Mar 31, 2009

Space Ghost

Because I'm a huge freaking fan. This is THE win-win for me. Trains AND cartoons.

Space Ghost E2E (Explore)

'Cos You Asked

Maggie over at Maggie's Mind Moss demanded something of me other than my eternal loyalty and fealty. She demanded that I answer a coupla questions, and she wearing that snappy black uniform and the tall jackboots so I felt obliged to answer. Here, instead of cluttering up her comment space.


Pressing Questions

Answer the following (because I am a blog dictator and you must)

(SEE? What did I tell you!)

Which do you prefer in bathrooms: shower curtain or sliding door? which is easier to clean?

Having used both I have to come down squarely on the fence. I used to have the coolest vinyl shower curtain--it had a very 50's style bathing beauty splashed across it, and huge red polkadots. The house I grew up in and now live in again has a shower with a pair of sliding glass doors. Preference? Doors for not getting water everywhere and for not suddenly pressing cold wet vinyl up against you when you lean up against them, but curtains for when you have a gorgeous old claw-footed slipper tub in which to recline with a drink, a book and a smoke. Or a friend. Easier to clean? Curtain, because you just unsnap the hooks and toss it in the washing machine. Just TRY that with shower doors.

Color on your walls, or neutrals, OR white all the way?

Colour and more colour. I'd paint my freaking ceilings if my parents hadn't thought it wise, back when they built the house to have the overhead sprayed with those tiny little white blobs of guano.

Symmetrical or Asymmetrical?

Asymmetrical. Nature abhors a vacuum, that's why I beat all my rugs by hand. Wait...

If someone offered you a million dollars, would you paint my house?

In a heartbeat.

Spring cleaning, love it or hate it?

Oddly enough, as I've gotten older I've come to enjoy things like order and cleanliness more, so I'd have to say love it, but with a conditional love. Maybe with a really powerfully strong like.

When speaking of anatomy, people who say big, do they mean long or wide? Just curious.

Men mean length. Granted, you can be a foot long and a half-inch wide and you aren't going to pleasure anyone with that thing but yourself. I mean, what self-respecting woman would want to be ice-picked to an orgasm?

Do all twelve year olds fight with four year olds? Is it a boy thing?

Is a boy thing. Boys are wired by society and nature to be combative and to vie for the top. It's one of the reasons I'm glad I had a daughter.

Wood floors or tile? What about in the kitchen?

Both. Wood is warm and welcoming and feels and looks old, but tile is rustic and cool in summer, which is awfully nice in the deep south. Plus, tile looks better with a rug tossed over it kind of casually.

Granite countertops or something else? What else? Formica? Cement?

I've always liked formica. Granite and cement seem so...permanent. If you get tired of them in a few years it's gonna cost a fortune and take a jackhammer to get them outta your kitchen, whereas with formica you can recover the old counter yourself, if you're handy enough.

Men: do gentlemen really prefer blondes? Are brunettes in your experience smarter? (I don't believe a word you're saying. Just kidding, I'm listening.)

Men prefer blondes, but I don't know why, to be honest. Peer pressure? It's expected of them? Me, I don't think I've EVER looked at just one feature first, it's usually a gestalt with me. Anyway, as good as modern hair dye is now, any woman can be any colour, up to and including multiples.

Cookies, cake or pie? (Meno we know your choice now don't we?) Favorite flavor?
Yes. Any. Next?

Have you ever felt that you could fall in love with a singer/songwriter just because of their lyrics?

Possibly. I think if I'd read some of Roger Water's stuff before I heard the music I'd still love Pink Floyd. Same with Steely Dan. But then I also love most classical, and lyrics is rare and often in foreign languages so there I'd be in trouble. No more Beethoven.

Best birthday memory.

Damn. Now that's a tough one, but my mind wants to think about parties when I was a kid, but my best had to have been my 39th: my first hot air balloon ride, the one that opened the door to years of crewing and companionship and amazing teamwork and learning how to fly myself. THAT's hard to beat.

Mar 30, 2009

What Tha?

I just got a photo on the Purina website of sorts. They say I need votes, so let's mobilize and get!

Purina Pet Charts Contest

Mar 29, 2009

Restoration Blues

I don't know about you, but there's just something about certain cars and trucks that just makes my heart pound. Sensual lines, a certain stance, the spark of sunlight off a perfect's the American Dream. A beautifully restored antique vehicle.

Rita -- 2-22-04

Rainy Day Rita (my eternal restoration-in-progress truck) was in the shop recently. Right at the end of last summer she'd gotten to running so poorly that it was nearly impossible to keep her running. Since I was only using her on rainy days (hence the name) and to haul the lawn tractor to work once a weekend to cut grass I didn't pay much attention to it, to be honest. I knew I didn't have the money to fix her, she WAS still running enough to get me the four miles to the office and back, the grass cutting season was as good as over, and so I parked her in the garage and, sad to say, mostly forgot about her for the winter.

I know. I can hear you beating your heads against your desk, lamenting me for being a complete and utter bastard, and I deserve it. She sat there all winter and into spring, two tires slowly going flat, her fuel turning into varnish, the dust and pollen piling up on her beautiful Porsche Kiev Green paint job until it was a sort of dingy yellow-grey. Dead bugs started showing up on her dashboard and the dust inside got almost as thick as the outside layer. Even those gorgeous OEM hubcaps almost succumbed to rust.*

Well, I decided a few weeks ago that Something Had To Be Done. Money had been budgeted for repairs, the stormy spring season is upon us here, and damnit the grass is growing fast and I was sick of borrowing my niece's truck and my brother's trailer so I could perform my little contract lawn care services. So, about a month ago I borrowed my brother and his car dolly (he's the '65 - '67 Ford Mustang restorer, he who each morning passes not water but cash) and we brought my nearly departed Rita to the only mechanic I barely trust in town. Brother (yes, that's his real name) who hadn't seen me in the last six years recognised her on the road as we hauled her in and actually came out to meet us, eyes gleaming and all his teeth showing. I should have panicked and ran but I knew blood had to be spilled if I was going to resurrect my girl. I delivered her into his hands and on the spot he declared he was pretty sure what was wrong.

"'S the intake manifold. Just fixed one like this last week. They warp after four decades of runnin', you lose yer vacuum, the fuel stops flowin' and it starts to miss like that. All we gotta do is pull 'er off, grind 'er flat and she'll be good for another forty years."

Well, he wasn't right, but three weeks later, two very small but rare parts and some surprisingly inexpensive tinkering later my girl was right as rain. Mostly. There was still the tires to be seen to, you see. That's where the story really opens up.

If, in your infinite time and wisdom ever see a classic car that you think you ought to buy and restore, let me give you a single piece of advice: DON'T. Unless you are spectacularly wealthy, sleep with someone who is spectacularly wealthy or you own your own garage/body shop and are spectacularly wealthy all at the same time please just listen to me and don't even bother. Restoration of a vehicle takes so much time and money and effort that it simply isn't worth it unless you just like throwing money at something that won't ever return your love OR your investment, in which case you can come throw all that money at me.**

You see, when you buy a vehicle older than about ten years there's never a simple answer. When your vehicle is thirty eight years old and is classified by the DMV as an antique there aren't even mildly complex answers anymore. One simple thing opens up the door to dozens more. You begin to see the interrelatedness of all things mechanical and you start to realise that you're about to start throwing a lot of money at something that isn't going to...well, you know the rest.

It's like this. You buy a brand new vehicle, you drive it around for a while and you get a flat. You manage to get it to the shop, the grease monkey sells you a new tire, puts it on, you give them some money and you drive home. And you're Done. You won't be revisiting that same problem again for a very long time. With an old truck (say, a 1971 GMC Sierra 1500 Custom that you inexplicably love beyond all reason) you get a flat tire, first you have to get the engine running again. Then you pour in some fresh oil (it's been leaking since you bought it,) top the automatic transmission fluid off, and THEN you air the tire back up and drive it (carefully) to your local Sears where you bought the tires new over a decade ago. You walk in, give the man your keys and thank your past self for buying the Road Hazard warranty for $5 a tire 'way back when because it's just paid for itself--you've got two flats and they're going to fix them for free.

So there you are, sitting in the waiting room reading car magazines filled with pictures of immaculately restored 1950 Mercury coupes and 1937 Packard Phaetons and manly early 70's muscle cars with all the numbers matching and everything down to the cigarette lighter original equipment and the mechanic steps in and says "Come see for a minute, wouldja?"

That's when they show you that the back tire is worn in such an odd pattern that they've called every mechanic in the shop over for an engineering lesson, as well as inviting the rest of the folks in the automotive department over for a gander at why you shouldn't ever drive an old vehicle.

Imagine a tire that looks like the inner 3/4 of it's surface was beveled down at a five degree angle, as though someone with infinite patience and a very large metal file had simply shaved the tread just about down to the belts. From the outside it looks like a perfect tire, more dry-rotted from lack of use than worn from driving. Off the hub however it looks like someone took a belt sander to it.

That just doesn't happen on new cars.

The problem seems to be that the wheel bearings have worn so badly that they're allowing the tire to sit canted at an angle, therefore wearing down just the inside 3/4 of the tire and not the outermost bit. See, it's never just "Fix the flat and here's an extra fin if you get it done in ten minutes." No, it's "Well, we pulled the nail out and patched your tire but your wheel bearings are shot and you're gonna need to bring it back for a whole new tire after you've replaced the bearings and oh it's got a huge lump in it and it took seven OUNCES of weights to balance it but it's still gonna ride funny but golly, we had to put weights all OVER that rim to..."etc ad nausem.

