Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Harry and Mr. Feathers would get startled by a random noise and at times go for a fly around the two rooms, landing on the tops of door and window trim and picking at the wallpaper before being ushered back to the perch on top of their cage. A few times one of the cockatiels would miss their mark and land on the floor or some furniture. This would go unnoticed for the most part by the sleeping beagles. There were rare times when Daisy or Baxter took notice and lunged at the feathered intruders but the beagles invariably proved to be too slow and were met with a swift spank and scolding.
That all changed two weeks ago when Daisy caught Mr. Feathers with a glancing bite. Mr. Feathers had a small wound on his back and it’s impossible to say if the bite or the shock killed him but he was gone in a few minutes. I was at work and Kathy called me to let me know. Daisy knew she had done something unspeakably wrong and was shivering uncontrollably after the events. Mr. Feathers hadn't been looking too well for a long time. His feathers in the back of his head had fallen out and he was looking pretty raggedy. Whatever was bothering him couldn't have been environmental since Harry looked great. It's entirely possible that Mr. Feathers was already sick and that kept him from eluding Daisy when she snapped at him.
When you have pets you are going to outlive most of them but this was our first sudden death since Tippy the cat grabbed Matt’s pet mouse Brownie out of his hand and shook it around like a cat toy almost a decade ago. It is a gruesome reminder of the fierce nature of normally docile and pampered creatures.
Harry and Mr. Feathers were given to us seven years ago when a co-worker’s child had a child and the noisy nature of the cockatiels kept waking the baby up. I like watching birds from a distance and enjoy watching sparrows flocking around a bird feeder or seeing the ducks and geese at the pond in the nearby cemetery but Kathy and I are no strangers to house birds. A few years ago during a dog walk Kathy and I came upon an little green parrot laying on the ground. He had an injured wing and couldn't fly. We took him home and named him Lucky because he was lucky a cat didn't find him before we did. We got Lucky to a vet who set his broken wing and we put him in a spare cage in the basement to rest up. Lucky was almost all healed when his owners (who he had flown away from) called us. They had been canvassing the local vets and the one we brought Lucky to gave them our phone number. The people seemed nice enough and paid the vet bill and took Lucky home with them where he resumed his previous life and name (which I forget)
Kathy and I had parakeets for a number of years ever since Kathy bought a pair in New Jersey to celebrate her first paycheck at a new job. We named those two Peep and Scratch. They were pleasant enough birds and Peep was my favorite non-beagle pet more for her attitude than any other qualities. Kathy was visiting her relatives and I came home from work to find that our cat Biscuit had knocked over the bird cage even though the cage was secured to a bookshelf. There was birdseed and birdcage pieces all over the floor but no birds. I was ready to pull the parakeets out of Biscuit via her throat when I saw the birds huddled on a door sill well out of reach of the cat.
I got the birds situated back in their cage and noticed that Peep was standing on one leg like a stork. I looked further and saw that her leg looked like it was broken. I locked the cat in the bathroom and took Peep to an all-night animal clinic where they pulled all the feathers off her leg and set her leg with a tiny splint. I took Peep home and she never let the fact that she had a broken leg stop her. She used her one good leg and her beak to pull herself wherever she needed to go. Years later we had another parakeet that broke its leg but instead of clawing its way around like Peep this parakeet laid on the bottom of the cage and died within two days. Peep went on to live many more years and out lived Scratch and two of the other three companions we got for her. She even started laying eggs but none of them ever hatched. Peep the parakeet showed me that if you want something you have to work for it – she wanted to live and a broken leg wasn’t going to stop her from doing whatever she needed to do to survive.
When Scratch died it seemed natural to get Peep a friend to hang out with but as I mentioned her companions were short-lived. When Peep passed away we had a green parakeet named Chip and we naturally got him a friend to hang out with. This all worked out well and good except Chip’s new friend was the aggressive sort and I think he killed Chip and certainly maimed his next friend (the aforementioned parakeet with the broken leg). The last parakeet lived out his days in his cage in solitary confinement fashion and was not replaced until we were given these two cockatiels and now one of them is gone and we face the same dilemma over whether to get him a friend to hang around with.
