Finding

I woke Friday morning with the powerful scent of Mephitis mephitis in my nostrils. Somewhere out there during the night there had been an encounter, and this perfume on the air was left behind for us all to savor.

The aroma is an enduring one, and prompted two thoughts for me. The first is that I have read that skunk scent has been part of the recipe for exotic perfumes, at least in the past, because it lasted so long. This has been discovered by many errant husbands who returned home from a “night at the office” with a distinctly non-office bouquet about them. Any wife with a nose and half a grain of sense recognized this the instant the man walked in the door, and then wrote the rest of the story by herself.

The other was my own encounter with the skunk, in my living room, six years ago.

I’ve told the tale before, but have more perspective now, I think. Briefly, I was reading in my chair at four in the morning when a skunk wandered in through the pet door looking for the cat kibbles it could obviously smell. The creature came through the dining room and went around the corner into the guest bedroom where it began to loudly munch on what was in the cat dishes.

Ten minutes later, once it had eaten its fill, it retraced its steps and left the house, never to return.

All of this I watched from my chair, paralyzed by the thought that if I moved it might startle the animal, and I would be dealing with one of the more powerful fragrances in the world sprayed on the walls and furnishings of my own home sweet home. And what, I wondered to myself, does one do about that?

The skunk itself looked as big as a Great Dane when this happened, but I have since come to accept that this was probably not the case. Experience tells me that a Mephitis in one’s living room looks easily four times as large as an outdoor member of the species.

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We are presently watching a series called “A French Village,” which is about a village in France. Oh, you got that? Sorry.

It takes place during the Nazi occupation, in 1941. We are enjoying it, perhaps because it has a bit more subtlety than many such productions with WWII settings, which are more like jousts between monsters and angels.

Not that Nazism itself was anything but monstrous, but it’s likely that there were some German soldiers who were schlemiels like you and I but who were drafted and found themselves in the middle of a nightmare. There are a couple of those guys in this series. There are also French heroes in unlikely places, and collaborators who were venal as well as some who thought they were serving their countrymen the best way they could.

Like I said, more subtlety. It’s also not a stomach-churning torture-fest, for which we are grateful.

You will find the series on Hulu, if you’re interested. Subtitled.

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Okay, have I got an app for you. Avenza Maps. It’s like having a real GPS in your phone. You download maps to it, and from then on you don’t need an internet connection. It knows where you are.

Scads of the maps are free, as is the basic version of the app itself. If you can’t find a free one for the area you are going to, you can buy commercial versions, including those great National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps, to download.

Then you look on the map for a blue dot. When you move, the dot moves, and it keeps continuous track of where you are. Ot, at least where your phone is.

It’s a hoot! Friday Robin and I went hiking in new territory, and used a NatGeo map to find the trailhead and then to track our journey. Periodically I would check the map, especially at unmarked crossings, and we wandered valleys and hills and forests in terra incognita on the Uncompahgre Plateau for three hours and ended up exactly where we were supposed to be.

At the end our screen looked like the pic above, with the orange line showing our path.

If you are interested, read more at http://www.avenzamaps.com. It’s available for Android and iOS.

[I received no commission for this blurb. I tried, but had no success.]

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I am indebted to brother Bill for the link to this song. It is said to be John Prine’s last recording. Poet with guitar. Beautiful.

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Never Have I Ever …

We finished up the first season of Never Have I Ever, on Netflix, and get this – there were no bad people on the screen in this series. Not one. The parents weren’t unbelievably stupid and the teenagers weren’t unbearably smart. There were minority characters galore, but nobody made fun of them or resorted to stereotypes.

Sexuality is a big topic in this show. The main characters are adolescents, after all. But no one is exploiting or abusing anyone else. So is it a too-nice universe? Not to Robin and me. This is a light-hearted comedy, yet one that touches on many serious topics, including the death of a parent, expectations of mothers vs. those of daughters, coming out as gay, the confusion of being an adolescent, cross-cultural rough spots, et al.

It never preached at us, grossed us out, made us depressed, or patronized us. Pretty darn good for 2020.

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So far using Zoom has been refreshingly free from melodrama. Until Tuesday, that is. The service underwent a major update a couple of days ago, and friends Bill, Sid, and I bumped up against some significant confusion in our third shot at videoconferencing.

We finally gave it up for the day after a trying 45 minutes, and went back to our drawing boards to prepare for a future session. Too bad we didn’t have a video recording of what went on, it was a classic demonstration of three senior amigos doing their best to pry open the doors of the electronic age one more crack. And finding this face peering back at us.

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When I saw this photo on the CNN website this morning, I immediately knew I was going to steal it. It’s a full frontal of a cassowary. You know, that large flightless bird with the enormous claws on its feet? That highly dangerous feathered friend? The article went on to discuss interesting things about its feather structure, but it was the picture that nailed me.

