Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Wordage time to retire a word edition

"Optics."

Now, the Real Doctor is an ophthalmologist, so optics is a real thing that is wonderful.  However, that poor word has become abused, dragged into political arguments.  Firing your FBI director while he's investigating you is "bad optics."  Having zero women on your panel trying to devise health care policy is "lousy optics."  Meeting with Russky bigwigs while you are being investigated for unseemly doings with the very same bigwigs is "questionable optics."  I think it's time to come up with a better word; these things have nothing to do with refraction or reflection or interference or angles of incidence; they are, really, about morality, and so should be framed in such language.  They are "villainous" or "immoral" or "stupid"--so please say so.

Thanks!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Monday Musical Offering Mahler Edition

We are lucky to have a transmitter for KWAX radio nearby; they have very good, 24/7 classical programming, and are commercial free/publicly supported but not NPR or OPB.  This gives their programmers a bit more latitude than most, so recently they've been going through the Mahler symphonies during the early afternoon.  

So, last week I was happily shifting fences in the goat pasture and getting a genuine frisson from the 3rd in a stirring performance led by Leonard Bernstein.  The symphony reached its triumphant conclusion.  As the last chord was still barely ringing, but before the announcer could speak, Aileen--one of our louder sheep, who had been watching me from the other side of the fence and looking longingly at the fresh new pasture I had opened up--let out a jarring BAAAAAAWWWW.  But you know, Mahler was fond of juxtapositions of the the goofy and the serious (I mean, look at all those klezmer bands sprinkled throughout the symphonies) and also loved the pastoral.  So, it kind of worked.

Today I was shifting fences, again (for the sheep, this time) and listening to the 7th with Jimmy Levine and the CSO.  I think I was a freshman at college when I realized that the opening notes of the original "Star Trek" theme are the same as the opening notes of the Mahler 1st.  Well, just then I realized that the horn call that introduces the second theme of the first movement of the 7th is the prototype of the horn theme in the original "Star Trek" theme.  Interesting, at least to me.  I have to wonder if it was a conscious choice by the TV show's composer.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wednesday Wordage, Occam's Razor Edition

It's been over 100 days that Lord Damp Nut has been my president.  Pretty much every one of those days, I have listened to some news on the radio, or read some in the paper or on this very screen.  About as often, some commentator or analyst or wise person has been interviewed about the latest outre behavior of our president, and the answers have always been pretty wild.  He did this crazy thing: well, perhaps it was a strategic move to keep his opponents off balance.  He said this bald lie: well, perhaps he misinterpreted this actual, obscure, and irrelevant fact.  He proposed this egregious policy:  well, there's no doubt that that will appeal to his base, and strengthen his position for further bargaining.

The commentariat spend a lot of time and effort finding polite and acceptable ways to explain our president's behavior.  There is generally the assumption that he is a rational actor, has some strategic vision, intelligence, and understanding.  A myriad of erratic behaviors and statements have generated an equal number of inadequate explanatory hypotheses.

As a body, the folks who try to explain Lord Damp Nut's behavior on the radio have either forgotten or chosen to ignore Occam's Razor, which urges us to avoid unnecessarily complicated explanations (I know this is not the original formulation, but it will suffice).  All the questions asked of these learned analysts, political insiders, journalists, and talking heads--all of them--can be answered by one statement:  Our president is ignorant, unintelligent, willfully uninformed, a narcissistic pathological liar, and a bigot.  Seriously, I have heard hours of radio where dozens of people have danced around these questions, and seem to be unable or unwilling to point to the elephant in the room, indeed, even adamantly deny the existence of the elephant ("There's no doubt that President Trump is a very intelligent man" is one statement I have actually heard from a pundit, despite all evidence, and which has led me to write this).  It is frustrating.

So let us remember William of Occam and his razor, and let us cut through the next four years of BS. Keep it sharp.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Monday Musical Offering out of sorts edition

It's been a busy couple of weeks here on the farm; kidding season has started, and with it milking season.  Until a couple of weeks ago, morning and evening chores meant nothing more than making sure that everybody had hay and water, and not even too much hay, since the pastures are so lush.  If I was feeling relaxed, I could do the rounds in twenty minutes.  Now, a minority of the animals only get hay and pasture; the mother sheep get a silage and grain mix, the orphan lamb needs her bottle, the senior mother does need their grain while they're on the milk stand, the milking does need to be let in for their nightly alfalfa, then need their grain/silage on the milk stand while I milk them and clean up, and the kiddies need their bottles.  A couple of the moms who had difficult deliveries need shots and vitamins, and all the animals who have kidded or lambed in the last three days need their individual servings of feed, hay, and a fresh bucket of water.  So at a baseline, chores take almost three hours.  On top of this, we can add the occasional overly-dramatic delivery--we've had to take animals to town for a C-section twice this year--or sheep who have figured out how to push their way into the goat pasture and vice versa or any of the myriad mini-crises that crop up on the farm, and the result is dinner at 11:30 PM on a fairly routine basis.

All this makes me tired.  Things can get kind of hazy and dream-like.  I can't say I've had hallucinations yet, but a couple of strange things happened.  I was milking last night and listening to the radio and the station was playing one of the Bruckner symphonies--I can't remember which one, and I'd say it makes no difference because they all sound the same: dum dum da-da-da, dum dum da-da-da, dum dum da-da-da, dum...for twenty five minutes.  Then,  dum-da-dum dum dum dum dum, dum-da-dum dum dum dum dum for fifteen minutes, then the same thing only faster with horns for twenty minutes...Ordinarily, if I'm in my right mind, I find it to be the musical bastard child of Philip Glass and Richard Wagner.  But oddly enough, I found myself liking it, and finding beauty and structure in its expansiveness.

Worse, speaking of Richard Wagner, I was obligated to drive to Eugene, and as usual I was listening to the Met Opera on the satellite radio, which I was disappointed to hear was playing Wagner's Flying Dutchman.  Ordinarily, if I'm in my right mind, I can't stand Wagner.  Tedious, tendentious, hours of meandering declamation, weird plots, and moments of glory that you have to slog through hours of mud to get to.  And the plots!  Dutchman is one of the worst.  I mean, Senta, the heroine, is a human being who exists completely and entirely for the sole purpose of redeeming one man with her pure love.  The title character is a sinner, cursed to sail his ghostly ship forever, only touching land every seven years; he lands, meets a guy for the first time, and the guy says sure, I will give you my daughter.  Senta, the daughter who seems content to have no independent existence as a human being, agrees, but somebody says something that gets misinterpreted, and the cursed guy sails off.  Senta throws herself off a cliff to demonstrate the purity of her pure love.  The guy is redeemed.  Fin.  I find the plot wholly objectionable, verging on disgusting.  And normally, I can't stand the music--but there I was, in my sleeplessly addled state, actually enjoying it.  I felt kind of unclean afterwords.

Well, we are nowhere near done kidding season.  As I type, I am baby-sitting a doe that should be giving birth any moment now, but has spent the last two hours just grumbling, a complainy wheeze on every breath.  By the time kidding season is over I will probably start liking disco or 90's country.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tuesday Tool Straight Outta Serendip Edition

The job for Tuesday of last week was a bit of reclamation.  We had a chunk of one pasture that was very difficult to use.  It was next to what had been a decrepit barn, and there was a lot of discarded stuff in the ground--the remains of a couple of feeders, hoses, wire, glass, and so on.  Also, when we did the foundation work for the new barn, the excess soil had been dumped in the area, and then driven over while wet.  The result was a barn-sized patch of pasture, situated in what should be a high-transit area, that was riddled with foot-deep ruts, rubble, and weeds.  The plan was to drag out the larger chunks of metal and then level the damp and workable soil with a box grader and then smooth it with a screen.   The screen--a heavy "horse panel," would break up clumps and put a nice finish on things, though really, a harrow would be a much better tool.

So, I started work, digging up some chunks and hauling them out.  There was about half a foot of an old rail protruding from the side of one of the ruts, and it did not come out by hand.  So, I got the tractor bucket underneath it and lifted--and nearly flipped the tractor.

I dug a bit more with the bucket, saw that there was a chain welded onto the rail, and that it kept going.  I got some heavy chain, wrapped it around the tractor's bucket, and started tugging and yanking and digging and wiggling at it, and more and more rail and more and more chain started appearing.  It was starting to wiggle a little, but it was still not coming out, despite almost flipping the tractor a few more times.  The simple first step of the morning's work was becoming considerably more complicated.

After two hours of hard exertion by both myself and the redoubtable Kubota, it became clear that I was looking at a heavy drag harrow that had been buried underneath everything, I don't know how long ago.  I don't remember seeing it when we bought the place, five or six years ago now.  A few of the cast iron connectors had broken, but the welding was still good.  And heavy!  Lifting it with the tractor bucket caused the rear wheels to lighten noticeably, and that was with the box grader riding on the back!

I set the harrow aside, and set myself to work with the box grader.  I'm not skilled with it yet, so what would take an adept earthmover a half hour took me two hours, and I was still looking at a lot of wrinkles and ridges.  (If you ever want to learn humility, try to do something that a tradesman does easily.)  I thought to myself that a horse panel really would not do the job, here.  What I wish I had was a nice, heavy drag harrow...and hey, I have one!
So, that part of the pasture is returning to usefulness; here's Eleanor inspecting it--she has since decided that she needs to dig halfway to China there, marring its smooth surface, but still, it's much better than before.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday Wordage Galloping Edition

I got a call from the Gallup Organization today, asking me some very general questions, and then inviting me to be part of a Select Group that is tracked and polled every two weeks that would provide Reliable Data for businesses and the government and big, important Decision Makers.  I declined.  I have grown exceedingly tired of polls, and feel that we are at a point where they are actively harming the world.

One of the questions I was asked by the pollster was my opinion of how the economy is doing--the possible answers were excellent, good, fair, poor, or bad.  I asked for some clarification, and apparently I--who don't know very much, and certainly less than, say, a businessman--was being asked to evaluate the entire U.S. Economy in one word.  And, worse, this was supposed to be meaningful, and even more horrible, it was supposed to influence big, important Decision Makers.

Is it possible to describe the state of the entire U.S. Economy in one word, other than "complex"?

I will plead mea culpa to being an elitist, in that I really believe that folks who have studied complex problems have more insight into their solutions than folks who don't have much book-larnin' and go by their gut.  Also, probably best to refrain from describing things like the state of the world's largest economy with one word.  So, I politely declined to play in that game.

'Course, they'll probably find one of my neighbors to replace me, maybe the one who writes letters to the editor of the local paper, citing Bible verses to support Donald Trump.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Monday Musical Offering Running Flat Edition

I love me some Schubert.  Pleasant, lyrical, often sight-readable...until you stumble onto a section in A-flat minor.  I mean, come on!  Seven flats!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Musical Offering Post-flu edition

Coming off of a bout of the 'flu.  Could go with "poi a poi di nuovo vivente," which is descriptive but does not adequately convey the sentiment.  Having spent almost two days pretty much abed, and another day where I was able to be up and about for a half an hour followed by an hour of recovering,  I was just grateful to be able to do stuff for an entire afternoon (to say nothing of being able to eat).  So, a heiliger dankgesang is appropriate.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Flicks, dreamy edition

This from a hundred and ten years ago was unfortunately appropriate last night:
So, there I was living the bachelor life last night while the Real Doctor was away, and because I wanted some comfort food I made Welsh rarebit and broccoli.  And, because I'm used to cooking for two, I made slightly too much.  And, because it was a long day, I ate it late, and went right to bed.

Ugh.  Such dreams...such awful dreams.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday Wordage Euphemistic & Epistolary Edition

I have not been able to write the name of our current president along with his title.  I just can't.  I don't like even referring to him.  It's not like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, with everyone referring to him as "he who shall not be named."  It's not fear.  It's just disgust.

There have been many, many epithets proposed for the twerp (the Scots have been particularly creative in this regard).  Some have seized on one and made it their preferred usage--such as President* or Cheetoh Benito.  But I haven't really liked any of them to make them my preferred usage.  I think, though, I may have found something I can get along with.  It carries a title, is sufficiently insulting, belittling, and is made from the clown's own name, by anagramming.  You can even say it with a mocking intonation, sarcastically aggrandizing him like Voldemort:

LORD DAMP NUT.  

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In other news, I have written my first angry letter to the editor, about which more later.  An unusual, and public step for me, as it is my habit not to make known my politics to strangers.  But, it is today, and I am going to have to do more.  Thirty years from now, when I am asked "what did you do during the coup d'etat?" I will have to have a better answer than "I wrote a sternly worded letter to the editor."

Circle of life and all that

Farming throws life, all of it, all at you all at once.  So you find yourself taking a phone call to set up mortuary arrangements for your mom, who is on hospice, while you are hanging on to a doe is not totally enthusiastic about the buck that you're breeding her to.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Frustrations

Scrambled all my plans and spent all morning dealing with a 3x1 dichtring and a 0.52 d├╝senscheibe.

(Partial explanation)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday Tool Primitive Pete edition


Today's tool is probably either the first, or the second, tool an anthropoid ever used.  It's a stick.

I guess it's four years now that we've been heating our house with wood.  Got our nice, efficient fireplace insert, got cords and cords of wood from the trees that were crowding the house, and we had piles of kindling from the remodeling and upgrading that we've done--lots of lath and pulled-up floorboards and subflooring.  What we did not have was a fireplace set: a nice poker, an ash shovel, maybe some tongs.  But, you make do with what's at hand, and what was at hand was a one-foot-long section of rough-cut subflooring that had been busted up to make a piece of kindling.  And, because it did, we kept making do--it got more and more charred (or perhaps fire-hardened), the "handle" end became more and more polished, and at one point last year a chunk split off of it.  Still worked, though.

Well, we finally got ourselves a fireplace set.  It's nice, and it actually works significantly better than the stick.  But I haven't had the heart to burn it yet.  It's just sitting by the fireplace, behind the "real" set, and occasionally, when I'm building the fire, I grab it instead of the iron poker, without thinking.  Some primitive, atavistic streak, I guess, "Mmmggggg, Thag poke fire with stick!"

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Friday Fauna Pussy Hat edition

Wedge expresses his solidarity with the hundreds of thousands [edit--millions] of humans who marched all across this country and around the world in protest against pussy grabbing and more.

The news lately has got me down, way down.  I live in an area where many of my neighbors--good people, really good people, as long as you are not too different from them--are giddy about Trump's election.  I am not yet well-enough established in this community that I feel safe outing myself as a person who holds liberal views, but I think I am going to have to find the courage* to do so.

Meantime, I salute the people who marched today, Anne and Angie and Susan and Val and all the others, and so does Wedge.  Their actions give me a glimmer of hope in a dark time.  And now Wedge would like to be fed.


*Yes, I know; I wrote about courage in political expression earlier, and I didn't think too highly of the valor of those who espoused a popular view in front of a supportive, powerful audience.  The folks who marched today had a better quality of courage.  Their cause is popular and they had plenty of internal support, but it is still not accepted by the majority or the powers that be, nor is it truly ingrained in the culture, as evidenced by their need to state the case, again and again and again.  A still stronger degree of courage, which I have heretofore been lacking, is needed here in Douglas County, where 2/3 of my neighbors enthusiastically voted for a racist, sexist, xenophobic charlatan.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Musical Offering Alla Breve

Not so much about music as the uses thereof; when I started milking the goats, a couple of years ago now, I thought it would be nice to have some music playing.  I started an album, and by the time I had dealt with an inefficient barn set up, a bunch of naive and recalcitrant first-fresheners (and my own inexperience with milking), a not-very-ergonomic milking set-up, and a kludgy cleaning system, I had played two full CD's worth of music and started on a third.  Today, I started a CD, fed all the animals in the barn, milked a dozen goats, cleaned the milking equipment and swept the barn, hanging up the last thing to dry as the last track ended.

So, progress is possible.  I will have to remember this in a couple of months, when I have over 24 goats to milk, and about half of them will be first fresheners.

CD was Bach, transcriptions for piano by Russian composers, played by Hamish Milne.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Flora small world edition.



To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour...

(Blake, of course.)

Hmmm, that didn't work.  Need to figure out how to get pix up here from the eye pad...the blogger interface is ultra-kludgy.

Why I am not feeling optimistic, in two quotes.

Kurt Vonnegut

“And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”


― Kurt VonnegutA Man Without a Country

TOP STORYDouglas County libraries slated to close April 1 Ten branches with the Douglas County Library system will close on April 1 this year.

The branch closures are part of an overall plan to ramp down library services by the end of the fiscal year in June.
The 10 closures include branches in Canyonville, Drain, Glendale, Myrtle Creek, Oakland, Reedsport, Riddle, Sutherlin, Winston and Yoncalla. The main library in Roseburg will have a tentative closure date of May 30...
...voters turned down a taxing district in November that would have kept the library afloat, the county has been struggling to find a means of funding it.




Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Musical Offering, Mikado edition

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, or the Town of Titi-Pu is still one of my favorite things in all the world--for pure, human joy, it's hard to think of anything that comes close to the end of Act I.  That said, there are moments that make me, child of the late 20th century, really very uncomfortable.  

So, as you should know, Mikado is obviously about England, not Japan, but all the same, it is set in Japan and keeps making crude, stereotyped reminders of its setting, as seen from the haughty position of Victorian England.  The racist caricatures are genuinely offensive, and the cringes they induce do detract from the modern listener's enjoyment.  There's a fair bit of that in G&S--just about all of Princess Ida, which mocks the idea of educating women, for example.  So what to do?

Some say, don't perform it.   That's a non-starter.  The music and words, when not tainted by offensive antique attitudes, are priceless.

Some take the approach of ignoring it; you can go to you tube and watch a production by the English National Opera, with Eric Idle as the Lord High Executioner, which sets the events in a 1920's English seaside resort.  Fine as far as it goes, but the lyrics are still there, and it's kind of disorienting to have people singing that they are "gentlemen of Japan" when they are clearly gentlemen of Brixton or Leicester.

I would be interested to see this, New production. It keeps things as G&S intended; but, it frames it by Gilbert getting bonked into delirium, and having the whole production be his personal dream.  A nice way to insulate the audience, and make it clear that the racism really truly belongs to Gilbert, not us.

Perhaps the way is what opera buffs call "regietheater," where the director takes a stiff dose of LSD before deciding on the staging.  So, set it in an insane asylum in Nazi Germany, or make the characters all rats in a behavioral scientist's laboratory.  I don't know what's best, or how to dissolve away the stuff that really is offensive.  I do know that the music and almost all of the words give me so much joy, and that the world would be a much darker place without them.  Oh willow, tit-willow, tit-willow!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future

But I will make one, and here it is: Donald Trump will name Martin Shkreli to be the head of the FDA.  You heard it here first.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Now More Than Ever

History keeps on echoing in the most unpleasant way.  It wasn't too long ago that I saw that some candidate for political office used the slogan "Now more than ever."  I don't know if the candidate was being ironic, or ignorant, but that slogan carries some heavy baggage, perhaps not as heavy as "Ein volk, ein reich, ein fuhrer," but it was used for electing Richard Nixon.

Now Nixon is back, more than ever it seems.  We have a president-elect's spokesperson insisting that if the President does something, it is by definition legal.  And then news came out that Nixon worked to scuttle the 1968 peace talks aimed at ending the war in Vietnam.

In a just world, there should be a line a mile long of people waiting to piss on Nixon's grave.  There should be a similar line waiting to piss on Kissinger, who, unlike the tens of thousands of people who died in Vietnam, is still alive and well and seemingly respected.