Thursday, January 31, 2013


Well, there are lifestyles, and then there are lifestyles.  Don’t think I could live this way, but this guy seems to be very happy.

Werner Freund, a 79 year old ex-paratrooper,  has raised more than 70 wolves on his sanctuary in Merzig, Germany.  He currently has 29 wolves who all consider him to be the alpha male.


If the video doesn’t play (it sometimes doesn’t for some reason) try HERE

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


batteries 2

Okay, maybe it’s not the most profound or pressing question of the day, but have you ever wondered why there aren’t any B batteries?

I have – the answer is that there are, but they’re very rare -  and I just found this explanation on the Mental Floss website:

Around the time of World War I, American battery manufacturers, the War Industries Board, and a few government agencies got together to develop some nationally uniform specifications for the size of battery cells, their arrangement in batteries, their minimum performance criteria, and other standards.

In 1924, industry and government representatives met again to figure out a naming system for all those cells and batteries they had just standardized. They decided to base it around the alphabet, dubbing the smallest cells and single-cell batteries “A” and went from there to B, C and D. There was also a "No. 6" battery that was larger than the others and pretty commonly used, so it was grandfathered in without a name change.

As battery technology changed and improved and new sizes of batteries were made, they were added to the naming system. When smaller batteries came along, they were designated AA and AAA. These newer batteries were the right size for the growing consumer electronics industry, so they caught on. C and D batteries also found a niche in medium- and high-drain applications. The mid-size A and B batteries simply didn’t have a market and more or less disappeared in the U.S..

While you typically won’t see either A or B batteries on American store shelves, they’re still out there in the wild. A batteries were used in early-model laptop battery packs and some hobby battery packs. B batteries are still sometimes used in Europe for lanterns and bicycle lamps. According to Energizer, though, their popularity is dwindling there, too, and they might be completely discontinued.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

You Are When You Eat


In dieting, like comedy, timing is everything. That’s the conclusion of a new Spanish study that suggests that when you eat might be just as important as what you eat.

During the first few weeks of the 20-week study, run by US researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in collaboration with Tufts University and the University of Murcia, all 420 subjects lost weight at about the same rate. But starting around week five, weight loss for dieters who ate their main meal after 3 p.m. began to stall and remained sluggish for the duration of the study. In the end, they lost 22 percent less weight than dieters who ate the bulk of their calories earlier in the day.

The results left researchers scratching their heads. All the subjects ate and burned off about the same number of calories. They all followed a Mediterranean-style diet consisting of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats such as olive oil, and consumed about 40 percent of their daily calories at lunch. They all slept approximately the same number of hours each night and, when tested, their appetite and hunger hormone levels were comparable. Even their genetics were similar.

The late-in-the-day eaters did tend to be breakfast-skippers, and they showed a higher level of insulin resistance. But according to the researchers, these differences alone didn’t explain the variability in weight loss between late and early eaters — and neither of these factors was correlated with the amount of an individual’s weight loss.

The researchers’ best guess is that that eating later in the day messes with the body’s internal clock system, known as circadian rhythms, and this might somehow have an adverse effect on metabolism.

Frank Sheer, one of the study’s coauthors and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explained it this way:

“The circadian system is made up of a master clock in the brain and peripheral clocks in most cells throughout the body. Normally, the master clock synchronizes all peripheral clocks, similar to the conductor of an orchestra. When meal timing is abnormal this leads to de-synchronization between these different clocks, resulting in a cacophony.”

Monday, January 28, 2013

False Spring and a New Font

Temperatures have been warmer than normal here for the last week or so.  The low this morning at the Boggy Thicket was 69°, and we have blooms opening on several of our azaleas – opening at least two months ahead of schedule.

Evidence of Global Warming?

Maybe – But tell that to those from the upper Midwest to New England who have been experiencing record lows over the same period.

On a totally unrelated subject:

You may have noticed that I have switched fonts on my blog.  The default font in Windows Live Writer, which I use most of the time is Georgia 10pt, which is much too small.  I had been using 12pt, but accidentally posted  in Georgia 14pt last Thursday, and I was amazed how much better it looked. 

It really doesn’t make all that much difference as I’m writing, but when posted to my blog, the difference for the on-line reader is huge. The text is not only slightly larger, for some reason it appears much darker, almost as if I had selected bold face.

Scroll back and compare Thursday’s post with last Wednesday’s, and I think you’ll agree that it is much easier on the eye.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pigeon Soap

London based artist Cohen Van Balen is behind a project to turn live pigeons into soap dispensers. 

He explains, “ With the help of biochemist James Chappell, we have used synthetic biology to design and create a bacteria that can modify the metabolism of pigeons. To achieve this, we have created a new biobrick, or standard biological part, that when added to the genetic information of the bacteria, creates lipase. We have also used a biobrick that lowers the ph. The result is a biological device that produces a kind of window-soap. We have built this device in the bacteria Lactobacillus, which is a bacteria that naturally occurs in the digestive tract. So when feeding this bacteria to a pigeon, it should produce and defecate biological soap.”


