Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Somebody call the SPCA.

You all know that it's wrong to dress up your animals, right? Yes, if you have a shorthair that you're taking for a walk in Upper Cryogenica, you need to put a sweater on it. But beyond that, or maybe a bandanna around the neck, you've taken it too far. Pets don't need to be dressed.

If you start dressing your pets, where does it end? What about when you're feeling the need to get things a little saucy? Even naughty? You're going to go here, aren't you? * You pervert. You sick, sick, pervert.

Pet costumes.

Not even once.

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*Safe for work, I guess. Just wrong.

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Random thoughts: For my entertainment.

-- We got a SodaStream for Christmas. As a guy who loves soda water, this thing is awesome, so far. But I've not yet gone though the canister swap, which is reported to be just like swapping your propane canister for your gas grill. It takes about 10 seconds to turn a litre of fresh water into soda. The flavorings are actually really good (The sugar-free grapefruit is fantastic.). I've enjoyed having very carbonated soda water for rickeys and my now-world-famous holiday bourbon sour.

--We've been watching Sherlock on NetFlicks. I have to say: It doesn't suck. Give it a shot.

--Two nights ago, we saw the first (of THREE!) installment of The Hobbit. We liked it, even though we thought that two would have been enough for the book. The battle scenes were over-wrought (there's one scene where the dwarves are "suddenly" captured by goblins, which takes longer than it would take to load and fire and reload a muzzleloader cannon. In the dark. In the rain. "Suddenly", my hind foot.).  We liked it. But then, my wife is big on Tolkien, I like it, and my kids like the movies a LOT (elder daughter's ready to plunge headlong into the books.).

--We noticed, about halfway through, that Martin Freeman, the actor who plays Bilbo, is also the actor who plays Dr. John Watson on Sherlock. That guy's a good actor.

--My wife seems to have a bit of a crush on the little guy. I'm okay with that.

--My wife needs to remember my easygoing reception to such things, the next time I'm paying rapt attention to Christina Hendricks, or Kate Winslet.

--My step-mother put on a hell of a feed on our (observed) Christmas. I couldn't name all the items presented, but my favorites were roasted sweet pecans and roasted salty pecans (separate dishes), ham rolls, deviled eggs, queso dip with chips, Scottish shortbread biscuits, really good eggnog, and shrimp. Seriously, I'm not referencing half of it. Good company.

--I had planned to plant a good-sized hardwood at their place on the southwest side of the house to provide attractive shade. The snow on the ground made this unfeasible. Next week.

--We had a white Christmas for only the fourth time in my life. 4" of good snow, and a hard freeze to make it stick. Pretty to look at, but I had to work in it, and that gale blowing it in was a bit bracing.

--I find that I load myself a little heavier when going to a movie, nowdays. Not a lot, but instead of just a reload, I've got a BUG and a reload. I don't over-react, but then again, I didn't whine when my kids picked seats in the upper corner behind the wall overlooking the exit ramp, either. (Kids pick seats while Daddy buys popcorn, now.)

--How long until we have a BlueTooth or WiFi-enabled set of movie glasses with HUD with closed captioning for the hearing impaired? We have the technology. I'm ready for it. I couldn't understand half the dialogue the other night. We always have CC on at the house. It's a lot better than it used to be.

--I realize that, with my talk of food and drink, I sound like Joe the Fat Boy from Dickens' Pickwick Papers. Though I don't (yet) suffer from Pickwickian syndrome, I do work nights, and I did drift off several times during the opening of the presents on Christmas day.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Don't cubbyhole me, part n + 1

I was visiting Texas' capitol city, Austin, for the second time this week. The first was to see my close friend be sworn into service as a Texas Department Of Public Safety State Trooper.* This second time, was to visit family.

Saturday, while my wife and kids went shopping, I went to get a cuppa with an online friend/old high school acquaintance. In the Austin fashion, I got a hug coming and going.  The coffee at the White Rabbit Coffee House was very, very good, and I asked them about their roaster. They sent me to Texas Coffee Traders, at 1400 E 4th St.

That's a rough part of town, but sometimes, the rough parts are where the innovation is...

...and this was definitely the case, here. I arrived, and found them busy, but not too busy to help me. Ron showed me around, and even gave me a quick tour of their roasting facilities. I got to see how they load up 66 lb batches of green coffee beans,


...and put them into one of their hot-air roasters...
...to make perfectly roasted beans.

They even have some awesome museum pieces, that look ready to be put into service. Note the old drum roaster:
Also, check out the old high-volume coffee grinder:
Honestly, these would need a fair bit of cleanup to get to the standards that they have. But I'll bet that they could do it.

So I bought a pound of their excellent Ethiopian Sidamo and half a pound of Costa Rica Cafe Monteverde each in water-processed and "Natural".

I also picked up some coffee-making/bar supplies (stirring spoons, measuring glasses), and was pleased to be rung up by their nice staff.

With my brown paper bag full of incredible-smelling goodness, I headed out. I stopped to take a picture of the front of the place, and apologized to a customer whom I captured petting the shop cat. I asked if if it was okay to put the picture on the blog. She laughed, said it was fine, and invited me to sit with her boyfriend and herself for a bit, at a table in front of the roast house.


After an hour of chatting, Jessica and Vincent and I were treated by RC (the business owner) to some holiday caramel popcorn before he locked the gates. During the last hour, I had explained that I didn't actually have anything against the independent businesswoman who had attempted to open negotiations for her private itinerant business. I listened to their personal views of the world, and found them quite loving. I learned that they were both artists and musicians. When my wife called to tell me to remember to find a "White Elephant" gift for the family exchange, Vincent ran to his car to bring me some art. I said, "I couldn't give fine art as a white elephant." He laughed and said "this isn't very good art, though!"

One piece? It was so completely inaccessible to my narrow brain, that I absolutely had to give it as a white elephant. Another, I'm putting up on the mantle. It's pretty damn good. Come by my house, and I'll show it to you. Vincent is actually a pretty eclectic, capable artist. I don't know about his rapping. It's not a genre that I'm a huge fan of.

We talked about the pleasure of making the days of strangers, and I thanked them for inviting me to join them. I mentioned an occasion (witnessed by Don Gwinn) where people gave me free cupcakes in the streets of downtown St. Louis. Vincent asked what I was in St. Louis for, and I told him that I was there for an NRA convention. "Holy shit!" he exclaimed.  There had been a similar statement when they learned what I do for a living.

We went our separate ways with hugs. I took my art, and was smiling.

I dropped by the HEB grocery store, and stopped to sample some ham presented by Tamara, a nice lady. I asked about where the jalapeno dip was, and she shut down her booth to take me to it. We chatted along the way, and she told me that I was a blessing to her day. Well, hell, she was to mine, too. I hugged this woman and was damned happy for it.
Tamara, whom I requested permission to blog.**
She and Vince and Jessica, and Kendra-- they made my day. Hell, they might have made my Christmas, whatever that may mean.

Love your neighbors, friend. They're Real People. You can be the best part of their day.

___________________
*More on that later.
**NOT Tamara K, referenced here often.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Remember, monkeys, your first job? Is to dance.

Michael Moore's stop-down over Ice T's comments about the Second Amendment's place in history is kind of interesting, but it's of no real worth.

Moore* is a producer of fake documentaries, who managed to cop an Oscar for a movie with pieced-together speeches, inaccurate time lines, and personal assertions about things that didn't happen from his own point of view. If he'd been a journalist, his credentials would have been yanked decades ago. Instead, as a producer, he's award-winning.

Michael Moore is not a spokesman for my nation, or even a part of it. Even if you agree with him, no one made him your spokesman. He's just a famous name, and happily gets in front of cameras to push his agenda, on things that he's not expert in.

And, though I may to an extent agree with Ice T, he's just an entertainer, too. (And a confessed thief and felon, whose most notorious hit was called Cop Killer.)  He doesn't represent me.

Y'all claim to make social commentary through your art?  Then do your art.

Dance, monkeys!

And you all who are looking for a soundbite for your talk shows? Dig deeper. This is beneath what you claim to stand for, if you claim to actually provide informative discourse and news.

