Thursday, October 30, 2008

This 'N That Part III

Sorry I've been away, but it's been a fairly hectic week. Healthwise, I have good weeks and bad - I get pretty fatigued at times. This was one of those weeks.

Plus, I woke up last night with some pretty good pain of the kidney stone variety. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I took one of the pain pills I'd stashed from all my surgeries and procedures. I had the truck at home, so I figured I'd drive it to the shop, and then take myself to the emergency room.

But, when the alarm went off, I felt pretty good. Either those drugs were better than I remembered, or I had passed the stone. My ureters are pretty skinny, so if the stone makes it to the bladder, I'm home free. Only none ever have before. As the day went on, there were reminders that a stone had probably made me it's bitch, and at the end of the day, whilst in the bathroom, evidence that proved my theory appeared. You can imagine the rest.

A couple of us had to go to northern Iowa earlier this week. I guess it didn't hit home that Iowa will probably go for Obama until we saw all the signs. We hauled a couple of fertilizer tanks to an ag supply company. As is normal, politics did come up, and we heard "Oh, McCain is just a warmonger, just like Bush. War, war, war is all they are about."

Naturally, this went over like a lead balloon over the Grand Canyon. I asked him if he really believed Obama would bring all the troops home. I reminded him that we will have military bases - just like in Japan, Germany and Korea. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind. The Kool Aid had gotten to this one....

Then we heard about how the economy was totally in the tank and it was all Bush's fault. "Even after he tried to get Congress to act on the mortgage problems several years ago, and Frank, Pelosi, and Lautenberg put a stop to it? - and geez, what party affiliation are they?" I told him he could look it up, it is all a matter of public record - Bush did try. But, again, that isn't what The Chosen One and his minions had told this useful idiot. It didn't occur to me until later, but if the economy was so bad, WTF was the company that employed him making a major investment in fertilizer tanks for the future? Seems like that business was doing well enough to expand. No breadline there.

Oh well, some people refuse to be reached.

And on a final note - I heard this song for the first time in years today. Happy Halloween and enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Kind of Weirdo?

What kind of weirdo wants to see a dead, highly revered Mormon gun designer in p0rn? Yeah, I'm sure they were looking for someone else, and no, I don't wanna know.

Just so you know how much this offends me: if it existed, I'd have a plastic statuette of John Moses Browning on the dash of my automobile.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Wuz Nominated

I am honored. Earl of Just The Library Keeper nominated me as a Superior Scribbler. Hah! Actually, coming from Earl - this means a lot. It's my humble opinion that Earl is superior both morally and ethically. I'm sure he'd try to be self effacing about his adherence to high standards, but that is also proof of his efforts to be a better person. He is a great example of working to live up to some pretty high benchmarks, and succeeding quite well.

So, according to the rules, I gotta nominate five people I think deserve this. Actually, winnowing down to five is gonna be tough, and some of the people I'd nominate have already been covered.

First is Charles G. Hill of Dustbury. I don't know how he does it. He posts several times a day with something unusual and different than the rest of blogdom, plus his gentle humor, snark and dry wit have me anticipating new posts. He claims to be a Democrat - but I think he's more of an unaffiliated Conservative. It's difficult to pigeonhole his thinking, because it is so diverse. He has an unabashed shoe fetish (like that isn't a good thing? Go read and see), and he makes yardwork entertaining. He's also a car guy, so that pulls me right in. He resides in and covers issues relating to OKC, OK - since half my family is from there and my Sis lives in same - captures my attention.

Next up is threecollie of Northview Dairy. She and her family run a dairy in New York, and I really enjoy reading her thoughts on the various issues they encounter. Farm life there is far different than what I'm used to. She found me from Jeff Soyer's People of the Gun, and I've certainly been enriched as a result. She also writes an opinion column called The Farm Side for her paper - The Recorder of Amsterdam NY. Talk about yer 'ritin' bona fides - she's got 'em right there! She is also an excellent photographer, and finds art, art I tell ya, on the farm. Apparently, there are actual trees and water there at the dairy - something I don't see much.

Then there is ptg of The Plains Feeder. I'm really not sure if he's into this award meme kind of thing or not, but he's gettin' nominated anyhow. His political analysis is dead on, in my humble opinion. His law degree might have something to do with it. He has two cobloggers - abe and dadgum, that keep it interesting. After visiting, I feel like I've learned something. He's located on an old feedlot north of Omaha, so his coverage of regional issues resonates here in Kansas.

The next two I met through Kim DuToit's site and several iterations of the forums he and The Mrs. have hosted over the years. They are in my email address book, and we all share jokes and links frequently. I consider them to be some of my best online friends.

Firstly is Morning Glory. I've enjoyed reading her thoughts and musings both in the forums and on her blog. I'm so glad she decided to blog and share her thoughts. She has a daughter in the military, so her political views have a ring of authenticity - and as far as I'm concerned, she has "room to talk" about the issues. She's walking the walk.

Second and lastly, but not the least by any means, is MoK of Six Degrees of Blondness. She makes a big deal about how she's blonde and how that makes her a ditz, but don't let that fool you. She is one sharp lady. Her hubby Mr. Mo contributes the occasional post as well. She recently resigned her position at Freddie Mac. She kept her employer out of her blog until she resigned, and her insights into the "bailout" and Mac's involvement have been enlightening.

Of course there are rules:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

All of these people are far better writers than I. I'm sure my English teacher would like a word or two with me for some of my more egregious violations, but oh well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How To Shift a Big Rig

Most people look at shifting a Class 8 truck as some sort of voodoo, best left to the snaggletoothed unshaven ranks that have mastered the dark art. However, it ain't brain surgery, cause there are plenty of idjuts who manage to do it every day.

Probably the closest the average person has driven that can compare to a truck tranny is the old four speed in the pickup at the farm - you know, the one with the "granny" gear that everyone except old Grandpa would grind shifting? The reason for that was those old four speeds had the top three gears synchronized and the lowest gear was not. Synchros keep all the gears spinning when shifting, and the closer a gear gets to engaging the next, the more the synchro will, well, synchronize the gears so they don't grind. If one gear is spinning, and the one it needs to mesh with is not, then the gears will grind until their speeds match and they can mesh. Synchronizers are usually good for about a 100k miles or more. They do wear out. You may have noticed in an older car with a manual that some of the lower gears really catch unless everything is just so - the synchros are wearing out.

In a truck that may put on 130k or more miles in a year - well, synchronizers just can't handle the stress. So, most diesel trucks have transmissions that do not have synchronized gears, period. This means that when the tranny is shifted, the gears must be synchronized and match engine speeds. Think about your car in second gear. It might be running about three thousand rpm. At the same speed, the engine speed in third gear might be seventeen hundred. So, different gears have different engine speeds at the same ground speed. Another difference is the rpm range - diesels usually have about a five hundred rpm drop, while gasoline motors might be as much as two thousand.

So, we "float" the gears and don't use a clutch to shift. Some people use the clutch to help "break" it out of gear, but if you have any torque on the transmission, no amount of prying will let you shift it out of that gear. So, the preferred method to upshift is to ease off the loud pedal, and when there is neutral or no torque, pull it out of that gear and move the selector to the next gear. Then, the rpms must match, or it won't slide in. Usually, when you ease off the accelerator to take it out of gear, you continue the motion to continue to let rpms drop while catching the correct moment to drop it in the next "hole." It is all a matter of timing, and all trucks are a bit different. Some, the rpms seem to take forever to drop, some drop too fast, the tranny might be "loose" or "tight." Another little problem is compression brakes. Most trucks are set up so that if you have the "jake brake" on, releasing the accelerator will switch it on. You don't want to have the jake brake killing your engine rpms unless you can shift very fast. You have to learn to "feather" the loud pedal to keep from turning on the jake, or just get in the habit of shutting it off and remembering to turn it back on when you need it. Most prefer it on all the time, so when they lift it will come on and start to slow the truck.

If a gear is missed, and it happens to me several times a day, then you have to try again to match rpms with the selector poised at the gate, as it were. We "grind 'em in" quite a bit, frankly. The gearshift will vibrate in your hand as the gears start to mesh, and the "notching" slows and stops as the gears finally match.

Shifting down generally requires a reverse strategy. You are generally slowing anyway and need a lower gear to help slow the truck with the said gear, so your foot is usually off the loud pedal. In order to get neutral torque, ya have to ease into the accelerator a bit until the stick slides out, then you have to ease into the pedal a bit more to increase engine rpms so it will slide into the next lower gear. Again, it's all about timing and practice.

This is the shift pattern for the common and lowly nine speed direct transmission. It is basically a five speed pattern with reverse to the top and far left. Low is the first gear, then one through four are the next, giving you five speeds in the low range. See the picture of the lever on the shift knob to the right? That lever is on the front of the shift knob on top of the shifter. It has to be in the lower position to access the low range. Once a driver has run through the "bottom" five, he (or she) will preselect the high range by pulling up on the range lever. The next gear is found in the hole marked 5/1. The next three gears are in the same sequence as before, only the pattern is of a four speed rather than a five. So, five gears in the low range and four in the high gives you nine speeds overall. An interesting thing about these transmissions is that you can shift into the "LO" hole in the high range, but the gearing is exactly the same as the fifth gear in the low range. So, technically speaking, you may have ten gears to select, but only nine are different.

A lot of the fleet trucks out there are equipped with nine speeds. They are fairly simple, rugged and light. In a speed regulated truck that won't be allowed to run over sixty seven or so mph, they are ideal. However, most owner operators and a lot of other company guys (think me here) would like to have a little more performance. You can spec a truck with extremely high rear gears so that a nine speed would run quite fast in the top gear, but then you'd lose flexibility in tough pulls, because the gears would be "spread too far" to accelerate in a decent amount of time. Thus we get overdrive transmissions.

