Thursday, March 31, 2011

On My Feet


I come from a family of people with smaller than normal feet.  My maternal grandfather was six feet tall (there’s probably a pun there, but it’s almost unavoidable) and wore a size 6 shoe.  My dad also had small feet, and until I entered the army  at the age of 22, I wore a size 6 or 6 1/2, depending on the shape of the shoe.

This has been a mixed blessing.  Men’s shoe sizes often start at 8 or 8 1/2, a full size larger than I can wear, but I have occasionally made some great buys on footwear.

Back in the early 60’s, I had a college friend who worked at a shoe store.  When Acme Dingo boots first hit the market, he was able to find me a pair in the kid’s section of  the store for less than half the price of men’s boots. 

Just a year later, a college gym class specified a particular brand and style of white tennis shoes and I was only able to get them by going to the girls gym and purchasing women’s shoes from the coach.  I remember that while I was waiting, a voluptuous young woman from the gymnastics team was jumping on the trampoline.  Various portions of her anatomy were bouncing in ways I had never seen before and made it very difficult to concentrate on the transaction. I haven’t worn women’s shoes since, but I have recently started wearing women’s crew socks – they fit my feet much better.

Back when she was a young housewife/grad student with an income that barely qualified as middle class, my sister had a closet full of shoes that would have made Imelda Marcos green with envy.  She wore a size 3 or 3 1/2, and had learned that the high-end stores in the Galleria put tiny shoes in their window displays.  She was able to pick up window samples of designer shoes at pennies on the dollar.

About the women’s socks – I recently bought my wife two packages of crew socks, supposedly the same size but from two different manufacturers.  One brand fit, but the others were too big.  Rather than throw them away, I decided to try them on.  They’re the best fitting socks I’ve ever owned.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blue Mounds

blue mounds

The granite (quartzite) cliff above is in Blue Mounds State Park.  The Southwest Minnesota park is mostly prairie and hosts one of the only Bison herds in the state.  I came across the picture and the article quoted below while planning next summer’s trip.

[From a piece written by Chris Welsch]

In the realm of legends, Blue Mounds has plenty, as a local poet once told me. The first time I visited the park, in 1994, I went to Luverne to see the Hinkly House, a stately Victorian home built of Sioux quartzite by the quarry owner. There I met a tiny, elderly woman in pearls and a blue windbreaker. Carmen Christensen had lived near Blue Mounds for most of her life. When she heard I was a writer, she took my arm and asked if I'd like to hear a poem she'd written in 1944. Then she closed her eyes and recited in a strong and steady voice:

Proudly rising above the plain,
Immune to sun and wind and rain,
These scattered rocks and towering wall,
Like silent witnesses, recall
The history and ancient lore
Of ages vanished long before.
Here are legends carved in stone
That, once, forgotten men had known.
The rocks would tell you if they could,
What happened where they long have stood:
How frightful monsters roamed this place;
When first they saw the human race;
How once the red men with great cunning
Started herds of bison running
Over their cliffs to death below,
Where heaps of bleaching bones would show.
But all the secrets they have known
Are safely kept with tongues of stone.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I come by my love of reading naturally; my parents always had at least one book going, and while my addiction may never have achieved the level of my niece, Melanie, by the time I was in the third grade I had read everything in my elementary school library. 

My comprehension level was good, but my retention level was always a little quirky.  My brain tends to latch on to the most insignificant bits of data, and it will hold them forever.  As an example, here is a joke that I read at least a half-century ago in the Readers Digest:

{I’ll admit that it was a quick search, since this is a daily blog, but I tried an on-line search for the original with no success. This is paraphrased –  it’s how I remember it.}

Three young men from New Jersey took their inheritance and moved to West Texas where they bought a ranch.  They stocked it with beef cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. 

All was going well until they realized that all the other ranches had impressive names.  Unable to agree on a suitable name, they wrote their mother back in Jersey asking for her advice.

She sent them a telegram that said, “Name it Focus.”

They wired back, “FOCUS?  Why?”

She replied, “Focus - Where the sun’s rays meet.”


Monday, March 28, 2011

Damn, PAM


Saw a couple interesting articles relating to PAM Cooking Spray.  Here’s an excerpt from the first one:

Question: How can a product that is almost pure fat be advertised as Fat Free?
Answer: By reducing the serving size so that the amount of fat per serving is less than 0.5 grams.

The primary ingredient of the PAM Cooking spray illustrated here is canola oil, which is marked with a note 'ADDS A TRIVIAL AMOUNT OF FAT' and the Nutrition Facts proclaim: Total Fat 0g.  Why?  Because the serving size has been defined to be a 1/3 second spray containing 0.266g of product. Since this is less than half a gram (0.5g) per serving, it can be rounded to zero. The line above the Nutrition Facts, states that 'A 1 SECOND SPRAY COVERS A 10" SKILLET'. A one-second spray would contain approximately 0.8g of fat with 7 calories and would have to be reported on the Nutrition Facts. The manufacturer has chosen to reduce the serving size in order to avoid reporting the fat in the Nutrition Facts and to be able to add the slogan "for Fat Free Cooking" in the front of the can. Technically, this complies with the FDA requirements.

By the way, if you care about such things, all PAM products are gluten-free except PAM for BAKING.  Manufacturer Con-Agra advises that PAM for BAKING contains actual wheat flour.

The second article, about unconventional uses for the spray, was by Heather Craven on the DIY Life website HERE.  I thought uses listed in the comments were at least as clever and innovative as the article.

I have heard that spraying tools with PAM prior to a dirty job makes for an easier clean up, but I’ve never actually tried it. 

What unconventional uses do you have for PAM?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

$1,095.15 Lost at RV Dumpsite

One of the blogs I follow is On the road, here and there.  John and his wife, Becky, travel full-time, towing their 5th wheel trailer around the country.  The big attraction for me is that we share interests in travel, 5th Wheels, amateur photography and good food. 

John only posts occasionally, but when he does, they’re usually well worth reading.  I thought this story was worth stealing/sharing:

Whether you are a RVer or not, at least in my warped opinion, you will find the following very funny.  But first just to make sure you know what a "dump site" is....

OK, not the prettiest picture in the album but that's it!  Perhaps on the lighter side.......

I think you get the picture.  And actually the cartoon depicts a very accurate portrayal of the story line.
OK, on to the story...
This was a post over on the Airstream Forum and it's very funny so I wanted to share it!  I continue to try to find the author of what follows but so far am unable to do so.....
"We have a small RV dump station in our town built by the municipality near a boat launch. Every day I walk my dog by the river and go past the RV dump. So... not too long ago I was amazed to see a couple in a brand new 5th wheel dumping onto the ground rather than into the dump opening and yelling at each other at the top of their lungs.
The dump is well designed and has well sloped sides leading to the 'hole' but they had covered the hole with a screen. Why?
Turns out that one of them had dropped a dental bridge into the toilet (never, ever multitask in the morning) and they figured it would flush out at the dump station. I got to watch the entire hilarious project.
First they dumped and watched the screen for the bridge. This didn't go very well. The screen diameter was pretty small and kept clogging. It was the screen from one of their windows. Sweeping it with their brand new collapsible broom helped keep it clear.
Screen replacement parts: $5.00
Broom: $ 8.95
After dumping the entire (very full) tank and finding no bridge, they decided that the device must have settled to the bottom of the black tank and not been evacuated. So... they got our their water hose and a water thief and hooked up to the dump station water stub to fill their black tank via the toilet.
New (unpolluted) hose: $15.00
New water thief: $4.00
Once they had hooked all this up, they apparently shoved the hose into the toilet, keeping the valve open and turned on the water. Then they pulled the dump valve again. No teeth.
After some (loud) discussion they decided that the teeth must be stuck or jammed and that they needed to agitate the tank to dislodge them. At this point 2 more rigs have pulled up to dump and are waiting in line. One is towing a boat with a sunburnt and somewhat drunk crew. The fisherfolk are getting out cans of cold refreshment and one has a lawn chair. Another one has a plan....
How to agitate a black tank (while it's still attached to trailer) method 1: Get 4 cans of beer and some buddies. Refill tank with water. Open cans of beer and position buddies on each corner of trailer. On que, rock trailer back and forth. Position one person in bathroom with toilet valve open to listen for sloshing. Do not drop beer. When good sloshing sounds can be heard in tank, pull the dump valve and wait for teeth.
Unfortunately, the teeth didn't appear and by this time the helpers were thirsty again. The owner with no lower teeth offered them more refreshments. They were thrilled because he had high end beer (they were drinking the cheap) stuff.
4 bottles of redhook: $6.00
3 more rigs are now in line at the dump station and one woman (with 2 teens) has a camera out. Her kid has a cellphone held up high in the video capture position.
How to agitate a black tank method 2: Add water and then start tow vehicle up. Make sure the water is really flowing and tank is full to get a good dump. Go forward and back in rapid succession to really get things stirred up. So.....
They leave the hose filling the toilet attached and station one person in front of trailer to keep an eye on the hitch. Another will be the driver and several more will stand and watch for teeth. The wind has picked up and the screen is on the verge of blowing away. One person holds it down with foot. Wife will pull dump handle.
The driver decides to set the emergency brake and then does the forward/back thing. The engine starts, the water is flowing, the spotters are ready, wife is in place, and the forward/back thing starts. You can smell the transmission and hear the clunks and he sifts back and forth. The crowd is cheering and offering advice. Then the dump handle is pulled. Whoosh! Lots of water - no teeth. The foot holding the screen gets soaked and the owner of the foot steps back, sticking foot into open dump hole, twisting ankle and crying out in pain. The proceedings stop and the crowd gathers around the fallen helper to offer aid (and a beer). After a time water begins to run out the trailer door.
Another redhook: $1.50
Remember the hose stuck in the toilet? It had dislodged during the forward/reverse process and was filling the trailer, flopping around and covering the walls.
Trailer rehab: $1000.00
The volunteer who had been watching the hitch runs inside to trap the hose. A couple of minutes later he comes out and says hey buddy - is this what your looking for? He is holding teeth and new fresh beer. "I found 'em in the fridge"

Saturday, March 26, 2011



Several stories this morning about the latest revisions to the Oxford English Dictionary.  The big story being that, along with several texting acronyms, the latest OED now lists ♥ as a word. 

Other new entries  include ‘muffin top,' ‘singledom'  ‘banh mi' (a Vietnamese sandwich), and ‘dotbomb'.

For more – direct from the source – check out their webpage

Friday, March 25, 2011

Belated Anniversary

I almost missed it. 

Well, to be honest, I did miss it by a couple weeks.  I have been doing this blog for over a year now; my first post was March 11, 2010.

I’ve had a lot of fun with it.  I’ve learned, and shared, a lot of stuff; and have been able to climb up on my virtual soap box and vent on quite a few subjects.  I truly think it has been good for me – especially for my brain.

With a few exceptions, I have been able to keep to my commitment to post something daily. [I almost had one of those exceptions right now – my wireless keyboard went dead between the n and the t in commitment.  A couple new triple A batteries and I was back in business.]

My most read post of the first year, Can't Fix Stupid, actually explained one of those exceptions.

The blogger website keeps lots of statistics, and I have been pleasantly surprised to learn where my readers come from:

United States - 4,916

Canada - 122

Russia - 83

United Kingdom - 78

Germany - 63

France - 53

South Korea - 41

Brazil - 38

China - 37

Spain - 32

Thursday, March 24, 2011

We Want A Shuttle

STS-114 Beach Road 07-26-2005 Okay, I’ll admit I am a bit biased - I think Houston should get a space shuttle, but in the words of Apollo 13 – Houston, we have a problem.

As the shuttle program draws to a close, there is a big scramble going on as to who will get the remaining three shuttles for their museums. 

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is getting one, and the one already on display there (one that never actually flew) will probably go to someone as a sort of consolation prize.

It’s looking a lot like Chicago will get one.  Their museum has a former astronaut on the board, and a Chicago home-boy in the White House.

That just leaves one, and everyone with even the most  tangential association with the space program is throwing their hat into the ring.

Houston’s claim ought to be obvious, but it is spelled out here - Bring the Shuttle Home.  Check it out, and if you agree, follow the links and make your opinion known.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Texans Take Politics Seriously

From a story today in the Houston Chronicle:

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — A paid obituary for a Houston-area man who died of cancer recently urged mourners to, in lieu of flowers, "please make a donation to ANYONE running against" President Barack Obama.

James Harrison of The Woodlands died Feb. 27 at the age of 68. Harrison was a retired food-service worker.

His stepson, told KRIV-TV of Houston that Harrison "was an avid Republican and just took that to the grave with him."

Harrison wrote the appeal for donations to Obama opponents himself before he died.

The obituary, which was approved by his family, also suggested donations to the American Cancer Society as an alternative.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stock Show Update

Next-door neighbor Wilson Graff and his heifer Joleen made it back home from the Houston Livestock Show Sunday evening.  They did really well; Joleen placed second in her class at the Scramble Calf Show last Thursday.  Then they stayed around for the Open Class Breeding Heifer Show on Sunday before packing up and heading for home. 

Here’s a picture of Wilson and Joleen in the judging ring.


Joleen shares stock show gossip and beauty tips with another Huffman heifer, Miss Jessi.


Monday, March 21, 2011

A Perfect Match

A local woman had the tail gate and one tail light assembly stolen from her truck.  It happened while the GMC pickup was parked at Houston Northwest Hospital back on March 3rd.

A few days later, when she went on Craigslist to try to find a replacement, she found a perfect match.  Too perfect – the key from her key-ring fit the lock on the tailgate latch.

Harris County Precinct 4 deputies arrested the guy who placed the ad, and say the 18-year-old has confessed to the theft.  He’s been charged with a class B felony.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

They’re Back


I had no idea what I was going to post today – several things on my mind, mostly not important or maybe too important to discuss without further thought – then just after breakfast, Honey and I went outside and saw the first hummingbird of the season. 

It was a male ruby throated hummingbird, which I’m told typically arrive about two weeks ahead of the females.

I actually heard him before I saw him.  I was facing away from the feeder and heard the distinctive buzz just as Honey saw him approach.

We have had the feeders out for a couple of weeks now, and Honey had predicted that we would see one this weekend.  The feeling was almost like watching sevens come up on a quarter slot machine or finding a four-leaf clover.

The feeder in the photo is the first one he visited, but the picture is actually one I took last year.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Police and firefighters face hazards, but these careers are riskier

By Ruth Mantell

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — While there’s no doubt that being a cop or firefighter is a dangerous job, being a farmer is even riskier. The rate of fatal occupational injuries for farmers and ranchers is 38.5 per 100,000 full-time workers, versus 4.4 for firefighters, and 13.1 for police and sheriff’s patrol officers, according to U.S. Labor Department data for 2009, the most recent available.

“It seems counter-intuitive because you hear about violent accidents; you probably hear less about people dying when tractors roll over on them,” said Jim Rice, an economist at the Labor Department. “For those who do work on farms, it’s still a dangerous occupation.”

The rate of fatal injuries for aircraft pilots and flight engineers is 57.1, and for fishers and related fishing workers it’s 200. Among civilian workers — the military, volunteers and those under 16 are excluded — the fatality rate is an average of 3.3.

Other workers face higher-than-average rates of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. For instance, state psychiatric aides have an injury and illness rate that is more than twice the rate for local police and sheriff’s patrol officers. Other jobs with surprisingly high incidence rates: flight attendants, housekeeping workers and bus drivers.

Overall, the average incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses, requiring days away from work, was 117 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2009. You’d expect some occupations to have high rates, such as police and sheriff’s patrol officers, who have a rate of 676, and firefighters, with a rate of 512. But can you guess an occupation with a higher rate than either cops or fire fighters? Try local government transit and intercity bus drivers. Their rate is 892.

“Bus drivers are exposed to a lot of force and vibrations when they are driving,” said Karen Jacobs, clinical professor at Boston University’s College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College and former president of the American Occupational Therapy Association. “The next time you are on a bus, take a look at the driver. They are ... exposed to a lot of whole-body vibrations, which can be very detrimental to the body.”

Some health-care workers, including registered nurses, nursing aides, orderlies and attendants, also have higher-than-average rates of illness or injury, though the rates for these jobs are higher for government versus private workers.

Being stuck by a needle can be a problem, said Nancy Hughes, a registered nurse and director of the American Nurses Association’s occupational and environmental health center. Lifting or moving patients is another issue.

Some workers spend a lot of time maintaining awkward physical positions at work, said Jacobs; she hears a lot of complaints from dental hygienists, who may assume contorted positions as they work hard on plaque-covered teeth. “They are typically in fairly awkward postures,” Jacobs said. “If they don’t alternate between more complicated clients and those that are easier, there can be a lot of exertion.”

Other workers lift heavy objects, often repetitively. “There can be an impact on our musculoskeletal system, on our nerves, on our vascular system that causes us more long-term issues,” Jacobs said.

