Saturday, August 31, 2013

Something’s Fishy

fish beer

If you can’t go fishing this Labor Day Weekend, the next best thing might be to just sit around and drink beer named after a fish, or beer with a fish on the label. 

Field and Stream has an article comparing “fish beers” in their current on-line edition.  You can read it HERE

The F&S guys did a good job of taste-testing a dozen beers from around the country, but as one of the first comments pointed out, they didn’t mention Shiner Bock.  After all, a shiner is a fish – a little one, but a fish – right?


Friday, August 30, 2013

InDrive Experiment

connect indrive

The two gizmos in the picture above are the hardware for a system called InDrive Connect.  They are part of a system that State Farm is now offering drivers as a way to lower their insurance premiums. 

The little black box plugs into the port under the steering column where your mechanic would plug in his computer during state inspections or to diagnose engine problems.  The other piece clips on your sun visor and offers OnStar-like emergency services and Bluetooth connection for hands-free use of your cell phone.

Essentially, they allow InDrive and your insurance company to monitor your driving 24/7.

I installed these in the truck yesterday, and saved $23 just by agreeing to try the system.  Depending on your mileage (and of course, the way you drive) State Farm says you can save up to 50% on your auto insurance. 

I have no idea how much – if any – we’ll save, but based upon yesterday, it ought to be a lot.  The truck hasn’t left the garage since the system was turned on! 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ain’t Over Yet

The Ft. Hood trial is over and Nadal Hasan has been sentenced to death.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that the Army can just take him outside and shoot him – something he seems to want  - along with most everyone who has followed the case. 

Under the UCMJ, a death sentence requires an automatic appeal, so all that was really accomplished yesterday is that Hasan is no longer a Major (loss of rank and privileges) or a member of the US military (dishonorable discharge) and he will be transported to Leavenworth to await his fate.

I am not a big Sean Hannity fan.  I find him hard to listen to because he wastes so much time telling you what he is going to talk about when he could just be talking.  But generally, I tend to agree with most of what he says.

Yesterday, though, Hannity said something really stupid! 

In discussing the Hasan verdict, he said (paraphrasing) It’s a good thing the trial was held in Texas – Those people don’t mess around when it comes to the death penalty.


Sorry, Sean.  The trial was a military court martial held on a military reservation.  Texas law, or for that matter, Texas attitudes had nothing to do with it at all!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Control Freak

My wife is an excellent driver. 

What with all the years of 60+ mile one-way commutes, she has driven more miles than most women, and the only accidents she ever had were clearly someone else’s fault.

I know all that.  I have confidence in her…..


Riding in the passenger seat over the past few days makes me nervous.  She hasn’t done anything wrong, nothing even remotely dangerous, but I’m finding it hard to ride without having control.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sort of a Second Monday

Two trips to the chiropractor yesterday and another scheduled for this afternoon.  Ice and pain meds almost have me functioning.  When lying down, I can almost believe I’m back to normal, but when I get up – not so much.

Anyway, to avoid having today’s post become  a pity party, I’m including my all-time favorite Gary Larson cartoon.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Bad Sunday

Well, yesterday really sucked. 

  • The Astros lost, the Texans lost, and the Cowboys won their pre-season game. 
  • The much needed and much ballyhooed 60% chance of torrential rain never materialized   - it never even got cloudy. 
  • Our favorite dancer, Derek Hough, hosted a new show called Family Dance Off where he proved that as an MC, he is mediocre at best – and the competing families were awful.  Without really trying, I could round up a dozen families within ten miles of here who could out dance those contestants.

None of that would really matter if I hadn’t been in pain all day. 

I was getting up from the breakfast table, and about halfway between sitting and standing my lower back went out.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had anything hurt so bad.

Spent the rest of the day with ice on my back and popping Advil.  Headed to the Chiropractor this morning.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Last Rose of Summer

Actually, it’s a Daylily – our last rose, a miniature tea rose in a pot by the pool, gave up the ghost during this summer’s drought. It has looked pretty pitiful in the past, but always came back.  This time I’m sure it is a goner.

The Daylilies, which typically bloom from late April until the first week in June, decided to bloom again once we got home and started watering.  There has been at least one bloom open every day for the past few weeks.

All of this is the result of drought, and we still seem to be in the center of a no-rain zone.  It has rained twice since we got back home, but several times there have been major downpours – an inch or more – within ten miles of us, and we haven’t had a drop.

