Monday, June 29, 2009
My neighbor making the first cut next to the road, avoiding our state flower.
Another three following.
Five of the six.
One of two New Hollands just across the road from my house.
The other one coming at me.
My family ground is a bit wet yet. It will be cut very, very soon, and I will be much easier to be around. It has suffered some hail damage, but it still looks pretty good.
Within a two mile radius there are at least ten combines hard at work. It is calm, and the roar of threshing carries quite well.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
There exists a form of bloggage that I've never quite plumbed before - crap blogging. Acidman, rest his soul, was the undisputed king of the format. The surviving contenders are clearly, in my feeble mind, Og and Ellison (aka Mr. Debonair). A couple of recent posts by The King of One Hundred Word Stories prompted this memories from the dank, evil depths of my bowels. While this really doesn't qualify as crap-blogging as the masters of the form practice, it's about as close as I'm willing to go, if you know what I mean, and I think that you do.
I take a lot of online surveys. It's mostly a method of Time Wastage. It's hardly worth the effort - I've scored some DVDs and other junk with reward points, and probably netted about sixty bucks over the years. But, it can be fun, and on rare occasions, they'll send me products to test. Sworn to secrecy, of course. The bung fodder test was about five years ago, so I doubt I'll burn in marketing hell telling y'all about it.
I was asked some questions about tp in general - what sort of thickness and strength I preferred, if I ever had any "events" where my the toilet paper failed and I dirtied my finger, or if it became so wet the structure fell apart (a question for the wimmen folk, I'm sure), and how uneasy the whole thing made me feel. I think I answered that I preferred a stronger high quality and didn't suffer from many fears. I am a Charmin man, FYI. There were also other questions dealing with my environmental concerns about excessive usage of asswipe, plus inquiries into my own average "consumption" of the "product," how many sheets and how many attempts were necessary for the successful completion of the mission. My answers qualified me for a top secret test of a new kind of toilet paper.
This definitely caught my attention, so it was with some anticipation I awaited the delivery of the revolutionary product. These shipments are usually Fed-Exed, so when I got home and found a package waiting for me, I was thrilled. It was four rolls of tp, packaged in a plain clear wrapper within the FedEx box. Enclosed was a sheet of instructions with some large print informing me to read them before just hitting the can for a test wipe.
I was instructed to tear off one sheet and examine it. I was informed it was triple ply, and to see that it was. It was indeed triple ply. The texture was a bit rough.It also was slit in an expanding mesh pattern. By pulling on the edges, the toilet paper would expand like aluminum mesh, and the three layers overlapped so there was no direct holes through the sheet. Each ply was relatively thick, particularly compared to the quality stuff at a Motel 6, for instance. They recommended using only three sheets at a time - tear off the three sheets, pull them apart, fold over and pull again. This resulted in a fairly large fluffy wad. A bit of dexterity was required to keep from pulling it completely apart, but it was very easy to learn the proper tension and the stretching limits. So, by doubling up, six plies defended my pristine fingers from being defiled.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. I suffered no indignities that lesser tp had subjected me to in the past. When the vicissitudes of life sent some extremely loose movements my way, well, the test fodder performed admirably. Getting it "wet" didn't affect structural integrity. My mind's Chief Engineer was not called upon to warn me: "She's breakin' apart, Captain!" The shields held under the various malodorous assaults. Even the Klingons were held at bay, which was an engineering marvel when observing the rather fragile appearance of the hygenic revolution. I shared the vision of a new high tech version of the old standby. Unnamed toilet paper technicians had no doubt been working many long hours to see their solution to a minor world's ill come to fruition.The extra steps of another ply! The additional cuts, placed so cunningly! Would the world be able to accept less paper material to do more?
My followup questionaire was quite explicit in winkling out my concerns about the durability of the product, was three sheets enough, my comfort levels, if I feared the failure of the protective layers, and if I felt residual Klingon occupation was a problem. I did not, and answered in a glowing fashion. I hoped to see the bung fodder of the future on the shelves at the local Wal Mart, but, apparently it was not to be. I expect the expanding mesh toilet paper was an idea before it's time. Perhaps others didn't have the faith in the fodder of the future as I did. After the followup online quiz, I still had a couple rolls left. In retrospect, I should have saved one for posterity, but, caught up in the moment, I used 'em up. Hey, it was free, why not?
So the Bung Fodder of the Future passed on to the Great Septic Tank in the Sky. Sniff....
Friday, June 26, 2009
'Too Bad' Sarah Palin Didn’t Go Missing, Sen. Kerry Jokes
Senator Kerry made another Republican joke. This time it was aimed at Sarah Palin.
Massachusetts Sen. Kerry has joined the fraternity of jokesters using Sarah Palin as a punch line.
Kerry was meeting a group of business and civic leaders in the nation's capital when he decided to play comedian, according to The Boston Herald. He was talking about the disappearance of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, the Alaska governor's Republican peer.
"Too bad," he said, "if a governor had to go missing it couldn't have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin."
Kerry's joke came 24 hours before Sanford turned up to admit an affair with a woman living in Argentina, the Herald reported Thursday.
Just to refresh our memories, here is a bit of a pictorial of Senator Kerry's past attempts at humor and how it turned out:
I certainly have no room to talk when it comes to snide comments and rude, crude humor when it comes to public figures. A person who deliberately puts themselves in the limelight opens the door for exactly that kind of negative exposure, whether it's Gov. Palin, President Obama, Michael Jackson, or even a local cop or dog catcher. The elected are supposed to be public servants, and *stars* survive on staying in the limelight. So, they are fair game for appropriate roasting of their personae.
At the time Kerry "joked" about wishing Palin had disappeared, no one was sure where Sanford was, if he was alive, injured, or other nefarious possibilities. In the context of the moment, Kerry was insinuating that a similar disappearance of, you know, the governor of Alaska, would be a preferable outcome. Instead of Sanford. Disappeared without a trace; hopefully not returning.
