Your inspirational message for the day…

Yeah. You know what else is really expensive? Paint, that’s what. I recall those halcyon days of yesteryear when the Lair didn’t have paintable siding. The winter wind whistled through the walls, true, but I didn’t have to pay for paint, boy. And then there’s that actual painting.

You want to know what the Lair looks like right now? I can show you, because I just this minute went outside and took a picture…

As the sun broke over the ridge at quarter after six, it illuminated this…clearly unfinished site. It has looked like that for three days now. It’s going to go right on looking like that for a few days, too, because Uncle Joel can climb a tall shaky ladder or he can swing a paint pole, but asking him to do both is asking for a demonstration of terror paralysis. So starting this morning we’re moving to a related and contributory task: Refurbishing one of S&L’s old scaffolds. Yes, I know. I hoped to avoid that, but it’s how I got that upper part painted last time and it’ll help me get it painted this time. Unfortunately it’s been sitting outside when not intermittently in use for going on fifteen years now, and the plywood platform is pretty much rotted through. It was pretty damned iffy last time I used it, and that was 2 years ago. So I’m going to build it a new plywood platform. I’ll have to drill out some rivets, and then I’ll have to go to town and get some small bolts to replace the rivets. So even if I finish making the platform this morning I won’t be able to use the scaffold until sometime next week, probably. But that’s life.

And then, when I’m done with that, you know what I get to do? That’s right!

A second coat.

The 12v lighting is coming along nicely, though. And I had a good day yesterday, even though it wasn’t really addition-related.

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CBS: We’ll have more on the looming menace of Nazism in a moment. But first…

“Here’s a word about the wonders of eugenics!”

With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.

Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.

And so it has not proven necessary to make it mandatory.

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Commerce in the Boonies

One big problem with non-centralized solar power generating systems is that, while solar panel, inverter and charge controller technology has advanced greatly in the past 20 years, we’re stuck with 100-year-old battery technology. Household deep-cycle batteries are mostly just hugely beefed-up car batteries – they’re enormously heavy, enormously expensive, and have strictly finite lifespans. Unlike everything else in the system, they’re expendable commodities.

This raises a big cost issue with people who have places in the boonies but don’t live there full-time. Their battery costs are as great as those of full-time residents but the expense of new batteries may not be worth it to them.

Which is why, when part-time neighbor TC died, amid the sadness and lost what-if’s an opportunity arose.

TC never got to really develop his property. He had one of those big prefab sheds trucked in, he had a solar power system installed in it, and then he spent two years fighting cancer and I basically never saw him again.

TC died, his son contacted me as caretaker, drove down from out of state to look over the property, and I think he plans to put it up for sale. That could take years, and during those years the solar power components will probably be fine but those already two-year-old batteries will continue to deteriorate.

Meanwhile I have a neighbor whose very expensive battery bank is in the process of giving up the ghost. It must be replaced, but it would cost on the order of $4000 to do a full-on job of it. The property is only used two weekends out of the month tops. Lately, with Monsoon, quite a lot less. A less-expensive alternative would be good.

I’m the caretaker there as well. I won’t cheat either party, but the living are worth more to me than the dead. So I did something I do only very reluctantly: I played middleman. I pointed out the possible opportunity to my neighbor, I explained – but did not overstate – the entropic facts of life to TC’s son. I offered my services as intercessor.

Sums were offered, sums have recently been accepted and will no doubt change hands in due course. And then – oh, my aching back – I’ll be schlepping batteries around. My neighbor got his cheaper alternative, TC’s son got a cash infusion in return for something that he didn’t value and that would otherwise be wasted, and I get goodwill.

Long-time readers know that’s not nothing. I live on goodwill.

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Mystery solved.


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It’s not yet the middle of the month and I’m upside down on my bandwidth limit…

…and I swear I wasn’t surfing porn or downloading torrent files or colluding with Russians online, but I did spend part of the afternoon reading news sites and trying to get some handle on that business in Virginia other than “KKK skinhead nazis viciously attacked peaceful anti-fascist flower children with guns and cars and, I dunno, super-aryan powers or something”…

neo nazi
… which I suspect is not entirely what happened but I still don’t know and apparently won’t learn from reading the news. Anyway, that must be where I blew my ration – news sites do seem to suck up bandwidth – or else Verizon is just screwing with me for fun. But I do need to stay the hell away from the internet today. It’s Monday and I hope to go to town for a water run, and otherwise I’ll just be poking around electrical circuitry with iron tools and nothing could possibly go wrong with that. So there’s no point reporting on it, right?

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…and it only took three hours.

Look! I can still wire the simplest practical circuit!

And that’s not even a permanent light fixture. Big Brother’s sending me another long LED lamp like the one under the kitchen counter, to use as a bed reading lamp. So that switch will be right near the head of the bed, if I’ve figured the wall relationships correctly, but the lamp will move slightly and take a different form. And there are six more 12 volt fixtures that still have to go up; the plan for lighting and a possible future ceiling fan got more and more complicated until there’s just no way I have the wire for it.

The 120v outlets were simple, because the circuit was already in what became the inside wall and there’s no switches. Just a matter of extending new branches. But all the lighting is twelve volts, a completely separate thing. Today’s task was to get voltage into the addition and at least one light shining. That first part was the hard one, because I had to lay out iron conduit, cut it to size and screw it into place all under the Lair’s crawlspace. Many, many things I’d rather do but it was step one. Once wires were poking up in an addition wall, things got much easier.

The lamp wiring will be a relatively gradual thing, since I don’t have enough materials yet. so I expended a switch at the voltage source to keep from having to trek out to the powershed and disconnect batteries.

I don’t know why this is such a big deal to me. The first time I made a bulb light up on the wall of the Lair, that was a big deal. I built the Lair, I built the power generation system, as I recall I even scrounged the light fixture. Put it all together and have light come out of thin air, no power company involved, when you’re never quite certain you know what you’re doing, that’s a big deal. I remember posting the picture of that CFL burning on that wall but I can’t find it now, I was extremely pleased with myself. Hey, if you do all that and don’t take a moment to celebrate, there’s something wrong with you.

That was a long time ago but here I am again, the first light shining in this new room of the now two-room Lair, and if I’m not exactly giddy it still seems like an important milestone.

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“Escaping the Goolag”

It makes me a little sad. I remember when Google was geeky cool. But you’re not allowed to rule the world, even if you promise to ‘not be evil.’

So there’s talk about how to “fire Google,” and probably Brad has the best take I’ve read so far on how to accomplish that. Relatively easy, except for the Youtube thing.

On a related topic, beware of those newfangled “app” thingies. Even the ones sold by Google Play. They’re watching you.

I do believe it was Google that taught us all the sad aphorism, “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.”

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“Those people are quite strange.”

“How could you own a single flashlight?”

Going on two years ago I wrote a post called The Cult of the Flashlight that occasionally still comes back to haunt me. I am not renowned for my people skills, I’m prone to blurt and my only nod to tact is silence which often doesn’t work in conversation and never in blogging. This post was not…tactful. In fact I woke up the very next morning determined to write an immediate apology.

So anyway, while I’m blathering about people who keep score by how many high-end flashlights they own, they’re looking back with equally amused perplexity…

…and I got a comment last evening from the lady who actually wrote the documentation I mocked. Seems if you type “flashlight cult” into a search engine, you get that becoming-infamous post. Like, right up at the top. And flashlight hobbyists do like to talk about flashlights

Fortunately they also seem to possess a sense of humor.

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“Whoops. Guess not.”

It has rained all afternoon. Nothing dramatic, no huge scary storms, just rain. And I decided, around 2:30, that I should take advantage of a lull in the showers to run over to Landlady’s place to tend her chickens, and then I was going to run 3 dozen eggs over to L’s and pick up my laundry. Sent L a text, telling her I was on my way.

Except I didn’t get far.


This is more usual for a Monsoon. Compared to the wild destructive floods of two weeks ago this is a more sedate affair. Probably the bed won’t be dug out in any challenging way, probably the crossings will be passable again by nightfall.

But it puts a stop to my antics for the rest of the evening.

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Dude looks like a dude.

A couple of months ago I wrote, “Please tell me he’s not going to be on the cover in a bustier.”

Nope. Expensive swimsuit.

Sincerely, it’s too late to worry about America “becoming” weird. If you want to cut your wang off and pretend you’re a woman, I won’t break your legs trying to prevent it. Your life, your problem. But don’t expect me to pretend it’s some great victory for human rights, okay? MLK wore a guy suit. Gandhi wore a dhoti and William Wallace presumably wore a kilt, but they weren’t cross-dressing. I honor what Bradley Manning did, but that doesn’t obligate me to look at Chelsea Manning in a lady’s swimsuit.

ETA: Because I just re-read what I wrote a few hours ago and I’m not sure it’s clear: There’s exercising the freedom to do what you will, and then there’s mental illness. It behooves individuals, as they go through their lives, to understand the difference. To my grief, since I really do honor what Bradley Manning did, I don’t think he has done so.

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The auto airbag story has always interested me…

…because I was there. I wasn’t directly involved, I was in technician training, but I was there at a Ford product development facility where things got argued about. And the “consumer safety advocates” and the auto engineers and bureaucrats weren’t really arguing at all – they were talking past each other. The advocates were determined to make the car companies look like villains for not immediately agreeing to install small bombs in steering wheels, and the car companies were determined not to actually become villains – sued into insolvency by product liability attorneys – because they had agreed to install small bombs in steering wheels.

The advocates insisted that airbags were essential because people couldn’t be convinced to wear seatbelts. The car companies – who actually conducted crash tests – insisted that seatbelts were far more consistently useful in car crashes and that, while airbags might one day become useful supplements to seatbelts, they would never replace them and in any case the technology wasn’t ready. The very first airbag modules used compressed air to inflate the bag and most commonly didn’t serve any useful purpose at all. The ones the auto companies installed after the law making them mandatory in the mid-eighties used sodium azide and potassium nitrate “initiators*” that worked every time, often with tragic results. The advocates were right that airbags could and did reduce total fatalities caused by head and chest injuries. The auto companies were right that airbags would also cause fatalities from head and neck injuries, and that they’d get sued for it big-time.

All that was well over thirty years ago. The technology has moved on, the airbags have been painstakingly dialed-in to balance speed of inflation with violence of inflation – I don’t even know how they work anymore – and I don’t read many stories about them breaking the necks of small children any more. They have also proliferated to all sorts of places I predicted they wouldn’t go. But I was still there in the mid-eighties and saw it go down, and it’s still an interesting story to me.

Which is why I wasted nearly an hour reading this old account of the debate, from a 2001 article.

Wrong Turn
– or, this is what happens when you put an epidemiologist in charge of traffic safety.

*I was involved in writing some of the first public documentation for post-law airbag-equipped cars and certain words were absolutely forbidden. Airbags “inflate.” They do not “explode.” No part of them “detonates.” Even though the “initiator” was basically a blasting cap in a small bomb, no matter what the lawyerspeak said.

When a large batch of airbag modules was recalled and collected into a Dearborn warehouse, the precautions surrounding them before their dismantling would have convinced you that technicians – myself included – certainly treated them as if they were bombs. Because they were.

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UPS trucks don’t do deep sand well.

I just gave up on the day and started a movie when the phone rang. “There’s a UPS truck stuck in the wash crossing.”

Oh, shit. “OUR wash crossing?”


You remember that big sinkhole I told you about – not really a sinkhole, to be pedantic, more of a washout. A big hole in the road, anyway. Well, Scott the Road Guy came and fixed it the very next day, but it was a mighty busy day and all he did was fill it with loose sand. He also gave the crossing itself a quick once-over with the grader, but I wouldn’t say he got it right. It’s really loose and I’ve been waiting for a 4X2 to get stuck for two weeks.

I wasn’t expecting a UPS truck. Only S&L live at the end of that road, and L wasn’t expecting a package.

So I drove the Jeep to the scene of the crime, thinking it would be a simple matter to tow him out but he’d buried it.

It took five people an hour and a half to dig that truck out of there, to the point where we could tow it out with a Jeep. And even then he was on the wrong side of the crossing, so D hooked his Jeep to it and towed the truck out after we filled in the ruts with shovels.

:( I need a new tow strap. Mine gave up the ghost.

And for all that – the driver was delivering an empty box, that wasn’t even needed. :) Seriously: L got her satellite service changed, and Dish Network sent a box because she had to return some equipment, except the technicians had already taken the equipment back so the box was unneeded. It had all been settled days ago, I’m told, but of course the UPS driver didn’t know that and wouldn’t have cared. He was paid to deliver an empty box, he was by god going to deliver an empty box.

I guess technically it wasn’t the responsibility of any of us to get the kid’s truck out of the wash. But he was there doing service for a neighbor. And this time of the year, you really don’t want to break down in the wash. It’s been threatening to storm all afternoon.

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If I can’t see it, it isn’t there.

Somebody at Yale got offended by a stylized blunderbuss on an old statue. So they fixed the statue.

Thank heaven some brave soul did that. A student or faculty member might have seen that, been triggered, and melted all over the sidewalk. Would have made a terrible mess.

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The peanut butter jar isn’t empty…

…until Little Bear says the peanut butter jar is empty.


