Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cow Magnets

So my friend Howard posted a links to a couple of interesting stories about cows this week. Funny, he usually focuses on politics, but I'm thinking there's not much going on in politics this week. Either that or his FIOS is busted again.

First, it seems that more and more these days cows are being fed things like potato chips and M&Ms, because farmers can get deals from the factories that make junk food to purchase leftovers on the cheap. imagine slathering that cow with butter. There's your Good Morning Burger right there!

Second, there's a story about how a study was done by people with extra time on their hands, and it turns out a vast majority of cows stand facing magnetic north. I have a theory as to why.

I just finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Critics were overwhelmingly positive about this book, but frankly I thought it was a fabulously written mediocre story. The author did an absolutely incredible job building the setting for the story in tremendously vivid, intentionally rambling detail, but while half of me loved that side of the book the other half was extremely annoyed at how little actually HAPPENED in the story in close to 600 pages. Up to the very end he has you on the edge of your seat waiting for the big reveal, and afterward you say, "that's it?" In case you are into this sort of thing and plan on reading it I won't stop you, but I will make mention of something I first learned about while reading this story.

Cow Magnets.

It seems that since cows graze in the grass (when they aren't chowing down on Pringles and M&M's), they tend to pick up pieces of metal such as barbed wire bits, nuts and bolts, and the like. Farmers feed 3-inch cylindrical magnets to the cow, and the magnet picks up the chaff that the cow swallows, keeping the nails and such from causing something fittingly called "hardware disease". Huh. Hardware disease. Anyone who's seen the mess of buckets under my workbench knows I have a little bit of that myself.

My point being, whatcha got yerself her is a bona fide cow compass. If I had a chunk of magnetized iron in my 4th bonivial meta-colon I'd probably face due north too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Too cool for school work

Originally uploaded by daninhim
In an effort to catch up on a little blogging I thought I'd post a pic of my most recent woodworking project. Now that Thing#1 is entering 2nd grade, she needs a place to do her calculus homework. A coworker moving out of town offered up a few sheets of mdf and plywood that she didn't want to schlep in the moving van, so I jumped on the opportunity and build Natalie this desk and bulletin board. As is the case with most workshop projects, I learned a few things along the way. Like the fact there's a right way and a wrong way to hang doors (one of these days I need to deal with the fact that the drawer face is crooked). Or the fact that one should always plan ahead to make sure the project, once built, can make it's way out of the workshop and to its final resting place using available manpower and without denting the door frame.

On a more informational note, I came across this polyacrylic finish from General Finishes. This stuff is great. It's a clear glop that, coming out of the can, kinda resembles phlegm. But after laying three coats of it on the desktop, the surface is now impervious to dents, scratches, and perhaps even stinger missiles. I'm considering painting the entire inside of the house with it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A missed opportunity

The Olympics are now over. I can resurface. Okay, so that's not really the reason I haven't written for a while, I've just been short on fodder. Fodderless, as it were. But, today I had a sad thought.

I realized that I missed a grand opportunity to excel as a parent these past couple of weeks. You see, we let the kids watch much of the amazing Olympics opening ceremonies, but failed to do so much as debrief them on any of the competitions that happened throughout. You see, when they are awake, and the TV is on, usually it's Hannah Montana or some crap like that. Because I'm so used to simply NOT watching TV during the day, I never once thought to put the daytime coverage of the events on TV instead. and the events that unfolded in the evening occurred after their bedtimes. So our household was Phelpsless. Boltless. Completely without Costas. I know I know...Tivo....

Today while driving home from work I caught a snippet of NPR All Things Considered, the portion where they read listeners' letters. One writer commented about how he agonized over letting his kids stay up so late, but after Phelps won his awards and the kids dashed across the street to do their best imitations of him in the neighbors' pool, he realized how justified he was letting them witness these amazing events as they unfolded. Suddenly I felt guilty. Cuz I didn't.

We had Tivo'd the closing ceremonies, and as many know there was a final mens' volleyball competition against Brazil as part of that recording. I mentioned it to the kids, and we watched. Jessica (and her mother) got bored and cranky after ten minutes, but Natalie and I stared riveted (I'm a huge Vball fan anyways). By the last game Natalie was hooting and hollering and jumping on the couch. She was so completely excited to see the USA win a medal, she went to sleep singing "God Bless the USA" with a grin on her face.

Well, at least that made me feel a little better.

Good news is that her birthday party is next week, and her brilliant yet slow-thinking dad is planning an Olympics of our own in the back yard. Chocolate coins hot-glued to ribbons will serve as medals, and instead of track & Field and Swimming we'll have the Monkey & Banana race and tug 'o war. Should be fun. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I'm in gripe mode this week.

As I mentioned in my last post, part of our adventure to OfficeMax included getting ripped off by the price of printer ink. I know, get in line. As I mentioned, we us a Canon Pixma ip5200. It's actually quite a nice printer. It does photos well, it's fast and quiet, and it prints two-sided. And, as I mentioned one of the "selling points" at the time was that each ink comes in it's own cartridge, so you only need to replace the ones you use up instead of wasting the other inks when one color runs out.


Last night I printed twenty copies of an invitation to my daughter's birthday party. It was 4-color, with a couple of photos, and the design was pretty heavy on yellow.

After copy #4, the yellow ran out. I replaced it. After copy #5, the cyan ran out. After copy #6, the magenta ran out. After copy #10, the black ran out.

Good thing I didn't waste all that cyan, magenta, and black when I replaced the yellow.

I'm really considering one of the new printers Kodak is proclaiming will save a ton of money on ink, as their replacement cartridges are only ten bucks for black and 15 for 5-color. Plus with their current sale, you get 4 extra blacks and three color carts with the printer for $149. Considering we just spent around fifty bucks for a set of 5 colors for the canon which will probably last 4 months, this seems like a really good deal. Plus I've been considering buying a scanner for a while.

Trouble is, I can't get a good handle on the reviews of this thing. Some people say it's the greatest thing ever. some say it's horrible. So which is it? Bear in mind most of the printing we do tends to NOT be photos, but rather printouts from websites or color pictures of favorite webkinz characters. But how well it print? And also how well does it scan? Help me Obi Wan, you're my only hope.

Okay, on to my next gripe.

About a month ago I hopped onto the website for Thule car racks to buy a couple of replacement parts. Recently I had to remove the roof rack from our van and discovered two of the "feet" had rusted solid. As a result I had to cut them off. Thule has this handy website from which you can order replacement parts, but the problem as you can see here it listed the foot (the part I needed) as out of stock. but I found it odd that the full kit at the top was available. So I called them.

The nice lady I spoke to told me that this part is no longer manufactured. She said they DO have some in stock, but don't advertise it on the website because they are running low. But regardless she took my order and told me they'd be shipped out in a day or two.

A day or two later, I received ONE foot. Well, that's useful.

I found it odd that the packing slip said quantity=2, so I called them. This guy named Frank, in the Quebec office, told me that this was because the second foot was backordered. I asked him how could they be backordered if they are not manufactured anymore. He paused for a moment, and then I distinctly heard the sound of a metal file drawer opening. Then he said, "I've got one here, I will ship it out to you."

That was nine days ago.

Today I called Thule back, and got Frank again. I asked him what happened to my second foot. He told me that "according to the computer it said there were more in the warehouse, but that was wrong and instead they need to ship from the other warehouse, and that was going to take another week."

You know, when I was a kid, my mom would often drag me along during her visits to the supermarket. And whenever a new flavor of Pop Tarts caught my eye, she would always give me the same sneaky answer. "Those are on sale at the other store.," she would say.

To this day I've never been to "the other store."

Anyone need a roof rack with only three feet?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

OfficeMax Promotions and logic

Every once in a while OfficeMax has a "15% off everything that fits in this bag" promotion in the Sunday paper. You take the paper bag with you to OfficeMax and, like it says, get 15% off anything that fits in the bag. It just so happened that we needed a few things, so we took the bag to the store yesterday and purchased about about $50 worth of items. As the headset-wearing drone(what's up with those things, anyways? what are these guys, Navy Seals?) behind the register rang up the items and placed them on the counter, I put them back in the promotional paper bag, thinking I'd use it to take my new purchase home and use the bag to hold old newspapers for recycling later.

But no, the cashier told me he had to confiscate that bag so I didn't try to use it a second time, and he transferred everything into an overly large plastic bag, tossing the paper one into a trash can behind him.

What the?????

Hasn't Al Gore taught these people anything? I had a perfectly good recyclable bag in my hand, but no, that goes into the trash, which I'm sure will be tossed in a landfill, and instead I get to waste a plastic bag.

I'm pretty sure OfficeMax sells markers. Anyone think that maybe a better practice would be to grab a sharpie and scribble "USED" across the paper bag? Brilliant, I know. I want credit for that idea when they start doing it. And yes, I wrote an email to OfficeMax. I'm just that annoyed.

I should also mention that one of the reasons we went there was to get raped on new inkjet cartridges. We have a Canon Pixma printer that has 5 separate cartridges, and in theory you "only replace the ones you need." In reality they all empty at the same time, so the theory is complete marketing bullshit.

Normally I would hunt the web to find a good deal on cartridges, but we needed them in a hurry so we figured the 15% promotion would be good enough. When we got there I learned that they now sell an OfficeMax-branded version of the Canon cartridges, at a discounted price. Great. Except that they don't sell the 5-pack, only individual colors. And if you add up the price of the individual colors of the OfficeMax-branded ones, the price is exactly the same as the 5-pack Canon-branded set. Again. Brilliant.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Vomitron claims another soul

I've been reduced to applesauce. Here I am, it's 12:57am and, in a desperate attempt to nourish my recently emptied body, I am carefully and tentatively spooning applesauce. The Vomitron has claimed another soul.

This evening's festivities involved going to a local church fair. All the good stuff was in attendance. Sugar coated funnel cakes, teenage girls texting each other in their short shorts and straight, lifeless hair, and Carnies hawking cheaply made stuffed Care Bears behind booths falsely advertising easy wins. And of course, there were rides. As a dutiful dad of an almost-eight-year-old, I was ready to show my girl the wonder of the spinning steel monsters with minimum height requirements.

I've never been squeamish about bile-inducing carnival rides, but over the past few years I have noticed my stomach acting more and more questionably with every spinning teacup, every looping roller coaster. And as we approached the shining yet rickety centrifugal force experiment, I'm pretty sure my belly button mouthed the words, "dude, I suggest the carousel."

I ignored my belly button.

Natalie and I mounted the steps and took our places in the circle of fun-seekers, and the churning began. As she squealed in excitement, I looked for stationary items on the horizon on which to focus in a futile attempt to maintain control, all the while holding back my hot dog and fries like a pit bull trainer holds back his killer dog. I survived the ride, but thought about finding a discrete tree to grab hold of before my legs gave out. It was a comfortable, cool evening, and I was sweating profusely. My feet were numb, and the sounds of the carnival around me were quickly dissolving into a muffled hum in the back of my head.

The wave of sickness eventually began to clear. That's when Natalie asked to go on the Octopus.

Off in the distance I saw my next challenge, one of those rides with eight two-person cars on the ends of long arms, the arms rotating around a central axis allowing the cars to spin freely and wildly depending upon the distribution of weight. I thought that I saw a central handlebar in each car that would allow passengers to maintain control of the spinning. I thought wrong.

As this pathetic yet dutiful dad mounted the ride with his grinning daughter, I searched in vain for that handlebar but to no avail. The ride began, and it was then that I learned that the 120-pound difference between our weights was quite an enabler. The car began spinning wildly.

The ride lasted exactly two rotations too long. Even Natalie said so. I finished off the ride the color of Kermit the Frog; she was a shade of Gonzo.

The good news was I didn't lose it at the carnival. The other good news was that the friends we were with had decided, while Natalie and I were doing our best imitations of smoothie makers, that their three-year-old had had enough and it was time to go. I barely remember the ride home, other than leaning out the window with the wind in my face, hoping not to chuck in their brand new Highlander.

When I got home, after about a half hour of sitting on the bathroom floor shivering and sweating, my intestinal fortitude gave way, and the funnel cake came back up with a show of violence not seen since the last Jason Statham movie.

I went straight to bed, but now at a little past midnight I've realized I don't have the nutrition in me to last until morning. The safe choice seems to be applesauce. It appears to be staying down.

Update: I forgot to mention that this was Natalie's first experience in memory of her father using the word "Shit." I believe it was fully justified.