Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year’s Eve

happy new year

Plan to celebrate the new year in traditional fashion this year – that is Our tradition, which is to stay the Hell home and avoid all the crazies.

I might have a drink, and I might stay up until midnight, at least midnight Eastern Standard time.  Then again, I might not.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Set of Definitions


I read the other day that the word Set has more definitions than any other word in the English language.  That’s one of those little factoids that is almost impossible to check, but it just might be true.  According to the Wiktionary,  Wikipedia's dictionary, set has 19 definitions as a verb, 20 as a noun, and 7 as an adjective – not to mention about a gazillion derivative meanings.

Just for fun, how many definitions can you think of?  Can you come up with a complete set?

The picture I used at the beginning of this piece is a Julia Set – part of a Mandelbrot Set.  Mandelbrot Sets use mathematical equations to form some beautiful pictures.  You’ll find an explanation HERE .

Thursday, December 29, 2011

OK, Crazy B****

They play. They giggle. But, then, say some angry consumers, the You and Me Play and Giggle Triplet dolls say "OK, crazy b****."

The adorable-looking dolls, clad in their pajamas with matching nightcaps, make babbling sounds and move their heads and are made exclusively for the Toys "R" Us brand, reported on Monday. The store defended the product and said what customers claim they are hearing is a misunderstanding.

Toys “R” Us spokeswoman Jennifer Albano said,"Obviously we would not sell a doll that uses profanity. What you’re hearing is just baby babble...There are no plans to pull it off the shelves,"

If you want to decide for yourself….

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

47th Anniversary

Today marks Honey’s and my forty-seventh wedding anniversary.  Wow!  Forty-seven years seems like a long time, but time flies when you’re with the one you love.  I wrote her a little poem to commemorate the day:

I know that I was single once, I know that, but some days
It seems we've been together forever and always.
Success and failure, joy and tears
Built up through forty-seven years,
You are a vital part of me, my best in many ways.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Luce Bayou Project

From the Houston Chronicle:

luce bayou

After decades of fits and starts, Houston is pushing forward with plans to move Trinity River water nearly 30 miles to Lake Houston. The lake, located on the  San Jacinto River, is the primary water source for millions of people in the region.

luce map

Planners say the Luce Bayou project, a nearly $300 million pipeline and canal, would provide water to the ever-swelling city and suburbs while helping with the area's planned conversion from groundwater. The newly adopted state water plan identifies it among the key strategies to slake the region's thirst in 2060.

The Luce Bayou project has been a dream of water planners for decades. A task force first identified the meandering stream as a way to provide Trinity water to Houston in the 1930s.

Two decades later, the city obtained a permit that allows the transfer of up to 940,000 acre-feet of water from the Trinity to the San Jacinto River basin each year. One-acre foot, equal to about 326,000 gallons, is enough to serve two typical Texas families for a year.

In the 1960s, Houston built a pumping station and canal system to send a portion of the water to purification plants on the east and southeast sides of the city. Still, the city never has fully utilized its rights to Trinity water.

Luce Bayou resurfaced as an option for moving more water westward in the early 1980s, but the project stalled in part because of a sagging economy.

Since then, the proposal has changed significantly, with the Trinity water no longer flowing through the natural channel to reach Lake Houston. The surge of new water would have caused flooding and wiped out natural features along the path of the stream, said Donald Ripley, executive director of the Coastal Water Authority, a quasi-governmental body that is developing the project for the city of Houston.

"It is clear that plan was not environmentally sensitive," Ripley said. "If we had asked for a permit on that application today, it would have been dead on arrival."

Now, from a proposed pumping station on the Trinity, just north of the Liberty County town of Dayton, the water would flow about four miles by pipeline to a settling basin. From there, it would travel 24 miles under gravity by a high-banked, earthen canal to Lake Houston.

The proposed project would harm 200 acres of protected wetlands, mostly bottomland hardwood forest. To offset the damage, the water authority has purchased a nearby 3,000-acre tract for the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge.

As primary steward of the nation's wetlands, the Army Corps of Engineers is studying the project's potential environmental impacts. A draft analysis should be complete in early 2012, said Sandra Arnold, a Corps spokeswoman.

If the project meets the Corps' requirements, the federal agency would grant a wetlands permit, which often is the most significant obstacle to building. The Coastal Water Authority's Ripley said the pipeline and canal are on a schedule to be completed by 2020.

Luce Bayou would deliver up to 450,000 acre-feet of water a year. The city of Houston already has agreements to sell some of the new supply to water districts in north and west Harris County and Fort Bend County.


Monday, December 26, 2011

How Much Gas To Charge An I-Phone?

Ken Cohen posted this on Exxon/Mobil’s Perspectives website:

This may seem like a strange question to ask, considering iPhones obviously are charged with electricity, not gasoline.

But the answer speaks to why gasoline and other liquid fuels will remain an important part of the energy mix in the future.

In ExxonMobil’s recently released Outlook for Energy, we predict that by 2040, about 90 percent of the global transportation fleet will still be powered by liquid petroleum fuels – that is, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

When asked why that’s the case, Bill Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president for Corporate Strategic Planning, often starts the discussion using this fact to put it in perspective:

All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years.

Clearly, there’s a lot of energy in a gallon of gasoline. And energy density is one of the key factors behind the reliability, affordability, versatility and convenience of any fuel. These are key elements that drive consumer choices today and will continue to drive consumer choices in the future.

So, let’s take a look at the role energy density plays in fuel choices, and how it affects consumer convenience and choice.

Energy Density

Consumers typically want to pay the least amount of money for the most amount of any product, energy included. So, the energy content of any fuel is a critical component of consumer choice. When it comes to transportation, though, another factor comes into play – namely that the energy to power a vehicle must be carried on the vehicle.

One of our top scientists uses the analogy of backpacking when talking about the importance of energy density: You want to buy the lightest, most easily carried food for backpacking, but it also needs to contain a lot of energy to keep you going. Likewise, gasoline and diesel are the lightest and most energy-dense fuels to carry for transportation. A typical car’s gasoline tank contains less than 100 pounds of gasoline but can power a 3,000 pound car for 400 miles at 60 miles per hour. This performance sets a high standard, and there are few transportation fuels currently on the market that are as light, energy dense and portable as gasoline or diesel.


The energy density of a fuel also contributes to its convenience.

For example, contrast the 300 to 400 miles that a gasoline vehicle can take you with what it would take to do the same in an electric vehicle. Electric vehicle batteries have just a fraction of the energy density of gasoline, meaning they would have to be charged multiple times during a 400-mile trip. There’s currently no major infrastructure for charging electric vehicles on the road, and it can take hours for an electric vehicle battery to charge.

Consumers at times may take for granted the convenience and time-savings offered by the existing fuel station network. The technological processes that recover crude oil from the earth, transport it to refineries, refine it into gasoline and diesel, transport it to fuel stations and store it over time are so incredibly advanced that consumers can fill up with gasoline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in as many quantities as necessary. That’s a convenience that does not currently exist with other transportation fuels.


The energy density of a fuel also contributes to its affordability.

When gasoline prices are high, you may hear more discussion about introducing more biofuels, especially ethanol, as a means to reduce price. After all, some consumers see the lower E85 price at the station and (understandably) think it’s more affordable than regular gasoline. But a gallon of E85 contains roughly 25 percent less energy than a gallon of gasoline, meaning you end up paying more because you fill up more often – even though the E85 price per gallon at the pump is lower.

A few years ago, did an interesting test on a flex-fuel SUV, driving it from San Diego to Las Vegas and back first on gasoline and then on E85 to find out the difference in fuel economy and cost. They found that fuel economy was 26.5 percent worse when using E85. That means having to buy more fuel to go the same distance, meaning this sort of trip using E85 could cost a consumer about $20 more than using gasoline.

Looking to the Future

Even though I talked about the current challenges of fueling vehicles with electricity and biofuels here, that doesn’t mean we don’t expect further technology advances in this area that will greatly expand the use of such vehicles. In fact, you might be interested to know that in our Outlook for Energy, we actually predict that hybrids and other advanced vehicles will account for nearly 50 percent of the vehicles on the road in 2040, compared to just 1 percent today.

More efficient vehicles will mean that global demand for fuels to power the light-duty vehicle fleet is likely to actually plateau and gradually start to decline about 10 to 15 years from now, while still meeting the needs of consumers.

There’s a lot more information about the future demand for transportation fuels, advances in vehicle efficiency and more in our 2012 Outlook for Energy – download a copy at or visit our interactive website for more data.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Tree


For those that didn’t grow up in the Oil Patch – the valves adorning the top of a completed well are known as a Christmas Tree.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


mary hpt


Imagine the Virgin Mary as just another unmarried young woman surprised by the results of a home pregnancy test.
That’s the idea of this new billboard put up by a church in Auckland, New Zealand.
St. Matthew-in-the-City Church put the billboard up just in time for Christmas. And right on schedule, the scandalous depiction of Mary has sparked debate.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have outside a church,” one resident told local TV station 3 NEWS.
But Vicar Glynn Cardy defended his church’s position.
“The point is really to get the season focused on Jesus and on the reality of his birth and some of the anxieties that his mother felt and the real situation of people who are in poverty like his family were,” Cardy told Auckland Now.
The church has a competition on
its website to come up with the best caption for the billboard.

St Matthew says it is a church that practices “Progressive Christianity.”  Their website defines it this way:

Why does St Matthew-in-the-City need to give a modifier to the brand of Christianity it practices?  Because contrary to our human tendency to make sweeping generalisations, being “Christian” does not tell us much about a faith community beyond the probability that Jesus plays a part in its beliefs.
Neither does denomination.  Denominations are historical in nature.  That St Matthew’s is Anglican tells you only how we are organised (we are under the authority of a bishop in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, worship using forms originally based on the English Book of Common Prayer, and have historical roots in the English Reformation, when politically and theologically it made sense to look Catholic and sound Protestant.  We call this the “middle way” (via media).
Every Anglican church has its own “personality.”  Some emphasize tradition and look more Catholic.  Some emphasize preaching and Scripture and sound Evangelical or charismatic (Pentacostal).  Some are visibly and audibly a blend and focus on the importance of reason.
But those differences have to do with what authority is most important to them: Scripture, Church Teaching and Tradition, or Reason.
Progressive Christians take all three authorities seriously but make none of them supreme.  Progressives are more interested in spirituality than right belief or proper worship. The identity of Progressive Christians is centred in ethical living.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gold, Myrrh and a Gift Certificate


The world may still have gold and myrrh, but it's quite possible that frankincense could become a thing of the past, given ecological pressures on the arid lands where it grows in Ethiopia.

The storied resin, known to millions as one of the three gifts of the Magi, the wise men who visited Jesus after his birth, is made from gum produced by the boswellia papyrifera tree. Its "bitter perfume" is used as incense in religious rituals in many cultures, as well as an ingredient in perfume and Chinese traditional medicine.

Dutch and Ethiopian researchers studying populations of the scraggly, scrub-like trees in northern Ethiopia found that as many as 7% of the trees are dying each year, and seedlings are not surviving into saplings.

Their paper in today's edition of the Journal of Applied Ecology finds that the Ethiopian trees that produce much of the world's frankincense are declining so dramatically that production could be halved over the next 15 years and the trees themselves could decline by 90% in the next 50 years

Frankincense has been harvested in the wild in theMiddle East and the Horn of Africa since ancient times.

The frankincense carried by the three wise men probably came from that area but those trees are mostly gone, says Frans Bongers, a professor of tropical forest ecology and management at the University of Wageningen in Holland.

"There's still some in Somalia, but no one knows how much. The main production area in the world right now is Ethiopia," says Bongers, who has studied the trees for the past six years.

Specialists have long said frankincense trees aren't doing well, but the paper is the first hard data on them, and the outlook is not good.

Frankincense is harvested by making cuts in the tree bark during the dry season. A cut is made every two or three weeks, and the resin that emerges to heal it is collected.

How much frankincense is produced worldwide isn't clearly known. Bongers says Europe imports about 400 tons each year, and about half of that goes on to China for use in traditional medicine while the rest goes to churches and perfume makers.

Most of that comes from Ethiopia. A long-term government push to relocate people from the highlands to the lowlands, where the trees grow, is putting tremendous pressure on the ecosystem.

Additionally, a shift in harvesting from large, government-controlled companies to private collectives has increased the pressure to collect larger amounts of resin. The old contracts were for up to 40 years, Bongers says, which gave incentive to preserve the resource. The new contracts can be as short as two years, "so they get what they can get," he says.

