Wednesday, August 31, 2005- - -
An Elderly Instrument finds a new home!
I really like these hard shell cases from Elderly Instruments. Manufactured in Canada by TKL, it's very sturdy, heavily padded, and fits quite tightly to provide excellent protection for ol' Maynard. Elderly sells these on the internet for about half the suggested retail, perhaps accounting for the fact that you won't find them mentioned by brand name at their web site. (Ps. Elderly calls them "Canadian" cases.)
The little gadget attached to the strings between the bridge and tailpiece is a "Weber Wood Nymph", a harmonic suppressor designed to stop the strings between the bridge and tailpiece from vibrating. It's a bit tricky to attach and has a tendency to launch itself across the room if you don't get it on securely, but once properly installed it makes a noticeable difference in the sound of the instrument. After the heavy felt on the back is worn down a bit I think it will be easier to install.
Finally, I installed a new tailpiece and strap buttons. This one is made of fairly light gauge stamped brass and was remarkably cheap ($10.50). Still, it beats hell out of the two-piece stamped tin outfit that was original issue. With the old one it took three hands to hook a string on the tailpiece and then keep it there while you wound the other end onto the tuner. With this one you thread the string under the top cover, hook it on the little hook, and then pull it tight, where it stays quite nicely while you thread the other end on the tuner and wind it up.
It took a bit of gentle bending with a padded plier to fit the attachment area of the tailpiece to the curve of the mandolin, and a bit more bending to align the cover to the strings. This was an easy operation and a bit of fitting is understandable with a 'one size fits all' unit. You're supposed to attach the strap button in the circular hole in the tailpiece, but Maynard had a hole below the tailpiece where the old strap button was attached. I chose to attach the new button in the same place just to hide the hole.
Of course he's a horny toad, that's a face only a mother could love.
One of our more endearing wild critters, he's been called a horned toad and a horned frog, but he's neither, he's a lizard. They eat nothing but ants and, as far as I know, nothing eats them, which probably accounts for their passivity when they're captured. It was a cool morning and this one was quite content to soak up the warmth from my thumb. A cute little varmint.
Monday, August 29, 2005- - -
The View from My Office
Okay, perhaps I take an over-expansive view of 'office'. An interesting post at the InstaPundit's on the Rural Renaissance that could be -should be -- happening with modern telecommuting. People have been leaving rural America for the cities in search of jobs at least since the 1930's; this might well reverse the flow.
Consider that the most expensive house I've seen on the market in little ol' Worland, Wyo., was about $150,000, on a five acre lot -- seriously -- and the traffic is pretty well non-existent. Worland would be a particularly good choice thanks to the good folks at RT Communications, who have put a lot of effort into bringing us "from the horse drawn plow days of dial-up" to world-class high speed connections over their fiber optic network.
Okay, there is a downside: There's no Gap. Power shopping in Worland will keep you busy for at least 15 minutes. But the essentials of life are available, and if you're telecommuting you probably know how to use the internet, eh? Consider the UPS lady your personal friend. Also, it's true, we do occasionally have a bear wander into town, and a mountain lion did make off with a couple of goats a year or two ago. On the other hand, there's no muggers or other violent criminals to speak of, and I dare say they're more of a danger than bears or lions. Also, a little urban training will serve you well: You avoid bears and lions the same way you avoid muggers -- be very wary when you enter their habitat.
Rural life is not for everyone. There's no opera or big-name band concerts, little in the way of events that doesn't involve horses, bucking bulls, and/or tractors, and there's no major league sports teams. We've even gotten desperate enough to take in high school football and Legion baseball games, which actually turned out to be darn entertaining by the way.
Saturday, August 27, 2005- - -
An appropriate name for a mandolin, don't you think? Especially one as funky-looking as this, with those two asymmetrical points and multiply pierced f-holes.
Actually, Maynard is my dad, and this is his mandolin, given to me when his hands got too crippled from arthritis to play. I've been playing with Maynard ever since I sat on it and broke the neck off when I was about two. Probably the best sound I ever got out of it. Dad reattached the neck good as new and I have refrained from sitting on it since.
Maynard is an old Montgomery Ward mail-order instrument, manufactured by Kay, and is roughly 50-60 years old. Here you see it in its original, much worn pasteboard case, complete with the western style strap my dad made years ago. Since I dug Maynard out of the closet a couple of weeks back I've moved it into a nice new hard shell case, so it's looking much more "up town". A decent case was much needed, both because the old one was falling apart, and to insure Maynard's survival on the road.
While Maynard is no Gibson, and isn't even one of the high-end models from Kay, it's interesting that it was made with some pretty good quality wood: A spruce top, quilted maple on the back, and what musical instrument makers refer to as 'flamed' or 'curly' maple sides and neck. Oddly, everyone else in woodworking refers to this as 'fiddleback', presumably because of its extensive use in musical instruments. What's most interesting about Maynard's materials is that nowadays, mahogany is used as a less expensive alternative to maple for bodies and necks, while ebony and other exotic woods are commonly used for peghead veneers and other fancy trim. Back when Maynard was made I suspect that maple was the cheaper wood and mahogany was considered exotic, as Maynard has a fancy mahogany peghead veneer. At any rate, maple is still the wood of choice for the back, sides, and neck of mandolins, and Maynard sounds pretty darn good with a new set of strings.