Generally, the incident rates for injuries and illnesses are higher for public than private workers: the average private incident rate was about 106, compared with 180 for state governments and 185 for local governments.

As a yardstick, the incident rate for local government police and sheriff’s patrol officers was about 676, versus 2,041 for athletes and sports competitors, and two for computer programmers. Surgeons have a rate of about four; butchers and meat cutters have a rate of 266.

Pencil pushers may not have the riskiest of jobs — lawyers have a rate of about two, while personal financial advisers have a rate of three, and accountants and auditors weigh in at about seven — but they can also have problems.

“For employees who log many hours at a workstation, ergonomic-related problems resulting in musculoskeletal disorders may be an issue,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Back, neck, shoulder pain can become chronic pain,” Jacobs said. “Before you sit at your computer, do some stretches to get your body ready for your workday. Sit and stand throughout the day.”

Workers should get up and stretch every 20 minutes, moving their arms, legs, fingers, toes and even eyes.

“As soon as you start feeling uncomfortable, you should take a break,” Jacobs said. “Staying in static postures is not good long term.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Paddy’s Day



Patrick Murphy and Sean O'Brian grew up together and were lifelong friends. But alas, there came the day when poor Patrick lay dying. From his deathbed, Patrick called to his buddy, Sean, "O'Brian, come 'ere. I have a request for ye."

Sean walked to his friend's bedside and kneels.
"Sean ole boy, we've been friends all our lives, and now I'm leaving 'ere. I 'ave one last request fir ye to do."
O'Brian burst into tears, "Anything Patrick, anything ye wish. It's done."
"Well, under me bed is a box containing a bottle of the finest whiskey in all of Ireland. Bottled the year I was born it was. After I die, and they plant me in the ground, I want you to pour that fine whiskey over me grave so it might soak into me bones and I'll be able to enjoy it for all eternity."
O'Brian was overcome by the beauty and in the true Irish spirit of his friend's request, he asked, "Aye, tis a fine thing you ask of me, and I will gladly pour the whiskey. But, ye won’t mind, will ye, if I strain it through me kidneys first?"


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Losing My Ass

I’ve always had a nice round butt. 

My mother always claimed that I was late learning to sit up because my bottom was so round that I would just roll over. I can’t say that I remember that, but I do know that even when I was a skinny teenager – 5 foot 7 inches, 120 lbs. - I had broad shoulders for someone that size, a narrow waist and hips, and that globular gluteus maximus.  Not bragging, but several young ladies and at least one really strange guy told me it was really cute.

It wasn’t huge; not some Hottentot shelf,  -By the way, I learned moments ago that Hottentot is now considered derogatory and to be politically correct we should refer to them as Khoi, which means “real people” in their language. -   it really was just exceptionally round.

Now that I’m in my 60’s, and getting bigger everywhere else, my butt is just not keeping up.  While my waistline has surged from a 26 to a 38/40 and my weight is flirting with the 200 lb. mark, my rear end is not only getting proportionally smaller it’s actually decreasing in size!

I can blame years and gravity for some of the physical changes that have taken place in my body, but my derriere didn’t slide down the backs of my legs, it just isn’t as large as it used to be.

I wouldn’t care, wouldn’t be concerned at all, except that when I wear pants that fit my ever-expanding girth , there’s nothing in back to hold them up anymore, and  I run the risk of looking like a teenaged gang-banger.

Much as I hate the idea, I may have to buy some suspenders.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Big Bucks at the Big Show

Lots of money changing hands at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Auctions.

The Grand Champion Steer sold for $350,000 – nowhere near a record, but twice what was paid at last year’s show. 

The Grand Champion Lamb sold last week for a world record $200,000 and the Junior Show Grand Champion Goat brought $140k. 

Even this years Grand Champion Wine from the Rodeo Uncorked event sold for a new show record price of $210,000 for a single bottle.




A Katy high school student’s color pencil drawing of a man riding a horse raked in a record $205,000 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s School Art Auction last Sunday.
Seventeen-year-old Komal Agarwal, a junior at Seven Lakes High School, said “When I first started this drawing I was hoping and praying with every stroke of my pencil to just make it into the top 10,” she said. “I didn’t expect this to happen.”

Here’s the top entry in the Junior High division, it’s a watercolor painted by Michelle Huang of Ft. Bend ISD.

michelle huang ft bend

While this is about the Stock Show, I guess that I should mention that there have been some great rides and great scores over at the Rodeo.  For example, Barrel racer Sherry Cervi, who set a Houston record with a time of 14.59 seconds en route to winning the rodeo last year, already has broken that mark three times, setting the new low at 14.30 and winning all three go-rounds in the series to move on to the finals with $10,000 in her pocket.

Our next door neighbor, Wilson Graff, spent most of yesterday, well into yesterday evening, grooming his beautiful Red Angus heifer, Joleen.  He’ll be moving her up to the stock show early Wednesday morning.  She’ll compete in the Scramble Calf competition on Thursday and the Breeding Heifer show on Sunday.

Monday, March 14, 2011



I had a post planned for today, but my old buddy Bob Lieder sent me this.  It’s just too good not to use.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Free To Good Home


Free to a good home – or to anybody, good or evil who will come dig it up and fill in the hole – a 26,000 gallon in-ground vinyl pool, complete with pump, filtration system, diving board and expansive concrete patio/deck. 

The pool has served us well, providing untold hours of fun and relaxation over the years, and it was the site of several almost legendary pool parties when the kids were home. 

In some ways, a pool is like a puppy; everybody loves it and enjoys having it around, but somebody has to take care of it and  keep it healthy.  At the old Boggy Thicket, that somebody has always been me.  

Unfortunately, I think we’ve come to the point where the pool has (or  maybe I should say I have) outlived its usefulness.  Sadly, it has gone from being that well-loved source of fun and relaxation to just being a big expensive pain in the ass.

The trees around the pool have all grown 20 to 30 feet taller since the pool was installed, so now it only gets about four hours of direct sunlight per day.  Actually, at least some small part of the pool is in shade except for the period between about 12:15 and 2:45 p.m. As a result, the water temperature will cause immediate and deadly hypothermia until sometime in late June. 

Those same trees drop all their leaves in the pool beginning in early October, and continuing until about Mardi Gras.  In spite of my best efforts, and I do scoop numerous bushels of leaves out of the water every winter, by late February the water is opaque and about the color of a fresh cup of Earl Grey tea - no lemon, no cream.

Each spring, I spend multiple hours of manual labor and a few hundred dollars on chemicals just getting the pool to the point that Honey doesn’t think it is too ugly to sit beside.  Then I have to wait a few more months before the water is warm enough to jump in without giving myself a heart attack. 

Just about the time the water gets tolerable, we load up the 5th wheel and head out to see America.  By the time we get back, it’s time to start scooping those darn leaves again.  Our next-door neighbors have kept up the pool maintenance while we've been on the road for the last couple of years, and of course we told them to feel free to use the pool any time.  I suspect that they have gotten more enjoyment out of it in the last year or two than we have.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ugly Duckling

From the Thicket – a sort of extended Editor’s note:

The big news in Boggy Thicket land this morning is

  1. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan ( actually moved Japan about eight feet and shifted the earth’s tilt on its axis by a couple inches!)
  2. The Grand Champion Steer was named at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

I  didn’t want to write about either one.  I may talk about the steer tomorrow after the auction, but I’m really more interested in the heifer show – my neighbor Wilson Graff will be moving Joleen to the show on Tuesday.

Sooo, I pulled an article that I had saved for a slow day.

Normally, I would just publish the article and attribute it to its author, but this one was so poorly written that I essentially rewrote it myself.

The author of the original piece was trying so hard to be clever that the article became more about her than the subject.  In my opinion, which is really the only one that counts since it is My Blog, her effort wouldn’t have earned more than a D+ in a high school journalism class.

If you really want to read the original, you can find it here.

The Intel Science Talent Search is considered the nation’s most elite and demanding high school research competition, attracting the very best aspiring young scientists. Victors and near-victors in the 69-year-old
contest have gone on to win seven Nobel Prizes in physics or chemistry, two Fields Medals in mathematics, a half-dozen National Medals in science and technology, a long string of MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants — and now, an Academy Award for best actress in a
leading role.

This year, Natalie Portman, 29, won an Oscar for her
performance as Nina, a mentally precarious ballerina in the shock fantasy “Black Swan.” Among
the lesser-known but nonetheless  impressive details in Ms. Portman’s  career is that as a student at Syosset High School on Long Island back in the late 1990s, Ms. Portman made it all the way to the semifinal rounds of the Intel competition.
For those who know how grueling it can be to put together a prize-worthy project and devote hundreds of hours of “free” time at night, on weekends, during spring break and summer vacation, doing real, original scientific research while one’s friends are busy adolescing, the
achievement is testimony enough to Ms. Portman’s self-discipline and drive.
Yet there’s more. While carrying out her investigation into a new, “environmentally friendly” method of converting waste into useful forms of energy, and maintaining the straight-A average she’d managed since grade school, Ms. Portman already was a rising movie star. She’d been in films directed by Woody Allen, Tim Burton and Luc Besson, appeared opposite Julia Roberts,
Jack Nicholson, Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman, Drew Barrymore.  She took on the major role of Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy that rocketed her to international fame. And then she went on to Harvard University to study neuroscience and the evolution of the mind.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Disposal /Disposition

Years ago, I enjoyed a hilarious bit by a stand-up comic on the impossibility of getting rid of a worn out garbage can.  No matter what he tried or how it was labeled, the garbage collectors consistently returned it to his curb.

Disposal of human remains is at least as complicated, but it is something we (or at least our heirs) will eventually have to deal with.  Acceptable choices seem to be limited to burial  at land or sea, cremation, or some combination of the above.  I suppose that you could opt to donate your body to science, and let the laboratory, medical school, or whatever worry about what to do with the unwanted parts.  Back in the ‘80s, there was even a movement that urged you to to have your body separated into its various elements via destructive distillation, but the movement never got off the ground.

I was always attracted to George Carlin’s solution – he said that when he died, he wanted to be placed on a big pile of explosives and blown up.  It didn't happen, by the way, but probably should have.

GreenBurialsLogo-large The latest trend is “Green” burial.  Especially for the environmentally conscious who feel guilty for destroying the planet by walking around exhaling CO2, and  wish to avoid polluting the planet any further after their death.

The Natural Burial Co-op, doesn’t list a physical address on their website, but seems to be Canada based.  They do list some affiliates in the USA, including one facility, the Ethecian Family Burial Ground, just up the road a ways in San Jacinto County near Lake Livingston.

The “greenest” of the green options seems to be offered by Promessa, a group founded in Sweden and now in business in the UK.  I can’t find an American company offering their services, but it seems like a good business opportunity. 

Basically, Promessa offers to dip your cadaver in liquid nitrogen to make it extremely brittle, then use sound waves to vibrate your remains to a fine powder which could then be buried in a cornstarch-based cardboard box.  From their own website:

The promession process

  • The body is frozen to minus 18 degrees Celsius and then exposed in liquid nitrogen.
  • This makes the body fragile.
  • It is then vibrated which causes it to break down into an organic powder.
  • Then it is introduced into a vacuum chamber where the water is evaporated.
  • The now dry powder passes through a metal separator where any metals and mercury are removed.
  • The remains are now ready to be laid in a biodegradeable coffin.
  • The coffin is then buried in the living topsoil.
  • As a result the coffin and its contents turn into compost in about 6-12 months.
  • A bush or tree can be planted above the coffin.
  • The compost formed can then be taken up by the plant, which can instill greater insight and respect for the ecological cycle.
  • The plant stands as a symbol of the deceased.

My own American Indian ancestors, and numerous other societies used to have a tradition of just wandering off to die.  I’ll admit that population density might make that more difficult today, but I believe it is still doable, and might be a preferable alternative.

The Promessa website boasts of the awards they’ve won from other Green groups.  They don’t list prices, but they do attempt to make their process as attractive as possible, falling just short of promising to put the fun back in funerals.  Still, this promession thing does give a whole new meaning to the phrase “Dust to dust.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011



Benny the goldfish had a crush on a pretty little mermaid that had recently transferred into his school, and it seemed that the attraction was mutual.

When he asked her out she said no….

But she was just trying to be koi.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

C’mon Get Happy

The Lone Star State may be our home and we might think we are happy, but according to a new
national survey, Texas ranks as the 28th happiest state in the U.S.

New Mexico actually fared a little better, coming in 21st,  while Oklahoma was # 38, Louisiana – where the Good Times Roll – was 42nd, and in poor old Arkansas folks must be miserable – they came in at #47.

The happiest state was Hawaii, followed by Wyoming.  North Dakota came in third, although I’ve no idea what they have to be happy about; maybe they just don’t know any better.  Even with Disney World, Florida barely edged out Oklahoma.

In another glaring example of misleading journalism, the media headlined the whole thing as a happiness survey when it actually attempted to measure overall well-being.  The criteria included a good bit more than just happiness.

The survey, conducted by Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, sampled 352,840 adults living in all 50
U.S. States and the District of Columbia. People were asked about six categories of well-being including
life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behavior and basic


happy map

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Summer Vacation and the End of the World


If you’re one of those who accepted the idea that, based on  the  Mayan Calendar,  the world is coming to an end in December 2012 -

{The date December 21st, 2012 A.D. ( in the Long Count), represents an extremely close conjunction of the Winter Solstice Sun with the crossing point of the Galactic Equator (Equator of the Milky Way) and the Ecliptic (path of the Sun), what that ancient Maya recognized as the Sacred Tree. This is an event that has been coming to resonance very slowly over thousands and thousands of years. It will come to resolution at exactly 11:11 am GMT.}

- You may have less time than you think! 

end goingFollowers of a Fundamentalist talk-show host are convinced that the Rapture will occur on May 21st of this year.  According to CNN , a bunch of believers have sold and/or given away or just abandoned all their worldly possessions, bought motor-homes and are touring the country spreading the WORD.

end coming

By their calculations, the Rapture will be followed by all the bad stuff predicted in the book of Revelations, with the whole thing coming to a screeching halt on October 21st.

That has me wondering about our summer travel plans, and there are plusses and minuses, like:

  • The Rapture should mean that highways and campgrounds will be slightly less crowded.
  • Speculators will undoubtedly use Armageddon to push fuel prices even higher.

I’m tempted to just plan the trip of a lifetime.  No matter how high fuel prices go, if the world is ending in October, what’s the point in saving?  My wife, the voice of caution, would say “Yeah, but what if it’s not?  Then what are we going to do”  It’s a quandary.

I have no expectation of being caught up in the Rapture, but if, by some inexplicable quirk of Divine Intervention, I should be, then all bets are off.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Granny Panties

When I was young and impressionable, the first picture of a naked woman I ever saw was the famous Marilyn Monroe calendar that was somewhere in the service bay or storage area of every filling station and auto shop in 1950’s America. 

She was, according to studio publicity hacks and certain members of the Kennedy family, the sexiest woman alive, so imagine my amazement when I discovered that in that scandalous scene of Marilyn on the sidewalk grate she was wearing Granny Panties!

Like me, you may remember the picture like this

marilyn_monroe_famousdress_pictureBut an Associated Press photo – from a slightly different angle shows

associated press_marilyn_monroe_seven_yr_itch_L

I’m not upset – I never was that attracted to her anyway – but it does go to show that things have changed an awful lot in the last half century.  Today, no self-respecting American woman under the age of 45 or so would be caught dead in underwear like that.

Lingerie that used to be available through Fredericks of Hollywood is now openly on sale at Sears and Wal-Mart.  It is impossible to find a shopping mall of any size that doesn’t have a Victoria's Secret store.

And it is not just the USA, according to several stories on the internet,  Muslim women in countries where the Mullahs enforce strict Sharia Law often go for erotic undies beneath their hajib and burqa.  One article in Der Spiegel last year tells of a shop owner in Bahrain whose best seller is edible underwear.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wasn’t My Fault

After daily posts for almost a year there has been a conspicuous gap of just over a week. 

Sorry, but it wasn’t my fault  - my internet provider had problems that kept me off-line from one Thursday morning until the Saturday of the following week.  I had DSL, but Centurylink’s DNS server would not assign me an ip address. 

Thanks to one of the many calls to their help desk, I learned that  even though I couldn’t access the internet, I could use Internet Explorer to access (and actually make changes to) their server. Now, that is not the sort of information they really ought to be giving out – particularly to a customer that is getting as aggravated as I was by that time. 

I overcame temptation, but I still remember how to do it, and I still have the password.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

No Bat – No Blindfold


Four Sumatran Tiger Cubs celebrated their first birthday in February at the Melbourne, Australia, Zoo.  Local third-graders made them piƱatas, and even made an extra one for their mom.

Apparently a grand old time was had by all, but I can’t imagine it happening here – the very idea of enticing Babies to act like Predators would have the local PETA chapter storming the zoo with pitchforks and torches.  Not to mention the backlash from cat lovers over the idea of introducing papier mache into a little carnivore’s diet.

For video of the event, click Birthday Bash.