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Astronauts At Safeway Self-Checkout

I've been so deeply focused on the Hubble repair mission I'm actually filing this from the media center inside the shuttle Atlantis. This is how good the NASA media relations people are these days. I think my EVA later will add great color to my 16-inch story.

Here's the story from this morning. The headline calls Saturday's repair "easy," which is true in the context of how crazy-difficult it might have turned out to be. But this is all very much the opposite of easy work.

NASA somewhere along the way got so good at what it does that it put a lot of people to sleep. But what you don't see are the hundreds of engineers on the ground who have gone over every detail and figured out every contingency. You don't see the astronauts during their off hours walking around squeezing a rubber ball because they need really strong hands to do an 8-hour EVA jammed with mechanical tasks.

I'm not mechanically inclined and just yesterday found myself utterly befuddled by a power drill carrying case that wouldn't close. The tools all had a special compartment but I couldn't get them in their right spots. And I thought: Here I am, unable to put away a tool, and they're up there in space fixing the Hubble. When the astronauts get back I should invite them over for a drink and then get them to show me how this tool case closes.

The new auto-checkout lines at Safeway are also right at the razor edge of my nervous-system capabilities. You have to check yourself out by scanning your items, but amazingly there are certain things like bananas that are not yet grown with bar codes on the peel. The more exotic foodstuffs -- turnips, etc. -- require a search through a database. Finding the right entry for a specific type of pepper can take much of an afternoon. It's so stressful! But don't you know the astronauts just totally dominate those Safeway checkout machines.

I bet John Grunsfeld can run six bags of food through auto-checkout in the time it takes a normal person to scan a single box of mac-n-cheese. And he could do it while wearing a spacesuit! Which of course always draws stares at the grocery store, but he's probably used to that by now.

One of my space-community sources put it well in an email to me yesterday:

"This is sort of like fixing a car that has been sitting in a field for 8 years. NASA has this problem -- the things that they do are really really hard. And yet often to outsiders it looks relatively easy. But it looks easy because a) they train like crazy, and b) they throw a lot of top resources at it. So they solve these problems fixing the Hubble, but that's because they've been practicing for _years_ and they have 200 people on the ground looking over every procedure. They make it look easy like an Olympic athlete makes it look easy."

I didn't have room to include in today's article the concept of "tolerance stackup." I got this from Dave Leckrone, the senior Hubble scientist, who's worked on the telescope since 1976 (when it was just a notion). The reason they couldn't seat the gyro was that a guide pin was just slightly misaligned with the hole in the instrument, and there were multiple guide pins and the smallest initial deviation throws off everything -- especially in an environment where temperatures can swing dramatically (open a door on the telescope and suddenly things get very cold and contract). Leckrone said: "It's a statistical issue - you cannot predict with 100.0 percent certatinty how the tolerances are going to stack up."

Tolerance stackup: Story of my life.

Matt Ashmore of ATK told me, "The thing about working in space that's so difficult is that we can't make space down here on Earth." So you train in the big pool but it ain't quite the same.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 17, 2009; 8:24 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Astronaut's Dilemma
Next: Make Room on Mt. Rushmore!


Great Kit; it takes a special talent to tie space repairs to self checkout. Which, by the way, I avoid at all costs. Don't have the knack. And I get distracted by the many options offered on the screen. I just don't see the appeal. It is no faster than going through the cashier.

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Morning Yoki and tbg!!
I got that safeway auto checkout thing down pat.That is what happens when you shop at midnight and there are no checkers.I think if you wanted to be dishonest,you could probably getaway with it.But who wants to go to jail for stealing a roast or a lemon.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 17, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Good morning! Three loads of laundry later, I gotta sit down to rest the back before I water the indoor jungle.

I've used self checkout at Shoppers, and have always found it squirrelly. In fact, I talk back to it all the time, particularly when it's wrong. Maybe it depends on the store or, as gwe states it so eloquently, the time of day/night.

Gotta get some work done today, so that tomorrow won't be entirely too, too overwhelming. Yeah, we'll see.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 17, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Oh, yeah, before I forget (as if!) --

GO RED WINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 17, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I see the self=check-out as yet another step in the devolution of customer service tht has been going on since the dry goods stores went self-service. It's all a conspiracy like pumping your own gas to make the customer do the work of the store. I refuse to play along.

Now they have scanners on the cart which makes it even more insidious. It's a trick to make you pay for those chips you put in the cart that your wife decides you don't need and puts back on the shelf after you scanned it in.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Hey, ftb, can I piggyback on your enthusiasm for the Red Wing? Since my priority cheers were for Habs, Flames, Caps, I've felt a bit deflated recently :)

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle.

This Kit made me laugh.

I talk back to the self-checkout all the time.

Sometimes the cashier tries to make me bag my own groceries because I have reusable bags, which would be fine if I was in the self-bagging line. But I'm not. It just depends on which cashier I get.

Looks like the rain may have stopped.

Posted by: Moose13 | May 17, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

This kit reminds me of Pop Frostbitten watching the Olympics. After a particularly breathtaking performance he'd always say "they practiced that." Practice does indeed make perfect, but it's the spectacular wipe outs that go viral on Youtube.

My theory about self checkout, and other so-called efficiencies, is that it robs businesses of entry level positions that temper employees. A cashier who can't handle a rush of plant buyers in the nursery department and some item from hardware with no bar code, and still be pleasant, shouldn't be working the returns desk. But, without that time dealing with the assorted rabble how does one choose the person who should deal with the real customer service nightmares?

Just got back from the farmers' market with a bunch of plants to put in our park plot. Nothing exotic, just some geraniums, coleus, and impatiens to fill in with color until I can see what's already in there. Hard to determine with all the (obscene gerund) wild violets. I need to get a better idea of the sun exposure before planting perennials. It looks like full shade, but it could be dappled, and parts could be mostly sun most of the summer.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 17, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

You betcha, Yoki! We Wing Nuts need all the leverage we can get.

I'm in the process of drinking some Ginger-Orange-Something else tea, to get some needed caffeine into me (I dont' drink coffee), and it's taking entirely too long to kick in. I forced myself up this morning in time to use the laundry machines down the hall (unfortunately, the condo where I live is in a building (low-rise, one of two) which started out as a rental in the early 1960s. I think it went condo in the early 70s. Anyway, we can't have our own washers/dryers in our units, so I force myself up early on Sundays to get into the laundry room when it opens at 8 in the morning. Which means, much as I would like (make that *love*), I can't sleep in. My eyelids are still sooooooooo heavy that my forehead may go splat on the keyboard and all you'll see is the equivalent of *expletives*. Not that it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 17, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I used self-checkout once at Lowe's and needed the assistance of an employee who was standing nearby for just that purpose. So if they're being paid to stand by, shouldn't they just go ahead and ring?

Rainy day here which is good for all the flowers and seeds we planted yesterday. It's also good for us to recuperate. I've done minimal chores and now will try to learn tai chi from a dvd, then perhaps a nap.

Posted by: badsneakers | May 17, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Self-checkouts are ONLY for pre-packaged stuff with very prominent barcodes.

Last week I saw a mom at the self-checkout, holding a baby and appeasing a toddler in the shopping cart. That is even harder than wearing a space suit.

Posted by: abeac1 | May 17, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Off kit; please make allowances for me.

A few years ago, I was in desperate need of laughter and found this blog and another around the same time. The other blog is a surf report followed by goofy stuff to make you laugh. And laugh I did. Tragically, that blogger passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago, very young. I don't know why, but the following is one of my favorite posts of his. We all know someone like this. Enjoy.

Posted by: LostInThought | May 17, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse


Ow ow ow ow ow ow...

My mortgage provider got bought out, and the new company sent a mailer saying, "come check out your options." Like a fool, I visited the refinance section of the Web site and checked the NukeAbode's "value."

The "best" estimate suggests the house has only lost $10K of value in the year we've owned it, but the "average" says the current loss is more like $35K...

Good thing we weren't planning on moving anytime soon.

And I usually have good luck with self-checkouts, FWIW.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 17, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I spent a few years and a few more summers working in bookstores, and I heartily second frosti's idea that difficult checkout situations are an important training and evaluation ground for more complicated customer service situations. I was consistently impressed with our managers -- the people who had chosen to make the store their career. They were amazing at dealing with the nightmare customers. Myself, I stayed polite, but I got flustered. It was great to have someone to pass situations on to.

At our local Kroger, the cashiers have recently been wearing buttons listing the things they're supposed to do: greet, smile, thank, etc. Which is all very well (though the rote-ness of it troubles me -- how about some genuine human interaction?), but how does it make sense for the cashiers to wear the buttons for the customers to read? If it's a list of the cashier's tasks, shouldn't it be somewhere where the cashier can read it?

I should note that during my time in (chain) retail, while I was very impressed with my managers, I was consistently unimpressed with the picky one-size-fits-all instructions passed down from the "home office." I just know that the cashier button idea was the brainchild of someone in the Kroger national office who hasn't spoken to a customer in years.

Posted by: -bia- | May 17, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. good kit, Joel.

Alas, once can easily see the WaPo third string copy desk is on duty today. Someone seems to think Gay-Marriage is one hyphenated word. Jeez, folks. (I'd like to see "At" lowercased in Joel's hed above, too.)

You all know I'm not even remotely Catholic, but there's a headline that asks, "Who Is a Real Catholic?" that makes my blood boil. There's few things that rile me up more than some self-righteous moron asking who is a "real" Catholic, "real" Republican, "real" Jew, the "real" mother (to mean biological mother), etc.

