Signs. And wonders.
May 5, 2018 5:01 PM | Posted in:


Me, blogging

Hiya. Happy Cinco de Mayo. I would have written that en español, but I've been informed by some people with too much time on their hands that it's not really a generally-observed Mexican holiday, but only an excuse to eat tacos and guacamole, and drink Coronas and margaritas. To which I respectfully respond: and your point is...?

Anyway, today's subject is signs. Also pictograms, which are just signs made by third graders. I have an extensive collection to share with you today, and by "extensive" I mean three.

My pal Tommy recently bought a tractor, and I drove it. It has cruise control, because when you're going three miles per hour, you can't be distracted by having to keep your foot on a pedal. Although now that I think about it, I can't remember if the throttle was foot-controlled. But I digress.

The tractor is covered with pictograms, mostly attempting to describe all the potentially fatal things one can suffer while driving a tractor (of which there are many; the primary purpose of owning a tractor is apparently not to drive it), but mainly succeeding in being unintentionally hilarious. OK, amusing.

Like this one:

I still like 'use this tractor with a beach ball' better

Frankly, I can't think of many things a tractor is better suited for than an exciting game of catch using a beach ball. (If you have no sense of humor, you can click on the preceding image to see the uncropped but much less fun sign.)

Then there's this one, inscribed on a tube affixed to the deck of the tractor and which, frankly, took four of us chronologically adult persons several minutes of collective conjecture before we figured it out.



For the life of me, I can't imagine why the graphic designer thought that a pictogram instructing the tractor operator to pick up and drink a thermos of coffee, then read a book, and then put the thermos down could possibly ever be interpreted as "open this tube to read the tractor manual."

Finally, while this isn't technically a sign or even a pictogram, it's close enough and this is my blog. We recently received a FedEx delivery and apparently our location is still something of a mystery to that company's GPS system. Some enterprising logistics specialist determined that the treeware solution was the ideal approach to making sure the package arrived at the indended destination. In this digital age, it's nice to know that analog still works.


Snake Mistake
May 2, 2018 8:33 PM | Posted in: ,

"Eric...come quick!"

I was sitting in the office late yesterday afternoon when I heard MLB's overly excited summons from somewhere in the middle of the house. I ran out to find her staring out the living room windows at something in the front courtyard. 

"Oh, man. That's a water moccasin. Keep an eye on him while I grab a hoe!" 

I scurried into the garage, found the hoe, and hurried to the courtyard where MLB was keeping an eye on the snake...albeit still through the window. It was still and stretched out in front of the window, not at all exercised about my presence.

Blotched Water Snake (in our courtyard)

I started to behead the serpent when I noticed my neighbor across the street visiting with a man who was working on the new house next door. I yelled at them to come over. "Wanna see a water moccasin?!" They hurried over.

The neighbor stayed behind the fence to observe the proceedings, but the other man rushed into the courtyard with an obvious expression of interest on his face. 

"That's a water moccasin, alright, but it's not a cottonmouth," he asserted. I was immediately confused and mentally docked points from his herpetological knowledge score. But the more he talked, the more it sounded like he did, indeed, know his snakes.

"It's not poisonous, and I wouldn't kill it," he said. I was still skeptical, but he began to lay out his supporting argument. It sounded logical, although as the snake continued to strike aggressively at the business end of the hoe blocking its path, I wasn't completely convinced. He continued, "if you won't kill it, I'll take it away."

"Uh...OK. But first...where, exactly, do you live?" I wanted to make sure he wasn't going to drive a block or two and let it go. It turns out that he lives 20+ miles down the highway, has a neighbor who works for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and the two of them often collaborate on wildlife issues.

Having established his sincerity, I agreed to try to herd the snake into a moving box that MLB had brought from inside the house. The reptile wasn't initially keen to go where we wanted it to go, but we finally managed to persuade it to crawl into the cardboard box, and the gentleman happily hauled it over to his pickup.

He was working at the new house this morning when we returned after a run, and he flagged us down. I asked him how the snake release went, and he said that it slithered into the Pedernales River and immediately vanished. He said they measured the snake at more than three feet in length. "I also identified the species," he said as he opened his pickup door and pulled out a guide to Texas snakes. "It's a blotched water snake." It took him a while to rifle through the pages (Texas is home to a LOT of snakes) but when he finally found it, it did indeed seem to be "our" snake.

In reading more about the blotched water snake -- which, by the way, seems to be a highly uncomplimentary name, but I suppose the snake has no objections -- I learned that it is often mistaken for a cottonmouth. But the latter's eyes has elliptical pupils, while the harmless water snakes all have round pupils (see photo below). I'll leave it to you to decide how close you need to get to make that distinction. There are a few other physical and behavioral differences between the "good" and "bad" snakes, and they're worth learning if you live in an area where the latter are found, AND you don't subscribe to a philosophy that the only good snake is a dead one.

Comparison of eyes of non-venomous and venomous snakes

We all agreed that there was no good reason to kill non-venomous snakes, and several good ones for having them around (rodent control being at the top of the list). Nevertheless, I still wasn't willing to concede that venomous snakes found in a neighborhood were worthy of the same consideration, a position he advocates.

Now, having said that, we're still not keen on the idea of having even the good ones lurking around in our flowerbeds and lawns. Heart attacks are generally even more fatal than snake bites!

Slow ride; fast video - Cycling in Horseshoe Bay
April 27, 2018 2:13 PM | Posted in:

It's been a while since I posted a time lapse bike ride video. I realize most of you have little interest in these short movies, unless you like to ride vicariously through some [mostly] pretty scenery. But some of you may live in Horseshoe Bay and for you I issue the challenge of identifying the route we take on this particular ride.

As hints I will say that the ride begins and ends in Pecan Creek, and winds through HSB proper. Other than that, you're on your own to figure out where we go.


If you're a cyclist, you might have noticed -- perhaps with a bit of envy -- how few vehicles we encountered during this 18 mile jaunt through a town in the middle of the afternoon. Granted, most of the route was on residential streets (about 3 miles was on a ranch-to-market road that is pretty heavily traveled, but it has a very wide shoulder and a 45-mph speed limit) and the one-photo-per-30-seconds video capture may not always accurately represent overall reality, but this dearth of traffic is actually the standard scenario. It does make for pleasant cycling experiences.

If the one-second-per-scene video didn't provide enough context to map out our route, here's the Relive video provided by MLB showing an aerial view of the course.


Note that we refer to this particular route as our flat ride. We have another one that winds through Horseshoe Bay West, and if you've ever been in that area, you'll know why it's our "hilly ride."

Rock Squirrels on Spring Break?
April 24, 2018 10:26 PM | Posted in:

Last weekend, we discovered we were hosting unanticipated visitors in the form of a herd of juvenile rock squirrels. At one point, I counted six (6!) of them cavorting on and around our back yard deck. When they detected our presence, they would quickly dive under the deck, but just as quickly reappear.

We had seen adult rock squirrels living among the rocks (duh) lining the bank of the creek, but never considered that they might move from that environment to our back yard. I didn't particularly relish the thought of having a dray (look it up) living under the deck -- and I have no idea what the resident possum family thought about the new neighbors -- but grudgingly admitted that the young ones were fun to watch.

I put a GoPro camera on a stake and captured some of the following photos of the children at play. Other photos were taken from inside the house using a zoom lens. Click on each small photo to see a larger version.

Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels This tree squirrel seems to be pretty disgusted by this turn of events Juvenile rock squirrels Juvenile rock squirrels

We watched them on and off through the weekend. An adult squirrel -- presumably either the mother or father -- would occasionally venture into the yard, but oddly enough it would generally retreat over the retaining wall to the creek bank rather than joining the kits under the deck.

But that changed on Sunday afternoon. With friends visiting, we were watching the squirrels go about their now-familiar busyness when we saw the adult (let's call it the mother) run across the lawn with something...furry...in her mouth. She was too fast to get a good look, but there seemed to be fewer kits playing than before. After we watched a repeat of that behavior, it was obvious that she was grabbing the youngsters one-by-one and taking them back to the creek bank. I grabbed my camera, as one does. I wasn't able to get any really clear photos, but I think you can discern the process of evacuating the pups.

