Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Pecking Order

Things have been especially hectic here in The Department Of Expecting Flaming Debris To Come Raining Down Out Of The Sky From Nowhere In Particular And Land Directly On My Head Any Second Now. Again.

I’ve been so busy looking over my shoulder-not to mention looking straight up- that I haven’t had the time to write about some important findings that have emerged from The Masculinity Report: a 2018 study on the factors influencing emotional, physical and mental health and the overall well-being of American men.

The study was funded by Harry’s-a New York City-based men’s on-line bespoke shaving and grooming supply company. (Motto: Let the genealogists tend your family tree. We’ll help you groom your facebush.) The research itself was undertaken by Dr. John Barry, Honorary Lecturer at University College London and co-founder of the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. (Motto: Trying to work out whether Men are from Mars or maybe some other planet since 1746.)

As it turns out, the study revealed that job satisfaction turns out to be the strongest predictor of men’s happiness and well-being (aka Positive Mindset) by quite a large margin.

Contributors to Positive Mindset of American males

The next most important predictor of men’s happiness was health, with mental health outranking physical health by a few percentage points. Good grooming was right up there as an important physical health concern although the role of having a regular supply of bespoke shaving supplies wasn’t specifically addressed in the study.

What are we to take from this?

Well… it appears that the notion that men’s happiness revolves around status, power, money and physical prowess is outdated. Men really aren’t all that concerned about where they fall in the social dominance hierarchy or “pecking order” or how big their pecs are. They want to enjoy their work and maybe also keep a bit of an eye on how well-groomed they are compared to other dudes.

Rooster’s sizing up each other’s neck ruffs

But since job satisfaction outstripped the other factors so convincingly, let’s unpack that as the saying goes. Or maybe we could just look at it in more detail. Take your pick. Turns out that the key component of job satisfaction for men is feeling enabled to use their unique skills and talents in the workplace. Examples of this might include mindreading, calculating orbital mechanics in your head, and sword-swallowing, depending on where you work.

Other important contributors to job satisfaction that were uncovered included being surrounded by diverse perspectives, feeling that one’s opinions are valued, feeling inspired by colleagues and having the opportunity to chat freely with them.

So in the interests of promoting job satisfaction and general well-being, I’m going to give you some diverse perspectives you can share freely with your co-workers tomorrow morning or any other morning. Freedom of choice is important. These satisfaction-boosting perspectives include new insights into eagle-owls, chicken husbandry and my cat Zoe. Here goes:

A fellow named Jos Baart who lives in Geel, Belgium made the news in May 2020 when it came to light that a family of Eurasian eagle owls took up residence in a planter on the balcony outside his livingroom window. Personally, I think this is just great! Mostly because of the headline: “Man befriends giant, TV-loving owl family nesting outside his window“. But I just wonder if it might also have been worded: “Man befriends TV-loving family of giant owls nesting outside his window“.

Here we have Mr. Baart interacting with the owlets.

A giant TV-loving eagle-owl chick roosts on the head of its sibling-who apparently occupies a lower rung on the ladder of social dominance. The other sibling looks on, hoping it isn’t in line for head-roosting or worse-a thorough pecking.

Jos says this about the whole situation:

“When the television is on, they are seeing the movements,” he said. “They [are] all three before the window for [a] half an hour or more to look at television. Their favorite program is ‘So you think you can hoot?’. And also Hitchcock’s 1963 horror-thriller: The Birds. I myself also am quite liking this movie.”

The Eurasian eagle-owl is reputedly the world’s largest owl, with an average length of 66 to 71 centimetres, a weight of 1.6 to four kilograms and a wingspan of more than 1.5 metres. Baart says each owl chick is about 30 centimetres tall, or “as big as a big chicken.”

To paraphrase E.B. White1 that’s: “Some owlet.”

Speaking of chickens and chicks, my son and his wife decided to keep four laying hens in their yard this summer. They (the hens) star in the feature image for this blog. I can never tell them apart but their names are Dirty Bird, Lazy Bird, Adventure Bird and Dorothy. The hens have a nice fenced run complete with a coop that has a tasteful laying-alcove complete with its own curtain. One by one, led by Dirty Bird if memory serves me, the avian creatures dutifully lay their eggs every morning, singing their rhythmic egg-laying “songs” in the process. The “songs” go something like this:

“Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, squaaaaaaawk! Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, screeeeek! Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, yeeeeeeeeks!”

In your spare time, you can peruse the vast chicken husbandry literature to your heart’s content. There are all kinds of theories about why hens “sing” when they lay. My wife, a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Women’s Health with extensive experience looking after high-risk perinatal patients and with fairly extensive personal experience giving birth, most likely pecks the owl right on its proverbial head with this translation:

“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, yowie! Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch! Feathers! This thing is big! Get it out of me! Now! Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch! Just wait until I get my talons on that rooster!!”

Let’s face it. These birds are making a ruckus because they are basically in labor. End of story.

When asked what she thought of the feathered additions to her family, my little grand-daughter Maxine simply opined, “They’re beautiful. They’re happy!”

Long live two-and-a-half year-olds. Innocence is bliss. So are fresh eggs.

And last but not least, long live cats. This is a recent photo of my cat Zoe, doing her Great Horned Owl impression while investigating a large bowl that mysteriously appeared in our livingroom a few weeks ago:

And here we have a photo of Zoe as a kitten, after mysteriously appearing amidst a parliament of baby Burrowing Owls:

Zoe and her adoptive family of Burrowing Owls. Counterclockwise from center: Zoe, Spooky, Pouty, Grumpy, Anxious and Gordon

At this point, I feel like I’ve given you enough here to boost your Positive Mindset score by a few percent. So exercise your unique talents! Talk it up with your colleagues at work! Inspire others! Trim your eyebrows!

Just make sure you don’t run out of razorblades.

  1. “Some pig” was one of the inscriptions the spider Charlotte wove into her web in reference to Wilbur, the famous pig in E.B. White’s classic story: “Charlotte’s Web.”

Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

The Good Good Pig

I’m going to talk about the beer/porcupine in this picture at some point, but the first thing I want to talk about today is teen romantic comedy cult classic movies.  I’m not sure about the best order for all those adjectives, but I’m not going to dwell on it because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. My favorite cult comedy is The Sure Thing, starring John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga, and directed by Rob Reiner.

By the way, I apologize for the long delay between this column and the last one; somewhere along the way, a big problem came up and the column was late because of it.  Actually, the very same thing happened in The Sure Thing.  Cusack’s character in that movie is Walter Gibson aka “Gibby”.  Gibby is a freshman in college and one morning he’s late for English class.  His prof asks him why he’s late and he says: “There was this big problem…and I’m late because of it.”  I liked that excuse, because it’s so vague, so I use it from time to time, just to see if people are paying attention.  I think it made Daphne Zuniga roll her eyes when Cusack used it, but at least it got him on her radar.

Speaking of big problems, there’s a class of math problems called Fermi Problems, named after Italian physicist and Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi, who also invented Fermions.  Note that if American physicist, Pulitzer Prize winner and anagramist Dave Barry was writing this column, he would be tempted to rearrange Fermions into “Firm nose”.  I’m going to resist that temptation and just say that a Fermion is a type of elementary particle, which is a particle that falls out of the shoe of an elementary school student.

I’m not sure how the particle would get into the shoe of any elementary school student, since kids in elementary school these days basically have to remain immobile when they go out on the playground.  Life was a lot more exciting when there was a decent probability that somebody would skin their knee, break an arm or Heaven forbid, get a sunburn once in awhile.  Now, the worst thing that can happen at recess is that someone’s phone goes dead when he or she is playing Pokemon Go.  (Pokemon Go can be rearranged to Monk Goop with an E left over, not that it matters.)

But back to Fermi Problems.  A Fermi Problem is a problem in which you have to estimate something when you have limited data to work with.  You have to arrive at your answer by making a series of assumptions and then stringing them all together.

Here’s a pretty typical Fermi Problem: How many border collies are there in Calgary?

And below is a scene from the 1926 teen cult physics movie Pogo Monk, directed by Rob Reiner, in which Enrico Fermi (played by Enrico Fermi) is trying to calculate what would happen to a border collie if it was shot into low Earth orbit at some angle θ relative to that line pointing to about 12:30, if that big circle was a clock.






To answer the Border Collie Fermi Problem (or any Fermi Problem for that matter), it helps if you know a lot of synonyms for the word “guess”.  You’d probably start by taking a guess at the population of Calgary, then multiplying that by your conjecture about how many people in Calgary own a dog, then multiplying that answer by a presumption about how many dog owners have border collies, having assumed that most border collie owners only have one. One is plenty, by the way.

I reckon there are about a million people in Calgary so I’ll start off thinking that thirty percent of them own a dog; that’s 300,000 dogs.  As mentioned, border collies are a handful, so I’ll say only two percent of dog owners have one.  So my estimate is 6000 border collies in Calgary.  That seems high, so then I whack myself on the side of the head and say “I’m an idiot”- at the same time hoping that no sepulchral echo-voice answers back “you’re an idiot”-which would be eerily like what happened in The Grinch, starring Jim Carrey and directed by Ron Howard.

In the photo below, Ron Howard is on the right.


I’m whacking my head because I realize that I actually need to ponder how many households there are in Calgary, and then work from that number.  (Recognize that inside my main Fermi Problem there is this other Baby Fermi Problem-which is to estimate how many households there are in Calgary.) But I’m taking my medication regularly, so I’m able to move past this.  I simply hypothesize that there are 250,000 households in Calgary given a million people; that takes me down to 1500 black and white, high-strung canines descended from Old Hemp, who got some air-time in the last column.  Anyway, 1500 is an estimate I can live with, even if I stop taking my medication.

So now you know what a Fermi Problem is. But you’re still in the dark about when in tarnation you should write the word “three” and when you should write the digit “3”.  This is a different type of problem, one that I threatened to talk about as I was finishing off the column about Superman’s Water Pik.  Or was it Superman’s Memory Crystals?  I forget which.

The person in this next photo is none other than E.B. White, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The New Yorker, animal lover, children’s book author and also co-author of The Elements of Style.  Just FYI, The Elements of Style is not a book about what not to wear.  It’s a book about what not to write.


Various sources including White himself agree that you should spell out numerals when they denote numbers less than 100.  This would include numerals like three, fifty-two and ninety-six.  Therefore, a numeral like two thousand and sixteen should actually be written as 2016, AS LONG AS THAT NUMERAL DOESN`T START A SENTENCE.

So you should write “Two thousand border collies competed at the last All-Australian Sheep Herding Open held in 2015, in Iceland” but you shouldn’t write “2000 border collies were recently shot into low Earth orbit”, even if that’s true.

But what about the sentence: “2015 was a good year for Icelandic sheep-herders.” ?

That sentence is OK, because both E.B. White and the Associated Press Stylebook say you can start a sentence with a numeral when that numeral signifies a year.You also don’t have to stop and wonder why in hell the All-Australian Sheep Herding Open would be held in Iceland if you skirt around the whole issue like I did.

You can spend as much time as you want researching all this in more detail, and look up the distinction between a number and a numeral while you’re at it.  Personally, I need to move on now to talk about a large pig named Christopher Hogwood.


“The Good Good Pig” is the biography of Christopher, who starts out as a runty piglet just like that other famous-but-fictional pig Wilbur.  Whereas Wilbur was adopted by a small girl named Fern, Christopher was adopted by author, New Hampshire resident, and itinerant animal lover Sy Montgomery and her husband Howard. (Howard is also an author and also resides in New Hampshire, in case you were wondering.)

Christopher comes to enjoy an increasingly-intimate relationship with Sy, Howard and the Earth’s gravitational field, over the course of his fourteen peaceful years, eventually attaining an impressive weight of 752 pounds.  And like Wilbur, Christopher eventually dies of natural causes, surrounded by many loving admirers, and lots of spiders.

If you already know who E.B. White is, I think you should read The Good Good Pig right away.  If you have already read The Good Good Pig, I think you should read Charlotte’s Web right away.  If you have already read Charlotte’s Web, you should re-read it.  I cry at the end every time I read it, and my kids always make fun of me for it; I don’t care.

But let’s get back to Christopher.  Sy Montgomery has this to say: “As Christopher’s girth increased, so did our doubts about who was in charge at our house.  Not only was Chris destined to vastly outweigh us, but we faced a growing realization that our pig was dangerously, possibly diabolically, brilliant.” Frankly, I find the concept of a diabolically brilliant, 752-pound animal just a tad unsettling.

In addition to his formidable brainpower, Christopher also developed a formidable appetite for beer.  Howard gave him a swig of Rolling Rock one hot summer day in his (Christopher’s) piglet-hood, soundly reasoning: “After all, what is beer but liquid grain?”  Christopher demonstrated the truth of that statement by polishing off the Rolling Rock, then a Corona and then a Genesee Cream Ale, burping loudly and then proceeding to gain another 700 or so pounds.

Later in life, he became friends with a Border Collie named Tess.  (I swear on Ron Howard’s driver’s license that I am not making that up.)  Christopher also joined A.A. and the Libertarian Party, in no particular order.  The Libertarian tendency was verified by Dick Amidon, the Montgomery’s family friend, former chief of staff for the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and a Republican-turned-Libertarian.

Holding forth on Christopher’s political leanings, Dick said, “If there’s ever been an example of a Libertarian pig, that’s Christopher.  He’s his own person; he doesn’t want overregulation-all the things that Libertarians look for.  He’s a free spirit.”

Now after reading all this, many of you may be seized by a powerful urge to move to New Hampshire.  If so, I suggest you get in touch with realtor Mark Warden, the owner of Porcupine Real Estate in Manchester, NH.  Mr. Warden’s firm does about 90 percent of its business with Libertarians who want to move to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project.  You can read the article entitled “Why Libertarians Are (Still) Plotting to Take Over New Hampshire” here:



The picture depicts Mr. Warden standing in front of the New Hampshire State Capitol building.  Or maybe it’s Thomas Jefferson.  I forget.  Anyway, in the article, Mr. Warden says, “A lot of my clients want to be self-sufficient—whether that’s living off the grid and growing their own food, wanting to shoot border collies into space, hunt on their own property, or being able to raise pigs and chickens without zoning laws interfering…We speak the same language.”

I think I made up that part about the border collies. And maybe the part about Thomas Jefferson.  But you should still read Madison’s article after you finish packing and reading Charlotte’s Web.

I learned many interesting things about Libertarians from that article, such as the fact that they have adopted the porcupine (also known as the “quill pig”) as their mascot because it is “a peaceful creature that defends itself when attacked.”  And according to Critter Control, who have been “protecting people, property and wildlife in New Hampshire since 1983” ( there are lots of porcupines in New Hampshire.

I want to finish now, but before I go, I want to share with you a couple of pictures taken from the promo piece for Tom Hanks’ new movie: “Quill Pig at Large.”

The first picture depicts a New Hampshire porcupine, bearing a faint resemblance to Enrico Fermi, frowning with concentration and thinking seriously about emigrating to the Valley of 1000 Hills, Botha’s Hill, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, home of the Porcupine Quill Micro Brewery and Deli.


The second photo (below) is an unretouched image of a heat exchanger situated on the wall of the Porcupine Quill Micro Brewery and Deli.





I have absolutely no idea why Tom Hanks thought you would want to see a picture of their heat exchanger, but I hear their food is fabulous.

The beer is good too.