…a bullet train between Madero and Fresno (that’s a big 120 miles through the California central valley, a project Leland Stanford could have finished in an afternoon after a few beers) whose price tag is tickling the bottom of eleven billion dollars.
The new calculation takes into account a number of intractable problems encountered by the state rail agency. It raises profoundly difficult questions about how the state will complete what is considered the nation’s largest infrastructure project with the existing funding sources.
This is, as I just can’t repeat often enough, a train between Madero and Fresno, which would seem a relatively simple project in a nation that’s been building big-ass railways since the early 19th century. You’d think so, but then big projects used to be possible and they aren’t any more. This was originally conceived as the first absurdly remote length of a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and LA, which would involve mountains and stuff and is clearly never going to happen. But tax and bond money will be spent, which means money will be made, which means a lot of people in and connected to the teat of Sacramento will consider the project a success even if not one wheel rolls on one rail ever.
Which are very common birds around here, and in over eleven years I never gave them much thought. Still don’t.
Every day I swap the mem card on that game camera I mounted at the cattle watering station, and every day I look at dozens of pictures of flickers, alone and in groups, sitting on the tire. Since starting that I was actually driven to learn a little something about Flickers. They’re basically ground-feeding woodpeckers, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. They also flock, which is not very woodpeckerlike behavior but who am I to judge? One day, you might remember, I saw a pic of what looked to me like an immature red-tail hawk, and what I found unusual about the picture is that there were several apparently unconcerned flickers in the same frame. Turns out I was wrong about the species of every one of the birds in the frame. Flickers at rest are not-very-decorative gray birds, and I originally called them black-throated sparrows and was corrected by a reader. But it turns out, a flicker in flight looks completely different. Yesterday afternoon I got a nice picture of one flying away…
…and in flight they’re not gray at all, but quite reddish – and with impressive wingspan for such a small bird. Almost looks like an immature red-tail hawk, if like me you don’t know anything about birds.
Look! It’s a black-coated Geezer!
I’ve brought the camera back to the Lair now, to fiddle with it a bit and then try to find a new location.
Laying hens can either grow feathers or they can lay eggs. So when they’re molting, they tend not to lay eggs.
Except sometimes they try anyway. I found this one laying in the middle of the Big Chickenhouse yesterday morning, having been inadvertently laid by somebody in the course of her other duties. It’s possible she didn’t even notice, it’s so small.
Took it home to feed it to Little Bear, but when I cracked it open…
Sometimes this game camera I’m still playing with is just frustrating. It hints at things that happened, but fails to take pictures of the damned things. Example:
Here we have a perfectly ordinary picture of a raven on the tire. Nothing else going on, as far as I can see. Note the time stamp.
Now here are three frames taken one minute later. As far as I can see the only differences between these frames, the only reason the camera took them, is a gust of wind blew the bushes around. But look at the tire…
How’d the tire get all wet? Between the raven frame and the next, with a time stamp one minute later, something very splashy happened to the tire. Raven decide to take a bath? Could’ve happened, I guess, but then why no pic of that? Makes me wonder what else I’m missing.
Other than the usual multitudes of deer, the only thing that happened last night that the camera found out of the ordinary was three good pics of a coyote who wasn’t behaving like a kid whose mother caught him buying condoms… Continue reading →
Okay, so back in late October while cutting firewood, I sliced up a commercial firelog for use as morning firestarters.
This morning I noticed that I’m running low on slices, and thought I’d give you an impression of what I think of that method of making cheap firestarters.
In a word, eh. It works. You can get four useful chunks out of a slice, but unless you use a finer blade than I did (I used a chop saw) you won’t get as many slices as you hope. The process is very messy, but that’s forgivable. The reality is that whatever volatile these things are soaked with is quite noticeably volatile, and out of their package they quickly dry to the point where they can only be readily lit with a propane torch. Yeah, they’re constructed of flammable materials, but so is wood.
On a budget and if you happen to have a propane torch handy – which I do – it’s better than nothing. But not a lot better. It’s not the equivalent of commercial firestarters.
I’ve been getting over the flu over the past month which means I’ve been as inactive as necessary chores permit. Little Bear has always been kind of a couch potato unless he saw something that needed chasing and he gets more so as he ages, so he didn’t complain much about hanging around the cabin. I’m normally not very active in winter anyway.
But LB’s bowels have gotten kind of bound up, he responds to the laxative powers of a good walky, and I’m feeling a lot better than a week ago. So this beautiful morning we gave the Jeep a miss and headed up the road to take the long way to Landlady’s place to tend the game camera and the chickens.
That’s the utility buildings on Landlady’s ridgetop, on the other side of the wash from the road leading to the Lair. Her house is down on the other side of the ridge and out of sight here. To get to it directly by foot is a simple matter, less than half a mile. But this morning we took the roads, which is at least three times as far. Little Bear was kind of into it for a while, normally he wants to do pretty much anything I want to do, but then he started questioning the wisdom of my choice.
But he’s adaptable, and even if he didn’t appreciate the health benefits of exercise he found plenty of scents that needed examination and reply. Then after we changed the camera mem card and crossed the wash and just as we began to climb Landlady’s ridge, he stopped, looked a little confused and offended, and then took a massive dump in the middle of the road. Mission accomplished, though I’d have preferred a polite detour to the side first.
We finished with the chickens, took the short path home, and he got to have a rest and some treats in his Sumo toy.
No reason to click the link, really, the title says everything – except that he escaped with his soft pink flesh unharmed. Pity – he doesn’t seem to have enjoyed his visit to the gun-free Chicago paradise.
Haiti actually is a shithole. Always has been. It was pretty much designed to be, as far as I can tell.
I heard the biggest groaner of my life on the Jeep radio this morning, during chicken chores. Some congressvermin* said something like, “You can’t say ‘chain migration,’ that’s racist. African-americans believe they migrated here in chains.”
“Chain migration” seems to be among the recent conservative worship words – along with “replacement population” – used for beating their base into a state of fear over vicious hordes of brown people pouring across the border with their mariachis and their margaritas and their mid-day naps, sucking up all the welfare money and shipping it to Columbia via Payday Loan money orders. It’s stupid, but I’m pretty sure it’s not there to trigger racial memories. I’d like to think black people wise enough to know opportunistic rhetoric when they hear it, but then I also recall a huge shitstorm in California over a republican apparatchik using the word niggardly in a budget meeting, so…
*Just looked it up, it was Dick Durbin and there’s video. The part about “chain migration” is at the 1:40 mark. He sounds quite proud of himself for being so very much more virtuous than Trump.
Due to overwhelming (okay, one) demand, here is the definitive Joel’s Bread Recipe. This recipe went through a lot of changes at first while I was learning, but has gotten to be pretty stable over the past few years and always works out quite well. This post is photo-intensive, and so begins below the fold. Continue reading →
Would you like a house that fills your bathtub – at the precisely correct temperature – when you just tell it to? Warms your toilet seat to your preference as well? You can have it! And all it will cost you is a shit-ton of money and all the privacy you’ll ever have, ever again.
A key aspect is the inclusion of voice control, allowing for the user to operate a kitchen faucet or intelligent toilet, change the lighting in a bathroom mirror, run a shower, or automatically fill a bath to a specified depth and temperature, all through vocal commands.
While the system runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, and has a greater focus on using Amazon’s Alexa for automation and commands, a number of items from within the range are also able to support Apple’s HomeKit, along with the Google Assistant. In theory, this means that some of the announced items could be automated in HomeKit scenes, or for features to be remotely triggered by Siri commands.
The main featured item in Kohler’s new product range is the Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror, which is claimed to be an industry first with Amazon’s Alexa built into the unit. Containing dual microphones and hermetically sealed stereo speakers, the mirror offers LED lights for illuminating the user, a motion-activated wayfinding nightlight, and the ability to access thousands of Alexa skills.
That could never possibly go badly.
In Hal 9000’s defense, it only tried to murder all the humans under its care. It never did anything really sinister, like report your every word, action and bowel movement to Microsoft, Apple, Google and whatever federal agency they’re feeling friendly with today.
But carry on, America. I’m sure Total Robot Surveillance will go much better than all the other sorts have.
The first rainfall of any substance since Monsoon, and only the second …well, since Monsoon. Which ended sometime in September. Early September. Far too warm for snow, it hasn’t been cold in a month…
…in fact I was thinking this might be the freakiest January since … last January, which was so warm I actually complained. But that’s why I keep records, and average morning temps were far higher this time last year. We’ve only had one half-decent cold snap so far this winter, and it was a month ago and snapped all my pipes. So actually on reflection that was enough.
Anyway, as I said we had a lot of rain overnight, I woke up determined to track down the source of that unfamiliar rushing sound, and then when I determined what it was I relaxed only to be struck by a sudden misgiving…
…wow, I really should have closed up the Jeep if it was going to rain…
Will Blog for ISP Time, Glaucoma Meds, or Cheap Booze.
Free! (and worth every penny)
Scary Manifesto that keeps getting pushed down on the sidebar by filthy capitalism!
They say that Louis XIV had the inscription Ultima Ratio Regum cast into all the cannon of the French Army. It means "The Ultimate Argument of Kings," and that always struck me as one of the most honest and up-front things any ruler or would-be ruler ever said. "We can dress it up prettier than this, but when it comes down to the unvarnished truth this is what it's about: You'll do as I say or I'll send my goons to kill you."
I thought about that for a long time. If there's an ultimate argument, it seems only logical that there must be an ultimate answer. For years I thought the ultimate answer must be the bullets in my rifle, but it never seemed quite right. I've got bullets - he's got frigging Cannon Balls. I mean, if there were three hundred million rifles throwing bullets at him, then maybe. But we all know that's not going to happen. So if there's an ultimate answer to his ultimate argument, it sure as hell ain't bullets.
It finally came to me - and that's when I left the city, abandoned a goodly percentage of my goods, and gave all that was behind me a good, stiff Randian Shrug.
The ultimate answer to kings is not a bullet, but a belly laugh.
Do you suffer from a lonely, unfulfilled, angst-driven existence? Do you often wish you could do something meaningful with your life, like end death or war or taxes, or maybe just read a really good book?
Then you need to buy the following novels immediately!
The Scroll of Jeremiah
The Last Faithful Man
Songs of Bad Men and Good
"Freedom Outlaw. It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it. It’s an attitude — from which actions always follow. It’s a do-it-yourself occupation. And a lifetime vocation."
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
- G. K. Chesterton
"If every Jewish and anti-Nazi family in Germany had owned a Mauser rifle and twenty rounds of ammunition and the will to use it, Adolf Hitler would be a little-known footnote to the history of the Weimar Republic."
- Aaron Zelman
"Authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force."
"Never underestimate the ability of shit to find a fan."
- F. Paul Wilson
The...average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty – and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.
– H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, Feb. 12, 1923
"You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." The sophistry of villains - Bah!
- Robert A. Heinlein, Double Star
“Truth is, I’m not specifically interested in an armed society. What I want is a free society.”
- George Potter
“Gold is the money of kings, silver is the money of gentlemen, barter is the money of peasants – but debt is the money of slaves.”
- Norm Franz
"You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once."
- Robert A. Heinlein
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."
- Helen Keller
"It has long been my conviction that a masked man with a gun is a target. I see no reason to change that view."
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
- D. H. Lawrence
All men should try to learn before they die /
What they are running from, and to, and why.
Aristippus passed Diogenes as he was washing lentils.
He said, “If you could but learn to flatter the king, you would not have to live on lentils.”
Diogenes said, “And if you could learn to live on lentils, you would not have to flatter the king.”
Sandy Hook was a Gun Free Zone.
“Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”
- Robert A. Heinlein
"Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
- Ayn Rand
If ever a man should ask you
For your business or your name
Tell him to go and fuck himself
Tell his friends to do the same.
For a man who'd trade his liberty
For a safe and dreamless sleep
Doesn't deserve the both of them
And neither shall he keep.
- Frank Turner
Don't be afraid to try something big, just because you're an amateur. The Ark was built by amateurs. The Titanic was built by professionals.
A basic split between shits and Johnsons has emerged.
- William Burroughs, 1988
"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."
- Gen. James Mattis
"Lust for power is the most flagrant of all the passions."
"The man who knows what freedom means will find a way to be free."
- F.A. "Baldy" Harper
"The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude."
- William James
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
- Viktor Frankl
The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country.
- Milton Friedman
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
- William Faulkner
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
- Ernest Hemingway
When asked the secret of how he accumulated 505 confirmed sniper kills on Soviet invaders, Simo Häyhä would smile and reply, "Practice."
"Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'"
- Ronald Reagan
The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.
- James A. Baldwin
"It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war."
“I tried to live in such a way that, when dying, I would rather feel happy than scared.”
– Witold Pilecki
Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master.
"Place your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark."