oh boy

A microwave oven showed up on my doorstep late last week.

So, yes, I received it and yes, it's what I wanted. (Sorry Dad, my email is acting up so I couldn't respond to your message.)


two wrongs don't make a right, they say

Torture is always wrong. I don't care how many lives may have been saved, though I doubt that any actually were.

The CIA and its apologists are trying to justify their evil actions by claiming that some useful information was gained via torture. They won't use the word torture, of course, but that is precisely what it was. And you know, I don't care how many lives were saved, not that any actually were.

Was there a doomsday device poised to shatter the entire planet? No? Well, then, you're just evil if you torture people. You have become as bad as your enemy, the so-called "evildoers" Dubya spoke of. You have done evil, willingly; you have become an "evildoer".

There is justifiable outrage around the world, along with calls for charges against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of that nefarious cabal. And there should be. In fact, I'd be surprised if they don't find themselves in the same boat as Henry Kissinger, unable to travel to certain countries lest they be arrested for war crimes.


the CIA report

Clearly, I have become jaded, because none of this surprises me at all.

I used to write about politics and government a lot. In fact, that is why I started this blog in the first place, a dozen years ago; I needed an outlet and felt bad about spamming all of my friends and family with emails ranting about Bush & Company.

But I had to stop writing about that stuff so much, and stop paying so much attention to it, because it was disruptive to my mental hygiene regimen. There are enough angry people out there. I read what I need to and I vote, and for today that is usually enough.

This latest report about the CIA's torture program confirms everything I believed, and releasing it was the right thing to do. We have to admit to this kind of crap so we can learn and move on. It is just like any other part of life in that respect.

This report also makes apparent the dirty details that made our government so adamant about our soldiers and elected representatives not being subject to the ICC.

And yet there should still be warrants issued at the highest levels. All the way up to W.


this 'n' that

Brakes, weather, shoes, holidays, etc.

Yesterday the UPS man delivered my new front brake pads, and today I installed them. It was a very easy job; most of the time was consumed by jacking up the car and removing the tires using hand tools. I had watched a 2-minute video on Youtube that showed how to change the pads, which gives you an idea of how quickly the job was done.

Rocko greeted the UPS man excitedly, because I had been telling him for hours that I was "waiting for a truck to stop here and bring me a box." Sure enough, a truck came and the guy gave me a box. Rocko sniffed it happily (and thoroughly) and pronounced it Good.

I had Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's house last week, and I wasn't even able to clean my plate. I simply do not eat that much at one sitting, so my gut wasn't able to take it all.  My usual "meals" consist of a sausage biscuit at work, usually at about 3:30 AM, five days a week; an occasional swallow of milk during the day; the odd handful of store-brand spoon-size shredded wheat, dry; once in a while, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, usually to make my stomach shut up so that I can get to sleep. And, of course, coffee at night and juice or Kool-Ade during the day. Once in a while I'll make some pasta and sauce, or heat up a can of stew, but then I have to wash pots and pans. Once the pots and pans are dirty, I'm done cooking for at least a week, not that I'd be cooking any sooner than that even if the pans were clean.

A couple of months ago, I cleaned out my freezer. Three-year-old chicken legs - probably three pounds or so of them; a two-year old bag of ice cubes, brought by Anna and Marina when they visited after Lisa died; three-year-old hamburgers that we probably brought from Florida. I left the two-year-old bags of frozen vegetables in there. Not sure why, I'll never eat them, but they could go on the compost pile.

I should really take multivitamins, but I generally cannot justify the price. This week I have many leftovers from that Thanksgiving meal, which I am eating a bite or two at a time, cold, right out of the containers. After three years without a microwave oven, I think I'm ready to have a small one again. With luck, I'll eat most of the leftovers before they go bad, but that's a stretch. Rocko is getting bits of the turkey but it's already getting funky. Even he probably won't finish it.

Dad and Velma bought me two pairs of shoes the day after our meal. I really needed them - the soles were coming off one old pair, and my toes were sticking out of the "good" pair that I wore to work - and I love both pairs. One is a set of New Balance "trail runners"; lightweight and airy, they are great for work and general walking around. The other is a set of Merrell hiking boots; waterproof yet adequately ventilated, not too hot on my feet, with nice gripping soles for rock-hopping and trail hiking. They serve me well every day when I walk around the homestead with Rocko. I'm glad we went directly to a store to get them, too, rather than buying them online; I was able to try on a number of different pairs and ended up with different sizes too. The running shoes are American size 9, the hikers are 9.5.

