end-caps and trim off any overlap. Since each stage has at least one systems tunnel intended to clamp things together, I'll arrange the sheet so that the tunnel covers the seams.

Pre-repair pics of the stage are here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

In Which I Inconvenience an A-hole...

I was on the end of some medical errands (doctor visit, taking care of some billing issues) this afternoon. Stopped in at a store for lunch. When I came back out to the car...it wouldn't start.

This is the second time in two weeks that I've taken the X-11 out for more than a short run, only to be unable to start it. Fortunately, the first time was at the same auto parts joint where I bought the (still-new) battery. The guy there popped it out, charged and tested it, and after almost an hour I was back on the road.

This time...convenience store. All my tools are in the Tracker, 4 miles away. I let the battery "rest" between tries, turned everything off, waited a few minutes, tried again. No good. Then I tried letting it roll back on the sloped parking lot and popping the clutch. No good--and now I was stuck in the middle of the lot. No way I was going to try pushing back uphill, so I cut the wheel hard-left and started huffing and puffing, pushing the car toward the side lot.

I was obviously having trouble; one nice guy walked helpfully past me, hopped into his Mustang, and considerately moved it out of the way, then out into traffic.

Then there was Mr. Asshole, who had pulled in next to me before I tried popping the clutch. Mr. Asshole came out of the store as I wrestled the steering wheel. He got in his truck and started yelling at me for being in his way (I didn't see or hear it--I was too busy--but one of my helpers told me about his tantrum).

If I hadn't been busy being the only horse moving the wagon, I'd have gotten my camera out to take pictures of his truck to share with the Internet, since the Internet likes assholes. Just ask George Tierny of Greenville, SC. But I was busy.

A nice lady came running over and helped me push, then a guy who wasn't Mr. Asshole joined us. Mr. Asshole kept ranting manfully in his truck, safe from physical effort, and as soon as we inconsiderate car-pushers were clear he backed out and drove away. I was still too busy to whip out a camera, but I'm pretty sure he's a Republican. Fits the profile, these days.

We got the car around to the side of the building and I thanked my helpers and sat there for a few minutes. After maybe half an hour of sitting, I got the engine running. Ran like crap, rough and sluggish, and didn't get much better the entire way home. Hope I didn't inconvenience Mr. Asshole in some way, having once already ruined his day.

"Scumbags" tag's for him--and Johnny Cash has a message, too (I think he's saying, "Thanks for your help."):

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pic of the Day: Grampa Solo motivationals, 2

The first batch were the easiest. I'm running out of ideas.

("Air Force One" joke. :p~~~   )

San Francisco: Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences

We hit the California Academy of Sciences (CAoS) on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 1. After a morning at Alcatraz, I didn't have any business walking around, but I'm too stubborn for my own good. I really hate to let all the medical crap I've been through in the last three years get in the way.

So I explored. Slowly. If there was a bench nearby I explored it as well.

The ground floor is where most of the action is. There are a pair of enormous globes: one for the Rainforests of the World exhibit, the other for the IMAX Morrison Planetarium.

We'd come specifically to see the planetarium, billed as "the world's largest all-digital" in the CAoS brochure.

I didn't wander very far, but we had an hour to kill before the next show. I took in the Puerto Rico reef aquarium and watched the Foucalt Pendulum display:

Explored several benches. They were of good quality and reasonably comfortable, but the main bench exhibit (a small group of them, supposedly shown in their natural environment) was kind of boring.

No benches at the planetarium entrance. We only stood for maybe 15 minutes, but it was starting to seem like forever by the time the doors opened and we were ushered into...the next waiting area (a darkened room, where our eyes could adapt). My legs and back were having fits, but I just kept standing.

Another 10 minutes in this darkened room, then (FINALLY!) we were led into the main theater, a 90-foot dome. Some pretty evil stairs, and damned if my host didn't want to go alllll the freaking way to the top. Man, what a hike. I felt like I'd fall backwards if I didn't hold on to the railing. Practically fell into my seat. Sighed in several kinds of relief.

