July 2006

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Monday, July 31, 2006

1 PM - Another wet drizzly day and I'm holed up with only house work to keep me entertained. Clarence at Can You Hear Me Now took issue with yesterdays movie review and I can certainly understand that. Some times when I've been eating too many malted milk balls I get a sugar high and fly off on a tangent.

He did however mention another Kevin Costner movie that drove me nuts. That would be Dances with Wolves and yeah, it did annoy the hell out of me. I enjoyed the realism of the Civil War scenes but baulked at how the American military was over-vilified through out the movie. Not only that, but I found the portrayal of the Indians unrealistic to the point of being down right racist. Here�s the deal as I saw it. The US Calvary was depicted as raging lunatics rampaging through the wilderness, killing anything in sight. The Indians were portrayed as members of a hippy commune who had watched too many episodes of Ozzie & Harriet. They were so touchy & feely that their shaman must have been tutored by Oprah. I found both portrayals simplistic and indicative of how liberals like to re-write history into one-dimensional terms of �White man bad, Indians good�. And I�m not a right wing apologist for the military. I'm a left wing liberal (I mean progressive) who protested the Viet Nam war and was horrified by the My Lai Massacre.

The white race did horrendous things to exterminate the Indians. And the Indians were so distracted with killing and enslaving competing tribes that they didn�t rally soon enough to fend off Manifest Destiny. Ok, ok, that's a gross over simplification, but not as bad as the movie Dances with Wolves.

And Catherine, if you read this, I found the malted milk balls you hid down with the phone books. Ha.

Oh yeah, Clarence, Vic Morrow was in the TV series Combat. Yeah, I liked that one too. And Clint Eastwood in The Unforgiven? Well, I'll give him a pass on that.  It was Bridges of Madison County that really got my blood pressure up. Talk about liberals putting a slant on infidelity... Don't get me started.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

1 PM - Today's prisoner is another wood rat. All my prisoners are released near a pond on the old Sherilton Valley Ranch.  They'll have to rebuild their nest and re-supply their food cache but it's a flourishing habitation with water and food readily available.

It's been almost two weeks since I caught any squirrels down by the barn and I'm giving myself rave reviews for having solved the problem of squirrel over population.

Speaking of reviews, I was looking for entertainment so I watched the movie Open Range by Kevin Costner.  It's basically another one of his formula movies about a  suffering hero who wins the love of the suffering town heroine.  Costner throws in lots of violence but does it with a slightly different tact that masquerades as innovation. In his version, none of the gunslingers can hit the broad side of a barn so the gunfight is drawn out and the violence prolonged.  The reviewers called it realistic and progressive. Spielberg used the same gimmick in Saving Private Ryan when he made a typical John Wayne war movie but did it with great special effects.  Just another archetypical formula war movie and one more example of Spielberg wagging his finger and lecturing us about the evils of violence that only he is sensitive enough to understand.

And while I'm at it, boy I'm sick of those Lord of the Rings / Star Wars movies. The special effects are obviously nothing more than glorified cartoons. And that Yoda character! He's a Muppet!!! Can't you people see that??

Saturday, July 29, 2006

6 AM - We've been having a drizzle storm for the past twelve hours and the drippage has amounted to 2 tenths of an inch.  Unheard of for this time of year and it's more proof that the universe is spinning out of control and headed for the apocalypse. Time to buy more guns and hoard Oreo cookies.

10 AM - This is an obsolete Westernfield Model 815  single shot .22 rifle.  Made in 1961, it was sold by Montgomery Wards and is described by the pundits as having no collectors value.  Actually, Montgomery Wards had a contract with Mossberg who manufactured the thing and labeled it for the department store. (Cross reference: Mossberg 321, for those who are really into this). "No collectors value" but without a doubt, it has huge sentimental value to thousands of Baby Boomers who got it as their first gun.

Even though my father was an officer in the military, he had no interest what-so-ever in any type of firearm. It wasn't a philosophical stance, he just didn't want to bother with the hassles of having a teenager in the house with a gun. Like many teenagers, I longed for my own but never pushed the point and was satisfied that my father did spring for a surf fishing rod and reel.

I purchased this gun from a pawn shop back in 1976 and even with its plastic parts, I enjoy it immensely. I also like to wonder about the person who probably got it as a teenager and eventually moved on and let it go.

4 PM - It's still dripping wet outside and we are totally fogged in.  Boy it's nice and what a change of pace.  I've spent the day reading internet forums and taking naps. And it's time for another.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

5 AM -  Living in this place, I sometimes I feel like we're on the front lines of nature. Of course that's a bit of hyperbole but this summer more than others, nature has really gotten my attention.

Historically high temperatures, drought, fires, unusually high winds, rodent overpopulation, even the insects seem more intense this year. I looked out my window yesterday and the desert weeds that are adapted to grow in the Mohave were bent over and wilted.

OK, climate change is measured by minute, barely perceptible adjustments over hundreds of years. This year I think Al Gore somehow goaded the process to help plug his movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

6 AM - And I'm still fine tuning my processing of this website for the RSS feed.  That means lots of trial and error and mistakes that I don't catch till I've already published.  The problem with that is that those editing changes show up on the RSS feed and make people think I've actually edited the content. Sorry about that.

8 AM - For the first time in well over a year, King Creek is dry.  It has always been considered a seasonal creek but I was really enjoying the constant background babble.  If we're lucky and have a wet winter, it may return as early a December. If you look closely at the photo you can see that gophers have already started digging in the dry sand.

Because the creek is dry, it's more important than ever that I stay vigilant about our watering holes and I'm already seeing an increase in the visitors to our teeny pond at the back of the house.  And soon I'll be stepping up my efforts to attract mule deer back to the valley.

5 PM - We're having some nice lightening strikes over Cuyamaca and I'm staying close to the radio to listen to the chatter on the fire frequencies.  No real rain yet, just a few of those heavy drops that raise dust when they splatter on the ground.

My only other excitement for the day was driving past a huge rattler that was out on Sherilton Valley Road.  Glad I didn't have to mess with him at home.

Monday, July 24, 3006

8 AM - Today's photo is of the 6,000 acre Horsethief Canyon fire and it is almost exactly 10 miles to the south of us.  They believe it was started by a migrant worker campfire though I was watching lightening strikes in the exact same spot yesterday afternoon.  As always, we're watching closely.

I was up at 4 AM with a headache and gave up trying to sleep. It hurt more when I was lying down.  What with the fires, I thought it wise to continue with my weed whipping project so I headed out in the cool of the morning.  Five minutes into the project the engine quit and I headed to the barn to remove the gas tank and take the carburetor apart.  I was expecting mouse damage because I found acorns stashed in the air filter housing though the actual problem was gas not getting to the carburetor. Fiddled about for an hour while the sun rose and brought the temperature up to an uncomfortable 80 degrees.

With the engine working again I returned to my job till I felt the unmistakable pain of red ants biting my left knee. Dropped the weed whipper and ditched my clothes as fast as I could and returned to the house for a cold rinse.  So it's 8 AM and I still have a headache and my left leg is throbbing from the bites.

9 AM - I've had a few more comments about my video attachment from a day ago.  Most wondered why I didn't say anything when I filmed it. What can I say, I'm a quiet guy.

I was discussing website updates with Clarence at Can You Hear Me Now and he mentioned the importance of using an RSS feed as a way for people to keep updated.  Many of the websites that offer prepackaged blogging services automatically do that for their customers but since I'm on my own here, I'll have to figure out how to do it for myself.  It's on my list.

This is a Test

2 PM - I've been working on the programming for an RSS feed and seem to be figuring it out.   I've known about it for years but pretty much ignored it because it just didn't seem to be used by many sites.  I'm seeing it more these days and when I upgraded to Internet Explorer 7, I noticed that they have integrated an RSS reader into their browser. It does add another step to my journal update process but I'll give it a try for a while at least.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

5 AM - My video experiment wasn't much of a success.  Only a couple of comments on how it didn't work so I guess I won't be adding clips as a regular feature.  Apparently, for it to work well, you need to have all browser settings updated with all the newest features.  The file size wasn't really as big an issue as I expected.

Opps, should have checked my e-mail. Just got a note from Jim Lawrence that the video worked for him.  Thanks Jim. Jim's Journal

My electric bill came in yesterday at $175 and that would be my all time high. Of course it's the air-conditioning that's raising that figure.  I don't run it at night and during the day keep it set at 80 degrees. I'm not sure if I'll be able to cut it back much more and it's 90 degrees in the house this morning as I type this !!! (Oh, that electric bill doesn't cover the cost of running the two wells. Add $55.

I seem to have won the battle of the barn squirrels. Haven't caught any in the Havahart traps for  about 5 days.  That's big news for us.

2 PM - I noticed that I was getting rain readings on my rain gage but of course we've not had  rain.  I assumed I might have a wasp nest in the rain catcher so headed up ready to do battle.  Nope, a spider had found a home in one of the tipping gages but from the size of it I thought it best to let it alone. Can't really tell from the photo but I'd size him at almost two inches. I'm just going to leave the cover off for a while and see if she looks for a darker home somewhere else.

And it's 104 degrees!

Friday July 21, 2006

7 AM - As most people know, on October 29, 2003 our place burned up.  The following is my first attempt at posting a video of some of the damage.  It shows the the burned out building where most of our possessions were stored.  This clip shows how well the fireproof safe worked.  It stored some mementos that belonged to my mother.

You have to click twice on the start control. Not sure how well this clip will work for people with dial up connection.  If someone could drop me a line and let me know, I'd appreciate it.

9 AM - And I just got back from our walk which took 45 minutes and I'm dripping in sweat.  It's 92 already!!

Tuesday July 18, 2006

6 AM - Breakfast.

9 AM - Headed out to pick up a prescription and do some grocery shopping.  But first I did a little bit of target practice and managed to break my reading glasses while I was at it. Made an appointment for an eye exam which is over due.

Shooting with bifocals is a real hassle and I'd almost consider laser surgery though I've heard mixed reviews on that process.  And the second photo for today is of the .22 caliber shells that were mysteriously cracking when I shot with my Single Six revolver.  Seems the cylinder that came with the gun was for 22 magnum rather than the standard 22LR.  I'm not sure if the seller didn't know that or just failed to mention it.  Anyway, I'm having it corrected.

7 PM - A while back I posted a rant about gun forums with their macho windbag members. Of course it isn't just the gun forums that have those people. I've got a lot of hobbies and have visited a lot of different discussion groups and they all seem to have loud mouth know-it-alls. The gun forum I'm frequenting now is the best I've found and they seem to have taken a different spin on the yahoo country boy attitude. I wouldn't describe these people as stereotypical gun nuts though I do wonder about all the people on that site who feel the need to carry concealed weapons.

No, I'm not turning this into a gun website.  It's just too hot to do anything else around here.

Sunday July 16, 2006

8 AM - I already had to shut the camera down from overheating. I may have been able to keep it up for a while longer but I don't want to damage the thing.

Considering the fire we had yesterday I thought it wise to test out our fire pump this morning. As I've said, I don't plan to evacuate during the next fire so I want to make sure everything is working. (See Fire Station).

Saturday July 15, 2006

7 PM - It was a quiet uneventful day till the thunderstorm hit at about 3:30. Only .13" of rain but the lightening caused some excitement.  We had a close hit that caused a small fire on a ridge about a mile away and we soon had the forest service on site with a crew to put it out.  By the time they arrived a couple of neighbors had already climbed to the spot and taken care of it but the crews stuck around to make sure it was out.

And we made it to 101 degrees today so for the most part I was inside reading.  Finished Conservatives Without Conscience.  It did a clinical examination of many of the right wing conservatives that are so often in the news.  About authoritarians who use fear mongering and religion to attain power.  Kind of a scientific affirmation to what most people already suspected about people like Nixon, Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and their cohorts.

And I did get a little target practice in. The photo shows my attempt at 10 shots from 10 yards using a 38 caliber revolver.  Don't count too closely, I seem to be missing one hole.

Friday, July 14, 2006

6 AM - Every day the temperature up here gets into the 90's but today the weather guy is wringing his hands about the "warm up" we'll be getting this weekend.  He's describing the forecast as "dangerous" but I'm cringing when I think about our upcoming electric bill. I've had the air-conditioning on everyday plus I bought a freezer that I put on the back porch.

I expect I'll be inside most of the day reading Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean. In it he discuses the psychological pathology of the authoritarian personality. Of course some people are natural leaders and others more inclined to follow. Dean discusses another type of personality who is a dangerous combination of authoritarian and sociopath and operates without concern for right or wrong. This type of personality has no qualms about lying and they are recognized by their tactic of bullying and ridiculing their opponents. The attainment of power is their driving force and they are drawn to positions in politics or corporate management. Another excellent book along these lines is The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

4 PM - Not a whole lot going on, just the routine stuff.  Spending time dragging the hose around to different trees and taking squirrels for rides to remote locations.  Looks like the high for the day will be 95 degrees and I took the camera off line to keep it from frying.

I'm spending a lot of time on the net exploring gun hobby sites and I'm getting a feel for some of the issues that gun owners take so seriously. California is ground zero for restrictions on firearms and I've already run into some of the hurdles that hamper the casual gun owner. The word "casual" is the operative word. Buying a gun in California is no longer a casual event and all my neighbors who already own guns are unfamiliar with the changes that have taken place in the past few years. Most notably is that testing is now required before you can purchase a handgun and you also have to prove that you own an approved safe before you can leave the store.

Along those lines, I also learned a little about the requirements for shipping firearms. I sent my Ruger revolver to the factory to have some modifications done and of course, you need to take precautions before sending something like that in the mail. UPS and FedEx are the only companies that will do it and even they are confused about some of the new restrictions.

Speaking of guns, today's photo is of the Daisy air pistol that I bought for Catherine many years ago. It's never been used and I was surprised to learn that they no longer manufacture the thing.  We're the accidental owners of a valuable collectors item. Under the gun laws I guess it would be considered a curio and relic. See ya on the Antiques Road Show.

Monday, July 10, 2006

8 AM - Got up and out early this morning to beat the heat and insects.  Was able to get the irrigation in Catherine's "other orchard" pretty much installed and I just need to do a Home Depot run for the last couple of fittings.  Hooked up the trailer that I borrowed from a neighbor and I'll be returning it later.  It's 80 degrees now and we should be at 90 in another hour.

The Mountain Webcam stopped working at around 1 PM yesterday due to the heat.  I've done just about everything I can to shade that thing so the only other recourse would be to move it inside.  We have at least 3 more months of heat like this so I'll be considering doing that.

4 PM - A quiet Monday just the way I like it.  Returned the trailer to Roger and checked out his new pellet rifle. Of course pellet rifles aren't necessarily like the toys we played with as kids.  His is a highly crafted German made precision rifle that was used in the Olympic marksmanship events. This is for serious target practice.

Of course I just plink around shooting old cans but I appreciate the concentration and focus that is required when you are a competition shooter. I'm reading about Kyudo, which is the art of Japanese archery where hitting the bulls eye is only incidental to the process. With Kyudo, the method is a ritual with the point being to calm and focus the mind. It's often forgotten that the real point of the Japanese martial arts is meditation and not beating people up.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

7 AM - The town of Descanso has their Fourth of July parade on the weekend after the fourth. (Something I can't seem to remember and after 16 years, this is the first year I've been to the parade) So yesterday Cath and I along with 5 residents of our valley headed into town and drove our little ATV's in the two block parade.  Lot's of tractors, old cars, horses and us. This is about as "small town" as you can get.

11 AM - Even though I've never been in a situation where I felt I needed a gun for personal defense, I've developed an interest in target practice and collecting interesting revolvers. Well, there was one time at a Jefferson Airplane concert when the Hell's Angel thugs started beating up the anti-war protestors but a handgun would only have made matters worse. I digress, as usual. (For people into historical research, it was at the old San Diego Balboa Stadium, probably around 1969 or 70')

Yesterday I picked up my new/old Ruger Single Six revolver.  It's a gun that the Ruger company put out in the early 50's to capitalize on the Western craze that was dominating those early years of television.  People of my age remember those shows well and it's easy to get sentimental.  Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and my favorites, Gunsmoke (the 30 minute version) and Have Gun Will Travel.

The Single Six is a 22 caliber cowboy style revolver and the one I picked up is one of the older models that was produced between 1953 and 1973.  It's in great shape with near perfect finish and I'm using it for inexpensive target practice.  Target practice with a handgun is especially challenging and as a beginner, I have to get embarrassingly close to my objective. Depending on the type of handgun, people usually start out as close as 7 yards and work their way back to 25 yards.

Friday, July 7, 2006

9 AM - It's time for the running of the bulls. Yay. In 1973 I went to Europe for the summer and wrote this self-righteous essay for an English class. Yeah, kind of like yesterdays entry.

Hemingway made Pamplona famous with his description of the running of the bulls and the event has become well known throughout the world. I had always been curious about Pamplona so toward the end of June I headed for Spain.

Around July 5 people from all over Europe begin to gather in Pamplona and the town takes on a Woodstock atmosphere. The streets become packed beyond capacity with parading people and most are either drunk or in the process of becoming drunk. During the festival there are no vacant rooms or youth hostels so, like thousands of others, I had to sleep on the streets. After traveling throughout Europe I had become used to sleeping on park benches however, in Pamplona the festival goes on around the clock and the noise makes sleep impossible. The air is continually filled with the sound of numerous bands playing different tunes at the same time.

I was sitting in one of the parks during an unusually quiet moment when I noticed a Gypsy woman moving among the other people. I had passed a Gypsy camp on the way into town and I was surprised by the fact that they resembled the stereotypical tribe of Gypsies you might see in a Hollywood movie. They traveled in horse drawn wagons and the riders dressed in loud, colorful clothes.

The Gypsy in the park was dressed in a long dress with ample fringe and she carried a young infant strapped to her back. While she moved among the people begging for food and money, I found it interesting to compare her technique to the panhandlers I have known in the states. She made use of various ploys to evoke sympathy and she was very successful with the American young ladies. I watched the woman for quit a while and eventually she turned and headed in my direction. I was preparing for a confrontation when she suddenly diverted her course and stopped in front of an overflowing garbage can a few feet away from my bench. At that point she began rummaging through the can, retrieving a couple of uneaten sandwiches and a half-empty bottle of Coke. She then sat on the grass and began sharing her finds with her child.

This incident, along with the actual running of the bulls, dampened my mood. I was un-impressed after watching hundreds of men trying to prove their manhood by running from some sick, scrawny steers. I later learned that the bulls have their horns shaved and, if they are particularly zealous, a 100 lb. bag of sand is dropped on their kidneys the night before the run. I guess they figured it was bad for business if people actually got hurt. I suppose that's what the running of the bulls is really about.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

7 AM - This morning I'm wandering around the place like a stumblebum.  Too little sleep, too many dreams when I did sleep and when I woke up, too many hobbies distracting me from the important stuff. I still have areas that need to be weed whipped and I'm losing the battle of rodent containment (again). Every day I capture at least two squirrels but the population just keeps growing.  I still have irrigation to install in Catherine's other orchard and I need to service my equipment.  Saturday, Catherine and I, along with other Sherilton Valley residents, will be driving our Yamaha Rhino in the Descanso parade and I need to clean that thing up and figure out how I'm going to get it into town.

And I'm starving.  In spite of the fact that I've cut down on my ice-cream intake, I'm still gaining weight.  Which reminds me, it's time for breakfast.

12 PM - Children of alcoholics tend to apologize too much and they're too eager to please. I'm not sure if he meant to do it but Al Franken in his movie Stewart Saves His Family gives the best example I've ever seen. I don't think Al Franken had alcoholic parents but without a doubt, someone on his writing staff did. I highly recommend the movie but not for the comedy.

I have a problem with people who drink too much. I accept the reality of genetic predisposition but I'm not inclined to give a pass to a drunk when they pull the alcoholism is a disease card. Obsessive behavior is a psychological problem and too often alcoholics replace their drinking obsession with another. That knew obsession is usually talking incessantly about being an alcoholic. I'd prefer they shut up with the Alcoholics Anonymous crap and instead just get their doctor to prescribe medication.

When someone is an asshole it must be kind of nice to be able to blame it on drinking. More often than not though, when those assholes stop drinking, they're still the same person. They just hide it better. "In Veno, Veritas".

Funny how the mind works. I was thinking about parades, then I started remembering how an uncle (who was not a drunk) sharply criticized me once when I was riding with him in a parade. Then I started thinking about the cruel criticism I have received from people who were drunk. And now I'm thinking about the teacher who started the semester by yammering about how he was an alcoholic and how much respect he deserved for overcoming his "disease".  And now I'm remembering all the egotistical teachers I had whose favorite subject matter was always, themselves. And that brings me to the real point of this entry. Teachers are overpaid.

Note 8/18/13: Wow, was I in a shitty mood that day or what? Would like to think I have a more compassionate outlook these days.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

7:30 AM - I have the camera up and running, at least for the morning.  It froze the other day from the heat. (Kind of a non sequitur). I'm grateful that it didn't seem to sustain any permanent damage though I may take it off line again when the temp breaks 90. I bought some shade cloth yesterday along with some tall stakes and today I'll be working on keeping the direct sun off the camera housing.

And my brother should be home today after spending a month in Bulgaria touring orphanages.  Looking forward to talking to him.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

7:30 AM - I'm pushing the envelope by planting Alders around the house. They're basically a shallow rooted riparian tree that can only stand moderate heat and wind. Our climate is undeniably beyond those boundaries. I thought I could get by with babying them through their younger years and so far, it seems to be working. They'll always require hand watering unlike most of our drought tolerant trees that get watered the first couple of years and then are left to fend for themselves. (More or less)

The photo shows one of the Alder leaves that got burned from yesterdays sun. The newer growth that hasn't hardened is really susceptible to this kind of damage.

Alders aren't necessarily shallow rooted and with proper watering can be encouraged to send their roots deep. At SDSU where the soil was clay and we tended to over water, the Alders had massive surface networks. Our problems arose when I had to shut the water down for repairs. If the repair took more than a week, the trees would stress and start dropping their leaves at an alarming rate.

Our fruit trees also require special care and we often paint the trunks white to protect the delicate cambium layer of cells that lie just under the outer bark. Shade cloth is another option and I�m using that on my youngest Alder that got scorched in yesterdays 90+ temperatures. Well it's not exactly shade cloth. I decided to save a trip to home depot and used and old bed sheet.

9 AM - Speaking of heat, I'm starting to worry about the webcam. It's rated up to 120 degrees but I'm sure it exceeds that when the box gets hit by direct sun. I was getting some connection difficulties yesterday (among my other problems). Today I've taken the shroud off and shaded the cam with a white handkerchief.  It's just a stop-gap measure till I come up something better.

5 PM - Well I tried but at noon the heat took the camera down.  Not sure if it is permanent damage but obviously I've got to either move it or set up some permanent shade. Be working on that tomorrow.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

4 PM - Ya know, in the grand scheme of things, this website is pretty unimportant. Hell, even in the teeny weenie scheme of things. Let's face it, I mostly write about gophers and weeds.

And yet, I spent all day talking to tech support in India trying to get this site running again.

It was a Hughes satellite thing where someone in their network operations center flipped a switch that was meant to do something innocent but instead had all sorts of unknown technical side-effects that ultimately amounted to me loosing the ability to access certain web addresses. During the day I discussed things like DNS servers, proxy servers, VPN connections and connection scripts. The most annoying part was when the woman in India finally gave up and transferred me to the slack-jawed flunky in America who was pissed because he had to work on the Fourth of July weekend. He lied and blamed it on my website server. I knew he was lying because I had been on the satellite forum where they told me he would lie.

The problem with being lied to is that I'm really gullible and predisposed to believe what people tell me. I then run around doing the trial & error deal where I change settings that screw things up so bad that I can never find my way back. I got smart this time and bided my time. Sure enough, after 26 hrs, someone somewhere on that information super highway went oops and flipped the switch back.