Thursday, January 28, 2010
Here's The Scoop On How To Scoop
Thu, January 28, 2010 | link
The recent warm spell - False Spring, I like to call it - actually gave me another reason to like winter.
means cold. Cold means snow. And snow means all the things in the backyard that were buried under previous snows will be buried
I speak, of course, of the natural byproduct of sharing your life with a canine: Dog logs. And my goodness,
but there are a lot of them in my back yard. I had no idea it was so abundantly fertilized. If I didn't know better, I'd think
my dog Cookie had gone out and recruited some friends to help with the job. Big friends.
(Note to those contemplating
becoming dog owners: Well-meaning people will tell you to look at a puppy's feet for an indication of how large the dog will
be when grown. Uh-uh. The answer is alimentary.
(My vet, using the foot guide, said Cookie would probably be about
a 35-pounder, and then looked puzzled when I burst out laughing. I had already seen Cookie on a bombing run, so to speak,
and knew from the size of the payload that she wasn't going to be a 35-pound dog. I guesstimated 65, which still turned about
to be 15 pounds too conservative.)
At any rate, I have my work cut out for me. Perhaps you, as a dog owner, have your
work cut out for you as well. In that case, allow me to pass on ...
Mike's Tips For Cleaning Up A Month's Worth Of
1. If you can, invest in a high-quality hazmat suit. Your best choice would
be one of those big shiny jobs that makes you look like a visitor from the planet Purina.
Failing that, old scuba gear works fine.
3. Get some of those big, black mad scientist
gloves. This is NOT a job for cotton work gloves, food service gloves, or oven mitts.
Buy those tongs they use to change control rods from nuclear reactors. They're about 15 feet long and made from kryptonite.
5. Wear flat-soled shoes. One wrong step and you can kiss your brand new Air Jordans
goodbye. On second thought, don't kiss them. Burn them.
6. Try for a day when the temperature
is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember, the difference of a few degrees is the difference between a chore that is merely
unpleasant, and one that will make you pass out.
7. After you have gathered the deposits,
dispose of them in an appropriate manner. That does NOT mean dumping them over the fence, leaving them in a vacant lot, or
the favorite of my teenage years, putting them on the principal's doorstep, setting the bag afire, ringing the doorbell and
running like mad.
And finally ...
8. Be sure to lock the dog in the house while
you're doing this. Number one, dogs can be awfully possessive of these things, the goofs. Cookie just has a fit: "Hey!
I was SAVING those!"
And number two (sorry), your dog will immediately start to replace what you remove. You
think Sisyphus had it bad rolling that rock up the hill? Try keeping ahead of a dog with paws the size of Cookie's. You'll
be - you should pardon the expression - all worn out.
What, you thought I was going to say pooped? Please. It's the YARD
that's pooped. Bigtime.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
It's January. The furnace is dead. What else is new?
Tue, January 19, 2010 | link
The weather took a turn for the frigid, so naturally my furnace took a turn for the dead.
Twice. In one week.
It's just a suspicion, but something tells me I am not dealing with the finest example of 21st Century Home
Every time the weather gets extreme, I can pretty much count on my heating and cooling system to roll
over and conk out. We're talking doornail here, as in dead-as-a, winter and summer.
When the temperature gets into
the upper 90s, ol' Blowhard it is guaranteed to make some sort of whanging noise and stop producing cool, conditioned air.
And if the temperature gets into the single digits, as it did recently, it can be counted on to produce another whanging noise
and stop producing heat. Just by way of information, I have noted that the summer whanging noise and the winter whanging noise
are in different keys.
Oh, well. I'll say this: The guy who sold it to me said it was dependable, and it is. Just
not in the way I had imagined.
This isn't the first time it has conked out in the cold, of course. Oh, no. It has
been doing that since the day after the warranty expired. But this time it seemed especially uncomfortable, for some reason.
What am I saying? It was so cold in here that you got warm by opening the refrigerator.
Now, it is true that I come
from the farthest northern outpost of Indiana, LaGrange County. The ancestral home is about three miles from the Michigan
state line and it does get cold up there. It's actually closer to Canada than it is to Indianapolis. OK, it's only by two
miles. But closer is closer.
When I was a kid, the rule of thumb was that it isn't really cold until the inside
of your nose freezes. While you're indoors.
Our house was heated by a coal furnace, a stoker. My mother laid down
three rules about the stoker:
1. I was to keep the hopper filled;
2. I was to remove any and all clinkers
(for the uninitiated, the residue from the burnt coal); and
3. Only the girls were allowed to stand over the floor
register in the kitchen to get warm in the mornings. Boys were expected to keep warm with all that shoveling and clinkering.
If I raised an objection, I was told to file it all away - the cold, the coal and the clinkers - under "Character-Building
Experiences." If I persisted, my mother would then deliver the conversational coup de grace, the one phrase that was
guaranteed to stop me in my tracks:
"Grandpa McKenzie would be terribly disappointed to see you acting like this."
Worked every time. As did the furnace. That thing never broke down.
Anyway, back to the cold. The first
time the furnace kicked, a young fellow from the We Fix Furnaces company came out, replaced a part and got it fired up again,
a mere 24 shivering hours after I made the call.
And then, a week later almost to the minute, something else gorked.
Another call, another technician, another part. Oh, and another 24 hours.
Now the house is warm again. I think
it's going to stay that way, too. For one thing, my furnace is practically all new parts. For another, after the second repairman
left, I told it that Grandpa Stoker would be very disappointed to see it acting like this.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Back To The Old Routine, And Just In Time, Too
Wed, January 6, 2010 | link
You can all come out now. The coast is clear. The holidays are over.
And not a moment too soon, either.
never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but I was really kind of glad to declare the Season of Merriment closed for another
year. The appeal was starting to wear a little thin, which is the only context in which the word "thin" applies
I'm trying to remember the number of actual, sit-down, please-pass-the-green-beans meals I ate between
Dec. 24 and Jan. 2. I think it's three.
Everything else was on the run: A sandwich here, another sandwich there during
shopping expeditions; cheese and crackers when neighbors and family stopped by to visit; the occasional protein shake or bar
when I found the presence of mind to remember that I'm actually on a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat eating plan. Which, I
admit, was not often.
Then there came the sweets - plates of candy and platters of cookies, mountainous cakes and
pies to the skies. And that was just Christmas dinner.
So what I wound up doing most of the time was eating
whatever caught my eye, when and where I could. Grazing, they call it, and graze I did. I was crazed with grazing. In a haze
from grazing. I'm amazed at how much I grazed.
I'm serious. The world hasn't seen this kind of grazing since Elsie
It's not all my fault. I really do think the season bears part of the blame. After all, it's all about decking
halls and figgy pudding and vision of (burp) sugarplums, not to mention auld lang syne, which as we all know is Gaelic for
"have some more of those mashed potatoes, and don't forget to save room for dessert."
That said, it was
still my responsibility to eat like a sensible human being, not a vacuum cleaner, and I failed miserably.
why I'm glad the holidays are over.
It is also a good reminder of why we have eyes on the front of our face: So we
can look ahead.
I'm looking ahead to getting back to my practice of six small meals a day, instead of one long, drawn-out
meal that goes from morning to late at night.
I'm looking forward to getting back into a real weightlifting routine,
instead of counting the reps as I hoist cookies to my mouth.
I'm looking forward to going through life without that
semi-drunk feeling you get when your diet is mostly gingerbread and gravy.
I love the holiday season for what it is,
right down to the last cookie crumb, and I have no wish to change in that regard. If you can't go a little overboard once
in a while - such as the last two weeks of the year - then what's the point of behaving yourself all the rest of the year?
But I also love the good feeling you get from vigorous exercise and healthy food. I love the way my clothes fit better
and my knees don't hurt when I go up and down stairs. I love knowing that I'm doing good things for my heart and all that
other healthy lifestyle jazz, which will occupy my next 50 weeks, during which time I will be looking forward ...
the next holiday season.