Friday, December 30, 2011

I suppose I should be honored...

...It's the first time anybody's paid attention to my ass in a long damn time. Unfortunately it's the wrong gender, not to mention the wrong species.

Comet the colt has a new trick - he likes to bite you on the ass. It's not just people, either. Visioness the big mare wants him dead. One of her favorite resting places involves pushing her rump against the fence between her enclosure and Comet's, and Comet thinks it's funny to sneak up and bite her. A few days ago, I'm told, she got through the gate in the fence and tried very sincerely to thank him for that good and hard. Fortunately H, who had very briefly left the gate unlatched, was there to rescue him.

So today I'm in his pasture shoveling shit, right? And Comet - who has become much less shy in the past couple of months, comes over to say hi. And we bump noses, and I stroke his neck, and then he sidles off to one side and reaches around behind me with his long neck, aiming his teeth for my ass. I was forewarned, though, and he didn't think it was right when I spun around and smacked his nose. He tried sneaking up on me a couple more time, but subtlety isn't his strong suit and he never came close.

Never turn your back on a horse, even a little one, unless you know it very well. Even then you're taking a chance. Their idea of fun can cost you skin, and that's the patch I sit on.

Just Because...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Acknowledgement of care packages

I got busy and forgot to mention it, but yesterday I got an email from the lady who handles my mail drop telling me that I have two care packages, one from Claire and one from Donkeybuster. I don't know what's in them because I won't see them for another two weeks or so, but just so you guys know - your packages did arrive safely and will get to me in the fullness of time.


It's too late to worry now!

The building has left Elvis!

And for the first time in - well, basically, ever - Landlady's property is trailer-free.

Every day in every way, I'm getting civilizeder and civilizeder.

A brace of red-letter days!

Yesterday I got back to the Lair late. After installing the new check valve in M's well pump outflow pipe and (hopefully) fixing the system, I met with the fellow who's helping me haul off the Interim Lair to parts unknown. The boys and I got back to the (permanent) Lair a bit later than usual, and while hanging up my coat I happened to notice that the level in the toilet's (did I mention I have a flush toilet? It hasn't flushed under its own power lately, but it's really there) bowl was up to regulation level, which it definitely hadn't been in the morning after I "flushed" it with dirty dishwater. As far as I know the only way to raise the level in a vessel of water without reducing the vessel's depth or diameter is to add water. If water had been added, this meant that ice plug I mentioned earlier had broken up.

Giddy with excitement - yes, I'm easily excited - I took the three steps to the sink, lifted the valve toggle, and ... AGUA! I mean it didn't even spurt, just flowed like nothing had ever been wrong. Wondrous! This morning on the way to Landlady's property I stopped at the cistern and measured the level. It's right at the level where I last measured it, a little before three in the afternoon. So it must have bled back a little overnight, but "normally" it would be just about dead empty. So my new check valve is working, and it looks like we have a fix.

This morning - any minute now, in fact - I expect a call from The-Guy-Who's-Taking-The-Interim-Lair-Away. Unless something goes horridly wrong thereafter, between us we will make one of Landlady's fondest dreams come true. No, not the one involving Daniel Day-Lewis. The one where her property contains not one single RV trailer.

Just barely making the deadline, too, I'll have you know.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wow, design fail.

Yesterday I spent nearly four hours catching up on my shit-shoveling, after the snow/cold of the weekend. Four hours of wading through mud so I could pry horse shit out of ice, since the ground thawed everywhere except where there was horseshit. No doubt the real explanation is that where the ice had thawed, the horses pretty much trampled everything into the mud, which then had to be raked and forked into the wagon. Half a dozen trips to the manure pile - uphill, of course - with a wagon filled with mud and ice chunks. Fun times. But I kept at it and now that part of my life is done with.

I was rewarded, as I got ready to go, by an unexpected burst of good karma. J said, "Hey, tomorrow morning I'm going to (the town that has the plumbing supply shop I need). You still need to go?"

Why yes, I did. So this morning I met him, we drove out there, and when I told the guy at the counter what I needed he didn't even blink. The stuff I needed wasn't even out of stock! Incredible! Zip zam, I had the valve and all the needed fittings in my hand.

Got home, grabbed a screwdriver and a hacksaw and a teapot full of hot water, headed up to the pumphouse. When I cut through the flexible pipe I saw part of our problem right away: water came gushing out of the hose from the cistern. I expected some, but wow - I do believe the flow rate in the wrong direction exceeds the flow rate from the pump. There's got to be some serious back-pressure against that pump.

Be that as it may, the cistern is filling on this succession of sunny days we've been having. Not fast, but it's filling. And now there's a nice brass check valve in the line coming out of the well, so the water that gets to the tank will stay in the damned tank overnight.

I checked the flow at the spigot outside the Lair. It belched and gurgled and filled a bottle with water the color of coffee, which told me the ice plug at the base of the cistern has melted. After about ten gallons it started running clear and hard, but I've still got nothing inside the cabin. Opened the drain spigot under the cabin and got nothing, which tells me the line coming up from the ground is still frozen. I'll put a hose on that valve and set it to drip, and hopefully that'll break it up since the weather for the next couple of days is supposed to get quite warm. Today it's almost too warm for a light jacket, in the sun.

We're getting there. But I think in the spring we should look at relocating the supply line to the top of the cistern instead of the bottom, since at the bottom the damn thing still freezes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Y'know, I was just wondering about these guys, ...

When Preparing Your Family gave me a link...

TSA screenings aren't just for airports anymore
Rick Vetter was rushing to board the Amtrak train in Charlotte, N.C., on a recent Sunday afternoon when a canine officer suddenly blocked the way.

Three federal air marshals in bulletproof vests and two officers trained to spot suspicious behavior watched closely as Seiko, a German shepherd, nosed Vetter's trousers for chemical traces of a bomb. Radiation detectors carried by the marshals scanned the 57-year-old lawyer for concealed nuclear materials.

When Seiko indicated a scent, his handler, Julian Swaringen, asked Vetter whether he had pets at home in Garner, N.C. Two mutts, Vetter replied. "You can go ahead," Swaringen said.
This is the LA Times, which isn't exactly the Daily Freedomista, and even they can't take VIPR seriously. But DHS has political turf to protect: Those budgets don't increase themselves, you know! At least, not enough to suit a bureaucrat.
"We are not the Airport Security Administration," said Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte. "We take that transportation part seriously."

The TSA's 25 "viper" teams — for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response — have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.
And even the TSA admits this isn't doing a damn bit of good...
TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety. But they argue that the random nature of the searches and the presence of armed officers serve as a deterrent and bolster public confidence.
Serve as a deterrent to what, exactly? Terrorists? The only people at Amtrak stations who seem to hate America are the Amtrak execs. If they ever go to train stations. And bolstering public confidence there would be better served by getting a few of the trains to run on time, clearly an impossible task.

Monday, December 26, 2011

TSA jumps the shark!

Now confiscating cupcakes?
Rebecca Hains said the Transportation Security Administration agent at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas took her cupcake Wednesday. According to Hains, he told her its frosting was enough like a gel to violate TSA restrictions on allowing liquids and gels onto flights to prevent them from being used as explosives.

"I just thought this was terrible logic," Hains said Friday.
Ya think?

Hey, republicans! Democrats! You out there listening? Because I'm about to break what amounts to a lifetime vow, right here on TUAK, right now, but I need your help. Ready?

I, Joel, the management and staff of TUAK, do hereby promise to register to vote and then vote for the presidential candidate, regardless of party, who first makes a campaign issue of TSA and promises to abolish the agency as his/her first presidential act. Yes, I know he'll be lying. I don't even care. I just want to see somebody do that much, once before I die.

Yeah, not holding my breath.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Can you spare some water?"

Seems like a silly question, right? I mean, how hard is that? On the grid, you think of water as this unlimited commodity, like air. My house might have plumbing problems that limit me temporarily, but the guy next door will always have plenty. When I lived in the city, if I needed some water and my neighbor wasn't home I probably wouldn't think much about using his garden hose without permission.

Here, not so much. We just came off four solid days in which solar panels weren't much good. That has implications for more than lights and computers, because all water pumps are electric. So when you don't have electricity, the water you've got in your cistern is what you've got. Sure, most people have back-up generators. But they cost, too. Water isn't free.

This was much on my mind this morning, as I looked at my empty emergency bottles and wondered the best way to fill them. Nobody around is gonna have full cisterns except - ironically - Landlady, and her water system is turned right off to keep the freeze damage down. I'm down to two bottles, six gallons. Yesterday I melted snow in the sink so I'd have something to wash dishes with, then used the drained-off dishwater to flush my toilet. If I hadn't had the snow, I'd be almost OUT of water. You don't want to be out of water.

