Friday, March 30, 2012

Possibly funny saying

I saw a sign in a hardware store with these words. I hope you think this is funny.

Women don't spit.
Women don't burp.
Women don't fart.
If they didn't bitch once in a while,
they'd explode.

If women find this offensive, let me know. I will remove it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A revolutionary idea

P. C. Vey for The New York Times
Well, now that I think about it, I guess it's not really revolutionary. I need to stop making my titles so dramatic.

As I was walking our dog the other day, someone beeped at me (or Charlie dog, I'm not sure which) and it scared the crap out of me. I think the car driver was just trying to be friendly but it didn't come across like that. I assume that if the driver was mad at me or I was doing something wrong, the beep would have been longer or there would have been multiple beeps. But that's the point I want to make - it is hard to tell the intention of a car beep.

My idea for the car makers is to have a separate horn for friendly greetings. I thought about the idea of a volume control on the regular horn but it would be too easy to turn it down and forget about it. Then, in a real emergency, it wouldn't be heard as it should. So, my proposal is for a separate control for the new Greeting Horn that is in a different place from the Emergency Horn so, again in an emergency, you don't have to think about where the Emergency Horn is located.

If any car company engineers or designers are reading this (I had that dream once), this is a free idea. No copyright or patent in play. Use this and make your customers happy.

By the way, the image showing here is a delightful drawing by P. C. Vey used to illustrate a short article on The New York Times website titled "In Response to Car Horns, Readers Sound Off". Doesn't that look like it sounds when someone beeps at close range?

[Update: In case Wayne happens to read this - I wasn't talking about your friendly beep this morning (Thursday, March 29). Somehow, you were able to beep the horn lightly a few times and I knew it was a "hello". Plus, I recognized your car. Sorry I didn't look up just then. I've got to keep my eye on Charlie or he'll pick up something and eat it. The incident I was talking about happened out on the main road a few days before.]

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Isn't it ironic?

I've had fewer posts this month than I normally do (although last month only had five posts) yet according to the Blogger statistics page, this month my blog has had it's highest number of visits ever. And even last month, with its five posts, had the third most visits. Maybe the less I write the better. Or maybe the posts this month have been more interesting or better written. Wouldn't it be nice if my writing was actually improving from my experience here? That would make me very happy. I want to be a better writer. I want to get better at expressing myself. I want to be able to crystallize my thoughts into words that can be recorded and to be easily understood by others.

The title of this post is a play on the title of one of my favorite old standard songs, "Isn't it Romantic?" It was written by Richard Rogers (music) and Lorenz Hart (lyrics) in the early 1930's. I love old standards. They are usually interesting melodies with a flexible rhythm (it's easy to change them into different styles) and the chord choice is almost always pretty complex making them interesting for study. My favorite composers of The Great American Songbook are the Gershwin brothers and Rogers and Hart but there are so many others, too. My wife and I have a special place in our hearts for Meredith Willson for his song "Till There Was You" from The Music Man. We call it our song because it says so much about our love coming after such a long time looking for each other.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


We have gathered a lot of downed limbs from trees over the last couple of years and finally got around to burning them this week-end. We had to get a burning permit from the town and you have to call the fire station to make sure it is safe and that there aren't too many people burning that day. We passed all the tests and started moving the wood we'd gathered to our garden area where we would be doing the burning. The top picture shows a known fire bug getting things started. This is just a small portion of the huge pile of limbs and branches we would be burning. I should have taken a picture of the pile that we would be burning. It was at least five feet high and about fifteen feet across.

It took us many trips from the pile to the burning spot but it went pretty fast. In the second picture, you can see why we limited the amount of wood that was burning at any time. The wood was very dry and burned fast. We had buckets of water and our garden hose ready. The kids both helped a lot. They carried a lot of the branches from the storage pile to the burning site and they also took turns dowsing our neighbor's trees that overhang our fence (that he doesn't seem to want to trim back) in case burning ash or embers reached them. But we planned the burn well enough that there was little smoke and very few burning embers floating around.

You can't see it in the pictures but we had a number of pretty big unsplit logs about four or five inches in diameter and those were taking a long time to burn down. Since I didn't want to stand out there all day while they finished burning, I thought I'd try a trick a friend at work told me. He says he's used his leaf blower to get the fire burning really intensely and that it not only sped up the burning but created such an intense flame that it reduced big logs to ash pretty quickly. Well, I'm here to tell you that it really works! The final picture shows what we were left with. I had already turned the dirt over in our garden to help cool down the ash but you can see that only one two to three inch diameter branch is left and that was because it was on the edges of the burn.

A few cautions: When you first turn on the leaf blower, be careful. Ash will blow around until you get the nozzle pointing in the right direction. As the fire burns down the wood, it gets a lot lighter and can be blown around by the leaf blower stream. Also, don't forget that the fire will be really intense and hot and can melt the end of the leaf blower nozzle. You don't have to run the leaf blower continuously. Just a few minutes at a time is sufficient. You can almost see the big logs melting away as the blast furnace-like flames consume them. It's pretty amazing. We're allowed to burn until the end of April so there will probably be another fire in our garden before then. I'll try to get some pictures of the leaf blower doing its job and post them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Low to the ground and loving it

I'm speaking of Basset Hounds. This group to the right goes for a walk almost every day as I'm on my way home from work. I didn't take this picture. It's from the local paper and was obviously taken during the winter during one of our infrequent snows. These dogs are such a happy bunch and always seem so pleased to be out leading their human along. They like visiting with other people, too. I often see them looking up and wagging their tails as their walker chats with someone on the sidewalk. I've never stopped to talk with them. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to do it. Not that I fear the dogs. It's people I'm more uncomfortable with.

Our dog, Charlie, is half Basset Hound and half Black Labrador Retriever. You hear about all the cute names people come up with for mixes of breeds like Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mix), Puggle (Pug and Beagle mix) and, one I just heard of the other day, a Bulloxer. It's a mix of American Bulldog and Boxer. I don't know what we'd call Charlie's breed. Black Bassador Retreiver? Black Labraset Hound? I guess we'll just call him a mix.

People ask me what he is like. Is he more like his Basset Hound mother or his Black Lab father? All I can say is that taking him for a walk is like walking a vacuum cleaner. That nose is down on the ground sniffing from the minute we start to when we get back. He's a great dog!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm so cheap

Our company provides massages (by a licensed massage therapist) a couple of days a week. Many of the people in our office get them and some do it regularly. The company subsidizes the cost so employees only have to pay $10 for a half-hour massage.

Lately, my neck has been bothering me. I can't turn my head to the right very far without getting pain. So, for the first time, I was thinking about signing up for a massage. As I was walking down to the sign-up sheet, though, all I could think about was all the other things I could do with that $10. I could buy a nice lunch or a good book or pay for popcorn and soda when we go to the movies. The idea that the massage therapist might possibly find the reason for my stiff neck and help ease the pain isn't enough to get me to do something I consider an "extra". Of course, all the other things are extras, too. But somehow, a massge seems "more extra". I'm a strange person.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Worst Day of the Year

The worst day of the year? That would be the day we turn our clocks ahead an hour for Daylight Saving Time (the official name - I call it Daylight Moving Time). Not only do we lose sleep (and no, the effects of gaining an hour's sleep last fall has worn off by now), but now, when we get up at 6 AM, it is dark again like it was in the dead of winter. This morning sunrise was at 6:59 AM but the day before, March 10, sunrise was at 6:01 AM. To get back to having sunrise around 6:01, we have to wait until April 14 when sunrise will be at 6:02 AM.

But it's not only the loss of sleep and the return to darkness that drives me crazy about this. Since I'm riding my scooter to work again, it's colder than it should be and the roads haven't had a chance to dry out from the nighttime dew. Who are the idiots that decided to move an already ridiculous time change even earlier? I'll tell you one thing, they are not morning people!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Learning to learn

I read an interesting article in January that I thought I'd share. It's called Everything You Thought You Knew About Learning Is Wrong. It is from the website run by Wired magazine. I think the title is pretty misleading but it is still an interesting article. In it, the author, Garth Sundem, talks about going to a learning lab run by Robert Bjork (the psychology professor, not Robert Bork the legal scholar). The article contains a number of helpful hints including not doing all your studying in one long block. It actually helps to split it up so that there is time between sessions. This forces you to go back and remember what you learned in the previous session. It's that remembering that helps you retain what you learned. Another suggestion is to not take notes during a class or lecture but to write down notes after the class or lecture is over. Again, this forces you to remember what you learned and this helps you retain it. Read the article to get a better explanation. The comments are also informative. There is a lively discussion about whether writing notes after class is really a good idea. I kind of like it myself - within reason. I think it is important to take some notes during the class or lecture. But too often, the taking of notes causes you to miss something else while you're writing (or typing).

An example used in the article brought back a childhood memory. It was of one of my first worries about technology. I sometimes wonder how I ever began to love technology and become an engineer - oh yes, it was my love of science fiction - a story for another day. Anyway, in the article, the author uses an example of asking if you remember the phone number of a childhood friend. I remember the time I first tried to call my best friend on the telephone. I had called my grandparents and my aunts and uncles before but when I went to call my friend, using the number I found in the phone book, I noticed it had a zero in it. I remembered my parents telling me about dialing zero to get the operator in an emergency. None of the other numbers I had ever called before had had a zero! I started to dial my friend's number but when I was about to dial the zero, I froze. What would happen? Would the Operator come on and ask me a question? How did people ever call someone with a number like that?

I don't remember how I got through this. I must have asked my mother for help. At some point, of course, I did learn that dialing a zero while dialing a phone number was no problem but I don't remember that. I just remember the trauma of dealing with it the first time I was faced with it. Technology can be a little troubling sometimes. And there were no manuals for the old phones.