Archive for May, 2009

He’s Going the Distance

There is a series of Ford commercials that I have been hearing on the radio lately. They all involve some guy talking to a part of his car – the brakes, the dome light, etc. In this particular case, the part is the odometer – “A Word From Your Odometer“.

The odometer is counting off mileage while talking to the driver. “Twenty-two thousand one hundred five point one, twenty-two thousand one hundred five point two” and so on.

I thought to myself, “Self, that odometer seems to be counting off tenths of miles faster than I’ve ever seen my odometer go. I wonder how fast this radio commercial guy is driving.” So I timed it. Here is the commercial:

Narrator: “Genuine Ford and Lincoln Mercury Parts and Service Presents: Your Odometer
Odometer: “.1 … 22,105.2 …
Driver Guy: “Thanks Odometer, I …”
O: “22,105.3 …
DG: “So you’re telling me I should go …”
O: “Go-to-your-Ford-dealer-for-scheduled-maintenance point four
DG:”I will, thank you. You know, …”
DG, along with O: “five point five”
N: “Get the Works Fuel Saver Package: oil change, tire rotation, multi-point inspection …
and the narrator goes on with the rest of the spiel.

Odometer counts off 4 tenths of a mile in 13 seconds (starts 22,105.2 at time = 7 seconds into the commercial and finishes 22,105.5 at t=19s (assuming that 22,105.6 would start at t=20s)). That makes 1.85 miles in one minute, which equals 111 miles per hour (111 mph = 179 kph, in case you’re wondering).

I am not aware of any roads around here with a speed limit above 100 mph, so I wonder where this guy is driving. Plus he’s discussing vehicle maintenance and service with his car while he’s going this fast. I would like him to concentrate on the road, and also he should not distract the car from its job.

“He said to him, ” Go in peace.” So he departed from him some distance.”
– 2 Kings 5:19

Pants Pocket Problem

I have a new pair of shorts that I have started wearing now that the weather is warm. These shorts have a different style back pocket flap – they use Velcro hook-and-loop fasteners instead of buttons.

I like to leave the pockets unbuttoned and tuck the flaps inside the pockets.  That way, I don’t have to fight anything to get out my wallet or pull out the receipt or whatever it is I have stuck in my back pocket.  Of course, pick-pocketers have an easier time too, but that’s a risk I’ll take here in the suburbs.

The problem with these shorts – okay, so my title is somewhat misleading as they are shorts not pants but a liked the alliteration – is that the rough side of the fastener is on the outside of the shorts and the soft side is on the inside of the pocket flap.

That works fine for when the flap is closed.  But when the flap is tucked inside the pocket, the rough stuff (rough stough?) is exposed and gets caught on things.  Mainly on my shirt.  If I sit down, the bottom of my shirt becomes fastened to my shorts.  If I sit on a carpet, then my shorts become fastened to the floor.

Please, pants and shorts designers, if you’re going to put Velcro® on clothes, design them so that the rough side is on the flap.

“Yet You would plunge me into the pit, And my own clothes would abhor me.”
– Job 9:31

Receipt-Leavers of the World, Unite!

I started a protest and signed a petition this morning. I didn’t intend to do anything, and wasn’t even thinking about it until the situation arose.

I am no longer claiming responsibility for unsolicited pay-at-the-pump receipts. If you print out something and try to hand it to me, I will just not take it anymore. It is your receipt, you keep it.

Here’s the story: I just stopped by the usual on-the-way-to-work gas station this morning. I swiped my credit card at the pump and had to answer a couple of questions (Debit card? Y/N, Car wash? Y/N) before I could pump the gas.

While I was watching the gallons and dollars numbers increase, my attention was drawn to the receipt that was blowin’ in the wind. The two previous customers had not taken their receipts, so a strand of paper was sticking out of the gas pump. On this particular type of receipt-printing pump, the receipt does not normally protrude very much, so if you’re not expecting a receipt to print, it is easy to miss it because it is small.

My thoughts while observing this receipt and waiting for the gas to fill my vehicle were akin to these:
“Huh, two receipts still in the pump…”
“I bet the first guy didn’t even know he left his receipt in there.”
“I wonder if the second guy just left his on purpose.”
“I wish this gas station gave me an option to decline the receipt.”
“I wish I could leave my receipt here on purpose.”
“Hey, why don’t I?

