Friday, October 30, 2009

I could tell you his name...

...but then...well, you know the rest.

In certain online circles, he goes by the nym Penguinsscareme. There's actually a serious story behind that, which doesn't stop the teasing. Let's just call him PSM.

We've never actually met, though we've come close once or twice. Might happen sometime, and I'd like that. He comes across as a helluva guy. He has been to exotic places, and has earned his scars and his joys. I think that after the fourth beer he and I would have stories to tell one another. Sharing a laugh - and maybe a tear - with PSM is actually one of the things I hope to accomplish before I leave this world.

It's been a bad couple of days, what with winter making its sudden appearance. It's always that way: Later the cold will just be a part of life, but coming on so suddenly it seems a terrible imposition. My body is flirting with some bug probably brought to the surface by the sudden weather change; I've been cocooning indoors for two days and wondering how sick I'm going to get. Headaches, heartburn. Maybe just a touch of fever coming on this afternoon. W and I went to town for no very important reason, mostly just to get away for a while, and the subject of PSM came up between us. And so it may not have been a complete coincidence when, after a couple of shots of rye, I stumbled upon this two-year-old missive from the friend I've never met:
To lay aside one's own individual sense of being right for the sake of preserving or restoring a relationship with another person EVEN IF THAT OTHER PERSON IS WRONG requires a command of individuality that I rarely see anywhere. It requires humility. As freedom lovers we may tend to think of humility as weakness, to associate it with subjection. But true humility can only be evinced by a person who has the choice not to be humble. I am convinced that one of the most meaningful things a person can do with their freedom and sovereignty is to lay it aside (not lay it down, if you can grasp the difference here) for the sake of another.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If this is a joke, it's a funny one.

If it's real, it's even funnier.

Read the letter below - supposedly a missive from Ahnold's office to the california assembly about a bill spending money on San Francisco, which Ahnold has decided to veto. (The bill, not the city.)

Then read the first letters in each line of the second and third paragraphs, vertically. Click for embiggenment.

Coincidence? I don't think so. Fraud? Yeah, probably. But it's still funny.

H/T to Radley Balko.

Chapter Three,... which Skilled Professionals flood the Gulch and do skillful things with the power system...

Didn't happen yesterday.

We wondered, upon rising, whether they'd show up at all. W had a series of telephone calls in which the Skilled Professionals waffled over the wisdom of trying to make here on our roads. Being the dedicated mensches they are, they gave it a shot.

It was a poor choice. The last phone call involved a large truck semi-permanently implanted in a ditch about three miles away, hard up against a large fencepost. When we ferried the SPs and their gear to the Gulch, ... it turns out the company sent all the wrong hardware and nothing got accomplished. So rather than host them as guests for a week until the road is passible, W took his life and his SUV in his hands and took them into town. We tried, and a neighbor with a tractor tried, to move their truck. Wasn't hap'nin'.

So now it looks as though Chapter Three is postponed for two more weeks. No sun yesterday (the panels are covered with white stuff anyway) and so far none today. It's a darn good thing somebody is keeping track of the oil change schedule on the generator, because it's the only thing keeping the lights on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From the "Really! Don't be on my side" Department...

Swallow all eating and drinking materials before starting either video at this link. TUAK management is not responsible for the safety of your monitor or keyboard.

What I learned from these videos:

* You’re 14 times more likely to survive a gunfight with body armor… but it’s heavy, so don’t wear it.
* Bullets go through walls.
* The Remington Upland Special is a state-of-the-art tactical shotgun cleverly disguised as a bird hunting gun. You definitely don’t want to be within 10 feet of one.
* When you draw a knife, try to hold onto it. Knives are not disposable.
* Rifles, on the other hand, are. If your rifle jams, throw it away.
* Bullets go through walls.
* Remember to go back for your rifle later so the “skinnies” don’t steal it.
* Balaclavas should be worn at all times.
* When people make fun of your AR-15, switch to your OTHER AR-15.
* Slings are bad because it is impossible to “run like a banshee” with a slinged rifle.
* If you can’t bear to throw your rifle on your 1970s shag carpeting, it is acceptable to lean it against your closet door instead.
* You can make a lovely ghillie suit out of Ace bandages and Post-It notes.
* Bullets go through walls.

May the Lord bless you all.

"I never meant to do any harm..."

"Well, you know...other than to the people I murdered."

Sales of Walt's Gulch having fallen to 0, I have elected to serialize it on the Survival Podcast Forum. You can read it for free here.

First Snow!

I woke up at about 1:15 this morning, looked outside, and... Aw, crap.

Well, it was bound to happen.
Yep; it hasn't so much as flurried before now, and we get four to six inches depending on where you sink the ruler on your multitool. Winter Has Arrived.
And Little Bear says, "Cool! All this white stuff! And it makes your paws all cold, and you can eat it, and...!" And Fritz says, "Yeah, kid. We'll see if you still like it in February. Oh, and you should run inside and jump right on Uncle Joel's bed while you're covered with the stuff. He really likes it when you do that."

gettin' them on the roof!

