Monday, May 31, 2010

Flight Training


flight training


My next-door neighbor’s oldest son is home, having just completed his advanced  training in the USAF.  Ernest  is now an Airman First Class and a Crew Chief on a B-52 bomber; a plane we have been flying since before he was born.  There has been a steady stream of family and friends over there all weekend.

While that has been  going on, the hawks that nest in a pine tree between our homes have started a flight school of their own. 

All day Saturday, the pair flew a constant shuttle of food to the nest – more food and more often than ever before – then yesterday, instead of landing on the nest, they would fly to a spot a few feet away on one of the limbs that support the nest, attempting to lure junior out of his comfort zone.  There was a lot of discussion, squeaking squealing and squawking, but not much else going on.

Today – the shot above was taken just before sunrise – Mom and Pop are perched on a limb about ten feet above the nest.  I’m pretty sure that, if  they stick to their guns, we’ll see their young one today.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I may have created a contender for the annual Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest.  See what you think:

Like the underdog in some celestial bar-fight, the moon slowly, warily, circled the earth, dodging behind the wispy scudding clouds at every opportunity.  Unaffected by the events above him, Bart Sandoval, or Lizard Screamer as he was known to his Pascua Yaqui relatives due to an unfortunate incident when he was just a toddler, failed to notice anything but the roar of the engine, the squeaking, groaning complaints of the shock absorbers and springs and the throbbing ache in his groin as he piloted his ramshackle pickup down the rocky arroyo.

Saturday, May 29, 2010




Austin, TX - The fastest growing sport in Texas is Batminton (sic), a modification of badminton, the game originated in India under British rule. The primary difference being that instead of the traditional shuttlecock, or birdie, Austin area participants have substituted the Mexican Free-tailed Bat.

Equipment is inexpensive and often already at hand; a badminton or volleyball net/court, a badminton/squash/tennis racquet, a leather welding glove for the off hand, and, of course, a box full of bats, collected from under the Ann W. Richards Bridge on Congress Avenue. Optional equipment may include a high-frequency device, such as a dog whistle. While not yet illegal in this still evolving game, these are now considered to be an unsportsmanlike attempt to bewilder the already battered bats, and moves are underway to outlaw their use.

A group of Basque exchange students attempted to replace racquets with their cestas, the long curved baskets used in jai-alai, and achieved bat speeds nearing two hundred miles per hour -  speeds that bring to mind the phrase Bat out of Hell. The use of the cesta has not been accepted by the Batminton crowd in general, so the Basques have been reduced to playing with themselves.

Athletes’ dress varies greatly, depending on temperature and taste. Players may commonly be seen in warm-ups, tennis togs and, on hotter days,  in bikinis and  in tee shirts and cut-offs. Then there is that now famous game played entirely in the nude that took place last April across the street from Austin’s P.E.T.A. headquarters.

Answering criticisms from P.E.T.A. and other animal rights groups, Preston Harrigan, entertainment director for Sigma Rho Omega – the fun and frivolity fraternity – said, “What’s the big deal?  They’re BATS for God’s sake.  Ugly, noisy, nasty bats!  It ain’t like we’re out there smacking around the Bluebird of Happiness.”  SRO president, Francis (Pancho) Freyberg, pulled himself away from the beer bong long enough to add his support, “ Yeah,” agreed Freyberg, “what he said.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Another Classmate Remembered

I learned yesterday that another of my high school classmates passed away a couple of years ago – no details, other than the fact that he was buried in Confederate Cemetery in Alvin, Texas. I don’t know how he died, but I hope he had a better life than I can envision for him.

Lewis Newell was born in 1942 at Houma, Louisiana, though he and his family moved to Texas when he was very young. He contracted poliomyelitis at the age of eight months, and never walked without the aid of braces and crutches. Because he was born in Louisiana, his family was able to take advantage of a level of state assistance that was not then available to Texans; the State of Louisiana picked up the tab for almost all of his medical care, his wheelchairs, braces, etc.

Lewis looked like a gargoyle. To be honest, he would have been ugly as sin even if he wasn’t a cripple, but he was a good guy who somehow managed to retain his sense of humor. He was fun to be around. The one (probably the only) advantage to his looks was that Lewis could buy anything at any liquor store or Seven-Eleven and nobody ever asked for i-d.

