Friday, December 31, 2010

Final Thoughts - 2010

On this final day of the year, proverbs to live by courtesy of Father Time. 

If they seem contradictory, it’s because they are – but, like a fundamentalist quoting scripture, I can assure you that just because they contradict each other, that doesn’t mean they aren’t all true. They’re each true at least some of the time.  Just try to think of them as Situational Absolutes.

Actions speak louder than words./The pen is mightier than the sword.

Look before you leap./He who hesitates is lost.

Many hands make light work./Too many cooks spoil the broth.

A silent man is a wise one./A man without words is a man without thoughts.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts./Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Clothes make the man./Don't judge a book by its cover.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained./Better safe than sorry.
The bigger, the better./The best things come in small packages. Absence makes the heart grow fonder./
Out of sight, out of mind.

What will be, will be./Life is what you make it.

Cross your bridges when you come to them./Forewarned is forearmed.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander./One man's meat is another man's poison.

With age comes wisdom./Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings come all wise sayings.

And finally, as you head for your New Year’s Eve celebrations, remember:

The more, the merrier./Two's company; three's a crowd


Best wishes for a

happy and prosperous


Thursday, December 30, 2010



Our neighbor across the road used to have peacocks.  They are all gone now, and I’ll admit that I do not miss them at all.

Peacocks are pretty enough, but they are not particularly friendly and they make a noise that sounds for all the world like a child yelling for help.  Concurrent to the peacocks, everybody in the immediate neighborhood had kids at home, so that loud HELP often had us running to see which child was in what kind of danger. 

Like a beautiful girl with an annoying laugh, their sound quickly overrode their physical attractiveness.

I came across another Blogspot blogger who owns peacocks  and whose family had peacocks when he was  a child in West Texas.  His childhood memories about their neighbor’s dealing with their peacocks gave me a laugh.

Just click My Friend Goya – I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Wages of Sin Is $50

Not sure why, but I got to thinking today about my first and only venture into felony crime.  Maybe it’s because tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of Juanita Slusher, the real name of the Dallas Stripper and Porn Star known as Candy Barr, but more on that later.

It was late 1962 or early ‘63, and I was working as a disk jockey/newsman for a radio station in a small town in East Texas.  One Friday, as I prepared to head to my parent’s place  for the weekend, a coworker offered to buy my gas if I would drop something off  for him while I was in Houston.  I said I would, and he gave me a a package about the size of a shoe box, with directions to deliver it to Joe X at an address on Hempstead Highway.

The address turned out to be a supermarket, and Joe was the butcher.  When I offered him the package, his face turned as white as his apron, and he told me to bring it around back to the loading dock and he would meet me there.

When he met me out back, he was still shaky and looking around to be sure he wasn’t being observed.  Though I’m a pretty bright fellow, I’ve never been known for thinking fast on my feet, but even I knew something wasn’t on the up-and-up.  So I told him that before he could have the package he owed me a delivery fee.

How much,” he says.

50 bucks,” say I.

And he peeled off a pair of 20’s and a 10 dollar bill without batting an eye.

That $50 went a long way back then, but I still arrived back at work on Monday mad as hell.  I was sure the package was marijuana – possession of a shoe box full of pot back then could get you life in the penitentiary.

My coworker laughed and explained that it wasn’t dope, it was pornographic movies.  He had a darkroom and a 16 to 8mm reduction printer where he turned out copies of stag films that he sold (discretely) all over the state.

Transporting and  distributing porn could also have gotten me put under the jail, but somehow it didn’t seem quite as bad as peddling dope. Candy-Barr-7Oh – Candy Barr – She was his best seller.  She starred in a film called Smart Alec .

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Forty-Six and Counting

Today, Honey and I celebrate our 46th Wedding Anniversary. 

Sometimes it seems like we just met yesterday, but, most of the time, it seems as though we’ve always been together.

Mathematically, there is some justification for that – I ran the numbers this morning and found that I have now been married just a tad over 2/3 of my entire life.  Honey has me beat - she has now been married just over 70% of hers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Passed

Back in the Boggy Thicket after a trip to Central Texas for Christmas. 

Like we did at Thanksgiving, we stayed in the 5th wheel in my daughter Cheryl’s back yard. 

We had decided back then that it didn’t make sense to tow the trailer back home when our next trip would be right back to Bertram in a month.  This time, the trailer was there waiting for us,  so all we had to do was load all the presents, clothes, dogs, pillows, etc. into the truck, squeeze ourselves into the front seat and make the four-hour drive. 

We had planned to tow the trailer back when we came home this time, but heavy rains Christmas Eve (the first rain all month) left the yard a little damp.  We could have got out OK,  but might have left ruts in the yard, so we left it. 

All in all, we had an excellent visit, with two full-blown Christmas parties and a quiet  private gift opening thing with Cheryl and Gene.

Christmas 2010

Except that Christmas is a time when we actually see the family, this has nothing at all to do with Christmas

– But -

What do you call members of your steadily extending family?

Gene, who is Cheryl’s husband, is obviously my son-in law, and I can and do still call Jason my son-in-law although Shanna passed away almost five years ago. 

So far, so good – but do I call Gene’s kids my grandkids even though there is no consanguinity? I have, but some would say that they’re not.

How about Jason’s new partner – what should I call her?  Referring to Kelley as “my son-in-law’s wife” just sounds too weird.

I found an excellent discussion of relationship terms on line HERE, but it doesn't  come close to addressing my situation.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Giving the Clouds a Break


I’ve been grinching (clever Christmas reference) about clouds for the past two days, so today I decided to try to say something nice about them.

Sure, the clouds ruined the chance to see the only Winter Solstice Eclipse of the Moon in over 300 years, but maybe they were victims, too – or, at the worst, unindicted co-conspirators.   We could just as easily blame the jet stream, La Niña, Global Warming, Al Gore, etc.  Besides, even though (so far) all they’ve brought are empty promises, we need the clouds to alleviate what is about to become the driest December ever.

There are groups formed in favor, and dedicated to the protection, of  just about anything, so it’s no big surprise to find The Cloud Appreciation Society , singing the praises of clouds with their art, literature and photography.

