Friday, September 28, 2012

Close call

The sun went down today. Thought it was going to hit the Jeep but it landed behind the hill. Good thing, I just put the top back on that Jeep and would have been pissed.

Flock of Somethings

I was under a trailer trying to weld something but instead was getting red-hot embers in my ear hole, so I threw off the mask and looked up to see this squadron of largish bird creatures flying by.

Maybe they're vultures on their way to a guy crawling across a desert. But there were over 30 of them cruising together. I'm no ornithologist, I'll just admit that right off the bat. But the closest one looked hawkishy to me. Hawks don't fly in giant wads, do they?

This here is a zoomed in version and I messed with the contrast and whatever to try to get the silhouettes. Didn't do to great a job, but this was a camera phone.

Here's a zoomed out version showing most of the pack.

I'm not crawling across my lawn calling out for water until this matter is settled.

The physics of school time

Forgot to put this up last month. 

"And Furthermore" column, Wallowa County Chieftain, September 2012.

In line at the grocery store the other day, I was next to a dad and his daughter. She was maybe twelve years old and the checkout person smiled at her and asked, “Ready for school to start?”
There was a pause. A brief moment where you could see the girl check her first impulse and sift out the options on how she might answer. Her hesitation right there is the best example I’ve seen of what it is to be civilized. Because the genuine response from any kid asked by a smiling adult if they’re ready for summer to be over should be to immediately attack the adult taunting them. Just a wild shin-kicking, scratching assault to get across the message that, no, I’m not ready for school to start and here’s what you get for reminding me.
Instead, this well-mannered young girl thought it over. Her eye twitched a little. Then she forced a smile and said quietly, “I guess.” The checkout person smiled. The dad smiled. Even I smiled. I’m not sure what we were smiling about. What child is ever ready for summer to end? What kind of question is this? We don’t smile and ask prisoners who were just denied parole if they’re ready to go back in the slammer. Well, maybe we do. I’ve never served on a parole board so I could be wrong about that.
I think it’s a cruel practice to be asking students, and teachers for that matter, if they’re ready to go sit in that classroom for another whole year. But now that I think about it, we should rub it in more often. It makes a nice incentive for these kids to work toward graduation. I’m all for education, don’t get me wrong. School taught me to cherish the knowledge that I’ll never have to go to school again. And now I get to torment people who do have to sit in a classroom. That’s the real power of a diploma.
Kids, let’s get you started on your exciting new season of learning with a quick science lesson. You may be wondering, as I did when I was your age, what makes the hands of a clock in a classroom not move. Simple. But first, you have to understand the phenomenon of summertime moving faster than other times of the year. Let’s begin.
More sunbeams in the summer come through windows and land on calendars, which heats the molecules on the pages and causes them to speed up. So the days move faster. It’s pretty basic science. And because Ma Nature balances her checkbook, there’s an equal and opposite reaction through something called thermo-time dynamics which reduces the viscosity on the throwout bearings inside clocks during the colder months. This gets pretty technical, but just know that the basic forces at work here are beyond your control and it’s best if you try not to look at the clock. Another basic law of the universe is the Observer Effect, where the act of observation alters the thing you’re investigating. So basically, when you look at the clock in the classroom you stop time.
See, learning is fun. And after you grow up to be big and smart like all of us grownups asking if you’re ready to go back to school, you can apply these lessons to any field you want. Like brain research. You could do your doctoral thesis on the response of children who are asked if they’re ready for school to start. Measure how many pounds of resistance it takes for the child to not say what they’re really thinking, then divide that by how glad you are that summer is over, because now you’re all grown up and can’t wait for your own kids to be back in school.
So enjoy your time in the classroom. It isn’t so bad. You’ve got, uh . . . the holidays coming up. And there’s recess. Crayons. See, there’s lots of stuff to like about school. So learn a bunch and be nice to your teachers. And I’ll let you in on a secret – after you graduate and start working, you’ll find that office clocks don’t move any faster. If you don’t believe me just ask your teachers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

There Was a Crooked Shed

The thing about half-assing a job is that eventually somebody's going to have to fix that half-ass job with a half-ass repair, which makes it a quarter-ass production that holds for a while until it becomes an eighth and so on, until it just collapses.

What you see here is an intervention on the leaning woodshed of Pisa, which was listing severely to port and ready to go to ground in the next stiff breeze.

This edifice was constructed in the classical Wallowa County style of putting boards on a few random chunks of something hard, like an old brick or busted chunk of cinderblock, anchored with gravity and then called a "foundation." 

As an economy measure, they only drove one nail into the braces that might have kept things from shifting. Except one nail makes a nice pivot point where a couple more nails might have put up some resistance to this thing shrugging its way back to the earth.

One wall slid off the old brick & gravity foundation, so after creaking the whole affair more or less upright with some tow rope and a pickup truck – available at any hardware store – there was some fancy jacking with a Handyman and improvised post and beam made from semi-rotten 2x4s I can't believe didn't bust and crash down on my head.

Then, against every common sense safety guideline in the world due to the precarious jack situation holding up the building, it was a simple matter of coaxing the wall back into square using the truck, that chain drive hoist thingy and my rafting flip line.

Set it back down, add copious amounts of nails and a forest of additional bracing inside and, bingo, this shed is good to go for another I-don't-know-how long. Depends on the wind forecast.

Half-ass repair complete.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Joseph Canyon Overlook Strap Check

Fun fact: when you start down low then drive up high, the tubes of your raft will get tighter because due to the change in elevation air molecules inside have had a bunch of babies and it's more crowded in there. Happens every time. 

So it's good practice to stop at Joseph Canyon Overlook and relieve some pressure. Do not throw trash in those toilets, however. It is very difficult to remove. Also you should let some air out of the tubes on the raft.

Like most things, it helps if you have a helper. Mine is the lovely Miss Bula.

But keep in mind this view is one that seems to deny having a decent picture taken of itself. I dunno if it's all the depth, all that canyon running away in the distance. It just refuses to be photographed in a way that actually represents how badass it is. At least with me using the Easy setting on my camera. This may be a job for the pros.