Category Archives: Baboon Achievers

Another Spring Planting in the Books

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

It went pretty well; no serious mechanical issues and, once I finally got going, wasn’t delayed by the weather for more than a day or two.

I planted oats on May 6 and 7th. Then it rained for a few days but that’s OK because I was dealing with commencement at the college anyway.

Then I did anhydrous fertilizer on the 17th. Had college events the 18th and 19th. Started to plant corn on the 20th and finished on the 23rd. (Well, really the 24th, but the field I planted on the 24th is at the neighbors and it’s for the deer so it doesn’t really count).

Started soybeans on the 24th, did get rained out for a day and finished on the 28th. Now all that’s left is cleaning up machinery and putting it away until next spring.

There was the one incident with the valve on an anhydrous tank but it was pretty minor. Spilled really very little. No one was in danger and no property was harmed.

There were 3 fire trucks, our local ‘CAT’ (Chemical Assessment Team) the Incident Command Vehicle, two sheriff deputies, Gold Cross Ambulance, The “Incident Commander” and his car, a call to the State Department of Agriculture, another call to the state Duty Officer, a visit from the local anhydrous dealer, six fully clad firemen, and, a few days later, an inspector from the State Department of Agriculture.

Everyone was very nice and very professional and the firemen gave me a Gatorade when it was over.

But really. It was just a little vapor from a valve that hadn’t sealed.

And no breeze so I couldn’t manage to get ‘up wind’ and just enough leakage that I wasn’t comfortable trying to get back up there and try to tighten the valve myself.

I thought if I could just get 1 guy with a respirator, they could close the valve tighter. It wasn’t supposed to turn into a big deal.

But anhydrous is dangerous and can’t be taken lightly. Just today I talked with a guy whose brother got a burst of anhydrous and inhaled just a little. He’s got a couple small, minor burns (freeze burns) and was hospitalized for a couple days because of issues with his throat from inhaling that bit. He’s lucky too.

I pushed my luck a couple times this year. And I wasn’t even trying! But that’s a story for another day.

 Had any experience with the fire department?

Learning the Hard Way

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

It is always interesting, after the fact, to remember the decisions you made that caused some bad thing to happen. Looking back, you can see the errors. But at the time, you were doing things that made sense.

One of the staple foods I have in my kitchen cabinets is honey. I grew up eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches. In the poverty of my first year of graduate school, I sometimes had peanut butter and honey sandwiches three times a day. I couldn’t afford anything else.

But honey has a nasty habit of crystallizing. The honey gets dull and solid until it will no longer come out of a squeeze dispenser. That just happened to me. But I had an inspiration for melting the crystallized goo back into liquid honey. I popped my honey dispenser in the microwave and nuked it for just 20 seconds. The photo shows what happened. The dispenser will never be the same, and I had to mop up honey from all over the microwave.

That’s one dumb stunt I’ll never do again, for I learned that lesson the hard way.

In the summer of 1970 my erstwife (let’s call her Carol in this story) and I lived along the Saint Croix River. We discovered a wonderful fishing hole north of us, just upstream of Osceola, Wisconsin. Night after night we’d go upriver to our fishing spot at the foot of an island and—quite literally—catch fish until our arms got tired.

Then Carol got busy, and I began fishing alone. The canoe wasn’t stable without a person in the front end, so I found a large boulder that I called “Carol.” I put the rock in the front of the canoe to keep everything steady while I fished. The rock worked so well that I safely walked around the canoe standing up, which is not something the experts recommend.

One afternoon in September I enjoyed what I knew would be my last evening of fishing for that season. Grad school and work were about to start up, so I’d not fish there again until next year. I canoed back downstream to the Osceola bridge where my car was parked. I realized I no longer needed my boulder. With the canoe close to shore, I walked to the front of the canoe, grabbed “Carol” (the rock) and chucked her overboard.

In cartoons when Wile E. Coyote has just made a fatal error there is a terrifying pause. Time stops as he processes what he has done and what is going to happen to him. The cartoon is absolutely true to life. On the river I had my Wile E. Coyote moment. For several seconds I contemplated the fact that I was standing upright in an unstabilized canoe. Then the thing spun like a birling log under a lumberjack. I went sailing, my fishing rod flew even further, and soon we were both in the river. I survived. The fishing rod was never seen again.

And I never walked upright in a canoe again. Well, you don’t forget a lesson you learn the hard way.

What have you learned the hard way?

Fecundity Profundity

Nature does go about its business expeditiously. Each flowering plant gets its slot during the year. Even now, before the grass is green and leaves have developed, seeds are being made.

In flowers.

In catkins.

At least I think those are catkins. I am not sure what sort of tree is producing those.

Catkins, or aments, are surprising things, a variation on flowers basically. Most folks are unaware of them. Many are wind-blown, as are these. Birch produce catkins, those long drooping things, looking like a soft dull green/brown pine cone.

Right now I am looking to nature to find hope for this world and for lessons of the cycles of life. But yet, I worry. All of this is so delicate, the process, I mean, and how nature has spent millions of years finding that balance.

Ah, Balance, Balance, Balance.

Do I sound like Chance the Gardner? “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

How is your balance? What simple but profound insight do you have for today?

 

 

 

Escape Artists

Photo Credit: Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Baboons were making the news again yesterday – escaping from a facility in San Antonio.

