Friday, June 30, 2017

Brown milk comes from chocolate cows

If I heard about the story, then everybody heard about the story.

Seven percent of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

Although I'm quite aware that most Americans -- that is to say the 99 percent who don't farm or ranch -- are sometimes (perhaps often) confused about exactly how food is raised, I gotta tell ya that the brown milk story set off my bullshit detector.

A lot of media outlets fell for it, and I'm sure a lot of Americans did too.

Fake news.

Oh sure, there was "a survey" done. But neither the group sponsoring the survey (Innovation Center for US Dairy) nor the group that conducted the survey (Edelman Intelligence) will release the questions asked or any details of the survey other than dates of May 7-9 and 1,000 people surveyed from all 50 US states.

So, top secret questions. Headline making answers. What could possibly be wrong with this picture?

For the publicized result to hold true something like 18 million Americans would have to believe that all brown is chocolate, period, end of story. Brown car? Chocolate. Brown house? Chocolate. Brown dog? Chocolate. Brown feces? Chocolate.

I'm quite comfortable in having a very high level of certainty that people aren't that stupid.

I'm even more certain, however, that there are a HELL of a LOT of people who are filled with enough bitter malevolence that they think it's perfectly fine to invent, perpetrate, and pass along such garbage.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's all rainbows and unicorns

Until it's not.

Yesterday as I was walking across the sun-baked corral I kicked up a 13-lined ground squirrel.

When I say kicked up, I mean that I approached the ground squirrel close enough to make it skitter away from me, not that I actually kicked it.

The little rodent dashed off to the shelter of an old, mostly buried tractor tire. I watched it run away and take cover. "Hmm," I thought, "he must have a hole there. Good place now that I think about it because the soil must be soft and easy to dig in."

As I watched I could see his tail flicking up and down. "Must be digging in," I thought.

Then I noticed that one of his back legs was kicking. All I could see was of him was the flicking tail and a kicking back leg. "That's firetrucking weird," I thought.

Then I saw the multicolored glint of sunlight reflecting from scales. "Ah-ha!"

My camera was in my pickup, several hundred yards away. I dashed. You just don't see snakes predating stuff every day and I wanted to record it for posterity. Or sensationalism. Whatever.

As I sprinted past the tire-snake-rodent combo I noted that the snake was almost certainly a bull snake. Because it looked -- the part I could see -- like a bull snake. Slightly different color and shape than a rattlesnake, and far too large to be a racer or garter snake. I also noticed that the snake's color was bright and vibrant, rather than dull and dusty. Which likely meant that it had shed its skin in the not so distant past.

When I returned to the tire, all excited to get some images and video, I approached too quickly and made too much noise. Before I could focus the camera the snake disappeared. The last thing I saw was the backside of the ground squirrel being dragged down out of sight.


"I thought you said it was some kind of squirrel, dude!"


This morning I went back to the tire and found that the snake was still there. He was likely lethargic with the cool of the morning and with the ongoing digestion of a large meal. He was probably in a perfect place for his condition, out of sight of potential predators. He had good overhead cover, which would keep him safe from hawks, and he was close to the ranch house, barn and people and therefore off the beaten path for coyotes. Fortunately for him, the scariest of all predators had found him but was neither hungry nor in a snake-killing mood.

Round pupil, no IR pit.
No cataract on this side!

Anyway, the moral of the story is the moral of the story of life.

It's all rainbows and unicorns.

Until it's not.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


As von Clausewitz said -- more or less --  everything in war is simple, but all the simple things are hard.

As the fireworks began banging in town Sunday, I was busy tearing out and rebuilding corrals. This is the kind of taxing physical work that is good for my body and leaves plenty of time for my mind to puzzle at and worry over ideas and principles.

As I toil away at the reconstruction job, my mind has a lot of time to ponder “big issues” and to try to puzzle out a best course forward. As I work, when the wind is right, I can hear the distance-muffled blasts of fireworks.

Traditionally in America, fireworks have been used to celebrate the birthday of our nation. As I listen to the banging -- particularly the racket of big, expensive, "grownup" fireworks in the evening -- I can’t help but wonder how many folks give the tiniest thought to July 4, 1776.

As Americans we’re surrounded by political and ideological polarization. A great many of the people who live here would be happy to destroy the nation in order to get what they want, and most of what those folks want is other people’s stuff, along with the right to punish people who don’t look or think exactly as they do.

A larger number of the people who live here really don’t care what happens, so long as they can continue their daily routine of consumption and complaining.

Quite often people exclaim that the country is heading down the wrong path, that things didn’t used to be this bad. Plaintively, they wonder who will fix things for them, and make everything wonderful and nice again. "Hope and Change" didn’t work, and "Make America Great Again" doesn’t seem to be faring any better.

I think a lot of folks have forgotten that it’s not up to the President of the government to fix America.

For those who really want to make things better, I’d suggest forgetting about greatness and concentrating on making America America again. With July 4 just around the corner, perhaps a review of America’s very first official document is in order.

Let me just give you a hint.

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

I’d suggest reading the whole thing, and discussing it with friends and family.

But what do I know? I’m not a lettered expert, nor am I “from the government.”

And here's a refreshing bit of reality from some young punk reporter. It's worth a gander, particularly if you're wondering how to best stay informed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Looking down on the weather

Yesterday I won a Hinge award, then went out and earned a "soreness from a good day's work" award.
Airfield perimeter fence, Peleliu, circa September, 1944

I've written the following sentence like 30 times and I can't get it right.
Curious Georgette

As it turns out, I don't have the skills to explain how good it feels to be back up and in battery.
Myrtle and Rudolphia

I don't know what that illness was. I suspect it was a pathogen of some sort, most likely viral but possibly bacterial.
Cool, clear, clean water

Doesn't matter really as I'm feeling better and have perhaps returned to normal. Physically anyway.
In regal repose

Couple of things I feared.
Dude! What are you doing?

I feared it was the onset of death. Some kind of age-induced/related physiological malady that would punch my ticket. Pick a death card, any death card.

I didn't really believe that. I was only miserable, and it seemed to last a long time, but it never got worse than miserable. Presumably a croaking-thingy would get progressively worse.
Robin Redbreast assessing worm distribution

More than death I feared that it was the onset of the kind of oldenness that would put me in the recliner to live out my days unable to do anything useful or normal or fun.
Who can identify this bird?

I guess at a certain point in life you're bound to have such thoughts when you're not feeling well.
I should be able to, being an expert on everything and everything, but I can't. Must be an ageing thing.

Dodged the bullet this time. Here's hoping I've got an adequate supply of agility remaining. Since my personal desire is to live forever, I probably don't have the quantity of bullet dodging agility I'd like to have. That's life.
Durned attractive little flying dinosaur.

Well, time to worry about that shit later. I gots work to do.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I won a major award!

Yes, it's true. I'm the proud recipient of the Worst Blogger of the Year award!
Sunflowers already!

Just kidding, I guess. I'm kicking myself a bit for missing a few days. I've been busy, but not that busy.
"Dude! What is this thing?"

On the busy front, I've been tearing out an old, busted corral in preparation for installing a new, hot corral.

This is a project which has been hovering near the top of the list for at least a dozen years but has always previously been shuffled into the "next year" stack.

Part of the reason is that the corral is so seldom used. It's really only at branding and weaning that we ask it to hold cattle, and then only for a couple of hours at most. It's been patched with steel posts and wire so often that essentially none of the original corral remains. It's become nothing but scar tissue.

It's been doing its job well enough -- which is to say just barely -- for the last few years, serving less as a holding pen and more as a (partially) fenced passageway. I decided to change all that by erasing the whole thing and starting over.

The first chore was to remove and sort the hodgepodge of barbed wire, which has grown to most resemble the Peleliu Airfield perimeter on September 15, 1944. Untangling, sorting, re-rolling the good wire and discarding the bad -- that's been a delightful chore. And I say that like I mean it.

That first part of a fencing  renovation is long on work, sucks up a lot of hours, and doesn't show much progress. But it's done now.

Today I'll rip all of the steel posts out, as well as the few remaining wooden posts. Then I'll lay out locations for new (replacement anyway) posts, get the holes bored, and hopefully get the posts tamped into the ground. That'll just leave panel and new wire installation. I'll re-use panels I already have, as well as several giant rolls of "sheep wire" which I collected during a previous fencing renovation some 20 years ago.

Well, best get to it...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Vote Grolsch for US Senate

In addition to working on refencing corrals I was obliged to spend three hours elsewhere today.

Specifically, covering the reelection bid announcement of one of Nebrasky's Senators.

It is what it is.

And no, what it is is not Senator Grolsch.

How do you think that should be pronounced, btw?

The lady in the dazzlecam is a former Nebrasky Governor.

Feral kitten.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The damme weather again

I was down hard again yesterday. I'll sure be glad when I'm feeling better.

In the meantime, a few pics from Midway. These are just random crowd shots. For the most part.

Something about the sight and sound of all those civilians swarming through the ship makes me feel good.

Brother and sister Hawkeye drivers.
F4F-3 Wildcat, one of the stars of the Battle of Midway in June, 1942. Seventy-five years ago this month.
I'm always surprised at how surprised folks are at the sleeping arrangements.
The Fo'c'sle, nee Forward Castle. I love watching people step over the anchor chain without being struck by lightning.

Young SLUF driver. She's got the look. I can imagine a world in which she's a grizzled aviator giving an interview and relates the moment she decided to join the Navy and fly jets.
Imagine the panic if they came to life and growled!
Beer and Scooters.
Where once the extraordinary was routine.
Beautiful day.
Future Crash & Smash AB?
"This thing shoots 6,000 rounds a minute!"

Gonna be a hot one again today. Here's hoping I can get something accomplished.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Skid steer

I charged out of bed this morning.
Common Mullein, a semi-invasive trashy weed. Have to dig them up before they set seed. Sigh.

For some values of charged.
Dryland corn, planted into chemtill stubble. I don't think this corn will make a crop this year.

I really wasn't feeling all that hot, so maybe I'm not exactly mended yet.
I could be wrong though.

I did have something I wanted to do though, so I charged as best I could.

As I cinched up my belt, the damme belt buckle broke. "Ah," said I, "it's gonna be one of those days."

I can't get by without a belt, what with all the guns and magazines and pliers that I hang from said belt. But I didn't have a spare, and it would be hours before the stores opened.

But wait! I did have a new rigger's belt. It took some fiddling and adjusting but I finally got the new belt sorted and got to work.

I wanted to take some pics and video of drilling post holes with the skid steer. It occurred to me that not everyone in the world knows about skid steers and fence and such like.

So anyway, according to whackophilia:

A skid loader, skid-steer loader, or skidsteer, is a small, rigid-frame, engine-powered machine with lift arms used to attach a wide variety of labor-saving tools or attachments.
Skid-steer loaders are typically four-wheel vehicles with the wheels mechanically locked in synchronization on each side, and where the left-side drive wheels can be driven independently of the right-side drive wheels. The wheels typically have no separate steering mechanism and hold a fixed straight alignment on the body of the machine. By operating the left and right wheel pairs at different speeds, the machine turns by skidding, or dragging its fixed-orientation wheels across the ground. The extremely rigid frame and strong wheel bearings prevent the torsional forces caused by this dragging motion from damaging the machine. Skid-steer loaders are capable of zero-radius, "pirouette" turning, which makes them extremely maneuverable and valuable for applications that require a compact, agile loader. 

Some calls 'em Bobcats (a brand name), some calls 'em skid loaders,  some calls 'em skidsters, but I calls 'em skid steers.

A skid steer is a very handy tool to have around the ranch. With the forklift attachment you can lift and carry a lot of heavy stuff. Palatalized stuff like feed and mineral and rolls of wire. Bundles (or piles) of fence posts. The forks are great for lifting and moving hay and straw bales too -- at least the big round ones.

There are other attachments too, like a snow plow, a loader bucket, a trencher, a tree spade, etc.

There's also the post hole digger. It's just a big hydraulic motor that bolts onto the side of the loader bucket. You can bolt different sized augers onto the shaft to make holes of different depth and diameter. The hydraulic motor plugs right into the skid steer's hydraulic system and there's a thumb switch on the right steering arm to set the auger turning.

This is an invaluable tool when you have several-to-many posts to set. And that's just what I have, several-to-many.

So I went out and filmed myself digging post holes.

At the moment thew words aren't exactly flowing, so let the movin' pictures begin!

Really hot here today, got all the way up to 91. I am reliably informed that it's been much hotter everywhere else in the country, making Kimball the coldest part of the nation. In that sense I'm glad I'm here and not there.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Even with the weather

Well now.
Yucca blooming

Starting to feel just a bit better though I seem to have a ways to go.

One of the things that helped me feel better this last week -- or at least took my mind off feeling bad -- was ranch work.

The work I essayed falls under the headings "fence" and "be nice to do."

Fence work is self evidently a necessity. Cattle are grazing animals, and left to their own devices will go wherever the grass takes them. They have no intellectual understanding of property or home, and care not a bit whether they graze upon prairie grass or neighbor's wheat. They are also valuable property; magical beasts that turn sunshine into more magical beasts which can then be traded for stuff like money.

So it behooves the rancher to maintain the fence. Cattle stay put that way.

As far as the "be nice to do" heading, I did a poor job installing corner posts when I did a major fence renovation project about 15 years ago. Those corners have been sagging for some time. They still do the job but not as well as they should, and they look pretty bad. Replacing them has been on the list for quite a while and, now that I've returned from vacation, that chore has reached the top of the list.

It's really not that big of a deal, but it does take a good deal of preparation and logistical coordination.

Shifting and preparing the former power line poles was the first basic task, and that involved a certain amount of physical effort. That effort was good exercise, and also made me feel better in my illness. Whether the feeling better was all in my mind or of actual benefit in combating the virus I neither know nor really care. Feeling better is good enough for me.

Once the poles were turned into posts, the next chore was to tear out the old, sagging corner posts. This involved removing the wire and digging and/or pulling them out of the ground. Nothing exciting there. I also did the math and measuring to determine exact placement of the new posts, each of which will also have a gate attached. Again, not exciting, but tedious!

This morning I hauled my trailer load of new corner posts to the five designated locations and offloaded them. That was a rather physical chore because the durn things are heavy and bulky and manipulating them is right up against the edge of what I can actually do. In that sense it's a challenge and I do love a challenge. Good exercise outside on a beautiful spring morning, too.

As I got stuck in this morning the conditions were just perfect. It was sunshiny and warm and there was just barely a puff of breeze. All around me the prairie was alive and colorful. The smell of June was in the air. Warm, damp soil, dry air, and the green smell of sun-loosened plant volatiles. A perfect work environment.

After delivering the posts I fired up the skid steer and revisited each location, carefully boring deep, straight holes and cleaning them out.

The skid steer is not a speedy vehicle, and the corner post locations were each about a mile apart, so this part took about three hours.

About the time I got home with the skid steer I had a bit of a breakdown, which required a run to town for parts. Sometimes that's how it goes.

By the time the quittin' whistle blew I'd got a good bit of work done. Tomorrow I should be able to finish with the corner posts and get the wire stretched back up and properly attached.

All in all a great day and I believe I may be getting over my New Mexico induced illness.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

under the weather

I mentioned the fact that I'm not feeling so well to an English friend who replied, "Sorry you're feeling 'under the weather' as we say here..."

And that's a common phrase here as well. I'd never wondered about the derivation of the phrase before, but the notion that 'furriners' say the same thing prompted me to investigate. One explanation from the interwebz claims that the term refers to mal de mer, or seasickness. This makes some sense, as a ships motion increases when navigating more dynamic sea states, and weather (though not always local weather) generally causes the waves and chop associated with "stormy" seas.

When the deck under your feet moves around, you also move around, as does the fluid in your inner ear. The inner ear is part of the mechanism that helps you balance and stay upright. Humans are land creatures and unaccustomed to the movement of the sea. For many people the movement of a ship is just an interesting and even enjoyable experience. For some though it causes the misery of seasickness.

I never came close to suffering mal de mer on a ship, and that includes a few days here and there on destroyers and frigates in some pretty rough weather.

I did, however, find a couple of flight regimes which could cause airsickness. With the SAS switched off the Sea King wallowed around the sky like a drunken pig (Dutch roll) and my tummy never liked that, although it never caused real nausea. Just an unsettled feeling.

The one thing that would cause nausea was to enter an aileron roll with my head turned 180 degrees to the roll vector. Yeah, that would do it.

Anyway, I've been fighting a "something" ever since returning from the west coast. I think it's only a mild head cold. Symptoms are nothing more than a stuffed-up head, a bit of a dry cough, tiredness and some aches and pains.

It's miserable, really.

But it's not seasickness, nor does it include nausea. So am I under the weather?

There's magic going on in my body, however, as my immune system attacks and destroys the pathogenic invaders. Without orders, without permission, without government blessing, without tee-vee reporters weighing in, without any 'merkins being viciously attacked and victimized.

Of course now that I've written this my unfair privilege is sure to spark an incipient protest alight in Portland, and some window-licking lunatic will stab a nun with an AR-15.

Butt I digress.


How do you move heavy poles?

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Bulls in repose
I had a few interesting conversations over the course of the journey Mom and I recently took.

Now just a word of warning here.

Because of a peculiar trait of mine -- perhaps its merely a habit and neither a quirk nor peculiar -- I had conversations with many people and many of those conversations were thematically similar.

What? Oh, the quirk/not quirk. Of course.

It's simply this. I go down these intellectual rabbit holes from time to time, and while I'm down there it's devilishly hard to get me to talk about anything other than the subterranean warren I'm exploring at the time.

It may look like intellectual rigor and a mad devotion to growing awareness and understanding, but it's really just simple-minded inability to do cognitive multitasking.

Now why does that matter, and why the warning?

It's just this; If you remember talking about this stuff with me, please don't think this post is about you, or that you are the specific person referenced at any point. I discussed this stuff with a dozen or more people, and because I'm lazy and didn't take notes I'm not going to cite my sources.
Cottontail thinking about rabbit pie

Now where was I going with this?
Future jam

Okay. Most of the folks I know are suffering from some level of cognitive dissonance. For many it's just a bit of irritation, but for many more it's a crisis.

Cognitive dissonance is what happens when conflicting ideas collide in the mind. It's perfectly normal for a thinking animal.

We humans are all thinking animals. That's just the way it is.
Winter wheat and wild rye

To relieve cognitive dissonance, you have to think, to work through the things that don't add up. To do this you have to know about reality. You need a measure of "real" against which to compare ideas and the details of ideas.
Nope, ain't supposed to be like that

Now here's the deal. Reality is different than virtual reality or the digital world or television and newspapers and radio programs and koobecaf.
The rye is flowering

You can find valid ideas and truth in all of those places, though it's increasingly rare. But the fact that truth can be found in virtual reality doesn't make virtual reality real. Virtual reality is virtual, real is real.

If you look at a picture of climbers at thew summit of Mt. Everest, you have not climbed Mt. Everest. The climbers have, you've looked at a picture. See the difference?

If the interwebz or the tee-vee tells you something, you haven't discovered a truth. You've had an experience with color and sight and sound and language, but you haven't learned anything about reality.

The only way you can learn something is to compare it to real stuff and real experience in the real world. Up until you've done that, you've just been playing with noise.

There's nothing wrong with playing with noise. It's part of the process of learning and growing. You have to do it to learn and grow. But there's a step beyond the noise, and until you take the step, you're just playing.
What that is?

"How do you know what to believe?" I get that all the time, and it always throws me for a loop. It seems to me that it should be self evident that to find believable truth, you have to compare the ideas you come up with or read about or see on tee-vee or koobecaf against the knowledge you've accumulated about reality.

But it's not self evident at all. You can build a magic kingdom in your mind and believe with all your heart and soul that it's real. If you never stack it up against reality, you can be 100 percent certain that your little happy place is real, and at the same time be 100 percent wrong. I think a lot of people are in that boat.
Ah. Charlotte's kids.

How do you know what to believe? It's simple, really. You have to do the work to learn the reality of reality. That's a lifelong, never-ending process. Compare your ideas and the stuff you hear and read and see against your ever-expanding knowledge base. Lather, rinse, repeat. Every single day for the rest of your life.

The stuff that matches perfectly against reality is the stuff you can believe.

Every day you encounter stuff that doesn't match up. That doesn't meat it's wrong. It might be wrong. It might be right. When it doesn't match up, it's a sign that you have work to do.

If you want to know what to believe, do the work.

It's simple.

Like von Clausewitz said of war, though, all the simple things are hard.

There are no shortcuts. No softer, easier way.

Don't worry about what other people are saying or thinking. Don't worry about whether your stuff agrees with their stuff. Get your own stuff sorted, and leave other people's stuff until you're suitcased.

You want truth and stuff you can believe?

Do the work.