Community, Meteorology

Lightning Strikes and Power Outages

Can lightning cause power outages?

As it turns out, lightning doesn’t even have to strike a power pole or knock over a tree to cause a power outage. The build up of charge nearby can actually cause power surges -no contact necessary.

Additionally, lightning gives off electromagnetic radiation. The phenomenon itself is called “sferic“, and it means you might notice static on the AM radio frequencies around the time of a strike.

That said, outages are more likely to be due to tree branches hitting power-lines than an actual lightening strike; Power-lines are often in the position of being the most attractive thing around for a lightening strike, and that is considered in their design.

What brought all this to mind?

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was a bit after midnight on what had just become Saturday morning. Heavy Rain. A flash. A house-shaking kaboom. The power suddenly out. It seems to have been the start of an outage on the section of power-line that goes up along Griffin Road. Lincoln Electric had everything back up and running later on Saturday.

Speaking of outages, though- there’s a planned one this week (11 PM Wednesday ’til 5AM Thursday) for everyone served by Lincoln Electric. Another overnight maintenance outage, courtesy of Bonneville Power Administration, since they need to replace structures damaged by gunshots (They’d love to have more information about that- call the BPA Hotline if you have any).

Community, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Beyond Ghost Guns

I ran across an article called “Beyond State Control” published by

The report takes up 128 pages, and does a pretty good job of showing spots where gun control legislation has failed.  Page 80 shows production of submachine guns in Canada:

Canadian authorities have also seized significant numbers of craft-produced submachine guns from criminals. In December 2015, Toronto police found what was described as a ‘Tec9’ sub-machine gun in an abandoned vehicle (CityNews, 2015). The gun, actually a craft-produced copy of the Intratec TEC-9, was one of many produced at a plant in Montreal, Quebec. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have since traced more than two dozen of these to 18 locations across Canada (Berthiaume, 2018). The sub-machine guns in question were produced at a metal-working factory and feature two CNC-machined polymer halves used to form the frame of the gun, a distinguishing feature of other TEC-9/DC-10 copies (see Image 38). The barrels were threaded to accept craft-produced suppressors, also made in the factory. Two factory directors were charged with firearms offences; they had reportedly told factory employees that they were manufacturing parts for paintball guns (Berthiaume, 2018).”

Their illicit product looked something like this:

Earlier, the authors explain why the submachine guns are so common as what they term “craft-produced small arms: “Sub-machine guns are perhaps the most widely documented craft-produced small arms in circulation (ARES, 2018; ImproGuns, n.d.). Their high rate of fire and low cost make them attractive to organized criminal groups. Often chambered for the common 9 × 19 mm cartridge, they are frequently based on Second World War or cold war designs, such as the British Sten and the US M3 ‘grease gun’. As such, they almost always operate on the simple blowback69 principle, firing from an open bolt (ARES, 2018; Jenzen-Jones, 2017a). Pulling the trigger releases not the firing pin but the entire bolt, which picks up a cartridge from the magazine, chambers it, and fires it by means of a fixed firing pin. The bolt is then ‘blown’ backward by the fired cartridge, such that the empty case is extracted and ejected, while the bolt is returned to the rear, where it is ready for the next shot. These weapons require none of the complex machining and engineering needed to create a reliably functioning locked-breech firearm, and they can be relatively safe to operate.”

The photographic quality is probably lower than the machining quality – while these examples were taken from a protestant group in Northern Ireland, I suspect the Provisional IRA has equally skilled folks in their workshops.

Another article, from the same folks in Switzerland is “Craft Production”, found here.

It begins with “Craft production of small arms refers principally to weapons and ammunition that are fabricated largely by hand in relatively small quantities. Government authorities may tightly regulate and oversee these artisans’ activities and outputs (expensive replica antique firearms legally produced in the United States are a good example). Often, however, this material is produced outside of, or under limited, state controls. These weapons are often used in crimes and against government targets.” 

The problem with legislating gun control is that some folks out in the real world are better at making guns than the folks trying to stop them.  If they’ve been making submachine guns in Quebec, I suspect the idea of shutting down ghost guns by legislation is closing the barn  door after the horse is in the garden.

Community, Meteorology

What Last Week’s Rains Did for Us

These maps, taken from NOAA’s website show what the early August rains did to change the moisture stored in our soil.  For us, the rains lifted the pond by almost an inch and a half.  They didn’t add enough soil moisture to fill the cracks in the vertisols, or create any puddles – but we have hopes that the slight increase in soil moisture will help at least some of the little alfalfa plants survive. At any rate, the NOAA website demonstrates how much more information on weather is available now compared to a half-century ago.  The difference between July 31 and August 9 is impressive – though we will probably check again next week to see how the soil is doing.

Community, Demography

4% Growth for County 57

The 2020 Census numbers have been released, and we’re looking at data we can begin to use.  I’m hoping to get the data at a school district level later on – but for now, we have county level data, CCD level data, and Census tract level data.

First – Lincoln County’s population dropped by a tenth of a percent.  Second, the population in the Libby CCD dropped by 1.2% (now 9,772), population in the Troy CCD dropped by 3.9% now 3,435), and population in the Eureka CCD increased by 4.0% (now 6,470).   North County is now officially 89 residents less than a third of the county’s population.  3,435 of the people represented by the Troy Commissioner reside in the Troy CCD, while 3,124 reside in the Libby CCD.  This is a trend worth watching.

Housing data is available at the county level – and it may give us some insight on rentals in the area.  Housing units in Lincoln County decreased by 4.0% – occupied housing units increased by 0.5%, and unoccupied housing units decreased by 19.6%. 

In County 57 – the Eureka CCD – housing unit numbers are:

 2020 #2020 %2010 #2010 %Change
Total Housing Units3,716 3,771 -1.5%

All these statistics are in comparison with the 2010 Census. 

It’s going to be fun as future releases will show even more usable data.

A Science for Everyone, Community

Inflation Since 1914

Looking at our nation’s deficit spending, I got thinking back to the Carter years, the high inflation and the high interest.  Then I decided to grab a table or a chart to see how things looked from a historical perspective.  This chart give inflation figures from 1914:

Found at

It turns out that our highest inflation was under Woodrow Wilson.  20.44% in 1918 – 18.1% in 1917, and 12.62% in 1916.  Back then we were on the gold standard – yet the price of gold remained at $20.67 from 1910 through the twenties.  During the worst years of the great depression, inflation (deflation?) was about -10%. 

Carter’s highest year – 1979 – saw 13.29% inflation . . . and to be fair, Carter inherited a good portion of his challenges from Nixon – whose highest (and final) year was 1974 at 12.34% inflation.  Trump’s last year, 2020, had only 1.34% inflation.  Biden’s at 4.31% on this chart, and we’re not through 2021 yet.  Still, it will be a challenge to top Woodrow Wilson.

Above the chart is this statement “Interactive chart showing the annual rate of inflation in the United States as measured by the Consumer Price Index back to 1914. The current rate of U.S. CPI inflation as of August 2021 is 271.70.”  As I write this, the net tells me that I can buy gold for as low as $1827 per ounce.  Dividing that by $20.67 shows that the price of gold has only increased by a factor of 88.39. 

C.P. Snow described the second law of thermodynamics as “You can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t quit the game.”  Who says physics can’t be applied to government?


Rifle Barrels Made in Eureka

In the late 1940’s two men were known for the rifle barrels they turned out.  P.O. Ackley in Trinidad, Colorado, and John Buhmiller in Eureka, Montana.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have owned rifles with barrels made by both men – and still have the Buhmiller 257.

If you look John Buhmiller up on the internet, you will find him associated with Kalispell – but he moved there from Eureka in 1949.  I’ve kind of researched Buhmiller following a conversation with Laird Beyers, where he sold me his cherished 257 Roberts.  Laird was losing the fight with Leukemia, and trying to leave as much cash for his widow as he could.  His brother-in-law wanted the rifle, and told Laird that there was no point in buying it, that his sister would give it to him.  My dying friend got a message to me – “Come by for a last visit, and bring $250.”  I did – in a visit that I enjoyed, in which I unknowingly foiled the brother-in-law, chatted with an old friend, and left with his rifle.  The rifle with the Buhmiller barrel.

John Buhmiller made barrels. He didn’t even thread them for an action or chamber them. His rifling pattern is distinct – I showed the rifle to John Bull at TSJC, and his response (his time was in Kenya) was “I didn’t know he made barrels this small. That square rifling is definitely John’s.” After Kalispell, John Buhmiller had landed in Africa, hunting elephants in a land of large calibers. Before Africa, his barrels were popular at the extremes – bench rest rifles and varmint shooters. Mine is one of over 40,000 barrels he made, and most were small calibers from Eureka and Kalispell. He didn’t do the gunsmithing for the rifle – the few rifles Buhmiller made personally are kind of famous for being functional rather than pretty.

Buhmiller’s writings are available in Ackley’s Volume 1 – though I once owned an Ackley barrel, and put it on a Steyr action, I don’t have a copy of Ackley’s writings. 

These comments are excerpts from Buhmiller’s “African Notes No. 3”, and provide a little understanding of the man’s retirement line in wildlife control hunting.

Elephants Are Varmints

When I took-off last March for Nairobi, on my third trip to the Dark Continent, it was mainly for the purpose of shooting varmints in a newly organized farming area, where I had done about three months shooting two years previously. My first shooting there was in an almost virginal territory. Buffaloes, rhinos, elephants, and lesser game were there in abundance.

Varmints were fairly well controlled at that time by an electric fence that surrounded the cultivated fields. As time passed, this fence lost its effectiveness. Baboons and elephants became great pests. The baboon is very difficult to deal with, but all his foraging is done by daylight, and watchmen can at least partially cope with him.

The elephant comes by night, when it is nearly impossible to shoot effectively. He soon becomes accustomed to all the noises, spotlighting, and ineffective shots fired for his benefit, and by daylight may be ten or more miles away and still going. Appeals to the game department usually produce no results.

On my arrival there, two years ago, I was assigned native guides who knew about as much English as I knew of their language – practically nil. But we got along pretty well, and in no time were hunting successfully. At this time, elephants were seldom molested unless they were too near the crops, when a large herd could easily be forced through the electric fence by crowding from behind. Meat was shot for the farm laborers, who numbered well toward one hundred, some with families.

Arriving this last April, I found things vastly changed. The electric fence had become ineffective and had been allowed to go to pieces. The majority of the game animals had been shot-up to the extent that they had become exceedingly wary. One of the main crops being maize, corn to us, from the time the ears are formed until ripe, is a very luscious tidbit for old Tembo and the trouble is on, for a period of some two to three months. The elephants just can’t seem to pass-up a field of nice juicy corn.

We would take-off at daylight, looking for fresh signs, and then follow the tracks until overtaken or it is time to turn back, at times finding ourselves ten or fifteen miles from home. Elephant hunting is well known to be very hard work, on account of the necessity for traveling on foot and the fact that elephants are almost continually moving.

There are still many rhinos in this area, since not many of them have been shot. Some of us thought that the sight of an occasional living rhino adds much to the landscape, and as they stay mostly in the deep forest they do little if any harm, other than scaring the daylights out of the native guides now and then, when happening onto them unexpectedly.

The buffaloes there are now very wild, staying in the heaviest cover during the day and seldom coming out except at night. Our elephant trails frequently took us through heavy brush where at times buffaloes would spook from very short range, crashing through the brush, and it was seldom that they could be seen or offered us a shot.

Snakes are an ever-present possibility, but not many are seen, since the grass is very heavy most everywhere. Snakebite is rare. Most snakes seem to be interested only in getting away, except the adder, which just lies still, if stepped on, might bite through a leather shoe, as he has very long fangs. Some of the world’s most dangerous snakes are found in Africa, and it is fortunate that they don’t seem to be looking for trouble.

Insects? Lots of ticks, ants everywhere; during rainy season, plenty of mosquitoes (which carry malaria), tsetse flies, which are very annoying, harmless to man in most areas, but kill cattle and horses. Houseflies are not too bad.”

It was easier to research gunsmiths and barrel makers when I was close to the collection at Freudenthal Library (Trinidad State Junior College).

An article in Gun Digest 2000, by Bob Bell, titled Buhmiller’s Big Boomer covers Buhmiller’s African hunting in the mid-fifties – where he hunted elephants that were destroying crops – and he had “eight solitary hunts over there from 1955 to 1964.  He took an assortment of rifles that he had built himself.”  I suspect it was in the sixties when Leonard Bull met him – Leonard was 15 years older than I, and competed in the Olympics in 1964, 1968, and 1972 – probably the best shot from prone I have ever encountered, and a great gunsmith.  John Buhmiller took 165 elephants, 53 Cape Buffalo, 17 rhinos and one hippo in his hunts.  Born in 1893, John Buhmiller was 62 when he started hunting African game without safaris or professional hunters – just walking the forests.


Thinking Afghanistan

When George Bush announced the invasion of Afghanistan, I did the college teacher thing and posted this picture on my door without comment. 

The painting is titled “Remnants of an Army” and can be downloaded at

Here is the explanation I didn’t put on the office door. The painting shows assistant surgeon William Bryde’s arrival at the fort at Jalalabad in 1842 – 16,500 had left Kabul. Bryde was the only Briton to make Jalalabad.  The 44th had one officer, one sergeant, and seven privates taken prisoner who also survived the evacuation.  The first Anglo-Afghan war is listed as an Afghan victory.

