The Maiming of the Shrew*

January 27, 2012

Ground moles live in a subterranean world and feed on worms and grubs. They are nearly blind, unattractive creatures looking like you would look if you spent 98 percent of your time digging tunnels in the dirt and eating worms and grubs. Despite their lack of a cuddle factor,  I usually prefer to live and let live with creatures that share my neighborhood, but this year these moles have become a nuisance. They have dug about a mile of tunnels in my yard and gardens and in general have been destructive.

So, yesterday when Mikey got his first mole I was thrilled.

You should know that being a Welsh Corgi, Mikey and his breed are used to hard work, but mainly herding cattle and sheep. Hunting is new to him. but he is able to sniff out the moles and dig them up with his stumpy little legs. In the process, especially if it has been raining for two days, he gets a little muddy. Well, a lot muddy.

Every day during our walks, we walk through the “glade” by the contemplative bench. It was there, in a little stand of bushes that he pounced on the unsuspecting mole. His technique mimicked that of foxes I had seen doing the same thing. I guess it runs in the family.

With the mole exposed and flipped out of his hole, Mikey barked and bit at it a couple of times, but did not attempt to eat it, probably because he was too full from his treats earlier in the day. I wanted to get the mole transported to another location (such as my neighbor, Jim’s yard) or otherwise dispose of it, however I did not have the equipment to do either. Given that second chance, the mole disappeared under the leaves and down his hole again.

Nevermind, It was catch and release day. The important thing was Mikey got his first mole. He was so proud as were his parents.  His swagger revealed the air of confidence and pride he felt as he walked back to the house.

His joy however was short-lived and disappeared altogether when  we had to hose him off in 34 degree temperature to get the mud off of him, before he could come inside.

Clean, happy again and laying by the fireplace with his peanut butter bone, the herder (now hunter) no doubt basked in the excitement and glory of his first “kill.”

Mikey, cleaned up and ready to hunt again.

* No moles were harmed during this activity.


school bus heist

January 25, 2012

Unless you had much better things to do like reading tomato soup can labels or watching Murder She Wrote reruns, you may not have seen the story about school buses being stolen from in and around the Saint Louis region. I am not talking about one school bus. There have been eight school buses stolen from the area since September, 2011.  Police have no idea who took the buses or why.

Now stealing a school bus is not like ripping off a 7 Eleven for a candy bar, or taking a couple of pounds of copper wiring from a construction site. School buses are BIG and YELLOW.  They are about 38 feet long and weigh about 13 tons. They are quite …well, noticeable.

Okay, maybe some enterprising young redneck might have stolen one bus, painted it camo and winched it into a backwoods somewhere to make  a hunting camp. But eight of the big yellow things. What is he doing,  building a hillbilly motel?

And why can’t the police find any trace of the buses or any suspects? I mean don’t these buses have GPS locators on them? They should,  just to keep track of the kids and some of those squirrely out there drivers.

What about DNA. It is all about DNA now. Surely, the clever thief must have left some trace of himself behind. I know if I did it, the cops would have been knocking at my door the first day with a lonely  piece of forensic hair evidence from my nearly bald scalp.

How about the bus yard security cameras? Were they out of film? The whole situation just seems so bizarre.

Maybe it was aliens.

This is what the stolen property looks like,… TIMES 8!

If you happen to see eight of them in a row, go to your local Dunkin Donut shop , find a cop and report the sighting.

Sitting Bull

January 24, 2012

Last week’s posting, ( See Fine Furniture, January 20th) produced a comment from Dr. Zorro and a doctor’s note excusing me from further furniture shopping for medical reasons.  For this I am very grateful!

In addition, Dr. Z’s gentle admonishment on the evils of the Lazy Boy also created quite a discussion among some readers of this space.

While nearly everyone agreed with Dr. Z that modern-day sedentary life practices contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and other dangerous medical problems, not everyone is willing to take up arms and condemn the Lazy Boy and its companion, remote control for these afflictions.

