Monday, November 23, 2009

A lesson in linguistics

"Camarones Diabolo" is Mexican for "Shrimp served in a sauce made of pure liquid pain." Now you know.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We Are Fortunate To Have Wendell Berry

I first read Wendell Berry about thirty years ago, and was profoundly impressed and moved by what he had to say. He is our poet laureate of the soil and a national treasure, and his writings never cease to amaze me for their wisdom and insight whether reading his poetry or essays.

He is still at it, and the December issue of Harper's features an article entitled "The Necessity of Agriculture" taken from a speech he gave in May of this year. The entire piece is a must-read, but I have tried to pull the best lines out below; it was a hopeless task because the whole thing is just amazingly insightful and spot-on. A sampling:
"We seem now to be coming to a time when we will have to recognize the love of farming not as a quaint souvenir of an outdated past but as an economic necessity. And that recognition, when it comes, will bring with it a considerable embarrassment."

“Policy makers…are hoping newly unemployed young people will help revive Japan’s dwindling farm population...‘If they can’t find workers over the next several years, Japan’s agriculture will disappear,’ But this effort is falling significantly short of success because “many young people end up returning to cities, unable to adjust to life in the countryside.” To their surprise, evidently, farming involves hard work, long hours, and getting dirty—not to mention skills that city-bred people don’t have. Not to mention the necessity of loving farmwork if you are going to keep at it."

"And in Japan, as opposed to the United States…They even think agriculture may be a good thing for a nation of eaters to have."

"If agriculture and the necessity of food production ever penetrate the consciousness of our politicians and economists, how successful will they be in job-training our overeducated, ignorant young people to revive our own aging and dwindling farm population?"

"What will it take to get significant numbers of our young people, white of collar and soft of hands, to submit to hard work and long days, not to mention getting dirty?"

"… the necessity of agriculture will not be widely recognized without the sterner necessity of actual hunger."

"…our informal but most effective agricultural policy has been to eat as much, as effortlessly, as thoughtlessly, and as cheaply as we can, to hell with whatever else may be involved."

"But we, who have decided as a nation and by policy not to love farming, have escaped it, for a while at least, by turning it into an 'agri-industry.'”

"But agri-industry…has given us massive soil erosion and degradation, water pollution, maritime hypoxic zones; destroyed rural communities and cultures; reduced our farming population almost to disappearance; yielded toxic food; and instilled an absolute dependence on a despised and exploited force of migrant workers."

"We have ahead of us a lot of hard work that we are not going to be able to do with clean hands. We had better try to love it."
Go read the whole thing. It's all of about two pages long, and it's probably the best thing you'll read this month. The quoting of "Faust" is worth it all by itself.


Last Saturday was a denouement of our grand poultry adventure, as one of the chosen got to spend the day luxuriating in the poultry hot tub in a bath fragrant with pepper, rosemary, thyme, oregano and some other odds-and-ends.

This one fairly small bird yielded up over half a pint of brilliant yellow fat we skimmed and saved for later. We added some finely chopped celery and onion to the pot poultry hot tub, finished it off with a small measure of egg noodles, and finally dined on our very first home-raised chicken.

As would be expected from a hen at the end of a long laying career, she was dense and solid. The meat was rather tough, even after her long sojourn in the crockpot poultry hot tub, and her fully mineralized bones were held together by unyielding ligaments. In my haste to prepare her, I neglected to check her weight, so I have no idea how big she was. But the two of us will have two meals from her, the dogs will have some savory and crunchy treats to brighten their days, and there's still that golden chicken fat to be used...

They say the trick to eating animals you have raised and lived with for an extended time is to fully acknowledge their sacrifice (in both meanings of the term) and to use them completely and with respect. I would say we strived for all of these objectives, and met most of them fully.

No doubt about it—we enjoyed eating this bird.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Great Beveragepalooza of 2009

My great expectations for a day-long roofing-fest were cruelly dashed by the carcass of Tropical Storm Ida, who waited until mid-November—MID-NOVEMBER—to come die on us. It started raining Tuesday night and rained and rained and rained straight on through into Thursday morning. So, no roofing for us!

But a cold grey rainy day laid the groundwork for The Great Beveragepalooza of 2009. It was a day-long campaign during which we managed to bottle fifteen gallons of hard cider and create a 2009 vintage apple wine. The process by which we made the apple wine was as convoluted as anything we’ve done—so convoluted it makes my head hurt to even think about it—so let me see if I can even remember the whole thing:

1. We gathered the dregs from four carboys worth of hard cider and set them aside.
2. Set aside one gallon of scrumpy from the six-gallon carboy.
3. Warmed up about 4-1/2 quarts of raw sweet cider (from the fridge) to room temperature, stirring vigorously with a whisk to aereate it thoroughly.
4. Warmed another quart of raw sweet cider enough to dissolve about 2 pounds of local honey in it, along with about ½ teaspoon of yeast nutrient.
5. Poured the dregs in the 2-1/2 gallon carboy; added both batches of sweet cider; topped it off with most of the gallon of scrumpy.

The initial gravity was in the neighborhood of 1.095, and with so many warm fat happy yeasties feasting on such a sugar-rich solution, the carbon dioxide output was almost immediate and phenomenal—one long stream of bubbles out the airlock even though the liquid volume is half that of a regular carboy. It’s about the ugliest stuff you’ve ever seen at this point, but in about a week it should calm a bit and get prettier, and once it’s racked, it can settle down for a nice long slow maturation process. I’m looking forward to it, anticipating a final ABV of about 10% with a dry finish. The question remains: Still or sparkling? Both?

The other benefit of The Great Beveragepalooza of 2009 is we now have four carboys freed up! Even anticipating the cider pressing to come when the gang is here for Thanksgiving, that still leaves us room to finally brew beer again! Woo-Hoo! Many, many good brewing ideas have been held in abeyance whilst the cider did its thing, and now it’s finally time to cry havoc! and let slip the yeasts of beer…


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Postcard from Montreux, from slow-moving Walter, the Fire-engine guy

Yesterday I heard "Smoke on the Water" on the radio for the umpty-umpth millionth time (Okay, actually it was the live version, which I don't think I had ever heard before, but still...). Of course, it features one of rock's most immediately recognizable and distinctive opening riffs, one that has been parodied countless times and is heard daily in every store in the country that sells electric guitars. Ritchie Blackmore insists the actual riff is a lot more technically complex than what gets played by beginners, but it's what beginners are irresistably compelled to play when they are trying on a new guitar. I think it's the law.

It occurred to me that despite my having heard it so many times before, I had never really paid attention to it.  I realized SOTW is actually a pretty decent little bit of narrative writing—a concise telling of a true story that would fit on a postcard or in a five-minute radio song.

Deep Purple went to Montreux to record an album in the Montreux Casino complex in December, 1971. During a show by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, a fan fired a flare gun into the ceiling, starting a fire that destroyed the Casino complex. Having reserved the Rolling Stone's mobile recording truck, the band was forced to improvise recording space in the nearby Grand Hotel, using empty rooms and hallways as necessary. What they recorded became the album "Machine Head," one of their biggest successes, and later SOTW was released as a single, reaching #4 on the Billboard singles chart in 1973.

An interesting and unusual story, told simply and concisely. The title comes from their view of the Casino fire from their hotel across Lake Geneva (Deep Purple did not attend the Mothers concert) as the smoke drifted. Everything you need to know about it is right there, in a way you might hear an interesting story from a friend over a beer.

PS: "Slow-motion Walter, the fire-engine guy" is a misheard lyric from the Barenaked Ladies.
PPS: Claude Nobs, Director of the Montreux Jazz Festival, a.k.a. "Funky Claude," actually did pull concertgoers from the burning building.
PPPS: The Guinness world record for the number of guitarists playing the SOTW riff simultaneously stands at 6,346 and was most recently set in Poland in May of this year. There's a joke in there somewhere.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Tear The Roof Off The Sucker/Give Up The Funk

Those of you who know our little house in the woods know that it's got a lot of roof. It also has a lot of holes punched in that roof, for chimneys and skylights and vents of one kind or another. This is a large part of the appeal of the house, because it makes it very bright and sunny and cheerful and airy, a pleasant change from the rather dim and close house we lived in for so long.

It also leaks like a sieve, mostly in one particular room. It leaks so much in a steady or heavy rain that we simply leave the buckets in place all the time, like some backwoods hayseeds from a depression-era comedy. Following each rain, we would judge the quantity and quality of the "Roof Tea" we had brewed, evaluating the depth and color in each bucket. But enough is enough—there was only one thing to do:

Tear The Roof Off The Sucker. Give Up The Funk.

Starting the afternoon of Halloween, Mary began to—well, tear the roof off the sucker. With a shovel. At the West End. Assisted by Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe, if I recall correctly. And once the roof was torn off the sucker, then we could give up the funk, which has flourished funkily in the dark, damp confines of the rafters and roof decking. Sodden insulation was dragged out to reveal the progress of the decay...eccch.

It was pretty disgusting. Whole sections of the roof superstructure were completely rotted away (the load bearing portion of the roof, protected below, remained intact and sound, mercifully) along with the boards above them. At the west end, the rotten materials were replaced by sound new plywood and 2-bys, and in short order Mary had the new roof in place, with the guidance and assistance of our neighbor, the erstwhile roofer.

Now the living room roof is getting its due. The three of us spent half of Saturday and most of Sunday doing demolition and reframing the roof, giving up the funk—actually, bleaching the living hell out of the funk—then adding fresh R-30 fiberglass, piecing together the new plywood roof decking, and framing in the new skylights. BTW: After years of pooh-pooing them, I can unequivocally say I am a believer in pneumatic nailers.

Who would have imagined it would be possible to break a sweat and get sunburned in mid-November? By late Sunday morning, the air temperature was in the upper sixties, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the humidity was low, and the sun was dazzlingly intense. By sundown Sunday, all the bad stuff had been excised, the new roof was sound and completely enclosed and the skylights were in place. Sunday after dark, we made a huge bonfire of all the rotten old stuff and sent it off to a better place, where there is no funk and the sun shines perpetually.

Mary spent this afternoon tearing off more old roofing and getting the sound old roof deck ready for the new stuff. With any luck, she can start applying the substrate (ice & water barrier, something like tar paper or rool roofing, but adhesive and better than both) to the exposed surfaces tomorrow and have the new structure protected before a change of weather predicted for sometime Wednesday. Hey, with any luck and three of us working at it, we'll have the new shingles in place before the change of weather.

Hot damn. Can't wait for that first real rain after the new roof is on! No more roof tea for us!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Cutting Some Slack Where Some Slack is Due

This morning when I left for work, the temperature was about 30º. I saw two other motorcyclists en route to work—one on an R1150RT and the other (gasp!) on a Harley. Go figure.

PS: Heated gloves work like a champ—got a first-degree burn on a knuckle, though.

The Little Book of Shattered Expectations

I think anyone aspiring to creative writing would do well to get themselves on the mailing list of the Vermont Country Store. Their catalog starts showing up in our mailbox around the same time as the stinkbugs, and continues appearing as frequently and predictably. The VCS catalog is a staple—nay, a ritual—of bathroom reading from early fall to mid-winter, about the point when it slips its staples and finally falls apart.

It is a paragon of tautly-crafted manipulative prose, each product description a compact haiku-length dissertation cleverly crafted to push buttons you didn't know you had.

Each item in the catalog is worthy of a massive piling-on of scientifically selected adjectives and adverbs, each one specifically designed to trigger the release of repressed memories of a common idyllic childhood we never shared. The house was bigger, the windows frostier, the rooms cheerier, the beds both higher and cozier, the breakfasts heartier, the hot chocolate richer, the sledding swifter, our parents wiser, kinder, happier and more beautiful, the Christmas Tree taller, the tinsel brighter, the goose crispier and the presents more wonderful than we could ever have hoped.

I will confess we receive this epistle regularly because we purchased items from this land of make-believe in the past. And the thing is, once the goods arrive on this side of the catalog—reality chasm, they're just...stuff. Stuff like you could buy pretty much anywhere.

Sure, a lot of it is hard to find—but most of the time that's because people stopped buying it years ago and people stopped making it years ago because, hey, in truth back then it was crap, and by golly, it's still crap now.

Nostalgia does not by and of itself validate things; in most cases it's just stuff, like it was back then when we didn't buy it the first go-round. The items are, for the most part, things you have probably walked past in your regular rounds of shopping time and again, with good reason. (Creamed Chipped Beef, anyone?) Yet from their testimonial copy, each item means something special to someone out there, enough for them to resurrect it or recommission it in some cases and to make an effort to stock it at least for a little while. As they say, there's no accounting for taste.

I don't think I have ever gotten something from the VCS that didn't come packaged with its own certain tiny measure of disappointment. It may be that the VCS catalog's greatest value lies in its ability to gently teach children how to gracefully accept disappointment, how to read between the lines of artfully crafted marketing prose, and to understand in a simple way that things aren't always what they seem.

But I gotta say, the catalog itself never disappoints. I love the writing—the unrelenting Rockwellian optimism, the naive cheer, the three or four coats of bright shiny adjectives, the perky and artfully dated design sense, the creation of a whole world within the slick covers. The arrival of the first catalog marks the beginning of the imaginary season they taught us about back in second grade.

Get on their mailing list, if you aren't already. Read the catalog. Throw 'em a bone from time to time, just to prop that imaginary world up a little while longer. There's no harm in playing along.

Addendum: If you're ever in Vermont, you owe it to yourself to check out the brick-and-mortar VCS, which is actually made of wood & stuff. It's the real-life version of the catalog, and as I recall, there are at least two or three of them salted throughout the state. Visited the one in Weston on the grand Vermont tour of 2001, and it was worth the side trip.


Isn't a little bit disturbing that the three leading intellectuals of the modern Republic Party—Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh—are all college dropouts?


NASA explores the Antarctic

NASA is currently flying a DC-8 over Antartica, using the aircraft to take the place of a failing satellite to probe the melting Antarctic ice cap with lasers. One can only hope the scientists involved have learned the lessons of the ill-fated Miskatonic University expedition of 1930-1931.

One shudders to think.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Last of the Season?

I stopped off in the Big Effer last night on the way home to take care of a couple of errands. In the grocery store I noticed a weathered man, within a few years of my age, pushing a large backpack around in his grocery cart, gathering a few compact necessities. In the cart with the pack was a long and worn hiking staff.

When I was done shopping, he was out front of the store reworking the contents of his pack to accommodate his new provisions, carefully removing extraneous packaging and delicately repacking everything in just the right place. I nodded to the man and we exchanged pleasantries, and I walked across the parking lot to the drugstore. I took a wild guess he was heading back to the AT trail crossing on the ZTH.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw him hiking up the shoulder of the road a short distance away. He would extend his thumb in a desultory manner as each car passed him by, so he appeared genuinely surprised when I pulled over in a driveway behind him.

He quickly confirmed that he was, indeed, heading to the trailhead with a fresh load of groceries, and shucked the bulky pack with a practiced grace. We loaded it into the back seat—trunk full of crap—and he politely asked if I would prefer he rode in back with it.

For some reason, that struck me as very funny, and I walked over and unlocked the passenger side for him. Aside from his obviously being a heavy smoker (yeah, what a surprise...not that uncommon for hikers, from what I've found) he was acceptable company. We drove the short distance to the trailhead tentatively, with a couple of false stops before finding the right place—I can never remember exactly where it is, and neither, apparently, can the hikers.

His story, in brief, was that he had departed Delaware Water Gap on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border in September, heading southbound. He planned to hike as far south as he could before winter set in, find a place to stay for the winter, and return to Delaware Water Gap to begin hiking northbound in the spring.

We pulled over at the now-familiar looking trailhead. The early November sun had dipped below the Blue Ridge while we were both still back at the store. Twilight was already beginning to fade in the few minutes it took us to reach the road crossing, and the air was cooling rapidly from a mild autumnal chill down towards the mid-twenties it would reach by morning.

Without delay, we got out and unloaded his pack from the back seat. He thanked me profusely for my kindness, shook my hand enthusiastically, and hefted his pack onto his back. He was encouraged by the unexpected head-start I had given him, and though the light was failing, I reminded him the full moon would rise in short order.

He paused to tell me about the beauty and wonder of hiking the last few miles into last night’s shelter by the light of the moon, then smiled, thanked me again, and set off briskly down the trail into the cold dark woods. Part of me envied him his journey. There aren’t that many long-distance hikers left on the AT come November; besides the peace and solitude, the bare trees and crisp cold air would offer scenery unimaginable during the warmer months.

But the bigger part of me couldn’t help but think how cold it was going to get up on the mountain by morning, and how far it is to Springer Mountain.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Something I wrote thirty-five years ago

This is something I wrote about thirty-five years ago, and it still interests me for a couple of reasons. First is that I think I wrote it when I had just finished reading ZATAOMM, and was blown away by it as the first philosophical book of any kind I had ever read (it shows pretty directly). Second, it shows an early incarnation of my feelings about hiking versus driving, which have translated into motorcycling versus driving. Third, I now find myself living within sight of the mountain in question, and seeing it pretty much every day—it's what I look at as I drive down the lane to home.

I cringe a little bit when I read this, because it is probably my first real attempt at putting my thoughts down on paper. But the persistent threads fascinate me, and the underlying themes are things that still fascinate me.
"Travelling in a car is the least forgiving way to go. Forgiving of the crime of caring, of wanting to know more and see deeper. You see something different, and it excites or interests you. But you can't just stop; the car won't let you. So after this happens many times, you get calloused; it hurts to lose a good thought. So many people just give up seeing things. When you're walking, it's better, but you still have a destination to reach, and that's what you're there for. Not to see clearer, because you can't plan that."
"This idea came to me while I was looking at a mountain. It wasn't the first time, though; many years ago I knew this. This mountain was a backdrop, a shelter for [the town of] Flint Hill, and it seemed such an essental part of the town that Flint Hill couldn't exist in any other context."
"Flint Hill, without knowing it, belonged to that mountain more than anything else..."


Orders of Magnitude

A while back, I confessed to dispatching two black snakes who had been harassing our chickens. I threw the limp lifeless body of one snake into the tall grass at the edge of the woods, in order for it to be assimilated by the various and sundry woodland decomposers whose job it is to make such things right.

A few days later, I was walking up the driveway towards the pines when I was startled by a commotion to my left. Out of the deep grasses and scrub a turkey buzzard rose majestically and swooped across the driveway and garden. It grabbed great fistsful of air with its pinions, pulling itself into the sky with unimaginable power and grace, slowly gaining speed and altitude until it disappeared above the pines to the north.

I peered into the grasses from where this pterosaur had launched, and found what looked like a tiny scrap of frayed rope—the few remains of the snake, picked clean of flesh and skin. What the bird with a wingspan greater than my armspan found for sustenance in that tiny morel, and how it discovered it in the first place, astonished me.

The next afternoon, we sat quietly in the front yard, enjoying a leisurely afternoon in the warm sun. All at once, there was a commotion, and a turkey buzzard once again rose from the tall grasses, taking the same trajectory. But something amazing happened: The buzzard flushed a pileated woodpecker from a nearby oak tree, and in its haste, it followed a parallel trajectory with the buzzard. (Normally, a pileated woodpecker is one of the largest birds you will see in the woods, with a two-foot wingspan and a distinctive flight pattern—it is majestic and beautiful with its distinctive brilliant red-white-black plumage). And at the same instance, just before our faces, a few yards away, a ruby-throated hummingbird hovered in mid-flight:

So for one split second, all in the same line of sight, at the same instant—a turkey buzzard, a pileated woodpecker, and a ruby-throated hummingbird.

And they were gone.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The fall garden (200-?)

Fall is the most compelling time in the garden. In place of the long, gentle unwinding and developing that characterizes the warm season, the open ended nature of growth, there is an end. Fall brings completion, finality, conclusion. Whether it comes in the guise of fruition and harvest, fading falling blossoms, or the abrupt discipline of the first killing frost, fall ends the expansion that drives the garden.

Look to the garden then, to see how fall expresses itself. Look at the haggard tomatoes, so recently bold and dominant lording a green canopy over all else. Now they stand exhausted, yellowing foliage dripping, desperately struggling to bring a last faint blush to their resolutely green fruit.

See the lone pumpkin, no gold yet lighting its cheek, looming dark green and glossy. It sits alone, isolated, abandoned by its vine during a hasty retreat. Yet to be decided is whether it has a use or not; it may be left to rot as it sits.

The ranks of peppers stand, drooping, weighted down by scores of fruit camoflaged in the deep green leaves. They mimic the twisted posture of old men loaded with cares and devoid of hope. Like the nearby tomatoes, they hasten to bring a last few fruit to ripeness before they are struck down. Loaded as they are, their future seems unlikely—the hand of the gardener will take all they bear, unformed and immature as they may be, to ripen or rot inside.

The barren and dessicated cornstalks stand, bolder in their death than their living compatriots. They stand tall and proud over the garden, bleached by the sun.

Look past the towering failures; look low, down and see the plants that prosper even as the frost surely approaches. These are the modest plants that have yet to take their place in the season's bounty, yet they will, long after the others have rotted and been turned under.

Row after row, where the towering titans of summer have departed, stand the small, inconspicuous grey plants.

Bad meat, bad karma

Today another recall of shitburger—ground beef deliberately and with malice aforethought blended with manure to make a few extra pennies per pound.

And how much was it this time?

500, 000 pounds. 250 TONS. For what it's worth, that translates into about six hundred head of cattle raised, fattened, tortured, slaughtered, butchered, and now to sent directly to the landfill. What an utter disgrace.

Or, to look at it another way, I'd guess it's about three thousand times the weight of the two poor people who have died so far from eating the purposely poisoned meat—if that's any kind of equivalency.

What the eff is wrong with us that this goes on?

The Rules of Hiking:

  1. Hiking is walking, not running. Don't race.
  2. Keep your hands free. Don't carry anything big in your hands or walk with your hands in your pockets. This means no walking sticks.
  3. Talk quietly so only the people in your group can hear you. Don't disturb other people.
  4. Keep a steady pace. Hum a song quietly to help you.
  5. Drink plenty of water and snack when you feel hungry—but—don't take your first break until you've walked for at least a half and hour. That lets you set a good pace.
  6. Stop and take care of 'hot spots' on your feet before they become blisters, which hurt a lot more.
  7. Don't pick flowers or other pretty things. Leave them for the next person to enjoy. The only exception is wild fruit like blackberries or blueberries. They make a great treat, and give you energy, but only eat what you want while you're hiking. Don't pick them to take home or eat later on.
  8. Take home everything you brought with you—don't leave anything behind. Even little bits of food, like an apple core or an orange peel, can make things less fun for the next people to come through.
  9. Leave things better than you found them. Carry a small trash bag and pick up any trash you might find. The animals will appreciate it, and you set a good example for other people, too.

Four-Mile Run, Falls Church, October 199-?

The warm haze of an early October afternoon—end of a day of work, full of tension, unremarked, unaddressed.

On the wind, the quiet smell of a place nearby, yet a generation removed—

At hand the stream where I played so often so many years ago—the place that shaped that time, that gave color and flavor to a young boy's life.

In this one place then, the stream remains as it was twenty-five years ago. The same leaves overhang the still waters, the same small insects play across it's quiet surface; the same small little fishes probably hide in its shaded nooks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


I butchered five of our chickens.

Addendum: Apparently I can't count. I butchered four of our chickens. Spicy remains.

Beast health report

Yesterday was Beast's annual trip to the motoveterinarian. Nothing major, just a 6K checkup, plus a sniffle here, a drip there, some weird blinky things, et cetera. I spent much of the morning and early afternoon pacing in the waiting room, allaying my nervousness by periodically buying more stuff I don't really need but want none the less.

Shortly after lunch, Beast was back with a clean bill of health and for a whole lot less pain than I was fearing. But the best part of a trip to the motoveterinarian is getting back on the road and taking that first ride when everything is back to 100%, or to zero, depending on how you want to look at it. It's always amazing to crack open the throttle and get a great big handful of WHOOSH in return...

Performance, handling, gestalt, karma—all where they are meant to be. AND (tee hee)...heated glove liners! BRING IT ON, WINTER!!

Piling on the HOG

Friday I rode to work. Saturday I rode down to the big F and back. En route, I kept noticing cars with "Harley Owners Group" specialty plates (including a Prius), pickup trucks with various H-D emblems on them, a couple of proud H-D box trailers with Canadian plates headed to Florida for Bikesgiving, and one full-blown Special Edition H-D pickup truck. I don't recall which Detroit behemoth manufactured this particular orange-and-black gem, but it's one or the other of those Detroit Behemoths whose emblem Calvin is seen peeing on from the back window of rival vehicles. Sticker is generally located above and in front of the trucknutz. But I digress.

Passing these folks, I get the impression from glancing in the driver's side window that the sub-rosa acronym is actually "Harried Old Guys" or maybe "Heavy Old Guys." In any case. Actual number of bona-fide H-D motorcycles seen in action during that same period—about four hours, morning, midday and afternoon, two-hundred miles of mixed interstate, divided highway, two-lane highway and backroads?

Er, Maybe?

And then there's this. Seriously—I didn't go looking for this, just happened to stumble upon it, and appreciated the germaneity:

Whoever wrote this obviously has no real-world experience and no idea what he is talking about. They stopped making Zima over a year ago.

I report. You decide.