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Archive for April, 2016

Not Pumped

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Mexican Electrics, Unbelievably, Fail the Endurance Test

The sprinkler pump adventure is not over yet.

My old pump is supposed to have 1.5″ plumbing, minimum, and the motor should be 1.5 HP. When I cut the old PVC off, I found that the pipe had narrowed to 1.25″ or less, and it was globbed up with plastic. The walls weren’t smooth and straight. It was like the inside of a cave. The pump (a Mexican replacement for the original) was 2 HP, so I was paying for electricity I didn’t need.

For some reason, I thought irrigation pumps were expensive. I just assumed. The one I had was heavy cast iron, and it was made in America, so I figured it cost a ton. When I saw a replacement motor for $165, I thought it was a deal, so I bought it.

Today I got the motor out of the shed, which was not fun at all, and I carried it to my bench. That’s about fifty yards, and it probably weighs 75 awkward pounds. I took the motor apart in pieces and then found I was going to have a hard time getting the shaft out of the impeller. The shaft should have been stainless, but it was very rusty, and there was no way to access the impeller without taking the pump apart. The pump was pretty much a unit, with the halves welded together by rust caused by the installer’s decision to leave the iron base sitting just off the ground surrounded by wet leaves.

I decided to derust the pump. I put it in a shop vac tub with water and soda, and I connected a battery charger.

After all this work, I went on the web and started researching pumps, and I found out a new one is only $300. That’s not chicken feed, but I was thinking $600 or something, based on what the sprinkler guys were saying. They are just as hopeless as the pump.

Now I have a new pump on the way, and I’m trying to cancel the new motor. I’m hoping they didn’t ship it yet. I ordered it late on a Friday. I don’t care. They are welcome to the return shipping fee.

After all this misery, I have learned some important things. I already mentioned the bad installation and the screwed-up pipes. I also learned that the motor I just trashed wasn’t grounded. Somebody could have been killed working on it. The person who installed it deliberately left it that way. I believe that would be the same company that just came out here and failed in almost every regard. Now I know not to call them again.

I’m going to install the new pump myself because NO ONE IN SOUTH FLORIDA CAN BE TRUSTED TO CONNECT THREE WIRES AND DO ONE FOOT OF PLUMBING. I would love to pay someone, but apparently that would be like going to the vet for a vasectomy.

Once it’s in, I’ll find a reputable sprinkler company on Angie’s List and kiss the old outfit goodbye forever.

I don’t know what to use for a pump base. Wood will rot. Even pressure-treated wood rots eventually. I should go get some aluminum channel. It will outlast the sun. It will get pretty crusty in the damp shed, but it won’t disappear like wood, and it won’t petrify with thick rust.

Tradesmen are getting really stupid. At least it seems that way. I know virtually nothing about irrigation or electrical work, but I am miles ahead of the professionals who have worked here.

Transformed

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

ASUS Deserves a Kick in the Butt

In 2012, I got myself an ASUS Transformer Prime tablet. The reviews said it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to the world.

I wanted to be able to read ebooks. That was all I cared about. I could have gotten a Kindle or some other dedicated reader, but I figured I might as well get something versatile in case I wanted apps or whatever. The Transformer seemed like the right move.

After I did all my research and got the tablet home, I discovered that it had major wifi and GPS problems. The case on the tablet is aluminum, not the usual plastic, and it (DUH) interferes with radio waves. The antennas are inside the box, and they do not communicate very well with…anything.

On top of that, the little card holding the antennas connects to the tablet using pogo pins. These are little nipply pins that hold circuit boards in place. My understanding is that they’re not intended to be used as connectors, but they’re metallic, so ASUS figured what the hell.

When you close the ASUS case, two pogo pins on one side push against two copper strips on the antenna card, and you have contact. Or not. If something isn’t aligned right, or if the contacts are dirty (mine were), you get squat.

The pogo problem is so stupid it can sometimes be fixed by squeezing the tablet while you use it. This pushes the pins into the copper and improves conduction.

That’s not a great solution. You don’t want to sit in Starbucks squeezing your tablet with one hand and holding your $7 latte in the other while you try to look at Scrib’d.

By the way, some applications are useless when your Wifi is bad, even if they claim you can use them offline. Scrib’d is a prime (pun or whatever not intended) example. It won’t save your place in books. It takes forever to open books you have supposedly saved to your device. It’s horrible.

I’m not sure what to do about GPS, and I’m not sure I care, but I can tell you want to do about the Wifi. First, install a free app called Wifi Analyzer and check your reception. Don’t rely on those stupid bars.

The Transformer opens very easily. No, seriously. You can find sites online that show you how to do it. Basically, you pull two rubber stoppers out of the side where the USB hole is, and inside you find two latches. You push them to the left using the tip of a tiny Phillips screwdriver, and that releases the case from the screen.

The screen has a gaskety thing under it, against the aluminum case, and it’s sticky. You separate it by shoving a guitar pick (only the tip) in the gap and sliding it around the case perimeter. It will try to close up behind the pick, so as you go, put shims in there to hold it open.

Eventually, the case opens. You open the USB side first, and the other side acts sort of like a hinge. Don’t rely on my instructions. Find pictures online.

Don’t use metal tools. You’ll gouge everything.

Once you’re inside, you’ll see the antenna card stuck to the underside of the screen side of the tablet. On the outside edge of the case, you’ll see two copper tabs labeled GPS and WLAN (Wifi) or something like that. I don’t have it in front of me.

On the other half of the tablet, opposite the card, you’ll see two gold pogo pins that touch the card when the case is closed.

I took a burnishing tool and polished the pins and the copper foil contacts on the card. A burnishing tool is a little stick with a very fine abrasive on it. You can probably use 2000-grit sandpaper if you have a light touch. Maybe this is a mistake, though, because it’s possible that the crap I removed from my foil was actually some sort of grease intended to prevent oxidation. We’ll see. You can always grease it again.

To fix the Wifi problem, cut a piece of insulated stranded (not solid) wire 2.75″ long. You want very thin wire. Expose about 1/4″. Yank the exposed portion so the other end of the wire sinks slightly into the insulation. This will hide it so it doesn’t touch anything conductive.

Flatten the exposed part of the wire. Then rest it on the WLAN foil and close the case. You want the metal to be pinched between the case halves. This holds the wire in place. Don’t let the insulation come between the halves, because it’s thick, and it will obstruct them when you close the case. I suppose this could crack the glass. If you’re a real man, take a diamond burr or a file and make a little notch in the aluminum side of the case so the insulation will have a place to go, and then close it. I did not find this necessary, because the case holds the metal strands very tightly.

You want the wire to be slightly over 2.5″ long, because that’s a good length for wifi. The length affects the reception. The wavelength is 4.92″, so you want a nice even fraction, like ~2.5″ or ~1.25″. I am not an EE, so I may be wrong.

If you’re getting good contact, you should see a gigantic reception improvement when you turn on Wifi Analyzer. If not, maybe the pogo pin is too short, and you need to put a wad of foil or soldering braid between it and the antenna card.

I considered soldering a wire directly to the pogo pin, which would be the really manly move, but I decided to try the other way first, because it was easy to do and easy to reverse.

If you solder a wire to your pogo pin, you might lose the ability to remove the card (if you’re bad at removing solder), but come on. Do you plan to remove it?

Now you have a wire sticking out of your tablet. How will you live? It shouldn’t be a problem. Unless you’re crazy, you have a protective case on your tablet, and the wire will be easy to conceal.

Look, do you want wifi or not?

I used a 22-gauge black Teflon wire. It’s very thin and hard to see. I would guess that a thinner wire would work about as well.

The tablet works now. Very exciting.

I assume this will also work for GPS, but I haven’t tried it. I don’t know what the wavelength is or how long the wire should be. ASUS supplies a worthless attachment for improving the GPS performance. Everyone hates it, so I’m not trying it. They actually had a class-action suit and gave people a free attachment (“dongle”) and $17. I read that the dongle obstructs the USB port, so you can’t connect a charger. Yeah, that’s what you want. Power-sucking GPS and no DC supply.

I may to back in later and solder the wire to the pogo pin, but I probably won’t unless something blows up.

Enjoy your now-working tablet.

Over Here, we Have the Horse’s Mouth

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

And on the Other End…

I have to put in some Iliad time today. That book is like a prison. I feel like I can’t read anything else until I finish it. I cheat, but not much.

Yesterday was obliterated by the sprinkler pump debacle. When it was done, and I was finished stooping in a filthy place, running a vibrating tool that nearly blistered my palms, the last thing I felt like doing was wading through more turgid simile soup. I could have killed 40 more pages had I not underestimated the stubbornness of the bolts holding the pump on.

After 40 or 50 pages, my mind shuts down, as though to punish me. Or maybe it’s a warning, like the gag reflex kicking in after you drink a tumbler of straight vodka.

Last time I looked, Patroklos was about to meet Jesus. Of course, he didn’t expect Jesus. He expected Charon. But heathens are wrong about the afterlife. Boy, was he in for a surprise. Anyway, Hektor (the Lattimore spelling) was getting ready to turn Patroklos into a kebab, and then, judging from the movie, Achilles (not the Lattimore spelling) would stop pouting, join the battle, and die.

The lesson is that it pays to pout.

I wonder how much the ancient Greeks knew about economics. I wonder if they realized it was a bad idea to take all the successful men in the world and have them hack each other to death with bronze swords. Imagine what would happen if we did that today. The productive, helpful 1% would be gone, and the ignorant Bern-feeling rabble would be picking through the ruins, destroying anything good that had been left behind.

