Once I knew where all the sprinkler zones were. Perhaps I even wrote it down. But I have forgotten, and considered that no great matter; just turn ‘em on and let them go. Now that I have the new growth, and am keen to keep it lush. The average lawn, I learned, provides O2 every day for a family of four. I have a larger than average lawn, and this means that if the lawn goes dormant, people will asphyxiate.

So I was testing the system, turning them on with my phone, writing down the location. It’s not completely logical. Zones 1-3 are on the north hill. Zone 4 is on the other end of the property. Zone 7 is close to the north hill. And so on. Zone 5 was not where I expected it to be, and here’s how I know: I was standing on the grass, called up QUICK RUN, selected the zone, set the time for three minutes, and waited. It takes about 30 seconds for the water to divert, build, pop the sprinkler head, and shoot out the water.

It hit me square behind the shoulder blades. Sprinkler water is always cold; unexpected sprinkler water is like something from the Arctic sea, except without the polar bear urine. Granted, the ppm are very small. But possibly detectable, no? Do we have instruments clever enough to determine the parts-per-million of polar bear union in vast bodies of water, or would it be assumed to be general mammal urine?

I can hear the irritated remarks of scientists right now: you’re asking whether we can differentiate between whale pee and bear pee. Of course we can. There are several distinct markers. Any fool would intuit that, based on the diet alone.

So you’re telling me that krell and fish would leave the same markers in the excretions?

It’s krill, not krell. The Krell were a warlike species in the Fantastic Four.

No, that's where you're wrong. The Skrull were the Fantastic Four adversaries. The Krell were the high-foreheaded aliens from "Fantastic Planet."

Okay, okay, you got me. I'm not a scientist. Well played.

Anyway, I may forget all the zones, but not #5.











I watched “The Serpent” on Netflix, which is an eight-hour show about a four-hour story. (It's a true story.) See, there’s this guy, who was charismatic, sort of, well, not that much. But he had that 70s look down cold, with the aviator lens and high-waisted polyester pants. He lured tourists into his circle, poisoned them, and took their money and passports. Can one lowly Dutch foreign-service worker who looks like Chris Pine mashed up with Martin Freeman stop him?

It’s worth the time if you feel indulgent, if only for the seedy 70s aspect. Apparently, the villain loathed hippies, which is not as common a motivation as you’d think. Also, he’s still alive, but not well, and any day now you might read news of his death.

It’s almost worth watching the show to feel a small sense of good-riddance, since you spend a lot of the time wishing horrible, horrible things upon him. And you also recoil with dread when you see the painfully naive travelers who just . . . show up in Nepal or Thailand hoping for good weed and some spiritual stuff. Middle-class parents in Paris living in dread for a year because their kid decided to backpack around to gain some experience.

I mention this all because it’s set in the 70s, for the most part, and the era still feels . . . obtainable. Perhaps because I was there. But the music never went away; we are required to hear this stuff over and over at the grocery store. The culture keeps recycling 70s tropes, perhaps because it’s regarded as the last wild era, the last time there was sufficient signs of modernity to make sense to modern viewers, but none of the marginal additions like cellphones and computers. Perhaps that’s what distinguishes one’s view: whether or not you see all these people in hash parties or doing tourist things and notice the absence of Instagram posing. Because there’s a point in human history when social events are changed in a startling way: half the participants are mediating the experience through the glowing glass portal.

If a 70s TV show looked at a crime in the 20s, tThe basics would be the same, except for television. Cars, radio, telephones, movies, newspapers, billboards. But the absence of TV would not make it seem particularly different, would it? TV was a tied-down thing, a box that made you inert. It wasn’t a portable instrument, so 20s scenes of parties and vacations wouldn’t have had a TV involved, just like our 70s parties and vacations did not have TV involved.

Yeah, I know, deep thoughts, man. DEEP. Like I said, this week's theme is Obvious and Boring but perhaps not contemplated recently.



It’s 1936, and newspaper advertising has never been sharper.

Look at this:

The origin story:

William Merriam Burton developed one of the earliest thermal cracking processes in 1912 which operated at 700–750 °F and an absolute pressure of 90 psi and was known as the Burton process. Shortly thereafter, in 1921, C.P. Dubbs, an employee of the Universal Oil Products Company, developed a somewhat more advanced thermal cracking process which operated at 750–860 °F and was known as the Dubbs process.

The Dubbs process was used extensively by many refineries until the early 1940s when catalytic cracking came into use.

Wonder if Dubbs got a bonus.


Tony Martin has a great time placing whirring metal blades to his face while flying high in the sky, the modern way!

The going price for this model on eBay et al is about ten bucks. They still work! Lifetime, indeed.


Wait, I thought everyone was in a sepia-toned breadline for the entire decade

The Grand Central Air Terminal building still stands, and it’s part of a Disney campus.

  I’m starting to think I got these from the Sunday Travel edition.

Not only can anyone fly now, but you can have cereal up there!

It’s still made - but it’s a brand name Nestle uses for baby food.





“When heavy demands lead to constant smoking!” Ah, yes. You’ve no choice. Chain those nails, pal - it's going to be a long night, and it wouldn't be an overtime shift without a cigarette-and-coffee headache.

Wonder if someone had phoned in a story of a plane crash.

Roundly-detested college boy approves

He’ll be running the office soon, straight out of school, his dad got him the job. Everyone despises him.

KECA and the inimitable Chaz Hamp!

KECA was KPLA, which I presume was a Klingon-language station, until it was purchased by a local car dealer. The link explains the name change.

Hey, do I have to spell everything out?

Anyway, the Wikipedia entry notes that he introduced neon signs to Los Angeles, which made one hell of a cultural impact.

As for Chas W. Hamp:

Hamp played piano, saxophone and sang. In World War I, Hamp was made the director of the United States Ambulance Service Jazz Band, which entertained the troops. After the war, Hamp appeared in vaudeville until 1927, when took a job as the director of a Los Angeles radio station. When a scheduled artist failed to appear, Hamp played piano and sang, becoming something of an overnight sensation, leading to a recording contract with Columbia Records.

Highest paid man in radio, for a while.

Hamps's doing the vocal here.

That will do for today, I hope. Our weekly visit with Gluyas awaits.



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