A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Snort Bites – May 2014


Aw, that’s too bad, princess! Who doesn’t like Uncle Karl? He is so cuddly cute when he’s bashing liberals on Fox News, and he’s so endearing when he gives us his bizarre takes on American history. 
Actually, I’m kidding. I can’t stand the melon head, which (when you think about it) is still a compliment when you consider that his former boss (Bush the younger) nicknamed him “Turd Blossom.” 

Okay, so the cry babies on Capitol Hill now have the head they sought. Perhaps they’ll stuff and mount it next to Susan Rice, who saw her career go down in flames when she relied (perhaps too much) on talking points from the CIA in the wake of the Benghazi attack. 
So we now have a scapegoat! Great! So how about a solution? Surely between the hundreds of heads on the Hill and the White House, somebody should be able to come up with some way to serve those who have served us. For those playing along at home, the score at the half is Conservative Critics 1, Obama Administration 0, and America’s veterans…still waiting.


We’re seeing some improvement in attitudes among the old and new children at Chez Gunther. Oreo is still living in our basement, but she is more relaxed and willing to approach the door at the top of the steps. Beyond that door, “Psycho Cat” Nyla still has the run of the first floor. 
Gray Girl has been living in my room for the entire week. She is also comfortable with her immediate surroundings and anxious to explore the world beyond my bedroom door. "Psycho Cat" also lurks behind this door.

We’re encouraged that their relationship has progressed from anger paws poking under the door with much hissing and guttural growls (guess who?) to touching paws and finally Nyla sitting outside the door, staring at the crack, and meowing softly as if she were calling to her little sister. This has all happened within the space of four days.

So this weekend along the cat front we expect sunny skies, lots of napping, with only a slight chance of fur flying. Tonight, 90% chance of cat nip under clear skies. 


Here’s a thought that popped in and out of my head in a flash this week: Wouldn’t it be disillusioning if someone determined that the Mona Lisa is a selfie?


(Thank you for reading. Karl Rove! No sir, he definitely does not arouse me in any way, shape or form.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trouble at the VA

If it wasn’t for the fact that veterans are dying needlessly, the rising chorus of indignation/consternation/outrage from Republican Congressional leaders would be hysterical. As it is, their posturing is hypocritical.

My father qualified for VA benefits and he would travel (thirty+ miles) to the nearest facility in Wilkes-Barre. There he was tested and treated for his diabetes. Every visit would conclude with the scheduling of a follow up appointment. This was sometime in the early Bush (the Younger) term. About this time Bush launched two wars, and cut taxes as per his campaign promise. If memory serves me correctly, the VA was not spared the funding cuts required by his lower tax pledge.

Subsequently, my Dad’s follow up visits were not automatically scheduled, and he was told to call if he had problems and an appointment would be set up. Within a few years, Dad was diagnosed with cancer and given a window of 18 months to live. He died in 2005, and I recall thinking at the time that his seemingly sudden decline was due to his decreased level of care at the VA facility.

Ironically, that was the same year the VA was called the best place to get health care in the country. Within two years, an embarrassing set of accounts, with accompanying photos, demonstrated the deterioration of services and physical structure of the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC. At that time, the hospital was the flagship medical facility for the US Army. Resignations followed, and the facility itself was closed in 2011 as part of a realignment of the military. So what happened?

Well, there was an increase in demand for medical services throughout the system. Remember Bush’s two wars? The men and women fighting those wars came home to continue fighting their own personal psychological battles. They required and rightly deserved treatment at the military facilities.

Many other veterans who were otherwise uninsured sought out services at the VA once the Affordable Care Act took effect. Veterans who either did not get previous medical attention for their illnesses, and/or did not realize they had health care benefits through the VA, were seemingly overnight showing up at VA facilities. The result now is an over burdened system which has now translated in long delays for veterans seeking treatment.

Yet, to hear Republican leadership tell it, the long wait times at VA facilities are all Obama’s fault.

The current VA problems aren’t necessarily stemming from a lack of resources. Funding for the VA has been at record levels for the past five years. Yet somehow the historic funding levels wasn’t enough to satisfy demand.
As conservatives fume, liberal pundits have been more than happy to point out that a $21 billion spending package to increase VA benefits could not pass the Senate in February. At that time, it was revealed that the bill failed due to lack of support from Congressional Republicans. So much for GOP hypocrisy.

As of now, an outraged President is holding off on calling for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shineski pending the result of an internal report. This is only fair. The true culprits of this scandal may be further down the chain of command.

Or they could be sitting in Congress itself.

In any case, it’s all too late for my dad, but I have no regrets. Dad lived a nice full life despite the smoking habit that ultimately took him. All the political posturing on both sides of the aisle won’t help the vets that are still very much alive.

(Thank you for reading.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cats with No Names

Our search for companion(s) for Nyla has progressed to the point where we brought home two female adult cats from the local SPCA shelter. We choose them from a meager collection of a dozen or so felines. One - mostly black with white socks and irregular black and white facial markings - came up to the front of her cage and rubbed against our hands through the cage bars. The other - smaller with a gray and white fur pattern - seemed disinterested to everything and everyone, but did allow us to reach in so she could sniff our hands. Given that she did not swat at us was encouraging.

When the woman at the front desk asked which one we wanted, we could not make up our minds. Thus we took the big plunge and decided to take both home with us. There were a few formalities, paperwork, payment to spay them, and testing for feline leukemia. It was decided that we could come back later in the week to bring our new children home.

Saturday was the big day. There were a few nervous meows on the way home, but we tried to soothe them as best we could. As soon as entered through our kitchen door and set down the cat carriers, Nyla came over to inspect the contents. Since Meredith’s passing, we have promoted Nyla to queen of the house. Her Majesty peered into the carrier with our black/white cat and registered her disapproval, quite loudly and with lots of venom.

We hurriedly took the new ones to the basement where we have two litter boxes set up. The door was closed behind us so that the queen could not follow. Each occupant came out walked around the room, saw each other, hissed, and staked out their own hiding places. Black and white found comfort behind the television cabinet, while the gray girl found an empty spot on the bottom shelf of our bar. 
Both stayed in their spots for the better part of the weekend. A bowl of dry food and a bowl of water were put out for them, and I was happy to see that the dry food bowl was nearly empty when Sunday morning dawned. The trauma of the move had not affected their appetites.

As Sunday progressed, black and white got braver and ventured up the stairs towards the closed basement door. I had spent some time with her and felt guilty about leaving her behind a closed door. Warrior Queen and I decided to experiment. We kept the door open so that black and white could explore the kitchen. Nyla - still in the living room - was clueless about the intruder. Within moments, she followed Warrior Queen into the kitchen. By this time, black and white had made it as far as the dining room, where she was checking out the glass cabinet which housed our collection of Maryland Renaissance Fair steins and limited edition Bradford Exchange collection of great moments in Beatles history plates.

I had hopes that Nyla would approach cautiously and quietly rub noses with her new sister. No such luck. It turns out the queen was still in no mood to sing “Getting to Know You” from The King and I.

The initial meeting between Her Majesty and black and white started with hissing, yelling (from both cats and humans), and paws raised in indignation. Their encounter went quickly downhill from there. A chase through the kitchen and into the living room, and finally back down the basement where Warrior Queen apprehended the queen.

We immediately began to assess our situation, while the participants retreated to their respective hiding places and licked their paws. We had never experienced such animosity when we brought home our other cats. Meredith and Kelly came home together, but Kelly never really warmed up to his livelier little sister. They came to an agreement; they could co-exist under the same roof, but avoided each other as best they could.

Meredith accepted Kelly’s successor, Steven, with little problem. When Nyla came home, Meredith hissed and would have nothing to do with her. This arrangement went on for six weeks, until finally they accepted each others presence within the same room.

We concluded that there were no problems in the past because the newcomers were bigger than Meredith. This time, the queen and black and white are roughly the same size and each one most likely perceives the other as a threat. Since then, Warrior Queen and I have spent time with black and white, who is very affectionate…at least until the gray girl decides to venture from behind the bar. Then the hissing begins, and a quick run to our hiding place behind the television. Black and white still has some issues to sort out with the gray girl, who is gradually getter braver and exploring more of the basement each day.

So far, we have not named them, holding off on a final decision until we can determine if their personalities will allow them to live together. For now, I’m thinking of calling the black and white cat Oreo; gray girl will remain Gray Girl for the time being. Nyla will still officially be Nyla, but secretly I’m thinking of nicknaming her “Psychotic Bitch.”

Hey, if the paw fits!

(Thank you for reading. Quick! Someone save the Beatles plates!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chinese Buffet Anonymous

One of our blogger buddies wrote about his experience and observations on the restaurant phenomena known as the Chinese buffet. Not quite fast food, but not quite formal dining (okay, it’s nowhere near formal dining), it has exploded in popularity for those of us who crave the choice of variety. His observations were, as always, keen and profound. The comments on his writing demonstrated that a sizable portion of our blogging audience turn those noses up at this monument to gastric excess.

So I confess: my name is Todd and I am addicted to Chinese buffets. I know these wanton forays into sudden caloric excess aren’t necessarily good for me, but that’s the reason why I limit my visits to once a month. I also try other limitations within my monthly visit. I will stay one hour and no more, even if I am still hungry. One hour is just enough time for me to satisfy my appetite, so admittedly I am very seldom wanting for more at the end of my time.

I also strive to limit my trips from the table. If there are three warming tables, then I try to only do one plateful per table. Okay, admittedly, in the past I have returned to my table with my platefuls stacked two or three inches high. I realize that some may find boneless spare ribs on top of the General Tso’s chicken unappetizing, but I remind them that they are not eating from my plate. I am the only one eating from my plate and I don’t have to answer to anyone.

I also learned a trick from one of the Eat This, Not That volumes. The author advises to wait ten minutes to give your brain time to receive the message that the stomach is full. If you are still hungry after that time, then by all means, help yourself to more.

In any case, I go to the buffet not so much for the vast variety of Chinese food, but to satisfy my craving for peel-n-eat shrimp. I spend the first ten minutes of my hour long visit shelling these succulent bottom feeders. Then I lovingly coat each one with cocktail sauce before it is chewed up in my mouth and pounded into liquid form by the digestive juices in my stomach.

Sorry if my description of seafood consumption is a bit graphic, but how do think the poor shrimp feel?

Unfortunately, not everything at a Chinese buffet is necessarily Chinese in origin. My fellow bloggers have noted with some degree of alarm the presence of sushi at these buffets, but that was just the beginning of an invasion of foods foreign to the stir fry wok kingdom. Pepperoni pizza? French fries? Beef roast? Salmon? None are strictly Chinese in origin, but I’ve seen all of these on buffets here in the east. Go figure!

In this context, the inclusion of sushi does not seem that radical anymore. As to which came first, the Chinese buffet or morbid obesity, I can only speak for myself. The medical world most likely placed me in the morbid obese category 20 years ago before this restaurant genre came into vogue. True, we did have the steak house buffets of yore, and I miss their variety of food terribly. Someone mentioned the Sizzler chain which, sadly, is nothing more than a memory for those of us on the east coast. There is one in the entire state of New York, a handful of outlets in Florida, but otherwise there are no Sizzler restaurant between here and…Nebraska! Arizona has six Sizzlers within its borders. Lucky!

Okay, so buffets are cheap, and people feel that they have to tank up to get their money’s worth. Blame this on the consumer self-righteous belief that they deserve the full value of whatever they choose to spend their hard earned money. This is no different than when we buy clothes, cars, or real estate. We all want the biggest bang for our bucks, so why should buffets be any different.  

With that said, I should note that restraint on the individual’s part can be utilized. Discipline is always possible, but not always practiced.

I hasten to add in my defense of the lowly buffet that this is one of my favorite words of the English language. Perhaps my definition veers a bit too closely to Rosalind Russell’s declaration of a banquet in Auntie Mame (“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"), but the sentiment is similar. My contribution to this canon: Life is a buffet and we should return as many times as we can to experience all that life can give us.

Did I really just expand a one hour food orgy into a larger metaphor for living? As a matter of fact, I just did!

(Thank you for reading! Dim sum anyone?)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Down and Rejected - The Saga Continues

When we last recounted our lives, Warrior Queen and I had a deep case of the blues brought on by an adoption rejection from the local cat shelter. We had applied to get a companion for Nyla who, as you may recall, lost her older sister Meredith in January. The rejection came last Saturday.

Sunday dawned, but Nyla seemed unconcerned at our rejection. She treated her mommy to an early Mother’s Day gift: a ticket to see the Phillies play the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. We used to be Sunday season ticket holders, but now other expenses (ah, that pesky mortgage) forced us to cut back from attending 13 games per year to one.

Actually watching the game is only part of the fun. A good part of the day is taken by getting to the game. The cost of this travel via rail and taxi is usually as much as the tickets themselves. We used to take a train from our town into Center City, walk two blocks to the Broad Street subway and disembark for another two block walk to the stadium. We’ve abandoned this approach as the walking is four blocks too long for my circa 1959 effed up hips.

In the last few years we have taken a train into Center City, going as far as the third busiest Amtrak station in the country, 30th Street Station. There we can find dozens of taxis waiting to take us wherever our little hearts desire. It is definitely more expensive than the Broad Street line, but not as crowded and not as smelly. 
It doesn’t seem to matter how often they clean the Philadelphia subway system. The smell of human urine is omnipresent.

The day started dreary and overcast. The weather report had forecast better conditions in the afternoon. Partly sunny, albeit windy.

Our transportation plans nearly took a turn into disaster this year. The trip to 30th Street went smoothly. We boarded a cab, driven by a person of foreign descent, which is not unusual. The immigrants to our shores are much like our own forefathers: hard working, industrious, pledged to make a better life for themselves. Our driver this day was all this, but a bit distracted by some device (computer, iphone, we don’t know) next to him. He also did not seem to know where we wanted to go.

Anne Marie helpfully gave instructions: go to Route 76, enter at the South Street on ramp, and head south. I don’t know if the driver heard us - he wore ear buds the entire trip - but instinct took over and we were soon on our way.   The adventure continued.

Somewhere on that highway our driver tried to pass on the right of a slower moving van in the center lane. It was a tight squeeze, but...BAM! The van side-swiped the cab.

Wonderful, I thought! Now we’ll be late for the game while the drivers sort out their little game of bump ‘em cars.

Now officially, as per the Pennsylvania driver’s manual, when situations like this happen, the participants are legally obligated to stop, survey the damage to their respective vehicles, perhaps summon the authorities if damage was thought to be over a certain amount, file a report, exchange insurance information, and proceed on their merry way. Apparently no such niceties are observed on the wild and woolly streets of South Philadelphia.

This time there was no stopping of either vehicle. Perhaps the driver of the van did not know he/she had made contact with our cab. Our driver slowed down to avoid running into the back of slowed traffic in the right lane, glanced in the rear view mirror and, upon realizing that the van was not slowing down,  proceeded to pass around the stopped traffic and onto our destination.

This year the Phillies celebrated Mother’s Day by distributing wide brimmed white hats to ladies 14 years of age and older. I did not get one handed to me; I blame the sight of my scraggly, salt and pepper mustache for precluding me from receiving the cherished head gear. Bummer!

A hat on my head would have been handy for the weather. We experienced a drizzling rain once we got to our seats. We had bought the tickets so we would be under cover of the level above us, or so we thought. It turned out that our row was the last row in the section NOT to be sheltered by the concrete seating level at the top of the stadium. I felt a few golf ball sized drops - my use of the term drizzling is an understatement - before the rain stopped. Anne Marie remained dry; the hat brim was that wide. The clouds lingered for a few innings before finally giving way to the promised blue skies.

The game itself was exciting (we shut out the opposition 1-0), but anti-climatic after the ride we had in the cab. Our return trip to 30th Street was likewise uneventful, but the day’s events worked their magic. Our spirits were lifted out of our recent disappointments. My good mood even lasted for a few days.

As the work week wore on, we focused our attentions again on a getting another room mate for Nyla. We have several leads, and hopefully this weekend will afford us the time to take advantage of them.

(Thank you for reading! Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers! Wait, that didn’t come out right...)