It’s a mad, mad, mad gaze if there ever was one. Merciless. If you could choose what the last thing you’d ever see in this life would be, what image to carry with you into eternity, I doubt many would pick the cassowary’s face.

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I’m so confused. Somewhere in my past I received the instruction that one should place two spaces after a period and before the next sentence. My right thumb does that automatically. Double tap.

A few months ago I read an article that discussed the origins of that practice and its uselessness in modern writing. I ignored it, and kept on with what I’d always done. Double tap.

But now no less an expert on things typographic than Microsoft has decreed that if I do it while using their product, it will be flagged as an error. One space is all that any self-respecting writer should need, and there’s no need to continue with this nonsense, says the software giant. You must follow their lead if you want to avoid that squiggly correction line appearing on your page.

Regard the above three paragraphs. I’ve used two spaces on the first two, and a single space on the third. Which looks best?

I’m was going to stick with two. Squiggly lines be damned. A guy can only be pushed so far before a stand must be taken. Besides, we Macintosh people have always known that Microsoft was The Evil Empire, and instinctually avoid them whenever possible.

But then I ran across this graphic, strongly suggesting that I was not only wrong, but that I was a cliché.

I wonder if the rest of my day can be salvaged? Quite a setback, this is.

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Out, Out, Damned Cartel

This was our nighttime sky on Tuesday evening, supermoon and all.

[The photo was stolen outright from the Montrose Daily News electronic edition]

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John Prine passed away on Tuesday, of complications from coronavirus infection. He’d beaten cancer a couple of times, but this little twisted bit of ribonucleic acid did him in. He’s written many excellent songs, but my favorite is Angel From Montgomery, which you can listen to here.

Vale, Mr. Prine.

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We finished the third season of Ozark last night. It’s basically your everyday Shakespearean tragedy grinding along toward disaster, and last evening’s episode took some long steps toward that conclusion.

Jason Bateman has done a great job playing an unflappable man who might be better off flapping once in a while. His wife, played by the excellent Laura Linney, does her Lady Macbeth thing, being able to switch from an expression of deepest horror to a reassuring smile and honeyed voice in less than a single out-breath.

The rest of the cast is very good, but I do have a small suggestion for the guy who plays the head of a Mexican cartel – take the melodrama down from 10 to about seven. I think it will work better for the character. If you want to see what I mean, watch a few episodes of Narcos – Mexico on Netflix. Menace is more interesting than rage.

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Beans and rice tonight for supper. When I saw this whole Covid-19 drama unfolding back in January, I didn’t really start to hoard (being a classy person, I am incapable of doing tawdry stuff like that) but did buy enough dried food, including pinto beans and rice, to last a week or two. At the time all the grocer’s shelves were full, hugging had not become the don’t even think about it! thing that it would, and toilet paper never came into a conversation.

Most of those dried provisions are still on the shelf in the garage, and I figured we’d better get going on reducing the pile. Ergo today’s (and many tomorrows’) menu.

I think I shared this recipe for pinto beans back a few months ago, when our Instant Pot was still new and we were wondering what to do with it. It’s still a winner.

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There are a few fruit trees blossoming here in Paradise. Many of them are apricots, a popular planting hereabouts. We’ve thought about putting one in our front yard, but there is one thing holding me back. Such a tree, if successful, will always produce more apricots than a person could ever eat, and somebody has to pick up the hundreds that fall to the ground.

You can walk barefoot on the apple seeds from last year, but not apricot pits. Far too sharp and pointy, they are.

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Well, just when I thought things in the Executive Branch couldn’t get any dumber, they did. I know the words “perfect storm” have been greatly overused since that movie of a few years ago, but there is now a perfect storm of quasi-medical horseapples rolling down the streets of Washington D.C., which if we don’t watch out could engulf us. Or at the very least get all over our shoes.

The reason … President Cluck and Doctor Oz are presently on the same collaborative page, advising people to go out and treat the Covid-19 (that they may or may not have) with drugs never tested against the disease.

You all remember Dr. Oz, don’t you? He’s the former surgeon who long ago left medicine, his integrity, and what wisps of common sense he was born with behind and became a full-time shill for diet crazes and a hundred varieties of snake oil.

You might say, hey, if someone’s dumb enough to take the advice of this pair of bozos, they deserve what’s coming to them. And you’d have a point. Perhaps we should look at it as a tool of evolution, where a handful of these easily-led citizens remove themselves from the gene pool by following the advice of such popinjays.

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The header photo is of Robin paddling up Pagami Creek, in the Boundary Waters wilderness area of Minnesota. Two months later what you are looking at in this picture was engulfed in fire, one of the biggest the BW has ever experienced.

This all happened nine years ago, so time and the inexorable forces of life have done much to repair the damage that a lightning strike caused. Pagami Creek is green again, although the new trees are smaller, and are mixed in with the blackened reminders of 2011.

