Ahhhhh hates that varmint

I am beset by all manner of rodentia. Meeces. Wabbits. Squirrels. Chipmunks. And now, groundhog. Varmint-sized groundhog. Woodchuck. A burrowing, fly-drawing, smelly groundhog. Regular readers of AkronDave (both of them) have seen what happens to critters that think they see an easy mark at my humble abode.

I saw the groundhog in question (or a close relative) in my backyard a week or so ago, and thought, boy, I’d hate to have that thing move in to my yard. Then we found a big ol’ hole in the ground right by the foundation of my house. And the smell. Varmint poo. And to think we were blaming a neighborhood cat. Then I acquired visual confirmation that a VarmintCong-type groundhog had taken up residence in my yard (he poked his fuzzy head out of the hole before he spotted my shadow).

As such, I have applied for and granted myself License to Kill VarmintCong.

And that's all she wrote.

Already, my plans are taking shape. The varmint has taken the bait. Now we wait to see if it’s enough to do it in. If not, I have a slightly more radical approach. Not Carl Spackler’s blow-the-joint-to-Kingdom-Come spectacle, but it does involve some manner of pyrotechnics – namely a poison smoke bomb, courtesy of your favorite Lowe’sDepot. The Acme Varmint Bomb, in Warner Bros cartoonspeak.

That’s probably more effective than Yosemite Sam’s wooden mallet:

Goodnight, varmint. (Click to play video)

You have to play the video for a few minutes to get to the scene pictured above.  Definitely worth the wait.

If those PETA nutjobs get their panties in a bunch, they’re welcome to come adopt the groundhog and give it a new home – far, far from here.

But they had better hurry: I just sprinkled some more bait in the Varmint hole.

(Still more) Pelee Island fun

PELEE ISLAND, ONTARIO, Aug. 22 – Eric’s car battery died again. He noticed that the dome light would spontaneously light after after it had gone dark. A dome light will kill a battery for sure (I have blogged on other media about this very phenomenon before, although calling it a “phenomenon” is probably placing far greater significance on leaving a light on than it deserves). I digress.

The battery was almost dead beyond revival on Friday. It finally jumped, but by Saturday morning it was dead again, or at least too weak to crank the starter. You have to expect these kinds of things with a 20-year-old Cavalier (the Chevolet Cavalier, not the recently shunned-by-LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers – dang, I promised not to write anymore about that! Dang!).

I digress again.

Pelee's Purple Passion shortly after sunrise.

Meanwhile, the rain continued unabated till nearly sundown Saturday. We all crashed by 10 (living la vida loca!), except Matt, who found a book by James Patterson (Swim Suit) far more entertaining than his lame assigned book for school.

By 5 a.m. I could see stars (once I got some glasses on).

Tori, the girl staying next door with her mom and grandparents, was at our door by 8:30 a.m.

Here comes the sun?

DeAnne and I took a walk on the beach, drinking in the aroma of sun-baked fish and the clouds returning to block the sun once again. But not before we saw a textbook Pelee sunrise.  Having had my fill of zebra mussel shells crunching and poking at the bottom of my feet, I returned to the “Pelee Shrimp Shack,” as I have unofficially dubbed it, while DeAnne continued her hunt for the perfect shell.

Although we had talked of one last swim before leaving today, Lindsey pronounced it too cold for swimming, which means it really is too damn cold for swimming.

Matt, Lindsey and Natalie stay relatively dry this time.

Natalie disagreed, mainly because a motivated 4-year-old will ignore the icebergs and jump right in, shouting, “Come on in, the water’s fine!”

Meanwhile, a butterfly recently emerged from its chrysalis airs out its wings. Any entomologists out there who can identify this species? I see blue, black and hints of red/orange.

Inside, meanwhile, Lindsey has grown weary of the younger girls’ nonstop game of hide-and-seek; they have long-ago exhausted the supply of hiding places in the house.

The neighbors lent Eric a battery charger for insurance, and a few minutes after noon were heading for our rendez-vous with the Pelee Islander and a decidedly less-bouncy return to the mainland.

Natalie and Lindsey on return voyage aboard the M.V. Pelee Islander

(More) Island fun

PELEE ISLAND, ONTARIO, Aug 21. – It’s raining. It’s pouring. If it doesn’t break it’s gonna get boring.

"Uncle" John preps his bike for the ferry ride to Pelee. DeAnne and Lindsey are in background.

No radio. No TV. Just Harry Connick Jr. crooning over the iPod and wireless speakers (we’re not complete cavemen!) as the waves wash ashore and everything else drips sleeplily. Clothes hung out to dry are anything but dry, but nobody’s terribly concerned. It’s Saturday on Pelee Island. No worries, no hurries.

John and Eric are napping. I just woke up from a brief snooze. It’s been raining for four or five hours (and will continue to rain for three or four more hours). Nothing stormy or violent. Just drip. Drip. Drip. The girls are next door (I think). Matt is upstairs with some required reading before he begins freshman year at Firestone High. A little down time isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The morning was all about the beach. Although yesterday’s stout wind had died down, the surf was still pounding the beach behind us on the island’s east side, where my sister and brother-in-law have a nice cottage.

This made for some fun splashing and body surfing. I caught a pretty decent 3-, maybe 4-footer just before it broke, and later a smaller wave flipped my raft chair as it broke over a sandbar closer to shore. Alas, that image was not preserved for prosperity or Facebook. But there are others. To wit:

Lindsey and Matt feign peril in waves.

Now, having played several hands of double solitaire and several games of euchre and having read several more hilarious chapters of When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, and having gotten rid of distractions such as “lunch” and “children,” it’s time to get serious.

About what, I have no idea. None. I just instinctively know I’m supposed to get serious about something.

Natalie and her Aunt DeDe

My wife is here, being reasonably civil but not especially festive. It takes her a while to catch the island groove. She is serious enough for the both of us these days. Maybe that’s how I should play this card. Pass the serious card to her. Here. Go fish. Better yet, that’s what I’ll do: go fish.

Eric has just awakened from a deep five-minute slumber to announce, “It’s gonna rain all day.” Yup. This leads to wisecracks about John taking his tent outside in the rain instead of under the steps “like Harry Potter.” Did Harry Potter sleep in a tent under the steps? I don’t know, I didn’t read the series. Seriously, do I look like I’m 11 years old? (Matt, who was 11 much more recently than I was, informs me that indeed young Master Potter did at times dwell beneath the stairs. Tommy, from the rock opera of the same name by The Who, might have been a more appropriate cultural reference for me, although I was a tad young for that. I’m an orphaned stair-dwelling-oppressed-child-pop-culture-reference person.

Dinner tonight is burgers, tater salad and beans. I am the chief cook and bottle washer tonight. Good thing the windows will be open all night.

The "adults": Eric, DeAnne, John.Wait, shouldn't there be another "grown-up"?

James Kilpatrick, voice of The Writer’s Art

I can’t say that I often agreed with James Kilpatrick’s political worldview. Here was, after all, a formerly staunch segregationist who editorially led the fight against desegregating public schools in the face of Supreme Court rulings.

He eventually relented on that cause, once he realized it was lost forever.

But the man could write. And his approach, like that of  his longtime contemporary William F. Buckley, was decidedly more gentlemanly than most of the current crop of writers, pundits and shouting heads.

Kilpatrick, 89, died Sunday, according to various media reports.

Kilpatrick made other contributions as well, including a syndicated column called The Writer’s Art, featuring his well-constructed views on what constitutes good writing (and, more entertainingly, bad writing). He stopped writing that column in 2009 after a long run. He would occasionally joust with his pals and fellow conservative wordsmiths Buckley and William Safire, and other writers. I found his advice to be sage and worthy of observing.

Like one of the critics quoted on the jacket of his book (or at least one version of the jacket), I thought The Writer’s Art (published in 1984) belonged on a writer’s bookshelf along with Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Strunk and White (and if you have to ask what the name of their book was, you obviously never took a journalism class in your life, and I’d call into question any English classes you took).

Kilpatrick spent much of his career in Washington and nearby Virginia. In the late ’80s he moved a little further south – to Charleston, S.C., buying a rather exclusive property near the historic Charleston Battery. That particular part of Charleston has a reputation for being very insular, but he seemed to be accepted. He had the terrible misfortune of closing on that house only a week or two before Hurricane Hugo struck in September 1989. I seem to recall that the house received extensive damage, as did much of Charleston. (I was evacuated from Myrtle Beach, some 90 miles up the coast, to Columbia while working at the The Sun News).

Detective novelist Mickey Spillane was another well-known writer, living at the time in Murrells Inlet, S.C., who was displaced by Hugo.

Kilpatrick was no stranger to controversy, particularly in his segregationist days. But like others of that now seemingly distant past era, say, Strom Thurmond or Robert Byrd, he was at least in part a reflection of his time and culture.

The New York Times reports that in 1963 he wrote an essay for the Saturday Evening Post that included the following passage: “the Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race.” History intervened before that article would be published: the galvanizing Birmingham, Ala., bombing of a church that killed four black girls. The Saturday Evening Post pulled the piece, wrote the authors of The Race Beat in that 2006 book.

But it’s instructive to see, over the course of a long life, how at least some core values can change if one opens his eyes enough to see the reality before him. Sometimes even the staunchest conservative (and liberal) has to concede that the world has irreversibly changed, and maybe for the better.

‘The Expendables’ in summary: Blam! Blam! Kablooee!

I suppose for an action flick that includes Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger (very briefly), Bruce Willis (also briefly), Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke AND Steve Austin, the volume has to be turned WAY up. Blame the local cinemagoogleplex if you want, but the mix seemed even louder than usual.

Maybe director Stallone wanted the volume up in hopes that we wouldn’t notice that much of the cast of The Expendables is starting to look pretty creaky. Even Jet Li is looking middle-aged. But they were convincing enough, a motley bunch of grizzled mercenaries riding their chopped-up Harleys to the inevitable Hangout for Tough Guys. Stallone, now in his 60s, still looks like he could take out your average tough guy.

Things go boom a lot

The best one-liner came early in the movie.

Bruce Willis character, nodding toward Schwarzenegger character leaving scene: “What’s with him?”

Stallone character: “He wants to be president.” Big laughs.

(Another Stallone movie character, in “Demolition Man,” also referenced Ahnold becoming president, also for laughs.)

There was plenty of action: spectacular explosions, gunfights, martial arts, Ultimate Fighter-style combat, knives, an airplane with really kick-ass guns, a beautiful woman or two and a nifty bit of acting by Rourke in one of the movie’s few quiet moments.

In that scene, Stallone’s tough guy is contemplating a return to the hostile banana republic they just barely escaped  to rescue the previously mentioned beautiful woman, Sandra (Giselle Itie`). He’s puzzled that he might actually care about her. About anything.

In that moment, Rourke’s character, Tool, reflects on a time when he and Stallone’s character, Barney Ross, were fighting the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia, mired in mud and blood. He sees a woman standing on a bridge and he knows what she’s about to do. Their eyes meet and hold each other’s gaze. He thinks for a moment of trying to stop her. But he turns away and hears the splash he knew was coming. And he says, Maybe if I had saved her, maybe, maybe I’d have saved what was left of my soul. And you might get the impression that Rourke has really been there.

It was an unexpected moment, one that rewarded you for paying attention to the dialogue.

But before long it returned to form, with plenty of Blam! Blam! Kabloee! and all manner of ass-kicking.

Second funniest line in the movie:

“What happened to you?”

Ross (Stallone): “I just got my ass kicked!” (By Steve Austin’s Paine character)

SPOILER ALERT: Skip the next paragraph if you hate spoilers.

