Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rosary for the win.

Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme made headlines in April when he announced that Jesus Christ had appeared to him in a vision, "offering him a rosary and saying the words, 'Boko Haram is gone.'" From this the bishop concluded that the Lord meant him to know that praying the rosary was the means by which the evil Boko Haram would be expelled.

It probably was a good thing that the major news outlets of the West largely ignored the story, because they would have run it as a look-at-those-wacky-Catholics kind of piece.

Not that they have any answers to the problem of Islamic terrorism.

Boko Haram is usually interpreted to mean something like "Western education is forbidden," but the name literally means "Books are forbidden." You'd think the American Library Association, with its "Banned Books Week," would be calling to bomb them into the stone age, but they haven't taken a position on it. (To the organization's credit, they did have Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak last January at the ALA Midwinter meeting while timid little college campuses have run away from the author like scared mice. I'm an admirer of Hirsi Ali, but her staunch atheist views seem to have blinded her to the benefits of good religion---understandably, considering the brutal abuse she has suffered. Still, she ought to be welcome as a serious writer on any American campus.)

Anyway, a few weeks after Bishop Dashe Doeme went public with his vision, the Nigerian military claimed to have rescued 677 women and children kidnapped by Boko Haram, Coincidence? Pressure from the bishop forcing the military's hand? Answer to a prayer?

If the military accomplished this rescue as stated than they deserve immense credit. News reports following the mass abduction last year showed how difficult finding and defeating a large rebel army would be in Nigeria, a country about twice the size of California with 4.5 times the population, half of them Muslim. Like Cyrus, praised by Isaiah as the agent of the Lord, so is the Nigerian military and those who helped them.

Would it have happened without the rosary? Maybe not. We know God uses people to work out His purposes; otherwise there would have been no need to commission Apostles.

Well, the story is not yet over. The women rescued endured the most diabolical torture, including that favorite of mindless thugs, rape; many are pregnant with the children of their captors. And Boko Haram has just attacked Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, and they really don't care who they kill. A mosque was bombed with worshipers in it. This is not really a battle of Muslim vs. Christian so much as a death cult vs. everybody else.

If you're Catholic, or otherwise pray the rosary, consider doing so in support of the good people of Nigeria. They need your help.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Where in the world are the Bowery Boys?

As we get even closer to Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day on June 2, the tension mounts... the streets of New York are a-sizzle with excitement!

The Wikipedia entry on the Bowery Boys (of which Slip Mahoney was the one true king) noted that the BBs' many film plots followed those of Abbott and Costello---when Bud and Lou did a Western, the Boys did a Western; when A&C did a haunted house, the Boys did a haunted house, and so on. I enjoyed Abbott and Costello films, but hey---they made only 36 movies; the Bowery Boys made 48. How many easy comedy ideas were floating around in that era? B movies were not nor expected to be dynamos of originality.

Anyway, the Bowery Boys got around a lot in those pictures, although they always played the same characters---unlike Abbott and Costello, who played different characters (who were exactly like Bud and Lou). Sometimes it required taking storytelling liberties. For example, in Bowery Buckaroos, the characters were transported to the Old West by virtue of the story being a dream of Sach's. In a later film (Hold that Hypnotist), a hypnotist uses past-life regression hypnosis to send the Boys on an adventure in piracy. (Note that Slip was out of the series by then, so there's no crossover between Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day and International Talk Like a Pirate Day.)

Most of the Bowery Boys films were typical New York-based crime stories (although fantasy elements were featured in several of them), but the Bowery Boys often hit the road, especially in later films. If this should come up in conversation on the big day, you might mention that Slip and the gang had many adventures outside the confines of the city:

Let's Go Navy! -- the Boys enlist in the Navy to find thieves that rob a charity and spend a year at sea
Loose in London -- the Boys go to London when Sach gets an inheritance
Paris Playboys -- the Boys go to Paris to find a missing professor
Jungle Gents -- the Boys go to Africa to find diamonds
Bowery to Bagdad  -- a genie transports Slip and Sach to Baghdad
Dig That Uranium -- the Boys go to the western U.S. to find uranium
Crashing Las Vegas -- the Boys win a trip to Vegas

They go to the mountains in Spook Chasers, but by then Slip was gone, so for our purposes we're leaving it off the list. Talk to us if there's ever a Talk Like Duke Covelske Day.

The Boys wound up enlisting in the Navy, Marines, Army, and the Air Force in their adventures, which would make them unique in the armed forces history of the U.S. The Coast Guard is probably pretty sore about being left out again.

So as you can see, Slip Mahoney was not only a tough New York street kid, but he was also something of a world traveler. He could mangle words from several languages, too, which might make him describe himself as something of a polygoat.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Frank Herbert killed my friend.

Okay, not really, but in a small way he contributed.

The late Frank Herbert, shown without the blood on his hands.
Herbert, of course, wrote the Dune saga, which my friend and the other dorks in our circle began reading in high school. (Nerd herds didn't have book groups per se, but a book that got high marks got passed around, and discussed while doing other things.) I never warmed to the series, as much as I admired the writing and the complexity---basically I hated all the characters and got sick of the entire universe. I plodded as far as God Emperor of Dune, and then I gave up.

My pal continued for at least one more, but I don't think his heart was in it by then. (Spoiler alert!) I think his favorite character was Duncan Idaho, who was killed in the first book---although that didn't stop the guy from appearing in later books. It's complicated.

The problem was not D. Idaho; it was that my friend took some Dune mythology too seriously. The quasi-sciencey mystical types who populate the series are always on about focus and fear and stuff. Yoda totally ripped them off. One of the best known quotes from the first book goes like this:
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
Yeah, well. Fear serves a purpose sometimes. So does pain. Over the course of years I think my pal had conflated the two, telling himself that pain is the mind-killer. I remember when still young, my friend clutching his stomach, saying to himself, "Fear is the mind-killer." Perhaps he said "Pain is the mind-killer." Either fear or the acknowledgment of pain might have prevented his untimely death.

He died in middle age of a massive heart attack that I feel he almost certainly mistook for stomach upset. He'd always been a nervous sort, with the kind of family of origin that could make anyone nervous. And a real type A type. We know now that ulcers are caused by bacteria, but it doesn't mean the stomach is not upset by stress. And he had a lot of stress. We know too that indigestion and heart attacks are often mistaken for each other. By the time he got to the hospital it was too late.

I wonder if he was quoting Bloody Herbert's philosophy to himself all the way.

Anyway, I don't really blame Frank Herbert for his death, as pleasant as it is to blame someone when terrible things happen. I don't even blame my friend. We all make mistakes. That's why pencils have erasers. Sadly, some things cannot be erased.

If I have a point to all this, I suppose it's that fear and pain can be our allies---vicious, horrid allies---to help keep us alive.

And don't believe everything you read in novels.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

History's mysteries.

Historians still puzzled over the failure of Commander Ruthbert N. Mackinack's
ill-fated 1910 expedition to the South Pole.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Póg Mahoney.

The excitement mounts as we are a mere seven days from the second annual Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day!

"We've osculated by joy!"
To help buoy your enthusiasm for the king of the Bowery Boys during the seven-day countdown, here's seven things you may not know about the great Leo Gorcey, who portrayed Slip for more than a decade. Today we will take a look into the darker side of Leo, I'm afraid, but we shall want to know the whole man.

1. Gorcey's father, Bernard Gorcey, played shopkeeper Louie Dumbrowski in the Bowery Boys series, at whose sweet shop the boys frequently hung out. Bernard died in 1955 in a car accident, so Louie was not in any further films in the series. They couldn't CGI a guy into the film in those days.

2. Leo Gorcey, and consequently Slip Mahoney, did not appear in the last seven of the 48 films considered to be part of the Bowery Boys series. He got drunk and wrecked a movie set, then was incensed when the studio wouldn't give him a raise. ('Magin' dat.) He was replaced by Stanley Clements as Duke Coveleskie.

3. Gorcey's drinking was pretty horrid, especially after his father died, and ultimately killed him at the age of 51. Despite that, he managed to get married five times, which is pretty impressive. I mean, I know he was a movie star, but he was 5'6", kind of funny looking, and not always a cheerful drunk, and his movie career was pretty much washed up by 1956, when he still had two marriages to go.

4. Huntz Hall, who played Sach, is on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but Gorcey is not. He was going to be in the blank spot to the left of Hall. Supposedly his agent demanded $400 from the Beatles, which even in 1968 would have been pocket lint to Paul McCartney, but they just took him out. I don't know if Fred Astaire got any money out of it.

5. Leo's kid brother David actually appeared in more of the Bowery Boys movies than Leo, playing Charles "Chuck" Anderson. Funny that his character should have such as WASPish name, since he was just as much of an authentic New York ethnic blend as anyone---born in Manhattan, half Jewish, half Irish. After his acting days David became a minister and founded a halfway house for recovering alcoholics.

6. Leo Gorcey wrote a book toward the end of his life, the hard-to-find An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells. Reviews are mixed; seems he wrote like, well, a rambling drunk. But Gorcey really did have a great sense of humor and was known as a practical joker, and it seems a lot of that comes through in the book. The title is horrible, though.

7. Leo Gorcey's son, Leo Jr., wrote a book about his father in 2003 that sounds like it should have been a Mommy Dearest type of Hollywood complainorama, and certainly Leo Sr. earned it, with his drunken, explosive temper. But the title (Me and the Dead End Kid: Leo Gorcey, the Hollywood Legend: His Happy Ending) tells you that this is going to be a more loving story of survival and grace. I haven't read it, but the Amazon reviews have been mostly full of praise.

Considering Gorcey's personal problems, he was a monster for work, cranking out movies day in and day out for years. He was one of the most popular film stars of the time. Although working in B movies was never a means to critical acclaim. He would have to settle for the abiding love of the moviegoing public.

Keep thinking those Slip thoughts, and we'll have more Mahoneyist information later in the week.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015.

Went to one of the local Memorial Day parades this weekend. Most towns have some kind of tribute to our fallen men and women, but nothing really big. In fact, this one has dropped off quite a lot in the last ten years.

The weather was great, and attendance was meh. Not just along the streets; also in the parade itself. Past years have seen military trucks, police in dress uniform, pipers, Freemasons, you name it. None of them made it this year, except for one old Army Jeep. Thank God for the Boy Scouts. Maybe the others got a better offer from another parade.

Of course, we're tired of endless war, but it looks like radical Islam is tireless in bringing it to us and everyone else around them. We don't always have a choice in whether we want to fight. It's a hard lesson, and one that all too many Americans willfully refuse to learn. We do, however, often have a choice in whether we want to win.

When we left Vietnam in 1973, we were not whipped dogs; nor, whatever they say, had we gotten our heads handed to us in the Tet Offensive of 1968. The South Vietnamese were prepared to hold off the North, with the aid we promised to send. That aid was cut in a political move by Congressional Democrats, and Saigon fell in 1975.

When our military barracks in Lebanon was bombed and 241 servicemen killed in 1983, President Reagan chose to leave---a decision I suppose I will never understand, a decision that has encouraged terrorists for the last 32 years.

President Obama utterly wiped out our victory in Iraq by pulling out our troops lock, stock, and barrel in 2011, letting the nation fall into the hands of ISIS. Ramadi was captured last week, in case you couldn't hear the news over the rest of the blather on TV. Boy, that Letterman sure had quite a run, huh?

The bloody sacrifices made by our servicemen in these and other conflicts were completely undermined by politicians, pandering to the most panicky or deluded in our population. Our nation could never have won its independence, survived civil war, or beaten Hitler with this kind of bizarre combination of foolishness and self-serving.

Our phony-medal-throwing creep Secretary of State John Kerry once famously asked, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Here's one for you, Secretary Asshat: How do you ask a man to be die for a cause when he knows the jackwipes in Washington will make sure it means nothing?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Light in darkness.

Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, the day that the Apostles, timid and confused, were sent into the world, lit up by the light of Christ---figuratively and literally:

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

The Apostles were the light in a dark time, sent to light up the nations.

When things look bright we (and certainly I) may be tempted to ignore the light. We take the brightness for granted, and turn away to other things, silly things, novelties, other interests, other faiths, and if we think about God at all it's just to think that He knows we're good at heart---if not in, you know, deed---and will reward us if we ever have to actually see Him.

When things start getting dark, though, we may realize how desperately we need that light, that we needed it all the time. We want the God who loves us, the one who showed the fullest measure of devotion to His creation by coming down and suffering with us for it. God's always there for us, but if we're not in the practice of seeking Him, listening for Him, it becomes harder to find the light.

I call myself a writer, but sometimes I can't put the words together to get these kinds of thoughts across. Fortunately, I don't have to.

Last March, Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan sent a letter to Pope Francis---refugees who had lost everything, persecuted by the most vicious, evil, cunning force currently in operation on the planet. In the letter they wrote:

O Father, know that our faith today is much stronger than before. We are not afraid of anything because we are convinced that God is with us, and the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Savior hears our prayers and requests  and resolves the problems we face every day.
This is in fact what we feel and live every day. We always thank the Lord, so that we can be reunited with him.
O good Father, simple and humble, we ask you to pray and act for us and for our wounded people in the Arab world for the forgiveness of our sins, so that the peace of Christ can reign. However, we want to pray first for all those who are the cause of all this evil and those wicked works. 
We want to pray for all those who have shed the blood of many innocents, observing the laws of evil and darkness. 
O Holy Father, we want you to pray so that they can repent before their Creator, so that they can become instruments of peace and love and no longer instruments in the hand of the Evil One, so that they can become true children of God. 
We pray to our Loving Jesus, O Holy Father, that He will give you good health and good will and illumination so that you can continue what your predecessors initiated, from Saint Peter and Saint Paul down to the Saint of the century, Saint John Paul II and the rest of the disciples. 
Finally, in the name of Christ we want to thank you for taking the time to read our humble letter. 
We ask the Lord to give you strength and courage to be able to be always at the service of the poor in the whole world. May the Lord be at your side wherever you go. We thank the local Catholic Church and Caritas-Jordan for all the good they did for us, after our flight.

Say a prayer today for those who seek the light in darkness, and those whose only light in the darkness is the light of Christ.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cookbook hell.

I've done all kinds of editing in my so-called career, but one type of edit job has stuck with me, quite literally---recipe text. Because of my work on recipe copy for magazines and books, I developed an interest in cooking that has almost certainly added to my waistline over the years. So be it!

I still do editing for cookbooks, and I still find it rewarding to get new ideas, tools, and techniques to add to my repertoire as I go. You can't survive on frozen pizza and White Castle every night. Well, you might be able to for a while, if you didn't get scurvy or something.

There are some peeves one develops over time in any profession, and editing may have more than most. Some are based on large issues---celebrity chefs have taken over the cookbook aisle, for one thing, elbowing out better chefs who can't get on Food Network. Also, I hate being lectured by health nuts, vegans, enemies of processed foods, or really anyone. I've watched the locavore movement get smaller and smaller until I think there will be people forced to survive on their own carpet lint. Basically, if I read the word "fresh" one more time---the word is scattered on recipe copy like holy water on sinners, and for the same reason---I may have to slug someone. But these are personal vexations.

(Q: Is a locovore someone who eats crazy people? Hmm.)

The peeves I want to share are problems that crop up constantly, but anyone who writes down a recipe, even just for Aunt Trudy in Fayetteville, should avoid them for the sake of the reader. Professionals should avoid them for the sake of the editor, too. Here are rules I strongly suggest bearing in mind:

1. List your ingredients in the order used. A list of the foods needed at the top of the recipe is extremely helpful, but it needs to be in some kind of order, and this is the best. Even if the recipe is "Hot Dog Supreme," and it's the greatest hot dog recipe ever, and hot dogs are all over it, and everything else is just a condiment, if the first thing you do is boil mustard, then the first ingredient on the list is mustard.

2. Preheat = heat. Heat your oven. It's impossible to preheat it. That would mean heating before heating. Heat your oven to 350 is no different than Preheat your oven to 350, except it's better English.

3. And while we're on that topic, don't make the first instruction "Heat the oven to 350" if you are then going to mix dough, knead it, let it rise, ferment wine, slaughter a cow, use it to make stock... Now the oven has been on for 79 days. It takes 15-20 minutes to heat a house oven to a desired temperature; take that into account.

4. Be consistent with your abbreviations. I'm not bothered if you use teaspoon or tsp or tsp. or 1 teaspoon (5 ml) or anything, but use it the same way throughout. If a book of recipes, use it the same way in every recipe.

5. Check your brand names. You can use them or not as you prefer; if there are no lawyers involved, it doesn't matter from the editorial point of view if you use Spam or canned spiced ham luncheon meat. But use whichever you choose throughout. And know what's a brand name and what isn't; Cool Whip, Marshmallow Fluff, Baggies, Rice Krispies, all trademarks; corn flakes, no. Thanks to, it's easy to find out what is an active trademark.

6. Keep the audience in mind. If you're dealing with a novice, telling them to fold in an egg into the batter could wind up in a Fred Flinstone-like explosion. Sometimes explanations are needed. That includes instructions that involve unusual cooking tools, like pastry crimpers, anti-griddles, mandolines, rasp graters... people often don't know what these things are.

And there's a lot of that krep out there.

Well, thanks for letting me vent. I feel much better. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to heat the oven to 350 and start boiling my mustard. The hot dogs and chocolate sauce have to be in the oven in 20 minutes.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Maybe a cartoon will help.

"And what we’re saying in this crusade to raise the minimum wage is if you believe in a strong economy, the New York way – the American way – then make this economy work for everyone."
--New York Governor Andrew "Evil Eyes" Cuomo, March 4, 2015

Simple enough for you, Andy? 

He's an idiot, or he think we're idiots. Or both. Which is it?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sugar-Sucking Writer Drops Weight with This Weird Trick!

I've found the secret to losing weight! This Secret the Big Candy Companies Don't Want You to Know About! Are you ready?

Nah, you're not--- Oh, you are?

Well. All right, then.

Here's the secret:

"You've lost it now, Fred! Crest Pro-Health Brand Clinical Rinse Mouthwash can't possibly be some big secret to weight loss!"

Ha! Says you, imaginary man who speaks in my head! But I don't blame you for being skeptical. Sure, it's a fine mouthwash that kills 99% of the germs that cause bad breath and is clinically proven to reverse gingivitis within two weeks... but weight loss? How?

It is a very powerful mouthwash, for starters. So much so that if you use it just before you go to bed I swear your mouth will still feel germ-free when you wake up. No, really! Good idea to brush anyway, but it really does leave your mouth feeling clean for a very long time. It doesn't taste that great and it is quite unpleasant during the 30-second rinse, but it does what it sets out to do. How many of us can say that?

Here's the secret: You can't get rid of that taste. It stays with you. It is there when you wake. It is there when you go for breakfast. It's still lingering at lunch. It definitely cuts down the flavor of food, making some things odd, and therefore ruining the joy of eating.

