Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Have a seat.

Continuing the urination theme begun yesterday...

I spotted something in a restaurant men's room recently that I had never seen before. (How's that for the opening of a True Confessions letter?)

Get your mind out of the gutter!* I mean this:


What's with the little lip on the side of the seat?

Looks like some kind of growth. Like a plumbanoma.

I've seen a lot of toilet seats; I thought I'd seen them all. Not just the U seat, which Fr. Martin claimed was invented by a drunk who got tired of being smacked on the neck. No, I've seen big cushioned handicap seats, electronic bidet seats, hippie wooden seats, glowing night-light seats, and even this:

I wanna rawk.
But I've never seen one with that weird lip thing.

Are you supposed to lift it with that? Because I kick it up with my shoe anyway and I don't know that it makes it that much easier.

After some searching I found out what it is---the Kohler Stronghold Elongated Toilet Seat with Integrated Handle. I like that name---Stronghold! Because I want a toilet that will hold in its contents no matter what. And thus, the growth is as I suspected, a handle for raising and lowering the seat.

I wouldn't mind so much using the handle if the seat was in my house, because in your home you're essentially touching only a limited number of hinders by proxy. But in a public restroom you could be making proxy contact with hundreds of hinders, and that is not happening, handle or no. I'm sticking to the shoe method. And I am not alone in this.

So there's the answer to the question. As always, your man Fred is willing to go to any lengths to track down the stories that matter to you.

The worst part was taking the picture, because A) there was no guarantee that the lock on the men's room door worked, and explaining that would have been difficult, and B) I figured I had about a 50-50 chance of dropping my phone in the toilet and becoming one of those poor slobs who needs the jaws of life to get his arm out of the can when he dove in after his phone. Which would be sad considering that I wouldn't even touch the seat.

---

*Looking at you, Stiiv.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

P-mail.

Tralfaz, my large economy size dog, almost never does any business outside the home yard---except when we're passing by the home of a buddy of his. 

This other dog, whom I will call Walker to protect his identity (he was last seen wearing the Cone of Shame), lives around the corner from us. When we go by, Tralfaz will automatically water his yard if he has even the smallest amount of urine ready for a PM (private micturation). 

Apparently dogs can determine all kinds of things from one another's pee, including gender and health status, and I'm sure they can identify each other by it. So I like to think Tralfaz is leaving a friendly "Howdy-do!" on Walker's lawn at such times. I'm sure Walker returns the favor when we're not around. 

I would like to note that Tralfaz is quite thorough and careful when he does this. You might say he has good peemanship. 




That's how I imagine it, anyway.

For the record, I have also seen that when I take Tralfaz to the dog park---any dog park, and we've been to a few---he immediately drops a brick on the ground. Seems like everything he ever ate reappears, within a minute of our arrival. I don't think he's sending a friendly message. I think it's a way of making his mark on the world. I AM HERE! I AM SOMEBODY! 

I wish I could teach him to tag with spray paint so I wouldn't have to clean it up, though.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Marlow!

When the kiddies ask you, "Grandpa or Grandma, what did the 1970s look like?"

Right after you're done correcting them as to your preferred gender, show them this:


This rack of snacks from Marlow, of Englewood, New Jersey, seen in a shop in eastern Pennsylvania, seems to have single-handedly preserved the "Me" decade. The moment I saw it, I had to look down to see if I was wearing double-knits.

Checking the company Web site, I see I pretty much pegged the dates:
Marlow Candy was founded in 1968, incorporated in 1970, and grew from a storefront in the Bronx to its present location in New Jersey. Due to Marlow’s success and growth it was necessary to move three times before finally settling into the present location in 1979, where it has already expanded twice.
I think every area of the nation has a relatively small outfit like Marlow, filling gas stations and bodegas and delis and tobacco shops with snacks made of candy and dried fruit and chocolate and nuts. Few can say they've kept their 70's-era shades-of-orange, classy-hippie-signature logo, but I believe Marlow can. I suspect they haven't changed the packaging at all since 1979.

In this era where companies will constantly change the look of well-known products just to get you to see them again, I have to admire an outfit that sticks to its package design guns. I will go so far as wager that generations in the greater Englewood, New Jersey area, generations that have no idea who Philip Marlowe or Marlo Thomas or Christopher Marlowe or Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine are, will automatically see that logo and think of sunflower seeds or starlight mints when they hear the name Marlow.

You can almost taste the gummy bears and yogurt raisins, can't you?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Christmas loser.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, so I can't deny it anymore: Christmas is upon us.

In fact, the guys on either side of me have already got up their Christmas decorations. So does a guy around the corner. So does a guy up the block. I still have my Thanksgiving stuff up.

You know what that makes me?

The Christmas loser.

"You're the Christmas loser, Fred!"
It would be nice if I could get the Advent wreath out, but that would involve, you know, getting the Advent wreath out. This would require the usual 9-step process of: 1) Finding the Advent wreath; 2) Findings the candles, which were packed separately, 3) Discovering that the candles broke somehow while in storage; 4) Driving to at least three stores to find new purple and pink candles (because all the non-Christmas loser people bought them already); 5) Bringing up the wreath and the new candles to the living room coffee table; 6) Realizing that the coffee table is dusty since we never do any living in the living room; 7) Cleaning the table; 8) Placing the wreath; 9) Forgetting to light the first candle for the first Sunday in Advent until the first Tuesday in Advent.

As you can tell, I've honed the process with years of practice.

I'll never get caught up. Maybe I should convert to something else. Hanukkah doesn't start until December 24. That would buy me some time.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Snowprise!

For the record: We do not live in Canada, Alaska, or even on the Great Lakes. We live just north of New York City. We get plenty of snow. Sometimes in December, generally in January, always in February.

But not usually in November.

Sunday morning the wee dog got me up at 3:30, which is early even for him. He's growing fast, and I think the rest of him is growing faster than his bladder is, so he'll get thirsty and suck down a quart of water, but he can only hold it a few hours. And so we're back to the cow-milking hours that we so enjoyed when he was 10 weeks old.

Yes, he had to pee at 3:30. But last week when I took him out, the yard was full of snow. Wee dog was bedazzled. Big dog, who is a haystack of hair, was delirious. I said a bad word.

See, we were not supposed to get a snowstorm. The forecasts had just called for rain. I have a fabric sunblock cover on the kennel that I was planning to take down before the first snowstorm. I mean, I had a fabric cover on the kennel. The unexpected visitor did a nice job of taking the cover down for me.

Late-shedding deciduous trees also got caught by surprise.

Surprise!
See, boys? That's why it pays to go bald.

I was shocked by the snow, but it was nothing compared to what baby dog Nipper felt. He's only six months old, so he's never experienced the stuff. If you've ever seen a puppy gobsmacked, it was that. Someone stole the lawn! What is all this? Where the hell am I supposed to pee NOW?!

Meanwhile, Big Arctic Dog was romping around the yard, like, Shine on me sunshine, walk with me world, it's a skippidity doo da day! I'm the happiest dog in the whole U.S.A.!

It was still coming down, heavy and wet, with an arctic wind that had probably started the whole mess in the first place. I hadn't even gotten the heavy coat out of storage yet, and I sure wished that I had done so minutes into our expedition.

A week and a lot of rain later, the snow is pretty much gone. Big Tralfaz the Dog is sad, stuffing his face into little piles that remain. Little Nipper won't be so amazed next time. It's almost a month until the start of winter. And I suspect it's going to be a long one.

Friday, November 25, 2016

What's the word? Turkey bird.



(Last Thanksgiving-related cartoon for the year, promise.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

So? Eat!

I love Thanksgiving. It doesn't wander around the week like a hobo; it's always on Thursdays. We don't have to have Thanksgiving (traditional) and Thanksgiving (observed) so we can move it to the weekend.

In years gone by I've taken this space to express my thanks on Thanksgiving for the many blessings I have been so lucky to enjoy on this day and throughout my life.

Not this year! I'm just a-writing about the FOOD!

"WHAT?"
Yes, I thoroughly enjoy the Thanksgiving feast. I've eaten it various relatives' homes, in my home, in restaurants, everywhere, and it's always been good. Yeah! Thanksgiving! Woo!

What part's the best? Turkey? Stuffing? Fruit salad? (early dessert) Cranberry sauce? (intermediate dessert) Candied yams? (major intermediate dessert) Pie? (dessert dessert) All of the above!

Especially the pie!

Ta da!
Now, you may have some questions. Like, why does an expert on food like Fred go for a store-bought pie? And why does this pumpkin pie have a crust on top? And what the hell kind of pie costs only a dollar?

Well, we'll answer the third question first:

Pie's kinda small.
The pie you see comes from Table Talk, "America's Favorite Pie," a New England staple. They've been around since 1924, making pies and little handheld snack pies like this since Fruit Pie the Magician was a piebaby.


They say that their little "kraft bakery box pies" have the same flavor as their full-size pies, but I can't find any pictures of their full-size pumpkin pies. I will assume that they too have the top crust. But: Why?

I guess it's a hole in my pie education. I've never had a two-crust pumpkin pie, or two-crust any custard pie, and I didn't know people made them. Apparently they do, but I'm not the only one who is surprised.

So that's your Thanksgiving pie? you ask. A tiny two-crust store-bought pumpkin pie?

Nah. I ate that a day or so ago. We're actually doing the Libby's pumpkin roll.

So how was the Table Talk pie?


Meh, sorry to say, not so good. The filling was low on flavor and also low under the crust. Seemed to be a big puff of air underneath. I am sure that the Table Talk fruit pies are great---hey, if I could like the Hostess pies I'd like anyone's---but their pumpkin didn't do it for me. Maybe there's a reason Hostess never sold a pumpkin pie.

In parting, let me wish you a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving, with warm and joyful moments and reminders of all the blessings you have had in your life too. If you don't feel well, be glad you're still with us (I am). If you have to work, be grateful for the dignity of honest employment. If you are alone, be grateful for the peace and quiet to contemplate what the day is all about. If you are stuck with relatives you can't stand, be grateful for the patience to endure them. If you have to eat a McDonald's Hot Apple Pie for your feast, be grateful they don't make Hot Kale Pies. And if you live someplace (as my French fans do!), where they don't celebrate Thanksgiving, well, everyone has something for which to be grateful. And if you can't think of anything, drop me a line at frederick_key, courtesy of yahoo.com, and I'll see if I can help.

We'll be back here tomorrow, not shopping on Black Friday. If you go shopping on Black Friday, let me know to which hospital I should send the flowers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

PilGRIM.


Something to do Thanksgiving afternoon for the kids who don't like football.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Shove that turkey!

I think it was Emeril Lagasse on Food Network that first introduced me to the concept of the Turducken, the bizarre Frankenpoultry combo of a chicken shoved into a duck shoved into a turkey. In the years since they've become something of a sensation, like the deep-fried turkey. It's a symbol of grotesque cuisine and American overconsumption, I suppose, but if you had a huge crowd to serve I guess the turducken would get it done.

I've never had one and would not care to make one. All I know about it is that it's a good thing the duck is larger than the chicken, or it would be the turchickduck, which is even worse---even though you can't spell turducken without turd.

But forget all that. Distractify, from which the picture below comes, told us last year that the turducken was old hat. Last year the big thing was the piecaken, the unholy love child of pie and cake.


I don't think the piecaken has the staying power of the turducken, however, and I think that 2016 needs a new thing-crammed-into-another-thing dish. So I've been giving this some thought.

"NOOOO!" you say. "I have my menu planned and my food purchased and I am NOT going to the store again before Thanksgiving!"

Relax! My suggestions will be things you can make with just the stuff you've already bought, for the most part. You might have to get a pigeon for the first one, but a butterfly net and some peanuts will take care of that.

Ostritemuturgooduckencorngeon: A boneless pigeon stuffed in a boneless Cornish game hen stuffed in a boneless chicken stuffed in a boneless duck stuffed in a boneless goose stuffed in a boneless turkey stuffed in a boneless emu stuffed in a boneless ostrich. Feeds 1 small U.S. Army battalion or 15 teenage boys.

Russesweetmash: Mashed potatoes stuffed in a sweet potato stuffed in a baked russet potato. Gravy optional.

Lasaturhamage: Sausage stuffed in a ham stuffed in a turkey covered in lasagna.

Candicassercorn: Creamed corn concealed in green bean casserole concealed in candied yams.

Salafruroll: Dinner rolls stuffed with fruit salad.

Stuffacranastuff: Stuffing stuffed in cranberries stuffed in stuffing.

Cranastuffacran: Cranberries crammed in stuffing crammed in cranberries.

