Starting tomorrow it’s supposed to warm into the fifties…

…but stay in the mid-teens at night.

I’ve retired the chickens’ waterers for now, because when they freeze getting them unfrozen is a complicated and usually messy chore.

I have some cheap stainless steel bowls I only use for chickens and -until recently – for Ghost when he visited. They’re easy to clear when they freeze solid, though that’s not a problem with Landlady’s hens because they keep knocking it over.

I have to come up with something different for T&S’s dog water bowls, which have now frozen completely solid and can’t be knocked clear without fear of shattering plastic. Hopefully things will get into the forties this afternoon and soften the ice so I can empty them.

All told, including checking on S&L’s place since they’re also traveling, I was gone about an hour and a half this time. Came back to find the Lair nice and warm, and about to become toasty because it’s baking day! I also brought the Jeep trailer back with me because Landlady’s firewood bin seems to have gone almost empty. Then I’ll leave again for afternoon rounds around 3 or 3:30. Busy day, by my standards.

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This is getting really confusing.

I haven’t been following the story of the special prosecutor who’s apparently planning to keep looking for Russian collusion with the Trump campaign until Trump confesses just to get it over or the heat death of the universe, whichever comes first. Don’t know, don’t care. I’m not a Trump fan but I can’t work up a lot of enthusiasm for roasting him over a slow fire for crimes Hillary Clinton would barely notice she’d committed.

Be that as it may, lately there do seem to be more and more stories like this…

DOJ Demotes Official Over Trump Dossier Contacts

Bruce G. Ohr was removed from his position as associate deputy attorney general on Wednesday. Ohr, who worked in close proximity to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, had contacts last year with dossier author Christopher Steele as well as with Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS.

According to Fox News, Ohr met Steele at some point during the presidential campaign. He met Simpson around Thanksgiving 2016. During that coffee meeting, Simpson and Ohr reportedly discussed the dossier, the Trump investigation and Simpson’s frustration with Trump’s electoral victory.

Is this the third? Maybe the fourth? DOJ and FBI suits seem to be falling like flies, when the objective was to bring Trump down. At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if we get video of Robert Mueller doing the perp walk before the turn of the year.

Aren’t these supposed to be the smart people? Because it’s beginning to look as though some people faked up a bunch of anti-Trump agitprop, and then the same people attached themselves to the “investigation” and ended up hanging themselves by the very fake evidence that was supposed to hang Trump.

Am I getting this wrong? Or are our beloved civil servants really this dumb?

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Ah. I always wanted one of these…

When I was Mr. Suburban Man I really couldn’t justify the expense. The house and wife and kid and 2.5 shiny cars are expensive. When I chucked it all and became a cedar rat I could have justified the expense but I just flat didn’t have the money. This was last year’s Christmas present from a generous reader and I must say, having just come back from an hour on a freezing, windswept mountaintop with my fingers numb and my nose tingling but my torso warm as toast, I Love This Coat.

In fact – speaking of Mr. Suburban Man – the only thing I don’t like about it is that it’s black and shows all the barnyard dust. And if that’s the worst problem I have today, I am a man without significant problems. :)

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Decorating for Christmas?


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It’s great, this living in the 20th century…

Eleven degrees out this morning, and that’s as cold as it’s gotten so far this season. There’s some heat leakage past the bedroom curtain; normally the cabin stays about 20o above ambient when I’m in it but not actively heating, but this morning when I got up the indoor temp was 30o above. Still I was shivering and bustling about, getting coffee and the woodstove working, …

…because of course I was in a hurry to get back to my nice warm bedroom.

Kept waking up in the middle of the night in spite of the delicious warmth, because I knew the furnace is going to suck its propane bottle dry and flame out any minute now. Of course I expect it to happen in the middle of the coldest night so far, because you can’t give Uncle Murphy an opening like that and expect him to just kindly pass it by. I considered swapping out the bottles day before yesterday but refrained. Made that mistake with the last bottle, thinking by estimated weight that it was about dry and then it turned out there was still plenty. I’m terrible at that. Anyway, I need to know how long a propane bottle lasts in actual use, and unfortunately that requires letting the bottle run dry in cold weather when you’d much rather it was full. This is the first real cold snap we’ve had so far this winter, and it’s giving me data.

I have to go out early to feed horses and dogs and break up ice. T&S have three dogs, and I’m worried about the oldest one. The two younger ones are safe and warm indoors, waiting for me to come let them out. But the oldest, Bubba, hates and fears me and refuses to do anything but lay under the deck and bark when I approach. There was no way to lure him indoors, and there’s no way I’m going under there after him because his idea of hatred and fear has a bitey element that’s just not in my contract. I check to see if he’s still barking and leave offerings of dog biscuits, and otherwise don’t bug him. But I do worry about him in the cold.

ETA, an hour later: And in a shout-out to the 19th century, may I just say how much I also love my faithful little woodstove…


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Joel’s Rent-a-hermit

The bad thing about keeping livestock is that you can’t go away and leave them to die horribly if you feel like it. Well you can, but it’ll get you on the evening news.

Enter Joel’s Rent-a-hermit! For a low, low daily fee (or other consideration) a smelly recluse will show up in your yard, throw them some hay, and break the ice on their waterers! Joel’s Rent-a-hermit! Call today!

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Two weeks from the solstice, and bigger is better.

It’s been pretty much a tradition since moving into the Lair in November 2011: Watching when and at what angle the sun arrives over the ridge…

…because with the Lair’s free sample of a battery bank, the early evenings and late mornings really made a difference in what voltage got recorded first thing.

But last February I more than doubled the bank’s size, and now there’s a lot more wiggle room.

In summer it really doesn’t matter, but it’s a comfort during the dark months.

Add that to the more winter-friendly angle of the second solar panel rack that went up in October ’16, and the Lair’s electrical supply is less precarious and sensitive to weather changes than it used to be.

Between all that and the rather, er, normal-looking addition, I may need to start dressing more carefully and getting regular haircuts. Night-time temps are down in the teens and promise to remain so at least through the weekend and I don’t even care: I woke to a bedroom in the mid-fifties this morning and took my sweet time firing up the woodstove and brewing the first cup, not having to rush around shivering in my heaviest coat because propane heat! Swear my little corner of the gulch is getting more suburban by the month.

Feels kind of sinful, almost.

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First cold snap of the month, and there’s nothing but trouble.

Not for me, fortunately. The Lair’s water delivery system started simple and got simpler to the point where there’s little to freeze and little of that is prone to break if it should freeze. Today, though, I have special reason to be happy that the Lair requires no pressure pump or tank. I visited D&L’s place this morning at 10 to be greeted with the news that their pressure plumbing has sprung leaks everywhere in the pressure side where there’s iron to rust.

People who build country homes in hilly country usually want to build on top of the hills, presumably for the lovely views. That’s nice and all, but off-grid there are practical reasons not to do it. If you build down in a hollow and your well and water tank are up on a hilltop say fifty feet or more above the cabin, you get gravity-fed water pressure for free. If your home is on the hilltop you’ll need expensive and elaborate and power-hungry and fragile equipment to provide your water pressure, and your life will be ever so much more complicated than mine. Just saying.

That wasn’t the end of D&L’s troubles this morning. I was over there to help them load all the hay we just unloaded last week. Turns out the bales are so full of rocks and clay that the horses don’t even want to eat from them. So back to the feed store it all goes, no doubt to the delight of the guy who runs the store. D&L are supposed to come back with another load this afternoon, so I’ll be back to help do it all again later today.

Meanwhile in neighborhoodland, I’ve gotten yet another report of a crazy neighbor doing break-ins. Swear somebody’s going to get killed around here one of these days – again, since it won’t be the first time. So I’m back to locking things up, and unfortunately the report came just when I retired the padlock on the shed of the one place I get paid money to watch…

I took the padlock home to lube it, but couldn’t get it working. There’s nothing to steal in that shed except the solar power gear, and while that’s valuable it’s not really smash-and-grab stuff. I figured I’d get another padlock next time I’m in town – and then came lurid tales of this not-quite-right kid on a burgling spree. Great.

Fortunately D has a drawer-full of old padlocks, and gave me this one.

Yeah, of course I know you could get past that hasp with a tire iron or a big screwdriver. But if that shed gets burgled some night this week while the padlock is on the Jeep’s dashboard instead of on the door where it belongs, whose fault is it? I’m supposed to discourage theft, not facilitate it by taking the damned locks home. If I go an extra few feet to make sure it’s locked, at least the damage won’t be my fault.

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Good luck with that, fellas.

Courtesy of BB we learn of the latest impediment to law enforcement officers’ efforts to get home safely at the end of their shift…

Feds Issue 4,000 Orders to Seize Guns from People who Failed Background Checks

Which news shouldn’t be as alarming as it’s probably supposed to sound. Buried deep, deep in the article we learn that that “4000 guns” figure – actually 4,170 – is for 2016, and is only a little higher than the 2015 figure. But still, you should panic! Call your congressvermin and yell real loud!

“These are people who shouldn’t have weapons in the first place, and it just takes one to do something that could have tragic consequences,” said David Chipman, a former ATF official who helped oversee the firearm retrieval program…

…and who, we only learn later, is now a “senior policy adviser” for the Gifford Law Center for Enhanced Victim Disarmament. Be afraid!

Okay, I have to concede in fairness that if I were – in some bizarro world – a bottom-rung ATF agent and that if I received an order to go retrieve a firearm from some smelly desert hermit because the FBI screwed up the background check on an otherwise legal purchase from a FFL, it’s very possible the mission would conclude with a report that I was unable to locate said hermit, or that we did meet and that he had already sold the firearm forward.

I swear I don't know these guys.

I swear I don’t know these guys.

Because are you kidding? There’s a lot of desert out there, and that guy probably owns a shovel, too.

The article mentions that such reports do occur. Overall the ATF declines to say just how many of those thousands of “retrieval requests” result in “retrieved” firearms. My guess is not many, but I’m often wrong about such things.

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People tried to knock down the Pontiac Silverdome yesterday, and of course it was a failure, …

…and the obvious joke popped out of my mouth while LB and I were in the Jeep listening to the radio… “And hardly for the first time, the Silverdome hosts a disappointed audience…”

Turns out I was too late. Far too late.

The Detroit Lions called the poor thing home for most of its existence. Failure has been absorbed into its very structure.

Being from Detroit is pretty much one thing like this after another.

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More fun with Jerry can vents

Yesterday I managed to dribble gasoline all over the back of Landlady’s Prius, as 2 of 3 retrofitted Jerry can vents decided to leak precious juice.

I assumed the same thing happened as before, that the sealant held but the cans’ paint gave way. In fact, not so much.

The plan called for sanding down the area around the vent hole, so I did that despite the lack of any serious evidence of flaking paint.

This one clearly shows that the sealant just got hard and cracky, and broke free of the vent without ever pulling the paint off the can. I’m confused by this, since the cans are not left out in the sun. I put a cover on the trashcan corral specifically to get them out of the sun. So now I’m starting to think I need to find a better sealant, though in every other way this stuff has always worked fine for me.
Anyway, they’re all fixed again. So we’ll give it another try. So far I’d have to say that if you want metal rather than plastic fuel cans, you’ll have to spend the money for milspec. These are full of trouble.

Next time – and there’s sure to be a next time – I’m going to take somebody’s advice and replace the current vent with a tire valve just to see if that’ll seal better.

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Patreon: All righty, then!

You guys are going to make me work, aren’t you?

There are currently 14 subscribers! Including one $10/month, which brings TUAK’s Patreon income to $43/month. A big help, and much appreciated. But here’s the problem – If we cross $50/month, I have to actually do something.

So maybe it’s time to have that technical discussion – I’ve done a little research into low-end night vision game cameras, and the reviews (and one local experience) are all pretty underwhelming. I’ll have to up my game if we’re going to get any entertaining results.

So I’m now opening the floor to recommendations. Anybody have experience enough with game cameras, that they can recommend a useful model? I’m looking at something like this one, but the customer reviews are not encouraging. No point wasting money on a cheapy that won’t work.

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Okay, I guess. It’s your car, I mean it’s not like anybody else wants one…

I thought the first SpaceX launches and recoveries were cool, finally bringing spacecraft technology into the fictional 1930’s. But since all they ever did with it was take NASA money to deliver pizza to the ISS, I lost interest quickly. Big Brother is more plugged into tech news than I am…

Elon Musk says SpaceX will try to launch his Tesla Roadster on new heavy-lift rocket

BB sent me the linkage, along with better commentary than I could have come up with…

At long last, it seems that the Falcon Nine Heavy might actually be only a few months away from its first launch attempt. (It’s been “next year” for how many years?) Unsurprisingly there are no customers who want to put an expensive scientific or commercial payload on such a risky flight, so the question of payload and destination has been open for some time now.

My prediction would have been a load of water ballast lofted around the moon and back, but now there is official word; If Elon Musk is to be believed (and occasionally he can) the payload will be his Tesla Roadster and the destination will be Mars orbit. I wonder if Elon will ever be reunited with his car?

If he’s to be believed – and I guess we can believe him on this point if no other – the answer is no. 😀

I guess once you’ve spent however much that thing cost to build, by comparison it doesn’t much matter what you use for ballast. It isn’t as though he’s selling so many he can’t afford to launch one into space.

Musk apparently has a rep for Trump-like Twitter trolling, and not everything he says turns out to be true. And since the original announcement there has been some question as to whether they were really planning to use a Tesla as ballast for the first demo flight. Seems it’s so, though.

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Today’s message on Perspective…


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Surprise! Your dog is smarter than your cat.

Yeah, I know. Here’s another of those scientific animal studies that prove something most people already knew, but with a new factoid I didn’t actually know…

Dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million.

And to put that into perspective…

[H]umans have around 16 billion.

Which, if that’s the only determining factor, would make the average human roughly 30 times smarter than the average dog.

Which in turn, from the dog’s point of view, would explain the invention of the can opener.

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Food! Wealth!

I got two care packages from Big Brother this morning, and spent some time this morning stocking the new loft pantry.

Which I like! I can put cardboard containers of (mostly not food) stuff up there without needing to worry about it being torn to shreds by rats. The powershed pantry has now been completely retired except for the bulk buckets – because overhead storage for a 40-pound bucket makes zero sense – and that has given me much more room for tools and parts. I’m loving it! Continue reading

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Die, Facebook, die

Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before they’re reported

This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to flag worrisome posts to human moderators instead of waiting for user reports, Facebook can decrease how long it takes to send help.

Facebook previously tested using AI to detect troubling posts and more prominently surface suicide reporting options to friends in the U.S. Now Facebook is will (sic) scour all types of content around the world with this AI, except in the European Union, where General Data Protection Regulation privacy laws on profiling users based on sensitive information complicate the use of this tech.

“Makes me want to kill myself,” he typed just to f*ck up Facebook algorithms.

But relax! I’m sure none of this will ever be misused.


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Gotta put on my sexton hat…


Before T died he had specific ideas as to what he wanted on his gravestone. After T died, Landlady learned there were specific things monument makers are not willing to carve on a gravestone. So she found somebody who works with marble but not really grave markers, and that person made T’s marker. This left us with the problem that it wasn’t a proper gravestone and we had to improvise. We made a plywood form, poured it full of concrete, and glued the marker to the new concrete pedestal. Worked so well that we made a smaller form for the pets who went into Boot Hill, since Landlady has unusually grandiose ideas about pet grave markers.

Unfortunately ol’ Sexton Joel left the form out in the weather. I need to pour a couple more pedestals, and the old form isn’t going to get it done.

So this morning during chicken chores I brought a piece of scrap plywood from Landlady’s barn…


…and now there’s a new one. Which I will carefully store indoors, once I’m done with it this week.

The holes are for pieces of rebar scrap, to anchor the whole thing to the ground. That piece can be unscrewed and removed from the form once the concrete has set up. When pouring the concrete I turn the whole thing on its side, open end up.

T’s grave marker was so cool I feared some tourist might actually steal it. So in addition to being larger, his has long rebar anchors that are set in more concrete. You’d need a backhoe to get it out of the ground, and most tourists don’t bring backhoes. The pet marker anchors are just set into the dirt, at least for now – the theft problem ol’ Untrusting Joel anticipated never really arose.

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Truer words never spoken.

…except possibly during a house fire.

h/t to feralfae.

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There’s one thing I don’t understand about Vegan diet…

I’m not making fun here, I genuinely don’t understand. If you want to be a vegetarian, however strict, that’s totally … I don’t care. Good. You’re literally harming nothing but plants, so why would I object?

I don’t even know the difference between “vegetarian” and “vegan” – I assume it’s a matter of degree but could be completely wrong. But here’s the deal…

I have a couple of vegan neighbors. I’ve eaten at their home. We had veggieburgers. And that’s the thing I don’t understand: If you’re against eating animal products on moral grounds, as I assume vegans and many vegetarians are, why disguise veggies as meat? Why disguise soya as cheese?

This comes to mind this gray and somber morning, when I have nothing else to write about, because of this article right here…

Pizza Hut Is Now Making Vegan Pies

The Hut’s mozzarella facsimile of choice is a so-called “mmm vegalicious” product made by Violife, a Greek producer of vegan dairy alternatives that introduced its line of “Just Like Mature Cheddar,” “Just Like Smoked Provolone,” and other fakes cheeses in America earlier this year, too.

Again, not criticizing. I’ve eaten a lot of TVP with pleasure, it doesn’t bother me. I’m just trying to understand. If you’re vegan and proud, why disguise your food as something you’re against?

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