Thursday, April 29

OK, try and top this!

A horse with no name

The horse that Luke brought home a few days ago is still without a name, but doesn’t seem to mind. As I expected my suggestion, Fang, has already been rejected by all. Maybe I can use it on a fish or something. It’s such a shame to waste a good name.

No Name has an interesting feature I’m sure you’ve already noticed. A partially-blue eye makes him unique in our herd of 41 horses and mules. How about calling him Bluey? Blooey? I know! BlueFang! He’s a roan. How about RoanFang? FangRoan. RoanFangBluey. Whatever.

Help me here.

Photos: Hilary Hurley Painter

Tuesday, April 27

Except for all those extra legs…

…this would be one fine horse! About 2PM today, in walk Luke and neighbor Phil, leading two horses away from sure slaughter. The owner was going to ship them with some others to Mexico. We couldn’t save them all, but these two were sure worth the $250 the owner was asking for each of them. This roan will be ours, and the legs belonging to the other horse, along with the rest of her body, will be going to neighbor Carolyn across the river as soon as Luke can make sure she’s safe to ride.

Here Hilary is assuring Carolyn’s horse that things are fine now—no Tacos de Caballos in her future! Hilary is just about to foal herself. Whether the young’n will be a colt or a filly is not known, since she and Luke want to be surprised. If I were a betting man, I’d put money on the kid being a colt, what with all the kicking it’s doing. Probably a potential bull rider. Or, we can hope, maybe a world-class blogger! Makes Grampa proud for sure.

“It wasn’t me! I swear!”

Bella says she’s not responsible for the long covered trench in the background.

Karla is in Smallville buying groceries and mailing a couple of packages, Luke and Hilary are at a neighbor’s picking up a horse that we’re rescuing from being “chickened” in Mexico. Our neighbor across the river is getting one for herself to go with a horse she has already picked up, and Luke will see if it can be rideable. So I’m here answering the phone and updating a Web site and looking after the dogs.

I walked out the front door and there on the ground was a huge mole tunnel. It was enormous in length, if not in rise. I dashed up to the shop and got the wheelie-measury-thingie and rolled along the tunnel to its end. Thirty-three feet six inches (ten meters!)! I should report it to the Guinness people.

But they’ll want to come out and verify that it’s really a mole mound and not an earthquake crack (which can easily be more than 33 feet long). So that means I’ll have to protect the evidence and keep the dogs from tearing it up. It’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow, so that’s a bummer. The heck with it—it’s way too much hassle. I think I’ll go for the other Guinness instead. You know, the brewer.

Bloop? Or blooper?

On Tuesday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, the image shown above is described as a visual representation of the loudest sound ever detected in the ocean by underwater microphones. Called a bloop, it is even louder than the sounds that can be made by giant blue whales. My first question is: What does this have to do with astronomy? My second question is: Who do they think they’re fooling?

After careful study, I’ve determined that the above picture is of brightly-lit skyscrapers in Chicago reflected in Lake Michigan, taken with a cheesy cheapo digital camera with its ISO setting way too high. Prove it to yourself by backing away from your computer screen about 15 feet (5 meters). I’m sure you’ll agree.

Monday, April 26

English language oddities

One thing that’s really a problem with the English language is that it is such a sponge, soaking up bits of languages from all over. The word commando is Afrikaans. The word typhoon is Chinese. Tsunami is Japanese. Garage is French. Kindergarten is German. Unless you spend your life in academia, exposing yourself to all the oddities of our language, you end up feeling really stupid when you mispronounce a word simply because you don’t know which language it derives from. (Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.)

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but I do find myself wondering how anyone (beside chronic academics) can not sound like an idiot when among said academics. Does it matter? Do these brilliant people know how to start a fire with two sticks and a piece of dried cow manure? How about finding water in the desert with only a piece of string and a beetle? Or fixing a broken distributor contact with a vacuum windshield wiper hose? I mean, what counts for smart anyway? I challenge anyone without a computer and Internet connection to pronounce floccinaucinihilipilification. Or explain what the heck it means. So there.

I don’t even know what brought this on, but I’m glad I said it.

So there.

Saturday, April 24

Toilet trauma

Who’da thunk? I was imagining a person knocking on the front door asking what all the noise was. It sounded like a machine gun going on and on for hours. The answer would be “Oh, we’re installing a new toilet.” It seems toilets have changed a bit since 1976 when the one we were replacing was installed. It was one of the old ones that used so much water for each flush that we would have to have our pump going constantly if there were more than two people in the house at a time. Plus, it really didn’t work very well, backing up and all that unpleasant stuff. So last summer I bought a nice new one-piece low-water-consumption Kohler beauty that was on sale. I know, I know…I’m a sucker for cheap toilets. I stored it in our wood shed, waiting for the golden moment when we would install it.

Luke decided that our old “unfunctionable*” toilet was not good for Hilary’s needs. It seems pregnant women (Hilary) have to pee about every ten minutes and going clear over to the other bathroom was not a good option. So Karla cleared out the cardboard heap we have in the wood shed (we recycle cardboard) to reveal the bargain-priced toilet. Luke hauled it to the bathroom, and we tore out the old toilet. Seems the new one didn’t even come close to fitting the old space unless the wall (made of the hardest rock known to man) was chipped away a bit. We started with a cold chisel and hammer. That would take forever, so we graduated to a star drill and hammer. No luck. So I hauled out the rotary hammer drill (pictured) and finally some progress was made. After two hours of Luke’s beating on the rock wall, about two inches was removed and the toilet finally fit! The house is literally smothered in rock dust since when you do something incrementally you don’t think of the consequences since it started with such low-tech hammer-and-chisel stuff we didn’t close all the doors to confine the dust. So add another ten or more hours of house cleaning to the job of installing a toilet!

In a normal house, this would have been a twenty-minute job. So much for the rustic charm of rock-and-log houses!

*Unfunctionable was a favorite word used by a friend of ours. He once taught his dog to say Woof instead of Arf. A very talented man. He also liked to say “irregardless.”

Wednesday, April 21

Ben Franklin objects to being portrayed on the $100 bill

After studying the picture of the new hundred, I have come to the conclusion that Ben is not happy being shown on this monstrosity. Look at his face—it’s green! Like he’s nauseous! He was one of the authors of the way this country was founded, and frankly he’s miffed at what’s happened since he died. He agreed to appear once again on the hundred as a spokesman for liberty and limited government, but the Bureau of Engraving and Printing made him green, which is the new black. And they also changed the word Liberty to Liberal.

What’s a dead guy to do?

New $100 bill is super secure

The United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing is going all out in their effort to make the new $100 bill the most secure in history. Counterfeiters beware! This bill is so secure you won’t have a chance to produce anything that even remotely resembles it. For example, the ink colors simply can’t be produced by any known means (except to the Bureau). The paper is not really paper—it’s a mysterious plasma that only looks like paper. When you handle the bill, you are actually being connected to a parallel universe in which paper-like substances exist in the minds of ectoplasmic oddities. The image of Benjamin Franklin is actually Benjamin Franklin himself! Ask a question and he will answer in a language unknown on Earth, but in which Ben has become fluent. The bill is so expensive to produce there will be a 10% premium on owning one. You will have to spend $110 for each one, making counterfeiting really unprofitable, unless you’re starting with no money at all, in which case you can’t even start thinking about such an impossible project unless you’re in a loony bin without doors or windows. Or Wi-Fi.

I think the government has a winner here.

Find out more in the Los Angeles Times article here.

Monday, April 19

Tired of the view from your dungeon?

Imagine spending years underground or in a concrete box or even in an office cubicle. The view never changes, that is if you have a view at all. Here is a solution you might like.

This isn’t just static screen-saver-like stuff, but the images move and the perspective changes as you approach or move up, down, left or right. Slick! Plus, you can choose your view from underwater to Space Shuttle. Go here for the YouTube video and here for the article in Wired.

Friday, April 16

I’m using restraint for a change

The above picture shows:
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Groovy new countertop material from Dupont
  • Dead-cow-eating pig barf
For once, I’m not going to go there. The picture shows the graininess of the surface of:
  • Ultra-magnified liver cells
  • Close-up of a 44¢ postage stamp featuring Bart Simpson
  • Paint on a rusty old fire truck
The real answer? The sun! There are so many ways to see the sun through all kinds of filters that admit a tiny part of the light spectrum that it can make your head spin. Good old APOD used this picture today to show the granularity of the surface of the sun when seen through a filter that only shows the light from rusty old fire trucks. Amazing.

Picture credit: Bright Points on the Quiet Sun, J. Sanchez Almeida (IAC), et al.

Tuesday, April 13

Winter hangs on…

When will it end? It’s time for blossoms and bees and new shoots on the trees. This morning when I went over to feed the two old horses, I decided to return to the house the long way. I walked up the road past a flatbed trailer and noticed that the surface had a peculiar sparkle to it. ICE! It was covered with frost! In mid-April! What’s going on here?! For the past day it’s been raining, and over roughly a 24-hour period we got 1.8" (46mm) which came mostly by drizzle punctuated with downright scary downpours. At one point the water coming off the roof where there is no rain gutter made it difficult to see the valley to the south. A thunderstorm late yesterday afternoon pelted the blossoms and tender new leaves with sheets of hail. It’s tough being a tree in weather like this. If I had been braver and willing to get soaked (and risk wasting a nice camera by drenching it), I could have taken pictures of gopher holes down the hill gushing water. I watched, hoping to catch sight of a thoroughly soaked gopher popping out, but no luck. Oh well, at least it didn’t snow.

Monday, April 12

It happened again!

Above: The first screen
Above: The winning screen

And I couldn’t be happier. Another game of solitaire where I go through the deck without a repeat. Nothing can explain the feeling of accomplishment that washes over me when this rare event occurs. There’s a warm glow, a rush of elation, a pride that can only be compared to the even rarer moment when I save all humanity from annihilation by an evil force. (Which has happened only a couple of times.)


Sunday, April 11

Why I like my Apple stock

Need I say more?

Getting organized

We used to keep keys on a little shelf near the front door. As more keys built up it became a mess, so I stuck a few pushpins in the wall and hung the keys there. That was unsightly and confusing, so I organized things with a listing of what the keys were for. It looks much nicer now.

Saturday, April 10

Where are all the fish?

I just noticed something while re-reading some of the terrific prose I’ve produced in the past week or so. It’s been awhile since I fed the fish off to the right side of the blog, so I clicked a few morsels onto their little square bowl. Then it hit me—there are only five left! There used to be nine, and they varied in color. Now the remaining fish are all the same color, and there are 45% fewer of them. I guess I had simply counted on my faithful readers to keep them fed.

When you choose to have pets, it’s a big responsibility. It is a lesson learned for me.

(I thought I smelled something.)

Note to self: Put down the chair and whip

Once a long time ago Karla and I took Hilary to a show involving a lion tamer at some animal amusement park whose name I forget. Hilary was just a little kid at the time. After the show, we approached the man and asked questions. One of them was “Is it possible to train a house cat to do anything?” He assured us that all cats are very intelligent, even little ones. I said that every time I approach the cat with whip in hand and a wooden chair with the legs aimed at it, he runs away. He got the joke.

It was time to train the cat to do something new. Today I moved the cat’s dish from its usual place near the fireplace on the lower floor of the house. There will be three dogs joining us in a few days, and I wanted to at least slightly dog-proof the cat food bowl, so I put it up on the landing of the stairs to the loft. I made sure I had the cat’s attention and held the bowl prominently out in front of me as I slowly ascended the steps, then placed the bowl noisily on the landing. I then filled the little scoop used for dry food and made a very prominent obvious move up the steps and clattered the bowl loudly as I poured the food in. The cat stared.

Coming down the stairs, the cat still watched me. I went back to my chair and sat down. The cat approached, meowing for his dinner. Once again I ascended the steps, picked up the bowl, shook it to make the food rustle, a familiar sound. The cat stared.

Again I left the room. The cat followed, begging to be fed. So I went up to the bowl, picked it up, descended, put the bowl on the ground floor and as the cat approached, drooling, I again slowly, obviously, took the bowl upstairs to the landing, and very dramatically placed it on the landing. The cat stared.

About to quit and throw the bowl at the cat, I remembered the lion tamer incident all those years ago. Aha! I went back up to the bowl, lifted it and put it down. Then I put down the chair and whip. The cat dashed up to the bowl and dove in.

Bug graffito

This morning there was a track on the truck’s windshield made by a bug that was having fun on the newly-coated glass. Yesterday we had applied a rain-repelling substance (it obviously doesn’t repel dew) after giving the truck a needed bath before Karla travels first to San Diego then Furnace Creek and finally back home. Rain is predicted for the period she’s gone and this rain-repelling coating will make visibility so much better than wipers alone.

The little bug that made its “art” looks like it either had a lot of fun or was under the influence of some fermented nectar.

Friday, April 9

The emotion behind invention

For those on a bandwidth diet, this may be too big a chunk at roughly 50MB, 20 minutes. But if you want to understand the emotion behind groundbreaking inventing, Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, tells us what motivates him to make the very best, most capable prosthetic arms for soldiers who gave their limbs in battle. Very worth watching. Go to TED | Ideas worth spreading here.

Another major milestone

You know I’m bored when I post stuff like this. There just isn’t a whole lot happening right now, so I revert to tried and true morale-and-ego-boosting stuff like digitizing my 5,000th word.

Karla and neighbor/cousin Bill are heading to San Diego for a birthday celebration of their aunt Frances’ ninetieth birthday. They they will head to Death Valley to pick up some dogs from Luke and Hilary at Furnace Creek to bring them here to the northern boonies. The Furnace Creek Stables will be closing down for the summer soon, so this is in anticipation of Luke and Hilary coming up here to get ready to have their first child in May.

Karla is warily trusting me to handle a return phone call from a person she talked to today who wants to rent the ranch exclusively so he can arrange for an unnamed “major celebrity” to come for a stay. She knows that I will probably ask, “Does your ‘major celebrity’ require Secret Service protection like our last major celebrity?” Yes, the Secret Service snuck all over the mountains in anticipation of the arrival of an unnamed man who was a horse lover and movie actor before he became a “major elected national political person” in the 1980s. They made everyone nervous, what with their black Suburbans filled with sunglasses-clad big thuggish guys sneaking all over the place. (The guest didn’t make it due to advancing dementia. Too bad.)

This should be fun. Other than that, it’s the same-old same-old.

Tuesday, April 6

Windows as weapons

Twice Three times today a hawk has chased its prey toward windows in the house, making for a lot of noise and hawk chow. At 12:40 this afternoon both Karla and I were startled by an especially loud bang as the quail shown above collided with the “greenhouse” window above the three-half-barrel fountain, then fell into the water. The hawk was pulling the quail out of the water as I opened the door and frightened it away. He dropped the bird. Not even a half-hour later, another window claimed another bird’s life. A busy hawk, for sure.

Update—As I write this I heard yet another bird strike. Good grief! We’re going to have a very fat hawk, or a nest-full of well-fed hawk babies.

Monday, April 5

Everyone can take credit cards now.

Are you ready? What will this do to the big credit card processors? I already have a processor for credit card sales, but will this replace them? A whole lot of money is going to be made/lost. Who are the winners/losers?

Stay tuned.

Clicking the Play arrow on the picture won't do anything but make it bigger. Blogger won't play a wide picture directly; it gets cut in half. Go directly to the video on YouTube by clicking here.

Sunday, April 4

Wow! Poetry is easy!

Ernie Kovacs as Percy Dovetonsils
from the Ernie Kovacs Show of the late 1950s

It used to be a difficult profession, poet. In order to succeed you had to please an audience that admired your skill at rhyming. Then one day it was decided by someone with way too much influence that poetry could be simplified by dumping rhyming. Whoever did that convinced the avant garde sophisticated consumers of poetry that this new form was superior. Geniuses like Ogden Nash were still respected, but his work was presented mostly as an amusing old-style exercise in wordsmithing. For example:
Candy is dandy
but liquor is quicker.
Now that’s poetry!

The New Yorker magazine publishes “poetry” in each weekly issue. Here is a snippet from the March 29, 2010 issue:
out of canyon, running out of cartoon
runs out of the cartoon, never to return.
That’s why this landscape looks forlorn.
Whoa. Deep. At least each line ends with the letter “n” with two of them ending with “rn.” Maybe that’s progress, but I don’t think I’ll spend too much time following modern poetry’s progress. Compare that to a piece by the late Shel Silverstein—

The Little Boy and the Old Man
Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”

Said the old man, “I do that too.”

The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”

“I do that too,“ laughed the little old man.

Said the little boy, “I often cry.”

The old man nodded, “So do I.”

“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems

Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.

“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.
Here is an article from the Reason Web site on this subject. Make sure you read the comments, which are revealing.

Dang! Missed it!

If I had only checked in fifteen minutes earlier, the big blue square at the bottom of the map would have been bright red. A 7.2 magnitude quake hit somewhere in northern Mexico (the accuracy of the location was described as “poor”). But at least it didn’t affect California, since we have built a really big fence to keep aliens out, which presumably keeps other invasions at bay.
Due diligence turned up an earlier version of the map that shows the earthquake in brilliant red. That’s more like it! Big red earthquakes are cool.

Saturday, April 3

I KNEW it! I just KNEW it!

Somehow bodies have a way of telling you what researchers and scientists just don’t get. A breakfast of good old greasy food is so satisfying that you can easily tolerate anything you eat later in the day. Here is, finally, vindication of what I just KNEW was right. The Los Angeles Times published an article on April 3 that explains it all. Read it here.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times