Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hot Wheels

The creator of the Hot Wheels cars, and co-founder of Mattel, has died.

This was probably my favorite car:

I saw one in an antique mall display case a few years ago, with a $35 price tag on it.

Most of my Hot Wheels cars were purchased at the Gibson's Discount store at the corner of O'Connor Road & Pioneer in Irving, Texas.   I later worked for a year or so at another Gibson's store when I was in high school.  At least one store remains, in Weatherford, though I don't know if it has any ties to the original Gibson family.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More bits

  • Sure, it's an old gag.  But someone actually took the time to paint this Suburban (sort of):
  • I don't know how I'd never seen this marker before:

  • I want to live on this street:

Not today

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Byte sized

Just a collection of random thoughts:
  • I liked the video of the Oceanside (CA) police officer who interviewed an open carry activist with courtesy and decency. But later, the question that rattled around in the back of my mind was: Why would the activist (who was wearing a 'button' camera) post a video that more or less made him[self] look like a jerk?
  • An outdoor resident at my house - pointed out to me by my daughter:

  • NFL season will happen.  Meh.
  • This would be a good time of year to be in Canada, eh?
  • I do most of my grocery shopping at Kroger.  I have a Kroger card (woo-hoo!).  Kroger apparently thinks that because I have reached the cinco-cero, I am a senior señor.  Last week they had a 'power buy' special on diced tomatoes with chilies, very useful for chili, chicken tortilla soup, and 'Rotel-style' cheese dip.  Normally 65¢/can, 15¢/can when you buy ten.  Doing the math, that's $1.50 for ten.
  • But wait!
  • At the end of checking out at the self-scan, the computer deducts my '10% senior discount' - not on the discounted price of 15¢ per can, but on the original 65¢, for an additional discount of 7¢ per can.  My total landed cost then, was 8¢ a can.  Yeah, I bought about a case.
  • No, it's fresh stuff - sell by February 2013 or so.
  • I don't know if RPM would say that is smart grocery business.
  • This looks like fun:

  • If I made the rules, I would expand the 'Do Not Call' registry concept to 3rd class [junk] mail, and to free newspapers/flyers that are thrown on my driveway.  If I want to know about the latest daycare, workout gym, roofing contractor, pest control - I'll Google it.  If other people want that, fine, but I don't think the companies have the right to fill my mailbox, and quickly thereafter trash bin, with their crap.
  • Of course, if the post office couldn't deliver all that third-class mail, they'd shut down half the offices and only deliver two days a week...
  • Nice boat, but wonder how that goes over with the lake patrol?

  • Reality TV is boring to me, but I like the show Shark Tank.  People pitch their business ideas to a panel of investors, trading an equity stake (negotiated while you watch) for capital, or sometimes turned down altogether.
  • A couple of the panelists can be fairly rude/abrupt, but it's an interesting concept.  I'd like to be a venture capitalist, but have no capital to venture at the moment.
  • I also like the Undercover Boss, but think the premise is going to be hard to carry over to a third season.
  • More outdoor, albeit underwater residents:

  • At Lowe's the other day, I was looking for something in the outdoor section.  An older couple were looking for something for a project.  The wife was telling the husband what she wanted, and the husband was responding, in a thoughtful manner, about how they could do the project.  Then she tells him "I don't care how it gets done - I want it finished this afternoon.  Make it so."
  • Maybe I shouldn't be so concerned about being single.
  • Sweet ride:
  • Does the steering wheel operate the elevons/ruddervator?

Friday, July 22, 2011

More Maple Leaf Power Rock...from different ages

Rush - Closer To The Heart by manon42

If it 'needs more cowbell', I'm sure Neil Peart will find a way to fit it in there somewhere.

This Blog's for you!

