Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh man, oh man, oh man...

I always admired people who could just order all the materials they needed to build something as complex and material-intensive as a house. It always seemed impossible to me: Even when I made that kind of money, I just turned it over to [the woman formerly known as My Wife] and she dealt with all that stuff.

So when there was talk of my building my own house, among those involved in [the place whose True Name is never spoken] I just laughed it off, because real people, I.E. people like me, didn't do things like that. Of course "real people" do things like that all the time, but they're not people like me. They're people with actual ambition and talent. The fact is, it always just seemed outside the realm of the real, and that's where I always left it.

Much of the material for at least the bones of The Secret Lair comes from salvage, and that was all right with me somehow: Tearing apart things other people had built and building other stuff with it made a lot more sense to me than actually coming up with NEW stuff, because that required resources beyond anything I was used to thinking about. Even back when I was making the money, I never really thought beyond the things I needed to sustain life. Everything other than that was unnecessary luxury, which in turn was in the realm of [the woman formerly known as My Wife]. That was the way she liked it, and truth be told that was the way I liked it, too.

But she's long gone, and this is another world, and The Secret Lair is either going to happen or it isn't. I finally had to face the fact that the salvaged material wouldn't get it done. I finally, despite my numerous procrastinations, had to come up with drawings and figures and none of those showed me anything other than that the salvaged materials I had at hand were not nearly enough to finish the framing for The Secret Lair. Also the calender conspires against me: It's the end of July, I don't have anything but a foundation, and winter won't wait.

So it was clearly necessary to actually BUY something. Which in turn meant it was necessary to come up with a list of things to buy, and I knew in my heart that the list would be genuinely heart-stopping. But by this time I had people standing around waiting for me to do something useful, so there was no turning back. Today I did the deed: I ordered the lumber for the framing, and I'll worry how to make the decisions between paying for it and eating as those worries present themselves. It Must Be Done.

God, this is scary.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Things to do today...

  1. Walky Time.
  2. Empty trailer of M's *&^%! concrete.
  3. Run hose, get build site cistern filling barrels for *&^%! concrete.
  4. Figure out how much more lumber I need to frame the lair's walls - conclusion: A lot.
  5. When W goes to town, get him to buy new screen for screen door, damaged when Beauty tried to eat Click.
  6. Figure out if the reason the generator's circuit breaker keeps popping is a weak circuit breaker - conclusion: Apparently not.
  7. Figure out why Click has decided to shit exclusively indoors - conclusion: Damaged cat door.
  8. Fill the cistern.
  9. Water the trees.
  10. Fill the cistern.
  11. Find Little Bear - conclusion: LB has decided he's big enough to leave the property alone.
  12. Explain to Little Bear that he is not, in fact, big enough etc.
  13. Find Little Bear.
  14. Discipline Beauty for trying to kill D&L's psychotic puppy, whether or not he deserved it.
  15. Find Beauty.
  16. Laundry.
  17. Fix screen door - for approximately the 4,936th time.
  18. Fill water jugs.
  19. Empty black water tank.
  20. Replace broken black water tank valve.
  21. Bathe. Bathe again.
  22. Attempt to fix cat door - conclusion: Plastic breaks real good.
  23. Replace cat door, apparently damaged beyond repair by simultaneous entry of cat and large rabbit.
  24. Feed Click to Beauty.
  25. Snacky Time.
  26. Find Little Bear.
  27. Eat breakfast.
  28. Seek serenity in life.

Mostly he just blocks the sun, but...

Once in a while William Shatner becomes indispensable.

This is the artist formerly known as Kirk, reciting what I'm told (I haven't personally confirmed this, and I'm pretty sure I'll always be too squeamish busy to do so) is an actual, word-for-word transcript of a portion of Sarah Palin's farewell speech as Alaska's governatrix.


I think we should have made her VP after all. She sounds much more entertaining than the guy we've got now.

Update: Bummer. YouTube took it down. Copyright violation, doncha know.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm a widdle tinker...

One of my neighbors has been saving his shekels for months, determined that for once he was going to own a really nice, shiny used SUV. He researched, and he shopped, and he did all the right things. Finally, yesterday, he decided he'd found the perfect truck for him. But he wanted a second opinion, and so I tagged along while we caught a ride with another neighbor to the town about 50 miles away where he'd seen the truck.

The truck is really nice: a 2000 Nissan XTerra that's just unbelievably clean for its miles. These people don't have dogs, kids, or one single bad habit. The price was not spectacular, but reasonable. He and I looked the truck over, and damned if we could find a single significant reason for him not to buy this truck. Plus he really liked it.

So he paid the price, counting out $100 bills. And so we drove the truck home, and it was just completely sweet. As far as I can tell, this is the newest 10-year-old motor vehicle I've ever been acquainted with. He was delighted with his new wheels, and especially vocal about the fact that, for the first time in his life, the air conditioner worked!

We made a stop at a store in the little town nearest home; he went in and I stayed with the truck. When he came back, approaching from the rear, I heard him exclaim in horrified tones, "Oh, man! There's something pouring out the bottom!"

I had a fair idea I knew what the 'something' was: after such an uneventful transit, it was unlikely to be coolant or oil. But do want to at least be sure. So I got out, knelt by the truck, and stuck my finger in the rapidly-swelling puddle. Smelled it, tasted it: It was just as I thought.

But I couldn't resist. "Oh, no!" I yelled. I tore off my cap and threw it on the ground. "God damn it!"