Rafael Alberto Pérez

They do have some GREAT photos on their website, and nosing around there the other day I discovered a really cool phenomenon that I had never seen or heard of before:


They’re called Fall Streaks and there are over 100 photos of them on the society’s website.  According to Wikipedia:

A fallstreak hole (also: hole punch cloud, punch hole cloud, canal cloud) is a large circular gap that can appear in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds. Such holes are formed when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing but the water has not frozen yet due to the lack of ice nucleation particles. When a portion of the water does start to freeze it will set off a domino effect, due to the Bergeron process, causing the water vapor around it to freeze and fall to the earth as well. This leaves a large, often circular, hole in the cloud.

It is believed that a disruption in the stability of the cloud layer, such as that caused by a passing jet, may induce the domino process of evaporation which creates the hole. Such clouds are not unique to one geographic area and have been photographed from the United States to Russia.

Because of their rarity and unusual appearance, fallstreak holes are often mistaken for or attributed to unidentified flying objects.

You might think that after 68 years I had seen it all, but I still manage to learn something new and surprising almost every day.  Why, just recently, Honey announced that she thought that men going without shirts ( except at the pool or the beach) was gross.  I thought, at first, that it was just because I’m getting old and fat and have an angry red surgical scar that stretches from my sternum to my never-mind, but she said no, she thought even young, buff guys should wear shirts in public.

Anyway, here’s to clouds.  Without them Angels would have to sit on stars, and those points can be a pain in the ass.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total Eclipse

eclipse 2010

There was, as advertised, a total eclipse of the moon last night. 

Unfortunately, the weatherman got it right for once, and the clouds were too thick to see it from the Boggy Thicket.  The picture above was shot around 1:00 a.m. through a brief gap in the clouds, but the clouds kept getting thicker as the eclipse progressed.

This led to some frustration, and a couple of interesting pictures.

time exposure eclipse 2010

This was sort of an accidental time exposure – taken around 3:00 a.m. with camera settings on full auto, the shutter must have stayed open for at least 30 seconds.

total eclipse 2010

This is more like what I’d hoped to see, but didn’t.  It was shot through the clouds at an almost invisible moon.  Originally a black rectangle, an auto brightness adjustment in Microsoft Picture Manager revealed this.

For those behind the clouds, and those who slept through the night like normal people, here’s a link to some eclipse photos from Western Europe and the Americas.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Tonight marks the Winter Solstice, and it also brings a total eclipse of the moon.  If that weren’t enough, the meteor shower that’s been going on for the last few days should be much more visible with the moon on dim.

All that would be wonderful except that after a couple days of totally cloudless skies, our local forecast calls for cloudy skies tonight. 

 Assuming you can see past the clouds, here’s what to expect from


Tonight's Lunar Eclipse Comes With a Rare Twist
By Staff
posted: 20 December 2010
06:53 am ET

A rare event not seen in 372 years will occur early Tuesday morning, when a total lunar eclipse coincides with the winter solstice. While you can't see the solstice, the eclipse promises to be an amazing spectacle.

And if that's not enough, a minor meteor shower is expected to send a few shooting stars through the darkened sky during the height of the eclipse.

Weather permitting, viewers in North and South America, as well as the northern and western parts of Europe, and a small area of northeast Asia should get a great view of the total eclipse of the moon.

On the East Coast of North America, the lunar eclipse begins half an hour after midnight on Tuesday; on the West Coast, it begins around 9:30 p.m. PST Monday. In all cases, the lunar eclipse will be observable before the moon sets in the west just as the sun is rising in the east. Maximum eclipse – the really cool part when the moon is totally in shadow – is at 3:17 a.m. EST/12:17 a.m. PST. [Complete Lunar Eclipse Guide]

How it works

During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth gets between the full moon and the sun, blocking the sun's light from bouncing off the lunar surface. A lunar eclipse can only occur at full moon, but since the three objects are not all exactly in the same plane in space, not every full moon produces an eclipse.

Monday's eclipse is particularly special because it also aligns with solstice – the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Winter solstice marks the official beginning of winter. The sun is at its lowest in our sky because the North Pole of our tilted planet is pointing away from it.

Winter solstice is also the shortest day of the year, with the longest night. That means that it should be darker Monday night than any other night this year in the Northern Hemisphere. And because of the lunar eclipse, the moon's light will be dimmed as well, meaning this night will be even darker.

Winter solstice has not coincided with a total lunar eclipse since 1638, according to NASA.

What to look for

Watching an eclipse is simple. Just go out and look up. The most interesting parts occur when the moon plunges into Earth's full shadow, called the umbra, and of course during the period of totality. See times of the 12 stages here.

Depending on how much particulate matter is in our atmosphere, the moon may turn a deep orange or even blood-red during the eclipse.

No telescopes are required to enjoy the eclipse. However, if you have one, you might take it out and enjoy a close-up view of lunar craters while you wait for the full shadow to cross the moon.

Furthermore, the eclipse is falling during the Ursids meteor shower. These underappreciated shooting stars would likely have been outshined by the glow of the full moon occurring at the same time, but since the moon's light will be dimmed by the eclipse, stargazers should get a rare glimpse of the fiery lights created when small space rock bits burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

Lunar lore

Lunar eclipses have fueled much lore and hype and have generated fear through the ages. Some ancients thought a lunar eclipse was a literal bite being taken out of the moon and that the red really was blood. During the 5th century B.C., a lunar eclipse was seen as a bad omen by the Athenians, and they delayed a planned departure of their siege of Syracuse. The result led to the Syracusans changing the course of the war.

Christopher Columbus, knowing an eclipse would occur in 1504, predicted it and thereby used it to frighten natives on Jamaica into feeding his crew.

Nowadays science tells us that eclipses are a simple result of predictable celestial alignments. Yet still many lunar myths persist. Some people swear the full moon affects their behavior, or they blame seemingly strange events on the full moon.

Many researchers have tried for decades to find statistical connections between the full moon and human biology or behavior, from epileptic seizures to psychiatric visits to menstrual cycles. Yet the majority of sound studies find no connection, while some have proved inconclusive, and many that purported to reveal connections turned out to involve flawed methods or have never been reproduced. [The Truth About Lunar Effects on You]

The full moon is beautiful, and a total lunar eclipse is wondrous, but beyond making lovers swoon, there are few if any actual physical connections between the moon and you.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gives Weasels A Bad Name

The Houston Press had a story last week about a local company that used acetone and Dremel tools and spray paint to alter expiration dates on out-of-date food they shipped to American Servicemen on duty in the Middle East.It’s a long, complicated story – details Here – but the bottom line is that an unscrupulous man put his own profits ahead of the health and safety of hundreds of people. 

Almost as disgusting as his actions, the Justice Department tried to weasel out of paying the whistle blower who first alerted authorities.

I am amazed that, although this story has been going on for years – authorities raided the company,  American Grocers, in 2006 – this is the first story I’ve seen about it in any local media.

Thanks to Xerox


Throughout my working career, Xerox was the competition.  In spite of that, I would remind my students this time of year that they should go to Lets Say Thanks . com and send Christmas greetings to an American soldier.  Xerox has sponsored this effort for several years, and it’s there for you to use again this year.

Go to the website, choose from a variety of cards designed by American schoolchildren, like

10Adrielleor  Axton-Aidyn-Alyjahor 79Hannah

Then just personalize your message, and Xerox will see that it is delivered free of charge to an American soldier stationed overseas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Orbs Exposed in Picayune


Picayune, Mississippi, is a small city on I-59 about 50 miles north of New Orleans. 

In an attempt to catch the culprits who had been vandalizing a local cemetery,  the staff set up a motion sensing  infrared wildlife camera system, but they were not prepared for the pictures they took.

What they got were pictures of a naked man setting up his own camera on the cemetery grounds.

Here’s the latest from the Picayune Item:

By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item

PICAYUNE — The man photographed naked in a local cemetery says he didn’t mean anything crazy by it, he was trying to capture pictures of spirits, or do orb photography.
The man, 47 year-old Robert T. Hurst, of 208 Mitchell St., said he was in the cemetery conducting his year-long hobby, orb photography, which is capturing circles of light at night, some of which appear to be faces. As for why he was naked the night he was caught by a game camera set up by cemetery staff, he said skin can be the best canvas for such photography.
Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Shane Tucker said the department received a great deal of community response to its request for aid in identifying a man who was photographed  naked and setting up his own camera on a tripod by a game camera in the cemetery. The community information provided Investigators Christa Groom and Shane Edgar with several leads, but none of those tips led to the man for whom they were looking.
Instead, it was information from a Picayune Police officer that put the investigators at the suspect’s front door, Tucker said. The officer told the investigators that he remembered pulling a man over on a routine traffic stop recently that resembled the man in the picture. Using that information, the investigators identified Hurst and made several attempts to contact him, but the efforts to make contact were unsuccessful, Tucker said.
On Friday, Capt. Kelvin Stanford finally made contact with Hurst who turned himself in and was booked for indecent exposure.
The investigation started late in October when cemetery staff members reported incidents of vandalism at some of the grave sites to the Sheriff’s Department. The vandalism caused cemetery staff to set up the game camera in an attempt to capture a photo of the vandals. Instead, they got a picture of Hurst in the cemetery, without his clothes, according to the initial story.
“This is one of the craziest things that I’ve ever seen,” Stanford said, who has 15 years of law enforcement experience.
Tucker said investigation into Hurst’s presence at the cemetery shows he was not responsible for the vandalism.
On Friday, after Hurst was taken into custody, he sat down with a reporter to share his side of the story. He said for the past year he’s been taking photographs of orbs, which is done at night. Orb photography can capture images of circles of light, that at times look like faces, especially on the skin, Hurst said.
“I’ve got some great pictures, it’s really fascinating,” Hurst said.
Initially he intended to only take off his shirt, but then took off the rest of his clothes, which he said was stupid.
“I didn’t mean to expose myself to  anybody and it was stupid,” Hurst said.
“You never know who’s watching,” Stanford said.
Hurst said he had no idea the cemetery had been the victim of vandalism, and he said he has had enough of orb pictures, and cemeteries, to put his hobby to rest.
“No I don’t think I’ll be going into a cemetery, even clothed.” Tucker said Hurst’s bond will be $500.

I’m certainly no lawyer, but I think an adequate attorney should be able to get the charges dismissed.  I don’t see how he could be convicted of indecent exposure when no one saw him naked.  After all, he only exposed himself to a wildlife camera, and that was purely accidental.


Thursday, December 16, 2010


Back in 1974, when I was a service engineer for 3M, there were copiers that I maintained belonging to the Wyndham School District.  Since they don’t have a football team, you may not recognize the name, that is the educational system within the Texas prisons.

1974 was also the year that Fred Gomez Carrasco, a convicted drug kingpin from San Antonio, along with fellow prisoners Rudy S. Dominguez, and Ignacio Cuevas attempted to break out of the Walls prison in Huntsville, taking several hostages in the prison library.  A model 209 copier I serviced can actually be seen in film of the shoot-out that brought the escape attempt to an end.  The incident lasted more than a week, ending with the death of two female hostages, the wounding of other hostages, and the death of inmate gunmen Carrasco and Dominguez.

Marilyn Jones was the dispatcher at 3M, a beautiful and intelligent woman who was probably the best dispatcher I ever met.  Sometime during the eight-day siege at Huntsville, I completed a call in Livingston, Texas and called Marilyn for my next assignment.

She said “You need to go to Wyndham…”

Before she could finish, I replied “And you can go to Hell.”

As it turned out, she was trying to send me to Wyndham Lumber Mill in Livingston, a place I didn’t even know existed. 

An unhappy dispatcher can make your life miserable.  It took numerous apologies, a bouquet of flowers and about a month before we were back to normal.

The story below has little or nothing to do with the story above, but when I saw it on the Cleveland Advocate’s website, it made me think of Wyndham, 3M and Marilyn.  At least this one has a happier ending.