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Growing Pains


Forbes Magazine has just released this year’s list of the fastest growing cities in America, and the top three are from Texas.

With an estimated annual population growth rate of 3% for 2012 and 2013, a 3% rate of job growth in 2012, 4.9% unemployment, and an economy that expanded 6.3% last year, Austin takes the top spot on Forbes’ annual list of America’s Fastest Growing Cities for the third year in a row.

Houston came in number two, and Dallas was third.

The term Cities is a little misleading – Forbes uses Metropolitan Statistical Areas – so Austin includes Round Rock (and everything else along the I-35 corridor from Georgetown to San Marcos) and Dallas includes Ft. Worth, Arlington, etc. 

As they explain their criterion, they started with the 100 most populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), which are cities and their surrounding suburbs, as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. They rated these geographic areas based on six metrics.

“Using data from Moody’s Analytics, we assessed the estimated rate of population growth for 2012 and 2013, the rate of job growth in 2012, and the rate of gross metro product growth, or economic growth, for 2012. We also factored in federal unemployment data and median salaries for local college-educated workers, courtesy of The result is a list of the 20 fastest growing metro areas in America in terms of population and economy.

Cities in Texas — which welcomed more than 427,000 newcomers from August 2011 to July 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — dominated our list.  Robust labor markets, unemployment rates under 6% (well below the national average),no state income tax, a business-friendly regulatory environment, and strong population inflows all contributed to Texas towns’ high rankings.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Taking Up Serpents - II


My father was bitten by a Cottonmouth Moccasin while swimming in the San Jacinto River as a child. That began a lifelong campaign against snakes.

Dad was known to kill poisonous snakes by picking them up and popping them like a whip. 

The first time I saw him do that, I was eight or nine years old.  I don’t know what kind of snake it was, but I do know I was awestruck; I mean I was  seriously impressed.

The last time I saw him do it, I was twenty.  We were cleaning out weeds on the banks of the stock tank when he snatched up a big Cottonmouth, spun it around his head and snapped it like it was a bullwhip and he was Lash Larue or maybe Indiana Jones. 

It literally popped the snake’s head right off – it flew about twenty feet before hitting the water.

I have never tried that, and am pretty sure that I never will.  When that King Snake I talked about yesterday grabbed onto my shoelace, I thought about it, but I was trying to save the snake at the time.  Besides, trying it with a harmless snake seemed kind of wimpy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Taking Up Serpents


The colorful snake pictured above is a Scarlet King Snake, sometimes known as a Mexican Milk Snake.  Actually, those are two different species, but they look so much alike (and there is so much in-species variation) that they probably couldn’t tell themselves apart.

If it matters to you at all, although it resembles a Coral Snake, King Snakes are non-poisonous.  Remember the rhyme –

Red and yellow kill a fellow

Red and black, venom lack

Of course, if you ask my wife, all snakes (even snakes on TV) are an abomination.  They are the devil’s spawn, and must be eradicated.  Any snake at all will cause her to suffer a paralyzing panic attack.

Unusual for this time of year, but several days of warm weather brought one out in our back yard on Tuesday. 

Tinker, our black-and-tan dachshund, saw it first and was barking at it while staying just out of reach.  Since King Snakes are essentially harmless, living on a diet consisting mostly of lizards and frogs, I decided to give it a break.  I picked it up and threw it about 40 feet over the back fence.

 Everything would have been fine if the story ended there, but the darn serpent couldn’t leave well enough alone.  About an hour later, Tinker was barking again – the stupid snake was right back where I had picked him up the first time, and this time Honey saw him. 

That sealed his fate.

I decapitated the snake with a shovel and threw his remains on the glowing coals where I was burning fallen limbs.  It’s amazing how fast even a headless snake can wriggle out of a fire.  The next time, I was careful to place him between a couple burning logs, and he did not make it out again.

I’ve said that King Snakes are harmless and non-poisonous, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t bite;  they are actually quite aggressive.  When I picked him up the first time, he grabbed onto my shoe lace and I wasn’t sure I was going to get him loose. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hermann Park Eagles

There’s a family of Bald Eagles living in Hermann Park – within sight of the Houston Zoo and the Texas Medical Center.

Maybe more amazing is that they were first spotted by a seven-year-old bird watcher out for a walk with his mom and little brother.


Not really related, but if you think Deborah Wrigley has been on the air forever, you’re right.  I can’t remember when she started, but I can’t remember when she wasn’t around and her official Channel 13 Bio doesn’t say.

KTRK does lead the city in the longevity of their news team.  I was sharing a newsroom with Dave Ward – he was at KNUZ and I at sister-station KQUE-fm, when he left radio to man the anchor desk at KTRK in 1965.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

One Out OF Twelve


The Fiscal Times just came out with a list of the 12 Worst Supermarkets In America.  Actually, it’s a list of the dozen most disliked supermarket chains. 

