Saturday, December 11, 2010

What's My Temperature?

I was watching "How it's Made" last night, and the topic was thermometers. It's a complicated process of welding glass tubes. The crux of the issue is in calibrating the thermometers.
They pull the air out of the tubing with a vacuum, and fluid is left inside. The thermometers travel down a conveyor of chilled alcohol. A heat gun drives the liquid up tubing. They then plunge the thermometers into a bath of ice-water to calibrate the freezing point. A notch is made in the glass where the liquid is.
They are next set into a bath of liquid set at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Another scratch is made in the glass at that point, and the two marks are aligned on a grid and set to a calibration scale.
My question: How did they make the first thermometer? If they had to place it in a bath of water at 200 degrees Fahrenheit to calibrate it, how did they know what 200 degrees Fahrenheit was without a thermometer?
This whole temperature thing sounds like a big scam.
How cold is it, really?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The further adventures of me at the supermarket.

Ascend with us now, to the neighborhood supermarket, where our hero (me, in a relative sense) ventures into the great void of his neighborhood supermarket in search of sustenance and a little blog material. It usually works for both.
Tonight's episode is entitled: "Express -- or Not."
With a scant few items in his hand-held cart, our hero wanders into the so-called "Express Lane" at the supermarket, proceeds to lay his (less than 15) items on the conveyor, only to be delayed by another shopper. His arch rival, Coupon Bitch has an issue with some chicken stock she purchased almost a week ago.
A discussion with the cashier (who we will call Express Queen) hears her contention of how the chicken stock she purchased last week should have come with a cents-off coupon, but she was instead charged the regular price. The cashier sent her to the nearby Courtesy Desk, where Express Queen's super-friends (now known as the Coupon League) have come to the aid of Coupon Bitch, and awarded her the 80 cents of which she was deprived at her earlier chicken stock purchase. All is right in the Bizarro World.
Meanwhile, me and the guy behind me (super-hero name Orange Face) are waiting. I exclaim, "I guess it's really not an 'express lane,'" to which Express Queen says, "It's fifteen items, regardless."
I reply, "But it says 'express,' and she's over there arguing over 80 cents."
Express Queen was not amused by my analysis of the situation and turned against me. When I noticed that Orange Face had only a 2 liter bottle of Sprite in front of him, I placed it in my section of the conveyor and proclaimed, "It's on me. My good deed for the day." Some superheroes place a standard of "good deed for the day" as one of their duties.
Orange Face thanked me, and Express Queen noted that the Sprite bottle had a coupon tagged onto it.
"Should I use this coupon, or would that take too much time?" she sarcastically asked.
"Hey, I bought the guy some soda," I said, and Express Queen handed it to Orange Face, and temporarily, all was right in my world.
Until Express Queen noticed that I had purchased a bottle of hand soap along with my Chobani and a container of chicken. "I can't put this in with food," she explained, as she reached for one of those flimsy plastic bags that seemed eminently qualified to protect soap in a plastic container from yogurt in a plastic container. Apparently, Express Queen's super power is the ability to keep soap products away from food with thin plastic.
She placed the flimsy plastic bag into my canvas bag of food items, seemingly out of danger. Unless, that is, if the flimsy plastic bag succumbs to the pressure of the atmosphere and suddenly acquires a hole, burst straight into the side, adjacent to the food. Oh no. Could Express Queen's arch-enemy Heat Finger place a digit on the bag and cause the soap to potentially spill out onto the food, provided that the soap container would also mysteriously have a hole in it.
I attempted to explain to Express Queen the fallacy of her logic. "So, this thin layer of plastic is going to protect my food from soap that is in a plastic bottle?"
Express Queen reiterated that it is "store policy" to place cleaning products in a separate plastic bag from food products (regardless of the thickness of their containers) and that the store's policy was irreproachable and without debate.
I took my change and moved along.
You have won this battle, Express Queen, but fear not. I will return.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not bad for a guy with 160 career home runs.

"You got to stay young, keep yourself young. And she helps me to that."
- Pete Rose, talking about his girlfriend
This hot little number is Kiana Kim. Who is Kiana Kim, you might ask? She is a former flight attendant from South Korea who moved to America with her parents when she was 5. She currently operates a hair salon in Los Angeles and appeared in Playboy magazine in April.
Kiana Kim is also Pete Rose's girlfriend. That's right, Pete Rose. The All-Time Hit King. (Also the All-Time Out King) The 17-time all star and convicted tax evader.
The Pete Rose who was born before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Pete Rose who has 2 daughters older than his girlfriend.
The Pete Rose who ... ah, you get it.
Anyway, the point is the strange attraction of this 20-something hottie to a troll. At his best, Pete was short and stocky. Now, he makes short and stocky look like Larry Bird.
It's what Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H used to call "one of those dome scratchers." Some would say it's a money deal, but I don't think Pete is swimming in cash these days. You can't go the Hero Worship angle, because Kiana isn't old enough to remember Astro Turf.
And she isn't your ordinary 20-something either. She could have latched onto any wealthy guy with twin chins, but she chose Charlie Hustle.
I'm not a hater - just wondering. I think that whatever two people do in the privacy of their oxygen tent is their own business. I can't tell somebody how much money to spend on Viagra, and I can't expect women to understand how to change adult diapers - but there they are, together forever.
Or until her calendar takes off and she drops him like a Garry Maddox fly ball in the '78 LCS.
I'm giving you the steal sign, Pete.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Forget I said anything and go about your business.

When Forbes magazine first began [sic] compiling its lists of the 400 richest Americans back in 1982, just 13 of those people were billionaires. In 2010, every person on the list was worth at least a billion dollars, and the highest-ranked person, Bill Gates, was worth $54 billion. Forbes' 2010 list of the world's billionaires includes a whopping 1,011 entries. Of those, 75 people are tied for last place with a net worth of $1 billion.

First of all, the original article contained the phrase "first began," hence the sic ("Intentionally so written") which is not only redundant but inexcusable from someone who calls himself a professional writer. But I digress.

The point of putting that blurb at the top was to point out how quickly a million dollars has been devalued. It ain't what it used to be, which I can say because I'm not a professional writer.

Up until a short time ago, having saved a million dollars was not only something of an accomplishment, but a measure of your ability to survive without a job after you're 60 years old. After all, we're living longer than our parents, so you'd have to figure on at least 25 years of no income and rely on savings or some pension you may have stumbled into. By the way, mathematically speaking, a million dollars over 25 years is a measly $40,000 per year. Try factoring in inflation and see what $40,000 is going to be worth in 2035. The accounting term for it is: Ain't Much.

What the article did not mention was that in 1982 there were 32.4 million Americans living below the poverty level. In 2010 there were 43.6 million officially poor people in America. The old expression "the rich get richer" is indeed true. More of them and more of us. The gap widens. Combine that with almost 10% unemployment rate and the numbers are staggering.

I'm sure that if the billionaire list has increased, then the millionaire one must have as well. Sure, a million dollars isn't what it was, but there are still more millionaires, and obviously, the bottom end of the scale hasn't kept up with the top end. Otherwise, there would be fewer poor people too. I think the list of improved income stops at around $30,000. People in that income range suffer the most because their salaries don't increase as much as top management's.

There have always been growing numbers of poor people, and I wonder what happens when the gap widens between the poor and middle class to the point that those two groups don't have the same things to gripe about? Just as people earning $30,000 don't understand the struggles of millionaires, people making poverty-level wages will be separated from their slightly more successful friends. We're creating a stratification of people rather than bringing them together. I suppose some people would call me a Socialist for promoting such a radical idea, so go ahead.

It creates problems because people at the lower level want to live like the people in the level above them. It's natural. It's why we have such rampant debt. We all want iPhone's, a Lexus and a bigger house than we can afford. We get them by borrowing or purchasing them on credit, and we get deeper into the hole we'll never dig ourselves out of.

Where it really starts to manifest itself are issues like health care and retirement. Although, I suppose the two may work in concert sometimes. If you have no health care you won't live long enough to have to worry about retirement. But a sick citizenry is not a happy or productive one, either. One presumes that the worse our health care problems are, the more people that will be on some form of government-subsidized compensation program, and that puts an additional strain on the tax system.

And when jobless poor people reach retirement age, the pittance they have managed to stash away in Social Security will be their only sustenance, and it won't be nearly enough, since people who had a million dollars saved are already living on $40,000 a year - remember?

So, the more poor people we have, the worse off they'll be when they reach retirement age. They weren't able to find work when they were 40, so how will they find something when they're 65? They'll be living on $1,900 a month Social Security payments, and that won't go far in the future world of 2035. It isn't a pretty picture, if you sit and think about it - which I have.

I guess we're not supposed to think about it, because a depressed citizenry is bad too. We're supposed to live for now. Throw our trash all over the place, spend like we're going to the electric chair and eat, eat, eat. It's all stuff that I've heard called Bread and Circuses, which kind of means that if you entertain people enough, they'll forget how dire their circumstances are. That's why they put a string quartet on the deck of the Titanic.

So, don't think about it.