Tuesday, May 31, 2011



I’m sure that there is such a thing as objective fact, but I wonder if it has ever actually been perceived. 

Like the blind men with the elephant, we all observe the world/time/events/politics/religion/universe/etc.  from our own unique and personal point of view, one that has been colored by our perceptions and reactions to everything that we have experienced before. 

If my lower back had felt like this two weeks ago, I might have been complaining – Yeah, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a whiner – but it is so much better than last week that I’m very happy. 

It reminds me of the first time the Ringling Brothers - Barnum and Bailey Circus played the Astrodome.  We knew that the aerialists were 50-something feet above the arena floor, but they just weren’t exciting when looking Down on them from the cheap seats several stories above.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day and the Flag


When I was in fifth grade at Oak Forest Elementary, Val Jahnke and I (and one other kid) were given the honor of being on Flag Patrol.  That meant we were the ones who oversaw the raising and lowering of the American Flag on the school grounds every day. We took our job very seriously, even reporting that other kid to the principal for not taking it seriously enough. 

Today, desecration and burning of the flag is defined as Constitutionally Protected Free Speech, but we were sure that we could go to jail – or was it Hell? – if we allowed the flag to touch the ground.

Supreme Court notwithstanding, there are federally mandated rules of  flag etiquette.  Unlike most federal laws, there are no defined penalties for breaking the rules and no means of enforcement.

Everyone thinks they know the rules, but most are wrong on one aspect or another.  For example, were you aware  that the law states that the flag should only be flown at half-staff until noon today, then raised to the top of the pole?

The actual guidelines can be read Here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Exodus, Part Two - Problem Solved






The law of unintended consequences seems to come into play with every attempt by governments to solve almost any problem – witness the American decision to arm the Mujahedeen against the Russians in Afghanistan.  In spite of that, I’ve come up with a plan to solve a whole passel of problems in one fell swoop.

To be honest, this column started out as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the better I like it.  So, here’s the plan in a nutshell:

Give Israel back to the Palestinians, and move the Israelis to a New Israel along the US-Mexico border.  Make Jerusalem a truly international city with free access to all the holy places - administered by someone with no dog in the fight - someone like Samoa or Nepal.

Within its current borders, Israel is about 8,000 square miles, with part of that occupied by Palestinians.  That same 8,000 square miles could provide them with a two-mile strip of land from Matamoros to Tijuana.  Personally, I think we should expand that to 100 miles or so, and maybe throw in all of Baja California.

We could buy the land from Mexico.  Even if all the Arab States that want Israel gone weren’t willing to help foot the bill, the purchase would pay for itself in short order in the savings to the US in the costs of suppressing drug traffic and illegal immigration.

Would Mexico give it up?  Hell, yes!  There would be lots of rhetoric to the contrary, but send Hillary Clinton down with “an offer they couldn't refuse,”  and Calderon would fold in a heartbeat.  It would actually be doing Mexico a favor; they have proved themselves unable to control the area anyway.

Would brokering such a move make the Muslim extremists hate us any less?  Maybe -  Probably not -  But at least they would have to come up with another excuse.

There would be plenty of land for everyone; no need for the indigenous population to leave.  Of course nobody threw the Palestinians out after the Balfour Declaration. They left on their own, or at the urging of their Muslim neighbors. 

While prostitution is legal in Israel, they do have laws against brothels, so the border town whorehouses might have to go.  Given today’s social climate, boys from Texas high schools and San Diego naval bases ought to be able to get laid at home.

So what is the upside for Israel?  For once in their history, nobody would be lobbing rockets at their cities.  They would have lots more land with some valuable natural resources in a climate similar to where they are now.  The New Israel and the old would be located at  approximately the same latitudes – 29 something to 32 something – but the new state would stretch through several time zones. They already have a seaport on the Mediterranean now, but the move would give Israel  ports on the Atlantic (Gulf) and the Pacific.

As for the problem of the drug cartels, I have no doubt that the Israelis would have that situation squared away in no time at all.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dog Treat


Saw this cicada emerging from its shell yesterday morning and ran to get my camera.

I had planned to document the event with pictures every few minutes, but it was too low on the tree trunk.  By the time I went out to take the next picture, the dog had eaten it. 

While I didn’t actually see it happen, I’m sure that Tinker, our black and tan miniature dachshund, was the one that did it.  She is a dedicated hunter that eats everything she catches – moths, crayfish, lizards, moles – you name it, if she can chase it down or dig it up, she’ll eat it. 

Dachshunds aren’t supposed to be climbers, and they aren’t supposed to jump, but she doesn’t know it;  I’ve seen her go halfway up the side of our house after a lizard.

Friday, May 27, 2011



We have a bunch of coffee filters that I have been meaning to throw away since we got our Keurig coffee machine.

