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Archive for January, 2017

“NORTH, MISS TESSMACHER!”

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Out Top Gear-ing Top Gear

If I haven’t posted much lately, it’s because I am exhausted from recreation.

My oldest friend (not literally oldest, but the one I’ve known the longest) decided he wanted my dad’s 1995 Ford Explorer, which I was about to sell on Craigslist. It has at least 146,000 miles (for a while he couldn’t find a mechanic who could fix an odometer), it leans to the left, it smells really interesting, and my dad had the heat disconnected because it went bad and would have cost $800 to repair. I told my friend (Mike) it was “a real piece of crap,” but he wanted it to plow his driveway in New Hampshire, so we cut a deal for $500, and he flew down to get it.

My dad keeps saying Mike “stole” it. Guess I’ll be hearing that for quite some time.

It seemed to be okay before Mike came down, and then when he arrived, the overdrive wouldn’t work, and it lost something like a quart of oil every hundred miles. I have a recollection of adding oil to it recently, but I didn’t know it had a serious leak.

Some interesting facts that make the story richer: Mike’s birthday was yesterday, and he forgot to renew his driver’s license. When we tried to address this online, we found that New Hampshire’s online renewal system only works if you have the code they mail you before your birthday; the code Mike didn’t bring. Can you renew over the phone? Sure. The paperwork takes maybe a week to arrive by mail, and during that time, your license is not considered valid.

Also, Mike decided not to bring his winter clothes, because Florida is warm. Think about that.

He said, “When I left, it was forty degrees.” I pointed out that sometimes weather changes. I think that was helpful.

I had told Mike the car was only guaranteed until he got it out of my dad’s driveway, but he drove it to Delray Beach and back (funeral: a friend’s father had died), and it came back two quarts low, so I reluctantly decided his friendship was worth more than $500, and we spent several days doing a Top Gear-style restoration to get the car ready for the trip north.

During this time, Mike scored a number of free meals off of me via guilt trips, and I also gave him a treasured possession: the world’s best bottle opener.

Mike loves my tool collection. While I was showing it to him, I showed him the severed end of a 1 1/2″ box wrench. I had it on hand because I had bought a $9 Chinese wrench and modified it to use as a tool post wrench. I’ll post a photo. I had cut one end off to make the wrench shorter. You don’t want a really long tool post wrench, because if you have too much leverage, you may crack your compound slide when you tighten the nut.

Mike thought it was disgraceful that I hadn’t turned the wrench end into a project, and he suggested a bottle opener. That actually sounded good, so while he was at the funeral, I got to work. I had a piece of 304 stainless steel, and I cut a semicircle out of it, using a hacksaw and my belt grinders. I then welded it across the wrench opening. Because I am having all sorts of problems with my helmet, I couldn’t see what I was doing, so I left big globs of weld on the wrench, and I had to grind it down to make it pretty.

I was going to keep the opener, but then I thought of Mike’s frozen corpse sitting in a Ford Explorer with a seized engine, surrounded by puzzled state troopers, one of which was busy writing his dead body a ticket for driving without a license, and I decided to make it a birthday present, because that would completely make up for sending him to an untimely death.

Before turning the opener over to him, I put a lanyard hole in the end of it. Now Mike has the world’s heaviest keychain.

Mike thought a new ABS sensor might fix the overdrive problem, so we spent a day crawling around under the Explorer, and we got a new one installed. We put a quart of Lucas Engine Oil Stop Leak in the engine, and that seemed ( ! ) to reduce the leak’s flow to an acceptable rate.

Unfortunately, the transmission fluid level was low, and Mike added too much, so we spent the next day looking for someone to flush the transmission. Mike figured he might as well flush it instead of just having the level reduced. The weather had turned cold and rainy, so that was fun. I wore traditional Miami cold weather gear: a hooded fleece jacket with shorts. Maybe not the best choice.

Sears gave Mike a service appointment, but when we arrived, we learned that a Sears appointment is really an appointment to stand in line. It seems to serve no purpose at all. When we got to the front of the line, they refused to service the car because of the mileage. You would think they would have mentioned this on the phone, but Sears is dying, so I guess the people who work there are not knocking themselves out in order to get promoted.

I did offer to give the money back and put the car on Craigslist, but by now Mike was on a quest. He wasn’t about to surrender. Thank God.

The next day he got up early and bought an inverter from Harbor Freight. This is a device that turns DC into AC. He figured he would install it inside the car and connect a 1500-watt space heater to it. I am completely serious. My suggestion was to stop at Salvation Army stores during the trip and buy a used down jacket and gloves.

He collected me, and we decided to go to a Salvation Army store to see if they had anything he could use to keep himself alive. Miraculously, they had an unused electric blanket. I thought that was the answer. Put the blanket on, turn on the inverter, and drive. That has to be better than a heater, which blows hot air in random directions. It was like five bucks, so Mike decided to buy it. I also found an incredible deal: a #6 Wagner Ware skillet in perfect condition. Mike is my friend, so of course, my first impulse was to grab it before he got to it and buy it for myself, but I already have three #6 skillets, so I decided to let him have it. If he hadn’t bought it, I think I would have shot him. It’s the perfect size for cornbread. He got it for $3.75. Talk about “stole.”

We spent most of yesterday running cables through the car’s firewall and installing the inverter. He fired it up, and sure enough, it powered an electric drill. Now that he’s gone, I’m kind of wondering if it’s okay to use an inverter while the car is running, but I guess he’ll have to find out on his own. Maybe I should disconnect the phone.

He won’t be able to get a heater until he gets to Fort Lauderdale. In Miami, stores only order a few heaters every year, and on the first cool day, Cubans storm the aisles and buy every last one. The ones they can’t use, they sell for a massive profit. Probably. That’s what they do with generators during hurricanes. Anyway, there are no heaters here today.

I am still dealing with the virus I got a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have congestion or anything, but I have a crappy feeling that gets worse with exertion and lack of sleep. Last night I collapsed on my bed and started sweating, even though the mattress was cold. I thought for minute that I might be dying. I was cool with that. I still had Mike’s money, so I was dying a winner.

I slept about nine and a half hours, and then I got up to say goodbye to Mike. I still don’t feel rested, but I think a day of total loafing will put me right.

I shouldn’t worry about Mike. He’s a possibility thinker. Whatever happens, he will come up with a solution that will get him to New Hampshire. Anyone who would put a space heater in a $500 car can be trusted to look after himself.

I was hoping to talk to Mike about God while he was here, but he kept me so busy, I didn’t make as much progress as I had hoped. I managed to get him to sit still for a prayer session with my friend Travis and me. Mike loved it, and he talked about it before he left. He had been in a hurry to get to a car parts store, so he almost missed the session, but I got him to put it off long enough to pray. I told him you pray BEFORE you fix the problem, not afterward. That’s an extremely important thing to learn.

Considering all the barbecued ribs I bought Mike during the week, I’m not sure the car sale will show a profit, but at least it’s gone.

If you have a junk car, and you want a really interesting cheap project to improve it, I highly recommend an inverter. It will allow you to use power tools when the car breaks down. You can’t beat that.

I can’t wait for night so I can sleep some more. And I’m going to miss that bottle opener.

Perspective

Friday, January 27th, 2017

My Worst Day on Earth was not Really That Bad

I used to be able to say I barely watched TV. That’s no longer true. I’m putting more hours into tube time. What I can say is that I barely watch bad TV.

I don’t watch the news. The world is manipulated by supernatural forces, so to me, watching the news and getting worked up about things is like watching a Punch and Judy show and getting mad at the puppets. If you focus on the clock’s face, you forget about the gears and springs that actually make it work.

I don’t watch sitcoms or other broadcast-TV shows. I only watch movies on TV, and I always look for classics first. There is a whole generation of movie and TV stars I barely know. I hear names like Ryan Gosling, Lea Michele, and Jared Leto, and they sound familiar, but I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup.

Signing up for Amazon Prime has opened up a new world of things I failed to catch the first time around. Over the last few days, I’ve binged on The Pacific, which was released in 2010. It’s a miniseries made by the Band of Brothers people, but obviously, it’s set somewhere else.

The series has been very entertaining, but it also makes me feel like my life has amounted to very little. I suppose that’s true! But generally, it doesn’t bother me. I never had much ambition anyway. Watching The Pacific sharpens the sensation somewhat. The men who served in that theatre went through things I would hesitate to inflict on Nazi death camp guards, and they did it for very little pay, to protect other people from invasion and servitude.

I’ve heard men talk about December 7, 1941. Typically, they tell stories of people who left high school and college classrooms immediately and enlisted in any branch of the service that would take them. I suppose I would have done the same thing. The shame of waiting to be drafted would have been impossible to face. But my draft-age years took place in a slot between Vietnam and Desert Storm. I registered, but since Vietnam, no one has been drafted, and when Desert Storm arrived, I was pretty old, and it was not a war that stimulated men from white-collar families to abandon their lives and enlist in droves.

If I understand things correctly, The Pacific is based on the books of marine privates Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge. Guadalcanal was Leckie’s first battle. Sledge had a heart murmur which delayed his enlistment, and he first fought at Peleliu, an important island where the Japanese had built an airstrip.

I read up on these battles a little. When the US landed on Guadalcanal, the Japanese hadn’t figured out how to defend an island. Their strategy was very stupid. They put their energy into stopping attackers at the beach. They sent lightly armed soldiers in human waves called “banzai charges,” straight into our guns. Guadalcanal was a terrible battle, but the Japanese died in piles, and they lost 15 times as many men as we did. By the time we got to Peleliu, the Japanese had adopted a strategy of building pillboxes and other fortifications inland, with tunnels connecting them, so Americans had to pursue them and dig them out like rats, opening themselves up to fire from guarded positions stocked with plenty of food and water. The kill ratio dropped sharply, and the Japanese continued using their brutal new tactics for the rest of the war.

The Pacific, created by the Saving Private Ryan/Band of Brothers team, features the same grisly realism audiences have come to expect from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. When violence erupts, the screen fills with flying limbs, brains, and blood. I don’t know if the actual battles were as gruesome as the TV series; one scene depicts a fight in which one in six marines died, and to watch, you would think the figure was more like one in two. But whatever the truth is, the young men who fought these battles had to run through small arms and artillery fire, with no protection, over and over. That’s something to think about. If I were in a mall, and a terrorist started shooting one pistol fifty yards away, I would want to find a door, fast. I can’t imagine running through a field with mortars exploding all around me, stepping over the intestines and severed heads of people I knew. How do you make yourself do things like that?

For some reason, America doesn’t seem to think about the Pacific war much. That’s odd, because the Japanese made the Nazis look like Sunday school teachers. They beheaded prisoners of war for fun, not just on the battlefield, but in their camps. They beat, tortured, and starved POW’s as a matter of policy. The atrocities they committed in China are among the vilest acts human beings have ever committed. They brought female slaves from Korea to Japan to serve as prostitutes for the military.

They hated surrender. On the island of Saipan, thousands of Japanese jumped off a cliff to avoid capture, and some jumped with babies in their arms. The astonishing brutality of the Japanese was a major reason for the decision to drop atomic bombs on civilians. It was believed that conquering the Japanese homeland would result in as many as a million pointless Allied casualties.

It’s strange that when we think of World War Two heroism, we generally think about Europe.

Americans shouldn’t forget where we came from, and how easy our lives are. In particular, the “snowflakes” who spend their days vilifying this country and complaining about things like being prohibited from baring their nipples in restaurants should have to learn about our past. They should know about the men and women who gave their lives to buy us the right to demand welfare checks and free contraceptives.

My life has been pretty easy compared to some. That doesn’t bother me at all. I hope my luck holds out until I die. I admire the people who sacrificed everything for me, but I’m not crazy enough to envy them.

I’m going to read the Leckie and Sledge books. Some of the other men featured in the show have also written books. I suppose I’ll read them, too.

If you have Amazon Prime, you might want to take a look at the series. I believe membership also includes Band of Brothers.

Find out what you missed. Be glad.

The Accidental Chris Evans Fan

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

If he Had Been Any Good, I Wouldn’t Have Tried Amazon Prime

I hate to say it, but I love Amazon Prime.

For years, little pop-ups and interstitials have been nagging me to join. I thought it was a stupid idea, because you know how these deals always work. “You’ll save x every year if you buy from us y times per month.” You sign up, and then you forget all about it. It’s like Scrib’d. I signed up, and now I’m paying nine bucks per month. I think I’ve used it once this year.

I hated the very idea of Amazon Prime. Then Jeremy Clarkson squatted forcefully on a land mine of his own creation, and Top Gear moved to Amazon. I hated it even more. There are ten bazillion cable channels. Why did the Amazing Bugatti Brothers have to choose something I can’t get with my subscription?

I went to their Youtube channel and complained in the comments. Because I knew that would make them change their minds. I was irate. Then one day I realized I was buying several Amazon items per month. I bought a pile of books for my depressing Columbia College Lit. Hum. project, and I’ve been picking up odds and ends to help with my electronics hobby. Added up, the shipping costs were definitely higher than the cost of Amazon Prime, and I was getting slow shipping.

At this point I wisely abandoned my principles and signed up.

It turned out to be a good thing. Items sold by Amazon itself started looking like good deals. Amazon usually charges a fairly high price, coupled with a high shipping charge, but when you get free shipping, the high prices of the items don’t matter as much. It makes Amazon competitive with Amazon Marketplace vendors, you get your stuff in two days (including Sunday delivery), and you’re buying from a real company, not some clown who leaves his efficiency every day to cart 75 flat-rate packages to the Post Office.

I got myself an Arduino beginner’s kit (a great idea if you’re doing Arduino) this weekend. Ordered it Wednesday. Got it Friday. Ba-ZING. Like that. That kind of performance is addictive. And when you’re getting two-day shipping for nothing, the suddenly-cheap upgrade to one-day will often seem like a reasonable move.

The deals got better because of Prime. That made me buy stuff on Amazon instead of Ebay or some other site. The savings on shipping paid for Prime. It’s a good system. It works.

The videos turned out to be good, too. The new Top Gear, which, curiously, is called The Grand Tour on Amazon, is not bad at all. It’s not as good as the original, because they lost the Stig and the celebrity laps, but the rest is okay, and it’s real Top Gear guys, not Chris Evans (the Ronda Rousey of car show hosts). The writing is not always excellent; that’s the main flaw with the show. But they’ll get it together. Bezos has a big fat wallet, and when the paychecks get big enough, better writers will appear.

They really need to cram some celebrities in there. So far the only one has been Bob Geldof’s face, mounted on a tablet that ran around on its own little Segway.

Don’t ask me to explain that.

I don’t know why people bother with Netflix. The movie selection is crap. It’s the absolute worst. Netflix has a selection process that goes like this:

1. Look at movie.
2. If it’s bad, sell it online.
3. If it’s worth seeing at all, force people to rent disks.

Amazon doesn’t rent disks. They put the good stuff online, where you will actually use it. Yes, you will have to pay extra for some (okay quite a few) things, but at least you don’t have to put a disk in the mail.

They have some pretty good TV, too, including old Top Gear episodes under the original title.

The guy who wrote Demolition Man was only slightly off target. In the future, all restaurants will not be Taco Bell, but all stores may be Amazon, and so may most TV channels.

It’s inconvenient, having to move the computer output from the monitor to the big TV all the time, but you get a couple of advantages. First of all, you can surf the web WHILE watching TV, and second, you get to use your mouse. A mouse is the bee’s knees when it comes to watching video. You can move back and forth instantly, to exactly the places you choose. And Amazon has a dynamite feature: the ten-second button. On the screen, there are two buttons with the number 10 on them. Click the left one, and the video skips back ten seconds. You can guess what happens when you click the right one. I hope. This is great for those times when you can’t understand the British. You just make them repeat themselves. And there’s a handy closed-caption button, too.

TV’s need to have mouses. Mice. That will happen. Either TV’s will come with mice, or TV’s will become computers. With mice. It’s too good an idea not to happen. There is no down side. It’s amazing that it hasn’t happened already.

You might as well go ahead and get Prime. You’re going to get it eventually, and the fun of criticizing bandwagon-jumpers and whippersnappers is not really a good substitute for The Grand Tour and free shipping.

Orbiting in the Dunning-Kruger Cyclotron

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

It’s Unanimous: I am the Problem

If you’re wondering what’s a good way not to spend a Monday morning, I’ll give you an example: dealing with your dad’s doctor, when your dad has dementia and his doctor is also slipping.

My dad has a bunch of weight-related prescriptions, and because of his cognitive problems, I am now required to manage them for him. His doctor asked me to do it. My dad says we’re both crazy, because there is nothing wrong with him.

I have to put the pills in a special box once a week. The box has compartments, and each compartment is for a day and time of day. He gets his pills by mail, and they keep arriving late. His doctor prescribes once a year, and the mail pharmacy is supposed to send pills at regular intervals, but over and over, things arrive a long time after the last batch ran out.

His statin prescription ran out in December, and it took me about a week to get the doctor to phone a prescription in to a local pharmacy to fill in the gap.

Based on what I have experienced with nearly every other type of business in America, I just assumed that a prominent doctor at a major teaching hospital would have a mechanism for getting medication to his patients during the holidays. I guess that novel concept has not caught on locally. The doctor and key members of his staff went on vacation, all at once, and they didn’t forward patients to anyone in the interval.

I hope no one died.

I would think you would be likely to lose your most lucrative patients during a vacation, because the sickest ones would be most likely to die.

It went like this: I would call them. Whoever took the message would say they would get right on it. Nothing would happen. They would not call to explain. I would call again. They would explain why it was impossible to do anything. They would take another message, promising to do whatever could be done. Nothing would happen. They would not call to explain. I would call again…

The pharmacy called me today and said the doctor had failed to provide a “prior authorization,” whatever that is, so I had to call the doctor again. They said the doctor’s people would know exactly what to do (place your bets). I complained about the pill hiatus thing. They said the way to get the prescriptions to arrive on time was to order them about 15 business days before they needed to be in my dad’s (my) hands. Genius. The Nobel committee must hear about this.

I called his doctor, and I spoke to a woman who is in charge of prescriptions. She started saying she didn’t understand the prior authorization thing (bet lost), and when I told her the pharmacy lady had said she would know exactly what to do, she admitted she actually did know. Okay. Thanks for that (?). She tried to tell me the habitual delays were the pharmacy’s fault, because that was easier than doing her easy, 100% surprise-free job and fixing the problem. I pointed out that she could fix it by doing one of two things: a) shift the order dates back by 15 days, or b) have the doctor prescribe a few more pills than my dad needs. How obvious is that? She said she would talk to the doctor.

The doctor called later on. He is pushing 80, and he does not seem to understand things very well. He has a hard time listening. He prefers speaking. On top of that, he seems to have the physician ego. “I have an IQ of 120, and I got an A in Organic Chemistry, and I am rich, so be still while I deliver the word from on high.” He’s a nice enough guy, but I would guess he is not overly burdened with respect for my intellect.

He kept saying it would be an enormous task, keeping track of the dates of all his patients’ prescriptions. I did not know what to make of that. He has at least four people who work under him, and they have computers. One more relevant fact: they’re supposed to be experts at providing medical care. I think you can see where I’m going with this. It’s a simple job, it’s exactly the kind of thing people in their positions should be taking care of, they get paid a ton of money to do it, and they have technology which far exceeds the demands their work would place on it.

I gave up on making him understand that it was possible to write a prescription earlier instead of later. The learning curve was just too steep. I suggested he call a local pharmacy and order a small amount of each pill, and I would go pick it up. That way, there would be a supply of pills on reserve, and it would fill the gaps. Presumably, this would fix the problem permanently, because there is no issue with the amount of pills prescribed. The timing is what’s killing us. I can dump the manually obtained pills into the mail-order bottles when they arrive, and as far as the math goes, it will be exactly as if the doctor had started ordering pills sooner, except that if the prescriptions are ever discontinued, we will have a few pills left over.

Maybe I’ll take a handful of them and see if I can get my home blood pressure machine to throw an error.

He still didn’t get it. He kept saying the insurance company would not cooperate. He just assumed this was a deal breaker. I had to tell him we would pay for the pills ourselves.

It’s worth it. When a person has dementia, and their pills run out, it’s a major crisis. There is a lot of yelling and criticizing. Then you get to hear it again every day (at least once) until the pills come in, because the patient forgets. You get to call the doctor and be told it’s the pharmacy’s fault. You get to call the pharmacy and be told it’s the doctor’s fault. They all agree it’s partly your fault. You get to be put on hold a lot, because you’re not important. Important people wear scrubs.

