Monday, April 26, 2010

Catching swarms

I like to make posts like that one yesterday when I said I didn't have much to say anymore because it means I'll suddenly have a whole bunch of stuff worth writing about (cough). So anyway, this post about catching bee swarms at Seguin Photo Blog sparked some memories.

My dad has been a beekeeper for at least my whole life; I can't remember a time when we didn't have raw honey to eat--as opposed to the pasteurized stuff you buy at the store. Many years we had so much we couldn't eat it all and sold some of it locally.

He never advertised himself, but word got around and we would occasionally get a call to catch a swarm of bees that had appeared in someone's front yard and had them all freaked out. We had a fairly low-tech operation; we would catch the swarm clump in a toe sack, tie it shut and take it to the empty hive we wanted to put them in, then duct tape the sack opening to the crack on the breed super (the box on the bottom of the hive).

Anyway, one day we got a call and went to this house to catch a swarm that had alighted on a tree branch in the front yard. The people wouldn't even come out of their house. So we geared up and went to catching the swarm. About that time I saw a familiar face peeking timidly through the screen door. It was someone from school who I didn't like very much because he was always picking on me. We caught the swarm and went on our way.

The next day at school he had to ask me about it, so I told him about catching swarms. He just couldn't believe we did that kind of thing. Of course the Big Question is: Don't you ever get stung? Sure, I told him, but after a while you get kind of used to it.

It must have impressed him. He never bothered me again after that.


Local area readers who are customers of you-know-who might be interested in this little statistic. My department's accuracy rate for 2010 through the end of March was 99.85%. My own personal accuracy rate was 99.83%. So I guess that makes me one of the slackers.

I prefer saying that my error rate was 0.17%. Sounds more impressive that way.

Also, I don't know if this link will work because it was part of an email, let's try: news release. From the Libertarian Party, that is. WTF? Kinky Friedman? The dude is a total collectivist. Every time I get one of these "Big L" emails it just increases my contempt for them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

nothing much

I seem to have fallen to the same malady as El Capitan. Oh, I still check into plenty of other's blogs regularly to see what's going on, and I still read a lot of the same blogs that I count on for real news (as opposed to the MSM version). I gave up on just linking to good posts a long time ago, for the most part, and not having anything much original to say here, I decided there wasn't much point in wasting time on it.

So I'm not really quitting, but this blog probably will only be used for the occasional "I'm still around" post, like this one, and for the rare interesting or weird bit of stuff that happens to me in real life.

I had written a Christmas-themed post for The Hunter Chronicles but then decided to put off posting it until I had worked on it more, and got a little stuck on it. I'm going to try to write something before a whole year passes since the last post, but I'm going to save the Christmas post for later. The main character has continued to evolve in my mind, however, and I think there will be a new revelation or two before too long.

I have not actually stopped blogging. I have just turned to different pursuits. For example, I spent about 4 hours yesterday writing a post about "Amazing Grace" for The Hymnomicon (check the right sidebar for all other blog links). The Hymnomicon is primarily for the interest of the majority of my FB friends who are members of the same church as I am and who I all actually know in real life. But of course it's still a public blog and open to anyone who wants to visit.

I don't remember why I did it, but some time ago I had added Tokyo Gore Police to my Netflix queue and I watched it this past week. A very intricate plot, with many unexpected twists and turns and a completely surprise ending, but not nearly enough gore. Also the sexual symbolism was tastefully understated and not at all gratuitous.* BTW, if you feel the need to G00gl3 some images from this movie, be warned that the one above is just about the only one that even comes close to being SFW.

Also caught that new live-action version of Blood: The Last Vampire this week and I think the original anime was much better.**

*irony: the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning

**not irony

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Also they spell "license" wrong


Bloglines is down so I've just been clicking through the links that pop up at the top of

Oh yeah, I just remembered. I got hold of some Mountain Dew Throwback the other day at our local grocery/meat market. They're pretty good for stocking relatively obscure soft drinks. That stuff is fantastic. Once I run out of it, I'm never going to drink that other Mountain Dew swill ever again. I might have to go in tomorrow and buy whatever they have left. I'm going to stash one can of it away so that it can be the last thing I ever drink on my deathbed. It's just that good.