Today, I came across this list of uses for coffee filters and wondered how many of you have used them in any of the listed ways.

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome... Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.
3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.
9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
10 Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters..
13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them.. It soaks out all the grease.
14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers."
15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliquéing soft fabrics.
16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.
17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
18 Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.
19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies.. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.
21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.
22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.
23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a zip-lock plastic bag until they sprout.
24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book..
25. Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.
And they’re cheap! You
can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Tree for $1.00, even the large ones.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fill In The Blanks

Nothing to post this morning.  I’ve got an idea for a great column, but it is going to take a lot more thought than I’m willing to spend right now.

So – help me out. 

Please feel free to use comments to write your own Boggy Thicket post…..

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sock It To Me

Not much Blog fodder today.  About all there is to talk about is the continued lack of rain here at the Boggy Thicket and the terrible weather conditions elsewhere – been there, done that, got the T-shirt, etc.

My back still bothers me a little, but it’s much better and the subject is really sort of boring.


Today’s post is sort of an age test.  If you recognize the picture below, you’re old enough to remember some of the funniest bits ever aired on television.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Watch Your Tongue


My mama always told me that my tongue would get me in trouble.  She was right, but I don’t think this was what she meant!

Here’s my sad story:

Honey has been walking every day for a while now, two-plus miles up and down our driveway.  I join her some of the time, usually for less than a mile because walking up and down the driveway – even with a loving companion – is about the most boring activity ever conceived by man.

Anyway, yesterday morning she had already gone out and I was getting ready to join her.  I lifted my right foot up by my left knee and bent over slightly to adjust the tongue in my shoe.


I got an excruciating pain across my lower back.

All I could do was stand there and whimper at first, but I finally made it outside and told her what happened.

Two visits to the chiropractor yesterday (with another scheduled this afternoon) and I am much better.  There is some residual ache, but  it doesn’t really hurt much as long as I am standing, sitting or lying down.  Getting from any one position to another is still a bitch.

Monday, May 23, 2011



Houston’s 24th annual Art Car Parade took place yesterday afternoon along Allen Parkway.  It featured big armadillos, like the one above, and small ones, too.


This year’s selection even included an RV (of sorts)

hillbilly hilton

Built by Brent Scott of Magnolia, it features a wood-burning stove, and was created out of scrap wood and sheet metal – stuff rescued from junk piles – on an old Army deuce-and-a-half truck.

Sponsored by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, the parade has become a Houston tradition.  If there are any rules, they are mainly ignored, with participants not only in cars, but on bicycles and roller skates.  If there is such a thing as a typical entry, it would be something like this:


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Library Fines

400px-HoustonHeightsLibrary I practically lived at the Heights branch of the Houston Public Library from the age of ten to thirteen, so this story is somewhat personal to me:

Houston Mayor Annise Parker was forced to cut $75 million from next year’s budget, but she's also demanding city departments track down some of the $921 million the city is owed. 

That figure includes $300 million in traffic fines, but also an amazing $11.2 in library fines.
Houston libraries were cut $3.3 million in next year's budget; so much money they had to lay off 20 percent of their neighborhood library staff.  Just collecting a third of the outstanding fines would have made that unnecessary.
What's worse is most of the big bills are for stuff that was never returned and now can't be replaced.
The city says it's getting tough with people who owe the city money, but just how tough can a library get?
Sure, they cut off borrowing privileges once your bill gets to $25, but for the worst offenders it probably wouldn't matter. Most of the top 10 library delinquents walked with dozens of books or movies in just a few days before the library could cut them off.
Two guys who owe $2,200 apiece in library fines listed their addresses as drug treatment centers for the homeless, and they're not there anymore. They both have spent time in the Harris County Jail since they racked up their fines. In fact, five of the worst library delinquents have jail records -- only one for a library-related charge, he allegedly took a laptop and never returned it.
Another of the top 10 is dead.
The bottom line is none of them are likely to pay up, despite orders from Mayor Parker to get tough and get the cash.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


Not exactly a palindrome – You read it line for line instead of word for word, and the meaning certainly isn’t the same when read front-to-back and back-to front.  If there is a word for this type of writing I have not been able to find it.

Watch Jonathan Reed’s  Lost Generation  here, or read it below:


I am a part of a lost generation and I refuse to believe that

I can change the world.
I realize this may be a shock but
“Happiness comes from within”
is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy”
So in 30 years I will tell my children
They are not the most important thing in my life.
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
is more important than
I tell you this
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
But this will not be true in my era
this is a quick fix society
experts tell me
30 years from now I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.

And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

There is hope.
It is foolish to presume that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It will be evident that
My peers and I care about this earth
No longer can it be said that
Environmental destruction will be the norm
In the future
I will live in a country of my own making
I do not concede that
30 years from now I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce
experts tell me
this is a quick fix society
But this will not be true in my era
Families stayed together
Once upon a time
I tell you this
more important to than
I have my priorities straight because
My employer will know that
They are not the most important thing in my life.
So in 30 years I will tell my children
“Money will make me happy”
is a lie, and
“Happiness comes from within”
I realize this may be a shock but
I can change the world                                                                                          and I refuse to believe that I’m a part of a lost generation.

Friday, May 20, 2011



I don’t have any particular plans for this weekend, but if you do, I would like to offer my services.

Boggy Thicket is a nice quiet place in the country where you are welcome to store your luxury cars, hot rods, motorcycles and RVs.  We will be happy to keep your heirloom jewelry, antiques and artwork.

We could also provide shelter for a limited number of horses and dogs – cats are on their own.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Horses and Herpes

12x9 300 dpi
NSW governtment press image download 9/20/07

I haven’t owned horses since high school, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t even aware this disease existed. 

Equine Herpes Virus has been reported in several states in recent days, and it’s causing cancellation of horse-related events across the country.  Unlike other equine diseases like VEE, or other herpes virus strains, this one doesn’t affect humans - but they can be vectors,  transmitting the virus via hands and clothing.

Cutting-horse competitions scheduled for this coming weekend in nine states have been canceled; Washington State and Colorado State universities have quarantined their veterinary teaching hospitals; and two equestrian reining and jumping clinics in Colorado have been called off.

Utah state veterinarian Bruce King said Tuesday that he is recommending "that all events involving horses, mules and burros be canceled in Utah."

"People in the horse world are freaked," said one industry insider who spoke on condition of anonymity. "If horse sales don't come off and other shows lose an entire season, it will have a huge economic impact and could destroy some people financially."

Here’s the latest from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

Texas animal-health officials Wednesday confirmed one case of a horse infected with a deadly virus that is being blamed for shutting down events in Fort Worth and across the nation.

The horse, infected with a neurological form of the Equine Herpes Virus, or EHV-1, was from New Mexico but was taken to a West Texas veterinary clinic this week, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission. The horse is now home and under quarantine, the agency said.

The National Cutting Horse Association in Fort Worth reported Wednesday afternoon that a horse in Weatherford had tested positive for the virus and that it was under quarantine, too. The horse reportedly had been at the NCHA Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah, where a number of the infected horses participated, the group said.

While state and NCHA officials could not be reached to discuss the Weatherford case, state officials have said that they are investigating about 20 horses that were apparently taken to the national championships that ran from April 29 to May 8. Horses that attended the event are under movement restrictions. Texas officials said that they will continue to monitor all exposed horses and that it is possible that new cases will be diagnosed.

"Strict adherence to the imposed movement restrictions and practicing good biosecurity procedures by the involved horse owners will be the key to limiting the scope of this situation," Dr. Dee Ellis, Texas' state veterinarian, said in a statement.

At least 17 horses in six states and Canada have been infected with EHV-1, and at least three have died. Symptoms include hindquarter weakness and tremors, the state reported. Generally, fewer than half the animals that get the virus come down with the most serious neurological symptoms.

The disease is commonly transferred by air and is highly contagious. The disease can also can be spread through contact with contaminated objects and people's hands and clothing. The virus has no cure but poses no threat to humans.

NCHA Executive Director Jeff Hooper said Wednesday that all of its sanctioned events in the U.S. this weekend have been canceled, and that the group will decide early next week about the following weekend's shows. The NCHA has about 20,000 members.

"We thought it was best to err on the side of caution and minimize the transport of horses," Hooper said. "People are concerned, but people also want factual information."

As a precautionary measure, the Texas Quarter Horse Association has also canceled cutting-horse events scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at the annual Texas Classic Show in Fort Worth, according to its executive director, Barbara Linke.

But only the cutting events have been canceled because the outbreak at the national championship isn't believed to have affected horses in other disciplines, she said.

The NCHA said it is not mandating the cancellation of shows, but it supports affiliates and show producers that do so in the interest of horse health. Texas animal-health officials have not recommended shows be shut down or imposed more stringent restrictions on interstate transport of animals, but they said that decision will be re-evaluated daily.

Lindy Burch, a former president of the NCHA and a member of the Cutting Horse Trainers Hall of Fame, said owners need to keep their horses on their ranches.

"Horses went their separate ways [after the Utah competition] before people knew what was going on," she said. "They went back to several states."

Burch said she gave 40 horses an immune system stimulus to help protect them, and she tested seven that went to this month's Breeder's Invitational.

Cutting-horse owners could be affected financially if shows are canceled, she said.

However, she added, "Nothing matches the devastation of losing a great horse. The loss of money pales in comparison to losing a horse."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

K-Cup Expense Justified?

coffee cartoon

A 20-year study of almost 50,000 men found those who drank at least six cups a day were 20 per cent less likely to get prostate  cancer than those who never touched the stuff.

Two-thirds of those taking part drank at least one cup of coffee a day and 5 per cent got through at least six, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports.

Strikingly, they were 60 per cent less likely than the non-coffee drinkers to die of the disease.

However, the Harvard University researchers say that non-coffee drinkers shouldn’t change their habits based on this study alone.

Some 5,035 of the 47,911 men developed prostate cancer, with 642 of the tumors classed as lethal, meaning the men died from the disease or were expected to.

Even relatively small amounts of coffee – one to three cups per day – lowered the risk of lethal prostate cancer by 30 per cent. And bigger amounts had a bigger effect.

Importantly, the link cannot be explained away by the coffee drinkers having healthier lifestyles. In fact, they were more likely to smoke and did less exercise.

Caffeine is credited with a host of health benefits, including cutting the odds of asthma, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

But in this case, the researchers believe that other plant chemicals in coffee are behind the benefits.  They think compounds such as anti-oxidants may cut the odds of prostate cancer and reduce the likelihood of deadly tumors by altering levels of sex hormones, regulating blood sugar levels and cutting inflammation.

Those who like to restrict their caffeine intake will be glad to know the study found decaffeinated coffee to be just as effective.

Kathryn Wilson, the study’s lead author, said: ‘If our findings are validated, coffee could represent one modifiable factor that may lower the risk of developing the most harmful form of prostate cancer.’

Dr Helen Rippon, head of research management at the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: ‘It is important to remember that studying diet is difficult because you are not studying a standardized product – coffee can be prepared in many different ways from many different varieties of bean.

‘That is why it is so important that studies like this are repeated by others, to see if the result stands up in other groups of men.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Education vs. Training


Yes, that’s me looking over the shoulder of one of my students.  For the last ten years before I retired, I was a full-time teacher.  I was manufacturer-certified to train our technicians on a variety of products from Ricoh, Canon, Kyocera-Mita, Konica-Minolta, and HP.  I had also earned the industry standard designation of CompTIA  Certified Technical Trainer.  The courses I taught ranged from four hour supervised self-training on fax machines and printers, to a six week course on a high-volume color machine that sold (with peripherals) for a quarter of a million dollars.

While public school teachers like to refer to themselves as educators, those of us who taught technical courses in industry preferred to be known as trainers.  I was often asked why, and the best explanation was one I heard at a Canon trainers’ conference at Disney World several years ago.

The speaker was discussing the difference between education and training, and he gave this example:

“Suppose your 13 year old daughter came home from school and told you she had signed up for an elective course called Sexual Education?

Depending on things like your politics or religion, you might have some concerns, but chances are you wouldn’t be too upset.”

He paused, took a sip of water, and then said,

“But what if she came home and told you ‘Dad, I just signed up for Sexual Training?”

Monday, May 16, 2011


 VisitedStatesMap (1) VisitedProvincesMapSmall

All of the plans are set and reservations made for our next long trip.  That’s the good news; the bad news is that we can’t leave until July, and I’m already champing at the bit.  Our travelling buddies, the Sheltons, have commitments that will keep them home until then.

Actually,  quite a few of the stops along the Mississippi (and the Red River in Minnesota) are, have been, or soon will be, affected by flooding; July makes a lot more sense.

We will be filling in a lot of that blank area in the upper mid-west, adding Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to our Been there/Camped there map.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Monet Refuses the Operation


Doctor, you say that there are no haloes around the streetlights in Paris and what I see is an aberration caused by old age, an affliction. I tell you it has taken me all my life to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels, to soften and blur and finally banish the edges you regret I don't see, to learn that the line I called the horizon does not exist and sky and water, so long apart, are the same state of being. Fifty-four years before I could see Rouen cathedral is built of parallel shafts of sun, and now you want to restore my youthful errors: fixed notions of top and bottom, the illusion of three-dimensional space, wisteria separate from the bridge it covers. What can I say to convince you the Houses of Parliament dissolve night after night to become the fluid dream of the Thames? I will not return to a universe

of objects that don't know each other, as if islands were not the lost children of one great continent.  The world is flux, and light becomes what it touches, becomes water, lilies on water, above and below water, becomes lilac and mauve and yellow and white and cerulean lamps, small fists passing sunlight so quickly to one another that it would take long, streaming hair inside my brush to catch it. To paint the speed of light! Our weighted shapes, these verticals, burn to mix with air and changes our bones, skin, clothes to gases. Doctor, if only you could see how heaven pulls earth into its arms and how infinitely the heart expands to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

~ Lisel Mueller~

(Sixty Years of American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets)



Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bill of Rights Used To Be 10 Amendments

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Except at airports or in the State of Indiana !

A lot has been written in recent months about the loss of our Fourth Amendment rights to  X-ray cameras and public groping by TSA employees at airports.  It has even given rise to a new company that prints the amendment in metallic ink on underwear.



Now the Indiana Supreme Court has found a new way to trash our Constitutional Right against unreasonable search and seizure:

Associated Press: INDIANAPOLIS—

People have no right to resist if police officers illegally enter their home, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a decision that overturns centuries of common law.
The court issued its 3-2 ruling on Thursday, contending that allowing residents to resist officers who enter their homes without any right would increase the risk of violent confrontation. If police enter a home illegally, the courts are the proper place to protest it, Justice Steven David said.

    "We believe ... a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," David said. "We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest."
    Justices Robert Rucker and Brent Dickson strongly dissented, saying the ruling runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure, The Times of Munster reported.
    "In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally -- that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances," Rucker said.
    Dickson said, "The wholesale abrogation of the historic right of a person to reasonably resist unlawful police entry into his dwelling is unwarranted and unnecessarily broad."

    Friday, May 13, 2011



    If there is one good thing about going for so darn long without rain – we got some more on Thursday, but the thunderstorms petered out a few miles west of us – it is that we have enjoyed a spring almost totally devoid of mosquitoes.  That is likely to change very soon, and we’ll be hearing stories about disease-bearing pests in every storm drain, ditch, spare tire or mud puddle.

    It won’t help yet, but the skeeters may have met their match:

    New Insect Repellent is ‘Thousands of Times’ More Effective Than DEET

    Researchers at Vanderbilt looking for better ways to control the spread of malaria have stumbled across an insect repellent that is thousands of times stronger than DEET.

    But it doesn’t just work to confuse malaria-carrying mosquitoes. This new compound works against all insects, including flies, ants, and moths.

    The compound known as VUAA1 was borne of recent discoveries about the fundamental way that mosquitoes smell. Just a few years ago, it was thought that the basic sniffing mechanism for mosquitoes was very similar to that of mammals — that is, that odorant receptors (ORs) sitting atop nerve cells are tuned to different molecules, and when a receptor comes in contact with its target molecule it notifies the brain via the nerve.

    But mosquitoes’ olfactory senses works a bit differently. It turns out their ORs rely on a sort of nerve switchboard, a co-receptor called Orco.

    When an OR detects an odorant molecule, it activates while the other ORs on a given antenna remain deactivated. The Orco acts as a sort of switch that tells the brain which OR is activated, and thus what molecule is being detected.

    VUAA1 is basically a molecule that triggers the Orco directly rather than the ORs seperately. Like a sort of universal signal, it stimulates all OR-Orco connections, essentially simulating the effect of all the different receptors on an antenna firing at once.

    For the mosquito, this creates sensory overload, like tasting something that tastes like every possible flavor at once.

    In the presence of VUAA1, mosquitoes basically can’t smell anything, which confounds their ability to sniff out blood or anything else.

    Now the obvious question is: what else does VUAA1 do? The Vanderbilt team is working to better characterize the compound and to strip away any parts of it that don’t contribute to its effectiveness. They will then start testing it for toxicity and other attributes that might have negative impacts on people or the environment.

    The good news is that even if there doesn’t happen to be a safe commercial application for VUAA1, the science is still there. Having found this unique means to overwhelm the common mosquito could lead to better future repellents that keep mosquitoes and other pests at bay (without being deadly/toxic) — be it in malaria-prone regions of the world, in agricultural settings, or simply in the backyard.


    Editor’s note: Google has been having problems with Blogger. Yesterday they shut the site down and pulled all items posted after some point Wednesday morning.  The site is back up now, and they say they have reposted all the items they pulled.  That may be so, but this post (from Thursday) still isn’t coming up on my blog.  If it ends up showing up twice, that’s why.



    After what seemed like an eternity, and actually did last for weeks, the drought at Boggy Thicket may have broken!

    We actually had a light, soaking rain that began while we were making supper yesterday and continued through the evening.  More rain in today’s forecast – 20% this morning increasing to 40% this afternoon, with the possibility of severe thunderstorms this evening.



    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Boys in a boat


    Last year I posted several stories about three different teenaged girls attempting to sail solo around the world.  Today I came across this incredible survival story of three boys in the South Pacific.  It takes a while to read, but it’s worth it:

    boys in a boat

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    How Dry I Am

    Average Rainfall for Houston, Texas

    According to official weather bureau statistics – totals measured at Bush Intercontinental Airport – January is the only month slightly wetter than normal this year.  If you don’t count the almost 2 inch deluge of January 24 (when we hardly got any rain at all at our house) January would’ve been drier than normal, too.

