Monday, April 28, 2008

San Diego Zoo

The kids and I scored some free passes, so we headed out to the Zoo yesterday.
It was BLAZING hot - like July hot - high nineties for much of the day and I was pretty miserable.
Looks like most of the animals were too... they were either holed up in the darkest, shadiest corners they could find (they had more sense than us humans), or just sprawled out, motionless...

There's a tiger back there, I swear!

This poor bastard looks like he fell off the cliff behind him...

This panda was sprawled out on the rapidly-melting remnants of artificial snow that the keepers had provided for them that day. Apparently they only give the pandas one "snow day" a year. I was thinking it must suck to be a panda in San Diego - until I saw the Polar Bears (no pics though)...

Holy crap! That animal's actually moving! Quick! Take a photo before he passes out!

Obligatory Meerkat shot...

By far, the coolest shot of the day... those guys were NOT coming out of that water...

We stuck it out for about 5 hours, saw most of the exhibits (lingered in the covered ones), then had to retreat to the truck and its ice-cold A/C. I was actually looking forward to that hour and a half ride home...

Saturday, April 26, 2008


This jewel of Illinois is looking like a suburb of Baghdad these days, what with the surge in gang murders. But wait - I thought Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the States? Don't these criminals know that? It's illegal for them to have handguns in Chicago!
Watching the TV, I'm seeing the Chicago PD stepping things up - more patrols, more dudes running around in black "combat" attire, more helicopters etc...
One thing caught my eye - the news chick made mention of the PD being issued M4s...
M4s are essentially carbine versions of the venerated M16 combat rifle, and are fully automatic.
Scary stuff...

Ahhhh..... Nature!

I really enjoy living here on the slopes of the mountain. The view is excellent, it's a quiet neighborhood and we're at the end of a cul-de-sac, which makes me less fearful of letting the kids play outside. Since we've been here, I've seen all kinds of creatures that you wouldn't encounter in suburbia; coyotes, quail, hawks, lizards of all kinds, rabbits... the list goes on.
Last night, we were introduced to another member of the local fauna...

Around 11pm, my wife, a friend and I were out on the back patio, enjoying a beer and some good conversation, taking in the balmy night air and looking out over the city. My dog Lena started up from her slumber at my feet and disappeared into the night. She does it a lot, to investigate the sundry noises and smells that abound around here and I normally pay no heed, as long as she gets back by my side within a few minutes.

Come back she did, foaming at the mouth and inundated with an ungodly stench, frantically rubbing her face in the lawn to dispel it.

Dear God.

Now I, like anyone here in the States, am familiar enough with the smell of skunk, as you occasionally get a waft when you're driving around, but that really doesn't do it justice. Up close, this smell was orders of magnitude worse, so soul-searing, so eye-burning, so tear-inducing, so flat-out gag-a-licious that I couldn't recognize it at first. I just wanted to get away from it, get away from my suddenly nasty smelling dog. Our friend LuAnn recognized it instantly - her dogs have been hit in the past - really, there's nothing she hasn't been through, it seems.
I escaped inside, ostensibly to dredge the internet for solutions, but let's be honest, I wanted to get AWAY.

I found a site that recommended using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and liquid soap (I had heard of using tomato juice, but this author said that just masks the odor, it doesn't get rid of it). Shucks, we had no peroxide.

I hopped up, explained the recipe to my wife and LuAnn, grabbed some cash and bolted for the truck, backing out of our driveway so fast that I popped my son's soccer ball (it had no chance to escape!). There's a 24hr Winco not far off and I was only too happy to LEAVE to go get the peroxide.

The smell followed me, of course, but it was the diluted, mildly unpleasant odor that I was familiar with, not the full force kick-you-in-the-ass-and-take-your-bike kind of reek that I had thankfully left at the house.

My clothes smelled of it and I was especially paranoid walking through the store. I tried to keep my distance from everyone (it was surprisingly busy at that time of night), but you can only be so far apart in the checkout line. Nobody said anything, for which I am thankful.

I got home, and explained the recipe. The smell was by now throughout the house, and the dog was still outside!

"Let's hose her off and wash her with the stuff out here," I suggested.
"No way! The hose is too cold for her," said LuAnn "Someone needs to take a shower with her in warm water."
"Like, INSIDE the house? Are you serious?"

Finally, we dragged her in through the back patio door straight into our master bath, and LuAnn gamefully volunteered to do the do.

I must confess to a weakness here, for I in no way objected, just grabbed my Flashman book and retreated to fresher air.

About 45 minutes later, LuAnn and Lena emerged, and the smell was just about gone. From the dog.

The stench of skunk still permeates the property, and when I took the dogs out back this morning, it wasn't hard to pinpoint the spot where Lena learned her valuable life lesson...


Thursday, April 24, 2008

What I'm reading...

Right now, things are a little tight, so I don't have all that much extra cash to buy new books at the moment.
Since I'm pretty much a compulsive reader that means I've been digging through our not so insignificant collection here at the kingdom and revisiting some old friends (there are several books/series that I love so much that I re-read them once or twice a year, one of my favorites being "The General" series by Drake/Stirling, but many get neglected for much longer than that)
So, while unpacking one of our boxes (yeah, we'll be doing that for a while yet), I came across my copy of "Flashman", by George Macdonald Fraser and jumped right in. It's been a little while since I read this scoundrel's escapades, and I'm looking forward to taking a walk in his world again.
For those of you who have not read the "Flashman" series, I strongly recommend picking it up - you won't be disappointed. The stories are told from Flashman's perspective, a memoir of his life starting out as a subaltern in Her Majesty's Army in the Victorian era. The man is an unabashed drunk, lecher, bully and coward, yet winds up coming out on top in every situation, looking heroic. Masterful writing, with the attention to detail that comes with heavy research into that part of history. Great stuff.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Conversations in the car...

