Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I never forget a face...

...though sometimes I wish that weren't the case. Take last night at the bus stop, f'rinstance.

As I've mentioned earlier in the blog, I commute into downtown via METRO, Houston's mass transit system. I usually ride out to a regional transit center, and since there are so many routes that head that direction, I am lucky in that I can get on about 5 different bus routes and still get back to my car. Most people are tied into one commuter route, so cannot vary their routine.

Since I'm always hopping on the quickest or least crowded bus, depending on my mood, I rarely pay much attention to the fellow commuters on the corner of Louisiana and Rusk in the evenings. I knew quite a few of the regular commuters on the old 210 route, but after that route shut down, I haven't had the opportunity to get to know others, since I rarely see people twice in a week.

So, it's not too uncommon for someone at the bus stop to be a new face. Nor is it too odd to recognize someone.
However, I did not expect my past to return to haunt me...

I got off work a little late Monday evening, and it was a miserable muggy night. Damp and warmish, all I could think about was getting out of downtown as soon as possible and getting into some AC, just to dehumidify myself. As I'm waiting for any of the buses to appear, I catch a facial profile that's extremely familiar.

She's standing in the line for one of the far north Houston commuter bus routes. She's about my age, which is to say late 30's, wavy-haired brunette, kinda puffy squirrel cheeks, brownish-hazelish eyes and a perky nose. Getting a bit broad in the beam, (who isn't, at this age...) but she's still a looker. And I just KNOW I've seen this woman before.

I catch her glancing at me, as well. Obviously, there's some sort of mutual recognition, but the crowded corner and the etiquette of the bus waiting lines prevent an approach. Damn, I know this woman... where on earth from?

I'm puzzling it out when her bus pulls up. I snatch one last glance, only to catch her doing it too. Then she's on the bus and gone. It might be weeks before I see her again, due to my shifting hours.

It's not until I'm on the bus home that I begin to figure it out. I've ruled out the last 15 years, so she's no one I knew from my days in Dallas. She's not a high school friend, I knew everyone too well for that. Therefore, she fell into the 1987-1990 time zone, and those 3 years had a lot of questionable activities on my part. For some reason, I kept associating that face with a party, so it takes a long, long time to filter through all the alcohol-soaked "heavy metal vomit parties" ( to quote The Breakfast Club) of those years. Hell, just in the summer of 1988 alone there were enough ignunt-ass activities to guarantee me about 3000 years in Purgatory, if I believed in such a thing.

Finally it clicks... Party... Kegger... Nacogdoches... Rugby... DAMN!!! I can't believe I remember this. It was Spring of 1987. I'm well on my way to flunking out of my freshman year at Stephen F. Austin State University, in NacaNowhere, TX. I'm majoring in beer drinking, frat pledging, and playing cards in the dorm hallway at 3 a.m. I'm on the outs with my girlfriend once again, and someone talks me into going over to the kegger being hosted by the SFA Rugby team. They're a pretty hardcore drinking crew, but I'm well up to the challenge.

I remember meeting this girl who was highly amused that I wore a hunting vest with the big pockets for shells and dead birds. Pulling out several limes and a pocketknife from one of the pockets, I explained I was well-prepared for the worst examples of kegger beer, and would she like some lime in her beer to cut the nasssty Busch flavor? She said that she would, and off we went from there.

My memory gets kinda fuzzy after that. I remember getting cheered on as I raced someone in a beer-bong contest. I remember sitting on the porch outside with this girl, talking for a long time, both of us extremely trashed. I remember our faces getting closer and closer together, in the manner of truly fucked-up individuals trying in vain to make their slurs understood. I remember kissing her several times, and wondering how I was gonna chase off my roommate.

Then, of course, I remembered her uploading several pints of beer, lime juice, and semi-digested dining hall evening meal all over my lap.

Ah, yes... THAT woman...

I can't for the life of me remember her name, but I can tell you what she had for dinner that night. When I got back from hosing myself off, she had disappeared, perhaps out of shame, perhaps to stagger off to bed, perhaps to be the guest of honor in the Rugby Team's train del noche.

Well, perhaps it's best if we don't catch up on old times. If I do see her again, I'll probably have to ask if she's a Lumberjack alumnus, but I'll leave it at that. It's better that way, I suppose.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Tales From TechSupported Oceans

Madogre related a story last week about his experiences at Convergys. Apparently he was a manager there, which means that aside from guns and a hearty dislike of the Van Helsing movie, we've apparently got something else in common.

No, I didn't work for Convergys, but for a competitor. In the back half of the 90's there were about half a dozen large companies that specialized in one form or another of outsourced tech support. You had Software Spectrum, Convergys, Sykes, Stream International, Warrantech, and a couple of other smaller players. Each one angled for a larger chunk of the outsourced support business from all the major players. Dell, HP, Compaq, Microsoft, Gateway, WebTV, Roadrunner, Earthlink, Apple, you name it, they outsourced their support. My company handled calls on hardware, operating systems, ISP support, software applications, financial data, and a myriad of other activities. If the sales guys could put an estimate on it, we bid on it. And we made money hand over fist until the tech crash came.

For a young techno-geek fresh outta college, it was a great job, if you could stomach the fundamental dishonesty of the whole gig. See, the big OEM and software companies doing the outsourcing didn't want it known that their employees weren't the ones answering the phones. They feared (and rightfully so) that if Joe Consumer knew they were getting Billy-Bob Gaptooth from Hogknuckle, Tayksis answering their calls instead of Professor Iotta Knowitall, PhD, MCSE, LLD, Chief Technical Officer for Dell Corp., they might regret their purchase. So, SOP was to lie to the customer and tell them we really & truly worked for the company whose name was on their computer box.

In my opinion, even though it was a good job (for the most part), companies who outsource the care and support of their customers deserve to lose them all. I understand that it can help your bottom line if you don't have to carry 300 employees on the payroll, but there's no way in hell some kid with 2-3 weeks of training is going to be able to solve your customer's problems as well as someone who's been there through the entire product development cycle. Even after 6-8 months on the phones, there are always a huge number of braindeads still on the payroll. This was not just my company, either. I had contacts in the other companies that we shared clients with (the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" client strategy), and they pulled the same sneaky crap we did. Sometimes even sneakier!

The fact is, for a manufacturing or software company your repeat customers are your absolute best asset. To entrust your most precious asset to another company means you either a) don't know what the hell you are doing, b) got sold a bill of goods, or c) really and truly trust the outsourcing company.

If you picked "C", you're a stupid SOB. I can name 20 ways off the top of my head I saw various clients get assraped, either via billing or contract avoidance or twisting the quality scores or a combination thereof. It was a great job until the beancounters took over. Suddenly, low calltimes were more important than satisfied customers. It turned into a churn & burn operation, until finally no more profits could be squeezed out, and the jobs all moved to India & Canada, where they could pay lower wages. I hesitate to see where they'll go after that. Maybe they'll teach Chinese peasants enough English to reinstall Windows for customers to maintain that 35% profit margin. I hated to see that stuff done to the clients, and silently cheered when various Service Delivery Managers and Site Managers were either called on the carpet or dismissed due to playing with the numbers. In the tech support world, the "I was only following orders" defense still works, at least for lower level management like myself!

Though I don't miss all the deceptiveness, and certainly don't miss the high pressure environment, I do miss my teams, though. I was eventually promoted up and out of the trenches and wound up doing HR-type training, but the best times came from running a crew of 24-48 techs. I had spectacular teams. Each contract I worked on, I usually had the lowest attrition rate, the highest promotion rate, and rated either #1, 2 or 3 out of 12-15 managers in terms of my profitability and job satisfaction scores. People wanted to work for me, not because I made things easy, but because I made them challenging. I would purposefully give people tasks that they didn't think they could do, just to watch their ego shine when they nailed the issue. I would delegate some of the non-confidential parts of my job to the people wanting to get promoted, so they could be better prepared for the interviews. I shielded my team from the endless rain of bullshit from above as best I could. I fought hard for every extra perk I could get for them. I paid out of my own pocket for incentives and food & drinks and cut every rule I could get away with to make things easier.

I didn't cut a lot of slack, though. Some rules you can't break, or you can face some serious EEOC issues. One of my best teammates, a guy I had invited over to my apartment several times for drinks & cardplaying, I had to fire for excessive attendance violations. It was no surprise on either of our parts. He knew it was coming, and took it like a man. I didn't put up with kiddie games, and God help you if you ever lied to me.

In truth, I probably broke too many rules and regulations to be a good manager. I never stopped "thinking like a phone agent and not like a manager". OTOH, maybe that's why my teams performed so well.

Please, share your tech support tales! I'd love to hear from others who've escaped that world!

I'm so damned impatient.

I decided over the holiday to cut back on the blatantly obvious link-whoring, just to see if I could maintain a decent hit level.

Heh. (and my best Glenn Reynolds style "Heh" to boot...)

Bit too early for that, it seems. With the big (relative to this site anyway!) spikes coming off of links from several "A-list" bloggers, and the dalliances with catblogging and recipe blogging, I had what I thought were great numbers for a 6 week old blog. Once the plateau plateau-ed, though, grab that parachute, bucko, you're going down. It seems, in terms of blog-elections, I've once again swept my close personal circle of friends.

Devolving from a Crawly Amphibian to a Slimy Mollusc on the TTLB Ecosystem kinda sucked too. I very much enjoyed snatching up insects with a long sticky tongue, rather than just filtering fish poop for sustenance. I'm gonna pass on making an analogy to my current state of low hits on that last remark...

So, pride be damned. Back to link-whoring. Writing's fun, but in my case just the act of doing it (like masturbation) is not enough. For complete fulfillment, you've really got to have a crowd of unsuspecting people watching it play out in all its horrible splendor. Not that I'd wank in front of a group of tourists or octogenarians, mind you.

Unless they clapped REALLY hard.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Range Report

It's all over now, except for the lingering smell of Hoppe's #9 and a lighter wallet. The guns are clean, the brushes and rods are stowed away, and I'm kicked back in front of the Mac to tell you all about it.

