Thursday, October 31, 2013

Roxio Revisited


It has been almost a month - October 2nd – since I reported an annoying glitch on my laptop.

I suppose that I made some progress in rectifying the situation, since back then it was trying to install Roxio Media Suite (which was already installed and working) but could not find a necessary install (.msi) file.  Now, each morning at start-up, it tries to install Roxio Media Experience.  And it tries, and tries, and tries…and tries. 

I can either sit and click cancel over and over – a dozen times or more – or I can go have a cigarette and a cup of coffee, in which case I may only have to click cancel a couple of times.

As I mentioned before,  I went on-line and tried every solution offered there with limited result.

I tried again today and this time I found an article on the Roxio user forum that I had not seen before.  It confirmed my suspicion that the problem was the result of a Windows update, suggested running something it called the Microsoft Installer Cleanup Utility and gave a link to the Microsoft Support web page where it could be found.

I went there, and found that the Installer Cleanup Utility has been replaced by something called MS Fixit. 

ms fixit 1

Running Fixit seems to have worked.  I rebooted the laptop and those annoying Roxio pop-ups did not appear!

While on the Microsoft website, I confirmed a rumor that I had heard – Microsoft will stop supporting XP on April 8, 2014.  That’s not great news, but at least I won’t be getting any more automatic upgrades that screw something else up.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

109 What?

109 Conners Rd

That’s Google Maps satellite view of the Boggy Thicket.  That bright white spot just to the right of center is the 5th wheel parked next to the garage.  You can see parts of the house and the pool if you know what you’re looking for, but they are almost hidden by the trees.

As I’ve mentioned before, we are located in the northeast corner of Harris County at the intersection of Conners Road and Bearden Lane.

When we first moved here, thirty-something years ago, I went to the post office to get an address.  They told me that the post office did not assign addresses, that I should pick a number I liked and they would deliver my mail to whatever address I chose.  I asked how I was supposed to do that, the lady at the counter didn’t know, but she suggested contacting the light company to see if they had a suggestion.  They did not.

I finally settled on the 109 – the tract number on our survey.  I later learned that most of my neighbors chose their street addresses the same way.

109 Conners Road has served us pretty well  as an address.  It does put an odd numbered address on what would normally be the even numbered side of the street.  Over the years, that has occasionally caused FedEx and UPS to deliver our packages to neighbors across the street.  Otherwise, it has worked just fine.

Recently, Google Maps has decided that we moved.  Type in a search for 109 Conners, Huffman, TX and the site automatically switches your entry to 109 Bearden.

My first thought was that when we built our garage and moved our driveway to the Bearden Lane side of our property, they assumed that was now our primary address. But - a close look at the area on Google Maps shows that they have Conners Road labeled as both Conners and Bearden – and Bearden Lane labeled as both Bearden and Conners.  The roads used to be labeled correctly, but they're not anymore.

The other on-line map programs aren’t much better.  Type in our address on MapQuest, and they can’t find us at all; Yahoo Maps put us on the wrong side of the road and Bing finds us but puts their little locator arrow down at our next-door neighbor’s.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, nothing has changed.  We are still right where we’ve been for almost forty years.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Looking Up

I recently encountered a couple of pictures on the internet that really caught my fancy. 

They were well framed, in focus, all the things that make for a good photograph, but what really grabbed my attention was the point of view.

The first was shot in a forest of tall pine trees

looking up

and the other is an unusual shot from one of America’s most photographed National Parks – Bryce Canyon.  Thousands of pictures have been shot there, most of them looking something like this:

Bryce Canyon Sunset

According to the Bryce Canyon Visitor Guide, the park, open since 1928, now sees an estimated 1.75 million visitors per year, very few of whom leave without taking pictures of the impressive landscape.

Almost all of those photos have been shot from locations along the canyon rim, which makes this photograph – one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen - truly unique:

bryce from the bottom


Monday, October 28, 2013

Over Early

halloween hayride

Today is only the 28th, but I’m pretty sure that Halloween has come and gone here at the Boggy Thicket.  All the local ghosts and goblins (and pirates and princesses, fairies and gangsters) came by on Saturday evening.

This all started back when our kids were small.  We and our next-door neighbors hosted a bonfire and wiener roast for all the kids in the area, complete with games, etc.  When our kids got older, the tradition died out for a while, but once those kids grew up and had kids of their own, it started up again – bigger and better than ever.

Their celebration starts with a Halloween hayride.  Local residents wait at the ends of their driveways in lawn chairs and pickup trucks as the trick-or-treaters circle the block.  Once the candy run is over, they all gather back at the starting point for a party that lasts well into the night.

This year there were two tractors pulling 30-foot hay wagons full of costumed kids, escorted by a half dozen Gators, Rangers and other  four-wheel off-road vehicles.

We always save a little bit of candy just in case, but two years ago we only had four visitors on Halloween, and last year there were none at all.


Speaking of early celebrations – Yesterday, Honey and I went to Texas Land and Cattle Company for a surprise 80th birthday party for her Aunt Jean.

The party was a great success.

Honey had always been told that she was born on her aunt’s 12th birthday, and they have enjoyed a special bond because of that with lots of jokes and teasing over the years.  Yesterday, Jean revealed that although her mother always said that she was born on November 4th, she recently discovered that her birth certificate lists her date of birth as the 3rd.  There are some other discrepancies – it identifies her only by her middle name, for example – but now she isn't sure what to think.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

An 8 by Any Other Name

Back on the 14th of this month, my post used words like Lakh and Crore – terms from the Indian numbering system

The Indian Numbering System is used throughout India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. It is based on the Vedic numbering system in which numbers over 9,999 are written in two-digit groups rather than the three-digit groups used in most other parts of the world.  For example, one lakh - written 1,00,000 – corresponds to 100,000 in the Arabic decimal system we normally use in the USA.

Of course, the decimal notation is not the only system in use here.  That same 100,000 could be expressed as 11000011010100000 in binary, or 186A0 in hexadecimal , or 303240 using octal (Base 8).

Speaking of Base 8, it was once used in programming early computers, but now its only purpose seems to be the confounding of young math students. 

I have a nephew who is an actuary and a bit of a computer/math geek.  I was not surprised when his daughter posted on Facebook that Base 8 was no fun.  She claimed that when converting from decimal to octal, math lost its sense of humor, and as evidence she offered the old elementary-school joke

Question - “Why is 6 afraid of 7 ?

Answer - “Because 7 10 11 !”


Saturday, October 26, 2013



Despite Lord Wolfenden’s best efforts, what you choose to do in the privacy of your own home may still be subject to scrutiny by the state.  Okay, granted that his committee was dealing with “consenting adults” in the UK, but still…

In an era when Cialis is urging you to install a pair of bath tubs on your patio, what you do in your own tub can get you in trouble.

I was recently looking a a website dedicated to strange and/or ridiculous laws, and learned that


it is against the law in Los Angeles to bathe two babies simultaneously in the same tub.

And in Oklahoma,


it is illegal to have a donkey in your bath tub after 7:00 p.m.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Genie Transplant

Well, the garage door opener transplant is complete and the operation was a success.

As I mentioned yesterday, although the two openers looked alike from the outside, they were not identical. They were more like fraternal twins that only shared about 90% of the same DNA.

They were bought within a month of each other at two different Home Depot stores, one in Porter and the other in the Austin area.  The model numbers were almost identical, with one ending in 350AG and the other in 350 AGM

I’m assuming that M stands for magnetic, since the carriage (the plastic piece on the end of the chain that connects to the door bracket) on that one has a small magnet imbedded in it which is used to activate proximity switches at the up and down limits of travel.  The non-M model uses mechanical switches with levers that hang down where they can be hit by the moving bracket.  Luckily, I noticed the difference and swapped carriages before I got it installed.

The difference in the wiring patterns turned out to be pretty simple.  I did end up with one extra pair of wires I didn’t know what to do with, but once I determined that they were no longer needed – they went to the other side of the garage to control the opener I was removing - everything was smooth sailing.

Two days of going up and down stepladders did manage to locate  some muscles that I didn’t know I had.  My upper thighs just below my buttocks are really sore today.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Dream of Genie


Garage door openers are a handy thing to have  when they work.  When they don’t, they’re a real pain – much worse than having no opener installed at all.

Their job is really simple.  When the button on the wall or on the remote is pushed, the opener should run until the door is up – or if it was already up, the opener should run until the door is down. 

There are a couple of exceptions – safety features – built in.  If the door hits an obstruction, or if something blocks the sensors, the motor is supposed to reverse, lifting the door back up.

Lately, the opener on our big double garage door has been acting up.  It not only would stop and reverse directions on the way down, it was doing it on the way up!  Just getting the door up had become an real crap shoot.

Over that last few weeks, I had lubed everything that moved on the door and the opener with no success.  I had tweaked the knobs labeled “force adjustment” on the opener and it seemed to fix the problem – until the next time I needed the door open.

At this point, I decided “When all else fails, read the directions,” and I went to the GENIE website for troubleshooting tips.  In spite of some stuff about a lifetime warranty, the website said that if your opener was over 10 years old to throw it away and get a new one.

I’m more-or-less taking their advice. 

We also had an opener installed on the small single-car door, but I had disconnected it years ago.  I didn’t want to carry two remotes, and when I programmed them both to work on the same remote, it was impossible to get them to consistently work together.  One door was always going up while the other was going down.  It didn’t take long to decide that having an opener on the smaller single door was more trouble than it was worth.

What should have been a simple swap has become complicated – sort of like the Ram truck problem I talked about on Sunday

After carefully labeling the wires going to the six screws on the bad opener, I took it down.  Then when I went to remove the other one, I found that – even though they were the same model and looked identical from the outside – the one that was mounted on the small door only had three wire terminals  instead of six!

I ran out of time (and energy) yesterday, but think I’ve figured out how to make it work.  I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Way to Go, Cheryl!


Our daughter Cheryl is a paralegal who has worked for the same law firm since she moved to Austin a little over fifteen years ago. 

