Monday, December 05, 2016

From A Cancelled Christmas Special

     Apparently, this song was the breaking point, and National Geographic and The Hallmark Channel have dropped their plans for the "Olduvai Gorge Christmas Special."

     Still, I thought it was cute:

I want an australopithecus for Christmas
No other fossil hominid will do
No ancient frog
No thunder lizard toy
I want a australopithecus to play with and enjoy

I want an australopithecus for Christmas
I don't think Santa Claus will mind, do you?
He won't have to use
A dirty chimney flue
Dig him up under the floor
That's the easy thing to do
I can see me now on Christmas morning
Creeping down the stairs
Oh what joy and what surprise
When I open up my eyes
A fossil homind is standing there
I want an australopithecus for Christmas
No other kind of hominid will do
No Neandertals
No Homo Habilisuses
I only like australopithecuses
And australopithecuses like me too.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Cat Social Dynamics

     The subtitle should probably be "Food First!"

     The Huck and Rannie dynamic is uncomplicated -- he's a great big, bouncy, rambunctious tomcat in his middle years, while she is small, slender, elderly, and rarely interested in roughhousing.  She usually says terrible things to him in Cat if he gets too near; he sometimes tries to get her in a half-Nelson when he's in a playful mood and when he does, she complains in language that nearly turns the air blue.  She rarely raises a paw to him, though, perhaps because she knows he'd only take it as play.  Meanwhile, he ignores her growls and yowls with what looks like a shrug. 

     Both cats are now eating prescription diets.  Rannie Wu is on food to help her liver (and which she seems to have a lot more luck keeping down than regular cat food), while Mr. Huck gets something to help prevent the formation of crystals in his bladder.

     Neither cat minds the special food; in fact, they appear to prefer it. Rannie started on her diet a week or two before Huck, and when we went to pick up his food, all the veterinarian had was the canned version.  We put the dry version on order and bought several cans to tide him over.

     The cats are fed separately because Huck's appetites are truly immense and unless prevented, he will gobble down his meal, shoulder Rannie to one side and eat her food.  We've fed them apart for years.  With plain (though high-quality) kibble, Huck always finishes first.  He's slower with the canned food, taking time to polish every last bit from his bowl

     Rannie figured out something was going on when we began opening the can of Huck's food in the kitchen, but aside from looking up and sniffing, she didn't seem very interested.

     A couple of days into the canned food, Tam had fed them and on noticing Rannie was done, opened the door into the back of the house and followed Rannie to the office/cat room.  Huck still had a little food left and was working on it.  Rannie Wu walked over, looked at it, turned and shot Tam a "How could you?" look -- and then turned back, reached out and popped Huck good and hard on the back of his head!

     I'd like to tell you he took it to heart or was at least startled, but Tam says he didn't appear to even notice.  I stopped by the vet the next morning and got a half-dozen cans of Rannie's special food the next morning and I think she's forgiven us.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Quick Keyboard Note

     Today, I unearthed the little Bluetooth dongle for my PC and connected the Quirkywriter keyboard to it.  This is one part of a multipart attempt to "civilize" my desk, with a lower typing surface and -- I hope! -- the monitor on a repositionable arm.  That's yet to come.  For now, keyboard.

     This may speed the next steps:
     1. Finish clearing off the actual desk surface.
     2. Install the aformentioned monitor arm.

Why Is A Mouse When It Spins?

     Surprisingly few people know the answer these days.


     If you're keeping track, deli roast beef, black olives, Havarti cheese and some freeze-dried chives makes a fine omelette filling.  Especially if you add some Italian seasoning to the eggs.

Friday, December 02, 2016


     I participate in a little neighborhood online bulletin board, mostly by reading. My neighborhood, like many these days, is home to a few chicken-owners. Perhaps more than average, since SoBro is home to Agrarian, an upscale version of the good old feed & seed co-op and an excellent source of small domestic fowl* and everything you need to raise them.

     This is supposed to be a "new trend" but in fact, it's a very old one.  My Mom, who grew up in the 1930s and 40s, was a city girl and her family kept chickens everywhere they lived -- and milk-goats, too, if they had a big enough lot.  This was not unusual at the time, at least in the Midwest.  Mother never tasted cow's milk until she attended public school.†  (She and her siblings tended to make pets of the surplus goats despite being warned not to, which caused an occasional very awkward dinner.)

     A recent posting to the neighborhood thing complained of a rooster crowing at 5:30 a.m. (which is, by the way, a very fine time for a rooster to crow -- that whole 5:30 to 8:00 a.m. block, is exactly when they're supposed to be rousting folks out of bed) and wondering if the owners can't silence it? 

