Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well, THIS would suck, if it were unusual...




So, basically, tomorrow will be a spring day...

Nice of them to let me know, though.

Well, that was thoughtful! And so timely!

While I was working on the last post the dogs got all excited about somebody coming up the driveway. It was my friends D&L, who almost never come to visit. They'd just spent much of the day cleaning out a storage unit they've got in town. Wanted to know if I wanted a vacuum cleaner and a bunch of cookware they didn't need.

By coincidence, my landlady just told me last Sunday that the power head on her vacuum burned up while she was cleaning her old lair, and I'm gonna have some folks coming for extended stays in the next month or two and wasn't completely sure what we were going to do about cookware. How's that for timing? I really appreciate their thinking about me!

"When seconds count, the police are only minutes away..."

...and when they arrive, I wonder if they'll do something psychotic?

Girl, 5, loses fight for life after house fire which killed family as police held back neighbours desperate to help
The five-year-old girl left fighting for life in hospital after a house fire which killed her mother, father and baby brother has died.

Mark and Michelle Colley, along with three-year-old Louis, died in the blaze at the weekend - despite neighbours saying they could have been saved if police had not held back would-be rescuers.

Now daughter Sophie has also lost her fight for life.
'I thought the police were there to protect lives,' [said a neighbor.] 'Years ago they would have gone inside themselves to try a rescue. But all they seemed bothered about was health and safety rules.

'It's unbelievable that it could happen like that. Everybody wanted to try and help. You can't have respect for police if they have no respect for other people's lives. It might have been different if it was one of their own.'
No matter what anyone tells you, there very much is such a thing as too much respect for authority.

A death in the family, probably.

I'm afraid it's time to admit that Butch the cat has left the building, in all likelihood permanently.

I was warned, when I first mentioned to friends the thought of getting a pet cat, that I shouldn't grow too attached. Cats are only about halfway up the food chain here, and tend to end as food themselves. Since it's virtually impossible that the li'l fellow found a better place to live, I'm afraid the fact that he's been gone for over four days now makes it official.

It has been suggested - mostly jokingly - that Click took out a contract on him with the local coyotes. She's not talking, but she did seem to know immediately that he was gone and not coming back. I told her she could at least have the decency to lay off the happy-dance.

And I almost missed it!

No, I'm NOT making this up.
In the shadow of the nation's most recognizable phallic symbol, they gather and march. There are about 50 of them, all ages, both sexes, nearly all white, smiling, quiet, enjoying the sun as they make a slow loop in front of the White House with their signs of protest. Their mounted photos of pink squealing babies make the event look, at first glance, like an anti-abortion rally.
It's Genital Integrity Awareness Week, in case you didn't know, as well as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Just when I thought I'd run out of things to worry about.

I feel so...incomplete now.

Monday, March 30, 2009


So yesterday morning it's heading toward beautiful weather. All afternoon it's overcast, windy and cold. Along about sundown the clouds all blow away.

I wake up around midnight, the stars are shining like lasers. I wake up around five, it's snowing. It keeps snowing. Snows some more. Tapers off around nine, and we've got 3-4 inches on the ground. By eleven the snow is gone anywhere the sun is shining (and the sun is shining.)

Tomorrow it's supposed to be sunny and mid-sixties.

Anybody who tries to predict the weather here in any detail at all has taken a sucker's bet.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Book's Better.

They say that there’s a broken light for every heart on Broadway.
They say that life’s a game and then they take the board away
They give you masks and costumes and an outline of the story
Then leave you all to improvise their vicious cabaret
In no longer pretty cities there are fingers in the kitties
There are warrants, forms and chitties and a jackboot on the stair
There’s sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime
And at least the trains all run on time but they don’t go anywhere
Facing their responsibilities either on their backs or on their knees,
There are ladies who just simply freeze and dare not turn away
And the widows who refuse to cry will be dressed in garter and bow-tie
And be taught to kick their legs up high in this vicious cabaret

At last the 1998 show!
The ballet on the burning stage!
The documentary seen upon the fractured screen
The dreadful poem scrawled upon the crumpled page!

There’s a policeman with an honest soul that has seen whose head is on the pole
And he grunts and fills his briar bowl with a feeling of unease
Then he briskly frisks the torn remains for a fingerprint or crimson stains
And endeavors to ignore the chains that he walks in to his knees
While his master in the dark nearby inspects the hands with brutal eye
That have never brushed a lover’s thigh but have squeezed a nation’s throat
And he hungers in his secret dreams for the harsh embrace of cruel machines
But his lover is not what she seems and she will not leave a note

At last the 1998 show!
The situation tragedy!
Grand opera slick with soap!
Cliff-hangers with no hope!
The water-color in the flooded gallery

There’s a girl who’ll push but will not shove and she’s desperate for her father’s love
She believes the hand beneath the glove may be one she needs to hold
Though she doubts her host’s moralities she decides that she is more at ease
In the land of doing-as-you-please than outside in the cold
But the backdrops peel and the sets give way and the cast gets eaten by the play
There’s a murderer at the matinee, there are dead men in the aisles
And the patrons and the actors too are uncertain if the show is through
And with sidelong looks await their cue, but the frozen mask just smiles

At last the 1998 show!
The torch-song no one ever sings!
The curfew chorus line!
The comedy divine!
The bulging eyes of puppets, strangled by their strings!

There’s thrills and chills and girls galore,
There’s sing-songs and surprises!
There’s something here for everyone,
Reserve your seat today!
There’s mischiefs and malarkies
But no queers
Or yids
Or darkies
Within this bastard’s carnival
This vicious cabaret!

I don't generally read "graphic novels." Gave up comic books in my teens. I confess I'd never heard of this one before the buzz about the movie. Didn't read it until I'd seen the flick.

The movie is good clean fun. The book is mind-blowing.

The movie is light entertainment. The book is incredibly dense; not at all light reading.

The movie's heroine starts out as Natalie Portman, who is transfigured into Natalie Portman with a buzz cut. The book's heroine starts out as an interchangeable and rather mindless little cipher, who is transfigured into something awe-inspiring.

The movie's cast is a standard collection of stock characters. The book's cast is dense with vivid characterization; hideous and beautiful and estimable and pitiable, often at the same time.

The movie's climax involves a whole bunch of people committing a single act of civil disobedience through the tactic of wearing silly masks while witnessing property damage. The book's climax destroys an old world, with no guarantee that its replacement will be an improvement: It's all up to you.

The movie is enjoyable. The book is way better. Neither will change your life in any meaningful way, but only one is great literature. Never thought I'd use that phrase to describe a graphic novel, but there it is.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Giddy policemen are not a good thing.

Via Wendy McElroy:
This headline from the Florida Sun-Sentinel (03/26): New cameras in police cruisers can analyze thousands of license tags a day. The article opens, The multi-camera and scanner system, mounted on the trunk, hood, or roof of a cruiser, takes pictures as the officer drives through the city looking for stolen vehicles and criminals. The camera is capable of snooping through as many as 10,000 license plates a shift, leaving officials a bit giddy about its effectiveness.
...quietly protect your privacy by making your plates more difficult to scan. Dirt is good but many areas have laws against driving with obscured plates. I cannot recommend the product because I have not used it but Phantom Plate promises to make your license plate unreadable by a scanner without obscuring it to the naked eye.
I haven't used it either - and of course have no use for it here - but it does sound like something you might want to check out if you live in a place where such things are a concern. Just FYI.

It's gonna be a busy weekend

But in the meantime, I loves me some Onion...

Experts Agree Giant, Razor-Clawed Bioengineered Crabs Pose No Threat

Friday, March 27, 2009

Suddenly it's winter...

Yesterday broke cloudy, windy and cold. The clouds blew off, but the wind stayed. Then in the early afternoon I saw really ugly low clouds roll in fast from the north. I was in the lair, and answered Magnus' call to come in just as an unearthly blast of wind shook the place. A lawn chair careened across the yard: Magnus himself staggered against it.

Then there was horizontal rain, which turned into horizontal snow. By Snacky Time it was still coming down hard and I took these pix, though it stopped shortly afterward.

This morning the sun rose in a cloudless sky, still as the grave: no breeze at all. Cold as a witch's cliche'.

Fortunately for me my landlady is due this weekend, so earlier this week I stocked up on kerosene for her heater and now the scriptorium is - well, not exactly toasty, but at least warm enough that I can feel my fingers. Winter has not yet quite left the land.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

Yeah, I need to grab some lunch and get to work, but what the hell...

"the Democrats won't pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan..they are not organized enough. They couldn't even get Bill Clinton to pull out of Monica Lewinsky."
- Ron Hart

Another Wind Storm Last Night...

Not as bad as the first, but this time we did get some damage. That big plastic sail I taped to the fruit tree tried manfully to uproot the poor thing, not to mention knocking off most of the blossoms I was trying to save in the first place. Bother. A windbreak gate's hinges got torn right out of the wood, doing minor secondary damage as it traveled in a very purposeful windward direction.

In other news, Ghost seems on the mend. He's putting more weight on the paw, though he still goes three-legged when he wants to run. He's obviously in better spirits than yesterday.

It's still quite windy this morning, which is a bit unusual as the storms usually blow themselves out overnight and then resume in the afternoon. So it's possible we're gonna have an entertaining afternoon. Yay!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ghost hurt himself yesterday afternoon

One thing I've never even come close to breaking Ghost of is chasing trucks. He just loves it so, he won't listen to me at all and I've always been terrified he was going to get hurt. Well, maybe this will teach him a lesson.

He came back on three legs, and my spine went cold. He's not one to milk an injury. But it appears he just snagged a hind claw. He's still not putting much weight on it, though. I loaded him into the Jeep this morning and took him to D&L's place for a second opinion, because L knows a lot more about animals than I do. She confirmed my opinion that it's nothing serious.

Maybe this will cause him to think twice next time. I doubt it, but maybe.

This Is Wonderful!

I don't know who this guy is. I don't know what his politics are. He's in the EU parliament, so I assume he's a scumbag. But this speech, spoken to the British Prime Minister while the PM is in the room, is both a marvelous deconstruction of Keynesian economics and the most erudite put-down I've ever witnessed. Spoken almost extemporaneously, just referring to notes; no teleprompter. Gad, if American pols spoke like this, I'd have retained my interest in politics.

If you haven't already seen this (I've seen it about five times today and wasn't even trying) click and ENJOY. Popcorn optional; this ain't no government blog.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gotta show you this...

So yesterday evening I'm looking for the dogs' snacky dishes. I foolishly left two of them near the powerhouse before the wind storm, and the wind just sucks everything from there to the meadow. Found one; the other may be in Kansas. Or possibly Oz.

My landlady has a couple of 55-gallon water barrels which I don't use; since it's just me here it's easier to filter my drinking water than to haul it from town. So while I was cleaning up trash yesterday afternoon I didn't even notice that one was gone. And while I'm looking for dishes, I wonder "What's that blue thing, down in the middle of the meadow? Couldn't believe my eyes.

No damage, thankfully. But how it got out of the boughs of that tree I'd wedged it in for safekeeping, I don't even want to know.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I spent most of this morning...

...Cleaning up the mess from yesterday evening.

The wind came up yesterday afternoon as expected, but toward sunset it really started to howl. We've had outbuildings blown right over during spring windstorms - yesterday's was almost as bad as any I've seen, so I was interested to see what kind of damage I'd have to deal with this morning.

Not so bad, really; no structural damage. Lots of things flung down the leeward slope. The wind sucked a milk crate out from under my lair and smashed it to bits against a tree, flinging pieces everywhere. Dust drifted all over the place. An exposed workbench swept clean of lumber, toolboxes, power tools...

Where I grew up, we'd call it a hurricane. Here we just call it a spring wind, and use it to keep the Californians at bay.

Rather than take a whole bunch of pictures, here's a representative example. Yesterday these guys were neatly stacked and straight. I remember a visitor asking why we went to the trouble of tying them to a skid. If he's reading this blog, this is why...

You really can find anything on the internet!

My landlord had a couple of storebought sawhorses that weren't all that strongly built to begin with and have seen a lot of service. I got tired of having to stop what I was doing and screw them back together, so - since I have all these 2X4s stored - decided I should just build a new pair.

Simple, huh? Any carpenter could do it on a smoke break. Well, I'm not a carpenter. I sat around trying to decide how to build a set of homemade (and hopefully better) sawhorses, and finally just typed "sawhorse plans" into Google.

I got 46,800 hits. Okay, some people have too much time on their hands. But we knew that.

I went with the first one.

The sawhorses are different, because this way they can be braced at the bottom and still stack. One is 2 inches smaller and has its braces on the inside of the legs. Works pretty good!

Of course the plan says the project can be done in 30 minutes and it took me most of an afternoon, but still...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Magnus is fine

I had this great post planned which would have transformed your entire life in marvelous and transcendent ways, but the day got weird and busy in other directions today so I didn't write it. Sorry. I'll leave Sunday to mentioning that Magnus is fine. It looks like yesterday was just the worst old-dog day I'd seen him have. He didn't move overnight for damned near 14 hours (I mean he didn't move - I kept checking to see if he was still breathing) but for most of today he's been pretty much back to normal.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Old Dog, Young Dog

Magnus had a bad night and a bad morning. He woke me up a few times wanting company, something he never does without what he considers a good reason, and it's usually a reason I can at least detect even if I don't agree with it. This time he just seemed to want reassurance. When I left the lair at around 6:30 the others bounded out as usual but he was really moving slow. I mean he's usually the last to get moving, but he was really moving slow. I noticed that he was favoring his right front leg almost to the point of not being able to put weight on it at all, and that was completely new. Usually it's his rear legs that need some time to wake up in the morning.