Little Bee-Boy and I ventured out to the Hot Wells Shooting Range out on Hwy 290 this afternoon to break in the new .45, and burn up some old .22 & .357 that's been hanging around for a while. There's about half a dozen shooting ranges in the Greater Houston area, and Hot Wells is just about the cheapest and most chickenshit-free of all of them.

We've got an indoor range about 2 miles from the house, but it's only got 10 lanes, has an ironclad "NO EXPOSED LEAD" rule, meaning no hollowpoints, JHPs, wadcutters, etc. Plus, it's got the goofiest check-in procedure I've ever seen. You go in the first door, stop in the alcove, unpack your guns, open the cylinder or lock back the slide, place gun in a clear plastic bag, repack all your other shit you've unpacked to remove guns, then proceed baggies in hand up to the counter to check in.

Now, I'm pretty sure I know why they do this. There's probably been one too many idiot show up, pull a handgun out of their waistband and ask which way to shoot. This can lead to slight misunderstandings! Still, I'm a careful shooter, and I have a range bag for a reason. My guns are unloaded before I leave home, and remain that way until I reach the assigned firing lane. Basically, I feel I'm made to jump through hoops just to cater to the dumbass crowd.

So, I vote with my dollars. They're not a bad range, but IMHO, I don't like to be treated like a potential criminal. For the same reason, I refuse to do business with gas stations that force you to pay before pumping. The fact that the station has had people wahoo gas bothers me not a whit. I am not going to pump and run, and I want to be treated like the law-abiding person that I am.

So, we went to Hot Wells. It's a $6 per gun range fee (pistols), no limit on shooting time or shooters, and they shut down the line every 30 minutes to change targets and rotate out shooters. It's not a fancy place, but it's OK. They have a 3,7,10 & 25 yard slow fire pistol range, a 25, 100 & 200? yard rifle range, an IPSC-style range, and several varieties of shotgun options, including skeet, trap and sporting clays.

It's a little shopworn, and they need to police up the brass more often, but it's the cheapest place I've found down here to burn off a few rounds.

Little Bee-Boy brought along his .22 pistol, a Smith & Wesson 422, and I had the new Springfield Armory .45 and the old Ruger Blackhawk in .357 Mag.

I was primarily concerned with seeing how the .45 would shoot. I bought an additional 100 rounds of 230 gr FMJ (above and beyond the Ammo Day purchase!) and 50 rounds of .38 Special. I brought along 70 rounds of the .45 JHPs, and 50 rounds of .357 Magnum. We had about 250 rounds of .22 as well.

The 7 round stainless mags seemed to work OK. The Wilson Combat 8 round mag was so far superior in loading and performance, though, that I may need to go ahead and buy a couple at the next gun show, and leave the 7 rounders for SHTF work. We had several failures to fire with the .45, and one failure to feed. The feed failure was due to Little Bee-Boy limp-wristing the .45. No, that's not a gay slam, it just means that he didn't keep as firm a grip as necessary to help the action cycle cleanly. No big deal, we just ejected the clip, dropped out the stovepiped round, and were back in action in seconds.

The failures to fire are gonna require some tinkering with the trigger setscrew to eliminate some overtravel. I found that every so often, I would go to squeeze the trigger, and there was no corresponding bang. I would let off on the trigger, let it travel fully forward, and then it would shoot OK. Basically, I was not letting the trigger reset forward of the sear. A bit of adjustment should set that to rights.

The .45 shot just like I knew it would. Big brawny shoves against the hand, just a bit of muzzle flip, and solid lockups on return to battery. It shoots pretty much dead on at the 10 yard range. I'm used to aiming below the bullseye (6 o'clock hold) to get hits in the X ring. This gun wants you to hold a little higher.

The .357 shot just fine, as always. There's not a great deal of difference shooting the .38s and the .357s, though, considering the big Hogue Monogrip I've got mounted on the heavy Blackhawk. It's excellent at soaking up recoil, and makes recocking a lot easier than the usual walnut grips. Pretty as the walnut grips are, after you've shot 2 dozen full Magnum loads, you've got a bit of a palm tingle happening!

Bee-Boy had a bit of a problem with the Smith. We kept getting failures to fire. I think it's just a case of "I don' wanna eat that nasssty Federal ammo!" coming from the gun. Bee-Boy thinks it's his failure to thoroughly clean it, and after taking it apart this afternoon, he may be right. First of all, that gun's a bitch to disassemble. Usually, wet & dry patches down the barrel, and a good toothbrushing with Hoppe's in the action suffices, considering it never gets shot all that much. Once we got it apart, though, there was enough crud in there to build a good-sized cockroach. I think there might have been sufficient grit caked around the firing pin area to impede normal forward travel.

It's clean now. I found 1002 uses for the bottled computer gas. It's great for blowing out hidden grit from underneath delicate action bits that you don't want to disassemble. Just flush with a good dose of Hoppe's, brush a bit, then hit it with the air. It's clean enough to eat off of now. However, it'll have to be another day when we test it.

So, a fun day was had, and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to do it in. We just need more bloggers along for the ride next time!

Adios, muchachos!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Booze Reviews - #5, #6, #7, #8

One of the things I dislike about Xmas shopping is the inability to keep from spending money on myself. You'll be out fighting the crowds, loaded down with bags, yet that little doggie in the window presses its nose up against the glass and says "Take me home!" In this case, I justified the decision by saying I would use it for blogfodder, but still...

In this case, the 'little doggie' was actually a sampler set of 4 bourbons. I ran across the set while stocking up on Xmas cheer for others, but just couldn't resist picking it up. After all, it's an opportunity for a 4-in-1 Booze Review!

So, being otherwise unoccupied this evening, I'm gonna just jump right in and taste some of the best the bourbon makers have to offer. This might actually become a 5-in-1 review, depending on my stamina and the possible need to measure these fairly recent offerings up against my Gold Standard for bourbons, Maker's Mark.

This set is called the Original Small Batch Bourbon Collection. (pictured below)

It's a set of four 50 ml bottles of some whiskeys I would normally not sample, since they tend to run $40 to $50 a bottle. So, as far as I see it (in my tortured logic) the collection was well worth the $18 it cost me. God knows ordering a shot of each in a bar would cost at least that much!

In order of ascending potency, we have the following whiskeys:

Basil Hayden's (80 proof) - 8 years old - Kentucky Springs Distilling Co.
Knob Creek (100 proof) - 9 years old - Knob Creek Distillery
Baker's (107 proof) - 7 years old - James M. Beam Distilling Co.
Booker's (126.7 proof) - 6-8 years old - James M. Beam Distilling Co.

I'll be trying them in that order, so armed with my set of trusty tasting glasses and a bottle of spring water... (just in case!)

Off We Go!!!

#1) Basil Hayden's - The first whiff of this stuff is alcohol and corn, followed by a light toasty aroma, and just a hint of lemon. When I smell Maker's Mark, I think of perfume. This stuff reminds me of bathroom tile cleaner. Not an auspicious start.
The first sip sent waves of alcohol galloping over my tongue, and the fumes went right up the chimney to nestle in my sinuses. Not a good balance, IMHO. There's a bit of an unpleasant bite on the back of the mouth and the sides of the tongue. The aftertaste is a bit astringent.
I'm not sure I'm getting anything out of this bourbon that I couldn't get from Jim Beam or Old Crow. Seems to be more thought put into the label design than the balance of the flavor.

I'm not impressed. It's not bad, but it's not great, either. Certainly not worth the money for a full bottle.

5 out of 10 pulltabs

#2) Knob Creek - First of all, the bottle design sucks. This feels too much like pouring out a bottle of Aramis cologne into a glass. Note to liquor bottlers... stick with round bottles!
The nose on this whiskey is markedly different from the previous. There's a fuller, richer aroma, with more of a caramel and nut scent. Even with the higher alcohol content, there doesn't seem to be the solvent aroma of the Hayden's whiskey.
Wow... the first sip was powerful... a very different whiskey. The flavor is remarkable. There's an alcohol hit, to be certain, but it's immediately followed up by this incredible wave of sour mash flavor. I'm gonna take another hit straight, then see what it's like when cut with a bit of spring water.
Man, good stuff! The spring water cuts the alcohol burn, and lets a bunch of underlying flavors out to play around. This one's a fine sipping bourbon to be sure. I gots to get me a bottle of this whooskey!

El Capitan sez: Cain't go wrong here. Beats the hell out of Whiskey #1.

7 out of 10 pulltabs

#3) Baker's - Ahhh... the perfume nose comes out on this one. There's a bit of a floral note, followed by a citrusy, toasted-nutty aroma. I think the alcohol fumes are anesthetizing my nose, though... Still, if I can still spell 'anesthetizing', I'm doing OK.
Oh, Jumping Jesus in Jazzy Jeans... this stuff'll curl your hair. Eeek. 107 proof is nothing to play around with. There's almost a candy-like flavor here, followed by the hot alcohol burn. This one's complex. It's like eating Indian food, where one flavor slowly fades into another, leaving a blend of both behind to savor. I want to keep sipping this one straight, but the high proof is kicking my ass. Lemme pour a bit of water on the fire...
Ahhh... There we go! Once the alcohol's out of the way, the fudgy-vanilla taste comes through. This is some good hooch. I can see sitting out on the porch with a bottle of this and a jug of branch water, just watching the clouds go by.

I'll give this one a big thumbs up!
7 out of 10 pulltabs

#4) Booker's - They advertise this last one as being straight from the barrel. The aroma has a lot of sweet oakiness, a lot of sour mash, and a shitload of paint thinner fumes. I'm almost dreading the first sip of this 63.35% alcohol liquor.

BuuuuWaauuuggghhhhhh!!!!! Holy Shit!!!! I think my tongue just died, followed by the skin off the roof of my mouth. That's way too much liquor to be drinking straight. It tastes goooood, though! Raisins, caramel, and charcoaled oak all come though, once the burn dies off. OK, no more screwing around. In goes the spring water... after just one more sip...

Wooohooo! Man, that's good liquor. Hard to believe this comes from the same folks that put out Ol' Bastard Jim in the plastic bottle. I could almost get used to this stuff straight. Adding water, though, kicks this up into the stratosphere. There's more complexity than any of the others, and this could give Maker's Mark some competition, if it wasn't for the price differential.

This is a remarkable bourbon whiskey. Add it to your "to do over the holidays" list.

8 out of 10 pulltabs, and a sombrero tossed into the air!

well, there it is, campers. I'm starting to hae trouble typing, so I'm gonna go pour a tall glass of iced tea and vegitate on the frnt porch for a while. Hope you enjoyed yhe review!

El Capitan

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving thoughts

I just couldn't stand watching anymore of the Thanksgiving parade on TV, so I thought I'd get a blogpost in before heading out to Sugarland to join the family feast.

So, just to turn on the sappy-meter full blast, here's a list of the things I'm thankful for:

For being a citizen of the greatest nation on earth. It ain't braggin' if it's the truth!

For being a Texan, born & bred.

My family, for being there for me, regardless.

Warren, for being the brother I never had.

MD Anderson Cancer Center, for keeping Warren alive so we can be dirty old men together.

Kevin, who keeps me honest about who I am, where I'm from, and where I'm going.

Bowie, for letting me flex the ol' brainpan and keep it from stagnating.

Liz, for putting up with my shit for all these years.

Jenni, Jennifer, and Jennifer. Individually, you are awesome. If you three ever got together, you'd rule the world!

Andy & Laura, for an alternate viewpoint, and years of friendship.

Lynn & Dave, for helping me reach adulthood.

Dave & TJ, for keeping me immature. Life's a lot more fun that way.

Leif, and his endless patience with someone who doesn't take his Mac OS learning as seriously as he ought to.

Wayne, for showing me that life gets sweeter after 50. Yar!!! Moisten the wenches!

Scott & Dean, for being honest, candid, and always willing to talk.

Tracy, for keeping the Hatchet Slut alive even in the People's Republic of Seattle.

Betsy Cat & Pookie Cat. Sometimes life's just gotta stop so ears can be scratched.

Bill Samuels, for the wondrous nectar that is Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey.

Monica Bellucci, just for existing.

Whoever first threw chili, onions and cheese on a hot dog. You deserve a Nobel Prize!

Charles Alderton & Wade Morrison, for Dr Pepper.

Apple Macintosh computers, for never asking me about my IRQs.

John Browning, for designing the 1911 .45 pistol.

The blogosphere, for a greater sense of community.

The Democratic National Committee, for screwing up and nominating an awful candidate, keeping us free of your poxy appeasement plans for 4 more years.

Menu bar clocks, for telling me it's time to quit typing and go get ready to eat turkey!


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Some Early Xmas Cheer!

Though it goes deeply against the grain, I'll go ahead and mention something Christmas-y before Thanksgiving, mainly 'cause Tiffany's guestblogger Billy has posted a nice holiday poem.

Billy's verse reminded me of this song, one of my favorites by Robert Earl Keen, and it really kinda sums up the holiday festivities in my neck of the woods. Keen's got a way with the lyrics. Check him out, if you haven't already.


Artist: Robert Earl Keen
"Merry Christmas From The Family"
Album: The Party Never Ends

Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch and homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn't know what to think of him until he sang
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad!

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay
Who talks all about A.A.
Chain smoking while the stereo plays Noel, Noel
The First Noel

Carve the Turkey
Turn the ball game on
Mix margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak Store
We need some ice and an extension cord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of tampons, Marlboro Lights
Hallelujah everybody say Cheese!
Merry Christmas from the family

Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can't remember how I'm kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights
Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw a breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night, Oh Silent Night, Oh Holy Night

Carve the turkey, turn the ball game on
Make Bloody Marys
Cause We All Want One!
Send somebody to the Stop 'N Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of tampons, some Salem Lights
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese!
Merry Christmas from the Family!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Rats! Big F*$%&ing Rats! A Winter's Tail

More from the email archives.... This little episode took place last winter.

Well, boys & girls, today's adventure was cleaning out the garage with Dad! Can you say moldy clutter? I knew you could!

After being informed that - A: I was going to Austin this weekend, and B: I was to get to load up and haul back a truckbed-and-trailer full of heavy-ass furniture to Houston (that I had previously hauled TO Austin about a year ago, but that's another matter entirely...) We proceeded to go explore the dungheap, er... garage to make space for the incoming load.

When I say dungheap, I was not kidding. If you have not heard the tale as yet, Dad had purchased a 25 lb bag of grass seed to spread on the lawn. It promptly got covered up by one of the innumerable loads of junk that get carried out to the garage, and was forgotten about. Except by the rats. See, the common domestic rat (rattus rattus) just loooooves to make a home in compost heaps and wood piles. When aforementioned compost heaps and woodpiles are next to a nice cozy garage, though, they have no qualms about gnawing a hole in the back wall and moving right in. They wasted no time finding the bag of grass seed. Imagine you are an 8 ounce rat. You have found the equivalent of 50 times your body weight in what might as well be GrapeNuts cereal. Naturally, you bring the little lady along, and also invite all your rat pals for a smorgasbord. Oh, and you have babies. Lots and lots of rat babies.

When I went out exploring the garage last spring when the raccoon had wandered into it, the seed hulls and rat turds were almost 3" deep around the sack of grass seed, and tapered off from there in a widening circle where it was spread underneath the piles of boxes, bins, and assorted oddities. At that point I wisely avoided the garage unless it was full daylight, and I had tall boots on.

I digress.... back to the tale!

Cleaning out the garage is a simple task, really. Move everything out, sweep, sort, throw away at least a third of the clutter, and move the rest back inside in a more orderly fashion. My preferred method of garage cleaning involved a front-end loader and a roll-on/roll-off dumpster, followed by a huge bonfire, but I was once again overruled.

There's actually almost half of the concrete floor visible now. Not enough to move all my stuff down from Dallas, which would save me $50 a month, but there's enough room to get all the furniture moved in from Austin, and leave Dad enough room to refinish it to sell hopefully sooner rather than later.

The fun part came when we were nearly finished, and I had stopped sweeping to take a swig from a bottle of water. I've got the bottle tilted back, and my eyes are pointed upward when Dad yells "Watch out for the rat!" I'm not afraid of rats, and even find them cute in a verminous, Black Plague-y sort of way, but that doesn't mean I want them climbing up my leg, either. So I'm hopping around, desperately trying to catch sight of the critter and not spew water all over everything. Dad's getting a good chuckle, mostly because my prime hopping days were 20 years ago, and I imagine I look rather like a bear dancing the Watusi. The rat by this time has disappeared into the pile of boxes along the back wall, and we can hear him scrabbling around looking for the Rat Escape Hatch that we still need to get patched.

Futher merriment comes when I find a box of my grandmother's (Gigi, for those of you dear readers that knew her) handmade Xmas ornaments. I had thought all of the Xmas gear was stored inside in the attic, but apparently these had been placed outside inadvertently by one of our relatives who helped to clean up the Xmas clutter we had left about in the chaos caused by Gigi's illness and death 2 years ago.
Mom had thought some of the ornaments were missing, and behold, here they were. With a big F*$%&ing rat-gnawed hole in the top of the box, and bits and pieces of ornaments hanging out the top.

I toss the box to Dad and explain what's in it. I also mention that Mom will excrete large bricks sideways through the usual exit portal when she finds out. Dad, from the wellspring of wisdom that most fathers seem to acquire, said "We'll salvage what we can, then take them inside and put them with the rest of the Xmas ornaments. We can 'find them next year' and no one will be the wiser. Particularly your Mother...." Sage wisdom, indeed!

So Dad's going through this box of ornaments, most of which are wrapped in (now rat-gnawed) tissue paper. As it turns out, they left Gigi's mostly alone, aside from a few nibbles, and concentrated on the bread-dough ornaments my sister and I made in our youth, and they also gnawed up a few Hallmark 1970's era Xmas balls. No great loss there. Dad's about 2/3 of the way done when he strikes the mother lode.

"RAT!!!!" yells Dad as the first of the rodents porpoises out of the sea of tissue paper, does a triple gainer, and hits the ground running. Dad's now got the box at arm's length, and it's like watching popcorn pop. Big puffy poofs of white tissue paper are bouncing around, and every so often a rat breaks the surface in a nice parabolic arc, hits the ground after a 5 foot fall, and scampers away. Bear in mind I've already bounced this box around and rooted inside in a cursory inspection, and Dad has emptied most of it.
They must have been curled up in a corner of the box when overwhelming panic finally struck.

I'm grabbing for a shovel to try and reduce the population, but rats wait for no man. Because the garage floor is now an open plain, they've scooted around the side of the garage, and are buried in either the woodpile or the climbing vine/bush thingie, and I'm not sticking my hand in either one without a chainmail gauntlet. So, we've de-housed them (a rat rout, if you will) , but left them alive. No doubt they're planning rat-revenge. No matter. I've got a six-shooter and an eye patch. I'll just go do my Rooster Cogburn/True Grit impression. "Mr. Rat, I've got writ here that says you're to stop eating Dad's grass seed forthwith. Now, it's a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of same." I'm sure uncorking a .357 Magnum in the confines of the garage will be a bit much, though.

Aside from the reward of gaining a few dozen square feet of floor space, I also ran across a sealed pint bottle of French brandy tucked away in a box full of Gigi's sewing supplies. I dunno whether it was intended to be an ingredient in her holiday candies, or just there for 'medicinal purposes'. Probably the latter. I'm sure she'll have no problem with me using it for the same purpose. I don't know if brandy is recommended as a preventative tool against hantavirus, but I'll keep you posted as to the details. As I'm typing this, the sun appears to be over the yardarm, and if not, well, it's 5 o'clock somewhere.

Cheers, Gigi. Thanks for the Christmas present!

Greatest Hits? Already???

OK, it's a bit early for "Best Of Baboon Pirates", but I did have a life before the blog, and a few scribbles of mine exist that have caused untold quarts of milk to suddenly jet from my friends & family's collective schnozzes upon reading.

So, since I'm kinda jammed up going into the holidays, here's some old favorites I still get requests for.


Well, for those of you that don't follow rec.arts.sf.written, it's a newsgroup for SciFi/fantasy readers, and often really funny side discussions crop up. A while ago someone posted that a musical stageplay version of Lord Of The Rings was set to debut in London in 2005. After we all stopped laughing and cleaned up the drinks that had snorted out of our nose and onto our keyboards and monitors, someone posted the idea that maybe what we REALLY needed was a Muppet LOTR adaptation, with a mix of Muppet show and Sesame Street characters.

Anyway, much mirth and merriment ensued, so let me pass on some of the suggestions that were made, in addition to some of my own, in hopes of passing on some amusement.

BTW, this is a complilation of many previous poster's material, plus some of my additions.

The Fellowship:
Kermit as Bilbo Baggins and his nephew Robin as Frodo Baggins.
Gonzo as Aragorn
Scooter as Sam Gamgee
Fozzie as Boromir ("Bearomir, get it? Wakawaka!")
Prof. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker for Gimli and Legolas. (though Bert & Ernie are serious contenders)
Andy and Randy Pig (Miss Piggy's dumb nephews) as Merry & Pippin
Statler & Waldorf for Gandalf and Saruman. (Statler's the taller one, he'd be a better Saruman)

Good Guys -
Link Hogthrob as Eomer
Dr. Julius Strangepork as Theoden
Miss Piggy as Eowyn (leading to the climactic "Hi-Yaa!" scene with the Witch-King)
Riders of Rohan - Other pigs in Viking suits (The Viking pigs singing "In The Navy" still makes me ROTFLMAO)
Oscar the Grouch as Denethor.
Rowlf as Faramir
Sam the American Eagle would make a pretty good Elrond (good, noble, never does anything)
Camilla the Chicken as Arwen (she was Gonzo's girlfriend on Muppet Show)
Janis and Dr. Floyd Pepper (From Electric Mayhem Band) as Galadriel and Celeborn
Lew Zealand (fish-flinger) as Haldir
Big Bird as Gwaihir the Wind Lord.
Prairie Dawn as Rosie Cotton (Sam's girlfriend)
Dr. Teeth as Barliman Butterbur
The Swedish Chef as Tom Bombadil

Not-So-Good Guys:
Grover as Gollum
The Count von Count as the Witchking (head Nazgul) "One, one dead hobbit! Aa Aa Aahhh!"
Pepe the Prawn (from movies and Long John Silver's commercials) as Grima Wormtongue
Snuffleupagus as one of Sauron's war elephants.
Sweetums the Monster as Cave Troll
Rizzo the Rat as Orc captain
Animal as the Balrog. (remember giant Animal in Muppet Movie?)
Orcs & goblins - Muppet rats & chickens
Cookie Monster (with extra legs grafted on) as Shelob - Note: The Muppet show did have a giant muppet spider in one episode, but Cookie Monster really needs a role, plus he's good at gobbling things down.
H. Ross Parrot as voice of Sauron ("Now see here... You can't hide! I see you with that ring!"

Muppets still needing a role -
Zoot & Lips from Electric Mayhem Band
Beauregard the Janitor
Crazy Harry the bomb flinger
The News Anchorman
Koozbanian aliens (NopeNopeNopeNope!)
Mahna mahna guy
Amazing Mumford - magician "a la peanut butter sandwiches!"

Oh, get stuffed!

I suppose this is useful information...

You Are the Stuffing

You're complicated and complex, yet all your pieces fit together.
People miss you if you're gone - but they're not sure why.

Found at Denita's place.

Monday, November 22, 2004

More search engine fun!

After my initial referral hit from Yahoo's search string "Furry Hand Jobs" that freaked me out a little, I've been keeping track of the hits that come in through search engines.

I've had two hits this week from searches for "Demerara Rum". That's good. When that insane urge to spend $50 a bottle for vodka goes away and Demerara Rum become the new drink of the Yuppies and Barhoppers, I'll be able to say "I've been drinking that for years, you poseurs..."

One recently for "link Roadrunner 44D". #1 on for that one. I guess he's looking for the Warner Brothers cartoon bird after a silicone job.

Another from Netscape Search for "Mickey's Fine Malt liquor pounders". Dunno what that one's about, but no one would ever catch me using "Fine" and "Malt liquor" in the same sentence, unless I was referring to the amount I would have to pay after getting tagged with a Public Intoxication ticket.

One for "Deedledoo", another for "Enfield". Those were just lucky hits.

This latest one worries me... #7 on the Google ranking for "Baboon Butt Transplants". I'm not sure quite what to think about that one. There's got to be some kind of sick freak out there thinking about getting him a big ol' red-assed baboon tuckus grafted onto his posterior. Maybe it's a track & field guy looking for one of those multicolored mandrill asses. That way, he really could take off like a striped-ass ape.

(oh, for proper TaykSis pronunciation of that last one, ya gotta say Stry-Ped assed Ape. Just so ya know!)

UPDATE - 11/23
Another search engine hit on Demerara Rum... It ought to be hitting the cover of "Wine & Spirits" magazine anytime now! Go get some before the yuppies and barcrawlers jack up the prices! And tell 'em El Capitan sent you!

Oh, and a Google hit on 'stupid baboon behavior'. Which pretty much sums up at least 80% of my life...

"Jesus loves me, this I know..."

"'cause Jerry Falwell tells me so!"

I hate to do two movie reviews so close to each other, but I had to mention a wickedly funny film I watched last night.

"Saved" is a pretty vicious satire of the Christian Fundamentalist youth movement. Not that I'm entirely opposed to that, mind you, but this skewering of Xtian culture is just as funny as the message is pointed.

Jena Malone plays the lead character Mary, a student at American Eagle Christian High School. Hmmm, no symbolism there. Not a bit.

Mary's got a nice Christian boyfriend, Dean, who happens to be gay. So, following Jesus's wishes (following a head-bump & near drowning in the swimming pool) Mary decides to give it her all to convert Dean back to the Jesus Path. Naturally, hilarity (and pregnancy) ensues.

Mary hangs out with Hillary Faye and Veronica, the two other members of the Heaven's Jewels, a kind of "Jesus Cheerleading" band/clique. Veronica's a hanger on to HiIlary Faye, who's the real leader of the Jewels.

Take 2 parts of Reese Witherspoon's Tracy Flick character from 'Election', stir in a good bit of Essence of Falwell (smells like Holy Spirit!), sprinkle in a bit of Jan Crouch from the PTL network, and shake with a bunch of "Gospel Rock" singers, and you get Hilary Faye. She's petrifying in her zeal and commitment. You look at Hilary Faye, and you understand how Himmler was able to fill all his goon squads.

Mary gets booted from the Jewels following her opposing Hilary's "outing" of Dean, and falls in with the campus outcasts, who are clearly (and in true teen-flick clicheed manner) a better choice as friends.

Eva Amurri (Susan Sarandon's kid) plays Cassandra, a Jewish kid forced to attend American Eagle, since she's been kicked out of every other school in the region. She overplays the rebel aspect a bit, but her character's got a sweet side when she pals up with Mary and Roland (Hillary's disabled brother). Oh, and when she gets all dolled up for the prom? Damn! She's absolutely smokin' hot!

Great performances throughout, including one from a very unexpected source. Unlike other "cute" child actors like Fred Savage (Wonder Years) or Ricky Schroder (Silver Spoons) who have grown up into Neanderthal-looking freaks, or Lukas Haas (Witness) who became some sort of elongated jug-eared alien, Macauley Culkin, the "Home Alone" kid himself, looks fairly normal as an adult. He turns in a great performance as the aforementioned Roland. There's one scene that I almost choked while laughing, as he sits in his wheelchair in the mall, wearing a sign saying "Will Dance for Food". He seemed to be channeling a young Christian Slater at times. I hope this role wasn't a fluke. If he can do this good of a performance on a regular basis, he's gonna be a great adult actor.
(Note, I'm being a bit hard on Schroder, here. Check out The Lost Battalion if you get a chance. It's actually quite good, and he does a pretty fair job in it.)

Great lines abound throughout the movie. Here's a few of my favorites:

Hilary Faye: "It isn't born a gay, it's born again!!!"

Hilary Faye: "I just have to remember that everytime Jesus closes a door He opens a window."
Roland: "Yeah, for us to jump out."

Hilary Faye: "Mary, turn away from Satan. Jesus, he loves you."
Mary: "You don't know the first thing about love."
Hilary Faye: (throws a Bible at Mary) "I am *filled* with Christ's love!"
Mary: (hands Bible back) "This is not a weapon, you idiot."

Roland: "Are you alright?"
Hilary Faye: "No! I crashed my van into Jesus, okay?"

Cassandra: "What's the only reason a Christian girl comes downtown to the Planned Parenthood clinic?"
Roland: "To plant a pipe bomb?"
Cassandra: "Okay, two reasons."

Mary: "Mercy House is a place that deals with all kinds of problems, like teenage mothers to alcoholism and..."de-gayification".

Tia: "Sorry about Dean's faggotry!"

Veronica: "Roland is so blessed to have such a thoughtful sister. You know, in countries like China, Hilary Faye would probably have been killed at birth."
Hilary Faye: "And then where would you be, Roland?"
Roland: "China."

It's a pretty good movie, overall. Fundies are not gonna like it, I think it hits too close to home for that. I think it's more anti-bigot and anti-zealot than anti-Xtian, though.

The movie did raise a few questions I've been wondering about for a while.

F'rinstance, what's with the arm-waving thing? I mean, seriously! Does holding your arms up in the air while praying or singing help God tune in a little better? Shouldn't you hold them both out at a 45 degree angle for the best 'rabbit ears' antenna effect?

Similarly, does holding a revival in a tent make it any more fulfilling than in a regular church?

How about those 25 acre churches that seat 2500 at a go, complete with bowling alleys and movie theaters? Or the hundreds of TV stations beaming the '700 Club' to the heathen Chinee? Perhaps we could spend a bit more on food for the hungry, and clothing for the naked?

I'm just asking, is all.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Dog Days

I am currently without a canine companion, and have been for some years. Part of it was living in an apartment for a long time. It's really not fair to keep an active dog cooped up all day, and the kind of dogs that do OK in small apartments are a bit too fragile and/or yappy for me to cohabitate with.

The other part is a lackluster record with owning dogs previously. We've owned three in my lifetime. Jacques, a Standard Poodle that was one of Dad's wedding gifts to Mom was the first dog. By the time I showed up on the scene, the poodle was well into adulthood. From the photographic evidence, I seemed to enjoy having a dog around, but my only real memory of Jacques was the last night of its life as it vomited and quivered, too sick to even drink water. Dad took it to the vet, and Jacques never came back. Mom said that Jacques got really sick and had to be put to sleep, then the vet put him into a box and took him away. That's better than the truth, I suppose. Telling your kid that the family dog got incinerated or dumped in a landfill would've been great for my psyche at that age. I never quite trusted vets to give you your pet back after that, either.

The next dog was Terry, the Wire-haired Fox Terrier. You can see the ingenuity of a young kid participating in the naming process on that one! Good enough dog, I suppose, except that it never quit jumping on people, and barked constantly. Dad was away on business a lot, and Mom & I knew nothing of raising and training dogs, at least not enough beyond making half-hearted attempts at getting it to behave. Terry finally got taken to live out in the country with a family that volunteered to take her after we had a go-round with the neighbors about the incessant barking.

Dog #3 was the low point. Dad brought home a tiny little ball of fur not long after Terry the Terrier had been relocated. It was a Cock-A-Poo that got named Mischief, and carried the worst traits of both breeds. The dog was about as sharp as a sack of wet mice, and grew this almost impenetrable mass of fur that we would have to shave off periodically. Brushing it out was impossible. As the dog grew older, and it could never quite grasp the concepts of "Fetch" and "Stay", I lost interest. My sister never did take to it very much. It would have been one of the all-time top contenders in the Nastiest Dog-Breath in the World contest. We moved to Houston, and went from a house to a townhome. Mischief's 1/8 acre backyard went to a 8' x 14' fenced in patio. Mom wasn't having the dog inside the house, so out there it sat. And there the madness began.

I was in Junior High at the time (Middle school, for all you Yankees) and between Boy Scouts, band, friends, and everything else that occupies a young teen's time, Mischief got a very small slice of the available time left. Mom & Dad would feed him, but that was the limit of their involvement. It was "the kid's dog" after all.

The dog got brought inside during rainstorms, at least the ones that someone was home when they began. We never walked him much. He never learned to quit pulling on the leash, making each walk an adventure in being dragged along. Even training with a choke chain, and finally one of the "super bad dog" pronged chokechains failed to keep him under control. He would just keep charging forward until the prongs drew blood, and he began rasping from lack of air. Like I said, not a very bright dog. If I had known then what I know now, I would have had him put down then, if just to save him from the years ahead.

Once high school began, Mischief was an afterthought at best. We were back in a house, the dog had a big backyard to live in & a doghouse, but the 3 years on that patio porch had done irreparable damage. Mischief could no longer stand rainstorms or enclosed spaces. We would bring it into the garage, but it would scratch at the inside of the door until you went out to keep it company. We moved three different times when I was in high school, and each time, Mischief's behavior got worse. It became a running joke among my friends what a worthless dog I had. By my senior year, the dog had begun tearing through doors. It would scratch constantly when left inside, wearing its claws down to nubs. Mom finally decreed the dog was banished to the garage during rainstorms, no longer was it welcome inside the house. The dog promptly clawed through the garage door, tunneled out through the fence, and escaped.

This became a ritual with the rainstorms, and it rains in Houston a lot. Patch the door & fence. Put dog in garage when rain starts. In the morning, go hunt around the streets looking for wandering dog. By the time I left for college, I was sick of it. Sick of the abuse from my friends, sick of the dog, sick of my parents for getting the damn thing in the first place. More than once I would sit out in the backyard, pointing a rifle at Mischief's head, wishing I had the balls to just pull the trigger and be done with it. Dumbass fucking dog would just sit there staring at you, wagging his tail.

I'd come back during the semester breaks, shave down the dog, patch the fence, and wonder how long it would go on. Dad patched the inside of the garage door with sheet steel. Finally, the dog tunneled out after literally tearing through the side of the garage. Went through the tarpaper, sheetrock, and wooden siding. All in one night. I shit you not. There's a ventilation fan mounted in the hole now.

We never saw Mischief again. I did look for several days. I owed the stupid mutt that much. He never turned up, either in the SPCA, City or County pounds. I had had enough of dogs at that point. Nothing but cats from here on out, I vowed.

Y'know, it's kind of funny. My dog-owning friends love their animals. They've got as many pictures of their pets as they do of their kids. I don't have a single picture of Mischief. Not one. I guess he was just never important enough for that Kodak moment.

The Mischief debacle was the prime reason that I never even considering owning a dog, or felt I was really suitable for owning a dog, for years and years. For that matter, as a result of the experience, I still think that kids might not be such a great idea either. I seem to do OK with cats. Betsy Cat and Pookie Cat are doing great, though I probably give them too many kitty-treats.

I'd sure like another try at a dog, though, now that I'm old enough and wise enough to do it right. I've always liked weiner dogs, and a trio of dachshunds would be great company for me, and for each other. Name 'em Andouille, Kielbasa and Chorizo. Still, I gotta get a new fence built, put in a doggie door (no more outside dogs, EVER. Out of sight, out of mind was the biggest problem, IMO) and build lots of high cat-stands for Betsy Cat and Pookie Cat to hide out in. It takes a wad of cash for all that, plus vet bills, the cost of the dogs, training classes, etc. so it'll be a few more years.

So, I make do with my friend's dogs. Rockhauler's got a cool beagle named Sweet Pea. Andy has a pair of dogs, but I've only met one of them. My sister and her husband have a pair as well. They're kinda cool, and I have pics as well!

Here's Sis & B.I.L. with their Evil Rat Terrier of Doom, Ashley. (Name a dog after an interior designer, and it turns to evil...)

Here's their other dog, Ellie. Ellie's kind of a goof.

Here's a pic of my extremely pregnant sister, with her Primary Dog, Ellie, and her Emergency Backup Dog, Ashley.
Note that the Fires of Perdition burn brightly in the eyes of Evil Rat Terrier of Doom.

So, there's my shaggy-dog story.

A quick note to you PETA fanatics or those who feel the need to chastise me for Mischief's poor treatment. Don't even bother hitting the 'Comment' button. There's not a goddamned thing you can say that I haven't already said to myself over the years, so give it a rest. If you gotta do something, write a sob story about how my whole family ought to burn in hell/rot in jail/be eaten by rabid emus, then link back over here. I could use the traffic.

Adios, Perros perdidos...

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Well, I didn't have beer for breakfast, re: the Kris Kristofferson song of this post's title, but after yesterdays exercise in sloth, I think I probably ought to. First weekend in a long time I didn't have a blessed thing planned, so I devoted yesterday to horizontal meditation, Age of Empires II, websurfing, and brushing out the cats. I only stirred out of my room long enough to answer nature's call, and run out to rent some DVD's and get dinner around 9 pm. Oh, yes, friends & neighbors, I'm not a professional slacker, but I can fake it pretty well.

So, not a lot to talk about today. Got my 1000th visitor on Sitemeter, and moved up the TTLB Ecosystem from Flippery Fish to Crawly Amphibian. I'd be more jazzed about that, except that probably 100 of the Sitemeter hits are from accessing the site from the work PC. I haven't told Sitemeter to ignore that IP yet.

Also, I had an entry in the Carnival of the Recipes, and that was worth at least 200 visitors. They're like the "Next Blog" visitors from, though. Here once, never see 'em again. My page views are low, as is the time spent here. I guess I'm not building an audience really quickly. Hmmm. Might be time to go political! Write a bile-laced screed! Shriek some racial epithets! Do another Cat-blog!!

Actually, I'm having trouble finding a direction for the blog. I'm kinda shotgunning all over the blogosphere, doing a bit of this & that. With my post-election political burnout, I can't really summon up the gumption to ream out Bush for our porous borders. The Clinton spectacle the other day was just not worth getting riled up about. I'm a little uneasy about the Booze Reviews, now that another good friend just hopped on the wagon. Shit, I'm running out of carousing partners. Small price to pay for having them having a functional liver and a handful of usable brain cells in 20 years, though.

Man, iTunes is on a roll this morning. Normally I'm hitting the 'skip' key every other song, to bypass something too out of my mood to listen to. Last 7 songs have been right in the groove, though. McLachlan's 'Building A Mystery'; Buffett's 'Meet Me In Memphis"; Marley's 'No Woman No Cry"; The Stones' "Paint It Black"; Kate Bush's "The Sensual World"; Iris DeMent's "Sweet Is The Melody"; Sheryl Crow's "Steve McQueen"... The last one's a bit too animated for my somnolent brain cells this morning, but it's a great tune regardless.

A good fast song's a necessary thing, I'm thinking. Got me revved up enough to go do the "Three S's" ($h1t, shower, shave). That way I won't have the "I'm covered in filth" excuse not to go get some Xmas shopping done later.

Later, amigos.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Ammo Buy!!

My insistence upon doing things on the proper day often leads to a frantic rush to get everything accomplished on time. F'rinstance, I absolutely HAVE to vote on Election Day. Absentee Ballots are for when you'll be out of the area on Election Day, and Early Voting is for old & grey people, IMHO. So, on the 1st Tuesday in November, I often find myself in huge lines, become late for work, etc.