Pumpkappacreamacram: Pumpkin pie and apple pie balled up in a wad of vanilla ice cream. Whipped cream optional.

Omnistuff: Pie of your choice stuffed in a roll, stuffed in a potato, stuffed in a hollowed cob of corn, stuffed in stuffing, stuffed in a turkey, covered in lettuce, smothered in creamed onions. A complete dinner in one dish.

Directions: Stuff everything into everything in the order directed. Serve to astonished guests. Prepare to relax and enjoy Thanksgiving at someone else's house next year.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Charity.

A friend of mine got back from visiting San Francisco, and said that the city is beautiful, the weather was much more pleasant than New York's, and so they'd looked at some houses. 

"Dude," I said, breaking my longstanding "No-Dude" rule, "you can't even sell the house you have here. How are you going to afford San Francisco?"

And that's the truth. Our real estate market slid more slowly than other places, like Vegas, but we're still in the dumps, people unable to sell houses at what they paid for them. And San Francisco now hosts some of the most expensive real estate in the world--what Forbes called the "Insanity of the San Francisco Housing Market." The median home price, the article noted, is $1.1 million

This is what is commonly blamed for San Francisco's massive homeless problem, a problem so out-of-control that my New York City-born friend even thought it was humongous. 

There's a lot of question as to why it's worse there than in other cities. The city's services for the homeless sometimes are blamed (and that's sometimes refuted); the weather that varies from not too cold to not too hot is also cited (a bum in SF is much less likely to become a bumcicle than one in NY or Chicago). 

In 2010 Heather Mac Donald of City Journal did what a lot of us wordy types won't---she got down onto the city's streets to see what was going on. And what was going on was: drugs, booze, violence, refusal of treatment for addiction or insanity, and so on. And don't chicken-and-egg me; people don't start drinking Wild Irish Rose because they're on the street. "Water may run in the gutter but 'twill never put you there," as some non-wild Irish have said.



Mac Donald is worth reading as an antidote to the sentimentalism that leads us to bad policy, and even prevents people from getting the help they need. But surely it doesn't mean they should get no help at all.

Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and there's only 34 shopping days until Christmas, so the season of charitable pressure has already begun. Americans are the most generous people in the world, unless you count Myanmar, which claim has to be gifted with a grain of salt. But we don't want our generosity to pay for gold chains for drug dealers, narco-corrido songwriters, bum wine, and miserable deaths.

My friend who went to San Francisco is a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor, as it happens. I asked him, what does he do when confronted by hordes of beggars as he was in Baghdad by the Bay. He said he generally does not give money, but if possible he will give food. He (and Heather Mac Donald) found that food was very much appreciated, and not very easily translated into drugs or booze. And we must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and all those things.

As a Christian, I know we are told to give without asking for return, give more than what is asked. But we are also told (in Matthew 10:16), "Remember, I am sending you out to be like sheep among wolves; you must be wary, then, as serpents, and yet innocent as doves." Very often we are the other way around.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Very big in France.

I'm not quite sure that the Google metrics for this blog are correct.

I don't really get hung up on readership data. I'm here to get the thoughts out of my head that get stuck in there, to try out ideas, to keep disciplined as a writer, to promote my books (hint!), even to be a voice crying in the wilderness. Not that I'm not thrilled to have readers. I appreciate everybody who stops by my humble demesnes more than words can say. Especially 💖you💖.

But Google is telling me that I've been getting the bulk of my traffic from France.

Since I do not write in French, and most of the people who live in France read in French, I wouldn't expect there to be a lot of appeal for my stuff in France. I took French in junior high and high school, but I've resisted the temptation to try my hand at it. I occasionally may say, «I must punctuate my quotations in the French style!» but it's a passing thing.

I can only think of three reasons why so much traffic for this site appears to be coming from France:

1) Something about my work appeals to the elan, the sacre bleu, the plume da ma tante of la belle Francais.

2) French hackers are using my site to smuggle malware or secrets or other bad things by piggybacking on my URL.

3) Google has made some weird error, mistaking France for another entire nation.

4) There is an Internet rumor that "Fred Key" is an alias for "Jerry Lewis."

Lacking any further information to the contrary, I'm going to go with #1. Yes, I'm choosing to believe that I'm very big in France. Who knew?

Liberty and Fred Leading the People
So, French people, let me just say how long I have admired your novelists, your scientists, your chefs de cuisine, your... Well, I'm sure there's a lot of other things. I'm sorry if I ever said anything mean about France in this space. I don't blame you for the metric system. You were only trying to help.

Let us continue to enrich our friendship, shall we? Or as we said in seventh grade, Le papillon est rouge et bleu et blanc et vert!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Etch Knievel.

We were thinking that the JV dog, Nipper, who does nip, was not named properly after all. Evel Knievel seems to have been a better choice as it turns out. Or maybe Crash. Or just Bonk.

All dogs will skid on hard floors, ram their heads into things, and have similar accidents. Nipper, however, appears to be completely impervious to harm, at least as far as his noggin is concerned. Pull out one of his hairs and he'll yip to shatter glass. But the head? He's taken blows to the melon that would have me rolling on the ground whimpering, and he doesn't shake them off---he doesn't even know that they happened.

No skull could be that thick. There'd be no room left for anything else.

Now, let me say right here that Nipper is not a dumb dog. In fact, he's learned a whole lot in the months we've had him. He came here a blank slate, a tabula rasa, a brand-new Etch-a-Sketch, but we (meaning: my wife) have worked very hard to teach him things every young pup needs to know.
And yet sometimes he seems to be a complete ding-dong, having forgotten the simplest commands and tricks.

It took a while, but I think I put it together. He is a dog version of the Etch-a-Sketch.


Poor li'l guy. Maybe I should get him a helmet or something.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Are coupons worth it?

My mom was a great coupon clipper. When she sat down with the scissors, the Sunday paper never knew what hit it.

Things have changed since I was a kid. Like many people, I don't get a print newspaper anymore. I sometimes get store coupons in the mail, but most of the time, as the primary supermarket person in the house, I will print coupons for things we want from a site like Coupons.com

That too has its drawbacks. For one thing, it means that instead of the coupon being printed by the newspaper for the manufacturer, that paper and toner has to be paid for by your truly. Which makes me pretty annoyed when an outfit like Perdue decides I need to see an ad for the stupid product I've already decided to buy and so I have to use a whole sheet for one coupon. 