A comment received today, to a post from August 30...2009 - it was caught by Blogger's spam filter and never attached to the post:

The extremely heart of your writing while appearing reasonable originally, did not settle correctly with me personally following some time. Someplace throughout the sentences you really managed to create me a believer but only for a short whilst. I nevertheless have got a difficulty with your leaps in logic and you might do nicely to fill in those breaks. When you really can accomplish that, I could surely be fascinated.

I was afraid that someday someone would call out my glib prose which initially soothes and satiates, but later leaves a case of intellectual indigestion - and now it's happened.  Let me assure the anonymous commenter that his/her full fascination is my goal. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go practice my logic leaps.

And please, don't bring Shirley into all this.

Ouch! I think I sprained something...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Point of Know Return

We may have passed it...

Hey! Is that the tux I wore to Junior Prom? (Answer: No, mine was navy blue with powder blue ruffled shirt...ugh!)

If you're into violin/prog rock, this is a really good album.

Dig the glissando at 2:10!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stern Bears

In my writings on this blog, and comments on others', I've indicated that I'm a bit bearish about the current economic climate.  It's not my intent to be cynical, just that a combination of history and objective viewing of current events leads me to conclude that we will not see robust economic recovery from this recession as we have in past cycles.
  • Two of spades
Successful entities, be they nations, corporations, or people, have some element, or a confluence of circumstances, that give them a competitive advantage.  These success drivers may be raw materials, energy, labor, intelligence/intellectual capital, persistence, and may last for a long while, but are not immune to paradigm shifts.  In the micro sense, a star athlete in his/her 20s possesses energy and labor, but will almost certainly (depending on the sport) not be able to sustain that success past their 40s.  In the macro sense, nations founded on abundant raw materials and energy resources may find the going rough once those materials become scarce (point of diminishing returns).
  • MasterCard
Our nation began with practically unlimited natural resources - the better part of a continent, sparsely populated.  We added to our success in the mid-19th century with the development of new energy sources, and later with the influx of motivated and intelligent labor.  Steeled by the adversity of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, we returned to achieve the peak of 20th century global success.
  • Jack of Diamonds
But what now?  Through conservation and innovation, we still have large quantities of [non-energy] resources, though bureaucratic inefficiencies (there's a redundant term) hamper much development of the resources. We're dependent on foreign sources for two-thirds of our transportation energy (even though we have proven reserves).  Electricity production comes from domestic sources, of which natural gas is the most likely to increase output, but experiencing limitations during peak demand.
  • Treasury Bills
We still have talented people, but our intellectual capital base is declining, as educational standards decrease.  Much of the work ethic of the mid-20th century is gone.  It's said that goats roamed the streets of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the early 70s as the city's trash collection system, since after two generations of oil wealth, no self-respecting Saudi would pick up trash.  Later, garbage collection using foreign labor and U.S. compaction trucks replaced the goats.
U.S. debt, both public and private, is at record highs, while other nations' economies teeter on the brink of collapse.  Manufacturing, once the backbone of the U.S. economy, has been outsourced. The U.S. runs a massive trade imbalance.
  • Four of Clubs
Gold once anchored the value of the dollar, but after the Nixon administration abandoned the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971, it drifted, partially replaced by the 'petro-dollar' standard in 1974, based on diplomatic negotiations that, due to the United States' pre-eminence in oil exploration,  extraction, and refining technologies, maintained the dollar as the global medium of exchange for a few more decades.  Now, because of weakening dollar value, the global community is looking elsewhere for a safe currency, and U.S. petrochem companies enjoy diminishing access to world petroleum supplies, of which nearly 80% are owned or controlled by foreign, often nationalized, interests.
  • Ten of Hearts
After several prosperous years, the U.S. 'tech bubble' burst after the turn of the millennium.  Pundits at  the time wrote of the 'new economy', but business plans conceived on bar napkins, with blue-sky technology and zero deliverables were hardly the foundations of a thriving business climate.   9/11, coming on the heels of the tech bust, dealt another blow.
  • American Express Blue
So where did the nation turn?  To real estate - you know, they're not making any more of it, as the cliché goes.  Homebuilding companies bought massive land tracts on speculation.  At the same time, to inject liquidity into the market, Americans were urged to use existing home equities like ATMs (even Alan Greenspan apparently thought this was a good idea).  Spending continued like there was no tomorrow.
  • Six of Diamonds
Then came the housing bust.  The banking bust.  GM and Chrysler bailouts.  And ObamaCare.  So, with our collective economic engine badly in need of a major overhaul, what is our government doing? 
  • Visa
Spending.  Spending money we don't have.  Spending on people who are not citizens (foreign aid, benefits for illegal aliens).  Spending on programs that not only don't offer any return on investment, but which perpetuate and accelerate poverty and insolvency among large segments of business and society, mostly for the purpose of retaining power [votes].  And, no use ducking this one: Spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Our SUV with the worn-out engine and luggage on the roof is now trying to tow an RV, boat, and motorcycle trailer.  Up a mountain pass.
  • Jack of Spades
So again the question.  From where will recovery come?  This past week, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, in a post conference interview, essentially acknowledged that, a mere decade after the last one, another tech bubble was reaching its peak
  • Eight of Hearts
Is the house of cards about to collapse?   And what will we do when it does?

