Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lazy Eight

Well now, it's a beautiful day in this part of the world. Temperature is 30 degrees and blustery northeast winds are driving the roiling scud layer across the majesty of the heavens. A good day to not be outside.

There's still snow adhering to fence posts.

Clear glaze ice adorning much of the upright plant material.

Calves are hunkered down close to the ground where the wind is less fierce.

Over by the west windmill the stock tank and reservoir are both full of water.

The windmill is still pumping water into the reservoir tank, and it's overflowing a bit. As you might imagine, turning the windmill off under these conditions is less than optimal. Keeping the flow going will prevent the water from freezing in the pipes. Which is a bad thing.

The wind is flinging overflow from the reservoir tank.

This makes cold but pretty ice sculpture on the ground.

Okay, where was I?

Lazy Eight! That's it.

As cattlemen we brand our cattle to permanently identify them and prove ownership. Humans have branded livestock for the same reasons for thousands of years. Here in America brands are registered ownership markings, and every change of ownership requires a brand inspection to prove that the cattle are, in fact, what the seller claims them to be.

Most of you have probably heard of "lazy" brands. They're featured in countless westerns. The term lazy comes from the way a brand symbol reads on the animal. In the case of an upright 8 the symbol would be read simply as "eight". So a brand that looked like this -- H8 -- would be read from left to right as "H eight."  If you turn the brand upside down it would read "H crazy eight," as "crazy" means upside down. A symbol turned on it's side is a lazy symbol, and if the 8 in our notional brand was on it's side it would be a lazy 8, and read as "H lazy eight."

Our ranch brand is a simple EJE. That was my great-grandfather's brand, registered back before the turn of the 20th century. His name was Evert Jay Evertson.

But what about this Lazy Eight?

There is a series of science fiction novels by Nathan Lowell which take place in the universe he invented during the "Golden age of the Solar Clipper." Basically it's the adventures of merchant sailors carrying cargoes back and forth across the vast sea of galactic space. I really enjoy these novels. Written by a former Mud Duck Coast Guardsman they ring true in a way that most sailors will recognize.

At any rate, in one of the novels, Full Share, the main character, Ishmael, is serving aboard the SC Lois McKendrick. The ship is in port, docked at a space station or "orbital" located at a planet called Betrus. He asks a shipmate which bar everyone is heading to on liberty.

"Down on the oh-two," says Art, "the sign says Lazy Eight."

"Lazy Eight? A cowboy bar?"

Art looks at Ish strangely. "What's lazy eight got to do with cowboys?"

"It's a joke, nothing. You mean an eight laying down horizontally?"

"You got it," said Art. "I don't know why they have that sign, it's not the mane of the bar."

"Lemme guess," said Ish, "It's called Infinity?"

"How'd you know?"

Now what does this have to do with ranching or cattle or science fiction or anything?


The other day I was listening to a podcast and the fellow was going on about how people really shouldn't be surprised by the unexpected. He had a somewhat interesting point, and one worth thinking about. But as proof for his theorem, he trotted out the old monkeys and typewriters analogy. "You know," he said, "an infinite number of monkeys playing with an infinite number of typewriters will sooner or later produce the complete works of Shakespeare."

And it occurred to me that the fellow had no more understanding of infinity than Art had of cowboy bars. His assumption is that infinity is just a really big number. But that's not it at all.

Infinity is an abstraction, and is defined roughly as being without bound, both larger than and smaller than any number.

So an infinite number of typewriting monkeys wouldn't produce a finite quantity of the works of Shakespeare. Not one, or a dozen, or forty-'leven. They would produce an infinite number of the complete works of Shakespeare.

This is one of the ways people get confused when discussing or arguing things. Incorrect assumptions and imprecise use of language often devolve into fistfights.

So at the end of the day, or near the end of this post, anyway, my entire point is that it's never a bad idea to check your assumptions and see whether they match up with reality.

But before you give in to despair over the future of a species which can't quite pull off the whole rationality thing, let me share a couple of things.

First, this.

And secondly...
Our local HS students painted this on the side of a building. See it?

It'll be a rough ride, but there's hope for us yet.


  1. Wow, I feel dumb. I'm not seeing anything...


    Awesome post by the way. My head always explodes over the concept of infinity. It's meant to be not understandable, at least that's what I think.

    1. There appears to be a representation of a certain anatomic structure at lower right. But you might have to have a diseased mind to spot it. :)

    2. Oh, and as to infinity, the fact that we can even try to talk about it is a paradox. Which makes it fun.

    3. The more I look at it the more I see a flintlock pistol. But yeah, the other thing too, a little.

      Good one... "the fact that we can even try to talk about it is a paradox"

    4. Oh, but a psychiatrist could have fun with that! "A pistol, hmmmm? And you see it 'a little', Hmmmmmm?"


  2. I see the White Sperm Whale right below it. Does that mean I get the dollar nailed to the mast?

    1. You get the dollar, and a free trip to Sarge's psychiatrist. "You see a great phallus above a great white sperm whale, eh? Tell me about your potty training, hmmm?"

  3. The Shane stuff was laugh out loud good.

    1. That kid will go far. If he stays out of jail. 😎

  4. I'm still clueless.

    The Nathan Lowell series is one of my favorites; one of the few series of which I have all the books.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. You might have to be a sicko sailor to see it. On the Lowell front, the second book of the new Ish and Pip series (Seekers Tales) went luve on amazon today. "To Fire Called." I'm a couple of chapters in. It's a keeper. 😊