How Cold Is It?

It’s so cold that the milk froze before I could get home and bring it into the house.

milk

Good Fences

There we were, me and the dogs, out for a walk one recent evening when I practically jumped out of my shoes. Two very angry dogs charged out of the darkness and came directly for us — until they reached the invisible fence line.

They stood at the edge of the yard viciously barking and snapping. Both me and my dogs were rattled and I impulsively yelled, “Fu*k you!” This was not just pointless, but stupid. Dogs don’t understand fu*k you, and if the owners heard me? That’s not the sort of thing that makes for good neighbors.

Some people will disagree, but invisible fences can be a bad idea. The way they work is that dogs wear a shock collar triggered by proximity to a buried boundary line. In theory, you should be able to train the dog (with pain, by the way) to stay on your property and turn off the system. Few people ever get to that point.

And there are inherent problems. Like if your a dog is wildly aggressive toward strangers and other dogs. Or if your dog learns that the rewards of escape outweigh a mildly irritating shock. Or if your dog is so frightened of being shocked she ends up fearful of leaving the property on a leash with you.

One dog in our neighborhood has learned that if it leaps high over the invisible line it can avoid a shock. Would you trust your fence system to keep that dog safe, ever again? No, me neither.

It takes a lot of time and skill to make that sort of training work — and it’s far beyond the capabilities of the average dog owner. Let’s hope none of those invisible fence dogs are lost or injured or end up biting someone. And if that does happen, don’t blame the dog.

The Snow Report

Well, a month ago I claimed it wouldn’t snow this winter because of the new (used) snow blower in the garage. That was just me being cheeky — but now you’ve got to wonder.

snow blower

Here we are, a month later, and there still hasn’t been enough snow to use the damn thing. This has caused me to do something I haven’t done since elementary school: wish for an epic snowfall.

Every day I check the forecast with the perverse hope that we’ll get dumped on. Even my prayers have not worked. They go something like this:

Please, God, send us a hellish storm that incapacitates the area. We are an ungrateful people and deserve to be punished with at least 18 inches of snow, preferably falling during the overnight hours…

Not sure if that will work, but just to cover all bases, I’m following the example of Park City Mountain Resort  and seeking members of the Ute indian tribe to help bring some snow. I’ll let you know if anyone replies to the ad.

The Medium is the Message

While reading the TU’s online obits this morning — at 53, that’s what you do — an interesting advertisement appeared at the top of the screen. It was for a Clifton Park business called Among Angels, and the ad offered to “Help you connect with those who have crossed over.”

Interesting. And nice ad placement, by the way.

One way they offer to connect you is through an Angel Circle, a group activity where participants are guided by a medium. The website says,

While not everyone will necessarily get a message, everyone will experience the wonders of spirit communication, and discover that death is not the end but merely a doorway though which we all must pass!

Again, interesting.

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me wants to believe there is some sort of spirit world — but my rational brain always comes down firmly with the skeptics.

A lot of money has been paid over the years by people who want to get in touch with dead loved ones. Maybe there’s something to it — but do note the disclaimer way at the bottom of their website: FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

Eat My Ass

Years ago I wrote a couple of blog posts with references to eating horses.

This was way back in the Albany Eye days, and even though I was just joking, some people responded quite angrily. Maybe they didn’t like the links to horse recipes from a Quebec supermarket chain — or maybe they simply had no sense of humor — but the bottom line is that you don’t have to drive far from here to visit a place where they eat horse meat. Don’t blame me!

I was reminded of all this when Modern Farmer, the agri-hipster magazine based in Hudson, featured donkeys in their winter edition, including a story called Donkey Delicacies. Unlike in Albany Eye, this was not meant to be funny, but a serious overview of donkey eating. As you can imagine, the online version of the story got some colorful responses. Here’s my favorite:

Why would you have all these articles glorifying donkeys talking about how great they are and then feature an article about the different ways you can eat them? It’s fucking disgusting and shows how incohesive the journalism on this site truly is.

So, how do you really feel about that donkey story?

Obviously there’s a lot of cultural bias when it comes to food. I may be fond of cows but don’t think twice about eating them. Who the hell would eat a dog? Lots of people in China, that’s who.

Hey, it’s complicated. We could talk about this all day, but, I gotta go because I’m cooking up some homemade sausage. That’ll do, pig.

In Ireland with a distant cousin

Waiting for Dick

An actual conversation while watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve:

“God, this is awful. When do they drag Dick Clark on?”

“Dick Clark is dead!”

“Well that will really be something if they bring him out, then.”

‘Tis the Season

No, that’s not a head in my refrigerator, it’s a standing rib roast that’s been in there dry aging for a week. But it does look sorta like a head, doesn’t it?

head

It’s the main course for our family Christmas celebration on Tuesday 12/30, delayed almost a week because that’s when my son flies in from California. The Marines had important work for him to do that kept him away from us on Xmas.

The result is that the holiday feels like it’s never going to end.

Don’t get me wrong, I freakin’ love Christmas, but I swear to God it’s going to kill me. It seems that ten years ago I was a much more resilient merrymaker, able to eat, drink and party with greater abandon. Now? It takes much longer to recover from holiday indulgences.

But nobody said Christmas would be easy, did they? Consider the Maji, travelling through the desert for the original celebration of Christ’s birth. Their difficult journey — on stinky camels, probably — is thought to have taken six to eight weeks. Next to that, driving to Syracuse is a piece of cake.

So enough of my ungracious Christmas kvetching. Celebrate until it hurts this season and understand that in the pain you will certainly gain.

Merry Christmas

I always swore I’d never send one of those Christmas letters — in fact I hate them so much that this year I sent one back with edits. “Please see my notes on unnecessary capitalization. Central New York should not be used with quotation marks. Try to tighten up the part about the death of your aunt; overall it would be good to keep this under 400 words…”

But despite my Christmas letter ban, I did enclose this little note with our card this year, which featured us standing by the Christmas tree we cut down:

For 27 years we’ve been cutting down our own Christmas tree.

The first time was in 1988, high up in the hills outside Albany. We followed some hand-drawn signs down a deserted road where a sketchy looking guy took our $10 and told us to cut down whatever tree we wanted. It wasn’t a tree farm. We’re not even sure it was his property.

These were not the beautifully groomed trees of Christmas cards, but big, bushy things that were as wide as they were tall. But hey, $10! After trudging through the snow we found the right one, cut it down and dragged it off to the car.

Since then we’ve gone out, usually the day after Thanksgiving, to start the Christmas season with the annual tree cutting. This year was no different, and we were blessed that both Alex and Zach were home to help.

By the way, we’ve learned many lessons about Christmas trees. The top five:

  1. Cut down a bigger tree than you need. You can make a tree shorter, but not taller.
  2. If it’s muddy, leave the dogs at home.
  3. Putting the tree on the car roof? Don’t open the windows and run your rope through the car. This will tie the doors shut.
  4. Invest in a good tree stand. Not saying our tree has ever fallen over, but…
  5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Pay close attention to that last tip. In fact, this Christmas, let’s all remember what really matters: our family and friends, the traditions we treasure and the miracle we celebrate.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas.

Krampuslauf

krampusAt a work gathering, we played a game that involved discovering Christmas facts about your co-workers: their favorite movie, Christmas song, holiday tradition and so on. It was a fun way to get people interacting at the party as teams competed for prizes.

The question about me? My favorite Christmas character — and naturally, the answer was Krampus.

I had to explain Krampus to most people. “Oh, he’s St. Nick’s demon sidekick. He comes for the bad children and carries them away.”

“What does he do with them?”

“Well, he drowns them, or eats them — sometimes he just takes them off to Hell.”

And at that point, most holiday revelers slowly backed away.

So, as you can imagine, it brought me great Christmas joy when the New York Times ran a big story about the revival of Krampuslauf in Bavaria. It’s an annual festival that celebrates the hairy and horned scourge of misbehaving kids, and it sounds like a blast. Forget Oktoberfest, I want to go to Krampuslauf!

There are tons of videos of Krampuslauf events online; this is one of the crazier ones:

Yes, all the best things about Halloween and Christmas rolled into one. This is something we really need around here.