Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Road By Any Other Name


Any time we leave the Boggy Thicket headed for Houston, Porter or Humble, We take FM-1485 to New Caney and turn left on US 59.  Looks like that won’t be possible much longer.

Oh, we’ll still take the same road, but TXDOT has decided to change the name to I-69.  They have authorized the changing of the road signs  from US 59 to I-69 on a stretch of highway from Loop 610 on the north side of downtown Houston to FM-797 at Cleveland, Texas.

The I-69 corridor, the so-called NAFTA Superhighway that is supposed to connect the Texas-Mexico border with Canada, via America's heartland, has been on the drawing board since at least 2002. Plans to make the corridor wide enough to include tollways, rail and utility lines were phased out in 2009 in favor of a more traditional corridor that will be built in small increments.

That I-69 super- project  met with strong opposition from farmers and ranchers championing private property rights and others who opposed a large toll-road component of the plan.

The state's director of transportation planning and development, James Koch, said recently that the Interstate 69 corridor was a "priority" and that the state would be assigning I-69 designations to existing highways that could be upgraded to  interstate status. With the new I-69 designation on US 59, the portion of the highway north of New Caney that has ground-level streets crossing the highway will have to be upgraded, and that construction has been completed in some spots, and is  underway in others.

"That means there will be overpasses built, access roads and normal entrances and exits," said Mark Cross, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman. "You can't have people crossing an interstate at slow speeds."

This is only the second segment of Interstate 69 to be designated so far. The other piece is a 6-mile portion of US 77 south of Corpus Christi.

Monday, July 30, 2012

You Get What You (don’t) Pay For

Remember Avocado colored appliances? 

Back in the late 60’s, when we first began to accumulate our own stuff, that’s what we bought, and we owned most of them long after Avocado was cool.  We dipped our toes in Harvest Gold – the fridge in the garage came from that era – but we never went all the way.

For the past several years, all the appliances in our kitchen have been black – the refrigerator, the Keurig coffee maker, the can opener, the spigot on our very expensive custom-designed kitchen sink (another story for another time) – everything but the toaster.

The toaster, a four-slice Sunbeam we’ve had for years, was white, and it stuck out in our kitchen like a Latvian in the NBA.  Still,  if he averages 20+ points a game…..

Our toaster was like that.  We were able to overlook its one obvious anomaly because it performed so well. 

Then it started missing free throws.

First the little release button for the right side toast quit working.  No problem – I never knew why it had that button anyway, many toasters don’t. 

Then the right side  quit locking down when you pushed the lever down to make toast.  You could still make two pieces of toast on the left, but the whole point of having a four-slice toaster was lost.


We were in Target on Friday, with a Gift Card burning a hole in my pocket, when we found this toaster on sale.


It’s black – it’ll match our decor!

It’s on sale – with the Gift Card, we’ll can get it for free!

Grabbed it and headed home.

The operator’s instructions said to run it empty to burn off any dust, etc. before trying to make toast.  We did, and the right side wouldn’t latch down! 

I took it back yesterday, and they only had one more on the shelf.  I explained to the lady at the customer service counter that it was a forty mile round trip so I would like to test it before I took it home. 

The only available outlet was where they charge electric shopping carts, so I sat on the floor in the store entrance and plugged it in.  The right side did not want to latch on that one either.

There were no other black, four-slice toasters available, so I settled on this:


It’s an Oster brand, stainless steel with a black base, knobs, buttons and levers, so I decided that it matches well enough.  It offers features I didn’t know were available on a toaster, and it actually works.

Of course, there was a difference in price, so our free toaster ended up costing us $22 – and an extra trip to the store.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Insult, Part 2

One week ago yesterday, I posted  "Adding Insult to Injury", a rant about the double taxation on tobacco.  This morning I received a comment on that post that was so well done I decided to repost is here.  After all, I doubt that even my most faithful followers go back to look for comments.

The author was anonymous.  I wish I knew who he was so I could thank him personally.  I do wish him well.

