Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A dog's life...saved by technology.

It's a lifesaver
So anyway, I've mentioned before that DiggingDog works the graveyard shift for our local canine signal corps.  Every night, for hours on end, she passes directives to and from the neighbor dogs. These other dogs are at least a quarter mile away, so she must put considerable effort into passing these messages.  Sometimes her efforts are so strenuous that I can feel the sunroom frame vibrating. Obviously, this condition is not conducive to human sleep.

Such was the case Friday night. I went to bed about midnight, two hours or so after the relay began.  In order to make sure I knew she was working, DiggingDog moved directly outside my window. Bark-bark-bark, in groups of seven or eight, depending upon the messages being transmitted.  By 2 am I, still awake, was contemplating various accidents she was going to be involved in, most of them ending her miserable life. But it would probably just be easier to leave*, so I moved to an empty bed in Mr. Charisma's room on the other side of the house.

DiggingDog apparently decided that were I not within barking distance, I would not appreciate how hard she was working. So she parked herself immediately outside Mr. Charisma's bedroom window. By 3am, I had developed a very long list of exquisite tortures for her, but I was too tired to kill her at that point.

Instead I moved upstairs to an empty bedroom and put in some ear buds so I could listen to storm sounds on Youtube. I lay there wincing and twitching as I heard her barks even over the thunder. Unable to fly up to that bedroom window, she wasn't actually within hearing distance and probably had given up at that point. Yet that rhythm -- bark bark bark, 7 barks, now 8, now only 3 -- remained with me until I finally passed out from pure exhaustion.  At 5am, Mr. Charisma's little brother, Dino Baggins, awoke and demanded his morning bottle. Saturday was a very long day.

But at a family picnic yesterday, my newest brother in law mentioned an ultrasonic dog trainer he used to quiet his neighbor's terrier.  I, not being a TV watcher, had never heard of such a thing. But I brought up my handy dandy WalMart app and quickly located the First Alert Automatic Bark Genie, a 9v-driven electronic speaker that emits a dog-hearing-level squeal every time it detects a bark. I'm not sure whether it distracts or annoys the barker. Nor do I care, so long as the result is no repeats of Friday night.

I hung it outside of the sunroom last night just as DiggingDog was warming up for her shift. Thirty minutes later she climbed to her observation post atop the picnic table and cut loose with a double-bark. Then she stopped and looked around. She hit another note, then stared accusingly at me through the sunroom window. Finally she padded away, confused.  As I was putting Mr. Charisma to bed a half hour later, I heard her again just outside his window. Bark bark. Pause. Bark. Then nothing.

I saw her last when she came slinking across the deck at about 10pm. She stopped to look at me through the sunroom window, her face the most forlorn I had ever seen it. She was utterly defeated, her beloved signal corps destroyed. With a shrug of resignation, she moped into the silent night.  I slept 8 hours without moving.

Highly recommend.

* Plus, the kids really like her.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Global warming strikes again

The fire this time
This time it burns up the Kansas wheat crop:
Blizzard conditions and heavy snow swept western Kansas, including 14 to 20 inches in Colby in the northwestern quadrant of the No. 1 winter wheat state in the nation, said the Weather Channel. 
“We lost the western Kansas wheat crop this weekend. Just terrible,” tweeted Justin Gilpin, chief executive of the grower-funded Kansas Wheat Commission.
I suspect that over the coming months and years it's going to become much harder for acolytes of Albert Gore's Traveling Circus and Subsidy Vacuum to keep claiming that currentYear() is the hottest year ever. Eastern and southern Europe have been getting freak snowstorms one after the other this spring and the good old USA just got one in my neck of the woods*. While it will be weeks before the final damage is counted, it's safe to say that there are fewer acres of wheat and more dead baby cows in the world than there were this time last week.

But what do snowstorms have to do with global warming? Very little, I suspect.  About 18 months ago, I dropped a cryptic little note in my year-end prognostication:
If we get hit (we won't) it will be by something coming out of the sun that we do not see until hours before impact. But sunspots are disappearing, the Earth's magnetic shield is weakening, and Jupiter's centuries-old storm is dying. Something is happening, and it's bigger than 50ppm of CO2.
Obviously, I don't know for sure, but I suspect that we are on the cusp of a grand solar minimum, a naturally-recurring phenomenon that humans neither cause nor can avoid.

It's been long-noticed that our sun's activity is cyclical, up and down, noisy and quiet, on about a 12-year cycle.  But it's less well-known that those cycles also have cycles. Every 200 years or so, the sun gets really quiet, the global temperature drops, crops are destroyed in large numbers**, people starve and suffer and overthrow their entire social order. A good time is had by all once it all washes out a couple decades later.

For the record, Cycle 24 looks like we could be getting ready for that kind of a quiet period:

The NASA Website is good for something.

But, you might wonder, if we are on the cusp of such a minimum, won't that get in the way of the Global Climate Progress that we have been allegedly enjoying for the last 40 years?  "Fear not," says peer-reviewed science, the great god CO2 has a wonderful plan for your life: A grand solar minimum would barely make a dent in human-caused global warming.

So who is going to win the royal rumble between that big glowing ball in the sky and and an extra 50 ppm of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere?  I suspect that we will find out for sure in the next 5 years or so.

* Rancho d'El Borak didn't get snow, but we did get about 8" of rain over 3 days. Five Boys' Mom will have a more accurate count, I'll bet.
** Not from lessened x-ray or ultraviolet directly. A quieter sun allows more cosmic rays to reach the lower atmosphere from space. Those cosmic rays instigate cloud formation. And those cloud formations do the darnest things to stuff on the ground.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rogue solves the pepper problem


So anyway, as soon as I finished supper last night, the lovely and gracious Rogue rolled up with a few somethings she found for sale on Facebook: a whole vanload of used cattle tubs, four bucks each.  These once held salt blocks or minerals, except for that row of two, which held buckwheat.  They're sturdy, thick, food grade plastic and hold about 10 gallons each.  So of course the first thing I did was to drill six 1" holes in the bottom of most of them.

You see, I have a pepper problem. Not one like last year where I couldn't get anything to grow past the dog-digging and cat-pooping stage.  This year I simply have no room for them.  Every bed I have except for Rogue's long one is full*.  So I have nowhere to put all these cayennes and chilis and bells** I've got popping up.

Well, had nowhere.  As soon as I figure out where to put the these new planters, and as soon as I figure out what soil I'm going to fill them with, they'll each get three or four pepper plants***, which should produce enough to keep me in peppers for a couple years.

* That one gets tomatoes, which are about 2" tall right now.
** But no jalapenos.  I've still got two cases of them from 2015.
*** and I may get to try one bucket in tobacco. Thanks, Tom.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why we keep our guns

Not a tough fight, hardware being equal
Because loyalty has its own rewards:
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias, providing guns to as many as 400,000 loyalists.

The announcement came as Maduro's opponents are gearing up for what they pledge will be the largest rally yet to press for elections and a host of other demands Wednesday.
It would be easy to feel bad for the long-suffering people of Venezuela. But it would also be unkind, for this is the future they chose. Not even twenty years ago, they freely elected socialist Hugo Chavez, who ran on a platform of "I'll steal all the gringos' money and capital and give it to you." Now that free stuff has all run out, and the people are still hungry. Too bad.

But the lesson here is not that democracy is often an idiot, nor that socialism only works until you run out of other peoples' money.  It's that when the chickens come home to roost, the government is not going to protect the average person, but those in power. The operative words in the story quoted above are not guns or even armed militias, but loyalists.

Those loyal to the government get guns. Those disloyal do not.  Unless you already have your own, that is.  The solution may still be messy, but at least the mess won't all be on your side of the street.