Space Modulator

 

Or, as Marvin the Martian would say, “Where’s the Ka-Boom?  There should have been an Earth-shattering Ka-Boom!”  We’ve had three Earth-shattering ka-booms here in town in just over ten years.

Just before the time on my parking-meter ran out at the auto-parts plant, I came home one morning, after a midnight shift.  I kissed the wife good-bye as she left for work, had a (for me) midnight snack, and headed for bed around 8 AM.  Just snuggling in, I heard/felt a heavy thump outside, the kind you get when a heavily loaded semi truck hits a pothole, or recessed manhole (Sorry, politically correct, “Personnel-access”) cover.  But wait, I didn’t hear a truck. I used to live right down-town, where that was common.  Now I live in suburbia, three blocks from the nearest street that trucks are allowed on.

I crawled back out of bed, went over and pulled back the blinds.  Two blocks down the hill there is a huge plume of smoke.  I threw my clothes back on, and went for a walk.  Most of one side of a semi-detached house is missing.  The gas line has been snapped off, and an 8-10 foot blow-torch is incinerating what’s left.  The house across the street is a corner lot, with an eight-foot wooden fence around the backyard.  It looks like a fort from one of the old cowboy movies, except, instead of arrows sticking out, it’s been impaled with most of somebody’s garage.

It turns out the man of the house drove a company van, which had been converted to propane.  Apparently the propane leaked all night, filling the entire garage with gas.  When he climbed in and started the van, up it went.  Other than some hearing loss and slight scorching, the guy was fine.  He was at the center of the blast, and everything blew away from him.

A couple of years later, a co-worker came in for an afternoon shift a little shaky.  He lived in an apartment near the downtown area.  The house behind them, on the side street, actually sat in the middle of what should have been two house-lots.  That fact was important.  The little old guy who owned it was 76, and lived alone.  He was starting to feel that he would be moved into a retirement home by his sons, because he couldn’t take care of himself.

He went downstairs and loosened the fitting on the natural-gas line, where it entered the house.  Then he went back upstairs and sat in the living room.  Perhaps he thought the gas would kill him.  It did!  The explosion left nothing above ground level.  My friend’s apartment-building had hunks of his house embedded in its back wall.  The tree on the other side stopped much of what would have hit the neighbor’s place.  The extra 40 or 50 feet of empty space prevented injuries and serious damage, although all the nearby houses had parts of his home on their roofs and lawns.

On a Sunday night a couple of weeks ago, we had the third case of a house blowing up.  It happened at 11:45 PM, when everyone in the house was in bed.  When the emergency crews arrived, they found one of the older children wandering around in what used to be the back yard, looking for his bed.  The roof was popped off, and the walls were peeled like a banana.

Years back, a city dump was located on what was the edge of town.  It didn’t take too long for the city to grow out to meet the dump.  Soon, houses were being built right up to the edges.  Residents had problems with methane seeping into their homes, causing small explosions….well, more like frightening little pops, and little balls of flame.  The city had to buy all the affected properties, and put bore holes with steel pipes around the site.  It made an interesting sight, especially at night, to drive past and see the methane burning like the stacks at an oil refinery.

At the most recent blow-out, they suspect natural gas, whether a leak or a malfunctioning furnace.  The family is socially/legally squeaky clean.  It is highly unlikely that someone got inside to plant a bomb.  They are doing bore-holes to check for methane, but the area has never been used for land-fill.

Despite the regular miracles they show on such TV shows as CSI, we may never be sure of the cause of this latest blast.  Today’s paper says that the gas company is going to check 800 nearby houses for gas leaks.  Video of the structure in flames is available on You-tube.  Of course someone has started a fund-raiser to assist.  I can only hope that it will be used for immediate expenses, and not just because the owners of this quarter-million dollar home didn’t bother to purchase insurance.

The Romanian family who used to live next door has still not moved back into their home because they are afraid.  I don’t know where they have been staying.  I mean, where do you stay when you have 11 kids??!  Aged 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 19.  A five-year gap in the middle; it sounds like it might be someone’s second marriage, but that someone needs another hobby.

It’s another reminder that, what we take for granted, can so quickly be taken from us.  Where’s the Ka-Boom?  Thankfully not at my house.

 

Strangers In A Strange Land

With all due apologies to Robert Heinlein.

While none of us actively seek to do so, each member of our family often manages to be the odd man out.  The last place the son worked, he said he was the weirdest guy in the room.  He’s actually happy at the new plant, where, he says, he’s just the opening act.  There’s nothing that will hold a mirror up to your normalcy, or lack of it, like a road-trip, to see how others do it.  Jeff Foxworthy says it’s like goin’ to the local fair.  “Why, we’s dang near royalty!”  With that in mind, the son and I spent a weekend in the Detroit area.

He hasn’t been able to make the trip for almost ten years.  He had seen the photos of the big wind-turbines we passed last October, but nothing gives the scale like driving right under them.  I’ll include pictures, and maybe a video, in a later post.  He was impressed by their size, and proximity to the highway.  He was less impressed by the two fields of solar panels, which we didn’t get a picture of.  They just looked like someone had pulled a black shroud over a couple of acres of dead farmland, which, in effect, they had.

I think we passed the home of the lady who objected when the turbines were going up.  She complained that they already had enough wind in the area.  They didn’t need these big fans making more.  She could have been Liz’s sister.  D’oh!!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and stopped at a Security booth manned by a 30-ish male.  As I’ve said, we never mention knife shows.  As I do when the wife and I go down, I told him we were going to do some shopping.  I should have told him that the wife had sent along a list of stuff we can’t get in Canada.  We got Searched!  He looked in the car and saw two males claiming to be going shopping, and said, “Pop the trunk.  I want to take a look.”

I wasn’t worried.  He saw a shopping basket with five bottles of Pepsi, a large orange juice bottle, filled with iced tea, a smaller bottle with two days worth of orange juice, two newspapers and two crossword puzzles.  I’m surprised he wasn’t so bored he dozed off and fell into the trunk, but, back he came.  “Thanks guys.  Have a nice time.”  Them boys is too bland to be smugglers or terrorists.

We were supposed to have phoned the wife, our designated worrier, when we crossed the border in each direction, but we got distracted by all the big-city lights, and forgot till we were on the wrong side of the river.  The son tried to place a billed-to-the-room call when we got to the motel, but the phone system malfunctioned.  Finally on Saturday he placed a collect call.  She said that no police officer had showed up by 11 PM to report an accident, so she assumed we were safe.

After we booked in, we both lay down for a nap.  Mine was only an hour and a half.  Since the son had been up since 7 PM the previous day, I let him sleep four hours.  While he was still out, I took a walk, circling the Big Boy restaurant in front of the motel.  In the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, Bond apologizes to a rat for having a gay assassin’s cheap cologne spilled on him.  He says, “One of us smells like a tart’s handkerchief.  Sorry old man, I think it’s me.”  Around on the unused side of the restaurant, two guys were doing something near two vehicles.  I assume they were the gay assassins, because, from 10 feet away, I could hardly breathe from the tart’s handkerchief smell.  I left quickly, lest I be invited to join the party.

We went out to check a couple of possible places to get good fish and chips.  I passed a place I had found on-line, on the way to another spot.  We decided to go back to it, because it looked more reputable than the one recommended by the on-call ambulance team I had met.  We walked in just ahead of two young men, just before 7 PM.  A sign out front threatened “Live Entertainment”, and they were it.

The fish was good.  The chips were the milk-powder coated variety for crispness, the kind the lactose-intolerant wife can’t eat.  Without the spoilsport chaperone wife along, I had a cup of decent bean soup, a bowl of crisp, well-dressed coleslaw, and  a 20 ounce glass of well-chilled, Australian-type, 8.5 percent, craft-brewed ale from Wisconsin.

The two musicians (?) played a keyboard and a guitar, and one of them sang – I think, although the noun caterwauling came to mind.  Without any help from the studio audience, I managed to identify every song they played, even if they couldn’t.  Is it cynical to note that those few of the audience who clapped, did so when these guys stopped playing?

We stopped at my favorite Meijer store on the way back to the motel, and got everything on the wife’s list except flavored coffee creamers.  Oh, the excitement, it was like electricity in the air.  We were asleep again by midnight.  Tomorrow we attend the knife show.  Stop in to the site, I hope to post pictures.

Instant Philosophy Degree

The following is the general examination for a Doctor of Philosophy degree:

History

Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious and philosophical impact from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.  Be brief, concise and specific.

Public Speaking

Some 2500 riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom.  Calm them.  You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.  Your performance will be video-recorded.

Biology

Create life.  Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this life had developed 500 million years earlier, giving special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system.  Prove your thesis.

Music

Write a piano concerto.  Orchestrate and perform it with flute and violin.  You will find a piano under your seat.  In the interests of time, you may omit the coda.

Psychology

Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Moses, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rameses II, Gregory of Myssa, Hammurabi, Freud, Hitler, Idi Amin.  Support your evaluation with quotations from each man’s work, making appropriate references.  It is not necessary to translate.

Sociology

Estimate the sociological problems that might accompany the end of the world.  Construct an experiment to test your theory.  Use charts if appropriate.

Political Science

There is a red telephone on the desk beside you.  Use it to start the Third World War.  Report at length on its socio-political effects, if any.

Engineering

The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed on your desk.  You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili.  In 10 minutes, a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room.  Take whatever action you feel is appropriate.  Be prepared to justify your decision.

Economics

Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the National Debt.  Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist controversy, the wave theory of light, the automobile industry.  Outline a method for preventing these effects.  Criticize this method from all possible points of view.  Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

Physics

Explain the nature of matter.  Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.

Mathematics

If X equals Pi times A squared, construct a formula showing how long it would take a fire ant to drill a hole through a dill pickle, if the length-girth ratio of the ant to the pickle were 98.17:1.

Philosophy

Sketch the development of human thought, and estimate its significance.  Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

General Knowledge

Describe in detail.  Be objective and specific.  Abbreviations are permitted.  You will be graded for punctuation and grammar.

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was why I decided to become a factory worker.  I tried to think….but nothin’ happened.  Mommy, my head hurts.

Liz

The couple of recent posts about cookies have reminded the wife and me about an ex-neighbor.  Far from stupid, she just suffered the all-too-common affliction of not noticing and not thinking.  A stay-at-home mother like the wife, she sometimes visited back and forth.

The first odd thing we noticed about her was strange eating habits.  She claimed to be Scottish, but no Scots ever acknowledged her.  Scots are frugal, for they’ve not got a lot to be frugal with.  One of her favorite snacks was to burn, not toast, two slices of bread.  Then she would slice pickled beets, and make a sandwich of them.  Maybe this treat had originated because of a need to consume food which would otherwise be wasted.

Perhaps a precursor to today’s entitled generation, she wanted what she wanted, Right F**kin’ Now, without the bother of work, or study.  Long an accomplished gardener, the wife had the entrance to our house nicely landscaped.  Liz complained that her place was so plain and bare.  The wife instructed her how to prepare a garden area, and told her to plant flowers in it.  She and her 14-year-old son prepared the bed, then she picked up some marigolds at a local nursery and planted them.

When the son came home from school, his first question was, “Mom, where are the flowers’ legs?”  She had buried them in the ground, up to their little chins – stems, leaves and all.  The little garden looked as if someone had plucked the blooms off and strewn them on the earth.

Next, she decided that she wanted a hanging basket like we had, and another neighbor went with her to the nursery and helped her pick out a nice one with petunias in it.  The nursery staff instructed her to pinch off mature seed-pods, to encourage continued blooms.  She complained to the neighbor that the stupid flowers bloomed at night when she couldn’t see them.  Turns out, she’d been pinching off all the ready-to-bloom buds.

Like our Chiropractor, her favorite cookies were ginger snaps.  She had to go to hospital a couple of times for extended treatments, and the wife visited with a can of cookies for a treat.  She pulled several of them from the tin, and stacked them within her fingers, like poker chips, all the same size and perfectly round.  She looked at the cookies, and then at the wife.  “I hate you.”  Like me and my Jeep parts, when you’ve made three-quarters of a million of them, you get consistent.

The wife instructed her how to make them, at our house.  After a miserable failure at home, she accused the wife of leaving out some ingredient or preparation step, so the wife agreed to visit her place the next time she wanted to try.  The mixing proceeded nicely.  Then she took out one cookie sheet, because that was all she had.  The wife has four aluminum sheets used only for cookies.  They are so clean and shiny that you can use them as mirrors.

Her only sheet was steel, and had been used for everything from baking squash, to roasting meat.  It was about the color of the dark-chocolate cookie buds.  Oh dear!  Well, if that’s what we have, that’s what we have to use.  When the oven came up to heat, the wife opened the door to insert the pan, and looked at the single rack.  It was down as far as it could go.  “Of course!  That’s where the heat is!” says Liz, and still didn’t understand why she had burned all the previous variously sized/shaped cookies.  The only baking she had done was to make Angel Food cake mix, and that is always baked on the bottom rack.

Her second husband was a police officer.  He went to work at 11 PM on a winter’s Sunday night.  At about 12:15, he got a radio message to call home.  Before cell-phones, he plugged a quarter in a pay-phone and called her.  She told him that the house was getting cold, as were the three kids.  She thought something must be wrong with the furnace.  He asked, “Did you check the fuse-box?”  She answered, “Oh Gord, don’t be stupid!”  He managed to locate a technician who made emergency calls, got him out of bed, paid him almost a week’s salary, and sent him over to the house.

For the week’s pay, the guy took her fuse, and screwed it into her fuse box.  “But Gord, it’s a gas furnace!  How was I supposed to know it ran on electricity?”

When pre-aged, stone-washed jeans were the rage, he decided he wanted some, but the store he went to was sold out.  How a mere man might know, is a mystery.  Perhaps one of his drug informants gave him the info.  You can pre-age bright blue jeans with bleach.  He bought two pairs of very expensive pants in regular finish, and gave them to her with the instruction to soak them with “a bit of bleach.”  She put both pairs in a large pail, poured an entire gallon of Javex bleach on them, and left them for a week.  He got back wet, pale-blue Kleenex.

A fun friend, and a nice companion to my house-bound wife, she was also the source of considerable unintentional humor.  When they sold their house up the street, she told the kaffee-klatch that it had gone to “The Curries.”  Oh, you know their names already?!  We discovered some unexpected racism when she explained, that was another term for “PAKIS– duh!”  Both families have moved several times and we have lost track.  The wife and I are still trying to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad one.