Monday, December 31, 2012

Worst Court Decision of 2012

What was the worst decision of 2012? 

Most conservatives would argue that the US Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare; co-opting an argument the government had actually denied in order to find a way to make it legal, was the hands-down winner.

The day after the Supreme Court announced its bombshell health-care decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joked that he would be fleeing to Malta. It’s “an impregnable fortress island,” he quipped at a judges’ conference in Pennsylvania. “It seemed like a good idea.” He actually did fly to the Mediterranean nation to teach a two week course on the history of the court.

With the goal in sight, and closing on the finish line, Obamacare has been overtaken by a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that (while it may technically be legally correct) has Lady Justice wringing the tears from her blindfold as she runs screaming from the building.

melissa nelson

That’s Melissa Nelson posing with her daughter on a happier day. 

Melissa is a former dental assistant from Fort Dodge, Iowa. After she had worked for the same dentist for ten years, her 53 year old employer, a Dr. Knight, apparently suffered a mid-life crisis. 

He began making inappropriate remarks and sending her suggestive texts.  Although she did nothing to reciprocate, actually did nothing wrong (except failing to report him) she got fired. The reason given was that he found her to be too attractive, making her a distraction at work and a danger to his marriage.

In a conference the next day with her husband and Dr. Knight’s minister, the dentist said that Melissa had done nothing wrong, and was the best dental assistant he had ever had.

After a two-year battle in the courts, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled this month that the firing did not constitute sexual discrimination as defined by Iowa law.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Space Babies

Came across this picture the other day. 

It is a Chinese poster promoting their space program.  I’m not promoting anything – have no opinion about the Chinese space program one way or the other, but there’s something about the picture – a little creepy, maybe, but appealing…space babies

Saturday, December 29, 2012

In Between Thoughts

Today is sort of an in-between day. 

Nothing really happening worth posting, and I’m really not ready to think about New Years yet – especially with all the doom and gloom predictions about the Fiscal Cliff.

So I thought I would mention that I was very pleased with the Christmas gifts I got this year. 

I was particularly pleased (and surprised) to get a Pendleton shirt.  When I’ve been asked for the last several years, I’ve always said I wanted one, but after several years, I finally decided it was never going to happen.  This year, I didn’t ask for one, and Honey got me one.

beach boys plaid

Pendleton calls it a “Board Shirt” and this particular plaid is a recent re-release of the one the Beach Boys wore on their Surfer Girl album cover.

surfer girl

Apparently, not everyone was as pleased with their presents as I was.  I came across a collection of Tweeter posts called  Worst Xmas Ever!  I’ll warn you that these kids use language that I won’t use on my blog, but I guess it’s the way kids talk – and tweet - these days.

Friday, December 28, 2012


48th anniversary

Today, Honey and I celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.  This  very special day, commemorating 48 years of wedded bliss, calls for some very special activities. 

Already today, I have taken  Honey into Humble for a mammogram, and later I may go fill up the truck – maybe even go to the grocery store.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

After-Christmas Stuff

Back home from  Christmas in Bertram and Liberty Hill .  Actually got home yesterday, but didn’t get around to posting anything.  Everybody seems to have been pleased with their presents, and there was lots of good food and good company.  The cedar pollen reminded Honey once again why there is no way she would ever consider living in the Hill Country.

Actually, not much to say today:

  • Overnight temps here last night were above freezing, but it’s still too cold to want to do anything outside.
  • Only one lawn chair in the pool.  With the high winds over Christmas, I was sure there would be several.
  • Winds caused a power outage that lasted from noon on Christmas until about 3:45 yesterday.  No problem for us- the automatic generator came on and ran until the power was restored.
  • The Graff’s next door “borrowed” water from us until the lights came back on.  Didn’t cost us anything – Ernest did all the work hooking and unhooking hoses, etc. - but they were so grateful, you’d think we had given them the moon.
  • 8O° at the Boggy Thicket on December 23, so when we left, the thermostat was still set to cool.  It was 60° in the house when we got home about noon on the 26th.  Not bad, considering how cold it got over Christmas, I expected it to be cooler.
  • Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary – number 48.  Signing off to go ask Honey what she wants to do.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Back on Tuesday, I called Travis Shelton to wish him a happy anniversary.  He asked what we were doing that evening, and we ended up going to dinner with Travis, Cheryl, their kids and grandkids.  It was 48 years ago on the 18th of December when I was best man at their wedding; ten days later he was best man at mine. 

1964 was a good year to get married for us, but according to a story from NBC Los Angeles, one California couple wasn’t so lucky.


In 1964 Norma and Bob Clark had a wonderful wedding in Northern California. Everything was perfect.

Nearly five decades later, the happily married couple, now in their seventies, live in Redlands.

But while getting paperwork in order in case one of them passed away, they made a somewhat disturbing discovery -- they were never legally married, because they had no marriage license.

"I couldn't find it, and couldn't find it for a reason, because it wasn't there," Norma Clark said.

When couples get a marriage license, the person who then marries them must return the license to their county record office, where it becomes the marriage certificate.

The pastor who married the Clark's apparently never did that.

Bob Clark went to the San Bernardino County Hall of Records to try to fix everything.

"I just went in there thinking I could just do it, and she said, 'No, no, you have to have witnesses,'" Clark said.

"Well, you know most people at our wedding are dead. If we had waited a couple more years, we would have been in trouble.”

Luckily, the Clarks had their old maid of honor and an usher in town for the holidays. The four of them, among others, finally made it official.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Helpful Signs

Didn’t write a post for this morning.  There didn’t seem to be much point since the world was supposed to end about 5:11 a.m.

Since we’re still here, I decided to share a collection of signs from various campgrounds and parks.

antenna down


alligator sign 


bumpy road

caution sign


Thursday, December 20, 2012


Okay, I’ll admit it’s a terrible song – politically incorrect on several levels – but when I think about visiting relatives  for Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is Robert Earl Keen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What’s In A Name


Order a Budweiser in the United States, and you’ll get a beer made by Anheuser-Busch.  Oddly enough, that is not true in much of the world.  Order Budweiser in Germany, Japan or Viet Nam, and the brew comes from a Czech brewery called Budvar.

Both companies have claims with at least some validity, and they have been fighting in various courts around the world for exclusive rights to the name for over 100 years.

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in the city of Ceske Budejovice — called Budweis at the time by the German-speaking people who formed about 40 percent of the area's population. Beer has been brewed there since 1265 and has been known for centuries as Budweiser.

Budvar argues that only beer that is brewed in this corner of the Czech Republic can be called Budweiser.

The founders of Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis used the name for their product because it was so well-known. The brewer, founded in 1852, began producing Budweiser, America's first national beer brand, in 1876 — 19 years before Budvar was founded.

The two companies have been in a legal battle since 1906. Today, the dispute is being waged through 61 lawsuits in 11 countries.

When the companies do not have exclusive rights to the Budweiser brand in a country, they resort to using slightly altered names. Anheuser-Busch  sells its Budweiser as Bud in many European countries. Budvar sells its lager as Czechvar in the U.S.  Houston’s huge liquor store Spec's has Czechvar in bottles and kegs.

Things are even more complicated in England. Both brewers were granted the right to use the name in 2000 after a British court ruled that drinkers were aware of the difference between the two beers. A British  appeals court this summer rejected a request to have Budvar's trademark declared invalid.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fear of Flying – This Helps A Lot


I don’t know whether it is the product of bravado, a case of whistling past the graveyard, or just a warped sense of humor, but it seems to me that there are an awful lot of airports named after people who died in plane crashes.

The undisputed champion in this category must be Oklahoma City; their primary airport is named for Will Rogers, and their secondary commercial airport is named for Wiley Post, who was piloting the plane in which Rogers died, and was also killed in the crash.

Atchison, Kansas, named their airport for Amelia Earhart.  Although new evidence was supposedly found this past August, neither her body nor her plane have been found after 75 years of searching the South Pacific. Most reasonable people moved her from the missing to the dead category long ago, and it is safe to say that she died in a plane crash.

Love Field in Dallas was named for an army lieutenant who crashed his biplane in 1913 while practicing for his military aviator exam, and Chicago’s O’Hare was named for Charles O’Hare, the navy’s first WWII ace and a medal of honor winner.  He was shot down over the pacific ocean in 1943.


I’m told that air force bases are typically named for pilots that crashed and died.

He did not get an entire airport, but when Houston dedicated terminal D at IAH, it was named for Mickey Leland, a local congressman who died in a crash in Africa.


New Orleans didn’t exactly name its airport for a dead guy, but its three-letter airport code is based on an early aviation accident. 

John Moisant was an aviation pioneer, and founder of  Moisant International Aviators, a flying circus that went barnstorming around the United States. In 1910, he caught by a gust of wind as he was attempting to land,was thrown from his Bleriot monoplane and landed on his head.

The airport retains its "MSY" identifier, derived from the airport's origins as "Moisant Stock Yards" the name given to the land where Moisant's fatal airplane crash occurred, and upon which the airport was later built.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Vote That Counts


Forget November – the election that really matters happens today.

Electoral College Diagram

In Texas, not so much, since our electors are committed to voting for the losing candidate, but today is the day that the Electoral College delegates meet to cast their votes for the next President of the United States.

Federal law states that Electoral College voters meet on the Monday after the second Wednesday of December.

Thirty-eight Texans - one from each congressional district and two selected statewide - will gather in the state House chamber at 2 p.m. today to formally give their electoral votes to Romney, who handily claimed a majority in this state.

After the votes have been cast in Texas and all the other states, all the ballots will be sent to Vice President Joe Biden, who will read them to both houses of Congress on Jan. 6, unless Congress changes the date.

The Electoral College is the name given to a group of citizens chosen by "the people" to formally cast the final vote for president and vice president.

The founding fathers created the Electoral College and put it in the Constitution as a way to create a middle ground between letting Congress and qualified voters nationwide elect the president. They also wanted to give every state a proportionate voice in the process.

So they created the college and decided that a simple majority would determine the country's president every four years. Electors now total 538, and a majority is 270 or more.

In each state, two sets of voters are chosen and poised to cast their ballots, depending on which candidate wins their state's vote.  Maine and Nebraska electors base their votes on the outcome in individual districts, but in all other states the electors are selected on a winner-take-all basis. Since Romney won Texas, the 38 Republican electors will vote today.

On Election Day, the Obama-Biden ticket carried 27 states, picking up 332 electoral votes. The Romney-Ryan ticket won 24 states, earning 206 votes.


Sunday, December 16, 2012



Back in May of 2011, I wrote a piece about my dad’s mother. I know that if she could see it her first comment would be “Well…”

Ask my mam-ma, my dad’s mother, anything at all, and she would reply “Well,”  followed by the answer to your question.  Of course, being a Texas lady, she stretched it out a bit, saying “Way-ull.”

She also used the word as sort of an all-purpose reply to anything that she thought was too disturbing to comment upon – she’d just say “Well.” and leave it that. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Xmas Sweaters

ugly sweater11 alluring-to-lumberjacks

I can’t really say when the trend got started (the New York Times blames Andy Williams and his Christmas TV Specials) but really ugly Christmas sweaters are supposedly all the rage this year.

They used to be the unwanted gift from strange Aunt Harriet who was taking knitting classes down at the home; now they are big business, with at least two companies - Butt Ugly Sweaters and Tipsy Elves, offering theirs on line.



Those two are from the Butt Ugly line, and frankly, I’ve seen worse.  Tipsy Elves offers sweaters that require a certain mind-set to wear in public, like this one:


Or this:


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Haunted Cabinet

Several years ago, we took took a dining set, table and chairs, to a resale shop.  We got a fair price for them, but while we were there, Honey found a couple of pieces she had to have. 

The first was an old library table that has served us well as a desk in our office. 

The second was what the dealer described as a radio cabinet.  As a teenager, one of my hobbies was rebuilding old console type radios, but none of those even remotely resembled this cabinet. 

It is solid wood, about four feet long, with a drawer at the bottom, open shelves in the center and two louvered doors covering additional shelves on each side.  I suspect that when the piece was being refinished those doors were inadvertently reversed, because it looks to me as if those louvers on the doors are upside-down.  Still, it is a handsome piece of furniture.

It sits beside my bed, and serves as a depository for a lot of miscellaneous junk that I have no better place to stash.

Actually, miscellaneous may be an understatement.  Currently, the contents of the cabinet include:

  • a collection of pocketknives I no longer carry.
  • several Ace bandages
  • A very old bottle of cough medicine
  • several feet of 1/4 inch cotton rope.
  • owner’s manuals for some small appliances.
  • a mortar board cap from our daughter’s high school graduation
  • and quite possibly, a poltergeist!

Last night the cabinet woke me up about 3:00 a.m. by emitting a very loud clunk, and it is not the first time this has happened. 

The first time was in the middle of the night about three years ago. That time I was up for an hour, pulling everything out of the cabinet looking for a clue as to what caused the cabinet to go boom.  After determining that nothing was wrong, I spent the next hour trying to get back to sleep.  The following morning, I went over the cabinet again but could not find anything out of the ordinary.

When it happened again last night, I just muttered something like “It’s that damn cabinet again.” and went right back to sleep.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Treading Softly


When my girls were learning to drive, I had a firm rule – they did not get keys until they had demonstrated the ability to do basic maintenance on the car.  That included being able to change a tire and change the oil.

A pair of young women in San Antonio has taken that a big step further.  Their Treds Tire Shop is right across the street from a big Pep Boys tire store.  Here’s the story from Fox - Treds

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Early Start

Went to bed slightly later than usual last night, so to make up for it, I got up early.


Okay, for whatever reason, I woke up wide awake at 4:25 and when I was still awake at 5:15, I got up.  I was used to being up by this time every morning before I retired, but today it seems unreasonably early.

I was not the only one up.  In fact, when I went outside with the dogs – them to pee, me to smoke – I watched two neighbors leave for work before 5:30 a.m.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bad Night In Foxboro



The team we were ready to anoint

Flew into New England and stunk up the joint

On each play our mighty Texans fleet

Found a way to shoot themselves in both feet

Maybe Bob Costas had a point

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Night Football


The Houston Texans play New England on Monday Night Football tonight.  Strange as it may seem, our hometown heroes – with a league’s best 11-1 record – come into Foxboro as a four point underdog.

Even though the Patriots come into the game at 9-3, folks in Boston don’t even think it will be that close – Dan Shaughnessy, writing in the Globe, says:

The Patriots never lose at home and they never lose in December. New England has won 20 straight games in the back half of the NFL season.

The 2012 Patriots are, in fact, almost undefeated. They lost three of their first six games by a total of 4 points. And they are a much better team now than they were in the first half of the season.

He also made fun of the new Texans’ Letterman Jackets the team was wearing on the flight up there.

I think (I hope) the Texans will post another win.  With almost exactly 12 hours until kick-off, Honey is already a nervous wreck.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Anolis Carolinensis


That little green critter you can barely find in the grass is an Anolis carolinensisIn this part of Southeast Texas, we have always called them Chameleons, but they are not – they are not Chameleons, or even False Chameleons which are entirely different species. Like Chameleons, they do change color to match their surroundings.

We have them by the thousands, and here at the Boggy Thicket, we had two Anolis-related incidents this past week.

In the first, our black and tan Dachshund, Tinker, who is an avid lizard hunter, jumped up against the side of the garage.  Although she didn’t quite reach her prey, she hit the wall hard enough that the lizard fell (or jumped) to the ground where it was soon captured. 

Once the lizard was eaten, Tink began to limp, holding one front foot completely off the ground.  Our first thought was that she had broken a nail, but that wasn’t the problem.  As I held Tinker, Honey gave her affected leg a little tug.  There was a loud pop, and when we put her down, everything was all right.  She put  her foot down very carefully for the first few steps, but was soon running around like nothing had ever happened.

Throughout the incident, Tinker never yelped or even whined.  That is one tough dog!

A day or so later, when Honey opened the back door, a lizard jumped off the door onto the clothes dryer.  When she tried to catch him he ran out of reach behind the washing machine. 

We saw him again an hour later and I chased him out of the utility room, through the kitchen and finally cornered him under the dinner table.  When I opened the door to throw him out, the lizard wriggled out of my hand, ran up my arm and perched on the top of my head.

Before I could catch him again, he jumped.  We thought he jumped outside, but an hour or so later I caught him again, back in the kitchen.  He was changing color, trying to match the light brown rug in front of the sink.

Saturday, December 8, 2012



As someone whose brain is clogged with all sorts of useless information, I am a big fan of Jeopardy.  Honey, not so much, but we’ve been watching most afternoons since we retired.

I often come up with answers that cause her to ask “How did you know that?” and almost as often, I can’t explain.

Yesterday, the Final Jeopardy clue was something like “This 1962 Broadway Show begins at two a.m. in the living room of….”  I was still reading the clue when Honey shouted “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

None of the contestants answered correctly, and when Alex Trebek gave the answer, my normally demure bride jumped up and danced around the house, waving her arms and singing “I got it right! I got it right! I got it right!”

Friday, December 7, 2012

USS Arizona


Today is Pearl Harbor Day.  I suppose I could say that I was alive when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941, but I wouldn’t be born for eight more months.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Banjo Control


After his controversial (read  STUPID) remarks about gun control during his football coverage last weekend, I can’t help but wonder what Bob Costas would have to say about Banjo Control.

WEST MILTON, Ohio -- A 63-year-old man bludgeoned his wife to death yesterday morning with a pair of banjos, deputies said.

"I've been an officer for 30 years, and that's the first banjo killing I've seen," said Miami County Chief Deputy Charles Price. "It's just kind of bizarre."

Edward Benson has been charged with aggravated murder and was being held in the Miami County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bond. Mr. Price said Mr. Benson beat his wife, Katie, with the musical instruments in their home about 5 a.m.

"She was beaten with a banjo in the head. When it was destroyed, a second banjo was used," Mr. Price said. "Pretty gruesome."

The woman died en route to Stouder Memorial Hospital in Troy. She suffered massive head injuries, Mr. Price said.

Authorities aren't sure what led to the beating. Mr. Price said deputies hadn't had any other domestic violence complaints at the home in recent years.

Deputies were dispatched to the scene at 5:01 a.m. after Mr. Benson phoned 911, saying his wife was in need of paramedics. Mr.Benson also immediately called an attorney, who arrived at the scene and advised him not to answer investigators' questions.

Neighbors said they didn't hear any disturbances from the home yesterday. They were awakened by deputies.

Ralph Wolfe, whose house is in front of the Bensons', said Mr. Benson had told him he played the banjo in a bluegrass band.

The Bensons had seven adult children and many grandchildren. They lived alone.

Mr. Benson had medical problems that prevented him from working.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Home of the Unicorn


I guess it is an ethnic thing, but I had always assumed that Unicorns, like Leprechauns, lived somewhere in Ireland.  Imagine my surprise when I learned this morning that Unicorns are – and always have been – Korean.  That they lived in North Korea is apparently not political, just a geographical coincidence. Here’s the story from The Guardian:

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has now broken the incredible news that archaeologists in Pyongyang have discovered a unicorn's lair.

Or rather, the report says that they have "recently reconfirmed" the lair of one of the unicorns ridden by the ancient Korean King Tongmyong, founder of a kingdom which ruled parts of China and the Korean peninsula from the the 3rd century BC to 7th century AD.

The KCNA goes on to state that the location happens to be 200 metres from a temple in the North Korean capital, adding: "A rectangular rock carved with words "Unicorn Lair" stands in front of the lair."

"The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392)," says the report.

Archaeologists from the Academy of Social Sciences at North Korea's History Institute were credited with making the discovery.

Actually the original story from KCNA could not help but get a little bit political, saying “The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cardinals Tweet, But The Pope?


The Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict has opened a Twitter account, and will begin “Tweeting” in about a week.

Considering the furor over his book – the Church has been frantically issuing press releases declaring that the Pope’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, the Infancy Narratives , did not kill Christmas – this step into the 21st century is like tiptoeing into a minefield.

Hoping to defuse potential problems before they arise,  the press release states that the tweets will be “like private conversations” and “there will be no dogmatic aspect.”  This means the doctrine of papal infallibility will not apply.

The Pope is not going all the way – he won’t be posting the kind of spontaneous thoughts that have gotten actors and rock stars in trouble.  The Vatican says that his tweets will be:

  • Tweets will be a distillation of his speeches and homilies
  • They will be typed by aides - so any typos will not be the Pope's


Monday, December 3, 2012

Another Christmas Suggestion

The commercial is in Korean, but I don’t think it needs any translation.  Every little girl must be dying to have one of these:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yeah, But….


A study just released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the US Department of Commerce shows Midland, Texas as having the second-highest per capita income of any American metropolitan area. 

Midland residents’  average personal income was $65,173 in 2011, or roughly $20,000 more than the $41,560 average for U.S. metropolitan areas.

Bridgeport, Conn., which includes the wealthy Greenwich area, ranked as the richest metro area in the country. Residents’ personal income per capita was $78,504 in 2011, the study found.

San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, D.C., rounded out the top five.

Texas looks pretty good on the income growth map below, but other Texas cities didn’t fare as well in the per capita income race; Houston was ranked 27th with an average of $47,612, according to the study.  Dallas came in at 52 and San Antonio at 181. The McAllen/Edinburg/Mission area was on the bottom of the list, with personal income of $21,620 per year.

growth map

Speaking of income growth, the Midland-Odessa area showed a personal income growth rate of 14.6%

All of this information is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, so I find it amusing (and a little annoying) that the East Coast Elitists at The Atlantic felt it was necessary to explain.

The magazine wrote Midland’s second-place finish “is a geological one: The small city and its big wages are at the mercy of their natural resources and the globally-determined price of energy.” While New York, San Francisco, San Jose and Boston have high wages because “productive, innovative and well-educated people work and live there without the benefit of natural resources.”

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Shining Light on the Sun

Every day I get anonymous “comments” on my blog.

You don’t see them because I have set up my site to forward them to an email account where I can review them and determine whether they are worth posting.  Usually – almost always – they are not.  The vast majority are thinly veiled attempts to get me to publish links to the poster’s website.

But I got one today that was different.

First of all, it actually came from someone with a name.

Referring to my post called Sunrise – Sunset from February 23, Deborah Elliot wrote:

The first 'sunrise' is actually a sunset, taken by my son, Mark Elliott, in the Tangalooma region of Morton's Island, Australia. It is a copyrighted photo and should not have been used without permission. Originally, I had his permission to post it on my own website, but now I see that it has been published in a number of places all over the internet, with no credit given to him or link to my own website. Since you are not making money off the image it is OK to continue to post it, but, even though it is an old post, I think you should at least amend it to reflect the truth. Sincerely, Deborah Elliott

As I said in my February post, the picture in question was an anonymous photo I found on the internet.  I have no way to confirm what she says, but have no reason to doubt her claim.

Mrs. Elliot also has a blog, and she published a post that was also called Sunrise Sunset earlier this week.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jasper Walks Again

Amazing story from Britain’s Sky News:

Scientists have helped dogs to walk again after severe spinal injuries - offering hope for paralysed human patients.

Movement was restored to the dogs' hind legs by bridging breaks in the spinal cord using olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) taken from their noses.

The cells support nerve fibre growth that maintains a communication pathway between the nose and the brain.

One previously crippled dachshund, Jasper, was described by its owner as "whizzing around the house" after undergoing the treatment.

May Hay, from Cambridge, said: "Before the trial, Jasper was unable to walk at all. When we took him out we used a sling for his back legs so that he could exercise the front ones. It was heartbreaking."

The random controlled trial is the first to demonstrate effective spinal cord repair in "real life" injury cases.

Professor Robin Franklin, one of the study leaders from Cambridge University, said: "Our findings are extremely exciting because they show for the first time that transplanting these types of cell into a severely damaged spinal cord can bring about significant improvement."

In the trial, scientists studied 34 pet dogs that had all suffered spinal cord injuries as a result of accidents and back problems. None was injured deliberately for the sake of research.

One group of dogs had the OEC cells taken from the lining of their own noses and injected into the injury site. Another was only injected with the liquid in which the cells were suspended.

Dogs were tested for neurological function at one-month intervals and had their walking ability assessed on a treadmill.

Those that had been injected with the OEC cells showed improved movement.

Prof Franklin said the technique could restore "at least a small amount" of movement in humans with spinal cord injuries, but warned patients not to expect too much from the approach.

He said the procedure was likely to be used as part of a combination of treatments, alongside drug and physical therapies.

Professor Geoffrey Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London, said: "This is not a cure for spinal cord injury in humans - that could still be a long way off.

"But this is the most encouraging advance for some years and is a significant step on the road towards it."

Here’s a before and after video featuring Jasper

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Decorations

Every year about this time, we start debating whether it is worth it to drag out, repair and display all of our Christmas decorations.  After all, Boggy Thicket is out in the country on what is essentially a cul-de-sac.  Almost nobody ever sees the results of all that work.  Still, I’m guessing that we will probably decide to put them out one more year.

Speaking of decorations, here is a must-have for every home that I found on the internet:

bell shape

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Be Careful What You ….

Say – and even more careful what you write.  Words, even electronic words, last forever and can come back to bite you.

In his column last Sunday, New York TV critic Verne Gay predicted the outcome of this year’s “All Star” edition of Dancing with the Stars.  Based on performance and popularity, he predicted that the three women finalists would come  in this order:




He explained his logic by saying

This combination of two major stars -- one a great athlete, the other a more dazzling star than any of the all-stars -- quite possibly represents the best dancing team in the show's history. They are so good -- and electrifying, which is a word you don't often use in talking about any "Dancing" team, except at the risk of ridicule -- that they are preposterously unbeatable.

Bottom line: Your winners, easily.

Just in case you didn’t watch – and their numbers were down quite a bit this season – the winner was

dwtsMelissa Rycroft

Mr. Gay did not get any of his place position predictions right.  Even in a shell game the chances are that you’ll get one out of three correct.

Maybe he has a future as a TV weatherman.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shuttle Not Included



After dropping the last space shuttle in Los Angeles, NASA 905, the modified 747 that transported shuttles across the country, quietly slunk back to Houston. 

It was originally supposed to go to Dryden AFB in California to be used for spare parts, but instead was flown to Ellington in time for the annual Wings Over Houston air show.  Now NASA has announced that the big Boeing will stay here – another sort of booby prize for not being awarded a real space shuttle.

The old plane, the 86th 747 to come off the line, served for several years as an American Airlines passenger jet before being bought and modified by NASA to shuttle the shuttles.  Originally serving as the launch platform for the shuttle prototype in 1977, it went on to fly 70 of the 87 ferry flights over the life of the shuttle program.

So far, there has been no announcement as to where or how the plane will be displayed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shrinking Jack Reacher

jack reacher

One of my favorite action heroes is coming to the screen – almost

Perhaps I should say that a miniature version of Lee Child’s former military policeman Jack Reacher is making it to the movies. 

I like Tom Cruise – I have since I saw him in Taps way back in 1981 – but Tom is my height (5’7”) and Child has mentioned in every Jack Reacher novel that Reacher is six feet and five inches tall. 

I know they can do miracles with camera angles. etc. but this is just wrong.

Sunday, November 25, 2012



I love Gardenias.

They are just about my favorite flower.  Honey’s favorite perfume has a Gardenia scent.  We had Gardenias in the yard when I was a kid, and here at the Boggy Thicket the front of our house is lined with a bed of Cape Jasmine Gardenias.

So – it is really hard to explain why I never noticed until this month that Gardenia’s bear fruit.


In retrospect, I think I actually noticed one last year, but didn’t realize what it was.  This year, our plants retained dozens of the bright red fruit – it was hard to miss.

A little on-line investigation reveals that the pods contain hundreds of seeds.  The seeds are edible, sometimes used instead of saffron as a yellow dye in oriental cooking.

They are also commonly used in Chinese medicine.  An article by Chinese Physician Yang Yifan makes it sound like a miracle drug:

Gardenia is bitter and cold and enters the heart, lung, and triple burner meridians. Bitterness and cold may clear heat and descend fire. Gardenia can gently and slowly direct heat downwards from the upper burner. It can also promote urination and leach out heat from the heart and lung. It can be used for heat accumulation in the chest, irritability, restlessness, sensations of tightness in the chest, and insomnia.

As the triple burner is the passage not only of qi, but also of water, gardenia enters the triple burner meridian and regulates its function. As bitterness can dry dampness and cold can clear heat, this herb can be used to treat damp-heat syndrome in all three burners-for example, infections of the eyes or eczema on the face and neck caused by damp-heat of the upper burner; jaundice due to damp-heat in the middle burner and qi constraint of the liver and gallbladder; or painful urinary dysfunction due to damp-heat in the lower burner which disturbs the function of the bladder.

Gardenia also has the function of cooling the blood and relieving heat-poison. It can be used in different bleeding conditions, such as nosebleed, hematemesis, and blood in the urine. It can also be applied topically for burns.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Insult to Injury


I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Houston Texans, but even I have to admit that we really should not have won our Thanksgiving day game.  If the Detroit coach had not thrown his red flag on a touchdown that was already subject to automatic review, the runner would have been ruled down and the touchdown negated.  Since he illegally demanded a review, weird NFL rules earned him a penalty and the automatic review never happened.

Now the NFL plans to review a play in which the Lion’s star defensive tackle  Ndamukong Suh kicked Houston quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin. 

Suh was not flagged on the play.  In fact, it was one of the few plays in which he was actually stopped – he was falling or already on his back when his left foot hit Schaub in the groin.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said the league will review Suh's kick and that "everything is on the table" when it comes to potential punishment.

"It didn't look good," Anderson told ESPN.

"It didn't seem to be a natural football move," Anderson said. "We're going to withhold judgment until we see all of the angles. We'll look at that on Monday as part of the process. It just appeared to be out of the ordinary, and so we're going to take a close look at it."

Suh has been fined for dirty moves in each of the last two years, including a two-game suspension for intentionally stomping the arm of a Green Bay lineman last Thanksgiving, and that history will color the league’s opinion.

"If a player has been disciplined in the last two seasons, 2010 and 2011, in this case and that discipline has either been affirmed or reduced, which means that he was still determined to have been a violator, then that will certainly factor into our thinking as we look at a current offense," Anderson said.

"Because if you're a repeat offender, you really are not entitled to the benefit of the doubt. That will factor in as part of the thinking in this case and any others where there's repeat offender presence."

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Back in September of 2011, I predicted a major earthquake in California, and over the past months I have posted several stories about earthquakes hitting everywhere but the Bear Flag Republic. 

I still think it’s going to happen, but Honey says that I’ve talked abut it enough.  So, after today, you are on your own. 

But, I’m not going to leave you unprotected:


Here’s a free earthquake meter application you can load on your p-c or laptop so you can be instantly aware of seismic events anywhere in the world. 

It probably won’t work if you are running an older version of Windows, but if you have Vista or newer running on your computer, you’re good to go.  You can download it at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Party Like a Pilgrim


As you prepare for Thanksgiving, one thing you can’t do (or couldn’t, since it was supposed to take place last night) is attend the annual Thanksgiving Bash at McFadden’s in Washington D.C.

Too many sensitive folks took offense at the phrase “Drink like a Indian” on their poster promoting the event.  Aside from the poor choice of article – should have been an Indian – there were those who felt their sign made light of the high incidence of alcoholism among Native Americans.

Reacting to the outrage expressed on line and in the press, McFadden’s cancelled the promotion and issued the following statement:

The Pilgrims and Indians party, originally scheduled for Tuesday November 20th, was intended to be a festive event to get into the holiday spirit, and was never meant to offend any ethnicity or group of individuals. We truly apologize for not being more sensitive to our loyal patrons whose support and enthusiasm has been appreciated throughout the years.

Apparently the copy that accompanied the flier on their Facebook page was more outrageous.  That ad has been deleted, but they are still getting slammed by FB posters who saw it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Music


A few days ago Houston Press music editor Chris Gray wrote an article bemoaning the lack of quality Thanksgiving songs. There were really only six that he could think of, and you have probably never heard (or even heard of) any of them.  Gray’s list had two pretty good instrumentals and four vocals that were pretty lame.

He didn’t mention it, but there was one 60’s hit about Thanksgiving – or at least about events that occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 1967.  As a public service, I’m including it here:

Monday, November 19, 2012


mustang ranch

That’s the entrance to the Mustang Ranch, the first and easily the most famous legal house of prostitution in Nevada.  It has been in the news a lot over the years-

  • Famous boxer Oscar Bonavena was shot to death there in 1976.
  • Owner Joe Conforte was convicted of tax fraud and racketeering in 1999.  He fled to Brazil and the property was seized by the Feds.
  • The Bureau of Land Management auctioned the brothel on EBay.
  • Mustang Ranch was going to go public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1990, and almost did.  The IPO fell through when the IRS ruled that the prostitutes were employees, not contractors, and were owed a ton of back pay and benefits.

The brothel is back in the news today because the current owner, Lance Gilman, just got elected County Commissioner of Storey County.  He ran as a Republican, and got 62% of the vote.

It brings to mind the old vaudeville joke:

Please don’t tell my mama that I’m in politics.  She thinks I play piano in a whore house.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


thomas may cartoon

The cartoon is called “Forgotten.”  It was drawn by Thomas May and published in 1906.  The picture of the little girl with the empty Christmas stocking is one of two cartoons credited with being the impetus behind the founding of the Goodfellows charities.  The other, by Burt Thomas, is a more positive image:


Within days of its publication in 1914, the Old Newsboys Association in Detroit set out to provide food and toys for needy families at Christmas.

In Houston, the Houston Chronicle is the driving force behind the Goodfellows., and they announced the beginning of their annual drive today.

I first became aware of their work in the 50’s when as a member of Boy Scout Troop 468 (or maybe it was 648 – for some reason the Scouts decided to rearrange our troop number about that time.)  I rode on the back of a City of Houston dump truck delivering toys to needy kids.

I had lived in Houston all my life, and thought I knew my city, but I had never seen such abject poverty as we saw that day.  Within sight of downtown - on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in what is now probably part of Eleanor Tinsley Park - I saw a family of eight living in a thatched roof lean-to, huddling against the cold around an open cook fire.

It has been over half a century, but I will never forget those little kids running after that yellow dump truck and yelling, “Mama,  Mama,  Goofella, Goofella!”