Weather looks highly problematic, which is why I'm scheduled to BBQ some ribs out on the grill this evening. Probably be doing it in a monsoon. Instead of Famous Dave's ribs it's be Famous Noah's ribs.

OK, time for you-know-what:

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

May 17, 1897: Irish-American inventor John Holland launches his sixth prototype submarine, Holland VI, at Lewis Nixon’s Crescent Shipyard, Elizabethport, N.J., and begins three years of sea trials and demonstrations, including a dive off Mount Vernon on the Potomac River. Finally the Navy buys Holland VI for $150,000 as she becomes the Navy’s first submarine, renamed S-1.
1943: RAF Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s 617th Squadron earns its nickname, “the Dam Busters,” dropping inventor Barnes Wallis’ “bouncing bombs” on three damns in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. The ruptured dams sent thousands of tons of water down the industrial Ruhr, flooding German war industries.
1973: Captain Robin Lindsay Quigley assumes command of the Navy Service School, San Diego, Calif., becoming the first woman to hold a major Navy command.
1987: Two Iraqi Exocet missiles hit the USS Stark (FFG-31, Capt. Glenn Brindel) while on patrol in the Persian Gulf, killing 37 sailors and wounding 21. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein apologized, claiming it was an accident and that the pilot thought Stark was an Iranian oil tanker. President Ronald Reagan accepted the apology.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I've worked on plenty of cars that have sat in fields and in driveways for not just 8 years, but a whole generation.

Never in space, though. Liked the bit about muscle memory and knowing what 50 lb/ft of torque feels like - I know that 50s a *nngh* worth of torque, 90 lb/ft (say, a tire's lugnut) is *uGGGnnnh*, and 125 lb/ft (a typical engine headbolt) is *uGGGNNNNNNNnnhhhhh*.

LiT, thanks for that link, and sorry to hear that news. Martooni, you should check that out, it made me think of you.

And I think we've all encountered someone like that.

Scottynuke, talk about mixed blessings, eh?


Posted by: -bc- | May 17, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

And a few other items:

1775 – American Revolutionary War: the Continental Congress bans trade with Canada. Sorry, mais amis, I don't know what we coulda been thinking.
1875 – Aristides wins the first Kentucky Derby. (I had five bucks on General Grant.)
1902 – Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais discovers the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical analog computer. And a second computer event: In 1943 the United States Army contracts with the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School to develop the ENIAC, the first modern computer.
One for Joel: 1939 – The Columbia Lions and the Princeton Tigers play in the first-ever televised sporting event, a collegiate baseball game in New York City.
And one for me: 1970 – Thor Heyerdahl sets sail from Morocco on the papyrus boat Ra II to sail the Atlantic Ocean.
1973 – Watergate scandal: Hearings begin in the United States Senate and are televised.
Remember this one? 1974 – Police in Los Angeles, California, raid the Symbionese Liberation Army's headquarters, killing six members, including Camilla Hall.
1992 – the WHO takes Homosexuality out of its list of mental illnesses.

Happy birthday:
1903 – Cool Papa Bell, baseball player (d. 1991)
1911 – Maureen O'Sullivan, Irish actress (d. 1998)
1936 – Dennis Hopper, American actor and director

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Lots of people like to upload their creations.

I have my own shopping bags and prefer to bag my own groceries. This puts me in a distinct minority, as most people will absolutely refuse to lift a finger even if the line is backed up a mile and the cashier is near breakdown. But I am aware of things such as milk does not go on top of the bread. But I can't throw my bag on the shelf by the u-check-'em machine, because it throws off their anti-smuggling scales. This requires a shout-out to the Checkout Ovserseer: Please zero me out! If you raise one eyebrow and catch their eye you can query "kiwi?" and they KNOW the code. Sometimes. But you always have to say "kiwi" twice, because I guarantee if you say "kiwi?" they will first respond with "What?" But this can also be a bad move, because sometimes they will then come over and nudge you out of the way and look it up on the cheat sheet even slower than you could.

The only thing I have forgotten every visit in my life is the calculator. I am constantly faced with the choice between the half-pound and 10 oz. sizes sold at respectively $0.153 per oz and $1.49 per lb.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 17, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I have one of those tool cases. At one point a circular saw fit into it, but I suspect that either the tool or the case has grown mysterious protuberances. The inability to get this tool to fit back into the case annoys me because I view it as a direct indictment of my education and intelligence. But after a while my deep-seated delusional defenses comes to the fore, and I tell myself that problem solving of this kind isn't really a reflection of innate abilities. No, it is more about subconsciously adhering to various subtle premises that are internally undetectable. Sort of like typos. (Which I have convinced myself are not an indictment of my brain either. See? I rock at this delusion.)

Anyway, the point is that one of the real benefits of having those folks on the ground mocking things up and all is to simply help smart people uncover their own blind spots. I guess that's why the sponsors of the Post Hunt always recommend working in teams. Because folks in teams are always better at solving problems than individuals working separately. Especially if one of those individuals is me.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 17, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Elderdottir, who is assistant manager of a woman's clothing store, loathes self-checkout. She opines that she WANTS a person to check her out, the store that has self-checkout is too cheap to do the right thing by customers. Such a Luddite she can be at times. I suspect she is right about this, although Mr. T and I will use the self-checkout at Lowe's when we can. Yeah, sometimes we have issues and must have intervention. The technology is only as good as the people who support it in the store.

Posted by: slyness | May 17, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I had a case like that, RD. I finally saw the solution in a flash of realization.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 17, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I've never used the grocery self-checkout, even on the rare occasion when I have only an item or 2 and it would clearly be to my advantage. I think they're a way to cut down on the number of human checkers and therefore I oppose them. Plus I hate bagging my own stuff. Not long ago, I was forced, protesting all the way, to the self-checkout, where the checker who forced me rang everything up and bagged it for me.

One thing I do like is that the express checkouts now say "about" 12 if I'm off by a couple I don't feel bad. And do more than one of the same item count as one, or the actual number?

Don't get me started on paper or plastic. You practically have to be a rocket scientist...oh. (Joel, this is a great Kit!)

Posted by: seasea1 | May 17, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

All through high school I worked in a supermarket. This particular chain was very insistent on good customer service. Not only were we taught how to bag groceries properly, but we were directed to give the customer his coin change first, then wait until he had put it away before handing him the bills, which we counted out. Now I get all the money plus the receipt in one handful, leaving me to walk away juggling it all. Just one of my pet peeves.

Well, “S” and I were looking for something I haven’t seen since we moved among the boxes in the cellar. I didn’t find it, but he found something he’d been trying to locate for months. In the process, we found some stuff that needed to go to the dump which is always a good feeling. I love weeding out stuff.

Posted by: badsneakers | May 17, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Being a cashier is yet another thankless job where good skills go unnoticed and undervalued. Fast efficient scanning is a delight to watch. And quality grocery bag filling is soon to be a lost art.

About the only two places I use the self-checkout are BigBoxOfHardware and BigBoxOfChineseCrap because those are the only two places I feel more competent than the average clerk to accomplish the task. I'm not sure whether that says more about the quality of the labor force in general or just the hiring standards of said stores. I still resent being pressed into service against my will just to avoid dealing with rank incompetence. I predict the day when fast food customers are handed a spatula and told to help themselves.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I have an HP RPN simulator program on my cell phone but I have never thought to use it as a grocery value calculator. What a great concept.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Or a cow and a gun, yello.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 17, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I actually don't remember the saw-in-the-case solution RD. I did figure it out and THINK it involves putting the blade all the way up above the guide table. No, my "aha" moment was when I threw the case away.

Speaking of gadgets in the supermarket, I had a Fluke temperature meter and thermocouple set at my lab and one day took it home with me. On a hot summer day, stopped off at market and since my milk had to ride with me home, and risked souring even on the short hop home, I took the gadget in the store with me and at the dairy counter I measured the temperature. I think it was about 45 F., nothing to get mad about. But a store employee saw me. I noticed him hurry into the back of the store with a worried look on his face. The next time I shopped there I noticed the dairy cooler was COLD. I didn't have my meter then, but I'm guessing 33 F.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 17, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I've never heard of the term "tolerance stackup" but, boy, am I familiar with the underlying concept. It's the difference between an independent and dependent sequence of measurements.

With independent measurements there is something called the "central mean theorem" that basically states that independent errors will tend to balance out. It's why an ensemble of middle-school saxophone players attempting middle C will sound a lot better than any individual one.

With dependent measurement the errors tend to accumulate. This is often modeled as something called the "drunkards walk" which states that cumulative dependent error increase as, roughly, the square root. Tolerance stackup is clearly an example of this.

Therefore, clearly, independent measurements are best. Of course, this is often physically impossible and you easily end up with a complete mess. A complete fordin' mess that can muck up an entire field test.

In which case the term "drunkards walk" can take on a whole new meaning.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 17, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

And speaking of phones, I want one with a universal remote control IR sender in it. You could download a graphic interface, and the codes, for each model of home electronics you want to control.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 17, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Back to the "Land of Pleasant Living", although it is quite pleasant here in west by god today.

Have a Great day everyone!!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 17, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I believe that if something doesn't scan in correctly after four or five attempts it should be considered complimentary. Fortunately for my career stability I have yet to put this belief into practice.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 17, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

>>> I predict the day when fast food customers are handed a spatula and told to help themselves.