Several minutes of introduction from the staff. The theater was more brightly lit than that darkened room had been (so much for adapting to the dimmer light...). The lights went down and the show got under way.

I wish I could describe the show. It looked amazing on that 90-foot IMAX dome, as if we were floating above the building's Living Roof. We pulled back, back, back: the campus, San Francisco and its peninsula, the West Coast, the Earth--

I blinked. I'd swear that's all it was, a blink, and overhead we were zooming back toward the Earth. Credits rolled, lights came back up, and my cellphone claimed that 20 or so minutes had passed.

Seriously. I'd managed to sleep through the one thing I'd come here to see.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pic of the Day: Grampa Solo motivators, 1

I saw the trailer for Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman's new flick, Paranoia this morning. A bald-headed Harrison Ford is freaky deaky.

It'd be awesome of Ford keeps the shiny skullcap look if/when he reprises Han Solo in the upcoming "Star Wars." Grampa Han Solo. If we go by the books, his wife Leia is Space President, which makes him First Scoundrel. AND since he's a famous war hero and beloved celebrity, you just know he's doing ads for various things like Reverse Mortgages and urinary catheters.

Seriously. There are ads with Chuck "Love Connection" Woolery hawking urinary catheters. Squicky.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pic of the Day: Alligator Gar Overhead!

Shot in the basement of the California Academy of Sciences (CAOS! heheheh). An alligator gar prowls above the ceiling of the "Amazon Flooded Forest" tunnel. Above is the "Rainforests of the World" sphere.

The entire basement level is a series of aquaria, some of which are also visible from the ground floor. Mostly natural daylight coming down through the building's skylights. Makes for some spectacular shooting, especially if you can find a place without a crowd of people in the way.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pic of the Day: Another Satisfied Customer!

I just got an email from a second member of the Citation X-11 Yahoo! Group thanking me for the decals I drew up in CAD.

The first guy did his in grays (it looks like he kept it close to the original colors); this second guy did his in orange and red:

He hasn't put the decals on yet. I love the car's new color!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pic of the Day: I Left My Mark on San Francisco...

This'll show 'em for not having Fort Point open and ready for inspection.

I wish I could have set up a camera to see the reactions of other visitors. Even better if that was still present after three months.

The most disappointing part of the whole San Fran trip is that I only took 357 pics. Only 21 of them were at Fort Point and only 12 of those even have the fort in them. I got more pictures of Alcatraz (44, but still...only 44?!), a few of that red bridge (can't remember the name, sorry), but neither of my cameras were anything close to full. I completely missed Muir Woods and the twisty, narrow road leading in and out of there, the gorgeous valley on the way in. Kept the "big" camera (12 mp Kodak) in a shopping bag as I shambled up and down Haight Street.

I could just say I was too busy looking, and that'd be part of it. But I've been out of the habit of getting the camera up or even taking it with me.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Most Important Part of Repairing Something Yourself...

...is knowing when to call in the experts. Our 11-year-old heat pump stopped pumping two weeks ago. Since I'm the guy with tools, people are looking at me to do something about it.

Nuh-uh. I understand the basics behind an air conditioner system, but the 220 volts of people-killing AC powering the thing scared me enough that I wasn't about to do anything deeper than pick up the phone and call in an expert.

That was easy, but there was a big problem: All four of us in the house are on Disability and this close to the end of the month we couldn't even pool enough money together to pay just for the service call, let alone any parts or repairs. We'd have to wait for the beginning of August.

I felt pretty shitty, having the only room in the house with a working air conditioner. I put a window unit in and shut off the house vent in 2011 because everyone else in the house is a smoker. With the house air down, leaving my room was like walking into a wall of heat and humidity. We had all the windows open, but the wind never seemed to blow in. Ninety degrees, all night long. On cooler nights, it dropped to 89.

