In Case You've Wondered
Thursday, June 29, 2023
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
That's the temperature a little before 5:00 pm. My porch is 108 on the shade side. The weather folks are showing 98, but I really don't see where their thermometer would be more accurate. It's location and surroundings. My location is hotter, and regardless of anyone's opinion, my thermometer isn't lying.
Sunday, June 25, 2023
According to the weather folks, we're in for some blistering heat. Temperatures are supposed to exceed 100 F (they were yesterday) and the high humidity will lead to heat indexes above 114 F.
Everything to be done outside needs to be done before 11:00 am. Even at 8:00am, the temperature is above 80 and at that time, the heat index is already pushing 100.
It does get cooler toward sunset, but there is only a narrow window of about 2 hours. We've had enough rain to last for awhile, but the coming week will deplete the reserve, and everything will be stressed. It's watering time, and I'll have to keep a close eye on the cucumbers.
Friday, June 23, 2023
While working in construction, safety required a lockout/tagout procedure for certain items. One that always required the procedure was work that involved electricity. This insured a circuit couldn't become energized when work was on, or around, electrical equipment. That, or something that could move when electricity was supplied was prevented from that movement. These were the obvious reasons for the procedure, but one event really caught my attention after all involved didn't foresee something important.
We were working on a large rail car dumping machine. In design, it was simple. The large frame supported the loaded rail car, which weighed around 200,000 pounds, and the bolt on gears that meshed with the gear reduction drive powered by an electric motor. Hydraulic stops came down during the dumping to keep the car from sliding down into the pit.
The machine was designed to allow the cars to come in at grade, which meant much of it, and the drive assembly, were in a large pit. In the pit were a crusher for the product, a retaining wall, part of a sloped conveyor, and the drive assembly. A blower kept a steady stream of air to help keep the pit clear. The entire assembly, including the large concrete counter weights, sat on two large pillow-block bearings. The bearings had brass sleeves that were considered wear parts. Constant greasing was required, but even with the grease, the sleeves would eventually wear and need replacing. That was our project. We were to replace the sleeves.
From what I was told, the process had been done years ago, but a very large crane was used to lift the dumper for removing the weight on the bearings. For some reason, and I suspect some personal opinions were involved, we were to use the equipment in the facility to jack the dumper high enough to service the bearings, instead of the expensive crane.
I can only write that it was a grueling, nasty project, since the material that was dumped was raw petroleum coke. It was sent from local refineries by rail, and the facility calcined the coke for different product, including the large anodes for aluminum smelting. Long, hot days accented the project, and nothing we removed, the cribbing, or the jacks, was light, or what anyone would call clean. Much of it required a small forklift we placed in the pit with a crane. Pinching, crushing, smashing, and bumping body parts was always a threat, and everyone had to keep their head on a swivel to avoid being the damage from a mistake.
Access to the pit was down a ladder mounted to the concrete wall. It didn't have a cage, which inspired this post. Normally, a ladder that is taller than a few feet has a cage. It prevents completely falling backward from a ladder, and gives a connection point for a harness. They are more than necessary, and in the past, when climbing a taller ladder, I felt much safer knowing I had more to grab onto if I lost my footing.
When the car was dumped, there was only about two feet between the swinging machinery and the ladder. Access to the pit was never allowed without a lockout tagout procedure that guaranteed the electricity was isolated, and the assembly was allowed to freewheel into it's balanced position. That was all complete before we started, but member of the company crew that were involved with original changing of the sleeves had a story to tell.
They were preparing for the process, the crew was preparing to remove some equipment to allow the dumper to be lifted, and someone thought about what they hadn't done. The brake needed to be released to allow the dumper to seek it's static balance...so they did.
In a normal lockout tagout procedure, energy is removed, and that includes stored energy, such as a car dumper seeking static balance. This is completed when nobody can be injured by the process. Failing to do so can lead to some dangerous situations.
One of the crew, I'll call him Gene, which happened to be what can only be described as a large man, was on the ladder and nobody noticed, didn't think about was about to happen, or really didn't care for the man (I didn't care for him either, he was a constant ass-kissing annoyance). The brake was released, the entire dumper swung down, and Gene sucked everything in hoping it was enough. It was, but not by much, and the event still haunted him. Getting crushed by something big enough to dump a loaded rail car is a sobering thought.
We completed the project, I imagine our less expensive maintenance procedure allowed an engineer to put a feather in their cap. I was glad to think going home didn't mean a long time washing off the grime accumulated during the day. Petroleum coke is a nasty thing to deal with, and it takes days to sweat out what accumulates in the pores. White underwear is a waste of money, since it becomes gray after working in the facility. The carbon doesn't wash completely away, and can even cloud glass after a long period of time.
As for Gene, years later, he managed to injure himself by not following a safety procedure. He eventually returned to work, but the last I heard, he wasn't working there any longer.
Thursday, June 22, 2023
A submersible has disappeared. News reports vary, speculation abounds, but it's now at the time the search and rescue is a recovery. Time will tell what happened, and they may never find it, but two of the most dangerous things to do underwater were attempted. One was going to an extreme depth, and the other was diving on a wreck. Adding the lack of rescue equipment on hand, and the recipe for disaster was complete.
Adam Schiff is officially censured. That's seems to be a poor trade-off for keel-hauling.
The alphabet sex crusade is finding push-back. Companies are losing huge amounts of revenue, schools are becoming battlegrounds, and a substantially small part of the population will now find being severely outnumbered is not the same as having the high ground. How it ends is yet to be seen, but the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction, and it never swings lightly.
A young, impressionable, advocate of climate Nazism is having a breakfast of crow this morning. She'll probably not share it with her smug, evil handlers.
Gas prices went up this week. It's summer, people that want to go vacationing need to be punished, and the annual event has started.
Fox News is going all in with becoming a wannabe CNN. That's like chasing a crippled goat down a steep canyon. Only fools can understand the process.
Locally, the shootings are numerous. That, and the rural criminals are finding the pickings aren't as good as they are in the city. I blame much of this on the economy, which leads to the actions of the government, which leads to decades of the EEO policies. According to those policies, the only qualifications needed for the most important of jobs are the color of skin and genitalia. It sounds good, until you realize the $250,000 submersible trip to the Titanic is from a company that embraces the policies.
It's been hot here, but not as dry as last summer. If someone asked me what I thought was happening, I'd say the tilt of the Earth's rotation creates an annual event where solar radiation is more direct, and this leads to longer days in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, many would disagree because they worship at the alter of AGW.
There's more, but I need to go make breakfast. That, and maybe do something productive today.
Added Note: They found the submersible. Debris indicates it imploded. From what I've read, carbon fiber can't be tested for structural failure, so a serious flaw could never be exposed. I don't know if those involved were ignorant, or decided to cross their fingers and hope for the best.
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
Driving into the mountains of the Lincoln National Forest was a high point in my life. When most of your life is spent in the Coastal Plains of Texas, or the swampland of Louisiana, mountains are a treat. Besides the splendor, and vistas, the lower temperature is pleasant. Adding the lack of high humidity makes it even better. Photographs really don't show the depth, but the steep hills are something to see.
It was early, and not that far from where we would stay, so we detoured to Lincoln, the central point of the Lincoln County War and the escapades of Billy the Kid. Any tourist attractions, or vendors were not there. Apparently, since it was before Memorial Day, everything was closed, except the local sheriff's office. I met him, when I pulled off the road for my wife to take a picture, and he sternly reminded me to be completely off the paving, if I wanted to stop. I pulled off, he gave me a dirty look, and drove on. I doubt he has much use for tourists, unless they open their wallets to help the local commerce.
I'm thinking there's much to see inside the buildings. There's much history in the area, but without that, the following picture pretty well sums up how small Lincoln is.
Maybe, one day in the future, we'll return during the on season. For those that are thinking of going, wait until after Memorial Day, and enjoy the trip to and from. That, and think of how rough life was during the late eighteen hundreds. Navigating that brutal terrain had to be tough, and herding cattle a nightmare.
This was the start of our visit to this part of New Mexico. Our motel was in Ruidoso, which is beautiful, but definitely a tourist town. There is an airport nearby, which allows those with airplanes to fly in for whatever reasons. I can't write anything bad about the city, and for those that like tourist areas, it's fantastic, and the people are nice. I'll just post pictures with notes to shorten the description of the next few days.
Fort Stanton Cemetery, which is a national cemetery. Graves are from every conflict, and it takes hours to walk among them, if you decide to do so. There is a directory.
Looking west toward the Gila Mountains across the White Sands. I don't know how many miles this is, but it's a substantial part of New Mexico.
Mexican Canyon Trestle. All that remains of a narrow gauge railroad used to haul the original huge Douglas Firs from the mountain to Alamagordo. Better photos can be found on the internet.
Ruins near the church. I'm thinking they're really old, since I've never seen those types of bricks at Lowe's.
Dry wash near the ruins and church. I don't know where the parishioners come from, but it must be far away. This area is best described as desolate.
Part of the Carrizozo Volcanic Fields. The history of the volcano that created the fields is interesting, and you're supposed to be able to see the cone, if you know where to look. I couldn't see anything that indicated a cone, which is around ten miles from where I was.
Monday, June 19, 2023
Yesterday, while attempting to ring a bell on my sister-in-law's porch, I was attacked, and stung, by a stealth wasp. Stealth wasp? I never saw it. I must have turned my head for a moment, it flew from inside the bell, stung me on my right arm, and was gone before I could see what it was.
I know it was a wasp, since bees leave their stinger, and the pain is different. I haven't been stung in years, but the familiar pain reminded me of years ago, being stung by a wasp, and ending up at the doctor, when the red streaks started up my leg. I was young, and don't remember what they did for treatment, but remembered a cigarette tobacco poultice usually helps. With a convenient ash bucket close, I made a poultice out of a butt, and applied it. It helped, but I was still wary.
After a few minutes of waiting, realizing no severe reaction would happen, and being totally pissed, I went home, washed the area, and took an antihistamine. Later, an area about 3 inches in diameter appeared, and felt warm to the touch.
Today, the area is still there, itching, and slowly fading. It will disappear in a few days, and if it's like some wasp stings I've endured before, the muscle will ache for days.
It's time to get out the Bifen, spray her porch, spray around her house, and kill whatever insects are trying to inhabit the area. He porch is a really nice place to sit, and in the evenings, it's cooler than my porch. Wasps aren't invited, and will be executed as needed.
Saturday, June 17, 2023
We've had excessive heat warnings for days, and more to come. The mornings are in the upper seventies, the humidity is a wet blanket, and doesn't go down much during the day. Heat indexes are in the triple digits, which means sweat doesn't dry and the lack of evaporation leads to body temperatures in the dangerous level.
This will eventually change, and according to the weather folks, we'll transition into a pattern of increasing thunderstorms. The intensity is the question, but some think we'll be exposed to those with hail and high winds. Time will tell, but the heat is drying everything to the stress point. Without water, we'll be getting burn bans, and wildfires started by those that ignore the burn bans.
Thursday, June 8, 2023
The first thing I noticed about New Mexico was the immediate reduction in the speed limit. In Texas, when the highway is in good condition, and the conditions are favorable to higher speed limits, it's not uncommon to find 75 mph maximum speed limits on roads some might think is too fast for conditions. Whether that's good, or bad, isn't nearly important - in my opinion - as allowing those the opportunity to cover the same distance in a shorter period of time. The 65 mph speed limit was way too slow in my opinion.
The long highway had power poles on the south side of the road, and at least every other pole had a bird nest in the crossbar. The appearance of the nests reminded me of those made by crows in my part of the woods. A little research by my wife, and the only birds to be seen during the drive, made me certain we were seeing the work of ravens. At first, I thought they were crows, but they were larger, as were their nests.
We stopped for my wife to take a photo of one in its nest. Unperturbed by our intrusion, it just watched as she got out and took the photo.
Saturday, June 3, 2023
Before we left the next morning, and while drinking the free coffee, I spent some time examining a tree I'd never seen before that was planted next to the parking area. I attempted to look it up on the internet, but couldn't determine exactly what it was. I couldn't tell if it was native, or one of the trees chain hotels can plant that won't survive; especially if the manager doesn't keep up with the grounds.
The photo isn't the best, but the flowers in the morning light were a deep purple. It appeared to be thriving, so I have the feeling the architect used species that can survive in the locale climate.
Breakfast was part of the deal, so we ate what was a satisfying full breakfast before we packed, loaded the car, and headed out. It was relatively cool, and the clear skies forewarned of a hot afternoon.
There are two ways to head west from Snyder. One route is through Lamesa into Hobbs, New Mexico, and the other is taking a little jog to the northwest before turning west toward Rozwell, New Mexico. We chose the latter, since I wanted to see the city with the history of government coverup and aliens.
I wasn't expecting the scenery during the first of the trip to the New Mexico border. I was thinking it was mostly desert, sparsely vegetated, and very dry. It wasn't. The amount of plowed acreage was astounding, and many water wells, with piping, dotted the fields. There was some drier areas, but not nearly as much of the real estate was barren as I expected.
What was remarkable were the number of empty houses that appeared on the highway. I have a feeling they were farmers, or ranchers, at one time, but without the resources to drill for water, or a few bad years, the effort became futile, and they abandoned the property. Maybe the were lucky and sold it, but some probably lost their dreams to a tax lien, handily satisfied at a public auction. I doubt many had the mineral rights under their land, and if they did, the money to be made from the oil could allow leaving a hard life. I'm thinking most just sold out ( if they could) their children moved away when they could, and some just passed away in a lonely place.
Outside of Tahoka, Texas, we came upon a historical marker:
Traveling through the town of Brownfield led to a small section of the town refurbished with brick streets. The section was rough. Brick isn't good paving, unless the brick is set in concrete. This wasn't and the paving was showing the signs of uneven settling. I'm sure someone thought it was a good idea, but considering the amount spent, it will need replacing far sooner than conventional construction.
Somewhere during this time, we stopped in one of the small towns for some coffee. As we prepared to go, a chicken started across the highway, dodged the cars, arrived at our side, and promptly repeated its effort to cross back to the other side. After that, it continued on its path toward a house behind the business across the highway.
The closer we came to the New Mexico border, less signs of civilization appeared. The entire area we'd been driving in is called the High Plains, and flat is the best way to describe it. History shows it was only hospitable to nomad tribes of Native Americans at one time, and even white settlers didn't do much with it until water wells were drilled.
Reaching the border revealed only a change in pavement type, and a "Welcome Texas" sign in the rear view mirror. The highway was straight, the surrounding area was completely flat, and if it wasn't brown, it soon would be. I stopped after a few miles, and took a picture of the long straight highway. Roswell was ahead, and it would be awhile before we arrived.
Thursday, June 1, 2023
My wife, and I, kicked around two locations for a trip, and the Lincoln Mountain National Forest won. The Big Bend area was the other, but the border mess, and a long range forecast of rain, made us decide on New Mexico.
Years ago, during my wife's first marriage, she went with her husband to return to the state where he was born. From what I can surmise of the trip, there was a lot of ground to cover, and not much time to stop. The trip was hectic, and she didn't get to spend some time in the mountains of the Lincoln National Forest. She spoke about the beauty. Looking at photos of the area convinced me it was the choice to make.
The trip to our destination of Ruidosa N.M. is attainable in a day, but the thought of driving for 12 to 14 hours wasn't a pleasant thought. Snyder Texas would take between 8 and 10 hours, and the five to six hour on the next day would allow time to wander as we traveled.
We started around 7:00 am, and took a route that allowed back roads. We could have taken interstates for most of the trip, and probably saved some time, but that's not how we travel. The smaller highways, less traffic, more scenery and history are what we like. You really can't understand Texas unless you stay away from the larger cities, and you are willing to stop now and then.
Some of the route was familiar, until we turned on SH 7 in Centerville. We stopped for coffee, and a pit stop. I'd been this way years ago, and really didn't remember much of the trip. It was a new adventure for both of us, and we both anticipated the new discoveries.
The first thing to catch our eyes was near a small town named Kosse. A bridge over a large road was unfamiliar, since they usually are over railroads. This one was different, and the appearance of a large dump truck gave it away. It was a mining road, and off in the distance was the large drag line scooping away large sections of earth. Looking to the left, we could see the cleared areas, and the areas being reworked. Eventually, the mine will run out of coal, and the large drag line will be left in place, or scrapped. Now, it was feeding a power plant somewhere close. I knew it existed due to the transmission line crossing the highway. A little research shows it's south near another small town named Franklin.
Seeing the mine brought back a conversation I had with two workers a few years ago in Hearne, Texas, which is not far from Franklin. They were mechanics for a large machinery company and working on a local drag line in a mine. They said there were a few years left for the mine, and when it was done, the machine they were working on would probably remain. It took a long time to assemble, and economics dictated the costs to move it would probably never be contemplated. At the time, I thought of the economic impact this would have on the local communities. Seeing the large area that depended on the endeavor made me think about it again. There's not much of anything to support that many people. When the mine is closed, there is no doubt in my mind many will have to move to survive.
As we continued, outside the small town of Moody we encountered something that caught our eyes. On the edge of the highway, in between, and on the edge of a county road, was a cemetery. There was no fence, most of it was grown over, and a few newer graves signified it was still in use. Surrounding the entire area was acres of corn, and the planting was to the edge of an imaginary demarcation. It said a lot about the area's past, and many rural areas, where there is no perpetual care cemeteries, headstones can be as simple as a large rock, and the care shows any family left has passed, or moved on. Eventually, many graves will be lost to time and nature. Faint memories would have long gone, and even if someone wants to find the resting place of a relative, time has removed all vestiges of their existence.
The further west we traveled, the more hostile the terrain became. The lush green of East Texas was replaced by more scrubby vegetation, the oaks were small, and much of the farms were irrigated by wells. The rolling hills offered more vistas, and the pioneers crossed my mind. What did they see? What did they think? And how many were buried in the prairie in unmarked graves? It had to be a hard existence, and the lack of water guaranteed only the most hardy could survive.
We stopped in a town named Hamilton for something to eat. We'd eaten breakfast hours before, and it was past the noon hour. My wife found a local hamburger restaurant with good reviews, so we pulled in for something to go.
Hamilton, like many of the smaller towns that were on our path, is a county seat. We saw many, and most were small towns. The surrounding areas are mostly farms or ranches, and there is usually a railroad passing through. Many still have rail sidings for the crops, and the towns are probably the only place for locals to shop.
The reviews were right about Woody's. Compared to the fast food chains, the prices were similar, and the homemade burgers brought back memories when there weren't many fast food chains. Hamburgers were handmade patties, the vegetables were fresh, the bun was browned on the flattop, and fries were hand cut that morning. I was reminded how I missed the way burgers used to be, and was glad of our choice. We ate as we drove, and the scenery was starting to drastically change.
The closer we came to Abilene, the more mesquite was to be seen, and prickly pear was along the fence rows. Some mesas were visible on the horizon, many covered with windmills, and it was obvious cattle had sparse grazing. Where in Central Texas the cattle were butterball fat, the cattle there would have to go to a feed lot before processing.
We didn't see much of Abilene. A farm to market road bypassed much of the city, and when we reached Interstate 20, we headed west. A fairly short time on the interstate brought us to a small town named Roscoe. We turned north and another short trip led us to Snyder.
Snyder is surrounded by hundreds of windmills and thousands of acres of fields. Some held the vestiges of the winter wheat harvest, some were ready to be harvested, and the majority of the acreage was fresh plowed. A question to the hotel clerk where we stayed brought the answer to what was about to be planted: cotton. Research shows it's a major crop, and judging by the number of workers that arrived at the hotel later, it takes a lot of transient workers to accomplish the task of planting. When you add the workers for windfarms, and the oilfield, hotel rooms without reservations are slim to find in Snyder at this time of year. I was glad I made reservations a few days before. The clerk told me all rooms were booked, and no rooms were available.
We didn't see much of Snyder, and with what turned out to be a 10 hour drive, a fast food meal was all we wanted. Rest was mandated, so we settled in early for an early start the next morning. At that time, I would be further west than I've ever been, and I was curious about what we would see.