h o m e 't o o n s w o r d s c a m s t u f f r a d i o   f r e e   d o g p a t c h

daily dog archives 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

By Patrick O'Grady
Mad Dog Media

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Street life

  As you pop the cork from a bottle of bubbly at midnight, thank your lucky stars that you are not living in your car. Unless, of course, you are. In which case, please leave the thing parked 'til morning. You don't see me steering my casita hither and yon after a dram or six.

  Plenty of folks found their vehicles suitable only for shelter yesterday along a stretch of Interstate 70, which remained closed this morning while CDOT dealt with the threat of avalanches caused by blowing and drifting snow. A cot at the Silverthorne rec center and a greaseburger from Wendy's doesn't sound like much of a New Year's Eve party to me.

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Tick, tock

  Ready for another lap around the sun? Me neither. Where the hell did 2007 go? I take my eye off the ball for a sec' and zowie: Another year rockets down the tubes like a startled rat.

  It's been ass-bite cold here in Bibleburg, which means short runs, even shorter rides on the trainer in the basement, and plenty of profane mumbling with a side of popping corks. But today the temps actually crept up into the high 30s and so I was out the door with three jerseys and the heavy leg-warmers on before you could say "Sven Nys." My boy O'Stank tried to talk me into joining him for a run — he's racing the local winter series and needs the miles — but he actually likes running while I only tolerate it as a means to an end (being able to eat and drink as I please without developing my own gravitational field).

  Last Sunday's ride involved quite a bit of the old ice capades, winding as it did through the trees down past Harrison High School, so today I went north with a slight but nonetheless welcome tailwind assist. Instead of doing the traditional U-turn at Woodmen, I decided to stretch the ride out a bit and slipped under I-25 to bushwhack over to Pulpit Rock Park, which was a snowy, icy mess as per usual for this time of year. One drainage apron was a solid sheet of wet, glassy ice, necessitating a dismount and some very careful footwork. Just 'cause I got a big ass don't mean I like falling on it.

  Once past Garden Ranch Park I generally catch the bike path east of Union for the homeward leg. But it's still FUBARed by a massive interchange project at Union and Garden of the Gods, so I took the scenic route through a slice of Sixties suburbia to Palmer Park and then home. Tomorrow, the YMCA beckons. Oh, Lord. Another journey to the Planet of the Plateheads, with all the wrong kinds of bars, the ones you can't get a drink at.

  Later that same day: In preparation for tomorrow's suffering we dined at La Petite Maison, a restaurant we haven't visited since it changed owners a while back. We had a coupon for a free entree and figured what the hell? Proved a very pleasant experience, with low-key, efficient service and tasty food. Herself had the seared Alaskan salmon with a reduction of fish fume and red wine, potatoes and asparagus, while I had the shrimp sautéed in olive oil with garlic (and plenty of it), kalamata olives, yellow tomatoes and basil over noodles with asparagus. The only off note was an unexceptional bottle of 2004 Benziger cabernet. I was hoping for something a little weightier, with more oak in it. Now someone from Benziger will probably clock me with a baseball bat next time I pass through Sonoma County: "Hey, he said he wanted some oak, so I gave him some oak."

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Huckabee or Huckleberry Hound?

  Lord, is Mike Huckabee dumb. He sees Pakistanis creeping across the U.S.-Mexico border with shoulder-fired missiles and is geographically challenged as to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Reading the Bible is nice, Mikey, but thumbing through an atlas can be useful from time to time, too. Especially if you want to be president of more than your church group.

  Running a strong second in the feeb sweepstakes is Rudy Giuliani, who tossed off this sound bite about health care in a chat with the Tampa Tribune editorial board and has this putz co-chairing Veterans for Rudy in New Hampshire. Really, is this the best the Elefinks can do? It's like watching a Three Stooges flick without the funny bits, nyuk nyuk nyuk.

  This just in: Nutscrape finally bites the bag. You're probably reading this on IE 7, which goes a long way toward explaining why. Me, I'm using Firefox as part of a gradual switchover from the "Classic" OS to OS X, only a jillion or so years behind the rest of the MacMob. The only guy I know who still uses OS 9.2.2 regularly is my buddy Hal, and then only while scrubbing the stank out of copy for The Pewblow Cheapdone.

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We all got it coming, kid

  Sixteen degrees with a stiff wind out of the north. Sunny and 45 in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Why am I here and not there? I will never be smart. At least I'm still above ground and taking on air, unlike Benazir Bhutto, who finally got deep enough under somebody's skin that they decided to punch a few holes in hers. No doubt President Perverse Busharraf will leave no stone unturned in the search for her assassins, just as he's done in the hunt for bin Laden. Send lawyers, guns and money, please, especially the latter.

  If only we had a political candidate in this country worthy of assassination; alas, I don't see anyone among the current herd capable of making The Man nervous enough to unleash the usual deranged loner. And as regards the office-holders, advisers and minions we may think have it coming, well, shit, a guy can't shoot 'em all. There aren't enough bullets in the world or hours in the day. The trigger finger would blister, bleed, develop a thick yellow callus and finally turn arthritic, and they'd still be marching toward you six abreast, the bright light of venality shining in their piggy little eyes. Besides, remember the Gospel According to Eastwood, as expounded upon in "Unforgiven": "We all got it coming, kid."

  To take my mind off all this I spent a couple hours assembling a new piece of kitchen furniture designed to hide the trash can and provide the kittens with one more horizontal surface to walk on, then rode the trainer in the basement for a half-hour. I only swore out loud once. While assembling the trash-stasher, that is.

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The day after

  Another consumer-debt festival in the books; another lap around the sun nearly complete. Hope you and yours had as pleasant a time as we did.

  It wasn't exactly Norman Rockwell or anything — we had a dash of snow, but mostly it was 20-something outside with a wind chill in the single digits — so we ate a light breakfast, connected electronically with various friends and relatives, and played with the new toys (a Canon PowerShot SD850 IS for her, an Asus Eee PC for me; that's it over there, looking positively Lilliputian next to my 12-inch iBook).

  Then we took a bit of exercise indoors, ate a slightly heftier lunch, and pulled the cork on a bottle of 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc and watched part of the new George Carlin compilation, "All My Stuff," which includes all his HBO specials plus a few extras.

  I doubt George would have approved of our behavior; he blames priests and merchants for the state of the Republic. But then again, we threw a few bucks in his plate as it passed, so no doubt he'll forgive us.

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Peace on earth, good will toward kittens

  It's 10:15 p.m., I've been cooking, eating and socializing in various combinations for two days, and I'm fried, dyed and whipped to the side. But there is a largish glass of single-malt Scotch next to the keyboard, courtesy of a generous colleague, and I don't have a damn thing to do tomorrow except open presents, get some exercise and reheat leftovers. Fat city.

  The sis and bro'-in-law zipped in and out for the day, bearing appetites and gifts, including (for me) "The Completely Mad Don Martin," a two-volume, hardback collection of Martin's Mad magazine work from 1956 through 1988. I'm talking 17 pounds' worth of one of the funniest dudes who ever set pen to paper. What's not to like about a guy who writes sound effects like "sploydoing," "shklitza" and "flabadap"? Herself got a James Taylor CD. Piffle. A guy could live his whole life without hearing Sweet Baby James give out with a "sploydoing."

  After lunch — I finally got the whole Mexican chingadera made, only about an hour behind schedule, using every pot, pan, dish, utensil and piece of Tupperware in the house, plus a bottle of sparkling Alsatian rosé — we took five and then went over to a friend's house for an equally massive dinner of roast beast, spuds, asparagus, salad, bread, zinfandel, pie, cake and ice cream. He has a new LCD TV the size of my living room's west wall, and I have a new butt that blots out the sun. My chins have chins, and my liver called the CSPD to see if it could charge me with assault. Happily, the cops don't accept crank calls from rogue organs.

  That's it. The last brain cell finally hiccuped, fell over and croaked. Time to spread the bones. I coulda been someone (well, so could anyone). At least I still have all my teefuses. Good night, Shane MacGowan, wherever you are. Kirsty MacColl, may the light of heaven shine on your grave. And to the rest of you, slainte and good night.

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Bad moon rising

  OK, so that's a sunrise (and a damn' fine one, too; good job, Yahweh). But tonight, a full moon will rise to shine down on a town that set a record for homicides this year — 28 so far, six of them in December, and we still have eight days to go.

  Some of the killers — and worse, some of their victims — are military personnel who have enjoyed extended vacations in Gen. George Armstrong Bush's desert playground. According to the Gazette, felony bookings of military personnel at El Paso County's calaboose have shot up (you should pardon the expression) from 295 in 2005 to 471 so far this year.

  Do we blame the strain of extended deployment? Is this a consequence of lower recruiting standards? Combination of the two, plus a civilian leadership more interested in starting fights than cleaning up after them? Beats me. But there are something like 60 Army posts in the country these days, along with a dozen or so Marine bases, and I bet Bibleburg and Fort Cartoon aren't the only pieces of the military-industrial puzzle experiencing this distinct lack of peace on earth and good will toward men.

  'Course, you don't have to be in uniform to lose it. All you need is to watch your income dwindling along with your savings and the value of your home. Have a kid with leukemia and an insuror focused on profits, not people. Or simply follow the news, assuming you can find any.

  That being said, it was a lovely sunrise, wasn't it? Let's hope we get to see a few more of them.

  Later that same day: The cookery has commenced. A pot of posole, from a recipe so old I can't remember where I got it and packed with some excellent pork from Par Avion, is simmering on the range next to a pot of pinto beans with chipotle chile straight out of the Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook. A sackful of mild Anaheims has been roasted, peeled and chopped to cut the nuclear Hatch chiles I scored this fall for use in green-chile sauce (another Santa Fe SOC recipe). Two red-chile sauces, one a SFSOC stalwart and the other a Tex-Mex, tomatoey kind of deal from Rick Bayless's Everyday Mexican, are tucked away in the fridge, awaiting duty in the bison enchiladas. The entire ordeal has required a pint or two of the Wet Mountain IPA from Bristol Brewing. Thank God I had the foresight to take a growler with me to Herself's going-away party there the other night. Tomorrow I make the salsa fresca, both sets of enchiladas and Mexican rice. Still haven't figured out how to sauce the dessert tamales, but what the hell? We may not even get that far through the menu before we explode like Monsieur Creosote.

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Happy solstice

  What excellent timing: a minor snowstorm glazes Bibleburg, just in time for the first day of winter. VeloNews editor Ben Delaney was on the road with his family last night, bound for New Mexico, but didn't even come close — he spent the night at a Bibleburg motel after a six-hour drive from Boulder, a trip that takes two hours or less in ordinary circumstances. And now Raton Pass is closed at Trinidad, leaving him the option of back-dooring the Land of Enchantment via La Veta Pass (also no picnic) or enjoying a leisurely breakfast while waiting for the DOT to do some serious plowing.

  Me, I have some serious grocery shopping to do. My sister and her husband are coming down from Fort Collins for Christmas Eve lunch, which will include posole, chicken enchiladas with green chile, bison enchiladas with red chile, tamales, beans and rice — and the tamales are the only items I ain't making. Herself gets 'em from a woman at her now-former workplace, Pikes Peak Community College. Come the New Year, she goes to work for the Colorado Library Consortium, which has nothing to do with the high-speed production of northern New Mexican cuisine, so the less said about it, the better. There's cooking to do.

  Meanwhile, can you smell what The Decider is cookin'? A heapin' helpin' of some scrumptious good will. Mmm, hmm, good. The guy's a regular Insanity Clause.

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  Some people fear that politics may have played a role in BushCo's decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases through stricter fuel-economy standards — among them The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle. Gee, y'think? Just 'cause auto execs prostrated themselves before Darth Cheney, begging His Imperial Nastiness for succor? Surely not.

  Meanwhile, the annual O'Grady Awards are online at VeloNews.com. Early feedback from Padraig at Belgium Knee Warmers gives a beery, muddy thumb's-up to my proposal for a criterium circuit enclosing a cyclo-cross park, a BMX course and a brewpub. Quoth Padraig: "That's a damn fine idea. It's an incredible idea. I mean, the only problem with that idea is that you came up with it. No offense, but I'm thinking USA Cycling sees your ideas as probably being 180 degrees out of phase with proper logic. Of course, my math says that puts you about 10-15 degrees out of phase at most. Now, go make friends with some rich dude in Seattle or Portland where an idea like that could develop legs."

  I need to develop some legs right here in Bibleburg. I got out for a couple brisk, sloppy 'cross-bike rides Wednesday and Thursday, and damn, was I slow. Sketchy on the icy bits, too, from lack of practice. It reminded me of hearing Paul Curley quip, "Lot of shaky old men out here," during warmup on the course at nationals in Golden, back in '92. The conditions then were not unlike those at this year's nats — low temps, frozen, rutted course and lots of crashing. I missed a top-10 finish by seconds, losing out to Bob Lawson, who was riding a mountain bike. But we were both well behind the hot dogs, like Curley, Laurence Malone and Max Jones.

  The weather is supposed to turn on us again today, according to the National Weather Service. Forty-eight and breezy right now, yet here I sit, waiting on various delivery people bearing solstice-slash-Zappadan gifts. By the way, this is the final shopping day of Zappadan, Frank Zappa's birthday, so you'd best get busy. I'd like a 2.4GHz iMac with the 24-inch screen, thank you, I'll take it now, please. Plus a hammock on a white beach somewhere, and I ain't talking Antarctica here, bub.

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Shop 'til you drop? Nah

  Here's an interesting observation from Paco Underhill, president of Envirosell, a regular contributor to PBS and the BBC who Bill Steigerwald of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says " has spent more than 25 years studying the behavior of consumers and helping companies understand them and how they shop." Says Underhill: "The bottom line for all of us, though, particularly for those of us who are over age 50, is that most of us could live the rest of our lives on fruit, vegetables, pasta, wine, olive oil and yearly doses of socks and underwear. We have all the ties and shirts and sweaters and lawn mowers and television sets that we'll need for the foreseeable future."

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Boulder and balderdash

  Paid a visit to the VeloNews mothership in Boulder yesterday, chatting with honchos, propeller-heads and grunts about the website and impending improvements thereto. I drop in every few years, just to lower property values, steal a few high-dollar items for resale on eBay, and remind them that, yes, I am a living, breathing member of the lower primates who requires a bone now and then, if only to bash against the great black monolith. Ook ook ook.

  Today was largely squandered on kitten care, grocery collection and computer maintenance (I fear a pricey new plastic box from Mr. Jobs looms in my immediate future). While I was thus occupied, the flood of bad news and bullshit continued unabated. And I couldn't help but wonder — Who Are the Brain Police?

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Meanwhile, at cyclo-cross nationals . . .

  Props to all my Colorado geezer homies who were playing bicycle tag in the deep freeze out there in Kansas Shitty (organizers' report here; complete results here). Ned Overend won the 50-54 race (surprise, surprise), Brook Watts and Karl Kiester finished eighth and ninth, and Thomas Prehn pulled out a 24th-place finish. Says Brook: "It wasn't as bad as last KC time but it was slick and rutted. Karl broke a fork and ran half the course and still was on my wheel for a top-10. Lots of little mistakes added up to lost time."

  In the 55-59s, Bob Bieterman took the silver (that's him in the Chipotle kit in the photo I lifted from Kurt Jambretz of Action Images), while Mike Spak scored an excellent 10th place, if you believe the officials (Mike didn't); Lee Waldman, a perennial hard man, was apparently having some difficulty with the ice and finished 21st. A tip of the Mad Dog tuque to all. Me, I rode the trainer for 45 minutes. Dude, where's my medal?

  This just in: Tim Johnson and Katie Compton have won the elite events at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships. Chapeau to both.

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Mute button

  A VeloNews.com reader dropped a note the other day, wondering why I haven't written a Foaming Rant in a while. It's a hard thing to explain, because most readers think that writing and cartooning is all I do. Alas, journalism is both a left- and right-brain activity, and the left side spends a lot of time on the clock so the right side can play with the cranial Silly Putty.

  Here's the deal. I write 18 columns a year for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, plus 18 Grapevine columns (a blend of industry gossip and News of the Weird). I also draw something like 25 "Shop Talk" strips a year for BRAIN, depending upon how many trade-show dailies the Laguna Hills gang is producing. VeloNews gets 20 cartoons a year plus the year-end O'Grady Awards. Mostly right-brain work here.

  VeloNews.com, meanwhile, requires my services as an editor two days a week throughout the season, for three weeks straight during each of the three grand tours, and as the occasional pinch-hitter whenever. This means editing stories from staffers and free-lancers, press releases from the feds, race promoters or whomever, with an eye toward accuracy, grammar, spelling, usage and style; sizing and posting photos; and chasing down results and translating them from a variety of formats, including Word, Excel and Acrobat PDF (note to race promoters: We all hate PDF'd results. Cut that shit out). We're talking some serious left-brain work here.

  If it doesn't exactly sound like hard labor, well, it isn't. And the right-brain stuff is mostly fun. But it's all on the same subject — bicycling — and it doesn't pay the bills. What does? The left-brain stuff, which is mostly no fun at all and is also all on the same subject — bicycling. It's sensory overload, is what. So after the right brain has endured about nine months of the left brain goose-stepping around, cracking its riding crop against one polished boot, barking orders and in general trying to make the trains run on time, it simply drops its Etch-a-Sketch and stalks off somewhere for a nip and a nap. Sorry 'bout that.

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'Cross nats

  If you just can't wait for those pokey ol' cycling websites to get the latest and greatest up, take a squint at this: Race organizers are live-blogging the races as they're being run. There's not a lot of color so far, just who won and a bit about the weather (think deep space), but it's better than nothing if you find yourself with a spare minute in the old cube farm.

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Baseball is dopey

  "Steroid Report Implicates Top Players", trumpets The New York Times. "Whew," say pro cyclists as the spotlight shifts away from them for a nanosecond. "Put me in, Coach (snort, shoot), I'm ready to play (rub, gulp) today . . ."

  Meanwhile, cyclo-cross nationals got under way today in Kansas City, where the word was "cold." As in fuckin' cold, icy, muddy and all the rest of it. Today's racing was non-championship "B" stuff, but still, damn. A tip of the Mad Dog tuque to Kristal Boni of Broomfield for winning the women's race and Morrison's Shawnee Brenner for finishing second. Props, too, to Albuquerque's Pat Morrison for winning the 40-plus race.

  A number of my old comrades, including Brook and Karl Kiester, will be doing battle with the nation's meanest geezers in KC, and I'd be right there with them if only the race were being held in Tucson. Watching, of course, with a frosty beverage in one hand and a cowbell in the other.

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  Ah, finally; a moment to decompress. A massive cauldron of what eventually will be a tasty chicken soup is simmering on the range, there is a glass of an excellent French white next to the keyboard, and all is right with the world. Well, this corner of it, anyway. No dingbat home-schoolers have popped by with various high-caliber smokepoles and a backpack full of boom, planning to punch our tickets for the Celestial Express. We're not being blown up by sectarian nutbags, getting waterboarded by shadowy agents of the State, or paying any attention whatsoever to the Republican debate.

  I even witnessed one of those rare random acts of kindness the hippies are always on about via bumper sticker on rattletrap Volvos. While I was standing in a checkout line at the grocery, an elderly woman in one of those powered-wheelchair/grocery-cart deals whirred up behind me. The guy in front turns around and sees her, then looks at me. "Good thinking," I said, and we both stepped aside to let her roll on through to the front of the line. I shifted to the next line over, and when it seemed clear that I would be checking out faster than the good Samaritan, I waved him through in front of me. Small things, true, but comforting nonetheless. A second miracle of Zappadan, perchance? Consult The Grand Wazoo.

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  Pixels and powder, powder and pixels — it was all about the shoveling today in Bibleburg, whether I was at the keyboard in the office or behind the idiot stick on the sidewalk. I closed out another Bicycle Retailer & Industry News deadline (coming in a couple days OTB); did a bit of this, that and the other for VeloNews.com; and shifted some snow from here to there with the push broom and scoop shovel.

  Paving the driveway earlier this year? Bad idea. When it was red gravel, it required no shoveling; we just lived with the ice, lumps and goo, occasionally fetching select bits into the house so they could warm up. But now that it's this vast expanse of smooth, shiny concrete, well, shit, it must be cleared. As much as we paid for the sonofabitch, I want to see it, every damn' day.

  Something I do not want to see every damn' day is a story like this. Is this the America you grew up with, studied in school, maybe defended against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Is this your idea of a shining city on a hill? A neon-lit whorehouse full of torturers, chickenshits, buck-passers, time-servers, liars, ass-kissers and fools, indifferently overseen by a clot of compulsive shoppers with an addiction to "reality" TV? If so, well, a merry fuckin' Christmas to you. Satan Claus has granted your every wish.

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Today's blasphemy

  First off, all due respect, people should be able to go to the church of their choice without getting shot or having to shoot someone. Eat a wafer, hug a tree, light a menorah, sit cross-legged 'til your feet explode, I don't care. Whatever punches your Get Out of Hell Free Card. Going to church should not involve body armor and a concealed-carry permit.

  That being said, some of the born-again crowd were speaking in tongues of the forked variety after the shootings in Arvada and at New Life Church. George Morrison, a minister at Faith Bible Chapel, stated flatly: "God did not cause this to happen." Uh huh. Dude follows pro football so closely He can't take a minute to whip a quick, fatal plague on some nutbag with a shitload of firearms on his person, out hunting His disciples? Were I a religious man, I'd suggest there might be more here than meets the downcast eye.

  And then there's the security guard who croaked the perp' when he popped by New Life to carve a few more notches on his weapons. "God was with me," she said. "He never left my side." It's a basic question, true, but still — why her side and not the side of the unarmed parishioners in Arvada and Bibleburg who found themselves in the express line to Heaven between the wafer and the wine? Could it be that the Lord manifests Himself these days in the form of a Glock 9mm? Remember your Heinlein: "God fights on side of heaviest artillery."

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Forget the collection plate, pass the armor plate

  Some batshit crazy (or crazies) is hunting Christians. And they're not even good eating.

  This town is getting meaner all the time. Someone is stalking downtown, cracking women upside the head with boards or bottles and taking whatever's on them, and there's enough gunfire for two horse operas and a Cheney hunting trip.

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Watch out where the huskies go . . .

  . . . and don't you eat that yellow snow. It's mostly white in these parts today (no huskies with bladder issues in the neighborhood), but an Eskimo boy can't be too careful in these trying times.

  It's been snowing lightly most of the morning, with a dash of freezing fog and temps in the 20s. After a short, pointless bout of snow-shoveling I dragged a bike out of the garage and bolted it to the Cateye trainer in the basement. Running in this stuff is just begging for a twisted ankle, pulled hamstring or ass-to-sidewalk impact, and if I bust a hip Herself will have me put down in a hot New York minute. Thus it's time for the first Tour de Nowhere of the holiday season. Frankly, I'd rather be waterboarded, but the CIA scumbags are all busy burning videotapes. Great googly moogly!

  Later that same day: Arrghh. Forty-five minutes was all I could stand, even with an iPod full of Led Zep', Clapton and other leg-shakers. The good news is Big Pussy didn't freak when I started pedaling. He's a little twitchy about sudden, weird noises, but when I started cranking out the revs he just glanced over at me from the window shelf and went back to napping.

  Meanwhile, the Justice Department and the CIA have announced a joint inquiry into whether a full investigation is required regarding the destruc . . . bwaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I'm sorry, there was no way I could get through that sentence with a straight face. You can smell the DeeCee shredders overheating all the way out here in Bibleburg.

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The first miracle of Zappadan

  Frank Zappa appeared to me today in the form of the alumni magazine from the University of Denver, where Herself collected her master's degree. It seems that 36 years ago — the same year that Fillmore East, the first Mothers of Invention album I'd ever heard in its entirety, was released — FZ and the Mothers played to a packed house at the DU arena.

  The mag notes that many students didn't quite know what to expect from the show, although one unnamed concertgoer seemed to be clued in. "Jesus, this oughta be one helluva weird night, man," he told a reporter for the college paper. Were you there, Bwana Dik? The University of Denver Magazine wants to hear from you.

  Elsewhere, CIA videotapes of torture — pardon me, "aggressive interrogation practices" — have mysteriously disappeared. "We wanted to record a couple episodes of "24" to jerk off to and didn't have any blank tapes handy," said one spook, who declined to be identified. "But it's not like you missed anything. I mean, you've seen one guy waterboarded, you've seen 'em all."

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The Little House I Used to Live In

  The Chef-in-Chief slips the po' folk another burnt weeny sandwich, right between the buns. Thanks and a tip of the Zappa Kappa to Kevin Drum's Political Animal.

  Later that same day: A great big fat hear-fuckin'-hear goes out to my man Kevin the D for his reaction to Mitt Romney's "deeply offensive speech" on faith, which didn't give so much as a head-wave to those of us who are not believers. Says Kevin:

(T)he cowardice and pandering here is just phenomenal. Not only does Romney not have the guts to toss in even a single passing phrase about the nonreligious, as JFK did, he went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion," that no movement of conscience is possible without religion, and that judges had better respect our "foundation of faith" lest our country's entire greatness disappear. And that was just the warmup.

I know, I know. He's just doing what he has to do. Evangelical base and all that. But I'm not religious, and yet, mirabile dictu, I still manage to support freedom, have a conscience, and understand the law. I'm tired of people implying otherwise.

  I couldn't agree more, especially after just enduring an extended NPR God-talk jabberfest while trying to jump-start a column with the assistance of a glass or two of St. Paul's favorite stomach-settler. All due respect to the Christians who pop by here for a peek at the Dark Side (and yes, there are a few), the Founding Fathers sought both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. I could do with a little of the latter right now.

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Freak out!

  Trouble every day.

Well I'm about to get sick
From watchin' my TV
Been checkin' out the news
Till my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it's gonna change, my friend
Is anybody's guess, so I'm
Watchin' and I'm waitin'
Hopin' for the best
Even think I'll go to prayin'
Every time I hear 'em sayin'
There's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay the trouble
Comin' every day

  Cue the Nasal Retentive Calliope Music.

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Zappadan commences

  Those crazy kits. They just can't wait to unwrap their Zappadan presents. Turkish was so excited he woke me up at 3 a.m., head-diving me with that shovel-shaped skull like a furry, retarded kamikaze pilot. I got up, had a glass of water, peed, then took him on my lap and explained that the gift I was giving him on this, the first day of Zappadan, was the gift of not being boiled alive in a vat of hot poop. Then I went back to bed.

