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Archive for June, 2010

June 22nd, 2010

The Danger Of Revisiting The Past…

They say men don’t change, they reveal themselves.  I suppose that’s possibly true of the man to himself.  There are things within us we will never get over.  For some of us, it’s a set of prejudices.  For others, it’s matters of the heart.  I am (I realize this) a sentimentalist.  Once upon a time I thought it was just a little thing about me.  But no…it’s not just a little thing.  I have to be careful.

I’m going through photos of friends from back in the day for posting in a Facebook album.   And I am looking at one of a friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time.  In it, he is smiling at something just off camera.  It is a perfectly happy, carefree smile.  The smile I used to see more of, once upon a time.  It puts me into a dangerous state.  I am remembering how much I liked him.  I am remembering how well we got along together.  Left shoe-right shoe.  Peas in a pod.  One starts the sentence, the other completes it.  Just about as close as two guys can be and not be lovers.

I stopped talking to him when he took that detour into Rush Limbaugh land.  I was being more open about my sexual orientation, getting damn tired of always having to tread lightly around the prejudices of the people around me, the prejudices we’d all had drilled into us ever since we were kids.   I was in my 40s, and beginning to realize I wasn’t going to have a life completely free of the closet, if I didn’t start living one now.  My friends had enough time by then to get over it.  But the more open I was, the more static I got from this particular one.

So one day, I just gave up and stopped speaking to him.  He would call from time to time, and I would not answer.  Just leave me alone…

He is in very poor health these days.  His situation is not good.  He lives on disability, and his knack for trading.  Cigarettes are slowly killing him.  The last time I saw him, he was practically a skeleton of his former self.   And I’m looking at this photograph, and his smile, and I’m wondering now what kind of asshole I’ve been all this time.

He’s your friend…he’s down on his luck…he may be dying…and you’re being a jerk Bruce Garrett…

So I call and hear his voice for the first time in a long while, and with that image of him from back in the 70s in mind I am almost in tears.  Hey guy…how are you these days…everything okay…? And we chat for a while,  and…

…and it doesn’t take long for him to remind me why I stopped speaking to him.

He: (talking about the lady he’s been seeing…his on again off again girlfriend.  He’s complaining about her sudden mood swings.  One moment its all good, the next its Stressville…)

Me: I know the feeling.  I was down in Florida a couple weeks ago, and got a chance to see my high school crush for a while.  He’s got a really nice place down there and he invited me…

He: (changing the subject) Did I tell you about the Smith & Wesson Airweight I got…

Ah yes…  I get to hear about your love life but don’t I dare tell you about mine.  And it gets better…

Me: So you have a computer again?  You doing anything besides the eBay thing?  Facebook?

He: Yeah I’m on Facebook…

Me: (remembering) Oh…right…

He: Yeah, and I defriended you because I didn’t want all that gay stuff showing up on my page.  I didn’t want my other friends seeing it.  You can be offended now for a couple minutes and then get over it…

Me: Ah…right.  You’re still a little fuzzy about how all this stuff works aren’t you?  Your friends see your wall, not your news page.  The news page shows you stuff your friends are doing.  Their notes and links and status messages don’t all show up on your wall unless you choose to share them.  The news page you see when you sign in isn’t your wall.

He: (changing the subject) I don’t do eBay anymore.  I am on Gun Traders now…

…and so on.  Of course the problem wasn’t your friends might see All That Gay Stuff on your page, but that you kept seeing it.  That was always the problem.  If I have to get over anything I suppose it’s you guy.  You will never get over my being gay will you?  Never.  Won’t happen.

Right.  I have to keep that old photograph of you in its context whenever I look at it.  That was a different time.  A different universe practically.  We were so close back then.  Best friends practically.  But you took a detour into Rush Limbaugh land and we can’t talk anymore.  I suppose we’re not the only friends who have been separated by the culture war.  But…really…it wasn’t Rush who got between us, it was your cheapshit prejudices.  You want to think you like me as a friend, but you don’t like Me.  It was that name on the closet door you made a friend of.  There is nothing behind that door anymore.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

June 18th, 2010

Entropy Always Wins

Via Sullivan…   Here’s a handy flow chart showing how various energy sources were used here in the U.S. in 2005…

The contribution of the alternative fuels is vastly smaller then even I had imagined.  Even hydro-electric sources are way too little to be of any reasonable help replacing petroleum, natural gas and coal.  Take away petroleum and you have not only eliminated motor vehicles for all practical purposes…you’ve killed off the airplane.  Without petroleum and natural gas we just about have no industry left.

But all that wasn’t the first thing that caught my eye here.  Look…just look…at how much goes to waste.  That’s the gray band on the graph.

Think just of your automobile.  Unless yours is an all electric model, it’s the heat from gasoline combustion that makes it move.  That heat is almost entirely lost to entropy, in the form of waste heat.  Very little of it actually moves the car.  Most of it goes out the tailpipe.  Some leaves via the radiator and some just radiates off the motor, drive train and exhaust pipes.  And when you apply the brakes, the energy of your car’s motion is reduced to brake pad and disk heat and radiates into the air.  Some electric and hybrid vehicles recapture some of that energy via “dynamic braking”  (that is, you load the traction wheels with an electric generator which charges batteries).  But even there, most of the momentum of the car is simply lost to heat, to entropy.

Think you’re getting a better deal from an electric automobile?  Just look at the lost energy in the electric grid.  That’s what really shocks me here…how much energy is lost in electric power transmission.  Every time you put a current down a wire you create a magnetic field.  That field radiates out into space, and takes energy away from the current you are throwing down the wire.  A/C transmission recaptures some of that, by switching polarity so that the magetic field repeatedly collapses back into the wire and gives it a little extra jolt.  I thought it was more efficient then this.  But…jeeze…look at it.  I suppose a lot of that is also heat loss in transformers and switches too.

Entropy.  You really have to admire its relentlessness.  It’s like a tax on everything you do, every muscle you move, every breath you take practically.

I have no idea what a post oil world is going to look like.  I am not simply an optimist.  I think I’m a little bit more of a realist then the doomsayers.  Necessity as they say, is the mother of invention, and I am certain human ingenuity, curiosity, ambition, greed and just plain laziness will find a way to keep our factories and our vehicles in motion.  Eventually.  But that future is going to look very, Very different from anything being imagined now.

A larger version of the graph is Here.

by Bruce | Link | React! (3)

June 17th, 2010

The Joy Of Ink On Paper…My Lousy Handwriting Notwithstanding…

This morning, after weeks of cleaning and re-cleaning, I think my pen finally forgave me.

Mom may have known she was raising a little geek when in 1959 she asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told her I wanted a fountain pen.  I was six, and I’d seen a teacher using one and was fascinated by it.  I got my fountain pen, a Sheaffer sized for a child’s hand, and I’ve been writing with them ever since.

Fountain pens are archaic, fussy, finicky things.  But the graphic artist in me (I still draw and sketch with the “traditional” tools of pencil, pen and paper) loves their tactile feel.  And they have one supreme advantage over all other handwriting implements: they will, over time, break in to your particular way of holding a pen…customizing themselves to your own unique handwriting.  The disadvantage though is you cannot then ever loan yours to someone else, particularly if you write with a light touch and they with a heavy one, because the moment they us your pen it will never be right in your hand again.  Ever.  Ask me how I know.

They have other disadvantages, mostly being that they’re high maintenance things.  You are always cleaning and refilling them…a process that becomes a ritual after a while.  And they tend to form a fondness for a particular brand of ink, so should that brand become unavailable, or changes its formulation, your pen will complain bitterly in its own way (skip… skip… skip…) for weeks if not months, until you hit on a substitute it finds acceptable.  Some weeks ago, having run out of my pen’s preferred brand (Parker, black) and not finding any at the usual places, I let a pen store salesman talk me into a substitute.  I won’t name it here, each individual fountain pen is unique enough that what doesn’t work in one can work very well in another regardless of make.  The pen that shipped from the factory right beside mine might adore that brand of ink for all I know.  But it took me weeks of cleaning and re-cleaning my pen to get it to forgive me.  Yes, yes…I promise to feed you the Exact ink you want dear…

It’s a Mont Blanc 149.  I bought it in 1979 for a figure I was embarrassed to say to anyone and still am somewhat.   It took me months of saving to be able to afford it…at the time I was a mail room clerk for a data processing company…and what is worse, on a scale of 1 to 10 my handwriting is 11 in awfulness.  But my hands are finicky about their tools and my drawing/writing hand knew…it knew…the moment it held one at the Fahrney’s on F Street in Washington…that was The One.  I go through the technical pens I use for drawing like crazy because they don’t make them to last, and the nibs wear oddly enough that it doesn’t take long for me to feel uncomfortable drawing with one.  Wish I could find a good source for nibs for the dip pens I used to use…but don’t get me started…

Some years after I bought the 149 I bought a Parker Duofold that I like very much, and still occasionally use.  But…the 149 is My Pen.  I checked recently and the thing sells for Many hundreds more now then it did back then so I’m not sure I would buy one now.  Like the Mercedes alas, it’s a status symbol.  But that is not why I bought it.  Materialism is when you want something just to have it…as if the having of it makes you too an object of worship.  An enthusiast uses what they buy, takes pleasure in the experience of human excellence.  You are not the worshiped, but the worshiper.  It’s not commerce, it’s art.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

June 10th, 2010

Not Quite All The Way To Alcoholicville Apparently…

This last trip to Disney World found me hitting the Grand Mariner Orange Slushie stand in Epcot France and the Frozen Margarita stand in Epcot Mexico the moment I entered the park.  The stresses of my life at this stage of it are making it increasingly hard to just…relax…and enjoy myself without some form of self-medication.  It worries me.  But the worry is itself becoming more and more vague.  I’m starting not to care about my health anymore.

Anyway…I saw this graph which perked me up a tad…

My college experiences were So Different from most of the other kids…   Who the hell even thinks they can down 10 drinks in a sitting, let alone that it would take that much for them to start puking their guts out?  Anyway, the first thing I noticed about the graph is it Starts at five drinks.

So…I’m still cool.  Five drinks and I am, not kidding, on the floor.  If my end point is where everyone else is just getting started then I’m not doing so bad.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not Quite All The Way To Alcoholicville Apparently…

The Consequences Of Same Sex Marriage

This handy graph should explain it all…

…you’re welcome.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

In The Mood

I’m in the mood to draw something…

What Is A Human Being?

These are not always happy moods…

Self Portrait With Better Medium

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on In The Mood

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