Like any job, she finds it frustrating at times, but she loves what she does, and has come to think of her bosses as family.

Yesterday, she asked them for a raise.

She didn’t just say “Gee guys, it’s been a while and I need more money.”  She called the partners into the conference room and gave them a brief presentation - complete with charts and graphs – covering subjects like the salary range for paralegals in the Austin area, cost of living increases over the last few years, etc.

When she was through, they said “Okay.  Give us a few minutes to see what we can do.”

When they called her back in, they not only offered her a huge raise, they said they wanted to start sending her to Continuing Legal Education seminars at company expense.

I won’t say exactly how much they are giving her, but her raise is considerably more than the annual salary of my first full-time job.

Congratulations, Sweetheart!  I can’t tell you how proud your mother and I are of you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Morning Quarterback


I predicted last Tuesday that the Cougars would win at Reliant Stadium on Saturday.  They did, but unfortunately for the home-town crowd, the victor was not the University of Houston. 

In a thriller, the Cougars from Brigham Young won the game by one point, 47-46.

Meanwhile, up in College Station, Auburn almost took QB Johnny Manziel out of the game – he was out for one series due to an injured shoulder, but came back in.  “Johnny Football” threw for 454 yards/4 touchdowns and ran one in, but the Aggies came up short.  Final Auburn 45 – A&M 41.

Speaking of one point games, the Texans made a good showing in Kansas City Sunday, losing to the unbeaten Chiefs by just one, despite the loss of more key players. 

Arian Foster left the game after only four carries on the Texan’s first possession, and later his backup, Ben Tate, was out for a series of downs. 

Then in the third quarter, star linebacker Brian Cushing suffered a season-ending injury.  In what I thought at the time was a clearly illegal block, KC’s Jamaal Charles hit Cushing’s left knee, breaking his leg and tearing his LCL.

In spite of all that, Case Keenum , in his first regular season start, completed 15 of 25 passes for 271 yards and kept the Texans in the game.  Final score Texans 16 – Chiefs 17.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mirror, Mirror


On a forum I follow, a fellow Dodge (Ram) truck owner posted:

Towing mirrors caused check engine light!!!!!
I decided to remove the towing mirrors and replace them with regular rear view mirrors. My truck is a 2013 2500. I bought a pair of mirrors off a guy who had a 2012 2500...everything fit perfectly.
A coupe of says later, the check engine light came on and the temperature display said minus forty degrees. The tranny started shifting funny, slamming into second, and hard down shifting at a stop. I was sure the computer was going bad at 3500 miles!
Took it to the dealer who said the mirror swap caused the problems, because the temperature sensors for my truck are in the mirrors. Ugh....
I swapped the mirrors back, disconnected the battery to clear the check engine light, and all is back to normal....
By the way, I did pay a diagnostic fee of $125.....ouch
Who would have thought????
I had no idea how sensitive the newer computers really are....I guess I can change the oil....ha

When I mentioned it to my wife, she said “Well, that was just stupid.”

“Why is it stupid,” I asked. “The mirrors matched up exactly.  The number of wires may have been different, but the plugs matched and the mirrors worked. There’s no man on earth who would have expected that it would cause a problem.”

She looked at me with a smile and said “No man…that’s exactly my point.”

Saturday, October 19, 2013


This is my second post today – probably should have been my first, but here you go.

Honey and I are headed for Jimmy Walkers on the Kemah Boardwalk for lunch.  It is a 50th Anniversary event for her Furr High School class.

Honey said this morning that she really wants to go, but isn’t exactly looking forward to it.

She probably wasn’t very popular her senior year.  Being born in November, Honey was a mid-termer, started school in January.  Her junior year, she and several friends went to summer school and ended up being moved up a half a grade.

Honey still insists that they just went to summer school because they were bored and couldn’t afford things like summer camp.  The kids who had been on schedule to graduate top of their class – and especially their mothers – were sure it was a sinister plot to steal their thunder.

I can see why they felt that way – Honey graduated valedictorian and her summer school buddies took seven of the top ten spots in the graduating class.

It will be interesting to see if anybody still holds a grudge.

Morning Cup

Ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right?

Maybe. like this German TV ad suggests,  you should switch to Schΰmos Coffee.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Piece of Arian


Those who have followed Houston Texan Arian Foster’s career – and particularly his interviews – know that he is not only a great running back, he is also one of the most intelligent (and quirky) people to ever play in the NFL.

Now Foster has proved it to the world!

For the first time ever in pro football – and probably for the first time since Caesar owned the Gladiators – fans can own (a piece of) a player.  Foster, through a company called Fantex Holdings, has put himself up on the auction block.

As of today, anyone over the age of 18 can buy stock in Foster, claiming a stake of his future earnings for as little as $50.  Fantex is selling $10.5 million worth of stock, which represents 20% of Foster’s future earnings. The company takes $500,000 in fees and gives $10 million to Foster.

To oversimplify a bit, Foster ends up ahead on the deal if he makes less than $50 million from this point on. That probably favors Arian over his investors – Foster has about $21 million coming on his current contract and made an estimated $1.75 million in endorsements last year. 

Whatever problems you may see with this deal, whether it be indentured servitude or a disincentive to play at his best or something I haven’t even thought of, you have to admit that Foster – and this deal – are unique.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Buster Brown and Chase


buster brown

Tuesday was an unusual day here at the Boggy Thicket

I was paying bills on-line when I got a call from a lady at the bank.  She said that Chase security had discovered that my debit card had possibly been compromised and suggested that we cancel the card immediately.  I replied that I was only a keystroke away from using it to pay my phone bill, but okay.  She killed the card, and is sending me a new one (with a new number) that should arrive by UPS today.  She then reviewed the last month’s transactions to verify that they were all legitimate.

After we got off the phone, I used Honey’s card to pay the phone bill, then I went out to check the level in our propane tank.

I expected to see a level between 20 and 30%, so I was amazed to find the gauge at 77%. 

The propane they put in your tank is a liquid – the L in LP gas stands for liquefied – and what you burn is the gas that has boiled off.  Because of that, a propane tank is never filled completely – a “full” tank usually reads around 80%. 

I also found a receipt for a fill-up in late September that I was pretty sure I hadn’t ordered.  I brought the receipt in and logged back on to the bank website – no charge for propane in September. Then Honey noticed that the receipt said the fill-up had been charged not to Couch but to Graff. 

Our next-door neighbors had ordered propane and the driver had put it in our tank! 

I called Alesha Graff and told her what I thought had happened.  Sure enough, first thing Wednesday morning, a truck was at their house filling their tank.

A couple hours later, I got a call from a  lady at Buster Brown Propane.  She asked very nicely if I would prefer to pay them for the fill-up or would I rather they came and pumped the propane back out of my tank.  (That reads pretty harsh, but when she said it, it didn’t sound bad at all.)

I said we would pay for it, but there were two problems:

1) We qualify for a senior discount and the Graffs, who are young enough to be our kids, do not.  I was not going to pay the full amount on the bill.


2) My card number that they had on file had just been cancelled due to a security problem.

She was very gracious – said they would refigure the amount and send us a bill.  By the time I get the bill in the mail, I should have my new debit card and I can just call them with the new number.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cat’s Diary

I do not love cats.

Don’t get me wrong – I do not despise cats,  I don’t even dislike them, but I find it impossible to love something that will never ever love me back.

Dogs typically offer unconditional love, consider you a part of their family and constantly strive to please.  Dogs look up to you as a father figure, something between a god and the alpha of the pack.

Cats, on the other hand, may tolerate your presence in their home, but they do not give a rat’s ass how you feel or what you think.

Cats know damn well that they are better than you.

Cats may occasionally show signs of affection, but I’m convinced that such displays come with an ulterior motive. 

We once had a cat named Comfort that may have been an exception. He spent most of his  evenings purring as he lay in Honey’s lap.  She was sure that he loved her, and maybe he did, but I think it’s just as likely that he just liked a warm spot and enjoyed having his ears scratched.

More typical was the Siamese tomcat we had when I was a teenager.  Every couple of weeks he would leave a dead animal ( a rat, a rabbit or a bird ) on our doorstep.  Once he dropped it there, he would never touch it again – just his way of saying “I’m totally self sufficient.  Don’t expect me to be grateful for the food you provide.”  Of course, I was the guy on our family organization chart whose duties included cat-kill disposal.

Not as often, but once in a while, he would ignore his litter box, sneak into the closet and take a dump in somebody’s shoe.  Somehow, that became my fault, and it didn’t matter how recently the litter box had been cleaned.  My mother always got madder at me than she did at the damn cat!

Even this evil feline would lie in your lap and allow you to pet him for a while. When he decided he’d had enough, he didn’t just get up and leave, he sank his claws into your leg.

Anyone who could love a cat like that is either a saint, a masochist or both.  Ornery as he was, I actually did sort of like that cat, but what I felt was a long, long way from love.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Football Forecast


What may well prove to be the best football game played at Reliant Stadium this year will take place this Saturday, and I can guarantee the Cougars will win. What I don’t know is whether the victor will be our own University of Houston team or the visiting Cougars from Brigham Young. 

On paper, the unbeaten home team (5-0) has the edge, but BYU (4-2) comes in with a three-game winning streak against a tougher schedule.

While traditionally Houston has been known for its pass-happy, high-scoring offense, its defense deserves plenty of credit for this year’s  5-0 start.

Houston’s defense, which is thriving under first-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs, has already forced 18 turnovers in 2013. Houston leads the nation with a plus-14 turnover margin. It has allowed just three second-half touchdowns this season, and in last Saturday’s victory over Memphis, Houston forced four turnovers and did not allow an offensive touchdown.

They’ll have their hands full BYU’s sophomore quarterback, Taysom Hill, who ran for 259 yards against the University of Texas back in September.  The (BYU) Cougars beat the Longhorns 40-21.

ESPN said at the time that those 259 yards set a single game rushing record for a BYU quarterback.  Well, it did and it didn’t.  Back in 1962, Eldon Fortie rushed for 272 against George Washington.

  Fortie was listed as a running back in that year’s single wing formation - but he was the guy who took the snap from center – so he would have been the quarterback if the team had a quarterback.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lakh and Lathicharge


A story in the Times of India this morning reports:

Cyclone Phailin on Sunday left a trail of destruction knocking down lakhs of homes affecting nearly 90 lakh people and destroying paddy crops worth about Rs 2,400 crore, but Odisha and Andhra Pradesh escaped from widespread loss of life.
As the largest evacuation efforts in the country's recent history helped keep casualties to the minimum, reports from the two states tonight said that 23 people died, all but two of them in Odisha. Most of the casualties were caused by wall collapse, uprooted trees and in floods.
Communication links were vastly disrupted by the strong winds that went up to a speed of 220 kmph when the "very severe" cyclonic storm crossed the coast near Gopalpur last night and weakened before turning into a depression. Ganjam district in Odisha bore the brunt of the storm.

That story contains several terms that I had never seen before.  I figured out that Rs stands for Rupees, but had to consult Wikipedia for definitions of lakh and crore.

A lakh (/ˈlæk/ LAK or /ˈlɑːk/ LAHK; also lac; abbreviated L) is a unit in the South Asian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100,000; Scientific notation: 105), written as 1,00,000. It is widely used both in official and other contexts in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is often used in Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan English.

A crore (/ˈkrɔər/; abbreviated cr) is a unit in the South Asian numbering system equal to ten million (10,000,000; Scientific notation: 107), which is written as 1,00,00,000, equal to a hundred lakh.

Although this was one of the largest cyclones to strike India in recent history, the Times reports that death toll was actually much higher in an incident  on a narrow bridge in Bhopal. 

I had to go back to Wikipedia for another definition, this time for lathicharge, to make sense of this story:

In India, a baton would often be referred to as a lathi. Some Indian police forces use lathis around 5 ft long, but in other places lathis are shorter. The term lathi charge is used by the Indian media more commonly than "baton charge".[1] The lathi drill is taught to all Indian police recruits.

The report says

At least 115 pilgrims, including 30 children were killed and more than 100 injured in a stampede on narrow bridge to the historic Ratangarh temple in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday. This is shocking re-run of the 2006 tragedy at the same site when 50 pilgrims were washed away.
The bridge over the swollen Sindh river, which leads to the temple was chock-a-block with over one lakh devotees from Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring UP on auspicious Navami day.
Swirling rumours about an imminent collapse of the bridge after a police lathicharge on devotees triggered panic. While scores of pilgrims were trampled, others were drowned after jumping into the swollen river. Bodies lay sprawled on the bridge even as rescue teams from Gwalior were delayed due to battered roads and a 10-km traffic jam.

There were only nine constables and a sub-inspector manning the over-lakh crowd on the 500-metre long bridge when the tragedy took place. Eye-witnesses claim a clash between two groups of villagers on the bridge forced a minor lathicharge by police which triggered the stampede.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rattler, Here

In the thirty-plus years we have lived at the Boggy Thicket, we had never seen a Rattlesnake. 

We are home to lots of snakes – some Copperheads, a Cottonmouth or two, hundreds of nonpoisonous snakes of various species - but never a Rattler until yesterday.

I’ve mentioned before that Honey walks several miles every morning.  {This past week she averaged almost 4 1/2 miles a day for five days in a row.} Sometimes I join her, but even if I do, I never walk as far.  When she got back yesterday she asked me to go out to the street and identify the dead snake at the end of our driveway.

It was, in fact, a Diamondback Rattlesnake. It was just over  four feet long, and about as big around as my arm. 

Whoever had run over it had done an exceptional job.  Its spine was broken about eight inches down from its head, and about eighteen inches of its belly had been split open and laid out flat like a science experiment.

Most interesting was the fact that the last four inches of its tail didn’t seem to fit.  It was narrow, out of proportion, and it was dark brown – almost black – with no visible markings. The rattles were tiny, almost vestigial.  They consisted of only two sections and were so small I had to look closely to be sure that’s what they were.

Unlike some lizards and geckos, snakes are not capable of regeneration, but  it almost looked as though that Rattler had lost the last few inches of his tail and was growing it back.

I was bent over, lifting the tail up with a stick to get a better look, when a horse in the pasture across the street snorted.  I had no idea that I could still move that fast.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Latest Poll

Probably since the nation’s founding, but certainly as long as I can remember, voters have sent people to Washington and then complained about what they do once they get there. 

Back in the Johnson administration, the left was protesting the war in Vietnam while the right was predicting that the War on Poverty was leading us down a path to destruction.

It really is nothing new, but the country’s opinion of events in our capital are nearing an all-time low.

According to Public Policy Polling, only 8 percent of American voters approve of the job Congress is doing, compared to 86 percent who disapprove. The feeling is mutual across party lines. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents only gave Congress approval ratings of 7 percent, 10 percent, and 8 percent, respectively.

Compared to other parts of government, Congress is clearly out of favor. When asked to choose between Congress or the IRS, 42 percent of Americans had a higher opinion of the taxman, compared to 33 percent for Congress, with  twenty-four percent unsure. 73 percent of Americans liked jury duty more  than Congress.

When asked what do you have a higher opinion of, 47 percent of people responded dog poop, compared to 40 percent for Congress. 44 percent of people preferred toenail fungus, compared to 41 percent for Congress, and Hemorrhoids were more popular than Congress by 53 to 31 percent.

It was close, but respondents preferred Cockroaches (44 percent) to Congress at 42.

Congress was preferred over Heroin, Ebola, Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Honey Boo-Boo.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Delicious Oxymoron


An Oxymoron is a phrase or figure of speech made up of contradictory terms.  They show up often in English – civil war, jumbo shrimp, the daily special, etc.

Add to that list Low Calorie Alfredo Sauce, something that I would have sworn  did not exist - or if it did, was just about as rare as a North Korean NASCAR Driver, and just about as likely to be successful!

I’m happy to report that not only is Low Cal Alfredo possible, I’ve made it and it tastes great!

I used this recipe from the Food Network, with a couple of substitutions based on what we had on-hand in the fridge.  We had parmesan cheese, but not enough to match the recipe, so I kept the shredded parmesan to sprinkle on top and used a four-cheese Italian blend we keep for making pizza in the sauce.  The addition of Romano, Asiago, and Mozzarella to the mixture (the fourth cheese was Parmesan) worked great.  If anything, it made the sauce even creamier.

Substituting 2% milk (and a dollop of low-fat cream cheese) for the heavy cream of a traditional Alfredo sauce almost seems sacrilegious, but it works.  The result was fantastic.

Instead of fettuccini, we had penne pasta (Barilla Mini Penne) because that was what was in the pantry, and served it alongside baked Mahi Mahi. 

It was a fabulous meal.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Battle of Gettysburg

park closed 1

An RV Travel blog I follow posted this picture Tuesday.  It is one of the entrances to Gettysburg National Park, closed due to the Federal Government shutdown. 

Whatever your opinion on the shutdown, if the government is closed for business it is logical to assume that government-run facilities would not be operating.  What does not make sense is the number of Park Rangers out in force to chase off visitors, or the fact that the park service even blocked the pull-off areas along the highway skirting the park. 


The author said that Rangers patrolled these “Barry-Cades” (his term) chasing anyone who tried to stop away.

In spite of the Rangers’ best efforts, quite a few people visited the battlefield, many treating their tour like a game of hide-and-seek.

catch us if you can

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rough Day for Fans

The Shell/Pennzoil Gran Prix of Houston was held this past weekend.  Unless you are a die-hard fan of Indy Car racing, you probably don’t know that the race was won by a driver with the impressive but improbable name of Will Power.

There was a wreck at turn 5 on the next-to-last lap on Sunday.  Dario Franchitti’s car went airborne and hit the fence scattering debris through the crowd and injuring 13 spectators. 

Franchitti suffered a concussion, two fractured vertebrae and a broken ankle, but is expected to be OK.

 Of course, this was big news on Houston media.  It overshadowed a much worse incident that occurred at about the same time in Chihuahua, Mexico.

A Monster Truck event was being held in conjunction with an air show.  A truck went out of control and drove through the crowd, killing nine and injuring seventy-nine people.

Witnesses say that as he drove over the junk cars, the driver’s head hit the inside of the cab hard enough to knock his helmet off.  He may have been unconscious when he plowed into the spectators, but Mexican police arrested him and charged him with manslaughter.  Additional charges may be filed against the event promoters.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Space Station

space station

The International Space Station was visible as it passed over Houston last night. 

I didn’t get a chance to see it, but it got me thinking….

As the space station passed over tonight

All those aboard looked down in fright.

The source of their concern and fear

Was that the laboratory is HERE, 

And the experiment isn’t coming out right.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mr. Word


I’m sure that I have mentioned before that I grew up in the air conditioning business.  My dad was literally one of the pioneers in the business, and because he was one of the first to offer custom air conditioning on yachts (and he had maintenance contracts on the A-C at some of the city’s finest homes) I got to meet many of the iconic movers-and-shakers of Houston in the 1950s.

One of the people who made the biggest impression on me was an independent oilman named T. T. Word.  He was not one of the wealthiest or most flamboyant.  He was almost the exact opposite of more well-known wildcatters like Glen McCarthy.  Even if you are a student of Houston history, you’ve probably never heard of Mr. Word – a Google search of his name this morning failed to find any reference to him at all.

Well into his 70s when I met him, Mr. Word and his wife shared a beautiful home in the Memorial Area with a back yard of terraced gardens leading down to Buffalo Bayou.  He was soft-spoken and treated everyone he met with dignity and respect.  It was impossible to make a service call at their home without Mrs. Word inviting you in for iced tea and cookies or a slice of fresh-baked banana bread.

He had made his fortune drilling for oil in the Louisiana delta country using shallow-water rigs like the one pictured above.

One day, after completing a service call, we were sitting on their patio when Mr. Word told the following story:

I was sleeping on the rig south of Morgan City.  Somehow, during the night, the barge broke loose and was floating down the river toward Atchafalaya Bay.  I was awakened by a member of the Cajun crew yelling  Heeeey Goddamn – We ain’t here no more”

Sunday, October 6, 2013

There Was a Young Lady from Niger


A young woman got her arm severely mauled by a tiger yesterday.  That probably wouldn’t be surprising if it happened in the jungles of India, but this happened just off Interstate 35 in Oklahoma.

The attack – and they’re not calling it that – occurred at the  Garold Wayne Interactive Zoo in Wynnewood, OK, a place dedicated to saving rescued exotic animals.  Apparently the young lady, an attendant at the park, had reached into the cage for some reason and the sleeve of her down-filled jacket got caught.  When she jerked her arm trying to free it, the tiger thought she was waving a toy and decided to play.

The tiger has been isolated, but zoo management has no intention of having the animal euthanized.

Doctors in Oklahoma City are hoping to save the woman’s arm, but the down jacket is pretty much a loss.  Maybe she could turn it into a vest.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Major Dose of Cute

A Life-Lesson for the rest of us?

A little girl and a baby gorilla meet at the zoo - You can't watch this without smiling...


Friday, October 4, 2013

Oh, So THAT’S What It Meant

After yesterdays blog post, an old friend posted this on Facebook:

Bob Couch’s blog today about his very vivid dream last night, reminded me of a subject that I am following closely. Many people thought that December 21,2012 was going to be the end of time just because the Mayan calendar ended. That date marked the beginning of a new age of consciousness as we moved into the age of Aquarius. People are going to experience vivid dreams and visions on an ever increasing rate because of earth’s position relative to the galactic plain. It was all predicted in the Bible about the end times. I acquired a large book back in the 60's from a mysterious old man in exchange for some gas for his car. The title stirred my curiosity, I won’t name that book, because it might stir up some negative thoughts. One section was devoted to interpretation of dreams, of which I have used many times. Dreams are full of symbolisms, of which most of us can’t make heads or tails from, but they do have a true meaning for our lives. As Daniel in the bible, was very accurate in deciphering the meanings contained in dreams, there are people today that can do the same. Bob, you had a very prophetic dream, and the frustrations that you experienced left your energy absolutely drained. I have interpreted your dream, and I feel it is at least 80% accurate. If you want I can Email it to you.

I emailed him and took him up on the offer.  To avoid confusion I should mention here that I gave him a little more detail, including what I saw (people wading across a reflection pool because the decorative bridge had collapsed) when I left the foundry.  Here is his explanation:

Bob, I appreciate your Email response. All I can say is “Good Golly Miss Molly” Your dream hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought I had some doosies. Bob, you are very intuitive as to the future. I have been experiencing these sort dreams for the past three or four years. As I read about your dream, it brought tears to eyes as I realized that you too had bridged the gap of consciousness between the present and the future. As I said, dreams are a conglomeration of symbolisms, and each have their own individual meanings, and yet tie into the whole. Starting out, you and Honey along with your friends travel into Houston to attend an event (you had freedom of movement and the resources to attend) You stopped at a BBQ place to eat. Entering the building, you go through obviously a black barber shop. (I’m still working on that one for the meaning) Entering, you order four sandwiches and received only three.( Food is in short supply, and you can’t get the food you need)( as a citizen, your rights are abused) The US flag and staff breaks and is falling down.( America as we know it will cease to exist.) The Texas medallion with the Opal stone( The strength Texas sets us apart from the rest of the nation which is signified by the Opal stone which is a sign of good favor) The waist high grass that was tough to wade through( life as you know it is going to be a struggle. You will have to make do with what ever resources you have) The horsemen that were willing to come to your aid and the Hooter girls that you helped up the bank of Buffalo Bayou with the wheel chair( Your friends and neighbors will help you as well as you are willing to help others that are weaker or have less resources than you) You are a damn good man Charlie Brown! The foundry was involved in castings for the petrochemical industry ( shortages of petroleum products) The two men fighting with shovels( civil disobedience in the streets) Tractors competing ( the key is the tractor with spiked wheels. The old tractors will have to be put back into service for the lack of new ones that won’t be available.) The 18 wheelers and the motorcycles was confusing to me, but I know that in the event civil disobedience brakes out, what ever if any 18 wheelers will be high-jacked. Walking across a reflection pool because the bridge was destroyed.( What ever you take for granted today, will not necessarily be there for you in the future.) The people that aren’t prepared to cope with these drastic changes in the way of life will suffer big time! Us old timers can shuffle through it. It will be up to us to show strength to younger ones.

He probably wouldn’t mind, but I’m not using my friend’s name here because I didn’t have time to ask his permission.  Since high school, he has always been attracted to things others thought were fake science, or just too weird.  While I do not necessarily agree with all of his opinions, I never scoff – too many of his “far out” theories have proved to be true.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What A Dream

Ever since Joseph in Genesis, and probably a lot longer than that, there have been folks who claimed to interpret dreams.  Not sure I would put much faith in them, but I know they would have a ball with a dream I had last night.  It was a ring-tailed doozy   that left me exhausted, frustrated, and wound so tight there was no chance of even thinking about going back to sleep any time soon.

I normally don’t remember dreams, and parts of this one are missing, but for any budding Dr. Freud out there, here are the highlights:

It all began when Honey and I and another couple were headed to an event in downtown Houston – possibly at Jones Hall – and decided to stop for barbeque sandwiches.  We stopped at a dive on West Dallas and the first clue that it was actually located in Dreamland came when we walked through the door.  The entrance doubled as a barber shop where a large black woman was watching the barber give her son a trim.  Since this was a dream, none of us thought this was unusual and we went on through to the restaurant.

We each ordered sliced beef sandwiches, but when the order came there were only three.  When I could get no help from the waiter, I went to the window and demanded our other sandwich.  The chef said that there were other orders ahead of mine, so I would have to wait.  I screamed at him that my order was ahead of theirs and if they could count to four he would know it.

Somehow, the stand holding their American flag got broken and the flag, with a huge gold eagle at the top of the pole began to topple.  At this point, the manager arrived and, digging in the sink drain, retrieved and presented me with a silver chain with a large medallion in the shape of a map of Texas. The medallion had a stone, but unlike Navajo jewelry, it wasn’t turquoise, it was opal.

The others were through eating by now, so I told them to go on and I would meet them at the theater. 

That’s when my strange odyssey really began. 

Over the next (minutes? hours?) I

  1. Got stuck in a field growing artificial turf .  The stuff was waist high and clung to my clothes like velcro!  I was rescued by two men on horseback who said they could take me to my destination, but only after they got off work.
  2. Helped two attractive young ladies in Hooters shorts  and University of Texas jerseys haul an expensive-looking racing wheelchair up the banks of Buffalo Bayou to the sidewalk along Allen Parkway.
  3. Took a shortcut through a foundry casting blanks to be made into oilfield valves.  It must have been Bring Your Child To Work Day, because there were several little kids wandering around the place.
  4. Watched two huge men in front of a block of 5th Ward row houses in a fight-to-the-death with long-handled flat-blade shovels.
  5. Watched a three-way drag race between guys driving souped-up farm tractors.  One was a Ford, one a John Deere and one I didn’t recognize although it was the only one with steel spike wheels with no tires.  They generated so much smoke that I can’t tell you who won.

There was also an incident involving motorcycles and eighteen-wheelers, but what happened must not have been very important – or maybe too traumatic? -since I’ve already forgotten any details.

During my travels I found myself on the west and northwest sides of Downtown, and even as far southeast as Gulfgate Mall.  I never made it into downtown Houston at all, and I awoke long before I made it to the concert. 

When I did wake up, I was short of breath, and my pulse was racing. My legs were cramping and would barely hold me up when I got out of bed. I was tired, I was frustrated and I was angry.

I finally did get back to (uneventful) sleep, but I got up this morning feeling like I had walked to Dallas – or at least Conroe – last night.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Computer Blues


It should come as no surprise that sometimes computers can be a real pain in the ass.

For the past few weeks, I have been dealing with an issue on my laptop. It hasn’t really hurt anything,; it’s just a constant aggravation.

It started about three weeks ago, probably after a Windows update.  As the computer opens each morning, I get a pop-up screen saying Windows is trying to install Roxio Media Suite and was unable to find the .msi file.  I then have to click Cancel a dozen times or more before it will go away.

The program was already on the computer and working fine.  There was no need to install it again.

I searched the problem on the net – it’s apparently pretty common – and tried all the things that were supposed to fix it.  None of them worked.

I ran a couple adware/spyware/antivirus programs, and a couple programs like Glary Utilities designed to correct registry errors.  That didn’t help either.

I finally decided that I didn’t use the Roxio Suite very often – and I had other programs installed that would do the same tasks – so I uninstalled it. 

Finally – problem solved…..Or so I thought until this morning when the damned pop-up showed up again.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

$200 Jersey


After Sunday’s game, an irate Texans fan paid a sidewalk vendor $200 for a Matt Schaub jersey just so he could set it on fire in the stadium parking lot.  When it didn’t burn, a helpful tailgater gave him a quart of charcoal lighter.  The event was recorded and has been shown on numerous sports shows and posted on YouTube.

I won’t say the loss was entirely  Schaub’s fault – he did throw the interception, and his only touchdown pass the week before was to the opposition – but there is more than enough blame to go around. 

The Texans coaches should know by now that number 8 is a pretty good quarterback if he has time in the pocket, but worse than useless when he doesn’t.  They also knew that all-pro tackle Duane Brown was not available to provide pass protection, and that there were two young quarterbacks on the bench, either of whom is much more capable than Schaub if forced to scramble.

Many fans want Schaub replaced.  Personally, I would settle for a situational approach.  Start Yates or Keenum until the offensive line gets well, or at least bring one of them in on third and long. Substitutions happen at running back or wide receiver almost every play.  Why not at quarterback?

I know it will never happen, but I wish they’d try it.  It couldn’t be much worse.