Paging All Biologists

When cows are in heat, they mount their herdmates.

This is a great boon for farmers, as we can see when each cow is breedable by artificial insemination.

But I can’t figure out the evolutionary purpose. The bulls do not need a visual cue; they smell the vaginal discharge from a fair distance away.

It can be a dominance issue, because dominance games are played out at all times, not just when a particular cow is in heat.

I doubt that it is simply for pleasure. They pleasure we and Chimpanzees get from sex is largely to make the female receptive even when she is not likely to be impregnated, thus helping the man stick around and expend resources on his progeny (See Jared Diamond’s “Why Sex is Fun). Bulls contribute no resources to their progeny, and the cows are not receptive outside of the heat period.

Can anyone explain the Darwinian imperative that would have led this behavior become near-universal in the cattle population (I say near universal because some cows do not mount, having what we farmers call “silent heats”)?

Perhaps the behavior is ordained by the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Seriously, I’m puzzled and I have stumped the science teachers at my school. Hopefully we count some renowned Darwinian behavioralists amongst our readership.

Panic Quiz

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader saw this quiz over at the Llama Butchers and decided to take it. He scored 67.3. The results mean:

Your score is : 67.3
A score of less than 50 means you’re likely to panic in an emergency. You’re not very likely to panic if your score is between 50 and 70. If it’s between 70 and 90, you’re panic-resistant. Above 90, you’re as close to being panic-proof as a human can be. Men should score a trifle higher than women.

Take the quiz yourself. How Panic Proof are you?

Like Robbo, your Maximum Leader thinks he missed a whole row of “X”es. He thinks he also misse some of the letter positioning items.

Carry on.

He Says Its His Birthday

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader extends his warmest fraternal happy birthday wishes to the Big Hominid. Today, August 31, 2005 is the 36th anniversary of his birth. As he himself points out, that is three times round the asian zodiac. So that has got to be worth something.

As long-time readers of this blog know, the Big Hominid is the Poet Laureate of the Mike World Order. He has on occasion been known to sing the praises of your Maximum Leader, and even tell of your Maximum Leader’s heroic origins.

This year Kevin re-ran his birthday post for your Maximum Leader. Well, turnabout is fair play (and your Maximum Leader could think of nothing new and interesting to write…) Below is the text of the post your Maximum Leader wrote for the Big Hominid’s birthday last year. He presents the Big Hominid Creation myth…

As we have all learned from Joseph Campbell, there are archetypes within the various religious and spiritual traditions of the world. After much careful research, your Maximum Leader can now illuminate for you, his dear minions, the similarities in the Big Hominid creation myth from the various world traditions.

According to the Nordic tradition, from the Ginnungagap (the emptiness) came Audhumla. Audhumla was the first creature, the primeval cow in fact. From Audhumla’s teats flowed the four rivers of milk which fed the next creature, Ymir the frost giant. Ymir spawned many frost giants who inhabited the world and became the enemies of the gods. During the time of the frost giants Audhumla found a salt lick to sustain herself. As she licked the salt, she created the first man, Buri. In time Buri found a mate and their child Bor was the father of the god Odin (Wotan for you Wagnerians out there). But after the creation of Buri, the tale of Audhumla fades. Your Maximum Leader has pieced together ancient runes and discovered that after creating Buri from the salt lick, Audhumla became constipated. She wandered throughout Midgard and Asgard seeking relief. After the Gods defeated the frost giants, Audhumla was found near Valhalla by Thor. Seeing her constipated state, Thor struck Auhumla on the flank with his hammer. A great torrent of manure flew from Audhumla. The manure mixed on the earth with her life-giving milk and formed a great boiling pit. Seeing the festering pit, the god Odin foresaw the eventual coming of a great being who would alternately use his powers equally for good and ill. Odin foresaw that the liquid would coalesce into a child. A child who would be known by his nom-de-blog, the Big Hominid…

According to the Greco-Roman tradition, Cronos (the titan and ruler of the heavens) ate the children he produced with his wife-sister Rhea. But Rhea determined to save one of her children. So she gave a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes to Cronos. Cronos, distracted by Gaia the earth-mother doing a striptease, ate the stone thinking it was his newborn son. The son grew to be Zeus. Zeus, in a fit of teenaged pique, faught his father and forced him to vomit up his siblings (Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Hestia, and Demeter); who joined Zeus in deposing his father and becoming the ruling gods. The little known postscript to this tale is that after vomiting up the siblings of Zeus, Cronos shat out the stone he’d eaten believing it to be Zeus. The feces-encrusted stone fell to the earth and it landed in the sea. The titan feces mixed with the same sea foam that would later spawn Aphrodite. The floating morass of titan feces infused sea foam drifted across the seas. It caused the destruction of Atlantis, and helped keep the sea monster Kraken entombed in the sea. But its greatest creation would come much later. That creation/spawn was to be the scatalogically preordained being, the Big Hominid…

According to the Indian tradition, Vishnu was walking one day and a lotus flower blossomed from his navel. Brahma sprung forth from the lotus blossom and set about creating the world. The oft forgotten part of the story is that after the lotus flower sprang forth from Vishnu’s navel, a Titan Arum blossomed from his anus and from that odourous flower were sprung a line of men who would join together the world of spirituality and scatology. It is said that this line of men continues to this day, and that the Big Hominid is known in some parts of rual India and Nepal as the 69th incarnation of the Rectali Lama…

Now you all can see the similarities of the various Hominidal creation stories. Accept them for what they are. And be joyous in your celebration of the anniversary of the birth of the one and only Big Hominid.

And if you are feeling really celebratory… Buy his book.

Carry on.

Jackfest Photoblogging.

Smallholder with his son’s Godfathers.

From left to right are the Maximum Leader, Smallholder, and the Foreign Minister.

Hold yourselves back, ladies. We’re taken.

Jack protests the ritual. “It burrrrrnnnsss ussss, nassssty protessssstants!”

At Sweet Seasons Farm, it is our tradition to eat flesh to commemorate major life events. The Minister of Propaganda joined us in roasting a home-grown pig for Jack’s party, an activity that requires the copious consumption of beer. The above picture is proof that your Naked Villains are real, rootin’-tootin’, carnivorous, manly men among men. Well, all of us except for Fabienne.

For Sadie

Here is Smallholder in all of his metrosexual glory.

Note the sophisticated pose.

Note the meticulously coiffed hair.

Note the designer clothes.

Note the imported Italian genuine leather shitkicking work boots.

Schiavo In Retrospect

The Schiavo autopsy confirmed that Terri’s brain was massivle damaged - the cortex had been destroyed by the intitial oxygen deprivation and subsequent deterioration. The optical centers of her brain had disintegrated and been replaced with spinal fluid, thus giving undeniable physiological proof that sporadic tracking of Terri’s eyes with objects (the family showed six instances captured over SIX hours in which Terri’s eyes did move in the direction of the attempts to gain her attention) was random chance - as would be expected given the rarity of coincidental tracking when viewed against the whole experience.

Seven of eight neurologists who had examined Terri ruled that she was in a persistanct vegitative state. The eighth, hired by Terri’s family, backed up his findings with theories that had never passed the muster of peer review. So the autopsy report didn’t tell us anything new. They simply verified the accuracy of every physician not hired by the Schindler family.

But the “Bloggers for Terri” are unrepentent. I remember one with particular clarity. It made me wish that my technological limitations were not keeping your humble Smallholder incommunicado. “We were wrong for the right reasons.”

“We were wrong for the right reasons.”


You were wrong for the wrong reasons.

Continue reading below the fold.

Ty Cobb’s Debut

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader would like to point out that today is the 100th anniversary of Ty Cobb’s debut with the Detroit Tigers.

