From Ebert’s Newsletter –

Scottish artist Robert Montgomery goes about at night illegally plastering over advertisements with posters covered in his poetry. His very pleasing verse is presented in white typography on a black background, screaming out ideas about beauty, consumerism and hypocrisy, among other things. The elegant words, and their sparse presentation, have been appearing on hoardings for the last ten years.

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Rick’s mass was terrible.  Watching my son carry his father’s ashes down the aisle was very, very hard.  He said that finally made it real for him.   Sad day.

Weekly Wrap up

Today was all about chickens.  I went to a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) and spent two hours learning about backyard chicken husbandry.  It was quite fun and entertaining.  The teacher was from Grass Valley which is a wonderful hippie/back to the earth sort of cool town where he builds backyard chicken coops.  He brought one to show us, it was quite nice.

A law was recently passed allowing Sacramento peeps to keep three chickens in their backyards, so there’s a lot of interest.  The eggs we like are between 4 and 5 dollars a dozen these days and that’s a LOT of money.  The organic free range eggs taste so much better than the force-fed cramped-cage eggs that I can’t make myself buy the latter anymore.  I’m sure the nutritional value varies a lot, too.  It makes me want my own chickens.

I haven’t quite got Bob talked into it, I think he’s afraid I’ll make him do all the work (which is a very real fear because his doing it all is a real possibility).   Regardless,  I really like fresh organic eggs.  I don’t like the idea of caged chickens. I was in one of those factory barns once in Porterville.  Bad.

There are two chicken rescues (I’m not making that up) that get their chickens from the chicken factories and are within driving distance of here.   I’ll probably go that route and pick up a few Buff Orpingtons  if they have them.  If not, I will probably get chicks.  I saw a lot of chickens today, and the Orpingtons seemed to have the best personality. Lots of different kinds.  I used to know about them, a little, but have forgotten virtually all of it.

Since we have to put up a fence around the pool (Katie will be walking soon) and maybe we can figure out where to put a little chicken coop and have that fence be part of their run.  Matt the chicken coop guy showed numerous variations on that theme.  Lots of places we could use, but predators will be an issue and we have to keep that in mind as we design the chicken space.  We have raccoons and skunks and hawks around here, all of which love to dine on chicken, not to mention our three bird-centric dogs.  I could probably teach Goob and Sissy to leave them alone but Lewi would be a lost cause.  He is not a very good learner about things he’s emotionally involved with.  Serious small-dog syndrome.

 

I also saw two very fresh lambs today at the farm where I took the class.  A couple of hours old. Their  ewe mama was more or less ignoring them, so they bleated piteously on and off the whole time I was there watching them.   They were sort of gross. Not really as cute as one might think.  Also saw many chickens and a humongous potbellied pig which I did not get a picture of.  He had scary boar tusks but I was informed that he was the farm mascot and very even-tempered.

 

 

In other news, the man I was married to for 17 years and the father of my only child died this week after a short illness.  It was a blow to my son, and even to me, more than I thought it would be.  I saw him a few hours before he died, he was mostly unrecognizable, lots of tubes and extremely bloated.  It was bad, but I thought, “That old fucker will pull through this, no worries.”   And then my son called me, sobbing at 2:30 a.m. and gave me the news of his father’s death.  Very sad — they were quite close.   He died intestate which was lame as he’d already had one hearth attack.   Word to the wise:  if you have diverticulitis, do what the doctor says.  And if you feel really bad from it, make them admit you and KEEP YOU in the hospital.   I think the survivors (not including me) are looking at filing a malpractice suit. Also, people, MAKE A WILL.  Husbeast and I are working on that right now, as well as possibly increasing our life insurance.  We would hate to leave each other in the state my ex left his current wife. 😦

When I was at the hospital I finally met the current wife, and I liked her.  I feel bad for her, she obviously loved him.  Fuck.

In other, other news, I was in class all week learning about HTML5 and CSS3 and jQuery.  It was very hard and at least two of those days I had trouble concentrating, mostly due to lack of sleep from what had been going on with the ex and son.   I suppose at my age the people around me are going to start dropping like flies.  Nevertheless the class was interesting, albeit over my head.  I’m not a developer, and it was a developer course, but I liked it and now I will be able to speak a little more intelligently to MY developer, and also I know what’s around the corner for web development in general.

—- Cat butt update

Shawn in Sevilla wrote about her fat cat and his nasty arse… we have that going on here, too.  Scuff is the fattest thing on 4 feet and can no longer reach her bum for cleaning purposes.  We’ve started doing it for her because she was really, really GROSS.  I had to clip the fur around it.  She was fine until I clipped her little vag a tiny bit.  Ow.  But she didn’t go away, and I kept cleaning and clipping and Bob scratched her head and she purred through the whole thing.  She is now all ecstatic about it each time, spreading her toes and purring and just generally getting a big charge out of it.  Heavy sigh.  Bob laughs and makes dirty jokes.  He always gets the clean end.  I’ve been doing this twice a day, and putting antibiotic on the little clip spot, just because it’s nasty back there and we don’t want any infection.  Seems to be ok.  No more vet bills for awhile if we can help it.   But seriously, cleaning a cat’s arse is just not what I want to be doing with my time.  Diets all around are in order, I think.

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PS, I’m not really doing a weekly wrap-up, at least not weekly.  Maybe just weakly.

Jack Simplot, RIP

We grew up around the Simplots – stayed in McCall over the 4th of July many times when we were young to see the Simplots shoot off fireworks from their dock on the lake. They were spectacular, full of the ooohing and aaaahing. Jack was one of the local legends.

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J.R. Simplot, a billionaire who grew up in a sod-roofed log cabin and dropped out of school at 14, then marshaled luck, spunk and inventiveness to fashion an entrepreneurial career that included developing the first commercial frozen french fry, died on Sunday at his home in Boise, Idaho. He was 99.

The death was announced by Larry Hlobik, president and chief executive of the Simplot Co.

Mr. Simplot became the 89th-richest American in Forbes magazine’s 2007 list ($3.6 billion) by seizing opportunities, then perceiving how one success could lead logically to the next.

An early profit on some pigs allowed him to become a potato farmer, which led to sorting and then processing potatoes. That led to building the largest potato-dehydrating plant in the world, which enabled him to supply much of the dried potatoes and vegetables consumed by U.S. troops in World War II.

He began mining phosphate to supply his own fertilizer. He shipped potatoes in boxes made from wood from his own forests. He fed leftover potato scraps to cattle that he kept on his vast ranches and huge feedlots.

There had been earlier efforts to develop an acceptable frozen french fry, but a new market opened up after World War II, when freezer compartments became standard in refrigerators. One of Mr. Simplot‘s researchers, Ray Dunlap, urged Mr. Simplot to give him a freeze box so he could practice freezing vegetables.

“Hell,” Mr. Simplot answered, according to an article in Range magazine in 1998, “you freeze spuds and they will go to mush.”

But Mr. Simplot bought Dunlap a large freezer anyway, and a few months later, Mr. Simplot tasted hot French fries that had been frozen. “My God, good product,” he said.

In the mid-1960s, Mr. Simplot signed a contract with Ray Kroc, who built McDonald’s into an empire, to supply fries to Kroc’s chain. Mr. Simplot promised to build an entire factory just for McDonald’s. The deal was sealed with a handshake.

Late in life, Mr. Simplot still regularly drove his Lincoln Town Car (he owned a dealership) to a McDonald’s outlet for an Egg McMuffin and hash browns or fries. The license plate on his car read Mr. Spud.

John Richard Simplot, usually called Jack, was born Jan. 4, 1909, in Dubuque, Iowa. After loading his pigs, chickens and horses in two boxcars, his father moved the family to Idaho to homestead when Jack was a year old.

At 14, Jack, by his own account, left home after his father refused to let him attend a basketball game. His mother gave him $20 in gold coins, and he moved into a $1-a-night hotel in a nearby town. There were teachers living in the hotel who were being paid in interest-bearing scrip. Jack bought them at 50 cents on the dollar and sold them to a bank for 90 cents on the dollar.

He used this profit to buy a rifle, an old truck and either 600 or 700 hogs (accounts vary) at $1 a head. He used the rifle to shoot wild horses, which – after stripping the hides for future sale at $2 each – he mixed with potatoes and cooked on sagebrush-fueled flames. The hogs ate the result. When he sold the fattened pigs, Mr. Simplot made more than $7,000.

That gave him capital to buy farm machinery and six horses and become a potato farmer. Next, he acquired half of an electric potato sorter with a partner. After they argued, they flipped a coin for full ownership. Mr. Simplot won, and expanded to all phases of the potato industry.

Within a decade, he was the largest shipper of potatoes in the West, with 33 warehouses in Oregon and Idaho.

Ultimately, his businesses included fertilizer, oil, animal feed, seed, beef cattle and ski resorts from Chile to China. The Idaho Statesman newspaper said he owned the nation’s largest cattle ranch, in Oregon.

A $1 million investment in two engineers working in the basement of a dentist’s office in Boise made Mr. Simplot the largest shareholder in Micron Technology Inc., a major manufacturer of computer memory chips. The first board meetings were held in a pancake house in Boise.

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Simplot was charged with trying to manipulate Maine potato futures. He was barred from commodities trading for six years and paid $50,000 in fines and an undisclosed amount to settle a lawsuit.

In 1977, he and his company each paid $40,000 in penalties for failing to report income to the Internal Revenue Service, and for claiming false deductions.

Mr. Simplot‘s first marriage to Ruby Rosevear ended in divorce. His son, Richard, died in 1993. He is survived by his wife, the former Esther Becker; two other sons, Don and Scott; his daughter, Gay; and several grandchildren.

The Statesman, in its obituary, detailed Mr. Simplot‘s almost ostentatiously modest style: He wore the same pair of glasses for 30 years and did not fix his car’s brakes because he did not want to spend the money.

But he liked to hobnob with celebrities and statesmen, including Ernest Hemingway and W. Averell Harriman, at the Sun Valley ski resort. He skied until he was 89, and did it with a style that Lowell Thomas, the writer and adventurer, once described thus:

“As he goes banging down the Sawtooth Mountains on skis, you hear him singing and laughing a half-mile away.”

Thursday, May 29, 2008