Friday, December 30, 2016

Some beautiful photos...

Some beautiful photos ... and a little more...  My sister Holly sent me this link to a site called “Bright Side”.  This particular page is a collection of the “100 best photographs ever taken without photoshop”.  The photo at right is one example, and it is (like the others) indeed a gorgeous photo.  But there's a little more to the site than it appears to be...

The first thing that caught my eye was the little notice from my ad blocker, telling me that it had blocked eleven ads on this single page.  That's not a record, but it's close.  It's kind of a “tell” for a click-bait site, and this site sure looks like it might be click-bait.

So I downloaded five of the photos, selected at random, and loaded them up into my image editing software.  Every one of them had had their color profiles heavily photoshopped.  Then I ran a software tool that detects manipulated edges, and one of the photos that I downloaded was definitely created by dropping one image onto another.  So the claim of photoshopping is pure BS.  I don't actually care about that from an artistic perspective – they're beautiful photos, and that's enough.  But the claim is balderdash.

That made me wonder who owns the site.  A quick WHOIS query got me this info:
Registry Domain ID: D108500000009857264-AGRS
Registrar WHOIS Server:
Registrar URL:
Updated Date: 2016-07-29T14:08:37Z
Creation Date: 2013-10-09T02:35:19Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2025-10-09T02:35:19Z
Registrar:, LLC
Registrar IANA ID: 146
Registrar Abuse Contact Email:
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone:
Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Domain Status: clientRenewProhibited
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Registry Registrant ID: CR197958667
Registrant Name: Marat Mukhametov
Registrant Organization:
Registrant Street: Gavrilova 1
Registrant City: Kazan
Registrant State/Province: Tatarstan
Registrant Postal Code: 4200001
Registrant Country: RU
Registrant Phone: +7.8435255456
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: 
Registry Admin ID: CR197958668
Admin Name: Marat Mukhametov
Admin Organization:
Admin Street: Gavrilova 1
Admin City: Kazan
Admin State/Province: Tatarstan
Admin Postal Code: 4200001
Admin Country: RU
Admin Phone: +7.8435255456
Admin Phone Ext:
Admin Fax:
Admin Fax Ext:
Admin Email: 
Registry Tech ID: CR197958670
Tech Name: Marat Mukhametov
Tech Organization:
Tech Street: Gavrilova 1
Tech City: Kazan
Tech State/Province: Tatarstan
Tech Postal Code: 4200001
Tech Country: RU
Tech Phone: +7.8435255456
Tech Phone Ext:
Tech Fax:
Tech Fax Ext:
Tech Email: 
Name Server: NS-515.AWSDNS-00.NET
Name Server: NS-173.AWSDNS-21.COM
Name Server: NS-1983.AWSDNS-55.CO.UK
Name Server: NS-1377.AWSDNS-44.ORG
DNSSEC: unsigned
URL of the ICANN Whois Inaccuracy Complaint Form:

For more information on Whois status codes, please visit
Interesting! The site is hosted in Germany, and is owned by a Russian guy (from Kazan, about 400 miles east of Moscow) who owns a bunch of other domains, including two others that are quite popular.  A quick look at them shows that they fit the click-bait pattern.  This guy appears to be another in the army of people who see a business opportunity in copying content from other sites, arranging it and marketing it, then harvesting the ad click revenue to make money.  The same sort of thing used to happen with books (and probably still does).  The Internet makes it very easy, though, and most especially for people living in countries where copyright laws are ignored (and Russia is most definitely such a place)...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Paradise ponders, scallops and seam-ripper edition...

Paradise ponders, scallops and seam-ripper edition...  We had a bit of an emergency yesterday, with our cat Jahaer.  He had all the symptoms of an intestinal obstruction, which he's had before.  We got an appointment with a vet we've never seen before, in Logan, a referral from our usual vet (who was on holiday).  We got him down there, he was X-rayed, and sure enough there appeared to be an obstruction.  Downstream of the obstruction his intestines were empty except for gas, and they were very orderly instead of being a big jumble – suspicious to the vet.  Upstream of the obstruction the intestines were full of ... something.  At the junction would be the presumed obstruction, though it wasn't visible on the X-ray (as would be expected if the obstruction were a piece of plastic or wood).  The vet recommended surgery: to remove the obstruction if there was one, or to figure out what was going on if there wasn't.  We said go, and very shortly poor little Jahaer was under the knife.

Well, there was nothing that the vet could find blocking his intestines, but there was definitely some weird things going on.  His omentum had adhered in several places to his intestines, and that was why they were so orderly.  The vet cut all those loose.  Right where the obstruction seen on the X-ray was located, the omentum had adhered in a way that slightly kinked the intestine – so his working theory is that the kink (now removed) was the source of the problem, perhaps combined with something relatively inflexible that he'd ingested.  So the vet never cut into his intestines or stomach, which means that this surgery was relatively low-risk, and now he's recovering just fine.  The vet said the omentum's adhesions were likely the result of the surgery Jahaer had three years ago to save him from the consequences of eating a ribbon.  Hopefully this latest surgery took care of that; we'll know in a week or so.

At one point during the day we stopped at a dry cleaner's in Logan to drop off some stuff.  Debbie has a leather jacket that had big shoulder pads in it, and she was hoping their alterations lady would be able to remove them.  We gave the jacket and right then and there she opened a seam with an Xacto knife, yanked the pads out, and stitched the seam back up.  It was 15 minutes or so of skilled work.  When she was done, we asked what we owed her ... and she said “Merry Christmas!” and that it was a gift.  She refused any money at all.  We love this place!

This morning dawned very cold – just 9°F on the thermometer, and it felt even colder than that.  The morning was sure pretty, though (at right).  I caught that just as the morning sun was illuminating the Wellsville Mountains to our west, but before the first rays touched the valley floor where we live.

Today Macey's had fresh sea scallops again, and I picked up two pounds of them for our dinner.  These things were rather large: just 17 scallops weighed in at 2.2 pounds.  Debbie made her signature broiled scallops dish: butter, lemon, garlic and dill on these luscious scallops.  I'm not sure what magic she uses to get the timing right, but for the last dozen or so times she's gotten it absolutely perfect.  Scallops are tricky: you want them cooked, but not to the point of rubber, and that gives you a window of time that's just seconds long.  There are are no instruments involved in Debbie's method – she just looks and pokes and somehow knows when to take them out.  Man, those were good!

Tomorrow morning I pick up our new Tesla Model X.  The original plan was for Debbie to drive me down in her truck, then we'd drive back separately.  She doesn't want to leave Jahaer for that long, though, so I called my friend and neighbor Tim D., and he's going to give me a ride down.  I suspect he'll enjoy taking a look at the Model X.  :)  I spent a couple hours this morning reviewing the training videos and manual.  Hopefully it won't be hard for me to get used to this fancy new thing, but it's truly very different than the pickups I've been driving for almost 30 years now...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Paradise ponders, possible obstructed cat edition...

Paradise ponders, possible obstructed cat edition...  We're worried about Jahar, our Savannah cat, this morning.  He's behaving in a way that suggests he's got some sort of obstruction in his digestive system (possibly from something he ate).  Debbie's called the vet's office, but the vet is taking a well-deserved holiday today.  The vet tech on duty is calling to find out what to do.  We're getting ready to make a trip...

Blogging may be light to non-existent today...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Salt-lick camera take...

Salt-lick camera take...  I saw deer tracks in the snow a couple days ago, so I put the camera back out.  Here's what we got last night:

Paradise ponders, tundra edition...

Paradise ponders, tundra edition...  It was cold this morning, 9°F when I got up.  I got a small surprise when I got out to my office this morning: it was about 65 (instead of the 73 the thermostat is set to), and the display on my little heat pump's inside component said “P3”.  I had to look that up.  It means “It’s too damned cold outside for the compressor to work!”  So I fired up my wood stove for the first time this year.  I suspect it won't be the last. :)  It's a toasty 75 in here now.

Yesterday as we returned from our trip up Blacksmith Fork Canyon we passed a group of people on the east side of State Highway 165, just north of our home.  They were sledding on a hill in an alfalfa field there, which happens to be almost the perfect slope and length for sledding – with short slopes for the little ones, and more challenging longer slopes for the older kids.  It seems to be the most popular place for sledding in the area.  After we got home, I noticed that several neighbors had their snowmobiles out in our 12 acre south field, which is almost perfectly flat and square – perfect for that purpose.  I took down the barbed wire fence on the west side of the field this fall, hoping to make it a bit nicer for people to play on in the winter, and that appears to have worked, as I can see several places where snowmobiles crossed over where there used to be a nasty fence.  People around here assume that it's ok to play on property that isn't plainly marked “no trespassing” – and if you did mark your property, people would think there's something weird about you.  I like this! :)

At right is the driftwood wreath that my brother Scott made and gave us for Christmas.  This morning I applied some Watco natural (no color) finish to a few hidden spots on the back to see how it looks.  If I like that, I'm going to carefully finish the whole thing. This will be a bit tricky, as there are a bazillion nooks and crannies that need to get some finish into them.  Penetrating oil finishes (like Watco) aren't brushed on, they're wiped on, and you don't leave any on the surface – it all soaks into the wood.  I've never tried to finish anything like this with penetrating oil!

I've got some work to do today to get ready for our Model X's arrival – mainly, I've got to get our insurance nailed down.  I'm going to do something I haven't done for 20 years or so: consider getting collision insurance.  It will be interesting to see what the quote is for an exotic car like this.

Debbie discovered a great a cappella group yesterday that has a couple of Christmas albums: Home Free.  That got me to wondering if there was a similar group of female singers (Home Free is all male), and that led me quickly to Noteworthy, based out of Salt Lake City.  A few minutes later I had three a cappella Christmas albums downloaded (via iTunes), and I was listening to them.  I'm playing them again right now as I write this.  Beautiful music with just their voices, which awes me no matter how much I listen to it...

A Sowell scare...

A Sowell scare...  Yesterday while browsing the news, I saw a headline that said goodbye to Dr. Thomas Sowell – and I thought 2016 had gotten even more awful than it already was.  But no, it was simply the news that Dr. Sowell had announced his retirement – at the age of 86.

While I've never met Dr. Sowell, he has played an outsize role in my political and economic education.  His gentle, concise, precise, and humorously stated wisdom led me to insights and understanding more than the vast majority of experts and educators.  His writings, including his many books, have been an inspiration to me and many others.  Much of his work is online, including many video clips and longer interviews.

One thing I was delighted to read in his announcement is that he intends to devote more time to his photography.  Many of these are of natural subjects, and are reminiscent of the work of the great Ansel Adams.  His subject matter is very varied, though.  If you're interested in photography or art, you'll be rewarded by spending some time in his published photos.

He's also going to be updating his web site, though I'm not entirely sure what that means.

I'm relieved to hear that Dr. Sowell is still with us, and I hope he still has many years left in which to enjoy a relaxing retirement...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Model X update...

Model X update...  I just received an email asking me if I could be in Salt Lake City on Friday to pick up my Model X.  Woo hoo!

At one point they (Tesla) told me that my Model X should be done in early 2016.  Apparently their definition of “early” is the next-to-last day of the year.  :(

We live in a postcard...

We live in a postcard...  Here are some photos from a trip we took up Blacksmith Fork Canyon.  We just got back a few minutes ago.  It's a winter wonderland up there!  All of these were taken from along the road.  The first one we took just to show how many deer tracks are out there – those were are all made within the last 15 hours or so.  The sixth photo is an “iPhone telephoto” (all digital, not optical) of a common phenomenon back there: icicles formed by melting snow cascading off rock.  The seventh photo shows the bluff above the man-made pond whose outflow drives a turbine that provides power for the people living in Hyrum (just north of our house).

Paradise ponders, Christmas food coma edition...

Paradise ponders, Christmas food coma edition...  Well, we had our planned Christmas dinner: a fine cream of asparagus soup, a main course of homemade noodles and beef stroganoff, and chocolate mousse for dessert.  I forgot to take photos of the soup and mousse. :)  The noodles were good, but we had too many of them :)  We doubled the recipe when we really should have halved it!  The beef stroganoff was very good.  We'll adjust the recipe a little next time we have it, but it's definitely good enough to have again.  The chocolate mousse was just as good as our memories of it.  It turned out that my brother Scott (in the first photo below) had never had chocolate mousse before in his life.  It was a revelatory experience for him, despite containing something he normally wouldn't eat (sugar).

After dinner we opened presents, which was mostly Scott's job. :)  He had a nice pile of packages under the tree, most of which contained presents for his kitties.  He also got some new pants.  He brought us a beautiful present, but it wasn't wrapped: a wreath made of cleverly intertwined driftwood (and naturally I forgot to take a photo of it!).  I'm thinking about finishing it with a penetrating oil finish to help bring out the wood's beauty, and Debbie's thinking of different ways to decorate it for various times of year.

We had a rousing game of a family favorite card game last night: Oh Shit!  Scott won the game, fair and square – first time he's done so since roughly 1832.  After that, we shoved him out the door with his pile of presents (and some stroganoff and mousse) and sent him home.  He made it safely; he told me this morning that basically only Paradise had any significant snow.

This morning it was 15°F when I got up, and even now it's only up to 17°F.  Since I plowed yesterday morning we got an additional two or three inches of snow, so I'm about to go out and plow again.  The photos below will give you some idea what it's like here right now.  The snow is a very fine powder, light as a feather, which should make the plowing, blowing, and shoveling relatively easy.  It fell yesterday with zero wind conditions, which made it pile up very high.  The willow tree (second photo) has 5" or more piled onto some branches.  The dried sunflowers (last two photos) have a couple inches piled onto each flower, quite a sight!.  In the first photo, to the left of the fence you can see the “tracks” made by Tim's two horses.  They're still having a great time pawing up alfalfa from under the snow.  The third photo is a pile of driftwood that Scott gave me – the big piece on top has almost six inches piled on it.

Ok, I can't put it off any longer: time to plow!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Paradise ponders, crab cakes, champagne, and M shirts edition...

Paradise ponders, crab cakes and champagne edition...  Well, we had a fine meal yesterday, and just the two of us.  The carrot-ginger soup (left photo) was spectacular after Debbie's adjustment of the seasonings, and the crab cakes with tartar sauce (right photo, which I forgot to take until I was partway through my crab cake!) were the best iteration of this recipe pair that we've had yet.  In past years we've had trouble with the crab cakes falling apart in the pan, so this year I tried putting an extra egg (total of two) in the recipe, and that did the trick quite nicely!  While snow crab meat isn't what you generally think of for crab cakes, in fact it was excellent.  The topper was the champagne: a nice bottle of our favorite (Veuve Clicquot Brut).

Stuffed, we were.  We two put away about a quart of soup, a pound and a half of excellent crab meat, and an entire bottle of champagne...

Our friend and neighbor Tim D. came over after we'd finished eating, to bring us a Christmas card and to visit for a bit.  When Debbie opened the card, she discovered a gift card for a meal at Maddox Ranch House, a place we love (and Tim knows it :).  We sat and talked for a while in our living room, in front of a roaring fire.

We love living here!

Last night we got about six inches of a fine, powdery snow.  It's not all that cold (25°F at the moment), so I'm a bit surprised how light the snow is.  Nevertheless, I'm going to plow it just in case things get worse later today.  The snow is still coming down, fairly hard at times, so I won't be a bit surprised if I need to plow it again before my brother Scott arrives this afternoon.  I hope he can get out of his driveway!  Some photos below that I took this morning:

Our front door wreath is very pretty with the snow on it!  The second photo shows what I saw when I opened our garage door.  Under the pines in the third photo, if you look closely, you'll see platoons of birds on our feeders.  I'll bet they need filling before the end of the day (I just filled them yesterday morning).  The last photo is the front of our barn, where a drift is close to two feet high.

When I'm not plowing today, I'll be helping Debbie make our Christmas meal.  Our menu: cream of asparagus soup (a scrumptious-looking Julia child recipe we've not tried before), beef stroganoff on homemade egg noodles (a new recipe for us, an Internet find), and chocolate mousse (a Julia Child recipe we've made many times before, and hands-down the best chocolate mousse I've ever had).  We shouldn't be hungry when we're done! :)

Here's a minor milestone I passed yesterday, which still has me kind of amazed.  For many years, my entire adult life really, my normal shirt size was XL.  They were a little big on me, but I like loose clothing, and L shirts were generally too tight.  A couple years ago I noticed that my few L shirts were fitting just fine, so my next few shirt purchases were L.  A few days ago, when putting on a L shirt, I noticed it was a little big – so Debbie secretly ordered a M shirt for me to try, a nice Carhartt flannel shirt.  It fits perfectly, just the degree of looseness I like.  I cannot remember the last time I fit into a M shirt, but it must have been when I was 15 or so...

Merry Christmas, everyone!