Rock squirrel mother putting kit on notice Rock squirrel kit: 'aww, ma...do I hafta?' Rock squirrel mother carrying juvenile Rock squirrel mother carrying juvenile Rock squirrel mother carrying juvenile

I'm sure there's a logical explanation for temporary appearance and subsequent relocation to the more usual habitat, but here's my theory. I think this was the rock squirrel equivalent of a spring break trip for the kids to Disneyworld. All good things must come to an end, though, and the parents had to get back to work on Monday, so home they went. I'll be happy to entertain a better explanation.

In any event, the youngsters had no trouble readjusting to their creekside home. At almost any point during the day, we can peer over the fence and watch them busily engaged in their squirrely activities. 

Adult rock squirrel in its more normal habitat Juvenile rock squirrel in its more normal habitat Juvenile rock squirrel in its more normal habitat Juvenile rock squirrel in its more normal habitat Juvenile rock squirrel in its more normal habitat

Hate to end on a down note, but I suspect the snakes that live in and along the creek may be pretty happy about the return of this family, as well. But, so far, all six of the young ones are still up and around.
It's probably common knowledge that beavers slap the water with their tails as a warning about - or an attempt to startle - potential predators. They also tend to swim with their heads slightly above water but with their bodies slightly submerged.

So, you may be ask, why are you - a native Texan living in the heart of a beaver-impoverished state - giving this random lecture about the creature's behavior? Simply this: I watched a beaver swim in the creek behind our house last night. I have never heard of a beaver sighting in this area, much less seen one myself, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that they are indeed living in our neighborhood.

We came home around dusk after eating out with friends, and there were some significant thunderheads building up in the north, so I walking into the back yard to observe them. Our weather was calm and there was still enough light to see the creek, so I stood at the back fence and looked down at the water, about twenty feet away.

I saw a shape moving in the water and my first thought was "that's the biggest catfish I've ever seen in the creek!" My second thought was, "wait...what? We don't have catfish in the creek." The shape appeared to be 2-3' long, trailing something wide. I mentally cycled through some possibilities, trying to place it in a logical context. I knew there were nutria around the lake, but those are basically big rats with long skinny tails, and that didn't fit the profile of what I was watching.

The shape continued to swim slowly down the middle of the stream, and I figured I should attempt to get a photo or video to prove my sanity, even though the fading light made it doubtful that my aging phone's camera would capture anything recognizable. And fail it did, although perhaps not entirely of its own fault. What I managed to record was approximately five seconds of the ground.*

My view of the animal was blocked by a tree on the creek bank, but I expected it to come into sight in a clearing a few feet down the stream. It didn't, so I decided it had doubled back. I moved back down the fence line and sure enough, it was swimming the other direction. But my movement apparently caught its attention and its reaction confirmed that what I was watching was indeed a beaver. With a loud slap of the water's surface with its tail, it disappeared and I did not spot it again.

I described the encounter to MLB and she was initially skeptical, but after an extended conversation with Mr. Google, she confirmed that beavers are present pretty much throughout Texas, with the exception of the western part of the state. We also learned that they prefer still water, but Pecan Creek is very slow-moving with limpid pools forming at various bends, so it would not necessarily be a beaver-unfriendly environment. And, finally, they are most active right around dusk and dawn.

I realize that some of you live in areas where beavers are plentiful, but for me, this was akin to spotting a cheetah in our back yard. The variety of local wildlife continues to be a constant source of amazement and pleasure.

Have you ever encountered unexpected wildlife in your neighborhood? Tell us about it in the comments!

*Some of the fotografic failure was the fone's fault. You may have heard about the battery-related slowdowns in old iPhone models, and my 6s is dealing with that now. The camera is so slow to respond that when I tapped the record button and nothing happened, I hit it again. That resulted in my turning off the video instead of turning it on. Rinse and repeat, and the result is intriguing moving images of...dirt.