I don’t care if the pills cost ten thousand dollars. I don’t care if I have to make fake pills using flour and food coloring. This WILL be done.

After I came up with this Einstein-level, Vizzini-boggling strategy, I had to give my dad the bad news: he was going to have to pay for some of his own pills. That was fun.

So far no one I’ve dealt with has taken even a tiny amount of responsibility, but all four have blamed me without hesitation. And they’re not even my pills! And I’m the only one who has done everything right.

I keep telling people I want the doctor to prescribe Xanax for my dad. So I can take it.

I was commenting on an Internet forum this weekend, and I said something that came as a revelation to me even as I was typing it: everyone I know is completely helpless. No one can turn a screw, change a tire, saw a piece of wood in half, get a prescription to arrive on time, connect anything to the Internet, put the batteries in the right way…you name it; they can’t do it. And unfortunately, they know I can. Because I have a special arcane method: I try.

Don’t tell anyone my secret. I’m thinking of patenting it.

I was talking to God about this, and I stopped myself short. I realized I was complaining about being more blessed than other people. It’s bad to be surrounded by people who can’t do a damned thing, but think how bad it would be to be one of them, always waiting for someone else to come and wipe up the mess.

I told God I was grateful to be a giver and lender instead of a taker and borrower. Not that I never take anything from people, but I’m glad I’m not part of the set of people who lose their minds when a breaker pops or some computer device has to be fixed (“TURN IT OFF AND ON. LOOK, SHUT UP. JUST DO IT”).”

It’s dangerous to start feeling essential, though. When you start believing other people are as helpless as they say they are, you will find they are happy to agree, and then you end up carrying everyone you know around on your back, like a mother possum lugging its young.

Here is some wisdom for you: when you choose to help people do things they say they can’t do for themselves, most of the time they will instantly feel entitled, and they will think there is nothing wrong with criticizing your charitable efforts as though you were being paid.

Here is some more wisdom: people who constantly ask you how to do things will not necessarily have any respect for your intelligence. People have almost no respect for me, but that doesn’t prevent them from asking me how to do things all the time. Figure that out if you can. I would point out the obvious inconsistency, but they wouldn’t respect me enough to think I was right.

I think everyone should hide away for a few days once in a while. Turn off the phone and pretend you’re dead. Then when you reappear, talk to people and find out how they solved their problems while you were gone. Sometimes you’ll find out they survived without you. If they ask where you were, just say you were “trapped near the inner circle of fault.”

I love Rip Torn.

Here is one of my favorite things to say: “They’ll get over it.” People try to burden you with their problems, or they try to manipulate you into doing things you shouldn’t have to do, and you choose not to comply. This upsets people. Say, “They’ll get over it.”

They do.

Not everything is your responsibility. The fact that someone else is upset by something you did or didn’t do is not necessarily important or even worthy of thought.

I remember having a drug addict come to me and demand help getting new housing. This person had refused treatment for years, she had lost her house, and she was about to lose her apartment. Like, the next day. She kept telling me she was going to be on the street, and this bad thing and that bad thing were going to happen to her unless someone gave her large amounts of money right away. I agreed completely! I said things like, “That’s probably right. That will be bad. What are you going to do?”

I don’t know if steam can actually come out of people’s ears, but I think I saw a little. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person on earth who responds to addicts rationally.

I can’t take that attitude with regard to a dementia sufferer’s medications, unfortunately.

We could look for a younger doctor who is more alert, but you know what they say about the devil you know and the devil you don’t. When a person hits 85, you don’t look for medical revolutionaries to turn his life upside-down and work miracles. You think about peace, comfort, safety, and a nice big TV.

I guess I feel better now. My dad has four different blood pressure pills. I have a blog.

What are the odds that the doctor will actually phone the pharmacy?

Think about something else, Steve. Think about something else.

Rotten Flowers

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Humanity Screeches its Way Into Menopause

This is not a pleasant morning.

Last night I saw news items about the women’s march on Washington. Was it about women’s rights? No, it was about obscenity, hate, and rebellion, with women’s rights as a side dish provided as an excuse.

I saw a short video of Madonna, a near-billionaire who has the audacity to stand in front of cameras and call herself a victim. She is angry at the world because people no longer find her physically attractive. She believes we are obligated to reward her with lust and attention.

Madonna is like Cher; she used her sex appeal to become famous, and then that appeal slipped away, as it always does, and she began to be more of a curiosity than a hip entertainer. These are women who got everything they wanted during this life, and they are terrified to see it sliding through their fingers. They may not believe in heaven and hell, but they’re smart enough to know they won’t necessarily be rich, attractive celebrities in the hereafter, and it upsets them every day.

Madonna said she had thought about blowing up the White House.

What can you say about a person that deluded? She’s so angry about Donald Trump, she wants to assassinate him and kill whoever else happens to be in the White House at the time. This is a celebrity? This is a person people admire? Can that really be true?

I started to watch a few minutes of Scarlett Johannson’s speech. This is a woman who has a reputation, in real life, for being easy. She started out with a question about women visiting their gynecologists.

I shut it off. I don’t want to hear about it. You should be able to discuss your rights without discussing your genitalia.

Today I’ve been reading about the pink knit hats women wore to the march. Get used to seeing them, because feminists plan to keep wearing them all over the US. You will see them in the workplace, at stores, and in parks. You will see them when you go to your kids’ schools to participate in events.

The hats are named after women’s private parts. The color is supposed to resemble the color of women’s genitals. I won’t even tell you what the hats are called; the name contains a vulgar slang term I probably never heard until I was ten.

This is what America has become.

These women are pigs. They are depraved. They can’t tell good from bad any more. Not only are they filthy and cruel; they are self-righteous about it. If you criticize their filth, you will be criticized in return, the way sane people would have criticized these women in 1950. Evil is treated like good, and good is treated like evil.

I’ll tell you what; I don’t want to be here any more. I don’t want to live in a world where I am showered with obscenity every time I go outdoors. It’s too much.

It’s going to get a lot worse. Google photos of naked people on the streets of New York and San Francisco. The press keeps this stuff quiet, but public nudity is now legal in these places.

I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do. We’re entering an age when a simple visit to the grocery store will be a gauntlet. Are we supposed to wear blindfolds and use GPS to take us up and down the aisles?

I wonder how long we’ll have to endure this. When will God come and relieve us, as he relieved Noah and Lot? Ten years? Two hundred?

Christians can’t fit in any more. All we can do is sit and wait for it to end, like people caught in a downpour.

It’s very sad to see lukewarm Christians and prosperity-gospel Christians trying to assimilate. They’re giving up everything that makes them Christians. Many of them are giving up their salvation. Just to fit in, in this nuthouse.

They say Enoch had a place where he went off to be with God, while he was still on the earth. They say he emerged from time to time to tell people things, and that afterward, he would return home. I wish I had something like that. I am stuck here in the midst of the depraved. I don’t even have an ark to hide in.

If God permits the earth to endure much longer, we will see times that make today look like the Victorian Era. We will tell our children women used to have to wear clothes in restaurants, and that there were words people couldn’t say on television. They won’t believe it unless they see video.

It’s terrible to see women making themselves so vile. When you consider what women could be, maybe by reading Provers 31, and then you see what they choose to be instead, you can’t help but marvel at their blindness and perversity.

Honestly, if there were a bus to heaven loading up outside my house right now, I would walk out the door and get on board. I wouldn’t look back for one second. I hope my dad accepts salvation, and I would want someone to look after my pets. That’s all I care about. I have no earthly ambition whatsoever. I don’t want to join the herd. I am sick of what people have become, and I know they will continue to rot and become more disgusting.

This place is temporary. No one seems to understand that. You were never intended to camp out here, grab as much stuff as you can, and hold onto it until people pried it out of your wrinkled claws. We were never intended to kill the unborn and use their flesh to cure our diseases. We were never intended waste our lives building monuments to ourselves.

If Madonna feels bad about the way she looks now, wait ten years. She already looks bad for her age. When she looks bad for seventy, she may very well do nothing but sit in a chair and scream all day. She should be trying to make peace with God and looking for things that last. Instead she’s proclaiming her victimhood and exposing her withered buttocks to see if people still care.

In ten years, she’ll probably appear in nude photoshoots, and the people who publish them will accompany them with articles berating men for finding her repulsive.

Man, this place is a mess. I didn’t think it would happen this fast.

The devil’s children thought this election was a lock. They thought their time had come. God put Trump in place to give us time to get it together, and now the children of darkness are angry. They’re throwing a tantrum. When Trump is gone, they will do more than protest. All their pent-up hate will be released, with the power of the state behind it. They will make the Nazis look like Quakers.

I’m not telling anyone to fight it. You can’t. It’s going to happen. We’re going to lose. You can’t prevent that by buying guns or voting for Republicans. All I can say is that you need to prepare yourself. Get as close to God as possible, because you will need his help every day, and when he calls his people away, you do NOT want to be stuck here.

President Trump

Friday, January 20th, 2017

“You’re Awake, by the Way.”

I watched the inauguration. I could not resist. It seemed like it had been such a long time since I had seen an American president who wasn’t hopelessly naive, corrosive to the nation he was supposed to defend, completely dishonest, or in the pockets of beltway elites.

I don’t have too much to say about it. I sat through Trump’s speech. I consider that a personal victory. Virtually all speeches are boring.

Most of the people on the capitol steps appeared to be taking things in stride. Hillary Clinton was an exception, but even she only looked moderately whipped and resentful. The one person who looked truly miserable was Michelle Obama. Women are less forgiving than men. Maybe she is having a hard time with the transition.

Paula White was one of three preachers who spoke before Trump. I was highly disturbed to see her up there. Paula White is a disgraceful know-nothing who worships money and poisons people with false doctrine. Still, as a friend pointed out, her brand of Christianity is better than the beliefs of the outgoing president.

I thought Trump’s speech was good. As others have noted, he talked very little about himself–a big change from Obama’s notoriously self-absorbed teleprompter makeout sessions–and he spoke a lot about what his administration plans to do for America. He was ruthless to the elites, saying, essentially, that they had gutted America, and he said he was going to give the country back to the people and put Americans first.

I don’t know how much power he will have to do those things, but he is the first major player since Sarah Palin to even bring up the subject. It’s nice to be acknowledged, even by a person who can’t help you.

