Monday, November 11, 2019

Swollen Nuts

After not having a flat tire in at least the last decade, I've had two flat tires in three weeks: one nail and one piece of glass. Sheesh. Sunday, Nov. 10, was an adventure. After leaving church and walking to the parking lot, I discovered a very flat right front tire. I had to unload golf clubs and my golf cart from the trunk to get to the spare, and since it was the first time I had ever had to use the jack with this car, figure out where it was supposed to be placed.

The lug wrench was a telescoping version and I successfully loosened four of the five lug nuts, but the wrench would not go far enough onto the fifth nut to loosen it. After wrestling with that for about 20 minutes, I gave up, loaded my golf clubs and spare back into the car, went into church to see if anyone was still around who might have a better lug wrench.

Fortunately, one of my favorite people was still in the parlor and volunteered to help me. On the walk out he asked me how flat the tire was. I couldn't resist. "Only on the bottom," I replied. Out of his van, he pulled a hinged lug wrench which also did not quite fit, but we eventually used my lug wrench as a hammer to get his lug wrench to fully insert itself onto the nut and I was able to muscle off the last remaining nut. Finally, success after about 30 futile minutes.

The guy at the tire place was to inform me later that the nuts are a laminated product of aluminum and steel and grape jelly or mayonnaise or something and can delaminate and "swell" and that's a problem with Fords. He pointed to his Ford Fusion in the Firestone parking lot. "Same thing," he said. So my car has swollen nuts. That sounds serious. Later, when I told my mother the story about how the lug nuts swell, she said, "If they were swell, then what was the problem." Everybody's a comedian.

I also discovered Ford was the subject of a class action lawsuit regarding the swelling nuts. A judge dismissed the lawsuit. Ford argued the nuts were subject to their 36,000 or three year warranty and after that, too bad. Apparently, the judge never had to change a flat tire on a chilly, windy day with a lug wrench that no longer fit the lug nuts.

But back to the story. Next, I jacked up the car a bit more to get clearance off the ground and attempted to remove the tire. It was completely stuck on the hub and no amount of kicking, banging, prying, cursing, praying, gesticulating, muttering, levering, beseeching, imploring, pounding, or persuasion by any other means we had available would budge the reluctant tire.

Giving up on that idea, my friend said he had a 12v tire inflator in his van and volunteered to get that. I put all the lug nuts back on and plugged his inflator into one of the 12 v power ports in my car and got the tire inflated. Nicole and Norma said they could hear a hissing noise. I said I thought it was just my heavy breathing. Richard said I could take the inflator with me and make the 10 mile dash back to Papllion and re-inflate the tire if I needed to. Fortunately, I made it to TiresPlus in Papillion, only to discover they could not get to it until tomorrow afternoon but I might try the Firestone a few more miles south.

The Firestone folks worked me in, pulled out the offending piece of glass, and since the tires were Firestone and just three weeks old (I purchased two new all-weather front tires in preparation for winter), they fixed it for no charge and I was on my merry way, a few hours later than I had planned. I had also replaced the rear tires last week after an unrepairable puncture in one of those.

I hope I don't need a new battery.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


That one can
calculate the ambient
temperature by counting
cricket chirps always
intrigued me.
It’s not that different,
I suppose,
from the principle
of the atomic clock,
in which a second is
measured as
9,192,631,770 oscillations
of a caesium -133 atom.
It’s easier for me
to count cricket chirps,
however. You count the
chirps that occur in fourteen
seconds and add forty to
get the temperature in
Fahrenheit. To calculate
in Celsius, you simply
count the chirps in twenty-five
seconds, divide by three,
and add four.
Crickets are unreliable,
though, for calculating
temperatures below 55
or above 100 Fahrenheit.
The variable chirping is
due to the cold-blooded
chemistry of crickets.
Below a certain temperature
they cannot (or choose not to)
chirp. They may simply think
it is too cold to chirp. The
warmer it is, the faster crickets
can chirp. It may be similar
to engine oil and viscosity
cold weather.
The oscillation of the caesium -133
atom is more reliable, it seems,
although I do not have the
equipment or patience
to do the counting.
I once determined I
would do a painting
of every nano-second
of the time between the
Big Bang and the present.
I have fallen further
and further behind ever since.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