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BS

Well, Mr. Sanders is a tough old bird, for certain. Not even having a heart attack during the campaign can make him take time off. He obviously desperately wants to be president – enough to gamble with his life.

Now, we need to re-emphasize the obvious here, and that is that no normal person wants to be POTUS. Period. End of story.

We, the people, can hope that the particular pathology of the one that gets the job doesn’t sink us altogether. The present holder of that office is currently involved in some serious foundering of the ship of state, so his time is up by any reasonable standard (mine, of course, being the most reasonable of all).

But Bernie? Can he lead? Who will follow? I remember too well when a charismatic and decent man with a fervent (and younger) following was nominated by the Democrats and went on to one of the worst electoral defeats in modern political history.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled on the night when George McGovern was nominated, nor more saddened at the magnitude of his loss the following November. And that loss was at the hands of a crook. So you’ll have to excuse me if I dither a bit about Bernie.

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Dear Ragnar: So, Ragnar, how does the American political landscape look to you today?

Ragnar: It’s fun to watch, but then I don’t have to live there.

Dear Ragnar: What do you mean?

Ragnar: Well, you’ve got this tangerine guy in charge who is just begging for someone with a strong right arm and a broadaxe …

Dear Ragnar: Better stop right there, Ragnar.

Ragnar: Okay, then. But then there is this other guy with the unfortunate initials, BS, who is running for the wrong job.

Dear Ragnar: Explain, please.

Ragnar: Let’s say we were picking a crew to get on the boat for a raid on England, one of my all-time favorite countries to attack.

Dear Ragnar: Go on.

Ragnar: Now who would I want to lead the charge once we hit land in Britain? I would want the fieriest member of the crew, the one with blood in his eye … and that’s BS.

Dear Ragnar: I’m beginning to see where this is going

Ragnar: So take this superheated guy and give him a sword and three cans of Jolt and turn him loose! Then you’d be playing to his strengths. But … and this is a big one … don’t let him do the planning.

Dear Ragnar: Yes, and why not?

Ragnar: Because when the chips are really down, the rest of the crew wants a cooler head to run the show. They’re all in the boat together, and as much fun as a good battle can be, eventually they’d like to get back to home and hearth and a flagon or two.

Dear Ragnar: So, Ragnar, in your estimation, who is that cooler head for the Democrats this time around?

Ragnar: Everybody else.

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These next two pics are for my brother Bill, who has fond memories of driving his pickup camper up Camp Bird Road to this famous rock overhang.

Spooked on the way up. Spooked on the way back down.

This past month a large chunk of that overhang fell off, and local jeepsters are lamenting its loss.

So unfortunately for Bill, it won’t be there for him to drive under when he returns to Camp Bird Road.

You were coming back, eh, Bill?

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Took in the Sunday matinee and saw “The Call of the Wild.” We enjoyed it. It is remarkable for having a Harrison Ford that is completely CGI’d, and a wonderful canine actor as well.

Wait a second, Robin is signaling me …

What? Huh? Nooo, really?

Well, dang. Apparently I had it all wrong, and it is the dog that is CGI’d and not Harrison.* Coulda fooled me.

I suspect that Jack London might have a quibble or two with the storyline of this latest adaptation of his famous novel, but no matter. No one has heard from Jack lately. It’s like he just disappeared.

*(I dunno. Robin’s usually right, but look at the photo. Who looks most like they are computer-generated, to you?)

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First They Came For The Socialists …

Robin and I had to do it. We forked over $3.99 to Amazon and watched the 2019 Oscar winner for best movie – Parasite.

It was totally worth the slightly less than four bucks, even though it was in the Korean language, and at the end of the film our eyes suffered from that flicking-up-and-down fatigue that goes with spending two hours in subtitle territory.

Yes, folks, the Oscar-winning best film of 2019 contained no examples of God’s language, not a single syllable. There wasn’t even any Coca-Cola product placement. And all of the actors were foreigners. And the cinematographer was a foreigner. And the director needed an interpreter at the ceremonies in order to thank people for his award.

Why in the world did we ever fight the Revolutionary War in the first place if not to get away from all that foreign influence and be able to do our own thing? We might as well still be talking British, for God’s sake!

But all of this booshwa aside, it was a very good movie, and you might even like it. We did. But be prepared for dark.

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These are trying political times, not just for those who are flaming liberals like myself, but for Americans of all political stripes and persuasions. Because the gang in power right now has forgotten what it means to be a democracy, and cares only to hang on to and increase their power with any tool at hand.

The people who support our immoral and unbalanced president think that their MAGA caps will save them if and when his goons come calling.  But the truth is that he is a friend to none of us.

I think the the story of Martin Niemoller reveals some parallels with our present situation. Niemoller was a U-Boat commander in World War I. When the Third Reich rolled around, he thought it was a good thing for Germany and was an early Nazi advocate. The growing anti-Semitic activity didn’t bother him much, either, because he really didn’t like Jews.

