Sunday, September 30, 2012

Worth Too Much

It was only a week ago that I was reminiscing about my adventures as a Boy Scout at Camp Strake.  Today, the Houston Chronicle reports that the Boy Scouts have the property Up for Sale!

I suppose I should not be surprised.  Whatever reason the Scouts may give for the decision, the bottom line is that - located in a rapidly expanding area between Conroe and the Woodlands - the land has simply become too valuable.

The move is not unprecedented.  Camp Hudson, where I learned to swim, was a Boy Scout camp on the banks of Buffalo Bayou.  When it became surrounded by the high-end homes of the Memorial Area,  the Scouts sold the 125 acres. 

That sale brought the Sam Houston Area Council over eight million dollars in 1973.  I can only imagine what 2,200 acres of prime real estate might sell for today.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Latest Gadget

new screen

Here’s a picture of the DirecTV guide screen on our TV this morning.  Notice anything different?

We now have not only the local stations offered via satellite by DirecTV, we have all of the local off-air alternative stations – the dash one, dash two, etc. – stations listed as well.

Not quite a year ago, we upgraded our system to an HD-DVR, and we love the flexibility (NFL meets DVR) but it has its drawbacks. 

As much as we have gotten spoiled to prerecording, or just putting our favorite shows on pause while we finish the dinner dishes or simply take a break – then fast-forwarding through all the annoying commercials, we soon found that the high definition satellite signal is much more susceptible to atmospheric interference.  We have totally lost the HD signal in the den on several occasions while the old SD receiver in the bedroom kept  receiving without a single glitch.

The solution?  A DirecTV model AM21N off-air tuner that connects via the USB input on the DVR.  This allows us to receive (and record) all the local stations – including the dash-N stations not normally seen – and to switch seamlessly to the local off-air station if the satellite signal is lost.  I believe this unit is available from DirecTV, but we got ours from Solid Signal for under 50 bucks.

We haven’t had a chance to check that seamless switching thing out yet, but there is a 90% chance of rain all day today, so we should be trying it out any time now.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Vegan Garbage

go veg

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to buy advertizing space on the side of Houston Garbage Trucks. 

A press release from the group says that they sent a letter to Harry J. Hayes, director of Houston's Solid Waste Management Department, with an offer to buy ads on the city trucks but, so far, the city has not replied.

According to PETA, the ads would feature “Lettuce Lady” in her edible bikini and the slogan "Meat Trashes the Planet. Go Vegan."

A can full of rotting vegetables might smell somewhat better than one containing rancid meat, and it would be less likely to be overturned by a stray dog, or cat - or the neighborhood raccoon.  Still, that seems to say something about where the animals stand on the whole vegan lifestyle.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More Earthquake Stuff

Would have been nice to have this yesterday when I was reporting on my earthquake prediction, but a story this morning tells us ….

An 8.7 earthquake that struck west of Indonesia on April 11 was the biggest of its kind ever recorded and confirms suspicions that a giant tectonic plate is breaking up, scientists said.

The quake, caused by an unprecedented quadruple-fault rupture, gave Earth's crustal mosaic such a shock that it unleashed quakes around the world nearly a week later, they said yesterday.

"We've never seen an earthquake like this," said Keith Koper, a geophysicist at the University of Utah in the western United States.

"Nobody was anticipating an earthquake of this size and type, and the complexity of the faulting surprised everybody I've spoken to about this," said Thorne Lay, a planetary sciences professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The quake occurred around 500 kilometers west of Sumatra in the middle of the Indo-Australian plate, a piece of Earth's crust that spans Australia, the eastern Indian Ocean and the Indian sub-continent.

It was initially reported as measuring 8.6 on the "Moment magnitude" scale, but a new calculation places it at 8.7, which under this logarithmic scale means the energy release is 40 percent greater than thought, according to investigations published in Nature.

It was the biggest "strike-slip" earthquake ever recorded, meaning a fault which opens laterally rather than up or down, and the 10th biggest quake of any kind in the last century.

It was followed two hours later by an 8.2 event on another fault a little farther to the south, and both were felt from India to Australia.

Earthquakes of such intensity are typically "subduction" quakes, where one tectonic plate slides beneath another at a plate boundary, causing vertical movement that can displace the sea and unleash a tsunami. The December 26 2004 9.1 quake off Sumatra, whose waves killed a quarter of a million people around the Indian Ocean, is one such example.

But the April 11 event caused no tsunamis because the movement was sideways. Fatalities, too, were few – only 10, according to the Indonesian authorities.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How I Saved California

It has been just over a year since I predicted that a major earthquake would hit California in the near future

Since that time, there have been numerous quakes throughout the world from Indonesia to Oklahoma – including several at other spots along the Pacific coast of North or Central America – but California has been as quiet as can be.  Sure, there have been several temblors in the 4.0 range, but native Californians don’t even seem to notice those.

We continue to get teased by near-miss events, like this morning’s 6.2 quake in Baja California.  That quake's epicenter was located 46 miles north of La Paz, Mexico, and was centered in the Gulf of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Still, in spite of, or maybe because of my predictions, California remains firmly attached to the Continent. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I have mentioned in the past that my all-time favorite novel is Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

There is a conversation in the book that takes place between a couple of mathematicians in World War II.  One mentions that (radial) airplane engines always have an uneven number of cylinders.  The other questions this and the first relies (paraphrasing) “I don’t know.  Something to do with harmonics, I guess.  That wasn’t my point, anyway.  Can we just accept it as a given?”

Obviously, this is not a pivotal passage in the book, but I have thought about it.  In fact, I was thinking about it again yesterday afternoon. 

It occurred to me that – unlike an in-line six or a V-8 engine - all of the pistons in a radial engine had to attach at the same point on the crankshaft,  and I wondered how that was done. 

I had not yet begun to research this when I accidently came across a website devoted to AnimationsThe first of these features a radial engine.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Boy Scouts and Catfish Revisited


Yesterday I mentioned the fish kill in the lake at Camp Strake in 1956.  A few years later, and a couple of counties away, I was involved in another incident involving catfish and a Boy Scout camp.

Camp Mohawk was west of Alvin, Texas, off Highway 35 along the banks of Chocolate Bayou.  It served, at various times, as a church camp, a Boy Scout camp, and sometimes both.  For part of the summer of 1959, I worked at the swimming pool there as a lifeguard.

A break in the dam along with a particularly dry spring and summer had caused the fishing pond on the property to go completely dry.  One morning, I was taking a short cut across the dry lakebed when I felt something move beneath my feet.  I kicked about two inches of hard crust off the area, and  I found a  live catfish there in the mud! It was a channel cat that weighed between two and three pounds. 

Catfish are particularly hardy creatures, and there is quite a bit of controversy about whether they hibernate in freezing temperatures or conditions of extreme drought.  I don’t know if hibernation is the correct term, so I won’t get into that argument. 

What I do know is that this fish (and several others) had managed to survive for several months without eating anything and getting what little oxygen could be drawn from the moisture in the mud.  I think this would require a state of suspended animation very similar to hibernation.

I showed the camp caretaker what I had “caught.” We went back with hoes and rakes, and found several more – all between one and three pounds.

It would make a good story if we had found enough for a big fish-fry, but we did not.  We did find enough to provide a good meal for his family and for mine.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crouching Catfish – Hidden Scorpion

My summer at Camp Strake included several up-close adventures with the local fauna in addition to the armadillos mentioned yesterday.

There is a naturally occurring phenomenon in lakes and ponds known as inversion, in which the oxygen-rich top water switches places with the cooler water on the bottom.  This is normally a good thing,  but in ponds with little fresh water flow it can lead to fish kills due to oxygen starvation.  We saw this on Grand Lake at Camp Strake in the summer of 1956.  Outboard motors were normally prohibited on the lake, but as the dead fish lined the shallows, authorities ran outboards up and down the lake in an attempt to aerate the water.

As we were watching the boats run one morning, we saw a huge catfish in about four-inch-deep water.  He was just fine, thank you; he’d just come up out of the lake to dine on the dead fish lining the shore.  Another scout and I splashed out and, hooking an arm in each of his gills, hauled the big cat up on dry land. 

catfishThe fish in this picture was caught last July by 11-year-old Mike Webb in Union Grove, Texas.  Ours was considerably bigger than that. 

The catfish we “caught” was longer than me – I was about four foot eight at the time – and standing side-by-side, three of us were able to get both of our feet in his mouth at once.  Camp management called the Game Warden who hauled the fish away.

The summer’s other incident wasn’t nearly as much fun, but much more memorable in its way.

Swimming was about the only sport in which I excelled. I was a member of  the Hamilton Junior High Swim Team, and I spent a lot of my free time that summer at the camp pool.  Although my final exam required me to “save” an instructor over twice my size, I earned my Scout Lifeguard certification that summer.

