Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

...because some of it is pretty and some of it is not.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Next Year

The temperature outside my house is presently -10°F.  60 miles south of me, in Butte, Montana, the temperature is +20°F.  80 miles north of me, in Great Falls, Montana, the temperature is -18°F  For the third day in a row I have opened my door to freshly fallen snow.
Our weather impulses generally come from either the west or (especially during the winter) the north.
Thanks, Canada.
I would love to see our weather fronts arriving from the south starting next year.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 30, 2017

An indoor flock of LBJs

Yesterday, while driving around in snowbound Helena, the authority having jurisdiction (a woman formerly known as “that girl”) and I stopped at Lowe’s Home Improvement Center.   I wanted to see about finding a telescoping snow rake.  I need something to drag snow from where it collects atop the modules of my solar photovoltaic array.
We found a display of exactly such rakes just inside the front door.  They were close to what I wanted, but I had hoped for something a bit less bulky and less expensive.  The authority having jurisdiction asked a store employee if there might be other options.  The employee, a woman of about our age, suggested we check along the west wall of the store near the snow shovels.
After only a few steps down the aisle along the west wall, about a dozen LBJs dropped from the open bar joists above, pirouetted as a group in midair, and then dispersed in several directions.  Four of them landed on the racks a few feet above our heads.
I snapped a photo with my smarter-than-me-phone.      
For those unfamiliar, LBJs (little brown jobs) are any kind of smallish and not particularly colorful passerine (perching) bird you have not exactly identified.
The birds enjoy some pretty good digs in the Lowe’s store.  A bunch of live plants are on display nearby.  They have busted into huge bags of birdseed and also have occasional whatnots dropped by passing toddlers to eat.  I’m guessing store employees provide them with water.
The same employee who directed us to the west wall later told us a few birds spend their winters in the store every year.  “If too many get inside,” she added, “we capture them with nets and throw them back outside.”
“I like seeing them in here,” I admitted.   Having just come inside the store after trudging through several inches of snow, I said: “You can’t blame them for taking up residence in here.”

-- Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Quirk

I noticed something weird about me just this morning.  A quirk, if you will.  To be fair, my friends and family have been pointing out my idiosyncrasies for a long time.
I do have a few.
My constant need to fidget with whatever is in front of me is difficult to ignore.  If I am not tapping a spoon against the table or countertop, I am spinning a glass or flipping a bottle cap through my fingers.
I also have need to align any stacks of books, papers, or pens and pencils in front of me.  My friend Kevin loves this one.  Whenever I look away, he pokes something out of alignment.  The instant I notice something is out of alignment, I reach out and tap everything square again.  I cannot stop myself.  I am like a marble dropped in a bowl: there is but one possible place where I will end up. Kevin might tweak my papers and pens a half-dozen times in a single visit.
Big fun for Kevin.  He times how long it takes me to notice.
This morning, I noticed another quirk.  If I am writing a list with a pen and must scratch-out an item on the list due to a mistake, I will immediately wad that list and start a new one.  For whatever dumb reason, I cannot tolerate a list with something scratched off before its time.  Somehow that clutters my mind.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Scoop and Pitch Weather

I apologize if, after reading the title of this blog, you excitedly jumped in thinking you were going to read about shoveling snow.  First, why would that excite you?  Secondly, this blog is about my whiny, annoying, and insufferable 20 pounds of housecat.
At a certain temperature—somewhere around 15 degrees—my cat shudders and backs away from the door when I open it to let him out.  The temperature is below his comfort threshold.
Too cold.
That’s fine.  Whether he goes out or not does not really matter to me.  As Thomas Jefferson once remarked: “One man with courage is a majority.”
Actually, that quote has zero to do with my cat.  I just like the quote and it came to mind just now.
The issue is this: my 20 pounds of housecat is constantly sitting by the door meowing so I will let him out.  But when I open the door he shudders and backs away because the temperature is near or below his comfort threshold.
I soon tire of a steady diet of this.
Every winter, after a few days of this, I develop a habit of my own.  I open the door, scoop up my cat, and then pitch him outside.
I really wish Jefferson had a quote about cats.  I could use one here.
-- Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Murder Scene: Angel Wing Begonia

For several weeks before Christmas, our angel wing begonia plant put forth clusters of flowers.  The pinkish flowers did not have any notable scent, but they added festive color to our bay window.
Well, the party is over.
Now, every morning when I open the blinds at the bay windows, I find the equivalent of a begonia murder scene.   Withered blossoms, their color drained to brown, lie strewn on the carpet below the plant—each having been shed unceremoniously, if not viciously.  More recently (this morning included) I have been finding leaves seemingly severed and dropped to the floor.

Either something wicked is afoot or the plant is suffering from blossom exhaustion.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

After-Christmas Invention

I think a nice after-Christmas invention would be a box with a button on it, that, when pressed, converts all leftover stuffing and half of the leftover turkey into Balvenie 15-year, single barrel, Sherry Cask Scotch.
-- Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Wish List

For Christmas this year, I am hoping for:
Either an Arctic Cat side by side or a nice pair wool socks.
Maybe world peace or a nice pair of wool socks.
Wool socks.
They don’t even need to be all that nice.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My Casual Observation

A casual observation here:
People are, generally, a little bit on the dumb side.
People driving in parking lots, two days before Christmas, are full-on dumb.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Full Monty

Our winter solstice occurred on December 21st.  The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin sol sistere, which means “sun standing still.”  Obviously, the sun did not stand still a couple days ago, but what did happen is this: we experienced the shortest day of the year.
Way up in the Arctic, the solstice brings neither sunrise nor sunset. The top of the Earth is leaning away from the sun and bathed in full darkness right now.  Barrow, Alaska, saw the last sunset occur on November 18 of this year and will not see a sunrise again until January 22, 2018.  Between those dates, the sun will never lift above the snow-held horizon.  The “day” hours will mostly be locked in the same darkness as night—save a few hours of what is called “civil twilight.”  That’s when the sun rolls up and teases a little color and light from just below the horizon.
Granted, folks up there eventually tilt into nearly three full months of summer daylight.
Not us.  Here in Montana, we might have skinny days of sunlight for a while, but we get the full monty.   And we are on our way back, baby!
We are tilting back into the Sun again!
Each day from here until June 21, 2018 the days will get longer.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Color of Kindness

“Kindness,” Princess Mackenna announced to Buzzy the bee one day, “is one of my favorite words.”  She had found Buzzy resting on the soft petal of a yellow flower near the pond in Kindly Kingdom.  After a bit more thought she added: “I also like happiness and greatness.  But kindness is best.”
Gentle, the small dog stood beside her, wagging his tail.
“I like this yellow flower and honey,” Buzzy said.  “Yellow is my favorite color.  What color is kindness?”
“It’s not a color,” Princess Mackenna replied.  “Kindness is something else.”
“What sort of something else?” asked Buzzy the bee.   He zizzed his wings a little as he sat on the flower.  He pondered for a moment.  “Is kindness a sort of bird?”
“No,” said the little Princess.  She thought for a moment.  “Kindness is…a sort of something inside you.” 
Buzzy got very excited.   He rubbed his belly with three of his six legs.  “Like a stomach.  Kindness is a stomach inside me filled with sweet honey!  So, that is kindness?”
“No, not a stomach,” said Princess Mackenna.  “I don’t think you understand yet.  Maybe I can show you.  Follow me.”
Princess Mackenna started walking along the pond.  She hoped to find just the right thing to show Buzzy the bee what Kindness was.
Kindness was not a color and not a bird and definitely not a stomach.
Buzzy zizzed up into the air and flew along beside the little Princess.  He zig-zagged as he flew.  Gentle the dog ran back and forth and up and down and every other which-way a dog can run.  His tall wagged the whole time.
Soon, Gentle came upon a turtle on its back.  He barked a squeaky little bark.  When Princess Mackenna and Buzzy the bee looked to see why Gentle barked, they saw the turtle turned upside-down on his shell.
The turtle was moving his stubby legs in all directions in the air.  He could not turn himself over.  He could not move.  
Princess Makenna walked close to the turtle.  Buzzy landed on a green blade of grass nearby. The turtle lifted his head as best he could and spoke.  “I’m Frank the turtle,” he said, “and I’m in a fix here.  I was walking along…maybe going a bit too fast…and I stumbled…and…and here I am.”
“You are on your back,” said the little Princess.
“Yes,” said Frank the turtle.  “I’m on my back and my feet no longer reach the ground.”
Buzzy studied the turtle closely.  He began to speculate.  “I see the problem clearly,” he said. “Frank has no legs on his back.  All of his legs and feet are on his front.  And his front is up when it is supposed to be down.  And his back is down when it is supposed to be up.”  He zizzed his wings.  “That’s the problem.  We need to put legs on his back!” he concluded.
“Putting legs on his back would work,” agreed Princess Mackenna, “but there is another way.”  She reached down, picked up the turtle and turned him so he was leg-side-down and shell-side-up.
“Oh, my!” said Frank the turtle.  “I feel so much better.  I can walk again.” He took two slow steps to test his legs.  “I don’t know how I can thank you enough for your kindness!”
Gentle ran this way and up and sideways and down, all around them.
Buzzy zizzed up into the air, flew a circle around the turtle and then landed on the blade of grass again.  “I see it now!” Buzzy said.  “Kindness is not a bird, or color, or something yummy to eat.  Kindness is turning over upside-down turtles!”
“Yes,” said Princess Mackenna.  “And doing other nice things, too.”
Gentle finally stopped running about.  He came and sat near Princess Mackenna and Buzzy.  His tail wagged in the grass.
“I thank you again,” said Frank the upside-up turtle.  “And I would love stay here chatting, but I’ve places to go.  Goodbye to all of you.”  The turtle slowly bumped away, his heavy shell clunking against the ground every so often.  “I must hurry along now!”
Buzzy zizzed his wings.
Mackenna waved goodbye with both hands.
Gentle wagged his tail.
Frank the turtle clunked away fast as he could, which was very slow.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Option Two

It’s fairly cold outside—twenty-some degrees.  And dark.  We received a couple inches of snow last night.  Just a few minutes ago, big winds kicked up what we call a “ground blizzard.”  That’s where snow from the ground is swept up into the air and driven across the landscape in wide white rivers.  These rivers never rise above a few feet off the ground and seem impassable.
This morning, a white river is crashing directly against my back door.
Normally, at this time of day, I step outside that very door and soak in my hot tub.
Not today.         
Today: Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels, 20 pounds of housecat, and more coffee.
If you have never considered pretzels for breakfast…that’s because you have never tried Dot’s!

-- Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

My Glitchy Computer

My computer had been giving me fits for several days—mostly on startup.  Much of the glitchy behavior seemed to stem from Google Chrome.  Yesterday, after some resets and a few other tricks, I jumped feet-first into my Norton Security and began poking about.  I found “Startup Manager” and clicked on that.
Seemed logical, right?
Guess what?
Startup Manager would not shut down again.  No matter how many times I clicked to close it down, it kept grinding away and chasing its own tail.
Apparently, good for starting up.  Not so good for shutting down.
That’s not particularly helpful.
Off to a nearby computer repair shop I went.
Two hours later—not a virus—my computer just needed a $35.00 trip to the spa for a deep file cleaning and a couple of update reinstalls.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 18, 2017

I Like This

I made a deliberate effort to stop beginning sentences with the phrase “I hate” many years ago.  Honestly, I think that effort has changed me.  I feel lighter for it.  My outlook is more positive.
Whenever I find myself about to say “I hate” something, I stop internally.  I rethink.  I rephrase.  I might say, instead, “I don’t appreciate that as much as I did before.”
As I began to purge “I hate” from my speaking, I noticed the opportunity to turn negatives into positives.  My whole attitude changed.   If, for example, I am confronted with a suggestion to do something I would rather not do, instead of attacking that, I might recommend an alternative.
And I don’t hate ice fishing when it’s cold, I like ice fishing when it’s warm.
I began to turn “I hate that” into “I like this.”
I still stumble and fall into “I hate” now and then.  But, for the most part, I catch myself long before the fall.
I like this.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, December 17, 2017

I am an ENFP

According to the results of a somewhat annoying test I completed, I am a type ENFP personality.   One resource I read suggested my type constitutes about two percent of the population.  Another resource claimed we ENPFs make up about five to seven percent of the population.
What is an ENFP?  These letters represent human metrics for personality which mean the following:
E = Extroverted (versus “I” for Introverted)
N = Intuition (versus “S” for Sensing)
F = Feeling (versus “T” for Thinking)
P = Perceiving (versus “J” for Judging)
Using this metric, a total of sixteen distinct personality type can be identified.  In a nutshell (and that might be exactly where we should be) ENPFs are emotional weirdos.  We tend toward the passionate, over-sensitive side.  We are enthusiastic and lean hard into idealism.  We seek honesty and are not particularly bossy.  But we get detracted by shiny objects.
Robin William’s was an ENFP.
I was surprised at how precisely I fit into the descriptions of ENFPs I found.   I have a few outliers.  For one thing, I generally finish projects I start, which is not a normal aspect for an ENFP. 
I printed out a copy of one of the ENFP descriptions and gave it to that girl.  After reading it, she said:  “That’s pretty close but it does not quite capture how unusual you are.”
“You mean I am weirder than that.”
“Way weirder.”
I smiled.  “Thank you, honey.”

-- Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Posted are photographs taken from my back deck over the last two weeks.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tabula Rasa

My first ten minutes this morning were wildly unfocused.  I thought I dropped a sock on my dark trek from bedroom to kitchen.  I scoured the entire path twice before realizing it was caught up in my shirt.
I spilled a cascade of water from my carafe while making coffee.
My 20 pounds of housecat sat whining at the door but didn’t actually want out.  This was a merely a test.
After stepping outside to “feel” the day (still under a temperature inversion), I flipped on the television and brought to life my computer and smarter-than-me-phone.
My computer hiccupped this morning (electronically speaking), then launched two blank Power Point presentations without my prompting.
Why Power Point?
Why two?
My phone wants to update something.
If my first few minutes of each day are a blank slate, fate, on this day, is scribbling all over it.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Morrison (Always, Again)

I have posted quotes from Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, on several occasions before.  He was a bright and tragic and paradoxical figure.  A strange mix of highly intelligent and highly reckless.
Here are a few more of his quotes:
—“Drugs are a bet with your own mind.”
—“When you make your peace with authority, you become authority.”
—“I believe in a long, prolonged, derangement of the senses in order to obtain the unknown.”  
—“I like people who shake other people and make them feel uncomfortable.”

-- Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mass Replacement (Problems)

The best thing about computers is they do exactly what you command them to do.  The worst thing about computers is they do exactly what you command them to do.
I am in the process of writing a technical book about the use, safety concerns, and function of digital multimeters.  Yesterday, I decided I needed, for the sake of readability, to change the term “input port” to “input jack,” throughout the forty-some pages I have written to this point.
The input jack I am talking about, by the way, is the hole in the face of a multimeter where you plug in the test leads used to connect to electrical circuits and components when testing voltage, ohms, etc.
To make my correction, I opted to use the “Replace” function for the entire document.  When the window for Replace popped up: I typed in the following:
For Find: port.
For Replace With: jack.
When I clicked on the Replace button, the application reported a total of 43 changes made throughout the document.
Fair enough.
No, replace that with: good.
I closed the Replace pop-up and began to scroll back down to where I was editing something.  That’s when I found where the word “important” had been changed to “imjackant.”
This occurred 13 times.
Nice try, Microsoft.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Crane Connection

All things are connected together.  Some things are linked in mysterious ways.  Other things are joined together by good old-fashion human guidance.  This story, in my way of thinking, is a mix of both flavors of connection.
A dear friend of mine has a sweet, sensitive, adorable not-quite-a-teen girl.  She and that girl (my girl) have, over the last two years, bonded in a most profound and charming fashion.  When they are together they sit leaning into one another, talking, touching hands, and laughing.  Though many tens of years separate these two in age, they are ageless when together.
Yesterday, my friend called to ask if it would be okay if he and his daughter stopped by the house later today.  He explained that his daughter really wanted to see that girl.
“I think that would be great,” I said.
That girl readily agreed, telling me, “I would be honored to have her come out to visit.  I look forward to it!”  Shortly thereafter, she suggested we find some sort of Christmas present to give to my friend’s daughter.
We scratched our heads, drawing blanks for gift ideas.
A couple hours later my mind abruptly made some connections.  “I have an idea,” I told that girl.
“Hold on.”  I left the kitchen where we were talking and quickly returned with a handful (the last) of the origami cranes my late wife, Uyen, made from fabric.  Each of the cranes carries, hanging on thread below, a small animal carved from jade. The animals represent the Chinese Zodiac.  Each animal has its own significance.  Only a half dozen cranes are left with me now—all of them made from fabrics of different patterns and colors.  I didn’t pay any attention to the animals.  “Let’s give one of these to her,” I suggested.  “You can pick one out.”
After a while, that girl announced that she had whittled her decision down to two.  “You need to help me,” she informed me.
Together we decided on a single crane.  The color of one struck me.  The crane carried, as a trinket hanging below, a jade rooster.  After we selected the crane, that girl searched online to see what the rooster signifies in Chinese culture.
First, 2017 is the year of the rooster.  Lucky choice, that!  The rooster is a symbol of honesty, good fortune, and fidelity.  More importantly, I know Uyen would be overjoyed to be giving this gift through us.  We have all been connected together by the crane, which, by the way, embodies longevity and peace.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 11, 2017

Five Ladybugs Jumping

One morning, when the sky was big and perfectly blue, Princess Mackenna stepped outside her castle door in Kindly Kingdom.  She wanted to smell the flowers just there alongside the walk.
She said “Goodbye” to Hedgy the hedgehog.  He was always there outside the door.
“Hello,” Hedgy said.  He thought for a moment.  “Or do I mean goodbye?”
“Goodbye,” suggested the little Princess.  She touched Hedgy’s cold nose.  “And remember, Hedgy, this is your nose.”
“Nose,” repeated the hedgehog.
Red, yellow and white flowers grew near the door to Kindly Castle.  Some of the white flowers stood as tall as the little Princess.  Princess Mackenna approached the tallest white flower and smelled the blossom.   “Mmmmmm,” she said, “so sweet!”
“Careful up there!” a tiny voice called.  A woman’s voice.
Princess Mackenna looked down at the nearest green leaf on the flower.  The leaf was as flat as the pages in one of her books and as big as her hand.  Five red ladybugs with black spots were walking across the leaf in a straight line, one following another.
All the ladybugs stopped and looked up at Princess Mackenna.  Their little antennas were twitching.  The first ladybug in the line spoke in the same tiny voice: “I’m Lana the ladybug.  Because I am first, I am also called number one.  My friends are behind me.”
In the tiniest voices the little Princess could imagine, each of the ladybugs behind Lana called out in order, one after another: “Two.”  “Three.”  “Four.”  “Five.”
“Five is a very good number,” said Princess Mackenna.  “I have five fingers on each hand.”  She held out her hands.  “I have five toes on each of my feet.”  She pointed at her feet.  “And I can count to ten if I close my eyes.”
“We are looking for help,” Lana the Ladybug admitted.
“What kind of help?” asked the little Princess.
“We want to fly away from this flower, but we need to jump into the air first.  And we don’t know how to jump.  We need someone to teach us how.”
“Jump!”  “Jump!”  “Jump!”  “Jump!”   The other four ladybugs exclaimed one after another.
“I am glad you found me,” said Princess Mackenna.  “I have been jumping for a while.  I can teach you.”  She placed her hands on her hips because that’s what teachers do.  “Do all five of you ladybugs have knees on your legs?”
Lana the ladybug looked at her legs.  “I have knees.”  She looked at ladybug number two, three, four and five.  “Yes, we all have knees on all of our legs.”
“Knees!”  “Knees!”  “Knees!”  “Knees!”   The other four ladybugs exclaimed one after another.
“Well, then, jumping shall be easy for all of you.  The trick is to bend your knees.  Then pretend you are a spring and bounce up.  Watch me.”  Mackenna bent her knees.  Then, pretending she was a spring, she bounced up in the air.
From the leaf of the flower, the ladybugs went “Ooohhh!”
“Try that,” Mackenna suggested.
Down on the green leaf, all the red ladybugs with black spots started jumping in order.  One…two…three…four…five.    They did this until each of them had jumped five times.  Princess Mackenna could hear their miniscule giggles.
“We cannot thank you enough,” Said Lana the ladybug.  We have wanted to fly away all morning.”  With that said, Lana the ladybug jumped up into the air and flew away.  “Goodbye!” she called out to the little Princess as she whizzed by.  The second ladybug did the same.  Then the third.  Then the fourth.  Then the fifth.
Princess Mackenna sniffed a few more flowers.  So sweet!  She was happy she had taught the ladybugs how to jump.  Maybe she would be a Queen and a teacher when she grew up.
Before the little Princess went back inside her castle.  She touched Hedgy’s nose.
“Hello and Goodbye,” said the hedgehog.  “Nose,” he added.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Description of You

What if the most accurate description of you (or me, or anyone) is best achieved by compiling and analyzing a complete list of your rejections, failures, and transgressions?  How many pages would be required for the document describing you?

-- Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dot. Dot. Dot.

I’m reading a book.  It’s written in a modern style.  Short sentences.  Three word sentences.  Some four word.  Some five.
Sentence fragments.  Mostly.
The subject is gripping enough.  Not sure about the writing style.  Sometimes short sentences are better for impact.  They can hit like a sledgehammer.  Create tension.  Bang at your senses.
But a steady diet of sentence fragments?  I don’t know?  Becomes akin to a pointillist painting.  Dot.  Dot.  Dot.
I could use a flowing sentence once in a while.  A comma.  Reading this style jars me.  A little.  
My mind is a machine stamping out sentences.  Shunk.  Shunk.  Shunk.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 8, 2017


Hope is setting an empty glass outside when you are thirsty so rain can fill it.
Stubborn hope is planting seeds in a dry field.
Desperate hope is me trying to keep a poinsettia alive.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sunset, 12-6-2017

Last night, the setting sun set fire to the clouds.  Not the first time.  In fact, as I scampered out the door with my Digital SLR camera in hand, I imagined my late wife teasing as she often did: “Do you really need another picture of another sunset?”
Yes, dear, I need this one.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Anything (With a Twist)

This morning, not long after waking, I stood before my bathroom mirror cringing at the messy-haired, wrinkled, not-fully-alert reflection of me.  As I stood there, I recalled a dream from last night.  The dream was somewhat tame and normal so far as dreams go.  In the dream, I was convinced I could do pretty much anything.  Not in the superhuman sense.  In the “if you work hard and apply yourself” sense.  Looking at the disheveled, weary me in the mirror, I thought: Maybe that was not a just a dream.  Maybe I can do anything I set my mind to.  But you’d think I could look better than this doing it…

-- Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Balvenie Wobble

Kevin, as an early Christmas present, bought me a bottle of Balvenie, 14-year-old, Caribbean Cask, single malt Scotch.  He stopped by late yesterday afternoon so we might sample it.
This is good stuff.
All Scotch is distilled from malted (germinated and then dried) barley mash and is aged in charred oak casks.  Balvenie Caribbean Cask Scotch Whisky is additionally finished by aging in casks originally used to mature Caribbean rum, a sweet liquor derived from sugarcane.
All of that is interesting, but equally as interesting is the cylinder in which the bottle is protected.  As someone disposed to constantly fidget, the cylinder provided me with more than an hour of entertainment.
I shot a video and have posted it here: The Balvenie Wobble.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Magpies and the Aluminum Pie Pan

My neighbor on the lake, Kevin, likes magpies.
I like them.
They are an intelligent bird.  Magpies even stick around during our long winters, which says a lot about how tough and industrious they are.  Additionally, they eat a lot of rodents and insects we consider pests.
Last week, Kevin set an aluminum pie pan heaped with beef suet out on his lawn for the local magpies to feast on.  He enjoys watching the birds flying in, wobbling around the pan, and pestering one another.  A day or so later, he set out another pan filled with suet.  Not long after the birds swept in and cleared the aluminum pan, a brisk wind tossed the pan across his yard and pinned it against the fence.
Oddly enough, the next morning Kevin found the pan back where he had set it out for the birds.
He fed the birds more suet in the pie pan a few days later.  Not long after the birds finished with that meal, the wind once again flung the pan across the yard.  Shortly thereafter, Kevin saw one of the magpies dragging the pan back to the place where Kevin feeds them suet.
This trick has been repeated several times since then.

-- Mitchell Hegman

PHOTO: Pixabay

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Reasonable and Prudent

Some interesting experiments have been conducted in Montana.  There was, for example, the first time the Fish and Game Department put a fake buck mule deer out in a field where hunters were not supposed to shoot deer just to see what would happen.
You can pretty much imagine the results.
Establishing an interstate highway speed limit in Montana has been an ongoing experiment.  We had no daytime speed limit until 1974 when then President Nixon urged Congress to establish a nationwide limit of 55 mph as an energy saving measure following an “oil crisis” the year previous.  Driving as slow as 55 mph across the forever of Montana’s Hi-line is, well, painful or insane, depending on your final destination.  In order to retain federal highway funding, all states were required to comply with this limit.  Montana, as a way to thumb our nose at the federal government, adopted the limit but established a ludicrously small $5.00 fine for “wasting a natural resource” for anyone caught speeding.
In 1987 Congress allowed states to adopt a 65 mph speed limit.  Up we went.   In 1995 Congress tossed the federal speed limit law.  In answer, our Montana legislature removed limits entirely and required drivers to operate under basic rule which urges drivers to operate their vehicles in a “reasonable and prudent manner.”  The day “reasonable and prudent” went into effect, as bad luck would have it, I pulled onto the interstate in my shop truck and merged immediately behind a highway patrolman traveling at 70 mph.   After a mile so of that, I thought, “to hell with it, let’s test this speed thing.”  I punched the accelerator and passed the highway patrolman.  The tools and electrical supplies in my truck rattled as I whisked by.  The highway patrolman didn’t give me a second glance, so I accelerated until the ½-inch conduit in the back of my truck started to float a little.  That seemed pretty reasonable to me.
Having no “official” speed limit didn’t last long.  A 75 mph speed limit fell into place in 1999.  As of this writing, we are operating with an 80 mph limit in many areas.  The limit was bumped up in 2015.  No telling how long this will last.
Finally, we reach one of my personal favorites.  I was telling my sister about this the other day.  Back in the 1990s an experimental high-tension power line was strung across part of Montana.  Embedded within the conductive metal strands of some wires were fiber optic cables.  Burying fiber is quite costly.  This seemed a no-brainer.  The experiment went swimmingly…except for one thing.
“The problem was,” I told my sister, “the power lines kept getting shot and the fibers inside were broken.”
“Why would someone shoot a power line?” she asked.  “That’s dumb.”
“People shoot the lines so they can hear them sing when the bullet strikes them,” I answered.
I must admit, I and a couple of my friends tried shooting at power lines with our .22 rifles when were teenagers.  I wanted to hear them sing as much as the next guy.
Being a teenager: dumbest experiment, ever.

-- Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 2, 2017

That One Horse

I’ve always wanted to be that one horse.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Not a horse of specific breed or certain color.  I mean that one notable horse you find in nearly every string.  The one you see in almost every field where horses have gathered together to do particular horse things.
I’m talking about the one facing the opposite direction from all the others.
I saw that horse again just yesterday on my way to town and stopped to capture a photograph with my smarter-than-me-phone.
The horse at the far left.  That’s the one I want to be.

-- Mitchell Hegman