Archive for the ‘Useless Blither’ Category

You should subscribe to exactly what I listen to, and then we can talk about them all the time. Though I tend to not remember the specifics of what I hear for more than 5 minutes after I hear them.

Top Tier: I listen to every episode of these podcasts, flushing other ones to make time as needed.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: At the top of the list because when he drops a 5 hour episode, I stop listening to everything else until it’s done. Yes, he’s over the top. Yes, he focuses on gore and yes, he can get repetitive. Yes, it takes an hour for you to figure out what the topic is, then the next two hours feels like introduction, then you’re done. But it’s still high quality, well presented, good production value, always informative.
Revolutions: From the creator of my old favorite “History of Rome” podcast, Michael Duncan does a great job summarizing (with some impressive depth) events surrounding some of the world’s great revolutions. There was a time when this was the only podcast I listened to at 1.0x speed, just because I didn’t want to miss details.
Reply All: Always intriguing. Light, funny, well done.
Radiolab: Interesting, balanced, amusing.
Crimetown: Interesting stories, told well.
S-Town: A one time event; heart rending, a spiritual successor to season 1 of Serial.
The Fall of Rome Podcast: Patrick Wyman is a real historian, and this history goes into greater depth than the other two above. The production value is lower and he can be a little dry, but the content is heady as Wyman focuses on the forces behind the key historical figures and events.
Common Sense with Dan Carlin: Carlin’s libertarian political/society podcast, but aptly named. Lots of well thought out ideas. And anti-Trump.

Safe for Now: Listen to most, pleased to see new episodes.
The Bill Simmons Podcast: Light and easy, sometimes funny, often about the NBA, good for listening to while doing labor intensive tasks they may force you to miss a few minutes at a time.
Serial: Absence makes you forget. Season 1 was a force of nature. Season 2 wasn’t. Not sure if there will be a season 3.
PTI: Sometimes funny, informative for keeping up on the day-to-day of the sports’ world. Repetitve after 15 or so years, but still decent. Light listening.
This American Life: Thought provoking, but often depressing and highly slanted. Slanted toward things that I happen to agree with mostly, but you can’t really make believe that they select a full spectrum of stories to represent “this american life.”
Pod Save America: Funny, liberal political show. You listen to it and wonder how the Trump people can exist.
99% Invisible: Generally interesting. A little dry in presentation. Subject matter is tangentially related to stuff that I’m interested in. Listening to it at the behest of a friend.
Transforming Grace Podcast: I’ll be honest, I skip the ones not done by Glenn Parkinson, pastor at my old church. He’s just so excellent. But I am like 3 months behind always.
History Matters Podcast: Legit PhD historians talking about history, though perhaps overlaughing at things that aren’t particularly funny. Some interesting parallels, and occasionally you’ll hear a point that seems so ironclad that you have a hard time seeing why it can’t be policy.

The Cut Line: Things I’m going to delete now that I’m done with this list.
The Ringer NBA Show: I want to like the Ringer’s NBA show. I just don’t like that guy that much. Much preferred Zach Lowe. Maybe I’ll see if he’s still around.
With Friends Like These: Reportedly about some liberals getting the opinions of conservatives, then hashing out the differences and coming to some mutual understanding of their positions. But not really about this. And the liberals come off as preaching and condescending in the end. A good example of what people dislike about the left without also being funny, clever, or particularly informed (like Pod Save America).

The Liturgists Podcast: Recently subscribed after Gungor concert. Will see if I like it.

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The Second Law

Last Sunday, a lady at a ministry table at church gave Abby a red helium balloon. We attached a 7 foot long string to it, and Abby carried it around all afternoon, bouncing it off the ceiling like she was dribbling a basketball in zero gravity. She loved it.

But rubber balloons aren’t particularly good at keeping the inside in and the outside out. The helium slowly leeched out overnight. By morning, the balloon only had enough buoyancy to float a foot or two of the yarn. It hovered pitifully above the floor.

Abby was excited to see the balloon again when she woke up, but quickly became concerned. “Ut-oh…Up in the air! Up in the air” she encouraged, as she tried desperately to loft the balloon.


Alas, entropy


You want your daughter to be happy, you want things to always be perfect for her. You hate seeing disappointment. It was such a wonderful balloon, so different than those things bound to the earth by the pull of gravity. But now it’s broken. And it’s not the only thing. Life will be filled with expectations that fall short, promises that are broken, opportunities that evaporate, and dreams that are shattered. As much as I’d like to run out to the store and buy another helium balloon, I know that the next one will deflate too. Best get used to it, little girl. In the meantime, I’ll pray that balloons are the most of your problems, because this world can be a whole lot worse than that.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about weight and buoyancy, but I decided that wasn’t depressing enough to write about.

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They have backed away from the assertion that the course was changed prior to the last communication. It was an accident. I still like meteor.

I find it unlikely that all of the key “evidence” in the MH370 case is accurate. Synthesizing the disparate evidence into a coherent story is difficult.

Here’s an attempt:
Co-Pilot shows up to work drunk…or maybe he tries to invite another lady to the cockpit, as he has in the past. A consummate professional, the Pilot is enraged…tells him he’s going to report him, tells him he’s a waste, tells him he’ll never fly again. Co-pilot, who is engaged to a daughter of a pilot, goes blind with fear and rage, stabs pilot in the throat with a pen. Self-righteous prick, I’ll show you.

In the next few minutes he regroups. Now he’s facing a murder charge…uhh…well…can’t go to China…turns off the transponder, changes course, calmly says good night as he’s already thinking about what to do. Slowly realizes he’s screwed no matter what. Locks the door to the cockpit. Flies as high as the plane will go, what the hell, always wanted to do that. Turns left, turns right…now he’s just flying, randomly. Gets out over the Indian Ocean. Turns south. Says to himself, “I wonder what happens if I just let the autopilot fly this thing indefinitely?” Wonders if they’d ever find him; at least no one will ever know what I’ve done.

Crew and passengers can’t breach the door. No cell coverage in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere, no shipping lanes, equidistant to the satellite for ping purposes, has fulfilled all radar constraints, has the co-pilot saying goodnight calmly after already changing course. He fulfills a bizarre, non-premeditated but skillfully executed death wish.

I have another one too, which involves a meteor. But it doesn’t fit the “already programmed the turn before saying goodnight” scenario, which basically eliminates natural causes. My top-4 least trusted pieces of information that have the most important impact on the theories of what happened:
1) The course change happened prior to the goodnight. This effectively eliminates mechanical failure and points toward premeditation. Yet, how do you explain both pilots going along with it without any communication between them? They were randomly paired. One of them has to have done it alone, and the co-pilot is the one that said good night after the supposed course change. This is key if true. I’m unconvinced.
2) Radar data showing the altitude. I once saw a radar signature going like 10,000 miles an hour. Radar’s flaky, especially at long ranges when the tracker has to make assumptions based on low SNR data with huge error bars…especially whatever the Malaysians are running. I wouldn’t put too much stock in that.
3) Ping data leading to those concentric arcs. I question the synchronicity of the satellite. They’re using it for location but that’s not what that satellite is for. Are you sure it sent out the request exactly when it said it did? Sure, GPS can, but is this satellite built with that in mind? If we can throw out #1, then we really want to throw out #3 too. I think that mechanical or natural causes is more likely psychologically (and from a “what the heck is the point” perspective), but complex maneuvers out over the Indian Ocean or subcontinent don’t really make sense if it’s mechanical. I would favor a “ghost ship” scenario – something terrible happened. Rapid decompression or fire…everyone died…plane flew on for hours in whatever direction it was pointed after a brief and ill-fated attempt at recovery.
4) The Co-Pilot is the one that said good night. If we find out the pilot had the simulator set to do weird things like the plane did, the the suspicion falls on the pilot. I have a hard time visualizing two unrelated people being complicit in this scheme; ergo, the pilot incapacitated the co-pilot and said goodnight calmly.

Anyway, I remain enthralled. My meteor theory remains my favorite, but it’s really out there.

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Once a year I go to Food Lion in Elkridge (or maybe Ellicott City…somewhere in the demilitarized zone between them perhaps), since it’s the only place around here that consistently carries Sabretts hot dogs. Today, I had to get some other staples as well. When the cashier scanned my milk, she asked me if I wanted a (plastic) bag for it. “Nah, I’ll carry it,” I said. “Saving trees,” she responded, thoughtfully. I looked at her for half a second before deciding that the production of plastic probably indirectly consumes trees, or at least forested land. She looked a little embarrassed. This is why God invented the disinterested “yeah”.

Then on the way home I stopped at Meadowridge Liquors. Not only was I not shot, but no one else in the store was shot while I was there. The Yuengling was held together by plastic and a rubber band (no box), but I’ll take not getting shot.

Once I got done with my outdoor chores, I started listening to Radio Paradise. Peter Gabriel was singing a song where I thought he was saying “Shingles hurts” over and over again. He’s getting older; I was surprised that he had embraced it. I later decided he was saying something along the lines of “shake the hands”.

But I have heard that shingles does hurt. At least, that’s what pharmacists tell people when selling them $200 vaccines. I might have had shingles once, actually. I had a nondescript rash on my back that occasionally felt like someone was simulating jabs from searing hot pokers straight into my nervous system. It was only vaguely localized; it mostly just felt like someone was confusing my brain into thinking I was being tortured. Maybe it felt like a bee sting 2 minutes after the bee stings, once it starts to itch slightly, but before the itch is the primary mode of irritation.

Radio Paradise just started on Gary Jules, “Mad World”. I do love that song.

And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles, it’s a very, very
Mad world. Mad world.

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Zen of Zipper

The slider is the portion of the zipper that pulls together the two chains to zip two sides together. On your jacket, the slider “belongs” to one side. It may mate with the other side, but it doesn’t belong with it. But look at your pants. The slider is not a citizen of either chain. The zipper, as a whole, is simply the zipper.

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When you take a month or two off, the best way to get back into it is to copy and paste something that you wrote for another purpose, this time to the customer service department of United.

I’ve always been fascinated by the features below while flying, be they topographic or man-made. I even intentionally cram all 6 feet of myself into the window seat so that I can watch the ground for hours at a time. Most of the time I have no idea what I’m looking at. On Flight 753 from BWI to SFO on the morning of 6/24, however, I got all the information I could possibly want from a First Officer who provided non-stop commentary of the ground below on channel 9.

I very much appreciate the First Officer’s efforts (though, fascinated as I was, I did not listen to the entire narration, which was 5 hours long). I have always thought that this sort of interactivity was in the future of air travel – with basic internet connectivity and access to Google Maps and Wikipedia, anyone would give himself a running commentary of the ground below. I spent some time trying to figure out how to make a system such as that cost effective for you, and couldn’t really come up with any easy, unobtrusive way…so, for now, I appreciate the First Officer’s efforts.

There was a problem, however. The ATC chatter interrupted her feed constantly. The interruption itself wasn’t a big issue…but the fact that the volume of the ATC feed was many decibels louder than the FO’s made listening uncomfortable. I’d crank up the volume to hear her narration, only to be startled over and over by a blast of shorthand jibberish. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to listen to that too…but the disparate volumes was unfortunate. Perhaps the FO’s Cockpit Topics could be placed on a separate channel from the ATC chatter? There were many unused stations.

Anyway, thanks for all the useful info. I hope that you encourage more of your staff to follow her lead. I enjoyed knowing what I was looking at.

And if you ever want help brainstorming how to make a better system, drop me a line…or give me a pad of paper on my next flight and I’ll fill it up for you, gratis. I spend most of the flight thinking about that problem anyway.

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Your Thoughts Here

If this were the olden days, I would have posted on the two sets of thoughts that were percolating in my head over the last few days. First was how the Christmas story could work well as a Hollywood trailer, what with the oppressed mankind groaning for a savior from its cruel master and his iron grip, a child born to save the world, babies slaughtered as his family slips the net, the meteoric rise to power of a new king, his untimely and shocking death, and then the twist that shatters reality as we know it. It’s like Terminator or the Chronicles of Riddick or The Matrix or something. Second was how I’ve been listening to Bing Crosby’s old-time radio broadcasts from the 40s and 50s…and how different American seems from then. And how whenever Garrison Keillor talks, his poignant nostalgia makes me want to cry. His voice tells of his life dripping slowly, slowly away, never to return – and that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are all above-average. I can’t stand it, really. You’re born, then you start marching inexorably toward death, realizing it somewhere along the way, then fixating on it eventually as you rewrite your past in your memories.

(By the way, listen to that News From Lake Wobegon podcast above. It’s at the right-ish time, it starts about 30 seconds in.)

I could talk about buying a new camera soon and probably a macro lens with it. I could tell of how Jen worked on Christmas, how we saw Mission Impossible 4 on Christmas Eve, and how Tom Cruise always runs with his hands straight like fan blades. I could talk about Michael’s manic Christmas light drive, where we lurched between parked cars and swung around cul de sacs at roughly highways speeds, all with mutant snowmen chasing us. There’s also physical therapy, where I’ll be in a half hour, or the kid from church who was admirably careful when crossing the street in front of my car, only to dart back without looking when he forgot something. (I missed him).

I could write a lot of those things. I’m not sure that I have time. I’m trying to do a lot of things, almost always, and when I’m not doing those things, I’m staring blankly into a future of doing more things. Even in comparative leisure, I wonder how I ever had time to think coherently. I guess that’s what I did when I ran, then I’d come back and write about it. Huh. Anyway, I’m still working out how I’ll have time for all this. Maybe we’ll hire a maid service. Publish.

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