So if you want to lose weight by deterrent therapy and you don't want to wire your jaw shut, I'd say give it a chance. Your teeth will thank you, and so will your pants.

Me, I'm just not using it again. Bleah. Sorry, pants.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Fourth Law of Robotics.

Anyone who's seen the Terminator movies and didn't get scared of robots has no imagination. And anyone who ever read Jack Williamson's "With Folded Hands" (or its novel-length version, The Humanoids) saw the overwhelming menace of a "friendly" robot force that makes Terminator look like a day at the beach*.

So it was with some trepidation that, back around 2007, I actually invited robots into the home.


Well, as I commented on the Great Lileks's site yesterday, my Roomba experience was disappointing. Roomba neither was connected to Skynet nor any other kind of fiendish device. It was just there to vacuum the floor, which, if you own a vacuum cleaner, is the easiest part of any room cleaning job. Seriously---Roomba can't wash windows, can't dust furniture, can't change linens, can't dust walls and baseboards, can't straighten up things. What the Roomba is exceptionally good at is vacuuming under beds and high couches, which only specially designed vacuum cleaners can reach. But the price is rather high for that perk.

Still, my main complaint is not dealing with the Construct or any other form of AI, but with the batteries. It always comes down to the batteries. In the case of the iRobot vacuums, at least the ones I got (there was a three-fer deal with the Dirt Dog and Scooba), you have to use the devices regularly or the batteries get hinky. They can't just sit on the charger; they have to be charged and used, charged and used. Use it only occasionally, and leave it on the charger, or don't leave it on the charger---either way the battery will soon be unable to hold a charge. And those freaking batteries are costly.

Other problems are the lack of holding space for dirt, the need to constantly clean the brushes (which iRobot says they have since solved with brushless extractors), and that you can never have neat vacuum cleaner lines in the carpet. (Sure, laugh, but I know one woman who would go berserk because of that.)

But it comes back to the batteries. People think the big problem with energy is generation; it's storage. In Spain they were melting salt as a means of storing heat generated from solar power, which is not the craziest idea in the world. It's not like comic books, where you can just have a tiny thing that sucks up incredible amounts of energy for use later (yeah, lookin' at you, GL). Energy storage is a constant problem with green energy in particular, with electric cars (environmentally as well as for practical use and affordability) being a well-known example. Another is that people don't only want to watch TV while the sun is shining. For energy to be useful to consumers it must be available on demand, all the time.

The bright side is that the Terminator probably wouldn't have been able to rack up that high a body count before its batteries died. I'm just getting a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in sunglasses and leather jacket, sitting still in a hotel room, an extension cord running into his chest, for hour after hour. Sarah Connor would have got away from that guy, no problem. Isaac Asimov had his famous Three Laws of Robotics; the fourth one is, robots need a lot of juice.


*Regarding artificial intelligence, see also Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream." Or rather, don't, if you want to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Slip kid.

Only two weeks to go until the Second Annual Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day on June 2! 

"I'm overcome wit' emulsions!"
And remember, Slip always claimed to be allergic to work, so you have to take the day off.

We all know we have to bone up on our Slip Mahoney malapropisms; but a casual perusal of his quotes reminds us that we need to have random insults ready for our nearest and dearest. Like:

Sach: I lost my button. 
Slip: You lost your buttons a long time ago! 

Sach: I wish I was in the ring, I'd fracture that guy. 
Slip: You couldn't fracture a toy balloon. 

As you can see, it helps to have a dumb sidekick handy at all times to give you the intro. In an ideal world, Talk Like Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones Day would fall on the same day as Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day, so you'd always have a ready straight man. If you can find one willing to play along, or just a dumb guy to hang around with, though, you're all set.

Just wait for your pal to make a simple declarative sentence; then seize on the key idea and turn it around. If it happens to be an opportune time to deliver a casual threat, go for it. Use your angry New Yawk accent to seal the deal.

Him: What's the weather like tomorrow?
You: For you? Cloudy with a chance of stupid.

Him: Can I use your phone?
You: What, you checking your reservation at the nuthouse?

Him: I sure could use a sandwich.
You: You sure could use a knuckle sandwich! 

And remember, kids, no actual fighting beyond hitting with your hat. The hat-hitting, so well identified with Skipper Jonas Grumby, was another great move of Slip's, and a way to be Sliplike without even opening your yap.

All right! Two weeks to go! Practice your malapropisms, insults, and threats, buy a sturdy hat, and let's get ready!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Teen wolf.

Got some thoughtful responses about my dog, Tralfaz, and his sudden drinking problem, following my blog entry last week. Sadly, we've now entered week 2 of his refusal to drink water out of the bowl, despite trying all the suggestions people have kindly shared.

Took the big dude to the vet after a few days to make sure there was nothing wrong. A hundred and a quarter bucks later, there was nothing wrong. He's healthy as a horse---a thirsty horse.

What we have is a dog at the equivalent of a teenager. Apparently dogs are as subject to all the pain-in-the-ass teenageisms that humans are, even dogs that have had the little operation. So while we've come to think that Tralfaz has had a scare that gave him a phobia of water bowls, we also think that he's become stubborn as hell because he's a teenager.

Tralfaz: The Motion Picture
So now what do we do? You can't reason him through it; he doesn't speak English, you know. (Just a few words, a mere soupcon.) We could help him gradually approach the object of his fear through systematic desensitization, but that stubbornness is a complication. He's big, but not so big that I couldn't force him to face the water dish---which would probably reinforce the terror.

Still, we're trying to tempt him, reward him, and make sure he gets adequate water through other means, but he may have to outgrow this. I welcome any other suggestions. He really is a good chap, teenager or not, friend to man and beast, and I hate to see him suffer.

Moreover, I hate to see me suffer. I'm a good chap too. My wife's a good chappette. We have enough problems without this one. Who doesn't?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sneak peek.

I know I said I was working on my first YA (i.e., young adult) novel, and I am. In fact, the second draft is done. It got a little behind, but it's humming along, and I am hoping to get an update from the editor soon.

Speaking of updates, here's a sneak peek at the cover of the next A (adult, I guess, although that doesn't mean it's dirty) novel:

Yes! It's a sequel to MacFinster, the hilarious romp available at Amazon, B&N, for the iPad, on Google Play, and probably in your grocer's freezer. If you enjoyed that book, you're going to go bananas for this one. And who doesn't like bananas?