Probably the most popular geared trannies are the thirteen speeds. There are a lot of them that have different torque capabilities and gearing, but they all shift the same. Now, in the bottom picture, you can see the shifter head has a splitter on the side. The top picture of the shift pattern shows that the top four gears can be "split." If you are in the number 5/1 hole in the high range, and your splitter is in "low," the next gear is reached by flipping the lever forward, then just lifting off the "gas." It will drop into the next gear without moving the shift lever. The next gear would be in the 6/2 hole, and the splitter would have to be in the low position. It is a lot easier to shift it leaving it in the high position until the shifter is in the "hole" and then dropping the splitter. Otherwise, if ya miss, you'll be trying to get about three parts of a transmission to mesh at once, and in some cases, you might have to just about stop and start over. At any rate, with the top four gears split gives you eight gears in the upper range, plus the five in the lower range makes thirteen speeds.

An eighteen speed has deep reduction available on the lower five gears, so there are ten lower range and eight higher range gears available. Ten speed directs use the L hole in the high range - there are five high and five low gears. There are ten speed overdrives that have the top two holes switched. If you look at the pattern as a five speed with low as one and four as the five hole - the four and five holes are switched. Going from the three hole normally means over and up, but in a tranny with the inner gears switched you would go over and down, the next gear up. "Lets put 'er to the dash and into the wind" used to be a saying on the CB - a variation of the ten speed overdrive had fifteen gears and it was very popular with owner operators wanting to go fast. The top two gears in the transmission were actually swapped to do this, and the problem with these transmissions was the rpm drops weren't consistent. The three to four shift had very little rpm drop, and the switch to the "big hole" had a large rpm drop. It took a real horse to pull those trannies.

There have been a lot of different transmissions and shift patterns over the years. A lot of older trucks had auxiliary boxes - they actually had two transmissions. One might be a five or six speed with reverse, and the auxiliary usually had four. It took some skill to shift those quickly - it usually required two hands, one through the steering wheel, shifting both shifters at the same time. My old boss picked up an old Peterbilt with a ten speed overdrive with a four speed Browning auxiliary box. I never took it out of the third range on the auxiliary - it had a 318 Detroit, and it would barely pull itself bobtailing in the high range, much less with a trailer with G_d forbid, a load. Another truck I drove once had a fourteen speed Spicer transmission. It was really an air shift 5x4 - like one of the two tranmission types, but it was all in one huge case. You could split each hole four ways, but the usable gears cut it down from twenty to fourteen. In the first "hole," the top two gears were identical to the bottom two in the second hole. So, you only split the bottom two on the first three gears, then you could split the top two holes four ways each. Six plus eight equals fourteen. It was hooked up with a pretty hot (for it's day) Caterpiller motor, and it was a very awesome combination. It would run over 100 mph and outpull plenty of trucks besides. But, those old Spicers were heavy, expensive to repair, and not very long lived.

So, most of the trannies out there are either nine or thirteen speeds. The truck I drive has a thirteen. Most of our other trucks have eighteens - the idea is that we have to "walk in" tanks sometimes - we have to carry the tanks from the trailer to the site for twenty or thirty yards. The slower the speeds, the better, so deep reduction in that kind of scenario is a good thing.

And, I don't start out in low and work my way through each gear each and every time. I usually start my truck out in "third" or "fourth," and skip the splits in the high range until I get to the top gear, or sometimes the top two. My motor has enough torque to handle most of the shifts and the rpm spreads just fine without resorting to hitting every gear. Climbing a mountain? I might split some of the lower gears.

One more thing - in order to get these things into gear while stopped requires a clutch brake. When you depress the clutch all the way to the floor, the clutch brake engages and the transmission is stopped to allow you to drop it into a gear without grinding it to a stop. When you hear someone grinding into gear while stopped, it usually means their clutch brake is worn or they are an idiot. So, if you are a clutch user while shifting, you have to remember to only use the first part of the clutch travel and not engage the brake going down the road. All that does is fry the brake far far sooner.

So, this is probably way more complicated than necessary. It's really just timing. We all miss gears, too. Some claim they don't, but they are the guys with brown eyes as far as I am concerned. I don't believe the other utterances that fall from their lips, either. If for some reason, you have the opportunity to try one out, don't be too scared about shifting the dern thing. That is the easy part. Not running into things is the hard part.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bill of Lefts


1. Thou shall be secure in the faith that government will take care of you. Everything is free as long as you don't work for it. So you are best off not working at all or as little as possible.

2. Government shall never take away anything it gives you. However, it may take away anything you earn on your own.

3. There shall be plenty of mandates on the other guy. You are safe as long as you choose do as little as possible -- then government will not ask you to do anything in return. Whatever you do, don't ever think about employing someone.

4. Bubbas who hang out together can get most anything they want as long as they promise to vote for left wing Democrats.

5. Government can always raise taxes on the rich because success is just not fair no matter what the tax rate.

6. Deficits are a part of life, but that is only a problem for those with money. If the government gives you a credit card for health care or anything, use it as much as you want. The more you use it, the more free things you can expect to get with it in the future.

7. The the PRESSident is protected by the freedom of the press. It reinterprets and ignores the Constitution to meet any desired PRESSidential goal or specification. The PRESSident is defined as the collective will of the liberal PRESSSSSS.

8. The PRESSident only report the views that the PRESSident feels are useful propaganda for their intended audience. Conflicting reports are fine as long as the conclusion by promises new programs.

9. Most laws are best written by judges and regulatory agencies, so it is best to make any legislation as vague and contradictory as possible.

10. All rights reserved to the States and individuals are subject to the previous rule.

11. When your position can't be substantiated by logic or facts, divert the issue to another topic that defames or attacks your opposition's credibility. It is good if there is little justification to do so, and even better if your spin is full of falsehoods and logical gaps. If you are guilty of something, defend yourself by saying your opponent is guilty of the same crime, even if it there is no truth in the accusation.

12. Unquestioning faith in Big Government shall be a promoted and protected right. The goal is for non-secular faith, its welfare programs and worship of liberal politicians to eventually replace religion. Conservatives who have little faith in big government secularism shall be persecuted and scorned as radical right wing extremist unbelievers of the worse kind.

13. The goal of feel good government programs isn't to fix problems. The primary intention of government programs is to create more opportunites for new feel good programs to fix the problems other feel good programs create.

14. Political Bigotry is promoted so long as it expresses all sorts of ridiculous bias against Conservatives. The more ridiculous the political bigotry, the better.

Best be for printing this for future reference. When Hope and Change© start running the country, this could be the new paradigm.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wealth Spread!

It's Good For You, whether you want it or not.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

From MoK, talking about her trip to a Sarah Palin Rally:

The crowd was very well behaved, which isn't surprising. We're conservative.

Snork! So true, so true.

Parked In My Yard

Frank W. James, aka "Farmer Frank" wrote a pretty good post about why farmers tend to get more land and equipment called Economies of Scale and Cash Rent. I can't really add much to what he said about the subject other than it's a lot like the average consumer going to Costco or Sam's Club - the more you buy, the cheaper the unit price. If you contract fertilizer before you need it, you may lock in a price that is considerably cheaper than when it comes time to actually use it. If you buy diesel fuel by the truck load rather than just a few fill ups at a time, your fuel price will be less by a bit. If you have a huge tractor and appropriate implements to pull, you can get your ground worked with less labor, fuel, and equipment costs over the long run.

This is a picture of the model of tractor Dad used when he retired. I spent more than a couple hours running it as well. He had a John Deere 4430. It was very similar to this one - he had an auxiliary fuel tank mounted on the front. This one is missing the necessary front weights - Dad's fuel tank took the place of the weights. He also had a front end loader mounted. My neighbor who farms the family ground bought it from Dad, and as far as I know, he still has it. It is too small (109 drawbar horsepower) to work ground in the farm economy today in this area. It's duties were reduced to handling bales, mowing and other such work.

This is the only four wheel drive tractor I've ever run. It is a Case 1470 Traction King. My neighbor Nate had two - one like this with rear steering and one without. At 126 drawbar horsepower, it really wasn't that much stouter than Dad's JD. It would pull 6x5' (30' cut) sweeps while the 4430 liked 5x5' (25' cut) better. Dad actually only pulled 3x6' (18' cut) Noble sweeps - that is what he had before he bought the JD and he wasn't wild about upgrading. The rear steering was supposed to help reduce soil compaction. After a while, pulling the same implement in the same manner in the same field has the tractor running in the same spots every time. Tractors are not light, and the continuous weight pressing into soft ground results in compacted soil. This is really a pretty good picture showing how the rear wheels don't follow exactly in the front wheel tracks. So, the weight is spread around. Most farmers break up the compaction problem by working the ground differently each time - around and around, or back and forth at an angle chosen so the wind blows across the path you choose. Tracked tractors, such as the Challenger series, spread the weight around as well.

This is what has been parked in my yard for several weeks. It is a John Deere 9400. It is hardly the largest or newest John Deere four wheel drive model - that distinction belongs to the 9630. The 9400 is rated at 371 drawbar hp and 425 engine, and the 9630 is 530 engine hp (I couldn't find the drawbar rating). The 9400 is a far cry from what I've run in the past. When tractors get this big, they are pretty much specialized to the point where they are single purpose machines. You can mount a scraper blade on the front and use the hydraulics to adjust it, but there is no PTO (power take off) or three point hitch. A mower usually hooks up to the three point to raise and lower, and the PTO powers the rotating blades. This tractor would crumple the vegetation you wanted to mow before the mower got to it. So, this puppy sits idle when other tractor duties are required. Such is the cost of specialization. And what does this baby cost? Depends on the year and the hours used, but a worn out example might be found in the $75k area, and a decent long term investment type would be at least $120k. This model wasn't produced after 2002, so all the ones for sale out there are used.

Let's climb up and look in:

The steering column is tilted up out of the way to make entering and exiting the seat far easier. All the controls and instruments are on the right side of the cab.

Close up of the armrest. The vertical yellow knob at the end of the rest is to shift gears. There is a two stick gearbox we'll see a bit of in a moment that selects the range, then you have a choice of high or low in that range with the little knob. If the tractor is in the high range, and it starts to pull too hard you can shift down without clutching. The yellow/orange tab recessed on the arc is the throttle - turtle for slow, rabbit for fast. The hydraulics are to the right of the gearshift - they utilize rocker switches. The tractors I grew up with all had mechanical linkage to the hydraulic controls - so there were direct links to the outside of the cab, allowing noise and vibration into the operator area. These are electric over hydraulic - the "linkage" is wiring. Much quieter.

One of the manual gearshift knobs and two of the computer displays. The speed chart for the different gears is pasted on the right window. I could jump in this tractor and get it to go down the road, but I couldn't take advantage of the various technologies shown here. I don't think this tractor is equipped with GPS, but to be honest, I just don't know. The new tractors with GPS can take over the driving as far as proper spacing is concerned. When you are pulling an implement, you have to overlap a bit so you don't skip - or miss some weeds. With the GPS systems, you can program in the width of the implement and how much overlap you want, and the system will track accordingly. I understand this is really helpful when planting.

This is the instrument panel on the far right side. The far right shows the cigarette lighter and the data ports for diagnostic equipment. What I, II, III, IV, and V are for is beyond me. The display to the left has wheel slip, acres worked and a bunch of other stuff to play with. You can see the headlights, A/C and heat controls, windshield wipers and hazard lights are controlled from this panel.

This is the view looking over the left front wheels. My butt has to be at least eight or nine feet from the ground.

The view from behind the wheel straight ahead. I could crush that granary. But, since it's mine and the neighbors like using it, I'll forgo that pleasure at the moment. I'm sure I'd scratch the front of this green machine, too. Better not.

The loose nut behind the wheel.

Okay, so what does this hunk of iron and plastic pull?

This is a Flex King 9x6' (56' cut) sweep plow with the hydraulic rotary harrow option. The flat disk blade (rolling coulter) in front of the sweep blade cuts a slot for the vertical shank that holds the sweep blade (frog). The sweep blade runs underneath the surface of the ground, cutting the roots of the weeds without disturbing the ground cover very much, as opposed to a moldboard plow or offset disks, which roll the earth over and bury the ground cover. The rotary harrows (chicken pickers) break up clods and stir the topsoil up a bit, improving moisture retention. This implement is designed for farmers who have to leave their ground in fallow every other year or so. The ground cannot take continuous cropping and has to rest, but if you don't keep the weeds down, there will be no moisture for a crop later on. Most farmers who irrigate are more concerned with getting rid of the plant residue from the previous crop so that their drills can work properly. If there is a bunch of wheat straw left over on top when drilling, the drills often catch it and ball up. For a farmer who summer fallows, this isn't as much as a problem because the old crop cover deteriorates quite a bit over the year the ground rests.

How does the farmer get this down the road to the field? Roads aren't sixty feet wide, dern it. If you look closely, you can see the frame is put together in hinged sections, and there are long throw hydraulic cylinders mounted transversely. There are also support beams along the way. The outer "wings" fold in first, then the next wing folds up, then the wing after that. You can see holes in the support beams - they match up with brackets on the wings so that they can be pinned. There have been instances where the hydraulics failed and the implement unfolded during transport. These babies are heavy enough that when the implement is parked, it is a good idea to unfold the thing. The wheel bearings in the inner wheel hubs that support the whole shebang during transport will fail more frequently if the implement is left folded.

When I look back at what Dad and I farmed with, this sort of equipment just blows me away. When a farmer makes the commitment to economies of scale, just buying a bigger tractor and implements isn't the only step. Dad and I pumped our fuel by hand out of a tank in the bed of his pickup. It took about twenty minutes to pump thirty or forty gallons - the tank held forty seven. This puppy? 270 gallons. This means a dedicated fuel trailer or truck with an electric pump. You don't buy engine oil in plastic one gallon containers for this tractor. You have to have a place to keep old engine oil. When Dad's 3x6' Noble needed new blades, he bought three. This implement requires nine. With no power tools, it took a day to change out blades on Dad's Noble. It was a good idea to have a bearing or two, some seals, and maybe an extra hydraulic cylinder or line "in stock." Now, one or two won't get you very far. Better have plenty of that stuff on hand. You need a pretty decent sized and equipped shop to work on this stuff. Dad and I? Outside. In both cases, calling up someone to work on whatever is wrong will break a farmer in a hurry. There are times when the specialists are required, but minor stuff needs to be handled by the farmer. Economy of scale applies to the support services the large equipment requires.

This tractor isn't very versatile, so smaller tractors are needed for other tasks.
This means more parts in the shop, more fuel and more oil, more implements and attachments, and people to run them. If you get a large combine, then you need more parts, trucks, grain carts and labor. You could purchase a similar tractor and implement for $150 - 160k, but that is only a tiny part of the picture.

I'm pretty tickled I'm just a rich landlord.

Please Say a Prayer

Today, Mish Weiss has her bone marrow transplant, and it is a big step. The outcome is far from being guaranteed positive.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Reminds Me

This cartoon really jarred a memory. When I was a child, several of our neighbors were pretty close to our family - not in distance. "Aunt Edna and Uncle Nate" were one of the couples that did love my sister and I as niece and nephew. They babysat us, sent us Christmas and birthday gifts, and looked after our welfare and general well being. Not because it was required of them - just because they liked us and had room in their hearts for a couple neighbor kids.

Nate was a small man with a pretty even temper. Edna was a fabulous cook. I only saw Nate PO'd at her once - Edna had driven a flat tire until it was ruined, and was sitting in said car while Nathan changed her spare. He was furious that she'd destroyed the tire, and she could have cared less. Nate always had a bottle or three of Old Charter stashed in the garage or shed, and Edna listened to our phone calls when we still had party lines. I'm sure they had some serious battles, but the rest of the world never witnessed or heard about it.

What this cartoon reminds me of was this tableu - I was in their basement house one day visiting for one reason or another, and they were both in the kitchen. Edna, who could be a nag at times, was hounding Nathan about something and he wasn't responding in a timely enough fashion for her. "You've got your hearing aids shut off again, don't you Nathan!" she exclaimed in a somewhat frustrated voice. She then looked me straight in the eye and winked. Nate grumbled something unintelligable and cast an eye on me, and winked as well.

It was all an act, and one they enjoyed playing to the hilt. They truly loved each other very much.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sixteen Wides

Westbound I70 on the way to the Johnson/Eisenhower Tunnels under the Continental Divide. The truck ahead of me was loaded with sixteen feet diameter eight foot tall steel oilfield tanks, as was I. We are under legal height for these loads, so we can run through the tunnels. Our "normal" loads are twelve feet in diameter laid on their sides, so we are usually at least just over fourteen feet tall. The tunnels are height limited to thirteen feet ten inches - just four inches over the legal height. We can't go through the tunnels that tall, so we have to go over Loveland Pass.

Depending on the state and the width of the load, we have to use escorts. The white pickup behind that load is an escort vehicle. When running four or more lanes, the escort runs behind the load. We can't see behind us very well if at all, so they let us know when we can change lanes, and run interference for us so we can.

But, today, we get to go through and save several miles, a bunch of time, and miss the gripping excitement of a narrow two lane mountain pass with extreme drops and few guardrails. When we get to the entrance, we have to pull over and get permission to go through. I had permission and was just waiting to go. We have to take both lanes as well.

And yes, there is snow at the tops and people are skiing.

I hate winter in the mountains, particularly if I have to drive through it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gee, What a Surprise

Your result for The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test...

The Monk

You scored 24% Cardinal, 51% Monk, 41% Lady, and 49% Knight!

Well, I'm shocked /snark.

I've done just about everything but take a vow of chastity (already did the poverty thing) and move into a monkery.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Modern Art

And the difference is????

Sunday, October 12, 2008

PUMAs for Obama (not really)

Good parody, even if it rings uncomfortably true.

direct link

Ripped off from Ace of Spades.

Friday, October 10, 2008

God Bless Texas

Ya wanna know something? Texas is BIG. It has taken several days to go from the northern border of the panhandle to the very southern tip, and almost make it home. Actually, we didn't go to South Padre Island - which would be the "most" southern - but west of McAllen counts as pretty close to Mexico. I did manage to take some pics today - I hate screwing around with a camera when I'm loaded (the truck - not me).

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus of speed limits, and he lives in Texas along I10 west of San Antonio on the way to El Paso.

This is a bit of a view of the valley opening up westbound on I10 before Junction.

Cotton along US83 north of I10 somewhere. You'll notice there are two styles of planting techniques. The top is two row close together, then a space between. The bottom pic shows eight rows with a space. I noticed the two row plants were a lot taller. Since doing it differently will require different spacing on the cotton pickers, there has to be a good reason for this. What it is I have no idea.

Another interesting tidbit - when we unload for some of the larger oil companies, the job foreman will have a "tailgate meeting" where safety procedures are discussed. We unloaded less than ten miles from the border. One of the recurring subjects at the tailgate meetings in this area is to always lock your vehicle when you leave it. There is enough scrub trees, mesquite and cactus to hide an army. There have been many instances where a worker parked their pickup to unlock a gate only to have it stolen as they were busy. Trucks have even been stolen in simiar situations.

Immigration officials drive around in white vehicles with a green slash on the side. When we were about forty miles away, we could see a blimp in the air keeping station - and figured it was one of Immigration's toys. On US281 north of McAllen, we had to go through an Immigration check. It wasn't just trucks - it was all vehicles. Lots of officers, three or four dogs and a fleet of white wheels with the green slash. The officer just asked me if I was a citizen, and I said "Yes, sir." He just motioned me on. I'm sure my midwestern accent gave me away.

So, I ran out of hours and am at Perryton, TX tonight. The Best Western here is pretty new, and is one of the nicest rooms I've ever seen - they have big screen television with high def channels - pretty slick.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

You Can't Get There From Here

Were I in a car, I'd just take US81 south from Garden City, hook up with I10, take it to US 281 south and go to McAllen. This is our routing from the Texas DOT:

US83s, SH70s, PAMPA: N.LP171e/s/w, SH70s,IH40SFRe, 1ST ON RAMP, IH40e, SH70s, SH6s, US70e, US287s, FM433s/w, US183s, US82ne, SH25s, SH79s US283s, SH6e, MORAN: SP880w, FM880s, SH206s, US283s, US87w, FM2028s/e, US377s/w, IH10e, SAN ANTONIO: N.LP1604w/s/e, IH37s, SH97w, SH16s, SH44e, US281s, FM755sw, US83se.

IH is Interstate Highway, US is US Highway, SH is State Highway, FM is Farm to Market (they can and usually are real winners), and the various cities listed have some sort of truck route or spur we have to follow.

Maybe there will be some scenery.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Travelin' Man

Well, after a trip to the Greeley CO area yesterday, I find myself in Childress TX tonite on my way to McAllen TX. Any further south puts us in Mexico. The State of Texas has us routed all over the place on the way down there. I doubt we'll make it there tomorrow. Some of the farm to market roads they have us routed on are not on my map, so I've got to use Google maps to pick out our route yet tonite.

Enjoy the debate - it's on now and I'm not listening.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Manual Transmissions


A train collision in Butler County kills a mother and her young daughter. The accident happened around 7:40 Saturday night when the train hit a car near SW 60th and Purity Springs Road.

Sheriff Craig Murphy says four members of the Bilson family had gone out to buy snacks to watch a football game. On the trip home, the newly purchased Ford Probe stalled on the tracks. He says the tracks cross the family's driveway.

Murphy says the 15-year-old driver got out and tried to push the car out of the way but couldn't. Murphy says the teen grabbed his seven-year-old sister out of the car as the train approached.

He went back to get his mother and three-year-old sister but it was too late. Thirty-six year-old Molissa Bilson died at the scene. The daughter, three-year-old Molly, was airlifted to a Wichita hospital where she later died.

Sheriff Murphy says the family would have likely had enough time to cross the tracks before the train hit if the car hadn't stalled. He says the conductor of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train tried to stop in time but couldn't. He estimates the train was about a mile-long.

Murphy says the scene was especially hard for crews to work because many of them know the family.

Man, I feel for this kid. He's going to relive this for the rest of his life. It is truly a shame, and I grieve for him and his family. His mother was having problems with the belt holding the three year old's car seat.

One thing this article did not mention was the fact that the Probe had a manual transmission, bought for the fifteen year old. They were on a family outing so he could become more familiar with operating the apparently unfamiliar transmission. That is what I heard on the news early this morning.

I have a real problem with this. I've felt for years that driver's education courses are useless when manual trannys come into play. It's a "let them out and learn on their own" scenario. Turn 'em loose on the motoring public - it's the finest in on the job training. What the hell, if you don't want to drive one, you don't have to and if you are lucky, you never will.

But you are not a skilled motor vehicle operator if you cannot operate a manual transmission. What if someone you love has a major medical problem and it falls upon you, the auto tranny fan, to get them to the emergency room to save their life? Ain't gonna happen.

This poor kid stalled his car on the tracks with apparently enough time to get out and try to push it off. Had he been more familiar with operating his car, stalling it more than likely wouldn't have happened. Did he have it in neutral when he tried pushing it? We don't know. Did he think to shove it in low gear and just let the starter take it off the tracks? We don't know.

Someone comfortable with a manual transmission would think of these things, and try them instead of panicking. Perhaps the car's battery completely crapped out just as it was crossing the track, and that is what killed the motor. I really don't want to be looking over this kid's shoulder here - I think considering the training he no doubt had, he did what would be expected.

That is my problem here. It's highly likely that he didn't have the background to react to the situation. And why not?

Because our driver training and licensing system is set up for the lowest common denominator. This kid could jump in a dually manual diesel and pull a camper, or a Ryder truck, or jump in a motor home with the training he received. His parents would get an insurance discount, no doubt, since he passed driver's ed successfully. And why couldn't he drive any of these other vehicles? Retirees who've never driven anything bigger than a Buick take to the roads every day in their motor homes and navigate across the country, often sticking their ride under low overhangs, or getting high centered trying to turn into a short driveway, or many other little things that merely operating a car does not prepare you for.

At least getting a motorcycle endorsement on your license requires some training.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Homecoming Greeting

An airman deployed for fourteen months returns home to be greeted by his border collies - who obviously have not forgotten him.

Seen at Ace of Spades

Breaking News

From The Real King of France - seen first at Firehand's place.

For Acidman

I used to email similarly themed comics to him - and he published 'em and attributed them to me as well.

He would have liked this one.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Two Shots This Time

I've been home the past two days with the creeping crud. Periods of shivering under blankets alternating with hot flushes, sore stomach muscles and throat from coughing and reduced to being a mouth breather because the ol' sinuses are plugged. Yeah, we've all been there and done that fer sure.

So, my regimen includes sleeping until the call of nature forces me from the sick bed, as it were. I stepped out earlier today and I could hear this sucker singing off in the distance. The cicadas (or chickadees as they are known as around these parts) were carrying on as well. Their tune is a brash and happy melody, broadcast from high places at high volume. Rattlers, well hidden in the tall grass, can just barely be heard, the buzzing wafting over the breezes through the trees and weeds.

I can hear fairly well when things are quiet, but if there is background noise..... Too many noisy tractors and trucks with straight pipes have damaged my hearing. If I can pick out a noise from over the ringing of tinnitus, I can usually use the triangulation our Creator gave our hearing. However, when the wind is up, not so much.

I know better than to hunt down the vipers in their home territory. So, when I hear their menacing warnings floating on the breeze - I figure it's time to leave them to it. It's just when they practically move in with me that I get upset.

The trip outside after the long distance serenade revealed it's presence next to the porch, coiled and quite unhappy with me. So, I took care of business, went inside and got the little lever action Henry. This time, I spent some time lining up the sights. This snake was further away than the last one. Of course, I missed the head shot. You can see I ventilated his body, coiled under his head at the time.

He (or she) had been pretty well focused on me already, but now the head was pointed right at me, elevated from the ground and dead on. If the malevolence and hatred in those eyes could have driven laser emitters, I'd have been toast for sure. The head was now a more difficult shot, too.

I lost patience and just snapped off the shot, popping it in the head, and killing it instantly. I've found my snap shooting is generally more accurate than the carefully aimed shots, particularly if I'm been practicing. The less thinking, the better.

This example is quite a bit darker than the last one, as well as bigger. Babs was under the porch steps at the time, and she didn't appreciate the shooting much. She won't be "talking" to me much for the rest of the day. Oh well, she won't be running into this sucker inadvertently, either.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Derby Boy Suspended

Full Story

Eight year old Austin Spohn of Derby, KS was suspended three days from school for bringing this Chuck E. Cheese noisemaker to class in his backpack.

According to the Derby School's policy notebook, a weapon is considered anything that has a projectile, like a firearm or an explosive, or a switchblade, knife even a throwing star. But the toy gun was found in Austin's backpack. It's a toy, a noise maker from Chuck E. Cheese that the principal at Park Hill Elementary believes is dangerous.

Read Derby's Weapon's Policy

"She said its any kind of a gun, anything that resembles a gun, anything in a gun form," says Austin's stepfather Daryl Green.

According to the district, this falls under the district's no tolerance policy. "I asked if while I understood the policy could it be applied with some judgement and some common sense," says Green.

Green says Austin is a slow learner with ADHD and missing three days of school will only put him further behind. "Austin has never been a discipline problem, their own form shows that this is the first incident."

Austin's parents believe administrators are trying to make an example out of their son instead of teaching him a lesson.

"This goes in his records and other schools are going to see this when he moves, middle school, high school and there going to have him flagged as some delinquent child," says Green.

His parents say Austin should not have bought a toy to school, but he's far from dangerous.

I'm beginning to think school administrators live for this sort of thing - "Oh, boy, we get to enforce policy! Common sense be damned!"

But, I'm one of those Bible and gun clingy types who just doesn't get nuance, so I'm probably highly prejudiced in this regard. Of course it makes sense to get yer panties in a wad over a freaking noisemaker. It looks like a gun. It's for The Children®.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Quote of the Day

"[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole
body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike,
especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from
this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on
every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be
influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see
many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail,
no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it."

-- Federal Farmer (Antifederalist Letter, No.18, 25 January 1778)

Kinda settles the "The Militia Means the National Guard and Only They Are Authorized to Bear Arms According to the Second Amendment" argument, eh?