I should have ensured myself of the poor guy's cardiac condition before I pulled this. "What? What is it?" I didn't mean to send him into his worst nightmare.

I stood up and laughed. "Nothing," I said. "It's pure water. Condensation from your AC evaporator. It's supposed to do that. If it didn't drain out, it'd ruin your carpet." He'd never owned a car with air conditioning.

There was silence for the space of several seconds, and then my neighbor issued a precise and considered, and entirely negative, opinion of my character. Rather calmly, I thought. :-D

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A parable...

;-) Yeah, I'm in a wordy mood today.

Once a clan of woods creatures were driven from their homes by hard times. Evoking a long-standing treaty, they came to dwell among their cousins the desert creatures.

The woodland and desert creatures had known of each other but not met for many seasons. There were frictions to be overcome, adjustments to be made on both sides. But over time they welcomed and embraced one another through the difficulties. The females of the woodland clan were creatures of winsome beauty, but not without a love of adventure. The males of the desert clan were creatures of ferocity and strength, but not without a sense of grace.

But such unions never come without loss. The chief of the woodland clan was the fiercest of his breed, and never had he refused a challenge, and never had he lost a battle. But he had grown old and complacent, and though he expected to be the master for all his life, it was not to be. He challenged the males of the desert clan for supremacy, but the older males refused to even honor his challenge. The young males, though not vying for leadership of their clan, threw him into the dust with contempt. He found himself outside the counsels of the clans, bitterly standing aloof from both. If he could no longer be chief, he chose to be nothing at all.

This is the way of the world. This is the way generations work. It is not personal, and it is not malicious. But it knows nothing of mercy, or of justice. We must accept it, for there is no escape. We need not love it, for it does not care what we think. It simply is the way.

Thoughts for the day...

Yeah, like you'd profit from following my thoughts :-D

But hey! It's my blog. Here we go.

Fear no one on earth. If God shows up and demands fear, give it some thought: It's good to know when you're really outclassed. But demand to see his credentials first.

Whatever you're doing, have a good time. It's the only one you've got.

Go easy on the sandwich cookies, but don't swear off them entirely unless you just don't like them.

No amount of spice seems capable of making lentils taste like anything but lentils. But if you like lentils, that's cool.

Always, always know what's downrange before you squeeze the trigger.

All of a sudden there's hummingbirds?

The last two summers I've spent here, I've been up to my ass in hummingbirds; all sorts of hummingbirds. Early this summer I set up my feeder as usual, and hardly got a damned thing. It wasn't worth the bother. The neighbors got hummingbirds, but I got nothing.

But all of a sudden they're around, so I went ahead and cooked up some nectar yesterday morning. Within an hour I had dogfights all over the yard.

They're a bit hard to photograph, though...

Saturday, July 25, 2009


After a day like this...

At the conclusion of a job like this...

I am reminded of the words of the great philosopher, The Divine Ms. M,

Who said,

After a day like this,

At the conclusion of a job like this,


Friday, July 24, 2009


And now for something completely humbling.

D&L have been working on their own post and beam house all summer, having finished the foundation pour late last year.

L's been sick with food poisoning, so some neighbors came over to help with some of the heavy beams so they can stay on target. They've got 25 of the needed 55 posts up to date.

No cheating here, every one of these things has hand-chiseled mortise & tenon joints. The actual walls will be straw bale, and the floors pressed adobe. L was mad because the building permit folks made her pour concrete piers for the posts: She insists it (and most of the ugly metal fittings they have to use on the beams) are unnecessary.

The house is on a high ridge and you can see it for a mile (hence the name) and when the afternoon monsoon thunderboomers roll in they put away their tools and take the ladders away so the lightning won't burn the whole thing down before they finish.

These same folks spent the better part of two years building an earthbag workshop, which they needed before they could start work on the actual house. Two retired folks, working at their own speed, and doing work I'm not sure you can even hire contractors for anymore. It's going to be breathtaking.

What We've Been Up To...

While we wait for the building permit on M's structure to come through, (and we got good news on that today) and while I'm stuck on lumber for the Secret Lair, we've been working on his powershed/pantry. Rather than spend a lot of money on trusses for the roof of a building that's gonna be buried under dirt anyway, we just took all the 2X12s left over from my foundation, cut angles in them, and mounted them on sills bolted to the concrete.

Tomorrow the sheathing goes on! Yay!

Conversation at a build site

"You want this inside?"


"Hey, now there's an inside to take it to!"

"Yup. The inside isn't just more outside anymore."



Hey! I note in passing that TUAK has gone over 10,000 clean hits, as of sometime last night.

Thanks for the interest, guys! I know I've been gone the past couple of days, but interesting things have been happening. I'll try to get back with some of them.

I can't believe he ate the whole...

I woke this morning, a little after four, not to the crunching noises that would otherwise have roused me, but to Ghost's clamor to get out and give something in the meadow a good barking. But having been roused, and having struggled to the door to release the hound, I then became aware of the crunching.

Ghost and Little Bear spent the night in the lair with me, which they've been doing lately. I let Ghost out and blearily looked around to see what Little Bear was up to. I found him on the floor, contentedly snogging down on...something. I mentally inventoried my boots: He's already scored an entire pair of sandals and I barely rescued a boot from him but that was a month ago. Since then he's left my intact footwear alone. I looked more closely. Little Bear was happily eating the north end of...a rabbit? Where the hell did he get a rabbit? I know he didn't go out overnight, and I'm pretty sure I'd have noticed if he'd come in with a rabbit. Where, as I said, the hell did he get a rabbit?