Trump was sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts. That tells us nothing, since that job always goes to the Chief Justice. Mike Pence was sworn in by Clarence Thomas. That made me happy. The honor could have gone to Alito, but Thomas was a better choice, because it was nice to see one black American who was not convinced Trump is the devil. Trump is going to be very good for blacks because he is going to take on illegals who drive blacks out of the job market, but for some reason, they are positive he takes orders from the Klan.

I completely understand why Hispanics are mad at Trump. Many of them care much more about getting their family members across the border than they do about our country, so their anger at Trump is to be expected. Many Hispanics in America ARE illegal aliens, right now. The hatred from blacks is different. It has no basis at all.

Trump said something about unifying America. That won’t happen. It’s nice to dream, but the devil’s people felt they were entitled to win this election, and now that their conquest of America has been delayed, they are in full tantrum mode. That’s not going to stop. Trump will be the most maligned president in modern history. Name it, and he will be accused of it. He was just accused of hiring Russian whores to urinate on a mattress that had been used by the Obamas, and if you check the web, lots of people refuse to back down on the debunked claim. When it comes to Trump, any accusation will have legs, whether it has legs or not.

Right now some horrendous press dishonesty is on display across the nation. The government is investigating Russian hacking, to see if we need to take measures to protect ourselves in the future. Fair enough; good idea. The problem is that media outlets are putting out dishonest headlines like, “Feds to Investigate Trump’s Connection to Russian Hackers.” That’s obviously an attempt to mischaracterize what’s happening. No one is seriously suggesting Trump worked with the Russians, and Julian Assange has made it clear the materials he published did not come from Russia. The news people don’t care; they’re promoting the illusion anyway, knowing most people don’t read anything but headlines.

Liberals love abortion, and they’re proving their love right now by doing their best to abort the Trump presidency before it starts. They treated Bush disgracefully, but compared to Trump, Bush was a media darling.

There will be no unification, and the only effort at unification will come from the right. It will be misguided, and it will be used against us. Accept that now, and the insane spectacles of the next four years may be easier to bear.

I don’t expect Trump to do well, because sooner or later, the Bush/Obama/Federal Reserve house of cards has to collapse, and Trump is likely to be in office when it does. When it happens, the press will agree Trump caused it, just as they agreed Bush caused the Clinton subprime mortgage recession. Trump may get four good years, but I don’t think the air castle will stay aloft for eight. Sooner or later, hard times will come, and it will “prove” socialism and open borders are the path to wealth and joy. Then instead of merely courting a dangerous nut like Bernie Sanders, we’ll elect one.

I’m just glad Trump made it to the inauguration. He wasn’t assassinated. Jill Stein’s Clinton-backed recounts didn’t slow him down. He is, officially, the 45th president. We won’t be able to relax now, but maybe we can go from Defcon 2 to Defcon 3 and keep our food down for a while.

I can’t wait to see his executive actions, his first Supreme Court appointment, and his other judicial appointments. I can’t wait to see the prices of guns and ammunition go back down. Maybe the Border Patrol will be allowed to go back to work. That would be strange and lovely.

Let’s enjoy it while we can. Sooner or later, the same type of people who took over Cuba will rule the United States, and however unappealing the present looks now, it will seem like paradise in retrospect.

Go, big orange! And please stop tweeting.

Who Says I Have no Filter?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Mysteries of the Y Capacitor, Revealed

I’m becoming more of a big electronics genius every day. Staying humble is not easy.

Yesterday I posted about the resurrection of my old HP 3300A function generator, and I mentioned the weird capacitors across the AC mains. Right where the three wires entered the box, there were two caps (in one package). One went from neutral to ground, and the other went from hot to ground.

One of these caps had shorted out, and that had killed the generator. I had to replace them. When a cap between hot and ground shorts out, you have a hot wire going straight to ground, and that is pretty worthless.

A commenter mentioned a different type of component which would look just like a dual capacitor. He said EMI (electromagnetic interference) filters resembled capacitors, and he said they had inductors inside them. I went back to my schematic to check, and I didn’t see any inductors, so I think all I had were caps.

I started reading up on this stuff. I could not figure out why anyone would need filters right before a big transformer and two big reservoir caps with diodes. The reservoir caps and diodes kill AC and turn it into DC, so I would think they would also kill any high frequencies in the line. My guesses are worth about what I charge for them, however.

After some Googling, I learned that what I have is a “type Y” setup. Caps like this are intended to keep interference from passing through the power connection. If it’s coming from outside, they keep it out. If it’s coming from inside your device, they keep it inside.

I can’t call the dead HP engineers who designed the machine, so I can’t ask what the big concern was. I was thinking maybe the AC wires, if not filtered at the entrance to the box, could act as antennas and shoot RF into other internal components, distorting the signal the machine provides. I don’t really know.

Here’s an important fact: it is well known that when capacitors in this configuration die, they can short, and then you can get shocked. This is bad, unless you view death as a postive outcome. You need special capacitors designated X or Y. These capacitors will resist things like power surges. Do they eventually die from old age and short anyway? Search me.

I know nothing about X capacitors, but the Y type come in two varieties: Y1 and Y2. Y1 capacitors are expensive industrial components, so people use Y2. You can find them on Ebay. I guess I’ll have to order some and replace the brand-new capacitors I just installed.

I am wondering if there is any point in putting caps like this on my guitar amps. I think the odds that the sound will improve are infinitesimal, and the chance of electric shock is appreciable, but it would still be a cool feature to brag about.

I have always assumed it was impossible to get a shock from a grounded metal box, but I am used to being proven wrong, so I may as well get the caps.

There are components made to divert power surges. I forget what they’re called. There is a list of “immortal mods” for guitar amplifiers, and it lists things you can do to an amp to make it resistant to failure. The power surge shunt things are on the list. You can look it up. I don’t know if they would work on Y caps. Haven’t checked.

I know this information is fascinating to everyone. Try not to get so engrossed you forget to look away from my blog and do whatever it is you’re being paid to do.

Waves of Joy

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Victory is Mine

People are probably dying to find out whether I succeeded in getting my old HP 3300A function generator working, so here I am to help. It is now running.

What is a function generator? It’s sort of the opposite of an oscilloscope. A scope displays electrical waveforms. A function generator creates them. I don’t know all the reasons why this is useful, but I can list one. If you have something like an amplifier, and you want to see whether a signal is finding its way through it, you can hook a function generator up to the input. This keeps a varying voltage going into the amp while you check the circuit at various points. For me, as a guitar amp builder, the alternative is to hook up a guitar and pick a string over and over. That’s work, and as I have often said, work is against policy.

I suppose you could also check an amp’s frequency response by sending different frequencies through it.

For some reason I no longer recall (probably the guitar amp thing), I bought a used Hewlett-Packard function generator a few years back. I don’t know when it was made, but I know they were selling them in 1965. It’s the size of a big briefcase, and it weighs maybe 25 pounds. It will produce several types of waves (sinusoidal, square, etc.) at frequencies up to 100 kHz. I’ll bet it was really expensive when it was new, because it contains approximately 4 million components which were installed by hand.

A few weeks back, I pulled it off the shelf to see if it worked, and I was disturbed to find that I had no cord for it. Did I ever have a cord for it? Search me. I could not find it.

The cords we have on computers now are called C14/C15 cords. C15 is the female end. I leave it to you go guess what the male end is. As you know, these cords have three conductors, and the connectors at the ends are in a line, with the ground conductor above the others (or below them, if you hold it that way). The function generator had a male receptacle for a cord, but it was a bizarre old setup known as the PH-163. I have written about it before, presumably to everyone’s delight. It’s sort of like a C14/C15, but it has oval pins.

You would think there would be ten billion PH-163 cords for sale on Ebay, but there aren’t. The best deal I found was about $25, for a cord for a machine which, for all I knew, would never work. My solution? I took one of the thousands of spare cords I’ve accumulated, and I bought a receptacle for it. I opened up the receptacle hole in the generator cabinet and installed the new receptacle, and that allowed me to use a new cord.

I was really proud of that job, because I had to use a whole lot of tools, and the stuff I was working on was very small. I had to use a Dremel, two files, a drill, a soldering iron, a solder sucker, a power screwdriver and some other stuff I forget.

Because I know you’re excited about this, I will post a photo, looking down at the receptacle.

The two red things are new capacitors I put in. I will tell you about that shortly.

I got it wired up, and I plugged it in. POOF. It failed to work, and the lights in the garage flickered. Seemed like there was a short.

I looked it over and asked questions on forums, and I learned something interesting. Sometimes old capacitors short out for no apparent reason. One day, you have a capacitor which blocks DC and many AC frequencies, and the next day, you have what might as well be a straight copper wire with zero resistance. The transformer on the generator had a dual capacitor across the main power wires, presumably to filter out crap, and when I checked the cap, I got 4 ohms of resistance (a short) on one side.

A dual capacitor (that name may be wrong) is a capacitor that looks like a single capacitor yet which contains two capacitors that share one lead. It will have one lead in the middle that goes to both caps, and it will have two leads on the sides, each of which goes to one cap. I do not know why HP chose to use a dual capacitor, but it seems like a bad idea, because when one side crapped out, I had to replace both sides.

I guess that’s not really true, but I felt like it was stupid to keep an old capacitor when its twin had just kicked the bucket.

Meanwhile, the generator’s fuse had melted. After I tried running it in the garage, I took it in my office and plugged it in, and the breaker that powers the outlet popped. I assume this is what killed the fuse. I should have used a current limiter, but I didn’t.

Here’s something that may be useful to doofuses like me who can’t read fuses. The fuse in the generator said “6/10A” on it. I couldn’t figure that out. Six amps? Ten amps? Six amps on even-numbered days and ten on odd-numbered days? It turns out it means 0.6 amps, which is something the manufacturer could have stamped on it instead of “6/10A”. I had to go on Ebay and order new 6/10A fuses.

I also had to order the caps. I have maybe 2000 caps on hand at a given time, and when the generator needed one, I didn’t have a single 0.01uF.

When everything arrived, I put the correct fuse in the machine and solder the caps in place. You can see them in the photo. I even saved the funky old insulation from the old cap and put it on the new cap leads.

The solder sucker I used is wonderful. If you to to an electronics store at random and ask for a solder remover, they will give you a clumsy foot-long plastic thing which is hard to use accurately. I found a little metal Japanese solder sucker about four inches long, and it’s much more precise. Solder tends to get stuck in the nozzle, so you you have to stop and get it out, but it’s worth it because it’s so easy to use.

I got everything put together and plugged the machine in. No joy. After going through all this, I found that the on switch was dead. No problem, right? Buy another one for three dollars on Ebay. Sadly, that option was not open to me. This thing had an expensive “Marco Oak Press-Lite” switch, which is apparently an aircraft-grade switch. It lights up when it’s on. New ones are selling for sums well into two figures. No way was I paying that.

I figured out which pins on the switch needed to be shorted to turn the machine on, and I soldered a wire between them. Now the machine turns on when you plug it in. I ordered a small toggle switch, and when it arrives, I’ll cut it into the wire I installed. I’ll put it in the front panel of the machine, and I won’t have to deal with the aircraft switch.

I got all this junk done, turned the machine on, put an oscilloscope probe on it, and got a signal! I was thrilled to the marrow. I got square waves, triangular waves, and sinusoidals. I got big ones, small ones, fast ones, and slow ones. The bizarre “sweep plugin” module that came with the generator worked, too. I don’t know what it is, but it changed the waveform. I still have one knob which is frozen, but at my age, that’s to be expected.

So now I have a huge signal generator which can probably be replaced with twenty dollars’ worth of modern parts that take up ten square inches. I don’t care. It was fun to get it running.

If you’re still reading, here is the payoff.

1. If you repair electronics, use a current limiter when you turn them on. Don’t be stupid like me. I have a variac and a light bulb limiter, and I still decided the best option was to hit the switch and pray.
2. You need a metal Japanese solder sucker. Don’t bother with the big plastic ones. It’s an “Engineer SS-02.”
3. A 6/10A fuse is really a 600 mA fuse.

I still have to fix my old Hitachi oscilloscope. I don’t really have to; I could throw it out. But I should fix it. It could come in useful some day.

My definition of “useful” is unusually broad.

I realize my life is full of excitement and adventure. Try not to envy me.

119/73

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Stick Those Pills in Your Ears

Man, I feel good today. My throat is a little dry, and I sound like Barry White, but other than that, 10 out of 10.

During my prophylactic visit to the doc-in-the-box yesterday, my blood pressure registered 167/90. I was not happy. For a long time, I’ve had a problem with “white coat” high blood pressure. That means I hate going to the doctor, and while I’m sitting there dying to leave, my blood pressure goes up.

The big problem with white coat high blood pressure is that doctors love finding things wrong with us. They overdiagnose and overprescribe. If you have white coat high blood pressure, every single time you get a high reading from a new doctor, you will get the lecture about how you need to keep monitoring it, and they will sometimes talk to you as if you’re in denial. Like you’re trying to introduce them to your invisible friend, Harvey the rabbit.

I didn’t invent white coat high blood pressure. Doctors came up with it. I don’t see why one doctor would tell me I had it and another doctor would treat me like a mental patient for revealing it to him.

A long time ago, when I was in my twenties, I showed up at a doctor’s office with fifteen pounds of extra weight on me, a total cholesterol reading of 208 (the “high” threshold was 200), and a blood pressure reading of 140/90. The doctor put me on a diet. He told me I had to exercise. He never mentioned white coat high blood pressure. He didn’t mention the fact that my LDL (bad cholesterol) was low and my HDL (good cholesterol) was high. My high “good cholesterol” level was the sole reason my overall level was high.

For several weeks I put up with his BS, and then I forgot all about it. I am not dead. My kidneys have not failed. I have not had any strokes.

My mother and grandfather both had cholesterol readings in the mid-300’s. Both were thin, and neither had heart disease. My mother’s blood pressure was so low doctors marveled at her ability to remain conscious.

This same guy called me after I went in for a stomach virus. He said my bilirubin was high, and that it needed to be looked at. I asked him what could cause it. He said one likely cause was a viral infection.

Yeah, okay. Why not just break into my house and take what you like? It would be a better option for me.

Let’s consider the alternatives.

1. You deliberately bring me in for pointless exams and treatment and take my money, and then you make me come back over and over and take pills I don’t need and which may harm me.

2. You break in and steal stuff worth the same amount of money, but you spare me the exams and treatment.

I would choose 2. In fact, that’s what I did, except he didn’t break in. With a racket like his, you don’t need to rob houses. I’ll say this for burglars: they may take your stuff, but they don’t stick things up your rear end. Generally.

When I was in college (the second time around), I got my typical reading of 130/90 during a visit for some minor problem. This was the first time a doctor mentioned white coat high blood pressure. She said I needed to come back and have it checked a few more times, to get me used to the horror of being in a doctor’s office.

At this time, I was waiting for letters from grad schools, and I was under stress. I was also being evaluated for ADD. The letters came, I got accepted, and I was given my first Ritalin prescription. Ritalin is a stimulant, but it relaxed me. I went to the same doctor, full of prescription speed, and my pressure was something like 125/80. The doctor was happy, and so was I.

I went to a doctor in 2016 to get a strep test (pretty much the only reason I ever go), and I came in at something like 135/90, and the nurse started talking down to me about how we might need to consider the possibility that I’m just imagining the white coat thing.

Of course, I went home and paid no attention at all. I do not want high blood pressure pills. They cause headaches, impotence, memory problems (according to my dad’s doctor), and God knows what else. Their use is also highly correlated with reduction of bank balances. Death doesn’t scare me as much as having to get up and take 15 unnecessary and expensive pills every day.

I first learned to distrust pills when I was treated for ADD. They gave me Ritalin, and I loved it, and then I developed a tolerance. I could take 120 milligrams per day without exploding or going nova or whatever the overdose reaction is. A typical dose is 10 mg. Same thing happened with Wellbutrin. A big dose is three large red pills a day, and on some days, I had to take seven. I took so much, they told me to get off of it gradually in order to avoid withdrawal seizures. Other ADD drugs nearly made me crazy. I learned that even if a pill works very well when you start taking it, you can’t trust it, because two months down the road, it may make you miserable. Ask a manic depressive about that. They’re famous for having to switch medications over and over.

It makes sense if you think about it. What happens to drug abusers, generally? The first time a junkie uses heroin, it’s wonderful. He loves it. The pleasure is like something he has never experienced. The hundredth time, it doesn’t feel so good. He has to take it in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Drugs are like sexy girlfriends who put out at will. Fun in the short term, but if you marry one, you will regret it. If it’s true of recreational drugs, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be true of prescriptions. A drug can’t tell whether it’s prescribed or not.

I will never trust pills again. If you take a pill once a year for an occasional problem, it’s fine. If you take it every day to get rid of chronic symptoms without addressing the cause, sooner or later it will let you down. That’s what I believe, based on experience. I think I could develop a tolerance to anything if I took it long enough.

Supplements are different. At least the ones I take are. They are intended to address the causes of problems, not the symptoms.

Because my pressure was so crazy yesterday (I didn’t know my body could even do 167), I decided to be cautious and look around on the web for advice. I decided to check my blood pressure in the morning.

I learned that 90% of people over a certain age have high blood pressure. That was depressing. Those are not good odds. Even if my blood pressure had been fine earlier in life, I might be screwed now.

Because I’ve been harped at so much, I have a blood pressure machine at home. Today I used it, and unlike the doctor’s people, I used it correctly. Here is what you do when you take your blood pressure. This may do you a world of good if you are currently being treated for a blood pressure problem you don’t really have. Take your blood pressure the correct way and see what you get. If your blood pressure is low, ever, you don’t have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure have it all the time. It’s a minimum value.

1. Don’t do it when you have a virus, because they raise your pressure.
2. Don’t do it when you’re fasting, because it also jacks up the pressure.
3. Take it while sitting or lying down, with your arm no higher than your heart.
4. Put the cuff on your weak arm or your leg. If you’re right-handed, keep it off your right arm.
5. If you’re sitting, put both feet on the floor, flat.
6. Do not take it until you’ve been still for a full 15 minutes. Doctors never tell you that.
7. Do not do it AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE or under any other type of stress. Hello?

Here’s what I got today: 119/73. That was right out of the box. I didn’t take it fifteen times and look for a fluke reading.

It was a shock. I was hoping for anything under 130, over anything under 90. To see a 73 in there…that was a present from God.

Why do I pay attention to these people? They don’t know how to take blood pressure correctly, and then they give you condescending lectures based on faulty data, with the intention of hooking you on drugs and bringing you back for profitable monthly visits. It reminds me of the time I went to the ER with a 2mm kidney stone and got charged $5000 for a completely unnecessary MRI. You know what I did the last time I had a stone? I stayed home and drank beer. Total cost: $13. Out came the stone. It would have cost even less, but I like good beer.

If you have kidney stones, start drinking purified or distilled (not spring or mineral) water, and drink two beers in a row once a week. See what happens. If your tap water has dissolved calcium in it, you are drinking the raw materials for kidney stones, and your body will try to put them together. Stay away from rhubarb and spinach, too.

Not only do I not have high blood pressure compared to other old people; I have somewhat low blood pressure compared to people half my age. What if I were a typical sheep-patient who takes every pill doctors throw at him? God knows where I’d be. I’d be on Ritalin, statins, and a cabinet full of pills that cause impotence and dementia.

I am so grateful to God. I hate going to doctors. I hate relying on the same people who believed in low-fat high-carb diets forty years after they were proven harmful. I hate relying on people who have powerful financial incentives to give me drugs and put me on monitoring programs.

If you think doctors don’t look for ways to make money on people, you are dreaming. They have been known to have seminars where they are taught how to find excuses for treating people and bringing them back. No one goes into medicine out of a hatred of money. The US is full of dishonest doctors who make a living giving known drug addicts painkiller prescriptions. I could name a few for you, now that I think about it. Doctors aren’t particularly pure.

Here’s another reason I don’t believe everything doctors say. To this day, doctors have no clue how to prevent gallstones, and they’re not even trying to find out. They yank your gallbladder out, as if it were some sort of divine mistake. Then you get diarrhea for a year, you don’t absorb vitamins the way you should, and you may still have stones! You don’t actually need a gallbladder to have stones and pain, and the recurrence rate is high. Yeah, that’s what I want. Gallstone pain plus chronic diarrhea.

