Monday, June 23, 2008

busy busy

We had a lovely Whole Planet Picnic; and generated a lot of nice ashes for the crops.  Attendance was down just a tad- I'm thinking it may well have been the price of gas, in fact.  More people than usual had responded "sure, we're going to try to come" - and then didn't.  And it may have been the realization later that it was just crazy expensive to drive 80 miles, now.

That's fine, of course, though we missed a bunch of folks.  We're assuming they had their own version at home - though it likely didn't match our spectacle-

Hope yours was as nice!  By all means, let us know here.  I still think this is a tradition that has legs- more folks will join us each year.

Right now- I'm off to lay sod in the cool of the morning; boy it's sweaty work in the noonday sun.  Pics of our "barn-sinking" coming up soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Too too utterly!

Wow.  Just got this from Deb, in a comment on Whole Planet Picnic Day- and it's way too wonderful to stay buried there-

I couldn't resist taking at stab at a Whole Planet Picnic song to the Teddy Bear music. Just rough but feel free to edit.

"The Planet Picnic"

If you wander through Greenpa’s woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
If you wander out in the woods today, you better go in disguise
For every Greenee that ever there was
Will gather there together because
Today’s the day the Whole Planet has their picnic.

If you partake of the fun today, and make the way through the bog
Folks trickle in, old and young, Smidgens, teenagers, dog
And run and skip and play and dance
With guitars, flutes, harmonicas per chance
Today’s the day the Whole Planet has their picnic.

And when the da-ark is creeping in, you better go grab your stick
For the biggest bonfire you’ve ever seen, will flame up in the nick
Weenies, marshmallows and S’Mores,
Jokes, guffaws, and ghostly stories
Today’s the day the Whole Planet has their picnic.

Don’t bring those things that pollute the world, no paper plates, plastic spoons
We’ll have more fun without that stuff while celebrating 20th June
And all the time we’ll breathe clean air
And twirl around with nary a care
Today’s the day the Whole Planet has their picnic.

If you meet Greenpa just pinch your nose or he will water your eyes
For he gave up baths for this Earth-Lent and now he’s attracting flies
For every Greenpa that ever there was
Will find a way to effuse because
Today’s the day the Whole Planet has their picnic.

As the evening deepens down, you’ll see all the fireflies
The frogs will hop, the children hunt, you’ll see the Frisbees glide
And homemade music will fill the air
And create traditions for the next year
Today’s the day the Whole Planet has their picnic.

As the big party starts to end, you’ll wonder how you survived
Without this reminder now and then that happiness is alive
It’s a lovely clear and summery day
And surely most of them are that way
Everyday the Whole Planet has a Picnic!

At midnight all will pull out their sleeping bags and go to bed
Because they’re tired little Greenee folks.


:-)  Wow!  Deb, my dear, you totally get it.  Many many thanks.

This should provide inspiration for additional verses, don't you think?...

Humor. maybe.

Now that T.Boone Pickens has announced oil has in fact peaked, there's hardly anything left to talk about right now.

So, I got this in my email yesterday- and it did indeed crack me up.  So I thought I would share it with you- maybe it will make your day brighter- in some twisted way.

Subject: Mr. Robert S. Mueller, III (Director)Federal Bureau of Investigation
Date: June 16, 2008 2:44:05 PM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Mr. Robert S. Mueller, III (Director)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation
Telephone: (206)-339-7444

Attention: Fund Beneficiary,

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Has discovered through our intelligence Monitoring Network, that you have an on going transaction with a Financial Institution in Nigeria, as the owner of the said sum $1,500,000.00 USD.

So the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) Washinton, DC in conjunction with The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Has screened through our various Monitoring Networks and has been confirmed and notified that the transaction you have with the Financial Institution is Legal and you have the Lawful Right to claim your due fund. We advise you to go ahead with the transaction as we are monitoring all their services and networks. Be advised that any letter or claims notification received from anybody or company should be forwarded to us with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, you are advised to follow the procedure of the Financial Institution.  They have their own legal procedure which we have examined and confirmed legal.  Follow their instructions while you keep us updated for more details. You are advised to contact the necessary office for more details of transfer as we are monitoring every move now.

Please, be advised and be aware that your funds had been insured and the necessary charges would be taken care of by you, as confirmed by the Monitoring network. For your own good you are advised to confirm any transaction or lottery promo you have either involved yourself with in the past to enable us trace this scammers. Only the Financial Institution has been confirmed Legal any other are still under investigation, and so many others are scam, most especially from Nigeria and Africa.

You are to contact the Director of Operations Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde with the information below in regards to more details on your funds.

Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde (Director of Operations)
Phone: +234 1 742 1060

If you need to contact me at any stage please do not hesitate to call.


Mr. Robert S. Mueller, III (Director)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation

One is, almost, tempted to call that phone numbers, and inquire.

Now I ask you, is that just totally hilarious, or not?

Simultaneously, I do find it sad, and disturbing- because-

A) There are people in this world who are SO DUMB that they think there are people out there, SO DUMB that they would fall for such astonishingly transparent bullpuckey.


B) The people in A- are correct.  Yes, there are people so dumb they will believe this.

Clearly, my mind has boggled.  But I don't see where.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Whole Planet Picnic-2008

Time marches on, regardless of floods, famines, fires, and fools.  (and yeah, it's seriously scary how many other links are available to put there...)

We've reached the middle of 2008 already.  The growing season seems to be barely begun, but Friday June 20 is the Summer Solstice- half the year's sunlight will be gone by.

Time for The Whole Planet Picnic.  We're having our usual one, which means a big bonfire.  It's a cold year; the heat will be welcome.  And we're not wasting anything- the wood is in the way, and actually we're adding some excess pines to it this year specifically to generate some available potash- fertilizer.  Can't afford to buy it- but we can harvest our own.  The bonfire ash will be carefully swept up when it's cool, and put on our crops, which need it badly.

The whole exposition on what and why can be found here, in the posts for last year's huge event.   

It's a community building event, we hope.  And community may be where most of the hope lies.  

Please consider hosting a Picnic of your own, for your own neighborhood.  Spice is busy making phone calls to roust folks out of their ruts.  Wish you all could join us!

Time to relax- a little, anyway, and just watch the fireflies and kids; listen to the frogs and the nighthawks.  Anyway.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

lies and damned lies- and models

Stoneleigh, over at The Automatic Earth, cites some articles with a bit of discussion about macroeconomic models yesterday, pointing out some of the limitations there.  (Among the basic assumptions in the most accepted models; consumers are rational!!!!  - and - all have the same preferences!!!!  Yeah, right.)

I'd like to add a bit of insider info on "models", per se.  I started writing this as a comment on TAE, but it kept growing-

The advent of computers got plenty of academics, in all disciplines, excited. Hey, we can use Big Math! And arrive at New Truths!  Look at how many things we can throw into the soup, and still calculate!  Man, you can correlate everything!

The reality, of course, remains the old bit about "Garbage In, Garbage Out." And the increasing complexity of "models" has made it both much more likely that there will be a bit of garbage in the model somewhere, and hugely less likely that anyone will ever find and remove it. Who actually examines the math- bit by bit? 

In truth; virtually no one, except the author, ever checks the math; not even the academic reviewers will put in the hours, days, necessary to truly proofread these monsters. 

 I've published some calculations on carbon cycle stuff- with surprising conclusions; and as far as I can tell, no one has ever even checked my multiplication.  I got two kinds of reactions- with no checking:  "wow, cool!"; and "I don't believe it."  Check the math?  Check basic assumptions?  nah- why?

But "models" still carry a great cachet of believability- in the Congressional hearing,  "but the model says..." will trump any expert opinion to the contrary. 

Math does not lie- we so desperately want to believe. 

Disraeli nailed it long ago; "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statisics." I greatly fear that models may constitute a 4th kind; with a power even greater than statistics.

This first became obvious to me when I acquired my first Macintosh computer (1984, 128K).  MacPaint was such a breakthrough program; absolutely astonishing.  I was hopeless as an artist with pen and ink; but here, the computer will keep the lines straight; and- you can go back and fix anything, pixel by pixel if necessary.

One of the first things I did was make a diagram of a biological/genetic project I was working on at the time.  Took me half a day (no time at all, compared to finding an artist, teaching them what I wanted it to show, etc.) and looked totally professional when done.

And totally convincing.  Wow- this looks like- The Truth.  Neat, clean, and logical.

And I knew damn well it was NOT a proven hypothesis; there were plenty of doubts possible, and remaining; but I'd made the diagram up as an argument, and they didn't show.  Everybody who looked at it was convinced.  And on totally inadequate information.

I was so impressed- and frightened- by the power of the Pretty Diagram that I immediately, made up another:
Just clean up the presentation- and it will look like the absolute truth.

My insider's info: the mathematical models used to describe the dynamics of salmon populations- are junk.  And most relevant fisheries biologists, and plenty of ecologists, know it.

Primary evidence- uh, they don't work; the salmon fishery in California is closed, this year, since the number of returning fish dropped to 5% of normal.  Catastrophic.  In fact, the mathematical ecologists have known for decades that the original salmon models are junk.

Once launched, models take on a life of their own.  A major purpose for them is to communicate with lawmakers.  Having acquainted the lawmakers with Model A- it's almost impossible for an agency to go back to the legislature the next year, and say "oh, incidentally, we've discovered that Model A is total crap."

So what you do is refine Model A.  The problem being, Model A still contains crap; and arguably, crap, multiplied by anything, is still crap.

Models, regardless of the field they are applied to; whether economics, ecology, or global weather patterns- are like all technologies.  They have no intrinsic ethics; they are true only to the extent their inputs are accurate, and honest.  And that's assuming that the model has any chance of reflecting reality in the first place; by no means a given.

They are a particularly powerful tool for liars- because there are so few people who are qualified to refute them.  And they are very seductive even for those with the best of intentions.  Young scientists get sucked into the worlds of modeling constantly- becoming enamored of the power, and promise- and gradually becoming apologists for the entire process.  And; well; this model right here- which they helped write...

One more technology where the potential for abuse and misuse is immense- mostly unrecognized- and not policed.

The salmon models are blindingly simple, compared to macro-economic models.  

One somewhat objective way of looking at it:

Salmon models can be tested, and possibly refined.  Did the predictions turn out true-ish?

Global warming models also- can be tested.

Economics models- uh- we're immediately out of the realm of hard numbers, into the worlds of fantasy and opinion.  Are the premises true?  Opinion.  Numbers true?  No physicist, or ecologist, would accept the kinds of measurements economists claim as accurate.  There are simply too many assumptions, ifs, maybes, blatant guesses, and we hopes in all those economic data.  And lies.

Ah, but the model shows- this is true.

And I can make a model to show anything I want.


Ok.  So why, I hear you cry, is this discussion of any value to me?  I come here for information on how to build potty houses, for crying out loud.  And the occasional bit of stunningly wonderful poetry.

One of the basic problems we face is the increasingly difficult task of figuring out who is telling us the truth about our world, and its possible futures.

There's really no way of escaping the need to be able to judge your source's veracity.  You need to know how to guess; is this person lying?  a fool?  misinformed?

It's not easy; and is not going to get any easier.  Perhaps it will be useful to realize- if they're basing their claims on some complex and unexaminable "model" - and they're quite vehement about how this proves their claim- beware, oh, beware.

Update, 6/16; an article in the Washington Post today contains this bit of comment, regarding the mortgage bubble collapse- " 'Nobody had models for that,' said David E. Zimmer, then one of the executives at People's Choice, a subprime lender based in Irvine. 'Nobody had predicted people going into default in their first three mortgage payments.' "

So- models- that did not work- were being used to guide actions.  Result?  Millions of foreclosures- suicides- etc, etc.
Update 9/19/08 - mid panic- An article yesterday in the NYT, on "How Wall Sreet Lied To Its Computers" - almost catches up to us-

Friday, June 13, 2008

just can't help myself

It finally got to me.  I have NO time for this, but I just can't stop myself.

The Stock Market- the "financial sector" - is entirely populated with absolute idiots.

And, just for fun; most of them are certifiable gambling addicts, to boot.  Self-deluding, in the extreme.

Two stories, running simultaneously in the New York Times, right now; prove this beautifully.

Gasoline prices rose 5.2 percent in May and were up 21 percent compared with a year ago, according to the report, released by the Labor Department on Friday. On an annual basis, inflation ran at 4.2 percent compared to May 2007. The rise in the index was slightly more than economists had forecast.

Food prices rose again in May as Americans paid 5 percent more for foods and beverages than a year ago.

... Minus the cost of food and gasoline, inflation was 0.2 percent for the month.

Ok, got that?

Story 2; "Stocks Up After Inflation Data."  This is the entire story, here; a note;

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street is extending its gains in early trading after a pair of economic reports point to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates stable when it meets later this month. The Labor Department's report on core inflation, which measures price increases but strips out volatile food and energy costs, met investor expectations.

The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary reading on consumer sentiment for June has fallen to 56.7 from 59.8 last month. The market had expected the reading would remain unchanged.

Taken together the reports seem to make the case for the Fed to keep rates unchanged, rather than raising them, when it meets June 24-25.

The Dow Jones industrial average is up about 124 at the 12,266 level.

Oh.  My.  God.

So- the market is ignoring the real inflation rate- by stripping out food and energy.  Why?  Because they want to, is why.  It makes them feel better.  And they're ignoring the fact that their pundits thought wrong on consumer "sentiment" (otherwise known as "consumer confidence", a measure of how willing consumers are to believe in the future, and spend money).  

Pundits right?  Yay!  Pundits wrong?  Yay!

My jaw is just dropped, right on the floor, at how anyone can claim, with a straight face, that these morons know what they're doing.

The only possible action from a responsible government would be to move in with troops, and lock 100% of the inhabitants of the "financial sector" in a loony bin.  Or maybe Guantanamo?  They're about to go out of business there, I understand.  We could consider it a Federal employment Initiative; keep that facility working.


On the good side: also in the NYT right now: Speculators Become Targets.

Legislators are aware that constituents are angry about speculators driving up food prices (and fuel prices).  And they're starting to call, seriously, for action.

Did your emails and calls a couple weeks ago have anything to do with that?

YOU BET THEY DID!!!  I guarantee it.  It's quite possible that your email was the first one that staffer read, and they kind of blew it off.  But then they got another one.  And another.  Hey, it's a trend.  And the talk started- and here is a nice fat article in the NYT- and rising awareness.

Thanks, guys, and congratulations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Be kind to your web footed friend

For the duck may be somebody's mother...

Old campfire song.  Lots of need for webbed feet around here these days.

Just quick; we got another 2.5" of rain; on totally saturated ground; wound up with 2 feet of water in the cellar.  Big mess.  Pumped it out, which took more than half a day with our little pump.

That cellar has been dry for 20 years.  It's on  a hilltop, for crying out loud- so it would stay dry (not attached to the Little House).  Trying to figure out how to keep it dry.

More rain on the way, storms predicted tonight, Weds, Thurs, and Fri- running in to town for supplies while the sun shines.  Sheesh.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

re-pre occupied

Flooding.  Again; here.  For those not aware, last fall we lost our walking tractor in the floods (a 20 year old Mainline, worked fine).  But it wasn't on our farm; it was in town, undergoing pre-harvest maintenance; and the water came over the dikes, so that, and our other commercial mower (17 hp diesel) were totally underwater for 3 days.  Not worth fixing.

This time, the new Grillo is under a roof, on our farm; and oddly enough I didn't build anything here on flood plain; so it's perfectly safe.

Our neighbors are not, however; rain's still falling, scheduled to do so for another 24 hours.  We've had a measly 4" so far; to the south, they've had 10 so far-

We did spend an hour in the root cellar last night- tornado warning; the real thing, and tracking right towards us.  It missed, though I haven't been over the farm yet to see what-all happened. busy busy! Hey, the DSL is still working!

I'm feeling bad for the neighbors.  All their newly planted corn and beans are going to be under water or washed out, with deep gullies cut in the newly plowed fields sitting there naked in the rain.  My own fields will be unaffected; but the creek down in our valley is now running high and dark brown, carrying the neighbors' soil away.

Traditional row crop agriculture is now going to be much less tenable, as global warming proceeds, for a flock of reasons.  You hear about drought, and change, as problems; but the one I see as devastating is the great increase in torrential rainfall- the rapid runoff cuts right through those nice "conservation tillage" practices; cutting gullies, stripping soil.  

Farmers find those gullies embarrassing; a sign of poor stewardship- so mostly they tend to hide them.  Plow over, pretend it never happened.  But that soil is now gone, forever.  And the fertility.

Farm exports!  For decades, we've crowed that we feed the world!  The strength of our wonderful farm economy! 

Apart from any quibbles about that- what we actually export, when we ship soybean oil to China is- our soil.  Our children's future.

Now, faster than ever; much faster.

So, after getting out, during a break in the rain- hey, we've got a foot of water in the "root cellar"- also the storm cellar, and our seed cellar- not good.  Got a little electric pump running on the backup generator- but it's a major pain.  The cellar is like on the top of a hill- should it be flooding?  Heck no- but the ground is so wet it's sheeting off; and it is finding its way down the entryway (which was badly designed; long story).

Other than that- it's wet, the food garden is fine; we've got a ton of frogs singing in the pond that were quiet yesterday; trees are fine except for a few showing leaf damage from high storm winds hitting soft new leaves.

never a dull.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

polit icks, forsooth-

Just a peep.  I begin to have hopes, for Obama.  He's pretty darn smart.  He's just managed to dodge Hillary's attempt to muscle into the Vice President's job.

According to the BBC; he's appointed a "panel" of 3 heavy duty Democrats to do the "search" for the veep, and make the formal recommendation.  One of the panel members is Caroline Kennedy.

Ok, this is like really, really smart.  They're not going to recommend Hillary (my god, what an insanely bad idea); not in a million years.  And now, Obama can just point and say "see, it wasn't me, at all."

What will the panel say about Hillary?

Here's my prediction: "Of course we gave long thought to Ms. Clinton, but we quickly agreed that she is simply too dynamic an individual, and too important to the future of this country and the Democratic Party, for her to be buried in what is, after all, a post with uncertain and unclear responsibilities.  She will be of far greater value to Mr. Obama's administration in some other post; and he will be asking for her input on that point soon."

Wanna bet?  :-)


oh, and; I'm inside resting my feet from my mowing orgy- the new Grillo is here, and in spite of an owners manual in 6 languages, apparently translated into English from Servo-Spelunkian, went together with great simplicity, and cuts like a dream, using virtually zip for fuel.  I'm in heaven.  Short break, water, more mowing.


Monday, June 2, 2008

life intrudes

Way back there, I promised a next post with deep meaningful philosophical delvings.

I lied.  Ok, didn't lie, I missthought myself.  (If you can misspeak, why can't you missthink?)  I thought I could, but my thinker didn't, and is going to stay there for awhile.

My reasons for temporarily abandoning the deep post- good questions and good speculations require full mentational power; right now mine are, perforce, focused elsewhere on two farm urgencies (on top of all the normal stuff.)

1)  We bought a new tractor.  It's due any minute; I'm writing this waiting for the freight trucker to call on his cell phone and say "I'm 5 minutes away".  

Stuff hardly gets more exciting than a new tractor, right?

Particularly this one, I think.  It's not a John Deere (already have one) - it's a Grillo.

Walking tractor.  With a 7.5 horse Yanmar diesel engine.  You can google them; I don't want to provide links here and have people wondering if I'm cahooting around.

There's a ton of Sussy (thank you Sara!) stuff to say about this walking tractor- a whole post's worth, at least.  We'll get there.  Major points- this is the machine we need.  Primary use will be mowing, with a sickle bar, for access to tree crops for harvest.  There are LOTS of other potentials; you can even get a serious hay baler for this thing.  And it's a diesel.  I can actually grow my own fuel for it- which is no longer trivial or ludicrous.

Very inciting, as Rudyard Kipling put it.

2) We've pretty much decided we're going to build a dugout sod chicken coop.  Quick.  We're still picking 6 ticks a day, per person, off each other, and 20 off Bruce.  Insane.  So we need the guineas.  They need lodgings.  We really need them to start chasing ticks in April- which means we've got to keep adults over winter.  It's cold here.  And, we're broke.  so...

Digging around on the net, the amount of hard info on soddy construction is slim- but not non existent.  Two things are obvious- it's a pretty forgiving technology; and if they're well made, and the roof maintained- they easily last 100 years.

So.  The tractor is shipped disassembled.  Gotta put it together, and not screw up.  And the chicken cellar needs to be designed.  Carefully, and thoughtfully.

Brain's busy.