Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Flora It Might As Well Be Spring Edition

Might as well.  These popped up after that rainfall that came our way a couple of weeks ago.

It rained again today, pretty hard for a bit, and pounded them to shreds. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday words, equine genetics edition

Observations from riding our bike past a farm with a couple of medium-sized draft horses:

Q:  What do you get when you cross a Haflinger with a quarter-horse?
A:  Approximately 12.5 centimorgans

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Tool Tyin' 'em off edition

The tool today is the elastrator, and the associated rubber band.

I am a terrible blogger.  I should keep up to date, but I have not--witness the six goat kids bouncing around outside the window, heretofore unmentioned.  I should post cute photos--and there is precious little as cute as a precious little goat kid--and I have not.  As for the first failing, well, that cat is out of the bag.  As for the second, here, have this:

Those little kids are both bucklings.  The association between male goats and randy behavior is cliched, but until you actually see a two-day-old buckling making the moves on his brother, you don't really appreciate quite how strong the drive is in these guys.  These little lads are now about two months old, and it won't be too long before they are not just play-acting.  We don't really want that--we want to control who breeds with whom, not to mention avoiding incest.  So, out comes the elastrator. 

Pretty quick work, actually.  Slip the little orange cheerio(TM) over those four prongs, squeeze the handles, and it opens up about two inches--wide enough to fit over the necessary bits.  Roll the rubber band off of the prongs, and you're done.  The kids appeared to be slightly uncomfortable for about an hour, but it seems (based on some conversations I've had) far less painful than a vasectomy.  Another week or so, the whole package will fall off, and we will no longer have bucklings--we'll have wethers. 

Brother E. is in New Zealand at the moment, revisiting the city we lived in for a year when I was five.  I don't remember much of the place, but I do remember wonderful beaches.  A feature of all the beaches in New Zealand, as I recall it, was that the tideline was marked by those little orange cheerios.  New Zealand has a lot of sheep, which means a lot of lambs.  All of those lambs get their tails docked, and a lot of them get castrated, so a lot of those little orange cheerios get washed downstream.  Brother E. has visited the beaches, and says that he hasn't seen too many of them--I'm not sure if it's because of changes in practices, or because lambing season has just started there. 

Did I mention lambs?  We have lambs too.  See?  Bad blogger.  Baad!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Musical Instrument Plugged-in edition

The Real Doctor and I were on the road last week, visiting folks in the cheesy state of Wisconsin.  Travel was normal for this day and age.  We left at 3:00 AM, and after driving to Eugene, flying to Salt Lake City, Detroit, and Madison, and then driving some more, we hit the hay at about 11:00 PM.  For the longest leg of the trip, an unhappy combination of carry-on luggage and the bloke in front of me wanting to recline all the way gave me a real understanding of soft torture in the form of "stress positions."  Essentially, I was wedged into a position that was slightly uncomfortable, but forced to stay in that position, unmoving, for a few hours.  As we descended into Detroit, I was in pain.  Had the flight continued for another five hours, I probably would have spilled whatever beans I possess. 

The way back was slightly less tiresome; leaving at 2:00 in the afternoon, we arrived here at home at 1:00 in the morning.  While we were waiting in the airport in Salt Lake City, we noticed a fellow with a kind of unusual violin case--it seemed a little outsize, but not viola-sized.  So, we asked him about it, and he most generously agreed to show us the contents when we arrived in Eugene. 

If I'm not mistaken, his instrument is the very one shown on this page, as "A New Bradivarius Golden Tone Five-String":

It's neat to look at this instrument, after fixating on the classic Cremonese stuff for so long.  It's clearly a fiddle, but unhesitatingly taken in new directions.  The corners are deliberately--and pleasingly--rounded, making measured and planned what centuries of chance do to a Guarneri.  The f-holes, while not to my taste, are thought out.  Rosewood sides?  A purple tinge to the varnish?  White maple trim, and white volute trim?  Why not!  And throw a pick-up into the bridge, too.  It has a nice look, and is of its time.  The fifth string is a little odd--it changes the shape of the bridge, and sounds slightly different from the rest of the strings, but it definitely gives the instrument the versatility the player wants.  The player--a commercial pilot by trade--uses it primarily for Arabic and Irish music.  He played it a bit (with a Coda carbon bow, natch) and with the caveat that he was playing quietly in a baggage claim area, it sounded alright.  Certainly better than any violin I've ever made.

Skewing the Polls

We got a call on Sunday from the Gallup organization; they were conducting a poll and wanted our input.  I agreed to play along with them.  The only policy-related questions were about trust in government agencies, whether I had enough confidence in the privacy protections used by those agencies, and whether (for example) the Census Bureau should be allowed to use data from other agencies rather than direct surveys.

However, many of the questions were about what I consider atmospherics, of the order of "In the last week, have you read a local newspaper?" or "In the last week, have you visited a doctor?"  After a bunch of questions focusing on the last week, my interrogator then switched the context:  "OK, for the next questions, I want you to think about how you felt and what you did yesterday."

I explained that the previous day was Yom Kippur, and so my answers would by no means be representative.  The pollster said no matter, just answer.  So, we went through a bunch of questions.  On that day, was I well rested?  Would I describe my mood as happy, normal, or depressed?  Did I have any of the following:  Headache, backache, digestive woes, etc? (I always get a headache from being dehydrated).  Was I anxious?  If so, was it about money, family, etc?  Was I hungry, or did I have to skip any meals?  Again and again, I explained that the answers would be skewy, but we kept going.

Finally, the last few questions were demographic, age, race, etc--including religion: would I describe myself as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or other?

It was amusing, and if you find yourself being told that you're hungrier and more introspective and prone to headaches than you think you are, then you can blame me.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friday Flora Late Summer edition

It's September, the end of a long summer.  Summer is the dry season here, and it started early this year.  It wasn't particularly hot, but it was particularly dry--the rain stopped early, and there wasn't much of the usual random sprinkles in the summer months.

I can't remember who said it, or whether they were describing the 200 meter or the 400 meter sprint, but they might as well have been describing grazing in the local climate:  "The first half you sprint as hard as you can, and the second half you hang on and hope you don't die."  We came out of the blocks early in the year with lush green fields from a nice soggy winter.  None of the animals really wanted any hay or anything, just lovely pasture.  They didn't even really drink much, getting most of their water from the grass and dew.  The ewes and does were gestating, but not nursing.  Everybody was getting fat and happy.

Around about July, this year--earlier than is normal--things started to dry out.  The hay began to look more appetizing.  The moms were busy nursing, trying to get calories and nutrients for themselves and two lambs.  And now, here we are in September.  The lambs are weaned, but still growing and very hungry.  The moms, who by the end of July were so depleted that they resembled woolly skeletons, are being stuffed with as much hay and grain as they can eat. Thankfully, they are starting to put on some weight, but they are still too skinny to breed.  The fields are dry, the grass mostly dead and mostly void of nutrition.  I've been hard pressed for time, so I haven't been able to move the animals to fresh pasture recently, though it wouldn't make too much difference.  We are going through hay at an alarming rate.

Everybody else has the same weather.  The hay growers also didn't get a lot of rain, so hay's expensive.  All the other folks with sheep and goats and cows didn't get much rain, so they need more hay than usual.  The co-op has put a limit of six bales per day per customer on hay purchases. Those six bales will run over a hundred dollars, and feed my beasties for about a week--along with grain mix, corn, fermented alfalfa, and alfalfa pellets.  Everybody's in that last leg of the sprint, looking for the finish line when the ground will start to feed the animals again.

So, it's a nice start to the year--l'Shana Tova, y'all--that we had a real rainstorm move through yesterday.  Along with a couple of other squalls, we've gotten maybe as much as a half inch of precipitation in the last few weeks.  It's not the end of summer, but it's been enough to wake up some of the seeds and perk up the mosses, and just make me feel a little bit better.  Much as I'm panicking about the stuff that's got to be done before the wet season, I'm glad that we can glimpse the end of the dry.