Sunday, March 31, 2013

Junior High Sax

c melody

I mentioned yesterday that my dad bought me a saxophone to play in the band.  It was almost identical to the one shown above, which is a Buescher C-Melody sax made in the 1920s.  The one in the picture is currently on sale on EBay for $10,000.

The one my dad bought for me was much fancier.  It had  beautiful engraving on the bell that showed the head of an elk with a banner that said Elkhart.  Elkhart, Indiana was the world capitol of saxophone manufacturing, and instruments simply labeled Elkhart were made there by both Buescher and Martin. I have no idea who built mine.

My saxophone was slightly larger than an Alto, and while it had the graceful neck typical of a Tenor, it was slightly smaller.  I guess you could say it was neither fish nor fowl, but something in between. Whoever built my saxophone, it was a gorgeous instrument and a magnificent mistake.

It was a saxophone built in the key of C. That meant that when the director called for a “Concert” C while tuning, I could simply play a C.  Kids playing alto sax (E) played an A and those with tenor saxophones (B) played a D

So far, so good, but there was no music in the band’s library written for C saxophones! 

If I was going to play pre-written music, I was stuck playing parts written for other C instruments like the flutes or oboes. I might opt for trombone music, but it was typically written in bass clef which created its own set of problems.

If I wanted to play the Saxophone part, I had to use a chart similar to the one below, and write it myself.


So, while most seventh graders were simply learning to read music, I was learning to transpose.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mister Rodwig


For most of the 1950s, we lived at 1328 Ebony Lane in Houston (the house with the A in front) and had lots of next-door neighbors.  The house on the corner was 1328 Du Barry, which caused all sorts of problems with mail delivery, but the side of our lot abutted the backs three or four other homes that faced Du Barry Lane.

None of the homes looked anything at all like they do today – there were no pools back then, and the original houses have all been rebuilt, expanded or replaced – but I included the picture so you could get an idea of the layout.

The folks who lived in the first house from the corner were the Rodwigs, a middle-aged couple from the Midwest who were much older than the rest of our neighbors.

Velma Rodwig was a sweet lady who reminded me of my grandmother.  She kept an immaculate yard that was full of flowers, and she always had home-baked treats on hand for the neighborhood kids.

I’m sure Mr. Rodwig  had a first name, but I never heard it.  Even Velma referred to him as Mister. He  was a construction foreman who supervised crews hanging high iron on the many skyscrapers popping up in downtown Houston.  He was big and muscular, and he looked like a slightly older, perpetually sunburned, Mr. Clean.  He had lost the tip of his chin to a falling I-beam in a construction accident, and at some other time, a mishap had claimed the last two joints of his ring finger and the end of the pinkie finger on his right hand.  He spoke in a gruff voice with a clipped Midwestern accent that carried just a hint of his Dutch heritage.

I wasn’t exactly afraid of Mr. Rodwig, but I’ll admit that he did make me a little nervous. I considered him a formidable man, and  I was always on my best behavior when he was around. 

Then I saw a side of him I could never have imagined.

I planned to join the band when I went to school in September, so the summer before I started Hamilton Junior High, my dad went to a pawn shop and bought me a beautiful silver saxophone.

  They were both busy, hard working men who didn’t talk often, but somehow my dad was aware that Mr. Rodwig knew something about saxophones, and he asked him to come by and check it out.  A few days later, one evening after supper, the Rodwigs came over. 

Mr Rodwig pulled the sax out of its case and after a a couple of false starts and a few mumbled  comments that contained words like “rusty” and “years” he put the thing to his mouth and played an unbelievably evocative version of Willow, Weep for Me.

He continued to play for the next two hours, treating us to dozens of songs - all from memory.  Somehow, the missing fingers didn’t matter at all, and Paul Desmond himself never coaxed a sweeter sound from a sax.

That was the first, last and only time I ever heard him play, but it was a night I will never forget.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Save Your Stuff

I had been writing for just over an hour on today’s blog post and it was essentially finished.  

Then I decided to add a picture from Google Earth.

I had never had a problem with this program before, but it did have an automatic update a day or two ago.  When I clicked on the program, it began to open then locked my computer up – Black screen and no way to get out of it except to reboot.