Per CNN, “Four baboons, having clearly read too much dystopian fiction, escaped a biomedical research lab in San Antonio by climbing a 55-gallon barrel and jumping out of their enclosure.  The institute says the three baboons and their turncloak co-conspirator are all “doing well.”  The blue barrels they used to escape, however, have been removed from the enclosure and will be evaluated. Perhaps they enriched too much.”

What would you like for a little enrichment?

 

 

Mathematics #1: A Wall of Lights and Estimation Skills

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer.

Four weeks ago the night after I had the useless shots in my back I could not sleep and decided at 3:00 a.m. to take out the garbage. When I opened the door to the garbage room, I walked into a wall of lights.

The owners of our building finagled two grants to install LED lights throughout the building at only slight cost. I have been hearing about this for a couple months and imagined, I suppose, a few small boxes of bulbs, not that pile, which is only half the bulbs for the hallways, security lights, garage lights, and parking lot lights. Another pile even larger was in the other garbage room at the other end of the building. Reminded me of a few stories of people who failed to estimate the weight and volume of pennies they either ordered or amassed. To be fair these new lights are not just bulbs; they need new fixtures. For instance all the standard recessed tube lights in the three stories will be replaced by a same size fixture holding several LED bulbs.

What also is surprising is how much brighter are the LED lights in the garage and hallways. Our yard is almost daylight from the new security light above us. I have avoided LED lights because they gave such dim light.

On Wednesday they will install LED lights in the attached lights in all apartments, which is nice for me because I cannot reach the ceiling lights. They will also cart away for free all of the fluorescent bulbs we have. Our apartment is about the average. It will get 27 new bulbs. The building has 65 apartments, plus eight other rooms to get bulbs. 27 times 65 equals 1,755 bulbs. Add in another four dozen to get, say, 1,800 or so. How big a pile will that be? I bet each will come in a protective carton. I happened to be in the Batteries Plus store recently. The owner noticed my address and said he was supplying just the bulbs. He, too, had underestimated the volume. The supplier told him the bulbs would have to be shipped to the apartment building because they would not fit in his strip mall store.

All the medical facilities in this town will soon get LED bulbs under a grant from the same sources. There are six large clinics and the massive hospital, plus a couple smaller ones. What will those piles look like? I am pleased for this change because the tube lights give me a bad headache while I wait around.

Estimation is a vital skill. Schools are doing more to teach it, for one thing to try to get kids not to just accept what their fancy graphing calculators say. I am usually rather good at estimation, except in extraordinary events like these lights. I am very good at estimating distances and travel times. For weights I am usually far off. I know what time it is quite well without using a clock, a skill I developed working outside as a child. I don’t have to be outside seeing the sun to do this. Not sure if this is estimation, but I almost always know which way is north. When I do get turned around, I get agitated. I used to astound my partner with this ability plus the ability to remember routes we took on a previous visit, sometimes months before. In the post and common roads of the Northeast that is a challenging skill.

The students used to be astounded by how the chemistry teacher and I could quickly estimate calculations and come close. He was a very intelligent man and knew rapid calculation skills. His estimations were often exact..

I am intrigued byhow computers find complex answers through a series of estimations instead of seeking an exact answer when it is not needed. This shortens the time for calculation, often by days.

How are you at estimation of volume, distance, weight, time needed for a task? Do you know what time it is without looking at a clock? Do you know which way is north on unfamiliar ground? Can you guess the number of beans in the jar? Do you always measure carefully for recipes?

Modern Marvels

My animals are costing me sleep.   For several months, my old cat (Zorro) has been hanging out downstairs, avoiding YA’s dog (Guinevere).  Then about a month or so ago, Zorro decided he would really like to spend time on the radiator in my room.  At night.  But he’s afraid of the dog and I don’t blame him; when she gets woken up suddenly she lunges at him.  She’s never actually touched him but I wouldn’t want a 50-lb shepherd mix lunging at me in the middle of the night either.  Zorro is quite vocal about this whole scenario and this has led to me getting out of bed, turning on the light and standing between the two of them while Zorro moves from the doorway to the radiator (although once Guinevere is fully awake, she doesn’t really care what Zorro does).  Once often twice a night.  Occasionally more than that.

One of the things that I know about Guinevere is that she is afraid of pretty much everything. If I put a 5” box in a doorway, she won’t jump over it, even though I know she can; I’ve seen her practically levitate 4 feet in the air in the backyard when she thinks she might get a rabbit or squirrel.  I thought if there was a way to have a barrier between the two, then Zorro could come in at his leisure, Guinevere couldn’t get to him with her lunge and hopefully I could get more sleep.

Since assuming I can train a cat is problematic, I didn’t want to go out and spend a bunch of money on gates or tunnels before I knew if I had proof of concept.   So I collected up some cardboard boxes and built a little wall that goes from the door to the bed.  It’s just cardboard and duct tape so not pretty at all and right now I have some shoes stabilizing it in the middle section.  The theory is that I can fold it up during the day and just take it out at night.

So far Zorro is not impressed and I think the contraption is confusing him a bit. I’ve been using treats to urge him on, but a couple of times, once he got about halfway, he just turned around and went back downstairs.  The good news is that I was correct and Guinevere won’t even consider going over the barrier.  Only 2 nights so far, so I’m still hopeful.

What major engineering feats to you admire?