Bad drivers are everywhere

Posted in driving, life on Thursday, August 28, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

There was a time when drivers knew the rules of the road, when they were courteous (for the most part), and when public schools educated future drivers.

But today? Road rage is the norm, but more than that, stupidity is everywhere.

At one time, the residential streets in Milwaukee were all uncontrolled. They didn’t have Stop signs or Yield signs. Drivers understood that when you drove through a neighborhood, you slowed at every intersection and looked both ways before continuing through. If another car was coming, you were courteous and followed the rules of the road that the driver on the right had the right of way.

Today? Every street now has either a Stop sign or a Yield sign. Why? Because of driver stupidity. Too many drivers were racing through neighborhoods thinking no signs meant unlimited, unchecked speeding. Many side streets now have Speed Humps and even roundabouts to slow these idiotic drivers.

At one time, crosswalks were understood to be a safe haven for pedestrians. You could step out into a crosswalk at any intersection and the cars would stop or at least slow down enough that the pedestrian could skip out of their way. School zones were sacred. People actually watched out for children.

Today? Drivers are so inattentive they’ve had to create a whole new color for Pedestrian Crossing signs! Once, there were three colors, green, red, and yellow. Now they have had to add these odd neon yellow-green signs.

Because today's drivers can't see yellow, they created this color.

Because today’s drivers can’t see yellow, they created this color.

But even these aren’t enough for today’s drivers who are so self-absorbed they can’t be bothered with anything that goes on outside of their vehicles. That includes traffic signs, pedestrians, other cars, trees, and even buildings. Nothing is safe from them.

Don’t believe me? Many traffic signs near schools or hospitals now have flashing lights around them just to jar you into paying attention! Flashing lights around Stop signs, around Pedestrian Crossing signs. It’s pathetic.

Seriously? Today's drivers suck so badly they need flashing Stop signs?

Seriously? Today’s drivers suck so badly they need flashing Stop signs?

Is this because there are no longer any public school driving classes? Is this because its too easy to get a driver’s license these days? Is this because people just no longer give a damn about anything but themselves? It’s probably a combination of these things.

Drivers today are terrible. You. All of you. Yes, even you going, “He can’t be talking about me,” because I am. I am pointing my finger at every single one of you drivers. You’re all dangerous behind the wheel. None of you know how to drive any more, none of you care about the rules of the road. You roll through Stop signs. You drive through Yellow lights. Hell, many of you drive through Red lights. You cut off semis on the highway. You change lanes without signaling. When you make a right turn, instead of pulling all the way into the right lane to get out of they way of other traffic, you make yourselves as much of a nuisance as possible by turning wide into middle lane of traffic, probably so we know you’re making a turn. “Look at me! I’m an ass!”

And the majority of you can’t even parallel park. Seriously? And car makers know this and have come up with cars that can park for you. They have rearview cameras so you don’t run over small children. Auto makers are working on cars that will help drivers avoid hitting things, like other cars, poles, shopping carts, and motorcycles. Personally, I won’t feel safe on the road until they start making cars that can completely drive themselves, then every last one of you can climb inside, shut yourselves in, and text, drink and eat, talk on the phone, do your make-up, shave, read a book, or finish dressing to your heart’s content while the car does the driving keeping the rest of us safe from your stupidity.

And yes, I’ve seen drivers doing each and every one of those activities while driving.

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2018 Mindset List

Posted in life on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Beloit College has released it’s annual Mindset List that highlights all the things students entering their Freshman year in college have grown up with and always believed to be true.

Beloit College Mindset List 2018

This list is designed to make the rest of us feel old, but sometimes, like with this year’s list, it just leaves me confused with a few of it’s entries. I often wonder if they are more regional to other parts of the country. In some cases, that’s obvious, like the Affirmative Action being outlawed in California. Not having lived there, I wouldn’t know that, nor do I believe anyone else would who isn’t a native to that state.

So without further ado, here are the ones that really do confuse me.

#3, “Meds have always been an option.” What does that even mean? Meds have been an option for what?

#11, “The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle.” Has the water cooler ever been the workplace social center except in bad sitcoms?

#12, “In their lifetime, a dozen different actors have portrayed Nelson Mandela on the big and small screen.” In what? I wasn’t even aware there were any Nelson Mandela movies or TV shows, but then, I’m not much for biographies of any sort.

#26, “Hell has always been associated less with torment and more with nothingness.” I wasn’t aware Christians had changed the definition of Hell. I mean, I know they closed Limbo, although I’m unsure where they sent all the unbaptized babies that were sent there for several hundred years. And then there is Purgatory, which I thought was a place you went to suffer for your sins to purify your soul on your way to Heaven. Personally, I thought “Heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens,” not Hell (Lyrics from the Talking Heads song “Heaven”).

#29, “They never tasted the “texturally enhanced alternative beverage” known as Orbitz.” Has anyone even heard of Orbitz?

#36, “U.S. major league baseball teams have always played in Mexico.” This is news to me.

#37, “Bill Gates has always been the richest man in the U.S.” I always thought it was Warren Buffet.

#44, “The family has always been able to buy insurance at local banks.” Huh? What banks? I’ve never seen any bank offer insurance.

#46, “They have probably never used Netscape as their web browser.” This isn’t true at all. My wife and I both used Netscape as browsers until they were no longer supported after 2008. Therefore, both my sons have used them.

#48, “’Salon’ has always been an online magazine.” What else was it?

#53, “’Good feedback’ means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.” I guess I’ve never had good feedback.

#55, “Since Toys R Us created a toy registry for kids, visits to Santa are just a formality.” People still shop at Toys R Us?

And yes, much of that was tongue-in-cheek. It’s sad that I have to say that, but some people just love to be offended. “How can you say that?” Well, I can say that because it’s called “humor.” Get some.

Anyway, the Beloit Mindset List is always good for a discussion around the watercooler on “kids today.” It offers an interesting perspective on the younger generation, although sometimes, it includes things that just leave me scratching my head.

Golly gee, but I hope I get good feedback on this.

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Postal Service shouldn’t be losing money

Posted in politics with tags on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

The news is that the United States Postal Service had a third quarter loss of $2 billion.

Many think the Post Office is simply a losing proposition. The opposite is true. Revenues for the USPS are up overall 2.2%! Package deliver revenue rose 6.6%. Standard mail revenue was up 5.1%.

So you ask, if the Post Office is doing so well, why are they doing so poorly?

The answer is Congress. They just don’t have a clue. For instance, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) said, “The Postal Service’s latest reported loss illustrates the urgent need for postal reform to prevent a taxpayer funded bailout of the Postal Service. Unfortunately, some in Congress still have not come around to the need to allow the struggling institution to right size itself. In fact, just last week, 22 senators asked for a renewed moratorium on mail processing facility consolidations, consolidations that would enable the Postal Service to save hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”

Even Issa doesn’t get it. Or he’s deliberately ignoring the truth. The Post Office should be breaking even or even making a small profit, but it isn’t.

Why? Is it because Congress won’t let them downsize?

No! Its because the Postal Service is the only government agency that has to PREFUND its retiree health benefits under a 2006 law (which coincidentally is when the USPS started losing money). The Postal Service has to prefund those benefits to the tune of about $5.8 billion a year.

No other public or private entity is affected by that law — only the Post Office. All other government and most private companies have a “pay-as-you-go” system, whereby they pay the premiums as they are billed.

Because of this burdensome law, the Postal Service has operated at a loss 21 of the past 23 quarters. And those two quarters were when Congress rescheduled the prefunding payments!

So you have to ask yourself Why? Why is the Postal Service being singled out?

And why is Congress too stupid to realize they caused this mess in the first place?

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Parker 45 Flighter or Special GT?

Posted in fountain pens, geek on Monday, August 11, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

So I’m sort of on a binge with fountain pens, having purchased several since I refurbished my vintage Esterbrook.

Recently, I picked up what was listed on eBay as a Parker 45 Flighter, made in the UK. I probably spent more than I should have. But who knows, maybe not. I’m not exactly sure what they go for, nor do I know how to age one. But it’s a nice brushed stainless steel with gold accents and a black cabochon on the cap crown (and similar looking ones on Amazon seem to go for twice what I paid).

Parker 45 Special GT Flighter

Parker 45 Special GT Flighter

The black cabochon, if my research is up to snuff, might actually make this a 45 Special GT, the last 45 update before they retired it in 2006.

The nib is partially hooded, which gives the pen a sleeker look. It’s also a gold color, but I don’t know if its actually 14K gold or just some sort of plating. My research says that when introduced in 1960 it did have a 14K gold nib, but that was then, this is now.

Black section with hooded nib

Black section with hooded nib

Close-up of nib

Close-up of nib

Unlike my Rotring which uses replaceable cartridges, this pen came with a “converter,” as they’re called. This is a cartridge-sized refillable doohickey. That’s the technical term, by the way, refillable doohickey.

Never having run across one before, I had to figure out how to fill it. So I did some more research. Parker, it seems, has made six different converters over the years. And it took me a while before I found a YouTube video on how to fill it. As you can see in the picture, there’s a little slider and guess what? You actually slide it!

Slider-type Converter

Slider-type Converter

You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh.” And now that I know how it works, it is a well, duh moment. But when I first got it, not knowing what it was, I was afraid to do something that might ruin it (and gentle pressure didn’t make it move). And I’m reading different how to fill instructions talking about twisting one part, while holding another and the slider will go up. Nothing made sense until I finally saw that video showing me that it actually does slide.

So I filled it and started writing with it. It’s not a bad writing pen, and at this point, I don’t know which pen I prefer, the Esterbrook or this Parker.

But I do know this. The Parker looks sharp in my pocket.

Parker in my pocket

Parker in my pocket

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What if?

Posted in bolognium, dreams, fantasy on Monday, August 11, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

What if God turns out to be an insect? And when we die, we go before Him for judgment, then if we mistreated insects we’re sent to Hell where flies pull off our legs or ants burn us with magnifying glasses?

It’s alive! Wherein I bring life to a dead fountain pen

Posted in fountain pens, geek on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Sunday I mentioned I wanted to fix my vintage Esterbrook fountain pen. It needed a new bladder sac. The old one had essentially disintegrated.

When I first found the pen at my mother’s house, I had tried to use it, but it wouldn’t suck up ink. At the time, I had no idea how a fountain pen worked. And when I pulled the lever, it felt like something was being crushed inside. When I shook it, these little black particles came out. At the time I thought it was dried ink. Now I know the rubber bladder sac had dried up over time and crumbled away.

I set the pen aside, bought a new Rotring Skynn fountain pen, and forgot about the other pen. But now I need to replace my Rotring, as I mentioned on Sunday. I had ordered what I needed for the repairs on my Esterbrook on Sunday and they arrived today.

My supplies arrived from Pendemonium

My supplies arrived from Pendemonium

I must say I’m very pleased with the fast service I received from Pendemonium. I ordered a bladder sac #16. A bottle of blue ink. And a bottle of orange shellac.

I had previously dismantled my pen and cleaned out all the remnants from the deteriorated bladder sac. Next, I laid everything out so I knew exactly how short to trim the new bladder. The section (the part that has the nib) should be lined up next to the barrel the way it would be if pushed together. Then the bladder is laid out so the closed end reaches to the part of the barrel where the lever is. The cut will be made at the point on the section where the sac nipple meets (yellow arrow).

Measuring where to make the cut.

Measuring where to make the cut.

Once the bladder sac was trimmed, I then folded back the top section of the bladder so it formed a cuff about 1/4 of an inch. Then I tried my best to insert the bladder over the bladder nipple on the section. This was the fun part. I was all thumbs and struggled to get the cuff over the nipple. Imagine the fun I had after I applied shellac! Now it was slippery (yet oddly sticky). I was successful twice, but because the shellac was wet, it came off. The first time, because I tried to straighten it and it just popped off. The second time it just squirted off. But three times is a charm and I went away to let it dry.

Finally! Sac meets nipple.

Finally! Sac meets nipple.

When I figured it was all dry, I reassembled everything. Then I dipped the pen in the fresh new bottle of blue Parker Quink, pulled the lever slowly three times, wiped the nib off with a tissue, then tried to write.

It's Alive!

It’s Alive!

And Voila! I now have a beautiful working vintage Esterbrook J pen!

Now to do some writing.

And thanks go out to the folks at Pendemonium for their quick turnaround of my order!

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Before my pen has gleened my teeming brain

Posted in fountain pens, geek, writing on Sunday, July 27, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Back in April 2011, I picked up my first fountain pen. I’ve been using it ever since as my primary fiction writing tool. Well, I recently noticed it was getting a little worn.

Rotring Skynn

Rotring Skynn

As you can see from the picture, the rubber is starting to tear. There’s a similar wear area on the opposite side. The wear areas sit against my fingers and are starting to distract me. So it’s time for a new fountain pen.

As much as I liked the Rotring Skynn because it ergonomically fit my gorilla handwriting grip, and as much as I’m used to using it, I wonder if it’s time to move on to something else. If I chose another exactly like this, I’ll just run into this same problem sooner or later.

Also, I’d like to try something that doesn’t use those little insert ink cartridges. First, those things are more expensive compared to a bottle of ink. Second, I’m not too thrilled where those little plastic tubes go when I throw them out. They can’t be environmentally friendly. Neither are disposable fountain pens. And third, the idea of being able to use an ink bottle and refill the pen’s reservoir excites the retro-geek in me.

So I’m looking at refillables. I have a vintage Esterbrook “J” fountain pen from the 1950s. It was either mine from grade school or my mother’s. Unfortunately, the bladder sac is gone. When I first was looking at it, I pulled up the lever to try to fill it, but nothing happened. I shook it and I could hear something rattling inside. Little black hard pieces came out from the lever’s slit. I thought at first that it was dried up ink. But I later found out that there is a rubber bladder sac inside that can dry out and needs to be replaced.

Esterbrook J

Esterbrook J

I found a place that repairs them on the Internet for around $25 or so, but I’ve since decided to try to do it myself. I researched what I needed, ordered it, and now I’m waiting for a new bladder to arrive along with a bottle of shellac to glue it in place. If I’m successful, who knows, fountain pen repair might be an interesting hobby.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking at other fountain pens, new and vintage. There are some very beautiful ones out there. If you follow my Pinterest Pen Porn page, I’ve been posting several of the more expensive ones. At the moment, I doubt very much I can afford anything that costs several grand or justify anything even around $100.

I’m frugal so I can only afford cheap pens, for now. The Rotring Skynn cost me around $30. A new one at the oldest pen shop in America, Daly’s Pen Shop, is currently selling for around $12.99.

But as I said, I’m looking for something different and on eBay I’m finding there’s a ton of Chinese manufactured pens out there that just look gorgeous, but many might perform rather poorly according to many reviews (and many are just knock-offs of popular pens such as the Parker “51,” which many regard as one of the best fountain pens ever made). Seeing how cheap they are however, I’m going to get a few just for display if they don’t write very well.

So for now, I’m on a fountain pen kick. If you’ve been paying any attention, you’ll realize I get interested in something and go on a binge devouring everything about the subject I can find.

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