Monday, November 29, 2021

Hunting on....

Our second annual family deer camp has been challenging this year.  Five days of hunting with four of us working pretty hard yielded exactly one deer.  Oh, don't fret the freezer will not be empty.  All three of my sons have actually had success.  Youngest, the traveler across many time zones, once again got his deer opening day.  Middle son has a long standing deer camp elsewhere and also got one.  And the oldest, after spending Thanksgiving with us, went off to his in-laws....and bagged a nice doe that had gotten plump on his father in law's crops.

But I have yet to take a shot.  So I came up for a couple of days to hunt alone.

With time on my hands I have been pondering the matter of white tail deer psychology.  Setting aside for the time being our friend Eddie's peculiar Moon Deer theories, and the arcane notions of acorn abundance cycles, deer behaviour essentially comes down to this:  They Eat.  They Hide. They move between locations appropriate to these activities.  Ideally that's when you get them.

Morning hunts have been unproductive.  Heck, even a nice dusting of snow to help me out.  No tracks anywhere.  I have started to just pick my day break hunting sites based on places I think will be picturesque in early sunlight.  Like this abandoned farmstead.

No deer.  No distant gunshots to suggest others were having better luck.

For mid day I decided it was time for more active measures.  If the deer were in Hiding Mode I'd  go Seek them.  I tromped around a tangled mess of an area marked on our map as The Ravine.  Got entirely turned around and needed GPS to find my way back out.  It was a creepy place to wander through.  The game trails I was following were more like tunnels.  And some of the trees seemed specifically hostile to the presence of Man.

Evening hunt was back at my usual spot next to the abandoned golf course.  Deer were gamboling about on the fairway but never came close.  I heard a horrendous crashing about directly behind me and suspect another deer approached from an unexpected angle, detected my presence and high tailed it.  Again I trudge home in the dark.  I am getting exercise at least.

That's how it stood as of Saturday night.  One day left to the 9 day season.  So, early to bed, up at 5am, drink coffee and go sit in the woods.  Another nice sunrise but nothing more.  Which brings us down to the final session.

And a quiet one it was.  Even with my sound amplifier/dampener headset on there was no sound anywhere.  A family of turkeys trotted by fussily.  The sun dropped to the tree line, then below the canopy blasting directly into my eyes.  After a few minutes the orange onslaught ceased and the woods started to turn to their mysterious twilight mode.  I'm reminded of the old Moody Blues song...

"Cold hearted orb that rules the night,

Removes the colors from our sight,

Red is grey and yellow white,

But we decide which is right.  And which is an illusion."

Bit of a somber note to end the season.  I'm naturally optimistic in this as in most matters but 10 days to recharge my spirits before the 4 day "second chance" season are called for.  I expect to hunt for a couple of those days, but the seasons are changing in more ways than one, and other  adventures are on the horizon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving 2021

Tomorrow is our day of Thanksgiving.  The kids and grandkids all under the roof and a couple of new faces.  As with all years we've had our down moments but a lot more of the positive variety.  Food, drink, catching up on conversation.  

But today is the day of Thanksgiving for whitetail deer.  After five days of non productive hunting I'm hanging up the orange duds.  Yep, you win guys.  Well played.  You are safe until next year.

(shhhhh....don't tell them I expect to be back for a couple of days this weekend and that I still have Expectations for the second chance deer hunt in December).

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Deer Camp 2021 - Third Report

 Nice, if chilly, sunrise.

Today was a day of innovation and continuity.  After nothing more than scenery in the morning we spent the mid day moving stands to new locations.  I then went back to my usual location for the evening.  All other hunters seem to have left the area.

Shortly before sunset a very nice buck wandered around just out of my comfortable range.  Also, just on the other side of the dividing line between public and private land.  He seemed a suspicious sort, always peering up at my location.  I had him in the sights for a while, but he was still on the wrong side of the line.  Eventually a dog barked somewhere in the distance, the deer spooked and ran off.  An exciting end to the day but still no venison.  Heck, I'm telling myself that 8 point bucks don't taste good anyway.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Deer Camp 2021 - Second Report

 Sort of bad news.  I'm doing nothing with regards to the high price of meat.  Still no deer.

Sort of good news.  I am helping the ammunition shortage....have not even been close to taking a shot yet.

Oh, and it snowed.

Quite the change.  As I said, bugs flying around yesterday, today by the end of the day a white carpet everywhere and the lake starting to freeze.  This is what you'd call a game changer, although whether it favors the offense or defense remains to be seen.

Cold days ahead.

On a brighter note we are at least seeing deer.  I saw a herd of ten go galloping off into the woods on the private property side of things.  They seemed disinclined to leave the private sector today.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Deer Camp 2021 - First Report

Deer Camp in session.  Friday night and our crew of hunters and support staff assembled from various points of the compass.  Special recognition to the lad who has in the past two weeks  actually transited 21 time zones to be here.

That's one of the reasons why our gathering is way short of the raucous, sodden festival that some might imagine.  Get acquainted for the people who don't know each other yet.  Hang the rifles in their ready positions by the door.  One beer - make it a good one - and early to bed.

Off to the woods before dawn.  It was a full moon.*

The woods were quiet.  Until just at sunrise.  Last year there was a chorus of wolves and coyotes howling all around me.  This year, oddly, a flock of crows somewhere gave me the Scavengers Symphony for 2020.  And then....quiet.  usually there should be a fusillade of gunfire from people who were tracking deer at first light.  I checked my phone....ten minutes past the permitted hour.  It would turn out to be a paltry opening day.

Well it was nice enough sitting out in the woods.  Warm.  There were still bugs flying around on November 20th.  

Eventually my youngest son "got us on the board".  Serious jet lag notwithstanding he is a superb shot.  Between the four of us we only saw two deer all day, as opposed to 17 for three of us a year ago.  The one my world traveler spotted somehow ran twenty yards or so despite a .308 sized hole directly through its heart.  Nature is tough.

Well, staff meeting tonight.  The weather is probably the biggest factor and that will change.  It might be time to deploy the Secret Weapon...

* The member of our party most versed in the ways of deer suggested that the full moon was a factor.  He indicated that charts suggested the time of maximum deer activity after a full moon would be 12:30pm.  Guess when we got our first deer...

Friday, November 19, 2021

Prep for Deer Camp - The Map of Deer and Frogs

In an age of GPS navigation maps are mostly a curiosity.  Or art.  Be that as it may my son and one of the grandkids have cooked up a nice wall sized map of the public land, deer hunting landmarks and a few things important to small people.

This last one might not make sense unless you followed the saga of my rookie year hunting and its eventual successful conclusion.  Golf Course Corner abuts land owned by some billionaires.  The Billionaire Tree Stand is clearly marked over on their side of the public/private sector divide.

I'm sure these folks are highly capable captains of industry, and I would expect them to be aiming towards their expansive, private, open fields with mowed lanes of fire.  But just in case, my stand some distance up and to the left of their Club House has a massive tree between me and them.  I've had enough experience of high finance over my years as a small investor to know that these people are sometimes clueless.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Endemic - 2021

Right about now we are at the two year mark for Covid-19.  There are so many things we still don't know for sure, despite spending time, money and other societal resources in unimaginable amounts, but I think it is fair to say that it started in the last few months of 2019.

I should note up front that there are things that you are not permitted to say in various versions of the Public Square.  I'll try not to stumble close to any of them, but to be honest in some cases information has gone from Fake! to Misinformation, to Plausible, to Probable....and back again.  I'm going to assume anyone who has bothered to read this far is not the mindless sheep that the Guardians of the Internet assume us to be, and is capable of weighing competing viewpoints and actually pondering them.

So, what's going on with this data:

These graphs are from Worldometer the morning of 15 November.  They are specific to Wisconsin but are similar to data from across the Northern US.  They indicate a rise in "cases" and a simultaneous near disappearance of deaths.  I'm putting cases in parentheses because that is a grab bag of things from sudden, severe illness down to feeling punk, further down the ladder to runny nose, and ending up with no symptoms or even potentially false positives.  Death is the ultimate in unambiguous and so gets no quotation marks.  Although even there the issue of dying of versus with Covid is a fair question.

