Monday, May 31, 2010


You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!

Cedar View Paint Horses finds a couple of snakes.

I'm laughing with him. Nervously, that is.....

Memorial Day 2010

The entrance to the "old section" of the cemetery. There used to be wrought iron gates - I'd bet they're stashed away somewhere.

The entrance to the "new" section - 1951 being new in this case.

My Dad, Grandfather and Grandmother from right to left. My grandfather died before my parents married.

The family plot in the "old section." Tall markers like that are not allowed in the new area, nor are the borders.

My great grandfather's son - making him my great uncle, I assume.

Great Grandfather, Great Grandmother and Great Aunt all on the back side of the monument.

Some areas have a lot of people decorating graves - since this is in the new section, that is no surprise.

Unfortunately, the old section has some forgotten souls. I said a prayer for them.

I have no idea what kind of flowers these are, but they were exquisite and tiny. They will fall victim to the mower, I'm sure. But for now, they brighten up the old prairie sod a bit.

I guess I'd missed this grave from earlier years. The wind chimes caught my ear today, so I walked over to look. I don't know this kid or his parents, but it's obvious his family feels his loss and hasn't forgotten him. The little things like the game controller, the little brass "frog crossing" sign among the other accoutrements speak of continued grief. It was a scene of peace, the unusually gentle breeze tinkling the chimes and the thoughtfulness of the array combining to ease tensions.

I said a prayer for this young man too, taken far too early.

Never Forget

picture credit

When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow,
We Gave Our Today

John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958) Kohima 2nd Division Memorial

More here and here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Taking Chance


I missed this movie some how or another. Adam Baldwin (Twitter @adamsbaldwin) tweeted about it, so I looked it up and lo and behold it was on this evening. Which is apropos considering this is the Memorial Day weekend, and the movie is about a member of the military escorting a soldier killed in action home.

Taking Chance is named because the escorted soldier's name is Chance Phelps - so Lt. Col. Michael Strobl (portrayed by Kevin Bacon), the escort officer, is taking chance home. It is also about Bacon's character taking chances with his self perceived reason for being - justification for his existence. From IMDB:
In April, 2004, casualties mount in Iraq. At Quantico, choices focus on increasing troop strength or only replacing casualties. Lt. Col. Mike Strobl crunches numbers. Stung by his superior's rejection of his recommendation because he lacks recent combat experience, Strobl volunteers for escort duty, accompanying the remains Pfc. Chance Phelps, killed at 19. From Dover to Philadelphia by hearse, from there to Minneapolis and on to Billings by plane, and then by car to Phelps' Wyoming home - person after person pays respects. Kind words, small gifts, and gratitude are given Strobl to deliver to the family on this soul-searching journey. What are his own discoveries?
Bacon lets us see a Marine constraining his emotions through a granite face that slips very little - but enough to see the doubt and pain he suffers through the trip.

From Wikipedia:
Taking Chance received generally favorable reviews, and currently holds a 76/100 rating on Metacritic.[3]. One review from The Baltimore Sun, said that it "... is one of the most eloquent and socially conscious films the premium cable channel has ever presented," and USA Today, said "A small, almost perfectly realized gem of a movie, Taking Chance is also precisely the kind of movie that TV should be making." On the other end is Slant Magazine, saying "Instead of well-drawn characters or real human drama, we are presented with a military procedural on burial traditions. The film desperately wants the viewer to shed tears for its fallen hero without giving a single dramatic reason to do so."

The film was the most-watched HBO original in five years, with over two million viewers on the opening night, and more than 5.5 million on re-airings. Critics often attribute this success to its apolitical nature, not directly depicting nor offering an opinion of the Iraq War.[4]

The film received two significant awards: Bacon received a Golden Globe Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television" with one other nomination, as well as an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie" with nine other nominations.

I strenuously disagree with the Slant review. We take away what we invest in a movie, and the review (I looked it up and read it) seems very anti-war. I get that- I can understand it. Perhaps I'm the slanted reviewer, because the movie seemed to me to go out of it's way to be apolitical.

No single dramatic moment? The passengers on the plane scene failed to move the reviewer? Or the other escort who was bringing his brother home? The impromptu funeral procession (that was the scene that finally got to me)? Or the elderly man who chews out the Lt. Col. for his doubts as to whether or not he is a valid Marine anymore? This cat would probably think Ol' Yeller's death was too smarmy for his tastes as well.

