Hanging on in quiet desperation is not just the English way.

But seriously, I remember when I thought maybe the road to a satisfied life was to find a career I could really lose myself in. Found one, too, only it turned out a brick in a wall was a model of social integrity and job security compared to me. Later I had another motto, which I actually tried to pass on to a couple of younger people I saw making my mistake: Work hard for the money, sure, that’s only fair. But don’t identify yourself by your job; after they use you up they’ll find another who looks just like you, and they won’t remember your name after you’re gone.

This all came to mind yesterday while I read a short essay Landlady sent me. Not sure I completely buy his premise, but some of the reasoning along the way is pretty good.

When you understand that what you make–whether it’s your career, business, or relationships–will disappear, you can control how you view everything that happens in your life.

You can view each failure as an opportunity, you can view each success as a way to practice non-attachment, and you can view every second as a reason to appreciate, celebrate, and rejoice.

Facing this fact gives you the power to find a game worth playing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

George Washington: Except for the slavery and the treason, what a guy!

I’ve never had actual eggnog in my life, it seems. And at my age, I might not walk away from the experience.

One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate [a dozen] yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

First thought: I want to find people willing to pay me $1/stick for firewood.

Second thought: But then I’d be surrounded by idiots.

Third thought: But I actually bought a few of these, back in the foggy mists of time when I was alone in a company-paid apartment in Socal that had a fireplace. So who’s the idiot?

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Ah, Cuba. Land of socialist enchantment.

I wish I’d thought of this. But it’s more funny as an accident.


The Russian-made jeep ferrying Castro’s ashes broke down and needed to be pushed on Saturday en route to the late leader’s final resting place.

The breakdown of the jeep in the midst of adoring crowds chanting “Long live Fidel!” was symbolic of the dual nature of Castro’s Cuba.

Symbolic of how stupid you can make people with dawn-to-dusk propaganda, backed up by the very real fear of getting beaten to death in a dank dungeon, maybe…

*snicker* The Jeep breaking down in the middle of his funeral parade. GAD, I wish I’d thought of that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How do Kindle files work?

Yeah, I know I vowed not to be sucked into the Kindle vortex. But just when I was craving some old-fashioned space opera, Amazon waved a week’s worth of E. E. Smith under my nose for 99 cents. C’mon, I’m only human.

And then I got to worrying about leaving my very limited Verizon hot spot on while reading that massive document off the “cloud,” whatever the hell that even is. What I wanted was to just download the damned file onto a hard drive, like normal people do, and no Kindle bullshit.

So I started actually looking at my options, which included something called “download and pin,” which I tried, and which gave my measured bandwidth limit a pretty good hit, but which didn’t seem to actually do anything until I attempted to read the file on my tablet with the hot spot turned off.

And to my shock, that actually worked. So good, I guess. But…

Where the hell is the file? I’m reading it on something called a Kindle Reader, which was already loaded on the tablet when I got it. It’s certainly not on the tiny little memory disc and doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the internal storage memory. Now I’m afraid to turn the tablet off, for fear I’ll have to download the book again.

This modern world is too confusing. I’m going out to chip a new tablet out of stone, like god intended. If I make two, I can start my own religion.

Commandment One: Thou Shalt Not Retain Control of Computer Files Thou Hast Sold to Others.

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Just reboot it from time to time and you’ll be fine.

You’ve got your computer problems and I’ve got mine, but the flight crews of Boeing 787 airliners apparently have us all beat.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is issuing a rule requiring urgent attention by operators of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner to avoid the possibility all three computer modules that manage the jet’s flight-control surfaces could briefly stop working while in flight.

Operators must periodically shut and restart the electrical power on the planes, or the power to the three flight control modules. That will avoid the problem until Boeing has a permanent software fix.

In an airworthiness directive to be published Friday, the FAA said it is reacting to indications that “all three flight control modules on the 787 might simultaneously reset if continuously powered on for 22 days.”

It said such a simultaneous reset in flight “could result in flight control surfaces not moving in response to flight crew inputs for a short time and consequent temporary loss of controllability.”

“Uh, yup. There’s your problem right there,” said no mechanic ever as the vehicle he was working on corkscrewed in from 35,000 feet. But it did leave me wondering: Do people really leave the power on in those things for over three weeks at a time?

Once when I was a dealership mechanic I had the opportunity to get into aircraft maintenance instead. Thought it over hard through a weekend, then decided nope. I was too much of a worrier as it was.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Ever since the first time I found myself broke and hungry…

…an experience whose memory I do not cherish, a repeat of which I do not crave…

I have devoted a lot of effort to making certain of two things: I know what is really necessary for the (at least reasonably) comfortable continuance of life, and I’ve got lots of reserves of those things. Life on the economic edge isn’t the same as the edge of starvation, if you just plan ahead a bit. A bulging pantry is better than a full wallet.

Since we’re just scraping the leading edge of winter my pantry does indeed bulge, which is good because my wallet is pretty flat. And one thing I never found a way to store in reserve is gasoline, which while not on the list of essentials goes a long way toward that “reasonably comfortable” mark.

Fortunately I even keep reserves for FRNs…

With just a little organization that big penny jar can become a practical part of your reserves. I let all my spare change collect, then periodically have a coin rolling party. The rolls accumulate unchecked, never spent on frivolities, until the day when I wonder where the money for my next full propane bottle or gas can is going to come from. And there it is, more than a hundred bux I’d nearly forgotten I had.

An unexpected benefit of living in a town so small it doesn’t even contain a bank is that the guy behind the counter loves it when you do this. I learned this when I worked in the saw shop several years ago. In the city when I tried to pay with rolled coins I often got attitude, and first I had to go to a bank and change the coins for bills. But here, chances are the guy behind the counter is running low on coins in one denomination or another. This morning when I went to the gas station I brought far more than I needed and let the guy choose: Pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters? And sure enough, he had a preference.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Pretty sure I killed the wrong rodent…

Stands to reason. I’ve probably been feeding a multitude with all those chicken pellets.

But unless there’s something seriously wrong with its colon, that little deermouse hasn’t been leaving rat-size droppings in the feeder.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Ol’ Seamstress Joel…

Spent the morning re-doing a keyboard gig I thought I’d finished. Went for one last pass before sending it to the customer, and found myself looking at a completely corrupted text document I couldn’t read at all. I don’t think that has happened to me since sometime in the early nineties.

Got that done and sent off, then booted up a movie on the ‘pooter and broke out the sewing kit.

*sigh* This is my new/old canvas coat, which I’ve only had for three years. And lately it’s been springing holes like that was its job. I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of it, but it won’t be long before it’s more patches than canvas. Next year I want to save my shekels and get an honest-to-god Carhartt coat. I’ve never actually owned one.

Having finished that, I felt emboldened to make something I’ve wanted ever since I learned how hard it is to clean the dust off the AK’s new optic…

Not exactly haute couture, but it should end that problem.

Have you sewed a cozy for your rifle today? It needs love too, y’know. :)

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Dammit! Missed.

I hate freezing in the dark. I’d much rather freeze in the light, which is why it has become a tradition for me to sleep as late as I can in winter, at least until the sky is light.

But sometimes a man’s gotta do etc. A rat has gotten exceptionally brazen about eating out of the chickens’ feeder, and so the rat must die. But that involves setting a trap inside the chicken yard, which raises logistical difficulties. A chicken absolutely will peck at that dollop of peanut butter and get her neck broken.

So when the chickens have put themselves to bed, I go out and close up the coop so they can’t get back out. Then I put away the feeder and replace it with the rat trap. And that means I have to get up early in the morning, to set things back right and (hopefully) collect my trophy.

As nearly everyone within the sound of my keyboard knows, the big problem with this is that it’s frickin’ cold outside first thing in the morning. Hardly worth it just to kill one of my ubiquitous and multitudinous rats, no matter what Zelda says.

