Temp in the high thirties, ick dripping from every branch…

It’s another fine morning in the Pacific Northwet, which has magically been transported here to the southwest high desert for reasons probably having something to do with bad things I did in a previous life. Or this life, maybe.

I have a friend who claims to prefer the PNW to the desert. To each her own, I say, but must confess I don’t get it. If this keeps up my fingers are going to shrivel.

I can’t stay on, because yesterday we learned the limits of my ‘more is better’ philosophy regarding solar panels in thick overcast. More is better, but yesterday my more-than-doubled array just didn’t help at all. We’re almost a month past the solstice, but even so last night the battery voltage was so startlingly low I went out to the powershed and turned the inverter right off. Damned if that didn’t bring the indicated voltage up two tenths, too. It’s scary how much juice the inverter pulls even when it’s not doing anything useful.

Fortunately I was smart enough to acquire an older brother who’s smarter than I am. And through the wonders of his brain and wallet and some retrofitting, the Lair has 12 volt LED lighting in all the important corners even when the inverter’s not on.

Things are supposed to improve later continue crappy today, according to the revised forecast, but so right now I really shouldn’t be using the juice it takes to run this bitsy laptop.

Ghost has come to stay the week with us again…

…and Ghost has grown used to a substantially higher standard of living. Like eating fancy food twice a day, if you please. And you may recall, he has always been willing to point out my flaws in the hospitality management department. He’s helpful like that. Reminds me of being married.

This is the third day for my pot of pork/potatoes/peas soup, which this morning was thinking hard about turning unpleasant. So I warmed it and rehydrated it and gave it to the boys, and even Ghost found that acceptable.

LB, cleaning the pressure cooker for me, said he could get into this “breakfast” thing.

Don’t get used to it, LB. It took a lot to move you from ‘obese’ to merely ‘very large.’ We’re not going back there no matter how much you’ve got to starve and feel put upon.

Maybe more later, when we get some sun here in the sun-soaked desert. Maybe not, can’t say. Carry on.

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That’s no way to start a morning…

Washington State has come to the high desert. Cold. Wet. Drizzly. Foggy. Seriously? Oy.

AND I left the powershed door propped open all night, which was only annoying until I played back why I’d been in there last, and then I was horror-struck. “Did I leave that tub open? I think I left that tub open.”

I made a lovely pork, potato and pea soup last evening, using one of the chunks of frozen pork Landlady gave me in late summer and some dried split peas Big Brother had sent. The peas were in a burlap sack stored in a tub in the powershed, along with my new bag of rice, some lentils and chick peas I hope to never use, and #60 of flour which is half my deep-stored supply. I neglected to bring the sack of peas back to the powershed, which means I neglected to close that tub up tight.

Yeah, I made some mouse’s night.

Did it get into the chick peas or lentils, to which it would have been almost welcome? No, it did not. It tore open all three flour sacks. Mice don’t even like flour much, judging from evidence. This one was just sent by Uncle Murphy to rap my knuckles. At least it left my brand-new sack of brown rice alone. That shit’s expensive, and it was a gift from Ian.

(It occurs to me, as I go through that inventory in my head, that I should be nicer to people. They keep me eating.)

Fortunately the mouse didn’t really spoil much, just tore little holes in the bag looking for flour it didn’t hate. And of my two six-gallon flour buckets, one was half-full and the other completely empty. So in the cold and wet before dawn I was pouring flour into my buckets…and on the floor, and on my pants, and on my one clean hoodie…

Damn mice. Damn absent-mindedness.

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By the way…

I just thought of something. You see that trash can in the front of the Jeep trailer?

When I took that picture I was just back from the county dump, then the feed store. The last dump run – I just looked it up, because god help me I keep track of these things – was October 28.

Which means that in ten weeks I produced enough non-burnable or compostable garbage to fill one single garbage can. Reduce, re-use, recycle, baby.

In fact I ought to be the greatest guy a greenie ever met. I produce 100% of my electricity with solar – I don’t even own a generator. I irrigate plants (well, two plants) with my gray water. I’m a recycling god. Hell, I even have a live trap for varmints*.

Now. You think Al Gore would cause his countenance to shine upon the likes of me? Didn’t think so.

And all those years wearing earth tones, too…

*Once I catch the live critters I shoot them in the head, but I do use a live trap.

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So I hear on the Jeep’s radio…

…that parts of California are saying they’re pretty much done crying drought…

SNF road
No, problem, though. You need any more of my share, you just holler. I’m kind of digging this dry winter.

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At some point the nitrogen overwhelms the available carbon…

…or some such hippie chemistry. If you let your chicken yard ‘deep compost’ get too far out of hand, Al Gore sends a SWAT team or an air strike with napalm or some damn thing, I forget. One thing’s for sure, you start smelling manure.

What’s also sure is that the yard of the Fortress of Attitude needed digging out before I hurt my shoulder, and that was almost three months ago. So yesterday along with the usual pellets I bought two straw bales. One went to Landlady’s place, the other was for the Fortress. But first I had to dig out some of the compacted, moisture-saturated and only partly-rotted straw and manure already there, at least eight inches deep.

I took out four wheelbarrows worth and stirred up most of the rest before running out of steam, then brought in the new straw. At that point it’s time for the chickens to do some of the work themselves.

And they will, too. They love digging and looking for bugs. By this afternoon they’ll have all those flakes separated and flung everywhere. I’ll need to go in three or four times during the process to clean out their waterer.

These four remaining hens are one round tuit away from the butchering sink and the freezer. The pullets are fully on-line now as little egg-laying machines, and I’m out of excuses. If I put new hens in with old it causes nothing but trouble and these aren’t good for much anyway. So pretty soon Seymour’s going to get some new lady friends.

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But it’s a good kind of problem to have…


For the first time in two years I’m up to my ass in eggs. I’ve just been taking the ones the pullets crack, because they won’t keep, and I’ve still got more than I can use. Landlady is going to grit her teeth, pretending it’s a smile…

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The first cut is the deepest

Morning turned busier than intended; just as I got back from morning walkie and was about to start with bread baking, the phone rang. Neighbor D wanted to go to the dump, and move the Saturday trip to town to this morning.

As it happened that worked out well for me, because I have some stuff that could go to the dump and also need a bunch of chicken stuff, and both those things require the Jeep trailer. So that’s one trip with the trailer instead of two.

It did mean, though, that it was time for a certain new chore coat to lose its notional virginity…

Yeah, it’s just straw and dust. Beats right out. But it’s the first straw and dust, and the first one is the hardest.

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“Freedom is about Authority”

Thus infamously spake Rudy Giuliani, who yesterday finally found a teat far down on the underbelly of the new Trump administration. Giuliani, it is said, “will be sharing his expertise and insight as a trusted friend concerning private sector cybersecurity problems and emerging solutions developing in the private sector.”

In celebration, the website of Giuliani’s computer security firm crashed several times yesterday due to security problems that left it ‘extremely vulnerable to hackers.’

His website giulianisecurity.com, which crashed several times on Thursday, is run on an outdated version of Joomla! – a freely available content management system.

The version of the CMS Giuliani is using for his website is about four years old, which features more than a dozen vulnerabilities.

The flaws were pointed out by on social media by numerous renowned hackers including The Jester and Phobos Group founder Dan Tentler.

‘Giuliansecurity.com is currently down. Unclear if Trumps cybersecurity pick killed it out of shame or sheer weight of twitter laughing,’ The Jester tweeted.

Best of luck, Mr. Giuliani. I’m sure if you express your views on authority to them, the computers of the nation will fall respectfully into line. Be firm! Be stern.

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This sort of thing doesn’t get reported very often.

Arizona trooper shot in ambush attack; Good Samaritan kills gunman

An Arizona trooper trying to help a motorist in a rollover crash was shot in an ambush-style attack by a random suspect, who was then fatally shot by a Good Samaritan driving by.

We know that nothing good ever comes of a ‘good guy with a gun,’ of course, because Shannon Watts told us so. So I believe it.

Statistically, of course, it must happen a lot but I’m not holding my breath waiting for the flood of news items talking about it. I was just surprised to see this one written so unambiguously. It probably made it past the gatekeepers because of the cop.

h/t to Gatordoug

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I do believe this is a personal best.

In February 2012, only a few months after we moved in, I had a stovepipe fire here in the Lair. It didn’t last long, did no damage, was caused by circumstances that no longer exist, and scared the living crap out of me. For years thereafter I was extremely uncomfortable building a fire in the woodstove. And since wood is the only heat source the Lair is even designed for, that was a problem.

The only way I could cope at all, for the first winter after the fire, was to clean the stovepipe obsessively. At least once a week, more often every 3-4 days. I cleaned it every time the forecast suggested the weather would stay cold enough to burn wood during the day. Seriously, I cleaned it whenever I had a few spare minutes. It was ridiculous.

The following winters were a bit better but a really good roaring fire could still cause my heart to go pitty-pat. Only now, almost five years after the fire, have I ever exceeded a once-a-month interval. On this day, January 12 2017, almost five years after the fire, I actually went six weeks between cleanings. I think my phobia is finally officially behind me.

All clean.

All clean.

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Look who’s back!

Ever since I buggered up my shoulder sometime in October I’ve carried the Makarov as my EDC pistol, just because it’s the shortest gun I own*. I stopped carrying the Tracker because my shoulder simply would not perform the action required to draw it from any holster I possess. This went on so long I’d begun to contemplate getting a left-handed holster and practicing a lot, but lately there has been some improvement.

But yesterday there was a brief almost maybe-gonna-be-an-incident, similar to this one, that reminded me why I like to carry a real pistol. I drew the Mak because I didn’t know what was going to come out of the scrub in my direction – nothing did, as it happened, but I really wished for my .44.

Freedom of movement in my rotator cuff is coming back faster than strength: I can draw the pistol, but can extend it offhand only with grunting pain. So at present the only way I could shoot the gun with any hope of accuracy would be to draw with my right and pull it up to eye-level with my left.

But I’m hoping that by now I’ve healed enough that I can benefit from exercise? The arm is actually of quite a lot of use now, and I never get those spells where I move it wrong or tense it wrong and go through ten minutes of slowly-fading agony. I have been able to reach up and remove very light things from shelves at higher than shoulder level for quite some time now, though it hurts a little sometimes. I can lift my arm from this keyboard without needing to use the other arm, and that only hurts a little bit.

*Technically this is untrue. I also own an NAA mini-revolver. But I’ve never killed anything with it.

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You’re not fired, no, just really seriously demoted.

Almost two weeks late on Battery Day. Just got back from chicken chores and it’s a far finer day than yesterday – or maybe I’m just getting a little mojo back – and so LB and I are going to make the powerhouse rounds.

And the new canvas coat goes on the rack and the old canvas coat comes out…

…because battery acid, and I’m still not entirely convinced the constant holes aren’t caused by something I’m doing. So since the old coat is pretty much trashed anyway it can just keep doing what it’s been doing, and save wear and tear on the new one.

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Oh, maybe we’ll get some sun today…

High temp 58o, “Clouds breaking for some sun, wind gradually subsiding.” So says the forecast. We didn’t get the dangerously cold stormy weather that so typically welcomes the new year in the high desert, in fact the nights have been freakishly warm. But it also has been gloomy, windy and moist. We had one unnaturally nice day right after the return from the city, but since then I’m breaking in that new coat, that’s for damned sure.

Have I mentioned how much I like that coat? But I sure could do with some sun, if that’s all right. Gloomy and windy is perfect weather for sitting around and doing nothing, though, which is what I’ve been doing. Given that that’s most of what I accomplished last week while I was gone, I’m surprised at being so blown out and tired this week. But it’s so.

I feel for Big Brother and wife, who chose this winter to drive nearly around the circumference of the nation, a trip taking weeks and sending them through some of the worst weather of the winter so far. They got home just about the time I did, give or take a day, and I’d be surprised if either of them have mustered the energy to unpack yet.

Maybe I’ll stir around a little more today, I dunno…

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Do presidents typically give ‘farewell’ addresses?

If so, how many? Because I’m getting tired of this clown going on and on about how great he is. (Warning: Auto-play vid)

Seriously, if the DNC had selected any random SNL alum and made it into a president, equipped it with a pen and a phone and said “have a ball,” would the damage have been any greater? Eight years ago the people of this country (who paid any attention to politics at all) were coalescing into two groups who laughed at one another, each group holding the other in contempt. Now we’re looking at two groups, each wanting the other dead. Hope and change, baby.

Best wishes for a long, happy and quiet retirement, Mr. Obama.

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Is there an “Idiotic Headline of the Year” award?

Because I’d like to nominate this one.

A Discomfiting Question: Was The Chicago Torture Case Racism?

Where to even start?

A) Duh. Yes. If I kidnap you and torture you for hours while loudly going on about how much I hate people of your race, chances are my motives are racist. Next case.

B) (and this frankly infuriates me) Except that it’s not obvious at all, is it? Not to the people who have actually made themselves responsible for spreading the propaganda that guides American attitudes and assumptions, and who have said for decades that only white people are capable of racism. By this reasoning, when a black person harms a white person because the victim is white, that’s not racism. That’s racial justice.

C) Anyway who cares if it was racist? These people kidnapped a helpless person, then tortured that person while publishing the video of the act. We’re done here – the only controversy should be over whether they’re dead when we bury them. What part of “that’s completely barbaric and utterly, absolutely unacceptable” is difficult to understand? You want more of this sort of thing? Because making excuses for people who behave this way is how you get more of this sort of thing.

The rest of this article is as stupid as its headline, just longer.

In calling the kidnapping and assault racism, we’re staking claim to moral language — and uniquely powerful moral language — to which white people can’t easily lay claim, even in cases like the one in Chicago, which seems to qualify for the most vehement reproach available.

And it’s why, I suspect, the folks of color I talked to seemed so visibly uncomfortable. Calling what happened in Chicago racism seems to cede at least some of that moral authority to the many [white] people who we suspect are engaging in conversations about race and racism in bad faith…

I thought the folks at National Propaganda Radio were supposed to be smarter than the rest of us? That was how they got their jobs of telling us what to believe, right? By passing some “smarter than the proles” test? I think they should be required to re-take the test.

I’m from Detroit. The first part of my childhood was spent in a segregated whites-only neighborhood, and that was wrong. Making all judgments of moral authority a segregated blacks-only neighborhood is at least that wrong, and it wearies me. I seldom choose to discuss any matter that involves race, but this is just stupid. And immoral. And wrong.

h/t to Claire.

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I try not to be a grammar and spelling nazi…

I really do. But I’m a writer, and also an editor, so of course I am. A person mistaking the difference between loose and lose can cause me to loose my shit in public. If they also don’t know the difference between their and they’re in there own language, well, I cannot be blamed for planting a word processor between they’re eyes with deadly force. Their, I’ve said it. If one more person claims to have found a way to reign in the political opposition, I’ll strangle him with a pair of bridle reins. Which I shall not purchase at a bridal shop. In the rain.

And yet it seems I’m as befuddled by my own language as anybody else. This came up as the result of a conversation on the way home to the Gulch Friday evening.

We had just set out and the dogs hadn’t settled down yet. “Little Bear, lie down!” Landlady said. The car continued to rock on its springs until I said, “Little Bear, go lay down!” Which is the command he’s used to hearing.

“What’s the difference between ‘lay down’ and ‘lie down?'” she said after a moment. “Because on some forum I read, some fool went on and on about the difference but I don’t remember what it was supposed to be.”

“I dunno,” I said. “I think it’s just a regional thing. I’ve heard ‘lay down’ all my life. As far as I know, they’re synonymous.”

Well. Of course now it bothered me. So I just now looked it up. And technically it seems her way is right and my way is … less right.

Lying down is intransitive (sentence does not take an object). Laying down is transitive (it requires an object).

Example sentences:

The protesters were lying down in front of the entrance.
The carpenter was laying down the flooring when the earthquake occurred.

Hey, I claim long usage. Squatter’s rights, as it were. I’m gonna go ahead and keep telling LB to “go lay down,” because I’m old and have long mastered the fine art of hypocrisy.

Anyway, English is weird.

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Private to the guy who sent me those Ozark Trail flashlights…

Okay, the stick flashlight is in a handy drawer, but the headlight has earned a more honorable place on the wall.

Came down the ladder at quarter after six this morning, tried to put some water on for coffee and got no hiss from the stove burner. (sigh) which meant I had to go out in the dark (the only time the stove ever seems to run out of propane) to change bottles. This is a two-handed job I normally do with my belt flashlight stuck in my mouth.

I never really paid any attention to headlights before. Honestly (I’m from Michigan, as I may have mentioned) I think of them as a thing for jacklighting deer. But this one has made itself quite handy when I’m inside and know I have to go do something outside in the dark. So thanks again!

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Love this coat.

I always wanted a Carhartt coat, even when I didn’t live in the boonies where it would pay to…well, pay the extra and actually get one. I’ve worn through two canvas coats since I got here – granted one came from Salvation Army and lasted me eight years and the other was a neighbor’s cast-off that apparently just wasn’t up to the task, but what I really wanted all that time was a coat like the big boys wear. I figured this time I was going to save my nickels until I could go into a store and actually buy a new good quality chore coat. Circumstances of the past ten years have shown that the cost would be justified, and once before I died I would actually own a Carhartt coat totally without guilt.

A couple of weeks ago a Generous Reader decided to short circuit that process and just send me one. I appreciated the offer, duh, but was a little doubtful that this was going to end well. I’ve had bad experiences buying clothes and boots online, and I kind of fall into the cracks between “medium” and “large.” And then when it seemed like things had gone a little wrong, it worked out to be just what needed to happen.

Last week Landlady came up with a bunch of care packages (thank you all,) conspicuously not including a coat. Turns out it arrived at her place just in time to not make the trip. Well, that was okay, because that particular time, for the first time in six years, I was going to come back with her. And sure enough, it was there waiting for me.

It was size large, and it fit me like a tent. Seriously I looked like a six-year-old in his dad’s coat. Also it was the kind you usually see, which is quilted for some serious winter weather. We get pretty mean temperature swings here; nights are very cold, but the days rarely stay below freezing from dawn to dusk. I was disappointed – and I’m also not sophisticated enough in the art of buying things to know what to do about it. Fortunately: a) Generous Reader had bought the coat at a widespread retail chain AND thoughtfully included a gift receipt, and b) Landlady knows how to deal with situations like this.

So in the course of my week in the city, we drove to one of these stores. But this city is located in a region where winter is just another word for “less hot.” The store sold Carhartt merch, but not coats.

Landlady, bless her heart, went out of her way on the trip back up to the Gulch. We stopped at one of these stores in the big town about 50 miles away, which (I phoned ahead and asked) did indeed sell Carhartt coats. And they were perfectly pleased to exchange the one I had with me. Joy! Alas, this was in the first week in January, which you might have noticed is very shortly after Christmas. They were having a sale and trying to sell off as many of their already picked-over coats as possible, and what they had left wasn’t very encouraging.

I went through everything they had and came up with three medium-size coats in various styles. That was it. Two didn’t fit well at all. The third fit as if the Kingsman Tailors had bespoken the hell out of it just for me. The lining was a little heavier than I’m used to, but it was a cold night. I practically sprinted with it back to the counter.

The guy dealing with me at this store was nice as can be (you know I’m not real comfortable dealing with strangers) and made the whole process simple and pleasant. And since the Lair is now staying warmer than it has in previous winters I’m not really layering up the way I always used to, so I think probably the heavier lining will turn out to be a blessing.

Fits great in the body, with the shoulders and arms full enough that I can actually move them without the whole thing shifting around on me, but not so long they hang down over my hands. Double zipper pull so you can get to your belt gear without a striptease.

I Like This Coat. Thank you very much!

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Sometimes I feared I was the only one who noticed these…

And found them not merely annoyingly condescending, but badly done.

And I would have expected ‘badly done’ to be a rare description of a hollywood-produced short video. That’s where all the professional talent is, right? I mean, I used to write technical videos. And when I moved to Socal I worked with production companies that were a dream come true. These people – many of whom hoped to be working with Spielberg someday if they really honed their craft – showed up prepared and took the whole thing seriously.

So how come Hollywood political videos are all exactly…



the same?

And all…rather badly done?

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Milestones are for celebrating…

…and this morning the bedroom in Landlady’s Meadow House had the floor and walls finished to an officially sufficient degree that we could bring the boxes down from the barn and assemble the permanent bed!

And that’s all the packaging, to be disposed of in Joel’s burn barrel.

We convinced the local EPA officials that we’re all cannibals, so they don’t come around to bother us about all the burning. Er…best not to ask how we convinced them of that.

In other news, I made an excellent pork stew yesterday after baking…

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