Relive your run, you masochist
March 13, 2018 2:05 PM | Posted in:

I'm a bit of a data junkie, and nowhere is this more evident than in the spreadsheets I've kept for decades detailing my workouts. I do this not because I have an accounting degree, nor because I'm OCD (although one of those things is definitely true and the other is probably true). I keep records as a motivational tool. The presence of blank rows on the spreadsheet is a reminder that I'm probably falling short of my workout goals...which aren't all that challenging but they do emphasize consistency.

For years I've tracked my running workouts with a phone app called MapMyRun. There's a similar app called MapMyRide for bicyclists, but I rely on my bike computer and rarely remember to turn on MapMyRide. I rely on MapMyRun to record time and distance; it also provides data on split times - which I generally don't care about - and elevation gain - which I care about now that I live in the Hill Country but the accuracy of which is questionable. It also has some social features that I absolutely don't use.

MapMyRun satisfies the data junkie in me, but life is more than data, right? (Feel free to discuss this burning question amongst yourselves; I'll wait.) Data can be enhanced by visualization, and I recently learned of yet another application that does just that for the workouts recorded by MapMyRun.

Relive is a free app that integrates rather seamlessly with MapMyRun (as well as other fitness apps such as Strava, Garmin, and others) to create a short video recapping your workout by unwinding the route onto a satellite map (said map is provided by ESRI, the good folks that make the gold-standard GIS software, ArcGIS). The aerial view doesn't exactly provide a virtual reality experience, but it is definitely an interesting way to relive (!) the workout. The app also drops a pin on the point of highest elevation on the route, then overlays some statistics at the end (duration, pace, mileage, elevation gain - which, again, should be taken with a grain of salt). The app also generates an elevation profile of the route that spools out along the top of the window as the video progresses.

Here are a couple of examples of my early efforts using the app.


Relive doesn't provide many options for the unpaid version of the app. You can specify whether the video will be automatically created as soon as you save your workout, vs. manually specifying when it should be created. You can do some minimal editing such as changing the title font or adding photos you took during the workout...and if you're coordinated enough to take pictures during a run, you have my admiration and respect. There's a paid upgrade (isn't there always?) that provides additional after-the-fact editing, but I haven't felt compelled to do that.

If you decide to try out the app, keep in mind that the app only retains 20 videos (I assume the paid version expands that number), and you must click the star icon to flag a video for saving. Otherwise, you can get back to the video only going to the link provided in the notification email, and that link is saved nowhere else (that I could find).

There's no compelling reason to make Relive a part of your suite of fitness apps, but it is an interesting concept. 

May God grant me the serenity to log the things I can, the discipline to avoid the things I can't, and the self-deception to think that it's all quite important.

tire change
February 6, 2018 4:35 PM | Posted in: ,

its tuesday afternoon and tonight is trivia night at the yacht club but thats not really important whats important is that my truck has had a slow leak in the right front tire some people would refer to it as the passenger side front tire but a lot of time theres no passenger in my truck so lets go with right front ok so i got tired of pulling out my craftsman air compressor every day or so to put about 6 or 7 pounds of air into the tire although i really like having an air compressor it makes me sort of feel like that tim allen guy in that tv show but thats also not important so i finally got tired as i already said so i decided to pull the wheel off and futon the spare and drive into town and leave it at discount tire the low air tire not the spare of course because doing the reverse would be silly and let them fix it presumably for free since thats where i bout it and that why i love discount tire so theres an immutable law of nature that all tire changes must be done in the rain and so it was this morning but you say have a garage why didnt you change the tire in the garage thats quite observant of your are you spying on me but anyway we are having some ok a LOT of removing done to our house and the garage is filled with stuff that shouldnt be there but theres nowhere else for it so i could only pull the truck into the garage about six feet so in reality i didnt really have to change the tire in the rain but if you know anything about honda trucks you also know that retrieving the little spare tire and jack from the cargo compartment in the truck bed requires contortions and power tools and cursing and in every case doing it in the rain hence the cursing so i get the spare and the jack and the special security lug nut socket which is supplied because honda truck tires are so coveted by thieves and i proceed to jack up the front of the truck in the shelter of six feet of garage only to discover that the truck is parked too close to my wife car and the jack handle won't fit so i have to go in the house to get the key fob for her car and pull it up a couple of feet so i can resume jacking the truck up so i can remove the wheel which if you recall is the front right one but first i slightly loosen the lug nuts before jacking the truck up because safety first we wouldnt want the truck to roll off the jack would we no we wouldnt thats really a dumb question so i finish jacking up the truck and i remove the lug nuts and give the wheel a tug and nothing NOTHING happens it doesn't budge its like its been welded to the whatever you call the part that the wheel is bolted onto what am i a mechanic i don't think so i give the tire a few feeble whacks with the jack handle and of course nothing happens so i take the next logical male step and kick the tire with the same result but then i remember i have a 36 inch pry bar and everyone should have a big honking pry bar if for no other reason than it looks bad*** having on your pegboard and so i stick one end of the pry bar into the rim and call upon it to do that one thing its named for but prying that wheel off is apparently not in its job description because once again nothing happens and now I'm thinking well crap I'm going to have to put the lug nuts back on and drive to discount tire and give them the entire truck and wait while they take off the tire with whatever magic tool they have for such things because surely I'm not the only person who's ever had a stuck wheel and wait thats right surely someone else has had this problem and if they did and if they solved it they would be smug and put the solution on the google so i ask the google how do you get a wheel unstuck and even though i misspell one of those words mr google still knows what I'm asking and gives me the answer which is to put the lug nuts back on but not tighten them then drive the car or truck in this case back and forth a few feet and the GUARANTEED that would PROBABLY fix the tight wheels so i think what do i have to lose so i reattach the lug nuts finger tight then back them off a couple of turns and unjacked is that the right term which requires about a hundred cranks of that little jack and i clear everything out of the way because safety first and get in the truck and back out of the garage a few feet and then drive back in a few feet and then i get out and repack the truck although i find i have pulled in too far so i have to move my wife car AGAIN so the jack handle clears it and i remove the lug nuts and sure enough the wheel comes right off!!! so i was relieved and now all i have to do is put on the spare which by the way i had earlier inflated to the suggested 60 psi max because its one of those juvenile spare tires with a 50 mph speed limit but thats fine because the speed limit between our house and discount tire maxes at 50 mph which you already know because you are apparently spying on me so i put the spare wheel on and proceed to put on the lug nuts and i follow the proper procedure which is to tighten the lug nuts finger tight then use the lug wrench to GENTLY tighten the them a bit further to make sure the wheel is properly seated before putting the full weight of the truck on it but you do that GENTLY because the truck is still on the jack and we don't want the truck rolling off the jack we've already covered that right because SAFETY FIRST and so what happens is that the truck rolls off the jack well *&*&$#*^&* but ha ha not harm done because i barely have the wheel off the floor but still that was stupid it wasn't entirely my fault but yeah it was so thats the story of changing a wheel but everything sales went fine and i love discount tire but not tiny little jacks that require a hundred cranks to lift a truck wheel one inch off the ground but i do also love my craftsman air compressor oh yeah and my 36 inch pry bar even if it didnt pry anything at the one time i needed it most



The. End.

The Fugitive Fox
January 25, 2018 10:26 AM | Posted in: ,

It's been a quiet couple of weeks at Casa de Fire Ant, at least from a trapping perspective. I haven't bothered to bait the raccoon trap for a variety of reasons -- laziness being at the top of the list -- although the armadillo trap has been armed and routinely ignored. I assume that either (1) the armadillos have evolved intellectually to the point where they recognize and avoid the danger, or (b) the trap has lost its scent. I'm going with (b) because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.

Fox sniffing around trapAlert Gazette readers will recall that I recently expressed a bit of frustration at what I believed to be theft by fox. I didn't have conclusive proof that I was being flimflammed by a fox, but the circumstantial evidence was powerful.

That changed last night.

I decided to risk another 88¢ can of sardines (the money is beginning to add up, folks; I'm thinking about starting a GoFundMe account to defray trapping expenses) as bait. I slid it into the trap around 10:00 last night and set the game camera on the ground a few feet away.

When I checked the trap this morning, the bait was gone and the trap was unsprung and empty. However, the game cam was finally able to record the canine caper, and here's the proof.



It may not be obvious from the video, but the fox actually steps on the trip plate. However, it appears that its weight is on the other forefoot and so the plate doesn't spring the trap door. That's fine with me; I don't really want to trap a fox. On the other hand, I also don't want them grabbing all the bait intended for raccoons.

If you're wondering what it appears to be eating just before entering the trap, I pour the juice from the sardine can onto the ground just outside the entrance as a way to entice animals to enter.

Gray foxes are pretty common around our neighborhood. On one occasion, as we drove into the neighborhood at night, we spotted three of them within fifty yards of each other. I don't know if the group is a family unit, or if there's just good hunting in the vicinity.

Some people incorrectly identify gray foxes as red foxes, presumably because the former do have some red fur on their chests and underbellies. But the two don't really look that much alike, and aren't even in the same genus. We may indeed have red fox in our area, but I've never seen one.

Another difference between the two species is that gray foxes are good climbers while the red species are not. Alert Gazette readers will recall this video of two (2!) gray foxes in our Midland back yard a couple of years ago. As you can see, they're quite adept at climbing trees and fences. I actually have a photo of a gray fox reclining on top of our roof, watching the world go by.


A Post-Modern Jukebox Sampler
January 14, 2018 3:34 PM | Posted in:

It's Sunday morning and I'm losing a fight with a cold and/or allergies, and I'm taking the lazy way out by blogging someone else's material...in this case (because, really, most of my stuff is stolen plagiarized borrowed from someone else) some music videos from Scott Bradlee's Post-Modern Jukebox. SBPMJ (hereafter referred to as PMJ for purposes of brevity) is one of the most imaginative and musically gifted groups around, and they probably don't get as much publicity as they should. (Alert Gazette readers will recall that I've mentioned them before on the pages of this here blog-like thing.)

PMJ's gift is taking songs by other artists and reworking them in ways that often elevate the musicality of those tunes, or transform them into a completely different genre. The musical genius is compounded by the absolute attention to detail in the videos the group assembles. 

We're fortunate that many of their performances can be found on YouTube, but I'll save you the clicks as well as the mental/psychic effort of deciding on the standouts by presenting the following list. Trust me; I know these things.

Barbie Girl - In the style of class Beach Boys

This song was originally recorded by the Scandinavian pop group Aqua in 1997, and a few years ago was voted "Worst Song of the Nineties" by those Rolling Stone readers with the mental wherewithal to work a mouse and browser. It also prompted Barbie maker Mattel to file an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit claiming copyright infringement. And, of course, the lyrics do not stand the test of time insofar as they are egregiously anti-feminist. (Here's the original video.)

Other than that, it's a wonderful little song...at least in the hands of Master Arranger Scott Bradlee.

Morgan James, the lead singer in this performance, plays the part of Barbie with a self-awareness that sustains the overall ironic tone of the arrangement. Her vocal chops are astounding, especially in the section where she simulates a theremin.



Blurred Lines - Bluegrass Version

Musically-woke readers are likely wondering why an historically squeaky-clean Gazette would include a song with frankly pornographic lyrics (and I won't stoop to linking to the original video) that has been dubbed by some as the most distasteful song of 2013, the year it was recorded by Robin Thicke. Blurred Lines was co-written by Pharrell Williams (!) and Thicke (who later claimed he was stoned on Vicodin and that Williams did most of the lyrical damage). This song was also the subject of a [successful] copyright infringement lawsuit (appeal pending, as they wont to be). Gee, we seem to have a trend going here.

Well, the reason I've included the song in this list is (1) that genre-bending thing I mentioned at the top, and (b) the way PMJ has completely reworked the lyrics so they are much less offensive (IMO, anyway; I never underestimate the ability of some folks to be offended). You'll have to google the original lyrics yourself to see what I mean.



Single Ladies - Chicago-style

Let's switch gears and exponentially up the sophistication level of this list. Beyoncé sold about a gatrillion copies of this song beginning in 2008, and it's still probably the Beyhive's anthem. Also, AFAIK, no one has sued her over the song. [Original video here]

The lyrics are nothing special, but the real treat in PMJ's arrangement is the choreography, instantly recognizable by anyone even vaguely familiar with Bob Fosse's work. Even the costumes evoke films such as All That Jazz and Chicago.



Shake It Off - Motown-style

Bey's only competition among a certain demographic is Taylor Swift, who released Shake It Off in 2014. It debuted on Billboard's pop chart at #1 (only 21 other songs have done that). It also was the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit that was dismissed by the court almost as quickly as it was filed. People in the music business apparently love to file lawsuits. [Original video here]

PMJ's treatment puts a classy Motown spin on the tune and lead singer Von Smith, while not exactly pulling off the prototypical Motown look, certainly has the vocal chops to outdo the original artist (sorry, Swiftians, but you know in your heart of hearts that it's true). Make sure you stick around for the break at the 2:36 mark in the following video for proof.



Thriller - 30s Jazz Cover

This is perhaps the most logical, intuitive rework in this list. Lead vocalist Wayne Brady brings the spirit of Cab Calloway to life and it's the most natural thing in the world for Cab to croon the lyrics to Michael Jackson's 1982 classic. [Original video here, as if it's not already playing in your mind]

The genius of this arrangement is the inclusion of the diabolic tap dancers; no Thriller cover is complete without dancing.



Happy - Speakeasy Jazz Cover

Speaking of Pharrell Williams, he does compose non-smutty music, as evidenced by this 2013 song which was included on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, much to the chagrin of parents worldwide. [Original video here, if you're a glutton for punishment]

PMJ's version features the phenomenal Gunhild Carling, and not only does she sing and dance, but she plays ten (10!) different instruments on this video...including a trumpet balanced vertically on her lips, and three trumpets played simultaneously and in three-part harmony.



[If you want to see more of the amazing Ms. Carling, check out her PMJ-accompanied cover of Never Gonna Give You Up. Getting Rickrolled has never been more fun.]

Bad Romance - Twenties Gatsby Style

The only unusual thing about this cover is that Lady GaGa didn't do it this way herself. I mean, I could totally see her loving this arrangement, especially in light of her elegant collaborations with Tony Bennett. [Original video here]

It's hard to decide which is better, Ariana Savalas's vocals (and whistling) or the stupidly fast tap-dancing feet of Sarah Reich. But what's up with the disappearing horn section at the end?



Forget You - Thirties Jazz Style

OK, confession time. CeeLo Green's 2010 hit is the only song on this list that's in regular rotation on my iTunes playlist. And, in case you wondered, it's the "clean" version (if you're curious about why I make that distinction, you can look up his Wikipedia entry). [Original -- and clean -- video here]

PMJ's arrangement is classier without losing any of the intensity of Green's incredible vocal range. LaVance Colley matches him falsetto for falsetto. 



We could go on and on. There are literally scores of additional PMJ videos on YouTube. Scott Bradlee appears to be a tireless arranger, and his musical interests range far and wide. Check out his Gershwin/Queen mashup (Bohemian Rhapsody in Blue) or this performance of Peggy Lee's Fever using an even dozen different musical styles.

Newsflash: Local Wildlife Gets Wilder
January 6, 2018 10:37 AM | Posted in:

The local raccoon population has apparently spread the word that my sardine-baited trap is to be ignored. For the past several nights, the bait has gone untouched and the trap unsprung. Photographic evidence of raccoon inspectors makes this all the more frustrating.

That's not to say that the setup hasn't attracted other, more exotic animals. A few nights ago, one of the local foxes actually made its way into the trap and escaped with the bait. To be honest, though, foxes are pretty ordinary compared to some of the other visitors. 

Last night was a great example. Here's what the game camera captured during a brief 10-minute period.







Sadly, I was unable to actually trap any of these creatures, which will likely cause the more skeptical readers to doubt the veracity of these photos. I blame the current Fake News phenomenon for causing otherwise perceptive people to disbelieve concrete visual evidence.