The good news is that only one chain with stores in my area– Wal-Mart Supercenters – made the list.  They weren’t the worst, but they came in at number two, with bad reviews on everything but price.

The bad news is that Wal-Mart is the only chain in the dirty dozen that even operates stores in Southeast Texas.

You can see the story Here.

Monday, January 21, 2013



Cambridge University researchers took the photograph above.  It is a quadruple helix that was found within a human cell.

If you’ve ever studied genetics in school or college, you’ll know that the structure of DNA is a double helix, and that DNA carries all of our genetic code. While traditionally we think of only double helix DNA, scientists from Cambridge report a quadruple helix is also present in some cells and is believed to relate to cancer in some ways.

Scientists have been able to produce quadruple helix material in test tubes for years, but the new research performed at the University is believed to be the first to firmly pinpoint quadruple helix in human cells.

The researchers were able to determine that most frequent occurrence of the quadruple helix DNA arose during the “S-phase” when a cell copies DNA prior to dividing.

According to the researchers, controlling these quadruple helix structures could provide new ways to fight cancer. The scientists believe the quadruple helix may form when the cell has a certain genotype or when it operates in a dysfunctional state. This G-quadruplex may be involved in the development of some cancers according to the researchers, and they believe that it could be possible to make synthetic molecules containing the structure and and use them to block the runaway cell proliferation that causes tumors.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Science Fun

TELUS World of Science is the name of several venues sponsored by Telus, a Canadian telecom company.  There are World of Science attractions in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Science World at the TELUS World of Science in Vancouver, British Columbia, is a place dedicated to making science fun for kids.  Over the years, they have had numerous attention-grabbing print ads and billboards.  Here are just a few:

First - from a billboard advising folks worried about their weight to only weigh in elevators

weigh less

To this one about pearls


It went on to explain that a pearl that size would not be gem quality since the giant clam that it came from doesn’t produce the nacre that gives pearls from oysters their shine.

The next two should be self explanatory -

clowns and heights


gas baloon

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Eye of the Beholder


The Air Force announced yesterday that it had found hundreds of examples of pornography and tens of thousands of “inappropriate” items in a sweep of bases around the world.

According to the current issue of Stars and Stripes, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III ordered wing commanders in late November to scour work areas for pornographic or offensive materials that sexually objectify men or women, and for other “unprofessional” items.

Welsh’s order came on the heels of media reports of sexual harassment and hostile working conditions for female airmen, and in the midst of a growing scandal centered on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, over sexual misconduct by Air Force instructors toward trainees.

Gen. Larry Spencer, the Air Force vice chief of staff, told Stars and Stripes on Friday that the inspection was aimed at making sure current policies and standards on workplace conduct are being enforced. There were “no issues” found at most installations, he said.

“We want folks to come in to work every day and feel like they’re in a professional environment and feel like they’re respected,” Spencer said.

Inspections took place in recent weeks at 97 active duty installations and offices worldwide. They uncovered about 32,000 items that fell into three categories: pornography, unprofessional material and inappropriate or offensive material. Inspections at Air National Guard installations are just starting, Air Force officials said.

The majority of 631 items deemed pornographic were uncovered in Air Education and Training Command, which oversees training at Lackland and other bases. While most were items like magazines or computer videos that were removed or deleted, investigators also identified 11 pornographic computer images that were “preserved for evidence,” according to a database provided by the Air Force.

Air Force officials said they could not comment the images, which could be part of a criminal investigation.

The most wide-ranging category covered 27,598 “inappropriate/offensive” items. It included sexually suggestive posters in public areas, obscene cartoons and more than 200 images of aircraft nose art, some dating to World War II. Air Force Special Operations command removed several examples found in the interior of its aircraft.

“We don’t want to paint over the Memphis Belle,” said Air Force spokesman Maj. Joel Harper. But, he added, commanders had broad discretion to decide what crosses the line.

In a somewhat related story, also reports that, for the first time, men are included on the list of alleged victims in the ongoing sexual abuse and misconduct scandal involving Air Force trainees at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

A male drill instructor stands accused of sexual misconduct with two male recruits attending basic military training, while a female instructor is accused of having a sexual relationship with a man attending technical training, according to officials at Air Education and Training Command.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Quake Damage


Over the past two years, when I was writing all those posts about earthquakes, I never suspected that I would be writing one about our own front yard.  Mother Nature had other ideas.

It started last year when the unprecedented drought hit Texas.  It caused a couple of small sinkholes and several fairly large cracks to appear here at the Boggy Thicket.  It also caused us to have to have the house re-leveled last May.

We thought that our worries were over, but then, yesterday morning, our toilets quit flushing.  I tried running a water hose down the line, and it seemed to work for a few minutes, but it soon became obvious that we needed professional help.

The plumbers came and their big roto-rooter machine snaked down the line for about forty feet before reaching a spot it could not chew through.  You could hear the thing thumping – actually feel the ground vibrating – which made it pretty easy to locate the stoppage. 

The plumbers broke out their shovels and began to dig, expecting to find a big root had penetrated the pipe.  What they found was that the earth had shifted in that spot, causing the pipe to offset and collapse. 

They cut out and replaced the damaged portion and everything went back to normal.  Crap still flows downhill, and the toilets work just the way they are supposed to.

The only residual problem is that they did not remove enough dirt from the hole to fill it back in.  Strange how that happens, but, if you look close at the picture above you’ll see that I need to bring in a wheelbarrow full of dirt or more to bring the area back to level.

As they were making the repairs, the head plumber (unintentional pun) told me “Nobody uses this thinner wall sewer pipe anymore.  It just doesn’t hold up.”

Hmmmn – Let’s see. 

It has lasted for over thirty years, and it took a catastrophic drought and displacement of the earth around it to cause it to fail – maybe that’s good enough.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Can Attitude Keep You Afloat?


Back in the 70’s, when I worked for 3M servicing copiers, etc., my service territory included the Port of Houston.

  Once or twice a month, I would have a call on a ship – often on a 3M copier I had never seen before, a model made in Europe or Japan that operated on different voltages than similar US machines and often at 50 cycles rather than the 60 cycles per second we use for power here.  In spite of that, I was usually able to successfully fix the machine, although I did occasionally have to order a part to be delivered to the 3M office in the ship’s next port of call.

Going aboard was always an adventure, and I soon got a feel for what to expect on a ship based on the country of origin.  Japanese ships were always spotless.  So were Norwegian vessels, and they were the most gracious hosts – it was impossible to get off a Norwegian vessel without having  a cup or two of the best coffee I’ve ever drank, usually with a shot of akvivit (aquavit).  Ships of Bahamian or Panamanian registry were always a crap shoot; some were okay, but none came up to the standards of the Norwegians or Japanese.

By far the worst ship I was ever on was an old tanker that regularly ran between Abu Dhabi and Houston.  It much smaller than most, and a real rust bucket – I wouldn’t have felt confident sailing the ship channel to Galveston, much less crossing the Atlantic.  

It flew a Panamanian flag, but the crew was international, a sort of UN in microcosm.

  • The captain was German – spoke German and a little English.
  • The first mate/radio officer was Israeli – spoke Hebrew, German and excellent English with a clipped British accent.
  • The rest of the crew was from Africa, mostly from Mozambique – spoke Swahili and a bit of Portuguese.

As I worked on their copier, I asked the captain how he could understand the crew.  He replied, “I am captain.  I do not have to understand them.  They have to understand me.”


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Here’s Your Sign

Back in December, I had a post about signs at various parks and campgrounds - Helpful Signs

Folks seemed to like it, so here are a few more signs gleaned from the internet:

cafe sign



camp no camp keep closed low flying no hunting in cemetary

silence sign

And finally, a couple of helpful restroom door signs:

severe - women's


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Half Is Twice As Bad


The eerie picture (courtesy of WebMD) shows the location of your sinuses.  What it doesn’t show is the effect of sinusitis.

Anyone who has ever had clogged/inflamed/infected sinuses can tell you that it can feel terrible. 

I am something of an expert, having had sinus headaches off and on for as long as I can remember.  In elementary school, I made several trips to the ENT specialist to have my sinuses pumped out.  I would lie on my back with my head hanging over the end of the table.  The doctor would have me recite “Candy, candy, cookies and cake.” while he ran a tube up my nose.  It was not a pleasant experience, and the results were temporary, at best.

Far worse than typical sinusitis is having the problem on only one side of your head.  In addition to the typical pain, the one-sided sinus attack brings the added bonuses of dizziness, nausea, and the inability to walk a straight line – or, for that matter, to think straight.

I’ve had one of these going on for the last few days – only the sinuses on the left side of my head are affected.  Once I get over this, I should probably come back and check to see if this post makes any sense.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Traveler’s Warning

In a recent story, the Canadian version of the Readers Digest warned -

On first glance, many travelers may think that Canada and the United States are quite similar. But what is legal north of the 49th parallel, might land you with a hefty fine or a jail term in America.

Here is their list of Thirteen Laws they thought Canadians needed to know.  After reading them, I think maybe you do, too.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Beginning to Love Firefox


Several years ago, I switched from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to Google Chrome as my web browser, and I was very glad I did.  It was faster, less prone to attack, and I generally found it easier to use.

I had heard a lot of good things about Firefox, so when I set up our PC in the office, I decided to give it a try.  It worked great, so when I started having problems with Facebook on Chrome, I added Firefox on my laptop and have been using it there as well.

There were no issues at all for a few months, then two weeks ago Facebook began to fail.  By Thursday, it was almost unusable – the technical term is FUBAR.

First, the “see more” clicky on long posts quit working.  It would highlight when I placed my cursor over it, but clicking on it did nothing at all.  Then, I found that I could not access Facebook help for the problem.  I could get to a problem list, but when I clicked on “other” I hit a dead end.

Friday, I updated and ran several utilities – Malwarebytes, Glary Utilities, etc. (If you don’t have the two I listed, get them.  They are free, and solve a lot of problems.) but my problems still remained.  I even took my computer back to a restore point prior to when the problems appeared with no result.

I had just about decided to give up on Facebook entirely since I wasn’t having problems on any other site.  Then I found this at the top of the Firefox page:


Clicking on Restart with Add-Ons Disabled gave me a choice of dumping all add-ons or first opening Firefox in Safe mode with all the add-ons disabled to see if that would fix the problem.  I did, and it did, so at that point I chose to remove all add-ons.

When I did, Mozilla created a desktop folder and dumped all the stuff being uninstalled in there in case I ever needed it, then took Firefox back to its pristine, just-installed condition.

Problem Solved!!!

And, as if that wasn’t enough, the next time I opened Firefox there was a note at the top of the webpage inviting me to discuss the problem/solution with Mozilla.  That is impressive service.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

More Fun Than Earthquakes


Over the past year and a half, I posted quite a few articles about earthquakes.  So many, in fact, that my wife suggested that they were getting boring and it was time to stop beating that horse. 

Now, it looks like I’ve found a new interest – strange cases in our courts.  Not saying that it is a trend, but this is the third such post since December.

This time, it is a case out of Alabama.  The State Supreme Court ruled that a man could sue the maker of a brand name drug even though he had never taken it, only generic versions of the medication. 

On the surface, that just seems wrong, but it’s complicated.  Here’s the story from the New York Times:  


The Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a patient could sue a brand-name company for failing to warn about a drug’s risks even though he had taken a generic version of the product that the company did not make.

Although the decision applies only to Alabama, it is likely to be closely read by lawyers with similar cases pending around the country whose clients have been barred from suing generic companies because of a recent United States Supreme Court ruling.

“It has national implications,” said Bill Curtis, a Dallas lawyer who has filed hundreds of similar cases in several states. “I suspect that now, like most folks, if a client comes into my office, I’d be suing both the generic they took and the brand who’s responsible for the label.”

In the Alabama case, the plaintiff, Danny Weeks, claimed that he had developed a movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia after taking generic versions of Reglan to treat his acid reflux. Mr. Weeks sued Actavis and Teva, the generic companies that made the drugs he took, as well as Wyeth, which developed the drug, for failing to adequately warn about Reglan’s risks.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration required all manufacturers of metoclopramide, the generic name for Reglan, to place stronger warnings on their labels detailing a link between long-term use of the drug and tardive dyskinesia. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed by patients who claim that Wyeth failed to properly warn about Reglan’s risks.

The chances of those claims against the generic companies succeeding are unclear after a 2011 Supreme Court decision, Pliva v. Mensing, which ruled that generic drug companies had no control over what their labels said and so could not be sued for failing to alert patients about the risks of taking their drugs. With few exceptions, generic manufacturers are required to use the same labels as the brand names.

The suit was filed in a federal court in Alabama because Mr. Weeks lives in Alabama and the drug companies are based elsewhere. The federal court asked the Alabama Supreme Court whether a branded company could be sued in such a case.

In its decision on Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that “an omission or defect in the labeling for the brand-name drug would necessarily be repeated in the generic labeling, foreseeably causing harm to a patient who ingested the generic product.”

Kevin Newsom, a lawyer for Pfizer, which acquired Wyeth in 2009, described the decision as an outlier. He said more than 70 court decisions, including four from federal appeals courts, had taken the opposite view. Representatives for brand-name companies have argued that they cannot be held liable for injuries caused by products they did not manufacture. “It comes as something of a surprise because it is contrary to the overwhelming weight of authority on this issue nationwide,” he said. He said two other decisions have held similar views as the Alabama court.

The court ruled that Mr. Weeks could go ahead with his lawsuit based on what Mr. Newsom described as a “unique wrinkle” in Alabama state law: that third parties like Wyeth can be held liable for a person’s injury if that third party provided false or misleading information that led to the injury. Mr. Weeks is arguing that Wyeth misinformed his doctor, not Mr. Weeks himself.

Sheldon Gilbert, a lawyer with the National Chamber Litigation Center, which advocates for the Chamber of Commerce and filed a brief in the case, said plaintiffs’ lawyers were likely to see the Alabama decision as a lucrative opening. “What we’ve seen again and again and again is that the trial lawyers get a decision that they think is good and they all flock to that jurisdiction,” he said.

Chris Hood, a lawyer for Mr. Weeks, said, “When someone’s hurt by a generic tablet and that injury can be laid at the feet of misinformation about the drug, then there’s only one party who can be held responsible,” he said, “the branded company.”

Friday, January 11, 2013

Asleep at the Wheel


Ever felt sleepy behind the wheel? You’re not alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a survey asking, “During the last 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment, while driving?” among other sleep-related questions. Of the 147,076 folks from 19 states who responded to the question, 4.2% said they had fallen asleep at least once in the previous month.
The CDC report points out that d
rowsiness slows reaction time, it makes drivers less attentive, and it impairs decision-making skills, which can contribute to crashes. Sleep-related crashes are more likely to happen at night or during the mid-afternoon when drivers are more likely to be sleepy, the report notes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 2.5% of fatal car crashes and 2% of all crashes involve drowsy driving. According to the CDC study, other unnamed reports suggest that drowsy driving might be involved in as many as a third of fatal car crashes.
It isn’t surprising that those who said they had fallen asleep in the previous month also reported that they were getting less than six hours of sleep a night, that they snore or that they sometimes unintentionally fall asleep during the day at rates higher than the average driver.
Other findings in the CDC study:
-Men were more likely to report drowsy driving than women (5.3% versus 3.2%)
-Drowsy driving decreased with age, from about 4.9% among adults ages 18 to 44 to 1.7% among those 65 and older.
-Younger drivers (16-24) are especially at risk

The CDC report points out what you should already know: Drowsy driving is always unsafe.

If you feel yourself blinking a great deal or yawning a lot, or if your mind is wandering, it’s time to pull over and rest.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Maybe Next Year


Nobody made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year – Nobody at all.  The one player who came closest was Craig Biggio. 

It takes having your name on 75% of the baseball writers’ ballots to get in.  Biggio led this year’s field with 68.2%.  I suppose there are reasons why he wasn’t chosen in this first year of eligibility, but none that make any sense.

For a good look at why he should have been selected, read this article from ESPN.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Work Here, But…


In his new book, Kevin Dutton argues that there are "'functional psychopaths' among us—different from their murderous counterparts—who use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more 'psychopathic' people are, the more likely they are to succeed" — specifically citing surgeons and Navy Seals. 

The book "supports the idea that to thrive a society needs its share of psychopaths – about 10%."

Here's Dutton’s list of professions with the most and least psychopaths.


In his Smithsonian interview, Dutton explains -

When psychologists talk about psychopaths, what we’re referring to are people who have a distinct set of personality characteristics, which include things like ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, charm, persuasiveness and a lack of conscience and empathy. Imagine that you tick the box for all of those characteristics. You also happen to be violent and stupid. It’s not going to be long before you smack a bottle over someone’s head in a bar and get locked up for a long time in prison. But if you tick the box for all of those characteristics, and you happen to be intelligent and not naturally violent, then it’s a different story altogether. Then you’re more likely to make a killing in the market rather than anywhere else.

Psychopaths are assertive. Psychopaths don’t procrastinate. Psychopaths tend to focus on the positive. Psychopaths don’t take things personally; they don’t beat themselves up if things go wrong, even if they’re to blame. And they’re pretty cool under pressure. Those kinds of characteristics aren’t just important in the business arena, but also in everyday life.

To further his psychopathic studies, Dutton is seeking participants for his Great American Psychopath Survey, which he says will reveal the most psychopathic states, cities and professions in the United States. Try it for yourself at


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Published Author

 It gives me great pleasure to announce that I can now add Published Author to my curriculum vitae.
My first published work was a letter to the editor of the now defunct Houston Post when I was eleven years old, and in the 1960’s I had numerous articles published in various newspapers, but this is my first novel to appear in (electronic) print.
It is available in multiple formats – you can read it on your Kindle, PC or I-Pad – from for the ridiculously low price of $3.99.
I hope you will try it.  Let me know if you like it, and if you do, tell your friends.
In closing, I should mention that I owe thanks to Celia Yeary, a romance novelist from San Marcos who follows my blog.  It was Celia who suggested this approach to publication.  You can see her blog, and links to some of her novels at 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Beer Can Wi-Fi

If you are experiencing weak Wi-Fi,  sit back and have a beer. 

Actually drinking the brew is optional, and this trick only works if the suds came in a can.  According to, when your internet connection is almost nonexistent, it’s time to pop a cold one and try what they call the beer trick.

Here are 6 easy steps:

Step one – drink beer.
Step two – clean out beer can.
Step three – pop off the pull tab and use a utility knife slice off the bottom of the can.
Step four – do the same thing to the top, this time leaving about one inch attached right in front of the drinking hole.
Step five – with a good pair of scissors, cut straight down the back of the can, so it opens up like a sheet of paper.
The last step is to thread your router’s antennae through the hole of the can, opening the rest of the can out wide – it works best if you secure the can with some adhesive. Now, enjoy two extra bars of connectivity.