But as the Third Reich became increasingly savage, he began to see things in quite a different light, eventually becoming a Lutheran pastor and undergoing a complete change of heart. After the war he crafted a poem of great strength, which many of us have memorized.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemoller

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Coronavirus has landed in the USA, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s only a matter of time until it gets to Paradise. But Robin and I are making preparations that we are confident will carry us through.

For instance, now that primate experimentation is largely a thing of the past, there are lots of these old space suits lying around in NASA storerooms just collecting dust.

We purchased two of them, and although some alterations were necessary because our knuckles didn’t drag on the floor, and they do ride up in the crotch a bit, in general we are happy with them. We especially like the banana holster.

We’ve also rented a storage shed and laid in a modest supply of pinto beans that we believe will make trips to the grocery store unnecessary until the local epidemic has passed us by.

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As you can see, we’ve thought this through pretty well, including making these alterations to our home. But you know, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

Might I suggest that you call before you come over, just to be safe. And please have your hands well above your head as you come up the walk.

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Each year I bring up Valentine’s Day, the national 24 hours set aside for tender and romantic feelings, and then say something smartass about the history of St. Valentine himself.

I’ve decided that this is really beneath me, and will not repeat my tawdry and childish performances of the past.

I will only mention that this is the man’s skull, which is on display in a church in Rome. Only the head is displayed, which may have something to do with the manner of his departing from this vale of sorrows.

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It’s a fact that it’s generally painless to become a saint in modern times, but back in Valentine’s day it usually involved many tribulations followed by a fairly violent demise. Valentine lost his head, not over some maiden of the time, but quite literally.

Interesting that while the man is associated with romance he is also the patron saint of epilepsy. Both states involve temporary loss of control of body and mind. The major difference is that there are medications to help with epilepsy, while no one knows quite what to do with the man in love.

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Our Friend Oscar

Watched the entire Oscar ceremonies Sunday night. Three-plus hours. Was it worth it? Who’s to say?

There is some pleasure in watching beautiful, famous people having a good time. And a couple of the musical numbers were exciting, especially the opening one where Janelle Monae and a score of dancers really put on a spectacular show.

This year we hadn’t seen a few of the movies that were competing for best film. We totally missed Parasite, for instance. which only played here in Paradise once, at noon on the day of the Oscar ceremonies, when I was under the weather and could not attend.

For somebody who has cut the cable cord and only streams their video, tuning in to the Oscar ceremonies is a bit of a shuffle each year. What you have to do is find a service, like Hulu, and take advantage of their “two weeks for free” offer for the night and then cancel the next day.

But when you come back next year, Hulu remembers that you took them up on that offer in 2019, and won’t let you do it again. I think that we are now out of options, having been through Hulu, SlingTV, YouTubeTV and others, unless something happens to change this picture. I have no idea why we “streamers” have to play this game, surely our numbers by now must qualify us for something better than third-class status.

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Over the years there have been all too frequent reports of nutritional injury to pets who are fed commercial foods of one kind or another. As example, a couple of years ago, there were warnings issued after many dogs died or developed heart damage through deficient foods. Last summer the FDA issued alerts regarding 16 different commercial dog foods that put pets at risk.

So where is this going? I don’t even have a dog! But I have been feeding a mixture of commercial dry and wet foods for the life of our pets, and I have taken to reading their labels. (There are almost none that don’t have vegetables and /or grains and soy as part of their makeup.) I have not fed any one of them as an only food because I have learned that in the veterinary world no one knows if there is one perfect food that a cat can eat exclusively without developing disease.

Except the cat. If they are out there running around, they eat no vegetables at all, but mice-y creatures (mice, gophers, voles, etc.) and small birds. Now, no one knows if soy, veggies, and grains are bad for cats, they have just not been tested over centuries. We don’t know about them.

What we do know is that cats in the wild are are pure carnivores. They have been that way for at least 10,000 years, and their digestive and biological systems are tuned to those food sources.

So, the upshot of all this blather is that I am making my own cat food. It’s a mixture of barn swallows, hummingbirds, and meadow voles … naw, not true, I lied. Each batch I make starts out with three pounds of chicken thighs and goes on from there.

The additions are some vitamins, oils, minerals, and taurine, an essential amino acid. The recipe comes from a level-headed veterinarian’s website.

I don’t have freezer space to make this the only thing my kitties get to eat, so I’ve compromised by feeding the home-made product in the morning, and commercial foods at night.

Poco loves the stuff, and has gained a good (and needed) amount of weight since we started feeding it.

Willow … can take it or leave it.

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Heard a song on the radio that made me want to run right home and look it up, so I did. It is Willow, by Joan Armatrading. From 1977. Lord, the music that’s out there is an endless treasure chest, just waiting for anyone to stir it around and find something new.

