February 28, 2006

Pencil technicians

It seems like back in middle school we were pencil technicians. I was geeky, so my friends and I used mechanical pencils. We could basically field strip them and did so often when we were bored. I knew about different lead sizes (0.5, 0.7, 1.0 mm) and different models from popular brands. When shopping for school supplies I had to match up the right eraser refills, the right lead, etc. At three or four dollars each, a pencil seemed like an investment, so you just didn't “borrow” my pencil. I had loaner pencils on hand.

The Pentel Quicker Clicker was the workhorse. It was durable enough to be useful and complicated enough to keep me entertained during boring classes. It had an eraser seated in a metal clamp and a cap over the eraser, so there were all kinds of pieces to take apart. I think I remember a sort of needle in the bottom of the eraser for cleaning out lead, but I'm not sure.

A school supply tinkerer in probably fifth grade developed an entertaining activity with a normal wooden pencil. He discovered that you can take the end of a notebook spiral, bend it in parts so you had something like a hand-operated drill, and literally drill a hole through the pencil with the blunt broken end of the wire.

February 23, 2006

Cellular powerhouse

I'm wondering about my mitochondrial DNA right now. I'm also wondering about orthokeratology and some other potential contact lens quackery from Canada, but I'm thinking that it won't be long before everyone that has gotten radial keratotomy and LASIK for myopia is going to realize they screwed themselves. I'm also going to get around to writing some fictional Restatement of Contracts provisions: one will be about pinky swears and another will be about void for printing in comical fonts.

February 18, 2006

Fighting the system

I am going to appeal the tax assessment of our house because it is $19,000 above the effective purchase price last October (taking into account seller's concessions). It is almost $14,000 above the actual purchase. It is higher than similar houses in the neighborhood. So we will fight it.

My mom wondered if maybe the more recent purchases on our house caused the assessment to go up above that of other houses. That wouldn't be fair, though maybe the assessment system looks at purchase prices and nothing else but maybe a formula for yearly increases. I'll try to find out what's going on.

February 14, 2006

Address labels and lost items

Amy thinks it's funny that I decided that I wanted to put so much personal identifying information in all my books and notebooks that I ordered two rolls of address labels. So all my books have two labels each, one with my name and address and one with the rest of my contact information. She probably thinks it's funny that I got labels at all instead of just writing my name like normal people. I guess I'm hoping that if I lose a book at school there will be so many ways to get it back to me that the finder will feel obligated to return it.

I have been a finder. I found a satchel once, and it had a notebook with a name and phone number. I used my cell phone to call the number, and the guy had it back in five minutes. I have also contacted someone about a lost purse through email. So if I lose something, I want to have every chance of a finder reaching me quickly.

When emails at school come out about a lost property casebook, I have to restrain myself from responding: “Is it really lost? What if in a technical legal sense it is really mislaid?” (Or abandoned? Probably not.) I don't think they would think it was funny at that point. I did phone a guy who left behind his property book and told him I was an involuntary bailee. Property is so funny, especially when it's out of someone's possession. Ha.

February 10, 2006

Wallet dropped

I dropped my wallet when I got out of my car this morning, only I didn't realize it until much later. I actually looked in my car and couldn't find it, so I drove back to the last place I remembered having my wallet. Having no luck, I returned, and I checked around other places but no one anywhere said they had a lost wallet turned in. I decided to look in my car again, but first I decided to check one more time in my previous parking spot now occupied by another car. There it was, on the pavement! It had my tire tread on it, too (which eventually wore off). So, yes, while I drove off to go look for my wallet I ran over it.

February 08, 2006

Telephone contact where

Telephones have evolved from fixed, expensive devices on wired networks to cheap, mobile devices on wireless networks. Our placement of calls has likewise evolved from reaching out to places to reaching out to inviduals. I used to call my grandmother at her house, so my intentionality was calling her house in hopes of reaching her individually or whoever else may answer. Calling my mom used to be like that, but since she relies on a mobile phone these days, the idea is like calling my mom's purse rather than her house. So when I call her I know the call is directed at her personally rather than her residence. That means she might answer while she is in a grocery store, and it means I'll have fewer conversations with my stepfather.

Sometimes, though, you don't want to reach someone if she is not at home. If she is not at home, she may be busy, and you only want to talk to her if she has free time and not bother her otherwise. Other times, though, you want to reach someone regardless of where they are, and it is disappointing if your only option is to catch them at home. So it is interesting to have two options to fit different moods and different reasons for calling.

I can't guess what the specifics might be, but it seems like mobile phones have an implication for our society in the way we reach out to people and where we talk to them. We're often calling people's persons rather than fixed places now.

February 05, 2006

Visiting extremes

In June 1990 my father took me to visit the Grand Canyon. The rims are eight and nine thousand feet above sea level, and the bottom is almost a mile deep. We hiked partway down, so we spent a great deal of time at the edges of cliffs and ledges. Later we visited Death Valley, and it was there that I slid and fell and scraped my arm. Fortunately there was no further distance I could fall, being at the lowest point below sea level in North America. So after all that time at the Grand Canyon I later fell in the geographically safest place possible.

Unusual landing by bottle

On July 7, 1998, I balanced a two-liter bottle of Mr. Pibb on my head. My friend Alvin lobbed a tennis ball at it to knock it off my head. The bottle amazingly landed standing up! That was quite unexpected.