Monthly Archives: July 2011

White Trash Repairs: Throwing Down the Gauntlet

It’s a slow day here, is the reason I’m posting this.  It’s not because I was over reading White Trash Repairs/There, I Fixed It – Repairs blog and got riled with their uppidy attitudes.

No, I just feel a need to be forthright about the kind of person I choose to be.  Maybe that can best be expressed with a sneak preview of some projects I’ll be discussing here later.

After I haul some more rocks the above is going to be a woodshed with a watertight roof.  The hot tub was on the porch when I moved here, cracked, home to wildlife.  Now it’s metamorphosing into an eventual place to keep my firewood dry.
There’s a lot of work yet to be done raising that roof a few more feet.

Then there’s this.  A nesting box for brooding hens to keep them separate until the chicks are old enough to mix with the flock, but still protected from predators.  Refrigerator shelves cut down to fit the cable spool, mounted on a sawed-in-half lawn mower platform for mobility:

Or this:  A chicken-house fabricated entirely from salvage, discarded shower doors, camper shell roof, refrigerator shelves, whatever came to hand free:

There.  I fixed it.

Old Jules

Make my day, stranger!

I don’t know when we began giving power to strangers. I think it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Maybe we watched too many Westerns during our formative years, learned from those steely eyed men in saloons that what strangers think about us is worth a gunfight.

Nowadays the extreme version happens in city traffic. Someone shoots someone else a bird. Next step is an exchange of gunfire.

Here’s how the scenario runs:

Some complete stranger pronounces a bias we don’t share.

Our thought response:

“This offends me.”

That thought process is driven by a deeper one:

“I want to be offended. I give this stranger the power to offend me. I assign enough value to what this stranger says, or believes, to allow it to trigger a negative emotional path within me. What this stranger says or believes matters.”

We know better.

Strangers cut too wide a swath in their traits to have any real value. They span the breadth of potential human biases. But even knowing this we give them the power to ruin a moment.

I say this is a recent phenomenon because humans of the past behaved differently. Our forefathers didn’t care what Brits thought about us because they recognized that Brits live within an entirely different set of interests.

Even today a Zuni doesn’t care what a Navajo thinks about anything because from the perspective of a Zuni, Navajos don’t have anything valid to contribute to any meaningful discussion. Navajos live in a different reality from Zunis.

Both Navajos and Zunis choose to allow themselves to be offended by the opinions of Anglos and Hispanics, but there’s a reason. They’ve found taking offense is a means of gaining power over those groups.

But neither a Zuni, nor a Navajo would bother being offended by the thoughts and words of the other because to each there’s nothing the other might think that carries the weight of validity.

Not long ago the same was true of people almost everywhere. The people in the town where I was reared cared about the opinions of people within that town, but they couldn’t have cared less what the people in Clovis, twenty miles away thought. It was generally understood that Clovis people were stupid and might think and say anything.

Today we care what everyone thinks about almost everything. We pretend to believe what they think carries value, but we know better. We just like the feel of being offended..

Make my day, Stranger! I’m handing you the power to offend me.

This leaves me cold.

Human opinion hasn’t held up well under scrutiny. It’s worth about what it costs. Mine aren’t that reliable and I haven’t found those of others to be any better.

Instrumental Theme to Dirty Harry:

Note from Admin:

Hello blog readers,
I’m mandala56 here on WordPress, and I’m assisting Old Jules with this blog. I’m the one responsible for the appearance of the blog, editing and scheduling posts, and making changes we think might be helpful.
Today’s change is a special page at the top of the navigation bar for all posts similar to the one today narrating Old Jules’ y2k story. From now on, any y2k installments will be found under that heading, newest on the top, unless I figure out a better way of organizing them. Old Jules will make a note of a new entry in that page in his regular blog post so anyone interested in the updates will know where to look.
Meanwhile, if you have any comments about the appearance of the blog so far, my contact information is listed under the “Admin.” page at the top, and I would be happy to receive feedback. Learning WordPress is a huge undertaking and I’m willing to keep learning more about my options.
Until the next update,

Slouching into the Millennium – August 1998

The Beginning

We staff members of the New Mexico State Emergency Management Planning and Coordination Bureau [EMPAC] didn’t laugh much.  We were a collection of old guys mostly retired from something else, except for a few youngsters, mostly support and training staff.

Radiation Response and Recovery [the RAD catchers] was a retiree Bird Colonel from the US Army named Sam.  Hazardous Materials Response and Recovery was headed by Joe, a retired US Air Force Lt. Colonel who’d piloted B47s for the Strategic Air Command in his youth.  Joe sat at the end of a runway in a B47 loaded with hydrogen bombs for two weeks during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Natural Disasters – Earthquake Preparedness was a shot-up in-Vietnam old Lt. Colonel, infantry.  And so on.  My program was Flood Plain Management and local coordination and training for one of the regions.  Too long out of the military to remember whether I was enlisted or an officer.

Our Bureau Chief, Larry, was a retired Master Sergeant, US Army Search and Rescue, another Vietnam vet. An enlisted man coordinating the activities of field grade officers, giving instructions, approving their work and their per diem expenditures would have been a potential source of laughter if we’d all held our mouths right, but “That’s what happens when you put an enlisted man doing the job of an officer,” was a frequent grumble every time something went awry.

The staff meeting was in the bomb shelter of the old National Guard Headquarters building in Santa Fe where our offices were located.

“I had a weird call from one of the aids to the Governor this morning.”Larry’s eyes searched our dozen blank faces. “Any of you know anything about Y2K?”   Calls from the Governor’s office to anyone at EMPAC was bad news.  We liked to think we were invisible, nobody knew we existed.  This particular governor, however, we considered a space cadet.  A flake.

We all exchanged scowls while my mind toyed with the phrase. “Y2K. Y2K? Where the hell have I heard about Y2K lately?” The thing rang a bell in my head, but I couldn’t think why.

“The Gov just got back from a meeting of the Association of State Governors. They did a big program on Y2K. He’s all excited about it. Evidently there’s some damned thing going on with computers to make them all fail January first, 2000.” Sneers and a chuckle or two.  We all agreed on something.

“Do any of you know what other states are doing? Any ideas what we should be doing? We have to send an answer over to the Gov’s office. We have to put together a plan of some kind.”

Background rumble around the table.  “Y2K?  Why the hell would all the computers crash when the 20th century turns over?”  “Damned idiot governor.”

“Hmmm computers. That’s it.” Now I remembered.

“It’s all a farce, Larry.” I was remembering a conversation and exchange of emails I’d had with my ex-wife. “Carolyn heads the department in Texas that’s supposed to be preparing for it. She told me a while back they were spending a lot of money on it, hiring a lot of people. Pissed her off when I said it was just another bureaucratic scare plot to build more empires.”

Larry stared at me, mind busy with what I’d said. “Could you find out what they are doing over there?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Also, get on the internet. Find out what people are saying is going to happen. Find out everything you can about what all the other states are doing.”

The others in the room relaxed a little. No one wanted this project and now it was clearly mine. “How much time do you want me to spend on this?”

“A week. Two maybe. We just need to put together a plan that makes sense.”

As I left the staff meeting I was feeling pleased with the diversion this offered me. Something away from flood plain management and routine emergency management coordination. I didn’t expect it to be any problem at all.

I began by sending an email to Carolyn. This was the response I got:

“The Year 2000 deal is a real threat. Lots of people have been doing lots of
work to mitigate the consequences, and we’re still ‘influencing the future’.

The real problem is that we can generally fix what we know about, but there is
so much we don’t know.

For example, the power grid – there are many many power generators and power distributors in this country, and many “embedded systems” in each company. Some companies are taking the problem seriously by contacting their suppliers (of power grid equipment, as an example) to see if components will work.

Afraid of litigation, the manufacturers hem and haw around and provide no definitive data. Yes, I think there will be power outages, thus water problems, heating problems, etc, but I don’t think the whole US will go dark, and we still have some time to work on it.

One scenario I’ve heard is that elect. companies will work to distribute what power they have so that rolling black or brown outs will limit the negative affects of the power failures.

Some good news, the banking industry in the US is in very good shape. Our only
fear there is fear itself. I think a lot of IT systems are being corrected at a
more rapid pace than originally anticipated, and governors like yours and mine
are at least anticipating problems so they can prepare for them. I think if the
people anticipate the problems, and know that someone has already developed a
work around, we’ll be fine.

Any disruptions will probably be short lived.
I could go on, but duty calls.

I trusted Carolyn about as much as any man can trust an ex-wife after 25 years of marriage.

I didn’t know it yet, but for me this began the end of one lifetime and heralded the start of another.

Old Jules

Creedence Clearwater Revival– Bad Moon Rising

Don’t know much about Human Beings

I don’t know much about human beings these days, though I used to think I knew everything worth knowing about them.  Putting a little distance between myself and the daily onslaught of news, spending my time in my own company instead of in the company of other people, and watch/listening instead of speaking when I’m around others has forced a realization that I don’t know spit about these creatures.

But it’s also clear to me that I didn’t know spit about them back when I knew a lot about them.  Including me.  I was in too close and personal, too much a part of the herd, to see what was happening around me.  A person inside a jetliner going several hundred miles an hour can throw a rock from the tail section all the way to the pilot and when it plunks against his scalp that rock will have traveled further than Babe Ruth ever hit a baseball.  A fly inside the cabin of a jet fighter is supersonic when it goes from the back of the cabin to the front.

In a sense, the same phenomenon is at work when humans are in the company of other humans.  Bunched up together in a stadium, concert hall, skyscraper, there’s an invisible wall around them disguising the fact the rocks they throw are going further and the flies are flying faster than anyone had any right to expect.  The person in the next seat, the stewardess serving meals and drinks, the movie playing  seems real to them, while the 20,000 feet to the ground doesn’t, while the outside rushing by doesn’t seem real at all, and all that microscopic activity on the ground below them doesn’t count for anything.

Back when I rode airliners, worked in buildings full of people, drove around inside a vehicle in heavy traffic and kept track of events I knew a lot about human beings.  Same as you do now.

But now that I’ve backed away, put some distance between myself and humanity, to me they look more like chickens than they ever looked like human beings.  I understand chickens fairly well, but I don’t know squat about human beings.

Old Jules

Simon and Garfunkel — I am a Rock

Bookstack – Quick Reviews

Bottom to top

Leavenworth Papers #17 – The Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation: Soviet Breakthrough and Pursuit in the Arctic, October 1944, Major James F Gebhardt,Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and General Staff College, 1948

Detailed examination of the Soviet success in the offensive attempting to identify what the US military should learn from it. Concluded light infantry to be the weapon of choice in arctic warfare. Examines the lessons learned by the Germans fighting under those conditions.

Good read for those interested in such matters.

Hidden Horrors – Japanese War Crimes in World War II, Yuki Tanaka, Transitions: Asians and Asian Americans Series, 1996

The Contents describes it better than I can:

1. The Sandakan POW Camp and the Geneva Convention

2. The Sandakan Death Marches and the Elimination of POWs

3. Rape and War: The Japanese Experience

4. Judge Webb and Japanese Cannibalism

5. Japanese Biological Warfare Plans and Experiments on POWs

6. Massacre of Civilians at Kavieng

Conclusion: Understanding Japanese Brutality in the Asia-Pacific War

Tanaka elaborates on the collaboration between the US and Japan to cover-up and downplay many of these events because of the post-WWII need for Japan as a strong Pacific partner against Communist aggression. Many were not investigated, prosecuted, even mentioned again in public media.

Fifty years after the Japanese surrender Tanaka writes: “Consequently, we Japanese have failed to recognize ourselves as aggressors, still less as perpetrators of war crimes. Moreover, because of the widespread perception of ourselves as victims of war, the notion of “victim” gradually expanded even to the point that the Japanese state was also seen as a victim of war.”

Reveals various deals made between the US Command under Dugout Doug and the Japanese commanders who conducted human lab experiments on POWs. Immunity from prosecution in return for everything learned in the experiments.

The King’s Own – Captain Frederick Marryat

Marryat’s a worthy read. He was a British Navy Captain when he retired in the 1820s and began publishing fiction works based on his experiences. His writings almost certainly were foundations for Horatio Hornblower and a lot of other sea yarn characters in fiction series during the 20th Century.

Marryat’s the daddy and granddaddy of them all.

Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, George MacDonald Frazer

The Flashman series is possibly the most laughing [and among the most educational] historical fiction series ever written.

I thoroughly resent Frazer dying before he wrote several more of them, though I re-read the ones he did write at least one time every decade. He’s welcome to resent me dying off without reading them again if it works out that way.

The Flashman Papers in Chronological order

Flashman [Britain, India and Afghanistan, 1839-42]

Royal Flash [England, 1842-43, Germany 1847-48]

Flashman’s Lady [England, Borneo, Madagascar 1842-45]

Flashman and the Mountain of Light [Indian Punjab 1845-46]

Flash for Freedom [England, West Africa, USA, 1848-49]

Flash and the Redskins [USA 1849-50 and 1875-76]

Flashman at the Charge [England, Crimea and Central Asia 1854-55]

Flashman in the Great Game [Scotland, England1856-58]

Flashman and the Angel of the Lord [India, South Africa, USA, 1858-59]

Flashman and the Dragon [China, 1860]

The Engines of God, Jack McDevitt

Respectable and readable sci-fi.

The Conscience of the Rich, CP Snow

Strange and unsettling book. Published during the 1950s the title’s an anachronism to such an extent the reader feels a bit lost at the beginning, figuring on some class warfare thing that would have found that name a decade later.

In fact, it’s probably the book Maugham would have written in Of Human Bondage if he’d been writing about a family of Jewish aristocrats in Britain during the 1920s and 1830s. The intractable controls imposed by the Jewish family on personal choices of family members in almost every facet of their lives.

Unsettling, but a worthy read.

Telegraph Days – Larry McMurtry

That original McMurtry book where he decided to become Louis L’Amour wasn’t bad, certainly a lot better than some that came later. I’d put Telegraph Days somewhere up near the top of his work since he became the great American novelist trying to push L’Amour out of the way.

The Time it Never Rained – Elmer Kelton

Good read about that pivotal time in the relationship between independent ranchers in the west and the US government, coincident with the drought of the 1950s.

Rumpole’s Last Case – John Mortimer

Another good Rumpole. What more needs saying?

The Black Throne – Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen

Saberhagen books were always considered safe to buy at a quarter in the thrift stores until this one. I imagine it wasn’t him dropped the ball, but maybe it was just a pot-boiler for both of them. The writing craft is what’s at fault. Everything’s there, crisp dialogue, plot, characters with some depth. Good command of the language.

But something’s missing. I wouldn’t spend a quarter on it next time if I can remember when I see it again in a thrift store.

Other blogs you might enjoy:


Retired university librarian. Oblique political humor of a liberal slant, frequently a smiler, sometimes a chuckler or horselaugher.
If you know more about politics than I do you might enjoy it even more. To me they’re just faces sometimes attached to names, but fun and interesting.

Just An Earth-Bound Misfit

“Airplanes, cats, guns, war, the more than occasional rant about the party of the Confederacy, the spinelessness of the Democrats and crap about anything else that flits through the somewhat offbeat mind of an armed lesbian pinko as she slides down the Razor Blade of Life.”

I’m not crazy about a lot of the content, but the airplane pics she posts are worth the price of admission and reading the posts offers a different slant on things worth chewing on.

An Old Texan Remembers

Trips, weather, just whatever thoughts move him to post them any given day.

This is dedicated to All you old guys who read here:
Guy Clark – Boats to Build

The Lost Coon Diggings

I try not to be too humanocentric in my  dealings with the wildlife population here.  I’m willing to put up with some inconvenience and irritation in most instances in favor of the critters having their own jobs to do,  not directly intending anything personal.  I haul away snakes and try to discourage the deer.  If a creature will agree not to bother my cats and chickens I’ll generally agree to keeping the .22 behind the door where it can be peaceful and quiet.

But sometimes an animal gets insistent about leaping out of this lifetime into whatever place it figures members of its own species go when they die.  Coons tend to be of this nature.

This particular one’s been fighting a protracted battle with me for a month, at least.  Trying to dig into the chicken fortress at night, me stretching chain with treble-hooks wired to the links to discourage it days.  Brother Coon moving to another spot, starting again.  Me cutting prickly pear, putting in the holes, stacking rocks, him digging past, gradually winning me over to his own point of view that he was destined for some help getting into the next lifetime.

Last night I finally broke down and put out the live trap.

Good Read: Gargantua and Pantagruel – Rabelais

Multi-faceted laugh-a-minute and dead serious

If you’re one of those folks who believe you ‘don’t like’ the works or Renaissance writers you might be the victim of having been forced to read the wrong ones by academians. Fact is the period includes some of the most entertaining writing mankind has ever been guilty of producing. Rabelais is one such example.

Academian praisers of Rabelais and this particular work have already expressed a lot of the truths to be found here, the exquisite style, the masterly satire. All they say is true and would be reason enough to read Gargantua and Pantagruel. I won’t repeat those laurels to affirm them. Instead, I’ll say it’s gutter crude, frequently barnyard humor with more levels than Grand Central Station.

Hilarious work.

But I’ll suggest another reason a segment of readers might find Rabelais interesting. Followers of the Thelemic ‘tradition’ created by Alister Crowley during the early 1900s might be surprised to discover Crowley’s claims to having channeled the doctrine from Horus in Cairo in 1910, were preceded by Rabelais several centuries earlier. Rabelais creates an imaginary monastery and sect of monks he names, “Thelema”, where a sign above the entry reads, “DO AS YOU WILL”. Sound familiar?

Give this book a chance. If you do you won’t regret it unless you offended by violations of polite discourse.

But if you read it as an admirer of Crowley’s channeling be prepared to have some of your balloons deflated, lean back and enjoy butchering of a sacred cow for the barbecue.

Some other blogs you might enjoy:

Old Fool’s Journal

This man has my admiration for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the cleanliness of his kitchen.

Coffee with the Hermit

If he doesn’t hit your interest button today likely he will tomorrow.

Outta the Cornfield

One of the most considerate people I’ve come across blogging.  Great pics.

Too Much Blame or Praise

Visiting blogs since starting this one has been an unexpected learning experience. The general impression that almost everyone is concerned about the state of the world and the nation wasn’t a surprise.

But the fortified positions, the polarization, the nagging thought that a lot of people would gladly enforce their viewpoints on others at gunpoint if they had the option, is troubling if accurate. The middle ground, the concept of a loyal opposition, even the concept of people still potentially being okay if they have different political, religious, differing gender viewpoints just isn’t out there anymore. No live-and-let-live in the mix.

The level of rancor between opposing opinions approaches a level where it wouldn’t be too shocking if, say, a 9/11 happened in an environment limiting US victims to a particular political or religious bias, and sets of blog dialogues appearing to express:

“What the hell! They were all Tea-Baggers!”


“What the hell! They were all pinko liberals!”

Or Democrats, Republicans, Muslims, Catholics, Baptists.

There are already posts on blogs I visit saying, “Let God sort them out.”

I can’t help wondering whether I’m the only one troubled by this.

I used to know a guy, a good man, who was also an alcoholic of the sort you’d rather not be too close to. Jay was his name, an ex-Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Air Corps, B24 pilot of um-de-umph hundred bombing missions over Germany during WWII. War hero.

By the mid-1960s Jay had a drinking problem bad enough to be placed repeatedly into the hands of the Texas Alcoholic Rehabilitation Commission to dry out. Finally, in those days a bright new shining light among the mental health medicos was the pre-frontal lobotomy, was chosen as the tool of choice for curing what ailed old Jay….. But the unfortunate side effects were that a lot of him ceased to be Jay.

But those wise medicos knew what was best for him, they’d read all the recent advances and articles, so they strapped him down to a gurney and inserted electrodes on his temples and shot the juice to him. Several times.

I’d heard about all this, thought it was fairly awful, but what the hell. A few months later I was among a group of young folks friends of his who got invited to spend a day on Galveston Bay cruising around in Jay’s cabin cruiser down there.

Jay was wearing a tee-shirt that proclaimed, “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy”. And he did.

It finally killed him, alcohol, the lobotomy didn’t change that…. but he always believed, afterward, that it was a fairly shabby thing for society to have done to him, that lobotomy. Deprived him of his right to make his own mistakes. At least, it attempted to.

If you boil all that down and scrape the leavings off the bottom of the pot, that’s about the way I feel about the likely outcome of the undercurrents at work in this country.

Someone’s going to get the upper hand, one side or the other.

The ones left holding smaller bag might need a bottle to soften up the resulting enforced prefrontal lobotomies and attitude adjustments.

A Great Cultural Revolution

If old Jay were alive he’d probably buy a tee-shirt.

Old Jules

Give a Person a Fish

Hi blogsters:

I never see that phrase about fish without a flash of memory.

During the 1950s drought stock ponds were drying up all over the southwest.  There came a day a lot like this one, though it was probably warmer, when a kid named David Cagle and I were wandering around the ruins of cow country and came across a pond that was maybe five acres of surface and about three inches deep in water.  Every square foot of water had a fish flopping in it.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

A few hundred yards from the pond was an abandoned barn where we’d noticed an old galvanized washtub someone had probably used to water calves when there was still water, or feed them when there was still food.  We hoofed over to that barn and snagged the tub, waded into that fish and cow-mud calf deep throwing fish into the tub.

We glowed over that tub full of fish all the way home, him on one handle, me on the other, thinking how deeeeeelighted our folks would be with the treasure we were bringing them.

Both of us smelled a joyous combination of cow-mud and fish when we got to David’s house, went in through the kitchen door and watched his mama shriek even before she turned around and saw the fish.

“Get those fish out of this house!”

We got them out and she followed us into the yard to hose him down before she’d allow him inside.  Me, she ordered to take those fish with me and head down the road.

My own mom took a more circumspect view of things, mainly because she wasn’t home when I got there.  I cleaned myself up and filled the kitchen sink with all the fish it would hold and started killing and gutting them.  The job was far enough along to make quitting a moot point when she got home.

I gutted a lot of fish over the next couple of days, though I did move the operation out into the back yard.

My mom’s one of those kind of people who remember such things after she can’t remember her own name.  I’m not sure I’ve ever returned to her company during the past 50 years without being reminded of it.

Give a person a fish and he might not appreciate it, but he won’t starve until the fish is digested.

But give a person a fishing pole and he’ll almost surely hook an ear or nostril before it’s over.

Old Jules

Sons of the Pioneers–  Cool Clear Water

Woody Guthrie–Dust Bowl Blues