anachronisms on parade
Friday, November 29 2013
After an early breakfast (before 9:00am), Gretchen's parents got into their rental car and drove off for their next destination. I forgot to mention all the trouble a tire pressure light have been giving them on their Hyundai Sonata, but in the end they decided they could drive on it even though my pressure gauge showed it to be at 18 PSI instead of 30 (the pressure of the other tires). Sometimes one can be impressed by a car while renting it from a car rental company. For example, I thought the little Nissan Versa Note we recently rented in Los Angeles was great. Gretchen's father, though, did not like the Sonata. It certainly didn't help that Avis Rent-a-Car had perfumed it with the sort of fragrance used by septugenarian hookers. I'm continually mystified by the failure of rental car companies to stock enough small cars to meet demand, as well as the delight they continue to take in "upgrading" customers who tried to rent fuel-efficient cars with difficult-to-park gas guzzlers like the Hyundai Sonata.
While Robert and I were cleaning up the kitchen and dining room after breakfast, Gretchen happened to wander down to the Gunther bedroom, where Robert had been staying. She was horrified to discover that it stunk of freshly-smoked cigarettes. She immediately came up and asked him if he had been smoking in his room. He made up some lame excuse about opening a window and trying to smoke through it, but that the wind had been blowing in, so he'd stopped. Here we are in 2013, and smokers still think they can get away with smoking in an open window in a non-smoking house. It's as anachronistic as car rental companies thinking customers will be delighted by being upgraded to a Hummer when they'd expected to be renting a Prius. Robert is a smart guy who is living off a fellowship he got by having exceptional academic talent; it's hard to imagine he didn't know what would happen when he fired up a cigarette in that open window. And besides, what was he doing opening the window of a heated house when outdoor temperatures are in the low 20s? This all gets to the inherent selfishness of smokers, something I've witnessed time and time again. Addiction does that to person, I suppose; that one cannot trust a junkie or a crackhead is a cliché in our culture.
After that, I retreated to the laboratory. I couldn't look Robert in the eye, so low had my opinion of him suddenly become. I even told Gretchen that he can never come back again. But eventually he apologized (to Gretchen), and if that's good enough for her it's good enough for me. But now he's on notice, something none of our other friends are.
Ever since the arrival of the two dogs Jack and Bruce yesterday afternoon, Julius (aka "Stripey") had been missing. So I went searching for him both inside and out on several occasions. Perhaps he was hiding somewhere in the laboratory (where there are all sorts of nooks and crannies) or down by the greenhouse. It would have been a bit cold for him to spend the night outside, but feral cats do it all the time. Eventually I found him down in the boiler room, where he emerged from a narrow T-shaped space between the boiler and the chimney. The boiler room was warm (though not uncomfortably so) after heating the basement to near the specifications required by Gretchen's mother, and it had been closed for part of the night, so it's possible Stripey had been trapped in there for a time. As Stripey's only advocate, I was delighted to see him again, so I gave him some wet food and then some catnip.
While Gretchen was dropping Robert off at the bus station, I realized my "Nigerian Embassy" WiFi access point wasn't working, and I figured its cheap Chinese power supply had died (like the one before). I fired up my soldering iron and replaced the blown electrolytic capacitors on the old power supply, and it started working once more to spec. The problem with Nigerian Embassy was that it was plugged into a GFI outlet that had tripped, so it was an easy problem to fix. But I was so delighted by how easy it was to fix that cheap Chinese power supply that I went and fixed a second one that proved to be dead in the same way (and that I had never thrown out, despite the fact that it had died years ago).
The other day I'd told Gretchen that I wanted a jackhammer for Christmas. The cheap one I wanted would cost $400, which is a bit much for a present. And there is little practical justification for having one, since my only intended use for it is to continue the psycho-pathological excavation of the greenhouse basement. But Gretchen firmly believes that I'm of the age now where I should be able to have the toys that I want (within reason). Since my asking for the jackhammer, Gretchen has been acting like maybe I wouldn't be getting one. But today a very large parcel arrived. It looked like it had been sitting in a puddle and half of the outside box had eroded away, leaving the inner box exposed. The inner box claimed its contents included a jackhammer. What a beast! It weighed about eighty pounds.
Since the box was damaged, I thought it prudent to open it up and see if everything was okay. In so doing, I put it all together. But it will be awhile before I can actually use it; there is still more than three feet of water in the greenhouse basement.
Another thing that came in the mail today was a replacement keyboard for the Compaq 2510p laptop. Despite a week or two of drying, the old keyboard had never returned to full functionality. Replacing it was easy, but getting the pointing stick (which I never use) to work was tricky; it turned out that I had to insert its ribbon cable upside-down from the way suggested by the location of its pulltab.
A particularly satisfying episode of Gold Rush aired tonight. Though I don't have much fondness for the miners, it usually makes me feel good to see them finding gold. But in this particular season, Todd Hoffman and his boys are down in Guyana doing all sorts of stupid shit that should make them fail (like praying before driving a heavy load across a marginal bridge instead of putting in real effort to fix it). Tonight it turned out that the ground their mining is some other miners' dump, complete with old shoes. How can they continue believing in any God when the one they pray to has them mining that? Seeing them not get any gold at all in tonight's show seemed like justice. I felt worse for the Dakota Boys (who have become my favorite miners). Tonight they got down to the bottom of an ancient waterfall, but found only 14 ounces of gold. As for Parker Schnabel, the 18 year old kid who headed to the Klondike to mine, his tyrannical managerial style is starting to remind me of Joffrey Baratheon.
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