Snow cat

November 29, 2016
I don't think I need to break out the shovel for this one.

I don’t think I need to break out the shovel for this one.

It probably doesn’t qualify as the first snow of the year, but we finally got a dusting at El Rancho Pendejo.

The temp remains below freezing as of 9 a.m., and I’m having a very hard time getting excited about going grocery shopping. But we’re inching our way downward through the pantry toward the basics — beans, rice, chile, etc. — and something, as they say, must be done.

I could slap together a pretty interesting vegetarian combo platter with what I have on hand — bean burritos smothered in green and sprinkled with cheddar, sides of Mexican rice and posole — but that would just kick the ol’ can down the road.

Speaking of roads and cans that need kicking along same, some of us have been having an invigorating discussion in comments about the big bad feddle gummint and what to do about it. I don’t want the blog to devolve entirely into a civics course, but just for shits and giggles, let’s take it on faith that the government is too big and intrusive and our tax burden too onerous.

So how do we shrink the federal government to a manageable size? What would you cut? Whose ox gets gored?

And keep in mind that we are not just cutting functions here. We’re shitcanning people. Our fellow Americans. They enjoy their combo platters, too, as do the folks that sell and serve them, so spare them a thought in your calculations.

As of 2014 the U.S. government employed some 2.7 million people. Walmart only has 1.5 million or so on payroll in the United States; Amazon’s headcount is about 240,000 folks, or about twice as many as Apple.

So I don’t see all these sidelined federales landing cushy gigs moving boxes around an Amazon warehouse, greeting the penny-pinchers at Sam’s Club, or failing to fix my 2009 iMac at the Albuquerque Apple Store.

 

Cybrrrrrrrrrr Monday

November 28, 2016
Baby, it's cold outside.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

Still no snow here in the Duke City as the Thanksgiving weekend lurches to an overstuffed close. But it’s cold out there — 29 degrees as of java time — and there’s white stuff in the forecast, if not yet on the ground.

Elsewhere, things are heating up a tad. Having sold the rubes a bill of goods, the national media are now gleefully pointing out the dings, dents, leaks and creaks in the gold-plated machinery that is the Pestilence-Elect.

Seems he’s a liar, and a walking, tweeting conflict of interest with his short-fingered paws in some very questionable pockets. His chief adviser is a white-nationalist propagandist and political opportunist. And he’s larding up his administration with the sort of rich, connected honkies you’d expect from pretty much any ol’ rich, connected honky the GOP managed to shoehorn into the White House.

Huh. Who knew? Only anyone who’d been paying attention, is all.

Turns out that if you want to drain a swamp, it’s probably a bad idea to hire the guy who likes the swamp, knows everyone who lives there, and owns a fair chunk of it.

As another famous swamp-dweller once noted, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

A nose for noise

November 27, 2016
Life is but a dream, sh-boom, sh-boom.

Life is but a dream, sh-boom, sh-boom.

I’ve been dossing down in the guest bedroom for the past few nights while I try to shake this bug (hack, cough, ptui, repeat) and last night I was dreaming that I was in some concrete condo/apartment house shithole, the prototypical American multifamily dwelling pioneered by the East Germans, a cheerless vertical warehouse with all the charm of a Stasi penitentiary for political offenders.

In the dream, as in “real life,” I couldn’t quite drift off to a proper sleep. I kept hearing this repetitive sound that was driving me batshit: Pok. Pok. Pok. Sounded like someone bouncing a tennis ball off a concrete wall or floor, over and over again.

Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc.

In both planes of consciousness it had been days since I last enjoyed a solid night’s sleep. And in the dream I was starting to get seriously pissed off because for the first time in a good long while I wasn’t enduring any coughing fits and thus nothing should have been keeping me awake.

Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc.

I couldn’t localize the sound — inside my apartment, upstairs, downstairs, in the hallway — and I was on the edge of bounding out of bed to get medieval on someone’s ass, as soon as I got a fix on where the fuck was it that they were.

Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc.

And then I woke up to find that the sound — Pok. Pok. Pok. Etc. — was my own nasal exhalations bouncing off the sheet and blankets, which I had tugged over my head.

Adios, Fidel

November 26, 2016
From "Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War," by Che Guevara.

From “Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War,” by Che Guevara.

Fidel has left the building.

Say what you will about the man who tugged Uncle Sam’s beard through 11 U.S. presidencies — I’ll always remember him for his snarky offer to send observers to help oversee the recount of Bush v. Gore in Florida.

Revolutions are iffy things; they don’t always turn out as planned, as we have seen elsewhere. It’s not the initial cost, it’s the upkeep.

P’raps they should come with a warning label: “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”

Black Lung Friday

November 25, 2016
Welcome to Piedra Lisa, which is Spanish for "Smooth Stone."

Welcome to Piedra Lisa, which is Spanish for “Smooth Stone.”

Gah. I seem to have collected a bug from some’eres. Woke up way too early this morning making sounds like an emphysema ward getting tear-gassed and had to relocate to the guest bedroom unless I wanted to have a heart attack (there was a strong chance that Herself, who enjoys her Zs, might attack it with a nail file).

The guest room was chilly and the bed under-covered, but I figured that if I got back out of it to go hunting a better blankie, I’d either wake all the way up or have a cat sneak in for a nap on my head. So I curled up and endured.

Cycling thus seemed like a real bad idea today so I consulted with my man Hal Walter on his latest book project and went for an hourlong walk instead.

Pretty much everybody in Albuquerque had had the same idea, so I didn’t lack for companionship. I was the only one who sounded like the ghost of Leonard Cohen impersonating Tom Waits from inside an alligator crawling through a culvert, though.

 

Cranks, stanks ‘n’ thanks

November 24, 2016
Shut up, kid.

Shut up, kid.

Editor’s note: This was intended to be the kickoff to a podcast, but I couldn’t quite corral the folks I had hoped to rope in as contributors. So instead it’s just words in a row, in the usual fashion.

Thanksgiving, man.

The holiday is practically synonymous with “turkey,” and man, did we ever have a big one come home to roost this year. Orange. Noisy. Indigestible.

He looks more like a turkey buzzard, when you get right down to it. Your turkey buzzard sings no songs; when it speaks, it does so in grunts and hisses. It roosts on lifeless trees, and will shit on itself to stay cool when things get too hot for it.

And if you fuck with it, it will puke on you. Generally around three in the morning, on Twitter.

Still, hail to the Chief, right? Right.

Thanksgiving, man. Definitely a holiday with its ups and downs.

In my misspent youth Turkey Day around the O’Grady table was often an exercise in intoxicant management and impulse control, which can be rough on the digestion. Also, the crockery. Once I left home and took up the news biz I generally worked holidays, having no family of my own to preside over with a scepter of vodka and crown of thorns. It’s a lot more fun to argue with people when you’re getting paid and can eat whatever you want for lunch, especially if it’s whiskey.

Once I was married and the parents were gone, the daily news biz receding in the rear-view mirror as I detoured into the cycling press, holiday mealtimes mellowed considerably. Herself and I spent Thanksgivings with friends and neighbors, or my sister and her husband, since Herself’s kin were a ways off in Texas, Tennessee and Maryland. Lacking a sparring partner, I indulged my contrarian streak by cooking non-standard meals — Chinese, Mexican, Italian, whatever. “Home for the Holidays,” “Alice’s Restaurant” and (if we were driving to my sister’s place in Fort Fun, for some reason, “Sam Kinison: Live From Hell”) replaced the turkey in our family tradition.

Thanksgiving, man.

Herself the Elder joined us for our first Thanksgiving here at El Rancho Pendejo, but I can’t remember what I cooked. Last year, with just the two of us, it was chicken cacciatore, Emeril-style, with a side of Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash with edamame.

And this year? Braised turkey thighs with roasted spuds and steamed asparagus. It’s just the two of us again — sis and bro-in-law had hoped to come down, but work intervened, and Herself the Elder is in Florida inspecting another daughter’s new quarters. Thus, something easy, for a simple mind in complex times.

One thing that won’t be on the menu: Arugula. Twice now I’ve come home from the Whole Paycheck with bad batches and I’m kind of over cracking the lid on its plastic coffin and getting a $4 snootful of stank. Who knows what’s going on there? The arugula dude probably left his 18-wheeler parked in the sun while he was doing the nasty with a lot lizard in the sleeper, but who am I to judge a man by how he spends his lunch hour? I like to spend mine eating lunch, but it’s not for everyone, especially if you’ve been taking those little white pills and your eyes are open wide.

Thanksgiving, man.

I’m lucky I made it to the grocery at all last week. I put it off until Friday afternoon, which is amateur hour — all real pros shop on Tuesday or Wednesday — and I nearly didn’t get there on Friday because it took three or four tries and about two hours to send a two-minute video review to the Adventurous Cyclists in Missoula, almost certainly because the Duke City remains mired to the driveshaft in the Adobe Age and uploading video via our internet hookup is the equivalent of tossing a thumb drive into the arroyo behind the house and hoping the wind blows it to Montana.

So I’m sitting here watching the progress bar mostly not move and thinking Jesus, the Merrick Garland nomination is moving faster than this file. Hell, the entire federal government is showing more speed, if only in reverse, motoring back to the Articles of Confederation or maybe King George III, if George wore an even cheesier wig and was the shade of an overcooked yam.

I stopped the upload and restarted it, then stopped it again and restarted it again, and finally unplugged the modem and stomped around the house, which still smelled faintly of rotten arugula. Then I plugged it back in and hey presto! The file finally transferred and off to the Whole Paycheck I went.

So I’m thankful for that.

And I remembered not to get any arugula this time, for which I am also thankful.

What are you thankful for?

Fat Tuesday

November 22, 2016
As you can see, Il Fattini is already contemplating his holiday shopping.

As you can see, Il Fattini is already contemplating his holiday shopping.

Hm, seems to have gotten a bit Novemberish out there all of a sudden. Forty. Seventy percent humidity. Gasp, etc.

So much for the bad news. The good news is that you can finally order your Old Guy Who Gets Fat In Winter kit in a long-sleeved version.

Think of it as that extra layer for a fella who doesn’t really need one.

And the better news is that Voler is doing a 20 percent off sale this week and the discount is extended to the gravity-impaired members of the Old Guys community. Customers using the promo code SAVEGUYS will receive 20 percent off all Voler Store items, including the OGWGFIW collection.

Finally, and perhaps best of all — for those of you living outside the newly declared People’s Republic of Kakistostan, Voler has begun shipping to Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Irish Republic, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

So, remember, buy early, buy often. We’d like to have the bunker finished by Inauguration Day and all the contractors want cash up front for any Trump-related construction projects.

Rest day

November 21, 2016
The Irish should not be entrusted with any technology more advanced than the hoe and wheelbarrow.

The Irish should not be entrusted with any technology more advanced than the hoe and wheelbarrow.

Looks like I picked a good day to ignore the news in favor of fiddling with the dark corners of GarageBand (yeah, take cover, you might have to endure another podcast before much longer).

The homepage of The New York Times looks like the mounts of all Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse shat on it in a driving rain, which oddly enough is what we’re experiencing at the moment here in Duke City. The rain, not the horseshit, though that can be had aplenty too, if I am not otherwise occupied, which I am.

Even Charles P. Pierce is starting to make me nervous. When the headline is “Saddened, Angry, Sickened, Defeated,” it’s a solid tip that the guffaws will be few and far between.

Me, I’m just glad I don’t have any pressing deadlines. It was tough to bring the funny for the final Bicycle Retailer of 2016, and while delving into the mysteries of GarageBand is giving me a headache, it is in a largely unused corner of what remains of my brain.

 

A donkey in rough shape

November 18, 2016
Hal Walter and Spike in 2000, after winning what I believe was their second world pack-burro championship in Fairplay, Colo.

Hal Walter and Spike in 2000, after winning what I believe was their second world pack-burro championship in Fairplay, Colo.

No, I’m not talking about the Democratic Party, though you could say the same about that lot.

I’m talking about Sherman, a neglected donkey adopted by Christopher McDougall, author of “Born to Run.”

McDougall collected Sherman after a Mennonite neighbor discovered the poor critter penned up in a cramped shed. He was, in a word, a mess:

Its fur was crusted with dung, turning its white belly black. In places the fur had torn away, revealing raw skin almost certainly infested with parasites. He was barrel-shaped and bloated from poor feed and his mouth was a mess, with one tooth so rotten it fell right out when touched. Worst of all were his hooves, so monstrously overgrown they looked like swim fins.

McDougall was something of a mess himself not that long ago, a self-described “broken-down ex-athlete battling constant injuries and 50 excess pounds.” Running saved him, and he wondered whether it might do the same for Sherman.

I’d stumbled across a ragtag crew in the Rocky Mountains who kept alive an old miners’ tradition of running alongside donkeys in races as long as 30 miles. Was it possible? Could I bring Sherman back from this calamity so that he and I, side by side, could run an ultramarathon?

I immediately pinged my pal Hal Walter, who has been doing this sort of thing for as long as I’ve known him, and even longer, which is to say for the better part of quite some time.

He replied that yep, he knew about the column, and might even be a part of it down the road, since McDougall interviewed him for the series.

“Might be the only time I’m in the NYT this lifetime, though I did tour the building during a high school journalism field trip,” he added.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the articles in this series. Maybe we’ll learn some way of rescuing that other crippled donk and teaching it how to run.

 

You’re fired

November 16, 2016
Fire! Fire! Fire! (Actually, it's just sunrise.)

Fire! Fire! Fire! (Actually, it’s just sunrise.)

Well, now we’re really fucked. The fire god has eaten the moon.