Monday, May 31, 2010

The Zoo

I visited the Toledo Zoological Garden (Toledo Zoo) last Friday (May 28, 2010) and realized the place has changed in the last 25 years or so when I was there last.  The zoo used to have a scientific theme about it.  The sightseeing train was minimized and I can only recall one or two cafes inside the entire zoo.  These days the zoo is half science and half carnival midway.  I kept watching for a carny barker trying to steer me into a fast game of Three Card Monte.

The zoo has a new polar bear exhibit which is excellent.  The visitors have no clue how dangerous the polar bear is, and the bear has learned to ignore the food that is so near and yet so far.  Here is mama bear with baby bear.

Polar Bears

Visitors are separated from the bears by a (we trust) unbreakable wall of bear paw resistant glass, meaning that you can get right up to the bears as they romp around the enclosure.  The baby bear likes to play with his mother which makes for great entertainment.


I was forced to share the zoo with about 25 big yellow school bus loads of grade school kids, each and every one of whom needed a leash and muzzle.  Too bad they weren't allowed to pet mama bear.  Ah, well, I suppose that in many cases their parents will never take them to the zoo, so - some exposure is better than none at all.


The wolves had the right idea.  It was hot and since there is no way to get to the noisy food on the other side of the fence, might as well take it easy.  I watched the wolves for a while, imagining how much fun it would be to slip a few rabbits into the wolf exhibit.  Bad luck on the rabbits.


For reasons I've never really understood the zebra has never been domesticated.  I gather that half breeds exist, but that they are not an overwhelming success as draft animals.  I do know that many years ago a zoo worker was killed by the zebras he was tending.


One of my favorite critters in the menagerie is the lionfish.  He's both cool looking and poisonous; other fish tend to let him alone.  This is the common lionfish.

One thing that struck me as I walked the zoological garden; the plethora of strollers and wagons.  Fat, sweating mothers put their kids in strollers or wagons and haul them around rather than having the children walk.  I note that the stroller serves as both conveyance and cage, as the occupants are unable to exit the stroller without the help of the parent or guardian.  This makes controlling the youngsters much easier, as the mother doesn't have to expend energy (mental and physical) watching the child and keeping it nearby; virtually all of these children immediately run away once freed and ignore commands to return.  Often the mother is incapable of chasing and catching the child without risking severe injury to herself.  Once they are well past stroller and wagon age and size, the children whine constantly about being tired.  More than half carry extra weight and about a fourth are obese.  These are my own unscientific observations and are not to be taken as careful research.

I remark about this only because my own mother never used a stroller with us.  We walked.  Sometimes we got hot and tired, and mom would let us rest a minute or two before continuing to walk.  I never thought too much about this at the time; you just did it.  On reflection, mom must have judged the distance and weather conditions before setting out on a walk so we never really got to the point where we gave out.  Mom knew the value of exercise and she was wise enough to know that being hot and tired would not lead to our early demise.  Thanks, mom.

For his part, my father taught me how to mix a dry martini and how to hit a stride and keep it.  If dad had to walk from point A to point B, he'd fall into a particular swinging stride and just keep going.  I learned how to do that as well, when I was a child of 7 or so years old. 

And so, you see, one fine evening when we were celebrating the fourth of July, my aunt Grace (the youngest from Mom's side) doubted I'd hold up on a long walk back home.  I walk her legs off.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Late Breaking News: Major Electric Blackout Averted

As we all know, the Great Electric Blackout of 2003 was not caused by a wheel-hamster strike, but the true cause was eventually narrowed down to tree limbs touching the electric wires in Toledo, Ohio.  Since then, the power company First Energy has committed to clear cutting a five mile swath around power lines while at the same time being sensitive to the property rights of birds and squirrels.  What follows is not a dramatization.

Flanders Road and Janet Avenue

A large tree limb fell and completely blocks the road and simultaneously the electricity is several neighboring homes goes off.  Could there be a connection?  Electric crews are not working overtime to find out.  Meanwhile, local traffic must find an alternate route that does not cross the lawn of the mean old man with the shotgun living on the corner of Flanders and Indian Ridge road.

I found three reactions among residents:
  • Drivers would come right up to the orange cones and stop, carefully avoiding eye contact with the Sylvania Township policeman in his cruiser with the lights on parked just in front of the cones.  The car would sit for a while, then carefully back up, turn around and leave.
  • People would stop and ask, "What happened?"  One person suggested it might well be an accident caused by First Energy trimming trees.  I suggested a train wreck.  The officer thought it might be something else.
  • People would wander right under the live wires and take pictures, then stand around an talk.  I wonder if any of these folks ever heard of the Sword of Damocles.

On a tip from a passerby who neglected to ask questions, I checked the tree adjacent to the fallen limb and discovered a bad case of something.  The oak tree is hollow.  Since we have sandy soil in the area and a high water table, I'd guess termites and carpenter ants.


It seems a portion of the limb landed on the electrical wires, causing a short or something.  Clearly it is time to summon officialdom.

Official Trucks

First Energy sent three work trucks to deal with the problem, and our service was restored in four or five hours, which was nice.  The road was cleared by a city work crew in slightly less time, but only slightly.

I stood around and watched for a while, chatting with neighborhood locals and taking pictures of the work, which annoyed one First Energy worker but didn't phase any of the others.  I spent some time talking to the Sylvania Township policeman, who was an affable sort.  He was slightly bored by his assignment and was happy to pass the time with someone.  I didn't get his name or badge number, but he'd been a policeman for about 15 years and struck me as the calm, deliberate sort of man I'm glad the township has.

On another note, I hear the squirrels are upset about the spontaneous urban renewal and are planning to file suite against Sylvania Township, The Toledo Blade and First Energy.  I think they're a little nuts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SWAT Teams

I read Beat and Release on a regular basis.  The author is a cop and takes the title for his blog from a politically incorrect police method that is officially no longer employed by law enforcement in the United States.  Since the author writes anonymously for many of the same reasons I do, and since his writing has the feel of authenticity about it, I'm willing to believe the author is what he proclaims to be: a male law enforcement officer working in a large city who is in fair health at best (the man suffers pain stoically), who is married with children and of intemperate disposition and somewhat irascible.  He write well, indicating he possesses intelligence and education.  I find his opinions generally reasonable, and I have developed a fair amount of respect for him.

A few weeks ago Beat and Release (B&R) wrote a short essay entitled Innocent Victims - Where Are They? which is quite good.  B&R points out that:
The majority of crime victims are victimized because they choose to live a specific lifestyle, e.g. drug users who get robbed or murdered while trying to purchase their drug of choice.  Or the dealer who gets murdered by the competition.
Which tends to make a lot of sense when you think about it.  Most people I know do not lead the life of a criminal, and if marijuana were legalized I would truthfully say that none of the people I know are criminals.  They don't cheat on their taxes, abuse family members, steal things, start fights or get blind drunk and go out for a drive while playing with their gun collection.

B&R continues:
It didn't take long for me to discover that the first order of business when assigned a case was to check out the victim.  A lot of the time they had outstanding warrants.  I would have them come in and give me a statement regarding their case, then hook them up on the warrant, clearing two cases in one fell swoop.
I once was stopped for a moving violation and the arresting officer asked me about my driving record.  I couldn't think of any violations in the past five years and said so, whereupon the officer assured me he was going to check my license for outstanding warrants.  I simply shrugged, not knowing how to respond to that statement.  The officer returned shortly thereafter, handed me my license and wished me a nice day, for which I thanked him.  When we experienced a theft at home, the police were very courteous and helped my mother develop better security.  After reading B&R's piece, I would suppose that the police might have been pleasantly surprised to find someone who did not have an outstanding warrant and who was glad to see them.
B&R: I know that doesn't sound right to the average person.  We should rejoice because of that fact.  For those of us who are dedicated to a long career helping others it proves to be a disappointment. 
Which is understandable.  Since B&R intends to spend the vast majority of his time (when he isn't filling out paperwork) interacting with victims and criminals and has presorted these two groups into good guys and bad guys, he must now contend with the fact that, odds are, they are all bad guys.  B&R may work all year and not be able to help someone who really is minding their own business and trying their best to get along, and who has been victimized by a criminal that B&R might be able to catch.
B&R: I simply supplanted the disappointment with a fascination of what one person could do to another, or to themselves.
B&R continues to describe his attitude and talks about his impending retirement.  I would say that he was in a funk when he wrote this and will likely feel better later on.  I would also like to mention that B&R is unofficially credited with coining the term "Shaniqua Theater", a term used to describe in two succinct words the extended “Baby Mama drama” that he and other police have to contend with on a regular basis, and which is aggravating to everyone within earshot.  Everyone with sensibilities somewhat higher than, say, a set of Goodyear radials.

That said, B&R has written a new piece on the police: SWAT Teams and Warrant Service.  In it he talks about SWAT teams (I know, big surprise here, right?  Bite me.) and does so from the perspective of a regular police officer.  This is a good essay and I recommend you read it before continuing. 

Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams had their origin back in the 1960s.  While there was a lot of violence in the U.S. during that period, one event that contributed heavily to the formation of SWAT was Charles Whitman, who killed 14 people from a tower at a university in Texas.  In trying to stop Whitman it was discovered that the police didn't have the firearms or the training they needed to deal with him.  Drug violence in the 1980s made SWAT a necessity.  It's still a necessity today.

B&R makes the valid point:
Fourth - 'dynamic' entry techniques have undoubtedly prevented more injuries and deaths than the public believes.  We only hear about the few that have gone south.
I have no idea how many search warrants are issued and served annually, how many of these are 'no-knock' warrants, how many are served with 'dynamic' entry techniques or how many people are injured in any way during the service of these warrants.  I've never seen this news reported.  I do hear about the search warrants that have gone wrong somehow, but I have no way of knowing if the single event I read about in the local paper is one out of five or one out of 1000.  But, me being a betting man, I'd be willing to bet that the 'dynamic' entry tactics are designed to prevent injury and death to the police.  The welfare of the public whose residence is being search is likely a consideration, but I'm betting the priority of the public welfare isn't anywhere close to the police.

This sounds outrageous until you stop and consider B&R's first essay on innocence and victims.  The people whose front door has been kicked in and who are being held at gunpoint are nothing like most of the people I associate with on a regular basis; they're nothing like anyone I know.  They are, in fact, violent criminals who know why the police are in their living room, who know what the police are going to find and who, given the right opportunity, would cheerfully murder the individual policemen searching their home.  They would then have a party afterward.

My detractors may say that this sounds a little far fetched.  Consider this: When I was young and broke, my girlfriend and I lived on Floyd Street in Toledo, Ohio, which is in the ghetto.  The walls of our apartment were made of quarter inch plywood (a slight exaggeration).  We had the audacity to ask our neighbors in the next apartment to turn their music off, it being one in the  morning and both of us having to go to work later on that day.  We also had the unmitigated gall to get up at six AM, get ready for work and leave; making noise that woke the baby.  So one night after the music got turned off, we heard them plotting to murder us – shoot us as we slept.  So no, I don't think it far fetched that criminals would kill cops and celebrate afterward.

B&R points out that police, including SWAT teams, sometimes make mistakes.
Sixth - when you hear on the news about a SWAT raid hitting the wrong house it is, simply, a fuck-up.  Or a clerical error.  Typos cause problems.  Simply putting the wrong color of the target house on the search warrant can cause this.  If your house is green and your drug dealing neighbor's house is aqua, it is possible to hit the wrong house no matter how much they brief before the raid.  These incidents are unfortunate, but cops, even the highly trained SWAT operators, are human and do make mistakes.
Indeed.  The trouble here is that there is no penalty for making a mistake like this.  Consider that SWAT teams employ violent methods during the execution of their jobs, and that parameters on just what kind and how much violence can be used are established by the police department, not the common citizen.  Those very same parameters are approved by elected officials, such as the local mayor and city council members.  So, when the correct house is searched, the question of abuse by police becomes excessive force.  If the wrong house is raided, the question is still excessive force – since criminal charges are decided (ultimately) by the Department of Justice (DOJ), and since the DOJ works very closely with the police, it's very unlikely criminal charges will be made against the SWAT team.  That leaves civil penalties.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with civil court beyond small claims can attest to the fact that courts run on something called attorney time.  In real time, this means years.  This means that ten years after the SWAT team kicked in the wrong front door or used excessive force, the victim might get some money from the local government.  The police officers involved in the raid may not even remember that particular raid very clearly.  Amounts in these cases vary widely, but I'm told that $50,000 would be the expected amount unless someone is permanently injured or killed.  From B&R:
Tenth - No officer, agent or SWAT operator relishes the taking of a human life, even when someone seemingly deserves it.
Which I think is likely the truth.  If that were the case, the policeman in question would very probably be discovered by his fellow officers and department psychologist and relieved of SWAT duty.  At least, that's what I hope would happen.  What B&R is leaving out is that while SWAT team officers may not relish the act of killing someone, they may be somewhat callous to the act.  These men are dealing with violent criminals; they carry fully automatic weapons and wear extensive body armor.  Before they leave the police station to go and serve the search warrant, they have prepared themselves for a gun fight.  And, if someone else ends up dead, well that's just tough luck.  The police are able to go home to their families.

B&R finishes his essay by admitting that there are bad cops on SWAT teams. 
Now, are there bad SWAT operators like there are bad cops, lawyers, check-out clerks, doctors, etc?  Yes there are.  I recently had a video of a SWAT narcotics search warrant (Missouri, I believe) in which the operators shot a dog in a cage and a small Pekinese.  I try not to second guess situations when I wasn't present, but this was totally uncalled for, in my opinion, even if they found a bale of marijuana in the home.  Seriously, how much damage can a caged dog and a Pekinese really do.  I have stuck my boot in the mouth of a charging pit bull to keep him from attacking.  I doubt I would have much problem controlling a Pekinese, even if his incessant yapping was an epic annoyance.
That there are bad SWAT team members is no surprise to me; what is surprising is that another police officer is willing to admit that this condition exists.  This admission tends to give the rest of the essay a lot of credibility.  The question then becomes what to do about bad behavior?

If we the people, the same people that give the SWAT teams their machine gun, their body armor and their badge want the police and the SWAT team to change their behavior, then I propose the following:
  • Equip each SWAT team member with a camera mounted on their helmet.  Record the raid in its entirety so if any questions about excessive force are asked later on, answers will be a lot more obvious than they are now.  If someone is shot, let's have the whole scenario on digital media for review.
  • Establish criminal penalties for raiding the wrong house.  If the search warrant states the address as 5250 Anystreet and the SWAT teams raids the place next door by mistake, congratulations Ace, you are all criminals.  Expect to be treated as such.

  • Make sure there are no children in the home.  If there are children present, the house doesn't get raided.

  • Hold the judge that signed the search warrant responsible for the behavior of the SWAT team.  The judge knows what the SWAT team is going to do.  The judge also knows that if unnecessary force is used to apprehend a drug dealer, no one will care very much.  Holding the judge liable will make him or her think twice before putting his signature to a search warrant.