     There is only one way to effectively silence a rooster; the owner responded, saying the rooster was already overdue to go to the Great Beyond or possibly a crockpot, and screen after screen of horrified comments ensued: "Don't kill it, rehome it!" "Send the rooster off to a farm to live out its natural life!"  --The "natural life" of excess roosters on a farm is to get fed to the hogs, if they're lucky; but don't try to tell moderns that.

     But the capper was the commenter who mused, "...I don't think many of us realized that people who own chickens in the city were using them for anything other than eggs. There's something about butchering an animal in an urban residential area that just seems generally unseemly."

     Lady, it's a chicken. If you're not the kind of "wit" who cuts off their heads and lets them run all over the backyard while they're expiring, it's no more "unseemly" than what the local high-end butcher does with a side of beef and a collection of cutting instruments that may include a stainless-steel bandsaw, in a tiny shopping district in the middle of an urban residential area. It's a good deal less unseemly than what any of your neighbors who hunt will be up to in their garage if they're lucky enough to bag a deer.

     I don't dislike chickens, though I think they're dumber than a bag of rocks and considerably more smelly.  I'd need to be a lot hungrier before I'd kill and dress one, though I do love fresh eggs, especially when laid by a critter that lives outdoors and gets to eat bugs.  But calling out the normal process of slaughtering and eating non-productive hens (and perhaps even roosters, though IIRC, they're a bit tough and gamy) as "unseemly" when you only know it happens because your neighbors said so, is just about the silliest thought I have seen expressed today. Possibly this week.

* They also sell ducks.  This is a great temptation to me: as a child, I had a duck and so did my baby brother.  They are pleasant, garrulous creatures if you have enough yard to ensure the duck splat doesn't get too concentrated, who wander around all day "talking" to one another and eating whatever they find that looks edible.  Ours each laid an egg a day, rich and strong-flavored, excellent for baking and just fine fried.  Alas, Roseholme Cottage doesn't have enough yard for two ducks and a solo duck would be too lonely: they're not very bright but they're quite social.

† For reasons I have never fully understood, she managed to avoid public school until third grade. Both of her parents were fully-qualified schoolteachers and the family was moving around a lot at the time, so perhaps it was just easier.  On the other hand, she was the youngest child in a very large family and though Mother's mother was an unsentimental person, I do wonder if my grandmother succumbed to the temptation to keep her youngest at home for just a couple more years.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

I Seem To Have Been Raffled A Rifle

     The call came in last night and, eating dinner in the far corner of the house, I missed it.  The message was from a club in the northern part of the state and when I called back, they confirmed I'd won a Ruger 10/22 in a charity raffle!  A friend had entered Tam and me in it some weeks back and there were some nice guns to be won.  This one is third prize, a 10/22 Breakdown, easy to carry to and from the range.

     Still working out delivery details, but it's interesting.  I have my Dad's old Remington 941 and a much newer Savage, both .22s.* Adding a Ruger will be nice.
* While it's not true that I don't have much use for any caliber other than .22, I am very fond of it.  Light enough to shoot several hundred rounds in a single practice session, it's what I originally learned to shoot with and face it, if you can't hit the target with a .22, you don't have much hope of doing so with anything bigger.  Would you rather be missing at fifty cents a round or ten cents?  Or just over nickel per, if the last sales flyer the Data Viking shared wasn't a typo.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Somebody Get Him Off Twitter

     Or, what the hell, leave him there.  It's a window into Mr. Trump's mind.

     In the run-up to the November election -- a "choice" between root canal and having a toenail removed -- I remarked that major-party voters were being asked to choose between a candidate who knew exactly what laws she wanted to get around and how to do so, or one who was unfamiliar with the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular.

     So thus we come to the President-elect's recent Twittering that flag-burning should not be allowed, and so doing ought to lead to loss of citizenship or maybe a year in jail (a rather interesting spectrum of choices).  This is wrong -- don't take my word for it, ask the Supreme Court -- for reasons fundamental to the very nature of the government the U. S. flag signifies.  Worse, the cockeyed notion that U. S. citizens are "allowed" various actions by their government is an inversion of the very nature of the relationship and assumes anything not permitted is prohibited.  That's not how it works around here.

     The flag is just a piece of cloth -- a symbol.  A deeply meaningful symbol.  One of things it symbolizes is freedom of speech.  Even obnoxious speech or expression.  Even disrespectful expression.  Burning the flag, for example. A flag you can't burn is a symbol protected by the force of the State, a limit on a citizen's free and peaceful expression.*  A flag for which respect must be enforced by men with clubs and guns does not stand for anything worthy of respect. And yet, when a protester (or a vandal) burns that piece of cloth, the symbol remains -- unless we besmirch it by damnfool infringements of the freedom of speech.

     "A republic, if you can keep it."
* Interestingly, a very strong case can be made against flag-burning in areas with a high risk of fire; if you set a flag on fire during a drought or in the middle of a crowded theater, the issue is a little more basic than freedom of speech.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Abite. Abscondas. Bellum.

     It looks better in Latin, though Tam points out it needs the imperative:* "Run.  Hide.  Fight."  This useful advice is getting more and more coverage in the wake of the latest outrage, a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University that was originally reported as a mass shooting by over-eager mass media.

     As chastened as they ever get by this mistake, reporter after reporter has been standing outside of the nearest higher educational institutional building, solemnly telling me what I already knew: when the unexpected strikes, you have three choices: Get away, get out of sight, or put up your dukes.

     None of these well-groomed talking heads have yet managed to point out that you must make a choice: "Freeze where you are" is how you get killed.   Observe, Orient, Decide, Act -- and do so with alacrity.  The order is important: if you can get away, you'll buy time summon help and/or take the subsequent options, if necessary.  At OSU, one student reported that after the cellphone warning, "military people" who were fellow-students in her classroom shut the door, directed the other students to get well away from it, and arrayed themselves to ambush anyone entering.  Unable to flee, they hid and prepared to fight.

     "Be Prepared."  "Semper Paratus."  What'll you do?  Take a little while to think about it now, so you can decide more quickly later if trouble comes your way.
* No Latin scholar, I get the too-verbose, "Oportet te currere. Tu oportet absconditus. Aut necesse est bellum," which I suspect (to the point of near certainty) makes a hash of the grammar.

Monday, November 28, 2016

That Glow Of Homeownerly Virtue

     Seven Eight bags of leaves on the porch.  Tam was a huge help in clearing the greater part of the back yard. Gutters cleaned and I have once more promised myself I'll install leaf screens.  More Northern Creeper pulled up and the heaped vines will probably fill four bags -- if I can bag it at all.  If not, it'll go in the Bagster we still haven't set up.

     The Northern Creeper is trying a desperation gambit: leaves on the driest parts are turning a brilliant scarlet!  Very lovely but it still has to go.  Without much in the way of a hard freeze so far (but just wait!), the ground is still soft and it's easier to pull up the long, wandering roots and runners of these vines.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's The End Of November And I'm Still Raking Leaves

     Three bags of leaves yesterday and still a small pile of leaves in the street, plus three big piles of them in the back yard.  And the gutters still need to be cleaned!

     Say what you will, it's better than snow.  Way better.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro Is Dead And I'm Supposed To Care

    Thing is, I don't. Yeah, yeah, the dude handed the former USSR their very own version of Airstrip One and together, they and JFK cruised to the brink of nuclear war, along about the time I lay in bed with rheumatic fever clawing at my joints, shrieking in pain any time footsteps made the floor move even a little (and what a treat that must have been for my parents, an annoyingly-sick kid plus the possibility of atomic annihilation. Or maybe Khrushchev dangling that sword overhead helped make it bearable: at least if the commies started WW III, my parents and pre-teen sister wouldn't have had to tiptoe every time they went down the hall).

     Thing is, civilization blundered through and past that and Cuba settled down to a long, hungry stretch of irrelevance.  Sure, there was the occasional airliner hijacking, misfit revolutionaries trying to export themselves to a country that had already had its revolution and didn't want any more, no thank you Mister yanqui.  And there was the far larger flow of people headed the other way on whatever they could manage to get floating or, tragically, not quite.

     But that was it.  Cuba was no worker's paradise, but then, it never had been.  Poor as it was, the inadequate provisions of a communist regime were still more than the majority of Cubans had known.  Propped up by Soviet largess, exporting sugar and a few luxury consumables to the Warsaw pact, Cuba tottered on.  Michael Moore praised Potemkin-villiage hospitals and missed the struggling, undersupplied health-care providers serving the vast majority of Cubans; the country exported doctors and revolutionaries wholesale and retail, and it still never much mattered.  Castro handed off the reins to his slightly younger brother and so what?

     Castro's dead and so what?

     The TV is treating him like a movie star.  It wasn't a movie, people.  It was real and it still is.  You want to know the truth about economic systems?  Compare Florida and Cuba, 90 miles apart at their closest approach.  90 years and a century of progress; the difference between the poorest Cuban and the poorest Floridian can be measured by the dumpsters they dive into seeking dinner -- well, the Floridian does; Cubans still can't afford to throw edible food away.

     Capitalism, much like democracy, sucks; but in practice, it sucks way less than any other economic system the human race has devised.

     Castro's dead.  The only-slightly-better-off-than-before Cuba he built remains.  Talk about that, TV.  Even just a little.