A couple of things I've thought about recently.

It came to me a few minutes ago that Amazon.com is the 21st century version of Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s catalog. I just heard a story on NPR's Marketplace telling how Amazon delivers all kinds of things to remote, roadless places in Alaska where there are no other shopping opportunities. The same type of service was the mainstay of the Sears catalog from the late 19th century well into the 20th.

Something I've been mulling for a while is that the growing fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and related terrorist organizations is starting to look like another World War.


band names

For some reason "Angela's Merkin" sounds, to me at least, like a really good name for a band.

It came to me out of the blue one day when I was trying to come up with an original-sounding name. The only problem is, I can't help laughing when I try to say it aloud.

What might be better is to spell it "Angela Smirkin" so the fans have an inside joke to share.


je suis Charlie

I hear that the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo has already sold out; 3 million copies were printed, rather than the usual 60K or so.

I've never read Charlie Hebdo and had never heard of it until the recent terrorist attacks, though it evidently has been in print for decades. From what I have heard, it is way out on the edge, an equal opportunity offender, and the assassins were offended by Charlie's depictions of Muhammad.

What Charlie Hebdo printed did not cause the attacks.

What caused the attacks was the mistaken belief, by a small group of extremists, that everybody in the world must conform to one religion's dictates.

Most Muslims don't believe that, of course, any more than most self-identified Christians believe the same things as the Westboro Baptist Church, yet right-wing types keep saying that all Muslims are guilty by association. And so, to take that logic down the Christian path, all Christians are guilty by association with people, places and events like the Crusades (many wars over hundreds of years), the Holocaust (the Nazis were nominally Christian), the KKK (Catholics excepted, of course), Jim Jones' church's mass suicide (actually a lot of mass suicides over the centuries, which is supposedly a sin that would send you to Hell anyway; hard to understand religious "logic" sometimes), slavery ... I could go on all day, really, citing every evil done in the belief that Jesus was smiling on it.

Personally, I self-excommunicated from the Christian faith in its entirety some time ago just because of that long and continuing association between bad people, bad actions, and a sense of religious entitlement or privilege among those who most loudly proclaim their Christianity - those who might benefit most from a thorough study of Matthew chapter 7 in their no doubt well-thumbed, ever-present, fancily-bound Bible with included concordance and zippered weather-resistant case.

To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, Christ's message is a good one; it's too bad the people who call themselves his followers don't actually follow his teachings. The same could be said of Muhammad.


it's my anniversary

Today marks seven years without a drink.

I had set a calendar alarm on my phone, to go off at 7 AM this morning - just as I was getting off work for my weekend. I chose that time because the woman who comes in at 7 AM, allowing me to leave, is in recovery as well and I wanted to share the news with her. Her demon of choice was opioid pills and I think she has about four years clean.

Seven years seem to have passed so quickly, yet so slowly. Tallahassee was a long time ago. I still look at the Tallahassee mug shots every day, but I see fewer and fewer familiar faces.


an obsessive survey- and test-taker's dream assignment

I received a postcard in the mail today.

"Congratulations! Your household has been selected to take part in a one week Nielsen TV Ratings viewing survey!

"In a few short days you will receive a phone call from us to explain this exciting opportunity. It is very important that your household is included in our survey. For our survey to be accurate, all types of households need to be represented."

OK, fair enough. Two things, though: a) The phone number they are probably going to try to call would be my land line, which I shut off in March 2013, and 2) I haven't watched TV at home since I canceled the satellite service in April 2013.

It may well be that they do have an interest in an empty tally sheet, showing no television watching whatsoever for what ever week they choose to survey, and I'd be more than pleased to acquaint them with my TV (non-)viewing habits.

Yesterday morning (Thursday, 08 January 2015) the low temperature was a chilling -1.7℉ at about 8 AM, but after local sunrise (when the sun crested the mountain) the temperature started to increase - as it is wont to do - and it kept climbing even after sunset. The high temperature for the day was overnight, all the way up to 34.7℉ by a quarter to 1 AM. After that it started falling again, bottoming out at 23.7℉ at about 8:15 AM this morning.

It was a year and a day prior to that, 07 January 2014, when we had that's season's coldest temperatures: -4.0℉ at my house. Pipes froze and burst both at the store and in the pump house next door to my house.


Mark Twain's grave site vandalized

A plaque depicting Samuel Clemens' face has been stolen from his grave site in Elmira, New York.  [From The History Blog]

From late January until the end of August 2000 I lived in Elmira at a halfway house. During my stay there, I did a lot of exploring on my bicycle and eventually made my way up to the cemetery where Samuel Clemens and his family lie at rest, overlooking the valley.

The stone that was vandalized is quite tall and, according to the linked article, whomever stole the plaque would have needed a ladder.

I do hope they find the plaque, but already they are making plans to replace it if necessary.


crazy cat

We all have our jobs around here, and most of a cat's job cannot be done by either Rocko or me. It's time to hire one on.

The mole population in my yard has exploded in the year since both my cat and my rat snake disappeared. I've known for a while that I need another cat; no snake has come along to take the place of ol' Ratty.

A friend of mine said that one of my co-workers might have a cat to spare.

I asked Shelly, my co-worker, if she had any cats to get rid of. It turns out that she finally got all of her cats fixed, so there won't be any more litters, but there is a male "crazy cat" that she "wouldn't really miss" if he found another home.

At first I wasn't sure if I wanted a crazy cat, but I looked at Lisa's picture and talked about it. "Remember what Jack was like," she responded, "he was feral when you came along. You turned him into Gentleman Jack. You are a cat whisperer. You can handle a crazy cat."

And of course Lisa (and my subconscious mind) is right. We described Jack as "feral" when I first joined the family, and I gradually tamed him - through his Catholic phase, where I needed to bless his food with "holy water" before he would eat as I sat by his side, into the Rocko years, and finally to the Pigeon River valley of North Carolina, where he truly became Gentleman Jack.

Shelly says that the crazy cat is a good mouser, which is essential, and she wanted me to promise that I won't force the cat to stay out in the coldest weather. "No, no, the cat won't be forced to stay outside," I said. It's important that the cat be happy outdoors and not need a litter box, but the cat would certainly be welcome indoors.


low oil prices

On Christmas Eve, my car's tank was down to the half-full mark. I topped off the tank for less than $14.00.

I've been ruminating on Saudi Arabia's decision to allow oil prices to plummet, and a couple of things come to mind.

First, low prices for crude mean less money for ISIS*, which allows the Saudis to do some harm to the loonies without overt military action.

Second, the U.S. has "drilled, baby, drilled" its way to the top of the oil-export market. Low prices for crude are already making production from some American oil formations unprofitable**, at least for now.

And, the thing that inspired me to write this today, low oil prices hurt Vladimir Putin. Surely the Saudi royal family sees that Putin is a dangerous factor for instability amongst his neighbors, and the Middle East is only a couple of blocks away. If Russia gets bitten as a side effect of Saudi oil policy, even if that is not the original intent, it likely would not cause the Saudis to shed a tear.

Gas is going for $2.30/gallon at the station down the road from my house. Premium is selling for $2.70 there, and diesel is finally below $3 at $2.99.

*When ISIS first hit the news, a regular customer at work asked if I was secretly with ISIS. "No," I said, "I'm with Osiris."

**And I see that as a good thing. Save some for later, eh?

rudy giuliani needs to shut up

That is all.


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.