The dragonflies were out
in force yesterday at the
golf course near Offutt Air Force base.
Like helicopters hovering,
they scanned for prey,
protecting their lair,
the Big Papillion Creek.
The Papio, to us locals,
runs adjacent to the
eastern edge of the golf course
and provides ample habitat
for those sky-borne predators
before meeting the Missouri.
Named Willow Lakes for the abundant
willow trees and small ponds once present,
the golf course now has only a few
of those branches sashaying
in the breezes. I counted six
during my walk.
Ancient dragonflies some 30 inches
wide have been found
in fossilized form,
their organic matter
replaced by minerals. I am glad
I didn’t have to deal with 30 inch wing-span
dragonflies while determining
whether to hit a nine iron or an eight iron
on hole #3.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Observations on Mortality Upon Purchasing Light Bulbs

I went light bulb shopping the other day for the first time in a long time. After considerable pondering about the vast array of technological lighting wonders, I purchased four 75 watt LED bulbs for about the same price as I used to pay for 20 incandescent bulbs. What convinced me to make this technological leap of faith was that the box cover of the LED bulbs said they should last 22 years. Yes, 22 years.

I grew up during the grand age of planned obsolescence. First implemented in the automobile industry, Chevrolet redesigned its 1923 model to attract customers even though the technology of the vehicle itself remained the same. Model changes in the 50s are drastic examples of this concept: consider the 1956, 1959, 1963 Chevrolet models. In the 1930s, Bernard London, proposed industries make goods that wouldn’t last very long, so customers would have to purchase the product again, and again, and again as a way for consumers to bring the country out of the Depression.

In my lifetime, I have thrown away many products which outlived their usefulness and were too expensive or impossible to repair. For example, battery powered drills whose batteries cost more than or almost as much as a new drill, so I went ahead bought a new drill. More than once. Disposable cameras turned out to be a short-lived phenomenon although I may still have one or more in a drawer somewhere waiting to be developed. The digital camera revolution pretty much did them in.

And consider Moore’s Law in electronics, the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years, first noted by Gordon Moore, CEO of Intel, in 1965. Since then, advances in micro processing, personal computers, even digital cameras, have roughly tracked this prediction although the rate of increase has slowed in recent years. A state-of-the-art computer purchased today may continue as state of the art for 3 or 4 years or even longer with upgradable parts.

Televisions, though, demonstrated a period of reverse planned obsolescence. I used to pray that my big 32” cathode ray tube television would die. For many years I prayed. It kept working for at least 15 years. The thing weighed about 100 lbs. and was the size of a stove. And would not die. I wanted a new generation flat screen tv, but it kept going and going and going, like the Energizer bunny, but that’s a whole other topic. I eventually just abandoned it and upgraded to a new flat screen tv when I moved. Now there are a bunch of new generations of flat screen tv: LCD, digital, HD, 3D, LED, OLED, Ultra HD/4K. My “new” one is a 40” LED HD-TV found on a clearance sale of "last year's model" two years ago. The sales person predicted it would last up to 10 years.

But back to planned obsolescence: the official Social Security Actuarial Life Table published the office of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration gives life expectancy for a 68 year old man, me, as 15.68 years. This is less than the life expectancy of the light bulbs I just purchased. As one friend suggested, I can bequeath the light bulbs to my son.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Willing Suspension of Morhposyntactic Disbelief

The Willing Suspension of Morphosyntactic Belief

I was driving to church today and was fumbling in the car door compartment for a pair of sunglasses with a neck strap which I discovered had become entangled in a pair of pliers. But in each case it was one thing: one sunglasses and one pliers. And if you repeat that previous phrase, you may notice one sunglasses sounds ungrammatic while one pliers seems acceptable. I was wearing a pair of briefs, a pair of pants, and a pair of gloves, too. Two things which are joined are often thought of as a pair as well as two things which are not but go together. It’s a mass noun v. count noun phenomenon and requires, as Coleridge sort of said of reading Shakespeare, the willing suspension of grammar, I believe.