So I visited my neighbors J&H, with some trepidation because they've got a bunch of horses and go through a LOT of water. Granted they also have three cisterns for that reason, their electrical system isn't all that great either. I would never have dreamed of impolitely filling my bottles without permission. But J's kept on top of his situation and has lots. They had all sorts of problems with their water system last winter, and he spent the intervening months being very industrious about improvements as money permitted. So he greeted my request with cheerful generosity, and now at least all the bottles are full.

If we could get several sunny days to put water back in M's cistern, I'd be all right. It seems to fill faster than the bad check valve is bleeding back, but only when it's sunny. The weather report calls for a whole week of sun, but that's a big change from what it said last time I looked. We'll see.

Sigh. Christmas carols, too, must change with the times...

Saw it over at Claire's. Merry Christmas, y'all.

The funniest thing I'll read for the rest of the year...

It triggers, even after a decade, the same reflexive spinal-level twitch you'd get from the sound of a running Husqvarna being lobbed into a playpen.

The topic isn't even that interesting ... maybe it's because right now my Husky is my most-used tool, but it made me laugh till I choked.

Gotta give the weather points for irony. Or perversity. Or something.

After snowing most of the day, right around 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday the clouds parted like somebody opened a curtain. It was uncanny. Right before sundown, of course: Not enough to do the solar panels any good but enough to slightly melt the snow so that this morning it was frozen to them like concrete. Had to wait till it softened before I could clean them off. But after that, power! Beautiful power.

The removal of the clouds also caused the temperature to fall like somebody hit it with an ax. It was 14 degrees by 7:30, and twelve hours later it was 1 degree. The Lair handled this well ... if you consider that I built it. Absolutely certain I've got to insulate under the floor, which got kind of cold. But still, on the ground floor it was 38 degrees when I crawled out from under the blankets, considerably warmer in the loft. Took a LONG time to get it up to 60, but again the loft was much warmer much quicker. I've already gotten into the habit of reading up there most mornings.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Four days of overcast, two days of snow...

Maybe a good thing the internet guy didn't move the dish, since I have no electricity at all now. Haven't seen the sun for more than a couple of minutes in days. This is as gray and snowy as I ever remember it getting, and it really settled in. Snowed all day yesterday, and shows to do the same today. Had to fight my way through the wash to get here, couldn't get the Jeep up the hill at all.

No 'tricity, no water, and I'm still far better off than I was this time last winter. 'Cause I've got HEAT!! Also the Lair is pretty much designed to treat electricity as a dispensable luxury.

And now, I'm going to put my gloves back on before my fingers freeze and head the Jeep right back to it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Almost makes you feel better about Obama, doesn't it?

Kim Jong-Un Privately Doubting He's Crazy Enough To Run North Korea

Although Kim's birthday is already recognized as a national holiday and any criticism of him is punishable by indefinite sentences in re-education camps, Kim suggested that the stress of living up to his father's insanity has already taken a toll.

"For years, I haven't even enjoyed the things I used to love, like forcing starving people to perform a five-hour dance routine in my honor, because I spend the whole time obsessing over whether I'm being wacko enough," Kim admitted. "That's what was so special about Dad, you know: He never worried about all that stuff, he just acted like himself. What can I say? The old man set the loony bar pretty high."

Added Kim, "God, I'm really going to miss him, you know?

H/T to Carl.

Pretty sure I've got a diagnosis on the water thing...

Okay. I measured and recorded the water level in the cistern yesterday morning: Almost but not quite empty. Did it again yesterday at sundown. In between we had fitful sunshine, but enough direct sun that the pump should have pumped measurable water into the tank. And it did - the level was up a good few inches, anyway.

Then first thing this morning I went out and checked it again. Empty.

Okay! Since I'm as sure as I can be that there's no leak, that means a check valve has failed and the water is draining back into the well overnight. No surprise, in my admittedly limited experience out here it seems to me there's only two kinds of check valves: Those that have failed and those that will sooner or later.

Now, I'm pretty sure the valve for this system is at the pump, which is 150 feet below the ground and which I plan to leave there. The flexible pipe is accessible, and I can rig a check valve in that pipe one way or another. Unfortunately, the parts I need are many miles away and I still can't legally drive. Putting out a beg to the neighbors, but if I can't resolve it over the remainder of the week I'll probably sneak out of town over the weekend. In the meantime, if the weather report is even moderately accurate it doesn't matter anyway, since the sun appears to be vacationing in Panama. No sun, no water pump.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Leader Kim Jong Il sets a wonderful example for other national leaders to follow...

Sigh. The other thing that happens... that the service guy does show up - even on time - and then comes up with a very creative reason why the work you need done can't be done that day. Or at all.

So the guy actually does show up, calls me, I drive out to the cattle gate and guide him in. He looks at the dish, like he's not quite sure what it's for. He logs onto my computer, goes on line, turns to me, and says, "It's connecting."

I say, "Yeah, it's always worked fine."

He says, "So what's the problem?"

Alarm bells go off. I've been here before.

"It doesn't need to be fixed. She wants it moved to a different location."

"I can't do that on a service ticket. That needs a moving ticket."

"Well," I say, not reaching for a firearm, "You drove like fifty miles to get here. Can't you get on the phone you have in your hand right there and generate a new work order? One that permits you to move the system, as I'm quite certain [Landlady] asked for in the first place, since she's perfectly aware that the system isn't broken and doesn't need to be fixed?"

"No, I can't do that." Then he went off on an exceedingly unconvincing riff about how my dish has a right-dingus, and when we get it to the new location it might need a left-dingus because they've been transitioning to left-dinguses instead of right-dinguses, but he didn't bring any left-dinguses with him because he didn't know he was supposed to move the dish to a different location, and that's why he can't move the dish to a different location.

Or something. I confess I stopped listening, because I've heard better excuses.

Anyway, we're still in the old, cold scriptorium and may be for some time.

"There's a lot more arresting going on now."

Have you noticed that people are more tolerant of the concept of police arrest? Less put off when it turns out a friend has been arrested? Less frightened of the idea of being arrested? Maybe it's just me.

Or maybe not. Maybe familiarity really does breed contempt. Or tolerance, in this case.

H/T to Unc.

You know what I hate?

I hate uncertainty. I don't mean minor uncertainties, like what book I'll read next or whether I should have rice or macaroni for supper. I mean major uncertainties, where I don't know if something is going to be screwed up or not, and it really matters, and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.

Case in point: This morning. The installer guy is supposed to come and move the satellite dish and modem from Landlady's barn to the Secret Lair. It's one of those deals where you just have to leave open a slot between eight and twelve. He may be late, but most likely if twelve o'clock rolls around and he hasn't shown, he isn't going to. In fact, most likely he won't show up anyway, no matter what time it is, because that's the way things work around here with tradesmen. And while it'd be cool to have internet access at the Lair the truth is I don't want some stranger nosing around it, so part of me won't mind when he doesn't show up. Not showing up is pretty much par, so that won't upset me. It's the uncertainty: Will he or won't he? Only he knows for certain, if he does, which isn't certain.

Then there's the water thing. It's going from huge irritation to actual problem. This morning, after a night that should not under the most unlikely scenario have frozen anything, I woke to zero water pressure. Again.

Last time I lost pressure, the cistern was empty. There's no reason the cistern should ever be empty: I'm the only one using the water and I just don't use that much. It's a 2600 gallon tank: It would take months for me to use it up. It happened last time right after a couple of cloudy days, which meant the well pump wasn't working or at least not very much. This morning was also the first sunny morning in a couple of days, and when I checked the cistern it was virtually empty: An inch or two, just enough to keep the sediment out of the pipes. It wasn't full before the last cloudy spell, but I don't use that much water.

Therefore, beyond reasonable doubt, one of two things is happening. The system is leaking somewhere, or the water is draining back into the well when the pump isn't running. A one-way valve is supposed to prevent that last thing, but they fail. I've been over every inch of the system where there's any plumbing at all, indoors and out, and can find no hint of a leak. A thousand gallons of water usually leaves a sign of its passage, you know? It's not that hard.

Sometimes living off-grid is a pain in the ass. You either accept that going in or you shouldn't do it. I accepted it years ago. But sometimes the pain is worse than other times. Running water is such a delightful luxury: Even though I went without it for more than a year, just the past few weeks have spoiled me completely. This is not something I'm prepared to just live with, like I usually do. I've got to find and fix the problem.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Well, maybe tomorrow...

Since moving to the Lair, this "using the internet" thing has gotten to be kind of a hassle. I've got a (second) appointment with the installer who's supposed to move all the gadgetry to the Lair tomorrow, but he cancelled last time due to weather less unpleasant than tomorrow's is likely to be so I'm not holding my breath.

Sorry for the light posting, but it's just kind of a drag right now.

I'm on the way to solving the Lair's electricity woes, though. Had breakfast with my weekender neighbors S&L yesterday morning, and in return for past and future services rendered they turned over a spare 225-watt solar panel that all by itself outclasses the six old salvaged panels I've been using. I'm going to use the racking M scrounged for me and mount it on the roof so it gets more winter sun (it turns out that ground level isn't a good location when you built at the foot of a couple of converging ridges: This close to the solstice they're only getting a few hours' direct sun on sunny days, which is not every day. Live and learn.) Also before I can use the new panel at all I need a new charge controller, also before there's any point I need some new batteries, also before I get new batteries I need to build them a shelter. So there's work to do on that front. But it's nice to have the panel even if I can't use it right now. I'm kind of a magpie that way.

Anyway, I'll get all this straightened out as quickly as I can. For the past few weeks I've just been hanging around and enjoying the comfort of living in a cabin, not really doing any work at all that didn't involve firewood. But now I'm getting more interested in getting it back in gear.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Even when they do something right not wrong, they do something wrong!

Hey, remember the incandescent lightbulb ban? Set to kick in on Jan 1? Oh, sure you do: We've been bitching and laughing about it for years.

Well, it's still in effect. Only not really.
A last-minute rider attached to the omnibus government spending bill defanged the 2007 energy standards for light bulbs that would have rendered the good ol’ incandescent all but obsolete, starting Jan. 1, by stripping funding for enforcing the ban.
Yeah, great. Except the law was passed something like five years ago, which means manufacturers are all geared up for the fluorescents and - considering that the law is still on the books but has only been "defunded," sure as hell aren't going to change now, two frickin' weeks before the ban goes into effect.

WTF, congress? If you're gonna do the right thing, (HAH!) then do it. If you're gonna continue to be the stupid parasitic asswipes you are, then do that. But you can't say, "vote for me, I'm a stupid parasitic asswipe but not as well funded." Because that's even stupider.

Well, I suppose you can say it. But it's still really stupid.

Just saying.

LB gets a little fresh air...

Uncle Ghost went off to spend the weekend with S&L, leaving Little Bear a bit lonely. Poor li'l guy...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sorry about that,...

Wednesday was just a miserable winter day all around. Yesterday I started having trouble with water pressure which put me in a bad mood. I don't know what the problem is: The pump was running but the cistern was dry. It's got me concerned - granted that for the previous couple of days the pump probably didn't run, the tank shouldn't have gone dry in that much time. I looked all over the property and could find no signs of leaking. I'll know later today if the thing is even pumping water, since yesterday and today are sunny. Right now I'm back to using my emergency bottles, and since the Lair site is where I've gotten my water for the past year or two that's kind of an ironic problem. Also, if water's really going to be that much of a problem I've painted myself into a technological corner because a flush toilet is superior to any other kind ... unless you don't have running water, which at the moment I don't. Bother.

This morning it's bright but cold and very windy. But I've huddled for a couple of days and now have things that need doing. Cut wood yesterday for a while and I'm going back and getting more right after shit-shoveling, and that will at least take that off my mind. This heating with wood thing is turning out to be as pleasant as I hoped and simpler than I feared, at least for now, but I really want more of a surplus than I've got. You do need to stay on top of the wood thing, and I tend to be even lazier than usual in the winter.

Tuesday when I was in here surfing and blogging I stayed so long all my finger went numb and it was an hour in the cabin before they stopped hurting. I can already feel them freezing as I type this, which probably had something to do with my reluctance to come back yesterday and the day before. That's very unpleasant. Now I got an email from Landlady that the installation at the Lair has been rescheduled, and I hope this time the guy can make it. Things would be simpler if I could use the 'net any time I wanted to.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finally read a Larry Correia book...

...and it still wasn't Monster Hunter International. Not sure what I was thinking, but when I did my Amazon shopping spree I went looking for MHI and got hooked by the reviews of a newer book instead, something called Dead Six.

Dead Six is, frankly, not the sort of book I normally pick up. Say "military fiction" or "techno-thriller" to me, and I think Tom Clancy or WEB Griffin. Clancy's charm burned out for me somewhere around Debt of Honor, and I just can't get that other guy at all.

But I'd been wanting to read something by Correia, and this came up, and...

Well, it's frickin' awesome. It's actually a collaboration, with Correia and some other guy writing the two viewpoint characters separately, and if ever there were a recipe for plot continuity disaster that would have to be it but here it's done nearly seamlessly and what it gets you is two completely different and (mostly) believable characters, either of whom could be the hero of the tale - or either the villain. The characters are marvelously well done. The plot hums right along, the dialogue is sharp and clean and entertaining, I just can't think of anything to criticize, and it's pissing me off.

It's not freedom fic by any means and I'm not going to bother reviewing it because it's really not my genre and there's a good review here. Like that guy says, this is the return of guy fiction.

Now I've really got to find a copy of MHI.

Well, nothing went according to plan. Surprise.

I was washing dishes in the Lair (Yes, I do that now) when I got a text saying that due to bad weather the installer guy wasn't coming to move my internet connection. So I'm still in the cold, dark room in the barn. Grumble.

I looked outside: Literally not a cloud in the sky at sunup. Now some clouds are mosying past, and the wind has come up. But it's still beautiful. in the forties before ten in the AM, ...

Aw, who knows? The weather can vary a lot in a ten-mile space, and it can change mighty fast. Today was supposed to be at least as unpleasant as yesterday, and still might fulfill the prophecy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A very practical gift...

I don't do Christmas much. And so I'm always a bit embarrassed when people give me gifts. Oh, I take them ... but it embarrasses me.

This morning I rushed to get the shit-shoveling done. I had to move it up a day because the service guy is supposed to come tomorrow morning and move my satellite dish and I have to leave that time slot open, and I had to rush because rain and snow were due any second. In fact the rain started in earnest just as I started typing this, which means I need to run and rescue the boys.

Anyway, J came out and said he'd left my Christmas gift on the seat of the Jeep, and he hoped I didn't mind if it was unwrapped and that it was a rather practical gift. I said that since I wasn't expecting anything at all, both were fine and much appreciated. And it was a very practical gift indeed, since I'd been planning to get one for myself...

I told them I'd be putting it up this very day.

Saturday morning I got a gift from my weekender neighbors S&L. And while not exactly practical, it's certainly apropo...

BTW, the internet guy is supposed to come move the system to the Lair tomorrow, but ... well, this is a place where you believe that when you see it and we're due for a few days of crappy weather so I'll believe it when I see it. But if things go real quiet around here, it's because he got it apart but failed to get it back together. If everything goes EXACTLY according to plan (HAH!) the next post you see here tomorrow will be tapped out at my very own desk in my very own lair.

Ian, Ian, Ian...

Only he could find a way to make a revolver with a bayonet look cool. Because it's not mall ninja gear when it's a 100-year-old Webley...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is that alligator smoking a cigar?

I've had about three disjointed lines from this dumb song stuck in my head for days. Guess my subconscious is trying to get with the season.

Yeah, I grew up with a better class of comics than you young fellers did...

Argh. They say a dog...

...knows the difference between being kicked and being tripped over. I'm not so sure.

I came out of the scriptoreum to, um, chase some mutant zombie bikers. Yeah, that's it. And on my way to the tree Little Bear came running over to say hey, like we hadn't seen each other five minutes before when he got tired of hanging around in the cold dark room with Daddy and wanted out in the sun, right? And he INSERTED HIS PAW DIRECTLY UNDER MY DESCENDING PLASTIC FOOT, over which I have little control, and I swiveled to keep from crushing it, and he darted forward no doubt with the same objective, and he caught my right foot in the ribs, and he let out a yelp like I'd shot him in the pancreas, and then I fell right over him, and I think he maybe got a knee in the ribs 'cause he gave me another agonized yelp like this was his last moment on earth, and I skinned my other knee and about impaled my right palm on a rock trying to keep from just landing on him with all my weight, and I roll over on my back and I'm moaning and yelling, and he comes over and sticks his muzzle in my face and knocks my hat off and I think he's trying to tell that he doesn't know if I was beating on him or playing with him but just for the record if he gets a choice he prefers the latter, okay?

I gotta get a better class of dog. And some iodine.

The 1911 Gets Godwined!

From Random Acts of Patriotism, courtesy of The Travis McGee Reader.

Where else but Chicago?

Seen at Days of our Trailers...
Panel backs new fine for guns near schools, parks

People toting guns within 500 feet of Chicago schools and parks would get hit with an additional $3,000 fine under a measure endorsed Thursday by the City Council Public Safety Committee.

The additional fines also would apply to those loitering near schools as part of gang or drug activities under the proposal, set for a full council vote Wednesday. Current fines for the offenses range from $100 to $500, and the new fines would be added to those, said Ald. Ariel Reboyras, 30th, who proposed the measure.

"It just sends a clear message that we're not going to tolerate it," Reboyras said. "If you're going to do it, you're going to pay."

Reboyras conceded the fines are unlikely to deter wrongdoing.

"The bad guy's going to do what the bad guy does — fines mean nothing to them," he said. "But if nothing else, it steps up the fines, and if we should happen to catch someone, they'll pay another fee. That's all. It just adds more money to the revenue."
What can you even say to that?

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

Your garbage is my gold.

When a plot of ground gets graded for a house, a fair number of junipers are usually bulldozed to their deaths. And since cedar is often reluctant to rot, there they sit: shoved off to one side, a haven for rats and rattlesnakes.

I've got a couple of neighbors who, hearing I've switched to a wood-based economy for my heating, have invited me onto their places to haul the crap off. One of them has gotten kind of insistent about it. Guess I can't blame him: The 'dozer guy must have wiped out a brazillian trees, and they're stacked up like a hedgerow darn near a hundred yards long. Been there for years.

A lot of this isn't of much use to me. The dozer half-buries them in dirt, and cedar does rot sometimes. But it also often doesn't, and so I've been driving around with the trailer behind the Jeep, collecting trailer-loads. Once they're back on my place, an hour on the sawbuck with the chainsaw gives me a couple of days' firewood without even raising a sweat.

It beats hauling the stuff out of the boonies, and this time of year I don't have to worry about snakes.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What was it worth?

This is a subject I avoid, mostly. There are strong feelings on either side. But I've got a son-in-law in the military, husband of my only daughter, father of my only grandchild, and this picture got to me. If I ever see a picture of Grandatter posed like this, there had better be a good reason. I care a hell of a lot more about them than I do about who rules Kabul this week.

And that's all I've got to say.

H/T to Robb Allen.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When Seniors Explode?

Okay, nothings going on in my life worth talking about (I cut some wood! I flushed my toilet! Yeah, you've got all that) and nothing seems to be going on in the world worth linking to. I'm going back to my (cooler than yours) cabin.

But check this out, courtesy of Claire. It's short and funny and should make TSA people want to hang themselves in embarrassment. But they won't. Because they hate us and think we suck.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Okay, I'm gonna stop talking about the weather now. Till next time.

Except to say we finally got our first single-digit night, and the cabin came through pretty well. Unfortunately the fire I set to smolder decided it would rather go out entirely, fairly early, so things did get a bit shivery. But it was a sunny afternoon in the Caribbean compared to what the RV put me through night after night for five winters, and I am completely not complaining. This was the first morning when I felt the lack of floor insulation, but still - a wool sock under a sandal, and my toes were a little chilly but nowhere near frostbit. I'll take it.

Now we're due, if the weatherman continues his surprising run of accuracy, for several sunny days with increasingly warm afternoons. Now that I have my chains back the wood rack is filling back up nicely, the Jeep starts and runs better (The power had gotten so low it didn't even like to idle - I'm guessing it was messing with the injector pulsewidths, but it's the first time I've seen a bad battery cause an engine not to want to run right) and all is right with my world. Looks like the satellite dish will get moved early next week - if all goes well, which around here is by no means guaranteed.

Speaking of the RV, it took roughly a week for the vermin to decide the coast was clear. And they must have been impressive: I left maybe an inch of food in the dog's dish, figuring I might want to shelter LB in there during the transition. That never happened, but that food is completely gone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back in the saddle again!

Woke this morning to a couple of problems that were going to have me illegally driving right through town in broad daylight, something I avoid, because I had two physical needs that could no longer be put off. I needed my chainsaw chains in the worst way, and the battery in the Jeep is dying so fast that every time I start the engine might be the last.

It dawned very cold this morning, as predicted, and so I hung around the cabin until late before going shit-shoveling. Intended to head to town right after that. Mentioned my situation to J, who told me H was going in and I should tag along with her.

Now, I don't normally ask to bum rides from H, because she really doesn't enjoy that and I don't go where I'm not welcome. But she cheerfully agreed to help me out, even to the extent of hanging around when it turned out Mike at the saw shop didn't have my chains done as promised. While we were waiting I went to the auto parts store and bought a heart-breakingly expensive battery, which hopefully will last longer than the second-hand battery I got last time. Now the battery's charged, I'm ready to cut the firewood I've got stacked at the lair tomorrow, and I've gone from being a mildly worried man to one without a problem in the world.

Always wise to keep good relations with the neighbors.

"Critical thinking is unpatriotic."

This piece from Popehat is worth your time. In fact, quite aside from what it has to say on the WoD, it addresses a major way I've always found so many conservatives annoying.
But patriotism, as defined by modern law enforcement — as defined by the sort of people who seek power in government — isn’t about exercising faculties like critical thinking or independent moral judgment. It’s about saluting, in the way we salute flags and fallen soldiers and parades, core ideas that have been transformed from policy arguments into quasi-religious dogma. The War on Drugs is merely one of many — along with “War on Terror” and “Government Regulators Know What They Are Doing” and “The Political Process In America Works.” Few of us salute them all, but most of us salute at least a few.
I don't. And I am frequently called unpatriotic by people I don't have a lot of fundamental disagreements with.

Seen at Tam's and Unc's, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it elsewhere.

Contact has been made...

Got a call from a person. In a place. Soon the satellite dish and modem will be professionally moved out to the Secret Lair, which means I don't have to confine the dogs, drive a mile, and sit in a shivery room watching my fingers freeze solid every time I want to use my computer for anything more than a word processor or a DVD player.

Rejoicing will be heard in the land. I still don't know when, though.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sometimes good things come in gurgling packages.

Hey, kids! Do you know what happened on this date in 1933?

Here's a hint...

That's right! Everybody wore hats!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cold, with a side order of colder.

The nasty weather hasn't really been all that nasty so far, but the weather forecast remains adamant that it's gonna go out with a memorable bang. So far nighttime temps are mid-twenties, but Monday night it's still supposed to head for single digits. Two new days of cloudy skies have been added by the gloomy forecasters, and it just generally looks like the weather will suck massively until around Thursday. Which is okay with me, because I'm very much enjoying the still-new sensation of sitting in a comfy chair and wearing sandals and a single sweatshirt in front of a cheerily-popping fire while wintergeddon is going on two glass-thicknesses away. The past five winters, by now I'm wearing five layers and desperately trying to get feeling into my fingers before they fall right the hell off. This is a big improvement.

In fact the only problem I've got, and it's not a huge one, is the matter of firewood. There's lots of wood hauled to the Lair but it's not cut to length. I've got three ways to do it, because redundancy is good, but two of them suck and the third is not currently available. I've got to sneak into town during the day to pick up my chainsaw chains, which are currently in the shop, and then I'll be golden. Mustn't put it off till I'm out of firewood.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SayUncle has "Gun Pr0n." TUAK has M.

From M's Forgotten Weapons:

If that's all it takes, I could get a job writing sales labels for European battle rifles - since I know next to nothing about them, and that seems to be a qualification.

M's at the SAR show in Phoenix this weekend, and probably having more fun than I am. I wanted to go this year, but the logistics were prohibitive. Sometimes I do wish I could legally drive myself around.

"Uncle Joel, ..."

"It's snowing. Make it stop."

LB loves the snow - in a perfect world he'd have been born to a sled team. Ghost isn't nearly as enthusiastic, and holds me responsible.

Hasn't actually snowed much here so far, I woke up to an inch or two. Heard on the radio last night, though, that the big town about fifty miles away got like two feet. They're at a higher elevation and always get way more than we do, but that's a bit extreme.

Weather being nasty last night, it was a perfect time to sneak into town and get some goodies to ride out the storms. Mostly just munchies and booze, but also some stuff for the Lair. Doing it the way I do it's pretty much risk-free - I think - but I always get back feeling like I've been shot at and missed. And when I'm shot at and missed I like to celebrate, which means I was up a bit later than usual. Then the boys woke me up around 10:30, just being restless. And then again around two, and this time LB sounded like he was in some distress. I've learned not to ignore that, so I put on my leg and came down to let them out. That was what he needed, and after that he settled right down. Should have gone back up to the loft, but decided to sleep in the big chair. That was a mistake; couldn't get warm enough. Now I know what I'm going to do with my other good wool blanket, which is still at the interim lair. I'll bring it back with me today.

Had hopes of a get-together this evening, but with the weather I'd already been warned it would probably be called off and sure enough it was. So I've got the day to myself again, which is nice too.

Power's not coming back up to snuff during the day, because of all the overcast. I still have a little 'tricity, but mostly the kerosene lamps are making themselves useful. Plenty of wood, plenty of propane for the stove. Today I'm cooking chicken! I'll be a hero with the boys.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You know that vile weather I said was inevitable?

It's rolling in. Supposed to be single-digit temps in a couple of days, preceded by snow and rain.

Of course it was supposed to rain today, with 15 mph wind. Instead it was clear all morning with wind scouring the ground down to bedrock. Clouds are rolling in now, so I suppose rain is still possible but I doubt before dark.

We've only had one night in the teens since the kids and I moved, and the Lair held up to that quite nicely. It's not a fair test, though, till we've got single-digit temps with trailer-tipping wind. That's looking more and more possible before Monday.

And with four days of rain and snow forecasted, in all likelihood I'll find just how low the batteries can go before the inverter quits for good and all. Fortunately I've got lots of kerosene and propane, and plenty enough wood to sit out a week's worth of weather if needed. I hauled in a trailerload of logs on Tuesday.

I don't spend a lot of time admiring McDonalds' lawyers, ...

But when you got it, you got it.
San Francisco's ban on giving away a free toy with a child's meal containing a certain number of calories, salt, and other particulars is set to kick in [today]. McDonald's, the clear target of the ban, had a year to figure out a way to change its business practices. Seems like they used the time wisely, reports the SF Examiner.

Heh. It seems that while it's now illegal to give a kid a toy in San Francisco if it comes with burger and fries, it's still okay to sell it for ten cents and donate the money to charity. It further seems that McD's waited until the last possible moment to announce the policy. Who'd a thunk that SF city politicians wouldn't see that coming?

Though the SF Examiner's article/editorial is strongly in favor of nuking McDonald's from orbit just to be sure and letting it burn in its own trans-fats, it does contain one of the best lines I think I've ever seen in newsprint:
Count this city's lawmakers as the latest among the billions and billions served.

H/T to Balko.

Somebody on this side of the pond should try this!

Heathrow has never been more efficient! Passengers' glee as border agency strike SPEEDS UP passport control

Passengers who had been warned of lengthy delays at Heathrow due to striking workers today said border controls were 'better than usual'.

As Border Agency bosses were forced to take on regular airport workers to man passport control, delighted passengers said queues had been shorter than normal.

The situation was echoed at Dover too as passengers faced apparently normal travel conditions with ferry services 'running well and to time' this morning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You may have noticed...

...that posting here is getting a little spotty. I still shoot for every day, but right now it's more of a guideline - my internet access is over a mile's drive from the Lair, and if the weather turns nasty - which it definitely will - you may find things getting a bit sparse.

I'm working on getting the whole thing moved over to the Lair, and then I'll probably post so much you'll get tired of it. Till then, please bear with.

Introducing Basie the Wonder Dog!

I took a bunch of pictures with M's Mom's new dog Basie and the boys, but the lighting was terrible and they didn't come out. And anyway...well, this is a family blog. They play dominance games in ways that could make them a floor show in the raunchiest of gay bars.

But he did hold still for one good portrait later...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Remember, children. Mr. Policeman is your friend.

Michael, stop kicking Mr. Policeman.
5-Year-Old Boy Arrested At School

STOCKTON, Calif. (KCRA) -- Earlier this year, a Stockton student was handcuffed with zip ties on his hands and feet, forced to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and was charged with battery on a police officer. That student was 5 years old.

H/T to Kevin Wilmeth.

The Chain of Obedience

I don't endorse everything these guys have out there because I haven't seen it all.  But what I've seen is interesting.

Rule One for wood stove users: Don't run out of wood.

Since moving into the Lair I've barely cut any wood at all.  My chains are all fairly dull from cutting at D&L's place for their use, I had one session since then and now I'm reluctant to use the chainsaw till I get them sharpened because you take off a lot of use from a chain by getting it really, really dull.

For all that I've been watching my consumption over the past two weeks, and as I expected/feared it's faster than I hoped.  So while the weather is still bearable I need to take the matter more seriously.  Yesterday I finally cobbled together a sawbuck, to allow me to bring logwood home and cut it as I need it.  M bought himself a full-size bucksaw and lent it to me, and I gave it a try.  Cut up a log well enough, but I have to say for all the noise they make (I hate noise these days) chainsaws are much to be preferred.

Of course as a credentialed survivalist I have an emergency backup woodpile, consisting of several discreditably large stacks of old pallets.  But those really are for emergencies, like when I let the regular pile get too low and then get the flu or something.  For now, I'm going out to S&L's place with the trailer after shit-shoveling and pile it full of a bunch of already cut juniper they've been after me to haul off.  Your garbage is my winter heat.

I didn't see that coming...

So now something unpleasant seems to be going on between Click and Little Bear.

Long-time readers know that LB may as well be the issue of Click's own womb, as far as she's concerned.  She has, I'm happy to say, ceased to bring him rabbits of the dead kind for consumption.  But other than that she's his mother and he's her personal monster.

Until last night.

He was lounging on their communal bed, and she was by the door looking out her transparent little cat door, and nothing apparent was wrong with their world, when out of the blue and for no discernible reason he lunged at her and snapped.  Twenty minutes or half an hour later he did it again, sending her flying under the oven, which has become her current hidey-hole of choice.  I don't know what it was about, but she was taking it seriously.  He didn't murderously attack her or anything, but something had him not wanting her near him.  I scolded him severely both times, and both times he looked ... not very contrite.

Later she crept toward the water dish, watching him very carefully.  And he was eyeing her, and I spoke sharply at him, and he turned his head away but things were not right between them.  She's taken to sleeping on the big chair nights, so I wasn't too worried about anything happening overnight.

This morning when I came down they were playing together as if they'd never had a harsh gesture.  I'm confused as to what that's all about.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is a genuine disappointment.

Ol' Embarrassing Barney isn't going to stay in Congress.

But who will we find to laugh at now?  Seriously, it's like an era is ending.  First Teddy dies, and now this!

UPDATE:  Whew.  On further reading, it seems this will make Maxine Waters the ranking democrat on the banking committee.  So hilarity should continue to ensue.

"Here's to red pens!"

Once upon a time I sort of inherited a company department with a stable of tech writers.  Prior to this I'd always worked alone and this "promotion" marked the beginning of my career's downward slide, because I'm really no damn good at inspiring others to their finest efforts.

But one thing I was always very good at, and considered very important, was copy editing.  "My" new writers didn't agree, and the most controversial and second most painful thing my job entailed was getting them to go along with it.  I actually had a writer who disregarded my wishes to the extent that he ignored the revisions and delivered his unedited draft to the customer.  The customer - who was paying big bux for this - called to express his dissatisfaction with a draft that, among many other problems, misspelled his company's name, in big bold letters, right on the title page.  That guy, by pure dumb luck, wasn't related to the boss which meant I could can him.

Then there was the dissatisfied employee who sent his resume' in answer to a blind classified ad I'd posted, unaware that he was sending it directly to the desk of the person with whom he was dissatisfied.  I marked it up in red pen with helpful suggestions for improvement and mailed it back to him.  Neither of us ever said a word about it.

That was purely the most unpleasant job I've ever held, and I remember it clearly and with not the slightest shred of fondness.  Got to thinking about it while reading this piece, called "What Editors Think of Writers." 

Synopsis: They try not to.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The internets are over here, and the Lair is 'way over there...

Spent part of the morning installing Click's new cat door.  Sometimes I think she damaged her head in transit or something: She's been using cat doors since she was a little kitten, she's very far from a little kitten now, and on her second - not her first, her second - transit she managed to get her paw stuck in the door and it freaked her out.  I had to rescue her that time, and then when she was outside and wanted in she stood outside for damn near five minutes before she seemed to remember that all she had to do was walk in.

M brought me a bunch of hardware I needed for the Lair, and yesterday and today I've been fiddling with sink plumbing, hanging things on new hooks, and the cat door.  Now I've got to drill one last hole for a drain pipe, then go around expending my last can of expanding foam to fill various gaps.  Even after a good night's sleep, though, all I wanted to do after the cat door was nap.  I needed to come here to Landlady's barn to update the blog and find a hole saw, but probably would never had done it except the boys started agitating to do something more fun than lay around.