I kicked him out: He was reluctant to go until I made it clear that I was not only willing but anxious for him to take his treasure with him. And since then he's been contented crouched in his Treasure Spot, which currently contains an old sandal, a baseball, a tiny portion of deer antler, and (now he's a literature critic?) a dismembered copy of Wrinkle in Time. He rotates the contents of his Treasure Spot. All that was left of the rabbit by the time I'd had my coffee and it occurred to me that this called for a photograph, was a single hind leg. He'd industriously eaten all the rest.

And yet the question remained. Where the hell did Little Bear get a rabbit? The only possible answer is that Click brought it in, ate what she wanted of it, and left the rest for the dogs. Ghost is a very picky eater, and - though he loves to chase them above all things - has never been interested in eating rabbits. So he wouldn't compete for it. It isn't the first rabbit she's caught, but it's the first I know of in years. They're as big as she is, and she must have really worked to get it in through the cat door. I do hope Little Bear at least expressed gratitude.

At a little over four and a half months, Little Bear is now knee-high and growing. We can't decide what he's going to look like: No matter how big he gets he still looks like a big puppy. His parentage includes Akita, Shepherd and Doberman, but he doesn't really look like any of those. W has speculated that maybe Heather had three daddies, and that one of them was a Newfie.

Either way, the days of his nads are now officially numbered. W and I went to a nearby town that has a vet to get a bot fly larva removed from Beauty's tender torso yesterday, and while there I made an appointment for late next month to have the Deed Done. Lick'em while you got'em, Little Bear.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cops and Dogs

Not long ago, as I posted here, Fritz tried his darnedest to take a chunk out of our neighbor cop. The cop's visit was entirely friendly, and he arguably didn't deserve that kind of treatment at the time. I've since heard that the cop in question has vowed never again to visit our property, which I must admit is the outcome I'd hoped for.

In this particular case, even though the cop was very heavily armed, a tragic denouement for Fritz was unlikely. First, one hesitates to shoot the dog of a neighbor. Second, the heavily armed cop was surrounded by two equally-armed people who would be certain to take violent retaliation rather personally.

But as my hero Radley Balko reports in this Daily Beast article, we're lucky the circumstances were as they were or I'd be explaining to my landlady why (at least) one of her dogs got shot.

Cops shooting household pets has been in the news a lot lately, largely as a result of Balko's efforts. And in most of those news accounts, one has to wonder what the cops are thinking at the time. Here, for example, is an account of heroic Cincinnati cops defending themselves against a five-pound chihuahua. Thank god no one was seriously hurt - except for the kid who owned the dog.

Cops never, ever seem to pay a price for their brutality in these cases. I'd expect, since they so routinely fear for their lives at the sight of a bounding pup, that the death and dismemberment rate among unarmed mail carriers, meter readers and UPS drivers must be simply appalling. Yet in fact such service people, whose visits to private property are generally more welcomed by the property owners, rarely if ever suffer any attacks at all. So...WTF?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

All the progress goes to M today...

The guy's an animal. I hate him.

I just flat overslept, not going vertical until after 6:30 and not feeling like doing a damned useful thing except spreading the hoses out where they can do some good on the property and changing the generator oil. M, on the other hand, was out filling trenches before my feet hit the floor at all.

He got S the Road Guy back out today, tearing New! Better! gigantic boulders out of his excavation (M's Lair will be set into a hillside) and digging the entire footer. Bastard.

Er...he also got S to fill in the whole upper-ridge part of my trench, saving me days of work. So...I hate him more. Such insolent efficiency cannot go unpunished.

Heh, heh...S&L heard the diesel commotion and came out to see what we were up to, at a time when neither I, M or W were there at all. Having determined this, they went to turn around in the driveway...and backed their jellybean car right into my water trench. They hiked out to where we actually were, M and I went out to help, and found the poor little thing so high-centered that the left rear tire wasn't even touching dirt. After a short, sweaty attempt to move it ourselves, M went and got S the Road Guy to bring his monumental backhoe to the top of the ridge with a tow chain. He didn't even have to change gears: he pulled the little car out of that trench like there was no trench at all. He then went back to nonchalantly removing gigantic boulders.

I hate him, too.

Ghost's eye is all better, having healed much more quickly than I would have guessed. He came back from his weekend at S&L's this afternoon and immediately began stalking over to W's lair to pick a fight with Bruno or anyone else convenient. He'd have gotten away with it, except he's got a telltale red flag: When he's looking for trouble, his fur stands up along his entire spine. This is a phenomenon I seriously never noticed before. As soon as I see it, I know it's time to head the little bastard off.

Tomorrow we've got to head to town about 8:30. Yesterday morning, in an effort to move some stuff between build sites, I found that the Jeep's starter wouldn't work at all. I checked the fuse, the relay, everything I could find, and it all tested fine. I suspected a problem with the neutral switch, and the voltage readings at the solenoid seem to support the guess, but they really hide those damned things. I couldn't find it, and can't say for certain there's anything I could have done about it if I had found it. Then while I was screwing with that my phone rang, with my neighbor J calling to remind me that I'd promised to go to his place and help him put his dismembered generator back together. So (sigh) I hiked to his place, fixed the genny, and then scored the service of him and his massive diesel pickup to tow the Jeep to the shop in town. Massive diesels seem to be my fate lately. The shop was closed, of course, because everything useful is closed on Saturday in our little town. So we parked and locked the Jeep, and nothing good will happen till M and I go back tomorrow morning. I figure that if I stop playing Lazy Bastard I can get a couple hours' digging in before we have to do that, for Only Then! Can I! Be! Happy!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I've got work to do while it's cool, but...

My left hand is pretty much back to normal, but the right swelled up again overnight so I can't make a fist. It's better than yesterday, but I was still bleeding all over the wool just from trying to pull on a stumpsock. So I'll still be nursing it most of today, but this morning I've got at least some light work I've got to get done. All the hoses have been stretched between the settled property and the building sites, but I need it back for watering the trees and the garden. That's about half a mile of ridge and sandy flat, and dragging it all out of there will be no fun in the heat so I want to get it recovered and spread back out where it belongs while the clock reads single digits and the temperature merely double ones. After that I'll likely spend today like I did yesterday: crawl into the shade, hug my hand, moan and whine, wait for evening, feel sorry for myself...

Say, maybe Bruno can make room for me under W's house. Right now we're two of a kind. M picked up the water pipe I need to fill that horrifying trench L spent two days digging with a backhoe, and for reasons I don't want to publicly discuss I should get at it, but the thought of going near a shovel handle right now... (shudder)

Ghost Update

Yesterday Ghost was looking pretty rough, but by evening the swelling was on its way down. He has a real hard time letting me near the bits that he's hurt, though he's the very opposite of a drama queen, so when he hurts himself it can be hard to determine just how bad it is. But by afternoon his eye was open enough that I could reassure myself there was nothing wrong with the eye itself, and this morning it's almost back to normal and he seems to be getting back to his usual self.

Bruno, on the other hand, pretty much refuses to come out from under W's lair. W says he's not hurt bad, but he takes such things a lot more seriously than Ghost does. He was staggering around like his head was hurt, and limping, but unlike Ghost he is a drama queen. Also he's not used to losing fights. He's gonna have to get used to it, unless we can keep them separated, because Ghost has found a victim and clearly isn't ready to let him off the hook. Hopefully this morning I can get Ghost over to S&L's, and then Bruno will catch a break for a couple of days.

Dumb dogs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

God, ya gotta love YouTube...

This video of my favorite "constitutional law" hypocrite, John "enhanced interrogation" Yoo, getting set up and utterly pwned during a Berkeley lecture, should be run on one of those big Times Square screens.

This is beautiful. Short and sweet.

H/T to Radley Balko

The Wages of, oh, Dog Food, I guess...

Yesterday evening the boys didn't get their meds, because I couldn't stand the thought of using a can opener with my raw-meat hands. So I went to make amends this morning.

I expected it to hurt. I'm an amputee; I can deal with hurt in a good cause, and the boys unanimously agreed that this was the best of all possible causes. But about halfway around the can I'm wondering why this is getting really hard to do; my thumb and forefinger keep sliding off the crank surfaces. So I look down to see what's going wrong...

Yeah, they would be kinda slick, I guess. Dripping blood will have that effect on a metal utensil. Sheesh.

Cops say the darndest things

Surfing around in lieu of work...

Washington DC, like many/most/all cities, has installed many cameras in an effort to squeeze money from city motorists save lives by issuing tickets for speeding and ignoring traffic signals. Get caught by one of these automatic meter maids, and you'll get a fat ticket in the mail. You send a check to your evil overlords, and they make lots of money for no effort. Win/win!

Of course, human ingenuity has a way of trumping the venality of officialdom. A newish product called PhantomAlert lets drivers download camera positions to their GPS units and act accordingly. You'd think that, since these cameras exist solely for the purpose of saving lives, any product that disseminates information about the cameras would be a good thing, right? That information can't help but affect drivers' behavior, and you can't save lives without doing that. Right? After all, the cameras are there to save lives. Right? Just ask any city fee collector cop.

Uh huh.

Police chief denounces 'cowardly' iPhone users monitoring speed traps

Heh. I guess that makes a proper gulcher the ultimate coward! We're about 45 miles from the nearest traffic light here. Aaaand...loving it.

The Wages of Machismo...

Even using a mouse hurts. Air molecules hurt. But my back's in good shape. I doubt M can say the same; it's after six in the morning and I haven't detected his presence, nor do I expect to soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Wages of Sin...

We got an early start this morning, so as to finish the concrete work on M's structure before it got too hot. M and I brought the generator, cement mixer and a few other things over in his pickup, and just as we arrived, in a flurry of dogs that had mostly followed W over, Ghost decided to add a chapter to his ongoing penis-size dispute with W's principal dog Bruno. The initial results were not in dispute: Bruno got slammed into the pickup, immediately rolled over and showed his belly, and then limped home alone and refused to have anything to do with anyone for the rest of the day. End of story, or so we thought.

But this evening as we were enjoying the post-supper evening breeze, W looked at Ghost and said, "What's wrong with his eye?" Honestly, the day has been so busy (and Ghost is so reticent about such things) that I must admit I hadn't even noticed. But he's got a helluva shiner going on, and there's pretty much only one place he could have gotten it.

I'll have to keep an eye (heh) on him for the next couple of days; there may be a trip to the vet in Ghost's near future.

Jimmy the Entombed Rat, and other stories...

Gad, that's a couple of days gone by that make these old bones creak. This morning was supposed to be the hard one, and when I mentioned that yesterday was worse than this morning, M gave me a really, really dirty look. Of course; being the youngest and with all his limbs intact, he was the one who had to schlep all those bags of concrete.

82. Bags. Of concrete. At 80 pounds each. Into a spinning cement mixer, and I can speak from experience when I tell you there are easier jobs on this planet.

Yeah, those are the ones. Of course when he was cursing them and being broken beneath them, they were still full of concrete. Long morning. And then, just to add a bit of insult, we made him buy lunch.

W and I took the concrete out of the mixer and poured it, one coffee can at a time, down the last five courses of that dry-stack block building behind the bags. So technically we lifted as much concrete as M did; we just did it in much smaller increments. I can also speak from experience when I say, that's the best way. Though after a few hours the concrete does start taking the skin off your hands for some reason. W was smart and went to get some vinyl gloves when his hands started hurting. I was an idiotdemonstrated my machismo and now basically have no skin left on my right hand and not a lot on my left. But we both know who's the real man, so...I'm the winner.

Alas, the morning was not without its casualties. In fact we can truly say the building contains a rather old-fashioned foundation sacrifice, in the person of Jimmy the Rat.

It wasn't our idea. We gave him a choice. Really.

We were approaching the end, and M got ready to put together something to block that hole in the concrete block just beside the door. He looked inside for some reason, and exclaimed, "Holy shit! There's a rat in there!"

Magnus loves him some rat. Magnus had been disconsolately nosing around the pile of empty concrete bags, because Magnus knows that where there are piles of things there are rats. It's one of the more fundamental laws of Magnus' universe, but it just wasn't working out today. There was a pile of bags, but not a whiff of rat. The whole time factor thing, you know. Hey, Magnus does the best he can. Most of that walnut-size brain is needed to run the functions of his brontosaur-size body, and it doesn't leave a lot of wiring for logical deduction.

But he does know the word "rat." So when M said the magic word, Magnus came ambling over to see what was on the menu. It was just about then that I poured about a quarter of a coffee can's worth of concrete into the top of the last blocks, to encourage the rat to leave. The rat instantly popped about halfway out of the hole, saw the Jaws of Death waiting, and made a very poor choice: He popped right back in again, and met the rest of the concrete. So now the little guy is a permanent part of the structure. M named him Jimmy. We'll probably mark the tomb entrance before we frame in the door.

But seriously; this morning was nothing like yesterday for sheer excruciating endurance of suffering and tumult. I've said it before: I'm a hermit. My idea of a good day is one in which nothing whatsoever happens, and it does so quietly. Yesterday, at one point, we had:
  • L the neighbor finishing the insanely-long trench with her diesel backhoe, from the well to the cistern and all the way down the ridge to The Secret Lair.
  • S the road guy breaking gigantic boulders out of the side of M's excavation with a tractor-mounted jackhammer. Oh My F'ing God those things are loud.
  • R the delivery guy interminably shuttling back and forth with concrete bags and blocks in an enormous forklift.
  • D the other neighbor showing up with his demented puppy.
  • Magnus employing his apocalyptic methods to teach manners to the puppy.
  • D getting a phone call from a rancher friend who wanted to sell him a solar power system, which caused him and M to jump into D's Jeep and drive away to look it over, while:
  • I tried to encourage water from the well to run all the way down the hill and fill barrels for this morning's concrete pour, which involved sticking hoses together with Gorilla Tape, which worked about as well as you'd expect it to.
This went on, at varying levels of intensity, from 6:30 to about quarter to five. Yesterday it was my turn to make supper for the group, but by the time I made it back to the property my stump felt like it had swelled to a six-foot-in-diameter column of pain, not to mention how completely tired and frazzled I was. So upon my arrival I rather grumpily announced, "That aroma you fail to detect is me not cooking dinner tonight. You will continue to fail to detect it for the rest of the evening." And then I took a shower, and then I went to bed.

So I owe the group supper this evening, which is why I need to wrap this up and go boil some rice.

Sometimes, I must admit, I liked it better when I was a lazy, solitary hermit. But mostly it's kinda fun. And we really are accomplishing a lot. I'm trying not to neglect the dogs too much.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rule One...

...For surviving construction projects in the boonies...

Have a neighbor who owns a backhoe.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yeah, um...

Interesting day. Very busy. Put in damned near a conventional day's hard work today. Yeah. Uh...No, I can't tell you about it.

Not for any sinister reasons. Really! Ignore anything you may have heard on the news; they just make that shit up. It's a conspiracy. No, just...well, tactical. Bad juju.

Um...yeah. I'm too tired to find interesting links, which is what I usually do when I can't think of anything to say or can't say what I'm thinking.

Hey! How 'bout some funny pictures!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wellhouse Complete!

We needed to paint the wellhouse, cut a hole in the center of the casing cap, take all the wiring apart, thread everything through the hole, and put it all back together again. For proper insanity creds, it was essential to do this on the hottest day we could arrange for.

Today was the day!
Here's the really ugly cap installation, which if you ignore all the clutter you can imagine is now complete. M is re-wiring the controller in the background.

We put the final coat of paint on the roof first, so it was plenty dry enough by the time we finished the rest of the building to put the solar panel back on.

That's the completed controller panel.

Connect the last wire on the panel, and AGUA! Fritz and Little Bear, who had accompanied us to the site and spent the next two hours panting in the shade while we painted and puttered, were happy about this part. Not long before we were done Fritz remembered that there was supposed to be water there, and was quite put out to find none. He was digging in the channel the stream had cut over the past week, wondering where the hell the water was.

