Monday, July 18, 2011

I Love Clouds

When we look at clouds most of us see much more than just water vapor or ice crystals. We see the fascinating and beautiful shapes and are enthralled as they shift, soar, fly and change form. I wonder, do other creatures see clouds the way we do? Or do they simply see them as part of the weather patterns that rule their lives? Certainly we are the only creatures who seem to be able to take something we can only see in our minds and put it into a form which can then be seen and interpreted by others. But are we the only ones who can look at some random pattern in the sky, or on a patch of tree bark, or tea leaves and see something more? Perhaps this is what truly sets us apart from the "lower" animals.

I do Tarot readings (though I have been taking a bit of a long break from them). Tarot cards have some meanings that are somewhat set by the artist. But for many Tarot readers, we look at the pictures with just a basic idea set in our minds (such as Cups relating to emotions) but we draw from our subconscious, and sometimes from beyond ourselves, to build on that and form a picture of what our client needs to know. Scrying is something else again. It is more related to seeing a jellyfish in the clouds ( than to looking at the images on a Tarot card. Scrying is usually done by looking at a surface or into a clear object and opening your mind to see beyond what is physically there. Yes, I do, in fact, own a crystal ball and I have successfully used it to learn about my spirit guides. But that's a whole other thing.

As artists, we see things differently, don't we? Other people might see a bottle laying in the sand and think nothing of it, an artist sees the irony and takes a photograph; ( Some people might stand on a balcony above a busy city street and just see hustle and bustle, but an artist sees color and light and shadow; ( I think most people certainly enjoy, or at least can appreciate art, regardless of the format. I personally work mostly with photographs (as is fairly obvious), and I am thankful and gratified when people enjoy the photographs I take. Nabeela21 and kvikken, whose photos I referenced, are artists in my eyes. As are many, many others on deviantArt ... and I am now severly drifting off topic. <sigh>

We as humans have an amazing capacity to IMAGINE. We are the only species on our planet who have developed the ability to share what we imagine through art. Other creatures certainly experience emotion - dogs immediately come to mind - a lovely creature who will love us in spite of ourselves. But only we can express our emotions, thoughts and imagination through art. Whether a sculpture, painting, sketch or photograph (or any other medium) art, and apparently immagination, are truly human.

This is why I love clouds ... they remind me of how wonderful imagination can be.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Well! I suppose since I've named my blog "Whiskey, Cheese and Crackers", it's about time that I actually posted something on that particular topic. (Oh, and that's "crackers" and in small baked crispy things you eat ... not ... well, you know.) So today we get to talk about, and maybe drink a little, whisky!!! Yaaaay whisky!!! Okay, those of you who look for this kind of thing have probably noticed a slight difference in the way I'm spelling "whisky" today, as opposed to the way I spelled it for the title of my blog. There is a reason for this; neither of them is a spelling error - rather, they are regional differences and, to a great extent, refer to two slightly different beverages. "Whiskey" is a more American spelling and generally refers to distilled spirits which are made in the U. S (and Ireland) - whereas "Whisky" generally refers to spirits distilled in Scotland and Canada. Now, you may be asking "whoopdie-fuckin'-do, Private Donut, why should I care how it's spelled???" Well, because you're an intelligent person (you must be if you're reading this) and it is proper to spell things correctly ... even when speaking. I mean, if you were talking to someone, you wouldn't go: "hey, I'm going two go over they're, you want too come to?" I mean, that's just wrong. So, when I created this blog, I was drinking Bourbon Whiskey, and so I used that particular spelling. But I think today, I'm going to talk about Scotch Whisky (by the way, in Scotland ... they just call it "whisky").
What makes Scotch Whisky different? Some folks would probably say "Bourbon, Scotch - they're all the same! It goes in my Coke, what the hell?" The same people would probably say "Kia, BMW, Maserati - they're all the same ...". Pfaugh! Philistines! Okay, in many respects Bourbon, Scotch, Canadian and Irish whiskey/whisky are quite similar in that they are alcoholic beverages distilled from a "mash", which is made from grain and water and has been allowed to ferment. But there are many, many things (some small, some big) that make a huge difference in the way the finished product tastes.

For starters, as the old commercials used to say, "it's the water ...". Okay, that was for beer, but a batch of whisky starts out in much the same way one starts a batch of beer. Whatever else a distillery uses to make their product, they all use water ... and a lot of it. And that water can make a huge difference in the taste of the whisky. For example, Maker's Mark Bourbon uses water from a lake which is fed from a limestone spring - Maker's Mark  has a sweet, mellow flavor. But then you have Lagavulin Malt Whisky from Islay Scotland - the water used has a much different taste and, along with the other ingredients and processes, results in a much stronger flavored whisky. So, yes, the water they start with (and hence the location of the distillery) can make a real difference in the end product.

Next comes the grains. Again, using the example of Maker's Mark Bourbon, in fact all Bourbon whiskeys, the main ingredient is corn. In order to be called "Bourbon" a whiskey has to start out with at least 51% corn. Maker's Mark Bourbon also uses wheat and malted barley. Single Malt Scotch Whisky, on the other hand, is made with only malted barley. This is another huge reason that Bourbon whiskey has a much different taste than Scotch whisky.

So what, you may ask, is "malted barley"? Good question - the harvested barley grains are soaked in water and allowed to germinate, after which they are heated and dried to stop the germination process. This produces sugars in the barley which will be used by the yeast to produce alcohol during fermentation. They are also heated again (or roasted) to develop the flavors more. Why is this important to know? Because the method used for heating the barley can make a big difference. In many cases nowadays, steam pipes or electric heat is used  to heat the barley ... in some distilleries, such as Lagavulin Malt Whisky, they use malt which has been dried using smoke from burning peat. This adds a very smokey flavor to the resulting whisky.

The grains are ground or crushed, added to the water and cooked to extract the sugars. After this it is cooled and yeast is added to start the fermentation. This is much the same as the process for making beer, of course for whisky they don't add hops! During fermentation the yeast converts sugars to alcohol. It's after this point that the real magic begins ... distillation and aging. Distilling is, of course the heating of the fermented mash to release the alcohol which is then condensed. Many whisky distilleries will distill their product two, or more times before casking and aging.

Aging in oak barrels is usually the last step before bottling in single malt whisky or small-batch Bourbons. Aging will mellow the flavor of the liquor quite a lot and will impart the final flavors to the whisky. In the case of American Bourbon whiskey, it is, by definition, aged in new, charred oak barrels. The use of "virgin" or new oak imparts a woodiness and sharpness to the flavor of the whiskey. Some single malt Scotch whiskies also use virgin oak, but more commonly use oak casks which have been previously used to age Bourbon or other whiskies, or, in some cases, have been used for aging sherry. These used casks don't impart quite as much woodiness to Scotch whisky aged in them, but it is still there. Also, the use of used oak will add some other flavor notes such as sweetness or fruitiness. Aging can take anywhere from 3 or 4 years (for many Bourbons) to 18 years for some Scotch whiskies.

So ... why do you need to know all of this? Well, I guess if you're just going to drink whatever the cheapest bottle is that you come across, then you don't need the information at all. If, on the other hand, you want to actually enjoy what you drink, then you probably should know a little bit about what you're drinking. The more you know about what produces the flavors, the more you'll enjoy the drink itself. As the old saying goes; "life is to short to drink bad whiskey". So, what is a good single malt Scotch whisky to start with, without breaking the bank? One surprise is The Glenlivet ... it is relatively inexpensive, has a mild flavor with just a hint of smokiness. Good single malt Scotch whiskies, As for Bourbon, actually the Maker's Mark Bourbon I mentioned earlier is very good, so is Knob Creek.

But, if you've stuck with me this far, I'll give you some very simple advice for buying good whisky (or just about any other distilled liquor); if it comes in a plastic bottle - stay the hell away from it! Really... anything in plastic is crap. And, in general terms, if it's got a screw-on lid, it might be okay, but it might not ... if it's in glass with a cork stopper ... it's probably worth trying. (Two exceptions to the cork rule are The Glenlivet and Maker's Mark ... but mostly the rule works.)

Thanks for reading. Enjoy a dram of whisky with a splash of water ... see you next time. Slàinte!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pet Poisoning Prevention Week!

March 20 through March 26 is National Poison Prevention Week. (Yeah, I know I said "pet ..." above, but I guess it applies to people too.) The Animal Poison Control Help Center has a very good page about National Poison Prevention Week and keeping our pets safe from common household chemicals.

What I didn't know is that National Poison Prevention Week has apparently been going on for over 46 years! This is kind of a shock to me ... not that it's been going on for that long, but I can't recall that I've ever heard about it! I can remember poison awareness things in school (along with atomic attack drills where they would have us all go outside - even back then that didn't make any sense), but I don't think there was any emphasis on a particular week. But now that I know about it ... I guess I should observe it. That being said, I promise to not poison any of the neighbors during this week! (Naww ... just kidding - I don't usually go around poisoning people anyway.)

But, I will say that accidental poisoning of a pet can be a very serious issue for a pet owner. I mean we all know that, for the most part, our pets will die at some time. This is something every pet owner must face ... it's not a pleasant thing to contemplate for certain, but it is, after all, the natural progression of things. But having a pet die from old age or even disease is not the same as having it die because we left an antifreeze spill in the driveway. It is quite traumatic to the owners to lose a pet to an accidental poisoning, usually more so than losing them to natural causes.

Many years ago my wife and I had moved from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California. We had a pet budgerigar which we had gotten as our first pet for our first anniversary. She was a lovely pale blue with yellow on her head. We were used to letting our little feathered child out of her cage when we were around the house so she could enjoy being with us and stretch her wings a bit. What we didn't know was that the apartment we were moving in to had been treated for insects by spraying an insecticide along the baseboards before we moved in. It was the second night we were there that we discovered it. She was dead in minutes. That was over 30 years ago, but it still causes a tinge of sadness.

I think most pet owners are aware of the dangers of antifreeze poisoning. But it is something to keep in mind all the same. A few tablespoons of antifreeze can kill a medium-sized dog within a very few days. A couple of teaspoons for a cat. As some of you know, one of my best friends is a veterinarian. Almost every single time a client has brought in a pet which has ingested antifreeze, he has not been able to save them. A quick search of the Internet for "antifreeze poisoning" will find you hundreds of articles, all of which say the same thing; after your pet ingests antifreeze, your vet must start treatment within the first few hours.

Many other things common around the house can be very hazardous to pets. Things that we may not even think about. "" has a pretty good list of common hazards for dogs. Most of us probably know that chocolate can be dangerous to your dog's health. But did you know that other common foods such as raisins or onions can be harmful to your furry friends? These, and several other human-food toxins, are also covered at the Pet Poison Control Center. Watch your houseplants and your garden too! There are several plants and flowers that can make your dog or cat quite ill.

The bottom line is that we love our pets. For many of us (myself included) they are like our children. We want them to be happy and healthy and safe. We know they age much faster than us and we accept that. But losing one to an accidental poisoning is a very hard thing. So please watch them as much as possible ...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pi Day! (With a more serious note)

Today is Pi Day!!!! Yaaaaayyy! Of course I am talking about 3.14! Okay ... you still don't get it ... Pi, π, the mathematical expression ... Wikipedia says: (

(sometimes written pi) is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any Euclidean plane circle's circumference to its diameter; this is the same value as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. It is approximately equal to 3.14159265 in the usual decimal notation. Many formulae from mathematics, science, and engineering involve π, which makes it one of the most important mathematical constants."
Okay, yes I know that "Pi Day" is rather geeky, but it's interesting as well. If one reads further down the wiki article, one can read the history of Pi;

"The earliest known textually evidenced approximations date from around 1900 BC; they are 256/81 (Egypt) and 25/8 (Babylonia), both within 1% of the true value.[9] The Indian text Shatapatha Brahmana gives π as 339/108 ≈ 3.139. It has been suggested that passages in the 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2 discussing a ceremonial pool in the temple of King Solomon with a diameter of ten cubits and a circumference of thirty cubits show that the writers considered pi to have had an approximate value of three, which various authors have tried to explain away through various suggestions such as a hexagonal pool or an outward curving rim."
"So what?" You may well ask! Well, Pi day (occurring every March 14th, of course) is an excellent excuse to eat pie! I personally enjoy a good Key Lime pie, but the Marie Calendar's "Razzleberry" pie (available in your grocer's freezer section) is also quite good and much easier than making one from scratch. By the way, the making of pie is definitely not as "easy as pie" (which refers to the pleasurable experience of eating a piece of pie, rather than making one). I've helped make home-made pies, not really easy when you do them right. But enjoying a pie is a piece of cake. So! Have a piece of pie on Pi day! By the way, an 8-inch pie is about 25.13 inches in diameter (C=πxD), and covers an area of about 50.27 square inches (A=πxR2) (that's supposed to be "R squared").
On a more serious note, probably all of us have been following the disaster in Japan. I know our thoughts and prayers go out to the hundreds of thousands of people involved. I pray the survivors will be aided and those who are still in need of aid will receive it soon. It is at times like these that we realize just how vulnerable all of us are to such natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods, blizzards and wildfires have always been with us. But we are now able to send aid to the victims of these disasters more quickly than we have ever been able to before. But it still takes money to send aid. Even Japan, who has had one of the stronger economies of the world, will still need assistance. Please help by donating to your preferred relief agencies ... I've always liked the Red Cross since they go world wide to help when and where they're needed.

The Red Cross website makes it easy to donate, click on the "donate now" link, select a specific issue to help with (such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami, or help American Military and their families, your local chapter or several other specifics), or select "where the need is greatest". The Red Cross is frequently the first aid organization on the scene of a disaster. Or, if you'd like to find another charity to give to, but you're not sure which ones are on the "up and up", check Charity Navigator, this is a great web resource for finding legitimate charities. And don't forget to brush up on your charity fraud awareness a the Federal Trade Commission's web site on that subject.

I've also done a little bit to help out Japan's economy ... I've purchased the New Pokémon games! Gotta catch 'em all!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting Old

... I don't recommend it!

Okay, I know the alternative is not necessarily one that most of us want to contemplate for any length of time. But the snow storm we had a few days ago really highlighted the problem of getting old. The thing is, as the old saying goes, "I ain't no spring chicken anymore". I'm a bit over the half-century mark now and I am definitely starting to feel it.

Last Saturday, the 19th of February, it started snowing a bit, then turned to rain. The rain decided to turn back to snow in the evening. By about 8:00 that night I had 6 to 8 inches of snow in the driveway and decided to get ride of the wet, heavy snow before it built up even more and pulled out the snow-blower. No big deal ... it was the following day that killed me.

Sunday it was snowing so hard at times you couldn't see across the street! Fortunately, it started letting up in the afternoon - AND the snow plow had already cleared the street, so they wouldn't come by and cover my driveway again. So, out with the snow-blower again, clear the driveway, the front walk and one of my neighbor's driveway. Then I cleared the snow off the roof. I was completely done in at that point. Next morning I went out and helped another neighbor's with his driveway, then cleared off my wood pellets (for a pellet stove) ... and I was done in again! I was bathed in sweat and went in to collapse with a big glass of water. (Shocking - not beer or whiskey, eh?)

What has all of this got to do with "getting old"? The thing is, when I was in high school, I was in fairly good shape - a bit overweight, but strong and actually had a lot of stamina. After that I joined the Navy - at the end of boot camp I had lost the extra pounds and could complete the obstacle course (no time records here, but I could get all the way through it), I could run a mile without keeling over, and walk (march) a couple of miles with ease and I could bench-press 100 lbs or more. Now for most of the time I was in the Navy, and for quite a few years afterward, I stayed in pretty good shape. But then I hit that dreaded half-century mark! Pfui!

Okay, yeah, I've let myself go a little bit. Packed on some extra pounds and haven't kept up with exercising. But dang it, I used to be able to just take off and walk for a couple of hours. Now my knee starts to hurt after about 15 to 20 minutes. And oi! My aching back! So, now I've decided that I have got to lose the extra weight ... well, I know how to do that. But I also have to start getting back into better shape. That means I've got to be able to walk more than 20 yards without running out of breath. That means I've got to be able to lift and carry more than 40 lbs (the weight of the bags of wood pellets).

The hard part of this is that my body doesn't build new tissues quite as quickly as it used to. When a person starts trying to "get in shape" the way I need to do, part of the process is breaking down old, flabby, weak muscle tissue - then building newer, stronger muscles. That is the part that has me worried - building the new muscles. Well, that and it just seems to be ever so much easier to hurt myself these days.

Well, once I start, I have to keep at it - that's for sure. There is one thing that will be driving me. I have to get strong enough to once again kick Kennie's butt. Most of you know him, he's a cop ... and he's been working out. Oh, I can still fight dirty, but I don't want to really hurt him ... much. So, yeah, I'm actually starting this - no more cookies, cake, candy, ice cream, etc ... I'm starting fresh! Go me!

We'll see how it goes ...

Newly discovered on-line comic:
A spoof, of sorts, on many superhero comics - mainly one web-slinger in particular. The art is excellent and the writing and story telling will definitely hold you. A great blend of humor and action.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Light-hearted Start

Hi Everyone! Welcome to Whiskey, Cheese and Crackers! This is a place to sit down, have a glass of a fine single-malt Scotch Whiskey, a few snacks and talk. Maybe tell a few tall tales, discuss the finer things in life, read a few short stories, laugh a little or cry a bit … or maybe even talk a little treason. In other words – talk about life in general. (And, it’s okay if you’d like Bourbon, or maybe a nice micro-brewery beer instead. Heck even tea or coffee if that’s your preference. If you don’t drink any of those, I’m sure we could dig up a Pepsi or two.) (And actually … I’m drinking a spot of Bourbon as I’m writing this.) And yes, I do invite, even encourage comments and input, though I do reserve the right to censor if you get too darned nasty.

 I used to blog on "MySpace" ( and may do so again. But I thought it might be fun to post to a REAL blog-type web site. One that doesn't have all the junk (ie, "apps", games, flash-blingy backgrounds, movie trailers, etc., etc., ad nauseum) that sites like MySpace and FaceBook seem to specialize in. Those sites seem to me to tend to overwhelm me a little bit. I felt this would more allow me to be just me.

And just who is “me”? Well, I suspect some of you visiting me might already know me (since I’m going to post links to this on those “other” sites I just mentioned … and maybe a few more). Anyway, right now I am a Police Dispatcher at a small-ish PD in Arizona. I do Tarot readings (though I’ve taken a bit of a break for a while). I’ve also been a Police Officer and worked private security. And I served my country in the U. S. Navy for 8 years during the end of the “cold war”. I’m also very interested in history in general and in genealogy (which is also history in it’s own way). And … although I’m in my 50’s, I love playing Pokémon games. I’m sure you’ll be learning more about me as we go along, but that’s good to get started with.

Anyway, I thought I'd start out with something kind of light-hearted (as mentioned in the title of this post). And I thought it might be fun to post what some of my favorite on-line comics are! Who knows, maybe you'll find them entertaining as well. I thought I’d narrow it down to the top dozen that I like the best – no easy task as there are quite a few more that I follow regularly. Several of these have been going quite some time and may take a bit of effort to get caught up on (if it’s a single story line), but others are still fairly new. Archives are available on all of them. So, here's my top 12 (in alphabetical order);

[Okay, I'm going to make this a nice "baker's dozen"! There was one more I just felt I had to add. Do enjoy them ...]
"The Abominable Charles Christopher" by Karl Kerschl (frequently abbreviated as “ACC”). Charles is big and scary-looking and soft on the inside. Karl's art is excellent and his story lines are very in-depth and very entertaining. ACC will make you laugh and will bring tears to your eyes. Going since June 2007, but very well worth a read through the archives. There are a few story lines and side-stories.
“Annyseed” by Stuart J. Brown. Anny was turned into a vampire 50 years ago at the unfortunate age of 15. She wants to return to school and try to be as “human” as she can. Stuart is also an excellent comic artist whose story telling ability really shines in “Annyseed”. Started in 2009, there are 79 pages in the archives, so fairly easy to get caught up (the first page has audio – so turn up your speakers).
“Bear Nuts” by Alison Acton. They may slightly resemble some cartoon/greeting card bears from the ‘80’s, but with characters like Prozac Bear, Gimp Bear, Lech Bear, Gay Bear, Evil Bear and Death Bear … they definitely don’t belong on a typical mother’s day card. The comic is up to more than 250 pages at this point, but they’re so friggin’ hilarious you’ll find yourself breezing through the archives.
“The Book of Biff” by Chris Hallbeck. Okay, I don’t know exactly what Biff is, but he is funny! There is no single story line, rather these are daily, single panel comics. Chris draws from his personal experiences and turns them into extreme funniness. Starting in 2006, the comic is over 1200 pages now – but Chris never fails to get at least a hearty chuckle from me.
“Cleopatra in Spaaaace!” by Mike Maihack. What if a teen-aged Cleopatra was actually taken from ancient Egypt and transported into the far future to deal with an invading alien species? Well, first she has to get through school … and complete her first mission! Starting in 2009, “Cleopatra in Spaaaace!” is now up to almost 60 pages. So the archives are a relatively easy read and well worth the time.
“Dominic Deegan – Oracle for Hire” by “Mookie”. Dominic Deegan is a seer, he can read the future and the past like a book. He still manages to find trouble along the way. This comic has been running since 2002 and has a huge archive. I have taken the time to go through all of it – and it was well worth it. Mookie’s stories are excellent, blending mystery, romance, action and humor.
“Eerie Cuties” by Gisèle Lagacé, Dave Zero 1, Shouri, Miguel Marques and T Campbell.  “Eerie Cuties is about Nina Delacroix, a 14 year old vampire who was born on Easter and thus, feeds on chocolate instead of blood. Her sister, 16 year old Layla Delacroix has no problem with blood. They and their friends attend Charybdis High School. Published since 2009, they have just reached page 289.
“Gunnerkrigg Court” by Tom Siddell. This comic follows a young girl named Antimony Carver as she begins attending school at Gunnerkrigg Court. We get to share her adventures and discoveries about herself and the strange world around her. Now at over 840 pages her story continues to entertain and enthrall and is always enjoyable.
"Humans and Other Myths" by Agos. His "about" page describes it best: "
The kingdom of Berth is inhabited by elves, dwarves, fauns, centaurs, fairies, gnomes and many other creatures. The one race that exists only in childrens tales and myths of old,  are humans.
Things change when a young human boy is found. Injured and not able to  speak the language,  no one knows where he is from or how he came to be here." Published (slightly sporadically) since 2009, "Humans" is developing into a fabulous story which is fun to read.
"Jackie Rose" by Josh Ulrich. I've actually been a fan of Josh's work from two previous works. But "Jackie Rose" is his best by far. We follow the exploits of Jackie Rose who is a young adventurer. The stories take place in the late '40's and definitely involve some strange and interesting characters and locations. Running for about 1 year so far, it won't take you too long to get caught up on the story - the archives are definitely worth perusing.
“Sandra and Woo” by Powree and Oliver Knörzer. This comic follows the adventures of Sandra North as she finds and adopts a new friend named Woo (a raccoon by trade). Sandra, Woo and their friends have many adventures and will make you laugh along the way. Published since 2008, there are some 240+ pages in the archives encompassing several story arcs, but the first couple of dozen pages give you the beginnings.
“Selkie” by Dave Warren. Selkie is a not quite human orphan at the Calumet City, WI, Municipal Orphanage. Her life is about to change when she meets Todd Smith, an architect who recently decided to pursue parenthood through adoption. Dave’s story telling ability has captivated me and so has his characters. We just met Todd and Selkie in May of 2010, so you will find it pretty easy to catch up on the story.
“Wapsi Square” by Paul Taylor. Follow the adventures of Monica Villarreal who works with ancient artifacts at the museum. Monica and her friends (who are not all strictly human) set out to save the galaxy … and learn something about themselves along the way. Going since 2001, there is an extensive archive, but again, very worth the time to follow the entire story.