Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fine Dining vs. Jeopardy

I can’t remember the actual occasion – Honey could probably tell you – but sometime in the mid-1960s, we went to our first high-end restaurant for an evening of fine dining.  The place was Tony’s, which was supposed to be the place to go in Houston for a true gourmet experience.  This was after we were married, but before I got drafted, so it must have been 1965. We wore our best clothes, but still felt slightly out of place.  Other diners were oil barons, politicians, and at least one local TV personality dining with a lady who may have been his wife. 

The food was okay. 

The escargot sautéed in a light garlic butter sauce – our first time to eat snails – was wonderful, but the main course was a disappointment.  It was chicken prepared with a wine sauce that was so overwhelming that it could just as easily been any other protein from catfish to alley cat.

The entire experience cost us $50, about half of my weekly take-home pay.  We agreed that we were glad we had done it, but would probably never do it again.

Yesterday, I stopped by a local barbecue joint and picked up four sliced beef sandwiches, which, with tax, cost just over $32.  We ate them at the coffee table while watching Jeopardy (Honey had recorded it while I was shopping) and the local news.

We agreed that we thought $32 was outrageous, but even considering that I am retired, that was just a fraction of what our trip to Tony’s had cost in terms of percentage of income. 

And, I’m pretty sure that we enjoyed this dinner more.

Friday, December 19, 2014

YUK – Cabin Fever

It’s 58° this morning.  That was the overnight low, and it is close to the forecast high for today.  Not only that, it’s been raining all night.

I know I should be grateful – appreciate what we’ve got – but I can’t. It won’t officially be winter for another couple days, but I’m already sick of it.

I know there are folks up north who would sell the soul of their first-born for temperatures like this at this time of year, but I just don’t care.  Starving children in Africa never made me want to eat my Brussels sprouts when I was a kid, either.  I do like them now, but Africa did not play a part in that decision.

We had one day in the past week when the temperature here at the Boggy Thicket actually hit 80°.  That only served to remind me how much I’m ready for spring.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


There were a couple of news stories yesterday involving long-time adversaries of the USA – a combination of political sanctions and falling oil prices have the Russian ruble near collapse, and President Obama announced steps to resume normal diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Our attitude toward Cuba has never made sense to me.  Even during the missile crisis, Cuba itself was never a serious threat to the US, but although we have encouraged trade with Russia and China, we have kept the clamps on Cuba.  I’m sure it made life there that much worse, but what (if anything) did we ever gain from it?

I have never considered Russia to be friend in spite of cooperation on things like the International Space Station.  My dad’s unit fought alongside a Soviet brigade in Mongolia during WWII, and he wrote home predicting that our next war would be against them.

With that background, I couldn’t help a smug first reaction – serves ‘em right – but a collapse of the Russian economy could very easily lead to a world-wide monetary collapse, a depression as bad or worse than the 1930s.  Now, that is a very scary possibility.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Over and Under

As a little kid “helping” my dad, I probably rolled up my first extension cord before I was five years old. I mentioned that because I recently learned that I have been doing it wrong for over 60 years!

I suspect that, like me, you hold the cord with one hand and use the other to coil it around your elbow.  The problem with that is that you introduce a lot of unwanted twists in the cord – the longer the cord, the more twists you add.  You may end up with a coil shaped like an 0, but when you hang it on a peg, it transforms itself into an 8, and when you try to unroll it, the cord becomes a mare’s nest of kinks and knots.  That’s a real pain, and even worse, it’s very hard on the cable.

The right way to do it is explained in this video.  The guy who recorded it gives a pretty good explanation of how and why it should be done this way, but he is pretty full of himself and likes to hear his own voice, so you might want stop after the first three minutes or so….

There are dozens of “how to” videos out there, including those touting several other methods for coiling cables – the Shepherd’s Knot, for example – but this one actually works and is fairly easy to follow.

This same over and under method (with a minor modification) works great for the hose for your air compressor or even your garden hose.  Just use the over and under flip as you coil the hose as it’s lying on the ground.  Even an old hose that always kinks will uncoil perfectly.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stress Test


Movoto, the real estate website, has published a piece listing states by stress levels.  Their quasi-scientific report is based on criteria such as:

  • median income
  • income percentage spent on housing
  • commuting time
  • unemployment rate

Texas, according to their figures, came in at number 11, and leads the nation in the percentage of uninsured.  They don’t specify what kind of insurance Texans are going without – health, auto liability, or what – but since it is a real estate website, maybe it’s homeowners.

Their latest list carries this to the next step, listing stress levels by zip code.  According to this list, 77032 is the most stressful zip code in Texas, and the eighth worst in the USA.77032Movoto says that residents of this zip suffer from 22% unemployment, and 42% live below the poverty level. 

That may be true, but if you’re familiar with the area, you know that there just aren’t many people living there.  The area, which borders the west side of Bush Intercontinental airport, is almost entirely warehousing and industry, with only a couple of small residential areas.

Of course, right in the middle of 77032 you’ll find the Houston Police Academy.  Not sure how that affects the stress level, but it’s something to think about.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Spirit in South Carolina

sgt bullock

Here is a story so bizarre that I first thought it had to be a hoax. 

Lily Bullock in a brand-new mom and a student at Clemson University.  Her husband, William, an Army Sergeant stationed in Missouri, is currently on leave to spend time with his wife and two week old daughter.

Now, her landlord at the Groves Apartments in Central, SC, has informed William that he has overstayed his welcome and has to get out. 

He says that Lily’s lease only allows “visitors” to stay for a maximum of seven days.  He has threatened to have William arrested, double Lily’s rent, or possibly have her evicted. “Chuck,” the landlord, says that since Sgt Bullock’s name isn’t on the lease, it doesn’t matter that he is her spouse.

A local TV station has taken up their cause, but meanwhile, now that Lily has finished her semester exams, the Bullocks are going to go visit relatives for a while.