In short, it would be a lot like 2020. Or Detroit.

A good friend got me a couple of books which I would rather be reading than The Iliad. A preacher named Rick Renner wrote them. They’re about the early church. I think. Thanks to Homer, I’m only about 15 pages in.

Renner studies history, and he looks at the original texts of the Bible. He seems to get revelation. He’s a lot like Perry Stone. He connects dots. He corrects our understanding of things in the Bible, and he shows us that things that seem trivial actually have meaning.

I enjoy that kind of stuff, but I don’t want to dedicate my life to studying it. If you spend a lot of time in prayer, God tells you things directly, and if you wander off and bury yourself in things other people have written, you can end up robbing God to pay Perry Stone.

John said we didn’t need men to teach us. He said the Holy Spirit would do it. That sounds radical and rebellious, and it could be dangerous in the hands of someone who isn’t ready, but it’s in the Bible, so what does that make it?

“True.”

Learning is great, but if you know God personally, it’s a mistake to regress and go back to depending on human beings for your understanding. Most people need human beings to introduce them to God, but after that, it should be a direct connection. Human beings should drop back and assume a minor role.

You never know who will fall, or who will make a bad mistake. If you’re following a man instead of the Holy Spirit, you’re taking a big chance. Well, that’s not true. It’s not a chance. That implies that you might succeed. If you trust a man, you have assured that you will have serious problems.

Once you start hearing from God, you don’t go to other people for instruction all that much. You go for confirmation of what you’ve already heard. If you haven’t heard anything, you’re not doing your homework, and homework, not the lectures, is the actual course.

It’s not good to be ignorant, but you have a limited amount of time here, and if you spend too much of it on man’s hit-or-miss teaching, you will neglect the pure and correct teaching of God.

I can’t remember the last time I made a point of listening to a preacher. They’re so disappointing. They’ll say a few things I know to be true, and then out will pop something like, “And it’s so important to TITHE.” Then I’ll realize I’m listening to a hack who sees preaching as a job.

I decided to quote John here, and I thought I would just quote the verse about how we don’t need men to teach us, but I looked at the context and realized it was important to quote more of the book.

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

What is he saying here? He’s saying the world is full of false preachers who came out of the church. These men went out on their own, in human knowledge and effort, without the Holy Spirit. They fell into error, and they teach garbage that actually comes from Satan.

He’s saying that if you hear from God directly, you won’t have to worry about believing lies. If you know the truth, you’ll stay on the path, and when Jesus returns you won’t be ashamed.

It’s exactly what I’m experiencing. It’s what I was trying to say, above.

Many of the people who are misleading us are mostly right. They teach a lot of good things. But they’re wrong about enough things to derail the train. The devil loves to bake a beautiful cake and put a tiny chunk of poo deep in the middle of it; people only see the good 99%, and they swallow the poo whole. The Holy Spirit isn’t like that. His product is pure.

Here’s how I feel about it: I’ll start relying on men again when God starts refusing to tell me anything. I’ll let you know when that happens. Don’t hold your breath.

It reminds me of what my great uncle said when someone asked him why he didn’t give money to the Lord. He said he couldn’t find anyone he could trust to take it to him. There are a lot of people out there wearing God’s uniform and playing for the other team, and without the Holy Spirit, you’re not smart enough to pick them out.

These people are going to fool you, just as they’ve fooled me. Don’t flatter yourself. I don’t care how many ancient authors you’ve studied, and I don’t care if you’ve explored the ruins at Ephesus so many times the clerk at the Motel 6 sends you birthday cards. Any, ANY man can be fooled. Only the Spirit knows what you should believe.

I know a lot of people who think T.D. Jakes is great. He’s a big, chubby, fatherly figure, and he yells a lot, so he seems like he’s correcting people. But he teaches the prosperity gospel, which is a black hole where faith dies. He pals around with the slime of the earth; either he can’t tell the wolves from the sheep, or he thinks it’s okay to hang out with wolves.

A lot of people love Joel Osteen. Unfortunately, the man teaches self-confidence, which is evil, and he doesn’t correct people. He doesn’t teach people to be Spirit-led. Like Jakes, he associates with rich preachers who rob people who want to know God.

Salvation alone will not enable you to pick out the losers, and neither will the advice of other people.

When you move toward God, you go through a succession of preachers. The first ones you encounter know a little bit about God, and it impresses you. Then you start to see their errors. You move on to better preachers, and eventually, you see they’ve dropped the ball, too. As you get closer to God, you will pass people who are closer to God than the people you knew before them. You will PASS them. Don’t be disturbed by that. Embrace it. If it’s not happening, something is wrong.

It reminds me of my experience with Scotch. When I was about 22, someone introduced me to Scotch, and I loved it. I enjoyed every glass of Scotch anyone put in front of me, no matter how cheap it was. Then I started not liking the cheap stuff. Within a year, I could only drink good Scotch. Now, if it’s not at least 12 years old, don’t even bother serving it to me. I can tell the difference. I even know 16-year-old Macallan 16 is better than 18-year-old Macallan.

Discernment increases with time, and the things you reject later on look much better than the things you rejected at the start.

I’m not recommending anyone drink Scotch. It’s just an analogy.

As you spend time with the Holy Spirit, you will find you want better and better things. Joel Osteen may seem fine today, but six months from now, you might want to slam the door if he showed up at your house.

I used to subscribe to Perry Stone’s monthly CD’s. They were very informative. I eventually quit. Jentezen Franklin, the prosperity preacher, is one of his best buddies. Stone endorses Joyce Meyer. He’s angry all the time. He loves to argue. If I want to learn why the poles in the tabernacle were made of cedar wood (or whatever), he’s the guy to ask, but if you only develop as much as he has, you will regret it. You need all the growth you can get.

I used to listen to Andrew Wommack, but he’s tight with the wolves, too. I can’t read his mind, but he seems proud. That’s a very fundamental problem; it’s the worst fault you can have. If he can’t show you how to overcome that, he’s not that useful.

You don’t need these people. You don’t need me. You can even survive without the Bible, if you have to. But you do need the Holy Spirit.

So I look forward to reading Rick Renner’s books, but I am too busy to study his teaching. Like I said, I have another source which takes priority. I have the tailor; I’m not going to buy off-the-rack at Macy’s.

It’s not pride. It’s just fear of stepping off the path and onto a landmine. I’ve done that many times in the past. Think of the fools I trusted.

Forget that. Never again. Never.

Jesus didn’t die so I could have a secondhand relationship with God.

What a tangent. Even for me, that was pretty bad. I thought I was writing about boring books about dimwitted sword-swingers.

I have to get that sprinkler pump loose from the wall. I don’t think I can procrastinate any longer.

Maybe I can. If I try.

After all, the feel-good preachers say I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

I hope this stuff is useful to you, especially if you’re reading this in the future and you have no Christians you can talk to. It will still work. You are still important.

Somebody, Please, Take my Money

Friday, April 29th, 2016

The People who Want $15 per Hour are Robbing us at $8

Today I had a painful reminder of a paradoxical truth about tools: the more you buy, the more jobs you will run into which do not yield to them.

I came up against a sprinkler pump that tried to kill me.

The yard looked bad, so I called the pros. They sent out some nice guys who–I am not trying to be mean here–had that look you see when you go to businesses where they hire a lot of ex-cons. They said the motor was cooked, and when I started asking fairly basic questions, they got confused.

I was afraid they were going to charge me $500 and put in a Chinese motor. I love Asian tools, but motors are not where the Chinese shine their brightest. I wanted a Baldor or some other American motor.

The existing motor, which looks sort of Chinese, is probably under ten years old. The original motor probably lasted 40 years.

The motor was held on by four bolts. Child’s play.

I took a few wrenches out to the shed and started working. The upper bolts popped off instantly with a 9/16″ Gearwrench. When I went after the lower bolts, the wrench wouldn’t grab them.

I still don’t know what’s going on. Maybe rust deformed the bolt heads. Maybe the installers used weird bolts with funny heads. But nothing wants to grab them.

There’s more to it than that. The bolts are situated so they’re hard to reach, and you don’t get much swing on the wrench. If you could turn the bolts ten degrees at a pop, you’d be doing great.

It gets worse. A bolt head has to be a certain height before a Gearwrench will engage it. These bolts are too low. That means you need an open-end wrench. Because of the geometry of bolts, a wrench has to be in one of twelve exact angular positions in order to engage. Think about it. If you can’t get your wrench into one of those positions, youre…well, you’re where I was this afternoon.

The answer was a socket wrench, right? Wrong. The bolts were in a small space between a motor and pump. A socket wrench is thick, and sockets take up space. I was barely able to get a socket on one bolt, and when I started loosening it, it drove the wrench into the motor as it rose. Now the wrench was stuck in the pump.

I decided to take the pump apart and take off the motor and half of the pump. Then I could rotate the motor and get at the bolts. I removed the bolts and pried at the pump, and it would not budge.

Next move: a rotary tool. I got out the Proxxon and the big cutting disk (now small), and I started cutting into the motor to sever the bolt inside the aluminum end cap. The disk wore down pretty fast, and I’m still not sure I got through.

I remembered I had a Fein Multimaster. I stuck a saw blade on it and went to work. After maybe half an hour, I probably got 3/4 of the way through the bolts. I eventually decided I would die if I continued to the end, so I decided to cut the PVC pipes attaching the pump to the sprinker system.

Now I had a disembodied pump attached to a circuit breaker box with a rusty pigtail. Which I could not detach. The hardware was so corroded I couldn’t get it to come off.

Right now the whole apparatus is lying on the floor of the shed. Some time tomorrow I plan to take dynamite out there and remove the pigtail so I can bring the pump into the garage and remove the motor. After that, I’m going to beat it with a blacksmith’s hammer.

I found an old Baldor jet pump motor on Ebay, and it should fit.

The original motor on the pump (a Goulds XSH) was a rebranded A.O. Smith made somewhere in ‘Murica. I found a NOS job on Ebay, but it said “pool,” not “irrigation,” so it spooked me. I was afraid it was inferior.

Now instead of writing a check while lying in the shade under an AC vent, I have to put feet on the pump (someone had installed it so the PVC held it in midair), and then I have to connect the new motor. It looks like the old motor has a carbon steel shaft, not stainless, because there is a lot of rust. I strongly suspect the rusty threaded shaft will stick to the impeller, and then I’ll have to open the *#^@*@% pump up and replace it.

I also have to fix the PVC, which will take maybe four hours, including shopping.

I think I’m doing the right thing, because the old pump is very well made, and the new motor is top-notch, so I should be dead (with any luck) the next time it craps out. If I get a new pump, I think it will die in five years.

Wait. I’m not planning to be here in five years.

Man, I wish I had thought of that.

Okay, that was stupid. But at least I’ll be done with it.

It’s a shame you can’t write people checks and have them fix things correctly. I would love to give someone money to do this for me, but I can’t find anyone.

People complain about the job market. Maybe it would be better if they could DO SOMETHING.

Just a thought.

The Weeding Continues

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Plus a Grim Reminder

I got off social media, and God cut back my prayer list. My social circle is tightening up. I came up with a name for it. I call it “the little Rapture.”

It has been very peaceful. Sometimes I feel a little isolated, but in this world, the concentration of people whom I consider like-minded is pretty low. The closer you get to God, the fewer people you will want to spend time with. It’s a consequence of seeing people more clearly.

When I was highly active in church, my time was wasted. My money was wasted. My good intentions were wasted. I served childish, greedy, rude people who had no class and not a whole lot going on upstairs. I was surrounded by people who were very insincere, and they pretended to be serious, so I spent time fertilizing plants that were determined not to grow. If I choose, I can be more social and have more “friends,” but there is no way I can significantly increase the number of people who are pulling with me instead of dragging their feet.

In other words, the sensation of deprivation is an illusion.

I remember the prayer sessions my little group used to have in the conference room at Trinity Church. I used to tell people to imagine what the parking lot would look like if all the cars that weren’t paid for disappeared. That was how the congregation would look if the hypocrites vanished. The place would be nearly deserted. That’s how life is. I don’t care who you are; you have almost no friends.

That makes me think of Prince and other entourage-dependent celebrities. Those people have fewer friends than anyone, yet they are surrounded by people who claim they will lay down their lives for them. In an entourage hive, the queen bee is unaware of reality or refuses to face it. The workers and drones insulate her from it, because reality is a threat to their income and prestige.

The false comfort provided by the crowd seems worth it to the queen. Prince, Elvis, Muhammad Ali, and others like them were or are queen bees, not leaders.

People like John and Paul had adherents, but I doubt they allowed themselves to have entourages or cults.

I envy John. His type of ministry is the kind I would like to have. As far as I know, he wasn’t always caught up in the mosh pit. He lived in the country, and then he ended up on an island full of political prisoners. Maybe he didn’t have to suit up and force-feed the swine every day.

If what we are told is right, John was rare among early church leaders in that he died peacefully. The emperor Domitian had him placed in a pot of hot oil and fried for refusing to worship him, and John came out unhurt. It would be nice to have that kind of dominion and safety in the years ahead, when silly, underdeveloped people with tattoos and piercings start murdering Christians and Jews in America.

Paul was beheaded, which is not too bad, but he was also stoned and flogged. A lot of horrendous things happened to early Christian leaders, including skinning and grilling. Death from natural causes would be a privilege, although I still like the meteor idea. One second, you’re here, and the next second, you’re rising to heaven, leaving a big mess behind on the sidewalk.

The older you get, the less you fear death. Your eyes go. Your mind goes. You realize things will only get worse, and then you will die. You start to think about your future plans, and by that, I mean your plans for the next life.

You can be like Madonna and Cher and live in frantic, unseemly denial. You can cover everything up with putty and paint, but underneath it all, it’s still you. Cher is a senior citizen, and Madonna is nearly there. They are post-menopausal women whose wrinkled bodies produce only grey hairs, regardless of the bleach and dye. They have brittle bones and fading eyesight. They are no longer attractive to men under 70. Things aren’t going to improve, so they might as well think about a better place and a new start. I’m a little younger, but time will pass for me just as it has for them, so I am adjusting.

I am glad to be retreating from things. I thought Trinity was a fine church, and then I got understanding, and I left. I thought New Dawn was a fine church, and then God showed me their pride and their refusal to listen, and I left. I dumped a number of friends. My own sister was removed from my life. I can’t complain about any of it. Every new step has made life better.

Yesterday I got a reminder that the years were passing. My dad got lost on the way to a dental appointment. He uses Mapquest to print directions to places he’s been dozens of times, and yesterday he couldn’t get it to work, so he used Google. He couldn’t understand the map. He was gone four and a half hours.

I found out he had missed the appointment. I could not reach him on his chintzy flip phone, which sent calls straight to voicemail, which he can’t operate correctly. I had to call the cops and local hospitals. It doesn’t disturb me every time he’s out of touch for a few hours, but when he disappears on the way to an important appointment, it’s another story. It suggests incapacitation, not whimsy.

He finally turned up, after I had started thinking I was going to have to donate his clothes to charity. That’s what I did the week my mother died. You don’t turn a home into a museum. You get the personal items out fast, accept the loss, and keep on living. You don’t want to go into the bathroom two weeks after someone dies and see their toothbrush.

I’m going to get him an Android phone so I can track him, and he now has my contact information in his wallet, where it should have been twenty years ago.

A lot of older people have cheap phones and cheap cell plans. Sounds smart, but wait until one disappears on you and you can’t locate them.

I asked the cops if there was some kind of database for checking hospital admissions, figuring I was behind the times, but they said there is not. If you’re trying to find someone, you will have to call every hospital in your area. You would think ER admissions would be uploaded to a central directory, but they’re not.

I didn’t know the number on his vehicle tag. I’m going to have to make a list of useful information and put it in my computer.

Yesterday was a drill. When the real thing comes, I’ll have some idea what to do. That’s the sad payoff.

It’s an odd reflection of the Prince situation. Prince had no will and no plan, and no one cared about him. My dad has his papers in order, and he has me. When the baton passes, it should be simple and orderly.

Don’t be upset if you have to dump some cargo on your journey. Eventually you’ll have to dump yourself, so it’s best to accustom yourself to the pattern.

Let the Looting Begin

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Race to the Bottom

I keep checking on the Prince story, because it’s so interesting.

Someone has told The National Enquirer Prince had AIDS, and that it caused his death. They say he refused treatment because he was depending on prayer.

A lot of people have suddenly decided Prince was tight with God. The Washington Post ran a ridiculous story labeling Prince a “conservative Christian.”

When he died, Prince was not a Christian. Early in his life, he was a Seventh-Day Adventist, and later on, he became a Jehovah’s Witness. Seventh-Day Adventists are Christians with some strange but probably harmless beliefs thrown in. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians, so in becoming one, Prince exited the faith.

Christians believe Jesus is God. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. They think he’s the archangel Gabriel. They also believe you have to belong to their organization in order to be saved. They burden people with various “essential” works. You can’t have beliefs like that and be a Christian.

The Washington Post is a liberal publication which is biased against God, so you wouldn’t expect them to be all that knowledgeable about Christianity, but it’s a little surprising that they think JW’s are part of the crew. The staff of the paper probably contains a large number of lapsed Catholics; the Pope’s followers and former followers are represented pretty heavily among the ranks of leftists. They should know a few things. The error still got out.

Prince was a tireless and extremely effective promoter of sexual sin and rebellion. Maybe he hated high taxes. Maybe he was against destructive social programs. Maybe he was a conservative, and maybe he prayed a lot. But you would have to be nuts to think he served God or was anything but a spiritual disaster. If you think he was a Christian, go stand in front of a mirror and slap your own face; you’re in a coma.

The AIDS story got me thinking. All the entourage members who clung to him are treading water right now; their life preserver was snatched away. They need food and shelter. What do they have to exchange for it? Skills? Probably not. Appealing resumes? Doubtful. But they have one valuable asset: information. Surely they’re trading it now, if only to put groceries on the table.

Prince was not a planner. He didn’t have to be. He had tons of money, and he was surrounded by eager lickspittles, so he did as he pleased. What are the odds he made any provision for this time? He has no will, so there’s a clue for you. If a person worth tens of millions of dollars dies intestate, you can pretty well bet he never thought about nondisclosure agreements or postmortem benefits for his minions.

The entourage members probably had to wrestle with themselves as they watched the food on the compound shelves disappear, each trying to decide whether he should betray Prince before one of the others got in ahead of him and devalued the information they held in common. TMZ or The Enquirer will pay a lot to the first person who tells them Robin Williams hanged himself; the second person, not so much.

The AIDS story may or may not be true, but anyone trying to find out where it came from knows a good place to start.

Prince was supposedly against homosexuality. On the other hand, he was about as effeminate as a man can get without spontaneously combusting. If, for some reason, you had to entice another man to violate you, and you didn’t know what to do, imitating Prince would be a good strategy.