After a few days of that, I did my usual thing, hitting Google and trying to figure out why the system wasn't working. I started poking at the controls, trying to make the system start...compressor and outside fan would "bump" but not run. I could hear the contactor relay clacking on and off. Then...nothing.

After watching videos and reading dozens of websites and looking over the wiring diagrams for our system, I decided, "hell with it--I'll give it a try." All the troubleshooting guides and pro advice pointed to a bad capacitor in the outdoor unit.

I was still paranoid about those high voltages, though. I double- and triple-checked the breakers and cutoffs, made sure I understood how to discharge the capacitors, checked for voltage even after unplugging stuff, and even threw together a capacitor checker using my old RadioShack "75 In One Electronic Project Lab" kit.

Pretty proud of that one. I based mine on this one by Lance Summers. Had to modify it a little (the kit didn't have the right values on some parts), but by this past Tuesday evening it was ready. Getting to the capacitor was easy. No dramatic sparks when I shorted it to drain any juice it might still be holding.

It tested "good," as far as my knocked-together tester was concerned. Dammit. But this didn't mean the cap is really good, just that it's still kind of working. I ran out, got my multimeter, and checked it again. One side (Compressor) good, other side bad (Fan). Good! I ran out and got a new one. Twenty bucks!

Hooked it up.

Smoke test! Compressor and outside fan "bumped," contactor clacked...and nothing. Dammit. At least there wasn't an explosion or smoke. Everything was exactly as it had been and I was down $20.

Back to the Google, more schematic study, and I started looking at that contactor. Its contacts weren't moving when the thermostat triggered it. They seemed frozen when I tried moving them manually. Unplugged the power, safed the new cap, and pulled the contactor....

Be careful when you're trying to pop the connectors off. One of them was holding on too tight and I kind of...broke...the terminal off the side of the thing. Dammit. Brought the contactor and its broken-off piece indoors, tried to save it, and failed. Still, it needed replacing even without my breaking it. The contacts were pretty badly pitted and hadn't been moving properly.

Had to wait for Friday morning (payday!). Back to the store, $19 for a new contactor. Got home, gathered my tools, went to work...

The two screw terminals for the power wires didn't fit the new part.

Screw going back to the store. I whipped out the Dremel tool and a grinding bit and started carving Bakelite off of the thing until I'd hogged out enough space for the terminals.

Back out, hook it up (and check a dozen times to make sure all the wires are in the right place), check it yet again, and hook up the power.

No explosion, no fire, so far...switch the system on...

Compressor and fan "bumped," new contactor clacks...and nothing.

This was that point: acknowledge defeat and call in the experts. I'd gone as far as I could. By this point I was thinking it could be a bad motor, something grounded, bad compressor...all more expensive and more involved than I was comfortable with.

Guy comes out, pokes around the indoor unit first. Finds a bad capacitor and swaps in a new one ($30, but now the indoor fan runs at full power). Pokes around the outdoor unit. Nothing wrong out there (he didn't criticize my work, at least). I could hear the compressor come on and STAY on (so the outdoor stuff is fine...I didn't screw it up!). Several minutes of tinkering and testing. He replaces the thermostat ($65). The system comes alive, running much better than before. $190.00 for all his work and parts. I was expecting much worse.

The cap and contactor I put in were money well spent (I wonder how much the A/C guy would have charged to replace those?) and I'm feeling pretty damn proud of myself.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Picture of the Day: Closed?!

One place I was looking forward to seeing during my three-day tour of San Francisco was, of course, Fort Point. It's the only such fort on the US Pacific coast.


It's open for tours Friday through Sunday and I was there on...a Monday.

Reminds me of  that time I went all the way to Fort Pike on a Saturday to find it closed and fenced-in.

Since Fort Point is a National Park site, there's a clearly-marked schedule, something the Louisiana parks people didn't think of ("What? A schedule on a sign? Why'd anyone need that? We know when we're open!"). Oh, and Fort Point is open ON WEEKENDS, which makes sense for attracting tourists, something else the Louisiana people didn't consider ("What? Make the fort open on weekends? But that's mah fishin' time!").