W, bless his fat wallet, purchased four new 200-watt solar panels in anticipation of the big upgrade which is due today. With the snow and uncertainty about road conditions, we'll have to see if it actually happens today.
The four panels together would be 13' wide, which wouldn't fit well on our 9.5'-wide power shed. So W and I built two racks, for two panels each. One can go on the power shed, the other on the Big Dog House.
Then me and M spent four hours Monday morning getting the racks and panels on the roofs and Very Securely bolted down. We had to cut a bunch of shims to get the panel angles right for winter; multiple shims allow us to adjust the angles for summer if we want to. Since the rafters on the BDH run the wrong way for us to screw into them, we drilled through the roof plywood, used really long 3/8" bolts, and sandwiched the roof between the 2X4 racks and more 2X4s below.

W, having spent the equivalent of a used truck purchasing the panels, was very concerned about the effect of wind on our home-made racks. "The roof might come off the building," I told him, "But the racks aren't coming off the roof." We canted these so that each rack points to solar South for that little extra bit of efficiency. Yesterday we had a loverly all-day windstorm, and nothing moved at all. Last thing in the world we all want is to lay awake on windy nights, listening for the crash.
And now, once they're actually connected, our collection capacity should be more than doubled. We'll see how well it works in practice.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is it bad that I've never heard of this person?

Hoyer, speaking to reporters at his weekly press briefing on Tuesday, was asked by where in the Constitution was Congress granted the power to mandate that a person must by a health insurance policy. Hoyer said that, in providing for the general welfare, Congress had “broad authority.”

“Well, in promoting the general welfare the Constitution obviously gives broad authority to Congress to effect that end,” Hoyer said. “The end that we’re trying to effect is to make health care affordable, so I think clearly this is within our constitutional responsibility.”

Hoyer compared a health insurance mandate to the government’s power to levy taxes, saying “we mandate other things as well, like paying taxes.”

When asked if there was anything the constitution didn't allow congress to do, he mumbled some blather about how they couldn't force people to drive GM cars. Of course they do have the power to dictate what GM and everybody sells. Some of them would like to prevent us from buying and driving cars at all. So basically, the answer is "no."

Here's this person I've honestly never heard of before this morning, telling me what I have to buy if I wish to remain in a "condition of lawful residence in the United States.” Y'know what, Steny? (May I call you Sten?) The answer is "no." Not only no. Hell no.

I'll put it in more simple terms for you, Sten.

You. Ain't. The. Boss. Of. Me.

Notice how I didn't use a single obscenity? Well, except for "c*ngress," but that was in the article.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Think about the power!"

Terrorists are everywhere, comrades. Be afraid! Your neighbor, your grocer, that greasy punk that screwed up your wheel alignment, that swarthy guy over there! Anybody could be a terrorist! Think of the power of being able to inform on them!

In East Germany, they say, there was one full-time Stasi agent or informer for every 66 citizens. Counting part-timers like the people in this creepy PSA, it might have gone as high as one for every 6.5. East Germany eventually imploded, but it was a hell on earth while it lasted. These "iwatch" people (notice how I didn't use an obscenity there?) seem to think it sounds like fun.

H/T to Radley Balko.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I don't know anything about the whole "Kenyan" thing...

...and in fact don't care anything about Obama at all and am not a big fan of the Army. But this (Forwarded to Mike Vanderboegh by "someone in the Army") is just some kinda funny, right here. If I were in the Army, or had ever been, it's pretty much the way I'd feel. Of course I wouldn't reserve the feeling for Obama, but it would definitely apply.

My little boy's growing up!

They grow so fast. One day you look up and your tiny baby is rivaling the mutant Shepherd for size, chewing your boots to tiny shreds, chewing your neighbor's boots to tiny shreds, stealing entire garbage cans...

Yeah. Why am I feeling sentimental? Anybody want a dog?

M's Dome, another update

M's front wall is progressing slowly, but it's progressing. We ran into a bit of a problem mounting the door frame today; it's not exactly made for block walls and needs a bit more finessing than we anticipated, but it'll fit. Building inspectors have already signed off on the wall, so that's cool. The shotcrete deadline approaches!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Global Cooling, Ice Age to Exterminate Life On Earth, Scientists Say

Heh...they didn't really say that.

They didn't say that Al Gore is full of shit, either. Without mentioning any names, they just implied it really really hard.

(click to get it to fit)
Global cooling by 0.71 deg C from 1878 to 1911, for 33 years.

Global warming by 0.53 deg C from 1911 to 1944, for 33 years.

Global cooling by 0.48 deg C from 1944 to 1976, for 32 years.

Global warming by 0.67 deg C from 1976 to 1998, for 22 years.

In addition to the data above that show cooling and warming phases of mean global temperature anomalies, there exist supporting documents that describe the climate of those periods in the media:

For the global cooling from 1878 to 1911, the headline in The New York Times on 24-Feb-1895 was PROSPECTS OF ANOTHER GLACIAL PERIOD.

For the global warming from 1911 to 1944, the headline in The New York Times on 15-May-1932 was Melting Polar Ice Caps to Raise the Level of Seas and Flood the Continents

For the global cooling from 1944 to 1976, the headline in Newsweek on 28-April-1975 was The Cooling World.

Yummy Shooty Goodness

M, W and I headed for the pistol range in the wash today, really for the first time since they got here. M and I had popped some caps together, but what with one thing or another it seems like we're too busy to get together as a threesome. Ammo prices being what they are, we're all pretty much treating our centerfire ammo like it's cast from pure platinum so most of the shooty stuff we brought was .22, but W did bring his precious Anaconda, a pistol I've never actually fired before today. Yummy - this is doing nothing whatsoever to alleviate my attack of Wheelgun Want.

It's only illegal when you do it.

It's time to play that time-honored children's game, "One of These Things is Not Like the Others." In this case we're going to examine three case histories of people accused of a supposed offense called "tax evasion."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Afternoon at the local gun show...

The gun club in the little town near where I live has been holding an annual gun show for the past few years, and for the past few years it has been a pretty pathetic affair. They haven't been able to lure many out-of-town vendors, so it's mostly local guys with a few guns on a table.

This year was a little better; there were a few vendors who are, judging from their investment in glass cases, minor-league gun show regulars. Still didn't take long to get through everything there was to see, though. I'm afraid I'm getting the bug for a big-bore wheel gun. Fortunately, since I have no money for such things, I'm pretty sure it'll pass.

Overheard conversation, concerning a single-action revolver:
Woman: Thanks for showing me that. I was feeling pretty stupid, not even knowing how to load it.

Man: Oh, single actions have their quirks. Nobody's born knowing it. Well, unless you're a guy.
I had an interesting encounter, the sort of thing that only happens to me around here. This being a typical gun show with typical legal requirements, loaded guns weren't allowed inside so I left mine outside. But I still had my everyday-carry knife with me because, well, why would I take it off? I left my pants on too, y'know? It was this one, though it's been kinda chewed since I took this picture:

There are places where the mere sight of a knife like that on somebody's belt would cause all the honest citizens to simultaneously lose sphinctor control, while SWAT teams are mobilized from as far away as Maui. This isn't one of those places, which is why I love it. Anyway, M and I were looking at some rifles when a woman's voice behind me says, "Excuse me, sir." And I turn around and here's this nice-looking lady with a show tag on, and right away I start wondering what the problem is and who I'm gonna have to kill to get out of it. She points to my belt and says, "I was just wondering what kind of knife that is. I was admiring it from my booth over there." And so me and this dressed-up lady start talking about Cold Steel knives. And how often does that happen where you live?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'd honestly forgotten... much I hate dealing with Tracfone.

A few weeks ago a friend gave me a very nice gift: A reconditioned Tracfone camera phone. This one (supposedly) has the advantage of double minutes, which would be a big help since lately I've been spending a lot more time on the phone than I like. I sat right down at my pooter to switch my number over to this new phone.

Went through the Tracfone website, and there was (why didn't I see this coming?) some problem with the phone requiring them to send me a new SIM card. Please call our customer service number at 1-800-FUTILITY. So I called, spoke with a very nice Indian guy, got the whole thing set up.

Twenty minutes later I got an URGENT MESSAGE on my phone saying they couldn't do it, fuck you very much and goodbye.

Well...okay. I figured that, since maybe half a dozen people in the world have my number anyway, I'd just get a new number, activating the phone the usual way. But I spent all my month's money on roofing for the Secret Lair, so it would have to wait till I had money for phone time. Set the new phone down next to my pooter so I wouldn't forget it, and forgot it.

Today I got a REGISTERED LETTER from Tracfone, saying they'd tried several times to get hold of me (no they hadn't) and wouldn't I please call them at 1-800-OUROFFICESWILLBECLOSEDIFYOUFALLFORTHIS. W had picked up the letter from the post office while he was in town and said, "No, man, you don't need to buy time. There'll be twenty minutes on the phone when you activate it. Just go ahead and do it."

That didn't jibe with my experience, but what the hell? So I went back to the website, went through the whole activation thing, and got "We sent you a SIM card. Didn't you get it?" I clicked no. "Well, sorry, fuck you very much, please call 1-800-AREYOUREALLYGOINGTOFALLFORTHISAGAIN? So being a complete putz, I called the number. Spoke with a very nice Indian guy. Who put me on hold. Came back a while later to ask if he could put me on hold more. I said, "Look, this phone I'm talking on is running out of time." I had, of course, not re-charged the time on the phone because I vainly hoped I was switching phones. He put me on hold more. I watched the time tick away on my phone.

When the phone started beeping at me, I hung up on the Indian guy who had probably gone home to his curry by then anyway. Picked up the registered letter. Punched in the number, 1-800-MYGODYOUAREAGULLIBLEPUTZ. Got "Our offices are closed right now..."

Yes, I'm supposed to be working.

Uncle Joel has a freelance gig. Uncle Joel hasn't done any technical writing for years, and this gig is reminding him why. Would you like to know all about the ionization of copper and silver in swimming pool water, boys and girls? How about the use of Biguinides? Of course you wouldn't! Because you're not crazy!

So Uncle Joel is screwing around and wasting time instead! And here's some funny, snarky goodness about our president that Uncle Joel found on the Internet, where he shouldn't be, courtesy of The Breda Fallacy!

Warning - Cute Puppy Video

I've occasionally said I want to add an ankle-biter to the pack, just because I have the perfect name - "CoyoteShit."

Not really - I'd never want one of those yappy little abominations around me. But this one is kinda cute. Plus it reminds me of the interactions between Little Bear and Click, but without all that annoying slobber.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who's! My! Handsome! Boy!

Well, the clown collar has been off for a couple of days. I told Fritz he was on probation: First time I saw him scratching at that ear it went right back on, but I guess the healing has progressed far enough. For a long time he'd come to me, almost frantic, begging me to scratch his ear for him but it had been a while since he did that so it was time to lose the collar. I don't really believe know that the ear will ever stand up straight and stiff again, but at least the lesions caused by the stitches and bandages have healed now.

I'm a little sad to notice how much easier it is to groom Fritz now that Magnus is gone. Magnus loved to be brushed, and it took physical force to get him to let anyone else have a turn. And with the clown collar it was really hard to get around Fritz to groom him, and he had gotten pretty matted. Today we spent about an hour and a half in two sessions, and I nearly filled a waste basket twice.

That's less than half the hair I got from him. I told him he'd better behave, or I'll take him out and knit another dog that looks just like him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Moment of Culture

Once upon a midnight dreary
While I pondered, weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded in the hushing
Suddenly there came a rushing
As of someone slowly flushing
Water 'cross my chamber floor
Only this and nothing more.

Wearily I wished the morrow,
Vainly I had sought to borrow
Plungers to relieve my sorrow
Mops to dry the soggy floor
I slowed it down and nothing more.

Ankle deep in water standing,
Long I stood there, wheezing, panting,
Weeping, cursing curses no mortal cursed before!
As the mess was slow subsiding
My thoughts were strong to go a-riding
To dry my troubled clothes, perchance to find a liquor store
I jumped astride my motor scooter
A big black bird screamed, "Roto Rooter!"

New Project!

Chapter One, In Which Uncle Joel Carries Heavy Objects and Does Scary Things With Electricity.

The real heavy lifting has already been done by W, who signed a contract with a solar electric company and wrote a check with more zeroes than are contained in Fritz's I.Q. - except that the amount on the check contained numbers other than zero.

Delivered yesterday - by which I mean, we loaded them onto a truck and then unloaded them into the power shed - were four brand-new six-volt batteries and four 200-watt solar panels. That's more generating power than is contained in the whole existing panel array, by quite a stretch. Other gadgetry is coming.

One of the many things wrong with the existing system is that the inadequate solar collectors were attempting to charge sixteen of these 12-volt batteries. When I disconnected eight of them a couple of months ago, cutting the supposed storage capacity in half, the system actually improved. Slightly. These batteries are shot, and who could blame them.

So...step one was to take the old batteries right off-line and replace them with a much smaller bank of four six-volt batteries. Eventually, of course, we'll have to increase the size of the bank but this is as far as the money went. They're wired in series, giving us the same 24 volts. One major improvement - all these batteries work.

The first thing I learned a few months ago, when M and I disconnected all the batteries for testing, is that the battery circuit in this system





Also no big scary knife switch, no way of disconnecting the circuit AT ALL that doesn't involve a wrench. Turning the inverter off before monkeying with the connections doesn't help at all, because somewhere in there is a big-ass capacitor. Arky Sparky! Uncle Joel Not Like.

But this was reasonably painless: At least this time I was ready for it. The retrofit will, of course, have a circuit breaker but for now we have what we have. I disconnected the old bank, salvaged as many cables as I needed, and re-wired the bank with these new batteries.

I also, in the process, found a bad connection coming off the fuse that may have been caused while I was jerking cables around this morning, but which I suspect was there all along and couldn't have been helping a thing.

These are the new solar panels, which you can barely see because right now the power shed is a little cramped for space. Sorry.

And this is where they need to go. Uncle Joel won the fierce bidding to be the one who figured out how to get 13' of solar panels to fit on a 9' roof, and then actually do that. (Translation: Uncle Joel was drafted.) How's that going to work? Stay tuned; I'm interested in the answer to that myself.

This is what we've got now. The new 800 watt array will not in itself be adequate, so we're still going to use these. But part of the problem with the existing system is that the panels are mis-matched, and just tying four more mis-matched panels into the existing array wouldn't be a big help. So we're still going to use these, but add a separate charge controller for the new panels giving us two arrays working more-or-less independently in a manner that probably makes perfect sense to the new system designer and God, but which is absolute Greek to me.

The good news: All I need to supply is the grunt work. An installer's going to do all the thinkum and make it all work.

So...Why do we need YOU?

This reminds me - Because most things do - of a line from Firefly:

Well, I appreciate your honesty. Not, you know, a lot, but...

The fact that Robert Reich is speaking at all used to scare me - now it just sort of makes me tired. What really scares me now is the applause lines. Why are these kids applauding?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Schwarzenegger Signs "Smuggle Ammo Into California" Act

Aren't you glad you moved out of California? Don't you wish everybody (except the sort of people who think things like this are a good idea) did?

New California law tracks ammunition sales
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bevy of bills into law, including one that will require ammunition sellers to collect and keep information from all buyers, including a thumbprint, signature and driver's license data.

Internet and mail-order sales will be eliminated, because sales must happen in person. Read the bill here.

The governor's signature reverses his earlier position.

"Although I have previously vetoed legislation similar to this measure, local governments have demonstrated that requiring ammunition vendors to keep records on ammunition sales improves public safety,'' Schwarzenegger said in a statement.
I'll be soliciting investors for my new importation business as soon as my distribution network is in place. Please God I'm not too late, because I'm sure every shooter with a truck in the western states will have the same idea.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A second look at the Nobel Prize

Okay, I admit it. When I heard the news yesterday morning my thought was the same as everyone else's: Barack Obama? Current U.S. prez? The guy in charge of two pointless wars and countless armed interventions? Leader of the biggest and most actively destructive military machine on the planet? THAT Barack Obama? WTF has he done for whirled peas? And come to think of it, what could he have done by Feb 1, when the nominations closed? He hadn't been in office a week!

But then I had second thoughts. I mean, the peace prize has been a joke for more than a century. And at least he joins the ranks of such luminaries as Al Gore, Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama who, while they never brought peace to anything, at least haven't killed all that many people themselves.

It could be worse. I went to a list of recipients, and in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in addition to the famous terrorist Yasser Arafat it contains a list of some real monsters - or at least people and organizations whose actions brought monstrous results. Such as:

The United Nations 2001
Fredrik Willem De Klerk
UN Peace Keeping Force 1988
Menachem Begin
Henry Kissinger
Le Duc Tho, (who alone among recipients had the grace to decline the prize)
International Labor Organization
Cordell Hull
Charles Dawes
Woodrow Wilson
Theodore Roosevelt

You have to give the Prize committee credit for one thing, though. It has done one wonderful and honest thing, and it has done it repeatedly. It awarded the Peace Prize to:

None of the Above (1914, 15, 16, 18, 23, 24, 28, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 48, 55, 56, 66, 67, 72)

How I got more from a gas generator

Our solar system was - to put it kindly - poorly designed. We're retrofitting it now, but for five years an inadequate solar array has tried manfully to fill a grossly oversized battery bank and consistently failed. The wonder is that the batteries lasted even as long as they did. Needless to say we run the generator a lot.

This actually worked - sort of - while there was only one or two people here and no large appliances. That has recently changed, and the system's inadequacies have made themselves felt. Over the past couple of months I've run into an extremely annoying problem where the generator's 20-amp circuit breaker would pop every five or ten minutes during bulk charging.

The inverter has an eight-gauge cable coming out to the generator, with a three-prong plug to connect to a 120-volt outlet. For years this was enough, but now no matter how I reset the inverter the system demanded more than 20 amps. I thought maybe the problem was with the circuit breaker, but replacing it gave no relief. Also, since we also used the generator to run the well pump, it seemed like a terrible waste of gasoline not to simultaneously charge the system and run the pump. But this was no longer possible. With more people in the gulch, all of whom used what seemed to me like a great deal of water, every time I checked the cistern it was damned near empty. It was really getting under my skin.

Though nominally responsible for maintenance I am, alas, no electrician. It was all a mystery to me, what was happening or how to fix it. But a friend offered an interim solution, at least to the generator problem.This generator, and every other generator I ever paid attention to, has a four-prong 240-volt outlet that I never use. My friend sent me the graphic above and told me that I could get 120-volt power from it at higher amperage if I wired a plug using only three of the connections: Green, white, and one black. This would allow me use of the 30-amp circuit breaker, and also let me simultaneously run the well pump off a 120-volt outlet. The plug I needed to buy was expensive - it turns out this particular plug design is peculiar to generators - but when I followed his advice it worked out extremely well. I've been running it this way for the past couple of weeks with no more popped breakers and no more empty cistern. Success!

Friday, October 9, 2009

On the greeting of strangers in the desert, a parable.

A funny thing happened a few days ago. M and I had been working on his dome that morning, and he, W and I were sharing lunch under the barn's porch. W looked over at the next ridge and saw a dark minivan slowly coming down the road that runs along its spine - the same road that leads to M's property. It was moving in fits and starts, like the driver was looking for something.

M got some binoculars and started glassing them just as two people got out. They were wandering around on the parcel on the other side of the road, belonging to the brother of a friend of ours. He said to me something like, "We should go see if we can help those folks."

M and I were dressed the way we usually are during a normal day. He looked like the respectable young man he is: clean and well-groomed, T-shirt and jeans, skateboard-taped wonder-nine on his hip. I looked like something that had just spent ten years in a cave: Scraggly beard, camo pants, torn t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, belt knife and shredded boony hat. I wasn't wearing my .45, which meant I had my WUC (World's Ugliest Carbine) close to hand. We went down to the wash, climbed the slope on the other side, and vectored in on where these folks were following the cliff on the far side of the ridge.

For a wonder most of the dogs elected to stay home, which as it turns out was just as well. But Little Bear tagged along at a distance. As we approached the strangers, M suggested that he greet them and I hang back with my long gun, so that's what we did. In hindsight I think maybe he meant I shouldn't approach them at all: I'm not the friendliest guy with strangers.

As soon as M cleared the brush and greeted them, I could see that this wasn't exactly going to be a Red Dawn re-enactment. It turns out that what we had here was a profoundly misplaced couple from New York who had for some reason bought a parcel of desert land about four years ago and now couldn't quite find it. In fact the guy had never been here at all and pretty clearly wished he had left it that way. They didn't look any too happy to meet M, though he was as friendly as could be. I couldn't hide back in the junipers all day, so I figured, "Wait'll they get a load of me" and stepped out, slinging the carbine. Yeah, that did the trick.

They had two "dogs" with them, a constantly-yapping ankle-biter that never left Momma's arms and a funny-looking little thing sort of like a designer pit bull on a leash. Seriously, I've no idea what breed it was but it looked like what you'd get if Andy Warhol designed a pit bull terrier. Little Bear, seeing there was no danger, came out from behind me. He immediately took a dislike to the unfriendly little thing on the leash and got in his face. Now there were three barking dogs, pretty much drowning out whatever it was M and the lady were saying to one another. The guy with the leash never said a word, just kept backing away and trying to save his darling whatever-it-was from the ravening black beast (My floppy puppy). I'm thinking, sheesh, if Fritz were here and free of his clown collar, I'm not sure there'd be survivors.

M and I could see our job here was done, so we said our goodbyes as friendly as possible and headed back into the bush. When we got back, M said to W: "Know anybody who wants to buy some property? I think there's a parcel about to come up for sale!"

In other news, The Onion throws in the towel...

"It's just no fun any more," complained Arthur Pendleton, chief commentator for The Onion, America's once-foremost satirical news site, as he finished emptying his cubicle drawers into cardboard boxes. "No matter how absurd and out there we went, the so-called 'real world' just keeps topping us. We give up! This domain name is for sale."
Yeah, I just made that up.

But seriously, I expected to get back today and find I'd been taken in by a colossal practical joke. Instead, I get this.

This world is too weird for me. I'm moving on to the next one.


Shock as Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize
US President Barack Obama sensationally won the Nobel Peace Prize last night less than a year after he took office with the jury hailing his "extraordinary" diplomatic efforts on the international stage.

The choice made Mr Obama the third sitting US president to win the peace prize, following Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

It shocked Nobel observers because the 48-year-old president took office less than two weeks before the February 1 nomination deadline.

We gotta go to the crappy country where I'm a hero!

I just this second found out about this. Gotta run 'cause there's a roofing truss party down the road, but I'm sure to have more to say about this when I learn more later.

Is this a joke? Doesn't seem to be.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Aggression in gulching dogs, cont'd

Hm. Y'know, I just took that a few minutes ago, and it was supposed to be a cute puppy picture. I think of him as my cute li'l furball, and he really is a sweetheart. But sometimes I see a picture I've taken of him and am reminded that his mother is a shepherd/doberman mix and his most likely father looks like he could kick Roddy Piper's ass with three paws tied behind his back. Even at seven months old, I don't think I'd want this dog mad at me.

Which is, of course, the point of the exercise. The thought of turning Little Bear into some sort of slavering killer beast is repugnant. But to live freely out here, not confined to fences and walls for his own safety, he does need to find his inner beast and make it his outer beast. Also, to do his job as a watchdog he has to start viewing strangers with enough suspicion that he'll at least loudly announce their presence. This business of slithering up to them to see if they've got food or a friendly hand, tail a-wagging, really has got to stop.

I remind myself that he isn't even lifting his leg to pee yet, and that I need to show more patience. He is starting to assert himself in small ways, as with the bone episode a few days ago. It'll likely be a while before he starts pushing back to raise his status in the pack. In all likelihood he will become quite aggressive, both with his packmates and with strangers and interlopers. He has the genes for it, and the older dogs are giving him the education. Probably he'll spend the bulk of his days as a genuine object of fear and loathing. That's the plan, anyway.

Now that I brood over it, I realize that when he does, I'm gonna miss my happy-go-lucky little furball.

M's Dome, another update





Next ordeal step - The front wall!

Aggression in gulching dogs

I may have mentioned that we live in the desert, as deep in the boonies as it was convenient to go. We don't live in a park, and our beasts are not lap dogs - though sometimes they want to be. I've read websites devoted to dog training, and much of the advice - though it might be perfectly reasonable in a dog that never leaves its yard off a leash - is laughable when applied to our life here.

In short, an overly aggressive dog in a pack is a danger to himself and others for obvious reasons, but a non-aggressive dog is, too. I want my dogs to be aggressive - to a point. There's a balance. For example, Magnus usually never questioned my authority but there was one very rare circumstance - when I wanted him out of the lair and he very much didn't want to go - in which he would turn and threaten me. This was a call for an immediate beat-down, which he accepted but didn't like at all: He usually went outside and then took his humiliation out on Fritz. Obviously if any dog tried to lord it over me, I would be obligated to force him to respect my authoritay. You can't indulge that kind of behavior at all, even once. On the other hand, when Magnus got old and no longer wanted to join the pack in enforcing its territorial claim against encroaching coyotes and cats and tourists, he essentially became useless. I still loved him - it wasn't like I was going to fire him - but he was officially retired and I no longer expected anything from him more useful than cleaning plates after a meal.

This comes to mind as I observe Little Bear. Little Bear is my first experience with a puppy, and is proving quite an education. His personality is very laid-back - so much so that for a while I wondered if he was ever going to start showing any pack aggression at all. He's over seven months old now, and has only recently begun joining the Evening Serenade in which the pack - led by Ghost these days - goes out to the ridge slope and barks at the hills or responds to a coyote pack's yipping. His usual response to any other pack member's aggression is to immediately roll over, even though he is now the biggest dog on the property except Fritz. I know that seven months is still quite young - it may be another year or more before he really takes his place in the pecking order and stops being a "puppy." He recently snapped at one of W's lady dogs when she showed interest in a bone he was chewing, and that's the first sign I've ever seen that there was anything in him but a happy-go-lucky useless eater. She backed off right away, which was interesting: Those two wrestle constantly and you'd expect her to know when he was to be taken seriously - she took him seriously that time.

I'd contrast that with teen-age rebellion, which Little Bear isn't the least bit shy about exhibiting. For quite some time now he has regarded simple commands - "no" or "come," for example - as friendly suggestions to be accepted or rejected as the mood strikes. I don't punish him for it, unless his safety is involved, but I don't take no for an answer, either. For example, he's smart enough to know that, even if enticed by a snacky, a trip to Gitmo in the morning or middle of the day means a stay in Gitmo and he doesn't like that any more than any of the other dogs. So he simply refuses, and ends up being dragged or carried. But he never offers teeth as a response. If/when he ever does, he'll get the first beating of his life. He is of course an incorrigible thief. I've lost a pair of sandals to him, and only vigilance protects my boots (and newish sandals). The other day he stole a bottle of pills belonging to The Landlady - he likes to chew plastic things (and metal things, and ceramic things, and fabric things, and earth and bone and air and water and he's probably working on fire) - and I caught him at it just as the pills spilled out. I didn't punish him for that too harshly because he did stop and give it back when I told him to.

(to be continued - it's rebar time)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Leatherman Crisis!

Hey, anybody know how to un-stick the pliers on a Leatheman? Both M and I have totally horked our multi-tools up cutting tie wire.

I tried spraying mine out with brake cleaner and then lubing it with Marvel oil. I've worked it back and forth about 46,392 times and it's not working at all.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is he calling out for delivery rabbit?

That makes three and a half.

Three and a half confirmed rabbits that Little Bear has consumed. The three, he consumed in their entirety - stem to stern. The half, he got in a grisly tug-of-war over with Beauty.

The last one was at 1:15 this morning. And it's the second time I have awakened to the sound of bones crunching inside my lair. This rabbit was bloody huge: it must have been killed and delivered by Click, but it was...huge! It outmassed her by maybe fifty percent! So unless LB has discovered an incredibly accommodating delivery service and learned how to work my cell phone's tiny buttons with his enormous paws and managed to steal the phone and then put it right back after use instead of carrying it to his treasure spot and chewing it up, which is his usual MO, Click is going out and killing these rabbits, dragging them somehow into the lair (I'm afraid to look at the condition of the cat door - last time she destroyed it) and losing it to LB.

Except that this was never Click behavior. She catches mice and rats almost nightly and eats them herself, leaving me a regular morning mess to clean up. She doesn't kill for others. Or does she? She likes all the dogs, but Little Bear has become her favorite. She sits still while he does disgusting things to her with his great messy slobbery jaws - I have watched her entire head disappear into his mouth - and then she'll take a turn and groom him with her tiny tongue.

So is it possible she's actually catching these rabbits for him? And since it's only been in the past few days that the dogs have resumed sleeping inside with long has this been going in? This could actually explain how LB has been expanding so alarmingly in girth lately, when I don't see him eat any more dog foot than any of the others. This is bizarre behavior, if true. I don't really mind, as long as they take it outside.

But do you know how much of a mess a large rabbit makes, consumed on the floor inside a small lair? And do they clean up after themselves? They do not.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sometimes you gotta love the Brits...

...though technically it was Scots who did this.

"Nanny State" Beer!
[Anti-inebriation] Campaigners welcomed the 1.1% alcohol Nanny State but said the name showed a lack of appreciation of the problem
Really? I'd say it shows an exquisite appreciation of the problem. And a profound disagreement as to what the problem is.

Freedomistas spend a lot of time bemoaning the state U.K. denizens have allowed themselves to get into, and not all the criticism is unfounded. But one thing I've always liked is their history of seeming to put up with government nonsense while quietly making mock of it and doing whatever the hell they want anyway. It's a trait Americans could learn from.

H/T to W, who told me about this a few days ago.

M's Dome Update

With W and the Landlady forming one team and M and me another, we finished the second (vertical) course of rebar on M's dome. Which leaves (only!) one more. Sigh. This one course took over four big rolls of tie wire.

M got all the block, concrete and mortar for the front wall. I'm almost looking forward to the change of pace when we get working on that. But first...more rebar!

I expect the whole thing to just sink into the ground and disappear one night.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Magnus, RIP

After a long bout with a brain tumor, Magnus' family was finally forced to give him a mercy death this morning. A series of seizures about five weeks ago left him a shadow of his former magnificent self, and another flurry of them two days ago did the old guy in. He was confused, crippled and in great pain, and there was nothing left to do.

Magnus was the king of dogs; the undisputed leader of his pack throughout his long life. He didn't fight: He disciplined. And he almost always did it with justice - any time he waded in to break up a fight, he always seemed to know who had started it and concentrated his attention on that dog.

He was as territorial as you'd want a watchdog to be, but unendingly affectionate. When he decided a human was all right, that person could do no wrong in his eyes. (Except for one time, the only time he ever got mad at me. Little Bear was just a wee pup and got his head stuck in a bizarre place. I couldn't get him out, and had to drive to the neighbors for help. When I got back, Magnus gave me holy hell for leaving at such a critical time. But he faithfully stayed right by the puppy until I got back - even if I had abandoned him, he never would.)

I knew him for the past three years, but during my year of solitude Magnus became my close and very dear friend. He came to get me one time when I fell in a canyon and banged my meat leg hard on a rock; knew I was hurt and helped me get back up while all the other dogs frolicked and ignored me. He always stayed close through that cold winter, and his face was the first thing I saw on many a dark morning. He was a good friend and teacher to my own pup Little Bear, and though at the end he was often short-tempered and sometimes a little rough with the little guy, I always knew that with Magnus around he'd never come to harm.

He's buried now next to T, his beloved friend and master, as T had instructed before he died last year. I am honored to have known them both, and to have called them friend.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hee Hee...Montana Jail Town Gets Conned Big-time

And ever so publicly!

An update to yesterday's Hardin, Montana post:

Hardin Jail Entrepreneur Has Checkered Past

He wore a military-style uniform, and as a gesture to local law enforcement offered up the use of three Mercedes SUVs.

But the man who styles himself as a military veteran turned private sector entrepreneur and a California defense contractor with extensive government contracts also has another image, and that one is provided by public documents and interviews with associates and legal adversaries.

The record says that he is a convicted felon with at least 17 aliases, a string of legal judgments against him, two bankruptcies and a decades-long reputation for deals gone bad.

American Police Force is the company Hilton formed in March to take over the Hardin jail.

"Such schemes you cannot believe," said Joseph Carella, an Orange County, Calif., doctor and co-defendant with Hilton in a real estate fraud case that resulted in a civil judgment against Hilton and several others.

"The guy's brilliant. If he had been able to do honest work, he probably would have been a gazillionaire," Carella said.
So first the fine petty rulers of this little town build themselves a jail, hoping to revive their economy quick and easy by locking other people up. That falls through, but only after they've gone in major hock to build the horrible thing.

Then they offer their shiny new empty jail to the feds to lock up the Gitmo prisoners without checking first to see what the Montana state government thinks of that, and get shot down again.

Finally this Serbian poser puts on an impressive uniform he probably bought at and shows up at their door to take the whole thing off their hands - oh, and he'll also build them a homeless shelter and a dog kennel, patrol their streets, and make it rain skittles and unicorns. And without so much as the due process you'd expend looking over a used car, these fine Solons swallowed the hook all the way to the backbone.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch. Here's hoping the voters of Hardin remember this humiliating fiasco come election time. I don't really know anything about it so this is blowing smoke, but I'm gonna guess that if the "Two Rivers Authority" and the city council had spent half as much effort getting out of the way of Hardin businessmen as they did dreaming up horrible quick-fixes like yet another prison, the town's economic problems would have taken care of themselves by now. As it is they're not only another day older and (much) deeper in debt, but the whole country gets a nice laugh from it.