Preposterously, the crew survives this unwinnable war with a small banana republic’s army and its corrupt American ex-CIA puppeteer (Eric Roberts in top dirtball form), which provides the opportunity for a feel-good happy ending. Even Lundgren’s strung-out mad dog man-mountain character, Gunner, whom we are led to believe has died at Stallone’s trigger finger, turns out OK.

END SPOILER ALERT

The movie generally moves along at a fast pace, pausing (briefly) to reload and start blasting some more. Heads explode, blood gushes, limbs are broken and mangled, but the Expendables bunch rarely suffer more than a few bloody noses and scuffs, save for the ass-kicking administered on Barney Ross.

No sex to speak of, except a scene of torture (Wait, is waterboarding torture?)  that probably was leading toward rape – thankfully, we return to the safety of flying bullets and exploding ordnance.

There are at least a half-dozen utterly unbelievable plot turns and action scenes, if you choose not to believe them, but let’s not quibble about why the general’s men don’t just shoot Munroe (which would have ended the movie at least a half-hour sooner. Duh!) and return the little banana republic island to its mildly corrupt former self.

The Expendables is a big, loud, bombastic summer shoot-em-up romp with all the goods and a cast that capably runs with it.

I believe Joe Bob Briggs would approve.

Gots them can’t take-it-no-more JetBlue blues

Well.

Folk hero or contrived stab at fame?

So the angry flight attendant needed a diaper change.

How does the angry outburst of one disgruntled worker captivate a national audience? Must be a slow news day. Slow news week. CNN is all over it. ABC news is all over it. The bloggers are all a-gaga over it. He has a hundred thousand Facebook fans.

And here I am, being the media lemming.

Is this going to touch off a new social phenomenon of angry workplace outbursts? Are hundreds of Steven Slater copycats waiting for their moment to erupt?

This whole thing could have taken an entirely different tack: The passenger was violating FAA regulations. She assaulted the flight attendant (allegedly), whacking him with a bag over the head. He could have pressed charges. The airline could have pressed charges. It would result in vindication for the overstressed, abused attendant and make an example of obnoxious, abusive passengers. Be nice. Or else.

But no. He goes ballistic, snatches a coupla brewskies and jumps off the escape slide.

I suppose we’ve all had moments when you want to unload on some knucklehead who seems to exist solely to inflict misery. What stops us from acting out? A sense of decorum? Valuing the job more than the opportunity to bloody a nose? Fear of incarceration?

So was Mr. Slater simply waiting for a moment to stake his claim to fame, or was this a spontaneous event?

An anger management “expert” went on CNN to say she suspected this was a premeditated act, that the flight attendant was simply seeking publicity. The newest iteration of balloon boy.

Click here for vid with musical accompaniment by Johnny Paycheck.

Another viral “I quit” story appears to be a hoax perpetrated primarily for our entertainment. And thanks for adding HPOA to everyday conversation.

The story goes about an overworked and abused employee produces a series of white board messages that “Jenny” forwards to co-workers, culminating with “exposing” her boss as a Farmville-playing slacker who referred to her as a HPOA (you’re on your own if you need a translation).

I don’t know that I’d want Slater’s sort of notoriety.

“Jenny,” on the other hand, is pretty funny. It seems more like a skit than a rage against an uncaring employer and obnoxious customers. (And, it’s becoming clear now, it was indeed made up.)

Anyway, Hollywood Reporter speculates that Slater’s 15 minutes of fame are about up.

Ding!

Priceless

Nikon D-90 digital SLR camera:     $1,199.99

Tamron 18-270 mm zoom lens:         $629.99

Almond butter                                         $3.99

Mouse trap:                                             50 cents   (Fitty cent)

Snapping a photo of the little bastard caught crawling around in my kitchen: priceless.

* Not an official endorsement by Mastercard, its agencies or lackies in any form. Although, and I’d have to check with my wife on this, but the camera probably was bought using a Mastercard, so it’s all good.