De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


Mauki the Wonder Cat

My friend Stacer has been writing occasionally about her two kittens (Mogget and Tildrum) and it's been bringing back some fond memories of my time with Mauki.

The first thing that I noticed about him was how incredibly intelligent he was. It amazed me, how he could figure things out for himself. Shortly after I got him, I woke up on a Saturday morning with a horrific headache. I tried to watch something I had taped the night before, but just couldn't stay with it. So, I grabbed a couple of extra-strength Tylenol and went back to be.

As I'm lying there, face-down, I feel Mauki jump up onto the water bed. A moment later, I feel these tiny little feet walking up the back of my right leg, all the way up my back to my shoulder. Then he was gone. A moment later, here he comes again. I tried to suppress a giggle, wondering what he was up to. Again, he got to my shoulder and then was gone. A moment later, here he comes again. By this time, I can't hold it in and I'm just lying there giggling.

He got up to my hip, and I rolled to my left onto my right side. He made his way to my left hip and then sat there. I said "What are you doing?" and he hopped down onto the bed, got up close to my face and nuzzled me and then gave me a kiss on the chin. Then he curled up next to my throat, purring like a chainsaw, and stretched out his paw and gave me a pat on the cheek. I thought to myself "Now isn't that sweet....." In a few moments, we were both asleep.

After about an hour and a half, I woke up. No more headache. Mauki was still lying in the same place. He sensed I was awake, got up, stretched, then got in my face again, purring at me. I reached out and stroked his little head with my left hand and the thought dawned on me that he had sensed I wasn't feeling well and came in to keep me company. Smart cat.

In a very short time, he learned to understand me in two languages, and even taught me some of his. He understood the difference between "No" and "Ah!". If I said "No", he understood that whatever he was about to do was normall OK, I just didn't want him to do it just then (like hop up into my lap or play with something). But if I said "Ah!", he knew he'd better back off.

For such a little kitten, he had a pretty good vocabulary. He had sounds to tell me he was bored, or wanted some affection, or wanted to play (I heard that one a lot!). He could even say "Please", and ask for water. But the one that really freaked me out was the morning he managed to tell me his litter box needed cleaning. I'm still not sure how he got that idea into my head.

He was also very affectionate, which might have stemmed from the fact that he was taken from his mother when he was only 3 weeks old and I "rescued" him from the clinic at 7. He bonded to me like SuperGlue. I became his surrogate mommy and his daddy. In keeping with his high level of intelligence, he got me trained pretty quickly. When I came in in the evening, I had to put down whatever I was carrying, get whatever I needed for about the next hour, and go sit in my recliner ("Daddy's chair"). Then he'd come over and tell me he wanted some affection. I'd tell him "It's OK" and he'd either jump up into his chair and make his way across the end table and over the arm of the recliner into my lap, or he'd let me know he wanted me to pick him up. Either way, he'd curl up in my lap for about an hour, purring until he fell asleep.

What was really adorable was when I'd rock back in the recliner and set him up on my chest. He'd sit there with this expectant look on his face, and I'd say "So, what you wanna do?" Sometimes, he'd paw at me a couple of times, which was a sign he wanted to play. Or he'd just curl up on me and purr while I stroked his little head. Or he'd rub his little face against my cheeck and give me a kiss. Sometimes, I could get my face close to his and say "Kisses?" and he'd give me a kiss. He never seemed to tire of being close to me.

His other endearing quality was his playfulness. Oddly enough, he was a "cheap date". He didn't need any expensive toys. I had bought him the standard catnip "mousey", which he loved, as well as a little wire ball with a bell in it. "Ball" wasn't all that much fun, so it was no big deal when Daddy stepped on it one day, rendering it useless. I also had a length of yarn tied to a 3/16" dowel rod. That was always fun, but I had to be careful that he didn't play with other "strings" that he found around the apartment.

But his favorite toy was "Paper" -- the foil wrapper from a Hershey Bar! One evening, during our daily ritual, he was coming across the end table when he noticed someting shiny. I had gotten myself a Hershey Bar and crumpled up the foil wrapper into a ball and left it on the table. He stopped to inspect it, pawed at it, and knocked it onto the floor. Well, Daddy could wait awhile while he checked this out. He batted it all over the living room, entertaining both of us in the process. When he finally got done, he came back up and got into my lap for the usual "nappy".

His intelligence came into play one afternoon when he had been playing with "Paper" for a while. I was watching the news and not paying any particular attention to him (although I tried to be aware of where he was and what he was doing). After a while, he came over and sat down in front of me and said "Please?". I looked down at him and said "What's the matter, little guy?". He made a couple of sounds that let me know something was wrong. Then it hit me. "Did you lose 'Paper'?". He stood up, fully alert. I stood up. "Well, show Daddy where it is."

He walked over to my little chest freezer and stood there looking between the freezer and the wall. I took a peek. There was "Paper", wedged between the freezer and the wall. "OK," I said, "let Daddy get it for you." And he moved back out of the way to let me retrieve "Paper" for him. I set it down in front of him and said "OK, there you go". Nothing doing. Daddy had to make it go again. So, I flicked it across the floor, and he hauled butt after it, batting it all around the floor again. He was pretty good at getting that thing lost. He lost in once and we never found it again.

There are a lot of other neat memories I have of the little guy, but they'll have to wait for another time. Meanwhile, thanks to Stacer for giving me a push down Memory Lane.

Stupid Question Of The Week

From last night's re-run of Law & Order:

Det Green (exiting car after examining it) "Hold up. 9mm shell casing."

Man: "From a gun?"

No from a bow and arrow. Here's your sign.....


Tolerate This...

Someone once said "No one is wholly tolerant. The more tolerant we bcome, the less we tolerate intolerance." OK....

Back when I was in high school, some of us were shooting the breeze and one guy mentioned that he had overheard the principal saying that his philosophy in life was "Take no $4^! from anyone. Anyone.". I thought that was a prety good policy, and resolved to live by that as soon as I was in a position to.

It wasn't too much longer after that that I realized that I already was in such a position. The way I saw it, there were only two kinds of people in this world: those whose position is above mine, and those whose isn't. Regarding the former group, there's no need for any of them to give me any grief, because I always at least try to do what I'm supposed to do. If I screw up, just explain what I did wrong and how to correct it. And the second group has no place giving me any grief.

That philosophy served me quite well for a number of years.

Some years ago, it just started to look like the world was getting stupider. There's an old Internet tagline: Intelligence is a constant and the population is expanding. That's good for a laugh, but it doesn't explain our current predicament. Personally, I blame it on the deliberate dumbing-down of our government schools. Even back in the '60s, it was generally acknowledged that private school students were about a year ahead of their government school contemporaries. Nowadays.... I shudder to think.

Maybe some of it comes from the ridiculous notion that "there's no such thing as a stupid question". Of course, if there are stupid questions, there must be stupid people asking them. QED. And we certainly can't have people feeling stupid. That might hurt their pwecious widdle feewings. So we have to pretend that stupidity is an alternate form of intelligence.

["We have already raised a generation of people who are afraid to think for themselves. Now we're raising a generation of people who are incapable of thinking for themselves." -- Master Doh-San]

So, I decided that the second thing I would not tolerate would be willful stupidity. I have enough thinking of my own to do, I see no reason why I should have to do other people's thinking for them. Oddly enough, this seems to be the reverse of the military mentality. One of the first days I was in Basic Training, I remember our TI telling us "You people do not think. I will do your thinking for you." (No, sir.... I've been doing my own thinking for most of my 23½ years, I think I'll keep right on.) But as long as they didn't abuse their authority, I was willing to let them tell me what to do.

I've gotten in a little trouble by being rough on people who get "stuck on stupid". I'm actually insane enough to expect people to pay attention to what's going on around them and behave accordingly. And if they don't, I'm right there to handle things. Bottom line: if you don't want to feel stupid, don't act stupid.

Pretty much concurrently with that, I decided that I've had enough of people whining about every petty little thing under the sun. Life stinks. Get used to it. You can't always have what you want. When I was a little kid (a million years ago), my brother used to say "People in hell want ice water; that doesn't mean they're going to get it". I used to hate hearing that. Until about high school, I guess.

There are people in this world who have some legitimate complaints. They live in abject poverty. They've been abused. They have serious medical conditions. Oddly enough, you almost never hear these people whining about how bad they have it. It's the ones with the pettiest "problems" who whine the most. The former group, I'm willing to go well out of my way to help. The second group.... well, I'm willing to go well out of my way to give them a reality check. I often think of that song by The Eagles (or, as they call 'em in Texas -- The Iggles) -- "Get Over It". There's a great line in there: "I'd like to find your inner child and kick his little @$$. Get over it!" My kind of guys. :-)

Yeah, I guess I'm just not a very tolerant guy. Get used to it.


Storming The Beach

OK, somehow or another I got the idea that Bonfire's parents were headed to the beach, when in fact they're headed off to Lo$t Wage$ for a lockpickers convention. (Yeah, I can just imagine the pranks that crowd can pull!)

Anyway, it dredged up some long-forgotten memories of my own childhood when we used to go to the beach. (Yeah, they had beaches back then. Shut up.) I have vague memories of riding the ferry out to Tolchester beach on the Chesapeake Bay, but I couldn't find it on the map. Maybe I need a new map. The one thing I remember most about those trips was the Fizzies we took with us. It's amazing how long you can amuse a kid with something that's not much more than a flavored Alka-Selzter. (I wonder if they even make Fizzies anymore?)

My Dad used to take us to Lake Roland, way out Falls Road in north Baltimore. In fact, it's probably outside the city limits. I was back there a couple of years ago for a look around. Yeah, it's all changed. But I do have some fond memories of the times we spent with him there.

Another place he used to take us was Jones' Beach, somewhere on the Bay or one of its tributaries. And thereby hangs a tale.

One time that I vividly remember, his landlord had invited us to go with his family. Probably to Jones' Beach, although I can't be certain. But i am pretty sure. It was a popular place in some circles. Everyone brought food, and my Dad had made (ugh!!!) potato salad.

Now, my Dad was nothing if not persistent. I guess he must've really like potato salad when he was a kid, since they grow a lot of 'em in the Vogtland. And he was forever making various "different" kinds. ("But it's still potato salad, Dad!") And he never let me off the hook. I had to at least try some. Fortunately, I grew quite adept at "trying some" while managing to not actually ingest more than a couple of nanograms. And I had that look of disgust and revulsion down pretty cold, too. I could even shudder convincingly, although that didn't take much effort, seeing as how we were talking about (ugh!!!) potato salad.

But this one particular day, Dad insisted that I actually eat some of that vile stuff before I'd be allowed to go play in the water. ("This is different!" "But it's still potato salad, Dad!") So there I sat at the picnic table, wondering how to win this contest of wills. Then I had a flash of inspiration.

There was, unfortunately, no dog around on which I could foist this horrid concoction. But I was sitting at a picnic table on the sand(!). Sand that went down quite a ways before hitting bedrock. Hmmm.... So, very surreptitiously, I began to dig a shallow hole with my foot. No one noticed; they were all cavorting at the water's edge. They had all partaken of this gross mockery of food. They could go play, blissfully oblivious to the diabolical torture being foisted on Our Young Hero. Well, I'd show them! Slowly, so as not to arouse any suspicion, I would drop this witch's brew by the forkful into my little hole, covering each forkful with just enough sand to conceal it. (Where's the HazMat team when you really need 'em?)

After what seemed like days, I had finally disposed of it all and was allowed to go play. Ha! Suckers! Try to poison me, will you?

Years later, when I was in Germany, I had two years to enjoy all over again the foods my Dad had introduced me to as a kid. But no (ugh!!!) potato salad.

Until one fateful day.

We had gone to the university cafeteria to eat, a common practice for us. And i was hungry. Very hungry. It was a set lunch, no variations. And today they served... yes, that swill that I had successfully avoided for so many years.

Starvation drives people to extreme behaviors. Field mice, snakes, bugs, even cannibalism. And I was hungry. Very hungry. The hunger gnawed at my stomach like a beaver at a tree. I ate everything else, even the parsley (the most useless "vegetable" on the face of the Earth). I was even tempted to eat my napkin. Finally, realizing I had actually survived the stuff before and was a stronger man for it (maybe Nietzsche had a point?), I figured that if I held my nose and just snarfed it down as fast as I could, I might not notice the stomach-turning "taste". I braced myself and scooped up a forkful, trying to toss it past my taste buds and down my throat. It didn't work. I actually tasted the stuff. And it tasted.... good. Good?!?! What the...?

My whole world turned upside down. Everything I had ever believed in was called into question. The very fabric of the universe was in jeopardy. How could this be? Had I been kidnapped and brainwashed? Had aliens meddled with our food supply? I sat there in stunned silence.

It was later that I discovered that there are two basic ways of making potato salad: the way my Dad made it, and the way they made it in Stuttgart.

Just before I left, when I was in München, I was staying with a really nice family. The night before I left, they invited me for dinner. And what was on the menu? Uh-huh. I told them the Reader's Digest version of this and they laughed. Their daughter wrote down the recipe for me and I've been making it in a slightly modified version ever since. (The main modification being that I use a crockpot.)

I wonder what I'll have for dinner tomorrow?


Jahn's Industrial-Strength Potato Salad
(Whirled rites perserved; copycats persecuted;
patent pending; your mileage may vary.)

2 - 2½ lbs Potatos 1 Tbsp Minced Onion
1 Beef Bouillon cube 1 tsp Salt
1 cup white wine vinegar 1 tsp Pepper
3 Tbsp cooking oil 1 qt Water

Peel the raw potatoes and cut into small slices about half the size of a potato chip and about 1/8" thick. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a crock pot, and add in the potatoes. Let it cook on low for approximately 10-12 hours (or until most of the liquid is cooked off). Serve slightly warm.


Of Lions And Mustards

It's amazing, what kind of memories can be evoked by as little as one word. :-)

My friend Stacer is having a lot of troubles with her sinuses and allergies. And by "a lot", I mean a lot. Somewhere along the way, she mentioned that her grandmother had told her she should eat honey and horseradish every day (not at the same time, I'm sure!). Anyway, just the word "horseradish" brought back an interesting memory.

I was in Ingolstadt a. d. Donau in the autumn of '73 and my companion and I decided to just make sandwiches for lunch one day. German mustard is good, but it's not very hot. Usually. In the cupboard, we found a jar labeled "Löwensenf" (lit. "lion mustard"; the lion being the mascot of Freistaat Bayern), so we thought we'd try that. Not impressed. But, since we had opened it, we put it in the fridge after lunch.

A few days later, we did the same thing, but we hadn't bought any other mustard, so we got out the jar of Löwensenf.

I thought I'd die.

That had to be the hottest mustard I'd ever tasted in my life. We finally figured out that it was hot because we had put it in the fridge. (I remembered that Gulden's mustard used to have a slogan on the label: If you want to keep me hot, keep me cold.)

Next time we were in the store, we bought some regular mustard. :-}


The Evolution Of Liberals And Conservatives

Originally, humans existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer & would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in winter.

The 2 most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into 2 distinct subgroups: Liberals and Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to BBQed at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as "the Conservative movement".

Other men, who were weaker and less skilled at hunting, learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly BBQs and doing the sewing, fetching and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as 'girlymen'.

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy and group hugs and the concept of democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

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

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish, but like their beef well-done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare.

Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't "fair" to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, Marines, athletes and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why 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.


WASHINGTON, DC - Congress is considering sweeping legislation, which provides new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA) is being hailed as a major legislation by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.

"Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society", said Barbara Boxer. "We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they do a better job, or have some idea of what they are doing."

The President pointed to the success of the US Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. Approximately 74 percent of postal employees lack job skills, making this agency the single largest US employer of Persons of Inability.

Private sector industries with good records of nondiscrimination against the Inept include retail sales (72%), the airline industry (68%),and home improvement "warehouse" stores (65%) The DMV also has a great record of hiring Persons of Inability (63%).

Under the Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million "middle man" positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance.

Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given, to guarantee upward mobility for even the most unremarkable employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations which maintain a significant level of Persons of Inability in middle positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.

Finally, the AWNA ACT contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the Nonabled, banning discriminatory interview questions such as "Do you have any goals for the future?" or "Do you have any skills or experience which relate to this job?"

"As a Nonabled person, I can't be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them", said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint , MI, due to her lack of notable job skills. "This new law should really help people like me." With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Said Senator Ted Kennedy, "It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her adequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation."


A Tale Of Two Kitties

OK, today our heroines -- Rio and Hampton -- had their first Close Encounter. Unbeknownst to me, Rio was hiding out under the sofa, probably taking a nap. I opened Rick's bedroom door so Hampton could come out if she wanted to.

Everything was quiet for a while; Hampton was out exploring the house again, trying to get her bearings. All of a sudden, I hear a banging sound, and I see a dark blur disappear into Rick's room. Then I see Rio sitting in the hallway, staring at Rick's bed.

I go out and take a look around and see that Rio's rather agitated, but not aggressive. I look under Rick's bed and see Hampton cowering under there, more startled than anything else.

After pondering the situation a bit, I come to the conclusion that Hampton had decided to take a look under the sofa and startled Rio, who chased her back to Rick's room. One of them had banged into the floor lamp on the way out of the living room, and that was the noise I heard.

After giving Rio a mild scolding for being so unfriendly, I let her just "walk it off", patrolling the hallway as she sometimes does until she settled down. After a while, she got up on the low wall that separates the living room from the stairs, guarding her territory.

Right now, she's lying on my bed (something she never really did until a few days ago, and then only for a minute or so at a time. She's already been there for about 10 minutes, and I suspect she's going to do it more, and more often. She's already roamed all over the house, rubbing up against everything to get her scent all over the place.


Spaghetti Sauce And Honesty

OK, so you're no doubt wondering what spaghetti sauce has to do with honesty. Well, I'll tell ya.

Today's lesson in Church was about honesty. I'm not the sort of guy who limits himself to what I call "Sunday School" answers. If we're going to have a discussion about honesty, let's have an honest discussion.

Naturally, we started out with the usual old stand-bys: don't cheat on your taxes, don't lie about where you've been, to shave your golf score. Blah, blah, blah.

Then the weird guy on the back row (moi) jumps into the fray. First up was a quote from Mark Twain: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything". From there, we moved on to how people don't allow each other to be honest. ("Honey, do these pants make me look fat?" Yeah, only an idiot would answer that one.)

Many times, we encourage deception -- if not blatant lying -- simply by not accepting a person's honest answer to a question. Remember the first time you told an adult you no longer believed in Santa Claus? Yeah, that was fun, wasn't it? Always nice for other people to tell you what you believe in.

Worse than that is when Aunt Ethel comes to visit and demands that little Johnny come give her a hug. Never mind that the average adult looks like a monster to the average child. Try sitting on the floor sometime at a casual adult function and see the world thru a kid's eyes. Poor little Johnny is terrified of this behemoth -- who he really doesn't even know -- and the parents don't even have the commons sense to tell Aunt Ethel to back the hell off. Johnny's hiding under the sofa, praying for lightning to strike. Or anything, just to be rescued from this intolerable situation. Next thing you know, little Johnny's out in the yard, pulling wings off of flies because the bone-headed adults weren't smart enough to let him deal honestly with his true feelings, insisting instead that he fake it.

One of the nicest compliments I've ever received came from my dear friend Wonder Woman*, who once said: "You know what I always appreciated about you? Everything was right on the surface -- no hidden agenda." How could I not be friends with someone who allows me to be completely honest? (And she never once asked me if her clothes made her look fat. Which they didn't.)

Now, what does all this have to do with spaghetti sauce? My step-father made what was undoubtedly The Worst Spaghetti Sauce In The History Of The World. Seriously, if Moses had tasted his spaghetti sauce, there'd've been another commandment. But were we kids allowed to say we didn't like it? Ha! For ten years, we had to endure that stuff. And all because we weren't allowed to be honest.

I wonder how Wonder Woman's spaghetti sauce is?

(*name changed to protect the guilty)