Ahh, the weather. I was expecting to wait until Wednesday to do the brakes, since today was supposed to be cold and rainy, but the forecast suddenly changed and it's in the 60's. On the first of November we had 3" of snow. Today, the second of December, I have houseplants out on the front porch. For the first time in a while I am sitting on the front porch playing my bass.

Ooh! The bass!

Back in October, Karl and Shannon and I flew down to Florida for my Dad's 80th birthday. (I promptly came down with a bad cold after we returned, and never got around to writing about it.) We brought along Karl's acoustic guitar and bass so we could play a tune or two at Dad's party. When we got back here, Karl told me that I could take it home (!) and I gladly did so.

I had been playing my friend Steve's bass, a truly enormous Dean acoustic with a long-scale neck. It's a nice instrument, but the only reason Steve let me bring it home was because he had a stroke a few months ago and didn't yet have the strength back in his left hand to fret the strings. So it was a temporary situation.

Karl's bass is a short-scale Fender acoustic, with an integrated pre-amplifier. It is considerably smaller than Steve's bass and is easier to play since I had only a guitar for years and got used to a short neck. My guitar is temporarily in its case, in the closet, since my house is quite small and I only have one guitar stand anyway.

I have a bass again, and it feels so very good.


seen and not seen

This morning I saw a respectable whitetail buck on my drive home; I was on a little back road down by the river, just after dawn, and the buck ran down from the road toward the river. He was at least a six-pointer, possibly more. Definitely a nice rack.

What has been unseen, except for physical evidence that points to only one conclusion, is a bear.

The first signs were down at the creek. Rocks were being moved from day to day; some small, some large, often upstream, sometimes leaving clear impressions where they had been dislodged from the soil.

Somebody had been foraging for critters to snack on.

Raccoons and the like might do the same, but a lot of the rocks that were moving were far too large, and had moved too far upstream, for a small animal to have moved them; feral hogs would have torn up the damp ground. The conclusion was obvious. We had a bear, which is cool, we just have to keep our eyes open.

Rocko has picked up the scent. A couple of times he has come running back to me after finding something that evidently worried him in the woods on the mountain behind the house.

A couple of days ago I found definitive evidence for a bear. I was near the northeast corner of the property, which is an overgrown slope with lots of briars and brambles. For the first time in three years, I was able to get through the mess and all the way out to the corner - thanks to a bear.

There was a path pushed through the tangled undergrowth, round at the bottom. Kind of like a narrow glacial valley. Only one animal around here makes a path like that, and that critter is Ursus americanus, the American black bear.

I'm happy to share my little slice of Paradise with a bear or bears. I have no trash outdoors and don't throw out food waste very often anyway.

I've hit a couple more squirrels with my car in the last couple of weeks, too. They're crazy. I've hit more poor beasts with my car this year than I have in the previous three. Then again, I've seen many more animals - ones that lived to see another day - than I have hit. Deer, 'possums, skunks, deer, geese, flocks of turkeys big enough to stop traffic, a bear, even a mink.

Today it is raining heavily. That's good, we need the water. On the first day of November we received 3" of snow here at the Château and temperatures have been generally cold since, with a few exceptions. Today, for example, started out fairly warm at almost 50 degrees F. It warmed up less than 2 degrees before it leveled off.

Naptime. My weekend starts tomorrow morning but that means that I must work tonight.


disappointment and disillusionment

That's what I'm feeling after this latest election.


Rest in Peace, Tom Magliozzi

Tom Magliozzi, from NPR's Car Talk show, has died of complications from Alzheimer's at the age of 77.

I've been listening to that show for over 20 years. Judi, my first wife, couldn't stand Tom's laugh. Fortunately for both of us, I would usually listen to the show while she was in church on Sunday mornings.

The diagnosis of Alzheimer's explains the retirement of the Magliozzi brothers a few years ago. Their show continues, in reruns, and I still listen to them every weekend.


the things you see

A live owl, a dismembered rabbit, and one suicidal rabbit that ran under my tire.

Last weekend one of my regular customers - a newspaper delivery guy - pulled up outside the store and motioned for me to come out.

A stunned owl.
He had an injured owl in the crook of his arm. He found it a block away from the store, up a side street on the sidewalk. It appeared to have been hit by a car, he said; it wasn't opening its left eye. There was no blood, but it was stunned (obviously, or it would never let a human pick it up).

I called the police dispatcher and asked for the number for animal control. It was about 6 a.m., so I didn't really expect anybody to be around. I woke somebody up at the animal control office, though, but he said that they "don't deal with wild fowl." I asked what we should do; it is a protected species and if we just let an injured bird loose in the woods, a coyote or bobcat could get it. The guy had no idea, so Terry said he'd take care of it until it could fly again.

As it turns out, just talking about coyotes and bobcats woke the owl from its stupor - it opened both eyes wide and twisted its neck around in both directions, as if to check for coyotes - and it flew away a short time later.

When I got home, just after dawn, I discovered what looked like an exploded rabbit in the road in front of my house.

Not a lucky rabbit's foot.

There was a hind foot on my side of the road, a mostly-empty skin about 10 feet away in the other lane (with a single, creepy eye staring at the sky), and the other hind foot was another 10 feet farther away but back on my side. Near the second foot was a smear of entrails, probably the result of an impact from a motor vehicle.

Later that morning I found the tail. It was in my driveway, probably 30 feet from the remains of the skin.

The most likely explanation for the exploding bunny is scavengers. They took everything worth eating (save one eyeball), leaving the hide, tail and hind feet spread around the area.

I took a few pictures of the first foot, then got a shovel and tossed the remains into the ditch across the street so the bugs, birds and beasts could consume it without getting hit by cars themselves. (Also to keep the carcass off of Rocko's radar. I don't want him snuffling around out in the road.)

The very next morning, I hit a rabbit on my way home. It darted under my car on one of the many curves on our road, and I couldn't do anything about it.

So, we had two unlucky rabbits but one very lucky owl. All in all I'd say that's a net positive.


the heat is on

At home the heat is on, at work I've had to call the heat.

On Monday morning, at about 5 AM, I had to call the cops. Somebody had driven off without paying for $106.53 of gas. He wasn't even out of sight when I called, and stayed on the main road to toward the next town. I gave a good description of the person and his truck, and they caught him a few minutes later.

The cops brought him into the store, where he attempted to make good on his debt, but we had already changed shifts by then and I had cashed out the drive-off. He tried to use the ATM to get cash, but that didn't work. And so he called his father, evidently a respected builder in Asheville, who showed up eventually with cash, allowing me to avoid having to pay for the drive-off myself.

I told the cop that, in my opinion, anybody can make a mistake. I made one by turning on the pump, and he made one by driving off without paying. As long as the money arrived to cover the gas, I was happy. And so I was.

Last week I had to call the cops to run off a pest. This guy has been barred from entering most of the convenience stores in the county, because he is a pest, a panhandler and petty thief.

He came into the store at a little after 3 AM, just as I was getting busy preparing coffee and breakfast for the customers. The first thing I said after "Hello" was, "I thought you were barred from this store." He said no, "I was just in court and the judge didn't say anything about this place." He asked for a cup of coffee and I asked if he had any money. Nope. Soon I ran out of patience and told him, "I'm the nicest guy in the world, so take it seriously when say GET THE FUCK OUT!"

Eventually he did leave. I gave him a pack of matches so he wouldn't pester me for a lighter, and he went outside. A few minutes later the town cop, Dean, rolled through without stopping. Chris (the pest) must be gone.  My regular 3:30 AM coffee-gas-and-smokes customer pulled up in his truck and I turned on the pump for him. Suddenly, Chris appeared from the shadows and started hitting up my customer for money. I called the police dispatcher and said, "Dean just rolled through here. Could you send him back? Chris Franklin is pestering my customers and I want him gone." Dean came back, picked up Chris, and took him to jail.

The cops tell me that Chris actually wants to go to jail. He's comfortable there. I was glad to help him get there.

When I was homeless, I avoided asking people for money, and I avoided spending a lot of time at any one store. Sometimes I'd get with somebody who pestered folks obnoxiously, and that was my cue to move on. I was never arrested for panhandling (though I did get a verbal warning once for flying a sign, something I never did again) and only barred from a couple of places; both were drinking establishments rather than stores as such.

Oh well.

The weather has been cool the last few days, down into the 40's at night and not reaching 70 during the days. No frost yet, but I'm keeping my eye on the forecasts. Several of my houseplants are very sensitive to frost and I don't want them to get burned. The dragon wing begonia was badly damaged last spring - almost destroyed - by a single frost, and one that wasn't all that cold. All of the leaves looked and felt like fragments of shredded rubber balloons. I cut the stems back to about 12 inches in height (the plant had been over 2 feet tall) and kept it watered. Now the plant looks healthier than ever, bushier and with larger leaves than before. I got lucky.

On a related note, I thought - until a few minutes ago, when I looked it up to provide a link - that my begonia was of the angel wing variety. Turns out I was wrong; it is clearly a dragon wing. And that's cooler anyway.


350 years and 8 days ago today

The Dutch surrendered New Netherland to those limey English bastards. [From History.com]

I apologize for missing the anniversary.

My 9th-great and 8th-great-grandfathers were there when it happened. They were Dutch and had been there since at least 1638; my 9th-great-grandfather is the Riker after whom Riker's Island is named.

All in all, life went on for the Dutch. They still spoke Dutch in church until after the American Revolution. The English forced them to choose surnames, though, and stick with them as family names. That lead to Abraham Rycken van Lent being called Abraham Riker by history, and of his many sons, and descendant, the next generation saw the surnames Lent, van Lent, and Riker.

I come down the Lent side. The most recent Lent in my ancestry is Mary (Polly) Lent, born north of New York City and buried in North Wolcott, NY, in a small graveyard that is overgrown and wooded. Her gravestone is, unfortunately, made of slate and has shed layers, leaving it essentially unreadable.

But hey! It's time to head down the river to the community center for the Tuesday night jam session.



Fluoride: Still Not Poisoning Your Bodily Fluids! (From Science-Based Medicine)

A couple I consider good friends are, unlike me, rather (read: very) paranoid. While I like them and do not want to alienate them, they are often full of shit. They believe in "chemtrails" and one of them, the husband, made the front page of a small local newspaper earlier this year as the focus of an article critical of the fluoridation of water.

He doesn't drink any municipal water (we're all on wells out here in the boondocks anyway) because it is full of "poison" and he repeats as gospel all of the lies available on the internet regarding fluoridation. He brushes his teeth with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, which will certainly get your teeth clean.

A couple of weeks after the article was printed, he had six teeth pulled. "They've been bothering me for a while," he said.

I don't know for sure if this couple is opposed to vaccinations. I assume that they are, since they are so beholden to false information. My daughter is also a friend of theirs; she's smart enough to see through most of the BS and I hope that she does. I'd prefer that my granddaughter receives all recommended vaccinations.


remembering 9/11

This morning at work, a customer reminded us to "remember" today.

Oh, yes, I remember. What do I remember?

I remember that one month before 9/11, pResident George W. Bush blew off a security brief entitled, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S." He told his staff, "OK, you've covered your ass now," and resumed his month-long vacation that he really thought he needed after only seven months in office.

I remember that Bush apologists have claimed that "no terrorist attacks took place on U.S. soil" during George W. Bush's presidency, despite by far the largest ever terrorist attack taking place on U.S. soil during George W. Bush's first year in office.

I remember that Bush and his cabal of neocon chickenhawks lied repeatedly to get us into war in Iraq, using 9/11 as an excuse. This despite al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein being strongly opposed to one another and having not acted together on the 9/11 attacks (or anything else, for that matter).

I remember that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, et al. were wrong about absolutely everything having to do with Iraq.

I remember that Bush's war of choice against Iraq set the stage for ISIS.

Most of all, I remember that more Americans died in the subsequent Iraq war than on 9/11.


is autism really on the rise?

From the website Science Based Medicine:

Autism Prevalence Unchanged In 20 Years

A very interesting read, and sure to infuriate the anti-vaxxers. That's a Good Thing™.

Here is a graphic from the article. It demonstrates the difference between correlation and causation, sure to piss off the rabid Organics out there:

Correlation? Sure. Causation? Probably not.


I just saved 50% on my car insurance

... without switching to Geico.

A few weeks ago, with my brother's moral and financial support, I finally had my car registered in North Carolina, which solved a two-year old problem: my Florida registration had expired at the end of August 2012.

Ever since my car's registration became current, I have known that I had to call my car insurance company to get a new policy. Unfortunately, every time I thought about calling them, it was the middle of the night, or a weekend day, or some other odd time when nobody would be on duty.

Today I remembered to call at about 4:30 PM, just in time to get in before the end of the day.

The people I spoke to were friendly and helpful, and at the end of the call I had cut my auto insurance bill in half. Some of that was from the $9/month Florida Hurricane Fund that I no longer have to pay, the rest was just because insurance rates are lower here than in Florida.

This is a big thing, saving over $60 per month, especially since I acquired health insurance last spring and that is costing me just about exactly what I will save with my new car insurance policy.

On the weather front, 3.27" of rain fell on my rain gauge yesterday and overnight - more than we received during the entire month of August. The creek behind my house looks a lot happier.