    So far, our rainfall is  10 inches below normal for the year, and that does not take into account a drier than normal fall.  We had no – zero, zilch, nada -  measurable rainfall in April, none so far in May, and none predicted in today’s forecast.  There is no more than a 30% chance of precipitation forecast for any day in the foreseeable future.

    If the Boggy Thicket becomes desert property, do you think the horny toads will come back?

    horned toad

    Monday, May 9, 2011


    I spent most of last week telling stories about my paternal grandfather, so I would like to devote today’s post to my dad’s mother.

    Mam-maw was quiet, kind and hard-working, and just being married to Pop for all those years qualified her for sainthood.  She raised three children of her own during the difficult times of the Great Depression, and she played a major role in the early years of my cousin Shirley.

    She had a remarkable gift for getting you to be on your best behavior without ever raising her voice.  She always called me Bobby, but if she ever called me Bobby Allen, I knew that I had reached the end of my tether and I’d better back off.  I did, of course, immediately.  I would’ve rather walk through fire than disappoint her.

    She made dance costumes for Shirley’s first ballet recital, and soon (and for years thereafter) she was making dozens of costumes for the dancers from the prestigious Hallie Pritchard School of Dance.  Most of the girls on the stage at the Music Hall during their annual recital were wearing costumes she created.  She sewed them all on an old treadle Singer, then added all the beads, bows and sequins by hand. 

    I remember a day when I was twenty and I was helping my grandparents weed their vegetable garden.  Mam-maw seemed to be moving awfully slow, and her hoe hardly seemed to move at all.  When Pop and I stopped for a drink of water after about an hour of chopping weeds in the hot sun, she just kept on going.  At the end of the day, she had cleared almost half again as many rows as Pop and I together.

    If she was ever sick, I never knew about it – I certainly never heard her complain about her health, not even a headache. 

    When Pop died, things changed in a hurry.  Within a few short weeks of his death, a mole on her forehead – one that had been there all of my life - became cancerous and metastasized.  She went to join my grandfather within days of the diagnosis.  I was in a six-week school at 3M headquarters in Minnesota at the time, and she was gone before I knew anything was wrong. 

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Mother’s Day

    A couple of Mother’s Day cards – I couldn’t decide, so you get both:



    By the way, where does the apostrophe go?  I placed it before the s like mother – singular, but should it be after the s?  I notice that many cards avoid the issue by just leaving it out.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Little Brown Jug

    Earlier this week, we pretty well established that my grandfather drank a lot of beer.  He drank beer almost exclusively, but their kitchen cabinet held a bottle of Four Roses brand bourbon that was brought out on holidays and that my grandmother used for medicinal purposes. 

    Four_RosesI can still remember her home-made cough medicine; made with Four Roses,  some herbs and a dollop of honey.  As a child, I thought it was a lot worse than having a sore throat.

    Pop also kept a gallon jug of moonshine hidden out in the garage. It looked a lot like this:


    Unfortunately, it also looked a whole lot like this:

    purexWhen I was three and my cousin Billy was four, we found what we thought was Pop’s moonshine.

    • Brown jug – Check!
    • Smells awful – Check! 

    We didn’t notice, and we couldn’t have read, the letters on the bottle that spelled out P-U-R-E-X

    Billy took a big slug from the jug.  He started coughing, his eyes were watering, he started drooling and choking, and then he passed out.

    I ran back in the house yelling that Billy was dying.  The adults grabbed him up and rushed him to the hospital where the doctors did whatever they do to a kid who just drank bleach.  Eventually, they brought him around.

    Billy spent the night in the hospital, and the next week being fawned over – waited on hand and foot like the crown prince of Arabia. 

    Nobody thanked me for saving his life. 

    In fact, I got the whoopin’ of my young life just for being there.  That happened 65 years ago, and I guess that I still resent it a little bit.  Sometimes there just ain’t no justice.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    “Witching” Warts


    Somehow, this seems to have become “Pop” week on the Boggy Thicket blog.  Not sure how that happened, but since it has:

    My paternal grandfather was a character, to put it mildly.  He had a sly, dry, sense of humor, he loved to smoke his pipe and drink cold beer.  He ate fresh sliced tomatoes and Bermuda onions with every meal except breakfast, and he could cure warts.

    We now know that warts are a skin condition caused by a virus, a variant of the same the human papillomavirus (HPV) that is among the most common of STDs, and there are several effective products on the market for their control. 

    Long before science had a cure, Pop could “witch” them away. He would take the patient into a darkened room and would quietly rub the wart for a minute or two.  Then he would tell them that the wart would disappear within 24 to 48 hours.  I have no idea how or why, but they always did.

    He cured one similar to the picture above from my hand when I was about 12 or 13, and I tried everything I could to get him to teach me how he did it.

    Pop told me that it was an old family secret that he had learned from his grandmother.  He said he couldn’t tell me because it could only be passed from female to male or male to female.  He had already decided that my aunt didn’t have the gift, but in a few more years, he might pass it along to my sister or my cousin Shirley. 

    As far as I know, he never did.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Chivalry on Washington Avenue

    beer joint

    It was sometime during the summer of my eleventh birthday, so let’s say that I was eleven.

    My paternal grandfather had already had the first of his strokes and was semi-retired.  I doubt if it was prescribed therapy - more likely, it was just because Pop was Pop - but every day he would walk down to Washington Avenue and stroll a couple miles along the street.  Whatever therapeutic effects the walk  might have produced were tempered by the fact that he would stop for a beer at just about any ice house or beer joint he passed.

    I had accompanied him on his tour one day, and we were sitting in a beer joint when a woman put a nickel in the jukebox, selected a Bob Wills song, and then came over and invited me to dance.  I was a whole lot surprised and a little bit embarrassed.  She was probably in her late 40’s, but to me she looked older than dirt.  I politely but firmly declined.

    When she left, Pop said “Boy, that was just wrong.  Don’t you know anything about chivalry?”


    You always dance with a lady that asks you, especially if she ain’t so pretty.”

    See,” he continued, “A pretty girl don’t think twice about asking a feller to dance, but a girl that nobody’s likely to ask - a girl that ain’t so popular, one that’s kind of chunky, a little cross-eyed or has a bit of a moustache – well, it pretty much takes all she’s got to screw up her courage and ask a feller to join her on the dance floor.  You turn her down, you’ve just tromped on what little bit of pride she’s got.  Why, she may never build up the nerve to try again.”

    I’m sorry,” I said.  “I never thought of that.”

    “Don’t tell me,” he said.  “I ain’t the one you hurt.”

    I went over and put a nickel in the jukebox and selected Tennessee Waltz.  I went to the woman and told her that I thought I might be able to dance to that, if she was still interested.

    I was vaguely familiar with the box step, but she led and she held me a lot closer than I expected.  Since I was still a little under five feet tall, my face ended up planted firmly in her décolletage.  Even so, we made it through the song without serious injury.

    After the dance, she led me back to our table.  She gave me a big smile and a quick kiss on my forehead.

    Don’t that feel better?” Pop asked.

    Yes sir.” I replied.

    He leaned toward me and grinned.  “Did you feel her up?”



    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Southern Select II

    My paternal grandfather wasn’t a drunk, but he did like his beer, and he was well known at just about every ice house and beer joint along Washington Avenue.

    Back in the 50’s, and even today, breweries and beer distributors employed folks to represent their brand, not as salesmen, but strictly to build good will.

    Around 1951 or 52, Southern Select Beer’s version of the Miller Lite Girls was a young man whose job was to:

    • Stop in at a bar.
    • Walk up behind a patron.
    • With a hand on the guy’s shoulder, loudly announce,                                                                             
      Give this man a Southern Select!”

    One day, one of these PR guys picked my grandfather.

    When the fellow made his announcement, Pop slowly looked him up and down (In his spit-shined shoes and Robert Hall suit, the guy stood out like a sore thumb in that blue-collar bar) and said, “Appreciate the offer, Son, but druther have a Pearl.”

    The poor guy just stood there for what seemed like an eternity.  Finally, he shook his head and said “Oh Hell. Give the guy his Pearl beer.” and left to a round of applause.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Southern Select


    I continue to be amazed (and occasionally led astray) by the amount of information available on the internet.

    Just this morning, for example, I was planning to relate a story about my grandfather and wanted to do a quick fact-check about Southern Select beer.  I was bombarded – almost buried -  with historical information about Galveston-Houston Breweries, Inc.

    All I was really looking for was the location of their Houston brewery - 715 Franklin at Travis.  I knew it was just down Washington Avenue from Pop’s favorite bar, but I didn’t know its history, or the fact that it is now both a Texas and a nationally designated Historical Building.  Now known as the Magnolia Ballroom, it can be rented for special occasions if you have a ton of money.

    The old Galveston Ice and Brewing Company was originally founded in 1895 by Anheuser-Busch and some local investors.  They weathered the Great Galveston Hurricane, and when prohibition became the law of the land, they converted to the manufacture of soft drinks.  Their top brand, Triple XXX Root Beer, gave rise to a chain of root beer stands across the South, and along the West Coast from San Diego to Vancouver, British Columbia.

    It wasn’t all Roses for Triple XXX, though.  In 1960, the United States Food and Drug Administration released a ruling that sassafras (oil of saffron) as a food and beverage ingredient was a suspected  carcinogen. Its use would no longer be permitted in a long list of items which included root beer. Beverage companies were given a "grace period" of one year to reformulate their root beer products.

    Triple XXX Corporation's management, with the help of an independent flavor laboratory in New Orleans, was able to retain the "Triple XXX" root beer taste. But without oil of saffron, the traditional foamy head characteristic of draft root beer was pretty much irreplaceable. Eventually, the industry's flavor chemists found alternative ingredients that were close enough to produce the appearance of "draft style" root beer. And most important for fans of Triple XXX root beer, its distinctive creamy root beer taste was preserved.

    See what I mean? I was supposed to be researching beer, or geography – not root beer!

    Because of the high salt content of  the well-water, Galveston Brewing was forced to distill the water to make Southern Select.  They tried to turn that into a positive, pointing out in their advertising that Southern Select was the only beer in the South made with pure distilled water.

    Another useless but interesting factoid I learned was that Shields Park (Sheppard Park on Google Maps) in Galveston was originally named Shield (singular) Park after the big sign on the brewery across the street.

    The Galveston brewery was purchased by Falstaff, which dropped the Southern Select label after a couple years.  Falstaff was later acquired by Pabst; they quit making Falstaff in 2005.

    The story about Pop and Southern Select? Well, this is getting pretty long – maybe I’ll tell you tomorrow.

    Monday, May 2, 2011


    crawfish farm

    Still no rain here – today’s forecast has a probability of 20% this morning, increasing to a whopping 40% by late evening, the best chance we’ve had in months.

    The one thing we do know for sure is that the drought is already hitting the pocketbook in ways you might not have considered.  For example, the price of crawfish is going up.

    Many of the rice farmers between here and the Louisiana border raise crawfish in their fields in the years that they don’t plant rice, and some of them have converted completely to raising ditch-bugs as their primary cash crop.  Regulations have made it increasingly difficult and expensive to pump water to flood the fields, so the lack of rain has hit them hard.

    A story from a local TV station last night said:

    The drought conditions in southeast Texas are prompting crawfish farmers to warn of higher prices over the next few months.

    "The crawfish are running probably at least 50 cents a pound higher than they normally do," said Shane Cheshon, the co-owner of Texas Crawdaddy’s, where live purged crawfish was selling at $2.45 a pound on Sunday.

    He said crawfish prices typically drop slightly after Easter and Mother’s Day as demand falls. But this year, the drought conditions are threatening to keep them high.

    To explain why, Cheshon pointed to his nearby crawfish field.

    "Normally the water level would be way up here where my foot's at,” he said, pointing at the ground. “But just in the last two weeks, the water's already receded."

    He added that the traps were having a tough time capturing the usual amount of crawfish so he’s had to import more from Louisiana. Those farmers in Lousiana are also having to work harder to pump water in their fields because of the dry conditions, he said.

    "I don't think you're going to see crawfish prices any lower than they are right now for the rest of the year," Cheshon said.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    May Day


    If there is one holiday with serious identity issues, it has to be the first of May.  May Day can be as innocent as the young maidens dancing with their ribbons around a maypole, as foreboding as the cold war military parades is Moscow, or somewhere in between, like the trade union marches in Boston or Detroit.

    If you sail or fly, May-Day can also mean a call for help.  A mispronunciation of the French M’aider, the radio call literally means help me.  Since English has traditionally been the universal language of radio communication for ships and planes, it’s interesting that something as serious as a plea for help would be in French – probably a bunch of condescending jokes there, but I’ll leave it alone.

    In the past year, M’aider has also become an acronym.  The M’aider Project (stands for Maritime Aids’ Development for Emergency Responses) was formed by a group of European institutions for the education and training of naval and merchant marine officers.  As defined by their website, the project is:

    The systematic attempt in developing accident or incident scenarios for training of young cadets and seafarers working at sea and ports in emergency situations in considered novel and has not been done before. The M’AIDER project concerns those aspects of human error related to emergency situations which can be corrected through the removal of existing deficiencies in the Maritime Education and Training (MET) of cadet officers as well as those working on board vessels as officers of various ranks. The study of accidents and incidents at sea will identify the emergency situations and provide adequate information as to how various scenarios could be prepared and simulated in various types of simulators including integrated and full-mission ship simulators. The main focus is on the training of Deck officers as the accidents are directly related to the activities on the bridge including communication within the team and engine department. When accidents are analysed it can be seen clearly that the development of training programme for deck officers are unique to prevent accidents and cannot be developed in general form and should be based on real accidents to focus their attention on what could await them at sea.