At the time of the above graphs Wisconsin stood at just above 60% of the population vaccinated.  The numbers are somewhat opaque, and don't specifically indicate the percentage of eligible people vaccinated.  With the recent increase in the eligible pool coming from approval in younger children there should have been some jumping around of these percentages if they accounted for that approval.  So like many Covid numbers all you can say is that lots of people are getting immunized.  It is reasonable to infer that in the demographic actually at risk for serious illness the numbers are much higher.  I've seen stats suggesting 98.5% rates in seniors with about a third already getting the much vaunted booster.

So, to return to the two graphs - one grim one cheery - I'd conclude the following.  Covid rates are still significant.  But the percentage that are getting seriously ill has dropped to almost nothing.  It is only back of the envelope math, but the overall rate of US Covid mortality is around 2%.  On November 9th three people died of Covid in Wisconsin.  With the usual two weeks or so lead time between infection and demise, and roughly 3000 cases a day in that time frame, the current mortality rate is .1%.  A twenty fold drop.  So how's that possible?

Lots more testing increases the cases number.  Especially in advance of holiday travel.  This is not entirely good or bad, but mostly good.  You should be tested before you go see grandpa in Keokuk.  More testing, especially in the younger demographic, more results and more positive results.

I also strongly suspect that the number of "breakthrough" cases in the vaccinated is considerably higher than reported.  Heck, the acknowledged rate is already much higher than what was being reported a few months back.  Are the increased case numbers 10% breakthroughs?  20%? Higher?

But at least Covid is no longer causing deaths at the rates seen a year ago.  There are multiple factors in play, some optimistic, some not.

Treatment has gotten better.  We were supposed to have a two week lockdown to help the medical system prepare.  If two years has not done it, well we'll never be ready.  And there actually have been some much improved treatment options.

Immunity, both from vaccine and from getting the darn stuff, does seem to protect from more serious disease.  Better data on the specifics (acquired vs natural, various vaccine combinations, assorted age demographics) would be nice, but again after inconceivable expenditure the answers on this as in so much else, are elusive.

And finally, sadly, the cohort of people most likely to die of Covid has already been hit hard.  The ranks of frail elderly people with co-morbidities has been clobbered, with deaths from the disease, from an over strained health care system, from deferred screening for other things, and from just plain loneliness and isolation.

Well that's how it all looked on the morning of 15 November.  I got my booster yesterday*.  I got pretty loopy from the last one and for a brief shining moment understood the complete inner workings of quantum physics, Cosmology and the Drake Paradox.  So maybe all the above data makes total sense to me this morning.

Above is a scene from Time Bandits.  The weird midgets have stolen the map that shows the complete structure of the Universe including all the holes and patchwork.  Those of you who know me, feel free to comment on which dwarf you think I most resemble.


 *That's my decision.  If yours is different I'll respect it.  If the opinions I express above make you unhappy I'll respect that too.  In the end it's about our own Mortality.  This is the most uncomfortable of all subjects.  We are, all of us, in a fight against Time.  It is a fight that we must inevitably lose.  Sooner or later we all end up on our own personal Last Stand Hill.  So how will you be remembered by those left behind?  Keep in mind that Bravery, although laudable, may not always be the ideal stance.  Don't be like George Armstrong Custer and lead those around you to disaster.  But keep in mind equally that Lack of Bravery, while understandable in flawed humans, will give you no advantage against the ultimate enemy.  Time flies the Flag of No Quarter.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Prep for Deer Camp - The Mountain of Shards

Although I did not end up using their facilities I did stop by a local gun range when I was fussing about trying to zero in my rifle with an inadequate supply of mixed ammunition.  The trap shooting season is over but you can sure see where the clay pigeons went down!

It reminded me of Monte Testaccio, the artificial hill in Rome that is made up of millions of broken amphorae.

Eventually I did get the gun sufficiently accurate at 50 and 80 yards that human error will be a bigger factor than any further tweaking.  In fact, messing with the scope now would in all likelihood be a prime example of human error!

I visited Monte Testaccio years and years ago......

Friday, November 12, 2021

Prep for Deer Camp - High and Outside

Here is an unsafe tree stand.  Crumbly old wood nailed onto a tree.  It's been moldering away for who knows how long.  I bet the owls appreciate it.

Ah, now this one is much better.  It has extra tie down straps holding the ladder and stand elements.  And be assured, the occupant of this one will be wearing a safety harness.  I've not been up there but my son said "Hey, I can get cell reception up here!"  Just that one extra safety measure.

He's not been up in it yet but my other hunting son speculates he'll be able to see his house from there.  He lives in LA.  Nonsense of course, this stand faces east.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A Hack Politician Packing His/Her bag and Leaving?

An odd spray painted message on a chunk of cement.  The message is muddled.  The blue figure with the brief case seems to have horns, so I suppose this is a warning about the evils of Big Business.  But the definition of "Existence" is harder to fathom.

I did a bit of looking about and it seems to be a slogan that turned up at one of the big protests right after Donald Trump was inaugurated.  So I guess you could interpret it as something along the lines of "Don't ignore the voice of the people or there's gonna be consequences".

I don't generally do much political stuff on Detritus of Empire.  Its often rather tawdry and it is not as if the marketplace of ideas is not full of it 24-7.  But I do have to observe that last week's elections would seem to bear up the general concept of this if not the specific original meaning.

A New Jersey truck driver with a minimal budget unseated the leader of the State Senate.  And a moderately unpleasant political hack - oh, there are worse out there - found out just how deeply parents feel that, yes indeed they should have a say in what public schools teach.

Interesting times.  Whatever your political frame of reference it is good to see that even in an age where information can be massaged, suppressed or just plain made up, it is still possible to Throw the Rascals Out via the ballot box.

Monday, November 8, 2021

FIRST Robotics - The New Team

FIRST Robotics posts are a staple here at Detritus of Empire, at least in the January to March Build and Competition frenzy.  Coming off a year of inactivity due to Covid we've had to largely rebuild the team from the ground up.  Thank goodness we have a standing policy of promoting promising 8th graders to "the Show" when we encounter them.

We've done more this pre-season than ever before.  Lots of new mechanisms tried out, lots of mysterious software doings, lots of just getting to know each other.  It looks as if the team will start the campaign at about 28 members.  On a recent Thursday evening we had another of our entirely optional sessions.  24 of them showed up to work.

Time for a photo op.  We always take a few serious ones then some silly ones.  It's not always easy to tell them apart.

Watch for updates, it will be a wild ride starting with kickoff on 8 January.....

Friday, November 5, 2021

Unclear on the Concept, but kinda suspicious....

Here at Detritus of Empire I strive to keep my content civilized.  There is vulgarity and dreck aplenty out there in the wilds of the Internet.  Generally there is no need to seek it out, it will find you.

But sometimes I chance across an odd bit of Americana and this something from an Age of Innocence now bygone?  Or is this a sly bit of innuendo?

Unclear.  I suppose that makes it Art, it being subject to variable interpretation.

The miniscule letters on the farm gal's skirt and knee say 1951 DONMAN.  A superficial google search yields nothing useful.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Enigma Class - The Staff Challenge

My little crew of middle school cryptographers spent two sessions prepping a particularly complicated series of challenges for a team of invited Staff All Stars.  This turned out to be a mix of their favorite teachers and a few that I figured we should include.  Administrators, the school resource officer (so we could have a real detective!), a counselor to help the staff cope with stress...

Getting stuff ready:

Rules were established.  Staff were not allowed to use electronic devices.  Anything they needed they had to ask for.  We detailed a pair of students to work with each of the three Staff teams, crypto, Enigma and GPS.  This was not an easy series of challenges, as they just kept leading deeper into the labyrinth.

After the dust settled, here's the working board.  The random cipher, that had to be solved with frequency analysis, read "Place the laser carefully on the mark at Fiction Section MB in the library".  Of course they had to ask for the laser.  They put it on the mark.  It did not work.  They had to ask for batteries.  It sent a laser dot to where the next clue was waiting.

Eventually they found an Alberti wheel.  Worthless without the initial settings.  Of course the settings could be figured out once you'd done the GPS challenge, found all the Scrabble tiles and figured out the message!

The odd item in the foreground was one of the geocaches.  Not the one dubbed Bark, Bark.  Nah, this one was fairly easy.

Eventually the staff used the wheel to decode the final cipher.  It came through as gibberish.  But they were clever enough to recognize double encryption and used the 3 place rotation they'd done earlier to solve the final clue, the one that gave them the five letter combination.  It read:

"Did you ________ anything?"

I think they did.

There's talent here.  Some of them will be moving up to the robotics world in a while.  Even the ones that have been a significant pain in the rear have potential.  From considerable experience I can spot kids who are acting goofy in part through profound boredom.

That we can work with.


Monday, November 1, 2021

Mary McMath's Medicine

 Today a little artifact that is certainly rare and probably unique.

It is a patent medicine bottle, paper label only, the bottle style suggests circa 1890 give or take a few years.  Here's the other two sections of the label.

As you can see it comes from Saint Paul Minnesota, and has a female proprietor.

Women's names do turn up on patent medicine bottles with some regularity, but the companies were in almost all cases run by men.  The women, Lydia Pinkham comes to mind, were just fronts.  This worked especially well in nostrums for "female complaints".

But Mary A. McMath seems to have been a genuine small time patent medicine manufacturer.  So what can we learn about her?

This is a tough one.  Usually I can zip through census information and archived newspapers and get the rough outlines of someone's life.  But for Mary McMath the pickings are slim.

In 1878 she was embroiled in a lawsuit against a certain William Parsons.  The details are sketchy but it is described as an "action for rent", suggesting she was a land lord.  It took a year but she won $30, costs and interest.  In 1882 I find mention of her paying for sidewalk assessments in the Woodland Park Addition to St. Paul.  And in 1888 a list of undelivered letters includes one to "Dr. Mary A. McMath".

I have a fairly comprehensive listing of pharmacists from St. Paul in that era, she does not appear on it.  Patent medicine companies ran from the gigantic to the one person operators.  She is unknown in that list as well.  Shortly before his untimely death I asked my old friend Boyd Beccue about Ms. McMath.  He'd never heard of her.  And between Boyd and I we knew most of what there was to know about the arcane world of Minnesota patent medicines.

Next I scanned digital copies of St. Paul City Directories from 1880 to 1896.  No mention of Mary McMath at all.  That's unusual.  Similarly the Minnesota State Historical Society has no mention of her in their online catalog.

Casting a wider net of locations for searches only gave me a few crumbs.  An obituary for a Betty Laura McMath (born 1926) said she was the 5th daughter of Thomas and Mary McMath.  Although this was in a suburb of St. Paul I can't make the, er, math work.  If you were a property owner in 1879 you were not having babies 50 years later!

Somewhat more definitively I ran across a reference in a San Francisco paper from 1884.  It was a list of people enjoying nearby summer resorts.  At "The Geysers" we find Dr. Mary A. McMath of St. Paul.  Most of the other leisure seekers were married couples and families.  Dr. Mary is listed alone.

I tried a few other long shots.  I have a trade journal for upper midwest pharmacists from the late 1890's that lists an extensive compendium of all patent medicines wholesaled by the biggest supply house in Minnesota.  All manner of odd and obscure things turn up there including some much older patent medicines that were still being made on a small scale by somebody.  No McMath products.

I could dredge up US Census information or perhaps pursue one of the various Genealogy web sites (they all promise a free trial but sure want your credit card!) but I doubt I would find more.

So we are left with an enigmatic woman.  Apparently single.  Evidently of sufficient means to travel across the country for leisure.  But also it seems a one woman patent medicine business.  It is a curious and incomplete tale.  If I find more I'll publish an update.