At least this one's only half-fenced off (basically the northern and western fronts), probably as protection for the Golden Gate bridge, which runs directly overhead. The bridge's chief engineer Joseph Strauss saw something worth preserving in the fort, so he designed an arch to carry the bridge over (link goes to a tour site; very good picture of the arch).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Picture of the Day: Dear Penthouse...

Here's New York Mayoral frontrunner lastrunner Anthony Weiner doing what he does best comes naturally:

Mat Taibbi at Rolling Stone wonders what this guy has to do to get himself disqualified, if sending crotch-shots to strangers on the Internet doesn't qualify.

I'm embarrassed that I ever liked Weiner...er, as a politician. *ahem*

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Picture of the Day: Please Don't Feed the Scientists

I don't like zoos, though I can understand the need for keeping an injured animal in a safe place if it can't be returned to the wild.

I wonder what happened to these scientists. I hope the California Academy of Sciences has them properly tagged, in case they get out of their cage. We all know how dangerous wild, roaming scientists can be.

Pretty neat how their natural environment has been carefully replicated. Judging by their coats, they're in good health, but I'm curious about there only being one male and how the gender groups have staked out territory on opposite ends of the enclosure. That could easily be part of their daytime sciencing behavior, foraging for research funding and making fun of wandering tribes of creationists.

The installation seems somewhat sterile. I didn't see any openings to sleeping pens. Poor creatures.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Song of the Day: Happy Anniversary to "The New Guy"--Neil Peart Joins Rush, 1974

Thirty-nine years later, Neil's still the New Guy after replacing original Rush drummer John Rutsey.

Here's "Finding My Way," live at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena, August 17, 1974--his first concert:

...and here's the band June 2, 2013 playing "Clockwork Angels," the title track from their latest album:

It's really weird seeing any musicians other than Lifeson, Lee and Peart on the stage. Guess THEY'RE the new guys.

Bonus: "Far Cry" from 2007, just because:

Remembering Jim Barrett & Dr. John Britton (7/29/1994)

Hard to believe it was 19 years ago that they were murdered, barely a mile from where I'm sitting. The clinic was firebombed in January of 2012. Bastards finally destroyed the building, but the clinic reopened pretty quickly in new digs.

I'm just gonna repost what I wrote July 29, 2009:

On this day in 1994, Paul Hill walked up to a pickup truck in the driveway of a Pensacola clinic and killed Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton with a shotgun.

I stood in a parking lot across the street with some of the other clinic escorts (Jim was one of ours) for a few hours. The bodies were laid out and covered with sheets while the crime scene guys did their thing.

I never met Dr. Britton; he was one of the volunteers who stepped up when David Gunn was murdered barely a year before.

Jim was a good guy, a sort of grandfather figure. He's buried at Arlington:


I'm gonna hoist a drink in his honor sometime today and hope that someday crazy religious douchebags will no longer exist.

And for the rest of us, if you know a guy like Jim, buy him a drink.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pic of the Day: Missed it by This Much

Shot May 1, 2013: That building in the middle is Loved To Death, the shop seen on "Oddities San Francisco." I'm glad I got this shot (I was admiring those bay windows, which are different from those of the surrounding buildings), since this is the closest I got to the store.

We walked the other way on Haight Street. East instead of west. I did see the intersection of Haight and Ashbury, saw some of the neighborhood's infamous panhandlers and touristy shops, lots of psychedelic colors. I got about half a block past Ashbury, took a long rest in the Panini Cafe (right across from a pair of giant bestockinged legs hanging  in the Piedmont Boutique's upstairs window), and made my way back toward the car. Round trip was barely half a mile, and I had to stop for rest every hundred feet or so.