I've really gotten into playing the mandolin and guitar in the evening while we're traveling -- it beats watching TV -- and I want a new, good-quality mandolin, but in looking into what's available, and learning more about mandolins, I've learned that I have a good deal to learn. That means I'll be shopping around for quite awhile. Considering what a good mandolin costs, I've decided to break out Maynard and play it while I shop. At first I was looking at a Michael Kelly, but decided there's no point in buying another mail-order mandolin that won't improve much, if at all, on Maynard. Currently I'm leaning toward one of the offerings from Sound to Earth, but I'll be saving my pennies for quite awhile to afford one of theirs. They are gorgeous and Weber is recognized as one of the best luthiers in the business. That they're made just up the road in Logan, Montana is another plus.
As I noted, Maynard still sounds pretty darn good, when you can get it tuned, and if you can manage to install new strings. Maynard's tuners are about shot, and it has a funky old two-piece stamped tin tailpiece that is a real pain to deal with. So there's nothing to be done but replace the tuners -- which aren't original anyway -- and I decided to replace the old tailpiece while I'm at it. And I'll install real musical instrument strap buttons to replace the old harness snaps dad used to install the strap. It will be easy enough to modify the strap to take strap buttons, so I'll be able to retain the great old strap -- it wouldn't be 'Maynard' without that!
Thursday, August 25, 2005- - -
Well, that was fast..
Jaime Hanna and Jonathan McEuen have a web site, and they'll be touring, starting in September. I'm looking to see which is closer, Denver, or South Jordan, Utah (I think I can already guess which venue would be more entertaining, those Mormons really know how to have a good time).
Why so many musical posts? I suppose it's because that's about the only thing I've been doing besides work and blogging. Trust me, being an archaeologist may sound exotic and exciting, but in real life it's about as entertaining as being a CPA -- you wouldn't believe the paperwork. And blogging about blogging? How much naval gazing can you stand?
Stay tuned for more musical blogging too! That's Maynard's funky-looking f-hole to the side. I dug Maynard out of the closet last time I was home and I've been getting him fixed up to play. He's quite a character and has a story to tell.
This is my brain without caffeine
Yea Gods! I got to thinking about this post while I was gassing up -- $2.80 a gallon in Craig -- and it occurred to me that my math wasn't so shiny here. In my defense I'll point out that I wrote this post before 5 am, when my brain wasn't sufficiently caffeinated. To paraphrase the great Doctor: 'Caffeine. I wouldn't advocate it, but it's always worked for me'.
Bad news: We're ignorant serfs
Catching up on my reading, I've come across an interesting article on the news media by Richard Posner, featured on the front page of the July 31st, New York Times Book Review. Oddly enough, it's one of those few articles that the NYTimes leaves accessible without an archives fee, so it's still available, and it's worth the look just for the on-line version's photos of James Carville, coiled and ready to bite, and Rush Limbaugh doing an oddly appropriate Al Capone imitation. The article is mostly a standard thumbsucker on the sorry state of affairs in journalism today, but Posner makes a couple of astonishing assertions along the way.
First, a rather odd observation on bloggers:
"How can the conventional news media hope to compete? Especially when the competition is not entirely fair. The bloggers are parasitical on the conventional media. They copy the news and opinion generated by the conventional media, often at considerable expense, without picking up any of the tab. The degree of parasitism is striking in the case of those blogs that provide their readers with links to newspaper articles. The links enable the audience to read the articles without buying the newspaper. The legitimate gripe of the conventional media is not that bloggers undermine the overall accuracy of news reporting, but that they are free riders who may in the long run undermine the ability of the conventional media to finance the very reporting on which bloggers depend."
I'm sure the InstaPundit will be pleased to know that he's considered to be the king of the parasites. [Or are parasites like ants, which would make him our Queen?] Links to newspaper articles allow them to be read without buying the paper? Well sure, but it seems there's an obvious solution: Don't put your articles on line if you feel that way! That would certainly seem to be the sentiment at the Northern Wyoming Daily News, which only puts snippets of their content on line, to the point of making me wonder why they bother to have a web site. What is Posner saying here, that the newspapers who put their content on line don't actually want people to read what they've posted? As for financing the operation, hasn't Posner noticed that sometimes close to 50% of your screen view on news web sites is advertising? I suppose the media don't want us to read that stuff either. Parasites. Yep, that we are. How bizarre.
And we're 'unfiltered' too:
"... But probably there is little harm and some good in unfiltered media. They enable unorthodox views to get a hearing. They get 12 million people to write rather than just stare passively at a screen. In an age of specialization and professionalism, they give amateurs a platform. They allow people to blow off steam who might otherwise adopt more dangerous forms of self-expression. They even enable the authorities to keep tabs on potential troublemakers; intelligence and law enforcement agencies devote substantial resources to monitoring blogs and Internet chat rooms."
At this point I'd like to say "Hi guys! Dropped your gun on your foot lately?" I guess we can all be grateful that folks like me are blogging, god knows I'd be dangerous otherwise. A potential troublemaker, that's me. But perhaps Posner is speaking for himself here, he's a blogger too. Who knows? Perhaps we should be grateful that he has an outlet that helps him avoid 'dangerous forms of self-expression'. [/sarcasm]
So why is the public's confidence in the media declining?
"But probably the biggest reason for declining trust in the media is polarization. As media companies are pushed closer to one end of the political spectrum or the other, the trust placed in them erodes. Their motives are assumed to be political. This may explain recent Pew Research Center poll data that show Republicans increasingly regarding the media as too critical of the government and Democrats increasingly regarding them as not critical enough."
Hmm.. I bet if you'd run that poll back in 1997 it would have been the Democrats who thought the media were too critical and the Republicans who thought them not critical enough. Couldn't have anything to do with the change of administrations and hence, who's being criticised. A very dull razor you've got there, Occam.
Finally, there's a thread running though this article that's just a little scary considering that Posner is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School:
"But increased competition has not produced a public more oriented toward public issues, more motivated and competent to engage in genuine self-government, because these are not the goods that most people are seeking from the news media. They are seeking entertainment, confirmation, reinforcement, emotional satisfaction; and what consumers want, a competitive market supplies, no more, no less. Journalists express dismay that bottom-line pressures are reducing the quality of news coverage. What this actually means is that when competition is intense, providers of a service are forced to give the consumer what he or she wants, not what they, as proud professionals, think the consumer should want, or more bluntly, what they want.
"Yet what of the sliver of the public that does have a serious interest in policy issues? Are these people less well served than in the old days? Another recent survey by the Pew Research Center finds that serious magazines have held their own and that serious broadcast outlets, including that bane of the right, National Public Radio, are attracting ever larger audiences. And for that sliver of a sliver that invites challenges to its biases by reading The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, that watches CNN and Fox, that reads Brent Bozell and Eric Alterman and everything in between, the increased polarization of the media provides a richer fare than ever before."
How very nice that Posner puts me in that sliver of a sliver, the ultra-elite of news consumers who read the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal, etc. Nice to think that I'm one of those very few who's actually competent to 'engage in self-government'. It's also complete bosh, as he proceeds to note that hard news outlets are doing very well. How could this be if only a tiny sliver of the population is interested in their fare?
Throughout this article Posner makes the case that most of the American public isn't interested in hard news and current issues, and twice makes the assertion that only a public so informed is capable of self-government. This guy teaches law at the very prestigious University of Chicago. Do you suppose that he's teaching his students that most Americans are too ignorant to be capable of self-government? Given their elite education, what are the chances that these students will one day find themselves in positions of power and influence, in and out of government? In such positions, will they conduct themselves with a reverence for democracy and open government responsible to the people? Or, will they conduct themselves with the disdain for public opinion that would seem to follow from the view that the public is an ignorant mass of manure-footed serfs? I'll grant you I make much of a few passages in a seven page article, but I find this attitude dismaying at the least. Somehow, I also find it unsurprising.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005- - -
Fresh from Woody Creek
In the 'not exactly breaking news' category, my wife got a postcard from Jimmy Ibbotson a couple of weeks ago, announcing the availability of his new album Daylight. Ibby's her favorite of the Nitty Gritty regulars and she dashed off the $20 immediately. It doesn't appear to be available on the internet through any of the usual outlets like Amazon.com, but if you order one direct from Unami Records, P.O. Box 49, Woody Creek, CO 81656, it might even show up autographed (at least my wife's copies of Intent on Contentment and Women & Waves were..).
We wondered why Ibbotson wasn't there at Steamboat, but perusing a website put up by the Friends of Jimmy Ibbotson ("ibbiots.com" -- Hmm..), I find "Oh yeah. And I retired from the grueling life of the road musician. It works when you’re 30, but not when you’re 60. This is a time for getting up early and waiting for Daylight." I can relate to that -- the getting up early and waiting for Daylight parts, and the constant travel part too. We were actually quite surprised to find that the rest of Nitty Gritty were still performing on the road. That has got to be a hideous grind after awhile. We've certainly been to plenty of concerts where it was apparent that the band was there for the bucks and/or promoting their latest album (also for the bucks), and couldn't wait to get off the stage. It usually shows in the performance. That wasn't the case in Steamboat, where the concert was quite good, but I've got to wonder how -- and why -- they do it.
Ps. I should note that we're waiting for Daylight. because we had it sent to our home in Worland, Wyo., and we're still slaving in the oil patch down here in Craig, Colorado. Someone has to keep the lights on in California. However, far be it from us to reap any of those gross profits that $3 a gallon gas is bringing. Oh heavens no! We work for hippie wages! Yes we do! HeHeHeh.
PPs. From the "it pays to read your spam because sometimes it isn't" department, a note from a reader:
"Dear Mild Mannered Archaeologist Blogger,
"I have read many of your recent blogs, and have decided that I need to delve deeper into the past, since I enjoy them more than I have a right to.
I am writing to ask a favor of you, since it involves one of your recent blogs and details. Jimmy Ibbotson. Ibbiots, as we and he are commonly referred to at times, or rather the site ibbiots.com itself, has been moved. Currently, anyone clicking on the link you have will be automatically transported to the updated site, which is www.jimmyibbotson.com. Would you mind changing the link within your paragraph to take people to the new and improved pages?
"Also, we noticed that you send people to the MSN groups site for info on the new release 'Daylight'. If you also send them to www.jimmyibbotson.com/music.htm, they can then hear a sample of every song on the CD, FREE! No charge to listen at all !!! AND, they can also learn how they, too, can own their very own copy, sent by Ibby complete with the usual autograph and sometimes hand-drawn artwork of the new UNAMI logo.
"I thank you kindly, in advance, for whatever changes you see fit to make with the links.
"Sincerely, and most certainly half-insane for even attempting to convince Ibby that the site 10 out of 10 people prefer is www.jimmyibbotson.com,"
Webwhatever of The Unparalleled Universe of Jimmy Ibbotson,and others...
Glad to oblige. We haven't made it home yet, so we haven't heard the new Daylight CD. We'll have to check out the on-line music, as I can't wait to find out if it has a live version of the Skunk Song ;)
Monday, August 22, 2005- - -
She likes it!
In less depressing musical news, my mother-in-law has received her copy of Hanna-McEuen, the debute album of the sons of Nitty Gritty's Jeff Hanna and John McEuen, and says she likes it a lot. But then her favorite artist is Eric Clapton, so what does she know?
We saw their performance on the Tonight Show last Thursday and heard a cut from the album being played over the local radio in Steamboat Springs yesterday. It's nice to see that they're getting well launched. Although I ordered our copy of the album the same time I ordered the MIL's, it hasn't arrived yet -- we're waiting impatiently.
Ps. Farther Along, I note that Amazon.com's sales rank puts Hanna-McEuen at #212 in music this morning.
"The King of Hillbilly Jazz"
Via Hit and Run, I learn that the Circle has become a little smaller: Bluegrass fiddler Vassar Clements has died. In the documentary material included with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Farther Along DVD they talk about Clement's appearance on their first Circle album (1972), which put him at center stage for the first time in his career, a position he found he liked. According to his obit at Billboard.com: "He signed his first major label record deal in 1973 with Mercury/Polygram. He went on to record 27 albums exploring country, swing and developing a unique sound that earned him the title "The King of Hillbilly Jazz.""
Personally, I like Roy Acuff's comment on the 'Dixie Metal'/'Folk Rock'/North Dakota Surfer Music' genre dissection thing (also from the Farther Along DVD: "That ain't nothin' but good old country music." Whatever you call it, Clements was very good at it and he'll be missed.
Saturday, August 20, 2005- - -
Eat or be eaten...
The InstaPundit links to Ann Althouse's link to an article on "Pleistocene Re-wilding", one of the nuttier ideas I've heard lately: Introduce African elephants and lions to North America to replace the mammoth and smilodon. One can only wonder what they'd suggest as a replacement for the short-faced bear and giant ground sloth. At any rate, the InstaPundit opines that he's not excited about being prey. Of course, my first thought: 'Wouldn't there be a gentlemen's agreement like the one with sharks?' And since that shoots my chances of ever receiving another link from that direction, I'd might as well pass on a really bad old joke that immediately sprang to mind:
Eaten by a bear
A certain lawyer was quite wealthy and had a summer house in the country, to which he retreated for several weeks of the year. Each summer, the lawyer would invite a different friend of his to spend a week or two up at this place, which happened to be in a backwoods section of Maine.
On one particular occasion, he invited a Czechoslovakian friend to stay with him. The friend, eager to get a freebie off a lawyer, agreed. Well, they had a splendid time in the country, rising early and living in the great outdoors.
Early one morning, the lawyer and his Czechoslovakian companion went out to pick berries for their morning breakfast. As they went around the berry patch, gathering blueberries and raspberries in tremendous quantities, along came two huge bears, a male and a female.
The lawyer, seeing the two bears, immediately dashed for cover. His friend, though, wasn't so lucky, and the male bear reached him and swallowed him whole.
The lawyer ran back to his Mercedes, tore into town as fast has he could, and got the local backwoods sheriff. The sheriff grabbed his shotgun and dashed back to the berry patch with the lawyer. Sure enough, the two bears were still there.
"He's in 'that one!" cried the lawyer, pointing to the male, while visions of lawsuits from his friend's family danced in his head.
He just had to save his friend. The sheriff looked at the bears, and without batting an eye, levelled his gun, took careful aim, and shot the female.
"Whatdya do that for!" exclaimed the lawyer, "I said he was in the other!"
"Exactly," replied the sheriff, "and would you believe a lawyer who told you that the Czech was in the male?"
Ps. The InstaPundit also links to an article he wrote a couple years ago about predators, two- and four-legged, and the Pollyanna attitudes some take to the threat. Well worth the read.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005- - -
Things that make you go Hmmm...
Now that I think about it, sometimes posting on Blogger is an act of autoeroticism. Everything I've written this morning has disappeared into LaLa land (where it's probably doing a tango with Al Gore's brain). Ah well, it usually reappears in an hour or two.
A cosmic particle the size of a pollen grain that weighs several tons and strikes the earth at one million mph with the force of several thousand tons of TNT? Let's hope they don't come in XXL.
H/T: InstaPundit (Of course. In my limited time you thought I'd be reading Onan the Historian?)
Ps. The spousal geologist says it's strange we haven't found any geological evidence of these critters. If one strikes the earth every year, on average, and creates a tiny crater, there ought to be quite a few rocks with evidence of their paths.
Hey! Can I still be an Academic Autoeroticist?
Via the InstaPundit, Tim Blair dubs Chris Sheil "Onan the Historian". But I ask you: Purely on the merits, which is the greater act of academic masturbation, blogging about Australian politics, or blogging about rusty tin cans?
Okay, don't answer that. The cans might be hollow and rusty now, but at least they once had useful contents... On reading the comments and rejoinders to Blair's post, I concede. Blair has it nailed.
Monday, August 15, 2005- - -
It looks like a relapse
I'm probably the last person on earth to see this, but it's still funny. In case you can't make it out, the boat's name is "Temporary Insanity II." I'm with all the other folks who've wondered what happened to the first "Temporary Insanity."
Ps. In the process of Googling to see if I could find out where this photo came from, I stumbled across the US Navy's Naval Safety Center photos of the week. Sort of a photographic Darwin Award site, well worth checking out.
PPs. Gives a whole new meaning to 'flame wars'.
Dangerously close to educational...
Last month I wrote about Hole-and-cap cans, one of the more interesting bits of historic litter we find laying about in the desert. Here's another interesting bit of historic trivia, the 'solder dot' or 'matchstick filler' can.
Both hole-and-cap and solder dot cans are known generically as 'hole-in-top' cans, and both share the feature of a central vent hole that was sealed with a drop of solder while the can and contents were at canning temperature. However, the solder dot can lacks the larger filler cap of a hole-and-cap can (an embossed ring gives the appearance of a filler cap on this example).
Solder dot cans held condensed or evaporated milk, which was injected into the can through the vent hole. Thus, no larger opening was required for filling. Oddly enough, earlier condensed milk cans did have a filler cap about 7/8" in diameter, which seems to have been an unnecessary complication in the manufacturing process that later disappeared.
As with hole-and-cap cans, solder dot cans lack the pronounced lip around the lid that our modern 'sanitary' cans have, and there's no purchase for the triangular, levered punch we sometimes still use to open cans with liquid contents. Rather, these cans were usually opened by punching the lid with the tip of a knife or an ice pick.
We particularly enjoy finding this variant of solder dot cans, which included convenient opening instructions. And this guy even followed directions, hitting the little raised circle between the "PUNCH" and "HERE". That was as unusual back then as it is now.
Even though the modern sanitary can manufacturing process was pretty much perfected around 1900, solder dot cans persisted until the 1960's in the US, and perhaps even later elsewhere. Apparently, opening instructions were quickly deemed superfluous though, the PUNCH HERE cans were only manufactured in the mid-1930's.
This is my chair. Do you hear me? Mine!
Funny, Fred never had any interest in this chair when it was old and ratty. Now that it's newly reupholstered, it's his favorite spot.
Sunday, August 14, 2005- - -
Ann Althouse (InstaAnn?) complains about those annoying and frankly insulting 'pirating is stealing!' leaders on DVDs. I've wondered what point there was to this, as those who pirate DVDs, and their customers who buy the pirated disks, aren't likely to be left shaking in their boots at the bogus warning. As if the FBI actually gave a shit or could do something about DVD pirates in China. One can only hope that the FBI has better things to do. In a way, putting these leaders on DVDs is like leaving your Beemer in the ghetto with the keys in the ignition and a "Please don't steal this car!" sign. The honest folks wouldn't steal it anyway, and the dishonest ones don't care about your silly warning. If anything, the warnings make me want to buy a pirated version that skips that nonsense and gets on with the show.
Music CDs are probably copied and distributed far more often than DVDs (I haven't searched for any statistics on this and can't imagine they'd be very accurate anyway), yet they don't start with stern warnings. I wonder if that isn't a conscious decision by their producers to avoid looking like jerks in the eyes of their customers? Unfortunately, the DVD manufacturers appear to have lost their little bag of clues.
A good time was had by all!
It was a musical mini-extravaganza in Steamboat Springs, where neither the rain nor the backup band dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd. Our underwear yes, but not our enthusiasm. The venue was Howelsen Hill, "the largest and most complete natural ski jumping complex in North America" and site of the 2002 Olympic ski jumping events.
Here's what the hill looked like yesterday afternoon. Now seriously, a sport that crazy had to have been invented by Norwegians. I've done things like that, but only by accident. Just to make sure the landing area is hard enough, they're pouring a nice thick sheet of concrete on the hillside, which accounts for the bare dirt behind the stage and in the audience area. When the wind came up for a minute everyone's nitty got a little gritty. Luckily, the wind died down again and the show went on.
Here we have them, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with Bob Carpenter on keyboards, John McEuen trying mightily to saw a fiddle in half, Jeff Hanna playing an electric [gasp!] guitar, and Jimmie Fadden on drums. My wife was most disappointed that her favorite Jimmy Ibbotson wasn't there, but the band does expand and contract a bit, with Hanna and Fadden being the only constants over the years.
Jeff Hanna did break out the beautiful new Gibson Super Jumbo that you see leaning by the keyboards. Unfortunately, Carpenter must have left the accordion at home. I suppose that electric instruments are a bit easier to deal with on the road, given the gremlins that infest the local sound systems, and the tiny stages likely to be available. McEuen's banjo was the only instrument that wasn't plugged into the wall, which came in handy when the lightning moved in and moisture took down part of the PA system. While the techies worked to get the sound system back together and the rest of the band fled lest they get fried by a stray bolt of lightning seeking one of those electrified instruments, McEuen made sure the show did go on, playing Soldier's Joy and sharing a few jokes with the audience. It's said that mothers used to warn their daughters about banjo players, but perhaps that's a bit of a bad rap, because lightning never seems to strike them. The rain let up in a few minutes and audio was restored, allowing the rest of the group to return and finish the set.
They played a good selection of favorites, mostly from the third Circle album, including My Walkin' Shoes, Roll the Stone Away, and Return to Dismal Swamp, which McEuen says he wrote as a love song. I know a lot of people with that sort of love life.
Incidentally, McEuen also announced that Jaime Hanna and Jonathan McEuen, sons of Jeff and John, are releasing their first album this Tuesday, August 16th, and will appear on the Tonight Show Thursday, the 18th. That's a little past my bedtime, but I'll make an exception in this case. If the rest of the album is anything like their performance of The Lowlands on the Farther Along DVD it's sure to be excellent. Of course, any pair of young punks trying to break into the music business could do worse than having Nitty Gritty as a backup band. Despite their exceptional talents, we've got to figure their parenting had something to do with making an appearance on Jay Leno's show two days after releasing their first album.
Just as the band finished their set the rain started coming down seriously, with lightning getting too close for comfort. The enthusiasm of the crowd was undampened and no one was dashing for the parking lot until the promoters announced that they were forced to shut down the concert due to the obvious danger -- which turned out to be as much a danger of drowning as lightning strikes, it did come down in buckets. No encore! A well, better luck next time.
Saturday, August 13, 2005- - -
Red Canyon, farther along(Click on this photo for a painfully scenic closeup!)
Here's another choice bit of scenery, sandstone and junipers, visible in the distance at the center of this photo.
(Good lord, now I remember why we had the carpets and flooring replaced in the 5th wheel).
Lootum & Runn
Would you invest in the unfortunately named Alibaba.com? Makes me wonder if they have 40 members on their board of directors.
Friday, August 12, 2005- - -
Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.
Michael Totten, posting for the InstaPundit, links to a very interesting post and discussion of the drug war by Rusty Shackleford at The Jawa Report. There's a good deal of interesting insight to be gleaned from the comments. Particularly, I think that the considerable volume of illogic and hysteria on both sides of the issue contribute to its intractability. On one hand you've got: 'Oh my god! If you legalize drugs there'll be criminals selling drugs on every street corner!' On the other: 'Legalize drugs and you'll eliminate all the problems because they're due to prohibition, not drugs!' Neither of these views stands up to much scrutiny, but there certainly seem to be plenty of people who make such black v. white arguments.
I find Shackleford's observation on political ideologies interesting:
"I like drugs, but not guns: I'm a Democrat.
I like drugs and guns: I'm a Libertarian.
I don't like drugs, but I like guns: I'm a Republican."
I think you've got to consider sex and rock & roll in the equation though:
I like sex, drugs, and rock & roll, but not guns: I'm a garden variety urban libertine.
I like guns, but not sex, drugs, or rock & roll: I'm a right wing fundamentalist.
And so on.
The permutations could be endless if you throw in hot cars and cold beer. If you like all of these things you're probably a garden variety Red Neck. If you don't like any of these things, well, you're just no fun at all, are you?
Oops! I hit the 'Publish' button instead of the 'Preview' button before I could spell check. Interesting that Blogger's spell checker suggests 'instability' as a substitute for 'InstaPundit'.
Ps. That didn't take long. Here's a graphic example of the sort of damage that can be done by legal drugs. Passed on by our favorite Montana State Trooper.
PPs. Reading See-Dub's post on The Libertarian Case for Drug Control, also at The Jawa Report, I find the oft-repeated argument that legalizing more drugs would lead to a saving in the cost of law enforcement, an argument that makes sense only if we ignore the natural tendency of bureaucracies to grow and perpetuate themselves. My mental response to this argument is always "Oh yeah? What would they find to bedevil us with if not for the drug war?" I also find See-Dub's argument -- 'drug addiction is a form of slavery and we must save people from slavery' -- pretty unpersuasive. This begs for the 'saving people from the evils of drugs by subjecting them to the evils of jail' rejoinder.
PPP whatever... Desert Cat posts at Jeff Goldstein's on this argument: "If what I’ve heard is correct, being stoned tends to make one *more* careful behind the wheel, rather than less careful, as alcohol does."
Hmm.. yes. That guy going down the interstate 35 mph? Unless he's really old... And shouldn't that be "Dessert Cat"? Jeff did discuss the probable origins of the Jello Pudding Cup. Allow me to add powdered sugar donuts. Blame those on caffeine.
All joking aside, Desert Cat has a good point though: The war on drugs doesn't appear to have had any material effect on the availability of drugs -- other than perhaps to make them more potent -- but it sure has increased the power and reach of the state. Whether that would have happened without the WOD is another question.
Thursday, August 11, 2005- - -
Middle Class, indeed
I went over to AirAmerica's web site expecting to find a ringing editorial rebuke, or at least a little outrage from the reverends Jackson and Sharpton, at the recent revelation that a charity for poor children has been bilked of hundreds of thousands by a greedy corporation. Oddly, I didn't find what I sought.
I did find something else very interesting though. It appears that Jerry Springer's radio show is being touted as "the Voice of the Middle Class". Apparently in all seriousness. So the decidedly lowbrow Springer, whose TV program specializes in fat chicks tearing off each others' cloths, is now the "Voice of the Middle Class"? Do you suppose he's really raised his standards? Somehow I doubt it, although fat chicks tearing at each other can't be nearly as entertaining on radio. (Springer does manage to work some "blocky computer breasts" into the discussion on his radio program web site.) I think this says more about what AirAmerika thinks of the Middle Class than it says about the Middle Class.
Ps. Okay, that's bloody funny. I bet some people are going to think that the photo of Al Franken holding the "Will Work For Cash Earmarked for Charity" sign is photoshopped.
PPs. Aha! Both the Frankenphoto and this one of an AirAmerica bell ringer originated at IMAO. So we know it's legit!
Vulgar displays of consumerism
InstaMegan links to a very interesting article on oil prices at the Economist that makes a good point: Although gas prices are high, when you adjust for inflation they're not nearly as high as they have been. There's another consideration too, that gas prices are relative to the other expenses in our lives. Consider our case: Even our little gas guzzler gets 20 miles per gallon. We drive around 150-200 miles a day when we're working. So, at $2.50/gallon, a day's driving costs us about $12.50 -- that's cheaper than parking the darn thing for the day in some places!
Thus, I wonder at the Economist's assertion that higher prices will drive us energy gluttons out of our SUVs and into something more energy efficient (Ford didn't miss a bet though, including a banner ad for their new hybrids as a footer to the article). The really low-hanging efficiency fruit have been picked, I believe. For sure, those inflation-adjusted all time high gas prices back in the mid-70's caused me to park the old 8 mpg International Travelall. So what would I gain by switching to one of Ford's new hybrid SUVs? Why I could drive '400 to 500 miles on a tank of gas'! Assuming a 20 gallon tank, that's about 20-25 mpg! Only slightly better than the mileage I get now. And I don't even want to guess what one of those little beasts cost. If the vehicle costs twice as much, it would take a long time to recover the difference by saving a buck a day at the pump. Given their higher costs and greater demand for materials, I suspect that hybrids are really vulgar displays of one's environmental consciousness, rather than any real contribution to the country's energy efficiency. I must try one out!
Wednesday, August 10, 2005- - -
That will be a bit more difficult
Via Ann Althouse, blogging for the InstaPundit, the spelling errors on the infamous Livermore ejucational mural have been corrected. And it only cost them another $6000, plus travel expenses.
That's going to be a bit more difficult in this case. The little monument in Worland, Wyo's Pioneer Square has several misspellings, all carved in granite. Our tax dollars at work.
Hmm.. the link to the Pioneer Square web cam isn't working as I post this. Here's a view from across the street, looking at our main intersection. Look at all that traffic! (The first time I ever came to Worland there was a dog laying in the middle of the street. Just taking a little rest.) Worland is a very nice place to be, and the education system is a lot better than our little monument would make it appear.
Ps. If you check out mainstreet cam at about 5 minutes 'til 8 am, you can catch 'rush minute'!
Tuesday, August 09, 2005- - -
Drunks against Mad Mothers!
This piece at Hit & Run reminded me of a post I read at Modern Drunkard Magazine on the antics of the Fairfax, VA PD.
Unfortunately, Fairfax isn't an aberration: A friend of mine spent the night in jail a few years back for the crime of being a responsible citizen. He decided to walk home after having three or four beers -- didn't want to be arrested for 'Driving While Indian' -- and was rewarded by being arrested for public intoxication (WWI?). If he hadn't found religion and quit drinking you can bet he'd be driving home!
Megan McArdle has an interesting comment on the absurd proliferation of passwords that is, I think, spot on. Some of this simply makes no sense.
Take the New York Post as an example. Before you can read their online edition -- and be bombarded by all the marginal ads and popups that pay for all the ink and paper your readership costs them -- you've got to sign in. As a new reader, you enter your email address and create a password. But Wait! That's not enough. As an extra security measure they respond by emailing you with a link to a web page you must log onto to confirm your registration.
Someone linked an article that sounded interesting at the NYPost back last week and I followed the link only to run afoul of their registration system. I still haven't gotten around to following up on the rigamarol by confirming my registration. You've got to wonder how many other potential readers they chase away with this annoying foolishness. And why? What does password protecting their news website get them that passive firewalls and such couldn't accomplish?
I suspect that their new web publishing software came with a password module and they use it, like some people climb mountains, 'because it's there'.
How hot was it?
It must be getting hot in Oklahoma. Patty sends a series of 'hot' jokes. My favorite:
It's so hot that farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
Yup, that's hot.
Monday, August 08, 2005- - -
Warning, graphic content!
Now that even David Gillies has posted a photo of himself on the internet, I'm shamed into doing the same. And it wasn't easy. I've trolled through 25 years-worth of photographs and digital images in search of a photo that won't put you entirely off your feed, nor cause Blogger to crash (okay, Blogger will probably crash anyway, but I don't want it to be my fault).
Don't click on this photo, there's only so much a stomach can take!
Now that's one stylin' Cavalry trooper! An M16 and a Combat Vehicle Crewman's helmet. You can guess the age of this photo by the fact that the fur ruff on the field jacket is genuine [cough] coyote [cough] -- they changed to some sort of synthetic "fur" shortly thereafter. I can guess the age of the photo by the 'butter bar' on my shoulder. That was indeed a long time ago.
Actually, there was a point to scanning this old photo, at least a couple years ago when I did it: Remember the infamous photo of the storm trooper with Ilian Gonzales? Oddly enough, I can't find a single copy of that photo anywhere on the web, but if you can, compare the helmet the mutt is wearing to mine. Yes, it's a CVC with the headphones cut off. Even the Worland, Wyo swat team has genuine coal scuttle helmets, which leads me to believe that Janet Reno had to scrape pretty far down in the barrel to find someone to do her dirty deed.
How soon we forget...
Via the InstaPundit, Nick Danger comments on the Russian sub rescue:
"The Russians are our friends now. We join with them in cheering that the men are alive and well. Just as we joined with them in weeping as events unfolded in Beslan.
"I will confess that I did not expect to see this in my lifetime. It is a bit like my father's reaction to seeing Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon.
"I'm not sure what the lesson is here... but I am certain it is something we need to keep in mind as we go about the War on Terror. The day will come when we will all rush off to aid Iranians trapped in a mine, and we will cheer when they are rescued."
Says Reynolds, "May it come soon."
Both seem to forget the earthquake that struck southeastern Iran's Kerman Province December 26, 2003. In response, we rushed over $9 million in aid and relief to Iran. That's what we do. Personally, I'll be a lot more cheered when US citizens are caught in a natural disaster and the Iranians lend us their aid, while their citizens cheer the effort from their mosques. I'll not hold my breath though.
Saturday, August 06, 2005- - -
(click on the photo for a larger image)
If the devil designed a golf course it would probably look something like this: All sand traps and no fairways -- plenty hot too. This is an air photo of the headwaters of Skull Creek, better known as Adobe Town (about 2 square miles depicted). The dark areas are sand dunes, which support relatively dense sagebrush and greasewood. The lighter areas are largely barren and heavily eroded badlands (where all the sand comes from).
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. ...
Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
I don't see how the truth qualifies as Zen Sarcasm.
Likewise, the bit about a journey 'beginning with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.' In my family we refer to that as a "Grandpa Kleppe adventure." They just forgot the part about 1500 pounds of rocks in a 1/2 ton pickup. You'd think my wife took lessons from Gramps even though she never met the man. "Oh, I just put a few limestone samples in your backpack..." Unnghh!
The Wall Street Journal's Review and Outlook tells us that the Wooden Man has delivered a limp noodle. In an effort to be Current the new TV channel eschews news, substituting "Google searches for words such as "fights," "create" and "Canadian.""
Sounds interesting, eh? What sort of exciting things might one find out about the Great White North? Well, here's the first few results of a Google search on Canadian: At #1 - The Canadian Encyclopedia Online 'the authoritive encyclopedia about Canada and its people' (Sounds educational!); at #2 - CBS.ca - Canada's News, Business, Sports ... 'Canadian radio and TV network' (Are we on the edges of our seats yet?); at #3 - Canadian Diabetes Association ''THE online resource for people with, affected by, and for healthcare professionals' (Must be too much Mackintosh's Toffee. At least it's good to see a web site catering to Canada's health care professionals -- all six of them.); 4th - Canadian Universities 'Helpful listing of Canadian universities' (That would be where Canada's health care professionals get their training. Before they emigrate to the US, that is.)
Get the idea? It sounds like Sesame Street for twenty-somethings: "Can you Google 'Canada'? See, eh? En, eh? Dee, eh?" I always guessed from Big Honest Al's blank stare that he was running a test pattern in his head. Perhaps he was mentally googling 'Canada'. Which, I suppose, amounts to the same thing.
I haven't watched Gore's new network, but I have a feeling it's not about the replace the X-games.
Ps. Full disclosure: I work with a lot of Canadians, as they export oil field workers as well as health care professionals. I'll admit that I occasionally tease them, if only to see if I can get a rise out of someone so terminally polite and nice. It's a challenge -- like trying to get a palace guard to crack a smile. I suppose you could say that I'm a simple mind, simply amused.
Friday, August 05, 2005- - -
Defending the pharmaceutical industry
The InstaPundit takes on those who criticize the pharmaceutical industry for doing research into 'frivolous drugs' like viagra. He makes a good point, but overlooks one important consideration: Many drugs have applications other than those envisioned by their developers. Take aspirin's use in fighting heart attacks for instance. Who's to say that someone searching for an effective corn remover won't learn something that's valuable in fighting skin cancer? I suspect that research into any area of human physiology is likely to yield unexpected benefits.
Things that make you go Hmmm...
We just drove over to Steamboat to have a map reproduced. At 45 inches wide by 28 inches high there aren't many places that can handle the job. While there, we walked by a sporting goods store that had bumper stickers in the window proclaiming the bearer a Trout Bum! It immediately occurred to me that you never see the equivalent sticker in a tack shop. I guess no one wants to be known as a Horse Bum!
"Always store beer in a dark place"
The Mommy Blog has several choice quotes from Lazarus Long.
It's all about oil!
An interesting article on oil and the Chinese connection at Reasononline. Melanie Colburn argues, as I often have, that the solution to our energy problems -- if there is one -- is to let the market operate without interference, or subsidies, from the government. As long as we pay an artificially low price for gasoline and heating fuel -- yes, I said artificially low -- there is little incentive to find alternatives or conserve. Of course, we've already picked the low-hanging conservation fruit.
Unfortunately, TANSTAAFL applies. These folks touting biodiesel make much of it's environmental benefits, but don't mention the biggest downside: Increased production would require that additional land go under the plow. That would be bad for wildlife. It would also require more water for irrigation, water that is already in short supply. (The farmers in Wyoming say that you should drink whiskey, water causes too many fights!) There's no easy solution, but a more diversified energy supply certainly seems to be a good idea.
I'm not feeling particularly lifelike this morning, so I thought I'd pass on this old chessnut. It's been all around the internet
and I have no idea where it came from, but if you took this, 'fess up! (Our favorite state trooper would really like to meet you.)It seems that some folks don't believe in spanking their children, and have been searching for more creative methods of disciplining the little varmints. These folks learned that taking their child for a ride in the car and having a nice talk would insure good behavior for days:
Pretty darn scenic!
Sitting here bleary-eyed this morning I was surfing the 'net and found that my friend Todd Guenther has written an interesting short article on Red Canyon for the Nature Conservancy. On the southeast flank of the Wind River Range, it's one of my favorite vistas and one of Wyoming's best-known landmarks. Being the joker I am, I once took a black & white photo of Red Canyon and hung it on my office wall to see how many people would recognize it, and because I doubt many people take B&W photos of the place, for obvious reasons. To my surprise, most did recognize it. Oddly enough, Todd didn't include a photo of the canyon with his article, but I can take care of that:
(click on the photo for a larger image)
I spend so much of my time looking at things like this that sometimes I feel I should move to Gary, Indiana to cleanse my visual palette. Ah well, we all have our little crosses to bear.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005- - -
The human knee is the best argument I can muster against Intelligent Design. The first year civil engineering student who designed that thing would have flunked out. On the other hand, it's an excellent example of a holdover from our earliest vertebrate ancestors, when joints were ill-formed affairs mostly held together by cartilage.