Saturday, December 3, 2016

Rodeo

CBS Sports is covering all ten daily rounds of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, continuing through next Saturday.

Of course the event I'm most interested in is once again bull riding, but since a key character in my latest attempt at fiction writing is a former steer wrestler, I'm paying attention to that event as well.

Before I started watching these events on TV I couldn't have explained the differences between bareback and saddle bronc riding (hint, there's more to it than the presence or absence of a saddle), but I've learned enough to recognize that the event depicted in Wyoming's "Bucking Horse and Rider" logo (you'll see it on the University of Wyoming's football helmets as well as on Wyoming license plates) is saddle-bronc riding -- because of the rider's upright posture and the presence of a rope connected to the horse's bridle.

I have yet to see a saddle-bronc rider in one of these rodeos waving his hat during the ride, even among those who still wear hats instead of helmets.

As a rule, rodeo cowboys have tended not to have facial hair, but I've been seeing beards and mustaches on some -- and in Thursday's first round of team roping the heeler on the winning team sports a big mountain-man beard. Well, they're from Canada. No telling what goes through their minds. They placed a little lower in Round 2 last night though.

Barrel racing, professional rodeo's only women's event, has the widest age range in the sport; one contender in the 2016 NFR is 68 years old, nearly three times the age of your typical post-college rookie professional. Of course rodeo has college, high school and even junior high school levels, as well as "Little Britches." At those levels you'll also see girls compete in goat roping and breakaway calf roping.

It's a shame those latter two events don't afford opportunities at the professional level, since unlike barrel racing a roping event actually showcases a ranch skill that many a working cattlewoman may use on the job.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Football

It wasn't all that long ago I would gnash my teeth at the unavailability of Wyoming football games despite their being in the same conference as then-ranked Boise State.

This season I've been able to watch most of their games as they dominated the Mountain West Conference's Mountain division -- even beating Boise State, to my surprise and great satisfaction. This coming Saturday they'll host West division leader San Diego State for the conference title.

It wasn't all that long ago Wyoming was the sad sack of the conference under a coach more interested in designing uniforms than winning games. The turnaround undoubtedly has a lot to do with their increased TV presence.

Last night's final regular season game in Albuquerque was alarming, and I stopped watching when New Mexico's lead widened to 28 points. In the end Wyoming lost, 35-56. If they play like that on Saturday the Aztecs will avenge their loss of last weekend by winning the title.

Here's hoping the Cowboys get their act back together.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

That's Gratitude for You

I'm thankful 2016 only has less than six more weeks to go. I'm less thankful that immediately after 2016 will come 2017.

I'm thankful the same mob of rent-seekers and power-fellaters I desperately wanted to be rid of a year ago is in place now to (hopefully) keep Trump in check.

I'm thankful Hillary Clinton's political ambitions appear at last to have been ended. Something tells me Bill is too. I expect him to turn up appearing haler and more energetic soon, after a few Waffle House breakfasts and steakhouse dinners. He'll have earned them.

I'm thankful it hasn't been made mandatory to watch or listen to presidential speeches; if it were, my year's liquor budget would have been spent before St. Patrick's Day.

I'm also thankful for all those maudlin, Frank Capra reasons everybody else is saying today. But you already knew that. Saps.

Monday, November 21, 2016

It Was Nothing Personal

Eight years ago or so, I placed a curse on then-President-Elect Barack Obama -- as I've mentioned in the past year.

The curse was that Obama should suffer a long post-presidential retirement knowing his presidency had been a failure. Judging by what I've been reading, the only part of the curse yet to play out is his living to a vast age.

I'm loath to amend it so that he never sees another black POTUS, though I was born into a Catholic family during the tenure of America' first Catholic president, and there hasn't been a second one yet. Maybe one reason Hillary lost this election was so that the first female POTUS wouldn't sour the nation on electing another one for half a century or more.

Before 2008 I was convinced the first black president would be a Republican. I soon amended that to the first successful black president. At the rate the Democratic Party has gone, that could be a tautology -- as long as our first orangutan president doesn't ruin the GOP.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New background image (may be) coming soon.

Snow is falling on Red Canyon, but the webcam I've previously cadged images from is currently blocked with snow or ice hanging across the lens guard. Hopefully that will be gone before the snow on the canyon wall is.

Update, Friday morning: The camera in question may be down now, but here's a different view (right) from that particular area, looking in a different direction. It implies that the snow was being blown in such a way that the canyon wall was mostly sheltered -- which would have been a nice shot, the red wall merely dusted with snow rather than buried under it.

Update, about two and a half hours later: The preferred camera is back up but still mostly obscured. In the partially obscured view on another camera that shows part of the canyon wall it appears the snow was pretty heavy there too.

I think I'll look around for a good snow pic from the larger vicinity to use until Red Canyon has the balance of cover and uncover that I've been hoping for.

Update, Friday afternoon: Got the pic I wanted (left), thanks to the ice falling off the camera and a bit of the snow on the canyon wall melting away. I may replace it in a few days as more canyon wall shows through. Meanwhile, enjoy.

Update, Sunday afternoon: The melt-off has commenced and the current pic, though still snowy, looks a bit sad to someone who's seen months of snowpack disappear in mere days in interior Alaska. I won't inflict it on you. Snowmen, to your safe spaces!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Easy Way to Fix the Electoral College

...is to repeal or, preferably, amend a 105-year-old law that didn't directly affect the Electoral College.

That law is the Apportionment Act of 1911, which capped the United States House of Representatives at 435 seats. I wouldn't be surprised if most people thought that number was set in the Constitution. Well, it isn't.

How would this fix the Electoral College? See Article II of the Constitution:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electoral College is capped at 538 because the House is capped at 435. Amend the Apportionment Act to set a higher total number of House seats and not only does the House become more representative, so does the Electoral College.

Any other adjustment to the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment. This one can be done by the 115th Congress and signed into law by President Trump.

If, that is, those butthurt over the outcome of the 2016 presidential election are really upset over the un-small-D-democratic outcome, and not just the un-capital-D-Democratic outcome. Call it an integrity test.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Hasn't Happened

The financial markets didn't fall through the floor.

Some have argued this means the markets like Trump's plans better, but that's like arguing that the Loch Ness monster's eyes are bluer than the Abominable Snowman's. In reality, all that the the markets have known for months is that one of these train wrecks would be president, and that there is less difference between them than either would have anyone believe. It was easy for the markets to prepare for 95% of what lies ahead regardless of the election's outcome. That was all they needed to know.

As for the other 5%, that's why investors hedge.

Under the Constitution, presidential elections are scheduled millennia in advance. Nominations are finalized months before any new appointments or policies will be implemented. It's unfortunate that this would have any effect at all on the economy, since the Framers intended otherwise, but the markets have had generations of practice at anticipating anything and everything that can be anticipated. They are susceptible to surprises and shocks, but elections don't qualify.

When you know what's going to happen and have the time and the know-how to prepare, panic is impossible.

Unless you're personally making all of your financial decisions, and are a complete idiot. Some of the former are not the latter, but most who are not the latter are smart enough to also not be the former.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ten More Episodes

I wrote here about the relative merits of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett and Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire. Of necessity I also referred to differences between the Longmire in Johnson's books versus the one on the TV series.

Now that the expiration date seems to have been set for the series, I suppose it's time I said how disappointed I've been with the TV Walt since "Longmire" became a Netflix show after its cancellation by A&E after its third season.

The Walt Longmire portrayed on television became far more paranoid and vindictive in the fifth season than ever before. Even though it's entirely possible his suspicions about Jacob Nighthorse (a character created solely for the series) are correct, the lack of confidence in himself, his daughter and his best friend seen in the last ten episodes seems totally out of character even for the TV version, which was never as secure about the people around him as Johnson's original.

I can only hope the producers will use the upcoming last ten episodes to put their show's lead character back on an even keel. The long waits between new Longmire books will mean the Walt they show us at the end of Season 6 will be in our minds for a long time before Craig Johnson can cleanse the taste from our palates.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Thoughts My Brain Made, 53

 If that really did happen, all new stonework arches in the U.S. will start being carved in the shape of a beehive, as Utah will be the new Keystone State.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

E Minus 12

Here's what I think.

Vladimir Putin's spy service has discovered that Hillary Clinton has secret (and crooked, but I digress) sweetheart deals with foreign powers around the world -- including with his oil rivals in the Middle East. When she first became Barack Obama's secretary of state, Putin may have believed Hillary had only forged such a relationship with him and his, but now he knows otherwise.

Russia's intervention in Syria is not about fighting terrorists, nor even protecting Syria's national sovereignty and right to be ruled by whatever insane dictatorial regime its people may be willing to tolerate as a lesser evil. It's about extending Russian influence into an oil-rich region of the world as OPEC's cohesion breaks down. Putin fears that if America regains its rudder behind a president who isn't beholden to him, his maneuverings will be for naught.

Putin's recent efforts to influence the presidential election have betrayed a growing panic on his part; Russia's oil has been its prime economic mover in this century and for various reasons it isn't performing as well as conventional thinking would have suggested. The breakdown in OPEC solidarity -- caused by increased production by non-OPEC states like the U.S. and, ironically, Russia -- has made oil cheaper on the world market.

Putin wants either for OPEC to regain control, or for Russia to be in a position to herd its members from the outside to do what they no longer have the will to do on their own account.

Forty years ago being OPEC's sheepdog would have been a key to vast global power, due to oil's unchallenged supremacy as an energy source. Since then, OPEC's past hijinks have taught the world that dependency on a single fuel from a single bloc is a bad idea.

And if world power were Putin's objective in his recent maneuverings, he wouldn't be so obsessed with getting Donald Trump into the White House. No, this isn't about geopolitics, but about Russian domestic politics, as determined by the flow of hard currency to Moscow.

This is why Putin talks of nuclear war if Trump loses. It's a typical Russian threat display that, as we learned after the fall of the Soviet Union, has nothing behind it.

He is in a precarious position at home. If future U.S. foreign policy is not firmly pro-Russia, Vladimir Putin risks being humiliated before the world as Mikhail Gorbachev was when George Bush ignored him about Iraq in 1991.

No bully can survive such humiliation.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Thoughts My Brain Made, 52

As I blame Trump for Hillary and Hillary for Trump, there is no logic to my voting for either.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Okay, I've Voted. Now All o' Y'all Just Shut Up!

Yesterday was the start of early voting here in Georgia, so Mrs. McG and I swung by the newer of the two early-voting sites in Coweta County to have our say.

In principle, early voting is described as a bad thing because it encourages people to vote before having the chance to learn all there is to know about a candidate or ballot question. In practice, it dissipates the impact of "October Surprise" gotcha revelations about a candidate or ballot question -- which in my mind isn't a bad thing. Eliminating the incentive to play endgame gotcha tricks on the electorate changes the tenor and rhythm of campaigns, and really the only ones with reason to complain are those who rely on such tricks.

In 2016 there are no negatives about either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton that I needed to wait to hear. Both are unfit for the presidency and therefore both must be rejected.

Contrary to my preference I also voted dutifully for Republicans down-ballot, even where the only other line for that office was for a write-in vote. Given that Hillary Clinton is almost certain to win, she needs to be confronted with a Congress that is at least nominally opposed to her agenda. Having Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Dick Durbin or some such as Senate Majority Leader would mean fast-tracking Hillary's every whim -- whereas Ryan and McConnell will only fast-track 90% of them.

It's unfortunate that the alternative is Hillary's every whim coming from a Trump Administration, where a GOP Congress would feel compelled to fast-track all of it.

I despise "losing more slowly," but thanks to the know-nothings who took over the GOP nomination process, and the stand-for-nothings who couldn't pander to them fast enough, losing more slowly is our only option. If these were people capable of planning a dumpster fire I'd almost think they were in on it.

I hold out no hope for reform in the GOP. Until rank-and-file voters get the hint once and for all and abandon the elephant, I cannot imagine our politics getting any better.

Trying to win our needed victories in the political realm is like trying to win a small-claims lawsuit in the Supreme Court. Stop, already.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Chill of an Early Fall

For now I'm dropping Red Canyon as the subject of my background image, in favor of a recent photo of the Dunoir Valley, up the road from Dubois, Wyoming.

At this point the valley of the Wind River runs between the Wind River Mountains to the south and the Absaroka (ab-SOR-ka) Mountains on the north. The latter range, which spawns DuNoir Creek, also marks the east side of Yellowstone Park as well as of the caldera of the supervolcano that created its thermal features.

The continental divide leaves Yellowstone Park and runs along the Wind Rivers to South Pass, where the Oregon Trail crosses from the Sweetwater River basin into that of the Green River before striking off toward Fort Hall, Idaho. The paths of the Mormons, the Donner Party, the Pony Express, and the 49ers of the California Gold Rush instead took a southerly turnoff that took them to the Great Salt Lake and, except for the Mormons, beyond.
Dunoir Valley WY, Oct. 2016

Viewers of the "Longmire" TV show that haven't yet watched the fifth season on Netflix may be confused about the pronunciation of "Absaroka." I'm not sure what author Craig Johnson's intent was for the Absaroka County in the books, but the TV series made a decision to pronounce the name as it was spelled, in part perhaps to distinguish it from the mountain range more than 100 miles to the west -- the mountains looming over Durant, Wyoming are the Bighorns; Durant is based on Buffalo, Wyoming at the junction of Interstates 25 and 90.

The name "Absaroka" comes from the name the Crow Indian tribe used for themselves, presumably pronounced more like the mountain range than the fictional county.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Asking the Right Questions

Charles at Dustbury posts a Yahoo! Answers question -- the latest in a series of Y!A questions he has posted over the years that make one want to weep for the future.
When do you become an adult? This is a topic for my University essay and i want to know the answer from that point of view?
My spur-of-the-moment answer, on reflection, is only half-right:
You’re an adult when you have the experience and informal learning to be able to answer the question without asking other people.
That question, and questions like it, yes. But being an adult also means still being willing to ask other people for information when your life experience hasn't encompassed it. Math questions from high-school algebra on, for example, I'm better off asking someone who's mastered it than WAG-ing it like I often did in high school.

Self-reliance within your limits is part of being an adult.

Knowing and admitting your limits is another.

Delayed self-gratification and all that other stuff too.

Oh, and knowing that no matter how much you know, or how much you can rely on yourself, there's always something you can add to the toolset. Death begins when learning ends, so stay alive as long as you can.