Monthly Archives: February 2009

I had a different blog prepared for today, but for some reason I just didn’t think it fit right now. Friday is “Ham Radio” day and that was the backdrop for the topic I had. It was along the same lines as what I now type about, but different. Yesterdays book review had me thinking about some books I have read lately and the dozen or so I still have on the shelf to read that I got for Christmas.

One such book I have read is Freakonomics: A Rouge Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. It is a great book written by an economist Steven Levitt. Again this is a book that will make you think. One chapter he analyzes why drug dealers most often still live with their mothers. Buy it, check it out at the library or what ever but read it. Again it will make you think. Blame the two grad level Statistics classes I had in masters program for my thinking binge.

Anyway Freakonomics has a blog on the NY Times website. There are several pretty smart people who blog on it. And they make you think. Stephen Dubner has blogged on smart people. I find his last paragraph most though provoking. No I wont quote it, you will have to follow the link and read it yourself.

How do you define smart? What is smart? I once knew a guy in college who I considered smart until one day I caught him talking to his pencil after he made a mistake on a math problem. He was intelligent, but not smart.

I meet an agronomist once whom I considered learned but not smart. He knew all about the chemistry of growing corn, but he couldn’t do it if he had to. He wasn’t smart.

I know a Extra Class Ham who knows more about electronics that I ever will, but he isn’t smart enough to get in out of the rain.

And I know a few people who don’t have any initials after their name or titles before who are pretty smart.

So: Who is the smartest person you know and why?

The Unthinkable is a great book. I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. If it doesn’t raise you situational awareness and spur a desire to get better prepared for an emergency noting will.
I finished this book right after the New Year and must say that it continues to be on my mind. It was a fascinating look into who survives and why during a disaster. The neat thing was listening to survivor and flight crew reports after the Landing in the Hudson by US Airways Flight 1549 and remembering what was said in the book. Also interesting was listening to reports from the Ice Storm 09 on the radio not long ago and again remembering what was said and not said by those who lived through it.

I cant do review justice on this book so I will let the publisher do it for me. 

I highly recommend this book.

Editorial Review
From Publishers Weekly

Ripley, an award-winning writer on homeland security for Time, offers a compelling look at instinct and disaster response as she explores the psychology of fear and how it can save or destroy us. Surprisingly, she reports, mass panic is rare, and an understanding of the dynamics of crowds can help prevent a stampede, while a well-trained crew can get passengers quickly but calmly off a crashed plane. Using interviews with survivors of hotel fires, hostage situations, plane crashes and, 9/11, Ripley takes readers through the three stages of reaction to calamity: disbelief, deliberation and action. The average person slows down, spending valuable minutes to gather belongings and check in with others. The human tendency to stay in groups can make evacuation take much longer than experts estimate. Official policy based on inaccurate assumptions can also put people in danger; even after 9/11, Ripley says, the requirement for evacuation drills on office buildings is inadequate. Ripley’s in-depth look at the psychology of disaster response, alongside survivors’ accounts, makes for gripping reading, sure to raise debate as well as our awareness of a life-and-death issue. 8 pages of color photos. (June) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

6 out of 5 stars!!!  Get the book and read it!!!!!

Short comments today, busy between phone calls, paperwork and getting some precision ag stuff ready for delivery.

Yesterday evening I attended a Farm Business meeting at the Franklin Co Extension building. Daryl Lattz and Gary Schnitkey from the U of I went over crop cost, budgets and parts of the new farm program. Terry Swift, Franklin County CED, went over some high points on the farm program from his office’s view point. It was in my opinion one of the better Extension meetings in a long time.

So what did I learn? ACRE appears to be nothing more than a big GRIP policy. When do you buy GRIP? When your yields are better than county or state in this case. While the argument was that ACRE would pay about 30% of the time, most farmers down here wont sign up my guess is. Why? Loose 20% of your DCP and plus the paperwork associated with it. At least that was the rumblings in the room last night.

Also I was amazed at the number of farmers in attendance who have not been to the FSA office to see what is involved in sign up. Time is getting short so to speak as planting time nears. Plus all the signatures that need to be done. Plus all the forms for even landlords this year. June 1 is the drop dead date. In other words if you don’t have signatures and paperwork done by June 1, then your out. No late filing or late fees for being tardy.