Same for today. I just HAD to buy the ammo ON Ammo Day, not before. So, I'm in a frantic rush to get ammo bought and still keep a dinner engagement, and also back home so I can post about it, all on the 19th. I am truly deranged...

As you might recall, the .45 pistol was the special Ammo Week Bonus Buy, posted about earlier.

Anyway, here's the haul:

Look at those pretty pewter grips I got at the gun show! Now I just need someone to make them in sterling silver!

Anyway, total ammo count for the day - 50 rounds of Winchester white box .45 ACP, 230 gr JHP; 100 rds Winchester white box .45 ACP, 230 gr FMJ; 50 rounds of Winchester white box .357 Magnum, 110 gr JHP; and 20 rnds Winchester Super X 185 gr Silvertip hollowpoints.

That should last all of 45 minutes at the range. If I fire slow. And take a break. I need a reloading press!

Here's Pookie Cat inspecting the photoshoot. Betsy Cat has already experienced cosmoline, so she keeps her distance when the hardware is out.

220 rounds this year. I'll aim to double it at a minimum next year, and continue doubling each year until Homeland Security and ATF have a mutual freak out as they watch a tractor-trailer deliver the supply in 2010.

Hope y'all had as much fun as I did!

Don't Mess With Texas!

I finally watched the Alamo movie. Not the 1960 John Wayne epic, but the more recent one filmed last year outside of Austin, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett, and Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston.

I didn't bother trying to see it during its theater release. The Ron Howard directorial bailout and the 3 month postponement of the initial release date for a re-edit convinced me it was gonna be a dog of a film.

I was really concerned about seeing it once it came out on DVD. No, not for the time and money wasted on watching bad films. I make that mistake all the time!

It was the thought of possibly having to sit through a postmodern retelling of the Alamo story, filtered through a revisionist lens, and lit with politically correct lamps. No doubt some liberal Hollywood director would browbeat me with a tale of horrible oppressive racist capitalistic white people stealing the land from the poor-but-noble hardworking Mexican peasantry, who only want to lose their chains and join the joyful Revolution! (while simultaneously ignoring the fact that the Mexicans stole it from the Karankawa, Tonkawa and Comanche, who in turn invaded Caddo tribe lands, repeat ad infinitum)

I also didn't want to see my favorite legends disposed of casually. I tend to be fairly rationalist in my outlook on life, but there's just a few historical inconsistencies that I've grown accustomed to. As an amateur historian, I can accept the fact that William Barrett Travis drawing a line in the sand with his sword is likely a myth; that Jim Bowie didn't really rise from his sickbed to kill 15 Mexicans with a Nock Volley Gun and his fearsome blade; that Davy Crockett might actually have been captured alive and executed later, instead of falling dead after using Ol' Betsy to brain dozens of invaders before being overwhelmed by bayonets.

Nevertheless, I don't want some DamnYankee crapping all over our Texas folk heroes. I don't go up to Illinois and tell people that Johnny Appleseed stuffed Pippins & Winesaps up his dookie-chute. (Sorry, I stole that term from Acidman, and couldn't wait to use it...) Nor do I wander around NASCAR events spreading tales of Dale Earnhardt getting his butt waxed for race day, and the resulting lowering of the ass/seat friction coefficient caused him to slide forward faster than normal, leading to his death. For one, it's not respectful of the dead; two, that kind of talk will get your ass kicked repeatedly; and three, whether it's true or not, the circumstances of the death do not alter the significance of the actions performed during that person's life.

As it turned out, the movie was not nearly as bad as I feared. Not the greatest ever made, but far from the worst.

The things they got right:

1) The terrain (mostly) - It was good to see caliche soil and cedar trees instead of the alkali dirt and manzanita that you always get when they film in California. I doubt there was that high of a hill so close to the fort the Mexicans were lined up on. Usually you need to go a few miles north up into the Balcones Heights for a hill like that. Still, it coulda been graded down over the last 168 years, so I'll give 'em a pass.

2) The fort - Excellent job on the Alamo, including the unfinished (and roofless) chapel, the Long Barracks and the palisade. The wall ramps were properly done, and it showed just how large an area had to be defended by the small group of Texians and volunteers.

3) The sound FX - When they fired a load of canister (or 4 lbs of horseshoe nails) against the oncoming Mexican battalions, it sounded like it should have. A big bang, followed by that bee-buzzing sound, then the scattered rattle of the bits & chunks of metal slamming into skulls and rifle stocks. They didn't try to overdo the muzzleloader rifle sounds, either. A .36 cal squirrel rifle stoked with 40-50 grains of powder is sufficient to kill a man at 200 yards, but actually has quite a modest bang compared to a modern rifle. Now, I'm somewhat infamous for playing "chicken" with a .50 cal Hawken, seeing how much powder you can cram down a barrel and still survive, and believe me, they can make quite a bang, but you certainly don't shoot loads like that in battle. The sound FX crew kept it reasonable, which was nice to hear.

4) The Mexican Army. Trained in Napoleonic-era tactics, and dressed in the style of the period, they looked good and acted as they should. Contrary to popular belief, Santa Anna's force wasn't a ragged bunch of peons in white pantalones and a sombrero. They were disciplined troops, and led by capable officers. The uniforms were suitably flashy, and the tactics suitably efficient.

Things they didn't quite get right (IMHO):

1) General Santa Anna - This might come as a shock to my fellow Texans, who (like myself) were trained from birth to regard Santa Anna as just to the bad side of Satan, Hitler and Geraldo Rivera. Santa Anna is a remarkable character in history, it just happens that most folks never hear past his abortive jaunt into Texas. This movie portrayed him as some sort of arrogant lecher. Of course, this might well be true, but I thought they laid it on a little thick. Don't miss Crockett's comment regarding Santa Anna at the end.

2) C'mon, at least stick someone with that gigantic Bowie knife! My god, you show off this knife big enough to split an ox from asshole to appetite in one swing, and then it just lays there for the whole movie? Dammit!

3) Crockett - I don't want to say that Billy Bob Thornton performed the role poorly. He was perfectly acceptable, if just a tad bit bland. It was nice to see some subtlety in the role this time around. John Wayne's version was just John Wayne with a dead raccoon on his head. Still, Crockett was a legend in his own lifetime. I don't doubt there are people who can deal with international fame with perfect humility, but 1836 was a different era. Crockett came to Texas looking to be a leader. I think he would have been a touch less somber, and more willing to embrace his fame and use it as best he could.

4) The story didn't set the stage very well. We aren't really told why Texas was breaking away from Mexico, nor do we know why Santa Anna was so fired up to take it back. No mention of Stephen F. Austin, hardly a mention of Washington-on-the Brazos, and fergoshsakes, you gotta mention the Massacre at Goliad in more detail! All that could have been accomplished in 10 minutes or less.

5) Rockets? I'll have to do some research into the Mexican TO&E, but I'm fairly certain they didn't haul a bunch of Congreve rockets all the way from Mexico. Congreve rockets were still a part of the British military inventory until 1850 or so. I doubt they would license them out to other countries, much less one closely allied (at the time) with their age-old enemy, France.

There were the usual movie cliches as well, that I feel detracted from the overall experience. Making sure the married soldier had one last night with the wife; the young soldier, terrified and fearful before the battle, makes the lucky shot that kills the enemy leader; "It's quiet... TOO quiet..."; and so on. No war movie is complete without 'em.

The director also couldn't resist bludgeoning the audience with the Message Hammer, either. Every single scene with the two slaves captured in the Alamo... here comes the Message. SLAVERY IS BAD!!! Whups, don't think they got it that time... Hit 'em again! SLAVERY IS BAD!!! ...and again! SLAVERY IS BAD!!! SLAVERY IS BAD!!! SLAVERY IS BAD!!!. OK, enough already! They did accurately reflect the zeitgeist, though. Jim Bowie's slave asked if he was to be freed before the final battle. Bowie responded with essentially, "Hell, no! You're mine until I die, then I'm giving you to someone else in my will!"

Overall, I'd give The Alamo a thumbs up for accuracy, and half a thumb up for storytelling. I'm glad I didn't pay $8 to see it, but it's well worth a $3.49 rental fee.

Carnival of the Recipes is up!

Boudicca has posted this week's Carnival of the Recipes, on which yours truly posted one of his illegal-in-24-states recipes.

Check 'er out.

Hey! It's the holiday season. Go ahead, cook something that's REALLY bad for you! You can always make a New Years resolution to never do it again in 42 days!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Booze Reviews - #4

OK, it's been a while since I broke out the bottle, so it's time for #4 in the Booze Reviews series.

Hmmm... what tipple goes best with a Jack In The Box Ultimate Cheeseburger and Beethoven's 9th on iTunes? What could complete the experience? Better peruse the stockpile for a bit.

(BTW, the rest of the liquid contributors to this example of poor judgement will be reviewed later, after the memory of the evening fades a bit more. Don't worry about accuracy, I have tasting notes!)

Back from the booze stash! Our special guest tonight comes all the way from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It followed me home, I swear!

Yes, friends & neighbors, we're gonna fight the tequila monster tonight. Do it wrong, and you end up pressing your face against the cool of the porcelain throne, praying the alcohol will somehow be pulled from your pores by the osmotic action of the floor tiles. However, I'm an experienced To-Kill-Ya warrior, so fear not!

This brand is Gran Centenario, the Reposado version. Here's the pic.

This brand used to only be available south of the border, which meant I only got a bottle every other year or so. There was a similar brand that used the same picture on the label, and it was called "Dos Reales". Don't be fooled! That was the distillery's import for many years, but it's a 'mixto', which means the agave juice has been cut with some other form of alcohol. Gran Centenario is 100% blue agave, and IMHO, worth every peso.

