Thursday, April 30, 2009

So "Articulately" Obnoxious

A small sampling of recent "eloquence":

"So, you know, when you, uh, when you see, you know-- y'-- those of you who are wa-watching certain news channels that-- you know-- on which I'm not very popular-- and you see folks wavin' tea bags around-- Le-let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about. . . [blah blah blah]."

Good ga-rief, that man annoys me. What arrogance!

But now that I think about it. . . He's totally right, you know? How dare anyone disagree with him? Also, it's so very presidential to mock peacefully protesting citizens by caricaturing them as buffoons who go "wavin' tea bags around". And don't even get me started on "certain news channels" (whichever they might be). --*coughFOXNEWScough*-- What are they thinking, refusing to be constantly star-struck and googly-eyed over you-know-who?! They don't even deserve to be on the air!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Video: Trixie & the Food Cube

Trixie & the Food Cube from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.

Trixie enjoys playing with her "food cube" toy-- most of the time. But on this particular evening, one stubborn piece of kibble simply refused to be shaken loose, which proved to be somewhat frustrating to the little peskibo dog.

(The food cube is a hard plastic dog toy. Fill it with kibble and/or treats, shake to distribute the food throughout the toy, adjust the level of difficulty, and let the dog kick and roll it around to make the kibble fall out. Provides hours of fun. Or, occasionally, frustration...)

P.S. Does anyone know why our carpet is always in dire need of vacuuming when one of us decides to video Trixie playing on it? Some housekeeping variation on Murphy's Law, perhaps? Oh well...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Photos, Tidbits & What-Not

It feels like a while since I wrote an entry that wasn't either "Look! I made another video!" or "Here's the news story that's making me angry today." ...And that's not to say that this one won't turn into something like either (or both) of those! (g)

-- -- -- -- --

April 11th, family and friends came together to celebrate my maternal grandparents' golden wedding anniversary. The 10th of April marked their 50th year of marriage.

Then. . .

& Now. . .

Happy Anniversary!

-- -- -- -- --

Tax Day Tea Party--

Wednesday, we went to Fairhope Pier, where a Tax Day Tea Party was gathering. We only caught the last bit, but it was long enough to at least get a feel for the atmosphere. There was a pretty good crowd, though I felt the younger generations were somewhat under-represented. This wasn't exactly a surprise-- and possibly (partly) an issue related to scheduling-- but still, it would've been nice to have seen a few more people my own age or younger.

It was good to hear some common sense and to be reminded that it does still exist outside my circle of family and friends. I'll definitely at least consider attending any local tea parties that may be planned for the future. (Just don't get me started on the completely biased coverage of the tea party "movement". Suffice it to say that apparently it's only a glorious, wonderful, oh-so-American thing to protest if you are protesting the media-approved issues. Otherwise-- you're just anti-government-- or, even worse, anti-CNN.)

Side note: Quite a few people had brought their dogs with them to the "party"-- Of course. Like I said, these were people with common sense. ;o)-- including one woman who had five Westies. What a handful!

After the tea party, we had pizza (yum!) and spent some time photographing and filming around the pier and park.

We saw a few squirrels:

And a sun dog:

We hung around until after a fairly spectacular sunset:

In fact, if you like, you can see part of that sunset for yourself (if you haven't already):

Sunset Fast-Forward from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.

-- -- -- -- --

Patio and the Yard at Large--

Donald and I put in some more hours working in the yard this weekend, with the result that the patio is finally completely covered. We managed to get the shade cloth up before the heat really set in, so I'm counting that as success. Oh, and we also put up the little "roller"-style shade cloth thingy that we got to block the sun coming in from the west (so we can enjoy the shade in the late afternoon, too).

So far, it's working just as we'd hoped, providing us a shady haven from the blistering sun. Of course, the past couple of days haven't really been too bad to start with. Highs in the upper 70s with a steady breeze aren't much of a test. The real challenge will come along in July or so, when the mere act of breathing outdoors makes you work up a sweat.

For our next trick, we'll put up some railling (for charm) and lattice (for privacy/shade) on parts of the patio (well, unless we tackle the pump house first). Both of those jobs involve more priming and painting. (Everything seems to require priming and painting. It's a wonder the whole yard isn't white with spatters of paint.)

With all that fresh shade just outside the kitchen door, I ended up spending most of yesterday yarding. (Hey, these days any noun can be a verb-- even if a perfectly good verb is already in current use. Like, for instance, I could've written that I was "working in the yard", but that wouldn't have been nearly as trendy as "yarding" or-- ooh-- "efforting to put the yard into order".)

