Life & ISland Times: Chimney Caps

Editor’s Note: wanted to be down at Refuge Farm for what could be the last major snow storm of the 2018 cycle. It wasn’t that big a deal. but having a fire and watching the sleet and wintry mix come down deep in the Virginia countryside is pretty cool. As to Marlow’s fine story this morning, I have my own tales of inadvertent intrusion on our sovereign property. I wish chimney caps worked on Turkey Buzzards. We had a colony of twenty or more (estimates range s high as 30, sober count) but apparently only two of them- Edward and Edwina- are using the burrow entrance to the barn to sleep in relative comfort (and poop on the tractor) now that I have the doors secured against foxes and feral cats. We all have our challenges, though Ed and Edwina are protected by the Migratory Species Act and I respect their rights. Not the other 28, though.



After having lived in a no-fireplace tropical land for sixteen years, our six fireplace, three chimney Coastal Empire digs caused me once again to ponder the need for clear chimney flues, inserts and dampers as well as the non-negotiable requirement for functioning chimney caps.

I was initially inspired to consider these issues actively this past summer when we observed a bunch of flower nectar drunk bees from our side garden spew forth from an upstairs room fireplace.

We found these inebriated honey and bumble bees so buzzed that they were slip sliding away on the room’s tile floor. After herding these hammered drunks into a paper grocery store bag for their return to our garden, we lit that room’s gas log fireplace for a 30 minute clearing operation of any other potential invaders. We were not bothered further after running similar death-to-intruders operations in our other fireplaces.

Chimney caps were standard in the midwestern cities of my and W’s births. These mil-spec caps became indeliably marked in my mind, when one mid 1950’s summer eve of family TV watching was interrupted by a bat flying out of the living room chimney to terrorize us. Some of us children were dispatched to get a paper bag and broom to corral the invader. Ever the engineer and detailed observer of new things, my father sought out and hand wound his Bell & Howell 8mm movie camera to film the bat’s flight and capture operations.

In the grainy 60 year old color film, viewers can still see my father’s right arm directing his volunteers — me and my younger brother — in the capture operation as the bat dive bombed my mother and sisters as they cowered with their heads face planted in the seat cushions of the overstuffed living room chairs.

The need for chimney caps here in coastal Georgia was reinforced this winter by a story from a local that was one part funny and one part scary.

This neighbor had a racoon climb down the living room chimney. A real big dude. They found the coon sleeping on their fireplace mantel. Initially Animal Control would not come and retrieve it. Quickly thinking, they called back the government no-help desk and said they thought it was rabid. The no longer recalcitrant reps from Animal Control arrived within thirty minutes. After the intruder’s removal, proper chimney caps were immediately ordered and emplaced.

It took my my family — i.e., my father — another incident a year later to cap our two-flue single chimney.

Just after performing her summer morning ablutions, my mother entered the parental bedroom to see in the fireplace a plump squirrel looking back at her. She screamed something blood curdling but largely unintelligible. Her bat-boys came to the rescue as she had leapt to the top of the bed.

To this day, I am not sure why, but we suburban urchins treated this small rodent with respect not batting it about, but baiting it with peanut butter and herding the little pecker out of the house. We were lucky to have confronted an ordinary, and quite domesticated, squirrel. We could have faced off with a most ravenous and foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent with a mile-wide vicious streak. Consequently, we kids were spared from soiling and disgracing ourselves with fear.

No, that fate was reserved for my father later that evening, when my sure-to-be-suffering-from-PTSD mother confronted him at the dinner table with the undeniable facts as seen from the window next to the kitchen dinner table that all of our neighbors’ houses had chimney caps installed and no reports of household fauna invasions.

Crosman .22 cal pneumatic pellet pistol model 130

Not surprisingly, I, as the oldest child, was dragooned into doing the high work for this cap’s emplacement the next weekend, since my father abhorred heights. As recompense, my father bought a right and powerful, pellet pistol and gave me enough pellets and instruction to learn how to shoot varmints that might enter the house in the future.

The following parochial school year I learned to sing in Latin the Catholic Mass of the Dead. Unfortunately, I had to wait the passage of five years before singing these requiem-for-a-squirrel lyrics after I picked off one of several who were prying off the chimney cap cover:

Pie Jesu Domine, Pious Lord Jesus,
Dona eis requiem. Give ’em rest.
Pie Jesu Domine, Pious Lord Jesus,
Dona eis requiem sempiternam. Give ’em everlasting rest.

On a brighter note, I still wonder if that long ago squirrel looked in that bedroom’s comfy abyss that morning and saw, not his fate or his character, but the existence of a heretofore undiscovered free-food-today buffet.

Another reason to install chimney caps — not having to
explain killing Santa to children (copyright Gahan Wilson)

So, take it from me, if you value your peaceful abode a lot more than 500 bucks for a set of chimney caps, folks, find them at Home Depot and have a handyman install them. Otherwise, you’ll be calling an Animal Control no-help desk or someone like me who’ll come right over and kill and remove the critters . . . for a grand.

Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat

Arrias: Chloe Kim, American

In an article the other day, after she won a gold medal, a reporter waxed lyrical about Chloe Kim. The author went to some pains to point out that Miss Kim is Korean-American.

I protest. She isn’t. Neither are her parents.

The Kims came to the US to be Americans. Yes, they were born in Korea. And they appreciate their Korean heritage. They love their family members who still live in South Korea. But they left. Not because the Republic of Korea is a bad place. In fact, South Korea is a great place. But they left Korea. Because the US is different, it’s exceptional. Want proof?

Here are some questions you might want to research.

How many people of American descent are on, for example, the Chinese Olympic team? Or for that matter, how many folks of US descent are on anyone else’s team? There are, of course, a number of Americans, living in the US, enjoying US citizenship, who through the benefits of dual citizenship, get to compete on another team. Then they return to the US. Which sometimes seems a bit odd to me…

But let’s go a little further: how many countries let someone from someplace else rise to be a senior member of the government? The US has had any number of senators and congressmen who were citizens of other countries before immigrating to the US.

Currently, 6 Senators, 18 Congressmen, 1 Governors, Mayors of several cities, and 1 member of the cabinet were born abroad; (the current Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan).

Twenty years ago we had a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (General John Shalikashvili) whose parents had been born in Georgia, in the Caucuses, and had fled to Poland when Communist Russia invaded Georgia. The general was born in Poland and the family came to the US in 1952 when he was 16. He was drafted after graduation from college, commissioned a year later, and rose through the ranks to become chairman.

Two of our National security advisors were born outside the US: Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski; men who shared our nations most important information with just a handful of other people, men who acted as the closest advisors to the President.

Do any other countries turn such a blind eye to your origins as the United States? The answer is no. It is a living demonstation of Jefferson’s immortal words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Yes, we have problems. That’s because we’re all imperfect. We’ve had problems and we will have problems. And many of them will be difficult to solve and will be painful. The horror that took place in Florida last week is proof enough of that.

But at its root, what we have here, this place, America, is unique; it is exceptional in the best sense of that word. More than 100 years ago President Theodore Roosevelt gave a series of speeches on what he referred to as “hyphenated Americanism.”

His point then, which resonates down to us today, is that no one should be judged on where they came from, or what religion they follow or any other criteria, save one: are they Americans? You can come to the US and start new, as long as you embrace one criteria: you become an American.

The press, and many in academia and elsewhere, trumpet multiculturalism. In that trumpeting lies the real threat to the republic. As Roosevelt noted:

“The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality.”

President Woodrow Wilson, democrat, president of Princeton University and a man of unimpeachable liberal credentials, put it a bit more tersely than Roosevelt:

“Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”

But, in an interview, Miss Kim noted that her parents came to the US to live out the American Dream. It seems that Miss Kim gets it, as do her parents. If only the press were as smart as the Kims.

Chloe Kim, no hyphen. Just an American.

Copyright 2018 Arrias

Life & Island Times: Life Before The Big War

Editor’s Note: this is a back-to-back for Coastal Empire this week. I am hoping the kitchen upgrade here at Big Pink may be complete soon. Socotra LLC is proud to have talented team of content providers who step up to the vital mission of providing more glib words to the Web. To further that end, we are conferring this morning with legal staff to see if we can run a story on one of the most Legendary West Coast Naval Aviators to ever have flown. That, and former SECNAV John ehman’s thoughts about Naval Aviation. If the stove gets installed, that is. The worldwide threat hearing in the Senate is well worth a look if you have a chance. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the cyber problem is going to bite us hard. As Marlow astutely notes, channeling David Byrne, it is more just a question of when…—Unclassified-SSCI.pdf

– Vic

Marlow’s note: Wire services reported that the US Director of National Intelligence \ this past Tuesday warned that time was running out for the United States to act on the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

He further claimed that North Korea presents “a potentially existential” threat to the US during his remarks at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on “Worldwide Threats.”

This warning came despite an apparent easing of tensions on the Korean peninsular after talks resumed between North and South Korea, and as the North participated in the Winter Olympics hosted by the South.

That a Big War in Asia might be coming soon probably came as a surprise to us mainland, Olympics binge-watching softies but probably not to the battle-hardened soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the field who’ve been living, eating and drinking Small Wars during the past 16 years.

And so with a tip of the hat to David Byrne of Talking Heads . . .

– – – –

Intel says cars are coming, loaded with explosives
Packed up and ready to blow
Passing by old IED sites, out on the highway
Places where we no longer go

Sounds of mortars, beyond the wire
Almost used to it now
Living in a trailer, out in the boonies
Just like where we lived in our home towns

16 years of small war, never was a party
But we’re still messing around
Ran out of time for romancing and lovey dovey
Peninsula boy denies us R&R for any of that now

High on a distant hillside, missile sights are rising
Bad guys are ready to roll
They sleep in the daytime, they advance at nighttime
We are on our fifth rotation now

16 years of small war, never was a party
But we’re still messing around
This ain’t no Desert Shield, or El Dorado Canyon
This is really the big time now

Heard about the Olympics? Heard about the cheer leaders?
Heard about his sister?
Don’t look over the wall, or stand by a window
Somebody’ll see you for sure

They issued extra MRE’s, lotsa peanut butter
Maybe last 7 or 8 days
Deleted our tunes, smashed our iPhones and head phones
Can’t have music to play

Shoulda stayed in college, tried classes at night school
Could’ve been BitCoin rich by now
Won’t write a letter, won’t Facebook post
There’s no time for that now

We dress like storm troopers, carry extra ammo and really sharp knives
None of us got a suit or a tie
Got no hairstyle, shaved it all off so many times now
We don’t care what we look like

Cold make us shiver, we feel so alive
We make a damn great fire team
Won’t get exhausted, we’ll do a lotta killing
Let’s get us some sleep

Deleted our postings, what good are social media?
They won’t help us survive
Chests are searing, flaming like volcanos
Will the burning keep us alive?

Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat/David Byrne

Life & Island Times: Love and War


“Two things greater than all things are,” wrote Rudyard Kipling: “The first is Love and the second War.” Romance and conflict are intimately bound together. Long ago Love started one War when one army chased their king’s Helen in Greek mythology.

Love and War are the two extremes of our human experience. Perhaps it’s true as the song says that love is a battlefield. So, on an off chance to see what might be what here I decided to quickly look online to see if Valentine’s Day pop culure emphemera like cards and magazine covers revealed something of how Love-n-War’s interrelationship on America’s day of lovers has evolved during the past 100 years.

World War I

World War II

Valentine’s Day letter from the Korean War front 1952

Vietnam War death card Valentine

Desert Storm

War on Terror

Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat

Post Card From the Swamp #33


Well, I don’t know quite what to think. Cupid appears to be in the Witness Protection Program. I send these postcards on Wednesday, just as the mainstream Swampsters are getting their narratives straight for the week. There is that nasty business in the White House that has dragged the Chief of Staff into a conflict about the alleged (mis)conduct of a senior staffer- you know who. He is accused of spousal abuse.

Totally icky.

He says he didn’t do it, his wives claim he did. I am inclined to believe the ladies, though I do think the admonition that you may only need one marriage in a life is trenchant. But I am getting lost in the he-said, she-said and the apparent demise of due process.

Maybe it is just a case of turn-about is fair play. I don’t know. I certainly am glad I am pretty much retired and no longer have to fear the harridans of Human Resources showing up at my office to ask for my resignation or worse. Not that they ever did, I hasten to add.

This isn’t that hard. Don’t treat people badly and keep your hands to yourself unless you ask. Increasingly, though, I think people just won’t ask. On a Valentine’s Day like this one, that strikes me as a little sad.

I took the morning to watch the Intelligence Community seniors lay out the global threat environment yesterday morning. I actually know most of them, except the FBI guy, which is probably a good thing, given what is going on.

Anyway, here is the weekly postcard. It just keeps getting stranger, doesn’t it?


Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra

Life & Island Times: That Time of Year


It’s that time of year back up in my former northern Virginia digs along the Potomac River. No, not tax time nor Valentine’s. No, it is now that groups of raptors will be wintering over out in the treed areas near suburban and urban developments.

I first noticed these winter snowbirds when I was living during the 1980s just outside the Capitol beltway in West Springfield that had neither a spring nor a field. What surprised me was to find similar groups of these hunter-killers a dozen or so years later when I moved to an urban row house in Old Town Alexandria.

I loved it when these feathered pillagers arrived because the dirty Canadian geese vamoosed. Maybe it was climate change — beats the hell out of me — but these geese had become year-round residents of northern Virginia. They had stopped going south anymore. So, they flew around all over the place — the slow running rivers, lakes and ponds in northern Virginia attracted the geese perhaps.

In particular, the geese congregated on the large sports fields of nearby schools and parks. They spent their days creating tons of goose poop which local dogs loved to eat after their off-leash running around madly chasing these winged crap machines. They never caught them, of course. When these birds had flown away, the dogs would return slowly, grazing on goose poop along the way. Only upon re-entry into their homes would they throw it all back up on their owners oriental rugs.

All this might sound amusing, but the geese became over time serious public health problems. No one did anything about it. Why, you might ask. Well, the agents of virtue who ran the various local municipalities wouldn’t allow it. Apparently, they wanted us to be as friendly with the geese as we were with the destitute homeless and the flush with cash, EB-5 visa program applicants.

For the parents of athletes who played on these fields, it meant knowing that your child practiced on fields that were, in fact, geese toilets. By fall, after the long, hot, dry summer, the poop had become a fine dust embedded in the grass. Concussions were one thing, but I had to think twice before letting my daughters practice and play on natural grass fields up there.

As God is my witness, I cannot recall without involuntarily shuddering a sensation as distasteful as having to snap a football or kick a soccer ball or place one of these balls in play as I did as a sideline ref that had been smeared with or dusted by goose excretia.

Once a local gold course less than a mile from where I lived acquired some sort of dog and put him to work chasing these birds. Once they were discovered doing so, the progressives in our local government issued an edict to the effect that you could not let the dogs out to “worry the geese.” So, the course ended up with what was a population explosion of these dirty and nosiy honkers.

They roamed the greens and fairways every day eating and so on. There was no sizeable water source in the immediate area. It was great to see them land and take off in formation. But, I really wanted to open fire on them when they started stopping by our back yard pool in Springfield, since they left behind sizeable messes.

With firearm discharging being not in acccordance with peaceable, genteel rules of my cul de sac (well, two of my neighbors were LEOs from the FBI & FPS who offered support as long as they could shoot some of the micreants), I was able to shoo my enemies off using spicy corn and several bad ass looking plastic birds of prey.

Sometime well after I moved south, the local governments finally got their acts together and allowed residents to secure the service of humane pest control companies like Their anti- goose schtick focussed on using border collies to tirelessly stalk and and chase these birds away.

My heart is warmed during this unseasonably cold winter here in the Coastal Empire winter by imagining packs of geese being run off repeatedly to the point of distraction and nervous breakdown.



Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat

Arrias: North Korea and the Berlin Olympics

Editor’s Note: As a winter sports enthusiast from way back, I discovered that coverage of the current Winter Games was not as visible as it had been in decades past. Arrias adds content and context to the 2018 Games….BTW, if you haven’t, “The Boys in the Boat” is one of the better books I have read in years.

North Korea and the Berlin Olympics

In his wonderful “Boys in the Boat,” D. J. Brown tells the story of the crew team from the University of Washington who, in 1936, journeyed to Berlin and won the gold medal for the USA. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it.

But there are several facets to the tale; one, of note today, is how Hitler used the Olympics to showcase his new Germany. Prior to the Berlin Olympics the Olympic games were still big deals, but it was Hitler who turned them into a spectacle, an event far bigger than simply athletes getting together to compete at the highest level. After Hitler, it became a way to showcase a city and a nation, a way to make grand political statements, all couched in terms of brotherhood and unity and peace. And it’s worth noting that the particular individual who orchestrated this production for Hitler was a charming and beautiful woman, Leni Riefenstahl.

Riefenstahl was an actor and dancer who became one of pre-war Germany’s great directors and producers. While she denied to her death having knowledge of the holocaust, she was clearly drawn to Hitler, had a close working relationship with Hitler’s master of propaganda – Dr. Goebbels, and remained part of Hitler’s inner social circle throughout the war. And she certainly had knowledge of the movement of Jewish Germans out of Berlin prior to the game, the better to display “Aryan purity.”

A key part of all this was her ability to craft an image of the new Aryan race for the world to see, with the stage she created for the Olympics. Riefenstahl was the creator of the bigger than life spectacles that have been mirrored in every subsequent Olympic game.

She was a very smart, beautiful, charming woman, in league with an evil regime…

And we are seeing the same thing today.

North Korea’s maximum dictator, Kim Jong Un – seemingly taking a cue from Goebbels and Hitler – sent his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to represent him at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, ROK. She’s the first member of the Kim family to enter South Korea since 1950. And everyone is fawning all over her. Everyone first notes that she’s part of the nasty regime, but then they switch over to nearly breathless comments about her presence, noting that this puts a young, female face on North Korean leadership.

Yeah, sure.

Let’s review. North Korea is the most repressive regime on the planet. Really, no one else comes close. Tehran and the mad mullahs? That’s Club Med compared to North Korea. In the late 90s North Korea faced a famine that lasted several years; at least 5% of the population died. Did they change policies? No. In the last 10 years the economy of North Korea has been essentially flat, with per capita income hovering near $1,000. Yet they – Kim Jong Un and his devoted sister – have managed to invest several billion in the development of nuclear weapons and missiles to carry them.

In excess of 1/3rd of the economy is devoted to the military. But watching a movie from outside the country is a felony. Female face of the future regime? Rape is a tool of control for this regime. Voice of the future? Communicating with the west can be punished with death. Kim has reportedly executed more than 300 people since coming to power in 2011, many members of the inner circle who were simply getting too popular. And full-scale repression of the populace continues. It’s been said that the entire country is a gulag. That may be as accurate a description as any.

What’s amazing about this whole mess, to include insane commentary that Vice President Pence made a major foreign policy gaffe by not engaging with Ms Kim, is that despite the amount of information we have on what is really going on in North Korea, when a charming face steps in front of us, many seem quite willing to forget all that “nasty stuff” and believe the tale we are being told.

The Olympics are a great sports venue. But they’ve been used for more than 80 years by dictators and their charming assistants to deceive and mislead, and in this particular case, in an attempt to weaken the ties between the US and the Republic of Korea.

Enjoy the games. But don’t be misled by this charming, latter day Salome.

Copyright 2018 Arrias

The Ice Age

OK, OK. I am not going to beat the whole thing to death. It has been painful. Not to mention expensive.

Oh, there are at least two things going on. The knuckleheads downtown finally passed another Continuing Resolution about the same time my aging body decided to be awake, whether I liked it or not.

It took some digging after Leader Pelosi (D-CA) and iconic iconoclast Rand Paul (R-KY) finished their (revised and extended) remarks before their colleagues in the House and Senate, respectively. Not that there were many in the hours of darkness when the powers of whatever are exalted It was to no avail to me, from a practical matter, though total credit for virtue-signalling from them both and a pain in the butt for all the rest of us.

I think the Government of the United States of America was shut down for about an hour waiting for them to finish. A new record for virtue signaling, as far as I am aware.

It was great theater, though I was, like most of my fellow citizens, asleep. I rose cranky and not that curious. I have no microwave oven at the moment (nor sink) and it had to pass without the provision of nice buttered-and-sea-salted popcorn. Which would have engendered a requirement for access to ice and a solid adult beverage.

But as of this morning, I am pleased to report that the reports of global warming are greatly excessive. The time of the next Ice Age is here, and having not been able to cook for a week, I am a teensy bit anxious for the global cooling I think we can all get behind.




I understand I have to throw away the first batch of ice- goodness knows what the Chinese put in the hoses and we need to cycle it away- but I may just make an exception and make a drink and think about it.

New stove next? Hell, I think we are going to go with it. I do not intend to go through the next budget crisis without popcorn.

– Vic

Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra

Post Card From the Swamp #32

It has been another one of those weeks- this dizzying pace of events sweeps all before it.

The House Intelligence Panel issued a memorandum claiming to line out exactly what was provided to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to justify a secret warrant to monitor the communications of Mr. Carter Page, who had left his position as an unpaid advisor to the Trump Campaign a month before the Court issued the order.

(Mr. Page).

It is all curious, since in surveilling Mr. Page, the DOJ and FBI were also collecting on everyone with whom Page was in contact- mostly US citizens active in political and business events who would be scooped up in “incidental” collection. Since there is no representation for the defense at the court, it is more than a little bit like the Star Chamber of old.

And the FBI Love Birds were front and center again as another 1,500 of their text messages were discovered. Most have still not been released, but one that got some breathless play this morning on the news shows indicated that “potus wants to know everything we are doing.” Presumably, that is a direct reference to President Obama.

(SpaceX Falcon Heavy Lift Vehicle. The boosters are intended to be recycled).

All this is almost drowning out the news of the third AMTRAK collision in as many months. A lot of transportation news this week- the United States is back in the heavy lift launch vehicle business again for the first time since the end of the Apollo Lunar program. At least colorful entrepreneur Elon Musk is. He got the Falcon rocket off the pad at Cape Canaveral as the Space Coast was abuzz with tourists. atop the stack was a payload consisting of one of Musk’s Tesla electric cars. Presumably without the heavy battery packs and with a dummy behind the wheel.

I won’t go any further down that road.

And we may be shutting down the government again in what now seems like an endless series high-wire budget crises. We seem to be taking this a lot more calmly than the last one- but this is no way to run a railroad. More on that and the immigration conundrum anon.

Without further ado, this week’s Swamp offering:


Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra

Dreams and Demolition






Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra