Friday, February 1, 2008

Ironic Juxtaposition

It was noted to us that last week we had both the State of the Union Address and the annual celebration of Groundhog Day occur within a few days of each other.

It's an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication.

The other involves a groundhog.

Friday, January 4, 2008

An All-To-Soon Farewell to Arms

Regardless of your opinion of our involvement in Iraq - I know I am usually vocal about mine - I don't think anyone can question the intentions or commitment of the men and women in the Armed Forces who serve there.

Here is a link to one serviceman's final blog entry, one to be posted in the event of his death in Iraq. It's posted, so we begin with the knowledge that yesterday he joined almost 4,000 other American servicemen and women who have fallen in that country. Take the time to read it: It's perspective on life is certainly worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Toast to Calvin & Hobbs

Who left us twelve years ago today. Chronologically that would mean that they are probably sitting on barstools somewhere discovering the wonders of good beer.

Love to quaff one with them, but it might have to be at someone else's bar!


Monday, December 31, 2007

A Very Nifty Survival Necklace

Not that we make a habit getting lost in the woods. At least intentionally. But for the quick dayhike or climb where you may be without your primary pack and all of the safety stuff that we like to carry, this is an interesting alternative: The SOS survival necklace, presented to you by a cat named Ranger Rick - an apparently quirky kind of dude with a very busy looking website. This is the modified version, lighter and more compact than the original SOS necklace, which can be purchased for the very low price of $20 here.

SIDENOTE: Just how quirky is Ranger Rick? Anyone who
promotes the use a condom as a lightweight container for his
drinking water gets several very large quirky stars that he can put on his shoulders from this reviewer! Come on, be honest. Doesn't that look like a tasty vessel of H2O? Come on, you know you want it! Makes you wonder if the mint condoms would be even tastier. If they start making them in vanilla lattes I am so almost there.

Anyway, This fancy little piece of gear - cleverly modified by another cat named M40 who also happens to be the maintainer of the uniquely valuable Asshole Files - has some compelling components. The most interesting being the chain itself - a wire saw encased in a plastic sheath. It's a one use item - the plastic comes off when you make your first saw cut, and at that point you probably are not going to want to wear it again unless you are a lot tougher than I am.

It also has a magnesium fire rod (fire building and signaling), a small blade, a compass, a whistle, and a signaling mirror. Pretty fancypants stuff to get you through any minor mishap. The really amazing part of it? The original kit weighs less than 3 ounces.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Texas Grabs a Bowl Win

With the top of a thumb.

Comedic farce and a stunningly dominant win. A very nice combination.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Trip to Enchanted Rock

At 500 feet high Enchanted Rock, just outside of Fredericksburg Texas, is the second-largest batholithic rock formation (created by a bowl of hot volcanic magma) in the USA. Georgia's Stone Mountain being number one. Coincidently I also managed to summit that one as well, conveniently using the popular and courteously provided trolley rather than trying to crawl up Robert E Lee's nose. A volcanic sprawl with billion year old rock (some of the oldest to be found in North America) emerging as the upper portion of a 90 square mile base, the peak provides a 360 degree view of the Texas hill country that I was quite anxious to see again.

Enchanted Rock has at least 45 technical climbs, many along the 1,000 foot fizzures of the Enchanted Rock Cave and ranging from 5.5's to 5.11's (won't be doing those thank you) along with 8 miles of hiking trails, which was my target for the day. The elevation map looked fairly benign, other than a short half-mile+ trail rising abruptly 400 feet to the peak of this rock. In actuality it seemed even tamer, which was good, since I am in peak holiday shape and didn't need to look forward to any sort of steep ego-busting ascent.

Took the new boots on the assumption that eight miles of mostly graded hiking would not threaten any major wounds regardless of how stiff my footwear is. I also cornered myself into going without a bottle of water since I am at times far more dense than the granite I was treading on and so did not think to stop and buy a bottle on the way.

I did get out of the parental's household unit VERY early (can we say 4 AM wakeup call?) so I had the chance to surprise some early morning wildlife feeders, deer and a pod of raccoons. I had intended to walk the loop trail before going to the summit, but when I arrived the sun still had yet to peak over the horizon, so I instead jetted immediately up the summit trail. The temperature was about 30F, and was windy enough to make my ears wish that I had been wise enough to bring a cap. There was only one other soul on the summit (a sole summit soul?) who was very professionally set up to snap some hill country sunrise photographs. I on the other hand whipped out my phone to compose my masterpiece. A study in contrasting styles.

After mucking around on the flat top of Enchanted Rock appreciatingly watching the sunrise, I skipped over to the secondary Little Peak, 125 feet lower and a bit to the west. I then did a quick scoot down the Echo Canyon trail to the backside of Enchanted Rock, where I was hoping to see some technical climbers on one of the many routes that Enchanted Rock offers. Unfortunately I was on the trail too early for that species of adventurer, particularly since most of the routes are on the northwest (ie shady - remember, it's morning and cold) side of the hill. I did do a bit of light rock scrambling over some of the auxiliary trails that they have for that purpose.

All in all I spent about four very enjoyable hours putzing around the park. On the trails I only saw our lone photographer, although the parking lot was beginning to get some activity when I left.

All in all quite a nice quickie. I hope to come back to the park and do a bit more rambling around.

Flashback II: The Cats Respond

NOTE: This is a bitter, invective response to my very astute observations in the previous post. You may want to glance at those before reading this trash.


I shared your latest email about dogs and cats with Tiger, our nine year
Old tabby cat. He has asked me to share his comments with you, since(he
says)you are obviously ill-informed about the lives of The Great Feline Race(his term).

First of all, Tiger says that despite your calumnious claim, cats do not
fight and fuck simultaneously. They fight then fuck then fight then fuck then fight then fuck then fight then. and so on. It is only the gross and non-discerning human eye that cannot distinguish between the two. Or perhaps, he says, it's been so long since you've done either yourself, you can no longer tell the difference (I did not want to pass that one along, but Tiger insisted).

With regard to your callous statement that cats are not being mutilated by veterinarians, Tiger wishes you to know that he is a card-carrying member of the Feline Vengeance Society (motto: Eye for Eye, Ball for Ball). Though they are outsized and outgunned, each member has pledged all nine of his lives to bringing justice to their enemy. One token of their success is that a majority of new members entering the Vienna Boys Choir (of Vienna Virginia) are ex-veterinarians (why do you think your vet is a girl?). The fact that you are unaware of the vast dimensions of this tragic international holocat, Tiger says, reflects the ignorant arrogance of a typical American running dog.

Tiger also wants to take issue with your comment as to why cats can roam free and dogs must be kept inside or on a leash. It's roughly analogous to why we humans keep the criminally insane behind bars while allowing Nobel Prize winning scientists and artists free access to just about anything they want. And as to the reason cats bring little dead animals to their owners, he agrees with your comment that veterinarians are full of dog poop, but says you still don't have it right. Cats do this to protest against the horrid quality of the food that's being dumped in their trays day after day. Leftover horse bones and mouse droppings, Tiger calls it. They want fresh kill, like their bigger brethren in the wild get.

Just to show you that there are no hard feelings, Tiger asked me to close with some good advice on how to train your dogs (which he agrees are incorrigible morons, though they probably can't help it, being dogs, you know). He says that the "ineffectual monosyllabic commands" you've been using are simply the wrong ones. What you need to do is wait until your dog is out in the middle of the road in the path of an onrushing truck. Then, in a voice of great command and authority, you shout: "Stay!" He says this works best if you practice by leaving milk bones in the middle of the street for a while.

Finally (I also did not want to include this, but Tiger is very
persuasive), Tiger says that you should be happy to see cat paw prints on your car in the morning. If you get on the wrong side of the Feline Vengeance Society, you could find them somewhere that you would consider to be far more unpleasant. He also told me to emphasize that he didn't disagree with absolutely everything in your email (I didn't want to say their either): you are not a writer (Tiger says), and should stick with drinking beer and fighting with your dogs - and trying to not get confused and doing something else that you might later regret.

Your Big Brother

Flashback: A few thoughts on cats.

I realize that I am not a writer.

Oh, I write. I'm not really sure why, other than it seems more fun than
playing video games or mowing the lawn. But I really don't WRITE. I've
never really made the distinction before, but I realize just now that it
is a remarkably important distinction nonetheless. Why? Because as I sit
here late in the evening, I am - probably for the first time - beginning
to appreciate the concept of a deadline.

This is brought home to me grudgingly by someone to purports to be a
good friend of mine. Keith. Keith wants me to write something. Anything.
Bless his heart. It's been days since he has had an email from me, and I
don't know, I guess he is feeling neglected.

The thing about Keith is that he knows my weak points. We traveled
Europe together. And while that is another story - which hopefully you
will never hear the details of - he knows that A) I like beer and B) I'm
cheap. So Keith buys me a few beers and tells me to write something.
Now. Before tomorrow.

Wow. A deadline. I need to write something that justifies Keith spending
scarce resources on my beer appreciation. And that's when it occurs to
me that it must be a pain in the ass to be a writer. I don't have many
interesting ideas, and at the speed I type most of the ones that I do
are long gone from my absurdly ineffectual memory long before I can bang
them into a floppy disc. So when in deadline-induced distress, I am
going to do what the real writers who have nothing to say do: Fall back
on cute little animals who cannot realize that you are exploiting them
for your own nefarious ego appeasement.

So. As many of you now know, I have two dogs. Brothers. Refugees from
the Animal Rescue League. They look alike, which gives me redundancy. If
one has found a comfy place in the sun and is fast asleep while I toil
at work, hopefully the other one will be at the ready to greet any
intruder with warmth and affection (My dogs did not train with an
effective "Homeowner Protection" manual). Do they love me? Of course. Do
they show it? Sure, as long as I have a dog bone around. Otherwise, they
give the impression that I operate a Gulag in my backyard, and their
daily objective is to escape. This is an activity for which they have
developed a proficiency. My dogs get out constantly. They are amazing
animals, squeezing through the narrowest of gaps between the fence and
ground. They actually scrape up their necks and backs digging and then
squeezing through these small apertures. They do this primarily so that
they can then chase the neighborhood cats.

This bothers me. Not that I don't want my dogs to catch the neighborhood
cats. I do. Cat prints on my newly washed automobile disturbs me to a
disproportionate degree, especially considering the fact that currently
my car still sports the damage from the incident with my neighbor's
Oldsmobile (Flashback: the ghost driver colliding with my car and home.
Someday I will have to tell you about my experiences with the insurance
company. I am convinced that this particular insurance company handles
all of the insurance needs of the global Muslim community, and that is
why they are all so pissed off all of the time).

But the trouble is that my dogs focus on the pursuit of cats to the
exclusion of everything else, including other dogs, people, moving cars,
motorcycles, and my ineffectual yelling at them to get them to come back
or at least not get squashed by the moving car that they are continuing
to ignore. Air Force pilots call this behavior "target fixation". I call
it "imbecilism". And so my dogs constantly end up confirming that they
are dopes by running in front of cars, and I constantly end up looking
dopish by chasing after them screaming ineffectual monosyllabic commands
("Stop! Don't! Come Here! Sit! Stop! Shit. Sorry!"). My reward at forty
years of age is to arrive at home only to be outrun not only by my sleek
energetic dog but also by my chunky lazy dog. This is a disheartening
start to a relaxing post-work evening.

Cat owners don't go through this, which is why I don't really like
people who own cats. You cannot trust them. They throw their cat out
into the street, and don't get concerned unless the cat does not show up
back at the house by Mardi Gras. They know their cat is fighting. They
know their cat is breeding. But as long as their cat is not driving
their car into an uninsured school bus being driven by a hungry trial
lawyer they are remarkably unconcerned.

You cannot do this with dogs. Even if you wanted to. When my dogs get
loose and wander the neighborhood, I get calls at work. From cat owners.
Who are pissed. Get this: My escapee dogs corner someone's cat, either
in a tree or garage or whatever, and I get a nasty phone call lecturing
me on the fact that my dogs are out. HELLO! Your bloody cats are roaming
the neighborhood like it's the Serengeti. And they, unlike my two
beasts, almost assuredly haven't been fixed yet. That's why my dogs
chase squirrels and cats: They want to show any other small animal what
it feels like to have their balls ripped off.

And another thing about cats: when you let cats out, they have a nasty
tendency to bring things back. Mice. Lizards. Dead birds. All lovingly
deposited for the owner's inspection. I have a friend of mine that
insists that this is a sign of respect. He says that his vet - a
graduate of Texas A&M (motto: We know animal love!) - confirms that when
a cat leaves a dead animal at your door, it is paying homage for all of
the affection it receives as a member of the family.

Horseshit. Hey, your vet may be an aggie, but she clearly is not dumb.
She could tell you that your cat disembowels animals because it is a
sadistic and filthy animal that could care less how often you have to
steam clean your carpet, and you would be better off stuffing it down
the disposal. But then she would get no repeat business. But if she
convinces you that this is a caring family member who thinks you are God
and wants nothing more than to worship at your feet via animal
sacrifice, she can count on you to spring for incredibly expensive open
heart surgical procedures when your cat is fifteen years old, fat and
decrepit when you could otherwise get a perfectly good replacement
kitten from any one of innumerable numbers of your friends and
co-workers at no cost because all that cats do is eat, sleep, fight and
fuck and as a result everyone that you know is trying to give away plump
sleepy little kittens.

Actually, from the sound of them in my neighborhood the fighting and
fucking thing is blended into one activity, which may be the only reason
I would ever consider being reincarnated as a cat.

Another thing, as long as we are pursuing relatively random thoughts:
Have you ever seen a dog or cat blow a liquid out their nose? I haven't
either. But it would be a damn funny sight if they did. It's too bad,
but blowing soda pop out of one's nose is a distinctly human experience.

Anyway. Obviously I am not a writer, and my dogs are not that fond of
cats. Other than that, the only thing I know is that I just might be
able to squeeze in one more beautiful beer before bedtime.


Because life is about more than beer. Sometimes it includes ice cream.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Test for Beerlovers:

Think you know your beers? What about your bottles?

Take this quiz:

I got ten out of twelve. Then again, I'm almost a professional.