TCM is on a Memorial Day war move marathon this weekend, but I think this little gem stole their thunder. Highly recommended. I am humbled at our veterans' sacrifices once again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tower Destruction


This is pretty cool in a geeky sort of way - six different camera angles of the same event - blowing the support lines to an antenna tower. I've always thought that they'd fall in one piece, but I was wrong - the sections fall apart as they come down, and the debris doesn't go very far. And, I've seen the aftermath of a FM broadcast tower after an ice storm brought it down - and the sections were surrounding the base. The Poor Farm was without power for nine days after that little ordeal.

Anyhoo, I thought the video had some wow factor. But, I'm weird that way.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Yep, We're Bad

Yep, it's all our fault they can't control corruption. Of course, our Evil Loophole Gun Shows (ELGS) supply the drug trade with fully automatic weapons, sold by unscrupulous dealers, since fully automatic weapons are so easy to buy in the good ol' USA. Oh, wait, automatic weapons are highly regulated and taxed, so purchasing one at a gunshow from a dealer would take lots of paperwork, money and time. The criminals in Mexico surely wouldn't miss an opportunity to buy a legal machine gun for tens of thousands of dollars at an ELGS in the US when they can pick up an AK from an arms merchant from Russia for under $100. It's also nice to see how Mexico welcomes immigrants with open arms. Oh, wait, they don't. Plus, it's nice to see how our President and our Democrat Congresspeople support our country and resent the attempts at meddling in our affairs by Calderon. Oh, wait, they gave Calderon a standing ovation.

Now the above pic is some hope and change I can get behind.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's Tornado Season Again!

How do residents of tornado country know this? Could it be the incessant screaming coming from the weather radio? Or perhaps the bluish gray clouds that form into wall formations plus some others swirling like so much water going down the drain? Maybe it's the weather peeps on teevee breaking into the programming to let you know if you are in this certain area, you should seek shelter immediately? Or maybe if you live "in town," the tornado siren going off could clue you in.

Or, maybe it's the Vortex 2 folks in town. Professional tornado chasers. People who, in my humble opinion, have lost a large portion of their substantial brains somewhere in the process. Ya gotta be a half bubble or so off plumb to do this every summer.

All joking aside, their research is very valuable and I'm quite sure they aren't quite the adrenaline junkies portrayed in the movie Twister. Why do I say this? Twister's authenticity kinda took a hit for me when I saw the scene of the cow being carried off.


Any cow I've ever been around would be shrieking in panic, not the minor annoyance bellow we just heard.

Plus, bonus points for the hood ornament. The little dog stood right out in that parking lot, but I missed the Cadillac emblem until I looked the picture over while transferring them to the ol' laptop. That is just plain class. Although it would be classier if they actually washed their ride once in a while. I think I see some Oklahoma and Texas sourced built up dirt and scum on the leading edge of that hood. It's a little too rusty colored to be Kansas crud. Heh.

Will It Fit Under There?

That is not an optical illusion. We hauled some new insulated tanks over to one of the beef packers in this here Golden Beef Triangle on Saturday. Our loads were just a hair under eighteen feet tall - say, about 17'10" - which meant some creative routing was required. Most overpasses around here aren't posted until they are under sixteen feet high - so that doesn't do us any good. But, there is a map available from the state that has that information, plus we've gotten to know the local obstructions fairly well over the years. That includes low power lines. We use kicker sticks - which are long poles attached lengthwise to the top of the load. These help the various power and cable lines slide across the top of the tank and keep them from snagging on any projections - like lifting eyes or tabs for mounting ladders. And yes, I tapped a couple of lines.

We also have to work our way through stoplight support arms. If there had been no median, we'd have appropriated the whole street to dodge them completely - we'd be in the wrong lane to dodge one side, then go to the other lane to dodge the other. In this case, we could drive between the lights and just barely clear. We have to do the same at rail crossings with fixed large booms containing signals and signs.

This wasn't the largest capacity tank I've ever hauled - but it was the largest diameter set on it's side. The tanks were 16' diameter, plus the insulation and a stainless corrugated outer sheath, and a several inch reinforcing ring at the bottom. The ring lifted the tank off the trailer a few inches more thus making the load higher. If a customer wants tanks wider than this - they are generally built on site. It's just too difficult and expensive to haul them for any appreciable distance.

Plus, I can guarantee ya that these things pull like the proverbial lead sled - all that wind resistance really taxes the power we have. Oh well, we never get good fuel mileage anyways. What we haul is decidedly not aerodynamic.

