Monday, July 18, 2011

Something cute

Robins have built a nest in the clematis twining up the little trellis on our fromt porch!

For some weeks I'd noticed that whenever I walked out the front door or up the front step, a bird would fly out of the clematis and into the pine tree standing in the front yard. I thought it was a bit odd that a bird would be so fond of perching on the trellis - it had never happened before - but it wasn't until yesterday that I put 2 and 2 together and wondered if there mightn't be a NEST in there. I just didn't think that the clematis could be strong enough to support a nest, but I haven't cut it back very far for the last 2 years, so there are a lot of dry vines behind the leaves and flowers, and I guess that, what with the wooden trellis behind, it's enough to support the weight of a little nest.

After watching a lot of to and fro action from the robin, I sneaked up to where the bird usually hung out, which is just at about eye level, and spotted a very well-concealed nest. Not only that, but I could see a tiny chick in there! It must have just come out of the egg, because it was lying on its back with its eyes closed. After a few hours, I could tell that there were THREE baby robins in the nest! I can see the edge of the nest from the living room window, and from time to time I could see their little heads moving around, usually with their beaks wide open for food! The two parent birds are now carrying on a continual relay of bringing food to the nest; one robin spent over 5 minutes breaking a large earthworm into little pieces to carry back.

Once the babies were 2 days old, I think they'd figured out a few things: mostly that food only comes when a parent bird arrives. So it's useless to wave their mouths around looking for something to eat when there's no adult bird - now they go to sleep in between food supplies. But when a parent arrives, they start bouncing around and waving their beaks in the air - I can see their downy little heads bobbing over the edge of the nest.

I took the above picture the day before yesterday; the birds are already a fair bit bigger now. Their nest is at about eye level, but I try not to poke my nose in there too often, and only when the parents are away. Actually, now I can't even sit out on the front porch, because after 5 minutes, I'm confronted with a robin with his beak stuffed with goodies, who just stares at me until I leave. They won't go into the nest while they think someone is watching, and I don't want the little birds to have to wait for their food, so I just try to peek at them through the front window. The parents are pretty canny, though; they're always watching and they spot my even when I'm inside.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Veggiegate Update

An alert reader at Stand Firm provided an update to the travails of Julie Bass, whose criminal vegetables drew the ire of Oak Park bureaucrats.

It looks like the charges and threat of 93 days in jail over the unlicensed vegetables in her front yard have been withdrawn. Not permanently, mind you; "without prejudice", so the city can refile the charges if and when they feel inclined (perhaps when they think the press and bloggers aren't looking). Still, Mrs. Bass must be feeling pretty good that her struggle garnered so much outraged attention, and that the city had to back down.

But did they?

The newest twist is that they've dug up something else to punish Mrs. Bass for: she was late renewing her dogs' licenses! This ALSO merits 93 days in jail, even though she paid the licensing fee in June and her dogs are entirely "legal". But to the city, "It's not over"; it's NEVER over when the bureaucratic meatgrinder gets going, until it ends they way they like, with uniform, one-sized, docile subjects standing in neat rows, awaiting their orders.

Now you see why the part of this story that annoyed me the most was the "You WILL submit!" attitude of the government bureaucrats. Having failed in one area, they immediately set about to find something, ANYTHING, to pin on this woman in order to make an example of her. An example of what happens to you if you dare to resist Authority. And it was also a lame example to blacken her reputation to the rest of the world, especially those who defended her in the garden fracas: "See? She's a scofflaw! Aren't you ashamed now, to be sticking up for such a degenerate character? She doesn't deserve your support; leave her to us."

Well, I don't think it will work, even though there are more bad-tempered comments from supposed defenders of law and community standards this time. I think they were totally taken by surprise the first time around - this sort of secret mau-mauing works so often, they didn't know what to do when the searing glare of critical attention fell on them.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kitten/Green Apple Death Match

<a href='' target='_new' title='Kitten Terrified of Apples' >Video: Kitten Terrified of Apples</a>

Reminds me of "Galaxy Quest"

Gwen: Does the rolling help?
Jason: Yeah, it helps.

And the little veer off at the end: "I'll get you too, gladiolus!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Today is Dean's and my 25th anniversary! And naturally, we're celebrating in style: Dean came to me and asked this morning which one I wanted for MY anniversary present: the new air conditioner, or the wonderful unplugged toilets! There you go, two expensive purchases, one for each of us.

I think we're going to go for something a little more sentimental, but later in the summer. But there's no denying, the two we already have contribute a LOT to our enjoyment of life.

For supper, we're going to have a nice tenderloin, accompanied by our first new potatoes and fresh peas from the garden, with a nice little bottle of champagne after.

New air conditioner!

Ahhhhh...we have a new air conditioner! It's a Lennox, and it's absolutely marvellous!

The old one turned out to be even older than we'd thought - the guy from the furnace company said he figured it was 25 years old. That's almost as old as the house itself! I'm guessing it was installed when the basement was finished, and the house never had another one until now. There's a unit of measurement that compares the cooling produced by the amount of electricity used; I think the new one is 12 or so, and the higher the number, the better. The old one was 3, which means it used a LOT of energy for the amount of cooling it produced. Also it was terribly loud - just like a cement mixer when you were standing outside next to it. This new one is so quiet, I have to put my head around the corner and see the blades actually turning to be sure it's going.

We got it just in time, too - it looks like we're going to have one short heat wave after another for the rest of the month. Now we're sleeping well at night, we're not dragging around tired and cranky all the time, and life is great again.

Friday, July 08, 2011

You grow, girl!

Nazi busybodies in (where else?) Michigan punish a lady for growing vegetables in front of her house:
OAK PARK, Mich. (WJBK) - "The price of organic food is kind of through the roof," said Julie Bass.

So, why not grow your own? However, Bass' garden is a little unique because it's in her front yard.

"We thought it'd be really cool to do it so the neighbors could see. The kids love it. The kids from the neighborhood all come and help," she said.

Bass' cool garden has landed her in hot water with the City of Oak Park. Code enforcement gave her a warning, then a ticket and now she's been charged with a misdemeanor.

Listen to the voice of "You can't........" government tyranny from the mouth of pipsqueak commissar Kevin Rulkowski:
"That's not what we want to see in a front yard," said Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski.

Why? The city is pointing to a code that says a front yard has to have suitable, live, plant material. The big question is what's "suitable?"

"If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster's dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what's common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers," he said.

And they used to laugh at the stiflingly oppressive bourgeois conformity of Eisenhower's America. This Rulkowski has it all: patronizing recourse to authority, "Webster's dictionary" in this case, which miraculously provides him with a definition of "suitable" vouchsafed to no one else on Earth. Look how much contempt the guy has for the average citizen: he brazenly makes up a definition that suits his own convenience and attributes it to a respected authority, because he's so confident that nobody will look it up and prove him wrong! He just doesn't care. He waves the magic words and figures his status as a government bossyboots will simply cow the peasants into dropping their gaze and letting him have his way.
We asked Rulkowski what he would say to those who feel this is ridiculous.

"I would argue that you won't find that opinion from most people in Oak Park," he responded.
Once again, there's just breezy assertion here. How would HE know the opinion of "most people in Oak Park"? He doesn't know. This is HIS opinion, and he's just attributing it to a bigger group of people in order to use the "intimidation by size" ploy. Where are all the voices from this local majority to support him? Nowhere. There are no crowds of people standing on their front lawns shaking their heads at the vegetable menace down the street, the way you'd find if it were a crack house being busted. There is no groundswell of opinion to support ripping up this lady's garden; at most there's a ratty little malcontent or two who anonymously snitched to the city. (And I don't even know that for sure, except that this is how this sort of thing usually falls into the greasy hands of government apparatchiks.)

It's not just the gardening side of it that infuriates me so much, though I can easily see myself in this lady's place (and I do have 2 big garden tubs growing tomatoes sitting right on my front driveway by the garage door). It's the vicious over-reaction of the powerful at the effrontery of this little nobody who wants to have her way. The swinging of a MACE to crush a grasshopper that's chirping out of turn. To threaten a respectable woman with 3 months in JAIL - for this. It's like the case of the guy assaulted in his own home by a SWAT time run by the Dept. of Education, for God's sake, or the Iraq vet in Arizona shot 60 times by government thugs because the only acceptable response to a command by a government official is immediate, silent submission. More and more, this is becoming the default attitude of the government towards it's former citizens, now it's subjects - submit or else. This woman is being punished for not being obedient to a government command - people should be hopping mad about it.

(Hat tip: The Agitator)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The terrible, terrible Sunday

Even around the Kraal, which can boast a collection of disasters few can rival, Sunday was a memorable day. We ended up with THREE blocked toilets, thanks to James (I think Thomas the Tank Engine toys were the culprits, in at least one case - they're now banned from the house). I was struggling to unblock one of the upstairs toilets when I must have caught something in the pipe and pulled too hard, because I managed to actually rupture the drain pipe! Water began POURING through the ceiling immediately below - horrible, horrible dirty toilet water. We didn't actually know at that point what had happened, but in desperation I shut off all the water to the house. The water still kept coming - emptying out the entire pipe and toilet bowl, I suppose, and the same pipe empties BOTH upstairs toilets, so for all I know we were getting the effluent from both clogged toilets coming through the ceiling.

I must say, I had serious words with God over this - I'm not the Patient Griselda type, and I figured this treatment was quite intolerable.

Dean finally scrounged up a plumber who could make an emergency call on a holiday weekend, and I decided to take James out in the van to get him out from underfoot while all the plumbing was going on. We drove to Value Village and I got him a Scooby Doo stuffed toy plus a bathing suit for camp, then we took a leisurely drive to the other side of town to pass by Hawthorne School, which has become his current obsession. We finished up at Best Buy, where we bought a dvd, then decided to head home.

The car wouldn't start.

Either this was my punishment for complaining, or God's way of getting the last word - it definitely worked, because I'd exhausted my store of reproaches during the toilet fiasco and couldn't think of anything else to say.

I called a 1-800 number for emergency roadside assistance that had been provided when I bought the van; of course it was long expired, but they offered me a year's coverage for $69, so I took it and they dispatched a tow truck. I called Dean, and when the plumber finally left I asked him to come in a taxi and take James home - I had to wait over 1.5 hours for the tow truck, the stores around were all closed as it was almost 6:30, and James was getting increasingly perplexed and irritable, so I figured it was best to get him home first and then figure out what to do with the car.

When the tow truck finally arrived, he managed to boost the engine and get it started again, so I was able to drive it home. I was hoping I'd drained it by leaving the fog lights on or something, but the next morning the engine was dead again, so I called another tow truck, they got it started and I took it to the garage, where it is now. Dead battery; the van's a 2002 Pontiac Montana, which is pretty old. I guess batteries eventually give out, so they're going to replace that. Of course a number of other things are wrong with it too, but they can wait until September or so, and then I'll get them taken care of one at a time.

Naturally, this all happens just as we're buying a new central air conditioner, which will come on Thursday; too late to save us from the current heat wave, but by the end of the week hopefully we'll be able to get a decent night's sleep in a cool house.