It's for a buck and a quarter, which barely covers the freaking toner.

But there's another rub. Even assuming the coupons will save you money on particular items, do they actually save money?

Some people say no. One guy found that "what we primarily ended up with were shelves of items we normally would not have purchased, for any price." This woman said that "I’ve given it a shot, and while I may have saved a buck or two, I felt my time was worth more than I was saving."

The tips one often see toward making couponing worth the trouble include:

1) Don't go running all over the place with store-specific coupons. You'll waste more in gas than you'll save.

2) Don't buy stuff you wouldn't ordinarily buy.

3) Don't be suckered into the ratchet effect of diminishing return coupons ($1 off 1, $1 off 2, $1 off 3) unless you really would buy it in these quantities anyway.

4) Resist the temptation to use coupons to stockpile enough crap for the zombie apocalypse. The zombies will get it all in the end.

So let's say that my time is worthless. Hey, not a stretch, right? Just factor in the cost of printing. Does couponing make sense for me? Do I wind up spending more money than I would have instead of spending less?

Because I have a weakness for trying new products, I sometimes print coupons I won't be able to use because the products don't arrive in local stores before the coupon expires. But when I can get something new with a coupon, I feel like I won something, especially if it has a discounted introductory price. Even if we don't like it, we've had an experience. And that's what life is all about, n'est pas?

Yesterday I slipped out to do the shopping for Thanksgiving and the week around it.It's the single largest trip to the supermarket we make all year. I spent $286.01 and saved $7.75 on coupons, buying only stuff we know we will use. (I also saved another $43.06 on store discounts, including a heavily discounted turkey through the loyalty program.) My feeling is these discounts are baked into the prices of things, so you ought to take advantage of them when you can. Just follow the four guidelines above.

And please, don't feed the zombies.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Start decorating!

 Okay, gang, today it's one week to Thanksgiving! Time to get those turkey lights up! 


Well, that was my suggestion a couple of years ago, bemoaning that we have a lot of lights for Christmas and now even Halloween, but the month in between, which happens to be the darkest of the year, has got no lights. 

Thanksgiving is one of our most-observed holidays---maybe the most observed one, as it is universal to all Americans regardless of faith (or even lack thereof). And yet we have very few books, films, or decorations centered on the day, relative to other major holidays. 

I guess we don't need lights per se, but I'm always happy to see dedicated Thanksgiving decorations. Most of the ones I do see around are generic autumn decorations (wreaths of fall leaves, gourds, scarecrows) and some leftover Halloween stuff. What I'm really looking for is something like this:



Yes! The turkey in a Pilgrim hat! Right on, brother!

This turkey looks to me like he's leaning over the fence to say hi. Some might say he is trying to escape the yard. I say he's just happy to be a decoration. And made of wood. So he won't be eaten.

I have a scarecrow-type guy on the door with a sign that says "Give Thanks," and a couple of things inside the house, but not much. I feel like I ought to have a giant inflatable Pilgrim. And oh my yes they do make such things, and plenty more as well.

In that spirit, we will be indeed be using the massive Fred parade balloon again this year. Since it was not in the parade last year we tethered it to the porch, which resulted in some structural damage. So it'll be out on the deck this year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tilden Supporters Riot!

I thought it would be fun to imagine supporters of Samuel Tilden's 1876 presidential campaign going as nuts as supporters of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. Tilden's fight with Rutherford B. Hayes was every bit as contentious as Clinton/Trump, after all. Here's my artist's imagined view of angry Tildenites in the streets:


"No Rest Till Tilden!" would be their slogan.
You know, blocking horse and buggies, trying to block locomotives (unsuccessfully---ew), chanting "Ruther's a Mother!" and so on.

But the more I read about the 1876 election, the more I realized that there wasn't much point to the humorous juxtaposition.

Tilden won the popular vote but not the electoral vote; as far as that goes, it is similar to Clinton's apparent popular victory / electoral loss. It was not the first time that had happened, but rather the second, the first being John Quincy Adams's victory in 1824 over three rivals---even though Adams trailed Andrew Jackson in both the popular and electoral vote. (It was complicated.)

The 1876 election was not a good parallel, though, for several reasons---one being accusations of cheating in the favor of Democrat Tilden, including the massive disenfranchisement of blacks in Southern states. What I'm hearing this year is less yelling about cheating and more disgust with the electoral college.

I'm in favor of the electoral college, which prevents California from voting to pee in Montana's corn flakes (to borrow from Jonah Goldberg). And David French makes a valid point, that the campaigns were run by the rules in place. Were the presidency decided by straight ballot, the campaigns would have been run differently.

Our current discontent, although inflamed by an irresponsible media and misinformation spread at the speed of social media, is not something new. The 1876 election was even closer than the current one, and also had another complication in that Congressional action was not a clear solution: "With control of Congress split between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, disagreement about exactly who could count the votes produced a constitutional crisis that evoked threats of armed violence from some Democratic quarters."

And yet that did not happen in 1876. It didn't happen in 1888, when Harrison beat Cleveland. It didn't even happen in 2000. Have we fallen so far in 16 years that we're going to have violence in the streets? On behalf of Hillary Clinton? 

Surely two lousy candidates like her and Trump are not worth coming to blows over, let alone jeopardizing lives. We survived four years of such unbearable beasts as Rutherford B. Hayes; we can survive Donald Trump.

'"Harrumph."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Welcome to New York.

I took the photo below a couple of weeks ago; I'm sure by now the joint is all decked out for Christmas.



This is not from the factory that makes Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, but I must confess every time I see that PABT it's the first thing I think about. Which probably says more about me than anything else.

No, PABT stands for Port Authority Bus Terminal, the huge terminal in Manhattan at East 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, right near Times Square. The view above may be the first street scene you travelers by bus see after you disembark. Prior to that you'd see some street scenes between the Lincoln Tunnel and the garage from your bus window, and those would make you wish they would turn the bus right around and take you home. But what you see when you leave the terminal itself is much more exciting, if not much more clean.

The PABT itself is pretty lousy. Oh, sure, this picture makes the PABT look all glamorous and everything, but it's awful. Built in stages over the 20th century, the building includes bad examples of about every style that came along, as detailed in this article on the site Failed Architecture. The biggest sin may have been to make crap brown the predominant color. Mass Transit and Earth Tones are not really pals.

