Thursday, August 31, 2017


We interrupt your boring, humdrum lives to bring you a slice of Rich'n'Famous ridiculousness.

Recently Daily Mail UK profiled a "gigamansion" being built in Los Angeles which will have "20 bedrooms, 30 bathrooms, a 30-car garage, a two-story waterfall and a 40-seat home theater." Oh, and don't forget five (five!) swimming pools, "a temperature-controlled room for storing fresh flowers and a sitting room surrounded by jellyfish tanks instead of walls." The price is a trifling $500 million. Half a billion bucks.

Actress Jennifer Aniston, whose humble $21 million log cabin is next door, seems particularly miffed at the massive construction taking place nearly in her backyard.

(Aniston is no slouch in the Rich'n'Famous ridiculousness category. Apparently her husband "admitted that his wife had so many outfits that they had to renovate one part of the garage area into a 2,000 sq ft wardrobe at an estimated $60,000 cost. 'We made an extension on our house. We found more room to sort of create a better bathroom and a closet,' he says.")

Far be it for me to ever find common ground with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, but I do find myself sympathetic in this case. At 100,000 square feet, it's like having a mall built right next door.

I found myself particularly struck by the five swimming pools. Why five? Is there a different pool for each day of the week? For different moods? Why just five? Why not, say, eighteen? Are the potential buyers of this gigamansion such avid swimmers that they require five pools to meet their needs?

These kinds of "gigamansions" are almost comical in that the developers seem to run out of ideas for new luxurious amenities to include, so instead they fall back on building multiples of stuff, like swimming pools. I guess there comes a point -- when the size is off the scale -- that architects just don't know what else to add. "I know -- we'll add another pool and push the house's square footage up another 10,000 feet!"

The developer himself admits most of what he's building is for show. The glass-walled library will have a double-height ceiling and be surrounded on three sides by water, but it's not a place for reading. "Nobody really reads books," the developer says, "so I'm just going to fill the shelves with white books, for looks."

(Bonus question: If "nobody really reads books" anymore, why did you include a library?)

The house is being built on spec. "We have a very specific client in mind," says the developer. "Someone who already has a $100 million yacht and seven houses all over the world, in London and Dubai and whatever. To be able to say that the biggest, most expensive house in the world is here, that will really be good for LA."

GQ Magazine notes something funny about these enormous homes: They're not really homes "in the usual sense of the word. Most buyers live on other continents and visit these properties for only a week or two each year, using them mainly as places to park their wealth." (In other words, it's the world's most expensive hotel.)

As it turns out, there is another gigamansion already built in Los Angeles, this one a paltry $250 million and a modest 38,000 square feet. By gigamansion standards, its amenities are lowly: 12 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms, three kitchens, six bars, a massage room and spa, fitness center, two wine-champagne cellars, two commercial elevators (lined in alligator skin), the "most advanced home theater in any U.S. home," and an 85-foot infinity pool.

Oh, and a candy room. Don't forget the candy room.

It comes pre-furnished with $30 million worth of cars, millions in fine art, and six-figure Roberto Cavalli table settings, thus saving the busy billionaire valuable time and energy in selecting his possessions himself.

Forget owning such a place. I think the very best position to be in would be the live-in staff.

This has been your glimpse into the lifestyle of Rich'n'Famous ridiculousness. You may now return to your regularly scheduled boring, humdrum lives.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Meet Mr. Darcy

Today, at long last, we brought home our new Golden Retriever puppy. Dear readers, meet Mr. Darcy.

Younger Daughter and I went to fetch him this morning. He was a trooper on the drive home, snugging up to her in the back seat of the car.

Once home, of course, he enchanted everyone with his sheer cuteness.

I tried taking him out to the garden with me, but it was beastly hot and there wasn't much shade for him, so that didn't last long.

Here he's seeing the chickens for the first time. Lesson #1: No chasing the chickens! Okay, maybe "no peeing in the house" is Lesson #1....

We've been trotting him out into the yard every 15 or 20 minutes to do his business. So far no indoor accidents.

It's a big wide new world for little Darcy, but he seems to be getting the hang of things.

He alternated bouts of playing with bouts of napping, of course. After all, he's still a baby.

With baby feet.

And a seriously adorable face!

Mr. Darcy is the first of our soon-to-be two canine companions. He's in for a long and happy life with us, God willing.

A quarrel of magpies

I'm sure you've heard some of the more unusual animal group names. Besides the common "a pride of lions" or "a school of fish," there are such comical ones as "a congress of baboons" and "a parliament of owls."

Well, magpies, as it turns out, have their own group names: a tiding, gulp, murder or charm. To this, I would like to add one more: a quarrel. A quarrel of magpies.

Magpies are showy, quarrelsome members of the crow family with long dramatic tales and the typical jay personality. I used to have a more tolerant view on them until I realized their rapacious appetite. To watch magpies raid a bird's nest way up in a tree and be helpless to save the babies is heartrending. We've seen baby bluebirds and robins get eaten alive by magpies. They're also insatiable egg-stealers and have no compunction about going right into the chicken coop to peck open eggs.

So my appreciation and tolerance for magpies -- much as I still admire their showy looks -- has dimmed.

Every so often we get "quarrels" of magpies that descend on us en masse, presumably looking for nests to raid. At this time anywhere from ten to twenty birds will flap around, filling the air with raspy calls and sending the chickens into alarm mode.

It's the weirdest thing. From rural quiet, all of a sudden we'll be surrounded by rasping, squawking magpies.

Then, just as abruptly, they depart, leaving peace and quiet behind them. Go figure.

Yep, a quarrel of magpies. That's my contribution to the English language.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

For those in the path of Hurricane Harvey, I pray for your safety.

Please check in when you can to let us know you're safe!

Flash sale for Preppers University

For those interested in getting a better grounding in preparedness, Preppers University is having an enrollment "flash sale" (use the coupon code "FLASH30" at checkout).

The idea behind Preppers University is to encourage people on the road to preparedness to overcome excuses. (Sometimes you have to follow the old Nike slogan: Just Do It). Students are given weekly assignments, challenges, live webinars, consultations, shopping lists, ebooks, etc. In other words, accountability.

There are two levels of coursework:
  • Prepping Intensive: This is 8 weeks long and includes 24 live webinars
  • Advanced Intensive: This course is 6 weeks long and delves far more deeply into preparedness

The courses feature a number of noted experts in their field, including:
  • Dr. Arthur T. Bradley, EMP expert
  • Daisy Luther, author and owner of The Organic Prepper blog
  • Lisa Bedford, author and editor of The Survival Mom blog
  • Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog
  • Author, A American
  • Fernando Aguirre (FerFAL)
  • Rick Austin and Survivor Jane

You can register here. (They also have payment plans here and here.)

The sale ends Saturday at midnight, so if you're interested, don't delay.

Folks, you know me -- I don't recommend things unless I believe in them. Preppers University is helping a lot of people become much better prepared. Give it a try.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

When insults had class

When I was in college, I met a young nun who had a wicked sense of humor. One day she handed me a business card she liked to keep on hand. The card was plain white with elegant black script stating: "You are cordially invited to the theological place of eternal punishment."

Tact, we are told, is the ability to tell someone to go to the "theological place of eternal punishment" in such a way that they look forward to the trip.

In a society where four-letter words are routinely used to describe everything from groceries to clothing -- in others, used so often they no longer shock -- it takes class to insult someone without reducing their vocabulary to the gutter.

Don is fond of a clip from a 1973 film called "Brothers O'Toole" in which the indomitable John Astin accidentally wins a "spittin', belchin' and cussin' contest" by embarking on an epic tirade -- all without resorting to gutter language:

The king of no-swear insults is, of course, Shakespeare. Consider some of these beauties:
  • "Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!"
  • "His wit’s as thick as a Tewkesbury mustard."
  • "I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands."
  • "The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril."

Anyway, this is all a lead-up to a humorous email I received from a reader on "really great insults" in which he noted: "I think we do not hear any of this quality anymore because those that deserve to be thus insulted do not have the intellect and class to comprehend the meaning, after all of those years of government schooling."

So without further ado, here's a list called "When Insults Had Class":
  • A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.” "That depends, Sir, " said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."
  • "He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr
  • "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill
  • "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow
  • "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner about Ernest Hemingway)
  • "Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas
  • "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain
  • "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde
  • "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
  • "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response
  • "I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop
  • "He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright
  • "I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb
  • "He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." - Samuel Johnson
  • "He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." - Paul Keating
  • "In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand
  • "He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker
  • "Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain
  • "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." - Mae West
  • "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde
  • "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts ... for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
  • "He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder
  • "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I'm afraid this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx
Just something to make you all smile on this late summer day. Feel free to pitch in your favorite clean insults.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Those loony homesteaders

Somebody has been watching too much television.

A couple weeks ago, an article on Forbes saw fit to post this article: "Dear homesteaders, self-reliance is a delusion" by a man named Adam Ozimek.

It seems Ozimek has a bone to pick with those who prefer not to depend on grocery stores for every little thing: "I am a big fan of shows about doomsday preppers, homesteaders, survivalists, generally people who live off the grid. Some of my favorites are Homestead Rescue and Live Free Or Die. But there’s a central delusion in these shows that is never far from my mind when I’m watching these shows: off the grid people are not self-reliant, but instead are mooching off of the civil society, government, and safety net the rest of us contribute to."

Um, putting aside the notion that television, even "reality" television, bears no resemblance to reality, where did he get the notion that homesteaders "mooch" off civil society and do not contribute to the government or social safety nets? Has he any idea the taxes we paid last year?

The author continues: "The people in these shows often describe a very romantic vision of the lives they have chosen the ethos underlying it. They describe themselves as fully self-reliant, and criticize the rest of society as being dependent and lacking in this self-reliance. It is morally superior, the story goes, to provide for yourself, take care of your own needs, and often, be prepared to survive if society collapses."

I have argued in the past that true self-reliance is impossible (outside the occasional Robinson Crusoe or Island of the Blue Dolphin scenarios). There is a reason healthy dependency on community is the third leg of the preparedness stool.

Ozimek further complains "most off-the-grid households do benefit to some extent from cheap second-hand tools, guns, clothes, or inputs to basic home production that specialization, gains from trade, and the modern economy made easily affordable."

Of course we do. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever claimed they've mined the ore to forge the metal to make the tools to plow the field to grow the wheat. This isn't 500 A.D. after all.

This being Forbes, the author seems particularly annoyed that "consumer gains from a prosperous society don’t matter much to them (homesteaders)." Maybe he's right. I don't know many homesteaders with a burning desire to own a Rolex.

"The first example that I think about when watching these shows is the safety net of modern medical treatment," continues Ozimek. "On Live Free Or Die, a man in his mid sixties named Colbert lives in the Georgia swamps alone. He does some trapping and trades the furs for money that he uses to buy some supplies, and on the self-reliance scale ranks pretty highly. But I always wonder what will happen if he slips and falls, and can no longer provide for himself. He’ll likely end up receiving hospital treatment paid for with Medicare, and perhaps end up in an assisted living center paid for by Medicare as well."

Okay, that's plain nuts. It's a television show, not real-life. Whoever this Colbert is, how do you know he'll end up in a taxpayer-funded assisted living center? Isn't that kind of a wild conclusion?

"If we all lived 'self-reliant' lives like Tony often implores us," continues Ozimek, "spending most of our time on basic agricultural subsistence, then modern hospitals couldn’t exist. It’s only because most of us choose to not live agrarian 'self-reliant' lifestyles that this care would be available to Tony, Amelia, and perhaps someday, their children. And what if both of them become too injured to work the land anymore? Would they starve to death, or would they survive off of the social safety net our government provides, like food stamps?"

My mind is boggling at the strawman argument this author is spinning. He is turning reality television into reality. He is taking what is viewed on a screen and assuming all homesteaders fit within the artificial parameters he sets up. He sees a Rambo-esque actor bristling with arsenals of guns and claims "Many off-the-grid folks like to fantasize that their personal fire arms collection and self-defense skills are actually why they are safe."

He concludes by stating, "Living off the grid is a fine lifestyle choice, but instead of an air of superiority, homesteaders should be appreciative of the benefits received from living in a modern society."

Sir, my husband is alive today because of modern medicine. So are my parents. My appreciation for modern medicine knows no bounds. Why you think homesteaders don't appreciate "the benefits received from living in a modern society" is absolutely beyond me.

It seems this writer is unseemly hostile to a group of people who just want to live under their own terms, grow their gardens, milk their cows, and gather their own eggs. What’s your problem? Didn't get a sip of raw organic milk this morning?

Strange article, that's all I can say. I wish I could invite Mr. Ozimek to join us for a few weeks to get a taste (literally) of why we live the way we do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

So how was YOUR eclipse?

Along with the rest of the country, we looked forward to viewing yesterday's solar eclipse. Here in the north Idaho panhandle, we "only" had 92 percent coverage to anticipate.

Which is actually fine, considering the traffic jams and crazy parties that were taking place along the path of totality.

I had ordered a 10-pack of solar eclipse glasses which, unsurprisingly, did not arrive until yesterday morning, minutes before the eclipse. I called our local post office, and the postmistress said they had arrived, so Younger Daughter and I made a dash into town just as the eclipse started. We peeled off one pair of glasses so the postal workers could watch the phenomenon, then headed home, stopping at three locations to distribute glasses to neighbors -- a pair here and a couple of pairs there.

Then we got home and commenced watching the spectacle ourselves.

It's a good thing the eclipse glasses arrived when they did, because my optimistic hope that my little pocket camera could handle photographing a solar eclipse was entirely incorrect.

However by covering the camera lens with the solar glasses, I could photographic it quite well.

We were watching the chickens to see what they would do since we'd heard stories that chickens would go to roost during an eclipse, mistakenly thinking it was nighttime. As it turns out, they chickens did nothing different, because it didn't get dark.

At the peak of cover, the air did turn sickly dim, however. I tried to photograph it, but how do you photograph sickly dim air? As Younger Daughter put it, it gave us a feeling of unease, of something not quite right. Shadows were still as sharp, but dimmer. Dim shadows are just plain weird.

We also noticed birds had gone utterly silent. So did the crickets. The unnatural silence contributed to that vague uneasiness we felt.

Temperatures also dropped by about ten degrees. At peak coverage, the temp was 61F.

Afterward, the temp popped up to 71F.

(We couldn't use our wall thermometer during the eclipse since it gets the morning sun and isn't accurate during this time.)

Coverage peaked, then gradually waned.

Our experience wasn't nearly as dramatic as those in the path of totality, but it was still pretty nifty.

So how was your eclipse?