Monday, August 30, 2010



For weeks now, the Obama administration has been leaking to reporters its intention to modify U.S. travel regulations to Cuba. Reportedly, the administration will announce the policy change during the current congressional recess to avoid political blowback (so much for the courage of their convictions.)

As a policy matter, the move simply returns U.S. travel policy to that which existed under the Clinton administration, fostering "people-to-people" contacts by liberalizing categories of citizens' groups that can legally travel to Cuba. While religious, cultural, and artistic groups will now find it easier to visit Cuba, the changes most assuredly do not open Cuba up to unregulated tourist travel, which is the current Holy Grail of the noisy anti-embargo lobby.

In short, the new policy won't move the needle much on U.S.-Cuba relations or in Cuba itself. It won't translate into an economic windfall the Castro regime desperately needs nor are visits to Cuba by the American Ballet Theater likely to embolden ordinary Cubans to pressure for internal change anytime soon.

US policy in regard to Cuba has never seemed reasonable to me.  We treat them worse than countries with whom we have actually been at war.  For example, the United States is Vietnam’s largest export market and in 2009 was its largest source of foreign direct investment, yet we continue to embargo Cuba while even giving Communist China most-favored-nation trading status.

To me, that only makes sense if we are the fifth grade bully who torments the third graders while sucking up to the kids from junior high.

Sunday, August 29, 2010



Today marks the fifth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, and there are two active hurricanes in the Atlantic.

Danielle is heading north and will end up spinning itself out without ever being a threat to land.  Earl is further south, on a more westerly course, so it is still a potential threat to the east coast.   Following in Earl’s footsteps is another tropical wave that could become Tropical Storm Fiona before the day is out.

After Katrina, over 100,000 New Orleans residents relocated to Houston.  Five years later, over 20,000 of them are still here.  That did not do either city any favors – their moving here raised the crime rate and lowered the average IQ in both cities.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cheering for the Local Kids


The Pearland, Texas, Little League Team defeated Washington  7-5 yesterday afternoon to qualify for the US finals of the Little League World Series tomorrow. 

They will meet either the team from Columbus, Georgia, or the team from Hawaii for the US title.  The Georgia kids had defeated Hawaii earlier in the competition, and were considered a lock for the championship, but the scrappy Hawaiians came back to beat them last night, by a score of  7-4.  That means Hawaii and Georgia will play an elimination game later today.

China (Tai Pei) and Japan meet tomorrow to determine the international champs, and the winner will meet the US champions on Sunday for all the marbles.

Thursday, August 26, 2010



We saw dozens of these signs along the highways on our cross-country trip this summer.  What we did not see was anybody working, or any indication that any work had been done – other than putting up signs.

Perhaps it is a result of all that inactivity that the Congressional Budget Office announced this week that the $787 Billion stimulus package is only going to cost $814 Billion.  That, we’re told is good news; the cost is down 50 billion or so from their previous estimate last January.

The bad news is that the plan did not create nearly as many jobs as promised.  The Obama Administration had promised 3 to 4 million jobs, but the CBO says that at its peak –which is about now – the stimulus will only generate one million to about three and a half million jobs.

Somebody at the White House needs to pick up the ball and run – take that 50 billion in savings” and hire another batch of folks to not work on the highways.  Hell, you could hire another two million at $25,000 per annum for a year and put the administration’s predictions over the top.  25k isn’t a lot of money, but if all you have to do is take it to the bank…..

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Out of Left Field

roy o

No one could have predicted that Roy Oswalt's first game against his former Astros teammates would come with Roy O  not on the mound, but playing left field.

On a wild night when Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was ejected in the 14th inning after being rung up on a check swing for his fifth strikeout, then went berserk at the umpire and had to be restrained, Philadelphia's prized midseason acquisition wound up playing a defensive position other than pitcher for the first time ever as a pro.

Oh, and the Astros won 4-2.

With the Phillies out of position players, Oswalt headed out to left field in the top of the 15th, with left fielder Raul Ibanez replacing Howard at first.

Oswalt became the first Phillies pitcher to play a position in the field since Bill Wilson in 1971.

The first Astros batter in the 15th, catcher Jason Castro, lifted a routine fly to left that Oswalt handled easily.

"There's a saying in baseball: The ball will find you when you're out of position," Ibanez said. "The ball found him and he caught it."

Down to their last out, the Phillies had forced extra innings when Jimmy Rollins blasted a Wilton Lopez pitch into the right-field seats for a 2-2 tie.

In the 14th, closing in on midnight, minor-league umpire Scott Barry, filling in for Gerry Davis at third base, twice called check-swing strikes against Howard. After the second one, Howard threw down his bat in anger, prompting Barry to eject him, and Howard charged at him with arms flailing .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Most Popular Toy


Survey results released last week show that the most popular kid’s toy ever manufactured  is LEGO blocks.  Makes me feel old, since they didn’t exist when I was a child, but they topped the list among respondents from 20 to 40 years of age.

The article went on to say that LEGOs were not only tops among men surveyed, they were the second most popular among girls as well, even beating Barbie, which generated a picture I could have done without.


LEGOs are also likely to continue to sell as the people in the survey group buy toys for their children and grandchildren: That's because the survey revealed a strong preference (78% of women and 63% of men) for old-fashioned toys over more modern ones, with almost half the respondents noting they still owned toys they had when they were growing up.

The story also featured a cool video showing how LEGOs are made:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Salt of the Earth

Morton Salt Girl

It should come as no surprise that Salt  is Big Business.  In spite of the modern trend toward no-salt and low-salt diets, we still consume salt by the ton. 

To keep things that way, the industry has their own organization, the Salt Institute, whose purpose is to keep the salt flowing – they tell us that, even if you don’t eat salt, sodium chloride still has dozens of uses in the kitchen:

  • Boiling Water - Salt added to water makes the water boil at a higher temperature, thus reducing cooking time. (It does not make the water boil faster.)
  • Peeling eggs - Boiling eggs in salted water will make eggs peel easily.
  • Poaching eggs - Poaching eggs over salted water helps set the egg whites.
  • Testing egg freshness - Place the egg in a cup of water to which two teaspoonfuls of salt has been added. A fresh egg sinks; a doubter will float.
  • Preventing browning - Apples, pears and potatoes dropped in cold, lightly salted water as they are peeled will retain their color.
  • Shelling pecans - Soaking pecans in salt water for several hours before shelling will make nut meats easier to remove.
  • Washing spinach - If spinach is washed in salted water, repeated cleanings will not be necessary.
  • Preventing sugaring - A little salt added to cake icings prevents them from sugaring.
  • Crisping salads - Salting salads immediately before serving will keep them crisp.
  • Improving boiled potatoes - Boiled potatoes will be given a fine, mealy texture by sprinkling with salt after draining, then returning them to the pan and shaking them back and forth quickly to get rid of the excess moisture.
  • Cleaning greasy pans - The greasiest iron pan will wash easily if you put a little salt in it and wipe with paper.
  • Cleaning stained cups - Rubbing with salt will remove stubborn tea or coffee stains from cups.
  • Cleaning ovens - Salt and cinnamon take the "burned food" odor away from ovens and stove burners. Sprinkle spills while oven and burners are still hot; when dry, remove the salted spots with a stiff brush or cloth.
  • Cleaning refrigerators - Salt and soda water will clean and sweeten the inside of your refrigerator. It won't scratch enamel either.
  • Extinguishing grease fires - Salt tossed on a grease fire on the stove or in the oven will smother flames. Never use water; it will only spatter the burning grease.
  • Improving coffee - A pinch of salt in coffee will enhance the flavor and remove the bitterness of over-cooked coffee.
  • Improving poultry - To improve the flavor of poultry, rub the fowl inside and out with salt before roasting.
  • Removing pinfeathers - To remove pinfeathers easily from a chicken, rub the chicken skin with salt first.
  • Cleaning tarnished silverware - Rub tarnish with salt before washing.
  • Cleaning copper pans - Remove stains on copper pans by salting area and scouring with a cloth soaked in vinegar.
  • Cleaning coffee pots - Remove bitterness from percolators and other coffee pots by filling with water, adding four tablespoons of salt and percolating or boiling as usual.
  • Removing onion odors from hands - Rub fingers with salt moistened with vinegar.
  • "Sweetening" containers - Salt can "sweeten" and deodorize thermos bottles and jugs, decanters and other closed containers.
  • Cleaning sink drains - Pour a strong salt brine down the kitchen sink drain regularly to eliminate odors and keep grease from building up.
  • Brightening cutting boards - After washing them with soap and water, rub bread and cutting boards with a damp cloth dipped in salt; the boards will be lighter and brighter.
  • Fixing oversalted soups - If soup has been oversalted, cut up a raw potato or two and drop into the soup. The potato will absorb the salt.
  • Cleaning dried-on egg - Salt not only makes eggs taste better, but it makes "eggy" dishes clean easier. Sprinkle salt on dishes right after breakfast; it makes them a whiz to clean when you have time.
  • Preventing food from sticking - Rub a pancake griddle with a small bag of salt to prevent sticking and smoking. Sprinkle a little salt in the skillet before frying fish to prevent the fish from sticking. Sprinkle salt on washed skillets, waffle iron plates or griddles, heat in a warm oven, dust off salt; when they are next used, foods will not stick.
  • Preventing mold - To prevent mold on cheese, wrap it in a cloth dampened with saltwater before refrigerating.
  • Whipping cream and beating egg whites - By adding a pinch of salt, cream will whip better and egg whites will beat faster and higher.
  • Keeping milk fresh - Adding a pinch of salt to milk will keep it fresh longer.
  • Setting gelatin - To set gelatin salads and desserts quickly, place over ice that has been sprinkled with salt.

Incidentally, that little Morton Salt Girl is almost a hundred years old.


The Morton Umbrella Girl got her start in 1914. The logo was produced as part of a series of ads in Good Housekeeping. The concept was that Morton Salt - unlike regular salt of the day - poured without clumps, even in damp weather. The company added magnesium carbonate as an absorbing agent to ensure that its table salt poured freely (it was later changed to calcium silicate).

At first, the advertising agency suggested "Even in rainy weather, it flows freely" as the company's motto. Morton felt that it was too long, and the motto was changed to the catchier "When it Rains it Pours."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Ten Commandments and Science Fiction, a Sunday Sermon


Neither today’s picture nor today’s title has anything to do with today’s topic, or maybe they are  right on target– read on, and decide for yourself:

We have been taught all our lives that actions have consequences; that what you do today will determine what happens in the future.  Whether it’s Mom’s warning about running with scissors, the “Click it or Ticket” campaign, or the preacher’s admonition to welcome Jesus into our hearts or go to Hell, we are constantly bombarded with (and generally accept as true) examples of the actions of today determining our tomorrow.

Now, Empirical Science, in the form of Quantum Physics, is going that one better. 

Stating as fact ideas that wouldn’t have qualified as believable science fiction just a few years ago, they tell us that things we do in the future will affect our past.  (Click)


In an effort to preserve the remnants of my sanity,  I offer the following observations:

  • These same scientists teach that observation skews reality. What you see ain’t necessarily what you get.
  • Whenever Science combines with Philosophy it encroaches on Religion and the outcome is almost never satisfactory to any of the three.
  • It seems the more we learn the less we understand.  Conversely, the more we think we understand, the more we realize how little we know.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Laura Dekker

Laura Dekker with tiller- photo by Hollandse Hoogte eyevine In previous posts, I’ve talked about Jessica Watson and Abby Sunderland, two 16-year-old girls who attempted to sail solo around the world.  One made it, and the other did not.