A reposado-style tequila differs from the blanco (white) and the anejo (gold) styles in that it has rested for a length of time in oak barrels. In this case, it's 10 years in the oak. That tends to impart a heavy oaky flavor to the tequila. Some people say it overpowers the agave, but I like the result.

Pouring a snort into my trusty tasting glass, the first thing you notice is the color. It's a watery, straw-yellow color that looks like... well, it looks like a urine sample, to be honest. The aroma is fairly complex, with hints of baked fruit, wet hay, and honey.

The first sip goes over the tongue smooth and easy. This stuff is 80 proof (40% alcohol), but there's no burn at all. Even swishing it around in the mouth is pleasant. You get an immediate sweet taste, followed by the vegetable of the agave, and finally, the oaky taste as it goes down. Damn, this stuff it good. Better pour another.

Mmmmm. Second verse, same as the first. It would be criminal to use this in a margarita or tequila sunrise. Even ice cubes would dilute it too much. No, this one's just right in a highball glass or a small snifter.

I still have to go to work tomorrow, so I'm gonna shut this tasting down before the tequila monster whispers in my ear to have another glass or four.

Remember the name! Gran Centenario Reposado! I prefer it to Patron, Cuervo 1800, Cazadores and Don Julio. It makes that Cabo Wabo swill taste like cat pee.

This is a prime example of a 100% agave reposado. One of my favorites, and makes a 5 hour run to the border worthwhile.

8 pulltabs for this bebida de los Dioses.

Carnival of the Recipes XIV - Chili Dog Casserole

I resurrected the following recipe from an email I had sent to this guy as my response to one of his many artery clogging recipes. He insisted on going the corn-dog route, though, instead of using nekkid dogs. Must be a Florida thing. We only eat corny dogs when we can get 'em right out of the boiling lard fry-o-laters at the Texas State Fair .

Anyway, read on. Get yerself a dishtowel to sop up all the drool (or bile...) you'll ooze up while reading this one!

The following was a brainstorm based on one of God's perfect foods, the chili dog. With a properly constructed chili dog, you get all 4 food groups, and the tastes all mingle and complement each other perfectly. The Cheese, the chili, the onion, the bun, the mystery-meat-in-a-tube.... MMmmm.. the drool flow commences... Actually, it's loosely based on another of my favorite recipes, King Ranch Chicken.

Chili Dog Casserole (Feeds 8 regular people, 4 hungry people, or two Texas boys)


2 - 1 lb package hot dogs (I use either Nathan's kosher, or a local coarse-ground variety at least 3/4" in diameter. Avoid the skinny franks or any form of poultry-wiener)

2 - lbs. chili (prefer homemade, but if ya gotta go canned, use Wolf or Stagg. Hormel or that godforsaken stuff they call Cincinatti Skyline chili is only good for feeding swine that you're not too fond of. The frozen "brick" chili is often pretty good, and I'd look for that before resorting to canned chili.)

2 - cans chili dog sauce (thinner consistency than canned chili, in 10 oz. cans)

2 - med. onions. No sweet 1015's or Vidalias, go for a big honkin' white onion with a lot of heat.

2 - 8 oz. bags shredded mild cheddar or monterey jack cheese

1 - 16 ct. bag burrito-sized flour tortillas. (corn tortillas are not a substitute! If you cannot get flour tortillas, use pita bread split in half)

Slice hot dogs into 'coins', dice onions, heat up chili so it's warm and thinned out, but not bubbling-hot.
Open both cans of sauce and warm in separate saucepan or microwave so it's soupy.

In a deep 9x13 casserole, pour in half of the chili dog sauce and spread to cover bottom of dish. Begin layering the casserole dish in the following order on top of the chili dog sauce - Tortillas, chili, onions,
cheese, tortillas, and so on. Spread the chili thin (a ladle works well here) and scatter the hot dogs, onions and cheese as evenly as you can. Make sure your top layer is cheese.

Be sure to cover entire casserole in each layer. Tear tortillas to fit corners and gaps as needed.

Pour on remaining chili sauce over top, making sure to fill in any dry areas.

Cover with foil and bake. (I have a ratty old pre-WWII gas oven, and it's not exactly accurate in temperature or consistent heating, so when I say bake at 350 deg. for 45 minutes, you might have to tinker with those numbers)

Take off foil for last 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream on top if you're so inclined.
Have your home defibrillator set on 'Standby'


Oooo! That water's cold! (and deep!)

We had a real frog-strangler yesterday. Rain came down in buckets all day long, causing people to do the usual idiotic "OhMahGodIt'sRaining" things, myself included.

I commute into a Park & Ride every day, and while leaving downtown on the bus last night, things didn't seem all that bad. I should have remembered that buses have 30" tires.

By the time we arrived at the Park & Ride, the rain had nearly stopped, and there weren't that many wrecks or stalls that I could see. I drove out of the P&R, got on the feeder to take my usual route home.

The problem is, coming up to the intersection of Post Oak and the I-10 feeder, you approach it at a sharp angle and slope, so you can't see down Post Oak until you make the turn.

I took the turn. Big mistake. Instead of the usual 4 lane divided street, there was now the Post Oak Bayou, running deep and wide. Cars were still making it through, but they were up to their hubcaps. I had about 2 seconds to make an illegal U-turn and go back down the feeder, but the line of cars behind me was backing up, and I thought "I can make this!". Bzzzt. Wrong answer.

I just might have made it through, except for two things. #1, I don't have my truck anymore. I no longer have 18" of ground clearance, and an engine sitting another 12" above that. The PimpSled's door sills sit about 10" off the deck.

#2, I didn't anticipate the wake thrown up by buses & trucks heading the other direction. I was halfway through the mess, following the other cars, when some idjit bus driver came rolling along at 25 mph or so, and threw up a wake the size of your average tidal wave. Suddenly water is momentarily up over the wheels, over the hood, and the PimpSled says "That's all, Cap." Bleah. Dead engine, and I'm in deep shiat.

I don't bother to turn on the flashers. Every time a vehicle rolls by, I'm getting water over the gunwales. I spot an entrance to a parking lot into an office complex that's not completely underwater, look down at my nice work shoes and say "Nice knowing ya!", then get out to push this 3800 lb. beast through shin-deep water.

That's some effing hard work, lemme tell ya. That ramp up the driveway nearly killed me, but I got the PimpSled up it. The back tires were still covered up to the bottom of the rim, but it looked safe for the moment.

I called AAA, only to hear gales of laughter as I requested a tow ASAP. So many people were wrecked or stalled, that their next available driver could be there by New Year's Day or thereabouts. Mierda. Spit. Dirty drawers.

By this time, two other cars had stalled out, so I was not alone in my misery. To add to the joy of the occasion, the skyfaucets turned on again full blast, and I beat a retreat to the covered awning by the nearest office. I'm sitting there cursing the rain, when I notice that the water level is rising. Each passing bus moves a higher wave of water, and now the PimpSled's back tires are up to their hubs. Dammit! I try to do the King Canute thing, and force the water to cease rising by force of will, but that ain't working out too well.

Eventually, I bow to the inevitable, head into the deluge and push the car a little higher. Now I'm soaked, the inside of the car (and my leather seats...) are soaked. If you thought I was PO'ed earlier, now I've got steam rising off my brow. Actually, I did, now that I think about it. I noticed my breath was condensing, though it wasn't all that cold, and later saw vapor rising off my wet shirt.

I offered my cell phone to the woman in the nearest car, but she waved hers back at me. She was still in the road, but as she made no indication of wanting to get out and push her car beside mine, I beat a retreat to the awning and settled in to wait.

The rain slacked off a bit, and I went and retrieved a book from the car to help pass the time. Reading standing up via the light from a streetlight is not quite what I had in mind for the evening.

Eventually, the rain died off completely, and the drain grate in the parking lot driveway started looking like a bathtub drain whirlpool instead of a fountain, so the water was finally falling intstead of rising.

I kept trying the engine every 30 minutes or so, and after hour #2, it finally turned over. The woman in the silver Mitsubishi's boyfriend finally arrived, and I helped push her car up into the parking lot while my battery was charging. After they were high & dry, I snaked through the office park, and found a route that put me past the high water and on the road home.

So, lessons learned...

1) Cadillac Fleetwood sedans and high water do NOT mix.

2) Dress shoes never recover from a soaking like that. Next time I get out of the car in my sock feet.

3) Carry a rain slicker in the trunk. The shirt and pants will be OK, but the silk tie will never be the same, I fear.

4) Just take the day off next time it rains like that.

Stay dry, buckaroos!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Almost let these get away from me...

Before I forget, a quick thanks to John of Argghhh! and to Cowboy Blob for the linky-love the other day.

Castle Argghhh! is the repository of a multitude of armaments weird and wonderful, and he's also a cat guy.

Cowboy Blob prefers mustelids, and appears to share my penchant for the phrase "pointy stick". I kinda groove on the weasels myself, but lean more toward badgers, AKA "throw rugs with an attitude".

They're both good bloggers. Give 'em a try!

Your chest will explode in 10 seconds...9...8...7...

Graumagus had a scare at work recently. Glad he's doing OK. He's got enough worries without his own health acting up.

His experience really sounds familiar. I was at work a few years ago (back in the tech-support era of my life), when my pulse shot up to 140+ bpm, I started feeling all woozy & 'rubbery', cold & clammy, sick to my stomach, my ticker felt like it was skipping beats, and I just knew I was gonna die. I had experienced this a couple of times before, and actually thought it was food poisoning at the time, even though I never yakked or ran a fever.

Went to the emergency room (only a $50 trip, since I drove an extra 20 miles to get to the 'in network' hospital. Goddam HMO's), and experienced sharp piercing pains under my sternum as I was driving. At that point, I was certain I was phuct.

Well, guess what. Diagnosis of premature atrial contractions, anxiety attacks, along with excess stomach acid production and high blood pressure.

The P.A.C.'s, as it turns out, can be brought on by excess caffeine, stress, etc., but are harmless. However, when they kick up after a long period of dormancy, this can be really alarming, and you start to stress. Your BP spikes, your heart rate goes up, which stresses you more, and you enter a self-fulfilling cycle of stress until you just wig out and have a full-blown anxiety attack.

Now, there was no freakin' way I was going to go onto the zombie-pills just to reduce stress. I got on the HBP meds, and forced myself to relax more. This basically boiled down to deciding that no job was worth my health or life. Also, I made a conscious effort to drink more single-malt Scotch! Roll up a jay every so often. Go sit outside and feed the birdies. That sort of stuff.

I quit doing things that stressed me out. Just flat out quit doing 'em. It was kinda fun, actually. Here's a sampling:

"You need me to cover an extra shift, then turn around and come in early tomorrow, then stay late again the next night? OK, tell you what. That's 3 'above & beyonds' all at once. Pick any two, and only two and I'll do 'em. And don't give me any of that 'team player' garbage, I'm already here 65 hours a week as it is."

"No, Mom, I won't be driving 200 miles to come home for Thanksgiving, then another 300 miles to take you to see your daughter, then try and drive myself home all in one weekend. She can come see us, or you can Go Greyhound!"

You have no idea how liberating that particular refusal was.

Or, "Hey, Cap, can ya help us move? We need your truck, and can you stop by the U-Haul place and rent us a trailer too? Our credit kinda sucks." Hmmm. Lets see... you've known about this move for 4 months. You're just now asking me one day in advance, AND I gotta throw down my own cash as part of the deal? Hmmm, sorry, dudes. Got to go to Dallas this weekend. Gee, I didn't tell you? Musta slipped my mind...

(Don't get me wrong, I love to help out friends... however, real friends are courteous, plan in advance, and have their shit squared away when the time comes to do the deed. Plus, they buy the beer.)

So, does the "just say no' approach work? Seems to. Haven't had a full-on anxiety attack in 6 years now. A little knowledge of what your body's actually doing is a good thing. You feel that little hiccup in your chest, and your first thought now is "Back off the caffeine, idiot" instead of "Cap'n! She canna take anymore! We're gonna breach the containment field!"

Your mileage may vary, but it works for me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I'm tryin' awful hard not to obsess over the SiteMeter reports... Jeez, you get within spittin' distance of 1000 unique hits and you go all girlish with anticipation. God, I annoy myself sometimes.

See, there's the rational side of me that knows that building a blog takes time. I've only been reading blogs (on a daily, never-miss-it basis) since August of 2003 or thereabouts, when I discovered Rob's daily tale of pain & misery. Since that time I've seen quite a few blogs start up. Most, but not all, go through months of obscurity, and then start to take off. Some never do. A lot just suck. I've seen a few die, and a few reborn. Some need to hurry up and get reborn. Hear me, Jim?

The dreamer side of me want to pull hundreds of hits an hour, crank out enough ad revenue for beer & ammo money, and just be a part of the blog community. It wants to go to blogmeets. And it wants to do it now.

The realistic side says "Hold on there, hoss. You been readin' blogs for quite a spell. You comment every so often, but that's not the same as puttin' out content! Pay some dues before you start bitching!"

I hate my realistic side. It's right just a little too often.

The skeptical side (I gotta lot of sides...) says "Just admit it. You're nowhere as good a storyteller as Lileks. You can't do satire like Frank J. You're not a good enough cook to foodblog like Steve. You have nowhere near the stamina of Glenn. You can't rant like Misha. You don't have one tenth the gun collection as Kim or 1/100th the collection of John. You could outdrink Wonkette, though, and you can definitely kick Kos's ass." (No links for those last two. If they want links, they can get their sugardaddies to pay for them.)

Well, the skeptical side occasionally can be considered an asset, at least where liberal blogs are concerned.

The introspective side asks "Why are you doing this? Why are you wasting time posting about cats and guns and fundamental human rights when you should be working on the dozen or so novels you've got percolating in your skull? Are you doing this to blow some pressure off and just get some words out? Are you only looking for the ego boost?"

That may be closer to the truth than I'm comfortable admitting. It wasn't an accident that I labeled the sidebar trackers the "Ego-Meter". I get a kick out of knowing people like my stuff. I get responses all the time from people I know who have gotten one of my email diatribes and laughed themselves silly. I hear all the time "Why aren't you a writer?" (for the same reason your talented guitar-playing kid is pumping gas... there's a lot of starving artists out there!)

My prescient side knows what advice from other bloggers would be. "Relax. Build your own voice. Let your style develop as it will. Quit reading Tech Central Station so much and get back to blogging!"

But it's so damned frustrating, just waiting. Last time I felt like this was when I was 15, and the months before I could get my driver's license just stretched on forever.

I survived that. I can do this. Damned instant gratification gene... gotta get that spliced out in a few years.

If Pirates Ruled The World...

Ok, this is for all my :SOGgy buddies, and all the El Rancho Cima 'River Pirates' from years back.

Enjoy! ARrrrrrrr!

If Pirates Ruled The World...

Top 10 War Movies

Acidman has posted his Top 10 list of war movies.

He's got some good ones there, no doubt, but I can't agree with all the choices. I was never a big fan (with one or two exceptions) of the 'star-studded' war flicks of the '60s and '70s, which stuffed 50 "A" list actors onto the bill. So, scratch 'Midway' and 'The Longest Day'. I also scatter my interests beyond the 20th century, to a good degree, so I've got a lot of older (in terms of the original battle date) movies.

There were quite a few flicks that could slide in & out of the list, depending on my mood. (movies like Lawrence Of Arabia, We Were Soldiers, Sands Of Iwo Jima, etc.)

So, here's my list. I make no claims as to their accuracy or artistic merit. I just like 'em, own most of 'em, and watch them a lot.

(10) - Cross Of Iron
WWII on the Eastern Front, told from a German perspective. Pulls absolutely no punches, shows that if you were in the Wehrmacht retreat from Russia, your life was one endless bag o' Suck.

(9) Zulu
Recipe for Zulu paté: British discipline, the Martini-Henry rifle, and volley fire. Inject lead, stir with bayonet. Avoid the pointy assegais that pop up. Good, good movie.

(8) Das Boot
Filmmaking at its best. Watch the subtitled version if you can, the dubbed version has some annoying voiceovers.

(7) Black Hawk Down
Good modern war flick, and gives you one more reason to despise Clinton for the spineless poll-driven pussy that he was. My solution to get Aidid? Nuke him from orbit. It's the only way to be sure...

(6) Gettysburg
This movie got a lot of grief when it was released. It was overly long, people chuckled about the gophers glued to actor's faces to simulate 19th century beards, it was too "made for TV" looking, etc. I wasn't a huge fan when it first came out, but it sure grew on me. Jeff Daniels does a superb job of portraying professor-turned-warrior Col. Joshua Chamberlain, and Stephen Lang's portrayal of General George Pickett is outstanding. Turn up the surround sound for the artillery bombardment of Cemetary Ridge. It'll rattle the walls.

(5) Last of The Mohicans
Yeah, it's a war movie! Forget about the French & Indian War? Man, this one's got everything... To borrow from Joe-Bob Briggs, we got tomahawk-fu, flintlock-fu, cannon-fu, knife-fu, big-ass spiked warclub-fu, hearts ripped out of chests, pretty wimmen, 5000 injuns with mohawks, and some fantastic scenery and photography throughout. Not enough Frenchmen die, though, for my taste, or it would rate higher!

(4) A Bridge Too Far
Best "ensemble cast" war movie ever made. Best scene? "Hail Mary, full of grace..."

(3) Waterloo
There were problems with this movie, to be sure. I'm never sure that Rod Steiger is ever a good choice for casting. The reason to watch this one is the battle scenes. I still wonder how they filmed the French cavalry charge against the British infantry squares. It's jaw-dropping. Hard to find film, but well worth your time.

(2) Kelly's Heroes
It's a comedy! It's a war flick! It's a heist film! Whatever it is, it's been a favorite of mine for years. I've seen this so many times, you can turn down the sound and I'll narrate it perfectly. Don't miss Donald Sutherland's performance!

(1) Saving Private Ryan
That first 30 minutes took your breath away. Never seen anything like it, though thousands of WWII vets did, first hand. Hard to top this one.

There it is, buckaroos. Feel free to comment.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Better wash your hands after reading this...

I just ran across this article by Bruce Sterling, the science fiction author. It's located on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website.

It's a highly entertaining (and thoroughly frightening) look at the growing trend of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

Here's a quick sample...
If the resistance triumphs, it does not mean the outbreak of universally lethal plagues or the end of the human race. It is not an apocalyptic problem. What it would really mean --probably-- is a slow return, over decades, to the pre-antibiotic bacterial status-quo. A return to the bacterial status-quo of the nineteenth century.

For us, the children of the miracle, this would mean a truly shocking decline in life expectancy. Infant mortality would become very high; it would once again be common for parents to have five children and lose three. It would mean a return to epidemic flags, quarantine camps, tubercular sanatariums, and leprosariums.

Cities without good sanitation --mostly Third World cities-- would suffer from water-borne plagues such as cholera and dysentery. Tuberculosis would lay waste the underclass around the world. If you cut yourself at all badly, or ate spoiled food, there would be quite a good chance that you would die. Childbirth would be a grave septic risk for the mother.

The practice of medicine would be profoundly altered. Elaborate, high-tech surgical procedures, such as transplants and prosthetic implants, would become extremely risky. The expense of any kind of surgery would soar, since preventing infection would be utterly necessary but very tedious and difficult. A bad heart would be a bad heart for life, and a shattered hip would be permanently disabling. Health-care budgets would be consumed by antiseptic and hygienic programs.

Life without contagion and infection would seem as quaintly exotic as free love in the age of AIDS. The decline in life expectancy would become just another aspect of broadly diminishing cultural expectations in society, economics, and the environment. Life in the developed world would become rather pinched, wary, and nasty, while life in the overcrowded human warrens of the megalopolitan Third World would become an abattoir.

Give it a read. It's well worth your time.