Kasey’s Favorite Movie Scene Ever

It’s safe to say that Kasey is somewhat attracted to squirrels.  If she spots one in the distance it is cause for all-out, head back, muzzle-raised baying, coupled with a quick dart in the squirrel’s general direction.  Once the end of the leash is reached, Kasey resorts to Iditarod-quality pulling, capable of out-hauling a Dodge Ram, toward where the squirrel was moments before — because, of course, the tree rodent is long gone by then.

It’s not surprising, then, that this is Kasey’s favorite movie scene of all time:

Crossing The “Shit-Faced” Line

Recently Russell and I witnessed first-hand the imprecision of the word “drunk.”

IMG_2179It happened as we were walking back up East Ninth Street in Cleveland after the Browns’ victory over the Steelers last Sunday.  In a crowd full of people who’d had some kind of alcoholic beverage during the day, we came across a living, stumbling definition of “shit-faced” who was lurching from side to side as we approached.  He had somehow lost a shoe and almost fell over trying to retrieve it.  When Russell picked it up and handed it to him, we noticed the guy’s nose was covered in fresh blood — whether from a trip and fall, a liquor-fueled brawl with a Steelers fan, or some other mishap, we’d never know — and his face was lit with that familiar, bright alcoholic haze.  Russell kindly gave him a napkin he happened to have, so the besotted wretch could stanch the flow of blood, and we hurried past.  The guy wobbled along, no doubt to an impending, hunched over encounter with a street gutter before he found whoever was going to drive him home.

“Drunk” is too generic; it doesn’t really capture the different gradations of inebriation that we all recognize through years of experience.  It’s why “drunk” is often combined with other words, as in messy drunk or blind drunk or falling down drunk.  If you’re going to have a drink for festive purposes, you’re probably aiming for tipsy or buzzed or lubricated or toasted — words that reflect a happy, uninhibited state, yet one where the drinker still maintains some semblance of physical and mental control and can speak in moderately coherent sentences.  You don’t want to venture into the territory of potted, sloppy, sloshed, or trashed, and if you’ve crossed the line into hammered, blotto, plastered, or wasted, there is no going back.  All you can do is hope that you finally stop the intake before you reach the shit-faced pinnacle — or, perhaps more appropriately, nadir — of embarrassing, knee-walking, vomit-covered public intoxication.

These considerations are useful to keep in mind as we head into the heart of the holiday season.

Save The PD!

Cleveland’s lone daily newspaper is the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  It’s hard to imagine the City by the Lake without the PD — but now employees of the newspaper are raising that possibility.

The PD has been hit by declining circulation.  In 2007, its circulation was 334,194 (daily) and  445,795 (Sunday).  In 2012 its circulation was 246,571 (daily) and 401,134 (Sunday).  In short, its paid readership has fallen sharply, and it likely has suffered a similar drop in ad revenues.

The Plain Dealer staff apparently has been advised that cutbacks of some kind are likely.  The Newspaper Guild Local that represents PD journalists has decided to approach the issue proactively, by buying billboards advising the public of the possible cuts and urging readers to not let the PD “fade away.” There’s also a “SaveThePlainDealer” Facebook page with the same message.

I was up in Cleveland on Monday and saw one of the “Save the PD” billboards, and it was as jarring as when I heard that Art Modell was moving the Browns to Baltimore.  It was impossible to imagine Cleveland without the Browns, and it’s just as impossible to imagine the city without the Plain Dealer.  It’s long been a leading newspaper in Ohio, and the idea that it might reduce its operations — or stop publishing a print edition altogether — is unthinkable.

The problem, however, is one of economics.  Writing, printing, and distributing a daily uses lots of materials and employees; publishing on-line doesn’t.  More and more, people get information from the internet, where new content appears all the time.  When you compare the cost and nimbleness of the web to physical newspapers that are delivered to your doorstep, the latter strikes many people as a kind of anachronistic antique, like the telegraph or stagecoach travel.  For that reason, the Newspaper Guild’s campaign may well face an uphill battle.

The Buckeyes Lose A Close One At Cameron

Last night the Ohio State Buckeyes fell to the Duke Blue Devils, 73-68, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  It was a tightly contested, entertaining match-up between two pretty good basketball teams.

