Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Car Stuff


Today I had my hair cut. The barber was a VW van enthusiast who had a beautifully restored vehicle parked in front of the shop.

I remarked that the recent popularity of VW vans were remarkable given the low tech of the air-cooled engine.

I wondered if there was some new technology that made such nostalgia easier to bear. Nope. For purists like the barber, he just gave up on having functioning climate control. Good for us Oregon has a temperate climate.

He did say that some people had placed Subaru engines with radiators into VW vans, then wiring up all the normal controls.

All this made me think of my years with a 1971 Super Beetle. Good times and several breakdowns.

The peak of the conversation came when the Barber told me he had goosed a Beetle over 100 mph on a quarter-mile track with improved gearing and carburation, and a few other tweaks – keeping the original engine displacement. Of course, this guy was from southern California.

And the haircut was good, too.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The World Keeps Spinning: Skateboarding

About ten years ago skateboarders began to ride the train to the zoo, then roll down the hill past our house. 

Our neighborhood association, composed of grumpy, old, white men, immediately declared the end to life as we knew it and began haranguing the police to arrest anybody with a skateboard.

I did see a police cruiser from time to time at an intersection, the officer always looking angry and bored. I also learned that the city asked a skate organization to suggest better behavior from skaters and disseminate information about how not to be a pain in the ass.

Eventually a public culture evolved -- motorists learned to be patient and skaters generally adhered to the rules on the above sign. 

Although I have been inconvenienced when driving by youths having a rip-roaring good time, I instinctively side with the skateboarders. The notion that once one is inside a car all pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, and anyone else, must yield so the driver may get to her/his destination as quickly as possible is problematic. 

We need to reevaluate where the car fits into our landscapes. We have sacrificed so much that is pleasing in our urban life to the automobile. Always giving the car primacy has been responsible for so much blight.

Let's share the road with all who would play upon it. If that means chilling out for 30 seconds, I say so be it. 


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Change is Difficult

Change is difficult, if not impossible, as nobody uses cash anymore. My life is such that the few transactions each month I do in cash stand out as oddities -- everything else is on the card or mobile payments. 

Parking in Portland has its own app (Parking Kitty). When I go to Hood River the parking meters accept coins, which I do not have, and I generally skip paying for parking. I do not like this as I am a follow-the-rules guy. 

Now the meters in Hood River are serviced by apps. I just installed ParkMobile and look forward to meeting my obligations.

I still have a small container on my shelf filled with change, but I've never remembered to bring the coins when I leave Portland. I used to stock my car with change and singles but I've given away that vehicle to a kid. 

I note the changes in my life and try and accept them with grace and equanimity.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Friday Cat Media

Now that chilly weather is here, I get office lap time with Stuart.

One of the advantages of being almost 56 years old is that the notion of not doing something because “people” would find it inappropriate almost never applies. At one point I might have felt that I was posting too much about cats but who cares, cats are fun, and the internet supports me on this. 

Checking the media feed.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

I Went To A Sports Bar

Last week I went to a sports bar and had a beer. Unfortunately I ordered a vegetarian burger (Impossible) thus blowing my cover.

I wasn't in Portland, otherwise I would have been fine. 

For the duration of the meal I pretended I was a sports fan. When I got up to leave, at some crucial juncture in the game, the servers looked at me with pity.


Friday, October 1, 2021

Musical Theater Night

A bit of cultural literacy I missed, tonight we are watching a stage production of the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar."

I will answer all questions.

Postscript: This was a rock opera in the sense everything was sung, unlike a musical where the actors recite lines of exposition between songs to move things along and build drama. The result was that I missed out on many of the dramatic moments because of not being familiar with the details of the story. Still, I loved the dancing and excellent music. And I did have enough knowledge to understand the ending -- crucifixion.  

Thursday, September 30, 2021

My Productivity Explained

Productivity Hack: If there is an obstacle to seeing a screen clearly, remove the obstacle. 

All my life I’ve had this notion that if I could only devise an excellent system, I could be tremendously productive.

Earlier these thoughts expressed themselves in experimenting with different notebooks and pens, now it is about computers, tablets, and phones.

I used to thrill to read the website Lifehacker to learn what tech high-level people used to be productive. Some liked to hang out on the couch with a laptop, while others enjoyed the latest in mobile technology.

I must admit that for all my deep thinking my setup resembles a workspace from 20 years previous. I use MS Office for most of my tasks which makes a high-powered gaming desktop PC the tool of choice. Double screens make things easy on the eyes. And as of 2020, a Logitech webcam with built-in microphone is a convenient way to Zoom without looking too shabby.

Other gear includes child-made mug for holding pens, a stand for my phone so I can talk hands-free, and the ubiquitous Pilot G2 Limited gel ink pen with 0.7mm point.

Legal pads and post-it notes are used—some habits are just too hard to break.

For the special note, I use ramen-themed post-it notes when the message really counts.


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail


What the Hell Is Going On Here?


Oregon famously does not allow its residents to pump their own gas. This was conceived as a social safety net to provide jobs for those in need. 

Now there is a serious labor shortage, especially in rural communities. I was in Hood River and realized no one was coming to pump my gas and that I could do it myself. 

I like doing things for myself and hope this change holds once things stabilize.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Spyscape is Worth the Visit


A screen from my assessment as a potential spy.

On a recent trip to New York City with the kid we needed an activity on a Wednesday – a day that all the big-ticket museums were closed.

We decided to visit Spyscape, a private, for-profit espionage museum and experience in Midtown Manhattan.

As a fan of the cold war, I give it a hearty thumbs up as it had a display outlining the infamous Robert Hanson, an FBI agent who spied for the USSR and Russia. Displays of spy cameras, bugs, lie detectors, dead drops, elements of deception, and weapons made the time well spent.

Also, the importance of the Enigma encryption machine and the prototypes it spawned was particularly interesting.

There was even a James Bond exhibit showcasing the creativity of the films.

There were interactive screens to test one’s ability to handle spy-type stuff and at the end a “profile” to learn what type of spy career would suit your skills (I’m best suited to be an agent handler).

This is what the site said about agent handlers:




As a father of two I take this as a compliment – like I have some fatherly skills or something.

To get the most out of the experience, one must turn over an email address and some amount of personal data (even if the first display is intended to shock one into acknowledging how much personal data retailers glean from customers). Whatever. The marketing seems almost quaint compared to other franchises such as Disney or the NBA. On a recent email from Spyscape, I found the top 15 spy items for sale on the open market a list worth noting.

15. Polygraph Machine

Polygraph machines aren’t just for the CIA. This USB-activated polygraph machine allows you to measure and analyze statements in your own home. The kit includes a pulse finger clip, skin galvanization finger wraps, and a breathing apparatus. The machine uses artificial intelligence to simulate an expert polygraph examiner to insure properly executed exams. And - if you are so inclined - you can even learn techniques to beat polygraph exams!

14. Spy Clock

Keep an eye on the time - and everything else – with this classic spy clock with its hidden video camera, still camera, and motion and sound detector. Transfer files straight to your PC with the USB connection at the back of this stainless steel beauty. The stand is adjustable and the USB connection is discreetly hidden in the back. Approximately 120 minutes of recording time at 30FPS with a 720p resolution 8GB microSD memory (up to 32GB).

13. 01 Go Dimensioning Instrument‍

Size up the dimensions of everything from the president’s office to your competitor’s smartphone and be out again in seconds with the data you need. Housed in a high-quality aluminum shell, the 01 Go Dimensioning Instrument traces curves in 3D and exports the dimensions to CAD software. Log, convert, and share using your phone easily and intuitively. The silver oxide battery lasts six months.

12. Easy-Key Wireless, Waterproof Keyboard

If you’re encrypting a message, you can’t afford to make mistakes. This portable keyboard folds into your pocket or purse so you can send precise messages on the go. It is smartphone-sized when folded, both waterproof and spill-proof.

11. Eclipse Charger

You mustn’t get your wires crossed on a black op. And you won’t with this three-port USB charging station. The eclipse charger offers safe, high-speed charging up to 7.8 amps to all your devices, plus an unrivaled cable management system that holds 20 feet of cables with no overlaps or tangles. Opens via a touch sensor and emits a subtle ambient light to help you and your cables after dark. The touch sensor and light lets you find your cables with ease in the dark.

10. Tag Cable‍

A spy's equipment has always had a certain distinct style. With the handcrafted leather TAG cable from Native Union, you'll not only have a sturdy and durable charger, but a stylish one to boot.

9. Bare Electric Paint

This 50ml pot of Electric Paint works like any other water-based paint, except it conducts electricity allowing you to design your alarm or surveillance system, then use this paint to spark up your plans, literally. The paint dries quickly at room temperature and can be removed with soap and water Nontoxic, solvent-free, and water-soluble.

8. Micro Voice Disguiser‍

Anonymity is critical in spy operations and SPYSCAPE’s micro voice disguiser lives up to its billing - record up to 10 seconds of your voice, then listen to the 'twisted' message. Play it back in slow motion, quick speed, or anywhere in between. Suitable for children, the micro voice disguiser can be used for silly games, scary fun, or anything in between.

7. Mossad Pen‍

Sometimes the difference between getting caught and escaping has to do with remaining invisible. The Mossad pen uses advanced ink that, once heated, completely disappears. (A handy blow dryer ought to do the trick.) The paper can be placed in the fridge to reveal the writing again. Unlike other invisible ink pens, the pen leaves no visible detection and will not reveal writing even when exposed to UV rays. Gel ink provides smooth, quality writing that leaves little detectable indentations.

6. MTA Hair Clips

An agent's best tool is often the tool they have with them. More than just a tool, the MTA Hair Clip doubles as a screwdriver, wrench, trolley coin, ruler and cutting edge - all combined in a tiny hair clip. This multi-functional hair clip serves as a stainless steel toolbox on the go.

5. Faraday Bag

Cell phones emit radio waves that can reveal your location and credit cards, passports, and driver's licenses also come with embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that can reveal much more. With the highest level of military-grade RFID blocking, this Faraday bags’ signal-blocking technology ensures your information stays private. Protects phones, key rings, and credit cards.

4. Rainworks Invisible Spray‍

Create clandestine street art, cover your sidewalk with secret messages, or paint the town with invisible ink. SPYSCAPE’s Rainworks Invisible Spray won’t show up on dry surfaces, but raindrops will reveal your messages and artwork. Your secrets disappear again when the sun shines. The spray lasts for up to four months.

3. Spy Bug Pen ‍

The spy bug pen secret listening device may look like an ordinary ballpoint pen but that’s where the similarities end. A sound amplifying device is hidden inside. Simply plug in the earphones to hear what’s going on around you and collect the conversational intel without arousing suspicion.

2. Decoder Rings‍

The Alphabet Shift Ring (left) is a modern version of the classic Alphabet Shift Ring with a coded cipher inscribed on its surface. Encode your message by substituting the corresponding letter above each element of the cipher. With the Secret Decoder Ring (right) you'll make a statement they'll have to de-code to read. The Secret Decoder Ring rotates, revealing numbers above each letter. Encode your message by substituting the number above each letter in your message. Perfect for aspiring spies and sleuths.

1. Rear-View Aviator Sunglasses

Knowing what's happening behind you can mean the difference between life and death. With these classically styled rear view aviator sunglasses, you'll never be caught off guard, whether you are checking for a tail or just wanting to look good.