Review: Bad Blood

I’ve been a user of GoodReads in a half-assed kind of way of the last several years. I read – a LOT – and sometimes it just felt like a bother to put the books in so they could be rated.

That was before Amazon bought the company.

Now that they have a handle tool to connect to your Amazon account to pull in all the books you have purchased, unless you get a book via another means, rating something you’ve read via a purchase or Kindle Unlimited is much, much easier.

Not so easy was getting my Amazon account linked with the primary GR profile I had set up. Because over the years I would forget that I had set one up, I’d create another. In the end, I wound up with three GR profiles, and none of them would connect to my Amazon account.

But thanks to the efforts of Sofia C. in their support department, I was able to get my accounts merged AND get Amazon linked to the one profile I now had. Sweet!

Of course, this comes with another round of rating things, and I realized when looking at the list of purchases (or Kindle Unlimited reads), that it was going to take awhile to do the ratings, for two reasons: one, because there are just so many of them. Two, because the details of the ones I’ve read relatively long ago have faded a bit from the brain.

I’d like to do reviews, but that takes being organized enough to put my thoughts down in a coherent way that the review would be worthwhile, and there would be quite a number of them to write. I may do it, maybe not, but I figured I would go ahead and a drop a review here of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (not an affiliate link) by  John Carreyrou.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a sucker for a well-written business book, especially if the book is about an implosion at a company. For instance, I have read many books about the collapse of Enron, and books about the failures of Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns during the housing bubble crash, and about the failure of AIG, something thought impossible.

In Bad Blood, Carreyrou, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal takes a look at Theranos, the management team of which promised to be revolutionizing the way blood tests were drawn and processed, via their proprietary system of sliding pipettes of miniscule amounts of blood – gathered from a fingertip lancet – which were then put in a cartridge and then slid into a box for processing by the machinery in that box.

Carreyrou does a terrific job of using firsthand accounts from people inside and out (mainly out) of Theranos and describes the rather toxic environment it must have been to work there: paranoia, suspicions, blatant lies from management, and probably a dash of psycopathy thrown in. Remember: these devices were supposed to work to give people information about their health. As the book makes abundantly clear, and as people who had been at Theranos make clear, the boxes didn’t work, and never had worked to do all the tests the founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, told everyone who would listen that they would. Toward the end of the book, he switches over to first person, describing how he put the pieces of the story together for his article.

It is a bit difficult at times to keep up with all the people introduced in the book, but don’t let that deter you if you’re interested in reading accounts of businesses torpedoing themselves because of their vaporware.

Overall, I would give it five out of five stars.

If you’re not interested in business-related books, I hope you are reading something.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Homecoming

Coming home the other day, I got to see this as a storm boiled up and over us.

It would have been a good day to take a nap. But a nap eluded me, and I wound up working.

It was a terrific storm, though. I had kicked the layers out to their new home, and of course the meaties have been out in their pen for a bit now, and everyone made it through.

The meaties are starting to look like real chickens as we reach the halfway point of their short but happy lives. I’ll have to get some new pics of them to compare against their three day old selves.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Shake a tailfeather

Guess who has feathers growing on their butts?

That’s right: the layer chicks! They’re getting larger – not as large as the Cornish meat birds, to be sure, but that’s ok. They’re not bred for meat.

In addition to getting their true tail feathers, they are also molting, which makes them look quite a bit like their dinosaur predecessors. The black one in the very center is my best pal. When I’m working on changing their water and feeder, she will fly right up and perch herself on my hand or forearm. I wonder if that will last when I evict them from their brooder and into the chickshaw?

Speaking of that sort of thing, I ordered some electrified poultry netting yesterday, and it will be here on Thursday.  After I get  a practice round of setting up the fence, then moving it, I’ll be setting these girls in the great outdoors. They’ll be in the chickshaw coop for a couple of days, to get used to that being the place they’ll go each night, and then I’ll let them out onto pasture, with the fence around  the area.  The poultry netting is not really to keep the birds in, but rather to keep other critters out. Raccoons especially seem to like chicken heads, and we lost a chicken due to a ripped off head the last time we had chickens – because chickens are not smart enough to not stick their head through a fence to look at a raccoon hanging out on the other side of it.

In a couple of months, we should be getting our first eggs from these girls. It’s going to be great!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Coloring the sky

After a pretty heavy storm back in July, we got a nifty double rainbow at the ranch: sharp, full colors, courtesy of Mother Nature.

I had been doing really well both with the daily blog posts and with the writing toward the novel, but got derailed because (as usual) I shift a ton of energy to all the things that are on the todo list – which of course never ends – for the business. By the end of the day, between the chickens, bees, and work on the property/in the gardens, and the work work added on top of that, I’m usually falling asleep at my desk.

So, I have to rein in the “everything has to be checked off every day!” portion of the brain and divert that energy into writing. I’ve recruited one of my sisters to act as an accountability person for me, just to ask me if I got my writing done each day around her bedtime hour.

I keep having specific scenes for books other than the one I’m working on primarily, and ideas for other books come zipping into my brain all the time. I suppose this is a good problem to have, Focus. Focus. Focus. Get the first one done. Then you’ll know you can do it, and the next one should be easier in reducing that gut-wrenching worry about finishing something. Anything.

Remember, folks: it’s never too late.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Judging

“The writing was superb, and for those who say no I ask you a question “Do you have a degree from a university in English? Have you written a novel? If you answered no to both question well you are not qualified as a professional to discuss writing.”

That’s an actual quote from someone to another party who didn’t like the book they were reviewing, but that the commenter liked quite a lot.

And it’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. You do not need an MFA, nor do you have to have a published novel  to review books and pass judgment on the writing in a book, just as you don’t need to have played professional football (or to have played football at all) to know that a not-so-stellar quarterback – which, alas, Jax has had over and over and over again – throwing downfield back across his body is a bad idea 99% of the time.

Let me tell you this about writing: there are no rules for the art of writing. But there are rules about the craft of writing. These are two very different realms.

The art of writing may take you to the point of creating your own universe, or only having left handed people in your book, or deciding time is a useless construct.

But the craft of writing means you need to get these things across to people in a manner they can understand, and in a manner that jibes with the world you’re in. Did you write a high fantasy novel? If so, having someone tell another person “Later!” as they’re leaving is poor craftsmanship, and a break in the mindset of the reader.  Did you decide in your literary novel that you were not going to identify any characters, ever, in dialogue, leading to confusion on the part of your readers as to who is saying what? Bad idea. Does your thriller have saidisms absolutely everywhere, with people intoning, muttering, spitting, without them every just saying something – or with people “intoning gravely” or “muttering resignedly” or “spitting angrily” versus “saying”? Not good.

What you do need to do: use grammar properly. If you think you must write in the dialect of one character, don’t do it every time the character speaks, and don’t do a wall of text from that character in dialect. When the character first speaks, sure, do the dialect thing. Then let it go, as you’ve planted it in the mind of the reader. Readers are pretty smart. They’ll get it.

Likewise, make sure your continuity is good.  Unless you are specifically writing third person omniscient, don’t go into all the characters’ heads. And even if you are, don’t head hop in a single paragraph. Don’t switch from first person to third person in the middle of a paragraph or chapter. This is confusing. Don’t change from present tense to past tense in the middle of the book unless you are moving to something that has happened in the past. If you have a character named Stan at the beginning of the book, don’t start calling him Dan somewhere in Chapter Six. If Stan has dark, shoulder-length hair, don’t make him blonde with a buzzcut three chapters later unless you show us this or at least explain it.

And don’t – DO NOT – wade into your one or two star reviews and tell someone who disliked your book that they’re stupid and obviously don’t know what’s going on in the world. That’s a one way ticket to be put on peoples’ “Never Read” list.

DO write your book. DON’T make it boring.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

The approaching storm

Hello, gentle readers, whoever you are.

For two days this week, we had no rain. That’s both good and bad, as we were working on a couple of projects: my brother on the chickshaw that will hold the layer birds, and me on the chicken tractor for the meat birds. His was a much more complicated build than mine (and the finished product looks awesome, thanks, bro!).

I had an issue with a couple of the joints on the tractor, and I thought I was going to have to break those joints and redo them. Now, naturally when you create a PVC joint with cement, you want them to be there forever (or as close as forever you can get). And, if you do a search on how to break a cemented PVC joint, there are tons of people telling you it cannot be done – they say resign yourself to your fate and hacksaw the joint out and redo it completely because cement is forever.

These people have never heard of chemistry, I expect. Of course joints can be broken, just like (say) cemented bricks can be broken. For the latter, it’s just a matter of brute force with a hammer and chisel or (in larger settings) a jackhammer. For PVC, brute force is unlikely to work – but really, you just need to heat the joint in order to break the bond the chemical reaction creates when cement is applied to the PVC. If you have lots of toys, you can superheat a piece of metal that fits inside the joint, leave that in place for a minute or two, and then remove the metal and pull apart the joint. Or, you could just use a heatgun and aim it at the joint. As it happened, I did not have to redo any joints.

And then, it rained. A ton: just over an inch and a half in about half an hour. At the peak of the downpour, it was falling at a rate of over four inches an hour.

 

I had put a temporary tarp on the tractor, just to see how it would look It lost its tiedowns.

Einstein kept watch over things.

This morning, I went out to take a look at it, and found that Mother Nature yesterday called out all those people who claimed joints couldn’t be broken.

The design obviously needs a bit more support on the crossbars. The original design uses metal roofing panels on the back end, which lends a tad more structural support, but I can’t use that here, as then we’d have our own personal solar powered chicken roaster. But as to the joints: I found these two broken joints..

These are where the door to the front of the pen lies and the second crossbar, respectively.

Do you know how hard it is to get a section of PVC back in when the two ends are not easy to completely get to and when the entire section would need to be disassembled? I managed to get it back in place with (new) cement, then added a brace at the joint where the door sits on the first crossbar.

I hung up the waterer at the front of the pen, and the food at the rear, for two reasons: one, so the feed wouldn’t get wet – the feeder has an open top. Two, it’s to force them to get some exercise, versus just plopping down and spending the rest of their days parked in front of the food and water, were they together.

Then, it was time to separate the meats birds from the layers and toss them out into their new home. Mother Nature decided to join the party.

The approaching storm

 

I had to hustle to beat the gigantic storm that was showing up on the radar, so I went to the brooder and captured the meaties, putting them into a bin for transport. For all their squawking when I was catching them, they calmed right down and settled nicely.

“A Bin Full of Chicks” – sounds like a book title

I put the birds, bin and all, into the tractor, then slowly tipped the bin to its side to give them access to the open ground. They were hesitant to leave the bin initially, but finally made their way out.

The storm was advancing, so I left the birds to figure things out (and hopefully, one of those things to figure out was to get out of the rain, since they are generally not terribly bright).

I went out after the first round of rain and only found a small pool of water on the tarp, so that’s promising. I also found them all piled into the bin, which I’d left in place on its side, and which I will leave there throughout their growth. I had to crawl into the back end of the tractor and toss some food into a trail to lead to the feeder. They hadn’t quite made it before the storm forced me back inside.

This is their first night out in the tractor on the grass. I’m restraining myself from popping out there with the flashlight to see how they are. Either the tractor is secure and they will be fine, or it is not, and something will get them (and I will learn a lesson from that). I’m hoping they’ll find the waterer. I’ve had the same type of waterer in the brooder (sitting on a brick versus hanging) since the end of their first week, and if they can’t keep that in their tiny brains, I’ll have to crawl in once more.

Coming up: looking over the chickshaw.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Making a tractor

A chicken tractor, that is.

What the heck, you may ask, is a chicken tractor?

Think of it as a mobile chicken coop without a floor, sometimes with wheels, sometimes not, sometimes holding just a few chickens, sometimes holding a bunch of them. The chickens can be free ranging when let out of their tractor, or they can be kept just in the tractor, being moved to fresh grass when they’ve worked over the ground they’ve been on.

Most of the time, the penned birds are the meat chickens. They are just too big and too slow to be able to run for cover when a predator shows up. That’s how my meat birds will be. The layer hens will be allowed to come and go as they please, with nesting boxes available for them to do their thing.

Why is it called a tractor? Mainly because the chickens mimic the use of a tractor, pecking and scratching at the ground, and leaving manure on the ground they cover.

For people with backyard chickens, the tractor is often a light A-frame type structure, housing a few chickens. For more chickens, the designs vary widely.

Ours is a rectangular tractor, built using pvc and chicken wire. Once the base is in place, the rest of the assembly flies right by.

Top level completed except for the crossbar I’ll attach a tarp to, in order to shed rain. With a flat design, you have to do something about the water that will collect on the tarp when it rains, and it rains quite a bit here.

With the frame finished, I moved on to making the doors. There are two in this build, one in the front and one in the rear. I want to have their feed under cover, since they’ll be receiving it in a trough versus the no-spill, no-waste feeder I made for the layers. Their water will hang from the crossbar that holds the tarp.

This was the beginning of the front door.

Both the doors will be covered in chicken wire, just as the rest of the coop is. I put together all of the upper part of the tractor, plus built both doors, plus skinned the frame in chicken wire. This while I was also handling business stuff, and helping people out of their jams.

The completed shell, wrapped in chicken wire, with the frames of both doors lying on it, zip ties holding them in place so I can get their hinges on and put chicken wire on without having to squat down if it were on the ground, because my knees were yelling at me pretty loudly by the end of the day..

This tractor is about 12′ long and 6′ across, so will hold lots of birds. This time, it will only be holding ten birds.

I plan on finishing it tomorrow, and my brother is working on the chickshaw, a mobile coop based on the design of rickshaws. That one will hold layers hens, and I’ll be able to move them around the property – they will peck and scratch far more than the meat birds, who only want to eat, sleep, and poop. I have a PT appointment tomorrow right in the middle of the day, and I’m a little bummed out that I won’t be able to film the whole chickshaw build. I might be able to rope my mom or my bro into running the camera.

The meat birds weigh just under a pound. Keep in mind that these birds were just as tiny as the layers when I picked them up from the post office on August 1. That’s 12 days to a pound.  If they keep that up, they will likely be ready in about nine weeks. If their weight starts to accelerate, they’ll be ready sooner. Most of the time, they’re ready in eight weeks, and that’s what I’m basing things on.

You can see how large they’ve gotten in about a week and a half. The bird on the perch I added to their brooder is a layer.

Birds huddled up to nap. The difference in size is readily apparent.

Nifty watering bucket. It took them awhile to understand it when I put it in the brooder, but eventually, they got it. Some of the fat meat birds settled themselves right in front of the bucket where the nipples are. They also have a tendency to plop themselves in front of the feeder to eat, then sleep, then eat, then sleep. It’s like Mr. Creosote, except in chicken form (luckily, no vomiting, but plenty of pooping).

By the end of the week (and hopefully sooner) the meat birds will be taken out to their new tractor – their home for the duration until it’s time to end their happy, although brief, lives.

I’ve eaten now, and the day is getting to me, telling me to go to sleep. I may catch a nap.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Chicken tractor

A work in progress for the meat birds. They do not range or scratch and peck well as they get older and heavier, and they are generally not fast enough to take cover when a predator appears. So, they get to hang out in their own private space. But they’ll be on fresh grass, have clean air and water, and will be mighty tasty when the time comes to process them.

The bottom of the build, looking from what will be the front to the back. This was a dry fit.

Then, a look at the back toward the front. There’s one more cross pipe that will go through the center of it.

Once everything was double checked and arranged, I moved on to the cement phase of the build. The left side and the front and back are glued in this view from the front.

And a look from the back – the right side and front and back are glued.

I also managed to drop the can of cement thanks to the issues with my left hand (fuck you, cancer!). Half of it is on the driveway now. At least I have plenty left to get the rest of the build done.

A work in progress  that needs to get done quickly, because the meat birds are getting huge. All of them were a little skittish about the watermelon rinds I put in.

I know chickens are bird brains and not terribly smart, but they peck pretty much anything – just not tonight, i guess. All they did was walk on those rinds, pooping on them.

Tomorrow: onward with more mowing (did the beeyard today) and more assembly of the chicken tractor. If we get it done in the next couple of days, I’m going to kick the meat birds out of the brooder and into their nice, spacious, outdoors condo.

Don’t forget, space nerds: the Pleiads are peaking on the 12th, so look to the skies.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Making your insides glow

So I had a CT on my guts yesterday, because I’ve been having some pain around where the balloon is  in my stomach. This time around, I got the great thrill of “drinking” barium as well. I’ve done barium swallows before, and the stuff is not totally off-putting, but at least this time I didn’t have to taste it: right down the tube, two 450 mL bottles.

We’re going into the next nectar flow down here, and I’m hoping the established hives will be laying in good amounts of honey I can take off them next month/into October. Word of mouth for our honey is terrific: we heard from a person who knew someone who knew someone who got a bottle of our honey at some point, and that person wanted some. After she got some directly for us, she contacted us not too long after, with eight(!) people who wanted some.

What this means, of course, is that I need more bees! I’m planning on expanding pretty seriously next spring via splits of the hives out in the beeyard right now. This year, I made two splits from hive #8, the hive who kept their 2016 queen well into 2017 but then replaced her on their own. That queen is still there (for now) and she is a laying machine. The two daughter hives: also laying machines. Her genetics are those I want to establish more of in the yard. Better layer = more bees – more production = more honey = better split maker. This is a photo of some larvae and some eggs (the rice-looking things in the cells just below and left of center).

There are also some bee butts just above center: the nurse bees crawl into the cells to feed the larvae as they develop. To the far left is capped brood; the larvae in those cells will develop into bees who will then chew their way out of the cell and then start working in the hive.

The cover crop germinated and is taking over the half frame row that I threw down. More to come of that for soil building!

Today, mowing, including some areas that have been under water for two weeks and avoided the cut they needed. Today, though: down with the high grass!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life