Sunday, June 29, 2014
I was always a big fan of Tony Hillerman and his stories about the Navajo police, and I’m pretty sure that I read every book in the series
Are they great literature? I guess that depends on your definition, but they provided hours of enjoyment and a well-crafted look into the philosophies and way of life of the residents of the reservations of America’s Southwest.
When he died in 2008, it seemed that Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee had died with him, but I am pleased to announce that they are back.
Tony’s daughter, Anne Hillerman – a journalist and award-winning nonfiction author – has picked up where her dad left off, and her first book in what will hopefully be a long series is very satisfying. Spiderwoman’s Daughter, copyrighted last year and just now available in paperback, has already won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America as the best first mystery of 2014.
Anne stayed true to the things that made Tony’s books so appealing. While there are some style differences, they are subtle – no more than the variations you might expect in two books from the same author. It almost feels like Chee and Leaphorn (and Tony) are still alive and well.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Even with flip-out side mirrors, I had a big blind spot right behind our 5th wheel, but no more. Now, when you look at the back of our trailer, I’ll be looking right back at you.
Thanks to a Father’s Day present from Cheryl and Gene, I now have a wireless camera mounted on the trailer’s license plate bracket. Although it is billed as a back-up camera, I chose to wire it so that it is on any time I have the running lights on.
I’m still experimenting with a permanent place to mount the monitor, but I really like the way it works.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Local news last night was dominated by the story of a floor collapsing in a Katy home sending dozens of people to the hospital. The floor, in a garage apartment that was being dedicated as a temple crashed under the weight of dozens of people gathered for the ceremony.
Most of the injuries were minor, with only a couple of the people from the gathering hospitalized.
The worshipers were followers of Jainism, the fourth largest religion in India. I didn’t know anything about the religion, so I did a little research.
First, while they believe that absolute truth exists, Jainists believe that it can only be partially perceived from an individual’s limited point of view. Therefore, adherence to dogma, even their own, is potentially harmful. Okay, I thought, I could get behind that.
Jainists are pacifists and because they avoid doing harm to any living thing, they are total vegans. I would have problems with that, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until I read that their diet excluded garlic, onions and even potatoes because pulling the plants up by the roots might cause them pain.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Honey’s jury duty experience turned out pretty well. When she got to a courtroom – a Harris County Juvenile Court – she was number 41 in a pool of 50 potential jurors, and a panel was selected before they got anywhere near her.
Using the Metro Park and Ride worked flawlessly. She got downtown with time to spare, and after she was released, she only had a 10 minute wait to catch a bus headed back to Humble. A call as she got on the bus gave me just enough time to be there waiting for her when the bus arrived.
On the ride back, the lady sitting next to her told a fascinating story:
Several years ago, she and her late husband had flown to the northwest on vacation. They had arrived at their destination and were waiting in baggage claim when he fell over dead. It wasn’t his time yet, but his heart had quit beating and if not for the quick work of a nurse from the crowd who began CPR, he would not have survived.
EMS arrived and they took him to the hospital – everything turned out OK.
I’m sure that was all very exciting to them, but it’s the sort of thing that happens every day. What made this story fascinating was what came next.
Once he was stabilized and waiting for more tests, her husband told her his account of what happened. He described the events exactly as they occurred – even down to the fact that the EMS crew had to used the defibrillator paddles four times before his heart began to beat again. The only thing he got wrong was that he was sure it happened to the guy standing next to him in baggage claim.
Later, once they got him into a hospital room, he had no memory of what happened at all.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
A man walked into the McDonald’s in Jamaica, Queens yesterday morning with a large kitchen knife stuck in his back. Even in New York, that caused the other patrons to look up.
Andrew Hardy seemed calm as he talked on his cell phone until an ambulance arrived. Word this morning is that he not only survived, but was treated at the hospital and released.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
We got up early and got Honey on the Metro bus to go to jury duty. So far – so good.
In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that it was hard to get our truck into the parking garage that adjoined the juror assembly room. Yesterday, we learned that it is no longer even possible. A neighbor told Honey, and a check of Google Maps Street View confirmed, that the garage doesn’t exist anymore. The building is gone and replaced by a park with a one-storey glass structure that houses an escalator that leads to the new assembly complex underground.
As I was typing this, Honey called and said she made it into the assembly area OK, but that security was much tighter than it used to be. So much so that even though she had plenty of time she wasn’t sure going back outside for a smoke was worth the hassle.
In yesterday’s post I alluded to Honey’s last time as a potential juror. Here’s what happened:
She made it to a courtroom, and sat as a potential juror during voir dire.
Voir dire is a French phrase that literally means to speak the truth, and Boy-oh-Boy, did she ever!
The defendant had been in an altercation during which he had pulled a woman’s hair. She had originally preferred charges, then later dropped them, but the district attorney has decided to prosecute the guy for assault and battery anyway.
During the voir dire, the assistant D. A. had asked if anyone would have a problem finding the defendant guilty under those circumstances, and Honey’s hand immediately shot up. When asked why, she said “I think it’s ridiculous.”
She was stopped before she could say any more and brought up to the bench, where the judge asked her to elaborate.
She said “ He pulled her hair? Really? I think the whole thing is a waste of my time and tax money.
The defense attorney started laughing as the judge thanked her for her service and excused her from duty.
Monday, June 23, 2014
Honey has jury duty tomorrow, and she has been obsessing about it ever since she got the notice in the mail.
Frankly, from a logistical standpoint, jury duty is a pain in the ass.
We only have one vehicle, and our 3/4 ton MegaCab truck is too big to comfortably fit into the parking garage that adjoins the juror assembly room. That means that I will be taking her to Humble to the Townsen Road Park-and-Ride to take the Metro bus downtown. Then, at some point, we will have to coordinate picking her up again when she’s through.
That should work fine, but Honey’s sense of direction isn’t great and her confidence in her ability to find her way around downtown is almost nil. The last time she took a bus downtown, she was in Jr. High and she depended on a friend to find the old Loews Theater and the bus to take them back home.
The last time Honey had a jury summons, she got as far as voir dire and they sent her home in a hurry. I think I’ll save that story for tomorrow.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
The Texas Coast and the Gulf of Mexico have plenty of sharks, and they have been in the news a lot over the last few weeks. Not shark attacks, just sharks.
First, there was a report of a shrimper netting a Goblin Shark off Florida.
Aside from being one of the ugliest fish in the sea, Goblins are rare and usually found only in deep water of the Pacific off Japan.
More recently, there is word that two Great White Sharks tagged with radio transmitters last year by scientists from OCEARCH have entered the Gulf and appear to be headed for Texas. These aren’t the first Great Whites in Gulf waters, but they are migratory and usually only come here in winter.
You can track the “pings” of Betsy and Katherine at ocearch.org.
Friday, June 20, 2014
If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that one of my favorite websites is the rv.net forum.
One of the reasons I like it so well is the trip reports and the photos posted by other folks who enjoy recreational vehicles, camping, etc.
Some of the best of those trip reports are by a truck camper who calls himself Whazoo. He takes his four-wheel-drive pickup into places we could never go with our 5th wheel trailer and then he hikes to places that I could never go on foot, some of the most scenic areas of the American Southwest. His photos are outstanding and the captions – bad puns and all – are often hilarious.
His latest report came out yesterday and included this picture taken somewhere in northern New Mexico.
For once, the picture had no caption - no comment at all - and I’ll admit that it has me baffled.
I understand that caution is advised for the next five miles. What I don’t understand is why. To me, the silhouette on the sign looks just as confused as I am.
What is that picture on the sign supposed to represent?
- Does it designate a Scarecrow Crossing?
- Are there lying Fishermen ahead?
- Should I watch for some guy herding sheep, cattle, horses or ducks across the highway?
- Should I expect people I meet to be driving with no hands on the reins, handlebars or steering wheel?
- Is Curly going to be singing Oh What A Beautiful Morning in the middle of the road?
- Should I be on the lookout for Zombie Cowboys?
I don’t have a clue. Do you?
Thursday, June 19, 2014
I don’t know how much you know about Hanuman, the Monkey God of the Hindu pantheon, but he is a popular deity who may actually predate Hinduism. Stories about him vary, even within Hindu tradition, but he is considered to be one of the good guys.
Today in Bengal, there is a 13 year old boy who is being worshipped as a reincarnation of Hanuman because he was born with a tail. I really can’t see the resemblance, but then I wasn’t raised in the Hindu tradition.
Pilgrims to his home have credited him with various miracles, including “curing” several young couples who had been unable to conceive.
Whatever his supernatural powers might be, his natural gifts are limited. The condition that gave him his tail – probably a rare form of spina bifuda – leave him unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair.
I find it interesting that in India he is sought out and glorified. I suspect that here in the “enlightened” West, he would more likely be the object of pity or even ridicule.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Italian astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Luca Parmitano have spent time aboard the International Space Station in recent years and their compatriot Samantha Cristoforetti is due to spend time there later this year or in 2015.
Nespolo and Parmitano both say that they greatly enjoyed their time aboard the ISS, except for the lack of decent coffee.
Now, two Italian companies – Coffee giant Lavazzo and the engineering and software company Argotec – have joined together to make a machine capable of brewing real espresso in the zero gravity conditions of space.
They are calling their creation the ISSpresso, which may or may not be clever, depending on your point of view.
The coffee will still be made with recycled urine, but at least it isn’t instant.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Yesterday, I was complaining about all the things that keep happening over and over again.
Sometimes that isn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes, it can be fascinating.
Two years ago, I got an email from a total stranger asking about our 5th wheel trailer. She explained that they were considering the purchase of one just like it and a Google search of the model number had brought up a post from me on rv.net. She had decided to contact me directly for my opinion of the trailer’s quality, etc.
I replied giving her my best assessment of the pros and cons, and never heard from her again.
Last night, I got an email that said, in part,
I had a couple emails with you in 2012 as we were considering purhasing the 2008 Keystone Everst 344J...which we did purchase.
I find I have another question. What exact Dodge Ram truck do you use to pull? Is it deisel or?
I hope this email finds you well, done much traveling? Love to hear from you.
I answered her questions, but now I’m wondering even more about her. Things like:
- Number of people in her family?
- Where do they live?
- Where have they travelled?
- Why two years between buying the trailer and asking about a tow vehicle?
If this email exchange goes like the last one, I may never know.
Monday, June 16, 2014
It’s a sunny Monday morning.
- The yard has been mowed, but now the house needs vacuuming.
- There is a crisis in the Middle East.
- Illegal aliens are swamping our borders, overwhelming our ability to deal with them.
- Congress is investigating the Executive branch and learns that crucial records are “missing.”
- Someone other than Houston has won the NBA championship.
Did I mentions that it’s Monday?
Everything I listed could have been written years ago, and chances are I could post the same list ten years from now. Maybe it’s because it is a Monday, but sometimes I wonder why I should bother.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
I mowed our new grass for the first time yesterday.
It’s looking good, and although it’s only been down for a week and a day, it is already showing signs of taking hold and thriving. I don’t want to say too much, or say anything too positive, because I don’t want to jinx it.
I’m afraid that bragging about the sod may give it the kiss of death.
I’m not joking.
I was so impressed with the quality of the grass, and the expertise of the man who delivered it, that I wrote about them here two days in a row. I even included a plug for the company and a link to their website.
Things went downhill from there.
We made arrangements to have one more pallet of grass delivered this past Wednesday but they never showed up. Their website is still up, but I have been unable to reach them by phone or email. One of their phone numbers is out of service, the other is never answered and its voice-mail box is full.
It probably has nothing to so with my blog – it’s probably pure coincidence – but you can see why I am nervous about saying too much.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Friday, June 13, 2014
Everyone who has ever driven in a major city has an opinion on traffic, and most of their comments are not suitable to print.
There have been hundreds of articles, blog posts, questions and comments about which cities have the worst traffic. Mention bad traffic and Los Angeles immediately comes to mind; contributors on rv.net are constantly seeking the best way to avoid Houston or Atlanta; and I personally hate driving in Austin, Texas – all of these based on personal experiences and subjective opinions.
Now there is an objective measure of traffic delays, and it comes with some surprises. TomTom, the manufacturer of GPS devices for your car, has used the feedback from TomTom equipped vehicles to measure the time lost in traffic jams.
Here’s their list of the cities with the worst traffic:
1. Los Angeles, CA
2. San Francisco, CA
3. Honolulu, HI
4. Seattle, WA
5. San Jose, CA
6. Washington, DC
7. New York, NY
8. Portland, OR
9. Boston, MA
10. Chicago, IL
While we may wonder how our “favorite” failed to make the list, their top ten is based on actual time lost, not opinion. Although their data only comes from one brand of GPS devices, additional input sources would not be likely to change the outcome significantly.
On average, TomTom says that motorists around the globe spend 64 hours stuck in traffic each year, or about eight eight-hour workdays. In Los Angeles, that figure jumps to a whopping 92 hours, or 11.5 workdays.
However, Los Angeles isn’t the worst city for traffic. In the western hemisphere alone, LA doesn’t even earn a bronze medal, coming in fourth behind Sao Paolo, Mexico City, and the #1, Rio de Janeiro.
In fact, during peak travel times in Rio, 59 minutes of every hour are lost to traffic. In other words, motorists spend one hour traveling the same distance that would take them one minute if the roads were clear.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
I woke up this morning wondering why there seemed to be so few officers with the rank of major in the US Army. When I was at Ft. Hood in the 60s, there were light colonels everywhere, almost as common as second lieutenants, but the only major I ever met was a dentist.
Logically, there ought to be more majors than lieutenant colonels – in the climb up the ranks O-4 is a necessary step prior to achieving O-5 – but majors were hard to find. In recent years, one Ft. Hood major – Nadal Hassan – made the news, but he would have to be considered an anomaly, to say the least.
It wasn’t just my imagination. A check of Department of Defense records for 2011 – the most recent date available on line – shows that over twice as many officers retire as a lieutenant colonel, and during their mid-40s, the ages when most choose to retire, almost five times as many leave as lieutenant colonels as retire as majors.
I can’t explain it. It is a mystery to me. I’m not even sure why I should care.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The two most notable names in Tennessee Whiskey – Jack Daniels and George Dickel - are fighting over the definition of just what that is.
Tennessee law requires that in order to use Tennessee Whiskey on the label, the product must be distilled and aged within the state, but the makers of Dickel, who store their barrels across the line in Kentucky, just won a lawsuit in which they claimed the requirement violated Federal laws governing interstate commerce.
Federal law is silent on what actually constitutes Tennessee whiskey, but the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 includes provisions under which Canada and Mexico agreed to recognize Tennessee whiskey as "a straight Bourbon Whiskey authorized to be produced only in the State of Tennessee."
In return, the U.S. recognized tequila and mescal as unique to Mexico, and Canadian whiskey as a distinctive product that can only sold elsewhere in North America if it is made in Canada.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
I mentioned back on May 12 that our grandson, Bryce, had rolled his truck. He got a “new” truck this weekend, and as you can see, he’s pretty happy about it.
It’s a 2000 Chevy Silverado that had only been driven by a
little old lady college coed on trips back and forth to school. His aunt Cheryl and uncle Gene got the truck from a family friend, and got a heck of a deal on it.
Here’s hoping he has better luck with this one.
Monday, June 9, 2014
In an article that was undoubtedly designed to generate controversy, the travel writers at USA Today have published their list of America’s 10 Most Scenic National Parks.
Beauty, and they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and with 59 national parks to choose from, there were bound to be some omissions, but it’s hard to believe they could leave out such natural wonders as Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon.
One of the parks they did list is in Alaska, one in Hawaii, and one in the US Virgin Islands. We haven’t been to any of those, but we have been to five of the remaining seven.
They are all great, but there are two – Great Sand Dunes and Great Smokey Mountains - that wouldn’t have made my list. They might have made my top twenty, but not until I had listed Glacier, Big Bend, Rocky Mountain NP, Crater Lake, etc.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Saturday, June 7, 2014
When the grass we ordered arrived before dawn yesterday, I confess that I was a little bit concerned. Instead of a truck full of braceros, there was only the driver and his daughter, a little girl who was too shy to get to know, but I’m guessing was about eleven or twelve years old.
If you have never tried it, let me assure you that laying sod is extremely hard work. Honey and I put out two pallets in one day almost thirty years ago and it darn near killed us, so the idea of one person laying five pallets on his own had me worried.
The driver was a handsome and well-spoken black man who was obviously in good physical condition. He assured me that laying five pallets of grass on his own was no problem at all.
What he failed to mention was that he was the LeBron James of grass, the MVP of sod. With the precision of a Joe Montana spiral, he pulled the 12X18 pieces out of the wheelbarrow a tossed them into position. One tap with his foot on each outside edge to tighten it up, and he was on to the next piece.
True to his word, he had all five pallets installed, the wheelbarrows and empty pallets tied down, and was pulling out of our driveway by nine a.m. Five pallets of grass in less than three hours, and he was through for the day – off to enjoy a long weekend.
I am always impressed with anyone who does an outstanding job at whatever they do, but I would pay to watch this man lay grass again. Actually, I guess that is literally true – we asked him to bring us one more pallet next week.
Friday, June 6, 2014
Got a call this morning at 5:45. It was the manager of Ameriscape Outdoor telling me that our grass had arrived.
The fellow who is installing our grass was in the street in front of our place and needed to know where we wanted him to park.
By the time the sun was up, he already had the first pallet unloaded and installed, so by the time you read this he might be done and gone.
The grass he is installing is Palmetto St. Augustine, and it was harvested yesterday afternoon. It really looks great, and I have high hopes that it will do well. Of course, anything would look better than the big bare patch where the pool used to be.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
I never was much of a diabetic.
I was diagnosed several years ago, but my blood sugar never was very far out of the normal range. I never had to take insulin – just one Metformin tablet a day seemed to keep things under control.
Now, after maintaining A1c levels of around 6 for the past year, my doctor has taken me off Metformin, too.
For those who aren’t familiar with the A1c test, it measures the sugar percentage in your hemoglobin. The red blood cells that circulate in the body live for about three months before they die. When sugar sticks to these cells, it gives a picture of how much sugar has been around for the preceding three months. The American Diabetes Association currently recommends an A1c goal of less than 7.0%, while other groups such as the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommend a goal of less than 6.5%.
I haven’t been officially declared to be a former diabetic – I’m still supposed to continue monitoring my blood sugar – but it’s a step in the right direction.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Hurricane season officially began yesterday, and the “Experts” are predicting a slow season. The Weather Channel is expecting five hurricanes – one less than average - while the team at Colorado State forecasts only three.
For those of you who are breathing a sigh of relief over these predictions, remember that it only takes one to ruin your day – and quite a few days to follow.
It doesn’t have to be a huge Cat 5 hurricane, either. Hurricane Celia (1970) was tiny in comparison to Hurricane Carla (1961) and it hit Corpus Christi, a less densely populated area than Carla’s path through Houston. In spite of that, it was the costliest Hurricane on record in Texas until Alicia came along in 1983.
Actually it doesn’t even have to reach Hurricane strength. The winds of Tropical Storm Allison, the first named storm of the 2001 season, never got higher than 59 mph, but the 40 plus inches of rain it dumped on Houston led to 55 deaths, 22 of the fatalities in Harris County alone. Alicia also resulted in 95,000 damaged automobiles and trucks, 73,000 damaged residences, 30,000 residents in shelters, and more than $5 billion in property damage.
We can joke about it, but whether you plan to ride it out or head for the hills, it is important to have a Hurricane Survival Plan in place. If you don’t already, now is the time.
Monday, June 2, 2014
I really enjoy playing on-line slots, and I’ll admit that I have wasted an awful lot of time playing them in the last year or so.
Lately, I’ve become hooked on a game called Western Belles. Not because it pays off all that well - it’s actually pretty typical, and like all slot games, if you play long enough you will lose more than you win. The real appeal of this one is the graphics – the Belles are some of the sexiest women on the internet.
My first thought when I opened this game was of the pinup girls of World War II. They somehow manage to look both wholesome and alluring, something you seldom see in modern sex symbols. They do show a lot of leg, but there is no nudity. The closest they come to that is one cutie in a skimpy vest that almost reveals an imaginary nipple.
These are some healthy women – if they were real, they would easily weigh 20 or 30 lbs more than what is considered ideal today. That is not to say that they are overweight – I think they are nearly perfect examples of the feminine form.
Maybe it’s because they resemble the ideal woman from my formative years, or the soft spot I’ve always had for cowgirls, or maybe I’ve just become a dirty old man, but I think the Western Belles are delightful.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
In spite of disparaging remarks I may have made over the years, I have a great respect for folks who sell stuff for a living. If I had been forced to support myself as a salesman, I might have gone crazy before I starved to death, but either way, I would have been doomed to failure.
I’ve known that for a long time – I was the only kid in my Boy Scout troop who could not sell a single ticket to the Scout Circus, and those were tax-deductable and only cost a dollar. So, after weeks of having my old 8-N tractor listed on Craigslist, I was asking myself “What the Hell was I thinking?”
The frustration of dealing with people I thought were potential customers is beyond belief! I had several folks make appointments and not show up. I had one couple drive up from Dickinson in the rain to see it, but the problem was that’s all they wanted to do – see it. His family had one when he was a kid, and he thought it would be fun to show it to his wife. She looked for a minute or two then asked me “Is there any good place to eat around here?”
I suspect it was a horse trading ploy, but I had one guy who tried to turn the engine by turning the fan blade. When that didn’t work, he announced that the engine was obviously frozen up and wasn’t worth fixing.
I was ready to pull the ad – for the second time – when a young man showed up with a U-Haul trailer and cash in hand on Saturday. We loaded the old trailer up in the rain and he was on his way.
I have a whole greenhouse full of wire sculpture Christmas decorations we don’t put out anymore. I probably ought to put them on Craigslist, but after the last two months, it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.