The Car Stereo Odyssey

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A while back I’d bought a new stereo for the Explorer–something that can “talk” directly to my phone to replace my kludge of a phone via Bluetooth to an FM transmitter then the FM transmitter to the car stereo. Took a bit to figure out the tools and equipment I needed to install: dash kit for a “double din” system, plus adapter for an Explorer with Premium Sound.

So far so good. I get everything together, wire up the adapter to the harness provided by the radio manufacturer and…dead. Won’t turn on. I double check the wiring (pretty straightforward match wire colors on radio’s harness with adapter’s harness). Good. Check continuity through all the wires with a multimeter. 0.1 ohm in each of the connections.

Oh, I also check the voltages reaching the radio (sticking probes in the back of the plugs while it’s all hooked up with the car running. All correct there too.

Since it was bought through Amazon and it turns out that Amazon has support for the unit. So I get onto chat with them. They give me some things to try. Nothing.

Next step, then, is to go to the manufacturer. They talk me through a couple of the same things, but since I’m getting power from the car to the unit, not turning on means unit’s dead. So they send me an email to get an RMA started. I provide them with proof of purchase (Amazon order number) and shipping information. They agree to send the replacement in advance so long as I send the old one back within 10 days of receipt of the new one and they have a cc on file in case I don’t. I should get an email in a couple days, they say, with tracking information for the new one.

Couple more day pass. Get an email. Not shipment advice with tracking information. No, “the unit you bought has been discontinued. We’d like to substitute this one instead, please respond if that’s okay. So I respond that yes, it’s okay.

Couple more days pass, which brings us to today. “That unit is out of stock. We’re trying to with one of our partners at Amazon to get you a replacement product. Any tracking information will come form an amazon e-mail and…

…you should receive the product on 12/24/19.

You can believe as much of that as you want to, I suppose.

Angry

I had intended to reblog a post from over at According to Hoyt, but the “reblog” button wasn’t working on the browsers I had open.  So… here’s an intro:

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Yesterday there was a comment by someone here about how he wanted blood on the streets.

Sure. we all want blood on the streets. In a general and metaphorical way. Except some of us have seen blood on the streets. And those of us who have don’t want it.

Now is avoiding blood on the streets consigning ourselves and our children to the type of hell other countries have gone through for three generations? I don’t know. It might not even be possible for people like me. It’s always a bad sign when I wake up strangling the bed clothes and shaking them, which is the reason I’ve been up for two hours now and it’s not even 8 am. It’s a sign the anger is starting leak around the edges. And we’re nowhere at the level of oppression going on in Venezuela or even vaguely approaching the crap people put up with for 70 years plus in the USSR.

However people who lived in the USSR and people from Poland, say, might very well tell you it was worth to keep their heads down and quiet until they could be free again. After all if you’re dead you’ll never see freedom again anyway.

Which is fine, but being a live lamb might not be possible for most Americans in this day and age.

This in turn brings me to why we’re angry.

We’re angry because this is a gross violation of our country as constituted, our country as we’re committed to, our country as a country of laws.

Read that paragraph again. And realize that the fashionable habit these days of adopting a pose of the “the republic is gone, gone, gone” is bullshit. The only people who can think that are people who have never lived in another country as one of them.

Read the rest at the source.

Performers Having a Good Time: A Musical Interlude

This is a short one because, well, I know what I’m looking for here but finding it on demand can be difficult.

One of the things I like to see in a musical performance is performers who clearly and obviously are really enjoying being out on the stage.  That kind of energy can be contagious.  Now, mind you, that kind of vibe is generally going to go with music quite different from most of what I listen to these days, but it can make a pleasant change of pace.

Saw this one on TV way back in the day.  It’s really what made me, back then, a “Melissa Manchester” fan.  Mind you, back then I did listen to a lot of 80’s pop and earlier softer rock and ballads (this was before my “Musical Awakening”.  Still, it makes a nice change of pace for me even today.

 

The song in this one is fun in a goofy way but watch the guys singing and grooving to it.  Really watch them.  They are clearly having a blast.

 

This one was similar in timeframe to the one above.  What made this one is the group was performing in front of an immense live audience.  You can see that the band is pumped.

 

I’ve never known Floor not to be into it when she’s on stage.  This is a good example of that.

 

Watch the expressions, especially during the slow-mo introduction to the video.  Another group out there having a good time.

 

Then there’s these folk.  Their whole raison d’etre was that they loved that “oldies” music (“oldies” when I was a kid; positively ancient now) and you can clearly see that they had fun with it:

 

Personal Progress

So these pants arrived yesterday (the pic is clickable and goes to the order page):

The size of these pants is 32X28.  They are a little short.  I could probably go to a bit longer inseam (29 or maybe 30), but they fit in the waist.

Look at that again:  Pants with a 32″ waist (81 cm for you metric folk) fit me as of last night.  I started this year wearing a 40″ waist and probably should have been wearing a 42″.  That means I’m down 8-10″ (20-25 cm for you metric folk) since February (when I started getting serious about diet and exercise.

Overall, my health has seen a significant improvement.  As I mentioned yesterday, in many ways I’m in the best shape (as in fitness) of my life.  My blood pressure is good.  My cholesterol numbers are good.  And my average blood sugar (as measured by A1C) is good.

So…not bad for a guy who’s just about to turn 59.

 

Really stoked about Ice Follies

At ice skating yesterday they didn’t have the regular classes. They had a lot of different things going on: kids playing “ice soccer”, other folk practicing whatever, and the instructors who were there kind of circulating around.

I was mostly off by myself working on my backward skating and circle work.  Some of the same kind of stuff I talked about in yesterday’s post.

For backward work, I was doing backward one-foot glides and backward stroking:

On the circle, I worked forward and backward edges and backward half-swizzle pumps on the circle.

Trevor, the god of figure skating lore in the local area–we have a couple of folk who coach competitive skaters here and Trevor is the guy who coached them–came over to work with my on the two foot turns, front to back, on the circle. I’d mentioned the two-foot turn issue to him the day before. That’s a beginning transition from forward skating to backward, and one that had given me trouble.

It looks so simple but…  So Trevor worked with me for ten minutes or so and by the end of it I was doing the turn. I’ll need practice, but I’ve got the basics down now.

That was good.  Breakthroughs are always nice.  What really had me stoked, though, was two things. After working the two foot turn for a bit, I started to get sloppier with it–fatigue–so I went to try some other stuff.

One was my forward crossovers. I did them a bit on the circle and they were coming together nicely to the point that I could do several in a row.

And once I’d practiced the crossovers a bit, I went to straight back and forth across the ice working on one more technique.  This one is the last of the technique I had learned back when I was 18, which I had “lost” in the intervening years, a T-stop:

This one was a challenge again.  Part of it is being stable enough on the one foot glide to be able to set the braking foot down behind the gliding foot.  Some subtle points include the angle of the blade scraping the ice and keeping it aligned so that you stop in a straight line and don’t don’t end up swinging around in a curve (and then falling on your face).  After a bit of practice, I found I was able to do it again.

So everything I used to be able to do I can do again–and lots more besides.

Add together the results of my diet and exercise program (of which ice skating is a part) and in many ways I seem to be in the best shape of my life. Yeah, my weight’s still up compared to where I’d like it to be but strength and stamina are higher than they’ve ever been before.

Not bad for someone 16 days shy of 59.

Some Really Follyful Ice Follies.

I don’t care what spell check says. “Follyful” is totally a word.

This is pictures mostly today.  Yesterday, I was back at the rink.  My daughter and I had finally gotten back to the ice after having skipped the previous week for reasons.

I asked my daughter to get some pictures of me on the ice.  As it happened, she got the pictures while I was doing a lap doing Forward Swizzles. (Local class calls them “fishies” for the kids.) That’s a technique that looks like this:

So, here was what I looked like doing it:

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Looking at the pictures, I noticed a couple of things.  One was that I leaned a bit too far forward while doing the technique.  The other was that I had my hands too low.  Instead of being out mostly straight at shoulder height, I had them closer to waist height, spoiling the line and the inherent grace of the movement.

I didn’t just do that technique.  I also did some work on the circle, this included forward inside and outside edges, and backward pumps on the circle.  The latter move is supposed to look something like this:

I ran into trouble was trying to do a two-foot turn on the circle.  That’s where you skate forward on the circle, doing a two foot glide around, it with bent knees  You then rise up to unweight the skates a bit, and pivot from the waist down so that instead of skating forward, you’re now skating backward.

The usual problem I’d been having with that technique was dragging too much during the pivot. Most of that, I think, is a matter of finding a “sweet spot” in the rocker of the blade.  Missing that sweet spot, the drag basically pulled me to a stop, so I was facing the other way but not actually moving.

Well, yesterday, I tried.  Came to a stop as had been happening, but then, just when I thought to get going to tray again, my skates went one way, I went the other, and then there was no direction but down.  Whacked my elbow on the ice.  I was pretty much done for the session at that point.  The result was this huge lump on my elbow:

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Ice and compression reduced the lump dramatically be the evening session so I was able to go back.  Evening session I was wearing elbow pads and, frankly, I need to make a point of wearing them when practicing.  Given my tendency to crack my elbow when I fall, and knowing that as long as I’m learning I will fall from time to time–that’s going to happen any time you push limits and you have to push limits if you want to progress–pads are a good idea.  Might want to add knee pads as well, although I seem to be less prone to impact injuries to my knees than to my elbow (and it always seems to be that one elbow.

The thing is, I’m wearing a knee pad on my arm right now and it seems to fit.  I measured for knee pads for the knees and the “large” sizes I’m finding readily at Amazon are supposed to fit a thigh something like 15.7″ around–two inches too small to fit my thighs.

In any case, I’ve at least got the elbow pads in my skate bag.  That, at least, I can protect going forward.

 

My Rocky Personal Life

I’ve alluded to the rather significant issues in my personal life here (particularly the fundraiser for my daughter).  So, I’ll grab what “upsides” I can along the way.

This week I Broke 33″ on the waist (32 7/8) and I’m up to 50 push-ups and 50 of my sort-of wall squats (an exercise I do specifically for ice skating, a half-squat I do standing just in front of a wall, not leaning against it but using it to ensure I keep my upper body straight upright),  50 second squat and hold (same kind of wall squat), 50 regular squats, and a 50 second “Planking”. I think with the new year instead of simply pushing the reps on my daily exercises I’ll add higher intensity versions of several of the exercises and try the same progression with them, adding one rep per week. One leg squats both my sort-of-wall-squats and regular ones will match what I need for some of the things I’ll be learning as I complete the “Basic” series in Learn to Skate, and maybe one-armed pushups.  Start with one each arm/leg daily the first week, add one each week, and see how far I can go.

Examples of the kind of things I’ll need the one-legged squats for:

The above is a “Basic 6” technique.  The next one is a considerably more advanced technique, but again shows why being able to do one-legged squats:

Still, even without the future plans 50 push-ups a day, most days (M, T, Th, F), with Tabata air squats on Wednesday and ice skating on Saturdays and Sundays is pretty good.

Conservatives, Liberals, and Liberty

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Readers of this blog know that I lean pretty heavily libertarian (while rolling my eyes at the Libertarian Party.  Really, “bake the cake” Johnson and “ban the guns” Weld as the party chosen ticket in 2016, and don’t get me started on their insane foreign policy positions).

And while Goldwaters “The Conscience of a Conservative” is close to my political bible, modern “Conservatism” (or at least the Republican Party, which many consider to be the “Conservative” one) gives little heed to the principles Goldwater (or at least his ghostwriter) expounded in that volume.

That does not mean that “liberals” are any better, despite the origin of the word and what it used to mean (late enough that Milton Friedman apparently thought he could rehabilitate the term in works like “Free to Choose” and “Capitalism and Freedom” but that’s another tale), the party styling itself as “liberal” (i.e. the Democrats) has little to do with actually fostering liberty.  “Freedom” does not mean “free stuff.”

So we get Democrats passing ever more restrictive laws.  What we’re allowed to do.  What we’re allowed to say.  How we may see to our family’s protection.  What personal transportation we may have.  Who we may do business with.  How we might conduct that business.  And on and on and on.  Rules and regulations and laws in such volume that nobody can possibly know a tenth of what the law requires of him virtually guaranteeing that each and every one of us breaks multiple laws, often carrying felony penalties, every day.

Then we have Republicans.  They’re a bit better (although not as much as they would have you believe) on the passing more and endless laws restricting individual liberty, they tend to cover different areas.  Things Democrats are willing to leave to the individual, Republicans are quick to restrict.

Both parties, when out of power, are quick to point out how “evil”, or at best mistaken, the other party is in its various new restrictions and other liberties.  As quick as they are to condemn, they are equally slow to repeal when they are the party in power.  Democrats pass a gun restriction?  The same Republicans who got up and told how wrong it was become silent on the matter the next time they have a majority.  Republicans pass sweeping surveillance legislation.  The same Democrats that talked about how much of a violation of civil rights it was quietly renew it when they are in power.

The exceptions to this practice are notable for their scarcity.

The end result is that restrictions on individual liberty ratchet up over and over.  Freedom is lost regularly and rarely regained.  The best we generally can hope for is that one party (the slightly more conservative leaning Republican Party) is somewhat slower in restricting individual liberty than the other.  But neither seems terribly interested in increasing liberty.

And their supporters can often be no better.  While democrats often pride themselves on their “compassion” when they vote some new program to take from one what he has earned and give it to someone who has not earned it, Republicans are often equally proud of their support for the agents of the state tasked with enforcing these various infringements on individual liberty.  “They don’t make the laws.  They just enforce them.”

Yeah, they are just following orders.

And this is where the Libertarians scream at me that this is why I should instead vote Libertarian.

Well, I might if I thought that the Libertarian Party was actually a political party.  It’s not.  It’s performance art at best.  As a party they do not seem to be serious about attempting to build a base, win support, and actually win elections.  You find a few in local and State elections but…not many.  Instead, they keep trying to go straight for the top.  And they tend to be so caught up on “principle”, completely unbending in the slightest.  What TV Tropes called “knights templar” (not to be confused with the real world Knights Templar).  They are far more interested in priding themselves on being “uncompromising” and making themselves feel good about that than in actually making deals that might get them some, or even most of what they want.

And then they turn around and pick Gary Johnson who agrees that a Christian baker should be forced to bake a custom wedding cake for something that he finds morally objectionable.  And his running mate, Weld?  The guy who would ban a host of guns.  How are either of these “libertarian”?

It’s enough to make you snatch off your hat, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it.

The Tragedy of Loki

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Most people think of Loki as one, of if not the, major villains of Norse myth.  And while there’s some truth to that, like with many things in Norse/Germanic myth, the “reality” within the stories is much more complicated.  If anything Loki is, I believe, a tragic figure.

Loki was always, first and foremost a trickster god.  He played a role similar to that of Coyote, and many others in various mythologies.  As a trickster, to some extent, he was at least a bit of a physical coward.  This goes hand-in-hand with the trickster role.  After all a strong, courageous forhtright warrior-type (like, maybe, Thor) is hardly going to be one to resort to trickery and deception (although even Thor has been known to do so–see Thor’s tricking of Alvis).

Loki’s position among the gods was complicated.  He wasn’t Aesir or Vanir, but a giant.  As a Trickster, he was often somewhat on the outside looking in, as it were, but he was also often the “go-to” guy for solving problems.  And while much of the time it was his pranks that caused the problems, that was not always the case.  An example is when the gods hired a giant and his horse to build a wall around Asgard with the provision that if the giant did not complete the wall within a certain time, the gods would not have to pay.  Odin didn’t want to pay so he had Loki come up with a plan to delay the giant’s work so he would miss deadline.  Loki did so by shape changing (one of his specialties) into a mare and leading the horse away.  Little did Loki know that the horse would catch him (or “her” since Loki was in the form of a mare).  The result, some time later, was Sleipnir, Odin’s eight legged steed.

The role of Loki as active villain rather than a trickster who was, nevertheless, mostly on the side of the gods, came very late in his story cycle, with events moving swiftly from the first act of true “villainy” to his binding as depicted in the image at the top of this post.  It started with Frigg’s dream of doom coming for her favored son Baldr.  Baldr was generally considered the most beautiful of the gods.  Everybody loved him.  He was beautiful, he was brave, and from the way the poets gushed over him his bowel movements smelled of lilacs.

As you might guess, I’m not a big fan of Baldr.  He reminds me too much of the pretty and popular of my childhood who made my life hell growing up.  Perhaps if more of his story survived and I had a more complete picture of the god I would feel differently.  But, that aside, the gods loved him and Frigg’s dream foretold doom for him.  As a result of this, Frigg went through the nine worlds getting everything to promise not to hurt Baldr.  She only skipped the Mistletoe plant, deeming it too small and helpless to be a threat.  This done, the gods then thought it great fun to throw things at Baldr and see them divert to avoid hurting him.

Loki, on seeing this disguised himself (shapeshifting being one of his attributes) and wheedled out of Frigg the one thing that had not promised not to harm Baldr.  He then went to the mistletoe and used his magic to make it grow and fashioned it into a dart.  He then got the blind god Hodr to take the dart, and with Loki helping him aim, Hodr threw the dart at Baldr, which struck and killed him.

With Baldr’s death, a representative was sent to Helheim to beg Hel to release Baldr back to life.  She said she would do so only if every thing living and dead wept for him.  So once again Frigg went around the worlds begging every thing to weep for dead Baldr.  Only the giantess Þökk refused to do so.  According to the Edda it was presumed that the giantess was actually Loki in disguise.

With Baldr’s death things moved pretty fast.  Loki went on the run.  He ended up crashing a feast held in Aegir’s hall where he and the other gods exchanged insults (Loki’s Flyting). He escaped from there (basically driven off by Thor’s arrival) and was soon caught while hiding in a stream in the form of a salmon.  He was then chained to a rock, with a snake dripping caustic venom on him which his wife, Sigyn would catch in a bowl.  Only when the bowl filled and she went to empty it, the venom would drop directly onto Loki and his writhing would cause Earthquakes.

That is the story, in brief, that we have, and certain aspects of it have troubled me.  For one thing the final bits, from the death of Baldr denote a considerable change in Loki’s character.  It’s possible, of course, that the tales are collections of various deities that got combined into the tales told of Loki, but supposing these tales actually did refer to a single individual, what might cause that change?

I think, in the surviving lore, there are indications of what do mark that change.

First consider the latter part, where Þökk is the individual responsible for keeping Baldr in Hel’s realm.  The Lore says the gods presumed it was Loki, a remarkably coy statement given that the Lore is never shy about saying “but it was really Odin in disguise” or anything like that.  Can we take this presumption as truth, even within the context of the myth itself?  I think not.  We might speculate on who Þökk might actually be, including that it really was a giantess named Þökk.  But we do not know.

As for killing Baldr in the first place, Loki was not stupid.  Indeed, cleverness and outsmarting opponents was his primary attribute.  And given his history as something of a physical coward consider the opening to the tale of Geiroddur’s Castle, where Loki was captured and intimidated into convincing Thor to come, leaving his hammer behind.   So why put himself at such risk, risk he could not have been able to talk his way out of, for such a prank?

Well, consider that as the death of Baldr proves along with many another tale, the gods of Germanic/Norse myth are not invincible.  This sets them apart from many another mythology.  They can be slain by weapons, they can be affected by magic, and even age can bring them down if not forestalled by Idun’s apples of youth.

Perhaps, the death of Baldr was not Loki’s intent.  After all, could Loki count on blind Hodr inflicting a lethal wound with a thrown dart, even with Loki himself to guide his aim?  Doubtful.  Simply attempting to bring Baldr down a peg, by having him wounded would be more in keeping with Loki’s previous character.  And only horrible luck–or fate perhaps, as the gods were as subject to the pronouncements of the Norns as any mortals-led instead to Baldr’s death.

Or maybe not luck or fate, but a curse.  And this leads to the part of the surviving Lore that I believe explains the change.  In the Volsung saga, Loki kills an otter with a thrown stone.  That Otter turns out to have been a shapeshifting dwarf named Ótr.  The dwarf’s father claimed blood-price for his slain son equal to enough gold to first fill the skin, then cover it completely.  Loki is sent to fetch the gold, which he accomplishes by robbing another dwarf, Andvari.  Andvari tried to hold onto his last piece, a ring called the Andvarinaut as it could allow him to regain his wealth.  When Loki demanded the ring as well, Andvari cursed it so that it would bring misfortune to all who possessed it.  Much of the latter part of the Volsung saga details the working out of that curse in all it’s horrific awfulness.

However, the first individual who would be affected by the curse is Loki himself.  The Lore does not seem to go into this but as the lore has shown, the gods are vulnerable to things like magic.  It would be clear that Loki would be equally as much under the curse as would Hreimdar, Fafnir, Regin, Sigurd, and the Nibelungs.

So, Loki, intending merely to deflate Baldr’s ego a bit, instead inadvertently kills him.  This sets in motion a series of events that in the end will bring about the end of the world at Ragnarok.

This makes Loki, although not a “good guy” in any sense of the world, not so much as a villain as a tragic figure, complete with tragic flaw in his own hubris at his own cleverness.

More Goth than You.

Posts have been spotty the last couple of days.  They’re going to be spotty, I’m afraid.  It’s one crisis after another here.

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Over on the book of faces, in one of the gothic subculture groups someone said that goth came from the music and so the music should be respected.  I can agree with it, actually, but I think many folk take that too far.

First, a brief introduction to what “goth” means in this context:

Unfortunately, there are those who can be a bit…elitist…about being a “true” goth, and seem to score points by being “more goth than you.”

As I said, I can sort of agree with the basic premise because, as the history above shows, the modern gothic subculture really did start with the music.

The problem is that the terms themselves need to be defined. What, specifically, counts as “goth music” for this purpose? I’m not talking about a list of goth bands. but rather, if you were listening to a piece of music and knew nothing about it or the band playing/singing it what exactly would lead one to say “goth” or “not goth.” I have a certain element of “I know it when I hear it” but even that’s not terribly reliable, at least not for me.  Mostly, “I know what I like” which may or may not fit a particular genre.  There were bands I thought had a lot of similarity to bands that were considered “goth” but I learned that, no, they were nothing like goth.  And, well, some bands that are considered goth sound nothing like other bands that are also considered goth, at least to me.  So what makes a band “goth” or not?

And that “respect” thing. What exactly does that mean? If someone likes The Sisters of Mercy and the 69 Eyes but doesn’t care for The Cure and Bauhaus, do they have to turn in their goth card? How about symphonic/gothic metal bands like Within Temptation, Nightwish, Xandria, or, yes, even…Evanescence?

What if they have broad musical tastes. They like goth groups (however defined) but also like, say, 80’s pop or even “pop standards”?

Personally, I tend to think of goth more as a mindset, an outlook. People with that mindset will tend to appreciate goth music, not necessarily all goth music and they might appreciate other types of music as well and that’s okay. They may find themselves leaning more toward the “metal” end of the gothic music spectrum or they may favor more “dark wave” and gothic rock. And that’s okay. They may or may not incorporate gothic style into their attire. (Perhaps their job frowns on gothic attire and, well, a person’s got to eat.) And that’s okay. They may dress up some form of goth every day (“What are you dressed up for?” “Uh, Tuesday.”) or save it for special occasions. And that’s okay.

Goth is in the mind and the heart. The rest follows. And different people will have different ways of expressing it.

And that’s okay.