The cockatiels were never quiet and Harry was exceptionally noisy in the weeks since Mr. Feathers passing. I don’t know if he’s waiting for his friend to respond of if he’s calling for company or maybe he is just as noisy as he always been and I’m projecting some sort of grief stricken response that I’d expect an animal to have. The cockatiels have never had eggs and I don’t even know if they were the same sex or not. Most people assume birds mate for life and I wonder if birds think humans mate for life.
When my beagle Queenie passed away in 2010 at the age of 16 her 14 year old son Tuffy died three weeks later and I’ll always think it was because he missed his mom. If I thought Harry was going to die of loneliness I’d get him another cockatiel right away but that would be the only reason. I told Kathy that is we got a young cockatiel to be a friend for Harry we were probably committing ourselves to having cockatiels for the rest of our lives since once Harry passed away we would have to get his companion a companion, etc., etc. etc….
In the internet age there is plenty of information to be found about what happens to a cockatiel when his friend dies. While there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on whether cockatiels mate for life, they are very social birds who can become very fond of their cage-mates. It also seems that introducing a new cockatiel is an arduous process involving a 30 to 90 day quarantine, and then separate playtime, then common playtime, and even then the two birds may decide they don’t like each other and you have two cages and no friend for the cockatiel.
Luckily there was another alternative – the cockatiel might bond close to a person instead of having to bond to another bird. This seems like the best of all worlds and since it would take months to even see if Harry would get along with another cockatiel that’s the route we decided to take. And it seems to have worked a little bit. Harry has taken an interest in current events and is perching on Kathy’s shoulder when she reads the paper and I think he’s taken an interest in chess since he has been looking at the ‘Chess Explained’ YouTube videos I’ve taken a liking to. Harry has quieted down considerably since the Mr. Feathers died but having said all that Kathy is starting to feel sorry for our sole cockatiel and I have the feeling a new cockatiel is in our and Harry’s future.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
A dynasty is defined by many dictionaries including FreeDictionary.com as ‘A family or group that maintains power for several generations’. In sports I would see the team is the family or group and the generations are the different groups of players that win the championships. A core group of players winning a series of championships cannot be a dynasty because the championships don’t span generations – it is a great group of players surrounded by a capable supporting cast. My definition of a dynasty is a team that wins a string of championships with no single player involved in ALL the championships but with enough overlapping players that there isn’t a complete turnover of personnel from one championship to the next one.
By my definition there have been few dynasties in professional sports. The Yankees won 20 championships between the 40 year span from 1923 to 1962, never going more than three years without a championship. The Yankees turned their core players over multiple times during that span but there was plenty of overlap. The Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig era transitioned to the Gehrig/Joe DiMaggio era which in turn transitioned to the Dimaggio/Bill Dickey/Tommy Henrich years and when Dimaggio neared the end of his playing career Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were established stars with Mickey Mantle on the horizon. As a generation of stars faded out another generation had been groomed and ready to take their place. The Boston Red Sox have come close to a dynasty with their three championships during the period of 2004-2013 but there was one player (David Ortiz) who was on all three teams so I am happy to deny the filthy Red Sox a place on my dynasty list. The 1955-1965 Los Angeles Dodgers won four championships and are a team that I would consider a dynasty. The only player on all four World Series was the Hall of Fame left hander Sandy Koufax but Koufax was only on the 1955 team because the rules of the time dictated that players that received large signing bonuses had to stay on the major league team for two years ('the bonus baby rule'). Koufax played in 12 games for the 1955 Dodgers and did not appear in the World Series. In case you’re interested the San Francisco Giants have had eight players on their three championship teams so I can hardly see how they can be a dynasty.
In the hockey world the Montreal Canadiens had a dynasty from 1953 to 1979, winning 14 Stanley Cups in that 27 year span. Much like the Yankees, the Canadiens had a rotation of superstars with each generation slowly giving way to the next group. Jean Béliveau and Maurice Richard led the way in the 1950’s, Béliveau and Yvan Cournoyer in the 60’s, and Cournoyer and Guy Lafluer in the 1970s. There have been other great hockey teams like the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders of the 1980s and the Detroit Red Wings of the 1990’s and 2000’s but they weren’t able to continue the championship tradition after their core players retired or left the team. There have been a number of NFL teams that won multiple Super Bowl Championships in a short time. The 1960’s Green Bay Packers won five championships in seven years, the 1970’s Steelers four Super Bowl championships in six years, the 1990’s Dallas Cowboys and 2000’s New England Patriots three in four years. These are all great teams and all had the same core group of players and maybe most importantly the same quarterback. The Washington Redskins won three Super Bowls from 1982-1991 with three different quarterbacks but they did have three players (Hall of Famers Russ Grimm and Art Monk and perennial All-Pro Joe Jacoby) on their championship teams and three Super Bowls in 10 years hardly seems dynastic. To my mind the only NFL dynasty was the San Francisco 49er’s run of five Super Bowls from 1981 to 1995. The entire team turned over with Joe Montana quarterbacking the first four title teams and Steve Young the last one after serving as backup on the previous two. Jerry Rice(The greatest receiver of all time) was present for the last three Super Bowls but the 49ers managed to win Super Bowls without him and even without the great Montana. This to me is the very definition of a dynasty when no one player or core group of players can be pointed to as the key to a team’s run of championships.
The NBA has had one dynasty – the 1956-1976 Boston Celtics which won 13 championships in the 20 year span. The team’s legendary run of 11 championships in 13 years were all anchored by center Bill Russell who coached the last two championship teams as well as starred. When Russell retired in 1970 the team missed the playoffs the next two seasons but obtained Dave Cowens in the draft and were back winning the division by 1972 and were the 1974 and 1976 champions. The players that bridged the 1969 and 1974 teams were Hall of Famer John Havlicek and regulars Don Chaney and Don Nelson. I don't count the Celtics three championships from 1981 to 1986 as part of the dynasty because there are no players that bridge the 1976 and 1981 teams. Without the two post-Russell championships, I wouldn’t consider the Celtic run a dynasty – they would be like the Chicago Bulls run of six titles in eight years during the 1990s which was anchored Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The Bulls were a great team but when Jordan and Pippen left the winning left also.
I’ve talked to a few people about my idea of what a sports dynasty is and the consensus is that I’m old fashioned and that makes sense since I didn’t talk to anyone older than me. Someone told me that my idea of a dynasty is old-fashioned because by my definition there hasn’t been a dynasty in 20 years. That’s true but to my mind a dynasty should be a rare occurrence. If the Yankees had been able to properly rebuild to championship contender status during the end of the Jeter/Rivera era they could have created a new dynasty go along with the one they had over 50 years ago but that chance has been squandered and that team will be remembered like the current Giants – a great team that had a great run.
Sports leagues have consistently changed the rules to prevent teams from stockpiling talent or even keep the talent they develop. Revenue sharing and salary caps either prevent teams from signing multiple superstars or make it cost-prohibitive to do so. Baseball teams can’t trade for other teams draft picks to stockpile young players and the NBA prohibits teams from trading their top draft pick in consecutive years. This doesn’t just hurt big market teams – last year’s NFL champion Seattle Seahawks built a deep roster of talented young but had to let many of them go in the off season because they couldn’t afford to give them all raises and stay under the salary cap. Even if the current American League champion Kansas City Royals had the money to pay their talented group of players once they become eligible for free agency they wouldn't be able to afford the accompanying luxury tax. A modern day dynasty can’t be built by outspending the competition or being able to identify and develop talented players. Only by being consistently better than the competition in the areas of drafting and player development and convincing players to take less money than they could get elsewhere can a dynasty be created in the current sports climate. The San Francisco Giants have shown they are an intelligent organization and they may well be able to replenish their core and keep winning championships and if so I’ll be the first to agree that they have become a dynasty but for now I’m keeping my eye on another potential dynasty in San Antonio where the NBA’s Spurs have won five championships in the 15 year span from 1999 to last year. Tim Duncan is the only player to have been on all the Spurs championship teams and is nearing the end of his career. The Spurs have proven they are well ahead of the curve. They were one of the first teams to successfully draft and develop European players. Last year none of their players averaged more than 30 minutes a game and were fresh for the playoffs and now other teams are following suit by managing minutes and giving key players games off to not only rest their players but to give their backup players a chance to develop and be ready to contribute if called upon. When Duncan is gone, the Spurs will still have top players like all-star point guard Tony Parker and last year’s finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and with the NBA salary cap poised to increase significantly due to the massive TV contract the league just signed the Spurs may be able to attract one or two top flight free agents and become the next sports dynasty.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
It's time to once again get up to date on the happenings of the planet's most prolific beagle bloggers - Baxter and Daisy.
Premium dog food out of a can!! YUM!!
Biting Grandma Mary was nothing compared to the trouble I got into over the summer when I bit Kathy. That’s right! We were sitting on either side of Kathy and we got into a fight and when Kathy tried to break us up you bit her chest. I didn’t mean to. I was trying to bite you and I missed. Kathy was mad at me for a long time but I was extra nice to her and she forgave me. Now when we even start to get into a fight she spanks us both. We don’t like getting spanked so we try not to get into too many fights any more.
Last week Mr. Feathers (one of our cockatiels) started flying around and when he landed near you, you snapped at him and bit him and he died. He startled me. I felt really bad about that because I like the cockatiels. At least we still have Harry the cockatiel. For now…I like the birds because we get to scrounge the bird food they knock on the ground. You better leave Harry alone, Daisy! It’s all Hank’s fault I bit Mr. Feathers. How can that be, Daisy? Hank wasn’t even home. Didn’t you read Hank’s last blog post? Two Sundays ago he went out to get us some chicken from the Pizza Ranch. I didn’t have to read it, Daisy. I was home. He called the Pizza Ranch and ordered SIXTEEN PIECES OF FRIED CHICKEN. YUM!! Then he left for almost an hour but when he came back he didn’t have any fried chicken for us. Well Baxter, it seems the Pizza Ranch was very late getting our fried chicken and Hank made a big fuss about wanting his money back. I’d make a big fuss too. This is fried chicken we’re talking about. Hank should have brought you there to bite them! I would have been happy to. But the Pizza Ranch people gave Hank his money back AND gave him the fried chicken. Then why didn’t we get any fried chicken? Because Hank told them to keep the fried chicken! You should have bitten Hank! That was our fried chicken too! That’s right Baxter. It wasn’t fair for him to call us his fried chicken consultants and then not consult us about whether or not to take the fried chicken. I think I had chicken on the brain when I snapped at Mr. Feathers.
The rising cost of beef sticks at Kum & Go(left) and Casey's is very stressful.
Last year they only cost a dollar for 2 beef sticks.
What if murdering beagles named Daisy becomes a new trend thanks to the 'John Wick' movie?
Thinking about Monica and Katie visiting us is very relaxing...
and filling when they bring beef sticks! YUM!!
All my worries melt away when we visit Lee in Traer!
I inspected his pumpkins and guarded his potato patch!
It's always fun to visit with Bill, Marilyn, Becky, Mary, and Abby!
Especially on our birthday when Becky gives us a present!
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Since that unfine dining experience, I hadn’t been to a Pizza Ranch until I went to the one in Jackson, Minnesota in August when I accompanied a group of chess players after we finished playing in the Jackson Open. It was late and the buffet was closed but we were hungry and it was the only restaurant in town still open after 8pm. Everyone else had a personal pizza but I was worried about falling asleep on the 4 hour drive home with a pizza in my gut so I ordered a side of garlic cheese bread instead. The garlic cheese bread was great – thick soft bread with a generous layer of gooey pizza cheese on top. It was so awesome that the next weekend I dragged Kathy to the Pizza Ranch in Marshalltown so she could have some of this great garlic cheese bread I discovered at the Pizza Ranch. Unfortunately, Marshalltown, Iowa is not the equal of Jackson, Minnesota when it comes to Pizza Ranch garlic cheese bread. Kathy’s garlic cheese bread was dry with a thin layer of burnt brown cheese on top and she thought I must have been so crazed with hunger in Jackson that anything I ate would have been the best food ever.
My birthday came and went and the Pizza Ranch coupons sat by my computer unused until 2 weeks ago when I decided to take Kathy out for dinner at the Pizza Ranch. We got there during the dinner hour. The place was packed and there were Pizza Ranch workers everywhere. We paid for the buffet and found a table. I got some fried chicken and Kathy had some pizza. The chicken was fresh and not greasy like it was every other time I’d eaten it. I had some mashed potatoes and they were also fresh. I got more chicken and some salad from the salad bar and enjoyed everything. Kathy had some salad and some more pizza. The staff was buzzing all over the restaurant picking up empty plates and offering hot fruit covered desert pizza to the customers without them having to get out of their chairs. We each had some ice cream from the soft-serve machine and it was so thick that we could hold the cones upside down and nothing would spill out.
It was a great dining experience and changed my mind about the Pizza Ranch 100%. I wrote a very complimentary review on Google+ about my experience. I spent the next week looking at my two remaining Pizza Ranch coupons. I thought quite a bit about getting the chicken. On Sunday I consulted my two fried chicken consultants who were unanimous in encouraging me to go ahead and order the chicken so at 4:15 I called the Pizza Ranch to find out how much eight pieces of chicken cost.
My fried chicken consultants nodded their heads so fast at the thought of getting 16 pieces of fried chicken I could hardly get a clear picture!
It was 4:20 so I watched some football for 15 minutes before heading the three miles south to the Pizza Ranch. I arrived at 4:40 and got in line behind a group of three couples that were getting the buffet. Finally it was my turn. I gave my name and the cashier said ‘Oh, you ordered the chicken.’ She said it would just be a few minutes and gave me a cup and said I could have a free soda while I was waiting.
I took a seat at a small table close to the cashier. The Pizza Ranch dining room was pretty full and there was a birthday party in the large privte room. Staff members were buzzing all over the restaurant bringing out fresh food from the kitchen and picking up empty plates and glasses. The buffet seemed to have an ample amount of chicken. There was an older lady at the table next to me holding a bag containing two takeout boxes. She didn’t look very happy. A staff member asked her what she was waiting for and she said ‘I’m still waiting for my chicken’. It was almost 4:50 and I suspected I might have a problem. The staff member said he would check on her chicken and I set the alarm on my amazing iPod to 5:05 and started doing chess puzzles from my Chessimo app. In a couple of minutes a staff member gave the old lady at the table next to me a box of chicken and she was on her way with a mutter and a grumble.
At 5:05 my alarm went off a full 45 minutes after I ordered my chicken over the phone and I was still sitting at this small table. I didn’t see any point in making a scene so I went to the counter, waited behind some people paying for the buffet, and when it was my turn I told the cashier that I was very sorry but I had to go and I wanted my money back. The cashier offered to check on my chicken. I said I was very sorry but I needed to go and I wanted my money back. The cashier then said she had to ask the manager and disappeared into the kitchen.
After a few minutes the cashier and the manager both came out. The manager had two boxes of chicken. I was about to tell the manager that I wanted my money back but she went straight to the register, started counting money out, and said “I’m giving you the money back and you can have the chicken too.” I wasn’t mad at Pizza Ranch. I kind of felt sorry for them being so incompetent they couldn’t manage frying a couple of chickens and putting them in a box in less than 45 minutes. When I worked at the Roy Rogers fast food restaurant we had two chicken fryers with 16 piece baskets. The chickens took a couple of minutes to prep and 9 minutes to fry. No one ever waited a half hour for their chicken.
There was no reason not to have my chicken ready except someone forgot to make it and once I arrived at the restaurant there was no way I should have had to wait 25 minutes to get my chicken and even then it only made an appearance after I said I wanted my money back. I thanked the manager for giving me my money back but told her that she could keep her chicken. The cashier held up the chicken and waved it like I wave Daisy and Baxter’s beef sticks in front of them to get their attention and said “Are you sure you don’t want the chicken?”. I was pretty tempted to say a lot of things, but I just said “Keep the chicken." The manager rolled her eyes and gave me my money and I was out the door and home at 5:15, almost a full hour after I decided to order the chicken in the first place.
My fried chicken consultants were disappointed when I didn’t come home with the chicken and will probably be apoplectic when they discover that I not only could have had the chicken but I could have had it for free. I was pretty proud of myself for not blowing my top at the Pizza Ranch. If I had taken the free chicken it would have given them the impression that their customer service wasn’t important since they could just buy someone off with some free food whenever they dropped the ball. I like to think I saved at least a few future Pizza Ranch customers from waiting for their chicken over the next few weeks. And besides it would have taken me and my consultants a week to eat all that chicken and I’ll get another coupon next year.