Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Wordage What Word Do You Live In Edition

I live in Roseburg, according to the cartographer--on Oak Creek Road, if you're the county, Oak Creek Drive if you're the IRS. If you're the Postal Service, I live in 97470.  This area, until maybe forty years ago, was known as ORchard.  So, who called it ORchard (not Orchard or ORCHARD)?


Highlight for answer:  Ma Bell.  We live in the "67X" telephone exchange, and when direct dialing was introduced, mnemonics were used by the telephone company to get people to remember the extra two numbers they'd have to add to their number.  A phone number around here would have been given as "ORchard 3-4567.  
What was your area known as?  There's a website (of course) that can tell you. 

Monday, November 24, 2014


I forget which philosopher tells us that true happiness is found at the concordance between what one  wants to do, what one ought to do, and what one is able to do.  If that is the case--and if the intensity of desire is a significant coefficient--then Cernunnos and Go Daddy, the bucks who are the sires in most of this year’s breedings, are the happiest creatures on the planet. 


There are a lot of incidents that launch themselves on a trajectory that can lead either to farce or to tragedy, and until they play out, there's no knowing whether to laugh or cry.  One such incident happened last Friday. 

We "leash breed" our goats, so we can be absolutely sure that breeding has taken place and we know exactly who is the daddy.   It means leashing up a specific doe and a specific buck individually and leading each to some place where we can watch them mate.  What ensues has nothing that a human would recognize as romance; the deed takes a few seconds, and then the animals get led back home.  Being able to provide certainty about our pedigrees enhances the value of our stock, and is reflected in the breeding page of our farm website.  

 Practically, leash breeding is a bit of work.  Our happy, happy bucks live at one corner of the big pasture, where they pass their days grazing, peeing on their beards, making grotesque noises, and trying to relieve their sexual tensions with each other.  Our does live in a pasture on the other side of the big pasture, over a hundred yards away, and pass their time with grazing and meditating--except for when they are in heat.  Then, they stand up on the junked workbench that I put in their pasture for their amusement, orient themselves towards the distant bucks, and sing a loud song of lust and desire.  

Two of our does, Opera and Mizuki, were in heat last Friday.  It was far from a beautiful day for romance--it was pouring, and Nigerian Dwarf goats hate rain.  But, omnia vincit amor, so Opera didn't complain when I tied her up under the barn's awning.  Cernunnos was not too enthusiastic about being rousted out of his dry shelter, but once he figured out what was up, he picked up his pace.  The deed done, each went back through the downpour and into their shelters.  Then it was Mizuki's turn; she knew what was up, and was willing to be tied up under the barn's eaves to await her mate, Go Daddy.  

What happened next was all a wet, furry, stinky blur.  I went to fetch Go Daddy, who had figured out what was going on, and was defying the downpour to wait at the gate of his pasture.  Cernunnos had the same thought, and the other bucks--Guy, Cherubino, Mustafa, and Caliban, who are less experienced--were curious as to what was going on, so they were at the gate too.  I slipped through the gate, attached the lead to Go Daddy's collar, and shooed all the other bucks away from the gate.  Go Daddy, I should mention, is the strongest and most eager of our bucks, and it is a genuine struggle to hold onto him.  So, perhaps it’s understandable that my attention was focused on restraining him as I fumbled in the pouring rain to close the balky latch on the gate.  I failed to notice Cernunnos charging the gate.  I did notice him when he barged past me and Go Daddy and was moving at an urgent, waddling trot towards the barn.  

And here is where we were suspended between farce and frustration.  Rain pouring down, Mizuki tied up at the barn singing of her desire, Cernunnos eagerly galloping across the field towards a doe he should definitely not mate, me getting forcibly dragged away from an open gate by Go Daddy, who is trying to beat Cernunnos, and four naive but intrigued bucks looking intently at the open gate and their buddies who seemed quite keen on...something.  I didn't hesitate: the most important thing was to intercept Cernunos--if it were necessary, I could simply pick Mizuki up and throw her over the electric fence, provided I got to her before Cernunos.  So, I charged across the field in the pouring rain, accompanied by the lusty Go Daddy, and trailing a train of confused bucklings who didn't know anything about what was going on but that it looked like fun. 

