Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What not to wear when the government guy comes calling...

Eating breakfast and planning out my day, I decided I'd better start with laundry. It's a beautiful, sunny morning, but it's also Monsoon so who knows how long that'll last?

While hanging the first load, I got to thinking about a brief conversation Landlady had with me before the building inspector arrived. I don't really like black t-shirts because they're too hot, and don't usually wear slogan shirts because...well, because I'm not 16. But this one, a gift from Claire, always kinda tickled me.

Curiously, she didn't want me around when the government man came calling. I wonder why not?

Bizzy Bizzy Bizzy...

Well, I did predict that this would be a busy weekend. It was also a highly productive one, from the viewpoint of all three participants - Landlady, M, and myself. We got a lot done.

For Landlady, the objective was to finish the rough electrical and plumbing on the Meadow House, and get it to pass inspection on Monday. M needed to get his retaining wall foundations ready to pour, with the cement truck also due Monday. As for me, I wanted to finish the demolition of the old pantry building, for which I needed more muscle if it was going to come apart in reassemble-able pieces.

So Saturday, while M worked on getting steel in his forms, Landlady and I put up the boxes for light fixtures and finished pulling and routing wire. Sunday we tore down the pantry and hauled its big chunks to the Lair's site. Alas theres more rot damage than I hoped - though not as much as I feared - and I may as well face the fact that I'll be using its bits to build a whole new shed rather than just nailing the sections of the old one back together. But there's still plenty of bits to use, and by putting it right against the back of the Lair it'll serve as a powershed as well as a pantry, so that's a big plus. (I've been planning to put my old scrounged solar panels on a rack behind the lair rather than mounting to the roof as fashion dictates, because I don't want to put holes in my nice tight roof for panels that'll need to be replaced one day. Now I can put them on the shed roof instead.

It rained Sunday and there was some fear of the condition of the washes, but Monday dawned beautiful and cool and for an absolute wonder the cement truck not only showed up on time but didn't even get lost! By nine AM we'd poured six yards of concrete in two short but deep and wide footers and the pour went perfectly!

These are the retaining walls that will allow M's Dome to become M's Earth-Bermed House before snow flies. Yes, that's heavy industrial cable sticking out instead of the 7/8" rebar the plan calls for. We had the cable laying around, and nobody carries rebar that big. Not a helluva lot of skyscrapers going up around here at the moment. The only thing missing is mortar for the blocks, but M has already ordered it and it'll arrive tomorrow. Next weekend we lay block!

After the pour yesterday things started to go a little wrong. We got a whole bunch of trash loaded in the Jeep's trailer, and just as M and I were climbing aboard I remembered that the landfill is closed on Mondays. Then the building inspector said he couldn't possibly make it before two in the afternoon, which considering that Landlady and M needed to drive six hours back to the city was more than a bit inconvenient. But when he finally showed, he passed the house with flying colors and we can MOVE ON! Very exciting.

I picked up a little trash-hauling gig of my own, which means I need the trailer tomorrow, which in turn means I need to empty the *&^%! trailer. I can't just haul it to the landfill, as would make a lot more sense, because after getting paid for shit-shoveling yesterday I sent virtually my last dollar into town with M when they left to make the last payment on my chainsaw. Now I own it free and clear (yay!) and am so broke I can't pay a landfill fee. (boo.)

But the force is still with me, because the trash in this new trash-hauling gig consists almost entirely of old pallets, which make acceptable firewood. So instead of hauling to the landfill as my customer wants, I'll cut it into 16" chunks with my very own, paid-off chainsaw and keep it. Heh.

Friday, August 27, 2010

J's Lightning Rod Installation

J&H's house has been hit by lightning twice in two years, and they finally decided to take that as a subtle hint that maybe they're vulnerable to, you know, lightning. So they dipped into the fund they'd been laying by for more solar panels, and yesterday the installer came and did the deed. I took pix this morning.

They've got four lightning rods, three on the ends of the eaves and one on top of the stovepipe.

The rods connect to braided aluminum cable, that connect together and run down the corners of the house.

Near the ground, the aluminum cable connects to braided copper cable. That cable goes to copper ground plates buried underground. Normally, I'm told they use ground rods. But the ground is so rocky here they had to come up with an alternative.

There are two ground plates, and they're buried at opposite corners of the house. Everything metal that enters the house is tied to the copper cable...

...like the propane pipe, for example. That would be important, I suppose.

They also went through and grounded the living hell out of all the electrical infrastructure. In theory that ties the whole system together. As far as I can tell nobody really knows if the current goes from the strike to ground, or vice versa, or both at different times. This way seems to work no matter which theory you pick.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things to do with free gadgets...

So you're servicing your car, minding your own business, and you happen to encounter a GPS tracker that wasn't there before.

Thanks, fellas! Hey, I'm a guy. I love gadgets.

Here are some suggestions for what to do with it:
1) Remove and destroy

2) Leave it alone, and drive only where you want the authorities to know you’re going

3) Remove and place in garbage

4) Remove and place on random civilian vehicle

5) Remove and place on long-haul freight truck

6) Remove and mail to Hong Kong

7) Remove and mail to cops

8 ) Remove and send to FBI via strip-o-gram

9) Remove and sell on ebay

10) Remove, disassemble and use as part of an autonomous aircraft guidance system. post videos to Youtube, be sure to thank authorities for the free donation of the electronics that made it all possible

11) Remove and place on police car (slightly risky)

12) Remove and attach to helium-filled weather balloon

13) Remove and attach to sewer rat

14) Remove and “clone” so that there are, say, fifty of you running around
Personally I think #4 is kinda cold. The sewer rat thing totally wouldn't work, but the chuckle factor on the helium balloon would be awesome. I might take it completely apart, glue each component to black velvet, and mount it in a shadowbox on my wall. Enemies like this are a badge of honor, and I'd want the trophy.

Any other suggestions?

Sheesh. Where's a guy got to go to get some privacy?

I was all kind of excited this morning. I got to bed at a decent time so woke up before light. Sky was clear, temp was cool. Today I'd at least get a start at tearing down that old pantry building before it fell down. If I can get the walls down intact, it'll probably be worth moving to the Lair's site.

Sun barely cleared the ridge when I was already taking off the roof sheeting. Then Ghost alerted to a truck - to my shock, it was the roofer actually coming to install that piece he'd left off from last week's endless roof installation. After only a week? Knock me over with another feather!

Got him on his way, and Ghost started yelling about another truck. This was actually two: A pickup and some sort of ratty-looking tank truck. The only tank trucks that ever come out here are delivering propane, but they're usually newer and far cleaner than this one. This one wasn't familar at all. If it had come this far it had to be headed either here or the Weekender Neighbors' property. Either destination was perplexing: I knew damned well no propane was due here, and the Weekenders always tell me ahead of time because there's a chain across their driveway and I need to let the truck in. To my surprise, the trucks turned right and headed for the ridge up the BLM road. At that point I found a rock and settled down to watch the show, because there was no way that tank truck was going to get up that ridge and there's absolutely no place to turn around except for Y2K Guy's driveway...

Oops! They turned ONTO Y2K Guy's driveway, like they knew exactly where they were going! That NEVER happens. Now, the Y2K Guy thing is kind of involved and I won't get into it here. Kinda sad, really, but the most important thing about that piece of land is that last I heard the Weekender Neighbors were trying to buy it and it looked like they'd succeed. But still, nobody's lived there since I've lived here and if there was any sort of service due there's a good chance I'd have heard about it. Huh. It probably wasn't anything bad, because a bunch of burglars wouldn't show up in a big, loud tank truck. Still, I did promise to keep an eye on the place. Maybe I should drive up there and see, but if I do that there's gonna be a big, tire-biting scene with the dogs, and...

Hey, wait. I know. I dug my cell phone out of my pocket and called Weekender Neighbor, who for a wonder answered his phone. "You got any idea why there'd be a tank truck on Y2K Guy's place?"

Yeah, it turned out they were actually going to close the sale, but first somebody had to check the septic system. Perfectly legit. Okay.

Now I'm trying to go back to work demolishing the old pantry, when Ghost lights up AGAIN. This time it's one of the rich guys from the other side of the plateau, coming down the BLM road on one of those ATVs that looks like a golf cart with a Rambo complex - nothing to do with me. I can go months without seeing anybody drive on that road - today it's a frickin' expressway.

I kinda wish all these people would go away.

What the guys would spend their days doing, if we had a TV...

Hey, remember how concealed carry w/o permit was bad because...

...then nobody would get training, and they'd all, like, die?

“Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve seen an increase in people coming out here,” said Mike Morgan, a shooting instructor and range master with Game and Fish. “You’re still going to have people who realize they need to be knowledgeable. There are a lot of user groups who come and use the facility.”

And Morgan said shooting classes like Sure Shots, which began in January and takes place at Cabela’s in Glendale and at the range, are always being developed and introduced to increase interest.

“We do very limited advertising and we don’t have a problem filling up those classes,” he said.

“There’s definitely an interest out there.”
So neener neener, Quisling.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You have no "reasonable expectation of privacy"...

Anywhere, apparently.
So. You thought you could avoid those intrusive airport technological strip searches by not flying on a commercial plane? You thought they were just were doing that to "other people"? You thought it was okay to look the other way as your Fourth Amendment rights were violated when you flew on an airplane. It was all in the name of "safety", right?
Do you think somebody should tell the government that 1984 wasn't supposed to be an instruction manual?

H/T to Tam, one of those places I go when I don't have anything of my own to say.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Still just playing around here.

Once upon a time, there was a television show called the Brady Bunch. A photogenic widower with photogenic sons meets and marries a photogenic widow with photogenic daughters. Hilarity ensues.

This was not going to be like that, though nobody seemed to know it at the time. But yeah, the widower in question had three sons remaining at home. The widow, three daughters. They got that much right.


Rain in the desert is really very inconvenient.

It's true! Everywhere else, rain is a part of the landscape. Let a farmer go a month without rain and listen to him bitch. Here, rain was clearly an afterthought for whoever designed the place. There are dry riverbeds all around, like natural gutters. Nine months out of the year, they're just in the way. For a few hours or days out of the remaining three months, they're really in the way. Because they're not dry. But did anybody get around to building bridges over them? Hell, no. Afterthoughts. For something that is just really very inconvenient.

I mean, what good does it do? Dig a ditch, that's when the rain will come along and loosen the clay, which will head right for the lowest point it can find. That would be where you dug your ditch. Which you now get to dig again. Convenient? I don't think so.

Sun, the landscape can deal with. It's made for sun. Most of the wildlife can't even live without sun, since most of the wildlife is cold-blooded. Wind? No problem! So some dirt blows around. There's lots of dirt. But rain is a real problem.

I'm only talking about rain because it's raining now. Right outside this window. It's August, mid-morning, and it should be bright as hell, dry as hell, hot as hell. Instead I'm thinking of finding a jacket and wondering which of my guns will rust behind my back. That's just not right. How's a guy supposed to cope with that? Huh?

Well, you cope with it the way you cope with the sun, and the wind. You just do, that's all.

That's the problem with people today. Too much bitching, not enough coping. And there I go bitching about it. A foolish consistency, Emerson said, is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. Personally I avoid consistency like the plague it is. Whenever that bothers me, I just remember that all the great atrocities in history were carried out in the name of philosophical purity. Consistency, when it isn't being really boring, is the father of horror. You wouldn't want me to become a monster, would you? After I've betrayed the revolution and declared myself President-For-Life? Scary thought, that. I'd make a terribly incompetent monster, and they're often the worst kind.

I sure wish it'd stop raining. It's been raining for hours, and it never does that. Well, okay – it did it yesterday. But that was different, because...well. It's just inconsistent, that's all.

Can't go out and play. So I think I'll write a book, instead.

Lightning Rods

Ramen Fiend said,
I'm moving to the mountains of Montana here soon, and I read this and realized that I need lightning rods (and a dog that isn't afraid of running water). So how does one go about making lightning rods?
Oddly enough, I've been noodling that myself. Though I'm sure a contractor will tell us we'd be safer juggling chainsaws and mason jars of nitroglycerin than building our own lightning rods, it really doesn't look all that complicated.

Look here and here for information. I should think that grounding rods, available at any big home improvement store, should do nicely for both ends. I'm certainly considering putting some on the Lair.

I'll know more after J gets his. He's suddenly gotten very serious about lightning rods, and plans to pay somebody else to do it for him.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Here's another free story.

So Saturday evening Landlady, M and I were sitting around my trailer, and we were hitting M's mead kinda hard and they started pitching this new project.

They want me to write The Great American Novel. They'd apparently given this quite a lot of thought.

M's view is that the path to publishing success (a path I have never walked, or even glimpsed, though I've certainly thought about it a lot) is to write the sort of book that will make high school students curse your very name. A book with lots and lots of symbolism, or at least apparent symbolism. I don't know if this is actually that path or not. But what the hell? Can't dance.

It involves the Shadow stories, of course.

So this morning I started noodling with the idea. I don't know if it'll really go anywhere, because 100,000 words takes a lot of motivation. More than I'm feeling at the moment. But I liked their book idea, and I like the Shadow stories.

So I dug out an unfinished story that hadn't gone anywhere, and started noodling with it. Tell me what you think.

I don't post videos on how to waltz...

...and a lot of people shouldn't post videos on how to be tacticool.

They just really shouldn't.

H/T to Tam.

Have I mentioned that Landlady hates trailers?

And yet we're up to our kiesters in them. I hauled off Serenity a year ago February, and it almost promptly got replaced with another, even more obnoxious one. We call it "The White Whale." It's the biggest, fanciest fifth-wheel trailer in the whole wide festering world, and it's parked beside the driveway on the very highest point of the ridge. You can see it for miles, which brings frequent distress to this old ghost's paranoid and secretive soul. I'll bet you can see it from orbit.

Then of course there's the original fifth-wheel, T and Landlady's home for years, Claire's home until weekend before last. It looks like it's embedded in the earth, all skirted and surrounded with wooden walkways and mysterious pipes and hoses and wires coming out of the ground. Thing looks like a mangrove tree designed by Salvadore Dali.

I just got back from shit-shoveling and learned that the White Whale is going away this week. If you're wondering why I learned this while shit-shoveling, just keep wondering. It's one of those very weird yet internally somehow perfectly logical things that happen around here. Naturally, it makes more work for me. It's got to be ready when S the Road Guy comes to take it away. Won't take a lot of work, but I've got to do it today.

Which puts off the thing I intended to do today, which was get the other fifth-wheel ready to roll. It's going away too, if M and Landlady can find a buyer. I might not get a lot of warning about that one, and there's a lot more work involved. All that wooden stuff has to go. No idea what I'm going to do with it.

The weekend didn't go south, it didn't turn weird, until late Sunday. Yes, I know I haven't posted all weekend but that was only because I was busy and the computer connection is now in the scriptorium which on weekends is somebody else's apartment. I helped Landlady rough in the electrical in the Meadow House, M went to the other ridge and finished the foundation frames for his retaining wall. Lots of other things, small things mostly. This weekend was busy: Next weekend is going to be insane. We had a lot of those last summer, but this one had found some sort of rhythm till recently.

Anyway, they drove away late Sunday morning. I did what I always do: I got a little toasted on whatever was lying around (M's first-batch mead, in this case) and sat down to read a book and de-stress. I'm a hermit, after all, and it doesn't take a lot to load me right up on company. The clouds rolled in, and around quarter after four the sky just opened up and had a tantrum. Hardest rain we've had all year. Really close lightning strikes. We've had storms all around since the beginning of Monsoon, but this one was here.

Intense but brief, as they tend to be. When it passed I went down to the meadow house, because I'm very distrustful of that new roof. Good news: as far as I can tell the roof is perfectly tight. Bad news: Some of the windows Claire and I installed leak like sieves. We'll have to go around with a garden hose and find out where the water's coming in.

While I was doing that, Little Bear was...being Little Bear. I've been giving him a lot more rope since Claire and her dogs left, trying to find how far I can trust him. The wash was running after the storm, of course, and I should have kept a better eye on him. When I finally caught sight of him he was on the far side of the wash, having waded through the water. Trouble is, the water was rising fast and his passage through it scared him. It still wasn't dangerously high or fast, but he refused to come back across. Refused absolutely.

No way I'd risk the Jeep with the water rising the way it was. I might get across and not be able to return; I might get halfway across. I took off my boots, rolled up my pants, walked Little Bear to a spot where he could get almost across and only have to wade through some slow, sheeting water onto a little raised island. Between the island and me, not ten feet across, the water was fast and getting faster but not dangerously so. Just a little stream, really, but he's a desert dog. He considers standing water a rare, wonderful and at the moment terrifying thing. He refused to go another inch into that water. I'd have praised him for being smart, if he wasn't the stupid ass who got himself - and now me - into this in the first place.

If you did it, you'd get a little wet. Anybody who's ever walked on a beach has seen far rougher water than this, it really wasn't much of a flow. But I'm an amputee, and I don't keep prosthetic legs as long as I do by wading around with them. Sigh - I'm also a dog-owner, and so into the water I went. Damage acceptable. I grabbed LB's collar and fought him into the water. He fought to go back until we were almost across, then broke for the Home side and I let him go.

Once back up the ridge he wanted inside bad, but I put him on his tie-out cable, brushed him, and told him to dry the hell off first. Then I took my leg apart, cleaned and dried it, put it back together.

Just about then the phone rang. Just D spreading gossip. Seems one of those close lightning strikes had struck J&H's house. I saw it this morning - lightning hit the stovepipe, went through the roof and the stove doing no apparent damage whatsoever, then caused two of the marble tiles on the stove's pedestal to explode like grenades. Frags damaged the stove, and dozens of them buried themselves in the ceiling; most of the blast went straight up. Deafened J and H both; their ears are still ringing. Two of their dogs crapped themselves on the spot. Everybody there could have been killed but nobody was hurt, thank Zeus.

Ah, the quiet life.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Oh, here we go AGAIN...

National Lawmakers Meet in Chicago to discuss Gun Control
National lawmakers were in Chicago holding a Congressional hearing on proposed gun control legislation today.
WEIS: It's just common sense legislation. I don't see how anyone could say this is restrictive when we're simply asking for a background check if you're going to buy a weapon. This is pretty simple to understand.
And guess who the "reporter" is getting its "facts" from.

Tell a lie often enough...

H/T to Unc.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Madame O impresses the Japanese Chinese?...

...Not, you know, in a good way, but...

Ol' Plumber Joel...

Yeah! Some months after Claire moved into one of the fifth-wheel trailers here, I happened to notice that her toilet didn't flush. I asked her if she wanted me to have a look at it, and she said no: She just used the hose from the shower to flush it. Okay.

Well, that trailer's going on the market soon, and Landlady would surely get more money for it if the toilet worked. Since there is now nobody around to say me nay, I figured, "what can go wrong?"


Question the first: Is the toilet getting water at all? A slightly loosened fitting explosively answered that question. Oops! Tighten it! Tighten it! Then go turn off the water.

Now, full disclosure: My toilet doesn't flush either. But that's because the valve is all chingered up and I'm not going to spend large amounts of money I don't have for fixtures in a trailer that - if all goes well - will be reduced to parts very soon. (Landlady has developed a heavy hate for the rather large collection of trailers on her ridge.) So "Yes, the toilet's getting water" wasn't really good news. If it's not the pipe, it must be the toilet.

But unlike mine, that toilet is practically new. T installed it only a little while before he died, and it hasn't gotten much use since. So I dismounted it and pulled it out into the light to see what was what.

Here's an immutable fact of life: The water on Landlady's property isn't just hard: It's positively crunchy. Only a fool would actually drink it, absent serious thirst. So any pressure-reducing orifice that hasn't gotten all calciumed-up just hasn't been around long enough. I took the valve off the toilet, sprayed it off, and looked for places where the calcium could build up. If I could get at the offender, maybe I could fix it. If I couldn't, well then I couldn't.

Turned out I could. I worked a pipe cleaner through the offending hole, and a garden hose demonstrated that what hadn't passed water through before now did. I put the whole thing back together, and then my only problem was getting the cheap-ass pipe fitting to stop leaking whenever I turned the water back on. Toilet flushes!

It doesn't flush well, mind you. But then as I recall it never really did.

Earth to D.C. Politicians and Pundits...

Guys, "your" people have the absolute right not to keep or carry arms any time they want. Seriously, anybody who wants to be a helpless, harmless victim may do so, at any time. I'm aware of nobody who wants to take that right from them, so it isn't necessary for you to continue attempting to oppress the rest of us to protect it. 'Kay?

Oh, and John (I suddenly remembered I'm supposed to be a conservative) McCain? Go (redacted) yourself. You're not fooling anybody anymore.

Get the &*(! off my lawn!


Okay, technically (and not so technically) it's not my lawn. But damn do I wish the roofers would just install the (redacted) roof and go away. Six in the morning, radio blaring, dogs all upset, I dunno whether I dare leave them unwatched so I can go do my own thing...

These guys are driving me crazy. How the contractor makes any money, spending this much time to install one (redacted) roof, I truly don't understand.

Might be light posting...

One of my brilliant improvisations gave up the ghost, and I've had to hardwire the 'pooter to the modem. This has driven me back to the scriptorium. That was fine a year and a half ago when I really didn't have anything else to do most days. But I've got more of a life now, plus the scriptorium is used for other things that make it less congenial for moving all my stuff into it when I want to websurf. So we'll have to take it as it goes. I need to score a longer - or shorter - patch cord so I can set the wifi back up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hope and change, baby. Hope and change.

Brady admits committee analysts could not fit the entire health care bill on one chart. “This portrays only about one-third of the complexity of the final bill. It’s actually worse than this.”

It's a damned good thing for the government that Franz Kafka is dead, that's all I can say. He'd have such a copyright infringement suit...

H/T to Sipsey Street

I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.

Landlady has been trying to get a local roofing contractor to commit to a project date for months now. Months. Guy's a flake; rarely answers calls, and when he does it's always with an excuse. But roofers aren't very thick on the ground around here, and this one had just what she wanted for the roof. We're now deep in Monsoon season, but we weren't when she started trying to get this guy on the job.

So day before yesterday the dogs alerted me to a truck pulling into the meadow. I'd met the guy once before when he measured the roof for the estimate. He showed up around 4:30 in the afternoon, and I wondered why on earth he'd bother driving all the way out here so late in the day. It seems, in trading text messages with Landlady, that he'd told her he was on his way earlier that morning, but - as he so often does - let other things get in the way. He brought one other guy and a trailer load of stuff, only battery-operated tools, no generator, no compressor, no nothing. They hung around for maybe three hours, accomplishing little I could see, and finally split.

Yesterday he came back, this time equipped and with a crew. They spent all day in the sun and got some work done this time, but even so - all day, five guys, and they were nowhere near done by dusk. Storm clouds were roaring in and I warned them the washes are saturated and every hole in the canyons is full of water. If it rains the washes will run, and I hope they brought camping gear. They pulled out shortly after - never did more than sprinkle.

This morning they showed up at six, and I don't know how close they are to done. Guess I should go find out, but - surprise! It's raining cats and dogs.

It's a very small house. Granted there were some carpentry issues they had to deal with first, but - sheesh! Ten man-days for a small roof? We erected and sheathed the whole damned thing in that much time, and we weren't pros. I've been around professional roofers. They come, they see, they conquer, they leave. These guys - I don't know.

Our Moment of Culture

It may or may not be appropriate that this poem came to my mind while shit-shoveling this morning.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

I HEARD one who said: "Verily,
What word have I for children here?
Your Dollar is your only Word,
The wrath of it your only fear.

"You build it altars tall enough
To make you see but you are blind;
You cannot leave it long enough
To look before you or behind.

"When Reason beckons you to pause,
You laugh and say that you know best;
But what it is you know, you keep
As dark as ingots in a chest.

"You laugh and answer, 'We are young;
Oh, leave us now, and let us grow:'
Not asking how much more of this
Will Time endure or Fate bestow.

"Because a few complacent years
Have made your peril of your pride,
Think you that you are to go on
Forever pampered and untried?

"What lost eclipse of history,
What bivouac of the marching stars,
Has given the sign for you to see
Milleniums and last great wars?

"What unrecorded overthrow
Of all the world has ever known,
Or ever been, has made itself
So plain to you, and you alone?

"Your Dollar, Dove, and Eagle make
A Trinity that even you
Rate higher than you rate yourselves;
It pays, it flatters, and it's new.

"And though your very flesh and blood
Be what the Eagle eats and drinks,
You'll praise him for the best of birds,
Not knowing what the eagle thinks.

"The power is yours, but not the sight;
You see not upon what you tread;
You have the ages for your guide,
But not the wisdom to be led.

"Think you to tread forever down
The merciless old verities?
And are you never to have eyes
To see the world for what it is?

"Are you to pay for what you have
With all you are?"--No other word
We caught, but with a laughing crowd
Moved on. None heeded, and few heard.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Suddenly the GOP loves gays?

I thought it was weird enough when Ann Coulter became Judy Garland. But I don't really know anything about Ann Coulter, so maybe that sort of thing is normal for her. Still, it seems a bunch of right wingers think this is a voting bloc up for grabs.

Huh. I would have given gays more credit. But I guess when you still believe in the "system," you take your allies where you find them. Personally I don't understand why gay political activists think this will help them long-term. But then there are a lot of things I don't understand.

So you want to be on a city council?

Heh. I think I'll pass.

The enlightened rulers of Bell, California threw the city manager and police chief out of the sleigh, hoping that would be enough for the ravening wolves. Not so much, it seems.

Yeah, who didn't see that coming?

Sen. Robert Casey (D., Pa.) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D., N.D.) are pushing legislation that would commit taxpayers’ dollars to bailing out the Teamsters’ retirement pension fund. The financial crisis and the Great Recession may have upset your retirement plans, but that’s not reason that politically connected union thugs have to share the pain.

Here’s the deal, as former Department of Labor official Vincent Vernuccio, now an analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, tells Exchequer: Under the Democrats’ plan, the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which is basically a pension-insurance fund run by the federal government, would be able to receive tax dollars to bail out so-called orphan pensions — pensions for which employers have ceased making contributions, usually for reasons of insolvency. Under normal circumstances, PBGC does not use taxpayer money to bail out pensions; it charges aninsurance premium to the funds it covers and uses that money to make good on pension obligations if a particular pension fund goes bankrupt. It’s like an FDIC for pension funds: If a fund is sufficiently mismanaged, PBGC can step in, take it over, and take care of its obligations.

The Casey bill would change all that, creating a “fifth fund” within PBGC that would receive taxpayer support. Currently, federal law carefully specifies that PBGC obligations are not obligations of the U.S. government. Casey-Pomeroy would reverse that, mandating that “obligations of the corporation that are financed by the [fifth fund] shall be obligations of the United States.” In other words: You, sucker, are paying the bill.

I'm confused. Which is it?

Barring hormones that have gone all wacky freelance, the only way I know to achieve a state of obesity is to eat too much. I've been poor, and when I was poor obesity was the least of my troubles. Whatever its other downsides, poverty is a great weight-loss program.

Here I'm told that poverty has become so pervasive that "food hardship" (A new term I only encountered this morning) is now a national problem. No doubt soon our masters will unveil their five-year plan to eliminate such suffering.
For households with children the numbers were significantly worse. According to the survey, "... nearly one in four such households suffered food hardship in 2009." Mississippi, the state with the highest incidence of food hardships report, saw their numbers increase when children under the age of 18 were factored into the statistics. Mississippi households without children held a hunger rating of 22.5 percent while Mississippi households with children held a hunger rating of 33.8 percent.

And yet! We're also supposedly battling Madame Obama's national obesity crisis!
Obesity continues to plague the U.S., with nine states now reporting that more than 30% of their population is obese. ”In 2007, only three states reported an increased prevalence of obesity above 30 percent — Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity at the CDC. “Now, there are nine states that exceed [that mark]: Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.” Furthermore, no U.S. States have managed to lower obesity rates to 15 percent.
We're told this, too, is because of poverty. "Poor food choices," don't ya know.

When I was poor I thought a pretty good day was when I had food, let alone food choices.

So which is it? Hunger or obesity? I just don't see how you can have it both ways. But then, I'm not a politician.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Here's the last Claire update...

Claire has arrived at her destination safely and with no further trouble. She went through the closing ritual and is sleeping in her own house tonight. All's well.

The Freedom of Simplicity

If you're any flavor of prepper, you hear a lot about self-sufficiency. Most of it is hyperbole, because I've never met a fully self-sufficient person and neither have you. Certainly I'm not one. Even if I lived in a place with actual soil, I couldn't garden for my own subsistence if you put an RPG to my head and said "Play Scott Nearing or die." Nor would I want to. I admire the self-righteous Bolshy for his abilities, but not for almost any of his beliefs.

I got to thinking about it this morning after reading an essay called The Freedom of Self-Sufficiency. It quoted a Laura Ingalls Wilder book:
"Truckling to other people for his living, all his days—he’ll never be able to call his soul his own.”
Yeah - maybe. Personally I never met a happy farmer, or a self-sufficient one. Maybe it was different 150 years ago. Dunno - I wasn't there.

So I can't speak to the freedom of self-sufficiency, because I think it's a chimera. It's not a bad dream, just not a realizable one.

But the point wasn't in the self-sufficiency, but in the freedom - the ability to "call your soul your own." And that, I think, is realizable. It may not be possible or even desirable to become fully self-sufficient. But it is possible to simplify.

In this society everything's about money. All too often money's how you keep score - the one who dies with the most money, or the stuff that money buys, wins. But it's a cruel game. Dodgeball has nothing on the Money Game for blows received, enemies made, or arbitrary rules and perverse incentives endured. And when you burn out and fall by the wayside, they'll get another that looks just like you. All the toys, all the pretties are cold comfort. I wondered how a fellow could reduce the need for money...

...And whether that was even a good thing to do. After all, this business of simplification can get awfully complicated. The matter of living without a lot of money can be damned expensive - just like living with a lot of it.

At this point I would go off on a long, self-congratulatory riff about my rugged individualism - except that there are people who will read this and know better. That self-sufficiency thing again. I'd never get away with claiming it for myself because without the kind assistance of others I'd be working a counter somewhere and happy for the work.

Let's take a look at that Secret Lair I'm so proud of. M supplied the land, and the water, and the transport for virtually all the lumber, and a huge chunk of the labor in framing, sheathing and roofing it. Landlady and Claire provided the place I've lived while building it. Sure, I've tried to pay back in kind but self-sufficient? Hardly.

Still, there it is. I've got a roof over my head, and running water, and even the hope of electricity. It's all a means to an end, and the end is not self-sufficiency, but simplicity. My hope is to reduce my list of needs to the point where they can be met with as little money, meaning time and aggravation, as possible. It'll never hit zero. Things break and wear out, food doesn't grow on trees. But I can find the reasonable minimum of "things," and I can train my palate to enjoy simpler food. "Reasonable" and "Enjoy" - that's important. The point of the exercise is not to become some sort of Anchorite, punishing myself for my own sins or the sins of the world. My own sins, I've largely paid for. The sins of the world are no concern of mine.

Why go to all this complication to seek simplicity? A couple of reasons. First and most immediate, I don't quite suit the world anymore. I have offended people on high, and they'd throw me in prison if they found me. They still might. But honestly, that's not the real reason. If that bothered me so much, I could make my peace with them. I'm not a criminal, except in a Mala Prohibita sense.

It sounds silly, just writing it out like this. But it's not silly to me. I wanted to become comfortable with who I am. I wanted to be able to say "I am not what I do for a living," and not be a liar. And if I'm not what I do, then who am I really? And is it a person I can happily spend time with? I spent so long trying to be what other people wanted me to be - in my work, in my family, in my belief structures, as a child and as an adult. For so many of those years I longed to be alone, and yet was afraid of being alone. Really alone. What if it turned out that, without those props to my identity, I was really - nothing at all?

It's not a simple question. Finding the answer - finding simplicity - has not been simple.

It's not like building a house, where one day you find yourself done. It's a journey that's its own destination. And maybe it's a trip to nowhere. Certainly, as I've said all along, it's not a trip I recommend because it wouldn't be for everyone. I had a lot of the simplifying done for me - my wife and career are gone, my child is grown, I can pretty much do whatever I like. Even for people without those impediments, this trip is very likely not for them.

But it's a trip I felt I had to make, for my own sake. So far I haven't regretted a minute of it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Claire Update

Just got off the phone with Claire. Her third day on the road was uneventful but very long. She expects to reach her new home tomorrow, and then the adventure begins.


Following last week's culinary bleg, Landlady happened to see an old pressure cooker at a flea market, bought it, tested it, and sent it up Friday night with M, all without saying a word to me. Thanks!

Last night I set some beans to soak, and this morning we gave it a try. I've never used a pressure cooker before, so I read the instructions (which she had thoughtfully downloaded and printed out for me) and then gathered materials. Claire had left half a package of bacon behind, the remains of which I now expended on this experiment. Some tomato sauce, molasses, a diced onion, some brown sugar - Yeah, baked beans call for navy beans rather than the pinto beans I've got about a hundred pounds of, but with enough flavoring beans are beans.

A little watery, but the real question was, "what's the texture of the beans?" I've boiled beans for hours and still had them crunchy. The instructions said to cook these for six minutes after the pressure release starts hissing. Compensating for altitude, I let this go on for about eight. Perfect! Also delicious.

Looks like beans are back on the menu, boys!

"You do recognize the irony of this, right?"

The Lair has a door. The door has a lock. I don't typically lock my doors, but the Lair spends a lot of time just sitting out there all by itself and it does contain things I'd rather people not steal, like Landlady's cordless tools and my favorite carbine. So after some weeks of leaving the key in the lock so that Claire could shelter there during her long dog walks, on Friday I took the key out of the lock and put it on a key ring. This marked the first time in several years I've carried a key.

What could go wrong?

Yesterday M and I were working on the footers for his dome's retaining wall. We're talking about a wall that needs to retain a truly monumental amount of dirt: I'm fairly certain there are major buildings out there with less substantial foundations. Since we've got three building projects going on here, any tool you need is almost sure to be somewhere else. He needed something from the Lair, and I tossed him the key ring. A little later he needed something else from the Lair, and I tossed the ring to him again.

He held it up and said, "You do recognize the irony of this, right?"

"All too well, my friend. All too well."

He decided to go back to the city yesterday, so he'd have a day when he wasn't working or driving long distances. Made sense to me.

Of course he went back with my key ring in his pocket.

I've been busy this morning with domestic chores: Emptying the black water tank, filling water bottles, burning a bunch of boxes and other trash left over from Claire's departure, and another project I'll post about later if it turns out well. So I haven't been to the Lair this morning, but I'm gonna go ahead and assume I'm locked out and have been since the VERY DAY AFTER I STARTED LOCKING THE DOOR. I'll probably have to cut out a window screen to get in; I know the windows aren't locked.

Irony, hell. That's karma.

ETA: I just got a call from M, who says he did not take my key with him but left it at his dome and forgot to tell me. Lesson learned. I've got another key for the Lair - which in my vast foresight I left inside the Lair - and I'll find an appropriate hiding place for it. I've totally lost all the ingrained habits a city-dweller has about keys, and can expect this little drama to play itself out a dozen times until in disgust I just stop locking the damned door.

I don't testify to this thing's accuracy.

I got it off a progressive site, which means it's probably a lie. But if true, and I still depended on conventional "employment," I'd find it chilling.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

So far, so good...

Just got off the phone with Claire. All's well, she's still on the road and the truck's behaving itself. She sounded much happier today than this time yesterday, fer shur.

Update: This day went well. She's behind the projected schedule, of course, but safe and well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Well, Claire's on the road.

My loss is hopefully the gain of somebody who'll watch out for her. I've always been anxious that way, and would have been much happier about this trip if I could have gone along to take care of stuff. It's gonna be a long couple of days till I know she's safe.

So I'm gonna ask any readers in the western states to stand by. I can only get mobile in a real emergency, and since I'm at one extreme end of the journey it would probably be a great time before I could reach her in any case. I can't give details about the route because I only have the vaguest idea what it is, and couldn't say on a blog in any case. But in case of trouble - there's no reason to expect trouble, but I do worry - I may be yelling for help.

ETA: Well, she didn't get very far today. Car trouble before she even got out of the state. It doesn't sound like anything really bad and though it stranded her and she had to get towed back to the city, at least she didn't get stranded anywhere bad - the worst she suffered was boredom and frustration. The truck's in the shop now, but they won't be able to get to it for a while. Fortunately it's a 7-day shop. Sounds like the sort of trouble you'd get the first time you tried to pull a trailer long-range, which is probably fixable without horrible expense - though the tow already cost her cruelly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No pearls of wisdom today...

If you follow Claire's blog you know she's leaving the desert and moving back closer to her old home. Well, tomorrow's moving day and today is load-six-tons-of-stuff-in-a-five-ton-trailer day. It's hot, we're getting to the hard part and the afternoon is not likely to go well, as anyone who has ever moved a household full of stuff can surely understand. So I'm releasing myself from blogging duties for the duration. Probably see you tomorra.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Great Spaghetti Mystery

Out in the boonies, one thing you sort of get used to is having wild critters around. Some of them you work to keep out of your stuff, and some you just pay a tithe not to get more destructive.

Like the Mexican Jays. A lot of people call them bluebirds because they're blue...birds. Actually I guess bluebirds is a pretty good name for them.

Anyway, the bluebirds come in raucous flocks, and they'll steal anything remotely edible. It's almost pointless trying to keep a bird feeder for the finches and the songbirds, because the bluebirds will empty it in an hour. One thing I noticed when I first moved here was that they were constantly raiding the dogs' bowl. They couldn't eat the dog kibble but seemed to recognize it as food, so they'd steal it and hide it. Got to where every box that a bird could conceivably get to was stuffed with old dry dog food.

That behavior started tapering off about a year and a half ago, for no apparent reason. I was relieved because, being deep in my period of penurious solitude, I begrudged them the dog food. But then a new phenomenon began, that nobody's ever been able to explain.

Spaghetti started showing up in the damndest places. Every box, every pipe on the barn shelf, every hole where anybody could ever possibly stuff spaghetti was stuffed with frickin' spaghetti.

And some where nobody could have. I went looking for an ammo can where I kept some spare .45 reloads, my ready-ammo cabinet having been depleted. I opened the can, lifted a cleaning rag and on top of the ammo boxes - spaghetti. I have no idea how it got there.

The weird thing about it is that we're not missing any spaghetti. The only bulk spaghetti we have on the place is sealed in a food bucket. I checked - it's fine. And I never see birds flying around carrying spaghetti.

Some weeks ago M took his old Jeep to the city to get it running. He took the body tub off the frame, and then sent me an email with this photo:


This is tragic! Heartbreaking!

I have just learned of the untimely destruction of a priceless 1957 De Havilland DHC-3T, in the wilds of Alaska. Excuse me...I just can't continue right now. Perhaps I can come back later. I'm sorry...

Oh, there were some survivors. You know, people. Other than the famous guy who's not a surviver. Some of the people died, too. But oh, that beautiful seaplane! *choke*

Practice Civility! (Or we'll kill you. In a civil and urbane fashion.)

I'm sure everyone here has followed the stellar career of that great humanitarian and philantropist, former Congressman The Right Civil James Leach, PBUH. For those benighted rubes who are saying at this moment, "Who the hell is Jim Leach, and why should I care?" What the *&^%ing #^** is wrong with you people? Why, such willful disregard for your betters smacks of ... well, of incivility, that's what!

Jim Leach, as all true Americans know, is the man who singlehandedly
...authored legislation on a range of issues including:

* the creation of an international AIDS Trust Fund,
* debt relief for the world’s poorest countries,
* authorization of an International Monetary Fund quota increase,
* making the Peace Corps an independent federal agency,
* requiring the federal government to use soy ink,
* prohibiting Internet gambling,
* restraining federal employee growth, and
* redressing certain Holocaust asset losses.
And now this great man has unselfishly taken the reins of the National Endowment for the Humanities, that mighty institution which has brought such blessings to us all.

Of late Mr Leach has embarked upon a tour of all fifty states, bringing us in person the benefit of his wisdom and fortitude and ... well, just his gosh-darn civility, that's what.
More than 40 years ago Congress established the National Endowment for the Humanities to address the "the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life." As the head of this unique federal agency, I have embarked on a 50 state civility tour that will bring me to Colorado this week under the auspices of Colorado Humanities. Colorado Humanities has developed a series of public programs laying out how history and literature provide perspective to issues of the day.

One such issue is the fact that civility in our society is breaking down. Citizens are increasingly losing confidence in the institutions of our nation, particularly government, and are becoming disrespectful of their leaders, other faith systems and each other.

Public figures have been spat upon and subjected to racial and homophobic slurs. Men and women who have spoken up about proposals such as health care or economic stimulus packages have been labeled "fascist" or "communist," sometimes at the same time. And words like "secession" and "nullification" have crept into the public dialogue.
I don't know anything about the first accusation, except those instances where it has turned out to be a lie. As to the second, I am frankly in awe of of an administration capable of enacting policies that manage to be both fascist and communist at the same time - though anyone who has read a book knows there isn't much difference between the two at any time. As for the third, speaking strictly for myself (anything else would be uncivil) I'd like to see more use of those words in the public dialogue. I'd like to see some action on them.

I'm now curious about the NEH, this "unique federal agency." I wonder - is it unique in that it doesn't field its own SWAT teams yet? Because a federal agency really can't be sure of civility in its peasants without paramilitary force.


In the annals of bizarre sentences...

...These two, put together, have got to take the cake.
Four cops - one in uniform, several in plainclothes with badges displayed - who were approaching the fight from several directions responded with a volley of 46 shots, likely killing one of the fighters, wounding the second 21 times and striking three civilians and two officers.

Pending the outcome of investigations by the NYPD and the Manhattan district attorney's office, the cops are not to be second-guessed.

I'm sure it's fine. The officers no doubt acted in accord with Department Procedures. Or...something.

I wonder if they learned that "circular firing squad" tactic at the Academy? Oh - wait. That would be second-guessing them, wouldn't it? Sorry. To Serve And Protect, Baby!

H/T to Codrea.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

But it's all right, Momma...

Our masters still have fuel for their custom 747s, so I feel alright.

No, you can't have a ride. But our masters' thugs will be happy to give you some souvenir bullets if you try. You paid for them, too...

"So only $1.5 trillion?"

Here in this CNN article they're crying out for something called a "smart grid" nationwide, in the apparent hope of moving forward the day when we can all not only be equally squalid but equally in the dark. Not one mention in 1500 words of the possibility of, I don't know, maybe building a power plant or two. I know, that's crazy talk. Instead:
Some of the most reliable utilities are in the heartland states of Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas.

In those states, the power is out an average of only 92 minutes per year, according to a 2008 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study. On the other end of the spectrum, utilities in New York Pennsylvania and New Jersey averaged 214 minutes of total interruptions each year. These figures don't include power outages blamed on tornadoes or other disasters.
So let's not increase the supply, let's spend gigabucks spreading the (no trans-fats!) margarine a little thinner on the Wonder Bread.

Here in my little patch of nowhere the countryside is dotted with powerplants, more-or-less one per town. On cool mornings I can see steam plumes from at least three on the horizon. It's good to decentralize, I suppose, because the one that serves the small town nearest me is famously falling to pieces. A few years ago a couple of local guys were nearly squashed when a major portion fell off. It's the biggest employer in town, the tail sort of wagging the dog, and considering how much effort the utility company that owns it spends just keeping the poor ancient thing running it's hard to believe they're really making any money on it. They can't build any new ones, of course. These are coal-fired, grandfathered in under weighty layers of regulation, and the cost of new ones - shudder.

Connect that to a national "smart grid," so New York and Jersey City can last a few more weeks? I wouldn't be looking at steam plumes, I'd be watching smoke columns as the poor things burned themselves down.

As far as I can tell, letting the great national infrastructure built by earlier generations just fall into the dust till we're all reading the Prophetess Ayn Rand by tallow lamps is the plan. Maybe Utopia will only come when nobody can still read.

It's gonna be really ironic if I'm the only one left with a functioning toaster within my lifetime...

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Cellphone Too Far...

Cops Love iPhone Data Trail
Detective Josh Fazio of the Will County Sheriff's Department loves it when an iPhone turns up as evidence in a criminal case.

The sophisticated cell phone and mobile computer is becoming as popular with police as it is with consumers because it can provide investigators with so much information that can help in solving crimes.

"When someone tells me they have an iPhone in a case, I say, 'Yeah!' I can do tons with an iPhone," said Fazio, who works in the sheriff's department high-tech crimes unit.

The iPhones generally store more data than other high-end phones -- and investigators such as Fazio frequently can tap in to that information for evidence.

And while some phone users routinely delete information from their devices, that step is seldom as final as it seems.

"When you hit the delete button, it's never really deleted," Fazio said.

H/T to Unc.

ETA: Y'know, I was just thinking about this the other day. When I was young, this was a telephone:Yeah, the handset made a dandy blunt instrument - and was frequently in the news as such. Now I've got a flippy little box that looks like Captain Kirk's communicator, and though it often annoys me it's really pretty cool that I can be out in a shitfield a mile from anything and still in touch with my friends - if I ever remembered to put the damned thing in my pocket.
Security on the old phones really sucked - the phone company knew everything about you, made no secret of it, and cheerfully gave the information to the cops on demand. In addition to being incredibly easy to tap, well into the early seventies Ma Bell acted like connecting four wires was akin to particle physics and forbade you to connect an extension yourself. And the phones were wired so that they could tell everything about your new phone but the color. A phone guy once demonstrated this to my very embarrassed older brother, in my amused presence.

So while we love to hate the new surveillance culture, in a lot of ways nothing has really changed. I don't assume that even my cheapy pay-as-you-go phone gives me any real anonymity, since no matter what surveillance gear my phone may or may not carry it's still plugged into the cellular network. Never conduct sensitive business over any phone.

Warning: Drinking alcohol reduces situational awareness.

H/T to Sipsey Street.


All weekend I've been going, "I just need two more hours!" But we got a lot done on Landlady's wiring on Saturday, and yesterday I got rained out good. (You don't want to be down near the wash when it's raining hard unless you're comfortable with the notion of sleeping there. I really need to do something about a bed now.)

But this morning after shit-shoveling I went to the Lair and finished all the paneling on the main-floor walls! Yay!

(trim, cleaning and grouting tiles, tiny little things that need more work and other finicky bits not included, available at extra cost.)

So here's a quick tour. How long could it take? It's one room!

This is what it looks like coming through the door.

That's the loft, from where the wood stove will be.

The exit, of course, from about where the kitchen counter will be.

My boooootiful tile job,

And the bathroom door.

There! That didn't take long, did it?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Storing flour? Store a lot.

Says here wheat prices are going through the roof, due to international pressure on various export markets. That's bad news if you eat a lot of bread, like I do.

A fifty-pound sack of ground flour may seem like a lot. Hell, fifty pounds of salt or sugar is probably a lifetime supply for a middle-aged individual, because you use salt and sugar by the spoonful. You use flour by the cup, and it goes fast.

Take a look: a supermarket five-pound bag of flour will produce about four small loaves of bread. If you eat bread like I do, a loaf of bread lasts about half a week. That's five pounds every two weeks. That's living alone, mind you. Double it for a second person, double it again for two more, etc. Of course that assumes you're only using it for bread, which nobody does. Biscuits, pancakes, crackers, bagels ... the wonders of flour just never stop, including how fast it dwindles away.

But anyway that makes it simple to calculate how much bread a fifty-pound sack will produce, if you only use it for bread. Living alone, when I don't make biscuits, etc., that sack lasts me about twenty weeks, or five months. For a family of four, it'll last five weeks. Also known as not enough.

You need to protect it from damp as well as from vermin. Though in my experience flour is not very attractive to rats, they will eat it. What they don't eat, they'll shit all over. Bugs are less picky. And it's terribly vulnerable to mold, so that big sack you were putting your trust in can suddenly, while your back is turned, become a big sack of inedible glop. It's a very bad idea to just flop a couple of sacks on a pantry shelf and think you're golden. Trust me on this.

Twenty-five pounds of flour neatly fills a six-gallon food-quality bucket, so you need two to hold the contents of that one big sack. Those cool spin-on lids are very handy, at least for your working supply. If the buckets aren't forthcoming, at a minimum get yourself some of those big plastic tubs with snap-on lids. They're surprisingly good at keeping water out, though I don't guarantee them against persistent moisture. Rats certainly can chew through them, but I've been using them here for years and so far they never have. Of course tomorrow's another day; don't take that as a guarantee.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Had a bit of excitement today...

Landlady and M came in last night, right on schedule. This morning after breakfast they did some work on Landlady's house, while I went to work on the Lair. M came down and wanted to go to town for plumbing parts, and I tagged along, putting the dogs in their respective places first.

When we got back I had a ciggie, released the hounds, and went down the ridge to Landlady's house. No sooner were we in the meadow than Claire's dogs and Little Bear got very excited about what was under a pile of OSB scrap that Landlady had used to roof over the generator when it rained last weekend. The dogs didn't act like they were hunting a rat, they acted like there was an enemy under there. They cheerfully obeyed me when I ordered them away. Then I picked up one sheet of OSB...

Did you see that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the one with the snakes? This wasn't quite that bad. But I saw a good-sized Mojave Green coiled and rattling at me along with a second, smaller snake, and dropped the board right back down again. I yelled at the house, "Who's got a gun?" Turned out I was the only one there with a gun, but I wasn't too thrilled about going after the snakes with OSB in one hand and a pistol in the other, when I didn't know where under the OSB that big Green had gotten himself to. So I handed my 1911 to M, leaned over, and picked up the board.

Last spring I had an embarrassing incident involving a rattlesnake and a pistol. Since then I haven't been very confident about my ability to kill squirmy things with a .45, and M always was a better shot than me anyway. Yeah, he missed twice and the third, a solid hit, didn't seem to impress the Green very much. He handed me the 1911 and I didn't do much better, getting what should have been but wasn't a solid kill-shot on the second bang. Landlady came over with a shovel - I cut the damned thing's head off and it was still looking for something to bite, though its mobility was now seriously impaired.

That still left the second snake, at a minimum. I moved another board and found it, much smaller and a different species. M had run up the ridge and came back with a 12-gauge which, though a few minutes ago I would have considered it overkill for such a small snake, now seemed maybe barely enough. He blasted the thing and all we could find at the bottom of the impact crater was a minor portion. We finally found another chunk hanging from a branch of the cherry tree, and never did find the head.

So! Lessons learned: A .45 is not a particularly impressive fight-stopper with a rattlesnake. A shotgun is messy and perhaps excessively effective. A shovel works just fine.

Private to M's Mom: This story is complete fiction, I just made it up. Really. M did not ask me to say that.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Evening culinary bleg...

Does anybody know anything about small pressure cookers? Like, does somebody make one less than four quarts, not made of aluminum, and withing a poor old hermit's means? I've spent some time researching them, and am getting confused. At this altitude, it does seem to be the only way I'm ever going to get a decent pot of beans, but I don't know what to get or whether I could afford one I want.

Advice gratefully accepted.

Ah, the song in my head...

...I do hope it's not an indication of how the day's going to go.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This just in from Minas Morgul...

The newest Nazgul, Elena Kagan, has just been confirmed.

Upon receiving the news, Ms. Kagan said ... well, she hasn't actually said anything since her nomination, has she?

So excellent news, as the government of our evil overlords maintains unbroken continuity! You are commanded to rejoice.

Public ridicule? I'm so IN!

I understand why, in the narcissism-drenched, P.R.-scented corridors of the Jaye Edgar Hoover Building, where everyone looks like Scully and Mulder and acts better than Jodie Foster and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. put together, it would be automatically assumed that the only reason somebody would display the sacred seal would be to pass themselves off as a member of the sacred band.
Tam's post didn't make it entirely clear to me why we were ridiculing the FBI, but who needs a reason? With just a bit more linkyclicky I learned that there actually is one:
(CNN) -- The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has threatened Wikipedia with legal action if the online encyclopedia doesn't remove the FBI's seal from its site.

The seal is featured in an encyclopedia entry about the FBI.

Wikipedia isn't backing down, however. The online encyclopedia -- which is run by a nonprofit group and is edited by the public -- sent a chiding letter to the FBI, explaining why, in its view, the FBI is off its legal rocker.

"In short, then, we are compelled as a matter of law and principle to deny your demand for removal of the FBI Seal from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons," the Wikimedia Foundation's general counsel, Mike Godwin, wrote in a letter to
So I'm just here sippin' coffee and spreadin' that ol' meme in my tiny way. Let the Steisand Effect go nuts here! FBI seals everywhere!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

They...they LIED? I'm so disillusioned!

Yup. It's shocking, I know.

You know those whole-body airport scanners that could never, ever store the image of your naked bod, no matter how sweetly you asked? Well, they've been storing images left and right.

She's such a kidder...

It's all fixed now. Congress is all cleaned up.
“Drain the swamp we did, because this was a terrible place,” she said. “We have made a tremendous difference and I take great pride in that.”
Resume your unquestioning faith in your government, citizens! All is well!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

First Tile Job Ever!

Late last week we went to a town about fifty miles away with the trailer, and I bought everything I needed to do the wall behind the wood stove in The Secret Lair.

This was a bit of a nail-biter for me because that part of the wall is tiled, I've never stuck down a tile in my life, and arguably you shouldn't start learning on a vertical wall. But you do what you gotta do.

Claire, bless her heart, got me started with the first couple of rows on the short wall to keep me from committing the more obvious oopsies. And at the end of about three hours:

There it is! I originally did something artsy and had three courses of cedar siding below the tile, but Claire talked me out of that as inconsistent with a fear of fire. After re-thinking I decided fear of fire was more important than art after all, so I pulled off the siding and replaced it with more cement board. So the siding will go above and beside the tile, but not below it.

The little cabin gets very easily cluttered up, so it's a bit hard to see perspective here. But that's the bathroom getting walled in, and I think the terra cotta tiles are going to go really well with the cedar siding. The grout will be the same color as the tiles. Happy!



Lots of people suffering out there, I hear, because the jobs they thought they could depend on collapsed out from under them and they don't know how to get out of that comfy box that suddenly ain't so comfy anymore.

I sympathize with the situation, if not necessarily with the individuals trapped in it, because oh, how I've been there. This lady's been unemployed for over 99 weeks and can't find any job? It's tempting to get all self-righteous and say she can't be looking very hard. But I've been there, and it's possible she was looking desperately - just not in the right places.

I spent much of last decade, starting around 2000, in an increasingly desperate state of chronic and apparently incurable underemployment or unemployment. This while living in one of the most expensive places on the planet. My living arrangements went from a cheap apartment to a cheaper apartment to a converted garage to a rented room in a pensioner's house. Frequently it was only my landlord's patience that kept any sort of roof over my head. I finally had to face up to the deeply unpleasant fact that my old career had left and wasn't coming back. Root, Hog, or Die.

The only way I could find out was to go around. If I can't work in my old field anymore, what can I do? It was time to go back to core competencies, and resolve that Mr. Respectable Suburban Man wasn't ever again gonna admire the furnishings of his respectable home in a respectable neighborhood. But I didn't have to starve or live behind a bus stop bench if I faced the new reality and made the adjustments that needed to be made.

Those adjustments are jarring - I remember them well. But putting it off, living on unemployment (and dreading the day when it inevitably ends) only makes a bad situation worse. We're conditioned to be picky about where we live and what we do for a living, but that pickiness is a terrible trap. It's a thousand times worse if you've got a family to maintain, which the lady in the linked article doesn't. Except for all that useless debt she took on she's actually in a pretty good position to start over fresh, though I don't expect her to do what's needed to take advantage of it. She'll do what I suspect most people will - She'll keep going further and further downhill till she finally latches onto enough of an eight-to-fiver to resume some parody of her former lifestyle. And she'll spend the rest of her life whining about it.

Truth is I kinda got to liking that path less traveled, and decided to take it to extremes. There's great comfort in simplicity, if you can become the sort of person to first seek it and embrace it, and then relax and enjoy it. But it requires a restructuring of a helluva lot of old and ingrained habits and assumptions. A lot of people aren't going to be willing to take that trip.

The first and most important of those adjustments: You are not what you do for a living. When people ask, "What do you do?" they're really asking "Who/what are you?" Me, I'm not about what I do for money. Cut wood, shovel shit, tend weekenders' gardens, haul trash - hell, I don't care. That's not who I am, it's just how I keep the pantry stocked.

And I'm not here to pat myself on the back for my rugged individualism. Without the kindness of friends I wouldn't be in anything like as good a position. I've been living in somebody else's RV on somebody else's land for going on four years. Now I'm building on a patch of land provided by another friend. It's not pure sponging - I do try to give value for value received. But there's no denying I started out as a charity case. There's not that much charity left in this overtaxed world.

So, like TJIC I sympathize with the situation this lady's in, if not with all the choices she made that helped her get into it. I hope she finds her way out - but I'm not at all confident she will.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"It's helpful to hear you say it out loud..."

...Says Jim Treacher at the DC Trawler.

Here's a video of a U.S. congressman getting caught saying something he thinks is true.

I'm tellin' ya, people. Spinning blades are the way to go.

Sometimes I think I'm not too tightly wrapped...

So I'm hauling my shit-wagon up hill and down dale, shoving horses out of the way so I can get to their offerings. Most people would not find this a particularly appealing way to spend a morning; in fact people pay me to do it for them because they'd rather not do it themselves. But maybe halfway through I start getting this song in my head (to the tune of the Wassail song):

Here we go shit-shoveling across the dusty plain
Here we go shit-shoveling in sunshine and in rain
Horses shit – Constantly!
And that's very good for me
For it keeps me in flour, rice and beans from day to day
Yes, it keeps me in flour, rice and beans!

I am not a beggar living on the rulers' dole
Or working in an office in a gray upholstered hole
Raise your tails, ladies, do!
And I'll scoop behind you too
For it keeps me in sugar, coffee, cigarettes and brew
Doggie snacks, bourbon, cigarettes and brew!

Never quite got to a third verse.

Sunday, August 1, 2010