Thursday, April 2, 2020

Real, S1E2





Happy Birthday Lorena June!

Seventy degrees yesterday, plenty of warm sunshine, spring bursting out everywhere.

As I was driving down the county road I heard the delightful sound of a Western Meadowlark singing his springtime song. I caught a glimpse of the handsome bird perched atop a stack of straw bales, no more than 30 yards from the road.

It was just a fleeting experience and lasted no more than a second. But a lot of wonder can happen in a second. It's the kind of experience I'd like to be able to share, but the only way that could happen is if you readers were with me or if I could somehow transmit the full sensory experience to you. There's simply no way to stop and unlimber a camera or phone to capture the sight and sound of a momentary jewel like that. No recording device can capture the feel of the moment either. It's fun to share moving pictures with sound, and many folks have commented about enjoying them, but they're a pale imitation of the actual experience.

This morning dawned with stinging cold, a pesky and uncomfortable north wind, and freezing fog as far as the eye can see, which is a few hundred yards and a far cry from yesterday's unlimited viz.





Spring!

Over at the Dollar General I noticed a dozen or so folks frantically shoving carts filled with toilet paper to their cars. The first shipment to reach Kimball in three weeks! I shot a little bit of video, but only of the shelves and partly unpacked boxes. I think it's amusing how some people get caught up in the whole reflexive hoarding thing, but I'd feel bad about showcasing my friends and neighbors in that light. It's actually better and funnier to let your imagination supply the moving pictures.



I stopped back by two hours later and the shelves were bare. "Maybe Tuesday," said the manager.

I shot some phone video of the chickens but I kept hitting the wrong "button." Couldn't pull it off. I took a few pictures too.

The leghorn hen was proud of her efforts.


She had a small but vocal cheering section.


The rest of the birds were more focused on eating.


It was icy out.


Very icy.


And cold.


Despite the cold and ice, the day still has a feel of spring to it. Maybe it's the sun angle, or maybe the cold but present smell of growing things, or maybe it's all in my mind.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Real, S1E1





I'm getting splattered in surprising ways by second and third order effects of the pandemonium. I'm not going to go into detail, it's probably not worth it for any of us, especially you long suffering readers.

However, it's challenging and in many ways hard stuff to deal with, so that's all good. Does suck up more time than I would have imagined, but that's just part of the deal.

Today's hike was a good one. I'm coming off of a 10-mile monster mash on Monday and I'm still a bit leg weary and sore. But not as much as I was a week ago. This old body still has a lot of reserves and a beautiful habit of healing and recovering spectacularly.

Getting started was a real slog today, and I had to use the old Jedi mind trick of "I'll quit at the next hill" on myself. Clever Jedi that I am, I keep hiking farther and farther away from the pickup as I go, so when I'm finally ready to really quit, I have to go all the way back! It's a good system. I'm very gullible.

The following videos are from the last two miles of a 5.29 miler.



Trying a new video thing.



Am I getting the flavor of the slog across?



Parts of this hike are pretty good, slog-wise.



Some of the slopes are right slopey. Particularly Vader Hill. I like to run it sometimes, but not today.



And finally it was over, just like that.



Meanwhile back at the ranch...



And this evening as I drove into town the turkey vultures were swirling overhead. Obviously we're about to be depopulated by the virus thingy.



Today's newspaper had an interesting graphic on the front page. The Panhandle of Nebraska finally (Finally, finally, finally, yay!) got a "cornfirmed case." Seriously. We thought we'd never get a "confirmed case." It's so great, even better than winning the national championship! /sarc. Kinda.

Anyway, the paper published a very terrifying report on every single place the fellow visited before he was laid low. Which is vitally important information because, um, well, you know. It's um... Important! /sarc /sarc /sarc! Hell's wrong with this html thingy anyway?


I know it's terrible and I'm a terrible person, but I don't think I'm going to lay down and die, and I'm not going to blow my fortune on a final spin with hookers and heroin. And to prove how terrible I am, this thing reminds me a bit of the scene in BHC where Axel Foley taunts Victor Maitland in his lair. The above graphic is like a list of all the places Ramone visited with his herpes simplex 10.

Well I think it's funny.

Too much of my ugly mug in the vids? Chime in.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.






Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Moving dirt





Yesterday I did some dirt moving. Our ranch yard and driveways are not paved. They are just dirt and the stuff that grows in dirt.

Over time traffic and nature team up to form potholes. From time to time the potholes need to be fixed. I've let them get into an awful state.

But there's an app for that! It's called learning how to fill potholes on the ranch with a Bobcat.



Addressing the problem begins with trying to understand the problem. Observation over time is a useful framework for suitcasing the problem.



I've worked out a theory for fixing the potholes. Fill them with dirt. How do you do that and how well does it work? One approach is to get stuck in and give it a try. In theory you learn as you go and find out over time how well your ideas work and how well your theories match of with reality. It's a process. In theory.



Here's what it looks like when I've dumped dirt into big, deep puddles. Yuck!



Hmm. It looks like the filling in part might actually be working. Freaky!



Direct hit! Here's an interesting question -- what's another name for dirt? Heh-heh. And will my efforts here work? What will happen over time?



Wait a minute...farming?!? There's no food production in the middle of a crisis!!!



The process of figuring out is very enjoyable.



A bit more dirt pondering, a Bobcat shutdown tip, and a wildly popular chicken update!



##########

Richard Feynman told a story about going for walks with his Dad when he was a lad. He's point to a bird and ask his Dad the name, because he wanted to have the same level of bird knowledge as his chums, whose fathers were all masters of bird identification.

Feynman's Dad, who was a uniform salesman and not a scientist or ornithologist at all, told him that if you know the name you really only know what a lot of people agree to call the bird, and nothing about the bird itself. Nothing wrong with knowing the name, but if you want to really understand birds you have to do the work of understanding birds.

Today we have a new crop of birds. Flatten the curve. Novel virus. The world has changed forever.

Everywhere across the first world people are saying the names. They're doing a crackerjack of a job. They can say the names right out without faltering or hesitation.

And they don't know anything about the birds.

Worse yet, they think they know everything about the birds because they get all this marvelous information telling them what they are supposed to think.

##########

Everybody knows the fairy tale and that it was about a stupid king and stupid advisers believing a bunch of shyster cloth makers who were selling invisible cloth; cloth that could only be seen by really, really smart people. So naturally everybody signed on to the deal because no one was willing to admit they could see no cloth -- that would mean they weren't really, really smart you see. Then some little kid comes along and says, "holy revealing robes, batman, the king is naked!"

The fairy tale was a fable, right? It was fiction with a point. The point wasn't about how dumb those bumpkins were or how inbred the king was or how the cloth makers were oppressing and victimizing everyone. The point is that every partially evolved lizard-ape has the ability to be gullible, and also the ability to double down to near infinity on their own gullibility because (as the kids say these days) reasons.

##########

I find it somewhat amusing that so many people hold those idiots of the past who got into depressions and famines and wars and rampant anarchy in such deep, deep contempt. The most dangerous people in the world today are people who are certain they understand the situation and certain they cannot be fooled. But then that's true all day, every day.

Today these people are demanding that the government do something, mostly with the belief that the government has the ability to act with precision in each and every individual case. They want toilet paper, and they believe that the government has a guy (millions of guys) all trained up and ready to not only bring them the charmin, but to wipe they butts as long as the guy is there anyway.

Is that an outrageous proposition? Methinks not. Sorry 'bout that.

Everyone has the ability to see and understand that government can only do government stuff, and government stuff is not a precision tool. For some reason a lot of folks have the idea -- despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary -- that government is a single great mind controlling many little hands that are doing purposeful stuff with care, precision, and good reason. In reality government is many, many thousands of minds struggling to control a very few, very big, and very uncoordinated hands. When one of those flailing hands splats down you really don't want to be very close. But many people prefer the rainbows and unicorns version.

##########

If people are genuinely worried about the virus thingy, they should be trying to suitcase the actual level of the threat. I believe that many folks are doing just that, but I feel kind of lonely surrounded by so many who are constantly parroting soundbites like a bunch of drunken magpies.

One of the important things to try to understand is how many people are getting the virus. That's a basic fundamental a person needs to begin to understand the problem and how best to respond.

Unfortunately, you can't tell what the numbers really are until after the fact analysis is done. We're in the middle of the thing and we can't know the future.

But wait, it gets worse!

The preliminary numbers that everyone seems to be focusing on and building speculative projections from are badly flawed, and cannot help but be badly flawed.

How are the basic numbers counted? Where are the numbers coming from, and how are they being handled, from the moment the coughing patient walks in the door? I actually know how it's done, and I know from direct experience that untold thousands of office and ward clerks, nurses, and physicians make a lot of simple little mistakes when checking boxes on forms during the best of times. When suddenly faced with new forms, a suddenly changed operating environment, a new and clearly important mission set, collection and transcription errors are going to go through the roof. That's where the numbers are coming from. At that level there isn't any question about motivation, but at that basic level, which is where the data are coming from, there is no way to avoid error, and there's bound to be a lot of error.

Forget about the level of information dissemination. It should be self evident that there's a great deal of manipulation at that level. A lot of butchers have a lot of thumbs on that scale. When in history has that not been the case?

If a person wants to actually understand the problem as described in the common day to day narrative, they need to understand how much confidence they can have in the reported numbers and therefore whether the speculative projections are reasonably valid. They hear a lot of horror stories, but there are no "bring out your dead" events happening in their neighborhoods. So what should they do, and how should they arrive at a well reasoned decision?

Two choices, often continually intermingling. Look to reality, or look to a flawed and patently distorted narrative version of reality.

That later is a form of psychosis -- a belief that reality is wrong and something else is right.

##########

Today with the wonder of the interwebz you can actually get a pretty good handle on the reality of the situation and develop a basic level of pretty valid understanding free of the massive errors attending much of the common narrative. I'd opine that this is what people who are actually concerned should be doing, and I'd also opine that there are massively more people doing this than I fear. There are good signs of that, as well.

It looks to me that the virus thingy is not much of a threat at all. Sure, old and sick people are highly likely to be shoved out into the River Styx is they catch it. But that's not fundamentally different than before the bird "novel virus" showed up.

There is a very serious threat present, however, one far more serious and liable to do far more destruction than any virus could ever dream of.

Across the first world people have unleashed the big, flailing hands of government. We're well past the point of no splatter. The question now is whether people are going to have the will to rein in the flailing hands before really bad stuff happens.

##########

I'm not optimistic so far as the severity of damage from second- and third-order consequences. I hope I'm wrong.

It doesn't really matter though, because I'm stuck -- just like everyone else -- having to navigate the storm as it happens. I've got to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I can only take the counsel of my fears at very great personal peril.

In times like these Kipling's If and TR's Man in the Arena speech are worth re-reading.

Be well and embrace the blessings -- one of which is responsibility -- of liberty.




Friday, March 27, 2020

Beautiful spring weather





So it's not been sunny and 70 degrees. It's been coolish and foggy-misty-damp. More often than not, this is precisely the kind of weather we have in early spring. Some people call it early spring weather. 

Yesterday morning it was more misty than foggy, but only a little bit misty. There was a fairly low hanging overcast and the 95+ percent humidity made the 34 degree air temperature feel especially, bone-chillingly, cold.

But it wasn't that bad.

Mom had her sheets out on the clothesline and the chickens thought the weather was fantabulistic! I was feeling a bit cranky and not looking forward to my daily hike. Sigh.


Scrambling up my own private Isandlwana was just what I needed. Red thought it was cool beans too.


I pushed the workout extremely hard. I needed to drive weak shit and toxic thoughts out of my soul. The cure was better than the disease.


In fact the cure was so magnificent that the disease was worth it.


Indeed, I've been encouraging people to get out and get some exercise. A lot of them look at me like I'm crazy. That ain't what the tee-vee says! Besides, it's so icky! Stand by for sailor talk. Or skip the salty video.


At the end of my little workout I'd gone 3.13 miles in 40 minutes and surmounted the equivalent of 96 22-foot flights of stairs. It was awesome.

Later in the day I had a lot of nerve pain. It's just part of the deal. I'm blessed to have access to OTC anti-inflammatory medicine. The pain ebbed, I still felt great, I slept like a baby and hit the ground running this morning.

The weather today was similar to yesterday. A bit more breeze, a bit warmer. Snow in the forecast for afternoon, evening, and overnight. Perhaps 3-5 inches.


But it's still spring! I thought they were a sub-species of harvester ants, but I think they're more likely to be thatching ants. So frickin' cool.


I'm so very blessed to have a life of adventure. It's a choice.


By the end of today's more leisurely stroll I'd gone 5.76 miles in a buck-fifteen. Felt good. I'm full up for hard core fencing next week. Maybe the weather will even cooperate!

Chicken report!


Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A postcard from Abby





Abby Normal, that is!



You won't be angry?!?

I'd surely have been a mad scientist if my lab came equipped with a flouncing Teri Garr. Bet!.

Sigh.

One of the red hens was being curious this morning and seemed willing to come closer to both me and the dogs than usual. Which makes me curious.



They usually keep more distance. It's interesting. I have no idea if it means anything. Probably not. Kind of fun though. I'd have never had the chance to ponder such a deep and important question if we had no chickens!



I wonder if the chickens wonder about human behavior. I tend to think of myself as a superior form of life, and certainly superior to chickens. But am I? I guess it depends on how one defines superior. I can think of a number of metrics wherein I am not, in fact, superior.



As I was fetching the chickens their water (would a superior being fetch water for an inferior being? Hmmm...) I saw something wonderful.



It's a sharp-shinned hawk. Beautiful. Sharp-shined hawks are also known as chicken hawks, being one of three or four species of small North American hawks which routinely predate chickens. When this one flew right past my face, between me and the chicken house/enclosure, I immediately wondered if it was there to eat my chickens! So I watched (and filmed) it closely. Magnificent!



When it flew away it formated on a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves. I believe it was attempting to predate one of them. It occurred to me that that the sharp-shinned hawk may prefer smaller wild prey to large chickens inhabiting an area frequented by humans. Perhaps I don't need to freak out until the chickens are in actual danger.

Man, that is a beautiful hawk.

I really enjoyed ozzy man's take on the present unprecedented worldwide existential disaster thingy.



Here's a thought. Maybe I don't have to lay down and die just because a bunch of experts on the teevee say that's what I'm supposed to do.

Just a thought. For what it's worth.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.




Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Just a couple of videos





Quite a busy day today. Had an early phone conference about ranching stuff, had to pick up some parts and supplies and do a few hours work on the Bobcat and hydraulic Ph.D. (posthole digger) in preparation for a big fencing project, lifted and then ran stadiums at the high skule which is closed for the year now, did a short hike to decide where to replant trees, had lunch with Snow Girl, then spent several hours writing.

It was very windy during the tree hike, and Red was quite interested in the olfactory presence of coyote.



Here are some tracks. The knife is 4.5 inches long, and my size 11 boot print is also there for comparison. Big coyote!
Two or three days old.



The wind was fierce!



Sharp tailed grouse everywhere.


The glaciers are losing their grip on the trees.



Smells like spring? Smells like gin!



How did the wicked witch put it?



Glaciers be like, "what she said!"



Isandlwana Glacier is, well, gone.



And now it's time to lay me down to sleep. Busier day tomorrow. Busier is good.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.






Monday, March 23, 2020

Snapshots of a day





Sometimes in the real world nature serves you up a real shit sandwich just when you're not expecting it.



This morning as I was offloading straw bales from a small trailer I discovered a nest of baby bunny rabbits.



In disturbing the nest I inadvertently and unintentionally delivered a death sentence to the baby bunnies. When their nests are disturbed, female cottontails just start over. It's too dangerous to return to a disturbed nest -- the doe (female bunny) might get predated. She'll go somewhere more secure and have more babies in 2-3 weeks. They have a dozen or more litters each year anyway, and most of their babies die of disease or predation before they can themselves breed. It's all part of nature's balance.

Which is fine. But what am I to do? I don't want to kill the babies, even though a quick death would be better than a lingering one. But I don't want to just toss them aside and let them die, either.

So what do I do?

What I did was make an artificial warren in the newly re-stacked straw bales, complete with a small entrance tunnel. I placed the babies along with their nest material deep inside the new warren. In theory, the doe will be able to find them and nurture them. She won't, it's not what cottontails do. But she might. You never know. Miracles happen.



So I didn't have to kill them or leave them to die in the open. I hid them away from view and from the elements and from easy predation. They are now out of sight and (mostly) out of mind. They'll almost certainly die of thirst or hypothermia or a combination.

Nature's reality doesn't care what people think. Just as nature's reality doesn't care what bacteria or slime molds think.

I tried to help fix what I'd torn asunder, but it won't work and I know it. As long as I don't bullshit myself about the silly, futile, and emotional attempt making me a good and kind person I'll be okay.

##########

On the way out to do chores this morning I spied a couple of hay-hauling trucks in my rear view mirror. They were travelling much too fast and quickly overtaking me, and I was nudging 60 mph, 10 mph over the speed limit in that place, which was the I-80 interchange area. I was heading south on Highway 71, and the trucks were right behind me.

Highway 71 is a two-lane south of Kimball. It opens up into a four-lane divided highway  through the interchange area, then bottlenecks back into two lanes. The interstate runs east-west and is in a small valley between two hills south of town. The hilltops are one and two miles south of Kimball with the interstate in between, so whether you're going north or south on 71 you go downhill toward the interchange and uphill away from it.

I knew what was going on with these hay trucks. The drivers were in a hurry, and had chosen to pick up speed and inertia going downhill so that they could carry as much smack as possible up the next hill.

It pissed me off that they were driving recklessly. If I continued as I was the lead truck would likely try to pass me going up the hill, and at the top of the hill the road bottlenecks back into two lanes. Or else he would have to slow down at the last minute. Either possibility represented a danger. Passing on the hill could kill oncoming traffic, and shutting down a speeding load of hay could wreck the truck and maybe kill me. Fuckers.

So I pulled over, which was the responsible thing to do. They went by my at the speed of stink and no oncoming traffic appeared.
North is left in this image. Red circle is where I first saw the trucks, yellow circle where I first saw them from, yellow rectangle where I pulled over. Hope the asshole drivers catch the herpes simplex 10.

##########

Got out and did a pretty good hike today. Just over 6 miles in 90 minutes. I was fighting a lot of nerve pain so didn't take much video. I did note that the "slippery-slippery fall-down ice" on the north side of one of the windbreaks has now gone. Cool!



The big glaciers from the Thanksgiving storm are much diminished but not yet gone.



##########

Out of bed early this morning and into writing dialog for the blog (I'm a poet and I don't even know it), specifically for the next installment of the Super RBOC saga, which is an offshoot of the Corpsman Chronicles thing.

In some sense it's not really an offshoot, it's more a cluster (or clusterfiretruck?) of events that kind of hang together. Viewed another way it's definitely an offshoot, because I'm delving a bit more into the realm of "what were you thinking and why were you thinking it?" I haven't done that before, or at least not this way. I'm also working with a collaborator, someone who was present and played a key role in many of the events I'm writing about. We're both having a fun time looking back and getting our memories suitcased, and to be fair and do the thing properly my collaborator needs to have an opportunity to exercise veto power on stuff that I get wrong or remember incorrectly.

Writing the dialog is tricky because it's hard to crawl back into our twenty-something minds. It's also hard to get the ebb and flow of the dialog right -- to make it feel right to us and to also be readable. This approach is probably the hardest way I could have done it, but it feels like the right way and hopefully the finished product will be a fair representation of what happened and be something worth reading as well.

So it's taking time, and I'm not able to devote a lot of time to it just now. We're making progress though.

##########

I stopped by the hospital this morning to drop off a prescription refill request for the health clinic, which is collocated in the same building. They have the entrances all blocked off in order to funnel everyone through their covid-19 screening process. I'll share a couple of thoughts and observations on that.

First of all, it's a good idea to do the screening. Small town rural hospitals serve lots of folks who just happen to be at very high risk for significant morbidity/mortality if exposed to the virus. So you really don't want the infected rampaging through the building slinging snot and sputum everywhere.

This kind of screening is far from foolproof, however, for a lot of reasons. In a practical sense, it's more theater than anything else. There is a very tiny but still non-zero chance that they might catch a carrier and be able to divert them away from high risk patients, so it's more or less a valuable and appropriate effort.

From what I saw they are not in any way set up to do a solid screening and don't appear to have any isolation/diversion mechanism in place, and those doing the screening don't appear to have -- imo, mind you -- comprehensive or even appropriate training. I don't want to get into detail here because I'm not privy to the plan and I might be missing or misinterpreting things, but it doesn't look like an efficacious approach to me. So I think it's mostly theater.

That said, the staff is in there swinging and working hard and they are all dedicated and very good at what they do. So please don't take my personal observations as anything but some bullshit you read on a blog.

##########

And the same caution should be operative in this next section, because it's just some bullshit you've read on a blog.

I don't know all the details of the stimulus bill the senate reportedly shot down. From what I've read the bill was defeated largely along partisan political lines. I don't particularly care about that, I just think it's wonderful that a bill to "print" and distribute money was defeated. This isn't an emergency, no one who wasn't starving before is starving now, and nearly all of the previously starving were either doing so by choice or in circumstances where new phantom dollars will neither reach nor help them. There are exactly zero good reasons to print new money on top of a monumental pile of debt. It's long past time for the nation to begin reversing fiscal insanity. In fact, this is an easy hurdle for Americans -- who live in America by the way -- to successfully surmount. And what a boon to the nation if Americans discover that they don't need to be dependent on federal crumbs, that they can leverage their birthright of sovereign liberty into standing on their own two feet, charting their own course, and winning out.

The furor over federal handouts is political capital in an election year. The R's and the D's and the presidential administration see it only in terms of their own political/power aspirations. None of them are looking at and seeing clearly the citizens of the land as sovereign human beings. They are seeing Americans as a means to a political end.

##########

Snowgirl sent me a picture today; something she spied lurking in her front yard last night.


Not many possums in this neck of the woods!

##########

Chickens had a good day today.



##########

Word from Herefordshire is that Blighty is now on super-strict lockdown. My farmer friend tells me that people have been fleeing the cities for rural campgrounds and caravan parks, then descending on the local food stores like a swarm of locusts. So they've got eight hours to go the firetruck back home or they'll be given a serious talking to.

I'm taking precautions here. If the cities empty out there'll be feral humans trying to kill us and take our stuff. It's extremely unlikely, but prepared and prepared to is better than being killed. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.