Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Play-Doh Recall


The Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Magic Mountain Play Set is designed for kids three years old and up and retails for $19.95.  It contained a two piece extruder tool for decorating Play-Doh cakes, but that tool is being recalled.

It is not being replaced because it’s dangerous, or even because it didn’t work.  Hasbro announced it is using a new design in all new play sets – and will replace the extruder in sets sold for Christmas – because too may mommies complained that the tool looks like a penis.


Hasbro posted on its Play-Doh Facebook page. "Should any consumer want a replacement extruder for this item, they can contact Hasbro's Customer Service Department at 800-327-8264."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Last 2nd Monday of the Year

If you didn’t see my post yesterday, here’s what you missed -






Yep, nothing to say yesterday, and could have posted more of the same today. 

But - Since we seldom have snow here, I thought I would share this tip from up North ….

tip 37

Monday, December 29, 2014

Some Days It Pays To Play

Honey and I spent our 50th anniversary at Coushatta Casino in Kinder, Louisiana.  We had a great time. 

Shortly after we arrived, I hit a jackpot on a Hot Shot slot machine like the one pictured above.  I didn’t get the biggest progressive jackpot, but one big enough that play stopped while the casino processed a W2-G tax form and paid me in cash.  After that, we spent the afternoon playing on “House Money” and both of us had a successful day.

Normally, we visit Coushatta’s Big Sky Steakhouse for the prime rib, but yesterday we opted for the Terrace Cafe and a meal of soup and sandwiches.  Their potato soup to die for – maybe literally, it must be about a thousand calories per spoonful – but worth every bite.

We played for a while after dinner, but left earlier than we had expected.  It’s about 170 miles from our house to the casino, a three hour drive on a good day, and yesterday we had drizzling rain all the way.  I didn’t want to get too tired before I faced the traffic and miserable driving conditions on the way home.

As we drove out of Kinder, Honey did a count and reported that we both brought back all of our “gambling money” and a little bit more.  That did not include that wad in my pocket wrapped around that W2-G.

We got home safe and sound – and a little richer than when we left.  I’d say we had a very good day.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Big Five-O


We made it! 

Honey and I have now officially been married for fifty years!

That sounds like a long time, but it doesn’t feel like it.  Life with her is just the way things ought to be.

Happy anniversary, Sweetheart.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


all lives matter

I have a lot of thoughts about the current state of affairs, but I think I’ll hold on to them for another day.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Give Me Back My Boring Year!

A couple days ago I posted what was essentially a complaint about how boring 2014 had been.  Boy - I spoke too soon, and wish I could take it back.

We left yesterday morning for Christmas in Bertram and Liberty Hill.  We’re back now, tired as Hell but all in one piece.  That, as they say, is the good news.

We didn’t make it out of Houston, were still on the beltway approaching I-45 when the check engine light came on.  I glanced in the mirror and saw that we were blowing fog like the mosquito man.  I took the first available exit, pulled in to the parking lot of Texaco station/convenience store, and called Good Sam Roadside Assistance.

The wrecker showed up remarkably soon, we loaded up the truck and went looking for a shop that could help us on Christmas Eve. The first shop they sent us to, an NTW, had tire changers on duty but no mechanic.  They sent us across the Freeway to Mac Haik Dodge.  They were open, but only until noon, which didn’t give them time to look at it.  Their service writer suggested we take it to the Firestone dealer next door.  Their mechanic diagnosed the problem but said it was a high pressure diesel leak, something they were not equipped to fix.

After a discussion with Good Sam, they sent a wrecker back to take the truck back to the Dodge dealer.  The Firestone store called Enterprise Rent-a-Car and we rented a fire red Hyundai.

It could have been worse.  Several people showed us the true Christmas Spirit:

  • Our Good Sam contract calls for a free tow to the first available repair facility, but they agreed (after a little explanation) to pay for hauling us to four.  All within a mile of each other, and the second one was also the fourth, but still.. 
  • Firestone worked on our truck for over an hour, carried our dogs (in their crate) into their lobby to keep them warm and refused to to accept any payment when they weren’t able to fix our truck.
  • The girl at the desk at Enterprise, when she found out what had happened and where we were leaving our truck volunteered to give us the Mac Haik discount – a free size upgrade and unlimited mileage on the car.

At a family gathering yesterday, my son-in-law’s brother-in-law told me that he recently had the same thing happen on his Dodge diesel, and the part only cost $36.00.  I’m praying that he is right.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Looking Back on 2014

Satchel Paige was quoted as saying “Never look back.  Something might be gaining on you.”  Good advice, but for the past few days, Facebook friends have been posting their past year in review. 
I looked for an option that would allow me to do that, but there wasn’t one to be found.   Then, this morning, Facebook posted one for me.
It was so bland, so boring, that I decided not to share it on my timeline. 2014 hasn’t been a bad year, just a dull one.
I’m still holding out hope that the final week of the year – what with Christmas and our 50th Anniversary – will be great enough to call this year special.

Monday, December 22, 2014

An Explanation for Everything


The Creator sent knowledge and understanding down from Heaven like raindrops from the sky, and when they struck the earth, they became mud.

Slightly paraphrased, that’s a quote from one of my favorite books.  I think it is an elegant metaphor for the human condition - a great explanation of why equally intelligent people can hold such widely divergent views.

While it may be our duty – our purpose in life – to seek truth in all things, we must always maintain a healthy skepticism about what we think we know.  Few things in history have caused more damage than people who were sure they had a monopoly on the truth.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Reason for the Season


Today marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere (longest south of the equator) and the official first day of winter.  The weather may actually get worse for the next couple of months, but you can take heart in the fact that, after today, each day will be a little longer as we work our way toward spring.

Not only that, we are now almost 1/4 of our way through “Meteorological Winter.” That’s a term weathermen sometimes use for December, January and February – the coldest three months of the year.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fine Dining vs. Jeopardy

I can’t remember the actual occasion – Honey could probably tell you – but sometime in the mid-1960s, we went to our first high-end restaurant for an evening of fine dining.  The place was Tony’s, which was supposed to be the place to go in Houston for a true gourmet experience.  This was after we were married, but before I got drafted, so it must have been 1965. We wore our best clothes, but still felt slightly out of place.  Other diners were oil barons, politicians, and at least one local TV personality dining with a lady who may have been his wife. 

The food was okay. 

The escargot sautéed in a light garlic butter sauce – our first time to eat snails – was wonderful, but the main course was a disappointment.  It was chicken prepared with a wine sauce that was so overwhelming that it could just as easily been any other protein from catfish to alley cat.

The entire experience cost us $50, about half of my weekly take-home pay.  We agreed that we were glad we had done it, but would probably never do it again.

Yesterday, I stopped by a local barbecue joint and picked up four sliced beef sandwiches, which, with tax, cost just over $32.  We ate them at the coffee table while watching Jeopardy (Honey had recorded it while I was shopping) and the local news.

We agreed that we thought $32 was outrageous, but even considering that I am retired, that was just a fraction of what our trip to Tony’s had cost in terms of percentage of income. 

And, I’m pretty sure that we enjoyed this dinner more.

Friday, December 19, 2014

YUK – Cabin Fever

It’s 58° this morning.  That was the overnight low, and it is close to the forecast high for today.  Not only that, it’s been raining all night.

I know I should be grateful – appreciate what we’ve got – but I can’t. It won’t officially be winter for another couple days, but I’m already sick of it.

I know there are folks up north who would sell the soul of their first-born for temperatures like this at this time of year, but I just don’t care.  Starving children in Africa never made me want to eat my Brussels sprouts when I was a kid, either.  I do like them now, but Africa did not play a part in that decision.

We had one day in the past week when the temperature here at the Boggy Thicket actually hit 80°.  That only served to remind me how much I’m ready for spring.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


There were a couple of news stories yesterday involving long-time adversaries of the USA – a combination of political sanctions and falling oil prices have the Russian ruble near collapse, and President Obama announced steps to resume normal diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Our attitude toward Cuba has never made sense to me.  Even during the missile crisis, Cuba itself was never a serious threat to the US, but although we have encouraged trade with Russia and China, we have kept the clamps on Cuba.  I’m sure it made life there that much worse, but what (if anything) did we ever gain from it?

I have never considered Russia to be friend in spite of cooperation on things like the International Space Station.  My dad’s unit fought alongside a Soviet brigade in Mongolia during WWII, and he wrote home predicting that our next war would be against them.

With that background, I couldn’t help a smug first reaction – serves ‘em right – but a collapse of the Russian economy could very easily lead to a world-wide monetary collapse, a depression as bad or worse than the 1930s.  Now, that is a very scary possibility.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Over and Under

As a little kid “helping” my dad, I probably rolled up my first extension cord before I was five years old. I mentioned that because I recently learned that I have been doing it wrong for over 60 years!

I suspect that, like me, you hold the cord with one hand and use the other to coil it around your elbow.  The problem with that is that you introduce a lot of unwanted twists in the cord – the longer the cord, the more twists you add.  You may end up with a coil shaped like an 0, but when you hang it on a peg, it transforms itself into an 8, and when you try to unroll it, the cord becomes a mare’s nest of kinks and knots.  That’s a real pain, and even worse, it’s very hard on the cable.

The right way to do it is explained in this video.  The guy who recorded it gives a pretty good explanation of how and why it should be done this way, but he is pretty full of himself and likes to hear his own voice, so you might want stop after the first three minutes or so….

There are dozens of “how to” videos out there, including those touting several other methods for coiling cables – the Shepherd’s Knot, for example – but this one actually works and is fairly easy to follow.

This same over and under method (with a minor modification) works great for the hose for your air compressor or even your garden hose.  Just use the over and under flip as you coil the hose as it’s lying on the ground.  Even an old hose that always kinks will uncoil perfectly.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stress Test


Movoto, the real estate website, has published a piece listing states by stress levels.  Their quasi-scientific report is based on criteria such as:

  • median income
  • income percentage spent on housing
  • commuting time
  • unemployment rate

Texas, according to their figures, came in at number 11, and leads the nation in the percentage of uninsured.  They don’t specify what kind of insurance Texans are going without – health, auto liability, or what – but since it is a real estate website, maybe it’s homeowners.

Their latest list carries this to the next step, listing stress levels by zip code.  According to this list, 77032 is the most stressful zip code in Texas, and the eighth worst in the USA.77032Movoto says that residents of this zip suffer from 22% unemployment, and 42% live below the poverty level. 

That may be true, but if you’re familiar with the area, you know that there just aren’t many people living there.  The area, which borders the west side of Bush Intercontinental airport, is almost entirely warehousing and industry, with only a couple of small residential areas.

Of course, right in the middle of 77032 you’ll find the Houston Police Academy.  Not sure how that affects the stress level, but it’s something to think about.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Spirit in South Carolina

sgt bullock

Here is a story so bizarre that I first thought it had to be a hoax. 

Lily Bullock in a brand-new mom and a student at Clemson University.  Her husband, William, an Army Sergeant stationed in Missouri, is currently on leave to spend time with his wife and two week old daughter.

Now, her landlord at the Groves Apartments in Central, SC, has informed William that he has overstayed his welcome and has to get out. 

He says that Lily’s lease only allows “visitors” to stay for a maximum of seven days.  He has threatened to have William arrested, double Lily’s rent, or possibly have her evicted. “Chuck,” the landlord, says that since Sgt Bullock’s name isn’t on the lease, it doesn’t matter that he is her spouse.

A local TV station has taken up their cause, but meanwhile, now that Lily has finished her semester exams, the Bullocks are going to go visit relatives for a while.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Countdown to 50


Headed over to our old friends and traveling buddies' house later today. 

We’ll be joining Travis and Cheryl Shelton in celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The actual date of their wedding was the 18th, but a weekend gathering is more convenient for friends and family.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Song

Strange Christmas Album Cover (29)

For the past two years, I have posted a slightly out of the mainstream Christmas song about this time of year.  So far, 2014 has not produced anything new that lives up to my expectations. 

I do have a little time left last year’s post was on the 14th, and the year before was the 20th – so I’m still holding out hope.

I’d bet the album above could provide something, but all I can find on-line is the album cover.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Blowing Leaves


No, that isn’t me, and it isn’t our house.  It is a somewhat blurry representation of what I was up to yesterday afternoon.

Most of the leaves that were going to fall have fallen, and they were piled up on the roof – as much as a foot deep in some places – so I decided that yesterday was the day to clean them off. 

After only one nearly disastrous episode with an extension ladder a dozen years ago, Honey never thinks it’s the right time for me to get over a couple feet off the ground - That’s why we no longer put Christmas lights on the roof – so she watched nervously from the back yard the whole time I was up there.

The job went off without a hitch.  The roof looks a lot better, and there’s nothing to dam up if it ever does rain.  All-in-all, the operation was a success, but my legs are so sore this morning that I can hardly move.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Feinstein vs. CIA


Knowing that her days as chairman (chairperson?) of the Senate Intelligence Committee were numbered, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein rushed to release a report on what she sees as illegal activities by the CIA.  She claims that Bush administration employees and contractors engaged in torture  in the days following 911.

The activities were deemed legal at the time, but her report has already generated calls for several officials from that era to be tried as war criminals in the World Court.  Wow, that really helps enhance the image of the good old USA!

As numerous veterans have pointed out, nothing was done to any of the Al Qaeda terrorists that wasn’t done to hundreds of US servicemen in SERE training, but Feinstein is quick to label it as torture.

To quote Hillary Clinton (while testifying about Benghazi) “What difference does it make?”

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t believe their methods constituted torture, but I really don’t care if they did.  They could have set the bastards on fire if it accomplished the goal of saving additional American lives.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

More Horsing Around

I mentioned Sunday that it was a challenge to find the right number to call to report an injured horse in the ditch.  That was a piece of cake when compared to finding the right number to call to get it picked up.

When the sheriff’s deputy shot the horse on Saturday, he told my wife that he would make arrangements to have the horse removed, but, since it was the weekend, that it wouldn’t happen until Monday morning.  When nothing had happened by yesterday afternoon, I called the sheriff’s livestock control office back.  The operator told me that removal was handled by the precinct, but that she would figure out which precinct was involved – a lot more difficult than you might imagine, I may have to do another post about that – and give them a call.

The horse was still there this morning, so I went on a quest, and finally found a direct number to the Precinct 2 Crosby Work Camp, the people actually responsible for picking up dead livestock from roads and ditches in our area. 

The lady who answered the phone told me that they had come by yesterday, but didn’t see the horse.  I explained that a concerned neighbor had covered the corpse with a tarp, but it was definitely still there and even if they couldn’t see it, they could damn sure smell it.

She assured me that they would be back out to get it this morning.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Aging on the Fritz


If you’re like me and  consider old age to be a good thing, but not necessarily funny, the video below might change that.

Here is a great fifteen minute talk about aging from Fritz Coleman, weatherman at NBC4 in Los Angeles. It was delivered at this year’s conference on aging at the First Church of the Nazarene in Pasadena, California.  If he ever does retire, he could have a whole new career in stand-up comedy.

If you look at the top of the video, it is labeled “Final” Conference on Aging.  Don’t let that concern you – it is only final because this is part two of a two-part series.  If you want to watch part one, and you have another 15 minutes to waste spare, you can find it HERE.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Boring is Better

For several months now, Honey has been walking five miles a day, five days a week.  I walk most of the days that she does, but I only walk about 1/2 mile or so – I don’t walk any further because it is so boring.  Honey has come up with several ways to keep the walk interesting, but none of them work for me, and it seems the only exciting things that happen on the trek are usually bad – a rattlesnake on the road, or the dog bite that had her limping for weeks.

Yesterday was that kind of day.

Honey hadn’t been gone very long when I got a phone call.  There was an injured horse in our next-door neighbor’s ditch, and she needed me to try to get some help.

We first thought that the horse was from across the road – they have sixteen – but when I went over to let them know, nobody was home.  The injured horse, almost too red to be called a sorrel, looked a lot like one of the foals born across the road last spring, but theirs was still in the pasture.

We were sure that the poor horse had been hit by a car (or, out here, more likely a truck) but there were no skid marks and no broken glass, so it must have gone some distance before collapsing in the ditch.

Who do you call in a situation like that?  The 9-1-1 operator had me call the Sheriff’s Department non-emergency number and ask for the livestock control division.  She also recommended that I contact the Harris County SPCA’s injured animal hotline. 

An agent from the SPCA called me back almost immediately and told me she would coordinate with the Sheriff’s Department.  Only a few minutes later. deputies from livestock control arrived on the scene.

Sadly, they determined that the horse was too badly injured, so they put it out of its misery.  They told Honey that was the one thing about their job they really hated.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tough Bananas, Tommy

Back in May, I had a post called Monkey Suit.  If you don’t remember, you can click the link for details, but the gist was that an animal rights group was suing the owner of a chimpanzee for false imprisonment.

This week, the New York Supreme Court ruled that Tommy the Chimp is not a person and does not enjoy the same basic rights and legal protections as a human being.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Trash Talk



I may have mentioned a few months ago that we changed garbage companies. 

We did - mostly because the old company’s trucks broke down a lot and we could never be sure they would actually come by on their appointed days.  When they announced a rate increase, we decided enough was enough.

We’ve been pleased with the new service, but there are a few drawbacks.  Their charges can be cheaper because, instead of using a crew riding on the truck’s bumper, their truck picks up the trash with a hydraulic arm – the driver handles the entire process from his seat in the cab. 

They provide garbage cans designed to work with their system, so, if it doesn’t fit in the can, it won’t get picked up.  As bad as that might sound, it hasn’t been a problem.

We have scavengers who patrol our neighborhood looking for scrap metal, or anything else of value.  I have found that I can put anything out by the street, and it will be gone in a heartbeat – old lawn chairs, a rusty gas grill, used appliances - nothing has lasted over 24 hours.

Just before Thanksgiving, the remains of a huge old television appeared in our ditch. (The picture above is from the web.  The actual TV was much bigger and in much worse shape.) 

I don’t know how it got there, and I didn’t know what to do with it.  We used to have one like it – an old RCA with a cathode ray tube the size of a bus – so I knew it was too heavy for me to want to pick up by myself.  I also knew it was too big to fit in the garbage can if I did, and I was sure that it was too broken up to be of any value.

Before I could decide what to do, the problem resolved itself.  When we went out yesterday, the TV was gone.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Oak Mountain Eagles


One of the nicest State Parks we’ve stayed in on our travels is Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama.  Facilities there include a small lake with a nice swimming area, an 18 hole golf course, and an equestrian area where you can rent a horse or board your own.

It is also the home of the Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which takes in almost 2,000 orphaned or injured birds a year.  The idea is to get them able to be released back into the wild, but they do have some permanent residents, like the totally white vulture we saw there when we visited.

The rehab center has taken in two bald eagles in the past week.  The first was a young male less than two years old.  The other was an older female with a band on her leg. When they checked the band and figured out how old she is, they were amazed.

A fisherman had seen her hopping around on the bank of Lake Guntersville in apparent distress.  When he saw her again the next day, he contacted the game wardens who captured her and delivered her to the rehab center on Thanksgiving.

"We looked at the information on the band and she had been banded so long ago -- with a band today there would be a URL to contact, a website to go to or perhaps a phone number to call," facility director Doug Adair said.

"Her banding had taken place so long ago, the instructions were if you found this bird and you have this information, please mail the information to Washington, D.C. It turned out she had been banded in Tennessee in 1987."

For a bird that has been living in the wild, the age was impressive.

"We were surprised to discover that she was at least 27 years old," Adair said. "And she appears to be in great shape and feisty and active, and has many more years to live, we believe. We were surprised to discover that band. We don't often see birds that are almost 30 years old."

Scottie Jackson, the Alabama Wildlife Center's director of education and outreach, was amazed by the bird's age. "In the wild, obviously there are a lot more selective pressures. You have to find your prey. You have to be a very effective hunter. It is not common to see 27-year-old eagles flying out in the wild, so it's a pretty amazing thing."

The old girl has a couple of broken talons, but other than a really sore foot, she seems to be in good condition, so her prognosis is very good.  She’s almost four feet long from beak to tail and has a wingspan of almost eight feet.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Like the Song Says


I wish I could take credit for this, but I got it in an email from our daughter Cheryl.

Hint – If you don’t get it right away, there’s a clue in the title of today’s blog.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Unsolicited Advice

Today’s post is a sort of open letter to my grandsons about the choice of a mate.  They haven’t asked me for any advice, but, if they did, here’s what I would have to say:

The first thing that is going to attract you to a member of the opposite sex is her looks.  That’s just a fact. But in the long run, it is far from being the most important thing about her.

Oddly enough, what you think is beautiful is going to be different from what your brother thinks is attractive.  There have been studies that say that the most important attribute determining beauty is symmetry – that means that one side of her face is nearly a mirror image of the other - but standards for what is pretty vary all over the world. Your brother, or your best friend, may be attracted to a girl that you think is downright ugly. 

That’s OK – if ugly people never found mates, the species would have died out years ago.  And, that girl with that perfect face and body may be totally lacking in the personality department.

I’m tempted to tell you that sex isn’t all that important, but you’d probably just think I’m an old geezer who has forgotten how important it really is - so I’ll just say this – the most virile couple on earth probably couldn’t average more than one hour of sexual activity per day.  That leaves 23 hours out of 24.  If you sleep 7 hours per night, and work 8 hours per day, that still leaves 8 hours to fill, so you’d better have something else in common, something you both enjoy.

Find a girl that you can enjoy talking to – preferably one who is smarter than you – and you will be much happier in the long run.  It’s worked for me for the last 50 years.

Monday, December 1, 2014

He’s Our MVP


Want to play Where’s Waldo?  Look very carefully, and you will find one Houston fan whose jersey carries a number other than 99.

Houston loves J. J. Watt. 

They love him for his conduct off the field – last week he sent pizzas to every fire house and police substation – and of course, we are in awe of what he has accomplished on the field in what has only been a so-so season for the Texans. 

Yesterday, on a day when Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a career-high six touchdown passes, the media just wanted to talk to Watt about his day.  It was a day that included

* A touchdown reception  after he had lined up at fullback

* A forced fumble, followed by a fumble recovery and a subsequent 11-yard return that, for a moment, looked like it might also go all … the … way – but did set up a quick Texans touchdown

* Two sacks for 24 lost yards, giving him 11½ on the season

* Six quarterback hits, five of them in the first half alone and a sixth in the third quarter that sent Titans QB Zach Mettenberger to the sideline to stay with a shoulder injury

* A salute to the fans who were chanting “MVP! MVP! MVP!” in his honor

Watching the game yesterday, my wife pointed out that perhaps the most impressive thing about Watt is that none of his teammates seem to resent all the attention he gets – they seem to be his biggest fans.