For those that didn’t make it past step one, here is a handy video to watch.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

ColaLife - A Really Great Idea


Ever heard of ColaLife? 

Probably not – I hadn’t either until it was piggy-backed as number 13 in an article about the top 12 medical stories of the past year.  That seems particularly appropriate, since piggy-backing is what they are all about.

Aid Worker Simon Berry first had the idea for ColaLife in Zambia, in 1988, when he noticed that Coke had the best distribution system in the country. While hospitals ran short of basic medicines, stores in even the most remote locations always had Coca Cola.  Why not use Coke’s distribution system to get medical aid where it’s needed?

After years of trying and a false start or two, the system is now up and running.

You can get Berry’s thoughts and the latest news on the project at ColaLife.Org/ Blog.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Some Additional Thoughts on Today’s Post

I found the court’s decision mentioned in today’s earlier post offensive for several reasons.  If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead, (Worst Decision ) I’ll wait.

Pared down to its simplest terms, the prosecution had argued two theories:

  • The defendant had sex with a sleeping woman, which is, under California law, rape.
  • The defendant fooled the woman into thinking she was having sex with her boyfriend.

The big attention grabber here is that, if she had been married and thinking he was her husband, California law calls that rape, but since she was single and thought he was her boyfriend, it is not!

The court ruled that the defendant was entitled to a new trial to be sure that the jury convicted him of something that was actually a crime.

Okay, I think we can all agree that sex with a woman who can’t give consent is rape. Whether she is unable to do so because of drugs, alcohol, mental impairment, age, or simply because she is asleep, it is still rape.  Besides, sex with a sleeping woman has a definite Eeuw factor – almost as creepy as necrophilia. 

If making a married woman think you are her husband is a crime, then making a single girl think you are her boyfriend is equally as wrong.  The law definitely needs to be changed.

On the other hand, if sex by deception is a crime, a huge percentage of casual encounters would fall into this category.  Practically every one-night-stand in history could be considered rape. 

Of course, there are degrees of deception, but a young man who wouldn’t lie to get laid is either a saint, or he suffers from a serious testosterone deficiency and should seek immediate medical attention.

Worst Court Decision of 2013

It was New Year’s Eve when I posted about the worst court decision of 2012 – Now, less than a week into the year, we already have a contender for 2013.

Here’s the story from the Associated Press:

Court voids rape conviction because woman not married

By The Associated Press

California appellate judges urged legislators to update an arcane 19th century law, as the panel reversed the rape conviction of a man who authorities say pretended to be a sleeping woman's boyfriend before initiating intercourse.

The Los Angeles-based appeals court said that the 1872 measure doesn't give single women the same protections as their married counterparts in certain rape cases.

Julio Morales had been convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison, found guilty of entering a woman's bedroom late one night once her boyfriend had gone home and initiating sexual intercourse while she was asleep, after a night of drinking.

But a panel of judges overturned the trial court's conviction and remanded it for retrial, in a decision posted this week.

The victim said her boyfriend was in the room when she fell asleep, and they'd decided against having sex that night because he didn't have a condom and he had to be somewhere early the next day.

Morales pretended to be her boyfriend in the darkened room, and it wasn't until a ray of light from outside the room flashed across his face that she realized he wasn't her boyfriend, according to prosecutors.

"Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes," Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. wrote in the court's decision.

The appeals court added that prosecutors argued two theories, and it was unclear if the jury convicted Morales because the defendant tricked the victim or because sex with a sleeping person is defined as rape by law.

The court said the case should be retried to ensure the jury's conviction is supported by the latter argument.

The decision also urges the Legislature to examine the law, which was first written in response to cases in England that concluded fraudulent impersonation to have sex wasn't rape because the victim would consent, even if they were being tricked into thinking the perpetrator was their husband.

Willhite noted that the law has been applied inconsistently over the years in California.

In 2010, a similar law in Idaho prevented an unmarried woman from pressing rape charges after being tricked into sex with a stranger by her then-boyfriend.

The judge called what happened "despicable" but said the state's law left the court with no choice. Idaho's law was amended to cover all women in 2011.

Morales' attorney Edward Schulman declined comment when reached by phone Thursday.

Prior to the conviction, Schulman had argued Morales believed the sex was consensual because the victim responded to his kisses and caresses, according to the decision.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Les Miserables Est Formidable


Went to see Les Miserables yesterday, and Honey and I loved it. 

We thought it was exceptional. 

Hugh Jackman is excellent, Anne Hathaway fantastic, and Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks are great.  We had never seen Eddie Redmayne before, so he was a delightful surprise.  Russell Crowe was adequate, less than you might expect from an international superstar, but he got the job done.

If you are expecting to see a typical Broadway-style musical, don’t.  As Honey pointed out early in the show, it comes a lot closer to being an English-language opera.  There is very little actual conversation – almost all dialogue is sung.

Film critic Richard Roeper called it "an unforgettable moviegoing experience, sure to garner multiple Oscar nominations."  We would agree, but according to one story on the internet, only about 72% of film critics do.  Some thought it was awful.  The worst review I saw was this from  the New Yorker.

If you are not familiar with Victor Hugo’s classic novel, I should warn you that this is not your typical musical comedy romp in the park.  There is a lot more tragedy than comedy here - and I suspect that many of those writing negative reviews felt that there is something inherently wrong with viewing that much squalor, pain and degradation as entertainment.

I believe that Les Miserable is an experience that should not be missed, but you should go see it and judge for yourself.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Erasing My 6th Grade Teacher

Professor erasing formulae on blackboard

Funny how the mind works.

Since I began writing yesterday’s post, I have been wracking my brain, trying to remember the name of my sixth grade teacher.  I know his first name was Glenn, and I’m pretty sure he spelled it with two n’s.  Not that we ever called him that; as far as we were concerned, his first name was Mister.

I think his last name was something Irish, and that it may have started with a C, but that’s as far as I can go.  I’ve tried an on-line search using my best guesses with no result, and have decided to quit trying.  His name may come to me at some time in the future, or it may not, but I'm not going to worry about it anymore.

He was a pretty good teacher, and we got along well for the most part, but I think maybe I have blocked his name from memory because of an unpleasant incident that occurred in the spring semester of my sixth grade year.

Back then, long before the TAKS tests (or whatever they are calling them this year) we did take certain diagnostic exams.  Passing them was not a requirement for advancement and they didn’t affect our grades, but taking them was required. One of them was a reading comprehension test that was administered each spring.

That year, after the results came back, Mr. (Whatever the Hell his name was) had my mother called in to a meeting in the principal’s office.  He then announced to me, my mother and the principal that I had scored 130 points, a perfect score, on the reading comprehension exam.  He went on to say that no sixth grader was capable of a perfect score on that test, so it was obvious that I had found some way to cheat. 

My mother had just started to say something in my defense when I interrupted.  I pointed out that we had taken the exact same test the year before in Mrs. Simpson’s fifth grade class, and I had aced it then as well.  At that point, Dr. Dishron, the principal, apologized to my mother for her inconvenience and told Mr. Whatever that maybe he should have checked my records before accusing me of cheating.

Several years later, Mr. Whatever was murdered in his apartment by a homosexual lover.  I was somewhat surprised, but have to admit I was not particularly upset.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Three P’s

Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, the 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865–1922) was a British newspaper and publishing magnate, and a pioneer of tabloid journalism.

I would never have heard of him if it hadn’t been for my sixth grade teacher, who was fond of saying  “Power, Pelf and Pulchritude” at any opportunity.  That was far from being his only quirk, but it is one that stuck in my mind.

He never explained why he said it, and sixty years passed before I learned that the words formed part of a quote from Viscount Northcliffe.

Explaining his formula for the success of his newspapers, Northcliffe supposedly said “Power, pelf and pulchritude make news, while veracity, humility and normality do not.”

His statement has withstood the test of time, and is still true - although today, Power is the only one of his three P’s that you are likely to see in print.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My First Poem

When people wonder about my bizarre, some might say macabre, sense of humor, I suppose that I could blame it on my mother’s sister, Aunt Clarene. 

I was not yet three years old, and she was about twelve, when she taught me to recite:

Willie grabbed his sister Nell

And threw her in the water well

She's down there yet because it kilt her

Now we have to buy a filter.

I suppose I already knew Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, but that was as much song as poem.  The verse about Willie  is, to the best of my knowledge, the first poem I ever learned.

There are literally dozens of those verses, known as “Little Willie” jokes or “Wicked Willie” poems, all of them by anonymous authors. Apparently they were all the rage throughout the English-speaking world in the 1930’s and 40’s. 

I have tried to discover when and where they actually originated, but haven’t had any success.  Some seem to have come from England, but they all “went viral” - covering the world long before the internet gave us that term.

I did find many more examples of the genre on the internet. Here are just a few:

Little Willie, mean as hell
Drowned his sister in the well.
Mother said, while drawing water,
"Gee, it's hard to raise a daughter."

Willie with a thirst for gore
Nailed the baby to the door.
Mother said with humor quaint,
"Willie dear, don't scratch the paint."

Willie, I regret to state,
Cut his sister up for bait.
We miss her when it's time to dine,
But Willie's fish taste simply fine.

Willie tripped on the window sashes,
Fell in the fire and burned to ashes.
Now the house grows damp and chilly,
Cause we don’t have the heart to poke poor Willie.

Little Willie, full of glee,
Put radium in grandma's tea.
Now he thinks it quite a lark
To see her shining in the dark.

When Grandmamma fell off the boat,
And couldn’t swim, and wouldn’t float,
Willie just sat by and smiled -
I almost could have slapped the child!

There are many more like these, but I have to stop somewhere.  I think the ones here represent the best (or worst) of the bunch.