Many people hate the current Penn Station, which is buried underground at Madison Square Garden. They call it a dump. They say it's an oversize subway station. They say (as did architecture historian Vincent Scully), "One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat."

I say: It beats the Port Authority.

I've complained about the PABT before. I've called it strange. I've noted that "graceful as a bus station" would be a bad simile. I will confess that it is much less scary than it was in the 1970s, as the FA article notes.

I do have one unusual PABT story from a couple of years ago. I had attended a function in town after work, but left early to get a bus home to my Hudson Valley town. When I got to the terminal I found out that the Shortline Bus I had intended to take did not actually stop in my town, despite what the schedule online said. I had to wait for almost an hour for another bus.

There was a young couple hanging around that night who had clearly been overserved, wherever they had been. The pretty young blond lady was particularly hammered, in my opinion, and I have good reason for that judgment. While I was going down an escalator to go buy a snack, the couple got on behind me and began walking down the steps. The woman stumbled and suddenly came crashing down next to me, her long hair pouring out in front of her onto the steps, the escalator's teeth at the bottom racing up quick. Her bewildered look showed a complete lack of comprehension as to what had just happened. The man she was with was still several steps behind.

If I had not been there to grab her hand and haul her up fast, I am certain her hair would have been snarled up in the mechanism. I don't think it would have killed her, but she would have been injured.

It was pretty lucky that I was there, that I thought fast. Fast thinking is not something I'm known for. Sometimes I think the whole reason fate or God got me stuck there that night was to save that woman from her injury. Whoever she was, I hope that the evening's adventure put her on a path to a better place.

Better than the Port Authority, anyway.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Supermoon or Superjerk?

Yesterday we had the Supermoon, as you may have heard, "the brightest moon in almost 70 years," when the moon was full and at its closest point to Earth simultaneously. We won't see one like this again until November 25, 2034.

Hooray! Supermoon!




BUT!

As the Old Farmer's Almanac notes, there's a lot of luck lore connected to the moon--including this one:

"It is unlucky to have a full Moon on Sunday."

CRAP!

So a SUPER full moon on Sunday must be SUPER bad luck,

It would explain my weird day yesterday. There appeared to be some unusual misfortune. Not just arguable bad luck, like the wicked Cowboys beating the Steelers in a squeaker; after all, I am willing to admit that Cowboys fans, believe it or not, are just as human as normal people, and the same moon was shining on them.

No, I'm talking about the guy who swung a left turn out in front of me on a two-lane 55 mph road while a tailgater was forcing me to keep up to the limit. This was to be a crash, no question, and if he had someone in his passenger seat that person was not going to be saved by an airbag. Somehow I had the presence of mind to shoot onto the shoulder, where I could safely grind to a halt on the gravel and detritus there. The tailgater continued on his merry way behind the guy who'd almost nailed me.

It was a little alarming, but I was unharmed, so, no harm no foul. I ran my mission of mercy and came back home. Later I went out again, and when I had to brake at a stop sign I heard that lovely flap flap flap of a tire that has said Farewell, Cruel World. And my helpful idiot light flashed and dinged Lo Tire.

By the time I got to a parking lot and opened the door, I could hear the tire going HISSSS like in a cartoon. The rear driver's side tire had picked up a little passenger:


That is a freaking metal SPOON. I'm certain it was for some strange, devilish reason along the highway, because to jam that pointy end into my tire would have taken enormous force, like coming to a rapid stop from 55 mph.

This is why James Bond's Aston Martin stops pursuers by shooting spoons out of its rear.

I got where I was going, but before I went home I put on the spare. When I got home, I turned on a light and the bulb blew, then the big dog started to throw up in the hall.

JUST CUT IT OUT, SUPERMOON.

All of this got me thinking about clever story I read ages ago in Asimov's, "Blued Moon" by Connie Willis. I hope she will forgive me for giving away the story's conceit, but here it is (spoiler alert!): when pollution (IIRC) causes an atmospheric change that makes the moon appear blue, all kinds of rare events begin happening to everyone on Earth---everything that happens once in a blue moon.



Could the Supermoon have caused things to happen to me that were superlame?

Maybe. OR maybe Supermoon protected me! After all, the blown lightbulb may have prevented a short; the dog may have puked up something that would have made him sicker if he'd digested it. Of course, the idiot who almost caused a horrible accident did not succeed in doing so by dint of my braking ability, so even if I have to suck up the cost of a new tire, it's a lot better than having to start up car payments again.

So perhaps the events were weird, but any change in luck granted by Moonie may have been good, not bad. I think I'll choose to look at it that way.

Thanks, Supermoon. See you in 18 years,

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Happy consumers.

No one looks happy when shopping at Walmart.

Pictured: All the happy people at Walmart.
Even with premature Christmas joy spreading, no one looks happy at Walmart.

Pictured: All the happy Christmas shoppers at Walmart.


Now, this is not going to be one of those blog entries about all the wacky people who shop at Walmart ("haha lookit the fat turd in teh tinee shorts at walmart big stuopit fart"). Most of the folks I've seen there are pretty average, no different from everyone else. Maybe if I were there at weird hours I'd see more of the "People of Walmart" type folks. (Click link at your own risk.)

That's always a danger in a 24-hour operation.

But the fact is that, as I think about it, I never see happy shoppers, period, except under two conditions:

1) They're in a group and they're messing about, maybe planning to shoplift;

2) They're in a TV commercial for the store.

No, people in retail establishments tend to either be peering intently at objects or prices, or blandly considering them while the wheels are turning inside, or zipping their eyes to and fro to find the thing they need. Or they may be yelling at the kids, but that's a reaction to the kids, not the shopping.

They are not joyous. It doesn't matter if it's the box store, the supermarket, the little boutique. Even if they enjoy shopping, or are doing it with friends, when it comes to checking out the merchandise the gaze is stern. Similarly, people enjoy poker and chess but they don't look like they're having fun when they play.

Shopping is serious business. And it should be. Responsible people work on staying within a budget, but everyone watches prices. Even rich people. Unless they're showing off. If you're shopping for others, like figuring out what to feed the family, you may be thinking about who likes this and who hates that and who ought to eat the other thing, who is allergic to pine nuts and who is vegan this week and who needs to lay off the Fritos, and all manner of considerations. You may be kicking yourself for leaving the list on the fridge. You may be watching the clock because you have to pick up Zeke from school at three and Granny from the home at four. Those are the faces I see on other shoppers. Never, "Oh, my GOSH, can you believe they have all these awesome THINGS?"

