Monday, May 31

Don’t be changing it on your mind, you hear?

For all of you who have fitted RJ-45 plugs to Cat 5e network cable, you know how easy it is to mess up. For all of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, it ain’t easy with the wrong tools, which, it turns out, I have. Anticipating difficulties, I bought a cable connection tester which is obviously made in a country that is not the United States. There is no identification on the tester or its package as to where it’s made, but I think I can guess when I saw the warning on the package—

The part about changing it on your mind is still puzzling to me.

Sunday, May 30

Messin’ with the hamster

It can be a lot of fun playing with the hamster at the top of the page. Instead of simply clicking your mouse and dropping a little green pellet, try tossing the pellet by moving the cursor as you click, then releasing mid-toss. The pellet can be thrown against the side of the picture, the top, the bottom, and it bounces realistically. Unfortunately you can’t toss the pellet at the hamster itself and knock it over, writhing and bleeding at the bottom of the cage. Maybe the next version will have these satisfyingly realistic options, kind of a takeoff on whack-a-mole.

Here’s lookin’ atcha

Hilary got some pictures of Benjamin this morning. He’s becoming more focused on what he’s looking at, rather than just pointing his eyes in a random direction. In this photo he’s looking directly into your very soul, so you’d better be on your best behavior.

Photo: Hilary Hurley Painter

Saturday, May 29

Happy meal

Every once in awhile I like to cook eggs in a small pan and flip them like the pros, by tossing them airborne and catching them in the pan. On this third attempt, it worked out nice and round. Made me smile, so I dressed things up with a smiley sausage.

Friday, May 28

Another high point

After only 24,000 and some games, I got another one that played first time through without repeating the deck. First time through, no repeats. Wow. Made my day.

[Get… a… life,… Tom.]

Wednesday, May 26

Even sugar isn’t this sweet

Today Apple Inc. surpassed rival Microsoft and became the most valuable technology company in the world. Measured by market cap, Apple is second only to the US’s largest company, ExxonMobil. About ten years ago, we invested some of Hilary’s money in Apple at a split-adjusted $7.50 a share. It has increased in value by well over 3,000 percent. Apple’s surpassing of Microsoft’s market cap is, just as the New York Times said today, an absolutely stunning turnaround. Apple left Walmart in the dust a couple of months ago.

Too bad we didn’t buy TWO shares.


Tuesday, May 25

Good for a laugh

This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has this article in it with an amusingly captioned picture. For fun, find all three errors in the caption.

So that’s what it is…

I must admit I don’t have a burning curiosity about the names of the plants around here—mostly the term “weed” suffices. But there’s a remarkable plant that has filled a large bowl almost to bursting that puts on a show at least once a year, and it’s called Easter lily cactus. It’s a native of Bolivia, according to this article in the Los Angeles Times today. The picture above was taken Sunday after a very tiny rainstorm that came through when we were involved in our spring roundup.

Sunday, May 23

Hey! Let’s invite 34 people to lunch!

Do you remember the old movies where Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland decide to use an old barn to put on a great big show? Well, we don’t have the time nor talent nor barn to do that, but we do have 41 horses and mules that need immunizations, hoof trimming and dental checkups. That in itself is deserving of a big audience of neighbors, friends, and relatives. Oh, yeah—we include lunch in the bargain.

Here Hilary (with Benjamin) consults with Gina, our vet’s able assistant.

Dr. Mike, one of California’s most knowledgeable vets (everything from emus to elephants) pokes his digital dental tool (finger) into a mouth for an exam.

Our excellent equines eagerly await their appointment with the doctor.

Frank, our farrier/blacksmith/sculptor does a quick hoof trim. Note his sculpted hoof stand at lower right.

Neighbor Candy brings a luncheon centerpiece from her garden.

It’s chowtime! Tri-tip, beans, potato salad, rolls, salad plate. Finished off with strawberry shortcake topped with whipped cream and ice cream. Lots of drinks and camaraderie.

Back to the original premise—lunch for 34.
The horse show was simply for entertainment!

Saturday, May 22

Ben’s music appreciation starts

Wow, it seems so little time has passed, but Benjamin is already 17! (Days)

Hilary got to noodle around with the camera and came up with some nice pictures she said I could share with you. Benjamin seems very pleased by the tinkling sound of music coming from this blue rocking horse being ridden by a fuzzy bear. So soft, no tiny infant-choking parts, lead-free, no PCBs or bifurcated phenol-infused flummoxes—in a word, safe. The music is, well, just a bit ethno-centric, what with its being composed by a German-born Austrian composer who also happened to be a white guy. We can hope that at some time in Benjamin’s life Brahms’ Lullaby gains acceptance internationally and can be played in mixed company. Ben will grow up in a challenging world, so let’s let him have some peace for now.

Photos: Hilary Hurley Painter

Wednesday, May 19

I am bushed

I am bushed. Four hours of pounding and beating on a recalcitrant adobe road filled with rocks can be bushing. That’s after two previous days of the pounding and beating. Hilary had asked me to take the top off of a part of our driveway a mile and a half downstream that makes the horse trailer come awful close to hitting the back of the truck when she comes in with a load of equines. Here’s the scenario: As the truck descends, the angle between and it and the trailer (which is attached to the center of the bed of the truck, not the bumper) increases, making the possibility of the trailer smacking the tailgate and bed sides acute. Make sense? You have to be there, since I don’t have a picture.

Anyhow, I scarified the rock-laden near-dry red clay several times, bulldozed a bit of it down, graded the result, and finally reduced the danger of the trailer smacking into the bed of the truck. I hope it’s sufficient.

Then I ventured down to one of the impossibly rocky places on our road. A neighbor, who owns the area’s most gigantic bulldozer, said our road is impossible. “You will never be able to fix it with that little grader,” he told me. “I wouldn’t even try with my big dozer.” Well, thanks neighbor, but I will make it better with my “little grader.” All it takes is relentless attacks, an inch at a time, endless digging, scraping, moving dirt a shovel-full at a time up the slope. Fighting the nasty grass at the sides where I scrape up the pittance of dirt. Grass absolutely stops the natural action of a road grader’s mold board (the big blade). Normally, without grass, you scoop up some dirt with the blade at an angle. The dirt moves along laterally and drops away where you want it. When there’s tall, green, thick grass, it plugs up the action; the dirt simply piles up and doesn’t move laterally at all. Huge wads of tangled grass plop along the road, looking like someone was hauling an unwanted horsehair mattress to the dump, dragged behind their truck. The mattress never makes it to the dump.

If you’ve read my earlier posts about the road grader, you know it doesn’t offer a luxury ride. Today I made the mistake of sitting down on its meager seat while pounding along down to the work site. A couple of the bumps in the road pounded my spine to the point of pain. So I stood on my tiptoes with knees bent to absorb the shocks. That can be tiring. Being jerked to a complete stop by running into large rocks embedded in the road can be tiring. Being tired can be tiring.

I am bushed.

Monday, May 17

My, how times change…

Here Benjamin enjoys an almost in-utero pose enabled by his car seat. When his mother, Hilary, was a little kid her car seat was a simple plastic shell with a fluffy sheepskin liner. It was held in the car with the standard lap belt. Benjamin’s ride is done in this fancy multi-part super Consumer Reports top-rated device that provides all the protection you can imagine. One thing it doesn’t do — if there’s a crash, it doesn’t have an explosive ejection mechanism to get Ben away from the accident scene. Nor does it have an air bag. That’ll come in the next model, I suppose. Poor Ben; he was born too soon for the latest. (Weren’t we all?)

Remembering the past, I, your faithful blogger, was tossed into the back seat of our 1941 Chevrolet and told to shut up if I fell on the floor due to sudden braking. At least a couple of times when I was old enough to sit in the front seat my head met the metal dashboard when Dad applied the brakes too hard. ‘41 Chevys were cruel and harsh. Consequently, so am I.

Thus we are the product of our times.

Sunday, May 16

Balls from the land of giant 3-year-olds!

A couple of days ago I bought a bag-o-balls for the dogs. I had been tossing sticks for them to chase, and after a few weeks, we were running out of sticks. Sticks don’t bounce like a good ball, either. In the doggie toys section of the local supermarket the only dog toys they had were squishy soft little sissy things that would only be appropriate for yappy little fuzzball indoor wimp doggies whose ear tufts are adorned with pink ribbons. We have REAL dogs here, dogs that could tear you a new one if you don’t behave. Dogs that love to rub their shoulders in fresh cow pies and proudly march into the house wearing their keen new scent. Dogs that never chicken out of a skunk fight. Dogs that get lots of hosings-off. REAL dogs, to repeat.

The balls were cheap and plentiful at the pharmacy across the street, but came in a curiously-labeled vinyl bag. In large capital letters, buyers are warned: TO AVOID DANGER OF SUFFOCATIONS, [sic] KEEP THIS BAG AWAY FROM BABIES AND CHILDREN FOR PUTTING THE BAG OVER THEIR HEAD. All right, that’s reasonable though I can hardly imagine anyone suffocating by putting a stiff vinyl package over his/her head.

The smaller warning really leaves me mystified though. WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD - Small parts. Not for children under 3 years. These balls are the size of regulation tennis balls. I’ve never seen a three-year-old with a mouth that big!

Thursday, May 13

Get rich quick, or blog for free

A couple of days ago I blogged about the way Google searches blogs for keywords they use to present relevant ads to accompany the blog. My example about mesothelioma actually brought on two meso ads and one about asbestos. When the article I wrote about frogs appeared mentioning their problems with a fungus that kills them, a Google ad about mold appeared. If my readers were to click on the mesothelioma ads, I would be enriched beyond my wildest imaginings, financed by evil greedy lawyers, but I would never be so crass as to ask readers to do so. As for the mold ads, they’re about mold in structures, not on frogs or bats. Google hates when bloggers ask people to click on ads, so I would never do that. If I did, I could lose my privilege to use Blogspot for free. I would have to move to a blog provider that charges money, like TypePad. Then I would have to recruit all my readers to switch, but if Blogger cut me off, I wouldn’t be able to find the regular readers. I’m stuck between Iraq and a hard place. Just sayin’.

Wednesday, May 12

We are running out of frogs

I have been a frog friend for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid in Fresno I found one that had been under a box under my bed. It was desiccated, a poor shriveled bony wreck, but still alive. I picked it up gently and put it in the bathroom sink with a bit of water, hoping it would revive. Mom discovered it and shrieked “There’s a frog in the sink!” I explained that it might revive if it were left there long enough. That was not to happen; the frog died. Not Mom’s fault, you see, but in those days there were plenty of frogs.

Fast-forward to 2010. Things are different now. There’s a fungus that kills frogs. A different fungus is doing the same to bats, killing them by the hundreds of millions. Just a few years ago I was entertained by the sounds of hundreds, maybe thousands of small frogs around where I live. But that has changed, and changed drastically. GreenFrog is now the sole inhabitant of our wine barrel fountain. Not too long ago the same fountain held at least a dozen frogs. He croaks every night to attract a mate so they can produce some viable eggs and tadpoles and finally new frogs to continue their line. His croaks are answered by a few frogs down in the creek, 200 feet (60 meters) distant. It is unlikely they will ever meet.

Oh well, so what if we have fewer frogs and fewer bats—they’re both attractiveness-impaired in most people’s opinions. But they both could be the canaries in the coal mine, telling us that we have some difficult times ahead regarding the habitability of our planet. Bats are responsible for eating gazillions of flying insects. Frogs do their part too. Without them, what happens to our food supplies? More pesticides? Human babies are now being born laden with artificial chemistry in their bodies, poisons from the food we eat from chemically-protected farms. Are we destined to suffer the fate of frogs and bats?

This article in the Fresno Bee concerns what is being discovered in nearby Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. Fast-spreading pathogens aren’t limited to frogs and bats, so the article includes a warning for us. Worth a read.

Photo: Adam Backlin / U.S. Geological Survey

Tuesday, May 11

Are goats more discriminating than dogs?

Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it to feed something savory to a dog. There’s always the fun of watching dogs catch tossed food, contorting their leaping bodies left right center up down to grab a morsel. It can be amazing if the dog is truly athletic. It can also be fun if you are in a mildly sadistic mood, tossing inedible or unsavory things to a dog that can’t resist catching whatever is thrown. Like yesterday when I peeled strips of skin from a half-banana I was eating and tossed them to the dog. She caught every bitter piece of banana skin, then spat it out onto the floor. When I stopped tossing, she re-examined each piece, trying to understand why she shouldn’t eat them, then headed for the water dish to wash away the bitter taste. I apologized for my bad behavior and tossed her a few nice pieces of cheese.

I should be flogged.

But here’s my complaint: Dogs gulp. They don’t savor. They don’t mull. They don’t even chew unless the piece they’re eating is too big to swallow in a gulp without choking. Somehow they detect in a few nanoseconds whether or not the morsel is edible, then they gulp. You could toss the most exquisite sumptuous piece of food to them and it might as well be a lump of coal. A stale, dusty piece of popcorn that you sweep up from beneath the car seat where it had hidden for several months is equivalent to a ten-dollar clump of caviar.

Decades ago I lived in a house full of college students, of which I was one. An ag major brought a big goat, a really nasty animal, to live in the two-acre field in back of the house. For several semesters the goat had been used as a roping target and was fed up with cowboys chasing and tying and abusing him, so he simply stopped running. I tried to be nice to the goat, but got chased and butted in return for my affections. Someone told us that goats really liked liquor and got very mellow after a few sips. So I offered the goat a cup of red wine, which he practically inhaled. He treated me with some respect for awhile. Days later I offered him a little glass of single-malt Scotch whisky, brought to us by one of the ag professors. The goat REALLY liked that, and was very friendly to everyone for several days. Offerings of cheap jug wine were still accepted by the goat, but he wouldn’t be nice to us for more than a few hours afterward. I learned that the quality (price) of beverage had a direct effect on the goat’s friendliness.

I haven’t tried booze on dogs, but I truly doubt that the quality of beverage will have any effect on their behavior since they simply ingest without discrimination. Besides, dogs are friendly to start with; they are indiscriminate, non-judgmental, trusting eating machines. Hence my question: Are goats more discriminating than dogs?

Monday, May 10

Being ethical

According to the above pie chart, I see that much of the traffic to my blog is direct, meaning people make a conscious connection, curious to know what emanates from a slowly rotting mind. Slightly more of the traffic is referred from other sites, whatever that means. Roughly one in ten people come via search engines, such as Google or Yahoo! or Bing. The search engine traffic could easily be increased if I used blog titles like Free Gold! or Earn Millions By Being a Couch Potato. How about Lose Weight Eating Nothing But Potato Chips. Or Beer Makes You Slim and Sober. Or any title having the word Sex in it.

Since Day One I opted for the Google listing of ads that are connected to the content of the blog entries. For example if I write about my old 1972 Porsche, they plug in ads for car-related stuff. If I talk about dogs, they show ads for dog food or grooming or whatever their dog-type advertisers are pitching. If one of my readers clicks on an ad, I get paid a pittance by Google, 10¢ or so. That has yet to happen.

If, however, I blog about mesothelioma and readers click on the ads, I could get BIG bucks from the lawyers lining their pockets with settlements from the asbestos industry. Just like the lawyers handling the tobacco settlements kept the yacht-building industry afloat (pun intended), the lung cancer asbestos guys are paying a lot for clicks on their ads.

Would I stoop to the level of manipulating the honest and ethical behavior expected by Google for its providing free access to the world-wide public via Blogger? Of course not!


Mother’s Day

Luke and Hilary took their son outside on Mother’s Day for a look at the fast-clearing sky after a brief storm. Benjamin is starting to get the hang of using his eyes to gather more experience of the world.

High fives for Dad

The sky is so big!

He’s definitely a keeper!

Sun puts on another light show

Three months ago NASA launched an observatory to look at the sun. The Solar Dynamics Observatory got its money’s worth recently with this huge eruption putting on a show unlike any seen in a very long time. Billions of tons of mass were blown away in this eruption (fortunately not aimed at earth). You can watch a time-lapse video on YouTube here.

Wouldn’t this be even better if a tiger jumped through the hoop? Just a suggestion.

Friday, May 7

More Benjamin pix

Hilary’s good friend and doula Audrey participated in the entire experience of Benjamin’s birth with her. Here she and long time family friend Merle Dooley enjoy getting acquainted with Benjamin.

Luke starts practicing a necessary duty—diaper changes!

Benjamin enjoys his mom’s embrace.

He-e-ere’s Benjamin!!

The pictures speak for themselves.

Wednesday, May 5

Tomorrow, pictures!

Karla and I will visit Hilary tomorrow at the hospital. They had recommended that she be allowed at least a full day of rest without disturbance after her C-section. So we will descend with a camera and a computer and put together a blog from the actual scene of the blessed event. The hospital has free WiFi and we will take advantage of it to keep you up-to-date and brag about being grandparents for the first time. From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty spiffy (being grandparents, not WiFi).

Although WiFi is also pretty spiffy.


Have you ever sneezed just once? I can’t remember if I ever did; a sneeze was always followed by another sneeze. And now when I sneeze, it happens three times, not just two. Why? I don’t know, but it inspired me to pen the following:
I didn’t choose
that my achoos
came in twos.
But now I sneeze
in threes.
For what it’s worth.

Benjamin Thomas Painter

Born May 5, 2010 at 1:26 AM in Clovis, California to Luke and Hilary Painter after 25 hours of very hard work on the mother’s part, and the total unyielding devotion of Luke. The drama took place in a private room at the Clovis Community Hospital. Hilary was also attended to by a midwife and Hilary’s wonderful friend and doula, Audrey. Out there in the lobby was the audience consisting of grandparents-to-be Rick and Barbara Painter and Tom and Karla Hurley. Hilary’s valiant effort finally ended in a Caesarian section since Little Ben was actually Big Ben and wouldn’t fit through the canal. Eight pounds, three ounces and an Apgar score of 9 (out of 10). Luke was proud that his son scored 90% on his very first test. Karla and I got back home at 4:35 AM to feed the three dogs and one cat and we are going to crash and ignore all phone calls for at least ten hours.

God bless this beautiful child.

Tuesday, May 4

Water brake? Breakwater?

At 1 this morning Luke announced something regarding Hilary that involves a breakwater or something. I was too sleepy to get the whole message, but it turns out they needed us to go ahead of them and open the gates to get them on the way to the hospital in Clovis. And while we’re at it, change their sheets because one of them wet the bed or something. I dunno. I was so sleepy I don’t think I really understand what’s going on. Later when things are more clear, I will have more to say I guess.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 3

Why there are so few blogs (if any!) written by road grader operators

This hydraulic ram rod was bent at a 30° angle before I fixed it.

In the past few days, I have been involved in getting parts of our 3.2-mile (5 kilometer) driveway up to snuff. Using our little Bower Industries Model 50 Roadrunner, a grader that hasn’t been manufactured for at least 25 years (we have serial number 5092 of 100 made) I gamely head out to our rock-strewn narrow little road to try to make it at least a little bit smoother. Its 2-cylinder diesel engine is always reliable, its hydraulic system performs beautifully, its mold board (the really long blade that runs across between the front wheels and back wheels and does most of the work) is wonderfully controllable, the eleven levers that control the speed, engine power, mold board, the bulldozer blade in front, the three-clawed scarifier for tearing up tough soil, the overall length of the machine, and the right-to-left position of the whole front wheel assembly (called “frame articulation”) are embedded totally in my memory to the point that I never have to look to see which lever I am pulling or pushing. After several years, it all becomes second nature.

But we have a real challenge for small graders here in these hills. They aren’t made to operate in places where there are so many large deeply embedded rocks and tough tree roots. The rocks are manageable, the roots are the worst. Today as I was gathering some soil along the edge of the road an oak root brought the whole machine to a sudden halt and caused one of the hydraulic cylinder rods to bend at least 30° which meant I had to limp home and go through an oft-repeated remedial action to get it unbent. I checked some sites on the Web to see what it could cost for a hydraulic cylinder that has a thicker rod that wouldn’t bend so easily. I will probably have to replace our cylinder in order to hope for any viable chance of keeping our road in shape. While I was looking on the Web, I checked some sites to see why grader drivers don’t blog. On the John Deere site, I ran across this: “…motor graders are one of the most challenging machines to master” which obviously means there’s no time for blogging if you drive one of these things. Especially if the one you are driving doesn’t have an enclosed cab (like mine doesn’t) or air conditioning (like mine doesn’t) or satellite radio (like mine doesn’t) or even a comfy seat (like mine doesn’t).

Or a fridge to keep your beer cold (like mine doesn’t).

Another thing our grader doesn’t have—springs! It’s a bouncy ride, one that means you don’t sit; you stand with knees bent to absorb the shock. At least my leg tendons and muscles are getting some high-intensity stress that could make them stronger. Or wear them out!

I hope this explains why I haven’t been blogging for a while. I’m bushed.