Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Columbia House Syndrome

Explaining the success of the Democratic Party yesterday, Michael Berry on KTRH radio compared them to Columbia House, the company that used to offer ten music CDs for ten cents to get people to subscribe.  He made the point that it is human nature to accept a pretty lie – folks will accept a promise of something for nothing, will accept a premise they want to believe, even in the face of undeniable proof to the contrary.

I had proof overnight that I am not immune to this weakness when I got the following email.


I haven’t ordered a ticket from Delta or any other airline and have no reason to fly to Bakersfield.  Still, I couldn’t help myself, I had to open the attached zip file. 

Luckily, I have several antivirus and anti-malware programs running on my computer. One of them, AVG, kept the file from opening, but it still took over half an hour and three re-starts to get my computer back to normal.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Our Houston Texans are now 2-1 for the season, a better record than many NFL teams, even better than the New York Giants that made them look so bad yesterday.  Our guys are in the same place they were at this time last season, but we can still hope that the rest of the season won’t mirror last year.

The best play by a Texan was probably DeAndre Hopkins’ amazing catch that was nullified by a stupid penalty.  The Texans were called for an illegal formation.  How does that happen?  How could people who have eaten and breathed football for their entire lives not know where to line up? 

By the time this play occurred, my wife had already decided the game was too painful to watch, so Honey – and anybody else who missed it – this play is for you.  Just click to watch it here –wow.

Sunday, September 21, 2014



I have quite a few colorful Facebook friends - Pink or Green, or Rainbow Colored, depending on the issue.  These are good folks, and although we usually disagree, I do not doubt their sincerity. 

Lately, one of their favorite issues is genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE) crops.  Somehow, these folks have become convinced that Monsanto is the AntiChrist, a corporation that will happily give us all cancer, cause strange mutations and turn us all into zombies just to add a dollar to their insatiable bottom line. 

The strident, often unsupportable  and outrageous claims, of this movement have gained some traction.  Several countries in Europe and Asia have now banned GM seeds.

These folks are on a speeding bandwagon, and unlikely to be swayed by truth, but the truth is that globally, food-producing animals consume 70% to 90% of genetically engineered crop biomass, mostly corn and soybean. In the United States alone, animal agriculture produces over 9 billion food-producing animals annually, and more than 95% of these animals consume feed containing GE ingredients. The numbers are similar in large GMO producing countries with a large agricultural sector, such as Brazil and Argentina.

Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would number well into the trillions. By common sense alone, if GE feed were causing unusual problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed.

If that wasn’t enough evidence, there is now a comprehensive study that debunks the myth.

Writing in the Journal of Animal Science, in the most comprehensive study of GMOs and food ever conducted, University of California-Davis Department of Animal Science geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam and research assistant Amy E. Young reviewed 29 years of livestock productivity and health data from both before and after the introduction of genetically engineered animal feed. 

The field data represented more than 100 billion animals covering a period before 1996 when animal feed was 100% non-GMO, and after its introduction when it jumped to 90% and more. The documentation included the records of animals examined pre and post mortem, as ill cattle cannot be approved for meat.

What did they find? That GM feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. There was no indication of any unusual trends in the health of animals since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested. Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be said that the debate over the impact of GE feed on animal health is closed: there is zero extraordinary impact.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid my colorful friends are not the sort to allow truth to affect their devotion to a cause.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Better Mousetrap

mouse trap

Oddly enough, even though we live out in the woods, we have never had a problem with mice in the house here at the Boggy Thicket.  In the thirty-plus years we have lived here, I can only recall one time when we thought we might have a mouse. I guess having dogs – and for a while, one cat - living in the house encouraged them to stay away.

Several months ago while our 5th wheel trailer was in for service, the repairman said he thought we might have mice, but we found no evidence to support his claim. 

That is no longer true. 

I went out yesterday to check the trailer and found that mice had eaten large patches of the leather upholstery on one recliner and the matching ottoman.  We have two of each, but so far the other chair and footstool are untouched.  I found no other damage, but that was bad enough.

I went to our local hardware store and bought a bunch of traps.  I got four of the old standard Victor mousetraps, and four of the more modern sticky traps. 

I have never used the sticky traps before, but just from setting them out, I can assure you that they live up to the name.  A mouse that sets foot on one ain’t going anywhere.  The package claims they are humane, but I honestly don’t see how starvation is preferable to a broken neck.

Anyway, I set out four of each type and will let you know which works best.

Friday, September 19, 2014


There once was a fellow named Sidney

Who developed a stone in his kidney

He did outlast it

He finally passed it

But he thought he would die first, now didn’t he

Several years ago, I was at a walk-in lab to have some blood tests run.  The young lady at the waiting room counter was wearing a beautiful pendant necklace.  It had a large brownish yellow stone – I’d guess about five carats – that looked a bit like a smoky topaz.

When one of the female patients asked, she explained that it was a kidney stone that her boyfriend had passed and had mounted for her.  She said she liked it because it was truly unique, and couldn’t be more personal. And, she admitted that she really got a kick out of telling anyone who asked that it was a kidney stone.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Domestic Abuse

All the recent news about wife beaters in the NFL reminded me of something that I would rather forget.  Years ago, in the first weeks of our marriage, something happened that I have regretted ever since.

It was mid-afternoon, Honey was in class at the University of Houston and I was sitting at the kitchen table reading a book before getting ready to go to work.  When she got home, she quietly came up behind me and gave me a hug.

Startled – I hadn’t heard her come in and thought I was alone – I jumped up and spun around.  My elbow caught her square in the eye and she ended up with a huge shiner.

Of course she cried.  It must have hurt like Hell, but I probably felt worse about it than she did and I’m sure I still do.

I doubt if anybody believed our story about how it happened, and wherever she went, my poor bride carried around the “evidence of domestic abuse” for almost two weeks. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Where To Go & How To Get There


Honey and I have a 50th wedding anniversary coming up in December, and I have been exploring options, looking for someplace special to go.

Our old pals the Sheltons will also be celebrating their 50th – I was his best man on the 18th, and he was mine on the 28th – and we were talking earlier this year about going to Belize.  Then Travis had back surgery last week, and it looks like they won’t be doing any traveling for a while.

Anyway, I’ve been searching on line for a great place to go, and Honey has been trying to get me to rein in  my  budget.  She is entirely more practical than I will ever be, but I contend that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event and we deserve to splurge a little.  Besides, I don’t plan to live forever and while I love my daughter and our grandkids, I have no interest in leaving any more money behind than it takes to dispose of my carcass.

The criteria are flexible, but we would like:

  • Someplace tropical
  • Hotel on the beach
  • Preferably all-inclusive
  • A Casino would be a plus

Checking websites like Cheap Caribbean and Funjet provided a couple of possibilities, but required multi-stop flights of 18 hours or more to get from Houston to someplace we might want to go, and changing flights caused the price to skyrocket.

Why would anyone ever want to fly coach from Houston to Cozumel by way of Charlotte, North Carolina?

I located one 7-day cruise out of Houston (Bayport) that was actually cheaper than a 3-night hotel stay with airfare.  I was pretty excited about that until I realized that smoking was banned almost everywhere on the ship – including your private balcony off your stateroom.  Yeah, we probably should quit smoking, but going cold turkey for a week couldn’t possibly add to our enjoyment.

I was considering Cabo San Lucas until they got hit by a category 3 hurricane a couple days ago.

Our honeymoon – such as it was, I had to be back on the air New Years Eve – was two nights at the White Rock Motel in San Marcos.  At this point, I’d even consider going back there, but it doesn’t exist anymore.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014



Went to the doctor yesterday for my annual physical, and everything went well. 

I’m still 72, and not likely to get any younger, but I’m in pretty good shape for a geezer.  My A1-C continues to be in the normal range, so the doc said he no longer considers me diabetic.  He does want me to walk more, drink more water and try to lose at least another 10 to 15 pounds.  He said that with Honey in the room, so you can bet the farm that we’re going to try.

My annual physical used to be in early August, somewhere around my birthday, but thanks to the federal government it is now mid-September.  Medicare will not pay for the exam or the associated lab tests unless it has been at least a year and a day since the last one.  I said that I’m not going to get younger, but at the rate I’m going, I might lose a year on my birthday physical.

Monday, September 15, 2014


On the way home Saturday evening, we stopped by the KFC in Atascosita to pick up some chicken.  That stop was a total disaster.   What should have been a five minute stop stretched to thirty, and  there were so many things that went wrong that the visit  went from annoying to infuriating to hilarious.

The young man behind the counter was relatively clean and well groomed.  He did not use profanity or expose himself to any of the customers,  but other than that, I can’t think of anything to say in his favor.  He had no clue how to manage the counter – could only handle one customer/one order at a time, and he had difficulty with that.

Once we finally got our order, it was wrong, but at least we eventually did get food.  Other customers had even more problems than we did.

One customer’s bill came to $5.41.  The guy handed him a twenty and the register told the kid to dole out $14.59 in change.  By that time, the customer had placed 41 cents on the counter, and the poor kid had no idea that to do.  The customer asked for a ten and a five and eventually the kid agreed, only to discover that there were no tens in the register.  The customer asked for three fives, and in the background I could hear my wife saying “a five and ten ones, or twenty fifty-cent pieces, forty quarters…”

Eventually, the kid gave the customer his order, three fives, and a handful of coins.  The guy rolled his eyes, took it all and left.

Another customer, an Indian gentleman about fifty, looked at me and said “These people will be ruling our country in a few years.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day Trip

bday cake

No entry yesterday because we were on the road.

We made our annual trip to Liberty Hill for the grandsons’ birthday party.  We’ve been there every year since Bryce was born 17 years ago yesterday, but for the last several years we have made it a day trip – drive up in the morning, hang around the party a few hours and then head for home.  That 450+ mile round trip is tiring, but it’s worth it to sleep in our own bed.

The party usually centers around the pool, but an early cold front brought mist, occasional light showers and 59° so this one focused more on horseshoes, washers and basketball.  Kelley, their stepmom, did post a Facebook picture of some of the kids in the pool, but if she took that yesterday, we were gone before it happened.

Most years, the party has been an almost equal mix of boys and girls, with each of my grandsons having a girlfriend in attendance.  This year, it was almost all guys.  Each of Kelley’s daughters had a female friend there, but they weren’t really joining in – they seemed to be having their own party on the side.

Nash, who turns 14 on Tuesday, is now about as tall as me.  Bryce is now as tall as his dad, which makes him about a head taller than I am.  It’s nice, but a little strange, to have to look up to talk to your grandchild.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Big Game for 33

nash td

Number 33 is our grandson Nash Robinson, who had a pretty good game last night.  He scored two touchdowns, including a 42-yard run from scrimmage – not a bad way to start the season.

That black thing on his left forearm is to protect the arm he broke last year fooling around in the stands at his brother’s football game.  Hopefully, he is safer on the field than off.

As recently as this summer, he had decided that he liked baseball better than football, and he attended the clinic for outstanding little leaguers at the University of Texas.  We will be catching up with him at his birthday party this weekend, and I’ll have to ask him if that’s still true.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Women Drivers


New York is about to get a new taxi app service – with cabs driven by women for women, according to a report in the New York Times.

Serving New York City, suburban Westchester and Long Island, the latest Uber-like taxi app will be available through an Apple application for smartphones as of Sept. 16, with an Android app to follow. It will be called SheTaxis in the suburbs and SheRides in New York City, due to regulations barring the use of “taxi” in the name.

Women who summon the service will be met by a female driver wearing a hot pink pashmina scarf.

Currently, only 1 percent of New York City’s nearly 52,000 drivers of cruising yellow cabs are women, and only 5 percent of the city’s nearly 60,000 drivers of for-hire limousines and luxury sedans are female.

You might think this is a new idea, but it’s not.  Women-only transport can be found in many cities around the world.

India has its own women-driven fleet of taxis – also called SheTaxi – as does New Zealand.

Japan has had women-only train carriages on and off for more than 100 years, while similar female-only public transportation programs exist in Indonesia, India, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Pakistan and Iran.

Monday, September 8, 2014



It was a pretty good day for football yesterday – our Texans won, the Cowboys lost, and J. J. Watt showed everyone why he is worth every penny of his huge new contract.

Watt conducted a clinic on how to play defense that had all the sports announcers tripping over themselves trying to find new superlatives.  He celebrated his new contact by racking up five hits, one pass deflection, a sack and three tackles for loss. He would have scored two sacks, but as he was going down, Robert Griffin III threw the ball away and was tagged for intentional grounding. Oh, Watt also recovered a Washington fumble, and just for the heck of it, he blocked the extra point kick on Washington’s only touchdown. 

The one  truly disturbing event in the game was Jadeveon Clowney, our number one draft pick, going out in the first half with a knee injury.  First reports are that he suffered a torn meniscus, will probably have surgery today, and is probably out for about six weeks.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gray Bird

As I mentioned back in August, this year’s crop of Cardinals includes one that is gray. 

It was then, and it still is today, and it still manages to evade getting photographed.  I watched it on the feeder for several minutes this morning, and of course the camera was in the office at the far end of the house.

I’m assuming it’s female since all the young males are mostly red by now, but it doesn’t look much like its sisters either.  It is the right shape and size, and the other Cardinals accept it as one of their own, but where they are tan to reddish brown, it is pale gray to almost black. 

It has a slight rose blush to its beak, and when the light is right, you can see a hint of red in the tail feathers on the underside of its tail.  Otherwise, it looks for all the world like a charcoal drawing of a Cardinal from some ornithologist’s sketchbook.


Saturday, September 6, 2014



After life underground – most of it as a big fat grub worm – Cicadas are popping up all over the Boggy Thicket.  The nymphs look like a big wingless bug, and they make their way up a tree trunk or the wall of the house.  Once there, they sit until the outer shell splits and the adult Cicada emerges.  That’s what is supposed to happen, but at our home, only a tiny fraction of them make it to the wall. 

That’s because they are delicious! – just ask our two miniature dachshunds. 

Tinker and Dusty have been scarfing up Cicadas constantly for the past week.  Apparently, they can hear them digging or smell them underground, because they don’t always wait for the bugs to emerge. Our pups have dug dozens of little holes to get to the bugs while they’re still underground.

Tinker gobbles them down immediately, but Dusty, the more finicky eater, will play with them for a while first.  She picks them up, drops them, rolls them around with her paws and eventually eats them.  Apparently Cicada legs tickle the roof of her mouth, because she will only pick them up to eat them when they are right-side up. 


Friday, September 5, 2014

Safe Drivers


Ask just about anyone who has ever been behind the wheel, and they will probably tell you that they are the safest driver on the road, and that guy in the next lane is probably the worst.  Statistics, and common sense, prove that is not true.

Allstate Insurance has just released their tenth annual Best Driver Report.  In reviewing millions of claims, and taking into account city density, population and weather, researchers compiled a comprehensive list of cities that hold the country’s best and worst drivers.

According to the Good Hands people, drivers Ft. Collins, Colorado are the best in the country are the best in the country – 29.6% less likely to be involved in an accident than the national average.

Other cities in the top five were Brownsville, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Kansas City, Kansas; and Huntsville, Alabama.

Most likely to be in a wreck were drivers in  Worcester, Massachusetts, who are involved in a collision, on average, once every 4.3 years.  Boston isn’t far behind its neighbor to the north. It’s the most densely populated city in the Top 5, and motorists there are involved in a collision on average once every 4.4 years. Washington D.C. follows behind Boston, and all of the worst five are  older cities on the East Coast.

The frequency of crashes doesn’t necessarily correlate with danger. Drivers in Washington D.C. had a fatality rate of 2.37 deaths per 100,000 people, and that’s the safest rate in the nation.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Just A Thought


Nothing new to report today, so just a passing thought -

Have you ever wondered how any democratic form of government could possibly be successful when half the population is of below average intelligence?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

# Gibraltar

neandethal art

It has been two years since scientists discovered the pattern above carved into the wall of  Gorham’s Cave on the shoreline in Gibraltar, but it was just made public yesterday. 

Archaeologists have determined that the carving, approximately 39,000 years old, is the work of one of the Neanderthals who lived in that area from about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago. They have also proved that it wasn’t made by accident – carving this with stone tools would have taken hours of painstaking effort.  "This was intentional — this was not somebody doodling or scratching on the surface," said study researcher Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum.

Why the Neanderthal disappeared has been a mystery, but it has long been assumed that they were not as intelligent as Homo Sapiens and couldn’t compete.  Recent discoveries seem to call that theory into question as we learn that they were more like modern humans than previously thought.  It’s been found that Neanderthals buried their dead, for example, and they used pigments and feathers to decorate their bodies.

No one knows the significance of the carving – what it represents or what it was for – but there is lots of speculation.  Was it a religious symbol, a map, or abstract art? 

We may never know for sure.

I think it proves that  those stupid Neanderthals invented Tic-Tac-Toe, or maybe even Twitter.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

J J $$$$

jj nose

Everybody who knows anything about football has been saying that J.J. Watt, stuck in the terms of his rookie contract, was the most underpaid player in football.  Today, Number 99, who,has proved to be the best defensive player in the game, will become the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.

Watt, who was voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, and has become one of the most popular players in Houston football history,  had no real leverage to negotiate.  He had two years left on his contract, and the Texans could have used the franchise tag on him after that. They say they redid his deal because he’s a great player who outplayed his original contract.

Texans general manager Rick Smith does not do contract negotiations during the regular season because he feels they are too big of a distraction, so team management and Watt’s agent, Tom Condon, worked all day and into the night to reach an agreement. 

Details are supposed to be announced at a press conference today, but the dollar amounts are pretty sweet.  Watt will be a Texan through 2021, and the new contract will pay him $100 million, with almost $52 million of that guaranteed.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Read at Your Own Peril


The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”

These words open (they are actually the second sentence of) the first and last pages of each of the books in  the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. 

Of course, I’m only assuming that they appear in the third book, and that is the problem.

After seeing an offer on Amazon.com to pre-order Doors of Stone, the third and final book in the series (with a publication date of mid-October) I was finally ready to tell you to beg, borrow or buy, but for goodness sake read Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, the first two novels in the series by Patrick Rothfuss. 

Today, that page  no longer appears on the Amazon website, and speculation on the web is that  actual publication of that final book might not happen this year, or even in 2015. 

One writer, supposedly in a position to know, claims that the entire trilogy was written before the release of Name of the Wind in 2007, and that Rothfuss is merely editing, tweaking, and refusing to release Doors until he’s satisfied that he got it right. The author’s own blog seems to support that – in an interview, he says “When I finally finished, I looked back and realized I had a trilogy's worth of material.” Both his website and his blog mention the book but give no real answer as to when it will become available.

I fell in love with Name of the Wind ,  It is easily the best book of this genre I’ve ever read. Having just completed it for the 4th time, I can confirm that this is one of those books that just keeps getting better.  You can’t help becoming immediately invested in the main character.  It is a delightful tale told with some of the most elegant prose I’ve ever read.  I would say that it is poetic, but the protagonist, like his father before him, considers poets to be unfortunate creatures who lack the talent for music.

The Wise Man’s Fear continues the story, and is just as compelling.  It has been around since 2011, when it was #1 on the New York Times best seller list.  That’s long enough for readers to be suffering from severe symptoms of withdrawal. 

I would love to recommend the  Kingkiller Chronicle series, but I won’t.  In good conscience, I can not.  They – the first two - are wonderful books, but I can only tell you to read them at your own risk.