If the drug-hater who overdosed twice in one week was also a homosexuality opponent who got AIDS from another man, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock ever to hit the airwaves.

It’s not that easy for a man to get AIDS from a woman. Only about 6% of straight men who get AIDS get it from sex with women. If the AIDS story is true, I would be a little surprised if it turned out a woman gave him the disease.

To get back to the issue of his religious status, plenty of Christians use drugs. Plenty of us get AIDS. Not many are world-famous, unrepentant, gender-boundary-smashing, crusading icons in the battle to promote promiscuity. If you can behave that way and expect God to save you from hell, it’s news to me, because it’s willful, systematic, public rebellion.

If the people around Prince aren’t handled and pacified, and unless they are truly loyal, we can expect a rash of hurriedly-published tell-all books in the near future, and I would expect a sensational movie within two years.

My guess is that the AIDS story is false. At least, I don’t think it killed him. Right now, a lot of people have motivation to say crazy things for money, and I don’t think a person who is about to die from AIDS would feel well enough to pace around a drugstore parking lot on the eve of his demise. The drug story appears to be gaining strength, however. The DEA is now investigating.

When so-called “Christians” all across America get on their high horses and self-righteously vilify anyone who suggests Prince was not a servant of God, you know our country has marched off a cliff. Anyone can be wrong, but to believe something so patently stupid is a new kind of crazy. We used to be smarter than this. Sixty years ago, we were highly suspicious of anyone who got divorced. Now we have homosexuals leading churches. Lunacy.

The facts will get progressively weirder as they unfold, and so will the irrational responses.

I don’t know where it will lead, but I know this: if I were Madonna or Lady Gaga, I would be hiding in a closet begging God to change me. This has not been a great year for secular worship leaders.

Ilium, my Ileum

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Make it Stop

It’s not even noon, and I want to sit down and read The Iliad, just so I can be closer to never having to look at it again.

That book is like Hillary’s cough. It won’t go away.

When I was in college (the math and science phase), I kept a lot of my textbooks after the classes ended. I even bought extra books. I bought a pile of quantum mechanics texts. I have tons of Dover Press math and science texts, including one written by my undergrad student advisor.

I kept my copy of The Riverside Shakespeare. It’s very nice. And it’s Shakespeare, so I might actually want to look at it occasionally. I kept a French poetry text by Morris Bishop.

I love Schaum outlines. I must have ten or twelve. I also kept one book and a number of study aids from law school.

The Iliad reminds me why I sold or threw almost all of my college texts out. The notion of looking at it after I complete it is inconceivable. Merely seeing it on a shelf would put a knot in my stomach.

As, when the flowing-haired Thetis, whilst browsing in the orchard of fabled Hemeroskopeion, reaches for a fallen plum ripened by the blessed rays of Apollo’s orb, and on bringing it to her fig-like lips, discovers it to be a ball of horse manure and feels her entrails tighten within her, so would my gizzard toss in my belly as I gazed upon the blind bard’s tome.

How can people dedicate their lives to studying this stuff? It takes all kinds. Some kids dream of becoming morticians.

My dad has a copy of The Great Books of the Western World, which, since he wants to throw it out, is technically mine. It’s a neat resource. It contains Homer, Plutarch, Shakespeare…just about everything you need to read in order to look down on people. I don’t know how great the crusty translations of the foreign stuff are, but then I don’t know what translations P.G. Wodehouse and the guy in Quiz Show used, either, and they managed to come off as erudite.

I feel like the smart move is to Scrib’d the best translations I can find, for nine bucks a month, and then be content with the Great Books after that.

Cliff is a genius. I’ll bet he came up with his notes idea while he was reading The Iliad. He was a junior in college, and he was sitting at his desk with The Iliad to his left and a loaded revolver on his right, and he was about to toss a coin, when suddenly, like Phoibos’s arrow, inspiration struck. And now he’s rich, and kids have time to Tweet, smoke dope, and weep about their need for safe spaces.

We haven’t done right by Cliff. He’s a hero. A humanitarian. Right up there with Salk and Pasteur. God bless him. Someone should build a statue.

Or maybe they should just write a short summary describing a statue.

My brain is dry. I can’t think of anything else to say. I guess it’s time to go face the music.

Achaianz n the Hood

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

They Didn’t Choose the Hero Life

I finished my daily dose of The Iliad a few minutes ago, and I feel I have to come here and vent until the pain in my wounded soul subsides.

I am very disappointed in the Greek concept of heroism. These guys stab other guys while they’re running away. They run like hell when they think the other guy has a god’s favor. When a god saves and heals them after they’ve been beaten, they come back and talk smack. Like having mommy pull you out of a fight makes you a tough guy.

The whole premise of the book is ridiculous. One idiot steals another idiot’s wife. A bunch of other idiots go to war to get her back, offering their lives in exchange for the return of what is essentially a common strumpet. The gods take sides, helping them kill each other, but they’re not consistent. Zeus’s brilliant plan is to help the Trojans mess up the Achaians until they burn one ship, and after that, to let them sack Troy, burn it, and force themselves sexually on everyone they can catch.

What is the point? Why would you help the Trojans if you plan to wipe them out a week later?

How about this idea: stay home and grow old while making money. Live to see your children marry. Don’t go to war unless someone bothers you. Am I crazy? Am I the only one who sees this as the obvious course of action?

You know what the Iliad characters are? Gangsters. Punks. They’re just like the simpletons in New York and L.A. who run around killing each other out of boredom. Your life is dull and pointless, so instead of finding an actual purpose an adult can be proud of, you stir up crap and get off on the stress.

They talk constantly about glory. It’s okay if some Trojan with Zeus on his side spreads your intestines out on the beach in an unfair fight, because you get glory.

You can’t spend glory. You can’t put it on toast and eat it. If you believe in the nutty Greek religion, after you get speared, you expect to be in hell, where you can’t even enjoy your glory. How stupid do you have to be to fall for a deal like that?

The characters are imbeciles. The gods are sociopaths. I don’t care what happens to any of them. They’re all jerks.

I’m still only on page 593. You want to hear about a mythical Greek figure I can relate to? Here it is: Sisyphus.

Reading The Iliad is like going to see the Mona Lisa. You don’t go to be impressed or to see something which is done well. You go so you can have the experience of seeing it.

The Mona Lisa is fat and ugly. The landscape behind her is amateurish. The colors are basically shades of cockroach-wing brown. The composition is right up there with the photos on baseball cards. But it’s an important painting, so you pay money to go to the Louvre and look at it.

I am looking at The Iliad. It’s like a Mona Lisa that takes two weeks to take in.

I’m starting to feel better now.

Every day, I’m eager to sit down and read this book, simply because I know it will make it be over that much faster.

I’m open-minded. People have different tastes. If you like Homer, you have something wrong with you. But I respect you.

Just to show that I’m a classics fan at heart, I’ll post a video that shows how a true artist presents a great work of literature. It’s Kirk Douglas in the Mexican version of 1954’s Ulysses. I don’t know why Homer couldn’t have presented it this well.

Spoiler: Boredom Ahead

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

Yesterday I wrote something about how I studied calculus without having to read Newton’s notes, and I said I probably would not have understood them because only one bit of his mathematical notation survived. Today I decided to look it up, and I found out the story is not quite that simple.

Cambridge University has Newton’s papers. Some of them, at least. I am too lazy to check. Google and come back and look smarter than me. Cambridge has put images of the papers online, partly for reference purposes, but also partly to make the rest of us feel stupid.

I admit, the last phrase of the last paragraph is conjecture.

It turns out there are several reasons why I would not have understood his notes, and his notation is probably not among them. The biggest obstacle would have been his copious use of Latin and Greek. I was “educated” in American schools, so the only Latin I know is pig Latin. As for Greek, I’m halfway through The Iliad, and I use Windex as a topical antiseptic.

Actually, I took a semester of Latin in high school, but, following my strict policy, I did nearly nothing, so I got a D.

Latin is a horrible language. Like Russian, Latin is inflected. That means you have to change the endings of words depending on how you use them. If English worked this way, you might have to write things like, “I shot the cow,” and, “The coworum rolled over and died.”

Leo Tolstoy and his wife had different last names because he was male and she was female. Terrifying.

When I was studying physics, I got really handy with exponents. Typically, when you take the root of an expression (once you get past about the 21st grade, you have expressions instead of numbers), you put a radical around it.

It looks like I’m wrong. I checked, and it’s a “radical sign,” not a radical. It’s a little box sort of like a division box. A radical sign means “square root.”

Radical signs are stupid. A radical sign can’t mean anything other than “square root” unless you add a little superscript to the left of it. It’s sloppy and cumbersome. I didn’t like it.

“Square root” actually means “to the 1/2 power.” You can have any real number as an exponent. It doesn’t have to be 1/2 or an integer. It can be 2/3 or pi or whatever you like. It can be annoying, using a radical sign to express powers not involving multiples of 1/2.

I worked around that. I used to use parentheses with fractional exponents. For a square root, I used “1/2.”

This leads to all sorts of conveniences.

Say you want to put the square root of something in the denominator of a fraction. You just make the “1/2” negative. What if you want a cube root? Use “1/3.” What if you want the square root of the cube? Use “3/2.”

What if you have an equation with an expression with an exponent on one side, and you want to get rid of the exponent? You invert the exponent, squeeze it between the bars of the equal sign so it pops out on the other side, and apply it there. For example, if you have 4 = (16)^1/2, you turn it into 4^2 = 16. It works with any real number. For all I know it works with complex numbers and quaternions. Don’t ask me what a quaternion is.

Well…of COURSE it works for complex numbers. I’ve seen like a billion complex exponents.

This is exciting, isn’t it? This is what you come here for.

If you have a big string of expressions with exponents, multiplied by each other, you just add the exponents. If you want to move an expression from a denominator to a numerator, you multiply the exponent by -1.

This is really helpful, because it helps you put everything on the same line, and it turns multiplication and division into addition and subtraction.

Why tell you all this? Because Newton didn’t do it. If he wanted to take the sixth root of something, he put THREE radical signs around it. I would have lost my mind counting the brackets.

I guess if you’re Isaac Newton, you find all forms of notation unbearably simple, so it doesn’t matter what you do. Me, I get confused writing grocery lists.

If you look at Newton’s notes, you will see why he accomplished so much. Yes, he had a giant brain, but he also did tons of math. He filled page upon page. Much like the ancient Greeks, who put up with Homer’s endless droning and hour-long similes, Newton did not have TV. Also, when he invented calculus, he was hiding on a farm while the plague destroyed England. Talk about bored. Put me in Fargo, North Dakota with no broadband, a ream of paper, and a box of fresh pencils, and I might invent something, too.

But probably not.

I would definitely make a lot of paper airplanes.

Newton wrote out big, ponderous expressions, and they looked a lot alike, so he must have had tremendous powers of concentration in order to keep everything straight.

For tiny-brained mortals like me, clear notation matters.

I hated the way my old physics profs wrote things. For example, a professor talking about a function named A might call a variant of it A-prime, and then when he wanted to change it to make a point, he would call it A-double-prime, which was followed by A-triple-prime. Then he might combine them in one huge expression with about nine A’s in the numerator and fifteen in the denominator. I never understood that. It’s not like there’s a fee for using new letters.

I wrote a pretty insulting essay about it, claiming there actually was a fee, and that when professors used Greek letters, they had to pay royalties to the Greeks.

I was not popular in grad school.

If you feel like a thrill, Google and find Cambridge’s photos of Newton’s big notebook, known as the “Waste Book.” It’s a real page-turner, if you’re an alchemist and religious fanatic who reads ancient languages fluently.

Unfortunately, it’s math and science, so there are no Cliff’s Notes. Not that I’m saying the impossibility of writing Cliff’s Notes for math and science proves liberal arts subjects are a joke.

But I would not argue if you took it that way.

I was Fated to Hate This Book

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Where is Ray Harryhausen When You Need Him?

Where did I get the idea that I should compensate for my college-era sins by reading The Iliad? What was I thinking? I’m actually starting to sympathize with my sophomore self. I completely understand why I spent every weekend blind drunk.

I’m still not out of the five hundreds yet. Pagewise. If you put a gun to my head right now, I could not tell you what happened in the last passage I read, and it was about forty minutes ago.

Hera seduced Zeus, which is about as hard as getting Bernie Sanders to let you pick up a check. Then a god named “Sleep” ran through the Danaan camp telling everyone to get up and fight. After that, search me.

Sleep is immortal. It’s no surprise he’s enthusiastic about bloody combat. If he gets poked with a spear, it only hurts until he grows a new liver or whatever. Leftists like to call every conservative who hasn’t been to war a “chickenhawk.” It’s a horrible bit of sophistry, but that wingless shoe would definitely fit the Greek gods.

It’s awful, if you think about it. The Greek gods are like rabid Little League parents, except when Little Leaguers strike out, they go to the dugout for a participation trophy, whereas the Greek heroes go to Tartarus where they maintain their maimed forms for eternity.

I believe that’s how it works. I think I understood Brad Pitt correctly.

The Iliad is like the World Series of Little League, except the parents are allowed to charge the field and punch kids in the mouth.

I had no idea The Iliad was a thousand pages long. Because, hello, I didn’t actually read it the first time. I just assumed it was a two-day ordeal, probably because the Cliff’s Notes I actually read were about that long.

It could be worse. I tried to read Ulysses once. I got like 300 pages in before I realized it was never going to get any better. I figured it would be worth it once I got to the good part, and then I realized I was already looking at the good part. Or maybe the good part was the foreword.

James Joyce was a genius. I guess. I would rather just concede that than spend a spell in hell becoming sufficiently familiar with his work to argue the opposite.

Hemingway was a huge poser, but he was entertaining. Give him that. James Joyce went 300 pages without permitting the occurrence of a single event of interest. I can’t imagine what the remaining 32 pounds of the book were like. Maybe there was a page at the end explaining that it was all a joke, and that the publisher would send you fifty bucks for being a great sport.

I’ll never know. Unfortunately, I lost my copy in a fire. That I threw it in.

Yesterday I compared The Iliad to reality TV. That was pretty accurate. I see no reason to backpedal. But today I had another epiphany: it’s also a lot like a soap opera. It goes on forever, and nothing much happens, and there are too many characters to keep up with. One of the best things about getting way into the book is that a lot of the people you had to keep track of earlier are dead.

When I was in college, I briefly–and I do mean briefly–got into General Hospital. My freshman floor counselor had a blonde who lived with him, and she watched the show religiously. Since I inhabited the TV lounge and avoided classes, I was right there with her for a few weeks. Then I happened to see the show a few years later for some reason I no longer recall (perhaps I was being tortured so I would divulge the number of a Swiss bank account), and I was amazed to see that I could still keep up with it. So little had happened, it was as if I had gone to sleep in Port Charles on a Monday and awakened on a Wednesday.

That’s exactly how The Iliad is.

Is Port Charles right, or was that a different soap? I remember an annoying old geezer who was married to a harridan named Phoebe…or did I dream that?

The Trojan War took about a decade, and from time to time, everyone sailed home and took time off. That proves how much like a soap opera it is. Even the characters were able to skip years.

Langley Wallingford! I can’t believe I remember that! What did he see in Phoebe? Not that he was a day at the beach. But she was abominable. A beast.

Here’s something I recall. Demi Moore came on the screen, and I thought, “That poor homely little thing. She has a voice like thimbles on a washboard. She can’t even act. She will never make it.”

I don’t think the other books I declined to read (see “Lepellier Refusal,” A Separate Peace, Charles Scribner’s Sons, Knowles, J., 1959, at 30) were this long. I guess I can check.

Okay, Columbia College has The Odyssey on the list. It’s Lattimore again. More bizarre usage and bloated verbiage, I guess. Checking Amazon…YES! It’s only 374 pages! I can do that in my sleep! And unlike The Iliad, it’s actually a pretty good story. I loved it when Kirk Douglas poked the cyclops’s eye out with a burning tree trunk.

If the book is 374 pages, the Cliff’s Notes must be a pamphlet. Should go around 60 pages. I can deal with that.

I keep thinking you have to read the classics in order not to be ignorant, but I’m really wavering. The Cliff’s Notes really aren’t that bad.

I learned tons of calculus, but they didn’t make me read Isaac Newton’s notes. I probably wouldn’t have understood them. The sole piece of his notation that survives today is the dot on top of a time derivative. If I can do integration by parts without reading the actual work of Newton or Leibniz or Cauchy or whomever, it stands to reason that I should not have to read Homer in order to understand The Iliad.

Actually, it doesn’t stand to reason, but it sounds good. Close enough for jazz. It’s like an opinion by Justice Brennan: wrong and tendentious, but smart enough to get past you anyway.

There are probably four people in North America who have read the real Iliad, in the original original Greek, not cleaned up and clarified by monks and grad students. Just saying.

With any luck, I will be done in a week, and life, such as it is, will resume. Until then, expect more diatribes, because my system cannot sustain the stress of bottling this up.

The Earth Still Turns Without Disco

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Don’t Party Like it’s 1979

My Internet friend Heather noticed I was gone from Facebook and came by to comment, saying this:

Be glad you stepped away from Facebook, the deification of Prince has been just insane.
You would not believe the ugly things that have been said to me because I pointed out that the man was a Jehovah Witness, thus destroying their fantasy that Prince did not immediately ascend to the throne at the right hand of God.

I have seen very little Prince worship on the Internet, but that’s because I’ve avoided it. It must be a nauseating, discouraging spectacle. I can’t even guess what Facebook looks like this week. In some circles, it must be bigger than the death of FDR.

I thought his music was boring. I can’t understand why anyone ever sat through an entire song. But that may be because I simply didn’t have the particular supernatural influence that convinces people he’s wonderful.

If you’re not protected by the Holy Spirit, all the other spirits can make you believe or perceive nearly whatever they want. They shape our desires and reactions all day. Surely they can convince you Prince was better than Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday.

People are still talking about his “clean” lifestyle. The man was treated for a drug overdose and then died several days later in a manner entirely consistent with a second overdose. Okay, sure, his cousin says he was clean. What would your cousins say about you a day after you died? That you were a jerk?

The world is hopelessly screwed up. If you want proof, just consider this: Satan is the god of this world. What more do I have to say? When the lowest, most foolish creature in the universe is a world’s god, things are pretty bad.

Our perceptions are very distorted. We are raised in a soup of spirits that lie to us constantly, and we are surrounded by their human stooges, who repeat the lies around the clock. One of the benefits of being Spirit-led is that the deception starts to fall away from you. When that happens, the world and its values start to look insane and depressing.

My desires keep changing. I want that to continue. I don’t want to desire poison and death any more.

