November 30, 2013
5 Killed in ATM Shootout in Mexico City
So I stumbled across an article today on http://www.reddit/r/justiceporn that indicated 4 robbers were killed in an ATM refill shootout, along with one armed guard, apparently. And, I just thought I'd take to opportunity to try to emphasize how dangerous it is to refill an ATM machine in Mexico. Like, in the United States, I see people all the time refilling ATM machines. It's a one-man job. He may or may not be armed. In Mexico, it's a horse of a different color.
In Mexico, you're going to have 3 armed guards, with bullet proof vests, carrying pump shotguns with 18 1/4" barrel, 6+1 magazines, thigh holsters with back up revolvers. Extra ammo strapped across their chests on bandoliers. Extra bullets for the revolver on their belts. No joking around. No funny stuff. These dudes are deadly serious. I was like "No hay problemo con esto cajero automático?"
"Alto. No pase."
These dudes are deadly serious. Now, I sort of start to understand why, I guess...
Armed guards defend an ATM machine in Ciduad del Camen, Estato del Campeche, Mexico. May 31, 2013.
November 25, 2013
Restore and Preserve the Monticello Depot "in situ"
The politicians in Monticello, Mississippi have sat idly by and watched the historic depot deteriorate into a sad state. As a solution, they came up with the shocking idea of giving it away to another town. Only, Mrs. Clinton was one step ahead of them. She had the foresight to get the depot placed on both the National Historic Registry and the State Historic Registry. So, the good news is, it's not going anywhere any time soon.
Now, some people, aside from the politicians, think it would be a good idea to ship the Depot up to Jackson to let them restore it. I disagree for the following reasons:
1) The building has never been moved. It is in it's original location right now. If we're going to preserve our historic buildings, obviously we want to keep them in their original location if possible.
2) Moving the building would do grievous injury to it. There's no way to ship the building to Jackson without serious, fundamental damage to the structure. If you think that they'll reassemble it in Jackson, I say "How can you be so sure what they'll do with it once they have it?" I've certainly heard of buildings that were taken apart, board by board, carefully numbering each board, and then the building was never reassembled. It happens.
3) It would cost more to ship the Depot to Jackson and have them restore it, than it would cost to restore in its current location. This fact is undeniable. It's intuitively obvious to the casual observer.
4) Jackson doesn't have any more money to restore our depot than we do. We currently both have $0.00 set aside to restore the depot. Either Jackson can raise the money, or we can. We can apply to grants to match any funds raised in towards the restoration of the depot. We have many different avenues to pursue to raise funds. We can ask local business for money, apply for federal and state grants. All sorts of ways to raise money.
If you want to ship the Depot off to Jackson, hoping they will restore it and display it, you are certainly welcome to that opinion. Please feel free to start your own Facebook Group, but that's not what we are interested in doing.
A lot of people in town seem to like to attack us for not doing anything until the town decided to attempt to give away our historic landmark Depot. "Why," they ask, "did you wait until we decided to ship it off to Jackson before you did anything? Huh?"
Obviously, I don't drive down the road taking note of the state of repair of each structure I pass. Because I don't own them. So, it's none of my concern. Now, if I own a building, yes...I do tend to look at it and fret about it and think about doing repairs, here and there. But, if I don't own the building, I don't really pay much attention to it. I''d argue I'm not alone in this.
This is the reason that we didn't do anything before now with the Monticello Depot. Because we didn't know it was our responsibility. It makes me wonder how well the town is doing with it's other structures.
If you can avoid trying to prod us to tear our historic depot apart to ship off to another town in pieces, then you're welcome to join us for a civil discussion on how to fund the restoration "in situ" at this location: https://www.facebook.com/groups/monticello.depot/
November 24, 2013
"Added by" vs. "Invited by" in Facebook Groups
If you've ever looked at the Member list on a Facebook Group, you may have noticed that each members name says either "Added by" or "Invited by". The reason for this is not documented anywhere that I can find with any degree of certainty/confidence.
There are many ways that people can be added to groups. For instance, you can:
1) Go to Members - Add People - enter names, and then click Add.
2) Occasionally, the Facebook page will show suggested members on the right-hand side of the screen, and you can click n the Add button beside each name to add the members.
3) You can message the link (URL) to the Facebook Group to an individual.
4) You can invite people by email address by clicking on "Invite by email" on the right-hand side of the page.
5) People can find the Facebook Group on their own (assuming it's not Closed and Hidden). Then, they can request to join, and the admins will receive notification requesting them to approve the new members.
So, there are lots of ways to have a member added into the system. I'm not clear, however, under what conditions it displays "Invited by" vs. "Added by". I suspect, although I'm not certain, that members that are not yet active on the Facebook Group show "Invited by", and then their status changes to "Added by" when they begin using the Facebook Group. But again, this is just a hunch.
As a test, I went to "Members" and clicked on the "Add People" button and put in the name of a person on my friends list. It immediately lists them in the "Members" section and says "Invited by ". I'm curious if it will change to "Added by" once they go to the site.
Monticello Depot Photos - Melissa Tynes - (Summer 2012)
Larger versions in the extended entry.
November 23, 2013
The Monticello Depot
It was declared a Mississippi Landmark in 1985. That's what the plaque is for on the exterior of the building. It was granted National Historic Place status with the Department of the Interior in 1995.
"The City of Monticello has received an Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for the restoration of the depot. The proposed project will rehabilitate the depot in accordance with the US Secretary of the interior's Standards for Rehabilitation with the cooperation of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History."
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Historic Preservation Division
P. O. Box 571
Jackson, Mississippi 39205-0571
This website says it was built in 1910. http://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/prop.aspx?id=18008&view=facts&y=970
Martha Watts: During Jerry McLeans term, there was a $100,000 ICTEA grant received for the depot that timed out due to no action.
Kay Allen, Lawrence County Historical Society president: 601-886-3341
The Monticello Depot placed on National Register - 10/31/1995
The Monticello Depot in Monticello, Mississippi was built in 1906. The Depot was also known as the "New Orleans Great Northern Railroad Depot" and/or the "Orleans
Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio (GM&0) Depot".
The Monticello Depot was entered into the the "National Register" of the National Park Service on 10/31/1995.
Historic Functions: Transportation/rail related
Walls: wood, asbestos
Period of Significance: circa 1906 -1945
Primary location of additional data: State Historic Preservation Office
Property Owner: Town of Monticello. Mavor Jerry G. McLean
Located between the main north-south freight line formerly owned by the GM & O Railroad and Highway 84, in the center of downtown Monticello, the New Orleans Great Northern Railroad Depot, also known as the G.M. & O. Railroad Depot and the Monticello Depot, is a one-story, rectangular, frame building. Built in 1906, the depot is sheathed in asbestos siding over board-and- batten siding, with a skirting of exposed board-and-batten siding, and sits on a foundation of timber piling and brick piers. The building is surmounted by an asphalt-shingled, gable roof with overhanging eaves, exposed rafters, and decorative knee braces. A raised platform, skirted with wooden planks, wraps around the eastern and southern elevations and is accessed by wooden steps.
The westerly elevation faces the track and is divided into seven bays by the spacing of the brackets. The first bay contains a window which is obscured with plywood. The second and sixth bays contain single-leaf, four-panel doors. The third bay contains a three-sided observation bay which has one window on each of the three bayed sides, all of which are obscured with plywood. The fourth, fifth, and seventh bays have blank wails.
The northerly elevation contains a single bay with one single-leaf, four-panel door and one window which is obscured. The southerly elevation also contains one bay with a central, four-panel, diagonal beaded-board, sliding, freight door.
The easterly elevation is divided into eight bays by the spacing of the brackets. The second and sixth bays contain single-leaf, four panel doors. The windows are filled with wooden, two-over- two, double-hung sash in the sixth, seventh and eighth bays. The first, third, fourth, and fifth bays have blank wails.
The interior is divided into two rooms: the waiting room to the north and the freight room to the south. The wails and ceilings are finished with beaded-board siding and the floor is finished with flush board.
The New Orleans Great Northern Railroad Depot in Monticello retains a great degree of architectural integrity. The only major modification to the depot is the infill and covering of the windows, which has not greatly affected the integrity of the structure. The City of Monticello has received an Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for the restoration of the depot. The proposed project will rehabilitate the depot in accordance with the US Secretary of the interior's Standards for Rehabilitation with the cooperation of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The New Orleans Great Northern Railroad Depot in Monticello is locally significant under Criterion A in the area of transportation, representing the development of rail transportation in south- central Mississippi in the early twentieth century. Its period of significance extends from circa 1906, when it was built, to 1945, fifty years prior to the current date. It served as a passenger depot until 1954 and housed freight operations until 1971. The depot in Monticello and the NOGN depot in Jackson (built in 1927) are the last surviving depots on the old NOGN route in Mississippi.
The New Orleans Great Northern Railroad (NOGN) was incorporated in 1905 for the purpose of running a railroad line between Slidell, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi. Construction began in 1905 and was completed in 1909. In December 1929 the NOGN was acquired by the Gulf, Mobile, and Northern Railroad (GM&N), which subsequently consolidated with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad in 1940 to form the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad (GM&O). In 1978 the GM&O merged with the Illinois Central Railroad, which currently owns what is left of the former NOGN route.
The founding of Monticello predates the arrival of the railroad by nearly a century. The town was established in 1815 as the seat of Lawrence County in the Mississippi Territory. The community flourished from the 1820s to the 1850s as a shipping point on the Pearl River, but declined after the first railroad in the area was routed through Brookhaven, some twenty miles west, in 1857. Economic vitality began to return to the community following the completion of the Brookhaven and Peajl River Railroad, linking Monticello to the Illinois Central Railroad at Brookhaven, in December 1904. In 1906 t§e New Orleans Great Northern Railroad reached Monticello and constructed the present depot.
The NOGN provided rail service from Monticello to Jackson and New Orleans. After the purchase of the line by the Gulf, Mobile, and Northern Railroad in 1929, the depot in Monticello was served by express passenger service linking New Orleans, Jackson, and St. Louis. The Rebel," one of the first streamlined, high-speed diesel passenger trains in the South, ran on this route beginning in the 1930s. Rail passenger service was provided through this depot until 1954, when the GM&O Railroad ceased passenger operations along this route. In 1971 the GM&O ceased its remaining freight operations in Monticello and closed the depot, it was subsequently sold to a private owner, who donated it to the Town of Monticello in 1983. The town intends to rehabilitate the building to house town offices and^a small museum, using funds from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA).
1 1llinois Central Railroad Company. Environmental and Historical Report for the proposed abandonment of trackage between Elton and Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi, 1994.
2 Works Progress Administration historical notes for Monticello, 1941.
3 Lynn Lofton, "Local depot named state landmark," The Press (Monticello, Miss), February 13,1986. This information is also restated in essentially the same form in the Town of Monticello Transportation Enhancement Project Application, February 7,1995. The date of 1906 for both the arrival of the railroad and the construction of the depot is given in these sources, but the WPA notes give the date of 1907.
November 19, 2013
Class of '83 & '84 - MIA
You were directed to this webpage because you recently attempted to join the Monticello High School Red Devils Facebook Group. However, we are currently using this group to plan the 1983/1984 Class reunion and you do not appear to have graduated from MHS during those years.
However, if you can help us locate contact inforamtion for any of our missing classmates, we'll let you in immediately. Thanks for your help. - MHS Red Devils Casses of '83 & '84
These people were in the MHS Class of 1983 or 1984, but we have no contact information for them. If you know how to contact these people, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rob.a.kiser.
These people were in the MHS Class of 1983 or 1984, but we have no contact information for them. If you know how to contact these people, please email me at email@example.com or message me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rob.a.kiser.
November 17, 2013
The Truth About the Fall
The city is a nightmare of crowded sidewalks and screaming steel brakes. Homeless women flit between open trash bins, collecting their daily nutrients from the city's refuse. Bristling strangers bustle down choked sidewalks, bouncing off each other in a human pachinko-prison. Scampering off to jobs they don't like.
A demonstrable, quantifiable, hell on earth.
My home in the Rocky Mountains is the polar opposite of this.
So quiet here in my asylum. So peaceful you cannot know.
No car horns or sirens. No cocky police or rude, screaming strangers. No homeless maidens wrestling in trash bins.
The serene four-acre retreat, ensconced in evergreens, rests in a remote corner of the county no city ever saw fit to incorporate. No planes fly over. No cars drive by.
At the terminus of a dead-end gravel road with hand-painted sign rests a rusting carpool of WWII amphibians. Broken machine guns pointing crazily skyward. The sign doesn't say "Keep Out", but clearly insinuates it. Deeply implies it.
Always, I've wanted to take the summers off. But in practice, it never pans out. Always, in the summer, I'm somewhere else. Austin or Boston. San Diego or San Francisco. But never here. This year, I've decided enough is enough. This year, I decided, I'm taking the summer off.
The truth is that, when I returned from my trip through Central America, I wasn't really sure what to do with myself. Kansas threw me in jail for a while, but once I got home, basically, I just climbed into bed and went to sleep. I slept through August and September. Only when the leaves changed did I really find it in myself to get out of bed.
Summer in the Rockies
In the summer, stoic bird feeders defend the picture windows. The wildlife is occupied in other pursuits. The bears are off smashing bee hives. The coons and foxes have other things on their minds. They're off, wallowing in the creeks, choking down crawfish, minnows. Chasing chipmunks, mice, and voles. The squirrels are busy burying pinecones gnawed from the evergreens in communal middens.
The sunflower seed bird feeders suffer through the long warm days, reluctantly dispensing seeds to itinerant flocks of Nuthatches, Finches, Junkos, and Chickadees. These feeders tolerate the summer, suffering small indignations, but largely unmolested.
The Hummingbird feeders don't have it so well. They're ground zero for a violent turf battle between the Rufous, the Broad-Tailed, and the Calliope Hummingbirds. Nothing is ever won completely, or finally resolved. Every skirmish is fought, only to be recontested seconds later. An ephemeral, victory. Pointless, to the casual observer.
Out back, the Mule deer rub the fur off their antlers, pushing blood beneath the bark of the mountain saplings, in anticipation of the rut. The elk move through in great swarms, mowing the lush green grasses.
The squirrels bury their pinecones in communal middens and then regroup to defend the cache. In furious, organized conflicts, the clans fight each other tooth and nail. Surprisingly, the squirrels fight against each other in families. Working together, they block the escape routes along limbs, trunks, and ground. All choreographed and orchestrated in shrill chirps and staccato barks. Racing through the evergreens, showering the earth with rivers of bark. Clouds of debris. Cascading waves of detritus crash onto the ground.
Now come the Stellar's Jays, Magpies, Ravens, and Crows. Corvidae, the vicious defenders of the skies. These birds also work together in organized family units. Lookouts guard while they feed on grass seeds in large open meadows.
Now comes an unfamiliar sea-gull sounding bird that I can't identify. When I hear his cry, I go racing into the fields, straining to see what bird made this awful plea. Eventually, we realize it's an immature Red-tailed hawk, soaring on high thermals, safely above the threat of the crows.
The evergreens lose some of their needles - the ones closest in. And they drop drop a few of their limbs - the lowest and least-productive ones.
Tired chainsaws warn the valley that snows are on the way. The lazy hammers of summer sound across the valley, as if in reply. Everyone knowing what is next. The sound of distant crows and nervous dogs. Roosters crow in the middle of the day, warning of some danger no one can know, like foghorns in the bay.
At night, the bears return, ripping trembling feeders from high eaves overhead, smashing them to the ground, ripping open the steel and wooden feeders, and gorging themselves on sunflower seeds. How do they know? How can they know of the coming winter?
All of the thrashing about wakes me, sleeping lightly behind open windows in the middle of the night. I come down with a crazy spotlight to see what the racket is for. Lots of guns by the bed, but I don't want to kill the wildlife. That's not why I'm up here. Only I want to see what goes bump in the night.
Hear it crashing through the garden - once full of California Poppies - now, full of weeds and the sounds of branches cracking, bark falling in waves from the pine tree. I should have brought a gun. This is crazy. Sure enough, it's a bear. A fairly large one. A mature, black bear runs up a pine tree as quickly as a housecat.
Only now does it occur to me that I should have brought a gun or three. Luckily, he was more scared of me than I was of him.
I dim the lights and go back inside. I feel bad for the bird feeders. Now I know what they were so afraid of all this time. They knew the bears were out there. I only suspected it, but they had seen them.
But the seasons pass me by, and summer fades, imperceptibly, into fall.
Summer tosses in his hand and says "Deal me out". The days get shorter and cooler. The sun drifts deeper north into the sky, recklessly close to the horizon.
Green fades to gold and everything falls back to the earth. Reluctantly. Silently. Somber as mourners fading away from a funeral. Saddened by Summer's passing, but glad to have known him.
Now the fields all go to seed. Everything I promised myself I'd mow over the summer but never got around to casts its seeds to the winds. Russian Thistle, knap weed, dandelions.
The aspens turn from light green to a pale yellow, then sent their leaves into the creek. Gold doubloon waterfalls. The color started at the mountain tops, from the peaks and the passes, then moved slowly, like a yellow tsunami, crashing down the valleys.
Only the sound of the winds in the trees and the distant echo of a murder of crows.
And maybe, in the Fall, the leaves changed and fell reluctantly to the ground. The days grew shorter and more frantic. Cold Fall winds pulled the seeds from the grasses. The Crows moved into the deep fields of grass, to eat the seeds. Watched over by the watchers.
Chainsaws whined in the quickening evenings. Cutting up dead trees for the coming snows. Everything seems more frantic somehow. The ducks fly south. Now, the calling of the Red-tailed hawk. The immature one from this summer. I don't wonder what it is when I hear his whining screams any more. I don't have to peer into the trees or the sky to try to make him out. I know his call.
The screams of the Stellar's Jay. Distant barking of dogs and calling of crows.
Jennifer looks at the pine trees and says "Look, daddy, they're dying."
"We're all dying, baby," I offer, in consolation.
"I know, but they're dying now," she pleaded.
"No baby. They loose a third of their needles every year. The trees are fine."
Now, the scrub oaks turn from light green to a burnt orange color. Usually, the scrub oaks signal the end of fall. They're the last trees to shed their leaves.
A murder of crows comes now, returning to their roost for the night. Flying, at reckless speeds on blackened wings that brush the sky loudly as they pass.
It's easy to see what's here, but so much harder to see what's not here. To notice what's missing. Eventually, I realize the Cordilleran Flycatchers have left. I miss their peculiar chirps as they flit, discreetly between the trees. The hummingbirds have flown south. The Red-Tailed hawk left our valley.
The ravens come in great waves now, darkening the sun. Screaming, unreasoned fury against what could never be known. The Flickers hop up and down the trucks of the evergreens, with a shrill, chirping call. The Stellar's Jays hear all of this, take it in, and repeat the call of each bird. So that one could never know for sure what bird they were truly hearing.
Young men move into the mountains carrying with them their hopes and dreams. Towing behind them whatever might follow. Women. Children. They buy machines, hoping to tame the mountains.
Old men do not move into the mountains to retire. Old men flee the mountains to places sunny and simple and warm. Flat warm beaches of Florida. Or the parched deserts of Arizona. But they don't come here. The winters drive them away, as surely as the snows drove away the old neighbors. They dreamed of retiring here, but old and brittle, fled for the comfort of the equator.
But all is not lost in the fall. We have new guests now. The Evening Grosbeaks are back. Soon, we'll have the Butcher Birds and the Bald Eagles will return.
But I'm not sure that I'll be around to see them.
In October, the days grew shorter. Nights grew longer.
The Aspen groves proudly surrendered their leaves, like an army defeated, but unashamed.
Scraggly barren trees clawed desperately at sullen skies, ripping open their seams, unleashing the first snows of Fall.
The horses donned winter coats, bright red blankets to get them through the long, thin nights of winter.
I pull the photos from the game camera, just to see what's milling around at night. I glance hopefully at the photos on a computer in the home office. But the darkness holds its secrets. Nothing's there. The bears are hibernating by now.
The hummingbirds and the flycatchers left months ago.
I stare absently into soft sullen skies, replaying the madness of summer dogfights when we were afraid to walk outside. Summer slipped by so fast. One day, you're shooting hummingbirds, turning their names over in your mind, like rocks tumbling down a river bed. Then suddenly, they're gone and you're left trying to put the shattered fragments of summer back together. Trying to remember the sound of their wings as they bombed and attacked each other.
Solemnly, I empty their feeders and put them away. No point in leaving them out all winter. We won't see hummingbirds or flycatchers again until June.
They say the hummingbirds fly to central america. And the bears retreat to secret dens. But it's hard to know for sure. It's so hard to say.
I refill the crippled sunflower seed feeders. Over the years, they've suffered greatly from the wrath of the bears. Mangled an cut. Battered and bandaged. I'm too cheap to replace them. Just keep cobbling them back together with glue and screws. Love and empathy. They're still getting plenty of attention though.
At night, the bird bath begins to freeze. And each day the local birds suffer a little longer, waiting for the ice to thaw.
I keep the sunflower seed feeders full for them, this stalwart, motley gang. Finches and Chickadees. Stellar's Jays and Grosbeaks. These birds won't migrate. These are the real troopers of the mountains. They suffer through long winters here, hunkered down like winter warriors. Nervously, they peck at the seed feeders, warily checking their shoulders for hawks, eagles, and the irascible Butcher Birds that turn up this time every year.
The young, innocent birds peck away at the feeders, naive and fearless. They don't know what to watch for. This is their first dance. A Stellar's Jay imitates a hawk, and the birds scatter. The Jay moves in to eat his fill of black oil sunflower seeds. I can tell the difference between a Red-Tailed Hawk, and a Stellar's Jay imitating a Red-Tailed Hawk. But it took me a long time to get there. The hardest part was admitting that I was wrong. That I didn't know everything. After that, the rest came easy.
This is all I can manage. The bird bath. The bird feeders. That's really all I can do. Everything else just fades away.
I retreat to my bed and collapse into a sort of hibernation of my own. I try to get up, but can't summon the courage. Instead, I lie in bed, surfing the internet, wagering ad hominem wars with strangers, and waiting for the Butcher Birds to return.
November 15, 2013
What Does the Fox Say?
You have to know that I"m a tortured soul, right? Like...I have my issues. I have my demons. They haunt me.
The latest thing that's been bothering me is that, I set the trap to catch the skunks, but then I caught a fox. Not just any fox, but a grey one. Very rare in this area. A beautiful fox. And, I wasn't sure if I should let it go or shoot it. I decided the cat was more important than the fox. And I don't want to have to shoot the fox, but I don't want it to kill the cat either. And I have to let the cat outside because he's just too stir crazy otherwise. A million little sequitirs all line up and say, however improbably, however irrationally, that the fox has to die.
I'm still hesitant, but when I go to release the fox, he growls at me, and that makes it easier. Aha...you wanna bite me. Thanks. You just made this decision a lot easier.
Last night, I didn't even bother to set the trap. There's a red fox that's been schooling me pretty handily. He took my chicken, lingered around for an hour licking the cage clean of all the rotisserie drippings, and somehow got away without ever springing the trap.
So, I just left it alone. Didn't set up the gamecam. Didn't touch the trap. And then, I walk outside this morning (by morning, I mean 2:00 RST), and I'm shocked to see a fox in the trap. No pictures, as the game cam is shut off. But there's a fox trapped in my trap, and it wasn't even baited.
"Aha!", I thought. "Who's the clever one now?"
So, I see this fox. Now, I have another issue to deal with. Now, I have to decide what to do with a second fox. Only now, I have a little more information at hand.
I saw a series of photos on Reddit recently. The photo montage is a series of images of a fox hanging out with a cat.
And, that triggered something in my memory....Didn't I once see a fox and a cat go toe to toe? And walk away from each other without anyone dying?
I tested the idea on Jennifer.
"Didn't I see a cat and a fox go nose to nose?" I ask her.
"Yeah....it was Timmy and a Red Fox," she replies. "See...that's what I thought," I offered. My memory is shattered. "I don't think that foxes are a big predator of cats, really. I think it's dogs and coyotes."
"Maybe we didn't need to kill the fox then?" Jennifer offered. She was struggling. I was struggling. But we both needed to be involved in the decision. Nothing else was said, but we both were clearly revisiting our convictions. This is the problem with being alive. The constant aching, nagging suspicion that every conviction you hold is just a convenient crutch. A warped rationalization that would be tossed away without a moment's hesitation if you were on the other side of the dilemma.
I don't like to kill things for no reason. I wasn't brought up that way. But I don't want the fox to kill the cat, but maybe he won't kill the cat. Maybe they could be friends? Like on the internet?
I dunno. But all of this has taken place over the last week or so, and now I've got another fox in the trap and I'm back between the horns of this dilemma and I didn't even try to trap the silly thing this time. He caught himself.
Clearly, he's tired and hungry. Been in the trap all night. Waited on me to get my sorry unemployed lazy ass out of bed, and now, he's sitting here before me awaiting his fate. I can't do it. I don't even reach for a gun or a camera. Or anything. Wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and house slippers, I decided that I'll attempt to release him.
Kind of tricky because, I don't know what he's going to do. He's a wild animal, and the Grey Fox growled at me in a way that made you realize you were inches away from racing to the ER.
But this time, the fox didn't growl at me. He looked at me, with beautiful eyes the color of his coat. No growling. "It's OK...buddy...it's OK..." He emerged slowly from the trap. And, instead of running away, he walked over to the bird feeder.
"I wonder if he knows there's water in there?" I thought. "I wonder if he's thirsty after being caught in the trap all night?"
Of course, the fox knew full-well that there was water in the bird bath. Lord knows how often he drinks from it. He walked to the bird bath, and started drinking from it. At which point, it occurred to me, that I didn't have a camera. What an idiot. Slowly walked inside to get a camera...grabbed up a 50D with a 100mm-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM telescopic zoom lens, and stepped carefully back onto the patio. Certain he'd be gone. But he wasn't. He was still drinking from the fountain. Shooting like mad. First, full auto. Then, shift to manual. When I calm down enough...get ISO down to 400...auto-exposure bracketing...f/5.6...shutter speed 1/400 sec...
Now, he hops up INTO the bird bath...me just shooting away like a lunatic...3 frames at a time...8 frames a second...I'm 4 meters away from the fox and shooting like mad. So happy to have a camera, lens, battery, CF card...all cobbled together in time...so glad he didn't bite mew when I let him out of the trap...so happy to see this fox. I hope we have a friend. I hope that Pokey and the Fox can co-exist. But I'm not shooting the fox. I just can't.
November 14, 2013
"Weird Harold" and the Monticello High School Gymnasium Mural
"Harold Smelcer" is the man that painted the mural above. His nickname is "Weird Harold". He was an out-of-state college student at USM. He painted the mural in 1968. It was painted over some time in the late 1980's. More details below, courtesy of Joe Evans, via the Facebook Group "Growing Up In Monticello":
According to Joe Evans:
I know there has been a lot of interest about this picture [Monticello Red Devil Picture on old gym's wall]. That was a picture of Monticello High School's mascot up until I think the late eighty's.
After some assistance from Gina's relative who went to Southern in 1968 we spoke with Weird Harold yesterday, October 31, 2013. [...]
I called him about 8:00 PM. We had a good conversation about the painting which he remembered and how and when it was done. It was done in 1968 [...] starting Friday after Thanksgiving or first week of Christmas Holiday's.
"Weird Harold" remembered most everything about it like I had originally discussed about this picture, but remembers painting on the scaffolding (supplied by Pete's daddy who was a superintendent when St. Regis and was building the mill). Because of it not being the most stable of platforms, he was nervous and remembered looking down at some of us in the gym and saying we looked about two feet tall.
His connection [...] came from his fraternity brother Carl Aycock and through Coach Pete Aycock, Carl's brother. Besides being Carl's fraternity brother, Harold also painted a mural on the wall of their frat house, FAE, which I think ultimately is how all this came about. He graduated from Southern and went into the army, stationed in Virginia. He met his love of his life in Virginia, married her, and just so happened her school mascot was--------- You guessed it a RED DEVIL. (Isn't that coincidental?) He told me they had several laughs about this yesterday talking about something that happened 45 years ago and the similarities of it, on Halloween to boot. He still paints for himself and has many FOND MEMORIES about the PEOPLE he met when he was in Mississippi, over any other he has met anywhere in his life-time.
Apparently, Mark Clay and Bob Jones also helped with this painting, and they signed the mural as well.
Shhhhhh. Be Vehwy vehwy quiet...
November 13, 2013
Skunk Holocaust: Nothing Left to Lose
The days shrink away from me now. The leaves fade and fall and slip down the hill in tight creeks. Gold doubloons fading in Autumn's arms. Whisked away. Out of sight. Out of mind. All that's left now is a frozen bird bath cowering beneath a naked Mountain Lilac, clawing madly at sullen skies.
I lay in bed doing precious little as the seasons pass me by. Sometimes, I wake up and if it's light outside, I go sit on the front porch in a shattered wicker chair and wonder what we're here for.
Pygmy Nuthatches stand, frustrated upon the bird bath skating rink. Wanting water, but finding only ice. I push the ice onto the ground and refill the bird bath with water.
The bird feeders are empty now. I know what's tearing them open these days. Big orange fox squirrel comes in the morning. Pokey goes nuts at the window. Jaw snapping wildly, open and shut in a stuttering motion, like a epileptic having a seizure. I let her out, and she chases off the squirrel, and bicker like married people. Inter-species trench-warfare.
I have my daughter on the weekends, but the weeks are long and stretch on for miles, it seems. I dunno what to do with my time. I sit outside and take pictures of my cat stalking the birds. I'm not really sure what to do. There's so many hours in the day and precious little to do, it seems.
I sort of try to leap from Sunday to Friday, but it's a long way to go all alone. I dunno how to do this really. And then, when she'll leave, I'll sort of have to leap from Christmas to Thanksgiving somehow, and I don't think I can do this. Just can't imagine how,really.
My yard looks like military scrap yard. WWII vehicles scattered hither and yon. I have a DUKW, two weasels, an M37, two trailers, three motorcycles, two four-wheelers, and a Tahoe. Those are mine. And then Jen has her Jeep.
We don't get a lot of visitors.
At night, I try to imagine what I might need. I keep a collection of guns out so I can get to them quickly. The bottom of the staircase is just a pile of machine guns, spotlights, ammo, and other tools. I've been keeping these here lately, trying to solve my varmint problem. Normally, I keep most of my guns put away. I only sleep with one or two.
But now, I have this arsenal piled up at the landing on the staircase. And Jen's friend comes over to spend the night with us. She doesn't know about guns. So, I make Jen tell her..."Don't touch the guns. They're off limits."
We make this very clear to her.
Her mom came to pick her up and was not impressed.
"What are all of these machine guns doing lying around? Are they real?" she stammers.
"Uh...yeah...they wouldn't be much use if they were plastic," I explain.
"What about the grenades? Are they real?"
"Well, no. I'm mean...the're real military dummy grenades. And the rifles will really fire them. See...this is all from WWII..." Like, I'm so proud of my collection, right?
She looks at her daughter. "Why aren't you wearing a bra?"
She looks at me. I just shrug my shoulders. Like..."I didn't dress her. I haven't seen her. She's been in Jen's room the whole time."
She collects her child and drags her out of my own little private Camp Shelby and I doubt we'll see her again.
I live on Ramen noodles and Bachelor Chow. So low on food now that I don't have anything for the trap. It goes for days without being set. The skunks come and night and spray my house out of spite, I suppose. So far, I've relocated 2 skunks and 1 fox. But I'm sure I've still a long way to go.
The bears are hibernating, so that's nice. I don't wake up to shattered feeders any more.
Tonight, I ate the oysters out of a rotisserie chicken and put the carcass in the trap. Reset the cameras. Reset the trap. Hook the 20 foot tow strap onto the trap. Turn off all the outside lights. Lock the cat inside. Charge the spotlight. And climb in bed and pray to God I don't catch another skunk.
November 12, 2013
The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intent
I've been reading some of the Road to Serfdom. It seems to me that the nature of government is to grow into a totalitarian state. So, everyone in the world that is ruled by any type of government has a oak tree growing inside their greenhouse, they just don't realize it yet. The problem is that the state routinely adversely impacts the individual citizen in a manner which is in no one's best interest, save the government. The response to this is seldom what it should be. What it should be is someone is fired, or a branch of government is disbanded, or there's a revolution with the autocrats swinging from the lamp-posts.
The reasons that we don't get this optimal response are numerous.
1) People tend to give the government the benefit of the doubt, when they shouldn't. Like, say, if they made everyone wear seal-skin class uniforms because that's what the eskimos wear in Alaska. People would say "well, they had to come up with a national uniform, and we can't discriminate against the Inuits...)
2) It's easier to just ignore it and move on. It's easier to just do nothing. To pay the fine. To do the time. Than to really rise up and fix the faulty system.
3) The individual is always at a disadvantage fighting against the machines of government
What is needed is an anti-governmental mechanism which over-reacts in a non-linear manner to the governmental impulse which violated the citizens' sovereignty.
At this point, we clearly don't have any such mechanism in place. The mechanisms we theoretically have in place at this point are:
1) The Free Press - In theory, the Free Press is an integral part of this mechanism, but because they're all shilling of the left, they're actually making the situation much worse. Oddly, the press isn't concerned with doing objective reporting about the current state of the union. They're government propaganda machines masquerading as neutral, unbiased reporters, which is so dangerous it calls into question the very concept of a free press. Would it not be better to have a government propaganda agency which everyone knew to be a shill for the government?
2) The Opposition Party - The Republicans are possibly at their weakest position in the history of the country, which is sad because we need them now, more than ever. The opposition(Republican) party, sadly, clearly isn't capable of doing anything. They're racing from conspiracy to coverup to bungled operation so quickly that they can't begin to bring anything into focus. They've juggling more scandals than any other government in the history of the country, but they can't seem to focus on any one issue to force it to a conclusion. Instead, they jump from Gunwalking, Benghazi, IRS, DOJ, NSA, to ObamaCare. Obamacare will cause the healthcare system in the United States to unravel. And it's wildly unpopular. And the Republicans have no idea how to stop it. No one wants it. And somehow, the Republicans can't figure out how to stop it. Their current plan is to focus on how ineffective the website is that is used to enroll people into the program. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Kill it. Shut it down.
So, the question becomes, what non-linear mechanism do we have at our disposal to stop this unprecedented reach for power by the Executive branch?
The Cops in the Canyon
The cops rule the canyon where I live. And, maybe when you're young, you think how good it is to see that the cops are cracking the whip and keeping people in line for breaking the law. But then, as you grow older, and watch them more closely, you see that they're a much bigger threat to us than anyone speeding through the canyon.
Now, never mind that the speed limit is absurdly low. Never mind that it's a divided median and you couldn't cross into the oncoming traffic if you tried. You think that the police are doing some sort of service, or they wouldn't be there, right? You assume that the people they're pulling over are breaking the law, and getting their just desserts. But sadly, it's not so simple.
The areas they are policing are not even in the town of Morrison. Or, more accurately, the Town of Morrison expanded their jurisdiction to include this short stretch of US 285. So, it's not like these people were speeding through their town. It's more like the town expanded to include the canyon so they could exercise their jurisdiction in a extrajudicial manner.
And now, we drive ever-so-slowly past them, timid as mice. Watching the police. Our speedometers. Praying we don't get stopped. Is this how free men are supposed to live? Does this feel like freedom to you?
Now, my sister loves this. Her theory is that, lets basically call in an airstrike on our own base, right? "Nuke the gay whales for Jesus" type of strategy. And, if the police are out there stopping and arresting people, she's all the better for it. Sadly, that's not the case.
But, if that were really true, then why not just set up a check-point and stop everyone that passes through? The sad thing is that this is what they do in Russia, and we laughed at them because their people had no rights. We were protected by the 4th Amendment against this grotesque violation of our rights. But not any more.
Lets take the case of the cops in the canyon. It is demonstrable that they are not there to reduce accidents. How can we be sure, because at the times when the canyon is most treacherous...at the times when people are most likely to be involved in accidents, the police are nowhere to be found. That's right. They don't write tickets in the rain. They don't write tickets in the snow. They go back to their little police station where it's warm and dry and they eat donuts. Think I'm lying? Go see for yourself.
The statistics are unequivocal. Putting police on the shoulder of the road causes more accidents. Same as red light cameras. They say they're there for our safety, but the facts say otherwise. The facts suggest that their presence actually causes more accidents.
The real reason the cops are in the canyon is to milk us.
The Morrison Police Department now has a slick black fleet of "fleece-mobiles" that are available to basically shake down the innocent people driving near the town of Morrison on C-470 and US-285. Anyone can see that this is the case. But nothing is done. We're left to fall into the maw of this illegal scam to shake-down citizens driving through their jurisdiction.
And no one says a word? No one speaks up? Why is this?
November 8, 2013
Why I Live at the DMV
Jennifer and I took her Jeep down to the DMV in the Jefferson County administration building. When they built this $90M monstrosity, the citizens were so disgusted with the flagrantly ostentatious temple, that they derisively renamed it the "Taj Mahal" and threw every single county administrator and commissioner out of office. The only person that remained in office was the Sheriff, John Stone. He hired snipers and had them shoot a silver dollar out of his hand on live television, but then botched the Columbine response and that ended his career. But I digress.
I own so many vehicles there just aren't words. It's nothing to be proud of. Just signs of something that deeply wrong with me that no one except my brother has ever tried to fix. So, it means that I spend my life at the DMV, trying to keep up with the registrations, plates, smog requirements. You name it.
Now, these dill-holes as the DMV are just the worst. As dumb as moles. I tell Jen when we go there, you have to bring everything that you have. Title. Insurance. Registration. Passport. Driver's license. Check book. Credit card. Cash. You never know with these people. Their goal in live is to break your spirit slowly, the way a skilled BBQ man works a pork shoulder. It takes time to break the spirit of a citizen. The trolls at the DMV are skilled at this. To them, it is an art...a craft...no different than a woodworker or a blacksmith.
"These people Jen...they're no like you and me. They're more like evil, diabolical masochists, with a preternatural skill for breaking people down. You can't let them get to you, OK. They can sense weakness. Don't look them in the eye. Don't speak unless spoken to. Don't speak unless spoken to. Don't offer them any documents they don't ask for. Got it?"
I show her around the Taj Mahal. "Now...you see that side? That side is where they really fuck you. That's the side where the prosecute citizens that aren't doing anything wrong. See how that have the metal detector and the TSA-type of shop? You know why they do that?"
"Because a cop came in here one day and shot someone. So now, the cops take the guns away from innocent citizens. Makes sense, right?"
"Wait," she clarifies," It was a cop that shot someone?"
"Yeah. But we're not going to that side today. Today, we're going to this side."
And this building is something straight out of Franz Khafka's nightmares. Large central atrium with glass domed ceilings. A statue of Thomas Jefferson sitting on a bench, which is so ironic I don't know where to begin.
"Let's take the elevator."
The elevator has marble floors, brass walls. Imagine the Peabody hotel in Memphis. The only thing missing are the ducks and the fountain.
We take the Willy Wonka elevator to the 2nd floor, walk down to the DMV section, and take a number. A trillion dollar system lets you push a button based on what you're there for, and we take a number and sit down.
It's Thursday, and we get our number and sit, waiting patiently to be fed into the gears of the machinery.
Eventually, they call her number. This is Jen's deal. Not mine. I'm trying to get her to handle her own affairs at this point. I figure I'm not long for this world, so she needs to get to where she can navigate this planet on her own.
The woman before us is from the Soviet Union, from western Siberia. Somehow, she's never gotten around to reading Solzhenitsyn's work, but I doubt she read Kafka either. Nothing surprises me any more.
Eventually, they explain to Jen that her Jeep needs to be smogged. Now, of course, there is no smogging station anywhere near the Taj Mahal. Nor do they issue driver's licenses at the DMV. That would make too much sense. Like having an actual DMV office here to issue licenses. We have zero incentive to serve the public. How about a nice cup of shut-the-fuck-up and go somewhere else?
We have to walk by a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson on the way out. Like..how ironic is that? He's spinning in his grave. And they have the gall to put a statue of him up inside the Taj Majal. I want to scream.
So now, we go to get the Jeep smogged. I know the place by heart. We drive there, park the Jeep. Wait inside while they smog the Jeep. The put it on rollers and measure the exhaust emissions. If you fail, you still have to pay for the test. And so it goes.
Somehow, we pass, but now, the Taj Mahal is closed. And so it goes.
We try again tomorrow? Yes. We'll try again tomorrow. You know, the funny thing is that, in Mexico, they don't put up with this shit. Mexico is a free country. You can do whatever you want down there. People drive with no plates at all on the cars. Drive ATV's down the streets. I'm thinking we need to move.
November 6, 2013
How to Send Money via PayPal
1) Go to www.paypal.com and sign in. If you don't have an account, create one.
2) Click on the tab that says "Send Money"
3) In the "To" field, enter the email address of phone number of the person you want to transfer money to.
4) Enter the amount.
5) Select the choice for "I'm sending money to family or friends". This way, there no fee if you pay using your PayPal balance, or with a bank account. (Your PayPal account has to be tied directly to a bank account for this to work. If you only have a debit card or a credit card set up in your Pay Pal account, there may be an additional fee that varies based on the amount of the transfer.
November 5, 2013
"Pollutant Oozing Sea Coffins"
The vessel was among the first to be raised in a two-month effort to clear the estuary of more than 40 abandoned crafts, many of which have become nautical obstacles and pollutant-oozing sea coffins.
The EPA and state agencies will spend more than $3.5 million on the job, including $650,000 received in a civil payout from the owners of the Cosco Busan, the barge that spilled 53,500 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay after it struck the Bay Bridge in 2007.
These are the people that Google thinks are going to give them a permit to park a barge with 40 containers and twelve 60' high antennae on it in the middle of San Francisco Bay on Yerba Buena (Treasure Island) so that they can sell "Google Glass". I think not. Google isn't that stupid. The barge is a floating middle finger to the NSA. It will be a floating data center anchored operated from beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
November 3, 2013
Creating a Facebook Group
We're trying to get together a 30 year high-school reunion for next year. Somehow I volunteered to set up a website to facilitate this undertaking. I figured it would be easy enough to set up a web page on Facebook. But then when I tried to do it, of course, the devil is in the details. I'm not clear whether I could create a "Page" or a "Group" within Facebook. This website seems to indicate that, for our purposes, it looks like setting up a "Group" will be the way to go.
So, I dunno what to do really. Our thought is that we want to have a 20 year reunion for the class reunion next year for the Class of 1984, but then, someone did the math and pointed out that it would actually be our 30 year reunion, so, obviously we didn't do so well at math, right? I blame Alicia Reynolds.
Furthermore, some other people thought it would be a good idea to include the scholars from the Class of '83, by all accounts, the worst class ever to be excreted from Monticello High.
So, without getting too specific, I decided that I'd set up a web page for Monticello High School Red Devils, and and just make it an open forum, essentially. I'm not clear if there is one already or not.
So, it seems like someone already set up a Monticello High School Red Devils "page" on Facebook, so I'll go ahead and set up a Monticello High School Red Devils "group", because obviously the other people are complete idiots and skipped the research I did to figure out if it would make more sense to set up a "Group" or a "Page".
To create a Group from within Facebook, click on "Home" (top/right) , "Create Group" (top/left).
Enter the Group Name, type in the names of members you want to add to the group, select a Privacy Option (I chose Open). If you're uncertain, click on "Learn more about groups privacy".
Click the "Create" button.
Jeep Factory Build Sheet
Saw this link on the net and tried it out... D.C. sent me more of a build list via email, but it's just as good as a build sheet.
Make sure you put the ENTIRE Vin in the message body when asking for a build sheet.
And So It Goes
In November, the days get shorter and colder. The humidity drops and your skin cracks. I wear a Chapstik around my neck and put on lotion 3 times a day.
The leaves are off the trees now,. In October, the bird bath would freeze at night, and thaw during the day. Only now it never thaws any more. Never it does. Mountain Lilac leaves, faded yellow, suspended in time in this bird bath skating rink.
I place the ice-saucer of yellow leaves on the trampoline, and refill the birdbath with fresh water. Spent all day yesterday repairing the bird feeders. I don't really know what's getting them now. Maybe the bears. Maybe the coons. It's so hard to know. The game camera's batteries died, and it took me a few days to replace them. So it's a mystery, for now.
Drive down the hill to get my favorite toy, Jennifer. The truth is that kids are the best toys on Earth. I try to be a good father to my kid. Lord knows I'm far from perfect. But I pick her up when I'm sposed to and turn her lose when I oughta and there's something to be said for this, I s'pose.
Was always close to my dad growing up. Hunting. Fishing. Hiking. Canoeing. Camping. All this stuff. Not a lot of money laying around, but he was there for me and we had a good time. One day, I asked him, "Dad...why come you never tell me stories about your dad?"
"Ah....he wasn't really around. My parents were divorced. I never really saw him growing up."
And you think about that, right? Like....wow. How bad would that suck? So, I try to be a good father to my kid. I have her every weekend. Been in the same house for 13 years. It's the only place she remembers, really.
Maybe I've spoiled her, but I don't have the lock on that, I think. It's a pardonable sin, IMHO. She's been to Paris, Dublin, NYC, Honolulu, Cozumel, SF, San Diego...I can't really keep track. I try to take her to fun places...the places I liked when I was there...Pensacola, Tulum, Hilo, Playa Del Carmen, Kona.
Jen is the only person on earth that keeps track of where I "haven't" been.
"You've never been to Vermont, have you?" she asks, just to be perfectly certain.
"No. You know I haven't been to Vermont. I've been to Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York...somehow I missed Vermont."
She loves to do this to me. To keep track of where I haven't been, so when I say "I've been everywhere", she'll say something like..."You've never been to North Dakota."
When she turned 5, I got her a 4 wheeler. When she was 8, I got her a cell phone. For a long time, I didn't buy her anything new to drive. I felt like it was time to move on to other toys.
"Do you want a motorcycle baby? A small one to ride around the yard?"
"OK. That's fine. I"m not pushing it on you. I just didn't want you to grow up and say "I always wanted a motorcycle." And that was the end of the motorcycle idea.
But when she turned 15, I got her a Jeep. I felt like I'd waited plenty long enough.
"Here, take this."
"Why? What is it?"
"It's a key to my truck. And a key to the house."
"Why do I need a house key? You never lock it."
"Look. This is just what you do. You're 15. You have a key chain. You need to have a key to my house, a key to my truck, and a key to your jeep. That's just what people do. You're old enough to carry a keychain now."
She adds the keys, awkwardly to her keychain. Her Jeep is not new. It's a 2001 with 11 trillion miles on it.
After I bought the Jeep, I found a few things the guy that sold it to me jacked me on. Now, sure, I know where he lives. I could go down there at 2:00 a.m., let myself in with a brick, and brand him with a soldering iron until the sun comes up, then send him to Allah through the drain in his bathtub.
But I think now that it's better to buy a used car for a kid starting to drive, so they can learn to do some maintenance on it. I make her lift the hood, and point out the parts of the engine. She knows where the windshield-wiper fluid goes, the anti-freeze, the power steering fluid. The battery. The air filter.
All of these things, she knows. Today, we replaced the "clock spring", a fairly common problem with the Jeeps. Now, she knows how to use a socket wrench. Knows metric from the U.S. sockets. RIghty, tighty. Lefty, loosey.
Maybe my dad didn't teach me all of these things. Maybe he did. The truth is it was so long ago I can't remember. Certainly I didn't have a car or an ATV when I was 15. We had a riding lawnmower with the blades removed.
I never saw the inside of a plane till I was like 18, I think. Those things don't really matter, I though. What matters is that you spend time with your kids. That you include them in your life. That you take them around with you when you can, and show them what you can, even if it's only a walk through a local park.
You show them the things you like.
The other day, Jen asked me what books she should read. And I got so excited. I was running upstairs and down, searching through the antique barrister bookcases for the books I love most in this world. With all my silly little underlining and annotating. Here...A Confederacy of Dunces, Slaughterhouse V, The Grapes of Wrath, Fahrenheit 451, The Trial. Like, how great is that? To have someone say "show me what's good in the world?" It's the best thing on earth.
So today, we were sitting in the driveway, eating pomegranates, taking a break from working on the Jeep.
"Did you have a date on Monday night?" she asks innocently.
"No. Only I went out to dinner with an old friend is all." The waiter asked me "Su novia?" and I was like "ella es mi novia pasada, entiende?"
Pokey sits in the window, staring mournfully out at the world she can see, but not reach.
"Is it safe for Pokey to come out yet, daddy?"
"Not yet, baby. Still there are foxes. And the skunk sprayed the front yard pretty bad. Probably by next week, then she can come out."
Jen spits a mouthful of red pomegranate seeds into the faded grasses beside the driveway. My neighbor mows his yard, and parts of mine. I don't mow. It's not really something I enjoy. I mowed yards as a kid. I'm over it now.
"We need to check the pressure in the tires, don't we?" she asks.
"Because, when we went over Guanella Pass, we let the air out with a rock, member?"
"Yes baby. I remember. Get your tire pressure gauge out of the glove box and I'll show you how to check it."
And so it goes.
November 2, 2013
Oddities of War
I was talking to Charlie last night about some peculiarities of WWII. He thought I was full of bull, so I thought I'd document a few of my stories. Note that all stories are sourced by Wikipedia, not by dubious email chains:
- Japan bombed the mainland USA during WWII. They launched thousands of bombs suspended from hot-air balloons from Japan, which followed the jet stream as far east as the Mississippi River. One even killed 6 people on a church picnic near Bly, Oregon.
- The Germans landed soldiers on U.S. soil during WWII. They did it by submarine. Some of the German soldiers landed on Long Island, just east of New York City..
- Two pilots (one Allied, one German), shot each other down over occupied Europe one cold winter during WWII. Both found their way to the same shelter/cabin, and instead of killing each other, sought refuge together and became friends. They met again, after the war was over, and remained life-long friends.
- A German fighter pilot flew up to a severely damaged Allied (British) bomber over occupied Europe during WWII. Instead of shooting down the bomber, the German fighter escorted the bomber back to England. After the war, the two became good friends and remained friends for the rest of their lives.
- During the trench warfare of WWI, one Christmas, the British and German troops came out of their trenches and sang Christmas carols together and played football. These were spontaneous acts, as there were no official cease-fires declared.
- In the Phillipine-American War, American General "Fearless Freddy" Funston tricked the Filipino President Emilio Aguinaldo into getting captured by Funston's troops at Palaan. They pretended to be prisoners of Macabebe scouts, then captured Aguinaldo when they got close to him.
- The War Between the States was not about slavery. Abraham Lincoln told the southern states unambiguously that they could keep their slaves. His goal was to preserve the Union. "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it..."
- Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation wasn't issued until 1863, 2 years after the start of the War Between the States. He freed a total of zero slaves with the proclamation. The slaves in the North were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. They remained property of their owners. The slaves that were theoretically freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, were, in fact, living in a different country, where Abraham Lincoln had no jurisdiction
- More soldiers (U.S. and Confederate) died fighting in the War Between the States, than have died in all subsequent wars combined, involving U.S. troops. If you count all of the U.S. soldiers killed in the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., you still don't get close to the number of troops killed in the War Between the States
- In the War Between the States, the South killed more soldiers of the North, than the North killed of the South, but the North still won the war.
- The Battle of New Orleans was a decisive victory for the U.S.A, and the largest battle of the War of 1812. It was fought two weeks after the British officially surrendered, but because the telegraph wasn't invented at the time, no one in North America knew that the British had already surrendered.
November 1, 2013
Skunk Holocaust: Allah Claims Another
I'm sitting here in my underwear as a light snow begins to fall, despite clear sunny skies. The Fall doesn't care. Unburdened by shame or guilt. The bird bath seldom thaws any more. The birds somehow sense this and stay away. But the other animals, still they come. Skunks. Foxes. Lord knows what else.
I'm gasping for air. Hocking up stuff out of my lungs. Just threw up in my sink. My eyes are watering. I begin to feel empathy for the soldiers in the trenches of WWI, as the Allies and the Germans fought to a draw in the soggy trenches, poisoning each other with deadly Chlorine gas.
Jennifer calls me on my cell phone and asks if I can come pick her up in an hour and I'm like, "Who is this? How did you find me here?"
I don't like waking up and finding a skunk in my trap. I really don't. It's not something that I'm happy about. I just hate that they keep scent-bombing my house underneath my bedroom window, and I can't come up with a better plan to make it stop, because I'm not that clever.
You can go outside any time of the night, and the fox is out there. He's next, make no mistake. He will be "relocated" also.
You can't go through the gamecam pics that he's not in them, beside the trap, on top of it. Or trotting through the yard when I go outside with the spotlight. He's always there. He's not afraid of me, which makes me afraid of him, somewhat, even though he's only 18" tall.
I go outside this time in my "skunk clothes". Clothes I don't like and could burn without remorse, if need be. As I step outside, it starts to snow. The caged skunk is just 10 feet from me. He's calm, but awake. I have a blanket I could throw over the cage, but the cage is so large there's no way it would cover it all. I decide to go with a modified approach - A single kill shot from the .22 rifle at close range, then run, grab the other end of the tow strap, and drag the whole "kit-and-kaboodle" down into the woods and leave this skunk down by the other one.
This seems like a good idea, right. So, I pray that I have the luck of Kokura and I drill him carefully right between the eyes and then dash for the tow strap and start running through the fields, rifle in one hand, tow strap in the other, hell-bent-for-leather towards the woods.
It's starting to snow, and I'm in horrible shape. So, I'm huffing and puffing, trying to run pulling this royally pissed-off skunk in a grizzly-bear-sized cage by a 30' tow strap, but it keeps getting caught on things...hoses...stakes...trees...stuff that a man with any pride wouldn't leave lying about on his property.
Finally get down to about where I left the other skunk yesterday, but he's gone. Now, this begins to concern me because, part of my goal is to thin out the carnivores on the property, but slowly it occurs to me that leaving piles of fresh meat in the snow is probably not the best way to accomplish this goal. I abandon the mortally-wounded skunk, caged and writhing in misery, nuking the world for all he's worth.
I have a new-found empathy for the nerve gas victims of WWI. Maybe I should wear a gas mask. It's not like I don't have them lying around here. For sure, I'll wear one next time.
I turn back uphill, toward the house, and suddenly it hits me that I neglected to check the wind's direction. It's blowing the skunk scent toward the house this time. And, it's starting to snow, so not a great time to throw open the windows like "The Sound of Music" type of situation.
I try to make it back uphill to the house, but I end up collapsing beneath a "Danger: Fire Ban in Effect" sign of questionable origin. Collapse onto the ground, the same as I did back at Tulane when I was running from the bouncers at that bar. They were going to kill me, but somehow I made it to TUPD, starting banging on the door, and screaming for help. Le Blanc and Rinidin came out and saved my ass as I threw up in the street.
All this comes back to me now as I struggle back up to the nuked, ruined house. Inside, I can hardly breathe. It's nearly impossible to assess, independently, how badly you've been hit. The nose does funny things. It adjusts to the scent fairly quickly, so I think it smells fine, but it's hard to know.
I drive down the hill to pick up Jennifer.
"I caught another skunk," I beam.
"I can tell," she chokes.
Back at the house, I check the gamecam, and sure enough, the fox is there. He's in every frame, mocking me. But thankfully, I don't see any other skunks in the gamecam shots. Maybe there were only 2 and I got both of them? At this point, I feel like I'm ready to meet with them on a train car in neutral territory and sign a hasty detente with them. There's no shame in that, is there? It worked for the Korean peninsula, right? I'm all for a bipartisan armistice. A stalemate we can both be proud of.
Google's Mysterious Barges
So tonight, I became aware that Google has two mysterious, secretive barges. One in SF Bay moored illegally on Treasure Island. One on the east coast in a harbor in Portland, Maine.
These both showed up recently, and Google is being very discreet about them. They're not saying a word. This, of course, leads to rampant speculation about what they are and why they're there.
Essentially, what it looks like is that Google is setting up some floating data centers. It's well-documented that Google has a patent awarded in 2008 on the concept of a floating data center that generates electricity from the ocean, and cools the computers with heat exchanged with the ocean. In fact, Time Magazine even listed Google's Floating Data Center patent as one of the best inventions of 2008.
"The hidden cost of the triumph of the Internet is the rise of the data center. The Net runs on huge complexes of hot, power-hungry servers that eat up real estate and energy in massive quantities -- in 2006 data centers consumed a staggering 1.5% of the U.S.'s entire supply of electricity. Engineers at Google may have found a way out: the self-sufficient floating data center. According to a patent filed by Google, wind turbines and wave-powered generators will provide the electricity. Ocean water will cool the servers, which throw off huge amounts of heat. And offshore real estate is essentially free."
Yeah. So, free electricity from the wind/waves. Pump the heat from the servers down into the ocean. No taxes. And the real estate is essentially free. Right. Burn one for me, hippies. There's so much wrong here that it's hard to know where to begin. But lets try, shall we?
1) Free electricity from wind/waves - This is a farce. The most expensive energy on earth is wind energy and wave energy. I know. It's shocking. But it's true. Wind turbines, solar panels, all of the tree-hugger panaceas are just bullshit smoke and mirrors. If you don't believe me, here's some photos of abandoned wind farms. Do you think that, if they were profitable, they would have been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair? No. Of course not. I have to assume that "ocean power" is the same bull-shit as wind-power. Something the Dimocrats and Libtards, and the eco-terrorists at Greenpeace dreamed up. There's no such thing as "free electricity". The cheapest electricity on earth is the energy you can buy on land from your power company. Go out into the ocean, and you're going to find out how expensive electricity truly is.
2) Cool the data floating data centers in the ocean. Yeah. Right. If you start trying to pump hot water out of a floating data center into the SF Bay, the EPA is going to have a stroke. Libtards will lose their shit. Their heads will literally explode at the idea of dumping warm water into the SF Bay and threatening the sea otters and other marine life. Not going to happen. Out at sea, maybe. But you have to consider that the ocean is made of salt water, which is the last thing you want anywhere near your data-center. I can't imagine any sane person running a data center and saying "What'd I really like to do is float this bitch across the ocean...see how that works out..."
3) Offshore real estate is essentially free. OK. Wow. So, if that were true, then you'd see homeless people living in the oceans. Because it's so cheap to live there, right? This is so painfully stupid. Sure. The surface of the ocean is free to live on. Fair enough. Now...why is it that people don't live there? Hmmmm. Because the ocean is far less hospitable than a desert. That's the truth. Because people live in deserts. But they don't live in the oceans. Let's think about what it would me to try to exist on a boat in the ocean. You don't have fresh water, electricity, or public transportation. Your people can't get from home to work easily. Everything around you is rusting and corroding before your eyes. You're in constant threat of tsunamis, sinking, and rusting. There are no grocery stores. Your people can't commute to and from home very easily. You can't buy food, electricity, gas, fishing line, fishing poles, chewing gum. Anything.
Now, let's ignore that a floating data center isn't cost effective due to real estate costs, electrical costs, food, transportation. That it can sink and rust and that people can't get home to see their families at night. Let's ignore all of that.
Communications: Now, let's talk about communications.
If you have a floating data center, you have to get data onto and off of the floating platform. You're presumably going to be running supply ships/helicopters constantly back and forth from ship to shore, carrying food, people, supplies. This will cost so much money there aren't words, but let's ignore that.
How about the data? How do we transfer data to/from the data center?
Certainly, satellites are a possibility. I've done some research on this issue. On a large platform on calm seas, it would probably be possible to operate a stabilized marine satellite up-link. It's a little bit tricky, because you have to have gimballed satellite dish uplinks with technology to track the satellites, even though they're in geosynchronous orbit. (Technically, it's constantly falling at an altitude of 22,700 miles above the earth's surface, and it's moving at a speed of 7,000 mph, but from the surface of the earth, it appears to be perfectly still.) Again, this is like falling off a log, on land. But on the ocean, it's a nightmare. The ship is rolling and pitching in high seas, and the satellite dish has to be gimballed and constantly searching/tracking for a satellite that, for all intents and purposes, is stationary. And the dish has to be encased in a dome so that it doesn't rust away, etc.
In addition to the problems with the satellite tracking, uplink/downlink corroding, you also have a latency issue which you cannot get away from. It takes about 1/2 second for an EMF signal to travel from the floating barge to a satellite. This may not seem like a lot of time, but it's enough that it no one in the United States is using it. If you can get internet service that doesn't involve satellites, then you get it. Because it's faster, and it's cheaper, and there's essentially zero latency.
So, satellite uplinks are a bad way to go. Is there another way to get information onto and off of the floating Titanic data-center?
There is, if you're close enough to the coast. If you have a line-of-sight to the coast, you can use line-of-sight radio towers to transmit data. The trick is that you have to be close enough to the coast for the top of the tower on the floating data center to see the top of the tower on land. Then, they can relay almost unlimited data back and forth between the floating data center and the land.
The trick is that the line-of-sight has to be maintained.
It is true and well documented that ham radio operators use a trick where their radio signals are reflected back down and echoed across the earth to cover very long distances. The radio signals could be bounced off of clouds, or the ionosphere to cover much greater distances than would be possible with line-of-sight EMF communications. However, I don't think that you'd want to plan on your primary communication link to the land on taking 5 bounces between the ionosphere and the earth to get data to the coast.
You'd want to go with direct line-of-sight to the coast. This is where the curvature of the earth comes into play.
So, in this case, what you'd want is a very TALL floating data center barge. And, because a data center is useless without a communication link, you'd want a lot of very tall antennas on the barge. This, coincidentally, it what we see on the floating barge. It's so tall that it couldn't go underneath either span of the Bay Bridge. It has 12 poles mounted on top of the cargo containers lined up from one end of the barge to the other. These are the antennae.
Google's patent application says that the floating barges "may operate satisfactorily, for example, approximately 3-7 miles from shore, in 50-70 meters of water."
Now, the question is "how high are the antennae on the barges?"
A standard shipping container is 8'6" tall. So, the shipping containers are roughly 34' tall, if they're stacked four on tall, as reported. Then, add to that, the height of the barge, plus the height of the antennae. From these photos, I'd guess that the barge deck is roughly 12 ft above the surface of the water. And that the antennae are roughly 14 feet tall. So, that gives a total height of the top of the antennae at something in the neighborhood of 60' tall.
So, they say they want to operate 3-7 miles from shore, but how far out could they operate?
Let's say, for argument's sake, that they have a 60' tall antennae network on the ship, how far out could they communicate with an antennae placed on the ground at the shore?
The math is fairly simple. The distance (in miles) is roughly 1.23 * square root of the height of the antennae on board the barge in feet. So, if the tops of the antennae on the ship are 60' above the ocean's surface, then they could communicate with an antennae laying on the surface of the beach from a distance of roughly 9.5 miles. (For now, we're ignoring the effects of radio waves bouncing off of clouds and the ionosphere.)
This would allow them to operate easily operate within the 3-7 mile range specified in their patent. But this also assumes that the antennae on shore is lying down on the beach. What if we put the land-based antennae on a tower, or on a hill that was also 60' off of the ground? Well now, we've doubled the distance that we can communicate with from 9.5 miles to roughly 19 miles.
The interesting thing about this is that now, we can operate our floating data center outside of the territorial waters of the country we're beaming information to. The "territorial water" boundary is 12 nautical miles off the coast (roughly 18.8 miles off-shore). This means that the floating data center can operate on the "High Seas", outside the jurisdiction of any country.
So, Google says that it's for, among other things, natural disasters, I find this hard to swallow. Like...say a tsunami hits Japan and people are running around without internet access...I mean...I dunno...maybe right? How do you even keep your cell phone charged if there's no power? How do your computers work on shore without electricity? This idea, to me, seems thin.
I also don't think it makes sense in a country like the United States, where they claim electricity and land are expensive, and their computers generate a lot of heat. The truth is this barge would be WAY more expensive to operate, than to run a similar data center on land. Otherwise, everyone would be running their computers on the oceans. It's an absurd notion.
The only thing that makes sense, as I see it, is that they're getting their data out into international waters, where the NSA has no jurisdiction. You heard it hear first.
CNET article: Is Google building a hulking floating data center in SF Bay?
Similar project in Maine
Floating speculation about Google's mystery barge