  • Publish the results of SWAT teams and search warrants.  If the police are actually fighting crime, we'd all like to hear about it and pass some congratulations around.  As things stand right now no one knows if search warrants are successful or not.
The people who should be hearing about any dissatisfaction are not necessarily the police or the SWAT teams.  The elected officials, especially the ones who don't publish an email address, are the people that should be hearing about this.  Write your elected officials including your local judges and tell them what you think.  They probably won't appreciate hearing from you, but, well, that's life in the fish bowl.

My thanks to Beat and Release for taking time to write his blog.

New Government Plan

The bloviators at the Toledo Blade have been promoting a new form of county government as the panacea for everyone in Lucas county.  If we just had this new charter plan form of government, everything would just magically fall into place.  We'd all have jobs we liked, we'd have lower taxes and we could rely on the government to help us plod along in the right direction at all times.  Here's the article from The Blade, Public hearings set for Lucas County charter plan.

Whether you read The Blade article or not, Maggie Thurber has written an outstanding piece detailing the differences between our current form of county government and the charter form of government.  I strongly recommend everyone read Maggie's essay, Asking the Wrong Questions About a County Charter Form of Government for Lucas County before weighing in on anything.

As announced in The Blade, two public hearings have been scheduled:

The hearings will be at 6:30 p.m. June 8 in the McMaster Center at the Main Library downtown and June 22 at a time and location to be announced.
Come and ask a few questions about just why Lucas county needs a new government.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saturday Night

I planned to take Main Lady to hear John Primer, a blues musician out of Chicago whom I've never heard play, and Big Blues Bob and the Thin Ice Band who I have heard before and who are excellent.  The two acts played Griffin's Hines Farm Blues Club (3750 S Berkey Southern Rd; Swanton, OH 43558-8973), which is a club I've patronized before and always enjoyed.  For those of you who haven't been to the Hines Farm, it's blues club that was part of the Chitlin' Circuit - when there was a chitlin' circuit.  Admission is $12 a head, the indoor venue is cash bar, barbecue ribs and chicken, a dance floor and limited seating.  The outdoor venue corrects the limited seating problems. With the weather being as nice as it was, I was sure the event would be held outside.  It wasn't.

If you decide to go to Hines Farm, and having been there before I know all these things, come early and stake out your seats.  Real estate inside is measured by the square inch and it's all valuable.  Do not go alone, because if you get up to take a whiz your seat will be gone when you get back.  Believe it.  The barbecue ribs are a crap shoot.  Usually the ribs come up seven each time, but you never know.  Order half a rack, and if you like them you can get another half rack.  I've always like the ribs; they are some of the best in the city.  The place smells like kerosene, which is what they use to clean the floors with.  Hines Farm will be clean when you get there, not when you leave.  The Hines Farm venue is limited by seating and by the sewage system, which is a septic tank.  Later in the evening the lady's room will back up and start overflowing, and the women will start using the men's room.  When that goes South, the show's over; but that's around 1:00 AM anyway.

Now then.  Since I thought the venue would be outside (stupid me, right?) I didn't come early, and I only brought Main Lady with me.  I paid my $24 at the gate, walked in and discovered that the venue was being held inside and that it's shoulder to shoulder standing room only.  Main Lady goes off to powder her nose, so I go to the bar to get a couple drinks.  I can't get a drink at the bar.  I've never been ignored at the Hines Farm before, but there's a first time for everything.  Main Lady comes out after an extended stay - evidently there's a line - and I tell her that this is a bust.  She agrees.  On our way out the lady at the door stops us, concerned that we didn't get good hospitality.  When I explain my problem ($25, no seating and I can't get a drink) she is apologetic.  The man out front was supposed to explain that it was standing room only before we came in, and he didn't.  She hustles off and procures two folding chairs and two beers, gratis.  My faith in Hines Farm is restored.

We finish our beer, but as good as the music is this venue is a bust for us.  We can't see the band and both of us are hungry.  Main Lady mentions that there's a Mexican restaurant down the road, and that maybe we should try it.  I agree, so we get the show on the road and head for Swanton.  We ended up at Barron's Cafe.

Barron's Cafe
13625 Airport Highway
Swanton, OH 43558-8551
(419) 825-3474

Barron's Cafe used to be called something else - Hilltop, maybe?  The place has two indoor dining areas and a large outdoor patio.  We started with the outdoor patio, but mosquitoes, cigarette smoke and a table of noisy, drunken fat women drove us inside.  Actually, the perfume from the fat women bothered me more than the smoke, and their constant screeching and yammering was driving me to drink.  At some point I'm certain I would have told them to shut the fuck up.  The atmosphere was a whole lot better indoors, and being re-seated was easy.

Both of us opted for Mexican food.  I had a burrito with a side of beans and rice, and Main Lady had something else, the nature of which I cannot recall.  The food and service are excellent, no more nor less.  However, the real highlight of Barron's was Drinky Smokey Happy the Clown.

Happy the Clown
Birthday Parties, Balloons, Face Painting, etc.
(419) 461-1692

Happy sat at the table and made balloon critters for the waitress's children, which I thought was nice of him.  Being intrigued, I took a few photos.

Happy's Balloons - Some Assembly Required

Happy is the sort of lighthearted person whom I'd describe as a natural clown. It's nice to find someone like this when you're on the town. Main Lady remarked on his license plate as we walked in.

Happy's License

I'd give Barron's Cafe an 8 overall.  I'll be back the next time I want Mexican food, and it's worth the trip out to Swanton. 

Griffin's Hines Farm Blues Club gets a 9, which might seem a tad high to some.  I'm rating Hines Farm with the caveat that you know what you're getting into when you go out there.  Call before you go out and see if the venue is inside or outside, and be forewarned that Hines Farm is not a five star restaurant, but then it doesn't pretend to be. I rate Hines Farm a 9 because of the attitude of the staff; they are very clearly concerned that all the customers enjoy themselves at Hines Farm, and that goes a long way with me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Boycott Wars, Update

Not to be outdone by Los Angeles, mental midget mayor of Columbus, Ohio, Michael B. Coleman has officially banned city workers from traveling to Arizona on government business, citing the Arizona's new immigration law as a good reason to boycott the State of Arizona (click here for the link to the Columbus Dispatch).  Of course, there are a few exceptions to the boycott.  From the Dispatch:

The ban on city-worker travel won't apply to police officers who might be dispatched to Arizona for criminal extraditions, Williamson said. And the review of Arizona contracts won't apply to the city's agreement with Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems, which owns and operates 20 red-light cameras.

A new contract approved by council members this month will double the number of cameras posted at Columbus intersections to issue tickets to red-light-runners.

Rescinding that program "wouldn't make sense to the taxpayers," Williamson said.
I suppose that because we must maintain law and order, police officers would not be affected, even if they're picking someone up that has been subjected to the new immigration law that Williamson is protesting.  Maybe Williamson intends to offer these people political asylum or amnesty as a further means of protest.  Naturally Redflex is immune because it 'wouldn't make sense to the taxpayers'.  What utter bullshit.

I don't believe Williamson has actually read the new law he's protesting. In case anyone is interested, click here for the official text, and here for a site about the people of Arizona fighting back.  This legislation was written and passed because the State cannot compel the Federal Government to enforce immigration law.  Therefore, the State must protect itself, and the way the law is written echoes the Federal immigration law.  Of course, I could be wrong about Williamson. He might not have read the law for himself and just read about the protests against the law, and then figured that this was a good opportunity to show his constituents what a good and wise leader he truly is.  He has to be re-elected, you know.

One obvious question is: How many trips do Columbus city workers make to Arizona?  Click here for the Dispatch article, which says:

Since January 2009, according to the city auditor's office, only three Columbus city employees have had reason to travel to Arizona.
 Three.  Not one, not two, but three whole trips.  I wonder if Arizona will notice the boycott?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boycott Wars

It looks like Los Angeles, CA is going to boycott the State of Arizona due to the controversial immigration law in AZ.  Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law last month, empowering police in the state to stop people they suspect may be illegal immigrants and demand identification.

Arizona responded to LA's boycott by agreeing that a boycott might be in everyone's best interests, especially since LA gets 25% of its electricity from Arizona.  Maybe someone else will want to buy those electrons from Arizona.

Here's a link to the Fox News story: Arizona Official Threatens to Cut Off Los Angeles Power as Payback for Boycott.  Note the spin, "payback".  Idiots.

Meantime, LA Laker's coach Phil Jackson couldn't keep his yap shut, and as a result the news media has something new they can use to suck up bandwidth.  Click here for the LA Times story.  About 40 people showed up at the protest.

In reality the police in AZ already have enough to do without stopping everyone they think may be an illegal immigrant to ask for ID.  Los Angeles already has enough economic problems without taking on more, which is what they've done.  On the bright side, it gives the politicos a hobby.

Aesop's Fable

This was sent to me by my brother, Shotgun Bob, who got it from a transplanted Mexican-Canadian.  It's too good not to pass along.

The Ant and the Grasshopper


The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. He asks the grasshopper to help him, but the grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.



The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. He asks the grasshopper to help him, but the grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

So far, so good, eh?

The shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like him, are cold and starving.

The CBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the ant in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food. Canadians are stunned that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so while others have plenty.

The NDP, the CAW and the Coalition Against Poverty demonstrate in front of the ant's house. The CBC, interrupting an Inuit cultural festival special from Nunavut with breaking news, broadcasts them singing "We Shall Overcome."

Svend Robinson rants in an interview with Pamela Wallin that the ant has gotten rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his "fair share".

In response to polls, the Liberal Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti-Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant's taxes are reassessed, and he is also fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as helpers.

Without enough money to pay both the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.

The ant moves to the US and starts a successful agribiz company.

The CBC later shows the now fat grasshopper finishing up the last of the ant's food, though Spring is still months away, while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he hasn't bothered to maintain it.

Inadequate government funding is blamed, Roy Romanow is appointed to head a commission of enquiry that will cost $10,000,000.

The grasshopper is soon dead of a drug overdose, the Toronto Star blames it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity.

The abandoned house is taken over by a gang of immigrant spiders, praised by the government for enriching Canada's multicultural diversity, who promptly set up a marijuana grow op and terrorize the community.



Movie Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

MJSSE Rating: 6

Time: 2hr 4m
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction

On Mad Jack's Scale of Screen Excellence (0 - 10), I rate this as a solid 6.

Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, reformed mad scientist extraordinaire, fiendishly wealthy entrepreneur and tool using superhero.  Don Cheadle is the loyal sidekick, and the girl is Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow.  The villain is Ivan Vanko as played by Mickey Rourke, and the pseudo villain and adversarial mad scientist is Justin Hammer played by Sam Rockwell.  Usually I don't pay any attention to the players, but since the plot is pure unadulterated comic book and I have to write about something, well, there you have it.

If you don't want to read any spoilers, stop reading and go away.  This is the only official spoiler alert.

First off, let us dispose of the plot.  Stark has a super suit that gives him divine like powers, and so he proceeds to bring about world peace by unspecified means.  Casual reflection would lead any retarded five year old to conclude that it is likely Stark uses promises of mass destruction and examples of same to bring this about, but the movie doesn't go that far.  In bringing about world peace, Stark pisses off the US Military, US Congress, and we may presume the Senate; but oddly not the President (Note: The Anointed One is in office just now).  Stark also pisses off Ivan Vanko, a mad scientist whose Russian family was destroyed by Stark's father and who now wants vodka fueled vengeance.  Then there's a big fight and Iron Man wins - sort of.  Vanko/Rourke's demise is very likely exaggerated, else how would he return to make mischief in Iron Man 3?

The film is a comic book on the big screen, and its only saving grace is that it never pretends to be anything else.  There is one funny scene in which Justin Hammer leaves Vanko with three jailers who have instructions to taze his nuts unless he produces a really cool Iron Man suit right away.  Vanko smiles faintly as Hammer exits.  The film cuts to the scene of a Tony Stark mega-party featuring red hot dancing girls, rock music and hundred dollar bills.  When we get back to Vanko, he is unruffled and his jailers are all hanging from a ceiling fan.

Sam Rockwell does a good job with his role, but the writing falls down about halfway through the film and he ends up being forgettable.  Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) is more strange looking than she is beautiful and given the hotties in the chorus line I wonder what Iron Man sees in her.  If it weren't for Mickey Rourke (villain Ivan Vanko) the entire film would be a waste.  Rourke does a great job as the villain and deserves to win this one.

All in all, this is entertainment.  If you're in the mood for a comic book type movie, see this one during a matinee or wait for the DVD.

Police State

These days I'm more afraid of being shot by the police than I am by anyone else, including downtown gang members.  I took a few minutes to gather the following list:

Tarika Wilson, shot to death by police who couldn't see the target clearly (Tarika) and who thought Tarika was shooting at them.  Turns out she was unarmed, holding her one year old child who was wounded by gunfire.  Her children were nearby when Tarika was killed.

Linda Hicks, shot to death by police.  Linda was mentally ill and was lying in her own bed, in her own bedroom when police kicked in the bedroom door and started screaming commands.  Linda failed to respond correctly and was killed.  At the time of her death she was armed with a pair of scissors.  Linda was over 60 years old and not physically fit at all.

Aiyana Jones, shot to death by police.  Aiyana was seven years old and sleeping on the couch when police raided her apartment.  She was killed by a stray shot - but no one knows just why that shot was fired.

Mike McCloskey, shot in the back and paralyzed from the waist down by Ottawa Hills police officer White.  White was put on unpaid leave for one year until the system could find time to try him for felonious assault with a gun specification.  The jury found him guilty, but it was a very long way from the open and shut case that the police dash cam video shows.  One juror was interviewed and said:

He [anonymous juror] says emotions ran high behind closed doors. "There were 4 of us that was kind of couldn't really decide or was favoring the defendant Mr. White. We found out that later 8 of the jurors believed he was guilty."

Watch the video and explain in simple terms just how anyone could possibly not convict White.

There are other incidents but I see no point in listing them, as the events serve no purpose other than to reinforce what is obviously going on.

A long time ago, not that long ago, a good friend of mine entered into training to become an Ohio State Policeman.  The training was extensive, and when it came time to decide to use your pistol or not the prospective officers were told that, "You'll take an ass whippin' before you draw that pistol."  An officer I spoke with later on told me, disparagingly, "That's pretty old school.  There's no reason for an officer to get hurt when he doesn't have to."

Well, there is.  I listed four reasons and I'm pretty sure others can be found.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Police Protest

I got this from Lisa Renee's Glass City Jungle.  Click here for more information along with heated comments for and against the police department of Ottawa Hills.  In short:
On Sunday May 23rd there will be a rally to protest the Ottawa Hills Police Department, in particular about the shooting of Mike McCloskey.

Bikers – Please meet at Omni, 2567 West Bancroft Street, Toledo at 11 am to start the bike line up. At Noon we will begin the ride through Ottawa Hills, we will end the Ride at 1:30 at the Village Hall at 2125 Richards Rd. off of Bancroft.

Non-Riders – Please assemble at the Village Hall at at 2125 Richards Rd. off of Bancroft at 12:30, the Rally will begin at 12:45.

We hope to have great turn out, so please tell your friends and family, all are welcome! 400+ bikes are already expected, we hope to have as many people for the Rally.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Death in the Family

The only bad thing about owning a dog or cat is that you'll outlive them.  A few years ago Main Lady and I were having dinner with another couple who lived out in Gibsonburg.  This was in the summer, and in the middle of dinner we saw a little cat prowling around the front porch.  Our host explained that the cat originated from the hillbillies next door, and that he'd like to adopt her but he was deathly allergic to cats.  Main Lady promptly went outside to feed her, after which the cat climbed the front door screen to get a better look at the people inside, hoping for more food.  Our host was tolerant, and explained that the little cat came out to see him every evening when he came home from work, and that the hillbillies next door didn't want her.  In point of fact, he'd stopped them from trying to kill her on several occasions.  So we adopted her.  Main Lady named her Ivy, for her propensity to climb everything in sight.


Ivy was an excellent cat, and taught both dogs how to play with her.  Main Lady's old dog, Snella (a Swedish term of endearment) would push Ivy around on the linoleum floor with her nose and the two would sometimes chase each other around the house.  We got Excellent Rachmaninoff after Snella passed, and Ivy was very patient with the puppy, letting him pull her around the linoleum floor by her tail or ears.  Ivy would wait until Rachmaninoff was watching her, then she'd run around the living room which induced him to chase her.

About a month ago the veterinarian discovered that Ivy had a large tumor in her abdomen.  The vet tried drug treatments, but the drugs didn't work well enough to shrink the tumor.  Then Ivy stopped eating regularly and lost weight, and late last week she finally stopped eating altogether.  On Friday, May 14 2010 Main Lady made Ivy's final appointment with the veterinarian.  I went along to help support her and we had Ivy euthanized.

Ivy - May 14, 2010

Sometimes life just sucks.

Ottawa Hills Police Shooting

It was official last week.  Ex-officer Thomas White no longer allegedly shot Michael McCloskey in the back and paralyzed him from the waist down; he actually did it.  The jury deliberated about six hours and returned with a guilty verdict.  Here's the link to the story in the Toledo Blade.

Lucas County Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Lingo described the case as very difficult for him to handle as a former police officer and firearms instructor.

I would say there are no winners. I believe the jury made the right decision," he said. "As I stated during the trial, this was not an indictment of police officers or a department. The officer is not a bad person in that he set out to commit a crime. He used force well in excess of what needed to be used in a situation."
If you believe White's testimony, his gun didn't go off by accident.  White shot Mr. McCloskey in the back on purpose because White felt threatened.  Prosecutor Jeff Lingo characterizes White as "not a bad person", which I consider absolutely, blatantly wrong. White likely thought he was the law incarnate and so above it; he could do as he pleased to whomever he pleased.  Certainly he could shoot a motorcyclist that he'd taken a dislike to.  This is not the hallmark of a good man.

First of all, White's feelings are not a priority for me, nor should they be for anyone.  If White, or any police officer feels threatened they should just have to learn to live with it.  That isn't what happened here, and it isn't happening in other places and other instances either.  It is, however, what should happen.  Secondly, the men and women on a police force are being given a gun and a badge and told to enforce the law.  That order does not have the caveat 'without abusing your authority', and it should have.  We are seeing far too much abuse of authority by police.  Finally, those police who do abuse their authority should end up in prison.  I hope that's what happens in this case, but I have doubts.

If you'd like to see White do time behind bars, I encourage you to write to the judge and express your opinion.  In this case the judge is:

Judge Gary G. Cook
Lucas County Common Pleas Court
4th Floor - Courtroom #9
700 Adams
Toledo, OH  43604-5678

I believe that letters received by a judge really do make a difference, and I encourage everyone to write.  White is facing up to 11 years, but that's not saying he'll be sentenced to anything close to that.  For my part, I'd like to see him sentenced to 25 years to life in a maximum security prison.  I'll have to settle for 11.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What do you do when life sucks?

When life just fucking sucks pond scum, what's your plan?  When you're out of work and money's tight, and your creditors have followed through with their promise to ruin your credit rating by turning your account over to a professional collection agency who has yet to discover you don't give a shit because your credit is already shot to hell, what is your best course of action?  When your friends have stopped calling you, and don't answer the phone when you call them, and even their voice mail doesn't work for you because they aren't returning any of your calls, and the bartenders at your favorite five watering holes have told you not to show up anymore until you can pay off your tab, what is left?

Road trip.


As it turned out, Roomful Of Blues was playing The Thirsty Ear in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, May 13th 2010 and I wanted to see them.  Since my brother Big Mike lives in Dublin with his roommate Lash, and since both men are generous people - not to a fault - it was easy for me to secure quarters for one night and a comrade to go out drinking and clubbing with, namely Mike.  Lash wasn't interested.

About 3:00 Thursday afternoon I put my car under me and pointed my nose South; by 5:30 I was in Dublin.  Ohio, Snorkelnose, Ohio - not Ireland.  Mike suggested we go out to Barley's Smokehouse and Brewpub, which turned out to be an outstanding place to eat and drink.

Barley's Smokehouse and Brewpub
1130 Dublin Road
Columbus, OH 43215-1039
(614) 485-0227
M - Thr: 11 am - 10 pm; Fri - Sat: 11 am - 11 pm; Sun: Noon - 8:30 pm

This is a brewery, first and foremost, and the beer is absolutely first rate.  The dress code is casual and the ambiance is much more in keeping with a brewery than a sports bar or restaurant.

Fresh Beer Sold Here!


Beer List

I had the Scottish Ale, which I heartily recommend to everyone.  Everyone, that is, who is interested is drinking something besides BudBudLightMickMickLightBushBushLightandWeaselSpit.  Mike had the Hoptopus which he claims is better than the Scottish Ale.  Mike is wrong about this, by the way.

The place also offers smoked barbecue.  I had pulled pork fajitas, which is smoked and dry seasoned pulled pork with flour tortillas and the usual fajita condiments.  Mike had a sampler plate which included home made sausage - outstanding!  The service was much better than I expected.  Our waitress was friendly and was available when we needed her for something and didn't pester us with inane waitress questions (Is everything delicious!?) while we were enjoying our dinner.  I had two Scottish Ales and would have had a third, but it was getting late and I've learned to pace myself.

On a scale of zero to 10, I give the service a solid 8, the food and drink an 8.5 and the ambiance a 7, giving Barley's Smokehouse and Brewpub  a solid 8 overall.  Wherever else I go in Columbus has to beat Barley's, and that is not going to be easy.

The Thirsty Ear is only a short distance from Barley's, and we arrived around 7:00.  There is not much parking to be had, so if you decide to visit The Thirsty Ear, plan on parking on a side street somewhere and walking.  We scored rock star parking on a side street, which was nice.

