August 07, 2010

The mountains go dark

The wind has settled, the blossoms have fallen;
Birds sing, the mountains grow dark --
This is the wondrous power of Buddhism.--Ryokan 1758-1831

August 06, 2010

Operation deer hide

Many of the animals on Goat Rope Farm have endearing and not so endearing habits. Little Edith Ann the boxer goes mad with squeaky toys most days. Honeysuckle the not-so-baby goat jumps all over us like a puppy. Diego the turkey relentlessly courts his mate with an ever changing display of facial and snood colors (the snood is the thing that hangs down from a male's face when he's trying to get lucky). Cat Seamus expresses his dissatisfaction with the world primarily through excretory functions.

And then there's Arpad, the Great Pyrenees. He mostly abides, like the Dude in the Big Lebowski. His presence has been a pretty good deterrent against predators, with the notable exception of his platonic chicken killing girlfriend up the road. Mostly he just hangs around, but every so often he takes a day off and lights out like Huck Finn for the territory.

Some of these excursions are foraging missions from which he returns carrying bits and pieces of deer carcasses left over from the last hunting season. He returned with one such artifact this week, a vintage November deer hide, periodically shaking it and leaving fur all over the yard.

He's such a pretty good boy that I like to indulge him within reason, but this one required an intervention. This consisted in waiting until he was asleep and bagging it. I don't think he minds too much. As far as I can tell, things just appear, disappear and reappear in his consciousness, such as it is.

The Dude abides.

ONE TO WATCH. Methane monitors have been recovered from the Upper Big Branch mine. They may provide more insight into what happened April 5. And here's uber-blogger Ken Ward's Coal Tattoo post on why people are watching this.

NOT SO GOOD. The latest report on joblessness shows an increase in claims.

UNSTIMULATED. According to the Charleston Gazette, West Virginia ranks next to last in stimulus spending.

BACK TO THE FARM. More people are turning to small farming. What are they thinking?


August 05, 2010

The power on the page

Juno is a serious reader.

On my current pile of books lately is a gift from a friend titled A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel. It's a pretty wide ranging tome, interspersed with quotes from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

While reading it, I stumbled on some eloquent lines about the power of literature to help people deal with life and all its injustices and challenges. Here goes:

There may be no poem, however powerful, that can remove one ounce of pain or transform a single moment of injustice. But there may be no poem, however poorly written, that may not contain, for its secret and elected reader, a consolation, a call to arms, a glimmer of happiness, an epiphany. Something there is in the modest page that, mysteriously and unexpectedly, allows us, not wisdom, but the possibility of wisdom, caught between the experience of everyday life and the experience of literary reality.

Him write pretty but me think him right.

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. I've blogged a lot this summer about the need for Congress and the Senate in particular to pass some additional fiscal relief to the states. Yesterday, the measure finally passed with a vote of 61-38. The House will be called back into session probably next week to finalize the bill.

The downside, as I mentioned yesterday, is that the package includes a rollback of expanded food stamp or SNAP benefits from the Recovery Act which will take place in 2014. But we can fight that one out another day.

ANOTHER UNLIKELY AGREEMENT. Things are really getting weird. Now I'm agreeing with former Reagan budget director David Stockman on letting Bush era tax cuts expire.

UPPER BIG BRANCH UPDATE. Here's an interesting item from Ken Ward's Coal Tattoo about the latest twist in the investigation. This item from AOL News suggests that Massey's aggressive defense tactics have not been too well received.

DREAM ON. We all do it. But should we try to manipulate our dreams?


August 04, 2010

Once more for luck

Random animal picture.

For two months or so, the US Senate majority has been trying to pass a bill that would extend the fiscal aid to states from the Recovery Act to prevent further layoffs and a double dip recession. As Paul Krugman put it over a year ago, the effect of massive public sector layoffs will be like that of "50 Herbert Hoovers."

Today, the Senate may vote again. This time, the measure is fully offset from other cuts in spending so it would be deficit neutral (not that that matters very much when you have massive unemployment and sagging demand). Alas, some of that offset comes from cutting other vital programs, including SNAP or food stamps.

It's always something.

Still, it is my opinion that this bill is worth passing--we can fight again another day on the SNAP front. If you haven't--and especially if you live in states like Maine, Massachusetts, or Ohio--please call your senators (two in Maine, and one each in Ohio and Massachusetts).

UPPER BIG BRANCH. In the latest development in the ongoing investigations, the state of West Virginia is taking a rare step by issuing subpoenas in the disaster investigation. Here's more from Coal Tattoo.

SPEAKING OF COAL, here's the first in a series of blog posts from the WV Center on Budget and Policy about coal and the future of West Virginia.

OH YEAH, AND THIS. The coal industry is poised to spend millions in the next election. This is what they'll be paying for.

WHO NEEDS US? Corporations and the wealthy are doing fine. It's just ordinary people who aren't doing so great.


August 03, 2010

The ones that got away

Aside from links and comments about current events, Goat Rope is all about gratuitous animal pictures. Many of these are captured right here on the farm or in the course of travels.

This latest gem was found on the farm by the Spousal Unit. Praying mantises are one of my totem animals and are associated with a style of kung fu. I have related here before about how I got beat up by one such insect several years ago.

But sadly, we don't always have a camera around when we need it. During a recent trip to Vermont, we saw baby beavers while we were splashing around in a tributary of the White River. They were cute little buggers, especially the tails. Alas, we probably won't run across any of those any time soon.

Another one got away earlier this week as we were taking the dogs on their ritual 2 mile evening walk. It was an ichneumon wasp dragging a big but stunned spider across the road. If you recall, these guys stun their prey so they can move and lay eggs in them. The unlucky critter, an arachnid in this case, provides a living dinner to the larvae. Slowly.

This variety of wasp created great theological problems in the 1800s when people tried to find proof of divine providence in nature. Those seeking to find evidence of this had no problem with ordinary hunting and predation, but this kind of feeding seemed a bit...unsportsmanlike.

Lao Tzu said it best, "Heaven and Earth are not humane."

RESTORING THE MIDDLE CLASS. Here is a speech by Elizabeth Warren, who, if there's any justice, will head the new bureau of consumer protection.

HERE'S ANOTHER ONE. I don't always agree with this columnist, but I'm with him on letting the Bush era tax cuts go the way of archaeopteryx.

COAL, MONEY AND ELECTIONS. Here's an update on all three from Coal Tattoo.

GOING GREEN. Orangutans seem to be ahead of humans.


August 02, 2010

Blues and greens

El Cabrero is not overly superstitious most days, but I do believe it's good luck to see a great blue heron, if only because herons are cool. I saw two great blues flying yesterday during a long road trip, which I took to be a good sign.

Yesterday evening, however, who should appear at Goat Rope Farm but a green heron who has been known to hang out here from time to time, our creek being one of his favorite dining establishments.

It remains to be seen whether the good luck portended by the flying blues was seeing the green or if seeing both kinds means that things are about to go really great. Judging by current events, it may well be the former.

THE NEW NORMAL. Are we supposed to just get used to high unemployment rates and government inaction?

MEANWHILE, BACK IN WV, economic signals are mixed.

STOP THE PRESSES. I agree with Alan Greenspan about something.

IMPORTANT VOTE TODAY. The US Senate may vote today (again) on an important measure which would extend fiscal aid to states through the federal Medicaid match (FMAP). This measure has been narrowly defeated several times in the past by Republicans. If you want to do a good deed today, try calling yours bright and early, especially if they are on the fence. State layoffs and budget cuts could turn a lackluster recovery into a double dip recession.