Or Vulcan. No, not that Vulcan. The other Vulcan.

A couple of hours ago I thought I had thought of something that would make a halfway-decent blog post and provide a modicum of activity here but now I've forgotten it.

Well, tomorrow is Fiesta Friday so it's a paid holiday for me. Oh yeah, tomorrow is also Talk Like Shakespeare Day, according to my company calendar. A shame that it's a holiday. I'd like to stick that one in their faces, forsooth.

I heard on the radio that some of the people who were inconvenienced by the Iceland volcano are wondering who is going to compensate them. Total WTF. They want to be compensated for a volcanic eruption? Talk to Hephaestus, baby.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A great information website for anyone interested in jazz...

Check out this etymology page. But the language may be NSFW, if you have any co-workers who like to hang over your shoulder and read what's on your screen.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vampire facts

This is something I've actually devoted some serious (or "serious") thought to. Check the link to Dinosaur Comics.

Indulging another obsession...

I doubt if anyone here will be terribly interested in this--I have created it mostly for FB friends who are members of the church I attend, but I have created yet another blog to focus specifically on my interest in hymns and hymnals. Check the right sidebar for links to The Hymnomicon.

I tried creating a name that would fit, but everything I tried had already been taken. So I had to make up another name. I don't know..."hymnomicon" does have a certain ring to it.

Still getting ghost comments

Anyone else?

Friday, April 16, 2010

I apologize in advance for the "blueness" of this post

In case the previous post piqued anyone's interest, here's what happened...

I was going along minding my own business when I saw movement a few houses ahead of me on the other side of the street. A woman--I'm pretty sure it was a woman--came out of a house and walked a few doors down to knock on someone's door.

The first thing my brain said when I saw her was, Whoa!

The second thing my brain said was, Whoa!

Okay, I think she may have been wearing some derivative of the "French maid's" costume/lingerie, but with a few yards of extra material in the bosomical area. And high heels. Her legs were naked.

Although she wasn't technically naked (which, by the way, is not always the best kind of naked), I have chosen this word specifically for the appearance she presented. By which I mean that everything from her ankle up to her crotch--including about an inch of under-butt--was totally bare. I thought maybe she had dashed outside for some important reason because she thought no one was on the street, but when she saw me she peered at me and slowed down.

So no one answered at that door and she went back to the original house, but instead of going back inside she stood outside and said hello to me. I said hello back. "It's humid, isn't it?" she asked, fanning herself with her hand. "Yep," I answered, while desperately hoping that my eyeballs wouldn't implode.

The third thing I thought after seeing her was: Clydesdale. As in a horse that could pull a beer wagon all by itself. She looked like she could straddle a tree trunk and snap it clean in two with nothing but thigh power. And she must have been at least 6 feet tall, even without the heels.

So I went on my way, studiously fixated on where the meters were and nothing else. But the image of the woman has been burned into my mind. A mocha Valkyrie; she could easily suckle two babes with one arm and effortlessly plow a path of carnage through a horde of berserker Vikings with the other.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Work haiku for today

Rain, mud and fire ants.
Walking, walking, walking still...
Door-to-door hooker?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Busy week

On the way home today it suddenly occurred to me that it was already Thursday. Not a sensation I'm accustomed to. Because of after-work activities on Tuesday and Wednesday, the week seemed to go by quickly.

Anyway, I got those hymnals in this week that I bought via eBay. The one pictured above was published in 1897, which makes it my oldest one. It's in amazingly good shape for such an old book, not much yellowing of the pages, even. It has some mildew smell, like an old book that might have been safely ensconced in someone's garage or some place like that for many decades.

Took a glance at one of the Mennonite books and saw many songs I'm familiar with. One interesting thing about it is that some of the songs have the words in both English and German. The covers are a dark brick-red color; at some point the spines were tastefully reinforced/repaired with maroon duct tape that matches the covers, which made me smile. When I was a kid and our congregation couldn't yet afford to buy a bunch of new hymnals, we fixed the spines of the old ones with regular silver duct tape which didn't really match the beige covers but still held the books together for several more years. I still have one of those old books, complete with duct tape, on my shelf. The music is written in the familiar (to me) 7-shape system. On many of the songs, they didn't bother to print a time signature, but so far it seems to me that all the ones they didn't print the time signature for are in standard 4/4 (or possibly "cut" time). It has an introduction that tells the process by which the book was published; apparently there are (or were) two main branches of the Mennonites who used two different books, and at one point they got together to create a book they both could use. It goes on to say that they went out of their way to preserve the original words from the original writers whenever possible, which increases its value to me personally. It was published in 1969.

The book pictured at the top, "Songs for Young People," is a Methodist book put together by E.O. Excell, whose name I have seen many times. Most of the songs were still very new at the time of publication--songs which have since become old standards. Fortunately their original copyright dates are printed with each song, except for a few that must have been "old" at the time and aren't dated. One odd thing about this book, which I have never seen before, is that the pages are numbered as well as the songs. In every other hymnal I've seen, only the songs were numbered. Some of the songs have piano notation instead of four-part harmony, but, as I once told my dad, I can fix that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Search hit

Got a search hit today on "what did voltaire mean by a multitude of books is making us ignorant". Which led to one of my very early posts, when this blog had a different name and I didn't really know what I was doing yet (ahem).

I still think my oblique comment that I used for the post title is one of the best explanations of what he meant.

Did not get rained on today

This is what is known as a reverse jinx. (see previous post)

I'm sure I'll get rained on tomorrow.

Forecast is for 50% chance of rain

But what they don't know is that today is Cycle 11 Day, which means we have a 100% chance of hard rain all day long.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vintage Thrash

Today I ripped Zen Arcade from vinyl. I had previously ripped it from my old dub tape, but this is one that I wanted to rip from the original vinyl for the better sound quality. Been listening to side 1, the only side I've finished so far, and it sounds excellent!

I started encoding my mp3s at 320 vbr (variable bit rate) instead of a straight 128 like I used to. The top end of the treble gets lost at 128. Something I recently noticed, apparently because all this listening is improving my ears. I don't plan on re-ripping any records that I've already done to change the encoding, but I will be re-ripping select CDs (favorite pop/rock and all jazz CDs) for the better sound quality at the higher bit rate.

I tried an experimental rip on one of my old inherited records that is banged up pretty bad: that is, I played it wet by running distilled water onto it with a syringe. Didn't help. Some of these old records are just too messed up.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


This weekend we had our first Cub Scout campout, at a local place (private property which belongs to the pack leader) which is just about opposite from us on the other side of the Cibolo Creek. We knocked out several belt loops & so forth, the kids had a basic introduction to Dutch oven cooking and learned how to make "foil packs" and "omelet in a bag."

The foil pack is made as follows: tear off a good-sized sheet of foil and lay a big cabbage leaf in it. Squeeze a decent-sized glop of hamburger meat into it and smush the meat down so it basically coats the entire inside of the cabbage leaf. This creates a sort of cabbage & meat cup. Fill the cup with assorted vegetables; we used diced potatoes, onions, carrots & bell peppers, add a little salt & pepper, then cover it with another cabbage leaf. Then seal it up in the foil very tightly. The whole pack goes right into the coals of the fire. I think it was cooked 10 minutes, then flipped over and cooked for another 10. Allow it to cool for about another 10-15 minutes, then carefully peel open the foil and eat it right out of the foil. Not everyone--including myself--ate the cabbage, just the insides, but it was quite good although the vegetables could've used a little more time so they weren't so crunchy. My son tried the cabbage, made a bad face and said he didn't want to eat anymore of it, although he scarfed up the insides like nobody's business, and then one of the adults told him the cabbage would give him "superblast-farts" so he ate several more bites since he's such a big fan of flatulence.

The omelets were made by using the larger (quart-sized, I think) ziplock baggies. Put however many eggs you want in the bag, seal it and smush them around to break up the yolks and mix the yolk & white together, then open it again and put in a bunch of other stuff, like crumbled (pre-fried) bacon, pre-fried pan sausage, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, diced potatoes, salt & pepper, etc., then squeeze all the air out and seal the bag one last time. Drop the whole bag into boiling water, let it cook a little while, then lift the bag partially out of the water (pliers worked well for this) and smush it against the side of the pot with a big spoon to flatten out the partially-cooked eggs and ensure that they continue cooking evenly, let them cook a little longer until done. Take the bag out and let it cool for several minutes so it's cool enough to hold, then open the bag and eat right out of the bag. Very good.

My son also got to fish for the first time, unfortunately he was one of the last in line to get to do so and by the time he got down there the hole had been fished out. He and one other kid who was last didn't catch anything, although all the other kids caught small bluegill and one kid a small bass. However we're going to get another chance to go fishing next Saturday with a church group and he might get a chance to catch something then. He said it was great fun even though he didn't catch anything, so that's good. He didn't have to tie on the swivel and all that, but he did learn to bait his own hook (with earthworms) and he learned how to cast with a standard Zebco 404. I started out with a 202 as a kid, but I thought the heavier line on a 404 would be a better idea in case he somehow managed to snag one of those bigger catfish.

The cheap tent I bought at Walmart acquitted itself well. We didn't have rain, but we did have an extremely heavy dew with big drops falling off the tree we were under and we stayed dry and warm. I do plan on getting a bigger tent before the next time so we'll have room for ourselves and our gear. I had to leave most of our gear outside but since we packed light I covered it all with a raincoat and it was fine.

I am quite exhausted from not sleeping well--just a sleeping bag and nothing to cushion it underneath. Other than that, well, my son had more fun than I did, but I guess that means it was a success.

Oh yeah, almost forgot one funny thing. One of the ladies who is a troop leader is a member of the same church congregation as I am, so she's familiar with my song-leading. She was trying to lead the Cubs in "My Country 'Tis of Thee" but was pitching it very badly so she suddenly and unexpectedly drafted me to lead it in her place. I think there was about 10 seconds of dead silence from all the adults when they suddenly realized the guy who never talks was singing, and singing quite well (if I do say so myself). We also covered music to get a music belt loop, and our den leader who was giving the talk misidentified one song that I had to correct him on: he said "Cat's in the Cradle" was by Cat Stevens. I couldn't let that slide, and had to point out that it was Harry Chapin. I think this may be why that happened. Let this be a lesson: never trust mp3 tags from bootlegged music.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Oh yeah...

This post at Gun Rights Examiner by David Codrea reminded me of something. A few weeks ago I had to take both kids to our local doctor for bad and persistent colds/sore throats that they both had. You know how the waiting room at a doctor's office always has magazines lying around? Usually something to with golf, or maybe Time magazine and that kind of stuff. At our local place, I passed the time by catching up on a few issues of Guns & Ammo.

The people who run Transguide are morons

So I'm heading south on 281 today, getting on in the Bitters area, and I see two different Transguide signs warning that there will be construction on IH35 northbound at Eisenhauer starting at midnight Saturday. I'm wondering to myself why construction way over there should be so important to people traveling south on 281 on a Friday afternoon, and just as I reach my exit, I see that construction ahead has brought traffic to a standstill.

So, to recap and belabor the point, why is Transguide warning about something on a completely different highway going in the other direction some 30 hours in the future instead of warning travelers about a serious traffic delay only minutes away dead ahead of them?

I think a much more realistic use of Transguide would be to move all the signs to entrance ramps and have them alternately flash "ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE" and "SUCKERS!"

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I was going to read it, but...

via Oddee


Well, I just discovered that I won an auction for some hymnals. Five of them. For some reason, my brain had the impression that this was a collection of 5 different hymnals. Not so. It's 5 copies of the same.

Oh well, I'll buy them and add them to my collection, even though I don't really need five copies.

So...anyone out there need four Mennonite hymnals? Just pay shipping, and they're yours.

The opposite of genius

I wrote before about straight connections and how some are very well done, almost professionally so, and some are just thrown together--either way, they amount to someone trying to steal water.