I couldn't see anything wrong with the leg, and after working him back and forth for a bit he seemed to loosen up and feel better. Our morning walks are always a tonic for him, so once he was moving good we set off earlier than usual. Now I kinda wish we hadn't. I wanted to know if S&L had come in last night, and with the weather so nice I wasn't in a big hurry to get there. So we worked our way up the BLM road to the top of the big ridge, then around toward their property. I kept an eye on him, and though he was moving kind of slow he didn't seem in any special difficulty. But when we got to S&L's place and he was getting lovin' from L, we noticed that the muscle on that front leg was trembling. I watered and rested him before we set out on the shortest way home, and once home he drank again and just collapsed. When I went down to check on the apricot tree he got up, but wouldn't leave the ridge and that's really unusual for him. He always naps after a walk, but right now he's just inert. I'm kinda worried for him; he's pretty old and has good days and not so good days, but I don't think I've ever seen him like this.

In a nice ironic touch, the first thing S said when I showed up was, "Do you want a puppy?" Actually I've been thinking about maybe getting myself a puppy, so rather to their surprise I said so. It seems one of their friends has an Akita that mated with a German Shepherd and had a litter of 12. Three died, alas, but that leaves them with 9 mixed-breed pups to find homes for when they're old enough. Shepherds I'm familiar with, of course: Akitas not so much. Reading about them this morning, though, it seems like a Shepherd/Akita mix might be a pretty good fit out here.

Prior to my sojourn with my landlady's dogs I never seriously considered getting one for myself. I always used to joke that I liked other people's dogs, because they're nice to visit but needy to live with. But now I'm not sure I'd care to be without at least one, and this situation isn't going to last forever. Plus, (tee hee) Ghost needs a puppy. So I'm severely tempted to look into it more seriously, but really don't know if I should. Truth is, after living here alone with these three I've a feeling that I'd be really bereft if I found myself completely dog-less. They do kinda grow on you. And if it's going to live out here with some measure of safety, it needs to be a pretty big dog who's not afraid to show some aggression if it needs to. Shepherds fill that bill, and from what I read so do Akitas. And I've always found, though admittedly my direct experience is limited, that mutts are at least as smart and somewhat less quirky than pure-breds. So maybe I should, I don't know. It's a big step, a dog of my own. But I have had a pretty good education on the subject these past few years.

:-} I'm waffling, as you see.

Friday, March 20, 2009

BOTH tail lights??

Spent the day just puttering around today. There've been big, messy piles of scrap lumber laying around since I de-nailed that batch of 2X12s, and I hesitated to get rid of it because...well, it might come in handy, y'know? But I finally decided I was sick of looking at them, so I chopped them up and fed them to the burn barrel. Ended up with an astonishing coal bed I was half afraid was going to melt the barrel; it was hard to even go near it for a while. Washed some laundry, went for a couple of walks with the dogs, watered the trees.

Since it appears I'm gonna have to buy a bunch of round forms for concrete pilings under the cabin, I decided to see if the tail lights were working on the Jeep's little trailer. Last I looked they weren't, but then I discovered that the Jeep's tail lights weren't working either (yikes!) and after fixing those didn't give the trailer any more thought. That was months ago, and for most of that time the trailer was filled with trash from various demolition and clean-up projects. And sure enough, when I checked them this afternoon they didn't work. Neither of them. This suggested a general electrical problem, but when I checked for juice at one lamp it was fine; no light, but plenty of electricity. Checked the other one; same thing.

Turns out whoever built this trailer used the cheapest lamp housings I can imagine. There's so much corrosion in there I can't even get the bulbs out; it's like they're welded in place. So on my trip to town next week I need to visit the auto parts stores (2 in town) and hopefully one of them will stock replacement housings. No guarantees, of course: This is the same town that managed to completely run out of eggs one time.


Meet Michelle Owen. Concerned that an ex-boyfriend had used her laptop to search for child pornography, the Indiana woman asked police to search the computer for illegal images, but had her plan backfire when cops discovered two videos of her engaged in illicit acts with a dog.

That would be insanely bizarre behavior even if a dog hadn't gotten involved. Normally when I hear about somebody getting busted for a victimless crime, I'm all sympathetic and stuff. In this case, I'm just comforted that sometimes stupidity really does bring its own reward. Because if anybody ever deserved a good swift kick in the karma, it's this broad.

Okay, this is just awesome.

I've been in and out of the scriptorium today, doing little things around the ridge. Come back to an email from my friend J.D., linking to a video which I am required by GOD to share with you now.

Dunno how much is real and how much fake, and don't care. If this doesn't bring you a smile, you're hopeless.

Embed code's doing weird things, so here's the link. Do check this out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I don't believe it.

I never, NEVER thought those people were capable of surprising me with stupidity and hypocrisy. This is crazy, even for congressvermin.
Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the bill was "a political circus" diverting attention from why the administration hadn't done more to block the bonuses before they were paid.
How's this for a "why", John? The bonuses were specifically allowed in the last bill you @#$%$! idiots passed, when you gave AIG the money in the first place! You grandstanding morons wanna shoot yourselves in the other foot now? Because I've got to tell you, moral outrage really just isn't your thing.


Via Snowflakes in Hell, I see...well, something I didn't expect to see.

Seems the topic is still considered radioactive after all, and the wording just shocks me.

Popcorn Sutton, R.I.P.

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, world's greatest and most incorrigible moonshiner, is dead.

He committed suicide to avoid incarceration in a south Georgia federal prison, after his fifth conviction on moonshining charges.

I don't know much about him, but apparently his antics were legend:

John Rice Irwin, founder of the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tenn., recalled that Sutton made a still for the museum in the 1990s.

Irwin told Sutton to run nothing but water through it. But with thousands of people, including then-Gov. Don Sundquist, visiting for an annual homecoming event, Sutton decided to cook up some real sour mash and dispense it to the crowd in little paper cups.

"Popcorn is getting everybody drunk," the governor's Highway Patrol escorts complained and when Irwin told him to stop, Sutton packed up and left, Irwin recalled.

But he did take the time to say goodbye:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


It's the simple things that screw you up. The simple, obvious things that you saw right off, thought "I've got to find a way around this!" and then forgot all about until you're just totally screwed because those were the first things you should have been dealing with.

Got the 2X12 timbers cut and spliced for the cabin's footer forms, and this morning I went out to set the forms in place. The first form, of course, is the most important because I'm measuring every subsequent one from that, right? So I set the first post, put one nail in the 16' form, then go to the other side, set the second post, and lift that end of the form to get it level. And lift. And lift.

And the sunuvabitch is right out of the frigging trench before the level says it's right, because I haven't given a single thought all winter that the ground I dug the trench in is no way level in the first place!

Stupid! You are so stupid!

I am totally back to square one. I can spend all summer trying to level the site with a pick and shovel, or I can go back to what I should have done in the first place and use round forms for pylons which is exactly what the experienced builders told me I should have been doing all along.

All that trenching. I think I may just move the cabin site, so I can leave the trench visible as a monument to my world-class stupidity. Maybe there's a Guinness category for it, or something.

Yerg. It is just barely possible I can get away with filling in the trench on the low side. If I dig down to level on the high side, I'll need more concrete than I could ever pour by myself or even afford to buy. I must consult the neighbors. Which means confessing my idiocy to flesh-and-blood people who will laugh. Hell, I would.

Drink. It is time for drink. Alas, I have no booze.

Hawks in the Gulch

There was a big red tailed hawk hunting on the banks of the wash this morning while I was headed for the cabin site. Still there when I came back; wish I could have gotten some shots of him, but he was really low and slow and likely wouldn't have been if I'd been afoot.

Though I'm pretty sure I wouldn't feel the same way if I were a rat or a snake, I do believe hawks are my very favorite birds just for watching. They are so very beautiful in flight, in a very specialized way. Same reason I enjoy watching fighter planes, even though "projection of power" isn't exactly my favorite concept. They do one thing, they do it very well, and they're just incomparably beautiful in the process.

First knives and fathers' lectures...

I was cooking up a mid-morning snack, and while thinking of something else entirely I was reminded of two incidents, which in context and contrast are completely ludicrous. Thought I'd share.

When I was a boy, I lusted after my very own Boy Scout pocketknife. I was never a boy scout, but I did admire the folding knife. I eventually wore my elders down, and was allowed to save my dimes and make the purchase. This privilege had a price: The Lecture. (Technically it wasn't my father who gave me the lecture, because...well, actually I'm not sure my father ever knew I owned a knife. I'm not completely sure my father knew I owned shoes, but that's irrelevant.) It was my oldest brother-in-law who gave me the lecture, and it went something to the effect of, "You can keep this as long as you don't leave it where the smaller kids can get at it or do anything else stupid. First infraction, I take it away." I solemnly promised, and that was that. It seemed to make sense.

Fast-forward many, many years. My daughter lusted after one of those Victorinox "Swiss army knives", the ones with the red handle. It happened that I owned a good one, which I'd bought in China and carried for years but had recently retired in favor of a Leatherman. So I gifted it to her, and gave her the 21st century version of The Lecture...

"Never ever EVER under ANY circumstances are you to forget yourself and take this to school, okay? Not in your purse, not in your pocket, not anywhere. Don't tell me it's stupid, because I know it's stupid. Follow this decree anyway. First infraction, they throw your young ass out of school and probably arrest you to boot." She solemnly promised, and that was that, though it made no sense at all.

Politician: /ˌpɒlɪˈtɪʃən/ (N) See Lying, Hypocritical, Horrid Little Creature...

Back during the presidential primary campaigns I had a bit of a debate (I don't think it ever descended to the level of a dispute) with some friends concerning the efficacy of rooting for Ron Paul. Their position was that, warts and all, he was the very best of a bad breed. My position was that he was a member of that breed. Not all scorpions, it's true, can kill you with their sting: Some just make you sick. Even so, I make it a point not to juggle scorpions at all. Hence my decision (not difficult, since it's the same decision I make every election) to sit out the whole farce.

Now I see this news article, only two weeks old which is but yesterday according to my rather relaxed timeline:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican congressmen derided the massive $410 billion spending bill approved by the House of Representatives last week, but some like Houston-area Congressman Ron Paul contributed to its size.

Paul, of Lake Jackson, managed to insert 22 earmarks worth $96.1 million into the bill, leading the Houston delegation, according to an analysis of more than 8,500 congressionally-mandated projects in the bill by the Houston Chronicle.

The so-call "omnibus" bill passed the House on a 245-178 vote, with only 16 Republicans in support. It was chock-full of congressmen's pet projects for their districts.

Second to Paul in the Houston delegation was Republican Congressman John Culberson, who tallied $63.6 million in earmarks.

Democrats were not far behind, with Congressman Al Green and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee adding $50.1 million and $37.6 million respectively.

Messages left today by The Associated Press at the offices of Paul, Green and Jackson Lee seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Only one Houston-area congressman - Republican Michael McCaul, of Austin - was earmark-free in the House bill.

No further comment is really required.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Meanwhile, in the REAL America...

I'm supposed to be working now, but instead I slunk over to David Codrea's War On Guns site and wish I hadn't. It seems yet another isolated incident has occurred...

Can somebody parse this for me? Because I'm having a little trouble with the logic here...

"If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names," said [Homer police chief] Mills, who is white. "I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested.

"We're not out there trying to abuse and harass people -- we're trying to protect the law-abiding citizens locked behind their doors in fear."

So...the only way to be safe from the cops in Homer Louisiana is to lock yourself behind your door in fear? Then they'll protect you?

And apparently it's okay to go ahead and shoot the old ones on sight. Hell, he was probably on welfare anyway, right? “If they would rather die, than they had better do so, and reduce the surplus population“, said Scrooge. Yeah, no doubt shooting them is kinder than letting them starve from being "no 'count".

Okay, damn it, now I'm in a foul mood.

It must be spring, because...

...the cottontails are really out and active!

It's nothing unusual to flush a rabbit or two during the morning walk, but today I must have seen seven or eight. Calculate probably 10,000 I missed for every one I saw, and that's...hm...well, it's a lot.

So I abandoned normal practice and brought the boys into the bracken and sand, where the rabbits like to hide. They each had a ball making complete nuisances of themselves for a while. They rarely actually catch rabbits, but never tire of chasing them.

I recently read an article on dog care, that stressed the importance of teaching a dog to heel. It's a vital part of becoming the Alpha of the pack, I'm told. You shouldn't let them wander, and you absolutely mustn't let them lead.

It's supposed to be bad for them, and they'll start trying to boss you around.

Yeah. "Heel." Heh. The boys do pretty much whatever I ask them to, if they think it's reasonable and - if I insist - even if they don't. But heel? No, I don't think so.

Magnus is feeling pretty good this morning. He always loves his Walky Time, but I don't get many gallops out of the ol' boy.

Hail, Knight of Disgusting Practices, pt. 2

In the place where we live, the only large animals aside from deer and elk are the half-wild cattle and the thoroughly-domesticated though powerful and often ill-tempered horses. These creatures are accustomed to dump wherever they choose.

This would be no great problem, for in an open-range country one does become resigned to watching where one steps. However, ONE of our company - and Ghost, I shan't mention any names here - though normally the most delicate and courtly in his habits, does for some reason take delight in rolling in horseshit.

Again, normally no great problem. Horseshit dries very quickly back to its principle ingredient of half-digested hay, and in that state is very far from the most objectionable shit in which one could roll if one were the shit-rolling sort.

Alas, yesterday our - unnamed, Ghost, unnamed - young friend found some truly, superlatively fresh horseshit.

And what, I wondered, are we going to do about this? Ghost - Aw, damn, dude. I'm sorry, did I mention a name? - Anyway, Ghost is a very fine fellow under normal circumstances. He knows that I am Uncle Joel, the only human here, the Alpha of the pack, and within certain limits that he finds reasonable he will obey me. But he is no trained-to-within-an-inch-of-his-life automaton: He is a desert dog and there are limits to his subservience. There are boundaries beyond which even the Alpha dares not go, lest it be demonstrated that those many, long sharp teeth are not there for decoration and crunching kibble. I was pretty sure that a bath was very far on the wrong side of those boundaries.

I called my landlady, and she confirmed that to her certain knowledge Ghost has never had a bath in his life, nor would be likely to suffer one gladly. But Ghost spends his evenings and nights in my little lair, and while I'm happy to share it with him the horseshit was not so welcome. What to do?

Ghost is by far the most self-contained of the dogs. Unlike the others, who clamor to be brushed morning and evening, Ghost normally makes himself scarce when the brush comes out. He really doesn't like to be fussed over. But it turned out not to be the problem I feared - I expect that when it dried, all that horseshit was starting to itch somewhat. He received a very stiff brushing, and after he settled down to it seemed to enjoy having the flaky stuff come off.

All over everything, of course. But that's what a broom is for.

Monday, March 16, 2009

El Neil Fans: Check This Out!

L. Neil Smith has been talking about his Pallas sequel Ceres for just forever, but couldn't find a publisher. As far as I know he hasn't had a dead-tree book published since The American Zone and that's a damned shame. Even with all the Libertarian preaching in his books, I still think he's a helluva writer and I've enjoyed almost every word he ever scribbled. It seems ridiculous to me that a writer with his track record can't stay on a mid-list somewhere, but then I don't pretend to know the economics of it or what his numbers really are.

Guess he got tired of waiting, though. It's being serialized on his site! Check it out!

Montana Senators: WTF?

Do they just know which side of their bread holds the butter, or are they really serious about gun rights? Because they're confusing the hell out of me.

Back in '94, when the Dems got their collective head handed to them in the mid-term election following the "Assault Weapons" ban, gun control became a radioactive topic for a while. But the Brady Bunch and their congressional enablers never went away, and lately seem poised for triumphant comebacks all around. The simple word "Obama" has been the greatest thing to happen to gun store receipts since Pearl Harbor. Everybody expected him to break his feeble promises to leave gun owners the hell alone, and Eric Holder made those fears reality with virtually his first official words as AG. But the Montana senators, Democrats both, continue to act - or at least talk - as if Montana is a state in a free country. Did they miss a memo, or did I?

Congratulations, DullHawk!

It was announced Saturday but I only heard about it yesterday, and then today received permission to blog about it. So it may be old news to some, but then that's the news ol' dysfunctional Joel specializes in.

(Ahem) My friend and yours, Kent McManigal, has his very own column on Examiner.com, the Albuquerque Libertarian Examiner! Congratulations, Kent!

Go thou and read, and get his numbers up.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Okay, I give up.

Some days you just got nuttin' to say, y'know?

It's not my fault; I come from a broken home. Lay off me.

So here are some Sunday Funny Pictures.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


"I just want you to know that I still despise you. Nothing has changed between us. I hate you and want you dead."

"I understand."

"It's just...well...It isn't your fault or mine that there's only one sunny spot. That's all. That's all this is about."

"That's fair. I agree."

"Okay, then."

"Uh...I hate you, too."

"All right. Good."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Visitor to the Gulch

A friend asked me to get him an estimate for installing some culverts on his property not far from me. This involved waffling for days while I overcame my aversion to asking neighbors for things (S the Road Guy's phone number) and then more days while I overcame my aversion to calling strangers (S the Road Guy) on the telephone. Finally did it, and he showed up quite promptly. Promptness is a great virtue among local service people, because it is so very rare.

So anyway, S the Road Guy showed up this morning and of course refused to leave his truck. I often forget the kind of reception strange visitors get here.

What I see...

What they see...

But everything worked out well in the end. Really.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Question about a Wood Stove...

I've gotten some good advice from readers here, and I'm hoping somebody can help me with this if you would.

I've recently acquired a wood stove for Joel's Secret Lair, Final Edition. (Yay!)

I don't actually know very much about wood stoves. (Boo!)

This one appears in great shape; it's welded steel plate, no rust anywhere, everything present and nice'n'tight. But I have a question about the placement of the fire brick. When I got the thing unloaded the bricks were just sort of jumbled around inside. I thought all I needed to do was line the floor and lower sides of the stove with them. I did notice that this arrangement covers up the adjustable air inlet on the bottom of the stove.

I started a fire inside, and when it was going good closed the door to check the seal and draft. The fire went out almost instantly. I checked the air inlet damper - wide open. Opened the door, fire re-ignited.

Okay, clearly the fire brick is cutting off the air flow. But then I don't understand how the bricks are supposed to be arranged inside. My understanding is that they're supposed to keep the burning material from direct contact with the steel, yes? So what am I doing wrong?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh, Lord. Here we go.

At least ten people dead, and all I can think about is, "Here we go." I want to rail at the gun control Nazis who'll rush to dance in these peoples' blood, but honestly I'm really not sure I'm any better. We've been waiting for the next big-news shooting spree, and now we've got one. Cue Eric Holder in 3...2...1...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Just spreading that ol' meme...

What the hell is a "meme," anyway?

Here's Another...

...of those unoccupied dwellings I mentioned yesterday...

I really don't know what the story is here. These folks spent considerable money on fencing materials. The fence is not completed, nor is the little patio they started behind the trailer, and hundreds of dollars worth of materials lay on the ground untended. As far as I can tell the area has never been inhabited past scattered camping trips. The trailer is too small for a bathroom and there's nothing like a septic field, but also no outhouse. It looks like they got interrupted in the middle of their project and just never returned. I've never seen anyone around it. It just sits on a ridge, hidden from almost all angles.

Unlike the other trailer I showed you, there's substantial dollar value just laying around here but untouched by visitors. These solar panels are more than enough to keep the batteries up so that they won't discharge and sulfate. As you can see, local theft is not a big problem at the moment or this place would be stripped. I assume somebody local watches out for it, but I don't know it's true.

Monday, March 9, 2009

And now we'll see!

I went over to my neighbor D's place to ask of he had some plastic and could he help me cover the fruit tree. He was pretty skeptical of the utility of this, but agreed to go along with the joke. So a little later in the afternoon he and my other neighbor J showed up. By this time the wind had come up, and D asked, "Do you have a plan?"

Misunderstanding, I started to explain again that yeah, the idea is to cover the tree and keep the frost off the blossoms. "No," he said, "Do you have a plan for getting plastic over a 12-foot tree in this wind?"

Good question! We took some long 2x4s, laid them parallel to each other, wrapped the plastic around the far ends and lifted them up. The wind did the rest, and then all we had to do was hold things in place while I went round and round the tree with Gorilla tape.

It's good, heavy construction-grade plastic, but nobody is completely convinced this will survive the wind. All we can do is try.

If this actually works...apricots!

Another day, another walky

Well, the rain stopped and the overcast cleared out. A little cool, but no serious wind yet. That'll come later today, no doubt. In the meantime, the boys wanted to know what the hell I was doing listening to Leslie Fish in the scriptorium when I could be going for a walk with them.

After a while, I got to wondering the same thing.

Dotted here and there in the desert there are little dwellings where nobody dwells. Nobody ever seems to bother them: Most of the folks you'll meet here have a very serious attitude toward property, including that of others. Most of these folks are heavily armed. This place, for example, is owned by a guy who's been out of the country for as long as I've known about it. His brother, however, lives fairly nearby. It looks abandoned, but it's not. Approach with caution. Better still, don't approach.

Of course that doesn't mean things are entirely safe unattended. The wind has a way of pulling things to pieces, given time. And there's lots of time here.

Edward Abbey visits the Gulch

A few weeks ago a commenter on an earlier post facetiously asked if I was (or maybe if I was styling myself as) Edward Abbey's long-lost brother. Not hardly - I am aware of the man, but until recently knew and cared almost nothing about him. In the sixties and seventies, ecology scolds were ever-present and generally quite annoying in a self-righteous way: I ignored them and hoped they'd ignore me. To me, he was just one more.

But last week I got an email from a friend, who told me he was sending me a box of books through our mutual friends S&L. This was welcome news, of course: Any box full of random books is bound to contain something worth reading.

Saturday morning I went over to S&L's worksite, and after greetings and coffee exchanged the box for some Jeep parts my friend had asked me to see sent back with them. Back at the property I unloaded the box on a workbench: Some Stephen Hunter, F. Paul Wilson, T. H. White, and other paperbacks of an apparently more random nature. Some I'd read before but not in quite a while. Days and days of evening reading; a treasure chest of books.

And what should I find among them but Edward Abbey's two most famous books (IOW the only two I'd actually heard of) - The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire. Nice! Funny the way synergy, or maybe just coincidence, can work sometimes.

What with the visit from my landlady, I've only carved my way about halfway through the novel. First impressions: Seventies-era individualism, now that I'm forced to relive it through this book, demanded no less and possibly a good deal more conformity than the 21st-century variety does. The first few chapters read exactly like every other '70's "counterculture" book I remember - heavy on the ironic, scornful similes, heavy on the oh-so-cool sentence constructions. I believe these chapters may have actually been designed to make complete sense only in the presence of a fat doobie. Afterward Abbey seems to get that out of his system and the narrative style settles down quite a bit to an entertaining, if childishly nihilistic, story. Seventies-style eco-terrorism: yeah, what a (yawn) rush. Them evil bulldozers.

Which reminds me, I've gotta call S the road guy: I promised another friend a quote on installing some culverts here in the pristine desert. I don't know if Abbey and I would have gotten along or not. At least I don't agitate for streetlights.

Monday, Monday...

Had a very pleasant weekend; the landlady came to visit and we got some work done on the barn's workshop then visited S&L for a light dinner. S&L had finished the ceiling in the bedroom of their new house, narrow varnished tongue and groove of clear...pine, I think. Really nice. Also got a start on tiling the greatroom floor, which meant I had to leave the boys home. They weren't happy campers, because they all really like S&L and who can blame them. S&L, or at least L, tend to be soft touches with such things as sausage. This, to a dog, is the measure of a good neighbor.

Today or the next I've got to score some roll plastic. The fruit tree in the meadow is about to go nuts with blossoms, which will then be killed by the next frost. The tree dutifully commits this folly every single goddam winter, but this time I'm gonna cover it for the next few weeks and see if I can't persuade the thing to at least flourish, if not actually fruit. Landlady brought a plastic sheet, but it was too small; we ended up using it to wrap a smaller tree that has been ravaged by elk and cattle to the point where if it survives another year it'll be a real coup. Too far from habitation.

The Yahoo weather forecasts have been comically wrong for days now. Several days of hard wind, and then last night the clouds rolled in - two days late by the forecast - and now there's a hard midwest overcast and drizzle that looks like it'll go on for weeks but could all blow away within the hour - who knows. Either way, it kept the overnight temperature up and staved off the frost for one more night. If I can manage to wrap that tree today, I will. I'll bet D&L have some plastic they can lend me. Pay them back next trip to town.

Last night, just as I was thinking of going to bed, Click came in and settled the question of who's been leaving the mouse bits in my bathtub. She entered the lair carrying a big, fat field mouse, went straight to the tub and proceeded to chow down. Thoughtful of her, if she really must bring them indoors. This morning the tub contained an anatomical study of a mouse's internal organs worthy of Hannibal Lector. Yeah, nice.

Ah, life in the boonies.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Duty - pt. 2

Continued from Here:

But why even discuss our rulers and would-be rulers? The things they say, the things they promise, are just so much destructive wind. The only thing that has ever made them even slightly interesting to me is that I can't ever decide which is more scary; the ones who never do the things they promise, or the ones who actually do those things. IE, bureaucrats tend to scare me more than politicians do. Either way, "duty," to them, is just wind. A threat, at most. Nothing to be taken seriously.

Yet duty is a part of an honorable and civilized life. A person who genuinely possesses no sense of duty must not have a friend in the world. What good is life, if you genuinely have nothing in it toward which you feel some sense of obligation? I certainly don't deride the idea, I just don't believe other people can impose it on you. You can only impose it on yourself - and should.

Coincidentally, over at Sipsey Street Mike posted a piece on "Tribal Duties" yesterday, that seemed to fit similar thoughts I was trying to force into coherence:

How do you manufacture a strong community that protects, defends and advances the interests of its members? You build a tribe. Tribal organization is the most survivable of all organizational types and it was the dominant form for 99.99% of human history. The most important aspect of tribal organization is that it is the organizational cockroach of human history. It has proven it can withstand the onslaught of the harshest of environments. Global depression? No problem.

The solution to this problem is to build a tribe. A group of people that you are loyal to you and you are loyal in return. In short, the need for a primary loyalty to a group that really cares about your survival and future success.

So how do you build a tribe? A strong tribe, in this post-industrial environment*, isn't built from the top down. Instead it is built organically from the bottom up. A simple tribe starts with cementing ties to your extended family, a connection of blood. The second step is to extend that network to include other families and worthy individuals. A key part of that is to build fictive kinship, a sense of connectedness that leads to the creation of loyalty to the group.

Something that's sadly lacking in our society is the notion of voluntary association - I mean association in a group more serious than the Boy Scouts or Kiwanis Club - a group that forms itself around the ideal of mutual benefit, maybe even mutual survival. A tribe, for lack of a better word. Not one you're born into and "owe" allegiance because otherwise Unca Sugar will hurt you, but one you form yourself or earn entry to.

Hmm...sounds a lot like a gulch.

Duty is a rational and essential part of any complete human's life. But for duty to be legitimate, it must be voluntarily assumed. If I start a family, for example, I have a duty (a whole damned series of duties) to my spouse and children. If I form or join an alliance of friends for mutual support, I have a duty to fulfill my promises to that group. These are obligations I bring on myself, and they may bring me aggravation and hassle but if everybody else is doing their part they also bring me joy.

But I have no duty whatsoever to anyone - anyone at all - who tries to impose such duty upon me. No government, no organization, no self-proclaimed spokesman for any viewpoint, even one with whose aims I might generally agree, can put any obligation on me at all. They can only try to persuade me. Or, in the case of a government, they can try force. The first I may listen to, and I may be persuaded or not. The second is pretty nearly certain to carry unintended consequences, and the more so the more I seem to be going along. >:-(

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Duty - pt. 1

I read that word again, just recently. DUTY. As in, it is my (not the writers; mine) duty to do this or that. Since I rarely read the words of some would-be ruler's speech, the word is usually directed by somebody who's on - or who wants me to think he's on - my side of the aisle.

It is my duty to defend the constitution, to resist authority, to show up at some rally, to send an email to a politician, to give to the NRA, to...aw, fill in the blank. You know the drill.

Nobody ever explains how any of this became my duty. It just is, that's all, and all right-thinking people know it. I don't want to be perceived as not a right-thinking person, do I? Then I'll accept my duty. Won't I?

It's very curious how duty has become pretty much always, at least outside the military, the province of what other people are supposed to do. People, as I said, are always telling me what my duty is. They rarely seem to talk in terms of their own.

Yet I took no vow, uttered no fell oath to do...well, anything. I have not signed my life to anyone's cause, and so it seems to me that if I owe anything, it is only to myself. We speak of being individuals, but it seems as though not even the most selfishness-worshiping philosopher among us wants to come out and advocate such a thing. Of course there's a duty to things outside myself! Don't I know there's a war on?

Oaths, vows, used to mean something. As little as a hundred years ago no man who wished to regard himself as a gentleman would ever think of breaking a vow he had voluntarily taken; his life was worth less than his honor. As little as a hundred years ago, no man who wished to regard himself as a gentleman would ever take any oath lightly, because he could very well find himself needing to commit horrid acts of self-abnegation to fulfill his oath. At least, so I'm told: The historical novels are full of such men.

Have you noticed how nobody writes novels about such men set in modern times? Outside the military, that is, where at least the tradition is given a bit more than lip service - officers are at least supposed to pretend their vows mean something. But in real life we see grown men put their left hand on a holy book, raise their right hand, and take solemn vows all the time; they televise it. And we all know they're lying. The people who administer the oaths know they're lying, but they cynically administer the damned things anyway. I guess you can say anything you want about preserving and protecting a damned piece of paper, so help you God, and that can mean whatever you want it to mean because it's...well, it's just a damned piece of paper.

I don't really mind when those men do such things. I know they're lying scum; they know it, hell - everybody knows it. So it doesn't matter what they say or how solemnly they're swearing when they say it. But what does kinda get on my nerves is when those same men - women too, of course, but I'm simplifying for space and emphasis - then proceed to stride to a podium and proclaim, in sonorous and meaningful phrases, what my duty is. As if they gave that oath in my name, or something.

To Be Continued...

Friday, March 6, 2009

"And remember...

...We've already got a leg up because when it comes to a difference of opinion, the guy with the gun wins!"

Some poor muzzle control here, but funny shite nevertheless. Never heard of this guy; followed a David Codrea link.

I'm only posting this because...

...Otherwise nobody I know would believe it.

Our Moment of Incoherence...

It's April 2006, and I'm leading an anarcho-capitalist counter-protest in front of the DC Comics office building against a group of left-anarchists who are denouncing the film V for Vendetta for not being anarchist enough. The leader of the left-anarchists is also a "freegan," which means he eats garbage from dumpsters. On principle.

No, I'm not even going to provide a link. You don't want to know.

See, this is why the semi-organized, semi-competent would-be rulers will always rule. The rest of us are a bunch of dysfunctional geeks. Sometimes I think this Internet thing wasn't such a good idea after all, for otherwise I wouldn't have even seen this...

Thursday, March 5, 2009


While making a stop on a neighbor's property to assess/prevent property damage, somebody (but we won't mention any names, will we, Magnus?) sorta kinda caused some property damage.

Somebody scented something that smelled a lot like rabbit inside a drainage pipe. But the pipe was too small to climb into, and too long to scare the rabbit out. So Somebody (and Magnus, you'll notice I'm still not naming any names here) just decided to pull the whole @$%! thing out of the ground...

And yup, sonuvagun there was a rabbit in there...

Windy as hell today...

...but it's time to start getting used to that. If this year is like most, the wind will continue pretty much daily and start taper off just in time for the monsoon.

It's a feature, not a bug. It keeps the Californians away, and we get all the good stuff.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Still fairly warm, but...

The weather forecasts for this area have been almost eerily accurate lately. Yesterday was pleasant all day, though clouds rolled in late right on schedule. Forecast said today would be cool, cloudy and really windy, and it really is. That's unfortunate, because the forecast calls for continuing deterioration and maybe some rain on Saturday. But still nothing like the nastiness of December.

We went on out morning walk today and I had to call it short because I got to feeling really punky. Felt like it was just blood sugar, and I did feel some better after I ate a little something but the walk was only an hour and a half or so after a perfectly good breakfast. I haven't been sick for over a year, but if I'm going to get the flu this is the time of year I do it. I don't want the flu. Noooo, flu. Begone.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I think the main reason I found this funny...

... is that we actually have evenings like this. Mostly without the property damage, but...

See, this is why hiring contractors is good.

I may have given you the impression that, when it comes to building projects, I'm not exactly Bob Villa. This impression is true. I frequently find myself doing things when, truth be told, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. People with actual self-respect call these "learning experiences." I just call it screwing up.

So...when I decided to mount the new auxiliary generator outdoors, having already damaged two by letting them run indoors, I built an awning to keep off the rain and snow:

This awning almost instantly (like the very next morning) proved itself far too small: I had assumed that the generator's position on an inside corner of the sheltered side of a building would let me get away with a small awning, so that I could get in and do things like add fuel without being too inconvenienced by the cover. Not so much. Next morning, new generator covered with snow.


Okay, so build a bigger awning:

This time I had the shingles I'd brought back from the city, and I thought: Since you don't know how to use shingles either, I'll bet it would be easier to shingle the awning while it's on sawhorses, rather than have to do it on a ladder.

Right? Right? Bueller?

Jesus H. Christ Stuck in Traffic - do you know how much those things weigh? Oh, sure, I do now.

I only dropped it once. And I was right about the old awning making a very fine pedestal for the generator, so there.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dog Boy to the Rescue!

An insanely beautiful day. I've got work half-done all over the place and really should be at it while the sun shines, but this morning's walky got a little crazy. Down to the wash, turned right instead of left and through the scrub inside the Big Loop. Then up toward the Branch and south to the neighbor's parcel, looking for petrified wood. Remembered I'd promised to get S the Road Guy to look at the parcel and give me a price for installing some culvert, so we walked overland to the road and up to the farthest crossover. Altogether we probably walked six or seven miles this morning, which is farther than I can walk without pain. Ended up sharing my canteen with the big guys; Ghost either can't get the hang of drinking from a trickle or just distains to do so.

Saw a bunch of camera-worthy things this morning, but the thing I should have seen was a fresh set of batteries. This was the camera's last gasp, rather early in the morning. By the end, not even Ghost was running anywhere.

I'm going to join the boys in a nap now.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Our Moment of Hubris...

Okay, see, so the previous post got me to thinking about poetry. And from there, I got to thinking about my poetry. I don't write much poetry but every now and then the muse taps me on the shoulder, normally just so she can run away giggling while I write some page full of POS drivel. But there are a few I'm not totally unhappy with, and my own favorite is something I wrote all in a rush one time, called My Name Is Craven.

Then I got to thinking about posting it here.

Then I said to myself, "Yo. Joel. You just posted a Kipling poem. Ain't no way you're putting one of your own right above it, like there's some favorable comparison."

Then I answered myself and said, "Hey. It's my blog. Shaddap."

And then I did the deed. Forgive me.

My Name Is Craven
Last night I saw my exile
In a dream, perhaps a vision
Of the mighty weight of hubris
Chained around the necks of children
through the arrogance of masters who
Have welded bonds of words to men from long ago.

In my dream I saw you clearly
I dreamed that you sat crying
In a corner of a dimly lit
And sour smelling garret
You were lost and unprepared to face
The world that you were doomed to from so long ago.

For the absence of your mother
The indifference of your father
Left you weak and undefended
Left you longing and bewildered
You were helpless in your bondage
In a prison built with lies and greed from long ago.

And I should have knelt beside you
Should have found some word to teach you
Should have plumbed some well of wisdom
From my empty years of exile
But I turned away in silence
And repeated my first sin committed long ago.

In my dream I saw you harshly
I dreamed that you stood screaming
In your justice-driven hatred
Of your distant shrouded captors
You were driven to rebellion
But you could not hear their laughter from so long ago.

You rebelled without a purpose
Striking out without direction
Hidden from your eyes the authors
Of your insubstantial prison
They awaited your exhaustion
In the way that they have always done from long ago.

And I should have stood beside you
Should have put my arms around you
Should have found some means to tear away
The scales that kept you blinded
But I crept away in silence
To the shadows where I’d hid myself so long ago.

In my dream I saw you darkly
I dreamed that you knelt weeping
In your weary understanding
Of the hopelessness of protest
And I thought I saw you break, then
As so many men have broken, from so long ago.

You were cleft from your illusions
And the solace of your anger
And your bitter comprehension
Of the dim, confining future
Left you prey to more confusion
In the way that men have drifted, from so long ago.

And I wept to see you losing
All the promise of your manhood
And I burned to stand you up
And show you hope is no illusion
But I feared to harm you further
Or so I told myself, that time so long ago.

In my dream I saw you brightly
I dreamed that you rose grimly
I saw you stand and look upon
The worth of your tormentors
There was death in your regard, then
I feared your death, as other times so long ago.

But you kept to your own council
You sought no guides to lead you
I saw you then surrounded
By a thousand books and weapons
Your dreams were all of blood, then
The blood of those who hounded you, so long ago.

And I should have joined you gladly
Should have added my strength to you
Won a hope for my redemption
Even if I fell in battle
But I slunk away as always
As I do each time from time’s beginning long ago.

In my dream I saw you faintly
I dreamed that you lay dying
In a field strewn with your foemen
And a million burning volumes
Of the edicts and commandments
Written by dark men from days beginning long ago.

In your hand, your blade was dripping
And the very ground was smoking
And the hills still sent the echoes
From the roaring of your battle
There were vultures at the treeline
Gathered to the feast prepared for them from long ago.

And my heart leapt up within me
I fell to my knees beside you
And my shame was an avenger
Rising up before its victim
For I should have been there with you
I have known about this battle from so long ago.

And I wake then from my slumbers
In the darkness of my exile
I am Cain, and I am Judas
I am Moses on the mountain
Weeping out toward the horizon
To the promised land forbidden to me long ago.

I will never rise from darkness
For I seek no greater freedom
And in every life I know the price
But always fear to pay it
And in every land men know my name
And spit upon it from the days of long ago.

For the child becomes the hero
I should always stand beside him
I should never fear the fury
Of the empty men who rule us
But I know my name is Craven
I destroy the dreams of each new age, from long ago.

Our Moment of Culture...

I get weird songs and poems stuck in my head. I don't know why. Maybe I'm the only one who does.

Anyway, I'm taking the bread out of the maker and grabbing a bite to eat, and sit down to look up the words I can't remember to a Kipling poem (Kipling being the only poet I could ever sit still for or take seriously, my whole life) that's been rattling between my ears all damned day. It's called "Hymn to Breaking Strain", and has always been one of my favorites because I've had times in my life when it really hit home. Goes like this:

The careful text-books measure
(Let all who build beware!)
The load, the shock, the pressure
Material can bear.
So, when the buckled girder
Lets down the grinding span,
The blame of loss or murder,
Is laid upon the man.
Not on the Steel - the Man!

But, in our daily dealing
With stone and steel, we find
The Gods have no such feeling
Of justice toward mankind.
To no set gauge they make us, -
For no laid course prepared -
And presently o'ertake us
With loads we cannot bear:
Too merciless to bear.

The prudent text-books give it
In tables at the end -
The stress that shears a rivet
Or makes a tie-bar bend -
What traffic wrecks macadam -
What concrete should endure -
But we, poor Sons of Adam,
Have no such literature,
To warn us or make sure!

We hold all Earth to plunder -
All Time and Space as well -
Too wonder-stale to wonder
At each new miracle;
Till in the mid-illusion
Of Godhead 'neath our hand,
Falls multiple confusion
On all we did or planned -
The mighty works we planned.

We only of Creation
(Oh, luckier bridge and rail!)
Abide the twin-damnation -
To fail and know we fail.
Yet we - by which sole token
We know we once were Gods -
Take shame in being broken
However great the odds -
The Burden or the Odds.

Oh, veiled and secret Power
Whose paths we seek in vain,
Be with us in our hour
Of overthrow and pain;
That we - by which sure token
We know Thy ways are true -
In spite of being broken,
Because of being broken,
May rise and build anew.
Stand up and build anew!

Summer seems to have arrived!

I don't know what the actual temperature is, because an outside thermometer remains on the "really must remember to buy one of these" list. But it's got to be pushing eighty today. High, wispy clouds, hardly any wind at all...geez, if the weather was like this every day I'd be up to my armpits in Californians.

For once the boys aren't bothering me with "Uncle Joel, let's go for a walk!" "Uncle Joel, Fritz is touching my side of the bed!" "Uncle Joel, turn the thermostat up!" No, now it's more like, "Uncle Joel, don't make so much noise."

The weather has been freakishly nice for a freakishly long time, with the exception of some wind. Fritz has started to drop his undercoat; for once I get more hair from him than I do from Magnus when I brush them.

I brought some shingles from the city last weekend, and today I'm working on improving the awning I made for the generator. A perfect time of it, since the wind will get to be more and more a fact of life as the year proceeds. Also I'm not fooled: The winter is not over, it's just waiting for me to relax. I've still much to learn about living here, but even I know that much.