Heavy tapping appears to weaken the trees, making them more prone to attacks by longhorn beetles. Up to 85% of fully grown trees that die are heavily infested with beetles.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Santa Claus may find reindeer helpful, but others find them downright tasty.

reindeer pate

The group Vegetarians International Voice for Animals launched a campaign against upscale department store Harvey Nichols for selling cans of reindeer pâté.

VIVA's website urges supporters to "politely complain" to the store, claiming that the process of harvesting the venison is traumatic to the animals. Admittedly, the packaging of the pâté seems designed to tweak delicate sensibilities, claiming the product is a "farm-raised relative of Rudolph" and "an indulgent Christmas treat." The pâté includes cognac and spices as well as its signature ingredients, ground meat and fat.

In a statement, the retailer defended the its choice to stock reindeer pâté, saying, "reindeer is growing in popularity in the U.K. … The reindeer we stock is farmed in Sweden and complies to EU legislation."

At £15 for 190 grams (around $23 for 6.7 ounces), it's a pricey snack. Even so, adventurous eaters are probably out of luck; it's listed as unavailable on and on the website of manufacturer Edible. It's also no longer available at Harvey Nichols stores or online — not because the retailer yanked it from its inventory at activists' request, according to a spokeswoman, but because the publicity led to a spike in sales.

"Our online stock has sold out due to the publicity and demand we've received," spokeswoman Constance Cooper said via email. "It's a seasonal product and stocks are limited so we will not be restocking prior to Christmas." Until next year, foodies with a taste for the wild side will have to content themselves with Harvey Nichols' other edible oddities like green curry crickets or toasted ants.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Too Much Exercise

The Valsalva maneuver was originally developed by an Italian doctor as a way to open stopped-up ears.  It involves trying to forcibly exhale while holding your mouth and nostrils shut, or against a closed glottis.  The move is used in some techniques for diagnosing heart problems, and is done more or less involuntarily by people lifting weights, or just going to the toilet.

In the news this morning is the story of a woman who was performing a Vasalva maneuver as part of her Pilates regimen and lost a breast implant!

A woman has revealed a freak occurrence in which her breast implant was swallowed by her body during a Pilates exercise.
A 59-year-old woman, whose breasts were removed after a double mastectomy to treat her breast cancer, had received breast implants after her surgery.

The cancer survivor was performing a Pilates stretching exercise known as a Valsalva maneuver when she claims her "body swallowed one of the implants," according to the account published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn, who did not treat the woman, explained how the "freak occurrence" most likely happened.

"What likely happened in this instance is that the breast implant was placed under the chest muscle and on top of the ribs, an extremely common practice in breast reconstruction," Youn said.

"When the patient Valsalva'd, the pectoralis [chest] muscle likely contracted and pushed the implant through the space between her ribs. The weakened scar tissue (from a previous heart surgery) was easily torn, and the strength of the pectoralis muscle pushed the implant deep into her chest."

The woman was treated at Baltimore's John Hopkins hospital and did not report any pain. Surgeons successfully retrieved the implant and returned to its rightful place.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good Food, Good Friends

Out to dinner last night with our old friends and RV travelling buddies, Travis and Cheryl Shelton. 

The venue was the Ranch Hand, a restaurant on the outskirts of Cleveland, Texas that looks like a dump – wood frame building with a do-it-yourself project add-on entrance and potholes in the gravel parking lot that could hide a Honda – but excellent steaks in a friendly atmosphere.

We were celebrating because 47 years ago today they got married.  I was Travis’s best man, and ten days later, he was mine.

Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


asherah 1

If, like Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code, you think the Church gave Mary Magdalene a hard time, just take a look at what they’ve done to Asherah.

According to several on-line articles, and an upcoming BBC television series, early Hebrews worshipped Asherah as God’s wife, but when they decided to go mono-theistic, she was all but deleted from the bible.

Here’s a link to one of the stories - God's Wife

Using an on-line searchable Bible brings up several references to Asherah – none of them flattering – and the King James Version doesn’t even mention her by name, calling her “the Grove.”

Part of the problem may have been that Asherah was a little too sharing.  The Canaanites thought she was the wife of El, and the mother of Baal.  Once Baal killed his father and took over the god business, she also became Baal’s wife.

Another possible reason the Jews dumped her is that she was

(a) Goddess of the sea, and

(b) Goddess of fertility. 

If you were a tribe of goat wranglers, wandering in the desert, she probably wouldn’t be a huge priority to you, either.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fall Foliage in Mid-December

Normally we don’t get much fall color at the Boggy Thicket.  Leaves are usually green, brown or down.  This year, the extended drought and the little bit of rain in the last month has caused an exception.

sweetgum2Bearden Road 2

Our woods

White Oak 1

Bearden Road 1

Thursday, December 15, 2011


tree 2011-1

Several years ago, for a number of reasons, we had decided not to put up a Christmas tree at home. 

When Honey mentioned this at work, a co-worker was appalled.   “Aren’t you going to at least put up a cheesy little fiber-optic tree?” she asked.

The next day, she brought Honey a gift – a ‘cheesy little fiber-optic tree’ – explaining that she had two of them and thought we needed one.

We love that tree, and I love to watch the lights change colors.  No home should be without one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jose Cuervo, You Are A Friend Of Mine

drink smart

Wow -After numerous ad campaigns from breweries and hundreds of country songs, scientists in Canada have discovered a link between alcohol consumption and stupid sex.

Glad it was a Canadian study – I would hate to think my taxes went to finance investigation of something so obvious.


Science confirms it: drinking alcohol makes people want to have unsafe sex.

Drunkenness and unwise choices have always gone hand-in-hand, but scientists in Canada wanted to know which came first — the drinking or the propensity for chancy behavior.

They analyzed the results of 12 experiments in which people were randomly assigned to drink or not to drink and then probed about their willingness to have sex without a condom. The more people drank, the researchers found, the worse their decisions — an increase in blood alcohol level of 0.1 mg/mL led to a 5% increase in the likelihood of unprotected sex. The legal blood alcohol limit in the U.S. is 0.8 mg/mL.

The authors' larger goal was to figure out how big a role drinking may play in risky sex that leads to HIV infection. Although unsafe sex is a well-known risk factor for HIV, and despite safe-sex campaigns for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, rates of infection haven't budged in high-income countries over the past decade, the authors noted.

"Drinking has a causal effect on the likelihood to engage in unsafe sex, and thus should be included as a major factor in preventive efforts for HIV," said principal investigator Juergen Rehm of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, in a statement. "This result also helps explain why people at risk often show this behavior despite better knowledge: alcohol is influencing their decision processes."

The study appears in the journal Addiction.

Read more:

Monday, December 12, 2011


In this Oct. 31, 2011 photo, Guillermo Gonzalez Diaz, resident of Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico, wades into the Rio Grande across from Big Bend National Park, Texas. In this rugged, remote West Texas terrain where wading across the shallow Rio Grande undetected is all too easy, federal authorities are touting a proposal to open an unmanned port of entry as a security upgrade. If approved, the crossing would be the nation's first such port of entry with Mexico.  (AP Photo/Christopher Sherman)

Forty-something years ago, the summer after we married, Honey and I drove  the MG Midget to Big Bend National Park for our first vacation together. 

We had been warned about flash floods, so when we saw thunderheads building while on a trip to Santa Elena Canyon, we made a detour to the the “town” of Castolon. It seemed like a smart move at the time, but we actually ended up fording the deepest arroyo in the area, and once we stopped the car it would not start again.

The park service has a visitor center at Castolon now, but back then there was only a house for the single park ranger and a general store that catered to the Mexicans who waded across to shop.  We ended up spending the night with a couple UT grad students who were living there for the summer, and in the morning, a Mexican mechanic helped us get the car going again.

In a corral behind the ranger’s house there were a bunch of sad-looking donkeys.  The ranger explained that they belonged to the wax smugglers who brought burro trains of chicle – the resin from the manilkara tree that is used in chewing gum – up through the park. 

When a burro was injured or starving and too weak to work, the smugglers would release them.  The ranger would treat their wounds and feed them until they were well enough, then the smugglers would sneak in and steal them back.

There is still smuggling going on in Big Bend, but it has gotten a lot more dangerous.  That’s why I found this story so interesting - Boquillas

Sunday, December 11, 2011

South of California – Another Quake

MEXICO CITY — A magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck in Mexico’s western Guerrero state, shaking buildings and causing panic in the nation’s capital and the Pacific resort of Acapulco. Officials said at least three people died, but there were no reports of widespread damage.

The U.S. Geological Service initially estimated the quake at magnitude at 6.8, but downgraded it to 6.7 and then 6.5. A quake of that magnitude is capable of causing severe damage, although the depth of this temblor lessened its impact.

The USGS said the quake occurred at 6:47 p.m. Saturday at a depth of 40.3 miles (64.9 kilometers). It was centered about 26 miles (42 kilometers) southwest of Iguala in Guerrero and 103 miles (166 kilometers) south-southwest of Mexico City.

Mexico’s Interior Department said the quake was felt in parts of nine states.

Humberto Calvo, undersecretary of Guerrero’s Civil Protection agency, said three deaths had been reported in the state. He said one man was killed when a house’s roof collapsed in Iguala, a second died in the small town of Ixcateopan and the driver of a cargo truck was killed by rocks that fell on the vehicle driving on the toll highway linking Acapulco with Mexico City.

Calvo said a secondary highway between the two cities was blocked in two places by rockslides.

High-rises swayed in the center of Mexico City for more than a minute, and shoppers were temporarily herded out of some shopping centers until the danger passed.

Parts of Mexico City rest on the shaky soil of a former lake bed, which tends to magnify the effect of earthquakes. An 8.1-magnitude quake in 1985 killed as many as 10,000 people in the city.

In Acapulco, which is in Guerrero, hundreds of anxious tourists congregated in the street after fleeing rocking buildings that are strung along the coastal boulevard. Patrons also left a movie theater complex.

Authorities said they found no structural damage and had no reports of injuries in the Pacific resort, which was about 87 miles (140 kilometers) from the quake’s epicenter.

The quake interrupted the annual silver festival in the tourist city of Taxco, midway between Acapulco and the capital.

A deep rumbling sound lasted for several seconds, then the whole city went dark as the ground shook. People ran out of hotels in the historic center of the old mining town and joined others who had been enjoying a band concert in the main plaza.

As people milled about, some illumination was provided from police pickup trucks doing security duty at the festival. After about 10 minutes, the band started up again and people began dancing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011



If you are a Boggy Thicket regular, you know that I have been predicting for months that a major quake is due in California.  So far, California isn’t cooperating, but we are hearing more and more news of tremors in unlikely places – a couple in Oklahoma, and two in the past week in Texas:

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Texas has had its second minor earthquake this week.

The U.S. Geological Survey website shows that the 3.4 magnitude quake happened at 12:47 p.m. Friday and was centered 15 miles north of Snyder in West Texas. The area is 68 miles southeast of Lubbock.

The Scurry County sheriff's office said there were no immediate reports of injury or damage.

On Wednesday the USGS reported a 2.7 magnitude earthquake about 29 miles southwest of Dallas.

It was the second quake in the Snyder area in less than a month. On Nov. 24, a 3.0 magnitude quake was centered 17 miles north-northeast of Snyder.

A rare South Texas earthquake with a 4.8 magnitude was recorded Oct. 20 about 37 miles northwest of Beeville.


Meanwhile, I came across this class exercise from the University of California:

Prediction or Prevention?

©1995 The Regents of the University of California

To do this activity...
The main lesson outline will help you understand the questions in this activity. However, you do not need to have done the other activities.

Congratulations! You have just joined a team of geologists assigned to predict or prevent earthquakes. This is a challenging job! Read through the following two descriptions to determine which team you are joining. Prepare to write answers to the issues for each team and to discuss your answers with classmates. (Your instructor may assign you one or both teams.)
Prediction Team:
You are on a geologic team with the task of predicting earthquakes. Your team has a new prediction method that has never been tested before, but you believe it will predict some earthquakes larger than magnitude 5.0 on the Richter scale.

One day at work, your instruments tell you that there is a 3% chance of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in San Fransisco within the next 15 minutes. What should you do? Answer these questions:

a) What emergency preparations would you recommend to the people and businesses of San Francisco in the next 15 minutes?

b) If you send an emergency warning, will it save lives? How many might be saved?

c) If the mass population panics, could the panic itself cause deaths even without a quake? Would it cause major economic problems (e.g. loss of business, congestion of freeways, overloading of telephone lines, etc.)?

d) Which situation would be worse: (1) You send a warning to San Francisco but the quake does not occur; or (2) you do NOT send a warning and the quake does occur? Explain your reasons.

Prevention Team:

Your team has been developing a method to prevent large earthquakes from occurring. After much research your team has made five important conclusions:

1. An earthquake fault in your local area has built up enough strain to cause a major earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or larger.

2. There is a 50% chance that this major earthquake will strike within the next 10 years.

3 You may be able to prevent this single large quake by causing a series of about 25 small quakes in the same location to release the strain in the rocks.

4. You predict that each of these small quakes will be less than 5 on the Richter scale.

5. There is a 10% chance that the series of small quakes would actually trigger the major quake instead of preventing it.

Now here are the questions you must answer:

a) How much damage would be caused by 25 quakes measuring 5.0? Is this better or worse than one quake measuring 6.0? Who would benefit more from the 25 smaller quakes? Who would be more seriously affected by 25 small quakes?

b) Considering the risk of setting off the major quake, should you attempt the 25 smaller quakes? Why or why not? If a major quake does occur, can you be held responsible? If you do not attempt to prevent the larger quake and it actually does occur, can you be held responsible, since you had a method to prevent it?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where You Can Stick It


I guess being slightly diabetic is a bit like being slightly pregnant, but I am lucky that, so far, mine is easily controlled.  I take one pill a day and check my glucose levels in the morning when I think about it.  My A1C test results have been good for the past few years.

The meter I use is the Freestyle Lite.  They recently came out with a new test strip for this meter that makes it even easier to use, but the big advantage of this system is that I can stick myself in the arm or leg rather than in that bundle of nerves at the end of a finger.  It still hurts a little sometimes, but not nearly as much. 

Being able to do the test on some area other than the hands now seems more important that ever. A Japanese study, released this year, shows that people who have handled food recently often get elevated results – even if they cleaned their fingers with an alcohol swab.   You can see details HERE .

Thursday, December 8, 2011

State Park Problems

State budget cutbacks and the year-long drought have Texas parks in a bind.  Here’s the story from the Houston Chronicle.

I don’t really consider myself part of the problem, but we no longer use Texas State Parks as much as  we might.  Most of the campsites were designed for tents or small trailers and our 5th wheel is just too big to fit - Balmorhea campsite too short – making trips to state parks impractical.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor


Today marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

It is amazing to me that there are still about 120 survivors who are capable of participating in ceremonies marking the event.  They will join Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, military leaders and civilians to observe a moment of silence in Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time -- the moment the attack began seven decades ago.

About 3,000 people are expected to attend the event held each year at a site overlooking the sunken USS Arizona and the white memorial that straddles the battleship.

The Pearl Harbor-based guided missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon will render honors to the Arizona and blow its whistle at the start of a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. -- the same time 70 years ago the first Japanese planes began to attack.

F-22 jets flown by the Hawaii National Guard are due to soar overhead in a missing man formation to finish the moment of silence.

Mal Middlesworth, a Marine veteran who was on the USS San Francisco during the bombing, will deliver the keynote address.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot and Cold

Looks like we may have our first freeze of the winter tonight, but here at the Boggy Thicket, we have roses blooming out by the pool and at least one azalea that has decided that now is the perfect time to bloom.

Meanwhile, I almost missed posting today because I’ve been busy planning a trip to the beaches of Alabama and Florida for next spring.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life Expectancy of a Computer

Someone screwed up how computers work, and I blame it on Bill Gates.

I had one typewriter in 50 years. But I’ve bought seven computers in six years.

I suppose that’s why Bill Gates is rich and Underwood is out of business.

— Andy Rooney

The old PC in our home office could definitely use replacing.  It still works – about as well as it ever did – but Honey often mentions that it is too slow.

Over the years, I added memory and a second CD drive, but it won’t play, much less record, DVDs.  It often times out when trying to watch videos from the internet.

I found a local source for some almost new PCs with all the bells and whistles for around $100, but she says she’d rather keep the money and make due with what we have.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Energy Opinion Survey

Just about everyone on all sides of the spectrum has concerns about energy, but opinions on both sides have been skewed by incomplete information and polls have invariably reflected the opinions of the poll’s sponsor.   

The Energy Management and Innovation Center (EMIC) at McCombs School of Business (University of Texas) has recently published what they say is the first truly unbiased poll on the subject.  Details below:

Poll: Americans aren’t optimistic about energy

By Steve Brooks

Energy — it’s one of those subjects most Americans try not to think about. As long as it’s cheap and easy to fill our tanks and cool our houses, we don’t pay much attention to where energy comes from or how it gets to us.

Maybe that’s why energy policymakers know so little about what Americans think about energy. They hear the opinions of scientists, energy companies and environmental groups. But there’s a shortage of data on the attitudes of consumers — the people who actually use energy and who determine whether policies succeed or fail.

Graph expressing energy perceptions: right versus wrong direction

So says Wayne Hoyer, marketing department chair at the McCombs School of Business. When Hoyer looked at existing consumer polls on energy, he saw that they fell into two classes: one-off surveys that gave no sense of how or why attitudes changed over time or surveys sponsored by groups with obvious agendas, such as the Edison Electric Institute or the American Petroleum Institute.

“That creates an opportunity for us,” says Hoyer. On Oct. 19, he and other University of Texas at Austin faculty members unveiled the Energy Poll, developed by the Energy Management and Innovation Center (EMIC) at McCombs. According to Hoyer, the Energy Poll is the first ongoing and nonpartisan measure of how Americans think and behave about energy.

The poll was first suggested by market researcher Peter Zandan, a Texas alumnus who serves on the McCombs School advisory board. The survey questions have been vetted by groups on all sides of energy issues, from energy companies and public officials to academics and environmental groups. “A lot of eyeballs looked at this,” says Hoyer. “It’s important that we have no agenda.”

Graph expressing energy perceptions: Who is doing a good job on energy?

While there’s no agenda regarding the results, the Energy Poll does fit the agenda for McCombs itself.

“The Energy Poll is an instrumental part of our strategy to make McCombs known for energy management and innovation,” McCombs School Dean Tom Gilligan says. “To complement our research and teaching, we wanted to develop a tool to help the world understand how consumers feel about energy security, availability and prices.”

Consumers’ Energy ‘Angst’

Judging by the first poll, consumers aren’t feeling optimistic. The 20-minute survey, taken by 3,406 Americans Sept. 14-25, found what Gilligan calls “a general level of angst and insecurity”:

  • In dealing with energy issues, 43 percent feel the nation is heading in the wrong direction. Only 14 percent say it’s headed in the right direction.
  • In 12 months, 69 percent expect to spend more of their household budgets on energy.
  • In 25 years, 41 percent expect our energy situation to be worse than today — almost double the 23 percent who expect to be better off.

