Space Racers

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From the website: “Space Racers is a new, original, half-hour animated series for preschoolers that follows young spaceship cadets at the Stardust Bay Space Academy as they soar through the Solar System. Young viewers will learn about the power of scientific investigation and observation, the wonders of space exploration, and the importance of working together as a team, all with fun and engaging characters they can relate to.”

It’s similar to some of the better shows on PBSKids but doesn’t seem to have a big distribution network.

Poison Ivy

I sat at a picnic table. I think that must have been it. And a dog must have brushed against the legs of the table after walking through a patch of poison ivy. Because I never went near any vegetation other than grass, but within a day I had the typical blistering rash on the underside of my right forearm and the outside of my right knee.

I washed it and kept it dry and hoped it would go away quickly, but it didn’t. The rash kept spreading over the course of a week until it was all over both arms and both legs. I got some Tecnu and washed everything, but it didn’t help.

The medical literature says the urushiol (the irritating oil found in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac) does not spread from scratching a rash, so a spreading rash is a sign of re-contamination. So there had to be some source of urushiol that was still irritating my skin. I washed everything that I had touched repeatedly after initial exposure: my keys, my wallet, the armrests and steering wheel and gear shift in the car, my laptop, etc. But the rash kept spreading. In the end, what worked was disposing of my shoes and scrubbing everything including my hands and the rash with rubbing alcohol. Only the alcohol actually breaks down the oil, preventing it from being a problem.

The next time I get a poison ivy rash, the first thing I’ll do is rub everything down with alcohol.

Po’Daddy Siamese Sandwich

The flavors of southeast Asian cooking, notably dishes such as pad thai (“pad” just means noodles, so “pad thai” just means “Thai-style noodles”) can easily be replicated by combining chili sauce (sriracha in particular, less so the vinegar-heavy tabasco-style sauces in tex-mex cooking) and peanut butter. Add cabbage for texture.

Bread is your choice, but to evoke a banh mi, I’d use a crusty roll if available. Then, just slather in some PB, squirt in some chili sauce and stick a cabbage leaf in the middle. Cheap and above-mediocre

Po’Daddy Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese

In a rice cooker put:

  1. 1 cup dry pasta (elbows are usually cheapest, but shells or ziti or whatever is fine)
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 1 or 2 slices of american cheese. (I’m not a big fan of american cheese,but it melts better than any other kind and if you look at the ingredients, you’ll see that they’re not all garbage. The good kind is just melted colby cheese mixed with milk and then refrigerated. The bad kind has “corn solids” and oils and floor sweepings added.)

Turn it on. The pasta cooks in the water and the water boils away until there is so little left that the pot gets above 212°F (100°C), which signals the cooker to turn off. By then, the cheese is all melted and combined with the starchy water from the pasta. Stir and serve.

It tends to be a but mushy compared to superior methods, but this way is cheap, easy, fast, and relies on ingredients many of us already have at hand.

The Post Office: The most secure communications network in America.

We’re familiar with the concept of ‘security through obscurity’, meaning if you make something difficult to find it becomes less likely to ever be seen (like a needle in a haystack).

But there are additional forms of security that paper mail offers over telephone and email (and all other digital forms).

These include, ‘security through inconvenience’ and ‘security through bureaucracy’.

The first is achieved by making the content as cumbersome as possible to discover. Think of a spook whose job it is to sift through all of your email messages, suddenly presented with a stack of paper correspondance. Even if the paper mail is written on postcards – open to the world to see – the mail could take an afternoon to sort through, while a lifetime of email can be scanned in a second.

The second is achieved by relying on the fact that most of our legal protections were established during an era when paper was the only form of recorded documentation. Warrants are needed to open mail, thanks to laws written long ago. This is apparently not true for email.

So, if you want to send a note to someone with a high likelihood that no one but the recipient reads it, write a letter, buy a stamp, and use your local post office.

A Silver Bullet

I returned the following morning. I always do, or try to, after a night like last night. Sometimes I leave something behind.

Once I found my shirt hanging from a tree. I asked some local boys to throw rocks at it to knock it loose. They happily obliged.

Another time I left behind the smashed window in the door of a butcher’s shop. The next morning, the owner was taking inventory and I offered to help sweep up. He shrugged and turned away. I whispered an apology and then bought the last fresh ham from his wife. I had a bit of a stomachache, but knew I would eat it later.

But this morning at the gas station, I couldn’t find any evidence of misbehavior. In fact, I couldn’t find any evidence that I had been there at all, no hairs in the grass or footprints in the mud, no stray clothes or broken windows.

Was this the right gas station? It had been a gas station, hadn’t it? I checked my empty pockets for one of the notes I sometimes wrote to myself.

The pumps and the hedges and the little store looked familiar. I walked toward the drainage ditch that ran around the back, the direction I would have gone. The grass was not matted down, but looked as if someone had brushed it back into place. And the mud had been smoothed over.

I crouched to look more closely and noticed something shiny: a small blob of metal embedded in the dirt under a branch. I used my fingernail to pry it loose. It felt hot in my hand and I cradled it in the cuff of my sleeve so it wouldn’t touch my skin.

“Find something?” A man’s greasy voice behind me arched my back. I stood and turned. “No.” I shivered and slipped the thing into my pocket.

“Lose something, then?” He wore sunglasses and smiled broadly, standing with his feet spread apart while swirling a small bit of coffee in a large paper cup.

“My… My glasses.” I stuttered, brushing dirt from my jeans.

“Last night?” He asked.

“Uh, no. Two nights ago.”

“Hunh. So why are you looking here now?”

“I… I’ve already looked everywhere else.”

He took a step closer and over his shoulder I caught the eye of a woman pumping gas. But she had no sympathy for me. I started toward the road, but the man stepped in my way. “You know, I lost something last night.” He said. “I wonder if you saw it while you were searching for your glasses.”

He waited for me to ask him what it was, but I just stared at the road, planning how to leave without calling attention to myself. I don’t like being remembered.

The man finally said, “A bit of jewelry. My wife’s. She had a silver necklace with a small… well… sort of bullet-shaped pendant. Well… We had a fight and she tossed it out the window toward that grass there.”

I avoided looking at him. “Didn’t see it.”

“Are you sure you weren’t here last night? There’s something familiar about you. Almost… A smell.”

I tried to laugh. “You’re starting to creep me out, man.”

“Well that makes two of us.”

Standing as close as we were I could smell his breakfast on his breath.

He lowered his shoulders and exhaled slowly. I stepped around him and walked away without looking back.

That night I would have to be much more careful.