Tag Archives: misc

Solar Shower – Overdesigned under-utilized


This was briefly my smartassed solar shower.  Lasted through one, count’em: 1 each of those 8 gallon water jugs.  Getting 60 pounds of water up there in a way so’s it will stay decided me the showering I got wasn’t worth the hernia I almost got.

So next time in town I went to Walmart and bought a 2 gallon insecticide sprayer.

Sorting Through Eternities

Previously blogged a few years ago:

After the post a few days ago about the meaning of life I found myself pondering a number of things about how most of humanity relates to the subject.  The great majority of folks in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim world believe they know how to get by with doing some heavy-duty ugly during this lifetime and still end up somewhere good.  Assuming they tip their hats regularly to a diety carefully tailored to forgive them their breadcrumb sins.  It’s the hat-tipping, after all, that’s important.

On the other hand, that same body of humanity’s prone to take a lot of satisfaction knowing the people who didn’t tip their hats right have a tough row to hoe.  Many engage in firefights of advance “I told you so!” insofar as how bad those who didn’t believe them are going to wish they did.

It’s not something I need worry myself about, but sometimes my mind drifts there anyway, imagining what it would be like in an Eternity surrounded by the sort of people who spent their lives absorbed in hat-tipping with one hand, and selling used cars with the other.

Old Jules

About Trust and Knowing Other Humans

Originally posted on another blog Tuesday, October 24, 2006 

Maybe this is all bull, but it’s the most painless way I’ve ever found to view reality and my human co-conspirators here in this lifetime.  Riding the mudball around the star and watching the two-legged critters wade around the muck beside me hasn’t caused me to admire us as a species.

As for knowing other humans, we mostly don’t allow ourselves to ‘know’ anyone. Instead, we construct them as we wish them to be, assign a set of behaviors required of them.  Often the people we’re trying to hammer into our mold haven’t  agreed to try to satisfy these requirements.  Still, we count it a violation of ‘trust’ if they don’t perform according to the rules we created.

But, even if they told us they agreed to be what we wished them to be, (and they might have meant it when they did it) obeying contracts of that sort just aren’t part of the usual human machinery. The flesh is weak and time and circumstance erode the best of intentions.

Trusting human beings based on unrealistic contracts probably leads to more heartache than simply abandoning the concept of ‘trust’ and the demands that go with it, and adopting a consistent readiness to forgive and continue loving them. (With no joint checking accounts or shared credit cards).

Old Jules

Blackjack – Another Bug on the Windshield of Life

During the late-1990s, prior to awakening to Y2K I was absorbed in a search for a lost gold mine.  I had zero interest in casino gambling and card games of chance.  But I had three close associates who believed themselves to be experts at the game of blackjack, two of whom made frequent trips into the canyons with me and had the grace to listen when I talked about it.

Because of this, I occasionally accompanied one or another of them to casinos near Albuquerque, just hanging around while they played, originally.  But I suppose this wasn’t enough.  Deano, then Mel wanted me sitting at a blackjack table enough to plunk down chips and insist I play, despite the fact I knew nothing about the game.  I found the whole thing stupid and boring.

But I saw Mel win a lot of money on those tables and Deano claimed he did, as well, though I didn’t witness it.

A Strange Way of Thinking, More Future Me: Bass-ackwards Letter to the Past, Mel King

Post-Y2K turned into a somewhat different matter.  Mel had always said he could make a living playing blackjack, and from what I’d witnessed I though it might be true.  But he also emphasized it wasn’t something a person could depend on, which I believed.  Deano also claimed he could make a living at it, which I believed less.  And a couple of others I became acquainted with post-Y2K, also threw their hats in the ring of pronounced ability to make a living at blackjack, whom I believed not at all.

I was running through a series of realizations of my own concerning making a living doing almost anything, squeezing by working graveyard shift as a motel clerk, substitute teaching, polishing the wheels, bumpers, grilles and gas tanks on long-haul trucks.  Squeezing by is an over statement of my success.

So eventually, when Deano proposed sponsoring me with chips, loaning me a book on blackjack, accompanying him to the local casinos, I eventually succumbed.  I learned the basics, witnessed his successes and failures, and observed carefully while I lost his money.  I wasn’t long noticing the tables are chock-full of people who believe they can make a living playing blackjack.

I also noted that they showed no signs of demonstrating that ability at the tables.  They’d mostly all read the same books, or books that said the same things about winning at blackjack.  Books, I noticed, that repeated dozens of conventional wisdoms, reiterated identical strategies to those pit bosses hand out to fledgling players sitting down at the felt for the first time.

So, every player at every table, along with the casino bosses, dealers, kibitzers, gambling addicts and losers were all singing from the same songbook.  Everyone knew exactly what a person ought to do to lose at blackjack by following the yellow brick road.

I wasn’t long concluding that if a person could win money on the tables the answer to doing it wouldn’t be found on the strategy card the pit bosses pass out to new players.  Bowing to the goddess of ritual.

In 1998, Mel had given me a CD with an animated blackjack game on it, hoping I’d practice.  It allowed a person to set up a group of players, each following particular strategies for betting, playing against them, seeing how various strategies fared, one-against-the-others.  I’d never loaded it on my comp.

But now, in the post-Y2K era, I dug out that CD.  At first I just practiced using the conventional wisdoms and Deano’s book of blackjack religion. 

But that didn’t float, and it didn’t fly, though my learning of it was cheaper than sitting in a casino, at least for Deano.

Eventually I noticed the settings allowed me to let the machine play itself.

I could set all six players using different strategies, different nuances, allow them to play 24/7, against the imaginary casino.  Thousands of times, hundreds of thousands, probably millions, eventually.  I could test strategies, tweak them for each player in each position, cull strategies least successful, try anything.  Anything.  Discard it and try something else until I found every microscopic edge a player might use.  And measure it against every other.

Just leave the machine running, check every few days, test, tweak, think, and launch it again.

What I learned from that computer and that software is that it’s possible to ‘almost never’ lose at blackjack, possible to win middling large amounts occasionally, possible to pick up at least a few bucks almost always with concentration, hard work and patience.  And a willingness to throw out the book.

But the baggage of carrying it into a casino is contained in the scorn and hatred of everyone else at the table. 

You see, blackjack players believe universally it’s possible for a player to cause them to lose by violating the ‘rules’ of strategy handed out by the pit bosses.  Split a pair of tens, hit a pair of aces instead of splitting them, and everyone at the table, they believe, loses.  ‘Playing for the table’, they call it.  Though the table doesn’t pay anyone who plays for it, should the person lose.  And the table doesn’t share any wins. 

I can’t count the times some well-meaning player sidled up and whispered, “Get security to walk you to your car.  The guy over there says he’s going to catch you in the parking lot.”

As with other religions, as with patriotism, getting crosswise with doctrine can be dangerous.

Old Jules

Mechanical Disadvantage – Fulcrums, Chinese Steel and Gorilla Glue

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

The project outdoors seems simple enough.  Clearing the intrusive cedars from under the oaks. 

Establishing a gentle downhill grade across slopes.

Creating a series of rock and brush berms to intercept the runoff and direct it across the slope to slow the concentration times during heavy rainfall runoff.

I followed the grades with a carpenter-level and board, mainly, keeping it to about a quarter-bubble.

Filling the deep ruts in the road with brush to rob the water of the siltation load.

Even the tools are uncomplicated.  But of course, a person has to find a wheel barrow tire that isn’t flat.

I eventually found this solid rubber one – bought the wheel barrow from a garage sale for the solid rubber tire.

I was a long while getting to it.

But a solid rubber wheel barrow tire beats a dozen Chinese flat ones.

The arms on the loppers you see in the green wheel barrow don’t provide a lot of mechanical advantage and require a lot of stoop labor.  Naturally, I was elated when I found this one in a thrift store with telescoping arms.  $8 US bucks.  Cheap at twice the price.

When I got home I broke the first arm off in about 20 minutes.  After I cut off the break and put it back together I broke the other one off 20 minutes later.

Chinese steel rears its ugly head.

This was obviously going to require some modifications.  A sleeve to go over that weak point, something to fill in the space between the sleeve and the joint/handle.  Nothing to it.