Of course, I lost today’s post.  I may try writing it again, but not today.


Thursday, March 28, 2013


crow attack

As I have mentioned several times in the past, Boggy Thicket is the home of at least one pair of Owls.  Ours are Hoot Owls, also known as  Barred Owls, and we hear them talking almost every evening.  Although they are supposed to be primarily nocturnal, we often hear them during the day or see them swoop down silently to snatch a mouse or frog.

Barred Owls are predators – raptors listed as a protected species – and the literature claims that their only natural enemy is the Great Horned Owl. 

That isn’t exactly true.

Several times this year we have seen our Owls  chased from their perch by Blue Jays or Mockingbirds.

Yesterday afternoon, while standing in our back yard, we witnessed an attack on one of our Owls by a Crow.  They were literally over our heads when the crow landed on the Owl’s back and pecked him hard enough to elicit a squeaky scream of pain.

Satisfied, the Crow flew off, and the Owl landed on a limb about twenty feet above us.  It sat there making little whimpering noises for several minutes – long enough for Honey to get very concerned, and for me to start wondering how we could catch it if it was seriously hurt.  That initial squeak and the whimpering sounds were both noises we had never heard before; they sounded more like a hurt puppy than anything you might expect to hear from a bird.

Finally, the Owl flew away – apparently no worse for wear.

When it was out of sight, Honey, who had been making oooh noises to accompany the Owl’s whimpering cries, turned to me and said “Our Owls are Wimps!”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013



Today’s featured recipe from Food and is Spring Peas with Fresh Mint.  The concoction  also contains red onion, vinegar and olive oil. 

I can’t imagine a less appetizing way to serve green peas; even the picture looks disgusting -  but it did remind me of a poem I learned years ago:

I eat my peas with honey

I’ve done it all my life

It makes them taste quite funny

But it keeps ‘em on my knife

Tuesday, March 26, 2013



We had a front come in Sunday with North winds 20 to 30 miles per hour and gusting higher.  I was sitting at the dining table Sunday afternoon, surfing the web on my laptop when BOOM, a big limb fell on the roof just above me.

The limb broke off of a huge White Oak tree that sits just south of the house.  It is a big limb – about 25 feet long and five or six inches in diameter at the end where it broke off.  It fell about 20 feet before hitting the house so it is amazing that the damage it caused was minimal.

The only significant damage was to the trim along the eaves and two broken shingles at the point of impact.


I would like to say there were no injuries, but while looking at the limb on the roof, and backing up for a better view, Honey tripped and fell.  She gouged a couple of half-inch patches of skin from her palm and got some pretty big bruises on her thigh.  Her leg is sore, and her hand is going to be pretty painful for a while, but I’m sure she is going to be fine.

Monday, March 25, 2013



It sounds like the premise for a TV show or a cheap horror flick, but it is true.  Officials have confirmed that  a vial containing a virus that can cause hemorrhagic fever has gone missing from a research facility in Galveston. 

They say there's no reason to believe there's a threat to the public.

The University of Texas Medical Branch said Saturday that there was no breach in the security at its Galveston National Laboratory and no indication of wrongdoing.

They think the missing vial, which contains the Guanarito virus, was destroyed during the lab's cleaning process but the investigation continues.

The medical branch says the virus, native to Venezuela, is transmitted only through contact with Venezuelan rats. It is not believed to be able to survive in U.S. rodents or to be transmitted person-to-person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was immediately notified after the vial was discovered missing last Wednesday.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


If you post a comment to my blog, it may or may not show up. 

It was originally set up so that signed comments appeared immediately but anonymous comments were stored for review.  I then had the option of publishing them or not.

Lately, even signed comments are going into storage instead of showing up on the blog.  I don’t know why it changed.  I didn’t change it, and I can’t find anywhere to change it back. scratchead

Most of the anonymous comments are crap.  They seldom make sense.  Their syntax is terrible, and I suspect that they are often words strung together by some computer program instead of an actual person. They are almost always spam – touting some website selling anything from home loans to penis extenders.