Or as Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1994) states: "Pair is one of those collective nouns that take a singular or plural verb according to notional agreement. If you are thinking of the individuals in the pair, you will use a plural verb….” This is synesis, “effectively an agreement of words with the sense, instead of the morphosyntactic form.”
However, given the usage issues with all this, it’s only about a 50/50 chance the listener/reader will note the many possible nuances.

Here are some examples of these morphosyntactic curiosities:
A pair of pants, a pair of pliers, a pair of glasses, a pair of earrings, a pair of dice, a pair of scissors, a pair of socks, a pair of gloves, a pair of binoculars (which is undeniably different from a pair of monoculars), a pair of underwear (note the singular form), a pair of briefs (which oddly is in plural form), a pair of shoes. Some of these are one thing; some are two.
I’ll deal with a few of these. A pair of dice is two dice. One dice is a die – which may be an ungrammatic utterance in that dice is two of them. The singular form is die. A sound shift in the 1500s may be responsible for the changing of the plural form from “dies” to “dice”; the former sounds too mortal coming so soon after the Black Death. Previously the “s” on “dies” was unvoiced. “My gloves are on the table” could be one pair, two pair, two pairs, or more. “A pair of gloves is on the table” is two gloves which likely match. “A pair of socks is on the floor” suggests they are matched. “A pair of socks are on the floor” leaves open the possibility that one might be black and one might be brown.

We would say “My glasses are on the table, not “My glasses is on the table.” “A pair of glasses is on the table” is different from “A pair of glasses are on the table.” In the former they are those things you hang on your ears and nose to see better. In the latter, they are those things you pour whiskey into after a long day. “A pair of pliers are on the table” is different from “A pair of pliers is on the table.” The former might be two pairs of pliers; the latter sounds like one pair of pliers. Subject/Verb agreement is clearly in a state of morphosyntactic flux here.

As the Duluth Trading Company says: “Get a pair.”

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas

Bitter Wine - A Prayer Poem

Soldiers of the cross trample out the vintage
where the grapes of wrath are stored.
We drink of this bitter wine
and parade on brick plaza;
our children hear the hard step echo
and watch us. Too often,
brokenness cries down their faces.
There is no such thing as child friendly tear gas.
Scarred and scared, children deserve peace.
Onward soldiers, we say.
Let us rather drink from a different vintage:
the grapes of peace, the grace of peace.
“Eat this bread and drink this wine in remembrance of me,”
the adult of the child soon born said.
How many swords
it takes to make a ploughshare,
I do not know. Let us find out.
“All things can end -- even war,” said the child soon born.
“Even war.”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Excerpt from Ch. 26 Bad Golf Made Easy - Trouble-shooting Around the Course

Sidehill putts
Golfers are often left with sidehill putts because green designers like slopes on greens in part because they are megalomaniacal sadists who revel in destroying the spirit of golfers. And in part because the slopes facilitate the drainage of water and increase the difficulty of putting. You might have a ball that breaks left or it may break to the right. It may be slightly or drastically uphill or downhill. Gravity is the force which causes the ball to arc downward on a slope trending towards the center of the earth, i.e., the center of the force of gravity. As the formula below clearly demonstrates, where a=acceleration, G=gravitational constant, M=mass, r=radius of the Earth, acceleration due to gravity is roughly 32 feet per second per second.
You must keep all this in mind as you determine the speed and direction of your putt. There are an infinite number of combinations of speed and direction which will result in your ball falling the last few inches into the cup toward the center of the earth on any given 8-foot putt. The fact that there an infinite number of combinations would lead one to believe these putts could never be missed. However, there are an even greater number of infinite combinations of speed and direction which will not result in your ball falling the last few inches toward the center of the earth on any given 8-foot putt.

If say, you aim 12 inches to the right of the hole, and putt the ball with force of x, it may or may not go in, but if you aim 12 inches to the right of the hole and putt the ball with force of x-5, it might just go in. In other words, a putt aimed 11 inches to the right would have to be struck slightly harder thus increasing its velocity reducing the force of gravity’s effect on the ball as it approached the cup. This can be further complicated by the fact that the farther to the right you aim, you may actually be putting uphill for the beginning portion of the downhill putt. You must calculate the first gravitational effect on the putt for its uphill portion of the journey as well. So the formula is something like infinity #1 (the uphill portion of the downhill putt) plus infinity #2 (the downhill portion of the downhill putt) times 32 feet per second per second. In other words: The standard form is (x - h)2 = 4p (y - k), where the focus is (h, k + p) and the directrix is y = k - p. If the parabola is rotated so that its vertex is (h,k) and its axis of symmetry is parallel to the x-axis, it has an equation of (y - k)2 = 4p (x - h), where the focus is (h + p, k) and the directrix is x = h - p.
Sometimes a green will have multiple breaks, sloping to the left and then sloping to right, or vice versa, in which case you have an even greater number of infinite combinations of speed and direction. How one infinity can be greater than another infinity? you ask. Well, this is, I am sure, a philosophical and mathematical conundrum and the source of great speculation (see Georg Cantor, German mathematician on the “cardinality of the continuum” or Liebniz; also see Aristotle’s discussion regarding the potential infinite and the actual infinite; and my question, for example, would be: can more angels dance on the head of two pins than on one pin?”). But on the golf course these infinities are not abstract, they are the difference between a par and a bogey, the difference between having a 12-inch tap in par putt or a 5-foot uphill sidehill comeback putt.
When putting, golfers must also decide on whether to increase the speed of putt slightly thus allowing gravity less time for that 32 feet per second per second to influence the curvature of the line of the putt or to decrease the speed thus allowing gravity more time for that 32 feet per second per second to influence said curvature. A common mistake is to pick the “slow line” and hit it the “fast line” intended velocity or to do the opposite, pick the “fast line” and hit the putt the “slow line” velocity. That seldom works. So don’t do that. And keep in mind that friction of the ball rolling on the green will slow the velocity of the ball thus increasing its break as the force of gravity works its magic. The Standard Friction Equation is:
Fr = μrN
Dividing by N, you can get the equation for the coefficient of rolling friction:
μr = Fr/N
• μr is the coefficient of rolling friction for the two surfaces (Greek letter "mu" sub r)
• Fr is the resistive force of rolling friction
• N is the normal or perpendicular force of the wheel on a surface
As you can see, this is not rocket science.
Occasionally, the force of gravity is greater than the friction of the ball on a downhill sidehill putt and you may actually putt the ball completely off the green. This is embarrassing when it happens, as you clearly either forgot or misapplied the standard equation for rolling friction coeffiecient. Duh. In US Open and other golf tournaments, greens often are virtually frictionless due to the secret application of Teflon mist during the overnight hours. A ball sent in motion will continue with no apparent deceleration whatsoever as the force of gravity is greater than the now frictionless putting surface.
More often, a player fails to recognize the gravity of the situation as happened to Ollie Schneiderjans in the Phoenix Waste Management Tournament in Feb. of 2018. Ollie had a 74-foot putt for eagle after driving the green on the par 4 17th hole. He misjudged both speed and direction and hit his putt too hard and rolled it into a pond as the gravitational forces increased when the ball left the putting surface and accelerated 32 ft per second per second minus the slight deceleration due to the bouncing ball’s friction as it contacted the grass of the fringe down the slope leading to the water. After a penalty stroke and a drop, he finished with a bogey. The video of the event shows him pointing to his brain after the putt clearly indicating he had failed to use the above gravitational formula in attempting this putt.
And while it is true that gravitational forces can vary from place to place due to density differences in the crust and mantle of the earth, or the distance from the center of the earth’s gravitational influence, and even on how fast time happens, these differences are minute and likely play no role in making an 8-foot sidehill, downhill, breaking putt.