A long time ago, I had a comic strip in development with an editor. I knew I was good at what I did; I had no self-deprecating illusions about it. I expected to succeed. As motivation, I cut photos of fishing yachts out of magazines and taped them in places where I could see them. I figured I would get one if I got rich.

Today, you could not pay me to deal with a yacht. A nice one burns around 150 gallons of diesel per hour, or maybe $450. It takes three people to run one well, and it takes four to fish one. Every year, it has to go to the yard, and you will pay thousands just for basic maintenance. Dockage is expensive. Where I live, the sea is too rough for fishing maybe 40% of the time. Also, a yacht attracts shallow people who think about nothing but drunkenness, money, and sex.

I used to watch Top Gear all the time. I enjoyed watching them try out million-dollar Ferraris and Bugattis. Would I want to own such a vehicle? Never. I’m not even interested in driving one. I’m content to watch other people.

You can only get two people into a supercar. Every time you park it, you provide a target for envious vandals. Everything associated with it is ruinously expensive. You can’t even drive it legally; not if you want to use a significant portion of its capabilities.

I know people who have gotten rich. They probably think they have the world by the tail. It’s really the other way around. They have to deal with employees, lawyers, economic fluctuations, regulators…forget that. They also have to deal with tremendous temptation. Businesses run into potentially fatal challenges all the time, and very often, there is an unethical or illegal way out. I don’t want to face that.

I’ve had designs on really atrocious women. One was an atheist. Others were shallow. None really cared about God. I was looking for stupid things like chemistry. Attraction and psychological compatibility are important, but if both partners aren’t Spirit-led, they will grow apart, and one will draw the other away from God. Once you’re away from God, you’re the tail, not the head. You suffer defeat after defeat. You’re exposed. I don’t need that in my life.

My musical tastes have changed. I have a big collection of albums, and I got an Ipod so I could play them in my truck. I rarely use the stereo now. I want to talk to God while I drive, and the stereo distracts me. At home, I listen to secular music from time to time, but I can’t take it for long periods. The only thing I can put up with for hours at a time is praise music. Or silence.

I don’t see the world as my oyster. I see it as a cesspool I have to wade in for a while. It’s the roof of hell. The only way to do well down here is to focus on what’s above. The presence of God is like a pair of waders.

I seriously believe people who like Prince’s disco music and his image are supernaturally deluded. He played guitar extremely well, and he did arrangements, but that makes him a highly skilled technician, not a real artist.

If you want to hear a good keyboard player, listen to Oscar Peterson. If you want to hear a truly superb guitarist, listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you want to hear a top-notch singer, listen to Etta James. If you want to hear good songs, listen to Cole Porter, Hoagie Carmichael, or Hank Williams. Then go back and listen to Prince and see if you still think he’s superhuman.

The feeling I get when I think about going back to the low tastes of this world is like the feeling a college student has when he wakes up at two p.m. with a hangover, in a bed with dirty sheets, surrounded by the smell of spilled bong water. I don’t want it any more; I get the feeling parolees have when they think about going back to prison. You have to put away childish things.

This world is not a good place or a place where you can build a permanent home. It’s the second-lowest level of creation. It’s so low God doesn’t even keep a throne here. It’s the Section 8 trailer park of the universe. Enoch tells us heaven has seven levels, and we’re under the lowest one. That’s not a good place to site a future.

Prince was a little picture of Satan. He led the musical worship of himself. He focused attention on himself, not God. He was effeminate and spoiled. He devoted his life to bringing himself glory. He corrupted other people as hard as he could. He turned other musicians into little replicas of himself. If that appeals to you, fantastic, but there is nothing about it I like.

It’s so strange that our culture was simultaneously infected by two entertainers named Prince and Madonna, who attacked Christianity while displaying Christian symbols. And those are their real first names, which makes it even weirder.

I’m glad I’m off Facebook. I’m glad I have fewer hard little heads to contend with. It seems like America just turned a downward corner, like a ship upending itself before it sinks. I don’t want to be close enough to get pulled down by the suction.

And Now With a Rebuttal: Marge

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Release the Hounds

I made a giant mistake.

A while back, I was thinking about my undergraduate “education” from Columbia College of Columbia University. I felt like it was a big joke. I did a little work in some of my classes, but I also read my share of Cliff’s Notes (not “Cliff notes”). My class attendance was not too good. I blew off the second semester of Literature Humanities (a core course) almost in its entirety.

I give the professor half of the blame. His name was James Russell. He was a scholar who did something or other related to Armenia. You can look him up. He’s still well-known. Among the 350 people who know where Armenia is. Cher and the Kardashian family.

He studied a bunch of languages from places that, annoyingly, seem to lack a group designation that would save me typing. I think Iran, Armenia, and Turkey were among these nations. What do you call them? Not “Middle Eastern.” At least I don’t think so. Maybe they are. How about “too-much-facial-hair countries”? “Potential-New-York-Cab-driver countries.”

Places where Borat was banned in order to prevent riots.

He did something fairly dumb early in the semester. He told us he didn’t care if we came to class as long as we did the work.

It was quite some time before he saw me again, and he was really, really angry that I had called his bluff.

He thought I had an excellent mind. Go me, I guess. He wrote some extremely flattering stuff on my papers. When I disappeared and then turned up again right before the final, he appeared to be quite upset that I had zero interest in being his student.

He should not have taken that personally. For one thing, he brought it on himself. For another, I was an idiot. I was only interested in things like eating and waking up. I was miserable, and I had no plans for my life. I just wanted to stay alive and not be out in the street, and I knew that if you stay in college, your parents are likely to help you with those modest goals.

I think he gave me a C or B-, so I didn’t fail or anything. I should send him a ham this Christmas.

He seemed like a great teacher. You would have to ask someone who actually went to class. My loss.

I only cheated once or twice the whole time I was in school, from kindergarten on. I may have cheated on a Lit. Hum. final. I can’t recall. It was either Lit. Hum. or an equally exciting core course, Contemporary Civilization. I had done virtually nothing all semester, and I figured I was going to fail my exam and be expelled. Then a friend took his exam early and gave me the test questions.

That definitely helped.

The system was not very smart. Some teachers tested earlier than others, so it was sometimes possible for groups of students to get their hands on tests. Ordinarily, I would not have even considered cheating. I hate cheating. But I saw a difference between vanity cheating and survival cheating. I was not cheating to get a better GPA than the guy in the next seat. I was cheating to avoid the horror of being thrown out of college.

It was still wrong, but at least I could say I was in a bad situation that made me highly motivated. The other guys who looked at the test with me…not so much.

I feel superior to them as I think about those days, but that’s denial. We were little rats. All of us.

If you want to turn me in so they can revoke my diploma, go right ahead. They never gave me one, because I dropped out and had to finish up at the University of Miami. I know, because I have that diploma today. In my closet. In the box it came in. Unless that’s my law degree.

What a digression.

To get back to the point, the other day I was feeling guilty about learning almost nothing as an undergrad at Columbia, and I started thinking about the books in the core curriculum. There was no reason why I couldn’t download them or buy used copies (because I am cheap) and study on my own.

This was the mistake I referred to in my opening sentence.

I am now 500-misery-odd pages into The Iliad, translated by some guy who probably gets maced when he tries to walk into cocktail parties. Lattimore! I just remembered. It’s Lattimore. I don’t know whose translation Columbia used, but they use Lattimore now, so I decided to read it.

Wow, is it horrible. Reading it is like physical pain. Here’s an important fact you never hear people say: writing has gotten much, much better since ancient times.

As far as I can tell, The Iliad has no paragraphs. It’s broken up into chapters, which are called “books,” which actually means “chapters.” It’s over 900 pages long, and I suppose there are something like 20 books, and once you start a book, there are no brakes. You go until you hit the end of the book.

Man was not made to read long paragraphs. I don’t care who you are or what you write about; if you can’t find a way to shorten your paragraphs, you are doing it wrong.

Even worse, Homer is incredibly windy within his general-admission-style, festival seating books. He loves inserting horrible similes that take half a page. Torture yourself with this example:

And not even then might the Trojans and glorious Hektor have broken in the gates of the rampart, and the long door-bar, had not Zeus of the counsels driven his own son, Sarpedon, upon the Argives, like a lion among horn-curved cattle. Presently he held before him the perfect circle of his shield, a lovely thing of beaten bronze, which the bronze-smith hammered out for him, and on the inward side had stitched ox-hides in close folds with golden staples clean round the circle. Holding this shield in front of him, and shaking two spears, he went onward like some hill-kept lion, who for a long time has gone lacking meat, and the proud heart is urgent upon him to get inside of a close steading and go for the sheepflocks. And even though he finds herdsmen in that place, who are watching about their sheepflocks, armed with spears, and with dogs, even so he has no thought of being driven from the steading without some attack made, and either makes his spring and seizes a sheep, or else himself is hit in the first attack by a spear from a swift hand thrown. So now his spirit drove on godlike Sarpedon to make a rush at the wall and break apart the battlements.

This underscores a very important point about the ancients: they did not have TV.

In 2016, people consider the value of other people’s time, because we’re all very busy playing video games and looking at cat pictures on Facebook. In 5000 B.C., this was not the case. There were no cable boxes. There were no channels. Zero. People had absolutely nothing to do once the sun went down. This explains why they were willing to let wandering vagrants recite poems to them for hours at a stretch. Paradoxically, they died when they were fifteen years old, yet they felt their time had no value whatsoever.

If Homer decided to spend 900 words comparing the thighs of “godlike” Aeneas (half of the characters are “godlike”) to rippling waves on the storm-tossed Aegean, that was just fine. People didn’t mind. Me, I have other things to do. I would appreciate an occasional nod to concision.

So that’s bad.

Another problem: Lattimore uses English words in ways I never thought possible.

I have a huge vocabulary. I understand that the meanings of words have changed. I don’t have trouble with Shakespeare or the King James. But Lattimore comes up with stuff I never saw before. Nobody calls a beach “a strand.” Nobody calls a hill “a barrow.” Nobody calls a bench “a settle.” So every ten minutes, I have to go on the Internet to find out what he’s talking about.

If Homer were in this guy’s class, he’d pin him to the blackboard with a bronze spear.

What else can I complain about? Oh, yes. The story and the characters.

The story is ridiculous. There is no plot. Paris of Troy stole the wife of Menelaus (or Menelaos, depending on which pedant translated your version), and Menelaus and his buddies sail to Troy to destroy it and take her back. Troy is a big city with steep walls. You saw it in the movie.

His buddies are the Danaans. Or the Achaians. Or the Argives. They have like 4 dozen names. They’re a bunch of criminals from all around Greece. Athena, Poseidon, Hera, and various other immortals are on their side. I think. Zeus is behind the Trojans. Some days, the Trojans do well. Some days, the Achaians do well. And the Achaians can’t finish the job because Achilles the ringer is pouting in his ship.

That’s about it. There is no pace or structure, because, again…time had no value.

The characters are like two-year-olds. They make the Kardashians (again I poke the Armenians) look deep. They talk about honor, but whenever they feel like it, they break promises, use unfair help from the gods to kill people, and even go back to their houses to barbecue while everyone else fights. They steal everything they see. They have no compassion or empathy whatsoever; maybe those things hadn’t been invented yet. They are stupid. They never say or do anything intelligent.

Now that I think about it, the reality TV comparison is dead accurate. Nothing ever happens. There is no rhyme or reason. The people are basically clowns.

When I was about 24, I pretty much gave up on literature. I felt like the message was almost always the same: self-pity and whining. “The world isn’t fair.” “There is no God.” “You owe me because I’m a Marxist lesbian.” I thought it was extremely unrealistic and unhealthy, and it was written from a viewpoint with which I couldn’t identify. I live in a world which is more than fair. I know God is here, and I know he treats us much better than we deserve. I know things aren’t hopeless; quite the contrary. We are assured of success, not just here but in eternity, if we do a few simple things. The miserable, mistreated figures of literature seem like creatures from Mars to me. I don’t want the infectious pus of a victim mentality to fill me up and destroy me.

Do I see things this way because I’m a white male, and every day is like paradise when you’re white? No. I screwed my life up very badly, and believe it or not, being white is not early admission to heaven. I have my sanguine worldview because I’ve weighed the evidence, and because I’ve received faith and revelation. Even Marxist lesbians are eligible.

Feel bad if it makes you feel good, but don’t try to tell yourself it’s right.

I gave up reading literature, with occasional exceptions, and it was a good decision. Reading Homer serves to remind me how foreign the godless world (okay…the non-Christian world) is. But you have to make certain concessions to your culture in order to avoid being utterly ignorant, so even though I facetiously called it a mistake, reading this botched spinal tap of a book was a good idea.

I can get through about 50 pages per day, in around half an hour, and then my brain sets up like cold oatmeal and refuses to absorb any more. At this pace, it should be about thirteen centuries, magically crammed into ten actual days, before I finish.

After I read, I have to turn my brain off and let it rest, which is why I’m here. I sat down about 30 minutes ago after a painful Homer session, and I’m writing this to unwind.

I found Cliff’s Notes online, and I found the one for The Iliad. I can now proudly announce that I’m the first person on earth to use Cliff’s Notes as a study guide instead of a substitute for the pain of reading the actual book.

The people who put the notes out put a totally hypocritical warning up front, about making sure you go to class and read the book, because if you don’t, you’re denying yourself the benefit of the education for which you’re paying.

Couple of points.

1. The warning is about as credible as the one on the Q-Tip box that says not to put them in your ears. Yeah, we all run the swab gently around the rim of our ear, where it accomplishes nothing whatsoever. Cliff, who owns his own country in the South Pacific, knows exactly why you bought his notes. By the way, a translation is not the real Iliad. Think about that for a while. You’re already reading a fake.

2. You’re probably not paying for your education. It’s probably the taxpayer, your parents, or the lender who gave you the student loan you are hoping to default on.

3. The question of whether there is a “benefit” to reading Homer is still up in the air. Okay, I just said that to be mean.

Let me say something horrible, which will make professors incontinent with rage; even more angry than the knowledge that they can be completely replaced by iPhone videos: the notes are pretty good, and for most people, they’re a completely acceptable (even superior) substitute for a $9000 lecture from an old socialist in corduroy pants. It’s not like your professor at Texas A&M has some secret inside Homeric poop the Cliff’s people can’t get their hands on. It’s all the same poop. You’re not going to learn that much at the undergrad level anyway, and five years later, a person who used Cliff’s Notes will not be at a detectable disadvantage to someone who paid his parents’ life savings to a trite old bolshevik wearing a “Feel the Bern” button.

It’s kind of amazing. When I was taking easy humanities courses, I cheated once or twice, and I did no work I could avoid. When I got my physics degree, which is about 3000 times as hard as basket-weaving liberal arts pabulum (Latin word!), I never thought about cheating, and I did my own work. When I got my law degree, which is only about 5 times as hard as advanced navel-gazing liberal arts courses, I never thought about cheating, and I did my own (very little) work.

Life is funny. Funnier than Homer’s jokes, anyway.

I am hoping things get better as I progress. Hopefully other translators will be more humane. If not, I can always look for old copies of Classic Comics. I’ll just have to be careful and realize something is amiss when the Achaians are defeated by Wolverine and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Godlike Sonic the Hedgehog.

By the way, we need to acknowledge something. MOST liberal arts students don’t learn much as undergrads. What I went through was basically normal, although probably 25% worse than average. So get off your high horse already.

Or, if you’re a Danaan, out of it.

It Just Got Real

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Write a Check, and Someone Will Talk

When you’re old, you have seen a lot of things. You have seen a lot of things that resemble other things. You see repetitive patterns in earthly events.

Sooner or later, you start to know what’s happening earlier than other people. Then if you’re not careful, you start to think you don’t have to reason any more; you have so much confidence in your generalizations, you may feel like you can rely on them to the point where analysis is a waste of time.

That’s something for me to keep in mind. Nonetheless, it looks like I was right about what killed Prince.

It’s not like it was rocket science. A musician has a drug overdose, and he dies several days later with no signs of trauma. The most likely explanation was obvious. But Prince was someone people idolized, so they were blind to his faults. I never idolized him or liked his music. It’s not hard for me to be critical of him.

The Daily Mail, which is a real newspaper not to be confused with The Onion, just published a long interview with a man who calls himself “Doctor D.” He says he sold Prince painkillers for years, to the tune of two $40000 every six months.

Is it a lie? Could be. Maybe The Daily Mail has decided to completely give up on being taken seriously, and they published the story without any effort at vetting it.

Probably not, though.

Now I’m wondering if someone will be arrested for making a straw man drug buy at a pharmacy. If Prince had to send another person into a pharmacy the day before he overdosed, he had a reason, and it wasn’t to buy Q-Tips.

It is said that his sister, who also has drug problems, is going to inherit his estate. There is no will. It just falls into her lap, with no supervision or restraint.

Maybe she’ll be like Priscilla Presley, and she’ll build it into something even bigger. On the other hand, maybe his entire song catalog will belong to someone else within five years, and she’ll end up broke.

It’s obvious that I’m not a Prince fan. If you’re wondering why, maybe it will help if I show you how I was introduced to Prince.

In the early 1980’s, I was in the dorm room of a college girl who admired Prince. Here is the poster I saw on her wall. I had no idea who it was.

prince in shower with cross

Apologies to those who are offended. I’m a man, so I don’t see it as provocative, but maybe others will disagree. I just see it as gross and sad; a mistake.

I remember asking her what she could possibly see in a person like that. She thought he was tremendous. I could not understand why a woman would want a feminine man.

I still don’t get it. I don’t care much for disco music, which was what he played. I don’t care much for androgynous performers. I can’t relate to a person who wants to seem effeminate. Also, the in-your-face phoniness of Prince is unappealing to me. I guess I should learn to accept the fact that virtually all of show business is phony. I have not.

He promoted himself a little too hard for my tastes. He claimed he played 27 instruments on an album, and on the street, people turned that into, “Prince can play 40 instruments.” It turns out he was a drummer, guitarist, keyboard player, and bassist (the bass is 2/3 of a guitar). You can turn that into 27 instruments by dividing guitar into electric and acoustic and performing similar divisions for keyboards and percussions. You can divide the keyboards into the piano, the organ, the synthesizer, the electric piano, and so on. I don’t think anyone seriously believes he was a complete master of 27 completely distinct instruments.

I could say I play eight instruments if you include “Oh, Susanna” on the harmonica. It would be pretty misleading, but you could say it.

Try to find him playing instruments on the Internet. It’s not easy. You can find the guitar and the keyboards right away. The other 25 instruments are much more elusive.

Yes, he was an excellent musician, but that’s about it. He couldn’t fly. He wasn’t the smartest person on earth. The weird outfits seemed too pretentious to me. Eric Clapton can play in jeans and reading glasses.