Some zealots have even gone so far as to point out that the Lazy Boy has actually contributed to the increased life expectancy of modern man.

In his analysis, Dr. Z says that unlike cave men, ancient Native Americans and Bedouin nomads, Twenty-first century people are making their waistlines expand and their spines turn to goo by sitting in Lazy Boys in front of the TV. This condition is further exacerbated by the Lazy Boy’s companion pathogen, the remote control.

But the question has been asked, “How then is it that modern man’s life expectancy exceeds these earlier earth inhabitants  by some 30-40 years?”

Surely, many factors contribute to this advancement in longevity. But do not the Lazy Boy and the ubiquitous remote control have a place at the table of life’s advancement?

Well, no doubt much of the credit certainly goes to modern medicine men such as Dr. Z who possess more knowledge, stronger magic (and drugs) than the shamans and medicine men of the past. But, still some argue the Lazy Boy itself deserves a large slice of the pie of recognition.

For example, in the past, humans had to hunt or forage for food to stay alive. Often they were unsuccessful and suffered starvation or died from malnutrition. Or, perhaps they themselves were eaten by the very animals which they hunted.

Today, Modern Man sits safe and secure in his Lazy Boy recliner. He can use the remote control to watch the Discovery channel and expand his knowledge of the world without risking injury, intestinal discomfort or other misfortunes associated with travel.  More importantly, he can flip through the TV commercials to find the best deal on a double cheese pizza with extra pepperoni. Then with barely moving a finger, he can order his dinner with free home delivery right there on the TV screen.

This process avoids the possibility of severe injury or painful burns from getting too close to the burning home fires (stove) in a misplaced attempt to cook dinner, caveman style. It also shields modern man from a potential fatal car crash or frostbite he might experience during a foraging trip to the grocery store or a nearby restaurant.

Yes, like the elusive mysteries of the universe, there are no easy answers, and the question of the recliner/remote paradox  it seems will continue to vex us.

Modern marvel or dangerous deceiver…

Paper Trail

January 22, 2012

About this time every year, I start rooting through old shoe boxes and my sock drawer for those elusive pieces of paper known as “receipts” to support my hard-earned deductions from my annual tax liability. In addition, the cold-hearted bankers and other scammers I do business with begin sending me entire forests of paper transaction forms with official sounding alpha numeric designations such as 1099-R or U-235. The bulk of which I must audit to determine their arithmetic soundness before including them in the bible that will be my tax return.

In recent years, all this activity has caused me considerable stress and anxiety. And, it has gotten worse this year because internet banking has not only reduced the amount of paper I get to hold and feel safe with, but it has increased the mountain of information one must wade through to find what is important. (I would argue that none of it is important.)

So, this year, I have taken on an assistant to help me get organized and be well and truly prepared to meet with my accountant next month to complete my tax filing obligation.

Although, not a CPA himself, my new assistant, Mikey has extensive experience in developing paper trails that are nearly impossible not to follow. Already he has proven to be of great assistance in taking charge and reducing the amount of mail I have to open and deal with.

Mikey is shy about his impressive clerical skills and prefers to work long hours alone. However, yesterday, a candid photo was taken showing him hard at work preparing my tax return information.

The other day after having been informed that we “needed” a new couch for the hearth room, I was told I had to go to the couch store and test a few. Since I dislike nearly every type of activity that involves stores, sales people and cash registers, I protested. My protest however was met with strong resistance as I was informed that I had to go because, well, I had to sit on the couch to see how it feels. In addition, I was informed that if I went to pick out a couch, we could go to Annie Gunn’s for lunch afterwards.

It is sobering to discover that like Mikey, I am food motivated.

Not five minutes after entering the store, Donna and our “design consultant” become engaged in a conversation, that was totally alien to me. They could have been conversing in the lost language of the Incas, from what I understood. The marked differences in the way the male and female brain work became very apparent all of a sudden.

Minutes passed (or was it hours…or weeks?).  I sat on a couple of chairs and couches until I found one that felt not too hard and not too soft, but just right. One that Goldilocks herself would approve of.

Then the two women turned their attention to styles, colors and God knows what else. Not wanting or caring to involve myself in the tedious aspects of rag picking and fabric selection,  as the amount of variations available for selection approaches something close to infinity, I quickly became lost and started wandering alone and unattended around the store. Finding  an out-of-the-way room vignette, I settled into a nice easy chair and waited for the all clear.

While sitting there in the quiet,  staged room,  Walter Mitty and I thought about my first introduction to this whole business of furniture buying.

About 40 years ago, my friend George was a newlywed who married the daughter of the town’s delicatessen owner. Between making the potato salad and slicing the pastrami, the poor fellow had little time to pursue his own hobbies of drinking beer and watching football. Any free time he managed to get was quickly filled by his wife and domineering mother-in-law.

I recall one incident when I went by the store to get a sandwich for lunch.

“Hey George, are you coming to bowling practice tonight?”

“No, I can’t,”  was his reply.

“I have to go with Babs and my mother-in-law to pick out a dining room set.”

She says, “Fine furniture is an investment.”

“Investments can be good or bad” I offered. ” How is furniture an investment?”

“Don’t know” George muttered glumly.

I think Tom offered the best answer to that question the other day, when he remarked, “Fine furniture is an investment in sitting.”


Don’t tread on the Net!

January 18, 2012

The US Congress has taken up legislation (SOPA and PIPA) to censor the internet in a misguided attempt to stop piracy of movies and songs. This action is being taken to placate Big Entertainment.  It will however, begin to take us down a slippery slope that will have grave unintended consequences: something for which our government is famous for when it tries to interfere with free speech and free markets.

We all know that piracy is wrong and intellectual property must be protected, but there are many more effective ways to achieve this end, for example, how about by cutting off funding to the pirates at the source?

If you don’t think this slippery slope legislation thing is a big deal, then just reflect for a moment on this thought.

Prior to 1913 there were NO income taxes in this country. When the first income tax law was passed by Congress, the tax rate was 1 percent. It doubled the following year. It is now close to 50 percent with Federal, State and City taxes. By the way, that does not include all the excise and sales taxes you pay on your phones, fuel and just about everything you use or consume.

Stop this intrusion by government into the one remaining free vehicle of expression open to all Americans . Tell your representatives.


Not this time. Not ever…Find a better way.

Just a regular guy

January 17, 2012

One of life’s inconveniences you sometimes encounter as you get older is that your body does not work the way it used to. Things that you took for granted, suddenly can’t be taken for granted anymore.

One of these is the ability to ingest, digest and process food like you did as a teenager. Now, the slightest change in one’s habits can take days (weeks) to correct  and make right.

For example, back in the day, I could eat a pound of cheese and a loaf of bread and carry on as normal. Now, if I so much as look at a grain of rice, I need to consume a basket of prunes for a week. Then if I am lucky, and have a box or two of “All Bran” I may get back on schedule.

Nowadays, if you watch any TV at all, you know, it is all about the fiber. As Doctor Zorro reminds me fiber is the key to success in this business.

This “fiber” culture is relatively new. When I was a kid, they did not have fiber in food. Fiber was the stuff your tee-shirt was made out of.  They called the stuff you ate, “roughage.”

I remember my mother admonishing us kids to eat our vegetables. They were roughage and good for our business, she would advise. We knew what she meant, but we delighted in asking her, “What business?  We’re just kids, we don’t have a business.”

Then in the 1970s, some marketing genius from some cereal company thought up the idea that “fiber” was in their product and it would be good for business if they told us it was good for our business too. Since then Mr. Fiber has become the star and  poor roughage has all but disappeared. My spell checker does not even recognize roughage as a word.

But, just read any label in the supermarket, and you will note, everything has “fiber” in it.  You can’t swing a dead cat in the store without hitting some manner of fiber.

I long for the old days when roughage was available.  My business has not gone smoothly since.