Aviation Alchemy

From AOL News/Huffpost comes this, the apparently latest incarnation of the flying automobile.  Even though the idiot TV news guy calls it "the world's first flying car", the concept has been around since the 1930s.

This appears to me to offer the driver/pilot the worst of both worlds: A car that's smaller than a SmartForTwo, with a Rube Goldberg designed airplane around it.

I don't know what kind of roads you have in your area, but where I drive, railroad tracks, semi tire treads, parking lot entrances and wheel stops would wreak havoc with that canard (not to mention kids in a parking lot using it for a trampoline).  The notion of parking that thing in a public area, then coming back and flying it - crazy.

If I were to commute some distance to work or such, better choices would be a combination of a 172/Sundowner/Cirrus, and a small commuter car (Scion xD) at the airport.  (Back in the '80s, my Dad had a major account that did work on highly sophisticated aircraft  brimming with electronics (E-3, E-4).  Driving across the major metropolitan area to their operation took about 2-1/2 hours, but occasionally, he would fly his Aeronca Champ - my folks live on an airpark - directly to the contractor's airfield in about an hour, to the delight, and probably amusement of the engineers that he was meeting).

For purely recreational flying, I could be really happy with one of these:

I like the Airaile because it offers side-by-side seating so that you can converse with your passenger, and essentially both have an unobstructed view.  Having flown in Champs, Cubs, and bi-planes, fore-and-aft communication (with or without a headset) just isn't the same.  One of my fantasies would be to retrace the Oregon trail in an Airaile, over the course of a week or so, at a few hundred feet AGL watching the majesty of the continent unfold, with a bedroll, bivy tent and campstove.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tool Time Tribulations (or, Technical Tales 101)

Sunday morning, as I awakened, I became aware of a faint whine emanating from outdoors, roughly from the area of the A/C compressor.


I hurried outdoors, rounded the corner of the house, and confirmed that in fact the noise was from my compressor, not the neighbor's. As I got close enough to look into the louvers to see if smoke was pouring out or something, it turned off.

Remember, it's Sunday. Independence Day weekend Sunday.

Hmmm. At this point I'm wondering if it just died, or if it had come to the end of the cycle. So, as you would have done, I went back inside to fetch a screwdriver, after shutting off the power at the service disconnect.
  • Screwdriver
Returning outside, I removed the sheetmetal covers from the unit.  No smoke.  When I'd gone inside, I'd lowered the thermostat to induce the next cycle, so I turned the power to the unit back on.

It runs!  Well, there's a relief.  I went back inside to make some breakfast for my middle son.

He wolfs down a home-made breakfast sandwich, and leaves to go to church when his mother stops by to pick him up.  The whine returns.  (No, that is not an editorial comment.)