The other reason for a blah or dour expression is that you never want to be a sucker, even during a largely faceless experience like shopping in a warehouse store. People may smile at the lady giving out samples, but they're guarded. I'm not going to be talked into buying anything even though this cookie dough pretzel is AWESOME no no no, fattening and not in the budget and maybe I can swipe one more. That's for a four-dollar box of snacks.

If you're shopping to drop five grand on a diamond ring, you're going to be even more guarded, although you may be more phony. "Yes, it's a pleasure to meet you, and I could use some help picking out a ring" and she'd better not say it sucks or I'll come back and strangle you. Unless you're rich and showing off. "I'll take five gold rings, just in time for Christmas." Even then, you're serious about showing off, despite the devil-may-care attitude, and you're careful to buy expensive rings.

Of course the people who work in the stores are told they must be cheerful, but we usually don't get mad if they aren't, unless they're actually vicious.

I was thinking that perhaps, with Black Friday looming ahead, that I will make a determined effort to be more cheerful when shopping during the Christmas season. Of course, that will probably alert the security team that I'm a shoplifter, but as long as they're cheerful when they tackle me to the ground it will be okay.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thanks to our veterans.

"Happy Veterans Day" doesn't seem to be as much of a faux pas as "Happy Memorial Day," but it would be less likely to commit. Memorial Day, really a somber occasion, has become a weekend for all kinds of non-honoring-the-dead activities. Veterans Day honors the living, and because it is not placed in a warm-weather month, nor does it migrate into a three-day weekend, stays truer to its purpose.

Too, Veterans Day may be considered a happier occasion, as we celebrate those who have committed their lives and their health and pretty much everything else to the service of our nation, and have survived.

Credit where it's due: I thought Google did a nice job today. Over the years they've gotten a lot of well-deserved flak for failing to note our patriotic holidays appropriately, but this was pretty good.
It's a great day to thank a vet, whenever and wherever they served our nation, in whatever capacity. I never did, as the army seemed to have all the potato peelers it needed, and I thought the talents I cultivated in my youth (drinking beer, watching TV) were required on my sofa rather than in Germany or on the DMZ in Korea.

A friend of mine did a couple of tours in Iraq, but prior to that was an EMT in New York City. His PTSD is more closely related with his medical service on 9/11 than his suicide-bomber related injuries in Iraq. He's a good and patriotic man, husband and father, adjusting well back into civilian life. He's looking at another spinal surgery now, years after his service, but he knows he's one of the lucky ones.

I've often prayed, and I still do, that our nation may be more worthy of the sacrifice of its veterans. I hope you will do that today as well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My fellow Americans...

Pretty stunned this morning.

How stunned?


That stunned.

I usually do a draft of this blog the night before, or at least an outline of what I want to write about. I have had to throw out my concession piece and instead write a consolation speech to my friends who supported the losing candidate.

Look, either Donald or Hillary was going to be a lousy president in all likelihood. We've had a lot of lousy presidents in our past and survived them. We had a whole string leading up to the Civil War. Okay, maybe that's not so consoling.

These days the president had much more opportunity to perform mischief in the lives of regular Americans than in the past. Also not too consoling.

The chair was going to be sullied again anyway. Those who thought that it would take an ass to beat an ass may have won a Pyrrhic victory. Those who said "Anybody But Clinton" got what they desired.

I stand by what I wrote the other day, that there were good and legitimate reasons to vote for Trump or at least against Clinton. If nothing else, it gave the media a pie in the face, and everyone needs one of those once in a while. Their confident predictions of a Trump loss show that hubris and Nemesis have worked their usual magic.

I hope that Trump will be a good president for all Americans. I wish the presidency was not so important in our lives. I hope the next election will not be between two people who are famous for celebrity, famous for famousness, but between two serious people with some humility and a good temperament for the office. That was not going to happen this time.

So God bless America, and let's face the day with courage and confidence. We'll need both.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Need to calm down.

So, how're things?


I know I get way too wrapped up in stuff that I can do nothing about. I also have read way too much science fiction and comic books in my life, and movie makers really enjoy blowing stuff up these days.

Which is why the other night I was jolted awake during a very odd dream. Usually my dreams follow predictable patterns---I'm either in a hotel or office, it's always work-related, I'm either not where I'm supposed to be or just vaguely aware that I'm expected someplace, blah blah blah. The scenery changes but the plot is about the same.

The other night, though, I dreamed that disaster had struck---we knew it was the end. I mean The End. I must have read once about the enormous wind caused by a nuclear blast, because in my dream such a wind suddenly sundered our house from its foundation. I was with my childhood family (some are no longer with us in real life) and instead of my two dogs there were four, but we were together in one room. Outside the window the scenery was rushing by at an enormous clip. We clutched one another's hands; I turned to my mother and said, "This is IT!"

We were not smashed to pieces. Rather, the house flew on until it came upon an even stretch of road that was at the same incline as the sundered base. We skidded along the road for quite some time until we ground to a halt. We had survived.

But I knew that civilization, and very much of the world, all was gone. There would be no help. I said, "We can't even feed the dogs, let alone ourselves." And I was very upset that we hadn't been killed quickly, but would instead have to struggle on until we died slowly.

That startled me awake.

I've never had a dream like that before, not even in the "shelter drill" era, not even after escaping Manhattan on 9/11. I don't think it's prophetic, but I think it shows a momentary ramp-up of my current anxiety over the nation and the world.

Perhaps I need more prayer. Or maybe some medication.

Anyway, the next night I was in a hotel on a business trip and had a suitcase full of inappropriate clothes, so my dreams were back to normal.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Least enthusiastic endorsement.

I really don't think that either of the major candidates for president of the United States deserve to run for mayor of a small and insignificant town, but a vote for one is a vote against the other, so there's at least some consolation in that.

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for, but I will tell you some of the criteria I use in my decision. Bear in mind, if you're not happy about it, that I'm not happy about it either.

1) Competence. Both these candidates have shown public incompetence in their careers, but only one has resulted in massive bloodshed. So far. And only one has, for personal reasons, allowed classified information to fall into the hands of foreign and likely antagonistic governments. So far.

2) Respect. One candidate shows women a revolting lack of respect. The other counts on women for support, but evened the field by marrying a creep who shows women a revolting lack of respect. (On a more personal note: One campaign may give nothing but lip service to the concerns of us Catholics, but the other is positively antipathetic toward us.)

3) Middle class values. Both candidates have shown contempt for the values of the middle class, but one founded a campaign on the economic concerns of the middle class*. It is my belief that the existence of a thriving middle class is the #1 bulwark against tyranny in any society. Otherwise you get nothing but a small cadre at the top and a vast, terrified, helpless, economically dependent mass at the bottom. Voting the candidate who pledges to help the financial concerns of the middle class does not make us greedy or shallow; it is what keeps a small group from controlling everything else. There is no freedom without economic freedom.

4) Media. Having spent a great deal of my career in print media, I can tell you that my experience is these people are quite antagonistic to the reasonable desires and heartfelt beliefs of the bulk of Americans. A vote against what they like is a vote for everything that is decent in the world.

These people are no smarter than you, but every single one of them thinks that he is. A metaphoric punch in the nose is just what they need.

So those are my thoughts, and while I've never wanted to vote less in an election, I am obliged to do what I can to vote against the worse candidate.

*Even those who hate him can give us some idea of what the Trump campaign is about. What's Hillary's campaign about besides her greatness and people coming together because together people have togetherness?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Death before decaf.

On the recommendation of a friend, I tried a local brand of coffee.


Did I mention that my friend is a motorcycle enthusiast?

Death Wish Coffee Co. claims that their coffee---which I bought in their Keurig-compliant "Death Cups"---is the world's strongest coffee. They put that on every bag. They've even trademarked the phrase "World's Strongest Coffee."


So...is it?

Well, let's examine the claim. If you take Strongest as a synonym for Boldest when it comes to coffee, there is some evidence to support it. It's a nice dark roast, not too bitter, smooth---but not as bold as espresso, I say. Okay, so you can counter that espresso is not coffee per se, and therefore doesn't count.

It's pretty clear though from the Death Wish Web site that by strength they mean the caffeine content, not the boldness of the roast: "Death Wish Coffee is the world's strongest coffee with the highest-caffeine content available, resulting in a buzz that blows other coffees out of the water." But I'd heard for years that all the heat used to make a dark roast actually results in a smaller amount of caffeine. So how could that claim be true?

Well, I got schooled. No less an authority than Mr. Coffee himself says, "Since roasting a bean for longer brings more oils to the surface, it could be assumed that some caffeine may escape and be burned off in the process. However, caffeine doesn't react too much to any temperature under 600 degrees, according to Scribblers Coffee Co., more than 100 degrees more than coffee's usual roasting temperature." That and other factors make it impossible to say whether a particular coffee has more or less caffeine depending on roast.

The USDA has a database of products' nutrients, such as caffeine, in many common foods, including specific brand-name items, but Death Wish Coffee hasn't made the database yet. (A search for the word "death" pulls up six different ice creams going under the name Death By Chocolate.) So they're no help. Death Wish's site has a lot of information on caffeine's benefits, but nowhere could I find a statement of how much is actually in their product.

I guess at this point we have to take Death Wish's word for it. I can tell you my Death Cups make a very satisfactory cup of coffee, so if you like dark roasts I highly recommend it. However, I tried my first cup while working on a very boring freelance project, and fell asleep right at the laptop anyway. So take that with a grain of salt, or perhaps a ground of coffee.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Winning!

New York is a funny state. Up here in the Hudson Valley, on the west side of the mighty mighty river, I have seen maybe half a dozen Trump signs and zero (0) Hillary signs. As one looks at the map of New York's 62 counties, I would guess just 8 will definitely go Hillary. You might think that Trump was right when he said that New York, his home state, really is in play.

Wrong!

Those 8 counties---Kings, Queens, New York, Suffolk, Bronx, Nassau, Westchester, and Albany---together have more people in them that the other 54 combined. It's 10,337,432 vs. 7,895,192. The Hillary counties, which except for Albany are all downstaters, typical make electoral decisions that pee in the cornflakes of the 54 northern counties. I mean, it's not like New York's state government is really successful at anything they try, except corruption and graft, but when there's someplace that's going to get specifically screwed, like industries being regulated to death or taxed into fleeing, with the usual unemployment and squalor to follow, you can bet it's places like Buffalo's Erie County that are going to get it.

There's actually a movement afoot---maybe more of an angry gesture than a movement---to divorce all those downstate counties from the rest of the state and be free of the majority rule. New Amsterdam would be an autonomous region, but still part of the state, with "a token state government to comply with the US Constitution." It'd look like this:



They're trying to get a ballot initiative on it next year. The problem is that even if they do, the whole state will undoubtedly have to vote on it, and how do you think that'd go?

Hint: 10,337,432 vs. 7,895,192.

And New Yorkers will note that tiny downstate Rockland County is not being allowed into New Amsterdam, so maybe they're as bad as Westchester. Rockland's small in size but 13th in population, at 317,702, so if they vote with the other downstaters that makes the imbalance against upstaters even worse. Plus, Albany and its surrounding counties (Schenectady, Renssalear, Schoharie) are too invested in state government to want to see this split happen, so that's probably five out of 54 upstate counties that wouldn't go for it anyway.

And even if it were to be accomplished, it wouldn't affect national elections unless the state also split its electoral votes the way Maine and Nebraska do.

But I don't see that or anything else that might threaten the current power structure happening. Americans started to give away power and authority more than a century ago to help the needy and oppressed; little by little we lost a sense of the importance of our autonomy, trading it in for protection from big bad life. As if there were no downside imaginable to that.

During the early days of the War on Terror, President Bush's opponents liked to deploy that Ben Franklin quote, that "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." But we'd already been doing it for a hundred years.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Crushalogs.

One day's worth, stuffed in my mailbox:



I feel like I got mugged by Christmas.

These were all thick, weighty catalogs, approaching ten pounds of paper. And yet that is not even close to the bundle of Restoration Hardware catalogs that thump onto the porch once a year. I've hardly bought anything from Restoration Hardware, and yet these 1970s-Manhattan-phone-book-size piles of paper arrive well in advance of Thanksgiving every year. They claim it's going to pay off for them. I wonder.

I was impressed that seven different catalogs came at once. I guess the timing was no coincidence, them wanting to hit as soon as Halloween was over. For all I know the same catalog printer ran and mailed them.

It still feels early to me to be thinking of Christmas, being almost 1/6th of the year away, but it's not. Hallmark's had their annual ornament bushel out since summer, and the Hallmark channel is already running Christmas love movies.