The pool’s changing area was an open-air affair with walls but no roof.  There were benches along the walls and pegs to hang our clothes.  Those of us on the camp staff normally left our swimsuits hanging on pegs when we were not in the water. 

One hot night a scorpion decided my cool, damp bathing suit was an ideal place to set up shop, and when I pulled my suit on the next morning he immediately expressed his displeasure.


This was years before the movies of Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee – the novels had not been written that would inspire the filming of Crouching Tiger  Hidden Dragon – but I am told that I performed a feat of amazing athleticism that would rival the best of the Kung-fu masters. 

While seemingly suspended in mid-air, I removed my suit and came down lightly on my left foot while my right stomped the scorpion into a greasy spot on the changing room floor!

At the same time, I emitted a scream that was heard at the camp headquarters office 3/4 of a mile away.

The camp doctor gave me some aspirin and told me to take the rest of the day off.  He also told me that the resultant swelling would make me the envy of every boy and practically every man in the camp.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Camp Strake Again

Yesterday’s post about Camp Strake generated a batch of memories, most of them good.  That gave rise to today’s post, and possibly one more – that “possibly” would make a good tale, but it is personal, embarrassing and involved a lot of pain. I may, or may not, go there.

The food at Camp Strake was good, but basic, and served cafeteria style.  Scouts got eggs for breakfast with bacon or ham and a choice of scratch-made biscuits or buttered toast.  One of my morning jobs was slathering melted butter on hot toast with a paint brush.

The butter, along with big blocks of cheese, came from a federal farm surplus program.  That cheese with the USDA label was some of the best sharp cheddar I have ever tasted.

Lunch was  usually make-your-own sandwiches featuring a variety of cold cuts and that USDA cheese.

Since those were the days when Catholic kids were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays, dinner on Friday and Wednesday featured fish.  One evening or the other, the entree was a salmon and noodle casserole.  It was pretty good, and since most campers were only there for a week, it was well received.  For those of us who were there for the summer, it didn’t take many weeks for the salmon and noodles to lose their appeal.

One Thursday evening, a few of us went out in the woods and captured a couple of armadillos.  We took them to Louis the Cook and offered to give him one if he would cook the other for our Friday dinner.

After a bit of haggling, Louis agreed, but only if we would clean them. 


Everybody knows the nine-banded armadillo has a tough armored shell, but it came as a surprise to learn that the skin of the soft, hairy underbelly is tough as a boot.  They are a hard critter to clean, but we made it.

The next evening, while everybody else was eating salmon and noodles, the kitchen crew sat down to a meal of roast armadillo in cornbread dressing.  We had other camp personnel offer us as much as five dollars a plate to share our meal.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Camp Strake Hit Parade

In the summer of 1956, the year I turned 14, I worked as an In-Training-Counselor at Camp Strake, the Boy Scout camp just south of Conroe, Texas.  I worked in the mess hall, which meant that we worked very hard at breakfast and again at dinner, but had most of the day to ourselves.  This allowed me to spend hours each day swimming, canoeing, fooling around at the gun and archery ranges, or just enjoying the beauty of the piney woods.

The number two cook at Camp Strake was a black man named Louis, a fellow who tried to appear gruff, but had a real soft spot for us kids.  He’s the one who cooked the armadillo for us - a good story for another day - and he was the owner of the only record player at the camp.

If what we heard over the summer can be taken as evidence, Louis only possessed two 45 rpm records – Fever, by Little Willie John, and (Come on, Baby) Let the Good Times Roll, by Shirley and Lee.  Each of these discs had songs on both sides, but Louis never played the “B” side of either one all summer long.


That summer, young white kids from Houston were just beginning to discover “Colored” music.  We weren’t buying music by Chuck Berry or the Platters yet, although that probably did start happening sometime that year.  A few of us had begun to listen surreptitiously to Houston’s Negro stations – KYOK and KCOH – and within a few months, local country stations would see their formats moving toward Rock and Roll.

He never gave any hint that he knew we were out there, but I’ll bet Louis got a huge kick out of watching those little white boys in their Boy Scout shorts dancing the evening away in the sand and pine needles outside his cabin window.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Buzzard Bait

buzzard bait

What the Hell is this about?

I wish I could tell you, but I can’t.

A French member of an RV forum I frequent posted a link to a report on touring the Cathar region of southern France.  Among the pictures of his little truck camper, castles and vineyards, was the picture above.

The folks on the left are in medieval costume, those on the right are obviously tourists.  The guy feeding the buzzards is apparently also a tourist since the caption on the picture translates as “Cleaning of the corpses of tourists - Tombs of the Rocks!”

The Google Chrome auto-translate feature would not work correctly on this website. I either got text-only translation with no pictures or pictures only with no text in either English or French.  My one year ( 50 years ago) of college French was not sufficient to learn any more about the scene.

Further on-line research did reveal that the Cathari were last outpost of Gnostic Christians, and a pretty interesting bunch.  I’ll probably have to read more about them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Maricon Mess


Last Saturday, a Cuban-born player for a Canadian baseball team wore a Spanish-language statement on his face, and it has bought him his 15 minutes of fame – or infamy. 

Shortstop Yunel Escobar had “Tu ere Maricon”  printed in white in the black lines that ballplayers typically smear below their eyes.  It’s likely that no one would have noticed, or cared, except that a Toronto Fan sitting just above the Bluejays’ dugout snapped a picture and posted it on the web. 

Major dismay ensued.

USA Today decried the use of a “Homophobic slur” and yesterday Escobar was suspended for three games without pay for "his decision to display an unacceptable message while participating in a Major League game" and ordered to take sensitivity training.  His lost salary will be donated to You Can Play and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

For those unfamiliar with the term, maricon is a common term that usually translates as a particularly effeminate homosexual male.  It is commonly heard in locker rooms and among almost any group of young Spanish-speaking males – some say it is so common as to have become meaningless.

Does that make it right?  Well, no it doesn’t, but the over-reaction by the media (and the league) is absurd.

I personally feel offended because his spelling and grammar are incorrect.  Ere should be spelled eres, and the sentence really needs an article – un.  If he had enough room on one cheek for a seven-letter word, he had enough room on the other to get it right.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

DPS Marine Division


Just in case you haven’t heard, the State of Texas now has three heavily armed boats patrolling the border with Mexico – something the federal government ought to be doing. 

According to a recent story from Houston’s Channel 11 – KHOU, the fleet has now grown to four and will soon be six.

Charged with interdicting drug smuggling, the boats patrol Falcon Lake and the Rio Grande in high traffic areas.

The black-and-white patrol vessels come with fully automatic weapons, ballistic shielding, and night vision capabilities. Each boat is equipped with six FN M240B medium machine guns chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. Each 34-foot vessel is powered by three 300-hp outboard motors.

It seems particularly fitting that each vessel is named for a highway patrolman killed in the line of duty.  The first three boats are the Bill Davidson, the J.D. Davis and the David Rucker.

Monday, September 17, 2012

That’s Really the Pits

There may be some folks from Georgia or Tennessee who will disagree, but there is no doubt in my mind that Texas is the barbeque pit capitol of the world – particularly when it comes to trailer-mounted rigs.

Barbeque trailers start with single grill, single axle rigs – with or without a smoker box,


 and move up to custom built rigs with stainless steel prep tables, refrigerators and sinks


or sometime with a roof and awnings


Sunday, as we were coming into Brenham from the west, we saw a rig that was way over the top – even for Texas.

Parked in a field off US290 was an 18-wheeler with an extra long tanker trailer on the back.  I first noticed it because the trailer seemed extremely long and was painted flat black.  As we got closer, I saw that it had about a half dozen smokestacks, and a huge chrome map of Texas on the back. 

This was one of those times when I kicked myself for not having a camera along.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  For what it’s worth, the 18-wheeler we saw is not the only one of its kind.  I did a Google search and found pictures of at least one more.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Birthday Bash

No post yesterday because we were too darn busy. We made a quick trip to Liberty Hill for the birthday party for our grandsons. 

The party was great, but ended earlier than usual because Nash had a football game and Bryce was going to the high school homecoming dance.  That gave us an excuse to hit the road, and we were back home by 8:15.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Underarm Fat

A couple years ago, when I was at my heaviest, my wife remarked that I carried my arms like a cave man.  She said that she would bet that I couldn’t put my arms straight down by my sides.  I was slightly annoyed and maybe a little embarrassed, but I really didn’t let the comment – or the fact that it was true – bother me.

Now that I have lost some weight, I find that I have a condition that is actually causing discomfort.  The fat just below my arm pits is not decreasing as fast as it should, and when I allow my arms to hang at my side it presses on the inside of my upper arm.  It seems to hit a nerve bundle there, and may also be affecting circulation – neither one is a good thing.

A Google search this morning tells me that I am not alone.  There are multiple sites dedicated to this symptom.  I learned, for example, that this is the most commonly Photo-Shopped area of the human body.

Although most sites were dedicated to women, there are several that address the problem in men.

All of them agree that I need more exercise!

Here are some of the suggestions:

Chest Press

Chest press engages your chest and shoulder muscles. Lie back on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Straighten your arms over your chest with your palms up. Bend your arms and lower the dumbbells until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Press the weights up and together over your chest. Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions.

Barbell Bent-over Rows

Barbell bent-over rows work the back and core muscles. Stand slightly bent over with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a barbell with your palms facing up. Start with your arms hanging straight and perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring the barbell back toward your midsection. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees. Lower the barbell down to the starting position. Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions.

Stability Ball Skull Crushers

Stability ball skull crushers stimulate the triceps, shoulders and core. Sit on a stability ball with a dumbbell in each hand. Walk your feet forward until your head and shoulder blades are resting on the ball. Extend your arms straight over your shoulders. Face your palms toward each other. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Press the dumbbells up and return to the starting position. Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions.

Lateral Raises

Doing lateral raises targets the shoulder muscles. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand. Space your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your arms up and out to the sides with palms facing down. Raise the dumbbells up to shoulder-height. Hold this position for two counts. Lower your arms down to the starting position. Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions.

One video for the ladies


And one for men

Thursday, September 13, 2012

College Scores

The QS Rankings, listing the world’s top 200 universities, came out this week.  .

MIT was rated best for the first time ever, replacing Cambridge at the top of the heap.  Harvard was listed third, and University College London, Oxford, Imperial College, Yale, the University of Chicago, Princeton and Caltech, in that order, round out the QS top 10.

The University of Texas, at number 68 moved up from number 76 in 2011.  The other two schools from the state, Rice at #120 and Texas A&M at #165, both fell a few notches, but still remained solidly among the best schools on Earth

The QS table is based on measures of research quality, graduate employability, teaching and how international the faculties and student bodies are.

If the criteria had included things Texans deem important like football, all three Texas schools would have scored much higher.  And if you considered variables like parties and the attractiveness of co-eds, several more Texas colleges would have made the list.

The US NEWS College Rankings have also come out.  They list Rice (tied at #17 with Vanderbilt and Notre Dame) as the best school in the State.  UT is tied with a batch of schools at #46.  SMU shows up on their list at #58 although they did not make the QS top 200, and A&M is ranked #65.

The University of Houston made the US News list for the first time ever, and they’re ready to PARTY!

US News also has a list of the colleges with the most bang for the buck – using a formula comparing academics and cost, available student aid, etc.  On that list, Rice comes in at #10,  A&M at #19, and Texas doesn’t even make the top 50.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Throughout the recent political conventions, and every day on Facebook, there has been a great deal of rhetoric about abortion.

Much of the problem, it seems to me, comes down to semantics and terminology. In the best tradition of politics and advertising, each side has defined itself using titles that seem to make their stand appear unassailable. Who among us is not Pro-Life? What reasonable person is not Pro-Choice?

If the pro-abortion crowd was truly anti-life, they could not exist. They would all have committed suicide like lemmings leaping off a cliff. Clearly, we all value life to some extent.

And what about choice? It will probably surprise some to learn that while I abhor the idea of abortion, I support a woman’s right to submit to one should she feel it is necessary. I believe she should be the final arbiter in that decision, and the government should stay out of the decision making process.

My objection to Pro-Choice is this. I consider abortion to be not a choice but a consequenceNobody chooses an abortion just for the Hell of it. 

I do not believe there has ever been a case of a woman saying “Gee, there’s nothing good on TV – Think I’ll run down and get an abortion.”

The choice (and if she’s seeking an abortion, it was a bad choice) was made days or weeks before. 

EDITOR’S NOTE – I was going to leave this post as-is, and it is probably more effective that way, but it occurred to me that it might appear to blame the woman in cases of rape.  Let me point out that the bad choice in the case of rape was made by the perpetrator, not the victim.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012



It’s September 11th. 

I guess our thoughts today will all go to the events of 9/11/2001 – if they didn’t on their own, the media would certainly remind us – but I’m reminded of something we saw just a little over a year ago. While on vacation with our RVing buddies, the Sheltons, we visited the International Peace Garden on the border between the US and Canada. 

The park is one of those wonderful ideas that doesn’t quite work. Stuck in an almost uninhabited spot between Manitoba and North Dakota, and not even on the road to anywhere, it doesn’t get nearly enough tourists to justify its existence.

One of the “things to see” at the park is the 9-11 Memorial.   Created from ten girders removed from the wreckage of the Trade Centers, it calls on visitors to Recall, Reflect and Remember.

I’ll admit it; I’m not very artistic, but when I took the picture above, I honestly thought the memorial was still under construction.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ants vs. Water Well


Here at the Boggy Thicket, we woke this morning to zero water pressure.  The problem, as it has been many times in the past, was that ants had infested the pressure switch on our well in a suicidal frenzy.  As you can see in the picture above, eventually enough dead ants build up between the electrical contacts to keep them from connecting.  This particular photo is not my well switch – ours has two sets of double contacts – but it’s a pretty good illustration of what happens when the little buggers get into a switch or relay.

I’ve often wondered why ants are attracted to electrical contacts.  My personal theory is that they are attracted by the siren song of a 60-cycle hum; others posit that the attraction comes from the magnetic field generated by alternating current.  Studies do show that the first (and each successive) electrocuted ant releases pheromones that draw other ants to the scene,

Whatever the cause, it is a problem, and not just at my house.  A 2001 study showed fire ant damage to electrical and communication equipment in Texas was 146.5 million dollars a year.  For a look at the figures, and a good article on ants and electrical equipment, check out ANTS from the Agricultural Extension Service.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Junk Drawer

junk drawer_2

I started to name today’s post Potpourri, or maybe Goulash, but realized that both titles would indicate that somehow all the ingredients go together.  That is not the case today, this is more random than that.

  • The hummingbirds are back.  We had been seeing one or two, but in the last couple of days we have seen as many as six at a time.
  • They seem a lot more interested in chasing each other away from the feeders than actually eating.
  • The raccoon is back, too.  We had left the feeder he likes so much down for a couple of weeks.  Once we put it back up, it only lasted two nights before he found it again.  Our latest plan (for now) is to bring it in every night.
  • This was our first cool morning – low here today was 64°, compared to 79° the day before.
  • Honey said the other day that “the sun feels different.”  I never seem to notice this, but when she mentions it, I always realize that she is right.
  • That “different” feel does not correlate to temperature, and doesn’t seem to directly correspond to the equinox or the angle of the sun, but there is no question it exists.
  • Someone posted on a camping forum I follow that autumn is on the way because “the woods have a different smell this time of year.”  I wonder if he isn’t using different senses to describe the same phenomenon.
  • Honey just headed out the door for our morning walk.  I still have to put on my socks and shoes, so I better close for now.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Change Is Good


The young lady using an open-toed shoe for a funnel does not precisely fit today’s subject, but it’s close enough and too funny not to share. 

Actually, I’ve found the best funnel for changing oil on my vehicles is a plastic bottle that used to hold 1.75 liters of cheap scotch.  The threads on the bottle screw in to the opening on the valve cover to provide a funnel that is stable enough to let me prop a quart of oil in the bottle (I cut the bottom out) while it pours.

On the subject of oil changes – yes, I do my own, always have.  The only time I did not, I regretted it.  Still, when I found this on the web, I had to share:

Oil Change instructions for Women:
1. Pull up to Dealership when the mileage reaches 3,000 miles since the last oil change.
2. Drink a cup of coffee.
3. 20 minutes later, scan debit card and leave, driving a properly maintained vehicle.
Money spent:
Oil Change:$24.00
Coffee: Complementary
TOTAL: $24.00

Oil Change instructions for Men:

1. Wait until Saturday, drive to auto parts store and buy a case of oil, filter, kitty litter, hand cleaner and a scented tree, and use your debit card for $50.00.
2. Stop by Beer Store and buy a case of beer, (debit$24), drive home.
3. Open a beer and drink it.
4. Jack truck up. Spend 30 minutes looking for jack stands.
5. Find jack stands under kid's pedal car.
6. In frustration, open another beer and drink it.
7. Place drain pan under engine.
8. Look for 9/16 box end wrench.
9. Give up and use crescent wrench.
10. Unscrew drain plug.
11. Drop drain plug in pan of hot oil: splash hot oil on you in process. Cuss.
12. Crawl out from under truck to wipe hot oil off of face and arms. Throw kitty litter on spilled oil.
13. Have another beer while watching oil drain.
14. Spend 30 minutes looking for oil filter wrench.
15. Give up; crawl under truck and hammer a screwdriver through oil filter and twist off.
16. Crawl out from under truck with dripping oil filter splashing oil everywhere from holes. Cleverly hide old oil filter among trash in trash can to avoid environmental penalties. Drink a beer.
17. Install new oil filter making sure to apply a thin coat of oil to gasket surface.
18. Dump first quart of fresh oil into engine.
19. Remember drain plug from step 11.
20. Hurry to find drain plug in drain pan.
21. Drink beer.
22. Discover that first quart of fresh oil is now on the floor. Throw kitty litter on oil spill.
23. Get drain plug back in with only a minor spill. Drink beer.
24. Crawl under truck getting kitty litter into eyes. Wipe eyes with oily rag used to clean drain plug. Slip with stupid crescent wrench tightening drain plug and bang knuckles on frame removing any excess skin between knuckles and frame.
25. Begin cussing fit.
26. Throw stupid crescent wrench.
27. Cuss for additional 5 minutes because wrench hit truck and left dent.
28. Beer.
29. Clean up hands and bandage as required to stop blood flow.
30. Beer.
31. Dump in five fresh quarts of oil.
32. Beer.
33. Lower truck from jack stands.
34. Move truck back to apply more kitty litter to fresh oil spilled during any missed steps.
35. Beer.
36. Test drive truck.
37. Get pulled over: arrested for driving under the influence.
38. truck gets impounded.
39. Call loving wife, make bail.
40. 12 hours later, get truck from impound yard.
Money spent:
Parts: $50.00
DUI: $2,500.00
Impound fee: $75.00
Bail: $1,500.00
Beer: $25.00
TOTAL: $4,145.00
But you know the job was done right!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Back from the doctor’s office after my annual physical.

No bad news, which I guess is good news. 

He did order X-rays of a joint in my foot that has been bothering me a bit.  The X-rays were done by a cute young radiology student under the tutelage of a supervisor.  I think she learned a lot.  The supervisor did confirm that – at this hospital, anyway – X-ray film is a thing of the past.  Everything is digital and immediately available on line.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


One more Hurricane Isaac story – This time from Alabama:


Visitors are once again trying to get a glimpse of a shipwreck along the Alabama coast that is uncovered every few years, most recently by Hurricane Isaac.

The 150-foot ship, which was built in Moss Point, Miss., in 1919, ran aground while carrying timber in 1933 and it subsequently caught fire, was looted and abandoned, said Amanda McBride Hill, an archeologist at the Alabama Historical Commission. The ship was last seen after Hurricane Ike in 2008, and has made periodic appearances along Gulf Shores because of beach erosion, particularly after storms and hurricanes.

"We've known about it for quite some time," Hill said. "Every time a big storm comes it uncovers the ship, and lots of stories go around."

Historical research has determined that the Rachel, the early 20th century schooner, was carrying a load of timber when she went down. In the early 1930s, the maritime and timber industries were booming in the area.

Some locals have maintained that the vessel is a Civil War-era ship, but its rigging places the ship's origins in the early 20th century, Hill said.

The wreckage sits on private property and some nearby homeowners worry about potential liability as people turn out to check out the wreckage.

"It's just something that you really have to go see," Adriana Mutan told as she walked around the wreckage taking pictures. "I mean, I've seen so many pictures … heard so many stories and now I've seen it."

Others would just like the ship preserved as a piece of history, but the funding obstacles are onerous, according to Hill.

"It could cost millions (of dollars) to excavate and preserve the ship, and we would need a facility that's big enough to house and maintain it so it does not deteriorate," Hill said. "Like everything, it boils down to money which we don't have.

"I would love for it to be on display so our visitors and residents could learn more about the Gulf Coast history," Hill said.

The good news, she said, is that Rachel sits in a "fairly protected" area of the shoreline.

"It's right here in the intertidal zone, where the waves meet the beach," she said. "That usually provides enough sand to keep it covered."

Over the Labor Day weekend, the shipwreck drew a steady stream of onlookers who arrived to see history first-hand.

"I've always thought it would be kind of cool for them to excavate this thing and move it … preserve what they can and take it to the museum," Gulf Shores resident Billy Berrey told "The last time it was uncovered, people were pulling things off of it."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012



Nutria are huge water rats that were originally imported to help control vegetation in rice canals.  They are a prime example of the Law of Unintended Consequences – they have become a major pest along the gulf coast, particularly South Louisiana.

They have even given rise to a TV series - Rat Bastards, on Spike, the cable channel.

Hurricane Isaac killed thousands of the critters, and they are washing up on Mississippi beaches by the truckload.

Here’s the story from the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald:


Nutria cleanup on the beaches of Hancock County, Mississippi,  was slow going Monday as crews developed the best way to attack the problem of tons of the dead animals washing ashore from south Louisiana.

Sunday's was a test crew to see how best to tackle the problem, and by 8:30 a.m. Sunday, a half-dozen of the crew had quit, state officials said.

It's not work that suits just anyone.

The federal government hired a contractor, U.S. Environmental Services, to handle the situation -- 16,000 to 18,000 nutria and other dead animals from Hurricane Isaac. The bodies will be disposed of in a Pecan Grove landfill that's rated to take household garbage.

"They're separating the bodies from the grass and piling them up," said Hancock County Supervisor David Yarborough. "They have equipment today. It's moving.

"But it's only getting worse," he said. "As they're picking them up, they're busting open. It's worse in one sense and better in another.

"They're getting the job done. They're equipped, but there's people who can't take the sight of something like this," he said. "That's the reason I wouldn't even attempt this with county people. You really should be certified and trained in hazardous waste."

County crews tried to deal with a similar situation after Hurricane Gustav "and we had people getting sick; wound up buying everybody's clothes," he said. "Our people just aren't trained for this."

He said it's better to have the federal government handle this one. State officials said the federal contract is for two weeks, but expect the cleanup to go more quickly than that.

Harrison County used the county's sand-beach crews to remove about 11 tons of dead animals from its beaches on Saturday -- Courthouse Road to the Hancock County line. Even with additional cleanup on Sunday, bring the total closer to 16 tons, they didn't have as many as Hancock County.

But they were still washing up on Monday, Supervisor Kim Savant said, adding that Harrison County decided it didn't want to wait on the federal government to do the job.

Chad Lafontaine, with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said Monday that most of the nutria in Hancock County were on the beach, but some were still floating or in the surf.

"Most are dry and can be identified as nutria," Lafontaine said. "Contractors are looking at getting boats to scoop the others out of the water."

State and federal agencies focused cleanup on the 11 miles of Hancock County beaches.

The bodies are tangled in deeper grass, and crews had to develop techniques to deal with this -- hand tools and other equipment.

"It's slow going today," Lafontaine said. "The odor is pretty bad and it gets worse every day. Obviously, it's rotting carcasses.

"The closer you get to Waveland and Buccaneer State Park, the worse the smell because the concentration is heavier.

"We're dealing with a heat issue too," he said. "But we've got a good game plan on how to approach it."

He said crews will leave the carcasses that are out in the marsh and aren't in public-use or residential areas.

"We're letting mother nature take care of those."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Faint Praise


First of all, a list of facts and observations:

Never mind Ben and Jerry’s,  or Bryer’s or Dryer’s, anyone who has ever lived in Texas will confirm that the very best ice cream on the planet comes from the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham.

Their Peaches & Home-made Vanilla has been a seasonal favorite for years.

The alchemists at Blue Bell have devised a way to keep pie crust crisp and flavorful inside a carton of ice cream, and that has led the way to several truly remarkable new flavor offerings this year.

{I may have mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating.} 

One of those flavors is Southern Blackberry Cobbler.   I was buying a carton last spring, when the lady at the check-out stand stopped and asked to see my driver’s license.  When I asked why, she said “Because that stuff is habit-forming.”

She was absolutely right.  That stuff  would make the Gods of Olympus come down from the mountain and abandon their ambrosia – it is that good!

Based on the criteria above, when I saw an ad on TV for Blue Bell’s new Southern Peach Cobbler, I couldn’t wait to get to the store. 

I bought some yesterday afternoon and tried it after dinner.  It was good.

Better than just good? 




Everything I hoped for?

Not even close.

In fairness, I’ll have to admit that previous experience had made me set my expectations so high that nobody, not even Blue Bell, could get there.  That bar was so high you probably couldn’t hit it with a Saturn Rocket.

Sunday, September 2, 2012



It never ceases to amaze me how  relatively intelligent people – with more-or-less the same IQ – can take the same set of facts and form totally opposite conclusions. 

It happens all the time, even more so during political campaigns. Show them the same dime, and one group always sees heads while the other just as consistently sees tails. 

Then there are the inconsequential few who actually view the coin from the side - geeks involved in science experiments and con men looking to win bar bets.  I think I like these people better.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Impossible Task

Came across a website called

We all know that’s impossible, but a look at the site will generate a few chuckles.

Here’s a picture from typical post: