Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Marble in the Rain

Allan and Julie came up to visit this weekend.  Allan helped me with work on Elixir of Love for the  San Francisco Opera. He's another USA 829 Scenic who has retired to Colorado.

Allan wanted to see Maroon Bells.

Julie wanted to see Marble.

It rained (a lot) so we went to Marble. As you might suspect from the name the town of Marble is next to a marble mine. To be specific, the Yule Marble Mine. Marble from the Yule mine can be found in buildings throughout the United States and most notably in Washington DC in the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. One of the best books to learn more is "Marble Colorado, City of Stone" now out of print.

The drive up was a bit wet and a "tour" of Marble is a pretty quick thing but we stopped in The Marble Gallery and picked up a few stone chips for Julie's collection. They steered us down the hill to the Marble Symposium. This village of marble carvers has been going on for 25 years now.

Vicki and Rex Branson were hosting. As we slid down the muddy jeep trail to the marble yard Rex met us with the question "Are you here to carve?" Well, no we were just here to watch...

As impressive as the Branson's work is for really stunning work in marble I have to defer to Elizabeth Turk* who also uses a lot of Yule Marble. *the link shows a video Greg Poschman made when she got the MacArthur Grant.

Her process is fascinating as this TEDx link shows....

It was a wet weekend for Allan and Julie. We need more rain, they can come back any time.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tree Trimmer

Okay, here's one of the two culprits. He has a buddy and they like to hang out together. I'm pretty sure they both have apple breath.

Here is one of my intrepid guard dogs hard at work.

To be fair, the deer don't budge when they bark.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Deja Vu Definitions

This might sound familiar to you "That depends on what the meaning of is is."

If not, here's a little US recent history for you...

Aspen Public Radio is great, they do broadcasts of all sorts of local events and this morning it was a panel from the Aspen Institute Security Forum.

A very impressive panel.

Adm. Dennis Blair (Ret.), Former Director of National Intelligence
Amb. John Negroponte, Former Director of National Intelligence; Vice
Chairman, McLarty Associates
MODERATOR: Barton Gellman, Contributing Editor At Large, TIME
The topic was "Mission Accomplished? Has the Intelligence Community Connected All the Dots?"
Which, of course was the one question no-one answered. What everyone centered on was the NSA and Prism and of course things got a little bit like Ionesco.. since I was only listening on the radio I have no idea who was saying what but the absurdity was not lost because if *any* one of these guys said this it would be equally abstruse.
"I think you're misusing the word 'collect'..storing under a court order is an entirely different thing... "

No, not really, you're making a request which can't be refused and you're crunching all that data. Privacy at that point is moot. You're in the hands of the analyst. 

Having just listened how arcane our computer system is when figuring out the Army payroll this does not make me feel confident. In fact it makes me feel pretty apprehensive. Oddly I don't mind personal information being spread around like marmalade in a Agatha Christie breakfast scene. What I do mind is how someone might misinterpret that data and shower me with the full force of the Patriot Act .

It's not that I distrust the Government it's that I have no confidence in the Government's ability to be human. Especially when you have the people in charge of all that data crunching getting all fussy about the difference between "collect" and "store".

The big driver behind this (as far as I can tell from the Forum- since it is constantly repeated) is that "if companies are gathering this data for their marketing why can't we collect it for intelligence purposes?"

Simple answer, because trying to sell me a viagra is very different than renditioning me to a bottomless pit. I get ads for viagra all the time. I'm not in the market for it. I will never be in the market for it. The charitable conclusion is that data hasn't been analyzed correctly. What happens when the analysis goes awry with the NSA? Do I then get an overnight delivery of an orange jumpsuit and a "ride" to Guantanamo?

Here's the difficult part, I believe in the need for "intelligence". I believe that the meta data can lead to stopping real and present dangers to civilians. But damn, the way it's being parsed? No, that I have no faith in whatsoever. It's an Art and there are very few Artists who thrive in a bureaucratic environment.

In fact I'd hazard a guess that there isn't an Artist alive who would make it through an HR interview.

The other recurring themes at the Security Forum are that the sequester is squeezing the intelligence budget and that you lose a vital element of secrecy whenever you have oversight. Great, less money, less oversight, more data...and absolutely no answer to "have we connected the dots?" Normally, if the question isn't answered it's because the answer isn't one you want to hear.

If you want to watch some of this live it's being streamed by

Thursday, July 18, 2013

induction deduction

On your mark get set.......


This is an induction portable cooktop and an electric kettle. I've been looking at an induction cooktop for awhile now for two very specific reasons which I'll tell you about at the end of the post. The online reviews had one thing on which no one could agree- which was faster- the electric kettle (1500W) or the induction (1800W). I decided to find out for myself.

I'm at 7000' altitude so there is less air pressure so  water boils faster and at a lower temperature than at sea level. I filled the kettle to "max"- poured that water into the pot on the cooktop and then filled the kettle to "max" again. Equal amounts of water and equally easy to start, except I don't have 3 hands so the clock is a couple of seconds behind.

At about 4:15 both the kettle and the pot have some bubbles forming on the bottom.

By 5:30 the kettle has a rolling boil going on.

...and less than 30 seconds later the pot is doing the same. I'd say with a lid on the pot or using a tea kettle on the induction it would have been a dead heat. Okay, that's a terrible pun but I couldn't help myself.

Now, for  the motivation behind getting this new kitchen gadget. Really, the last thing I need is another kitchen gadget- I have generations of them- not only do I have my grandmother's potato masher but I used to have a group of friends (restaurant workers mostly)  who had a tradition of giving completely incomprehensible kitchen gadgets as Christmas presents - it was the finger ring slicer which stumped everyone. 
Then there's Food and Wine which seems to bequeath me something every year (left by some lucky attendee who doesn't want to schlep the pizza slicer in the suitcase). The result is a lot of kitchen gadgets.

The first reason is boiling water faster. Canning season is almost upon us and the faster you can boil water the faster you can fire up the pressure cooker and peel the tomatoes. 

The big stove is gas so anything I can do to reduce the amount of gas I use is welcome. Since the house  electric is on Solar electric is my "greenest" solution.  Well, almost, I do have a cardboard solar oven I made at an ACES event and as hot as it's been I could be frying eggs on my rocks without having to visit Death Valley... but canning is a different type of operation. I put up 36 quarts of tomatoes a year. It's a process.

The second reason is chocolate. I do this every year for Christmas- I make bourbon balls on an industrial scale and dip half of them in chocolate. The induction has a temperature setting, an exact temperature setting. 

So instead of using this.....
I can use this...

Because tempering chocolate takes accuracy. 

I'll let you know how it works out....

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


It was an exciting day today for the 4 footeds. 

Today is meat delivery day. Since 2008 I've had these guys on a raw diet. Homestead Ranches in Paonia does a raw dog food which combines muscle and organ meat. They get this ground up meat with a supplement of raw bones 3X a week.

They deliver to my area once a week and this week it's time to restock the dogfood.

40 lbs of meat and 3 pork ribs.

This will last about a month and a half. I keep checking to see if they're getting too skinny or too fat and adjust accordingly. They also get variety- like treats from my favorite local "fast food" place (Scot makes a killer egg sandwich) Scotties

They arrive frozen and I get them in the freezer as quickly as I can.

It's easier to cut this into portions when it's partially frozen. I use a separate cutting board just for the raw meat. If you're going to do this wash your hands thoroughly after you've fed the beasties. If you think that's going to be a problem you can always use chef's gloves.
1/6 pound for breakfast and 1/6 pound for dinner. 

I separate Duff and the Pulis when I feed them otherwise Duffy would steal BB and Luv's food

It's gone in about 10 seconds.

Maybe 5 seconds.

BB and Luv sitting pretty for dinner.

Luv chomping on his and BB waiting his turn.

BB gets his and promptly takes it out to the driveway.

The raw diet is controversial and if you'd like to know more about it why not go to the yahoo group and get more info? 

I can tell you this, my guys love it, they're happy, they're healthy and  they have shiny white teeth. 

There are lots of reasons to do this- not the least of which is we waste so much food why not use the less popular cuts of meat for dogfood? It's what we used to do, give the scraps from the table or the extra bits from the butcher to the dogs. 

But the major reason is because we have them for such a short time and it's great to see them enjoying things... like dinner.

Oh yeah, I don't eat meat, just the dogs....

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rashomon in black and white.

I like listening to the Diane Rehm show on our local NPR station in the mornings. Yesterday's program was on the Zimmerman case. Florida law, "stand your ground", the jury system and, of course, race were the topics of conversation. 

Later in the day on a quick trip to the market I spotted an NPR reporter with a microphone quizzing people on the walkway about their opinion of the Florida verdict. They played those answers this morning and it was mostly 'I wasn't paying attention to the case, just heard about it, seems like it could have gone either way....' etc. I was surprised that there were so few opinions expressed but this is a predominately White Community and a Western US Community.

There is a this just wouldn't happen "here" quality to the comments.   Our "accidental shootings" tend to be related to hunting and forgetting where the safety is.

There is certainly a Rashomon quality to the case where the angle of perception informs different versions of the truth aka "the Rashomon Effect". That is, when you try and parse the case out by the facts.  The Diane Rehm program goes a little deeper into character and I urge anyone who is curious to listen to the podcast.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the podcast was the definition of what your "castle" is. Do you carry your "castle" with you? Or to put it more simply what is the legally defensible area around your person. It's an interesting legal question but for an answer all they need to do is watch the Pulik. The defensible area changes if we're at home, outside in a large open area, outside walking in the mall, or outside trying to walk through the crowd at the 4th of July parade. They know exactly how to adjust depending on territory and proximity.

Their instincts are pretty good except for when they're in the car. Then they turn into little furry chain saws. I've slowly purchased a replacement interior through ebay... we'll see which lasts longer, the upholstery peeling pulik or the car.

But this is America, and in America there will always be the question of race. Race is at the core of America. We could no more leave out race than Northern Ireland could leave out Catholic and Protestant, than Israel could leave out Palestine ... race was with us in the first Continental Congress, in the Civil War, in the Civil Rights movement and it is with us today.

So, ask yourself:

What if this had been two white men?
What if this had been two black men?
What if this had been a woman and a man?
What if this had been two women?
Latino? Native American? Asian American?  Immigrant? Foreigner?
Muslim? Hindu? Protestant? Catholic? Jew? Fundamentalist of any stripe....
Anything or anyone who is not *you* and *your group*

Make the combination anything you like and ask yourself how the *perception* of the event and the verdict would have changed. That is how you know if Justice is blind, and if Justice is being served.

Then watch Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative one more time and answer the question is there equal Justice in America.



If you go about 80 miles west you'll find abundance. Paonia, Palisades, Grand Junction this is the orchard country of Colorado. Cherries, Peaches, Pears and a growing wine industry are all great reasons for taking a short road trip across McClure's pass. One of my favorites is Orchard Valley Farms and their Black Bridge Pinot Noir is a tasty local wine.

Come back to my part of the world and you will only find two fruit trees, Apples and Apricots. There are a couple of old time orchards close to me, most of them are abandoned but there are still lone trees to be found clinging onto the side of a road or standing in rows beside an old homestead.

I decided to try apples and apricots.  Two Apricots
and four Apples

Some of the apple trees already had apples on them
Each tree has a little "bubbler" around the base which runs off of the irrigation system.
I mulched heavily around each tree and covered the bubblers. The ground under the mulch is about 10 degrees cooler than the ground with no mulch.
The leaves which started out fresh and green were turning yellow on the apples and red on the apricots in about a week- showing the stress the trees were under.

Chris (my landscaper) came over last Friday and we did some tweeking on the water schedule and the mulching... They're getting a 3 hour drip twice a week which works out to about 40 gallons per tree per week. We also got some rain this weekend which hopefully is the start of our "monsoonal" season.

Then Sunday I gave myself a big dope slap. What was I thinking planting trees without fencing them?
If there was any doubt what turned these into poodle trees the tracks told the story. 

The deer spotted my baby orchard as a delightful new buffet and stripped all the branches they could reach.

Chris sent the crew back on Monday and now the trees have cages. 
Now we'll see if these can survive the tremendous amount of abuse they've gotten since they were transplanted on July 3. Fingers crossed.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wasp Jenga

I don't have water, but I do have mulch, clay and rocks, a lot of rocks.

Using all these "locally sourced" items is why I found myself playing a game of "wasp jenga" yesterday morning.

I asked Owen Hablutzel to evaluate my dryland ranch last year. I was looking for someone who understood the techniques used by Geoff Lawton in Greening the Desert.

My reasoning was if these techniques could work with 2" of moisture a year they should work with my 6" a year.

One of the things which Owen suggested was a hugelbed.

His idea was to use these as swales on slope leading up to my house.

I've started on my bottle wall (a future post) and the first thing is to dig a foundation- which means dirt.

I have lots of "punk wood" from patching the deck so I decided to do a small swale with the old wood and the dirt from the dig.

I started dismantling the wood pile for the pieces of the old deck and found that it had become a home for wasps..... yes that's a zoom image- you think I'm getting any closer you're nuts.

Gently gently dismantle woodpile...

Okay, probably not the best stuff for a hugelbed- you want some vegetative stuff in there too- but it's what I had... 

At least it's the start on a swale.

...and the woodpile is back in order...
..and the wasps are back, doubtless making another hive, I haven't checked...

... and Duff is extremely pleased since he killed the packrat which was hiding in the woodpile. No, I'm not posting pictures of the dead rat , just Duff searching for more. 
See those little ears perked straight up?

Of course when Duff checks something out he has Puli backup...

Nope, nothing there... those are the "nothing there" angle ears...

confirmed by the Puli backup inspection team...