Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hell no, I won't go.

Last weekend at our get-together someone raised a round-the-table discussion about other places a freedomista might consider going, where he or she could live more free than in America. This is a question that always flummoxes gunnies, because if we define "freedom" as "the ability to own and shoot guns without government harassment", the sad truth is that there is no better place than here. Some said so, and let the discussion pass to others. Now, others define freedom in other ways, but it always seems to be wrapped around the thing you most fear interference with, and/or the thing you most enjoy owning or using. Some, for example, mentioned the Netherlands because of less-stringent drug laws. Some, concerned with taxation and putting their trust in gold and silver, called out Panama or the Grand Caymans or some such place. The Micronesian islands came up, for reasons I don't quite recall.

My friend worked around the table. As luck would have it I was one of the last asked, and so I had leisure to consider my reply. And as I listened to the discussion of each of these foreign places, I had occasion once again to find that not one of those answers attracted me in any way.

Alcohol was involved, and so I regret to say I don't recall exactly how I replied though I'm certain my words were so transcendentally profound that to merely hear them would have enlightened you beyond the realms of fear and doubt. I really should carry a tape recorder on these occasions, because when these things happen I really, really sound good to myself. And then the next morning I don't remember what I said.

To be truthful, I had put that discussion right out of my head until this morning, when I was directed to this Wendy McElroy essay, awash in fear and loathing of the American Police State. She said, in part,

People who value their freedom and safety should leave...if possible. Having said this, I cannot fault those who stay to be near family and friends or a business that took a decade to establish. Nor can I blame anyone who says "Hell, no!" and draws a line against surrending their freedom on the soil of their birth. Hell, I have all those urges warring within me. But I don't think it is wise to heed them. I think it is wise to GET OUT and fight for freedom from comparative safety. Get your assets out, get your family out, get your body out of the reach of the United States government.

I won't argue with any of that. She has given the matter a lot of thought and research, and she's been a lot closer to the issue than I have for years. She's entitled to her opinion, to be sure, and may very well be right. But every time this subject comes up we come back round to the question, where would you go? Sure, freedom-loving folks aren't very happy here any more. That's a damned shame, but is moving somewhere else really an answer? I've been to a number of other countries where there are American expats. Aside from the ones who seem to have devoted themselves to drinking to death, they don't seem unhappy. I certainly don't argue with their choices. But they're also not noticeably more free than they were here. They spend a lot of time dealing with the special problems endemic to colonies of Americans overseas; ie keeping the local authorities from raining on their party. Is that different from here? Aside from the bribes sometimes being more open, I don't really think so.

I've met numbers of expats in Central America, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. I've never been tempted to join them. I don't think I ever will be. And it's not just because I'm one of those gunnies who can't feel free unless I've got a gun nearby. Maybe it's just because I'm old before my time and stubborn, I don't know. But I was born here; this is my place. I can be backed up, but I don't think I can be driven right off. I know I don't want to be.

And there's certainly the question, how far can you retreat? If life in freedom really has become nothing but a series of tactical withdrawals, mustn't there come a time when there's just nowhere else to go? In that case, why wait? Why keep running?

Mind you, I've got no argument with people who want to go expat, or PT, or with those who see some chance in the various "free state" options. I wish them well. But I've given it a lot of thought, and just decided that this is my place, it's where I was born, it's where I've lived my whole life as blamelessly as possible, and I won't be driven away from it by anyone for no better reason than because they want to kick sand in my face.

No, it's not for me. Others must do what they think right, and I'm not saying they're wrong. It always comes down to what's right for you. But no. I'm staying right here, however that ends up.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lo, Oh America!

The Market your god is one Market, and Ayn Rand is its prophet!


Courtesy of CM, this...

Sales of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. This continues a strong trend after bookstore sales reached an all-time annual high in 2008 of about 200,000 copies sold.

“Americans are flocking to buy and read ‘Atlas Shrugged’ because there are uncanny similarities between the plot-line of the book and the events of our day” said Yaron Brook, Executive Director at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. “Americans are rightfully concerned about the economic crisis and government’s increasing intervention and attempts to control the economy. Ayn Rand understood and identified the deeper causes of the crisis we’re facing, and she offered, in ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ a principled and practical solution consistent with American values."

Er...yeah. Rand's solution may indeed have been principled. How practical a secret Colorado gulch protected by a magic ray-screen thingy, occupied exclusively by genius entrepreneurs who construct all their own shelter and infrastructure using materials that just sort of appear as needed, and powered by an even more magic static electricity generator would really be, I leave to the engineers and physicists among us to determine. Truth is Miss Rand left out a few important details, and some of us would like access to them. Please.

Nevertheless, there's no question where the Gulching movement got its name if not its impetus, and however we latter-day gulchers may enjoy poking sticks in Objectivist orifices we do owe her the courtesy of credit where it's due. Plus, whatever its literary shortcomings - another common inspiration for many a late-night campfire discussion - Atlas Shrugged does keep being relevant and never more so than now.

So, blessings and peace be upon her, and light up a Lucky Strike in her honor.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is this guy a "coward," Eric?

Because though race isn't my bugaboo and maybe someone else could poke holes in his logic, he seems to make sense to me.

Words shouldn't be abused like this.

I am a writer, and I love words. A sculptor loves shape, a painter loves color, a composer loves sound. These things are the most basic components of the art. Words are mine. I love words.

That's why I hate to see them abused. When a politician uses the word "investment" when he really means tax, or a military spokesmonster says "collateral damage" because "killed innocents" is too true, or a political activist decides "gay" sounds better than homosexual, I object to that. Investment, collateral, damage and gay are all words with specific meanings that predated some speechwriter's spin. They deserve better treatment.

Here's another one I just encountered today, while reading Wendy and Brad McElroy's blog. Brad says,

Newspeak is alive and well. Big-government fanboys of all political stripes have taken to using the word "preprivatization" instead of "nationalization," when referring to banks and other financial enterprises. The "N" word, you see, has implications they'd rather not bring up. They'd rather construct the charade that passing through government hands is just a brief administrative step on the way to private ownership....obscuring the inconvenient fact that they have to deprivatize the banks as the first step.

He didn't link this to anything, and it was possible that the word is now all over the place and I hadn't encountered it because the truth is I haven't done much surfing the past couple of weeks. So I decided to do a news search for "pre-privatization." And sonuvagun, I got 92 hits. Some of these were editorial comments on the word itself, it's true: It doesn't seem to have become the latest zeitgeist equivalent of "gravitas." But it is out there. I went looking for a source, and especially liked (which, in JoelSpeak, means disliked) this one:

I am coming out in favor of nationalization in the United States. The efforts to fix the banking system to date have failed. As a result, America is still threatened by the menace of systemic risk. In my view, this risk can only be diminished significantly by ‘pre-privatizing’ large, bankrupt institutions. I am talking about temporary nationalization of a few institutions rather than a wholesale longer-term government ownership of the banking sector. I will often use the word ‘pre-privatization’ because the word nationalization conjures up a Hugo Chavez-style asset confiscation which I believe is not accurate and clouds the picture.

I suppose you have to respect the relative honesty here: He's in favor of bank nationalization and says so, but thinks "pre-privatization" just sounds better. I don't know this Edward Harrison from Adam, so maybe he's new at this. Eddy, a word of advice: When you coin a new word like this, everybody already knows you're lyingobfuscating, okay? It isn't necessary - and in fact you're not supposed - to come out and say so in the first paragraph.

And I missed the picture!

Came back from the build site, did a few things here and there, and went into the lair to get something; I forget what, since the shock of the scene put whatever I'd had in mind clean out of my head. Here were Butch and Click, sharing a sunny spot!

They weren't exactly curled up together, but they were definitely reposing in the same place in a fair display of amity. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and knew that, as much as I've bitched about their behavior, no one else would believe it either. So I ducked out from the door blanket and ran to the scriptorium to get my camera. Naturally, when I returned they were nowhere near one another.

No, without documentary evidence I don't ask or expect anyone to take my word for it. Everyone familiar with the actual property knows damned well that no two creatures on earth despise each other more than these two always have, so it was possibly an hallucination.

Spent the morning at the new Lair build site

Just hauling 2X12s down from the staging area to the trenches. Didn't get anywhere near all of them down before running out of steam, but everything I need for the footer (except concrete, and that's a bridge I'm going to have to figure out how to cross) is now at least on site. Spent some time afterward, just enjoying the spot, smoking my pipe under a juniper with Magnus and Fritz; Butch had gone home and Ghost was off somewhere. After a few minutes Ghost came back, saw what we were doing, and decided that what was needed before he could join the pastoral scene was a nice comfy hollow under the bush. So he proceeded to shower me with dirt and old needles, which did sort of take the bloom off the occasion. Ah, well...

Oh, this guy's gonna be a trip.

Our new buddy Eric Holder is giving us hope and change for keeping us safe in all the old familiar ways:

“As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons."

This during a press conference in which he congratulated himself on personally taking down thousands and thousands of Mexican drug gang members who have been spreading death and destruction throughout the land with them evil American-provided Assault Weapons.

There were even pictures, of course, because you can't have a proper government operation without lots of scary pictures of stacked rifles. And this video accompanying an MSNBC "report" clearly demonstrates the urgent and immediate need for new federal laws making it impossible for Mexican drug kingpins and their vile lackeys to acquire the horrifically powerful American firearms which have so overpowered the American-government-supplied Mexican federales.

I threw up in my mouth a little, just while typing that. But that's what the video says, and I saw it on the internet. So it must be true.

Gee, I wonder if Obama is still saying all those AR15 and ammo buyers didn't have anything to fear from his administration. Because it looks like they did after all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some days I shouldn't operate motor vehicles.

Yeah. See, sometimes you really need to think things through. Otherwise...well, otherwise really bad things can happen. For instance:

I had the notion that, since the Jeep's little trailer could hold all the 2X12s I hadn't already hauled to the cabin's staging area in one trip, then I should go ahead and do that.

This was a mistaken notion.

I got all the lumber, the rebar, a couple of pallets and a few other things loaded on the trailer; that part went fine. Of course that much weight hanging off the rear of the trailer meant that the poor thing had an enormously negative tongue weight, but I figured we really weren't going far and I'd just drive real careful. That part, I got away with.

Then...only then did I check the trailer's tires. One was visibly low but not alarmingly so; I'd already figured that I'd need to shoot some air in them before I left. But the other was squashed damned near flat under the load. So, because I hadn't already made enough of a mistake, I proceeded to compound the error by backing the trailer up toward the barn.

When I turned on the compressor and returned to the trailer with the hose, I found that the tire had gone completely flat. And when I tried to re-fill it, I found that the reason the tire had gone completely flat was because it had come right off the bead. Oh, bother: Now what was I going to do?

I found where the air was escaping, and it was only this one little place. So while still shooting air into the tire, I...did something really, really dumb. I pressed my gloved thumb against the escaping air. To my shock, this actually worked. What would not have been to my shock had I been thinking at all, the tire proceeded to grab my glove between the tire and the wheel, and tried to do the same to the meat of my thumb. At last, and probably just a microsecond in time to escape actual injury, two brain cells met a synapse and I realized that I'd better stop airing up this tire right fricking now.

Because the gods love fools, I even managed to rescue the glove by letting some of the air back out, and then I could go ahead and air the tire up. But, jeez. Sometimes I really do need a keeper.

I blame Fritz.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

But first, the important stuff!

Yeah, before I could get any of the things I need to do today done, I had to take care of my boys' bruised and battered psyches. This required a loverly walky. Fortunately for me, the weather here is just absolutely gorgeous right now. It was damned near t-shirt weather by seven AM.

C'mon, Uncle Joel! Let's go! Let's go! Butch wanted to come along until he saw where we were going, and then he did a fade.

In a little rock ravine I found this cool juniper that had made Bonzai of itself, but first I needed to coax Ghost out of the picture...

Here it is. Wish I were a better photographer. It was beautiful.

Didn't actually see much of Ghost, he spent most of his time taking his own walk. But he'd show up from time to time and say hi.

And back home through the wash. A nice long sweaty walk usually earns me some peace. Today, I suspect not so much. I've still got penance to do. But that's half the fun.

I keep promising myself a new pair of boots...

...and I keep coming home without them. Before leaving The Place I made several stops and loaded up on stuff. Unfortunately only then did I check my account balance and found that I could no longer afford what I wanted, so once again no boots. One day, before my toes actually come out through the soles.

But I did get a new hood for the barn's furnace, courtesy of my landlady. This meant I needed to get a wall register. I also needed some shingles for the generator canopy, and really wanted to bring home rebar for the cabin's footer. Then there was a really serious supermarket on the way home (Look at all this FOOD!!) where I truly and greedily tanked up on fruit and a few more staples. Since none of this would actually fit in the little Jeep, it was necessary to drive 300 miles with the windows, er, bulging here and there.

[Image Removed]

But everything made it home undamaged.

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Boy, what a night. The boys are spoiled and convinced that they just can't live without their mom or dad or nanny, so I expected them to come unglued at the prospect of spending most of a weekend alone and for their heads to explode when I got back home. But apparently at least one of the cats took my absence a bit personally as well. Somebody had cleaned my table right off, including my one and only kerosene lamp which miraculously did not break on contact with the floor. When I opened the door to the lair I was immediately assaulted with a most vile smell, which turned out to be coming from the place where somebody, probably Click, had copiously crapped all over my sitting bench. Thankfully I'd covered it with a towel months ago to help deal with dog hair, but since she or Butch had first gone to the trouble of dumping a good many of my worldly belongings off the table and onto the bench before defecating, that precaution wasn't as effective as it otherwise might have been. I just wrapped everything in the towel and dumped it outside, but I've got quite a cleanup job ahead, I'm afraid.

The boys didn't settle down until well into the evening, and then the fair started right back up again this morning so I could expect to accomplish nothing whatever until taking the boys for a special walk. Butch went along until he saw how special the walk was to be, and then peeled off and went to do his own thing. But more about that later, maybe.

Oh, yeah! The trip. Well, that went well. There's not a lot I can say about it, as the privacy of others is involved. I went to a place:

And I did a thing, for which I was awarded the Order of the Cunning Hat with Orange Tassel - a signal honor:

Er...yeah. Guns and alcohol really don't mix, it's true.

Actually it was a get-together of friends, one of whom knitted me this most cunning hat, which I appreciated a lot more than I think she thought I would. Maybe it isn't exactly in my normal color palette, but what the hell. A man walks down the street in a hat like that, you know he's not afraid of anything. I received another wonderful gift I'd love to describe, but unfortunately that would be telling too much so I cannot. But, as Jayne would say, "I will treasure this."

I'd agonized over whether to bring one of the boys with me on my trip, but upon arrival was instantly glad I hadn't. Our hosts' yard sports a couple of young cottontails who clearly had never experienced predators and who kept us entertained quite often, and none of the dogs could have allowed that situation to continue for a moment. Rabbits! Standing still! Must! Eat!! No, that wouldn't have done, I'm afraid.

A wonderful time was had by all, and the physical damage was kept to a decent minimum.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Back Home Again

Got in this evening, thankful to find everything okay on the property except that that the dogs' heads have not finished exploding.

Had me a time, some of which I can tell you about. Also got a cunning new gift I'll show you a picture of tomorrow. Not tonight; I'm tired. But all's well, and all the bodies I had to bury things I had to do are taken care of now. Plus I came back with building materials for the Next Phase.

More tomorrow; I'm tired and the boys still need cozening.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

TUAK Going Dark

I'm going to be doing a thing for the next four or five days, which will keep me away from the scriptorium and my 'pooter. So no speakie until Tuesday or Wednesday. The MZBs didn't get me or anything, I've just got to go to a place and do a thing.

See ya!

How not to arrange for clean clothes

When I found myself without a convenient way to get to and from the town that's about 12 miles away, there was one aspect both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that I had an excuse to no longer use laundromats. I really hate laundromats, but sometimes they're the most convenient way to achieve a hamper full of clean clothes. The curse was, of course, that I no longer had any good way to get to a laundromat, and how the hell was I going to wash my clothes? I'm a hermit, not a slob.

At first I washed and rinsed things in a bucket. This would have worked better if I'd had a bigger bucket, but of course that requires more water, which since I'm a wimp requires more hot water, and hot water's an issue, so I was using that five-gallon bucket rather frequently. It was a pain.

Then I was helping a friend move out of a house in town, and among other goodies she was getting rid of a washing machine.

A washing machine! Hell, why not just offer me a box that makes gold bars! Actually, that wouldn't be as useful as a washing machine. I took it on the spot, having no idea in this world how I'd actually get it to work.

Okay: What does a washing machine need? It needs electricity, of course: Check. If the system couldn't take the load, I'd just run the generator. It needs water. Hm. Well, cold water was doable. I'd just run a hose from the valve house, around these trees, over this fence, through the Gitmo yard and into the power shed where I'd parked the machine. Okay, check. It needs drainage. Hm. No sewers around here, but that's okay again! I scrounged a couple of lengths of PVC that the drain hose would fit into, ran it across the Gitmo yard and down the slope. The junipers would thank me. Check.

I ran the machine like this a few times, and everything seemed fine. I did learn that it was vitally important not to let the agitator start until the pressure pump had filled and shut off, or the power output spiked to damned near 85 amps, but that's just good power management. Yeah, everything seemed fine.

On the third or fourth time I used the washer, I found that it had stopped without filling the drum. When I checked to see what the hell was happening to the water, I found that the inlet screen on the washer was completely plugged with red mud. I cleaned out the screen, put the hose back on, went to the valve house to open the valve, went back to the machine, turned it on. It filled for maybe ten seconds and then stopped again. I went back to the valve house, shut the water back off, removed the hose again, and...the inlet screen was plugged with red mud.

Hmph. I pulled the hose right out of the power shed, turned the valve on, and let water run out on the yard for a few minutes. Then I hooked everything up, and this time it worked fine.

Until next time, when I had to go through the whole thing again. There's a lot of sediment on the bottom of the cistern, and it seems that the valve house outlet we use for hoses gets it all; there's sediment at the other faucets, but none of them plug up like this. So every time I want to wash clothes I have to disconnect the water line from the washer and let the water run first, to clean out the pipes and hose. As long as I follow that little ritual, everything's fine.

When you're off-grid, it seems, little chores you never think much about in suburbia can end up taking quite a bit more time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Nation of Cowards" - About Race?

From this MSNBC article...
At a Department of Justice program this morning celebrating African American History Month, the nation's first black attorney general -- Eric Holder -- said the United States is a "nation of cowards" when it comes to racial issues.

Holder said average Americans "simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

Lemme make sure I understand this. The Black AG, who works for a Black president, says that we're...what?

" things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

Holder continued, "It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation's history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."

Okey Dokey. Personally I thought that by this time it would sort of be beating a dead horse, Eric - er, that is, Mr. Holder, sir - but you're the boss.

Why do I have this sneaking suspicion that the above speech was sponsored by the National Action Network?

Kill Your TV

I spent last evening as I spend nearly every evening before retiring, reading a book and communing with the dogs and cats. Click has become much saucier over the past couple of weeks, not spending all her time hiding in the loft and praying Butch doesn't come bother her. Yesterday evening she was draped over my arm, doing her level best to keep me from concentrating on my book when I could be doing more important things like paying attention to her. Magnus had gone into his nightly coma from which he would not emerge for more than twelve hours. Fritz and Ghost were keeping an eye on the windows for me, and Butch was nowhere to be seen.

All about us it was peaceful, and except that some might argue I'd have used my time more profitably with a non-fiction book there was nothing the least bit unhealthy in any part of the mix. I was thinking about that this sunrise, while making honey butter and planning my day. I grew up addicted to television, as I suppose many people in my generation did. When I was old enough to start making my own decisions I scheduled many and many an evening and weekend around the TV Guide. If I could have back all the hours I wasted on that idiot box, I'd probably be in my thirties now.

I cut back to movies and a few specific cable channels maybe ten years ago, but still spent the majority of my slack time in front of the box. The fare may have been a bit less unwholesome, but it was still time pissed away never to return. A few years ago I kicked the whole thing loose. Now I've got a DVD player and a collection of movies that, to be truthful, I rarely watch.

To say the very least this excision has not harmed me in any smallest way. I've a lot more time on my hands now and I find useful and interesting ways to fill it. It occurred to me just yesterday afternoon, in answer to an imagined question from an imaginary visitor, that I am never bored. I have no regular job, no visitors, no television, a limited supply of books - none of the things most people use to fill their time. And Oh, sometimes I get tired of some particular activity. Then I go off and perform some other activity. There's no shortage of things to do, and I'm not just talking about dreary chores. There's all sorts of little construction projects (and one big one), there's canyons to be walked ... I've hiked these hills for years now, and they still surprise me around damned near every corner.

My own thoughts even fail to bore me. I remember once being almost terrified at the thought of being left with nothing whatever to do, because then I couldn't be distracted from my own thoughts, my own self. Well, with the exception of the boys my own self is the only company I've kept for the past eight months, and you know what? I'm not as bad as all that.

I wonder how many people spend all their disposable time on distraction. I wonder how many of them ever stop and ask themselves, distraction from what? What are we running from, that we need to bury our head in a box and blot out the world around us? If the world around us is that unbearable, the time has clearly come to either change it or move somewhere else. But that's not what we're trained to do. That's not what the TV has trained us to do. "I can't right now, Honey. Friends is on." Yeah - if we've ever heard or spoken a similar line, it should be a clear sign to us that there's a real problem.

Step one toward a more fulfilling and purposeful life, I think: Kill Your TV.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I found this little video while surfing,

And it's pretty good stuff. I don't subscribe to some nice things the writer/narrator has to say about the first GW in comparison with Lincoln, but other than that I can find little to quibble with.

On a nasty day...

We sit inside the scriptorium and surf the web.

I've been blocked so long it's hard to remember sometimes that part of my original reason for coming out here was so I could write. I did write a novel, one of my favorites, in record time. Since then, except for some uninspired short stories and this blog I've been pretty much a would-be writer.

So anyway that's why, on this changeable but consistently cold and blustery day I'm surfing instead of writing. The only alternative that presents itself as rational is to go back to the lair and read more of my landlady's historical romances. Been doing a hell of a lot of that already. This time of the winter, it's hard to remember that most of the year it's summer.

Had a little fight with the locals yesterday evening.

Between five-thirty and six, as things were settling down in the lair after Snacky Time, Ghost suddenly came out of his curl and shot for the door. This wasn't a "woof, dammit, forgot to go bark at the coyotes" sort of thing, but a chest-roar "all hands on deck to repel boarders" sort of thing. By the time I got to the door to let him out Fritz was well into the act, and they both shot right out of the yard, off the ridge and down the slope before I fully realized they'd yanked the door right out of my hand in their haste.

By the time I grabbed my carbine and got to a place where I could see what was going on, Ghost was in the middle of the meadow mixing it up with something. And I never did quite see what it was, as the light was starting to go and my eyes aren't what I could wish. It was a bit smaller than him, grayish, and it seemed to me that it moved like a cat. They were dancing around each other, but I only got a moment's look because Fritz was much slower than Ghost but no less determined to get in on the action. When whatever it was saw the Hound of the Baskervilles closing on it - and possibly me behind him, though the sight of the dog would have been enough for me - then whatever it was decided to check out doings in Wisconsin or some other far-away place. I wanted a shot at the thing, if only to find out for sure what the hell it was, but there were too many dogs about. So I contented myself with a few shots in the air to speed up the procession and keep it wanting to be far, far away. Ghost chased it, but I've seen him run faster - he'd pretty clearly decided that as long as it left the precinct of the meadow, honor had been served. He'd come the closest of us to exchanging blows with the thing, and in cooler blood he seemed to vote for discretion. Smart dog.

It was about the right size for a full-size bobcat, but I've never seen one that far into open ground or anywhere near so close to a dwelling. So I can't say for sure what it was.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Joel's Secret Lair, Final Edition

I hear that you're building
Your little house
Deep in the desert...
You're living for nothing now
I hope you're keeping
Some kind of record...
Leonard Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat

The shell of Joel's Secret Lair was actually supposed to have been complete before winter, but last year sort of went to hell. At some point you need to just stop feeling guilty about what you're not going to accomplish and say, screw it.

But the weather is getting intermittently non-miserable, and it's time to start getting serious. This morning broke cloudy, windy and cold. But then it took one of its weird turns and - for a space of about three hours - turned t-shirt gorgeous. Now, of course, it's blowing half a gale. But that window of nice gave me a chance to deliver the footer forms I'd loaded in the trailer yesterday. Or so I thought.

I'd already noted that over the winter a good bit of the rough trench I dug last fall had filled in. I'm going to need to work on a dike for the little gully I thought was sufficient to keep water and mud from running into my site, because...well, because it's less sufficient than I thought.

It may not look like much now, just a tiny little rectangle of trench. But before too awfully long there'll be a little stucco cabin on this site, if I just stay with it.

Yeah, they're a lot of help. But at least they find a shady tree and enjoy the change of scene, staying out of my way. I needed to dig out the mud and stuff that had partially filled in my trench, plus there was one corner I didn't finish before because I ran into a bunch of rocks. Today I finished the rough trench and hauled in the 2x12s for the forms.

The plan was to carry the lumber down the hill to the site, but by the time I finished with those @#$! rocks I felt like I was doing good just to get them out of the trailer and stacked. So there's only two or three at the site. These are some of the recycled 2x12s that are too short or too damaged to serve as floor joists. Perfect for concrete forms.

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads!

Actually, a road would be nice. It's part of the plan, but for now I'm shlepping materials down the hill or through the wash. That's going to get old, especially since I need about two pallets of concrete bags. A driveway may move its way up the list of priorities.

Updates to follow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yeah, sorry about that...

Sometimes, as CM said, even us hermity types get busy.

Landlady was due this weekend, and Friday was basically just one of those days when nothing worth - or even seemingly worth - blogging occurred to me. So there's a couple of empty days for which I apologize to anyone who cares.

Very pleasant weekend, though. The landlady's visits are the only time I ever get to cook for someone else, which is a treat. Plus eating actual real-people-type meals is a treat, since I usually don't bother for myself. This weekend there was some talk about my nutrition, or possibly malnutrition.

We got a bunch of chores done. There's a trailer that's been overflowing with junk since I cleaned up some stuff and demolished the old wellhouse, and we took all that to the dump on Saturday. A trip to town, where we got some mulch for the fruit trees and made a few other stops. In this town it's basically impossible to buy fuel on a weekend, but that's okay since I topped off just two weeks ago and haven't completely emptied a single tank or can since then. Next weekend I'll be taking a longer trip, and there'll be time to worry about it then. Then we spent some time working on the barn's workshop, which is very slowly beginning to resemble an actual workspace instead of a room containing random things. Very soon there'll be a real furnace making real heat and a real water heater making real hot water which in turn opens the way for a REAL SHOWER. Conventionally rigorous personal hygiene: what a concept. I have a shower in the lair, but only about five gallons of hot water at a time which makes showers rather rushed and unsatisfying affairs. Plus in the winter it's just too frickin' cold to do more than sponge-bathe. Visits to the city that involve actual townie showers are worth it for that reason along. Looking forward to having one of our own.

On that trip to the city, I'm afraid Butch the Cat will be joining me and he's not going to like it. He has taken to expressing his rampant maleness in the one way I'm just not prepared to put up with, IE spraying inside the lair. Nope, not having that. So I can take him out and shoot him behind a tree, or I can take him to a vet and get his balls cut off. Not sure which I'd choose if it were me, but I know which I'm choosing for him.

Anyway, more later.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In the dark hours

I wake long before the sky goes light on the other side of the ridge, as I always do. Fritz has been lying still, watching me. I can feel his eyes on me. Ghost also looks for a sign. They are the youngest; they want to leave the lair now, empty their bladders, announce their strength to the coyotes who sometimes creep close and disturb their sleep. I open the door and release them; they will be back soon. It is dark, and they are not night creatures. They want the safety of the lair and won’t stray far.

Magnus notes their leaving but does not move. He is old and does not care for such games anymore. He wants to know an intruder is really there before he’ll rouse himself to challenge it. Plus, he has a bladder like a cistern.

There are no stars that I can see, but the moon shadows are sharp. No clouds behind the lair, then. It isn’t very cold, and I smell humidity. The wind is very light, just a breeze. It might rain, or it might not; the weather is still making up its mind and will probably change several times before settling down to one thing or another. I can wait.

I make coffee, roll a cigarette, pick up my book and wait for the boys to return. And shortly they do; muddy paws in mind, I’ve already pulled the spread across my bed to keep them off my sheets.

There’s something in the air this morning, or maybe only in my mind. Sometimes I can feel it, in the hours before light. It's familiar, but I don't know what it is. Something insubstantial; not coyotes or cattle or cats, but something stirs this morning. The dogs have a hard time settling back into their snooze behind where I sit at my table with my coffee and my book. Fritz growls off and on; I know the tone and he doesn’t know what he’s growling at. I try to settle their minds, sniffing the air myself, growling slightly, then relaxing and bending back to my book. It seems to help; I hear sighs and rustling and then silence behind me. Uncle Joel says there’s nothing to worry about. But there is something, and on mornings like this I can feel it. I don’t know what it is.

The dogs are relaxed now, but my feeling doesn't go away. Still one-legged, I feel vulnerable. I get up, go to my bedside, pull a clean pair of socks on my meat foot, and put on my pants, my left leg, and my boot. "Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark," said Heinlein. He didn't say anything about body parts, but I assume they apply. Whole now and able to move if need be, I feel suddenly much better though there's still something out there.

Like the dogs, I can’t understand it. Like the dogs, I try to ignore it. We wait for the sky to brighten and for the desert to decide what it wants to do.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guilt Trippin'

Some days are just made for cocooning indoors. I'm sorry if that makes me a wuss, it just happens to be true. The temperature never got above freezing, or not enough to matter. The wind isn't howling and hurling things bodily off the ridge like yesterday, but it's still blowing and a lot colder. You'd have had to set the lair on fire to get me out of it for more than the most momentary chore, and even then I might hang around a bit to enjoy the free heat.

Now, the older dogs really don't object to a day or two of this; they just snooze on the bed. Ghost, however, is not so patient. Already unhappy with me over the rushed, token walk I gave him earlier, he was up and down all afternoon. Around 3:30 Fritz started joining in. They wanted out. They wanted in. They wanted to be petted. They wanted to stand there and whine. I was thoroughly into this historical romance I'd swiped from my landlady's stash (Yes, I know, but I've read all my own five times and it's not a bad yarn) and truly not in a mood to be ganged up on over my shortcomings and those of the weather.

Finally around four, I spoke the magic words that really weren't due for another hour: "Who wants snackies?" They all but put three large dog-shaped holes in the door of the lair. Yeah, they either decided on the spot that that was what they wanted, or that actually was what they wanted. Either way, it would do.

It took me a bit to find the plastic dishes from the last snackie time, since the wind had hurled one of them halfway down the slope. By the time I got meds crushed and food distributed, the dogs had worked themselves into a rare state over the ritual. "Gluttony's a sin, guys," I said as I distributed dishes.

Ghost looked up from his dish and said, very distinctly, "So is sloth, Uncle Joel."

It's possible I've been alone up here a little too long.


The weather forecast has been unusually accurate for the past couple of weeks, but yesterday it let me down just a bit. It called for rain all day, but the morning was sunny and still if quite a bit colder than before. But in the afternoon it started blowing a gale, as bad as any I've seen. Stuff you'd think would stay decently still starts blowing all over the place when it gets like that. Went to sleep last night with it still howling, though it settled down just a bit late at night.

Woke to snow, wind and very cold, and a dead electrical system which surprised me considering how much sun we've had. The new generator works considerably better than its predecessor, and I had a leisurely breakfast and sit inside. When I came out to the barn, I saw immediately why the batteries were drained; some idiot had left the workshop lights on! Now, who could have done that? I blame Fritz, who is now in complete disgrace.

Yes, he protested. "But Uncle Joel, I can't work the lights! I have no thumbs!" Lying SOB, I know it's him.

Ghost is beside the desk, giving me the eyes and that groan he makes when he wants something bad. I know what he wants, but it's bloody cold! Maybe we'll go for a walk later; I can barely feel my toes as it is. I don't mind the wind, and I can live with the cold. But the cold with the wind makes me want to huddle next to the fire. All week, if necessary.

Ghost, quit with the guilt-tripping! We'll go for a walk later, I promise.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Note to Future Generator Users...

When you buy a new gasoline-powered generator, you'll notice it is covered with all sorts of blood-curdling messages about how you must never run one indoors, or carbon monoxide will kill you in mere milliseconds and your kids will all get rabies. Or maybe it was scurvy, I forget.

Anyway, it's true that you should not run a generator indoors, and carbon monoxide is one excellent reason why not. Late last year we accidentally learned another really good one - you'll burn up the engine. They are air-cooled, after all, and the exhaust heats up a room in a terrible hurry. Our generator was always mounted in a covered carport right next to the power shed, but last autumn for all sorts of what seemed really good reasons we enclosed the area. We didn't think too much about the generator at the time, and really should have. I ended up doing valve jobs on both those engines, and one didn't last too long after that. It helped to open the back door and let the generator run a fan to pull air through the front door, but it didn't help enough.

Now we've got a new generator, and I sure wasn't going to set it up in the same place. But without the carport I didn't have a place to put it out of the weather, that was close enough to the power shed.

So I built one, on the sheltered side of the shed...

I don't have any shingles or corrugated stock on hand and it's been raining intermittently, so I temporarily covered it with a scrap of a larger tarp that the wind had pulled to pieces. I cut off what I didn't need and while I was working the wind blew the excess against the fence. For some reason Ghost was laying on it when I started to clean up my mess and he didn't want to move off. We got to wrestling and playing over whether he should move. When he finally did and I was dragging the mess away, ol' jealous Fritz jumped his whole million-pound body right in the middle of the tarp scrap I'd been dragging behind me. When I turned to remonstrate with him over his manners, he just started whining and snapping. "Play with me, too! Play with me!"

We have continual conflicts over who's the 'best.'

Friday, February 6, 2009

Propane guy came today...

...and I wondered why my landlady had scheduled him and not told me, but it turned out he just decided to come by. We're installing a furnace and water heater in the barn, and one of those big propane tanks but the going's been slow because of needing this and that to be done first. But now he has blessed our installation and will proceed to run and pressure test the line. I still need an outlet hood for the furnace and that takes a trip to a bigger town, but we're going good. Making progress.

Whoa! Here's something I don't see every day!

Big cats are rare, but they happen. I don't even see tracks very often, and I've only seen a lion once. Bobcats, yes. But I don't think this is a bobcat.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Another Morning, Another Walkie Time...

On the tamer walks, Butch likes to tag along. It's about the only time he gets along with the boys, and even that only within limits. Mighty Cat!

And into the wash we go, for there are so many fascinating things to smell!

I'm faster than you are! Actually he's faster than anybody is, and everyone knows it. He's constantly disgruntled that nobody will race him.

Butch doesn't care too much for the wash - too open, I guess. He mostly slopes around the edge and stays in the brush.

Lining up for another exciting game of Whack-a-Joel. Hard to catch on camera, but he wasn't up to full speed yet.

Hmmm...Lots of earth tones. Think I could get one of them Nobel Prize things? Uncle Joel needs some solar panels.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This is how you do a chore...

...when you don't have to worry about building inspectors. :-)

When I hauled Serenity away, (it was sitting about where the wheelbarrow is in the first pic) a small problem arose. The area available for driveway was now substantially wider, and a septic line cleanout that had never been an issue before was right where cars are going to want to go. Dumb place for a cleanout, anyway.

So: Make it go away!

Dig down to the pipe. Since there was never any traffic on this spot it was a lot easier than I feared; dirt can get mighty compacted. I could wish this one was deeper, in fact; car tires are heavy.

Cut'er off with a hacksaw, as close to the union as is consistent with putting on a cap or another union down the road. Clean up the cut with your pocketknife.

Install a cap. DON'T glue it down; there's no pressure in that pipe, and you may want it back off someday.

Cover it up, and you're done. Total elapsed time including digging; probably less than 15 minutes.

When a friend asks a favor, you do it.

Five gallons of dirt, shoveled into a bucket from a particular pile and then tamped down hard with a length of 4X4, weighs just about exactly 75 pounds. Just so you know.

I could tell you why I needed to know, but then I'd have to kill you. All I can say is that sometimes chores get weird.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Do you ever get weird songs stuck in your head?

I woke up this morning humming a song I'm sure I haven't even thought of in decades. All day long it wouldn't go away. But I couldn't remember the !@#$! words!

Thanks to YouTube and thousands of people with way too much time on their hands, this isn't the problem it used to be.

The new generator finally arrived...

I feel ripped off, and I didn't even pay for it.

Engine by Cummins, genset by Onan. That was the advertisement. Reality - not so much. The landlady is going to be pissed.

A trip to town is a big deal; Due to my papers not being in order and some deputies knowing it, I can go to town any time I want as long as I don't drive. Consequently each such trip requires a daring and intricate plan.

Step one: Load up the Jeep. A trip to town is an opportunity to gorge on fuel, not to be missed. Of course the boys assume they're going for a ride. Not today, guys. So of course they're upset with me.

Step two: Drive to the neighbors. Unload Jeep, load truck. Say hello to Lothario, who's visiting to make the lady goats happy and being very enthusiastic about his duties.

Step three: Drive to town. The generator was delivered to a local shop, which also sells propane. Load generator onto truck. Fill propane bottles. Do other shopping. Drive home.

Step four: Unload truck. Strip carton off generator. Drive back to neighbors. Pick up Jeep. Drive home again.

Step five: Look at engine. Bite through pipe stem. It has a Cummins sticker, but that's all. It's a generic Japanese engine; it ain't no Cummins.

Get the wheel kit on, steal the battery from the old generator, fill crankcase, add fuel. Well, it starts right up and runs quiet, anyway. But I'm sure going to pay attention to maintenance because I've seen a bunch of these engines and they do not impress me.


Hope and Change, Conclusion

Continued from here.

Begins here.

I’m an extreme case; I’m a beardo who lives alone in the desert. Nobody cares what I do. I was able to do this because I’m old enough that those who legitimately depended on me are all grown and gone on their own. So it’s easy for me to talk, even though I really do walk my talk. What I am suggesting is not without peril. The direct taxation system this government relies upon for much of its revenue is called “voluntary compliance.” What this really means is that as long as you voluntarily comply, they won’t come and hurt you. But just get caught ceasing to do so and see how interesting your life can become. I am all too aware of the dangers and practical difficulties of what I am suggesting.

But how long do you want to keep propping up a lying, evil monster? There are steps you could take. They’re not timid steps, but most don’t carry a huge amount of immediate risk. First, (what you should have been doing all along,) can you be preparing yourself and your family so that you have some chance of living well through the bad times that may very well be at the door? Do you have stocks of food for months? Do you know what you’ll trade with if dollars lose their putative value? Do you live in a place, or do you have sure title and at least plausible access to a place, where you can live without benefit of the power grid and the conventional food distribution system? Can you defend yourself in a time when 911 becomes not even the grim joke it is now? These are things you should have been working on for years, and if you haven’t been it’s not too late but the clock is very definitely ticking. What used to be the province of survivalist nutcases has long since been proven simple common sense. The whackos were right; live with it.

But of course that’s just dancing around what I’ve been talking about. Can you reduce your needs, and your income, to the point where you’re no longer paying an enormous proportion of your rightful income to the IRS? That can actually be a lot of fun, family demands permitting (and once you get used to it), and is by no means illegal. If your employment contracts to, receives benefits from, or in any way props up this vile government, can you find other employment? I certainly know how inconvenient that is, but inconvenience is not impossibility. Can you? You should. These are simple things you could be doing to kick your own tiny share of the props out from under Leviathan, and they’re not even illegal. There are other things you could be doing; you know what some of them are and can learn about the rest. Those do carry risk; be sure to weigh those risks carefully before taking any action, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Someday we’ll get together over a jar of home-brew and compare scars.

Scars are the mark of the warrior who lived; sometimes living is as much a matter of luck as of canniness. A monster thrashes horribly in its death throes. If you get caught in that, and some of us will, it won’t be pretty. There’ll be no practical defense. But understand that the alternative really isn’t any better; those who depend on and support this government in all good faith are going to find themselves suffering in ways that those of us who have stepped away from the economic and political system have some cushion from, as long as we don’t become victims of its retribution. I daresay a lot of those people will never even understand why they’re suffering.

We at least have that going for us; we understand. But the question remains for each one of us to answer – what are we prepared to do about it?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hope and Change, Pt. 5

Continued from here.

Begins here.

It’s all about power. But authority without the means to enforce your wishes isn’t really power at all. So in the end, it’s really all about money. And money, as we all know, has been much in the news lately.

The debt accumulated by this government defies comprehension. The numbers involved are literally astronomical; so incredibly vast as to be meaningless. We are told that this is “public debt,” incurred for our benefit, and that we are responsible for servicing it. But how can this be so? Did you agree to any of it? Do you have a copy of the contract you signed? I’d love to see one. I know I never made any such agreement, but somehow I’m supposed to believe that I’m also responsible for it.

Well, I don’t believe it. And neither should you. And that brings us to the point of all these words. At some point, the astronomical heaps of money in the governmental Ponzi scheme will come crashing down; this debt could never conceivably be paid. People who have put themselves at the economic mercy of the government will suffer for it, and their numbers are not small. I’m not (just) talking about welfare whores and government workers here; millions of otherwise perfectly productive and honest people bought the promises of Social Security and are now trapped in that system, having paid such huge proportions of their income all their lives that they never built a cushion of wealth for themselves. The monthly checks those people receive won’t stop, but at some point the value of the checks won’t be enough to buy bread. I feel very badly for those people, but I didn’t do it to them. They bought into a lie; it wasn’t my lie. I don’t want to suffer with them, and I don’t want to suffer for them.

I don’t want you to do so, either. A very real possibility exists that the value of the American Dollar will collapse, maybe very soon. What I am suggesting is that you regard this not as a terrifying disaster, but as a terrifying opportunity. What I am suggesting is that we hurry it along – that we get it over with.

I’m not a huge Ayn Rand fan, but she did popularize some intriguing concepts. One that I’ve been thinking about a lot is the Sanction of the Victim. We the people of this country have been the victims of the individuals who comprise this government and who carry out all its schemes. In the end, it’s only the sanction of the victim that gives an oppressor his power. I suggest that, to whatever extent you can bring yourself to do so, you remove that sanction. Let the SOB fall. And get out of his way while he does it.

“Get out of her, my people,” wrote the Apostle John, “if you do not wish to share in the consequences of her sins.” Take a good, hard incisive look at the ways you prop up this hateful regime; through your money, through your reflexive obedience, through your participation. If a single word I’ve said here rings true, to what extent can you get out of her?

To be concluded (this time for real. Seriously! I already wrote it, so I know)...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Front Yard

Taken from my porch. Gad, I love it here. The colors don't really come through, alas, because I don't really know what I'm doing. That happens a lot, with many endeavors.

My Buddies

Yeah, I'm just messing around with my new toy this afternoon. There's work to do, and I ain't doing it. As usual.




What a fantastic weekend it's been!

The weather has been perfect, if a little cold in the morning. Yesterday I finished the Ginormous 2X12 Stack, just in time for the landlady's monthly visit. We mostly sat around and shot the shit all afternoon, then went over to the neighbors' and got moderately blasted on wine. Not at all a bad way to spend the day.

She always comes bearing supplies, in this case a couple of cases of canned chicken and salmon, the usual Trader Joe's coffee, and mail packages from friends. My dear old friend (old in the sense that I've known him for 35 years) LR sent me a marvelous gift of a really high-quality digital camera, so I was taking dog pictures all this morning. L wanted the landlady and I to come over this morning for a hike so I made biscuits around seven, landlady and I had a nice breakfast, and then we went through a little rock canyon I'm not familiar with and came out at the top of one of the knobs on the big ridge to the NE of the property. Helluva view, and when we just came out of the canyon there was the most complete petrified tree I've ever seen. Petrified wood is really common here, of course, but mostly it's just shards here and there. This was the whole trunk, broken into chunks but complete for its whole length and in good enough shape that you could see how the wood had rotted before it...did whatever wood does when it petrifies. Very cool.

Once I get the driver loaded and suchlike I hope to have some photos, though not of that: It was early and the light was terrible. Sometime, maybe.