FYI- I edited out several paragraphs from the original:



Hallowed halls behind prison walls

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010 11:56 pm


It’s a traditional ceremony. “Pomp and Circumstance” plays. Graduates wearing caps and gowns walk single-file down the aisle between columns of friends and family members, who rise from their folding chairs and shower their loved ones with applause and shouts of encouragement.

This was how a graduation ceremony began on Friday, Dec. 3, in Cleveland. This, however, was not a run-of-the-mill graduation. For underneath the gowns, these graduates wore navy blue prison uniforms. Fifty-five inmates at Cleveland Correctional Center graduated from the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, a five-month intellectual and introspective boot camp that has an astounding track record for transforming character.

The selective program, held at a minimum-security facility for adult male offenders, has taught business skills and social skills to more than 600 inmates during its six years. Throughout Texas, 60 percent to 70 percent of convicts wind up back behind bars within a year of their release, but roughly 10 percent of the program’s graduates backslide, said Randy Doleman, the program’s manager of prison initiatives.

“The state has realized that what we’re doing, although it may be unorthodox, is working,” Doleman said, adding that executives and MBA students “mentor” the graduates upon their release.

Each graduate’s release date is within three years, each has a GED or a high school diploma, none is incarcerated for a sex offense, none has a recent disciplinary history.

“Maybe for the first time, they will have completed something,” Doleman said. “Not only have they changed, but they have proof of that.  Hopefully, when they’ve finished, you’ll see a changed man, who lives with integrity and nobility.”

Trainers initially determine each participant’s ability. Afterward, each chooses his own line of business, such as welding, designing T-shirts or operating a restaurant. Everyone studies basic entrepreneurship, develops a business plan and learns how to pitch his plan, the latter of which builds communication skills. Along the way, each student learns how to handle a job interview, acquire financing, invest in stock, and use social media and other computerized marketing vehicles.

Of the 110 selectees, the 55 December graduates refused to quit the intensive training and adhered to its behavioral expectations.

Acknowledged for scoring the highest grade point average, Valedictorian Clayton Griseta told the audience how he once had a low opinion of himself.

“Over and over, I heard, ‘You can’t do this,’” Griseta said. “I felt like a disappointment. I felt lost. I joined expecting a business program … I can honestly say I learned more in five months than I learned in high school, not just about business but about myself as well.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Assaulting Batteries

My paternal grandfather was a cabinet maker and my father was a pioneer in the air-conditioning business, which meant he had to be an expert on plumbing and wiring and general trouble-shooting procedures, among other things. 

I grew up in an atmosphere where, if something needed doing, we did it ourselves – that meant everything from castrating calves to digging a pond to baking a cake from scratch or building a house from the bottom up.Because of that upbringing, it has been a matter of almost too much pride that I have never paid for a service call on any appliance we own. 

That nearly came to a halt yesterday.


After Hurricane Rita, I installed a 13 kW generator on our home.  It has served us well since then, without a hiccup until this past weekend.  The unit has a built-in trickle charger to keep the starter battery charged, and once a week it is programmed to start automatically and “exercise”  the generator for 12 minutes. 

Sunday morning at the appointed time it failed to start.  The starter bumped – turned the engine over for less than a second – then waited a few seconds and tried again.  It never turned the motor over enough to fire it up. 

I immediately thought that the battery was bad, but I found that if I held down the manual start switch, it fired right up.  That threw me for a loop! A check of manuals, and calls to the manufacturer and a local dealer offered no logical explanation and in spite of the $170.00 minimum charge, I finally scheduled a service call.

At that point, just to be sure, I pulled the battery out of my 97 Toyota Avalon and installed it in the generator.  HALLELUJAH, it solved the problem – no need to break my record after all!

Well, that’s the good news.  The really good news was that the battery still qualified for a free replacement under warranty from Wal-Mart.

The bad news is that when I reinstalled the battery in the Toyota, it set off the anti-theft system.  Lights flashing, horn honking and I couldn’t get the damn thing to reset.  The owner’s manual offered little help – none of which worked.  I called my daughter who gave me the car, who called her husband, who called me back.  Neither could remember how to turn it off, and Gene pointed out that they had bought the car used and he didn’t even know if the anti-theft system was original equipment.

Finally, while searching the glove box, I came across a spare battery for the car key.  I replaced the old battery in the key and was able to use the buttons on the key to get the system to reset.

While all of that honking and flashing is going on, the starter is disabled.  Once I finally got it to reset, I found that the battery was so weak that it would only cause the starter solenoid to chatter.  After an hour on the charger, it was no better, so I tried the new Wal-Mart battery in the car and it fired right up.

Today I cancel the service call with Generac, and go buy another battery.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



Houston’s Market Square was the site of the 2nd Annual Gingerbread House-building competition this past weekend. 

The Gingerbread Build-off was sponsored by Architecture Center Houston, along with Buffalo Bayou Partnership, C2 Creative, and Houston Downtown Management District.

I had thought that it might be fun to attend, but we had other things to do.  From the pictures I saw, I didn’t miss much. 

There were some interesting Gingerbread churches

gingerCHURCHAnd even a Gingerbread rendering of the San Jacinto Monument


There were Gingerbread Castles


And even a Gummy Candy breathing Dragon


But the Houses just weren’t that impressive

Certainly nothing to pull Hansel and Gretel in out of the forest.

Overall, it looks like all the participants had a good time, but I’m not all that sorry we missed it. Do sour grapes and gingerbread go together?
You still have a chance to see the winners of the competition this week at Architecture Center Houston, located at 315 Capitol, Suite 120.  The gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parking is available at the Hobby Center Parking Garage.

