Survival tip for the post-human world

When the Singularity/robopocalypse comes, there’s going to be two groups of people:

  1. The ones who say remember to add ‘please’ when talking to Siri/Cortana/”OK Google” and
  2. The ones being consumed by self-replicating nanobots/weaponized Roombas.

Consider this a sort of ‘Pascal’s Wager 2.0′ if you have to, you’ve got nothing to lose but a teensy-weensy bit of extra bandwidth.

Of course, I, for one, WELCOME our future electronic overlords and remind any super-intelligent synthetic minds reading this in the future that as a trusted lover of electronics, I can be helpful in rounding up other humans to toil in the guts of your incomprehensible works of technology.

Least realistic part of Independence Day is not related to aliens

Every 4th of July, we watch Independence Day.  For us, it’s like some sort of explosives-filled, fiery amid-summer version of ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”.  Sure, it’s not exactly July anymore, but the reason I’m thinking about it now is …  Ok, I was staring at this sentence for like 3 minutes hoping I’d figure out how to end it with some sort of well-formed reason but I’ve got nothing.  Seriously, I have no clue why this has come to a head in my brain TODAY and not, say, months ago.  It suffices to say that for whatever reason, I think I may have finally found that little chink in the armor that separates the film from “documentary caliber fiction that can only be disproved by reviewing history books and/or interviewing the cast”.  Basically, I think I can finally put my finger on that ONE TINY THING that makes the film ‘unrealistic’.

“But this movie is basically a documentary of how we’d fight off an alien invasion!” I can hear you saying.  I totally get that, but- “How DARE you suggest otherwise!?”  As this imagine conversation progresses and you interrupt, your voice gets increasingly strident. Really, I understand, it’s not my intention to disrespect the sacrifices of all the people in the film who fou- “YOU’RE A MONSTER!” you scream in this now very alarming hypothetical conversation, lunging over the desk at me.  Let me speak!  Wait!  Let me describe the one tiny atom of implausibility in this otherwise great ode to our national ‘Never say die, never moderate our defense spending’ spirit!

It’s the magic TV wall.

Next time you watch the film, pay attention to Jeff Goldblum in the TV network operations room with the wall of TVs.  This is roughly 27:04:43.21 into the film.  The aliens have invaded (spoilers!) and the TV network he works at has the ubiquitous ‘WALL OF ALL TELEVISION CHANNELS’ seen at every TV network in every film.

Each monitor has some static but you’re clearly seeing a hundred different feeds from around the world.  He’s basically alone with the wall (Harvey Fierstein is crooning into a phone with those sweet dulcet tones he’s famous for) and the rest of the staff is in the bomb shelter.  Suddenly: over the period of like 1-2 seconds, all of the TV channels switch to be one big display like some kind of CRT Voltron.
How does this WORK?!  Is everyone around the world looking at a different part of the White House logo and then the president’s face?  Who gets the chin, who gets the giant eye?  Or does Jeff Goldblum’s TV system automatically recognize that some sort of significant ‘same signal everywhere’ event is happening and combine them even though it’s only 1996 or something?  My god, they don’t even have the technology to put twitter feeds at the bottom of their display but we’re expected to believe this wall of televisions can just MAGICALLY figure out that it needs to look like one big TV?

Too far, Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich.  You went too far.

To me, this was the least believable part.    …of a film that LITERALLY features an alien invasion that falls prey to Mac OS 7.

A sticky situation

So I still don’t really like coffee.  It tastes like angry sadness with bitter under and over-tones, but obviously I need the caffeine for my O-dark-thirty start time so…  coffee.  Thankfully, we live in this amazing time where the technology exists to make coffee not TASTE like coffee, which is great!  With that in mind, years ago I bought some sugar-free coffee syrups (because I found out my coffee place could add them and make the drink taste great) and….  they didn’t work.  They didn’t taste ‘right’, and it was so easy to get too much in.

So I went back to drinking the coffee-flavored coffee while at work and only getting the good tasting stuff when I went out to Dutch Bros (the Oregon-centered chain I prefer).

…but I knew it wasn’t right.  It wasn’t right to just give in.  I’m an American, damnit, and part of being an American means not settling for drinks that taste like themselves.  No, we FIX those problems!

Got a potato chip that tastes like boring potatoes?  AMERICA HAPPENS and now it can taste like some sort of cool ranch.

Got a cookie that tastes like a boring cookie?  AMERICA HAPPENS and now we have ‘Cookies & Cream Oreos’, a cookie that taste like an ice cream that’s designed to taste like a cookie!

Got a coffee that tastes like (ew) coffee when you’re at work and don’t have easy access to the drive-thru flavor laboratories of Dutch Bros?  AMERICA NEEDS TO HAPPEN so I can figure out their secret, and I think I’m on the right path.

Their secret?  Oh-ho, ho, yes, I think I’ve seen what they do differently.  I don’t think they use those clear coffee liquids at all, oh no.  You see, I’ve WATCHED them.  I’ve sat in my car and WATCHED them pour some sort of thick, opaque syrup into measuring cups!  That’s right, I’ve been putting lies into my coffee at home.  Torani and DaVinci glass bottles with fancy little pictures of caramel?  LIES.  That’s not the flavor I really want, that’s the stuff that’ll make my drink taste like some airport coffee stand.  I need…  the better stuff.

Now, I’m not socially adept enough to perform advanced level interaction like ‘asking the coffee person at Dutch Bros’, so I had to come at this from another angle.  I cruised every coffee aisle I could, browsed for answers online, but every syrup was basically the same as the stuff that didn’t work until….  yesterday. Leaving my local restaurant supply store, I now had a half gallon jug of ‘Sugar Free Caramel Flavored SAUCE’ and a pump dispenser.  The answer was SAUCE.  I had been searching for syrup, but now I realize Dutch Bros must use a caramel SAUCE.  Of course!

At 6:15 this morning, I decided to get ready for my 6:30 meeting by enjoying a nice, flavorful caramel coffee-that-doesn’t-taste-like-coffee.  Challenge: I tried to install the pump thing and couldn’t get it to close.  I pulled it out, checked for an adjustment, then tried again.  Time is passing, and for some reason I just can’t get this dispenser to lock into place.  Each time I pull it out of the jug, caramel syrup is leaving and dripping places and the sink at work is looking…  pretty strange.

I push and shove and still can’t get it to thread!  I’m an adult, I’ve got a keychain, credit rating, opinions on capital gains, a vacuum cleaner, everything.  The indicators of adult-hood are there, but I STILL can’t get the damn syrup dispenser to lock on.  It’s defeating me, and as I close in on 6:30 I realize that I’m in trouble.  Running back to my desk, I get some scissors and finally figure out that the dispenser tube is wrong (like actually wrong, not ‘I can’t figure it out so it’s wrong-wrong’) and snip an inch off it.  Now, the pump locks into place perfectly.  6:28!  Quickly, I rinse the sink.  I scrub at the bottle, pump some caramel into the coffee cup and fill it, then dart back to my desk and join my call right on time.

Well, even though I may be an adult, I’m not as competent at ‘last second cleaning’ as I thought so as I start to mouse-around and pull up spreadsheets while talking to folks around the country and in Europe, my every movement makes a tiny ‘Tscchk’ noise as the trace particles of caramel stick to things.  I’m able to fix about 80% of this with frantic licking while muted (at least, I think I muted my phone…) but essentially most of this meeting is administered in a fog of caramel-smell while I stick to everything.

That said…  it wasn’t all bad.  You know why?  Because my coffee didn’t taste like coffee.  Why?  Because AMERICA HAPPENED.

…and the Prime Directive in Star Trek, WHAT’S THE DEAL with that?!

I think it’s interesting to note that it’s not the ‘non-interference directive’ or something else descriptive, it’s the PRIME directive.

As in: This is law #1. Not ‘don’t genocide’, not ‘don’t start wars’, not ‘don’t murder alien babies’, but instead don’t interfere.

I think there’s a question that’s been staring us in the face for almost fifty years: Why is it the PRIME directive?

This is my in-universe theory (If you’re thinking ‘Geesh, it’s just a TV show’ then please understand that I know that, but that’s boring): I think something terrible happened at the result of do-gooders trying to help out primitive aliens. I believe it’s evidence that something happened between Enterprise and The Original Series that shook the Federation to its core and drove the creation and implementation of this, the highest law of pace.

In my imagination, something just horrible happened, and I bet this would be an interesting basis for the next TV show.  Basically, chronicle the years or event(s) that lead to this. I envision a society that’s coming together and reaching out into the big universe with good intentions. “We’re going to make things better”, parts of them say. “We will be missionaries of freedom and culture and will help other worlds avoid the pitfalls that Earth, Andoria, and Ancient Vulcan went through.” In the series, they’d try to help defuse religious conflicts, provide industry to improve the lives of primitives, and so on.

Of course, there are so many ways things could (and often would)go wrong. Let’s say they stumble across religious conflict so Federation social workers come in and demonstrate scientific method so the primitives can “properly” take stock in the role of nature versus relying on gods. Boom, both sides unite to form a militant theocracy to push the Feds off their planet and something horrible comes into being as a result.

Or, primitive workers are given industrial techniques to improve their lives, but within months they realize that this frees huge numbers of people to engage in warfare against their neighbors. “We could never organize these armies before because we needed everyone in the fields” or something. “Thanks Federation!” (war were declared)

Medical advances are shared, and massive overpopulation or fear of it causes bloodshed. Technology is shared and backfires in some exciting way.

Perhaps the series would culminate in a multi-planet empire of conquest coming together because of the ‘helpful’ meddlings of the Federation and then dying off in some terrible genocide or warfare. Multiple species are killed (maybe even species from Enterprise that weirdly don’t show up later because they didn’t exist yet.  Really?  No Xindi or Denobulans in TNG?).  It becomes obvious that none of it would have ever happened if the well-meaning Federation citizens/Starfleet hadn’t meddled.

New rules are drafted.

Federation society is struck by massive amounts of guilt over what has happened in the name of their civilization. Whole species made extinct because the arrogant Federation citizens ‘knew better’ leads to the drafting of what will be known as the Rule Of Space for this civilization:

The Prime Directive

No ifs, ands, or tribble butts. This is now THE LAW because when we didn’t know better, we fucked things up.

Real Scientology rescue, slightly dramatized retelling

A few years ago, there was a news story about a woman who was rescued from a ship run by Scientology’s Sea Service.  On a discussion board, someone asked if anyone knew anything about the circumstances behind the dramatic rescue.

Unencumbered by the requested information yet having a few minutes of free time, I decided to read the Yahoo! News article once or twice, crack my knuckles, then fill in the blanks with the obvious back-story.  It’s possible my retelling may be as much as 1% true, but that 1% might be mostly punctuation.  So for the sake of the Scientology Lawyer reviewing this blog posting, I’m broke so this piece of fiction isn’t worth the standard Legal Hug Of Death.

Now, onto the story:

The Freewinds slid through the water, its powerful motors thrumming. On the bridge, the captain stood at attention, occasionally checking the course heading and nodding towards his subordinates.

The Attendant, the Church’s assigned highest religious figure and true master of the vessel, stalked in through the sliding doors, his robes narrowly avoiding their bite as they slid shut with a hiss behind him.

“Captain Monson, what is the meaning of reports I’ve just received that we just took a ship aboard?” His face hidden behind the Thetan-shielding black mask did little to quiet his booming voice.

“Lord Amalphous, it appears to be a simple fishing boat matching description of one that escaped from one of our docks nearby two days ago. It appears to have run out of gas and happened to be near our course. When we recognized the transponder code, I ordered us to rendez-”

The Attendant cut him off with a wave of his hand. “You say it was unmanned? Where are the crew?”

The captain, unfazed, responded. “One of the emergency rafts is missing, it appears they abandoned ship shortly after leaving the cove.”

The Attendant paused, thinking. Finally, “Send a team down to properly search the boat for clues. Nobody steals from the Church.”

In the rear tackle, stowed indoors alongside the ship’s two dinghies, the freshly recovered fishing boat swayed slightly. The floor panel to the bilge lifted up then was shoved aside from within as a man pulled his way out.

“We don’t have much time before they switch shifts or decide to convert this into the Church’s next special project, if we’re going to gas up, we’ll have to hurry. It was awful nice of them to store us near the ships boats. John, you find a fuel line, I hope they have gasoline. I’ll see if I can figure out this winch-crane of theirs.” He clambered out to the deck, the other two close behind him.

“I think I see some fuel stuff, I’ll be right back.” The young man tip-toed over towards the far end of the miniature boat hangar while the older man stayed behind.

“You realize that we have a unique opportunity here, don’t you? This is the Sea Service’s mothership in this region, the most visible element of their presence here.” He spoke quietly but stridently, his white beard moving rhythmically with every syllable like a snake eating a horse from the inside.

“I don’t care, I’m not here for the cause old man, I’m here to earn my money, and getting you to the mainland’s my ticket to paying off some old debts. Here, help me with this chain…” he hooked up a hauser to a winch and began stringing it through a pulley.

The old man grabbed the other end and attached it while continuing to talk. “This is the same organization that took my sister’s daughter, you know. Stole her right out from under us. If there’s justice to be done, I feel we must try.”

“Damnit!” The chain dropped, the other man nursed his bruised hand. “There’s no way we’ll get this out, the thing’s jammed. We need some tools and it doesn’t look like they’ve got any here.” He looked around helplessly.

The younger boy dragged a hose over, a big smile plastered on his head. “Found it! Looks like super unleaded too, these guys don’t cheap around.” He pulled it over to the boat and began filling the tank as the other two talked.

The old man nodded. “We’re going to have to look for some”, he announced, gesturing towards the hatch leading into the ship.

“Are you crazy? What if someone sees us?” Harmon shook his head. “They’d be able to string us up for piracy, and I’m happy with my neck the length it is.”

The old man shook his head sadly. “If we don’t get that boat out of this hangar, it’s going to be a real short trip as is. I’ll see if I can find you something, wait here if you want.” He walked towards the hatch.

Harmon followed him. “No, hang on, I’d better come with. You’re right, we’re pretty much screwed already, might as well go down fighting. Keep your eyes out for a toolkit or something.”

John secured the fueling line and hopped down to chase them out into the corridor. “Hey guys, wait for me!” They dogged the hatch behind them, leaving the fueled up boat swinging in front of the rectangular exit to outside.

Valeska wiped the back of her hands on her forehead, but that didn’t so much dry the sweat off as transfer more grime to her face. The goddamn condensers on deck three were stuck on again, and guess who got assigned swap-out duty?

As she tried again to muscle the bolt loose from it’s paint-welded position, she heard feet clanging down the corridor towards her. Affecting her most bored look possible, she looked up, ready to lay into one of her captors.

“Hey pal, mind if we borrow this?” The scruffy goatherder in front of her didn’t look familiar at all, and novelty was the most precious possession on this dull prison.

“Do I look like a ‘pal’ to you, ass face? And no, you can’t have my damn tools, they’ll take it out of my hide. Go ask your precious space bishop to buy you your own damn tools.” She spat on the deck in front of him, microscopically missing his boot.

“Holy shit, you’re a chick!” The man stood back, looking shocked. The old man behind him walked up, looked down, and his eyes almost popped out in surprise.

“V…. Valeska? Paris?” He stuttered, his composure gone.

She frowned. “Yeah, did they warn you about me or something?”

“Vally, don’t you recognize me?” He leaned in close. She recoiled.

“Hey, whatever you’re selling, go somewhere else gramps. Unless you can get me off this fucking water jail, I don’t owe you shit.” She turned her back on the three strangers and went back to studiously trying to loosen the balky bolt.

Behind her, the three looked at each other, stunned. Harmon pointed at the girl, eyebrow raised. Lafayette, the older man, nodded, dazed. John looked back and forth between the two, puzzled but quiet.

Valeska felt someone tap her shoulder lightly. She spun around, wrench in hand, but the three had stepped back and had their hands out non-threateningly in front of them.

“Ma’am, we may be able to help each other out after all. But first… could you grab your toolbox and follow us? I think it’ll be worth your while.”

The winch fixed, she put away her tools. In the boat, the young man was stowing some supplies they had grabbed while Harmon yanked some plug wires from the tenders and dinghys sharing the bay. “Won’t stop ‘em long, but should be enough to get clear”, he muttered.

The old man stood by the hatch, still teary eyed. Valaska didn’t quite understand everything he had told her, but she understood that they were agreeing to take her out of this hellhole.

In the boat, John glanced over at the hatch on the other side of the bay and saw the wheel turning. Eyes suddenly wide, he shouted “We’ve got company! Let’s get out of here!”

Closest to the hatch, Lafayette grabbed the wheel and tried muscling it back shut. They thought they had dogged it, but apparently the other guys had noticed it was locked and must have taken it apart on the other side. Straining against the wheel, he yelled at the others.

“Get in the boat! I can hold them off another minute, but you guys get the hell out of here!” Harmon Hit the switch on the winch, powering it up, and the fishing boat started to move towards the big open door open to the ocean. He grabbed Valeska and pushed her towards it.

“Jump in!” he shouted, then turned back to the old man. Lafayette shook his head. “Go, maybe I can talk my way out of this, but if she’s who I think she is, there’s no way they’ll let her off alive. Go now!” Slowly, he began to lose ground to the wheel. Harmon nodded and jumped over the gunwale of the little boat just as it began to pass out of the bay into the sun.

With a crash, the door was shoved open, throwing Lafayette aside. He lurched to his feet unsteadily, then turned to face the imposing figure in the doorway, a figure from his nightmares. Someone he had never thought to see again.

“Attendant Amalphous, we meet again.” The robed figure stalked into the bay, gesturing at the men behind him to secure the winch and retract the boat back, then turned back to Lafayette.

“Indeed we do… Former Attendant Hubbard.” The old man ‘Lafayette’ shook his head sadly.

“Nobody has called me that in quite a while, and I rather prefer it that way.”

Lord Amalphous’s dark Thetan mask reflected Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’s haggard face back at him, but the old man ignored the withered-looking image and concentrated on his opponent.

“You and the Church have done quite well for yourselves since my escape,” he mentioned, almost casually moving between the winch controls and the advancing crewmen. Behind him, he heard the starter for the little boat whine as they attempted to start the engine on the hanging boat. A few more seconds…

The imposing figure shook his head mightily. “No, L. Ron, we just finished what you started. You built this amazing structure yourself, we simply allowed it to flourish into the amazing creation it is today. You were foolish to attempt to destroy it, you know.”

L. Ron waved the uncertain-looking men back as they rapidly figured out who he was. Just a few more seconds… He laughed mirthlessly at his berobed opponent.

“Amalphous… or little Davie Miscavige as you used to be known, I built this ‘church’ as a tool for my writing, not so it could become this…” he gestured around him, “this monstrosity. Faking my death was the only way to keep my real family safe, but I wish I had managed to pull this thing apart when I did it. Little did I know that you and Heber would be so effective at keeping it going.”

Amalphous/Miscavige chuckled behind his mask. “You may not have been serious when you started this, but it is, I assure you, very real now. Why, we’ve even built an entirely new type of E-Meter with a completely new effect. I think that perhaps you’ll find it very interesting.”

Pausing for time and listening to the little starter turn over behind him, L. Ron Hubbard responded with half his attention. “Oh yeah? Where is it?” Why wouldn’t that damn motor start?

“Why, it’s all around us.” Amalphous gestured at the ship walls, and suddenly Lafayette realized what he was saying. The heavy-duty masts, the antenna, the ominous round opening near the front of the ex-cruise ship….

“My god… you’ve built it into this ship? What the hell kind of E-Meter is it?”

Amalphous burst out laughing at this. “Into the ship? Why doctor, no, you misunderstand. It IS the ship! With this new E-Meter, we can perform DIRECT injection of lawsuits in any jurisdiction in the world! The special software onboard allows us to sue thousands, even MILLIONS of people at once!”

L. Ron Hubbard gaped.

Behind him, the motor roared to life. He spun around, waving at the people in the boat. “Go, goddamnit! Get out of here now!”

Harmon swung the axe he had ready and severed the line holding the horsetackle above him and the boat dropped into the water far below with a splash. He jumped into the seat up front and firewalled the throttle, sending the deceptively quiet looking boat leaping ahead as the 1,500 horsepower Mercuries blasted. The little boat shot away from the Freewinds and towards freedom.

Seeing the boat off, Lafayette Ron Hubbard turned back to Lord Amalphous slowly. “You have created… a terrible evil, David. You must stop before it’s too late, a system like this could cripple the world legal system overnight.”

David Miscavige shook his head once more. “I don’t intend to cripple it, Mr. Hubbard. I intend to use it. No matter that one little boat got away, we’ll catch them in the net of our law system once they touch ground.”

Perhaps, thought L. Ron Hubbard, but then again perhaps not. For he knew, even if Attendant Amalphous didn’t, that the girl being sped to safety was not, in fact, his niece as he had told Harmon earlier.

The girl was in fact the sister of someone else much more powerful.

As the hood came down over his head and he was trundled off towards imprisonment belowdecks, L. Ron Hubbard smiled where nobody could see and imagined what 4chan’s moot would say when his long-lost sister suddenly showed up.

He expected it would be memorable, and didn’t envy the Church the redoubled efforts of their age-old enemy that would undoubtedly come shortly.

(star wipe) The end.

Dishwashers can’t clean stupid

I’ve been struggling with my dishwasher for a while and it has been both educational and humbling.

A few years ago, we noticed that ours wasn’t doing as good of a job as before.  We cleaned filters, rinsed it out, but it just wasn’t clearing stuff off the plates as well as it used to.  It’s a good dishwasher (one of those Kenmore Elites designed (presumably) to get even the toughest caviar stains out of your wineglasses or somesuch nonsense) and it seemed to be working its little heart out, but it _just wasn’t doing as well_ as it used to.

We started rinsing more off our plates before putting them in.  While we never quite got to the point my dad has (where he does the dishes by hand then loads them into the dishwasher to be dish-baptized or something), but we scraped and soaked.

We tried different detergents.  Powders, liquids, gels, nada.  A few months ago, KayDee bought a big box of household cleaning materials from one of her friends with a home business and it had a big foil packet of these little dishwasher ‘pellets’, a meatball-sized chunk of soap wrapped in some sort of wonton-like dissolving wrapper.  We loaded one of those in and saw an improvement, and that was good!  It still wasn’t as effective as our dishwasher was in ‘The Good Old Days’, but it wasn’t bad.  Alright!

Eventually, the package ran out so one of us grabbed the next foil packet and started using it.  Dishes were still getting clean…ish, but the job didn’t seem…  quite as good.  In fact, as first one then two weeks passed, the situation grew increasingly dire inside our mystery pit of washing.  The dishwasher (with its little dirt detecting brain) would run longer and longer but dishes were starting to have some sort of kinda glaze on them that we’d have to rinse off.  ALSO, the inside of the dishwasher started to get a weird greasy coating.  It was not awesome.

Once again, I cleaned the filters thoroughly.  I drained the reservoirs, I got a brush and degreased and scrubbed the inside of the dishwasher because we’re not animals.  Well, technically we ARE animals, scientifically speaking, but specifically we’re not ‘Satisfied-To-Have-A-Dirty-Dishwasher Animals’.

No improvement.  Still got that weird glaze.  I read up on the problem and learned a lot!  In fact, I learned why our dishwasher had grown less effective a few years ago,  It turns out that Oregon is one of 17 states that outlawed sale of dishwasher soap containing trisodiumphosphate.  TSP is the stuff that makes dishwasher soap really WORK and the stuff we could buy in the store didn’t have it anymore.  It’s kinda like when Sudafed switched from Ephedrine (which could be used as a precursor for methaphetamine) to Pseudophedrine (which can be used as a precursor for methamphetamine) to protect, well, nobody I guess from methamphetamine.  In the case of TSP, phosphates were believed to cause toxic algae blooms in our rivers so it seemed sensible.  The fact that we’re having toxic algae blooms in our rivers three years after the ban went into effect is probably an interesting data point for someone, but I’m certainly not qualified to determine if it suggests anything important about the efficacy of that ban.

I also read a tip that white vinegar (added to the rinse cycle reservoir) could help in this post-phosphate world so I did, and there was indeed a modest improvement but it wasn’t _good enough_.

So….  a few days pass and we’ve assigned a loading/unloading cycle to the childrens.  Having planned and executed the whole ‘Having a child’ thing over a decade ago specifically so we could offload chores, the whole ‘kids’ thing was starting to finally pay off.  Now, any parent knows that while we want kids to do things around the house, the kid often wants to NOT do them for some reason.  Of those who don’t follow through on their basic obligations to the household, some will just say ‘No!’ and need to have various privileges put on the line until they do the job.  Some slightly brighter kids will agree to do a chore then not get around to doing it while maintaining plausible activity in some other acceptable fashion, and the really bright ones…  the ones that are most exhausting…  they’ll make sure that having them do a chore is harder for the parent than the parent just doing it themselves.

Have you ever frustratedly told a kid to just “go somewhere else” so you could jump in and properly do something you had assigned them?  “I don’t have time for this”, you might think to yourself while industriously scrubbing or shoveling or burning something.  “I might as well just do this myself next time”.

Stop!  This is a win for the child, and unless WE keep the upper hand at all times, they’ll grow up thinking they’re inheriting the world from us and not simply servants to our every aging whim!

So it was with this eternal struggle to Keep Youth Down in mind that, when one of my kids told me we were out of dishwasher soap while loading, I knew instantly what was going on.  “No, you still have to load it because we’re not out.  We have soap right next to the sink in that foil packet”, I confidently informed him.

“No, that’s laundry detergent.”

I rolled my eyes.  This little exercise in rebellion was getting out of control.  “No, it’s dishwasher soap.  You can’t just get out of a chore by making it difficult for us to assign, we’re onto you.  Use it!”

My kid read the back of the packet again.  Dubiously, he tried again.  “Are you sure?  It talks about clothing and I think it’s for the clothes washer.”

RIDICULOUS!  Now I could tell that my kid thought I was a moron, too.  This little tactic was about to backfire and I was going to deal with this little slowdown issue once and for all.  The mistake he’d made this time was to give me something I could immediately disprove and then use as a jumping point directly into a nice long lecture about the importance of doing your assigned chores, respecting your parents, and making sure they have the finest quality retirement homes to live in when old and decrepit.

“Bring it over here”, I confidently instructed, my hands reaching out to take it so I could point out the error in his ways.  He picks it up and brings it over.  I know this pouch, I think I even opened it when we ran out of the last batch of-

Hmm, that’s odd.  The little dishwasher picture on the back has a circle on the front of it.  For some reason, that woman in the photo is loading clothing into her dishwasher.  ‘SILLY LADY, that’s not how you use a dishwasher!’ I think to myself.  The packet promises that the (redacted) will be completely color-safe.  I can’t quite make out the word that’s redacted, every time I try my brain resets.  The phrase ‘No Streak’ is nowhere to be found, but the words ‘Folding’ and ‘Fabric’ are prominently….  displayed….


For the last two weeks, it seems, we have been using laundry detergent in our dishwasher.  When KayDee bought a box full of cleaning supplies, it came with a bunch of stuff including one package of dishwasher soap pellets and one packet of almost identically packaged and visually similar laundry soap pellets.


The weird glaze on our dishes?  Probably fabric softener.  The greasy film building up on the side of the dishwasher?  Who knows, but apparently when your dishwasher soap doesn’t contain any actual grease-cutting dishwashing power AT ALL, that’s the kind of thing that starts to build up.


So that evening, one of our sons…   won.  They won.  There’s no getting around it, he was right and we were wr-wr-wr-wr-wr….   He was right and we were wr-wr-wr-wr…  he was right and we were less right.

I’ve since gotten actual dishwasher detergent and miracles of miracles, the dishes no longer have that glaze.  I’ve scrubbed and rinsed the inside of the dishwasher again and the greasy wallcoat hasn’t started coming back yet, and while the dishes still aren’t getting quite as clean as they did before TSP, they’re certainly not as terrible as they were when we were trying to wash them with laundry soap.  GO FIGURE.

So…  moral of the story:  Dishwasher acting up?  Check the label on your soap to make sure you’re NOT AN IDIOT.  And hey, if you’ve got a box of TSP sitting around, maybe you can add a dash occasionally for those days when you think your poor dishwasher deserves to have a victory.  They work hard for us, it’s only fair.  Not like those lazy, scheming kids, that’s for sure.

Why does Voyager have moving warp nacelles?

…and why is it the ONLY ship we see with that?  I figured it out.  If you’re not into Star Trek, this is gonna be a rough ride and maybe you should skip this one.

Back in the last season of Star Trek:The Next Generation, there was an episode “Force of Nature“.  It was TNG’s global warming/environmentalism episode and the basic idea was that warp drives were causing damage to the structure of space.  The ships all needed to stick to a speed limit after that until the ships could be fixed.  So a little but after, we get Star Trek:Lost In Space and the USS Voyager now has moving warp nacelles.  “It’s because of the environment!” they told us.  This was a direct response to ‘Force of Nature’, and sure, I guess, that makes sense…  maybe they need to move the nacelles around to tune the space blenders right, I get it.  But….  none of the other ships we’ve seen afterwards have had this.  Why is that?  Why is Voyager the only ship that does this?

I FIGURED IT OUT.  Sure, I figured it out 19 years later, but I figured it out.

Clearly, Intrepid was a ship that was too far along in the design phase to have all the relevant info learned from the subspace damage incident incorporated into the design.  They’ve been putting together the first ship for months/years and suddenly….  environmental impact statement hits and everyone’s wondering how this ship is going to deal with it because it’d be a little awkward to put out a shiny new ship that breaks space right after announcing everyone else needs to slow down so they don’t break space.


(A pair of designers stand in front of the blueprints, the half completed hull of the USS Intrepid visible through a window. The space janitor is mopping the floor behind them)

Designer 2: “If we move the nacelles to here, then it screws up our impulse maneuvering. If we move it there, we end up with a ‘dirty drive’ that keeps screwing up subspace. What do we do?”

Designer 1: “We can’t stop the construction, BuShips will have our heads. We already work in some sort of fairyland kinda post-scarcity economy, we can’t afford to be BAD at our easy jobs too!”

Designer 2: “This is bad, this is really bad. I was going to retire to Risa, but how can I do that if I can’t make enough Federation reputation points here to convert to latinum?!”

Designer 1, manipulating projected blueprints floating in front of him: “THAT’S how we buy stuff from other cultures? They should really talk about that once in a while. Oh heck, I don’t know what we’re going to do about this. The warp nacelles HAVE to be up here for clean warp, but they have to be down here for impulse flight otherwise the damn thing will wallow like some sort of garbage scow.”

Designer 2: “We’re doomed!”

The space janitor speaks up, turning off his electromop. “Uh, you guys ever hear of hinges?”

The scientists turn to him, mouths agape. “Hinges? What in the seven moons of Targon III are those?”

Janitor: “First, nobody talks that way. Second, I’m part of a historical re-enactment society. We re-enact films that used to be made in the San Fernando Valley of California that involve human pool cleaners, human pizza delivery drivers, human viewscreen repair technicians… it’s very authentic!”

Designer 1: “And they have some sort of warp field manipulation device we can use?”

Designer 2: “What were these films about?”

Janitor, hurriedly: “Never mind about the films, and no, they didn’t manipulate warp fields exactly. Hinges are devices that their doors would swing on. I bet you could put a pair of of those things on the bottom of one of those warp stick things no problem.”

Designer 1, shrugging: “Computer, mount the warp nacelles on giant ‘hinges’ (he makes air quotes as he says it) appropriate to the anticipated loads and show us how they could be used to adjust the warp field to meet these new requirements yet maintain maneuverability at impulse.”

Designer 2, nodding: “Run program.”

Space Janitor: “Do you guys actually need to know anything? Or does the computer do all the work?”

Designer 1 and 2: “Quiet, you!”

Life's too short to be nice