Maybe younger fans don’t know about this poster. Yesterday a young friend of mine praised Prince for his masculinity, as contrasted with Michael Jackson, who was a homosexual who liked young boys. I don’t see masculinity in this poster. Do you? Call me crazy, but the little purple suits, high heels, and lace shirts don’t seem masculine to me either.

Prince was not a good person. He encouraged sexual sin with missionary enthusiasm. He promoted smaller entertainers and brought them into his mess. He tried to convince Denise Matthews (the former Vanity) to call herself “Vagina.” He wrote songs that were filthy and crass, not sexy. He celebrated pride and fornication. He was very corrosive to American sexual morals, and it was deliberate. If he had written music I liked, maybe I would be inclined to make excuses for him, but to me, disco is disco.

The dealer in the news story claims Prince had crippling stage fright, and that the drugs allowed him to ignore it. That comes as a surprise. You would think a man with his talent, success, and musical competence would have no regard for the negative perceptions of audiences, and you would expect forty years of performing to get him past his phobias. Very strange.

I’m not glad he’s dead, but I realize he was a horrible corrupting influence. I think his contribution to music, especially songwriting, is greatly exaggerated, and that gives him the illusion of godhood, which makes the corrupting influence stronger.

Some people are claiming he avoided drugs and alcohol. Maybe it’s an error in judgment, but I trust a drug dealer much more than an entourage member. Those people are selected for their pliability. Entourage members are the reason Eddie Murphy thought it was a good idea to make a music video. He put that in his act, lampooning their praise: “Eddie…you a GENIUS.”

What will happen to the entourage now? If he didn’t have a will, they’re going to have to get jobs, like right now. What a faceful of cold water that must be. I wonder if they ever tried to get him to make some kind of provision for them.

I have never had an entourage. I don’t know what it entails. It’s an interesting situation. One day you’re supporting a bunch of people–codependents, maybe–who have no job titles, skills, duties, or contracts, and the next day you’re dead, and you left no one to write checks. It’s like going away for a month and forgetting to fill the cat feeder. It’s like what happened to Chauncey Gardner in Being There.

If I were Prince’s sister, I’d have a security team in that compound, preventing people from stealing silverware. I’ll bet the unused portion of the last prescription disappeared already, and the cops, not being entirely stupid, will have questions about that.

Maybe there’s an entourage exchange out there somewhere. Michael Jackson dies, and Prince and Floyd Mayweather hire the cream of the newly disenfranchised. Don Imus and Howard Stern will eventually contribute some inventory.

If you’re a hot entertainer who can’t function without an array of at-will gofers and personal assistants, you put people in a precarious position. Bundini Brown would have been in a bad way if Ali had died in the ring.

The smart hangers-on marry their hosts. That gives them lasting power.

Weird. It’s all weird. The life, the death, and the warped perceptions. I never found him interesting until this week.

Real Aryans Wear Jorts

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Lame Protesters Give Bigotry a Bad Name

This is kind of interesting. Apparently a few kooks held a white power rally near Stone Mountain, and they were wildly outnumbered by the people who came out to protest.

I have a lot of black friends and acquaintances, and they seem to be very concerned about white supremacists. I try to reassure them, but they don’t seem to take much comfort, because, to be honest, conspiracy theories do really well among black people. If some bonehead on MSNBC makes a crazy claim about the Klan owning Oscar Mayer and putting Satanic symbols in the olives in the olive loaf, it’s pretty likely to become intractable dogma among black people.

In fairness, white people are not exactly immune to rumor. Richard Gere could tell you about that.

Anyway, several DOZEN (not thousand) welfare recipients and part-time roofers (I’m guessing) got together between court dates to celebrate the amazing accomplishment of being white, and there were protesters, and it was the protesters, not the professional Caucasians, who attacked the police and caused problems. One of them maced a cop.

I guess I would make two points here.

First of all, no one gives a crap about white supremacy. It’s not going anywhere, so relax. I am white, and someone would have alerted me if I were supposed to be at meetings. I haven’t heard a peep. White supremacy is extremely unpopular, and it makes you look bad on Facebook and Twitter. Donald Trump is not trying to bring it back, and even if he did, he would get nowhere.

The fact that people took this rally seriously enough to come out and complain is disturbing, because it suggests that they’re severely detached from reality. It’s like getting worked up about the thirty-member Westboro Baptist Church, better known as…the Phelps family and its three minivans. A few illiterate idiots with belly shirts, holding cans of generic beer, do not constitute a movement.

Second, it is pointless to assemble and protest evil by BEING conspicuously evil.

If you protest in order to complain about white supremacy, and you mace the police, you are sort of helping the people you came to oppose. If you’re not white, it looks really bad, because in essence, you have made yourself into a visual aid for your opponents. “Look what black people do, Aryan friends.”

If you want to fight white supremacy, and you’re not white, do this: get a college degree. Then live a happy and prosperous life which doesn’t involve screaming at toothless landscaping engineers with Krylon Confederate flags with the wrong number of stars on their soon-to-be-repossessed trucks. Get a job where a number of white people answer to you. You know; like a Democrat President assembling his cabinet.

You will feel a lot better, and you won’t be charged with assaulting an LEO.

We have a real problem with deluded protesters causing problems instead of solving them. BLM is one of the best (“worst”?) examples of a reform movement which is much worse than what it’s protesting. Darren Wilson shot ONE enraged criminal in self-defense, and in response, BLM has killed or injured a whole slew of innocent people, as well as burning down an impressive number of homes and businesses. If I were a white supremacist, I would be collecting videos of BLM violence for recruiting purposes, and it would work.

Personally, I call BLM “Black Lies Matter” or “Only Black Lives Matter.” They defend people who are obviously criminals who caused their own problems, and they don’t seem too upset by deliberate collateral damage to non-blacks.

This is a useless blog post. The people who need to read it won’t, and if they did, they would never admit the obvious truth, which is that I’m correct. They would accuse me of various things, feel like they had put me in my place, and then go on believing nonsense.

Who cares? Black people get mad at me when I side with the police. White people get mad at me when I’m truthful about blatant crimes committed by cops. I make both sides mad. I’m used to it. I embrace it. You can’t live your life distraught about your inability to please fools.

If you’re a white supremacist, stop wearing Confederate flag T-shirts with the belly cut off, especially if you also have a Confederate flag tattooed on your belly. Find a job. Try to live right. See if you can get your meth-related felonies expunged. Have your remaining teeth or tooth cleaned.

If you’re a BLM nut, go home and study. Get a high GPA at whatever college will take you, and then start sending out resumes. Stop burning down convenience stores and rendering yourself permanently unpalatable to employers.

I should stop writing this stuff and start yelling it into a canyon or even an empty shipping container. It would do about as much good.

I guess I’ll come back in a day or two to see how the world has changed since receiving my helpful advice.

Die, Scum

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Shower Spray Progress

You may say your life is more exciting than mine, but then you would be a fool. I am still making progress on my daily shower spray.

I decided to check the ingredients and see what real chemists put in these products. The most useful combination I found (easiest to duplicate) was “nonionic surfactant” and lactic acid.

I am not a housekeeping chemist, but I was not raised in a cave, either. I have seen the phrase “nonionic surfactant” before. It’s on the labels of dishwashing liquids. Dawn is full of a nonionic surfactant. I guess it’s synonymous with “detergent.”

Does this mean Dawn is just as good as the surfactant in the store spray? Danged if I know. Maybe there is a huge variety of surfactants out there, with different qualities. But I have a jug of Dawn sitting around, so experimentation is cheap. Dawn is what I used in my last batch, and it seems to do the job.

I believe the lactic acid is to keep minerals from depositing on shower surfaces. This must be why people use vinegar in homemade products. It’s an acid that cuts calcium deposits. Vinegar smells, so my guess is that lactic acid is in commercial products because it does the same job without the stink.

Sadly, lactic acid is not available nearby in large cheap containers. Also, I don’t know how much I would need. Liquid acids are solutions, and the solvent is water. There’s a big difference between an acid with a lot of water and an acid with very little.

Muriatic acid (weak hydrochloric acid) is available at hardware stores, but it would probably be rough on grout. It eats ceramics in a hurry. Maybe lactic acid does the same thing.

I considered adding CLR to the spray. It’s a commercial product that eats mineral deposits. It’s supposed to eat rust, too, but I have never seen any evidence that it works. Electrolysis is the best way to get rust off of stuff, and if you can’t use that, I would go with phosphoric acid.

I don’t know what’s in CLR, but it will damage aluminum and a bunch of other stuff, so it’s out.

I wonder if citric acid would work. I’ll bet it would, and it wouldn’t smell like vinegar. I would need some cheap lemon juice. Looking around online, I see that citric acid is commonly used to remove scale from things.

The stuff I’m using now seems to be doing the trick, though.

You can buy citric acid on the web for eight bucks a pound. It’s a solid, which is something that has always confused me. I’m familiar with citric acid as a cooking ingredient. It’s also called “sour salt.” It makes foods sour. I’m used to seeing acids in liquid form, so the idea of acid powder is strange.

Maybe someone who took organic chemistry can explain.

Or someone can Google it, find the answer, provide it in a comment, and pretend they already knew it. Not that people ever do that.

I think a quarter of a cup of cheap lemon juice would be a good addition.

I don’t know if the various ingredients would react with each other.

Dealing with soap scum is a drag, so any semi-automated solution is a blessing.

I have a steam machine for removing crud from surfaces. I suppose it would work for soap scum. It works on baked-on oven grease. But it would be more work than scrubbing, and it would not be great for paint.

It is imperative that I succeed at this. The thought of spending three bucks a bottle for shower spray is just too painful for me.