A tip - avoid the "power lip-out." This occurs when the ball becomes influenced by the micro-gravity well at the time/space continuum event horizon of the cup. On a cup cut into a sloping green, one side of the slope is higher than the other and the difference is a variable [r=radius] in the gravitational acceleration formula above. An eighth of an inch or a quarter of an inch may not seem like much, but when applied to Newton's First Law of Motion in which Force = Mass x Acceleration, it can mean the difference between a birdie and a bogey. As the ball enters the cup it accelerates toward the center of gravity of the Earth and 32 feet per second per second. When (r=3959 miles) you get one result; however, when (r=3959 miles -1/4 inch) you get a different result. Not including that radii differential in your calculations is an egregious error. If a ball is struck ever slightly too firmly and the gravity well event horizon of the cup is unable to overcome the inertial forces of the ball in motion, and you manage to find that one out of an infinite number of combinations of speed and direction, the ball may accelerate as it moves toward the gravitational center of the earth, dip slightly below the planar surface of the opening and if the downward slope of the cup edge is greater than the gravitational forces can overcome, the ball may then escape the gravity well and accelerate away from the hole at a greater speed than which it entered the cup. And instead of making a more or less routine two foot tap-in putt for birdie, you are left with a six-foot comeback putt, albeit a straighter putt for par. NASA often "slingshots" satellites in a similar acceleration maneuver around the sun or planets in our solar system thus applying the gravity well acceleration principles of physics to spacecraft moving among the heavenly bodies. This part of golf may actually BE rocket science as this diagram (Figure 1) clearly illustrates.

In addition, even on level putts, a golfer may perceive the ball lip out of the cup under certain circumstances at a greater speed than that which it entered the cup. This perception may be influenced by the adrenalin pumping into the golfer’s system accompanied by a loud vocalized obscenity as the ball exits the cup. Alcoholic consumption may also be a factor in 1) mis-hitting the putt in the first place, and 2) the above mentioned perception. But this perception is an illusion. Laws of angular momentum (Figure 2)would state that as the lesser diameter areas of the ball rotate against the cup edge, negative acceleration would occur in addition to the gravitational deceleration which would occur as the ball moved away from the center of gravity.
However, laws of angular momentum do apply for a sidehill downhill or uphill putt because when the diameter of the ball’s surface touching the cup edge increases as the ball enters the planar surface of the cup hole, the center of mass of the ball decreases the distance to the imaginary rotational center of the void of the hole, and thus speeds up as if a ballerina were bringing her arms toward her center of mass. In other words, in modern (20th century) theoretical physics, angular momentum (not including any intrinsic angular momentum –) is described using a different formalism, instead of a classical pseudovector. In this formalism, angular momentum is the 2-form Noether charge associated with rotational invariance. As a result, angular momentum is not conserved for general curved spacetimes, unless it happens to be asymptotically rotationally invariant as you can plainly see in the accompanying Figure 3.

So with all this in mind, my advice is keep it simple: when faced with that 8 foot sidehill downhill, breaking putt just remember the gravitational acceleration rate, the formula for the arc of a parabola, the potential and actual infinities of speed and direction from which you can choose, the cardinality of the continuum, the law of the conservation of angular momentum, the rolling friction coefficient of the ball on the grass due to grass cut length, the rate at which the grass has grown since last mown, the direction of the grain, the moisture content of the grass blade, the surface wind, the barometric pressure, the air temperature, whether you are playing a 2, 3, 4, or 5 layer ball, the shape and configuration of the dimples of the ball and how that relates to the force you use to contact the ball with the putter surface, the composition of the ball cover and its shock absorbing characteristics when struck with the putter surface, milled, or un-milled; try to avoid striking the ball on the edge of a dimple, avoid the power lip-out, stay calm, exhale, close your eyes, and proceed to attempt the putt forthwith as your playing partners and players standing on the tee box behind you have been watching you figure all this out for some time now are getting impatient with your dithering.