And yet it's nothing new. The old Sears Wish Book used to show up in September. That was awesomely awesome with awesome sauce in those pre-Internet days. I remember us paging through it like maniacs as soon as it came in the house. "Clothes...clothes...clothes...come on, damn it!...electronics...crap, more clothes?...YES! TOYS!"

The lists for Santa would be ready before October, although we could have just clipped the toy pages and wrote "EVERYTHING HERE" on them instead.

Nowaways I hardly look at catalogs. My wife will occasionally peruse one, but I generally only look at ones that are fun, like Hammacher Schlemmer, and others that have stuff I can't afford.

They all wind up in the recycling bin eventually. Not sure what else can be done. I know you can turn old newspapers into firewood, but I don't know if that works with slick magazine paper.  We don't have a fireplace anyway.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

New and better fortune cookies.

Why are our fortune cookies so lame?

Not the cookies themselves; I've always liked them, actually. Crunchy, with a touch of vanilla, like a folded, almost guilt-free sugar cookie.

It's the fortunes. Dullsville. These are pretty typical.

yawn


I am under the impression that in my childhood, fortune cookies actually worked like fortune telling, giving cute predictions about the future. Like, "You are going on a long journey." Or, "You will be rewarded for your strength of character." You know, nonsense predictions that could make for fun chitchat after dinner. Sometimes they were even humorous, like, "You will never turn into a giant shoelace."* Or, "Help, I'm a prisoner in a Chinese bakery."**

Nowadays they're just dull bits of wisdom, suitable for Facebook posting and little else. Usually attributed to some famous person, wrongly.



Infoplease says that the fortune cookie seems to have developed in San Francisco in 1914, or maybe Los Angeles in 1918, but beyond its supposed origins with thank-you notes or Biblical verse, there's not a lot of information about the cookie's fearless forecasting. Nowadays it's almost always some blah advice that sounds like they're being written by a school guidance counselor.

Come on, cookies! We can do better than that. We want the fortune back in our fortune cookies! Otherwise they're just ______ cookies, and who needs that?

I decided to get the ball rolling by writing some new fortunes. Here are a baker's dozen, offered for free:

You will wish you had not eaten the Tien Tsin peppers.

Don't take the Browns no matter how many the points.

You will go on a long journey. Your luggage will go on a completely different but equally long journey. 

Tip the waiter well, or next time he will spit in your tea.

Your plan to open a Thai seafood doughnut shop will not meet with success.

You shall never be as rich as King Tutankhamun, but then again, he's dead.

Everyone will be cheesed off after the election next week. 

Next time you'll get the General Tso's chicken. Delish.

Beware the Ides of March. They only have Ides for you.

You will go to work next week with your fly open and unmatching socks. Have fun.

Your date will not end happily.

Remember that other cookie where I said the Cubs would never win the Series? Skip it.

Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.
Continued on next cookie.

Go ahead, Chinese cookie bakeries. I double-dog dare ya to use these in place of your paper placebos. Everyone will love them.

And if not? Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

---

* Actually from a Bazooka Joe comic, which would have humorous fortunes along with the nonhumorous cartoon.

**Actually an Alan King book.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Humans as masters, as pets.

I know it's not an original science fiction idea, but since we got Number One Dog I've occasionally wondered what it would be like as a human pet of superintelligent aliens, aliens who are as intellectually superior to us as we are to dogs. It's certainly a notion that has occurred to SF writers before.  But there are some real stumbling blocks to the idea:

1) If we were smart enough to know what those aliens were thinking and doing, we'd be them. A writer trying to create the situation would have to come up with things as baffling to us as, say, raking leaves, painting pictures, balancing checkbooks, or writing blogs are to animals. But for them to be inscrutable to humans they'd have to look like nonsense, which would make for a dull story. On the other hand, if they're just doing stuff we do in a smarter way---teleportation instead of driving---we'd easily grasp the reason, if not the method.

2) People aren't dogs. My dogs don't sit around and wonder why I wear clothes, let alone why I make them learn to heel. I would do that constantly as a pet of an alien creature. No matter how frustrating it was, I would keep thinking, trying to learn, trying to understand, because that's what we do. It makes us crazy sometimes, but we never stop. Dogs? Cats? Eh, not so much. They can figure out some things like how to turn on the light, or get up on the counter they're not allowed on, but that's because when their desires are directly affected, they can understand the easy, concrete cause and effect. They keep it simple. (I know, I know, YOUR cat is a Rhodes scholar, but I mean other normal cats, okay?)

3) This is also why stories narrated from the point of view of pets are pure fantasy. A cat is never going to solve a crime. He doesn't understand enough to know what a crime is. He wouldn't care if he did, as long as it didn't affect him. The smartest dog in the world is never going to think like the dumbest human, because their brains are different machines used in a different way. Animals are excellent at survival and certainly get up and at it faster than we do, but they have no imagination. (I began writing this yesterday, but this morning I see the Great Lileks went into the people vs. animals comparison at length.)

Although the dogs don't worry about why I do all the weird stuff I do, they sure aren't dummies. I think they definitely have some ideas about the things and people they encounter. For example, Number One Dog knows that when we're out in the yard and I am saddled with Number Two Dog on the leash, Number One can get away with more crap. He doesn't push the envelope, he shoves it, running into the neighbors' yard, peeing in prohibited areas, ignoring every call and sound effect I can produce. Basically he's always a little bit of a jerk outside, but he turns into a complete teenager when I have the kid. At times like that, he sees Daddy as:



On the other hand, when the kid is acting up inside and making a ruckus, it is sometimes asked of me that I put him in his pen or the crate. Like a toddler he gets overtired and becomes a brat. "Would you put him in the pen?" is the question I get asked more than any other, partly because as big as he is I can still manhandle him as needed. Since Mommy is the boss, you know what that makes me:


At times like that he sees me as the cheap muscle.

So our pets definitely have humanlike perceptions, and humanlike elements about them, as well as definite personality traits. (At least the mammals; I've had little experience with fish and reptiles.) But they're not humans.

Please do bear in mind that I'm a guy who makes cartoons about how my pets think, and when they sneeze I say gesundheit. So maybe I'm not a great one to write about this topic. I'd love to hear your thoughts. And if you know of any writers who actually have carried off the people-as-pets idea well, I'd like to know.