Friday, May 28, 2010

Welcome to Stalag 1050

The Fortress of Solitude is situated on a corner lot in an undisclosed location near Las Vegas.  For reasons unexplained, the original builder built the house facing away from the corner.  Consequently, the backyard faces the street.  This is not as much of an inconvenience as one might think as the lot grade is about four feet above street level and the back yard is surrounded by a four foot block wall.  So, the Fortress of Solitude is, literally, a fortress.  Were we set upon by barbarians, jihadists, or angry Harry Reid supporters, I could, at my leisure, pour boiling oil on them from the safety of my fortress parapet.  "Buwuhahahahaha...that looks like it hurts, you heathen bastards! Here...let me crack open another cold one while the next pot of boiling oil heats up.  Hahahahahaha!"

It's a sweet set-up, but with one minor drawback.  It is a corner lot and the city decreed at some point that there had to be a street light on this particular corner for the Greater Public Good.  What this "Good" might be in a neighborhood where a couple of 50-somethings, i.e., me and the redhead, are considered the "young punks" is an impenetrable mystery...regardless, there is a street light on the corner, immediately adjacent to the backyard of the Fortress of Solitude.  Now, when we originally bought the house, this streetlight was your garden-variety 400W high pressure sodium lamp.  Distracting -- when the redhead and I would sit in the backyard to enjoy the evening or take a late night swim in the heat of the summer -- but tolerable.  In truth, I've always harbored something of an affection for high pressure sodium lights as one of my first tasks as a callow youth at the General Forge and Foundry Co. just out of graduate school was to figure out why low wattage high pressure sodium lamps were failing long before their big brothers.  I did and now, you can go out and buy a 50 watt high pressure sodium lamp for your illumination're welcome.

But I digress...anyway, for years I enjoyed whatever late night frolicking might be in order under the pale yellow-orange glow of "our" streetlight.  But then, about a week ago, I head into the backyard one evening in the midst of a typical Las Vegas windstorm to secure lawn furniture, fish random debris out of the pool, wrap my windchimes in duct tape, and tie my garbage cans down so I don't have to go on a "treasure hunt" to find them in the morning.  I'm doing all these things -- of course, I have belayed myself to the house with 13mm climbing rope to insure that I, myself, am not the subject of a morning "treasure hunt" -- when, suddenly, it hits's brighter than freaking daylight out here!  Either someone has detonated a thermonuclear "device" over Las Vegas or...Yes! That's it!...We have a new street light.

...and there I was, looking up at a five eleventy-bazillion lumen Ha-Larc street light that was lighting up my backyard like it was a prison compound.  WTF?  When did this happen?  Apparently, the city decided that a mere 400W high pressure sodium lamp was not bright enough to protect the neighborhood from...what?  An impending zombie apocalypse or vampire outbreak?  Clearly, they wanted to insure that any miscreants that might be lurking around the neighborhood at night will need to wear sunglasses.

The redhead basking in the near-demonically bright street light that has turned the Fortress of Solitude into Stalag 1050.

Obviously, this situation is intolerable and demands action, but what?  My first thought was an act of vandalism that might, say, cause the light to break.  The redhead counsels a more mature approach where we go to the city and complain.  Yeah, right...and when those complaints fall on deaf ears, as they inevitably will, we become the lead suspects when I implement my campaign of vandalism.  What about the homeowner's association? she suggests.  I remind her that we have been locked in a mortal, tag-team, battle-to-the-death with the stormtrooper-like compliance committee for nine years now.  It's unlikely we will find sympathy with that group of nebbishes, douchebags, and busybodies.

No.  I am afraid that vandalism is the only viable approach.  But how to put the light out?  Of course, the Fortress is equipped with an array of handguns, any of which would easily do the job.  However, I suspect that my neighbors might look in askance and the local constabulary disapprove if I stood out in my backyard and started banging away at the light with my Desert Eagle.  Similarly, treating the streetlight as a stationary clay pigeon and ending its reign of illumination terror with a shotgun blast would, no doubt, attract unwanted attention and draw protests from neighbors who might be peppered with errant 00 pellets.  It then occurred to me, if I opened a bedroom window and crouched in the bathroom, I would have a straight shot at the streetlight with my AR-15, with the bedroom muffling the report and hiding the muzzle flash.  Yes, that could work...but if I missed, I would end up sending 5.56mm rounds into the new housing development down the wash...and I'm just wanting to put out a street light, not snipe my distant neighbors, even if most of them are refugees from the People's Republik of Kalifornia.  No.  Sadly, I don't seem to be properly equipped for the bit of skulduggery that's needed.

However, a little Googling provided this.  Hmmmm...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Seriously...Western civilization as we know it is in peril!

I started this blog to occasionally critique technical reporting in newspapers, which really is abysmal and almost always pushing an agenda.  I thought, as I have some credentials and experience in things science-related, I could do my part to improve the general public's understanding of the usually complex technical issues that are being reported by total morons.  However, in doing so, I have discovered that I have turned a blind eye to some critically important, no, Mortally Important issues that are not being addressed at all by the mainstream media and even the so-called blogosphere, which prides itself on being on top of everything, continues to ignore.

I am, of course, referring to the crisis of near galactic importance that has been brewing at Starbucks ("brewing" "Starbucks"...get it?).   The coffee juggernaut has apparently changed its frappacinno recipe (OH! SWEET MOTHER OF GOD! NO! NO! NO!). I am indebted to Sheri Gilmour for bringing this to my attention, because although I am a regular Starbucks customer, I usually just go in, wade through the sea of small children, cranked up on sugar and caffeine, who are wilding in the store, stand in line behind a bunch of douches who are demanding a soy mocha-frappa-skinny-latte with whipped cream and an extra pump of some syrupy bullshit, and order - call me "old school" - coffee.  Consequently, I was blissfully unaware to the mind-boggling crisis that is shaking the very roots of our way of life!  A few minutes on will convince you of the enormity of the disaster in the making.  Long time Starbucks customers have actually threatened to NOT BUY THE NEW FRAPPACINNO!  Other customers are experiencing symptoms of stress.  Still others have complained that their dear sweet children have pitched a booger and refused to drink the new frappacinno...and it goes without saying that grave concerns have been voiced over the impact that this new recipe will have on the environment.

Of course, predictably, there are those drawing parallels between this fiasco and the New Coke disaster of the 1980's and others pointing out that this is only a harbinger of the end of the world in 2012.  There are even hints that the new recipe is the work of Dark Corporate Starbucks Overlords who have changed the recipe to advance their Evil Agenda.  There does seem to be some disagreement as to what this agenda actually is, but rumors of increased profits, sterilization of the undesirable, and take-over by the Republican Party abound.

I don't know...I'm just a simple rustic living in the distant provinces.  I go into a store and buy a whatever, taste it and think, "This tastes like crap."...I just walk down the street and buy something at Peet's that I might like better, but that's just me.  But I also realize that my simple world view is sometimes too simple.  It would seem that there are many people in this world convinced that Armageddon is here, life as we know it is ending, and unspeakable Evil is afoot.  Out of respect for them, I am begging everyone who reads this to take action.  Call, email, write your entire congressional delegation.  Hearings must be held!  Call, email, write your favored media outlets and demand to know why this is not being reported.  Organize grass-roots efforts to protest this abomination!  But most of all, contact Reynolds Aluminum and tell them to beef up production of aluminum would seem that a lot of Starbucks customers have lost their hats.