Cobb was a horrible man in so many ways, but he was a great ballplayer. While his skills on the field are no excuse for his behaviour off the field, his talents are undeniable. He is one of your Maximum Leader’s favourite ball players. Your Maximum Leader has one sports photo in the Villainschloss. It is of Ty Cobb going “spikes up” into Jimmy Austin at 3rd Base in 1909. That is one of (if not THE) greatest baseball action photo ever taken.

In case you were wondering… Cobb hit an 0-1 (or 0-2 depending on who you read) RBI double in his first at bat.

If you like there is an AP article on this very item a friend sent your Maximum Leader below the fold for your perusal…

Carry on.

Bill’s Memes

The convivial Bill over at Bill’s Comments hit me with two memes as the school year wound down. I confess that I have been laggard by a month and a half with my responses.

So here’s the first. The task was:

Pick five of these and complete them:

If I could be a musician…
If I could be a farmer…
If I could be a psychologist…
If I could be a lawyer…
If I could be a missionary…
If I could be a gardener…
If I could be a painter…
If I could be an architect…
If I could be a doctor…
If I could be a linguist…
If I could be a writer…
If I could be a professor…
If I could be an athlete…
If I could be a justice on any court in the world…
If I could be a world famos blogger…
If I could be married to any current world politician…
If I could be a scientist..
If I could be an actor…
If I could be a chef…
If I could be an innkeeper…
If I could be an agent…

If I could be a musician, I’d be an acoustic folk singer who sang songs with a narrative, much like Slaid Cleaves. I’d include some biting social and political satire a la Tom Lehrer. I’d also put out children’s albums and make silly videos for Sesame Street and PBS.

If I could be an architect (a career I considered for some time), I’d build open, airy homes that sacrificed the empty space of today‚Äö?Ñ?¥s McMansions for smaller, more intimate living spaces built with high quality materials and a thoughtfulness. Perhaps I would write books in the same vein as Sarah Susanka.

If I could be a writer, I’d write science fiction. I’d take simple technological innovations and explore how they would change the social fabric. It wouldn’t be pedantic and dry; the social ramifications would be the backdrop for character-driven developments. Hopefully I could inspire my fellow novelists to think of their characters as more than sitcom actors with cool gadgets. Too many books simply don’t stop and think about the social implications of technology.

If I could be an actor, I’d star in B-movies like Bruce Campbell. I’d work on book projects that were true to the author’s vision: No atrocities like “The Postman” or “Starship Troopers” would be on my resume. Once my quirky charactertizations proved themselves in the marketplace, I’d use my clout to give the Minister of Propaganda the top director’s chair. My furious intensity and stunning good looks would leave me in the deliciously awkward position of turning down advances from Jaime Pressly, Jessica Alba, and Evageline Lilly. I’m married, after all. The best part of my fame would be posing for those library “Read!” posters.

If I could be an innkeeper, I’d run an agrotourism establishment. Visitors to the bed and breakfast would stay on the farm, relaxing on the front porch, savoring farm-grown delicacies, and even, should they be so inclined, having a chance to milk the family cow. The inn would be pet friendly, and for folks who don’t travel with their companions, we would have the option of having a pet go with the room ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ either a goldfish or a hound. I actually might do this one day.

Bill’s Book Meme

As a confirmed, bibliophile, this one is hard to tackle.

Total Number Of Books Owned Ever: Other than childhood books, I am still in possession of the vast majority of books I have owned. I have owned many. I love used bookstores, chain bookstores, yard sales, library clearances, and My family and friends have learned that a book is a safe gift for their beloved Smallholder. To quote Tom Lehrer: “More, more! I’m still not satisfied!”

I live in a six room house that contains ten free-standing bookcases. The master bedroom also has a built-in bookcase, as does the kitchen cabinetry. The dining room has two continuous walls of floor to ceiling built-in bookcases. When we moved to this house, a large portion of my collection would not fit, so over half of my books are now stored in the attic over the garage. So, without counting: a ballpark 3500. Mrs. Smallholder’s answer, again without counting: “Too many!”

My collection is heavy on American and European history, gardening, animal husbandry, biography, and science fiction, but there are bookshelves devoted to more esoteric topics. There is a shelf for educational psychology, a shelf for winemaking, a shelf for parenting advice, and one for military leadership. On the history side, I have a shelf dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt’s work (complete with bust purchased with the Maximum Leader at Sagamore Hill), two shelves of Churchill, an entire family heirloom bookshelf for World War II histories (heirloom not because of quality but because it was the first thing my father bought for his mother on his return from Korea. She kept it in her living room and stocked it with books and games for the grandchildren. We have continued the tradition of family bookcases for our children. One of the bookcases in their room was made by my maternal grandfather and one was made by my father-in-law). I shudder to admit it, but Mrs. Smallholder has coopted one of the shelves for Princess Diana biographies.

Last Book Bought: “Collapse” by Jared Diamond

Last Book I Read: I read books concurrently. The most recently finished in the rotation were:

Mark Steyn‚Äö?Ñ?¥s “From Head to Toe,” a volume of conservative political and social commentary,

Jared Diamond’s “Collapse,” which is hardly in need of description except to say that much of the conservative criticism is off the mark. In particular, Victor David Hanson’s condemnation of Diamond’s supposed opposition to private property revealed that Victor David Hanson did not even have the intellectual honesty to read the book he was reviewing. Diamond is actually in favor of long term private land ownership because it leads to good stewardship (he singles out an oil-company managing their fields for long term exploitation as a positive example). It is short-term rapine ownership or tenancy that he faults. Why would a tenant worry about erosion if he knows that the land won‚Äö?Ñ?¥t pass to his son? A very interesting book and a must read (take note, conservatives: in it’s entirety) for anyone who claims to have an interest in public policy.

Terry Pratchett‚Äö?Ñ?¥s “Going Postal,” a fluffy-read-a-chapter-before-bed book.

Dierman and Smith‚Äö?Ñ?¥s “War Without Hate,” a book about WW II’s North African campaign that does a wonderful job presenting the memories of veterans but is rather short on the big picture.

I‚Äö?Ñ?¥m currently reading McCulloch‚Äö?Ñ?¥s “1776″ and Hochschild‚Äö?Ñ?¥s “King Leopold’s Ghost.”

NOTE: I worked on this at the end of July but did not have a reliable connection to post. The book information is out of date, but does provide a snapshot of my summer reading. I’ve visited a couple used book stores since then, plus a library book sale and have added a couple of dozen books to the library. Including, the Minister of Propaganda will be glad to know, the crowd pleasing tome entitled “Physiology of Reproduction and Artificial Insemination in Cattle.”

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

Wow, it’s hard to narrow down the list to five volumes. I’ll put a few down.

Jim Paul’s “Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Engine” ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ loaned to me by a friend, I was reading it while waiting for my boy Jack to be born. It was the first book read to my son. It is an odd little book, but a fun read for those whose eclectic interests include military history, the politics of the current funding of art, and carpentry.

Gene Logsdon’s “The Contrary Farmer” ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ Practical advice and farming philosophy. Logsdon is an inspiration to the new organic farming movement. I have ten of his books.

Joel Salatin‚Äö?Ñ?¥s “Salad Bar Beef” ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ Farming as it is meant to be: family oriented, ecologically sound, with an eye to the consumer rather than the industrial marketplace.

Norton Juster’s “Phantom Tollbooth” ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ A Children’s book where ideas and intellectualism matter.

C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander‚Äö?Ñ?¥s fantasy series ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ which solidified the love of reading my mother encouraged since birth. I remember racing to the library of Springfield Elementary to check out the next Prydain book before the Minister of Propaganda could get his grimy hands on it.

Carl Schurz’s three volume autobiography ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ Visiting my wife in Evanston, Illinois, she was interested in this incredible used bookstore find. I knew that a woman who would listen to my excited monologue about the German-American abolitionist, Republican leader, and T.R. Progressive over drinks was a keeper!

Those are a few that just leapt to mind. There are others which influenced my general life outlook, political philosophy, and teaching, but I have already exceeded the limit.

The Future of the Cresent City

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking. Thinking about New Orleans and the Mississippi delta of Louisiana. Given the horrible news we continue to hear from New Orleans and from the Gulf Coasts of Mississippi and Alabama it is only natural that he should think about New Orleans and its future.

Interestingly enough, the WaPo has an article concerning Louisiana’s shrinking coastline and disappearance of tidal marshes. You’ve got to love the opening lines. It will cost billions of federal dollars to repair and expand the levees around New Orleans. Thanks to the Hurricane and global warming the problems of New Orleans are made worse.

Excursus: Have you noticed that just about everything is blamed on global warming? Pacific gets hotter - global warming. Pacific gets colder - global warming. More tornados in mid-west - global warming. Teenagers reporting more pimples - global warming. Teen pregnancy on decline - global warming. Male pattern baldness - global warming. Smallholder not blogging for months - global waring. Is there any observable phenomenon that is not attributable to global warming? Just wondering…


Not elaborated on in great detail in the article is how the system of levees and dykes are preventing the flooding that is required to keep the tidal marshes healthy and alive. Without the periodic flooding to deposit sediment in the marshes they die. (And with them the natural habitat of so much of the wildlife that makes Louisiana a “sportsman’s paradise.”) We see the same problems along the Nile in Egypt and near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq. When the Three Gorges Dam is finished in China, one suspects that we will see the slow death of the Yang-tze river delta as well.

So your Maximum Leader will go ahead and say what many are likely thinking. We should relocate New Orleans. Let the river, the lake, and the marshes reclaim the basin. Now is the best time to discuss it. Once we start rebuilding we aren’t going to stop.

Allow your Maximum Leader to say that he loves New Orleans. LOVES it. His sainted parents even own a condo in the city (the condition of which is unknown to us now). But if there is one thing that all of history can teach you it is that if you battle the forces of nature you will lose. You might gain a temporary victory. But in the end nature will have her way with you.

Why not just let nature do what she wants to do (and has gravity on the assist) and take New Orleans? Move the city up the river. It may cost billions… But keeping it will cost just as much and potentially more over the long run. The city continues to sink and the waters to rise. At what point does it just become illogical to continue?

Think of this as, perhaps, a chance to build a new and better New Orleans. Chicago and San Francisco both rebuilt and were better than before due to natural disaster. New Orleans could be the same. Surely moving the city is a huge undertaking, but so is saving it. Herculean resources will be involved either way. Look to the future. Is it better to move the city to higher ground and then rebuild; or just rebuild and wait for the next killer storm. (Which we know is coming because of global warming.)

Environmentally it would be a boon for the Mississippi Delta. Every year many square miles of marsh dry up and fall into the sea. The loss of which makes New Orleans in it’s current location all the more vunerable to a killer storm.

Long-time readers will know that your Maximum Leader loves history and wants to preserve as much of it as we can. But sometimes there are things you can’t preserve forever. You have to decide when to cut your losses. Think about it. We’re all paying for whatever decision is taken. (It is your federal tax dollar at work on those levees afterall.) Why not try to take a good one for the future of all New Orleans residents?

Carry on.

Bloggers Dissent

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees an item on the news wire about Egyptian bloggers and how they are spearheading the dissenters against Hosni Mubarak.

