Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cherishing a day

This is one of those days that makes you happy to be alive. It's not a perfect day, or at least from my perspective it's less than perfect. But just because I can find things to bitch about doesn't mean it's not a wonderful day.

It's August 19, and in this part of the world that means that the nights are delightfully cool and the days have the potential to be bright, sunshiny, clear, and hot.
Sideoats Grama

Gone are the days of too-sweltering high summer, with an overhead sun driving temperatures over the century mark and evening clouds holding the heat of day long into the dank and sweaty night.

By August 19 the sun is rising noticeably later in the morning and fleeing over the west horizon surprisingly early in the evening. The nights are cool but not yet crisp, and while the days can be and often are quite hot, it's not the blazing heat of July, and it sets in later in the day and departs much earlier.

Today I did road work. It was 79 degrees when I set out at 9:15, and the mercury was touching 90 degrees when I finished at 11. There was an occasional touch of breeze, but for the most part the air was still and warm and close and filled with the sun-baked fragrances of August on the High Plains. This time of year many of the fragrances are pungent and bold. Stinkgrass, gumweed, creosote, asphalt, decomposing mud, hot shingles, baking bricks, blistering paint.

As I strode along a residential street in town I met a young girl out for a morning bike ride. School started for her this week, so summer vacation is over and this is the first glorious Saturday of the school year. Nature says it's still summer, but the reality of fourth grade says it's not. Before I'd gone half a block she'd whizzed all the way around the block and passed me again with a grin on her face. Some moments are priceless.

I went seven-and-a-half miles and challenged many hills, including four assaults on the 15th Street hill.
You should see it in 3D!

When I finished I felt good.

I threw the ball for Nona the Wonder Dog for a while but I soon grew lightheaded and dizzy. That hasn't happened in a while. Checked my blood pressure and it was 80/40, which is just a tad low.

Fortunately, I got myself wired up to a cardiac event monitor a couple of days ago.

It seems like a rather neat device. It continually records my heart activity via two leads, right clavicle and left lower ribs.

It transmits the data over the cellular system to the "home office," wherever that might be. It gives me the option of "marking" events, so I marked the onset of my lightheadedness and dizziness. After 30 days the local cardio doc will download a report and look at the ekg data. If I'm actually having any heart block or dysrhythmia it should show up, and then we'll know and be able to put together a plan.

I'm not sure I've got any real heart block, but this is one way to find out or at least gather more information. I don't like the lightheadedness/dizziness and low blood pressure. Is it a heart thing? A vascular thing? Something else?

Ah. No my pressure is up to 100/60. That's better.

Today reminds me that I've taken a lot of wonderful days for granted over the years. It's not a crime, it's what youngsters do. I didn't take this one for granted though. I marked and enjoyed it.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The problem with tribalism, among other things

According to the fossil record and the study of human evolution and development, modern man (Homo sapiens) has been around for something like 200-300 thousand years (ky). The present theory of human evolution holds that our ancestors began to diverge or evolve from tree-dwelling primates on the order of 6-7 million years ago (mya).

Our understanding of human evolution isn't comprehensive, complete, or conclusive. The fossil record is sparse, and the remains of our ancestors are very hard to find and very hard to study. We live on the surface of a dynamic world where the land is anything but static (think plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.) and where climate is variable (scores of ice ages and interglacial periods). With the land and climate in constant flux, it's little wonder that the bones and abodes of our ancestors are difficult to find and suss out.

We humans are clever though, and through the rigorous application of science and the scientific method we've been able to piece together a solid theory of the history of our planet and our species. While we are not absolutely certain of every detail of the past, we've discovered no evidence that would disprove our present understanding.

Now for some scale, context, and perspective.

The farthest back we can see is to about 13.7 billion years ago (bya). That means that our modern telescopes can detect light and other electromagnetic radiation from that far in the past. By using the speed of light as a measuring stick, and by studying various aspects of the electromagnetic radiation we can detect, it looks very much like the universe began (for certain values of began) at about that 13.7 bya mark. It's possible that the universe is older, but because of the character of the physical universe we simply can't see any farther back. We have a solid sense that our measure of the age of the universe is correct, but we don't, and can't, know for certain.

It looks very much like our galaxy, the Milky Way, formed very shortly after the universe came into being. Our solar system, however, is much younger, having formed about 5 bya. Our best estimate of the age of Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years, which is only a tiny bit less than four-and-a-half thousand million years before our earliest ancestors climbed down from the trees and began to go walkabout.

It also looks very much like the first life on earth came into being about 3.5 billion years ago.

On these timescales, the evolution of modern man or H. sapiens was very recent indeed. Compared to our relatively short lifespans, 250,000 years is a long time, but it's only one twenty-sixth of the time since we began to diverge from other primates.

Furthermore, while modern man has been around for a quarter-million years, there is no sign of or evidence of anything like civilization before the beginning of the present interglacial period, about 12-15 thousand years ago. In that sense, all of what we might call recorded (for some values of recorded) history has happened in the last one-eighteenth of the period during which modern man has existed.

The key concept of what most westerners -- and a growing number of non-westerners --  think of as modern civilization is liberal democracy. This is where, for the most part, the sovereignty of the individual is of paramount concern. This is a big change. For most of the era of civilization -- the last 12-15 thousand years -- the individual human held no intrinsic value outside of himself or his family. Those men who gained power ruled their tribes with absolute authority, and their human subjects were essentially cattle. The notion that cattle might have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness hadn't really occurred.

Humans started playing around with the idea of individual sovereignty in a serious way during the period of Classical Greece, about 2,500 years ago, or about the last one-fifth of the age of civilization.

Modern liberal democracy didn't become societally established and codified until roughly 250 years ago, or the last one-tenth of the period of democratic experimentation.

The key and foudational principle of modern liberal democracy is most famously laid out in the U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776.

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.

The development and implementation of liberal democracy has been anything but a smooth process. In any such system the institutions of government must elevate the intrinsic value of the individual to the level of sovereign. That's hard. Furthermore, a clear majority of the citizens of a liberal democracy must actually believe in and practice the first principle of democracy, that all men are equal and endowed with unalienable rights -- rights which do not come from other men but from something much larger than any collection of mortal human beings. To get a majority to believe and practice this principle is incredibly hard. It requires the individual to exercise what is perhaps the hardest responsibility humans have ever known -- to see all other individuals as equally human, and just as importantly, to hold themselves to the same standards they demand of their fellows. That's real responsibility, and it's very, very hard.

One of the reasons liberal democracy is so hard is that it's a purely intellectual construct that goes against the grain of much of our fundamental nature. As a species we existed in the realm of tribal groupings for nearly all of the last quarter-million years, just as our pre-human ancestors did for 5-7 million years before that. Throughout all of that time humans were tribal members first and foremost, and their individuality was largely moot. The tribe was all important, and members of the tribe were replaceable cogs. It's actually a good system, and it stood the test of time, at least in the sense that it allowed the species to survive.

When it came time to build civilization, however, tribes had to amalgamate and become cooperative societies. The core of our human nature remained tribal; it's wired into our DNA and it'll take more than a paltry few thousand years to change that fact. But the new and improved thinking part of our human brains learned how to plan and cooperate and do the hard thing today in anticipation of having a more assured and perhaps better existence next year, and next generation, and next century, and so on.

As civilization developed there were countless fits and starts. Mankind was challenged and nearly smashed time after time. Our planet can be a very harsh and unforgiving place to live. Apart from natural, external challenges, civilization has been torn asunder from within as well. Time and time again, great societies rose and fell. In many cases the rot set in in the form of a return to tribalism. Societies divided themselves into groups and the groups went at it hammer and tongs until all that remained was bitter ash and legend.

The rise of liberal democracy coincided with intellectual enlightenment. From the Renaissance through the industrial revolution through the ongoing scientific and information revolutions liberal democracy has been a key driver and player. Whether this is coincidence or not isn't yet provable, but it is certainly the case that the lot of humankind has improved massively by every single metric since liberal democracy came on the scene.

Today, in 2017, we seem to find ourselves at a crossroads. There are great tribal movements afoot across civilization. How will it all play out?

Your guess is as good as mine.

My personal conviction is that civilization is in for a rough time if individual humans do not maintain the sovereignty of their individuality and their independent intellectual development.

Those of us who are blessed to live in this wondrous time have, in my opinion, an absolute responsibility to live and practice the first principle and to behave as civilized men.

But that's just me.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The problem isn't "those people"

You can't fix or change other people. You can fix or change yourself.

It's ironic and amusing that the two "sides" are sides of the same coin.

Waiting for the government to fix stuff. SMH.

Are you a sovereign or a subject?

Oh really?

Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

You've done your part? Great. Do more.

The answers aren't on social media.

What are your core principles?

I didn't ask what are "their" core principles.

Today, spend five minutes doing some little thing to make things better.

Tomorrow go for ten minutes.

All sodium and no chloride will kill you. The reverse is also true.

All rights and freedoms and no responsibility will kill you just as dead.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Welcome to the bigs

Well, I got spam comments now.

I've had 'em before but it's been a while. Seems similar to what Sarge was infested with recently; a quote from a comment along with a link. The link goes to a tumblr (whatever that is) page called "tricks, tricks" in Thai but with a url having to do with something else entirely.

But they're comments, man! People are noticing me!

Or something.


The other day I was looking at koobecaf and noticed a rah-rah meme that said, "I may disagree with what you have to say but I'll defend your right to say to the last drop of my usda certified prime merkin blood! Yee-Haw!"

Or words to that effect.

Moments later the same poster put up an anti-nfl meme, "Like and share if you think Roger Goodell should be prosecuted for allowing una-merkin players to protest during the National Anthem!"


Which is it?


For some reason this song has been stuck in my head all week.

Particularly this lyric:

So good-bye,
I'll be leaving
I see no sense

In this crying and grieving
We'll both live a lot longer
If you live without me...

I wonder why that is?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ups and downs

Yesterday was a day that featured a significant scare. I'm not going to provide details here as I'm still sorting through information and recovering from a bit of a roller coaster ride. Stuff can go pear-shaped in an instant. It's life.
Giant Puffball mushroom. About the size of a tennis ball.

This kind is not for eating.

Decomposing siltstone shelf. Formerly sea bed.



Today dawned bright and sunshiny and the air temperature charged right up into the high 80's. The sun blasted down quite competently and as the soil warmed (it had been dampened and chilled over the last week) swarms of gnats took to the sky. There was hardly a breeze all day.

Still suffering from my summer cold and from the effects of yesterday's events I determined to get out and build fence. A big part of me didn't want to. I wasn't feeling that hot and my mood was still jangly and all over the place. I knew that a dose of good physical labor was just the medicine I required; that I'd feel much better having blown the cobs out and having accomplished a solid chunk of an important chore. Which doesn't mean I relished the thought of taking the medicine. I took it anyway.

The job was to tear out a quarter-mile of fence and relocate it. The fence in question had been built long before my time and right down the E-W half-section line of the south section of the south unit. That line just happens to skirt the south edge of the big east-west draw in that pasture and it runs crazily up and down the eroded gullies on that side. I'm sure there was a reason to put it there back in the day, but there's simply no reason to keep it there, particularly since I'm working on the cross fencing project anyway.

So I set a couple of played-out railroad tie anchors at the ends of where I wanted the fence to be relocated. Then I peeled a strand of wire from the old fence and stretched it up tight between the new anchors to give myself a straight(ish) line along which to set new posts.

I dug eleven new holes with the Armstrong posthole diggers (I hand dug the anchor holes as well) and tamped in eleven new(ish) posts.

Digging and tamping and harvesting, dragging, and splicing wire was a very good physical workout. It was hot and in the absence of wind was muggy and buggy too.

In some ways it was quite a miserable experience. In others it was quite nice; challenging physically and mentally and paradoxically quite relaxing.

By the time I called it quits I was mostly done with relocating the fence. I still have to move a couple of more wires but I'm 90 percent done.

Once I finish with the relocated fence I've got most of a mile of east-west cross fence to repair. A good bit of it will only take some tweaking and tightening but I will need to set anchor posts at the stock tanks and repair/replace about five or six gates. Then I can shift a bit farther south and jump into the hodgepodge of cross fencing that separates formerly farmed ground from native pasture. And then there's a good bit of cross fencing to repair back on the northwest pastures of the south unit.

With any luck and a break from the weather I'll be done by Thanksgiving.

Curious Georgette...

Sunday, August 13, 2017


I've got a touch of a summer cold and it's not enjoyable. I'm not that sick, just kinda run down and lacking energy.

So bleh.

I had a great workout Friday. Haven't done a lot of formal working out since the great fencing challenge began, but on Friday I felt the need to push some iron and flip some tires. My improvement in strength and endurance was a bit of a surprise. When I first started the tire flips a couple of months ago three sets of six reps nearly did me in. Friday I did six sets of 10 and still had plenty in the tank. So there's that.


There seems to be a big uptick in activity in the missile fields lately. Quite a few more convoys on the road and escorting helos in the air. I didn't really pay the activity any mind. I like watching the helos and more flying means more opportunity for watching. That's as far as my analysis went.

Mom mentioned the increased activity the other day. I was chatting with her as she hung sheets out on the clothesline and she asked me what I thought about it. I opined that it was likely routine maintenance. As we talked a pair of November Hueys were rat racing at low level, which put a grin on my face as I remember days of yore when I used to get paid (!) for rat racing and other fun activities. It was all training, and good training to boot. Even landing behind the Burger Barn to pick up a big, greasy bag of burgers and fries. Sure, it was fun and exciting and delicious and at least a little bit non-standard, but it was great training. So I watched the Hueys having fun and smiled and hoped that no candy@$$ed civilians would be triggered enough to speed dial Warren and announce their victimization.

Mom said she thought the increased activity had to do with kim dong yum's posturing.

Hmmm. Hadn't thought of that, and here I am the acknowledged military and geopolitical expert of the family.

My mind flashed back to some of the recentish missile field problems which featured large across the interwebs. Cheating on tests, old equipment breaking down, hints of delayed and even gundecked maintenance.

"I wonder," I said, "if any of the missiles even work?"

"Me too," said Mom. "They've been having a lot of problems, haven't they?"


Speaking of missiles...

I think I've mentioned before that we've got a former Atlas-E site bang in the middle of the ranch.
The EJE Atlas site, circa 2017

The SM-65 program was a huge national priority as the 1950's came to a close and and a new decade began. It was the first successful ICBM developed and fielded by the U.S., and more than 100 launch complexes were built and became operational between 1960 and 1965. IIRC, the site on our ranch went operational in 1964.

But the Atlas wasn't the only ICBM project. There were also the liquid fueled SM-68 and SM-68B -- Titan I and Titan I -- as well as the solid fueled LGM-30 Minuteman series. By 1965 the Titan II and Minuteman missiles, which had gone into operational service concurrently with Atlas but were more capable, had made the SM-65 ICBM system obsolete. The Atlas sites were all decommissioned by 1965.


There were exactly zero Titan sites in this part of the world, however, this is where dozens of Minuteman sites went in. The influx of missile field construction crews made Kimball boom, sending the population soaring from less than 3,000 to nearly 10,000. It were good times in many ways. Kimball declared herself Missile Center USA and somehow arranged for an Air Force loan of a Titan I missile as a static display. The big missile was installed in Gotte Park sometime in the mid-60's as an emblem of Kimball's big player status on the ICBM stage. The missile was a constant as I grew up. It was kept shiny and well maintained, and it stayed that way long after the missile boom ebbed and the town began to decline.

Sometime in the mid-2000's the Air Force was required by law to either take back the missile or strip it of the heavy metal structural components. Someone told kongrass that heavy metals had radiation cooties and as everyone knows, radiation is bad. Kimball opted to keep the missile, and the Air Force removed the structural and highly racist metals.
Here's the way I remember the missile. Except it wasn't all blurry back then. To the best of my recollection.

Here you can see the missile as a backdrop to the county fair, circa 1975.
The Titan was re-erected in the park by local volunteers. A couple of days later the top stage fell off in a relatively light wind storm. Nobody saw that coming!

And here's what it looks like today.
The "not-so-100-foot" Titan I, August 11, 2017.

I have a cousin who got his head stuck between those bars. "Go get Aunt Helen!"

Missile motor stuff. The Titan I was fueled by LOX and RP-1(basically JP-4). The deuce used hypergolic fuel.

Yep, that's switch grass growing on the corroded missile.

Bet kim dong yum is shaking in his gold lamé shorts.


And speaking of the county fair, it's fallen on hard times.

Warshin' sheeps.

Pig collision.


Love to see the kids at fair, but where before there were hundreds, today there are perhaps 50.

Things fall apart.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Not a good sign

Nature abounds with wonders.

I don't always completely embrace those wonders.

In checking some pasture I haven't looked at for more than a month I was shocked to discover three active prairie dog burrows.

We've never had prairie dogs before.

From the grass farmer/rancher perspective, this is not a good thing. Prairie dogs can ruin grass production and grazing across a lot of acres.

For the moment there are three burrows. We really need to get that down to zero burrows.

Time to plan a strategy.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Nature's wonder abounds

You don't have to travel to Antarctica or virgin rain forest or the Siberian Taiga to experience nature's pageantry. Her wonders are on display everywhere you look.

Across the prairies of the High Plains, Yucca (Yucca glauca) is ubiquitous.

It’s just one of about 50 species of the Agave family. Altogether the Yucca family is distributed across north and central America, from the Baja Peninsula in the southwest, north through the central United States and into Alberta in Canada, east across the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic states, and south throughout Mexico and into Central America.

Deeply taprooted, Yucca are easily identified by their  rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white to greenish-white flowers. The leaves are seldom grazed by wildlife or livestock, but the flowers, which bloom in June and July, appear to be a tasty treat for herbivores.

Native Americans used the plant in a myriad of ways. The root can be pounded with water to produce a thick, soapy lather, which is where the term soapweed comes from. Once the flowers have set into fruit pods, the pods can be roasted and eaten while still tender.

The sharp tips and tough, linear fibers of the leaves can be used for sewing, and the leaves were often worked into baskets.

One of the most interesting aspects of Yucca is that the plant is mutually codependent on the Yucca Moth (Prodoxidae tegeticula and P. parategeticula).
This means that Yucca Moths are obligate pollinators and herbivores of the plant. The female moth has specialized mouth parts which she uses to collect pollen from the stamens of one Yucca plant. She then relocates to another Yucca, where she deposits an egg deep in the flower’s stigma, then covers the freshly deposited egg with tightly packed pollen.

When the egg hatches, the tiny larva feeds first upon the pollen, then upon the developing seeds. The moth larvae only feed on a few seeds, allowing the rest to mature and eventually disperse to produce new plants.

The moth larvae only grow in and feed on Yucca seeds, and the Yucca is pollinated exclusively by the Yucca Moth. Moth and plant are entirely dependent upon each other, and have been for many millions of years. This relationship is so intimate that over the eons, Yucca flowers stopped producing nectar, which other flowers use to attract non-specific pollinators.

Cool, eh?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hitting the wall

Yesterday I was pretty much worthless. Fatigued and sore and mentally very slow.

It was pretty clear that my body and mind needed a bit of a break, so I took the day off. Really didn't do anything but check cows.

I fought it. I didn't want to take the day off, I wanted to be out working on my fencing project.

Even though I fought it, I also listened. I took the day off. It wasn't really pleasurable time off, but it was therapeutic. By evening I was feeling somewhat better, and by this morning I was feeling a lot better.

I've got one of those clever fitness watches, and looking back over the data for the past couple of weeks I kind of understand why I hit the wall. I averaged about 22,000 steps per day over that period, by gps about 10 miles per day. The watch does an automatic workout thing where it detects and tracks activity consistent with whatever it thinks is a workout. According to that, I averaged about 3.5 hours of "workout" per day, or 3.5 hours with my heart rate above 120.

All of that is to the good, but it's also true that I'm not 25 years old anymore and I'm still rebuilding after the infection/surgery/slothfulness of the fall/winter/spring. So I hit the wall.

As I said, it wasn't fun or enjoyable. However, I think it's pretty cool that my body has snapped back so well after 24 hours of rest.

I hate this movie, but to introduce the Hawaiian good luck sign...

Last August.

This August.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

We interrupt this plan...

This morning I had a plan. It was a good plan. Perhaps unsurprisingly it had to do with fixing fence.

That plan was superseded by a different plan.

As I drove along CR24 on my way to check cows I could see from the road that some of our cows and calves and at least one bull were on the wrong side of the fence. That side of the fence belongs to the neighbor, who has his own cows, calves and bulls.

I turned into the pasture and followed the fenceline to see what I could see. Before I arrived the sound of bulls bellowing gave me a good idea of what to expect.

Sure enough, our bulls and their bulls had got into a shoving contest along the fence, and the fence came out second best.

It was pretty easy to get the cows and calves separated and back where they belonged. Our cows wanted to go home and their cows wanted to stay home and the calves were happy to stick with mama.

The bulls were another matter. They ended up in our pasture and went right on shoving each other around.

I took a couple of hours to get the fence fixed. It was pretty wrecked! But eventually I got it repaired.

Then I cut out the neighbor bulls and sent them home. That's a bit of a tricky job, but I've been around long enough to do it and do it right.

Friday, August 4, 2017

One of the challenges

There are a lot of challenges when it comes to building fence.

At a glance, a barbed wire pasture fence might appear to be a relatively permanent structure, something that, once installed, is a finished project requiring little if any upkeep and maintenance.

Those of you who've visited this blog over the years probably understand that there's a good bit of maintenance and upkeep required to keep the cows in.

What it comes down to is this, most ranch fences are dynamic structures living in a dynamic world.

We could certainly build more permanent (ish) fences, like big, tall chain link structures. We don't, though, and for a couple of reasons. One is expense -- such a fence would bankrupt the operation. We're a pretty small ranch, and even we have many, many miles of fence.

As it turns out, the typical post and multiple strand barbed wire fence is considerably less expensive.

Another reason is that nature's dynamism is always worrying at fences and trying to bring them down. Big, tall, permanent (ish) fences are no exception, and in many ways are more vulnerable. A pile of tumbleweeds and 60 mph winds will lay a chain link  fence down in short order. It'll happen to barbed wire, too, but a barbed wire fence is quicker, easier, and less expensive to repair.

Yesterday I rebuilt a short stretch of perimeter fence on the east side of the south unit along County Road 39. This is a tricky stretch. Can you guess why?

It doesn't happen often, perhaps every five years, but when heavy rain falls to the southwest the draw that runs through this pasture fills with water. At least initially, and often for a dozen hours or more, rainfall runoff flows through the pasture like a raging torrent. It usually washes out the road. And the fence? Lasts about 30 seconds.

I have some video of the draw running but I can't find it this morning. So here are a couple of stills from a while back. 2013 I think.

Ever since the last draw flow I've been patching. It works for a while, but eventually you have to tear it out and rebuild, which is what I did yesterday.

It was a good bit of work but the weather was cool and overcast. Only took about eight hours.

I'm a little pi$$ed at yewtoobe for changing up the embed interface. Don't have time this morning to sort it out. Maybe later. In the mean time you can full screen the videos. If you want to.

The soil down in the draw is clingy, clayey, silt, and it's a real pain to work with. It's either hard like concrete or shovel-clinging sticky. It was probably the best combination you could hope for yesterday, not too dry and not too wet, but still a challenge. Ah well, that's life in the real world.

Okay, off to work.