I ate my wafer...


Mandatory word counts are of the devil.

So, I'm writing a paper. I'm heavilly stressed, depressed, low on sleep, and simultaneously exhausted and overstimulated from the endless gallons of Diet Coke, the cans of Monster Drink and the, at least for me, inordinate amouts of nicotine.

As usual with the law school contrived version of legal writing, I'm struggling to meet the mandatory word count with a topic that simply doesn't require as many words as I'm required to produce. Like virtually every paper I've written in years, I've swiftly written 80% or so of the requirement, only to now face endless hours of scraping and digging to produce the last bit. That last 20%, as usual is taking at least 60% of the time. And, to face the truth of things, the last 20% is completely unnecessary crap, bloated legal phrasing, unnecessary citation, tangental footnotes, and even pointlessly novel arguments that a real court would merely be annoyed at.

If there's any light at all at the end of this particular tunnel it is the hope that someday I'll only have to write what needs to be said, with an upper page limit, not some contrived minimum.

Right, well, enough time wasting, back to the paper hell.


Quick Lube Places...oh how I hate them.

So, I was driving to class yesterday and saw a one of those tragically funny things: a dead car stalled in traffic about 200 yards from a Quick-Lube place (hint to Lansing dwellers...it was on Grand River), with a couple of service techs from the oil lube place milling around it, and a trail of oil leading back to the Quick-Lube place.

I'm guessing that they forgot to put on an oil filter, though I suppose they could have figured out some other way to screw up.

Anyway, I know that I complain about it too often as is, but here's the standard quicky-lube rant:

A. Most quick-lube places have a target amount to upsell each and every customer. That is, the management typically pressures the staff to sell unnecessary, or barely necessary services on top of the oil change. There's a variety of flavors of this, but typical ones included flushes of various kinds, new air filters, etc. To be a bit blunt,I suspect that unscrupulous quicky-lube places love targeting women for the upsell crap. (I'd say that my male and female friends actually fall for the speil about equally, but the women get hit up more often.) Some of the particularly shady minions go beyond lying as to the necessity of a service and lie about whether it was performed or not.

B. A lot of quicky-lube places are technically incompetent, and a good number of engines meet an untimely death at the hands of their troglodyte minions.

C. Even if they don't immediately kill an engine, there's a tendency for the quicky-lube folks to OVER-tighten oil filters, strip drain plugs, etc. Usually the oil and filters used are pretty much the cheapest, marginal parts around (*cough* FRAM's cheap store-branded filters*cough).

D. The oil lube places have sold Americans on an pointless short oil change interval, which is both wasteful on a personal level, and environmentally bad. (On a related note I'd like to compliment the various automakers that have installed oil life monitoring computers of one kind or another.) When a car is under warranty, follow the owner's manual and keep records, but after that, generally speaking, most cars can run 5,000 miles or so on "SM" rated oil without a hitch, and probably 10,000 miles on any real synthetic. (I think it is really cool that Mobil is actually telling people this right on the oil bottle now, and backing it up both technically with good chemistry, and practically by warranting the engines.)

So, what's the solution? Well, the best of all worlds is to change your own oil, closely followed by establishing a relationship with a independent mechanic that you trust, even if you have to pay an extra $20 per oil change. If you insist on using quicky-lubes, you need to watch them like a hawk, and if they suggest ANY extra services you probably should consult someone else first. Heck, call me while you're in the waiting room at the quicky-lube. I'd much rather get a phone call than have to bite my tongue when my friends tell me about how the quiky-lube tech talked them into a flush.

(Note, most of the links above are in reference to Jiffy-Lube, but that's mostly because it was fast to google. Jiffy Lube is probably no worse than the competition, though that doesn't say much.)


So, I've been debating the merits of publically discussing my 4th of July plans, which, while legal and reasonably safe are somewhat controversial blog fodder. Anyway, I happened to google a certain phrase that included "Public Discussion of X experiment", and got results on a totally unrelated news issue: the California teacher that was doing ballistic pendulum demonstrations with an M1 Carbine in class. One of my all time favorite science bloggers, PZ Myers, has weighed in supporting the teacher, and I completely agree with him.

*As a side note, I'm pretty sure there were more controversial experiments in my High School science classes.


Negligent Discharge #1: The Dryer Lint

So, based on several conversations last weekend, I decided that I've probably unnecessarily avoided blogging, especially about some topic areas, in the last couple of months or so. Since apparently "weird bob stories" are desired, and I want to start talking about firearms topics more, I present the story of the flaming dryer lint.

So, one winter when I was 12 or 13, I went hunting with my dad over Christmas break. The first day, we went out in the late afternoon, in 15 degree weather, complete with blowing snow. After many hours of walking and sitting in the woods, we arrived home after dark, probably close to 9PM, planning on returning the next morning before dawn.

I had not fired my rifle the first day, and had brought it home, pulled the .50 caliber Maxi-Ball projectile with a ramrod screw, removed the nipple, blew compressed air through the nipple fitting on the drum to empty the pyrodex charge, wiped the rifle with a RIG rag, dried off the telescope with a dry cloth, the stored it for the night.

The next morning, before dawn, I began the somewhat laborious process of readying for the next round of hunting. As there was driving snow outdoors, I planned to load, saran wrap the nipple, then cap the rifle after the 2 minute car ride to the woods (Note, at the time OH law considered uncapped muzzleloaders to be "unloaded" for transport purposes.)

Before loading, I wanted to fire several caps threw the empty gun per good procedure, but it was snowing outside, and I decided to simply fire them on the front porch of my parents house…which unfortunately contains the laundry room.

Wandering out onto the porch, I saw the trash can full of paper, pocket spore, and dryer lint; promptly pointed the muzzle into it, loaded a cap, and pulled the trigger.

(Unfortunately, the night before, I had let the rifle sit in a 70 degree workshop for an hour before I blew the pyrodex out, during which time condensation certainly occurred within the barrel, leaving perhaps 20-40 grains out of 110 grains of Pyrodex RS was clinging to the inside of the barrel.)

So, instead of the mild "pop" I expected, there was a roar of flame and smoke, the trashcan basically disintegrated, flaming chunks of dryer lint flew around the room, and I couldn't hear anything for 30 minutes or so. In a 8'x10' room, it was basically the end of the world, sulphur smell included.

So...I killed a $1.97 trash can, which hillariously opened up like a flower with each of the four "sides" only attached to the base. Before I threw the old trash can out, I did stick my unused deer tag to it, and my parents did made me buy another one. I also learned all sorts of lessons about gun safety from the experence:

A. Run a patch down an "empty" muzzleloader before loading.

B. Even if you unloaded it yourself, treat it like its still loaded. Just think about what would have happened if I had pointed the muzzle at something other than a $1.97 trash can.

C. Dryer lint is very flammable.


What goes "ribbet...slide...ribbet...thump" at 4am?

So, yesterday, I was in the car with James and Chris when somehow it came out in conversation that I once owned some albino dwarf African clawed frogs, aka "Grow-A-Frogs".

My grandparents bought me one for my birthday, I believe in 1987, and after we sent in the little postcard that came in the Stage One habitat box, a couple weeks later a tadpole showed up in the mail, which looked pretty sickly. As I recall, my parents must have been concerned that the tadpole would quickly croak, leaving me upset, so they immediately ordered another one, as a backup tadpole. (They did let me know they were ordering a second one, contrary to tradition, since my mom's mother tried to swap out surreptiously swap parakeets when one died).

Anyway, so, at this point there's two tadpoles kicking around in their own little stage one habitats. They're albino, and transparent, so you can see all the bits a pieces that make up their innards, and they are sort of cool. However, relatively soon they start metamorphsizing in to adults, if I had to guess this started nearly immediately, and possibly one of mine even came out of his shipping box starting to change. Watching the change is interesting, though even as albinos, they get darker skin, so the internal organs get hard to see.

What's worse is that after the tadpoles have completely morphed into frogs, they just sit there suspended in their tanks, occasionally making noises, basically doing nothing other than eating and pooping. Then, they live for close to ten years in this nursing home state (some live to be 20+), which makes the Grow-A-Frog a highly evil gift to give to children whose PARENTS you dislike.

There were two exceptions to the otherwise horribly boring nature of my Grow-A-Frogs: the fighting and the escape:

After both of my frogs were completely transformed, my parents tried putting them both in the same aquarium for logistical reasons, and the frogs immediately started fighting. More than any thing else, it resembled underwater WFF "wrassling", with the frogs pushing off the opposite sides of the tank, then trying to choke each other, and kick each other, with a bit of biting. Although my parents quickly separated the frogs, and bought a pair of 3 gallon-ish tanks, it was repeatable on demand if one frog was dropped in with the other.

The other exception is the night of Willy's great escape. To cut to the interesting part, Willy's tank lid must have been left loose, and he bailed out of the tank, and to the floor, unfortunately falling immediately through a heat duct. Unlike the average heat vent of modern proportions, my parents had the kind with 1"x1" holes that a grow a frog could easily plummet through. Also, unlike modern 4" ducts, the giant gravity furnace in the basement had 12" diameter ducts, and no filters, so Willy was lost in giant tunnels of dust. Fortunately for Willy, my dad was woken up by feeble ribbeting and sliding noises, and eventually tracked the noise down at 4am and found the frog. (This process had started some 45 minutes earlier, and the odd noises had moved locations through the house as the frog shifted in the heat ducting while my dad tried to figure where and what was causing the noises.) Despite spending some hours loose in the heat vents, returning caked in dust, Willy survived and managed to outlive his less adventurous cousin in the other tank by a year or so.

Looking around the internet, it looks like you can buy similar African Clawed frogs, including non-dwarf models from people other than the "Grow-A-Frog" folks. But the Grow-A-Frog people have some nice syrupy literature that they throw in and a frog is only $20 from them including all of its Stage One equipment. Apparently some people really like them as pets, but frankly, they must have way more attention span than I do to find watching the frogs lethargically eat and poop interesting after the 8th year or so.

However, as more of my friends have children, they should be warned that if I'm sufficiently irritated, or simply amused at the concept, I'll buy their kids a frog that will live practically forever, while doing nothing interesting after the first 3 months. Oh, and did I mention that the frogs have a lifetime guarantee, so even if you kill one off, you're kid can get it replaced for $3 in shipping fees? Oh, and if you accidentally let it "escape" into the wild, you'll cause an ecological disaster, and possibly face legal problems? Not only will African Clawed Frogs outcompete native species, they'll kill off other amphibiious by means of a toxic fungus (biological warfare).

On the upside, if you get a female grow-a-frog, you can always use it as a reusable home pregnancy test. Sort of like a free giant box of EPTs with every frog. Though you probably want to make sure that the kids are VERY soundly asleep when you inject the frog with urine, and safely off to school the next day when you check for eggs. Actually, a Grow-A-Frog isn't much more expensive than a name brand pregnancy test, so maybe Grow-A-Frog should change their marketing scheme.


Typical Request for random esoteric and arcane stuff:

(Blogger has been extra special annoying lately, and I'm posting some old saved posts tonight)

Current Bob needs list:

A. Info on spotwelder construction. I have some capacitors laying around, and a pile of AK recievers that need rails....

B. Flywheel for a 1930's 0.9 Horsepower Evinrude Elto outboard. Yes, I could TIG weld mine, but alas, I weld like a mentally deficient kindergardener, and welding an unknown composition magnesium alloy seems ill advised.

C. Straight razors (carbon steel, hollow ground, 6/8 size), strop, badger hair shaving brush. Older the better. Personal experence and knowhow with regards to these items also wanted.

D. Fossils. Well, specifically Trilobites. More Specifically Cephalopyge notabilis Zone trilobites.

E. Jarts. I played for the first time over memorial day weekend, and its nearly as dangerously fun as beer bottle baseball.

F. Info on building an air gauge...not the tire kind, but the kind for holes, preferably I want to use
Kulite silicon sensors and maybe LabView. I want to combine this with one of my dad's more or less current projects.

G. An old high pressure gas cylinder of either 220 or 250 Cubic feet capacity. I don't care what gas the cylinder was for, or what valve, if any, it has. I don't care if the cylinder is way out of test date, though it needs to be structurally sound.