Friday, April 18, 2014

J. J.

Dec 15, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) warms up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The big news around Houston and the NFL this morning is that the Texans have exercised the fifth-year option on J.J. Watt’s contract, locking him in for  2015. 

Watt and other members of the 2011 draft, signed four year contracts that gave teams the option of a fifth year under a formula that probably sounded good at the time.  The top ten players drafted do get a nice deal ( same as a transition tag) but Watt was picked number eleven.  That means his salary is based on the average paid to the top 25 players at his position not counting players one through three. 

It’s hard to feel too sorry for anyone who will be making $6,969,000, but based on NFL salaries, he is worth a heck of a lot more.  It’s about half of what the Rams pay Chris Long, and Watt’s stats are better.

Sports writers  say this is just a temporary measure to keep things cool while a contract extension is negotiated.  They all expect Watt to be making big bucks by this time next year.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The McNamara Corvette

vette

The Mecum Auction folks came to Houston last weekend for an auto auction at Reliant Center. 
The big news at the event was the car pictured above – a showroom perfect 1967 Corvette with less than 3000 actual miles.  Known as the McNamara Corvette, the car sold last Saturday for $750,000.

Even more interesting, is the story behind the car.  Here are the details from the Mecum website:

In the fall of 1966, 30-year-old Don McNamara of Colorado Springs, Colorado, celebrated his retirement from the United States Marine Corps with a trip to Las Vegas. It was the one and only time he would visit Sin City, and it proved fortuitous when Lady Luck intervened and a slot machine Don was playing paid out the massive sum of $5,000. By the time he returned to his parents’ home where he lived, he knew what he would do with his winnings. He asked his father, a car salesman, to take the money and buy a new Corvette.

At first glance, Don’s dream car appeared to be just out of reach; the features he specified pushed the price tag more than $500 past the $5,000 mark, but his father’s persistence paid off when he found a dealership in Lamar, Colorado, about 125 miles away, that agreed to sell a 427 coupe for under $5,000. Built on May 10, 1967, and delivered to McNamara on May 20 by Ray Motor Co. in Lamar, the Corvette coupe was exactly as Don had ordered, with the L36 427/390 HP engine, M20 4-speed manual transmission and 3.36 Positraction rear end; tinted glass, telescopic steering wheel, AM/FM radio, side exhaust and bolt-on aluminum wheels. Don’s innate patriotism influenced his choice of colors: Ermine White paint, Red Stinger stripe and Red interior – a matchup he completed by replacing the factory Black wall rubber with a set of double White-and-Blue stripe tires.

Don drove his new Corvette only sparingly for the first several months, until it inexplicably disappeared. When asked of its whereabouts, he would always answer that he no longer owned it. And yet, rumors that it was parked in his heated single-car garage persisted for years afterward, even after Don McNamara passed away in July of 2011. Only then was the truth revealed: the Corvette had been there the entire time, a full 45 years, discovered by the neighboring couple McNamara had befriended in his later years and to whom he had willed his entire estate.

Recorded interviews with the couple uncovered the story not only of the Corvette but of its enigmatic owner as well. Don McNamara was a unique man, one who loved his country and surrounded himself with its symbols of freedom and individuality while maintaining an intensely private life. He never married or had a family, never had a checking account or a credit card and always presented himself as barely getting by. He had decided to put the Corvette under wraps when after the first year the time came to pay license and insurance renewal fees, and began driving it only late at night, away from prying eyes and ever faithful to the pursuit of happiness. When the Corvette’s odometer approached the 3,000-mile mark in the mid-Eighties, he retired it from the road for the rest of his life.

When the Corvette was removed from the garage in 2012, the late McNamara’s next-door neighbor of 22 years saw it for the very first time. It had been discovered wrapped in a car cover, over which was draped a shipping blanket decorated with large Stars and Stripes and Marine Corps flags. It was in a virtually flawless state of preservation, entirely original except for a few personal touches under the hood comprising polished Edelbrock aluminum valve covers and four Corvette emblems mounted on the air cleaner.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PC+BS = HISD

pcbs

I blame it all on the Washington Redskins. 

Well, not on the Redskins, but on those who have tried to make political hay by claiming the team’s name was ethnically insensitive. In spite of attacks by Barack Obama, the ACLU, and even a spokesman from the UN Committee on Indigenous People, team owners have stuck to their guns – the name is staying.

Here in Houston, the HISD, in an effort to appear more enlightened and cosmopolitan than the NFL, decided that the traditional mascot names of four of its schools were inappropriate. 

After several months of controversy, the Houston Independent School District has announced new mascots for four HISD schools.

At a press conference yesterday, HISD Superintendant Dr. Terry Grier announced that the Lamar High School Redskins will now be known as the Texans, Welch Middle School Warriors are now the Wolf Pack, and both the Westbury Rebels and Hamilton Indians will henceforward be called the Huskies.

Making these changes is going to cost the district over a quarter of a million dollars for new signs, uniforms, etc.

A local TV station reported that this change to more politically correct mascots brought over four hundred comments on their website.  None – not one - of the comments was positive.

As a former Hamilton Indian, and someone who carries at least a small amount of Choctaw blood, I never found the nickname offensive and thought the whole name change thing was ridiculous.

Even more amazing is that with all the possibilities out there the district and its naming committees could only come up with three mascots for four schools.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No Left Turn

ups

 

Did you know that UPS has a right-turn-only policy? 

According to Priceonomics, UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved "a series of right-hand loops," UPS improved profits and safety while touting their  environmentally friendly policy. As of 2012, the right turn rule combined with other improvements -- for the wow factor, UPS doesn't separate them out -- saved around 10 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars of the road for a year.

Describing the policy in a speech, Scott Davis, the CEO of UPS told his audience, "I can see a few of you smiling out there, and I know what you may be thinking. But it really works."

Of course, it’s impossible to get around without ever making a left turn, but one UPS driver estimates that his left turns are less than one turn out of ten.

Speaking of UPS, I’m not sure whether our dogs love or hate the UPS truck, but they do go nuts every time it passes by, running up and down the fence line barking their heads off.  They can recognize the sound of the UPS truck from half a mile away, and they react the same way every time. 

They ignore the postal carrier and Federal Express, but go into a frenzy for the UPS truck.

FedEx even has a new truck serving our area that looks just like a white version of the brown UPS wagon.  The dogs don’t even look up when it goes by.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Requiem for an 8-N Tractor

Ford_8N_tractor,_side_view

 

It’s an old Ford tractor from ‘52

We got her in ’60, almost good as new

When my dad passed away, she came to me

We kept the old 8-N in the family

Muddy and greasy, parts of her rusted

She served us well ‘til she finally busted

I tried to revive her, but I could not

The farther I got the more hopeless it got

I finally realized I’d done my best

It’s time to put Betsy out to her rest

My brother can’t stand that she didn’t survive

Mowing pasture on Betsy’s how he learned to drive

He loved that old tractor, He loves her still

Made me promise to leave her to him in my will

Thought she’d last forever, so it’s breaking our hearts

But you’ll find her on Craigslist, for sale for parts

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pick A Number

A world-wide survey launched by British math writer Alex Bellos asked people to name their favorite number.  After over 40,000 replies, he reports that the overwhelming favorite number was Seven, followed in order by Three, Eight and Four.

Bellos, whose new book is entitled The Grapes of Math, claimed he received over 30,000 responses within a few weeks of launching the survey, with total responses currently standing at 44,000. Out of all the submissions, almost half of the votes cast were for the numbers between one and ten.

The least favorite number turned out to be 110, which was the lowest number to receive no votes.

The writer suggested that the reason for seven’s popularity is its prevalence in global culture, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, to the existence of seven days in a week.

Bellos said he started the survey because of his belief that people have strong feelings about numbers, something he learned from giving talks about math in schools, colleges and festivals. “I am always asked for my favorite number – it’s guaranteed this question will come up,” he said.

I’m not surprised that 7 was the first choice – if asked to pick a number between 1 and 10, I would probably pick 7 more times than not, and 3 would be my second choice. 

My favorite number, though, is probably 17, followed by 23.  I guess that part of their appeal in that, like 7 and 3, they are prime numbers, not equally divisible by any smaller number except one, but that doesn’t completely explain their attraction.  I like, and I’m prone to use, 17 and 23 because they are believable numbers.

If I’m having an argument, or just spinning a yarn, they somehow sound more valid than 18 or 25, for example. 

So if I tell you “There are seventeen different ways to…”  or “Twenty-three percent of the…”  chances are good that I don’t know the actual figures and just pulled the number out of thin air.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Foxy

gray fox

We were out last night having a last cigarette before bed.  The moon was shining brightly, and an old song came into my head.  I started singing

The old gray fox came out one night

prayed for the moon to give him light…..

Honey asked what the heck I was singing – thought I was making it up.  I told her it was an old Harry Belafonte song.  It was also recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, but it is actually a traditional English children’s song.

She was not impressed.  In fact she said it was even dumber than last year’s What Does the Fox Say.