Saturday, February 25, 2006


To my great surprise, I came home to a dark house last night. And, I'm happy to report, it wasn't that I failed to pay my electric bill. Unless, of course, all my neighbors forgot to pay theirs, too - and that seems unlikely, as most of them are pretty responsible.

It wasn't a lightning strike or an ice storm, as the weather was clear and reasonably nice yesterday. It wasn't even the usual cause of blackouts around here, a hurricane. No, it was the far more typical cause: a tree (or big branch) fell on the above-ground lines.

Well, no surprise, I suppose. When one lives in a residential subdivision that's over 50 years old and was built in a fairly heavily wooded area, one learns that these things happen.

(Don't know when the blackout started, as I no longer have non-digital electric clocks in the house. But the area was dark at 7:30 when I got home from work, and the electricity came back on around midnight and the cable was back by 9 a.m. So the stuff in the freezer is still safe, or so I've convinced myself.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Gray Ghost update.

The new outdoor cat is willing - barely - to allow me to touch her, although she still tries to squirm away. But she's hungrier than she is squeamish, so she puts up with it while she's eating. And yes, her fur is soft.

And after she eats? She's more than happy to have a conversation with me, so long as I stay five or more feet away, and even better if I'm on the other side of the fence from her.

But she's not interested in coming inside to be warm, even though nights lately have gotten down into the teens.

No, it's not.

A quick little quiz:

What's the correct spelling and punctuation of the federal holiday being celebrated tomorrow (the third Monday in February):
(a) Presidents' Day,
(b) President's Day, or
(c) Presidents Day?

Certainly, if you look in the ads in the paper today, you can find support for all options, sometimes with two or three of the variations being used in the same ad. And it makes a difference, as the first would seem to celebrate all presidents, regardless of how poor they might have been; the second would appear to celebrate a single, albeit anonymous, president; and the last looks like it honors the father-and-son pair of presidents whose last name is "Day."

So which of the possible answers is correct?

You guessed it, this is a trick question. The correct spelling and punctuation of the holiday is "Washington's Birthday".

If it makes you feel better - and I'm not sure it should - the schools systems in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and the City of Alexandria, Virginia (where George Washington was born and where Mount Vernon is located) both refer to the holiday as "Presidents' Day." And shame on them.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A spot of yellow.

Time for the annual posting on how early the crocuses are blooming. I first saw them peeking up on Tuesday last week, but lethargy and the weekend snow kept me from taking their photos until today. (Seventy degrees today - might as well take some photos.)

And yes, the crocus blooms are surrounded by the remains of last year's leaves. When the darn things stay attached to the trees until the middle of December, I figure they can jolly well stay on the ground until I get around to mowing the yard sometime this spring. (My neighbors sometimes figure otherwise, alas.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Breakfast time at the Cellar door.

The gray cat greeted me this morning. Well, if complaining that breakfast is well overdue can be described as a greeting.

She - or he - still won't let me get within 15 feet, unless there's a closed door between us. So while her/his fur looks soft, for now we'll just have to assume that it is.

And I got to see interaction between the two cats yesterday. This cat was sitting on my back deck, and the "tuxedo" cat (who actually turns out to be black-and-gray tabby-striped with a white hind leg, not that you can easily tell the difference between black and black-and-gray-striped at 11 p.m. as the cat is diving under a parked car) was walking up the steps towards it. You could pretty easily figure out that the gray cat was saying the feline equivalent of "This is MY house and MY territory and MY food so you should just stay away" while the tabby was responding "Yah, yah. It's a free country, and I'll go where I want."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

R2 Potatoo.

For those wondering what the next Star Wars / Mr. Potatohead tie-in would be.

And surely there must be someone like that.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The neighborhood cat lady.

You know how hoboes had a whole intricate network of signs they'd mark on fenceposts at people's houses or going into town, indicating such things as "wealthy person lives here" or "tell pitiful story" or "mean sheriff" or, above, "kind woman lives here."

Well, cats must have a similar network.

It would appear that last year's saga of The Outdoor Cat has been making the rounds, as there are now two cats I'm feeding at my back door.

One is a tuxedo cat with a white hind leg, and might well be the father of last summer's kittens. (Or some degree of sibling.) The other is solid gray - almost Russian Blue in color.

Neither one seems to be to interested in making friends with me or in coming inside to sleep, which is perhaps just as well, as I'm scheduled to get my father's two cats sometime this spring. And even I would agree that three or four cats inside the house would be too much.

Friday, February 03, 2006

People with too much time on their hands.

The Lego Suicides - a slideshow of various ways to do yourself in. Using Legos.

Possibly not what the manufacturer had in mind.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Self-distribution: Another update.

It's like a "good news / bad news" joke, except for not being funny.

The good news is that the proposal to allow self-distribution isn't dead yet. The bad news is that it's not especially healthy, either.

Yesterday, the entire General Laws Committee voted to table the bill, thereby keeping it around to be finally voted on at a later time. And it seems pretty clear that the alternative to tabling the measure would have been a vote killing it.

Opposition to the bill is coming from wholesalers, who want to maintain their monopoly stranglehold on the industry. And they've got more money to give to the Delegates than small farm wineries do.

Don't know what can be done to change the minds of people on the Committee. I've suggested to the sponsor of the bill that he try a two-part change:
1) Authorize the self-distribution as a one-year (or better, two-year) test, and
2) Charge the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission (who would issue the licenses and collects the excise taxes) to study how much wine is actually distributed by out-of-state small wineries. It should be easy to find: the wineries would be identified by having to obtain the special license to self-distribute, and the wineries will then have to pay the state excise taxes to the ABC.

My guess is that such a study would show that only a handful of wineries - all located in bordering states - would self-distribute into Virginia, and even then, they'd only be distributing 10 or 20 cases per year. But even if my guess is way off, accurate information from this study would conclusively show whether enacting self-distribution has any impact on the financial viability of wholesalers.