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!”

Saturday, November 17, 2012



Pretty quiet at the Boggy Thicket today, so I might as well comment on the demise of Hostess Twinkies.  Everybody else is – War is heating up in Gaza, Congress is holding hearings on Benghazi, a Veterans’ Parade in Midland was hit by a train, but every newscast is talking about Twinkies being done in by the unions.

Personally, I won’t miss them that much.  As a hopeless chocoholic, I was much more affected by the demise of Ding-Dongs and Hostess Cupcakes, but the Twinkies have been a part of American diet and culture since 1933.

Here’s a Twinkie factoid for you.  The original recipe had a banana cream filling, but that was changed to vanilla cream when bananas were being rationed during WW II.  When sales began to drop several years ago, Hostess tried to reintroduce the original recipe as an option, but it was not well received.

Twinkies don’t go bad like other cakes, and  their longevity has led to the myth that Twinkies have a shelf life measured in years, even decades. Roger Bennatti, a science teacher at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine, kept one perched atop his chalkboard for 30 years. "It's rather brittle, but if you dusted it off, it's probably still edible," he told the Associated Press when he retired back in 2004.

Twinkies may not last forever, but they may come back.  Market analysts say there is a good chance that someone will buy the brand and reintroduce Twinkies in the near future.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Losing Bet


I’ll begin today’s post with a disclaimer:

The fat guy with the moustache and the silly grin is me.  It’s an old Polaroid, taken several years ago at Coushatta Casino in Kinder, Louisiana. I had just won the maximum jackpot on a quarter slot, $12,500 on a $1.25 bet.

I like to play slot machines, and because of this win, and a few much smaller ones over the years, I am probably about even.  If not, it has still averaged out to be inexpensive entertainment over the years.

Know who really loses money on gambling?

There are those who say that it is low-income folks who can’t control their urges, but the fact is that the biggest loser around here is the State of Texas.


Texas is literally surrounded by casinos, and by not allowing casino gambling we insure the success of the gaming operations in surrounding states.  Texas loses 2.5 Billion dollars in gambling revenue to Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico every year.

So why don’t we have casinos in Texas?  There are those who oppose gambling on moral or religious grounds, but the big money behind the political opposition comes from gambling operations in neighboring states.

If you think that’s wrong, or just want to learn more about it, check out Let Texas Decide.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Damn! I Almost Missed It



Just in case you haven’t heard – and I had not - this is the month of Movember.  It’s a time for men to grow moustaches and to raise world-wide awareness of men’s health issues.

If you’re feeling smug because you already sport a fine handlebar or Fu Manchu, don’t be.  Rules of the competition say all men should start clean shaven on November 1st, and grow their ‘stache for a month.

Originally an Australian idea, Movember is now truly world wide.  According to their website, moustaches are cropping up all over – places like Big Ben in London, the New York Stock Exchange, and on the front of Qantas airliners.

In addition to raising money for organizations like Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Movember movement hosts about a dozen parties around the US.  There’s one in Austin on November 30 – it starts at 8 p.m. at Emo’s on East Riverside Drive.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Poe-etic Justice

only an idiot

It sounds like a sentence imposed by former judge – and my current Congressman – Ted Poe, but this time it happened in Cleveland, Ohio.

A woman caught on camera driving on a sidewalk to pass a Cleveland school bus  unloading children stood in the cold Tuesday holding a sign warning people about idiots.

A Cleveland Municipal Court judge ordered 32-year-old Shena Hardin to serve the highly public sentence for one hour Tuesday and another hour today. She arrived to serve her sentence yesterday bundled up against the 34-degree cold, puffing a cigarette, wearing head phones and avoiding comment as passing vehicles honked.

Satellite TV trucks were on hand to stream the event live near downtown Cleveland.

The sign read: "Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus."

Hardin's license was also suspended for 30 days and she was ordered to pay $250 in court costs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More About Mushrooms


These are wild Chanterelle Mushrooms, a delicacy found in Northern California woods this time of year.  The same areas also support the highly toxic Death Cap mushroom.


The two species do not look at all alike to me, but it is said that confusing the two is a fairly common mistake, one that probably had fatal results this past weekend.

Friday's mass poisoning at an assisted-living facility near Sacramento left two dead, and four others sickened, including the caregiver who had prepared soup for residents using toxic wild mushrooms.

Placer County sheriff's officials have called the deaths of Barbara Lopes, 86, and Teresa Olesniewicz, 73, an accident. Both residents of the  Gold Age Villa in Loomis died after eating mushroom soup.

Back on October 20th I wrote about the attractive looking wild mushrooms at the Boggy Thicket, and how dangerous they might be.  Obviously, wild mushroom harvesting is no job for amateurs.  Makes you wonder how humans ever found varieties that were safe to eat.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dollars per Watt


We didn’t hear Houston superstar J. J. Watt’s name called very often in last night’s 13-6 win over the Bears, but as the announcers on NBC pointed out several times, he was being double (or even triple) teamed on every play.

I suppose that is the only way to deal with him, but it does provide openings for other members of Houston’s very capable defense. 

Watt has been named several times this year as the best defensive player in the league – for the week, for the first half of the season, etc.  He has collected a slew of nicknames, and heard hundreds of little girls scream his name when he went on stage at a Justin Bieber concert. He has achieved his childhood dream of being on  the cover of Sports Illustrated, and yet interviews continue to reveal a nice, clean-cut, unassuming boy from small town Wisconsin.

Maybe that is because – by NFL standards – he works so cheap. 

In a year in which three of the top five salaries in the league (see the list here) are going to defensive players, and former Texan defensive end Mario Williams will bank a cool $33.2 million, Watt is just in his second year of his Rookie contract.

On July 31, 2011, Watt was signed to a four-year contract with the Texans worth $11,237,000, which included a signing bonus of $6,672,000.  By my math, that means that, barring a new contract, Watt will have to survive 2012 and the next couple years on just a little over a million dollars a year.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How Roseanne Did at the Polls


If you saw a headline that said that Roseanne Barr came in fifth in the 2012 race for President, don’t believe it.  She didn’t. 

As the chart below demonstrates, she came in sixth – or seventh, if you count “Write Ins” as a candidate. 


Barr lost her attempt to get the nomination of the Green Party, so she made up her own.  She may or may not have picked up a few votes by having Cindy Sheehan, the crazy mother who gave George Bush so much grief about Iraq, as her running mate.

Here in Texas, changing demographics have led to some interesting changes in votes. 

texas vote

Romney carried the state with 57% of the vote.  Traditionally Democrat counties like Travis (Austin) voted 60% for Obama, but all the counties surrounding Austin voted Republican by strong majorities.  Burnet County, for example, gave Romney over 76% of their votes.

The traditionally conservative stronghold of Dallas voted for Obama by a 57 to 42% margin while Ft Worth voted Romney by an almost identical  57 to 42%.   All of the other counties around Dallas voted Republican by even larger margins. 

Here in Harris county, the vote was very close, but the race went to the Democrats.


If Roseanne got any votes at all, they’re hidden in that “Other” category.

Saturday, November 10, 2012



Americans have had an on-again-off-again affair with beards throughout our history.  One year, corporations and the military dictate clean shaven faces for all, but time-travel a dozen years either way and the attitude is is closer to that of Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing - "He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man."

Of course, as George Carlin said –“Lenin had a beard.  Gabby Hayes had Whiskers.”

My grandson Bryce is now of an age at which he will soon begin shaving every day, if he hasn’t already.  The truth is that with his blond hair and fair skin, he doesn't really need to shave yet, and I would strongly advise him to wait – to hold off as long as possible.

He won’t. 

Like getting their first training bra for girls, shaving is a rite of passage for boys, something they can’t wait to do.  I can remember soaping up my face at the age of four or five and using my dad’s Gillette (without the double-edged blade) to wipe it off.  I think every boy does that at one time or another.

Still, I should warn him that once you start, it’s almost impossible to quit. 

Some us can’t grow a good looking beard to save our lives, and almost nobody can pull off the scraggly/sexy look Don Johnson made popular on Miami Vice, so shaving becomes a dreary, annoying, but necessary part of our daily ritual.

In my forties, I was finally able to grow a fairly respectable moustache, but even that got mixed reviews.  I liked it, our daughters liked it, but my wife did not.  She didn’t like the way it felt, and she thought it made me look older. To be honest, it made shaving more difficult – trimming around it without messing it up added extra minutes each morning to a chore I already disliked.

One of the blessings of retirement seemed to be that I would only have to shave when I decided that I wanted to shave, but now I have learned that even that blessing came with a curse.  I have developed a small but thick  patch of very white hair under my septum just below my right nostril.  If I don’t shave at least every other day, I start to look like I have a runny nose.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Strip Joints

First, a sort of disclaimer: I don’t suppose that it’s very macho of me to admit it, but I don’t like strip joints. 

The fact that they make money seems to indicate that they fill a need, but if they all disappeared tomorrow my life would be just as complete. I’ve only been a couple of times – a couple of bachelor parties – but my impressions were that the drinks were too expensive, the music too loud and the dancers simply made me sad.

That being said, local clubs have been in the news a lot lately. 

There was the story about the guy from the Port of San Francisco who used a government credit card to run up a huge bill. 

Then the Houston Chronicle reported that Rick’s Cabaret spent tons of money on the last political campaign in an unsuccessful attempt to elect folks who might have helped them in their current legal battle with the City of Houston.

Now,  it’s being reported that two strippers have sued Rick’s, XTC Cabaret, and RCI Entertainment, the company that owns them and a whole string of strip joints in several Texas cities.  Their complaint is that the clubs fail to pay minimum wage or overtime, and they want back pay for themselves and all the other dancers.

It all comes down to whether exotic dancers are employees or contractors. 

Don Foty, an employment lawyer with Kennedy Hodges in Houston who is representing the dancers, said the clubs do not pay the dancers, who are typically scheduled for eight-hour shifts. Instead, the dancers pay the clubs to allow them to perform at a rate that ranges between $20 and $100 per shift. The dancers work solely for tips, the lawsuit claims, while the clubs require them to share the tip money with disc jockeys, managers and others.

Just the fact that the strippers pay the club for stage time seems to make it pretty obvious that they are contractors.  I don’t think they have a  leg to stand on.

That last sentence brought the picture of a legless stripper to mind – I wish I hadn’t written that.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One More Earthquake Story

Still no major earthquake in California, and at least one of my regular readers (my wife) has told me it is time to quit writing about it, but there was a major quake in
Central America yesterday.  The magnitude-7.4 quake struck 28 miles southwest of Champerico, Guatemala, near the border with Mexico.

As of this morning, reports say the quake killed at least 48 people with dozens more still missing.  It was felt as far away as San Salvador and Mexico City.  Office workers in Mexico City evacuated their high-rise buildings for a while, and homes and offices in the Guatemalan capitol were also evacuated.

The evacuations in Guatemala City led to one of the best earthquake quotes ever.  A building janitor, Jorge Gamboa, told Reuters (translated into English)  "I was in the bathroom. When I came out the office was empty and I thought, 'what's happening? They didn't even say goodbye.'''

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On the Market

Blair house woodlands

The Blair House is for sale. 

Not the VP’s house in DC, the Woodlands mansion owned by Jim and Nelda Blair.

The Blairs, who apparently had a bit of disposable income available, bought the place in 2002 as a place to fix up and host events.  Since then it has been the venue of numerous parties, hosted governors and senators and has been the site of music videos and a Houston Rockets Power Dancers Calendar photo shoot.

The place features five bedrooms (plus an apartment) eleven baths and a six-car garage.  It’s located on seven and a half acres in the Woodlands, and they’re only asking $5.4 million.

If you want to know more, the place even has its own website -

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Special

Honey and I are back from the polling booth, having exercised our prerogative as citizens, performed our civic duty, etc., and so forth.  
We waited until 9:45 to allow the folks who were voting before work to clear out, and that worked well.  There were lines at each alphabetical segment of the registration desk, but they moved quickly.  By the time we signed in and got our access codes there were voting machines available.

However the votes add up tonight, I will not be completely satisfied, and I suspect that most people will feel the same way, although not necessarily for the same reasons.

Since I am a strict constructionist, State’s rights, fiscal conservative, and a human rights liberal, there has not been a president in my lifetime that fit my point of view, and I doubt that there ever will be.

The good news, or bad, depending on your way of thinking, is that who is elected President isn’t nearly as important as it is made out to be. 

Presidents, like football quarterbacks and baseball pitchers, get credit or blame for a multitude of things over which they have little or no control.  George Bush, hog-tied by a Democratic Congress, is still getting the blame for things ( the mortgage  crisis, for example)  that were the bad ideas of the legislative branch.  Barack Obama hasn’t been able to accomplish anything significant – good or bad – since Republicans gained control of the House.

However the presidential election goes, it is fairly certain that Congress will remain pretty much the same.  Republicans should retain control of the House, and may gain a seat or two in the Senate, but not enough to achieve a majority.  That sort of Congress will either provide a buffer or a roadblock. We know that will happen, we’ve seen it before, so why don’t the national parties work harder to get their congressional candidates elected? 

The only explanation I can offer is that except for the “Contract With America” in 1994 or the Tea Party movement in 2010, congressional elections are much more  local than national.  The electorate may scream about the deficit and the national debt, but they will elect the guy who dips into the pork barrel and brings money back to the district.  They may know that he is a bastard and a crook, but he continues to be reelected because he’s their crooked bastard. 

I’m trying to take a more Libertarian attitude - “The best government is one that doesn’t do anything at all.”  But I realize that once in a while, we might need to accomplish something.

Repair Update

Yesterday did not go exactly as planned. 

Dropping the 5th wheel off at the shop, which should have been easy, got to be a major production and the pool pump repair I expected to take several days is done.

When I was getting the trailer ready to tow, the battery was too low to bring in the slides.  I had to disconnect the battery and put it on the charger for half an hour before I could close the camper up.  I knew the converter wasn’t working properly – it was one of the things we’re having fixed/ replaced -  but it is the first time we’ve seen the battery get that low.

Once the trailer was delivered, I dropped the pump off at the pool store.  Before I could get home they called saying it was ready to pick up.  It cost more than I expected (Doesn’t it always?) but they had to replace three parts instead of just the one I was planning to swap. 

Got the pump reassembled and reinstalled yesterday afternoon, and it is back to normal today.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Repair Day

Today is going to be a repair day.

Actually, it is a take stuff to be repaired day – I don’t expect anything to get fixed today.

I am taking the 5th wheel back to the RV shop to complete the repairs from the last time it was there, and to find and fix a wire that got broken when they replaced the kitchen gray water tank on that last visit. 

We’re also going to get the wheel well fixed – mostly cosmetic damage from a blowout.  That is covered by comprehensive insurance, and I have a claim number.  State Farm wants an estimate before they send an adjustor to approve the repair, so I have no idea how long that might take.  A little worried though, since when our old trailer was totalled several years ago, a hurricane had all adjusters tied up.  It took six weeks to get somebody out to survey the damage back then.

Once I drop off the trailer, I’ll be taking our pool pump in for repair.  We just had the motor repaired a month ago, and now it has a leaking seal between the motor and the pump body.  I was going to fix it myself, but the bolt holding the impeller on the end of the motor shaft is frozen.  I decided to let the pool place figure out how to get it off.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Fine Day to be Born

Today is my wonderful wife Honey’s birthday, and she shares her birthday with some pretty cool people.

First on her list is probably her aunt Jean Ernest, who had the day to herself in the family until Honey came along, but there are a lot of interesting people who share the day, including:

  • Will Rogers
  • Walter Cronkite
  • Jeff Probst
  • Laura Bush
  • Doris Roberts
  • Loretta Swit
  • Art Carney
  • Matthew McConaughey

Others born this day include the guy who composed Rock of Ages (the hymn, not the musical) and the fellow who designed the Buffalo Nickel.  All in all, a pretty good day to be born.

Astrologers say that Scorpios (Honey) and Leos (me) are incompatible, but we must be the exception to the rule.  We have been getting along very well for almost half a century.

Happy birthday, Sweetheart.  I can’t tell you how glad I am that you were born.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tinker’s Splinter

Yesterday afternoon, Tinker – our black and tan Dachshund – limped up to Honey favoring her left front foot.  A check of the foot revealed a big splinter stuck in the pad of one of her toes. 

Honey could not get a grip on the splinter with her fingers, and I couldn’t either, so she took Tinker into the house to get some tweezers.

With Tinker (who was remaining amazingly calm through all this) cradled in her lap, Honey approached the splinter with the tweezers and it just fell off.

The splinter was not a splinter at all – it was the tip on the bottom of an acorn! 

Somehow Tinker had managed to step on an empty acorn shell and slip it over her toe like Cinderella’s slipper.  The dry, scuffed and dirty shell matched the skin on her other toes so well we did not realize what it was until it fell off.

Once it did, Tinker was fine and ran off to play.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Circling the Square


Honey and I used to square dance and we enjoyed it a lot. 

She started very young – about six – when she went to dances with her parents.  I was eleven when I was asked to join a youth square dance club by the sister of a girl I thought was cute. 

When our kids were little we danced with the North Shore Spinners in East Houston. We later joined three other couples to form our own touring square.  We called our group the Black Sheep, and visited square dance clubs all over southeast Texas. 

Not bragging, but we got pretty darn good – good enough that the Black Sheep often did what we called mirror-dancing, responding to the caller’s instructions in reverse.

taws-squaredancers-sWhen I saw this on line this morning, it reminded me of those Black Sheep days, and it made me wonder -

When the caller yells Do-Si-Do, do Australian dancers circle clockwise?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I’m With Abby

A 4-year-old Fort Collins, Colorado,  girl gained a measure of Internet fame — and an apology from National Public Radio — after her mother captured the girl’s tear-stained reaction to the nation’s seemingly omnipresent political debate.

Elizabeth Evans posted her daughter’s reaction to NPR programming during a Tuesday trip to the grocery store. In the video, a tearful Abigael Evans, when asked why she’s crying, replies, “I’m tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney.”

Assured by her mother that the election will be over soon, Abigael responds with a matter-of-fact “Yay.”

On Wednesday, NPR news blogger Mark Memmot wrote on The Two-Way blog: “On behalf of NPR and all other news outlets, we apologize to Abigael and all the many others who probably feel like her. We must confess, the campaign’s gone on long enough for us, too. Let’s just keep telling ourselves: ‘Only a few more days, only a few more days, only a few more days.’”