Mr. Sensitive

November 30, 2010

Battle of the Bird-bits

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 09:57

The attack against the spiders’ shrub investments began yesterday at noon.  As planned, the battle was opened with a foray against the underside of the largest bush, the lynchpin of the entire network of fortifications.  A rapid but savage reduction of 10-15% in shrub volume produced the outcome I had hoped, a mad rush of reinforcements directed from west to east.  There appeared in the spiky bush alongside the Big One a profusion of spider-works that I had not seen before the battle began, and that I believe were hastily constructed in response to my initial incursion.  To complete the feint, I cut down the top of this second bush as well.  Then I stayed my advance in that quarter and wheeled around broadly to smash into the dark green bushes nearest the front porch.  It was there that I encountered the opossum spider I described yesterday.  That distraction notwithstanding, I reduced the three green bushes along the front of the house by 40% in fifteen minutes.  Neither the direction nor the speed of my assault had been expected and I found the Big One thinly supported along his northern ramparts.  I set into him with my full strength, relying chiefly on the hedge trimmer.  I pushed his perimeter back more than three feet and reduced his volume by 25% over the next 30 minutes, although the pace of the advance began to slacken as I was forced to insert the ladder ever deeper into the body of the bush and climb ever higher to continue the pursuit.  Thereafter I had to fall back and reassess the disposition of my lines of communication and supply.  As it happens, said lines were covered over with branches and smaller clippings, and I had to restore access to the electrical outlet and reserve tools by removing that debris.  This took more time than the first part of the battle itself had required, but I was aided significantly by my heavy, wheeled trash cans, the utility of which I had question only last week.  I was to the halfway point of the time I had allotted, as it was then 1:30.

From there, I decided to extend the front to the west.  Events were consuming more time than I had expected, but not as much time as I had provisioned, at least not yet.  I ripped through the three dark green bushes arrayed on the western side of the house as methodically as I had done in the east.  This time, however, I made ghoulish discoveries reminding me that the spiders are not the only creatures making extensive use of the cover the bushes provide.  At various points along the underbelly of the shrubbery structure I found the dismembered heads, wings, and feet of many birds.  These bird-bits are, of course, the parts that the cats don’t eat.  It was horrifying, yet edifying.  It is clear to me now that the slain mice and moles are brought to the front door and presented to us, yet the birds are hidden and consumed in the dark.  Are the cats bringing us the best, or keeping the best for themselves?  I had much to think about as I hauled the remnants of the western bushes to the curb.

With the entirety of the western fastness reduced, I had 40 minutes in which to finish off the Big One.  I went at him with the hedge trimmer again, but this time the bush hit back.  It managed to jam the trimmer and leave it a smoking wreck, thus depriving me of my most efficient weapon.  Thus I fell back on sword and machete.  With one in each hand, I laid into the Big One, quite effectively at first, but progressively less so.  In the end I found myself at the top of the ladder, braced dubiously against the side of the house, hacking away at the highest branches for well on ten minutes.  This was ugly, low-efficiency stuff, but that is what it often comes to when nothing but a comprehensive victory will suffice and the enemy has no intention of yielding.

The battle was won by the time I had to pick Reagan up at the bus stop, slightly more than three hours after it had begun.  I was left with an additional thirty minutes of cleanup once Reagan was retrieved, and that was, in the end, the part which seemed to me the most arduous.  I suspect that the 20 minute pause to get Reagan allowed the toll of the day’s exertions to begin to be felt, and adding on to it thereafter, even marginally, seemed like trying to haul water up out of a dry well.  Thus it is fortunate that I was able to capture all the territory I sought yesterday, because the well is dry and the weather is not.  At any rate, I believe my arboreal prowess has been re-established:

Now I have to do something about the siding on the front of the house.  The reduction of the bush bastions has revealed all sorts of green slime, perhaps a mold/moss combination that the spiders were weaponizing.  That will have to wait until tomorrow, depending on the rain and my elbows.

November 29, 2010

FSX Breaking News

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 17:25

I don’t usually do intra-week updates but today definitely warrants one.  In a down market (S&P -0.1%), the FSX annihilated its 2010 high, leaping 2.7% to a closing level of 1115.11.  The record fell thanks to two people, or possibly three.

Advancers

  • Lucas (LEI) +18%.  I’ve got no idea what to expect from Lucas.  He languishes, then he puts the hammer down.  Today’s move leaves him 285% higher year-to-date.  Maybe there’s been a sea-change this year, something I haven’t yet been able to assess.  Maybe Lucas has finally gotten taller than Jenny.  We’ll see sometime over the holidays.
  • Ruby (RBY) +37%.  Holy cow but I didn’t see this Zero-esque performance coming.  Ruby won Jenny’s latest blog contest yesterday and then it was off into the stratosphere.  I don’t know what the contest prize is, but this is a lot of pressure the market is putting on Jenny to deliver the goods.  I should keep an eye on my wallet.  There’s not any money in it, but it’s a cool wallet.  Well, except for the duct tape holding it together.  Never mind.  I don’t know what the prize is.
  • Jenny (LEN) -0.4%.  She didn’t impact the average directly, but the Jenny Effect was undeniable today.  She was the common element in my explanations for both advancers.  Maybe that’s because she’s sitting across from me right now, but maybe it’s not.

Bravo, Now Die

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 14:18

He tricked me:

Little bastard was faking.  That or he was resurrected by his spider-gods.  Unbelievable.  He was just hanging there, no movement, twisting in the wind, for two hours that I saw.  Well, I just gave it to him direct-like.  Let’s see you do it again, messiah.  It ain’t the Easter season.  You got the wrong holiday, bitch.

Warning Sign

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 13:21

Some things are beyond design and are simply gifts from War himself:

I found it there, in the corner between the porch and the house, hanging, dead.  There it was and there it shall remain, killed, I suspect, when I blasted the electrical outlet in that corner with wasp poison at Halloween.  Beautiful and terrible.

Determination

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 12:22

The mailman has come and gone.  I’m sending the first corps in.

Operation Beataround

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 11:46

Here we have the problem:

The entirety of the forward approach to the house is invested by shrubbery.  These are traditional instruments of circumvallation for the Yard Dominion and each of the ten bushes is heavily garrisoned by spiders during the summer.  You may recall that there were an additional two enemy fortifications to either side of the front steps; these were removed in furious action during the late spring before their garrisons could be brought up to strength.  For months thereafter I have waited for the onset of winter.  Fully manned, these bushes are capable of concealing spiders up until the precise moment of venomous disgorgement.  I know Black Widows to have been present on the outskirts of the fortifications, to say nothing of their shadowy interiors.  An attack during the summer would have been folly.

There are, as mentioned, ten bushes in total, four along the western wing and six to the east.  The reduction of this eastern fastness is the priority.

The westernmost bushes, dark green and nearest the house proper, are about five feet high; the far western bush is seven feet high; and then there is the light green monster at the central point of the line.  I will need fifteen feet of reach to get to the top of the enemy’s principal bastion.  I may have it, and I may not.

The bushes are laid out much like the fortified positions of Liège which faced the German Army of the Meuse in August 1914.  They are distinct and must be separately reduced; however, they present perilously overlapping fields of fire to an attacking force and thus cannot be accounted for in isolation.  My plan is to detach a corps and send it at the big one from underneath, that being the approach from which the first photo above was taken.  I should be able to take a big chunk out of it that way, but I realize that it will in no way be structurally compromised by this initial assault.  The key to the subsequent flow of battle is how the enemy reacts.  If he is convinced the main onslaught is coming from underneath, he will throw in his reserves accordingly.  I can then weaken my forces in that sector, drawing off a division or more to commit to my real objective, the northern approaches themselves.  If I can induce panic in the enemy by threatening his most important position directly, he will concentrate his forces and I can execute a classic double envelopment.  Fingers crossed.  If that fails it could be a grueling afternoon.

Once I’m finished we can put up Christmas lights and candy canes along the walk, and Jenny will get off my back.

 

November 27, 2010

Sisters

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 18:24

Reagan (doing some kind of word puzzle):  What’s a seven-letter word?

Me:  A seven-letter word for what?  There are lots of seven-letter words.  You can’t just say–

Jenny:  Compost.

Me:  What?

Jenny:  Compost is a seven-letter word.

Reagan:  Thanks.

Me:  [unnecessary]

1941 Wins

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 11:06

This is very serious business, what is happening here.  These are costumed super-heroes and they have had enough of all the Nazi chicanery.

But Hitler doesn’t get it, which was his problem all along, really, the not getting it.  At first glance, you think, oh, he’s recoiling, he must recognize his peril.  His eyes are wide, his brow is furrowed, perhaps with a mixture of astonishment and fear.  But no.  Look at his mouth.  That’s not a frightened mouth.  That is the mouth of bemusement.  He doesn’t know how to react.  He could squash the super-heroes—because he’s somehow a giant!—but then it would be over, and he’s not sure he wants this moment to end.  Perhaps he will consult with his Japanese ally in the foreground, the Yellow Claw.  Or Chinese, whatever.  Yellow.  The important thing the kids need to understand is the yellowness.  Giant Hitler and the Yellows.  That should be a band.

The things you could get away with in the Golden Age.  Anybody remember when Northstar came out in Alpha Flight #106 and it was so scandalous for the kiddies and their homophobic parents?  Look at the Hitler-fighting action above!  It is beyond comprehension how fantastic Daredevil #1 is.  In contrast, I grew up with this:

Northstar as you’ve never known him: really ugly.

My generation sucks, and now you know why.  It’s because this drawing is terrible.  My ability to feel genuine emotion was damaged by this cover.  Is Northstar angry?  Is he cheering on the Maple Leafs?  Is someone applying a belt sander to his legs?  Does he have legs?  I don’t know.  You would think it would suck to grow up in a world with Giant Hitlers, but you would be wrong.  1941 was hard; 1992 was suck.

November 26, 2010

FSX Friday Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 15:18

We had a 1:oo close today and so I can get this update out a little early.  I may take my time, though, because writing is the only respite I’m allowed amidst the chittering onslaught that is a well-rested Reagan.  The market continues to be unsure of itself, with strong company results offset by worrisome news from abroad.  The result is that most stocks are selling off, albeit gradually, while crowded trades like NFLX, AAPL, and AMZN are getting even more crowded.  Thus we find that the Dow and S&P were each about 1% lower on the week, but AMZN was up nearly 8%.  In contrast, the banks still stink, with JPM, BAC, and GS all down 4-5%.  On a short week like this one, the trades that have been working work harder and the ones that haven’t, don’t.  Meanwhile, the sovereign debt problem in Europe is playing out much like our banking crisis of 2008-2009, with Ireland playing the role of AIG.  As with AIG, the crux of the problem is not so much what happens to Ireland if its spreads blow out further, but what happens to all the banks and governments downstream who own Irish debt.  Expect this to get nasty as it becomes more and more apparent to Irish voters that they are being forced into austerity in order to effect a stealth bailout of continental banks.  Not that it matters especially for the U.S.  The Korean peninsula is a similar situation if viewed from our shores.  Like Europe, a disaster there would have effects on us.  However, the primary damage would be done to other global powers (Germany and France in the former case, Japan and China in the latter) and frankly, they should be the ones scrambling to contain that damage, not the U.S.  China doesn’t think we can tell them how to manage their currency or their trade policy?  Fine.  Then they can deal with the nutball in the sunglasses and pajamas without us.  We’ll have six-party talks on North Korea when they agree to six-party talks on the value of the yuan.

Unlike the broader market, the Family Stock Index was strong all week, with strength spreading from early leaders down through the rest of the index.  We finished at 1085.40 today, up 1.6% for the week and less than 1% shy of a new high.  Advancers led decliners 2-to-1, and the standouts were largely of the positive variety.

Advancers

  • Reagan (REGN) +17%.  Reagan did all of this Monday and Tuesday, and when I asked her for some insight on her meteoric assent, she said, and I quote, “I’m just joyful.”  She had just finished a nap at the time and that’s all it takes sometimes.  In addition, though, she’s really been warming up to the idea of having a little brother.  She’s started reading to Katie’s belly, something the doctors say the baby can hear and recognize, based on absolutely no facts they could possibly have.  But it makes Reagan feel good, and that’s what matters.
  • Zero (FRZ) +6.9% and Charlotte (BOOT) +4.7%.  This has been a rough year for Charlotte; Mom’s death hit her in a way my brothers and I can’t understand.  Not harder, necessarily, but differently.  Nevertheless, she and Zero did get married, and while that act shouldn’t change a healthy relationship, it is still a pretty neat thing to do, especially when you know it will last.  A strong, but not too jarring advance is what I wish for them, and the market delivered symbolically on my behalf.
  • LULU +5.9%.  Really starting to piss me off.  I would short the crap out of her if I could.

Decliners

  • Katie (CATY) -2.5%.  It really seems uncomfortable.  Even in a picture you can’t get the full sense of it–you have to be here for the huffing and grunting.
  • Icarus (ICA) -3.5% and Zondro (ZN) -3.7%.  I’m feeling a bit uneasy about large, sometimes excitable animals these days, considering what is about to happen here soon.  I’m feeling like such animals had best be under the exacting physical control of responsible people until their intentions toward tiny humans are established to my satisfaction.  I don’t look like I’m fast, and I’m not, but I’m not slow, either, and I am thorough.  3-4% is just a little natural hedging by the market.  Nothing to get too twitchy about, yet.

Name 11/26/10 Change
Charlotte $15.37 +0.69
Dustin $43.27 +0.23
Icarus $10.36 -0.38
Jenny $15.05 -0.52
Justin $2.33 +0.03
Katie $13.76 -0.36
Lee $1.98 +0.06
Lisa $5.79 +0.10
Lucas $1.97 +0.05
Lulu $53.59 +2.99
Marcus $13.06 -0.30
Mario T.E. $12.52 +0.11
Mario T.Y. ¥21,510 -490
Marisa $20.84 +0.15
Nicole B. $17.00 -0.02
Nicole L. $56.41 +0.66
Reagan $28.83 +4.16
Ruby $4.45 +0.26
Wilson $6.80 +0.07
Zero $3.08 +0.20
Zondro $4.74 -0.18

Shrubo-Schleswig War

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 10:20

The best state of affairs so far as the condition of the army is concerned is to be involved in a series of military engagements, no one of which is terribly long and no two of which are terribly far apart.  A protracted, intense war of attrition is demonstrably disastrous for an army and the population supporting it.  The First World War is an excellent example of such a conflict and the political and social convulsions that invariably follow.  As the United States inserted itself into that war near the end and only at the point when tanks had restored some possibility of manoeuvre to the front, its most relevant experience came 50 years later in Vietnam.  While the dangers of overuse are clear, less obvious and just as important are the hazards of underuse of the army.  After more than twenty years of constant warfare on the European continent, peace was restored with the final exile of Napoleon in 1815.  During and in the aftermath of the Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, many lessons (apt and inapt) were learned and much reform and reorganization of European armed forces was undertaken.  But for four decades after Waterloo the only major contests were between paper armies and military theories.  The experts knew (as they always do) which nations were the strongest, but it was not until the Crimean War that the experts could be proven wrong (as they always are).  Russia was clearly not the peerless power it had seemed during the Sixth Coalition, but France and Britain were more than a bit rusty as well.  And critically, as the 1860s began, no one could say for certain how the German states would measure up.  Prussia had effected great reform and industrialization of its military capabilities; Austria not so much.  In the 18th Century, Prussia had possessed the greatest army on the continent.  But Frederick the Great was no more, and his successors had been trampled by Napoleon’s Grande Armee.  What had Prussia, with its inherent martial culture, learned from the Napoleonic Wars and how successfully had those lessons been applied?  Not until the army was put to the test would it be possible to know.

Like General von Moltke, Chief of the Prussian General Staff from 1857, I have built an army based on my best current tactical thinking, yet I am under no illusions but that the experiences I have to draw upon are stale at best.  I have an electric hedge trimmer, pruning shears, and a machete that have seen service before, and I have added to those a powerful sword that should replace and surpass the functionality provided by my unwieldy axe.  The true test of my strength lies to the south at the pond.  But I want to test my army against a weaker foe before I so much as draw up a battle plan for that front.  As Prussia looked to Denmark in 1864, so I look to the shrubs in front of the house.  Moltke was able to test the army against the Danes in the Second Schleswig War, with the added bonus of fighting along side the Austrians and having the chance to size them up as well.  Then it was on to eliminating Austria from its central position among the disparate German states in 1866, and delivering the long-awaited beatdown of France in 1870.  These victories brought the Prussian king to the throne of a new Deutsches Reich in 1871, and it is my hope that the Empire I serve can be similarly expanded and fortified through the conquest of the yard in the coming year.  That work begins with the front shrubs, and the unruly one on the eastern end is going down first.

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