This being an old truck I can just about guarantee you that when I get my dear one down to the shop and say "Replace the rear wheel inner and outer bearings and there's an extra twenty in it if you can get it done today" they'll nod and smile, and I'll get a phone call in a few hours from a guy with a sickly smile in his voice when he says "Hey, can you come down here and see real quick?"

They're going to have found that a Peruvian Transmission Weasel has moved in and has made a nest in my axle housing and has had pups, and since they're an endangered and protected species (under the Endangered Antique Vehicle-Dwelling Creatures Act of 1956) they're going to have to fly a mechanical species specialist down from Pennsylvania with special gear to gently remove the offending creatures (at extraordinary expense to me) so the bearings can be repacked and I can be on my way.

At which point something else will go spectacularly wrong, such as the bed falling off or the steering wheel disintegrating in my hands.

Don't ever restore a vehicle. Don't watch the Barrett-Jackson car auction and think that you can restore a car that perfectly. Don't watch the weekend Speed Channel truck show guys who don't ever tell you what it's gonna cost, just make it look astoundingly easy to do a frame-up restoration in their eerily immaculate garage with their frighteningly clean hands. Don't listen to Click & Clack on NPR when they tell you how easy it is to fix something yourself, and for heaven's sake don't watch Dennis Gage and his astounding handlebar mustache when he cheerily says "Don't crush 'em, restore 'em!"

Trust me on this one: crush 'em.

* Almost. I'm not THAT much of a bastard.

** In which case I'll simply turn around and throw it at my truck restoration project.

Mar 24, 2009


I've been delinquent in my blogging.

Oh, I've had ideas, even had one that promised to turn into a political rant. Some stranger came along and left a politically-charged comment on a photo of mine on Flickr which I deleted because it was childish, annoying, not very well thought out and had NOTHING to do with a hot air balloon passing in front of the sun. What bugs the crap out of me is that I let it bother me most of the morning.

See, I'm the sort of person who will argue a thing in his head until I've worked myself into a stomach-churning ulcer-making tower of righteous anger. Problem being, I don't voice any of those well-thought out arguments. I just carry them around for a while then putting them into the well-worn wooden filing cabinet that sits in the reading room at the top of my skull, there to sit until I die and my card catalog is strewn to the winds.

I'm becoming a little bit of a localvore. I heard that term a few days ago and I laughed. At it, not with it. What is with the media/public's desire to turn everything into a cute catch-phrase? Anyway, I'm producing and eating my own food. Well, a tiny portion of it, but more so than some. I had a steak, baked potato and salad last night for supper, and the lettuce came from my garden. First lettuce I ever grew, and it was lovely. The onions are coming along nicely, so I'm sure at some point not only will I be eating my own onions I'll be passing many around, too. At least to the friends who are willing to approach me.

The broccoli are shaping up nicely, and if it ever stays dry for a few days in a row I'll be out there in my little patch tilling and preparing for cucumbers and squash. tomatoes and snap beans and beets and zucchini. I'm ready. More than ready. In my Book of Good Things To Do, 'kneeling in the dirt, planting' ranks right up there with motorcycle riding, cuddling during a rainstorm, and how women smell.

The local farmer that manages all the fields around my house is throwing me off this year. Usually he doesn't plant until Good Friday, and he puts in cotton. Miles and miles of cotton. This year he's gone over to the BioFuel side and has planted corn. Corn in every field, as far as the eye can see. It's already four to six inches tall, an almost eerie bright green. I'm going to miss the multicoloured flowers on the cotton plants, and those dark green, pointed leaves. I'm especially going to miss the smell of warm cotton in the sun, and the smells of harvest time.

My azaleas are blooming like mad. On mornings when the light is low it shines through the masses of flowers and beams colored light into certain rooms in the house--soft warm pink, and an ivory white, and a red the colour of a new wine.

I miss my camera. I put my bigger lens in the shop a while back to repair some tiny scratches that occurred during the motorcycle accident in October, I think. I kept thinking it was tiny particles of dirt or grit on the lens and I cleaned and cleaned every surface until I finally realised that they were always in the same spots. I've been forced to rely on my much smaller lens, the one that came with my camera, and I've realised how spoiled I've become.

Now that my larger lens is due home tomorrow my smaller lens crapped out on me. The gross focus ring stopped turning, then it simply refused to do anything. I was forced to go out this weekend on three balloon flights armed with nothing but Mrs. I's little Sony point-and-shoot. Talk about humbling. I guess I needed to learn to appreciate what I have more, by having it taken away from me for a while.

Don't get me wrong, it takes nice pictures, it's just not meant for someone who has gotten used to having control over things like shutter speeds and aperture settings. Oh, and it's also not meant for someone who is used to having the shutter operate the moment the shutter release button is pushed. This little thing likes to think a while before taking the photo, likes to measure the relative humidity and ponder deep thoughts before operating the shutter. Between a few nice shots of the balloon and a train or two I also got a number of shots of the truck's window frame, parking lots, and blurry photos of what seem to be wet Impressionist paintings.

A big part of my problem is also being tired, so with that I'm going to post this for you, my few loyal readers remaining and get some rest.

Mar 15, 2009


Have you heard the one that goes "Q: How many pancakes does it take to roof a doghouse? A: Forty seven, because ice cream doesn't have bones." Or maybe you've heard the longer version that includes you speeding through the desert in your yacht when suddenly you have a flat tire. I was thinking today along the lines of taking classic situations or titles (or jokes) and modifying them for my own devious ends, like, say, doing a blog roll.

(For an example of what I'm getting at, see the Chicken Philosophy Joke page. Go ahead, I'll wait, it's worth a visit.)

So. Without further ado, witness

The Irrelephant Blogroll
In Surreal Joke Form!

Q: How many pancakes does it take to roof:

Clowncar's doghouse?
A: It's all about the beauty of orbital mechanics when you start talking about roofing doghouses. What if a comet comes too near? And when am I going to find time to work on my novel if I'm helping you roof a doghouse?

Daisy's doghouse?
A: All depends on if the doghouse is on the Registry of Homes. If it's a Craftsman-style or a Frank Lloyd Wright doghouse then it would definitely be worth saving, but then you'd have to go with matching-era pancakes. If it's one of those modern pre-fab doghouses then anything would work. I wonder if The Topiary Cow has anything going on with doghouses? Dogs and cows are both quadrapeds, right?

Gordo's doghouse?
A: It's not a doghouse, it's an apiary. Here, I've got a sample of some of the honey and have I mentioned that it's bloody cold in Kensington today? Seventeen feet of snow and barely spring! The bees are hating it!

Jean's doghouse?
A: Seventeen, because that's how many syllables are in a haiku which, Irrelephant, you need to write one about doghouses and post it at Sparrow's whose deadline for the contest is Wednesday evening (eastern time!) Or I could write a breathtakingly lovely poem about doghouses while YOU roof it, you dear man.

Joan of Argghh's doghouse?
A: Not sure but I guarantee the GOP could roof it cheaper, quicker and more efficiently than any liberal president could! Who's with me! Power to the people! Now where's my drink and my .44 magnum?

Kindertrauma's doghouse?
A: What sort of doghouse roofing material scarred you as a child?

Maggie's doghouse?
A: You know, it's an absolute rewarding hell to be a bilingual parent and wife who is hosting an online book club? Who has time to create beautiful artistic things, much less roof a doghouse? But then again, I have this beautiful chenille material that would look so nice on there...

meno's doghouse?
A: Sorry, I've got far more important things to do than roof a doghouse with pancakes. Like go hiking into some gorgeous mountain range or have some marvelous adventure in Seattle while spending my retired days in the most beautiful part of the PNW you could ever imagine. Oh, then I'll write about it in a very disarmingly candid way that draws you in inexorably, like iron filings to a magnet. And yes, I know you're reading this, Em.

Mickey Glitter's doghouse?
A: Have you seen how many Golden Age movie starlets it takes to roof a doghouse? You must be kidding me! What you need is a clown, or better yet, Sarah! Jane! Smith! and a clown to do it for you. Ooh, S!J!S! and a clown, together? Hang on, I've got to Twitter this.

Mona's doghouse?
A: I wanna see Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs roof it, because he makes me walk funny. Oh, and here's a video of him half nekkid. And here's another. And another. 'Scuse me, I need to go rub one out!

Nancy Dancehall's doghouse?
A: There's no angels in doghouses, trust me, and dogs don't listen to extremely eclectic music either, so what's to bother with? Anyway, it's all fractals.

Rayne's doghouse?
A: Could one of the ratties help? Because if so the work would be a lot more bearable. Maybe there could be a little rattie annex roofed in Chicklets?

Stucco's doghouse?
A: You need to roof it in boobies instead. Want to hear about my balls?

Todd's doghouse?
A: Can we go trainspotting after we're done roofing? And when are you going to post some more Scotchlite photos on my Flickr group? Whassamatter, you afraid of your flash?

Vulgar Wizard's doghouse?
A: Fuck if I know but if you roof it I'll take a gorgeous photo of it and post it on Flickr for ya.

William Gibson's doghouse?
“Then send Pamela,” she said. “She understands all that. You have an army of people who understand all that. You must.”

“But that’s exactly it. Because they ‘understand all that’, they won’t find the edge. They won’t find the new. And worse, they’ll trample on it, inadvertently crush it, beneath the mediocrity inherent in professional competence. I need a virtual amateur for this. A freelancer.” And he sat back, then, and regarded her in exactly the way he’d regarded the tidy and receding ass of the Italian girl, though in this case, she knew, it had nothing at all to do with sex.

Will Wheaton's doghouse?
A: Any amount you like, just so long as you don't call me "The Boy" in a mediocre imitation of Patrick Stewart.

Oh gawd I love you guys! So, go ahead, you try it. I dare ya!

Mar 14, 2009


Tired of that iPhone for note-taking? Sick of losing the stylus to your PDA? Sick of your Blackberry's little trackball thingie that always gums up with sweat and finger dirt?

Well, you need something Lo-Tek!

The PocketMod.

A million-and-one uses, recyclable, reusable, light and portable! No batteries to die, no stylus to lose, and best of all it's cheap as hell!

Mar 13, 2009

Bag of Waters: Update

Well, mixed news I'm afraid.

Belle wasn't pregnant, or if she was then there were so few puppies (or a single puppy) that her body reabsorbed them. This is itself a hidden blessing, because we were really hoping for a small litter.

The thing being, what she WAS going through was an interuterine infection, which manifested itself last night as what we thought was an amniotic sack opening to let puppies spill forth. Without getting into anything disgusting, and I promise you that if you're of a weak stomach it's kinda icky let me just say that somewhere in there, probably during one of her four artificial inseminations she picked up some bacteria or other which later caused the infection.

Belle is on some very strong antibiotics right now and is under our watchful eyes. She's resting well and taking food and water which are all excellent signs, and the infection is draining which is also a good sign. Like a fart, it's better out than in. Worst case scenario she'd have to be spayed, which honestly in the grand scheme isn't a bad thing at all. Best case? A full recovery, no harm no foul. We've been directed to make sure she gets pregnant "by a proven sire" next heat cycle to prevent cystosis or other interuterine problems, so in about eight months we'll try this again and see where the canine Fates lead us.

So. Hopefully by next week she'll be feeling her old self again, eating lots of yogurt to keep her good intestinal bugs up and numerous and keeping Sheba and Remy in line. Thank you all for your kind thoughts and your support--she still needs lots, so keep thinking good thoughts for her swift recover and tonite, give your dog an extra treat, eh?

Bag of Waters

Heh. Today is Friday the 13th. My last post? Number 1333. Talk about rotten timing.

Belle's (Ch Aria Svora Cascabel, JC for you AKC purists) water broke last night around 2am. She hasn't started labour yet but if the first AI took and the rest didn't that would explain the small litter she's carrying. One trip to the vet today to verify that things are proceeding as they should ought to settle the issue. Our one concern is that she's carrying a 'singleton,' because with single puppy litters often there's not enough hormones to start her milk flowing or to start labour contractions, so everyone out there in Bloggerland please send your good multiple-puppy thoughts to Belle and to us today.

Many thanx
Irrelephant (and Belle)

Mar 12, 2009

Shoot 'Em First, Ticket Them Later

As taken from Randy Cassingham's weekly group email "This Is True":

SHUDDUP YA DUMB REDNECKS: Missouri state Sen. Kevin Engler is really fed up with people who litter, and sponsored a bill calling for the death penalty for littering. "I think killing one or two of them would be a fine first start and then the rest would fall in line," he said after introducing his proposed law on the Senate floor. In his address, he said "dumb rednecks" are "teaching [their children] to be white trash" by throwing refuse out car windows, and he was "sick of every week having to pick up litter" for them. Engler then announced he was "doing this tongue in cheek" and withdrew the bill to "make it a little tougher." When criticized for calling people "rednecks" and "white trash," Engler said "The only people I called names are the ones doing it. If they are offended, good." (Park Hills Daily Journal) ...In other news, Missouri State Sen. Kevin Engler was re-elected in a landslide -- which he then immediately cleaned up.

A friend once said, when asked what he thought my political alignment was, said that he thought of me as a "Machiavellain Liberal." I agreed with him 100%, and took him off the "First Against The Wall When The Revolution Comes" list. But you know, it's true. Laws have no real teeth. I've been ticketed many times for speeding (in the distant past, that is.) Did the fines ever stop me? Nope. What did? A sense of my own mortality and what I had to lose. Do I still break traffic laws? Occasionally, because I know my own skills are far greater than those of the ordinary driver, and were I to trust my fellow motorist to drive properly then I'd have been put in my grave many years ago, so when necessary I break laws as needed to preserve my own lovely hide.

You truly want to enforce a DWI law? First offense you lose your car (sold to pay your arrest and court costs) and your license for five years. How's that for a deterrent? Convicted without doubt of child molestation? Automatic death penalty. No life sentences, no years of appellate court hearings wasting billions of our tax dollars. Bang the gavel, bring 'em out front to the yard, arm the twelve jurors just like they do with firing squads--only one bullet is live, randomly assigned so no-one knows who is really doing the deed, and fire. If you see enough soon you'll realise that it simply isn't worth it.

But then again I also think that all people are innately evil until proven otherwise, and have rarely seen anything to disavow me of this sentiment.

Sorry so suddenly extreme, I'm just tired and frustrated. *s*

Mar 9, 2009

Down And Back Please

I do not less than three Daylight Savings Time. I'm tired, out of sorts, and my Circadian thing is all out of whack. So, how about a dog post?

Belle. Belle is definitely pregnant, just...not very much pregnant. Four artificial inseminations by a canine fertility specialist and she's got...two, maybe three buns in the oven? Which honestly is a bit of a relief--raising two from the four-month old stage has been plenty of work. I can't imagine raising a litter of twelve or thirteen from birth on up. I think at this point I'd rather hammer my tongue to a thin strip and staple it to a major intersection with a croquet hoop. Hopefully we'll know by the end of the week how many she's cooking up.

Speaking of hellions, the hounds of Zorya Borzoi have gotten huge, can I tell you? Just over five months old and already they can bowl me over if they manage to run into me when I'm not looking. Or, if I have a camera held in front of my face and can't properly defend myself.

This past weekend was a nice change of pace for the Irrelephant household. Two months ago we joined the very small local branch of the AKC, and have been slowly working up to full membership. As part of their charter they have to do certain events to raise public awareness about the sport and joys of purebred dogs, and in conjunction with one of the main member's job they put on what's called a "Meet The Breed" show. In essence it killed several birds with one stone--it combined bringing in puppies to an Assisted Living Facility for some variety and fun for the residents with having a mock dog show for the number of new puppies the members had and also helping to socialize dogs that didn't have much exposure to strangers, both two- and four-legged.

The funniest thing about it was that everyone ELSE in the club has and brought little dogs--Chinese Cresteds, Shelties and Corgies to be specific; dogs, in short, that mature very fast. We on the other hand raise a breed that takes almost two years to gain full maturity, as well as being a breed whose heady days of popularity and exposure to the public eye occurred some eighty years ago. Sheba and Remy balked at first, naturally. They stood still. They pulled back against the gentle tugs on leashes, and mostly just refused to walk, no matter how much we cajoled and offered treats if they'd just take a step forward!

It's almost comical now, looking back on it, but overall I have to say that I'm proud of my pups--watching all these show dogs trotting around in perfect step, each doing what they're supposed to do best, and the two of us having to entice our lunking huge hounds around with bits of hotdog and string cheese. With patience and soft words and tons of praise for the simplest act of taking a few steps forward we finally won them over. The funny looks we kept getting from the other breeders finally stopped when I explained to these folks that our dogs had been wearing collars and leashes for less than a handful of hours and that Borzoi breeders don't even THINK about putting collars on until five to six months of age because they simply aren't READY for them, developmentally speaking.

THEN the enlightenment came and they started to share in the joy of watching how fast the two of them learned over the course of maybe two hours that it was actually FUN to run around in a circle with us, that the leash wasn't going to kill them, and as Cesar Milan preaches, there is great reward for a dog in being part of a pack. Even if that pack did include a number of toy breeds and some sweating and overworked owners. We ended the day by taking a pack walk around the building, and our pair were trotting along in the mix like it was the most natural thing in the world. Talk about a proud papa.

While the kids are all lovely in their puppy curls we're thinking about easing them into showing in the puppy classes. Standard fare in those rings is the balking, the refusal to walk, the skittering, coltish bolts and so forth, and we've been told by our mentor that if Remy can hold on to his white coat of silky locks and at least make the effort to run around in a circle with one of us he might well clinch his first ring win, so everyone start thinking positive for us.

While you're at it, start thinking positive for ME. I too am about to venture into the show ring for the first time, as an owner-handler. With three dogs in the house and probably keeping one of Belle's puppies Mrs. I can't go it alone anymore. So, soon to be gone are my halcyon days of lifting heavy objects and standing ringside cheering. I figure now is the time to start, though. What's to lose, right? Most Borzoi breeders don't even bother to seriously show a dog until age two or better, so at worst we get some exposure for the puppies and for me too, and at best we win a few ribbons for our gangly, long-legged pups. If I make a fool of myself for doing the wrong thing then no loss, as it's just puppy trials, we're not fighting for a Group win.

At least not yet. *wink*

Hail Hail, The Gang's All Here

Sheba Howling
Sheba (Brassgate's Onyx At Zorya) doing what she does best--expressing herself.

Remy As Linda Blair
Remy (Aria's Riding Shotgun At Zorya.) "His Master's Voice" indeed.

Mar 6, 2009

Mad Street Cred

I haz it.

Or so I'm told. I'm also told that "I've arrived."

I, you see, yours truly, your humble Writer just sold his first photograph. To a for-real magazine for for-real money. Outfreakingstanding!

A few days ago an email arrived claiming to be from the Sierra Club magazine's Photo Editor asking about usage rights for one of my Flickr photos. My first thought, being a good internet tubes user was that it was a hoax, some sort of come-on. But, being curious, I checked it out. I emailed the person asking for permission to use my photo, and the email bounced back. Thinking for sure I'd foiled some sort of major phishing plot I went to the Sierra Club's website and emailed them on their general contact email address. I included the email and asked if I'd been phished.

Turns out I hadn't! The nice gentleman wrote me and cc'd the editor and we started talking. Seems in their May/June 2009 issue they're running an article on marine pollution, specifically by nurdles.

Now, until just a few short months ago I had no idea what a nurdle was. No clue. A year or more ago Tracy and I were walking the tracks at one of our favourite train-spotting places, and there parked were a line of hoppers, each with its fill/empty valves open. Spilling out of one was a huge 'puddle' of these tiny white plastic pellets, millions of 'em. I had Tracy scoop up a handful and I took a few photos, then she blew them out of her cupped hands and I took a few photos. Uploaded them to Flikr and pretty much forgot about it.

Well, those little dealie-flops are nurdles, or pre-production plastic pellets. Those are shipped by the trainload to plastics plants who melt them down and turn them into, well, everything plastic, and I'd gotten a nice, clear photo of them. It seems these things get into the water supply, fish eat them (thinking they're small fish eggs or other good things I guess,) fill up with them, can't digest them, can't pass them, and therefore die of starvation with their stomachs full of little plastic pellets.

Months and months ago I was contacted by a Wikipedia editor who was doing a page on nurdles, and they asked to use the photo. I agreed, it being on a Creative Commons License--they can use it as long as they credit it to me. Which they did, and the hits on that photo started rolling in. I think to date it remains one of my top five most-viewed photos on Flickr, right up there with the Mark V diving helmet and diver I photographed at Vortex Springs, Florida and the gurnsey cow riding a unicycle.

After all that hooplah someone at the Sierra Club saw my photo (the nurdles, not the cow) and asked to buy the rights to it for use in a magazine article! A 1/16th page-size photo, plus use on the website in the article. See the above. We emailed back and forth, and I agreed. Sent the invoice off this afternoon.

The best part? I'm getting paid for it! Not a king's ransom, no, but then again it's not a photo of, say, Lincoln being assassinated. BUT, it's a start, right? I never thought that taking a photo of something as innocuous as some plastic pellets could lead to a very small paycheck!*

Today, nurdles. Tomorrow? Paris Hilton being assassinated in a theater!

* What's really funny about all this is that I've always thought that Tracy would be the one who sold the first photo of the two of us. It's been said before, and I agree totally, that while I have most of the nuts-and-bolts of photography down pat Tracy has The Eye. She looks at the world through that lens differently than the rest of us, and that to me makes her by far the better photographer. But hey, I've been wrong before, right?

Mar 1, 2009

The Fourth Element

Fire and I have a long and chequered history. We go way back, me and the open flame. I honestly think at times that I'm destined to die in a fire of some sort. Perhaps I'll spontaneously combust, go up in a huge hot whoosh and make a real ash of myself.

Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves.
~Italian Proverb

When I was a kid my brother and I had a sort of clubhouse. It was an old pig sty my father had built one year when we decided to raise and slaughter a hog. Rectangular, it was rather like walking into a closet that went back much farther than it was wide. Since it was originally in essence a seven foot tall crate made of 2x4s there were no walls, so we had carefully tacked old carpet to the inside, keeping the wind (and girls) out, and with the huge drawbridge door closed, trapping the redolence of pig inside. It was heaven. It was privacy and solitude and you couldn't keep anything fragile out there because it was always kind of damp, but it was ours.

One summer I decided to fashion a candle holder out of half a gourd, ala' Gilligan's Island. Sawed the gourd's body in half, positioned in it's hollow recess a stub of candle I'd snuck out of the house, nailed the works to a corner post and we were in business. Light! I lit it with matches stored in an old Boy Scout waterproof matchbox and we proceeded to do whatever it was that we were doing that summer. Digging to Indochina. Hiding the Stolen Government Documents. Plotting each other's overthrow via dirt clods.

At some point, as happens with all boys, we got distracted and left. I didn't return to the clubhouse for days. When I did I saw something that chilled my guts and made me realise how close I had been to genuinely screwing up. The candle had burned the top of the gourd, then proceeded to burn the corner post in a long, charred black taper almost to the roof. I can only assume the dampness that seemed to always cling to the place had so soaked the wood that it only charred slowly, then finally extinguished.

If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror, because I bet that's what really throws you into a panic.
~Jack Handey

When I was in high school I made sure to stand apart from the seething crowds that I simultaneously worshiped and abhorred. I did this by wearing a huge old green canvas Air Force field jacket, a monstrous three-quarter length lined coat with four massive pockets, a 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing/Flying Tigers patch on the shoulder and my last name stitched in white thread on a blue strip of cloth over the heart. I was state of the art nonconformist in a world of Members Only jackets, and I wore it every chance I got.

The pockets were so voluminous that they could hold everything. One New Years Eve as I recall they held four one-dozen packs of bottle rockets, back when they were still legal. A huge group of us were racing around the field like idiots, firing bottle rockets at each other in a grand melee'. I'd gotten smart and was using a foot-long length of thin PVC pipe to serve as a combination cannon and rifle barrel, and was doing a pretty fair job at accuracy with it. That is until I launched one too close to that huge right-side lower pocket full of ammunition.

A spark or two managed to fall not only directly into the pocket but fell on a fuse, lighting it and then its eleven brothers and then their thirty six cousins. It started as a slow sizzle and ended up in a flaming mass snug up against my right hip, as the jacket was buttoned up against the cold. I remember batting wildly at my pocket, thinking I might extinguish it somehow as they flamed and jetted and exploded therein. My best friend at the time ran up behind me, grabbed the collar of the jacket and heaved downwards. That action sent buttons flying, nearly dislocated both of my shoulders and succeeded in pinning my arms tight up against my body when the material proved too strong for him.

I recall looking in the mirror afterward at the ruined jacket (literally in burnt shreds,) my ruined jeans (burnt clean through in four places) and at the huge red and black scorches on the flesh of my hip. No scars resulted from that incident but a lasting respect for knowing where my sparks go was, so to speak, kindled.

Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
~Terry Pratchett

Living in the country, normal practice is to make a burn pile. Old branches, waste from the garden, ends and bits from wood projects too small to recycle, empty feed bags, it all goes on the burn pile. Then, one clear morning, you decide it's too tall to leave anymore and you light it on fire. Then you stand around with shovel in hand and a water hose nearby, just in case. I've done it dozens of times, and will no doubt continue to do so. That's how it started this morning, only sans shovel.

The wind was up nicely, which I knew would fan the flame and also make it a little more dangerous, so I set my mind to watch. It was plenty cold, still just above freezing so I knew the fire would serve two purposes--not only would it rid me of piles of thistle weeds and old pecan branches from Katrina and so forth, it would also do a merry job of warming me while I stood there in the gusty north wind and watched it. I'd had too many trash fires turn into field fires not to be ready.

I was right. The paper chicken-feed bags I'd used for starter went up nicely, catching the Xmas tree, which in turn caught the old dead weeds growing in the middle. The wind, directly out of the north fanned the flames, giving it a ready supply of oxygen, and shortly I was backing up pace after pace to keep out of its eager grasp and ever-increasing heat. Naturally, as I expected, it began to spread, and I began working around it, stamping out little spots and tongues of flame that tried to get too far. I'd wait until the flames had moved away a little or decreased in ferocity, run by and stamp with my old tennis shoes then move away before my skin tightened too much from the heat.

That is until I was working around the pile counter-clockwise, my left side to the flames. I was stamping out a foot-sized grass fire that was threatening to wander too far when the wind decided to change direction very abruptly and very strongly. Suddenly I was no longer four feet from the fire but was standing in its midst. Looking down at the patch of grass I was stamping I saw licking gouts of translucent orange, felt my hands and face grow tight and hot from the heat and felt the heat instantly through pants and thick jacket. I turned to my right and started to run but my reflexes were far too slow for something as elemental and raw as a roaring fire.

I heard and felt a sizzling sound all around my head and exposed hands and knew I was in very real danger. Then the wind changed again, just as abruptly as it had moments ago and I was standing in the clear again, smelling the horrible sick sweet smell of burnt.

My hand was at my face instantly, afraid to touch for fear of what I'd find. Then I gave in and touched. The hair on the left side of my head, from under my black wool faux-Kangol all the way to my ear and around the back of my head felt crinkly, and I could feel tiny bits of it crack off as I rubbed. Likewise the soft black wool fuzz on my hat was now thousands of tiny brown curls on the left side only, as though the sun had bleached the tiny fibers after a summer in the sun. My left eyebrow? Just a thin crinkled stubble, as though I'd plucked most of it. Same with my eyelashes. The left side of my moustache, my one vanity, is half burnt, its length foreshortened and badly thinned, and the remaining hair had a terrible crinkly feeling to most of it. A texture that my fingers seem to have touched time and again throughout the day today. The same with my goatee--each pass of my fingers seemed to rub more singed, crinkled bits off, and lingers on the tight, strangely brittle patches here and there that still remain.

We never think about how fast things can change. We're not good at thinking in the moment, instead relying on thinking in terms of hours, days, years. "It was a good day," not "It was a good moment." We forget that the important things don't happen over a day or a year, they happen in an eyeblink. Oh, I know it'll grow back. I'm just about ready to laugh at it. This is the intake of breath before the first giggles start. I'm still disgusted, though. I don't grow hair like a beast, unfortunately. It took me almost two years to grow a set of handlebars that I could be really proud of, and this morning I had to stand in the bathroom mirror with a towel over the sink and my sharp scissors and trim the right side, shorten and thin and ruin it until I was somewhat symmetrical again. A year's worth of loving, prideful growth gone in a single lick of fire.

It certainly could have been worse. I could have been carrying a gallon of napalm in one hand. I could have been sorting my dynamite collection at the time. I could have been sky-clad, worshiping in some Old Time Religion sort of way. Still, my little-used vanity still stings, and even after washing and shampooing the whole left side of my head I still keep getting whiffs of burnt me, an unpleasant reminder.

Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. ~Garrison Keillor

Still, could have been worse. Perhaps people will start to think I look more like Adam now.