Friday, February 28, 2014

When You Wish Upon, etc.

star transport

Star Transport of Morton, Illinois, is one of several trucking companies with similar names.  The thing that makes them stand out from the rest is that they are being sued by the Obama Administration.

According to the EEOC, Star violated federal law by failing to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees.  Two Muslim employees had refused to drive trucks that were delivering alcohol, so the company terminated their employment.

Islam prohibits the drinking of alcohol, but there is no rule against transporting it.  Still, a devout person has a perfect right to do so on religious grounds.  He also has a right to seek other employment.

The employer should be equally empowered to fire anyone who refuses to do the job for which he was hired, but our government apparently doesn’t see it that way.  They are attempting to force Star to reinstate the drivers with back pay.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Something to Think About

I got the email below from someone whose politics  are definitely left of center, which makes it that much more interesting.  I haven’t taken the time to fact-check all the figures, not even sure that I could, but they seem to be accurate….

During the 3-1/2 years of World War II that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and ended with the Surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, the US produced...

22 aircraft carriers.8 battleships.48 cruisers.349 destroyers.420 destroyer escorts.203 submarines.34 million tons of merchant ships.100,000 fighter aircraft.98,000 bombers.24,000 transport aircraft.58,000 training aircraft.93,000 tanks.257,000 artillery pieces.105,000 mortars.3,000,000 machine guns.2,500,000 military trucks.

We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services.  Invaded Africa. Invaded Sicily and Italy. Won the battle for the Atlantic.Planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe.Developed the atomic bomb and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany.

It's worth noting, that during the almost exact amount of time, the Obama administration couldn't build a functioning web site. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Orchid Update


Back when I started this blog four years ago, my first post was a sort of welcome and mission statement. 

The second, on March 11, 2010, was a post called Energizer Orchid, about an orchid that our daughter Cheryl gave Honey – an orchid that had continued to bloom every year for about 15 years.

I’m pleased to report that it is still going strong.  The first two blooms on this year’s stalk opened yesterday.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Looks Guilty to Me


Beware of the hardened criminal in the mug shot above. 

That is Kayla Finley of South Carolina, who stopped by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office on an errand last week and was jailed on the spot due to a active warrant. 

Her crime?  Finley failed to return a VHS tape she rented ten years ago.  She was held overnight until the owner of the now defunct movie store agreed to drop the charges.

Not that it matters, but the movie she failed to return was Monster-In-Law starring Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sochi Before and After

Well, the Winter Olympics are finally over, and I’d have to say they were a success.

If you sat through the hours and hours of coverage on NBC, you probably saw the SNAFU in the opening ceremonies when one of the big snowflakes (or stars or doilies or whatever they were supposed to be) suspended above the arena failed to morph into an Olympic Ring:

opening rings

Huge congratulations to the Russians for being able to laugh at themselves.  They duplicated the faux pas on the floor during their closing presentation:

closing rings

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Safety Instructions

For anyone who has done much flying on commercial airlines, the safety instructions at the beginning of each flight, while they may actually be important, have just become “white noise”  to ignore.   They were even more of a pain for flight crews – and the memorized spiel was usually delivered so poorly - that almost all airlines switched to pre-recorded announcements years ago.

They still get ignored, but this year Air New Zealand came up with a new video that is not only being watched in flight, it’s gone viral on the web!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

White Boy


Last week, the Washington Post website published a series of pictures that had won World Press Association Photo Awards.  This one is of a group of albino boys at a school for the blind in West Bengal, India.

It reminded me of an incident from my childhood; the first and only time I ever interacted with, or even met, a true albino. 

It began in the summer after sixth grade.  I had ridden my bike to the home of my friend Robert. 

I have mentioned before that when I attended first grade at Garden Oaks Elementary, my class contained three boys called Bobby, two Roberts and me.  At the teacher’s urging, I got stuck with Robbie, a name I hated and spent years trying to outrun.

Oak Forest Elementary opened in time for me to go there for second grade, and I lost touch with most of those boys – all of the ones who didn’t transfer except the Robert in this story.  He lived on Thornton Road a block or so west of Shepherd Drive.

Robert and I, along with a few other neighborhood kids, had started a game of touch football in the street in front of his house when we were joined by his next-door neighbor, a kid our age named Martin.

Martin was the whitest kid I had ever seen.  His hair was snow white, his skin was translucent, and his eyes had almost no color at all. Otherwise, he seemed perfectly normal.  He had a wry sense of humor, could cuss like a normal twelve-year-old, and was a pretty decent football player – certainly more athletic than I was.

Time has no meaning to a kid who is having fun, so I can’t really tell you when Martin decided to remove his long sleeved shirt or how long he played shirtless in the hot Houston sun.  I do know that he had to be hospitalized that evening and that his mother blamed us.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mystery Bird

Thursday morning about sunrise, a bird was singing in our back yard.  I couldn’t spot him as it was still too dark, and I had never heard that particular call before.

First - it was deep – an octave or so lower than the cardinals and mockingbirds I usually hear that time of day.

Second -  the tone sounded more like a woodwind than a whistle, somewhat similar to a dove, which it definitely was not. 

Finally -  it was a repetitive call.  The same two notes with a sort of rolling transition between that made it sound like a two-note yodel, if there is such a thing.

He continued to sing for about ten minutes, then about the time it got light enough that I might have seen him, he quit.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brother Dave

One of the funniest comics of the late 50s and early 60s – and maybe of all time - was Brother Dave Gardner.   Originally a jazz drummer and singer – he had one top 20 hit in 58 with White Silver Sands – his monologues between songs became so popular that he switched to comedy full time.

He looked and sounded like a televangelist long before such a thing existed, and he interspersed his Southern Baptist Sermon style delivery with voices that were hilarious caricatures of the illiterate poor folks he grew up with in the South.

Those bits would be seen as politically incorrect today, but back then they had us rolling in the aisles.

Hall-of-Fame disc jockey Paul Berlin at KNUZ had the number one show in town in the early 60s, and I worked just across the hall at sister station KQUE-fm.  When Gardner came to town, he would stop by to see his old friend, and they recorded a series of bits with Gardner as a young black girl known as Prissy.

Those short bits became a mainstay of Berlin’s show.  Judicious use and careful timing made it seem as if Prissy was there in the studio almost every day. Prissy was hilarious,so popular and so believable that she got fan mail and even phone calls at the station.

If you’ve never heard Brother Dave, or just want a trip down memory lane, try this:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pop Goes the Toaster

toaster oven

Right after Christmas, we moved our four-slice popup toaster to the fifth wheel, and replaced it with a Black & Decker Convection Toaster Oven.  It takes up a bit more counter space, but where we have it, that space was going to waste anyway.

The toaster oven, a gift from our daughter, is great.  With its multiple dials and settings, it is the culinary equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.  So far, we have used it for toast, toasted cheese and other hot sandwiches, and have used it to bake biscuits and scones – and we have only scratched the surface of what the thing is capable of cooking.

It is a bit of a no-brainer, but the manufacturer does warn that the cabinet will get hot when in use.  It also makes popping noises as the temperature changes cause the metal skin to expand and contract.

That is no problem, actually to be expected, but ---for the last two days in a row, at 2:30 in the afternoon, hours after it had cooled down and matched the ambient temperature in the kitchen, the darn thing has made a loud POP for no reason at all.

I think it might be possessed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What ALMOST Passes for News

kk ice

I was cruising the news on the internet and was stopped cold by a headline that read

Careful! Kim Kardashian Almost Slips On The Ice

Notice that it did not say she was injured in a fall, or even that she fell at all – it said she almost slipped.

The story, complete with pictures, said that the ice on the sidewalk in front of her New York City home was too much for her spike heels, and she had to enlist the help of her bodyguard to make it safely to her door.

Is there anybody anywhere (other than Ms. K herself, and possibly Kanye West) who could possibly give a rats ass?

I could say a lot about what kind of society allows someone to become a professional/artificial celebrity, but you probably already know my opinion.  I do think that even in the kind of times that encourage that sort of thing, this story was just too much.

When I read it, I almost threw up!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Speaking too Soon

girl in cart

No, the little girl in the shopping cart isn’t anyone I know.  That’s just a photo I pulled off the web.  There is a reason I posted it, though, and It’ll make sense in a while.

Our daughter, Cheryl, started talking at a ridiculously early age. 

On the 4th of July after she was born on January 30th, we took a trip to San Antonio.  As we rode the boat down the San Antonio river, Cheryl pointed at the flowers blooming along the riverbank  (or at least waved her arm in that direction) and loudly said, “Look, Mama! Pretty!”

When they asked us, the people with us on the boat could not believe that she was just a few days over five months old.  Actually, most people to whom I’ve told that story have looked at me like I was nuts. 

It did happen, though – believe it or not.

I was an early talker, too.  Nowhere near Cheryl’s league, but I was using full sentences before I was a year old.  Later, I became the talk of the neighborhood when a neighbor asked my age and I replied “Two and a half.” 

My mother told that story about a million times, so when Cheryl was approaching eighteen months of age, I taught her to say “one and a half” – probably just to piss my mother off.

One day, [Here’s where the picture comes in.] we were in the checkout line at K-Mart and Cheryl struck up a friendship with a little girl in the basket behind us.  I turned to the girl and said something like, “Aren’t you a little cutie?  How old are you?”

The kid held up two fingers and her mother said, “I guess I need to start teaching her to hold up three fingers.  She has a birthday coming up next week.”

I nodded and smiled.

The lady then asked Cheryl how old she was, and she replied, “One and a half.”

The woman turned beet red and without a word grabbed her cart and stormed off  for another checkout line.

Sunday, February 16, 2014



I had always been a big dog type of person, but our last several dogs have been miniature dachshunds, who only think that they are big. 

I’ve learned that it isn’t how much space they take up – it’s how big they are on the inside.  Originally bred to go into holes after badgers, dachshunds know they are ten feet tall and bulletproof – it’s in their genes.

Today, I came across the story of a tiny black and tan hero ( four or five pounds compared to our girls who weigh in at around ten) who gave his life to protect his family from a 400 lb black bear.

It happened last fall when the Force family took a golf cart ride into the woods of northern Michigan.  They encountered a bear with cubs, and when the mama bear became aggressive, Bradley jumped out of the cart and attacked the bear. 

After a short fight, the bear grabbed Bradley and headed off into the woods.  They were eventually able to find him and rushed him to the vet, but he was too badly mauled to be saved.

One of the people on the cart had recently suffered a stroke and would have been unable to protect himself, or even run, if the bear had not been distracted.

You can read the whole story at

Saturday, February 15, 2014

In Memoriam

Shanna on Rocks[2]

It was eight years ago today that we lost our beloved daughter Shanna.

I still think of her every day.  Most of the time now, it’s with a smile, but even the happiest memories are bittersweet.

We love her and we miss her, and we always will.

Thursday, February 13, 2014



While I may strongly disagree with some of the programs my taxes support, I’ve never resented having to pay my income tax.

Not really…at least, not much.  Over the years, I did have a couple of unhappy disagreements with the IRS, but generally the Tax Day experience  has been painless.

Last year was the easiest return I ever prepared. There were no W-2s and just a handful of 1099s from Social Security and a couple of pensions.  It’s not much of a simplification to say no (taxable) income equals no taxes owed. 

This year I expected another walk-in-the-park, no-brainer, carbon copy of last years return.  If only life were ever that simple – and it would have been except that last year I turned 70 1/2.  That means I was required to take a RMD (required minimum distribution) on my IRA.

It wasn’t a lot of money - certainly didn’t change our lifestyle – but it was just enough to cause me to owe taxes this year.  The good news (if there is any) is that I am due to take this year’s RMD just in time to pay my taxes.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What a Croc !


Suffering from cabin fever? 

Sick and tired of cold, wet weather? 

Take heart, it could be worse -  you could have been the first person to learn that crocodiles can climb trees!

A study out of the University of Tennessee confirms that at least four species of crocodiles can and do climb trees. 

Almost as interesting is that the study was published by  Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Department of Psychology.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Canada Cool


Canadians are currently leading in the Olympic Medal count, and we may have discovered their secret weapon. 

At the very least, it’s one of the coolest things at the winter Olympics – the Molson beer fridge at the Canadian Athlete’s House in Sochi.

The beer is free, but it only opens if you scan a Canadian passport! 

Monday, February 10, 2014


I’ve had this post saved in “drafts” since late last year.  I liked it too much not to use it sooner or later - even though I thought it would have been more accurate if it had said five, or even four, instead of six.



Sunday, February 9, 2014

More Potty Humor from Sochi

A note from your editor -

In order to have something new to post every day, I usually prepare my posts the day before. 

This story was just happening when I put it together, but in the last 24 hours, it’s been everywhere.  I can’t imagine how you would have missed it.

But – it’s still a good story, so here goes….

Much to the amusement of his teammates, US bobsledder Johnny Quinn tweeted that he got locked in his bathroom without a phone. 

He posted this picture of how he got out -

bath johnny quinn


Replies included “Seriously?  Who goes to the bathroom without a phone? It’s 2014, brother.” And one from Stephen Langton suggesting that next time he try pulling on the door before trying the Kool-Aid approach


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sochi Stuff

sochi rings

The opening ceremonies for the Sochi Olympics were truly impressive, but they did not go off without a hitch. 

Early in the presentation, huge snowflakes were supposed to transform into the Olympic Rings – four of them did, but the fifth did not.  Everyone watching around the world saw the glitch – unless they were watching Russian TV.  They chose to substitute video from rehearsals where all five worked as they were supposed to.

Overall, it seems (from what we can see on NBC) that things are going pretty well.  That’s in spite of lots of negative comments about unfinished hotel rooms, dangerous water and falling light fixtures.

There have been dozens of pictures of side-by-side toilets – strange for such a homophobic country – and this one which seems to provide seating for judges -


Another big area of complaint has been the huge number of stray dogs in Sochi.  It seems the Russians can’t win on this one – people either object to all the dogs, or they object to the efforts to get rid of them. 

One suggestion has been to just give up on clearing them out and insert them into the competition.


