Every winter, some websites run snowstorm.js as decoration. Yes, it is a festive and cheery thing. It used to be fun back when we all had tiny 1024×780 screens. But now I have a huge, high rez screen, and my computer will try to render all the snowflakes. Some people set the snowstorm to high intensity, it makes my computer overheat and the cooling fans run at high speed. Some people run the white snow over a white background with black text. The only way you can tell snowstorm.js is running is to watch random pixels of the text wink on and off, as the snowflakes drift past. It makes the text illegible.
I recently finished a temp job, during the final week the managers arranged an Employee Appreciation Lunch of expensive pizza and cupcakes. I grumbled that if the company really wanted to express its appreciation, they could skip the free lunch and pay me higher wages so I could buy my own lunch. I am sure my ingracious comments were not appreciated by management.
The artisanal cupcakes were beautiful. I mentioned how much I like vanilla, and a coworker said, “We have Double Vanilla!” But it was too rich for lunch, so I kept it at my desk and saved it for later.
When I prepared to leave work, I realized it would be tricky to transport the cupcake home without mashing it or getting frosting all over my car. One of the managers said, “The cupcakes fit perfectly in our big paper coffee cups.” I said, “Oh, I have a better idea.”
The way the cupcake paper was folded reminded me of the way we used to wrap potted plants in decorative foil, at our family greenhouse business. I can’t even guess how many hundreds, maybe thousands of chrysanthemums and poinsettias I have wrapped this way. We would fold and staple cardboard boxes and pad them with newspapers so the customers could transport them easily. So I grabbed a stapler and a leftover paper plate from the pizza, and made it into a box in just a few seconds.
My manager saw me working and said, “That doesn’t seem better, it’s a lot more complex, with dozens of folds and staples.” I cushioned the cupcake with a few spare napkins and said, “It turned out better than I expected, it’s as beautiful as a flower, you should see it.” She looked and said, “You’re absolutely right, Charles, that is superior in every way.”
About 15 years ago, I published a document about how to write a résumé in Japanese, a 履歴書 (rirekisho). This small 1.7Mb PDF file contains a high resolution scan of blank resume forms, and detailed instructions in both English and Japanese for writing a résumé and a cover letter.
This document will require advanced level Japanese skills, and that is kind of the point. If you really need to write a good rirekisho, you are probably applying for a job that requires a high level of Japanese fluency, including the ability to write standardized business documents and correspondence.
Recently I discovered other websites are publishing this file, even selling it as an ebook. This document is the result of my semester-long project in my 5th-year Japanese language class. It contains short Fair Use excerpts from Japanese textbooks and business publications, so it seems especially unfair for other people to reproduce this work and charge money for it.
So I’m republishing it on my blog for free. Please do not pay money to download this file. You can get it for free right here.
Here is a scan of a cookbook from my Mom’s collection. It is entitled “AMISH COOK BOOK of Recipes from Our Amish Neighbors” and was published by the Grace Methodist Church of Oelwein, Iowa, Woman’s Society of Christian Service. It is undated but I believe it was produced in the early 1970s.
A few years ago, I bought a used car. The dealer assured me it had just been fully serviced, but I noticed a warning flag on the dashboard, it said “Maintenance Required.” Every car requires regular maintenance, but I figured this was a warning about something specific. It seemed to drive OK, it didn’t seem to have anything wrong.
After a few thousand miles, I took it in for an oil change, but the light stayed on. Eventually I had to do some major repairs. The clutch cylinder had to be replaced. The light stayed on. I had to replace the timing chain and the steering rack, that was a really expensive repair. But still the light stayed on.
After replacing the steering rack, I had to take the car to another shop to have the wheels aligned. There really was nothing left on the car that hadn’t been serviced, but that damn Maintenance Required flag was still on. I mentioned this to the mechanic, he seemed puzzled and said, “lemme see that.” So he got in the car and looked, then he took the key and poked it into a little slot under the flag, and it reset. The flag was gone.
I asked him what happened. He said the flag is hooked to the odometer, it goes off every 5000 miles to tell you to change the oil. But the car doesn’t know when you changed the oil, the mechanic has to reset the flag manually.
The Soft Boys – (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp – 1978
When I first entered Art School, one of my first purchases was a Luxo Lamp. It’s a classic design that has endured the test of time. It was cheap, I think I only paid about $20. I clamped it to the edge of my drafting table, and I kept it attached to my various desks over the next thirty years. A few years ago, it fell apart and I threw it out.
Recently I decided to buy a new Luxo Lamp. I thought it would be cheap, I looked online and now they’re over $165! My local art supplies store has a generic model listed online for about $18. What a deal. I went to the store, cash in hand, but they were sold out. I could order it online, but I hate to buy a cheap knock-off without seeing it first. It might be too cheap.
I checked at various outlets around town, I thought it would be easy to find a cheap swing arm lamp. But no. The best I could find was a cheap knock-off of the Luxo Jr. at Target, for about $40. It was only about 18 inches tall, that defeats the whole purpose of the Luxo. The classic Luxo LS-1 has a 45 inch reach, you can put it up high and illuminate your whole desk, or pull it down close for more brightness. I used a 100w full-spectrum incandescent bulb which has a good color balance, so I could work at night and still be able to judge colors accurately.
Unfortunately, this is probably the worst time in recent history to buy a desk lamp. New Federal energy standards were imposed on incandescent bulbs to make them more efficient. Of course some people think it’s a conspiracy and are even hoarding light bulbs. That’s ridiculous, new energy-efficient incandescent bulbs are already on the market, they are better than ever. There are plenty of alternative bulbs that are even more efficient, CFL bulbs have been around for a while, but people don’t like them because they have a colder light. I don’t like them because they have Mercury in them and you have to recycle them. Stores that sell CFLs are required to take them back and recycle them, but I’m sure they just throw them in the trash. Now LED lighting is getting cheaper, but it’s still really expensive.
So I thought maybe instead of the lamp, I’d try to get brighter bulbs for my wall-mounted lamps. They have tiny Type B sockets so the biggest bulb I can use is 60w. I have been looking everywhere for some simple 60w-equivalent LED bulbs that would fit. The standard bulbs put out 650 lumens, but I can’t find any LED bulbs that would output anything close to that. My office is already too dim, I want more light, efficiency be damned. It might be better to replace the whole wall fixture to use the regular Type A bulbs.
Now I am back where I started, no new lamp, and a dimly lit office. I suppose I will have to do some serious research and buy a proper LED desk lamp. That’s going to be expensive, I haven’t seen a decent model for under $100. The only thing that bothers me about LED lamps is that they don’t burn out, they just get dimmer. It will take a long time, maybe 10 years before they become noticeably dimmer. It will happen so gradually, nobody will notice. The manufacturers don’t know exactly how dim they will get. I kept my old Luxo for thirty years. I could keep a new LED lamp for another thirty, and eventually I will be back where I started, in a dimly lit office.
Last night at about 4AM, I was awakened by the noise of a loud conversation. I wondered who was talking so loud, maybe it was a noisy neighbor. I tossed and turned, and could not get back to sleep because a light was on. Then I wondered where that bright light was coming from.
It was coming from my office. My computer monitor was on, and a video was playing. It took me a few groggy moments to figure out what happened.
I always put my computer in sleep mode just before I go to bed. Somehow, the computer crashed while it was in sleep mode, and rebooted itself. My web browser restarted, and restored all the open windows. Then a video that I paused earlier that evening, started playing.
I think from now on, I’ll mute the sound too, when I go to bed.
I have been forced to block my blog to all internet addresses in China and Russia. My blog receives thousands of spam comments every week from these countries, it is a waste of my time and my computer resources. Ironically, it is a waste of their time and resources, since all the spam gets blocked. Perhaps they want people to voluntarily close off their websites to their countries, to stop the free flow of ideas. Perhaps they are succeeding.