  Some four hours later, refreshed, I rose to the dulcet tones of The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny announcing the Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin. And a happy Zappadan to you, too.

  Later that same day: My fellow Zappatistas, The Aristocrats, nail it as regards what The Decider knew, if anything, and when he knew it, regarding the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran — ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment, Frank Zappa performing "Dumb All Over":

Whoever we are
Wherever we're from
We shoulda noticed by now
Our behavior is dumb
And if our chances
Expect to improve
Its gonna take a lot more
Than tryin to remove
The other race
Or the other whatever
From the face
Of the planet altogether

  This asshat is not only dumb, he's a bad liar (The Decider, not FZ). How much safer we would all be today if Barbara and George had just rolled over and gone to sleep that fateful night 62 years ago.

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It's Zappadan Eve!

  Yes indeedy, it's that time of year again. Titties 'n' beer for everyone! You may each open one present (but only one, or the Zomby Woof will gitcha). And don't forget to kiss Dinah Moe Humm under the cameltoe. Mistletoe. Whichever.

  Incidentally, the Officially Approved Beverage of the Zappadan Festival here in Bibleburg is (right now) Kill Ugly Radio from the fine folks at Lagunitas Brewing Co. They're doing a series of Zappa-album tribute ales, the first of which was Freak Out! and marked the 40th anniversary of that disc. Kill Ugly Radio is the second (available locally at Coaltrain Wine & Liquor). Yeah, I know, the album was titled "Absolutely Free," but what liquor-store proprietor in his right mind wants to spend his nights arguing with philosophy majors over whether the beer is, in fact, absolutely free or must be paid for? Next up: Lumpy Gravy, which is due out sometime this month, according to the most excellent Stephanie of Lagunitas, who says she still has some leftover labels from the earlier issues in case anyone has a craving for fiber.

  According to the Frank Zappa website, Tony Magee, co-founder of Lagunitas Brewing, struck an agreement with Zappa's family for rights to produce the themed beers, all of which will be linked to album anniversaries. Look for a new baby every nine months or so. Mmmm ... Hot Rats. Thanks to Daily Dog reader JA for the tipski; now I believe I'll have a nipski.

  In other, less-interesting news: I did a quadrathlon today: Drive, run, ride, drive. Dropped the coolant-spewing Forester at Heuberger Subaru, ran home, worked, ate, bought beer, cooked, played with kittens, dicked around, then jumped on the Soma Double Cross and rode to the dealership to collect the repaired rice-grinder, which (happily) suffered nothing worse than a bum radiator cap. A portent of good tidings this Zappadan? Consult the Book of Joe's Garage.

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  I'm getting too old for this shit. I wore three, count 'em, three long-sleeved jerseys plus an undershirt, bibs over neoprene leg warmers, wool socks, neoprene booties, a stocking cap and a pair of sausage-finger Pearl Izumi gloves for my ride with O'Stank today, and I was still cold. Should've added a balaclava and a tot or six of Gaelic brain eraser. Damn. Even the fabled Big Irish Ass got frosty out there; when I got back home and peeled down, it felt like a ham I'd just pulled from the freezer.

  Meanwhile, the Gazette reports that USA Cycling has set a deadline of Dec. 15 to decide whether it wants to remain in Bibleburg or shift to either Ogden, Utah, or an unnamed third city. Will Bibleburg suck it up and give the feds free office space? Or will the feds decide they'd like to have their HQ in a place where there's actually, like, some bicycle racing going on? Stay tuned.

  And for those of you who follow what America calls "football" and the rest of the world calls "The Locker Room of Dr. Moreau," the Broncos got stomped like roaches in a coldwater flat by their arch-enemies, the Oakland Raiders, who had been 3-and-8 going into the game. This is not unlike losing a bar fight to a synchronized-swimming team.

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The rich keep getting richer (and buying better RVs, too)

  The RV industry is feeling the pinch of a shrinking economy — unless you're talking about the top end, where a captain of industry can score himself a $1.7 million land yacht "with Italian marble floors, high-tech controls, window-size flat-screen high-definition televisions and always-connected satellite systems for Internet and satellite TV." The high end, says Matt Howard, veep for marketing at Country Coach, "is where our growth is."

  Myself, I think I could get by with a Winnebago View (just $86,880 for a base model). Or maybe the Airstream Interstate (a paltry $79,904 for this year's edition). Or I could keep on chucking a sleeping bag, tent and camp stove in the back of the Forester, peeing on the ground and getting 30 mpg. Maybe I'll start fetching that big-ass North Face tent around instead of the piddling little Eureka. That should make my wiener look bigger.

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Evel Knievel finally lays it down for good

  The onetime daredevil has cashed in his chips, not from jumping buses, canyons or tanks full of sharks, but from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis. McPaper's Jon Saraceno looked in on "the crippled grandfather of extreme sports" earlier this year.

  Meanwhile, all that telecom money aside, it must suck to be Bob Stapleton. Hired as a sort of benevolent Dr. Frankenstein with the task of reanimating a defunct T-Mobile, he stuffs the really stinky bits down the garbage disposal, salvages what parts he can and stitches on a whole bunch of fresh meat with high hopes of riding the lightning come 2008. And what happens? The villagers run away screaming anyway, clutching their pocketbooks.

  Stapleton says he has the wherewithal to run the team for two years even without a title sponsor, but still, damn. Thank you so much, Bjarne Riis, Udo Bolts, Erik Zabel, Jörg Jaksche, Patrik Sinkewitz, Rolf Aldag, Bert Dietz, Christian Henn, Oscar Sevilla and Jan Ullrich.

  In other cycling news, a friend writes that she's starting a new women's cycling team but is having trouble coming up with a name. She's looking for something "feminine and fun with a cyclist twist." Any thoughts out there? I've proposed Handlebar Belles, EstroGenies and Spoke Wenches. The Brass Nipple Gang? Betty Crankers? Jeez, that's really reaching. I got nothin' here.

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Rub a dub dub, there's a mouse in the tub

  A new candidate for Best Kitten Game Ever — Fetch the Mousie From the Tub. Take one fake mouse and one real kitten; throw the first in the tub and watch the second follow. Retrieve and repeat as indicated. Mia Sopaipilla can do this all day long. Hard to believe this is the same kitten who spent her first week with us confined to a cardboard box in the bathroom, sneezing, snuffling and getting a daily double of antibiotics and antihistamine.

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Market farces

  Every town has at least one business whose continued survival despite knuckleheaded management, inept employees and shoddy product is a puck in the gob of capitalism. Ours is the Safeway in the Bon Shopping Center. This is the Bizarro World Grocery California: You can't check out anytime you want — you can only leave.

  Whatever you're looking for, this miserable shithole will not have it. Arugula? Dream on. A reliable supply of organic anything? Get over yourself. "Fresh" basil that is still green rather than black? Puh-leeze. This notwithstanding, the wait to check out with whatever allegedly edible item you've been able to unearth is interminable, because the clerks are all fucking off somewhere. Half the staff seems to spend its shift camped by the south doors, belching clouds of smoke, stale sweat and inane chatter. After a disastrous stint in the "express" line some weeks back that caused me to depart, profanely, at speed and sans groceries, I swore that I would never again set foot in the place. But when a grocery run to Mountain Mama failed to discover sweet pickle relish, a key ingredient in a mess of tuna salad I had planned for lunch, I set my jaw and strode boldly into the Safeway of the Living Dead.

  The relish was there, much to my surprise (a garbage brand pumped full of high fructose corn syrup and other superfluous ingredients). But so was the usual gang of idiots. Just one checkout lane was open — the same one in which I whiled away so many pleasant hours the last time around — and the line from it snaked all the way from the Starbucks station to the magazine rack.

  "You've got to be kidding me," I muttered. "Just what I was thinking," chirped a woman with a full cart as she whipped out a cell phone, probably to dictate her will should she not survive the journey to the Lone Checker.

  I glared at the jar of relish in my hand. No amount of tuna salad, no matter how tasty, is worth a second of this bullshit, I thought. I set it down and left, emptyhanded again. There was leftover pizza in the fridge.

  Meanwhile, who cares about the writers' strike? The CNN-YouTube GOP presidential debate is on! Plenty of outfits are live-blogging this laugh riot, including The New York Times, whose offering can be found here. The Defeatocrats, alas, have canceled their scheduled Dec. 10 debate in deference to their comrades walking the picket lines. That's OK; they ain't funny anyway.

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T-Mobile unplugged

  More mierda for cycling's abanico: T-Mobile is dropping its cycling sponsorship. Way to go, dopeheads. To quote Walter Sobchak from "The Big Lebowski," "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass."

  In other News of the Retarded, Bibleburg seems poised to return to two-way traffic on Tejon Street, which will make it even easier for dipshit SUV pilots texting on their CrackBerries to run over unwary cyclists. The goal is to give a boost to the area's two or three surviving merchants, who complain that nobody wants to shop downtown. Here's a hint and a half for your ass, guys: Nobody shops downtown because you are not selling anything that anyone wants to buy, other than indifferently prepared meals and strong drink. Outside of Sparrow Hawk Cookware and Shewmaker's Camera, that is.

  Late update: Just seven days remain until the Wholly Festival of Zappadan, which commences with St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast served up by Father O'Blivion and concludes with a burnt weeny sandwich at Joe's Garage. But skip the dessert course (yellow sno-cone).

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Cyber Monday

  Didn't buy shit. Not online, anyway. I did buy an oil change for the Forester, a couple bottles of grape-based tonsil polish for reality avoidance and a big-ass Poor Richard's pizza for dinner, but these are hardly big-ticket items. Nobody at the Chamber of Commerce is jacking off over this piddling outlay.

  And it seems that my cheapskate behavior is right in line with the rest of Shopping Nation, which spent the big holiday weekend stingily doling out its pennies at discount retailers.

  Further, weightier expenditures loom, however. Herself's old G3 iBook has a hitch in its gitalong and won't boot up in OS X, though Disk First Aid and I finally got it to boot in OS 9.2.2. The propeller-heads at Voelker Research will make a mortgage payment off this obsolete machine, unless I fix it the way I once fixed Herself's incessantly beeping sports watch (with a hammer). Our piece-of-shit Sears refrigerator is on the blink and out of warranty, leaking water from its icemaker for a second time. And the Forester has a coolant leak, maybe even more than one, and while Heuberger says it's covered by warranty I'll believe it when I drive the sonofabitch away from the service department without that fabled burning, itching feeling.

  Meanwhile, my buddy Hal has beaten me to the punch on a retail purchase for the first time in recent memory, scoring a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3/B digital camera. He used it to snap this shot of the Sangre de Cristos mountains from a piece of property just east of Weirdcliffe. Somebody has to keep the retail juggernaut lumbering along.

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  Turkish — a.k.a. Mighty Whitey the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg, Turkenstein, The Turkinator, Baby Huey, et al — rests up for his next championship bout with Mia Sopaipilla, who can be seen at lower right, training with her sparring partner Mister Piggy (photos courtesy the Ansel Addams Family).

  Meanwhile, the Busheviks just keep moving those goalposts down the field, according to The New York Times. Instead of moving toward unifying Iraq, steps that include passage of a long-delayed plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections, the neoconmen's new goals include "passage of a $48 billion Iraqi budget, something the Iraqis say they are on their way to doing anyway; renewing the United Nations mandate that authorizes an American presence in the country, which the Iraqis have done repeatedly before; and passing legislation to allow thousands of Baath Party members from Saddam Hussein's era to rejoin the government. A senior Bush administration official described that goal as largely symbolic since rehirings have been quietly taking place already."

  The Afghanistan thing isn't working out all that well, either, according to The Washington Post. A National Security Council evaluation finds that while individual battles against Taliban fighters are going well, the Taliban is expanding into new territory, opium-poppy cultivation is on the rise and Hamid Karzai remains little more than the mayor of Kabul. Notes The Post:

This judgment reflects sharp differences between U.S. military and intelligence officials on where the Afghan war is headed. Intelligence analysts acknowledge the battlefield victories, but they highlight the Taliban's unchallenged expansion into new territory, an increase in opium poppy cultivation and the weakness of the government of President Hamid Karzai as signs that the war effort is deteriorating.

The contrasting views echo repeated internal disagreements over the Iraq war: While the military finds success in a virtually unbroken line of tactical achievements, intelligence officials worry about a looming strategic failure.

  Kevin Drum notes that the situation recalls the American misunderstanding of the Vietnam war, as laid bare in 1975 by North Vietnamese Col. Tu's famous aphorism when U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers went to Hanoi for talks following the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. "You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield," Summers said, to which Tu replied, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."

  Heckuva job, Bushie.

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Huckabee's nuts

  Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi says GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is both extraordinarily likeable and batshit crazy. Notes Taibbi:

In the world of GOP politics, he represents something entirely new — a cross between John Edwards and Jerry Falwell, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher who actually seems to give a shit about the working poor.

But Huckabee is also something else: full-blown nuts, a Christian goofball of the highest order. He believes the Earth may be only 6,000 years old, angrily rejects the evidence that human beings evolved from "primates" and thinks America wouldn't need so much Mexican labor if we allowed every aborted fetus to grow up and enter the workforce. To top it off, Huckabee also left behind a record of ethical missteps in the swamp of Arkansas politics that make Whitewater seem like a jaywalking ticket.
  Elsewhere, in keeping with our continuing holiday-shopping coverage, Danny Schechter discusses the annual shopocalypse in terms of "affluenza", an ailment whose symptoms include a willful ignorance of what many fear is a looming economic collapse.

