Tuesday, July 29, 2014

German Marbles

german marbles

One day when I was about seven or eight years old, my father gave me an unexpected gift. 

We weren’t poor, but we were far from wealthy, so any present that came on a day that was not Christmas or my birthday was unusual to say the least. There was nothing special about that day, so this gift came as a total surprise.

I could hardly contain my excitement as I opened the box to find it contained 200 more-or-less spherical balls.  They varied quite a bit in size, but ranged from about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

I was confused – dumbfounded – I had no idea what they were or what they were for. Dad explained that they were German Marbles and that they were really special.  I tried to hide my disappointment, but I doubt if I did a very good job.

Google German Marbles and you will find pictures of some of the most beautiful glass marbles ever made – clear glass with gorgeous swirls of color – but there were also German Marbles made of clay. 

Those clay marbles were what I got.  They all had flat spots and the colored glaze had so many bumps and pits and pockmarks that they often looked like the surface of the moon.  None of them would roll straight, even on the smoothest surface.

German Clay Marbles were mostly made in the 1800s.  Thinking back about them now, I suppose that they were actually genuine antiques and probably very valuable.  The only use I could find for them was to pay off losses when we played marbles “for keeps.”   My friends objected, but I stuck to my guns, and it wasn’t long before all 200 were gone.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Andrea photo

The young woman in the picture is Andrea Kowch.

I do think she is attractive, but what first got my attention was the fact that her last name could almost be a phonetic spelling of mine. 

I came across this photo – and lots of her paintings – while surfing the net this past weekend.  Andrea is an award winning painter from Michigan and I really like her work.

You might not. 

Her work is dark, stark and sometimes creepy.  Even the happiest of her scenes seem to have some ominous undertones.  I’m not sure how significant it is, but (except for her Hiawatha illustrations) all of her subjects are women.

Here is an example:

Andrea Kowch

She has a WEBSITE and a FACEBOOK PAGE, or you can see lots of her paintings HERE.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Double Feature

dreamer wilde

I have no doubt that my old pal Kirk Dabney can put on his coat of many colors and interpret these, but I had two equally strange, and apparently unrelated dreams last night.

In the first one, three of my former coworkers and I were somewhere near Brenham at the home of a man who owned a brewery.  We were there for a business-related dinner, but never got around to eating because he kept urging us to sample his latest brews.

Also present were the brewer’s wife, three grown sons and two daughters.  The youngest son was a drug addict and the younger daughter was sweet but seriously mentally challenged.  Somewhere in her late teens, this girl was the baby of the family and they were all fiercely protective of her.  I scored major points with the brewer when I was able to make her laugh.

Our hosts were gracious, everyone was friendly, and we all were having a good time, but even my dream self kept wondering why they were hosting four copier repairmen.  I (my dream self) also had a strong sense of deja vu – I knew that I had been there and done that all before – I just didn’t know why.

The other dream was a bit more straightforward. 

I was back in the Army and I and two other guys were delivering a Zodiac inflatable boat to a National Guard unit near Brownsville.  When we got there, the Guard Colonel commandeered the truck and trailer we had used to haul it there.  We were still trying to figure out what to do about that, and how to get ourselves back to Ft. Hood when I woke up.

One more point for what it’s worth – the brewer in my first dream made some really great beer.  My favorite, a dark ale, was so wonderful that I can almost taste it now.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ghost Town

ghost town

If the picture looks like some tourist snapped it at some old ghost town in the American Southwest, it is probably supposed to, but it would be hard to be more wrong.  It was actually taken by Australian photographer Shane Thoms at an abandoned amusement park in Japan.

The place was called Western Village and closed in 2007 after failing to compete with the Japanese Disneyland.  Built in 1979, seventy miles north of Toyko, Western Village included a cowboy saloon, jail, post office, shooting gallery, a fake Rio Grande.  There is even a 1/3 scale replica of Mount Rushmore that was added in 1995 and allegedly cost the park $27 million to build.

Thoms is a guy who thinks abandoned theme parks are more fun than the ones in operation.  You can see more of his photos from Western Village HERE.  and even more photos Posted Here by a group called Haikyo.org.

Friday, July 25, 2014


va tornado

A tornado hit an RV park yesterday, killing two campers and leaving one in critical condition.  It left a path of downed trees and overturned RVs in the Cherrystone Family RV Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia.

We know, or should know, that tornadoes can strike anywhere, but I never thought of Virginia – particularly the Atlantic Coastal Area of Virginia – as a tornado prone area.  Tornadoes usually bring to mind the “Tornado Alley” that stretches from the Panhandle of Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and maybe Arkansas and Illinois.

But Virginia does get tornadoes.  NOAA records show the state averages about seven tornadoes a year, most of them in July.  The death toll from Virginia tornadoes since records began is about seventy.

What county in Texas do you think has the most tornadoes? 

Logic might tell you it would be somewhere on a line from Wichita Falls to Dallas, but according to the Insurance Council of Texas, it’s Harris County!

Harris County has recorded 210 tornadoes in the past 58 years. In a distant second was Hale County located just north of Lubbock with 118. The next three counties reporting the most tornadoes were Texas coastal counties. Galveston County has had 108 confirmed tornadoes, Jefferson County has had 99 and Nueces County has had 93.

Of course, tornadoes are only recorded if they are reported, and a lot of tornadoes probably touched down in unpopulated areas.  And a lot of the coastal tornadoes were spun off during Hurricanes.

Still, it’s something to think about.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

For the Birds


The Audubon Society and the Minnesota Vikings are fighting about the new stadium going up in Minneapolis.  The bird lovers are afraid that the two hundred thousand  square feet of glass walls will be a “death trap” for migratory birds.

"We're talking about a billion dollar stadium here, and the cost to save perhaps thousands of migratory birds -- and make the Vikings a global leader in green stadium design -- is about one-tenth of one percent of that," Audubon Minnesota executive director Matthew Anderson said in a statement issued Wednesday. "Hundreds of millions of dollars of public money is going to build this stadium, and we know the people of Minnesota do not want their money killing birds."

There are new Minnesota state laws designed to minimize the problem, but the stadium design was approved before the regulations were passed, and the Vikings say they will not change the design in the middle of construction.  Looks like the Audubons are one team the Vikings can beat.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Smithsonian Institution studies show that up to 988 million birds are killed annually in the United States by collisions with buildings, especially ones featuring glass windows.

But the danger doesn’t have to come from glass.

Back in the 50s, when we first moved to Liverpool, Texas, we lived in what had originally been half of a World War II mess hall.  We coated the leaky roof of the old building with an asphalt based aluminum paint.  It stopped the leaks, but several times – usually on foggy nights – we were awakened by the crash as geese tried to land on what they thought was water.  It was a scary way to wake up, but that shiny roof not only kept us dry, it provided several tasty meals.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cloud Behind That Silver Lining


In one of those great “Feel Good” stories this past weekend, local TV reported that a pretty little Maltese dog that had been missing for seven years had been found in Washington and was being flown home to Texas.  They promoted, and then  showed, the reunion at Bush Intercontinental airport when Dinah Miller of Tyler got the dog she calls Reese back.

The dog had been picked up on a road near Tacoma and identified by a microchip implanted before he disappeared near Dallas.

Now we learn that Reese has been living with the Davis family in Spanaway, Washington for almost the entire time he had been gone.  Shortly before moving to Washington, Kelli Davis adopted the dog they call Harley at a shelter in Mesquite where he was listed as an owner surrender.  They had been searching and putting up flyers when they learned Reese/Harley’s fate on the news. 

“Harley is my daughter’s best friend. That’s her little buddy. They do everything together,” said Davis,   “I don’t know what to do. We just lost a part of our family.”