Today, there is word of a 14-year-old girl leaving port in Portugal in another attempted solo circumnavigation:


Laura Dekker, the Dutch girl who won a 10-month legal battle on Tuesday in her bid to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, was born on a similar sea voyage 14 years ago.

"Sailing is my life," the bubbly, blonde teenager writes on her website, sprinkled with photos of her yacht, sailing instruments and images of the sea.

"As soon as I get on my boat, something inside me changes. Then I really feel what living is."

A Dutch court on Tuesday denied a request by child protection authorities to place her under their supervision for a further year until August 2011 to stop her imminent departure.

A clearly elated Dekker later addressed journalists from around the world with remarkable ease at the harbour of Den Osse, in the southern Netherlands, where she lives on a boat with her father, Dick, and dog, Spot.

"I simply want to see the world, different cultures, and to acquire life experience," the slender, vivacious girl said.

"I like to travel. I don't like staying in one place for too long."

Dekker was born in New Zealand during the third of a seven-year, around-the-world sea journey and spent the first four years of her life at sea with her parents.

"I was four when I first stood at the helm on my own," she writes.

She set sail on her first, six-week solo holiday to the northern Dutch province of Friesland at the age of 11.

Her boat, an 11.5 meter (about 38 feet) gin fizz ketch, is named Guppy.

"This boat is my second home. Guppy means everything to me," Dekker says on her website.

She describes herself as a sailor "first of all", and says that other people perceive her as stubborn.

"I follow my own head. And if I'm determined to do something, then I'll make sure that I make it happen."

In tenacious style, Dekker fought the state's attempts to kill her dream, addressing the courts' concerns one by one such as learning first aid and sleep management techniques.

She plans to continue her formal education via the Internet while at sea.

She says she understands people's concern about her age, "but I would like to show other young people what you can achieve if you really have a dream".

Dekker describes her hobbies as windsurfing and snowboarding. She does not watch much television, and when she does it would be a film "involving water".

"When I'm not surfing or sailing, I am to be found at the harbor working on my boat," she says.

She is an avid sailing magazine reader, and "I like Donald Duck".

Dekker says she has found the media attention in recent months hard to understand.

"I couldn't believe that everybody is interested in me," she writes.

"I'm just a person with a dream."

I wish her well, but this is getting ridiculous.  Unless someone sends their 5-year-old off on their own, this is definitely my last post on the subject.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why Texas Sunsets Are Burnt Orange


Since we first began the Shanna Leigh Couch Memorial Scholarship, her mother and I have received at least one email from the University of Texas (or the school of engineering or some other organization at UT) every week.  As you might expect, they all want more money, but most have something interesting to say.

One of the most interesting recently was this discussion from Jim Nicar of the UT Heritage Society about how the school colors were chosen.  I would embed the video here if I could, but the site doesn’t support it.  You can watch it by clicking HERE.

His talk is fascinating, but it’s almost six minutes long.  If you don’t have time to watch it, I can boil it down for you.  Why the school chose the colors they did can be explained in just two words – Alumni meddling.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where Did They Go?

Argiope ggs

Southeast Texas, and Boggy Thicket in particular, is the home of the Golden Garden Spider - Argiope aurantia.

Of course, they live lots of other places, too, and are known by several other names.  In some places they are called Yellow Garden Spiders and in California, where calling anything what it is might be considered politically incorrect, they are known as Golden Orb Weavers.

By any name, this is a predator extraordinary.  These humongous spiders – the female whose web is decorating my back fence has a body about an inch and a half long and legs that reach nearly five inches from tip to tip – build webs that are amazing feats of engineering.

The web material is thick and strong; I have almost been decapitated by running into one while mowing the yard – it’s like driving into 20 lb. test monofilament.  You could use it to lift an anchor, and the webs are often so big that I’m surprised that some bureaucrat hasn’t been around ordering them to install TEDs.

I’ve read that they don’t have very good eyesight, but they don’t really need it.  Once that web is spun, all they have to do is sit back and wait for lunch to be delivered.  They don’t seem to be picky eaters; I’ve seen everything from flies to wasps to cicadas in their webs, and whatever gets caught there doesn’t last long. 

I’ve never seen it here, but back in 2008, two different pictures showed up on the web showing “Orb Weavers” eating birds.

orbweaver eats finch

Nothing I’ve read lists anything that might prey on these predators, and they normally don’t die off until at least the first frost of autumn, but two of the three spiders that I’ve been watching in my yard simply disappeared overnight.  The webs are still there – still intact – but the occupants have, like Elvis, left the building. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Days, Nothing Goes Right


From Houston’s Channel 2 News yesterday:

STAFFORD, Texas — A couple was wounded in an apparent attempted murder-suicide on Tuesday, police said.

Stafford police said a man shot his wife at a home in the 800 block of Childers Street at about 7:45 a.m.

The man then turned the gun on himself, investigators said.

Both were hospitalized in critical condition. Their names have not been released.

Investigators have not said what sparked the shooting.

Neither murder nor suicide is funny, and I really shouldn’t make light of someone’s misery, but I just can’t help myself – I don’t know these people and you don’t either, so what the heck. 

The story just begs to be decorated with aphorisms:

  • If at first you don’t succeed….
  • Guns don’t kill people, people do – (or not!)
  • Gun control is hitting what you aim at.

I’m sure you could add your own  to the list – feel free to do so in “comments” – but like the gent in the story, I think I’ll stop before I do anything irreversible.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Defying Others, Germany Finds Economic Success

From today's New York Times, another example of conservative economic policies succeeding while tax-and-spend policies are failing - but when the headline caught my eye, my first thought was

Monday, August 16, 2010

This One May Require Some Thought

Have you ever noticed the similarity between a neuron in your brain


and certain celestial bodies?

For example, this super-nova



Whether we are talking about neurons or nebula, neither could be seen at all without the assistance of some highly sophisticated optical and electronic equipment.  Of course, we could say the same about anything we see – isn’t that how they tell us the eye communicates with the brain?

Any resemblance is, after all, in the individual perception of the beholder, and I suppose it could just be an interesting coincidence.

Still, it is tempting to make some profound observation about the Cosmos and the Mind of God.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Make It with Bacon


A serious (journalese for noticeable) shortage of pork bellies is being reported this weekend, as seen in the story below. 

The reporter lists exports, Wendy’s hamburgers, Swine Flu and simple supply-and-demand as reasons, but fails to mention one major culprit – the Food Network. 

It seems like the cooking gurus on Food Network cannot prepare  anything without using bacon or pancetta – the non-smoked Italian version of the same belly meat. 

From an article by Dan Piller of the DES MOINES REGISTER—

Americans have stuck loads of bacon on their sandwiches and salads this summer as the U.S. supply of hogs has fallen, creating a
shortage in that most joked-about commodity, pork bellies.
Investors in bellies are having the last laugh.
The price of pork bellies, from which bacon is made, has shot up from 94 cents a pound as recently as June to $1.40 a pound in August.
On the store shelves, average retail prices have risen more than $1 per pound since last year, to more than $4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.
"The prices will go up even more in coming weeks because the bacon that's on the shelves now was purchased earlier in the futures market," says Joe Muelhaupt, executive vice president of Des Moines Cold Storage.
Market analysts say the reason for the suddenly high prices is simple shortage: A year ago, 76.3 million pounds of pork bellies
were in commercial freezers around the country. In early August of this year that figure had dropped to 35.4 million pounds.
The problem could be seen starkly last week in Des Moines Cold Storage's minus-26 degree freezer, where racks stood empty that normally would be filled with slats of pork bellies.
"Normally we have 10 to 20 million pounds in storage here in our facilities," Muelhaupt says. "This week we were down to 330,000 pounds. That's no more than eight loads."
The relative shortage of pork bellies is an exaggerated version of the tighter supplies this year. U.S. farmers have reduced the
number of hogs 3% in reaction to three years of low prices. Then add stronger demand, a 27% increase in exports and an end
to the fears that arose last year over H1N1 virus, popularly known as swine flu.

The story continued, but the reporter didn’t really have anything else to say, just another column-inch or so to fill.

If you have to read the whole thing, you can find it here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Drowning,not waving

Here is an excerpt from an article I first saw on Facebook.  Important information worth repeating:

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach.

“I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar.

“We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed.

“We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but the captain kept swimming hard.

”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning.

Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”
How did this captain know – from fifty feet away – what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten?

Drowning  is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful,
“Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound.

As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story.

Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic
conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.
The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect.

There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and
undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of
those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC).
Drowning does not look like drowning – Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:
1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the
surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick.

Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60
seconds before submersion occurs.

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble – they are
experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress
doesn’t last long – but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab
lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
Eyes closed
Hair over forehead or eyes
Not using legs – Vertical
Hyperventilating or gasping
Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making
Trying to roll over on the back
Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.

So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK – don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck.

One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them.

And parents – children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scotch, Truth and the Scientific Method


Scientists report that they have successfully recovered a case of 100 year old scotch from a hut in Antarctica.

They say that, although some will be removed via hypodermic needle for testing, no one will ever get to drink any of it – it will all go into a museum display. 

The press release also says that the wooden case contained ELEVEN bottles.

This from the same folks who warn you about Global Warming!


Thursday, August 12, 2010


garden oaks theater

A former coworker sent me an email last night with a collection of photos from Houston in the 50’s.  The one above generated a lot of fond memories.

Every Saturday we went to “Fun Club” at the Garden Oaks Theater.  Admission was 9 cents – later went up to 11 – and that got you two feature films, a couple of cliff-hanger serials and a half dozen cartoons.  There was usually some live entertainment, too, or a demo by the guy from Duncan Yo-yos.

Security was provided by “Tiny” Romans, the largest officer on the Houston police force.  He was a sweet guy who loved kids, but we were all a little afraid of him because he was huge.  Kids said he had once killed a robber by dropping on him from a store roof -  probably not true, but we all believed it.

The theater was a 15 minute bike ride from my house – half an hour if I met up with friends.  Occasionally, we could get one of our mothers to take us, or, once in a while if we thought we had enough money, we would ride the Garden Oaks shuttle bus.

We often collected bottles during the week to finance our Saturday entertainment. A quarter would get you the shows, a coke and a bag of popcorn or box of Jr. Mints.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No Agenda – Just a Thought


The Supreme Court of Mexico ruled yesterday that all Mexican states must recognize same-sex marriages:

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 10, 2010; 4:39 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that all 31 states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in the capital, though its decision does not force those states to begin marrying gay couples in their territory.

In a 9-2 decision, the tribunal cited an article of the constitution requiring states to recognize legal contracts drawn up elsewhere.

Mexico City's same-sex marriage law, enacted in March, extends to wedded gay couples the right to adopt children, to jointly apply for bank loans, to inherit wealth and to be covered by their spouses' insurance policies.

The Supreme Court ruled last week that same-sex weddings are constitutional - though it is holding separate discussions this week on the adoption clause.


The US has millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico, and thousands of gay and lesbian couples (citizens) that want to get legally married.

Maybe we could arrange some kind of swap.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

After Yesterday’s Birthday Cake, More Pi


After the entry on June 12th, I had promised myself that I would avoid this subject, but this was too good to ignore:

Japanese Engineer Shigeru Kondo spent some $18,000 to build a desktop Windows computer that, over the course of three months, shattered the world record for calculating pi.

Running in the 54-year-old system engineer's home, where he lives with his wife and mother, the machine calculated pi to 5 trillion decimal places, nearly double the previous record of 2.7 trillion set by French programmer Fabrice Bellard late last year.

Kondo collaborated via email with Alexander Yee, an American computer science student, to do the calculation. Yee provided the
software, called y-cruncher, which ran on Kondo's homemade machine under Windows Server 2008R2. The computer was built
out of individually sourced parts, including Intel processors and 20 hard drives.
Kondo tells news sources that he was alone in his room at midnight when the 5-trillion mark was reached.

His wife and mother were asleep and, when he told them, expressed "no particular feelings" about the monumental achievement.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happy Birthday

66 Scotch Fail_thumb











No -  I’m only sixty-eight…….

But it gives me something to look forward to. 

I hope you enjoy my birthday.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

News Is Looking Better Today


Two of my (and America’s) all-time favorite players were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. Both Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were selected in their first year of eligibility, as they should have been. It almost seems a shame to have to point this out, but in addition to their stellar careers, they are both good men with never a hint of scandal associated with either of them.

Congratulations to both.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don’t Know Where to Start

Lots of news this morning, most of it bad.

  • My daughter and son-in-law lost a dear friend Thursday night when his motorcycle was hit head-on by a drunk who was being pursued by the police.  In a ghastly irony, the guy driving the car was a close friend of the victim.
  • The US was officially represented for the first time at yesterday’s Hiroshima Memorial Ceremony.
  • Elena Kagan was confirmed as a member of the Supreme Court.
  • The head of HP, asked to resign by the board after allegations of sexual harassment, was given $10 million to go away.
  • Ten medical aid workers were ambushed and murdered in Afghanistan.
  • A Leukemia patient’s COBRA insurance was (almost) cancelled because she underpaid her premium by a penny. (story)

The list just goes on and on.

I’m giving the world the weekend to get its act together.  My birthday is Monday, and I’m going to be too old to have to deal with this kind of crap.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What Happens to Round Rock?


Now that Nolan Ryan’s group has bought the Texas Rangers, what happens to their other baseball teams? I’m talking about the Corpus Christi Hook and the Round Rock Express – double and triple A farm teams of the Houston Astros – already owned by the Ryans et al.

Here’s the best answer I’ve found so far:

The Astros' top two minor league affiliates are owned by Ryan-Sanders Baseball, in which Ryan is a principal owner.

A look at Ryan-Sanders Baseball and the likely futures of its holdings.

The players

Nolan Ryan — Principal owner: Baseball Hall-of-Famer and Alvin native, who played for the Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers during his 27-year career. He became the Rangers team president in 2008 and was part of a group that won an auction for the Rangers in a Fort Worth bankruptcy court on Wednesday.

Don Sanders — Principal owner: Long-time prominent Houston businessman Founder of Sanders Morris Harris investment banking and securities firm.

Reid Ryan — Owner and CEO: Former minor league pitcher and Nolan Ryan's older son, handles the operations of the holdings.

Reese Ryan: — Owner and CFO: Nolan Ryan's younger son, who handles the finances.

The holdings

Round Rock Express (Astros Class AAA): The Astros affiliate from 2000-2004 as a Class AA club and since 2005 as a Class AAA club is likely on its way out of the organization. Astros Owner Drayton McLane has been resigned to the likelihood that Ryan's Rangers will take over the player development contract with Round Rock, which ends after this season. That would leave Oklahoma City without a big league tie, and the Astros would be the most logical choice, though more vacancies will open after this season in the biennial shuffle.

Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros Class AA): This affiliate is safely in the Astros' hands. The player development contract does not expire until after the 2012 season. And the Rangers have a contract with the Mandalay Baseball-owned Class AA Frisco RoughRiders in the vicinity of the major league home ballpark in Arlington, which they allowed into their market in 2003.

That seems likely, but when asked about it yesterday, Astros owner Drayton McLane said “We have had a great relationship with the Ryan Sanders organization. We have to wait and let the dust settle and see where we are.”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nolan Gets His Own Team


Word this morning that Home Town Boy Nolan Ryan has successfully purchased the bankrupt Texas Rangers.

I guess owning your own team is a good thing and though I’ll always think of him as an Astro, he did have some good years with the Rangers.

Ryan’s group had the winning bid in bankruptcy court, but word from those in the know is that the team could have been had a lot cheaper without interference from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban:



gallowayMark Cuban’s basketball club is now a flat-line outfit, life and death in this era to simply survive the first round of the playoffs.

But in the early hours of Thursday morning, Cuban was in a Fort Worth courtroom, hell-bent to crash another local team.

As midnight came and went, as Wednesday night became Thursday morning, Cuban had pushed the Rangers into a total cost factor nearly reaching $600 million.

And then Cuban backed off and backed out at 12:45 a.m. Thursday after doing his dirty deed on behalf of dirty debt lenders who were stupid enough to allow Tom Hicks to cheat them.

The Greenberg-Ryan group now owns the Rangers. That’s the best news of all.

But it came at a cost much higher than expected, and a cost that might impact future spending. It certainly doesn’t help it.

Cuban knew that. He didn’t care.

The Hicks lenders rejoiced at this result, meaning the $600 million. Cuban is one of them. He’s totally in bed with the lenders.

Cuban and his surprise partner in the process, Jim Crane of Houston, appeared to be pony boys for the lenders, biding up the cost with certainly a nice financial payoff coming from the lenders.

This is shameful, Mark. Even for you, it’s shameful.

Read more:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010



Here’s a look at the new design for Texas auto license plates.  They have recently been put into use, and are going on all new and used cars sold and for renewals of any plates over 7 years old.

Aside from cosmetic changes, the big difference is that the new plates now use a total of seven letters and/or numbers – one more than previous plates.  If my math is right (and it could be way off) that increases the number of possible plate numbers from about 4 1/2 million to around 27 million combinations.  There aren’t that many vehicles on Texas Highways yet, but just spend some time on Loop 610 and you’ll see that it ain’t that far in the future,

Below are some proposed designs for computer-designed specialty plates currently being considered:

houston_texans1nascar1vestas1ou1trophyhunters1 I have my own opinion (for example – OU on a Texas plate??? and the NASCAR design looks like a gay pride banner) but YOUR opinion is being solicited by TXDOT at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

If you can’t Say…..


Thumper’s mother is almost universally quoted as saying “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Not to take anything away from good ol’ mom, but Thumper actually got the advice from his dad, who never appears in the movie.

The dialog in Bambi actually went like this:

Thumper: He doesn't walk very good, does he?
Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!
Thumper: Yes, mama?
Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?
Thumper: [clears throat] If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Liar, Liar


There seem to be more and more ads on TV that say that it is perfectly OK to lie to your kids if it is “for their own good.”

It started with – or, at least I first noticed it in – ads showing mothers who would do anything to keep their munchkins from learning that the canned pasta products they love contain Vegetables.

It quickly spread to the new drinks like 41vfBF8UB8L._SL500_AA300_PIbundle-8,TopRight,0,0_AA300_SH20_that hide the taste of veggies behind fruit juice and sugar.

Now, it has even spread to the marketing of computers, and the lies (and liars) have expanded. 

A commercial that aired this weekend shows a kid lying to his mom about how long it takes to do his homework. Meanwhile, he is  spending time on social networking sites with his friends. 

Mom, it turns out, is perfectly happy with the lie, because it gives her “Me time” to surf the web herself!

I know and accept that each generation is convinced that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket, but isn’t this getting out of hand.  Shouldn’t someone at the agency – or at least shouldn’t the sponsor – have said “This is unacceptable behavior that we do not wish to endorse?”

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bye, Lance II

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Well, now it is official. Berkman was traded to the Yankees yesterday.

He has been having a bit of a down year, but he’s a great guy and an excellent player – sorry to see him go.

For what it’s worth, he went 0 for 4 against Tampa in his first appearance for New York, while the ‘Stros were blanking the Brewers for the second night in a row.