  On the other side of the world, meanwhile, the Aussies show America the way, shitcanning staunch Bush ally and renowned fucktard John Howard, who defied the electorate to support Numbnuts in his War on Terra. The final indignity: Howard may lose his his own seat in the Sydney suburb of Bennelong, which he has held for 33 years, to a former television anchor and rookie politician. He would be the first sitting prime minister to lose his seat since 1929, says The New York Times. Good riddance.

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Black Friday

  It should be rechristened "Dummy Day." Who the hell queues up at 4 a.m. on a frosty November morning for a shot at a Disney snow globe, an MP3 player or digital picture frames? If you believe the National Retail Federation, 133 million of us. Good Lord. Don't you wish we could generate the same fervor for a presidential election? Citizens in parkas and sleeping bags, lined up outside their polling places in the dark, just champing at the bit for their chance at throwing the rascals out?

  I had planned to observe Buy Nothing Day, but we were short of grub and grog, so I toddled off to the King Soopers and Coaltrain around elevenish to fetch the fixings of a massive cauldron of beef vegetable soup and a few low-end bottles of Frog tonsil polish. No camping required, no bargains realized; but a cheap Zune won't keep you warm when the wind chill slashes the temps to single digits.

  Don't tell that to 36-year-old Cindy Chavez or 19-year-old Sawmon Jahagiri, though. Chavez leapt onto a palette stacked with digital picture frames at a Wal-Mart in Nashville, coming away with six of the stupid fucking things.

  "I just didn't think I could reach down and bend over and get it," she told The New York Times. And having seen the clientele at more than one Wal-Mart over the years before I started boycotting the outfit, I'll bet she was right. Frankly, I'm amazed that she could get airborne without a JATO pack and maybe a catapult.

  Jahagiri, meanwhile, paid $40 to cut in line at a Los Angeles Circuit City and still had to battle the crowds to score his father's Christmas present, a $900 50-inch Samsung plasma TV, a prize he had secured by 5:30 a.m.

  "I really can't afford this TV. I'll be making monthly payments on my credit card until this time next year," the Saddleback College student told The Los Angeles Times, adding that he plans to take a winter job to help pay off the debt.

  "But it's the holidays," he said. "You do what you have to do."

  I'm sorry, Sawmon old sport, but if that constitutes "doing what you have to do," it's time for a brain scan to see what's making you act like a feeb. What you have to do is not bury your young ass under a mountain of consumer debt so your pop can watch "Project Runway" on a screen the size of the wide end of the Circuit City you bought the goddamn thing from.

  This solstice, I'm giving Herself some clothes that she's already bought, she's giving me a $430 digital camera that I can write off as a business expense, and we're paying off the loan on her Subaru. It won't leave a lot of crumpled paper under the tree, but hey — we're not buying a tree, either.

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Turkey day, indeed

  The U.S. Olympic Committee wants free office space if it's to keep its headquarters here in Bibleburg, according to the Gazette. "We're fully prepared to be responsible for ongoing operations costs in our building, but we're not capable of funding a lease, or any acquisition cost in a purchase," said USOC consultant James Didion in a note written to a city staffer.

  Well, shit. I can dig it. Myself, I'm prepared to handle ongoing operations costs in our house, but I could certainly do without the mortgage. How about you? Cutting that little corner would free up a lot of cha-ching for, well, whatever.

  The crust of these bozos. They're nearly as shameless as the Christian soldiers who want to be able to run the country without paying taxes. The Olympic "movement" is a giant ATM for everyone involved, barring the taxpayers who do the actual heavy lifting — just ask the Brits, who are already taking some stiff kicks to the wallet pocket for the 2012 Games. Or the Aussies and Greeks, who saw their respective tabs for hosting the Games double and quadruple.

  In short, fuck these people. The Olympics haven't been about sport since the Games began admitting pros. It's strictly business, and the swine should be paying their own bills like the rest of us.

  Meanwhile, Turkish and Mia wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving, and urge you to join them in an O'Grady family tradition — listening to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant."

  Late update: What am I thankful for today? That Herself and I weren't involved in one of the several pileups we saw en route to Fort Fun for turkey with my sis and bro'-in-law. We saw one single-car wreck, two two-cars, a triple and the piéce de la resistance, a seven-car clusterfuck that shut down the southbound lane of I-25 just south of Johnson Corners. Mind you, this is mostly straight interstate we're talking about here, sans ice, snow or other forms of precipitation, and in broad daylight. Next year I think we'll just phone the fucker in. "Hey, sis, how's that turkey? Good, huh? Ours too. Gotta go, best to Howard."

  Even later update: Just an even dozen days remain until the commencement of the Festival of Zappadan. As the High Priests of Zappadan proclaim:

"Zappadan, unlike some of the other festivals, does not start the day Wal-Mart puts out the decorations. It starts on December 4, in honor of the sad day in 1993 when the modern-day composer, Frank Zappa, refused to die for the last time. It ends on December 21, in honor of the day he was born. There is no messy Advent, no Lent, no Passover, or any of those complicated events that entangle the Christian calendar for the whole fucking year. Its end is closer to the Winter Solstice than Christmas and you can forget about it after that. No ashes on your forehead, speaking in tongues, or silly rituals involving not enough wine to get you ripped and silly dry wafers that stick to the roof of your mouth."

  That is all ye need to know, until Uncle Meat blows hot poop at you through the Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny at the Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue.


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The proper place for ice is in a drink

  Our endless summer just ended. Bibleburg shot from 78 degrees and sunny on Monday to 21 and snow on Wednesday. That's Colorado for you; never a dull moment. Lots of dull hours, but never a dull moment.

  Big Turk finds the chilly white stuff irksome. He went out for a brief scamper and then decided to view with alarm through a sunny living-room window, stretched out on the back of the couch. Just as well, I thought as a largish fox trotted past, hunting breakfast. Haven't seen one of those for a while, but just because you don't see 'em doesn't mean they aren't there.

  Meanwhile, Men's Health says Bibleburg is the third drunkest city in America, much to the dismay of the local MADD chapter, which wonders how the magazine arrived at its conclusions. Maybe they're tracking my credit card.

  Late update: Ah, the impenetrable maze of contradictions that is Bibleburg. Seen on the road this afternoon — a beater Subaru Legacy wagon with a "Don't Partially Hydrogenate Me" bumper sticker, a Domino's Pizza rooftop fin, a Marine Corps sticker and a KRCC-FM sticker, all topped off with a bike rack. All it lacked was a fish symbol of some kind and a COEXIST sticker.

  Even later update: Thanks to everyone who kicked a digital-camera recommendation my way. The response was heavy on Canons, with a couple shills for Nikon and one Konica/Minolta. I'm starting to lean away from the digital SLR and toward the Canon PowerShot G9, which seems like a lot of bang for the bucks in a still-portable package.

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Lock and load

  Oh, joy: The Supremes will be taking up the question of whether the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. This is a job more suited to a copy editor, as the Second Amendment is the fuzziest bit of obfuscation in that venerable document: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Jesus. Tortured writing like that would get you a dire glance and a bad grade in any newswriting class I ever took.

  The New York Times notes that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said during his Senate confirmation hearing that the court's most recent Second Amendment decision, in 1939, left "very open" the question of whether the amendment protected an individual or a collective right to bear arms. Could this mean we gun nuts will have to join "well-regulated Militias" and start drilling on weekends? Could we find ourselves pulling 15-month hitches in Iraq? Stay tuned — the case is likely to come up for argument come spring.

  While we're discussing fine machinery, anyone have a recommendation for a digital SLR camera? I want to get something with a few more bells and whistles than my leetle Canon PowerShot SD600 point-and-shoot, but nothing so advanced as to be incomprehensible to my lizard brain. I've looked at and handled the Canon Digital Rebel XT and XTi, the Nikon D40 and D40X, and the Pentax K100D Super, and like 'em all; they also get stellar ratings from Macworld, but I take consumer-magazine recommendations with a grain of salt, plus lime and tequila.

  Over the years, I've owned a number of Canon cameras, from a bulletproof A1 with a 200mm lens and motor drive (a gift from a sports editor who wanted shots of bike races) to a series of Digital Elph point-and-shoots, and they've all been stellar. Never owned a Nikon, but I know a lot of pro shooters who swear by 'em. And the only Pentax I've ever owned I got in a swap with a person of dubious reputation involving items that are probably better left undiscussed (I definitely came off second best in that bargain with the devil, though the camera proved acceptable).

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Different (pedal) strokes

  Bored with all my usual haunts, I threw the Soma Double Cross atop the Forester and drove south for my first visit to Cheyenne Mountain State Park today, which the weather wizards say will be our last day of decent weather before a cold front whisks in. Talk about your big fun — there was hardly a soul on the trails (a few hikers, no cyclists), so I basically had the entire joint to myself.

  This is a perfect park for a cyclo-cross bike (here's a map in .pdf format). Moderate climbs, swooping, sinuous descents and a few rock gardens to keep you on your toes. Only one of the trails I tackled, Medicine Wheel, was what I'd call heavily mountain-bikey; I did quite a bit of walking on that bad boy. For everything else, suspension and burly knobbies would've been the velo-equivalent of tits on a boar hog (though I'll confess I'd have liked a low end of 34x30 instead of 34x28 for a couple short hills and a set of Michelin Jets instead of an old pair of Vredestein Campos). The best part? No dogs, no horses and no smoking permitted. We get an iPod ban here and I'll declare it heaven on earth.

  I rode Blackmer Loop, Talon, Sundance, Zook Loop and portions of Medicine Wheel (hey, I'm not entirely retarded). And now I wish I'd spent some time there this summer instead of doggedly plying the usual routes. Ah, well — wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up faster.

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  This just in from the Ministry of Truth: The Green Car of the Year 2008, named at the Los Angeles Auto Show, is the Chevy Tahoe hybrid, which gets an astounding 21 mpg, or about 2 mpg less than my 1983 Toyota pickup. Of course, my rice-grinder doesn't have a 6.0-liter V-8 engine, seat as many as eight, carry as much as 1,400 pounds of cargo or tow 6,200 pounds, all of which are must-haves for the suburban soccer mom or links-bound golf addict. Jesus wept.

  Meanwhile, as Jim Hightower warns of Gen. George Armstrong Bush's plans to attack Iran, Fred Kagen and Michael O'Hanlon say it's time to start considering "our feasible military options" in Pakistan. Maybe, given the nature of the tinhorn Napoleons running foreign policy these days, it would be easier to start cataloguing the countries we don't need to knock over.

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The countdown begins

  Over at The San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Morford notes that it is officially less than a year until the next presidential election sweeps BushCo into the dustbin of history. Notes Morford:

It is now safe to imagine. It is now becoming increasingly easy to actually dare to think that, in less than one year's time, Dubya will begin packing his bags, jamming into his Spongebob duffel his map of the world coloring book, English-to-English translation dictionaries, mangled pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, Bibleman action figure set and a "Mission Accomplished!" sweatshirt, and heading off to face his destiny as one of the bleakest, most morally repellent chapters in all of American history.

  This is assuming, of course, that Gen. Pervez Busharraf decides to step down in '09 instead of declaring a state of emergency, sacking the judiciary, installing a caretaker government, and in general just keepin' on keepin on'.

  Keepin' on keepin' on is what The Turkinator is all about. Here he uses his repulsor beams to keep an attacking Mia Sopaipilla at bay.

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Busy, busy, busy

  Stop the VeloNews.com website, I wanna get off. Jesus. Whoever called this "the off-season" should be beaten to death with a Park Tools chain whip. Ten-hour days are not my idea of a casual free-lance gig, is what I'm saying. Good thing I boiled up a giant cauldron of chicken soup while in the grip of the Red Death, as cooking was the last thing on my mind come wine-thirty.

  Seasonal temperatures have returned to bedevil me and Turkish, a.k.a. Mighty Whitey, the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg. Like Daniel Boone Davis's cat Pete in Robert Heinlein's "The Door Into Summer," he can't understand why every open door leads to the deep freeze. Mia, of course, is too young, too under-immunized and too-unspayed to be allowed outdoors, although she queues up at the door with Big Turk just the same.

  The other day, Herself bought me a DVD of "Tim Allen: Live On Stage," which includes the fabled standup, "Men Are Pigs." If you know Allen only as the fatuous turd floating in various Disney bowls, you've missed out. "Men Are Pigs" is a solid 47 minutes of comedy, as is the companion piece, "Tim Allen Rewires America" (there is some overlap, but not annoyingly so). They provided the underpinnings for his TV show, "Home Improvement," the upshot of a gaggle of network execs and hack writers pissing in his comedy until they decided they liked the taste.

  The worst part of the DVD is an interview with modern-day Allen, who comes off as a cross between Ahab and William Shatner. The twin ravages of time and money have not been kind to the man, who has the startled look of a chicken-stealing weasel in a flashlight beam. I made a ton of money, so what if I'm a self-obsessed, bloated gasbag and about as funny as a rectal polyp, fuck you, he seems to say. Dude definitely sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.

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Gay Bay ganja

  What the fuck is Nancy Pelosi smoking? Whatever it is, I want some, 'cause it apparently gives reality the old heave-ho. The bug-eyed ol' bat actually thinks she can find "common ground" with The Kompassionate Keystone Kommando on legislation to provide billions in funding for education, health care, job training and other domestic programs when all he cares about is sacrificing other people's children on the altar of his own obsession in hopes of bringing the baby JeezWhiz back, preferably at the helm of a supertanker. That's what I call some good shit. And frankly, the wine just isn't getting the job done anymore.

  Elsewhere, Dubya's Mini-Me is also deep into the herb, blaming Condi Rice for laying some "negative vibes" on him and totally harshing his mellow. Kinda makes a guy nostalgic for the good old days, when players on the global stage didn't inhale.

  Meanwhile, what's that tagline from the "Clerks" flicks? "I'm not even supposed to be here!" I spent the day toiling in the VeloNews.com salt mines while head honcho Charles Pelkey jets off to Madrid for a "doping conference." Yeah, right. Drinking rioja with Euro' correspondent Andrew Hood is more like it. I told Hoody to fix the big krauthead up with a lanky Czech shemale and to take plenty pix. If we catch him pole-dancing you'll be the first to know.

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Talking to Ralph

  A spicy marinara over farfalle with a side of salad and a few glasses of Columbia Valley red looks a lot better on the table than in the toilet, especially if you happen to have that toilet in a frantic embrace come midnight. That's what I was up to early Sunday, and while I left occasionally to toss and turn on the basement futon, I returned frequently to the big white phone to place an urgent call to Jesus. He never picked up.

  Today I feel vaguely human, which is a good thing, as I have a ton of work to do for VeloNews.com and Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. A pot of chicken soup is bubbling on the range, and I have otherwise eaten lightly and cautiously. But I think it's going to be a while before I can look at a tomato-based sauce again. It doesn't taste nearly as nice coming up as it does going down.

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Mailer goes west

  Norman Mailer is dead at 84. Oddly, his favorite book is mine, too — "Tough Guys Don't Dance," a trifle he tossed off in two months to pay the taxman.

  I have a couple more of Mailer's books lying around here; "Armies of the Night," "The Executioner's Song." But I always found him a tough slog, because Mailer himself was always in the way. Gore Vidal may have said it best: "Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements."

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Oil's well that ends well?

  Gas prices continue to rise, topping three smacks per gallon here in Bibleburg and elsewhere in Colorado. And this latest "energy shock," quoth The New York Times, has less to do with scarcity than it does with the rising demand for gasoline in China, India and other developing economies. "This is the world¹s first demand-led energy shock," said Lawrence Goldstein, an economist at the Energy Policy Research Foundation of Washington. Oh, goody. Here's a fun bit from that piece:

India and China are home to about a third of humanity. People there are demanding access to electricity, cars, and consumer goods and can increasingly afford to compete with the West for access to resources. In doing so, the two Asian giants are profoundly transforming the world's energy balance.

Today, China consumes only a third as much oil as the United States, which burns a quarter of the world's oil each day. By 2030, India and China together will import as much oil as the United States and Japan do today.

While demand is growing fastest abroad, Americans' appetite for big cars and large houses has pushed up oil demand steadily in this country, too. Europe has managed to rein in oil consumption through a combination of high gasoline taxes, small cars and efficient public transportation, but Americans have not. Oil consumption in the United States, where gasoline is far cheaper than in Europe, has jumped to 21 million barrels a day this year, from about 17 million barrels in the early 1990s.

  Lube up those bicycle chains, ladies and gentlemen. Your Hummers are headed for the tar pits.

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Taking it to the streets

  What's the difference between the United States and Pakistan? Well, in Pakistan, when a tinpot dictator wipes his fat ass with the constitution, packs the judiciary with his henchmen and sets the cops to thumping the citizenry, the citizenry fights back. Bloody wogs; no respect for the King, wot? Are the shops all closed? Is there nothing on television? That is all. You may now return to the reality-avoidance mechanism of your choice.

  Speaking of the judiciary, not all jurists are Torquemadas in waiting — unlike Michael Mukasey, who is on his way to becoming the next attorney general thanks in part to the craven Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer. Take, for example, former National Guard JAG Evan Wallach, who reminds us in The Washington Post that waterboarding used to be a crime. Of course, that was back when other less democracy-minded people did it. Thanks and a snap of the soggy dog towel goes out to Khal S.

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Are you ready for some ... re-runs?

  The Writers Guild of America is taking it to the streets, and those of you who live for the retarded gaze of the One Big Eye are shit out of luck for the time being. The Los Angeles Times is all over it here and here, and The New York Times has a bit here.

  Funnymen who do their work day to day, like Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien and David Letterman, are particularly deep in the doo as the folks who write the laugh lines walk picket lines instead. Says Jay Leno: "I don't know what we're going to do."

  Well, I know what we're going to do. Keep not watching television, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters on the barricades. Power to the people!


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  I don't drive that much, so you probably noticed this before I did, but gas prices are on the rise again. The other day I took note of a 7-Eleven sign hawking go-juice at a dime per gallon more than I paid during my last fillup a couple weeks ago, and the Lundberg Survey says the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular was $2.96 on Friday, up 16 cents from the previous survey two weeks earlier — and up 78 cents from this same time last year.

  All in all, it's an excellent argument for spending more time in the saddle and less behind the steering wheel, especially on a day like today, when the high topped out at around 74 degrees. O'Schenk and I went for a 'cross-bike ride in Palmer Park, and since I had added a fat set of 700x38 WTB Allterrainasauruses to the old Soma Double Cross, I did not fall down, although somebody else did (I will name no names). The Allterrainasaurus is a pretty good tire for soft sand and navigating rocks, ravines and other wheel-grabbers, but I'm thinking of switching to the Interwolf, which seems better suited to Palmer Park's degraded trails and is considerably lighter to boot.

  Post-ride, I pretended to rake leaves and water the lawn as Herself was on a Mission from God, housecleaning-wise, even cranking up the self-cleaning aspect of our newish range for the first time. This was not unlike lifting the lid on Hell and taking a great big whiff. Damn near stunk us right out of the house, and hours later every fan in the joint is still pegged at Warp Factor Five. I'd rather get in there and chase the burnt bits with a hammer and chisel than go through that again.

  While we're in the kitchen, let me lodge a complaint about Religious Experience enchilada sauce. Lazy swine that I am, I've been using this bottled stuff for my buffalo enchiladas for a while now instead of making my own red chile sauce, but the wild swings in quality are sending me back to sweating over a hot stove. Religious Experience started out strongly, resembling a decent northern New Mexican red sauce, certainly standing head and shoulders above the canned Hatch stuff. Then, recently, it mutated into a thick, brick-red goo that didn't so much simmer as solidify, and I took to thinning it with some Hatch red to make it easier to work with. Well, someone else must've pitched a bitch about the trend toward burnt-umber sludge, 'cause this last jar I brought home has the consistency and color of the Hatch sauce, but with an overly sweet, tomatoey taste. Frankly, I wouldn't feed it to a New Yorker. Better you should try one of the red-chile recipes in The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook.

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Let's play Risk!

  This bloody board game that the Chickenhawk-in-Chief has gotten us into is starting to run short of meat for the grinder. According to Blue Girl by way of Kevin Drum, the Army started off its recruiting year with the fewest recruits signed up for basic training since the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force in 1973. And it's only going to get worse — according to BG, Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Pentagon reporters on Wednesday that the diminished number of delayed-enlistment recruits in the pipeline "will make it extremely difficult to reach the goals for 2008."

  But wait, there's more! In order to barely meet its goals of 80,000 new recruits per year, the Army has been admitting a staggering percentage of them on waivers. Again, BG: "In FY 2006, fully 17 percent of all recruits were admitted under waivers for psychological, criminal and health problems. Nearly one in five who were actively recruited would not have gotten five minutes of a recruiter's time five years ago."

  And finally, captains, majors and mid-level NCO's are becoming increasingly vocal, and many of them are not re-upping. Whether it's the repeated deployments, disillusionment with the futile war in Iraq, or having to babysit unfit soldiers who never should have been signed on the dotted line, the backbone of the armed services is collapsing under all the heavy lifting brought on by a needless, pointless war.

  Meanwhile, Mia, a.k.a. Mighty Meows, continues to Fight the Power that is Turkish, a.k.a. Turkenstein, The Turkinator, The Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg, et al. They enjoy a few rounds every morning before settling down to breakfast and then a long nap — Mia upstairs under a couchside lamp, and Turk downstairs on a carpeted basement window shelf. Between naps, Mia works out on the speed bag, as shown at right.

  In other news, a ratbag fascist nutcase who already has the bomb has declared a state of emergency in Pakistan, sacking the chief justice of the supreme court, suspending the constitution and flooding the streets with police. Sayeth The New York Times: "In a rambling, 45-minute speech broadcast on state-run television after midnight, General Musharraf said he had declared the emergency 'in order to preserve the democratic transition that I initiated eight years back." In other words, he had to destroy democracy in order to save it. Gee, I wonder whom he was using for a role model? There's probably no truth to the rumor that Condi has ordered a squadron of flying monkeys to take up station over Islamabad.

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Demublican, Republicrat, what's the difference?

  Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein have caved, which means that Michael Mukasey — a guy who won't call waterboarding torture — is almost certain to be the next attorney general of these Benighted States. Anyone surprised? The Donks somehow manage to talk tougher than Russell Crowe while simultaneously backing up faster than a French tank.

  Meanwhile, for those of you who can't understand why a professional athlete might break the rules to achieve fame and fortune, check this out: USA Track & Field has banned the use of headphones and portable audio players in its official races, but at last weekend's Marine Corps Marathon "nothing, no magical stories of crowd noise or strict rules that threatened disqualification, deterred some iPod users ... from bringing their music along on the 26.2-mile journey through scenic Washington and Virginia. They tucked them into their shorts, taped them to the inside of their bras, shoved them into tiny belts. They hid their headphones under headbands and ball caps."

  One guy you'd think might have a vested interest in following the letter of the law, Long Island police officer Richie Sais, told The New York Times: "I dare them to find the iPod on me." He had clipped his iPod Shuffle under his shirt.

  Nothing was at stake here, beyond a few dipshits' perceived "right" to be oblivious in traffic. And the testing was simple beyond belief — anyone with earbuds in was guilty as charged. It all boils down to this: "Fuck you, the rules don't apply to me." End of story.

  Frankly, I don't get it. Why would you wish to be absent from your own achievement? I'd want to take it all in, every bit of it, and the exterior soundscape — not some pre-programmed playlist — is part of the experience. You want a soundtrack, stay at home and watch TV. Whoops, there isn't gonna be any for a while. Whatever will America do? Read the newspaper?

  And finally, in feline news, Mia was very disappointed that Satan didn't pop by on Halloween. She had a jack-o'-lantern for him and everything.

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Happy Halloween

The IWW sabot-cat with its back up is aptly chosen this All Hallows Eve, as Turk and Mia have spent some time stalking thusly around each other, hissing riffs on the ever-popular "Yo' mama" theme. Turk has the reach and the weight, but Mia has the speed and the moves, and tonight they settled down to see who will wear the championship belt in these parts.

  Mia, of course, simply wanted to play. But Turk, having totally spaced his relentless pursuit of the late Chairman Meow all of five months earlier, couldn't remember what this whole kitten deal was about and spent the early rounds dancing around the ring, trying to figure out why the hell this furry midget was chasing him like he was wearing a liverwurst suit and a fish-head medallion. But after a few brisk laps he seemed to recall that he was a feline Wladimir Klitschko matched against a 5-year-old kid who just got over the flu. So he finally stepped up and gave the Kid a couple of cuffs that changed the name of the game from track to boxing.

  I don't know anything about how cats settle their dominance issues, so I kept well back in my role as referee and let 'em work. It didn't look like either was using claws, but the Big Turk had a pretty good right jab, and I had to give the Kid a couple standing eight-counts. Mia landed a couple of good ones herself, though, and nearly suckered the big guy once — she sank into what looked like a submissive pose, but as Turkenstein stalked over, she suddenly leapt at him and nearly startled the cat chow out of him. He went backward faster than Tom Boonen on Ventoux with a jersey full of bidons.

  But size and strength will tell, and once Mia was backed up under the futon I called it for the winnah, and still champeen, Turkish, a.k.a., Mighty Whitey the Wonder Weasel, the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg. I've scheduled a rematch for tomorrow, and with any luck at all, by week's end these two will be sparring partners instead of champ and contender.

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Well, dog my cats

  Round three of the Verge MAC series, the Beacon Cyclocross on Nov. 10 iin Bridgeton, N.J., will donate proceeds from food and drink sales during the race to Beacon Animal Rescue.

  Volunteers from the shelter will be slinging grub for meat eaters and vegans alike atop the course¹s signature obstacle, the "Amphitheatre of Pain" run-up. The shelter is also asking for donations of money, cat food (preferably 9 Lives or Friskies), dog food (preferably Pedigree) and anything else normally needed to care for a cat or dog.

  The non-profit shelter, located in Ocean View, N.J., rescues domestic animals facing euthanasia in shelters. Before making the animals available for adoption, Beacon spays and neuters, vaccinates, de-worms, tests dogs for heartworms, and tests cats for feline leukemia and feline AIDS.

  Helping pets in need is a good fit for cyclocross, says promoter Wade Hess.

  "Maybe it'll rain cats and dogs," he said. "That would be perfect."

  Meanwhile, here in Bibleburg, The Kitten Formerly Known As Garbo (henceforth to be called Mia) is due to be released from solitary when Herself returns from work this evening. Introducing her to Turkish should be amusing, and frankly I can't wait to get my crapper back. My reading is suffering.

  Meanwhile, I find myself in complete agreement with President Alfred E. "Worry!" Bush when he says, "Congress is not getting its work done." Those preening, posturing pimpleheads should get down to the serious business of impeaching his ass, and the much fatter ass of Darth Cheney; ending the war in Iraq; and preventing a war with Iran. The sense I get from DeeCee is that both sides are letting the clock run out on this cynical game they're playing, but I'm not entirely certain that co-captains Daffy and Fudd are going to take their team off the field when the whistle blows. They don't respect any other aspect of the Constitution — what makes you think they give a shit about Amendment 22?

  Late update: The kitten has landed — and she and Turk the Jerk got off to something of a rocky start. You can see their inaugural interaction here.

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Where there's smoke . . .

  I was wondering what that high cloudiness was as I rolled north through the Air Force Academy. I thought maybe it was the prescribed burn at Fort Carson, but turns out it was smoke from the Southern California wildfires. Back in Weirdcliffe we got used to sniffing smoke whenever Arizona caught fire, but damn.

  Still, it was a beautiful day for a ride, with Blue Zoomies jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, gliders being towed aloft and released, and Tom Tancredo declining to further embarrass Colorado in Congress (he'd rather do it from the White House). Some stud on a 'cross bike passed me so fast I instinctively looked down to check for flat tires or rubbing brakes, and when I looked back up he was long gone. Put 30 seconds on me in less time than it took to type this sentence. Probably on dope. But I couldn't catch him to piss-test him, so we'll just have to go with the standard hearsay, rumor and innuendo on this one.

  Meanwhile, how 'bout them Rockies and Broncos? You know the difference between a Denver ball club and Linda Lovelace? Linda never choked on a big one.

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All hat, no cattle: The sequel

  Ladies and gentlemen, for your reading pleasure, we bring you Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani. One's a bozo, the other's a bully, and both are bullshitters. Thompson says he spent his three years as an assistant U.S. attorney "prosecuting most of the major federal crimes in middle Tennessee — most of the major ones." But mostly he went after moonshiners, and he couldn't even win a case against a sheriff who sold an illegal still to an undercover federal agent. As for Giuliani, well, if you like the Cowboy-in-Chief, you're gonna love his urban counterpart. As Josh Marshall notes in pointing out this Washington Post piece by David Greenberg, "Rudy's reputation for liberalism is based on three factors — abortion rights, gay rights and serial adultery. In which order, I'm not certain. But those basically cover it. On most other key issues Rudy is fundamentally an authoritarian, and thus a right-winger on the key issues of the day. And that's a product Republicans are buying."

  Here on the home front, The Kitten Previously Known as Garbo is bouncing back from her bout with feline upper-respiratory infection. Poor little bugger was sick as a dog (you should pardon the expression) on Wednesday — lost her voice, her purr and a whole bunch of rambunctiousness — but the past couple of days she's been bouncing off the walls in the upstairs bathroom, where we've been keeping her to avoid giving the bug to The Turkinator. The big lug has been vaccinated, but apparently this is no guarantee of anything other than the depletion of one's bank account.

  Until we're sure she's no longer contagious, we keep the two furballs separated, popping in every hour or so to play with the kitten and make sure she's eating and drinking. Early reports are that the bathtub and sink are big fun, as are wire strainers, yellow plastic balls with bells in them (as shown at left), blue plastic balls with yellow feathers attached, fake mice, litter scoops, shower curtains and people's shoulders. Also, human ears are apparently quite tasty, presenting a refreshing departure from kitten chow.

  The big downside of this quarantine is that we have only a bath and a half here at Dog Central, which means I've been forced to use the downstairs toilet more than I care to, and it cost me this morning. The finished basement apparently required lower ceilings to accommodate overhead ducting, pipes and wiring, and as a consequence greatly shortened doors (sure, 'tis the Land of the Little People so). And while this is no problem for Herself, who stands 5 feet and one-half inch tall, this morning her 6-foot-tall husband bashed a great bloody hole in the top of his freshly shaven head on the bathroom-door lintel while exiting sans spectacles. I look like I've been blackjacked, and wearing a helmet for today's ride is going to be an interesting experience in pain management. Maybe I'll go all Euro' and do without. What's left to damage?

  And now, a word from the editor: Say, kids, if you're putting on a race and want to see the results in print or online somewhere pronto, how 'bout skipping the PDF/Excel cryptography and sticking with HTML, plain text or good ol' Microsoft Word? And pix? Telling your friendly neighborhood editor who's in 'em sure makes the night go more smoothly. All these skinny honkies in Lycra look alike, even to us bicycle people, so one can only imagine what the stick-and-ball mouth-breathers at the local daily think. "Aw, piss on it, it's either Georgia Gould or Chris Horner. Pick one and let's go get drunk. Say, what's the difference between any Denver pro ball club and Linda Lovelace? Give up? Linda never choked on the big one."

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Vaya con Dios, Señora Atencio

  Frances Atencio, who with husband Luis founded the excellent restaurant El Paragua 43 years ago in Española, New Mexico, died Thursday. She was 83. My former employer, The New Mexican, has a short obituary here. When I applied for a job at The New Mexican back in 1987, I rode down to Santa Fe with my friends Hal and Mary, and on a whim we stopped at El Paragua for lunch. On the way back, we stopped in once more for dinner, and when I got the job, I decided to live in Española — La Puebla, to be specific — because I wanted to be as close to that restaurant as I could get without actually marrying into the family and taking a job waiting tables.

  After the Tour de Los Alamos one year I nearly ate my way through the entire left side of the menu. But normally I'd pop in once or twice weekly for the combination plate, which was a meal and a half — carne adovada, posole, refritos, arroz and a taco, tamale and enchilada, all smothered in their delicious green chile. A giant basket of chips and a cup of killer salsa went along with it, and a couple of Pacificos later I'd generally be ready for a long nap. Riding a couple hundred miles a week and racing every weekend kept me from swelling into the sort of blimp one might see overhead at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

  Herself and I had our first date and our pre-wedding dinner there, and after we moved into a small house on Romero Street in Santa Fe we'd still drive out to Española now and then to savor Señora Atencio's cooking. Once we left New Mexico for Colorado Springs, I missed those meals, and taught myself how to cook some simple New Mexican dishes, though I've never even come close to her excellence.

  Damn. If only Española were a couple hours closer. I'm hungry all of a sudden, for some reason.

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Cyclocross in the Gazette?

  Believe it or not, the local cage-liner has a brief article on cyclocross, my favorite thing to do while clothed and sober. Naturally, they had to go all the way to Sacramento and McClatchy Newspapers to get it, and the only local angle was a mention of the next local race, coming up Nov. 18 at Bear Creek Regional Park, and a brief nod to a blog by local 'cross aficionado Rob Lucas, but what the hell? No such thing as bad press, right? Besides, the sports staff was probably busy weeping over the second thumping handed to the Colorado Christians by the Boston Barbarians. We feel your pain, guys.*

* No, we don't.

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Hail, hail Pacifica

  Over at The Smirking Chimp, Stephen Pizzo calls for a Manhattan Project-style "skunkworks" to reboot the wildly oscillating U.S. government. Says Pizzo:

The magic of a skunkworks is that it breaks great minds free from calcified, rule-bound, special-interest-afflicted, group-think-crippled organizations. And if ever there was an organization that fits that description today, it's the USA itself.

  Pizzo proposes giving three states — California, Oregon and Washington — a quarter-century "time out" to come up with " fresh solutions to the most serious, potentially deadly and intractable problems facing the nation and the world today," saying that the trio has "all the resources — financial, agricultural, industrial, political, industrial and intellectual — required to survive and thrive on their own."

  Maybe so. But I'd still like to see a little East Coast brash in the mix, along with some Midwestern caution, a hint of Southern flair, a dollop of New England town meeting and some vigorous Mountain West athleticism, with a dash of Southwest for flavor. How about enlisting one brainy, compassionate person from each definitive region of the United States — including Pizzo's Pacifica — and dropping them into a publicly funded think tank for a decade?

  Meanwhile, in sporting news, the Boston Barbarians sacked New Rome last night, flogging the Colorado Christians 13-1. God must have been away on business.

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From bad to worse?

  The Washington Monthly's November issue contains a piece by Rachel Morris on what Rudy Giuliani might be like as president, and Kevin Drum provides a couple telling excerpts (think bad; really, really bad). Kevin then opines thusly:

Choosing the best presidential candidate among the 2008 contenders is a tough job. Picking the worst is easy. Rudy Giuliani is the guy you'd get if you put George Bush and Dick Cheney into a wine press and squeezed out their pure combined essence: unbounded arrogance and self-righteousness, a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood, a studied contempt for anybody's opinion but his own, a vindictive streak a mile wide, and a devotion to secrecy and executive power unmatched in presidential history. He is a disaster waiting to happen.

  Meanwhile, the current occupant of the Oval Office is a bigger spender of the taxpayers' dollars than any president since LBJ, according to McClatchy Newspapers. Suck on that, you faux-conservative pinheads, then go scrape the Bush-Cheney 2004 stickers off your bumpers and flush the bullshit out of your headgear.

  In other news, Fareed Zakaria says Iran isn't quite the boogeyman the Daffy-Fudd duo would like it to be:

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

  Welcome to Bizarro World, Fareed old scout. And forget about flying anywhere anytime soon, unless it's to Gitmo, stuffed into a Marine Corps footlocker with a few air holes punched in it with an M-16. Thanks and a tip of the Che beret to The Aristocrats.

  And while we're discussing the news, here's an interesting opinion piece from Jack Lessenberry on the state of journalism today.

  Late update: Yes, Tom Tancredo is insane. On behalf of the state of Colorado, I'd like to apologize for sending this ham actor out to chew scenery on the national stage. But he's in good company with Capt. George W. Queeg, who seems hellbent to go to war — pardon me, send other less-well-connected Americans to war — with everyone from Iran to Cuba. What a shame this White House is more rigidly choreographed than a May Day parade in the old Soviet Union. It would be something to see the mother of a dead soldier slap the smirk right off this REMF during one of his fabled photo-op medal ceremonies. Sharing a grip-and-grin with this all-hat, no-cattle sonofabitch would be like buying a tank of gas and a bottle of Scotch for the drunken driver who ran over your puppy.

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Of cats and (Mad) dogs

  OK, we're back to the land of the living here after a very long and trying weekend that brought the first hint of winter, a piddly little snowfall that nevertheless kept us mostly indoors on Sunday. Thanks once again to everyone who dropped us a note expressing condolences at Ike's passing; health, happiness and long lives to you and your furry friends.

  Hoping to lift the gloom a bit, we dropped by the Humane Society to look over the inmates, all those frantic furry faces staring out at us from behind the glass walls ("I didn't no nothin', I tell ya! It's a frame-up! Y'gotta get me outa here!"). In our emotionally weakened state, we were no match for the wide-eyed kitten the staff had dubbed "Garbo," and as a consequence we are once again a two-cat family. Two-kitten family is more like it, since Turkish is all of 8 months old.

  It'll be interesting to see how the big galoot likes having a kitten chasing him around the way he did Ike. But that will have to wait for a bit, as the youngster has a touch of feline upper-respiratory disorder; we're keeping the two apart until she completes a course of medication, which should be early next week. Then, the fun starts. Garbo is a frisky little nipper with an oversized purrbox, even with a cold. She should give Mighty Whitey the Wonder Weasel (seen here watching the snow fly from a kitchen window) a run for his money.

  Elsewhere, a half-million people are facing the loss of more than a beloved cat as wind-driven wildfires that are visible from space engulf Southern California. We, and you, probably, have friends there; here's hoping everyone's OK (including their pets). Pray that the fire spares the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, because if a flame ever hits all those comic books, lame movie scripts and nudie pix of Oliver North the whole state is a goner.

  Back home in Bibleburg, the snow that so enthralled Turkenstein the other day is long since gone, and I spent today raking up a few bags of soggy leaves from the maple in the front yard and letting him supervise between bouts of running amok in the neighborhood. Herself insists that he needs massive quantities of outside time to cool his overheated circuitry, but I confess I get twitchy if he's gone too long. This ain't Weirdcliffe, but we do have predators — foxes, coyotes, feral cats, automobiles and the biggest killer of all, the Neoconservative Born-Again Faux Republican in Dire Need of a Plexiglas Bellybutton So (S)he Can See Where (S)he's Sending the Troops.

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Ike 'Chairman Meow' O'Grady, R.I.P.

  With the Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse trampling the planet daily, it seems self-indulgent to grieve for a scrawny cat with the coat of a soggy Norway rat and the disposition of a right-wing talk-radio host.

  But damn it, I miss Ike.

  We collected Ike and her sister Tina eight or nine years ago as kittens after they turned up as foundlings at a friend's house in Wetmore. He was all catted out, but figured we could do with a couple of mousers during what was an epic rodent season in the Wet Mountain Valley, and we agreed.

  Both kittens were female, so the nomenclature takes a little explaining. Their idea of a really good time early on was fishing turds out of the litterbox and playing kitchen hockey with them, so we called them "turd herders." As one blossomed into a lushly beautiful, affectionate black cat while the other remained a scraggly gray runt with an attitude problem, I christened them Ike and Tina Turdherder. It's just the way my mind works, or doesn't; take your pick.

  Tina proved a merciless hunter, conducting a pogrom on not only mice, but lizards, birds, baby bunnies and the occasional Jehovah's Witness. She piled up a substantial karmic debt, and it came due when some even more efficient predator did her in, leaving us with Ike. Go figure, we mused — the big, beautiful cat with the perpetual purr gets snuffed and the greasy malcontent walks the earth.

  Indeed, Ike had already had her own "Wild Kingdom" moment and survived it. Custer County was lousy with predators — mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, feral dogs, owls, eagles, Realtors, you name it — and one got hold of her, leaving her with several nasty bites and a fractured skull, right down the centerline of her face. When I found her hiding in the woodpile, she was covered in blood and shit, one eye was swollen shut and a bubble of fur in her forehead pulsed with her respiration.

  Then we had one of those Western moments. Ike was in a real bad way, the nearest veterinarian was a long ways off and the .22 pistol was right there, with a full magazine. Long pause for thought.

  Nope, can't do it. A cat that walks out of the ring under her own power after 12 rounds with Death deserves better.

  Forty-five minutes later, a Cañon City vet was shaking his head at the extent of the damage. He couldn't do much beyond providing steroids, antibiotics and an overnight stay for observation. Ike would either live or die, and which one it would be was mostly up to her.

  Next morning, when I called the vet, he said in a tone of wonderment that Ike was up and about, looking like she'd been shot at and hit, and then shit at and hit once again, but prowling about and meowing for food. The only lasting effect was a weepy eye, a souvenir of her shattered sinus cavity.

  Never a cuddly cat, and deeply suspicious of everyone and everything (she would've made a fine investigative reporter if only she'd had opposable thumbs, a more ingratiating manner and a familiarity with the QWERTY keyboard), Ike nevertheless blossomed somewhat once the dominant Tina was gone and she was the only cat in the house. She tried hunting deer once (bad idea; a small buck chased her up onto the deck) and developed a fondness for playing Door (me on one side with a magazine or newspaper, Ike on the other batting at it from underneath).

  For some reason, perhaps because she could not read and thus had no idea what an opinionated asshole I am, she was fond of me, following me around like a dog, coming when I called, and curling up on the footstool to my office rocker for a snooze while I tapped away at the keyboard or scribbled a cartoon. If I whistled "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth, she would leap into my lap and head-bump me, burbling. Now and then she'd grant a brief snuggle come bedtime, but she never stayed long, preferring to sleep on a cavelike basement shelf stuffed with sleeping bags, comforters and a zafu and zabuton from when I fancied myself a Zen student.

  She liked being up high, where she could keep a watchful eye on things. In Westcliffe, she preferred the beam that bisected the living room from back to front. In Colorado Springs, it was the wooden pergola over our back deck, which we cover with a fabric sunshade in summer. Ike would sharpen her claws at the base of one of the nearby black walnut trees, then rocket up the trunk to a skinny limb that provided a springboard to the pergola. She'd stalk about up there for a while as we sipped wine beneath, then announce that she wished to come down, now, at once, thank you very much. She could get down by herself, of course, but she preferred that I rescue her. Dogs have owners; cats have staff.

  When the black walnuts fell victim to drought and had to come down, Ike's rooftop saunters were over. She could reach the deck's railings, but you could tell it just wasn't the same; too easy. Occasionally she'd perch on a rock that sat where the trees had been, looking thoughtful, as if wondering whatever happened to the stairway to heaven.

  One of her greatest challenges came late in life — adapting to a new roommate. We had discussed getting a kitten, reasoning that Ike might enjoy the company, but when Herself brought one home it was immediately clear that we had been mistaken, especially as the newcomer, dubbed Turkish — part Turkish Van, see the Guy Ritchie movie "Snatch," yeah, we're weird — began to swell up as though he were inflatable and attached to a gas-station air hose. At seven months he was twice her size. The big galoot tried manfully to get Ike to play with him, but got nothing but hisses and bats to the snoot for his troubles. We joked that they would be cuddled up and sleeping together in two or three years, tops. Five at the outside.

  They didn't get a chance to grow comfortable with each other, though. On Wednesday evening Ike suddenly began panting heavily, then collapsed, briefly losing governance of her hindquarters. We took her to a veterinary emergency room where we learned she had an enlarged heart and fluid in the lungs — the feline equivalent of congestive heart failure — and probably had had a blood clot break loose on top of it. Heart disease in cats can be treatable, if caught early, but once symptoms manifest themselves, all bets are off.

  I visited Ike on Thursday afternoon, and the vet was cautiously optimistic. We discussed some treatment therapies, and I went home, reassured. Ike's tough, I thought. She kicked Death's ass once before, she can do it again.

  Well, no. Death won the rematch. We cried, drank too much wine — a bottle of Chateau Pesquie Terrasses 2004, from Ventoux, to honor Ike's love of heights — and listened to the Ninth.

  Then on Friday, we laid her to rest under the stone she used to perch atop, framing it with some small black-walnut logs, all that remain of her stairway to heaven. She was wrapped in one of my old shirts, with a vial of table cream and a couple of family photos to keep her company.

  Turkish, the great fool, failed to grasp the significance of what had occurred, leaping into and out of the grave as I dug it.

  Oh, to be a kitten again.


  • Our heartfelt thanks go out to the Daily Dog readers who were kind enough to express their condolences upon Ike's untimely passing. Table cream for all Ike's friends!

      And now, for something completely different: Having laid one cat to rest, it's only right that we should see how another cat wakes his person up:

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    General Hospital

      Yesterday was one of those days, apparently. Big Jonny of DrunkCyclist enjoyed a nuts-meet-stem moment thanks to a stormwater grate (don't click through to that one if you're in the cube farm, unless you want the boss to think you've gone all Larry Craig on him). And our eldest cat Ike — a.k.a. Chairman Meow, Ho Chi Meow, Mary Tyler Meow, et al — decided to develop a case of cardiomyopathy and a subsequent blood clot that briefly paralyzed her rear legs and sent us scurrying to the animal emergency care center at dark-thirty. After we picked up the tab for that action, I reminded Herself that she is to shoot me, not take me to the ER, if I should fall down while sober or act any weirder than usual. A box of .357 shells only costs $16, and she doesn't even need to buy one, 'cause the fucker's always loaded in case a literary critic decides to pay a call.

      Late update: Swung by the vet to visit the Chairman, bearing another wheelbarrow full of money. She had a rough morning, and is a touch unsteady on her pins yet, so the vet recommended she spend another evening under observation. Ike seems irked with me for getting her into this predicament, wherein spooky, speedy trips in the hated automobile deliver her into the hands of strangers in lab coats, who pop up without warning brandishing thermometers and hypos like satanic docs-in-the-box.

      And it must be my fault, somehow. Ike never asked to come live with us. We snatched her and sister Tina off the mean streets of Wetmore and that makes us responsible. As another Bibleburg resident, Robert Heinlein, once noted in "Time Enough for Love": ""Nevertheless, once you pick up a stray cat and feed it, you cannot abandon it. Self-love forbids it. The cat's welfare becomes essential to your own peace of mind — even when it's a bloody nuisance not to break faith with the cat." Or as George Carlin once said of acquiring pets, "It's going to end badly," and we're supposed to know that going in.

      Zen gag of the day: There are two muffins in an oven. One says, "Shit, is it hot in here." The other one says, "Fuck, a talking muffin." Thanks and a poot of the Mad Dog whoopie cushion to Politits.

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    Shorter Bush press conference

      "Lies, bullshit, more lies, more bullshit, War on Terra, Democrat Congress, hate our freedumb, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Thank you, and may God bless America."

      In other news, USA Cycling is contemplating trading morons for Mormons by shifting its HQ from Bibleburg to Ogden, Utah. The talks are just that at this point — the U.S. Olympic Committee is also shopping for property downtown — but damn, I'd sure want to get the hell out of that old pile they're in. That joint was ancient history when my dad was a bird colonel working for the previous tenant, Ent Air Force Base, back in the Sixties.

      Meanwhile, I stumbled across a couple of interesting blog entries discussing my own miserable trade, journalism. The first, on 10 Zen Monkeys, was headlined "Is the Net Good for Writers?; the other, from Ezra Klein, discussed whether journalists would willingly accept the same merit-pay system some of them advocate for teachers.

      As far as I'm concerned, the 'Net has been largely a blessing — it's let me work from home, which means I can play with my cats, experiment with cooking in a strictly amateurish way and ride my bike whenever the spirit moves. I haven't had to fax stories or FedEx cartoons for years; I e-mail them. There are drawbacks, of course, the biggest being the back-and-forth of a busy newsroom, the endless rubbing up against other people's notions, which can trigger ideas a guy won't generate on his own.

      As to Klein's merit-pay argument ("There's no merit pay in journalism, and no agreed-upon metrics measuring quality."), it's mostly bullshit. When the managing editor at my second newspaper told me in the late 1970s that I would be heading up an "education bureau" and overseeing the work of two other reporters, I immediately asked for a raise. He replied: "Why should I give you a raise? I don't know if you can handle the job yet." And I would've had the devil's own time squeezing occasional fiscal bumps out of editors and publishers were I unable to point to specific indicators — eyeballs on site, letters to the editor, and the occasional canceled advertising contract — as proof that people were paying attention to what I was doing, for good or ill.

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    Yesterday and today

      Here's Oscar Pereiro today, as he is presented with a yellow jersey as the "official" winner of the 2006 Tour de France: "I feel very sorry for him [Floyd Landis]. I can't celebrate what happened but in sports there are rules that must be respected."

      And here's Pereiro in May, when the rumor mill linked him to Operación Puerto: "It's unfair that cyclists have to prove our innocence. I am ready to do anything, but if I have to use DNA to demonstrate my innocence, I will leave cycling, because it's obvious that cycling like that isn't worth it."

      What a difference a day makes.

      Meanwhile, here in Bibleburg, The Gazette is calling for a public-private partnership to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee from relocating its headquarters to someplace that will throw money at them instead of Jehovah's Witnesses, Southern Baptists and John Birchers — such as Chicago. Quoth the editorial page: "We all have a stake in keeping the USOC and national governing bodies in Colorado Springs. We should use this as an opportunity to showcase our spirit of community, to demonstrate our cohesiveness and overlook our differences, to pull together to support a common goal." Bwaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. The only "common goals" Bibleburghers espouse are tax cuts, the 11th Commandment ("What's in it for me?") and exporting the feebleminded to Congress.

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    The cats of Baghdad

      Back in 2005, John Burns of The New York Times had his own metric for progress in Iraq — how many stray cats the NYT bureau was sheltering. Writes Burns: "As The Times's bureau chief, part of my routine was to ask, each night, how many cats we had seated for dinner. In a place where we could do little else to relieve the war's miseries, the tally became a measure of one small thing we could do to favor life over death." It's a touching read in troubling times; thanks and a tip of the MDM propeller beanie to fellow cat person Kevin Drum. At right, meanwhile, exactly half of our cats here in Bibleburg — Turkish, a.k.a. Mighty Whitey the Wonder Weasel, et al — enjoys a refreshing nap after spending a crisp fall morning communing with Satan.

      Also in today's Times is an rousing call to arms from Frank Rich, who chastises us for ignoring what the Cowboy-in-Chief and his henchmen have done and continue to do in our name. Notes Rich:

    Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It's up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war's last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country's good name.

      After reading it, I committed a gross violation of copyright law, cutting and pasting the entire column into e-mails to Sen. Ken Salazar and Sen. Wayne Allard. Thanks and a deep bow to Rich and Khal Spencer for reminding me that sounding off on a website with a readership you could stuff in a Toyota Yaris falls well short of practicing responsible citizenship. Sending a couple of e-mails isn't exactly the Second American Revolution, but it beats shouting down a well.

      And finally, also from The Times, comes the only funny thing I've ever read in Maureen Dowd's space — a column from Stephen Colbert, who apparently caught her attention with a bit of raving about how Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream "is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann's skull." It almost makes me want to get the cable TV plugged back in. Almost.

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    Crap shoot

      There's fresh rantage up over at VeloNews.com. I fear it will go overlooked by the Pulitzer committee, but what the hell? If I don't flush this crap out of my head on a semi-regular basis it just piles up in there and stinks to high heaven. Still, I sympathize with a letter-writer who moans, "No more, no more, no more." Like her I am so over this whole Floyd Landis thing.

      I said as much in an e-mail to another correspondent, who is a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry with a background in carbon isotope detection and wrote to describe the analyses of Landis's samples as "beyond horrific." To which I replied:

    I agree, the system needs a radical overhaul to provide more transparency and accountability for laymen like myself, who barely escaped high-school chemistry and can't grasp the testing protocol.

    And understanding the legal maneuvering and civil-liberties issues is no easier. Fans screech about athletes' rights without knowing their own. One has no inherent right to work as a bicycle racer, or indeed at any other task. You can apply for the gig, maybe even get it, but absent a strong union you're likely to have to accept a number of anti-libertarian restrictions mandated by the employer, including drug testing.

    Here in Bibleburg, you can't even get hired to deliver the local paper, much less write for it, without taking a dope test that is (a) intended to detect drugs that are hardly performance-enhancing, and (b) subject to false positives, like mistaking over-the-counter nose-flushers for amphetamine. And the publisher can fire you because you don't care whether the Rockies win the Series, since Colorado is an "at-will" state.

    I think sport in general is afflicted by the kind of situational ethics a lot of us were warned against as kids ("But Mom, everyone's doing it!). The widespread cheating has spawned a ponderous penal system and the whole damn' Rube Goldberg/M.C. Escher clusterfuck seems self-perpetuating because there's money to be made.

    And that's the problem. I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that it ain't sport if you get paid to do it — it's business, and the entertainment business at that. I'm having the same sort of problem getting cranked up about athletes' rights that I have about supporting Britney's right to do belly shots off Madonna in an era when I have to take off my shoes to board a plane or have my IMs with Euro' correspondent Andrew Hood scanned by Homeland Security because Hood lives abroad.

    Eeek. Wandered off into a rant there, didn't I? Man, I miss the good old days, when a dumbass Irish-American could enjoy watching a bike race without analyzing the outcome in terms of pharmacology and international jurisprudence.

      Meanwhile, from the It Sucks To Be Him file comes this item about a hitchhiker who, denied a ride inside a big rig's cab, apparently climbed underneath the truck and hid in a space above the driveshaft. It ended, as you might expect, badly.

      Later that afternoon: Ho, ho. Clap your peepers on this gem from The Associated Press. Under the headline, "Rice worried by Putin's broad powers," we have the following:

    MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has amassed so much central authority that the power-grab may undermine Moscow's commitment to democracy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.

    "In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

    "I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament.

      Now substitute "White House" for "Russian government" and "Kremlin," "George W. Bush" for "Vladimir Putin," "Washington" for "Moscow," "Americans" for "Russians" and "Congress" for "Duma." And to think they once said irony was dead.

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    No news is ... no news

      Here are some evil tidings for anyone who ever loved the daily newspaper: The Gazette here in Bibleburg and The Rocky Mountain News in Denver have not only struck a deal regarding newspaper delivery here, they also have agreed to begin sharing content after longtime local newshound Dick Foster, a colleague of mine at the G back in the Seventies, took a buyout and the Rocky closed his one-man Southern Colorado "bureau." Foster routinely beat the G and The Pueblo Chieftain like red-headed stepchildren, outcovering them in their own back yards, and his absence will be keenly felt. As Cara DeDette notes in The Colorado Springs Independent: "So instead of two stories in two newspapers about a topic with a kaleidoscope of potentially important angles, readers will see the same story, by the same person, in two papers."

      Meanwhile, another G alum', Rick Tosches, saw his "Rocky Mountain Ranger" column croaked by The Denver Post and has returned to writing a column for the Independent, now headed by still another veteran of the local cage-liner, former G sports editor Ralph Routon. Damn, this is one incestuous little business. Let's see, who can I go to work for next? Oh, yeah, right — nobody. The word has gotten around since I first started scribbling for money back in the fall of 1977. Looks like you're stuck with me.

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    Speak into the dragonfly, please

      Antiwar activists in Washington and New York think the Homeland Security propeller-heads are using robot insects to spy on them, according to The Washington Post. I am not making this up, though the Post may be. Here's a clip:

    No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

    The robobugs could follow suspects, guide missiles to targets or navigate the crannies of collapsed buildings to find survivors.

      This may explain the giant caterpillar with the satellite dish I saw in the back yard yesterday. And here I thought it was just another acid flashback.

      In cycling news, Floyd Landis has decided to take his case to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport. No surprise there, really. He's come this far — he might as well go the whole nine yards, run out the clock, bet the roll, see what happens. What the hell, he's already $2 million down. What's left to lose?

      Landis and his legal team have done a splendid job of muddying the waters, once he got over sputtering about beer, whisky, international communism and space aliens, to the point where the true believers will never accept his guilt, a few folks are permanently confused regarding the facts of the matter, and the rest of us no longer give a shit.

      Here's the thing: We all know that some people will do anything for money. Cut the course, have a competitor whacked in the knee with a police baton, or even take dope to win races, then get busy lyin' and denyin' until it's time to start cryin' because all those giant mutant chickens have suddenly come home to roost with a vengeance.

      So by all means, keep reading, watching and cheering, if only because it keeps me eating, drinking and lollygagging. But when you see the occasional inexplicable superhuman performance, remember: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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    'Marathon' is Greek for 'No fat bastards'

      Chicago Tribune columnist Philip Hersh opines that many of the thousands who struggled to put one foot in front of the other at the Chicago Marathon had no business being there because they were undertrained and poorly prepared. Lamenting that the $110 entry fee is too tempting for promoters to trim the field size — 45,000 were entered in this year's edition — Hersh argues: "A marathon is not for everybody. It is well past the time for race organizers and many would-be participants to realize that."

      I've been running casually for nearly 20 years, ever since I first took up cyclo-cross, and I wouldn't tackle that distance at gunpoint, not even if Elle Macpherson were waiting for me at the finish in a hot tub with a bottle of Herradura Añejo. The American capacity for self-delusion is apparently boundless. Shuffling thrice weekly through the park for 30 minutes at a crack does not a marathoner make.

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    So let it (not) be written (again)

      In a rare instance of academia free of crainal-rectal intrusion, an independent review board that oversees the Colorado State University student newspaper has ruled that editor in chief J. David McSwane can keep his job after writing a headline that read, "Taser this: Fuck Bush." Quoth The New York Times:

    After several hours of deliberations on Thursday, the board determined that Mr. McSwane had violated the newspaper's code of ethics (which states that "profane and vulgar words are not acceptable for opinion writing") but said that the editorial was an expression of opinion protected by the First Amendment. In a statement, the board called Mr. McSwane's decision to publish the editorial "unethical and unprofessional."

      What can I say? That's fuckin' awesome.

      Not so awesome is this from Kevin Drum, who takes note of a Washington Post story reporting that Iraqi leaders have given up all hope of political reconciliation, saying "that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government." Says Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd: "I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such. To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power." Lovely.

      Late update: Jesus H. Christ. The New York Times reports that the Donks appear willing to cave to the White House insistence on being able to place a bug in your crapper if your farts smell like hummus. Says The Old Gray Lady: "Although willing to oppose the White House on the Iraq war, they remain nervous that they will be called soft on terrorism if they insist on strict curbs on gathering intelligence." Well, they're soft in the fuckin' head if they think this chickenshit is gonna win them any votes from people who've read the Constitution and think it still possesses some small value beyond the starting of fires for burning books or wiping patrician asses. Write your congresscreature, if the silly shit can read. If not, holler at him or her or it over the phone. Joe Galloway was right. And so was Joe Hill. "Don't waste any time mourning, organize!"

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    Your tax dollars at work

      Counterfeit electrical wiring that melts, sprinkler-system pipes that burst and a State Department inspector general who could give a fat rat's ass — it's all part of the woefully-behind-schedule, $592 million U.S. Embassy being built in Baghdad.

      Stateside, meanwhile, The New York Times calls bullshit on Grand Inquisitor Torquebusha's sophistry regarding torture, noting that "President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies."

      And here in Bibleburg, we're looking at 45 degrees and a frost warning, which signals an end to rolling about in shorts and short-sleeve jerseys for a spell. The good news is, we'll be back into the 70s before you can get arrested for saying, "Columbus was a slave-trading swine."

      In the meantime, it was long sleeves and knee warmers for an hour of cyclo-cross at a nearby school, which has been shuttered due to a dwindling student body. I've laid out a course that takes about seven minutes per lap at a moderate old-guy pace, with two back-to-back run-ups, a couple of off-camber descents, two short power climbs, some pavement, a log-hop, about nine-tenths of a trip around a pulverized-granite track and a whole shitload of grass, which grabs the wheels like a Bibleburg cop putting the cuffs on a peace activist. Makes for a long hour, is what it does. I usually poot around for a half hour, trying to remember what it's all about, then spend the second half hour proving that a drink-sodden memory is no substitute for actual training.

      But first, I went over to Palmer Park and took a couple of snaps along Cheyenne Trail. I saw some nice color there during a run the other day and wanted to get it digitized before the freeze and breeze dumps it all into the trash can of history.

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    Why they call it 'fall'

      The wind is howling and trees are down everywhere, great, big, trail-blocking sonsabitches. O'Schenk and I rode south on the creek trail into a massive headwind and saw leaves, limbs and shattered trunks in quantity. We tried to shift a couple of them, but no dice. A guy with a chainsaw and wheelbarrow could collect himself a ton of free firewood, were he so inclined. But since we heat with gas, like good cyclo-crossers we just hurdled the wreckage and kept riding.

      Elsewhere, Robert Parry says it's time for the Democrats to put impeachment back on the table. Joe Galloway agrees with him, adding: "Consider this a last-minute wakeup call. This is your country. Take it back before it's too late." And Jesus' General shows us how 911 changed Rudy's World.

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    Is it safe?

      "We do not torture!" barked The Decider. "Bullshit!" retorts The New York Times. Notes John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy's top lawyer from 1997 to 2000:

    "I know from the military that if you tell someone they can do a little of this for the country's good, some people will do a lot of it for the country's better. The problem is, once you've got a legal opinion that says such a technique is O.K., what happens when one of our people is captured and they do it to him? How do we protest then?"

      To keep my head from exploding, I went for a long ride. Well, long for me these days, anyway — up the New Santa Fe Trail through the Air Force Academy to just past Palmer Lake and back. That's 53 miles for a 53-year-old ne'er-do-well, which seemed appropriate, especially since it kept me away from the computer and all the evil news that pours into it like sewage from a really big pipe. There is some small elevation gain involved — Bibleburg sits at 6,035 feet, with Palmer Lake at 7,225 — and a fair amount of dirt, as the paved trail ends at Woodmen Road. Passers-by include red-tailed hawks, grazing cattle and inquisitive horses. It's kind of like the winding country lanes we don't have anymore, but without the auto traffic.

      Speaking of Bibleburg, prominent local fucktard James Dobson warns that his cretinoid cadre of Christo-fascists will support a third-party candidate in 2008 "if neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life." Y'know, like Gen. George Armstrong Bush, who expresses his Christian love for his fellow man by imprisoning, waterboarding and bombing the mortal shit out of them. I can't wait to see the author of "Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men" pulling a Ralph Nader on the Pachyderms, because the invertebrate Donks are gonna need every assist they can get if they are to slither their way back into the White House.

      And finally, Marion Jones — surprise surprise — has copped to using performance-enhancing drugs, according to The Associated Press, following a Washington Post scoop. She won five medals in the 2000 Olympics, three of them gold, and according to the AP "was one of track's first female millionaires, typically earning between $70,000 and $80,000 a race, plus at least another $1 million from race bonuses and endorsement deals." Gosh, and we wonder why our sporting heroes, and heroines, might be tempted to cut a corner or two en route to the finish line, which, oddly enough, always seems to be near a bank. "I'm shocked, shocked, to find out that doping is taking place here!" "Your customary jeroboam of Chateau du Chien Fou '69, Mr. O'Grady . . ." "Ah, merci, François. Please accept this footlocker full of euros with my compliments, and tell no one."

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    Brrr . . .

      Thirty-eight this morning. Yow. Herself just went running in long sleeves, tights, ear warmers, a cap and some skanky pink glove liners. Me, I went downtown to do some banking, snagging a loaf of six-grain bread and a couple ham-and-cheese croissants from La Baguette while I was in the neighborhood. Decadent, I know, but I don't have to spend eight of today's finest 24 hours confined in someone else's place of business. So I'll have a bite and a mug of tea, and wait an hour or so before I go out to stumble around in my Sauconys.

      The last Foaming Rant is still drawing letters like a dead dog draws flies, and a couple of 'em are real doozies. I didn't realize so many mental hospitals allowed their patients Internet access. If only we could get these keyboard kommandos so enraged over important stuff, like mercenaries gone wild on the taxpayers' dime, or the Compassionate-Conservative-in-Chief vetoing an expansion of children's health insurance as too costly while demanding another $190 billion for Little Big Surge. But I guess a bike race that will come off just as soon as monkeys fly out of Frank Arokiasamy's butt, bearing 30 million smacks, is somehow of greater significance to them. Go figure.

      Late update: Thirty-eight this morning; 85 this afternoon. What's not to like about Colorado? Besides the fascists, the closet Kluxers, the faux Christian whackjobs, the prevailing wage, the appalling lack of a decent daily newspaper, and . . .

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    October? Already?

      Yes, indeedy. Once again October has slipped up behind me with a blunt object, catching me unawares. In honor of this treachery, I went for far too long a run in Palmer Park, much of it on the Templeton Trail, to which I hadn't set foot or tire in months. It's a technical trail, even afoot, and I walked most of the descents, as some of the worst crashes I've suffered in this park have come while running. Nevertheless, I'm gonna be sore tomorrow.

      But when October shows up, man, you've got to get those last few long rides and runs in. Much of Palmer Park is off-limits come winter; some trails turn to adobe after the first snow, while others lie in patches of perma-shade and become strips of glassy ice. But right now, the foliage is turning and thinning, and the trails are as navigable as they're ever going to be, if you don't mind the occasional long stretch of soft sand.

      I love this time of year. The magazines I work for have gone back to monthly publication instead of every other week, and VeloNews.com dials itself down considerably, with nothing but team transfers, cyclo-cross and the never-ending parade of doping stories to report.

      Speaking of VN.com, if like me you weren't at CrossVegas last week, check out the video of the men's and women's races. Could've used another camera or two or three, plus an explanatory voiceover, but what the hell? T'aint bad a-tall. Beats the shit out of watching network TV.

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