Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Your AVG Attack

AVG is an excellent antivirus program for your computer – their free version is often more effective than Norton or McAfee.

BUT –and this is important – They do not solicit!

A couple days ago, I was surfing the web when I got a pop-up that warned that AVG had discovered a Trojan on my computer.  It had a button to click to correct the problem, and without thinking ( I used to run AVG Free, but had uninstalled it several months ago) I clicked on it.

It then installed what it said was AVG 2011, and demanded payment to activate the program.  I closed it, but continuous pop-ups blocked all attempts to remove it.  For example, I could access Control Panel, but it blocked access to Add/Remove Programs. 

I was eventually able to run Malwarebytes, and after rebooting I was able to find and remove a file labeled AVG.  I have had no further problems, but the consensus on an on-line chat room I frequent was that I got off lucky – at least two responders who got the same thing had to format their hard drives and reinstall Windows!

One of the folks who responded included a link to the  Phony AVG Story  from a website called  F-Secure, which includes screen shots of the real and the phony AVG screens.

Bottom line – If you get a pop-up from AVG, it is a fake that is trying to steal your credit card information, and it could crash your computer!  DO NOT click on the button!  Close it  before it damages your computer, then run whatever antivirus and malware program you have loaded – a good one to run would be AVG.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dear Labby


Yes, there really is a Dear Labby column.  It appears on the website, along with  information on pet rescue, the best pet match to your personality and currently, a photo feature about the 2011 Westminster Dog Show.

I think Labby is cleverly written and her advice is at least as good as her human counterparts.  Here’s a sample column.

Dear Labby,

I found my little Whippet, Henry, on the side of the road two years ago. He loves to smell flowers, is very fastidious about where he eliminates, and has never tried to hump another dog. Except for another male dog, on two different occasions. At a party the other night, I made a joke that Henry is gay. Another guest – someone I’d just met -- was so offended she got up and left. Labby, my sister is gay and I volunteer at the AIDS ride every year. I’m not homophobic and didn’t mean to offend, but the hosts seemed flustered by the walk-out. How do I rectify this situation?


Sorry The Remark Angered Your Party-goer Resulting In Disconcerting Episode

Dear Sorry The Remark Angered Your Party-goer Resulting In Disconcerting Episode:

You’ve learned a valuable lesson, right? No one likes stereotypes -- even so-called "positive stereotypes" (a la gay men have great fashion sense). Of course that said, no one likes Uptight Ursulas who can’t roll with what seems like a fairly innocuous -- perhaps even endearing -- comment. Heck, comedians spend entire sets riffing on stereotypes just to get a laugh. Some people love it, some people take great umbrage. (Ahh... I've always wanted to say "take great umbrage.")

Contact the hosts of the party, S.T.R.A.Y. P.R.I.D.E., and tell them you feel badly about offending another guest. Chances are, they know you well enough to “get” the spirit in which your comment was intended. If they feel anything further needs to be done, they can advise.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bird Bashing

Birdie, who looks like a bright green version of Sesame Street’s Big Bird, uses a little comedy to entice people into a southeast Houston furniture store on weekends, but it wasn't too funny when he was attacked during his shift Saturday. 

You’ve seen those costumed characters outside of local businesses, promoting a product. While most drivers laugh at them and just keep going, Saturday, a couple of guys pulled over and got violent.

"It felt like a truck hit me," said the man behind the mascot, Russ Vogel.

Vogel was working from 2pm to 5pm Saturday out in front of Exclusive Furniture store on Interstate 45 near Almeda Genoa.

Right as his shift was ending though, someone attacked from behind, sending him and his furry costume tumbling to the ground.

"I think he was laughing as he was running away until he found out I was in back of him and then he got a little panicky," Vogel said.

So he chased his attacker down to an awaiting car.

"Put both hands on the front of his hood and looked them dead in the eye, 'I got your license plate number and I got you and you,'" Vogel recalls telling the suspects.

But the suspects backed over a curb and got away.

Vogel was left with some minor bruises and tweaked his arm. The costume was damaged. The eyes and mouth no longer move because of a broken cable.

Vogel believes movies and YouTube videos could be to blame.

"I guess this is life imitates art, because there have been a couple of movies, where the guy is dressed as a burger and somebody comes by and body slams him and knocks him down," Vogel said.

But the stunt is also a crime and police are investigating it as an assault. Some eyewitnesses were able to provide police some good clues. The attacker left in a silver Scion with the license plate number HRT 980.

This must be getting pretty old for Vogel.  There was another guy in the costume, but a bird mascot owned by Vogel was attacked on Frye Road in Katy back in January, 2008, and that wasn’t the first time.

"I saw shadows behind me," said the mascot Kyle Lincecum.

"Then I turned around and he shoved me real hard," he said.

A couple of assailants took part.

"One was videotaping while the other was harassing me," Lincecum said.

The assailants got away. Consider though this is the fourth time the mascot has been attacked around this same Katy intersection.

"They just look like hellions and ruffians and they say, 'There's a big bird, I'm gonna get it,'" the mascot's owner Russ Vogel recounted. "Sometimes I don't think they're aware of whose inside and it's a person just like them."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mance Lipscomb

Being a fan of the Blues, growing up when I did in Southeast Texas was just about as good as it gets.  I had the opportunity to see giants of the genre perform – men like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed (both before and after he did time in Huntsville),  Zydeco /Blues great Clifton Chenier – I even got to see Whistlin’ George Nelson play his oil drums down on the Galveston seawall.

One of the very best of the bluesmen lived up the road in Navasota, Texas.  His father was a black man who had been born a slave, and his mother was a Choctaw Indian. His name was Mance Lipscomb.

His mama named him Beau De Glen, but he took the name Mance (short for emancipation) as a teenager.  Born in 1895, he seemed older than Brazos-bottom dirt when I first saw him in 1959 or 60, but his music left me entranced.

Just watch the video below, and you’ll see what I mean.  With a bandaged finger on his picking hand and an old  jack-knife for a slide, he makes that guitar sing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gorgeous Gloom

Aokigahara Forest

The beautiful forest pictured above is Aokigahara, also known as the Sea of Trees. It is an 8500 acre forest that lies at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan.

Over the years, Aokigahara has become a popular place for both tourism and human suicide. In fact, it is the  second most popular suicide location in the world, led only by San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

The majority of the victims end their lives by hanging themselves. Numerous signs have been posted in the forest urging people to reconsider their actions. Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees, and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being eerily quiet, except for the occasional wail of wind, or perhaps, the a wail from something  unknown.

Since the 1950s, more than 500 people have lost their lives in the forest, most of them suicides. In 2002, 78 dead bodies were found in Aokigahara; in 2003, the rate climbed to 100 people, and in recent years the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara's association with suicide.

The number of suicides in Aokigahara is often times attributed to the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai by Seichō Matsumoto, which ends with two lovers committing suicide in the forest. However, the history of suicide in Aokigahara dates from well before the novel's publication, and the place has long been associated with death.

The forest also has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and is said to be haunted.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Living In The Present Just Ain’t Possible


With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future.  I live now.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Those fine words from Emerson are pretty typical of literally dozens of quotations extolling the virtues and benefits of living in the present.  Unfortunately for old Waldo, it is physically impossible to experience now.

When we look at the clear night sky, we “see” stars that may not exist, that may have burned out or gone supernova eons before the earth became a habitable planet.  That is an obvious example of our inability to experience now, but the present is much more elusive than that.

The smallest scientifically accepted measurement of time is the Planck unit. It’s the amount of time it takes for light to travel one Planck length in a vacuum – roughly 10 to the minus 43 seconds.  As of 2010, the smallest amount of time ever actually measured was 12 attoseconds – 12 quintillionths of a second, or 1024 Planck units.

It takes  about a gazillion of those Planck units for my words to make it from this computer screen to your eyes.  Once it’s there, it takes even more time to convert the light hitting your retina into electrochemical impulses that must then travel your optic nerve to multiple locations within your brain where they must be recognized, analyzed, organized and then somehow reconstituted into cogent thought.  The ball is in the catcher’s mitt long before even the brightest Evelyn Wood scholar can get the bat off his shoulder.

Even if you stub your toe or bite your tongue, by the time your brain experiences pain, the actual contact that created it is long gone. 

In terms of what we can comprehend or even what we can simply experience, there simply is no such thing as now.  If now exists at all, it has become then long before we are aware of it.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Ft. Hood Memory


I mentioned earlier this week that my platoon at the 502nd Admin Co. included the staff from the 2nd AD Chaplain’s office.  That “staff” was a Sp5 named Michael (Something) who served as the Chaplain’s clerk. 

With the same sort of military logic that had assigned the semi-literate Glaupion to the post office, the young man assigned as the chaplain’s assistant  was easily the rowdiest soldier among the 44,000 or so stationed at Ft. Hood at the time. Mike used to brag that his chain of command went from him, to a full-bird colonel, to God.

The Division Chaplain was, in fact, a colonel, and a Roman Catholic priest.  About once a month or so, he would join the enlisted men in line for a meal, then sit and talk with them while they ate – a fairly effective way of staying in touch with the young men who constituted his flock.

One evening when he had joined our line, a private – new to the company, exclaimed “Hey!  There’s a f**king colonel standing in line – an honest to God Full-bird Colonel!”

A sergeant further down the line was apparently offended. In a voice that easily could have been heard across the parade ground, he said, “Shut the f**k up, asshole.  that Goddamned colonel is a f**king Priest!”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Save the Tracks

Footprints made in the mud by a couple of dinosaurs were making it just fine on their own, then Science (i.e.-the University of Texas) decided to preserve them.  They had lasted over 100 million years out in the open, but after just 60 years at UT they need help:

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Natural Science Center aims to move a set of unique fossilized dinosaur tracks into new exhibit space in the Texas Memorial Museum, saving them from degradation.


Glen Rose Dinosaur Tracks

The Glen Rose Dinosaur Tracks were made 112 million years ago by two dinosaurs, a sauropod and theropod, walking through coastal mud that is now exposed rock along the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas.

Unfortunately, the building constructed on campus to house the tracks in the 1940s is not well suited for their preservation. Severe moisture fluctuations and related problems are leading to deterioration of the stone.

Nor does the building provide for the best educational opportunities for people visiting the tracks, says Ed Theriot, director of the science center.

"These tracks are a world famous part of Texas' natural history," says Theriot. "They are scientifically significant, but also an important tool for science education. Future scientists, teachers, historians and enthusiasts will all benefit from, and be inspired by, these tracks."

The tracks are unique because they capture a bit of extinct dinosaur behavior.

"Measurements taken from the trackways allow us to estimate sizes, hip heights and gaits of the track makers," says Pamela Owen, paleontologist at the science center. "We'll never know the details, and the evidence is open to interpretation, but it does appear that the theropod was closely following the sauropod. Perhaps the theropod was even stalking the sauropod."

Scientists know from the tracks that the sauropod was probably about 60 feet long, weighed about 20 tons and had a hind leg stride of 10 feet. The theropod was about 30 feet in length and walked on its hind legs with a stride of about nine feet.

The sauropod tracks are the standard to which other similar tracks are scientifically compared.

The estimated cost of moving the tracks, reassembling them and developing an appropriate educational exhibit for them is $1 million. The Texas Natural Science Center has embarked on a "Save the Dinosaur Tracks" fundraising campaign.

To learn more about the campaign, the trackways and the dinosaurs that made them, visit

Visitors can see the tracks for free anytime day or night next to the Texas Memorial Museum.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hell On Wheels – er….Sheets


Back in 1966, after I completed basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, I was assigned to Ft. Hood, Texas and the 2nd Armored Division.  Although the Viet Nam conflict was at its height, I was lucky enough to complete my entire military service within 200 miles of home, and commuted to Houston almost every weekend.

As a member of the 2nd AD information office – I was the entire radio-TV section of the public information office – I was attached to the 502nd Admin. Company.  This was a company larger than some battalions. Most company members worked in the division offices of personnel or finance, but the platoon I was in was also home for guys who worked in the post office, the chaplain’s office, special services (the gym) and the office of the judge advocate.  We shared a hall in the barracks with the company cooks.

It didn’t take long for soldiers in the line outfits – Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, etc. to figure out that you just didn’t mess with guys from the Admin Company.  They might not be the toughest guys in the EM Club that night, but the next day they were the guys handling your payroll, leave time and duty station, and the popular saying of the time was true- Payback could be a bitch.

One of the most memorable members of the company was a Sp4 from the post office.  Rene Glaupion was a Creole from so far back in the Louisiana swamps that it’s a wonder he ever found his way into the service.  He was dumb as a stump, and after 12 years in the Army, he was finally denied  the opportunity to reenlist. 

Glaupion was the nastiest man that I have ever met.  He was the only soldier I ever knew to actually get a GI shower.  He wore one set of fatigues per week – put them on on Monday morning and wore them until Saturday afternoon.  If he had K-P on Monday, he wore the same greasy sweat-stained uniform all week, and even after that GI shower (the platoon threw him in the shower and scrubbed him down with stiff brushes and dishwasher soap) he showed up at reveille in the same –still wet - set of fatigues he was wearing when he was hauled into the shower the night before .

Terry Collins was our company supply clerk.  He was a really nice fellow, and most of the time his job was pretty easy.  His one stress-filled day was Sheet Day – every Thursday, the entire company would remove the sheets and pillow cases from their bunks and line up at the supply room to be issued freshly cleaned sheets.

Imagine several hundred young men, lined up in a not very military formation and all wanting their fresh sheets NOW!  They are all in a hurry to get their bunks made in time to get to breakfast before heading for work.  Yells, curses and catcalls were the order of the day, along with a generous helping of pushing and shoving.  The only thing separating Terry from mob violence is a wooden counter.

In desperation one Thursday, Terry pointed to some sheets on the top shelf– they had somehow got caught in the ironing machine and were baked to a toasty brown.


Hey!  Listen up!” he yelled.  “You see those brown sheets up there?  Those are Glaupion’s sheets!  Personnel can transfer you to Bumfuk, Egypt, Finance can F*** up your pay, but you mess with me and I will issue you Glaupion’s sheets!  Now, shut the Hell up and get back in line.”

I don’t think he ever had a problem after that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

5 Years

Shanna on Rocks

Our wonderful daughter Shanna lost her fight with breast cancer and left this world five years ago today.

Her mother  misses her all the time, but finds certain significant days – her birthday, Christmas, etc.  harder than others.  As for me, I just miss her. 

Most times now, the pleasant memories outweigh the painful ones, but it doesn’t feel like today is one of those times.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Special Valentine

I originally wrote this little poem back in 2008 while I was supposed to be working.  It was one of those true moments of inspired creation – I think I did the whole thing, including edits and illustration, in less than half an hour.  I came across it last night, and thought I’d share it with you today:

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Cupid’s Twin

An Original Valentine’s Day Poem by Bob Couch

You all have heard of Cupid, or at least I guess you know,

How he flits about both day and night with his arrows and his bow.

But Cupid has a brother (this isn’t widely known)

Their parents named him Bupid, though he was seldom shown.

He looks just like his brother, and his brother looks like him

If they were not little Pagans, they could both be Cherubim.

They both are prone to shoot you with the arrows in their quiver,

But Cupid’s darts go for the heart; Bupid’s for the liver,

Or the stomach, or esophagus or some other vital part,

If Bupid’s arrow strikes you, it won’t be in the heart.

With heart aflame you probably think that Cupid nailed your ass,

But give it just a little while, the feeling just might pass.

Cupid’s shots bring love or lust,

But Bupid’s give you gas.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Just one more reason I’m glad I don’t live in Houston, but do live close enough to watch what goes on:

McGuire, who ran for Houston City Council, is dead at 68



Born Charles R. McGuire Jr., she took on the name Kathryn after sexual reassignment surgery.

In a city with more than its share of true characters, Charles/Kathryn Leigh McGuire may have been in a larger-than-life league of his own. And hers.

Born Charles R. McGuire Jr. on Nov. 26, 1942, McGuire started a successful Houston construction materials company, bought a home on the edge of River Oaks, married and raised two children before longstanding issues of sexual identity led her first to life as a transvestite and ultimately to sexual reassignment surgery in 1992, after which she adopted the name Kathryn.

McGuire, who died Feb. 2 in Palm Springs, Calif., at 68, was active in Houston society and never self-conscious about her gender-bending ways as she moved from hyper-masculine entrepreneur who liked to go hunting to an oversize figure in pumps who prowled the couture racks at Neiman Marcus, friends said.

If there is a common refrain among those describing McGuire, it is unforgettable.

"She had a great light around her, an aura," said local filmmaker Brian Huberman, whose documentary The Last Days of Charles/Kathryn chronicled McGuire's sexual reassignment surgery.

"It's like with actors. Some are simply actors and some are movie stars. She was a star. She wanted to be in the foreground. She was not shy and not ashamed in any way. Her desire to be filmed in this very personal, private way was evidence of that. There's something really courageous about someone ... who will walk out into the limelight and say here I am, with no apologies."

Serious intent

McGuire became known to many Houstonians in the late 1980s and early '90s through numerous appearances on the Stevens and Pruett show on radio station KLOL. McGuire accepted the barbs, funny comments and odd listener phone calls with grace, but her purpose in openly discussing the desire to become a woman in the physical sense was serious, said Lanny Griffith, the news and traffic reporter on the show.

"He was such a role model for those who felt the same way," Griffith said. "I really think he saved lives. He gave them a measure of comfort by talking about who he was and the way he felt. There wasn't any sadness about him. I think he inspired hope in many people who were feeling like outcasts, shunned by society — people who didn't belong."

She had a longstanding interest in the Houston social scene, donating money to numerous causes and enjoying any mention of her presence at an event in newspaper society columns.

She endured a four-year government price-fixing investigation that included county officials and various companies, including her M&C Consolidated, that she claimed was pursued in part because of her lifestyle. She invited a filmmaker to do a documentary on her sex-change operation. She ran for Houston City Council in 1989 — acknowledging her status as a transvestite and receiving 8 percent of the vote.

Joy to be around

Attorney Joel Androphy, who represented McGuire during the lengthy price-fixing and corruption investigation that produced no indictments, remembered her as a joy to be around and the center of attention wherever she went.

Androphy still recalls the day he watched McGuire adopt her toughest business attitude over the phone while sitting at her desk in a long dress.

"He was a great guy to me and a great gal to my wife," Androphy said. "He would invite us to various social and black-tie events, and sometimes we would go with him to clubs on lower Westheimer. This was before the operation, when he was an open transvestite. He enjoyed living two different lives. That's what made him happy."

In a 1999 interview, however, McGuire said it was really only the female version of herself that she found satisfying.

"That wasn't me," McGuire told the Houston Press about her male persona. "That was just a shell I was in, or an image I was projecting to make everybody happy."

Left Houston

Ultimately, after the surgery, McGuire left town for good, first for Europe, then New Jersey, and finally California. The cause of death is unknown.

McGuire had recently undergone surgery after complications from a car accident. Autopsy results are pending.

McGuire is survived by son James, daughter Barbara, and two grandchildren.

James McGuire, a playwright, gave his father a bit of immortality when he wrote an autobiographical play about their relationship, Daddy Kathryn.

Never one to miss a good party, the older McGuire showed up for opening night, fashionable as ever in a red dress with black collars at the wrist and neckline, a diamond bracelet and 3-inch heels. By all accounts, she was the center of attention.

"He loved all kinds of attention, and I mean that in a good way," James McGuire said. "He was a wonderful man and a wonderful woman. He was a nonconformist who was able to create his own life and who lived it free of judgment."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Got It? Flaunt It – Then Sue!

From a story on the Myfoxhouston website:

Local Women Sue Rapper for Topless Video


HOUSTON - Two Houston women are suing a rapper who put them in a music video without their permission.

The lawyer for both women says they are shocked and embarrassed their privacy was violated when they turned up topless in a Jim Jones music video.

They're suing the New York-based rapper and their lawyer says they're also upset about the way the media has portrayed them.

Sharie Johnson and Samantha Stotts were enjoying a vacation at the Setai Hotel last May in Miami Beach, Florida. Their lawyer in New York City, Taso Pardalis, says they were tanning topless: a common practice there.

They didn't know Jim Jones was recording them, Pardalis says. They didn't even know who Jim Jones was.

But now, it’s too late. Their faces and bodies are exposed all over the Internet.

The expecting mothers, due in April, did not want to appear on camera, but their lawyer did issue this statement for us.

“It is evident that a strategist in the Jim Jones organization devised what they thought would be a cheap way to get an enormous amount of publicity at virtually no cost. Jim Jones and his camp will answer for what they have done to these girls. How much will they be required to pay in damages? That is for a New York jury to decide, and we are confident that they will empathize with these girls."

Johnson, a college student, and Stotts, who works in real estate, are looking for monetary damages and they want copies of the video removed from YouTube. Many have already been flagged and taken down for being inappropriate, but obviously some copies still remain.

Apparently Jim Jones is under the "E1" record label, but in a letter to the women’s lawyer, E1 claims it did not participate in the making, posting or dissemination of the "Summer Time" video thereby denying any liability to Johnson and Stotts.

Well, I had never even heard of Jim Jones the Rapper.

When I think of Jim Jones, I think of British Guyana and Kool-Aid. 

If this story does nothing else, it gives the Rapper a ton of free publicity, and guarantees that a lot more people will see the two young women running around half naked.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Names Will Never Hurt Me

Well - yes they can and sometimes they do. 

I’m not really talking about the ridiculous first names applied to innocent, defenseless,  infants by Rock Stars, Hollywood types or by poor uneducated folks that just don’t know any better. 

I’m not even talking about Shel Silverstein’s unfortunate boy named Sue, the hero of the poem that became a huge hit song for Johnny Cash

Today’s subject is last names.

A few days ago, I posted an article about weather trends on FaceBook.  It was a thoughtful and well written essay by Accuweather Chief Meteorologist Joe Bastardi.  Although the article was topical and articulate, the first comment it received was a demeaning reference to the author’s last name.

Having had dozens of little boys in elementary school (and a remarkable number of teenagers – even a couple of drunken adults) think that since my last name is Couch, it would be the very pinnacle of cleverness to sit on me, I can only imagine what poor Joe must have dealt with all his life.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I should also mention that there were several girls of various ages who also gave it a try – Somehow, I didn’t find that nearly as offensive, and I can testify that they (and I) found the experience much more pleasant than their male counterparts.

Over the years, I have known quite a few people whose last names brought snickers and snide remarks – folks whose names included Klutz, Funk, Wang, and Tinkle. 

I buy my groceries at HEB, the area’s best and the nation’s 15th largest grocery chain – It was founded by a gentleman named Howard E. Butt.  Ft. Wayne, Indiana, is currently trying to decide if they are brave enough to name their new civic center after a popular former mayor named Harry Baals.

If you are one of the many whose name can invite ridicule, you really only have two options; you can change it (Young women often do this by getting married, but that can work both ways) or you can learn to live with it –Remember, they can’t be laughing  at you if you’re laughing, too.

Of course, even totally innocent looking names can sometimes sneak up and bite you.  Several years ago, I worked with a man named Michael Hunt.

One day, when the boss was looking for him, our receptionist went on the office paging system and announced throughout the entire  building,              

“ATTENTION!  ATTENTION! – Has anybody seen Mike Hunt?”

It took close to half an hour for work to get back to anything approaching normal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Great Customer Service Story


I own and I frequently carry and use a Leatherman brand multi-tool.  I’m not in love with it, but I do think it is an excellent product that often comes in handy.

On a website I check daily,, a question was asked recently about the pros and cons of various multi-tools.  This was one of the replies;

Posted by: fordsooperdooty

I have a Leatherman PST 2 that I love. "Made in the USA". By real old fashioned craftsmen. Given to me by my deceased Father, who had it engraved with my name.
I carry it every day, where ever I go, and use it constantly. I rarely go a day without instinctively reaching for it and using it on something, even as trivial as trimming a broken finger nail!
As a Cop, I have worn it many years on my Sam Browne along with my holster, handcuffs and mace. Over that time, it has say it mildly..."worn"! And invaluable.
When I accidently leave it home, I miss it!
The tip of the blade had broke off, the scissors no longer worked, etc. All my fault due to the abuses I subjected the poor tool to!
I then remembered that it had a 25 year warranty so sent it off to the Leatherman factory, with a brief note of how much I liked it!
A guy from the factory called me back a few days later, and told me that they didn't make this exact model anymore, and he said he would send me a brand new model of the same type tool. I was a bit disappointed, but said thanks!
2 weeks later I got a box in the mail from Leatherman, and inside was my knife. I mean my original knife, complete with my name still engraved on it!
Enclosed was a note from a guy named Peter...he was a craftsman that had retired from Leatherman a few years ago after working there in Oregon since 1983 when they opened.
Now get this! The note said that Peter had received a phone call from the Leatherman Management explaining how they had received my knife with a note as to how important it was to me, and asked Peter if he would return to work to help them re-make it! He came out of retirement and spent several days making from scratch several parts that were not made anymore. And he carefully and skillfully made it over completely.
I was shocked when I opened that box and saw what appeared to be my original knife model! The knife, when I opened the box, looked exactly as it did when new many years ago. Including my name engraved on it. You could see yourself in that polished stainless steel!
When a Company goes to such extremes to provide a customer with such superb service, above and beyond...then they deserve our business!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reefer Madness

I used the title  above on this post because story below is reminiscent of 1936 the movie of that name – not 2005’s Reefer Madness - the Musical  which poked fun at the old film.  The movie, which is available in its entirety Here, became a cult classic because it was so outrageously bad.

Anyway, yesterday saw a new set of claims relating to marijuana and madness:

Study Shows Smoking Marijuana May Be Tied to Earlier Development of Psychotic Illness

By Denise Mann
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Feb. 7, 2011 -- People who smoke pot are more likely to develop a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia earlier than those who do not use marijuana, according to a new analysis.

The results are published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers analyzed 83 studies comprising 8,167 people with a psychotic illness who used marijuana or other psychoactive substances and 14,352 with a psychotic illness who did not. Those who used marijuana were close to three years younger when they developed a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia compared with those who did not use marijuana.

People who used any type of illicit substances (including, but not limited to marijuana), were two years younger when they were diagnosed with a psychotic illness than their drug-free peers. Alcohol use had no bearing on the age of onset of psychotic illness, the study shows.

“It is increasingly clear that marijuana is a cause of schizophrenia, and that the schizophrenia caused by cannabis starts earlier than schizophrenia with other causes,” study researcher Matthew Large of Prince of Wales Hospital in New South Wales, Australia, says in an email. “Young people are at particular risk.”

Marijuana’s Role in Psychotic Illness

Exactly how marijuana use affects risk of psychotic illness is not fully understood, but “marijuana, when smoked, produces hundreds of chemicals, over 50 are psychoactive,” he says.

“There is not so much evidence for the widely held view those patients self-medicate with marijuana,” he says. “Marijuana smoking almost always comes before psychosis and few patients with psychosis start smoking [marijuana] for the first time.”

More than 80% of the patients in the study had schizophrenia, but there were some other forms of psychosis identified among marijuana users. “The picture looked similar irrespective of the type of psychosis,” Large says.

Christoph U. Correll, MD, medical director of the Recognition and Prevention Program at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., says that “marijuana usage can contribute to psychiatric disorders, but many people use it and don’t have a psychiatric disorder.”

More than 16 million people in the U.S. use marijuana on a regular basis, and many of them began using in their teenage years, according to information cited in the new report.

Perhaps marijuana use is one of the factors that contribute to the development of a psychotic illness among people who are genetically predisposed to such illness, Correll says.

When asked if he thought the marijuana was the chicken or the egg, he says: “I think it is a mixture. Some people affected by illness may choose pot to cope with symptoms, but at least for a subgroup, use of pot at an earlier age may hasten the onset of psychotic illness.”

The message is clear, he says.

“Try to use illicit drugs as little as possible,” he says. “There is a chance that you may have a genetic predisposition for a psychiatric disorder and this can lead to an earlier outbreak or conversion to psychosis than would have happened otherwise.”

This only tangentially applies to today’s post but it’s fun, and we could all use a little laughter in our lives:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Whatever Happened to Houston’s Homeless?


Usually just after Halloween, certainly by Thanksgiving and just before Christmas, local TV News features multiple stories about the Homeless out on the cold Houston streets. 

Even if the temperature is in the 60s, there will be a reporter bundled up in an overcoat and scarf bemoaning the fact that the Salvation Army and the Star of Hope Mission are out of cots, down to their last blanket, and desperate for help.

This makes it even stranger that - in spite of the extended weather coverage (when the weather actually did get brutal with temps below freezing for 48 hour or more last week) not one local channel did a story on the plight of the Homeless! 

I watched coverage on three or four of the Houston stations last week, and before writing this, just to be sure, I Googled [Houston_homeless_weather] to see what I might have missed.  Fox ran a story back in mid-January, and in the only story I could find that aired last week, Channel 39 led off one segment by mentioning (just in passing) that Star of Hope was distributing blankets - before moving on to a story about local Reliant Energy trucks forming a convoy to head north and help out in Oklahoma.


So, what the Heck happened to our Homeless?  Did they all skip town ahead of the front?  If so, where did they go?

  • Did they all win the lotto and move to the Woodlands, Cinco Ranch or Williams Trace? 
  • Did an enterprising Coyote realize he could increase his profit margin by smuggling people both ways across the Mexican border?
  • Or, in a profound gesture of gratitude and reciprocity, did the mayor on New Orleans secretly round up all of our druggies, winos and schizophrenics and stash them in the Superdome until spring?

Please believe that I am not complaining at all .  I really don’t like those Endangered Homeless stories, and  I certainly didn’t miss them, but I am amazed that I wasn’t subjected to a single one.

It’s supposed to drop back into the 20s Wednesday night.  Let’s see of the local news mavens and weather wonks make up for lost time.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Playing the Numbers - Analyzing Lottery Scratch-Offs


Fascinating article from :

Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto, was working in his office in June 2003, waiting for some files to download onto his computer, when he discovered a couple of old lottery tickets buried under some paper on his desk. The tickets were cheap scratchers—a gag gift from his squash partner—and Srivastava found himself wondering if any of them were winners. He fished a coin out of a drawer and began scratching off the latex coating. “The first was a loser, and I felt pretty smug,” Srivastava says. “I thought, ‘This is exactly why I never play these dumb games.’”

The second ticket was a tic-tac-toe game. Its design was straightforward: On the right were eight tic-tac-toe boards, dense with different numbers. On the left was a box headlined “Your Numbers,” covered with a scratchable latex coating. The goal was to scrape off the latex and compare the numbers under it to the digits on the boards. If three of “Your Numbers” appeared on a board in a straight line, you’d won. Srivastava matched up each of his numbers with the digits on the boards, and much to his surprise, the ticket had a tic-tac-toe. Srivastava had won $3. “This is the smallest amount you can win, but I can’t tell you how excited it made me,” he says. “I felt like the king of the world.”

Delighted, he decided to take a lunchtime walk to the gas station to cash in his ticket. “On my way, I start looking at the tic-tac-toe game, and I begin to wonder how they make these things,” Srivastava says. “The tickets are clearly mass-produced, which means there must be some computer program that lays down the numbers. Of course, it would be really nice if the computer could just spit out random digits. But that’s not possible, since the lottery corporation needs to control the number of winning tickets. The game can’t be truly random. Instead, it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.”

Srivastava speaks quietly, with a slight stammer. He has a neatly trimmed beard and a messy office. When he talks about a subject he’s interested in—and he’s interested in many things, from military encryption to freshwater fossils—his words start to run into each other.

As a trained statistician with degrees from MIT and Stanford University, Srivastava was intrigued by the technical problem posed by the lottery ticket. In fact, it reminded him a lot of his day job, which involves consulting for mining and oil companies. A typical assignment for Srivastava goes like this: A mining company has multiple samples from a potential gold mine. Each sample gives a different estimate of the amount of mineral underground. “My job is to make sense of those results,” he says. “The numbers might seem random, as if the gold has just been scattered, but they’re actually not random at all. There are fundamental geologic forces that created those numbers. If I know the forces, I can decipher the samples. I can figure out how much gold is underground.”

Srivastava realized that the same logic could be applied to the lottery. The apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie. And this meant that the lottery system might actually be solvable, just like those mining samples. “At the time, I had no intention of cracking the tickets,” he says. He was just curious about the algorithm that produced the numbers. Walking back from the gas station with the chips and coffee he’d bought with his winnings, he turned the problem over in his mind. By the time he reached the office, he was confident that he knew how the software might work, how it could precisely control the number of winners while still appearing random. “It wasn’t that hard,” Srivastava says. “I do the same kind of math all day long.”

That afternoon, he went back to work. The thrill of winning had worn off; he forgot about his lunchtime adventure. But then, as he walked by the gas station later that evening, something strange happened. “I swear I’m not the kind of guy who hears voices,” Srivastava says. “But that night, as I passed the station, I heard a little voice coming from the back of my head. I’ll never forget what it said: ‘If you do it that way, if you use that algorithm, there will be a flaw. The game will be flawed. You will be able to crack the ticket. You will be able to plunder the lottery.’”

The trick itself is ridiculously simple. (Srivastava would later teach it to his 8-year-old daughter.) Each ticket contained eight tic-tac-toe boards, and each space on those boards—72 in all—contained an exposed number from 1 to 39. As a result, some of these numbers were repeated multiple times. Perhaps the number 17 was repeated three times, and the number 38 was repeated twice. And a few numbers appeared only once on the entire card. Srivastava’s startling insight was that he could separate the winning tickets from the losing tickets by looking at the number of times each of the digits occurred on the tic-tac-toe boards. In other words, he didn’t look at the ticket as a sequence of 72 random digits. Instead, he categorized each number according to its frequency, counting how many times a given number showed up on a given ticket. “The numbers themselves couldn’t have been more meaningless,” he says. “But whether or not they were repeated told me nearly everything I needed to know.” Srivastava was looking for singletons, numbers that appear only a single time on the visible tic-tac-toe boards. He realized that the singletons were almost always repeated under the latex coating. If three singletons appeared in a row on one of the eight boards, that ticket was probably a winner.

The next day, on his way into work, he stopped at the gas station and bought a few more tickets. Sure enough, all of these tickets contained the telltale pattern. The day after that he picked up even more tickets from different stores. These were also breakable. After analyzing his results, Srivastava realized that the singleton trick worked about 90 percent of the time, allowing him to pick the winning tickets before they were scratched.

The North American lottery system is a $70 billion-a-year business, an industry bigger than movie tickets, music, and porn combined. These tickets have a grand history: Lotteries were used to fund the American colonies and helped bankroll the young nation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, lotteries funded the expansion of Harvard and Yale and allowed the construction of railroads across the continent. Since 1964, when New Hampshire introduced the first modern state lottery, governments have come to rely on gaming revenue. (Forty-three states and every Canadian province currently run lotteries.) In some states, the lottery accounts for more than 5 percent of education funding.

While approximately half of Americans buy at least one lottery ticket at some point, the vast majority of tickets are purchased by about 20 percent of the population. These high-frequency players tend to be poor and uneducated, which is why critics refer to lotteries as a regressive tax. (In a 2006 survey, 30 percent of people without a high school degree said that playing the lottery was a wealth-building strategy.) On average, households that make less than $12,400 a year spend 5 percent of their income on lotteries—a source of hope for just a few bucks a throw.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Today Is…


Today is Super Bowl Sunday. 

It also is the 100th birthday of the late President Ronald Reagan


And the 94th birthday of Zsa Zsa Gabor


Who isn’t dead yet, but is in poor health following the recent amputation of a leg. 

Her husband, Prince Frederic Von Anhalt, is having a pretty  tough time himself – he collapsed and was admitted  when Gabor was rushed back to the hospital last Tuesday, and had to be treated back in December after mistaking Zsa Zsa’s fingernail glue for eye drops.

In spite of weather conditions that have had sports commentators complaining all week – and making fun of Dallas for not planning and being prepared for a once-a-century weather event, Super Bowl XLV seems to be in better health than the above-mentioned celebrities.

It won’t happen, but I think that Dallas should open the top of the stadium for the game.  After all, the competitors, Pittsburg and Green Bay are both cold weather teams, and  they have played some of their best (and some of the NFL’s most historic) games in near-blizzard conditions. 

Super Bowl XLV will be cheerleader-less for the first time in the competition's 45- year history because the Steelers and the Packers are among only six NFL franchises that do not have them.

I’m tempted to predict that the Steelers will win today’s contest by about a touchdown,  (I can always come back and edit this out if I’m wrong.) but I think I’ll just say good luck to both and may the better team win.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Superbowl Preview

This ain’t one of those $3 million for 30 second national commercials, but the Woodlands’ Jack Ingram will be starring tomorrow in a local commercial during the Superbowl. 

Here’s a sneak peek, actually a full 3 minute extended version of the song recorded at Gruene Hall.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow in Houston

Normally, I try to post once a day, but today you get both news and weather.  For the last several days, we have been deluged with Hard Freeze Warnings and Winter Storm Watches and Warnings – local TV news has found little else to talk about. 

Schools, airports and many local businesses are closed today because of the winter storm.

We did have one night with temps dropping into the upper teens, and a couple days with highs in the upper 30s, but the storm, a veritable blizzard if you could believe local news, fizzled. 

We were warned for days that snow would begin by noon yesterday and could drop upwards of four inches of the stuff.  Noon was revised to 3:00 pm, then 6:00, then 9:00 and finally, midnight.

It is now approaching 8:00 am, and the only precipitation that has fallen here at the Boggy Thicket was a trace of rain that left us with one to two inch icicles hanging from the eves.

I suppose we should be grateful, but as Honey said, if it’s going to be  this darn cold for that darn long, we ought to be able to make a snowman.

Last Tango


Maria Schneider, the French actress whose sex scenes with Marlon Brando in “Last Tango in Paris” set a new standard for explicitness on screen, died on Thursday in Paris. She was 58.

A spokesman for her agency, Act 1, said she had died after a long illness but provided no other details.

The baby-faced, voluptuous Ms. Schneider was only 19 when the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci chose her for the role of the free-spirited, mysterious Jeanne in “Last Tango.” She seemed, he said in explaining the choice, “like a Lolita, but more perverse.”

In the film, Jeanne enters into a brief but torrid affair with a recently widowed American businessman, played by Brando. Their erotically charged relationship, played out in an empty apartment near the Bir-Hakeim Bridge in Paris, shocked audiences on the film’s release in 1972, especially a scene in which Brando pins Ms. Schneider to the floor and, taking a stick of butter, seems to perform anal intercourse. The Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an X rating.

“Last Tango” fixed Ms. Schneider in the public mind as a symbol of the sexual revolution. She spent years trying to move beyond the role, for which she was paid $4,000, and the notoriety that came with it.

“I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol,” she told The Daily Mail of London in 2007. “I wanted to be recognized as an actress, and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown. Now, though, I can look at the film and like my work in it.”

The famous scene, she said, was not in the script and made it into the film only at Brando’s insistence. “I felt humiliated, and to be honest I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci,” she said. “After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

Maria Schneider was born on March 27, 1952, in Paris, the illegitimate daughter of Marie-Christine Schneider, a Romanian-born model, and the prominent actor Daniel Gélin. She did not meet her father, who refused to acknowledge her, until she was in her teens. She was reared by her mother in a town near the German border and left home at 15 for Paris, where she scratched out a living as a film extra and a model.

Brigitte Bardot, who had worked with Mr. Gélin on several films, was appalled at the girl’s situation and intervened, giving her a room in her house and helping find her an agent with William Morris.

Ms. Schneider played small parts in “The Christmas Tree,” with William Holden and Virna Lisi, and “The Love Mates,” with Alain Delon, before being cast in “Last Tango.”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Emperor Has Left The Building


One of the Houston area's strangest attractions – and we have quite a few, just think of the Orange Show – is going out of business.

Here’s the story from the Lisa Gray at the Houston Chronicle:

"You want a soldier for your garden?" jokes lawyer Dixon Montague. "You'd have to have at least two. One would be lonely."

Montague, who works for legal superfirm Vinson & Elkins, was referring to one of the strangest liquidation sales in Houston history: that of Forbidden Gardens, the Katy theme park whose star attractions are 6,000 thigh-high terra-cotta soldiers — 1⁄ 3-scale replicas of the soldiers excavated from the tomb of China's first emperor.

Forbidden Gardens is closing this month after almost 15 years. Expansion of the Grand Parkway, a ring road connecting Houston's farthest-flung suburbs, will encroach on the eastern edge of the park, Montague says, ruining its "contemplative nature."

Since the closing has been announced, fans have wondered what will happen to the Gardens' strange Chinese-history-themed delights. What will become of those terra-cotta soldiers? Of the doll-size Forbidden City? Of the full-scale copy of the Imperial Dragon Throne? And of the enormous, sublimely weird pair of dog/human statues that look as though they escaped from Yellow Submarine?

Montague says that his reclusive client, Forbidden Gardens founder Ira Poon, hopes to sell them in a single lot to someone who will resurrect the theme park elsewhere.

What's the asking price? Montague won't say.

How much would it cost to move the bedraggled exhibits and restore them to their former splendor? Montague doesn't know.

How long does a potential buyer have to act? Not very.

Forbidden Gardens will begin disassembling its exhibits Feb. 13 and will close its doors to the public Feb. 21.

Potential buyers, Montague says, should call right now.

But what if you want just one terra-cotta soldier for your garden? (Or two, because one would be lonely?)


Check, where Forbidden Gardens' staff has begun to list all matter of things that the theme park won't need anymore: tools, benches, vases, porcelain figurines, tiny Chinese palaces … and yes, at least a few of those warriors.

"We are selling a variety of terra-cotta warriors for just $100 each," states one listing. "We are willing to make a deal if you buy in bulk."

Alicia Mendez, Forbidden Gardens' tour director, explains that the Craigslist ad doesn't concern the warriors currently on display. Right now, she says, the staff is selling off extra soldiers - spares kept in storage, intended for displays that were never completed. The pair in the Craigslist photo appear moldy.

And the little porcelain figurines, offered for $1 each? Mendez says those aren't the doll-size royalty, concubines and eunuchs who currently populate the theme park's Forbidden City. They're salvaged from other exhibits - such as the Temple of Heaven, which collapsed awhile back.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nice Boat

The 50-plus degree drop in temperatures here at Boggy thicket (70s Sunday – 19 at 6:00 a.m today) has had me thinking about Caribbean Cruises, which led to ….


In the market for a boat?  Check out the Eclipse:

Length: 533 feet
Top speed: 25 knots
Total power: secret

With a reported price tag of nearly $1.2 billion, the Eclipse is not only the world’s largest yacht, but also the most expensive.

The Eclipse was built for Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich, who is known worldwide for big spending on everything from super yachts to England’s Chelsea Football Club.

The Eclipse has two helicopter pads, 11 guest cabins, 2 swimming pools, exterior fireplace and a dance hall. The vessel is also equipped with intruder detection systems and a German-built missile defense system, along with  bullet-proof glass and armor plating in the master suite and the bridge.

Abramovich also made news in 2009 when he had an “anti-paparazzi” shield installed, which reportedly uses lasers to detect a camera and ruin any photographs taken by it with a flash of light.
Although many details about the ship remain secret, it has been confirmed that the Eclipse also features a three-person submarine and can accommodate up to 30 guests and 75 crewmembers.

Completed in 2010, the Eclipse was delivered for testing last September.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It was 68 degrees (Fahrenheit) at Boggy Thicket as of 6:00 a.m. this morning.  We’ve had 70-plus temps for the last several days, and camellias are blooming in the yard. 


But that is coming to an end. 


The leading edge of an arctic front hit here at 6:45 with high winds and thunderstorms, and temps are supposed to drop all day to an overnight low of 24.  Not supposed to get above 40 for the next several days, and we actually have snow forecast for Thursday and Friday.

We have an appointment this morning; the tech from DirecTV is supposed to be here between 8 and noon to install our new DVR and replace the dish (which is mounted on a tripod at the top of our garage roof) with a new slim-line dish.  Thunderstorms are supposed to be over by the time he is due – hope so – I wouldn’t get up on that roof right now to save my soul.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon getting ready – winterizing the trailer, ordering propane, etc., and we’re about as ready as we can get; but I’m  seriously entertaining thoughts of a last-minute flight to Belize.