Archive for March, 2010

Dogs At Play

March 31, 2010

Since it’s always fun to watch dogs romp around as they spend their days playing, I offer you two odd videos. Don’t you wish you could lead the life of a dog, where everything is a game and the point of life is to have fun?

First video: A happy black dog encounters a new type of playmate:

Not sure if the deer was playing fair, but whatever.

Next up: This dog seems hungry, and the nice police officer has offered up a tasty morsel of police cruiser bumper: 

I wonder if the bumper tasted good. With a little road salt, it was probably fine.

Those Sexy Republicans

March 31, 2010

If I had known conservative Republicans had so much fun, I would have hitched my wagon to Michael Steele’s train.

You probably heard the news the Republican National Committee paid nearly $2,000 in entertainment costs at Voyeur Hollywood West.

That’s a swanky California nightclub with dancing ladies and a bondage theme. As Jennifer Steinhauer wrote in the New York Times, Voyeur presents “a rare occasion when the phrase “understated elegance” shares space in the same review as “half-naked girl hanging from a net across the ceiling.”

Sounds Republican to me.

To be fair to Michael Steele, the head of the RNC, he didn’t authorize the night out on the town. But still, some Republicans and right wing activists  have so much fun. A lot of the lefties seem so gloomy by comparison.

We have an anti-gay activist having an affair with a male prostitute while on methamphetamines, Larry Craig’s “wide stance” a few years ago, and the married, Republican former assistant South Carolina attorney general who was caught in a cemetery with a stripper, sex toys and Viagra.

Hmmm.

Republicans don’t have a lock on this kind of behavior, of course. Just ask John Edwards. But you have to admit, some of the R’s sure know how to have fun.

If you want to take a walk on the wild side, become a Republican. Sex! Drugs! Kink! Naked ladies in nets on the ceiling! You gotta love it.

Here in Vermont, though, Republicans never got the memo about living it up. The closest thing our Republican governor, Jim Douglas, got to bondage was probably the time he almost tripped over the ribbon at a ribbon cutting ceremony he presided over.

Our lieutenant governor, Brian Dubie, is a high flyer in the sense that he’s a jet pilot, but the guy just oozes so much decency that he could be the world’s oldest choir boy.

I guess Vermont just isn’t particularly sexy. We’re famous for maple syrup, liberals and pretty scenery, but we are lame in the sex scandal department. Well, you can’t have everything.

Surveillance on Storms.

March 30, 2010

Security cameras can make us feel creepy. We feel like we’re always being watched.

But to weather geeks like me, they have one benefit: They capture images of violent storms for all to see. I call it weather porn.

First one: The surveillance camera at the ATM at First State Bank in Parkersburg, Iowa on May 25, 2008.  A tornado hits  the neighborhood:

A guy was in that house, but he fled to the basement as the tornado approached, so he survived.

Next: Same tornado. The view now is in the bank’s lobby:

Nobody was in the bank when the tornado hit, so nobody was hurt there, but the tornado killed a few people elsewhere in town, unfortunately.

The nice thing about these surveillance camera storm shots is they show things that would kill a human if they were there.  At least I hope no human would be stupid enough to stand there and film as this stuff was going on.  These videos should be required viewing for all those Midwest tornado chasers out there who dare to get too close to the storms. Don’t mess with a twister.

A couple more videos:  This is a parking lot in Alabama as a tornado passes: 

Finally, this past Sunday, a severe thunderstorm swept a television station parking lot. in North Carolina. Click on the highlighted words in this paragraph to watch.  Just amazing.

 I’m sure plenty more security camera storms will surface as the Midwest heads into tornado season. I will be checking YouTube for more.

Kill Your Lawn

March 30, 2010

Hate mowing the lawn?

So do I. Which means I was delighted to run across a contest where the winners will  turn their lawns into gardens.

The Chittenden Solid Waste District is putting on the contest, and it’s only open to people in Vermont’s Chittenden County. I hope the idea spreads like a nice dense carpet of perrywinkle over a shady landscape.  

If you live in Chittenden County, you have until April 12 to submit an essay to CSWD to win a garden and lose a lawn.

Let’s face it. Lawns are a waste. I know many people love a perfect , huge green lawn, and I’m willing and happy to oblige my landscaping clients in keeping their expanses of grass all neat and tidy.

But any property is far more interesting with lots of vegetables, flowers, stones, trees and other features. I’m told by environmentalists that getting rid of your lawn and replacing it with gardens and such helps prevent groundwater pollution and other ills. Plus, if you don’t run a sputtering gas lawnmower, the air stays that much cleaner. 