Posted by: yellojkt |<<<<

made me LOL!

Posted by: nellie4 | May 17, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Afternoon, friends. The g-girl and I are on our way out the door. I'm going to work with some kids on their end of the year test. We've been to church, and had lunch, so we're good to go. Just wanted to stop in and say hello. It's rainy and nasty here, plus there's a slight chill in the air.

I try to avoid those self-check thingies. I always need help, so I might as well go to the regular cashier. Plus, I agree with Yoki, too many options, and I'm not crazy about that voice on many of them. Sounds so creepy, and I never understand it, just hear it.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. My flowers are still among the living, I hope that lasts.

Mudge, Slyness, Martooni, Scotty, Yoki, and everyone here, may God bless and keep you, and shine His great love on all through Christ.

Posted by: cmyth4u | May 17, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Frosti and Cassandra,
Here's something you can look into for your kid centers...

Posted by: rickoshea0 | May 17, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse


You forgot a few other notable birthdays:

1956 - Sugar Ray Leonard
1961 - Enya
1965 - Trent Reznor

And a truly evil person was born on this day.

1902 - Ayatollah Khomeini

And in honor of Enya:

Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. It is a lovely day here but I am not doing yard work because I have to sing again in a couple of hours. I can hear the guinea hens which visit shouting their fool heads off out there. Those birds are loud.

RD, I like your delusion. I have that one myself. I also like Jumper's solution to the tool case: discard the case. You'd just have to take the tool out again anyway.

I do not use self-checkout. I tell myself this is because I approve of stores keeping the checker jobs, supporting the economy and all that. This contains an element of delusion, as it prevents me from admitting that I don't do self-checkout very well. Or well at all, even. Also, I often bag my own groceries because I carry my own bags. Were I to use self-checkout I would be unable to serve as the training ground for generations of checkers who have yet to properly fill customer-provided bags. This is apparently my current function.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The announcing crew for the Nats just had a revelation...

The team's fortunes won't improve until Teddy finally wins a race.


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 17, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Just checking after depositing a yard of compost/loam mix on the garden, need to add some plants before I mulch but night time cool temps will probably delay that a few days.

Loved the kit very amusing.

I had a part time job in university as a cashier for a discount grocery store (mostly canned/boxed foods - no perishables), To keep costs down there price stickers were not used, the cashiers had to memorize all the prices. This led to the need to learn customer service fast - people would get very upset if you overcharged them.

My memory was better in those day - but still sketchy at time - particularly after pub night. No scanners back then.

I do not mind self checkout though, they experimented with it years ago at my grocery store but removed the machines when it seemed to many items went out the store without being paid for.

Home Depots self checkouts are more complicated than necessary.

I am starting to use my reuseable grocery bags more reliably now as stores now charge for plastic bags - the cashiers will bag the reusable bags so that is not an issue.

LiT I am sorry to hear about that blogger - I have had a few favorite columnists pass and it is sad.

Have to stop even my fingers hurt at this point - but a neighbour complimented me on the garden so it was worthwhile.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 17, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

rickoshea-thanks, could lose a lot of hours to that game design software. Here's the full link to the story though-

dmd2-repeated compliments on my garden plot in the park sure made my work lighter today. Not that any of it has anything to do with me at this point, save a bit of tidying and a few new plants that are still quite small, but it didn't matter. A few "thank yous" and "it sure is beautiful" go a long way toward making you feel your efforts are worthwhile.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 17, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Here is a comic whose author obviously read yesterday's kit:

Posted by: nellie4 | May 17, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Hi Al!

frosti, dmd, congrats on the successful gardening. yello, jumper, your 1:32/1:43 combo was truly snort-worthy.

My brother-in-law shops at the Organge Home Improvement Store so frequently and has gotten so good at its self checkout that he chooses the "Spanish" option just to challenge himself.

A couple of years ago Costco tried replacing two checkout aisles with self checkout. Well, customers are about 4x slower than your average cashier and about 10x slower than a Costco cashier, and lines backed up badly. After a couple of months, the cashier-staffed lines were back. Sometimes the good guys win.

ADHDing with golf and hockey. Did anyone else readn the article in Style and Arts today about how young people find watching broadcast TV "quaint?" Sigh...I'm such a fud.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Orange, of course.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Anyone watch Obama's Notre Dame address at their graduation?


Posted by: russianthistle | May 17, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

WOO-HOO! Hey Yoki -- the Red Wings won!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 17, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Indeed they did!

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I like the supermarket self-checkout and the one at the library, too. I'm afraid the reason I like them does not reflect well on me. I guess I prefer to interact with machines rather than people. It certainly requires less energy and involves less uncertainty. And I know the self-checkout machine isn't thinking, "How does she leave the house with her hair looking like that?"

Here's a scary thing for an antisocial type: I am in my hometown for a few weeks and whenever I am in the grocery store I'm constantly scanning the vicinity for people who look like they might be about my age. Even though it never happens, I live in fear that someone I went to school with might recognize me. I don't remember anybody so it would certainly be awkward.

Posted by: Lowen1 | May 17, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, that was interesting. Accidentally commented using someone else's user name. I'll log out and come back as me--


Posted by: Lowen1 | May 17, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, not a big mystery but something for the trivia file: I am using my dad's desktop, and he had signed in to read the A-blog earlier today.

Posted by: Lowen1 | May 17, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm. I signed out of WaPo, I closed my browser, I rebooted the darn computer, but the username didn't change. I'm out of time so y'all will just have to use your minds to recognize that it's me, by my in-comment signature.


Posted by: Lowen1 | May 17, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Hey, kb! Does your dad read the Boodle too? That's funny, looking for people who might recognize you. I'm sure it would be fine if they did!

At a job fair I went to, I signed in on the Spanish form...I didn't think it would make a difference, and it was dead easy to understand...but they made me use the English form.

Just got back from the Star Trek movie with my kid. Still feel like I'm zooming around - not sure if it's all that warp speed or my kid's driving (actually he didn't scare the bejeezus out of me). Liked all the humor.

Posted by: seasea1 | May 17, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry about it, Bertooch, we all have computer malfunctions from time to time.


Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I am Lowen1!

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

We are all Lowen1! No, no, different movie.

Watching Obama's ND speech here:
Still getting through the intro (about 14 min in).

Posted by: seasea1 | May 17, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Yep, made me cry again. Pres Obama says we're all fishermen, so maybe he's been reading the Boodle, too.

Posted by: seasea1 | May 17, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Wow. That Obama. Did it again. Nixon goes to China, Obama talks about abortion at Notre Dame. And he did it well. We have not had a president like this in my lifetime - how lucky are we! Of course, the Boy's generation will think all presidents should be like this. Pity the next guy or gal.

I came home from Evensong to find we've acquired another dog - ah older female yellow Lab who needed a home. Nice, friendly, spayed, doesn't dig, so far gets along with our dog - we'll see how this works out.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Who the hell is Trent Reznor? yello, I suggest you leave this game to the professionals, before somebody gets hurt.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

For kbertocci:

Posted by: DNA_Girl | May 17, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Nine Inch Nails. I think. That's all I got.

Posted by: seasea1 | May 17, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't have the patience to backBoodle - that is, scroll up through recent Boodle history. Thus I don't know if yello or someone else brought up Trent Reznor, or why. Trent Reznor is, as Seasea says, Nine Inch Nails. This is a musical "group" consisting of Reznor and musicians he hires when he performs live. The type of music, as Ivansdad says, is normally thought of as "industrial". Lots of layering, relatively complex. Not as bad as one might think. His music has become increasingly political, including a song 2 years ago on "Year Zero", a sort of apocalyptic political album, called "Capital G" about George Bush. Johnny Cash, before his death, recorded a Trent Reznor song and did it very well - in fact, given his experiences, better.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, the dog peeps request a name and a photograph, please. Good for you all for taking her in!

I'm up late, but a work crisis has had me on all weekend, and I refuse to work unnecessary regular hours in addition to all the really weird ones needed to fix this problem. So I'll be up at 3 instead of midnight.

I donated some exercise equipment today to a women/children shelter downtown. They'd coincidentally just cleaned out a basement for a gym the weekend before my offer, and boy, were they nice. Everyone helped unpack my car and I was very taken with one little boy, about 5, who kept returning and moving objects roughly half his size.

I hated that they needed the protection of barred windows and closed-circuit cameras on every window and door, having to state my name and purpose before they buzzed me in. . . I want them all to have every opportunity in the world.

Posted by: -dbG- | May 17, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I looked him up. He's at least eight inches short of being worthy of a mention in Today in Yadda Yadda Whatever.

I don't put just any ol' hoi polloi in that listing ya know. I likes to think what's in there is, as we used to say in Fully, "cherce."

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

On kit, for a change, I use self-checkout all the time. It hadn't occurred to me that people using it would allow the stores to hire fewer cashiers, which bothers me. I'd just always concentrated on getting the h*ck out of there faster.

Is it different from stores that encourage you to bag your own groceries because then they can have fewer baggers?

Posted by: -dbG- | May 17, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Suck it, Trebek!! I gotta say, Will ferrell was pretty funny on SNL last night, esp. when they reprised the old "Jeopardy" skit with Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery (and I wet myself when he did the same old joke, misreading one category a certain way, which I cannot properly reproduce here). And surprise surprise, Tom Hanks did an unannounced drop-in as a stupid celebrity Jeopardy contestant (playing himself), and Norm MacDonald came back as Burt Reynolds.

And a special SNL clips show is about to come on. Can't miss it. These "Best of" SNL shows have been really good.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci... I recognized your post and then wondered about the signature. Isn't it funny that we can pretty much tell who wrote what in the first few words?

Back home and settled in. Watched last night's SNL on the Tivo and laughed very hard through much of it. Tom Hanks was hilarious and the reunion of many old cast members (and noncast members) was great! A good season finale.

Posted by: TBG- | May 17, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Hey, TBG, glad to hear you got home okay. Hope you didn't have to drive through lots of rain. Did you have any luck car shopping?

Posted by: slyness | May 17, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Yannow, Slyness... there was so much weird rain during bright sunshine all weekend that I don't remember how much of the drive was dry or wet.

No luck on the car front yet. I'm a firm believer in used cars and love Carmax, but folks aren't trading in cars much these days, so the pickins' are slim. Had a lot of fun car shopping with Son of G, though. He's very happy in his new home and life down there.

Posted by: TBG- | May 17, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Being able to recognize a post in the first line or so is often life saving. Or spirit saving. At least good mood saving.

Posted by: nellie4 | May 17, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I will note that none of the Boodlers who have seen Star Trek mentioned the wonderful knitwear. Spock has on an interesting sweater early on, and Scotty is replete in slouchy hat, scarf and fingerless mitts. Someone much more clever than I has figured out the pattern for the hat:

Posted by: seasea1 | May 17, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Transcript of Obama's ND speech,0,2951798.story?page=1

Amazing, simply amazing.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 17, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Not sure what did me in, gardening, walking along the river and watching tugs hook up to barges, fresh asparagus, or rhubarb pie, but I can't keep my eyes open. Toodles boodle and sweet dreams.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 17, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I should hope that the Catholic leaders who chose not to attend the ND Graduation because of Obama's attendance are hanging their heads in shame.

What a speech.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 17, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: kbertocci | May 17, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

woo hoo, small favors, my username has returned.

Thanks for the LOL, DNA_Girl.

I've been reading a great article in Discover Magazine about "biocentrism" -- an alternative theory to Joel's assertion that "the universe has no preference for one kind of matter over another." This theory, which to my eyes seems more like philosophy than science, holds that life created the universe. I'd prefer to say that consciousness creates the universe, but I still think that this book is bound to be worth reading. I LOVE this quote from the article:

"In daily life, space and time are harmless illusions..."

Here's the article:

Here's the book:

Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, by Robert Lanza with Bob Berman, published by BenBella Books in May 2009.

Seasea and TBG, I owe you emails, and I'm workin' on it.

Oh, and yes my dad is a regular lurker and sometime boodler and a big fan of Achenbach's work.

Posted by: kbertocci | May 17, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Weed, thanks for the heads up about the President's speech. I read the transcript and it was, indeed, amazing.

Posted by: nellie4 | May 17, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

wow, that commencement speech really is superb.

Posted by: LALurker | May 17, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I would politely suggest that far more people know - and will know - who Trent Reznor is/was than Cool Papa Bell.

I'd heard Cash's cover of NIN/Reznor's "Hurt" (I think that's what Ivansmom is talking about) on one of the Cash "American Classics" CD's I own and liked it a lot. A friend pointed me at the video not too long ago (I'm typically not a music video guy at all), and wow, it's really really good (and June's in it):


Posted by: -bc- | May 17, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Politely suggest away, bc, and you are quite right. But Cool Papa Bell is worth a mention, and Trent Whatshisface isn't, not in a million years. It ain't about pop name recognition.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

You are so cute when you are being a fuddy-duddy. Ask any of your kin under the age of 40 who Trent is. His biggest album, 'The Downward Spiral' was released in 1994. He's eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in five years and will probably be inducted on the first ballot.

From Wikipedia:
'He is considered by the Los Angeles Times to be one of the most acclaimed creative figures of his generation of music...In 1997, Reznor appeared in Time magazine's list of the year's most influential Americans, and Spin magazine described him as "the most vital artist in music."'

I'm not a big fan of Reznor but I understand what a seminal musician he is to a certain generation.

Bob Saget and Sugar Ray Leonard are the exact same age but I made the call that Saget was less worthy of a call-out.

I will stay away from your schtick until my birthday when I get to point out that I am two years older than Cindy Crawford, three years more than Kurt Cobain, and a fatherly 24 years older than Rihanna. Heard of any of those?

Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

You just don't get it, yello.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 17, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

I watched Cadillac Records last night.A very good movie with a Great soundtrack about chess records and the sories and stardom of Muddy Waters,Little Walter,Willie Dixon,Chuck Berry and Etta James.A nice view of the blues and rock in the segregated 40's,50's and 60's.Lenard Chess and chess records made legends out of the early bluesmen and women.A very nice movie.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 18, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Joel, you appear to be getting closer to an actual ride on a spaceship. It's all about connections. Yeah, that's it.

Good kit, too. Made me really think about how hard all that space stuff really is.

Posted by: Windy3 | May 18, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

You are right, mudge.

Trent Reznor is no Cool Papa Bell, Leon Day, or Satchell Paige. And especially not a Pop Lloyd.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

beware rain in the sun, at least the Kurosawa version:

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 18, 2009 1:34 AM | Report abuse

Earthquake in CA - LA area - 4.7 magnitude -

Posted by: seasea1 | May 18, 2009 1:54 AM | Report abuse

I bet Chuck Norris does a mean self checkout.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | May 18, 2009 5:06 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

Major callout and holiday best wishes to our friends in Canuckistan!!! Today is Victoria Day (in French, Fête de la Reine), colloquially known as May Two-Four, May Long, or May Run, technically on May 24th, which is actually Queen Victoria's birthday, but celebrated in Haute Maine on the last Monday before May 24, which makes it today. Victoria Day also marks the first day of summer up there near the Arctic Circle or wherever the heck those Canuckis live.

(Are the Canucks listening? I hope not. Sshh. I'm gonna have to whisper this part so they don't hear. Because it seems there was some confusion in a certain country *zipping lip but pointing north* about which day to celebrate and what to call it. For a while it was Empire Day, swell if ya got an empire, and all, but what about those of us not in an actual empire? Now I ask ya. Anyways, they then decided to call it Commonwealth Day, all bourgeousie and hail fellow and Common Man, doncha know, like they dint have no queen or nothing. Some cheeky folk up there call it "May Two-Four" because of the queen's birthday, May 24, but also as a pun because a 2-4 is a case of beer, 24 beers in a case, see? In Ontario, Alberta and Saskawhatchmacallit they also call it May Long or May Run. I have no freakin' clue why, and I wouldn't be surprised if many of them don't know why either, except maybe Shriek or Yoki might know cuz they're pretty smart and seem to know stuff.)

But heck, here's wishing all youse guys up there happy Victoria Day/Feet in the Rain and enjoy yer day off with a case of, like, Molson's, or whatever, eh?

And while we're at it, some other various tidings:

1152 – Henry II of England marries Eleanor of Aquitaine. Oh, Henry, Henry, you don't know what you've gotten yourself into.
1593 – Playwright Thomas Kyd's accusations of heresy lead to an arrest warrant for Christopher Marlowe.
1652 – Rhode Island passes the first law in North America making slavery illegal. It took more than 200 years for this relatively simple notion to catch on elsewhere in colonies whose names we won't mention (you know who you are).
Ooops. 1765 – Fire destroys a large part of Montreal, Quebec. And it doesn't get much better: 1783 – the first United Empire Loyalists reach Parrtown, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada after leaving the United States.
1897 – Dracula, a novel by Irish author Bram Stoker is published.


Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 18, 2009 6:15 AM | Report abuse


1926 – Canuckistani-born radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappears while visiting a Venice, California, beach, creating a national hue and cry and intense mourning. Unnoticed at the time is the disappearance of her radio engineer and "close friend," Kenneth Ormiston, a married man. Then 35 days later McPherson miraculously re-appears claiming to have walked 13 miles from the shack in Mexico where kidnappers tortured her and held her for ransom. She was wearing a dress (rather than the bathing suit she disappeared in), and a wrist watch her mother had given her. There were grass stains on her shoes, and not all that much grass in the Mexican desert. An intense investigation reveals evidence that McPherson and Ormiston may (or may not) have spent a lot of time in motels up and down the California coast. No charges were ever filed, but a satiric folk song arises claiming that some motel beds had "dents in the mattress [that] fit Aimee's caboose."
1944 – World War II: Battle of Monte Cassino – German paratroopers evacuate Monte Cassino. one of the worst, most hated battles of the European Theater.
Ooops: 1980 – Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington, killing 57 people, causing $3 billion in damage.

Happy birthday:
1048 – Omar Khayyám, Persian mathematician, poet and philosopher (d. 1131)
1868 – Nicholas II of Russia, Tsar of Russia (d. 1918)
1872 – Bertrand Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, English mathematician, writer and philosopher, Nobel laureate (d. 1970)
1912 – Perry Como, American singer (d. 2001)
1929 – Jack Sanford, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher who lived right across the street from my elementary school (d. 2000)
1934 – Dobbie Gillis! (Dwayne Hickman, actor and television executive)
1937 – Brooks Robinson, for 23 years an outstanding great Balmer Oryil.
1946 – Reggie Jackson, American baseball player from Cheltenham, Pa., who played centerfield on an American Legion team in about 1962 while I sat on the bench of the opposing team co-coached by my father while Reggie kicked our asses big time. He was a pain in the butt even then, though I still like him anyway.
1970 – Tina Fey!!!!!

1981 – Arthur O'Connell, American actor (b. 1908)
1981 – William Saroyan, American author (b. 1908)
1995 – Elisha Cook, Jr., American actor (b. 1903), the gunsel Wilmer about whom Bogie said "the cheaper the crook the gaudier the patter" (in "The Maltese Falcon," of course, but you already knew that). He was also the noble Torrey, shot down by Wilson (Jack Palance) in "Shane." According to John Huston, cook "lived alone up in the High Sierra, tied flies and caught golden trout between films. When he was wanted in Hollywood, they sent word up to his mountain cabin by courier. He would come down, do a picture, and then withdraw again to his retreat."
1995 – Elizabeth Montgomery, American actress (b. 1933), forever the nose-twitching Samantha Stevenson of Bewitched.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 18, 2009 6:17 AM | Report abuse

[big finale, with fireworks]

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

May 18, 1498 – Vasco da Gama and his three ships reaches Calicut, India (not to be confused with Calcutta), giving the Portuguese a hundred-year dominance of the sea lanes to the east.
1910 – The Earth passes through the tail of Comet Halley.
1916: Lt. Kiffin Rockwell is the first American pilot of the newly formed Escadrille Americain to shoot down an enemy plane, near Mulhouse, France.
1941: The German battleship Bismarck (Adm. Gunther Lutjens and Capt. Ernest Lindemann) and pocket battleship Prince Eugen depart Gydnia on the sortie that will ultimately lead to history’s longest and one of its most dramatic cat-and-mouse chases across the Atlantic, ending in Bismarck’s famous sinking.
1953 – Jackie Cochran (born Bessie Lee Pittman) becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier, flying a Canadair F-86 Sabre borrowed from the Royal Canadian Air Force. Her good friend Chuck Yeager was her wingman on the flight. Cochran also had much to do with the founding of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of WWII. She was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic, and the first to land and take off from an aircraft carrier. To this day she holds more speed and distance aviation records than any other pilot, male or female, dead or alive.
1969 – Apollo 10 (Commander Tom Stafford, Pilot John Young, Lunar Module Pilot Gene Cernan) is launched, becoming the second manned mission to orbit the moon (but not land). The mission paves the way for the Apollo 11 landing a few months later.

OK, that's all I got. Later dudes.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 18, 2009 6:26 AM | Report abuse

[big finale, with fireworks]

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

May 18, 1498 – Vasco da Gama and his three ships reaches Calicut, India (not to be confused with Calcutta), giving the Portuguese a hundred-year dominance of the sea lanes to the east.
1910 – The Earth passes through the tail of Comet Halley.
1916: Lt. Kiffin Rockwell is the first American pilot of the newly formed Escadrille Americain to shoot down an enemy plane, near Mulhouse, France.
1941: The German battleship Bismarck (Adm. Gunther Lutjens and Capt. Ernest Lindemann) and pocket battleship Prince Eugen depart Gydnia on the sortie that will ultimately lead to history’s longest and one of its most dramatic cat-and-mouse chases across the Atlantic, ending in Bismarck’s famous sinking.
1953 – Jackie Cochran (born Bessie Lee Pittman) becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier, flying a Canadair F-86 Sabre borrowed from the Royal Canadian Air Force. Her good friend Chuck Yeager was her wingman on the flight. Cochran also had much to do with the founding of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of WWII. She was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic, and the first to land and take off from an aircraft carrier. To this day she holds more speed and distance aviation records than any other pilot, male or female, dead or alive.
1969 – Apollo 10 (Commander Tom Stafford, Pilot John Young, Lunar Module Pilot Gene Cernan) is launched, becoming the second manned mission to orbit the moon (but not land). The mission paves the way for the Apollo 11 landing a few months later.

OK, that's all I got. Later dudes.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | May 18, 2009 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Mudge, that's quite a start to Monday morning!

I'll be short. Cloudy and cool in the Carolinas, but the promise is for a lovely day. Of course, since it's Monday, the weather will improve.

Posted by: slyness | May 18, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

So Dobie Gillis was 30. I wondered when I was a kid (a REAL kid) why those grownups were pretending to be teenagers.

Just like I wondered why they kept calling Mary Martin "he" in Peter Pan.

Good morning folks. Got in the car to take the girls to school this morning and realized Dr G has the keys to the rental car with him at his office 10 miles away. He's on his way now with them so I can go to work--and then Springsteen (!). The other carpool mom had to take the girls in (we switch off months carpooling).

Now some of you folks who've never visited this area may wonder how long a 10-mile drive takes this time in the morning. It may only take him about a half hour to get back here, but I'll bet you it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get back to his office.

Posted by: TBG- | May 18, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Do you ever read something in an article and wish the article were about THAT instead?

This is about the study of the remains of Columbus' crew in the Dominican Republic (emphasis mine)...


The first planned colonial town in the New World was founded in 1494, when about 1,200 of Christopher Columbus's crew members from the 17 ships that made up his second journey to the Americas settled on the north coast of what is now the Dominican Republic.

Beset by mutiny, mismanagement, hurricanes and disease, the settlement of La Isabela lasted only a few years. THE RUINS REMAINED LARGELY INTACT UNTIL THE 1950S, WHEN A LOCAL OFFICIAL REPORTEDLY MISUNDERSTOOD THE ORDER FROM DICTATOR RAFAEL TRUJILLO TO CLEAN UP THE SITE IN PREPARATION FOR VISITING DIGNITARIES, AND HAD THEM MOSTLY BULLDOZED INTO THE SEA. Little remained but the skeletons below ground in the church cemetery, which lay undisturbed until excavations began in 1983.

Posted by: TBG- | May 18, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I had a chance to bid on an autographed Brooks Robinson jersey at a silent auction last week but it wasn't my size so I passed. Besides, I like his brother Jackie better.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Brooks Robinson and Reggie Jackson? Same day Well, I'll be. Mudge, that is pome-worthy.

William Saroyan visited my high school English class. He was the great uncle to one of the students. I had just moved to CA, so I did not really understand the hoopla. Here is a W.S. quote:

“Good people are good because they've come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.”

AND, this one:

“In the time of your life, live - so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite variety and mystery of it.”

W.S.'s last quote seems to be on-kit as we nearly always comment on the meaning of life, with or without space travel.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | May 18, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt cracks me up. Even this early in the morning.

Posted by: TBG- | May 18, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Dobie Gillis was just blazing the trail for Beverly Hills 90210 a few generations later. That would have made Warren Beatty a more plausible 22 at the time. At least the actress playing Thalia Menninger was genuinely 16. I wonder whatever happened to her.

And for your husband to make a rush hour round trip from Springfield to Rockville and back is either true love or extreme guilt. btw, how's the new job with the (gotta speak code here) En-Ess-Ay going?

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I will jump in for the May 2-4 weenend from an Ontario perspective - it is the weekend pools are opened, cottages are opened, people take their first camping trip of the year. Traditionally each of these events would include beer - hence the need to purchase a 2-4.

I have not heard the expression May Run, but my guess would it might have something to do with a 'Run' to the cottage.

When I was young I thought of it more as Firecracker day (today), before Canada Day was Canada (formerly Dominion Day July 1), this was the day large fireworks displays were done. Harder to find large firewords displays today now, most are done on Canada day - however individuals and familys tend to still set off firworks throughout the weekend, quite a number in our neighbourhood last night.

May Long - I would assume is just a short form for the Long Weekend in May - actual celebrations for Queen Victorias Birthday quite rare around here now - I shall refrain from any of my anti-monarchist diatribe at this point.

Gorgeous clear sunny morning here - it there was frost it is gone. We might be going to the Jays game this afternoon - they had better had the d*mn roof open.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 18, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

I should note that at many provincial parks where people go camping on May 2-4 you are not allowed to bring in alcohol/beer until later in the season - after years where things tended to get too rowdy on the May 2-4 weekend.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 18, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Did JA run out of ink or something?? First I see a Reuters item, and now there's an AP piece on the latest spacewalk... *worried*

*running-late-Dawn-Patrol-and-where's-the-coffee Grover waves*

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 18, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Great photo of fireworks going off at Ontario Place - Toronto last night.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 18, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. It gets worse mudge. V-day used to be called the Fête de Dollard (for Dollard des Ormeaux, a scoundrel made a folk hero by the Church). The separatist governement of the PQ renamed it Fête des Patriotes, to honour the rebels of the 1837-38 rebellion who were nicknamed the Patriotes. Sio there you go.

V-day weekend is normally The Gardening Weekend. The weather forecast for the weekend was dismal so we went to a couple of expositions in Quebec city (Ingres and Pellan) and kept on going East to my parent's place. We were back last night and we are now rewarded with a glorious (albeit cold) morning.

That kit was really funny BTW.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | May 18, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Joel got relegated to A06 since he got distracted by a different shiny object and left the Hubble news to the stringers. Can you blame him for getting bored? This assignment has been way beneath his talent. It's like hiring Harry Carey to call a radiator flush.

Scroll half-way down to 'Dueling Telescopes' which I hope is way different than dueling banjos.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodlers!

Prison guards on strike here today. But that doesn't affect me. :-D


Posted by: Braguine | May 18, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

The Family Robinson - Eugene, Chris, David (the Admiral), Brooks, Jackie, etc. - weren't they of Swiss extraction and eventually get Lost in Space on the old Jupiter II with Dr. Smith?

[bc, with his arms flailing in front of him: "Danger, Danger! Warning Warning! This comment contains cultural references that may be meaningless to those who could care less!"]


Posted by: -bc- | May 18, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Brag, if the prison guards are on strike, who's watching the bad guys? Who's passing out the gruel and lashes?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 18, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Not yet, Brag. I can only think you're not having enough fun.

Morning Boodle. Snowing, which is traditional for the May long weekend Monday.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 18, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse


They won't let anyone in or out. nor will deliver prisoners to court.

Grueling and lashing going on as usual.

Posted by: Braguine | May 18, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Fake eyelashes in prison?? What???

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 18, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Not to be pedantic, bc, but shouldn't it be:

"This comment contains cultural references that may be meaningless to those who ***couldn't*** care less!"

Just one of my pet peeves. {{adjusting my librarian grannie glasses and scowling}}

And in a moment of mourning, one of my childhood memories was strip-mined once again when the treehouse at Disneyworld was given over to Tarzan.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: tomsing | May 18, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Brooks and Frank Robinson played on the same team,same home town heros.How about the orioles getting Frank Robinson in a trade for I think it was Milt Pappas, and old Frank wins the triple crown the next season.

I was worried about my plants in west by god,I put them all out over this past weekend and I was worried about the frost!!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 18, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Milt Pappas is the subject of the only piece of baseball trivia that I know.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 18, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

We've long moved on from this topic, but: I love self-checkout. I actually refuse to visit grocery stores which don't have them. My mother says that when I was a toddler, I used to screech when she tried to dress me, yelling, "I want to do it MYSELF!"

Those things appeal to the toddler in me. Whether that's a good or bad thing, I don't know. What I do know is that the PLU code for bananas is 4011.

Posted by: schala1 | May 18, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Do all the stores have the same PLU for each item, or do you have to memorize each different one?

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Since the fruits and vegetables come with pre-printed stickers, I'm guessing the codes are the same from store to store.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 18, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

More than you would ever want to know about banana PLUs:

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Yello, are those grannie glasses tinted?

I always assumed the ironic and/or sarcastic tone that goes with "I could care less" took care of that issue.


I'll probably be on varied hours all week. Now, time to head into work for a 2 hour meeting on how our management can *fix* the poor scores they received from us on the Gallup Poll.

One of my colleagues (unexpectedly, because of all of us, he's exhibited the least need for a life outside work), Genius #2, plans on standing on the table and holding up a sign that says "Union" after they dismiss our comp time solution. Genius #1 is in another group, but his new wife just had a baby, so that may make 2 tables.

Posted by: -dbG- | May 18, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

*arm raised, squealing, "pick me, pick me!"

I have loads of knowledge about cashiering from my son. He has worked at Harris Teeter for 2 years and I will have you know that he was the 2008 Bagger of the Year for his store! (he much prefers bagging over cashiering because he gets to do a lot more bopping around than when he cashiers. Do you know how much fun 17-18 year old boys can have while corraling carts in a parking lot? TONS!)

Anyway, yes, everything has it's own number and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the numbers even though he usually scans them in, not punches them in.

Anyway, he was in the storewide contest during employee appreciation day last summer and won. They were judged on speed, arrangement, cheerfulness and accuracy. He won $100 and went to the regional semi-finals (yup, there is a National contest, believe it or not...someone told me it even ends up on ESPN) He crashed and burned there, but it was fun while it lasted! We laughed and laughed but really, $100 smackers isn't chump change!

Posted by: Kim1 | May 18, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

PLUs are managed by the International Federation for Produce Standards and the Produce Marketing Association. There truly is a trade organization for everything.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I am truly impressed. Can your son get mine a job? Harris Teeter rocks. At least until Columbia gets a Wegmans.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

If you want to study up to be an old-time grocery store cashier ...

Posted by: russianthistle | May 18, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I can also personally attest there are both national and international bar code associations.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 18, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

*Coming up for air, in the middle of reporting writing*

Great story about your son, Kim! I'll bet he now knows why he wants to go to college and find a job other than bagging and/or cashiering at Harris Teeter. Not that I don't love H-T, but you know how it is.

Hmm. Springfield to Rockville, TBG? Does that involve travel on I-485?

Posted by: slyness | May 18, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

OK, can we please change the subject to something more interesting than bar codes? Like maybe knitting or Kincades or Lladru, or something? I'm getting pretty desperate here.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 18, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I used to date a girl that was a checker at a Gourmet Giant grocery store and found out that every action the cashier makes is tracked by computer to monitor their efficiency. She quickly learned that the score that a checker received wasn't necessarily based on how fast a checker could scan and take money, but how well the checker could game the register.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | May 18, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Live video of the final space walk to repair Hubble:

Very cool.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

slyness - yes, Harris Teeter has been good to the kid, but he definitely gets that college is the way to go.

yello - HT really has been good to the kid. He was cashier of the week once and got a DVD player for it and then Employee of the Month and got a $50 gift certificate. They're pretty exacting in their training, but they're good to the employees, at least in my son's store.

Posted by: Kim1 | May 18, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"She quickly learned that the score that a checker received wasn't necessarily based on how fast a checker could scan and take money, but how well the checker could game the register."

Isn't that, unfortunately, the story of life?

Posted by: -TBG- | May 18, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

The iPhone has an app where you can go into a store, say BigBoxOfBooks, and scan the ISBN number and have it direct you to a website, say GargantuanOnlineBooks, with reviews and pricing right there in the store. There is an ethical quandary over whether you should actually leave the B&M (Bricks and Mortar) store before hitting BuyNow.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

When I worked at McD's as teen, we were originally expected to add up the total for each order by hand and only then enter the sum into a cash register.

This sounds hard until one realizes that there are just so many combinations of food products sold in a fast food store (and much less circa 1979 than today.) You pretty quickly learned the cost of various standard combos. Indeed, the problem is forgetting them. But I think I'm getting close.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | May 18, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse


That is one of my biggest pet peeves, too. I have to really work to not correct peoples' speech when they say, "I could care less." Yes, the meaning is understood, but the meaning does not logically follow what is said.

If a person "couldn't possibly care less", then they care so little about the subject that it is not possible to care less. If a person "could care less", then they obviously do care a little, thus negating the intended meaning of their statement.

Posted by: Gomer144 | May 18, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Fair 'nuff, yello.
I'll take it as an SCC: and move on.

It would be possible for *me* to care less, but perhaps for not for others.

But I don't mind being on the loosing side of a grammatical/typographical argument.

Part of the benefits of being the Jackson Pollock of the English Language means not having to stay within the lines, no matter what anyone says. I'm all about the ambigutiy.



Posted by: -bc- | May 18, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Hello boodle!

Eagerly signing up for the Gomer and Yello anti- "could care less when they mean couldn't" brigade.

Gorgeous morning in St. Paul and I am going to spend the tail end of it planting a barren corner of the park garden plot. I read this morning in the Friends of the Park newsletter that one of our very senior members died over the winter. I bet it were wild violets what did her in.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 18, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I picked on you, bc, because I know you really couldn't care less if I did. Besides, I just delight in the irony of me of all people have a grammatical idiomatic peeve.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

In one of Kurt Vonnegut's books (and I should be flogged for not knowing which one, a little help kb?) one of the characters became fabulously well to do by inventing the cash register that has the little pictograms of the food items right on the buttons, thus solving the dual problem of illiteracy and innumeracy.

My wife in her two summer stint in retail learned how to correctly count back change. Another lost art.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I just jumped on yello's wagon, I have no problem with our own Jackson Pollack...except one thing.

If intelligent people start to go downhill grammatically, then the rest think it's okay to do so. Pretty soon, made-up and downright wrong words end up in the dictionary, thereby making them right and okay to use.

Kind of like if someone were to just splash a bunch of paint on a canvas and then we put it in a museum and call it "art."

Oh, waitaminnit...

Posted by: Gomer144 | May 18, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Linguistic prescriptivists or descriptivists?

Posted by: laloomis | May 18, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Hi Gomer! How are your little ones these days? And when's school out for you?

Posted by: -TBG- | May 18, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, yeah, Gomer144! :-)

Posted by: -dbG- | May 18, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Gomer: Indeed.


Posted by: -bc- | May 18, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I am going to miss Kornhesier on Monday Night Football, just as I miss Dennis Miller.

Granted, I'm probably one of the few.

Still, I *do* like watching PTI when I can.


Posted by: -bc- | May 18, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

How about a show with Miller and Kornheiser but no sports? That I could watch.


“My fear of planes is legendary and sadly true,” Kornheiser said in a statement. “When I looked at the upcoming schedule it was the perfect storm that would’ve frequently moved me from the bus to the air. I kept looking at the schedule the past month and wanted to find a way to quietly extricate myself.”

Translation: I have enough FU money that I don't need this gig anymore.

Memo to Joel: MNF commentator sure sounds like a great college money job. Jack Germond claims his McLaughlin Group appearance fees put his daughter through college and med school.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Or a football show with Miller, Kornhesier and John Madden?

Put Miller in the Midwest somewhere, Madden on the West Coast, and TK in DC, since the latter are notoriously afeared of flying.


Posted by: -bc- | May 18, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The little ones are getting bigger, 1 and 3.75 years old now. The end of school is three short weeks away, but the day to which I count down is much closer. I have an all-guys camping trip on the banks of the Guadalupe River that I go on every year over Memorial Day weekend. I'm counting the minutes as they go by.

Posted by: Gomer144 | May 18, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"MNF commentator sure sounds like a great college money job. Jack Germond claims his McLaughlin Group appearance fees put his daughter through college and med school."

*I* would be willing to develop an interest in football if it would pay off this way.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 18, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse


**She quickly learned that the score that a checker received wasn't necessarily based on how fast a checker could scan and take money, but how well the checker could game the register.**

Can you tell us how exactly to game the register for the next time we use the self checkout?

I should mention also that your 5:04 caused me to laugh out loud to the point of coughing violently; I think I cracked a couple of recently reknitted ribs (caused of course by the (swine flu).

Posted by: rickoshea0 | May 18, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

rickoshea, glad to see you have risen from your fainting couch!

I seem to have escaped the STBPH swine flu (though my hands look like a Bavarian bar maid's from all the sanitizer I've been using).

I deeply disapprove of stickers on fruit and vegetables. Not that I've been consulted, of course.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I want to do some performance art where three people hit the autocheckout at the same time with identical groceries including alcohol, and scan their items in a prearranged order such that the three robovoices speak in unison. Please place the item in the bag! Please show your identification to the cashier now!

Here's a link to GQ article on Rumsfeld's awful tenure:

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 18, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Stickers on food are too hard to remove. I think the stickers on fresh produce should be flavored. Ideally, the flavor would complement rather than mimic the food. You could vary this to effect: apples with pork-flavor stickers, apples with cinnamon-flavor stickers, tomatoes with basil-flavor stickers, tomatoes with chile-flavor stickers. . . .

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

To a mechanical engineer like me, tolerance stackup hits home. Kind of like a treasure map that says, start at the palm tree, walk 200 paces north, 100 paces east, and dig. Unfortunately for you, the pirate was 6'8" and had a short peg leg, so he took long paces and kind of went in a circle. Every step you take, you get a little farther away from where he intended.

I like the self-checkout when I have less than one bag's worth of stuff. It's very convenient when I go to the hardware store to buy a box of screws, and would otherwise have to stand behind the guy who's building his deck that weekend; hardware also tends to be less sensitive to where it goes in a bag than eggs or bread. In my experience, there's one cashier for two to four self-checkout lanes, which usually works out okay.

I love customer service as much as the next guy, but it's tough to justify staffing a store all day long for a peak period that might only last a few hours. Self checkout helps with that.

Oh, and I'm lucky enough to live within walking distance of the grocery store; I bring my own little cart and reusable bags. It really bugs me that baggers overstuff the bags so they no longer nestle snugly in my cart.

Sorry for dragging things back on kit. As you were.

Posted by: tomsing | May 18, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Here's an interesting rebuttal to the Krauthammer "logic" for torture for Froomkin.

Keep in mind, by this article, Krauthammer has called Froomkin's argument "stupid."

The retort is that the natural justification is that anyone who is suspected of a connection to anyone connected to Al Qaida is one who may know about a "ticking timebomb" in their thinking. So, everyone is subject to torture. Or, at least, that was the practice.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 18, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Stickers on tomatoes seem to be particularly intractable. Bananas not so much. But their stickers are easier to remove. Go figure.

Have we properly researched the health hazards of the residual glue? or the sticker itself since I don't seem to notice them until well into the prep process. The flavored stickers sound like a great idea but a sorting and inventory nightmare. Particularly in my produce drawer.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Health care reform quietly dies ugly death:

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 18, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse


Yeah, on Health care. There isn't much bold going on. There is fold.

on the brighter side, go to and check out how old Arnold looks on the Colifornia web site in pic on upper left.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 18, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Just like photos on dating web sites! Twenty years out of date.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Just wait until you're, oh, six hundred years out of date.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 18, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

That isn't out of date, it's classic.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

The dismissal bell just sounded,and the students are making a colledtive exit from the building. 11 days to go.

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I found this picture. Our Beetle is the same year and colour as this, except that it has a sunroof. It also has yet to be restored.

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Yoki, you smooth-talker, you.

Are you having a nice Feet in the Rain Day?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 18, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse


The one I had was a '73 with a lot of rust. In the time I had it, over eight years and two dozen NoVa to Texas A&M road trips, the odometer only moved .3 miles.

I love Beetles! Grew up on Herbie movies.

Posted by: Gomer144 | May 18, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, where is the video of how those PLU stickers get on the bananas etc?

Posted by: bh72 | May 18, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Had a red 1960 Beetle my freshman and sophomore years in college. Coming back from West Chester State (freshman year) on Friday night blew a spark plug right out of the engine block. Made it all the way home down Rt. 202 through Norrisville and Conshohocken on just three cylinders with the gunfire sound every time the fourth cylinder fired. Jeez what a trouper that thing was.

Commuted back and forth to Temple U. in it my sophomore year. Summers without AC were tough, winters without heat, minimal defrost. Should have hated her, but I didn't. My first clutch/gear shift car. And every one of you who ever had one can still remember the glorious sound of grinding the gears when you mis-clutched, just like the scene in "The Russians Are Coming, TRAC." (Or Ukrainians, as the case may be.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 18, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

We had a styrofoam road trip cooler. Every time the road trip was done, the cooler was systematically destroyed. I'm sure that we were responsible for opening the hole in the ozone layer a bit further every time this happened. Yet another thing we did when we were young and quite foolish.

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The secret to getting the little stickers off produce is to do it before washing. Once the sticker's wet, it's harder to remove.

On my way out the door to pick up my "date" and head to the Springsteen concert. Dinner with a boodler before the show completes the evening!

I guess you'd say I'm born to run...

Posted by: -TBG- | May 18, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

So how does the fourth cylinder fire after the spark plug gets blown out of the block?

Posted by: Mako2 | May 18, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh my: fruit stickers! We wanted the Dole banana stickers to put on her fingernails. Easily please we were, long ago and far away.

Some checkout scanners are better than others; the scanning gun is nearly always faster than the roll-by-the-screen type.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | May 18, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I think Joel is due for a mission on the International Space Station, via shuttle. Joel, are you willing to go through the training? Should you institute the Achenbach Physical Prep course, devised by you, and insist on its adequacy in comparison with other more Official astronautic physical training regimens? Indeed, this is probably the only path available, pragmatically. Unless you're doing 4K on the treadmill daily, and let's face it, comedy is for Saturday nights.

No, we need to get Joel into orbit by hook or crook, and with everyone pulling together as a team, we can do this.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 18, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The gunfire sound comes from the exhaust system, I think, 'cause some of the gasoline vapour from #4 makes it in there and ignites. Or at least that sounds good. I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, you forget the fantastic wealth available to one of the leading lights of the Washington Post, one of the world's leading newspapers. With editor's approval, of course, he can arrange to pay for the training -- T38 training flights, vomit comet, the whole thing -- on the expense account, pay for flights on Virgin Galactic, then work with SpaceX to upgrade and man-rate the Falcon, then fly to the Space Station on the WaPo nickel, note-pad and pencil in hand. Knock on the door and request an interview.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 18, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Bear stories are always on Kit, no? "He zigged when he should have zagged" -
I was in the Ballard neighborhood the other night for a Leon Russell show - glad I didn't see a bear. I had enough trouble finding a parking space.

Posted by: seasea1 | May 18, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

You know, that's a good question. Maybe Jack is right. All I know is it made a helluva bang pretty regularly, every second or so. Could the heat of the engine block have done it? I don't know.

I think the repair involved putting in a whole new sleeve into the engine block to hold the new spark plug.

Where's bc? He'd know all about this.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 18, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

bc couldn't make it today... car trouble.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 18, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

My mechanic used a helicoil.

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

When mental illness confronts (imaginary) swine flu...

When the deputy arrived, the man told him he’d been kicked off of a bus in Silverthorne while en route to Los Angeles.

The man said he’d been booted from the bus after spotting “a woman with swine flu” and grabbing her throat to “eliminate her.” ...

While I believe this story is just another example of how “the system” is failing Colorado’s mentally ill population, (which isn’t funny) I think each of us, of sound mind or otherwise, harbors a secret wish to be a karate master (which is funny).

LL: I doubt that they're yukking it up much in Queens today, though. His closest family dressed in biohazard suits at his bedside last week, doctors attempted a highly experimental treatment, but Mitchell Wiener died last night from swine flu, as you must have read by now.

Posted by: laloomis | May 18, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh jeez, now they tell me:

Posted by: slyness | May 18, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

The sound Mudge heard was the unmuffled noise of combustion in the cylinder-loud lawn mower, gun fire lots of attention attracting noise no matter how you describe it. After ignition the spark plug isn't used for combustion but to transfer heat from the cylinder. What probably happened to Mudge was that the spark plug threads were stripped and they put a threaded insert in. He doesn't say they first tried to sell him a new head, so I'm guessing the shop was a good one (or he had a natural advantage of not being a woman). Nearly "been there, done that" with my old and much loved Tracker. As it turned out, the spark plug had only worked its way loose and just needed a good tightening.

bc may explain this better, or more accurately

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 18, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Kind of like a diesel, eh?

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

jack-all I know about infernal combustion engines is that they work on a basic four step sequence- Suck, Bang, Burn, Blow (intake, ignition or compression, combustion, exhaust).

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 18, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

That is what I remember Marion Berry used to consider a good Friday night out.