As many others have said, and perhaps we’ve said here, blogging, the internet, and the spread of access to information has a remarkably transformative affect on societies around the world. The roughly 300 or so bloggers in Egypt are not much of an “opposition” at this point. Even the article says that the blogs are only read among the elites. (One imagines internet access in many places of Egypt is a problem…) But from these small beginnings come the serious alternatives to oppressive regimes.

From the 1950s to the 1980s the dissenters in the Eastern Bloc were writers of underground newspapers and broadsheets. They were to poets who gave clandestine readings. They were the quiet voices. But they spoke nonetheless. By the time the 1990s came around those dissenters became politicians, prime ministers, and presidents.

It is a hopeful sign, these bloggers in Egypt. One can only hope that the government doesn’t block the internet sites or otherwise move to crack down on the authors.

Carry on.

They Only Talked…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees on the news wire that one Joseph Krist, an inmate in the Wilson County (TX) jail, found a way to lock himself in a cell with eight women inmates.

Krist was discovered after 11 hours of “detention” with the women.

The Sherriff is quoted as saying, “Everyone says nothing happened, they only talked.”


Your Maximum Leader suspects they also read the Bible, drank milk, and snacked on oreos.

Carry on.

Rejection - Weeks Late

Here are Smallholder’s two cents on rejection, the diva topic many weeks ago:

The possibility of rejection is further evidence supporting my “If you meet a girl and are interested, ask her out immediately” theory. Guys who take forever to build up their nerves are setting yourselves up for a harsher rejection. After you have spent a week/two weeks/two months building up an imaginary relationship in your head, the young lady’s rejection of your advances will smart more.

But if you meet a girl and ask her out, you will either get positive confirmation of her potential interest without all the leg work or, if she does turn you down, the rejection hurts less because you are not over-invested in the outcome.

My all-time favorite response to rejection comes courtesy of the Foreign Minister. He once approached a girl he fancied to ask for a dance. When she rudely spurned him, his quick-thinking comeback illustrates why Greg is my personal hero: “I’m not being picky. Why are you?”

Flying Spaghetti Monster Intelligent Design


I can’t wait until tomorrow.

Here is a snippit to hold you over.

I saw this in yesterday’s Washington Post and busted my ample gut.

We have been discussing intelligent design both within this blog and with some of our blogosphere friends.

Here is an example of another place where we ought to “teach the controversy.”

I know the Foreign Minister, our resident Piratophile, will be pleased to learn that pirates have been scientifically demonstrated to be the root of global warming.

Smallholder Returns

I’m here to chew gum and kick ass.

I’m all out of gum.

Expect posts on the morrow.

Hurricane Coverage

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been very concerned for the residents of the gulf coast. Hurricanes are not pleasant events. Your Maximum Leader knows that of which he speaks. He’s weathered out a few, and fled from one or two as well.

Before he opines. Give to the American Red Cross. Help the people affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Your Maximum Leader cannot add anything to the reports from other bloggers and news outlets But he will opine on one very annoying tendency he’s observed over the past 24 hours. The uncanny ability of news readers to cut people off who are “callling in” or giving “expert” opinion; but then not go to a commercial. Over the past few hours he’s watched Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. On all three networks they’ve had people on the phone who were commenting on the Hurricane. Sometimes they were people in a flooding building in New Orleans. Sometimes they were engineers discussing the leaky roof at the Superdome. In each case the guests were talking and the news reader/host cut them off and switched to a reporter in the field. The problem with this is that the reporters in the field have been saying the same thing for nearly 12 hours now. Nothing new is being added.

Why not let the guest talk on for a little bit? You’ve got all the time in the world. The storm is slow moving. You can’t get more video feed than you’ve got. Replay the feed and let the guest talk. You don’t need to visit Steve or Brian or whomever standing in the rain in the hotel parking lot to give you the update on how things look from there. Again.

You’ve got time. Let people talk a little more. The reporters in the field will still be there in 5 minutes…


Help out those affected by the storm. Give to the American Red Cross.

Carry on.

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