As my friend shopped in a nearby record store, I sat on the curb where we'd parked and watched people, looked at places, and rested. Very annoying knowing that I was so close to the one shop I'd really have wanted to visit. I did hit the Haigh-Ashbury Music Center; bought some guitar picks that I could have gotten anywhere else--but I can point to the price tag: "But they're from Haight-Ashbury, man!" So that's something.

Oh, and I completely forgot to troll anyone--ANYONE--in the SF area asking them where the Rice-A-Roni Factory Outlet was. Dammit.

Still not quite up to the final Road Trip installment for the San Francisco trip.

[Editing to add: After looking up one store we hit (the one with red door trim to the right), it turns out I was right NEXT DOOR to the place, then walked right past it as we headed down Haight. Crap!]

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pic of the Day: R. I. P. Tunch

Part of my daily routine is reading the "Balloon Juice" blog.

The blog's owner, John Cole, just had an utterly awful weekend. His beloved cat, Tunch, was killed by a visiting dog. It doesn't look like he suffered much (broken neck) and he left some claws in the dog's face.

There has been an incredible (and humbling) outpouring of support from the Juicers: almost $12,000 in donations to Marion Animal Resource Connection. They handle dog and cat rescues and until now they were on a shoestring budget, paying for spaying and neutering and other expenses out of their own pockets.


One regular sent John this:

[Update: Just read that the donations have topped $15,000! That's a lot of help for rescue pups and cats.--11:37pm]

Lots of love from the Juicers for that 20-pound floofball.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Failure in Florida.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but fuck George Zimmerman, his family and lawyers, and his supporters.

Charlie Pierce at Esquire says it in a more righteous manner:

The judgment, when it finally came, was a dull and predictable thing. Pictures of Trayvon Martin showing off on his Facebook page trumped pictures of him on the ground, blank-staring at the night sky, a hollow point through his chest, the way so many of us hoped they wouldn't, but suspected they would. It was hard at that moment, when the jury gave George Zimmerman back his gun, to remember that this trial wasn't supposed to happen at all. The Sanford P.D. was ready to hand Zimmerman back his gun with a fast shuffle until people got into the streets and suggested, loudly, that maybe the circumstances required another look. This is something that should be remembered now by all those sharp guys who talk about how the evidence cut both ways, and about how the prosecution overcharged the defendant, and about how well the defense mounted its case. There wasn't supposed to be a trial at all. In theory, George Zimmerman could have been back, standing his post, watching for assholes and fucking punks, the very next night, according to the original assessment made by local law enforcement. Instead, people who filled George Zimmerman's fevered definition of assholes and fucking punks roamed free, wearing their hoodies at will. The gated communities of Sanford have had to do without his watchful eye, and his ready aim, for longer than the Sanford police thought was suitable a year ago. I am glad the gated communities managed to survive the siege.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Song of the Day: Awesome young woman busts up some Goppers.

Awwww, yeah. (more here)

Funny how she was such a threat that it took FOUR deputies to get her out of there.

Fark republicans.

"Awe" and "Heroes" tags for the young lady who busted 'em up, all the other tags for the scumbags.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Song of the Day: Sweet Dreams (Moby)

Working on a CAD drawing and sort-of watching "The Next Three Days."
As soon as I heard the enormous-sounding piano in the scene just before the cops pop in to arrest Lara Brennen, I had to know what song this was. Fortunately, it's second in the movie's IMDB soundtrack page.

There's not a lot going on, musically. Plenty of open space. Can't get over how amazing that piano sounds.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pic of the Day: Republican Derp.

This poor little Texas filly had an abortion that made her look like a Republican Dumbass.

Oh, wait. That's just a Republican Dumbass holding up a sign. If he were a hipster I'd accuse him of doing it ironically. But being as how he's a dumbass, it could just be that he plain cain't read.

Mr. Dumbass was protesting in Texas with some other guys from the Dumbass family; Wonkette has some pics of them in their natural, stupid plumage.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pic of the Day: Size Matters.