Fortunately for the resolution of the affair, Go Daddy and I are faster than Cernunnos.  Despite my attempt at sprinting, Go Daddy still towed me most of the way (from the strain he puts on his collar, I have come to the conclusion that his kink is erotic asphyxiation).  We got to Mizuki, who was urging her suitors onward, just before Cernunnos.  I let go of Go Daddy’s leash, figuring that he would know what to do, and grabbed a hold of Cernunnos’ collar.  The other bucks were strung out in a line, halfway between their pasture and the barn, reconsidering the wisdom of going out in the heavy rain for an uncertain reward.  Once he was finished, I grabbed Go Daddy's lead, and held onto it with the same hand that was restraining Cernunnos; with the other hand, I hustled Mizuki back through her gate.  Temporarily sated, Go Daddy was not too difficult to lead back to his pasture, and Cernunnos also seemed to realize that his date had left him standing in the rain.  We shuffled back across the field, and were joined by the other bucks, who seemed confused by the whole business, but content to fall in line and follow the big boys back into the pen.  I closed the gate behind everybody, and let out a deep sigh of relief, and some laughter.

So, if you look at our farm’s web page, you will see our breeding list.  I can assure you that it is accurate. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Flora Didn't Get the Memo Edition

Our evening primrose didn't get the memo about it being winter here.  Or, for that matter, that it's morning, not evening. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Wordage: Chiron, son of Chronos, god-like beast...

One of the many things that vexes me about the state of civil discourse these days has to do with qualifications, or more precisely, disqualifications.  We have too many news and opinion shows on too many channels and blogs and twitters, all going 24/7.  All of these outlets need people to voice opinions--otherwise, no show, and no ad revenue. But what does it take to be one of these opinion-spinners?

The qualifications are minimal.  One can earn an advanced degree in seemingly any field, or you can be at a think-tank, or you can be an elected official, or you can have an obsessive blog about a particular subject, or be eloquent, or telegenic, or family of someone relevant, or any of a number of other things.  All of these things, whatever their true worth at forming an educated opinion, apparently qualify you to share your opinion with lots of people, and try to sway their opinions.

What distresses me is not how easy it is to gain qualification as an opinion-maker.  It is, rather, how it is nearly impossible to be disqualified as an opinioneer.  There are too many people whose opinions are given far too much weight, based on how their previous opinions or policies have played out in the real world.  They should, one thinks, be disqualified from having publicly broadcast opinions on these matters.  We really should never have to listen to a news or opinion piece on human rights from Henry Kissinger, on middle-eastern policy from Dick Cheney, on defence policy from Don Rumsfeld, on presidential powers from John Yoo, on appropriate workplace behavior from Bill Clinton, and so on--except, perhaps to hear them say, "whatever you do, make it the opposite of what I did".  But banning people is not the solution, or consistent with our constitution. 

So, I argue for the return of the epithet.  You may remember epithets from Homer and his ilk:  swift-footed Achilles, Eos of the rosy fingers.  In documented history, you have kings such as Ethelred the Unready or Ivan the Terrible.  These adjectival phrases become part of the character's name.   Epithets help us to grasp the essential nature of the person, and they're not always flattering.

There are certain positions or clearly stated opinions--not off-the-cuff remarks, but publicly declared views--that have been tested by time, and found stupid or odious.  They become less like opinions and more like falsified hypotheses that are still, despite evidence, clung to.  I propose that these should become epithets.  However, it doesn't really advance public discourse when you reduce a talking head's world-view to a single adjective like "unready" or "terrible."  A more useful and informative epithet, one that would help the audience to weigh an opinion, would be something such as "who thought Sarah Palin would be a good president" or "who reckons that bombing Iran would be constructive," to suggest a few that would apply to the Honorable Senator John McCain.

How does one deal with a bulky and cumbersome epithet such as this?  A solution is provided by repurposing yet another scourge of public discourse, the Chyron.  Chyrons (the name is apparently a trademark and has nothing to do with the centaur who taught Achilles; they are also called crawls or "the bottom third") are those lines of text that pollute the bottom of a TV screen whenever there is a talking head spouting opinions.  They are generally full of garbage, or take the talking head's opinion an reduce it to one phrase of mush.  Either way, they do nothing useful.  I suggest taking the Chyron and using it to show the talking head's epithet.

Here's an example: nowadays, we see James Inhofe's head talking above lines of text saying "Sen (R) Okla / Jets 14 Ravens 3 (final) / Dow up 13 3/8 / Did Rhianna cheat on Ussher? / Volcanic eruption in Hawaii threatens golf course..." and so on.  Instead, we should see James Inhofe talking above lines of text saying "despite a century of accumulated scientific evidence and the assurances of pretty much everybody who has studied them, he refuses to place any credence in biological evolution or anthropogenic climate change.  Also gets lots of money from fossil fuel business."  That way the viewer would know the talking head is venal and committed to ignorance on not just one, but two, and probably lots of issues.

It might be argued that this would stifle free discussion of important issues.  But, if you consistently have opinions that the passage of time have shown to be clearly dumb and harmful, it seems that your views should be branded.  If you're stupid on one topic, fine, opine on others--and if you trip on those, you will accumulate more tar and more feathers, for all to see.  It's been noted that, in the internet age, that a PhD does not automatically confer wisdom, and that formal qualifications have become less important.  Right now, civil discourse has an urgent need for disqualifications. 

(signed) J. A. Appleman...for a while, thought corn-based ethanol was a reasonable alternative energy source... 

 I'll put a few possibilities in the comments...please add your own.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Tool Early Winter Edition

The tool of the day was going to be the 20-foot trailer used to schlep the two tons of hay which I unloaded this afternoon.  But no, the honor of being the tool of the day goes to...
...the cat warmer.

Seriously, he hasn't moved for the last four hours.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Interesting mail

This was in the mail; I opened it before I realized it was addressed to a long-ago resident of our place.  I feel there's no harm in posting it, with a few redactions and the boring stuff at the end omitted.

“DREAMCATCHER” MODELS #4582BR-C, -D, -E, #4582BS-A, -B.

Dear [redacted]

You are receiving this letter because our records indicate that you may have purchased a defective and possibly dangerous item from one of our MegaCo stores.  We are voluntarily recalling Zhinghui Novelty Trading Company “Dreamcatcher” Models #4582BR-C, -D, -E, and #4582BS-A, -B sold in our stores between November 2013 and March 2014.  These models can be distinguished from previous and subsequent models of dreamcatchers sold in our stores by having only three feathers, located at positions corresponding to 3-, 6-, and 9-o’clock.  We recommend IMMEDIATE removal of these products from cribs, bedrooms, or any areas where sleeping may occur.

It has come to our notice that there are several manufacturing issues with the product.  The number of feathers is not sufficient to catch most bad dreams.  The feathers, despite assurances from Zhinghui Novelty Trading Company, are sourced from domesticated chickens and ducks, rather than free-living hawks and falcons.  Moreover, the persons manufacturing these objects were observed by our inspectors to have been in a negative frame of mind, often under intense stress from production quotas, and ill from glue-induced headaches.  The inspectors also noted the factory was polluted by a sense of guilt caused by the misappropriation and frankly crass commercialization of Native American sacred culture.

These manufacturing defects render these objects 45% less effective than placebo at preventing bad dreams or retaining good dreams.  The dreamcatchers subject to this recall are 93% ineffective at stopping dreams induced by eating Welsh Rarebit before bed.  Users have also reported dreams involving speeches before large audiences while wearing nothing but underwear, endless falling, unpleasant incidents in high school, and “that one with the giant spider, but it’s actually your boss, and she, you know, like, has you in a web, and you sorta wake up and your sheets are all tangled up, but you’re sorta asleep too, and then she turns into an evil clown-slash-Newt Gingrich, and he’s trying to sell you some Amway stuff…”  While there have been no fatalities associated with these products, we have reports of numerous bad dreams that have left a sort of “off” feeling for most of the day and a lingering jumpiness that can last for up to three days.

Due to the psychohazardous nature of this product, it is unlawful to dispose of it in municipal waste.  Defective products should be wrapped in three layers of heavy aluminum foil or contained in a leaden box and returned to the MegaCo store of purchase for a full refund and a voucher good for two sessions of either Freudian or Jungian psychotherapy at one of our convenient in-store clinics. 

The management of MegaCo sincerely apologizes for any adverse results of the use of this product.  However, due to malfeasance on the part of the Zhinghui Novelty Trading Company, MegaCo does not accept legal responsibility for any damage done by this product.  For further information, contact MegaCo legal departme…
...and so on.  I haven't forwarded it; at this time, the addressee's sleep is eternal, and, I hope, peaceful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday words, avoiding embarassment with the neighbors edition

I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep.
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep.
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep.  
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep. 
I will not use the word "herd" to describe a group of sheep.            

Monday, November 10, 2014

subliminal influences of TV programming?

We don't have a TV.  Perhaps because of that, I notice them in public spaces and have a harder time ignoring them than other folks.  They're over the checkout stands at a local grocery, and over some gas pumps. 

Today I went to the local branch of a bank whose name rhymes with "Smells Cargo."  I have to do business there every month or so.  The previous time I was there, I noticed that they had installed a TV above the line of tellers, so the folks waiting in line would have something to pass the time.  When a TV is set up in a public space such as a bank or airport terminal, it has to be set to something anodyne, so the set was tuned to some sort of vintage-1950's -60's TV station. 

The last time I was there at the bank, there was an episode of some cowboy drama, featuring an armed bank robbery.

This time, it was an episode of the Lone Ranger, featuring an armed bank robbery. 

It could be taken as evidence that violent TV programming does not have any effect on behavior, as everybody else in the considerable line was ignoring it, and I was unarmed.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Slime

That brilliant orange slime mold I posted on Friday?  I forgot the follow-up.  In the space of six hours, it turns into something like this:

and in a day, those little pellets crumble into dust.  Pretty impressive.  Just think of the metabolism involved in converting all that orange pigment into purple-black. 

Here's a couple more slimes for your delectation:
 I just love the little stalks.  Each mushroom is about 1mm.
Kind of impressionistic, the larger blobs are a couple of mm.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Flora...well, not truly flora, but still...

Rainy season is here.  The fungi have awoken from their summer slumber, and are spreading their umbrellas all over the place.  But they're not really flora. 

Wandering further, phylogenetically, each rain brings forth a bloom of slime molds--not flora, not even fungi--more closely related to us, actually.  They are mostly inconspicuous.  But one of them really jumps out after every rain: 
It's not Fuligo, who has strutted across this stage before.  I'm guessing it's one of the Plasmodial slime molds, but beyond that, I don't know.  Anybody know? 

More slimeys later--it's no longer flower season, it's the season of fungi and their allies. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Wordage Nobody's business but the Turks edition

Inspired by some recent news about a coup d'etat. Soundtrack for this week's offering:

What are they known as now?

a) Formosa
b) Fort Duquesne
c) Stalingrad
d) Upper Volta
e) Batavia
f) Danzig, East Prussia

Highlight for answers
a) Taiwan
b) Pittsburgh
c) Volgograd
d) Burkina Faso
e) Djakarta
f) Gdansk, Poland

Lots of other possibilities.  Suggestions welcome in comments.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday Tool Early November Edition (Updated)

Well, it's the ballot, of course.  Vote responsibly.

I am not exactly on the same political wavelength as most of my neighbors.  I assiduously avoid politics in conversation, and have cultivated the obscure answer, the faint smile and imperceptible nod.  I rarely try to correct someone when they regurgitate one of the more outlandish whoppers put forth by talk radio*.  So, I could probably introduce myself to any random stranger, and say that my ballot cancels his or hers.  Such is democracy.  I refrain from doing so--such is politeness.

However, it is inevitable that if somebody says something to you that they earnestly believe--something that goes against all facts, and that you know is 100% stupid, it will inevitably change how you regard them.  Still, ya gotta do business with them.  I console myself with the knowledge that they are good at whatever it is that I'm working with them on, and that they would consider me 100% stupid if they knew my views. 

 It is useful to have your opinions challenged, from right and left, and it is dangerous to listen only to those who agree with you.  What worries me particularly about the current scene is that we (as a country) can't even seem to agree on what is reality.  Facts have been replaced with tribal identity and heaps of lies and fear,  whipped up by "dark money."  

So I'm not tuning in to the election returns, because I know that they won't make me happy.  But, having voted, I will at least be entitled to complain.

UPDATE, POST-ELECTION:  I see from the local paper that two thirds of the folks in my county think rather differently than I do about almost every issue.  Most of them even voted for a congressional candidate who earned a few seconds of fame for a mass-mailing soliciting urine samples for his biochemistry research.  A very large majority voted for the state lege candidate who passed on any public debate because he was too busy, was not really clear about the whole three branches of government thing, and made sure that his first order of business was to publicly thank his personal deity and savior.  

*Rarely enough that I can remember only three such claims, and I responded only because I was specifically asked: Obama is the most anti-Israel president ever, global warming (if it exists, which it doesn't) is due to H-bomb testing, and there is an actual movement afoot to introduce Sharia law in the U.S..  Each claim was given with complete seriousness.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Musical Opinion: Opera and the Bechdel Test

Here's the names of this year's lambs:  Uberto, Tristan, Marthe, La Castafiore, Gerhilde, Heliane, Ortlinde, Vixen Sharp-ears, Elvira, Ernani, Carmen, and Linda di Chamounix.  (There were a bunch of other ram lambs, who are unnamed and are destined to become either other peoples' pets, or meat).  Like a lot of breeders, we have a theme for naming our sheep; we use opera characters. 

I was looking at who we bred this year, and thinking about what names would be appropriate.  I strive to have some sort of continuity in naming.  So, for example, Truffles is a bit nutso, so her daughters are Lucia di Lamb-ermoor and Linda di Chamounix--both of whom have "mad scenes."  Tristan is out of Isolde.  Some are a bit more of a stretch.  La Castafiore, for example, will be recognized by fans of Tintin...

as the diva who always bursts forth with the "Jewel Song" from Faust; the song is sung by a character who sometimes is called Gretchen--and Gretchen is the name of the ewe who gave us La Castafiore.  Kinda torturous, but it helps me to remember who is who. 

It's not as though there are a shortage of opera characters.  Naming the rams is easy, because there is definitely no shortage of randy, testosterone-driven, brutish male characters.  Female characters?  They are there, but they are often a lot less interesting.  As often as not, the Soprano is a fairly passive object of dispute between two tenors or a tenor and a baritone, and the Alto is either the Soprano's mother or maid.  Sure, there are lots of exceptions, but they are exceptions nonetheless.

Mulling on this (I was driving from San Francisco to Roseburg, listening to the opera station on the satellite radio, so plenty of time for mulling), I got to wondering if there were any operas which pass the Bechdel Test.  The Bechdel Test (named after the woman who committed it to ink) asks if a movie has a) at least two named female characters who b) talk to each other about c) something other than a man.  Given that operas generally have few named characters, are often composed in (and about) times when men were the only acknowledged movers and shakers, and are almost always about complicated heterosexual interpersonal relationships, it's hard to think of many that pass the test. 

"Dialogues of the Carmelites" is an easy one.  "Suor Angelica" also passes easily.  It gets harder to find operas that pass the Bechdel Test outside the walls of the convent:  "Lakme" has the famous flower song, which is a nice duet about flowers (completely free of innuendo).  The barcarolle from "Tales of Hoffman" is about night and love, generally--but the mezzo is a trouser role, Nicklausse.  Really, I'm drawing a blank on this--if you can think of any, please let me know.