I do read them all, and have chosen to publish a couple of them when they appeared to be actual comments from actual readers - readers who, for one reason or another, failed to identify themselves.

Sometimes – not often, but occasionally – I get a kick out of the anonymous spam.  Here is one I got this week:

Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views.

I know this is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether this actually happened.  I do know it came with a link to one of those spammers whose comments I don’t allow. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thinking Small – Little Delights

Yes, the lawn here at the Boggy Thicket could use mowing.

Before I do, I wanted to show you some of our wild flowers.  There are lots of them to see if you look closely and think small.

violet 1

Violets are popping up everywhere, and there are lots of tall flower spikes like this:

tall 1with colors ranging from dark purplish blue to almost white.

yellow 1 

 Tiny yellow flowers show up singly or in bunches

lots of yellow 

There are patches of these clover-like plants blooming everywhere

clover 3

Some blooms are out in the open, but some are a bit shy

shy 1

Thistles invite you to make a wish

thistle 1

And at the edge of the woods, Blackberry vines promise sweetness to come

dewberry 1

dewberry in poison ivy

I don’t think I’ll be picking that last one.  All those three lobed leaves surrounding the berry vine are poison ivy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hare Raising Deal


According to a story in today’s RIA NOVOSTNI, Russia and China have signed a major trade agreement concerning raising Rabbits just in time for Easter.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yang signed nine economic agreements in Moscow, including deals on cooperation in banking, energy and rabbit husbandry.

The Kostroma Region-based company Russky Krolik (Russian Rabbit) now has a new partner in Beijing, and the agriculture ministries of both countries will be working together to develop the fine art of cuniculture, or breeding rabbits.

The story reminded me of the great scene in Red October where the submarine’s first mate dreams about living in Montana.  He looks forward to getting a fat American wife and raising rabbits.  His plan even calls for getting a recreational vehicle.  It’s hard to imagine him raising rabbits in China.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jaws of Death


Maybe someone should have realized that putting sharp metal teeth next to sensitive genitalia was a bad idea, but since the zipper's invention in 1913, the device has proven immensely popular, replacing the button fly on most trousers, jeans and pants. Now we're paying the price for the zipper's speed and efficiency at the emergency room.

According to a new study from the urology journal BJU International, 17,616 people went to the ER in the United States from 2002 to 2010 with genital injuries caused by zippers.

University of California San Francisco urology resident Herman Singh Bagga, who authored the study, explains Zipper injuries are the single most common cause of penile injury in adult men reporting to emergency rooms. In small boys, the most common cause of penile injury is a toilet seat slamming down while the kid is urinating, but Zippers are right up there at number two.

If it does happen to you – and you can extricate yourself – Dr. Bagga recommends washing thoroughly and using an antibacterial ointment.  Although it’s rare, these injuries can and have caused abscesses or cellulitis. 

Mostly it’s a pain issue – as Bagga, who was once a victim himself,  says, “It can really ruin your night.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dancing is Dangerous


Kristen Hardy, one half of a pair of twins from Houston who dance at the Atlanta Hawks basketball games, had a rough night on Monday. Her left foot lost traction during a high-kick routine, and she fell flat on her face.



Briefly unconscious, she was treated on the floor by EMTs, then taken to Atlanta Medical Center. 

Kristen has been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery – except for the injury to her pride.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013



California prospectors in the 1800s had it easy.  They might never find gold, but all they needed for their search was a shallow pan and a flowing stream.

Twenty first century gold hunters need the prior approval of at least two federal agencies before they can even think about panning.

Here’s the story from the Sacramento Bee:

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that makes it tougher for small-time gold miners to work their claims on federal lands across the West.

The high court on Monday denied without comment a petition to hear an appeal from The New 49'ers, a gold-mining club based on Northern California's Klamath River.

That leaves standing a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. It ruled last year that the U.S. Forest Service has to consult biologists from other agencies before allowing miners to do anything that might harm salmon protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The Karuk Tribe had sued after a Forest Service district ranger allowed the club to mine in the river without first consulting NOAA Fisheries Service.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Bob the Book Reviewer

My niece, Melanie Cremins, hosts a blog with the clever title of Overreader in which she occasionally muses about what’s going on with her and her family, but mostly posts a string of reviews of the unbelievable number of books she consumes. If you haven’t seen her blog, you should.  It is well thought out and cleverly written.

My one complaint is with the title. 

I like the double entendre – in my mind, there is no such thing as a bad pun – but the truth is that Mel reviews so many audio books that it’s a wonder she doesn’t have chronic tinnitus and cauliflower ears.  Call me a dinosaur, but with the possible exception of books in Braille, it is my firm belief that books should be read visually.

With that out of the way, let me assure you that I am not going into competition with Melanie, but I just read a book that I had to tell you about.


I almost missed this book completely. 

It had it’s time on the Best Seller lists, and has been optioned by Warner Brothers for a movie, but somehow I had never heard of it until I found a paperback copy on the reduced price rack at Wal-Mart.

It is a murder mystery/courtroom drama  that has been favorably compared to Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent.  Various reviewers give it four to four and a half stars on a five star rating system.

All of that is true enough, but if that’s all it was I wouldn’t be writing this. 

The book concentrates on the effect on the lives and emotions of the people involved, and although I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, the emotions conveyed – and engendered in this reader – were so strong that I was forced several times to put it down and walk away for a while.  It is actually that well done.

I won’t go into specifics;  I don’t want to ruin the experience.  Let me just say DO NOT WAIT FOR THE MOVIE!  Find this book on Amazon, your used book store or the library, and read it at your earliest opportunity.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Quarter to Three

Here at the Boggy Thicket, our own personal contribution to Global Warming is a determination to rate comfort over economy. 

Within the confines of our house, we control our own environment, keeping the temperature in the low to mid-seventies year round.  That means that for the last several weeks we have often had the heater running at night and the air conditioner on during the day.

Last night, at 2:45 a.m., I heard the A-C compressor kick on – proof positive that Spring is actually here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Trucks With Balls

A writer on recently quoted a proposed Michigan law that would make it illegal to drive with a trailer hitch (ball) attached when not towing a trailer.  The applicable section of the proposed law states

“A person shall not operate a motor vehicle upon a highway with temporary towing devices, including, but not limited to, a ball and hitch, attached to the vehicle unless the motor vehicle is being used for towing purposes.

A person who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction.”

My first impression was that this is ridiculous, but an on-line check showed the practice  was already illegal in a number of states, including MA, VA and PA, unless you can show that you are on the way to get a trailer, or have just dropped one off.

Arguments for prohibiting bumper hitches include the fact that the ball sometimes obscures the license plate, and that the hitches (especially the receiver-type hitches) often cause more damage to the fronts of cars that run into them in rear-end accidents.  With a receiver hitch, the first argument doesn’t apply, and as for the guy rear-ending you hurting his car, it’s hard not to think he deserved it.  I had big, heavy Ranch Hand brand steel bumpers on our last truck pretty much to protect us from drivers like that.

I only own one pull-behind trailer today and I never take it on the road – just tow it around with the garden tractor for yard work – but we do have a hitch installed on the back of the truck, and I have no intention of removing it.

As one of the replies on said, “Everyone in Texas has balls.” 

I wonder what Michigan lawmakers would think about this:


Friday, March 15, 2013

First Hummingbird


Spring is still officially a few days away, but all of our plants have been saying it’s Spring for weeks, so we put out one of our hummingbird feeders a week ago.

We got our first hummingbird yesterday. 

Just one so far, but it’s the feeder that drew as many as six at a time last year.  We’ll be putting out the rest of our feeders today.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pecan π

It’s March 14th (3.14) so there had to be something to say about pie, or pi or π.

Luckily, this story came just in time.

pecan pie

Did you realize that Texas has no official State Pie?

Florida has Key lime pie; Vermont claims apple pie; and Indiana residents are partial to something called sugar cream pie.

Now, State Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Bryan) has introduced a resolution would designate pecan pie as the official State Pie of Texas.

Here is the proposed bill:

By: Schwertner 
S.C.R. No. 12

       (In the Senate - Filed February 11, 2013; February 20, 2013,

read first time and referred to Committee on Administration;

March 11, 2013, reported favorably by the following vote:  Yeas 6,

Nays 0; March 11, 2013, sent to printer.)


WHEREAS, Of all the Lone Star State's unique culinary dishes,

perhaps none says "Texas" more sweetly than pecan pie; and

       WHEREAS, The pecan tree, which was officially designated as

the state tree in 1919, is indigenous to North America and native to

152 counties in Texas, where it grows in river valleys; the State

Health Nut, the pecan is the state's only commercially grown nut,

and Texas pecan growers account for more than 20 percent of all the

pecans grown in the United States; and

       WHEREAS, Though there are many ways to enjoy pecans, it is

practically a given among Texans that they belong, first and

foremost, in a pie; the earliest record of this distinctive dessert

dates to the late 19th century; the weekly humor magazine Texas

Siftings described it in February 1886 as being "not only

delicious" but "capable of being made into a 'real state pie,'" and

in March 1914, the Christian Science Monitor featured a recipe for

"Texas Pecan Pie" with a custard filling that called for a cup of

sweet milk, a cup of sugar, three well-beaten eggs, a tablespoon of

flour, and half a cup of "finely chopped pecan meats"; and

       WHEREAS, It was around 1930 when the pie became the

syrup-based creation it is today; the wife of an executive at the

Karo Syrup Company combined that product with pecans to make a pie,

and it proved to be an irresistible mixture; the pie subsequently

gained national recognition through advertisements forever linking

the syrup with pecans in the public's mind; recipes for pecan pie

began appearing in such popular cookbooks as The Joy of Cooking and

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in the 1940s, and it became a staple in

restaurants across the state and nation; and

       WHEREAS, Pecan pie recipes are varied and numerous, with

differences regarding the sugar-to-syrup ratio and the size and

consistency of the nuts, and are a matter of debate, strong opinion,

and deeply held family tradition; yet Texans generally agree on two

things:  Texas pecan pies are, hands down, the best, especially when

made with Texas pecans by a Texan, and secondly, whether served hot

or cold, with a scoop of ice cream or without, pecan pie is indeed

the perfect ending to any meal; now, therefore, be it

       RESOLVED, That the 83rd Legislature of the State of Texas

hereby designate pecan pie as the official State Pie of Texas.

* * * * *


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Paintings of Caves???

I was on line, researching possible vacation destinations, and came across this sentence -

“If a hiker, take the tour down into the canyon to see thousands of year old Indian cave paintings.”

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m confused.

  • Are these thousands of paintings completed around twelve months ago?
  • Were these thousands of paintings created by Indian toddlers?
  • Are Indian toddlers the subjects of thousands of paintings?
  • Or, is the subject of the paintings Indian Caves?
  • If so, what distinguishes an Indian Cave from any other hole in the ground?


Actually, I think I’ll go with option two.  I’ve heard dozens of times over the years about babies “painting” the wall beside their beds with poop. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013



If you are like me and have been trying to see the Comet Pan-STARRS just after dusk, you might have a better chance tonight.

According to -

Many stargazers attempting to view the Comet Pan-STARRS on recent nights have been thwarted by the comet's low position in the western sky. But tonight (March 12), the thin crescent moon will lend a hand.

Over the past weekend countless observers across in North America and Europe tried — and for the most part failed — to see Comet Pan-STARRS, in part due to its low altitude above the west-northwest horizon. The bright glare of the evening twilight sky just is also a hurdle, since it can as make the comet harder to see just after sunset.

But fret not, comet lovers! Weather permitting, observing conditions will improve by this evening, since Comet Pan-STARR's position above the horizon will be noticeably higher and the moon can be used as a benchmark to point your way.

By the way, if you’ve wondered about the comet’s name -

The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) is an array of astronomical cameras and telescopes and computing facility that is surveying the sky on a continual basis, including accurate astrometry and photometry of detected objects. By detecting any differences from previous observations of the same areas of the sky, it is expected to discover a very large number of new asteroids, comets, variable stars and other celestial objects. Its primary mission is to detect near-Earth objects that threaten impact events and is expected to create a database of all objects visible from Hawaii (three-quarters of the entire sky) down to apparent magnitude 24.