I had gallbladder pain, and I avoided the doctor. I went online to read about the problem. I read that some patients choose to “watch and wait,” and that they generally had to have surgery anyway. I read that modern medicine was 100% incapable of preventing stones. I decided to watch and wait, and I ate a lot of fatty food. That was about five years ago, and I haven’t been cut. If doctors really want my gallbladder, they are welcome to cut it out after I die. I won’t pay, though.

I don’t have a single prescription. May God keep me free of them until the fateful day when he ends my earthly existence with a meteor. That’s what I always pray for. You can’t beat a meteor. One second you’re here, and then you open your eyes and you’re in heaven, and your family or coworkers are looking for a mop.

Lightning is good, too, but you don’t want to get partially roasted and then survive.

I can’t tell you how happy I am with that blood pressure reading. Greatest thing that’s happened to me all year.

Okay, it’s January. But still.

Healing Comes in Different Flavors

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

But it Usually Comes With Hot Sauce

I do not understand the way diseases work.

Last month I was exposed repeatedly to someone who had a cold. After about a week, I finally felt something. I wrote about it here. I started to feel an ache in my bones and a general crappy cold-like feeling. I was getting sick. I used my Christian tools, speaking defeat to it and so on, and a couple of hours later, I broke out in a sweat, and the cold was gone.

Great.

I was well for a long time after that. It didn’t return.

Today is a Saturday. On Thursday, I realized I was starting to get sick again. Evidently I managed to run into a second disease in a month.

I used my tools again, but this time the problem stayed with me. It never got very bad. My nose didn’t run. I didn’t cough. My only problem was a mild sore throat and serious snoring that kept waking me up.

Today I went to a doc-in-the-box at a local strip mall. When you get a sore throat, you should get a strep test, so that’s what I wanted. While I was sitting in the waiting room, my legs started to sweat, and I felt like I had low blood sugar. In other words, I felt like a fever was breaking again.

By the time the doctor looked at me, I was considerably better. He didn’t even seem convinced I had been sick. He said my throat was a little red, and that the problem could have been caused by something I ate.

My best guess is that he thought I was a hypochondriac. I was definitely sick, and it was definitely an infection. It’s not my fault it started to go away while I was waiting to be examined.

That was a couple of hours ago, and now I feel almost normal.

Some day I want God to sit with me and review videos of my life. I will ask why I got delivered from a disease in two hours, and I will then ask why I got something a couple of weeks later and couldn’t make it go away. Then I will ask why it started to poop out in the doctor’s office.

You would think that if you received miraculous healings, it would be a consistent thing. It hasn’t worked that way for me. Are some diseases attached to bigger spirits than others? Are those spirits harder to get rid of? When I can’t get a quick healing, does it mean I’m hanging onto something that gives the spirit power to stay?

Mysterious.

In any case, I am very, very glad I don’t have a runny nose and a severe sore throat. I’m glad I don’t have chills or a real fever. My temperature was 97 in the exam room. It might be a little high right now, but if it is, it’s not by much.

I feel very good. Better than I usually do. I am full of energy and enthusiasm. How can that be?

Life is crazy.

Yesterday and today I tried to kill myself with spicy food. I always do that when I feel sick. It makes me feel like I’m torturing whatever is bothering me. I had Thai food for lunch. They brought out the little jars of Thai condiments, and I piled some sort of chili paste all over my food. It was lovely. Sometimes I eat so much of chili paste and whatever else they have, the little jars need to be refilled after I leave.

I hate going to doctors. I always tell God, “Please keep me away from the witch doctors,” referring to human beings with secular remedies. I suppose that’s insulting, but if you’ve ever been healed by God you know this to be true: there is nothing like the real thing. Supernatural healing is the best healing there is. No side effects. No charge. No pain. No rehab. No being stripped naked in front of strangers and having objects and people’s digits rammed up your rear end or your genitals. Can’t beat it.

I suspect there are some things I need to get rid of. Maybe some CD’s, for example. I believe objects associated with evil give the devil footholds in our lives. I bought an Aerosmith CD to listen to during exercise. I feel like I ought to get rid of it. That type of rock and roll has always had a bizarre association with Satan. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true. White kids who are into rock love the devil. They’re like Jews who go around wearing Hitler T-shirts.

I hope by tonight I’m so much better I no longer wake myself up with snoring. That’s the worst. You lie there hoping to fall asleep, and then it happens, and two seconds later you wake up with that sound in your ears.

Keep me away from the witch doctors, Lord. I don’t want to go out like that.

Just You Wait

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

I’ll Fix Those Windmills

My Literature Humanities quest continues, and appropriately, I have moved on to Don Quixote.

For those who have a mysterious lack of familiarity with western culture, Don Quixote was a man (if I refer to the protagonist instead of the book, I can avoid typing italic tags) who went nuts and decided he was a knight errant. It’s an absurd premise. No one would invent a patently false identity for himself in middle age and let it lead to his destruction. For example, no famous male athlete who used to appear on Wheaties boxes would decide he was a woman and have himself mutilated by doctors in order to bolster his conviction.

I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that Cervantes (avoiding italics again) is a better writer than I had remembered. Maybe I’m reading a new translation. The first fifteen pages of the book are really dull, but after that, it picks up a bit, and it’s not actually painful. It’s not Catch-22 or King Lear (dang it), but it’s not the never-ending mental toothache we call The Iliad (more italics!).

I did myself a disservice by re-reading Shakespeare (ahhhh) before beaching myself on the dry sand of Cervantes. Shakespeare is simply astounding. He is profound. He is skilled. He is incredibly witty. He is entertaining. I should have read him last. It’s like I slept with Rachel before marrying Leah.

I think Leah was the first person to use the phrase “chopped liver” metaphorically.

I’ll catch it for this, but I’ll say it anyway: Cervantes isn’t funny. He almost draws a chuckle once in a while, and to his credit, I can tell when he’s trying to make me laugh, but it’s just not happening. Am I simply biased because I resent having to read the classics (even when I’m the one who forced me to do it)? Well, I am biased. But I’m right. Rabelais is funny. Voltaire is hilarious. If schoolboy resentment were the whole explanation, I wouldn’t think any of these old coots were funny.

Someone I am too lazy to look up said, “The soul of wit is brevity.” Or, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” I guess I just proved I’m lazy. The second one works better. Anyway, one of the keys to humor is to avoid beating jokes to death. Ideally, a joke should have one syllable, or no syllables at all. I’m not sure Cervantes is capable of writing a sentence that doesn’t run to three lines on a page. He lived in a time when people had very little to do (rich people like Cervantes, I mean), so he didn’t spare the ink. That’s a huge mistake for a humorist.

I really look forward to getting deeper into the book (italics win), because it will mean I’m that much closer to closing it.

To make my mind feel better, I looked at a book I actually enjoy, and I saw that my memories of it did not do it justice. I have a copy of Eugene Butkov’s Mathematical Methods of Physics I bought when I was slowly dying in grad school. At the time, I liked it a lot, because I found it easy to understand. Until I looked at it again yesterday, I didn’t remember how much I had liked it.

Wait…I’m going from literature to physics! That’s not right! You’re not supposed to treat physics books like…books! You’re not supposed to enjoy them! Well, if you think that, you’re high. When you’re in the STEM world, you get pummeled with one bad text after another, and some of them are even worse than Homer. They are torture to read. It leaves you with a desperate appreciation for good texts. I actually wrote a textbook author a fan letter once.

Anyway, Butkov has a great virtue: he writes about math the way physicists teach math.

When a mathematician teaches you about a mathematical tool, he will be very rigorous. He will make sure he is absolutely correct about everything, in order to deter pedants who will pick his book apart if he slips. For this reason, mathematicians take a long time to teach methods. Physicists aren’t like that. A physicist will teach you, say, Stokes’ Theorem in fifteen minutes instead of a week. He’ll tell you what you need to know, and he’ll leave out the BS. It’s not a superior way to teach. It’s just the best way to teach people who are interested in physics, not math. If you study math itself, you want to know everything about it. If you study math for physics, you just want to be able to use it.

Butkov leaves out the endless i-dotting and t-crossing that makes other books tedious and hard to understand. Very nice.

Yesterday I went over a bunch of stuff concerning complex variables, and it was neat. In like ten minutes, I went from the beginning of the chapter through Euler and de Moivre. That’s how a physicist is supposed to do it. Let the math guys wallow in details. They get off on that stuff. And on pornographic Japanese cartoons.

I read something depressing in the foreword. He said he was writing with “less gifted” students in mind. Ouch! At least he didn’t use my name!

For the heck of it, I got out a Schaum outline and did a few problems.

This experience got me thinking about my physics days. I think of myself as someone who washed out of grad school, but that’s not really right. I left. I was not expelled. It’s true, I had some problems, due to being pumped full of mind-bending ADD drugs that would have driven a wooden Indian (PC alert) crazy, but when I quit, I was a few weeks into a new semester.

The department had made an accommodation for me; that’s true. They said I could continue to study if I agreed to pursue a master’s instead of a Ph. D. But it’s not like I got a bunch of F’s. I only got one bad grade.

My best guess is that if I had stayed and done okay for the year, they would have lifted the condition they gave me. That would just be common sense. I will never know, however.

I wonder why I’ve gotten so used to thinking of myself as someone who washed out.

What I achieved was not something to be ashamed of. On a certain date, I didn’t really know algebra. A couple of years after that date, I was in class with grad students, including a guy who taught my second semester of physics lab. A year after that, I believe, I was in one of our country’s top grad school programs. That’s not bad. Somehow I feel embarrassed about it, though. All I think about was leaving.

I know people who were thrilled to get into the University of Miami. I don’t tell them, but I’m embarrassed about my UM degrees. There is nothing wrong with UM, but I started my undergrad studies at Columbia University, so UM was a step down. I started my graduate studies at the University of Texas, which was an excellent department. Then I got my only graduate degree at UM, in law, which is a discipline for people of very ordinary gifts. “Smarter than the average bear,” as my Evidence professor Mickey Graham used to put it when he wanted to needle us.

Sometimes I feel like I couldn’t have made it in physics, and of course, that’s wrong. I got some good grades in graduate school, and what I did as an undergrad was just crazy. I suppose that since I left, I have gaslighted myself.

I remember how crazy the ADD drugs made me. I took my first test in Quantum Mechanics at UT, and I froze up. I could not do the problem. Then I returned to the TA office and did it on the blackboard in a few minutes. I just wrote it out. I didn’t have to puzzle and ponder.

Imagine how frustrating that is. Meanwhile, the department’s big fixation was on weeding people out, not helping them. I didn’t know that when I agreed to study there!

I didn’t like UT’s attitude toward students who had problems. Once I understood it from my own experience, I decided not to fail anyone in the class I taught. There was a girl who was in turmoil of some kind, and she deserved an F. I told her she was getting a C, and that should could relax.

Was that a bad thing to do? No. She was pre-med. A C wasn’t going to get her an undeserved position in medical school and allow her to kill people with her incompetence. It was simply going to help her avoid disgrace and dealing with the deans.

Reading Butkov was very nice because even if he wrote it for the sweathogs of physics, it reminded me that I was bright enough to do the work.

I hope I’ll never stop rebuilding my knowledge of math and physics. I hate looking at my old homework papers and being unable to understand them.

It was a mistake for me to get involved in liberal arts stuff. The chairman of the English department sent me a letter asking me to apply to Columbia, and everyone assumed I would write literature, but that was a blind trail. The fact that you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should do it. I should have stayed away from that nonsense and stuck with the technical stuff. I may be less gifted in that area (or I may not) but I could have done it, and it would have prevented me from trying to join a segment of society that would never have welcomed me. I was already conservative when I left college, and I was on my way to becoming a Christian. People like that do not survive in the arts.

Anyway, I had nothing to say. To write novels and plays, you have to have something to say. There has to be something inside you that wants out. I didn’t have that. So regardless of how well I strung words together, I wasn’t actually capable of writing literature.

Other types of writing were closed to me, too. The first newspaper editor I wrote for said I was brilliant, but gradually the local papers became closed off to me. If you’re not a raging socialist, people will eventually figure it out, and then you will find them inching away from you. They control the newspapers. I could never have had a newspaper humor column or a comic strip, even though my work impressed people to whom it was submitted. A few people get through the red blockade, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to follow their example. The odds against people like me are overwhelming.

I would advise any young Christian to avoid the arts. You will not make it there, unless you’re a sellout. Don’t even try. In other areas, like business, medicine, and the STEM world, you have a chance. STEM people generally hate God, but on the other hand, he doesn’t come up that often when you’re designing a bridge or an engine, so unless you make your religion an issue, you should be able to fly under the radar without becoming a complete whore.

By the way, I’ve learned a few things about the Christian music business, and it looks like it’s fairly whored-up, too. I would be hesitant to try to make it in that arena if I were a young musician. I shouldn’t be surprised. Look how whored-up every single large charismatic ministry is. If it’s a big organization, you can generally bet the devil is running it, no matter whose face appears on the label.

This is what I’m thinking about this fine weekend. May your day be free of academics.

Tired of the Gods of Mainstream Christianity

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Hurry up, Seventeenth Century

I finally finished Montaigne today, with no small relief. From my standpoint as a Christian, I think he knew very little about the real nature of life, and his lengthy streams of speculation were not always pleasant to endure.

Having closed the book, I have one impression that stands out above everything else: historically, European Christians haven’t been real Christians; they have been pagans who went to church. Maybe they managed to receive salvation, but they didn’t think like Christians. They didn’t know the Holy Spirit. They were influenced much more by people like Socrates and Plato than they were by Isaiah and Paul.

From the things Dante and Montaigne wrote, I can see that they had much more respect for dead Greeks and Romans than they had for Biblical figures. They quote the ancient pagans time and again, and Dante even puts their ridiculous heathen deities in positions of power in heaven and hell. They are like Jews who revere Talmudic scholars so much they would never question them. If Seneca or some other dead pantheist said it hundreds of years ago, you can cite it as a Christian would cite scripture. You can consider the blather of the ancients to be infallible. From a Christian perspective, it should be obvious how crazy that is.

Many people hold Christianity responsible for the Dark Ages. I wonder if that’s true. I’m starting to think pantheism is to blame. People like Montaigne had so much respect for the classics, they may have been unwilling to consider new ideas. There is a huge gulf of time between the classics and the era of Montaigne, and somehow, very little important thought was recorded in that period. I wonder how many original medieval minds got shot down for criticizing Aristotle or wondering aloud whether Christians should continue promoting the homosexual predators of The Symposium.

Past authority is a great thing in some ways. It lifts you up out of the mud of prehistoric ignorance. A person who knows the classics is better off than someone who grows up with very little inherited knowledge. On the other hand, it can paralyze you. If you crucify everyone who disagrees with your moldy old books, you can expect to remain stuck in the first century forever.

Christians should never have looked to pantheists for moral instruction. How can anyone ever have thought it was a good idea? Paul went to Greece and Rome to change people’s minds, not to adopt their garbage. People who came after Paul weren’t that smart. They tried to build a Christian church on a pagan foundation.

Montaigne ended his book with a plea to Apollo, not God. Apollo is a Satanic deity. You can’t have Apollo and Jesus; you have to choose. Montaigne was a smart guy, but he could not figure that out. I would no more praise Apollo than I would praise the devil himself. For all we know, Apollo is Satan.

It’s insulting to put a thing like that in a book, when you claim to be a Christian. Jesus was tortured to death for Montaigne. Apollo was not. Jesus allowed himself to be killed so Apollo could be discredited and so his prisoners could be saved from hell. Apollo is the enemy of every Christian. How can you praise someone like that, even if you’re not serious about his existence?

Apollo isn’t a joke, and neither were Zeus, Aphrodite, and the rest of them. People killed in their names. They made sacrifices to them. Antiochus sacrificed a pig to Zeus in the temple in Jerusalem. We don’t take the pantheist “gods” seriously today, but an astonishing amount of evil has been done in their names.

I don’t like reading books that try to supply heathen solutions to our problems. I don’t have any interest in philosophy or self-help. God gives me answers that are pretty clear. I don’t wonder about things that get philosophy professors excited; who would want a person like that as a life coach? I don’t wonder about the meaning of life. I don’t wonder why evil exists. I know the answers already, and they’re not complicated or hard to understand.

Evil exists because God refuses to withdraw free will. The purpose of our lives is to give God pleasure. This is what the Bible says. I have no difficulty believing it. Next question.

Montaigne says to give in to disease and let it run its course. God says disease is a curse, and, as my own experience proves, we can be healed supernaturally. I know who I’d rather believe. Montaigne says it’s wrong to cultivate the soul and fight the flesh. Well, God calls the evil we do “works of the flesh.” God says we have to crucify the flesh. Who is right? God, or someone he created?

Montaigne says “supercelestial” thinking gets along very well with base carnality, meaning he finds people who claim to love God contemptible and hypocritical. This is part of his rationale for giving in to the flesh. Imagine if Jesus had felt that way. He would have skipped the crucifixion, and we would all be on our way to hell.

There is an ancient conflict between pagans and people who serve Yahweh. In the centuries preceding the birth of Jesus, it was just as bad as it is today. Jews in Israel wanted to be like the Greeks who ruled their country, and that meant becoming huge sports fans and participating in nude athletics. That meant exposing their circumcisions, which set them apart. Jews started trying to undo their circumcisions, and some refused to circumcise their sons. People were drawn into idolatry, and of course, that’s why the Jews remained a conquered people. Christians are infected with the Hellenism bug, too, and it still controls most of us.

The “gods” of the Old Testament pagans aren’t different from the “gods” of the Greeks and Romans. They’re the same. They’re called by different names in different countries. They’re the same “gods” the Egyptians worshiped. Nothing has changed. Today most of us don’t worship them as gods, but we live and think like pagans, so we end up at the same place spiritually.

To be destroyed, you don’t have to follow a precise formula. You just have to fail to find the one true path. Satan doesn’t care. He’s all about options.

Oh, boy. Cervantes is up next. Give me strength. The first passage alone is 269 pages. I read the whole book in college (probably), so I don’t feel bad about sticking to the syllabus and skipping long passages.

Maybe it’s not as bad as I remembered. I can hope.

Do the Roman “gods” appear in Cervantes? I don’t recall running into them. It would be nice to get away from them.

I can’t imagine living in a world without evil people and spirits, or even a world, like the post-Tribulation earth, in which they are restrained and dominated. It will be too beautiful for me to imagine. Try to picture yourself looking at a morning newspaper and not reading about crime, war, disease, and death. That’s the future, for people who believe. There won’t be any problems with Hellenism, because the beings responsible for it will be bound in hell or running around screaming in the lake of fire. It will be as if the entire universe got a delousing.

I don’t care what people think of my beliefs. I’m going to die. I’m as good as dead right now, and so are they. My death is closer to me than my birth, and it’s not far away at all. If I am criticized, it’s by people who don’t know anything, and I will be free of it permanently before very long. If I get killed for what I think and say, the enemies that kill me will be providing me with an escape from their vexatious presence and a ticket to the presence of God. That’s a win for me.

Like Jesus, I am against religious tolerance. I have no confidence in any scheme that doesn’t involve the one real God. I have no confidence in man. I don’t want to weasel around and pretend I think other religions are okay. I leave that for people like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren. The fact that lost people are willing to extend a foot and rub your eager, appeasing belly shouldn’t determine what you believe or claim to believe.

I better start steeling myself for Cervantes. I think he will make me miss drinking coffee.

This Year’s Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

If he Loses, it’s Robbery

Hate telemarketers? Of course you do. A guy in Texas (I assume from his area code) has come up with an amazing way to get revenge. You can forward their calls to his bots, and they will waste the telemarketers’ time.

The enterprise is called “The Jolly Roger Telephone Company.” It has a Youtube channel. Here’s an example of a call, for your listening pleasure.

Trump’s Russian Hookers

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Media Floundering Reaches new and Exciting Lows

I don’t watch the news any more, but I’m making an exception today. Donald Trump is having a press conference which will basically be a victory dance over the prone body of the mainstream media.

In 2016, someone put out a ridiculous “dossier” claiming Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on a mattress on which Barack and Michelle Obama had slept. Major media outlets have published the story. Some have merely referred to it. CNN’s take on the story is so benign it almost amounts to an endorsement. Now the entire world knows the story is a hoax, and I want to see what Trump says.

Hmm…he was blunt, but he didn’t obsess on the story. He said it might have come from our intelligence agencies, and that this would be a major “blot” on their records.

That was pretty restrained, considering the speaker.

Journalists are not smart people. We can’t seem to absorb that fact. In college, they major in makeup, plastic surgery, diction, and wardrobe. That’s about all they know. Among journalists, people like Megyn Kelly seem like geniuses simply because they went to law school. Why do we trust journalists?

Let me refer to my new buddy Michel Seigneur de Montaigne. He astutely pointed out that people credit things they see in print more than things they hear, and he questioned that mindset. He was right. Put someone’s words in a newspaper, and suddenly they seem like the voice of God. Put a dimwit on TV, and suddenly he seems like the oracle of Delphi.

I think we all remember how Wolf Blitzer did on Jeopardy.

Trump looks pretty good. He is relatively sedate, he is serious, and he seems to be taking his responsibilities seriously. I hope that continues, but even if he spends his whole presidency making childish tweets and calling people names, it will be worth it to have the sane federal judges he appoints.

You have to wonder what the press will try next. Prank phone calls? Toilet-papering the Rose Garden? Sending pizzas to the White House? The childishness and gullibility boggle the mind.

It’s going to be an entertaining four years.

Geppetto’s Folly

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

In the Future, not all Robots Will be Helpful

My Arduino studies are still progressing.

As I wrote in earlier posts, I got myself an Arduino UNO, and I started learning to program it. I went to a website belonging to a person known as Ladyada, and I began working my way through her tutorials. I’ve run into a few snags, so while I haven’t stopped, I’m not moving as fast as I would like.

To program an Arduino, you have to write in a language which is either C or C++. If you’re wondering which it is, so am I. The Arduino website says, “the Arduino language is merely a set of C/C++ functions that can be called from your code.” They don’t know, either.

I guess they do know, but I don’t. I have no idea what the difference is, except that C++ came later.

Arduino comes with its own programming editor or “IDE” (Integrated Development Environment), which is a program like a word processor. You write the programs in it, and it can compile them (turning them into software that actually works) and help you debug them. It also helps you lay your programs out in a way that makes them easier to understand. Supposedly.

I say “supposedly” because it doesn’t really do that. At least it doesn’t seem like it. When you write computer programs, you make long lists of procedures and statements, and they tell the computer what to do. You’ll say things like, “If this, then that, but if this, if this, if this, then that, or else this.” You have to keep track of which “if” goes with which statements and so on. It’s very helpful if the program turns things different colors and indents them so things are clearly identified and so blobs of text that go together are clumped together visually. Arduino doesn’t seem to do this very well.

While I was using it (and getting confused), I remembered my ten minutes of college programming experience. I programmed in a language called Pascal (so named because computer science students are always under pressure – I kid), and I used a program called Borland Turbo Pascal. My dim and unreliable recollection is that Turbo Pascal did a very good job of coloring and clumping. I figured there had to be something similar out there (free) for C/C++, because the human mind’s ability to keep lines of code straight hasn’t improved since I took that course.

I found Turbo C++, which is apparently Borland’s C++ equivalent of Turbo Pascal. Sadly, when you run it, it takes up the entire screen, so you can’t move stuff to Arduino and upload it to your board.

I started looking for other stuff. I already have something called Dev C++, but it didn’t make me happy. I found Visual Studio, which is a free Microsoft program (free for hobbyists), and I decided to try that.

Visual Studio takes about a month to install. I believe that’s because it’s a huge program you can use to create your own version of AutoCAD or just about anything else. I was planning to use it to make three LED’s flash on an Arduino board, so maybe it was overkill. It took quite a while to figure out how to make it run, and when I did, it didn’t look too promising. People swear by it, though, so I plan to keep trying a while longer.

The tutorials themselves turned out to have a major flaw. The instructor asked students to write a program, and then way down the page, after it was all over with, she said the program wouldn’t work.

I learned this after trying to make it work. For several hours.

This is not the best way to present a course. When a problem has no solution, you really want to tell people up front.

It’s not surprising that a STEM instructor would do this. When I was in school, they did it all the time. They would give us integrals that diverged or problems the professors couldn’t solve, and they wouldn’t tell us until we had pulled all-nighters failing to find the answers.

The lesson I learned from this is to read the whole page before starting to write anything.

I’m starting to realize I need to think a lot about C (or C++) itself as I learn this. It’s not enough to take the little bits Ladyada provides and extrapolate. You have to know more than that. What’s the correct punctuation (or whatever) for an if statement? Can you read the state of a pin powering an LED to tell whether the LED is on? Things like that. If you start guessing, you end up with problems.

Arduino uses integers to label pins on the board. I don’t get that at all. If “int SwitchPin = 2” means the second pin is named “SwitchPin,” then doesn’t any integer you set equal to 2 become tied to that pin? I have no clue. Very confusing.

I’m going to have to go back and forth from C++ to Arduino to figure everything out, and I guess I should join the Arduino forum. I really hope it’s not full of snotty nerds.

I’m trying to come up with a strategy for writing programs. I think it’s best to start by writing a plain-language version of every program first. “This program turns an LED on if it’s off and off if it’s on.” Stuff like that. Then I can break it down into necessary steps, and then I can think up ways to say it in C++. Maybe that will be helpful.

Every mission needs a statement.

I still want to build a self-balancing robot, because they’re cool. I started looking into ways to build a robot that balances on one wheel or ball, and that got me to gyroscopes. Thanks to Arduino, I now know how gyroscopes are used to make rockets fly straight. You can go to Youtube and see the actual gyroscopes that made V2 rockets fly straight on the way to England.

I’m kind of hung up now, because I can’t decide between a kit and buiding a robot from scratch. A kit would get me past the relatively boring tasks of choosing parts and making components by hand, but it might push me into an area where I mainly turn the robot on and off instead of learning how it works.

It would be neat to make a robot that goes from one room to another and bothers people. You record a message into it, and then you send it across the house to your wife to say, “Bring your man a beer, pronto!” I’d need a really brave volunteer to try it out, though.

On a more serious note, though, I am disturbed when I think about the power machines will have in the very near future. As I check out the things very ordinary people with little training are doing with Arduino, as well as the crazy things well-financed organizations are doing with sophisticated electronics, I realize we are on the cusp between two ages: the age in which men were more capable than machines, and the age when machines will be more capable than men.

Some people worry that machines will become self-aware and then try to exterminate us. That’s silly. There is no reason to think electronics will ever be self-aware. The fact that something reacts to external stimuli doesn’t mean its aware, unless a TV is aware when you push a button on your remote. Machines won’t be aware. But they will act as though they were, so the future still looks pretty scary.

Right now, I get calls from robots that argue with me. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, get ready, because it will. They call and ask you something which is obviously intended to smoke you out as a sales prospect, and something tells you you’re not dealing with a human being. You ask, “Are you a human being?” The robot pauses, laughs, and says, “I’m a real human being.” It has been programmed to say that. Then you say, “Can you say ‘God Bless America’ for me?” Then the robot is stumped. They don’t program them to do things like that.

I offended a legitimate caller the other day. She happened to have a voice that sounded too perfect, and I thought she was trying to sell me something. I started telling her I didn’t talk to robots. She argued with me, so I asked her to say ‘Gerald Ford.'” I like tormenting robots. To my amazement, she said it. Then I had to apologize. Unfortunately, she had never received a call from a robot, so she assumed I was crazy when I told her what was going on.

A good sales robot can get through several sentences without giving you conclusive proof it’s a machine. That’s remarkable. If they can do that in 2017, think what they’ll be able to do in 2025. It won’t be too long before it will be impossible to tell a robot from a person, without considerable effort. Eventually, it won’t be possible at all. Then we’ll end up in a Blade Runner scenario, where an average person will never be sure what he’s dealing with.

Robots already have superhuman processing speed, and in the future, we will be able to give them superhuman physical speed and agility. They’ll be able to move around. They’ll be stronger and faster than we are. They’ll be able to predict what we do. They’ll do our jobs–even complex ones–better than we do. They won’t hate us, because they won’t really have awareness, but they can certainly be programmed to react as though they hate us. From outside, a being that mimics awareness perfectly might as well be aware. We could find ourselves dominated and abused by machines we don’t have the brains or strength to fight.

In the movies, we get around this with ridiculous bits of code saying things like, “Never harm a human being.” That’s beyond stupid. If we have to rely on code–and we do–we’re in trouble. Look how much malicious code there is right now. Do you think things will be different when machines become autonomous? Why would they?

If the human race lasts long enough, we will eventually see people sentenced for programming robots to hurt or kill their owners. It’s inevitable.

There are a lot of malicious people in the tech arena. Right now, they program machines to do evil. In the future, they’ll be able to program machines to program machines to do evil. When that happens, we will be removed from the loop and the problem will be self-sustaining and self-augmenting.

Nikola Tesla predicted that wars would one day be fought by unmanned machines. He was right, just as he was right about so many other things. But it’s going to be worse than that. It won’t be just war, which takes place between nations. It will be intramural conflict, within cities and nations, between human beings and nationless machines. Won’t that be something?

We will have to delay things by putting restrictions on machines. We always say guns don’t kill people, and that’s true. Computerized machines, however, will kill people. Unlike guns, they’ll do violence without our input. They’ll be like super-powerful pit bulls that have to be penned and detuned. Wait and see. It will happen. But we can’t stay in control forever.

Autonomous machines will be able to shoot people extremely accurately and quickly. They’ll be able to dispense deadly chemicals. They’ll be able to blind us with lasers. They’ll act so fast the cops won’t be able to react. They’ll be like the big nasty drones in the Robocop movies, only much faster. They’ll be able to use weapons that exist today, with skill and speed we can’t match, and they won’t feel pain or have fear. They won’t feel regret or mercy. They won’t be concerned about jail.

I wonder if anyone is even thinking about defensive measures yet. I suppose they are. I guess they’ll be a lot like the machines they’ll have to battle. I would imagine you would need a robot to fight a robot.

I won’t worry about this stuff. I don’t know if the world will last long enough for rebellious machines to become problematic. I’m a Christian, so I expect this age to end pretty soon. In any case, making a primitive Arduino robot that wanders around the house won’t speed up our doom.

Arthur Koestler compared the development of the thinking parts of the human brain, in our species, to the development of a tumor in an individual human being. We have greater reasoning abilities than animals, but our emotions are just like theirs, and our ability to control them is also undeveloped. We develop technology, and then we invariably misuse it because we lack love and mercy. We should not have been surprised when we read about drones shooting video through bathroom windows, and we should not be surprised the first time a robot kills a person.

I never expected life to get this weird. But predicting the future should not be hard for those who can see the obvious.