Fueling consumers’ pessimism is a view that the biggest players in energy policy aren’t playing well. Those surveyed rank the U.S. Congress at the very bottom, with 8 percent satisfied and 71 percent dissatisfied. Local and state governments don’t rate much better.


  • Forty-three percent feel the nation is heading in the wrong direction on energy issues, and 41 percent expect our energy situation to be worse in 25 years.
  • Consumers blame the government and energy producers for high energy prices.
  • Consumers do trust engineers and scientists for energy information, as well as research institutes, colleges and universities.

Traditional energy producers also take a beating. Only 14 percent of respondents are satisfied with energy financiers and only 16 percent with oil and gas companies. Consumers tend to blame those firms for high energy prices, saying prices have more to do with the pricing power of energy companies than with supply and demand.

Which players get the largest votes of public confidence? Engineers and scientists, with a 41 percent satisfaction rating. Wind and solar companies also get thumbs up, along with research institutes, colleges and universities.

“It’s good news for us,” says Hoyer. “Our goal is to be a source of news and information about energy.”

The public, it appears, is hungry for that information. When asked about their level of energy knowledge, 34 percent confess to not being knowledgeable, versus 24 percent who consider themselves knowledgeable. Fully 80 percent want to know more about how to reduce their energy use. A majority also wants to learn more about global and national issues, like consumption of foreign oil, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Respondents aren’t just looking for information. Many intend to act on it. In the next five years, 38 percent are likely to use “smart meters,” 30 percent to own a hybrid vehicle and 21 percent to put solar panels on their roofs.

Economic Concerns Trump Environmental Concerns

A lesser concern, at least for the time being, is the environmental impact of energy policies. When asked whether they place a higher priority on economic growth or on avoiding harm to the environment, 37 percent choose economic growth, while 33 percent choose the environment.

Given the state of the economy, suggests Gilligan, that’s a surprisingly strong showing for environmental concerns. “It may suggest that when the economy recovers, people will have a much stronger demand for environmental protection again,” he says. “We’ll have the perfect instrument for trying to deduce that effect.”

Indeed, mapping how attitudes change over time is part of EMIC’s vision for the poll. It plans to repeat the survey every six months, with most questions remaining the same. It will use some of the answers to generate an “energy sentiment index” — a single number to sum up consumer confidence about energy, much as the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index captures confidence in the overall economy.

That’s just one of many lessons the poll will provide, says Gilligan. “We’re trying to build a data source in a credible and persistent way. Twice yearly, on a recurring basis, we’ll develop a longitudinal database to study how attitudes change. We hope it will be used by anybody involved in management or in energy policy in the energy sector.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Earthquake Lube

Back  in September, I predicted a major earthquake on the West Coast.  It still hasn’t happened, although there have been a lot of quakes elsewhere, and in some pretty unlikely places like Central Oklahoma and South-Central Texas. 

I still think we’ll see one in California soon, but I came across an article that might help explain why it hasn’t happened already.  Here’s an excerpt:

Geophysicists from Potsdam have established a mode of action that can explain the irregular distribution of strong earthquakes at the San Andreas Fault in California. As the science magazine Nature reports in its latest issue, the scientists examined the electrical conductivity of the rocks at great depths, which is closely related to the water content within the rocks. From the pattern of electrical conductivity and seismic activity they were able to deduce that rock water acts as a lubricant.

Los Angeles moves toward San Francisco at a pace of about six centimeters per year, because the Pacific plate with Los Angeles is moving northward, parallel to the North American plate which hosts San Francisco. But this is only the average value. In some areas, movement along the fault is almost continuous, while other segments are locked until they shift abruptly several meters against each other releasing energy in strong earthquakes. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the plates had moved by six meters.

The San Andreas Fault acts like a seam of the earth, ranging through the entire crust and reaching into the mantle. Geophysicists from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences have succeeded in imaging this interface to great depths and to establish a connection between processes at depth and events at surface. "When examining the image of the electrical conductivity, it becomes clear that rock water from depths of the upper mantle, i.e. between 20 to 40 km, can penetrate the shallow areas of the creeping section of the fault, while these fluids are detained in other areas beneath an impermeable layer", says Dr. Oliver Ritter of the GFZ. "A sliding of the plates is supported, where fluids can rise."

These results suggest that significant differences exist in the mechanical and material properties along the fault at depth. The so-called tremor signals, for instance, appear to be linked to areas underneath the San Andreas Fault, where fluids are trapped. Tremors are low-frequency vibrations that are not associated with rupture processes as they are typical of normal earthquakes. These observations support the idea that fluids play an important role in the onset of earthquakes.

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers

Not content to wait around for an earthquake, Los Angeles County has declared a state of emergency today because of Santa Ana winds that have done millions of dollars in damage.  L A Times photos

Winds near 100 mph have wreaked havoc as far east as Utah and Colorado.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Great Sick-Out


Honey has been feeling low since Thanksgiving. 

She has a sinus infection, and she got a prescription for it yesterday, but the Rx won’t be ready until 9 a.m. today.

Meanwhile, I haven’t been feeling up to par, either, but my symptoms aren’t nearly as bad – just bad enough to make me want to lie around and do nothing and have someone feel sorry for me.  With her feeling that much worse, it ain’t gonna happen.   I hate that.

Monday, November 28, 2011


When I was in high school, our next-door neighbors were Paul and Tiny Woods.  I thought they were old – in their 50s – but we became really good friends. Paul was a nice enough fellow, but Tiny was one of the most unforgettable people I’ve ever met.

As her nickname implies, she was small and thin, but she was one of the toughest women ever made.  She could – and would – shut down their tractor by shorting out the spark plugs with her hands, and I once saw her punch a yearling Brahma bull between the eyes and knock him to his knees.

I was visiting her one day when a pair of well-dressed young men arrived at her door – Jehovah's Witnesses or LDS missionaries – and when they began their spiel, Tiny said:

Boys, I respect your religion and I hope you’ll respect mine.  I’m a sun-worshiper.  Come on around to the back yard, and we can get naked and talk religion all day long.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shopping Note


I haven’t been to a store in days (except to return something – a whole different story) but have almost finished my Christmas shopping.

It was greatly simplified this year because we have finally determined that there is no way in HELL to get the grandkids something they really want or need.  That means that most of this year’s presents will be gift cards or cash.  

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Our grandsons are over, spending the day before heading back home to Liberty Hill tomorrow. 

Of course, after a year of record-setting drought, it’s raining today– hard enough at times to knock out the satellite reception – so not much to do but sit around and watch it rain.

Neither one of the boys has any idea what they might want for Christmas, and I certainly don’t.  It may be time for Santa to retire.

Friday, November 25, 2011

By and Large

clipper ship

A few weeks ago, I used the expression “by and large” in a Facebook post. 

I knew what I meant, and assume my readers did as well, but I’ll admit I had no idea why it means what it does or how it came to be part of our language.

While a precise definition may not be easy, most folks would agree that the expression means ‘all things considered’ or ‘generally speaking’ or ‘for all practical purposes’ or something like that – well enough understood to be acceptable in normal discourse.

A little research reveals that the term is a nautical expression from the early days of sailing ships.  A ship sailing with the wind was said to be large – probably in reference to the full sails.  Even the best sailing ship can’t sail directly into the wind, but with proper rigging, a good ship could sail within a couple points (there are 32 points on the compass) of the wind, or by the wind.

So, something that is true by and large is true enough to be accepted as a general rule.

The earliest known reference to 'by and large' in print is from Samuel Sturmy, in The Mariners Magazine, 1669:

"Thus you see the ship handled in fair weather and foul, by and learge."

I recently heard the smartest person I know misuse a similar expression – she said “for all intensive purposes.”  When I explained that the correct term was intents and purposes, she said that intensive was what she thought she heard as a child and that she had been saying it that way all her life.


Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving 2011 – First time in 13 years that we are actually at home!

Cheryl and Gene came in late last night and Jason and the boys are down the road at his grandmother’s.

Even better, we didn’t even have to fix the feast – Cheryl is visiting her best friend’s family, Jason and the grandkids are with his grandma, and Honey and I are joining her sister for Thanksgiving dinner.

It’s a beautiful day and life is good. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lights in the Deer Head


The picture above is not the Boggy Thicket, but it is a pretty good representation on the the lights we put up – icicle lights on the roof, mesh lights in the bushes, and lots of deer of various sizes spotted around the yard, etc. 

A few years ago, I actually added breakers to carry our Christmas light load.

This year, we decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather – it’s usually cold and rainy – to get all our lights out before Thanksgiving.   We’ve spent almost every available minute for the last week installing lights and/or repairing and re-stringing lights that decided not to burn.

On modern strings of lights, if one burns out the rest still burn, but if one is missing or broken, half of the string will go out.  Finding that missing or broken bulb can be such a challenge that it’s often easier just to replace the string.

We still have a couple of pieces to pull down from the attic, but practically everything was finally in place yesterday afternoon.  Then, just after dark, we found that three of the deer that had been repaired and were working perfectly in the afternoon had strings that weren’t burning last night. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Smoky Mountain Elk


Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have notified the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that the “experimental” status of the park’s restored elk herd has been officially lifted, clearing the way for permanent management of elk in and around the park.
RMEF is the largest financier of the park’s 10-year elk restoration project, with more than $800,000 in contributions.
Kim Delozier, RMEF conservation program manager, said, “This is important because it’s a formal federal declaration that our elk restoration efforts in the North Carolina section of the park have been deemed a success.”  Prior to joining the RMEF staff, Delozier was the longtime supervisory wildlife biologist in the park. He worked closely with RMEF and others to make reality of a common dream—returning a wild elk herd to the native but long-empty habitat of the Great Smoky Mountains.

In an “experimental release,” the first elk were reintroduced into Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001. Today the herd is healthy at about 140 animals.
Elk have been a popular addition to the park and are associated with significant economic benefits through tourism. Cataloochee Valley, where elk were originally released, now receives approximately twice the visitation than it did prior to elk restoration. 
Research indicates that the population is sustainable, has minimal impacts on the park’s resources and the human-elk conflicts are manageable.
Going forward, the park’s objective is to maintain a permanent elk population within park boundaries that is self-sustaining and allows only acceptable impacts to park resources.

Monday, November 21, 2011


The county just northwest of the Boggy Thicket made the news in Europe at the end of October by taking delivery of a new “weaponizable” drone, a squat remote-controlled helicopter called a ShadowHawk that can fire Tasers or beanbags at people on the ground. Police in Montgomery County say the drone would chase drug smugglers or escaping criminals. Alarmed Europeans wondered if some aspect of drone warfare — so far a problem only for terrorists and other strangers in poor and distant countries — had come home to the First World.

“In the end the police have the same consideration as the military,” writes a columnist at Telepolis, a tech website in Germany, “namely that using drones in risky situations can keep personnel out of danger.”

Surveillance drones tend to be popular with border-patrol agencies in the U.S. and Europe. Dutch police use them to spy on pot growers. The British — who have soaked their own country in surveillance video — hope to use drones over the London Olympics in 2012.

But an armed police drone would be new. Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage says his ShadowHawk won’t carry weapons, but the drone’s manufacturer, Vanguard Defense Industries, boasts that it’s strong enough to carry a shotgun or even a grenade launcher. The most relevant weapon for chasing fugitives might be the beanbag launcher. Its ammunition, though, isn’t called a beanbag; it’s a “stun baton.”

“You have a stun baton where you can actually engage somebody at altitude with the aircraft,” said Michael Buscher, chief of Vanguard Defense, toldHomeland Security News Wire. “A stun baton would essentially disable a suspect.”


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Drain King

This is a picture of one of the most wonderful inventions in the history of mankind! 

drain king

It is called the Drain King, and the title is well deserved.

I mentioned yesterday that I was probably going to have to dig up and clean out the grease trap outside our kitchen.  Instead, I picked up one of these things at my local hardware store. In 10 minutes or less, it did the job I was expecting to take over three hours of hard labor.

Simply hook the thing up to a garden hose and feed it into the clogged pipe.  When you turn the water on, the black rubber bulb expands to seal off the pipe, then water pressure forces the clog down the pipe until it clears.  Sure beats digging, or even trying to clear the pipe with a plumber’s snake.

They’re pretty cheap, too - $11 at my local hardware store or only $6 at Ace Hardware on-line if you have time to wait.  It comes as pictured above, or as part of a kit that includes something called a crossbar drain adapter.

cross drain

The Drain King  also comes in a couple of sizes.  I’ve had one for years that was one size too small for yesterday’s job. 

Was it a temporary fix?  Well, yes it is.  Then again, all grease traps eventually require cleaning and mine will not  need it today.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Too Old for Xmas

Started putting up Christmas lights yesterday.

Began by going up and blowing all the leaves and limbs off the roof, then started stapling icicle lights along the edges. 

We had decided that it would save a lot of time and frustration to just buy several boxes of new lights instead of trying to trouble-shoot old sets that were partially out. The new lights we bought were so tightly tangled that it was impossible to straighten them as I installed them, so I hauled them back down to straighten out on the ground.  Even then, they want to curl right back up – like trying to straighten a Slinky.

By supper time, the job was only about half through – the hardest half, I hope – and I had been up and down that ladder about 50 times.  I hit the Ibuprofen as soon as I came inside, and wondered again if I’m not getting too darn old for this stuff.

After a good meal and a little TV, I was feeling pretty good about finishing today.  Then as we were finishing the supper dishes – yes, we wash everything before it goes in the dishwasher – the sink backed up.


This means I’m probably going to have to dig up and clean out the grease trap today in addition to finishing up the lights.

Today is gonna suck!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Birth of the Internet


I know we’ve all heard how Al Gore invented the internet, but here’s another story about how it came to be:

How the Internet Began
In ancient Israel , it came to pass that a trader by the name of
Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name
of Dot. And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and
long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.
And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel
so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade
without ever leaving thy tent?"
And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle
bags short of a camel load, but simply said, "How, dear?"
And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums
in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and
they will reply telling you who hath the best price. And the sale
can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony
Stable (UPS)."
Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her
way with the drums. And the drums rang out and were an
immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the
top price, without ever having to move from his tent. To prevent
neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were
saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers
knew. It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS),
and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures
- Hebrew To The People (HTTP).
And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the
greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic
Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.
And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and
the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real
riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother
William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land.
And indeed did insist on drums to be made that would work only
with Brother Gates' drumheads and drumsticks.
And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being
taken over by others." And Abraham looked out over the Bay of
Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known. He said, "We need a
name that reflects what we are."
And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."
"YAHOO," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they
named it YAHOO Dot Com.
Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic
Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's
drums to locate things around the countryside. It soon became
known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).
That is how it all began.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Don’t know where he got it – I doubt if it was original – but a friend posted this on Facebook this morning and it was too good not to share:

The Obama Administration is urging Congress and the Senate to pass sweeping legislation that will provide new benefits for many Americans: The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA).

President Obama said he will sign it as soon as it hits his desk.
The AWNAA is being hailed as a major legislative goal by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.

'Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society,' said California Senator Barbara Boxer. 'We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they have some idea of what they
are doing. We are legalizing another protected class of Americans.'

In a Capitol Hill press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) pointed to the success of the US Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. Private-sector industries with good records of nondiscrimination against the Inept include retail sales (72%), the airline industry (68%), and home improvement 'warehouse' stores (65%). At
the state government level, the Department of Motor Vehicles also has an excellent record of hiring Persons of Inability (a whopping 83%).

Under The Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million 'middle man' positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance.
Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given so as to guarantee upward mobility for even the most inept employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations that promote a significant number of Persons of Inability into middle-management positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium-sized businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.

Finally, the AWNAA contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the Non-abled, banning, for example, discriminatory interview questions such as, 'Do you have any skills or experience that relate to this job?'

'As a Non-abled person, I can't be expected to keep up with people
who have something going for them,' said Ken Cox, who lost his position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, due to his inability to remember 'righty tightie, lefty loosey.' 'This new law should be real good for people like me,' Cox added. With the passage of this bill, Cox and millions of other untalented citizens will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): 'As a Senator with no abilities, I believe the same privileges that elected officials enjoy ought to be extended to every American with no abilities. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her inadequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation and a good salary for doing so.'

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No Words


Watched Dianne Sawyer’s excellent interview with Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly last night.  I found it both inspiring and disturbing, and her struggles to communicate brought back memories of my dad.

My father’s first stroke left no obvious physical damage but it hit the area of his brain that stores nouns.  He lost all the nouns in his vocabulary – that means all the names of everyone and everything he knew.  It made communication extremely frustrating, to say the least.  He never participated in any formal rehab program, but through sheer determination and constant reading he was eventually able to regain much of what he had lost.

Just two weeks after his stroke, Dad went back to work, and I went with him on his first service call. 

The air conditioning had failed at a long-time customer, a bowling alley on North Shepherd.   When we arrived, the manager tried to strike up a conversation, explaining when the a-c had gone out, what he thought was wrong, etc.  Finally, Dad looked at him and said:

“I can’t …..TALK it……but I can …FIX it.  Go away!”

He was right.  He could. 

While he worked on the compressor I explained to the manager what had happened.   In less than an hour the manager and the bowling alley were cooled down and we were on our way back home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hot Iron

dutch oven

I spent all day Saturday baking.

Not cakes or cookies, I was cooking CAST IRON.

We just acquired several pieces of cast iron cookware, something I hadn’t cooked with since my days in the Boy Scouts, and although they say it comes from the factory    “pre-seasoned,” all the experts advise doing it again before use.  The stuff we bought was made by Lodge Manufacturing, a family-owned business that has been making cast iron cookware in the hills of Tennessee for over 100 years.

The seasoning process involves wiping each piece down with melted Crisco or oil (I used canola)  heating it in the oven for a couple hours and then allowing it to cool slowly, which with heavy cast iron, seems to take forever.

Thank goodness it was a nice day, because the whole house began to smell like a foundry (or at least  like a blacksmith shop) and we had to open the front and back doors and set up a fan to help control the odor and the heat.

Was it worth it?  YES!

So far, we’ve only used the big Dutch oven, but yesterday I cooked the best pot roast we’ve ever tasted!

I coated a 3 lb. chuck roast with sea salt and fajita rub, and after it set for a while, I seared it on top of the stove.  Then I removed the meat, de-glazed the pot with beef broth, put the roast back in and popped it in the oven at 300 degrees.  After it cooked for a couple hours, I added onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, a little garlic and half of a poblano pepper and cooked it for another hour.

By then, the smells were driving us crazy; we couldn’t wait any longer.  The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the potatoes and carrots done to perfection, and the whole thing was unbelievably tasty.

If there is a downside, it is that Honey may never cook again.  She can hardly lift the lid on that big, heavy Dutch oven, and getting the fully loaded pot from the oven to the stove top could give you a hernia, or at least strain your back.