Anyway, just thought you'd like to see the cover; more information to follow.

NB! (Nota bene!, that is, not Now Butts!) I was told to say that the cover is not 100% final. I don't know what that means. Possibly that they may replace the baseball with a curling stone. Which would mean changing the entire plot of the book. Hey, whatever; I live to please my publisher.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Moved into the house more than a decade ago, and there was a row of shrubs along the front yard. Juniper, azalea, evil barberry, azalea, juniper. Repeat on the opposite side.

Thing is, junipers and barberries grow like freaking Jack's beanstalk, and azaleas just hum along, minding their own business. A couple of summers in, the azaleas were getting choked out. The third summer, two of the four had been strangled by the plants on either side.

The surviving two were moved to the side of the house, where they limped along that summer. Sometime during the winter, the third one croaked.

More than ten years later, the last one will not give up. I thought for sure it was kaput this year, after two brutal winters.

Think again.
Azaleas are hearty and can live a stupid long time under ideal conditions. But the fact that the fourth one has lived longer than the other three combined affords it a lot of respect. Even if it were not pretty---and it is, when in full May bloom, and a pleasant green all summer long---I would want to protect and nourish this plant. But it doesn't seem to need much help. It's hanging in there pretty much on its own.

Funny how the last anything of a set will seem to last the longest. Everyone's kitchen cabinet probably has several solo glasses, each from a once-proud set of four. The first three in the set fell quickly to incidents and accidents, spills and chills, but the last glass hangs on and on.

I'm not sure if there's a lesson there, beyond that survival does command respect of a kind, even from things you don't much like, like cockroaches. The gristly actor who waits tables in his 60s, expecting to hear from his agent... The elderly woman who still trudges down the sidewalk to the market every day, rain or shine, whether she needs anything or not... The old guy in the last desk on the row, who people think will still be in that spot for decades, even if the building is destroyed in an earthquake, tapping away on his keyboard, his bit of floor held up by a ragged spire of rubble... Tenacity is admirable.

When it's something as pleasant as a flowering shrub, what's not to admire?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fred vs. reality.

Reality TV took a blow this week with news that American Idol is on its way out.

Because I never got into that show or Survivor, I could say I never was into reality TV, but that's a lie. If you are watching a pack of tattooed idiots with a lot of compensation issues cooking competitively on television, rest assured that Fred is watching it too. 

But personally, I'm not reality show material, as we've examined before. I have enough trouble dealing with reality.

However, what I've learned watching reality TV competitions is the self-puffery that helps contestants get through the various rounds. So I'm going to start talking that way to anyone who will listen. I may have some compensation issues myself.

"I'm here to win. I'm going to win it all. I'm bringing my A game. I didn't come here to lose. One person can win---and that's me. I'm going all the way. Only one thing can stop me from winning, and that's losing.

"They won't even see me coming. I'm taking them down. No one can stop me. I'm a force to be reckoned with.

"No one gave me anything. I had to earn everything. No one believed in me. My mother didn't believe in me. My father called me names, like burua ergelak. I don't even know what that is.

"It was tough, growing up Basque in my neighborhood. The other kids always picked on me. As if I was ass-Basquewards. But I showed them. I'm here in reality. And where are they? Somewhere else in reality. That's right.

"I'm unstoppable. I'm coming at ya. I won't be eliminated. I won't be voted off the island. I won't be sent home. Unless it's bedtime. Then I'm going home. Because I want to go to bed. At bedtime.

"The others will be busy with their own problems, then look up and see me winning. While they're losing. That's right. I'm a winner. They're the losers. They'll be chopped. I'll be the last man standing. They won't be the last man standing. Because some of them are women. Maybe there'll be a last woman standing, but I'll still be standing. And then I'll take her down. And be the last person standing."

It suddenly occurs to me that talking like a reality show contestant could get you arrested. Maybe I ought to stick to skulking, pouting, and blogging.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A hockey novena.

Saw a fellow I know going through a parking lot of a church; he might have been walking through, but when I looked again he was gone.

He is the biggest New York Rangers fan I know.

The Rangers were facing game seven against the Washington Capitals last night; winner to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay.

He's Catholic, but hasn't been observant since childhood. There's only one explanation, though:

He went to light a candle for the Rangers.

No doubt there was a request for intervention to St. Sebastian, the patron of athletes.

Hockey fans are ferociously loyal. They say New York is a baseball town, and it's true, but it's also got enough rabid fans to spread the ferocity to the other three major sports. Beyond that it's a little more sketchy, but we do host the U.S. Open because of the historic fondness for tennis in the city and its environs, as well as the oldest leg of the Triple Crown. We've also got pro soccer and a WNBA team, but frankly, NASCAR seems to be more popular around here than they are, and auto racing, like college sports, are virtually nothing in New York City. Why? Because we have no room for a race track anymore, and our colleges have sucked at sports for a very long time. (Yes, St. John's men's basketball is an exception, but they haven't been to the finals of the NCAA tournament since 1952, when they lost to Kansas.)

At the moment, hockey is king. I've known fervent Devils and Islanders fans, but nothing compares to the insane devotion of the Rangers fan. Yankees fans are known for their devotion, but at least they can point to the success of their evil franchise. Rangers fans have won one Stanley Cup since 1940, and that date (1994!!!!!!!) will be etched on their tombstones, like this:


Beloved Husband, Father, Rangers Fan

1956 -      ^       - 2035

And what the heck---the candle worked. The Rangers won in OT, and will advance to the next round. If it's the middle of May and 80 degrees it must be hockey season, and against Tampa Bay, no less. (Rule for when I get appointed king remains: If you never have ice at wintertime, you don't deserve a hockey team.)

So St. Sebastian, if you're listening, the Mets have lost three in a row to the Cubs and are in danger of being swept today---after a brilliant start to the season they've crashed and now it looks like they may burn. They're looking like terrified rabbits at the plate, and they've gone back to the old Met habit of not hitting with runners in scoring position. Anything you can do...?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dog with a drinking problem.

Yes, you read that right; my dog has developed a drinking problem.

He won't do it.

He's always had an odd relationship with water. He hated the kiddie pool we bought him and wouldn't go near it, no matter how hot it was last summer. He has disdained several water bowls, but always enjoys a good mud puddle. He will generally only drink water to wash down food. He hies from the hose and shies from the spigot.

