Monday, March 28, 2011

Your Wagon

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wok Dreams

I really thought it was a wok.
With a sprig of rosemary.
I know, I know...BAD DOG.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lying Numbers

Which, of course, is why you shouldn't place your thermometer on the south side.

Earlier in the week, it was a balmy 50 degrees. Margarita weather! 

Today, my Texas Susan of The Bike Garden shared a gorgeous photo of a spring iris in full bloom in her post At Last.


Reasons to Come Home

Whenever my Dave travels, we send him a picture of the evening meal he is missing so he comes back home again. 

Roasted rosemary garlic chicken (not that Dave eats chicken),
mashed potatoes, spinach-strawberry-smoked salmon-feta salad w/balsamic vinegar.
Boy#2 like his fruit and vegies untainted so gets them straight up.

Olive ciabatta with red pepper-feta-mint spread
and chicken salad, roasted squash, spinach-feta salad.

Rice and lentils, roasted cauliflower,
vegie samosas w/mint chuntey, and a smoothie.

Dave messages back photos of airport food so they all feel bad for him.

Actually, this looks mighty tasty to me.



Thursday, March 24, 2011

System of Wooden Beads

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Girl Scout Apprentice

I am not a big fan of people knocking on our door. I don't care if they are wearing brass knuckles or Girl Scout sashes. I will bark ferociously and drive them away. Some are more tenacious than others. But eventually, my powers prevail and they slink off. 
My people seem to think that my services are not needed. They make me lie down quietly in my bed when people come over. So I must resort to my secret weapon: my laser eyes. My amber gaze drills into their frontal lobes,  controlling their minds -- GO AWAAAY. It may take a bit longer but, in the end, off they go.  
I shouldn' t share this next bit - but you don't know our address so you won't be stopping by... Food is my kryptonite. If you offer me a treat, it is as though a puppeteer is yanking my strings. Sit? Down? Shake? Yes! Yes! YES!

It is really embarassing. 
This year, we have gotten no firewood salesmen, no cookies pushers or giftwrap guilters at our door. My Susan had to track down a Girl Scout at her school where they congregate. 
Girl Scout cookies!
Q: What are the best-selling Girl Scout Cookies?
A: The biggest sellers are:
  • 25% Thin Mints
  • 19% Samoas®/Caramel deLites®
  • 13% Peanut Butter Patties®/Tagalongs®
  • 11% Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos®
  • 9% Shortbread/Trefoils
The other varieties combined account for the remaining 23%. More Girl Scout Cookie FAQs
Take a guess at my favorite.  Tagalongs® or Do-si-dos® do nicely. Sadly, the rest of the family prefers Thin Mints and Samoas® which contain chocolate so no go pour moi.
Lately, something is changing in Girl Scout Land. No longer limited to the field of friends, family and neighbors, Girl Scouts are everywhere, selling with wide-eyed ferocity. At the coffee shops, in the malls, on the street corners... They work in pairs, pushed forward by efficient, helicopter moms whispering, "Work the sale, don't take a 'no', dew up your eyes, tilt your head up, tell them what the money is for, tell them they can leave the cookies with us and just make a donation,  remind them the cookies will keep beautifully for months in the freezer..."

They should get these mother/daughter teams on Donald Trump's Apprentice. They would clean up.
You might imagine this change in sales commitment means troops are making more than a mere 35-70 cents per box of cookies. There has been press that this new momentum comes from a change in Girl Scout cookie policy: Troops can no longer return partial cases. So parents are left paying for any cookies not sold, if the case is opened. Suddenly it begins to cost the parents more than time and words of encouragement, "Call Grandma, she'll buy some Thin Mints..."
But does this really explain the change in sales tactics? How much are we talking about? Even if a local troop is clearing the full 20% of proceeds - that is only $8.40 per case of money raised for the troop. Some troops across the nation only get 10% - that's $4.40 for selling 12 boxes.

If that is the cost of selling a case, why wouldn't the parents of a Girl Scout just write a check to their troop and skip Saturdays hawking cookies? If they were feeling generous, they could donate the other 50% ($21.00)  of proceeds back to their local Girl Scout council and spend their free time with their Girl Scout at an art museum or hiking in the woods. 
But, of course, Girl Scouts also believes it is important to have young girls learn entrepreneurial skills, the backbone of American society. See what the Girl Scouts say about cookie sales and lifelong learning skills.

My Susan felt the full power of these skills, wielded like a set of Ninja throwing stars by a sales team of two Girls, a Mother and a droopy dad hauling cases with a moving dolly. They were working the local coffee shop.
Girl: "Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?"
Susan: "No, thank you, I am not looking for cookies. I am waiting for my family." She was thinking of the boxes of Girl Scout cookies already consumed. The cookie season needed to pass.
A short pause, as the Girl accessed her mental branching response chart. The Mother nudged her forward. Susan moved away quickly, leaving the coffee shop to wait in the outer hall. She heard the patter of pursuing footsteps. She ducked behind a corner. The Girl followed.

"You could make a donation and leave the cookies with us!" the Girl said, eyes flashing.

"Hmmm..." said Susan, trapped and annoyed,"What is this cookie money used for?" That would stump her. The fundraising neighbor boys always mumble, "I dunno."

The Girl grinned, she knew this one, "All the proceeds benefit Girl Scout programs. Our troop is raising money for a trip to Afton Alps. We are also donating a portion to Our Troops Abroad!"

"How long have you been a Girl Scout?" Susan asked, stalling. Then she became aware that she was alone in a dim hallway, asking probing questions of a young girl.

"One year. It is fun!" the Girl replied, practically tapping her foot.

"Well... I don't have much cash --"

"You can write a check!"

"...Here's two bucks - that would be about what your troop would get if I bought three boxes..." Susan handed her the bills reluctantly.

The Girl cocked her head and said without a pause, " I was really thinking $30."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't Move a Thing

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Naturally, when I came across this bit of news about MeatWater, I was very excited. What a delightful idea!

Imagine my consternation, followed by bark-out-loud delight, when I discovered MeatWater is all an elaborate hoax. With its slick graphic design, self-confident marketing message and strong web presence, MeatWater ( is pretty convincing as a new product for our ridiculous consumer society. The MeatWater illusion is powered and perpetuated by insidious social media advertising and famous folks who seemingly believe - like Chuck Shepard and Jay Leno.

Every detail of MeatWater's presence is tended to with scathing precision. From tag lines, to ingredient lists, to Twitter feeds, I found myself peering at the products, wanting to believe.

Who wouldn't want Fish & Chips in her water dish? 
Even though it comes "Now with extra high Mercury count." 
I wouldn't say no to a liquid Dirty Hot Dog, though the "steroid relish" gives me pause. And I am not really liking the warning "Caution, bottle may contain 3% urine." Is that really what it says?

Check out's exploration of the MeatWater phenomenon including promotional videos and an amusing interview with MeatWater founder Krautkr√§mer. 

I then followed my nose into the world of product displacement - "the removing of trademarked products from primarily visual media." Sometimes the need of TV shows of movies for products - but not pesky real products -  leads to the creation of fictionalized products -- some of which become so popular they become de-fictionalized (made into real products). And so the dog chases her tail.

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man wreaked paranormal havoc
in New York City in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters.
Made famous by Ghostbusters! Caffeine replaces paranormal power as the key energy ingredient.
But MeatWater takes it all to a level of performance art that I find sublime. I love that Jay Leno and Chuck Shepard think they are cleverly riffing on a dumb product. Their people clearly didn't look very deeply at their sources  (AOL, Chuck - really? They certainly swallowed MeatWater hook, line and sinker). How easy it is, in these web-wonderful days, to join the yapping pack without pausing to consider if it is even a real squirrel up in the tree. 

VOID for a water product is simply sublime. I love potty humor.
As you may know, I am a great appreciator satire. I am proud to say that my Art Hound contributions are occasionally mistaken as real works of the Masters...if only for a fleeting, online moment. I love the something-for-everyone layers of MeatWater which offsets my disappointment that Cheese Burger or Venison Confit water won't be hitting my dog bowl any time soon. Then again, maybe it will. 

Let the de-fictionalization begin!

Mark Trail

click to enlarge                           Star Tribune, 3-19-11
I just don't see how the little girl's doll can fly Otto's plane.

If there was another panel, what would Mark need help with? Judging from the little girl's expression and Mark's looming presence, I think he has a pretty dark solution. I hope that doll also knows self-defense.

And what's up with that owl? Will he rally the creatures of the forest to help the little girl and her doll escape the clutches of Mark Trail?

Who will make it to the plane first?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jenny's Tea Party

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A New Charter School?

Susan started her morning burning toast and stepping in cat barf (How did I miss it? I am usually right on those early morning treats.) But she had a good laugh when she ran across this headline. At first, the term "small fire" made her chuckle. But then Boy#1 pointed out "savage school" seemed an apt description for a place where students light things on fire.

Students at the Savage School of Minnesota learn to make fire. SSM's goal of academic excellence is guided by the principles of progressive education. Believing that children learn best as active participants, collaborators, and problem-solvers within a community, SSM students solve real-life problems with real tools. 
As a school administrator, my Susan has recently heard the term "warrior spirit" used by flummoxed mothers to describe their young boys' propensity to play loudly with sticks. These are often peace-loving, coop-shopping, beeswax-burning mothers who are grappling with the fact that despite all their attempts to eradicate the warring instincts of their sweet spawn, suppressing testosterone often becomes a game of whack-a-mole. Forbid the nerf guns and video games and boys will make do with branches and marbles - though not happily in this culture, once they realize what they are missing.

Not long ago Boy#2 had a new friend over and they played video games. Apparently it was the other boy's first time playing a multiplayer, shooter game on a large screen with surround sound. He turned blissfully to Boy#2 and said, "How did I ever live without this?!" 

At least they didn't start a small fire.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Big Picture

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Windowsill Herb Garden

It is clear that there is a deep need for spring in my household. My Susan went to a greenhouse this weekend. She said she needed to breath in living plants. She brought home a bunch of plants and then spent a contented hour humming, potting and arranging.

The cats LOVE to eat houseplants. I love to hear the cats get yelled at and chased with a spray bottle. So everyone is pleased.

A kitchen herb garden to combat March blues.
Susan planted herbs in a windowsill container: basil, rosemary and mint. Even if they eat them up (or they die like most of Susan's houseplants) she says it is cheaper than buying fresh herbs from the grocery store. The three-pot system allows for individual herb replacement without disturbing the others. She said I should point out this cleverness. I think perhaps she needs her own blog.

Honestly, I don't have a lot of interest in herbs. I don't eat leaves -- other than grass. But herbs make for a happy cook which means more crumb showers for me.  

I did get to lay on the deck in the sunshine yesterday. Hello, spring!


When I saw this article about a baby-proof, easy-grasp case for your iPhone, I gave a loud snort. 

I heartily agree you can't fool babies with imitations and distractors. Baby wants that iPhone because it is a coveted possession - perhaps cradled and given as much care as Baby himself. What Mommy cherishes and protects must be awesome -- so I WANT IT! 

Back in the olden days when my Susan had babies (long before iPhones, shortly after the invention of electricity), the coveted item was Mommy's Keys. There was no way sensible Susan was going to hand over her keys - she has enough trouble tracking them. But she quickly realized that her baby Boy#1 wasn't fooled by plastic toy car keys. And really, who would be tricked?  Baby keys look nothing like real car keys.  

So she gave Baby#1 a set of real keys -- old keys long since separated from their locks but offering nonetheless  a satisfying jangle and tang of metal. It took Baby#1 about three minutes to realize These are Not the Keys I Want. Of course, if my Susan had carried around the plastic baby keys, nestled them safely in her Forbidden Handbag and set them high out of Baby's reach, they would have transformed in a wondrous Gimme Item.

Puppies are no different from human babies. The Stick They Want is simply the stick the other dog possesses. Getting the stick isn't about the stick. And if the other dog simply gives them the stick and or loses interest in it, that stick is no longer worthy. 

Tug-of-war is about winning. The rope is just a rope.
Possession is most fun when achieved through speed, strength or good old cunning. But if a puppy's current skill set is no match for a stronger, faster, bigger, smarter dog, then it never hurts to roll out the big guns of begging and whining. If that works, Puppy will make begging and whining the go-to tools and voil√° - a whiny dog is born!

Of course, a Top Dog can keep the stick with a mere stare. Every sensible dog knows the difference between a game of tug-of-war and No, Don't Even THINK About It.

What elicited my loud snort this morning was the lengths that parents will go through to avoid being Top Dog. Why not just say no? Susan assures me there are other factors at play here - and that I have never had puppies so I should not preach about parenting. But would you give Baby a Sharpie marker? (How could you deny her right to express herself?) How about a lighter? (Pretty lights!) Some coffee - cooled, of course? (Yummy for Mommy, Baby wants some too!)

It must be said that babies don't need to poke at $600 iPhones. 

And no, having some private, on-screen, giggle-trading with Grandma  is not really a relationship builder when one of the conversationalists is mostly intent on poking random buttons and banging the phone on the carseat. Most likely the Face Time Grandma is going to get is some up-close and virtual Slobber Tongue Time with Baby. 

And for the 36 month old "baby", basic phone etiquette (don't lick or hurl the phone) has presumably been taught. What parent of a preschooler would take the time to snap their phone in a bulky, baby-proof case for a chat with Grandpa? They probably lost that $15 iPhone case two years ago...

Don't even get me started on babies learning with interactive software. Babies are better off chewing on sticks.

Or tearing paper with non-virtual Daddy.