Today I found one that was not well done at all. I would have liked to have taken a picture of it, but the vicious dogs chained in the yard alerted the people who were living there, and all kinds of scummy-looking characters were climbing out windows to see what had them in an uproar, so I decided to just keep moving along.

So how was this one put together? A garden hose and duct tape.

Monday, April 05, 2010


click to enlarge

I've been indulging one of my more obscure hobbies lately: that is, collecting old hymnals. So I've been checking eBay and keeping track of a few which I plan to bid on.

I have no idea why "crocodille boots" is a "related search." As expected, it goes to a list of crocodile boot auctions. Also unknown is why it's spelled "crocodille."


Still working on that Holst LP. It's quite aggravating, because I'm sure I played this thing only 2 or 3 times and I don't know why there's so much noise on it. The extended very-low-volume passages are the worst, because the tiniest little pop stands out terribly. I did learn a new trick, however. After zooming in on a pop or click, I maximize only that split second ("maximize" is Goldwave's term for "normalize," that is, boosting the volume up to 100% for that passage). Then I smooth out the click, which is basically sort of like redrawing the sound wave, then I use maximize again to "de-maximize" it back to its original decibel level. More painstaking, to be sure, but it works. Unfortunately, even doing this there are some soft pops that I can't dig out, but right now I'm listening to it at an increased volume level so I can pick out the noise; I think that when I listen to it more casually and I'm not actually trying to find the noise, I probably won't notice the ones I couldn't dig out. There were several places where I just had to say "that's close enough" and forget about it.

I might have to buy a CD of this someday.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Superman would lose



Now, I don't support Nazism. I learned long ago through playing Wolfenstein 3D that Nazis are bad for the environment. So if given the chance, I would fight a cyborg resurrected Hitler in a roof-top kung-fu battle to the death, because that's just how I was raised, with my midwestern values.
Sometimes the dude is hilarious.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A question for music lovers

Okay, I'm still working on cleaning up that LP of Holst's The Planets. I am at a quandary. First, I realize this isn't "classical" music but rather...uh...neo-classical or something like that. But the problem is this: I know that it is incorrect to normalize these pieces individually, because that will destroy the contrasting dynamics from piece to piece. For example, track 1, "Mars, the Bringer of War" is generally at quite a loud volume (peaking at -0.73dB according to Goldwave) compared to track 2, "Venus, the Bringer of Peace" (peaking at only -13.79dB). So if I leave them all at their original volume levels, the dynamic contrast will remain correct. However, if I leave them that way, I can't even hear "Venus," for example, unless I turn my volume up to about twice what I usually set it at. So I'm leaning very strongly toward normalizing all the tracks just so I can hear the soft ones, even though this goes against what little musical purity I have.

Maybe I should compromise and bring the soft tracks up to only 50% maximum or something, so there is still some dynamic contrast but I can still hear the music without having to crank my volume up to 11 (metaphorically speaking). I am open to any good ideas or even half-baked opinions on this.

Friday, April 02, 2010

That's an expensive free upgrade

I got an automated call tonight from Verizon, with a message that went something like, we are calling to notify people in your area of free upgrades due to this & that & the other thing, one of the upgrades being high speed internet. I didn't really expect anything out of it, but I stayed on the line anyway just to see what they had to say. So when I got to speak to a living person (who didn't have a funny accent, btw), she brought up my account.

Her: So let's see...You are eligible for an upgrade to unlimited local and long-distance calling for $49.95 a month.

Me: That's the only upgrade?

Her: [silent pause]...yeah...

From the tone of her voice, it seemed that she realized how stupid it sounded and didn't expect me to bite. I told her I wasn't interested, and her "Okay, thank you" sounded like "I don't blame you."

So, Verizon users, there is still not even a whisper of a possibility of high speed internet in this area.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Printer update

I finally got around to buying a new printer today. I went with Brother on the recommendation of several people, and got their least expensive plain monochrome laser printer, the HL-2140. Thanks again to everyone for the input.

You know, I'm almost certain I used to own some other electronic appliance made by Brother, but I can't remember what it was.