But this one is cutting into my chicken pellet supply and therefore must die. The chickens are nestled all snug in their beds, though I hear Seymour becoming rather restive…


And I see by the splash of the flashlight that the trap is not where I left it. Which is good. Should be a kill. Which means I can stop this nonsense and stay in bed tomorrow morning.

Dammit! Missed.

Ah, well. If at first you don’t succeed…

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

I guess it’s hunting season…

Things got off to an unusually busy start this cold December morning with a call from New Full-time Neighbor L*: “Mom and I were just going out to the car when four guys in a pickup drove right up to the house. They said they were lost. Now I’m guiding them out to the road, but it’s freaking me out. What to do?”

I told her to stay in the car and on the phone, not adding that the Jeep is an inch-deep in frost and might even be reluctant to start so I wouldn’t be making any very quick trips. Pulled on my snowmobile gloves and ran out to scrape the windshield and start the engine.

Wasn’t too worried because I’m pretty sure it’s deer hunting season and people** do sometimes get lost out here. Hell, I did it myself on my second visit. I told her one late night I had a car full of Mormon missionaries in my yard, had to get dressed and guide them out. Sooner or later they get desperate enough to find a live person and confess their problem – though I confess a truckload of rough-looking guys is not to be taken lightly. L was, no doubt, completely unarmed.

So she made it to the county road and the truck turned the other way and wasn’t following L and her mom any more, and I came down off DEFCON 2. The Jeep was already warming up, so LB and I went for a quick walky and then a nice Jeep ride to check S&L’s house – Yeah, I promised in case the bad men doubled back – close her driveway gate and go check the chickens at Landlady’s.

And now the cabin’s nice and warm, the batteries are nearly charged (at 9 AM with the ‘pooter going!) and I’ve got some keyboard work to do, having already finished the chicken, dog and neighbor chores. It’s the first of the month, so later when it warms up a bit I’ll go check electrolyte levels on neighborhood batteries.

*Can’t have two Neighbors L. I’m even confusing myself. Need a new designator here.

**Damned tourists.

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

I think that’s, like, three-sided karma.

I’ve been taking my laundry to S&L’s on Mondays lately, weather permitting. Of course to operate a washing machine – and I would imagine especially a dryer – off-grid you need a lot of sun. So this week she said bring it on Tuesday, since yesterday was sunny and Monday emphatically was not.

And so LB and I loaded the hamper in the Jeep and drove out to S&L’s yesterday, and while I was there L asked if I could lend them my stovepipe-cleaning gear when I came back to pick up the laundry. Because S wanted to clean the chimney on their woodstove this coming weekend.

Normally that would be fine, except I had been planning to use it myself later in the week at the turn of the month. But there wasn’t anything going on at the Lair to prevent me from going ahead and cleaning my own pipe yesterday morning rather than Thursday. Doesn’t take more than half an hour, may as well just do it, right? So I did, and then brought the 6″ brush and rods to S&L’s and don’t really need them back right away.

The advantage of this is that it got cold early yesterday evening and has stayed frigid today, so ye olde Vogelzang has been rumbling away every waking moment since yesterday. And since I just cleaned the pipe I don’t have my usual attack of “oh god what if the stovepipe catches fire” paranoia. It’s supposed to stay cold all week, so it didn’t really make any sense to put off the chore anyway. I was just being lazy.

Also may I say that all those commenters back in 2012 and ’13 who kept trying to tell me, “Burn it hot and you won’t get any buildup in the pipe” were of course completely right. It has taken me this long to overcome my chimney fire phobia to the point of being able to really crank up the stove, and yesterday there wasn’t actually any reason to clean the pipe at all. A little non-flammable soot, is all.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Oh please don’t unfriend me, Ms. Apologist for Terrorists

I wonder if that’s her indian name? Apologizes for Terrorists – has a ring to it, no? Like a bell made of lead.


No word of compassion for all those innocent people he tried to murder.

Y’know, back when my daughter was that age I felt kind of bad for not pushing her to go to college, mostly because I couldn’t afford it. Now I think of actually doing so as a form of child abuse.

h/t to Claire.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

“There is no fundamental right to literacy.”

There is a state requirement that students attend school. Apparently there is no corresponding requirement that the school teach the students anything.

Armed with only that information, already I knew we were talking about my home town of Detroit: Patron City of Administrative Dysfunction.

Seriously, go read Peter’s take on it. Detroit makes dystopia fun.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Yeah, that’s pretty bad…

Seriously, I’ve had it with “active shooter” scares that exist to set us up for another six weeks of

because yesterday here we went again…

See, here’s the situation, and the best/worst/most ironic part is that I’m supposed to somehow feel guilty about this:

We’ve got this Extra special snowflake at Ohio State who’s apparently all upset because he can’t find a place where he feels safe to publicly pray to Allah, because of all that anti-Muslim backlash that never actually happens. Right? Never mind that if he were half a dozen Baptist kids who wanted to have a Bible study on the quad, they’d probably be summarily executed by the PC police. Who must have SWAT teams by now, surely. Anyway, he wants to express his righteous rage at people who fear Muslims because terrorism by running them down and stabbing them all with a kitchen knife, which is totally not terrorism. Because not Baptist.

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with me, except the first reports had him as another campus shooter, which needless to say will set us up for another six weeks of ‘ban all the guns.’ And I’m getting really tired of ‘ban all the guns.’

Which, since in this case there was no actual danger of such a thing, made me kind of sympathize with the special homicidal snowflake. A bit. At first. Except for the running around killing people thing. Which I totally condemn.

Also, here are a couple of tabs I’ve been saving so long I forget who first juxtaposed them…

Wisconsin’s gun deer season comes to close; safer season reported

Only five hunting-related incidents were reported in the state this gun deer season, and there were no fatalities.

That compares to eight incidents in 2015, including three fatalities.

“We like to have that zero fatality, zero incidents would be great too, but only five with 575,000 licenses sold, it’s a pretty safe gun-deer season overall,” explained DNR conservation warden Randy Dunkel.

That’s over an extended period of time, over an entire large state, during which mostly untrained tyros with high-power rifles are out in the woods actually intending to shoot camouflaged things they can barely see through brush.

Compare that with…

At least eight dead and 58 injured in shootings in Chicago over the Thanksgiving weekend as the city’s homicide rate hits a ten-year high

Which doesn’t really seem to need much of a block quote, does it? Yeah, that’s a single weekend in a gun-free collectivist utopia in which the happy, smiling citizens have all surrendered their atavistic weapons of violence to the proper authorities, so that they may live without fear in peace and security under the protective umbrella of the State.

Curiously, the deer-hunting monsters bitterly clinging to their – apparently harmless – high-power sniper rifles seem to make it into the gungrabber news all the time, while the slaughter among the serene, peaceful Chicago gangbangers never gets mentioned. Someday when I’m all grown up I hope to understand how that works.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Is “whilst” even a word in American English?

Why, when I was your age we said “while.” And we liked it that way.

This has to do with a possible (recurring!) paying gig I’m rather anxious to land. Apparently people in the Commonwealth say whilst a lot. What’s with that?

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments



Glorious – if rather cold – morning.

Yesterday was a complete mess. Sun never once came out, heavy overcast with lots of wind, snow started at dusk, lots more wind and a little snow overnight. But this morning is one of those crystalline clear, cold, utter still mornings that’ll make you rejoice for your senses – while you’re slowly freezing solid. Yeah, someday when I’m rich and famous I’m gonna get me one of those ‘propane heaters’ I’ve heard about, that you can run all night and then not spend the morning shivering in your coat while the fire gets hot. Decadent, boy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

The one big advantage of ground mount…

Winter has arrived at the Gulch. Cold, wind, and our first sprinkling of snow…

This already-melting dusting wouldn’t be worth any action if it were on the panels on my roof. In fact it’s worse on the panels on my roof, and it’s not worth action. Action involves hauling out the extension ladder, shaking/breaking off the ice, getting it set just right, consigning my life to the gods, trying to work an eight-foot pole while balancing on one foot on the ladder…

Yeah, screw that. It takes a helluva snowfall to get one-legged old Uncle Joel up that ladder. In fact I’ve only had the means to do it in the past year or so. Mostly I just wait sans électricité until it melts off by itself.

But now twenty seconds of work gets me clear panels on at least one completely separate circuit. So I’ll probably stop worrying about the roof panels on snowy mornings. Which will make me feel much better about a lot of things. Like my prospects of dying alone in the snow with a broken back.

I even moved the squeegee into the ratproof shed, which is right next to the ground mount. Me so ready for winter…

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Adventures in completely missing the point

Various police-stroking organizations hope they’ll have better luck with Trump than they ever did with Obama. Unfortunately they probably will. Clutching to his breast that ol’ false dichotomy, Obama’s condemnation of police abuses far too often took the form of praise for the freelance thugs, which wasn’t much help. But I expect Trump to go all law’n’order to the point of routine stop and frisk for little old black ladies. In their own living rooms, wouldn’t really surprise me.

The title of the Washington Times piece tells me it’s not just the cops who miss the point…

Police hopeful Donald Trump will usher in new era of respect for law enforcement

The piece points out two things on the cops’ wish list, merrily skipping past how mutually exclusive they are…

“The first thing, and something Mr. Trump has already done well, is use the bully pulpit to improve the perception of police officers,” said James Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Under the Obama administration, law enforcement leaders say their officers have felt unfairly characterized as villains amid the movement for policing reform and have become targets for hostility.

“We welcome a reset button,” said Ron Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and a former assistant director of the FBI.

Uh huh. So do I. And yet – presumably as a part of their quest for this ‘improved perception,’ guess what they also want?

Beyond tamping down what police believe has been hostile rhetoric, departments are encouraging the Trump administration to back changes that will allow them to better arm themselves, expand access to training and increase penalties for those who attack officers.

One topic of discussion among departments has been the resumption of a program that allowed them access to the Defense Department’s surplus military gear.

Under the Obama administration’s restrictions, items like grenade launchers, bayonets and armored tracked vehicles were banned from transfer to police departments.

…the use of which put a cherry on top of complaints people on the edges of society, as well as virtually all black Americans, have made against cops for over a century. Complaints which were successfully shuffled off into the crank file until cops started showing up on national TV looking like the villain’s minions in a Resident Evil sequel…

My obvious point being that President Trump couldn’t ‘usher in a new era of respect for law enforcement’ if that were the sole aim of his entire administration. Only cops can do that, and they won’t. The ‘war on stuff’ rhetoric kind of got out of hand when cops started dealing with ‘civilians’ as if they were actually fighting an actual war against them. You don’t have to look very hard to see where people might get the impression that Mr. Policeman is not their friend.

But you’ll never in life convince the police – or at least their spokesmen – of that. And so if anything changes, it’s likely to only get worse.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Okay, so among other things Summer 2016 will be remembered as that time…

…when rats discovered the delicious, delicious taste of extension cords.

And the trouble with that is that Landlady’s continued water supply in winter requires a heat tape on the cistern’s outlet pipe. Which is about 35 feet from the nearest source of electricity. Every winter for nearly as long as I’ve been here, we’ve stretched an extension cord between those two points without any problem. But once they’ve got the taste of a particular thing, replacing that thing only consigns that new thing to a chopped-up death.

Which is why I wanted to bore a hole in Landlady’s powershed, which is stuccoed. Went ahead and ruined the one hole saw gnawing through the stucco, then yesterday (sigh) I bought a new one to finish going through the plywood. Then I ran the brand-new replacement extension cord through a whole bunch of inch-and-a-half PVC pipe. Since I’m kind of one-armed for shoveling purposes at the moment Landlady dug the trench, I just laid the conduit and hooked things up before we get a hard freeze, which the weatherman says is imminent.

Squirted expanding foam in both ends of the PVC, and once the cistern’s end is properly buried that should at least make the rats have to work a little harder from now on.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments