Sunday, January 24, 2016

Slow Learner

It has been said that I am a bit slow on the uptake. Well, sometimes I am and sometimes I am not. For example, today is the day in January that it got up to freezing. I took advantage of this by draining the water tanks for the horses, scrubbing them while they were still wet, and refilled them. There are just two. One is a 100 gallon tank and the other is 150 gallons. If the temperature is not about freezing the ice will freeze to the inside of the tank before I get it scrubbed, thereby causing lots of bad words to come out of my mouth in a short period of time. Plus the tanks don't get clean. So, you see, I am smart enough to wait until the temperature is about freezing or above. Eighteen years of formal education did that for me. Besides how could I not do nice things for these faces:
And this poor old mule
Or when Draugen really decides to lay it on thick with one of his, "I'll do anything you want tomorrow for a cookie today" looks.
Now the slow part.

I rediscovered reading about 10 years ago when I was taking some classes, mostly online. Between semesters I missed studying so I found some non-school books to read along the lines of The DaVinci Code and others. A trip to Iceland really locked me in, however, and I started reading historical fiction along the lines of Halldor Laxness, Icelandic Nobel Prize winner. With the help of Professor Batty and our friend and personal librarian DarienFisher-Duke  I received guidance and understanding in my literary pursuits. The books are starting to pile up at this point. I tried reading some history and fiction, but seemed to come back to books that were mysteries, police procedurals, and such. Then I realized I really liked the ones set in Iceland and Norway, giving in to those roots of my background. Of course I also have Jewish, Irish, British, Russian and probably other roots, as well, but the Scandinavian stories are the ones that draw me in. The books are piling up and then the Cooker gets me a Kindle for Christmas. Here is a potential space saver. Well, I got to love my little electronic library on which I could also check my email and such. The first one gave out about a year ago and I got another (Fire HD) at that time. There are at least 80 books on my Kindle, but I am not sure exactly. I can only get enough time to read about a book a week.

Sometimes it is nice to hold a real book in my hands and I have to get one to read. While a paper book doesn't have nice backlighting for reading in bed, it is still a tactile pleasing experience. Since I am in the boonies and don't have any good bookstores within a hundred miles I have come to rely on The Great and Mighty Amazon. This is not always an inexpensive way to read books, but you get what you want when you want it. It's just like anytime I want to know something or do a little research I just jump on the interwebs and there it is! Just like magic! A fast connection and there you are. It also is not free.

But I have to go to town  about 5 days a week for work. Guess what they have in this town of 1152 people? A library! It is a half mile from where I work and I go right past it at least ten times a week. You know what they have in there? Books! Not a great huge pile, but enough to keep me out of the bars. They also belong to a bigger library system and can get books for me and call me when they arrive. They also have some ebooks available in various formats. Because I tend to read books that may not be on the bestsellers list they may not be able to get everything I want to read, but they certainly have some of them which helps me save space and money, two things that are not usually in abundance in my world.

Oh, what to do about my reading habit? How can I save money and space and still get what I want?
Hey! I've got an idea! Try the library . They have books there!
No shit?
They may have had to write in clay tablets or papyrus, but libraries have been around for two or three thousand years! What a novel (pun intended) idea!

So now I am reading a series by a Swedish author, Henning Mankell. Don't tell my Norwegian relatives, though, they may think I have lowered myself a little. They have to understand that there really are intelligent and gifted Swedes. You know, like Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Nobel, ABBA, and one of my personal favorites, the Chef

There you have it! Jono discovers the library! I have rejoined the world of the living. Who says you can't teach an old dog? Woof, woof!

As long as the cats have "BIRD TV" All birds, all the time, everything is happy around here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How cold was it?

It's so cold out that the icicles are shivering. Well, it certainly has been colder than this, but with an unusually warm winter we are just not used to it. It got up to -3F (-18C) yesterday and the wind was in the 20 to 30 mph range. Walking into it felt like I was wearing a Portuguese man o' war on my face. The horses have been staying out of the wind during the day and spending the nights in the barn with comfortably bedded stalls, heated water buckets, and plenty of hay.

If you want to read a book about some REAL cold temperatures and you like mysteries try this:
Murder 90 Degrees South 
It's chilly at the South Pole!

How cold was it? It was so cold:
we pulled everything out of the freezer and huddled inside it to warm up! 
 terrorists started to stockpile weapons-grade hot chocolate! 
 the politicians had their hands in their OWN pockets! 
 my mail broke when I tried to pry open the envelope! 
 I actually enjoyed it when someone spilled scalding hot coffee on my lap!
 Richard Simmons started wearing pants! 
 Pamela Anderson was downgraded from "hot" to "tepid". 
 kids' grades seemed to be improving at school - when you apply the wind chill factor, a 57% looks like 93%! 
 e-mail was almost useless. It's hard to understand a message when it's typed while wearing three pairs of heavy woolen mittens. 
 I actually enjoyed political speeches. That's how desperate I was for some hot air. 
 the trap-door in my woolly long-johns froze shut. 
 Apple introduced the iParka. 
 Scotsmen were wearing down-filled kilts. 

It is January along the U.S. Canadian border, so, yeah, that's just what it is. On the "warmer" days you may catch a glimpse of the sun. Here it was on the way to work the other day. It only showed itself for a few minutes.
Later in the day, before I left work, the sun exposed a bit of light for a few more minutes. It lit up the sky in a lovely manner.
The next day, back on the farm, we catch the moments before sunset when it breaks through the cloud cover to light things up for a few minutes.
The morning after that, however, the temperature had dropped into the -14F (-27C) neighborhood which causes the lake to produce "sea smoke". When the cold air mixes with the relatively warm air above the lake (above freezing) it makes a type of fog. The steam columns get quite high but dissipate as the temperature gets above 0F (-17C). Ships cannot be seen until it warms up.

So when it warmed up a bit later we got to see this:
This is the Edgar B. Speer heading from Two Harbors, Minnesota to Conneaut, Ohio on Lake Erie. She is 306 meters in length and has a beam of 34 meters. It has a draft (draught) of 8.7 meters and was traveling at about 10 knots.
Here is one of the coolest apps I have ever run across:

You can use it to find every ship on the seven seas. It is a good diversion on a cold winter day.
Stay warm!



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Inspiration and the Lottery

I have to credit Squatlo for this inspiration. Normally I don't do that, no matter how good the idea or the odds of getting caught and publicly embarrassed. I don't know where he found it, but it was the first time I saw it.
Once in a while I will buy a lottery ticket, or "stupidity tax," for the sole purpose of having a great daydream or fantasy for a couple of days about what I would do with all that money. Mostly the fun ways to give it away. I mean, seriously, how much does it take to have all you need and most of what you want? So what do you do with the rest? Park shiny new cars in your friends' driveways? Permanently fund the local animal shelter? Make sure the local food shelf never runs low and the homeless shelter never runs out of heat or blankets?

Usually, there is plenty to do all that, but now the amount is getting up into the territory where you could help the Gates Foundation eradicate disease on a worldwide basis or see to it that everyone on the planet has clean water to drink. The possibilities are endless. The TV news people tell you how many yachts or private jets you could own or mansions with swimming pools (cement ponds if you are from rural America) you could live in all at the same time while dropping in to visit your friends in your private helicopter. Heck, you could probably pay Donald Trump enough to get him to shut up! That in itself could earn you the respect of tens of millions of Americans.

Seeing as how this is America with our second amendment an all, you could start a gun ownership charity for all those who can't afford to buy guns on their own. Everyone could have the handgun of their choice and an assault weapon with 10,000 rounds of their favorite ammunition. I would set these up in our inner cities and poor rural areas so that everyone could protect themselves from the tyranny of the government or any uppity neighbors that got on their nerves. Yup, the things you could do with enough money.

Then the next drawing comes, the inevitable disappointment comes with it, and your dreams blow away like a bubble.

Or maybe more like the Hindenburg if you were really expecting to win this time. 
That is why it is best not to take this all too seriously. The odds of 292 million to 1 are pretty long. In poker betting on pulling the fifth card to an inside straight is 7 to 1 and is considered a poor bet. No, your odds are the equivalent of getting struck by lightening while walking down the street in a blizzard dressed in shorts and flip flops while singing the second verse of  the Star Spangled Banner while visiting Honolulu. Or worse.

Maybe it would be better to try a different way of getting "free" money. How about a research project to determine whether or not money can buy happiness and just how much it would take to see if it does. Starting a gofundme or kickstarter campaign to raise funds for this very important research is a distinct possibility. Sure, it may take a bit of chutzpah to put it out there as a sincere and genuine project, but think of the benefits to mankind. We would finally be able to prove or disprove the notion that money can't buy happiness. For a five dollar donation I could send the results upon completion of the research. For a twenty dollar donation I would print out an official looking certificate stating the results. Of course, if I can't raise enough to find an answer the "investors" will be out of luck, but that is venture capitalism for you. You win some, but mostly you lose.

They say the next Powerball drawing will be worth around a billion dollars. Will I waste another 2 dollars in the effort to make someone else rich? It's too early to tell.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year Milieu

Last year's resolution was to lose 10 pounds. I did so well with that I now need to lose 20.
So much for New Year's resolutions.

My brother and I decided to get a DNA test for me. I'm pretty sure he wanted to check that I was not some kind of alien species. Well, I am not from another world, but I was worried for a few weeks. Now he is going to get a DNA kit and see if we are really brothers. That's not what he tells me, but I'm pretty sure that's why he is doing it.

I bit the bullet again and signed up for 6 months of access to data about my family. I am seriously a mutt, totally European in nature, but a mutt nonetheless. I can find all of my great grandparents, but a couple of them get fuzzy beyond that. On the other hand there are some that I can follow back for hundreds and in one case over a thousand years. After a handful of generations we are all pretty well diluted, so I guess it doesn't really matter all that much. Going back far enough makes us all related to each other and all Africans. It makes bigotry hard to understand. It's easy to dislike assholes, but a blanket hatred of one group or another seems kind of moronic. We are all "them" and we are all "us".
Building a family tree is tedious, but a better use of time than endless hours of Facebook in my estimation. I know because I have been sucked into Facebook for way too long on occasion and I hate myself for it. I check it now and then and with practice I can leave it after a few minutes of checking on the family and some closer friends.

I digress. Some of the fun things I have found out doing family research is that my father was born about 4 months after his parents were married. Talk about a premature birth! My mother died when I was three, although I was close to her mother and her brother. I didn't get to see much of them after I became an (alleged) adult because of distances, money, and priorities. It is something I have always regretted. That side of the family has held the biggest surprises and the most mystery.  There were a few surprises on the Viking side, as well.

They say, whoever "They" are, that you can't know where you're going if you don't know where you are from. Well, maybe in some ways, but I don't think it means much. Maybe it's just part of self- awareness.

In other news.

My morning commute to work is 2 miles down the gravel road to Highway 61, along Lake Superior for 8 miles, then 1 mile through the "city" (population 1152) to my workplace. The other morning in the first 10 miles I saw two cars coming the other direction and one about a mile ahead of me going the same way. Once I got to town the traffic picked up. I'll bet there were ten other vehicles moving on the road. At least the (yes, there is only one) traffic light was green and no one seemed to be going over 30mph. Next week will be different when the kids go back to school and all those school buses jam up the roads with their occasional stops to pick up kids who are too lazy to walk the 5 miles each way. Why, when I was a kid... It was so long ago I don't remember any more, but I am sure we had it worse.

The next day there was even less traffic.

Sometimes I will stop on the way in or out of town to enjoy the view or take a picture.

The ships have moved in closer to avoid the nastiness farther out on the lake. Click the pics to embiggen.
The waves hitting the cold air, rocks, and plants have been doing their sculpture thing again this winter. Even though it is relatively mild this year it is still cold enough.

The long New Year's weekend gave us time to enjoy the morning, even looking at the hay that needed to be put away. We waited until noon to put the hay in the barn, but enjoyed a leisurely few hours first along with the painted sky.