Or so he used to. Something happened this weekend, and we don't know what, but Tralfaz has suddenly become terrified of his water bowl. From Sunday to now I can't say he's managed to drink from it more than a dozen times. He's survived on small slurps; also ice cubes (a longstanding favorite treat); and now he suddenly likes the garden spigot and will drink directly from it. When I turn it off he goes for the mud underneath. If he figures out how to turn it on, my water bill will skyrocket.

We've tried everything to get him back on the water dish. Different bowls. Drinking without the collar on. Adding a drop of vinegar to the bowl (he loves vinegar). Putting peanut butter on the rim. Coaxing, cajoling, ordering. Denying ice cubes, spigots, anything else. When he forces himself to drink from the bowl he complains like a death row inmate whose last meal got burned. Something is bothering him and we just cannot figure out what.

It's getting worrisome. We've scoured the Internet. We've asked our dog-owning friends. We're baffled, bewildered, and exhausted. Next stop is the vet.

Of course you know how this will end:

I'll keep you posted. If I can.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Well, shut my mouth.

So I can stop eating stuff like this. 

The funny thing is, I never had a real s'more until a year or so ago. Never went camping. Never went out in the Winnebago to pester nature. I was a big-city Cub Scout, so we got merit badges for removing bullets, swiping hubcaps, killing rats, and getting bagmen to turn informant*. I'd had s'more-flavored cereals and whatnot, but not an actual graham cracker/chocolate/melted marshmallow sandwich. And when I finally had one, I was pleased to say that the real thing beat the imitators. 

I guess I was looking for that s'more flavor, but, knowing I could only get it from the real deal, I decided to get a fake one that was jacked up with a little something extra. And that something extra, of course, is caramel. Because a s'more isn't sweet enough. 

All of which leads me to some questions:

1) It s'more the singular for s'mores? Or is s'mores also the singular? Like moose and moose. Or algae and alga? S'mores and s'ma? Russell Stover thinks you can have one s'mores. Maybe they're right.

2) Russell Stover is gas station-quality chocolate, I know. Their slogan could be "Helping Desperate Husbands Since 1923." My question here is: You didn't get your mother a box from the supermarket for Mother's Day, did you? Uuuuhhh... we'll just forget we had this conversation.

3) What did the Russell Stover Caramel S'mores taste like? 

Here's the inside:

And after a taste:

You know something? It was pretty good. The chocolate was non-to-die-for, but it was definitely chocolate, and this was a thick, generous serving. Graham crackers and marshmallow were only average, but really, how often does one encounter artisan graham cracker or marshmallow outside of the major cities? Anyway, the classic s'more(s) is made of Hershey's milk chocolate, which is a sentimental fave but not the highest quality chocolate around. 

So I was satisfied with this item, although the caramel was kind of lost in the other flavors anyway. If you must buy Russell Stover, I would recommend something in the s'mores line. And since Dad doesn't care about the pretty box, you could buy a sackful of these for Father's Day and he'll be thrilled. And if he doesn't like them, you can send them to me. 


*Not really, but I never went camping either. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Snellen, you magnificent B A S T...

Time to go to the eye doctor for a checkup!

I like my eye doctor, and my vision is healthy, and his office is pleasant, and I don't need new glasses so it's not very expensive, but I always go for an exam with a little trepidation. Could it be the terrifying brochures?

Could it be the horrifying Jack Kirbyesque exam equipment?

Or is it that puff of air for the glaucoma exam that you know is coming and you know is coming and this time you are NOT going to blink you're NOT you're AUGH I BLINKED

No, I think it's that I always feel like I'm failing when I get whipped by the Snellen Chart.

Herman Snellen of the Netherlands was not the first to come up with standardized charts to test visual acuity, but his (begun c. 1860) have been the most enduring. In America, we're used to seeing (or at least seeing part of!) this:

My doctor, like most these days, uses letters displayed on a screen at different sizes for the test, but it's still Snellen through and through.

This terror of mine goes back to my days as a student, when I was alternately smart and well-prepared or lazy and clueless---either way, I hated to fail a test.

At first the questions are easy: "E! F! P! Oh, this is a cinch! Gonna ace this one."

But then it gets tricky: "D... E... uh, F? P... O..."

And then you hit the rough sledding: "F... uh.... B? No, D! No, B! Wait--- DAMMIT! B! F, definitely F, unless it's P. (They wouldn't do an F again so quickly, would they?) L... T... um, O? C? O or C? Close enough? Are there any essay questions?"

Like a video game with ever-more-difficult boards, eventually you're going to fail. You just hope not to fail quickly. It's very discouraging, and leaves me feeling doomed.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Stick it to 'em.

Bumper stickers are a poor means of sharing information with the world at large. They may seem ideal---affiliations are spelled out clearly, and with a concision that makes Twitter tweets look like Moby-Dick. But therein may lie the problem. There's no argument, no logic, no fellowship that can fit on a bumper sticker that might convince, cajole, or engage. Enrage is more like it. Or else you're just preaching to the choir.

And I'm not even talking about politics or even sports affiliation. It seems like ten minutes after the first "My Child Is an Honor Student at Horkenblatz Academy" stickers went up, the first "Screw Your Honor Student" "My Chihuahua Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student" and the classic "My Kid Beat the Crap Out of Your Honor Student" stickers went up. (Ooo! Burn!)

Now there's this:

Harsh, dude! I agree, I'm not much interested in the stick figure family of the person in front of me, and the longer I'm stuck in traffic behind them, the less interested I become. But calling in an airstrike seems a bit extreme. Also, this was on a GL 450, a Benz SUV, and yet these kinds of rebuttal decals (epitomized by Calvin peeing on things) are usually associated with white-trash low-rent types. So Cletus hit the scratch off?

Anyway, there's no law against railing in print against stick figure families, nor should there be. But there's a lot of games around that suggest that the stick figure community is not going to take this lying down.

Just be careful, Cletus, is all I'm saying.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Time to constipate the wonder of Slip Mahoney again.

Time to start gettin' exacerbated, because we're coming up on the Second Annual Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day. Yes, Slip Mahoney Leo Gorcey's master of the malapropism, the Solon of the solecism, the only real chief of the Bowery Boys, with his Noo Yawk accent and his casual cartoon violence, is cerebrated on June 2, the day of Gorcey's death in 1969.

Mahoney was a well-meaning street punk, surrounded by dummies, who was willing to do anything to help those in need. He also spoke like he'd swallowed a dictionary, threw it up, and then memorized the remains. Malapropism is difficult to do well, but Gorcey carried it off for decades. Any fool can go "Arr Arr" "I be keelhaulin' ye" "Keep a weather eye on me doubloons" etc. on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, but Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day requires some thought.

You wouldn't wanna go off half-crocked.

We'll work on our malaprops as the big day draw closer. Right now, to get ready for June 2, you need to get yourself a Mahoney hat. Almost any brimmed hat will do, if you can fold up the front.

Just ask your local melonery for somethin' to cover your melon.
So let's all commiserate on this for a while, and see how we can inveigh the best ways to Slip Mahoneyize ourselves. Or else Slip'll slap us in the teeth.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Perplexing product.

Of all the consumer products that have hit the shelves in recent memory, I find this to be the most perplexing by far.

Good thing the soapy bit is "water activated" -- you wouldn't want to open the package and find three goopy, dripping rolls of paper towels.

Bounty with Dawn got raves from Good Housekeeping, who noted that you can "just activate it with water and use it to clean dishes, appliances, countertops, and other household surfaces. When you're done, simply toss it — and germs — away." But aren't germ-killing wipes better for counters? And they come pre-dampened. Besides, it's not like you spew Dawn on household surfaces to clean them. Dawn is a soap, and must be rinsed off, which is why it's used for dishes. (And duckies!) So doesn't Bounty with Dawn leave a soapy slick behind? One mostly positive review from the Albany Times-Union says exactly that:
You need a rag or another plain paper towel handy to wipe up the soapy residue left behind. Bounty's website suggests you use the Bounty with Dawn towels for those "stubborn, greasy" messes and use their regular Bounty towels for your everyday spills. I suggest you use the Bounty with Dawn all the time and have a clean dish rag, dad's old T-shirt or a roll of regular paper towels (the cheap kind) to wipe away the suds.
Just what we need: a new product that makes a simple job more complicated. Plus, are we now supposed to have two paper towel rolls in the kitchen? Most people's counters are overcrowded already, even if they don't buy spurious As-Seen-on-TV appliances.

We've found these towels useful for applications that would normally require Dawn and a scrubber---like cleaning the coffeepot, or better, dog dishes. I say better because I'd rather use something disposable on the dog stuff. They soap up nicely. But because they are not abrasive, which would be weird on a paper towel, they're only good for cleaning smooth surfaces with no stuck-on gunk. So even for that they're of limited use, and maybe not so hot on those "stubborn, greasy" messes.

I can't help but think others will also be confounded by the conundrum that is Bounty with Dawn, although P&G is betting big on this one, we're told. I believe they're going to be disappointed. The product is pricey compared to normal paper towels, and I don't think consumers will think the benefits outweigh the faults. Then again, if I knew what the American public would go for, I'd be stinking and rich and charging lots of dough for opinions like this one, which you got for free.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


I love PetSmart. My wife loves PetSmart. My dog loves PetSmart. It's fun to shop there. We've done grooming there. We've done training there. The staff is very friendly. They somehow keep the place clean. They have most of the stuff we need, and some stuff we didn't know we needed until we saw it there, which is good retailing. Yes, I love PetSmart.

But I hate this:

and this:

He's my DOG. I'm his OWNER. He is NOT MY CHILD. He is wonderful and I dote on him and I blog about him way too much, but I am his MASTER. When I am not, and he gets away with things, we both wind up unhappy. I am NOT A PET PARENT. He is an ANIMAL. Yes, as a human, I am technically an animal too, but it takes a sentimental sap or an evolutionary biologist to be foolish enough to think there's no difference.

I used to say that people were very weird about sex, death, and money. I still believe that. But I think I may have to add animals to the list.

On the one hand, we have the ooey-gooeys, the ones PetSmart thinks they are marketing to, who have confused a domesticated creature with the children they did not have or do not get affection from. On the other, you have the evolutionary biologist, surely the most cynical creature in the world. who talks about the means by which our dogs learn to "simulate affection" (as one noted on TV the other night; did not catch the name of the show).

Presumably the biologist simulates affection himself on Mother's Day. After all, he thinks humans are just Animals 2.0.

Somewhere in the middle is the rest of us. And the Catholic Church:
The very essence of the moral law is that we respect and obey the order established by the Creator. Now, the animal is a nobler manifestation of His power and goodness than the lower forms of material existence. In imparting to the brute creation a sentient nature capable of suffering — a nature which the animal shares in common with ourselves — God placed on our dominion over them a restriction which does not exist with regard to our dominion over the non-sentient world. We are bound to act towards them in a manner conformable to their nature. We may lawfully use them for our reasonable wants and welfare, even though such employment of them necessarily inflicts pain upon them. But the wanton infliction of pain is not the satisfaction of any reasonable need, and, being an outrage against the Divinely established order, is therefore sinful.
So there's that.

We've probably all seen too many talking animal movies and books and TV shows. It's hard not to project human behaviors onto animals whether it's appropriate or not. Tralfaz looks very thoughtful sometimes, laying on the floor, eyes open, I can ponder what he's thinking, because I would be thinking about something while laying down and not sleeping. But he's not thinking. He's just there. He may be processing bits of information my senses can't even detect, but he's not thinking about people and events of the past or plans for the future. He's just there. But it's easy for me to imagine all kinds of thoughts in his animal head, and think of him as a little fuzzy person, and then go eat hamburgers. (And feed him meat.)

I'll say this: At least people who project human thoughts and feelings on pets and think of them as children, and are vegetarians or vegans, are consistent. Then again, you might say the same for an evolutionary biologist cannibal.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Another mess for Captain Kirk.

To: Captain James T. Kirk, Starship Enterprise
Stardate: 6235.9
From: Lt. Allison Sneeburn, Federation Logistic and Compliance Officer
Re: Health and Rations

Capt. Kirk:

Contrary to your previous starmail, oh, yes, there is great cause for concern about the issue raised, and your so-called explanations of the rapid consumption of mess supplies have hardly been satisfactory. “Probably Tribbles” is clearly flippant, for one thing, as we know that no ship can have just “two or three of the little bastards” for long. Clearly something has caused unusually high ration consumption from your account, and Tribbles are not it.

Let’s look over some of your other “explanations,” shall we? 

1. I might find it plausible that you had to eat double the normal amount of food for a period of time as you were split in two by a transporter accident on 1672.1, if I could find it plausible that you were split in two. Besides, if that happened, wouldn’t each of you have half the mass of the original, and need just half the rations? 

2. An android duplicate of you ate a ton to prove he was human on 2712.4, did he? But no one saw him do it? A bit contradictory, no?

3. A duplicate of you from an evil dimension turned out to have “the appetite of a Janus VI miner.” Really. And there was a whole duplicate of the ship and everyone on it too. I wonder if that Captain Kirk takes requests from Federation seriously?

4. A guy called Sargon took over your body on 4768.3 and “ate everything in sight.” That having been "without a body for like a zillion years, he’d probably worked up an appetite.” I see.

5. You were “accelerated” by the Scalosians on 5710.5, moving faster than the eye could see, so you would up having 32 meals in 24 hours. I hope you worked all those calories off, moving so fast.

6. Garth of Izar impersonated you on 5718.3 and raided your food account. This one seems plausible, as the actions of Garth at that time are well documented. Still, going by the records, he must have been extremely hungry, and enjoys the same kind of Denevan knockwurst as you.

7. And then we have Dr. Janice Lester taking over your body with her own personality in 5928.5. My, everyone seems to want to be you, don’t they? “She turned out to having a big-time eating disorder” is interesting, but there's no evidence that she has said disorder when in her own body, and your Lt. Sulu let it slip that this idea probably came from The Man with Two Brains, one of your favorite 20th-century films. 

Let’s be frank, Captain; it is on record as far back as 1512.2 that your ship’s doctor had put you on a salad regimen to get you to lose weight. I agree that the new blouse is unflattering to most starship captains, but word is you have been filling it out pretty thoroughly. 

And the stories you send back to the Federation are---well, I don’t want to use the word “fabulistic,” but in a short period of time you claim to have traveled through dimensions, almost altered the twentieth century and the subsequent time stream three times, met ridiculous numbers of alien beings with preposterous powers (including highly advanced intelligence, whom you nevertheless always outsmarted), met Nazis and Romans and Chicago mobsters and Abraham Lincoln (!) and Zefram Cochrane (!!) and Apollo? I would like to remind you that in his 37 years of service as captain of various starships, the most exciting thing that ever happened to Commodore Ty Sanchez was when he found the Walking Viruses of Canton XI, and following the Prime Directive just tagged the planet for observation. You’ve been a busy boy, eh, captain? 

Finally, with all due respect, I reject the charge that this is “harassment” or “nitpicking,” and your further charge that “Bones put you up to this, right?” is baseless. In my position I act in concert with the ancient health laws known as the M. Obama Initiative and with concern for cost overruns for food supplies. And no, I will not send you a “more casually dressed” picture of myself. In the Federation offices, as you well know, women prefer to wear trousers, unlike on your ridiculous ship. Just cut back on the gravy and muffins and we’ll check back with you in six months. 


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Connor and Daphne -- a Fred Classic.

First run two years ago (and given High Praise! at the time by the tastemakers at, "Connor and Daphne" seemed due for a rerun, it being spring at all. As always, your comments are welcome.


Connor and Daphne: A True Enough Story

By Frederick Key

Connor was a bear who was polite to his neighbors but not your warm, huggy type. Connor was proud of his bountiful garden and his lush green lawn, which he tended faithfully every year.

One spring, a big family of meerkats moved in next door. Connor met Daphne, a dewy-eyed kid with a bubbly personality.

It being spring, a couple of dandelions popped up on Connor’s lawn. Connor came out of his shed with his tools and sprays, ready to do battle with the weeds.

But Daphne stopped him. “Connor, look how beautiful that little yellow flower is!” she cried. “How can you be hating on such a sweet little thing?”

“If I don’t get rid of them as soon as they pop up, they ruin the lawn,” he grumbled.

“They have every right to be here—as much as that grass that you have to buy seed for,” she said. “These so-called ‘weeds’ are native to the area, you know. And they’re useful too! You can eat them, or even make wine.”


“Why do you hate flowers so much, Connor?”

“I don’t! I’ve planted all kinds of flowers in the garden.”

“Oh, I see. You only like the ones you planted. The ones that nature provides you have to blast with all kinds of horrible poisons, is that right? Those sprays are dangerous, you know. They make the wildlife sick and they get into the water supply!”

Finally Daphne wore Connor down. He promised to let the little yellow flower live, and grumbled all the way back to his shed.

In a couple of weeks, little yellow flowers popped up all over Connor’s lawn. He had to admit that Daphne was right—the yellow flowers were pretty, and a nice contrast with the green. Then they turned into white heads, and then the puffs blew  away. With all the seeds gone to ruin other lawns, Connor was left with a patchy landscape and ugly naked stalks with ragged leaves. Which, in addition to the other weeds Daphne wouldn’t let him kill, left…

Connor was pretty sore by now, you can bet. The dandelions saved by Daphne had ruined his grass, exactly as he’d predicted. He went down to his cellar to get his shovel and pick to start digging deep, for now the roots of the dandelions were well beyond his ability to dig them up with hand tools.

While in the cellar, Connor noticed he had an unexpected and unwelcome guest—a rat had taken up residence in his home. He steamed upstairs to go to the store and get a trap.

Daphne was outside. “What’s wrong, Connor?” she asked kindly.

“Got a rat in the cellar,” he said. “Going to the store to get traps and steel wool and things.”

“No, no! You mustn’t do that!” she said. “The rat isn’t hurting you, is he?”

“Not yet, but—”

“And yet you want to break his little neck? Connor, how cruel! And poisons, too, I’ll bet—that’s always your answer, isn’t it? Poison! Why do you hate living things so much?”

“Damn it, Daphne, I—”

“Anger is a sure sign that you’re losing the argument, you know that? That poor little rat! With his sad little whiskers and sad beady little eyes!”

“Why do you always have to go straight to the emotional appeal? It’s completely unreasonable.”

“Unreasonable? I’ll tell you what’s unreasonable. Ask yourself, who was here first, Connor? You and your artificial man-made house, or the native wildlife?”

“Fine! You go down there and catch him, and you take the rat home!”

“Why would I do that? He’s obviously happy where he is.”

Once again, Daphne wore him down.

But a couple of weeks later, when Connor found he had carpenter ants attacking his deck, he snuck out to the big hardware store and made a purchase.

Daphne and the dandelions and the rats and the carpenter ants and the termites tried to throw him a going-away party, but Connor had already left.

We asked Daphne what the moral of this story is.

We tried to ask Connor but—oh, well.

The end.