Thursday, July 2, 2015

On HGTV: The Property Pups.

[Property Puppies on HGTV features litter mates Jocko and Duke, who make over houses each week for lucky canine homeowners.]


Season 5, Episode 3: Wolfgang & Aurora

[Reveal scene]

Duke: And here is your fabulous new kitchen.

Aurora: Omigod! It's just what I always wanted!

Wolfgang: Wow!

Jocko: You see we ripped down the dividing wall to open the space up, then we replaced the slick tile with roughed-up hardwood so your nails can get a grip.

Wolfgang: Boy, I sure hate running in to dinner and flying into the cabinets.

Jocko: Not a problem now.

Aurora: I love the barn door!

Wolfgang: Me too! I was raised in a barn! Really!

Duke: Us too!

Wolfgang: And that bag, that comes with the kitchen?

Jocko: Yes, we replaced the old sink and oven with a ripped-open 40-pound sack of kibble and a continuous water feature. You'll have to replace the bag every now and then.

Aurora: Every couple of days, the way he eats!


Wolfgang: Hey, let's have a little bite right now!

Duke: Not right now! We have to go look at your master bedroom!

[in bedroom]

Aurora: I LOVE it! Look at those beds!

Wolfgang: Comfy.

Jocko: We pulled up the old carpet and ripped down the wallpaper, then added two dog beds. Quick fix and under budget.

Aurora: And these beds are machine washable?

Duke: Yep, never have to use the vacuum cleaner on them.

Everyone: YAY!

Duke: Let's have a look at the master bathroom.

[in bathroom]

Aurora: Oh, my gosh, it is HUGE!

Jocko: Yes, this half acre of nature was the backyard, but we repurposed it into the master bath by tearing down the deck and adding some trees, a wading pool... and that's pretty much it.

Wolfgang: This is awesome. No bathtub?

Jocko: No.

Everyone: YAY!

Duke: We'll leave you two to get settled into your new home.

Aurora: You guys are the greatest!

Jocko: Good luck with your litter!

[Duke and Jocko outside]

Jocko: Well, that went pretty well. All that work and I didn't muss a hair.

Duke: Except for that cowlick.

Jocko: That's not a cowlick, that was from Mom.

Duke: Mom always licked you best.

[credits, promo]

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

And here's to you, Mrs. Robin.

If you've been following Nature Blog here, you know that I have a robin's nest under my deck (deck, that is, not desk) (although that would be interesting) that has a robin that flees whenever I or the dog draws near. Until recently it also had a bright blue egg. Now:

That little spike was twitching around, and I'm pretty certain it was the beak of a baby robin, waiting for Mom to come back and hurl some lunch into it.

Congratulations, Mrs. Robin! It's a... robin!

I knew something was up because there were at least two angry robins peeping at me when I took that picture, and boy were they mad. Got to protect the baby!

I think the robins may also be a little on edge because this nest is right near the A/C unit. Maybe that thing going on and off has made them a little deranged. Poor robins! Oh, well, they should have built next door. The neighbor's unit is around the corner from their deck.

On the topic of nature: You may also recall that I have a 15-year-old azalea that I was pretty sure had croaked during our second consecutive brutal winter. Well:

He showed me! Well played, azalea! There wasn't a lot of flowering this year, but there sure as heck been a lot of leafing. So good job!

And that's our nature report today, except for this guy:

You'd better believe the dog was fascinated by this interloper. He wanted to go nose-to-nose with him, And although he has a hundred pounds on the turtle, I knew he would keep at it until we had to make a trip to the vet with a nipped and bleeding nose. Seemed that Shelly here was trying to get across the street for mating purposes (not mating porpoises, which would be ridiculous) (but interesting). Once I got the dog away, I shoveled up Shelly and deposited him across the street. I didn't want him getting run over along the way either. Turtle Pancake would have also attracted the dog.

So that's your suburban nature update for the week. Back inside to the A/C!

UPDATE: Baby bird? Looks kind of big. Maybe they brought in a babysitter.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ask the Supremes!

The Supreme Court of the United States doesn't just interpret the Constitution and decide case law for 319 million souls; now it answers YOUR questions on all kinds of topics! Let's see what the ol' mailbag has today for the Nine Wise Worthies and their army of clerks. 

Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

I've noticed blood in my stool lately. Should I seek medical help? I would normally go to my primary care physician, but my deductible recently was raised from five hundred dollars to one hundred billion kajillion dollars.