The Buckeyes played excellent on-the-ball defense and rebounded the ball well to dominate the first half — even though they played most of the half with Deshaun Thomas, their top scorer, riding the bench with two fouls.  The Buckeyes were sharp and attacking and had Duke on its heels.  In the second half, however, Duke played much more aggressively at both ends of the court, and it paid off.  Duke hit big shots, Ohio State didn’t, and when Duke pulled ahead it made the free throws that salted the game away.

Duke’s Mason Plumlee is as good as advertised.  As expected, he dominated inside, scoring 21 points and corralling 17 rebounds.  The Blue Devils also got great contributions from Rasheed Sulaimon, Ryan Kelly, and Quinn Cook, all of whom responded to Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s halftime instructions and hit huge shots to help Plumlee put the Blue Devils on top.  As usual, Duke was helped by its awesome home court advantage, with great blue-painted fans screaming every time an Ohio State player touched the ball.

The Buckeyes’ main problem was shooting.  Thomas never seemed to get into a rhythm after his early foul trouble, and Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Shannon Scott all struggled with their shots.  Still, the game had lots of positives for the young Ohio State team.  The Buckeyes stood toe-to-toe with a basketball power on its legendary home court, kept its poise even when shots weren’t dropping, and played down to the wire in a game many pundits expected would be a Duke blowout.  Playing in a tough venue like Cameron Indoor Stadium will serve the Buckeyes well when the Big Ten season begins.  I also thought that Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel played pretty well inside — if you can say that when the opposing center scores 21 points — and their experience with Plumlee should help when they match up against Indiana’s stud center, Cody Zeller.  Sophomores LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson weren’t intimidated and showed they can make big contributions, and I suspect that Craft will use his off night as an incentive to play even harder the rest of the year.

It would have been nice to beat Duke, end its streak of home floor wins against non-conference opponents, and win the Big Ten-ACC Challenge for the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes have nothing to be ashamed of.  Coach Matta and his staff will use the lessons from this game to teach and tinker and get the team ready for the Big Ten season.

Swan Lake

Our neighborhood swan was up early this morning, patrolling the pond in response to the gaggle of Canadian geese that landed for a stopover on their flight south for the winter.  The geese were barely visible in the blackness, but the swan’s white feathers stood out clearly as it paddled powerfully by with a stern look on its face.

A Sirius Fan

When we bought our Acura SUV, we got a complimentary subscription to SiriusXM.  We accepted it, of course — it was a freebie — but I was skeptical that I’d ever pay for radio.  After all, why pay for something you can get for free?

I’ve since become a convert.  I like the variety of the news, comedy, sports, and music stations, and I like the commercial-free music stations.  I particularly appreciate the service when I’m driving from city to city, because I don’t need to worry about losing a signal and searching for a new one.

I’ve programmed the car with my favorite Sirius stations, so I can find them with the push of a button, and I’ve experimented with some of the other stations, too.  I tuned in to the Sirius POTUS station before the election, because I thought it was a pretty well-balanced presentation of the election-related news, and since the election I’ve been listening faithfully to the three Sirius classical music stations — the Metropolitan Opera station, Pops, and Symphony Hall, where they play longer pieces.  I also like the fact that the display screen tells me what’s playing, so if I like a piece that I haven’t heard before I can find it at the library.

From my perspective, there’s a lot to like about SiriusXM.  I never thought I’d pay for radio, but it’s worth it.


Monday morning when I woke up, it was clear that the day before I had been exposed to ESFOUO — that is, excessively salty food of unknown origin.

The interior of my mouth was puckered, my tongue was coated in a brackish seawater film, and it felt like you could chip salt crystals off the crust on my teeth.  I wanted to drink about a gallon of water to rehydrate.

My brushing the night before had not saved me from my briny fate.  It was as if the salt from the ESFOUO had found every crack and crevice unreachable by human toothbrush and lain dormant, then rose and spread its foul dessication while I slept.

What was the ESFOUO?  Who knows?  I hadn’t eaten cheap Chinese food, which is a standard ESFOUO culprit.  (I sometimes wonder whether General Tso actually defeated opposing armies by chicken-based salt poisoning.)  I’d had a superdog and fries at the Browns game, drank a beer pre-game, ate some cereal, and had a piece of store-bought pecan pie with Cool Whip.  So, which was it?  Was the superdog chock full of salty preservatives, or was it the pecan pie?  Or did that unique combination of grub meld into a witches’ brew of salinity that attacked my defenseless mouth?

It took repeated brushings, Listerine garglings, and mass water infusion to return my mouth to a passable state.  With that disgusting experience still fresh in my memory, I’ll be examining every morsel carefully for the next few days, wondering if I am unwittingly ingesting another ESFOUO.

Basketball In The Belly Of The Beast

Tomorrow night the Ohio State Buckeyes play basketball in the Belly of the Beast.  They will take on the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the legendary facility that is the toughest college basketball venue in the land.

Cameron is tough because the crowd is loud and proud, but mostly it’s tough because Duke always has great teams under Coach Mike Krzyzewski.  This year is no exception.  The Blue Devils are ranked second and they’ve already beaten two of the most highly regarded teams in the nation, Kentucky and Louisville.  After six games, the Blue Devils have five players averaging in double figures.  They are led by 6-10 center Mason Plumlee, who is netting almost 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks per game, and senior guard Seth Curry.  The Blue Devils have a lot of talent and play the tough, disciplined game you expect from a Coach K team.

The Blue Devils also have some extra motivation.  Last year they got pulverized by Ohio State at Value City Arena, 85-63, in a game where the Buckeyes could do no wrong.  That game, like this one, is part of the annual Big Ten-ACC challenge.  After winning the first ten Challenges, the ACC has lost three in a row to the Big Ten and got waxed in 2011.  Both conferences have lots of good teams this year, so fans can expect interesting match-ups between schools in two of the country’s top basketball conferences.

Duke clearly has the edge in tomorrow night’s contest, but the game should be an intriguing one.  Plumlee gives Duke a strong inside game that the Buckeyes lack; OSU big men Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams will have to play exceptionally well to keep the Buckeyes competitive.  OSU defensive whiz Aaron Craft will take on one of the Duke guards, but can the Buckeyes guard the rest of the Blue Devil squad?  At the other end of the court, Duke will have to figure out how to defend the Buckeyes’ top scorer, Deshaun Thomas, who can take the ball inside or pop from outside. Ohio State fans also are looking for Lenzelle Smith, Jr., one of the heroes of the Buckeyes’ run to the Final Four last year, to assert himself at the offensive end.

The Buckeyes are a young team that is still searching for its identity and its player rotation.  If Ohio State can give the Blue Devils a good game in front of thousands of face-painted Duke students who are screaming their brains out, that will tell us a lot about the toughness of Thad Matta’s Buckeye squad, and its prospects in the Big Ten and beyond.

The Case Of The Dog That Couldn’t Bark

In Silver Blaze, Sherlock Holmes famously deduced the identity of a wrongdoer by focusing on a dog that didn’t bark. What would Holmes deduce, I wonder, about dog owners who have their pooches undergo vocal cord surgery — sometimes on multiple occasions — to keep the dogs from barking?

The surgical procedure involves cutting the dog’s vocal cords.  The dog tries to bark, but little sound is produced.  Because the vocal cords can reconnect as scar tissue forms, allowing the dog to again produce sound, some owners have their dogs undergo multiple surgeries.

In the story linked above, a dog owner said her dog barked constantly.  The surgery was a last resort, undertaken only after other debarking methods didn’t work, and was the only option that would allow her to keep her dog and avoid complaints from neighbors and citations for violation of city noise ordinances.  I’m sympathetic to her plight, I suppose, but I’m more sympathetic to the dog.

It’s bad enough that humans have taken animals descended from wolves and, through selective breeding, have produced fou-fou dogs that live in purses or are groomed to look like topiary, but cutting a dog’s vocal cords crosses a line.  Some dogs are barkers, others aren’t.  Those who bark are trying to communicate something — Kasey, who barks constantly while I am getting her morning food, obviously is saying “Hey buddy, speed it up!” — and it just seems cruel to deprive them of that part of their personality.  What would a self-respecting dog feel if her expected bark came out as only an embarrassing squeak?  Any surgery, too, involves risk for the dog. It’s one thing for a dog to undergo surgery to deal with a health issue, but quite another for a dog to undergo surgery solely to avoid annoying an owner or a neighbor.  What’s next, canine cosmetic surgery?

Neighbors shouldn’t have to suffer through constant dog barking, but any owner with a barking dog who can’t deal with the problem through non-surgical means has two options:  move to a place where the dog can bark freely, or find the dog a home in the country, where neighbors aren’t going to complain.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2012

Thanksgiving is behind us, Black Friday has passed, and Christmas is less than a month away.  It’s time to start thinking about baking Christmas cookies for family and friends.  As always, I’m interested in whether our Webner House readers have any recipes they would be willing to share.  I always try to add a few new cookies to the tried-and-true favorites that I enjoy baking year after year.

I got this recipe from the Martha Stewart website.  Last year I made gingerbread stars dipped in white chocolate, and they were a big hit.  This year, I think more gingerbread cookies may be in order, and the combination of gingerbread and lemon flavoring in this cookie sounds pretty tasty.

Gingerbread Trees with Lemon Icing

Ingredients for the cookies 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled); 1 teaspoon baking soda; 1 teaspoon ground ginger; 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves; 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 teaspoon coarse salt; 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature; 3/4 cup granulated sugar; 1 large egg; 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

Ingredients for the icing:  2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; 1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar; Sanding or coarse sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until creamy, 3 minutes. Add egg and beat to combine. Add molasses and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. With a sharp knife or cookie cutter, cut dough into small 2-inch-wide triangles. Arrange triangles, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are firm and golden at edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

To make icing, combine lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle icing over cooled cookies and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Calling for Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2011

Calling for Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2010

Calling for Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2009

Stalking Time


What to do with a field full of dried cornstalks on the eve of winter, after the ears of corn have been harvested?  This Ohio farmer piled the stalks together in the shape of Mercury capsules and left them in the field — where they looked a bit like shambling swamp creatures in slow pursuit of a victim.  You might say they looked like they were stalking someone.

Honoring Coach Tressel

During the break between the first and second quarters of Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game, the University recognized the 2002 National Championship team and its head coach, Jim Tressel.  Tressel was hoisted onto the shoulders of his former players as the crowd at Ohio Stadium roared.

After the game, I was surprised to read some very harsh comments about this simple gesture.  Fans of Michigan, Wisconsin, and other schools — many of whom think Ohio State’s domination of the Big Ten conference is the product of a dirty program that skirts the NCAA rules and cheats — depicted the ceremony as Ohio State thumbing its nose at the NCAA and displaying its contempt for the rules and sanctions that ultimately resulted in Jim Tressel’s resignation.  I think that is a small, mean-spirited reaction to a desire to honor a storied Ohio State team on the 10th anniversary of its greatest achievement.

No one at Ohio State will forget how the Jim Tressel era ended — and I’m confident Coach Tressel won’t, either.  That reality shouldn’t mean that we can’t remember the good moments of the Tressel era, too.  There were many, and the 2002 National Championship is one of them.  I’m glad the members of that team, and Coach Tressel as well, were saluted for their accomplishment.

Savoring Stadium Mustard — And A Browns Win

Stadium mustard is the best mustard there is — thick and and brown and spicy, with a nice little kick — and it tastes even better in a stadium.  Today, Russell and I were up in ice-cold Cleveland Browns Stadium to watch the Browns take on the Steelers, and we had to get some stadium dogs and some crinkle cut fries.  The $9.50 price tag put a dent in the wallet, but we were there to root on the Brownies and you just have to eat a dog before you can root for the Dawgs.

As good as the Stadium mustard was, the game itself was even better.  The Browns beat the Steelers for the first time since 2009 and one of the few times since Cleveland came back into the NFL in 1999.  It was a tough, hard-hitting game in which the Browns forced 8 turnovers, the rhythm of the game was destroyed by constant penalties, and the Browns offense was unable to put the game away despite repeated opportunities.  Still, a win is a win is a win, and lately any win over the Steelers is a win worth savoring — with a little mustard, of course.