Friday, November 26, 2004

We awoke to our first snowfall of the season yesterday morning. This is how it looked along the county road south of our house. It's all melted now, but it was beautiful while it lasted. I'm ready for spring now. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Worth two in the bush... My dad when he was about my age (59). I look much younger. Really. Posted by Hello

Overworked cliche

I'm really tired of blues songs that begin with, "I woke up this mornin'..."
Didn't most of us?
Well, now that I think of it, my dad didn't. He died seven years ago today.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Puzzling Evidence

For the benefit of the ladies who are unfamiliar with the layout of restaurant men's rooms, a lot of establishments put something on the wall above the urinals to give us something to read while we're otherwise engaged.
Some places post the sports page of the local paper, some post a page from USA Today and some stick advertising there.
I found myself staring at one of those ads today.
It was an ad for a company called Big Slick Attire and they make clothing for gambling. Yeah, who knew?
The ad directs the reader to their website: There, you can see the various t-shirts, tanktops, caps, hoodies and other stuff created with this rationale:
Big Slick Attire was created for players, by players. Our shirts are not only classy, but relevant to the best poker game invented, No Limit Texas Hold'em.
Jesus! Talk about a niche market.

Monday, November 22, 2004

And now for something completely different: This couple are regulars at a rollerskating rink in a nearby town and they always bring their 3-foot tall Barbie doll skating partners. The Barbies have bendable limbs, so they put them in chairs at the snack bar when they take a break. They also have child seats for the Barbies in their SUV. Strange? Posted by Hello

No, they're not all latent liberals

I really ought to be doing something useful this Monday morning, but I must share this piece I pirated from Jeff Goldstein’s Protein Wisdom site.
It gets right to the heart of the fallacious assumption that all of those heretofore silent non-voters were latent liberals and Democrats. That has always been the touchstone of Democrat ideology and, to some extent, believed/feared by those of us in the Center and on the Right.

Writing in the Weekly Standard, associate professor of political science at UVA Gerard Alexander argues that, in election 2004, “there wasn’t a huge untapped pool of Democratic voters, after all.” From “The End of a Left-Wing Fantasy” (subscription required, so I’ll quote liberally):
It’s not difficult to detect a level of demoralization among some Democrats that can’t be explained by the loss of a single presidential election by three points. One reason may be the death, on November 2, of a myth that has long nourished the hopes of the American left--the idea that tens of millions of non-voters (if only they could be turned out) were an ace up their sleeve.
For decades, liberals and progressives pointed out that Americans vote at much lower rates than Europeans. Since non-voting is especially high among groups that normally lean to the left--minorities and those with the lowest incomes and formal education--this meant that the building blocks of a more liberal, even social democratic, politics existed in the United States. But these people (so the thinking went) were excluded from the political process by complicated registration procedures and the failure of parties and candidates to raise issues that motivated them. To many on the left, it was a reassuring image: Outside the political system, looking in, were enough potential voters to swamp conservatives (and moderates for that matter). It meant history was still on their side, since ways would surely be found sooner or later to mobilize these citizens.
Many Democrats shared this belief, which is why they joined progressives in passing the “motor voter” registration law in 1993. Many journalists were believers, too, regularly reporting that high turnout naturally favors Democrats.
But there were always two things wrong with this line of argument. It exaggerated the number of non-voters and it mischaracterized their likely political views. Because turnout ratios are typically calculated as a percentage of all adult residents of the United States, the number of non-voters misleadingly includes millions of people who are not eligible to vote because they’re not U.S. citizens or, in many states, because they are convicted felons. There have always been millions fewer non-voters out there to be mobilized than was suggested.
More important, the myth mischaracterized non-voters politically. It’s true that minorities and the very poorest Americans have historically voted at disproportionately low rates. But it doesn’t follow that the average non-voter falls to the left of the political aisle. For example, U.S. Census Bureau data suggest that non-voters who didn’t finish high school at most made up one in five non-voters in 2000. The same data suggest that up to 30 million non-voters in 2000 had either some college education, a bachelor’s degree, or an advanced degree. In other words, non-voters included many millions of middle-class Americans. In other cases, the myth-making left politically miscategorized groups that historically voted at low rates. African Americans might vote overwhelmingly Democratic. But politically sluggish young people come close to splitting evenly between Democratic- and Republican-leaning views, despite 1960s memories to the contrary. Hispanics are turning out to be much more politically diverse than some hoped (and others feared), even if we aren’t sure exactly how many voted Republican this year. Finally, the ranks of non-voters have also included millions of rural and small-town residents--many of them religious--whose incomes might connote urban poverty but whose political sympathies don’t. In sum, it isn’t obvious at all that most non-voters would be heavily inclined to support left-of-center candidates if they entered a polling place.
The 2004 election results bear this out and may lay the myth permanently to rest. The campaign caused a healthy increase in turnout, but at least as many of the new voters cast Republican ballots as Democratic ones [...]
[...] And if we compare how many votes George W. Bush added to his 2000 totals with how many John Kerry added to Al Gore’s 2000 total, it’s clear that Bush gained heavily among these new voters, even though Kerry had the easy pickup of many former Naderites to his totals.
Much has been made of the impact of the Evangelical Christian voting bloc, but I suspect the real swing in George Bush’s favor this November came from erstwhile liberals who woke one morning to find they were suddenly more comfortable with the conservative label—progressivist Democrats having hijacked the Democratic party, and with it the home to traditional liberal moderates. For me, this realization occurred in the course of debating my progressivist friends in the academy over things like affirmative action, or diversity, or gender-based pedagogical theory. To my mind, a real commitment to egalitarian concerns had been eschewed by progressives in favor of a faux egalitarian impulse that sought to foist a superficial statistical “equality” on the American public by constantly jiggering policy to achieve the proportional results it idealized. And the ends justified the means. Which is how we ended up with illiberal liberalism—a liberal progressivist political culture that justifies racial quotas and free speech zones, hate crimes legislation and increasingly anti-male public education practices.
It’s worth remembering that Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian civil rights advocate (and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from its founding in 1957 to his death in 1968), would today be pilloried by the progressivist left as a red state Uncle Tom—an “inauthentic” Black Bible thumping creationist whose dream that people be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” would be dismissed as anti-Black “code”—or rather, as the right’s usurpation of the language of “fairness" to keep minorities permanently oppressed by removing from the social equation historical contingency. Which critique, of course, is a big steaming load of self-serving horseshit.
No, in the final analysis, I think the American liberal spirit is alive and well, just as it’s always been; but because much of that spirit resides in the ideals of modern conservatism, and because conservatism finds its home in the Republican Party, an increasingly “red” country has simply continued its principled embrace of classical liberalism. And until the Democratic Party recognizes that such a rebranding is in fact taking place, they’ll continue to lash out at what they perceive to be backward heartland rubes in a facile attempt to caricature those who embrace a constitutional liberalism that respects the separation of powers—and which places the will of the people over the slim partisan dictates of some or another activist judge hoping to cement his or her own judicial immortality.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Chicken head

