I Ride Alone and Sing a Tune

It's the fourth Saturday in July, which means it's the National Day of the Cowboy. It's as good a day as any to re-explain the name of this blog.

These days tally books are associated with the oilfields, but before there was an oil industry, tally books were used by working cowboys.

A buckaroo in the saddle was his employer's eyes and ears on the open range. To ensure that he reported accurately what he saw as he rode, he carried a book of blank pages to make notes in. He would record how many cattle he saw, where he saw them, and what brands they wore. If he saw a calf with one brand following a cow with another, he'd report that too -- and there would be strong words between the owners of the respective brands.

He also took note of range conditions and whatever else he might consider worth knowing about, and this way the boss and the other hands knew of anything that might affect their work and the boss' property.

At roundup time, actual tallies were kept of which cattle wore which brand, as well as what brands were put on unbranded calves. The different brand owners would have representatives present, and each kept careful track of the others' tallies to make sure they all agreed.

When the open range got fenced in, keeping track of the livestock became easier, but the man riding fence still needed to take notice of things. Damage to the barbed wire, for example, might be incidental or it might be sabotage; either way, cattle might be wandering on someone else's range, and that would need to be reported and dealt with.

These days a working cowboy might report his findings by cell phone, if he has any bars, or note them down on his phone or tablet for later retrieval. Some cowboys even carry a laptop in the saddlebag. Picture John Wayne or Clint Eastwood doing that.

Rescue Me

Years ago, I posted a series of examples of what I deemed to be wise cowboy sayings. Yesterday I tried to find them on my computer and in my cloud storage, and came up empty. Fortunately, some still resided in the old gray matter.

Having rescued them from that horrible fate, I re-post them here:

  • Work ain't gonna do itself.

  • It takes a lot of hands to make a roundup.

  • Never mess with another man's gal, gun, or hoss.

  • Wipin' off your hat's sweatband is a good excuse to just stop and take in the scenery for a spell.

  • When somethin' goes wrong, just set back and have yourself a good, relaxing cuss. Then fix it.

  • Be nice to the young'uns. You was one yourself, once.

  • "Ridin' fence" don't mean sittin' on it.

  • Beans is good eatin' on the trail, but not in the bunkhouse.

Thoughts My Brain Made

Strategy is based on assumptions. Erroneous assumptions make bad strategy.

Also, keep your political disagreements separate from your personal disagreements. Your feeeeelz are not the proper subject for public policy debate.

The Music Might Change

So I went looking for a cloud storage option that could one day be fully privatized by being housed on a personal server at home, and NextCloud sounded good. So I found a hosted NextCloud account for trying-out purposes and it came with... extras.

Unlike my ak4mc.us host, which doesn’t support PHP and therefore limits my blogging options to plain HTML using a text editor, this host offers everything from Wordpress to... well, this. If you remember the days of early early Movable Type blogs (even I had one, briefly) before SQL became a part of the process, that’s essentially how this works. Given my output in recent years it shouldn’t be challenged much.

Assuming, of course, that I actually use it.

Even if I do, don’t expect me to open comments.

Update: Well okay, worst-case scenario is I revert to the old blog.

It’s Kind of a Drag

If Joe Biden had run for Governor of Georgia instead of for President, and if he had won that contest, his actions since the election leave me convinced that, by now, this would once again be our state flag:

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For those who don’t remember that fustercluck, Wikipedantry has the rundown here. When Republican Sonny Perdue defeated Democrat Roy Barnes for re-election as governor in 2002, Perdue pushed to replace Barnes’ “placemat” flag with the banner we fly today.

Biden’s handlers are so obsessed with undoing the legacy of his Republican predecessor that, if he were merely our governor instead of the president, he would have rolled back everything in Georgia to the way it was the last time one of his fellow Democrats was in charge.

Wouldn’t have been surprised to see him push for that anyway, while he was calling our modest new election reform law “Jim Crow on steroids.”

Cheney Fool

As the news has reported, Rep. Liz Cheney (S-Wyo) has been voted out of her position as House Republican Conference Chair, publicly because her ongoing, escalating war of words with former President Trump has been deemed divisive and contrary to her responsibility as a member of the House’s GOP leadership.

It’s interesting that those ranking above her in the leadership have had a change of heart since the first time House Republicans voted on whether to remove her as Conference Chair. Other than her continued rancorous exchanges with Trump, what could have been happening behind the scenes to cause this turnaround?

One possible contributor is the continuing dissatisfaction with her Trump feud at home in Wyoming. Perhaps Leader McCarthy and Whip Scalise have become sufficiently unsure of Cheney’s chances of winning re-nomination in Wyoming’s Republican primary in 2022. Or perhaps pro-Trump campaign donors have made more intimidating noises than their anti-Trump counterparts, after Cheney’s pro-impeachment vote failed to produce consequences the first time around.

Whatever the reason, this vote undermines one of Cheney’s stronger arguments for re-nomination: Clout. Many a gone-swamper member of Congress has parlayed a lifelong career out of the Clout card, especially lifers elected from small-population states. Alaska’s late Senator Ted Stevens was one such, who completely redefined his role from representing the views of his fellow Alaskans in Washington, to serving as Washington’s spokesman to those backward Alaskans. It was agony watching him get re-elected time and again, despite his complete loss of touch with his constituents, because defeating him would mean losing Clout.

You can be sure Liz Cheney would have used that same argument against those who want her recalled from Washington in favor of some other Wyomingite more in step with their way of thinking. Being a third-termer already elevated to a prime leadership post should have made her untouchable. Maybe she simply misjudged how untouchable it could really make her in a changing party.

Interest in next year’s congressional campaign in Wyoming was already on the rise. This vote will do nothing to tamp it down.

’Bye, Liz.

(Title reference explained here.)

Always Look on the Blight Side of Life

“A pessimist is never disappointed.”

How many times have you heard that crock? Tactical pessimists say it as if fate — or whatever disinterested cosmic entity decides what fresh hell awaits around the corner — wants only to know what they expect, so it can surprise them.

Amateurs.

Fate, karma, the universe, whatever you call it — doesn’t care what you’re expecting. It doesn’t give a damn about surprising you. It doesn’t care about you at all.

There is no capricious entity out there throwing random surprises at you just to keep you on your toes. To believe there is, is just about the most cockeyed optimistic thing you can do — and that fact makes liars out of every tactical pessimist you can ever meet.

If you want to see real pessimism, look for the guy who is always looking for a way to right the boat after it has capsized, who is always ready to keep fighting when all around him have declared defeat inevitable.

He doesn’t count on his victorious enemy to have mercy on him. He doesn’t waste time hoping the sharks just aren’t hungry today. He knows there is no one coming to his rescue, and it’s up to him and him alone.

Tactical pessimists sneer at his apparent optimism in trying to make a dire situation survivable, but he’s the one who has looked fate in the eye and seen that it is not his friend.

Police Encounter Survival 101

Aside from silly movies or bad TV shows where corrupt cops go out murdering just for fun, police officers do not want to have to fire their weapons. They do not want to kill anyone, and they sure don’t want to have to deal with all the paperwork required even when they don’t kill someone.

That even goes for “warning shots” fired into the air, because what goes up must come down, and can kill. That’s why firing a gun into the air is illegal pretty much anywhere (and abjectly stupid literally everywhere). Any cop who did it would be cashiered and, in the current climate if anyone got hurt, would likely face a felony charge.

So it doesn’t matter how justified you may think you were before the cop ordered you to drop your weapon: if you don’t comply, you are no longer in the right.

“Whoa-oo-who-o-o-o-oa, Listen to the Science”

Years ago a friend told me that when you’re talking to people in a group, the majority of them may not follow your words, but they will certainly “hear your music.” By this he meant that non-verbal cues would carry even if the substance of your comments doesn’t.

This effect becomes even more pronounced when most of the people you’re talking to don’t even have the basis for following your words even if they're paying rapt attention. Imagine, for example, being an epidemiologist interviewed on network news, encouraged to go into minute detail on how a virus infects a person, or how a vaccine promotes immunity.

People in the health-care sector might hear the substance of the epidemiologist’s words and find them accurate and valid.

You and I, however, would hear a lot of technobabble we can’t follow, and fall back on trusting the speaker's “music,” which may sound anxious because epidemiologists aren’t usually brilliant public speakers — especially if they’ve been selected by the network news to explain a complex medical concept.

And of course, when the science has finished speaking, the media chimes in, in the form of the interviewer, eyes wide and haunted, playing the song of fear — even if what the science just got through saying was that there was absolutely nothing to fear, and the virus/vaccine would only cause lollipops to spontaneously appear out of thin air at the exact moment you want them to.

This affords our media friends a perfect workaround for what Michael Crichton discussed when describing his “Gell-Mann Amnesia” effect, which would otherwise have medical professionals objecting to the lies the media would be putting in science’s mouth (while of course continuing to assume they’re getting everything else right). This way the knowledgeable are appeased while the rest remain subject to media fearmongering.

Maybe critical media-consumer skills should be taught to kindergarteners, and reinforced throughout the grades, and college, and as part of any continuing education that may be required for various occupations. Just to make sure it takes.