On the way home from dance tonight, my kids and I got into a discussion about foster homes and what circumstances would get them put into one.
I said "Well, if your mom and I were hopelessly addicted to drugs to the point where we couldn't look after you guys, the state could put you into foster care I suppose, or if we were mean and cruel to you guys".
To which My Little Princess responded: "Oh! Like if you fed us spinach every day?"


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Shots...

The first bloom from the roses that my wife's dad planted for us a few weeks back. I love roses; they smell great, look beautiful and are hard to kill, even for as inept a gardener as myself...

Your humble narrator, astride his mighty tractor, performing weed abatement in the way back. The tractor runs like a champ - once you can get it started... I figured out the electrical issues, so it turns over when I start it, but it's very reluctant to actually fire up. I'm thinking the carb keeps flooding out... another project for another day - for now, I got it going and disked/scraped the entire way back. Can't let it get out of hand, because come summer, this stuff can go up like so much tinder...

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Obama picks up the all-important Hamas endorsement...
In a sane world, the guy the terrorists like should have NO chance of becoming El Presidente.

In our world, I guess we'll just have to see...

Hamas supportive of the Democrat party? That right there tells me all I need to know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Speaking of bitter...

Tax Day always sucks. It's an in-your-face reminder of how much of your hard earned scratch is yanked by your betters in the .gov. This year, in light of my INS interview last month, it feels particularly painful. For some reason, the phrase "taxation without representation" keeps rolling around in my head....

Well, as an update, I've rounded up the forms the officer asked for and am putting them together with a suitably grovelly letter... hopefully all will go smoothly from here on out...

Six word biography meme...

I guess according to Barack Obama, mine would be:

Bitter redneck, clinging to my guns.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Self- Censorship...

I've been reading "Tom Sawyer" to my kids the last few nights, and I ran up against a problem in chapter 6, when Huckleberry Finn enters the story. During his conversation with Tom, the "N" word came up a few times and rather than read it out, I replaced it with "black guy".
I understand that when the book was written, that term was the norm and not necessarily used in a derogatory fashion, but I'm really not comfortable saying the word and I'm sure as hell not comfortable reading it out loud to my 6 and 8 year old children.
That said, I would never advocate government censorship of that book, or changing it's original format to suit today's sensitivities. Context is everything, right?
I'm sure my kids will learn about the word eventually, but it sure as hell won't be from hearing their dad toss it around.
So my question is, am I just a wimp caving in to today's PC pressures?

Thursday, April 03, 2008


This is pretty cute. A farm in Earby, Lancashire, near where I grew up in the UK has hopped onto the information superhighway with a LambCam. Live feed so you can watch what their lambs get up to. Bear in mind they're 8hrs ahead, so its night time right now...

What I'm Reading

Yesterday, I cracked open a copy of "Religion of Peace? Islam's War Against The World" by Gregory M. Davis.
It's a pretty compelling read. He goes into the history of Islam by looking at the Koran - the word of Allah as told to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel - and at the Sunnah - the "way" of the prophet as told in the Hadiths, which are personal accounts of those who knew Muhammad. There is some very damning stuff in there, stuff that it is hard for someone raised in the Western Judeo-Christian ethic to get their mind around. That's one of the problems, according to the author - it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for those of a Western background to understand the core concepts of Islam because a religion that not only espouses but demands violent conquest and subjugation of unbelievers is completely foreign to us.
Sure, Christianity had its low points, its own massacres and violence, but those run contrary to the teachings of Christ and are exceptions rather than the rule. Jihad, or holy war is central to Islam's teachings and the encouragement of it in all forms is prevalent throughout the Koran and the Hadiths.
The author also explains the principle of abrogation - which of the Suras (chapters) of the Koran are to be followed, when there appears to be a contradiction - and there seem to be quite a lot. Islamic scholars generally agree that the later Suras take precedence. For example, in the beginning of his "calling" as a prophet, when his followers were few and his religion not yet well established, Muhammad made plenty of noises about tolerance and coexisting peacefully with those of other faiths. As Islam rose to ascendancy in the region, the Suras became more militant and less forgiving of other religions, and according to the principle of abrogation, these Suras take precedence over the earlier, kinder ones.
To confuse things further, the Koran is not ordered chronologically, but by the length of the Suras, starting with the longest first.
The Hadiths themselves are an excursion into horror, lovingly describing the atrocities performed under the guidance of Allah as Islam tears its way across the continent.
To those of us who cherish the separation of church and state, the concept of Islam and righteous (Sharia law) as the only way to order a society is completely foreign, just as it must seem bizarre to a muslim to see secular and religious power separated.
In all fairness, I suppose I should seek literature in favor of Islam too, to get a broader perspective. I think I'll also have a stab at reading the Koran - no pun intended...
However; the more I read, the less optimistic I am about being able to share the planet with Islam in peace.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


It boggles my mind how someone can start cleaning their gun without checking to see if the damn thing is loaded first. Even when I'm sure my guns are unloaded, I still check before I start fiddling with them.
First rule: Always treat your firearm as if it were loaded.
This bonehead took out his 12 year old niece because he ignored that rule. His niece had to pay for his stupidity, and there's now another story out there in the media reinforcing the perception that guns are "bad" and gun owners are morons.