Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Spring rain





The rain began about 11 p.m. on Monday. It wasn’t a lot, just a drizzle really, but it struck a chord deep in the core of me. In the spring, the sound and the smell and the feel of the first rains is a tonic.

Monday had been a very pretty early spring day, with big blue skies and wispy cotton batting clouds and bright, warming sunshine. It was a good day to catch up on chores and to scout grass. As I worked and hiked, all around me the prairie was wakening from her winter slumber.



Along fence lines and roadside ditches and wherever the ground had been disturbed the purplish-green of cheatgrass was beginning to stand out. Clover and kochia and the first dandelions were just beginning to show.




In the native grasslands blackroot and green needlegrass and western wheatgrass was starting to catch the eye. These grasses are a song of color played in the key of green. The tiny, triangular blades os sedge are shiny olive, the western wheatgrass green with a pronounced powdery blue tinge, and green needlegrass an exuberant emerald. As they erupt against the drab, brownish gray of last year’s growth, they take on an especial vibrancy, teasing my thoughts with hints a colors just out of the range of my vision.

Shrubs and forbs were warming up for the colorful concert as well. Sumac and chokecherry buds were hard, fat kernels of condensed green, some of them already beginning to open; isolated notes of color dancing here and there in the puffs of light spring breeze.

Scattered across the calving pasture, cows and calves were seemingly everywhere. The cows were grazing almost frantically, following their noses and cropping new green grass with abandon. Calves were laying up in the warm sunshine or nursing or scampering about in cryptic calf games. A few were even nibbling on new grass, and finding, apparently, the flavor to be delightful.



All of this made for a wonderful working environment, but one thing kept nagging at the back of my mind.

It was dry. Very dry.

Okay, not really very dry. At Kimball we’d had 96 percent of average precipitation since last April 1, and in reality you can’t get more normal than that. Since October 103 percent of average. Having lived through more than one dry year in my life, though, I’m always a bit nervous until we get some spring rains.

In a very real sense I got a bit spoiled over the last couple of years of abundant moisture. So far this year we’ve seen 2.09 inches of precip, while by the end of March last year we’d seen 2.98 inches. Is that cause for alarm? In 2012, the last drought year, we’d collected only seven-tenths of an inch by the end of March, and totaled only eight inches for the year.

But wait a minute. In 2015, when we received a delightful thirty inches of moisture for the year, we’d had only six-tenths of an inch by the end of March.

It’s good to check facts and figures, to put things into proper perspective, scale and context.

Still, on a delightful but drier-than-I’d-like Monday, I knew I’d feel a lot better about things if only the spring rains would begin.

Which they did.

Tuesday morning it was raining. Drizzling, to be exact. It was cool and overcast, about 44 degrees in a light drizzle that occasionally burst into light rain. By noon we’d had about a quarter-inch and the skies promised more. Just like that we were catching up with “normal.”

I'll just repeat this; as grass farmers we depend on the rain. Without rain, the grass doesn't grow. The prairie can take several years without rain; all the grasses and forbs simply go dormant, safely sleeping through times of drought. We grass farmers, on the other hand, cannot go dormant. Oh, we have plans and strategies to tide us over for a year or two or maybe three. And if a mega-super-severe drought develops, we have thinking brains. We'll figure something out.

Best of all, though, is when we avoid drought and receive adequate and timely precipitation. Which is what happened on Tuesday. All in all we collected about three-quarters of an inch of soft, slow, soaking rain. And in the forecast for Thursday-Saturday, more rain. Perhaps even a bit of snow. Which is nice.

On Tuesday I didn’t get a lot of outside chores done, but I did get some inside chores done. Listening to the light rain drumming on the roof I felt a special kind of grass farmer peace slip into my soul. A pair of new calves were born during the day.



They came into a wet and chill world, but were vigorous calves and up at the teat within minutes. By evening each was proudly trotting alongside mama as the cows followed their noses along a path of new green grass.




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Off to a good start





Tuesday and it's raining. Well, drizzling. It's cool and overcast, about 44 degrees in a light drizzle that occasionally becomes light rain. We've had about 0.25 inches since last night. The rain is a good thing because we've fallen behind average since last autumn, and around here average isn't that much (about 16.8 inches per year).

As grass farmers we depend on the rain. Without rain, the grass doesn't grow. The prairie can take several years without rain; all the grasses and forbs simply go dormant, safely sleeping through times of drought. We grass farmers, on the other hand, cannot go dormant. Oh, we have plans and strategies to tide us over for a year or two or maybe three. And if a mega-super-dooper-severe-michaelmoore/algore drought develops, we have thinking brains. We'll figure something out.

Best of all, though, is when we avoid drought and receive adequate and timely precipitation. Which is what we're having today. Which is nice.

Other than checking and caring for cows and calves, a rainy/drizzly day isn't much good for working. Therefore I am not fixing fence or doing most of the other chores which have accumulated to my list.

I am a bit busy, though, for my newspaper articles are due by noon tomorrow and I'm in the process of finishing them off. So I'm not sitting on the couch, eating bon-bons and watching Oprah. More's the pity.

However, I do have the following video playlist prepared for your perusal, and even, perhaps, your approval.

It's cool and wet and mucky and squishy out today. Which makes it a perfect day to be born.



Hear the meadowlarks in the background? Enjoy, and have a super day.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Check your assumptions, dummy!





Another one of those busy days.

As you may (or may not) recall, I recently bought a new shooter, and before that, I bought a new optic and magnifier.

In my immensely clever way I told you that I'd had a disaster with the new optic, a Holosun Micro Red Dot.

The disaster was that the cement holding the objective lens in place failed, ruining the sight. I knew (assumed) it had failed because when I put it on the new shooter it wouldn't hold a zero, which was odd, because it had worked perfectly on the rifle I'd first mounted it to. I took a close look at the sight and noticed that the objective lens was tilted in the mounting, and I knew that wasn't right. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it hadn't come out of the box that way.

So in the fullness of time I received an "are you satisfied and will you write a review?" email from Primary Arms, the supplier of the optic. I quickly replied, basically, "WTF, O?"

Well, let me show you the email thread.


Dear Shaun,
Thank you so much for purchasing from PrimaryArms!
We appreciate your business and putting trust in our products.

Did you like your purchase?

If so, would you mind taking two minutes to leave a product review on Amazon? In doing so, you’ll share your opinion with millions of fellow Amazon shoppers who are awaiting your product review.

If, for any reason, you are not completely satisfied, please reply to this email so that we may address your concerns before you leave a product review. We would love to hear from you and are committed to your total satisfaction. As a growing business, reviews less than 5 stars actually reflects negatively and we would greatly appreciate it if you contacted us first so we can improve our products and services to go that extra mile to ensure your happiness and full satisfaction.
Thank you,

The Primary Arms Amazon Department

###

Glad to receive your email and I appreciate your follow-up.

Here's the problem. I loved the sight out of the box and for the first 50 rounds.

But...

After about 50 rounds the adhesive/cement holding the objective lens failed, rendering the sight useless.

I'd like to have it replaced because I liked it so much before failure, but I'd hate to get a replacement only to have it fail again.

What should I do? I read somewhere about a similar failure with a holosun sight. Can you reassure me?

(I attached a couple of pictures)

###

Hi Shaun, 

Has your red dot stopped turning on or is that lens moving? The cant in the objective lens looks perfectly normal. The cant on the lens is what reflects the dot from the emitter back to your eye, much like using your watch to reflect sunlight back into your buddies eyes. 

Regards, 

Marc 
Veteran, U. S. Army 
Customer Service Manager

###

(DOH!)

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I didn't notice the cant until I mounted the sight on a different AR and couldn't get it to hold a zero. Let me give it another try and see if I was making an incorrect assumption.

###

Hi Shaun, 

Please let me know how everything works out. 

###

Thanks Marc,

Just back from the range. I'm very pleased. Got rained out before I could get it completely dialed in but it's holding zero nicely now. Must have had a bit of wiggle in the mount when I attached it the first time. Thanks for politely pointing out the possible flaw in my assumption. I'll be posting a review in a little bit. Here's 20 rapid from 200 yards from an impro rest. Rifle is an Auto-Lok AL-15 with 10.5" bbl shooting IMI sourced M855.

Thanks for your service, Army.


ar 27, 3:50pm
It was an honor to serve, Shaun! Glad everything worked out! That's some fine shooting! 

###

Of course Marc was laying it on a little thick about the fine shooting, but that's life in his line of work.

I'm pleased that the sight was fine and pleased at how well it works and even more pleased to have had, for the thirty-seven-millionth time, a silly assumption fail me.

In case you're wondering, I'd recommend Primary Arms and the Holosun Micro Red Dot sight.





Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reacting or reasoning





Way a long time ago, back when the world was still black and white (color tee-vee not yet being affordable), we used to do cool 'speriments in science class.

We did this one with planaria, which are freshwater flatworms.
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We were introduced to the theory that these worms could regenerate lost body parts. In fact, the theory went, you could cut them in half and each half would regrow the missing part, leaving you with two complete flatworms!
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I remember doing this experiment. Before we cut the worms the teacher also informed us that the "eyes" on the head of the worm were not like our eyes, but photo-receptive cells. The worms couldn't "see" like we see, but they could detect light. Since they like to live in dimly lit ponds, they would react to bright light by moving away from it. They would also, the teacher said, move away from things that touch them.

So we shined lights on the little worms and they moved away from the light. And we poked them with probes, which also caused them to move away. Finally, we cut them in half, than checked on them every morning. Sure enough, over time, each half of our planaria regenerated its missing part and became two complete and independent flat worms.

In addition to lacking eyes, arms, legs, hands, feet, noses, etc., planaria also differed from us in not having a brain and in not having the ability to think and reason. They existed as living beings, but they didn't make plans or decisions or even politely ask children to not shine lights on them or poke them or cut them in half. They couldn't do that. No brain. No cognition. All they could do is react to environmental stimuli.

And regenerate lost parts. Which was cool.

Now I have a brain and cognition. But sometimes (a lot of the time) I react rather than reason. Even though I have a brain.

It's good to be able to react without thinking. Much better to snatch my fingers away from something painful than to have to sit down and do the math before removing my digits from whatever is damaging them. I've only got eight fingers and two thumbs after all.

Sometimes, though, it's better for me to think things through before proceeding. If I decide I want to fly it might be better to figure out a way to get on an airplane rather than just jump off a cliff and hope I can fly without an airplane.

Sometimes it's better to stop and think before clicking the button to purchase the "magic flying suit, no airplane required."

Sometimes it's better when I double check my assumptions. When I react instead of reason, I'm kinda making myself into a planaria. But as a human, I lack the ability to regenerate lost parts.

If I cut off my head, it won't grow back.
s

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Here's a fun question





It's a gorgeous morning in the southwest Panhandle

Yesterday a front blew through and it was windy and drizzly, which is an odd combination.

The front passed overnight and the skies cleared. The temperature fell to 29, and at sunrise most things -- cars, fence posts, grasses, road signs -- most things were covered in very light rime ice. You know, frost.

As the sun rose and cast golden rays of springshine across the landscape, which erupted in glorious glitter.



Just like that. Kinda.






##########

Anyway, the question.

Have you ever been called a fascist? To your face?

It happened to me one time. I was giving free ground nesting bird tours on the ranch. A scruffy looking cat with a petulant sneer told me that we were destroying his public land with our cow-calf operation.

Fortunately, I said, we're destroying our own, private land.

"Fascist." he snarled.

He was some kind of lettered researcher at a state college, his salary and benefits package paid for entirely by property taxes. In Nebraska something like 80 percent of property taxes are paid by fascist land owners.

Ironic and amusing.

I suspect the fellow's life was pretty awful.

Anyway, that's the only time I've been called a fascist to my face.

I haven't been called names to my face very often. Aside from the typical kid-on-kid name calling, hardly ever.

It has happened though, and it always stings. Now when it's a stranger, it smarts a bit, but I understand that they don't know me and they're just mad about something and that makes it easier to take.

When it really stings is when it's someone who does know me. That smarts a lot.

Still, I'm in charge of my own feelings. No one else controls how I feel. If I allow the hurt to linger or fester it's all on me. It's not easy to work through hurt feelings, but that's just life. Easy isn't part of the whole life package.

I was talking to a high school teacher one day, not so long ago. She was holding forth on the well known fact that name calling and harsh words are infinitely more harmful than any physical beating. She was really feeling it, the power of righteous indignation and speaking truth to power.

"You teach this to your students, right?" English teacher, btw.

"Oh yes. I have a moral and ethical responsibility to teach them the truth."

A few minutes later she was bashing Sarah Palin. "That firetrucking pig! That firetrucking monster! That charlie uniform november tango is the worst person who's ever lived!"

One thing that helps me with the unendurable and deadly assault of words I dont want to hear is when I think about all the times I haven't been called names. Seen in that light I don't really have a lot to feel hurt about. It's a useful perspective.

And then there are the times people have called me nice names to my face. Those outnumber the bad names by a fair margin.

A bit of Kipling seems appropriate.


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The first principle, again





I suspect that most who read this have heard all about Wednesday's terror attack in London. There are a couple of things which you may not have seen or read about the attack though, particularly if you follow only the major U.S. press.
A woman holds a placard at a vigil in Trafalgar Square on Thursday. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Think about it. You know, or should know, what terrorists do to Muslim women who stand against them. Can you imagine standing in her shoes? Can you? You know that every terrorist now has this image on his or her cell phone. You know it. If this is not a portrait of courage then such a portrait does not exist.

After Wednesday's vigil in Trafalgar Square, Omer El-Hamdoon, deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said:

“It’s good to see that many people have come out today. This is an important message that Londoners need to display which is that terrorism will not divide us and it is not going to stop us and scare us. For any person to attack innocent people is outrageous and despicable and we condemn it unreservedly.”

A peace vigil will be held today in Birmingham to promote unity, after the city’s most prominent mosque issued a statement condemning the Westminster terror attack as “barbaric and heartless."

The city centre vigil has been organised by the Stand Up To Racism group and MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) and will begin at 5 p.m. in High Street.

Mosque chairman Muhammad Afzal said of Wednesday’s atrocity in London:

“Nothing justifies taking lives of innocent people. Those responsible must be brought to justice."

Urging calm within all communities and offering condolences to those bereaved by the attack, he added:

“The Islamic faith does not allow anyone to take the life of others. No religion justifies the indiscriminate killing of individuals in such a barbaric and heartless way, and such acts only serve to differentiate between the misguided and the just.”

I would not be a bit surprised to receive adverse comments for posting this. Some will say, "those are just words." That's fine. I'll just note that people, including myself, have been asking for years where the peaceful Muslim voices are. And I'll just refer you to the image above. There are many others.

Anyway, America, I'm going to keep quoting the following and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is the first principle of America. In truth, it's the first principle of civilization.

It means that all men are equally human. None are more human, none are less human. None are better, none are worse. We are all fundamentally human, and our rights come to us from our creator, not from other men. Whether you regard your creator as God or as Nature makes no difference. God and Nature are self-evidently very much greater than humans, therefore the rights we are endowed with cannot be given or taken by men.

Our equality and rights come at a cost, and that cost is responsibility. Only human beings can have natural rights, and only human beings can exercise responsibility.

Highly esteemed people are not more human with more unalienable rights. Lowly esteemed people are not less human with fewer unalienable rights. People who are on the other side of an argument are not less human with fewer rights, just as those on the same side are not more human with more rights.

As a case in point, I am a gun guy. My right to keep and bear arms within the framework of American society is protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be infringed by the state. There are people who are anti-gun. Their right to keep and bear arms is also protected. Just as importantly, their right to be anti-gun, to speak out against guns, to peacefully gather in protest about guns, and to petition the state regarding their beliefs and positions about guns -- these things are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. As are my rights to do the same in support of guns.

Now as a gun guy, I have the same natural right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as the anti-gun folks. I also have a self-evident right to defend and protect my Life and Liberty and pursuit of Happiness, and this includes the right to use deadly force, with or without a gun, to do so. The anti-gun folks have the same rights, and these rights are recognized in state and federal law all across the land.

My responsibility is to never threaten, abridge or take the unalienable rights of another human who is not directly trying to take my Life or my Liberty or destroy my ability to peacefully pursue Happiness. My responsibility is to treat those who differ with me as I would have them treat me -- as an equal human being whose unalienable rights may not be infringed.

Here is where dishonesty comes in. As soon as an anti-gun person lies, cheats or steals to prevail in the argument, they violate the First Principle by treating me not as an equal human being, but as an object to be used and manipulated. This standard applies to me also.

The same is true for name calling. If I call anti-gun people "bleeding heart libtards" -- even if I only think of them in that fashion and never say the words -- then I am violating the First Principle. Flip the coin and the obverse is identical.

Our nation is in mortal peril, and it's not because the government is doing bad things or because legislative bodies at all levels are corrupt or because the press has become nothing more than the propaganda arm of a certain ideology. These things are only symptoms. They are not the disease.

The disease is one of smashed principles. Most of the people who live in this country -- this America where the First Principle is that all men are created equal -- have become entirely too accustomed to thinking of and treating others as a means to an end, as objects to be ridiculed, called names, lied to, cheated, stolen from. This includes me. I'm no more or less human than any other American, and I live in the same environment with the same exposure to the ongoing rot of moral and ethical degeneration.

Our rights will not -- cannot -- save us. In the land of the Sovereign Citizen, only our responsibility can save us.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What a happy thing!





This blogging thing is enjoyable and therapeutic. Occasionally, though, it's downright amazing.

So there I was, watching cows and calves...


I was sitting in my pickup yesterday afternoon. My pickup was parked out in the pasture on the southwest slope of a little rise. Here's the place...


I was watching a cow, trying to decide if she was getting ready to have a baby or not. When cows enter the first stage of parturition (birth process, from the Latin parturire, to desire to bring forth) they often isolate themselves from the herd and begin to show signs of nervousness or agitation. This cow was off by herself, a good half-mile from the rest of the cows and over a hill, out of sight of the herd. She wasn't acting a bit nervous or agitated though and was simply cropping new grass with obvious relish. Furthermore, she hadn't yet "made bag," that is, she didn't show a lot of udder development.

Be that as it may, she was off by herself, and I've seen cows calve without making obvious bag and without isolating, so you never know. I was curious. I enjoy learning about cattle by watching what they actually do, which is always just a bit different than the books and experts say. Those differences, and seeing new things, or old things done a different way I suppose, bring me a lot of joy and enjoyment.

So. I was watching the cow through my trusty Shopko-sourced binoculars. I was getting bored and thinking about packing it in. The cow just wasn't doing anything -- other than being isolated -- that made me think she would calve in the next few hours.

Are you feeling the suspense yet?

My phone dinged, telling me of the arrival of a new email. I dug it out of my shirt pocket and did the swipey-tappey thing and brought up my email. I had a message from Blogger, telling me of a newly published comment. That happens all the time.

But this was different. Blogger said that the commenter was Chris Parry.

I think that my jaw actually dropped. I know I shook my head several times and refocused on the text. It still said Chris Parry. My heart started to pound a bit and a big grin erupted beneath my nose.

You might be wondering why a simple name elicited such a reaction.

Well, it's like this, see.

I've never had an Admiral stop by the blog before. And not just any Admiral, but Rear Admiral, CBE, Royal Navy (Retired). And not just any retired RN Rear Admiral. Chris Parry was Mentioned in Despatches for his actions as Observer in a Westland Wessex helicopter "Humphrey" assigned to HMS Antrim during the Falklands War. In addition to being part of the crew that inserted and then rescued SAS Troopers (and aircrew) from Fortuna Glacier on South Georgia, Chris Parry literally fired the first British shots of the war when he salvoed depth charges on the Argentine submarine Santa Fe (S-21, formerly USS Catfish, SS-339), just off Grytviken, South Georgia on April 25, 1982.

Somehow, some way, thanks to the wonders of modern communication technology (not, in fact, invented by algore), Chris Parry found my blog post from February 3. And commented!

Why is this such a big deal?

Well, several things, really, all mixed together in an interesting mishmash. For one thing, I've read his book about his 1982 experiences, 'Down South, A Falklands War Diary.' It's a fantastic book, and if you've any interest in the Falklands War I urge you to give it a read.

Also, I was a USN helo bubba in 1982. The Falklands was a huge topic of discussion and speculation. Most of us were very impressed with the press accounts we read of the RN helo crews. As it turned out, the press didn't even scratch the surface.

Much later, when old BBC videos became available on the "Tube 'O You," I had the opportunity to watch the series 'Sailor,' which documents the 1976 voyage of HMS Ark Royal. You can find the series here. As I watched episode six, I noted the presence of a young Sub-Lieutenant named Parry. Could it be? It was.

So there's a bit of time travel there. I find it fascinating to be able to get a glimpse of a young man who in six years time will be tested in battle, then go on to a very successful and influential career and retire as a Rear Admiral.

And not just any Rear Admiral. One who receives invitations to lecture at the US Naval War College and other prestigious venues.



Finally, there's the whole scale and distance thing. I was sitting in my pickup in the middle of the Nebraska shortgrass prairie at 5 p.m. Somewhere in England, where the time was 1 a.m. of the next morning, a retired Rear Admiral clicked "post" and sent me a message. Which I received pretty much instantly. How cool is that?


What does it all mean, this brief communication between people who are roughly the same age, who have had a few similar experiences, but who have never met? I have no idea really.

But I can tell you one thing for sure. I'll never wash my blog for as long as I live!