Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preparing for Winter I

(Picture from here.)

The weekend was mostly home stuff. I had to kill a couple of chickens-- which, I suppose, deserves an explanation.

We raise chickens for the eggs. We'd use relatives, as suggested by Woody Allen in Annie Hall, but we actually do need the eggs and the relatives just don't have the capacity.

This year, we purchased a lot of chicks, about 25 or so, that were supposed to be all hens. We raised them and sold some. Then, mid-summer, a raccoon got into the chicken enclosure and slaughtered all but two of our chickens: Sam, the rooster and Abigail, the oldest hen.

The hens went from being for sale to being our egg producers.

Chick sexing is not an exact science and we ended up, after John Carpenter's The Raccoon, with three roosters. One of them had completely kowtowed to Sam and they get along. The remaining two were kept separate. We had an idea that somebody might want them and we could give them away.

Nobody wants roosters.

Personally, I like the crowing. But I can see it can get on someone's nerves. Long ago when we first did this we got half a dozen young roosters. Wendy thought she might not be able to handle dealing with eating the birds we had raised. But after the summer of half a dozen competing and crowing roosters, she didn't have any trouble.

But now it's nearly winter. It's time. It's done.

Other pre-winter activities included: replacing the canopy over the chicken house, gathering up and mulching the leaves, making more wine-- or, rather, racking the wine that's already being made. (See here.) The "white" is now very dry. It's going to need aging but I think it'll be fine. The "red" still has a specific gravity of 1.060 so there's still a lot of sugar. I racked it but then pressed the grapes. So it still had a lot of sediment left in the fluid. So I'll have to rack it again later in the week.

Still a few more things to do until winter proper gets here. Battening down the hatches as it were.

Then, bring it on.
Wall of Idiots
Tribes against wind turbines
The world is not cooling
Glenn Beck... again
Britons say teach both evolution and creationism

Links of Interest
More cool things about mantis shrimp and here and here
Ur Death
The 50 kiloton asteroid
The return of the Aral Sea
Naked Mole Rats vs. Cancer
Bear lore
Slap shot climate change: the hockey stick graph
Treatment for retinitis pigmentosa
Tribes against uranium mining
Bears like minivans. Bears eat minivans.
Economists vs. Entropy: Does economics violate physics?
Phantom limb topology
Pug v Dalek
Salman Rushdie Facebook Flirtation
V: A Short Film with Hardware
Most distant object yet detected
Einstein right again! Heavens not askew! Savants not agog!
The nature of evolutionary fitness
Desalination redux
Autoimmune disease vs cancer
Stem cells and infertility

Chickens in winter
Low tech tools
Sustainable agriculture
Cultivating new farmers
1000 ideas for creative reuse
Brave new world lamp
Professional water rocket guide
Tesla spirit radio
EZ Halloween Costumes
Solar power station

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ares I-X Successfully Launches

(Pictures from here.)

Yesterday, the Ares I-X successfully launched, reached its target height, separated and hit the water. The Ares I-X site is here. If you watch the video at separation the "second stage" (A dummy) bent backwards. There were some issues. Recontact appears to have happend on separation. One of the parachutes failed. A fairly good analysis is here. Recontact is a potentially catastrophic problem. I don't know if the recontact was a product of a dummy second stage or something more sinister. Staging issues are discussed here. From the video (on the main site above. Hi res here.), it looked like the second stage folded back on the first stage.

But, by and large, a successful test flight of the first stage. There were a lot of concerns over vibration, etc., of the first stage. Now we have real data to evaluate those concerns.
Wall of Idiots
100 Elephants/Day
Error reinforces learning (duh!)

Links of Interest
10 Seconds with Jesus
Sauropods vs Whales
Why we like fat
Fat Croc Death
Evolution and E. coli
Saving tribes with Google Earth
Costing Coral
Kepler and Galileo and here
Saturn at Equinox
Tiniest dinosaur in North America
Sleep and memory
Peru harvests fog for water
Giant orb spiders and here
China's electric car
The nature of gender
Musicians hear better
Invasion of the Longhorn Beetles
More geoengineering
Automotive X prize update

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wining Time Again!

(Picture from wikipedia, here.)

It's that time of year again. I fought through the wasps to get to my Marechal Foch grapes. They matured early this year. The wet spring made some of the pears near them split, which attracted the wasps, which dined on the grapes, which were intended for the wine that Steve drinks.

I sprayed the grapes with Surround, a form of kaolin clay. It's supposed to rot the little buggers stomachs out.

It didn't seem to work for a few days. Then, about a week later, the wasps disappeared. I harvested as quick as I could. A few days after that, the yellowjackets reappeared but they were much smaller. I suspect the Surround decimated the wasps but not the larva already sealed in the nest. I finished and got about 4 gallons or so of M/F grapes. Not a great harvest.

The Concords matured later after the weather changed so I didn't have the same problem. About 8-10 gallons there.

I bundled them all up and put them in the freezer. Wendy said that's it. There's no more room in the inn for more grapes until I use what I had.

So: last night I pulled out all the grapes and weighed what I had.

150 pounds of grapes.

That's from this year, last year and some unlabeled years.

I pulled out 50 pounds of what I think are the oldest grapes and they're waiting for me to work on them tonight.

It's going to be a long night.

Wall of Idiots
Bill Maher, again
Lies about flu vaccination
Lies about health care legislation
Looking foridiots: Call the Yes Men
George Bush Motivational Business Seminar
Newt Gingrich
South Carolina GOP
Death threats against Obama
Lies about TSA

Links of Interest
Caveman Science Fiction
Yet another dinosaur extinction candidate
Autonomous microhelicopters
Fast robot hands
Spooky projection video
Ethical stem cell crop
Epigenetic map
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
What we know about the Kuiper belt and here
Planetary bombardment
No atheists in foxholes. So what?
Life without light
2012: So what?
Fossil reality
Antarctic hovercraft

Pocket sized oscilloscope
Light up bike pedals
UV Bubble Madness
Popup Lego Zen Temple
Giant hammock
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Deviled Eyes
Halloween costumes and here
Candy sushi
Flayed skin cheeseball
Jack O Lanterns: Here. Here.
Remote controlled hose valve
Ghastly grins
Router circle cutting jig
Maple roses
Sea glass necklace

Idiots On Parade

(Picture from here.)

Mostly, I ignore them. I mean, I don't like people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, Faux News, etc. But while they are toxic and destructive they are not traitors. They are just idiots.

But it's possible I'm missing something.

Newsmax is a conservative rag that lives on the internet. I don't bother to fact check it like I do Coulter or Buchanan. It's just too low on the food chain. They are somewhere below Glenn Beck on the evolutionary scale. You know that scale: Politicians, tapeworms, Glenn Beck, cesspool bacteria, Newsmax. Unpleasant but probably inevitable.

However, at the end of September one of their contributors essentially said a military coup against Obama might be a good idea. The original entry was pulled-- you can see where it was, and the relativistic velocity of the Newsmax backpedal, here. Fortunately, the internet never forgets anything. You can read his actual text here.

Sure, he's an moron. That's a given. But this is the logical end point of the conservative religion. It starts with denying that those that disagree are not real Americans. It proceeds (along Ann Coulter lines) to calling them traitors. It continues with people going to presidential events armed with handguns. It ends with a call for revolution.

I didn't call for a coup when Georgie was in office. I didn't call Ann Coulter a traitor, though she called me one by proxy.

Look, folks. Like it or not I'm an American. Believe it or not, I love my country and I voted for Obama. I like him still. That doesn't make me a traitor. It doesn't require me to where a golden "L" on all my clothes. And it sure doesn't empower idiots like John L. Perry to call for a coup.

Tom Tomorrow said it here.

Wall of Idiots
Pennsylvania GOP
Fly geyser
Modern Contrarianism
The Republican Base
Bill Maher

Links of Interest
2009 Nobel Prizes
Failure of Government
Climate sensitivity to CO2
Innovations of 2009
Homosexual fly porn and other stories
V: Giant mechanical elephant
Magnetic monopoles and here
The Hoffmann Kiln
Evolution of Reading
Why Olympia Snow is important
60% of US can be self sufficient from renewable energy
Landfill biogas
Sentient cities
Underwater Maldives

Low Tech Resources and Links
Fruit fly trap
Easy bran muffins
Fun kits

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Modern Conservative Religion

(picture from here.)

I was waiting for the reaction to Obama's getting the Nobel Prize before I put out this blog.

Now, let us recall the Conservatives of Yesteryear response, as exemplified by the poster boy of Yesteryears, John McCain: Congratulations. (See here.)

But that is yesteryear. We miss the Republicans but they are gone forever.

The modern right has a different take on it: no matter what happens, it's a) Obama's fault and b) we hate him. I heard pundits on Faux News say not only that he didn't deserve the award but that he should reject it. One pundit suggested given the prize to Obama was intended as a snub to Bill Clinton. In Lakeville, a swastika was found carved into the grounds at a country club. (See here. They got the wrong swastika.) Michelle McPhee was the most rational of this group. She acknowledged "getting the Nobel Prize was not Obama's fault. We can't blame him this time." (Yes. That was a quote. I heard her myself.)

Hm, I said. This is interesting.

I've only seen this sort of obsession in two kinds of situations.

One is the "Walk on Water" point in a relationship. You know this one. It's the point in a relationship going south where nothing can be done to salvage it. The other person could walk on water and it wouldn't help. But, that doesn't apply here. Not only do the New Conservatives (known affectionately as "idiots") ever have a relationship with Obama, they've never wanted one and would only be pleased were a meteor to suddenly strike Washington with him in it. Preferably when Congress is in session and the Republicans are all out of town.

The other situation is religion. Not your friendly, accepting religion as, say, between Episcopalians and Methodists. No. I'm talking about fire and brimstone preaching, if you've only done your job if there's nothing left but scorched earth and green glass, Southern Baptist, style religion. Religion that takes no prisoners and makes no compromises even in the face of actual fact. Religion that lies about the other side because that side is bound for Hell and standing downwind is enough contact for contamination.

Sound familiar?

It's important to understand that the current right is a religion and not politics as usual. They don't want progress. They don't want cooperation. They don't want to actually do anything. Like crooked evangelist preachers, they want to save your soul and fill the collection plate. Nothing more. Certainly, nothing less.

And I wish, as Oral Roberts threatened, a higher power would bring them home.
Wall of Idiots
The nadir of Western Civilization
Jello Frisco
The Billion Dollar Gram

Links of Interest
Shagged by a rare parrot

Magic with matches
Sun tracker
Leather spined hardback book
Non-PV solar power
Bedazzler non-lethal weaponry
Pickled garlic
Ball valve on a cooler
Draw a circle

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Consideration of Works Past: Childhood's End

(Picture from here.)

I was a little hesitant to talk about this book. Childhood's End is considered by many to be a seminal work in the field. Certainly, it's one of the two most famous works by Arthur C. Clarke, the other being 2001.

The link above is a good synopsis of the story as is the link from which the picture came. Quickly: The Overlords come and stop human exploration of space along with our tendency towards self destruction. Time passes and things get really, really good but not too interesting for humanity. Then, the children of a later generation become super sentient, uberpowerful and join with the universal Overmind and the ultimate purpose of the Overlords intervention, to shepard humanity into this stage, is revealed.

Okay, then.

It's a thin book. The characterization is sketchy at best. There is a whole lot of Clarke's vision of what an idyllic world should look like. But, by and large, the book is boring.

I didn't expect that at all.

I enjoyed the book as a child. It wasn't my favorite of Clarke's work-- that would probably be The City and the Stars or perhaps The Deep Range. In fact, I would go on to say that most of his books are better than CE. Certainly, CE was an early work. It was only his fifth novel.

Clarke was never known for deep characters but even against those measured standards, CE falls pretty short.

I suppose I gleaned something of the possibilities of SF from CE. But as I read it now, I didn't learn much else. The path I followed was much more in keeping with his other works than this one.

It's interesting how Clarke returned to the same themes again in 2001. Others have also. Even John Wyndham did, by a back door approach, in The Midwich Cuckoos, aka, Village of the Damned. (BTW: A really interesting take on the Wyndham idea is in Freakangels. Go look.)

I would have liked to say there was more influence on me by CE than there actually was. It's such a staple. But, in all honesty, it didn't move me in any particular direction. I've actually gone in an antithetical direction.

Wall of Idiots
Nessie on Land
Michael Jackson solves Hitler
Lies about Obama appointments
Lies about car dealers
Lies about Obama's reading material

Links of Interest
The vertical redwood
The Ignobels
Fossilization on Mars
Post Rapture Pet Rescue
Pictures of the oldest living things in the world
Space fuel shortage
Retinal implants
Comets vs Asteroids
CO2 Falls from the Air
The Solar Impulse
Supervolcano plumbing
More on global warming
Virtual composer
God in the brain
Wooden sportscar
Launch Photography
Ephemerisle and here
Water on the lens

Manly knotwork
Algae Geek and here
V: Unpowered gate opener
Cardboard tube geodesics
Fried Ice Cream
A Treehouse
A polished concrete desk
Wimhurst Machines: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Operation, Demonstration
Wood lathe and here
Cheap printed circuit boards
Acorn chime
Rain barrel
Gray water system