From the years of using his arms to propel himself through the world – on bad days he was not above running over people who got in his way in the halls – Lewis could out arm-wrestle anyone on the planet; the local jocks soon learned not to even try. We did pick up some spending money racing Lewis on his crutches against football players with sprained ankles, who were trying crutches for the first time. Even if they should have known better, their ego wouldn’t let them believe that a four-foot-tall gnome could beat them at anything. As a result, Monday after a football game was usually a lucrative day.

In 1961, in Hitchcock, Texas, I witnessed Lewis’s involvement in what might have been a minor miracle.

Lewis was in his wheel chair that night; too drunk to drive but certainly too drunk to walk. It didn’t take much; he had an extremely low tolerance for alcohol. We had been to a party and were headed down the street when Lewis put on a spontaneous burst of speed. He was still accelerating about a half block ahead of us when he and his chair suddenly veered off to the right into a deep drainage ditch.

A huge dog had been barking viciously at us from behind a front-yard fence. I’m not sure when I noticed, but the dog, which looked like a cross between a Doberman and Grizzly Bear, only had three legs; his right rear leg had been amputated. The monster dog jumped the fence and went right into the ditch after Lewis.

We were already running toward the scene of the accident - I thought Lewis might drown – but now I was afraid he was going to get mauled, killed, maybe eaten…

When we got to the ditch, we found Lewis drenched but unharmed, and considerably more sober. The huge dog was in the water, the back of Lewis’s shirt in his teeth, holding his head above the water.

After we got Lewis and his chair out of the ditch, I asked him if the dog scared him as much as it did me.

“Naw,” he said, “we cripples understand each other.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Match That


The University of Texas newsletter this morning noted that, for the first time ever, matching gifts from Exxon/Mobil Corporation exceeded One Million dollars for the year. They had come close for the past several years, but this is the first year they have exceeded the one million mark.

Big bad Exxon is one of the few corporations that has offers a three-for-one matching program. Many major corporations offer some support for their employees charitable contributions, but most companies who have a matching gift program at all, offer a one-for-one program.

Amazed as I was with the three-for-one figure, I almost missed the fact that this means that, out of all their charitable contributions, Exxon/Mobil employees chose to support UT Austin to the tune of over a third of a million dollars. That is huge!

This is particularly significant to me because several years ago Honey and I, with help from her friends and family, established a Friends of Alec scholarship at UT in memory of our daughter. We would never have reached our goal without the one-for-one matching gift program at my employer, Ikon Office Solutions, or the generous contributions of my sister and brother-in-law, Karen and David Danburg.

It is a comfort, and a matter of pride, to know that there will be UT engineering students supported by the Shanna Leigh Couch Memorial Scholarship for as long as the Texas sunsets are burnt orange.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I read this story in this morning’s news with mixed emotions:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Just like the police tell you to do, Abel Moreno called 911 when a man began assaulting his girlfriend. Before the end of the year, he could be deported to Mexico for his trouble.
Moreno, 29, of Charlotte made the call Dec. 29 because, he alleged, a Charlotte police officer was trying to fondle his girlfriend after a traffic stop.
The officer ordered Moreno to drop the call and arrested him and his girlfriend for resisting arrest.
Several things then happened. Five other women came forward to allege that the officer, identified as Marcus Jackson, now 26, had tried to molest them, too. Moreno was released after investigators debunked the resisting arrest
charge. So was his girlfriend.
Jackson was fired and faces 11 counts of sexual battery, extortion and interfering with emergency communication.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe admitted that Jackson should never have been hired in the first place because of previous charges related to a restraining order filed by an ex-girlfriend.
The local 911 system is under review because Moreno’s call wasn’t
acted upon.
And Abel Moreno now has a six-month deadline to show why he shouldn’t be deported, even though police acknowledge that his 911 call was crucial to their uncovering a dirty cop, and even though they agree that he shouldn’t have been arrested.
That’s because the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail where Moreno was held, is one of 67 local law enforcement agencies in 24 states that have signed up under Section 287(g) of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows some local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws during the course of their normal duties. While he was still in jail, Moreno was found to have been in the United States illegally for the past six years, working at a restaurant so he could send money back home to his mother and his five brothers and sisters in Acapulco.
Sixty-seven local agencies in 24 states take part in the 287(g)
program, allowing them to enforce federal immigration laws. (This list includes Harris County, Texas, but not the City of Houston.) Six other agencies are negotiating or awaiting approval.

A judge granted Moreno a six-month deferment on his deportation because he is a witness in the criminal investigation. But that reprieve runs out in November.
Moreno’s attorney, Rob Heroy, said he was confident Moreno would eventually be granted a so-called U visa, which allows illegal immigrants who are victims or witnesses in criminal investigations to stay in the country for up to four years. But only 10,000 such visas are available in any year, and while that process works its way through the system, Moreno remains in
“Now I’m unemployed,” Moreno said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. “I don’t have any money, not even for rent, not even for my phone — anything. ... The truth is I’m scared.”
In many respects, Section 287(g), which has been around for 15 years, is similar to the law Arizona enacted last month obligating police to question people about their immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hummingbird Blues

Not talking about the song, but you're welcome to listen while you read:

Hummingbird Blues

After adding a couple more hummingbird feeders to foil the efforts of the infamous Red Baron.  We enjoyed several days watching the little critters.  Then the population dropped  from about a dozen to two or three, then only an occasional single bird.

Since we are first-timers, complete novices at hosting hummers, we immediately assumed that we were doing something wrong.   I was reassured when I read on Hummingbirds in Houston, a website by Houston Attorney Donald Burger, that 99% of the birds are gone by now, continuing their migration north.

My relief only lasted for about 24 hours; then Honey talked to Janet Winkler, our next-door neighbor, who has had feeders out for years.  She has dozens of birds at her place, less than 1/4 mile down the road, and she says they are there year-round.

OMG!  We are doing something wrong!

Yesterday, based on Janet’s advice and additional information from the internet and our local garden center, we acquired a bird bath and about a hundred dollars worth of flowering plants and bushes.  I installed the bird bath, and we set the plants – still in their pots – in the spots where I’ll plant them today.  Who knew that sitting back and watching the birds in your own back yard could be so labor-intensive and downright expensive?

We spent about a half hour watching at dusk yesterday and another half hour or so early this morning,  but so far no birds at all.  I guess the next step is to hide in a blind and make a noise like sugar-water.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I came in the house the other afternoon, hot and sweaty from working in the yard, and decided to go on line while I drank some tea and cooled down. On the first page I opened, and on several consecutive pages, when I attempted to scroll down using the wheel on my mouse, the text just kept getting bigger and bigger.

I could use the keyboard arrows to navigate, the Home and Page Down keys worked OK, but any attempt to scroll with the mouse just caused the text to zoom in or out.

I use Google Chrome as my default browser – I’ve found it to be faster and less prone to problems than Internet Explorer – but I had just downloaded the latest Beta version of Chrome that morning; who knows what kind of glitches it might have brought with it?

I checked set-up options on Chrome and found no obvious problems; switched to IE-8 and the symptom remained. At this point, after about 10 minutes of unsuccessful trouble-shooting, I decided to reboot and started shutting things down.

After turning off Outlook, I decided that I’d better check email messages before shutting down completely – as weird as the computer was acting, I wanted to be sure I could still read my messages. When I clicked on the Outlook icon, I got:

safe mode

My left elbow had been propped on the table the entire time, with my forearm over the lower left-hand corner of my wireless keyboard - holding down the Ctrl key!

Control plus scroll equals zoom – I wish that I could say this is a feature that I had used in the past but forgotten, but it’s a feature I use often on forums such as where posting oversized pictures can cause a loss of text.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blood Sport

In spite of what PETA and plenty of other more reasonable people – just plain old animal lovers - might tell you, aficionados still adamantly contend that Bull Fighting is a sport. 

Their argument was bolstered yesterday, when  Julio Aparicio, one of Spain’s top toreadors, demonstrated that sometimes, even against the best bullfighters,  the bull does win.

JULIO-APARICIO-GORED JULIO-APARICIO-GORED (1)At last word, Aparicio was in critical, but stable condition at a Madrid hospital, with damage to his throat, jaw and palate.  I don’t think he is giving any interviews.

Saturday, May 22, 2010



Would you like to lose 41 pounds?  I know I would.

According to this organization - 41 lbs -  each American adult receives an average of forty-one pounds of junk mail a year!

For a fee, they offer to contact all of the major direct-mail companies and have you removed from their mailing lists – sort of like the don’t call thing you can do with your phone. 

The phone thing works, by the way, although we still get a Huge number of calls soliciting charitable donations – wish they could be blocked, too.

Back to today’s  subject, 41 pounds charges 41 dollars for their service (good for five years) and donates $15.00 of the fee to the environmental organization of your choice.

I was first attracted by the convenience – I’m sure we get at least that much unsolicited crap in our mailbox – but their emphasis is saving trees. 

I like trees as much as the next guy, maybe more.  Four of our six acres here at the Boggy Thicket  are untouched forest; have been for over 30 years and will be as long as I have a say. 

BUT, I am not a wild-eyed tree-hugging Global Warming fanatic, and refuse to support or endorse their efforts.

Still, I would be tempted, just might subscribe to their service if I could specify a conservation organization like Ducks Unlimited, or maybe specify the N R A .

Friday, May 21, 2010

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

I’ll admit that it was never my intention, but I’ve discovered that my efforts may qualify for an award from the inventor of the internet, himself!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to Clean an Oily Bird

With all the oil currently in the gulf, and more spewing every day, a recent article in Popular Mechanics is timely information:


Print - How to Clean Oiled Birds - PopularMechanics_Page_1

Print - How to Clean Oiled Birds - PopularMechanics_Page_2

Ask anyone from South Louisiana, and they’ll tell you “ First you gotta catch ‘em.  Then you wring they necks.   Pick  ‘em, gut ‘em,

boil ‘em up wid a little Tony Chachere”s….

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bad Moon Rising

I have always been a big Creedence Clearwater Revival/ John Fogerty fan.  Just something about them that I love; maybe that it is impossible to listen to them without moving.  CCR comes on the radio and your head starts bobbing, your feet begin tapping, etc.

There are lots of weird stories about lots of rockers – it’s almost a requirement – but Fogerty may be the only one who was ever slapped with a copyright infringement suit that claimed he had copied his own song.



Tom Fogerty was three years older than his brother John. When they were still in school in El Cerrito, Calif., Tom was the leader of their various bands. But it didn't take long for Tom to realize that his little brother had a unique voice.
"I could sing," Tom once said, "but John had a sound."
Performing as the Blue Velvets, then the Golliwogs, the group (with schoolmates Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums) came into its own in the late 1960s asCreedence Clearwater Revival. They took their name from a friend of Tom's called Credence Newball and a beer commercial that touted mountain spring water.
CCR cracked the charts in 1968 with covers by a pair of men called Hawkins -- Dale Hawkins' swamp-pop classic 'Suzie Q' and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' scarifying 'I Put a Spell on You.' But the band really broke out the following year, when it put three albums in the Top 10 stateside and pushed three original songs, including 'Proud Mary,' to No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart. (CCR still hold the dubious distinction of having the most US No. 2 hits -- five -- without ever reaching the No. 1 spot, though they did have a chart-topper -- 'Bad Moon Rising' -- in the UK.)
In the indulgent rock world of the time, Creedence stood out for its bluesy, workmanlike approach, making down-home music that prefigured Southern rock. "Even people from Louisiana thought we were from Louisiana," Clifford once said.
Hot as a pistol in 1969, CCR were a headliner at Woodstock, though few remember it today. Taking the stage at 3 a.m. after a lengthy Grateful Dead set, the group played to an audience in sleeping bags. A disappointed John Fogerty denied permission for the 'Woodstock' film and album to include Creedence footage. It was one in a string of questionable decisions he would make on the band's behalf.
The grueling pace and Fogerty's increasing dictatorship soon took their toll. Tom Fogerty quit in 1971, and Rolling Stone's Jon Landau called the subsequent 'Mardi Gras' album "the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band." Meanwhile, the publisher of 'Good Golly Miss Molly' sued the band for plagiarism for the song 'Travelin' Band.'
Creedence broke up for good in late 1972, leaving John Fogerty owing eight more records to his label, Fantasy. Deeply unhappy with his financial situation (which included a failed tax-shelter arrangement), Fogerty refused to honor the rest of the Fantasy contract. David Geffen's Asylum Records agreed to buy him out for $1 million. In exchange, the singer relinquished his publishing rights to Fantasy -- a deal that would come back to haunt him.
Realizing he would have to pay Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz performance rights to play his own CCR compositions, Fogerty stopped singing them onstage. In 1985, recording for Warner Bros., he had a comeback hit with the album 'Centerfield.' However, the album's success was undercut by Zaentz, who sued for copyright infringement, claiming that Fogerty's hit song 'The Old Man Down the Road' plagiarized CCR's 'Run Through the Jungle.' Fogerty was being sued for copying his own song.
The courts ultimately decided in Fogerty's favor, though Zaentz still got a measure of satisfaction. Fogerty had to settle another suit out of court, a defamation charge for his thinly veiled attack 'Zanz Kant Danz,' a song about a thieving pig.
Not surprising, all the litigation and financial troubles tore out the heart of the band. When Tom Fogerty died of complications from AIDS, contracted from a blood transfusion, he had not been on speaking terms with his brother for years. When CCR were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Cook and Clifford (who would soon tour together as Creedence Clearwater Revisited) were barred from the stage. Tom Fogerty's wife brought his ashes in an urn.
Inspired by a visit to Robert Johnson's grave, the surviving Fogerty began playing Creedence songs in concert again. Through the years, John Fogerty has donated plenty of money toward new headstones for pioneer bluesmen like Johnson. One of his own lesser-known CCR songs, 'Tombstone Shadow,' apparently used his own life as a resource, just like his heroes did: "Every time I get some good news," he growled, "there's a shadow on my back."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One More Slice of Pi

Okay, I wrote about p back on March 14th and again in April, when I said I had no intention of making this a monthly thing.

In my own defense, even if I am bending my own rule, this one isn’t strictly about math or geometry.  It may not  even have much of anything to do with intelligent thought.

pi poster

Shown  at the Sundance Film Festival (but, as far as I can tell, not winning anything)  p was the story of a young mathematician and his search for the universal symbol that would explain the meaning of life.  Dialogue is in English, Hebrew, and (apparently) Greek.

According to reviewers, the film is full of goofs, among them:

Factual errors: The long string of digits representing pi in the opening of the movie is incorrect starting in the ninth decimal place.

Factual errors: The logic followed by the Kabbalists with respect to Hebrew numerology is flawed. First, there are no zeroes in the Hebrew numerological system. Second, in Hebrew numerology, the different letters have values that vary in the number of digits (the values range from 1 to 400, with only the first 9 letters having single-digit values.) Therefore, it is impossible to create a specific 216-letter-word in Hebrew given a 216-digit-number with zeroes in it. It has been argued that the Kabbalists do not use Hebrew numbers to decipher the code, rather, they use the modern western number system to correlate the 216 character name to each Hebrew letter. Nevertheless, the premise seems to be muddled, at best, if not completely flawed.

Revealing mistakes: In different takes the "Wall-Street" numbers on the display panel are the same, the numbers never really change and it is more or less always the same stocks, no matter what time it is.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: When Max is in the coffee shop, the cream container he opens has a McDonald's logo. It's a cheesy enough place that they were probably ripped off.

A look at the film’s Trailer was more than enough for me, but if you have seen it (or see it in the future) let me know what you think.

For my money, I believe that this film may have been the reason that the Sundance Festival moved in August of  ‘98 from Park City, Utah to South Park in the episode titled Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Kanellos, the Anarchist Dog


There have been lots of protests in Greece over the last few years, and that has kept one yellow dog very busy. 

Somehow the pup called Kanellos seems to show up at every demonstration in Athens.  Although, as seen above, Kanellos wears a collar, no one claims to be his owner. That blue collar, issued by the city of Athens, indicates that he is a neutered male and he’s had all his vaccinations. 

Nobody can explain how he knows when and where to show up.  The one thing that is sure –  and you can take it to the bank -  he will show up and always on the side of the demonstrators.

Kanellos may be more legend than dog; one Greek blog claims he is the spawn of Cerberus and Lassie.  He is the star of a dozen or so Youtube videos and has had at least one  song written in his honor.

There are reports that he actually died several years ago, and was replaced by a dog named  Loukaniko. In spite of reports of his death, the Guardian featured a photo essay about the mutt last week, Kanellos.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The Alvin (Texas) High School Class of 1960 celebrated their 50th class reunion last night at Joe's.   Don’t let the name fool you, it is a very nice facility and the food and the service were outstanding.

The reunion was coordinated by Sharon (Kelso) Lusk, one of my favorite people at AHS (or anywhere else, for that matter) and she did a remarkable job. It was a very successful event – very pleasant atmosphere, and great to renew old friendships.  I was also pleased to see that I looked younger than all of the men and most of the women in the room – of course, that’s based on my mental image of myself; the mirror and I don’t always agree.

There were 124 of us who graduated that year, and last night’s event had 90 in attendance – subtract spouses (and a couple of our teachers who were still spry enough to attend) and that means just over a third of the class showed up! 

The organizers had managed to locate and contact just over half of us, but were unable to trace about a third of the class.  According to their records, only eight classmates – four guys and four gals – are known to be dead; remarkable, considering that the males in our class were subject to the draft and many went to Viet Nam.

They passed around the microphone for everyone to introduce their spouses and catch us up on what they were doing.  Most have retired, but there were  more than a few who are still working.  These speeches contained several laughs and quite a few surprises – one of the local cowboys, a class clown, ended up as the principal of a high school, and another fellow, who was bright enough but not one of our best students, recently went back to school and got his doctorate.

I was sad to learn that one of those no longer with us was Jan McGinness.  I didn’t learn when or how she died, but I have thought of her fondly and often over the years.  Without saying too much, I will reveal that she was a co-conspirator in a long and successful scheme to acquire and consume free beer when we were in school.  Late in our junior year, I wrote a limerick in her honor:


There once was a girl named McGinness

Who could never quite hack it at tennis

but at swimming she reigned

for at that she’d been trained

She had been a streetwalker in Venice


She thought it was hilarious.

This was my first reunion since graduation.  I figured I ought to go to at least one every fifty years.  Today’s title, by the way, is (according to Wikipedia) a synonym for semi-centennial. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson

16-year-old Australian Cutie, Jessica Watson, arrived in Sydney Harbor today, completing her non-stop solo circumnavigation of the world.  You can see the story HERE, or on her own Website.

I’m in awe.  At 16, I was mostly concerned with keeping the twin Johnson 35’s on my boat in tune enough to run together, and keeping my antique pick-up running well enough to make it to school.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Couple of Updates

Re: yesterday's post, John Sachs of Poison Ivy.Org has (correctly, I think) identified my 5-leaf poison ivy as Virginia Creeper.


As long as I can remember, we had always used the name Virginia Creeper interchangeably with Trumpet Vine – a totally different plant.


Our only explanation for the 3-leaf branches on the vines in our trees is that there are Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper vines so intertwined that you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.


Re: my post on Hummingbirds, a good friend sent me a link to a live webcam watching a Hummingbird Nest.  You really ought to check it out.  In addition to the live webcam, the site also has some great videos from previous years.

We added two more feeders, and after wearing himself out trying to defend all three for a couple of days,  the Red Baron has now resigned himself to just defending the first one. 


He still won’t let any other birds feed on it.  The only time another bird gets to it is when the Baron is chasing some other bird off.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I’ll See Your 3-Leaf Poison Ivy and Raise You 2

5 and 3 - 3

Half a century ago, as a fledgling Boy Scout , I learned the couplet

Leaves of three

Leave it be

Good advice for those who are looking for (or seeking to avoid) Poison Ivy. 

Here in Boggy Thicket country, we have tons of poison ivy - ranging from tiny plants in flower beds to vines over 1/2 inch thick that climb 50 feet or more up into the tops of trees – vines that could support Tarzan on his swing through the jungle assuming he was immune or willing to put up with the God-awful itch.

This fellow is "the prince" of rashes. Compare his rash to the similar forearm rash for "the king".

We also have a vine that grows in the same places and looks almost the same.  It has 5-lobed leaves vs. poison ivy’s 3- lobed leaf.  In spite of the similarity, I had always assumed until this year that the 5-leaf vine was benign. 

This year, I discovered a vine growing on a White Oak just outside our kitchen window that seems to have both 5-lobed and 3-lobed leaves on the same plant!


5 and 3 - 25 and 3

I contacted Jon Sachs of   Poison-Ivy.Org who tells me that in his years of cataloging poison ivy from across the country he has only seen one instance of a 5-leaved poison ivy vine.  He says he doesn’t mention it in his lectures or on his website because it would just confuse his audience.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Could Hawking Be Right?