But in consultation with Landlady, I hope that the dish and modem will soon move to the Lair, and then I'll be able to surf the web in my own anachronistically rustic setting.

Hope you guys are having a nice holiday - all the folks are gone now and I'm probably gonna find the saw, pick up a few things, then head back and make good on that nap.  BTW, I did get a couple of pix of M's Mom's monster dog, but didn't bring the camera with me.  He's a beauty - I'll post the pix in a day or two.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm having fun.

Sorry, busy day yesterday.  M's Mom is visiting, she made it for Thanksgiving - which we don't particularly celebrate, but still it's a long weekend so everybody shows up.

M's M has a dog that makes Little Bear look cute'n'little, a Great Pyrenees mix named Basie.  Ghost and LB took to him like a long-lost brother, and the boys have been toodling off to show him all the cool stuff.  Basie's a city dog, never been off his leash in his life and thinks he's died and gone to Kentucky - which basically he has.

Yesterday I had shit-shoveling in the morning and then had to run get the tractor over to S&L's to move a bunch of big tar-covered timbers like railroad ties on steroids to fix an eroded spot on the steepest part of their driveway.  That took a while, so between that and the company I never even visited the internets all day. Hope they were okay in my absence.

Today's likely to be the same, which doesn't matter because I see by my traffic stats that not many people are here anyway.  :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Move along, citizens. The bad man is gone now.

Crazed terrorist abuses bicycle, authorities react authoritatively, danger is averted.
Scotland Neck Police Chief Joe Williams said they received a call Monday night about a man who fell off of his bicycle and injured himself in the parking lot of the BB&T bank, 1001 Main St. The caller was concerned that the man was drunk.

When Officer John Turner arrived, he saw Roger Anthony pedaling away along 10th Street. He followed Anthony in his patrol car, briefly put on his sirens and lights and yelled out of the window for him to stop, but Anthony continued to ride away, police said.

Williams said Turner then saw Anthony take something out his pocket and put it into his mouth. At that time, Turner got out of the car and yelled for Anthony to stop. When Anthony didn't stop, the officer used a stun gun on him, causing him to fall off of his bike.

Anthony was transported to Pitt County Memorial Hospital, where he was declared brain dead, his sister Gladys Freeman said. He was taken off of life support on Tuesday.

Freeman said her brother was disabled, suffered from seizures and had trouble hearing. She said he was riding his bike home from her house on Sunday night. Anthony lived alone in an independent living community.
Okay, so you saw a guy fall off his bike. The thought occurred to you that he might be drunk. This concerned you so much that you called the cops? I mean, I can sort of understand the cop's actions. I don't like them, but I sort of understand. Acting like a cowardly thug toward someone who seems to be disregarding your authoritah, whether or not he's actually breaking any law, has somehow become standard police practice, and if he dies he dies. Guess next time he'll stop, huh?

Yeah, that's just the way cops think, and I can't even get upset about it anymore. But what the hell were YOU thinking, buddy?

"Never mind the guy with the beard. Well done, Citizen. If you see something, say something."

H/T to Balko.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How do you really feel, lady?

Wait for it.

Aw, hell. The dragons on Pern are wearing black today.

Anne McCaffrey is dead at 85.

I won't say she was my very favorite SF writer, it's been a long time since I read her, because I hate it when they get an idea and then beat it to death as she kinda did with the Pern books. But I did read and enjoy several of them, and The Ship Who Sang was one of my all-time favorite SF stories. RIP.

Seen at Bear's Blog.

I still like my M1A better, but he does have a point...

Hee. They've been tweaking the AR design since the mid-sixties, and signs like this are still needed. Kalashnikov got it right in one.

Seen here.

Her Majesty is Not Amused.

Well, the inevitable feline pushback showed up yesterday afternoon. The boys and I came home after shit-shoveling, I opened the door, and Click shot out like a bullet from the barrel of a gun. She hung around the cabin, ignoring every blandishment and coolly evading every attempt at capture. At first I left the door open for her, but it really is a little cold for that so I compromised by letting the dogs out to keep her company and hopefully persuade her not to flounce off back “home” like she did last time. Whether she likes it or not, this is home now.

After a bit, the boys wanted back in. I invited her to join them and she did so without hesitation, glancing up as she passed me in the doorway as if to say, “On a scale of one to ten, how stupid do you think I am?” I suppose she didn't get this old by offering herself up as a snack for the local predators too thoughtlessly, as many other cats have done in the past.

So clearly the Lair is in immediate need of a cat door. I had hoped to put that off, but not with a whole lot of hope. In the bits of debris that were once the old pantry building on Landlady's Property, there is an ancient cat door. I removed it (breaking the screwdriver right off my BRAND NEW $65 &^%$! MULTITOOL), cleaned it up, and it seems to function okay so I guess it'll do in a pinch. But I'd really prefer to get a new one before I start chopping holes in the Lair, y'know? So I sent an entreaty to Landlady to bring one up when she comes for the weekend, and she has agreed. We just have to survive – and I use that word literally – until then.

Well, this is distressing...

This is my Leatherman PST II. It's roughly ten years old. It's got a lot of wear, but is still fairly functional. I've wanted to replace it ever since I had trouble with the pliers back in the Great Tie Wire Incident at M's Dome, but only just now got around to it. It's not perfect, but it's handy and it works.

This is my SOG PowerLock. It's roughly one week old. I selected it because it was a lot like my PST II, which was long ago superseded by cooler, trendier, less useful designs. Cool and trendy does not really attract me, I just want the tools I want. My principal criticism of the new Leatherman designs is the screwdriver, which now takes the form of a removable/reversible tip that, as Landlady quickly demonstrated, is easily lost.

Unfortunately what I got is not an improvement on that. My old Leatherman Phillips has removed or installed untold hundreds, possibly thousands of screws over the years and remains useful. My SOG Phillips has successfully removed exactly two, snapping right off at the third. And they weren't even difficult screws.

Consider this post a refusal to endorse the SOG PowerLock multitool.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WHO'S "socially maladept?"

He’s a crotchety, socially maladept hermit who lives alone by choice with dogs and a cat...
Boy, you write one little book review...

I think I want to get a tablet.

This problem will eventually go away, but for a while I'm pretty clearly going to have a problem with electrical availability.

One or two CFLs will work fine at any time, even after a very overcast day. When the sun is shining you can run anything the inverter will power, but except for power tools my biggest use times are after the sun goes down and before it comes up. In my mornings I usually have three or four hours of darkness before the sun comes up, I have to be careful or the inverter will start complaining. It complains just before it shuts off. I wouldn't mind that, except that "careful" also means I shouldn't run my laptop.

That wasn't in the plan. More than half my books are in my laptop. All my music. It's the only way I can watch movies. It's not just a writing and browsing tool, but even if it were I often write early in the morning. And of course my laptop's battery is toast, and the "reconditioned" one I bought for it once wasn't a big improvement. I can't get hours of battery life from my laptop.

I'm thinking that for cabin use maybe I want something I can charge during the day and use off-line after dark. At a minimum, one of those tablet things could hold my books and music. I don't suppose there's one that plays DVDs.

Anybody got one they like? And what's the battery life like?

"Lesson of White House Strafing" is that you don't know what you're talking about, Jesse.

Ol' Bugeyes brings out all the ol' historic lies:
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was arrested in connection with what prosecutors describe as a drive-by shooting in which a semiautomatic weapon was used to fire nine bullets into the White House’s back balcony — where President Barack Obama sometimes strolls on a break. This should get more attention than a passing headline.

Authorities say Ortega-Hernandez drove his Honda to a road about 800 yards from the White House, stopped, and unleashed a volley from a Romanian-made semiautomatic rifle with a “large scope.” The FBI located “several confirmed bullet impact points” on the south side of the White House where the first family’s residential quarters are located.
"A Romanian-made semiautomatic rifle with a 'large scope'" isn't as descriptive as it might be, Jesse, so I still don't really know what sort of rifle it is or why, at 800 yards, he only managed to hit the side of a very large building 'several' times. But before I even read it I know your proposed solution, and it ain't marksmanship training:
This should be treated as a wake-up call. It is time to revive the ban on assault weapons, and look once more at the level of gun violence in this country.
Check out the lies, damn lies and statistics on this one...
Under a federal assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004, there was a 60 percent drop in assault-weapon deaths. We need to enforce universal background checks on every gun transfer and prohibit all violent criminals from possessing firearms.

Nearly 30,000 people a year die as a result of gun violence in the United States. About 100,000 a year are injured and require medical treatment and hospitalization that contributes to our public-health crisis. Fifty-caliber sniper rifles and firearms that combine long range, accuracy and massive firepower are not used for hunting animals — they are military weapons used to hunt people. These weapons can damage large targets, penetrate structures and bring down airplanes.
Wait - I thought you wanted to ban "assault weapons." Now your talking about fifties. WTH? Could it be you really don't care what they are, as long as they're banned? Of course I presume your bodyguards will still have theirs - right, Jesse?

BTW, that wasn't a strafing. In fact at best that was a plinking. This is a strafing, Jesse - if you ever experience one, you'll know.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Water not necessarily wet, says EU.

See, this is why we need government right here.
Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration.

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.
I think the part that most grabs me about this is that it actually took a three-year investigation for them to reach their wildly-wrong conclusion, which they promptly offered to enforce with EU guns.

Oy, what a morning...

Into each day off-grid some shite must fall. This morning that was literal, though the "off-grid" part wasn't really to blame.

Having stayed up fairly late by my standards, I expected to sleep in somewhat. Instead I heard a dog whining piteously around 3 am. That's never a good thing, for unless Ghost is cold and wants under the covers they never do that without good reason.

Then I smelled the shite.

Now, Little Bear is a good boy about these things, really he is. He knows he isn't to go inside the house, but he can't use the toilet or work a doorknob and Daddy can be hard to wake up. LB was mortified and showed it, but it's really my fault. Since right now there's still no Gitmo analog at the Lair, I have to be more careful about letting him outdoors and yesterday I didn't give it enough thought. He did go out for a pee, but he's not used to rushing that other thing.

Anyway, he really dumped a load. The worst and gooiest part was the second strike different animals have made on that old quilt I covered their bed with. Normally this doesn't happen.

Then, after maybe three completely uneventful days and while I was trying to deal with all that, Click suddenly decided that she absolutely had to go outside right now and started guarding the door. I haven't let her out because I don't have a cat door and she needs to be able to get in and out on her own. Guess I need to work on a cat door. Anyway, that also turned out to be shite-related, for she has higher standards for cleaning a cat box than I do. I stand admonished, and the box is now cleaned out.

Around that time I decided I wouldn't be going back to bed after all, and tried to make a cup of coffee. To find I had no propane pressure at the stove. Went outside and checked the bottle, which was indeed empty. Yike! I guess those pilot lights are using more gas than I gave them credit for. Anybody know the best way to disable a stove's pilot light? I know I have to live with the one on the oven, but matches are cheaper than propane and easier to get.

So I swapped out the bottle. Since I was up, I booted up the 'pooter to write the High Desert Barbecue review below. Finished that and was just puttering around in the kitchen when my inverter started beeping at me. Low voltage? We had a great sunny day yesterday! Yeah, but the day before was shite, and anyway these batteries only have so much capacity. I noticed before: The inverter lets me use my coffee grinder in the afternoon or evening, but prefers I not do so in the morning (when it's needed.) Got a feeling I'm going to be using those kerosene lamps from time to time until I can replace the batteries. Well, that's what they're for. Anyway, I shut down the laptop and it stopped with the beeping. Doesn't seem to mind CFLs at all.

Oh, and did I mention it's raining? Just because piling on is fun when you're Uncle Murphy.

On the good news front, I learned from my weekender neighbor S that he wants to swap me a new 240-watt solar panel for some day labor. That's more generating power than from all my six panels I salvaged from that old cattle watering station, and I'm gonna go for it. But I'm pretty sure my real problem won't be the panels, but the batteries. Expensive, but probably unavoidable.

Review of J. D. Tuccille's High Desert Barbecue

On the rare occasions when I review books here I normally expect they're already known, if not necessarily read, by TUAK readers. They've been around long enough that most people are probably already familiar with the contents, making it unnecessary to worry about spoilers, or have already determined not to become familiar and don't give a damn about spoilers anyway. So spoilers be damned, let's discuss.

In this case I must walk much more carefully, because J. D. Tuccille's High Desert Barbecue is a new book and I don't want to ruin it for anyone. So let me say first in general terms that HDB is a very entertaining book, I enjoyed it very much and think you might as well.

HDB is not a great, ponderous tome by any stretch, at most it's a light weekend read. Nor (Oh, thank you Muses!) does it at any point stop the music to explain the characters' actions or beliefs, or to lecture the reader on why he or she should act or believe that way too. That second thing being one of the two great weaknesses of the average bit of modern freedom fic, I'd have appreciated that even if Tuccille's book had disappointed in every other way.

Which it does not. HDB has a plot, and Tuccille stuck to it and stubbornly resisted what must have been occasional temptation to pause and explain philosophical points along the way. To be honest, I don't know what effect that will have on general readers. But as a crazed freedomista myself, I found the way his protagonists dealt with their dilemma quite easy to follow, and the story delightful.

Having said that, character development is both the story's greatest strength and one of its greatest weaknesses. The protagonists are well-rounded characters – they have strengths and weaknesses that are carefully crafted and quite human, you have no trouble believing in these people. I wish I could say the same for the antagonists, who are almost uniformly one-dimensional and whose actions often descend into slapstick. If the “looters” in Atlas Shrugged had spent most of the book without their clothes on (don't ask) they'd be a lot like these characters. It's kind of jarring: the good guys are real people, but I had a very hard time suspending disbelief in the bad guys. Because HDB treats its subject matter lightly but it is really not a light subject, the book sometimes veers rather unevenly between drama and comedy. It's hard to have a light-hearted romp when people are honestly trying to kill you.

And I wish I could discuss that, but here we run into the matter of spoilers and I don't want to spoil this. So when I say that one pivotal scene was ruined for me because by the time Tuccille (skillfully) arranged a fateful meeting between two characters, I already knew what was going to happen because the resolution was quite conventional, the most I can do to defend that is to say, “Well of course (CENSORED) would (CENSOR) the (CENSORED,) and then (CENSORED) would respond by (CENSORING) the (CENSORED,) because that's what always happens.” Which doesn't really explain anything, does it?

The ending is rather pat, and smacks of deus ex machina in a way I wish Tuccille had been able to find a way around but honestly I can't think of a way to improve it that doesn't involve all the protagonists being (CENSORED) or going to federal (CENSOR,) and it doesn't spoil the story by any means.

I always beat up on a book's weaknesses, but all books have weak bits and that doesn't impeach them. It only points out that the writer is human and not God. Freedomistas will thoroughly enjoy the protagonists, not all or even most of whom are far-gone opponents of government power – they're just in over their heads and muddle along as best they can, not always in the best ways imaginable. The bad guys are enjoyably despicable. I do fear that the average reader would find much of what goes on a little hard to buy, but screw the average reader if he can't take a joke. Despite the disclaimer at the beginning - “Please don't attempt to use this novel as a hiking guide” - Tuccille clearly has particular settings in mind and he describes and uses them vividly and with confidence. The plot is crisp and clear and mostly rollicks along, and if it conforms to reality no more than the settings, well, that's why they call it fiction.

I got the book in trade paperback, which cost more but I'm glad I did it because I want this little book on my shelf. The settings are lovely and quite well described, the plot and protagonists are believable and entertaining, and I intend to enjoy it again some cold afternoon, probably soon.

You should buy it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Unc wins the gunnie internets, 11-19-11

Of course, now that there's nothing left to talk about, this may be recorded as the date of the internets' decline...
Unless you’re willing to shoot yourself to prove the point, please stop telling me the 9mm/.380/5.56/40/SacredCow sucks. I don’t want to get shot with any of them. And you don’t either. We carry handguns because they’re easier to lug around than something effective at stopping people, like rifles or pet rhinos.
Much longer than that - which, given that it's Say Uncle, is the first thing that caught my eye. Then, depression set it. I may have to go back to reading '70's-era issues of Guns & Ammo, looking for all those "Revolver Vs. Automatic" articles that used to be so, so thrilling.

Go and read.

Friday, November 18, 2011

One from the "Hold my beer and watch this" department...

Hey, wanna go to federal prison?

It's so quick and easy! All you need is one or more of these...

...and to be in possession of a legally-registered "silencer."

The rationale Spencer uses:

A silencer is a firearm per U.S. Code, subject to National Firearms Act registration and transfer tax requirements.

“[S]ound/gas absorbing materials manufactured from Chore Boy copper cleaning pads, along with fiberglass insulation, constitute a silencer…”

Therefore, it is illegal for an individual to replace deteriorated material within an already- registered suppressor without an approved ATF Form 1, ‘Application to Make and Register a Firearm,’” along with a “$200.00 making tax” and “a ‘no-marking’ variance…since there is no viable area in which to apply a serial number to the sound-absorbing material.”
I've been waiting for years for the staff of The Onion to just throw up their hands and give up trying to keep up with reality. In a world with such absurd people in it, what use is satire?

So far, so good...

Gave her time to explore and settle down, then opened one of my two cans of salmon. (I don't have any chicken.) Tried to introduce her to the cat ladder through the time-honored device of putting her food there. Loved the food, ignored the potential of the ladder. Right after this pic was taken, she turned 180o and demanded help in getting down. But she's not stupid - by cat standards she's Stephen Hawking, which would explain why she's still alive - and she'll likely figure it out.

She was happy about being reunited with her baby nights, though, so that didn't hurt.

We did have one ... incident ... last night. I know she saw the litterbox I set up for her, I even saw her use it. But shortly after the Salmon Experiment she became frantic to get out, or at the very least to get my attention Right Frickin' Now. I didn't get the message, and she left a slimy and malodorous mess right in the middle of the dog bed. Even the boys were grossed out. But that seemed to get it out of her system, and there've been no other surprises.

This morning she was clingy, which is to say imperious and demanding, but shows no reluctance to hang around the Lair. For now. I really will need to get to work on a cat door, because I've a feeling this "confine the cat" thing isn't gonna last. At least she isn't giving me the hassle she did when we tried this last winter. Again, for now.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Okay, it's official. Today's the day.

Last couple of nights the boys spent in the Lair while I worked out what logistical problems I'd overlooked. So far, pretty good. While that's been going on Click's pretty much been left to her own devices - I give her a good scratch every day and make sure she's got food, but she spent the last two nights all by herself. Hey, she's a cat. They can do that, though they don't always like it.

I did feel bad this morning, though, because it got damned cold overnight. But I always said that after the problem she gave me last February I'm only moving that cat to the cabin one time, and only after it's as cat-friendly as I can make it. I'm pretty much going to have to imprison her there until she has decided that's home now. I can find no reason to keep putting it off: Today we officially move into the Lair, through the action of moving the cat.

Wish me luck - the boys do what I tell them to, though they may not like it. The cat, not so much.

This is completely despicable.

I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Via Carl, this morning I visited the nauseating LEO Pro Cards site. Like Carl, my first thought would have been that it's a satire. But it seems as though they're actually serious, which makes it - in addition to being, as previously mentioned, completely despicable - about the most brazenly tone-deaf thing I've seen in calendar 2011. Which makes it special, I suppose.

Seriously, this is even stupider than CCW badges, and they're not even illegal. Which I believe this technically is, at least in a lot of jurisdictions. Not that that would stop a cop.

Neighborhood Watch

or "How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all?

Right about eight in the AM I got a call from my neighbors D&L.

"Have you got a controlled burn going or something?"

"No. Why?"

"Because there's smoke rising from the area of the meadow, between [Landlady's] and [S&L's] places, that's why!"

"Um...Are you sure you're not looking at the cabin's chimney?"

"No, it's definitely coming from [Landlady's property.]"

"Okay, thanks for the heads-up. I'll go look right now."

The boys were more than ready to go outside anyway, so I put on my coat and headed for the Jeep. As we entered the wash, I saw a column of smoke from the Lair's chimney that rose to the level of the ridge and then spread out. I had a feeling I wasn't going to find any fire at Landlady's but wouldn't I feel bad if I were wrong? So off we went.

Standing with the boys on the ridge overlooking the Meadow House, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Looking back between my new location and D&L's, there was a haze of woodsmoke. I dug out my cell phone.

"I'm [standing where I was standing] and not seeing anything wrong. Are you sure you couldn't be looking at my chimney smoke?"

"I dunno - lots of smoke."

"I think it's just gonna be part of the landscape for the rest of the winter."

"Okay, well, we'll get used to it, then."

Too much vigilance is better than not enough.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I awoke this morning to the strangest sensation...

It was about 3am, which lately is about average for the time I wake up. Normally, this time of year, I slide out from the (several) blankets, hop to let Ghost out, hop to the benjo, set the heater on "meltdown," and hop right back under the covers before the sheets lose too much of my body heat. Reason: It's cold out, and when you live in a tin box that means it's cold IN.

This morning I woke up to the strangest sensation ... I wasn't cold! Oh, a sweatshirt might have felt good, but it wasn't especially cold indoors. I fully expected that it was plenty chilly outdoors. For the past three or four days there's barely been a cloud in the sky, and in mid-November, in the desert, at high altitude, that generally means you're looking at something pretty darned frosty.

But it was warm indoors, and the reason was that when yesterday evening rolled around and it was time to rescue the boys from Gitmo and settle into the RV for the night, I said, "Screw it! Let's spend the night in the Secret Lair!"

The boys were dubious as to the wisdom of this. Ghost in particular, who ordinarily makes such a show of his independence and goes-to-11 cool factor, becomes a complete drama queen when it's bedtime and things aren't just the way he's used to.

But since the only action required of them was to go to sleep, they didn't take long getting with the program.

My biggest concern, in terms of dog behavior, was that they'd make a big fuss over me not sleeping right there with them. I made a way for the cat to get into the loft, but not for the dogs. They've rarely been called on to sleep through the night without their person right there, peeling their grapes for them and keeping them safe and warm. But old Crybaby Ghost settled for the Alpha Dog's Portion: He got the big-boy chair, and I guess he decided that under these bizarre circumstances that would have to do.

I did get my running water back, in fact quite early yesterday. Apparently it really was icing, which raised quite a worry. If it would do that so early in the season, what would happen when it really got cold? Both M and I have tried our hands at making an insulated box for the valve manifold coming out the bottom of the cistern, but we're just not carpenter enough. Yes, the pipes are insulation-wrapped, but that does no good outside, when there's nothing to produce a temperature gradient for the insulation to maintain. So yesterday I took more simple but drastic action. I covered the pipes and valves with multi-layer plastic and duct tape and then buried the whole thing under two feet of dirt. I'll dig up the valves in the spring.

Anyway, this morning I woke to indoor temps that were near-sixty even on the ground floor. It took no time at all for the still-somewhat-warm woodstove to bring us back up to shirtsleeve territory, and I have to say it felt quite sinful. I haven't been that unseasonably comfortable first thing in the morning since spending a week at Landlady's house, last December. In fact the single problem that arose was that I forgot to bring coffee. I'm gonna go ahead and move up this "moving" thing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This is so ironic...

Today, after hauling my drinking water from the Lair to the Property for over a year and on the virtual eve of moving into the Lair, I had to haul water to the Lair.

I was sick over it.

Friday the Lair's faucets went dry, because the cistern was dry. That surprised me, because 2600 gallons should go further than that. Saturday M discovered the cause, a broken pipe at the apple trees which are at the lowest point of any part of the water system. Most of Saturday and all of yesterday the pump wouldn't run because of heavy clouds, but today I had hopes. Now there's over three feet of water in the cistern and I still don't have any running water.

Two possibilities: Icing at the cistern outlet (happened twice last winter) or a sediment plug at the shut-off valve to the Lair. I had about ruled out the first because while we've had some freezing nights (hence the broken pipe) the days have been quite mild, and besides the line to M's Dome and the hose outlet at the cistern work just fine. So I'd about resigned myself to digging out, removing and cleaning that valve. But then this afternoon just before leaving the dome the drip rate increased from nothing this morning to pretty fast, and that sounds like icing. If that's the case, a few more hours might have cleared it but I ran out of time. Tomorrow's supposed to be nicer than today, which was gorgeous with not a cloud in the sky. If it's not running by noon I'll probably start digging up pipes. Sediment's still a strong possibility since the last water out of the cistern would have swept all before it, and there's a lot of sediment in there. But that doesn't explain the increased drip rate.

Either, way, crap.

"I keep hitting you with this bat, and all you do is lay there and bleed!"

"You're so lazy!"
HONOLULU - President Obama said that the United States has gotten a "little bit lazy" when it comes to bringing in new businesses in to the states. He made the comments at a CEO summit as part of the APEC conference Saturday, when asked by Boeing CEO James McNerney about looking at the world from a Chinese perspective and what they might consider as impediments to investing.
I'm no Silver, but I do see one problem right there - Why is a lack of foreign investment the problem? Where'd all the American money go? Don't bother answering that...

Of course this is the head of the government speaking, so it can't be anything his organization is doing. And I must imagine that he actually believes it, because would anybody on earth have the sheer gall to stand in front of a bunch of CEOs and say that if he didn't believe it?

Naturally, he has a plan. More government will fix it!
He then went on to say things his administration has done like setting up Select USA that organizes government agencies in an attempt to make it easier for foreign investors to set up a plant in the U.S.
Yes! That's what this situation needs. Another government program.

Sigh. I'm gonna go build an unlicensed fence now.