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6/8/2010: What to do if it ain't broke.

Here's a confession: I am a computer hobbyist. I used to "work" with computers. But now I'm retired and don't have any really compelling reason to even own one. So I own six (that I can think of right offhand, and that's not counting the scrap in the garage and attic). Most of them are networked. Naturally, I spend a fair amount of time fooling around with them.

I'm not saying that this is unproductive time, mind you. Computers can have a useful purpose even for those of us who don't need one for work. Computers provide information that their users wouldn't ordinarily see, and let us look at information in non-obvious ways. They make it easy for us to do stuff that would otherwise be so difficult to do that no one would even bother to try it. Most importantly, they are puzzle-boxes, that can keep us thoughtfully involved in problem solving: they help keep the mind supple. My mind should now be so supple I could use it for a necktie.

I mostly use the Ubuntu Linux operating system. About a month ago, Ubuntu informed me that there was a system upgrade available: Ubuntu 10.04, "Lucid Lynx" (Ubuntu has this thing about cute release names like Hardy Heron, Jaunty Jackalope, and Karmic Koala). Ubuntu has minor releases all the time, but majors only come along once a year or so. The Ubuntu people hyped LL up quite a bit, and it looked like it might be worth doing. Ubuntu is free software, so there was no money involved. I'd done system upgrades before and they had been painless, so I went ahead and clicked the upgrade button without misgivings.

This was on the "Library" system, which is the one I use most often. It is a dual-boot Linux/Windows system that was working satisfactorily up to that time (i.e., "not broke").

I'm sure everyone sees where this is going. Linux propellerheads may find details of the last few weeks entertaining, but for normal people it should be enough to say that everything is now back to normal (that is, mostly working) and I doubt that I have spent much more than 80 hours on the upgrade and only lost a few months worth of email and hardly any critical files at all. And when all was said and done I upgraded two systems (Library and Guestroom). Admittedly, one of them (Guestroom) totally lost its Windows partition, but I never liked Windows much, anyway.

So if any of my three readers have been wondering why there hasn't been a new rant recently, rest assured it wasn't because there was nothing worth ranting about. All I can say is, it's a good thing that fixing things is fun.

5/5/2010: How to make gold from oily mop heads

If "pink bunnies" worked for you, you will love this.

I learned how to make gold when I was in college, in my English 101 class (My professor's lectures tended to ramble). I confess that I have never gotten it to work very well for me, but I am confident that if you follow all the instructions precisely, you cannot fail to make gold. Pay attention, now. I know for sure that the formula will not work if you do not carefully read and follow all of the instructions.

OK. Now, here is how you make gold from oily mop heads:
  1. Acquire three used, dirty, and oily mop heads and one mop handle. If a mop handle is not available any long sturdy stick will do.
  2. Fill a large wash tub with water, almost full. There must be enough water in the tub to fully immerse all three mop heads simultaneously.
  3. Put the mop heads in the tub of water.
  4. Using the mop handle or sturdy stick, stir the mop heads around in the tub counterclockwise for precisely five minutes, no more, no less.
  5. Remove the stick from the wash tub. The mop heads will soon turn to gold.
  6. The final and most important instruction: Do not think of the word "hippopotamus" while stirring the mop heads, or the process will fail and all you will have at the end will be dirty water and diry, oily, and wet mop heads.
Who says kids never learn anything useful in college?

4/30/2010: Where do old boats go when they die?

Just listen to this stirring march:

To The Dump!
To The Dump!
To The Dump! Dump! Dump!
To The Dump!
To The Dump!
To The Dump! Dump! Dump!
To The Dump-de-dump! To The Dump-de-dump! To The Dump-de-dumpety-dump-dump-dump!
(etc., etc.)

My backyard was getting a little out of control with boats. I needed to reclaim some of it, so the Tot-Yot and the Seattle-P-I, shown on my Backyard Boats page, are headed to the old marina in the sky. Here they are on their way, along with some other choice items:

Junk pile

Chris Irysh (local guy, cheap fast service, advertises on Craig's List: email chris_irysh@yahoo.com) picked it all up today. I figure removal of the Seattle P-I and Tot Yot will get me about 200 square feet of yard space. Maybe I'll build another boat.

I know, I know. What can I say? It's a sickness.

4/7/2010: Pink Bunnies!

Nope. Nothing to do with Easter.

"Pink Bunnies" is a Judd-ism; that is, an expression used by Sabrina's swim coach Judd. He used it the other day when one of the swimmers complained of a sore toe.  "Just yell 'pink bunnies' when it hurts," he said. "It will make it better, every time. Works for everything."

The girl with the hurt toe apparently didn't feel like yelling "pink bunnies," so I had no direct evidence to its effectiveness. I decided to discuss it with Judd after practice. "Works for everything?" I asked.

"Yep, everything."


"Well, maybe not so much for sunburn," Judd allowed. "Great for when you burn your fingers toasting marshmallows, though. Pink bunnies! Works every time."

"How about when you file your income taxes late?"

Judd smiled, "sure, give it a try. Write it on your return when you file: pink bunnies. The IRS clerk will see it and say 'oh, pink bunnies. Automatic extension.' It's really for more for pain, though."

Okay. Well, there aren't too many things more painful than taxes, but I guess it might help to yell PINK BUNNIES! when the IRS tells you that you owe them money instead of them owing you money. Maybe takes the sting away a little bit. It got me to thinking, though: wouldn't it be neat if "pink bunnies" really did work for everything?
  • Kid brings home a bum report card: Pink bunnies.
  • Water heater explodes: Pink Bunnies.
  • Discover a new dent on your new car: Pink Bunnies!
  • Coal freighter aground and leaking oil on the Great Barrier Reef: Pink Bunnies!!
Nope, it's still there: All together, now, one, two, three...


3/24/2010: Wanted: an Electric Dog Polisher

Today was dog washing day. K-Dog (our 70 lb. Black Lab) had acquired her Spring flea collection, and her coat was getting a little oily anyway, so I did the whole routine:
  1. Took her swimming in a local creek, for exercise and to settle the dust.
  2. Gave her a bath in the driveway with regular dog shampoo -- I don't usually use flea shampoo.
  3. Waited for her to shake a few times, walked her to drip-dry, then dried her with a towel.
  4. Put in ear-drops. These are essentially rubbing alcohol and water, like the Swim-Ear that human swimmers often use. I have found that this helps prevent doggie ear problems and is way cheaper than a trip to the vet, especially since I mix it myself.
  5. Gave her a rawhide bone to wind down with.
  6. Brushed her.
  7. Applied her flea treatment (currently Advantix).
It took about two hours, not counting drying time. Now, it isn't like I am short of time, but some people are, so I want a Smart Person to design and market an electric dog polisher. I'll provide the rough idea here, and you (the Smart Person) can build it and figure out how to sell it. You can even use the name: the Electric Dog Polisher, or EDP (TM). Just cut me in for a reasonable percentage and we'll call it square.

I see the EDP as performing two major tasks:
  • Polish the dog, basically doing the things I listed above.
  • Keep the dog busy and under control while being polished (preventing it from chewing up the EDP or operator).
I visualize a couple of possible designs:

The first and simplest EDP is a long clear plastic tunnel, with hose nozzles and so forth aiming into it. The dog is directed (pushed) into one end. Timed spray from a series of nozzles encourages the dog through the tunnel while rinsing with warm water from the first set of nozzles, applying shampoo from a second set, and rinsing again with a third set. Warm air nozzles at the end of the tunnel blow-dry the dog. A buffer unit brushers her. Here is a sketch:

Electric Dog Polisher (TM) V.1.

The disadvantage to this design is that is leaves some tasks undone, like applying ear drops and flea treatment. Also, there is nothing to prevent a speedy dog from dashing through the tunnel and just getting damp and soapy and then shaking it all over the operator. Plus, it would require some space to set up; I can't see the tunnel being less than 20 feet long and still getting the job done. But it could be collapsible for storage.

My second design uses a treadmill to keep the dog occupied while the EDP does its job. The operator positions the dog on the treadmill and clips it into a harness, then starts the treadmill up -- slowly at first, eventually speeding it up to a comfortable trot. (Don't laugh yet; my son Henry actually puts one of his dogs on a treadmill occasionally, with no ill effects. I admit I am waiting for the dog to poop in his hat.) The operator then lowers the hood of the EDP, which holds the nozzles and other apparatus, down over the dog. After the hood is in place the EDP hoses down the dog, applies shampoo, rinses, and blow dries. It could also apply the flea treatment since the dog is held more or less stationary. It could be difficult to apply the ear drops, since aiming might be a problem and dogs don't like them, but I'm sure a Smart Person could work that out somehow. Anyway, here it is:

Electric Dog Polisher (TM) V.2.

So there you have it. Go build the Electric Dog Polisher (TM) and make your second million. I'll settle for 50% of the gross and a prototype. And by the way, this evening Sabrina's guinea pig needs a bath, so try to work on an Electric Guinea Piggie Polisher too.

Feel free to contact me via email:  

Hauled away to the Attic: The Wind in the Willows (uncensored), Hooray! I'm Obsolete, Global Warming, Stupid School, Confusing Fame and Heroism, All About Viola Bows

This page was last revised on June 8, 2010.
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