Thursday, April 30

Things are different

The horses and mule above make a nice tableau. Ben, the mule lying in the midst, has gathered a nice bunch of friends and is their protector. At least it seems that way. The big horses really love him. Usually when you have geldings and mares together, the mares are the dominant ones. And when you toss in a mule, he/she is at the total bottom of esteem. Ben’s different, and is totally accepted by the horses. Whether he’s really dominant, we don’t know. He is just about the biggest animal around if that counts for anything.

Though you can’t tell from the picture above, this year we have grass so high it’s difficult to walk through it without a map and a GPS receiver or you get lost, corn-maze-like. (In the rest of the world, is it “Maize-maze?”) The horses are slowly evolving giraffe-like necks in order to eat it. Trees, shaded by the tall grass, are growing pale-colored stunted leaves, and may not produce nuts this season. Low-flying aircraft are getting grass stains on their underbellies. Grasshoppers can only go up the stems so far till they fall off, gasping for breath, not only from the rigorous climb, but the thin air.

Things are different.

Tuesday, April 28

Sorry for the bloglessness

It’s been a few very busy days with little opportunity to post anything interesting (except, of course, kitten on a turntable and cat on a Roomba). In the next few days I’ll have some very interesting things to say. So sit and wait and tune in to other, more boring, blogs. I promise to come up with some very interesting stuff to say. If not, feel free to sue.

Hint: something that once cost over $800,000 now costs a little over $200,000. Thank you, recession!

Sunday, April 26

Nothing goin’ on

You can tell nothing is happening when I resort to posting a silly video from YouTube. At least the subject matter kind of fits what’s going on here—this morning one of the cats dashed out the back door, chewed a little bit of wild oat grass, then ran up the wall onto the roof. Silly cat! She’ll miss breakfast since I’ll be darned if I’m going to waste the time needed to coax her down. So far she hasn’t liked the way most of our other cats used to get down, a nearby oak tree that has many simple steps (branches) to use for easy descent.

So today’s post—a kitten on a turntable.



(At least it isn’t the Cat on a Roomba vacuum cleaner!)

Friday, April 24

An exhausting day


Good grief! Give me a break! I’m too old for this!

Those are my exact sentiments which came up again and again today as I trod through the confusion of putting together a cgi script on our Web site. What’s a cgi script? It stands for “common gateway interface.” Whenever you fill out a form on the Internet, you’re probably using a cgi script. I had never done one of these, even though I had been designing and maintaining several sites for the past dozen or so years. But it was decided that we take credit cards over the Internet. We signed up with a provider that would link to our already-existing credit card provider, and launched into a mass of confusion. They offered a bunch of scripts, without really explaining each of their merits. I chose one that, after modifying it to death, I could use. But modifying the script carried with it many potential pitfalls, each of which I fell into.

Finally I got it to work the way I liked. By then, though, I was a basket case. Ask Karla, who withstood the yelling and stomping and table-pounding and door-slamming and general nastiness that I exuded with gusto. Boy, I tell ya—learning can be exhausting, especially for a geezer.

Thanks, Karla, for not kicking me out of the house.

Thursday, April 23

Big BIG pig dig!

Glancing out the window on this glorious spring morning, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to see the tumultuously torn turf shown above. Wild pigs! And I immediately knew what they were after: the bounteous buried booty of the ravens. Here’s how it works. Being benevolent, I toss out much more than our rowdy ravenous ravens really require for simple sustenance. Being brilliant, they bury their bodacious bounty for later retrieval, but after awhile, they finally forget, failing to reliably remember recovery locations. Pudgy pigs purloin, pillage and plunder the piles of peanuts. (Actually I don’t feed the ravens peanuts, but it’s purposely, properly alliterative.)

To get to the real purpose of this silliness, I have an idea. Currently our societal trend is toward making our country green. Not grass green, environmentally green. Here’s something that can contribute immensely toward that goal—Pig Excavators! A basic element of new construction is the need for holes. Normally holes are produced in advanced societies with the use of machinery such as bulldozers, backhoes, or other excavators. Here’s my idea: bury tasty morsels by simply poking them into the ground, either manually or by using a farm tractor/planter. Wait for the pigs to find the morsels. Repeat the planting. Wait for the pigs. Repeat ad infinitum. Result: A nice deep hole as long as the pigs have a way to get out of the previously-dug hole. Green as you can get!

Once the hole is done, convert the pigs into bacon and footballs. Wow, what a win-win wonder!

Wednesday, April 22

The other convertible

Reader Susan says, “Now it would be the cherry on the cake to keep searching till you find a pic of that OLDER car you started out with in the 1960s...”

The requests keep coming in! Here is the 1960 Austin Healy “Bug Eye” Sprite. (Often spelled Healey.) The picture above isn’t my car, but from a search on Google. Mine had a chrome-plated front bumper. The car had both a cloth top and a fiberglass hardtop. When I priced the car new, it was $1,850 plus an additional $500 for the hardtop. I waited and found a young couple who were starting college and already had a 1953 Chevrolet. Their Sprite, which had 1,800 miles on it and was six months old, was too expensive for them to keep. I got it for $1,850. No charge for the hardtop! To seal the deal they offered me a cup of coffee. It was so weak it was nearly toxic—I could see clear to the bottom of the mug!

The car was really basic. If you wanted to put anything in the trunk (boot), you tilted the seat backs forward and put it in from inside the cab. There was no boot lid. To get to the engine, the entire front of the car lifted up. There was no ashtray. You could stub out your smoke by simply leaning out and using the pavement, you were so close to the ground. The side windows were Plexiglas (Perspex) and were two-piece; the aft piece would slide forward to let air in. The windows simply came off and got put in their bags and tossed into the boot. There was no door handle on the outside of the car; you would slide the window open and reach in to depress the handle inside the car. There was no way to lock the car.

The car was very British. It had a four-cylinder MG engine with twin SU downdraught carburetors. What a farce! They were atrocious and required a weekly dose of two drops of oil in their top chambers in order to keep working. Once on a trip to the coast I was on a downhill grade long enough for them to ice up! I had never heard of a car’s carburetors icing up; airplanes, yes. But I was luckier than my neighbor; he had just bought a Jaguar XKE, the sleekest rocket you could find. Fortunately for him, he was mechanically inclined so he could keep his British prize in running condition, which pretty much occupied his weekends.

By the way, the 1972 Porsche 914 cost $4,300. The 911 model was so expensive—$8,000! To put these prices in context, a tricked-out Chevrolet Camaro was going for $2,900.

Tuesday, April 21

More on the previous post…

Recently I checked eBay to see what people were asking for their Porsche 914s, and discovered something interesting. I had known that this was the first Porsche model to be produced without all the excruciating hand labor that had traditionally gone into their cars; it was their first mass-produced vehicle. It was made at the Karmann factory in Finland using parts supplied by Porsche in Stuttgart. The thing that was so remarkable about the cars being offered on eBay was the claim that they had the original paint! I had always admired the paint on my now-38-year-old car—even now I can spit on it and rub it with my finger and it comes back brilliant! It’s doubtful that this kind of paint is available any more since, being so good, it must have been totally toxic and dangerous to use and probably killed entire generations of families of the users if even a drop of it accidentally landed on the skin of the poor paint gun operator. It will probably be declared illegal in California to have a car with that paint on it, once its long-lasting properties are discovered by the regulators. Maybe I should scrape it off and embed it in concrete in a double-walled stainless steel and titanium drum and deposit it on the bleeding edge of the nearest geologic subduction zone, hoping it will enter earth’s mantle for recycling and emergence in maybe a billion years or so. It’s my duty, and I shall not shirk.

Or maybe not.

By special request

Loyal follower Susan wrote from Australia to ask for a pix of me and my favorite car. This is a Polaroid shot from 1984. I bought the car new in 1971; it’s a ‘72 Porsche 914. Powered by four mighty fuel-injected cylinders, it had a 5-speed manual tranny, 4-wheel disc brakes, removable top, and the owner’s manual started with the sentence, “This car is made to be driven fast.” That part is what I actually did and got a ticket for my effort (only once!). One weekend Karla and I drove it from Hollywood to Nelder Grove north of Oakhurst and back on a single filling of the fuel tank. It worked out to almost 50MPG (4.7 liters per hundred km). If I wasn’t worried about mileage, I liked to drive it at 80MPH whenever I could since that was when it was happiest. Sadly, that wasn’t always possible.

I still own it, but unfortunately it’s in need of refurbishment. It should get a complete overhaul and new paint and interior. The reason I stopped driving it was the poor condition of our road, which caused the car to bottom out on some of the rough spots. Not wanting to ruin it, I parked it and it got ruined. Oh well.

Monday, April 20

Strange fluid

What the heck is this? And where is it? If I said sand and Mars, would you believe it? Go here for the story. Click this picture for a bigger one.

Photo: NASA

Sunday, April 19

I just happened to think…

It’s odd. Every still photograph I’ve ever seen from the American Civil War era is black and white, but every movie about that time is in color.

Photos: civilwar-pictures.com; New Line Cinema

Saturday, April 18

Man, am I good…

ReCaptcha loves me.

Friday, April 17

Are we ready for the next one?

This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has pictures of the devastation caused by the earthquake of April 18, 1906—103 years ago. These photos have been pretty much hidden and many have never been published. They are excellent and worth a look.

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, April 16

Anything too big to fail is too big to exist.

The headline above sums up the essence of an article in The Atlantic that is a warning to all of us. When any industry or bank becomes too big to fail, we’re all in trouble. The way-too-cozy relationship between government and very large private enterprise (such as banking) eventually harms the populace. When the too-big-to-fail enterprises start to fail, the government “saves” them at taxpayers’ expense. It is happening now in the United States, and will affect the entire world. Here is the article’s introduction:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

The beautiful experiment in liberty launched by the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution is being methodically corrupted, and that makes me very sad.

Wednesday, April 15

A tea party and a TEA party

It’s been a busy week. On Tuesday we went to a neighbor’s for a tea party. There was herb tea, fresh hot buttered crumpets, and a friendly visit with people we like. Our friend Candy’s granddaughter wanted a springtime party, and we were the honored guests. Even though it’s springtime, it’s an unusual time because the windy cold weather forced the party into the house which was heated by a massive stone-and-tile stove. It was a delightful time and gave us the excuse, since we had driven the worst part of the trip on our 3-mile driveway already, to continue to town and get the mail and have a delicious pizza at the Pizza Factory!

Today we drove to the Big City to do some ranch business and order some merchandise for the store at Florence Lake and get some leather conditioner for our truck seats and attend the Central Valley TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party at the immense SaveMart Center on the Fresno State campus. For a while we weren’t sure we could even park. The parking lot is about as big as some eastern states like Connecticut, and we were getting farther and farther away from the festivities as we headed north and west. Finally we found an empty spot near the northwest corner and hoped we had enough gas to get back out of the place. We managed to walk all the way to where the action is without getting a resupply of food and water. In the midst of thousands of people we were impressed with the camaraderie. Some really amusing signs were being carried around by people wandering through the crowd. A blues band was blasting music from a stage made from one of two open 52-foot truck trailers donated by a local trucking company. Three television remote trucks had their masts raised to send video to the transmitters at Meadow Lakes to the east. Several local celebrities entertained us with jabs at government in general, and the present administration and congress in Washington in particular. No screaming of hatred, no threats to anyone, in fact none of the stuff that was later portrayed by CNN or the other eastern media outlets.

We were glad we attended the event. It was gratifying to hear the uplifting messages and agreement of so many decent people who simply want a return to the constitutional principles that made this country such a wonderful and successful experiment in liberty.

Monday, April 13

Ain’t that sweet!


In New York City, where avoiding eye contact with strangers is a valuable survival skill, people seem to love inanimate objects that need help. The City itself could make life easier for these objects by fixing the crappy pavement, but that’s a whole ’nother issue. A tiny cardboard-encased robot, launched at one end of a public park, carries a flag asking for help to get to the other end of the park. And people help it! Go here for the three-minute, twenty-second video—well worth it. Nice, uplifting music too.

Thanks, engadget.com!

Saturday, April 11

A followup to the previous blog

At Florence Lake we had a buried gasoline tank that had been in the ground since the late 1940s. The State of California knew in its heart that underground tanks were leaking ghastly toxics and destroying the planet, so they required that they be removed. The time came when our tank had to be dug up. A bevy of bureaucrats assembled at the lake, representing at least five really important government agencies, to witness the exhumation of our tank. A tractor with a backhoe dug down and uncovered the object of vilification. Since it was buried in a place that was well drained, there was minimal rust on the tank. As it was pulled out of the ground it looked sound. The original red lead paint (omigosh! Red Lead!) was intact. There were no holes. No leaks. It was given the sacramental wash and triple rinse, the residue captured in sanitized drums on the rinse truck. It would be taken to the sacred site of purification and detoxified. The Planet Would Be Saved.

The result? A perfectly good tank was wasted. We had to put in a new, very expensive 17,000-pound concrete-encased above-ground tank. The new tank had to be bullet proof (literally) and fireproof (literally) and vandal proof (literally) and subject to any whim of any bureaucrat who hates people who make money in a practice other than bureaucracy.

Thanks, California.

Don’t

I have some advice for anyone who wants to get into business in California.

Don’t.

If you think there are limitations imposed by the state through its legislature passing laws that punish business, you’re right. But factor in the harassment of fees and regulations on the local level too. Many of these regulations don’t show up until one of the regulator’s bureaucrats happens to find you by accident, as happened to us at Florence Lake.

We have a diesel generator that started to blow clouds of white smoke. A fisherman happened to notice the smoke. Turns out the fisherman worked for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Why was the generator smoking? Turns out the repairman who worked on the generator installed the wrong fuel injectors. While the fisherman was snooping around, he discovered our 1,000 gallon fuel tanks, one for gasoline, the other for diesel. He noticed that the gas tank didn’t have a vapor recovery device installed. We were in non compliance and subject to fines. We convinced the bureaucrat that we were unaware of our sin, and he waived the fine, but insisted that we install the necessary equipment. We contacted a company in Fresno that does the work, and they installed the equipment. The man who drives the gasoline truck up to our location to keep the tank filled told us that he can’t connect to the vapor recovery unit and that we wasted our money. Oh well, at least we’re in compliance with the law.

That’s the key: Compliance with the law. Not effectiveness, just compliance. But it goes beyond that. We now must have the equipment on the tank, which is not usable, tested periodically (we haven’t been told what the period is). If we don’t? To quote from the letter from the Air Pollution Control District, “…failure to conduct the test(s), within 30 days of the date indicated above, will result in legal action, including monetary fines.” The “date indicated above” is prior to the time we can get into Florence Lake because of snow.

We have to hire a qualified company to conduct the unnecessary tests and pay them for those unnecessary tests. Unfortunately, we are SIX HOURS ROUND TRIP from the tester’s place of business. That time has to be paid for. If the tester’s hourly rate is $75, we get to pay $600 just to get him here, plus the time the test takes, which is charged at the rate of a minimum of one hour. The test takes five minutes.

There’s more. The County of Fresno Department of Public Health also has its own scam. In order to run a store at Florence Lake we have to get it inspected yearly by a highly trained health expert. The inspection usually takes five minutes. That costs $344.00. But the State of California would like a piece of that action, too. So they add on a fee called “State oversight surcharge” of $24.00. Then they toss on a Motor Vehicle Fuel Above Ground Storage Tank fee of $72.00 (this is in addition to the Air Pollution District’s fee), and for good measure a “Hazardous waste generator (CESQG)” fee of $96.00. Total: $536.00.

For NOTHING.

At least travel time is included. For now. For tomorrow, who knows?

The above examples are only a tiny bit of the harassment leveled at anyone in business in this state. Other states will probably emulate California to the point where nobody will want to live and conduct business anywhere. Where do we go? Mexico? Canada? The moon? You tell me.

One more thing. A few years back the State of California decided that every store that sells tobacco should pay a fee of $100 for the privilege. We didn’t. They must have made millions on that one. I can imagine any number of new fees that could be imposed. How about a fee to make change for cash payments? A fee to take credit cards? A fee to have a sign that says OPEN. Or a fee to have a door to the business. A fee to use outdoor state-owned air in the business.

A fee to breathe.

Don’t get me started.

Flowery prose from the past

This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle features a history of the Bay Bridge. They reproduce the front page of the paper from November 12, 1936 which has a story about the dedication and opening of the bridge. The story is written with such goopy saccharine-ness that I doubt that too many people today would fully comprehend it. Here are the first few paragraphs:

San Francisco today reaches deeply into the glory and tradition of its past to salute a milestone it has taken 100 years to reach—and ten times that many will have been folded away in history’s pages before another event of such vital import to its future will have come to pass.

The San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge will be opened.

Inspiration of dreams for nearly a century, it boldly holds its sinews of steel and columns of concrete against the heavens, a visible challenge to the forces of nature that decreed it should not be.

DEEPEST BAY SPANNED

It stands stanchly [sic] above the deepest body of water ever spanned, the fulfillment of human will, courage and resourcefulness, one more prideful step in an indomitable progression that dates backward to the Garden of Eden and beckons the future illimitably.

Nature rimmed San Francisco bay with hills towering high, and gouged deeply down their flanks to create a reservoir of water. From prehistoric times, the rolling waves within the Golden Gate have defied the brains and brawn of man.

Some were awed, and beaten, at the gage thus flung.

Others took it up.

Today they accept the conquerors’ acolade [sic] and dedicate the fruits of their victory to the common weal.

The bay bridge is a reality, mocking those who said it would never be.

There were a couple of typos, or maybe things were spelled differently in 1936. Either way, what would you expect from a newspaper that cost only a nickel?

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, April 10

Tsk tsk

A few years ago, Toyota Motors used the wrong word in the headline of ads appearing in magazines, on television, and the Internet. I couldn’t believe it, and sent them an email pointing out the error. Within a week they made the correction but never acknowledged my letter. They were embarrassed, I guess.

Now Toyota’s main competition, Honda, has used a wrong word in an ad for their Acura division in a two-page ad (double truck, in adspeak) in a prime position in the April 6, 2009 issue of The New Yorker magazine. I felt the familiar stab in the heart when I saw it.

Hint: They used a noun, thinking it was a verb.

The ad agency gets lots of money for ads like this. They should do more Acurate work.

Thursday, April 9

Dumn

The prices of many newspapers are being adjusted upward. But the good ole Fresno Bee is going the other way, according to the sticker on the newspaper dispenser. But there’s a problem: It says USE ANY COIN COMBINATION, then it says DO NOT USE PENNIES, and NO CHANGE GIVEN. How do I put in three-quarters of a cent unless I use a penny? They can keep the change; I won’t quibble about a quarter of a cent. So I fed in coin after coin till it finally opened and I got my paper. I wasn’t counting, but think I may have put in a hundred times the advertised price! What a rip! That’s a lot of money for stove kindling, or fish wrap, or bird cage liner.

Tuesday, April 7

Dinky Pelton wheel

When visiting Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley, we were looking forward to seeing the power plant we had heard so much about. When we got to the power room, we couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed when we saw an 18" Pelton wheel. Not because we have a much more powerful 24-incher, but because you simply can’t do much with a seven thousand watt direct current generator in a very large house (castle) with many outbuildings and even a whole great big pipe organ. It only spins at 750 RPM, versus the 900 that spins ours, plus we get almost ten times the power. And what’s with direct current? This thing must have been used only for emergency backup, since the room also contained a whole passel of diesel generators.

To anyone who knows how these things should be configured, there is something obviously missing. (Time out while you examine the photo)

Doo de doo du doo dee doo…

Time’s up. You’re right! There’s no flywheel! For some odd reason, the Park Service people had removed it and leaned it against the wall and covered the spinning shaft between the wheel and generator with a chintzy homemade metal screen. When I mentioned this oddity to the tour guide, who’s been leading this show for at least 12 years, she didn’t have a clue. She mentioned that there wasn’t any space to put the wheel in since the two drive shafts were fixed in place. “Not if you move those two flanges apart,” I pointed out. “Oh” was her response.

There was another really tiny Pelton wheel nearby in the laundry room. It was connected directly to a big ceiling-mounted driveshaft that had wheels which connected to the machines with belts, directly driving them—no electricity needed. (The machines were gone, as were the belts, so we had to imagine the cleverness of the setup.)

A third Pelton wheel was displayed outside the power room. Part of its shroud was cut away allowing people to see the actual wheel with its buckets. You could actually spin the shaft by hand and make it go! Wow…

Monday, April 6

Wow, what weird wagon wheels

On first spotting the wheels on this old log hauler, they look like there’s dried mud packed between the hubs and rims. When you look closely, though, you see that these odd wheels are made of an iron hub and iron rim with pieces of wood jammed into the space between them.

Since this wagon was used to haul logs out of a forest somewhere, by getting rid of spokes there’s no chance of limbs and other debris getting jammed into the open space between spokes and breaking them.

That’s my theory, at least. But it sure adds to the weight of the wagon! I hope they had some really big mules to lug these things around.

Sunday, April 5

Breccia

Breccia is rock that is broken up into angular fragments, then embedded in a binding matrix (cementing material), and made into rock again. Shown above is a piece that’s maybe five feet (150 cm) wide exposed by erosion in Titus Canyon, Death Valley National Park. Emotionally sensitive geology lovers can get the impression from such a formation that there was hope on the part of the rock fragments that maybe, just maybe they could have made it all the way to becoming sand. After all, rock is simply an immature form of sand.

There are many types of breccia, one of which is called impact breccia. It is the most exciting because the impact is likely from an asteroid or comet. The rock above has some of the characteristics of impact breccia, and makes you wonder—are we seeing, frozen in time from the vast past, the evidence of an enormous rock from the infinite reaches of outer space slamming into our dear dirt ball and messing up some unfortunate rock smack in the middle of its quest to become sand? Imagine the rock’s upset, the dashed hopes, the anguish—it lasts forever it seems. The whole agonizing story is right there, right in front of us, but most people will simply walk away and search for the nearest Coke machine because it’s so blasted hot in this narrow crummy canyon and all the cup holders in the SUV are empty, empty mind you!

I’m so glad I can relate to the feelings of rocks.

Ancient missile silo!

While exploring one of the many canyons in Death Valley, Karla and I ran across something rather astonishing. Erosion had exposed an ancient missile silo! Petroglyphs nearby clearly showed rockets shooting off into space, and the targets were shown as covered wagons and primitive railroads with smoke-belching locomotives. Oddly, casinos were shown in non-targeted zones.

The majority of scholars disagree with my assessments, but they are under heavy pressure to be politically correct, seeing the native Americans as a peaceful bunch of nature-loving environmentalists who would never consider making rockets that spew a vile stream of polluting exhaust smoke.

But while standing in the base of the silo, we could clearly smell the residue of rocket exhaust, or maybe it was the smoke from the guy we saw just leaving with a cheap cigar clenched in his teeth.

Saturday, April 4

Winch — Danger!

I was just moseying through some pictures on the hard drive and ran across this one. It’s a 1920s gasoline-powered winch. Its gears and chains and everything are just right out there where if you were to slip and fall you’d be munched. Things like this were common until lawsuits got so expensive everything had to be made foolproof and child safe and sanitized. What with all the disinfectants and antibacterial soaps and detergents and such, people don’t think anything is dangerous anymore. I was at a store that sells boots, gloves, fire hoses, conveyor belts and stuff like that. They had vests made of bright fluorescent orange or green fabric worn by people who work where cars and trucks go by. On the packaging it said, and I am not kidding, “Use of this garment will not protect you from being hit by a vehicle.” Holy Cow! The fabric is not made from the same material as Superman’s cape!

Thursday, April 2

Why is it…?

Why is it that to make firewood, you have to cut a tree down in order to cut it up?

A Trillion Dollars

Not long ago Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was chided for claiming that some 500 million Americans became unemployed in only one month. She said it twice. Since there are only a bit over 300 million Americans, she was ridiculed for being out of touch and perhaps an idiot. I forgive her, however, because I understand that national leaders have lost touch with the word “thousand.” That’s chump change. They can only reach as far down as “million,” when faced with debt loads measured in billions and now trillions.

Almost fifty years ago when I was in the Navy and rode around the world on its newest biggest most powerful most nuclear-powered fastest ship (it still is the fastest aircraft carrier, by the way!), I was fascinated to watch as the last load of materiel was brought to the ship, right before we took off for the Mediterranean. Several 18-wheel tractor-trailers drove onto the pier, accompanied by gun-toting guards, and unloaded their cargo which was driven onto the aircraft elevators and brought in to the hangar deck. Forklift trucks shuttled the palettes over to an opening in the deck that measured probably 12 feet square (3.7m). A work crew had spent hours removing hundreds of bolts to free up and lift off the lid to the ship’s treasury in preparation for loading its storeroom with who knows how many hundreds of millions of paper dollars. I knew instinctively that even though we were always paid in cash, that was way more money than the Navy paid we thousands of sailors and Marines even if we were gone for more than six months. I found out later that the US made its foreign aid payments in cash, and transported the money in its capital ships, the big, defensible ones.
The drawing shows a palette of $100 bills, totalling one hundred million dollars. So what does a trillion dollars look like? Go here to see. Scroll down to the picture at the bottom and remember, the palettes are stacked twice as deep as the one shown above. The little red dot at bottom left is a six-foot-tall person!

Before you enviros get your panties in a bunch, no trees were slaughtered to make this heap of bucks. American money is printed on paper made from cotton and linen. Aussies and Kiwis use polyester. But in today’s “economy” dollars are actually made from bits and bytes transmitted over the Internet, making them the “greenest” of “greenbacks.”

Wednesday, April 1

Why is it…?

Why is it when a house burns down, everything in it burns up?

Freed carbon

Remember this picture? It shows our Wall of Wood we built up for the winter. It’s all gone now, but the weather is still chilly! So we scrounged some limbs that had been cut last spring and chopped them up into firewood. There are several trees that have died from the recent drought and are just waiting for the gentle touch of a chain saw to cut them into more carbon-producing heat makers for the house. Our only salvation from being called despoilers of the planet is our nearly 100% reliance on solar power for electricity. Besides, the amount of wood we burn every winter probably equals about one quadrillionth of what burns in the average wildfire. Or maybe not.