Eight o’clock, and I got up from the ‘pooter to make my evening tea…

…and Tobie wasn’t on the floor, or in his bed. I turned on the overhead light, and…

…he had quietly climbed onto my reading chair, just wanting to hang out next to Uncle Joel.

We’re still working on the Jeep thing, but otherwise Tobie seems to have decided that I’ll do as a part of his future plans.

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A word on Ian’s new book…

So last week I spent a couple of days editing a galley proof of Ian’s new book, colloquially Chinese Mystery Pistols but officially…

And last week I was distracted by a new puppy with digestive issues and one of the worst and most prolonged allergy attacks in years, didn’t do a very good job of my job and knew it, so yesterday I sat down early and spent 11 hours doing it all again…

And it’s a different sort of book from Chassepot to FAMAS, there’s no question. CtF was a serious scholarly work (with world class photography) aimed primarily at collectors of French military weapons, with enough historical context to keep dilettantes like myself interested – but the deep spots were real black holes of esoterica that only a niche collector could enjoy. Do I care about all the many versions of Lebel stacking rods, and when, how and why they differed? Honestly I do not. But I still enjoy the book, because the weapons it covers are presented in their historical context which happens to epitomize the development of the true modern rifle. Consider: When aircraft and tanks and even automobiles first appeared they were all so brand new that nobody knew what their evolved forms would even look like – and so we got some rarely weird-looking contraptions wandering around for a while. The same was true, quite unexpectedly, of the weapons that developed from the invention of smokeless powder: Nobody understood, at the turn of the century, the full extent of the effect that one pivotal invention would have on the function and form of weapons actually designed to use it, and there were some real developmental blind alleys explored before what we would recognize as a proper bolt-action cartridge rifle emerged. Anyway, that’s why I find that book fascinating even though I’ll go ahead and admit that I really don’t care very much about fin de siècle European military rifles.

Wow – that paragraph wandered into the weeds. Sorry. My point is, Pistols of the Warlords isn’t that book. As Ian himself said in his announcement video, you could think of it as more of an entertaining coffee table book – if a weighty 558-page tome could ever be only that. You can get a lot of enjoyment from just paging through many (excellent) photographs and blinking at the idea that an actual military officer not only paid good money for this laughably crude pistol somebody hammered out on a treestump or something, festooning its surface with hopelessly misunderstood logos and proof marks as if they were runic charms, but then carried it around and used it long enough to wear the poor thing out – had it brazed back together when it fell apart and then used it some more. You could derive value from the book just by regarding it on that shallow level.

Thing is that as for the individual firearms studied in the book, there’s just no documentary information to be gleaned. In China, at least between the first and second civil wars, 1911-1949, a significant part of the sidearm market was a literal cottage industry. China had an arms manufacturing industry – of course it did, it was in an internal state of war throughout the entire period, not to mention that minor Japanese invasion – But it wasn’t exactly a manufacturing powerhouse. If you were a warlord – or a would-be or soon-to-be-former warlord – in need of 500 rifles or a battery of howitzers, you could get that from a factory if you had the money and influence. But if you needed a dozen pistols for your officers you might well find yourself out of luck. Much of that small part of the market was relegated to traditional artisans who didn’t need no steenking assembly lines. They turned out pistols one at a time like God intended – at wildly varying levels of quality. Some are works of art you wouldn’t mind carrying. Some are – well, you really wonder why their makers thought they should even be in this line of work. Most are somewhere in between.

Ian couldn’t document who those artisans were, or where and under what circumstances they worked, because no such documents exist. But he could supply the historical context in which they and their products existed, a period in Chinese history that we on our side of the globe don’t really give much thought. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t a very interesting story.

Pistols of the Warlords hasn’t gone to print yet – as I said, I just sent my galley proof notes to the author. It’s going to be a fancy expensive book and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we see it in all its glory this year. But if you want to be sure of getting one, you can pre-order a copy here.

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record…

…I can do this now.

Low on gasoline and (after a rather expensive trip to a dog shelter and a Petco a week ago) utterly out of money, it was nice to still have the means to ride to town on this lovely Sunday to pick up a needed package I had been told was waiting in a lockbox in town.

When I first got the bike I had serious doubts about its ability to ride all the way to town and back on one charge, and early experiments seemed to justify those doubts. But after I learned how to manage power use, it turned out that the bike can do it perfectly easily even with all the hills and rolling resistance. And it’s a pleasant way to kill a couple of sunny hours. I’ve had my Vitamin D for the day, Dr. Fauci.

And it never fails: Every Single Time I ride to town, somebody wants to ask where I got that impressive-looking ebike and is it really as useful as it seems like it ought to be? This morning I was almost out of pavement when a man shouted a question at me from across the street. I pulled over, he crossed the street and we had a rather lengthy conversation about the thing. I think of ebikes as sort of a hipster thing but these are always aging-to-old full adults, not a hint of mustache wax in sight, in a very rural desert town, admiring my huge-frame, fat-tire, very dusty contraption.

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Portrait of a happier puppy

Tobie and I have been taking a lot of short utilitarian walkies lately, while he worked out his digestion problems. That’s getting better at last, by the way. Anyway, he has recently developed a very annoying trait in which he asks for a walkie but then as soon as we’re on the sand he flops down and just wants to chill. It gradually became clear to me that he was getting sick of being stuck inside while Uncle Joel stares at the screen and edits a Chinese Mystery Pistol book.

He didn’t want to be outdoors by himself – he made that VERY clear. He wanted me to take him outside and do something other than an in-and-out poop run.

Okay, we can do that. So this morning we were out in the yard together while I started work on revisions to my poor man’s solar water heater*…

…and he took that calmly enough. Didn’t like it when I went out of sight, but otherwise he was content to amuse himself while I worked.

Then this breezy warm afternoon I introduced him to sitting on the porch while Uncle Joel drinks a beer and watches a video on his phone…

…and he seemed to think that was cool as well. He also behaved himself quite self-sufficiently while I spent some time working on final clean-up to the (New! Functional!) shower at Ian’s place.

He’s quite a good boy, really. We need to convince Uncle Joel that he’ll stay close before we’re going to come off the leash, but between working out that and his issues with the Jeep, I think there’s a very good chance he’ll be ready to safely hang out without the tether at least by the time he’s fully adult. Which he isn’t.

I know I’m a control freak, and overly I would say responsibly protective. Little Bear never got off the leash because he could never be trusted not to obey his chase instinct to the detriment of his survival prospects. I’ve seen too many dogs die or abruptly disappear to be oblivious to the desert’s ability to kill a dog. It’s possible that soon, when I can afford one, I’m going to shop for a shock collar. But right now he’s a shelter dog still trying to settle in, and we’re not going to get too rigorous about much of anything.

*more on that later.

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…or that time you found out trigger discipline is important…

I was going to make a comment about Early Me, but even at my goofiest I never pretended I could dance.

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Portrait of an Unhappy Puppy

Get a load of this…

Tobie decided right away that he absolutely hated the Jeep. He didn’t even want to walk past the right side when we went out for a pee, for fear that at any moment I might betray his tiny trust and force him inside. It got so bad by Saturday that I just decided we were going to spend several days without the Jeep being any sort of factor. Yesterday morning I loaded him in – and by ‘load him in’ I mean pick up his limply protesting body and shove him in – and put up with his “why are you killing me in this horrible way” routine all the way to Neighbor L’s house and back. I took that picture during the morning trip.

We went through the whole thing again yesterday afternoon, and when we were getting back into the Jeep for the ride home he protested as always and then … jumped right in without prompting.

So maybe he is beginning to get the idea that Jeep rides aren’t so bad? Or maybe he was just sick of being picked up and carried. Time will tell. I think that in time he’ll decide that Jeep rides are the bee’s knees. All dogs seem to – but it took Laddie most of a year.

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What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.

Puppies make messes. Big puppies make big messes.

I’ve mentioned that Tobie seems to have come pre-housebroken, a happy surprise. Unfortunately when certain digestive upsets occur, training doesn’t always help. And especially in the middle of the night, if you see where I’m going with this. When you really gotta go, you really gotta go.

There’s a particularly evil pollen in the air, or maybe I’ve caught a cold. Either way, I spent yesterday in a chair whacked out on antihistamines trying to get my nose to stop streaming. Went to bed early but didn’t sleep especially well – and I woke up promptly at 2:30 when the pills wore off. This is how I know that the problem hadn’t happened yet then – but should have known that a big problem was brewing because Tobie tried to tell me. Unfortunately we’re not communicating well yet.

I went back to bed, and Tobie got barky. I assumed he was reacting to something outdoors, though it seemed strange that he hadn’t just gone straight back to sleep when I turned the lights off. Replaying the incident a few hours later, I figured he was trying to call my attention to an oncoming issue that we could have dealt with together at the time if I had only gotten the message.

Anyway – I rolled out at 5:30ish, my nose so screwed up I couldn’t have smelled a sewage treatment plant. That and my half-asleep state caused me to put a (booted, thankfully) foot right in one of the several gelatinous piles and track it all the hell over the place before I noticed what I was doing.

So instead of diving right into this morning’s intended project, (last night I got a PDF of the latest version of Ian’s New Book and it needs a quick turnaround,) I started out my day scrubbing extremely foul stuff out of my living room rug(s). And we’ve been out in the yard a few more times than normal this morning, since he’s still got the rumbly tummy. No idea what brought it about, but it’s not his fault.

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Leaving Tobie alone in the cabin: Fingers crossed.

So Monday mornings I always go with D&L to refill the drinking water bottles. This would be the first time I left Tobie alone, and I was very interested to see the result of that. I keep mentally turning his probable age downward; the more I get to know him the younger he seems. Other than a very strong distaste for riding in the Jeep he has shown suspiciously few vices so far but he has gotten a tad clingy in the past day or two. A strong case of separation anxiety wouldn’t surprise me.

I got back to the cabin, which I was almost surprised to find still standing, and in fact he apparently hadn’t reacted strongly to being left alone at all. No damage, no puddles, just a very happy puppy.

I brought him a gift from the dollar store…

And that went over really well.

I wasn’t the only one who predicted chaos and destruction…

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We’re gonna need a bigger bed.

On Friday morning, anticipating my hoped-for new arrival, among other things I brought Laddie’s old bed out of storage. When the bundle of joy actually arrived he was clearly a few sizes too big for it, so I set it out on the porch for transport to the thrift store.

But he kept stepping into it like he wanted it. So after we returned from this morning’s post-coffee-with-Landlady long walkie I brought it back inside, because why not. Let’s see what he does.

And this is what he did…

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Aqualung, updated for the 21st century…

Sitting on the sidewalk…

Eyeing foodie droids with bad intent…

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Tobie update

What a sweet little guy. I have a hard time believing he’s as old as a year – I’m no expert but I’d guess no more than 9 months. He has no real vices other than a tendency to go limp and utterly refuse to cooperate with anything that scares him – but also no useful habits at all. So we’ll be in training mode for quite a while, but I expected to have to calm and win the confidence of a half-traumatized rescue dog. I don’t know how he came to be in a shelter, but he hasn’t been abused in any meaningful way. So far he has proven at least provisionally housebroken – even Laddie peed indoors on his first morning when he didn’t know when or whether he was getting a walk and wasn’t in a mood to care what I thought about the condition of my rug.

Tobie is eager to please, but other than clearly being familiar with “no” he knows nothing. He acts like he’s never been on a leash, he has no love for cars (I’m reasonable sure he’ll get over that), doesn’t object to being picked up but also doesn’t seem to know how to cooperate with it – though that might come under the heading of ‘passive-aggressive.’)

He’s certainly capable of learning. When we first got to the Lair he balked completely at climbing the porch stairs. It wasn’t that he was afraid of the cabin, once he got on the porch he went right through the door eagerly. It was like he’d never seen stairs before. But by the third time I took him out and back in on a leash he bounded up them with no problem.

He’s sociable as hell with other dogs, so I assume he has had friendly relations with them in his past. But other than that I have no idea what landed him in a shelter or what kind of home he had before he landed there.

ETA: Should have mentioned above that unlike LB and TB, Tobie knows what toys are for. Unfortunately his current favorite his only plushy has a squeaker. Which he loves.

Fortunately it’s already damaged and probably not long for the world. Maybe I’ll sew it back up after he’s got the squeaker out of it. 😉

ETA Again: Spoke too soon. The squeaker skittered across the floor before I finished writing the above sentence.

Oh well. I’m pretty sure he can’t break his Kong. That was a better investment. Boy likes to chew. Like I said, still a puppy.

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Meet the new Official TUAK Dog!

Introducing Tobie.

Tobie is about 1 year old, 30ish pounds, the result of a shepherd mating with something rather smaller than a shepherd.

I got tired of waiting for my next dog to come to me, and so Neighbor L drove me to a shelter in the big town about 50 miles away.

There I met a whole bunch of traumatized dogs who did not want to be my friend, a few hyper dogs who too enthusiastically wanted to be my friend, and Tobie.

And Tobie is a sweetheart. I have no idea what he’s been doing with his life: He’s perfectly healthy and happy, but appears to have no useful life experience at all. The one skill he has down pat is passive-aggressive: When faced with a demand that he do something scary he lies down and goes completely limp. But he doesn’t get unpleasant when you insist. I think he’s already seeing possibilities in the Jeep.

We got back to the Lair after altogether too long a day: He balked at the porch stairs and we had to have a patient little lesson until he’d give it a try. He had no problem with food and water, though – At his age he understands that.

And then he carefully studied every inch of the Lair…

…with emphasis on any part that seemed to suggest “more food”…

…and then he came over and wanted to be petted more. So far he hasn’t made a single sound.

We went for a tour of the pee path, and pretty soon we’re going to try the Jeep again.

Aaand he just copiously threw up on my living room rug. Have to go clean up a mess now. More later.

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The Best Place in the World

Here’s something I wrote 19 years ago, when I was still in California and basically living in the depths of despair. I just came upon and re-read it, and find nothing in it of which I should repent. The thesis is “an armed society is a friendly society,” and it mostly has to do with a place where I lived roughly 40 years ago – not unlike the place where I live today.

An Armed Society Is…

Aware that I was trespassing, that I was shabby and completely out of place, I began to retreat. But one man approached and asked if he could help me. He didn’t ask it in the usual way that really means, “what are you doing here?” He asked it as if he might actually be willing to help if the request were reasonable. I said I had just followed the sound of the guns, and he asked if I wanted to join them. The suggestion was ridiculous to me, but he was serious. He offered me the loan of a shotgun. I recognized the gun from my reading on such things. It was worth more than my car.

After a couple of rounds of skeet they invited me to join them at a local restaurant. This was how I met the older and more respectable core of my entire group of friends for the next five years. These people gradually became the standard by which I judged all others, and the frightening, barren landscape revealed itself as open, uncluttered and liberating.

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New Rosemary…

The local feed store finally got their annual garden plants in.

I like to grow rosemary for baking into bread. Rosemary is the only garden plant I’ve seen that does well in this environment*, and for a wonder the rodents leave it alone. But they don’t last forever, and my rosemary plant died over the winter. It wasn’t unexpected; this isn’t the first time I’ve had to replant.

🙂 And so now that’s done. Been watching the feed store every time D&L stopped there, for over a month.

*All over the crappy little town nearest where I live, big gardens are going in. They have the same basic soil I do, I assume, and the same climate: How can they garden when nobody up here in the hills can? I can guess that generations of soil amendment and some level of knowledge has something to do with it, but seriously: at planting time that town is like a pocket dimension that gets big trees and lawns and lush gardens without apparently even trying very hard. All I can grow is rocks and rosemary.

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Mistakes you make with a game camera…

…over and over, in my case.

I don’t know where all the game has gone. Sometimes things just dry up: I’m quite sure there are still animals somewhere in the desert but they haven’t been in my part of the desert for months. I continue to try and get a grasp of their movements, almost entirely without success.

The deer and elk stopped coming to the watering station. In an attempt to find them I moved my new camera to a game trail I know weeks ago, and in all that time haven’t taken a picture of so much as a rabbit.

A couple of days ago I slightly changed the camera angle, making what for me is a very common mistake. This morning I checked the camera without a lot of hope and noted with surprise that it had recorded almost 500 frames. Normally lately it only takes pictures of me coming and going. Maybe there were signs of life?

Nope. As soon as I got home I popped the card into the ‘pooter to look, and all I got was 465 frames of bobbing branch*.

Yup. When I adjusted the camera I inadvertently included that little branch in the foreground, and so fell prey to one of the classic blunders. Every time a tiny puff of wind moved that branchlet, my game camera faithfully recorded the event for posterity. And so tricked me into believing that something had at last actually happened on the trail. Bother.

*I made a really boring gif, but for some reason it won’t load onto the post and I’m tired of dicking with it.

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Ebike update

On a road to nowhere this morning, just for fun…

We crossed 500 miles on the odo!

I put 24 miles on it today, mostly off pavement, and ow my ass. Also, first sunburn of the season.

You might recall we had some electrical problems last summer that took the bike out of circulation for about a month. Poorly-soldered harness connection shook apart. I see an awful lot of washboard dirt roads so it could happen again tomorrow, life is pain and uncertainty but I can say nothing but good things about Rad Power Bikes customer service so I’m not going to let it bother me. I like this bike, and it allows me to get out and around with a minimum of noise and fuel expense.

Saw a funny sign on a side road…

…and at a watering tank far from the Gulch, a disconcerting sign that the cattlemen haven’t forgotten us.

That was empty last time I saw it, less than a month ago. Summer is coming, and maybe some grass, which would bring my least favorite cattle. Oh, well.

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Finishing Torso Boy’s grave, and some other stuff

So yesterday and the day before I glued TB’s marker to its pedestal, caulked and painted it…

…and this morning it was ready to put in the ground.

I couldn’t finish the grave properly, it seems, until I went into the wash where the floods had piled up smooth/pretty/colorful rocks…

…and after altogether too much of that and some fiddle work, the grave is done…

…and up to the standards of our totally not over-the-top family cemetary. 🙂

Continue reading

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Phoebe’s back!

For the fifth straight year.

Click for bigger, she’s in there.

Set right to work building her nest in the usual place.

I keep thinking of deepening that ledge for her, but then I figure if she didn’t like it the way it is she wouldn’t keep coming back. And as precarious as it sometimes appears, she’s never lost a baby over the side.

Also found a visitor in the old chicken coop yesterday…

The bull snakes are really active this time of year. I’ve only seen one baby so far, in Landlady’s powershed. They’re more squirrelly and hostile, being less familiar with their place in the world I guess. The adults just sort of wait till you go away. Unlike rattlers, bull snakes are quite welcome around the Lair as long as they don’t try to come inside – which has happened.

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Care packages!

So you might recall that five months ago there was a teeny problem with Torso Boy’s grave marker.

It took a while, but Landlady stayed with it and voilà!

I have everything I need to get this one attached to the ground, so it’ll likely get finished this week. Further dead pets will almost certainly need a different sort of marker; this company is convincingly out of business.

I learned this weekend that a Generous Reader hit my wishlist in a very generous way!

Thanks! I actually do use dry milk in baking; the dehydrated eggs may seem an unlikely precaution for a chicken-raiser to take, but sometimes my girls go on vacation without notice or permission. So it can’t hurt.

And since I passed near a Trader Joe for the first time in two years, I stopped for a couple of care packages to my own overindulged self..

Ready for summer now. 🙂

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And that is quite enough of that.

A very long drive for a very brief visit. Brought back some goodies, but that’ll have to wait till tomorrow because I’m going to go collapse into a chair.

But first: I must share with you the funniest and most “makes me want to buy a lot of that” commercial advertisement I have ever seen in the course of a long life.

Saw that last night at my friends’ house and decided on the spot that that needs to go on the blog at my first reasonable opportunity. I truly want to know how many takes they did before they got it right.

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