Another blogger recently used the expression "chicken with its head cut off" to describe a state of extreme excitement and it triggered a nostalgic flashback about my mother.
My mom was raised on a farm and had a farmer's sensibility about animal rights - essentially, "We own the animals and can do whatever the hell we want with them." Sort of a Book of Genesis "dominion over the animals" perspective that still makes sense to me. Except for dogs, of course. Dogs are simple little people trapped in hairy bodies who just want to make us happy.
There's an old American Indian legend that tells of a time when the Great Spirit split the human and animal worlds apart and, at the last moment, only the dog leaped across the expanding chasm to be with man.
But I digress.
When I was young - in the single-digit age range - my mother occasionally bought a live chicken as part of her grocery shopping. I don't know where she got it. I don't remember ever seeing live chickens in the little IGA grocery store where we shopped.
At any rate, she would take the hapless hen out into our back yard and, with one deft and practiced two-handed twist, rip its head off.
I watched in amazement as the headless chicken dashed blindly around the yard, its wings beating wildly and a fountain of crimson spouting from its neck, until it flopped over in the grass.
That was the first time I witnessed death - not counting insects and other lower life forms - but it wasn't until much later that I grasped the irony that it was being dealt by the same person who gave me life.
You still hear and read the headless chicken metaphor these days, but it's an abstraction to most people born since 1950 - certainly to anyone not raised on a farm.
I have no idea why my mother chose to kill and dress her own chicken rather than just buy it ready to cook from the grocery. I don't know if fresh-killed chicken is supposed to taste better or if it was just cheaper or if she just did it out of nostalgia for how she was raised. And she's not around anymore to ask.
She's gone to the land of the headless chickens. Let's hope they don't hold a grudge.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Another blogger’s list of favorite things got me thinking about my personal list. So here, in no particular order, is my personal list of stuff I like or can’t do without:

BMW Motorcycles – I’ve been riding BMWs since 1981 and have more than a quarter-million BMW miles in my mirrors. I love them because they’re reliable and generally on the technological cutting edge and because they set me and my friends apart from the beefwit biker lifestyle Harley-Davidson crowd. My current ride is an ’03 K1200GT which has 19,165 miles on the odometer as of this afternoon’s ride.

