Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tom Friedman looks at the big picture

Tom Friedman, whom I don't read much since the New York Times pay-to-read decision that put the paper's intellectual market share out of its misery by shooting it in the head, has suddenly reappeared in my mailbox via someone's foolish notion that I would find his most recent struggle with an idea worthy of study.

And indeed Tom Friedman's struggles with ideas are always instructive, in the sense that the sight of wreckage on a bad curve on the highway is instructive. In this case, Tom has stepped out of his office suite and wandered into the heartland, and found that the price of gasoline is high. One imagines this discovery accompanied by a dramatic clapping of his own hand to his own forehead, along with a firm resolution to alert the world and rush into print.

So, his early warning sensors having alerted him to this crisis--my guess is that he overheard his driver grumble about gas prices--he sets to work finding its cause, which he immediately discovers is: dependence on foreign crude oil, announced like you heard it here first. Excited by the insight, he declares it to be the "most important geostrategic and geoeconomic challenge of our time," for four reasons. Friedman has a thing about numbering stuff, as well as about polysyllabic challenges.

First, we are financing both sides in the war on terror, i.e., paying for the war in Iraq and paying Saudi fundamentalists for oil. OK.

Second, continued dependence on fossil fuels will hasten global warming, given that all the other inhabitants of global flat-earth want cars too. He immediately intuits a silver lining to this cloud, in that energy efficiency is a potential new global industry that we can dominate, if we impose tougher standards on our own businesses, so they will get in on the ground floor. Like, fat chance. But he does not linger here.

Third, because of the "steady climb in oil prices" (brought to us, by the way, by the free market) the previously unstoppable-seeming wave of free markets is going to be "stymied" by "petro-authoritarian states." It has never occurred to Tom that if such states--Russia and Nigeria and Saudi Arabia and Venezuela--are doing so very nicely through the operation of the free market, there might be something wrong with the free market. That can never occur to Tom Friedman, because his head would explode.

The solution to the steady climb in oil prices is to "bring down the price of crude." How one does that, with a globalized free market, and global demand increasing much faster than global supply, would seem to be the question of the day, eh, Tom?

Plus, number four, we will never plant the seeds of democracy in the middle east if we don't bring down the price of oil.

At this point Tom Friedman plays President (or God, as he used to be called) and says we need to _raise_ gasoline taxes, which shows, sweet Jesus--I am driven here to use an aphorism so hackneyed that Tom Friedman must have already used it somewhere himself--that a stopped clock can be right twice a day, though in Tom Friedman's case he is only doing half as well as the clock. Increased gasoline taxes are a good idea, and like most good ideas in America, politically impossible.

Then he goes from the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous by finding the legislative solution to the problem in the "bipartisan" Fuel Choices for American Security Act, which supposedly will require cars to run on fuels other than gasoline. The bill would give Detroit big subsides for this.

Then, having exhausted his fund of solutions (never fear, he will be back), he warns us that if both parties shirk the energy challenge as he sees it, there will be a third party rising to prominence in the 2008 election, the "Geo-Green Party."

If some blogger said this, he would be thought mad. Tom Friedman's reputation for good-natured sincerity, if not the soulful earnestness of a labrador retriever bringing you a piece of waterlogged wood, protects him from this. Another reason why I can never write for the New York Times.

Nowhere, in the entire column, is there any mention the fact that world oil production has been stalled for a year at about 84 million barrels a day even as very reasonable projections for world economic growth require production of 120 million barrels per day within a few short years, a level of production which cannot be reached unless Jesus returns to earth and turns water into oil--maybe the Black Sea. There is some hint that Tom Friedman recognizes the inexorable rise in world demand, but he is clueless about peak oil.

It doesn't seem to enter his head that coming radical disparity between supply and demand is something our present political institutions will have a lot of trouble dealing with--like I said, what politician is gonna seriously propose raising gasoline taxes? Nor does it enter his head that shifting a small percentage of our oil imports over to farm subsidies for corn ethanol does not really address the problem.

Radical lifestyle restructuring is not his cup of tea, nor is forecasting wreckage on a bad economic curve in the absence of such restructuring.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia quietly announced the other day that the Kingdom's mature oil fields (which include Ghawar, the world's largest) are declining at a rate of 8% per year, but that with new production from expected new discoveries, they hope to reduce the projected decline in Saudi production to 2% per year.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Anacreon in Hell

As we all know, alcohol taken in excess makes you sentimental, belligerent, and stupid. Anacreon in Heaven, though superior in some respects to 99 bottles of beer on the wall, began its existence in the musical and behavioral slum of an 18th century drinking club, where beery frog-voiced young men deep in their cups celebrated drunkenness and whoring--a moral venue now occupied by frat houses, though thanks to everything from hired garage bands to ipods, frat boys rarely sing, or if they do they trail off by maybe the 85th bottle on the wall into mumbling incoherence, thank goodness.

But the uproar over the Star Spangled Banner being sung, God help us, in Spanish, has somehow revived the sentimentality, stupidity, and belligerence that provide the background noise to any drinking song, and which, if you think about the lyrics of the nationalist hymn that gave Anacreon a continued yodeling existence, have over the years found a continuing association with our national anthem as well.

Happily, nobody ever thinks about the actual lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner--for one thing, practically no one knows more than fifteen words of it--so its bombastic foolishness either doesn't rise to the level of consciousness, or if noticed, inspires only the catch in the throat mawkishness and love-it-or-leave-it truculence that right-wingers mistake for love of country.

For most people, it's more like, can we sit down now and watch the baseball game.

But not George Bush. He sees, under the perhaps distracted tutelage of a Karl Rove facing possible indictment and seemingly off his feed, a wedge issue. Republicans love those the way piranhas love blood in the water.
George Bush has entered a row about the US national anthem, criticising a Spanish version featuring Wyclef John and Gloria Trevi.
"I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English," he said when asked at a news conference.

No shit, George. And if someone hadn't produced a photo of you waving a Mexican flag to get hispanic votes in a governor's race in Texas, you'd be saying we should all wave the Murcan flag while we sing it in English, too.

I listened to the Spanish version on the BBC. It still sounds like a drinking song, but the words sound less lugubrious than in English. I say scrap the English version after the first eleven words, where most of the audience drops away anyway, and go with the Spanish after that. The rest of the Star Spangled Banner might as well be in Serbo-Croation anyway, for all that people listen to it.
¡Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada?

Tierra de libres! The land of the free. Where we can sing in any language we want to.

Friday cat blogging

Gray is out of sorts. Who knows why? Maybe the newspaper he has chosen to lie on is not as comfortable as he had hoped.

Grendel prefers a tablecloth

(click photos to enlarge)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Some birds of McKinney Falls

A Little Blue heron, intent on heron business. This photo, and the ones that follow, were taken at the confluence of Onion and Williamson creeks, a few yards above the lower of the two waterfalls in McKinney Falls State park.

The little blue stayed quite a distance from me. But after it left, a green heron landed close by. Here it is, neck extended.

This, amazingly, is the same bird.

Some semi-palmated sandpipers, having a bite to eat during migration.

I clicked my camera just as two blue-winged teal flew away. I thought I had missed them, and I was surprised to find I had this photo.

(click photos to enlarge)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Butterflies at Onion Creek

Tawny Emperors were out in force today at McKinney Falls on Onion Creek--hundreds of them. One of them landed on my hand, but unfortunately it was on the hand that was holding the camera, presenting an insurmountable photography problem (I watched the butterfly a while, and then tried to move the camera to the other hand, ever so slowly, but the tawny emperor thought that was a silly idea, and flew away.)
Here's one resting on the limestone of a creekside rock overhang that served as a shelter for Native Americans for thousands of years.

This one is feeding on a Mexican Persimmon

As is this one.

This is a gray hairstreak, Strymon melinus, in the shade of the hackberry forest by the old McKinney plantation house ruins

(click to enlarge photos)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Morning light

Mourning dove in a dead tree not long after the sun came up.

A cow-itch vine on a woodpile

(click to enlarge)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday cat and butterfly blogging

A pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) briefly landing on a honeysuckle

Gray under a bench

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dog, rabbit, and snake

Yesterday I was out trying to take pictures of butterflies and dragonflies in my yard, which is a long, narrow acre and a quarter. The fence at the back is insubstantial separation from a very large unmowed field, a paradise of rodents, beyond which, on the right, lies Turkey Hill, several hundred still-pristine acres owned by developers who one day plan to build houses and apartments. On the left of my property is another weedy field, recently cleared of junk by its new proprietors who have a dumptruck business and who have planted a confederate flag in front of the office trailer.

My next door neighbor's dog was bitten by a small rattlesnake a few days ago, so I was watching where I walked. My little dog Bella, who has an excitable temperament, was out with me. I didn't actually expect to see a snake, or I would not have taken Bella out to that part of the yard, where I allow native vegetation to grow--normally it would be very beautiful with wild flowers at this time of the year. Too dry this year, though.

Anyway, I spotted a rabbit. I took a few photographs (see below), but then Bella saw it and went berserk, as she always does, breaking into a yappy headlong run towards it, with no hope of catching it, of course--she never even gets close. The rabbit bolted toward a fence covered with honeysuckle, the dog crazy with excitement close behind. I started walking back toward my house, and than froze with a sound that stopped me in my tracks with a massive and instantaneous adrenalin hit. A big western diamondback rattlesnake was coiled up, seething with menace, about 5 or 6 feet away. I backed up and took some pictures, which was kind of a stupid thing to do.

I was a safe distance away, but I realized, with a pang of regret, that I can't have this rattlesnake living in my yard--I am going to have to kill it, in violation of my vows as a Buddhist. My next thought was, I can't do that with Bella outside, because she will try to help. Though I have never had occasion to find out, and hope I don't, I am reasonably sure Bella is not a snake-savvy dog.

In the midst of my internal monologue, the rabbit broke from cover under the honeysuckle and ran right past the rattlesnake, but the snake remained focused on me, following my movements with its head weaving like a cobra looking out of a basket. Oh, shit, I thought, as this happened, but Bella--fortunately nearsighted--did not see the rabbit run, and was still yapping wildly at the now vacated honeysuckle. I dropped my camera, ran over and swooped down on my startled dog. It frightened her as I grabbed her--I am surprised she didn't pee on my leg--and I ran to the house and dumped her inside the door; a very distressed little dog probably wondering what she had done wrong. I grabbed a walking stick from beside the back door and ran back out to where the snake had been. Snake was still there.

So I killed it.

I feel bad about that. But it was too close to the house.

I suspect there will be more snakes , actually. Beside the neighbor's dog getting bitten, a guy working with the lumber stacked outside of a Home Depot on the other side of Turkey Hill--not too far as the crow flies--got bitten by a rattlesnake a few days ago. All the horse people riding in the greenbelt have reported seeing them there, just as I did. I have lived here since 1991, and I have seen nothing like it.

Bella looked at me when I got back inside, like what the hell was that all about.

The dog, with recent bad haircut which she is happily unaware of

Here's the rabbit

And here is the rattlesnake

(click any photo to enlarge)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Seems to be summer in Austin--spring didn't last very long

It was close to 100°F yesterday, and promises to be about the same today. I saw a big rattlesnake in the greenbelt the day before yesterday, and my neighbor's dog was bitten by a rattlesnake the day before that, in her yard, about 50 feet from my house. Summertime stuff. Despite the heat and the snakes, I have been spending a lot of time outdoors with my camera, so I will post a few more photos.

Checkered White (Pontia protodice) feeding on an Engelmann daisy flower

Asclepias asperula, antelope horn milkweed

Argemone albiflora White prickly poppy, with a bug buried in a forest of stamens. The petals are blowing in the wind.

Aztec Dancer, Argia nahuana, closely related to the blue-fronted dancer shown in a previous post

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

Eastern fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, having a hard time making up its mind which tree to go up.

And a nice rose from my yard. When we bought this house in 1991 it had some well tended rosebushes. We completely ignored them, never watered them in dry weather, never pruned them, never tried to keep them from being overrun by competing vegetation, nothing. Every spring they flower nicely.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Local color

These are some colors of spring in the vicinity of Onion Creek southeast of Austin.

Here is a damselfly called a blue-fronted dancer, Argia apicalis

The common Texas prickly pear, Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri. The flowers are 3 inches across, sometimes larger. Some stands of prickly pear in flower can be spectacular. The new pads of prickly pear, called nopalitos (actually stems, not leaves) are a popular food item in Mexico, especially during Lent, probably because they added a sense of bulk to your scrambled eggs if you couldn't mix sausage in. They are added in strips or chopped pieces. Unfortunately our local prickly pear species, though perfectly edible, puts forth new shoots too late for Lent most years, so nopalitos have to be imported for newly arrived immigrants who are homesick for Mexican cuisine. Nopalitos are are available in my local grocery store, as are an astonishing variety of hot peppers. I have discovered that if you want to prepare your own nopalitos, you have to be careful to get all the glochids off. But I digress.

This dragonfly is called a variegated meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum. (Thanks to John Abbott for the identification.)

Silver nightshade, so called because the leaves are somewhat whitened by fuzz. Solanum elaeagnifolium

Flower of the southern dewberry, Rubus trivialis. Dewberries taste really good. I will keep an eye on this patch.

Pink evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa. These are common around Austin.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday cat blogging

Friday morning finds Gray doing what he does best

At a nearby window, Grendel is birdwatching--wistfully

Here is what he is seeing

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dragonfly Tuesday

Here are three dragonflies. The first one, a dot-winged baskettail (Epitheca petechialis) has just emerged here from the nymph stage, leaving behind a discarded snakeskin-like husk which fell in the water. I had caught a glimpse of something shiny and struggling in the weeds of a pond edge. The dragonfly was covered with a membranous slime, like any newborn thing, when it got out of its old shell. As I watched it began to dry out and the wings unfold. I'd guess this is a fairly dangerous moment in a dragonfly's life, but nothing ate this one--at least while I was watching.

The next is a study in spininess--a sulphur-tipped clubtail (Gomphus militaris), resting on a prickly pear cactus pad.

Finally, a female blue-eyed darner (Rhionaeschna multicolor) or possibly a female turquoise-tipped darner (Rhionaeschna psilus), laying eggs. The females of these two species are nearly identical--and neither of them have eyes of blue or tips of turquoise. They can be told apart if you measure the length, but I am afraid I did not do that. The blue-eyed is more common.

A word about the name of the darner species: "Rhionaeschna" of course, refers the old Welsh goddess of shuttle-looms, whose consort Rhnghwwschngwn, god of coughs, or, acccording to some, the god of the glottal stop, was devoured by a swarm of angry vowels, causing the grief-stricken goddess to depart in perpetual mourning and assume her present form.

Click to enlarge any image.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The "I am not a crook" defense, updated

At the beginning of the Plame scandal, the President said it was his intention to find out who made the late night phone call that blew the cover of a secret CIA operative who happened to be the wife of Joseph Wilson, a White House political enemy. A spinoff of this bit of vindictiveness was that Ms Plame's career was derailed, and far more importantly her secret foreign contacts exposed to reprisals. Clearly we would be getting no further information from those sources, if they are still alive.

The midnight disclosure also violated the law.

The President professed both disbelief and indignation that anyone in the White House might have made the phone call. The President abhors leaks. He said that he would fire the person responsible, if that person worked in the White House. The President called on the leaker to voluntarily come forward. No one did.

The security breach became the subject of a criminal investigation that has led (so far) to the felony indictment of Scooter Libby.

Now it looks like the White House is preparing an escape route if it turns out that the President himself authorized the midnight phone call outing Ms Plame, as Libby's legal team is likely to claim.

It works like this. Press Secretary Scott McClellan is arguing that Scooter Libby's disclosure of a different bit of classified (and BTW completely erroneous) information to Judith Miller about Saddam's alleged efforts to obtain uranium, was completely legal, because the President ordered it.

According to McClellan, if the President himself authorizes a leak, he in effect declassifies the information at the exact moment of the leakage. The President has the legal authority to declassify, hence _any_ classified material leaked at the President's behest is no longer--by definition--a leak of classified material, and therefore no crime could have been committed. QED.

It is not hard to see where this new legal principle will take us.

But let's back up a little, before we give this logic our seal of approval. Let's look at a couple of hypothetical tests.

We have normal procedures in place for the exercise of presidential powers. We all know, for example, that Mr. Bush has the power to pardon federal criminals, but let's say Libby is convicted and the President, instead of following established procedure for a pardon, instead approves a plan to break Scooter out of prison--maybe White House underlings scale the walls of Leavenworth in the dark of night with ladders, guns, and dynamite, to rescue Scooter from his cell. Is that in effect a Presidential pardon?

Or can the President call up Langley and get the names of two or three of our undercover CIA agents, and then whisper their identities to a newspaper columnist who will announce them, to the detriment of national security, in the morning newspaper? I assume Scott McClellan would say "yes." Nothing illegal, nothing to see here folks, move along.

Or can the President, if he so chooses, reveal vital military secrets with a phone call to a favored reporter who will then announce these secrets to the world, and our enemies, the next morning? Is such Presidential leakage actually an automatic "declassification" of the information? Or would this instead be in the realm of high crimes and misdemeanors mentioned in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment? Or would it simply be treason?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday non-cat blogging (the cats are taking the day off)

It was a good day for a walk at Bee Creek, a beautiful small stream that has been completely surrounded by urban development as Austin has expanded westward. I rarely go there any more, mainly because the 227 acre nature preserve along the creekbank is intrusively overlooked by mansions of the very wealthy, which sit atop the hills above the creek in a way that reminds me of the ongoing warfare of wealth against nature--though I will say on behalf of our local wealthy, that, having destroyed a good deal of pristine wilderness to build their oversized houses, they are now diligent in wanting to preserve what's left of it.

When I first went there, in the early 1970s, Texas madrones grew along the trail above the creek. I thought perhaps I might revisit them. Alas, human presence seems to have eliminated them altogether. Maybe there was a fire. At any rate the preserve has a "Madrone Trail" where now no madrones remain, except in the memory of those of us who once saw them.

But that nostalgia aside, it was a very beautiful day, and there are lots of flowers out. I enjoyed the walk. Here are some photos.

This is the little creek, above a small and lovely waterfall.

Blackfoot daisies (Melampodium leucanthum), hardy and able to withstand heat and dry weather, are common in the upland part of the preserve.

Cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana), found occasionally in shaded areas.

A question mark comma (Polygonia interrogationis) pretending to be a leaf under oak trees

A Drummond's skullcap (Scutellaria drummondii.) I only saw one of these.

Texas sages (Salvia texana) were a little more common than the skullcaps

Navajo tea (Thelesperma simplicifolium) is another dry upland flower.

Here a western scrub jay (Aphelocoma californica) bids me goodbye and (with the attitude of most jays) good riddance. The western edge of Austin in the farthest east this species of jay can be found. It's blue jays from Bee Creek all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

(click to enlarge photos)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The children's crusade

For several days, schoolchildren here in Austin--as in other parts of the country--have been staging school walkouts, and marching in protest of anti-immigrant legislation and anti-immigrant rhetoric. There were some more student demonstrations here today. Personally, I was heartened by it: a sudden and unexpected flowering of activism and civic virtue among, God bless my soul, high school students, who seem to all believe in things America is supposed to stand for, like fairness, opportunity, and, of course, free speech. Wow.

Unfortunately, this has gotten the xenophobes very worked up. The Austin newspaper opened an online comments forum which, within a few hours, before the thing was closed to further expression of deranged opinion, was inundated with vitriol like that below. (I have tried to choose a representative sampling.) This from one Hugo:

Kevin fears an agenda of "reconquest":
This is less a matter of immigration and more of a reconquista. Those carrying Mexican flags demonstrate this vividly.

A lady concerned with hair dye says:
i cant stand the fact that over the years our crime rate has jumped up so high because of mexicans and illegals coming into our country...they arent nice to us and cause us soo many problems with taxes and welfare they are getting that its running the TRUE americans into the ground each and every day!! I have to pay taxes for someone who sits on ones a*s and does nothing all day but dish out babies and is getting money from our government for it. HOW IS THAT FAIR? come on people! how can we call it right to have illegals in our country. come to america and LEARN english NOT SPANISH!!! i hate the fact that over the past 20 years man there use to be no spanish on any of the boxes of hair dye that i buy. now there is a two sided portion for them. they call them selves americans?

Mike says:
Get them out, at least now if you ever have to go to the hospital you won’t have to wait 2-3hrs behind familys of illegal mexicans w/ no insurance and no intent to pay the bill.

And so on, and so forth--there were 146 comments, almost all like this, within a few hours.

Now it's easy to make fun of these sad illiterates, but this outburst of dementia and hatred is a measure of how the GOP kulturkampf project has prospered, and of Republican success in poisoning the well of reason in the minds of the Left-Behind, casualties of the headlong Republican dash toward a final closure of middle-class opportunity. It's quite a trick for Bush and company to screw people who had thought opportunity was their birthright as Americans--but who will never have a better job than the one they now have at Walmart--and then get them to blame immigrants for their straitened lives, instead of Republicans. But fascism is a one-trick pony, and this is that trick.

It's like Republicans have managed to herd most of their true victims into the supersized debtor's prisons called the red states, dressed the residents in clown suits, and implanted irrationality chips under all the fright wigs such that even the sight of idealistic young protesters provokes automatic outrage, frenzy, and an indignation that outreaches its verbal resources, if not coherence itself. Thus we now see, in the online forum quoted above, and I am sure in many other venues, including the US Congress, what happens when your brains get sucked out by patriotism. All the clowns rush into the center ring in red, white, and blue greasepaint, rending their clothes, with pratfalls and a great flapping of floppy shoes and honking of red rubber noses. Meanwhile the Republicans rulers of the country remain far from trouble behind by the phalanx of crazed caricature-citizens rushing in the wrong direction howling for not-so-virtual blood.

The top-hat-magician wonder of fascism is how a cheap trick will fool the crowd every time, how a cloud of stage-smoke and a loud drumroll of my-country-right-or-wrong rhetoric will invariably reveal--standing bewildered, when the smoke clears, before an audience that goes nuts--a scapegoat.

I dunno if Republicans will use their lowest-common-denominator politics to win on this once again. If past success is any indication, they will end up somehow benefitting from the issue. But I guess I am still optimistic enough to hope that common sense, rationality, and ordinary decency will again reassert itself, and that eventually their cheap tricks will fail to work. Clearly, the cheap tricks failed to impress a lot of young people. That's encouraging.

Wednesday dragonfly blogging

These are sulphur-tipped clubtails (Gomphus militaris). Lotsa them today down by Onion Creek. The ones shown here are both female.

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


It rained a few days ago, and now rainlilies are blooming here and there around Austin. These are our spring rainlilies, Cooperia pedunculata. In the fall we have Cooperia drummondii, which look almost exactly like these. Around here both species are just called rainlilies. In books our spring flowers are sometimes called prairie lilies.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's spring, and the snakes are out

Earlier in the week I was pruning some shrubs in my yard, and discovered this little rat snake. It is maybe 18 inches long and its head is about a half inch in diameter. It's probably an immature Texas rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimerii, or possibly an immature Great Plains rat snake, Elaphe guttata emoryi. You can't tell juveniles of these two species apart without seeing the front of the face. Texas ratsnakes are more common around Austin, so my tentative ID is based on that.

close up

In the Great Plains rat snake the facial markings remain clearly visible as the snakes get older and larger, whereas in the Texas rat snake they get more indistinct and sometimes disappear. This is a big Texas rat snake about four feet long that I found on my walk yesterday in Searight Park.

A rat's eye view.

Rat snakes will happily live in close proximity with people, maybe having some genetic knowledge that the presence of humans improves the odds of finding a rat. One morning a few years ago, after I had gone to work my wife was in our bedroom and the cat started hissing, its tail bushed up, its hair standing on end. The dog went crazy barking. A large rat snake came out from under the bed. Surrounded by enemies, it immediately took refuge in my underwear drawer, which I had characteristically left open. It coiled up and would not come out.

What to do? Kay was a practical woman, so she removed the drawer with the snake still in it and carried it out into the yard and dumped it there upside down, her theory being that the snake would leave when the coast was clear. She turned the drawer over an hour or so later with a stick and the snake was gone. She picked up the contents of the drawer and took everything back inside. So I was picking fragments of dry grass out of my the underwear for a while.

Addendum to the snake story

My daughter Eve reminded me that she was there, and that I had forgotten some important details, such as:

She, not Kay, was in the bedroom with the cat when the cat discovered the snake. Eve, afraid the snake might be poisonous, and that the cat might attack it and get bitten, grabbed the cat to remove it from possible harm, and at that point the cat became convinced that it had been suddenly seized from behind by a gigantic ally of the snake, and the cat went berserk, clawing and biting Eve severely, but Eve, who deeply cherished that particular cat, held on to the struggling animal and shouted for Kay to bring a towel to hold onto the cat without further injury.

Kay, when she realized that there was a snake in the bedroom, did not immediately focus on the issue at hand, which was that Eve needed to somehow get disengaged from the thrashing terrified cat. It took several minutes to finally accomplish this. The dog was barking the whole time, of course. Finally, I think after the blood was stanched and the Eve's wounds bandaged, the snake was discovered to have gotten into my underwear drawer.

Then the drawer was removed to the yard, as per the story above, but the snake did not voluntarily depart from the drawer, so (I had forgotten this part also) Kay got a ceremonial sword belonging to her father--who collected swords and knives, and tended to leave them in other people's houses--and together Kay and Eve lifted a piece of underwear with a live snake tangled in it on the point of a Knights of Columbus sword and took it fifty yards out toward the back fence, and left the snake there, unharmed.

The rest of the story is correct as written.