Lou Costello Stunt Double and demented hatemuffin Tony Scalia had himself a reagegasm over today's 5-4 Supreme Court decision overturning the idiotic Defense Of Marriage Act.

He's not the only tiny wingnut railing at the skies, demanding that the heavens open up and thunder vengeance upon their betters.

Bonus pic:

Huh. That baby even looks like Scalia.

[Edited to add new freakouts, below]

Paul Kraft of--get this--Renew America--whines that wingnuts should secede to prevent gay marriage.

Then there's this teabagger who says the country's one step closer to civil war over the DOMA decision.

Something the wingnuts really need to have explained to them--preferably by a William Tecumseh Sherman-like father figure--is that the point of a democracy (or a democratic republic) is that the people make decisions and the wingnuts get to live with that...or leave. They don't get to secede just because things don't go their way.

Childish jackholes.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Song of the Day: Rush accepting Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2013 Induction

Wish I'd seen it in mid-April, but I forgot.

It was nice of them to let Neil "The New Guy" Peart speak first.

Alex Lifeson's speech is memorable!

Bonus, from 2008: an 11 year old girl plays one of Rush's more technically difficult songs.


On an electric piano.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pic of the Day: Snowden

It's fun watching Glenn Greenwald and his pet genius' implosion. Snowden's hysterics over the NSA and FISA might have been warranted...if we didn't already know about them.

Bob Cesca has been doing some heavy lifting to find what's important and what isn't in all this.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs blew holes in Snowden and Greenwald almost from the beginning of this non-scandal.

Nothingburger. Formerly a main course of the teabaggers trying to swamp Obama in scandals (Fast & Furious gun-running, Bengazi, the IRS investigating teabaggers who want tax-exempt status).

Apparently Greenwald and his supporters have discovered the savory emptiness of nothingburger, as well.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Song of the Day: Cheerios Spoof

A few weeks ago, this happened:

...and the wingnuts predictably fell all over themselves trying to come up with the most vile thing to say about the ad's interracial couple and their little girl.

Too bad they won't see the humor in this spoof:

The song? Yeah, wingnuts as they scream scream SCREAM!!!!! over the rest of us living our lives the way we damn well see fit.

ADDING: Bonus! 11-year old kid sings National Anthem, wingnut scum crap their cages (some Twitterrhea at the link)...and the kid's doing an encore tonight. bwahahaha!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Road Trip: San Francisco! Part 3a--Restaurants (some followup)

I should have put this as the close of the restaurants post. Oh, well.

In the three days I spent in the SF area, I ranged as far north as Sausalito (on a run up to see Muir Woods) and as far south as San Mateo.

I was struck by how few out-in-the-open fast food joints there were. These were mostly in San Bruno and Millbrae (the In-N-Out Burger we went to was in Millbrae). I saw one stand-alone McDonald's with its familiar architecture. The handful of McDonald's joints farther north were blended into their neighborhoods or in strip malls. No drive-through, nothing more than a recognizable but modest double-arches sign to let you know they were there.

I saw a combined KFC and Taco Bell in an otherwise nondescript building. A combined KFC or Taco Bell and A&W in another spot.

Not a Waffle House sign (or restaurant) anywhere. Those things grow like kudzu near highway offramps in the Southeast.

I liked it. I liked the fact that there was a dress code in the area and that even these corporate giants had to conform.

Billboards. There weren't a lot of them cluttering up the view. Business signs, either.

Walmart? bwahahaha. Nope. The Great Retail Satan can be found across the bay or down near Palo Alto, though there are a couple of corporate offices of some sort near San Bruno.


[Edit: Don't know why it didn't occur to me that the "dress code" could also be about using established buildings that are up to local earthquake-preparedness codes. The San Andreas fault cuts right up the center of the SF peninsula--interactive map at the link.]

[Nother Edit: I really should have trolled the locals, asking them where the Rice-A-Roni Factory Outlet store was. Dammit!]

Monday, June 10, 2013

Song of the Day: Go Into the Water / Fansong (Dethklok)

I've got a bad habit of getting an album and only listening to a song or two on one side. When I first bought Rush's "Moving Pictures" in 1987, it was just for the one song: 'Tom Sawyer'. I'd slap the tape in my player, rewind to the beginning of the song, and play only that song. It took a couple of years to get into the rest of the album--and with each new song I couldn't believe I'd waited so long, because each one was awesome. Now "Moving Pictures" is a favorite and I'm on my 3rd tape and 3rd CD (I don't know how I wore the music off a CD, but I did--sounds cooler than "they just deteriorated with age").

There's a long list of other bands and albums: I've listened to the first side of Alice In Chains' "Facelift," Def Leppard's "On Through the Night," the first few songs of Metallica's "Pantload" "Load."

That said, it's only taken a few months for me to get into the first Dethklok disc ("The Dethalbum"). There's not a bad track on it. Some are more awesome than others, but today's song, "Go Into the Water," is glorious. The guitars are incredible, especially those Brian May-like harmonies. Reminds me of Metallica when they were still in the music business.

The video (from the deluxe edition Dethalbum II DVD) includes "Fansong" as a hidden "bonus" track.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pic of the Day: Forgotten Scumbag Still Whining

...and makes Hurricane Sandy all about him:

I wish the hurricane hadn't happened when it did because it gave the president a chance to look presidential.
 A hurricane that killed people and caused billions in damage hurt the MittBot's chances at winning!

The Wonkette link above will take you to some excellent snark and the CNN video clip of this entitled backpfeingesicht. "Burlivesleftnut" comments, "Hurricane Butthurt."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Road Trip: San Francisco! Pt. 3--The Bites!

Yeah, this is me being lame, trying to rhyme with Part 2--The Flights! Maybe I should go back to Part 1--The Airports and rename it "The Plights" or "The Smites."

Nah. Too trite.

There weren't any complimentary peanuts or crackers on any of the flights, just soft drinks. A canned Coke is a canned Coke, even at 33,000 feet. No food here, and that'll save some reviewing time.

4/28/2013 Sunday:
First place I dined was Tommy's Joynt at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Geary. We had to park up near the end of the block on Geary (nice downhill slope for me to deal with). I didn't even notice the eye-catching livery on the building's north side (late evening and worn out from all the airport stuff). As you enter from the corner (didn't see the door on Geary, either), you've got a long cafeteria-style serving area on the right. The bar dominates the left wall. Plenty of warm, dark wood. Beer signs all over the place. Small without feeling crowded. As a bonus for Monty Python fans, there's a little "Watney's Red Barrel" display hanging just next to the bar.

I wish I'd been able to stay in SF longer so I could explore the Joynt's menu. I had the BBQ brisket dinner platter (mashed potatoes, hard roll and a salad). Good portions for the price (about 10 bucks, plus a Coke). Very tasty! It was served with what looks like a thin brown gravy but has a tangy BBQ sauce flavor. I'd definitely eat here again and again.

4/29/2013 Monday:
We ran some errands early in the day and didn't do breakfast until maybe 10:30 am. Thanks to the Lex and Terry morning radio show, I've been hearing praises of In-N-Out Burger for years. We stopped at the one near Millbrae Avenue and Rollins Rd in Millbrae.

I went with a straight-up #2 combo (double cheeseburger, fries, Coke). I'd put them in the same league with Wendy's, Steak 'N' Shake, or Whataburger as far as flavor and quality--basically mid-range as far as burgers, but high as far as fast food joints go (for comparison, Burger King, McDonald's, and Krystal are on the bottom tier; Tops and SteakOut are on top). Huge portions. Good fries. It wasn't an earth-shaking experience, but I'd go occasionally if there were one in Pensacola.

We spent the rest of the day driving all over SF proper. Had a Slurpee at the only 7-11 I've seen since 1999 (there are none in Northwest Florida; they were taken over by Circle K).

Dinner was from Sorabol, a food court restaurant at the Tanforan mall in San Bruno. Korean. Pretty typical Asian-style menu (rice, vegetables, bite-size cuts of beef, pork or chicken). Lots of food for a decent price. The bourbon chicken was very good.

There was a Jollibee next door to Sorabol. I later learned that it's supposed to be Filipino--but from reviews around the Interwebs, actual Filipinos eat elsewhere. The only reason I even remembered this place was #3 on their menu: a plate of spaghetti with sauce...and a fried chicken drumstick.

We'd intended to see the "Evil Dead" remake in the nearby theater, but neither of us thought we'd make it through without falling asleep. Back to the apartment.

4/30/2013 Tuesday:
My host had to go to work. He spent a good 6 hours on that. I sat around (glad to not be walking or climbing in and out of my host's Miata) and munched on my leftover dinner. Bleah. No microwave or cookware. The rice had hardened and the noodles had taken on a rubbery consistency. Bleah, again.

We lunched at the Broadway Grill a few miles from the apartment at Broadway & Capuchino. What?! Not fast food?! Nope. Not a formal place, but tony enough that prices are noted discreetly on the menu next to the entrees ("21" without the distracting dollar sign; don't be fooled by the Web version). The room is big, two stories high, with an open and roomy feel to it.

I had the Steak Frites (the classy name for "steak and fries"). And a Coke (no classy name). Moderate portions. Good steak. A bit pricey, perhaps, for a low-budget kind of guy (that's a classy way of saying "broke").

More running around, this time in Haight-Ashbury.

Dinner was a medium pizza from Village Host, a couple of blocks east of the Broadway Grill (Broadway & Laguna). Casual sports-bar vibe, but without TV's covering every wall. Wood-warmed and comfortable, maybe louder on a big game night but plenty quiet for conversation. There's an arcade room at the back with a vintage Ms. Pac Man/Galaga sit-down game. The only interesting stand-up had a dozen or so classics such as Joust, Defender, and Vanguard.

Rating the usual pizza joints, I'd put Domino's dead last, then CiCi's, Little Caesar's, Hungry Howie's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's. Village Host would come in around Howie's or the Hut.

5/1/13 Wednesday:
Alcatraz day! We did breakfast in the little cafe/gift shop near the ferry landing. Some kind of turkey & ham wrap, and too pricey. I ate half of it and stored the rest away for later.

Alcatraz ate the morning; the California Academy of Sciences (CAOS! heh.) ate the afternoon. We infiltrated a Popeye's for a late lunch.

We went back to the Broadway Grill to see their Dean Martin impersonator *ahem* Tribute Artist. Once he wrapped up, we went up the street to Village Host again and demolished a large.

5/2/13 Thursday:
Back to the airport for my long-ass ride back to Pensacola. With the flights (Frisco to Charlotte, then to Pensacola) and the layover in Charlotte I was looking at 10 hours. I had the other half of that wrap from the Alcatraz pier cafe for breakfast. That was it until I hit Charlotte, found out my flight had been canceled, and that I was being put up in a hotel for the night.

The Hilton's Omaha Steakhouse is simply made of awesome. Granted, my rosy outlook thereupon is a likely side effect of low blood sugar. Don't care. I was seated in the lounge. There was just enough light to read, the booth seat was terribly comfortable, and service was fast. I ordered a burger, since a steak would be more work than I wanted. If that wasn't the best damn burger I've ever had, it had to be close. On that short list of burger places, Omaha is at the top, above SteakOut, which is my go-to for damn good burgers.

It tasted like steak.

I don't know what McDonald's does to their patties, but they do not taste like steak. Maybe it's their seasoning (he said, being diplomatic), or the cooking method (he added diplomatically).

Whatever it was, there was just enough burger in all the right places and the price was very reasonable ($13 plus tax) for a steakhouse. No bacon. Why, why, WHY would I pollute a good burger with bacon?