16 December 2009

Only in South Carolina

Yes, that is what it looks like: it's an airplane up on blocks.

10 December 2009

Mascot Madness!!!

Every year I play the ESPN College Bowl Mania game with a group of friends. This year I'm trying to pick teams based on how the mascots would fare in single combat. It's tougher than I thought it would be. I also made picks in a different entry based on what I think is likely to actually happen on the field. Given my history, I expect the Mascot Battle entry to beat my actual picks. Here's how I made the mascot picks, but I still have ten days to make changes if you think I should.

New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State Bulldogs v Wyoming Cowboys
A cowboy could take a bulldog out of the fight with one good kick. Those spurs are sharp. Wyoming wins.

St. Petersburg Bowl
UCF Knights v Rutgers Scarlet Knights
How do you choose between two knights? Presumably it would be a pitched battle, but looking at the actual mascots themselves, UCF's Knightro looks way tougher than the Scarlet Knight of Rutgers. Also, our puppy's name is Nitro. UCF wins.

New Orleans Bowl
Southern Miss Golden Eagles v Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
This was one of the tougher picks. How to put an eagle against a raider? What is a raider? I know my high school mascot was the Raiders, and our mascot was basically a Barbary Pirate. But these raiders are blue. They're depressed. Not really in the mood to fight. And the eagles are made of gold, so they're extremely heavy. If a golden eagle falls from the sky and hits one of the depressed raiders, it could knock him out, possibly kill him, but definitely demoralize him enough to make him leave the field. Southern Miss wins.

Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon State Beavers v BYU Cougars
A cougar could eat a beaver for lunch. Or even brunch. And that's all I'm going to say about Cougars and Beavers, or I'll get myself in trouble. BYU wins.

Poinsettia Bowl
Utah Utes v California Golden Bears
A Golden Bear was a legendary gold-colored brown bear occasionally sighted in the American West. Legendary or not, I suspect a bear would have been able to kill a Ute in single combat. A band of Utes, sure, especially with horses and arrows. Even one Ute with some arrows, sure, but weaponry aside a Ute is after all just a human, and bears v humans in the wilderness usually only has one ending. California wins.

Hawai'i Bowl
Nevada Wolf Pack v Southern Methodist Mustangs
Much as I'd like to pick SMU in their return to postseason play, Nevada has the edge here. The key to mascot battles in single combat clearly is to make your mascot an inherent plural--not just the wolves, but a whole pack of them. Mustangs are fast and all, but I think a whole pack of wolves would have the edge here. Nevada wins.

Little Caesar's Bowl
Marshall Thundering Herd v Ohio Bobcats
As in the above, Marshall has chosen an inherent plural. And a bobcat is small. Fundamentally it doesn't matter what the Herd is made of, if there are enough of them to thunder, and the bobcat is in their path, he's toast. Marshall wins.

Meineke Car Care Bowl
Pittsburgh Panthers v North Carolina Tar Heels
Pitt wins this one walking away. UNC has one of two possibilities here--either it's a turpentine worker who's stepped in tar, and thus is easy pickings for any wandering panther, or it's a ram (technically a Dorset Sheep). The sort of thing panthers have evolved eating. Pitt wins.

Emerald Bowl
Boston College Eagles v USC Trojans
Although an eagle could certainly harry a Trojan warrior, unless the eagle was really large it's unlikely it could carry him off or kill him. Trojans had at least some sort of armor, and although with a spear or sword it's going to be a while before he gets in a killing blow on a flying raptor, I think in the end the Trojan will prevail. Tough call though. USC wins.

Music City Bowl
Kentucky Wildcats v Clemson Tigers
Cat-on-cat action here. A tiger is larger, heavier, and generally less well dispositioned than a wildcat/panther/puma/cougar etc. It would be an epic battle but I have to give it to the tiger. Also, it's Clemson. Clemson wins.

Independence Bowl
Texas A&M Aggies v Georgia Bulldogs
I had a tough time with this. An Aggie is, I would assume, an agriculturalist. A bulldog is not very big. I would think the Aggie would have the advantage but it's apples to oranges here. Texas A&M's on-field mascot, Reveille, is a collie. I like bulldogs, but collies are just way cooler. Texas A&M wins.

Eagle Bank Bowl
Army Golden Knights or UCLA Bruins v Temple Owls
We may not know who they'll face, but unless they're facing a team called the Field Mice or something, the Owls are going to lose. Army or UCLA wins.

Champs Sports Bowl
Miami Hurricanes v Wisconsin Badgers
I am assuming here that the Badger doesn't get to just burrow into a hole and ride out the storm. Sure, they're mean, but I just don't see how a badger stands a chance against one of nature's most destructive forces. Miami wins.

Humanitarian Bowl
Bowling Green Falcons v Idaho Vandals
This is not an easy one. They're not called the Vandals after the Germanic tribe that sacked Rome, except indirectly; the name comes from a 1920s-era sportswriter's florid pen. Think of them more as mere vandals, without the capital. But a vandal's goal in a fight is not to kill, merely to mess stuff up. Could a vandal mess up a falcon before the falcon killed him? Probably--given enough spray paint I'm sure he could produce a reasonable tag on even the flightiest falcon before he got his eyes pecked out. This is a close call, but Idaho wins.

Holiday Bowl
Arizona Wildcats v Nebraska Cornhuskers
What exactly is a Cornhusker? One who husks corn... but "husking" as a verb basically means to pull the husks off the ears of corn (shucking, in the dialect I grew up in). Nebraska's actual mascot, Herbie Husker, looks about like a cowboy, without his six-shooter, spurs, or much of anything else. I think if he came upon a hungry wildcat, Herbie would be toast. Arizona wins.

Armed Forces Bowl
Houston Cougars v Air Force Falcons.
The outcome is already decided; I just had to think of a way to get there. See, we're talking Air Force here, so we're not talking about a mere falcon. This is a Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon we're talking about. And therefore, to make it fair, we'll give Houston a Grumman F9F Cougar. The F-16 has better visibility and maneuverability and more armament, as well as being an overall more technologically advanced aircraft (it entered service the year the Cougar left it). So obviously, Air Force wins.

Sun Bowl
Oklahoma Sooners v Stanford Cardinal.
This is a strange matchup. A Sooner, technically, is a guy who cheats in a government land sale. And Stanford's "Cardinal" officially refers to the color, and nothing else. So we have a cheater facing a color. Indeed, a legitimate land rush participant might have turned a shade similar to cardinal upon finding a sooner already on the choicest piece of land during the rush, implying that a Sooner had won (although the courts, and eventually the Dept of the Interior, would have the final say on that). But cheaters never prosper. In this case, the tiebreaker goes to the team with one band member who dresses up like a tree at every game. Stanford wins.

Texas Bowl
Navy Midshipmen v Missouri Tigers
A lone midshipman, stranded in the Sundarbans against a ravenous tiger, is not likely to prevail; British naval history will back us up on this. But if the middie has a radio, and he calls in a ship-to-shore strike from a battleship or an airstrike from an F-18, then the tiger's going to have a rough go of it. But in this case, what with Navy beating Air Force earlier this year, I think the midshipman left his radio in his other pants. Uh-oh. Missouri wins.

Insight Bowl
Minnesota Golden Gophers v Iowa State Cyclones
This is the year of fierce windstorms battling small, ground-dwelling mammals. Gopher may beat Bill Murray, but Gopher ain't gonna beat a cyclone. Iowa State wins.