My Subaru Forester – We bought an ’02 Forester S in March after an elderly woman with macular degeneration totaled my late mother’s ’92 Buick LeSabre that my wife was driving. It handles beautifully, gets decent gas mileage (23.11 mpg) and can go about 330 miles on a tank of regular. It’s great for hauling around our camera gear and we can even sleep in it, if need be. We’re eager to see how it handles in the snow with all wheel drive.

Breitling watches – I inherited a 1940s Breitling Premiere from my late father-in-law. It was a WWII bring-back and I had it cleaned and put back into running order. I splurged about four years ago and bought myself a titanium Chrono Avenger that looks terrific and keeps excellent time.

Nikon cameras – I had a couple of Nikon point-and-shoots for my motorcycle trips and was content with them until my girlfriend (now my wife) bought a Nikon N50 SLR back in the late 1990s. I had a Pentax SLR and lenses dating from the ‘70s which I sold on Ebay to get into the Nikon line. I started out with an N90S and the Tamron 28-300mm lens, later transitioning to an F5 before we made the jump to digital and bought a couple of D-100s. Between us, we have a pretty complete range of lenses from the digital 12-24mm, through a Tamron 90mm macro to a funky Phoenix 500mm.

XM Satellite Radio – I’m listening to XM as I write this, having finally received the free home kit that I ordered when I bought my first XM Roady in June. It’s such a luxury to have this incredible variety of music without commercials.

Diet Coke – We go through a couple of cases a week. Goes well with Bacardi Puerto Rican Rum, too.

Beck’s Dark Beer – My favorite, although – truth be told – after the first two, any beer will do. My taste runs to the darker beers and porters and stouts, but I would never turn down a Molson or a Labatt’s. While in Mexico a few years ago, I developed a liking for a brand called Superior, which I’ve not been able to find here.

Swiss Army knives – I’ve carried one or another for most of my adult life and use it daily. I’ve eyed the Leatherman tools, but can’t get excited over their bulkiness.

Windstopper garments – I discovered windstopper technology about 8 years ago when I bought a jacket made by Columbia and found it needed very little layering to keep me comfortable in bitter cold weather. A friend turned me on to Willis & Geiger clothes shortly before the Lands End bean-counters killed the company because it wasn’t making enough profit. I was able to snarf up some great W&G gear, including a Diaplex sweater that has an excellent wind-stopping shell.

Windows XP – I’ve been a Windows user since v3.0 in the early 1990s and, while it still has its problems, XP is the most reliable version yet.

Dell Computers – My Dell has performed remarkably well and so has the one I bought for my step-daughter to take to college. My wife’s Gateway, in contrast, is less reliable especially when it was running Windows 2000. I upgraded the memory and the operating system to XP and it’s almost as solid as my Dell now.

Instant oatmeal – A one-serving package, two-thirds of a cup of water, 90 seconds in the microwave and breakfast is served. It’s only 3 Weight Watcher points and I like to think it’s lowering my cholesterol.

DSL – When I moved to this little town of 1,500, I had to give up my high-speed internet. After a year of dial-up, my prayers were answered when the local phone company offered DSL. Since I live only 5 blocks from the switching office, my service is very fast and I’m a happy camper.

My Handspring Treo 300 cell phone/PDA – Yeah, it’s been obsoleted by the Treo 600 and 650, but it only cost me $70 on Ebay, works great and uses lots of free software.

Nepenthe – The restaurant in Big Sur, Calif. My all-time favorite place to eat and chill out.

Hello Direct telephone products – I’ve used their headsets for years. They’re very comfortable and are far superior to the Plantronics crap you get in office supply stores.

Our Hot Tub – It’s a CalSpa and it’s like taking a mini-vacation to soak in 102º F water when the outdoor temperature is –10º and my hair has ice crystals in it. We got it early in 2001 and the heater failed this summer. It had a lifetime warranty and, since I’m still alive, they replaced it free.

Ebay – I’ve used it to sell more than $3,100 worth of parts from my old bike (’91 BMW K100RS) and love to shop for good deals there.

