Monday, August 29, 2016

Legends of the Autumn

The fall season you're familiar with begins with the autumnal equinox in mid-to-late September and ends with the winter solstice a few days before Christmas. That's known as "astronomical fall."

According to weather types though, there's a different fall, one they call "meteorological fall."

It starts Thursday and only lasts until the end of November. Theoretically.

Hereabouts, it doesn't start usually until mid-to-late October. And in some years it never quite ends until spring -- though with a few winter-like mornings here and there. Sure the leaves are all down by Christmas or so, but the weather...?

Another reason I'm so looking forward to eventually moving out west. There'll always be four seasons, and they'll start and end more or less on time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Where the Wild Things Are

We live in whitetail deer country, where the land was naturally forested before settlers came to farm. While farming hasn't disappeared from this patch of subtropical west Georgia, the forest has grown back more than it's been held at bay. People like having trees, especially if it means less to mow.

And you know how I feel about mowing.

Most of our home acres is wooded, as is the case with most of the neighboring properties. We hear owls sometimes at night, and I've seen coyotes skulking across open spaces. And we often see whitetail deer.

Most often what we've seen this summer have been two does and three spotted fawns. We've seen hints that one of the does is mother to two of the fawns, suggesting the third belongs to the other doe. We don't know for sure but we think one of the does was the fawn we saw last year and that the other is her mother.

They've all become pretty brave about being near the house, as a picture in a previous post suggests. Given the usual range of whitetail deer I can't say whether they hang around mostly on our property but we're definitely on their regular circuit.

Years from now when we resettle out west the most common deer will be muleys, mainly because whatever place we settle on won't likely have much in the way of woodlands, even if the surroundings aren't agricultural. In fact we'd be more likely to see antelope than deer. Either way their range would be such that we probably won't see the same animals as regularly as we do here.

They'll most likely be farther away too, but that'll mean more opportunities. Especially the antelope, which are almost as common out there as pigeons in a city park.

Update, Wednesday, just after 9:00 a.m.: We just had two whitetail bucks venture into the front yard, nervously looking around. One had a fairly small rack but the other's was approaching respectable. This isn't the first time I've seen antlers on deer around here, but it's not common -- or at least it hasn't been.

Bucks wandering around together is a clear sign that the rut hasn't started, as if it still being August weren't. Once the pheromones start flying bucks that were friends become rivals and won't be getting along at all.

Anyway, Hartford and his little buddy went back into the woods after just a few minutes.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Does ANYTHING Support the Left's Narrative Anymore?

The Riverton, Wyoming Daily Ranger is behind a paywall, but in yesterday's issue was a story about a recordbreaking high temperature in that town last Friday.

The temperature was 56°F. Riverton has never recorded a high temperature that low in the month of August. Until this, the latest out of 237 consecutive "hottest years on record" according to the global warming alarmists.

Yes, yes, there is a difference between weather and climate. Funny how that difference never applies to unusually hot summer temperatures. Or even temperatures that aren't the least bit unusual.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Choose (Thoughts My Brain Made, 49)

Fundamentally Unqualified

The Constitution lists a handful of minimum requirements for the presidency: age, citizenship status, and residency status. The drafters of the Constitution, not having foreseen the movie Idiocracy, assumed the nation's qualified electors (that means us voters, dummy) would take additional factors into account that speak to a candidate's fundamental fitness to do the job.

Things like, for example, doing due diligence in selecting essential personnel. Avoiding unforced errors like naming an unregistered foreign agent as your campaign manager. That kind of thing.
The departure also comes as Manafort is defending himself from investigations into his extensive lobbying history overseas, particularly in the Ukraine, where he represented pro-Russian interests. Manafort has been beating back reports from multiple media outlets in recent days over his ethics, which have been egged on by a Clinton campaign eager to highlight Trump's ties to the Kremlin.
In fact, Trump's critics in both parties were aware of, and pointing out, Manafort's Russian ties months ago. In characteristic Trump fashion, he made a seat-of-the-pants choice and put a man under a known ethical and legal cloud in charge of his campaign. If Trump's critics knew about it, Trump should have.

Either he didn't -- which speaks terribly of how he'll "hire the best people" -- or he did and disregarded it as an issue -- which says something else entirely about him.

Neither makes a good case for electing him President of the United States.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I Ain't Mowin' That Either

My previous choice for a banner pic didn't make autumn come early, so I've changed it now to a view of Red Canyon, south of Lander, Wyoming.

This image was taken just minutes before I posted this, (see update) via a recently placed Wyoming DOT webcam along State Route 28 in the foothills of the southern end of the Wind River Mountains. This view is a popular picture-taking spot; it's probably inevitable the highway department would find a way to get its own snapshots -- every few minutes.

Not seen on any of the WyDOT views is a suspicious piece of apparent wreckage on the slope below the highway, what looked to Mrs. McG and me last month like a mangled, rusting vehicle. I saw some spots along the slope where it might have tumbled as it fell, and they didn't look very old.

This might also have contributed to the state's decision to put cameras on this spot, to help DOT administrators spot weather conditions that would call on them to use the variable speed-limit signs posted in this vicinity.

Anyway, I'm considering updating the banner periodically as the seasons progress. I seem to recall seeing one pic taken of this scene during the winter after a snowstorm. That would be worth capturing.

Update, next day: Better quality pic on the webcam this morning, so I've updated already.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Good Ride, Cowboy

Mrs. McG and I have taken to watching rodeo on TV lately, and we've already learned to recognize names and faces of some of the top contenders.

The other night we watched a rerun of last March's RodeoHouston "Super Shootout," which features winners of eight top rodeos (including Houston's final rounds the previous night) in five of the most popular events -- bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and bull riding.

Actually most of what I've been watching is Championship Bull Riding, which is on every week and is only a few weeks old when it airs, so I've become familiar with quite a few of the top bull riders in the 2016 season.

Anyway, the first round of the Super Shootout eliminates four of each set of competitors, and in two of the events the cowboys who won last year's Cheyenne Frontier Days went into their final rounds after having scored highest (those scores don't carry over into final rounds) so they were favored in the finals. One of these was the bull riding.

As tends to be the case at most regular rodeos, the bull riding finals were the last competitive event, with the highest-scoring bull rider from the first round, Aaron Pass, riding last. So there he was in the chute, getting set for the opening of the gate, but he didn't like how he'd gotten his rope tied and had to redo it.

And one of his competitors, Sage Kimzey -- the one who'd scored highest so far in the final round and had the most to lose if Pass had a good ride -- climbs up on the chute rail and helps him tie it down. When the gate opened you could see Kimzey sitting on the rail cheering Pass on. And Pass won the night. His CFD teammate, steer wrestler Nick Guy, had also won his event.

In a really fairly short time since I've been catching rodeos on TV I've been impressed with the sportsmanship among rodeo competitors. These guys aren't raking in megabucks, they're responsible for their own equipment and for getting to their events, and they're in a dangerous sport that can and does claim lives. Yes, they get sponsorships, and many come up through the high school and college circuits where it's easy to make contacts, but money from a family-owned hardware chain with only three stores isn't going to buy a jet.

You'd think they'd be hungry, and they are -- but they're not on each other's menu. These are hard-working, good-natured, polite men and women doing what they're good at and loving it.

I'll choose the rodeo over the NFL or the NBA just any damn time.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Evolution of the Phone Bill

It does seem that cell phone plans are getting simpler these days. After Mrs. McG's mother passed away I adjusted our AT&T plan and discovered that our old rollover-minutes, unlimited text a-la-carte-features plan was horribly obsolete. We wound up with unlimited talk and text, with a shared pool of cellular data that would rollover any unused megabytes.

Since my phone was still on contract and Mrs. McG's contract had expired, our line charges were different (mine being painfully higher). The plan itself was a third line item on the bill. All in all, before taxes, fees, surcharges, assessments, etc., we were paying the phone company $105 a month for two lines.

Well, I recently bought out my AT&T contract and switched to Google Fi, using one of my two Google accounts to anchor it, and ported my AT&T number to Google Voice on the other account. Since my wife likes her iPhone and doesn't want to have to learn her way around Android, she's staying with AT&T. Without my line charge, and with a smaller pool of cellular data because I'm not drinking from the same trough anymore, the AT&T bill should be $50 lower, while I expect in a normal month with Fi's unlimited talk and text and pay-as-you-use data*, my phone bill will be barely above $20.
*This isn't how they describe it, since you pay your full anticipated data "budget" up front when service starts -- but thereafter their "credit" essentially means each month's data charge is for what you used the month before.
Technology is largely responsible for the arrival of unlimited talk on cell phone plans, but so is the evolution of use patterns. Text and data have become the growth loads on cellular networks, and while us old farts think of texting as SMS from phone number to phone number, alternatives like Apple's iMessage, Google's Hangouts, and all those social networking apps have accounted for most of texting's actual growth (Mrs. McG and I almost never use straight SMS anymore ourselves). Hence, data is what phone companies charge for.

Besides smaller phone bills, I switched to Fi because it allows me to use straight wifi for voice calling when the cell signal from one of Google's cellular "partners" -- T-Mobile, Sprint, or U.S. Cellular -- is too weak. It also means if I happen to be holding my tablet when a call comes in, I don't need to dig for my phone, I can answer it on the tablet using Hangouts. (I've done this once already, in fact.)

With AT&T I had never been happy with the voicemail system, and had been using Google Voice for voicemail on that number almost as long as I've had a smartphone. Google offered "visual" voicemail long before AT&T did, and although my AT&T contract phone was compatible with the carrier's latecoming VVM system, I was never able to get it working.

It remains to be seen whether I'll be completely satisfied with Google Fi, but so far I'm happy with the voice service over wifi; we'll see how "partner" cellular works out when the need arises. With AT&T I never used much cellular data and habitually used secure wifi whenever it was available -- and Fi allegedly protects connections over unsecured wifi with a type of VPN so now I'm more open to... open wifi. I get a better realtime picture of my data usage over cellular with Fi than I did with AT&T, which threatens to be an annoyance in new and different ways.

The real test of this service will come the next time we travel. We used a good chunk of our AT&T allotment during our Wyoming trip this summer, but I'll be paying less for data overages than the missus would.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Frabjosity

Nearly eleven months after it went on my to-do list, it's finally done: we've gotten our stuff cleared out of the rented storage unit and shelved in our own storage shed on the home acres.

We gave up on finding the time (and energy) to put the shelving together ourselves before calling in a moving crew, and arranged to have the movers do the construction as part of the move.

That was the biggest remaining item on our list of chores, and represents the end of a sizable recurring expense -- since those storage units don't come cheap. At last the shed is serving its intended purpose. Calloo, callay!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Long View

One of the things I enjoyed most during our visit to Wyoming this summer was being able to scan the horizon for distant weather. Watching thunderheads rise over a faraway mountain range was very different from how we learn of storms around here -- on radar, by mobile alert, or hearing the rumble of approaching thunder.

On the first day of the return drive Mrs. McG and I watched two clumps of cumulus clouds grow into thunderheads in western Nebraska -- one of which won the race and stole the energy that had been feeding the other. Though there was obvious rain or perhaps virga from the unusually high cloud base, we never saw any lightning during the hours we were able to observe the storm.

Back in Wyoming where we spent the bulk of our vacation, a normal part of daily life seemed to be high winds resulting from the collapse of thunderstorms that had developed over the nearby mountains. Forecasters in that area had grown wise to the ways of thunderstorm outflow and could tell with fair certainty when the gusts would reach town and when they would subside. On July 4 high winds in the afternoon had made us wonder whether the planned fireworks shows in various towns might have to be canceled, but by dark everything had calmed down and the shows went off without a hitch -- though the surprisingly well-attended little show we went to took a worrisome long time to start.

Can't wait to go back.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Thoughts My Brain Made, 47

The validity of a given religion may be determined in part by whether it changes the pre-existing culture, or reinforces it. I believe Christianity, with its God of grace and forgiveness, has tended to change the cultures that embraced it (consider ancient Rome or the tribes of northern and western Europe, including my own Celts); I believe Islam, with its message of force and vengeance, has tended to reinforce them.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

It's Tempting, Though It Wouldn't Stop Trump

First, see this and subsequent tweets (just scroll down).

Now, one option is to write in my most preferred candidate -- assuming Georgia's voting machines provide the option. I suspect they won't.

Next is to vote for a ticket that's on the ballot that's most closely aligned with my views. There really isn't any such ticket, especially if the Constitution Party's effort fails.

Finally, there's strategic voting, which depends for its effectiveness on everyone else who dislikes the felon and the orangutan voting the same way -- or at least, enough of them.

The idea is to deny either ticket the required 270 Electoral Votes, which would throw the election to the House. Which will put Trump in the White House, unfortunately. But...

It would be the Beltway GOP establishment's fingerprints all over that outcome, not the voters'; the fact Trump couldn't win at the ballot box would be obvious to everyone. Maybe, just maybe, it would abash the Beltwayites to have to drag the orangutan across the finish line in front of the disapproving eyes of the Lamestream Media. Much would depend on how many normally red states rejected the Trump ticket because of these protest votes.

This is why today on Twitter,

It may be as bad a ticket as the Idiocrats and the Retrumplicans have foisted on the country, but we wouldn't be trying to elect them -- and even if somehow we did, it still wouldn't be any worse than electing Trump or Clinton, while emphasizing the message to the GOPe even more.

I'm not saying this is what I'll do, but I'll be giving it some very serious thought over the next three and a half months. I'd suggest you do the same.

Update, the very next day: Damn. Between the revelations in the Wikileaks hack, and the implications that strengthen the claim of a Trump-Putin connection, I am now saying this is what I'll do. I'm even at the point where I actually would like to see the Johnson-Weld ticket win. At least the Libertarians appear to be controlled by Americans, rather than Iranians or Russians.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thoughts My Brain Made, 46

This Isn't What They Mean by That

Been wondering why I sometimes wake up with dry eyes that can't focus properly without eyedrops, but this morning I think I found out.

Apparently I've sometimes been sleeping with my eyes, or at least one eye, open (insert cowboy-in-Indian-country joke here), and this morning it happened while I was dreaming. So I dreamed I was awake, in my bedroom, but unable to see anything except what I, still asleep in bed, happened to be looking at.

When you blink and move your eyes, and your head, and even sit up and try to get out of bed, but all you can see is the slightly tilted image of your bedside lamp, you begin to think something might be wrong.

Oh, and what "woke" me in my dream was a loud, repetitive whump that I couldn't locate, and which didn't change in intensity no matter what I did -- but it was my disobedient eyes that eventually drew my full attention. I'd actually forgotten the noise until it stopped. When I woke up for real, still looking at my bedside lamp. And when I looked away from my lamp then, I saw... things other than my lamp! It was a miracle!

This was another of those "sleep paralysis" dreams I've been having on rare occasions throughout my adult life. I'd long since realized they were merely dreams, and now I suspect they happen because my eyes open in that particular sleep state. Most previous occasions it's been in the deep darkness of late night or much earlier morning, but if, say, my eyes in that sleep state are hugely dilated, that could explain why the things I remember seeing during such a dream didn't look as unlit as they did once I came full awake.

Also, since subjective time in a dream is different from waking time, my eyes may have been stiller and thus getting a longer exposure, creating an illusion of more light in the room.

So anyway, as soon as I realized that my eyes felt all scratchy again, I reached for the eyedrops and there was, once again, not a dry eye in the house.

Oh, and the noise? Just my heartbeat.