I was going to melt down some old shower shoes to pour into the space, but Gale suggested silicone caulk. 

But my tube of caulk was dried out, so I decided on Gorilla Glue instead.

Here’s how long it took to discover the next weak point in the design.

The culprit.

Who but the Chinese could produce a bolt a man could spang break in half?

Well, Mister Commie, you might think this is over, but it ain’t.  I’ve got another dance or two left in me.

Old Jules

Mexico Meds and the Perfect Man Shrine

Previously posted September 8, 2005

Mexico Tomorrow

Every few months I make a trip to Mexico for some medications I take daily, because they’re dirt cheap down there compared to getting them in a pharmacy here. Prislosec used to run me $3 per tablet here and I was taking a couple per day. In Palomas, Mexico, they cost about 75 cents per tab. Now that it’s over-the-counter here they’re about a quarter per tab, compared to a buck here.

So it’s time to run down there again. I like Palomas because it’s a tiny burg, mostly pharmacies with lines of US oldsters stocking up on medications. It’s like the Power Play option in reverse, stepping across the International Border into Mexico to buy prescription meds.

So, you parks the car at the border, walks across a couple of blocks, pays in gringo dollars, and walks back to the Border to be questioned and sometimes searched and hassled by US Border guards. They worry a person will pick up some anti-biotic for a friend, or anti-inflammatory for a rheumatoid arthritic acquaintance. So they like to ask what condition you’re taking the medication for while they thumb through the book and see if they can catch you out.

I’ve never had the body-cavity search, probably because I’m not female, but maybe just because I’ve never caught them on a boring day.

Sometime I’ll tell you an amusing story about a Japanese Jew pharmacist I used to buy from in Juarez who had an Israeli flag on the wall behind him, didn’t speak English. But it’s a long story.

Anyway, I go down through Deming to Columbus, the US town Pancho Villa raided in 1912, and got the US Army chasing him all over Mexico. That’s where General Blackjack Pershing won his fame. There’s still a lot of ruin from the raid all over Columbus, so it’s worth poking around the bear grass, usually.

I like to stop at this little shrine in Columbus, also. I’d guess the folks who built it in the 60s have grown old… I’ve never seen them there, but when I first saw it during the early 90s someone was still taking care of it, putting out palm branches, and every day incense burned there. Now the place is showing a bit worse for the wear.

The shrine was built back when hippies still didn’t know what they were, but they didn’t harbor any illusions about all being the same. (The first three photos are from the early 2000’s, the rest a few years after that.)

  • It’s located on the desert outskirts of Columbus, New Mexico.The built a camping area around it, complete with water valves and hookups.I suppose they once expected like minded folks to have gatherings there.  Maybe it happened.They lived across the road in a mobile home and grew old there.They kept up maintenance on the park and the shrine until the early 1990s, but occasional visits to the shrine testified it was becoming more difficult for them.When I last visited the place six, seven years ago the place had deteriorated a lot.  I suspected one of them might have died, or they’d both become too infirm to keep being hippies.Slower than all those commune ruins up in the Santa Fe area, but still as sure.

    Maybe if some of you folks are looking for a place to squat and if the owners are still alive you could work out an arrangement to do maintenance for a warmish camping spot about five miles from the Mexican International Boundary.

    Old Jules

What about the non-Jews killed by the Nazis?

Note from Jeanne: Here’s another example of a random question answered by Old Jules a while back on another website. If you have a question you’d like answered, please leave it in the comments. And of course, find more equally random questions and his answers at www.askoldjules.com.

Old Jules, why does everyone forget the other 10 million people who were killed by the Nazis?  It’s well known that around 17 to 21 million people were killed during the Holocaust. including Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies, Disabled people, Peasants, ethnic Poles, Soviets, prisoners of war, etc…
But why is it that people only ever remember the “six million Jews” when talking about the Holocaust? Even my friend’s little brother is taking history in school and is being taught about Nazi Germany and even he said he is only being taught about the 6 million Jews,etc…
Isn’t it either ignorant or disrespectful to forget or outright ignore the fact that it wasn’t only Jews who were targeted?

