October 2018


Maybe We Should Hold Our Elections in Late September

...'cause as it is now there's way too much Halloween getting into the last weeks of our campaigns.

I have no idea what's going to happen on Tuesday. In 2006 I was in denial over the looming catastrophe for the Republicans (and the country), but deep down I knew it wasn't going to be good. In 2010 I was more hopeful, and by 2014 I was downright confident. Cocky, even.

2018? I just don't know. In past years on Election Day I've shouted at everyone not to believe the FUD that gets floated around about what a debacle the election's turning out to be — it's almost always last-minute psyops by the opposing camps aimed at mobilizing or suppressing turnout one way or the other. If that's what's happening this year it's been going on since Election Night 2016.

Not that that's implausible, given the way the allegedly objective news media have been behaving during all that time.

Like other observers, I just don't have that feeling that there's a strong objection to the direction of the country since Obama left office. After more than three years of exposure to the political persona of Donald Trump, most Americans, I think, have gotten used to it. The most prominent negative consequence most people are seeing from his victory two years ago is that the Democrats are more unhinged and the media are more biased — in favor of the unhinged.

But that may be wishcasting. If the last few years have taught me anything it's that our politics are not becoming less unpredictable. I'd like to think that the prevailing wind this election is going to be a turn away from those who would spend the next two years keeping their preferred Crazy Orange Man caricature of the President even more front-and-center than they've been doing for the last two.

I just don't know.

I do know that whatever dangers we were supposed to have faced from Trump Unchained, they would surely have emerged by now. The danger of giving power back to people who like to shoot at members of Congress at softball practice, who stalk and harass people in restaurants with their families? That's something real, and demonstrated, and to be avoided, if we as a nation have any sense left at all.


A Hopefully Temporary Interruption

8:00 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time: When I first attempted to upload the previous post, I discovered that FTP access to my web server is not working. I still have WebDAV access through the host's web interface, but it's not the smoothest option.

I'll be patient for now in hopes they clear up whatever issue this is in a timely fashion; as long as the WebDAV avenue remains open I can keep the site updated as needed.

Update, Wednesday: FTP problem resolved. Thanks, Fastmail! (I've been using Fastmail to host my blogging for over a year now without significant problems, until now. That's not too shabby at all.)


A Courteous Request to Online Marketers

Please kindly consult your dictionaries when I adjust my communication preferences, and I trust you will find that "monthly" does not mean "every other day."

Barring that, please trust me when I inform you that "unsubscribe" means "f*ck yourself with a swordfish." Have a lovely day.


Smell My Feet

This may be a record. Until this afternoon there was nothing in the house that could — in dire need — be surrendered to any marauding band of trick-or-treaters who might decide to brave the sidewalkless road and long, unlit driveway to demand tribute at our darkened front door. But I swung by Family Dollar for a couple of bags of vandalism insurance today, just in case.

I've never been a fan of handing out the same kind of candy to kids on Halloween that their parents could have bought for them in July, distinguished from those summertime treats only by differently colored wrappers. Even as a kid I always thought that candy in Halloween (or Christmas, or Easter) livery ought to taste different. Indeed, some candies once associated with particular holiday(-ish) seasons have actually become year-round treats. I don't mind so much that I can get a big bag of Smarties in the summertime, since they're tart-tasting and leave a cool taste in my mouth, but selling Peeps when it isn't Easter is just wrong.

Selling them when it is Easter ain't exactly right either, but...

There are still a few varieties that remain relegated to their appropriate seasons, and I tend to wait for those to appear, but it's been a few years since I snagged even a token bag of candy corn or mellowcreme pumpkins. Last month or so I passed up a bag of candy corn M&M's, but when curiosity got the better of me and I looked for them again, they were nowhere to be found. It's probably just as well.

It's likely that in some future year we will have to contend with trick-or-treaters — assuming the tradition hasn't been outlawed by then — and that may be the time for me to buy Peeps. In April. To hand out on Halloween.

If that doesn't work, there's always Christmas fruitcake.


Ten Days Out

We have now officially reached the point in this year's political campaign where I stop paying attention to politics.

Right now I'm watching a Tivo recording of last night's "Border War" rivalry game between the University of Wyoming Cowboys and the Colorado State University Rams, in Fort Collins. Wyoming has won this game two years in a row, and I know how it ends — but I'm watching it anyway because so many of Wyoming's games so far this season have ended... otherwise.

Ironically, the one game Wyoming played while we were actually in Wyoming, I couldn't watch. It was on a channel the hotel's TV system didn't carry.

It's been a rainy couple of days in metro Atlanta. It's stopped raining but the sun hasn't come out yet. I'm gonna have some more coffee.


Crazy and Incompetent

With those qualifications, he should be a Democrat.


Update: And yet another qualification for being a Democrat: he lied about being an Indian.


I Just Don’t Give Up

I've used a few Android tablets, from the 2012 version of Google's Nexus 7 to its Nexus 9 and Pixel C. All have come to the end of their OS upgrade eligibilities, and the pickins for Android tablets from other manufacturers are slim, and most aren't even going to see the version my Pixel C ended with. I tried a Chromebook and was left underwhelmed.

So, a few days ago I took delivery of a Surface Go. It's the bottom-of-the-line, having less storage capacity than my phone with its SDcard installed, but it runs Windows 10 Home (after a couple of free upgrades) and does it better than my legacy Toshiba laptop.

It doesn't have an SDcard slot, nor a normal USB port, but I'm awaiting delivery of an adapter that will plug into the USB-C port and let me use an ordinary mouse. A single adapter from where I ordered it runs 89¢ plus shipping, but I ordered two and my total outlay is just $5 — plus a wait of more than a week almost three weeks for it to arrive.

There are Bluetooth-equipped "Mobile Surface Mouse" options from Microsoft, but they run about $40. I already have a spare USB optical mouse — if I can use it, why not?

So far only one app I use on the Toshiba has failed to work when installed on the Surface Go, but it's not a dealbreaker.

Would I buy any of the higher-end Surface products to replace the Toshiba if it should crap out? For what Microsoft prices those things, I'd be as likely to buy a Mac. I wouldn't enjoy using this Microbook exclusively if the laptop dies, but I could probably put up with it for a while. In the meantime, it'll be a much more congenial travel computer than the Toshiba.

Update here.

'Nother update, mid-December: The Toshiba crapped out, but not because of hardware. I needed to try to reinstall Windows 10 from the media I used to install it in the first place, but the installation kept failing, supposedly because of damaged or corrupted files on the USB drive it came on (from Microsoft, not that shifty-looking guy in the mall parking lot). So, I'm down to the Surface Go as my only Windows machine, for now.

It simplifies matters in some ways, but I will definitely be getting a real laptop again at some point. The Surface has no separate 10-key numeric keypad, and the function keys are, by default, not operative as function keys. I may be able to find a setting that will change that, but in the meantime the UX is a bit awkward, even when this stupid newfangled charging... comb? ...isn't falling out of the charging port at inopportune times, leaving me to discover out of the blue that I'm down to 20% battery when I should be at 100%.


Not a Good Sign

I've just deleted an episode of "Doctor Who" half-watched — the Rosa Parks episode.

You'd think a TV show about time travel, when it travels into the past of living memory, would take pains to get things right. Instead it portrayed Montgomery, Alabama as a place where every white person was a race-murderer just looking for an excuse — where what was done to Emmett Till was quietly but universally admired by the majority population. While this is certainly how Millennial social-justice warriors see the American South even now, it is cartoonish and untrue, and does the show's viewers a huge disservice.

I'll watch some more episodes before I decide whether to write it off, but if its new producer plans on politically convenient historical revisionism as a theme for the show and its current star, I have plenty of other, less insulting programs I can watch instead.

Update, halfway through the subsequent episode: Written off. Not for getting history wrong, but for Captain Planet-level preachiness. If I want to be preached at I'll watch a religious broadcast.


Well, Surpriiiiise, Surpriiiiise!

Stacy McCain describes my initial reaction to the news of "bombs" sent to prominent Democrats to a tee.

As soon as these bomb scares made news Wednesday, conservatives on Twitter suggested it was (b), known as the “false flag” theory, and were immediately denounced by liberals for suggesting this. However, common sense is not paranoia, and there are lots of common sense reasons to lean toward the “false flag” theory of this crime:

1. The hoaxer would have to be phenomenally stupid to imagine they could escape apprehension. In the age of video surveillance and advanced forensics, you can’t send bombs (or fake bomb-looking devices) to high-profile political targets and evade the Joint Terrorism Task Force. No, you’re going to be in handcuffs within 72 hours, I’d guess, and so we must ask: Who is stupid enough not to understand this?


3. Republicans are winning. Every political analyst is now saying that the GOP is almost certain to retain control of the Senate, and may even be able to turn back the Democrat “blue wave” in the House. Political terrorism is usually committed by losers, and since the Kavanaugh hearings, Republicans have been looking like winners, so why would a right-winger want to screw up that winning streak by sending bombs?

A non-lethal threat to big-name Democrats, perpetrated by someone so stupid they think they can escape a federal terrorism task force? Well, I can’t rule out that a right-wing dimwit committed this hoax — anything is possible — but it sure as heck reminds me of the fake “hate crime” hoaxes that plague university campuses every spring.

The regularity with which hate-crime hoaxes have been attempted and exposed over the last several years has had the result of inuring me and, apparently, a great many others, to be skeptical of all new such reports.

Stacy's third numbered point is especially relevant in my opinion. Things like this are born of the desperation of imminent defeat, not the confidence of anticipated victory. The political momentum long proclaimed by #DemocratsAndTheMediaButIRepeatMyself broke horrifically as a result of the absurd attacks on now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, isolating the Democratic Party base from mainstream America. Stacy has more:

If Clinton aides can rush to blame Trump without any evidence whatsoever, the floor is open to speculation, and Wednesday night, I called my brother Kirby to talk theories. He’s pretty good at this stuff, and he made two very insightful suggestions I’ll share here:

1. It was the Kavanaugh confirmation that inspired the bomb-hoaxer, so about three weeks went into the preparation of this hoax.

2. If this is a left-winger trying to frame Trump supporters, the perpetrator probably scrubbed their social-media profiles recently, to remove evidence of their political affiliation. They may even have fabricated a phony right-wing online presence, so that when they’re apprehended, the media will find a bunch of pro-Trump messages on their Facebook page, etc.

Whatever the facts may be, the sooner the perpetrator is in custody, the better for everyone. Facts are always better than speculation.

Unless, that is, you're with #DemocratsAndTheMediaButIRepeatMyself...

Update: Meanwhile, in Wyoming...



Mrs. McG and I early-voted yesterday. As promised a year ago, I voted the straight GOP ticket, even the two incumbents (U.S. House and state House) I'd rather have seen defeated in primaries last July, and did contemplate voting against this fall anyway. Thanks to #DemocratsAndTheMediaButIRepeatMyself, I had no choice but to vote for them too. Of course, one of them I would have had to write somebody's name in; The Democrats haven't bothered to oppose her since the Early Paleozoic. I'm sure she likes to think it's because they know they can't win — I suspect it's because they know they don't have to...

I also voted No on all of the questions on the ballot, since I couldn't see any compelling reason why they're even offered. One would create yet another specialized court system. We already have more than we need, complete with judicial elections to populate them.

I concluded years ago that if the promoters of any given ballot question can't even persuade me up front that they might have a good case for their idea — much less have it stand up to deeper scrutiny when my native skepticism causes me to check their work — I won't even bother considering a Yes vote. (Measures to raise taxes or extend an existing tax don't even get a chance to win me over anymore.)


Neither Foul, Nor Fetid, Nor Fuming, Nor Foggy, Nor Filthy

And definitely not Philadelphia.

McG: "Dear readers, I have come to the conclusion that one misspent day is a waste, that two are a weekend, and three or more become a vacation. Well, I have had this vacation, and now that I am returned home I have added posts about it under the appropriate days on this very blog."

McG: "Scrolllll down! Scrolllll down! Scroll down for my vacation posts!"

Readers: "McG, you're a bore! Don't want to read more!"

McG: "Scroll down for my vacation posts!"

Old Bacon Face: "Someone ought to o-o-o-o-open up a window!"

Oh, good God.


Arkansas Traveling

From Joplin our route turned toward Memphis, but we'd stop short of the Mississippi River for our last night on the road. The way took us through Ozark country, where if you see a sign with a squiggly arrow on it, what it means is that you're on a road.

I was expecting more fall color than we saw, but we were farther south, and much lower in elevation, than the sort of places that would be in or near peak color by now. Certainly the best fall color Mrs. McG and I ever saw was before we were married, when we drove through Great Smoky Mountains National Park at about this time of year. The views from the mountain roads were a crazy quilt of forest in every color that leaves could ever exhibit. Still, there were subtle touches here and there along the way today, and the hilly scenery was nice to enjoy.

And then suddenly we emerged onto the Mississippi River plain and the roads were flat and straight. I didn't even realize we were leaving the hills until we were well out of them.

We dined at Shoney's as a sort of concession that we were back in the South (though I reflexively requested "iced tea" at first instead of "unsweet tea;" fortunately the server sought to clarify my answer and I was able to correct myself).

This entry was written after our return home.


Wind Farms and Wichita

East of Dodge City, we crossed one of the biggest wind farms we'd ever seen (and we passed the one reputed to be the nation's largest west of Abilene, Texas years ago — its immensity, however, was obscured by heavy rain). Now, economically and politically (not to mention environmentally), I'm not a huge fan of these Ozymandian wind-power projects, but there's no denying that they're impressive to look at when you ignore the horizon-to-horizon views they interrupt.

After a fuel stop in Hutchinson, where we paid the lowest price per gallon of our trip (the highest was in North Platte), we turned south to Wichita and navigated the freeway system there with a lot less trouble than Google Maps' warnings about road construction had led me to fear. Then it was on across the Flint Hills and an ever more densely populated eastern Kansas to Joplin, Missouri.

Mrs. McG, being a weather professional, was interested in Joplin's recovery from the 2011 tornado. On our way to the hotel we crossed the damage path where, she later read after an internet search, some big-box stores had been destroyed and since rebuilt. There was no evidence, certainly that I could discern, that a disaster had ever befallen that particular area. We didn't sightsee afterward either.

This entry was written after our return home.


We Need to Get Out of Dodge

Tomorrow, after we check out of our hotel on Wyatt Earp Boulevard. Yeah, I routed us through Dodge City, which we had also visited on that Panhandles trip I mentioned before. We were too tired after making more right-angle turns than I could count while traveling through eastern Colorado and western Kansas to decide on any of the locally owned restaurants there, so we punted and went to Applebee's.

Our hotel was right across the road from a BNSF line that serves the town, successor to the one on which cattle barons shipped the herds they drove north from Texas back in Wyatt's day. During the night we heard at least two trains go by. It wasn't as bothersome for us as it might be for some, but then again it was only for one night.

This entry was written after our return home.


On the Trail Again

In past travels, my experience with Colorado has been limited to the Denver airport and brief stops at one or another corner; we made a brief detour to Julesburg once while passing through western Nebraska on our way either to or from Wyoming, and I literally stepped into the southeastern corner of the state on our Panhandles trip in 2012 when we took a day to drive up from Guymon, Oklahoma to Elkhart, Kansas and out west to the Colorado-Kansas-Oklahoma tri-state point.

Well, for this trip, when Mrs. McG cannily suggested we see if we can't return by a different way than the Kansas City-St. Louis-Nashville-Atlanta route that always frazzles me on the way back, undoing all the pleasure I've taken in being out West, I decided one thing I would do is get a little deeper into the Centennial State, complete with an overnight stop in what turned out to be Fort Morgan.

Getting there, I decided to start by scouting a second alternative to the Snow Chi Minh Trail, this time leaving Interstate 80 east of Rawlins and taking U.S. 30 past Hanna and Medicine Bow before returning to the interstate at Laramie. Mrs. McG was gratified at all the trains we saw on the Union Pacific main line between Rawlins and Cheyenne, many of which would never have been visible from the freeway segment we skipped. Sadly, we also saw the still-ongoing investigation of this wreck next to I-80 west of Cheyenne, which happened just days before we left home. The cab of the one locomotive we could see looked crushed and burned, and Mrs. McG said one of the tank cars looked like it had been blown open from within — probably what's known as a BLEVE.

Anyway, from Cheyenne we turned south on U.S. 85 to Greeley, where we turned east again.

Are the plains of eastern Colorado the most interesting part of that state? Well, no — but I have some ancestral history with the part we drove through on this particular afternoon; after my late father was born, his parents took him and his three older brothers to this area northeast of Denver so Grandpa could work on his cousin Carl Bay's sheep ranch. Just north of Greeley we passed through the town where one of Dad's younger siblings was born, and our way east the next day would take us by the town where his other younger sibling was born. Right about the time the Dust Bowl hit — and it affected Colorado as well as Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas — the family returned to the part of Iowa where Dad was born, and sometime later most of the family moved to a town not far from Des Moines where Dad's last surviving sibling still lives — she's 91.

Update: Dad's last surviving sibling passed away in August of 2019 at age 92.

This entry was written after our return home.


So What Did We Do on the Last Day Before Starting to Drive Home?

We drove. This time up through the canyon to Thermopolis, where we looked around at parts of town we hadn't seen before, such as the golf course...

Then we headed into the state park for another look at something we go look at every time we go to Thermopolis. (To be fair, we'll probably go look at the golf course on every visit now too...)

Yeah, it's not a Wyoming trip without pictures of pronghorn and buffalo — especially if we go to Jackson Hole and don't see any elk.

This entry was written after our return home.


A Conversation

"I appreciate the interest inherent in your question, but there's something about me you deserve to know: though most people aren't aware of it, I am a profoundly devious person. As such, I know perhaps better than anyone the power that comes with knowing another man's needs and wants, the opportunity — even the moral hazard — to manipulate such motivations so that others may contribute, unknowingly, to my needs and wants to the detriment of their own best interests. While your query may be entirely sincere, I would be remiss not to consider the alternative before answering."

"That's great, sir, but I just need to know what toppings to put on your pizza."


And Another Thing!

Westbound on U.S. 26/287, we had just crossed Togwotee Pass but not yet reached Togwotee Mountain Lodge. We rounded a bend and Mrs. McG and I, seeing an iconic mountain range appear before us, shouted in near-unison, TETONS!"

Then I turned to her and said, "Ain't it the tits?"

Apparently all the elk had already flown south for the winter, or the snowstorm hadn't yet driven them down to the national refuge north of Jackson. Along the way — mostly on the Fremont County side — we did spot the occasional pronghorn antelope or mule deer, but on the Jackson Hole side we saw far more crows and magpies than either of those. Horses, but no elk, no buffalo.

I had expected everything to be more expensive in Jackson, but gas was actually a few cents cheaper than here in Riverton. I only needed a few gallons, but given the choice between pumping a small amount of cheaper gas in Jackson, or needing to pump a full tank of slightly more expensive gas shortly after getting back here, I pumped a few gallons there.

Speaking of gas, today we may have seen the only two Sinclair dinosaurs in Fremont County — one in Crowheart and one in Dubois. Both used to be Exxon stations.

Other Sinclair stations around the county are dinosaur-free.

This entry was written during the trip.


A Courteous Request of My Fellow Motorists

Please, please use your turn signals — because the idiot tailgating me expects me to read your mind.


The Chill of a Western Fall

I've posted plenty about how the Rocky Mountain West can have "unseasonable" weather of almost any kind — hurricanes, maybe not so much, but almost any other kind.

A major winter storm in October really isn't "unseasonable" by Rocky Mountain standards. Oklahoma and Texas, though...?

Snow will continue to blanket parts of the Rockies, Plains and Upper Midwest this weekend, possibly as far south as New Mexico and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, over a month ahead of the average first snowfall in those locations.

Snow continues to fall from parts of northern Colorado into Nebraska, South Dakota, southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

Parts of Montana, northern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota have picked up 6 to 12 inches of snow, including Sheridan, Wyoming (6 inches), Red Lodge, Montana (10 inches), and Custer, South Dakota (6 to 10 inches).

A band of moderate snow Saturday night into Sunday morning dumped 4 to 8 inches of snow from southeast Wyoming into far northern Colorado and the Nebraska Panhandle.

Ft. Collins, Boulder, and Loveland, Colorado, picked up 4 to 7 inches of snow through Sunday morning. Cheyenne, Wyoming, picked up almost 5 inches of snow, while up to 8 inches of snow was reported in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Much of central Wyoming had lows in the teens this morning, and single digits here and there.

The only formality left is for The Weather Channel to dub it "Winter Storm Hey Look at US! We Name Winter Storms!"


Oh, Yeah. That.

We hardly even noticed, what with being, you know, elsewhere...

Coweta County didn’t totally escape the wrath of Hurricane Michael as it moved through the area late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

The height of the storm hit the county between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., bringing with it heavy downpours and wind gusts peaking at 38 mph, according to Meteorologist Matt Sena with the National Weather Service.

The strong winds knocked down tree and power lines across Coweta County, said Jay Jones, director of the Emergency Management Agency and 911 center.

Some people, mainly in the southern part of the county around Moreland, Senoia and Grantville, briefly lost power during the storm.

According to the Coweta-Fayette EMC website, around 23,000 customers had no electricity after a transmission line blew at their Brooks station.

Fortunately, there were no serious incidents associated with the weather, said Coweta County Fire Rescue Chief Pat Wilson.

Soggy, breezy. Same ol' same ol'. Mrs. McG's cousin in Tallahassee had it worse, but they have a generator.



Last night I looked at the radar, and the cold front expected to bring snow to Wyoming was... dumping snow on Edmonton, Alberta.

Earlier this morning, it had advanced into western Montana.

Now it's 7:30 a.m., Mountain Daylight Time, and according to the radar (and various webcams) the snow has arrived in northwestern Wyoming. The forecast had been that it would arrive where we are around noon, but I'm thinking it may be sooner.

Update, a bit before 2:00 p.m.: I was wrong, but it's snowing now. With a brisk north wind blowing it past the hotel window almost too fast to see.

Update, 4:00 p.m.: If it goes another hour, it still won't be a blizzard, because the sustained winds are well under 35 mph. As for the rate of snowfall, in clear weather we can read the license plates on cars in the Walmart parking lot across the highway. Right now we can't even see the Walmart parking lot across the highway.

So even though the wind speed means it's not a blizzard, the snow makes it also not a fizzard.

This entry was written during the trip.


“You Can Help by Drinking Beer!”

I dump on the Jackson Holes a lot, but this time they've come up with an innovation I can applaud.

The Animal Adoption Center (AAC) is headed back to the Wind River Reservation next weekend for a free spay/neuter clinic.

AAC is dedicated to reducing the number of homeless animals through adoption, rescue, education and spay/neuter. The AAC’s Spay/Neuter Wyoming Program attacks the root of the pet overpopulation problem through free and low-cost spay/neuter across Wyoming. On Oct. 19-20 the AAC will host its third, free spay/neuter clinic this year on the Wind River Indian Reservation.


The Animal Adoption Center is currently running a pet and human food drive and will be giving the resources out to people in need during the clinic. AAC has also partnered with Snake River Brewing. SRB will be pouring Mah Di’s Rescue Brew starting Saturday, and have pledged to donate one dollar of every Rescue Beer sold to the Spay/Neuter Wyoming Program.

"Mah Di", according to the linked piece, means "good dog" in Thai. With this partnership, Snake River Brewing and the Animal Adoption Center earn pats on the head for being a "good cause."



In this part of Wyoming, the predominant wild tree seems to be the plains cottonwood, which turns a bright yellow in the fall. Next — if you know where to look — are the aspens, which turn a bright yellow in the fall. Less wild (I believe) is a variety of weeping willow, which turns a bright yellow in the fall.

Here and there, people have punctuated their foliage environment with trees or shrubs that turn red, and we've seen some of those as well. Personally, I don't mind the rarity; the trees in Alaska all seemed to turn yellow too, with only the occasional counterpoint of orange or red. I'm happy just seeing so much of something other than green, since the changing of the leaves in Georgia is so gradual that the first trees to turn may be bare before the later changes have even begun.

I mentioned snow. The area is forecast to get some more tomorrow, and since we're at our destination we're thinking we'll sit tight when it starts. Maybe we'll take a dip in the hotel's indoor pool and spa while we watch the flakes descend.

By the way, on today's outing I saw a man who could be a double for actor Wilford Brimley — who divides his time between homes in Utah and in the Big Horn Basin north of here. However while the real Brimley is only 5'8", this man was over six feet tall.

This entry was written during the trip.


Dear Democrats

If you didn't want the Republicans to fight back, maybe you shouldn't have declared war on them in the first place.

Yours truly,
The American People



Made it! In fact, the amount of snow we encountered was almost disappointing. There was a tiny bit of accumulation in North Platte when we left there, and at places along the way, but we didn't see any snow falling until we were on the outskirts of Cheyenne.

Then, for about 50 or 60 miles north there was a lot of snow in the air — but it eventually died away by the time we got to Casper, and for the rest of the drive there was only the stray flake even in areas where the snow had previously accumulated rather prodigiously.

Okay, I wouldn't have wanted to drive through that snowstorm...

Still, it's right purty where we are, with the cottonwoods and various other varieties of tree turning colors as if they'd had a nudge from some kind of wintry weather or something.

Side note: Despite my concerns about our cell coverage here, we're in good shape. In North Platte, and in other parts of Wyoming, we were on one or another of our carrier's roaming "partners," which means that while we don't have to pay, our data allotment when roaming is rather paltry. I left my phone's data roaming turned off except once or twice when there was no wifi available and I actually needed access. It was a lot less painful than I might have expected.

Here, we not only have our own carrier for voice and text, but for 4G as well. It remains to be seen how far out of town that extends...

This entry was written during the trip.



We won't be going to Sidney today. The audible we tried to call bounced off the cancellation deadline in North Platte.

Fortunately, if it looks tomorrow like getting to Riverton that night is too iffy, we'll be able to change our arrival there to Thursday — assuming we can find a room in Casper for that one night.

Update: When we left St. Joseph this morning, the temperature there was 65°F. When we arrived in North Platte the temperature here was 39°. When people ask states like Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming, "How can you have a winter storm when it isn't even winter?" they reply, "Your calendar can kiss our asses."

It was rainy the whole way, heavier in some places than in others. Big rigs can kick up a lot of spray, but so can a pickup towing a fifth-wheel trailer. Or a Kia with the wrong tires.

Nebraska seems to be the state where we're most likely to see big-rig wreckage. Two years ago we saw, I believe, three in Nebraska versus only one in Wyoming (near Sinclair, just east of Rawlins — that one had only just happened, and emergency vehicles were on the scene). All of those were west of here. Today, however, we saw a big-rig trailer on its side with what looked like a thoroughly crushed cab. Today there is a pretty strong crosswind out there, yesterday it may have been worse.

The National Weather Service is forecasting snow here tonight, and partly cloudy tomorrow.

'Nother update, 7:30-ish p.m., Central Daylight Time: It's snowing in North Platte.

This entry was written during the trip.


If Only Journalism Schools Bothered to Teach Journalism

One of the first things taught in the class that managed my high school paper was the necessity of putting basic essential information about the event being covered, if not in the first paragraph, as early in the piece as possible. This is known as The Five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. Plus the H for how.

While it's true that not all of these facts can be provided in a news item about, say, a fatal accident (if the next-of-kin have yet to be notified), those facts that can be provided should be provided at the beginning of the article. None of them should be left to the very end.

So, here's how the local paper provided The Five Ws in a recent piece:

A fatal train accident [WHAT] marked the second incident on the same stretch of railroad track in less than a week.

Scott Brannon Duke, [WHO] 41, of Acworth, Ga., died as he was attempting to cross [WHY] the railroad tracks at Groover Road and N. Hwy. 29, [WHERE] where his truck was struck by an oncoming train, according to Sgt. Mike Searcy with the Georgia State Patrol.

A CSX train struck the right side of the truck, which caused the truck to rotate and overturn before it came to a rest between the railroad tracks and Groover Road. [HOW] The truck landed on its right side, facing northeast, Searcy said.

Duke was reportedly unrestrained and ejected from the truck upon impact. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck, according to Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk.

Duke was the sole occupant of the truck, and no one else was hurt in the crash, Searcy said.

There are no crossing arms or lights where the train tracks cross over Groover Road.

Last Wednesday, a driver was hospitalized after his car was struck by a train near the intersection of Wash Johnson Road and N. Hwy. 29. That intersection is two miles south of Monday’s crash. [WHEN]

Is it just me, or does that last W look like an afterthought by someone who didn't want to make the minor revision necessary to include it closer to the beginning?

How minor a revision? See if you can spot where it would have appeared had it been placed properly:

Scott Brannon Duke, 41, of Acworth, Ga., died Monday as he was attempting to cross the railroad tracks at Groover Road and N. Hwy. 29, where his truck was struck by an oncoming train, according to Sgt. Mike Searcy with the Georgia State Patrol.

How hard was that?


Watch This

The forecast for St. Joseph today was soaking wet, and it sure looked like it on the radar this morning before we left last night's hotel in southern Illinois.

Next time I looked — about halfway, maybe a little more, from Columbia to Kansas City on I-70 — the rain that had seemed to be stuck over western Missouri had moved on, and the next band of rain was still in eastern Kansas, unlikely to beat us there. Well, it didn't, but by the time we got settled into tonight's hotel room we were under a tornado watch.

So we headed out to dinner, hoping to be alerted if there were a warning of severe weather, but while we were sitting waiting for our meals I checked again on my phone and found that not only had the watch been cancelled, but the rain band that was supposed to be so scary was breaking up like a dysfunctional rock band.

I got no complaints.

The day after tomorrow could be interesting though, with the expectation of snow on the ground in Wyoming (the webcams show that some already is) and possibility of snow flying that day. Naturally we're not going anywhere near the Snow Chi Minh Trail, but rather up north on I-25 to Casper and west to Riverton from there.

Tomorrow is just supposed to be rainy, at least as far as North Platte or Ogallala — but we're pushing all the way to Sidney, where it's supposed to be snowy. We were originally going to stay in North Platte tomorrow, but the weather outlook made me not want to be getting onto a lonely two-lane highway west of Casper with darkness setting in; this way the long day is in mostly rain instead.

Early starts both days — at least that's the plan. And we'll be getting one of tomorrow's hours back when we cross the time-zone boundary.

We knew this could happen if we went to Wyoming in October. We just kind of hoped it wouldn't.

This entry was written during the trip.


Weeeeeee’re Off to See the Blizzard!

The forecast for our destination — Wyoming — already included snow as we left home, but today's driving was pleasant and low-pressure. Note to the faithful reader: if your travels ever require you to deal with Atlanta traffic, time it to happen on a Sunday morning. And bring a friend, so you can use the HOV lane.

Mrs. McG and I like Fazoli's, if only because (a) there are none in our area so it's a special occasion when we can visit one, and (2) their bread sticks are almost always better than at Olive Garden.

This entry was written after our return home.


With a Rebel Yell She Cried, “Mow! Mow! Mow!”

That's an exaggeration. There was no yelling or crying, just a pointed request, which yesterday I granted.

You may recollect from earlier posts that I've been having trouble with this Non-Deere tractor, and having little success figuring out how to fix it. Well, the last time, I finally used up the last of the 10%-ethanol regular unleaded I'd been putting in the tank — same grade I use in my car, which was perfectly acceptable to our previous mower, a ZTR of the same brand. Having already arrived at a hypothesis that the ethanol might be to blame, this time I took the red, five-gallon gas can to the ethanol-free pump, where the price-per-gallon was just shy of $4. I also noticed that the octane rating on this grade of gasoline at this particular station was 90, just a hair under premium.

It took a while to burn up what low-octane, ethanol-containing fuel was still in the system, but once it did, the tractor's engine suddenly ran smoother, and the sputters all but disappeared. So now I know that either the ethanol or the low octane in the other gas is what was causing the trouble. I just don't know which.

Premium runs for well over $3 a gallon around here, which isn't great, but still better than $4 a gallon. If the octane is the determining factor, less expensive, slightly-higher-octane premium gas would be better. It took running a lot of the regular through this tractor to make the trouble appear, so if I were to experiment I'd need more than a gallon, but preferably less than a full can.

The manual might tell me ethanol is the culprit, but I've read that about all lawn-mower engines — and this is the only one — walk-behind or riding — that's ever had trouble with the grade of fuel I put in it.

The amount of ethanol in regular automotive gas has been increasing lately, though...

So, I'm going to stick with ethanol-free for now. But if premium gets much cheaper than it currently is, I may go ahead and test it.


Thoughts My Brain Made

Boy oh boy, could I use a vacation.


Sorry, Democrats

Brett Kavanaugh will serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Your antics couldn't stop him.

So, when it comes time for Justice Ginsburg's successor to be confirmed, you'll just have to realize that you haven't been acting crazy enough. C'mon, put your backs into it!


So, I stumbled upon a Windows app called "Your Phone" that, for now, enables me to send and receive text messages from my laptop without having to use any particular messaging app on my Android phone (it also works for iPhones, allegedly). While it's true that it's Microsoft (boo, hiss) it is also not Google (boo, boo, hiss, hiss).

If that doesn't boggle your mind, consider this: since I no longer have to use a texting app on my phone that specifically allows messaging from other devices, I'm using... Verizon's texting app. On my T-Mobile phone.

It may not last, but for now I'm savoring the irony. According to the article linked above, this Windows app will become even more Android-friendly in 2019. We'll see.


I’m Awake Now

Yes, I got the test alert. On my Android phone (8.1, "Oreo") there appeared, along with the ear-splitting alert tone, a white notification box reading:

THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.

And underneath that, "OK." Touching "OK" dismissed the alert into the background. A few seconds later I brought the alert back into the foreground and the sound resumed. I used Android's hard-close gesture — not the one involving my middle finger — to make it go away for good. Mrs. McG was able to silence it on her iPhone by setting it to vibrate-only.

According to Wikipedia, these Wireless Emergency Alerts were enacted near the end of George W. Bush's presidency, and put into full operation by 2012. I confess at the time I was among those concerned that President Obama would use them at whim, perhaps directing cell phone customers to his latest tweet of a picture of himself looking sad because somebody people actually liked had passed away. He didn't; he never even tested the system.

Obama defenders would certainly have harbored similar suspicions about President Trump, but he hasn't used it either — today's test was conducted by FEMA. The judge dismissing the lawsuit seeking to block the test also noted that the law establishing the system only allows the "presidential" alerts to be used for "legitimate emergency messages."

Given the system's track record, I'm prepared to accept that. Now.


Aesop Wasn’t Entirely Right

Had the Tortoise and the Hare agreed to a sprint rather than a marathon, the tortoise would have lost in seconds. It wasn't entirely the Hare's arrogance that cost him victory, except insofar as he agreed to a longer race than he should have.

Our portfolio is populated with equities designed to grow steadily. There are very few, if any, shares of Dow Jones Industrials in it — as a result, when the Dow posts a record-breaking rally, our gains are comparatively modest. On those days, slow and steady does not win the race.

Fortunately for Mrs. McG and me, we're not running a day race — and stocks seemingly chosen not to be representative of the market, but for their headline-grabbing volatility, are of little benefit in the long-term. And when the Dow posts a headline-grabbing loss, we may still see modest gains.

Too many people know only what they see in those Dow-obsessed headlines when they think about the stock market. In this day of #FakeNews, perhaps that lack of skepticism will change.

The more skeptical people are of news calculated to get attention rather than to inform, the better.




October 2018


Original content and design © 2018 Kevin McGehee. Images and excerpts are © their respective owners.