Peach Bowl (Yes, dammit, that's what it's called)
Virginia Tech Hokies v Tennessee Volunteers
A Hokie is a turkey. More or less; actually, despite the story that it's a castrated turkey, the word is just nonsense, gibberish, cooked up by a student in the 19-teens for use in a chant. The turkey as a mascot had been around for a while before that; whether the turkey was castrated is unknown. I have a passing familiarity with poultry, and I have to say, I'm not sure how one would go about castrating a turkey. Ultimately I don't know why you'd bother, either, since it would have no practical benefit. Turkeys don't live very long in factory farming, less than a year usually, and the few toms who last are bred to be so heavy they can't mate naturally anyway. Workers have to collect semen from them (there's a job for Mike Rowe) and artificially inseminate the hens. Really. Honestly, I don't really what care the guy from Tennessee is volunteering for (war, actually), no turkey is going to prevail in this fight. Tennessee wins.

Outback Bowl
Northwestern Wildcats v Auburn Tigers
This exact matchup occurs two other times this bowl season, and the outcome is going to be the same. Auburn wins.

Gator Bowl
West Wirginia Mountaineers v Florida State Seminoles
The way I see it, the Seminoles actually won the Seminole Wars. They're still there. And now they own multiple casinos, the Hard Rock Cafe chain, and governor Charlie Crist, so they've got enough money and power to complete the reconquista and return Florida to what it should be--a primitive wild paradise for a few thousand hardy souls. Not that they'll do that; there's no money in it. Anyway, the U.S. Army of the 1820-1840s likely included a goodly number of mountaineers, who never quite figured out how to fight in the swamps of Florida. So I'm calling this one for Florida State.

Capital One Bowl Penn State Nittany Lions v LSU Tigers
Tigers beat cougars, wildcats, pumas, and mountain lions. We've been over this. LSU wins
Rose Bowl
Ohio State Buckeyes v Oregon Ducks
Although buckeyes are poisonous to humans and cattle, they are not to birds. Although a duck probably wouldn't have much interest in eating a buckeye, it could without ill effect. And a buckeye being merely a small, round nut, there's not much it could do to the duck. Oregon wins.

Sugar Bowl
Florida Gators v Cincinnati Bearcats
A bearcat is neither a bear nor a cat, but a tree-dwelling civet-like creature of southeast Asia. It eats primarily fruit. I'm fairly sure the alligator would have no trouble here. Of course, if it was a Grumman F8F Bearcat... nah. Florida wins (although I really hope I'm wrong here).

International Bowl
South Florida Bulls v Northern Illinois Huskies
A husky is a tough dog and all, but bulls are awfully big and ill-tempered. Unless the fight is in the tundra somewhere, South Florida wins.

Papajohns.com Bowl
South Carolina Gamecocks v Connecticut Huskies
How amusing that the worst-named bowl has one of the worst-named teams. You can call it a "gamecock," you can dress it up, you can put spurs on its feet, but at the end of the day, it's still a chicken, and a tasty meal for a hungry dog. Connecticut wins.

Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma State Cowboys v Mississippi Rebels
An interesting matchup here, a late-1800s roper against a mid-1800s citizen soldier. As an American icon, the cowboy is tough to beat; the rebels got beat. Badly. Oklahoma State wins.

Liberty Bowl
Arkansas Razorbacks v East Carolina Pirates
Another interesting matchup, a large, angry, feral pig, versus a pirate, probably drunk on rum. Pigs are mean. But pirates have guns. East Carolina wins.

Alamo Bowl
Michigan State Spartans v Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech has one of the coolest on-field mascots. If you've never seen the Red Raider you should watch this game and look for him. He's basically Zorro. On a horse. Zorro! Sorry Sparty, you can't win this one. Zorro and Texas Tech conquer all.

Fiesta Bowl
Boise State Broncos v TCU Horned Frogs
A horned frog is a smallish, pointy lizard of desert areas. A bronco is a large, fast, unshod, greenbroke horse. Although it will probably hurt when he does so, I assume the bronco would just step on the Horned Frog and squash it flat. Boise State wins. (Not really though. I would have loved to see TCU in the national championship game, but so it goes. Some year.)

Orange Bowl
Iowa Hawkeyes v Georgia Tech Yellowjackets
I looked this up. A Hawkeye... it's not anything. I mean, it could be just the disembodied eye of a hawk I guess. It's a reference to a keen-sighted person, but, what does that mean? Is a Hawkeye just an Iowan? Their on-field mascot is Herky the Hawk, so I'm inclined to think they're going with the hawk theme. But it's still just the eyes. So, we have a tiny insect with a painful sting and a reputation for working in groups, against some disembodied eyes. Just, you know, sitting there. Georgia Tech wins.

Central Michigan Chippewas v Troy Trojans
I don't really recall any stories about the Chippewa (or Ojibwe) being particularly fearsome warriors. Obviously the Trojans weren't any great shakes themselves, but they probably were much better armed than the Chippewa, who could not smelt bronze or iron for swords or shields. So although I don't know what they'd have to fight about, I think the Trojan, and thus Troy, would win.

BCS "National Championship" (or so they call it)
Texas Longhorns v Alabama Crimson Tide
It's difficult to match a discrete object, such as a cow, against a large amorphous one, such as a wave. Or the tide, which isn't an object at all but a natural phenomenon. There's the Red Tide in Florida along the gulf, caused by algae blooms. Crimson is a kind of red. So perhaps we're dealing with a cow versus some algae. Hmm. Now on the one hand, it's tough to argue that the tide could ever be defeated by anything, since the moon isn't going anywhere (ditto the sun) and the tides are unceasing. But every creature on the planet, including the plants, knows about the tide. Some things like clams have evolved based on the tide. So could you say the tide is winning anything? It really just exists. It seems undefeatable, but then again it doesn't exactly seem like it's fighting anybody. Now, I know Alabama's on-field mascot is an elephant, and I think an elephant would easily defeat a cow, even a very large and pointy one such as a longhorn. But, and this is key, Alabama's elephant is a guy in an elephant suit, whereas the Longhorns have an actual longhorn. Those things are quite large, and, locked in a coliseum with a guy in an elephant suit, I think the longhorn would eventually trample the elephant. So, we're either putting a cow against the tide, some algae, or a guy in an elephant suit. So much for a "national championship." Texas wins.

The Move-In

Sometime this September, after the house had sat vacant for almost a year, we noticed somebody new over there taking care of the place--mowing the lawn (which hadn't been done since July), picking up some of the random garbage in the yard, cleaning out the house a bit. It was in bad shape, as I said, and it needed some help. We wondered whether by chance this was a new owner/landlord (since the property recently changed hands from a private individual to a rental company--though still probably the same private individual), but no, this was our new neighbor. Yaay!

Well, sort of. The man who was taking care of the place, his child was going to be living there, and the child's mother would be there as well. The man, the father, he lives elsewhere. He clearly cares for his kid, though. (We think he should have custody, but that's another story).

Then came the move-in, and not long thereafter I met the new neighbor.

Right away I should have known something was up. I am not a person prone to superstition or who believes in, well, much. I don't believe in ghosts or psychics or ESP or the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot or the conspiracies of the Knights Templar and the Council on Foreign Relations. Conspiracies are another matter, but as a rule I just don't believe in things that don't have rational explanations. I also hate it when people feel the need to embellish the truth about something in an email, when frequently the truth is quite nice by itself. But that's another rant. (I do believe in UFOs, but mainly I believe in what I think is self-evident, that intelligent life has clearly evolved elsewhere in the universe and eventually we'll meet it--but most (not all) UFO reports (and all abductions) I tend to think are crap.)

In any event, she was convinced that the house was haunted. She had been told that there'd been a murder in there, six people were killed, there were ghosts... and of course she bought it all. And her child did, too, but the kid's nine, and the man who told the kid these things ought to be strung up and poked repeatedly with a pointy stick until he promises never to tell such lies to a child again. Ugh. (It doesn't help that he's a lecherous old man, either.)

She claimed that within a few days of moving in she began to feel depressed, the house felt oppressive all the time, like the ceiling was coming down on her, and one evening her child was running through the yard and ran smack into an obstruction that wasn't there. Nee nee nee nee nee nee nee nee...

Later, Smittywife and I were walking to the neighbor's house and stumbled over a large steel plate in the yard, hidden by tall grass, but raised enough above the surface of the ground to very easily trip someone (Smitty, for example), and to make a small child fall as if having run into a large object that wasn't really there. We removed said plate, which wasn't covering anything. It was just trash (left there by the landlord I'm sure).

She said she'd been obsessively cleaning since she moved in, because there was blood all over the walls and ceiling and cabinets in the kitchen, and it kept seeping out of the walls.

Okay, that's creepy, right? But we've been here longer than that house has been vacant. We knew the previous tenants. There's no history in the public records of any incident at that address--and a sextuple homicide would almost surely generate a police report. At least a newspaper article. Some obituaries, perhaps? No such evidence exists, and the neighbors, though one neighbor I know claims a previous tenant was beaten in there during a dispute, can't think of anything like that that's ever happened here. We'd know. This is a small neighborhood. Indeed, most of the neighbors simply note that we never had any problems here until the current tenant moved in. Hmm.

You know what does continue to leach out of the walls no matter how many times you've cleaned? Tobacco stains! And I know the previous tenants smoked in there. A lot. And probably didn't bother cleaning at all (what's the point if you're just going to have another cigarette after you're done?).

Also, and I know I've said bad things about the landlord/property manager, but really, would you just leave bloodstains on the cabinetry if you were trying to rent the place? Really? I mean, come on. Let's not forget that since the last tenants were not slaughtered in there (there were six of them, though, and when they moved out they stole the fridge and some other stuff, so no doubt the landlord wishes they were dead) they would have had to have lived there for three or four years without once bothering to clean off the blood stains.

If that seems plausible to you please lay down the crack pipe and check yourself in to the clinic.

Still, although she was flighty and given to fears about ghosts and murders in her home, she didn't seem like a bad neighbor. As a rule, most any neighbor is better than a vacant house. I used to believe that was a general truth of the world. Oh well; live and learn.


Oh my! So much goes on with this neighbor I can't keep up. I'm going to jump to yesterday's excitement before I back up. Yesterday, Code Enforcement was out to cite her and her live-in for A)storing their household trash outdoors on their property (yes, Virginia, that is illegal) and then for burning said household trash (which they did Monday, pictures coming!). Moments after Code Enforcement left, shock of shocks!, she called the police and complained that I had trespassed on her property!

She claimed I just "walked right in" to her house on Tuesday. I knocked on her kitchen door. The kitchen door is immediately inside the laundry room, the door to which she always leaves open (as you can see in this picture here), even when she goes away during the day (to buy her crack or whatever it is that she does; I assure you she's not working in any legally recognized sense). You don't actually have to step inside the house to knock on the kitchen door, but she used this as a pretense to claim I was trespassing on "her" "property" (which she doesn't own, of course).

Oy. The officer who came out was very nice and suggested I at least try to "keep the peace a little" between us, but that was all. They talk to a lot of drug users. They know. After all the last thing I want is them breaking into my house to steal things to support themselves.

Before I go I'd like to mention that this has been a full week for the county's law enforcement agencies, with visits from three different ones to the same address--code enforcement, followed by the sherriff's office, and then animal control today. And since these people moved in, there's been a call to some such agency or another on about a bi-weekly basis. Before that--in all the time we lived here before she moved in--nobody on this street ever called out anybody. It's a good, safe, friendly neighborhood; the people are friendly, the dogs are friendly, we all respect one another's property but don't fear crossing through a yard or knocking on a door. It's life in rural America. Then the drug addicts move in, and it all goes to shit. Smittywife noted yesterday that she's sick of that woman (our neighbor) ruining her days off, and I agree.

Part I