So, like I say, I was outside most of the day. Among other things, I planted some monkey grass (which I suspect may actually, technically be liriope, but "monkey grass" sounds more interesting) to edge a new bed on one side of the patio, hauled a couple loads of branches I'd pruned from trees around the yard (down to our burn pile), dug, pulled, and sorted an overgrown bed of perennials and weeds, and potted some montbretia (salvaged from the messy bed). There is still much work waiting to be done, but I suspect it will have to wait a little longer. I'm taking a day or two off from yard work-- or at least from the "down on my hands and knees" variety.

-- -- -- -- --

Last week, I sorted and "rolled" (?) the spare change that had been accumulating for (probably) years. I think it came out to be over $80!

In the process, I spotted two "special" pennies-- a Canadian penny (which just happened to be from my birth year) and a "wheat penny" from the 1950s.

-- -- -- -- --

If you've seen all the videos I've posted on Vimeo, you know that Trixie goes crazy when we use the water hose. (Yes, she still does that. It's getting to the point that it's annoying, in fact.) Well, she did it again, yesterday, while I was watering my newly-planted monkey grass. She of course got wet, and-- also of course-- proceeded to make a beeline for the red soil that I had earlier used to fill in a few low spots in the yard. If you know anything about dogs (particularly pesky Eskies), you will by now have guessed that she flopped onto the ground and began rolling in the dirt. *sigh*

Here she is shortly thereafter:

Doesn't she look happy?

Oh well. She still has some puppying to get out of her system. (I hope I hope I hope. Please let this by puppying. And please let it work its way out of her system, sooner rather than later.)

I guess she's worth a little extra trouble. ;o)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Supersonic Cleanup

Here's another sped-up video-- this time one of family and friends cleaning up after a party celebrating my maternal grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary:

Supersonic Cleanup from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.

I don't know what it is about these sped-up videos, but I find them very entertaining-- both to make and to watch.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ALERT: You Might be a Rightwing Extremist!

While doing some "production line"-style claying, I tuned in to my regular talk radio station (WABB 1480 AM) to give my brain something to do while my hands made miniature pizza slices. Boortz was talking about an "assessment" (by the DHS-- Department of Homeland Security) of the threat to the country posed by "rightwing extremism". (He got it from Michelle Malkin's site. Here's a direct link to the relelvant story. Or, if you prefer, a link to a PDF of the actual report.)

Accoring to this report:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
I'll let those of you interested in the subject read about it for yourselves, but I can't resist having a little fun with this.

In the great tradition ;o) of Jeff Foxworthy. . .

You might be a Rightwing Extremist. . .

If you oppose the use of abortion as birth control, you just might be a Rightwing Extremist! (That's right, you sickos! Who the *bleep* do you think you are to be making judgments about what is right or wrong, anyway? Besides, everyone knows there's no such thing as right or wrong. That is so last century!)

If you want our government to uphold its own laws regarding illegal aliens-- er, excuse me, undocumented immigrants or whatever the latest p.c. term is-- you might as well have "Rightwing Extremist" tatooed across your ignorant forehead.

If you support increased patroling of-- or, Heaven forbid, the sealing of our borders (to prevent even more illegals from coming in)-- well, you guessed it-- Rightwing Extremist!

If you dare to see the prudence of limiting the power of the federal government (like, for instance, the Founding Fathers did), I don't know how to break it to ya gently, brother, but chances are high that you are an Extremist of the Rightwing persuasion.

I could go on, but I've made my point.

One final quotation from the brilliant document itself:
DHS/I&A will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization.
So, take that for what it's worth.

Should I risk going to the Tax Day Tea Party in F------- (at the pier, for interested locals) and being labeled an extremist because I dare to be displeased with my government? I think this story has fired me up and made me more likely to go. And I might even make a sign or two. . .

Friday, April 10, 2009

Democratic Black Caucus Visits Cuba

This is absolutely ridiculous.

- - - - - - -

In case you don't care to sit through those videos (and in the event they should be taken down), here are what some members of the Democratic Black Caucus had to say, following a meeting with Fidel Castro in Cuba. (Please excuse any mistakes in these transcriptions. I think they're mostly correct.)

Rep. Bobby Rush (D, Illinois):
"He was a down-to-earth, kind man who I thought resembled someone who I would say is as close as a neighbor. He had a very modest home, and we were met at the front door by his lovely wife, so it was almost like visiting an old friend... He wanted to know more about Dr. King... I told President Castro that in my household, he is known as the ultimate survivor... I think that what really surprised me, but also endeared me to him, was his keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities."

Rep. Laura Richardson (D, California):
"What really was amazing to me as he leaned in-- he looked directly into our eyes, quite aware of what was happening, and said-- and said to us-- 'How can we help? How can we help President Obama?' He talked about the fact that he had watched the campaign. You know, for people who seem to think that in Cuba people don't have shoes-- they don't have jobs-- they don't have ice cream-- I mean, these people are living, and working, and participating... In fact, some were even in a better situation than in some portions of my district!"

Rep. Barbara Lee (D, California):
"He seemed very energetic. He was engaging. We met at his house, which is a house of very modest means. His wife was there. His son was taking photographs of us, and it was a very moving meeting, in a sense, because he was taking notes. He was very inquisitive. He asked us to send more information about Dr. King because he reveres Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and we said we would try to get more books and tapes to send down...

- - - - - - -

Maybe someday, if we're very lucky, we here in the U.S. will have it as good as the average Cuban does, courtesy of the gracious (and humorous!) Fidel Castro. (But don't get your hopes up too high. I mean, they have ice cream! Well... or so it appeared, while members of the American Congress were there to observe.)

Isn't it telling that Castro wants to help Obama? Since when is having Castro's approval and support a good thing? That would seem to indicate to me that we're headed in the wrong direction (as if we didn't already know it).

Also-- I guess these so-called leaders simply don't believe the people who lived under Castro's regime-- experienced it firsthand-- managed to escape it-- and continue to tell about the poverty and suffering inflicted by this "down-to-earth, kind man".

One more to add to my "positively sickening" pile...

"And now for something completely different!"

Please enjoy this cow video, with accompanying music (the"mmmm-mmmm" song that was so wildly popular however-many years ago):

Have I gone 'round the bend? Concentrate and ask again.

Actually, I just wanted to prove to myself that the editing program still knows how to render a video, because it's been giving me headaches, lately. Yep, it works just fine-- but apparently it prefers footage of our friendly neighborhood bovines to the video of fallen trees that I wanted to render...

And while I wait for that to load...
This week's "Bookin'" questions are the familiar type that most meme-ers have come across more than once, but that's ok:

1. Are you currently reading more than one book?
Yes, I am.

2. If so, how many books are you currently reading?
Currently actively reading? That would be... about three, I think: Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes, the new LMM biography, and one of those "bathroom reader" books. There's also a book on photography that I'm very slowly making my way through, when the mood strikes me, and I have bookmarks in a few other books, too, but those have been on hold for months.

3. Is this normal for you?
Yes, this is normal for the current-day me. I used to be more of a "one book at a time" girl, but I've changed. I do generally favor one book over the others, though. That favortism may shift from book to book depending on mood and other circumstances, but there's usually one book that I'm most interested in picking back up.

4. Where do you keep your current reads?
I move them around depending on where I want to read, but "home base" for books I'm actively reading is the nightstand by my side of the bed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Somali Pirate Situation

Admittedly, I haven't been following this very closely, but it seems to be getting out of control. Eventually, someone's going to have to take care of this pernicious little problem.

Here's an "interesting" snippet from a story I found in the L.A. Times:
She [Candyce Kelshall, a specialist at maritime security firm Blue Water Defence and Security, based in Trinidad] said that as few as four armed pirates have been able to seize control of massive commercial vessels because seafarers, who are often low-paid and undertrained, have been told by ship owners to offer no resistance to avoid loss of life.

"We don't want to have a crew of Rambos," Kelshall said, noting that she disagrees with American military recommendations that commercial vessels carry arms for protection. "But if this crew was able to retake the ship without using arms by outnumbering the pirates or because of their training, this is something that should be encouraged."
No, by all means, we don't want these innocent "seafarers" to be armed. Heavens, no! Why, then they might actually defend themselves, prevent the pirates from getting their million-dollar ransoms-- maybe injuring or killing a few of them in the process-- and discourage other pirates from making future attacks. And that would be bad.

Well, yes, it depends on the situation. If the only way you can save your life or the lives of your crew-mates is by not offering opposition, then of course you'll follow that course of (in)action. But there are also times when you have to defend yourself and your property from those who mean to do you harm. Or at least some of us still think so.

Going back to the story for a minute, please note that there is no middle ground. Either it's a ship full of untrained and underpaid Rambos armed to the teeth or it's nothing. Oh, and if you find a way to fight the pirates off without guns, that's fine-- just so long as there are no icky-poo weapons involved. Except for whatever "arms" the pirates might bring on board, of course.

Oh, and here's a snippet from another story, this time from CNN. Anderson Cooper interviews Kaj Larsen, a former Navy SEAL:

Cooper: And this is a different situation, because now the USS Bainbridge is on scene. This is the first time an American has been held hostage.

But, normally, a whole crew gets taken hostage, and it's basically a negotiation between the company that owns the vessel or the cargo and the pirates.

Larsen: Right. Obviously, this is a very unique situation and it's developing right now as we speak. So, this is setting new standards and new precedents. My concern during this situation is that the pirates, seeing their first batch of resistance, in the future might be using more aggressive tactics now that they see that some ships are willing to fight back.

Ok. . . So. . . in order to avoid them using "more aggressive tactics" in the future (because-- horrors!-- some ships might dare defend themselves), we should just roll over and play dead whenever the pirates attack? I suppose that, rather than protect themselves, they should just hope for the best-- pray that the pirates will generously allow them to live? Oh, those goofy pirates! Well, I hope the Boss-Man has deep pockets, 'cause here comes another $3 million in ransom dues. Do you really think that's going to solve the problem?

What would have been the "new standards and new precedents" set if this first U.S. ship they've attacked in two hundred (or whatever number of) years turned out to be exceptionally "easy pickin's"?

Maybe I'm missing something here, but this isn't the kind of talk I'd generally expect from a former U.S. Navy SEAL. . .

Cooper: How do you think this thing is going to end? Do you have any idea?

Larsen: I don't really have any idea.

In the past, what we have seen is a classic kidnap-for-ransom hostage negotiation system, where the insurance companies end up paying sometimes millions of dollars for these pirates.

In this case, I think the very close presence of a U.S. Navy vessel might ... provide some discomfort to the pirates in the area.
Poor widdle baby piwates! Did da mean old U.S. Navy wessel scare you, wee widdle bumpkins? I so, so sowwy!

Or, excuse me-- provide you with some discomfort? My most sincere apologies, gentlemen.

Also: "Classic kidnap-for-ransom hostage negotiation system". Ah, yes. What a great system it is, too. :o/

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Politics Again... (I know, I know...)

But I'll be brief this time. ;o)

Isn't it funny how Barney Frank can scarcely keep his composure in this "battle" with a lowly college student? Isn't it good to know that he's helping to make the big decisions in D.C.? What a joke! I particularly love his statement that "labels are important". (Hm. Back in school, some liberal professors were quite vehement that "labeling" someone was terribly wrong. I guess it depends on who's being labeled.)

Link: Barney Frank Argues With Harvard Student

That man makes me sick to my stomach. (No, I mean I literally get a stomachache from listening to him.)

Also: I know it's not nice to make fun of traits that people can't help, but in this case, I'll make an exception. When I first heard this guy speak, I could barely believe it wasn't a strange joke. Just the sound of his voice would be enough to make me feel ill, everything else aside. *shudder*

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lattice Window Rag Quilt

Last week, I wrote about finishing my second denim-and-flannel rag quilt on my sewing blog. (Scroll down the page for photos of the quilt-- and even further for a couple photos of the window that it reminded me of, during the planning process.) There are a few more photos of the quilt in this entry, too.

Political Rantings & Ravings

You've probably heard all about these stories and issues, and if you know me personally, my responses to them are unlikely to surprise, but I still think they merit mention in what is essentially my journal.

- - - - - - -

I deeply resent Obama's declaration (while in Europe) that Americans have "shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" of their allies. Nor do I appreciate his assertion that the US has "failed to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world". It sickens me that the man who represents us chooses to do so in this manner. There are better ways, Mr. President.

(It's interesting to note that-- so far-- this groveling excessively apologetic approach hasn't inspired other countries to step up to the plate and shoulder some/more of the burden in Afghanistan and elsewhere.)

- - - - - - -

According to a recent Pew Poll, there is a huge (61-point) partisan gap in Obama's approval ratings.

Some are arguing that one reason for this chasm is that so few respondents identified themselves as Republican (24% versus 34% identifying as Democrat)-- the implication being that those who continue to label themselves as "Republican" (as opposed to "conservative", for instance) are more likely to respond unfavorably to Obama than those who identified as Republicans twenty or forty years ago would have been.

Pew associate director Michael Dimock describes this view as "reasonable", but suggests that a more interesting aspect of the poll is the staggering 88% approval rating from Democrats. As one article phrases it, "we are left with the question of why the larger number of Democrats, making up 34% of the sample, approve of Obama so highly."

Here are some thoughts:
  • Many who voted Obama into office are so determined to support him that it will take a glaring, undeniable failure for them to withdraw their support. For some, this is merely because they don't want to admit that they were hypnotized by the chanting-- hoodwinked by the "cult of personality". For others, it goes deeper. They've waited a long time to see the Democrats back in control, and now that they have it, they'll fight tooth and nail to keep it.
  • Sadly, most of them probably don't have a clue what's actually going on in Washington, good or bad. They don't follow real news. (Many don't even know the name of the vice president, for crying out loud!) Instead, they scent the air-- compare notes with the Collective Mind (aka Twitter, YouTube, FaceBook, etc.)-- receive the message that "We are happy with Obama. Obama can do no wrong."-- so they go with the flow-- follow the herd-- and if someone asks how they feel about his job performance, well, by golly, they're just as pleased as they possibly could be. (I mean, duh. It's Obama, stupid. *insert eye-roll here*) Now, if the time should come when it becomes popular to disapprove of Obama, you can be sure that they'll follow suit, but please don't expect them to provide a logical explanation for that, either. *sigh*
- - - - - - -

Strange how you hardly ever hear anything about these Tea Parties in the news...

- - - - - - -

Here's a little something else I found on Michelle Malkin's website:

As half of a couple that not so long ago paid off a mortgage, I have to give this one a hearty "AMEN!" To pay for our house, we had to forego some of the expensive pleasures that we could otherwise have indulged in. If we could do it, so can they-- or else they shouldn't have chosen a house they couldn't afford. I'm sorry, but it's not our fault that others were irresponsible, and we shouldn't be forced (even more than we already are) to help pay their bills on top of our own. It's simply not right.

- - - - - - -

This is old (from before the election), but it's the first I've seen of it. Maybe it's just me, but this is one of the creepiest things I've seen in a long time...

(When I link to or embed these videos, I don't necessarily agree with the "more info" or people's comments. That should really go without saying, but just in case...)

- - - - - - -

I'm pretty sure you've all seen or heard this by now, but just in case:

If you don't care to watch the clip, here's a transcript of what one Obama supporter had to say after attending a rally:

"It was the most memorable time of my life. It was a touching moment because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won't have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know, if I help him, he's gonna help me."

It makes you wonder how many people believe(d) this way. . . Also-- If I didn't vote for O., does that mean that I don't get any free gas? :'o(

- - - - - - -

I imagine Donald's getting sick of hearing it, but so often, these days, I find myself hearing something about Obama and having to say, "If Bush had done/said that. . ."

Here's one example:

The media made a big deal about Obama "making his picks" for the silly (I cannot express how little I care about it) basketball championship-- and the necessity of his being able to see the games while abroad for the G20 summit.

First-- It's a total non-issue, because I seem to remember seeing lots of commercials about the fact that the (oh-so-boring) basketball games were going to be available online. (And come on. It's not like he was camped out in the jungle, but even if he were, we all know that the US prez would have access to those televized basketball games, no matter where he went.)

Anyway, I don't care that he wants to watch his game. Sure, that's fine. I understand that the guy needs an hour or two of entertainment, now and then. What does annoy me about this? Because it was Obama, the mood was clearly "oh, isn't that cute/cool? Obama's just like the rest of us! He really cares about basketball!" I submit that if the same thing had happened with the hated Bush, it would've been "What an idiot-loser! How dare he waste time on his stupid sports when there's a world in crisis?!"

That's just one instance, of course, but I may mention more in the future, as they occur. Just to give you a little something to look forward to. ;o)

- - - - - - -

So. I guess that'll do for now, as far as blowing off steam goes. I get the feeling I may be talking to myself (more than usual, that is), anyway. . . (g)

Monday, April 6, 2009

SkyMall Shopping Spree, Part Two

I've decided to take another stroll around the SkyMall. . .

Travel Toothbrush Sanitizer:
"This compact device from VIOlight uses proven germicidal UV technology (the same kind trusted to sanitize hospital instruments) to eliminate up to 99% of the millions of germs that can accumulate on your toothbrush... The battery-powered device sanitizes a single toothbrush in less than seven minutes."

So, this is the same type of thing they use to sanitize scalpels and whatnot between surgeries? And you use this on your own personal (i.e. not communal) toothbrush? It seems a little bit excessive.

Children's ATM Bank:
"This is the electronic bank teller machine that helps children learn money management as they maintain a savings account up to $999.99. The machine accepts real coin and bill deposits and gives up-to-date account information on its screen. Young depositors interact with the teller on its screen, and have their own ATM card and PIN for checking account balance, making deposits, or withdrawing funds."

Hm. I guess this might be more interesting to a modern kid than the "old school" ceramic piggy bank, but the ATM format seems odd to me. I associate ATMs with taking money out-- not putting money in. Besides, it seems silly to spend $35 on a "toy" that's supposed to teach kids how to manage money.

(...I wonder if it flashes "insufficient funds" if you try to over-withdraw...?)

Ultrasonic Dog Deterrent:"This patented outdoor behavior modification device quickly and humanely restores peace and quiet for those vexed by a dog's nuisance barking. When a dog barks within range of the birdhouse, it emits a harmless ultrasonic tone, inaudible to humans, that startles the animal into silence. The dog quickly associates its bark with the unpleasant sound which conditions him to curb this undesirable behavior."

This type of thing has always seemed kind of mean to me, but I guess I might feel differently if I had a next-door neighbor with a constantly barking dog. Still, the birdhouse disguise seems sneaky. (g)

Indoor Dog Restroom:
"This ingenious system uses a mat made of antimicrobial, porous artificial turf that gives off an organic scent to attract dogs, so they can be taught quickly that it is an acceptable spot for relieving themselves. The mat sits on top of a plastic insert which allows liquid to drain into the included tray for easy clean-up. The turf yarn is a unique construction specially designed for use with dogs, and its antimicrobial composition helps prevent odors. The tray is easy to empty and can hold up to two gallons of liquid."

First, ew. I don't care that they say it "helps prevent odors"; I have a feeling you'll still catch a whiff now and then. If you can't find a better solution, I'm sure it's preferable to having the dog "go" just anywhere-- but I must still reiterate: Ew.

Second: What is this mysterious "organic scent" that attracts the dog and makes it eager to go wee-wee, and how can I make sure it doesn't occur naturally in my home?

Third: The tray holds up to two gallons of liquid? That seems like a lot, but maybe if you have a Great Dane or a Grand Pyrenees...

SkyRest Travel Pillow:Finally a product that it makes sense to advertise on airplanes. (g)

I wonder how difficult this large pillow would be to inflate? That's the only problem I can see with this product. Well, that and the fact that everyone around will be fighting the urge to stare at you and your bizarre pillow. Of course, if it's a long overnight flight, those will probably be looks of envy. (I think I might actually be able to sleep on a plane if I had one of these things. Maybe.)

Auto Card Managers (aka ACM Wallet):"The ACM Wallets innovative, patented design allows you to organize, protect and select up to 6 or 12 of your favorite credit, I.D. and membership cards quickly and easily at the push of a button. The ACM's precision card spacing feature is the key to preventing card demagnetization, scratching and premature failure of your cards magnetic strip."

I do try to avoid exposing my credit cards to magnets, but I never dreamed anyone would take their card protection to this level.

"The ACM allows you to organize, protect and select your credit and other cards easier, faster and with less hassle than ever before."

Really? Is it so much easier and faster than just whipping out your wallet and selecting the correct card? Also, if you're a guy, where do you carry this thing? In one of your rear pockets, like an old-fashioned wallet? Seems kind of bulky.

Reading Pen:"The world's only hand-held scanning device that enables all readers to improve comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. Scan a word or line from any printed text and hear the word(s) read aloud."

The entry in the catalog described it as a "discreet device that provides immediate word support to the reader"-- to which I responded, "Oh, yes, very discreet." It reads aloud. How is that discreet? Everyone in earshot will know that Little Jimmy couldn't read such-and-such a word on his own. He might just as well go up to the teacher's desk or lean across the aisle to ask for help. (Online, they mention that it can read aloud from either a built-in speaker or an earphone, which does make a difference.)

A similar item is the SuperPen Translator:"The perfect 'scan and translate' tool, this ideal language translator package provides both mobile and PC based translation. The SuperPen comes complete with a CD containing over 30 downloadable language dictionaries. Scan, Store and Transfer function allows the capture of any printed text, anytime, anywhere! Store up to 1000 pages of text for late transfers to PC, PDA/Smartphone or laptop via USB or IrDA."

Now, that does seem pretty nifty, though I do question how well the translation feature works. If it's not any better than the free translation programs you find online, it's certainly not perfect.

How about some more pet-related products?

Feline Drinking Fountain:The description indicates that it can be used for dogs, as well. The sound of the trickling water is supposed to encourage pets to drink more often, and it's filtered to keep it fresh and appetizing. A nice idea, but I don't think I'll be paying $70 for this luxury item.

Safest Pet Nail Clipper:"This is the only nail clipper that takes the guesswork and trauma out of trimming your pet's nails by sensing the correct cutting depth, preventing you from cutting into the quick--the sensitive tissue below the nail line. Upon inserting your pet's nail between the clipper's blades, a built-in sensor distinguishes between nail tissue and the quick and lights a green LED when a safe trimming depth is reached. A firm squeeze of the easy-to-grip handles cleanly and painlessly clips the nail in one smooth motion."

Sounds pretty fancy. (And for $80, it had better be!)

Pet Crate End Table:"Blending beautifully into your d├ęcor, this handsome slat side end table also offers some advantages for your pet: hide kitty's litter box inside (she'll appreciate the privacy, you'll appreciate how tidy it looks), or let Rover use it as an interior dog house."

We use a crate for Trixie-- where she sleeps at night, and where we can keep her out of mischief sometimes during the day-- and I guess that this is basically the same thing, but for some reason it feels wrong. (g) Maybe because it looks like a piece of furniture built for displaying a pet... like an antique birdcage. In any case, Trixie could never be trusted in something like this. I'm sure she'd be gnawing on the wood in no time.

Dog-Off Deluxe:
"Protects you against hostile dogs wherever you might travel. It creates an uncomfortable, but not harmful, high-frequency sound audible to dogs, but not to humans. A simple 1 to 2 second burst or quick on-off action startles the dog, instinctively deterring its approach from as far away as 20 feet."

It also has "a 'personal alarm' button to trigger an audible alert to startle potential human attackers and a belt clip and built-in flashlight. Don't walk your dog or walk alone without one!"

Ok, that might be useful, but what happens if you use the "dog-dazing" feature while you're walking your own dog? Does it fall over like one of those fainting goats? Does it go into a trance? Or does it merely freak out, making it difficult for you to get yourself and your pet away from the scary stranger-dog?

Also, I think I'd want something with a little more bite to it than an "audible alert" and a flashlight, if I'm worried I'm about to be attacked-- by man or dog! Pass the pepperspray, please.

Traveling Pet Seat:
It's like a baby's car seat or booster seat, but for dogs. I guess it makes sense-- if you have a dog that would fit in it and wouldn't chew the restraints to shreds (and if you're willing to part with the $100 it costs)-- but it looks kind of silly.

Animal Planet Travel Sets:

This is basically just a rolling suitcase with an opening for the dog's head to poke out. It may be very convenient for people who travel with their pets often. For me, however, it's just very silly-looking.

Pet Doorbell:
"This new portable wireless electronic Pet Doorbell Set helps your pets tell you when they need to come in or go out (and no more "accidents") Works for both dogs and cats and any size pet can operate it by simply pushing the Pet Paw transmitter which works up to 100 feet away."

First thought: How cute! Also, this is kind of ingenuous, if you can train your cat or dog to use it as intended.

Second thought: Wait a minute. My dogs already let me know when they want to come or go-- usually by barking or whining. And I think most cats and dogs do the same by barking, mewing, or scratching at the door. So unless you're frequently too far from the door to hear them, this isn't so useful, after all.

Last thought: It would be really cute to see your pet go over and press the doorbell, but probably not $70-worth of cute. (g)

I think that's enough window-shopping for a while. But in the pages ahead, I spy some real doozies...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Storm Damage

Early Friday morning (somewhere between 4:00 and 4:30, I think), we woke to the sounds of worsening weather. I got up (because I can't just sit there under those circumstances) and turned on the TV in search of radar. Yes, there it was, bright reds and yellows all over the place.

Suddenly, the noise increased to the point that I deemed it wise to skedaddle off to the hall bath (no windows-- small, interior room-- our best bet for hiding from scary weather). No-one followed, and by the time I'd called out to give Donald a word or two of advice (i.e. "Oh, Donnn-ald! Yoo-hoo! Honey-Bunches-of-Oats*, I think you should probably get in here right now."), the worst of it was already dying down. (g)

Anyway, while it was bad, it sounded very bad, I thought. The wind was absolutely roaring, and there were frightening thuds as things hit the roof and exterior walls. (Whenever that happens, I beat a hasty retreat to the hall bath and pray that we don't blow away.)

Once the wind had subsided, we peeked into the backyard. We caught a few glimpses when the lightning lit up the landscape, but it wasn't until after sunrise that we could see the damage. Mostly, it was "tree debris" littering the yard. Lots of pine cones and needles-- many small branches. There were also a few larger branches, and quite a bit of mistletoe, of all things. (I quickly snapped those up when I saw them, because I seem to recall that it's very toxic, so likely Trixie would choose that twig to gnaw, out of the thousand available.) Some of the branches we found must have blown a decent distance, because there are no trees of that kind right next to our yard. Two pines that had been killed in previous storms toppled over, and I've noticed at least two more pines visible from our back yard that were snapped off. We also saw that we had shingles off the roof in two spots. (Off the roof and into the yard. I had to pick them up and move them out of the yard before I could trust Trixie on her own. The crazy dog would probably have tried eating them, otherwise.)

Unfortunately, we were in for another line of storms, Friday night/Saturday morning. Knowing this, Donald went onto the roof and patched one of the spots missing shingles. Thunder was approaching, and he thought the other spot looked well-protected still with tar paper, so we left it as it was. For future reference, that was probably not our most shining moment, in terms of foresight. (g)

The next morning, I found a thin line of wetness in the ceiling directly below the spot we thought was sealed with tar paper. Oops... After Donald had gone up into the attic to take measures to allow that spot to dry (and check the extent of the leak), I made another unpleasant discovery-- a larger wet spot in our dining room ceiling! I'd been kicking myself over the first leak, but at least this one we couldn't have prevented, anyway. We couldn't see any damage to the roof in that location.

So, fast-forward a bit. We knew to expect more rain for Tuesday (yesterday), so on Monday afternoon, Donald went up on the roof to up a new layer of tar paper over the spot we knew might leak. He also put a couple of waterproof "makeshift tarps" (an old shower curtain liner and a waterproof tablecloth) in the attic, over the two spots where we'd had leaks, along with a towel at the mystery leak location. It did rain yesterday, but in the evening, we found that everything was dry. We're hoping that the leak in the dining room ceiling was due to rain blowing under the ridge vent, trickling down a rafter, and just happening to drip off at that point (where two boards butt together unevenly).

We've called a roofer to come and give ours a look-- just in case there's more damage than meets the eye-- but I'm really hoping that he'll say it's in good shape (apart from the two spots we already know need some attention). Donald inspected the shingles in several places, while he was up there, and it doesn't seem as though the seal has been broken (which is a problem my parents had after Hurricane Ivan). We did have hail in those storms, but nowhere near as bad as we've had before, and the edges of the shingles don't look feathered. . . Anyway, one way or the other, I'll be glad to have that inspection finished. Unfortunately, it may take a while before he comes. Roofers in this area should have plenty of work for a good while to come:

Story from one local channel's website:

Damage survey shows straight line winds

B. CO., Ala. - A damage survey team from the National Weather Service in Mobile has completed an initial damage assessment of the storms that moved through the R. and E. communities of central B. County Friday morning.

The team found evidence of damaging winds that occurred along the leading edge of a severe bow echo that moved through the R. and E. areas between 4:00 a.m. and 4:15 a.m. Friday morning.

The team found a path of straight line wind damage from 200 to 400 yards wide and was near two miles long. the worst damage along the path occurred near the County Road 85 area just north of US Highway 90 where six single family homes of varying construction techniques experienced significant structural damage to roofs and walls.

Several out-buildings and smaller structures were also destroyed near several residences along the path of damaging winds. All of the evidence was consistent with a 120 mph straight line wind event where all of the debris was blown in a single direction from west-southwest to east-northeast.

I've put up some video that I filmed Friday morning. It's mostly just missing shingles-- very exciting stuff. ;o) If you want to be able to read the text, you'll probably have to go to Vimeo to see it larger, but I'll embed it here anyway...

March 27th, 2009 Storm from Michael Johansson on Vimeo.

We may be getting more rain tomorrow and toward the end of the weekend. I hope our temporary roof fixes hold up!

*I don't actually say "yoo-hoo" or call Donald "Honey-Bunches-of-Oats", by the way. That was purely for comic effect. Just making sure that was clear. . .