Grabbing a can of spray lube (not WD-40, I said lube)  I went back out, shut off the power again, and tipped up the louver section.  No real lubrication points to squirt the spray.
  • Spray lube
Well, I'd better tackle this job now, before it's 100 degrees out and I lose my shade.  After drawing a diagram of the color codes and positions, I carefully disconnect the fan motor wires from the supply relay and the starter capacitor, with insulated pliers, and thread them out of the nylon ties and grommets.
  • Pliers
With the screwdriver, I remove the motor mounting base from the louver, and a raceway that protects the wires.  The fan motor is now free, but the blade will need to be removed, as two square head set screw/bolts attach it to the shaft.  I retrieve a crescent wrench.
  • Crescent wrench
Surface rust coats the motor shaft.  I spray the lube down the shaft, and also in the set screw holes.  It doesn't budge.  Need more tools.
  • Liquid wrench penetrant
  • Hammer
With the hammer I tap the fan blade - still no movement.  Actually, I succeed in tapping it closer, not away from the motor housing.  Bummer.  More tools.
  • 3-jaw gear pullers (three different ones, as I'm not sure which size will fit)
Adjusting the jaws to fit the blade flange, I tighten the center-point with the crescent wrench, and slowly the blade moves away from the motor housing, and comes free. With the screwdriver, I remove a small, stamped and press-fit cap from the shaft end of the motor.

The foam rubber filling that had formed sort of an oil bath for that end of the motor has disintegrated and needs to be cleaned out.  And it's not exactly something I'll find at The Home Depot.  So I go inside, looking for some craft felt sheets.  Found.
  • Craft felt
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors
I clean out the debris with Q-tips, and cut four donut shaped rings from the felt, to fill the cap, then press them into the motor housing, then liberally soak them with oil, and gently tap the retaining cap back into place.  Now for the motor tail cap.  Uh-oh, more tools.
  • 1/4" drive nut driver set
Removing the four bolts that hold the motor housing together, a tap of the hammer allows the motor tailpiece to come free.  Unlike the other end, no deteriorated foam.  Since this end will be up, I clean the arbor area, then go inside to get some grease.
  • Hi-temp grease
I pack the bushing area with the grease, and put a small dollop on the enclosed shaft end, then reassemble the motor housing, also attaching the sheet metal mounting plate.  I reattach the mounting plate to the louver, wondering if the wires will be safe from chafing on the sheet metal edges.  Back inside.
  • Heat shrink tubing
  • BBQ lighter
I cut some lengths of shrink tube for the areas that I feel may need protection, heat them, then reassemble the raceway.  Now to put the fan blade back on the shaft, but the rust is keeping it from sliding on.  Here we go again.
  • 4" grinder with knotted cup-brush
  • Extension cord
The cup brush makes quick work cleaning up the motor shaft, and with a bit of grease as protectant, the fan blade is reattached and secured.  The louver section is positioned, the wiring threaded into the adjoining relay area, reconnected, and powered up.

It runs!  No whining.  I give thanks to God.

But, now, in the vicinity of the A/C compressor, are:
  • Screwdriver
  • Spray lube
  • Pliers
  • Crescent wrench
  • Liquid wrench
  • Hammer
  • Gear pullers
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors
  • Nut driver set
  • Grease
  • BBQ lighter
  • Cup brush
  • Extension cord
Overall, I was pleased with the result.  Total elapsed time was maybe 75-90 minutes, much of it spent fetching tools that now need to be put away.

My conundrum is that I have a ton of tools, not necessarily stored in the most orderly fashion, and I wonder who's better off: The person who calls a repairman (bringing, and taking away, his own tools), or the person who has a tool for just about every contingency, just in case?

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

And speaking of Independence Day

...or at least Old Glory.

I've written previously on these pages that I never wore the uniform of any of the U.S. armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard. I signed up for the Selective Service when I turned 18, and that was that. Like millions of other [then] young men during the Carter/Reagan/GHW Bush/Clinton years, I never got a call or a telegram.  (OK, by Clinton I was starting to be not young.)
The uniform(s) I did wear belonged to the Boy Scouts of America. When my sons were younger, I served as an Assistant Den Leader and later, Assistant Scoutmaster. No great sacrifice required, other than a bit of time and some desire to help build young men of good morals and character.

This evening on the AOL, I see a topical news piece about the use of the flag as clothing. Featuring Cindy Crawford, some chick named (?) Ke$ha, Lady Gag-Me, Julianne Hough (how could you?), assorted pop tarts, and some guys too - all dressed provocatively in some form of the Stars & Stripes.  I'm not sure if Will Ferrell qualifies as 'provocative' in his patriotic Speedo - I was just provoked to look away.  In any event, my collective assay of the article was like Dana Carvey's Church Lady: "Isn't that special?"

In the Scouts, it was an honor to be able to participate, on several occasions, in proper flag retirement ceremonies.  In very solemn fashion, we explained each element of the flag to those assembled as we prepared them for the fire.

The United States flag is sacred, and it's offensive to many when it's worn as clothing, or to sell soda pop, burgers, beer, or dirty magazines.  After all, is that what generations of American servicemen and women fought for?

Good question.

Now, let's go a step further.  What about flag burning (not in conjunction with the dignified flag retirement ceremony)?   Did warriors spill their blood so that nit-wit socialists, dope-smokers, and assorted wackos could burn the U.S. flag in the streets?

While maybe not specifically, I believe the answer is 'yes'.

Before y'all heat up the pitch bucket and grab a pillow, hear me out.

The flag is special, and I am offended to see it abused and bastardized,  but it's a symbol of the ideals we hold sacred.  The morons could burn a thousand flags in Thanksgiving and Sundance Squares, and those ideals would be no less powerful, their truth not diminished in the least.  Free speech and expression is one of those ideals.  Similarly, they could burn Bibles in the town square, but His truth is everlasting.

But, if they try to burn my flag, or my Bible, I'll kick their...

God Bless America

I went looking for Ray Charles' version of America the Beautiful to commemorate Independence Day, but found this instead. I think you'll agree it's even better.

God bless those who gave, and are giving, for our freedom.

If that doesn't stir your heart, grab the AED or check your pacemaker - you may have flatlined.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

El Lonely Boy

Although I was aware of his passing recently, I had not previously posted about Andrew Gold, accomplished musician.  This evening I came across the following video, from The Midnight Special, and deemed it worthy of inclusion, if for no other reason than that it includes not one, not two, but three deceased musicians: Mr. Gold (3 June 2011), Kenny Edwards on bass (from Linda Ronstadt's Stone Poneys, 18 August 2010), and Mike Botts on drums (from Bread, Linda Ronstadt's and Dan Fogelberg's bands, 9 December 2005). Sure, Todd the Blogger, I could have just posted some Skynyrd, but that would've been too easy.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Inflatables: Not just for apes and Elvi anymore

Well, you didn't think the Einsteins who brought us blow-up King Kongs to sell Corollas would rest on their laurels, did you?

Heck, no!  Those clever marketers are ever innovating. 

Is this a simian?  Or a blue Samoan?

This one got away from Pete 'Pecos' Bunyan, Paul's cousin.

Jerry Jones could place of these, with a black & white striped upper body, atop Cowboys Stadium and let the Arlington PD fly their recon UAV through the upstretched arms like a field goal.

Sorry, Dew, no word yet on whether the Shark Tank will finance a 25' party doll on top of Christal's in Lake Worth...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Biff! Bam! Pow!

Personally, my idea of a fine pickup ride would run along the lines of a King Ranch.

But, to each his own:

Ford Ranger Robin sold separately - always wear your Bat [seat] Belt

I'm looking forward to seeing the Superman, Spiderman, and in celebration of Independence Day weekend, the Captain America versions.

Collect all four!