Sunday, August 12, 2012

There's a mouse in the house !

Flagstaff, Arizona sits in the middle of Coconino National Forest, one of six National Forests in Arizona. At just under 2.000,000 acres, it is the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the entire world.

The fragrant and towering trees provide spectacular scenery, and shelter to a wide variety of animals. Apart from coyotes, elk, fox, and bears, the forest also provides shelter to numerous smaller critters.

Like mice.

A few weeks ago, one of those mice scooted across our kitchen floor, quickly scampering from the bottom of the refrigerator to the bottom of the dishwasher. A week later, the same mouse scampered from the bookcase in the living room to the area under the hutch.


Now what do we do?

Since we simply wanted to move the little guy back outside without harming him, I bought some sticky mouse traps at the local Family Dollar store, and set them out at various locations throughout the house.


I went back to Family Dollar again a week or so ago and bought four more “traditional” mouse traps, and again set them out at various locations inside and outside the house.

A few days later, I was reading the morning newspapers on my computer when I heard a shriek from the kitchen. The trap that I had set in the pantry had done its job, and a long tail was protruding out from under the wire rack we use for storing various food items.

The broom and dustpan made the intruder disappear, but the incident got me thinking.

Who was the first person to invent the mousetrap?

Admittedly, it’s not the kind of question that’s going to come up at cocktail parties, but if you REALLY want to know the answer, I’ll tell you.

William C Hooker, of Abingdon, Illinois, received the first patent for a mousetrap in 1894. Since that time, patents have been issued for variations of the original design, including a recent version that uses electricity.

Although the mice that are caught in traps are usually discarded into the trash, you may be interested to know many societies throughout the world use them as FOOD, and have since at least since the time of Ancient Rome. In addition to mice, their larger cousins (rats) are also consumed on a fairly regular basis. In fact, rats comprise over 50% of the locally produced “meat” in West Africa.

Oh rats!

Although rats can vary in size, the largest one that I’ve ever seen was found on 16th Street in Chicago.

If you’re feeling brave, you may want to try some of the recipes listed below:

Mice in cream (Souris a la crème)

Contrary to what you might think, there aren’t any rats in ratatouille, unless you’re talking about the delightful movie that Disney and Pixar Animated Studios released in 2007.

Ratatouille originally came from a couple of areas in southern France, and normally consists of a variety of vegetables cooked together. Because the dish is low in fat and calories, but high in nutrients, it is popular with dieters.

I’ve prepared the recipe posted below more than once, and found it to be very satisfying.


Bon appetit.

Incidentally, since it’s always good to close with a tune, I’ll leave you with one that you are very familiar with.

Three blind mice

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Impeach Wayne LaPierre !!

I’m a big fan of the National Rifle Association.

Seriously, I am.

To be totally accurate, though, I’d have to admit that I’m a big fan of what the NRA USED to be.

The National Rifle Association has a long and storied history. The organization was originally founded in 1871 by a Union General named Ambrose Burnside. During the Civil War, he discovered that the Union Army needed roughly 1000 shots for every Confederate solider hit. In his own words, he doubted that the soldiers under his command “could hit the broad side of a barn”.

Early on, the NRA provided firearms safety programs, and for many years, the NRA governed and advanced shooting sports in the United States. The NRA also issues recognition credentials to individuals who are trained by the Association to be instructors.

Unfortunately, the NRA first started to “come off the rails” in 1980, due to the actions of then-President Jimmy Carter. Although well-intentioned, President Carter appointed Abner Mikva, a strong proponent of gun control, to a Federal judgeship. In addition, Carter also openly supported the Alaska Lands Bill, which closed off 40,000,000 acres of Alaska to hunting. That’s roughly 10% of the total land area of Alaska, and it’s also roughly the same area as the State of Kentucky.

In response to Carter’s actions, the NRA (for the first time in its history) endorsed a political candidate, Three days before the 1980 election the NRA endorsed Ronald Reagan (who had received the California Rifle and Pistol Association’s Outstanding Public Service) over Carter. Although the NRA probably didn’t have a huge influence on this election, the fact remains that the main character in “Bedtime for Bonzo” carried 44 states, and the incumbent President only carried 6, plus the District of Columbia.

Since 1980, the organization has become more politically active. Its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is now considered to be the most powerful lobbying organization in the United States. The chief lobbyist for the NRA is Chris Cox, who has held his position since 2002.

Over time, the NRA has become increasingly powerful politically. In 1994, the organization claimed to have defeated 19 of the 24 members of its ”hit list”.

In 2004, the NRA lobbied (successfully) against the renewal of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which ultimately made it possible for deranged individuals like Jared Lee Loughner and James Eagan Holmes to obtain AR-15 rifles and high capacity ammo clips.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, the NRA spent $10,000,000 trying to prevent Barack Obama from being elected.

In 2011, the organization refused an offer to discuss gun control with President Obama.

In addition to being more powerful politically, the organization has also become increasingly radical. Although 8 U.S. Presidents have been NRA members, both Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush resigned their membership because of their disgust with the direction the organization was taking.

At the NRA national convention in St. Louis this year, it was apparent that Wayne LaPierre had simply “lost his marbles”. A mere three days after the Colorado tragedy, he proved his mental instability again in his latest fundraising letter to NRA members.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh has gone even further, stating that Operation Fast and Furious was a plot by the government to create mayhem so that the government could take away everyone’s guns. In view of the fact that there are 300,000,000 firearms (rifles, handguns, and shotguns) registered with the ATF in this country, as well as 240,000 machine guns, it would be statistically impossible to confiscate all of them, but there ARE people who are going to believe Mr. Limbaugh.

Most despicable of all, though, is the attitude held by a few extremists that the theater shootings in Colorado were actually a government plot to give Barack Obama cover so that he could sign the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty.

In case you’re wondering, the government was also responsible for the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the shootings at Virginia Tech, Jared Lee Loughner, and Jim (“here, have some Kool-aid” ) Jones.

The NRA is governed by a large (usually 76 members) board of directors. A few of those directors are owners of companies that manufacture firearms and ammunition. When Charlton Heston was the President of the organization, he became the “official voice” of the NRA. Since that time, though, Wayne LaPierre (who has been the Chief Executive officer since 1991) has taken over the role of being the chief spokesman for the organization, even though the organization DOES have a President, the little-known David Keene.

As Chief Executive Officer, Wayne LaPierre receives an annual salary of $970,000, which is pretty good money for a man who runs an organization that is officially a non-profit. However, in comparison to the $2,6 million paid to Zarin Mehta (chief executive of the New York Philharmonic, which is officially a non-profit organization) it seems a little, well, puny.

In spite that lofty salary, though, the NRA is in no danger of growing broke. In 2012, the NRA had an income of $227.8 million. Slightly under half of that income ($100.5 million) came from membership dues. The balance came from fundraising, sales, advertising and royalties. More than 50 firearms related companies have donated $14.8 million to the organization since 2005, when the NRA created its “Ring of Freedom” in order to solicit donations from companies, foundations, and individuals (like David and Charles Koch).

In addition to helping to elect officials that were friendly to its cause, the NRA has also had a hand in getting increasingly more lenient laws written by its legislative partner, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

In Arizona, the result of that partnership meant that as of 2010, gun owners were no longer required to have training or permits in order to carry concealed weapons. As a result, it is now easier in the Grand Canyon state to get permission to carry a concealed weapon than it is to obtain a drivers license.

Florida was the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law, and other states have followed. One result of Florida’s law is that both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman are now internationally known, and the incident hasn’t done anything to help bring opposing sides of the argument together. In fact, Mark O’Mara (Zimmerman’s defense lawyer) is scheduled to speak at a Gun Rights conference in Orlando (home of Disney World) in September of this year.

If you'd like to show respect for both Trayvon Martin AND George Zimmerman, you can buy a hooded concealed weapon sweatshirt directly from the NRA for only $59.95.

In May of this year, the Tampa City Council voted to ban air rifles, air pistols, paintball rifles, blasting caps, switch blades, hatchets, axes, slingshots, black jacks, metal knuckles, nunchakus, mace, iron buckles, ax handles, chains, crowbars, hammers, shovels, or any club or bludgeon from the area around the Republican National Convention. They also wanted to ban REAL guns, but state law would have imposed a $500,000 fine if they tried to do so. In addition, council members can be fined $5000 each, and removed from office.

As a result, if you feel the need to bring your AR-15 to the convention for personal protection, it’s perfectly legal.

I’ve never owned a gun, nor have I ever belonged to the NRA, but I have no problem with anyone using guns for hunting, sport shooting, or protection inside their own home.

As a result, I feel that the ONLY place that guns should be allowed are (1) in your home (2) at a shooting range (3) hunting in designated areas or (4) being transported to those places.

In view of the fact that FORTY NINE states have concealed weapon laws that permit you to carry a gun to a lot more places than that, my vision of the role of guns in our society isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

The only state that does NOT have a concealed weapons law is Illinois, but that fact hasn’t diminished the number of shootings in Chicago, which seem to occur on almost a daily basis.

The vast majority of NRA members favor reasonable gun control laws, which leads to an obvious conclusion - the current leadership has to go.

Just as the leadership of the Republican Part has been taken hostage by a handful of extremists, the once noble NRA is now under the control of a small number of people who need to get put out to pasture.

There are 2 ways to do that:

(1) the current membership of the NRA needs to take some type of action to rid their organization of Wayne LaPierre and others like him and

(2) all of us that vote can make sure that NONE of the candidates supported by the NRA get elected to office.

(editors note: as evidence that the tide is turning, the NRA spent nearly $11 million in the November general election - and got less than a 1 percent recent on its investment)

If we can do those things, we’ll give Wayne LaPierre exactly what he needs.

Both barrels.