Stephen Hawking posited last month that extraterrestrial life forms likely do exist, and that we should probably avoid them. Here's what a group of other highly-regarded scientists have to say about that:
Journal of Cosmology

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Honda U3-X

Here's a look at the latest from Honda.
Like Will Smith said about the alien spaceship in Independence Day, I gotta get me one of these..

YouTube - U3-X Personal Mobility Prototype

Monday, May 10, 2010

Curse You, Red Baron


The pole out by the pool where we always hung a Boston Fern, (and this year hosted an upside-down tomato for a few doomed days - see Missing Link) has been rehabilitated. 

This time, we decided to hang a hummingbird feeder instead of a plant, and it started out as  a huge success.  Within two hours of installation, the feeder was attracting hummers, often two or more at a time.  There seems to be at least two separate species, and the ones we saw at first weren’t particularly colorful, so we decided they were all probably females. 

Saturday evening we finally got our first brilliantly colored male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. 


He is beautiful, but he defines why you should be careful what you wish for – he is as obnoxious as Hell.  The greedy little bastard drinks his fill, then flies up into a nearby tree where he lies in wait to ambush any other bird that approaches the feeder.

I was beginning to think that short of shooting the little bugger or installing a few more feeders we would never see another bird actually dine at our feeder again.  Then, this morning, a bird arrived that called his bluff, and I was treated to the most fantastic aerobatics I have ever seen in my life! George Lucas never produced such an epic dogfight.

He is still at it, chasing off another bird every minute or two. I am still not sure what we’re going to do about him.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers’ Day



When I was in high school, I was very active in the Order DeMolay, a boys’ service fraternity sponsored by the Masons.  Like the AF&AM, most of their ceremonies were secret; the one exception was the “Flower Talk,” a ceremony dedicated to filial devotion and a mother’s love.

I performed the Flower Talk on numerous occasions, and it melted feminine hearts from 15 to 85.  I wish I could say I still remember it verbatim, but after 50 years,I don’t; I was able to find it posted on a DeMolay website. 

My favorite portion of the talk was a poem, author anonymous, that went:

”My body fed your body, son,

But birth’s a swift thing,

Compared to one and twenty years

Of feeding you with spirit’s tears.

I could not make your mind and soul,

But my glad hands have kept you whole.

Your groping hands bound me to life with ruthless bands.

And all my living became a prayer,

While all my days built up a stair

For your young feet that trod behind,

That you an aspiring way should find.

Think you that life can give you pain

Which does not stab in me again?

Think you that life can give you shame

Which does not make my pride go lame?

And you can do no evil thing

Which sears not me with poisoned sting.

Because of all that I have done,

Remember me in life, O son.

Keep that proud body fine and fair,

My life is monumented there.

For my life make no woman weep,

For my life hold no woman cheap,

And see you give no woman scorn

For that dark night when you were born.”


It was called the Flower Talk because of the roses scattered on the altar.  At the end of the ceremony, the initiates were instructed to take a flower for their mothers – a red rose if she was living or a white one if she was gone.  I took a red one back then.

white rose

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Train vs Tornado

Ever wonder what happens when a tornado hits a moving train? Check out this remarkable video, taken from the rear of the last engine on a freight train:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Treadmill Bike

Interesting how words have multiple meanings.  Not exactly the same thing (see what I mean?) but the same two words can have totally different meanings, too. 

For example, Google the words treadmill bike and you will get a Do-it-yourself site that teaches you how to make a bracket to attach your bicycle to your treadmill:

Exercise-Bike-with-Treadmill and you will also find a treadmill-powered bicycle for use on the street:

treadmill bikeBoth of them look like too much work to me, but if you’re interested, there’s more on the latter Here .

For my money, if I’m going to have to move it with my own muscle power, it better have some place to rest,


Thursday, May 6, 2010




Italian performer Adriano Celentano wrote and sings  a song he created out of nonsense-syllables to sound like he was singing in English.  I had never heard of Celentano until this week but, based on very limited exposure, I like him.  He strikes me as a sort of Roman version of Weird Al Yankovic. 

I also like his song. It is cleverly done, and to my ear sounds a lot like (and is about as easy to understand) as the past fifty years of  British rock bands and  their US born wannabee’s.

He called his masterpiece Prisencolinensinainciusol

In spite of its intent,  Someone went to a great deal of time and effort to put out a version with English subtitles They Did What? 

Either they are exceptionally obtuse, or amazingly clever and the joke is so obscure that it flew right over my head.   I’ll put my money on their missing the point.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I would say that this is a political movement I could get behind, but that’s probably not a very safe place to stand.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hurricane Art

We were fascinated when we saw the chain-saw sculptures in Biloxi, trees killed by Hurricane Katrina turned into works of art.  Now a series of talented artists have done their magic on trees in Galveston  lost to Hurricane Ike.

166xGenericThe Houston Chronicle recently published a story on this with examples and addresses.  A trip to see them all is near the top of our to-do list.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

God of Carnage Delayed, Real Carnage Averted

empty square


Car bomb scares Times Square but fails to explode

By TOM HAYS and CRISTIAN SALAZAR (AP) with my edits

NEW YORK — Police found an "amateurish" but potentially powerful bomb that apparently began to detonate but did not explode in a smoking sport utility vehicle in Times Square, authorities said this morning.

Thousands of tourists were cleared from the streets for 10 hours after a T-shirt vendor alerted police to the suspicious vehicle, which contained three propane tanks, fireworks, two filled 5-gallon gasoline containers, and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

"We avoided what we could have been a very deadly event," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "It certainly could have exploded and had a pretty big fire and a decent amount of explosive impact."

The bomb appeared to be starting to detonate but malfunctioned, top police spokesman Paul Browne told The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. .

Firefighters who arrived shortly after the first call heard a popping sound, said Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, who described the sound as not quite an explosion.

No suspects were in custody, though Kelly said a surveillance video showed the car driving west on 45th Street before it parked between Seventh and Eighth avenues. Police were looking for more video from office buildings that weren't open at the time.

The T-shirt vendor alerted police at about 6:30 p.m, the height of dinner hour before theatergoers head to Saturday night shows.

Smoke was coming from the back of the dark-colored Pathfinder, its hazard lights were on and "it was just sitting there," said Rallis Gialaboukis, 37, another vendor who has hawked his wares for 20 years across the street.

A Connecticut license plate on the vehicle did not match up, Bloomberg said. Police interviewed the Connecticut car owner, who told them he had sent the plates to a nearby junkyard, Bloomberg said.

Heavily armed police and emergency vehicles shut down the city's busiest streets, choked with taxis and people on one of the first summer-like days of the year. A white robotic police arm broke windows of the SUV to remove any explosive materials.

The car was parked on one of the prime blocks for Broadway shows, with seven theaters housing such big shows as "The Lion King" and "Billy Elliot."

The curtains at "God of Carnage" and "Red" opened a half-hour later than usual, but the shows were not canceled.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Missing Link

chain ring

Actually, I’m missing one of these, along with about 14 or 15 inches of 1/4 inch grade 5 chain and an S hook.

chain open hook

It all started earlier this spring.

We have a pole out by the pool where we hang a new Boston fern every spring. This year Honey decided that she wanted one of those upside-down tomato planters instead, so off we went to Home Depot for one of these:

hang planter

Ours looked just like that except our tomato plant only hung about four inches below the planter, and it was trying to wrap itself around the bottom of the planter and grow up like a normal tomato. That, and ours only has one green tomato and a few blooms.

Sometime Thursday night, we had a large dead limb – probably leftover Hurricane Ike damage - fall from very high up in an oak tree. It took out another large (about 3 inch diameter) branch on the way down, and they both hit the tomato planter. We awoke yesterday morning to find the ruined planter on the ground in a pile of debris underneath the two oak limbs.

Surprisingly, the tomato itself was no worse for wear; I transplanted it to a large flower pot and it already seems happier. Even more amazing was the fact that the chain and associated hardware that were holding up the planter are simply gone.

Honey and I both searched the entire area, I got out my big magnetic tool finder – a four-inch magnet mounted on a hoe handle – and walked the grid with it. We looked up in the tree and down in the pool and I even scoured the azaleas outside the fence; it just isn’t here.

At this point I’m thinking that maybe extraterrestrials stole the chain and broke the limbs off making their getaway; Stephen Hawking does warn that they might be dangerous. Yeah, either that or it’s disappearance is the result of Global Warming.