All week the weathermen on the news have been forecasting rain, but very little has actually materialized, and none at all here.  We’re supposed to have a 60% chance of some significant rain today, but based on what’s happened recently, I doubt we will have any.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

No More Songs


Learned this morning that one of my all-time favorite singers can sing no more.  Linda Ronstadt, in an interview with AARP magazine, revealed that she has Parkinson’s disease and it has left her unable to sing.

What a sad turn of events for a woman who could literally sing anything – in any genre.

I first became a fan when she released Different Drum with a group called the Stone Poneys (Their spelling-not mine) back in 1967.  Over the years, I loved her offerings in a multitude of styles – Rock, Country, Light Opera (Pirates of Penzance) , Torch Songs (with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra), and some great traditional Mariachi music in Canciones de Mi Padre. 

There just wasn’t any type of song that she couldn’t sing and sing well, but now she is destined to live out her life without singing at all.

Friday, August 23, 2013

For the Birds

Honey had been saying for the last few days that we ought to put out the Hummingbird feeders. 

On the surface, that seems like wasted effort.  We are on the migration path, and typically get lots of Hummers in the spring and fall but almost none in the middle of summer or wiinter. Our next-door neighbors do keep feeders out all year, and have a few birds who remain year-round, but Hummers in mid-August are a rare sight here.

Anyway, we put the feeders out about lunch time yesterday, and the first Hummingbird showed up in less than ten minutes.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Doesn’t Kill Me

Friedrich Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols, said “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.”  I doubt that the thought is original with old Freddy, but look it up and he always gets the credit. 

It is an inspirational sentiment that is actually true at least some of the time,  and I thought of that quote this week as I looked around my yard.

When we got back to the Boggy Thicket after our recent trip, the hot dry Summer had almost destroyed our yard.  The grass was brown and crunchy underfoot, and many of the shrubs (and a few of the trees) were dropping leaves.

Among the hardest hit were our Saucer Magnolias.  They had dropped almost all of their leaves, and the few still attached were drooping and turning brown.

Of course, we began a routine of daily watering and we have had a couple days with significant rain since we got home.  I’m happy to report that the yard is coming back, and yesterday our Saucer Magnolia seemed to be proclaiming victory over the drought.


Still no new leaves, but there are blossoms on every branch.  There are more blooms than I’ve ever seen before, even when it is blooming in season.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Picture Is Worth…

As I reported a couple years ago, Billy the Kid reportedly paid a quarter to have his picture taken in 1879 or 80.  That tintype sold at a Denver auction in 2011 for 2.3 million dollars. 

The price was said to be justified because it was the only known picture of one of the West’s most famous outlaws – but that might have been premature.


billy the kid

The Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun News reports that Photographer Frank H. Parrish of Las Cruces has positively identified the young man on the left of the photograph as Dan Dedrick, an ID that he says is the "clincher" to identifying the friend standing next to Dedrick. That's the outlaw Billy the Kid, Parrish says.

The tintype bears some resemblance to the only authenticated tintype photograph of Billy the Kid, the Sun News points out, which is believed to have been taken in 1879 or 1880 at Fort Sumner, N.M. That tintype sold for $2.3 million in 2011.

"There are many purported photo images of Billy the Kid, but only one that is acknowledged by leading historians – until now," Parrish told the Sun News.

Parrish says he was asked to authenticate the tintype photograph by its owner, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Parrish acknowledged that "there will be skeptics and doubters" and welcomed further authentication by other experts.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I in Team

In a desperate attempt to break the chain of strange/cute animal stories, he posted

i in team

Monday, August 19, 2013



Our odd animal story trend continues for one more day.  Today’s post concerns sex, multitasking, breath control and, er, frogs.

A new study has found that female frogs choose their mates based on a characteristic that many humans also find desirable in a partner-being efficient and good at multitasking.

After studying the mating calls that male gray tree frogs use to woo their mates, researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered that female gray tree frogs prefer to mate with males that can effectively multitask by producing long, rapidly pulsating mating calls at a frequent rate.

Typical mating calls for this frog species known as the Hyla chrysosceli have a duration of 20-40 pulses per call and anywhere from five to 15 calls per minute. Male frogs face a tradeoff between call rate and duration. But the research shows that the females prefer mating calls that are longer and more frequent. By no means is this a simple task.

"It's kind of like singing and dancing at the same time," said lead study author Jessica Ward, reports Nature World News.

Ward explained that the results of the study supported the hypothesis which suggests that females prefer mates that can juggle more than one complicated task at a time, something seen as a desirable quality in males.

By listening to recordings of 1,000 mating calls, Ward and her colleagues learned that males which produce longer calls only do so at shorter rates.

"It's easy to imagine that we humans might also prefer multitasking partners, such as someone who can successfully earn a good income, cook dinner, manage the finances and get the kids to soccer practice on time," Ward said.

The study, which is published in the journal Animal Behavior, was part of Ward's larger research goal of understanding how female frogs are able to distinguish between individual mating calls amid a chorus of multiple males vying for their attention.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just Nuts

For some reason, this week has become weird animal story week.  Oh well, here’s one more:

The Straussberg  Adventure Park in eastern Germany is famous for its Monkey Forest where about 80 or so monkeys and apes roam free in an enclosed sanctuary.  Unfortunately, things are not as peaceful as they seem in the landscaped enclosure.


Cornelius, the 17 year old Alpha male Macaque, is one mean S.O.B. – and he likes to maintain his dominance by beating the crap out of younger males.

The situation got so bad that three of the younger monkeys couldn’t take it anymore.  In desperation, they scaled the enclosure’s eight foot electric fence and headed for parts unknown.

Two of the escapees have been recaptured, and upon return to the zoo were immediately castrated!

"No, it was not a punishment!" insists Brigitte Dietzel, the zoo manager. "It's just a measure to calm them down. Without as many hormones, they are much calmer and they don't have as many problems with the other males."

The operation, she adds, is done by a veterinarian under anesthesia and is not painful for the monkeys. She says they are recovering happily and "do not seem depressed" about their fates.

Meanwhile, the third escapee, known as Paul, and his endangered anatomy remain at large in the miles of forest surrounding the monkey park. "The problem is that he has plenty to eat," says Dietzel. "He eats apples, wild berries, and he's very good at hiding."

For the full story, and possible updates, check

 Der Spiegel.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Groundhog Day


Okay, this actually happened way back in May, but I just saw the story on-line for the first time today:

Some kids in Bridgeton, N.J., spotted a groundhog in a parking lot and went to have a closer look. Unfortunately, they didn't realize the critter was the world's worst groundhog.

It chased them across a street to where the Bridgeton Little League was playing, and that's when "bedlam broke out." When umpire Brandon Dennis distracted the groundhog away from the youngsters, it went after him. When Bridgeton Little League President T. Carl Hemple tried to intervene, he simply became the psychotic animal's new target.

Police captured the groundhog to test it for rabies — but before the results came back, the creature escaped its cage. Dr. Bill McAloanan, who runs the Hopewell Township clinic, said when he showed up the next morning to take care of the animal, the cage left by the Bridgeton Police Department was empty.

It’s still out there somewhere….

Friday, August 16, 2013



Meet the Olinguito, a tiny (2 lb.) member of the raccoon family, and the first carnivorous mammal to be discovered in 35 years.  The little buggers live in the treetops of the Andean Cloud Forests of Columbia and Ecuador, and although taxonomy classifies them as carnivores (and they do eat an occasional bug) their primary diet is fruit.

To claim they are a new discovery is true but somewhat misleading.  Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, who announced the animal’s discovery, first started looking for the creatures after seeing hides in a drawer – skins collected decades earlier – in a Chicago museum.

There may even have been one hiding in plain sight at the National Zoo in Washington.  For several years, the Olingo exhibit there featured one red-haired female who refused to mate with the slightly larger brownish-gray males in the enclosure.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Farewell to the Drive-In


Drive-In Movies are pretty much a thing of the past.  The only one still operating in the Greater Houston area is the Showboat Drive-In on FM2920 in Hockley.  If you grew up going to the drive-in – or were just conceived in one – this summer may be your last chance to revisit this great American tradition.

Those few that haven’t fallen prey to lifestyle changes brought about by the economy, new technology, and (some might claim) Global Warming, are hearing their death knell peeling this summer.  The Hollywood powers-that-be have announced that beginning early next year they will no longer distribute films in the traditional 35mm format, which means that all theaters will have to convert to digital projectors – projectors that can cost upwards of $75,ooo!  That figure often represents several years of profits, particularly for seasonal drive-ins that close in winter.

Now Honda is coming to the rescue.  “Cars and drive-in theaters go hand-in-hand, and it’s our mission to save this decades-old slice of Americana that holds such nostalgia for so many of us,” said Alicia Jones, manager of Honda & Acura social marketing at American Honda Motor Co. “We’re committed to helping the remaining drive-in theaters flourish with the move to digital projection.”

Even Honda can only save five theaters nation-wide.  For one month, people are invited to visit to determine which five drive-in theaters will get a new digital projector on Honda’s dime.
The winning theaters will be revealed in September, and each will host a movie celebration that includes a screening of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” which hits theaters late next month.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Skipping Lunch

Over the past week, via a series of emails and phone calls, we had arranged a get-together with an old and dear friend. 

He had first contacted me, but failed to suggest a time and place. Then finally, in a phone call on Sunday, said he and his wife would be at our place on Tuesday morning.

They were supposed to be here between 10:30 and 11:00, and when they did not show up, Honey wanted me to call.  I would not because

[a] They’re always late

[b] I didn’t want to seem overly concerned

[c] Calling while they’re pulling into your driveway is embarrassing

Finally, just before noon, Honey called and got the wife who had no idea what she was talking about.  Although my pal had said several times during our conversations that he had to consult her about a time and place, he had never mentioned the planned visit to her at all.

At this point, my friend realized who was on the phone and told his wife “Oh, we were supposed to be at their place at 10:30.”

I honestly don’t know what to think.  They’ve had a lot on their plate lately, and a lot going on this week – and he’s never been the most responsible person in the world – still, the pattern of behavior makes me wonder if he’s losing it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Padre Island Shark


Corpus Christi fisherman Wayne Wimer spent almost four hours reeling in this 11 foot 4 inch Tiger Shark this past weekend.  He caught it while surf fishing on Padre Island just south of the Packery channel.

Dr. Greg Stunz with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi says that these sharks aren't rare to the Corpus area, but at this size they are exceptional.

The shark was tagged and released, and in what had to be the quote of the day, Dr. Stunz said ---

“We are big proponents of catch and release, despite the fact that sharks such as these can eat us.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rodeo Humor


According to the news media, there is all kinds of dismay over an event at the Missouri State Fair Rodeo last night. 

One of the rodeo clowns donned an Obama mask, and the announcer asked the crowd if they would like to see him run down by a bull.  The crowd seemed to enjoy it, but now politicians are competing to see who can appear to be most offended.

I’m a little offended, too.  I always considered Rodeo Clown to be an honorable profession.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Catching Up

Back home for a few days, but still not back in the swing of daily posts.

You haven’t missed much – mostly we’re still getting the trailer unloaded and cleaned up, and getting the house, pool and yard back in shape. 

The high temps and no rain have our yard looking pitiful – grass is brown and shrubs dropping leaves like crazy.  We really need some rain.  Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and got soaked to the bone hauling my purchases to the truck.  It was a deluge, a real toad strangler, but just 10 miles away at our house we only got a a few minutes of light sprinkle as we watched thunderstorms pass to our east and west.

Thursday was my birthday, and I had a good one.  Went to Texas Roadhouse for prime rib, and brought home one of their Big Ol’ Brownies, packed to go, which became my birthday cake.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Headed out now to vacuum the pool.  Can’t tell you how much I'm looking forward to that.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

If You Have To Break Down

Well, we are back home at the Boggy Thicket a few weeks early.  I didn’t get to post from the road but once – mostly due to really slow wi-fi in campgrounds – so today’s post is a synopsis of the trip.  We had to cancel the last half of our trip due to mechanical problems, but more on that later.

We left home on July 10, and our first stop was at Westcliff Park, a COE campground on Lake Belton.

sunrise at westcliff 2

The park offers full-hookup, pull-through sites on the lake shore – each with its own covered picnic table – and with my “Geezer Pass” (America the Beautiful Senior Pass) it was only 10 bucks for the night!

A couple more days of triple-digit temps- stops in Abilene and Amarillo – before we found blessed relief at the top of Raton Pass.  A great little campground with shade and a high in the upper 70’s.

cedar rail

Our next stop was Cheyenne Mountain State Park at Colorado Springs, maybe one of the best kept secrets of the Colorado park system.  Yes, it is that Cheyenne Mountain - the Air Force runs NORAD and does other secret stuff inside the mountain while we camp on top.  The entrance to the park is directly across from the main gate at Ft. Carson, and we had a panoramic view of the fort from our campsite.


This was also the first of several stops where we dodged a weather bullet.  Thunderstorms falling on areas where there had been recent forest fires caused mudslides and minor flooding on the other side of Colorado Springs, near Garden of the Gods, while we only got some light rain.

A couple stops in Wyoming as we worked our way to Missoula, Montana, and Jim and Mary’s RV Park – Honey’s all-time favorite campground.gazebo


The campground is shady and filled with flower beds, and  they grow all their flowers from seed in their own greenhouse.  It makes for a really pleasant atmosphere. 

Next stop, Hungry Horse, Montana near the entrance to Glacier National Park.  Our campsite was hilly and heavily wooded, with huckleberries ready to pick on a bush right by our picnic table.  Somehow, we were able to find the one tiny gap that would let us use our satellite dish.  I doubt if we would have been able to get an unobstructed signal from either of the campsites closest to us.

The purpose of staying in Hungry Horse was to access Glacier, but we did take a side trip of the Hungry Horse Dam and Reservoir.  At the top of a dead tree on the banks of the lake we saw an eagle’s nest.

Eagle Nest 2

In and around Glacier N.P. we saw lots of wildlife and lots of beautiful scenery.  Here are a few examples:

snow dragon

Can you see the Snow Dragon on the mountainside?

goat at Goat Lick Overlook

Or the Mountain Goat at the top of the cliff?

Two Medicine Lake 2

The view from Two Medicine Lake.

Middle Fork Flathead River

White water on the Flathead River.

For our trip on the Going to the Sun Highway, we chose to take one of the famous Red Bus tours.  I drove it the last time we were there, and hoped to be able to see more with somebody else behind the wheel.  I’m not sure it was any better for me, and Honey couldn’t see over the seat in front of her (and had a fat lady who kept scooting over into her lap) so for her it was definitely worse!  Still, we did see some beautiful sights.

Birdwoman Falls

Bird Woman Falls.

Haystack Falls

Haystack Falls.

falls 3

No Name Falls.


Mountain Goats near the Visitor Center.

Waterton National Park adjoins Glacier on the Canadian side of the border, and we spent a couple days up there.  It is a beautiful park and the campground in Waterton Township offers large, full-hookup campsites – something most US National Parks do not.  It is located on Waterton Lake, and the boat ride down to the US end of the lake is spectacular.

The International_tour boat

Deer by lake 2

It is common to see deer wandering through the campground and the little town.

 daylight forever 9-25 pm

And this time of year, it stays daylight almost forever. This unretouched shot was taken at 9:25 p.m.

On the drive to Red Rock Canyon, we got to watch a Grizzly for about 15 minutes.


grizzly 4

We also saw a few black bears, but I didn’t get any good pictures.

Here are a few shots from the trip on the lake:

creek feeding into lake

eagle flying

Lake from tour boat

One interesting note about the Waterton campground.  When we first pulled in, I couldn’t find a sewer connection.  Several hours later, I noticed a small trailer with its sewer hose running directly behind it.  I got down and looked, and – sure enough – our sewer was in the center of the driveway just below my rear axle!  I’d never seen a setup like that before!

Coming back into the US from Waterton, the ICE agent decided to inspect our trailer.  He confiscated two tomatoes and a lemon – told us that even though it was obvious to him that we had bought them in the US, it was illegal to bring them back in to the country.  He said he could have fined us $300 for each of them if he wasn’t in a good mood!

We thought “Whew, if that’s the worst thing that happens, were OK.”  Little did we know…..

The plan was to spend one more night at Jim and Mary’s, then head for Idaho and work our way over to the Oregon coast.  Friday morning, after spending the night in Missoula, I was getting ready to hook up when I discovered that we had sustained some major damage.

The entire suspension on our 5th wheel had shifted to the left, and the equalizer bracket was digging into both left side tires.  A mobile mechanic sent by Good Sam Road Service was able to bend things back enough that it would be safe to drive a mile up the hill to Hagan’s Welding. 

About one week and $4000 later, we were back on the road with a trailer that is actually better (certainly sturdier) than when it left the factory.  In the meantime, we had cancelled all reservations for the rest of the trip, camped two nights inside a welding shop, and pretty much lost our zest for travel.  The good news is that our extended warranty covered most of the cost of the repairs.

We decided to head for home, and got back yesterday.  The trip home was uneventful, although in Limon, Colorado, we did watch storm clouds just to our west that spawned a tornado about 12 miles away from the campsite, and there were flood warnings for Salina, Kansas the day we left.

Not sure when we will head out again, or which direction we will go.  Right now, we are just grateful to be home.