Properties without lawns can look stunning. This photo of  a house that used to have a small front lawn and now has gardens shows how wonderful it can look. The house is in Austin, Texas, but there are plenty of plantings that work great in the harsh climate of northern New England.

Mowing a lawn is like participating in the Bataan Death March, except not as fun. Once you start mowing,  you have to finish. Mowing part of your lawn one day, and finishing up a few days later ends up looking stupid. Kind of like getting a haircut on the left side of your head, and taking care of the right side two weeks later.

For people who don’t have much time, a property full of gardens and other features is in my opinion easier to take care of. Yeah, it can get ahead of you, but it’s not as bad.  Besides, if you live locally, give me a call. I can help you catch up.

If you only have 15 minutes to work in the yard on a particular day, you can spend that time weeding. When the 15 minutes are up, things look better, and not half finished like a partly mowed lawn does. 

And you know what? A few weeds mixed into a garden doesn’t look as bad as an unkempt lawn.

I own an acre in St. Albans. When I bought the place two years ago, it was almost exclusively lawn. I’m gradually chipping away at the lawn. I’ve put in a vegetable garden, which expands every spring. I’m building stone walls and planting shrubs.

I will save 15 minutes each time I mow this summer because last fall, I replaced the sod on a steep, difficult-to- mow embankment with day lilies. The flowers will need almost no maintenance and will look great. More flower gardens and a fire pit are in future plans.

I still have a terribly large amount of lawn left, but it dimishes every summer. Someday, I’ll ditch the mower.

Sad Fire Update

March 30, 2010

About a week ago, I posted a story about how a passerby rescued a badly burned elderly man from a house fire (pictured here) in St. Albans.

The injured man, Orville Fields, 73, was taken to Fletcher Allen Health Care, the hospital in Burlington. A spokeswoman for the hospital told me today that Fields died there on Saturday of his injuries.

Supermarket Weirdness (Ctd.)

March 29, 2010

Yesterday, I riffed about my trials and tribulations of  visiting a supermarket.

Today as I scanned the news wires, I found that some people find supermarkets more challenging than I do.

Some examples:  A man was arrested recently for running naked through a Tennessee supermarket because he was bored and had nothing to do.

 I don’t want to hear any jokes from you over the fact that the naked runner fled to a nearby Hardee’s after the incident.

Photo is a Kingsport, Tenn. Police Department mug shot of our of our naked runner, Daniel Lee. Seems he had time to put clothes on for his close-up.

In other bad supermarket news, a guy in Indiana was arrested for ripping open packages of meat in a supermarket and throwing them on the floor.

According to reports, his grandmother’s offer to make pot roast set him off, and he was destroying the meat in part to prevent little girls from eating foods that would make them chubby.

Oh.

Then there are the way people dress in stores  I know Wal-Mart isn’t strictly speaking a grocery store,  but there’s a Web site called People of Wal-Mart which is full of pictures of people making provocative fashion statements at Wal-Mart.

The site is an excellent time waster.

Photo is of one of the Wal-Mart fashionistas from the People of Wal-Mart site.

I’ll put a question out to readers who might want to respond. What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in a supermarket?

Monday Morning Madness

March 29, 2010

I’m usually so busy on weekends that by Sunday night, I don’t feel like getting ready for the work week by the time evening rolls around.

Which means I often race around early Monday morning, getting squared away. That’s OK. It makes me feel like I’m getting the week off to a productive start. Either that, or I’m just crazy.

This morning  I cooked some meals that will get me through lunch for a couple days. I got the laundry done, and I tidied up the house a bit. That’s me, the Happy Homemaker.

I had all this done by 6 a.m., which tells you what an early to bed early to rise kind of guy I am. At least I don’t crow like a rooster at dawn. The neighbors are thankful.

The smells of the cooking also give me something to look forward to. I’ll wait until noon or so today before I try the stir fry I pulled together. Usually, my stir fries taste slightly better after it has sat in its juices and spices for a few hours, and is then reheated.

I’m a garbage cook, which means I like to mix random things together to see what I end up with. Usually it works. Of course, I try to make the combination make sense. I don’t mix, say, strawberry ice cream, hamburger, Jack Daniels and Doritos in a pot and call it lunch.

Today’s main production smells promising. You can almost smell the spicy scents coming from the picture of it that I’ve posted. It’s a mix of (formerly) frozen stir fry mixed vegetables, pork, soy sauce, garlic (lots of it),  ginger, black pepper and basil. Everything but the kitchen sink.

I’ll just stay busy this morning, and savor the stir fry later. Unless there’s yet another crisis at work. ……

Supermarket Slumming

March 28, 2010

Supermarkets make people slow and dumb.

You have to have noticed this. People stumble through the grocery store in some sort of weird daze, lost in a fog in front of the Cheerios boxes, or next to the paper towels.  Bounty! The Quicker Picker Upper!

God knows Bounty is the only quick thing in a supermarket.

Which clashes with my style of shopping. My goal is to  blast through the store, tossing things into my cart and then roar on through the checkout. No muss, no fuss.

I mean, who wants to spend their whole life in the harsh fluorescent lights of a bland supermarket?

Plenty of people, apparently.  You try to get through the entrance, but it’s blocked by people staring in wide-eyed amazement at the room they just entered. Their jaws are slack and the look slowly around, as if they’ve never seen such a wondrous assortment of canned tuna and Rice-a-Roni. Uh, people, this isn’t the Lourve.

The aisles are blocked, too. People align their carts so there is no way you can get through. They stand near their carts, staring blankly at the same spot on the shelf, as if whatever they want will magically appear.

“Uh, lady, you have to physically move and look for the can of Spaghetti-O’s you want.   It won’t come to you like a happy little puppy dog. And by the way, excuse me so I can get by.”

Invariably, said lady turns to me, looks me up and down as if I’m an apparition that needs no attention, then goes back to staring at the shelf, without moving her cart a smidge.

So I try another aisle, having abandoned my plan to jump over her like Superman leaping over a building in a single bound.

Somehow, after 3,783.5 hours of trying to work my way past the zombie shoppers blocking my way, I make it to the checkout.

But I’m not home free. The person ahead of me has expired coupons, and the cashier is not taking them. The customer is insistent, saying he clipped them from today’s paper.

“But it says here on the coupon, ‘expires 4/19/01’,” the cashier says. (That’s April 19, 1901, not 2001)

So the argument goes back and forth through the night.

Finally the cashier gives in through exhaustion, and the customer swipes his debit card. Then he embarks on his project to use the little debit machine  to completely refinance the entire bulk and breadth of African debt. This seemingly takes days. Probably the Nigerian president is disputing the terms of the financial deal.

It finally ends and I can leave. Well, not quite.  A woman keeps almost backing her Hummer into my truck. She’s made three passes so far. 

Sigh.

Easy Riding Dog

March 28, 2010

Meet Sophie,  here in the picture.

I encountered her in the parking lot of the On the Run store in St. Albans Saturday  as she was taking a break from a road trip.

Sophie’s owner says she always keeps her head far out the window in the car, even when they’re bombing down the Interstate. So she has protective goggles to keep her safe and happy.

Terrific idea.

When Sophie gets tired of enjoying the wind in her hair, she scoots back inside,  lifts the glasses from her eyes and enjoys the ride.

The Odd Spartan

March 27, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, the temperature was in the 20s and a frigid north wind gusted down Burlington’s cold Church Street Marketplace.

Everyone was bundled up, except for three odd people carrying swords and shields, dressed in red Spartan outfits, accented with leather. There was a lot of exposed skin for such a cold day. They pretended they weren’t dying of frostbite.

Turns out they’re promoting the Spartan Race, another one of those strange races for those who find the neighborhood 5K too dull.

The race, set for May 16 at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, Vt., is only about two miles long, but apparently, it’s a pretty intense obstacle course.

Here’s how they describe it:

The Spartan Race is for athletes and people who are tired of the tedium of the usual races and workouts and yearn to recapture the spirit of an adventurous age. This international race is set up to test not only the strength and stamina but the cunning and creativity of each athlete’s warrior essence. Participants will confront obstacles ranging from extreme to absurd that gain their inspiration from sources as varied as Spartan training, Navy SEAL training, American Gladiators, Eco-Challenge and Ironman.”

Apparently, this whole thing involves fun encounters like crawling through dark, narrow tunnels, beneath and through barbed wire and jumping over a fire.

In other words, a placid day at the beach.

The lucky winner of the Spartan Race qualifies to participate in an event with the welcoming title, “The Death Race” in Pittsfield, Vt

The URL for the Death Race Web site is youmaydie. So judge for yourself.

I don’t know if these kinds of races are for motivated people, crazy people, or both. Some of these obstacle course races are scarier than others. Half of me would love to participate in one of these, the other half says no way.

I guess that means I’m just half-crazy.

I haven’t been doing my cardio like I should have, so I wouldn’t  be in good enough physical shape to do the Spartan Race this year anyway. And I’d want to train for some of the other elements of the event, like climbing, etc.

I could use a physical challenge, though. I wonder if I should make it a goal to do it next year. I want to toughen up, both physically and mentally. Maybe I am something of an aspiring Spartan. What do you think?

Of course, the other issue is this: Would I look good in leather briefs and a red cape, like the Spartans on Church Street?