Pan-STARRS is funded in large part by the U.S. Air Force through their Research Labs. The Pan-STARRS Project is a collaboration between the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Maui High Performance Computing Center and Science Applications International Corporation.

Astronomers at the University of Hawaii using the Pan-STARRS Telescope discovered comet C/2011 L4 in June 2011.  That is the one that became known as Comet Pan-STARRS, the one we are watching for now.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Aren’t There….

I fell into a sort of political trap this morning, wondering

“Why aren’t there any politically conservative comedians?”

Actually, there are several, although they are seriously outnumbered by comics on the left.

The most obvious example, and the deepest thinker in the bunch is Dennis Miller.

dennis_miller Once far more liberal (during his days on Saturday Night Live and as the host of his own often-political talk show on HBO), Miller has claimed that America's response to 9/11 changed his political views. He's since become the go-to comic for the conservative right.

Right-wing groups also like to quote Bill Cosby a lot, although I think most of his stuff is less political and more just plain common sense.

Other successful comedians not afraid to express right-wing views include Jeff Foxworthy and the guys on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour – especially Daniel Whitney, better known as Larry the Cable Guy.


Some of the America’s greatest comedians of all time were politically conservative, Lucille Ball and  Bob Hope , to name just two.

There are even folks making a living as conservative Christian comics – people like Brad Stine. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wrong Way Trey

trey johnson basket

With less than three seconds to go in an Oklahoma High School playoff game last Friday, Junior Trey Johnson took the in-bounds pass and went in for an easy lay-up.  He scored two of his four points on that buzzer beater that won the quarter-final game for Millwood 38 to 37.

Impressive?  Yes.

Dramatic? Absolutely.

The only problem was that Johnson plays for Hugo High School, and  Hugo was leading 37-36. All he had to do was hold on to the ball for two seconds to assure his team a win and a slot in the semi-finals.  Instead, in a moment of confusion, he sank a basket in the wrong goal.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Oh Fertilizer!


Since 1995, even if we didn’t know it already, everyone should realize that commercial fertilizer is dangerous stuff.  It was on April 19th that Timothy McVeigh used a truckload of fertilizer mixed with Diesel fuel to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

It didn’t happen quite as fast, and the results weren’t nearly as spectacular, but I recently discovered evidence of fertilizer destruction in my barn.

barn post

No Diesel fuel or blasting caps involved, but over a period of about a year the chemicals leaking from a left-over bag of fertilizer ate over two feet of a 4X4 steel support column.

I have more than enough square tubing on hand to replace the damaged post,  but I may not.  It is an interior support that probably wasn’t necessary anyway.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Question of the Day

Today is International Women’s Day.

According to their own website (Here) the day is a much bigger deal in the United Kingdom than in the USA.

That leads to my Women’s Day question –



As of last month, Elizabeth II has been their monarch for sixty-one years, so why isn’t it the United Queendom?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Half Staff


The picture shows all the flags flying at half-staff yesterday at the entrance to CITGO Corporation’s national headquarters in Houston.  This was done upon the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and was also done at CITGO facilities in Lake Charles and Corpus Christi.

Chavez was never as globally significant as he wanted to be, but he did his best to be percieved as an enemy of the United States, and a friend to the leaders of countries like Cuba, Libya and Iran. 

The fact that a US corporation would honor him this way had a lot of people irate, but it is only fair to point out that CITGO is owned by Venezuela.

CITGO released a statement Wednesday which read, "President Hugo Chávez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela leaves behind a legacy of support for the underprivileged and promotion of social justice that transcends geographical boundaries. We at CITGO Petroleum Corporation are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Venezuela in this time of grief."

The flags on those poles are the banners of the United States, Venezuela, Texas and the CITGO corporate flag.  Talk show calls and on-line comments would seem to indicate that more folks were incensed about lowering the Texas flag than the American one.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Canadian Camels


That is a little piece of bone lying on the rocky soil of  Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. 

It, and other pieces like it, have led scientists to announce that Camels - the ancestors of the modern day Camels of Africa and the Middle East – got their start in Northern Canada. 


They say Camels originated in North America about 45 million years ago and underwent most of their evolution on this continent before dying off. The testing also showed that the Canadian animals were from the same line of camels that hiked from North America into Asia over the Bering Land Bridge seven to eight million years ago.

Over the years camel bones have been unearthed in Alaska and the Yukon, but this latest find is significant because it is 1,200 kilometers farther north, making it the “first evidence of a High Arctic camel.”

Scientists at Dalhousie University used a sophisticated dating technique to show the Ellesmere bone fragments are about 3.5 million years old.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Problem Solved

I mentioned a couple days ago that I had a heck of a time posting to my blog – that Windows Live Writer saw an expired security certificate and refused to connect.  Well, the problem has been solved.

An on-line search of the error led to an easy fix:

Certificate will not be valid until (date)

(site name) uses an invalid security certificate. The certificate is not trusted because the issuer certificate has expired. The certificate will not be valid until (date). (Error code: sec_error_expired_issuer_certificate)

This error can occur if your computer clock has the wrong date, in which case the date given in the error message will be in the past. To fix the problem, set your system clock to today's date and time (double-click the clock icon on the Windows Taskbar).

Sure enough, a check of my computer’s calendar showed the date as February 3 instead of March 3.  I have no idea how or why that happened, but correcting the date solved the problem.

time synch

There is an option in the Date and Time setup that is supposed to prevent this problem from happening.  Obviously, it is not foolproof.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Non-binary Dualism

Healing Chant 

Native American culture, particularly the religions of the Desert Southwest, speak of the duality of existence, the duality of the universe, and the need to never stray too far from a center path.

Compassion and aggression, for example, exist in each of us, but too much of either can weaken our souls.  The chief purpose of healing ceremonies is to help the patient get back into balance, back to that center path. This is a concept that I have long embraced.  One that I felt sure I understood until a few days ago. 

That’s when I came across an incredibly racist  article claiming that non-Indians couldn’t possibly understand Native American religion because our thought systems are based on  binary thinking! 

The statement was made by a woman who is a Native American.  It’s the kind of statement I could never get by with, but members of minorities often make with impunity – but maybe that should be a subject for a later day.

Native American Professor Anne Waters, writing in American Indians in Philosophy for the American Philsophical Association says that while most European/American thought is based on binary thinking, Native Americans see the same dualism in a nonbinary way. 

Binary dualism is the division of things into two (opposing) categories. Good and evil, light and darkness, man and woman,  stillness and motion, and the list goes on ad infinitum. In European/American culture and tradition, thought and language are built around this notion of binary dualism.

Waters goes on to explain that a nonbinary, complementary, dualist construct would distinguish two things:

(1) a dualism, such as male/female that may appear (in a binary ontology) as opposites or different from one another in some important respect; and
(2) a nonbinary (complementary) syntax that puts together these two constructs without maintaining the sharp and clear boundary distinctions of a binary system.

A nonbinary (complementary) dualism would place the two  together in such a way that one would remain itself, and yet also be a part of the other. In this way, any hierarchical valuing of one as being better, superior, or more valued than another  is excluded by the nonbinary logic.

She says that such complementary (nonbinary) dualisms can be found today in language and religion of such diverse indigenous people as the Ojibwa (Chippewa) in Canada,  the Mayan in South America, and in the metaphysics of the Southwestern US tribes such as the Hopi and Navajo.

Maybe my tiny bit of Choctaw blood somehow made me immune from the stupidity of White Folks, but I’m pretty sure that I grasped the concept of a nonbinary dualism a long time ago.  I find her notion that people of European ancestry are incapable of the subtlety of thought necessary to understand such a concept to be extremely annoying.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

An Old Story

 I hope you enjoy today's post.  I had a heck of a time posting it.  Apparently, Windows Live Writer has decided that Google has an expired security certificate and is refusing to connect.  I had similar notices yesterday with Google News and Google Search, but Firefox allowed me to connect anyway.  This morning, my Gmail account is blocked with no "connect anyway" option.  I can still access my blog page, but can't post to it from Windows.

I mentioned last month - Precinct Roulette – that I had received a jury summons. 
I am now of an age that I am no longer required to go, but I do have to notify the court by mail if I opt out.  There ought to be an easier way of doing that, but there is not. 
I have served on both criminal and civil juries in the past, and while I wouldn’t call it entertaining, it was always enlightening. I still haven’t decided if I’m going this time, but I need to make up my mind soon.
This morning, I came across this story from the Hampton Roads, Virginia Daily Press:
A juror who served on a recent Newport News murder trial technically didn't have to because of his age.
The man was one of 12 jurors who served last week in the case of 20-year-old Kwame Drayton.
After nearly four hours of deliberations on Wednesday, the jury found Drayton guilty of first-degree murder and related charges in the March 2011 death of Terrance Williamson. The jury then recommended that Drayton serve 48 years in prison.
As the jurors were exiting the courtroom, Newport News Circuit Judge Timothy Fisher asked one juror to stay behind.
"You do know you didn't have to serve?" Fisher asked him.
The juror gave him a puzzled look.
"You could have opted out because of your age," Fisher said.
"Really, now you tell me?" the juror replied.
"I wasn't going to tell everyone you were that old," Fisher told him, with a chuckle.
The juror and the courtroom erupted in laughter. It was a light moment at the end of an often tense three-day trial. In Virginia, if you are 70 years old or older, you may ask to be excused from jury duty.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Amazing Self-deleting Grocery List

legal pad

One day, as we were unloading groceries, Honey announced “I have been doing all of the grocery shopping for over thirty years.  The next thirty are your turn.”

That was about sixteen years ago, so my “turn” is a little over halfway done.  With the exception of special occasions like shopping for one of our trips, she has not set foot in a grocery store since she made that announcement.

She does maintain a handwritten grocery list on a five by eight legal pad.  On shopping day, I just tear off the top sheet and take it along to the store. As I pick up the items on the list, I draw a line through them.  This has worked very well, although it has led to me buying a lot of cheap ballpoint pens because I forgot to bring one along.

This week, when I got to the store, I glanced at the list and was surprised to find that everything on the list was already marked out!  The only exceptions were fresh veggies and salad stuff, purchases so automatic that I probably wouldn’t have bothered to write them down in the first place.

I was confused and a little annoyed.  I wondered why I bothered to bring the list at all.  I stuffed it back in my pocket and forgot about it.  When I got home, I threw it in the garbage in the garage before carrying the groceries into the house.

That was Wednesday.

Thursday, Honey asked me if I had bought hair spray and I replied “No.  It was marked out.”

No it wasn’t.”

Yes it was,  Everything on the list was marked out.  It was the most useless excuse for a list I ever saw.”

We argued about it for a while and finally just agreed to disagree.

Friday was garbage day, and just to prove I wasn’t crazy, I dug the list out of the trash before I hauled it to the street. 

The lines that I know that I saw at the HEB were gone!

The blue ink of the pre-printed ruling lines on the page was darker than usual – actually bleeding over a bit.  I can only assume that in the store’s fluorescent light those lines appeared to mark out the stuff written on the list.

Any other explanation would seem to suggest that I have a problem.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Steven Spielberg Frees the Slaves


The 13th Amendment was adopted by the U.S. in 1865.

Mississippi, like several other states whose delegations opposed the measure at the time -- New Jersey and Kentucky included – eventually voted to ratify the amendment.  

Only 130 years behind the rest of the country, the Mississippi legislature officially passed the amendment outlawing slavery in 1995.

Dr. Ranjan Batra, an associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, got interested in the issue after watching the Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln." He, along with another UMC colleague, discovered that the state did not officially notify the U.S. archivist in 1995 as required.  Without that crucial notification, the ratification never officially took place.

They notified the Mississippi Secretary of State, who sent the required letter, and got this one back:



So now it is official, and all those imaginary slaves down in Mississippi are singing “Free at last, free at last.  Thank Steven Spielberg, I’m free at last.”

I couldn’t make this stuff up.  Here’s the story from the Jacksonville, MS Clarion-Ledger.