Closing on a positive note, the Sochi Olympics pin-up Calendar is now available in an English language version -

sochi calendar bobsled

Friday, February 7, 2014

Rube Goldberg Puppy Machine

Is this a commercial?

Well, yeah, I guess it is, but it’s the brand our dogs have always eaten, so…..


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Squirrel in the Bird Feeder

Last month, I mentioned our Bird Feeder has been doing a land-office business, providing cold-weather sustenance to a huge variety of birds.

I didn’t think it was possible – the feeder is six feet above ground suspended from a pole made of 3/4 inch galvanized pipe – but it is now providing food for the squirrels, too.  Or maybe it’s just one squirrel that I’ve now seen on several occasions.

I tried lubricating the pole with canola oil, but if it worked at all, it only lasted until the first time it rained.

I’m thinking of trying this next..


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Smuggling Rocks?

border crossing 

As a regular follower, and occasional contributor, to the website, I often see questions regarding crossing the border into Canada or Mexico.  Readers are constantly asking about things like crossing with pets, food, alcohol, tobacco or firearms.  Rules are complicated and subject to interpretation so the answers given can vary.

Today, there was a question about crossing the border with ROCKS. 

It came from a Canadian who is amassing a large collection of rocks and minerals while wintering in Arizona.  Answers varied from “We’ve done it dozens of times with no problem.” to a post by a Canadian geologist with links to a list of forms required to import geological samples legally.

Not the most helpful, but the one I liked the best was the reply from a lady RVer named Francesca Knowles:

As a Citizen of the United States, I hereby vehemently object to your attempt to Make Canada Bigger (and the United States smaller!) by way of stealthily importing parts of my Country into yours.
Unless you send an equivalent mass/weight of Canadian Rocks down here immediately upon your Illegal Importation of United-Statesian-Rocks, you'll leave us no choice but to Declare War.
Don't make us come over there...again..........

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

American Pie

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the Day that Music Died.  February 3, 1959, when a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield changed music – or at least American Pop music - forever.

Back in 1999, on the 40th anniversary of the crash, VH-1 did an excellent one-hour documentary that is available on YouTube, but if you want to know less about what actually happened and more about how it felt, no one tells it better than Don McLean.


Monday, February 3, 2014


ncardinal male

northern cardinal


Probably the most colorful birds here at the Boggy Thicket are the Cardinals – Cardinalis cardinalis – and I came across a couple of interesting factoids about them that you may not know.

For example - the female, while not nearly as brilliantly feathered as the male, is one of the few species of North American songbirds in which the female sings.  Mated pairs sometimes share songs, but the female often sings longer and more complex songs than her male counterpart.

A cardinal’s eggs take less than two weeks to hatch, and the baby birds leave the nest when they are about two weeks old.  Parents may continue to feed them for another 50 days or so, but they kick them out of the nest in a hurry.

Back in the 1800s, there was wide spread trapping of Cardinals in the Southern US during the winter.  They were then shipped north for sale as cage birds.   Passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 ended this trade and the use of cardinals as caged pets.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day Again


As I predicted yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning signifying six more weeks of winter.

I was right! 

Even if the Denver Broncos go down to defeat later today, my predictions from yesterday’s blog post can be no worse than 50% accurate.  That puts me among the elite of weather forecasters, and way ahead of that famous rodent from Gobbler’s Knob. 

An analysis of weather data from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., shows that Phil's forecasts are, on average, inaccurate. "The groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years," according to the center. "Phil's competitor groundhogs across the nation fared no better."

The center found that from 1988 to 2012, the groundhog was right 10 times and wrong 15.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fearless Predictions


Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday, but it’s also Groundhog Day.  Hard to say which one is less important in the over-all scheme of things. 

Let’s be honest – in spite of the hype, neither one is going to seriously impact our daily lives unless we let it.  Unless you are an NFL owner, player or coach – or a member of the Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania,  Chamber of Commerce – all of the emotion attached to either event is artificial.

Sports handicapping and weather prediction both fall into the same category of pseudo-science.  Meteorologists may spend years studying their craft, but even with satellite imagery and computer modeling the best of their predictions are still a SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess) and they are considered successful if they are right 50% of the time.

Take this year for example:  The Old Farmer’s Almanac had predicted a warmer than normal winter for 2014 – how’s that going for you so far?

If you live in Southern California, that prediction is dead on – anywhere else, not so much.

Here in the Houston area, the historical average temperature range for January has a high of 63° and a low of 45°  Fahrenheit.  Last month, over half (16 of 31) days had above average highs. 

In spite of that, if it seemed colder than usual, it’s because it was. Only two days last month had highs over 10 degrees above average, while just the last two weeks had five days with lows over 15 degrees below normal.

Based upon nothing  in particular, here are my predictions for tomorrow -

The groundhog will see his shadow and we’ll have winter around at least until the Rodeo Parade. 

Denver will win the game by a touchdown or less.