KL Homme cologne and aftershave – It’s out of production, but I can still find it on Ebay, along with the discontinued KL fragrance for women.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Be careful what you wish for, my Canadian friends

A lot of disgruntled Kerry supporters are considering moving to Canada rather than remain in the U.S. for the next four years of George Bush's second term. They will not be missed.
And Canadians have put up a website to tout the Great White North as a new home for America's sore losers at
Canadians: Please accept our apologies in advance. Don't expect them to add much value to your nation or your culture. They couldn't function in a Democratic society here and they probably won't do very well there either.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Yeah! Go to the Cox & Forkum site - - for more great editorial cartoons! Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Yasser has left the building

I always suspected he was really Ringo Starr with a rag jauntily wrapped around his head. I almost asked U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick about it at a press conference in 1988.
He will not be missed. Except by those who hoped he would give up the secret Swiss bank account numbers where he had $2-3 billion in PLO money stashed.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Man

I like to see who reads this stuff, so be advised that if you comment, I'll return the favor by reading your profile and at least some of your blog.
Anyway, I saw something in a commenter's profile that reminded me of this:

About a year ago, my wife had a major headache - felt like her head was exploding.
She got a call from her youngest brother Raph, who is an Emergency Medical Technician with a suburban fire department. In his job, he deals with a lot of stupid people whose lives are a cascade of bad choices.
His advice - bartiburates and whiskey.
"Yeah, they tell you not to mix alcohol with barbiturates, but that's just The Man trying to keep you down," he said with a chuckle.

Cockfighting goes mainstream! Posted by Hello

Chicken Shit

I never much cared for Burger King's food.
Their Croissandwich usually made me queasy about an hour after eating it and I couldn't get excited about their burgers or other fare.
But I have to give them credit for having one of the most bizarre promotions going with their guys in chicken suits.
I first became aware of this strange, kinda creepy scene when a friend e-mailed me the URL to The Subservient Chicken. The BK sponsorship is very low key and some visitors to the site probably never even notice it. It features a guy in a chicken suit standing in what looks like an apartment living room. You're invited to type in commands - whatever comes to mind - and he'll do it. He'll sit down, he'll fall down, he'll turn around, he'll leave the room, and on and on. But if you tell him to do something he considers inappropriate, he... well, I won't spoil the surprise. He appears to be wearing women's garters, which gives the thing a sorta kinky vibe along with the power trip of being able to give orders to a guy in a chicken suit.
BK upped the ante this fall with their loopy spin on cockfighting at It's all about the presumed fight between BK's Tender Crispy (T.C.) chicken sandwich and the new Spicy Tender Crispy (Spicy) chicken sandwich.
T.C. and Spicy go at it in a cage match straight out of the WWF school of theatrics. Pay close attention to how the ringside announcers dance around the obvious term for how the match is won.
I was about to say the promotion hasn't got me thinking about dining at Burger King, but it is almost lunchtime and a Spicy Tender Crispy chicken sandwich doesn't sound all that bad. As long as I don't imagine that I'm gnawing on any part of the guy in the chicken suit.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

This is the week for birthdays. My son Steve (left) turned 34 last Sunday and his brother Sean (right) is 37 today. Considering that I followed the Homer Simpson school of parenting, they turned out amazingly well. Happy Birthday, guys! Posted by Hello

My wife shot this photo of a Cooper's hawk Wednesday moments after it killed a pigeon. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Clearing the air

I have deleted the more rabid of my pre-election posts. I feel better now.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Winners and losers

Curious about which of your neighbors contributed to political campaigns and which ones they supported?
Check out this website. It's complete from Jan. 1 through Oct. 13, but be sure to come back later after the final reporting deadline.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I couldn't resist. Here is a county-by-county map showing results where 100% of the vote has been tallied. Lots and lots of red. Posted by Hello

Here's how it shook out in 2000. Notice Gore did considerably better than did Kerry in '04. Posted by Hello

Forget politics, let's visit the Garden of Eden

I'm sure those who frequent this place have found the last few days' offerings very tedious and perhaps objectionable. Sorry. I get that way sometimes.
So, as an antidote of sorts, I offer this travel piece that I wrote for a motorcycle magazine a few years ago. It's about the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kans., one of my favorite travel oddities:

You’re headed west on Interstate 70 through Kansas, leaning into a stiff prairie crosswind blowing up from Texas and counting the mile markers to the Colorado line.
Your day started in Independence, Mo., and the rising summer sun warmed your back as you put Kansas City in your mirrors. Somewhere around the Ellsworth exit, you notice you’re 200 miles deep into Kansas and grimace with the realization that there are more than 200 miles to go before you can say goodbye to the Sunflower State.
This would be a good time for a break and, if you’re willing to bend your schedule a little, there’s something amazing just over the northern horizon.
The only clue to the passing rider is a standard-issue interstate point-of-interest sign at the Kans. 232 interchange announcing something called the “Garden of Eden” up the road in Lucas.
The 18-mile ride to Lucas is an eye-opener after hours on the superslab. The two-lane blacktop snakes its way north over undulating hills, topping out at an overlook surveying the 9,000-acre Wilson Lake Reservoir. It doesn’t take long to realize there’s more to Kansas than what you can see from I-70. You may wonder if the Kansans didn’t choose the route to keep the rest of us moving on through. Following the signs, you turn left on Kans. 18, then left again down Lucas’ Main Street. Another left and a jog down a side street and you are face-to-face with S.P. Dinsmoor’s claim to immortality.
Samuel Perry Dinsmoor began life in Ohio in 1843 and served in the Union Army in 18 Civil War battles. He taught school in Illinois after the war, then tried farming in Nebraska. By the time he got to Lucas in 1891, he had a wife of 20 years – a wealthy widow named Frances he married on horseback – and a reputation for quirkiness.
His neighbors’ first clue that Dinsmoor was, shall we say, a little different came in 1907 when, at the age of 64, Dinsmoor built what he called the Cabin Home.
Wood was at a premium on this windswept stretch of the plains, prompting farmers to hack fence posts out of the native limestone that lies just below the sod. It made perfect sense to Dinsmoor, then, to build a “log cabin” of logs hewn from limestone. The 11-room cabin, completed in 1910, is built of brown limestone logs – many of which are 27 feet long – painstakingly fitted together to form walls 22 inches thick.
The Dinsmoors – S.P., Frances and their five children – lived in the basement that included a kitchen, dining room and living area, but they slept on the top floor. The main floor was a showcase for Dinsmoor’s collection of curios and woodworking handicraft. Dinsmoor’s Cabin Home was the first house in Lucas with running water and electric lights.
Frances Dinsmoor died in 1917, leaving her husband lots of money and spare time.
Over the next dozen years, the aging Dinsmoor turned his attention to the space outside his limestone walls.
One of his first projects was a pagoda-like mausoleum in the back yard surmounted by a concrete angel. It was Dinsmoor’s plan to be entombed there with the late Frances, but local authorities denied his request to have her body exhumed from the town cemetery. Undaunted, Dinsmoor dug up Frances’ casket one dark night and transferred her remains to the mausoleum. The cement over her crypt was curing by the time the locals realized what had happened.
With Frances tucked away for Eternity, Dinsmoor set to making concrete his thoughts on religion, philosophy and politics.
Strung around the west and north sides of the property are a panoply of larger-than-life figures, anchored by the images of Adam – wearing a Masonic apron to cover his nakedness and looking suspiciously like his Creator Dinsmoor – and an impossibly wide-hipped Eve. Sons Cain and Abel are just to the north, making offerings to God. Abel is offering a sheep but Cain’s sacrifice is, in the Gospel according to Dinsmoor, a “rotten pumpkin” and Cain is trying to cover a hole in the side with his foot.
The tableau continues with the discovery of Abel’s murder by his wife and his dog. The dog, also a Dinsmoor invention, is the picture of canine horror with its front paws extended and its mouth wide open in a frozen howl of despair. High above the scene, the all-seeing eye of God gazes down from a concrete stalk and, with one slender arm, points accusingly at Cain and his wife who are skedaddling out of town with their belongings in a carpetbag.
Around the corner on the north side of the yard, Dinsmoor gives us his sermon on the way of the world: a worm nibbles a leaf at the end of a concrete branch, oblivious to the bird about to devour him. A cat-like creature stalks the bird, only to be pursued by a dog. From a nearby tree, an Indian aims an arrow at the dog, unaware he is in the sights of a solder’s musket from the next tree to the west.
Over by the mausoleum is “Labor Crucified,” an allegory in which the working man is tormented in his agony by the doctor, the lawyer, the preacher and the banker.
Dinsmoor took time off from his magnificent obsession in 1921 to wed his 20-year-old Czechoslovakian housekeeper. He subsequently wrote, “An old man needs a nurse, a young man wants a companion. I got both.” Although in his 80s, he fathered two children by his second wife.
Dinsmoor died in 1932 at the age of 89. According to his wishes, he was entombed in a glass-topped coffin in the mausoleum with this promise to future visitors: “If I see them dropping a dollar in the hands of the flunky, and I see the dollar, I will give them a smile.”
About 10,000 travelers visit the Garden of Eden annually and many take the $4 tour that includes a chance to search Dinsmoor’s withered face for that promised smile.

The Garden of Eden is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, from April through October. Hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. from November through March. The phone number is 785-525-6395.
The Garden of Eden has a web site: