Let Slip The Inner Asshole

In my family, cards were serious business. You played to win, and if you blundered you could expect to be called on it — in spades.

Taunting was not only accepted, but viewed as a crucial part of the play-to-win process. A well-played hand that produced an unexpected loss for your opponents had to be accompanied by a well-played barb, and if you were on the losing end you were expected to respond in kind. It was all part of the game, and if you didn’t like the insult process you just shouldn’t play.

This is all well and good when card playing is confined to the family unit. It’s a bit uncomfortable when you sit down to play an innocent game of euchre with friends and realize that your inner asshole sees the deck of cards and concludes that it’s time for him to make an appearance.

Worms Of The Earth, And Garage

Richard has an interesting story in the Chicago Tribune about vermiculture:  that is, worm composting.  I’m all in favor of composting and reducing our waste footprint, and using the lowly worm to accomplish that important goal seems like a good idea to me.

As always, I learned something from reading Richard’s story.  For example:

Worms eat about a third of their body weight a day, and great compost packed with nutrients comes out the other end.

Charles Darwin was a big fan of worms, and wrote that he doubted “there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world.”

Worms are temperamental, and one lazy worm can turn an entire worm colony into a bunch of malingerers.

Worms apparently will eat just about anything, including burlap and scrap paper.

Remember the useful aspects of our worm friends, and be sure to sweep them off the driveway after the next big rainstorm rather than pulverizing them into the asphalt!

Richard’s Fine 9/11 Piece

Richard has moved over to the Metro desk at the Chicago Tribune, and yesterday he had a fine piece in the paper about an art exhibit that includes pencil drawings of every Illinois soldier killed in action since 9/11.  The exhibit, called “Portrait of a Soldier,” includes more than 300 drawings of members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

It’s a touching piece about a gentle way of remembering what has happened in the aftermath of 9/11, and the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform, and their families and friends, have made since that terrible day.  Interesting, isn’t it, how art can be such a powerful way of expressing things, and how something simple like a pencil sketch of a soldier can nevertheless have profound meaning?

Thanks for the Rafting Roommate for sending this along to me.

Keeping Track Of Uncle Mack

10502429_944538671533_2387090454819837848_nFacebook obviously has its faults, but it’s got one huge virtue — it makes it so much easier to keep track of what your friends and family members are doing.  Take Uncle Mack, for example.  What’s the lawyer/saxophonist/actor/occasional Webner House contributor in the family up to?  It turns out he’s been working on a film called The Orangeburg Massacre.  Calhoun ‘da Creator’ Cornwell is the motivating force behind the movie, and his Facebook page has lots of information about it, including the photo above in which Uncle Mack is prominently featured.  A trailer for the film is due in the near future, and I’ll post it when I see it.

The Orangeburg Massacre is the name given to the incident in which South Carolina Highway Patrolmen opened fire on students at South Carolina State College, who had been protesting in an effort to achieve desegregation of a bowling alley.  Three African-American students were killed and and 27 people were wounded in the shooting, which occurred on February 8, 1968 — more than three years before the much more well known Kent State shootings.  Does anyone doubt that the relative notoriety of the two incidents has at least some relationship to the race of the students who were victims?  It is wonderful that a film is being made about the Orangeburg Massacre, 45 years later.

Some people retire and do nothing except work on their tans and frequent Early Bird specials at local restaurants; others use their newfound free time to explore new interests and expand their horizons.  Uncle Mack is squarely in the latter camp, and I think what he is doing is pretty cool. I don’t know anything about the movie or his role, but I am proud of his willingness to tackle it and, we can hope, contribute to greater awareness of a shameful, racist chapter in American history.

Penny, The Cover Girl

In today’s mail we received Healthy Pet magazine.  Imagine our surprise, and double-take, when we saw our dog prominently featured on the front cover.

IMG_2906That’s right — that’s Penny, looking all noble, in the circle on the cover.  Sure, her name is misspelled, but that kind of publicity is priceless.

Upon close examination, we saw that it was, in fact, our Penny — but it’s not the actual, glossy cover of the magazine.  Instead, it’s a kind of add-on cover courtesy of the Animal Hospital of New Albany, where Penny’s veterinarian practices.  Presumably it was added specifically for our benefit, and the homes of other four-legged patients received special covers about their pets.

We’ll have to save the cover, because along with her brief brush with stardom Penny’s medical schedule is advertised for all the world to see.  There’s no federal law protecting the privacy of pooches, so there’s no problem with a magazine cover that embarrassingly discloses that Penny will be getting that heartworm/lyme/E/A test in a few weeks.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t come back positive, now that the mailman knows all about it.

Kasey’s Secret Past

Last night several lines of thunderstorms rolled through central Ohio.  As the lightning flashed and the thunder clashed and rumbled, it sent Kasey to quivering.  Penny is oblivious to outdoor storms, but they terrify Kasey and send her darting for the nearest human being to cower beside.

DSC04122Why are thunderstorms so frightening to Kasey?  We don’t know — but then there’s a lot we don’t know about Kasey.  She’s only been part of our lives for less than three years.  She’s a “rescue dog” of sorts and was retrieved from a Humane Society near Vermilion when she was already a fully grown dog.  We don’t know how old she is, exactly, but the veterinarian, from looking at her teeth and other evidence, things she’s 11 or 12.  That means she had about 9 years of life experiences before we entered the picture, and we don’t know what those life experiences were.

So, we try to draw inferences about Kasey’s secret past from what we know about her, now.  When we got Kasey she wasn’t particularly well housebroken.  She’s got bad teeth.  She doesn’t like storms and loud noises.  Initially, before encountering Penny, the bottomless pit, she wouldn’t eat all her food immediately when it was served.  And, most distressingly, she was very skittish and suspicious around males, even growling at me a few times during the early days as I approached her.

What can we surmise from these very few pieces of a much larger puzzle?  Not much, really, other than some pretty uninformed guesswork.  Her teeth suggest that her past owner or owners didn’t take her to the vet very often.  On the other hand, she must have been reasonably well fed — dogs that are starving aren’t going to leave available food to nosh on later.  The incomplete house-training suggests that she lived with someone who started the job, but couldn’t completely pay attention to Kasey’s habits for some reason.  Her fear of thunder and lightning and loud noises suggest that she may have been a doghouse dog for part of the time who was left outside during bad storms, or perhaps she lived in a place where loud noises meant something bad was happening.  As for the skittishness around men, I’d rather not think about that — but the inference is obvious.  Fortunately, she seems to have gotten over that.

So, we really don’t know much about Kasey’s past — but we like to think that she views living with us is a definite improvement, storms and all.

When A Dog Gets Annoying

-6Sometimes Penny just wants some attention, and sometimes she really just wants some attention.  When that mood strikes, and you’re more interested in reading a book than attending to her insistent desires, she employs two equally annoying techniques.  One is to use her paw to scratch your arm until you get up and give her what she wants — which usually involves food — and the other is to shove her face so close to yours that you can see every fur follicle on her muzzle.  Her breath doesn’t smell like roses, either.