New Blogs on the Roll

A close observer of this site will notice a few cosmetic changes of late: a new picture of your humble host (soon to be rotated with several new photos), some reformatting of the sidebar ... but I've not updated my blogroll for a bit, and it was time.

One former occupant is gone - TRIB, or The Review of Indiana Blogs made a brief appearance, but apparently died an untimely death over a month ago. They'd had no new posts since October 26th, and there was nothing on the horizon to indicate when (or even if) they'd be back.

Their efforts, however, piqued the interest of several other Hoosier bloggers, one of whom has the gumption (and the time) to attempt a replacement: Indiana Blog Review. Mostly covering local politics, it rapidly made an appearance on my internal news aggregator, and since it's been around for a bit and has regular posts (and good ones, too), it was time to place it on the blogroll. Done.

One of the blogs the Indiana Blog Review features regularly is Masson's Blog, a mostly local politics blog from Monticello, Indiana. Great posts here, too, so on the roll it goes.

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More Time for Madness

Am I springing forward or falling back? I don't really know, but I guess I'm not the only Hoosier bemused and incredulated (is that a word? it is now ...) by the obsession with time of Our Man Mitch. Masson's Blog points out today that the good Guv is in technical violation of the new DST law, and his rant from the 28th excoriating a recent Indianapolis Star editorial on the time change was nothing short of brilliant. Preach it, brother!

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Bush: Guest-worker plan is not amnesty

President Bush launched a new push to crack down on illegal immigration from Mexico, promising to "harden" the southern U.S. border while reviving his proposal for a guest-worker program critics say is a form of amnesty.

(link) [CNN.com]

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Rice defends unlimited detention of suspected terrorists

Well, Condi, methinks you've stepped in it now:

"You can't allow somebody to commit the crime before you detain them, because if they commit the crime, thousands of innocent people die," she told the USA Today daily.

So, since sixty-four percent of prison inmates belonged to racial or ethnic minorities, and an estimated 57% of inmates were under age 35 (statistics for 2001, source), if we simply "detained" without trial or charges all minorities under the age of the 35, we'd virtually eliminate crime in the US, saving thousands of innocent lives.

What impeccable logic.

AFP - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the unlimited detention of suspected terrorists saying, in an interview that it benefitted the United States and the entire world.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

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Draft Goats

I hinted at a holiday project, and promised some pictures, and, well, here's one! Draft goats, hauling Yule tress for the good customers of Dull's Tree Farm here in Boone County. In the picture above, Donner's getting his tip for a job well done!

We have the petting zoo set up at Dull's - Peanut, aka 'The Great Moodini', Rasta Llama, Sweet Pea and a couple of Kevyn's sheep, as well as the goats. I've been passing out flyers on the delivery business as well, and taking real tips for services rendered with my working goats. So far we've cleared about $50, which is more than enough to keep the critters in hay while they're up there, so any new business I generate should be gravy money. And we could sure use some of that right about now...

Several kids noted my rather bushy facial hair and assumed I was a certain Mr. S. Claus - perhaps next weekend I'll dress the part! That'd be a hoot, for sure!

For those who are interested, we got the harnesses at Hoegger Goat Supply, and modified a simple garden hand cart to hitch. We really need to fix some shafts on the cart, both to act as a brake and to keep the cart from bumping the goats on a downhill roll, but haven't been able to figure out exactly how to do it yet - it works fine, as is, but the goat must be walked, not led or driven, so we can keep a hand on the cart to act as a manual brake. If I get some extra time this week (yeah, right!) I'll get something more professional rigged up.

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U.S. Farmers Use Pesticide Despite Treaty

So they say that "alternative organic techniques are too costly ..." But I have to ask, "What's the cost of this regimen of poisoning the Earth?" The price might not be apparent this year, or next, or even in a quarter century. But ultimately you reap what you sow, and we've been sowing a crop of death for longer than I care to think about.

AP - Shoppers rifle through store shelves brimming with succulent tomatoes and plump strawberries, hoping to enjoy one last round of fresh fruit before the Western growing season ends. There is no hint of a dark side to the blaze of red.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

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To Flush Or Not To Flush

It's just an excuse for toilet humor ... and I have a tale from a former company (CBSI) to share.

CBSI was headquartered in Sheridan, Indiana - a town of about 1500 residents founded in the 1870's by Union Civil War vets, who named the town after their former commanding general, Phil Sheridan. The company was growing rapidly, employing nearly 300 folks, when it hired a new CFO, who was bound and determined to get a grip on skyrocketing costs. One of the areas that leapt from the books crying for reduction was the water bill.

Sheridan had last "modernized" it's water and sewage utilities in the 1930's, under the WPA, when it's population was about a third of the current number. Using rather large electrical pumps, getting the water out of the ground was rather expensive, and the added cost of new government regulations just made the water bill of the businesses in Sheridan nothing short of extraordinary. So the new CFO took action.

He mandated that every toilet in the CBSI complex (five buildings on either side of a state highway) be replaced with pressure-assisted units. These were early models that used air pressurized at upwards of 45 psi to lessen the water needed to completely flush the commode. As one by the one the commodes were replaced, we workers learned some tricks - for example, never flush while seated, and always shut the lid before flushing, because there would inevitably be some splashback. We also noted a significant increase in pipe "groaning" - and noticed that these groans could be heard in the parking lot, well away from any pipes or buildings. Little did we suspect...

Finally, the day arrived when all the toilets were new, and water usage was reduced by nearly half. There was a healthy upfront cost to the new units, of course, but the bean counters determined that they'd pay for themselves in a matter of weeks. All was apparently well. For about a week.

As best as we in the R&D department could figure, it was mere chance that led to the catastrophe. Apparently the inbound Call Center had served orange juice and donuts to the 100 girls who worked there, and Sales had had a breakfast bash of some sort as well. When break time came at 10 am, nearly every new john in the complex was flushed simultaneously. I was sitting in my office when I heard a tremendous groaning noise, then what sounded like an explosion, followed by a loud thump and the sound of water rushing.

We all dashed to the front of the building to see what had happened, and looking across highway 38, we saw an amazing site: a fountain of brown water spewing from our parking lot across the street, reaching a height of nearly 20 feet (we estimated). The Great CBSI Shit Storm was on!

Apparently, it was really a confluence of several factors that led to our vehicles being washed in human waste (and one poor girl's windshield being smashed by a chunk of asphalt and a manhole cover), and not all of them were due to anything CBSI had done. The sewage treatment plant had been shut down for repairs, and had inadvertently caused a backup through the town's rusty and antiquated pipes. The release valve that should've allowed the backup to flow to the storm sewers had been locked down on orders of the EPA, it no longer being deemed environmentally sound to do this. Consequently it had no place to go, and when the overpressure cause by the mass flushing at CBSI hit, it exploded through the pipes. Apparently it was mere coincidence that the explosion actually hit the business that more or less caused it, but the town fathers were not happy.

I never did find out exactly how much that little episode cost the company, but we did notice that the old toilets were put back into place post haste.

Tired of arguing the same old issues like Linux vs Windows? Choose up sides in the fight over flushing vs non-flushing urinals. The L.A. Times reports on efforts to place the waterless urinal into the Uniform Plumbing Code. To quote: '...the ordinary-looking urinal is at the center of a national debate that has plumbers and water conservationists taking aim at one another.' Amazingly simple, the no-flush urinal uses gravity to force urine through a filter containing a floating layer of oily liquid which then acts as a sealant to prevent sewer odors from escaping. Each no-flush urinal is claimed to save over 24,000 gallons of water a year, but the opposition is concerned about the spread of disease. Although not mentioned in the article this technology is in use around the world. Does anyone have these fixtures installed at their place of employment? Are there any real drawbacks? Is this really a worthwhile debate or just an excuse for toilet humor?

(link) [Slashdot]

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Tiny toys remain major cause of child deaths

OK, there's nothing funny about children dying - but there is something darkly humorous about blaming toys as a "major" cause of these tragedies.

According to the government survey, 16 deaths of children were attributed to toys in 2004. Statistics from the Census Bureau reveal that there were 73 million children in the United s States in 2004. In 2002, the last year for which such statistics are available, the death rate for children under 4 years of age was 31 per 100,000, for kids aged 5 to 14 it was 17 per 100,000. This roughly translates into 16,250 total child deaths.

Personally, I don't think that 1/1000th, or one tenth of one percent, constitutes anything resembling "major". And that's what's funny about this tale - even though I'm not laughing much at such hyperbole anymore, because it's all too common.

Though decades of effort have made toys safer, children still choke on balloons, get strangled by yo-yo water balls and suffer hearing damage from loud playthings, a watchdog group warned Tuesday in its annual toy safety survey.

(link) [CNN]

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Flu Season

and I've got it. No, it's not avian flu, but, in the interest of public safety, I figured I'd pass on some of the key warning signs that you might be infected with "bird flu":

  • High fever
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Aching in the joints
  • An irresistible urge to crap on someone's windshield.

Humor, but not the flu, via within the crainium

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Microsoft loses $126 on each Xbox 360

This is the first thing I've read that makes me want to buy one ... and set it in the closet.

Redmond will sell every Xbox console at a big loss, says researcher iSuppli. Not to worry; the profit is in the associated software.

(link) [CNET News.com]

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Trailer Wiring Woes

I truly despise wiring in commercial trucks and trailers: no two manufacturers seem to use the same set of wire colors, connectors or even terminology. It's just a mess.

In case you didn't pick up on the fact, I've been futzing with trailer wiring all day - lot's of news to report, and hopefully I'll have some pix to go with it, but it'll have to wait for tomorrow. I'm frozen and worn out.

Speaking of pix, I put up a new one of your humble author last evening - I was tired of looking at my "Grizzly Adams" photo from 1998, and figured I'd replace it with the urbane, paunchy and rapidly balding gent that now graces the sidebar. Kris took the photo in 2003, so it's more recent than it's predecessor, but I weigh a lot less now than in the pic - two years of tossing hay, carrying water and chasing chickens will do that to you ...

And just for the record, before I forget to note it, we had our first measurable snowfall of the season today - about an inch. More following the feast tomorrow ...

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Darwin Evolving Into A Tricky Exhibit

Just another form of economic pressure ...

The new Darwin Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History has 'failed to find a corporate sponsor in the United States because American companies are anxious not to take sides in the heated debate between scientists and fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution' according to articles at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph, and The Register. The million needed for the exhibit was met by private charitable donations.

(link) [Slashdot]

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Economic Pressure

There's always been a huge discussion in the Heathen community (and among scholars of the North as well) as to why heathenry lost out to Christianity a thousand years ago. One of the stock answers trotted out whenever this debate arises is that of "economic pressure".

The Icelanders faced a historic dilemma is 1000 CE - convert and continue trade with Norway, or remain True and be isolated from Christian Europe. Thorgeir the Lawspeaker, for good or ill, chose the former route, ultimately leading to the end of the Icelandic Commonwealth, but maintaining contact with the ancestral homelands. I'm sure he felt it to be a "lose-lose" proposition, and simply did the best he could under the circumstances.

And those pressures have not gone away. Better than half my delivery customers are very pious Christians, and, while I don't make a big production number out of my heathenry, I'm pretty much all over the web with it, and anybody with a browser and Google search can (and does) run across it. And it's cost me some business, I'm sure.

I've been invited to supply various Christian buying clubs and co-ops - if I'll certify that I'm a "Christian business". None of my customers have ever explicitly proselytized me, but there have been many subtle hints. Some folks just assume that I'm a Christian, usually by observing the farms motto of 'Honoring Our Ancestors, Honoring Our Land' and believing that I'm into their brand of "Old Time Religion" as well. And in a sense, I am - it's just really old time religion. I've been told by a customer that she's knows I'm a Christian, because she can hear the Lord in my voice. I've not had the heart to tell her that Freyr is Lord, and Freyja is Lady, mostly for fear of losing an order for a pint of ice cream and a quart of milk a week. Maybe she wouldn't do that, but I don't know.

And that's the point of economic pressure, really. You don't know, anymore than Thorgeir knew, how it's all going to work out in the end. The carrots are dangled, but you know the sticks are laying in wait. You just don't know if you can really reach the hanging veggies, or if the bats are gonna whack your ass, until you try moving forward or back - and by then, it's too late to change direction, and you're had.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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'Last Call Poker' celebrates cemeteries

I see nothing whatsoever disrespectful about this - in fact, were I a poker player, I would've been honored to participate! Only by remembering the dead can we honor them, and honoring our ancestors is honoring ourselves.

All in all events like this one are a good first step towards recovering our connections to the past, and the people who have walked this world before us.

When around 60 people convened on the Hollywood Forever cemetery here Saturday for the finale of the alternate reality game "Last Call Poker," it may not have seemed to some observers as the most respectful thing to do.

(link) [CNET News.com]

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Meanwhile, Back on the Home Front ...

Those of you who know me have probably detected an undercurrent of something bordering on despair in this blog of late: and I must confess that your apprehensions would've been dead on. It's wearing me down, slow but sure.

The delivery business has stopped growing - we're not shrinking, but any new customers we're adding are simply replacing those who are leaving. And I can pretty much put my finger on right when the growth trend reversed itself, and hazard a guess as to why: Labor Day weekend, and the high gas prices engendered by hurricane Katrina.

Hmm, let's see: do I want a quart of good milk this week or an extra gallon of gas?

And even now, as gas prices have returned to something resembling reasonable levels, the price resistance is seemingly growing stronger rather then diminishing. I don't think folks believe that prices will stay down, and I think I'm seeing a microcosm of the fabled "consumer confidence" indices. If I am, it doesn't bode well for the economy as a whole.

Topping all this off, we had several more truck problems last week, culminating in the S-10 being put into the shop for a possible blown transmission. By the time you factor in repair costs whatever profit I've been making on the delivery business fades fast.

One expects this sort of thing whenever one starts up a new venture, and I'd be willing to hold the course if I could see some light at the end of the tunnel, but I am becoming increasingly fearful that the old adage "it takes money to make money" is rapidly coming into play: without money for advertising, the business won't expand, and without expansion the money won't come in to pay for it.

For right now, I'll hold my own and see. But if this goes on ...

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