How To Draw A Cat (Recycled from old Tumblr account)

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I thought I’d put this one up here at the same time I posted it on the old Tumblr account but I can’t seem to find it here. So here you go, how to draw your very own cat.

I have no idea what was going through my head when I drew this. Sometimes weird stuff just pops up in my brain.

Zenn and the art of electric cars

No, I didn’t misspell “zenn” up there. This has nothing to do with buddhism, but instead the Zenn is actually an electric car. This thing, to be specific…

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“Zenn” stands for “zero emissions no noise” and it was an attempt by a French company to produce an all electric car. And Eldest Son (ES) has one of these — these things.

It’s not really a car, it seems. Technically it’s an LSV, “Low Speed Vehicle”, a classification of vehicle that was created by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration because they were bored or had too much to drink at lunch or something, because while LSV’s are allowed on the street, they are exempt from most of the safety standards real automobiles and trucks have to follow and these things are about as safe on the street as, oh, a tin foil and tar paper shack is in a tornado.

LSVs are restricted to a top speed of 25 mph, and can only legally travel on streets where the speed limit is 30 mph or slower. (I’m told there is a way to hack the computer on this thing to boost it’s speed up to a mind numbing 32 mph! Ooo!)

Now electric cars are getting a lot of press these days, things like the hybrids, all electrics like the sporty, high tech Tesla, the Leaf, etc. And they are fine vehicles, some of them are even outstanding vehicles.

The Zenn is not an outstanding vehicle. The body and chassis was made in France, shipped to Canada where, with the help of trained beavers, they shoveled a 30 hp electric motor into the thing. Well, okay, so they probably didn’t use trained beavers. But I do suspect moose were involved because Canadians enjoy messing with us down here.

The Zenn had a whopping 30 hp engine, it’s top speed was limited to 25 mph. You could squeeze 2 adults into it with some groceries. It ran on sealed lead acid batteries that gave a range of about 30 miles or so, less if you had a passenger or did something silly like, oh, turning on the lights or radio. Much much less if you did something even more silly like turn on the heater or air conditioning. (Note: the owner’s manual states that the car’s heater is not intended to actually, well, heat anything. It’s there only to defrost the windows.)

Still, for it’s intended purpose, which was basically driving five or eight miles to your job or running to the local grocery store to get your organic free range humanely harvested almond milk for your morning bowl of kelp flakes, it would work.

But there were a lot of problems with the Zenn. The biggest of which is that it was, well, pretty much crap.

I drove this thing yesterday, and after I stopped laughing because I couldn’t believe they actually allowed this thing on the road, I realized that it is a bloody horrible car, and the only thing that surprised me about it was that it took nine years for the company to go out of business.

The ride is — well, awful. Every expansion joint, every dip, every stone, every defect in the pavement, every pile of squirrel poo, is transmitted directly from the rock hard tires and even harder suspension directly to the base of your spine. It handles just like a golf cart, with uncertain steering, odd twitches and peculiar vibrations adding to the excitement of the experience.

And that whole “no noise” thing they talk about? Uh, well, no. Okay, standing on the sidewalk watching it go by you don’t hear anything. That’s because they’ve funneled all of the noise into the interior of the car. My Corvette with the racing exhaust and headers and the stereo cranked up is quieter inside than this thing.

Then there’s the brakes. As in what brakes… It has a regenerative braking system, they claim. When you step on the brake, it goes into regenerative mode, supposedly taking the energy of your forward momentum and magically turning it back into electricity that gets dumped into the battery and slowing you down. So you put your foot on the brake and — nothing happens. At all. Rapidly going into panic mode, you push harder, and harder and harder, and still nothing happens. Until finally you put your foot all the way to the floor and the real brakes kick in and the car comes to an abrupt halt and you find out why they put seat belts in it, to keep you from going through the windshield when you stop.

You laugh a lot when you drive this thing. You have to because it keeps you from screaming in terror.

Let’s look at some of the other high points of this car.

It’s plastic. All of it. Plastic body, plastic, well, everything. Even the glass isn’t really glass, it’s plastic. The windshield is glass, but the side windows and rear windows are plastic, and not very good plastic, either.

As noted above, the heater doesn’t actually heat. It’s just there to defrost the windows. And the air conditioner, well, it sort of works? Kinda? Maybe? If you’re willing to put up with your range dropping by at least half.

Charge time isn’t utterly horrible. They claim it will recharge the batteries to 80% in about 4 hours, with a full charge taking 8 hours.

Oh, they would have sold you a fast charger that would give you a full charge in an hour.

For $9,000.

Yeah, $9,000 for a battery charger…

So, you ask, what did they sell this thing for? Five, six grand, maybe?

Uh, no. Try (cough cough) $18,000.

With the optional quick charger, this sucker would set you back $27,000. For a car with a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 30 miles, which is ridiculously uncomfortable to ride in, terrifying to drive, and which would crumple like a piece of paper if it were even bumped by a real road vehicle because it meets virtually zero highway safety standards.

Gee, I wonder why the company shut down…

ES picked this thing up for next to nothing. It needed new batteries, work on the electronics and other things. I figure he’s got about $2,000 invested in this vehicle so it isn’t like he’s stuck a fortune into it, and he’s using it every day. He commutes to work with it every day. And I have to admit that it’s cheap. He’s crunched some numbers and figures that as far as energy usage is concerned, he’d have to have a car that got at least 140 mpg to match the cost of the energy he uses with the Zenn.

And there’s another benefit as well. The sheer terror of driving this thing in traffic is better for waking you up than an espresso I.V.

Stupidity Roundup

Let’s face it, a lot of the things we do are stupid. They just are. There is no rational reason for some of them, a lot of good reasons why we shouldn’t do them, but we do them anyway. So let’s take a look at some of the stupid things we do.

And yes, before you ask, I’m bored again otherwise I wouldn’t have come up with such a ridiculous topic

Daylight Savings Time

It’s that time of year again when we shove the clocks ahead an hour in the spring. The insanity that is daylight savings time has been with us for many decades now, and while there might have been some valid reason for it back in the 1940s when we were in the middle of a world war, any rational reason to hang on to this ridiculous practice, if there ever was one, ended around the same time WWII did. Bloomberg has a neat little article about the fact that daylight savings time doesn’t help anyone and actually harms a lot of people so if you want to read it click here for the link thingie.

The argument that it somehow saves energy is completely bogus. When Indiana finally switched to daylight savings time in 2006, the state actually used more energy than it did before it adopted the time change. When you add in the spike in car accidents, other accidents, heart attacks and other adverse effects directly linked to the time change, there is simply no rational reason to support it and a lot of reasons to get rid of the damned thing.

So absolutely no one benefits from the twice a year time change. A lot of people are harmed by it. It doesn’t save energy. It is just a plain bad idea.

But we keep doing it anyway.

There was a bill in the state legislature here to try to get rid of it. It was promptly dismissed as being ‘trivial’ and not worth the valuable time of the state’s politicians. The same politicians who found the time to declare the polka the state dance, put through a bill to declare sandy loam as the state dirt and… Well,  you get the idea.

Butter Wars –

The butter war has been heating up in Wisconsin long after most people thought a ceasefire had been signed decades ago. Wisconsin’s agriculture business is enormously important, especially the milk business, and over the years the state has done some rather curious things to try to promote and even force people to use dairy products like butter. It was, for example, illegal until around 1967 to sell margarine in Wisconsin that was colored yellow. Well, to be fair you could, but it was subject to such a heavy tax that it made the product very expensive to buy if it was colored. Only margarine that was uncolored could be sold without being heavily taxed in the state, and since margarine is not exactly very appealing looking when uncolored, it didn’t help sales very much. Some makers of margarine, in an attempt to get around the law, sold margarine in plastic bags with a capsule of yellow dye inside. You emptied the yellow dye into the margarine and then kneaded it in the package to distribute the dye through the product. That was finally lifted in 1967, but anyplace that serves food to the public is required to serve butter to people unless they specifically ask for margarine. You can cook with margarine in the back, you can offer margarine packets along with butter packets at the table, but if you pre-butter toast or bread, it’s supposed to be done with real butter.

Well this time the kerfuffle is over Kerry Butter, an imported butter from Ireland. Now Kerry is a very fine butter. The stuff is excellent. I’ve had it myself. It’s way, way too expensive for me to buy it, you pay a pretty stiff premium for it, but it’s very nice, tasty butter. But because it isn’t graded the way state law claims it should be, it’s illegal to sell it in the state. Wisconsin is the only state that requires this type of grading. You can read about the whole thing here at Wisconsin Public Radio.

Snake Oil – 

There are a lot of scammers out there trying to steal your money by making phoney health claims about their products that it’s hard to know who you can trust any more. But every once in a while one comes along that’s so utterly ridiculous that even the government figures out what’s going on and steps in. You can jump to the Iowa Attorney General’s press release about it by clicking here. There is apparently a company out there that claims it makes a “drinkable” sunscreen, along with other “drinkable” products that do everything from “stabilizing bacteria levels”, whatever that means, to curing infertility, reducing hair loss and preventing acne.

There are two companies involved, Osmosis and Harmonized Water, both apparently owned by someone named Benjamin Johnson of Colorado. The companies produce a line of products that are… Well, they’re water, really. That’s it. Water.

But it’s special water…

The water is allegedly put through some kind of machine called a “harmonizer” that somehow imprints “frequencies” on ordinary water. The “drinkable sunscreen”, they claim will, with just a few squirts on your tongue, protect you from UV radiation by “generating scalar waves above the skin” before it even touches you, and you can buy a tiny little bottle of the stuff for about $40.

Scalar waves are one of the darlings of the “alternative medicine” and “free energy” conspiracy theorists and the like. You can build your own special transformer to make “scalar waves”. It’s not hard to do. You can pump a huge amount of energy into such a transformer and accomplish, well, nothing, really except covert your electricity into heat. These “scalar” devices basically produce two electromagnetic fields that cancel each other out and produce heat and nothing else. But an enormous mythology has developed about them that includes Soviet Union super weapons, weather changing devices, mind control devices.

I won’t go into all of the nonsense that some in the “alternative medicine” world have conjured up, but it involves “supercoil DNA” and mobius coils inside of your DNA that generates “scalar” waves… If you want to delve into it, wear your hip boots because the bull shit gets really deep, really fast. There is supposedly a “scalar wave laser” out on the market that uses “quantum cold laser rejuvenation technology” that can be used to cure, well, everything, it seems. From what I’ve seen these things are little more than the same lasers used for reading CDs and DVDs in a hand held package, and if you want to buy one they’ll set you back about $3,500 for what is basically a bunch of parts out of some DVD players that cost about twenty bucks. It’s also supposed to cure goat polio.

But I’ve gotten off topic here, haven’t I? The Iowa AG is going after the company for various reasons, including the fact “Doctor” Johnson hasn’t been able to practice medicine since 2001 because his license was yanked, that there is absolutely no evidence this stuff does anything at all, that the “testimonials” were largely written by people who sell the stuff themselves or have some other financial interest in the company… Well, the list goes on and on.

Well, That Got Weird Real Fast

So, we were having this conversation and I suddenly realized we were having a rather serious discussion as to what to do if Shub-Niggurath, The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young got in the basement with its thousand young. How do you get rid of a thousand baby outer gods? What do they even look like? What do they eat? Can you put out bait for them? Trap them?

Then someone came up with the idea of feeding them politicians. It probably wouldn’t kill either Shub-Niggurath or she/he/its thousand young, but at least we’d be rid of a few politicians..

That’s when I began to suspect I might have very peculiar friends. Indeed, there are suspicions that I might be peculiar myself.

Now, where did I put the Shub-Niggurath trap…

New Feature! Ask The Grouchy Farmer! This week, “Why Do We Use the Term ‘Horsepower’?”

Dear Grouchy,

Why do we use the term ‘horsepower’ to refer to the amount of work an engine can perform?


Interesting question. The use of the term goes back to the very early days of the internal combustion engine and Henry Ford. Before the development of the compact internal combustion engine, most work was performed by horses.

It wasn’t until Henry Ford came along that the engine became viable thanks to Ford’s experiments with biology and reproduction.

While the world primarily thinks of Ford as an engineer, administrator and inventor of the assembly line, Ford’s real claim to fame was in the breeding of horses. It wasn’t until Ford began to breed the ultra-miniaturized horse that small, compact power plants were available.

Ford developed a relatively compact, cast iron case in which could be installed several tiny, tiny treadmills, each powered by one of this ultra-miniaturized horses. (See Figure 1.)


(Figure 1. Henry Ford installing his miniature horses into the seven horsepower “engine” on  his 1920 era tractor prior to a long day’s work plowing the wolverine fields of northern Michigan.)

Modern breeding technologies, genetic modification and improvements in miniaturization technology that took place over the years have permitted engineers to shrink the size of the treadmills and horses to every smaller sizes, permitting the installation of four, five or even six hundred horses into an engine hardly bigger than a suitcase.

Of course there are drawbacks to the system. Mr. Ford discovered that the miniature horses had correspondingly short lifespans, able to live only for several hundred miles. This led to the development of the now almost microscopic horses to be delivered in liquid form through pumps located in almost every town in the country. This allowed owners of these new engines to quickly replenish the horses inside of their engines, as well as proving a food source for the ravenous beasts in liquid form.