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Robin has discovered the joys of listening to podcasts. She also owns a pair of wireless earphones.

These two facts have led to a new scenario at BaseCamp. One where Robin and I are sitting in adjoining chairs, me jabbering away as she quietly knits. It’s only when I pose a question and there is no response that I realize she hasn’t heard a word I said. Looking closely I spy the tiny pieces of hardware in her ears.

But am I affronted by this? Nay, nay, say I. I am way too centered and mellow a person for such petty piques. Often, I am actually happy about the situation, because now I get to tell my story all over again, to a fresh audience.

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Awright – we all have some Neanderthal DNA in our genome. No matter where we came from on the planet. This news is making scientists around the world buzz. My take on this particular part of ancient biology is what’s the big surprise?

We all know how it could have happened. Let’s say there’s a party thrown by a bunch of homo sapiens. They’ve already discovered fermented foods, some of which produce alcohol and are being served in gourds around the cave. Everyone gets a little tipsy and late at night the guests wander away into the darkness.

Next morning, some of them look over at the spruce bough next to theirs and – whuh? – oh no, really? Is she from the village across the creek? Now how do I get out of this one? Maybe if I tiptoe quietly away, no one will ever know?

That’s it. I’ll sneak out into the savannah. Jeez Louise**, if any of my friends ever find out, I am so dead. Gotta cut back on my drinking … .

(**Yes, friends, the phrase Jeez Louise dates that far back.)

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Paul Simon’s wonderful album, Graceland, introduced many of us to the a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, from South Africa. Beautiful voices and harmonies.

1987: Joseph Shabalala at left, baby Paul Simon third from left.

The leader of that group, Joseph Shabalala, passed away this past week, and his obituary was in the NYTimes. The song Homeless is from that album, and displays the group’s distinctive style.

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L’Etoile du Nord

Robin and I watched the Democratic debates Friday night, and we stuck with it for two hours before fatigue set in. And since Friday morning a viral infection of some sort had exploded in my nose, I am thinking that I deserve special recognition for watching as long as I did … perhaps a presidential Medal of Freedom … now that President Cluck has cheapened that award by giving it to a man whose only claim to fame is several decades of homophobic, racist, and generally ugly verbiage.

But I digress. After the dust of the debate has settled, who is my candidate on this fine Sunday morning? Why, Amy, of course. And Friday night, baby, she crushed.

Solid, smart, sensible, and from Minnesota. Neither too old nor too young, a proven record of accomplishment, and did I mention that she’s from Minnesota, where children grow up strong and resourceful and a credit to their species?

And did I mention that I grew up in Minnesota?

(L’Étoile du Nord is a French phrase meaning “The Star of the North”. It is the motto of the U.S. state of Minnesota.)

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Our system of sharing the outside world with the slavering monster-cat next door is working out … sort of. On the even-numbered days when we can let our pets roam, we feel fairly secure, with only all the other hazards there are for outdoor cats to worry about. On the days when ours must be kept in, we put up tolerantly with their complaints, especially those of Poco, who is by far the most vocal.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a workable compromise for now. Of course, being a very small-hearted person, I find myself daydreaming about all sorts of mishaps visiting that nasty animal.

Like a collision with our recycling truck, or an unfortunate encounter with a coyote, or coming into contact with an unusually disagreeable strain of kitty-coronavirus.

In all of these scenarios I wish for the end to come swiftly, so perhaps I am not unredeemably bad.

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It took nearly six years, and I had almost forgotten how flat-out stupid South Dakota Republicans can be when in the herd. But I was reminded of all that when I read yesterday that the SD House recently passed a bill which would make it illegal for pediatricians and family docs to provide gender-affirmative medical care to children under 16 years of age. Fines and/or imprisonment await the physician who attempts to do the right thing for their patient.

Lord, lord, who dresses these people before they leave the house in the morning? Who cuts up their meat for them?

How in the world did a major political party become opposed to knowledge?

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I don’t do well with illness, even minor ones, like the “cold” I am dealing with right now. I am like a silent film actor, exaggerating my movements and expressions to obtain the maximum amount of sympathy from those around me, to the point of falling into a faint if that’s what it takes. (I have had the vapors too many times to count.)

Not for me the stoic and the long-suffering Norseman. I want people to know that my cold is the worst cold any human being ever had, and that a person with a weaker constitution would probably have already been put into that long pine box you’ve heard so much about.

Suffering in silence? Why, I ask you, why? Where’s the profit in that?

But say, while you’re up, would you move that box of tissues closer to my recliner? That’s a good friend. And the fruit in my bowl is starting to look a bit tired, could you be a love and freshen up the grapes?

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Pantry Hazards

Every once in a while you come across something that is just plain startling. Out of the blue. Completely unexpected. Such was the case this morning when I was shopping online for some additional pieces for the set of Fiesta Ware dishes we use every day. In my Google search this question popped up:

Is Fiesta Ware radioactive?

