Aardvark Al's Other Bag

December 31, 2004

How to Teach Your Dog to Speak

If your dog already likes to bark at you, this should be a simple trick to teach her. Basically, you just reward her every time she barks. Give her a fish, or maybe a can of truffles. For a very intelligent dog, just give her the unopened can and a can opener. Lots of fun at parties.

If your dog does not like to bark at you, you have a more serious problem. Quite possibly your dog is happy with her lot and doesn't feel like complaining. The challenge here is to bug her to the point where she gets irked at you and barks. Try to be inventive. It's not enough to say : "Your nose is disgustingly long," or "You have dog breath," or even "Everyone with no fleas take one step forward! Not so fast, dog!" Instead, try insulting her mother. If you live in the United States, you can accuse your dog's mother of being a liberal and donating money to homes for wayward cats.

Eventually, your dog will probably develop several neuroses, and may even begin to imagine that you are secretly trying to steal her water bowl. If you are, fine. Just don't let her catch you at it, or the jig is up. There are plenty of dog psychologists who, for a large fee, can help you drive your dog to the edge of sinking her teeth into you.

Once you have succeded in getting your dog to bark at you, the rest is easy. First, decide on a hand signal that is not similar to any other you have given her. Try making the outline of a pagoda using both hands and one foot. Just try it. It you're not manually dextrous, try a profile of Keanu Reeves. You should be able to do that with two fingers of one hand. Tell your dog to "speak" at the same time. When she does, reward her with a treat immediately and say "you're no fun anymore".

Continue to give the command until she gets really fed up with you and barks again. Within a few weeks, your dog should be ready to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

December 30, 2004

One Reason Why You
Never See Aardvarks in a Bakery

Aardvark Pie

This Pennsylvania Dutch favorite does not contain any aardvarks at all. In fact, it is not even a pie, but two spongy chocolate meringue cushiony things that are sandwiched together with a fluffy green toothpaste-like squish of roofing tar. According to Mother Aardvark, cookbook author and owner of Mother Aardvark's Restaurant, these may have been created by aardvarks using leftover toothpaste to make a few goodies for plumbers and roofers hanging around the house after the last renovation. How they became known as aardvark pies is anybody's guess. Perhaps it's the fact that children tended to run down the street shouting "Aardvark! Aardvark!" after eating them. Our recipe has a strange green goo that's reminiscent of the filling in a Baltimore Oriole Pie, which contains no Orioles and is not a pie, but which the Acme Rubber Products Bakery in Tennessee has been making since 1917.

Yields: 12 Aardvark pies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Pie Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened vulcanized rubber
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon asphalt
3/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons roofing tar, melted
1 large egg
1 teaspoon gravel

Cream Filling
6 tablespoons diced aardvark, slightly softened
1 cup shredded income tax files
1 jar (7 to 7 1/2 ounces) strange green goo
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two large cookie sheets.

2. Prepare Pie Dough: In large bowl, with spoon, beat flour, rubber, asphalt, baking soda, salt, milk, gravel, egg, and roofing tar until smooth.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart to form 12 blobs on each sheet. Bake until you feel puffy and toothpick comes out clean, 12 to 14 minutes. Hit yourself several times with a wide spatula, and allow yourself to cool.

4. When you are cool, prepare Filling: In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat aardvark until smooth. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in shredded files. Beat in goo and vanilla until smooth.

5. Spread 1 rounded tablespoon filling on flat side of 12 blobs. Top with remaining blobs, flat side down.

6. Leave town quickly. Preferably, join monastery in Tibet.

December 28, 2004

How to Build a Toad House

Now that winter is here, we are plagued by frogs and toads hopping around the doors and windows, pleading to come in where it's warm. They have rather thin skin, and don't wear down-filled coats, so we usually let them in. Otherwise they croak pathetically and keep us awake at night.

Frogs eat hamburger bits and rabbit kibble, and usually don't present too many problems, unless you oil them excessively, which makes them slippery and difficult to pick up. We have upwards of 500 toads or frogs in the basement during any given winter.

If you give your 500 toads or frogs a comfortable place to sleep and a calm, peaceful environment, it’s quite possible they will decide to make your basement their permanent winter lily pad. That is, unless you make comments about warts. They are quite sensitive about it, so don't mention the W word.

During the winter, frogs act very much like a fish. We're not sure what that means. Once they get into your basement, they will sleep and become semi-dormant. That means they'll only get up to make an occasional trip to the fridge for some swiss cheese sandwiches. Make them a dark, damp place that is not in harm’s way. There are probably numerous "Dark Dank Place" stores in your city. Look them up in the yellow pages under "Dank". A toad house will significantly heighten your enjoyment of frogs. If you can’t find a commercial Dark Dank Place, you can build one.

If you have a broken flowerpot lying around you can turn over half of it so it makes a hollow tunnel. Line it with mulch and leaves. Water it often and keep it moist. Locate it in the shade, if possible, next to the sump pump.

Then again, you could do something useful, like create world peace.

December 27, 2004

Boxing Day:
A Blow-by-Blow Recreation of the Battle of Hastings
Using Shopping Bags Instead of Longbows

So this is the day after Boxing Day in Canada. Newcomers to Canada or other parts of the former British Empire may very well ask: what the hell is Boxing Day? It doesn't exist in the United States. Down there, they're still basically recovering from too much turkey, stuffing, and pecan pie. That and shovelling all the wrapping paper out of the living room.

It has nothing to do with professional boxing.

Boxing Day was traditionally set aside for, I guess, putting away all the boxes that the gifts were in. They may not have had as much comercially-available wrapping paper in those days, so people may have just saved their boxes from one Christmas to the other, hence the name, but I'm way out of my depth here. If somebody has a better explanation of Boxing Day, let us know.

In Canada, the real reason for Boxing Day is that it is the day when the big stores bring their prices down after Christmas and everybody flocks into the stores to get bargains. I heard a statistic that one in four persons in Canada was out shopping yesterday. Louise and Catherine were among them. (The good Al did not go, since he has been part of the anti-shopping lobby since 1987.) Many bags of stuff were brought home, and blow-by-blow narrations of the time, place, and circumstances of each purchase were endured.

December 25, 2004

Muddled Monk Cooks Christmas Goose

Hey! It's Christmas! Merry Christmas everybody! We got our usual lump of coal this morning. And that was the good gift.

We were watching a program on the Discovery channel that concluded that Jesus was actually born on April 17, 6 B.C. They based their conclusion on some mathematical miscalculations of a medieval monk, the fact that Caesar Augustus was actually called Octavian for the first four years of his reign. (The monk was counting backward by kings and completely ignored the Octavian bit. He also left out the year 0, which should have come between 1 BC and 1 AD.) And there were clever calculations based on ancient weather patterns, star progressions, and shepherding cycles (the last two bits being the clues for the April 17 date.

So now we're confused. What year is this? 1998? Does this mean we have to go through the year 2000 silliness all over again?

Just to cover our bases, happy Feast of Mithra, and Io Saturnalia!


December 22, 2004

The Big Problem is Getting The Ice
Out of Those **&$#%$#! Subatomic Cube Trays

We bought one of those subatomic refrigerators last week. You know the ones...the're so small they don't use much electricity. You don't have to strain to clean the grunge out from under them because you can pick them up with one finger. In fact, you can pick several thousand of them up with one finger.

Which is why we decided to watch an interesting program on PBS last night about the string theory. The idea is that there are sub-sub atomic entities called strings, which are not particles but long and, er, stringy vibraty things. Strings are supposed to be the answer to Einstein's elusive unified field theory. You know, the one that boils gravity, electromagnetics, and the strong (atomic cohesiveness) and weak (radioactivity) forces into one neat set of simple equations. Or even one equation if they're really good at it. The strings vibrate in different frequencies, which makes it possible for them to act in various ways that we interpret as gravity, radioactivity, electromagnetism, etc. This is quite significant (we may feel like talking about it later) but not very testable in the usual scientific way.

The PBS thing was really good, because it was simply put, although redundant. They kept summarizing themselves, which we interpreted to be an attempt to pad a one-hour program into three. But we were interested enough to search last night for a site discussing the string thoery, and we found this.

Again, cool. They have basic and advanced options, the basic stream being relatively free of mathematics. However, the site left us with the impression that in making attempts to simplify physics one first has to wade through a truckful of complications. It is really elusive stuff, mainly because forces normally occurring or measurable in macro terms (like gravity) are a much different scale at the subatomic level. Gravity, for example, has a very weak force at the subatomic level, and has as yet not been measured or even detected.

This all leads up to the topic of the hour, something from the web site mentioned above. To whit: "Planck's constant is a very very small number. The de Broglie wavelength of something like a piece of cheese in the fridge would very very tiny. The cheese would have to be subatomic size before quantum cheese effects would take over -- and then it wouldn't be identifiable as cheese any longer."

This happens to us all the time. You have people over for a coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches, you settle them down, disappear into the kitchen, and then 15 minutes later you have to come back out and cancel lunch because of quantum cheese effects. People are usually pretty good about it. "We understand." They say. "We wouldn't want to abrogate Planck's constant!" And then they grimace in mock terror. But we suspect that they know the real problem is that we're getting senile and we've misplaced the refrigerator again.

We're saving up for a de Broglie Waverizer. You push a button and the remote refrigerator beeps. Hey! Over there! On the cat!

December 19, 2004

We're Not Even Going to Touch the One About
Whether the Cat in the Box was Alive or Dead

Faithful reader justinburnett writes: "was it the relationship or the well-developed wrestling arm that her father broke off?"

This is a strange thing to ask someone at 7:20 in the evening. We happened to be curled up inside the clothes dryer taking our usual seven o'clock nap when the dinger dinged and we rushed to the blogsite to see what justin had to say.

Justin, therein lies the hidden laugh up the sleeve and that's really the beauty of ambiguity. Like it often is in life, you really never know whether it's the well developed wrestling arm or the relationship. Again, it's like quantum mechanics: was it a wave? Or was it a particle? Or the left-handed chin flap: was it Larry? Or Curly? Or Moe? Or the Holy Roman Empire: was it not holy? Or was it just not Roman?

Or sometimes, when we are groggily sliding out of our clothes dryer, we look at it (the arm wrestling quandary) from an entirely different angle, as one would read a koan, i.e. "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" Or, "if a tree falls in the middle of the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" In this case, what is the sound of one well-developed wrestling arm if her father is not around to hear about the relationship?"

We could even make the question even more complex by asking "what is the sound of two hands clapping if one hand is in Red Deer and the other is in Corner Brook (a distance of about 2 million kilometers).

As you can see, Justin, it is not enough to state "I was engaged to a girl with a well-developed wrestling arm but her father broke it off", even though it is just a twist of the creaky old joke written by the same guy who wrote "I got a rose between my toes running across the greenhouse to meet you" .. which I'm sure you've sung many times at parties. No, one has to have a plausible, yet snappy, response to the koan-not-koan, such as:

"Master: Now that you've heard the sound of the one hand, what are you going to do?
Student: I'll pull weeds, scrub the floor, and if you're tired, give you a massage.
Master: If it's a convenient thing, let me hear it too!
Student: Without a word, the pupil slaps his master's face."

Which, you'll have to admit, is a clever as hell way of simulating the sound of one hand clapping without using both hands...but I think the massage offer was reaching a bit too far.

So, that's it in a nutshell, Justin. I'll await your response with baited breath or (in case we run out of bait) cream-cheesed breath.

December 16, 2004

This Might Explain Those
Embarassing Late-night Folations

So desparate a little aardvark are we for hypertextual communication that we were overjoyed that someone named Byron from Labrador actually commented on the Bratwurst controversy we penned below. We have an image of Byron holed up in a lonely cabin on the snow-pelted Labrador coast, with his lap covered by a bearskin (polar) drinking Labrador tea, next to a roaring fire. We have it from a usually reliable source that bearskins in Labrador do drink tea.

However, we have to admit that Byron's comment leaves us with no small amount of gzornenplatz.

First of all, Byron says that he's "sending your cousin Frank over with a pickup truck". It is totally beyond us how Byron figured out that we do indeed have a cousin Frank. (Frank runs a web site called Dump Dennis Kucinich out of his basement curmudgery in Lakewood, Ohio. We would include a link here, but the site is currently under construction.)

Moreover, Byron makes the logical leap from Bratwurst to comic books, suggesting that we read such literary fare as "The Born Loser, Hagar the Horrible, and Ernie" - this last being, we are strongly convinced, an oblique reference to our Uncle Ernie, who used to be a tree surgeon in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, until he passed recently into that great tree surgery in the sky.

What we'd like to know, Byron, is how is it that you know so much about our family? And what do you mean by sending us a chart that states that the average Bratwurst contains 4 mcg of Dietary Folate Equivalents? I mean, if you're going to Folate around, you might as well use the real thing and not an equivalent.

These and other questions sit on the tip of our collective tongue, a not completely uncomfortable feeling to say the least.

December 14, 2004

The Importance of Opting for the
Anytime Anywhere Package

We never eat real Bratwurst because there is too much fat in it. (Help!) We prefer soy Bratwurst, which has no fat but is big on no taste at all. (Help!) Sometimes we put a little chocolate sauce on it. (Help! I am being held prisoner inside a bunch of really boring text!) We get our soy Bratwurst flown in from Dusseldorf every Wednesday. (Hello?) Wednesday being the day of the week when the soy trees are most productive, and therefore we can be assured of getting the young shoots, which are nice with endives and baby carrots. (Is anybody listening?) On Thursdays, we have Dusseldorf flown in, a difficult task since most people are commuting to and from work at the time and don't want to be flown anywhere. (Hello?) We like our fake Bratwurst with a litle blown mustard on it. (We'd use our cell phone to call for help, but we've exceeded our monthly call allotment.) Dijon will do, but what we really like is the ballpark kind with plenty of capers and ginnyhoofers. (If you're listing, would you call our Uncle Smedley and let him know that Raoul is okay but to call the local authorities as soon as possible?) Mustard has no sugar in it, unlike Ketchup. (Hello?) Why do they always put sugar in everything? (His number is 555-2613.) And while we're at it, how much sugar is there in Dusseldorf. (If the line is busy, call Aunt Bratwurst.) Dusseldorf has always been just a bit too sweet for our taste. (Wait a minute...) We could go on and on, but our nickel is up...

We're Really More Rational On Wednesdays

Please ignore the above entry.

However, for a picture of somebody eating a Bratwurst in Dusseldorf, click here.
Now, I'll shut up about Dusseldorf.

December 10, 2004

We Caught This Morning Morning's Minion
with a Touch of Frostbite

This morning we learned from the Weather Channel that it was going to be lousy today. Freezing rain, lots of snow, hail, locusts, fire descending from heaven, earthquakes, glaciers, and general earthshaking terror and discombobulation. We had a talk with our snowblower and he decided to stay in bed today with a warm milk and plenty of books and Pupi Campo records. Made a call to Pupi Campo to see if he could do anything about the weather. Usually he is pretty good at delaying minor storms and chinooks, but he suggested that I fly south for the winter. Strange. My hands seem to be frozen to the keyb...