Here is what he had to say: 
I guess I have side stepped this situation when I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003. I had my first cigarette when I was 14 years old and my last cigarette at 56. Quitting two weeks before my scheduled surgery, I smoked all the way up till midnight and put it out. We have 5 sections of our lungs, 2 on our left and 3 on our right. I had the top section of my right lung removed.
When I was in the service, I could buy cigarettes for 12 cents a pack and joked that I could not afford not to smoke. I am 65 years old now and have saved a ton of money over the last 9 years since I was smoking 2 and sometimes 3 packs a day.
I have said jokingly the cancer cures smoking. Quitting is not easy at all. I had quit twice before, once for 3 years and the second time for 1 year and I will be the last person to berate a smoker for smoking. People say the stupidest things to smokers to try to get them to quit. No amount of nagging will help smokers to make them stop smoking. It is a personal decision that must be reached and made independent of friends and family. I commiserate with those that struggle with it, including my 30 year old son.
A month ago, I asked my doctor about a lump in my stomach, a hernia. I had a hernia operation back in 1981 and thought I knew what this was. I was first sent for a colonoscopy and a c-t scan. I came back shortly and listened to the doctor tell me that they saw a lump on my lower right lung. I was sent for a p-t scan and am now waiting for the results. My wife was with me when the doctor told me. It happened to be our wedding anniversary. She had already lost her first husband due to heart disease and now she was going to have to see how this was going to turn out. Her last ordeal lasted over a period of 9 years.
All I can say is the money saved is not the point for me and it never was. A smoker will bum smokes, give in and buy them, or find the money by not eating or some other way. I did when I put myself though college. The point is now that so many things in my life are damn near perfect; it all might come to an end too soon.
We all must bear the responsibility for our life’s decisions. It’s not about the cost or the taxes. It’s because quitting requires a decision and a commitment, and courage. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Love your life and your friends and family. They love you.
I did not quit, I stopped smoking. It’s a little easier think of it this way.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Special - Update on Yesterday’s Post

Yes, there really is a 2012 Junior Olympics and it really is being held in Houston – and Pearland and Humble.

You can get details Here.

Apparently, some of my confusion is because the AAU doesn’t have a lock (copyright protection) on the term Junior Olympics, or just doesn’t bother to enforce it.  There are other events in other areas calling themselves Junior Olympics, but they are sanctioned by other agencies.



Ain’t Your Red Ryder Daisy


Well, after an unbelievably bad opening ceremony – postponed here by NBC’s choice of broadcasting in prime-time via tape delay – the 2012 Olympics are finally underway.  There were a few good moments in the spectacle, and commentators are quick to point them out as they avoid the obvious; taken as a whole, the $42 million opening ceremony was a dismal flop.

The first gold of these Olympics went to China’s Siling Yi in the Women’s 10 meter air rifle competition.  Her victory was almost overshadowed by the media interest in eight-month-pregnant Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi of Malasia – pictured above - who competed but was eliminated early.  Word is that she is expecting a daughter on September 3.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Houston Is A (jr.) Olympic City


You might remember that Houston was one of the cities being considered years ago for the 2012 Olympic games, but fell short in the political bidding wars that determine who gets to host.

With all the hype about the upcoming 2012 Olympics in London, I almost missed the fact that the AAU Jr. Olympic competition is underway in Houston.  The games got underway yesterday with weightlifting events at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Within the first two hours of competition, two world records were broken by athletes under the age of 14.

Silencia Algarin, a 7-year-old powerlifter from Little Falls, Minnesota, was the first record breaker. Algarin, who weighs 60 pounds, squatted 66 pounds, topping the previous mark of 55 pounds.

“It feels good to be strong, and it’s fun because you get to have gold medals,” Silencia said. “My friends think it’s cool that I can lift a lot of weight. I bring my trophies for sharing time at school.”


There has been almost no mention of the Jr. Olympics in the local media, and frankly it is a little hard to figure out just what Houston – named as the 2012 Host by the organization back in 2008 – is actually hosting. 


The USA Track and Field Jr. Olympic Championship competition is currently underway on the Morgan State campus in Baltimore, Maryland – not exactly a Houston suburb – and what’s billed as Jr. Olympic swimming championships begin tomorrow on Coronado Island, San Diego, California.

Being named the official host city in beginning to feel about as good as being awarded a fake shuttle.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scat, Bear


This black bear visited the Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frasier, Pennsylvania, last Saturday.  He wandered around Sears for a while before being caught here, between two sets of doors, where he was eventually tranquilized and hauled away by animal control.

Another bear – apparently more interested in dining than fashion - was seen near the mall’s Olive Garden Restaurant at about the same time. 


It has been photographed, but, so far,  it has not been captured. It was spotted again on Monday behind the Smokey Bones Barbeque.

On the other side of the coin, in Katmai National Park, Alaska, people travel hundreds of miles to watch Brown Bears lunch on salmon at Brooks Falls. 


If you don’t have the time (or resources) for an Alaska trip, You can find some great videos – and a live cam – at the Explore.Org website.  Looks like you have to join to see the live cam, but it’s worth it; there’s a lot of neat stuff on their site.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Unlike the history making drought conditions we were in this time last year, this summer has been a wet one here at the Boggy Thicket.  For the past couple of weeks, we have been in a weather pattern that brings rain – anything from scattered showers to severe thunderstorms – almost every day. 

The extreme high temperatures and drought conditions we had last summer are afflicting other areas of the nation this year.

The good news is that the dry lakes and reservoirs of last summer are back at or near their historically normal levels, and forest fires in Texas are almost nonexistent.

The bad news is that the mosquito population is multiplying exponentially with every shower.  I found wiggle-tails swimming in our dogs’ bowl the other day, and I had cleaned and refilled it the day before!

The county has not sprayed for skeeters yet this year; looks like they’re trying a new approach.


skeeter warning

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kill ‘em with Kindness

execution table

The State of Texas executed Yokamon Hearn last Wednesday.  He was the first to be executed using a single drug, pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug cocktail that had been used in recent years.

That was because the state had run out of the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide.  The drug’s European manufacturer no longer supplies the stuff because of anti capital punishment sentiment at home. 

Ohio, Arizona, Idaho and Washington have also adopted the single-drug procedure, and Georgia was going to use it last night, but was stopped by a last-minute ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court. 

The court did not rule that he didn’t deserve it – Warren Lee Hill was convicted of killing another inmate while already serving life in prison for murdering his girlfriend – what the court said was that Georgia law required public hearings to be held before  the method of execution could be legally changed.

If drug availability continues to be a problem, I can suggest several solutions:

  1. Kill them with heroinThe city of Houston confiscates enough heroin in a year (week?) to supply every prison in the country with enough horse to administer lethal overdoses to all their capital prisoners.  Disposing of it this way seems like a win-win situation.
  2. Don’t use drugs at allI’m not really advocating hanging, firing squads or the Guillotine, but I wouldn’t be concerned if they came back.

Actually, my personal preference  would be to use vacuum chambers similar to those that have been used by laboratories, dog pounds and animal shelters around the country to euthanize unwanted animals.  There have been some complaints that these chambers are inhumane, but only by those opposed to ever killing anything under any circumstances. 

I’ll admit that there is an (unlikely) possibility of unwanted side effects – if not done correctly, the prisoner might even suffer from the bends.  This could be avoided by the introduction of an inert gas like nitrogen, but that just complicates a basically simple process.

The American Humane Association supports LAPS (low atmosphere pressure system) decompression for the humane  slaughter of poultry, but the American Veterinary Medical Association now calls decompression “unacceptable for euthanasia.”

It can’t be all that bad though, even PETA used vacuum chambers in the past.

If vacuum chambers are good enough for helpless animals whose only crime was being born, they ought to just fine for eliminating the worst of humanity.


Monday, July 23, 2012


I just learned of an organization called Tents for Troops.

It is as association of RV Parks and Campgrounds around the country that offers free campsites to active-duty members of our military and their immediate families.  It’s their way of saying “Thank you for your service.”

I think this is a great idea, and think the organization (and the participating campgrounds) deserve our support.

Participating campgrounds in Texas are listed below.


Spring Branch RV Resort
10950 Highway 281 North
Spring Branch, TX 78070
Call: (210) 410-4915
Max RV Length: Unspecified

Pecan Park Riverside RV & Cabins
50 Squirrel Run
San Marcos, TX 78666
Call: (512) 396-0070
Max RV Length: Unspecified

Jackson Hill Park & Marina
1705 FM 2851
Broaddus, Texas 75929
Call: (512) 396-0070
Max RV Length: 36 ft

Woodsy Hollow RV Resort Campground
248 Woodsy Hollow
Goodrich, TX 77335

Call: (936) 365-2267
Max RV Length: Not specified


Sunset Point RV Resort
2322 North Wirtz Dam Road
Marble Falls, TX 78654
Call: (830) 798-8199
Max RV Length: 70 ft

Poppys Pointe Family Resort
400 Emerald Circle
Buchanan Dam, TX 78609

Call: (512) 793-3922
Max RV Length: 40 ft