Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Random thoughts from the wood lot

Progress, but there are some hella big chunks to split yet. That orange handle is on the 16-, now-18 pound maul.
It's been a while since a coherent line of thought found its way into this aging brain. That said, maybe it's time for one of those rambling, unrelated thoughts collections.

Whoever first called a weakling a pansy doesn't know pansies; 
they have to be the toughest flowers in the garden. These  

were planted in last year's garden if not earlier than that.
To begin with on my birthday last week a truck delivered a cord of birch firewood; well, it will be firewood once I get it split and it dries for a while. I always look forward to time at the chopping block and take some measure of pride that at my advancing age I can still do this. I have to admit though that every year that maul seems to get a little heavier and I always blamed that on aging but this year I came across a much better excuse. What I recall from when I bought it almost 30 years ago was it weighed 16 pounds. Now, I can swing a 16-pound maul like a 20-year-old, but the other day I was passing the kitchen scale and put the maul on it.  You know what? It weighs 18 pounds. That sure explains why it was much harder to swing this year than in the past. (Sarcastic emoji)

So I have been spending some time at the block every day for a while. Today I tried the Apple watch and its exercise monitoring function. I passed my daily quota for exercise and in the process burned almost 300 calories, and still have several more days to go.

While I was outside chopping wood, my friend Joe May posted this tidbit on facebook:

"While on a road trip between Fairbanks and Whitehorse on a moonlit winter night in the long ago John Balzar, author of "Yukon Alone", was riding with me...two of us on some mission for the Quest. John was a writer for the LA Times and was both covering the race and gathering material for a book. The road that night was a riot of rabbits reveling in the moonlight, as they sometimes do. Somewhere around Haines Junction I commented that there were more road-killed rabbits on the Canadian side of the border than on the Alaska side. A pause and John dropped a pregnant, "why?", into the darkness of the truck cab. I don't remember exactly what I told him but the explanation was the highlight of a shameless career of “putting on” journalists from south of “fifty”. Over the next forty miles of potholes, frost-heaves, and flattened rabbits I convinced him that it was fact, that there was evidence proving that Canadian rabbits were slower than Alaskan rabbits...and he believed it. There's no moral to this story. It's just a cautionary tale.. .probably something to do with the veracity of salty old dog drivers. Tim Jones and Slim Randles would understand."

My own comment on it was: Once in a while I would tell people on the boat we seldom saw whales when it was raining because they didn't like getting wet.

Now for something serious. There is an offensive word in this, one that certainly is not politically correct. However it is a direct quote from a book and the whole point might be lost if it were omitted. So here goes.

Every time I see some of the vitriolic hatred aimed at President Obama this anecdote comes to mind.  Of course most of those insults aimed at the president often are proceeded by "I'm not a racist, but …" And we all know they are. Anyway, the anecdote occurs in the first chapter of Joseph Heller's "Catch 22." In it Yossarian and his buddy Dunbar have taken refuge in the hospital attempting to avoid going on any more missions that have been added to how many they have to fly before they can go home. The man in white was encased in plaster casts so fully no one could see any part of him. A tube came out of his mouth and another out of his groin, one for giving him fluids and one for taking them away. The tubes led to jars and when the evacuation one was full the nurses simply switched the jars. Another patient called the Texan would talk to the soldier in white but without ever hearing a response. Then one day attendants came and took him away.

The group discussed his demise until Dunbar said the word "murderer." After which Dunbar and Yossarian gang up on the Texan calling him alternately a killer and a murderer until finally Dunbar shouts: "You killed him because he was a nigger."

Now, no one could have known that, but that was the blatant accusation and to my mind that is what all these critics of President Obama are at least thinking if not saying in their attacks on the man or maybe we should be shouting that back at them. So, that's off my mind now that it's written.

JJ Watt prepares to split. Here's the video.

Jennifer Lawrence
 in "Winter's Bone."
So back to the woodpile. A year or so ago I wrote a post about how I was impressed at the authenticity with which Jennifer Lawrence chopped wood in the movie "Winter's Bone." It was the little motion of going up on the tiptoes before bringing the axe full force down onto the wood. Well, now
there are three of us. There's a TV commercial going around where Houston Texans' defensive end JJ Watt, who has some legitimate woods cred, is chopping wood in a forest. And, how does a 288-pound defensive end in the National Football League swing his axe? He goes up on his toes just before he brings it down the same way a 73-year-old skinny Alaskan and a beautiful young Hollywood star do it. Awesome sauce! But wait. Has it come to this? Do JJ Watt and I BOTH swing an axe like a girl?
Follow the line of sight to the upper left corner and that's about
as close as we got.

Birds have used up a 40-pound bag of sunflower seeds already and it hasn't even snowed yet. They get so frantic sometimes they will land on me while I am filling the feeders. Of course when we tried to take a picture of that the other day, no one would approach, hence that obscure one here.

Still trying to avoid the politics of the day, but it's difficult. There was one bright spot and that resulted in the picture to the right. If it needs an explanation, you need to do some catching up.

The days are growing shorter and darker (wait, can growing be used to describe diminishing?). Anyway it's still two months until the solstice – not my favorite time of year at all. That's another benefit of the woodpile, makes me go outside in what daylight there is and that helps keep the spirits up somewhat.

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Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve