Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cycling news

Hah! Lance Armstrong is cleared of doping. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, France.

More pond


We picked up some more rock for the pond, and trimmed the liner, and dry set the flagstones that will make up the edge of the pond. We need to work some more on the waterfall, and build up the edges a bit.

Tomorrow is my first day back at work, and I suspect that by the time I get home I'll desperately want to bash something with a sledgehammer. I'll settle for pouring concrete and setting the rocks I guess.

Ex-Marine news

I found that last story by googling "ex-Marine." Here's a few of the ex-Marine stories in the news this month:

An ex-Marine in Madison, Wisconsin, a Desert Storm veteran, is homeless and in a wheelchair.

A 78-year old ex-Marine in Riverdale, Illinois, was beaten with pruning shears by a 14-year old boy who had broken into the man's house. The ex-Marine fought back and shot the attacker four times.

A 29-year old ex-Marine from Pennsylvania, was convicted of rape after fathering a child with a high school student.

A 31-year old ex-Marine is running for Sheriff of Jefferson County, Alabama.

An ex-Marine in Columbia City, Indiana has loved being a mail carrier for the past 30 years.

Business is good for this ex-Marine, who's also a former member of the French Foreign Legion.

Cornered by thugs, ex-Marine kills 1, rejects hero label | ajc.com

Cornered by thugs, ex-Marine kills 1, rejects hero label | ajc.com

There's a few things that I noticed about this story. When I saw the headline "ex-Marine" I assumed he was a recent Afghanistan or Iraq veteran. He served in Desert Storm and was discharged in 1992. 14 years later, and he's working 3-11, waiting tables on Memorial Day. He goes on to say that "growing up in New York" shaped his response more than his military training.

The robber who died, a 17 year old named Amy Martin, was described as a 10th-grade high school student. Obviously not a scholar. Her family, predictably, blames her death on falling in with the wrong crowd.

There's a videotaped interview with Thomas Autry on CNN here. He seems like a soft-spoken guy.

I don't know why I find this story so sad.

I like coffee

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Giving credit

By the way, before I forget, I got the cool Spider Baby trailer from YesButNoButYes. He's got a cool section called The Grindhouse that's chock full of sleazy movie goodness.

Spider Baby

Spider Baby will give you nightmares forever! Her sweet kisses engulf you in a bloody web of horror!

Yes, I am a hillbilly


I actually used my grill to cook bacon. It was goooood. I did feel kinda bad about letting all that grease go to waste though.

You know he's right

Scary, but right. Click here to watch an entertaining and yet disturbing little video.

I'll be at the library, reading up on distilling whiskey from okra.

RATTLESNAKE MASTER !



No, that's not how I'm now demanding to be addressed by my wife and children. That is the name of a native plant that Miz Bubs ordered to go along the border of our yard. She called in the order to Possibility Place Nursery this morning, and we'll pick up the order in a couple of days. One of the cool things about Eryngium yuccifolium Michx is that its roots are used to heal rattlesnake bites. And also for impotence, venereal disease, and expelling worms. Once this plant is thriving I can move forward with my plans to start an obscure Christian snake-handling cult.

We're also going to plant spicebush, which has its own swallowtail butterfly, anise hyssop, tall coreopsis, smooth aster, blue sage, wild petunia, white prairie clover, big bluestem, prairie brome, copper shouldered oval sedge, wild bergamot, hoary vervain, birdsfoot violet, butterfly weed, prairie milkweed and geranium maculatum. Whew.

Tuesday morning coffee

Good morning. We're onto the second pot of coffee this morning, and it feels like a slow Monday here at the compound. Miz has returned to work, and I'm sitting here waiting for a contractor to show up for an estimate on a new front porch. I tried to get my doctor appointment moved up, so I could go back to work tomorrow and have the satisfaction of not taking an entire month off. Doc's office says that can't happen, and I can't even get an earlier appointment tomorrow. Oh well. Not counting the days that I was scheduled to be off anyway, and the vacation days that I planned on taking but which the Department has to give back because I'm on sick leave, I only missed 13 days of work. Not bad for recovery from abdominal surgery, I think.

Speaking of all things surgical, I just got all my bills and insurance statements. I think I did, anyway. Total retail cost of my gut surgery: $22, 740. Amount I have to pay after insurance: $965. I am one lucky man. $965, while a pain in the ass, is not going to kill me. For a lot of other people, though, that's a month's rent or a house payment, or car repairs that won't get paid for. This is how people in America go bankrupt. According to a study by Harvard University, over a million Americans went bankrupt as a result of injury or illness in 2004. The same study says that more than half of bankruptcy filings are due to medical issues. Here's my favorite quote from that second article:

"Our study is frightening. Unless you're Bill Gates you're just one serious illness away from bankruptcy," said Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the study.

Thank you insurance industry, thank you HMO's, thank you trial lawyers, and most of all thank you Republican party and everyone else who screams socialism every time the topic of single payer, national healthcare comes up.



Monday, May 29, 2006

Gore Wins!

Gore Wins!

I always love it when a pointy headed lefty intellectual enjoys a good splatter flick.

Some patriotic cartoons for Memorial Day

First, we have Donald Duck's response to Nazi propaganda.

Then Tex Avery and the three little pigs teach us about preparedness. Any similarity between the wolf and Adolph Hitler is purely intentional.

Popeye slaps the Japs and gets a furlough; once he gets home his nephews teach him all about home defense.

Bob Clampett sends Hitler on a bombing mission over Moscow, where he learns all about musical gremlins.

Special thanks to Bawb the Revelator, Mister Ph.D., who turned me on to the offensive banned cartoons and WWII cartoons website.

Remember, if we stop laughing at offensive cartoons, the terrorists have won.

The pond would be good for you...


Miz Bubs and her youngest daughter Hannah were amazing today. The pond, initially just a bourbon-induced fever dream, is taking form...we'll never have a pool, but we will have a pond, and the pond would be good for you.

Nora and I planted some more in the vegetable garden. We now have 3 kinds of tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, bush beans, radishes, lettuce and nasturtium flowers. In the herb garden we have mint, chive, garlic chive, basil, dill, parsely, cilantro, rosemary and thyme.

Defiant Gardens

NPR : Tending 'Defiant Gardens' During Wartime

"Gardens in the war," writes Kenneth Helphand, "...exemplified the struggle to create something normal in the most abnormal conditions."

This story comes along at a perfect time, tying together my recent thoughts about gardening and war.

Memorial Day is there for a reason


"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
--John 15:13

One of my regular beefs, which my wife and kids have long since tired of hearing, is this:

Holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran's Day are there for a reason, and it's not just a day off school/work, or an occasion to picnic. I always felt that my kids' schools didn't do a good job of teaching the history of the holiday, or imparting the proper sense of respect. Memorial Day, in particular, gets watered down into a broad, hazy day of remembrance. Kids need to understand, Memorial Day is there explicitly to honor war dead.

We both served in the Illinois Army National Guard, in the 108th Medical Battalion, back in the mid-80's. We were both 91-B, Combat Medical Specialists. Miz Bubs was in the 708 Ambulance Company, and I was in the 508 Clearing Company. We were in at a good time: we were discharged in February 1989, well ahead of the first Gulf War. I figure that any time someone can spend 6 years in service to his country and not get shot at, it's lucky.

So far, since our invasion of Iraq, 14 Guard soldiers from Illinois were not as lucky as I was, and have died in the service of our country. The most recent reports show that three more US soldiers died on May 25. They are:

PFC Caleb A. Lufkin

Specialist Robert E. Blair

Captain Douglas A. DiCenzo

So far, in Iraq, 2,464 US military service men and women have died.

I'll fight the urge to make an angry political statement here, and just ask that anyone who reads this spend a quiet moment, or say a short prayer, for the families and friends of the people who've given their lives for us.

Decoration Day

One of the things I really like about Miz Bubs' family is their tradition of going out every Memorial Day weekend to decorate family graves. I've been privileged to go along on a couple of these trips, which begin with everyone meeting at the picnic shelter in Elkhart, Iowa (population 362, according to the 2000 census.) There's lunch, and some catching up, and then a loose convoy drives around to 4 or 5 rural cemeteries, some more accessible than others. I try and keep all the relations straight, but I can't, so I just sit back and nod politely like a recent immigrant and try to be a good listener. I was sad to miss it this year.

There's something so sweet to me about all these generations, living and dead, connected through the shared task of maintaining and decorating rural graves. There are the graves of family members, and then there are the other graves you see: the veterans' graves, marked with flags, the small markers of children, entire families buried in a short time due to fever or milk sickness. It reminds me that all of us are where we are thanks to the work and sacrifice (or in some cases, the monumental failures) of those who've gone before us.

Miz Bubs' sister recently wrote about her trips to the cemeteries as a young girl and wondering what the people buried there had been like. She makes a good point that grave markers should contain mini-biographies so that strangers visiting years later can have a better sense of the dead. I like that. I've officially stolen that idea and have put my children to work on coming up with a good epitaph that will capture who I was, once I'm dead.

While we were in Key West we visited the cemetery. I don't know exactly why this is, but I've always loved graveyards, and my bride and kids are the same way. The Key West cemetery seemed more cheerful, somehow, than any other graveyard. So many of the graves, even the old ones, had fresh flowers and were clearly being taken care of by someone who cared. Some of the family plots had markers for favorite pets that were buried next to their humans. There were feral chickens roaming around, and the random crowing of roosters in the afternoon sun added a jaunty note. Some of the headstones are famous for their epitaphs: "I told you I was sick" or "devoted fan of Julio Iglesias." Many of the headstones bore photographs of the person buried, which is something I've only seen before on some Gypsy and eastern European graves. It seemed much more popular in Key West, which I liked. It's neat to think of someone walking by your grave and thinking, "what a good-looking guy he was" or "wow, she looked like fun."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gardening

God bless my wife. She's full of ideas and enthusiasm, and it's amazing just how often she knows exactly what I need. Like today.

We'd managed to make it to church, which was good and needed. The first two Sundays this month I was moping around contemplating my incision and didn't feel like leaving the house much, and last Sunday we were on vacation. We found out earlier this month that our pastor is going to another congregation, and I've been coming to terms with how badly I've taken him (and his wife, also a minister) for granted. Our church is wonderful, and I can't say enough about how much comfort I've gained from it over the years. I've been struggling over the past year to attend services more often. Anyway, Rev. Lynn was doing the children's time during the service, and I was looking at all of the young people standing up there, and I was nearly overwhelmed with the awareness of the passage of time. Seeing 15 year olds standing up there while simultaneously having such clear memories of those kids as toddlers was too much. We spent some time talking afterward, and then came home.

I was busy poking around the house, doing laundry, trying to reconnect to everything here after coming home. I've been away from work for nearly a month, and I have a doctor's appointment Wednesday, when he'll clear me to return to full duty. I've been thinking about that a lot, and most of it's not good. After 17 + years of police work, as B.B. King might say, the thrill is gone. I wouldn't say I was bummed out this afternoon, just a little out of sorts.

Miz Bubs, girl genius, went out and ran some errands. She came home with plants (tomato and rosemary) soil amendments (manure, pearlite and peat) and recycled wood to build a frame for a 4x4 garden bed. We'd been talking about it before vacation, but I was fuzzy about the actual when and where. I got off my ass and went outside, and helped put the frame together. Then I worked the amendments into the soil (she still won't let me lift the manure bags or use the wheelbarrow) and helped plant the tomatoes. We planted lettuce seed also. Then we went and weeded the herb garden, and planted the rosemary, along with parsley and basil seeds. We already have chive, garlic chive, mint and sage. Finally, we transplanted some wild geranium. My final bit of gardening was cutting some fresh mint for mint juleps. Miz Bubs, lady dynamo, stayed out in the yard working on the pond and breaking rocks with a sledgehammer. I think she also killed a badger while I cooked dinner.

Back in the early to mid 1990's we had an amazing vegetable garden. It took up a 12x30 foot area in our backyard, and was fenced with chicken wire and posts, with a wonderful gate. We had a triple compost bin made of old wooden grocery pallets. I mention this because, we stopped gardening in 1998--the last time we visited my cousins in Florida. We returned home from vacation that year, and the garden was overgrown, and we just never got it back in shape. I spent what was, for me, a crazy amount of time on the job back then--there was one stretch where I went a little over three months with only 9 days off. Looking back, those were the most hectic and probably least happy years in my adult life.

Now, 8 years later, after returning from a vacation to Florida, we're planting a new garden. We've gone back to using the methods advocated by Mel Bartholomew; Square Foot Gardening is simple, efficient and organic, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out this summer. Gardening makes you feel connected, it puts you in touch instead of making you feel like you're watching time pass, apart from all the changes you see. It feels really, really good. And it's all thanks to my wife.

Why can't my front yard look like this?


This is the view from our room in Marathon Florida last week. The ocean is off to the left. If you follow the water to the right you go back into the mangrove swamps.

Pagan Island

Mentally I'm still in the Keys. Last night, to unwind, I made us a couple of Eastern Sours:

Juice of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 oz orgeat
1/2 oz bar syrup
2 oz bourbon

Shake and serve in a double highball glass over crushed ice. I garnished ours with a cherry and an orange slice. The experience would have been perfect if I'd had this movie to watch.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Vacation's over

And that means that it's time to get back to bidness, remorselessly searching for the most relevant news items that I can find. Like this story (note to self: work up a grant proposal to study why so much of my freak news items lately have been from New Zealand.)

I'll have a little more about vacation in the next day or so. It was lovely.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

At least alligators can't fly

So I'm at Fort Myers beach, doing my best to continue with my healing regimen of sunbathing while soaking in ocean water and rum. I've had a splendid time floating in the ocean, watching brown pelicans swooping and diving nearby, when I remember that it's time to put money in the parking meter.

I walked back to the car, and as I walked under a group of palm trees, right next to an educational display about sea turtles, I felt a sudden sharp "whack" in the back of my head. Accompanied by a loud screeching and a dark flapping in my peripheral vision. Then I felt something on the back of my neck and a series of sharp pokes to the back of my head, like someone jabbing me with a car key. I dropped onto my knees about the same time I realized I was being attacked. By birds. At the seashore, just like Hitchcock's movie. I began waving my arms around and ducked my head, and saw I was being harassed by two crows and some funny looking brown bird with spindly legs and a long, pointy beak. I made it to the car and they let up, and I looked over to see some guy sitting in his car gaping at me and my birds. I fed the meter and took the long way back to the beach, undisturbed. The guy in the car was still sitting there as I walked away, apparently afraid to get out. When I got to the stairs leading down to the sand, I saw a woman get pecked on the back of her head, once, as her friend shrieked. I told her I fell down when it happened to me, so she should be thankful she at least kept her dignity under bird attack.

I got back to the beach and told everyone what happened. No one believed me. I waded back into the soothing waters to nurse my wounds, hoping that sharks can't smell human bird fear.

When I came back, Miz Bubs and my cousins excitedly told me that they had seen the demon birds, and that a group of about a half-dozen blackbirds were busy attacking tourists as I had described. We spent the next half hour watching a steady procession of crying children and fat sunbaked Europeans learning the hard lesson that nature, especially in Florida, hates us all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

We remain unmolested by alligators

If only we could say the same for no-see-ums and sand fleas. The Florida keys are beautiful, and the place we stayed was truly wonderful and unique. I'm wrestling with the logistics of downloading pictures while we're at my cousins, so hopefully I'll have some pictures up soon. Now, good readers, it's off to the beach. I'm a sick man, and I need the salt water and sunshine to assist in my recovery.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Time for a racy Brit commercial

It amazes me what gets shown on TV outside the US. This is an ad for, eh, a, uh "personal lubricant" that I found on the Guardian site. It features disturbing fetishists in bunny suits.

And on that note, I'm outta here. It's time for vacation!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tiki Drinks to stimulate and delight you

Ahhh, it's like I'm on vacation already...the girls are very nearly done packing, my last load of laundry is in, we've got new sheets so the house sitter won't have to sleep in our old DNA, and, best of all--my bride, the lovely and talented Amanda, known to you as Miz Bubs, is whipping up a refreshing tropical drink to set the mood. A delightful and provocative little thing called a Leilani Volcano.

Working down the list...

Busy busy busy...the day started off on a good note when I made all the limo arrangements while in my bathrobe, drinking my first cup of the day. I always feel powerful and effective when I accomplish some task while still in my robe.

We met and had lunch with Miz Bubs' brother Toby, who's looking well. We found out a couple things: first, that Oracle-wiz Toby took a consulting job closer to home, so he's not back east away from his family every week, flying home on weekends, and second, that there is a wonderful old-school Jewish deli/coffee shop not far from our house. Must've just opened in the past few months, and I was glad to see it was packed. Now I can get a big tongue sandwich nearly any time I want one. Mmmmm...tongue. The other, other red meat.

First great surprise of the day--my change jar performed beyond all expectations, netting me $259! Met a nice vet at the post office, selling little poppies to raise money for the VFW. He served on the aircraft carrier USS Essex and we had a nice talk. He wasn't happy that the USS Oriskany was sunk to create a coral reef instead of being turned into a museum, but agreed that it was nice for the boat have a second useful life. I know it's gotta be hard for guys who served on that boat, but I think it's cool to think of all the marine life it's going to provide a home for in its new life, as well as all the fun for divers.

Miracle of miracle, we found sunscreen that Hannah says doesn't irritate her skin. The trip to Kohls went swell, we got a bottle of Appleton Estate Jamaican rum to bring with, just so we got something to prime the pump when we arrive at the motel. And I did say motel, not resort, or inn, or hotel. Oh, and cigars! We're going into the keys low-profile, hoping to avoid the swarms of alligators and the rare mutant American crocodiles on the way. No swanky beachfront condo on this trip, just a simple place for simple people to drink and stagger into the ocean while the children yell be careful. I'll let you know how it turns out.

All that remains now is to do some laundry, pack and drop the sweet parrot at her sitter's house. I can almost smell the briny fun that's waiting for us.

Good morning...vacation starts tomorrow!

Whew. So much to do today. It feels like I lost about a week out of my life with the surgery and I just started feeling really better in the past couple days, being able to drive, button my pants and wear a belt and all. And then it struck me that I haven't done the usual monomaniacal trip preparation that I usually do. I have no portfolio of maps and computer printouts--I'm going to have to settle for a yellow legal pad full of phone numbers and addresses of places I want to visit and eat.

This morning I need to:
  • Visit the post office and stop the mail
  • Call the limo service for tomorrow morning
  • Go to the bank and get some cash, and cash in that huge jar of coins I've been hoarding
  • Stop by the doctors office and get some special sunscreen for my youngest
  • Go to Kohls and pick up a pair of sandals
  • Drop off the small, lovable parrot at a friend's house. The big, talking, engaging but frightening and psychotic parrot will stay here and have food and water slipped through the trapdoor in his cage.
Miz Bubs, God bless her, arranged to have a friend take care of the dogs while we're gone, and my mom is doing a couple days of that also.

This time tomorrow morning we should be on the plane.

Children are a blessing

It's almost 1 am, and I'm still sitting here talking with my youngest daughter Hannah. We've been looking around myspace and checking out her friends' profiles. Whew. Parents, it's as bad as you think it is! What do you say to a young teen that feels out of place because she doesn't like using words like "sexy" and doesn't refer to herself and friends as "bitches"? If only I were a fundamentalist Christian these issues would be so much clearer. As it is, I can only tell her that it gets better as one gets older...

We leave for vacation on Friday morning. Salt water, sunshine and rum. Ahhhh....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sporting news

Yes, there's sport. And abusive drunks painted as giant blue Smurfs.

Random

I love it--someone went to the trouble to leave a piano near the summit of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

Finally, my wife shows up

We've been married 20 years in June, and known each other 7 years before we got married. She's my voice of reason (I'll leave it to her or certain other sources to hear about her wild side) and I think you'll all be happy to meet her.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Now HERE'S a story

Now this is an important news story: it's got three of my favorite elements: Ireland, poker, and nudity. An Irish bookmaker is trying to organize the world's largest game of strip poker.

Time waster

I can't remember how I found this, but it's pretty darn tough to quit playing with the fat dollmaker

Nature hates us

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

"You may drive out nature with a pitchfork, yet she still will hurry back." Horace, c 23-13 BC

My theme today is "nature." And just how much nature doesn't really care if we're happy or not, or whether we get eaten by larger animals.

Let's go for a bike ride! It's good to stay fit, if you don't get eaten by a bear.

They're no good at fighting Germans, Vietnamese or Algerians, but the French stand tall against bears.

Dogs and man, fighting bears.

Table turned on bear hunter.

Go ahead. Dress your monkey in a fez and give him a cigarette, he's still a killer.

One minute you're hiking along the mountain trail. Next minute a mountain lion grabs your kid by the head.

In Africa, crocodiles and hippos are now coordinating their attacks. God help us if our bears and alligators find out about this.

I've saved the best for last. Police in Madison, Wisconsin, were attacked by a vicious wild turkey while investigating a burglary. This story contains what is now, possibly, my favorite news quote ever: "The taser momentarily stunned the turkey, which froze and then flew toward the ceiling, breaking a light fixture..."

Freak News

Miz Bubs is getting ready to leave for the library and I sit here doing useful things like googling the word "freak" for news stories. I found a few items of interest:

From New Zealand, news of a "freak wave" causing a fatal boating accident.

The foot freak story I posted Sunday appears in The Telegraph, Calcutta India, along with a couple of mildly diverting stories about scooter menace and "ghastly toothpicks."

A lucky driver in Houston, Texas, walks away from a freak accident.

In more freak news from New Zealand, a schoolgirl's arm is impaled on a hook (she's ok now.)

"A cheating chucker, or one of the greatest bowlers cricket has produced?" Muttiah Muralitharan is described as a "freak of nature."

A tree service worker in Montgomery, Alabama is killed in a freak tree accident.

This Canadian editorial says that Prime Minister "Big Daddy" Harper is a control freak.

From The Scotsman: This is No Freak Pregnancy.

And, finally: UFO sightings caused by freak weather.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gut Feeling, II


The healing continues. And aren't you all happy to see such stubbly graphic proof of that?

In Florida, More People, More Gators, More Attacks

"Florida wildlife officials are calling the deaths of three people by alligator attack in less than one week 'unrelated coincidences.'"

That's a quote from the NY Times article linked above. Of course the mainstream media says these attacks are "unrelated coincidences" and I'm sure that's what the authorities want us to believe. Prepared Americans know better.

With Bush's announcement that he's sending National Guard troops to our southern border to protect us from hard-working Mexicans, it's clear to me that what we have here is the beginning of a deadly alligator preparedness gap, fueled by the president's short-sighted agenda. I demand (and I urge all of you to contact your representatives) to know why our government plans to dump valuable resources into Mexican immigration deterrence, thereby leaving the soft underbelly of the USA open to mounting gator carnage.

Well, preparedness is my middle name, so I've been reading up on alligator defense. It turns out that alligators can be dispatched in much the same way as reanimated flesheating zombies: kill the brain and the beast will die. The Georgia DNR thoughtfully supplies these guidelines. I don't have a "bangstick", "snatch hook", or harpoon, but I do have a handgun. The Georgia DNR also informs us that we can dispatch the alligator by "severing the spinal cord with a sharp implement" but the idea of flailing away at a maneating gator with a sling blade sounds a little too reckless for me.

What's up with Henry Earl?

What's up with Henry Earl?

This is another link I can thank my daughter's boyfriend for. How this man escaped my notice for this long is beyond me. Clearly I need to upgrade intel capabilities here at the compound.

Rest assured, once the upgrade is complete all you faithful readers will reap the sweet strange harvest.

It's a growth market

Wholesale Body Bags 1-888-551-1277

This website speaks for itself

Sunday, May 14, 2006

OK, no alligators or volcanoes in this story

But I think a foot freak who goes after more than 70 women on NY subways is certainly newsworthy...

Wrong Priorities

George Bush is going to give an address Monday night and announce the deployment of National Guard troops along the Mexican border.

Mexicans don't scare me. I think the POTUS needs to talk to his brother and deploy National Guard units to control the outbreak of killer alligator attacks plaguing Florida. Especially since I'm headed down there on vacation next weekend. And you know what vacation means? It means a more mobile, and hence more lightly armed Bubs, that's what it means. My family is plucky, but we can't be expected to fight off swarms of killer alligators armed only with a compact Glock 9mm handgun and whatever improvised explosives we can make out of cosmetics, rum and sunscreen.

This is the way the world ends...

In a wave of alligator attacks:

Two more killed by gators in Florida - U.S. News - MSNBC.com

More Hot Lava

It strikes me that if I'm not careful, Sprawling Ramshackle Compound could soon consist of nothing but a rambling, alchohol-fueled series of stories about volcanoes, conspiracies and random animal and cannibal attacks.

Or is it too late?

Anyway, I like it when natural science is in the news, and I've always liked the words "subduction" and "lava." So I don't feel too guilty about posting this Indonesian volcano story here.


Sunday Morning Coffee

Good morning and happy Mother's Day! Miz Bubs is currently outside on the back porch enjoying a Mother's day smoke and a glass of champagne as she surveys her newly-dug garden pond hole. She's itching to get out and continue working in the backyard, but 4 days straight of Irish weather has prevented it.

We're leaving in about an hour to go out to brunch with my brothers, their brides, our mom, one mother-in-law and assorted chidren at Flossmoor Country Club. I got to turn up the swank meter a notch or two. Youngest brother emailed me the menu last night and I started salivating as I read it, especially when I saw "shrimp and grits chef style." I can only assume they're talking about one of my favorites, barbeque shrimp and grits (I might give y'all a recipe later.)

I'd like to start out this day, and this week, on a bit of good news: the killer alligator has been captured! The authorities are pretty sure it's the right gator, given the two human arms they found in the belly. And here's another fascinating tidbit: evidently pig lungs are the preferred gator bait. Who knew?

Enjoy your days!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Foggo gets raided

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal agents on Friday searched the home and office of the CIA's former third-highest ranking official who is under investigation because of ties to a figure in a congressional bribery scandal.

Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo, who announced his retirement from the CIA on Monday, is being investigated by five agencies due to his long-standing friendship with defense contractor Brent Wilkes, an unindicted co-conspirator in the bribery case that landed former U.S. Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham of California in prison, officials said.

Foggo's lawyer was not immediately available for comment but Foggo, formerly executive director of the agency, has denied any wrongdoing.

Foggo had been appointed by CIA Director Porter Goss, who himself resigned a week ago. Administration officials were unhappy with Goss over publicity surrounding the Foggo case after his ties with Wilkes became public in March.

On Friday, the CIA declined to say whether Foggo was still employed by the spy agency." ...

OK...I haven't had a full cup of coffee yet, so I'm still a little dull this morning. But let me see if I got this straight:

-The Director of the CIA resigns abruptly,
-The # 3 official at the CIA ("Dusty" Foggo--if that is, in fact, his real name) appointed by the resigned director, is under criminal investigation and the CIA will not even confirm whether he even works there anymore,and
-We're told by this administration not to worry about intelligence agencies collecting milions of phone records.

So we, as Americans, are being asked to trust that our intelligence agencies are simply doing what they can to fight terrorism, and not trampling our rights in the process, while it becomes increasingly clear that the highest levels of our intelligence community are involved in criminal behavior themselves.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Alligator Attack

"SUNRISE — Under a mess of highway overpasses where the Broward County suburbs meet the Everglades, a pig's lung tied to an empty soda bottle bobbed gently in a canal on Thursday afternoon.

Trappers hoped to catch an alligator with this bait, the alligator that killed a jogger early Wednesday."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's a miracle!

CNN.com - Woman ditches wheelchair, flees police - May 11, 2006:

Ninjas or Pirates?

Like most people sitting at home on a rainy Thursday afternoon when they should be working, my thoughts turn to the big questions. Like:

Ninjas?

or

Pirates?


Me, personally, I say pirates. You can do more with rum than with sake.

Who's paranoid?

They may be amassing a giant, secret database, but the NSA says they're not listening. Time to start lining the walls with tinfoil and sending all my important communications by carrier pigeon.

I never thought that USA Today would be a source of stories like this.

Here's the predictable denial from Bush, also from USA Today, and here's a Reuters piece detailing Senator Arlen Specter's pro-forma pledge to find out more.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hot Lava

I had forgotten about this, but Mount St. Helens has been erupting since October 2004. There's now a wicked cool, massive lava "fin" growing up out of the crater. Here's the local news story that includes USGS pictures.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Oh lord...that's just not right.

Some stories need no commentary:

CNN.com - 'Perverse' cannibal killer gets life - May 9, 2006

Let's call some contractors.







I just spent the better part of the last hour making phone calls to get estimates for:

  • Laying sod in our backyard (the dogs have made a mockery of every attempt to seed the growing bare patches over the past two years.) The bare patch is in the foreground and runs up through the center of the green area. It's all wood chips to the right, and the edges at the top of the picture and left side will be native Illinois flowers and plants.
  • Re-paving our driveway. I could probably get away with sealcoating most of it, but the apron right by the street is totally cratered. It's a mess, and it gets harder and harder to pull into or out of the driveway. This falls into the category of things that, if not taken care of, will result in having to spend money on other things. Like front-end repair, and new car suspensions.
  • Repairing or replacing our garage door (both springs busted, leaving the door damn near impossible to lift open.) We may run electric to the garage and install an opener.
  • Tearing off our old front porch and building a new one. We haven't decided finally yet on whether we want a simple wooden porch, or one made of brick.
I got no idea how much any of this stuff is going to cost, SO...I have no idea how much of this stuff we'll actually be able to get done. Our goal is to reduce the overall white-trashy, rundown feeling without spending too much money. The porch is really the one thing that HAS to be done. I've been staring at the lopsided slab for way too many years now.

I need a drink.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Fish Story

Bush's best moment in office? Reeling in big perch | Top News | Reuters.co.uk

His worst moment in office? September 11. His best? Bringing regime change to Iraq? Overthrowing the Taliban? Cutting taxes? HECK NO!! IT'S CATCHING A HONKIN BIG FISH ON HIS STOCKED PRIVATE LAKE!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More news from the midwest

Iowa family gets kicked out of an all-you-can-eat buffet for wasting food.

Hoosier Daddy?!

Nothing classier than a drunk with two prosthetic legs fighting with a deaf man.

Sins of the Fathers...

Are the sins of the fathers visited on their sons? Are any of us haunted by the misdeeds of family members who went before us? Are some of us predestined to crash and burn under the weight (real or imagined) of a bad family history?

I've been kind of loosely following the Patrick Kennedy story--the bizarre early-morning car crash followed by quick entry into drug rehab--and I just saw this piece in the NY Daily News. Think about this kid's life: total privelege, along with this knowledge: one of your uncles died in the war, two other uncles were assassinated, your dad killed a woman in a car crash, your mom and dad are both raging alcoholics, and you have a variety of cousins who've been accused of rape, died in bizarre skiing accidents and plane crashes...well, that's enough. I'm sure there's more but I was too lazy to look it up.

Sunday morning coffee

It's a pleasant Sunday morning here at the compound. I found out Friday night I could sleep on my side now without feeling like my innards were going to spill out, so that's two really good nights sleep in a row. The downside is I slept too late to make it to church, so once again my efforts to get right with the Lord fall short.

My bride and I took our coffee out in the yard and looked over things. She's full a' spunk and big ideas, and it's fun to stand next to her and look out over where the butterfly garden and native plants are going this year. We got started on this project last year, in June, and it's nice to see how many of the plants made it and are peeking out of the ground now. We have all these plans for the place, but it's a constant balancing act between wanting to make the current compound as user-friendly as possible, while not spending to the point where it slows or messes up our plans to retire and move to a larger, more rural compound at the earliest opportunity. We're also starting to plan the 2nd annual 4th of July party, and there's not much that's more fun than planning a party.

Our eldest headed into Chicago this morning to audition for a movie: Hot Rod Zombies from Hell. She's eager for the opportunity to work for free. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cool science Saturday: Bacteria super glue

Ah, bacteria...is there anything it can't do?

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved

Just like Hunter S. Thompson said. Where else can you find a $1,000 mint julep?

At least he didn't kill anyone...

New York Daily News - Home - Kennedy admits he's addict, & seeks help

It's Derby Day!


Yessiree, it's Derby Day--the running of the 132nd Kentucky Derby at beautiful Churchill Downs in Louisville--my hometown! And Derby Day means one thing: it's mint julep time again! The mint julep is a perfect warm weather drink, a delightful high-octane blend of bourbon, simple syrup, mint and crushed ice. Ahhhh. You'll see the ones to my left are served in official Derby commemorative glasses, a nice touch.

In the compound library we have at least a dozen different julep recipes. Matter of fact, I think we've got more versions of the mint julep than we do of The Orange Blossom Special and In the Pines put together. Most important: always use crushed ice, not cubes. Here's a basic recipe:

2 oz good bourbon (Wild Turkey 101 is our house bourbon here at the compound)
1 tbsp simple syrup (you can use bar syrup or make your own)
6-8 fresh mint leaves
Crushed ice
Sprig of mint for garnish
Splash of water (optional)

Place the mint leaves in a tall, frosted 12 oz glass (my bride says a Collins glass works well.) I usually tear up the leaves before I drop them in. Add the syrup and muddle with the mint in the bottom of the glass. (*One variation, which I like, has you add mint leaves to your simple syrup when you make the syrup, and then cool it in the refrigerator overnight--creating a mint syrup.) Add the bourbon and stir. Fill the glass with crushed ice and a splash of water if desired, then garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Enjoy!

Friday, May 05, 2006

CIA investigations, bribes and hookers!!

I thought I'd go back and find some stories on the Cunningham/bribes/hookers investigation. The CIA executive director Kyle Foggo is under investigation. The Watergate Hotel has been subpoena'd for records, but won't confirm who/what got subpoena'd.

CIA Boss Porter Goss Resigns

So, another Bush administration success story here I think. Porter Goss has resigned after about a year of service as CIA director. I'll bet this has something to do with the widening Cunningham bribe/defense contractor/hooker scandal. This piece from the Harper's Magazine blog describes "current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees--including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post."

Another chapter in Bush's efforts to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House.

Video Dog - Salon.com

Even better, watch the video of Stephen Colbert's performance. I know there are loads of places to find this now, but the place I saw it was on Salon.com. You may have to watch an advertisement, but it's worth it:

Video Dog - Salon.com

Gut Feeling


In case any of you missed it (what? no regular CSPAN viewers here?) Stephen Colbert's performance at the annual WHCA dinner was a hoot. His timing was a little off, and his video went on a couple minutes longer than it should, but all in all it was great. The funniest thing was listening to the crowd grow quieter and more uneasy as the bit went on. You can read the transcript here. Colbert makes a brilliant case for goin with yer gut, not with those goofy liberal notions like reality. And speaking of guts, here's the way mine's looking as of last night

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The beginning of a brave new compound

I'm finally going to follow my kids' examples and start a blog. What I hope to do is have a place where I can spout off to a potentially large audience (much larger, anyway, than family campouts, holiday meals and parties) and also to connect folks with widely varying interests and backgrounds. We'll see.