Sunday, September 28

Squat, you horses!

I can’t remember what the occasion was, but a few years back we all had to leave the foothill ranch and wouldn’t be returning for several days. The horses were depending on us for some of their feed, so we tossed out several bales of hay, only loosely broken apart. When we returned from our trip I was surprised to see that probably one-third of the hay was still uneaten. When I examined the remaining hay, I saw that it was wet. It hadn’t rained, so I looked closer. The hay had been peed on by the horses!

When horses pee, they spread all their legs as far and wide apart as possible so they don’t splash all over themselves. Hilary explained to me that if they pee on a nice fluffy pile of hay, there’s no splash. Smart! Dumb!

We should train them to squat.

Saturday, September 27

And then there were twenty-three…

Yesterday I drove down the road to open a couple of gates. I put signs on them asking anyone who came along to leave them open because the horses are coming home for the winter! Eighteen of them, anyway; the other thirteen are going over the mountains to Bishop on Sunday, carrying happy riders who actually enjoy sitting in a hard saddle for eight to twelve hours at a stretch! A nice little Sunday outing, gorgeous scenery as they cross the crest of the Sierra Nevada, a guaranteed memory-maker, an experience I would pay to miss. Those thirteen horses will be trucked down to Furnace Creek in Death Valley where they’ll spend the winter, carrying Euro-oozing European vacationers through the gorgeous desert scenery.

Now I get to feed twenty-three horses instead of a mere five. Now I get to toss bales of hay onto the truck instead of merely tossing flakes over the fence. Now the fights between four-leggers are bigger and longer-lasting. Now my admiration of horses further diminishes to near-nonexistence. I have always thought that it would be worth it hire a vet to remove the one tiny brain cell that causes a horse to put its ears back and go biting and kicking and making life miserable for its companions, but on second thought it’s probably cruel to leave a horse with only half a brain.

Thursday, September 25

Another stupid diversion…

How many words can you make from the following four letters: psto. Each letter must be used only once, and all four letters must be used in each of the words. No “to” or “so” or “top.” Then use the words in a sentence. The accompanying photo offers some clues.

This is one of those things that my idle brain generated when I was bored. Don’t ask why because I couldn’t answer without admitting that most of the time I am bored.

Terrific toy train

Every couple of years I am faced with the need to find something useful to do with the leftover liquid nitrogen that sits in its flask after we have used it to freeze-brand new horses. There it is, clear as glass, the lowest-viscosity liquid I have ever seen, fog-shrouded if you blow into the flask, chilly beyond description. When the time comes to return the super-insulated flask to the welding supply shop, I pour the remaining liquid into a picnic cooler in a vain attempt to preserve it a bit longer so I can dip roses into it and whack them on a tabletop, shattering them into tiny bits. Very unsatisfying after you’ve annihilated all the roses and have a flabby mess to clean up.

Then I saw this four-and-a-half-minute video on the Wired News site:

Time to toss out the old Lionel train set! Time to dip your toes into the future and marvel at what appears to be magic beyond explaining! Maglev trains are on the horizon, and you can sample a tiny bit of the thrills right now with this offering from

Addendum: When I was a kid, I and my neighborhood buddies used to love to put pennies on the rails and watch the passing belching, smoking, smelly steam engines flatten them into great big bright copper disks before they were knocked off the track. Kids in the coming maglev age will completely miss that thrill. (Actually it’s only a thrill for the first hundred times or so.) We got a physics lesson, too; slow trains made bigger disks — fast ones knocked the pennies off the rails too quickly.

Wednesday, September 24

The Ukulele Band of Great Britain

Playing the theme from the movie Shaft. Very funny.

Don’t ask why Brits use Hawaiian instruments playing themes from movies involving blacks in America, just enjoy.

Tuesday, September 23

A new bird

The picture of the nickel-iron meteorite below is for scale.

I don’t have a photo of this new avian arrival outside my window because if I had moved even an inch, it would have flown the coop. Therefore the picture of the meteorite. A couple of days ago, the usual end-of-season manna from the ranch arrived. Iced-down picnic coolers filled with lots of goodies descended from on high, the leftovers from our summer season at Florence Lake and the ranch. Part of this largesse was 90 eggs. NINETY! What do you do with NINETY EGGS? At least we can freeze the ten pounds or so of butter. After it thaws it’s just the same as regular butter. All the frozen New York steaks will satisfy the carnivorous lust of our cowboys. The gargantuan chunk of parmesan cheese is certainly welcome and will eventually vanish via our hand-cranked grater over mounds of spaghetti. But eggs don’t like to be frozen unless you break them and stir them a bit and put them in tiny containers like ice cube trays then freeze the little cubes and put them in zip-lock freezer bags. What a pain!

So I boiled twenty of them all at once. (Biggest single batch of eggs boiled by me in my whole life; the thrill was indescribable!) I used the technique that guarantees that the yolks won’t be coated by a blue-green cast. Put the eggs in cold water and heat them to the boiling point. As soon as they boil, set the timer for exactly seven minutes. Ding! The timer goes off and you immediately douse the eggs in water as cold as you can make it. The yolks will be yellow all the way out to their perimeters. Very attractive.

I put the eggs in a zip-closure bag and stuck them in the fridge. The following morning one of the shelves in the fridge collapsed and smashed a couple of the eggs. I ate one, but the other was really smashed, so I put it outside on the rock we use to present food to the local ravens.

This is where the New Bird showed up. From a viewing distance of maybe a trillionth of a parsec, he appeared to be about a cubit, minus a palm, from crown to tail tip. Medium size hawk. He perched on an oak branch outside the window and looked around for maybe a quadrillionth of a year, then dove down and glommed onto the boiled egg, shell and all, and took it away to his dining room.

I couldn’t find our bird book. So for now, it’s a streaky-broken striped on the chest mostly tannish-gray swivel-headed hawk (he sure could swivel his head like an owl). Possibly a boiled-egg-eating California modern-day urban-rural transitional aberration.

Or maybe a Cooper’s Hawk. Yeah. A Cooper’s Hawk.

Monday, September 22

Don’t misunderestimate this man

Sorry to be an irregular blogger for so long, but I’m immersed in a book, Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets by William Bonner and Lila Rajiva. Check it out. Skip to Chapter 7, Empire of Delusion, and read the opening quotation by George W. Bush, which is a thigh-slapper. I thought it was so funny I looked up its source to see if he really said it. Here it is at the White House’s own Web site on August 5, 2004.

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

Might help explain the current fiscal mess we’re in.

Sunday, September 21

Tomorrow is already here

If you haven’t seen the Aptera two-passenger electric car, here is a video from Popular Mechanics magazine that gives a comprehensive look at this amazing vehicle.

Of course, George Jetson had one decades ago. And his didn’t even have wheels.

Thursday, September 18

Speling erorrs are rampent aruond heer

Degredation, eh? And this newspaper wants to have itself inserted into our classrooms so kids can learn about journalism.

Even a can of chili can’t escape this scourge of bad spelling. The person who thought up Fiesta Grille must have figured the stuff was cooked on the radiator grille of an old truck or something. If he/she had cooked it in a restaurant, he/she would have used a grill.

Wednesday, September 17

How “green” can you get?

I got an email notice titled as shown above. It regards a settlement between Apple Inc. and some shareholders who complained that they were cheated out of gains in stock value because of Apple’s back-dating of options for some of its executives. Eight pages of legalese, so I mostly skimmed through it. The last page interested me the most because of the two items shown below:

“Mixed Sources” explains that the PDF I was reading on my LCD display was “printed” on recycled paper and/or greenly-produced dead trees. The other item claims that the black type showing on my computer screen was made from soybeans.

Wow, I am impressed. With technology this advanced, I can’t wait till I get an email from Hershey’s that I can lick off the screen to satisfy my chocolatey desires.

Tuesday, September 16

I am going to be rich!

Tonight something happened that only occurs once in a lifetime! Do you remember the story of the man who walked in to a post office and bought an airmail stamp and noticed that it had a printing error? The airplane was printed upside-down. He dashed back to the post office and bought all the rest of the same printing error. The current price of one of those stamps is astronomical.

The same thing happened to me! Not at a post office, but at my own refrigerator! I grabbed a Michelob Ultra Amber beer bottle, popped the cap, and noticed that — the label was upside-down!! I almost peed my pants! The photo accompanying this blog entry is genuine without any manipulation. It’s staggering, the wealth that will be bestowed on me. Must have been an offshoot of the relatively benign plumbing experience I had earlier. Is my life changing for the better/best/greatest/most astonishingly unbelievably unbelievable? It’s hard to believe!

Hope I can sleep tonight.

PS: I immediately checked all the remaining labels in the six-pack. They were upright. Dang.

UPDATE! I re-checked and found a second bottle with the same error. I am going to be twice as rich!

UPDATE UPDATE: I just realized that if there are two of these rare bottles, the rarity diminishes and I could end up only getting half as much for them. Maybe I should break one.

Pleasant plumbing

What a headline! Certainly I never thought I would ever see those two words so close together, much less making up the entire phrase! One of the toilets in the house needed some attention, and when I touched part of the plastic that makes up the mechanism pictured here, it shattered! By simply being touched! Time to be replaced.

(I just noticed that of the five preceding sentences, four of them end with an exclamation point. That’s a first, I think, for me anyway.)

The smaller picture shows the date the toilet was manufactured (at least when the clay tank was ready to go into the kiln). Thirty-one years is pretty good for plumbing parts to endure daily use. By now, most replacement toilet innards are the Fluidmaster brand, which claims to be the #1 selling fill valve in the world. It has a one-year warranty, though. Not thirty-one. Well, I can always hope.

Back to the subject at hand, this job was actually pleasant. I turned off the water to the house to preclude any flooding since the hose connecting the toilet to the water line didn’t have a shut-off valve installed. Hm-m-m. What other surprises are in store? None, it turned out. I used a couple of locking pliers (there wasn’t room for the normal pipe wrenches) and removed all the old stuff. The new “angle stop” valve went on without a hitch. The new feed hose, stainless steel wrapped this time, went on without a hitch or even tools. The new fill valve went in slick as a whistle and was just hand-tightened—no tools. I adjusted the fill level, turned on the water and the tank filled to the exact level it’s supposed to.

Total time: About 30 minutes. I was not bruised or bleeding. I hadn’t uttered one bad word. My blood pressure remained at its usual docile unperturbed level. The room wasn’t a mess. I even had some parts left over, which I’m sure I will save somewhere and after a decade or two will still be saved somewhere, never to be used. All in all, a memorable experience. Strange, though. Tomorrow I’ll probably have a tree fall on me just to keep things even.

Sunday, September 14

Ringing sound

This afternoon I took on the challenge of removing the ring of lime from one of our toilet bowls. Our water must be coming from a deep marble cave, it’s so full of calcium. After a few weeks that calcium leaves a deposit at the waterline in the bowl, yielding only to vigorous scrubbing with a bar of pumice. I must have scraped off an inch (2.5 cm) of pumice getting today’s ring to disappear. Whenever I’m doing something mindless (like scrubbing, sometimes blogging) I ask myself questions. Today’s question: What is the sound of a toilet bowl ring? Ding ding? Ding dong?

I leave it to you to provide an answer. Mine is a secret for now.

UPDATE: My answer appears as the third comment.

Friday, September 12

Free cat

Only moments ago Raven, the black cat, spewed a puddle of pee the size of a dinner plate right under my feet! The nerve! I quickly showed him the door and he dashed off to explore the great outdoors for at least one night. Maybe he’ll make the acquaintance of a herd of pigs or raccoons or meet his wild cousin, the friendly bobcat, which will rise in my esteem immeasurably if I spot him licking black cat fur from his claws.

In order for my sleep to proceed undisturbed, I think I’ll plug in my iPod earbuds and turn it up real loud. I mean, who needs to hear the raucous yowlings of a cat being shredded?

Or I could offer Raven as a gift to anyone who’s willing to pay the freight and get a free cat. To reduce your shipping costs, I could have him freeze-dried if you like.

Thursday, September 11

Who can forget this day…

Here is a five-minute piece of music written by the man who wrote and performed the music we used on Luke and Hilary’s wedding video. Enjoy.

Monday, September 8

When it rains it pours…

Imagine my dismay at seeing an empty fish fountain this morning. Full of water, but totally devoid of big goldfish. The plants in the half-barrels were in disarray, the filter was unplugged and simply pumping water aimlessly around in the bottom barrel, and plant parts were strewn about in the water. This marks the third death in the family in less than a month.

Raccoons had finally found the fish. Took ’em a little over a year, but now that they know, they’ll be back. We humans, however, are a clever species. We’re gonna get raccoon traps and then bring back the 1950s, when American folk hero Davy Crockett was all the rage. Millions of raccoons were skinned to make the coonskin caps worn by every red-blooded American boy and girl. At least one whole raccoon was required per cap because each cap had a full, fluffy raccoon tail hanging down the back.

Hoping not to be wasteful, do any of you have recipes for raccoon meat? Other than as cat food? Or should I donate it to the vultures? They’d probably gag.

Friday, September 5

Doggone fun

Official Ranch Dog, the white and fluffy Akela, died yesterday while sleeping under one of the trucks at Florence Lake. She will be buried at Blayney Meadow.

Akela was one of the featured animals in Never a Dull Moment, the book Hilary wrote as part of a home schooling project, in 1998. She was pictured as a scrawny, wary, wolf-like beast when she was captured along the Kaiser Pass Road by Hilary and Karla. She had more wrong with her than you can shake a vet at, and ended her life on almost the equivalent of life support, what with many medications and injections to keep her going. She will be missed.

But I think she would have enjoyed the following video. I know I do.