Tuesday, November 19, 2019

By the People, For the People

On this day, November 19, 1863, at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln made a 2-minute speech that ended with his hope “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Few words are more memorized.

Few words ring truer to the American people.

This is what we want.

This is who we are.

This is what we want for ourselves
and our children, now, and for generations to come.

The words were not entirely original.

They came from the prologue of one of the earliest translations of the Bible into the English language by theologian John Wycliffe:

“This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.”

The words were not new. They were first penned in 1384.

To some degree, it is these ancient words that underpin the preamble to the U.S. Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Next time someone asks you if you are a Democratic Socialist, you tell them "you bet'cha."

Same as Lincoln.

Same as the first guy to translate the Bible into English.

Same as that Eisenhower fellow.


To the bone.

Deer In Rut Near the House

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Fox Den Not Yet Occupied

It's still too early and too warm to find a fox to ground (65 degrees!) but any dirt being moved this time of year is most likely a fox. The give away here: the dirt has been kicked straight back like a dog digging. That's a fox, not a groundhog.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Moon From Near the House

Not quite a full moon perhaps... too much ambient light... a point and shoot camera... hand triggered... but still... THE MOON.

Take It Outside!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Eight Pointer

Not a great shot, but I think this was an 8-pointer or better.

A buck this old you don't see in broad daylight in the open very often.

The trick to his survival is that he's staked out an area too close to buildings and development to be legally hunted. Smart deer!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

The Only Evidence of His Existence

Just a crow, but he was hanging onto this branch for dear life in pretty serious wind, so I squeezed off a picture -- the only one that he will likely ever be in.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

A "New to Me" Ford on the Horizon

Some years back, against all advice from me, my wife and son went to a car dealership "just to see what they had," and they came back with a completely inappropriate car for my son: a 2006 Mercury Milan sedan (bright red) that was more suited to a real estate agent than a young man with a pit bull and a dog walking business.  You know the car dealer saw them coming!

Now, some years later, that same car has 116,000 miles on it, and we've all been holding our collective breath, waiting for it to fail in some spectacular and expensive manner.

At the same time, I’ve changed a few things in my life, and I have less need for a commuter car and more need for a vehicle in which I can haul mulch, plywood, dogs, bikes, and kayaks.

The solution I've come up with is to sell the Mercury Milan and give my son my Ford C-Max hybrid (he will finish making the payments on it) which gets 41 mpg, and whose back seats fold flat for dogs.

It's a small car, but since he's mostly using it for short-distance client visits associated with his dog walking business, it should save him quite a bit in gas money while also fitting the bill.

My first inclination for a new car for me was to look at a used Ford Escape 4-wheel drive hybrid.

I like Fords because while they are not a glamorous cars, they do not come with a "brand premium" of $2,000-3,000 which seems to be come with so many Toyota's, Subaru's, and Honda's.

I also prefer to buy cars made in America, preferably by union workers. Though Honda and Toyota make a lot of cars in the US, they tend to be in non-union shops.  With this Escape, we will remain union-made vehicle household.  The other car is a Ford Edge.

The newer Ford Escapes have sloped top lines, which I do not like as they remind me of the collapsing haunches on an AKC show-line German Shepherd Dog.  In addition, the tumble home in the rear of these car makes it more difficult to mount a kayak or carry a load on top (such a plywood or a Christmas tree).

A little research, and I found that the roof line on the Ford Escort changed in 2013, and a little more research suggested that there were a very few low-mileage 4-wheel drive hybrids out there.  I was looking for a car with under 45,000 miles on it, and a price point of $15,000 or so.  It could be done.

I have always suspected CarMax has a brand-premium built into their used cars, and so I began by taking price points off their national stock of 2012 Ford 4-wheel drive hybrids, and then working backwards to see if I could beat that price or that mileage. The simple idea was to drill on Cars.com, Cargurus.com, and other auto-find web sites to see what low-mileage 4-wheel drive Escape hybrids were out there within a reasonable distance of (50 miles).

CarMax, from what I can tell
, has long-term contracts with a lot of the car leasing and car rental places, and they are typically selling cars with 30-45,000 miles on them, that are 2-3 years old.

The sweet spot with used cars, so far as I can tell, is older vehicles with fewer miles.  Miles are what really matters, but a lot of folks are shy of a used car more than 2-3 years old, no matter the mileage. 

Cars that are not coming off-lease or off-rental fleets are vehicles that are being traded in at a dealership for a new vehicle, or else they might be auction vehicles that were consigned after a death, hospitalization, repossession, or bankruptcy. 

No matter the source of the vehicle, CarFax tracks who has owned the car (i.e how many times it has been sold), whether the car has ever been in a wreck, flood, had a major repair, or had its airbags deflated, and whether there are any recall notices outstanding on the vehicle.  CarFax also verifies the cars odometer.

In the end, I signed the paperwork for a Silver 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid 4-wheel drive with less than 14,000 miles on it for the grand sum of $14,000 cash. The MSRP on this vehicle in 2012 was $34,800, but that's an entirely fictional number, and I think the real-world price was more like $26,000.

This car has had only one owner, has had no wrecks or airbag deployments, and is very clean inside and out. I suspect it was owned by a senior citizen who mostly used it for grocery shopping, which would explain the very low mileage and a possible reason for sale (owner death or now too old to drive).  It came out of Florida, another clue it might have a senior citizen provenance.

The closest CarMax price equivalent for this car that I could find was a car that was $1,000 more expensive, was one year older (a 2011 model), and had 37,000 more miles on the odometer (i.e. at least 3-years worth of driving time).

This vehicle has 8.4 inches of ground clearance, and plenty of leg room for me.

In 2012, this hybrid was #1 in fuel efficiency from Edmunds in the SUV and crossover class.

As with so many things, there is no “right” answer on a car purchase, but I’m reasonably sure I’m getting OK value. Time will tell, of course!

This is my second Ford hybrid, and the technology has proven itself, with some Ford Escapes rolling well past 200,000 miles.

The first Escape was made in 2000, and the first hybrid Escape was sold in 2005, so all of the basic problems were worked out  long before 2012.  Ford Escape Hybrids are are also still being made -- a sign the car's basic design and engineering have stood the test of time.  The Mercury Milan, in comparison, was sold for only one 5-year generation.

If I get 120,000 miles and 10 years out of this Ford Escape, my next car is likely to be entirely electric -- the world is not going to salute the gas engine much beyond that!

Red-Shouldered Hawk

I've seen Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Merlins, and American Kestrels at this location, and a Bald Eagle nest is about a half mile away.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Last Turtle of 2019?

It was 31 degrees in the morning, but got up to the mid-50s when this turtle was seen sunning itself (if it could be called that). Turtles winter underwater, jammed in the mud, and breathing through their butts (honest!)

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

A Surplus of Osage Oranges

The Teeth are the Least of It

The Baltimore Sun reminds me that rabies is quite prevalent in the area I hunt:

A raccoon killed by two dogs on Monday in Westminster has tested positive for rabies and marks the fourth such animal to test positive for the lethal virus in the past weeks.

The dogs killed the raccoon on Poole Road, west of Md. 97 and near Stoner Avenue, but because both dogs were up to date on their rabies vaccinations, the pair will only require a booster shot and the dogs owners will not require treatment, according to a Carroll County Health Department news release.

Harvesting the Old and Planting the New

Taking the corn off one of the fields. I’ll have to visit here soon.

The soybeans are coming off or have already come off a lot of properties, and the first blades of winter wheat are starting to poke out into the daylight.  I love fields of winter wheat in the early spring.

Deer Feeding at Twilight

It's nice to have a herd of deer so close to the house and right downtown. It seems not too many people know about them, and I guess I'm not too surprised. Most people never wander more than 200 feet from a car, never look up from their phone, and speed past a bit of waste land or flood plain with eyes facing forward. Their loss!

Chickens are Hard-wired for Terror

Chickens are hard-wired for terror, which is why they PREFER to be under a roof and in a large flock: both are instinctive survival responses.

 From Sci-News comes the latest stud that shows that chickens are hard-wired to fear attack from below and from a distance (i.e. hawks and fox).

“[T]hese findings clarify we are not born as blank slates, but with sophisticated mechanisms that enable us to use specific strategies in front of particular stimuli...”

Sunday, November 03, 2019

What Ever Happened to These Dogs?

Open-air animal markets existed in London and several other UK cities right up to the early 1980s.

Here in the US, dog auctions continue to this day.

The British markets started as song bird sales in the 19th Century, but expanded to include dogs, cats, monkeys, chickens, pigeons, parrots, ferrets, and even an occasional lion.

The oldest US open-air dog market is the Fredericksburg, Virginia Dog Mart which began in 1698. Today, it no longer sell dogs, but serves as a celebration of rescue dogs.

American dog auctions are mostly puppy mill dog dealers dumping old breeding stock, dogs from puppy mills going entirely out of business, or puppy mills getting rid of young dogs that have failed to sell as puppies before their "spoilage" date of 12 weeks or so, when they are no longer quite as cute ,and are starting to become both an economic and a labor liability.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Trump Puts Management Shepherd in the Spotlight

The death of sociopathic terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the role of a Special Forces dog in aiding his demise, has propelled a little known breed into the national spotlight.

“The Management Shepherd is not yet a Kennel Club breed” said Trisha Longbottom, a spokesperson for the Westminster Kennel Club, “but we’re scrambling to add it to our roles before his appearance at the White House next month.”

The Management Shepherd was named after the town of Manage, located just outside of Brussels, and has a short tan coat without a black overlay, but often with a black mask.

It is said that the Management Shepherd is actually the foundation dog of all other Belgian shepherds and is, in fact, a direct descendant of the dog owned by Saint Hubert when he cured people of rabies by poking hot nails and keys into their wounds.

The most famous Management Shepherd was Ricardo, a dog responsible for saving scores of men during the Battle of the Marnes when it dove into a bunker and disabled a machine gunner -- a story later magnified in the telling by Germans who spoke of the "Teufelshunde" or "devil dogs" being used by the other side.

For his bravery, Ricardo was given the Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, Belgium's highest military honor.

** More on this storied breed here. ** 

Last month Ivanka Trump trademarked the name “Trump Shepherd” and “Trump Shepherd Breeder’s Association” in China, with the dog described as “a type of Belgian Shepherd made famous in the capture of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria.”

Donald Trump and the Westminster Kennel Club have a long relationship of mutual self-promotion, with the Kennel Club trotting over their show winners to be paraded in front of the self-described billionaire who has never owned a pet.

“Westminster dogs are often criticized for being deformed and dysfunctional non-working poodle-coated mops, but we find that criticism dies down when they are show-cased next to Mr. Trump,” said an AKC spokesperson in a 2007 interview. “Everything looks better in the right setting.”

Close Enough for Halloween

This is not how genetics works, but it’s a good cheap Halloween costume to put together at the last minute, so.... good enough!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Dramatic Clouds

Some amazing clouds going into DC after a rain storm pushed through. I shot this through the windshield while driving.