Monday, August 31, 2015

They’re Baaaaack


It’s been a long hot summer, but Blue Bell ice cream is back in Houston area stores today. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Super Moon

blood moon

Tonight’s full moon will be what is called a Super Moon – so called because the moon is at its closest to the earth and appears larger and brighter than usual. 

But – last night’s moonrise was pretty spectacular! 

Until it was about 20 degrees above the horizon, the moon was a brilliant red, and the sky looked more like a sunset than a moonrise.  It wasn’t the Blood Moon described in scripture – that’s a month away at the end of September, but it was the reddest moon I’ve ever seen.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dew Point

Over the past few years, TV weathermen/women/persons have followed a trend to quote the Dew Point rather than the Relative Humidity.  I think that, much like choosing a gender-neutral description for weathercasters, this is an attempt to find a gentler, less threatening, term to describe the weather, since Humidity has somehow become synonymous with excess Humidity and discomfort.

The Dew Point, put simply, is the temperature at which the Relative Humidity reaches 100%.  It is the point at which water in the atmosphere condenses as fast as it evaporates.  It’s just another way to view/express the same atmospheric condition, but apparently the PC police took time out to determine that it sounds nicer.

I found a chart to post showing the relationship between Dew Point, Humidity and Human Comfort, but comfort is subjective, and I think the chart was designed by someone from Colorado – Or, since it uses temps in Celsius, someone from Canada.  The comfort ranges were definitely not designed by anyone who grew up on the Gulf Coast.


Friday, August 28, 2015


The very first scientific instrument I ever used was a psychrometer.

That may sound like a gizmo to measure mental health, but (also known as a wet/dry bulb hygrometer) it is a tool used to measure relative humidity. 

It looked something like this:

wet-dry bulb hygrometer main

One thermometer had a sock over the bulb, and to take measurements, you would wet the sock, then swing it around by a string attached to the top.  I was probably about eight years old, and “helping” my dad in his air-conditioning business, when he let me use it for the first time.

The back of the device was a specialized slide rule used to do the actual humidity calculation.

psychrometric slide

This type of hygrometer was invented by a German scientist named Richard Assmann.  Swinging it around was fun, but a big part of the attraction for an eight-year-old boy was being able to give the humidity reading according to the Assmann scale.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Eye of the Beholder

I was reading through the posts on, and came across this photo.  The writer was doing a trip report on Capitol Reef National Park, and along with the usual photos of gorgeous scenery he posted this:

old truckI really can’t explain the appeal, but I thought it was one of the most striking pictures I’d seen in a long time. 

The photographer framed it perfectly, bringing out the beauty in something that has probably been ignored by thousands of visitors over the years.  The truck, an old International that once served as a water drilling rig, sits abandoned and falling apart, and if you saw the whole truck, you would probably consider it ugly and a little sad.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Red Duke

red dukeHouston lost a real super-star yesterday – not some sports figure or overnight internet sensation, but a real-life hero.  Dr. James (Red) Duke passed away at the age of 86. 

A world-class surgeon and head of the trauma center, Red Duke was responsible for bringing Life Flight to Hermann Hospital in 1976, making it the first civilian hospital in the world with helicopter ambulances.

Years earlier, as a surgical resident at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, he was the first to see President Kennedy when he was brought into the ER in 1963, and he was the man in charge of treating Governor John Connally.  The Governor often said that Red Duke saved his life.

Over the years, he hosted a couple of TV series on medicine, and in 1986, a TV drama series  “Buck James” was based on his life. Unfortunately, even with Dennis Weaver in the title role, that series couldn’t live up to the real-life drama that was Red Duke.

In a statement yesterday, Dr. Giuseppe Colasurdo, president of UTHealth and dean of its medical school, said "Dr. Duke was a true pioneer — a talented and tireless surgeon, a dedicated and inspiring educator, and a friend and mentor to everyone he met. He never sought to be a leader, but became one naturally through his brilliance, compassion, patience and selflessness."

I heard Red Duke stories first hand for years.  My wife ran the blood bank at Hermann when Life Flight came into being, so she interacted with the trauma center constantly.  She says all the accolades are true and well deserved, but she also remembers that Red Duke had the gift of remembering everyone’s name and would ask about them and their families when they met in the hall.  He treated everyone like a friend.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Texting 9-1-1


Okay, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a Neanderthal when it comes to cell phones; I still believe that phones are for TALKING. 

My opinion was justified this morning when I learned that less than 5% of the country’s emergency dispatch centers are equipped to process 9-1-1 calls that come in via text. Even those that can still urge voice communication whenever possible.

For those of you who prefer to communicate with your thumbs, THIS WEBSITE will tell you whether the service is available in your area.  Their report says that it is somewhat available here in Harris county -  You can text from Verizon or T-Mobile phones, but Sprint and AT&T  are not supported.

Dispatch Centers that do offer texting give the following guidelines:

Only text-to-9-1-1 when a voice call is not an option.

      If you are deaf,  hard of hearing, or speech impaired

      In case of a medical emergency limiting speech such as a stroke

     If speaking to a call taker will put you in greater danger

     In areas of limited service where a call cannot be made but a text can go through

• Only text 9-1-1 for emergencies that require an immediate response from:


      Fire Department

      Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

• Avoid text abbreviation, slang (e.g. IDK, THX, 2day, BTW) or sending an emoji to 9-1-1

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Good Luck Mr. Carter


I have never been a fan of Jimmy Carter.  I never questioned his honesty, or even his good intentions, but I consider him to have been the most inept president to ever hold that office.

That being said, I was truly impressed with his news conference last week.  While announcing to the world that he is suffering from cancer, Mr. Carter displayed courage, humor and an overall strength of character that I found truly inspiring. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015



If you’ve watched any NFL pre-season games, you may (or may not) have noticed that the numerals at the center of the field are gold this year instead of the white that marks all the other yard lines.  That’s because this year’s Super Bowl will be number fifty, and this is one of the ways the league is already promoting the event.

It’s also worth noting that instead of the Roman numerals that have been used for previous Super Bowls, the NFL is using the Arabic 50 for this one.  Someone decided that Super Bowl L just doesn’t have the right amount of zing.

Friday, August 21, 2015



For almost forty years it’s been true here at the Boggy Thicket that if you wanted a really good hamburger you had to drive at least a half hour or more.  That is no longer the case.

Thanks to a tip on FaceBook, we have discovered Busta’s Burgers, a place that makes gourmet-quality hamburgers less than five miles away – and they deliver!  They are located inside a Shell gas station on FM 2100, so even if we had known they were there, we might not have tried them.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Charcoal Cardinal

I reported last year about a Gray Cardinal

Today’s post could almost be a copy of that one. The only difference is that I believe this year’s batch includes more than one.

I still haven’t managed to get a good picture.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The contractor who paved our driveway a while back came by yesterday.  He was doing another job in the neighborhood, and said he was going to have enough asphalt sealer left to do ours.  Since he had the material and was already out here, he offered to put a seal coat on our driveway for half of his usual price.

We went for the deal and he did the job.  I’m not sure how much good it really does, but it really looks great.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


It was just about dawn few weeks ago, and Honey was out for her daily walk when something ran from the roadside into our woods.  When she got home she told me that she thought she had seen a fox. 

Our dogs have been barking a lot more than usual when we let them out just before bedtime, but we have always had raccoons and opossums that would set them off, so I didn’t think much about it.

Then our next door neighbor told us that he believes we have a small family of foxes.  He and his son have seen three foxes in our woods recently,  two full sized and one much smaller, about the size of a small house cat.

Finally, yesterday evening just at dusk, I got my first good look at one of our foxes. 

Honey saw him first, then the dogs did.  He was out by the barn when she first spotted him and about the time I finally saw him he moved across the back yard and into the brush at the property line.  I got to watch him trot across the yard for about 150 to 200 feet. The dogs didn’t seem to bother him at all; he was moving pretty fast, but far from a full-out run.

The others may have been around, or maybe he came back, because the dogs kept barking and running back and forth along the fence.  We had a hard time getting them to come back into the house. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Magic Car

cheryls car

Our daughter Cheryl just got a new car, and she called us yesterday to make sure we saw the photo she had emailed, and to tell us all about it. 

It’s a new Mazda with so many high-tech whistles and bells that she spent several hours yesterday sitting in her driveway learning how all the features work.

Arthur C. Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  He could have been describing Cheryl’s new ride.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Probably a lot I could be saying today, but my head is so stuffed up that my brain doesn’t have room to think!

Maybe tomorrow…….

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Slosh - Crunch

My allergies have been acting up for the past several days.  According to the weather guy on TV, grass and mold have only been in the medium range, but something has really got my allergies in overdrive.

The most annoying thing is that they are causing my ears to stop up.  It doesn’t make my hearing loss that much worse – I have hearing aids that I don’t wear, a source of contention that deserves its own postbut is causing its own set of noises.  Every time I yawn, or swallow, or turn my head, I hear crunching, grinding, swishing, or some combination of them all.  It doesn’t hurt.  There is only some mild pressure that is much like the feeling I get that keeps me from wearing those darned hearing aids.

I’m sure that it will go away eventually.  I just hope I can hold out that long, because right now it’s driving me nuts.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Allegedly Controversial and Problematic


Just in case you don’t already know, the purpose of television news is not to inform.  Even in those rare cases where the news anchor is actually trying to impart information that could affect your life, that goal secondary at best. 

The true purpose of news is to sell cars and mattresses and prescription medications with possible side-effects that should scare you silly.  The twelve to sixteen minutes of actual news in a thirty minute news program are just there to separate the Escalades from the Viagra.

A hundred years ago, It used to be the watchword that gore sells papers.  Now it is Gospel in the news business that Controversy generates revenue.  That is why the TV news goes out of its way to find controversial issues to report, builds them up as much as possible, and continues to report on them ad nauseum.  Just in case you didn’t notice, they will tell you that the subject is controversial.

It is almost impossible to view any 30-minute newscast, on any network or local station, without being told that something is controversial.  That word is going to said at least once, I guarantee it.

Of course, controversial isn’t the only word being overused and/or misused on TV news.  As the headline on this post implies, Alleged(ly) and Problematic are right up there with Controversial.

Alleged, like Suspect, is a C-Y-A word the news uses to say something without leaving themselves open to a possible lawsuit.  It serves a valid purpose, but is widely overused – as in “The homeowner Allegedly shot the Alleged Suspect when he caught him ransacking the house at three a.m.”

The constant use of Problematic makes even less sense.  I suspect that it was first used because it sounded intelligent.  Unfortunately, it has so many possible meanings that it might as well be meaningless.  Here are just a few – ambiguous, dubious, moot, precarious, puzzling, questionable, tricky, uncertain, arguable, debatable, doubtful, enigmatic, suspect and up for grabs. And that’s not all, the list goes on – look it up. In spite of this, something is going to be described as problematic on any newscast you watch.  That is not problematic – you can take it to the bank.

I’m not trying to generate controversy - not even allegedly implying that you shouldn’t watch the news.  It’s problematic, but you might accidentally learn something.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Drop-Free Zone, Part 2

After almost daily rain in May and June, we went all of July and the first third of August without another drop.  I complained on July 31 that rain that fell nearby bypassed us to the north or south – yesterday heavy downpours moved past to the east and west. 

About 4:00 p.m. yesterday, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped from 105° to the mid 80s, thunder rolled and the lightning flashed but the parched earth of the old Boggy Thicket didn’t get a single drop of rain.  We watched the heavy rains on the radar as they bypassed us once again.

Finally, during the evening news, a light rain began to fall.  It stopped after five minutes or so and I thought that was it – just a tease - Mother Nature’s way of saying I could if I wanted to, but I don’t like you.  At that point, I didn’t like her very much, either.

We did get some significant rain later in the evening.  It was a light rain that lasted for several hours and it came with an amazing light show.  I have never seen lightning that strong and that frequent except in a downpour, but this accompanied what was little more than a drizzle.

Did we get enough moisture to save the severely stressed grass and bushes in our yard?  Only time will tell.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sneaking In The Back Door

In some of the biggest news stories of the past few months, special interest groups from opposite ends of the political spectrum have used a new tactic that seems to be working.  They are using public opinion about one issue to advance their agenda  on an unrelated (or only tangentially related) idea.

The most obvious – and most successful – example is the lowering of the Confederate Battle Flag.  Black activists, and a scattering of white liberals, have railed for years against the display of the Confederate flag, calling it a symbol of racism and oppression.  More moderate voices disagreed for a variety of reasons and nothing much really happened.

Then a mentally unstable young man killed a bunch of folks in a South Carolina church. 

In a public relations spin that I still find amazing, that abominable act became the springboard for an attack on the flag.  Some P-R genius proposed that the issue was not mental health, or even the existence of evil, but the effect of a scrap of cloth, and somehow the idea took wings.

The media, which lives on controversy, took the ball and ran with it, and within a few days politicians were climbing all over each other to be seen leading the charge against that terrible flag.  Amazon and WalMart dropped  all items that showed the flag,  South Carolina removed the flag from its place of honor on the state house lawn and other states removed it as a option on vanity license plates. 

Now there is a similar move afoot from the other end of the political spectrum.  It’s still early in the game, but it also seems to be working.

Right-to-Lifers, who have never been willing to accept Roe v. Wade, have discovered a new tactic – using the sale of body parts from aborted fetuses to attack Planned Parenthood. A series of secretly filmed videos has generated a huge reaction that is causing Planned Parenthood no end of grief.  There are calls for criminal investigations and efforts to defund the organization – the tactic is working.

These back-door attacks work when frontal assaults have been largely ineffective, and I honestly don’t understand why they are so successful. 

In the case of Planned Parenthood - whatever your opinion on abortion might be, whether you consider abortion a right, an unfortunate consequence or an abomination, the babies in question are dead. The aborted fetus is a by-product, and whether they burn them, bury them with honors, or auction the parts on E-Bay should not cloud your opinion on the issue,

Monday, August 10, 2015


I saw this on line and I knew that there were dozens – possibly hundreds – of reasons why I should not post this on my blog, but I couldn’t help myself.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • In addition to being my birthday, yesterday was the first anniversary of Ferguson.
  • The fact that the name of the town has become synonymous with hatred, distrust and racial strife.
  • Demonstrations were held in Ferguson again last night, with somebody shooting at police.
  • I host a Face Book group called Addicted to Limericks and have a great appreciation for Limerick poems – good and bad.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Last of 72

I posted Last Year that 72 ought to be a special year. 

Well, 72 has been OK, I have nothing to complain about, but that’s about it.

Although I did enjoy good health all year, I do find myself slowing down.  It seems to take more effort to do just about anything I attempt. Little jobs I used to just do without thinking about them at all now require planning.

Maybe I feel that way right now because of that self-fulfilling prophecy about pressure washing the house.  What used to take a day and a half has taken me a full week, and that’s only if I manage to get that last section done today.  Granted, I started this project on what has been the hottest week of the summer – temps in the 80s in the early morning and near the century mark every afternoon – but I end each session tired and start each morning stiff and sore.

When I plugged in my cell phone this morning, I found myself wishing I had such a convenient way to re-charge.

Tomorrow, I will back into prime numbers – 73 – maybe that will help.

Friday, August 7, 2015


We watched the Republican debates yesterday – both of them – and there were no big surprises.  I do think the Fox anchors who moderated the “happy hour” debate did a better job than those handling the prime time event. 

Ted Cruz got fewer questions than the other top ten candidates, and Megan Kelly even refused to allow him to respond to one question.  It made me wonder if the Fox gang has already written him off as a viable candidate. 

Nobody in either debate, with the possible exception of Carly Fiorina, really gained ground over the others.  I thought, and all the pundits are agreeing, that she stood out over all the other bottom seven hopefuls.

Rick Perry handled himself much better than four years ago, and Jeb Bush comes across as a lot smoother that his brother.  Donald Trump, while I may agree with him on several issues, comes across as a jerk – someone I would be embarrassed to support. Ben Carson was quietly impressive, and had what was easily the best closing statement of the night.  

I suppose that it was an unreasonable expectation, but I was hoping to find one candidate in the field that I could really get behind – the idea of Hillary Clinton as president is too awful to consider – but what we got was a whole bunch of folks who were only slightly better than the alternative.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Another Celebrity Break-up


It was revealed via Twitter (and confirmed on Face Book) this week that Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy have split.  The two announced that they are no longer romantically involved, but will remain friends and will continue their professional relationship.  That’s good news for the network, because the two will headline a new Muppets show on TV this fall.

I can’t think about the Muppets without thinking of my daughter, Shanna – that wonderful soul that left us much too soon.  I’m reminded of her,  not because of Sesame Street or the Muppet Show, although we did watch a lot of both – the reason is something I hold to be very special.

When she was about eight years old, Shanna came home from school with a riddle:

Q – What’s long and green and smells like pork?

A – Kermit’s finger!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Confederate Street Signs


I never actually lived in Alvin, Texas -  I lived down the road in Liverpool, but I did attend Alvin High School and Jr. College. Once I left, over half a century go, I have hardly ever gone back, so I guess I don’t really have a dog in this fight. 

Still, I read with some interest (and dismay) that Someone has proposed renaming all the streets in Alvin that were named after Confederate leaders.  As a high-school friend posted on Facebook:

I am so fed up with these politically correct Ass Holes. Now there's a group that want to change the names of ten streets in Alvin named after Confederate General's. These are 10 of the main streets in Alvin; Beauregard, Durant, Gordon, Hardie, Hill, Hood, Jackson, Johnson, Lee, and Taylor . Don't these people have anything better to do? They need to climb back under their rocks and leave things alone. This isn't going to change history. It is a part of our heritage. They' re not satisfied the South was defeated and seem to be interested in nothing less than perpetual punishment. I don't know who these people are, but I would be more than surprised if they are native Alvinites.

I was pleased to see that Noel Hankamer (who took the photo at the top of this piece) assured her that even though there was an article in the local paper, the proposal did not have a snowball’s chance of passing a vote by the city council.

Closer to home. (I don’t live in Houston, either) there was a move a couple weeks ago to change the name of Dowling Street which runs through a predominately black area on the east side of downtown Houston.  Controversy sells, so a local TV station sent a reporter to Third Ward to interview residents and black business owners along the street.  They found that most had no idea who the street was named after (Lt. Dick Dowling, who soundly defeated Yankee invaders at the Battle of Sabine Pass) and even after being told, most simply didn’t care.

I won’t even try to list them here, but there are so many serious issues facing society today, I can’t help but wonder what would make anyone pick street names as their cause célèbre. It just doesn’t make sense.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Little Pest

We have one young owl hanging around in the oak trees here at the Boggy Thicket this year.  He’s almost full sized now, but still an adolescent.  Like most owls, he spends the majority of his time just sitting there, perched on a limb.

Other birds, particularly mockingbirds, don’t like owls around, and they do their best to drive him away.  They fuss at him and fly at him like kamikaze dive-bombers.  It doesn’t have much effect, but eventually the owl will fly off – usually to another limb no more than 100 feet away.

Yesterday evening, about dusk, our young owl landed in a big oak tree about twenty feet above one of our hummingbird feeders.  We sat and watched as he was attacked by a hummingbird!  Needless to say, the little hummer didn’t do any damage, but it didn’t take him long to drive the owl away.

Monday, August 3, 2015

House Cleaning


Our old house here at the Boggy Thicket looks pretty good for its age.  If, that is, you don’t look too close. 

If you do look carefully, you’ll find lichens and mold growing on the bricks and dirt and mildew on the siding – just one of the benefits of living in this climate. That is why I pressure-wash the outside of the house every couple of years, a job I started yesterday.

About ten years ago, I bought a six-foot wand extension that lets me reach the top of the gables without setting up scaffolds or hauling around ladders.  Once I did that, it cut the job from two long days to one – a day and a half if I also did the garage.

Yesterday, I managed to get the front of the house clean, but that took all day and was all that I could do.  I found that I could barely control that long extension, and a half hour of wrestling with it was about all I could handle.  I was never so glad to see that pressure washer run out of gas.

I will get the job done, but it looks like that one or two day job is going to take at least a week.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Calling Cats


I will preface this by saying that I was raised to believe that cat calls and wolf whistles were unacceptable behavior.  No man with any couth whatsoever engages in that kind of foolishness.

That being said, there was news from Austin this week about a woman who says she is being constantly harassed every time she goes for a run.  She says that it’s so bad that she has created a website and started a petition drive to make catcalling illegal.  A KVUE-tv reporter went for a run with this woman last week, and the worst that happened was a couple of horn honks that may or may not have been directed at them.

The woman in question is not the ugliest woman in Austin, but she is not attractive.  I understand that men who catcall have no class, but I guess I always assumed that they were at least somewhat selective. Why expend the effort toward someone who – if they took you up on your suggestion – would make you want to run like Hell? That makes me wonder if there really is  a problem, or is a lot of it wishful thinking on her part.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Update - Update


We successfully upgraded Honey’s laptop to Windows 10 yesterday.  We did have one serious scare, but in the end, the update worked and everything is working fine.

As you might expect, the process takes quite a while to complete.  After I got tired of just staring at the screen, I went out and did some yard work while the process ran on its own.  I got back in to see the first welcome screen after the download finished and clicked “next” so the installation could continue.

A minute or two later, things got weird. 

We had a brief – almost instantaneous - power failure.  It happened so fast that I had to reset the clock on the kitchen stove but not the one on microwave.  The computer was connected to the charger, but its battery was full – it shouldn’t have been affected at all, but it was.

The laptop screen was totally black.  Neither the mouse nor any of the laptop keys seemed to work.  The only way we could tell it was on at all was a couple of LEDs on the keyboard were lit.  After waiting several minutes to see if it would recover – and wondering if it had totally crashed – I finally forced a shut down.

When I turned it back on, the installation picked up right where it left off, and completed without a hitch.

So far, Windows 10 looks good and not all that different from the Windows 7 she was running.  Windows 10 does come with Edge, the new Windows browser that replaces Internet Explorer, and it is installed as the default.  If you would rather run Chrome or Firefox ( or even Internet Explorer) the default is pretty easy to change.