Extreme Bird Toys

For some reason, there’s nothing like a bell on a chain to get a pet bird excited. Chico, the cockatiel we had in Florida, had a string of wooden blocks on a chain with a bell on the end, and he would put his head in the bell, in the hope it would rub him the right way. Most of the time it didn’t, though, and then he would scream and attack the toy!

Likewise, when our parrot Brin-Brin hears a bell, he’ll spread his tail like a fan (only then can you see the red stripes on his tail feathers), and say “Hello,” which apparently isn’t a friendly greeting to him. In the five months we’ve had him, he has torn up a couple of bell toys. Then yesterday, when I was shopping in Meijer, I saw an industrial-strength bell toy that’s supposed to be tough enough to take any treatment a parrot can dish out. Called the “Indestructibell,” it encases the bell in a bulletproof acrylic case!

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Brin-Brin doesn’t quite know yet what to make of it. I took this picture on top of the cage because the pictures taken of Brin-Brin and the bell inside the cage didn’t look very good (too many bars getting in the way).

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Hoo boy, I wonder what the inventors will think of next?

The Evolution of Conservatives and Liberals

Like the previous entry, this one is on the website page entitled “Some of My Favorite Stories.” It has been there for at least a year, but I just updated it; you may have seen other versions of it elsewhere. If I believed in evolution, here is how I’d want the story to go:

The Evolution of Conservatives and Liberals




The division of the human family into its two distinct branches, liberals and conservatives, occurred some 20,000 years ago. Until then all humans coexisted as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish in the winter.

A thousand generations ago, in the pivotal event of societal evolution, beer was invented. This epochal innovation was both the foundation of modern civilization and the occasion of the great division of humanity into its two distinct subgroups.

Once beer was discovered, our prehistoric forebears decided it was time to settle down. Making beer required grain, and securing a steady supply of it ordained the invention of agriculture.

After that was accomplished, ancient man quickly, and unfairly, consigned actual cultivation to women.

Men couldn’t just run off, willy-nilly, however. Neither the glass bottle nor the aluminum can had yet been invented, so it was necessary to stick pretty close to the brewery. That’s how villages were formed.

This left our male ancestors with a lot of time on their hands. Some men tried to conserve remnants of the old way of life (hence the term “conservative”) by spending their days in the open field in the dangerous pursuit of big game animals. At night they would roast their prey at a big barbecue, and afterwards sat around the fire drinking beer, passing wind and telling off-color jokes.

Other, more timid, souls stayed closer to home. They are responsible for the domestication of cats and the invention of group therapy. Mostly, they sat around worrying about how life wasn’t fair and concocting elaborate schemes to “liberate” themselves from inequity (thus their designation as “liberals”). From this came the concept of Democratic voting, to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

In the evening they gathered around their fire, nibbling on fruit and nuts, sharing their innermost feelings. Some liberal men did sewing, fetching, and hair dressing, and eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as “girlie men.”

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals were symbolized by the jackass.

Today some liberals try to pretend they’re really sort of conservative, and sometimes succeed in confusing people. Here is how to distinguish the two types.

By definition liberals believe in big government and high taxes. Life is unfair and the government is there to do something about it. Most people are too stupid to spend untaxed income wisely, they say, and high taxes allow liberals in government to do a better job of it.

Conservatives don’t like government, and, aside from the military, wish it would just go away. They hate taxes, regulations, speed limits, and small cars.

Typical conservatives are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Miller, Drew Carey, Charlton Heston, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, and, up there with the Big Man in the Sky, the incomparable John Wayne and Ronald Reagan.

Typical liberals are Dustin Hoffman, Shirley McLaine, Pee Wee Herman, Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Turner and his former wife, the traitor Jane Fonda.

All conservatives drink beer. American beer.

Some liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or foreign water from a bottle.

Liberals like to drive Volvos and Saabs because they’re made in socialist Sweden. They like to eat sushi, tofu and French food because it’s un-American.

Your basic conservative vehicle, especially in Alaska, is the Chevy Suburban. It’s big, it’s American, it’s four wheel drive, and it sucks up the gas. Conservatives eat red meat, which they (surprise!) like to barbecue.

Liberal women have more testosterone than liberal men. Liberals like deviant sex and want others to like it too. Their first successful city governments were in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Conservative men still provide for their women. Two of the most successful conservative city governments were in Sparta and Rome.

Big game hunters are conservative. Interior decorators are liberal.

Liberals invented the designated hitter rule in baseball because it wasn’t “fair” to make the poor pitcher take his turn at bat.

Conservatives, inspired by a remark of the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert, believe quarterbacks should be required to wear skirts, so they can more easily be distinguished from real football players.

Except for k. d. lang and the Dixie Chicks, country and religious singers are overwhelmingly conservative. Most artists in other genres of music are liberals. Alice Cooper is a conservative, believe it or not!

Liberal jurors distrust the prosecutors and police. Conservatives figure the defendant must be guilty or he wouldn’t be on trial.

Most conservatives not only believe in the death penalty, they would cheerfully implement it, personally, if called upon to do so.

Liberals think capital punishment is a barbaric relic, and unfair to boot.

Most ranchers, lumberjacks, soldiers, and construction workers are conservatives. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work productively for a living.

Most social workers, personal injury lawyers, journalists, and group therapists are liberals. Outside of the arts, liberals produce little or nothing. Because they prefer to “govern” the producers and decide what to do with the production, most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Conservatives believe in self-defense, both at home and abroad. They own guns and use them to discourage liberals and common criminals.

Liberals do not believe in conservative self-defense, for either individuals or nations. They think the United Nations is the ultimate answer to any problem.

Liberals believe Europeans are, generally speaking, far more enlightened than Americans. Conservatives think they’re basically decadent, because of their absence from recent wars.

Typical conservative movies are “Red Dawn,” “Patton,” “Conan the Barbarian,” and most films starring or directed by Mel Gibson.

Typical liberal movies are “Prince of Tides,” “Last Tango in Paris,” “The Big Chill,” and anything directed by Oliver Stone.

Conservatives have principles, believe in a Creator, and the rule of law. They practice charity and give to the poor, normally through their churches. When in doubt on an issue, they check both the Bible and the Constitution, which they use as a constant reference in a changing world. They believe in the concept of truth.

Liberals do not have principles; whatever is best for them is considered right. They cultivate the poor like a cat cultivates a field of mice. Instead of giving to charity, they get the poor to vote for them, and give them a portion of the tax money they take from conservatives.

The quintessential liberal is the modern judge. They do not produce anything except chaos, and are paid with confiscated tax money. They will enforce any statute from a liberal in Massachusetts or San Francisco, no matter how boneheaded, but consider it against the law to make reference to the Bible or Constitution.

The cowboy, of course, is your basic, full bore conservative. Around 1900, an Englishman in South Dakota was trying to find the owner of a huge cattle ranch. He rode up to one of the ranch hands and asked, “Excuse me, but could you tell me where to find your Master?” To which the cowboy replied, “That sumbitch hasn’t been born.”

Here ends today’s lesson in world history. It should be noted that a liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above before forwarding it. A conservative will simply laugh and forward it immediately to those who believe it really happened this way.

The Ambulance Down in the Valley

Here’s an addition to my page of favorite stories, a poem that was written by someone named Joseph Malens in 1895. It elaborates on how preventing problems is cheaper than fixing them, or as the proverb goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The Ambulance Down in the Valley




‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”

But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.

Blue Mid-Vacation

Today marks the mid-day of my year-end vacation; five days before, five days after. We had a very quiet Christmas, not even exchanging presents, but since we didn’t have the cloud of an unsold house hanging over our heads like we did last year, I think it was more pleasant. In the afternoon we went to our pastor’s house for Christmas dinner; Leive brought fried rice and lumpias.

So why the title? First of all, today was dreary; gray, overcast, drizzle-rain in the morning, and the temperature hovered around 42-43 for most of the day. On the radio, the morning DJ lamented that good Kwanzaa songs are hard to find, and then played a comedy song called “Blue Kwanzaa.” Man, Elvis just doesn’t sound good in Swahili!

Yesterday I was running a few errands and in a bank parking lot, a young driver in an SUV clipped my Buick’s right front bumper, knocking it loose. Ouch! Luckily neither one of us was hurt, and his SUV is all right, but here you can see the damage I suffered:

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We waited for the other driver’s father to appear, and exchanged information (name, address, phone, license and insurance numbers). The father offered to pay for repairs, so long as they don’t exceed $3,000. That’s not likely, in view of what the car cost me originally.

The mechanic I took the car to last September doesn’t do body work, but he referred me to someone nearby that does. I went there at 8 AM this morning (opening time), and found he was booked up with business, at least until the New Year. What he could do was a temporary cosmetic fix; he gently drove the car into the wall of the building so that the bumper was pushed back in place! Luckily he didn’t charge for that. The bumper will need to be replaced, and he promised to call me back with an estimate when he has it.

Normally the last week of the year is also the dullest, when it comes to news. That seems to be why so many periodicals have recaps of what has happened since last January 1. I don’t get excited by such lists, and don’t promote them. The only year in the past I can recall that wasn’t dull after Christmas was 2004, because of the December 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Well, this year won’t end on a dull note either; when I got home I heard the breaking news about former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. In the short run, it doesn’t look like anything good will come of this, unless Bhutto’s party can come up with a decent replacement candidate for next year’s election. I will be watching carefully, since Pakistan is a shaky ally in the War On Terror, and we don’t want any nuclear weapons, or parts of them, falling in the hands of terrorists.

I will also be watching to see if the media gets its priorities straight on this story, or continues to indulge in the celebrity worship that so much of the public seems to prefer. Just for fun I did a little test, and the first results aren’t encouraging. In an advanced Google search, I entered the names of two people who have been in the news:

Benazir Bhutto = 794,000 results

Jamie Lynn Spears = 1,130,000 results

If the Internet is a reliable reflection of the masses, the Hopi word “Koyannisqaatsi” (life out of balance) fits here.

The Pyramid Patent

As you know if you’re a regular reader, I’ve been following the activities of Zahi Hawass, the director of the Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. He successfully persuaded the Carlos Museum in Atlanta to return a mummy to Egypt when it was identified as Ramses I, the founder of the XIX dynasty, and often gets in the news when he demands a similar return of the Rosetta Stone or the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti. However, this time I think he may be going too far; with his help, the Egyptian government is passing a law declaring payment of a royalty whenever anybody else duplicates its monuments.

Anybody know how Egypt intends to enforce this law? The article I posted a link to says it won’t apply to the glass pyramid of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, because it’s not a 100 percent copy. I don’t think it will apply to the Washington monument, either; although it’s obviously copied from Egyptian obelisks, it’s much bigger and has no hieroglyphics on it. On the other hand, the Sheik of Dubai will probably have to pay, because he’s building full-sized replicas of seven world wonders in his port, and two of them are the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Pharos Lighthouse. If the law is retroactive, how old does a replica have to be before the owner is exempt from paying?

Over on Free Republic, where I was tipped off to this story, there is speculation that the Egyptians are jealous because more tourists go to Las Vegas than to Egypt. Personally I would rather see the originals in Egypt than replicas somewhere else, but there’s a reason for the Las Vegas traffic, and I don’t think it’s because of an urge to see Egyptian monuments without leaving North America. If that was the case, there would be a flood of tourists going to Cecil B. DeMille’s movie set for The Ten Commandments, too. Nor do I think the tourists stay away from Egypt just because Las Vegas does a better job of getting your money helping you have a good time. Hint: remember what happened at Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple to a busload of visitors in 1997. I’m glad that Dr. Hawass is gung-ho about protecting his country’s heritage, but there are an awful lot of Egyptians who don’t care that much for it. The Islamists in particular would probably want to erase anything older than 641 A.D. (the date of the Islamic conquest of Egypt), the way the Taliban did with the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan. Therefore, if I go over there anytime soon, to see what I missed on my 1979 visit, I know my family and friends will be praying for my safety.

Egypt to Copyright Pyramids

The Last House Tour Page is Finally Up

From May to July I created four pages featuring our house and yard, which are accessible from the links in the left-hand column. I didn’t photograph the basement area then, because we were arranging things down there. We’re still not finished with that, but I decided not to keep you waiting any longer. I can always post pictures of new improvements on another day, and link to them from here.

Our House, Part V: The Basement

This evening, our church had a candlelight Christmas Eve service, along with the congregation that owns the building. Tomorrow we plan to go to the pastor’s house for Christmas dinner, rather than have Leive cook a lot again (we just finished the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers a few days ago!). She’s going to bring rice and lumpias, though.

Merry Christmas, everyone!