The Thirsty Ear
1200 West Third Avenue
Grandview, OH 43212
(614) 299-4987
Tues-Wed-Thur 4:00pm - 2:30am
Fri-Sat 4:00pm - 2:30am
Sunday 4:00pm - 12:30am (or later)

What you have to understand about The Thirsty Ear is that it's a neighborhood bar.  Regulars go there to drink and socialize, and the venue reflects that - or at least it did before The Ear changed hands recently.  For instance, there used to be a series of neon beer signs in the front window which provided a nice 60 megahertz hum to the sound system.  The bar was always open - it's a bar, right?  How are people like me going to sit and morosely drink beer, wondering why life sucks if the bar stops serving?  Answer to rhetorical question: We'll go somewhere else.  So, for example, when the California Guitar Trio played the Thirsty Ear and expected some version of a crowd that enjoys chamber music and a venue suitable for same, they may have been a tad put off by the 60 megahertz hum, the crash and rattle of the bar business and the locals ignoring them and their refined music in favor of the game on TV and general conversation.  But like I say, the place has changed hands.  The beer signs are gone, an outdoor patio has been added and there are plans to open up the room next door to handle entertainment.  The Ear serves bar food; pizza, wings and the occasional sandwich.  The kitchen is sketchy and might or might not be open.  The drinks are bar drinks with enough top shelf to satisfy the occasional poseur connoisseur who wants something different.  The ambiance is that of a neighborhood bar that's being reinvented as something else.  Go figure.  The service was a little sketchy.  Our original server was a chubby sour looking blond girl who clearly wanted to be somewhere else and reluctantly took our orders.  About halfway through the evening the blond left and was replaced by two young men, one of whom sussed out that if he served us he'd get money.  Our service improved.  I rate the food and drink at a 7, the service at a 6 and the ambiance at a 7.  Overall, the place gets a 7, and I wouldn't hesitate to return - but make no mistake about what the Ear is; a bar.  It is not an upscale watering hole with pretty young men and women trying to decide who will be going home with who or what.  Some of the women you'll find at the Ear have more miles on them than I-75.

Our Doorman

As a sort of bonus to our evening, both bar TVs were tuned to the Boston Celtics vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers with the sound off.  That didn't stop the locals from watching the game and howling or commenting as they saw fit, which didn't bother Roomful of Blues at all.

Ticket Please!

 I showed our ticket to the doorman and we got in without issue.  While Mike hit the head I commandeered an unwatched bar stool someone had placed across the room next to the wall.  The stool was not structurally sound, but being an old pro I didn't care.  I moved it to the bar next to an unclaimed stool and asked everyone to squeeze over a little.  Evidently the other men at the bar were either pros or retired pros because they wordlessly moved over to accommodate another stool.  It's nice to deal with a professional. The one and only woman at the bar wanted to bitch about it, but her boyfriend was disinclined to champion her cause so she reluctantly moved down.


The venue in the bar consisted of the bar and bar stools on one side, folding chairs and a few cocktail tables on the other.  The chairs that were next to a table were already scarfed up, so we were fortunate to get seats at the bar.  Around showtime the place filled up to standing room only.

The Crowd on the Left

Bar Crowd

The Ear is a small place, and this is the crowd at the start of the first set.  Note that no one seems to care about the odd looking photographer.

Roomful of Blues Warming Up

The band didn't make any bones about getting set up or warming up.  Quite obviously they don't need to make a grand entrance or keep the audience waiting, which I found refreshing.  I find it irritating to have to wait any length of time for a band to show up.  Roomful was prompt, and I and the audience appreciated that.

The Blue Suit

The fellow in the blue suit is a new edition to the Thirsty Ear.  Mike and I were trying to decide if he is one of the new owners or is the front man.  Here's a slightly better photo of him below.

The Suit

The man wasn't unfriendly, but seemed a little full of himself.  His attire is a somewhat modified zoot suit constructed of sofa fabric.  I think the hair is real; it's perfectly coiffed and held in place by six ounces of hair spray.  If he got hit in the head with a pool cue, I doubt he'd feel a thing.  He is the master of ceremonies (emcee) and in addition to being overdressed he worked far and away too hard to get applause for the act.  He could have accomplished more with less in all aspects.

Here's the band, front line.

Roomful Of Blues

Here's the back line, keyboard, drums and bass.  The horns and vocalist are on a short break while the guitar player keeps everything going.  The guitarist was good, but not excellent.

Roomful Of Blues

Roomful of Blues is a real band, which is to say there are no superstars or headliners.  Each member gets equal billing and equal time.  The specialty is blues and jump blues or swing, and as anyone who has heard them can attest they are excellent in this genre.  I expected that the evening material would be from their latest CD Raisin’ A Ruckus, and some of it was.  They did new arrangements of Round it Down and Black Night along with a few others.  The rest of the first set was new, original material yet to be recorded.  One of the numbers I enjoyed was an arrangement of an old standard, Jambalaya, heavily influenced by swing music style.  While other bands have tried this one, Roomful is the only band I've heard yet that hasn't butchered the song and failed miserably in the attempt.  Roomful played two long sets and kept the audience entertained throughout both sets.  They did an excellent job and I'm glad I went to see them.  The only bad news was the sound board.

The Thirsty Ear is a small venue.  The horn section (trumpet and two saxophones) did not need to be amplified and was, while the bass tended to get drowned out.  Perversely, so did the drums - which is something I've never experienced before.  The keyboard and guitar were amplified correctly.  The thing was that when a performer or section took the lead, they weren't turned down at the end of the solo.  The result was that the vocals were being drowned out, then were so loud that the lyrics got distorted.  To compensate for the vocals, the sound guy would turn up the horn section, then the keyboard and guitar would get turned up.  The bass and drums got neglected to the point where the bass player had to keep his eyes on the drummer to make sure the two were on good speaking terms - which they were until the sound man decided to get creative, then the two were forced to use sign language.

As a whole, the band started off at just the right volume.  They got progressively louder with each number and when the second set started they were noisy enough to be uncomfortable.  We stayed for about five numbers into the second set and then we left.  My ears were ringing and so were Mike's.  This is the only major flaw in an otherwise perfect evening, and in my mind the man at the sound board should be replaced at the first opportunity, or at least have his job explained to him in very concise terms.

Roomful Of Blues is easily one of the top three bands of its kind in the U.S. and I'd cheerfully go see them again. I'm confident that they'll get the sound problem straightened out before then.  I spoke to the sax player briefly who thanked me for coming to see them and told me to look for their next CD in the fall.

The evening ended around midnight back at Mike's place for a generous nightcap from his top shelf.  Naturally I chose Glenfiddich, which is a very smooth scotch whiskey and just the thing for the end of the evening.  Mike prefers Laphroaig which is excellent, but a bit rough for the end of the night.


Professionals will recognize the two short tumblers on the right as high quality scotch glasses; leaded crystal with a fourteen carat gold rim.  The empty glass on the left is a bourbon glass, leaded crystal with a square base.  Mike has always possessed refined taste when it comes to whiskey, a trait of his that I continue to admire.  Rather than a learned quality, Mike seems to come by this naturally.

Between the music, beer, food and liquor I am restored to something of my old self.  My road trip was a success.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ottawa Hills Shooting

The Village of Ottawa Hills was established in 1915 as the hole in the doughnut, or refuge from the city of Toledo.  The city of Toledo would like to annex the village, but seeing as how village residents are wealthy and affluent beyond anything Toledo will ever have to offer, I don't think that will happen anytime soon.  Here are the boundaries of Ottawa Hills.

If you believe their official website (click here) everyone is welcome to come in and take a look around.  From the Ottawa Hills welcome page:

We invite you to take a look around. Ottawa Hills might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
While you're visiting just be sure you fit in with the rest of the populace.  That is, you have money, prestige and carry the business cards of a whole slew of personal friends and business associates that no smart cop would cross.  Also plan on meeting Officer Friendly of the Ottawa Hills Police Department.  Officer Friendly likes to get to know the residents real well.  Again, from the official Ottawa Hills website:

Ottawa Hills has its own full-time fire and police departments, and it’s not surprising for residents to know the names of police officers and firefighters.  Taking the time to know families and pets is just one example of what makes this village special.

If this is true, then Officer Thomas White knew that Michael McCloskey was not a resident of Ottawa Hills.  Therefore, Officer White was completely justified in pulling McCloskey over and shooting him in the back.  Officer White felt threatened.  Click here for the dash cam video of the shooting, courtesy of ABC, and here for coverage from the Toledo Blade and here for a complete story from the Newsmeister.

The shooting occurred on May 23, 2009 and is Thomas White finally coming to trial to face felonius assault with a firearm specification.  After watching the video, I would think this POS would be facing a more serious charge, but the rules are different for police.  The real miracle here is that White is being charged at all.

I've read arguments that White may have had an accidental discharge, which I doubt are accurate.  White is using a Glock pistol which has a very long trigger pull designed to prevent the pistol from being discharged accidentally.  White was angry with the victim, as evidenced by his actions after the shoot.  White continues to curse and harass McCloskey after shooting him in the back, and will not lift McCloskey's motorcycle off him, which resulted in McCloskey's leg being burned so badly it might have to be amputated.

This entire incident shows the unbelievable arrogance of the Ottawa Hills police.  Obviously the police believe they are allowed to threaten anyone they like by pulling and pointing that pistol they carry.  If they shoot, too bad for the target.  He shouldn't have ventured into Ottawa Hills.

I think it's past time for tolerance of the tyrannical, fascist actions of an ungoverned police department.  Until new governmental officials are elected, carry the telephone numbers of your attorney and a good bail bondsman with you along with a video camera.  If enough incidents like this one are captured on video and released on the Internet, maybe our elected officials will begin to understand we won't take the abuse any longer.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Electronic Death and Ressurection

I got up this morning and after jump starting my heart I went in to teach a dance lesson.  Easier said than done, as I don't care for exercise first thing in the morning.  Anyway, after I got the place unlocked and the sound system fired up, I plugged in my iPod and... nothing.  No lights, no sound, no nothing.  I fooled around with the cursed thing, but no luck.  The iPod was deader than a staunch Republican at the last presidential election.  In more than a little desperation I managed to coax an ancient laptop to boot and, wonder of wonders, found the laptop owner's copy of iTunes.  I connected the laptop to the stereo and was temporarily saved.

I've got a 60 Gig iPod that Shotgun Bob bought me for my birthday some years back.  Having it bite the big one wasn't surprising, but it was very vexing.  A new replacement will start at $250, and they go up from there.  Then there's the whole iPod vs. mp3 question to rehash, because if I'm spending over two bills on anything, I'm going to think it over pretty carefully, and I'm not real happy with Apple just now over the 'stolen' iPhone crap. I'd sooner take my bread elsewhere, if it's anything close to quick, fun and easy.

When I finally got back home I posted an RFC on ToledoTalk - hey, why not?  Maybe someone knows something I don't and I can get some help.  That was at 1:56 PM.  By 7:00 PM I had a solution courtesy of ToledoTalk user Mesmerix:

1. Toggle the Hold switch on and off. (Slide it to Hold, then turn it off again.)

2. Press and hold the Menu and Center (Select) buttons simultaneously until the Apple logo appears, about 6 to 8 seconds. You may need to repeat this step.

Tip: If you are having difficulty resetting your iPod, set it on a flat surface. Make sure the finger pressing the Select button is not touching any part of the click wheel. Also make sure that you are pressing the Menu button toward the outside of the click wheel, and not near the center.
I had tried a version of this before with no success.  The difference this time was that I put the iPod on a solid, flat surface and was very careful about positioning my fingers on the click wheel.  I pressed down and in five seconds had an Apple logo on the screen. 

My iPod is back! 

My thanks and a hoist of the bourbon glass to Mesmerix, who saved me from spending a couple hundred dollars today.  Thanks Mesmerix!  Here to you!

Click here for the original thread on ToledoTalk.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Michigan State Police

Last night (Friday, May 7th 2010) Main Lady was going to drive to the Detroit Metro airport and pick up two out of the three little darlings who were flying in to celebrate Mother's Day.  Flopsy and Mopsy were planning on being in Sylvania, while Cottontail would spend Mother's Day with her other half in the Twin Cities.  I advised Main Lady that my services as official driver were available if she needed them, and she gracefully declined.  Main Lady would be taking her mother along for the ride and there wasn't room.  I was somewhat relieved, as my ideology is not a good fit to theirs, me being male and therefore somewhat unrefined. I'm given to understand that none of these lovelies hold this against me, but treat me like some dear friend's retarded younger brother; "Just bear with him.  He can't help himself, you know."  Which, frankly, is fine with me as the general atmosphere remains tranquil that way.

So I find a combination dinner, which is half healthy (chicken breast salad made with Romaine lettuce and other good things, humus, whole wheat bread, water) and half not (red hot buffalo wings, whiskey).  I anticipate a nice evening spent alone watching Rome, Season Two and getting nicely, quietly drunk in the privacy of my own home.  Then the phone rings.  Main Lady has reevaluated her marginal utilities and decided to avail herself of my offer to drive her.  Her mother is staying at home.  What can I do?  I put everything away and promise myself I'll watch one episode of Rome later on tonight and I hit the road.

Flopsy is supposed to be on the ground at 6:30 PM, and Mopsy follows at 8:30 PM.  We pull out around 7:30, fuel up the car and I point my nose North on US 23.  The weather, in a word, sucks.  We hit one rain squall after another, but by the time we get to DTW the weather is clearing up.  Of course Mopsy's plane is late, so I play the park and orbit game.

For those of you who haven't been to the Detroit Metro Airport since the advent of the TSA, I advise you to stay away if possible.  Traffic is unwelcome and regulations prohibit stopping or standing for any length of time.  The fat TSA traffic cops waddle among four lanes of cars, arrogantly ordering drivers to move along.  Cars circle the airport, making their way back to the arrival gate, only to be ordered to move again.  Black SUVs with the official TSA logo emblazoned on the door panels and light bars bolted to the roof patrol constantly, keeping traffic moving.  As flights arrive traffic backs up and is ordered to move, no exceptions.  On Main Lady's suggestion I drive to the departures gate where, as it turns out, we can wait for Mopsy undisturbed.

We try calling Mopsy with no luck, and I discover my cell phone won't work.  Neither will Main Lady's. The towers and/or servers at Sprint are overloaded.  Fortunately for us all Flopsy has Cingular service which works nicely, and around 9:15 PM Mopsy is in the car relating her experience with the TSA.  Mopsy brought two glass bookends, a package of tea, another of coffee and several books in her carry on luggage.  The TSA went bat shit over the glass bookends and there was a delay.  Try explaining why you might want to carry bookends in your luggage to a chimpanzee and you'll have a rough idea of the conversation.  Main Lady and the two little darlings find the situation hilarious.  I find it disturbing in a sinister way I can't quite articulate.

I head West on I-94 and hook with US 23 South.  Along the way we stop for dinner at the Harvest Moon Cafe (5484 West Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, MI 48197-9213, (734) 434-8100) which I rate as a 7.5, on a scale of zero to 10.  If they turned the decor up a notch they'd have a solid 8 or 8.5.  My hunger assuaged I continue South on US 23.  The weather is better and the traffic is light.  That's when we see the semi.

I can't remember the license number or the name of the truck line, which was written on the back of the trailer.  I can remember the truck weaving from line to line, which Mopsy commented on.  I'm doing 70 and I ease off a little, hanging back and watching.  This clown in the semi gets half off the road onto the berm, then over corrects and veers into the left lane.  "Oh, he's drunk!  What should we do?" Flopsy is agitated.  I'm wondering how safe it would be to pass him and conclude that I'm better off where I am, ready to panic stop should the semi driver lose it.

"Well," I say, "I suppose we could do our civic duty and call the police."

"Do you think they'll do anything?" Flopsy wants to know.

"Yeah, they'll pick him up for drunk driving." Mopsy replies.

"Oh yeah, they'll do something." I'm somewhat pessimistic.  US 23 is a long highway and this is one semi out of many.  Then your particular emergency has to go through the dispatch system... well, it's a long walk from Mad Jack to a Michigan State Trooper.  I don't voice my concerns.

"Ok, Flopsy, you call it in." Mopsy decides.  A cell phone is located and Flopsy connects to nine one one, then can't explain the situation.  I choke back a somewhat pithy comment.

"Hi, nine one one?  This is Flopsy and I'm in a car, well it's not my car, it's mommy's, no wait, we're in Grandma's car, and there's this guy driving a truck - no, I don't know, I'm just trying to report - um, well, I think we're in Michigan..."  On reflection, I feel sorry for the 911 dispatch operator.  Main Lady takes over.

"Hello, this is Main Lady.  We're at exit seven on South US 23 and there is a drunk driving a semi ahead of us.  He's weaving from side to side and driving on the berm.  No, I can't see his license number."

At this point I check the mirrors and the left lane, then I change lanes and accelerate to reading distance.  Main Lady reads the license number off the trailer along with the State.  She also reads the name of the trucking company emblazoned on the back of the trailer, then she gets dropped.

"What did nine-eleven say?"  I ask, falling back to a safe distance.

"She said she'd put it out there.  She also said to stay away from him."  Main Lady replies.

"No problem."  I say, easing back another hundred feet or so.  The driver continues to weave.

"I bet they don't do anything."  Flopsy says.  "They probably don't care."

"Well, it's a big highway.  They have to find this guy and that isn't easy."  I try to put some optimism 'out there'.  What does she mean by, "I'll put it out there" anyway?

"I think they'll look for him." Mopsy is the eternal optimist.  "Maybe they'll find him."

We drive for another few minutes and pass mile marker three.  The discussion in the car is not optimistic, as the drunk will be Ohio's problem in another minute or so.  Then an SUV comes up on me and I see that the driver has the hammer down.  When he passes we can all see the light bar, whip antennas and the big Michigan Highway Patrol logo on the side.

"Look!  There they are!" Flopsy is happy, as are we all.

While the Trooper was coming up on me the semi changed lanes into the left lane, intending to pass the truck in front of him.  The trooper comes up on the semi and tailgates at about 10 to 15 feet, and he stays there for what seems like forever.  I suspect he's reading the plate and calling it in.  Just about the time we think that nothing's going to happen, the trooper activates his light bar.  It's real pretty from where I sit.  The truck doesn't stop.

"Why isn't he stopping?"  Mopsy wants to know.

"Give it time." I say.  "The driver is trying to pretend the police are after someone else."  It turns out I'm telling the truth, as the semi switches back to the right lane, then when the Michigan State Police refuse to go bother someone else, the driver pulls off onto the berm.

Cheers erupt from our car.

"Well, it's for his own safety." Flopsy opines, feeling some sympathy for the driver.

"I don't care about his safety.  I care about mine." I have no sympathy for the driver.  "That guy is either drunk or too tired to drive, and he could have killed someone."

"Yeah.  Maybe this will wake him up." Mopsy says.

With any luck he'll pass out and wake up in a cell, and having screwed up once too often he'll lose his professional driver's license.

My thanks to the Michigan State Police, and particularly to the dispatcher who fielded our call, and to the State Trooper who pulled over a semi on Friday, May 7, 2010 around 11:00 PM who was headed South on US 23 about 2 miles North of the Ohio border.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Flower Photos

I took these photos over the last few days and I'm happy with the results, for the most part anyway.  These are four examples out of about fifty shots.


I finally got my camera to focus on the flower instead of the background.  I'm using a Panasonic Lumix DMZ-TZ4 which is basically a point and shoot.  The problem I have is getting the camera to focus on the subject instead of something in the background.  I've been trying to get this flower in good focus for several weeks and finally managed it.

Double Tulip

I believe these are called double tulips.  They're pretty unusual and I was happy to catch the flower in bloom.  This photo seems just a little out of focus to me, but it's the best one so far.

Parrot Tulip

This is called a parrot tulip and is the only one of its kind in Main Lady's garden.  I think the squirrels may have done for the others, or perhaps not.  It's hard to get a good photo of the unusual shape of the flower.  Most of the other photos show this flower as a sort of homogeneous mixture of flower petals.

Neighbor's Tulips

These are grown by a neighbor who seems to have a green thumb along with the time and energy to plant several hundred bulbs in her garden.  Her backyard is a riot of colorful flowers and flowering shrubs.  I was able to get a decent photo showing the unusual color of these flowers which has eluded me before.  I think that the green background helps.

A Dog Story

While I was out and about the other day I spotted a hawk patrolling the area from a nearby tree.  The other birds had successfully harried him and driven him out of one yard, and he came to rest some distance away.


For some reason this picture put me in mind of the famous hunting dog, Killer Butch.  Those of you who follow pointer bloodlines and champion dogs, and who are old enough to remember the sixties without slipping a cog will naturally recognize the dog I'm referring to here as the original Killer Butch.  For those who do not, allow me to enlighten you.

Hillbilly Red and Pollack Joe used to go out hunting and fishing on a regular basis.  They hunted pheasant, rabbit and squirrel, with the occasional raccoon thrown in as opportunity presented.  Red owned several bird dogs including a large German shorthair pointer whom he named Butch.  Butch had a lot of endurance, was selectively deaf and if you wanted him to hang around you attached one end of a heavy chain to Butch and got a very firm grip on the other end.  Butch would retrieve better than most and Red liked him, so during upland game or waterfowl season Butch was an important part of the group.

One fine day in the field Red spied a hawk sitting in a tree, and after some consideration Red let fly with a red hot load of number six shot which knocked mister hawk right out of the air.  True to form, Butch went to retrieve the bird. The thing was, the hawk wasn't dead and deeply resented being retrieved.  A battle royal started up out in the brush and by the time Red could make his way over to the dog, Butch came out with a chewed up hawk and a few battle scars around his muzzle.

Butch was a smart dog and he learned something important that day, namely that whatever you retrieve you'd better make damn sure it's dead, or at least too far gone to put up a fight.  The very next bird Butch retrieved got a thorough field dressing before being delivered to Red, as did the next rabbit and the next whatever else the dog went after.  Shortly thereafter Joe christened him Killer Butch and the moniker stuck.

Joe had his own dog, another German shorthair pointer who was well trained.  Joe's dog Susie would sit quietly, would work closely with the hunters and would come when called.  When Susie retrieved a bird she would make her way over to Joe and stylishly deliver the bird to his hand, just like she was trained to do.  Joe spent a lot of time training Susie, and would work with her every afternoon.  The first time Joe took Susie out with Red and Butch, Susie pointed, Joe knocked down the bird, Susie picked it up, and Butch promptly took the bird away from her and gave it a good field dressing before bringing whatever was left back to Red.  Joe was somewhat incensed over this behavior.  Thereafter, whenever Joe knocked down a pheasant he would take to his heels so as to beat Killer Butch to the bird, the same bird that Susie was trying to retrieve, and grab the bird ahead of Butch.  I remember seeing Joe run over and snatch up his pheasant just ahead of Butch, then hold the bird up as high as he could and keep turning away from the dog as Butch jumped and tried to get the bird.  The two would keep up their little dance until Red could get over and get hold of Butch and make him quit.

Needless to say the episode with the hawk pretty much spoiled Butch as a retriever, but Red liked him so he ended up spending many more years in the field, happily making sure everything was dead on arrival for Red.

And that's how Killer Butch got his name.