As an aside, I have my doubts about Palin - I think she is a very astute politician. Just because she has personally chosen some difficult paths through some hot button issues doesn't mean she would attempt to implement them as public policy. Look at Obama - what he said he supports and what he is doing now are often quite different, confounding those who put him on a pedestal in the days before the election. I don't have Sarah on a pedestal, other than I think she is entertaining because her mere presence ties liberals in knots - much like Teh One brings on high blood pressure in conservatives like myself. I've certainly hounded Kansas' former governor.
But I never wished Sebelius ill, even in jest. I am just a blip (if even that much) on the world's radar compared to the influence John Kerry wields. Shouldn't a public personae in a position of responsibility be a little more circumspect?
Stay classy, John Kerry. Your finger is certainly on the pulse of popular humor, as you have so ably demonstrated now and in the past.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
It sure looks like there are blue and green spirals between magenta spirals. You would be wrong, as I am too.
You see embedded spirals, right, of green, pinkish-orange, and blue? Incredibly, the green and the blue spirals are the same color. At first I thought Richard was pulling our collective legs, being a trickster of high magnitude. So I loaded the image in Photoshop and examined the two spirals. In the two squares displayed below, the one on the left is colored using the same color from the blue spiral, and on the right using the green spiral.
The reason they look different colors is because our brain judges the color of an object by comparing it to surrounding colors. In this case, the stripes are not continuous as they appear at first glance. The orange stripes don’t go through the "blue" spiral, and the magenta ones don’t go through the "green" one.
Click on the text above to go find out more - the image is broken down and the contrasts are more easily seen - but it still looks like green and blue!
Our eyes lie to us!
Farrah Fawcett (62) died today after a long battle with cancer. She was certainly an icon. I'll always remember her as the pinup girl on Charlie's Angels. Her appearance on Letterman in 1997 tarnished her image - either she was without a brain, stoned, or both. But, she was always eye candy.
If you'll excuse me, I feel old now.
H/T Ace of Spades
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Framed by a circle of clouds, this is a stunning illustration of Nature's powerful force. A plume of smoke, ash and steam soars five miles into the sky from an erupting volcano. The extraordinary image was captured by the crew of the International Space Station 220 miles above a remote Russian island in the North Pacific.Sarychev Peak, Matua Island in Russia's Kuril Archipelago in the Northern Pacific. Check out the other pictures, too.
Thankfully, Matua Island is uninhabited. The eruption of Sarychev Peak began a week ago and is still under way. The International Space Station has continued to track the ash cloud over the last few days. The plume is a few hundred miles from one of the world's busiest air corridors. Hundreds of flights across the Pacific have been diverted to avoid any chance of it knocking out plane engines. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in Russia's Kuril archipelago. Eruptions have been recorded as far back as the 1700s, with the last known one in 1989.
This thing is spewing out all kinds of pollutants, and the plume is dangerous for air traffic. So I'm a pessimist with questions. Once we have the new cap and trade carbon taxes in place, who will pay for this? Seems like the EPA would be all over it considering the magnitude of pollution being produced. And just how many of us would have to drive hybrids for just how many years and miles to make up for this major pollution transgression? CO2, SO2 and mercury (Hg) are some of the goodies that blow from the volcanic tailpipes.
I'm just askin.'
All too true! My old jersey was a Sand Stretch - and it was a chore to get it over the shoulder pads even back in the day. After I graduated and my upper body filled out, it fit just about right. There would have been no way to wear it with full pads, though. Plus, I retired that old shirt because the threads were wearing out, and the seams were stitched to allow stretching. I think the fabric will last forever, though.
Some years later, I special ordered an authentic KC Chiefs jersey - this was when all you could get were copies with Derrick Thomas, or Joe Montana or some other popular player. This jersey was made by an NFL supplier. It's still a little baggy even today.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
When I got up this morning, I could hear the bellows of some very upset cows. Normally, about five or six of the bulls in my pasture start their complaining first thing in the morning when they get their sunrise drink. Some bulls are just never happy. They don't do anything other than bitch at the top of their lungs - they're too lazy to fight or do anything physical. They just bitch about things.
But, when you hear just about every cow within a half mile trumpeting so hard they get hoarse, well, you just know something is up. I couldn't even hear the normal complaining crew in my lot for the all the woe to the south. So, I drove to the neighbors' place to see what was up. They've been working pretty hard the past few weeks building new pens, and I wanted to see those as well.
It was time for the first doctorin' for the calves. They had to be separated from their mothers and then given some shots, pills, ear tags, and the little bulls became little steers. Guess what? Mama cows just don't really care about that. All they know is their baby is fenced off from them.
I took that video with my better camera - but it's not much of a video camera. There really wasn't enough light - we ended up getting rain all day, but what I really wanted was for y'all just to hear the cows' lament. I think the audio quality is good enough so you'll get the idea. This was about nine in the am, and when I got home at around five in the pm, the cows were still carrying on, albeit some were pretty hoarse.
My neighbor isn't ready to wean the calves - they will probably have to go through a similar procedure again before that happens. I wouldn't want to get between a calf and momma for the next few days - if I had to go out amongst 'em.
And aren't those pens slick? My neighbor's children (who seem to want to continue the family tradition) won't wear that lot out. They aren't done with it, either - there is going to be a doctoring shed built yet. It's gonna take a lot of those little calves turning into feeder weights to pay for all that. But, if you want to stay in the occupation of farming and ranching these days, you have to invest in the future. If you are always working on equipment and infrastructure instead of taking care of business in a timely fashion, you won't last.
Friday, June 19, 2009
That would be this movie - Circle of Iron, or as David Carradine wanted it - The Silent Flute. His recent death brought the memory of this movie front and center. Since the trucking portion of my life is mighty slow, it seems there is time to watch an old favorite and justify why I enjoy it.
This movie was originally Bruce Lee's idea - he wanted to present a thoughtful movie that embodied the Zen concepts he believed in, with martial arts stirred in the mix. He wanted to play the four parts eventually played by Carradine, and he also wanted Steve McQueen to play Cord, the protagonist. McQueen turned Lee down, remarking that he wasn't prepared to make Lee a star. The part was offered to James Coburn, who with Lee and Sterling Silliphant worked out the story. Coburn wanted India as the location. The project was stalled, and then Lee died.
Silliphant and Stanley Mann completed the script. Carradine was interested and acquired the rights. Carradine was at the height of his popularity with the television show Kung Fu. Carradine took the four parts - the Blind Man, the Monkeyman, Death and Changsha. Carradine's friend Jeff Cooper finally took the part of Cord.
So, enough with the background. How about the movie? First, the plot - it's pretty simple. Cord wants to seek the knowledge contained in The Book of Enlightenment, which is guarded by Zetan (Christopher Lee). In order to be able to look in the book, prospective applicants must pass a series of challenges embodied by the four characters Carradine plays. The challenges aren't necessarily physical martial arts challenges - some are spiritual. Cord witnesses other seekers die going through the process, and is responsible for the death of a woman with whom he breaks his vow of chastity. This event is set up by this memorable scene with Eli Wallach:
I'd have to say that soaking one's lower body in oil to rid one's self of a certain organ might just be a bit extreme, but after all, the man in the oil is a doctor! Cord gradually learns his actions have consequences and enough about himself to not fear unnecessarily. He also learns patience. There are moments of humor interspersed - one of the opening quotes is: Two birds tied together have four wings but cannot fly, along with another pithy nugget offered later: You can't step twice on the same piece of water. The dialogue between Cord and the Blind Man is the real meat of Cord's and our learning process.
Cord: How long have you been blind?
Blind Man: How long have you been blind?
Cord: I'm not blind.
Blind Man: Am I?
Cord: Do you answer every question with a question?
Blind Man: Do you question every answer?
Cord: Aww, talking to you is like talking to a wall.
Blind Man: Buddha once sat before a wall, and when he arose he was enlightened.
Cord: Do you compare yourself with Buddha?
Blind Man: (chuckles) No. Only to the wall.
The humor is pretty wry at times - just what I enjoy. Character development isn't really on the list of things this movie wants to accomplish. Cord helps a fellow seeker "die with honor" after he is fatally wounded by the Monkeyman, then, after defeating the creature, is deliriously happy - he is now one step closer to his goal. That always seemed a bit discordant to me, and that isn't the only example. So, if you are wanting thoughtful, complex characters, well, ya ain't gonna get 'em here.
The acting certainly isn't Oscar worthy, either. Jeff Cooper is often maligned for a wooden portrayal of Cord. However, his character was more or less a caricature to begin with. I think he did alright. The various character actors (including Roddy McDowall - not previously mentioned) were entertaining. Carradine's characters were over or under played, depending on the requirements. Monkeyman really required him to be over the top, but the Blind Man needed a lighter touch.
The fight scenes won't (and haven't) impressed any martial arts movie devotees. That wasn't really the intended direction of the movie in the first place - I cannot imagine McQueen or Coburn being much of a kung fu expert, and Bruce Lee had to know that. The stylistic battles presented here are more for advancing Zen concepts rather than someone getting their butts whupped, although there is some of that, too. Using Israel for the location is somewhat jarring at times - it's hardly congruent with (my) preconceptions of Oriental philosophy.
Yep, it's a bit of a mish mash. For such a low budget flick, it's really pretty stylish, and that's part of it's success as a movie. If the concept of emergence can be applied to movies, well, it certainly fits here. The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Cord finally gets to look in the Book, and it's pages are nothing but framed mirrors. So, the secret to knowledge and enlightenment is already present within himself - he just needed to discover that in his trials. He goes back into the "world," presumably to be another step in challenging future seekers of enlightenment, and friend of The Blind Man.
My copy of the movie is a two disk set with extras. Carradine says in an interview that this is probably his favorite movie he ever made. It appealed to his desire to present a slightly different philosophy of life. I think it's a worthy effort, and it pays to remember this flick as well as Kung Fu and the Kill Bill movies.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Hello. Have you been diligently wearing your tin foil hats, taking your battery out of your phone, and using your umbrella to hide from the satellites only to find yourself ordering a salad at McDonald's when you really wanted a Double Quarter Pound with Cheese and Fries? Have you been pining to stop at Whole Foods when all you want is some potato chips? Are you feeling inadequate in your camouflaged Jeep Cherokee where all your bug out stuff is stored, and thinking of trading it in for a Prius? You've been using Genuine Reynolds Wrap rather than the bargain brand, and yet, you seem to want to save the whales?
It's not your fault, brother. You have just been misled by the constant onslaught of the government propaganda machine that the digital switchover is just about television. They (and we all know who they are) have systematically changed how the mind control rays are transmitted, and mere Reynolds Wrap, clever antenna appendages, and nominal brain pan coverage just isn't going to work anymore. If you want to keep your essences pure, you are going to have to change with the times, unfortunately.
Well, you say, that is all fine and good, but just what in the wide wide world of sports am I supposed to do? Be at ease, my fellow traveler, because we at Digital Brain Protectors have the ultimate, tested most effective, and economical solution designed just for you (and you know who you are).
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Please feel free to contact us at 1-800-Tin-Foil. Operators are standing by, ready to answer any product or pricing questions. Call before midnight tonight, as this offer can expire at any time. Please allow three to four weeks for delivery. We reserve the right to refuse sales to any governmental agency or employees therof. Canadian customers are always welcome!
But please call. Before it's too late, and we know you know what we mean.
Obviously some special orders - all Z06s with a black trimmed power bulge on the hood and all convertibles. There is a black coupe on the rear. I'd be happy if they'd drop one off......
Whaddya talkin' bout? Of course dogs are a better judge of character!
Ted Rall discovers math.
Teh One continues his apology tour.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Jed (who needs to start blogging again) posted the link to this song in this comment. Snork! Ear worm indeed. We've covered ear worms before, and the song above is a variation of this song. Jed, I fear your kung fu ear worm super powers.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Harvest means machinery. Yours truly is a gearhead. The main machines of harvest are the combines. The first machine I ever ran was a John Deere model 55. It had a cab like this one, and a fourteen foot header. Harvest technology has run away from these old relics - the trucks and grain carts of today have sideboards and hoppers much taller than the unloading auger can clear. It can't even dump it's grain unless it is accompanied by an appropriately aged truck. I can remember a farmer hiring my old boss, a custom harvester, to help him finish his quarter of wheat. He had an old A model Gleaner, and we had four Gleaner N7s. His poor little combine was just in the way.
This is a Gleaner L2. I spent a lot of time in the L series. They were light years beyond the older combines. Older machines had a transmission with a variable speed that allowed the combine to speed up and slow down in a range. It was controlled with a long lever. The header height was controlled with a long lever. There was a lever for kicking the unloading auger into gear. There were also levers for kicking the separator and the header into gear. That was pretty much it.
The Ls had a hydrostat with a transmission. You could vary the speed from full speed forward to stop to reverse without clutching. The lever was a T handle on a panel at the end of the seat's arm rest. The side of the T held the rocker switch to control the header height. The panel held a host of rocker switches that controlled all the functions that used to require levers. The unloading auger would fold and unfold. The header reel height could be changed, and the reel speed could be altered. The ergonomics were great. The cab was sealed well, and it was quiet compared to the bare steel of the older machines. The A/C actually worked well. A radio could actually be heard over the noise that the cab didn't damp out. Since your butt was directly over the separator cylinder, every change in the load (like feeding a weed through the header) could be felt and heard, so isolation wasn't the greatest. Ls were hell for fast in road gear, often approaching 25mph or so. That is fast and almost dangerous for a large machine. That has been a characteristic of Silver Seeders for some time, though. Most L series cutting wheat had headers ranging from twenty to twenty four feet wide.
Then, "rotary" combines started to become all the rage. "Conventional" combines had the separator cylinder placed in the feeder housing holding the header - so the cut wheat plant was forced into the cylinder after it was gathered in the header and forced through the feeder. The material only was processed once. A rotary combine has a much larger cylinder in the body of the combine underneath the grain bin, and the material is "swirled" around the cylinder several times before going on to be processed by the raddles. It's a more efficient and effective design. I spent some time in the seat of Gleaner's N7 model, but this clip shows the smaller N6 at speed. They could really roll through the grain - cutting at two to three mph faster than a conventional with a larger header - usually thirty feet wide. Running an N series was the combine world's equivalent to driving a sports car. The cab was lower. The thing just ran fast. The short wheelbase made it handle very quickly - no ponderous turns in these babies! The controls were the same as the Ls - very handy and comfortable. The cylinder, while larger, was quieter. It was a mere distant rumble compared to the immediacy of the conventional machines.
Just to show this post isn't an ad for Gleaners - check out the John Deere machines shown here. Heh. Typical - the first combine peels off to dump and unloads in the grain cart dumping on a truck. Most crews don't have enough grain carts to keep up with their combines - normally the combines dump "on the go." The grain cart pulled by a tractor goes into the field and pulls beside the combine as it's cutting, and the combine unloads on the cart without interruption. Then, when the cart is filled, the operator unloads on a truck. This keeps the combines in the field cutting rather than pulling out and dumping. As a rule, three combines and a grain cart can cut what four combines by themselves can in a day.
You'll notice the headers are longer on one side than the other. They are asymmetrical because the headers have gotten wider than the unloading augers can reach without breaking. They are using "draper" headers, which are slightly different than a regular small grain header.
Here you can see a draper header - they are slightly flexible and require a support wheel. Instead of an auger with flighting, a belt brings the wheat from the outer edges to the feeder housing. This one and the ones in the video are probably 36' wide - but you can get them to over forty feet depending on the manufacturer.
Here are some R72s with "stripper" headers. Instead of cutting the wheat stalk and forcing all that material through the combine, these babies strip the wheat head from the stalk, making the load on the combines processing abilities much easier. In a way, it's similar to a corn head - which strip the cob from the corn plant without cutting the stalk. Using a stripper head has the advantage of leaving the wheat stalk mostly unmolested for baling later. In this clip, they are actually cutting barley. Unlike draper headers, which have many manufacturers, stripper headers are made by Shelborne Reynolds. I've never run a draper or stripper equipped combine - yet.
Just a quick clip of a fast combine! It's equipped with a draper header as well. Just as a quick note, combines can and do "slug" - where they basically choke on too much material. Driving fast and looking serious doesn't give the operator much time to slow things down if things go south. Most machines have reverse drives on the feeder housing so some of the material can be kicked out the front. Some have a lower gear setting on the cylinder, so it can clear the clog. Others can open up the concaves to help relieve the load. Sometimes, none of these things work, and the material has to be dug out by hand. Hand meaning pry bars, drills and whatever else works. In a hot machine on a hot day. You really don't want to slug a combine.
This shows the proper way to get everything started and rolling on a combine. The throttle is bumped up off idle just a bit - starting the separator first. Generally the separator will kill the motor at idle. There is a switch that engages an electric clutch. The header is kicked in next. It has to be done in two operations because starting the whole machine would be pretty hard on clutches otherwise.
This one's for tb - my old custom harvesting and trucking buddy. This video is impossible. Combines don't get stuck, much less in Oklahoma. Snork! tb's Dad pulled the axle off a stuck machine in the past. There is no place in the front to pull or be pulled, so the combines have to be put rear to rear for this operation. Tow ropes are a real plus, because they absorb a lot of shock. The pulling combine generally has to take a run to dislodge the pulled machine, and chains usually can't take the strain. I happen to know tb still has his custom made tow rope - they are made from twisted strands of smaller ropes and protected by a custom sewn canvas cover.
Finally, the last video. This one illustrates a pet peeve of mine. I'm not sure exactly what this machine is - I'm pretty sure it's a smaller variant of the L. Probably an F or M model. At any rate, remember when I talked about how the reel speed could be changed? This is a great illustration of failure. The operator has the reel speed set far too slow. I used to train kids by telling them to imagine the reel being able to unhook from the header and keep going. It should just be able to walk away from the combine while cutting. The reel bats have to shove the wheat over the cutting bar and into the header auger. This isn't happening here. The bats are shoving the wheat away from the cutter. One indicator is "shagging." See how the cut wheat stalks look so shaggy? The cutting bar was unable to make a clean cut. It makes the job look sloppy and wheat grains are knocked from the heads to the ground rather than into the header. This guy has been running around the whole field with his reel speed set way too low. On the bright side, he'll have a hell of a "volunteer" wheat crop next fall! That is the term for the wheat that sprouts from the grain missed by the combines.
I hope I haven't bored you all to tears with all the videos. I thought they were all kinda cool, but I'm kinda funny that way, farm geek and gearhead that I am.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
And oh, boy, do I ever want it out. Wheat harvest is just around the corner - G_d willing and the crick don't rise it might be starting in under two weeks. People are touchy from the tension. Every cloud is watched closely. Weather reports take on even more importance. Our economy is riding on Decent Harvest to win and No Bad Weather to show. It's not just the wheat farmers that are anxious. The local grain haulers need the frantic glut of wheat to haul for their bottom line. Grain elevators need the golden waves of grain to fill their bins. Main street needs farmers to pay their bills and break loose with projects that a sudden boost of income provides. The beef industry hangs on grain prices. Motels and cafes look for harvest crews to house and feed. In a country where wheat is the king of grains, everyone's insecurities bubble to the surface, worrying and fretting.
And there is excitement in the air along with the worries. Specialized harvest equipment, stored since last fall, is brought out and readied for war. The high wear items are checked and replaced if necessary. Bearings are inspected and greased. Fluid levels are topped off. Windows are cleaned. Fuel is hauled to the farm in anticipation of long hours and thirsty machinery. Extra parts, belts and tools are loaded in service trailers or trucks, ready for emergency repairs.
Of course, there are fleets of harvest warriors hard at work in Oklahoma and Texas who, after their tasks there are done, will descend on this area like huge mechanical locusts, also helping devour the golden bounty. They will arrive tired and sunburned, new veterans in a familiar battle. The war analogies are apt. Mother nature is both an ally and an enemy.
This is a time of year that rains fall, bringing life sustaining moisture to a semi-arid desert. The sunshine and warm breezes provide the catalyst for the seedlings to spring up, reaching higher and higher. When the heads fill, the proper mix of sunshine and rain make or break the yields. Too hot and dry? The heads don't fill or the immature grains shrivel, lowering both the test weights and the total yields. Wheat is sold sixty pounds to the bushel. If your wheat tests fifty seven pounds to the bushel, it takes five percent of the next bushel's volume to make a full bushel. Plus, lighter wheat is harder to thrash, with more "trash" in the grain. Grain elevators consider this "dockage," so that is deducted from the yield. The lighter grains are more susceptible to being "thrown over" in the harvesting process. This means the combine doesn't capture those grains and spews them out the back. The protein levels for lighter wheat may be lower. Usually, this doesn't result in dockage, but any premiums for protein are missed.
However, if Mother Nature has been good to you and your wheat tests sixty three pounds, you've just gained five percent of a bushel in volume. If certain protein levels are exceeded, the wheat may qualify for a higher price. Heavier wheat is easier to thrash, reducing trash in the grain, thus reducing dockage, plus the air flow over the raddles in the combine won't push the heavier grains out the rear. Heavier wheat with heavier yields slow the harvest process down, increasing horsepower requirements and burning extra fuel. This is not considered a problem. This is considered a bonus.
Another bonus is the grains per mesh. Looking at the picture above, you can see that the wheat head is arrayed with a kind of spread finger pattern of grains on opposing sides. Most wheat heads fill three grains to the mesh, so there are three full grains in the bearded hulls. Some of the outer hulls don't fill. But, when you're lucky, you get four grains to the mesh. Heads with four grains to the mesh appear rectangular with the extra grain. Not all heads will fill that well, but the more, the better. Also, as the wheat "heads out", optimum conditions will make the heads taller, or longer. Under ideal conditions, the plants grow to a uniform height. There are always "sucker heads." They are heads that didn't fill correctly on a lower plant. A smart combiner can see those heads and cut over the top, abandoning them in the field. The cost of "eating" more straw to get the negligible heads far exceeds the possible value. The grains, if actually captured, will be highly shriveled and perhaps even sifted out during the determination of dockage. Thus, they are called sucker heads. You're a sucker if you go after them. Poor growing conditions results in more sucker heads.
Mother Nature isn't always our pal. She is fickle. The necessary rains, should they fall in a timely fashion, are generally accompanied by thunderstorms. High winds and lashing rains break the fragile ripened wheat stalks, dropping the heads to the ground and stripping grain, falling in the dirt, far from the reach of the combine. As the ripened grains sit in the field, waiting for moisture levels in the grain and mud in the fields to dry, the wheat becomes "bleached." Test weights drop, triggering the downward spiral of lower yields. The grains can be knocked from their birthing places, unrecoverable.
And, speaking of thunderstorms and grains easily knocked from their heads - Mother Nature is a real bitch when it comes to hail. The clouds in storms are watched constantly, looking for that special mix of blue, gray and yellow. It doesn't matter if you watch or not, it comes no matter the diligence. But, bitter experience has made residents natural worriers, and watching the clouds is de rigeur. Self preservation kinda calls for looking out for tornadoes as well. They can screw with a wheat crop in a very localized sense, but mostly the desire to live is the trump card.
Lighting is certainly one of Ma Nature's lesser weapons when compared to the tornado, but it can kill you just as dead. It is certainly an effective weapon against the dry, ripened wheat fields. Farmers do not put pickups or cars in reverse in wheat stubble, lest straw be captured by a hot catalytic converter and start a fire. A hot bearing can start a field on fire. A smoldering cigarette butt can destroy the wheat. So, a sizzling bolt of lighting is a pretty much overkill when it comes to wheat, but that bothers Mother Nature not in the least.
Ma Nature has been pretty good to us this year. The wheat looks good. We've made it this far. There were some scary periods this winter when we didn't get any snow or rain, and it looked like the wheat might die. But, just in time, She dropped a couple snow storms on it and saved the crop. Rains have come at necessary intervals, just when we were abandoning faith that there would be a crop. It has not been a perfect year, but it's been good enough to make it a successful year.
We've all been here before. Balanced on the threshold of success or failure, and the control and responsibilities are completely out of our hands. We've seen how cruel She can be - teasing us with the possibility of a bin buster only to jerk it away from us as Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown. But, like Charlie Brown, we pick ourselves up and try again - if we can stand the financial loss.
So, we fret. We pray. We wait. Worry. Prepare as best we can. If we are allowed, we'll be off to battle. The country will come together to bring in the harvest as quickly as possible. We are poised at the gate, waiting for the starter's pistol.
Please, G_d, let it be so.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Okay, so we're gonna jump in the wayback machine to a couple of years ago. Five of us - two company drivers and three "outside" drivers hauled some fiberglass tanks to Michigan in Berrien county. We have (when we are busy....) several owner operators whose trucks deliver our tanks pulling our trailers. These three were owned and one driven by one of my good friends who comments here as tb. In states where we don't purchase annual oversize permits, we have to get trip permits. Each state is different. Some states, including Michigan, say on their permits that they are only valid on interstate and state highways. County roads may require additional permits.
So, we arrived at the farmer's (who purchased the tanks) place. We found out that two loads were to offload there, and the other three were to go to another of their locations. In a different county. We could offload the tanks there, and force the farmer to hire someone to haul the tanks over, or we could be nice guys and try to "outlaw" haul the tanks over for him. He had not informed our salesmen or dispatcher that there were actually two locations. Of course, in his defense, our people should have asked - this sort of thing isn't that uncommon, and farmers aren't usually well versed in the minutiae of oversize load hauling.
After the crane set the tanks from two of tb's trucks - their drivers headed for the house, and the rest of us convoyed behind the crane to go to the different location. When we went through Berrien Springs, we picked up some sort of law enforcement official. He got around the other trucks and turned on his lights behind me. I was in the lead behind the crane.
He was the weights and measures county officer. He asked to see my county permit. I told him: "You're not gonna be happy with me because I don't have one." He replied: "I know." Turned out he issues those permits, and was more than happy to issue us permits on the spot, with the appropriate fines.
The road we were on was narrow, and there was not much of a shoulder. So, our little procession had half the road blocked. We could see there was a wider and safer spot about a hundred yards further down the road. We asked if we could move to that spot for safety. We were told that until we got the appropriate paperwork, we weren't to budge an inch. Apparently he had some wily oversize loads escape him in the past after letting them drive a short distance. Or something.
So, as it was summer, and hot, and humid, we left our trucks running. With our air conditioners on. I'm sure you've seen puddles of water under a vehicle left idling with the A/C on - the condensation has to go somewhere. It wasn't long before a streak of water was flowing downhill on the pavement from under each cab.
Meanwhile, as one of us was getting written up, the others were directing traffic around our trucks. The nice law enforcement official asked us to do so. Instead of letting us pull down the road to a safer spot. That would have been a seriously violation of statutory regulations, or something. Plus, extra drama was introduced when he discovered my physical card had expired. I, with my usual laser like attention to details, had forgotten to even look at the damn thing for some time. I thought it had a couple months before it expired. But, I was wrong. Not the first time.
So, not only were our wallets going to be lighter (cash only), I was forbidden to drive my truck until I had the necessary paperwork. Normally, as has been my experience in the past, law enforcement officials rarely even look at the card, and if it's expired, tell you to getcher butt to the doctor and get it fixed. Maybe with a fine, most often just a warning. But not this time. Not for a bunch of hardened criminals like us.
About this time one of the cars I was directing by the three ring circus stopped and the woman driving rolled down her window.
Are we going to have to evacuate the neighborhood?
Are we going to have to evacuate the neighborhood? My neighbor called me and said we were going to have to evacuate.
She said your trucks are leaking hazardous wastes, and that is why you are pulled over. I just wanna know if it's true, I've got to get my dog blah blah blah blah....
Cue The Twilight Zone music...
Uh, no ma'am. We are hauling empty fiberglass tanks. They are not designed to haul liquids laying on their sides. We are getting fined for not having the proper permits.
But I can see you are all leaking something. What is going on here?
Ma'am, that is condensation from our air conditioners. Look at where it's dripping from the cab right now. That is just water. These tanks are not designed to haul liquids laying on their sides - we are just transporting empty tanks. We are not even placarded for hazardous materials.
Ohhhh, okay...., but my friend says you are hauling hazardous materials, and we're supposed to evacuate. It's supposed to be on the news just any time now.
Well, ma'am, I don't know what to tell you. These trailers would collapse from the weight if the tanks were full, if the tanks hadn't broken apart from the stress already. We aren't leaking anything from the tanks. The water is from our cab's A/C.
She thanked me (in a somewhat shaky voice) and drove to where our friendly county
That was just the thing I needed to add to my rich and colorful experience. Frosting on the cake. Gilding the lily. The cherry on top. Meanwhile, our farmer, who had been following, had been on his phone continuously. He was not happy. He, his son and our dispatcher had been working on getting permits for the next county over, with little success. Since the farmer had a fax machine, we could get the permits faxed to us that way. However, the other county officials might be able to issue permits in a day or three.
Since Officer Friendly wouldn't let me drive my truck (but I could run to a local doctor and get a quick physical, and he knew just the doctor to see), we asked if someone else could drive my truck to the next site. Well, if that driver was legal, he supposed so. But, he reiterated, we needed county permits for the other county. We figured he would call over there and warn them we were coming, but we decided to run that risk. tb drove my truck over, I used the farmer's pickup to take tb back to his truck, he drove his truck over, and we all got unloaded.
I'm not gonna say how my truck got home. I'm not too sure of the statute of limitations.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
It really hasn't been all that bad, most of it was slightly bigger than bbs or shot, plus it wasn't really thick or heavy. I'm sure it's damaged the yield anyways.
Monday, June 08, 2009
The object of the game is to destroy American capitalism by having the government take over everything!
Tokens include a bus, a teleprompter, a sprig of arugula and a waffle iron.
Wanna play? No??? Too bad, you're already playing... and quite frankly, in this game, nobody wins!
credit America is an Obomanation - seen at FrankJ's
It's been a while since I said anything negative about Teh One®. Now seems as good a time as any.
You Are Intuitive
You are very sharp and shrewd. You can see the best and worst sides of people.
Right now, you are seeking peace and tranquility in your life.
You are drawn to people who are philosophical and thoughtful.
You feel like there are a few minor things in your life that need to be changed.
You are quick to react. You are courageous and bold.
Seen at RT's place
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Earl of Just The Library Keeper has an excellent post up on that subject. Earl has seen the elephant. His perspective, IMHO, is much more relevant than anything I could say. Go read, you won't regret it.
I am no pop culture maven. I deliberately do not "keep up" with the latest television show. I don't care for the so called "reality" programming. I only just discovered the House reruns on USA. If I'm gonna rot my brain (a feature extolled in the excellent Hulu ads with Alec Baldwin and Denis Leary), I want a slightly more sophisticated fare. The Duke, Clint, Bogey and Bacall, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Spielberg, Lucas, Jackson and many others trip my trigger. Documentaries catch my eye. Inexplicably, I'll watch highly colored cars drive in circles for hours.
I can guarantee you that not only have I not seen Jon & Kate Plus Eight, I'll shut the boob tube off before I'll watch it. Even if it's the only thing on. I'm getting pretty tired of the continuous "news" coverage I get in the mornings as well.
That is all. You may return to rotting your brains on Algore's Intertubes. As you were.
Friday, June 05, 2009
These are part of a collection by Elliot Burford. I bow to his superior skilz.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I'm a big fan of IMDB - the Internet Movie DataBase. I enjoy learning the minutiae that IMDB categorizes on their site. I'm also a fan of Wikipedia. I like wiki sites, such as Battlestar Wiki and Memory Alpha - the Star Trek wiki. Another good Star Trek site is StarTrek.com. Of course I read gun boards and post to one in particular. And I like to peruse the gun auction sites just for kicks.
So, today, I discover the existence of the internet movie firearms database, or imfdb (They use lower case). It's in wiki form, and right now it reminds me of Wikipedia several years ago - it's incomplete. I suspect that will change drastically in time. I thought I'd trip them up by looking for the Krag that Atticus shot the rabid dog in To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my fav movies of all time. I didn't find the listing by movie, so I thought: "Ah Hah! Got 'em there!" Well, I was wrong. Seemed they mentioned that a sporterized Krag was used on their Krag-Jørgensen page. They have not created a Mockingbird page yet.
I looked over some movie pages and found their coverage extensive and knowledgeable. Their Wild Bunch and Saving Private Ryan pages seem pretty comprehensive to me, particularly since there are quite a few different guns on display in those flicks. They also point out errors and goofs as well.
So, if you are a movie and gun geek, this site might just scratch an itch.
Monday, June 01, 2009
The murder of Dr. George Tiller (I'm sure we all know all about it, and if you don't, well, Google is your friend) has really been bothering me because of the emotional impact the whole issue has. I cannot point to just one thing, but rather a whole host of issues that for me, have no clear answers.
First is the issue of abortion in the first place. I used to say that while I was not personally for abortion - were the choice given to me or for me to influence - I'd say no way. However, I didn't feel that I could tell a woman what to do with her body. However, that thinking sidestepped the issue. Apparently, I felt that abortion was not "right." I feel even more strongly about that these days.
If I cannot call the killing of a viable fetus murder, just what can I call murder? If I support the state's enforcement of laws that say Dr. Tiller was murdered, then how can we say that we cannot legally consider the ending of a fetus's life to be murder as well? Now, this isn't a hard and fast policy - if the woman's life is in danger, or the fetus is horribly defective (and don't tell me about the slippery slope with that issue, too), or in the case of incest or rape - well, I'm pretty conditionally for it. The hypocrisy detector in me says that it doesn't matter to the fetus who it's daddy is - perhaps it deserves life as well. Like I said, there are all kinds of issues that come up when this subject is brought up. Obviously, we need a legal definition of when a fetus becomes a human being with full rights. As our medical technology advances, this time period gets closer and closer to conception.
I used to feel that if I'm gonna force someone to bear a child, then I ought to be considering supporting that child. This argument has a lot of logical fallacy as well. When we are talking about abortion as birth control - the people involved are responsible for their actions. If I force Jolene Doe to have liability insurance on her car, am I responsible for paying her bills if she can't pay it or if she runs short in other areas of her budget? No. If Jolene Doe wants to have a car, then there are legal obligations she has to meet, period. If Jolene Doe wants to have sex, then there are legal obligations she must meet. This is an oversimplification for sure, because there are moral obligations as well. I hear: "We cannot legislate morality." OK, then I'll kill you without remorse or rob you blind if there are no laws enforcing morality. Nope, in order for society to function, there generally has to be a set of agreed upon rules for it to follow, and those rules are based on moral precepts. The idea that the least governed will perform the best only works if the participants behave in society's and their best interests. Obviously, people do not. And another sad thought is that there are a lot of people who really want to adopt the "fetal tissue" that the wealthier population is aborting.
The right to life supporters say that people have to be responsible for their actions (reeducating morality and making people responsible for their actions) and the pro-choice supporters say that women should be able to control their own bodies (with state funded support, educating minors about birth control and generally taking over what the right to lifer's say is the parent's job). Neither choice is a good one, because it involves the state becoming more involved in raising children -either forcing parents to parent or taking over the job. It seems logical to me that parents should raise their children, but we are presented daily with evidence that this is not the way things are. That train left the station. So, here is one point where I don't have a clear cut answer. If Jolene Doe, late thirties upwardly mobile womyn, decides to have an abortion because her career just can't take having a kid, how are we going to keep Jackie Doe, her fifteen year old daughter, from figuring out it's ok to abort fetuses? After all, we wouldn't want to inconvenience anyone or hold them responsible for their actions. This genie is out of the bottle, and I see no easy solution. The Christian in me says these people need to find God. I agree, but I don't see how they can be forced to do so.
And while we're at it, let's look at another moral equivalence argument. "How can you be for the death penalty but against abortion?" How can you compare a baby with a state sanctioned condemned death row inmate? The kid's only sin is to exist. The person sentenced to death has had the opportunity to live life, and chose to really step out of line as far as the state is concerned - generally by taking someone else's life. Not many get put to death in these here states for not filling out their 1040s properly. That day may yet come. But for now, so sorry. Those are disparate issues.
Now, I get to Dr. Tiller. He was only supposed to provide abortions to women whose fetuses had severe or fatal birth defects, or if the healthy late term fetus would prevent "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" for the mother. Therein lies the rub. That definition is very open, and the pro life supporters have held that Tiller abused and stretched that condition. Governor Sebelius and Sedgwick County Procecutor Nola Foulston were good friends of Dr. Tiller. Both refused to investigate the allegations that Tiller in fact was providing late term abortion on demand. My opinion - and this is only my opinion - is that there is something to Operation Rescue's claims of malfeasance. C'mon - he ran a for profit abortion clinic. He's gonna turn down customers? Give me a break. Any attempts to make abortion illegal is met with resistance by judiciary that legislates from the bench. We wouldn't want to interfere with their progressive view of how things should be. As an aside, I've noticed some of my more ardent Christian friends have looked upon Tiller's death as a situation where he got what he deserved. I thought the phrase: Vengeance is mine meant something, but maybe I'm wrong. Plus, they seem to think that since he's gone, maybe there will be lives saved. Not so fast, Spanky. Seems there is a Nebraska doctor who will take over the practice. For moral reasons, of course. Profit - not an incentive here. Of course not, when your cause is noble.
The local news organizations have really tried to portray Tiller as a hero, decent human being, devoted family man, and devout church goer. I really don't want to be a part of any church that looks at what he did as a good thing. I'm sorry, but I cannot go there. My religion is similarly hypocritical - Catholic Church officials don't call out John Kerry or Nancy Pelosi for their support of abortion. So that's something I'm not too keen on right there. Maybe they are using Confession for that issue - but the idea of forgiveness is that you are supposed to stop doing that particular sin. The local news organizations trotted out women whose lives were undoubtedly helped by Dr. Tiller - by aborting a child without a brain, for instance. That is all find and good, but that kind of abortion is not the ultimate goal. Tiller is being deified as an abortion saint.
Plus I got to see abortion rights supporters decry right wing nutjobs for their violence - not only against Dr. Tiller, but what they have endured. To my everlasting shame I hate the idea that there are people who call themselves Christians that act in such a manner. What Would Jesus Do? I doubt he would bomb clinics or beat up supporters. I kept hearing about how there was just no talking to pro life people because they (the abortion supporters) were frightened by the possible violence the Christians were capable of. Well, while I do not condone the idea of violence against these people, they have taken a public stance in favor of killing infants. They are willing to do what the pro life supporters call murder. I've been hearing about how the DHS report that outlined how right wingers have terrorists in their midst. Yep, that is no doubt true up to a point, but I'd bet if DHS staked out a Whole Foods parking lot and checked out everyone with Bush Lied People Died, animal advocacy, or environmental advocacy bumper stickers - well, I'd bet they could find a few nasty things under some rocks there as well. Only these people are willing to kill for the snail darters or a tree as opposed to human life. So don't throw moral equivalency at me about that.
Then we have two other issues that are obviously thrown into the mix that will be used as an opportunity - gun control and the fairness doctrine. Yep, we need gun control. Obviously what we have isn't working, so let us punish law abiding citizens by further restrictions on their access to guns, ammo, places to shoot, or just whatever we can to stop the violence for the children. All those right wing talk radio people are stirring up the nutjobs who cling to their guns and religion. Gotta stop that.
But let us look at several facts. It was illegal for the murderer to kill Dr. Tiller. That did not stop him. It was illegal for him to have a gun at a church. Guess what? Didn't do any good. It's illegal to bomb clinics and to possess the materials to do so. Gee, looks like that's working well. Roeder is a felon. It is illegal for him to possess a gun. That, too went out the window. My point is that people who are determined to break the law are going to do so, no matter how much the rest of us are punished.
People who want to abort their kids will do so. People who want to shoot up heroin will do so. People who want to self destruct do it every day. Should the government look after these people? How far is too far for society's involvement? When is life in the womb official?
I fear that too many look upon these problems in strictly black and white terms, when there is in fact a lot of gray involved. Compromises are going to be required for solutions, but conceding the most minor points will be impossible for the opposing sides. I just don't know.