Sunday, June 22, 2008

Meet the new girls (same as the old girls?)

Two weeks ago, we picked up these young snips:

Their names are Angelina (left) and Pancake, a pink-eyed white and a pink-eyed Himalayan, both four-month old rat kittens. (Yes, that's the shoulder of yours truly they're resting on.)
We picked them up from a rat shelter, which we have used before to get our rats from. Angie and Panky (as they are colloquially known) had previously been kept by an indifferent teenager in an abandoned house, only occasionally fed and given water by his aunt. When the rescue lady found them, they were standing in their own filth, and one of them had the cord of a blind around her neck, nearly strangling her. Due to them being kept in those poor conditions, they may have future respiratory problems, which domestic rats are very prone to.
The first weekend, we treated them for lice and put them on antibiotic meds for their sneezing. We had to use one of our spare rat cages to keep the younger girls in. Then we very slowly and carefully introduced them to our two older girls:

That's Mary and Sapphire, both 1 year and 8 months old. They had lived with the now deceased Star, but had gotten used to life on their own and had settled into their own ways. The last thing they wanted were two bouncy—and sexually charged—teenage rats bothering them! Mary was our biggest worry, as she got the angriest at their presence, and she did thrash them violently early on. But, by letting them interact in neutral territory (such as the bathroom), then putting the older girls in the younger girls' cage, letting them play together in the living room—which the older girls consider their range—and then eventually into the big girls' cage, we accomplished what we had hoped for. They now get along and are best buddies with each other. Mary and Sapphire now accept the two younger ones as cagemates.
Immediately before they went into the big girls' cage together, Squirrel had taken them to the vets for a check-up and meds. She had put all four of them into a small-animal carrying cage, and all went well. We considered this a vital step to the next stage, which was putting all four rats into the big "master" cage. Once home from the vets, they all went into the master cage and it all went according to plan from that point on.
Angelina is named after the children's character, Angelina the Ballerina Mouse, which is a British cartoon but was shown on American PBS stations. Pancake is named after one of the meerkats on Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor, about the daily lives of a group of meerkats in a South African desert. But, as aforementioned, we call them Angie and Panky (or Panks) for short.
It is interesting watching the two generations of rats interact peacefully. And, of course, it's an absolute pleasure sharing our lives with them. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I cannot comprehend the mindset of anyone who doesn't like animals and doesn't want them around—the sort of person who thinks only people matter. People do matter, most definitely. But I enjoy sharing my time and my life with other earthly creatures too, especially one as dynamically intelligent as the rat. They really are the most astounding animals.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Champions once again!

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler, © Getty Images)

Well done, fellas.
Last night, the Celtics slaughtered the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, in Game 6 to win their 17th NBA Championship title. We didn't just win the game, the series, the NBA Finals and the championship against the Lakers, we obliterated and humiliated them. We blew them out of the TD Banknorth Garden building.
Some might say that the Celtics were bullying the Lakers when a win already seemed like a fait accompli, especially with Ray Allen hitting trifecta after trifecta. Boston won by a 39 point margin, and were up by as much as 43 points during the 4th quarter.
Hey, that's what you do, not only to your competition when you're in the Finals, but especially your most famous and hated rival. You pound them into the ground and then steamroll right over them. And what Celtics fan wouldn't want that done to the Lakers?
I certainly did.
If only the Patriots hadn't tanked it in the SuperBowl, this would have been one incredible year for Boston sports, if you include last autumn's Red Sox World Series win. I don't know, maybe it was karma; maybe the Pats had to lose in order for the Celtics to win. If so, I'll accept that. Unlike the Patriots, the Celts hadn't won in 22 years and the Lakers were beginning to narrow the gap between their number of championships versus ours. 17-14 us is a lot better than 16-15! We have a bit more breathing room now.
I take great comfort in our 17th Championship win, that it came against L.A., and that—in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen—the Celtics have as good a "big three" as has ever existed in the game of basketball, which bodes well for our near future.
Rest easy till November, boys. You've made us—the city and the fans—very happy and very proud.

(Photo by Joe Murphy, © Getty Images)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No dogs, Irish or short-asses need apply

It's one thing to argue that John McCain is too old, too liberal, too conservative (if you're an Obama supporter), or has too many health problems to be President.
It takes a massive load of chutzpah, however, to assert that McCain is unqualified to be President because he's too short. Yet, that's what Marion McKeone, an Irish journalist, wrote in the May 25, 2008 edition of the Sunday Tribune, an Irish national newspaper.
Clearly of the opinion that John McCain is too conservative, McKeone writes, "[A]mericans don't want a president who sounds like Dr. Evil but looks like Mini-Me. A leader that stands head and shoulders above global thugs is a literal as well as a metaphorical ideal."
Get that? Doesn't matter about McCain's military service, his long experience in the Senate, the administration he would call upon, or whatever else. Because, writes McKeone, "It's bad for the fragile American psyche if the leader of the free world is the midget at heads of state photo ops."
"This is especially true," continues McKeone, "when he promises as pugnacious a foreign policy as McCain does, what with bombing Iran and kicking around Iraq for another 100 years." (What did I tell you about this paddy reporter being of the mindset that McCain is too conservative?)
It's certainly true that some people who exercise their right to vote abuse it by choosing style over substance, but Americans are not so fragile that they'd vote in an extreme liberal with too little experience simply because he stood taller. McKeone, of course, disagrees:
"Barack Obama, on the other hand, may be shy of experience on the international front but he is over six foot tall and possesses the sort of physical grace and presence that would eclipse any head of state likely to share a stage with him."
So, according to McKeone, it's OK to sign the house away, as Obama will surely do, as long as he towers above the other world leaders he happens to share a platform with.
Make sense? I thought not.
Because McKeone lives in New York, she is obviously of the self-important opinion that she knows Americans and can call the shots on behalf of the rest of us. That takes one hell of an ego in and of itself.
But to call John McCain a "midget" and "Mini-Me," that's just arrogance on a mind-blowing scale. But of course, what else would you expect of tall people who pride themselves on a physical attribute they did absolutely nothing to earn? A muscular physique, honed by hours in the gym and on the cross-country route: that's something you put blood, sweat and tears into. A vertical frame over six feet tall: that's something you were given by nature. You never paid for it nor punished yourself physically for it.
Nevertheless, it's amazing the amount of people out there who act as if that were the case. To be quite honest, if McKeone were a man, I'd say he was one of these lanky dorks who wear nothing shorter than Bermuda shorts during the summer because his chicken legs are just too laughable. The kind of guy who's been shoulder-barged out of the way by men shorter and far more muscular than him his whole life and is considerably bitter about it.
Marion McKeone, being a woman, however, is obviously the very haughty sort who probably wears six-inch heels to further augment her already Amazonian frame and sees any man less than 6 feet tall as not worthy of being alive. McKeone's attitude toward McCain clearly reflects that attitude. I think it's fair to say that McKeone's head is in the clouds both literally and figuratively.
Perhaps McKeone can tell us about anyone else in her life who went through what McCain did, anyone else she personally knows who, when given the choice of escaping the hell he found himself in, chose to stay and be further tortured on behalf of his fellow countrymen. But, never mind, McCain is a short-ass, so he can't really be that strong a character, can he?
McKeone asserts that America "is a nation that imbibes Hollywood glitz with its powdered baby food." Again, McKeone betrays her own specialist knowledge of American society because most of the iconic and well-known and renowned actors, from Tom Cruise to Michael J. Fox, from Al Pacino to Martin Sheen, from Elijah Wood to Dustin Hoffman, are 5-foot-7 or under.
Even the Fonz was 5-foot-6. American icons rarely get tougher than him. McKeone, of course, would disagree.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What part of "no" does the E.U. not understand?

Voters in Ireland rejected the European Union treaty, 53 to 47 percent, on Friday. Ireland was the only European country to be allowed a referendum vote on the proposed charter, known as the Lisbon Treaty.
The Lisbon Treaty is virtually the same as the EU Constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
Yet the European Union is insisting that, despite these rejections by the French, Dutch and now the Irish, it does not spell the end for the superstate project.
It doesn't matter how many nations cry foul and how many majorities who, when given the vote, shoot it down, the EU will still press on with their squalid Constitution—a joke when you consider that this so-called constitution involves unelected, faceless leaders who are accountable to no-one.
The EU is ignoring its own rules, under which only one "no" vote was enough to kill the treaty. Yet, as expected, the EU will turn a deaf ear to the Irish and pretend that their "no" was actually a "yes."
If the EU doesn't continue with the Lisbon Treaty, then it will once again disguise their oligarchic plans under the earlier Nice Treaty.
The European Union reminds me of a brain-damaged egomaniac, the sort of person who happily thinks everyone loves him, no matter how many people actually scream obscenities at him. The sort of person who, despite being thrown off a train station platform onto the electrified third rail, continues to think "gee, how gorgeous am I?"
Well done, Ireland. The message you sent won't be heeded in any way by your Brussels-dwelling lords temporal, but at least you told them just what you think of their fascism.
And, dear Ireland, at least you got the vote, which is more than the British can claim.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Wastes of space do not deserve to be "saved"

Hey, hey. Sorry if I don't blog as often as I should, dear reader. It's just that I get bogged down by other things during the week.
I made up the following joke, and if it turns out that you've heard it before, then I swear that is pure coincidence:
Q: If Barack wins the November election, what would that be?
A: An Obamanation. Get it: "abomination," "Obama-nation?"
It's no joke, though. The prospect of an Obama presidency frightens me, but I do doubt he'll get past McCain. Extreme liberals like McGovern and Mondale failed; so, I feel, will Barack Obama. It's not as if McCain is so right-wing that it will turn many moderate folks off. The middle-of-the-fence votes would have to go to McCain. The white, Asian, Jewish and Hispanic votes will nearly all go to McCain. Aside from the liberal East and West coasts, I'd say McCain will carry the vote by a significant margin.
Recently, Paul Gascoigne has been much in the news. Actually, he's been in the news regularly for a while. Gascoigne, better known by his nickname Gazza, is an English soccer player, regarded as one of the best English players of his generation. He soon gained a reputation as a hard drinker and it was an image that he was happy to play up.
For the past few years, Gazza has battled alcoholism and has been treated for several newsworthy incidents, not all of which have been violent but very strange nonetheless. This story sort of sums Gazza up none too succinctly.
All you ever hear on talk radio and read in the papers, with just a few exceptions, is "poor Gazza," "we must save Gazza," "Gazza needs our support."
Save Gazza? Give him "our" support? Why?!
Admittedly, it is hard to know how much of Gazza's troubles are the result of alcoholism versus genuine mental health problems. But I think it's entirely fair to say that his hard drinking hardly helped to alleviate his very unstable mental condition and just may have encouraged it. In the end it was up to Gascoigne to save himself, to know better. But, being a twit, he did no such thing. He allowed himself to party hardy with friends who—gee, guess what?—no longer associate with him.
In this, he is like a fellow soccer star, the late George Best. Best had an alcohol problem, had a liver transplant, kept drinking and died from it at 58 years of age. And all throughout Best's troubled years, all you ever heard was "we must save George" and "George needs our help."
Do you think, for one moment, that if these two weren't high profile, famous people, they'd have captured anyone's sympathy? I highly doubt it. The only reason the public clamored to "save" Best and are trying to do the same with Gascoigne is because they are considered national treasures, people who gave something to England, no matter how much of questionable importance that something is.
I don't feel sorry for Gazza and I don't feel any great need to "save" him. He did this to himself. He's a wife beater, and he's a selfish prick. I will sleep very comfortably if Gazza pegs it tomorrow. (And hopefully, when he does, Pete Doherty will soon follow.) I really do not care. He's got an evidently adoring nation behind him and all that money, yet all he can do is drink himself to death, just like Best did? Well, go for it, Gazza; please do just that.
The environment, the credit crunch, rising mortgage costs, crime & law and order. These are the things people should primarily concern themselves with. But, of course, in this celebrity-obsessed "culture," where people would much rather read People and OK! than National Review or The Spectator, it's hardly surprising that all some people can worry about is the fate of "poor" Paul Gascoigne.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

One impressive first month for the Mayor

Our new Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has been in power for a month. And already, in these 31 days, he has:
■ Cancelled the controversial cheap fuel deal with the Venezuelans that his predecessor Ken Livingstone had arranged. On the campaign trail, Johnson had derided that arrangement as "completely Caracas," and said he would put an end to it. He's proven to be as good as his word.
Slashed knife crime (forgive the pun) by a significant margin by ordering the installation of airport-style weapon scanners at subway stations across London. Stop-and-search tactics by police have intensified as well, and more police officers have been posted on buses with troublesome routes. Boris promised a safer city and he seems to be well on his way to securing that promise.
■ Put an end to drinking on public transportation, including all buses, trains and subways. The Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern said that "taking a firm approach to public drinking in this way sends a strong message that public drunkenness is socially unacceptable," and I agree on both points: That it is taking a firm approach to tackling alcohol-fuelled anti-social behavior and that public drinking is totally unacceptable. You can't drink openly on public transportation anywhere in the U.S., and I have been amazed these past eight years to see people catching buses or trains while openly swigging beer. I'm very glad that Boris has put a swift end to that nonsense.
■ By planting a tree himself recently on a London street, he has personally launched his initiative to have 10,000 new trees planted across London. That's still 30,000 short of the 40,000 trees butchered by brainless councils across London over the years, due to "health and safety" concerns. But Johnson is putting his foot down over what Richard Morrison in this excellent column rightly calls murder. No proud tree should have to be felled because some local government blockheads think it could hurt someone by dropping a branch on them, or because Tesco wants to build yet another one of its supermarkets in its space.
Tangent: Morrison is right. Corporate greed is ruining the environment. I cannot for the life of me imagine the sort of diseased brain one would have to be possessed of in order to look at a pretty field, hemmed in by nice woods, and think, "you know, this isn't making any profit, we could develop here!" I have no love nor time for these morons, I wish they would leave nature the f*** alone.
Anyway, Boris Johnson has proven so far to be the mayor he convinced us he would be. He is acting on the concerns and issues that got him elected.
The only thing that really remains for Boris is this: To keep up the excellent work, and to never let this momentum slip.