ISO new sewing machine

The repairman has yet to pronounce a post-mortem, but my wife's Husqvarna 120 sewing machine seems to have bitten the dust after 33 years. It was a real workhorse, and we're sorry to see it go. We are unimpressed by the potential replacements at the local shop, and was wondering if anyone had any ideas. Our criteria: (1) Must stand up to another 30 years of hard use; (2) Must not be complicated in any way. We need possibly six to eight stitches. (3) Must be completely mechanical. Electronics in sewing machines have a mean time between failure of 6-8 years, violating (1). Strangely enough, price is not a determinant of any of these; we saw a $1500 Bernina that was a complete plastic piece of junk. We'd prefer new, but if they truly don't make 'em like they used to, we'll keep the used route open. Any ideas appreciated; ilaine_dcmrn and msfledermaus , what are your thoughts?


Every day, I get ten or twenty messages from various political causes, asking me to sign their petitions online. (Email filters take care of these, but I occasionally check the folder out of morbid curiosity.) My suspicion is that these "petitions" are nothing of the kind; they influence nobody and are easily forged (why not simply grab the voter rolls of the appropriate political party and plug them into the petition template?). My surmise is that they are designed to confirm your name and address in their databases, to tell them that their emails are reaching you without going the transparent-GIF route, and to use a psychological principle which, I vaguely remember from back in undergraduate psychology, was called "affirmation." That is, if you are induced to do a little, trivial thing in support of an idea, person, or cause, you are then much more likely to do something larger, like contribute money, out of an unconscious sense that you want to remain consistent with your earlier action. It no longer works, I'm afraid, and the messages have gotten shriller and shriller with their "the sky is falling" messages, such that now, when the sky actually is falling, they've cried wolf, and, I fear, it is much too late.
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Obama is a failed President, the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century. I will gladly support any credible primary challenger in 2012.
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    aggravated aggravated


Today is Beth's birthday, and, for the first time in 20 years, I couldn't give her a decent present.
Last night, though, there was a sort of blessing in disguise. I got some pretty bad news yesterday, and as a result, I couldn't sleep. I lay in bed until midnight, when I had an idea. Beth was sleeping pretty soundly. I got out of bed, put on my clothes, and went to the 24-hour supermarket. Beth thinks I can't cook, but I was going to show her that she was wrong. I was going to make her pancakes for breakfast. I got a big box of Bisquick on sale; we already had some milk and eggs and butter in the refrigerator. I got home, trying not to wake Beth up, and I was getting out the eggs when I realized that we didn't have a metal spatula. Back the eggs went, and back I went to the supermarket to get a spatula. Hooray for our trade imbalance, because it was quite inexpensive. Finally, back home at 1:15 AM. I made a lot more batter than I was supposed to, because I was going to make pancakes until I figured out how not to burn them. About eight pancakes later, I had succeeded. Now, to wait. My friend Eugene had given me a huge book of opera plots, full of minor European operas which have probably not been performed since the days of Caruso. I read pretty quickly, but I was only about 3/4 of the way through when 5:45 came around. Now, to make the pancakes. Success! Eight perfectly formed pancakes, golden-brown in color. I put them in the oven to keep warm, woke up Beth, brought her out to the kitchen, and presented her with the dish. She was amazed. I might not have been able to get her a reasonable present, but she and I enjoyed a spiffy birthday breakfast.
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    Beethoven - Fidelio - Klemperer


I have had four USB hubs burn out on me in the past seven months. This is not satisfactory.

The hubs, as you would expect, plug into two places: the power strip and my laptop's USB port.

The D-Link has been the only hub of even tolerable quality. The others were cheap pieces of garbage from the get-go: Belkin, some fancy Mac brand, and one no-namer. You know you've got fine workmanship at hand when you have to exert 20 pounds of force to get the connector into the socket.

It is entirely likely that their power supplies have been, individually and collectively, useless. I have three other peripherals plugged into that strip, and they have coexisted uncomplainingly for years.


Is there some kind of industrial strength, made-in-America, cast-iron hub available out there? There's an unconscionably expensive ThinkGeek model, but the price may be due to its absurd number of ports.

Do I have to get an expensive line conditioner just so that a $35 hub can live in peace and tranquility?

What do I have to do to obtain a hub that will live for the next couple of years?

Answers gratefully accepted.
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    angry angry

A quiet Fourth

The best Fourths of July are in my past. There were picnics, parades, and fireworks. Then these things began to disappear. Last to go were the fireworks. For a few years, you could stand on a hill in back of the graduate student dorms at UC Irvine and see the fireworks go off all over Irvine and Tustin, and, if you looked behind you and squinted, even Newport Beach and Laguna. There were only a few people who knew about that hill, and their voices became whispers when you were only a few feet away from them. Then the University built new, gimcrack dorms all over that hill, and the only places to go were the local high schools, where you could have the privilege of paying $25 a head to squeeze into a concrete stadium and be deafened in the company of a thousand raucous others while listening to the dulcet sounds of Lee Greenwood and to speakers who crossed the border from Patriotism into Jingoism without so much as stopping at Immigration.

So, this year, we picked up some coffee, went home and worked for most of the day, took a walk near the park, had some homemade hot dogs and potato salad, and watched an episode of Julia Child. We didn't even hear much by way of fireworks, which is unusual -- usually we can hear Disneyland light up at 9:30 PM on the dot. And we took a bit of time to thank God for our country's past and for its ideals, and to hope that it would not go the way of ancient Rome in the next few years.

Who knows what next year will bring?
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    nostalgic nostalgic

Attention all Californians - election next Tuesday, 6/8

The upcoming election next Tuesday, July 8, has some truly evil ballot propositions on it. They're stealthy, by design, so you might just vote for them unless someone told you otherwise. They're funded by big corporations to allow them to screw us over -- with our own consent.

Proposition 16 makes it practically impossible for cities and other entities to get their power anywhere but from the big electricity monopoly in most of the state, PG&E. If a city has an idea as to how to get power more cheaply or in a more ecologically sound way, they will not be able to do it if Proposition 16 passes. Please vote against it.

Proposition 17 allows insurance companies to jack up your rates by any amount if you miss a payment or have ever missed a payment. These days, everyone is in danger of falling into that hole at some point, and the insurance companies will make a fortune off struggling people who don't deserve to be victimized. Please vote against Proposition 17.

In addition to voting against Propositions 16 and 17, you might consider supporting Proposition 15, which creates a system for public financing of state elections. Considering how easy it is for corporations to buy elections -- as in the propositions above -- anything that would mitigate this is highly desirable.

Please, go to the polls next Tuesday, June 8th, and do your part.
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    working working