Posted by: russianthistle | May 18, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I turned on the telly last night and there was, of all things, a hockey game on, in the second period. The Hawks were down, and remained so for the duration of the match. I owe you one.

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

rt-I discovered that particular mnemonic in the Army, and like most learned there it can be taken in a naughty way if said just so.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 18, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, good eye for A06. What caught my eye is that a story about rhesus macaque and regret led Joel's article.

So today... Joel wound up playing second banana to a bunch of depressed gambling monkeys?

Wow. Some people upstairs hate him.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | May 18, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Hey jack -- we'll just add that to your tab, eh? The Swedish papers were completely full of coverage of all the Swedes playing for, and getting goals for, the Red Wings.

Man, I *love* this time of year (well, to be completely truthful -- *only* when my teams are doing well).


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | May 18, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Hi, kids. No car trouble for me, just life interfering with Boodling.

Sorry, frosti, pretty much every 4-stroke gasoline engine I've ever dealt with absolutely needs spark for internal combustion on every igntion stroke. I've spent way too many years tinkering with getting the igntion timing from a distributor (or a magneto) *just* right and futzing with ignition wires to track down slight engine misfires. And the sequence as I remember it was suck, squish, bang, blow (Intake stroke of atomized fuel and air being 'suck' with the intake valve(s) open,'squish' being a compression stroke of same after the to increase the potiential of the same (all valves closed), bang (and burn?) being the ignition of the same for the power stroke to drive the piston and rod down, turning the crankshaft, then the blow stroke to push the exhaust out (exhaust valve(s) open). On a V-8 Formula One race car engine turning at the regulated 18,000 RPM (down from nearly 20k some years back), you've got 300 rotations of the crank per second, or that whole suck, squish, bang, blow sequence happening 37.5 times per second per cylender. You can do stuff like this when you get rid of extranous stuff like valve springs.

Diesels typically don't require plugs for ignition after they start from the glow plugs and warm up sufficiently.

After Mudge's bug blew out a plug, the fuel and air was still mixing in the chamber and being blown out the plug hole, where the plug may have been dangling from the plug wire and semi-igniting the mix as it was pushed out of the hole, or the wire itself may have been arcing the igntion from the coil and distributor to the exhaust manifold. There's lots of ways that external combustion could have occurred, especially in the pre-'71 Bugs that didn't have the well-vented bootlid/engine covers. Later Bugs actually required that the fuel lines dry rot and seep fuel into the cloth covering (becoming essentially a wick) before significant engine fires would occur (don't ask me how I know - or about a burnt Orange '72 Super Beetle we nicknamed "The FireBug"). Considering that Beetle blocks were typically magnesium, it coulda been worse.

Anyway, I can see that drilling and tapping the head for threaded spark plug/sleeve or helicoiling something in makes sense given what I can tell about the situation so far off in time and space...

Oy, this is far too long, apologies.


Posted by: -bc- | May 18, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

You know what I really love about your automotive posts, bc? I understand! I really understand what you're talking about! Your ability to explain these things in words I can comprehend is one reason I am grateful I know you.

This is just a wonderful place.

Posted by: slyness | May 18, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I had a '71 ghia rag top for almost 20 yrs, a good time was had by all, miss that VW.

Posted by: -CB- | May 18, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

as usual, crowd sourcing works best when someone in the crowd knows what he's talking about-like bc

Mr. F and I took the Miata, top down, over to the new Five Guys in a fairly distant burb. Very busy, but waaaay more staff than would be on duty in a DC area store. Still getting the hang of it I guess. I can't believe a meal that leaves a grease slick on a paper bag would make me almost weep.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 18, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Hey Frosti!

That's where I'm taking the kids tomorrow night. Mr. ABC is out of town, so I'm taking them out for dinner after T-ball practice. My kids love reading the sign that tells where the potatoes are from. Now that I have the world in my phone, we can find it on a map while we wait for our order.

Has anyone here been watching Dancing With the Stars? I've watched a few shows since it started a few years ago, but this time around I watched every show. It's been fun.

Posted by: abeac1 | May 18, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Hello all, back after a busy Victoria Day, did some gardening, had a family outing at the Jays game (they won!) the roof however was closed, we had cloudless skies, little wind and temps in the low 50's and the roof was closed, wrong, just wrong.

abeac I have only watched a few shows of Dancing with the Stars, but we stopped for pizza before the game across the street from the stadium. I then remembered that at the convention centre next to the stadium they were holding the auditions for So You Think You Can Dance - Canada. Sure enough two young men were in the restaurant with their auditions numbers on, eldest child thought this was very cool.

Posted by: dmd2 | May 18, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

somehow, spinning crankshafts, and cylinders firing at 37.5x/sec. brought this to the fore...

Posted by: -jack- | May 18, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad I can impart what little knowledge I have for the benefit of others.

Top down in the Miata sounds good to me.
As does a good cheeseburger.


Posted by: -bc- | May 18, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Joel's Tuesday story on the shiny new Hubble telescope is up. The refurbishment mission sets a high standard for future maintenance and upgrading of space robots by human mechanics.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | May 19, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

My pictures (actually my wife's) of the Broooce show are up.

The show was awesome. The Seeds/Johnny 99/Ghost of Tom Joad mini-set was particularly moving. The dueling accordions were hilarious. And Rosie came out. It's always a good show when she is around.

And I understand another boodler was there as well.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 19, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | May 19, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, yello, great pics!

Posted by: seasea1 | May 19, 2009 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Hey, where's the dawn patrol crew? Surely I'm not the only one up?

Scotty? Mudge? Cassandra?

Ham biscuits on the table in the ready room. Coffee's hot, so is the water for tea.

I'll be right back, I'm gonna go read Joel's story.

Posted by: slyness | May 19, 2009 6:56 AM | Report abuse

SOMEONE bought a second bottle of wine last night, so I'm just getting up. Take off without me. I'll catch up.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 19, 2009 7:13 AM | Report abuse

yello... don't forget... Kitty's Back! Brooooooooooce!

Hard to believe he'll turn 60 this year. What energy (and body) for an old man.

Posted by: TBG- | May 19, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Sorry I'm late, it was such a sparkling clear and brisk morning I just had to make an extra pass over the field before landing...

And talk to the TV camera crew across the street before I came into work.

And dream of cheeseburgers in the grill this weekend...

Hopefully we'll see a new Kit soon, too!

*just-another-day-in-the-caffeinated-life Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 19, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

TBG, ahem, I am officially taking umbrage at the comment about Bruce turning 60 and having energy and a good body for an 'old man.' I sure hope you were kidding! Being over that magic number myself, I am sensitive to 'old' comments that involve energy and agility. Yeah, I'm old-er, but I refuse to give into it. I'm not on Bruce's level of course, but you know what I mean!! ;-)

Posted by: badsneakers | May 19, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Well, he did step off that piano instead of jump and I didn't see a knee slide, so he is slowing down. Still able to RAWK for three hours at a time though.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 19, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle!

Finally proved to an e-zine editor that the cachana parakeets flying in front of my apartment do really exist. Google and Flicker would not cough up text nor pics of the bird 'til I found an alternative name--taraaaa--the austral parakeet.

Article on this and other Chilean birds and critters to come out in June.

Haff a good day, everyone!


Posted by: Braguine | May 19, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm back, having enjoyed the latest Achenbach story and the morning walk. Cool in the Carolinas this morning, 42 when I first looked. There was frost in the valleys in the high country; I hope we're high enough that the dahlias and fuchsias weren't hurt.

Those of you who were up late at a Broooce concert are excused this morning. I totally get how slow a person can move after just watching all that energy. Not to mention listening to the music.

Posted by: slyness | May 19, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

New kit coming shortly.

Posted by: joelache | May 19, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Just a question:

Why is a Hall of Fame offensive lineman giving the president op-ed advice on foreign policy?


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 19, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Sorry I'm late to muster--it's slow getting around these days.

Just a wee quickie this morning:

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

May 19, 1944: Destroyer USS England (Lt. Cmdr. Walter Pendleton) starts a remarkable 12-day spree, sinking six Japanese submarines whose locations forming a picket line were discovered by American codebreakers.

P'raps more later.

Any biscuits left, slyness?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | May 19, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Slyness, I do love your ham biscuits, and I need them like I need a hole in my head. I'll just have one, and coffee. I'm moving slow this morning, and at this rate, I won't get in the doctor's office anytime soon.

Okay, whose words did Maureen Dowd steal off the boodle? When I read that on the news, I thought, why would she do that? The woman has a pretty good grasp of the King's English without borrowing from others, don't you think?

Well, got to go, just dropped by for a hearty good morning, and of course, ham biscuits. Glad you're feeling better, Maggie. Hope the same for you, Mudge man.

Yoki, Scotty, Martooni, and all the gang, have a wonderful day. *waving*

As if I need help in killing my plants, now the weather has turned on me. It is cold this morning, and I have more flowers to plant. Should I wait until it warms up or go ahead and plant them, anyone?

Anyone watch Farrah's story on television? I only saw a little of it because my dad was watching it. Really sad.

The kids are taking their tests this week, and the after school program will end after the testing period. I'm praying for good results.

Time to start.

Posted by: cmyth4u | May 19, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Cassandra-Yoki's looking for you in the new boodle.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | May 19, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Joel, anything seems really difficult if you are coming at it from the level of ignoramus.

Posted by: LifeBeforePrinciple | May 19, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

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