Monday, December 13, 2010

WOW, Hannah Smokes It and It’s LEGAL


Just something about her looks, I suppose, but even when she tries to project a sexy and sophisticated “I’m all grown up” image, Billy Ray’s kid still exudes a sort of little girl/middle school innocence.  I’d guess that’s what makes her so popular with little girls and pedophiles. Maybe it’s the secret behind the story below:

Miley Cyrus & Salvia -- 'I'll Have What She's Having'

Originally posted Dec 13th 2010 1:00 AM PST by TMZ Staff

Miley Cyrus is now the inadvertent celebrity endorser of salvia -- because ever since that video of her smoking a bong full of it came out ... we're told sales of the herbal drug are sky high.
According to people who deal, legally, in salvia divinorum ... sales have increased since Friday -- in some cases up to 3 times the usual tally.
TMZ spoke with several head shops in the Los Angeles area and we're told -- not only have sales jumped -- but many of the customers specifically asked for "the stuff Miley was smoking." No ... mentioning Miley did not get them a discount.
While Miley's experimentation is generating curiosity in the hallucinogen -- one smoke shop employee tells us, "Salvia is one of those things that you only try once because it is so intense."
Another impact of the Miley video -- as we reported -- is renewed discussion about banning salvia in California. It is already illegal in 15 states.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


There was a trend on Facebook earlier this month to change everyone’s profile picture to a cartoon – supposedly to bring awareness to the problem of child abuse.  No one seems to know how it got started, although numerous newspapers and TV stations did stories on the phenomenon.  The bottom line is that thousands of Facebook users complied, changing their pictures overnight!

There were even (apparently unfounded) rumors that the whole thing was started by a pedophile group.

A check of brings up a fairly lengthy explanation HERE .

Like all the other compliant sheep, I changed my picture to a cartoon.  I chose a Cat in a Hat – not the famous character from Dr. Seuss, but a Gato con Sombrero I found on-line.

cartoon-cat-sombrero-character-design-01I  have no idea what his name is or where he came from, just liked the idea that he had a lap-top.

Anyway, I left him up for a few days, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like the guy below,


so I changed my picture to

Bob C 2

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Life and Roses



A  Houston-area organ donor and his family will be honored at the 2011 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on New Year’s Day.

Bridge to Life, Ltd and LifeGift today announced that Chad Jones, son of Michael and Sheree Jones of Katy, Texas, will be remembered on the 2011 Donate Life Rose Parade Float – themed “Seize the Day!” – for saving the lives of four strangers through organ donation and countless others through the gift of tissue donation.

Chad will be depicted in a floragraph – a portrait created from all-natural, floral materials – along with 59 other organ, eye and tissue donors from across the country whose images will adorn Donate Life’s float entry. Donor family members, living donors and transplant recipients also participate as float riders, bringing to life the 2011 Rose Parade theme, Building Dreams, Friendships & Memories.
“Through the gifts of organ and tissue donation, Chad and his family became heroes to those lives he saved and their loved ones,” said Aaron Gilchrist of Bridge to Life, Ltd., who is sponsoring the Jones family’s participation in the Rose Parade. “As a company we are committed to national organ transplant awareness, and we are honored to be part of this tradition, while sharing it with such an amazing family – a family who, under the most difficult of circumstances, saw beyond their own pain and grief to help others.”
Chad, an avid car and motorcycle lover, was in a tragic accident on June 6, 2009.

Jones’ family completed their floragraph on Friday, Dec. 10, at Ben Taub General Hospital. The floral portrait will be a part of the float, the theme of which is “Seize the Day.”

In late 2009, the Jones family Michael, Sheree and Chad’s sister, Jessica, founded Donate 4 Life (, a nonprofit organization, which raises awareness of donation and encourages Texans to become registered organ and tissue donors. While the number of registered donors in Texas has increased dramatically over the last year and now has more than 1.1 million registered donors, the state must continue to make progress and encourage more residents to register as donors.
Registering as an organ and tissue donor is simple and it’s free. It can be done one of three ways:
· Via online at or its companion site
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Friday, December 10, 2010


I cuss, and I’m pretty proficient at it.  Been doing it almost since I could talk, and I’ve been talking since before I was a year old.

Time has taken its toll, and there is almost no one left to testify, but I’ve been told that I was speaking in coherent sentences before I could walk.

I try to avoid blasphemy, but when I do utter one, the worst thing that happens (in this world, anyway) is a frown.  

Just one more reason to thank God I live in America.

Asia Bibi at a prison near Lahore, Pakistan, 20 Nov. 20, 2010.

Asia Bibi, has been sentenced to death for blaspheming against Islam. That is enough to make her entire family a target.

Her husband, Ashiq Masih says his daughters still cry for their mother and ask if she will be home in time for Christmas.

He insists that Asia Bibi is innocent and will be freed, but he worries about what will happen next.

"When she comes out, how she can live safely?" he asks.

"They say 'we'll deal with you if we get our hands on you'. Now everyone knows about us, so I am hiding my kids here and there. I don't allow them to go out. Anyone can harm them," he added.

“No one will let her live. The mullahs are saying they will kill her when she comes out."

Asia Bibi, an illiterate farm worker from rural Punjab, is the first woman sentenced to hang under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

Asia Bibi's troubles began in June 2009 in her village, Ittan Wali, where hers was the only Christian household.

She was picking berries alongside local Muslim women, when an argument developed over sharing water. Days later, the women claimed she had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Soon, Asia Bibi was being pursued by a mob. "In the village they tried to put a noose around my neck, so that they could kill me," she said in a brief appearance outside her jail cell.

Asia Bibi says she was falsely accused to settle an old score. That is often the case with the blasphemy law, critics say.

A radical cleric has promised 500,000 Pakistani rupees ($5,800) to anyone prepared to "finish her". He suggested that the Taliban might be happy to do it.

The imam, Qari Mohammed Salim, told us he cried with joy when the death sentence was passed on Asia Bibi. He helped to bring the case against her and says she will be made to pay, one way or the other.

In Pakistan, Islamic parties have been out on the streets, threatening anarchy if she is freed, or if there is any attempt to amend the blasphemy law.

Under Pakistan's penal code, anyone who "defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet" can be punished by death or life imprisonment. Death sentences have always been overturned on appeal.

"It is a hanging sword on the neck of all minorities, especially Christians," says Shahzad Kamran, of the Sharing Life Ministry, which ministers to prisoners, including Asia Bibi.

"It's very easy to make this accusation because of a grudge, or for revenge. Anyone can accuse you.

"Even our little children are afraid that if they say something wrong at school, they will be charged with blasphemy."

When Pakistan's Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti,  himself a Christian, hopes that Asia Bibi will win an appeal to the High Court, or be pardoned by Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari.

He says she is one of dozens of innocent people who are accused every year.

Even behind bars Asia Bibi may not be safe.

Several people accused of blasphemy have been killed in jail.

Thirty-four people connected with blasphemy cases have been killed since the law was hardened in 1986, according to Pakistan's Justice and Peace Commission, a Catholic campaign group.

The death toll includes those accused, their relatives, and even a judge.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

ATV vs. Impeachment

There was what I considered to be a major story regarding the U S Senate yesterday evening. 

I planned to run it this morning, but then it occurred to me that this blog had been entirely too serious for too many days.  I had decided instead to publish a picture of  a friend’s brand new all-terrain four-wheeler.

All terrain 4 wheeler

When I went on-line this morning and found that neither MSN nor Google News was headlining the impeachment story, I decided I had to post it, too.


Judge G. Thomas Porteous is shown here.


The Senate on Wednesday convicted U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana on four articles of impeachment, making him just the eighth federal judge in history to be removed by Congress.

House prosecutors laid out a damaging case against Porteous, 63, a New Orleans native who was a state judge before winning appointment to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994. (Because they had so much in common?) The prosecutors said gambling and drinking problems led him to begin accepting cash and other favors from attorneys and bail bondsmen with business before his court.

He also was accused of lying to Congress during his judicial confirmation and filing for bankruptcy under a false name.

The Senate voted unanimously to convict on the first article involving cash from attorneys, and with strong majorities on the other three. They also approved a motion barring him from holding future federal office.

Many of the facts in the case weren't disputed. Porteous' lead attorney, Jonathan Turley, acknowledged that the judge made mistakes but argued that they were mostly personal failings that didn't meet the "high crimes and misdemeanor" standard for impeachment. Turley also argued that many of the practices — such as accepting favors and expensive meals — were common in the Louisiana legal community, and that convicting him for acts that were “pre-federal”  set a dangerous new precedent.

Porteous is the first judge to be impeached and convicted since 1989, when two judges — Walter Nixon of Mississippi and Alcee L. Hastings of Florida — were removed from office. Hastings went on to win a seat in Congress, where he still serves.

Porteous, who turns 64 next Tuesday, planned to retire in December of 2011.  If he had managed to remain in office until then, he would have qualified for a full judicial pension at his salary of $174,000 per year; leaving the bench now, he gets nothing. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Analytical Engine

Windows OS turned twenty-five last month (Windows), but that makes it a relative newcomer on the computing scene.

Here’s a story about a serious attempt to build a steam-powered computer – based on plans 173 years old ****by John Graham-Cumming

In December 1837, the British mathematician Charles Babbage published a paper describing a mechanical computer that is now known as the Analytical Engine. Anyone intimate with the details of electronic computers will instantly recognize the components of Babbage's machine. Although Babbage was designing with brass and iron, his Engine has a central processing unit (which he called the mill) and a large amount of expandable memory (which he called the store). The operation of the Engine is controlled by program stored on punched cards, and punched cards can also be used to input data.

Punched cards created for Babbage's Analytical Engine. From Flickr user lorentey.
Punched cards created for Babbage's Analytical Engine. [From Flickr user lorentey.]

Inside the mill, individual operations are controlled by the equivalent of a microprogram. The microprogram is stored on cylinders covered in studs (much like in a music box) that Babbage refers to as the barrels. Data is transferred from the store to the mill for processing and returned to the store for later use. In his plans Babbage described an Engine with 100 storage locations holding 40 decimal digits each (which is roughly equivalent to 1.7KB). He even anticipated the need for ever more memory, describing an Engine with 1,000 storage locations (17KB) and external storage (he would have used punched cards where we use disks).

For output, the Analytical Engine plans call for both a printer and a plotter. The entire Engine would likely have been powered by steam and would have been the size of a small steam locomotive. Its programming language -- if it can be called that -- included loops and conditionals. The only surprising thing about the architecture of the Analytical Engine is when it was invented.

It wasn't until 100 years later that computers came into existence, with Babbage's work lying mostly ignored. In the late 1930s and 1940s, starting with Alan Turing's 1936 paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem," teams in the US and UK began to build workable computers by, essentially, rediscovering what Babbage had seen a century before. Babbage had anticipated the impact of his Engine when he wrote in his memoirs: "As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of science."

During his lifetime Babbage only constructed parts of the Analytical Engine (which can be seen in the Science Museum in London). His son, H. P. Babbage, working from his father's designs, built a demonstration version of the mill after his father's death. The elder Babbage left behind extensive documentation and plans for the Engine, all of which are safely stored in London and have been examined by historians.

The mill of the Analytical Engine.  From Flickr user Gastev.
The mill of the Analytical Engine.

[From Flickr user Gastev.]

Babbage came up with the idea of the Analytical Engine while working on a machine to automatically produce mathematical tables (such as tables of logarithms). Mathematical tables were extensively used at the time -- and well into the 20th century -- and they were calculated by hand by people referred to as "computers." Babbage hoped to eliminate errors made by these computers by replacing them with a machine capable of performing the relevant calculations automatically.

The machines he invented are called the Difference Engines (because they use the mathematical technique of differences to perform their calculations). These machines were not completed during Babbage's lifetime partly because of his difficult personality and partly because of the withdrawal of government support for the project. The conception and construction of Babbage's Engines was an enormous undertaking in the 1800s. Despite repeated setbacks, Babbage continued essentially alone, working on plans and designs up until his death and spending his own fortune on the work. Twentieth-century computer pioneer Maurice Wilkes describes being "haunted by the thought of the loneliness of [Babbage's] intellectual life" while working on the Analytical Engine.

The British government had initially supported Babbage and covered some of the costs of construction of the first Difference Engine. But as costs rose and years wore on, the government was advised that the machines would be of little use, were unlikely to pay for themselves, and the money expended would have been better invested and the dividends used to hire additional human "computers" to do the work.

Soldiering on alone with the conviction that his machines would be of great benefit to mankind by taking what had been mental effort and making it mechanical, Babbage wrote that "Another age must be the judge" of his inventions.

Simply put, we live in that age. In the late 1980s the Science Museum in London undertook a project to demonstrate that Babbage's Engines could have been built during his lifetime. The museum constructed his Difference Engine No. 2 and the associated printer using historically accurate materials and to within historically accurate tolerances. In 1991, the working machine was unveiled, and it can still be seen on display in the museum (a copy of the machine is also ondisplay at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA).

Difference Engine No. 2.  From Flickr user psd.
Difference Engine No. 2.

[From Flickr user psd.]

The Science Museum's Difference Engine No. 2 project put to rest any doubt about the limits of Victorian engineering. Babbage's Engines were achievable in Victorian Britain and Babbage's 100-year leap in inventing the computer could have been realized.

It's time to build the Analytical Engine

I hope to finish Babbage's dream and build an Analytical Engine for public display. I've launched a project called Plan 28 to raise the money and bring together people to work on the Engine. Babbage left behind extensive documentation of the Analytical Engine, the most complete of which can be seen in his Plan 28 (and 28a), which are preserved in a mahogany case that Babbage had constructed especially for the purpose.

There are three important steps to achieve this goal:

  • A decision must be made on what constitutes an Analytical Engine
  • The Engine should be simulated on a computer to help debug the physical machine
  • The machine must be built

The first step is necessary because Babbage continually refined his designs -- he was constantly aiming at simplification and faster computational speed -- and left behind a mixed collection of plans and notebooks. Sorting through this material will require the help of historians and specialists in Victorian engineering.

Simulating the machine using 3D modeling software and a physics engine would enable us to bring the machine to life without making any metal parts. Given the size and complexity of the machine, this step is vital. And since the final machine would wear out if constantly used, it would provide a way of demonstrating the Engine.

It might seem a folly to want to build a gigantic, relatively puny computer at great expense 170 years after its invention. But the message of a completed Analytical Engine is very clear: it's possible to be 100 years ahead of your own time. With support, this type of "blue skies" thinking can result in fantastic changes to the lives of everyone. Just think of the impact of the computer and ask yourself how different the Victorian world would have been with Babbage Engines at its disposal.

What seemed like costly research that was unlikely to have any short-term value turned out to be the seed of one of the greatest revolutions mankind has seen. I hope that future generations of scientists will stand before the completed Analytical Engine, think of Babbage, and be inspired to work on their own 100-year leaps.

You can be a part of  this effort by contributing to

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pulling the Plug on Wikileaks - Priceless

mrk_mastercard              Julian-Assange-founder-of-006

"MasterCard is taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products," a spokesman for MasterCard Worldwide said today.
That further limits the revenue sources for WikiLeaks, which has seen its finances systematically attacked in the last few days, as the Swiss authorities shut down a bank account used by editor Julian Assange, and PayPal permanently restricted the account used by the group.

Pressured by the US government, their leader chased by the Interpol and kicked off their servers by Amazon, Wikileaks is on the run. But fear not: The organization has found a new refuge, and a French judge declined yesterday to force web provider OVH to shut down the WikiLeaks site, after the government called for the whistleblower website to be kicked out of France.  OVH is the biggest internet hosting provider in France, and the second largest in Europe.

The legal challenge came after French Industry Minister Eric Besson called for WikiLeaks to be banned from French servers after the site took refuge there on Thursday, having been expelled from the United States.

The new servers will share the load with their Servers in a Swedish nuclear bunker, which has been the home of WikiLeaks since last August.  There are reports that the Swedish servers have recently been under attack by hackers.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to U.K. police this morning as part of a Swedish sex-crimes investigation, the latest blow to an organization that faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Swedish prosecutors issued the arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian, who is accused of rape and sexual molestation in one case and of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in another.

Assange surrendered at 9:30 a.m. local time and was due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrate's Court later in the day, London's Metropolitan Police said.

If he challenges his extradition to Sweden, he will likely be remanded into custody or released on bail until another judge rules on whether to extradite him, an official told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Phillip J. Crowley, a U. S. State Department spokesman, recently condemned Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks as an “opportunist [who] threatens to put others at risk to save his own hide.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told Reuters on Monday that he is personally involved in the criminal investigation into WikiLeaks. He repeatedly refused to elaborate whether that would include search warrants.

“I personally authorized a number of things last week and that’s an indication of the seriousness with which we take this matter and the highest level of involvement at the Department of Justice,” he said.

He also declined to say whether the Obama administration could try to shut down the WikiLeaks site….

“I don’t want to get into what our capabilities are,” Holder said. “We are looking at all the things we can do to try to stem the flow of this information.”

It is not all bad for Assange - Australia has said that he is free to return to his homeland, and street vendors in Naples are selling Assange figurines to go in nativity scenes.

Julian Assange figureUnfortunately, the plaster Julians, and, to a certain  extent,  the Wikileaks founder himself,  look something like a cross between Alfred E. Newman and Mortimer Snerd.

Alfred_E_Newman    1assange-330a.grid-6x2 snerd

Monday, December 6, 2010

OK, So The Earth Isn’t Flat - The Universe Might Be

Einstein's 'Biggest Blunder' Turns Out to Be Right

By Clara Moskowitz

A young Albert Einstein lectures in Vienna in 1921.

Albert Einstein –Vienna, 1921.

What Einstein called his worst mistake, scientists are now depending on to help explain the universe.

In 1917, Albert Einstein inserted a term called the cosmological constant into his theory of general relativity to force the equations  to predict a stationary universe in keeping with physicists' thinking at the time. When it became clear that the universe wasn't actually static, but was expanding instead, Einstein abandoned the constant, calling it the '"biggest blunder" of his life.

But lately scientists have revived Einstein's cosmological constant (denoted by the Greek capital letter lambda) to explain a mysterious force called dark energy that seems to be counteracting gravity — causing the universe to expand at an accelerating pace.

A new study confirms that the cosmological constant is the best fit for dark energy, and offers the most precise and accurate estimate yet of its value, researchers said. The finding comes from a measurement of the universe's geometry that suggests our universe is flat, rather than spherical or curved.

Geometry of the universe

Physicists Christian Marinoni and Adeline Buzzi of the Universite de Provence in France found a new way to test thedark energy model that is completely independent of previous studies. Their method relies on distant observations of pairs of galaxies to measure the curvature of space.

"The most exciting aspect of the work is that there is no external data that we plug in," Marinoni told, meaning that their findings aren't dependent on other calculations that could be flawed.

The researchers probed dark energy by studying thegeometry of the universe. The shape of space depends on what's in it — that was one of the revelations of Einstein's general relativity, which showed that mass and energy (two sides of the same coin) bend space-time with their gravitational force.

Marinoni and Buzzi set out to calculate the contents of the universe — i.e. how much mass and energy, including dark energy, it holds — by measuring its shape.

There were three main options for the outcome.

Physics says the universe can either be flat like a plane, spherical like a globe, or hyperbolically curved like a saddle. Previous studies have favored the flat universe model, and this new calculation agreed.

Flat universe

The geometry of space-time can distort structures within it. The researchers studied observations of pairs of distant galaxies orbiting each other for evidence of this distortion, and used the magnitude of the distortion as a way to trace the shape of space-time.

To discover how much the galaxy pairs' shapes were being distorted, the researchers measured how much each galaxy's light was red-shifted — that is, budged toward the red end of the visual spectrum by a process called the Doppler shift, which affects moving light or sound waves.

The redshift measurements offered a way to plot the orientation and position of the orbiting pairs of galaxies. The result of these calculations pointed toward a flat universe.

Marinoni and Buzzi detail their findings in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Nature.

Understanding dark energy

By providing more evidence that the universe is flat, the findings bolster the cosmological constant model for dark energy over competing theories such as the idea that the general relativity equations for gravity are flawed.

"We have at this moment the most precise measurements of lambda that a single technique can give," Marinoni said. "Our data points towards a cosmological constant because the value of lambda we measure is close to minus one, which is the value predicted if dark energy is the cosmological constant."

Unfortunately, knowing that the cosmological constant is the best mathematical explanation for how dark energy is stretching out our universe doesn't help much in understanding why it exists at all.

"Many cosmologists regard determining the nature of dark energy and dark matter as the most important scientific question of the decade," wrote Alan Heavens of Scotland's University of Edinburgh in an accompanying essay in the same issue of Nature. "Our picture of the universe involves putting together a number of pieces of evidence, so it is appealing to hear of Marinoni and Buzzi's novel technique for testing the cosmological model, not least because it provides a very direct and simple measurement of the geometry of the universe."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pardon Me – One More Time

Last month, on the 13th, and again on the 14th, I wrote about pardons.  Now here we are again, because, for the first time,  Barak Hussein Obama has tried his hand at the pardoning game.  No master criminals or crooked politicians – just, if the story below is true, a bunch of losers.

The pardons were announced Friday while the president was out of the country – flying back from his unannounced trip to Afghanistan.

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

Ronald Foster was busted for mutilating pennies in 1963. For decades, he didn't know it was a felony. 

For 42 years, Ronald Foster didn't know he had a felony conviction for cutting up pennies.

It seemed like a nickel-and-dime crime at the time. President Obama apparently agreed, and on Friday he pardoned Foster and eight other people for unrelated crimes.

Foster stands out among the list of convicted thieves, drug dealers and users, and not just because his conviction is the oldest. In 1963, he was earning $82 a month as a Marine at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when he says he and 16 others hatched a scheme to cut pennies into dimes so they could use them in vending machines.

"We cut the lip off, and we were using them in the barracks only, in the vending machines. Washing machines, cigarette machines, pop machines," says Foster, now a retired mill worker from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

"Back then, a pack of cigarettes cost 20 or 30 cents a pack, so you could get a pack for 3 cents," he says, chuckling.

But the Secret Service caught them. They were marched into a courtroom on base, where his commanding officer entered a plea on their behalf to mutilation of coins, he says.

Foster was sentenced to a year of probation and a $20 fine, and he thought the incident was behind him. He served in Vietnam the next year and left the Marine Corps 12 years later to join the Pennsylvania National Guard. He got a job at a plant that manufactures ceilings near his home in Beaver Falls, got married and had a son.

Then, in 2005, he applied for a gun permit and found out for the first time he had a felony conviction. He applied for a presidential pardon, which was officially granted Friday, in the first round of pardons during Obama's administration.

Foster was among nine people to receive pardons from the president for crimes ranging from drug possession to conspiracy. Presidential pardons are granted around the holiday season.

The following individuals were pardoned by Obama:

-- James Bernard Banks of Liberty, Utah, who was sentenced in 1972 to two years' probation for illegal possession of government property;

-- Russell James Dixon of Clayton, Georgia, who received two years' probation in 1960 for a felony liquor violation;

-- Laurens Dorsey of Syracuse, New York, who was sentenced in 1998 to five years' probation and required to pay $71,000 restitution for making false statements to the Food and Drug Administration;

-- Timothy James Gallagher of Navasota, Texas, who was sentenced in 1982 to three years' probation for possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine;

-- Roxane Kay Hettinger of Powder Springs, Georgia, who was sentenced in 1986 to 30 days in jail and three years of probation for conspiracy to distribute cocaine;

-- Edgar Leopold Kranz Jr. of Minot, North Dakota, who received a bad conduct military discharge in 1994 for wrongful use of cocaine, adultery and writing three insufficient fund checks;

-- Floretta Leavy of Rockford, Illinois, who was sentenced in 1984 to one year and one day in prison -- along with three years on parole -- for distribution and possession of cocaine, as well as possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; and

-- Scoey Lathaniel Morris of Crosby, Texas, who was sentenced in 1999 to three years' probation and required to pay $1,200 in restitution for passing counterfeit obligations or securities.

So far, Obama has received 551 pardon petitions in the course of his presidency, of which he's denied 131, according to the Justice Department.  Another 265 petitions were closed without presidential action.