Monday, September 18, 2017


In eighteen fourteen we took a little trip,
Along with Kernel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.

Nah, this post isn't about the War of 1812, or the Battle of New Orleans, or the song, or Johnny Horton.

I just happened to glance at the clock as I was trying to come up with a post title and the time was 1814.

It is a catchy tune.

I thought this was interesting as well. Check out 14:50 to see a serious "oh shit" moment.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tanker tours the mother-in-law

I've been struggling a bit of late. There really don't seem to be many folks who share my principles, and that's quite bothersome.

Only a couple of possibilities of course. Either my principles are correct, or they are not.

Taking a page from the Socratic playbook, I've been examining my life under the brightest lights I can bring to bear. It's a process.


Hail storm last night. Some years we have snow on September 15. Some years we have a different kind of snow.


Seen in the local kwik stop. My recruiter was a bb stacker too. If I were a younger man...


The fellow who made these videos is an Army tanker who was born and raised in Ireland and served for a time in the Irish armed forces. He seems to have an interesting story. You might enjoy visiting his youtube channel, particularly if you like tanks. And who doesn't like tanks?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Days of whine and poses

Had a few bothersome days there.

My blood pressure kept crashing. Well, not crashing, exactly, but falling down into the 60/30 range. Which isn't so bad, I guess, except that I feel exhausted and mentally foggy when it does that. I don't like feeling that way.

I'm in the middle of a 30-day heart monitor trial to see if my heart is having a rhythm problem which might be causing the low blood pressure.

Of course we can't see the readings until the 30-day period is over. "Ve haff procedures vitch must be followt, nicht wahr?"

The regular ekg is fine, and although my heart rate is only about 50 when the b/p drops, 50 beats per minute is not profoundly slow and the rhythm is dead normal. For certain values of dead, of course.

The medical cookbook used around these parts does not allow for any real investigation of real symptoms. Patients have to be lumped into a particular category. Period. Once placed in a category, the cookbook requires that treatment follow the recipe precisely. Period.

The category I'm supposed to fit into is the old fat guy with a failing heart category. The cookbook says I'm supposed to take powerful heart drugs designed to make a post-heart attack heart beat more strongerly. Despite the fact that I have had no heart attack and have no signs of any kind of cardiomyopathy. Also I am supposed to go home, hit the recliner, and watch the 24/7 news cycle.

Well, firetruck that.

Fortunately for me, I'm aprofoundly and fundamentally uncategorizable individual with a rudimentary understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and medicine. I have the ability to reason, and when I bend my mind to the task I can pretty easily tell when a recipe is likely to do more harm than good.

I am, therefore, according to the cookbook, a non-compliant patient.

I suppose they'll come for me in the night. That's fine, my Sig has lovely night sights.

Up until a few years ago medical science held a lot of promise. But America began to kill it off when people decided that the ponzi scheme of "insurance" would be a good idea. After all, it said so right there on paper! You get something for free! More importantly, you get to punish your enemies by making them pay for your care! What's not to love? And the best health care in the world, state of the art medicine, all rainbows and unicorns and shit. Says so right there on the paper!

Which is all wonderful and tingly.

Reality in the real world is different than the reality described by Royal Tailors Who Produce Cloth Which Can Be Seen Only By The Wise.

I'll take the ratty old denim, thank you very much, and I'll take a pass on the nostrums which will only hasten my descent into decrepitude.


It's been very hot so far this month. Hot and dry. So hot and dry, in fact, that all the experts is sayin' how the weather conditions is all unprecedented, and that we're on track to shatter ever' single record and stuff. Boosche caused grobal warmering by stealin' the 'lection from the saintly, world's-champeen climatologist algore, and now we all gonna die.

Funny thing though.

You have only to look back five years, to September, 2012, to find near identical conditions.

Through the first 11 days of this September at Kimball, the daily high has averaged 85.54 degrees, the overnight low 52.09 degrees, and the daily mean 68.81 degrees. Those numbers through the first 11 days of 2012 were 85.90, 51.36, and 68.63, respectively.

Nicht nach den Experten!

Well, you know. Reality.

I did some prairie dog hunting this morning. I stalked in from a mile, paying careful attention to the wind and to the noise and vibration of my approach. The last 100 yards I did on my belly, slowly and quietly worming my way through dry, scratchy, stabby vegetation.

It was a good stalk, and I was rewarded by the presence of a happy, above-ground group of prairie dogs. The scope brought the first one into sharp focus, and I laid the cross-hairs just to the left of the third button down on the Tattersall vest he was wearing. I put my thumb on the safety and prepared to fire.

The prairie dogs disappeared.

Overhead soared a large Ferruginous Hawk.



Reality has hard edges and stickers. Sweat and blood and gore and bitter disappointment. In the end, mortality.

I would far rather hurt and bleed and suffer and die than spend my precious and limited time in the psychotic realm of an externally dictated alternative reality.


And now that the temperature has touched 89 degrees I shall go charge some hills.


I have charged those hills. It is now two hours later, two degrees hotter, and I am not dead. My workout covered 4.5 miles in an hour and a quarter and those hills were lovely. In February I could not have walked up heart attack hill. Today I did it five times in succession and had to sprint (for certain age-adjusted values of sprint) the steep pitches to feel like I was doing something exercise related.

When I finished my heart rate was 57 and my pressure 107/75.

I'm beginning to suspect that my bouts of hypotension will even out as I continue to improve my level of fitness and cardio-pulmonary health.

Time will tell.

I'm not gonna take those firetrucking drugs and sit around waiting to die.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dog Days

A long time ago on a continent far, far away...

Priam saw him first, with his old man's eyes,

A single point of light on Troy's dusty plain.
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.
Achilles' bronze gleamed like this as he ran.

Dog Days

The Dog Days of Summer are said to be the hottest and most uncomfortable days of the season.

The term comes down to us from the Greeks and Romans, who noted that the onset of the most intense summer heat -- along with drought and intense thunderstorms -- seemed to coincide with the late-summer arrival of Sirius. The Dog Star.

Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, or Great Dog, and represents the shoulder (?) of the big dog. It is also the brightest star in the night sky (and in fact is a double-star).

The Greeks described Canis Major as the companion of Orion, following the mighty hunter through the night sky. Orion is located on the celestial equator and due to the geometry of Earth's orbit is absent below the southeasterly horizon in spring and through much of the summer. It begins to rise late at night in August.

Sirius and the Great Dog are actually located in the southern celestial hemisphere, just below the celestial equator, and appear to trail "behind" Orion as the stars make their nightly swing through the sky.

The Greeks -- and later the Romans -- noted the brightness of Sirius and wondered if that blazing bright star was responsible for the stifling summer heat which arrived at about the same time.
Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris puncata)

It was a good hypothesis. Now that we're a bit more astronomically accomplished, we've discovered that Sirius A is about twice the size of our own sun, twenty-five times more luminous, and is one of our very near galactic neighbors, being only about 8.6 light years (50,556,178,209,379 miles) distant. Today we know that Sirius is much to far away to add heat to our planet, but you can understand and appreciate the reasoning of the ancients.

As with everything else about climate, the actual warmth of the Dog Days is variable. We can imagine that late summer featured relatively warm and still periods during the last ice age -- roughly 15,000 to 110,000 years ago, but it's unlikely that anyone complained about the heat at that time.

Furthermore, the actual onset of late-summer heat isn't linked to a particular calendar day. The Dog Days can arrive any time between mid-July and early September.

And finally (at least for this post), the Dog Days are a period of heat and stillness which are relatively hotter than the rest of the season, but there's no absolute thermometer reading which defines the heat. During the Little Ice age (Ca. 1300-1850) the mercury may have only touched 75 degrees during the Dog Days, while 115-120 degrees might have been the norm during the Dust Bowl era.
Rubber Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) and Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis).

And all of the preceding horse$#!+ is by way of introducing this...

Dang it's hot.

It's not terribly hot. It's been a relatively cool summer in fact. June and July were slightly warmer than usual but also featured cool spells as weather fronts moved through. August was more uniform, with fewer weather systems to mix up daily temperatures, but those daily temps were cooler than average for the month.

As August began to fade, though, the warmth increased and a pressure ridge kept the nearby atmosphere stable.
Fringed Sagewort (Artemisia frigida) in the act of flowering.

Thus far in September the pattern is holding. Today the mercury is expected to reach into the upper 90's, which is quite warm for the ninth month of the year but far from unheard of. The relative stillness of the air has also allowed a lot of wildfire smoke to drift in from Montana.

So it's been a little bit uncomfortable from my perspective. A little too hot and still, with heat lingering late into the evening. As Dog Days go, however, these have been quite mild. In two weeks time I'll be vexed by morning coolness and perhaps even frost. As summer slowly fades, so does the time of easy living.

It's also time for farmers to plant winter wheat. Looks like work to me.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Curlycup Chimney Rock

I'm reasonably certain that everyone in the world is familiar with the world-famous Chimney Rock near Bayard, Nebraska.

If you search for Chimney Rock on the Webbe of Universal Connectedness you will find that the first results are not in fact for the Nebraska version of Chimney Rock, but for some other lame-@$$ rock in North Kackalakki.

However, a more refined search will lead you to a site managed by the nebraska state hysterical society where you can learn all about the famous landmark and stopping-off place for pioneers heading west bitd.

It really is an interesting place and worth visiting if you're passing by or are very interested in pioneers.

However, I do not favor our state hysterical society nor their administration of the landmark. They take a huge bite of property taxes to showcase nebraska history, but then the greedy corksatchers charge admission, too. This I don't approve of. But that's just me.

Anyway, Mom and I visited the site yesterday -- as well as a nearby rv park -- to get the lay of the land and prepare a scouting report for left coast family who will be passing through next month.

We had a very nice time despite the hysterical society. Sometimes it's fun to drive around the local area and look at stuff. We finished the trip with a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Scottsbluff.

Before we left I took a few pictures of autumn sunflower and curlycup gumweed, two colorful fall-blooming forbs.

Today, I'm afraid, has been rather busy. Tomorrow will be as well. Sigh. That time of year.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Goose Summer

Don't worry, it's not here yet.

But it won't be long!

Goose Summer is a nearly forgotten concept. That's a bit ironic when you consider that it gave us English-speaking folks the word gossamer.

Gossamer, of course, means a fine, filmy cobweb, or an extremely delicate gauzy fabric, or things that are extremely light and delicate.

In looking at the etymology of the word, it appears to have come to us from the middle-English of the fourteenth century as a conjunction of the words gos (goose) + sommer (summer).

Goose Summer referred to the warm period in autumn -- usually late October or early November -- when the first icy blasts have faded and the world seems to reawaken in a brief but lovely golden splendor. Today this period is most often called Indian Summer, and sometimes St. Martin's Summer in England and on the Continent.

Late October and/or early November was, in 1300's England, the traditional time for harvesting geese. It also coincided with the ballooning of millions of recently hatched spiders which relocate to winter quarters by being borne aloft on threads of silk in sun-warmed air currents. These silky threads gradually became known as gossamer, and that name stuck while the reference to autumnal Goose Summer faded.

In Sweden the season has been called sommertrad (summer thread) and in Germany Gänsemonat, or goose month.

But, you might say, it's not even September yet, what's all this about Goose Summer then?

Well, to make a short story long...

Yesterday I posted an image of a funnel web spider crouching in its web, prepared to sally out and ambush prey.

This type of funnel web spider is a member of the family Agelenidae, which belong to the suborder Araneomorphae. The ubiquitous grass spider (Agelenopsis) is also a member of this suborder, so the two are related. And grass spiderlings are common autumnal balloonists all across the planet. The Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia. Everywhere.

So with summer fading, coming across the funnel web spider reminded me of ballooning grass spiders, which reminded me of gossamer, and Goose Summer, and, well, you get the picture. It's a bit untidy, but that's how my mind sometimes works.

Now then.

I really like spiders. Always have. I freaked Miss Meyer out in second grade when I announced that Charlotte was obviously an example of Araneus cavaticus, or barn spider.

She was really pleased the next day when I showed up with a barn spider in a baby food jar. But I digress.

As I was out and about working on fence yesterday, I noticed a plethora of jumping spiders. These guys (family Salticidae) are really cool. They are ambush hunters with amazing vision. Rather than build webs to trap prey, they leap out and capture the bugs that they eat. Like all spiders, they do have the capacity to spin silk, but they use this almost exclusively to anchor and tether themselves when leaping.

Many of the jumping spiders I saw yesterday were red-backed jumping spiders, most likely Phidippus cardinalis, or Cardinal Jumper.

These are interesting because in the color and texture of their red hair they demonstrate mimicry of the multillid wasps, also known as velvet ants or "cow-killer" ants. The female multillid wasp has one of the most painful, yet least toxic, stings known to man. In mimicking the multillid, Cardinal Jumpers are likely able to prevent some predators from attacking them. Which could be useful.

Pretty cool, huh?

But wait, there's more!

As summer fades into September, college football is beginning. Our local side, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, will play Arkansas State at home in Lincoln Saturday night in fact. And the Cardinal Jumpers wear very much the same color as our beloved Cornhuskers, which were known as the "Bugeaters" back in the day (1892-1900). So do the math. Gotta be a good omen, right?

Finally, here's a non-cardinal jumping spider.

I'm particularly proud of this image, even though the camera did all of the work. Sometimes you get lucky.

I suppose that's enough for today.