Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That's kinda creepy. And also misses an important point.

Geiger Counter Guy has a couple of neighbors who aren't my very favorite people. He's an ex-cop, she's nosy and talkative. Lately I've been spending a lot of time in her presence, since she works part-time for GC Guy. Their house overlooks GC Guy's yard, and whenever I've been doing something in his yard I've had the feeling - paranoia, I'm sure - that I'm being watched. I don't like that feeling, which is why I live so far back in the boonies.

A few days ago, in the morning before entering Geiger Counter Central, she verified that feeling for me. She showed up shortly after I did and immediately started chattering. "I told [ex-cop] that I didn't know whether I should go down, because it seemed a little early. But he said, 'Well, I see Joel down there smoking a cigarette, so I guess it's okay." I hate that.

Today I learned I'm something of a topic of conversation at Casa De Ex-Cop. A few days ago I was shooting the breeze with GC Guy while we were working, about how M and I had set the long rifle range back up but we both needed to learn how to dope the wind because beyond three hundred yards we were sorta relying on luck. And this morning Nosy Neighbor came in and announced that Ex-Cop had made me a gift.

A gift? For me? I don't think I've passed half a dozen words with the guy in going on five years. Well, except for that time that he came to the property on "official business" and Fritz bit him. That time he reached for his holster before recalling he was surrounded by armed people, and came very close to death. We're not good friends.

But sure enough, she hands me a DVD that's hand-labeled, "Reading the wind in long-distance shooting."

Thoughtful, I suppose. Ironic in ways I don't choose to explicitly express here. But thoughtful. Still, it creeps me out that everything I say and do at GC Central goes back to the cop.

She Did It Again!

It's been quite a while, and I'd really dared hope we were past this. There's something not-at-all-vaguely disconcerting about being awakened to the sound of moist crunching and snapping bones three feet from your head. And even though I knew it probably wasn't true I couldn't help thinking, “Geez, I hope Little Bear isn't eating Click.” Even so I couldn't relax and go back to sleep until I felt her jump onto my bed and settle into her place behind my legs.

For late arrivals, Click thinks LB is her baby. She cleans him, she plays with him, she punishes him when he's too rough (and he takes it). Every now and then, in the middle of the night, she feeds him. He's her personal monster.

Being a cat, Click is a nocturnal hunter. There's nothing at all unusual about having to start my day cleaning up mouse and rat offal from the floor before I can walk around. When she brings in smaller prey, the boys never disturb it. But once in a while she goes for a larger kill. Several times she's dragged rabbits in through her (long since broken) cat door. She presents these to her baby Little Bear. He greets them with joy, and he eats every little scrap. LB loves him some rabbit.

LB's a little over two years old now, in the full flower of his strength, and perfectly capable of catching his own rabbits. For all his bulk he's still young and capable of remarkable speed over a short sprint. If he can catch it inside fifty yards or so, Thumper is lunch. Except for the need to worm him regularly I don't really mind this, which is just as well since there's nothing I can do about it anyway.

But the first time I found him eating a large rabbit inside the Lair, when there was no way he could have caught one, I thought he'd stolen Click's kill. It happened again a bit later, and I wondered why she'd go to the trouble of bringing it into the Lair to be swiped by a dog. Then one evening while I was still awake I watched her struggle through her hole dragging a cottontail bigger than she was. I watched further as she calmly and rather tenderly presented it to Little Bear. Who ate it with no ceremony. So I've seen this with my own eyes, it's not conjecture. She's bringing her kill to her baby, and (considering the obvious fact that he's many times her size) knows he needs bigger prey than she normally prefers.

Ain't love grand?

Monday, May 30, 2011

The thing. I would talk about it now. If I could use my words.


After I've betrayed the revolution and become president-for-life, I'm gonna outlaw long weekends.

Yeah, I know. It sucks, but it's gotta happen. Why? 'Cause they're too much work, that's why.

I knew I was in trouble this morning, as soon as I got more or less vertical. I emptied the pockets of last night's jeans. In one pocket was a jackknife and a pretty rock. I don't know why I pick up rocks, but I do. I can only assume that for reasons of his own my maker incorporated magpie genes into my DNA. Anyway, a little while later I stuck my hand in my pocket to get my knife and came out with a pretty rock instead. I'd put that in my pocket and left the knife home.

Like I said. Oy.

We got the Meadow House papered and wired, put in a couple of new attic vents, and completed two coats of waterproofing on M's Dome. Today around noon we all went to town for Subway, M and Landlady went their separate ways, and I went off to shit-shoveling. Just now got back.

I'm gonna go collapse in a heap now.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Meadow House gets a new skin...

With four of us working, things went pretty fast once we got into the rhythm. Naturally we picked a windy weekend, but this time of the year they really don't come in any other variety.

By the end of the day we'd completed two sides and most of the third. Still have the front to do, and the bit over the porch needs care as it's kinda dangerous. We'll do that first thing this morning, then head over to M's Dome for more waterproofing! Yay!

Then of course there's the actual stucco to look forward to. Yay.

Had a nice evening, though.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is it raining in here?

Got out of work at Geiger Counter Central around three. Spent a little time gathering rocks for the Trench That Will Not End, then headed home through the wash. I'd felt bad all day because last week I'd promised to help M with his dome waterproofing, but that was before I knew GC Guy was back in business. But halfway through the wash I actually encountered M, headed back toward the dome. So I told him I'd be there as soon as I changed my clothes. Hurried to the Interim Lair, grabbed some grubbies and started yanking off my good clothes.

Click the Cat is normally very self-sufficient. If she could handle a bag of cat food she'd rarely want anything to do with me at all. But being a cat, sometimes she changes her mind. I am then obligated to immediately change my own. This afternoon as soon as I walked in she started yowling for attention. I didn't have time for her, so I pretended she wasn't there. I sat on my bed, ignoring her clamor and pulling on my pants. Drops of what appeared to be water started landing on my leg.

I looked up at the storage loft over the bed:

Yes, cats drool. And this one really, really wanted attention.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Grouchy. Sore. Antisocial. Not ready for prime time. Ol' Hermit Joel is basically working seven days a week lately. I'm getting paid for it, so I shouldn't bitch. I'm bitching anyway, 'cause that's how I swing.

Here are some funny pictures.

...Menacing us with an endless series of hobgoblins...

That we may remain clamorous to be led to safety.

One reason may be that a growing number of senators...have been raising concerns about a classified “sensitive collection program” that makes use of the sunsetting “business records provision,” also known as Section 215. They’ve joined Dick Durbin and (former Senator) Russ Feingold in hinting that there may be abuses linked to this program the public is unaware of, and that, moreover, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted this provision (in a classified ruling, of course) in a way that the general public would find surprising, and which goes beyond the law’s apparent intent.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Heh. I'm changing M's blog name to "Double-H."

While I live, he's never living this down.

TSA Threatens To Cancel All Flights Out Of Texas If ‘Groping Bill’ Passed

From this Forbes article...
Upset about invasive screening techniques at the airport, the Lone Star State was considering a bill that would make a TSA patdown that involves touching “the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing” a misdemeanor, allowing Texas law enforcement to arrest TSA officials and charge them with sexual harassment. It would have meant that TSA officials could be fined $4,000 and spend up to a year in jail for doing their jobs of feeling up prospective fliers.


On Tuesday, the bill was set to be voted on in the Senate. This called for more of a response than a simple blog post. Federal government officials descended on the Capitol to hand out a letter (embedded below) from the Texas U.S. Attorney letting senators know that if they passed the bill, the TSA would probably have to cancel all flights out of Texas. As much as they love their state, the idea of shutting down airports and trapping people in Texas was scary enough to get legislators to reconsider their support for the groping bill.
And so it goes.

Things I probably shouldn't say...

Me: Hey, did I tell you? I've been rigging one in ten of these things to peg the meter and go completely nuts at any hint of radiation.

Geiger Counter Guy: Wha?

Me: Yeah, that way whenever somebody so much as touches the button, the counter tells'em they're gonna die a slow and painful death...

GC Guy: You're...

Me: Have you heard anything about the suicide rate lately?

GC Guy: ...Fired.

Me: My job here is done.

An "Apparent Physical Encounter"

From the Huffington Post, oddly enough...

The cop says the guy in the wheelchair "assaulted a police officer." Seriously. By bleeding on him, apparently.

The Washington Post describes it as "an apparent physical encounter" Seriously. Because the WashPo writer doesn't want to commit himself as to whether the encounter was physical or philosophical, apparently.

Money quote:
Metro issued a statement Sunday saying that the man, whom police have not identified, had resisted arrest, "which resulted in him falling out of his wheelchair."
Because when two beefy cops heave you out of your chair and land on you on the pavement, it will often result in your falling out of the chair.

I was about to end with something like "unbelievable." Except it's not.

QoD: "Wish I'd said that" edition

"So Lt. Evers is openly, publicly, and without any apparent shame promising that if gun owners exercise their constitutional rights in Philadelphia in a manner that is well within the confines of the law, they can expect a violent confrontation with police." - Radley Balko

For the moment, at least, we're back.

Just sayin'.

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties Beyond Our Control.

I have wormed my way via this forgotten, spider-webbed passage into the nether regions of MY OWN %$#@ing! BLOG, and am taking this opportunity to inform you that I'm not dead. Couldn't access it at all yesterday. At present Blogger isn't even acknowledging that there's a problem on their end, but I'm apparently not the only one having the trouble: I made the mistake of subscribing to the topic on the Blogger forum, and now must sharpen a shovel and go dig out my inbox. Maybe the tech support guys got raptured over the weekend and we're only now finding out about it.

Since I don't know when or whether this problem is going to be fixed or whether I'm gonna be able to post later today after geiger counters, I'm just going to take this opportunity to make an announcement.

M, Landlady and I are setting up a new group site called The Independent Spirit. It'll be a lot like TUAK, but a bit smoother and less idiosyncratic (IE, Joel Isn't Running It.) More how-to, less politics. I was going to postpone this announcement until we had more content, but now I don't know whether that opportunity will come.

It's been busy around here and I've got to get ready for work now (really never thought that phrase would ever appear here.) If I can post later I will, so please stand by.

Thank You For Your Patience.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It suddenly occurs to me...

...that maybe the Rapture actually happened Saturday and I didn't notice. It was a busy weekend. I don't actually know any Christians except S&L and I often go weeks without seeing them, so the fact that nobody seems to be missing isn't necessarily significant. But I do note that my blog traffic fell to unusually low levels over the weekend.

Hello? Hello? [tap tap] Anybody out there?


It's official, we've passed a milestone!

One problem we've had at Landlady's property from the beginning was getting water from the well to the cistern. The well has a 120-volt AC pump, and it pulled so much amperage that the electrical system couldn't run it for more than fifteen minutes or so without collapsing on its fainting couch and shutting right down. So every so often we had to connect the pump to a gasoline generator and fill the cistern that way. It was a bother. The electrical system could run the pressure pump, but not the well pump.

Almost two years ago, Claire spent a lot of money and M and I spent a lot of sweat upgrading the system. After that I learned that we didn't need the generator any more to fill the cistern. That was a big improvement, but I still left the pump unplugged most of the time because I was afraid to find out what would happen if somebody ran a lot of water after dark. But now there are as many as three people at a time weekending in Landlady's house, and one person full-time for about a month. They go through a lot of water. Also I think the drain-back valve at the well might be going bad, because the cistern was unexpectedly going dry and that was playing hell with the pressure pump. So with heart in throat I decided to see what would happen if I left everything plugged in 24/7 for a whole weekend.

What happened was...nothing bad. The system can keep up with the demand just fine! Happy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hillbilly Engineering...

We went to town yesterday for some food and hardware.  Driving back toward the outskirts, I yelled "Stop the car!"

It's a 1939 (mumblemumble) agricultural tractor, that's obviously seen a lot of turnip rows since it left the inside of the factory...

And somebody decided to retrofit it with a cute little backhoe attachment, the likes of which hadn't even been invented before the tractor's manufacturer went belly-up.

Somehow jamming the output shaft of the tractor's PTO into the input of the backhoe's hydraulic pump. As far as I can tell, it works. Sorta.

The owner must like it, too. He wants $6000 for it, which is almost what M paid for Gulchendiggensmoothen - a much larger, more powerful and better thought-out kludge.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another of those "helpful hints" you only learn...

...by doing it wrong.

This morning M and I started waterproofing the Dome.  Oy, this is gonna be a job.  The concrete was sprayed onto the matrix of wire and [rebar and rebar and rebar and] burlap, and it wouldn't have taken us an hour to smooth it a bit before walking away.  We really wish we'd done that now, because getting the waterproofing compound into all those itsy-bitsy crevices and holes is taking us forever.  It also means we really need to slaver the stuff on, and it's not cheap.

The nasty weather finally broke, though.  Hardly a cloud in the sky, mild temperatures - if it was like this every day, we'd have to beat the Californians away.

We had a terrible scare with M's water system: The pump wouldn't run, and the cistern was less than half full.  That wasn't supposed to happen, but it turned out to be operator error.  Our cistern has a float switch that is becoming the bane of my existence. Pretty soon I need to do a post on the two available types of float switch, one of which you should avoid if you're setting up your own system.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Things a lazy man shouldn't plan to do...

So late this morning, after it had warmed up a bit, the boys and I took a nice walky and then headed down to the Lair for some nice pebble-sifting.

This wasn't my best idea ever. Three hours later I'd managed to clean almost two wheelbarrows full of small rocks. At this rate I'll have a flush toilet sometime around the beginning of the 22nd century.  But I don't see a lot of alternatives, because I've scarfed up all the free cinders that make sense - picking them up off the ground isn't any more efficient than what I'm doing.

Then it clouded up and started to rain again!  Whathehell?  It was supposed to rain Wednesday.  I wasn't too surprised that it rained yesterday.  But this morning the clouds cleared out right on schedule and I thought it'd stay sorta partly-cloudy and let me work.  Right now I'm actually stranded in the Scriptorium because it's really pouring.  If this keeps up the washes will run, though I saw no sign of water accumulating in the canyon this morning and it's been so dry the past few months that it shouldn't happen.  Still, it might.

So far the best that can be said for the spring is that it's not quite as unpleasant as the winter.

The Ultimate Geardo...

I'm not saying this video perfectly reflects my views on the topic - it is possible to dump a rucksack faster and less comically than this guy does. But I do sometimes wonder about the efficacy of carrying around all that gear all the time. Either view can be taken to extremes, and here's one.

(Note - NSFW Language)

H/T to Sipsey Street.

Gettin' ready to do something all survivalisty!

Back three winters ago during my Year of Solitude, I learned the hard way that the only way to convert money into nourishment and warmth is to spend it first. Food and fuel will get you through times of no money one hell of a lot better than money will get you through times of no food and fuel.

Since then things have lightened up a bit: I have less trouble getting to town, which means it's easier to convert money to commodities and the need to do so is less immediately urgent. But the principal remains. And so does the situation, on a macro level: My food stocks are badly depleted after the winter, and I'm sitting on lots of money from all those geiger counters. I've been putting off doing the obvious thing, because possessing more money than it's convenient to carry in a wallet is a rather unusual feeling and I wanted to savor it for a while. But wouldn't I feel stupid if the stores all closed tomorrow?

Landlady's been holding the accumulated cash because a) she has a bank account and I don't, and b) it was always most likely that she'd be the one spending it anyway. So when she returns to the city at the end of the weekend she'll go armed with a rather alarming shopping list.

Yup, I'm primed for the biggest food buy of my life. Details to follow.

ETA: Someone has just reminded me that since the world is due to end tomorrow, I'm a bit late on that.

Curses! Foiled again!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I don't suppose I should be too surprised. Looking back I see that last year's final snow was also in May - though almost three weeks earlier than this one. But I really did wake this morning to wet, patchy snow. It rained yesterday afternoon and it's raining on and off today, the weatherman predicted that, but nobody said anything about snow.

I'd like to go on record that whoever was in charge of the weather during this past winter is fired. Seriously, just turn in your keys.

Spent the last couple of hours doing something I never do - I just took a frickin' nap. Listening to the rain pound on the barn roof makes me want to go back and do it more. What a cold, wet, rotten day!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In other news, Newton County Sheriff torn limb from limb by enraged realtors...

...who can easily guess what his delighted announcement in the wake of that idiotic Indiana Supreme Court decision will do to property values as potential immigrants decide they don't want to live anywhere near him...
CROWN POINT, Ind. – According to Newton County Sheriff, Don Hartman Sr., random house to house searches are now possible and could be helpful following the Barnes v. STATE of INDIANA Supreme Court ruling issued on May 12th, 2011. When asked three separate times ... he emphatically indicated that he would use random house to house checks, adding he felt people will welcome random searches if it means capturing a criminal.

A very surprising news clip

Seen over at Unc's. Some newsies are asking for unwelcome attention from the Blue Boys' Gang.

Don't they know that the money must be proceeds from nefarious activities? How else could anybody have it? If a person's still got large amounts of money in his possession, he clearly isn't paying his fair share. The police are only trying to right that wrong.

Accepting the Premise

Well, it's silly season again. It's inescapable. And over at The Smallest Minority, I encountered the kind of insulting statement that never fails to get my ruff to stand on end:
I'm not worried about the 1/5 of America that voted for [Obama], I'm worried about the 3/5ths of America that didn't care enough to vote at all.
That statement, and its many variations, annoys the hell out of me. It's not indifference that causes me to refrain from voting. When you ask whether I'd prefer to be bitten by a rattlesnake or stung by a scorpion, you've asked a meaningless question. Constant insistence on its deep relevance does not give it the least bit of actual relevance.

"If you don't vote, you don't have the right to complain." BULLSHIT. I'd say rather that you've forfeited the right to complain if you DO vote for any of the pre-selected bastards, because you've accepted the premise that those are the only acceptable alternatives and the one who wins 51% of the vote now has the god-given and indisputable authority to push 100% of us around.

I find that offensive. It is an absolute certainty that the upcoming presidential campaign will not contain one single contender that I would find acceptable, so I'm supposed to accept the idiotic premise that my only legitimate alternative is to vote for the "lesser evil" from among the evil bastards presented for my approval. This is somehow supposed to make perfect sense.

When I fail to show up at the polls again this time I will have voted for my regular candidate, a fellow named NOTA. Once again this time he'll get the majority of the votes, and once again he'll be ignored. But I'll behave as if he won the election, because he did.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mr. Policeman is Not Your Friend.

Neither is Mr. District Attorney, thousands of Law & Order episodes to the contrary notwithstanding.

Also, there are times when open carry is dumb. Unless you're trying to be a cause célèbre, in which case knock yourself out...
This incident happened several weeks ago in Philadelphia to Mark Fiorino, a 25-year-old IT worker who carries a gun on his hip at all times for self defense. He got the gun after several friends were mugged.

But he didn't count on attacks by police:

On a mild February afternoon, Fiorino, 25, decided to walk to an AutoZone on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philly with the .40-caliber Glock he legally owns holstered in plain view on his left hip. His stroll ended when someone called out from behind: "Yo, Junior, what are you doing?"

Fiorino wheeled and saw Sgt. Michael Dougherty aiming a handgun at him.

What happened next would be hard to believe, except that Fiorino audio-recorded all of it: a tense, profanity-laced, 40-minute encounter with cops who told him that what he was doing - openly carrying a gun on the city's streets - was against the law.
Judging from the voices on the audiotape, the gun-waving Dougherty didn't believe himself in any particular danger. Maybe if Fiorino had brought a small dog. No, Fiorino's threat to the community was not what Mr. Policeman was concerned about. What he was concerned about was the threat to the monopoly on violence.

Let's face it: It's gotta be a rush (to certain types) to be the only one allowed to walk around with a gun on your hip. It makes you special. You get to be all edgy and dangerous, and know people are going to get out of your way on sight. I sometimes wonder how many boys dreamed of becoming cops after being raised on too many Dirty Harry movies. And now along come real common sense gun laws, by which people are actually permitted by law to carry means of effective self-defense. It's got to be a real let-down to the cops, not to be able to see themselves as dangerously special anymore.

Well, not to worry, Mr. Policeman. I still think you're special. I carry a special place in my heart, just for you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

News Flash: You're gonna die, I'm probably not.

I have this on very convinced authority.

Yesterday, before Landlady and M headed back to the big city, we went to the little town nearby for some restaurant lunch. There we were accosted by the owner, who basically told us we were all gonna die.

This isn't the way I'm used to being greeted by the proprietors of restaurants, so I made the mistake of asking for details. Didn't think I was gonna get lunch. It seems there's this mysterious planet that buzzes earth every 3600 years or so, bringing devastation and massive geological reshuffling. Somehow I managed to avoid ever hearing about this before, but it sounds like big trouble.

Good news, though: She said I live in a stable zone that will escape inundation or destruction by earthquakes or volcanoes. She did suggest I stock up on food.

I just told her that sounded like good advice.

This is why I don't call myself an anarchist.

Nobody seems to know what that means.
For some Greeks, like Nikos Galanos, a 20-year-old chain-smoking in an Exarchia cafe, the anarchist movement has become an outlet for anger. Last year, during a wave of government cutbacks, Galanos’s mother lost her job as a guard at the ancient Acropolis perched above Athens. His father, also a government worker, saw his salary slashed by 15 percent and must now labor more years before meeting the retirement age, boosted last year to an average age of 63.
Here's a hint, though: If you're angry at the government because it isn't giving you enough stuff...You're not an anarchist.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

pebbles in a trench

The cinders I scavenged a couple of days ago didn't go nearly as far in the leach trench as I hoped, which means I'm quickly down to Plan B - sift pebbles.

By wildest luck the dirt I dug out of the trench isn't exactly a pebble-rich environment, but it's close to the trench so that's what we sifted today. Ah, well.

And that's gonna be the plan for a while. Lots of dirt to sift. This part of the project is likely to go on for quite some time, alas.

And after we did our chores, we could go out and play.

Busy day yesterday - sorry about the no post thing. M and I spent most of the day schlepping blocks, mortar and concrete for his endless, and yet oddly short, curved wall. I'm told it nears completion, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Still, when we were done we could go play with our toys.

The tank rack we dragged out to the range a couple of weeks ago will gradually become a respectable long-range target stand. Right now we've got one 10-inch gong and an old piece of plywood. Hey, it's a start. I just added this picture to show that we do have a backstop not even I could miss.

Of course the gong was the part we were most interested in testing. M went out and bought pieces of armor plate, or what was represented as armor plate. Only one way to find out.

M just got a new stock for his Savage. He was planning to shoot ball ammo, and I protested that if his barrel twist was like mine he wouldn't get good accuracy from anything but match-weight bullets. As happens so often when discussing shooty things, I should have kept my mouth shut: we shot groups with two lots of ammo and there wasn't much to choose between them. Unlike my Browning, his Savage will shoot ball just fine. Then he put two into the gong, to see what the effect would be...

And the effect was splashes of lead and no deformation at all. This stuff is great!

...a little hard to see at 300 yards though, even through a 9-power scope. The 300-yard mark is right above the shoreline in the big loop of the wash that comprises the range proper. For 400 yards you go out into the meadow. My front yard is right at 550 yards. The longest shot you can take is 1200 yards, but for that you have to climb the big ridge.

And of course make sure the brush is out of the way of the barrel - because there's always that one piece of brush in just the wrong place. "'Is the action open?' he asked belatedly."

We were finding the gong pretty good at 300 yards, but then the wind came up and we...lost the target. Before I die I really want to learn how to dope the wind and be a proper long-range rifleman. I never was very good at it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

But we do know that it wouldn't have happened without torture.

I'll admit I haven't paid a lot of attention to the OBL Assassination Post-Game Analysis. But even I have noticed the story has gone through several iterations, often quite contradictory, each the government's very last word on the matter. The one thing the .gov has been fairly consistent about is that none of this would have been possible without torturing people, and so torturing people is good. We know this is true because Leon (I finally got CIA!!!ZOMG) Panetta told us so, and he'd never lie.

Here's an amusing article that asks the question which has occasionally circled around my head lately,
"[H]ow many more versions of this event that was recorded live from 47 different camera angles do you think we'll get?"

That was weird.

Blogger went away, as you probably noticed elsewhere. I've been blogging like crazy, with posts that would have changed your life forever busy elsewhere and almost didn't notice.

Yeah, got a call last night from GC Guy, who got 300 meters and wanted to build some geiger counters. So I made some money today and will probably do so Monday through Wednesday as well. Landlady's due in this evening, and that usually has some impact on how the weekend goes. Yesterday Gulchendiggensmoothen and I loaded a whole bunch of cinders from a pile somebody left at an old build site and I got permission to scoop'em up. So that saved me some pebble-sifting, though I still need to wash out all the sand I hauled along with them. Where else can you go for all the latest news on improvised septic systems? Yeah, we know how to live.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ah, the ATF. Still keeping us safe.

Or at least entertained. At least this time they didn't kill anybody.

But I don't get this...
"We found out that the ATF was setting some bombs off to do some checking and seeing what they need to do for their bombs, and this apparently started the fire," DuBois said.
They were doing who to their what? Wait. When I first saw the article I assumed they were getting basic training about certain types of demolitions, or maybe on recognition and disarming techniques. I don't know what "seeing what they need to do for their bombs" even means. I thought the ATF was agin'em - how many bombs (he asked in a small, frightened voice) does the ATF have?

Besides, mine are satisfied with a cool dry environment and the occasional saucer of milk.

The Mall Ninja - It's not just for America anymore.

If you must do this, please don't suggest it to us. I have faith in my friends' marksmanship, and Mama Joel did raise a fool or two. But at least in this particular, I'm not one of them.

H/T to Tam.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And ... it's morning. Is that a good thing?

Woke up preternaturally late, with actual sunlight streaming in through the one window I left unshaded. Yesterday afternoon I actually had the propane heater going because I just could not get warm, and that scared me because what I really don't want is a case of the flu, and I missed the last wave and am kinda due. I catch flu at the drop of any hat, and it lays me down for weeks. But except for the chill that wasn't what it felt like.

Not an especially nice morning - almost-cold, windy, cloudy. I made myself a nice plate of french toast, using a baguette I bought a couple of days ago but didn't get a chance to use while Landlady was here. Cautiously set foot outdoors. I feel okay, but a little unsteady and my right eye keeps going in and out of focus. Yesterday was as bad as it's gotten in a long time. I've got tools and parts and time to get a lot done on the Lair. The tractor battery is in the Jeep and needs to get installed. But I don't know if I'll accomplish anything today beyond watering the trees, which should have been done yesterday.

It's kinda synergistic in a bad way that the only time I ever saw that HBO series Deadwood was when I was sitting in with the flu, and that's what I associate it with. This weekend I downloaded the series from Landlady's legendary external hard drive and what happens? Well, not the flu. Maybe it's best I'm a bit isolated anyway because that show gets me channeling Al Swearengen, and that can't be a good thing. Though he does like knives too...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Sometimes I wake up feeling kinda weird. It doesn't happen very often, but it's happened for years and years. I don't feel bad exactly, just weird. And I can't focus my eyes to read - in fact I can barely cross a room. I generally sit it out and that's as bad as it gets.

This morning my vision cleared and I thought it was over. It's shit-shoveling day, and yesterday the wind blew so hard I didn't want to work outside at all but this morning was just beautiful so I figured on getting quite a bit done. But no sooner did I go out in the sun and start on the horses than my head got all strange. I couldn't concentrate, could barely hold a conversation with H about her new horse, and my head started to hurt like the worst hangover I ever had. Except I haven't had much of anything to drink. I finished with the horses, but it took a long time.

Now I'm just sitting in the quiet and cool of the Scriptorium. The boys are probably mad at me, because I left them in Gitmo. Should let them out, I suppose, but this would be the day they do something stupid. They're in cahoots with Uncle Murphy, and I can't deal with him right now. Dammit - such a pretty day.

H sold Solari the World's Most Nervous Mare, and bought a new mare. She's the friendliest horse I've met in years, laps up attention like a puppy. But H's luck holds true, because as soon as she got her saddled to go riding with a friend she threw a shoe. The horse has some long, weird name. H told me what it is but I can't remember. Also I think there's something wrong with her, because she's been here since Friday and barely shat enough to fill the bottom of a wagon. Sometimes I think H isn't the finest judge of horseflesh.

I'm just gonna be irresponsible for the rest of the afternoon, I think. Even writing this is making my eyes cross again. Forgive any typos.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beans 101

When I first started looking at storing food long-term, I noticed that everybody talked about storing food but nobody talked about eating it. And some of the food items people stored - or talked about storing - aren't what most people actually eat. Or sometimes even recognize as food. Lentils, for example, still perplex me somewhat.

The classic example of this is beans.

Beans are cheap. Easily available. Store forever. Great! They're also inedible in stored form, and damn near so even after you've soaked and cooked them. Beans, by themselves, taste like dung. So I thought I'd pass on my own experiences in rendering them not only edible but palatable.

I live at a fairly high altitude. One of the first things I learned about cooking beans was that it seemed to be impossible. I soaked them. I boiled them. I soaked and boiled the damn things until they fermented in the pot, and they were still crunchy. Turns out what I needed was a pressure cooker. This not only made the process possible, it reduced the time scale to a tolerable level.

But I've still found it desirable to cook the beans twice before I plan to eat them. So the first thing I do is just cook the beans - about fifteen minutes after the cooker starts venting. This leaves me with softish beans and some dark, nutritious liquid. It looks and tastes terrible.

Now I start adding ingredients. This is very highly variable. We've got a whole cabinet full of canned goods, some of which are getting pretty old. My approach to canned food is that it isn't really food, it's spice. For example, we have numerous flats of refried beans. I despise refried beans out of the can. But if I add a can of it to a pot of beans, it makes the whole thing taste good.

This is a fairly basic load for my favorite "recipe" - beans, broth, refried beans, corn, and fresh potatoes and an onion. Spice to taste. Canned chili also worked fantastically for this.

This is also an excellent way to get rid of those grody "food" items in #10 cans from Y2Que. Yes, we've still got some. I'm working on it.

What you end up with is delicious. It's delightful to the eyes. It lasts for a couple of days, which means it's like stone soup - you can just keep adding stuff till it's gone. If it doesn't come out right, you can doctor it to an amazing degree.

Point being, if you practice food storage, don't just put away a whole bunch of dried food and think you're golden. You and your family need to be willing and happy to eat the shite, so you should be working on how you're going to be ready to do that. In fact, live on the stuff for a while as you rotate your stock. It's fun!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mudder's Day!

Oh, this is too much like work.

Okay, so maybe perfect was a little too strong. There was still some digging this morning. Plus getting cinders in the trailer is about as much work as I thought it was gonna be.

Having dug the leach trench and getting the slope right, it's time to start filling it with stuff. I think I've got enough cinders I can scavenge to at least lay down the bed for the pipe.

Also the barrel pit has suffered some erosion. That was never unexpected, since last Monsoon it practically filled with silt and I had to dig it all out again. This time's not nearly as bad, and the pit is quite a bit wider than it needs to be anyway. That's the nature of backhoes, especially in unfamiliar hands. Both M and I spent time learning how to use it while digging this pit. The blocks are for the two barrels, of course. Right now the barrels are on the property, getting fitted with plumbing. I'll show how those are installed after I do it.

The little Jeep trailer really isn't made for a lot of weight, so actually filling it would be a mistake. Still, after a whole lot of shoveling the amount of cinders I actually had to unload into the ditch looked pretty pitiful.

I have just got to get this thing done and filled before it starts getting really hot, or life will not be a good thing for a while.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I had to look closely, but...

Once I realized what I was looking at I slapped the table and yelled, "Brilliant!" Scared the dogs.

Seems like overkill, but then I don't know how hard those things vibrate. Kevin added, "I'm not even going to ask what he uses for case lube."

Near perfect.

God, I'm good once I get into trenching mode. The slope for the leach trench is near perfect. Just a little more to do, but I ran out of steam for today.

The boys helped. Can I get them to dig a hole in the right place? I cannot. But at least they hung around and let me work.

Now I've got a decision to make. I can spend money on cinders, or spend much time sifting pebbles out of the wash. I'm gonna test the pebbles approach, but I've a feeling it's time to spend money.

If you're losing the game, change the rules.

I read this story over at Guffaw in AZ and it got me thinking about one of my favorite shooting match stories.

I was never a world-class shooter, but I did used to shoot a very great deal more than I do now and I really enjoyed combat and hunter-pistol matches. The club in the little Texas panhandle town where I lived had a series of monthly pistol matches and I was generally there. None of us were big-time competitors, it was just for fun and practice. All the regulars knew each other.

There were three local cops who used to come to the combat matches, one of them regularly. He was pretty good, too, though he never finished in the money. The other two were frankly pitiful. Then one month none of the cops showed up. The next month, none of the cops showed up. We wondered about this, and dispatched one of our number to ask one of the cops why. They were perfectly welcome to compete, it wasn't like anybody (Well, I did, but I kept it to myself) wanted them to go away. The answer that came back was kind of ominous - "You'll find out." It seems that the three cops stopped coming to our match because they were ordered to. Nobody actually said we were embarrassing the department and the local chief didn't like it, but that was the impression we got.

Around that time the local cops started building their own range on city property. This was redundant, because they'd always had free access to the club's two ranges. When some of us went to see, we were chased off - it was very hush-hush. Shortly after that, the cop who used to compete regularly came to our combat match - not to shoot, but to deliver an invitation. We were invited to form a pistol team and come to their first match. I think it was PPC rules.

We should have studied the rules more carefully. We were cocky as hell, sent our best shooters (I just barely made the team) and we got our clocks cleaned. We showed up with our .45's and stared in bemusement at the heavy-barreled .38's we were competing against. The stage times were really liberal: We were used to shooting each stage as fast as possible because that was part of the scoring, but in this match it was best to take your time. The scoring rings were really, um, small. And the loads they were using were barely more than squibs.

Yeah, we got clobbered.

We got a little of our own back after the match proper, when they set up bowling pin tables. The .38's went back in the shooting boxes and the .45's came out, but now they were competing with people who literally slept with their .45's. Our team took that event 1-2-3. But we weren't anxious to do it again, so I guess they showed us.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing...

Somehow, in spite of record cold snaps this past winter, the Lair never broke a pipe. It wasn't because of great planning on my part, and I spent the whole winter waiting for it to happen. It would have been a disaster since I got all my water from the Lair site all winter long.

I also spent the winter thinking about what I should do about it. This morning I finally did it.

Dug out the supply line and cut it off. This is just far enough under the Lair to be a real PITA, so when I actually installed the new gadget I crawled all the way under and did it prone.

This is the new gadget. The gate valve shuts off water to the cabin (believe it or not the only other shut-off I've got is all the way by the cistern, and even that probably wouldn't be there if M hadn't put it there.) The tap will allow me to drain the cabin's pipes if I fear a big freeze - or just if I'm going away for a long time.

Got it installed, and it Doesn't! Even! Leak!

Okay, you know me better than that - of course it leaks. ($%^#ing threaded PVC fittings) But only a little, and only on the tap, which will actually be easy to fix. Probably should have just glued the threads instead of depending on Teflon tape - which almost always leaks.

See, I think this is very pretty. Sparkling, tinkling water flowing in the desert. It's completely impractical, but I often think I'd like to recreate the little water garden I built at my house in Kalifornia.

I wasn't the only one who thought that would be a good idea - the little stream that formed while I emptied air from the water line attracted wildlife pretty much instantly, though only this guy came close.

Sorry about that, chief...

It was just too pretty a day for sitting in the Scriptorium. I even got some trenching done. Septic field! Do I know how to have fun, or what?

I'm gonna go do it more.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Well, alrighty then.

I worry about the boys too much.

Post-walky, I took them in the Jeep to go water the trees. Less than five minutes after I started watering the first tree (Yes, I timed it, though not for that reason) they sidled off over a rise and disappeared. I didn't bother them; figured they'd probably come back. They didn't.

I finished up watering - one reason I was timing, I get bored and want to make sure I water each tree at least five minutes - took the battery out of the tractor for recharging, turned off the water, started up the Jeep. No boys. I called, but didn't waste a lot of time on that. I drove down the ridge, past the Lair, into the wash, and home. No boys.

I was determined not to worry about it. One of three things would happen: They would catch up with the Jeep, meet me at home (they know where they live) or I'd get an annoyed phone call from a neighbor. A distant fourth possibility: One or both of them would get hurt and I'd spend the rest of my life guilt-stricken. See, I never used to worry about the dogs wandering off. They did that sometimes, and they always came home. But the older dogs were always a moderating influence: If they weren't getting a walk or a Jeep ride, all they wanted to do was hang around the yard. After Magnus and Fritz died, Ghost and LB remembered they were young dogs and I started having a lot of behavior problems - and calls from the neighbors. But that was a year and a half ago, and lately they've behaved themselves. So it's time to loosen the leash if I can.

Came home, backed the Jeep to the barn, and heard panting before I even unshipped the battery. Here they both came, and Little Bear made a beeline for the quiet and cool of the Scriptorium, where he has staked out a shelf for sleeping. Why they didn't meet up with the Jeep and get a ride, I dunno. They just wanted a run. That's okay as long as they come home, and they did. So there, worrywart.

BTW, after fifteen minutes of watering the water still came out of the hose hot. That's about 600 feet of water line exposed to the sun (there's a lot of trenching in the future) and enough free hot water for a good lingering shower. I don't think arranging hot water in the Lair is gonna be a big deal - at least in the summer.

On this front, at least, we're winning.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Ownership, two out of the fifty states - Alaska and Arizona - score a big 0 out of a possible 100. According to the Brady Campaign to Promote Victim Helplessness, those two states only avoided negative numbers because they're still on the side of the angels when it comes to mandating college student helplessness, at any rate.

I like the color scheme on their interactive map. States scoring 0-10 get colored in red - and by far most of the country is red. This is so not the way things were going just a few years ago - the right activists are winning, for once.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Truth in Advertising claims "we want modest controls, and not to confiscate guns or make gun ownership difficult for the sake of making it difficult" Yet in any state that scored 100 on their totalitarian little test, gun ownership would be so circumscribed that you really would have to be a nut - or a criminal - to practice it.

The Brady Campaign to Redefine Common Sense claims "Sensible Gun Laws Work!" Yet even the most cursory examination of violent crime and murder statistics by state shows no correlation whatever between the severity of a state's gun laws and the rate of those crimes. By city, the correlation can be negative - DC and Chicago are consistently the most violent cities in the country, and hardly models of firearm freedom.

Yet the Brady Campaign to Prevent Logical Deduction keeps shouting the same old slogans, demanding a return to tried-and-failed nostrums that do nothing but empower predators (and government thugs, but I repeat myself.)

I confess that it perplexes me, because I never expected the old oppressive trends to reverse. But there it is. Rotsa Ruck, Paul.

A Manifesto of Sorts for the Freedom Outlaw

Speaking of Claire, this is beautiful.

What's an Outlaw to Do?
You have no obligation to bear all the world’s pains. You have no duty to accept whatever’s imposed upon you against your will. The only obligations you must carry are your self-obligations — and with creativity they may be made lighter.

Why are you still here? Go! Read!

Blackwater/Xe/Thugs'R'Us needs to change its name again...

They can call themselves "Cognitive Dissonances'R'Us. Here are three words I'll bet you never expected to see in one sentence - at least not without negative qualifiers...

Blackwater’s New Ethics Chief: John Ashcroft

As far as I can tell, they're being serious.

H/T to Claire.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Scheduling Conflicts? Me?

Landlady sent me an email this morning reminding me that her drywall was to be delivered today around noon. If I'd seen it earlier, it would have changed the day. I saw it right after I took a call from my neighbor J. He wanted to know if I wanted to go to [the big town about fifty miles away] for a hardware run. I always need a hardware run, plus it's a break from the desert. I'd just hung up when I saw the email.

Didn't worry about it too much, because the delivery guy has been here for a whole house worth of lumber and should remember where it is. But I called my other neighbor D, who was very likely to be first on the delivery guy's schedule. Asked him to shepherd the drywall, and if there was a problem to give the delivery guy my phone number. I hoped to be back before the delivery, but it was a pretty wan hope. D said no problem, he was indeed going to get a delivery and he'd make sure of the drywall. So I relaxed.

Lowe's is instant sensory overload to me. I could spend hours in this place, and always do spend too much money. Since I probably go here maybe three times a year, it's actually like a fairly inexpensive trip to an amusement park with way better-than-average tchotchkes.

"What do you need? Besides a miracle?"

"Gorilla tape. Lots of Gorilla tape. And some eight-inch carriage bolts."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Winner!

A few weeks ago I told you my friend M had entered a video contest at something called getrichslowly.org. Looking at his competition, we had a pretty good feeling about this.

Well, he won! Congratulations, M! (who sometimes goes by the nom de guerre "Ian." What a silly fake name.)

We actually have conversations like this. Because I'm a putz.

H/T to Jon.

That's why they fought and died?

I've got a feeling that's not why they thought they were fighting and dying.

H/T to The Adaptive Curmudgeon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Protecting the innocent, one dead child at a time

NATO officials confirm: While enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone, a NATO warplane fired upon a house that was clearly preparing for takeoff. By the wildest coincidence, the house just happened to be piloted by Muammar Gaddafi and a whole bunch of his family.
Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, the youngest son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and three of his grandchildren have been killed in a NATO air strike, a Libyan government spokesman said.

Gaddafi and his wife were in the Tripoli house of his 29-year-old son, Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, when it was hit by at least one missile fired by a NATO warplane late on Saturday, according to Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim.
Gaddafi's magic anti-missile forcefield still seems operational; its a shame he didn't buy one for his kids.

Y'know - If you're gonna assassinate a foreign head of state, just do it fergoshsake and stop taking it out on his kids. At this point it's hard to believe the guy's got any family left; he must have bred like a tribble when he was younger.

Prison Nation

Came on this article, comparing the job/benefit prospects of a potential Harvard student versus a California prison guard. Analysis: Skip Harvard.
As a California prison guard, you can make six figures in overtime and bonuses alone. While Harvard-educated lawyers and consultants often have to work long hours with little recompense besides Chinese take-out, prison guards receive time-and-a-half whenever they work more than 40 hours a week. One sergeant with a base salary of $81,683 collected $114,334 in overtime and $8,648 in bonuses last year, and he's not even the highest paid.

Once upon a time I lived for the day when the country would see a glut of lawyers, because when I was younger that was a real growth field. I finally got my wish, only to look around and find myself living in a country where the only growth industry is prisons. And that industry has gotten so big and out of control that entire communities depend on it as nearly their sole employer.

Too many laws? Naw, that can't be it...

Huh! I assumed he was dead all along.

But Landlady told me this morning that Osama Bin Laden is finally dead. And despite a certain knee-jerk suspicion caused by that "bullet in the face" thing, my reaction is

Please God! Let there be a hell!

(Article link courtesy of Claire.)

ETA: Wait. What?
A senior US official told US television networks that he had been buried at sea, without giving further details.

Earlier an administration official said of the corpse: "We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.

"This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner."

Burying bin Laden's body at sea would ensure that his final resting place does not become a shrine and a place of pilgrimage for his followers.
Okay, that's a good reason for sending him to sleep with the fishies. But before you've put all skepticism to rest? Hang him from a lamp post outside the Pentagon until the DNA results are independently verified, then dump him in the drink. But now you've got my conspiracy theory genes all in an uproar. Tim Osman isn't gonna show up living in Argentina, is he?

Is he?