Sunday, June 22, 2014

That's the meanest captcha I've ever seen

Was just trying to leave a comment over at Baboon Pirates and got this captcha.


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

This & that

I thought I should write something here just to show a little activity of some sort.

We are now in the part of the year that I fondly refer to as "hell-time."  June, July and August are the worst months of the year.  It is just so hot being outside all the time.  Our department was told to hire 10 more people.  New people in our department always start out as temps.  Due to corporate red tape, it's much easier to fire someone who's a temp if he/she isn't working out.  In the past, temps were required to drive their own vehicles while working, and were paid a gas allowance.  But someone in H.R. decided that NO ONE WOULD DRIVE THEIR OWN VEHICLE ANYMORE FOREVER PERIOD.  But the budget department says we can't have 10 more trucks.  So one of our managers has to ferry the temps out to routes and drop them off, then go back out and pick them up when they finish.  Fortunately, we have only 3 temps right now so it's possible, but in another month or so when there will (theoretically) be several more, it will be impossible.  I suggested they have them mop the floors every day.  This is how your water company works, folks.

My son was just watching Forrest Gump (1st time).  He just walked in here and said, "There was 14 minutes left, but it got too sad."  Heh.

Our family reunion is coming up soon, so I've been hitting the ukuleles pretty hard, since my "gig" last year went over so well.  Sometimes I have to stop because my fingers get too sore.  I have some calluses built up, but still they hurt sometimes after a couple of hours of strumming.  I wrote one new song recently, which was really cool.  I haven't written any songs in many years.  I mostly use the tenor uke now, but there are still a few songs that I switch back to the soprano for.

When I was growing up, every summer for several years I went to a church music camp where I was taught pretty much everything there is to know about a capella singing as well as learning song writing (classical music theory).  I'm planning on going again this year, after a hiatus of decades, to see what the current incarnation of the school is like and to get a refresher course.  I'm taking my daughter with me this time, and she's looking forward to it because it's a music school.

In a related subject, one of the purposes of this school was not only to learn about music, but to learn about it so we could go back and teach at our home congregations.  Well, I'd never done such a thing, but about a month ago I started teaching a music class at my congregation.  There hasn't been a lot of participation, but there are several hard-cores who attend every week and I've been enjoying it (surprisingly).  My goal is to get several people trained up enough that they can read music well enough to learn new songs without too much trouble.

I used up all of my bulk pipe tobaccos a while back, so I've been dipping into my small stash of tinned tobaccos that have been aging for several years.  The good thing about tinned tobacco is that it's vacuum-sealed, and as long as that seal isn't broken, they can last a long, long time.  Sometimes they will even "sugar," that is, the oils will partially crystallize and appear like small glistening sugar crystals on the leaves.  I had one tin of a kind called Balkan Flake that did this a little.  Man, it was good.  I've already finished it.  It was like eating a rich, well-done steak.  It's a latakia blend, and I don't usually like stuff with latakia that much anymore (I used to like it a lot more), but this one I just loved.  I'm currently working my way through one of my two tins of Escudo, which is a Perique blend that I've had before and I knew I would like it--so much so that I kept putting off using it.  I had to use some of my overtime to buy a new computer for the kids, but I think I will be able to place another order soon.  More bulk, plus at least one new tin each of Balkan Flake, 1792 Flake and Escudo.  Maybe a tin of Nightcap, which I also really like.  1792 Flake is a Virginia flake that is flavored with tonquin, which is a flavor that must be experienced because it can't be described.  Some people hate it.  Some people love it.

Escudo is a Virgina/Perique rope tobacco.  The leaves are spun into a rope so that they are all pressed together, then cut into discs or "coins."  Each coin is about halfway between the size of a quarter and a 50-cent piece.  When it's not burned, it smells sort of like fresh hay and molasses.  A "flake" tobacco is when the leaves are pressed into sheets and then cooked for several hours under pressure before being cut into more conviently-sized strips that can fit into a tin.  Rope tobaccos like Escudo are usually put into round tins, while flakes are usually put in rectangular tins.

Oh yeah, I also recently learned that Three Nuns is once again available in the U.S.  It's a Dutch rope tobacco that's somewhat similar to Escudo, but the coins are smaller, about the size of dimes or nickels.  Might have to get one of those tins, too.

If any of my legions of readers are anime fans, I recommend one that I just started watching called Attack on Titan.  It's really intense, and one of the "realistic" anime, by which I mean doesn't use "cartoonish" animation, but it's sci-fi themed, so it isn't "realistic" in that sense.  They started showing the English dub on adult swim, but it was so good I started watching the original Japanese (with English subtitles) on Netflix.  Sometimes the voice differences are almost shocking.  One character in the English dub version sounds like the pimply-faced teenager from the Simpsons.  It would be funny if that character weren't transfixed in abject terror most of the time.  It's a war story, so there are a lot of violent deaths.  It's could be the most horrific show I've ever seen.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Some more podcasts

I thought I would mention a few more podcasts that I have been enjoying.  I'll try to remember and not talk about something I've already covered.

You may wonder how I have time to listen to a lot of these podcasts, but it's not that hard.  If I'm working in a quiet enough neighborhood, I can burn through several hours worth in one day.  Also, due to a bone-headed management decision, about half of my work days every month require me to find a shady out-of-the-way spot to park and do nothing for 3-4 hours (I've been finding all the best, most secluded city parks--preferably the ones with restrooms).  I also have a long commute, so it all adds up to a lot of down time.  Sometimes I use my time-killing time to read a book or watch stuff on Netflix on my phone, and I still have plenty of time for listening to podcasts.

Cabinet of Curiosities (also here).  Usually runs around 15-20 minutes per episode, and covers odd stuff.  Sometimes supernatural, sometimes conventional but just plain weird.  You can download pretty much all the archives from those links, but I don't think either site is still being updated.  Current episodes can be had by following Cabinet of Curiosities on Facebook.

Daily Knowledge Podcast -- Quite short, about 5-10 minutes each, about why and how certain things are the way they are, from the folks behind the Today I Found Out website.  Recent episodes include "why inhaling helium makes your voice sound higher" and "where the phrase 'pleased as punch' comes from."

Damn Interesting -- A podcast about interesting things from the website of the same name.  Recent episodes include how absolute zero was determined and the history of the potato.

The Lovecraft Geek -- Lovecraftian scholar (and scholar-in-general) Robert M. Price answers questions about H.P. Lovecraft and his writings sent in by listeners.  Not really any set length to this one, so far they seem to run about an hour or more each.

Mysterious Universe -- Usually about 45 minutes to an hour or more each.  Two guys discuss various recent news, books, and so forth about paranormal stuff, with an occasional interview.  Fortunately, they don't believe everything they hear and they are quite amusing and entertaining.  If you are a hard-core skeptic, you probably won't care much for it, but if you can suspend your disbelief for a little while for the sake of entertainment, it's pretty good.

The Paranormal Podcast -- On the other hand, this one apparently accepts every ridiculously outlandish claim made by anyone without ever calling B.S. on them.  I still find it enjoyable, and it gives me a chance to keep my skepticism well-honed.

Skeptoid -- Skeptoid is a dedicated debunker podcast, covering paranormal, conspiracy theories, and things that many people accept as "common knowledge" but which aren't really true.  Some recent episodes dealt with black-eyed kids, the death of Glenn Miller and aromatherapy.

Star Trek:  The Continuing Mission -- This is not a podcast, but more of a "radio" drama, about the starship Montana, a ship from about the time of TOS that gets thrust forward through time into about the time of TNG.  There were seven episodes made several years ago, and they are about to release an eighth episode any day now.  It's supposed to have a Lovecraftian theme.

Illusion Travels by Streetcar -- This is an odd one.  Each "episode" usually runs 2 hours or more.  It's brought to us by the same guy behind Radio Free Gunslinger, which I have mentioned previously.  A group of cinephiles sit around discussing...cinema, but with frequent digressions into other topics which are often humorous and/or interesting.  I myself am not a cinephile, and at first I only listened to it because it was made by Tom Sutpen (the Radio Free Gunslinger guy).  But for some reason I have found it very enjoyable and always look forward to getting hold of the next episode.  To paraphrase Zapp Branigan, never have I been so fascinated by a topic which I care so little about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Snickers can burn in h*ll

8 Bizarre Ways Corporations Have Attempted to Save $$

 I don't know why they said this was "bizarre" when it's really more "clever" or "devious."  There's one that they missed, but I didn't.

A few years ago, Snickers began selling their candy bars split in two, instead of one full-sized candy bar.  This "break" in the middle of the bar reduced the net weight by about half an ounce, but they still cost the same as the old bar.  I know this because when it happened, some stores were still stocking both the new "broken" bar and the old single-piece bar, and I immediately noticed it and checked the net weights.

With some bars, it's even worse.  Their peanut butter bar is now broken into four pieces, reducing the net weight from the old single-piece bar by more than one ounce, but they still cost the same as the old bar.

For this reason, Snickers is dead to me.  Reese's Nutrageous bars are better anyway, and they still come in one big bar.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The snake story


I still haven't come across the photo I took of all these dead snakes, but my dad passed on to me the newspaper that this article was in.  This was our smalltown newspaper at the time, the Stockdale Star.  My grandmother went to the office and told them the story.  She thought it was news-worthy.  I guess it was.  I think the Floresville Chronicle-Journal also ran this article, with slightly different wording; if I recall correctly, their headline used the words "sandhill boy" instead of my name.  August of 1981 would mean I was 17 years old at the time.

You've already seen this clipping if you're "friends" with me on FB, but I thought I'd detail the whole story here just for kicks.

I was shredding the field in front of our house with the old Ford 8N tractor that I have mentioned previously.  The field is mostly open, but through one side of it runs a very shallow "creek," really just a low spot that rain drains through when it rains enough.  There are several trees growing along this low spot.  So I was winding my way through this tree-section on the tractor, and at one point just happened to spot a copperhead.  So naturally, I stopped the tractor to kill it.  We routinely killed venomous snakes, which almost always meant copperheads where we lived (my dad still lives there, by the way), but occasionally a cottonmouth or coral snake would turn up, too.  Anyway, we had this metal pipe that was about 5 feet long with a 90-degree elbow on one end; we used this pipe as our post hole tamping tool.  It was leaning against the fence nearby, so I used it to smack the snake.  As I have also previously said, the 8N had a front-end loader on it, and the hydraulic system wasn't able to keep it up completely all the time, so we had another big pipe baling-wired across the front end to hold the loader up.  The baling wire loops were big enough, so I just slipped our post-hole tamper through the loops and continued on my way.

I made another circle around the field and came back by the trees again.  I saw another snake, and thought at first that I had somehow failed to stove the first snake's head in hard enough, and it was still alive.  So I got down off the tractor, took out the post hole tamping pipe, and walked toward the snake.  Then I saw another snake.  So I stopped, and then saw another snake.  And another one.  I appeared to be surrounded by copperheads.  I retraced my steps back to the tractor and got back up in the seat, and standing there atop the tractor I surveyed the area to see what was going on.  I could see several snakes.

So I got back down and began working my way from the nearest snake to the farthest.  After smacking a snake I would scoop it up with the bent end of the pipe and toss it back behind me so I would know where all the dead ones were.  After I killed all the ones I  could see there near the tractor, I made a circle around the trees and found a couple more.  I remember thinking, "Daddy's never gonna believe this."  I kept snooping around and eventually noticed a hollowed-out space beneath the roots of one of the trees.  Down in that hollow was a seething mass of copperheads.

So I checked my pile of dead snakes to make sure they were all good and dead and walked back to the house and got my dad's old 16-gauge single-shot shotgun.  My grandmother asked me what I was doing, and I told her, "I found a whole bunch of copperheads."  "Okay," she said, "be careful."

I remember wondering if any of the BBs would ricochet off the tree and hit me, but I went and fired into that hole anyway.  I waited a minute for the dust to clear, and saw movement, so I shot a second time.  Then I decided that I was just wasting shells, so I started using the hook on the end of that pipe to rake out one snake at a time and dispatch it.

It turned out that the top layer of snakes had caught all the shot and I only killed 3 or 4 by shooting them.  One really big one had been blown in two; it was in the process of digesting a toad, which was pretty gross.  The snakes all ranged in size from about a foot up to about 18 inches.

Anyway, one at a time, I pulled out snakes and smacked them with the pipe until the hole was, as far as I could see, empty.  Then I lined them all up and counted 24 snakes.  I took a picture of them with one of those old Kodak telephoto cameras with the 110 film.  The last time I saw that picture, it had faded pretty badly.  The old 110 film didn't stand up to time very well.

And that wasn't exactly the end of the story.  Over the next few years, I took to checking out the "snake hole" periodically.  Every summer I found a few more snakes there, although never as many at once as that first time.  I guess that over a period of 4 or 5 years, I probably killed more than 40 snakes out of that one hole.

Rain and erosion have since filled the snake hole in.  The tree is still there, but there's no place for the snakes to hide there anymore.  I'm sure they've found another spot somewhere.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I don't what to title this post

My daughter, who is recently turned 15, came to me today and asked if there was a word for when you love something so much it just hurts.

She has a love for music that is much like mine, that is, we are not casual listeners.  I have experienced many times when a song felt like it just punched me in the gut and it stays with me forever afterward.

So I asked her what she was referring to, and she said it was the album by a group called Bastille. So, I thought, I gotta hear this.

Well, I like them quite a lot.  They are a British synthpop group, to put it simply, but they use a lot of harmony vocals.

What I love most about this is that she has found music that speaks to her so strongly that she loves it so much it just hurts.  I know how that feels.  We have something in common.  This makes me happy.  They've released only one album so far, in 2013.  I know she will be following and listening to this group for years to come, provided, of course, that they keep making more albums, in much the same way I have listened to and followed groups like Marillion, Styx and Rush.

Here's my favorite song from the album.


They don't have an official video for this one, so I picked a lyric video that fan made.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Augh

I wish that I could always dream mundane, boring, completely forgettable dreams.  But my record of epic nightmares continues.

Last night I actually got up and walked around the house for a few minutes to make sure I would break the cycle and not have a recurring nightmare (this happens a lot, too).

Werewolves.  Where do these things come from?  Anyway, fortunately, these werewolves could be killed by conventional weapons, no silver bullets or anything special like that needed.  Unfortunately, it took a massive number of injuries to put one down.  We were running out of ammo.  And then...some of them came back as zombie werewolves.

This cartoonish drawing is actually pretty accurate.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Hilarious

4 Lead Singers That Sound Shockingly Bad Without the Band.

Read it and listen to the clips all the way to the end.  It has a great punch line.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Funeral today

Well, today I attended a funeral.  It was the most interesting funeral I have ever been to.  It was at a relatively new and still somewhat rough place just inside the Selma city limits on Lookout Road.  It is supposed to cater to ex-military and ex-police.  I was told such people get a "discount" or whatever the funeral industry calls it in their carefully couched terms.

Anyway, the funeral was for a very old friend of the family.  His first wife was my mother's first cousin, but...well I don't really know if I can explain it.  It seemed to be above blood relation.  They were close as friends as well.  His wife was several years older than my mother, and my mom as a teenager baby-sat her kids.  He became close friends and an occasional business partner with my dad.  His first wife died of leukemia when I was about 4 or 5 years old, but like I mentioned she had had kids, a boy and a girl.  He re-married a year or two later, and his second wife had two daughters from a previous marriage, but they never had kids with each other.  None of this is especially relevant to the story, except to say that he knew me from the time I was born, and he was always part of my life.  Even though he was not technically related to us, having been an sort of cousin-in-law from his first wife, he still attended family reunions and always came to my dad's house for our yearly Christmas mini-reunion.  I think it says something that most of the people there were from my dad's side of the family, although none of them were related to him.

One weird thing that I realized today was that I think this was the first time I'd ever seen his second wife, although they'd been married for decades.  She just never came out to the country.  Although his official residence was in S.A., he had a ranch near here and spent most of his time out here watching after his cattle and, I think, just not being in the city.  When I was a teenager I spent a lot of summers working for him, helping him work cattle, clearing brush, building and fixing fences and doing all the stuff that a cattle ranch requires.  And by "ranch," I'm not using it in the city-dweller term when they seem to think anything more than 5 acres is a ranch.  He used to own 500 acres, but about 300 of it was fairly dense forest, and he eventually sold the back 300 to some insanely rich guy who built his own exotic game ranch out of it.  Back when our friend owned it, we hunted there all the time.  I spent a lot of time just roaming around in the pasture all by myself, sometimes hunting or trapping, and sometimes just being out in the "wilderness" because I enjoyed it so much.  I find myself wondering now what's going to happen to his remaining 200 acres.  I suppose his wife will sell it.  I wish I had the money to buy it.

I remember the first summer I ever worked for him, I guess I was about 13.  I had an old Boy Scout pocket knife that my dad had found on the side of the road--he worked for the highway department and was always finding useful things lost on the side of the road--anyway, the first thing our friend did was ask me if I had a pocket knife.  I told him yes, and showed it to him because I was kind of proud of it, since it had a bottle opener and can opener and so forth, but he gave me another pocket knife anyway.  I still have it.

He had been in the army, and he had been a police officer in S.A. for more than 20 years.  He had been a pilot.  He was a skilled leather worker.  He was a skilled ammunition reloader.  He had once been an extra in a movie.  He had done so many things.  He loved to talk.  During my time "working" with him, he told me so many stories about so many things.  We both liked to talk about guns and hunting.  He built a makeshift shooting range on his place and he loved it when I came out just to shoot.  He would always break out one of his guns and join me.  Whenever I brought a gun he hadn't shot before, he would always shoot it and then give me his opinons on it, which would almost always remind him of something that had happened once and he'd tell me another story about it.

When I was a teenager, during our conversations he found out that I loved to read.  He did, too.  He gave me his entire collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks.  Just about every original Tarzan story is in there.  Only one Mars book, but I think also all of the Pellucidar books and all the Lost Island books.  I still have them.

He liked to boast about being from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, and he was always sure to mention that that was also Andy Griffith's home town, and the town that Mayberry was based on.  He grew up on a tobacco farm, and told me stories about tobacco farming.

He told me some scary stories about things he'd seen and done while a cop.  He told me a few hairy stories from when he was a pilot.  He gave me endless advice and information about guns.  A few years ago, he gave me two of his old reloading scales in case I ever wanted to take up reloading.  Of course, I still have them, too.

The funeral began with flag ceremony and the playing of Taps.  It was the first time I'd ever witnessed that ceremony.  His grand-daughter, who has Down Syndrome, played "Amazing Grace" on her accordion.  He had also been a Mason, so there were some Masons there who had their own special part in the service.  And that was the first time I'd ever seen the public Masonic ritual for a funeral.  I'm sure that later on, they'll have their own private service for their departed brother.

I can say with complete confidence that I would not be the same person if I hadn't known him.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dough overflow

This supposedly happened at a Papa John's.

I assume that somebody made too much dough and they threw it out before it had risen.  I have a couple of dough-making stories from my days of working at a pizza place.

Once we ran out of our "yeast mixture."  Mr. Gatti's had (I guess they still do, if any still exist) a specific yeast mixture that was used in making their dough.  It was mostly yeast and some spices mixed in.  I don't know how it happened because I wasn't responsible for ordering stuff.  But anyway, we ran out.  So our manager got on the horn and got a substitute recipe that we could put together ourselves.  But it required a lot of yeast.  This was back before H.E.B. came to town, and when we needed to buy stuff off the shelf from a local store, we just walked down the sidewalk to the nearest "supermarket," which was a place called Mayfield's.  So our manager went down there and bought a big box of Fleischmann's yeast.  It had, I don't know, a couple dozen of those little yeast envelopes in it.  He put together several plastic baggies of yeast mixture according to the recipe he'd been given and that night I made dough with it.

The dough did not rise.  The next day we had to make do with decidedly sub-standard pizza dough.  It was like making pizza with unleavened bread, because that's pretty much in fact what it was.  So while everyone was standing around scratching their heads and wondering what had happened, I went in the back and checked the box.  The expiration date on it was for a date more than a year in the past.  "Hey, Joe," I asked the manager, "Can yeast die?  Because check out the expiration date."

It was a relief to figure out what had gone wrong, but he was still pretty miffed that the store had been stocking yeast that had died long ago.  He got it exchanged for a fresh box and the next day we were back to normal.

Story number two:  we always had some dough left over that had to be thrown out.  It was made at night, then left to rise until morning when it was made into crusts.  The unused dough would keep rising, and would usually completely fill one of the huge plastic buckets that we kept it in (I'd guess it was at least a 50-gallon bucket).  We would keep it for a while, just in case we had a rush of business and ran out of crusts, so we could make some emergency crusts to finish out the night if we needed to.  But at some point, it would become obvious that we wouldn't need it, so the guy who made the dough (often myself) would haul it outside and throw it into the dumpster.  It was always pretty heavy.  One night I guess I was throwing about 60-70 pounds of it out.  It heaved the bucket up onto the lip of the dumpster and tipped it up to spill the dough out.  About that time a homeless guy who was scavenging in the dumpster popped up and said, "Oh, hey there!"  Scared the crap out of me.  "Dude," I told him, "you need to be careful.  I nearly dumped this on your head.  It would've snapped your neck like a twig."  He actually apologized and then asked if I could just leave it out there so he could take it.  So I left the bucket out there and he took the dough, leaving the bucket.  I have no idea how he could haul off all that dough without taking the bucket, but he did it.  When I went outside later, the empty bucket was still there and the man and all the dough was gone.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

A collection of unrelated links

Not really, I'm being sarcastic.  These links are totally related.

Because people are still stupid enough to to claim that mangy coyotes (or possibly coydogs) are...well, you know.

Pics show chupacabra in Texas, some believe

Here is a link about the original Puerto Rico sighting:  Seeking the Puerto Rican chupacabra

You should note two things from this article:  1.  The sketch of the original alleged creature based on the woman's description of the thing; and 2.  That she supposedly saw it in the second week of August, 1995.

Next, please view this image of a model made of the monster from the movie Species.

And finally, the imdb page for the movie Species.  If you scroll down to the movie details, you will see that it was released on July 7, 1995.

How the chupacabra morphed from an alien vampire into a mangy dog, I'll never know.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Gin (the drink, not the game)

A Man's Primer on Gin from The Art of Manliness.

I tried a gin drink once.  I had gone to a local area...well, I don't know what to call it.  It wasn't a bar, because it was too "classy" for that.  Oh yeah, it was called Chelsea Street Pub, so I guess it was pub.  Anyway, I was there with two friends, and myself and one of them decided to try a gin drink.

It was horrible.  I had paid for it, so I drank it all, but I didn't enjoy it.  We both agreed that it tasted like Kool-Aid-flavored turpentine.

Maybe it was just bad gin.  I don't know.  I never will know, because I'll never drink gin again.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Avocado intolerance

10 Insane Diets No One Should Ever Try

I want to comment on this only because of this line:
I've studied all the diets, and the only thing they all agree we should eat is half an avocado.
Not true.  I have an avocado intolerance.  I do not like avocados, and I will not tolerate them.*

Apparently there is a certain fatty acid that is particular to avocados which many animals are unable to digest, which is why you should avoid feeding them to your pets.  A very small percentage of humans are also unable to digest this fatty acid.

Within a couple of hours of attempting to eat avocado (I have tried eating guacamole only twice, both with disastrous results), I will be vomiting it back up.  My two times trying to eat it engraved themselves so firmly into my memory that just seeing avocados makes my guts clench, and the last time was more than 20 years ago.

I have the same reaction, though to much lesser dramatic and traumatic extent, to coconut and pineapple.  I can handle a little of either, like I can generally handle coconut macaroon cookies with no problem.  If someone makes a ham with pineapples on it, I scrape the pineapple off and can eat it with no problem.

When I was about 10 years old, a baby-sitter made me eat a whole slice of canned pineapple for a snack and it wasn't pretty.  That never happened again.

So...don't ever offer me anything with avocado in it.

*Paraphrasing Jerry Seinfeld in regard to his lactose intolerance.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Smartest dog breed?

Which Dog Breeds Make the Smartest Dogs?

We once had a dog that was a border collie/Australian shepherd mix, and I think she was in fact pretty smart.  Back then the watering "trough" for our cattle was actually just the bottom half of a 55-gallon barrel with a float valve on it.  It was set on top of some cinder blocks so it wouldn't be resting directly on the ground, which helped prevent the bottom from rusting out.  So, if you can picture it, you should be able to imagine that it wasn't particularly easy for a small dog to jump into it or even drink from it.  By the way, the dog had a different water supply that was built for her size, so she didn't have to drink from it.  But still, she somehow figured out that when it was hot during the summer, she could just jump into the trough and get really good and wet and cool off.  Sometimes I would look down at the cow pens and just see her head sticking up out of that water barrel.

Shelby the shepherd mix never had any special training, but she was an expert herder.  But here's the thing:  when she wasn't herding the cattle, she hung around with them.  In cold weather, she would even go sleep with them to keep warm.  And as long as she wasn't nipping at their heels, the cattle didn't mind her being there one bit.

At a different time, we also had a dog that was half German shepherd/half Australian shepherd.  That dog couldn't herd worth a darn, but he was the best raccoon hunting dog I ever had, and I also had a few hound mixes in there at times.  None of them hunted like Rex the shepherd mix.

On the other hand, the best squirrel/rabbit dog I ever had was just a rescued street mutt named Patches.

We had a Golden Retriever (named Pardner) that one time snatched a wounded dove out of the air when it was about 3 feet off the ground.  He brought it back, and her grip was so gentle, the bird was still alive when he turned it over to us.

There was also a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Major who could retrieve a bird without damaging it but would also catch armadillos and crack their shell with a bite.  Unfortunately, he would also do the same thing to watermelons, so we had a hard time growing watermelons when we had him.

A link and a podcast to recommend

Top 10 Alleged Real-Life Werewolves and Wolf-Men.

Just today I listened to a very interesting podcast on the topic of #3 from this list, the Beast of GĂ©vaudan.

This podcast is one I just recently started listening to, and have been going through their entire archive.  It's called Monstertalk, and is from a group of skeptics who talk about the scientific basis behind monsters.  Mostly it's a debunker podcast.  Anyway, the specific podcast about the Beast is here.  You can find their archives at that page by checking the left sidebar.

The conclusion:  it was wolves.  Multiple wolves.  A couple of years ago, the History Channel had a show about the Beast, and the people involved in that show concluded it was a hyena escaped from someone's private bestiary.  However, it seems that the real reason people are loathe to say it was wolves is because it's currently politically incorrect to say that wolves are vicious wild animals who eat meat that is easy to kill and plentiful.  When people are more plentiful and/or easier to kill than other prey, they are going to eat people.

If you're a hardcore Bigfoot believer, or chupacabra believer, or whatever, you won't like it.  But if you are honestly open-minded about and interested in these things and can overlook the hosts' occasional arrogance, you should check it out.