Huh? Radioactive? What the … ?

So I clicked on the question and received this answer:

Homer Laughlin, the maker of Fiesta, resumed using the red glaze in the 1950s, using depleted uranium. The use of depleted uranium oxide ceased in 1972. Fiesta Ware manufactured after this date is not radioactive. Fiesta dinnerware made from 1936-1972 may be radioactive.

Amazing. My head was spinning. How would we ever have suspected that our dinnerware was the reason that our family now glowed in the dark? Oh sure, it was handy sometimes, like when you entered a darkened house and were looking for the light switch. Or if you wanted to read late at night but didn’t have a lamp near the chair you were sitting in. But overall, it mightn’t have been that healthy for us to be walking night-lights.

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Once again the Grammys have come and gone without me. Except for “Old Town Road” I knew none of the tunes that won awards. I barely recognize the performers.

In fact, I am so far out of that loop that the Grammy committee now calls me and asks that I not watch the show. Apparently my profound ignorance and indifference leak backwards through my television screen and are off-putting to the people who are on stage.

So out of respect for the music I don’t tune in. It’s better this way.

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From The New Yorker

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The commedia dell’politico that is playing in Washington DC at the moment is bringing back John Bolton for encores. You remember him from the “W” administration, n’est-ce pas?

He’s the guy who has parlayed a large mustache and a cranky disposition into a long and undistinguished career.

Can’t wait to hear what he has to say, can you? The squeaking of yet one more rattus norvegicus who has left the listing ship of state.

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Monday it snowed lightly all the livelong day, and we ended up with about three inches of perfect whiteness in the village. Robin and I had planned to go to the Grand Mesa for a bit of XC skiing, but we turned back when the road up the mountain was too icy for comfort. It’s one thing to go up an icy mountain road, it’s quite another to come down one.

So we took a snowday. All four of us (kitties and humans). We’ve worked out a truce with the next-door neighbors who own an unprincipled cat that is bullying felines up and down our street. I’ve tried to tell these poor souls that their pet is a spawn from hell, but they remain unpersuaded.

Since they are reluctant to do the right thing and call in an exorcist, we’ve worked out a schedule with them: they can let their monster outdoors only on odd-numbered days, and ours can then enjoy a demon-free environment on the evens. Monday being an odd-numbered day, we were a quartet of shut-ins.

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Okay, here’s something that will make reading all the way to the bottom of this page worth your while. It’s Amy Klobuchar’s recipe for a hot dish, as reported in the NYTimes on Wednesday.

Having grown up in a home where the question “What are we having for supper?” was met 50% of the time with the reply “Hot Dish,” I can completely relate to this story.

Of course, “hot dish” could mean almost anything, since all you had to do was to add some protein to some starch and blend cream of mushroom soup into the mixture and you had supper. If you wanted to get frilly, toss in some frozen vegetables. Green peas were especially popular at our house.

All of this just gives me one more reason to consider Amy’s candidacy. Anyone that can serve this much melted cheese with a straight face deserves my vote.

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Memento Mori Department

Bob Shane, the last surviving member of the musical group The Kingston Trio, passed away this week. Younger readers might say “Who?,” and who can blame them, but at one time this trio was probably the most popular such group in the world.

Here are a couple of their early hits, Tom Dooley, and Scotch and Soda, both featuring Mr. Shane. In the photo, Bob is the guy on the left.

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An Apple A Day …

Thursday CNN posted an article on some behaviors by Apple that have annoyed me over the past decades, even thought I am a great fan of their technology in general. That behavior is an idiosyncratic one, whereby the company decides when they are done with something and then just take it away. Forever, in most cases.

My new laptop, purchased just under a year ago, still has a headphone jack. That’s gone in some newer models. But my computer has no regular USB terminal, no MagSafe charging cord (loved it), no hard drive of its own, and who knows what else I don’t have that I don’t even know about yet.

It’s what Apple does, and they don’t apologize for themselves. So I now have had to purchase a portable hard drive for more storage, a superdrive that can read/burn CDs and DVDs, and a pair of dongles so that I can use them with the basic machine.

The computer itself is slimmer and sleeker, but the bag of stuff that I need to carry along with me keeps growing in size.

But what do I know? Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world. Ever. And I am just one lonely fan that they can poke in the eye with impunity. One day they may poke me in both eyes at the same time, and then I’ll finally go over to the dark side and enter the world of PCs, but … not yet.

I love it when they hurt me.

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From The New Yorker

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Robin and I have a favorite Indian dish, saag paneer. Basically it is stewed greens containing chunks of a fresh cheese that doesn’t melt away. We’ve been successful in making the greens at home, and I’ve mentioned that recently, but the paneer (the cheese) was another matter. No one sells the stuff here in Paradise, and even though there are recipes on the web that tell me how easy it is to make for myself, so far my efforts had only produced a rubbery substance that wouldn’t hold together to save its life, but crumbled away at the touch.

Turns out I wasn’t squeezing it hard enough in the process of making it. Yesterday I made some passable paneer here in our kitchen using my tofu press to get that last little bit of fluid out and it worked.

Little victories, as the great philosopher Robert Seger has observed, can be among the most satisfying of all.

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Robin and I have been watching the series “Outlander” for the past couple of weeks. If you haven’t, it’s a costume drama about a woman who touches a special stone and through some strange magic finds herself transported back through time to Scotland in 1743 A.D.

Now she’s a resourceful lass, and after having a bit of a shock at the change in her circumstances, begins to make plans to return to her own time. That is, if she can figure out how she got there in the first place.

In the meantime she is regarded with suspicion by the highlanders who have taken her in, and suspicion also by the British who are occupiers of Scotland. Apparently people don’t just drop out of the sky (while wearing only a shift) into clan Mackenzie’s lands on a routine basis, and her explanations as to where she came from are vague, to say the least.

But even so, there are lots of bonnie laddies and brave lassies, enough kilts that each man has at least one to his name, and some exploration of the time and place that highland Scotland was way back when. And all was going well until last night, when nearly the entire episode was about a wedding and a bedding. A whole hour with little swordplay other than that which took place in the bedroom, if you take my meaning.

I felt betrayed! I’d been soap opera-ed once again! So I checked and there it was, the clue I’d missed, that the series was taken from a group of novels written by … a woman named Diana Gabaldon.

So now I suppose there will be more of this sensitivity and gentleness that I saw last evening. Where characters take each other’s feelings into consideration.

And I thought it was going so well … so burly and plaid and all.

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Ordinarily I am pretty lukewarm on the subject of mountaineering, not breathlessly following the exploits of climbers up one peak after another. It’s a very hazardous undertaking, lots of people die doing it, and in my parochial view, those deaths are very close to pointless.

Who cares, I say to myself, if yet another climber is swept away by avalanches or perishes in yet another storm? They were there by their own choice. And all this talk about “conquering” the mountain? Poppycock. All of those immense piles of rock are standing as they have always been, while tiny humans clamber up and down about them over the decades and are mostly forgotten.

But then I come upon a story like this one, told in a very visual way, and I am caught up in it. CNN took some pains with tale-telling-technology in informing us about a group of Russian women who died while climbing a peak I never heard of, in 1974. For a few minutes I care about those women, as I learn the details of their semi-suicidal struggles.

They were young, they were strong, and they were brave. Were there better places to apply that youth and courage and energy? For me, the answer is yes. But that story would not be nearly as dramatic. And perhaps that hunger for drama is the point that I keep missing about this whole enterprise.

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GUY FAWKES DEPARTMENT

Well, here’s a couple of interesting pieces. The first one poses the question: Is Anybody but Trump a valid way to decide how we cast our votes? It’s a mildly shocking perspective.

Anyone But Trump? Not So Fast by Bret Stephens

And next, does being middle-class mean that you’re also liberal in your thinking? Turns out that it’s not a given at all.

The Myth of Middle-Class Liberalism by David Motadel

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Story of Tito and Amanda

My friend Bill sent along a news clipping from Florida. I include it below:

The article speaks eloquently for itself, and I only have a couple of comments to make. First, some mental aberrations are much funnier than others. Apparently Tito and Amanda believed in their product, and they might make a case for police harassment of an innocent vendor. Maybe. And since it’s pretty common knowledge that when Jesus wants to meet up with someone he often does it behind a KFC, there is that.

Secondly, the article doesn’t mention it, but I strongly suspect that the purchasers of those golden tickets were some of those barmy evangelicals who support President Cluck so strongly. If they’ll buy him, they’ll buy anything.

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Let’s play with this a little longer. If there were planets made entirely of drugs, what would they be called? I have four suggestions to offer. Perhaps you have others.

  • Crackitopia
  • Morphinia I
  • Cocainatus Prime
  • Methamphorian

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The critics are not quite unanimous, but almost, in panning the new movie Cats. I think the Rotten Tomatoes rating was down below 20% at one time. But Robin wanted to see it no matter what and off we went.

We really liked it.

Not that there weren’t flaws, but there was also a lot of music and energy and some really appealing characters. Who cares if the cinematography looked like it was shot through a lens of strong coffee when you get to see Judy Dench strut her stuff, and watch Ian McKellen in cat-drag?

There were excellent dance numbers, especially a tap-dance number along a railroad track that was terrific.

Forget about plot. The original musical’s plot was always pretty hare-brained but you were able to forget about it most of the time, because … it was forever about the music and it still is!

Songs like Memory, Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats, and Mr. Mistoffelees, f’rinstance.

So nya-nya-nya and pish-tush to those critics who are unable to find the fun.

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Our fearless leader may have finally gone and done it this time. Those of us who have worked at keeping our wits in a witless era have known that when you have an immoral and foolish person as your president, eventually he will do something irretrievably stupid on a grand scale.

Ergo – assassinating a general and then threatening to blow up cultural sites if the Other Side does anything about it.

The Day After War Begins in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni
Congress, Stop the Rush to War by the NYTimes Editorial Board

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The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions Department

We had an old Canon photo printer that we hadn’t used for several years because it would no longer play with our computer’s OS. I thought: Rather than throw away something that had been working, we’ll take it to Goodwill and maybe there’s someone out there using an older PC or Mac that can make the thing fly again.

So I stuffed the printer’s power cords into a plastic bag that I thought already contained some unused ink cartridges for the machine, and went to the Restore where they gratefully accepted the donation.

After returning home I was dismayed to find the bag of ink cartridges still in the car … what in blazes was in the bag I left at the Restore? I asked Robin and after checking the car she told me that I had given away a brand new pair of exercise pants that she had purchased only yesterday.

Back I went to the Restore, where the I found that the administrative person who screens donations had decided that they couldn’t use the Canon after all, and it had been trashed. The young man who had helped me at my earlier visit then showed up and told me he knew where the cords were. Together we went outside to a gigantic dumpster, whereupon he climbed up to a precarious perch on the side of the beast, leaned way in, and retrieved the bag and its contents from the top of the pile.

I thanked him profusely and then drove back home, where I returned Robin’s pants, which seemed none the worse for their brief visit to the dumpster.

Memo to Myself: Always check the derned bag.

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New Year’s Eve

The snow piled up until we were able to do something that’s never been possible in the six winters we’ve spent here in Paradise. We buckled up and went XC skiing right from the door of our garage. There’s a biking/walking path starting there that leads to open fields a quarter-mile away. It wasn’t a groomed trail by any means, but our skinny skis had more than enough white stuff under them to make it fun.

Something we both like to do is read the animal tracks in new snow. Day to day we don’t see much of these creatures, like the foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and skunks, but they leave clear traces of their night’s travels in the snow.

We have a neighbor a few houses up the street who has a video camera scanning his back yard at night, and each evening he puts out a dish of kibbled food. I asked him yesterday if anything new or noteworthy had shown up on the video recording, and he said: “No, mostly it’s just trash pandas and a couple of feral cats.”

Trash panda is his name for raccoons.

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As I was musing the other day … musing being something that I do quite a lot of since it requires so little energy and I hardly break a sweat … I thought how much repair and maintenance the process of aging requires of us.

Each morning there are the bathroom rituals that we must perform so that when we exit that safe space into society we don’t look as muddle-headed as we feel. Many of those rituals involve hair. Not the hair atop our heads, which grows alarmingly thinner with time, but that which pops out of places it needn’t and in directions it shouldn’t. So some shaving and plucking is often in order.

Then those modified hairs, which are the fingernails and toenails, come into focus. During each day they look for ways to chip and fragment themselves, having become brittle and unreliable. If one doesn’t give them proper attention each morning they will go about their business of snagging on anything they can, socks and sweaters being regular victims.

Did I mention the slathering of ointments and creams on one’s integument to stave off that parched look? The swallowing of tablets guaranteed to reduce the chance of croaking before the end of the day by 0.124 %? And fiber – don’t get me started on fiber! Suffice it to say that the Metamucil years are in full flower.

I could go on. Actually, I already have, and since there is no end to this sort of dissertation, I will simply stop here.

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Our Buddha’s hat has been added-to. He remains serene as ever.

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Today is New Year’s’ Eve. The last time we threw a party on this date, not one person attending was still present at our house by midnight, all of them having already headed home for those beds that called so strongly.

At least I think they were all gone, because by 11 P.M. Robin and I were fast asleep. And that was nearly two decades ago. Somehow the fascination of watching the ball drop at Times Square has diminished. And looking at the crowds on television I no longer imagine how exciting it must be to be a part of that expectant throng, but instead I think: What a field day it must be for pickpockets.

As you can surmise, a party animal I am not.

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A New Year’s Eve recollection. I was a kid, staying at Grandpa Jacobson’s farm for the holidays. The day being a special one, I was allowed to stay up until midnight with the adults, listening to radio broadcasts of celebrations in New York City.

The heat in that small dwelling was provided by an oil burning stove in the center of the living room. A black pipe led from the stove to the wall and thence the chimney.

At the stroke of midnight, Grandpa would take a piece of blue carpenter’s chalk and write the number of the New Year on that pipe. That number would remain there until 365 days later, when it would be wiped away and the new one inscribed. The year I am remembering the number was 1949.

I’m pretty sure that by 12: 05 I was sound asleep.

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