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Rainy day project

Overcast as hell and it starts to rain every time I go near a paint roller. So I looked around for some other little thing I could do, where it’s not a disaster if I get rained on while I’m doing it…

We had a discussion in comments about this not long ago; I’ve always had the habit of strapping the trailer’s tie-downs to the trailer walls so they’re handy. I could put them in the Jeep but there’s already so much permanent junk in the Jeep. But now weather and incidental damage (once a cow tried to eat one, and cleaning up after that was not great fun) has caused me to have to replace the straps, and I don’t want to have to do that again. Somebody suggested I bolt an ammo can to the trailer, and that made good sense. Happened I have an old ammo can not actually being used for ammo…

Until I actually tried to do it, my plan was to bolt the can to the trailer wall just over a fender. That way it wouldn’t bounce around and maybe fatigue the ammo can wall. But it turned out that the angle iron on the top of the wall made it impossible to open the lid when I put it there. Fortunately I learned that before I actually had things bolted down. It has to be down low so the lid can swing. I did figure out ahead of time that I had to tilt the top of the box away from the wall with washers to leave a gap for the inner edge of the lid.

It’s got 3/8″ bolts with big washers and lock nuts, so it should stay in place okay. If it doesn’t, then I’ll know that idea doesn’t work.

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Works for me…





The Donald is well on his way to being a big disappointment to me. But he’d have to be a huge disappointment indeed not to maintain a place in my regard just because He Isn’t Hillary.

H/T to Kentucky.

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Spent some donated money on a new tool today…

Today was supposed to be a big painting day, and the big question I pondered as I lay awake before rising was “How the hell am I going to paint the top of the peak?” I did it two years ago with ladder and 6′ scaffold, and I still remember every minute. Your old Uncle Joel’s a little afraid of heights.

Why this not-exactly-secret issue didn’t stop me from building an 18′ tall cabin with extremely steep roof, which would surely require maintenance, I really can’t imagine. But I blame Google.

Anyway: I only owned one roller extension, and it’s only four feet long.

And that's as high as I can possibly make it reach, holding it with the ends of my fingers.

And that’s as high as I can possibly make it reach, holding it with the ends of my fingers.

And climbing as high on the ladder as I dared, you can see how high I succeeded in painting this morning.

Obviously I can do better than that. I mean, somebody painted it last time, right? Sure. That was me. Straighten out the ladder and I can get to the top of the cabin. Reaching out from the very shaky ladder. With no one around to keep me company while I lay dying. Yeah. Like I said. Lying awake in bed. Remember it from two years ago. Every minute.

So I’m buying paint this afternoon and it comes to me: I need to do this at least every other year. And every time I wish I had a long extendable pole. It’s not like that would be the only seasonal tool I own. A cheap one isn’t really very expensive.

It wasn’t in the budget, but I came home with one anyway. At full extension it’s really floppy, so I also bought a thick roller cover. And that means I should be able to paint the very scariest parts of the cabin without even using a ladder.

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Have you seen Google’s new slogan?


And look! There’s a story.

At publishing time, the Company had deployed its police force to arrest a citizen for googling, “How many genders are there?” shortly after firing an employee for questioning whether men and women were different. According to sources, both individuals were being sent to Google’s infamous Room 101 to be broken down and rebuilt.

Remember when “It’s a cautionary tale, not an instruction manual” was funny?

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Wow, that session didn’t last long at all.

So this morning’s task was to get the front of the Lair all one color – at least its lower tier.

Got that much done.

Then I had to decide: Turn left, or go up? I was on a roll with the rig I was already using and didn’t want to spend half an hour fiddling with ladders, so I turned the corner. I figured I’d get the upper part as a separate job. But I didn’t get far.

Wow, the sun’s been rough on that paneling. I should have repainted it last year, instead I barely gave it a thought. I knew it was dried out and showing some cracking, but this side soaks up more paint than the new plywood did. Again; primer. Next time I’ll try to remember. But right now this is the paint I have. Or rather, had. That’s as far as my last gallon took me.

But you can see where I’m going with that color: Without being camouflaged as such, the Lair will blend with its surroundings better with this shade. Precisely why that goal interests me, I have no good answer. Comes with the lifestyle, I guess.

By complete serendipity this was a good day to use up the last of my paint. I’ve got a ride to town this afternoon, so things won’t come to a complete halt for a week.

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Finally got you, you crafty little SOB.

I bought a new trap, because sometimes old traps stop attracting rats. I tried the ol’ tried and true peanut butter, I tried sunflower seeds. He ignored them both. I stopped setting the trap for a couple of nights, then tried bread scraps.

He couldn’t resist bread scraps.


I’ve been slacking off on construction the last couple of days, just piddling around, enjoying (wasting) the sunshine. But I can’t seal the addition against rats till I turn my attention to the floor. For the floor, I need the use of D&L’s workshop and D&L’s workshop is being industriously stuccoed and doesn’t need my disruption at the moment. So right now I’m putting up with the occasional rodent, and that’s bad. Rodents have never been a problem inside the Lair, but they’re creatures of scent trails and habit; once you’ve got’em it’s ten times harder to get rid of’em. I’ve killed three mice but I knew from the droppings that there was a rat. At least one.

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