Sunday, June 30, 2013

Completion, Yes ... Perfection, No ...

My PVC quonset chicken coop was poorly thought out, badly designed and inexpertly constructed. There are about a dozen things I should have done differently, and will do differently next time.

It is, however, done.

The chickens are in it. They seem pleased with it, more or less (they wandered in on their own while free ranging -- their old coop was coming apart to provide materials for the last little bit of the new one; when it started getting dark they freaked out a little to find the "gate" (one section of wire/fence attached with removable clips) shut behind them, presumably thinking they needed to get out of there and head "home;" but as of a few minutes ago they were roosting comfortably, and calmly enough that Liam was able to walk right up and pet them).

As construction immediately started to go weird (a PVC connector broke in place and I had to do crazy stuff with rope to force that segment to hold something resembling the hoop shape) I reduced it from 10' x 20' to 10' x 15'. So 150 square feet, 50 square feet and one and of which are covered in tarp, the other 100 square feet open to the sky, done in two types of fence/wire (plastic "garden fence" with 1" holes along the bottom, the top done in 2" chicken wire I robbed from the old enclosure). Maybe 8 feet tall at the center.

It is lopsided and warped in all kinds of bizarre ways. The PVC is held together with PVC glue (and in that one case, rope); the tarps and fence/wire are attached to the frame with ~264 zip ties (and in the case of the tarps, a little rope). Rope guy lines at each ends, and some rope and tent pins at various points (with more coming) to anchor it to the ground. It looks sketchy.

Still, during construction it weathered several significant thunderstorms without flying apart or flying away, and now that it's complete I think it is better set for that kind of thing. I'll add a pic or two to this post later -- it was getting too dark to take them when I deemed it really finished.

Predators are a concern -- instead of right up against the house, this one is about 30 feet out back. But I guess we'll see. The only invader we've seen so far was a juvenile possum who managed to get into the old enclosure (probably after the chicken feed, not the chickens) and was already trying desperately to get out of there by the time the cacophany brought us humans to the scene. But some nearby neighbors have lost several hens to a fox or coyote or something.

Next, nesting boxes and "layer" feed -- and in a hurry. While tearing the old enclosure apart, I discovered the very first egg. Liam, as primary author of this whole chicken fiasco, had it as a one-egg cheese omelet. Got a pic of him with the egg, I'll put that here as well once I get it off the camera and onto the computer.


So there it is -- you can see that it is severely warped at the third hoop.

The five near-adult hens are in the foreground. In the very rear left corner, the new chicks (six weeks old?) are huddled. They do get around some, but they go huddle when the adults notice them and peck them. They were easily able to get out of the old enclosure, and spent the last week or so wandering fairly free and sleeping under the porch.

Also at the rear of the enclosure: An old dresser drawer that I set the feeder and water tank on so that the hens don't throw quite so much stuff into them and get the water dirty, etc.; and a large bird cage that was the chicks' brooder box and that I have set up as something of a refuge for them (they are small enough to get in, the big girls aren't).

Then, about midway, an old broken chair that was in the shed when we moved in here, supporting one end of a tree limb. the other end rests on that dresser drawer, and all of the birds roost on it at one time or another, although the adults decided to sleep on top of the bird cage last night. I'll get a more sophisticated roosting pole setup done soon, along with the nesting boxes.

Everyone seems reasonably happy with the thing. Not that I'm an expert on chicken pleasure, but they aren't complaining, don't seem to be looking very hard for ways out, etc.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

If US Senator Robert Menendez was an Arab Politician ...

... US Secretary of State John Kerry would be bursting blood vessels in his head as he fulminated against Menendez for "attacking his own people" and "holding the population of his country hostage to hunger."

But since he's a US Senator, threatening to send American children to bed hungry if he doesn't get his way is just par for the course.

Unfortunately for both Menendez and Kerry, but fortunately for Edward Snowden and for Americans who like broccoli, Ecuador's government has called their bluff -- and offered to send $23 million to Washington for use in educating American politicians on how to not be  fascist pigs.

I doubt $23 million is even close to enough, unless it's spent on rope.

Mike Huckabee is Outraged ...

... that "[f]ive people in robes said they are ... bigger than God."

I'm not surprised that Huckabee is outraged. After all, he seems to be pretty sure he is God.

His decision not to seek the presidency in 2012 after faring pretty well in the 2008 GOP primaries, as well as his commentaries on Fox "News" and such, have a strong, if somewhat falsely ringing, Henry-Clay-esque flavor of "I had rather be right than be president."

As Speaker of the House Thomas B. Reed replied to a congresscritter so asserting more than a century ago, "the gentleman need not be disturbed; he will never be either."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How I Learned to Relax and Live With the Surveillance State

[hat tips -- Glenn Greenwald, Claire Wolfe and Prism Break, via Brad]

So yeah, OK, take whatever countermeasures you feel are appropriate -- use off-brand software, encrypt your correspondence, etc.

But keep one thing in mind:

If the government of the United States wants to know what you're up to, they're going to know what you're up to.

It really comes down to how interested they are in you.

If they're not particularly interested, you can avoid the putatively all-seeing eye, or at least stick a finger in it.

If they're really interested, all the countermeasures in the world probably aren't going to be enough to thwart them, because ultimately they can snake a fiber optic camera through the roof of your bunker and watch you type the stuff that they couldn't intercept because you used Tor, couldn't read because you encrypted, couldn't catch on the way because you stuck your computer in a Faraday cage to frustrate Tempest and scanned for and removed their keystroke logger.

Remember the old movies, where the spies met by the reflecting pool in DC, wearing slouchy hats to obscure their faces, and then walked while they talked to avoid bugs? That stuff wouldn't work any more, if they were really interested in what you were doing. They would track you to that there bench by the reflecting pool using GPS in your car and an RFID chip sewn into the lining of your coat, then train hi-def cameras and parabolic mics on your lips.

These guys make Orwell's Thought Police look like rank amateurs with primitive capabilities.

Horrifying? Yes. But also liberating. You no longer have to worry about whether or not they're watching you. You can just assume they are, and act accordingly -- which could mean letting it all hang out because hiding your lamp under a bushel isn't possible anyway, or making an effort to be so damn boring that they won't ascribe any importance to what they're seeing. And which most certainly means that those of us who are, for whatever reason, unlikely to be doing the stuff that they consider most dangerous should put off as much chaff and flare as possible to give the rest of you some cover.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

There's a Word for This Kind of Thing ...

... and that word is b*llsh*t (yes, we were early Ouya backers, as that was something Liam wanted to spend Christmas money on; no, we haven't received our unit yet).

[Update: Liam informs me that we were not "early backers," as that is a term of art relating to the very first people who threw money at Ouya via Kickstarter; we just "pre-ordered" the console after that first round of financing -- after some developer units had gone out, but before the console went into mass production. This meant that we were supposed to get ours after those "early backers," but, to my understanding, before the thing hit store shelves - TLK]

Not Sure I Agree with the Defense Strategy Here ...

Per the Miami Herald:

Seminole Circuit Judge Debra Nelson heard arguments from attorneys without jurors present about whether to allow into evidence audio recordings of five calls [George] Zimmerman made to police in the months before he fatally shot Trayvon Martin in a gated Sanford community.

Zimmerman’s defense team wants Nelson to exclude the tapes from evidence, saying they show nothing more than that the 29-year-old neighborhood-watch volunteer was acting as a responsible citizen.

Records show Zimmerman called police 46 times since 2004 to report break-ins, broken windows and other minor disturbances

Zimmerman called the police FORTY-SIX TIMES.

Only ONE of those calls culminated in a fatal shooting.

Hardly the behavior of someone with a rabid urge to kill. Seems exculpatory to me.

Why does the defense want to exclude evidence that Zimmerman was "acting as a responsible citizen?" And why does the prosecution want to introduce it?

Monday, June 24, 2013


That's how much the city of Gainesville, Florida is considering spending for every man, woman and child in the city, on a "pedestrian/cyclist safety plan." Five million smackers.

According to the Gainesville Sun, the city has the second highest per capita bicycle accident rate in Florida among cities with a population of more than 75,000.

Anecdotally, though, I'd probably bet that there $40.21 that Gainesville is first, not second, among Florida cities in per capita bicycle ridership. You can't swing a cat in Alachua county without knocking over a "beach cruiser" (my bike of choice) or three and a couple of those guys in spandex and sunglasses on ultralight racing frames.

And there's infrastructure to match. Bike lanes. Off-road paved bike trails. Lots of signage to ensure that both bicyclists and motorists know where the bikes should be and are.

Riding a bike is a joy in Gainesville and the surrounding area, and I suspect that it's at least as safe to do so here as anywhere and probably more so than most places.

Yes, motorists need to be more aware of two-wheeled vehicles (lots of scooters and motorcycles here too).

Yes, cyclists need to be more careful.

I doubt that throwing $5 million into the mix will have any significant effect, though.

I'd rather they spent the money on giving their streets real names so that I don't have to go into convulsions trying to figure out the difference between 34th Street, 34th Avenue, 34th Terrace, 34th Lane, etc.

But hey, I live in the county, and I guess those city folks will do whatever they want.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A brief note on Dick Cheney

He's an unrepentant mass murderer.

His opinions -- including his opinions of others' "credibility" -- rank on any reasonable scale in the same "credibility" range as Charles Manson's.

That is all.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Why Do They Lie Like That?

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani said that with his election his country had entered an era of cooperation and would take concrete steps to resolve its nuclear standoff with the West—promises that would require a shift by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But that's not really true, if by "nuclear standoff" the WSJ means "a situation in which Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons." The official position of Khamenei, and therefore of the Iranian government, since 2006, is that production, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam -- and is therefore against Iranian law.

The US government's "nuclear standoff" with Iran is entirely a function of US policy. The Iranians really have nothing to do with it; they've just been conscripted as a US propaganda hobgoblin. Or, to put it a different way, there's not really anything that Khameni, or any other Iranian, could do that would predictably have the effect of causing the US government to stop lying about them.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Suggestion for Feinstein, Nelson ...

If lack the brains and morals to express some well-deserved gratitude to Edward Snowden for his self-sacrificial act of service to the American people, then pray at least have the good manners to STFU. The crap you put over on the American people on a daily basis is far closer to "treason" than anything he ever did, dumbasses.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Google. Feh.

Since I don't use Google Reader (at least not often enough for it to constitute a significant part of my online experience), I didn't pay much attention to the announcement that it is going away.

Now it turns out that I do use Google Reader, every day, for important stuff, and its impending death does affect me.

I use a service called NewsSquares, and wouldn't you know, it uses -- or rather used -- Google Reader in the background to bring me a conveniently organized screen full of little squares listing most of the web sites I cover for RRND/FND and letting me know when there's new material to have a look at.

Since Reader is disappearing on July 1st, there's a new version of NewsSquares. And while I'm grateful to Bottle In Rocket for creating a new version instead of just packing it in along Google Reader, the new version is particularly flawed from my point of view, because ...

Those little squares no longer list the number of unread articles at each site. To get that, I have to use the BIG squares, and that means that my list of feeds, which used to fit tidily on one screen, now takes up several, and I have to do a bunch of scrolling back and forth.

I was about to gripe, but then I remembered that 25 years ago I'd have had to spend all day at the public library and/or the bookstore and/or several newsstands to find most of the stuff that NewsSquares has waiting for me right on my desktop every morning ... and that the rest of the stuff wouldn't have existed at all yet.

So thanks, NewsSquares. But pretty please, with sugar on top, see if you can get me the unread article count in the little squares Real Soon Now. Thanks in advance

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Too Light for a Paperweight, Isn't It?

Google Glass isn't even really available to the general public yet, and already Google has banned both the obvious new killer apps and the universal killer apps.

So ... umm ... what can it be used for? Attending the office Halloween Party as a cyborg or something?