---Concerned in Kalamazoo

Dear Concerned: 

Blood is a natural fluid, and stool is a natural solid. Bloods and stools are therefore compatible on one hand, incompatible on the other. So it could easily be decided either way. We refer to Faex v. Cruor in our deliberation. Our take: sit on it for a while. And that's our ruling.


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

Does it really matter if I use the entree fork on my salad? I hate salad forks with their little tines. But my girlfriend gets real mad when I take her to a nice place and use the wrong fork. She also doesn't like it when I use one to scratch my back.

---Rude in Riverton

Dear Rude:

Rules governing flatware, like those of the Constitution, need to be seen in the light of modern developments. We ask: What is the intent of the law? What do people from other countries think of forks, or even spoons? What makes us think our place settings are so special anyway? Having asked ourselves these questions, we've decided that your girlfriend is a busybody and should pound sand. And that's our ruling.


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

Can I marry my 1998 Subaru Forester? I know it's only 17, but that's over 30 in car years. It is a consenting compact crossover.

---Bedazzled in Bal Harbour

Dear Bedazzled:

As is well known, we are above all experts in affaires de coeur. That said, you certainly bring a vivid meaning to the term crossoverWe all hope not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. No one has proved to us that automobiles have feelings, but then, no one has proven that they don't. A friend of the court mentioned My Mother the Car, the hilarious Jerry Van Dyke comedy, so there's that. Not to mention Herbie the Love Bug. And we have been informed that love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru. So what the hell, go for it. And that's our ruling.


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

Is it okay if I eat these peas? You see that the sell-by date on the can was in 2005. But I've heard that some "life hacks" say those dates are just a guideline. What say you?

---Hungry in Haverstraw

Dear Hungry:

We think we can all be grateful that we've reached a point in our society when we no longer worry about the rights of the individual over the rights of the collective. And what is better for the collective than adequate supplies of nourishing food? So yes, Hungry, do your civic duty and enjoy those peas. Otherwise you'll just buy another can and deprive someone else of this finite supply. And if it kills you, well, that's one less mouth to feed. And that's our ruling. 


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

My neighbor's dog is fine, but his cat meows a lot. What can I do?

---Annoyed in Anaheim

Dear Annoyed: 

As our college campuses (or campii) have so courageously shown, the right to never be annoyed, challenged, or bothered in the slightest way is as fundamental as the right to kill inconvenient things. Our take: Cat's in the bag, bag's in the river. 


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

By what authority do you make laws? I'm looking through the Constitution but I can't see anyplace that says you are supposed to make laws. Or any other judges, for that matter. And say, while you're getting inspiration from foreign laws, have you heard of these Ten Commandments? They were very popular overseas a while ago.

---Grumpy in Grosse Pointe

Dear Grumpy:

Hidden in the emanating penumbras of the escutcheon of the Constitution are all kinds of things that you can find if you cover one eye and squint. Trust us, it's in there. You're in contempt. And that's our ruling. Bailiff! 


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

My girlfriend got a restraining order on me, and her father said he would blow my (nasty adjectives) head off with a shotgun if he ever saw my face again. So I thought I'd stop by and say hello. Good idea?

---Wondering in Waco

Dear Wondering:

It sounds like a call for love to us. This may seem like a tricky situation, but remember, we all hope not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. Restraining order? Threats of violence? Feh. All you ask for is equal dignity in the eyes of the law. Go to her and share your message of love. And that's our ruling. 


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

So which U.S. state will be the first to outlaw the Catholic church?

---Apprehensive in Undisclosed

Dear Apprehensive:

You're being a backward-looking, antidemocratic paranoid. We all know that the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. So just because your neanderthal belief in Skyman makes you look at your fellow Americans with disgust doesn't mean any religions are going to be outlawed. And that's our ruling. 


Dear U.S. Supreme Court:

Come on, really.

---A in U

Dear A:

California. Maybe Oregon. Toss-up.


Got a question for the Supreme Court of the United States? Drop it in the comments and wait for dissatisfaction to set in!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Feng Guy.

I've been making a study of Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of developing harmony and peace through Chi in the home, office, minivan, dog house, etc., and my main discovery is: Women like this stuff more than men do. Although a great many practitioners and experts are male, women are the ones who buy the books, hire the consultants, and get men to move around the furniture.

I think there's an enormous untapped market here for men, but I just can't see men getting all worked up about it, even if the Five Elements (wood, earth, water, fire, and metal) in the home feature too much water, making them overemotional.

So I've worked up a new school of Feng Shui called Feng Guy, designed with guys in mind. (I am not the first to make a Feng Guy crack, but I didn't know that when I made it up, and I did it all by myself! Besides, I am a feng guy.) I expect I'll be hosting a show about it soon on HGTV, or one of the 600-level channels anyway. Here's a sneak preview of the kind of advice we'll be giving guys.


When you design your bachelor pad, you want to make sure you have a good flow of energy. That's what we Feng Shui efforts know as Chi, which is short for Cheez. I recommend getting that spray cheese, and lots of it. People call it Cheez Whiz, but we experts know that Cheez Whiz is the stuff that comes in the jar; you want Easy Cheese. That's the aerosol. If your Chi is still feeling a little low, order one of those stuffed-crust pizzas, the kind that have all the mozzarella in the crust. That'll get the Chi flowing. 


Guys, we all know that there are three Major Elements in Feng Guy: Rock, Paper, and Scissors. To achieve balance in your place, you need to get lots of rocks, lots of paper, and lots of scissors. The rocks are pretty easy to get, unless you live in the city, in which case you can substitute bricks. Paper should be a snap---in addition to the unpaid bills hanging around on the table, you might have paper towels, or even toilet paper. Come to think of it, you really should have toilet paper. As for scissors, remember, that's just a modern term for ancient cutlery. You know how cool guys with lots of dough like to have big swords over the fireplace? Bingo.


Your man cave can have excellent Chi, and all the elements, but you really need to think big. This is the MAN cave, not the LITTLE GIRL cave. You need to get some effort into it. I'm thinking...

Oh, yeah, baby. That'll Yin your Yang for ya.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Not much to report today; spent most of Friday trying to work, attending a long meeting, and wobbling through the day while feeling wonky. Last night it was all I could do to collapse, annoy the dog, and watch reruns of Mythbusters. Of course, I treated my illness with all proper medications, used only as directed.

I think this may have passed its "Best By" date though.
So I hope I will have something for you Sunday that will make it worth your while to stop by. I always want to have something amusing or interesting; it is, after all, supposed to be your Daily Dose of Vitamin Fred, not just your Dose When I Feel Up to It.

If someone has a mom or gramma they can spare who has a crackerjack chicken soup recipe or something, please let me borrow her? Thanks a lot.

"Now take some more Ex-Lax and
stop bitching and moaning, dearie."

Friday, June 26, 2015


Today is Peter Lorre's 111th birthday, or would be if he hadn't died at the age of 59 in 1964. As Don Imus says, you stop having birthdays when you're dead---and Imus being 74 years old, I guess he'll find out soon enough.

I actually like Imus, so don't get on me. One thing he and Peter Lorre (born László Löwenstein) have in common: anyone who's heard them can imitate them. Lorre was quoted as saying, "All that anyone needs to imitate me is two soft-boiled eggs and a bedroom voice."

Come on---look at Lorre's face. Aren't you just ready to start saying, with a crazed and shaky voice, "How can somebody be so stupid!"*

"Hm, what right do I have to think, huh?"**
Old-time movie actors, especially character actors like Lorre, but also many leading men, were not just actors but characters. Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart were great actors, but their personal characteristics were seen in every role. Character actors like Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Eugene Pallette, Boris Karloff, and of course Lorre had set characters; they could be comedic, tragic, or even menacing, but they were essentially the same guys. That's why they're so imitable, while actors like Spencer Tracy, who always tried to inhabit their characters, are not. When was the last time you heard someone do a Spencer Tracy imitation?

Does that mean that these old characters were lousy actors? Hardly. Developing a showbiz persona was a feature, not a bug. Even in those days "working actor" was something of an oxymoron; and an actor who was typecast was an actor who was cast. The ability of these character actors to inhabit characters convincingly varied, of course; but the vividness of these actors on screen was always apparent.

So, let's hear your Mark Wahlberg impression. Or Channing Tatum?

Robert Pattinson?

Can you imagine anyof them, or any of the other guys working today, giving justice to a line like:

"You... you bungled it. You and your stupid attempt to buy it. Kemedov found out how valuable it was, no wonder we had such an easy time stealing it. You... you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head you!"***

Happy birthday, Mr. Lorre---even if you've stopped having them, we're still enjoying your pictures.


*Arsenic and Old Lace


***The Maltese Falcon