The second Anglo-Afghan war ended a little better for the British:

This painting is “The Last Eleven at Maiwand.”  Note the little dog – we have no idea how Bobby survived until the rest of the 66th came into Afghanistan, and the little dog came into camp when the bugle called.  Queen Victoria described Bobby as “Pomeranian-like – but I think her bias for Pomeranians was showing.  The 66th lost its colors and the Queen’s colors.  Bobby received the Afghanistan campaign medal from the Queen, not the Victoria Cross.

The second Anglo-Afghan war is recorded as a British win. 

The third Anglo-Afghan war resulted in Afghan independence.

Over 40 years ago, a friend told me of his experience on a carrier’s flight deck during the evacuation of Saigon.  You can get a carrier a lot closer to Saigon than to Kabul.

Weird Words

Weird words: Petrichor, stone’s blood.

Stepping outside after this weekend’s much-needed downpours, I was met with a familiar fragrance. The smell of the earth after rain, sometimes called “Petrichor”.

This is a fairly modern word, cobbled together by a couple of scientists in 1965.
It’s derived from two Greek word roots. Petra (πετρα) meaning “rock” and ichor (ιχωρ) meaning “blood”. But ichor is usually a special sort of blood – the juice that flows in the veins of a god or giant, perhaps a monster, not a mere mortal.

Petrichor’s scent is strongest after rain beats down on hot, dry soil. When rain pummels the earth, it stirs up waste from tiny soil bacteria called Actinomycetes… tossing tiny particles of something chemists have named “geosmin” into the air.

Interestingly enough, this same compound that brings us that lovely post-rainstorm aroma is also responsible for strong earthy flavors.

It’s why catfish and other bottom-feeders can taste a bit muddy at times (especially when caught in hot weather). It’s also why fungi and vegetables can taste a bit earthy, even after being thoroughly washed. Personally, I’m fond of strong-flavored catfish and earthy beets and mushrooms, but to each their own.

If you’re not fond of those earthy flavors, consider adding an acid during cooking (such as vinegar). This will cause geosmin to break down and give you less-fishy tasting fish or vegetables that taste less of dirt.

On a more entomological note, mosquitoes are attracted to geosmin’s smell in preparation for laying their eggs. A number of entomologists and chemists are currently experimenting on traps using geosmin extracted from beetroot skins.

I look forward to seeing how geosmin trap technology develops – but I suspect it’d be quite possible to come up with a homemade trap based on the same principles that’d work well. After all, if we can collect and destroy many mosquito eggs, we should see some dint in next years’ mosquito populations.

There are few scents I’d rather breathe in.

Community, Meteorology

Thinking About Smoke

As I went for the allergy meds this morning, I thought of Wylie Osler.  For those who never had the opportunity to know Wylie, I can only wish that I had a record of all his stories – Wylie saw the humor in most everything he encountered. 

Wylie had asthma – and his story about smoke was that he was the only person in Montana who had a prescription, written by Dr. Schroeder, to leave his home on Dickey Lake and spend the weekend in an airconditioned motel in Spokane.  I misremember if the story grew out of a disagreement on tax preparation or what – but it was a time when air conditioning was not common in the valley.  Our normal way to keep a house cool was opening windows at night.  While the technique let us escape the heat, it didn’t allow us to escape the smoke.

My own asthma was never as severe as Wylie’s – at the worst, all I’ve had to do is sit down and concentrate on breathing calmly to keep it under control.  As a youngster, I had a benzedrine inhaler.  It was a wonderful thing – sniff through it and nasal congestion disappeared.  Up until I turned 10.  My otc inhaler that gave me normal breathing was banned by the FDA in 1959 – but I was a kid, and didn’t notice the ban until it quit working a couple years later.  It seems the FDA was protecting me because some folks were taking the inhalers apart, soaking the strip of benzedrine treated paper, and squeezing the amphetamine out.  It’s kind of the first time I learned that government intervention may be in someone’s best interest, but not mine.  From my early teen years until my early thirties my susceptibility to allergens of all sorts increased – that, and a shoulder injury brought me a 1-Y draft classification . . . I think it translates to “the nation will be really desperate before we need this guy.”  In my thirties, the new wonder was a steroid shot for asthma – it was great, but I needed too many.  My physicians stopped that, and called for desensitization shots.  Somehow, I still think of that 39 cent inhaler that brought me such easy breathing . . . and the politicians who took it away.  It was such an easy and affordable solution.

My experience with relatively mild asthma gives a little perspective into the challenges that led to Wylie’s prescription for a weekend in an airconditioned motel away from the valley – and I suspect we have neighbors today who have even less physical ability to cope with the smoke.