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*I've more respect for Roger than Michael, and that's damning Roger Moore with mighty faint praise.

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Blustery.

I was down in Austin watching a very good friend get sworn in as a trooper today.

Driving back north, the wind went from a 20+ MPH tailwind to a 30 MPH crosswind to a 30+ MPH headwind.

Well, here's what it looks like now:
I am fascinated by the Wind Map.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Again.

Tragedy struck.

It hit us all where we lived.

And we were stunned.

And our thoughts were constantly on the blow we'd been struck.

The dead children.

And our President wept as he spoke. "Something has to change," he said.

And we were moved.

And we passed swift legislation.

Because we had to Do Something.

And we said "Never Again."

And the USA PATRIOT ACT is still with us.

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Thoughts on violence.

--This nation is split right now. There is little in the way of a "conversation about guns and violence." It is two sides, squaring off. It's not pretty, and it's not really effective.

--Under the New Public Service model of governance, we are supposed to engage in a dialogue until we decide what to do, without regard to completing our goal, or achieving a real consensus.

--Those of us interested in maintaining the right to keep and to bear arms are acting calmer than those who blame firearms for the violence in which they are used.
This isn't because we're less upset. 

--Belief that ONE SINGLE POLICY will stop the violence is pretty naive. Thus, even though I believe that there are things that we can and probably should do to reduce the violence, I don't present them and then nod self-assuredly and declare "that's what will finally fix the problem."

--I've said before and I will say again that this nation has a serious problem in identifying and managing our mentally ill. We don't even deal with the emergent ones.

--If I truly believed that we could put the genie back in the bottle, and eliminate all firearms from this planet in an attempt to rid the planet of gun violence, I might well consider it, even though I agree with Marko's excellent essay, here. But it's not possible, so why entertain the mental exercise? If we're going to do that, why not settle invisibility versus flight for a superpower?

--If guns are the problem, why is my life not steeped in violence? Even though I literally am dispatched to every call involving violence in my jurisdiction for half of every other day, I have seen very little in the way of gun violence in the last 12 years of service. I've never been shot at. I've never shot at anyone. I've never arrested anyone for intentionally shooting at another person (true story!). I've only a handful of times arrested people for pointing guns at others. This is in Texas, where private ownership of firearms is almost unrestricted: No limit to number of guns, no registration of guns, no waiting period, no state restriction on private sales, no state restriction on ammunition* or magazines. If you get it federally registered, you can even own an automatic weapon.

--Some folks will see that above comment and say, "well, he works in a small town, so that's different." Well, which is it? Either we're back-woods hicks who are armed to the teeth and seething in violence, or I'm working for Mayberry, and we all get along so great, no one would ever be so unkind as to shoot someone else.  It must not be the guns, though, because EVERY home here seems to have a collection of firearms.

--Firearms were virtually uncontrolled before 1934, then more so in 1968, and more so in 1986. Yet school shootings have increased almost exponentially since just the late 1990s. Why? Yes, there are more guns. Yes, more people live in urban environments. But those aren't the answer. The problem of mass shootings has grown far faster than the rate of gun ownership. Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, when I saw him speak, opined that the problem grew in direct proportion to the proliferation of first-person shooter video games. Hm.  I don't think that blaming the games themselves is the answer. But I'll for damn sure agree that there's an inured effect upon the players to distance themselves from the perceived consequences of their actions. 

I see evidence of dissociative behavior among youth that I didn't see much before. Youngsters engaged in online debate move quickly to direct each other to kill themselves. We've got individuals scattered among us who genuinely don't see other people as real. We've always had such sociopaths (for such they are), but it seems like we've started distilling them, and creating a higher likelihood that we'll have to deal with them.

--I am real. And so are you.

--The world will never be Nerf'd. We cannot stop violence, much. But maybe we can attenuate it. Maybe we can actually get a handle on what we can do to help reduce the chance that future sick persons will decide to destroy others.  I'm going to try. Please try in your way, too.

--Let me know what you think. I'm interested.
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*Except armor-piercing handgun ammunition.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Vultures.

CNN and Slate are both putting up the name of the coward who walked through a Connecticut school, murdering children. They're linking to his Facebook page. They're putting up his picture.

And they do this because they know that people will wonder what the face of such a monster looks like.

I'll tell you what he looks like: he looks like you and me. He just lost his grasp on humanity, and turned evil.

I beg you, friends: don't go look.

Every time someone clicks to go to these sites, then the vultures who linked to the stories, with Tweets and stories and teasers of his name and what he did-- they feel validated. The end justifies the means. Their job is to get people to come to their site. They did it. Good job!

Ever think of the cost, though? 

It would be an unusual reader here who didn't know the names of the murderers at Columbine.   In the months that followed that massacre, the names and pictures of K. and H. were splashed across the media like so much blood. That's notoriety. To a demented mind considering going out in a blaze of... something... that's star power, right there. Who remembers the names of the victims, though?

Enough of this. End this.

Condemn those who spread the names of the murderers for the salacious sake of "news." Don't visit the sites with these stories. Refuse to breathe their names on your blog, or in public.

Stop feeding the monsters.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Y'all might've gotten your wires crossed.

Some dude named Samuel Weigley wrote a nice little list story (people love lists) about where the economy is bestest, regarding employment. Problem is, he tried to flesh out why these places are lowest in the unemployment figures. He lists Midland, TX as the metropolitan area with the sixth lowest rate of unemployment in the nation, and explains it thus:
> Oct. 2012 unemployment rate: 3.3% (tied for 6th)> Total population:140,308> Median household income: $54,330In October Midland’s unemployment rate was just 3.3% — exactly half the 6.6% unemployment rate in the state. This is a solid improvement from 12 months prior, when Midland already had the eighth-lowest unemployment rate in the country, at just 4.1%. According to the BLS, the mining, logging and construction industry was the top employment sector in the metropolitan area as of October, growing 6.3% from the prior year. In addition, Midland’s median household income of $54,330 in 2011 was nearly $5,000 higher than the median income of Texas.

 
 I can believe that construction would be going strong in the Midland-Odessa area. Although I'm surprised to hear of it, I won't discount the possibility of mining in or around Midland. But logging?

Here's a good representation of the miles and miles of miles and miles around Midland, TX:
Photo credit: AirPhotona.com
Oh, here's a shot of a stand of timber in Midland:
(Ripped from NOAA's site.)

Is it just that they haven't found any unemployed lumberjacks hanging out around Midland?


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Commemoration.

Sul Ross State University's most beloved late alum's birthday is today.
Reportedly, Dan Blocker was a pretty good educator, before he found that the paychecks for acting were better. He would have been 84 today.

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Regarding patrol shotguns.

During qualifications last weeks, we shot some shotguns.

--I had a conversation about shotguns with the rangemaster, and brought up some of my points that I made here. He's salt who keeps a fairly open mind about firearms, but he couldn't tolerate my assertion #6. I expected that, and don't think less of him for it.

--It just occurred to me that the high-brass shotgun loads used during quals with the 870 may be why my right shoulder has had a dull ache in it this weekend. I was shooting for speed, and may have misplaced the butt just slightly, during one of the slug loads*. Hey, I'm just glad if it's not arthritis.

--Yet again, I marveled at that Federal FLITECONTROL buckshot. We're using the 2 3/4" Vital Shok 00 buck shell. It doesn't begin to expand for the first 10 yards. This is a game-changer, for riot guns with open chokes. I'm not going to say that it's "hostage situation ready out to 20 yards," but it's close. Lots of guys have stopped putting slugs in their magazines at all.

--Do you mix slugs and buck? How do you load your magazine?
_________________
*Actually, I remember EXACTLY which one did that. I threw on well to my left, still on target. I'm certain that was one where I threw the butt toward the point of my shoulder, rather than in the pocket of my shoulder. Using the rear eye as the sight, that means that it pointed left as I fired off the shot. While embarrassing, it happens.

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Cold December Morn.

--The temperature is in the mid 20s, this morning. We had a wet front come over at about about 5:00 this morning, and we found this when the kids left for school:


Y'all up north may not believe this, but this , but my daughters literally were excited about this as our first snow of the season.

--I have my final for Public Administration tonight.

--The morning news talk guys are talking about how the Dallas Cowboys had another player get arrested after he rolled his Benz and killed his teammate. I'm curious about the decision to charge him with Involuntary Manslaughter, rather than Intoxication Manslaughter. EDIT: They reported it wrong. It's Intoxication Manslaughter.

--The football player's defendant's attorney is claiming that the bond of $500,000 was 17 times too high for the charge, and that this was more appropriate for a capital murder charge. Bond is set to secure attendance at trial, and not as punishment. When you have a person likely to abscond, the bond is set higher. When someone has a great deal of money, the bond is often set a good deal higher, because the intent is to make it significant. The judge may well have been aware of the minimum salary paid professional football players.

--I shaved my moustache off last night. My wife cheered. I kept going and buzzed my head again. My wife booed.

--Careful observation will find the Anti-Feline-Disruption Device which we have installed on our Christmas Tree:
We lost a pretty good number of glass ornaments last year.

--The good weather has had a lot of people putting up Christmas decorations. It's cheery. But I'm not a fan of the inflatable lighted yard decorations. A popular one this year is a helicopter that has spinning blades and Santa, and is emblazoned "Holly-Copter." I've seen it on the ground, on a black wire stand to make it appear to be hovering over the lawn, and perched on the roof near the chimney of houses in my town.
--One of our officers at qualifications this week feels that .45s just shoot better. His proof? He turned in a better group with his Glock 21 than with his issue G31, and I turned in a better group with my Kimber 1911 than with my issue gun. Hey, I'm all for people getting their confidence from whatever magic feather they've got to hold onto, but the opposite of data is anecdote.

--My wife bought a 100 count case of Tillamook individually-wrapped 3/4 oz Sharp Cheddar, and another of Colby-Jack. She was embarrassed, but pointed out that they were only $10 a case. I had her get another case, of Pepper Jack. Our refrigerator crispers are packed with over 14 lbs of handy slices of quality cheese. We thought they'd go for lunches, but it's amazing how handy those are for quickly slapping together a Quesadilla without dirtying a knife. At some time we may have to admit that we have a problem.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Well that's it, then.

This past weekend, I was working off-duty at a dance recital, where hundreds of dancers of all varieties of ages from ~3 to ~45 (mostly kids under 18) danced. Given the season, the recital leaned heavily on Nutcracker interpretations.

One of the dancers was a professional master instructor of about 24, who appeared to have no bones or joints when he did a bit as a rag doll, dressed all in white. The crowd loved this guy. He was one of the two notable male dancers* there, and he was extraordinary. During intermission, I saw him in the lobby, signing programs that fans (as many men as women, I noticed) gushingly shoved in his face. Here, you could see that his monochromatic outfit was kind of a hodge-podge. He had a white cap, a white mask hung around his neck, a white UnderArmuor long-sleeved shirt, white gloves in his pocket, white skinny jeans, and white shoes. (I guess "slippers"?)

What I couldn't help but notice was that his trousers looked terrible.  Even though the close-fitting UnderArmour shirt showed that this young man was in the amazing shape that only a professional athlete who trains daily for lean muscle could get into, his low-cut, fully-pulled-up skinny jeans still looked like crap. Here was a guy who was arguably the epitome of the svelte human male form, and even he couldn't make these pants look good.

Give them up, gentlemen. You've got no hope.
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*The other guy, also a professional, was black. He had muscles on his muscles. I listened for, but did not hear, gasps from our provincial homogeneous town when the black man did lifts with the white ballerina. Hey, maybe we've come a ways. Then again, this was an arts crowd, many from out of town.

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

First Day Of December.

--My wife just purchased my younger daughter her first pair of brand-new cowboy boots for Christmas. (She'd had others, but not brand-new to her).  After tax, they went $192. They're turquoise and brown. When my wife told me this over the phone, I said, "Good Gawd! Jeez!"

She responded, "Oh, they're not that garish. There were lots of men's boots that were more wild-looking."

"It's not the color! It's the price!! $192 for a 10-year-old's boots?!? What do we do when she grows out of them?" I exclaimed.

"Oh, I'll inherit them," she said. "I wear her size."

"Good Gawd! Jeez!" I said again, for a different reason.

--Very humid. Cloudy. High in the high 70's today. Wind is fresh, out of the southeast.

--I've been working a lot of off-duty, on top of my fire shifts and my work and grad school. I'm tired.

--The main cafe in town has a Mexican cook and some decent Mexican food, but no breakfast burrito on the menu. I've been ordering a breakfast burrito made special for about a year, there. Now I find that our new rookie with the PD thinks that he started the trend there. He's a good guy, but he clearly needs his comeuppance. I've been this week campaigning to get them to name it the "Matt G Burrito." It's just a bit of schtick, but it would be funny if they did make it. (I have them make it with grilled jalapenos, cheddar cheese, onions, sausage, and chorizo. )

--I didn't make my Christmas tamales for Thanksgiving this year like I meant to. I still plan to make them. I typically just debone a rotisserie chicken and spice it in a hot pan for filling. I've got some pork, too. I've also got some beef. And a little venison. And some mushrooms, for veggie tamales....

--My moustache has grown to previously-unseen proportions. It's getting unruly.


--The 'stache may be gone in a bit, too. I'm considering hacking it off. It sure 'nuff hacks off my wife.Which is funny, because the beard that she wants me to wear again sure wasn't worn Amish-style.

--Our arraigning magistrate told me that, after figuring in his regular work and his salary for coming in every day for setting bonds, he only makes about $9/hr on his salary on months when they have No Refusal Blood Draw Weekends.

--They're doing those more and more, including Thanksgiving weekend, now. I'm okay with them-- the officer gets a warrant, under probable cause, to take the defendant's blood. Anymore, it's getting rare to take a breath sample for DWI's.

--I went to a trial the other day in which the defense attorney went after the character of the arresting officer, in a case where his client had clearly committed the action. The officer's character was not the issue. While I appreciate that the attorney had a tough case to defend and and was charged with putting up a spirited defense, I think that it's reprehensible to make a personal attack on the character of the officer and his reputation, especially when the officer was actually trying to help his client when the defendant attacked the officer. It's been a long time since I had a defense attorney do that to me, but it makes me seethe. It's not actually that common of a practice, when an attorney wants to continue to practice in the same county. Believe it or not, I actually have quite a bit of respect for most attorneys that I know. Not this one.

--There are black spidery things that appear on the Martian dunes every summer, and go away every winter. We don't know for sure what they are. That's awesome.  A known unknown.

--I've never understood why people have made fun of Rumsfeld for his Unknown Unknown statement. In addition to being a succinct statement of logic, it was a lovely answer to a question that he didn't want to (or could not) answer.

--I made one of my famous bourbon sours the other day using the juice from a Meyers lemon that I had picked one minute before from the potted tree in my sun room. Oh, crap. It really does make a difference. I was afraid of that. I've only got two more lemons left on that little tree.

--Do Meyers lemon trees self-pollinate? It had small fruit on it when we bought it.

--The more and more that I run across dogs in our town, the more convinced that I am that at least 1/3 of all dog owners should NOT own dogs. Maybe half, even. If your only interaction with that pack animal is to feed and water it for a couple of minutes a day and your dog spends the rest of the day entirely alone, I'm talking to you.

--Although both my parents have dogs that are sometimes a beating for me to be around, I in no way  could include my folks in that exclusionary group. Their dogs are living the high life.

--If reincarnation were for real, a person could do worse than to come back as a retiree's dog.

--People are shocked to learn that Rosa Parks wasn't a passive, hapless victim.What does it matter? She was being wronged. Her intentional act of passive resistance was a singular act that motivated a change.

--I don't understand motorcycle rides in which a dozen or more riders all cruise a single itinerary together on weekends. Some do this every temperate weekend. I thought that the draw to motorcycling was freedom? Having caravan'd a few times with friends, I have found that while they can be fun when you have time to stop at other people's whim (It's like being on a train with one of those emergency brake cables accessible to every kid who wants to stop to look at a woodchuck.), but they do restrict your freedom.





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