Friday, May 21, 2010

30th Anniversary for Pac Man

Can y'all believe it - it's really been thirty years. May 22, 1980. Of course Pong and Asteroids came first, but it was Pac Man that reached out past the shoot-em-ups to a much larger demographic - namely women.
(A) Japanese company called Namco Bandai released a game in Japan called Puck-Man. The title was rejected in the United States because some worried that the "P" would chip off the cabinet and look like an "F."
To quote Johnny Carson: "I did not know that."

I was a better Ms. Pac Man player - for some reason I liked that version best. But, I've certainly fed many a quarter over the years to a Pac Man machine.

Google's logo today is a playable version of Pac Man in honor of the anniversary.

I never cared to play the game without a proper joystick - the arrow keys on a keyboard are just too clumsy and slow. It was still fun to take it out for a spin!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Most states are pretty good about providing detour signage if there is significant road closures or construction. This sign is on the northbound side of CO59 headed over I70. All trucks over seven feet wide are to use this detour. Since Class 8 trucks are 96 to 102" wide, that sort of rules out any truck traffic on US385.

However, this is the official online posting for the width limitation on US385 - twelve feet. If you were at Burlington and wanted to go north in a big truck, according to the signage at Siebert you would have to travel west to Siebert, get on CO59, go to US36, then travel back east to US385. Seventy miles out of the way.

I had no occasion to go that way, but I've been noticing the seven foot limitation sign. I've mentioned before how we are usually loaded oversized, and how that requires special permits (that are not free, btw). Some states offer annual permits - they have limitations as well, but the average load we haul won't require additional permitting. One of the requirements is that we check out our route before we go - either by calling the state's 511 or similar line, or checking online. If we are caught trying to access a road that has been deemed to narrow for our load, our annual permit can be pulled. Not a good thing.

Plus, with all the latest emphasis on weather restrictions, we also have to monitor that as well - both on the phone and online.

But what to do with conflicting information? I'd go ahead and drive through that construction at twelve feet wide - I met the research requirement and I can call it up on my Blackberry to back myself up if there is a signal at all. However, it's crap like this that makes our days less than enjoyable at times. None of us have gotten into any conflicts over this, but dollars to donuts someone has or will.

This last winter a colleague and I were headed east out of Kansas (we have annual oversize permits here, too) into Missouri, and had taken I35 to Kansas City. On the south side are both northbound and southbound ports. There was some construction there, but there had been no limits thrown up. Until the day we went through. According to the staff at the port, the limit was eleven feet northbound and southbound, and we were actually close to thirteen feet wide. Their supervisor was gonna be cracking down. We got tickets. Whoops....

We sat there. Their supervisor recommended hiring some escorts, but we still could not go through the construction. Mind you, this was the same construction we'd been going through several times a week for the past couple months and nothing had changed, other than the stated width limitation. We couldn't jump the median as it was too muddy. We couldn't back down the interstate several miles to the last exit. They didn't know what to do with us.

So we sat there.

Until the end of their shift. They told us we'd have to leave their office as they were locking up. What were we to do? They didn't care - they were going home.

We drove on.

That night, I looked up the restrictions on that area of construction. Southbound was eleven feet. Northbound was unrestricted. I called our dispatcher, and she saved a screen capture of the online version of events. She had to wait until the county DA got their copy of the tickets, but an email with the screen cap and the fact that the website still had no restrictions kinda got the whole thing dismissed. I suspect there was some egg cleaned from faces, because right after that the width restriction was set at twelve feet for northbound, and still eleven for southbound.

That port (and that road construction) is easily bypassed - but why would we want to go out of our way if there was no need? Oh wait - we'd be putting our destiny in the hands of career state office drones.

Call me a reluctant outlaw driven to avoid this crap.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Something Missing

So, Tony Auth has a couple examples of brains pictured - the Teenage Brain in contrast to the Strict Constructionist Brain - to make his point that Constitutional traditionalists = bad.

I have to ask, however, where is the progressive Living Constitution Brain? What? They don't exist? I'll be darned. Color me shocked that they have no brains at all.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Travels Again

These are abandoned ammo bunkers east of Hastings, NE.

Look closely and you'll see a silhouette statue of a buffalo. This is somewhere on I25 in Colorado south of Cheyenne, WY - and yes, they're still getting snow. This was taken last Wednesday.

Elk Mountain in Wyoming seen from I80 west of Cheyenne, shrouded in clouds. It's not all that tall compared to say - Pike's Peak, but it looked cool halfway covered up.

Howlin' at the moon at the Potter, NE exit on I80.

The extra cool decor at the Atwood KS airport. Huey Cobras are all that, if you ask me.

On a back road in Arkansas, near Harrison. My foot is to the floor and the Binder is running all of about forty five climbing that hill. The trees are all trying to encroach on the space necessary for a truck to pass underneath, so I did a lot of tree trimming today with my CB antennae and smoke poles.

Welp, until we meet again, amigos!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kissin', They Were!

Cuddy and House

Sittin' in a tree

K I S S I N G !

Actually, it was a pretty good episode for a season finale. House M.D. is still one of the only network shows I'll bother to watch.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Virtual Sistine Chapel

Check it out! Using your mouse, you can orient your view and zoom in and out. I used my arrow keys on my laptop. I never realized that the ceiling is actually a series of pictures - for some reason I thought it was one giant painting. Part of it is - but there is actually so much more. Well worth a couple minutes of your time.

Thanks to MoK

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So True!

This is all I got - it's after midnight, I got up a four am, and I'm all done in! Tubby trucker out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Does Flour Come From The Farm?

I found this in my referral logs, and me being me, first thought of a smartass answer.

Flour couldn't make it into the grocery store without the help of the Flour Wizard. He and his little helpers (Local #112 of the International Order of Skilled Elf Laborers) slip into our fields at night and transform the raw flour nodules into a huge cloud of flour, which is transported through the air by magic and deposited in the back rooms of grocery stores everywhere, bagged and ready for sale.

But, that isn't fair or nice, because some people have no clue about the mechanics, markets and processes necessary for flour to arrive at their stores. As a farm kid and someone who gets a small benefit from farming, it behooves me to answer that question as best I can. So, without writing the long treatise about the subject that it deserves, here goes.

Flour is made from a variety of grains, most commonly wheat. Rye flour, from the small grain rye, is used to make the rye bread in your Reuben Sandwich. So, for sake of brevity, we'll say that flour is made from cereal grains, which include wheat, which is what I'm most familiar with and will (marginally) cover here.

First, there are several distinct varieties of wheat grown on the Great Plains:
  • Durum — Very hard, translucent, light colored grain used to make semolina flour for pasta.
  • Hard Red Spring — Hard, brownish, high protein wheat used for bread and hard baked goods. Bread Flour and high gluten flours are commonly made from hard red spring wheat. It is primarily traded at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.
  • Hard Red Winter — Hard, brownish, mellow high protein wheat used for bread, hard baked goods and as an adjunct in other flours to increase protein in pastry flour for pie crusts. Some brands of unbleached all-purpose flours are commonly made from hard red winter wheat alone. It is primarily traded by the Kansas City Board of Trade. One variety is known as "turkey red wheat", and was brought to Kansas by Mennonite immigrants from Russia.[17]
  • Soft Red Winter — Soft, low protein wheat used for cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, and muffins. Cake flour, pastry flour, and some self-rising flours with baking powder and salt added for example, are made from soft red winter wheat. It is primarily traded by the Chicago Board of Trade.
  • Hard White — Hard, light colored, opaque, chalky, medium protein wheat planted in dry, temperate areas. Used for bread and brewing.
  • Soft White — Soft, light colored, very low protein wheat grown in temperate moist areas. Used for pie crusts and pastry. Pastry flour, for example, is sometimes made from soft white winter wheat. From Wikipedia
These varieties have different moisture and growing season requirements. Winter wheat is grown in my area - it is planted in the fall, and lies dormant in the winter. When spring warms the ground enough, it begins to grow again and (hopefully) grows to maturity, harvesting in the summer. The growing seasons for wheat in the northern Great Plains are much shorter as well and have harsher winters, so spring wheat is grown there. It is planted in the spring and then harvested that summer.

It should also be noted that corn (maize) is also a cereal grain, but I'm gonna concentrate on the wheat varieties. Dent corn isn't really suitable for human consumption - it's livestock feed. Sweet corn isn't grown for industrial flour production, either. Other feed varieties of maize are also grown for feed as well. Milo (or sorghum) - normally a feed grain - is processed into flour - there is a Grain Products, Inc. mill in Dodge City, KS that does just that. However, the flour is used for making drywall. Not edible.

So, we've got wheat in our fields now, and somehow it has to be made into flour. First, it must be harvested, which is accomplished by mechanical means - known as combines. I've written about combines before - as a gearhead, I get a charge outta the big machines. Winter wheat varieties are generally processed by a combine with an attached small grain header, cutting the wheat and separating in one operation. Spring wheat is usually swathed - cut into windrows and after the straw has "dried down" combines with a pickup attachment instead of a full blown small grain header run along the windrows and separate the wheat, also known as "threshing." The grains are separated from the heads and captured in a storage tank in the combine. The rest of the plant (straw and chaff) goes out the rear of the combine, to be recycled back into the soil.

So, now we have the wheat out of the plant and into the combine. Generally the combines are accompanied by a "grain cart," which is a large self emptying container for grains that is towed by a tractor. The grain carts usually pull next to the combine while it is threshing, the combine extends it's unloading auger over the cart, and the combine empties it's grain bin into the cart. When the grain cart is full, it drives to a truck (parked on hopefully solid ground, safely away from any mud) and unloads on it. This saves the combine from having to stop threshing, and gives the combines a place to unload when the trucks are on the road.

In this shot, the combine is unloading into the cart, which is unloading into a truck. It's probably because the field is done, and all the grain from this field has to be kept separate from the next, or it might be lunch or dinner time.

Now we have the grain in a truck, ready to go. But where? Sometimes the farmer has storage bins on his farm, and the trucks go there. When he sells the wheat, it has to be hauled to the buyer, which is usually a grain company. Sometimes, there are local flour mills, but usually, the farmer has to market his grain to a company dedicated to handling large amounts of commodities. Most terminal destinations involve an elevator. Many grain elevators are owned by cooperatives, or Co-ops. We'll send this truck to the local elevator, then.

Most elevators or grain terminals have access to transportation more suited for bulk shipping than trucks - think railroads or barges on rivers or ports. Ports are for export, which isn't putting flour on your table, but railroads do ship to flour mills. Most grain semis haul around 900 bushels of wheat (legally), but rail hopper bottoms are generally about 3300 bushels capacity. When a grain company markets wheat to be shipped by rail, they use a contract that stipulates certain parameters of quality for the wheat. It must have a minimum protein content, only contain a certain percentage of waste, fall within a certain moisture content percentage range, be pest and mold free, have a minimum "test weight" and other factors. Each car is "probed" or has a sample removed and inspected by the grain division of the USDA. Then, the whole car is "certified" to be of an assured quality. Unless the inspectors find bugs, or low protein, or whatever.

The grain merchants and local co-ops are well aware of the necessary standards, so they often offer a premium for higher quality grain they receive during harvest or when a farmer hauls his crop in during the winter. If everything goes well, a farmer might get a few cents per bushel premium over what the local market price is at the time.

Another little tidbit - pricing for hard red winter wheat in this area is based on what the Kansas City Board of Trade is offering that day, minus the freight charges to get it there. If the local feedlots are feeding wheat, the local coop might offer more than the "KC" price is at the time. It's a very fluid situation - the futures market plays a major role in day to day pricing as well.

So, now we have the wheat at a flour mill. The above picture illustrates the three parts of a kernel of wheat. The bran is the protective outer coating, the germ is the part of the seed that would start a new wheat plant, and the endosperm is food for the germ. It's also what white flour is made of. The wheat kernels are ground up with steel wheels, and the germ and kernel are separated. Historically, flour had a very short shelf life when there was no way to separate the various parts, because the fatty content of the germ would go rancid and cause the flour to go sour. So, it wasn't evil capitalists that just decided one day that the fiber (and associated vitamins and minerals) was just too healthy for the teeming masses and just had to be taken out - it was the technology of the time making a necessary food staple last far longer in a useful condition. Now, the bran and germ can be heat treated and returned to the mix for longer storage times for bran flour. Some modern mills use stone wheels for grinding whole bran "stone ground" flour.

In the instances where the germ and bran are not returned - it doesn't go to waste. They are known as "wheat middlings" and are used as an ingredient in livestock feed.

So, now we have the flour at the mill. Some ship the flour out by bulk - truck or rail - in pneumatic trailers or cars. Most at least have the ability to bag the flour, and some reduce it to consumer sized units. A pretzel factory wouldn't want to buy flour by the pound bag - they're gonna want it by the truckload or rail car. A local bakery is going to want their flour in large bags shipped on pallets - they might only need one hundred pound bag a day, for instance. At any rate, not all the millers bag flour directly for the consumer. Many are set up for industrial customers only.

Now, we've got flour in a one pound bag at a mill. They'll box it up with a certain amount of bags per box and palletize the boxes. Then it is shipped to a grocery distribution center, where the pallet is broken down back to the boxes. A box of one pound bags is then shipped to your grocery store, where your neighbor's kid works, who will cut open the box and stock the shelf. Then, hopefully, you'll buy that paper sack full of flour, taking it home to feed your family.

That is how flour comes from the farm - in very simple and abbreviated terms.

Quote of the Day

"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way." --John Paul Jones, letter to M. Le Ray de Chaumont, 1778

I've always liked this quote. It really didn't do to upset Captain Jones.