As important as monitoring fertilizer and other input prices right now is and as important as watching the market to decide what to plant is right now, getting in the FSA office and getting started on this new farm program is just as important.

Get in there now guys…………..cause you have a mountain of paperwork ahead of you and your landlords. Don’t loose out because you don’t get done in time.

Not so much a rant this week, maybe more of a wonder out loud.

I don’t know if you would call it a game of chicken or not but things are starting to look very interesting out there as we wind down to the start of planting season.

In some areas here in southern Illinois we are maybe a short 4 weeks from seeing the planters roll. And yet there are a lot of farmers who have yet to make a lot of plans for the 2009 spring seeded crops. Fertilizer, chemicals and seed are still up for grabs with many sitting on the fence to see what is going to happen. How many? 50%. Maybe 60%? Don’t know, but it sure seems like a lot. More than I have ever seen at this point. Sure usually there is some fine tuning going on, but in most cases there has been no tuning at all.

Why is this happening this year? Lots of reasons. High input prices in November last fall caused a lot of guys to either buy or sit out. Those that bought are locked into some pretty high inputs for what has happened to crop prices. They are “upside down” in economic terms. Then you have to guys who didn’t buy, waiting on the cheaper prices that have come in some areas, but not all.

Friday I talked to a fertilizer dealer in the McLean Co area who told me that Anhydrous was still 900+ a ton there. Here it is running $650 or so. Lot of difference. But then again there is a lot of difference in yield potential also.

Yesterday I talked to a guy whom I consider to be pretty high up in the seed industry. They are sending a lot of soybean seed south this year. More than ever. They are also getting ready for a surge in bean seed demand for this area as planting time nears. Why? Guys holding off on purchasing corn seed. And their seed prices are up also. But again there are deals to be had if you are in the right area it appears.

All in all there is a real blue mood in the country side as spring approaches. My phone calls and emails are more economic questions than agronomic this winter. The best thing that could happen is for February to get over and then see a market rally into March. Then some decisions could be made and maybe then farmers could feel like they could move forward.

My mantra sense harvest has been to know your margin. Know your cost of production to the penny. Know it so you can make decisions on a split second when opportunity presents itself. Opportunities like when to buy inputs and when to sell your crop production. In volatile markets, both input and output, you have to know with certainty where you are at any one point.

If this spring is a game of chicken, then knowing your margin, knowing your cost, knowing your breakeven may be the only way you will be able to tell when the other guy blinks. Or it may be the only way to tell if he isn’t going to blink.

Has anyone made up their mind yet?

Some have, others have not. Here we are the last week of February and most farmers are still sitting on the fence on what to plant. Corn or beans? It depends. Allot will depend on what the market does in the next three weeks. But there is more to it than that.

Seed houses are sure that there will be a rush to beans. Or at least that is what they are thinking because they are taking every seed bean they can get their hands on to clean. I have heard of very few beans being rejected from my friends in the country side.

Corn dealers are rushing to give away corn now to those who haven’t purchased any. Got a phone call last week from a guy who said that they would give him 24 free bags of corn just to try it out sense he hadn’t bought any yet. $4000 worth of corn.

Can you afford to plant free seed? Don’t know but it shows you how desperate things may get here shortly.

But the market is not worried about anything agriculture right now. Its all economy. And until the market does something to show farmers what it wants, there are a lot of them who are going to sit by and wait for the signal.

The most important thing you can do is know your margin. Know your margin so that you can be ready to sell at a profit when the opportunity presents itself.

Margin, Margin, Margin. Know before you grow!!!

This is some Funny Stuff!!!!

Practice like you would play on game day. Those are the words of some coach that I cant remember, maybe it is a universal catch phrase that all coaches use. If so then it is a well used and well understood one in the sports community. You don’t practice one way and then go on the field and play a different game, or offence or defense you haven’t practice for. You study your opponent, practice your plays and then come game day you execute. Sounds pretty simple.

But the simple things are never easy.

Count this for what you will but it has occurred to me lately that none of the “emergency organizations” I am involved with actually train like we will play. Oh we have drills, but we don’t do things like it was for real. We don’t do the things in practice that we do when it will be real. We don’t practice under conditions like it was real. So we are not real.

We are not ready.

Let me give you some examples. In CAP, we don’t practice SAR it seems if the weather is bad. Why? Cause it is a safety problem, we don’t want anyone hurt. Noble enough, but real emergencies don’t happen on clear, calm, sunny 75 degree days with perfect humidity. They usually occur when it is miserable outside. So we play under adverse conditions when we have never practiced for them. Yet safety is stressed under those conditions and the mission goes on.

We don’t even practice for what ifs. What if the bridge is out? How do we get to the mission base? What if the cell phones don’t work? What if the radios don’t work? What if the power is out? What if, what if , what if.

What if…………………….

Ham Radio is no different. Field Day, as I understand it originally, was to practice for emergency communications from the field. Yet how many spend more time on the contesting part than on the field day part? Now don’t get me wrong, I love Field Day. I like the social aspect, the challenge of making contacts, setting up and tearing down. But what if anything do most learn from Field Day? Who brought the best BBQ? Have we let the other things get in the way of testing our ability to set up and work under Field conditions?

ARES is no different. We have nets where we do what? Nothing. Ok we do somethings, talk on the same frequencies, pass the same “no traffic” at the same time each week. We all know when it will happen, why it will happen and plan our schedule around it. We talk a good game but we don’t practice like we will play. SET? Sure, but again is the test set up like the final exam will be? What about your served agency? Have you ever practiced with them, in their buildings, their setups? How many ARES teams have never seen if they will be able to put up all of those antennas they talk about fielding in an emergency from their Served Agencies AO?

Are you thinking yet?

Let me leave you with this train of thought.

A few years back the discussion was that “we” needed to make RORO (that’s Roll On, Roll Off) antenna mounts for our vehicles. So that we could put up a mast at a mission base site for comms. Great idea. Except for the fact that you might need the antenna up with you need to Roll Off and go somewhere for something. Then what?

Then “we” came up with mast kits. Great! But what about sitting up a mast kit in an asphalt parking lot? Little hard to drive them stakes into the asphalt. Or what if its only two of you? How many people have ever set up a mast kit with only one other to help?

Ok so “we” said, lets just use the ole G5RV………but where are you going to hang it? What if all the trees and light poles at the mission base are blown down? Do “we” pack enough coax to get it from the place we hang it to the radio?

“We” got tired of me asking questions. But my point was that we don’t run all the plays we might have to run in the real game. There is nothing wrong with asking: What if? …….and why not? We must plan our training around how we might have to play the game. And when game time comes, if we practice right, we will be able to win the game.

Train like you will play and ask a lot of What if?……….and Why Not?

Chances are you have seen this guy, or gal, on the road lately. It would seem that they have come out of the wood work.

Yesterday I counted no less than 12 dead skunks in 26 miles. That amounts to 1 for every 2 miles. But in all fairness, there where three road patties within 20 feet of each other. But there are more every day.

What is going on? I don’t ever remember seeing this many skunks on the road this time of year. Well just like we have more car-deer accidents in October through December, we have more skunk-car accidents in February through May.

Yep, its the skunk rut.

Here is some skunk trivia you most likely didn’t care to know, this if from the City of Denver website.

Skunks usually breed in the spring, from February to May. A second mating mayoccur later, if the skunk did not find a mate, or fails to impregnate. Young areusually born in May or June, with the average litter being 5 to 8 babies. Youngare weaned at 8 weeks and typically, stay with the mother until they are 2 to 4months old. Some juveniles will stay with their mothers or siblings until thefollowing spring. Skunks are usually nocturnal, coming out well after dark.

I guess Skunks are pretty bad in Denver that they devoted one entire page on the city website to explaining dos an do nots of living with skunks.

You hit a deer and your going to pretty much tear up your vehicle. You hit a skunk and all you feel is the bump as you run over him. But you carry the smell all day, and the next day, and the next day and so forth.

The state gets out and picks up road kill deer and hauls them off.

I have yet to see a state truck stop and scrape up the skunks. What does that tell you?

You have a dark colored animal on a dark road at night in the dark getting hit by a car. I am just glad deer don’t smell like a skunk.

Its the rut, be careful out there.

Here are some links for your depression, I mean the depression. Some of these are just full of joy and happiness.

I don’t know if these guys know anything or not, but they sure make a good case. I find it interesting that the heard mentality is starting to take over on the economy. When 80% of all economic situations is emotional, and the heard strikes out one way, I tend to want to do the opposite. We will see who is right.

And in case you wondered where your 727 Billion went, read here:

I didn’t see my name anywhere on that list…………………

Dan Grant with Farm Week has an article in the Monday edition talking about what the 2007 Ag Census showed on farm size in Illinois. Not surprising to me was that we are loosing our “average” farmers.

It probably won’t surprise most farmers to learn the latest Ag Census numbers, released this month by USDA, confirmed the big farms are getting even bigger. But what may raise a few eyebrows about the 2007 Ag Census is the sizable increase in the number of small farms or “farmettes/rural lifestyle” farms in the state.

That’s according to Mark Schleusener, deputy director of the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Springfield.”We worked harder (for the 2007 Ag Census) to find the smaller farms and measure them,” Schleusener told FarmWeek. “This group includes people who grow vegetables and take them to a farmers market. I think its an important part of agriculture that is growing.”

The number of farms in the state with less than $2,500 in sales per year jumped from 20,801 in the 2002 Census to 26,879 in 2007. Meanwhile, the number of farms in Illinois with $500,000 or more in annual sales more than doubled from 2,845 in 2002 to 7,160 in 2007

See the entire article here:

There are also links to the census and to just the Illinois numbers. One thing is for sure when you look at the numbers. Our farmers are aging. In some counties the average age of the primary operator is at or near 60. No doubt that the volatility we see now will cause some of those guys not to want to relive the 80’s.

Speaking of the 80’s, on a related note David Kohl reports is Predictions for 2009. I find that he is usually pretty darn close on what happens. Really worth the read is his article in the Corn and Soybean Digest. Volatility upon volatility.

Remember, if it was easy, everyone would be a farmer.

S is for Sierra not Sugar. K is Kilo not Kilowatt.

Ok for you radio operators out there you must see the path this week’s rant is going to take.

I monitored two ARES nets in the past week. This and the recent ice storms EmComms along with the Letter to the Editor in the latest QST by KE7SJZ (that’s Kilo Echo 7 Sierra Juliet Zulu) A is for Alpha, really drove home the point

I have listened with amazement over the last few years as operators come up with their own version of the PA for what ever reason. It doesn’t matter if the call is a 1 by 2, 2 by 2 or 2 by 3 etc. some ops just have their own PA. Maybe because it sounds better to them or it sounds different or that catchy little phrase helps them break a pile up. What ever the reason you will hear things like Sugar Japan Radio, Tired Poor Operator, Extra Find Bacon, King Baker Radio or what ever. I like the “Extra” one because the two I hear use it the most are using “Extra” for X as in X-Ray. Either they can’t spell or believe that Extra starts with an X.

In Ham Radio Land, as well as the Military, it is called the ITU Phonetic Alphabet. ITU stands for International Telecommunications Union. Most of us call it the Phonetic Alphabet (PA) and leave off the ITU and some just call it the IPA which is fine as long as we are all speaking the same language. And that is the problem; we are not all speaking the same language. Some are using their own PA. Others are using a combination of the ITU and Law Enforcement (LE) PA. Others are simply pull things out to the air. But in Ham radio we use the ITU PA. You should have learned it when you studied for your Technician License. If you didn’t then you need to go back and review. I learned it at the age of thirteen in CAP trying to get my Radio Operators Card (ROP).

So what’s the big deal anyway, like it matters? Well it does. The object of ARES or any EmComms is to pass the traffic. That is to pass the traffic accurately. There are no awards for speed. And if both operators are not using the same “language” and hearing the same thing then the message doesn’t get passed accurately. There are no awards for creative enhancement or interpretation of the message either. Say it exact, no words left out or added and speak the same language.

Well what can I do about this? Well the late comedian George Carlin had an act based on what people say. One was called “fine”. He said people would ask how you’re doing and you would respond “fine”. Hair is fine he would say. And everyone already knows your answer when they ask. So he suggested an alternative response. When asked how you’re doing he suggested saying “I am not unwell thank you”. Two things happen, it’s not the response they are looking for and they have to think about what you said. So that is what I am going to do about it.

The next time Sugar Baker Candy runs one off at me, and it’s not an actual emergency, then my response will be Sierra Bravo Charlie. Yep, I am going to come back with the ITU PA and make them think. And if I do it enough times then they will either get it or quit calling me. I hope they get it.

I especially hope they get it if they are an ARES member or EmComms operator because lives may depend on it. Use the correct Phonetic Alphabet on the radio and speak the same language.

Stimulus Talk

Ok after listening this weekend to all the talking heads and analysis of the stimulus package, I have figured out who got stimulated and who didn’t. Or at least I think I have. Let me give it a try………….

An individual can get up to $400 tax credit. A couple can get up to $800 tax credit. Small business is left out. Small business didn’t “pay to play” like big business did. Woops, Small business could get $400 tax credit, but it will take $400 worth of tax preparation by your accountant to get it. So your still SOL.

I say “pay to play”, but if you look at who gets the big money out of this, it’s the very people who backed our new president. And while were at it, does anyone else see the same man who campaigned on Hope and Change is the prophet of Gloom and Doom.

You all know what a Chicago Stimulus Package is don’t you? Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House. One is from Chicago, another is from Tennessee, and the third is from Minnesota.

All three go with a White House official to examine the fence. The Minnesota contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. “Well,” he says, “I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me.”

The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, “I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me.”

The Chicago contractor doesn’t measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, “$2,700.”

The official, incredulous, says, “You didn’t even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?” The Chicago contractor whispers back, “$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence.”

“Done!” replies the government official.

And that, my friends, is how the new stimulus plan will work.

And Obama and Blagojevieh never knew each other either did they?

Here is Jerry Meculek sitting a world record for six shots a reload and six more shots, on target. I love watching him shoot against the boys with the auto 1911A1’s and beat their socks off………….

Practice, practice, practice……………

Congratulations go out to Chris Drone on being named Mayor of Eldorado, Illinois.

(Ok at this point, I know Chris is either laughing or about to explode, either way, I need the laugh right now!!)

Chris is gong back to school in Evansville to get certified to teach school. Chris has found out some of the same things I did when I went back to school at an “advanced” age. Things are a bit different than the first time on campus. But Chris has made new friends with his younger class mates. And in return for his friendship, they made him Mayor of Eldorado.

Before you all bake a pie or something and take it to Chris, realize that the kids appointment as Mayor only happened on Wikipedia. Seems they went in and did an edit and made Chris mayor for a couple of days until it was taken down.

As funny as this is, it is also sad to realize that you might not be able to trust anything you read on Wikipedia………..Might not hurt to Google your own name and make sure your not the Mayor of something.

OK, it got me this time……………….and I cant help it. On several fronts this time. I don’t know if its because I am tired, sick, sick and tired or what but I could just about say $#%^&*(!

I sat here today looking off and on at the pile of paperwork just to sign up for the farm program. I mean it is just unbelievable. In the past the very nice and helpful ladies at the FSA office have help you wade through this. But no more, says DC. They cant help, just hand out papers and send you home. Some of it is well your basic government double speak but most of it is just plain crap. I think that there is a paper to fill out equal to every acre I farm.

I also sat here today thinking and looking at the new IDOT and UCR registration needed just to haul grain in your own grain truck. Why all this? Because of 9-11. The Dept of Homeland Security requires this to keep track of trucks and shipments for terrorism. Just like the thugs (yea, I said thugs) at the airport who shake down 4 year old kids and 80 year old grandmas while letting “other people” go because we cant profile. Right. And I guess I am a threat as a farmer because I might hollow out a kernel of corn and ……………Yea I know most of you think I look like a terrorist anyway.

Which leads me to strike three on the good mood band wagon, CAP. After all that I read some of my CAP emails. What a bunch of dough heads. People who have never been in the military or in the woods, or in a real disaster are all a bunch of experts. They know so much about so little that they mystify me. I get a big kick out of someone who says “that isn’t military”. First off butter ball, your out of the weight regs to wear the uniform anyway, second you were never in the military and third we are not military. Were an unsworn auxiliary.

But in my medication induced stupor it finally occurred to me that these people in CAP are the same volunteers who grow up (at some point) to make rules like the farm program and the IDOT/DHS programs that cause nothing but grief…..

Where have all the sane, rational, good hearted people gone? Not to work in the government, and not to volunteer in the Civil Air Patrol. Oh yea, dough heads, this was FUUO and Unclassified. Hehehehehehe

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