Jews are no better, no worse than the rest of us. If those of us who are non-Jewish were Jews. we’d probably direct a lot of energy to turning the German holocaust to our own advantage, just as they’ve done and continue doing. [In fact, many ethnic groups use similar tactics to keep the memories of wrongs done to their ancestors in sharp focus, probably for the same reasons].

Israeli Zionists are more intelligent and better educated than most citizens of Europe and the US. They understand the populations are mostly shallow ignorant sheep, that their attitudes and viewpoints are easily manipulated by controlling the information fed to them by the media and textbooks. They’d be a lot less intelligent than they are if they failed to take advantage of the obvious.

It’s true a lot of other groups died during the holocaust and that 20th Century genocides killed far larger numbers of others in the USSR, Cambodia, Biafra, French Guiana, Armenia, the Ukraine and elsewhere. Mostly they go forgotten and unnoticed.

There appears to be a deliberate attempt to focus entirely on Jewish victims and the German holocaust and brush all the others aside. This could be the result of a number of possibilities.

This focus isn’t necessarily intended to suggest the only victims of genocide that matter are Jews, and it isn’t necessarily a cynical, opportunistic PR campaign by Israeli Zionists to twang the heartstrings of the world or the US and Europe with constant reminders of the German [Jewish] holocaust so’s to keep military and financial assistance going to them.

It might just be that Jews worldwide feel the pain of the Jewish genocide more than they feel the non-Jewish ones, and since they’re deeply connected within the media, governments, publishing and elsewhere, they naturally focus on their own painful remembrances unconsciously. Not because they don’t care about the others, exactly, but they care more about their own.

But it might also have something to do with keeping the eyes of the world directed away from Israel’s own massacres when they find genocide against others to be convenient.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Megafauna

Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Old Sol and I continued our conversation from the previous morning yesterday.

“So.  You’re saying you think I need more diversity in my art?”

“I’m sure as hell not saying you need more ego.  You’ve got more than enough of that, what with your astrophysicists, Hopi Witch Doctors and Mayan-bean-counter buddies.”

“That was a hurtful thing to say.  What are you so irritated about this morning?”

“I’m not irritated.  Sometimes your bluster’s a bit tedious though.  You’re forever trying to take credit for everything that happens, whether you had anything to do with it or not.  But the most cataclysmic event, for instance, that’s happened since man has been around, you had nothing to do with.”

“Um.  You’re referring to the megafauna?”

“Yeah.  Millions of rhino, mammoth, hippos, sabre-tooth tigers all killed in the space of a few days.  Lots of them frozen fast enough to keep them from decaying much.  Carcasses stacked up like cord wood over half the planet.  If you’re able to do that, big fella, I say go for it.”

“I never said I did.  That wasn’t me.  We stars are mostly uniformists, gradualists, except for a few rare renegade exceptions.  We don’t go in for drama.”

“Okay.  I’ll buy that.  I envy you, though, getting to see all those giant beasties wiped out.”

“Yeah.  It was a sight to behold.  Just out of curiosity, what do you think happened?”

“It’s obvious what happened.  All a person has to do is discount everything he believes he knows already that would keep it from happening.  Then allow himself  to look at whatever options are left on the plate.  There aren’t many.”

“I’m about out of time.  But you’re admitting the reason nobody looks at the obvious isn’t my fault?”

“No.  I guess it isn’t.  They’re all lap-dancing to their own agendas.  Sometimes you end up as part of the agenda, is all.  I reckons.”

Old Jules

Today on Ask Old Jules:  Adopting an Illusion?

Old Jules, if you act like something for long enough, will you become like the illusion?  If you acted as a good moral, rule-abiding citizen, could you eventually adopt those beliefs and habits?

Old Sol’s Just A Leedle Bit Pissed

Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

SOLAR STORM HEATS UP EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE: A flurry of solar activity in early March dumped enough heat in Earth’s upper atmosphere to power every residence in New York City for two years. The heat has since dissipated, but there’s more to come as the solar cycle intensifies. [full story] [video] http://spaceweather.com/

As I was trying to roust and prod Old Sol up this morning he was whining and complaining something awful.  “Nobody appreciates me.  I’ve just about got a gut full of you people!”  Him barely peeking between the trees on the ridgeline.

“What are you talking about?  That’s crazy.  Everyone appreciates what you do.  Come on now.  Rise and shine!  You’ve got a lot of appointments today.  Things to do and people to see.”  Me, cajoling, persuading, being diplomatic.

“Horse hockey! You see all those diagonal lines I’ve got across me?  All those squiggles and curlycues?  Do you have any idea how much trouble it is for me to do that?  You’re looking at a lot of parallel bands of magnetic fields.  Can you imagine how I do those diagonals?”

“Honestly, I can’t begin to imagine.  Let’s talk more about it after you’re further over the horizon.  I’ll have my people call your people.”  Heehee, him about two-thirds showing, still moving.

“What about all those bumper-stickers you were talking about?  Proud to be an American?  Proud to be a Texan.  Proud to be a Native Texan?  You ever see one saying, ‘Proud of my Solar System’?   ‘Proud of Old Sol’?  Even ‘Proud of my Galaxy’?”

Me, trying to break this off gently.  He’s well up in the air now, no way he can reverse things.  “You’re right.  People don’t pay any mind to your artistic efforts.  They don’t understand them, mostly.  In a lot of ways what you do is  kitch.  Have you considered trying something a bit more subtle?  Something that says something about the human condition?”

He looked behind him and finally realized I’d suckered him.  “We’re going to talk about this again tomorrow.  This isn’t over yet by a long shot.”

Well, hell.  Have a good day then.”

Old Jules

 Today on Ask Old Jules:  Feelings About Time?

Old Jules, how do you feel about time passing by?

Commitment to Dogs That Won’t Hunt

Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Searching around in my mind as I drove to Kerrville yesterday I was trying to find something, almost anything, the word ‘we’ could be applied to that included all of humanity.  Not an easy task, despite most of the lofty notions humans have about themselves.

Intelligence and thinking came to mind, but didn’t survive even long-range scrutiny.  Whatever else we might be, human beings are only intelligent when compared to one another within a miniscule range of options.  Probably the least intelligent human being able to function is somewhat smarter than the next-best up for consideration in the animal kingdom.  And a few notches up on the yardstick, the smartest human being isn’t much more intelligent.  But there’s enough difference top-to-bottom to demolish the word ‘we’ when it comes to defining anything all humans have in common.

As for thinking, there’s just not a hell of a lot of it going on.  The overwhelming majority of humans are riding along on shock waves created by thinkings of an underwhelming few individuals.  Of the several billion humans on this planet there’s not more than a shot-glass full who could figure out how to manufacture a lead pencil.  Or, for that matter, a shot-glass.  Or build a fire without materials provided by some autopilot composite of individuals not-thinking somewhere else.

Pride held up a lot better, but as I turned it over examining all the nuances I found it was handcuffed to something else.  Commitment.  This species couldn’t have survived this long without it any more than a tribe of beavers could survive without the non-thinking commitment to building community dams.

And pride is the glue holding it together.  A necessary virtue to keep things moving, even though the commitments most frequently to dogs that don’t hunt, haven’t hunted for centuries, but nobody’s devoted enough thought to the matter to notice.

When I was a kid the adults used to say if a snapping turtle ever got a bite on you it wouldn’t turn loose until it thundered.  One of the places in this reality where the word ‘we’ can be applied to humanity is our commonality to that imaginary snapping turtle.  Commitments come along, sometimes the result of someone thinking something, sometimes just out of the blue, and ‘we’ lock our pride into it and don’t turn loose until it thunders.

When I began this post I intended it to examine human commitments to failed ideals and myths.  I planned to reflect on our often failing repeated attempts to commit ourselves to individuals, to political parties, to geographic boundaries.

But I’m going to have to save that for some future post. 

I was watching bumper stickers as I drove along considering all this.  Proud to be an American.  Proud to be a Texan.  Proud to be a Native Texan.

Presumably those declarations are a source of pride because of the effort and personal hardship involved in achieving them.  If pride had anything to do with personal achievement.  Or thinking.

Old Jules

Today on Ask Old Jules:  Views on Atheism?

Old Jules, what is your view on my religion? I’m an atheist.