Next we trench for the water pipe, make a bed for the cistern, move the cistern into place, and lay pipe!

Uncle W, what have you done?

While M and I were moving lumber out of the barn's attic, the boys went on a nice walky with uncle W. Uncle W went up the small canyon, as far as the first water hole which is of course full at this time of year. And Magnus decided nothing would hit the spot like a nice swim. And of course nothing tops off a nice swim quite as well as a roll in the mud.
Uncle Joel has some brushing in store.

It occurred to me that I've never photoed one of the water holes quite that full, so we went right back there. I cheated and took the Jeep, since I already had to go to the wellhouse and get the casing cap to cut a hole in it.

The boys thought this was a fine idea.

And everything was going beautifully, until Magnus came out of the water and ... No! Magnus! Not until I cover the...!

And that was the end of picture-taking until I found my lens cleaner.

Seen in a local feed store...

Pig polish?

So many people polish pigs...that there's actually a product for it?

It's true what they say, you know. The universe is not just stranger than we imagine. It's stranger than we CAN imagine.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Of Sheep, Wolves, Sheepdogs, and Mutts

I'll say right off that I was reminded of this subject, and in particular this very annoying analogy, by this excellent William Grigg essay on the Lew Rockwell site, which I was re-reading this morning. Grigg is writing specifically about a highly-publicized and of course videotaped beating of a fugitive by a couple of cops.

In the course of the article, Grigg makes the hardly controversial observation that, regardless of anything police apologists say, police brutality is a current, pervasive problem which is if anything getting worse rather than better, and that at least part of the reason for this is that police are encouraged to think of themselves as a warrior caste, an elite among men who are enabled by their noble yet aggressive natures to protect the ... well, the sheep.

Grigg reminds us of an article that I, at least, would like to forget. But for today I can't forget it. Excerpted from a police training course called The Bulletproof Mind and a book titled On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict, In War and In Peace, it's written by a man named Lt. Col. Dave Grossman who has apparently made a good living for himself training police officers to think of themselves in this way. It's possible that Grossman is among the principal contemporary reasons policemen no longer think of themselves as civilian peace officers, but instead dismissively refer to those they once claimed to serve and protect as "civilians." They themselves are the Warrior Elite, and warriors are soldiers, and soldiers are not "civilians." They're better than that.

Grossman popularized the characterization of criminals as "wolves," police and soldiers as "sheepdogs," and everybody else as "sheep." He loudly proclaims that police officers, as "sheepdogs," are morally obligated to pursue practices they would cheerfully arrest "sheep" for getting caught at. Example:
If you are a warrior legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be on 24/7 for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself, "Baa."
Grossman's view of the "sheep" is instructive:
We know that the sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kids' school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is to deny that it could happen. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard for them to fathom.
Let us stipulate that there may be some truth to this. We all know people who don't like to think about violence, who deny that bad things can happen to them and theirs, and who are shocked into uselessness when those bad things happen anyway. But why is that exactly? Grossman claims that a sheepdog is "what you choose to be," and yet supposedly sheep are just born that way. It doesn't, it couldn't, have anything to do with public schools that teach from kindergarten to college that violence and the weapons of violence are so completely unacceptable that a child who merely draws a picture of a firearm is suspended from school and stigmatized as a deviant. No, that couldn't be it. It couldn't be because a young person's college career is more likely to survive his being caught with heroin in his backpack than with a tool of personal protection on his belt. No, of course not. There's no conditioning involved here; that's just paranoid. Bad Uncle Joel. And it couldn't have to do with the many, many people who have been prosecuted by the state and then sued into poverty by their would-be aggressors, with the sanction of the state, for the criminal sin of taking self-protection into their own hands. The cries of vigilantism from the mainstream media and predictions of 'blood in the street' should "civilians" be allowed to possess and carry the tools of personal protection, those couldn't have anything to do with it. Sheep are just born that way, and need the protection of the state "sheepdogs." If they weren't the way they are, they'd be cops.


Well, no. Not right. I'm not a "wolf," who feeds on his fellow man. I'm not a "sheepdog," who protects the flock and keeps it herded together for the benefit of the shepherd between fleecings. And I'm sure as hell not a "sheep," one of Grossman's "healthy, productive citizens" with "no capacity for violence." I reject the metaphor absolutely and in detail, unless I get to add a character to his little cartoon show myself.

I'm a mutt. (I've used this analogy before, and it always drives dog lovers nuts: They prefer "mixed breed.") I couldn't care less about herding sheep, or about oppressing them. I have no interest in sheep at all. I know exactly on which end my teeth are kept, and I keep them sharp. I reject all demands that I have them pulled for the benefit of the flock. The flock, as I may have mentioned, does not interest me. I reject aggression, and to the extent my circumstances allow I reject violence, but if violence is forced upon me I will not delegate its use. In that case I'll do it myself. And in that case my aggressor will find me perfectly capable of dishing it out. I'd rather avoid a fight than engage in one, but it would be a terrible mistake to class me among those you consider to have "no capacity for violence."

Mutts are not sheepdogs, and they are not showdogs. I'll never be pretty, and I'll never be rich, and you'll sure as hell never catch me in a blue uniform or any other kind of uniform. All I want, from sheepdogs or wolves, is to be left alone to pursue my life. As long as I get that one little thing, I'm as harmless as a sheep. When I stop getting it, from sheepdogs or wolves, the differences will become apparent. Neither sheepdogs nor wolves should try to speed that day, for neither are my allies. Aggressors all look alike to me; they look like food. I'm a mutt.

And I'm way not the only one.

Out of Curiosity...

...What's wrong with this picture?

H/T to William Grigg @ Lew Rockwell

Friday, July 10, 2009

Despite the heat, trying to keep on track

Went out this morning to do a few tweaks on the Lair's floor lumber before it rained. Yesterday. I finished the drawings for the wall frames; I hope to go get them expertly reality-checked this after the rain (M just came by and wants to go now, so I've got to jackrabbit the keyboard) and then it's time to sweat as we pull down all the framing lumber that's been in the barn attic for over a year, waiting for this moment.

All the boys but Magnus came with me, but their hearts really weren't in it; it's hot, which is not unusual, but it's also muggy as hell between thundershowers. That really does things to your motivation to play, I guess.

Muggy today, with intermittent apocalypse

I think maybe monsoon is getting under way. Yesterday the wash ran a bit, even though it hardly rained at all where we were. Which means it rained like hell further up the canyon. This has been a weird year for rain, but it's the right season for daily showers and occasional inundation/flash floods/possible end of the world as we know it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Somebody figured out the Cap'N'Trade bill!

And it ain't pretty.

The 87,492 page bill -- official designated as the American Patriotic Renewal Act of 2009 for Carbon Reduction, Energy Independence, Heathy Climate, Sustainable Job Growth, Adorable Puppies, and Earthly Paradise -- is a keystone in President Obama's first year legislative agenda, and was originally anticipated to get swift congressional passage. Instead, it faced a unexpectedly tough vote in the House last week after coal state Democrats complained it would place an unfair economic burden on their home districts.

"I am as interested in reversing global climate change as anyone, but I fail to see how increasing taxes and random machete attacks on Ohio coal producers alone will solve the problem," said Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). "Come on people, there are plenty of other industries who deserve machete attacks too."

In order to secure the votes of wavering Democrats, House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman inserted several last minute amendments to the legislation, including provisions for national oxygen rationing, witch burnings, dousings, and phrenology research. But the one that has seemingly stoked a grassroots backlash is the controversial Sexually Inexperienced Citizen Environmental Volunteer Amendment. The wording of the amendment calls for all American virgins over the age of 21 to register with the Selective Sacrifice Board, for possible use as victims in nationally televised vivisections intended to "supplicate the Earth-Spirits."

I don't care what you say, this Iowahawk is one funny frood.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I shouldn't have found it funny...

The local cops had a bit of excitement today. Three burglars were caught breaking into a house a few miles away: Two were stopped but one got away and by all accounts he's a baddie. So cops were having fun all afternoon, barreling up and down the BLM roads and keeping the dogs all stirred up. W and I went and checked on absent neighbors' houses a couple of times. It's the biggest thing that's happened to the local laws in nearly a year, since the last murder in town, and they were playing it up big.

Anyway, a neighbor a couple of miles away is a cop. Around the middle of the afternoon he came into the yard on his ATV, all decked out in a POLICE t-shirt and an AR15. This fellow's never done anything bad to me, but I confess an irrational dislike; I just can't warm up to anybody who's paid (with my tax money, yet) to look for opportunities to do to me what I'd deserve to be shot for doing to him.

He was just being friendly, letting us know what we'd already heard through the grapevine. As he was pulling out the dogs got into the act, which I discourage because Ghost is a tire-biter. But Fritz saw a better target: He flew out from under a juniper and went for the cop's leg. From John Law's reaction he got more than cloth, too. I yelled at him for an idiot and called him off.

Till the cop left. Then I called Fritz over. "Good dog," I said. W gave me a look, but didn't say anything about it. I assume he just doesn't like it when I give a dog confusing signals. :-D

For New London, it seems, irony tastes like bird shit.


Unfortunate, But Birds Pay No Taxes.


What is it about city councilcreatures, anyway? They're like homeowner association board members, but without the intelligence, charm and benevolent intent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Secret Lair has a floor!

I have the OSB surface but won't put it down until I'm ready to frame, because that would guarantee the onset of monsoon. So the next visible change to the structure will take a while. But we got the whole floor structure done today! Yay!

Very sweaty and tired now. Plus as a last act I stepped in a plumbing trench and wrenched my knee. Shower. Booze. Paperback. Sleep.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New water source! Pt. 4

Well, M called the company that made his well pump, to see if he could get the anti-flowback valve specified in the manual for deep wells. The fellow on the phone said, "No, that's old information. You don't need anything more than you've got."

So afternoon heat be damned, he wanted to see water coming out of his well and nothing (including my piteous whines) was going to stop it. After I crawled out of the shadows and saw all the work he'd gone to laying out the cable, hose and rope, it was clear he had achieved new heights of fanatic dedication. Off to the desert sun we went.

Load the whole 100-pound package into the back of the pickup:

Lay it all out, knock the cap off the well casing, and prepare to lower away. We wanted about 150' of depth. All was simple enough, but there was one little problem...

...the deeper we went, the heavier the whole thing got. If you've got two guys heaving it into a pickup together, there's no problem with that much weight. If you've got one guy supporting it all with a small poly rope, well, whining will ensue. I did it, and whined, and M thought I was being overdramatic so he took over. We both agreed that A) there must be a better way, and B) we should have brought gloves. But still, we got it in there.

Went back and got the panel. Bolted it to the roof, wired up the panel, pump and ground rod to the controller, and...


Recent Intercepted Memo:

FROM: Admissions Department, Hell

TO: United States of America, North American Continent, Earth

RE: Recent Admissions Application

While in the past it has been our policy to accept your evil dead for processing and karmic justice without regard to the severity of the recent decedent's earthly crimes, we regretfully find a difficulty in regard to your most recent applicant.

Energy prices having risen over the past decades to unsupportable levels, we must conclude that it is simply no longer possible to make Hell hot enough for this applicant to be properly processed. Therefore we regret that we must reject your application for this decedent's admission. Your comments with regard to an "appeals" process are perplexing to the management of this department: We must request clarification as to your definition of "appeal" and point out that it was your management, and not ours, which continually moved the decedent to offices of continually higher authority and potential for damage infliction.

Therefore, as previously noted, we are forced to conclude that this one's your problem, booby. Hell just isn't punishment enough. May we suggest you promote the corpse to senior management of General Motors instead?

Conversation at a build site

M: "If we cut these forms straight up, we could tape them up and re-use them!"

ME: (wantonly tearing forms apart) "You're a maniac. You know that?"

Random Acts of Progress

Well, we're a little stalled on installing the pump in M's water well, because the small print says you want an extra valve in the system if you're pumping more than 100 feet to keep from bleeding the water back into the well. This does, on reflection, seem more important than getting the well pumping NOW, so we've held off while M orders the part.

Yesterday we (hopefully) accomplished a major milestone in removing irritants from the infrastructure. [WARNING: Embarrassing disclosure follows - may not be child-safe] The owners paid a local "expert" to install the solar system and what should have been a ridiculously-overspeced battery bank about five years ago. And for five years, people have been saying things like "Why do we have so many big-ass batteries and so little electrical storage?" This is interspersed with statements like, "This isn't the way I was taught to wire a series-parallel circuit." But the "expert" insisted everything was fine, and nobody who lived here felt competent to do what in their hearts they wanted to, which was just re-wire the batteries. Well, since our population suddenly tripled this has become an issue once more, and quite the subject of conversation. One of our neighbors has been developing an expertise in off-grid DC systems, so we just decided to cut through the bullshit and hire him to come out and tell us what the hell is wrong. He diagrammed our circuit, bit through his cigar, and then rather shyly informed us that only six of those sixteen big-ass batteries are actually doing anything useful, and that two of the six have gone to meet Jesus. Yesterday he re-wired the fourteen good batteries and tweaked the voltage regulator. Early indications are encouraging: This morning for the first time since I bought it a few months ago, my coffee maker did NOT kill the system.

This morning we stripped the forms off the cabin piers and sorted the 2X12s I've held stacked at the staging area at the top of the ridge between those I'll use for the floor joists and those M will use to roof his powerhouse. Then we carried mine down the 30' hill to the cabin, which was all the work a sane person would wish on himself. I'm eating oatmeal between sentences in this post, and as soon as I'm done I'll get some bread going and then go back and do the bolting and screwing that will firmly establish those big 16' stringers. By then, if today goes the way the past three or four have, it'll be so hot there'll be nothing rational to do but siesta till four in the afternoon or so.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

New water source! Pt. 3

The wellhouse is complete except for paint. There's talk of finding a London Underground sign.

Next step: Electrical and plumbing, lower the pump into the casing, and see if we can pump it clear. Dunno how much of that we're going to accomplish today, though: We've social obligations later this afternoon, and both M and I have been dragooned into baking bread for the get-together.

UPDATE: M got all the wiring and plumbing together and sealed against water incursion, we filled a barrel with water as a source for the pump, and there was no further excuse not to test.

We carried the solar panel into the sun, whipped off the blankets that had masked it...

...And we heard the submerged pump start to whir at once. It's a low-flow pump, designed to run continually whenever there's enough light on the solar panel and the cistern isn't full, so it took a couple of minutes before all that tubing filled. But as soon as it did...


Next step: Install it all in the well.

Frankly at the rate of flow I've now seen this thing deliver, I'm more than ever wondering if it's ever going to be possible to pump the well clear. But we'll see. At worst, we'll need the coarse filter we're already planning to install.

Conversation in a gun store, with body language.

ME: "Do you have any .45 ACP...

COUNTERMAN: Face falls.

ME: "...snake shot?"

COUNTERMAN: Face lights up. "Yes, we do!"

Friday, July 3, 2009

New water source! Pt. 2

Well, I was gonna save all this for one post, but it's becoming a bit time-consuming.

M got back the water analysis, and except for all the sediment it looks like we punched a hole in an aquifer with the sweetest, least-toxic water in the western hemisphere. So it's time to go for it.

M and I want to set up the pump for the new well so that we can try to pump it clear, but first we needed a place to put the controller and the solar panel. So step one is the wellhouse.

Made a quicky foundation from block and planted the anchor bolts. We didn't quite have enough concrete from the Lair's foundation pour to finish filling the blocks (I guessed pretty close to right!) We'll have to fill in a bit later.

Then M built the frame for the wellhouse while we waited for the concrete to set up, and we transported it to the site.

Then we hung the door and sheathed the walls till we, er, ran out of plywood. Ah, well: We still have the material for the roof, which we didn't put up because it got too bloody hot, but that'll only take a bit and then we can start setting up machinery.

Once we start pumping, we'll send the water down the little gully behind my new lair and I'll see how much rock I need to move to get the damned stuff to stay in its channel and stop flowing right under my cabin, mud and all. Updates to follow!