So I checked the receipts to make sure they did not show the whole credit card number. Then I empowered myself to just leave the receipt in the machine. I don’t want the receipt, why should I waste my time pulling it out of the printer and walking it over to the trash can? At some point, someone, whether it is the gas station attendant whose job is to clean and maintain the pumps or it is the customer who really does want his receipt, will tear all the receipts off the pump.

How much time and expense goes into replacing the receipt paper in the pumps and emptying the trash cans? All that could be money saved by that business with one simple change. The pumps already ask about debit cards and car washes, so I know they have the capability of asking about receipts too.

If you’re reading this, Mr. Valero, why don’t you have your gas pumps ask people if they want receipts? Because most of them don’t want them. And if you see me frequenting the Meijer gas station across the street more, and yours less, it is because Meijer lets me decline the receipt.

Consider all the names on receipts left in pumps as signatures on the petition to stop automatically printing receipts.

“We will sing for joy over your victory,And in the name of our God we will set up our banners May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.”
– Psalm 20:5

Second Place is the First Newsmaker

Carrie Prejean may have come out ahead on this whole thing. She may not have won Miss USA, but does anyone know off-hand who did? No, but a lot of people know who Miss Prejean is.

Just like Jennifer Hudson did not win American Idol, but she’s better off not having won. As not the winner, she was not bound exclusively to deal with American Idol’s record company. So she got to do things other than record an album – movies and such.

There is such a thing as bad publicity, but this case is not bad publicity – just good publicity from a bad event. Miss Prejean got a better deal than the pageant winner. She had a number of interviews and speaking deals that she would not have otherwise. Of course, if she didn’t want the publicity and just wanted the money, then she is not better off. But something tells me that is not the case.

It’s hard to see what all the controversy is about – the judge asked a loaded question and got an honest answer. He then judged her on the content of her answer and the fact that her views were not the same as his views. So then, he is not tolerant? At least Miss USA owner Donald Trump had some common sense about the whole thing and said she was entitled to state her beliefs.

I am not a beauty pageant judge, nor do I play one on TV, but I thought the contestants were judged for how they answered more so than what they answered. They are supposed to 1. not stumble over their words, 2. convey their thoughts, and 3. at least make some sense … probably something about thinking and speaking well under pressure and a time limit.

If they are being judged on having the right or wrong answers, they should at least be given something to study so they know what the right answers are. Otherwise the question-and-answer portion is a mind-reading quiz: “Hmm… I don’t know this judge, but I need to guess his stance on zoning laws in Washington D.C.”

We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart.

2 Corinthians 5:12

A Very Big Credit Card

While reading a computer/electronics catalog (yes, something I do for fun), I noticed a description of one particular item for sale.

ad from electronics catalog

Of course, the catalog tries to hype accurately describe the items for sale. I think they may have been reaching a bit far with this one though.

ad from electronics catalog

A video camera the size of a credit card? Now that would be impressive. I’ve seen some things the size of a credit card, like that handy magnifying glass thing that you can fit in your wallet. I’m sorry, but there’s no way that camcorder will fit in my wallet.

And it’s convenient that they have the credit card right next to the camcorder so you can see how close in size they really are. From my perspective though, I’d say the camera is about as large as 50 credit cards.

Giving the copy editors the benefit of the doubt, I will say that I think they meant that the footprint of the camcorder is about the same as the credit card. It occupies the same area, not the same volume. But why stop there? Stand the camcorder on its end and claim that it is smaller than a credit card! That impressive claim would last only as long as it took someone else to stand the credit card on its end…

“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.”
– Leviticus 19:35

Crayon-Piece Muffins

We tried a craft project to make new crayons out of old crayons.

The intent of the project was to be able to use the bits of crayon that accumulate in the crayon bucket after a length of time. In general, a crayon either breaks (most likely) or get used so much that there is a very short piece of crayon that is hard to hold and therefore hard to use. No one uses it, but no one wants to throw it away because it possibly could be used. Okay, I do know some people who would have no problem tossing them out but they are not blood relatives.

My wife found some directions for the project, and they went a little something like this:

  • Take the wrappers off the crayons
  • If they are not already tiny, break the crayons into tiny bits
    box of broken, peeled crayons
  • Put them into a muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick stuff
    muffin tin of broken, peeled crayons
  • Put the whole thing into the over for 10 minutes at 200 degrees.
    muffin tin of melted crayons
  • After it has cooled, put out the brand-new circle crayons
    new crayon made from melted crayons

The directions were fine, and the result was mostly as expected. But there were some glitches. In order to be helpful to those of you who may be interested in trying this craft, I am providing these hints and tips. Learn from our mistakes.

  1. Do not mix types/brands of crayons. We just had a crayon bucket that had crayons from the store, free crayons from restaurants, random crayons that just appeared in the minivan, etc. They were not all made out of the same formulation and they did not all melt at the same rate. Some didn’t even melt at all while others were as liquidy as could be.
  2. The kids aren’t strong enough to break them into small enough pieces. Either get some kids with really good hand strength to help, or provide the smaller kids with some tools to help (meat grinder, nutcracker, etc.) Otherwise they will just peel the wrappers and your thumbs will be sore from all the crayon-breaking.
  3. The wrappers don’t come off the old crayons very easily. I don’t know of a method to help (maybe soaking them in water first?), but for a lot of the crayons it seemed that the wrappers had fused with the crayon itself. Use only crayons that have already lost their wrappers, or bring a vegetable peeler to help..
  4. This project doesn’t produce usable crayons, but it is useful as an art project. The circles that it produced did not draw very well, but they did make interesting designs. Use this project more as a way to fill an afternoon and learn about color design than as a way to make crayons that the kids will use.

“The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.”
– Psalm 97:5

Postal Service

I had a postage-paid package to mail. Everything was ready, I just had to drop it in the drop box. But when I got to the drop box, I saw a warning that anything over 13 ounces must be taken in person to the clerk and must not be put into the drop box. Something about heightened security concerns…

So instead of just dropping off the box, I now have to go into the post office. Normally, I drop off mail on my way to work, which is well before the post office opens. Change of plans – I will stop by the post office on the way home from work.

Usually when I go to this post office, there is a long line. They have the equivalent of a postal ATM (a machine that dispenses stamps instead of cash), but last time I needed that it had 3 people in its line. So I did not have very high hopes to begin.

But it was 3:50 pm on a Thursday, so I didn’t expect that many people in line. Aren’t these people supposed to be at work? Maybe they’re wondering the same thing about me…

There are a handful of people in line already, with 2 people being served at the 2 open register/counter thingies. I am about the 6th person in line. At 4:00, 10 minutes after I got there, I was the 5th person in line. The one postal employee finally finished helping the one guy who had been at the counter the whole time, apparently with a complex postal problem.

Okay, now the line can start moving.

Nope, it’s 4:00 and that is apparently the end of his shift. So he leaves the counter and goes through the back hallway, leaving one postal employee to handle the now 10 or 11 of us in line.

The guy ahead of me remarks that there are 6 counters available for use, but only one person working. I agree, why waste all that space? Maybe they’re keeping it for the Christmas rush.

The worker guy comes back to the counter! Maybe he just needed a little break. Nope, he grabs some keys and leaves us again. The guy behind me keeps cursing and mumbling.

The worker guy comes back again. This time he opens and closes a drawer before leaving. The guy ahead of me comments that “he’s just teasing us now.”

At 4:05, a replacement worker opens up the counter that the worker guy had vacated. Okay, the next shift is here. The line starts moving – far counter takes the next customer, near counter, far counter, now it’s my turn. The mumbling cursing guy behind me makes sure I know that it’s my turn to go to the counter.

I tell the clerk lady that I’m not sure how much this thing weighs and the mailbox said to bring it in person. She takes the package and says “No, it’s fine” without even weighing it.

I’m leaving the counter about 10 seconds after I arrived there, but I’m leaving the post office about 20 minutes after I arrived there. The post office has a nice big sign out front that says something like “Open later to serve you better”. I don’t want better service later – I want better service now. But now I know why they say that – they need to stay open later to accommodate all the customers still waiting in line when they close.

For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.

Genesis 43:10