Monday, February 29, 2016

Should Have Won

Lady Gaga had the audience in tears when she sang at the Oscars last night.
The fact that this powerful anthem  lost  the Oscar to a not particularly good song from the latest James Bond flick, may be the worst miscarriage since They Can't Take That Away from Me lost out to Sweet Leilani back in 1937.

Sunday, February 28, 2016



My son-in-law bagged this Aoudad on a hunt yesterday.  It was a last minute sort of thing.  Someone who had paid to hunt dropped out and Gene’s brother invited Gene to take his place.

The Aoudad, or Barbary Sheep, is a native of north Africa.  They were first imported to Texas in the late 1940s when soldiers who had fought in north Africa had them sent to Texas ranches that offer hunts for exotics. The Aoudad adapted well in central and west Texas, and with a population now estimated at more than 25,000, there may be more of them in Texas than there are in the wild in their native Africa.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rider Down

Today is the annual Rodeo parade in Houston, one of the signature events of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  This year, it is overshadowed by an unprecedented accident.

The Los Vaqueros trail ride was interrupted earlier today when a horse broke loose, toppling and trampling another rider.

After an uneventful ride all the way froom Reynosa, Mexico, Los Vaqueros Trailriders were rolling through Bellaire, being watched and cheered by elementary school students who were lining the road.  All of a sudden, something spooked a team of horses, and they bolted, running over a horse and rider,

The runaway team was quickly caught and brought under control.  The horse in the picture was fine, and the woman who was riding suffered several broken bones, but is expected to be okay.

Channel 11 news was filming when the accident happened.  For some reason,  the actual footage will not imbed on my blog, but if you want to see it, click HERE.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Phantom Calls

Honey was working back in the office, and her cell phone was on the charger in the kitchen – about as far away as it could get and still be in the house.  I heard it ringing, but by the time I got to it, the caller disconnected.

When I told Honey about it, she checked the missed calls – not a number we recognized – then used the call-back feature to see who had called.  The woman who answered said that she was returning a call from Honey’s phone, a call that had never been placed.

Okay, that was weird, but we wouldn’t have thought much of it until it happened again that afternoon. 

This time, the woman who answered said that she had not called Honey’s phone. Then she said, “Wait, do you have ATT?”  When Honey said that she did, the woman told her that she had received a similar call from some man she didn’t know the day before and she thought the phone company was having a problem with phantom calls.

A check of the ATT user forum shows this had been a problem in the past, but the most recent entry was over two years ago.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Still There

We have been under a wind advisory all day yesterday, last night and this morning. We’ve had gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour, and That Stick is still hanging in there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Truth Comes From All Sides

My personal politics are complicated. 

I am a constitutional conservative who believes in personal responsibility, limited government and that all actions have consequences.  I often find that politicians who espouse these principles, also take positions I can not agree with on human rights issues. 

Every election, this leaves me having to choose between the lesser of two evils - forced to grit my teeth and support some one I don’t like because the alternative is too terrible to contimplate.  This year’s presidential election is shaping up to be the worst one since I cast my ballot for Barry Goldwater in my first opportunity to vote.

One of my friends whose politics are so far left we can not hold a civil conversation posted this cartoon.  It disturbs me to say that I found it too true to be funny:


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Face Time

Many years ago, we can’t remember how many, but somewhere around 12 to 15 years, we had some extensive remodeling done on our house.  When we did, we purchased some new accessories for the bathroom that included a stone trash can, a stone Kleenex box, and the stone soapdish and dispenser pictured here.

face 2 

Maybe it’s because of the new LED lights I installed, but I had never noticed until this morning that the liquid soap dispenser has the face of a young girl in the stone. 

It is a little disconcerting to know that she has been staring at me every day as I use the facilities.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

No Mulch

Got my new mower assembled and gave it a quick trial run yesterday.  It works really well, and has several features that I think that I’m going to really like.

The one thing that it doesn’t have, and it’s something I could definitely use, is a mulching kit.  That was something that really came in handy with my old mower, and, since I hadn’t mowed the lawn since all the leaves fell, it was something I needed yesterday.

The Snapper website shows a mulching kit under accessories, but the picture is not a clickable link, and there is no part number listed.  I can call and order one, but not until Monday.

Friday, February 19, 2016



After a lot of thought about various alternatives, I bought a new lawn mower yesterday.  It was the most expensive one on the floor at my local WalMart, but it cost a whole lot less than some of the ones I had been considering.  It has a 46-inch cut, and is powered by a two-cylinder Briggs and Stratton engine.

Most of my neighbors have gone to zero-turn radius mowers.  I have used the Graff’s mower on our yard and was sorely tempted to get one for ours. 

They are much more expensive – at least a thousand dollars more for a comparable cut – but the main reason I didn’t get one is fallen limbs.  I regularly pull a trailer behind our mower, picking up fallen branches to haul to the burning pile,  It might be possible to put a trailer hitch on a zero-turn mower but it isn’t recommended.

I haven’t tried it out yet – there is a bit of final assembly to do first – but I should give it it’s first real test later today.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Let There Be Light(s)

I took a first halting step into the 21st century yesterday – sort of dipped my toe in – and I’m not sure I like how it feels.

We have a four-bulb wall sconce above the sink in the master bathroom.  It takes 60 watt bulbs, and it takes them often.  I would be replacing about one a week except that I usually wait until two or more go out. Even as incandescent bulbs get harder and harder to find, I resisted using those squiggly fluorescent bulbs – they just look stupid in a tulip shade.

Yesterday, Walmart had two-packs of the new LED replacement bulbs on sale.

 LED bulb

I bought some and replaced the bulbs over the sink.  They are certainly bright enough, they actually seem brighter that the incandescents, but they are definitely going to take some getting used to.

I learned when updating the lights in our 5th wheel that you have to be very careful when selecting LEDs, because typical LED bulbs give off a bluish glow that can be quite off-putting.  For that reason, I skipped the soft white bulbs, and selected the ones labeled Daylight.  They may resemble daylight on the top of a snow-covered mountain somewhere, but daylight here in southeast Texas has never looked like this, even on the brightest day.

The old incandescent bulbs gave a warm glow that was relaxing.  These new ones have a sinister, almost clinical brilliance.  They almost make me expect to be involved in some sort of invasive surgical procedure.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


They say that nothing is sure in this life except death and taxes. 

The IRS will get their (your) money, sooner or later, and sometimes they aren’t willing to wait.  If you haven’t already reached the age of 70, you may not have heard of something they call a Required Minimum Distribution – here is how it works:

Any money you saved in an IRA was not tax free, only tax deferred -and the IRS won’t wait around forever. 

Once you reach the age of 70 1/2, they require you to remove a certain percentage of your savings from your IRA.  You can do whatever you want with that money, but you will pay taxes on it.

How much you have to remove, and how much tax you will owe, can be calculated HERE.

I get my RMD check as early as possible each year.  That way I get to enjoy my money for a little over a year before the taxes come due.  My check came yesterday, and Honey’s (her first) came last week – I’ll be putting them in the bank today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016



The Nevada Democratic Caucus is this Saturday, and Hillary Clinton is getting support from the (legal) prostitutes in the state.  The owner of the brothel says he used to be a Libertarian but realized all his employees are Democrats.

In the interest of equality, I did a search for Republican counterparts – Strumpets for Trump, Putas for Cruz, etc. – but no luck.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ten Years

Shanna and boys_thumb

We lost our beloved daughter, Shanna, ten years ago today. 

She left a hole in our hearts that will never be filled.  We still miss her every day.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


After almost two months of being unable to access my blog except through Blogger, I tried Open Live Writer again.

When I clicked on the icon, the set-up sequence was totally different, and today it completed without a hitch.  Hopefully, this means that I now have a better way to write and post my entries.

Two Fourteen

For Honey

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Slide - Hydraulics Part Three

Well, it's finally done.  
I successfully replaced the blown hydraulic cylinder on our 5th wheel trailer.
It didn't go as smoothly as I would have hoped, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been, either.  Once I had the cylinder installed, I had a  tiny leak at one of the fittings.  When I tightened it a little more, it got worse.  There are two of these fittings, one at either end of the cylinder, and they each have an O ring.  They look like this:
One of them worked great, but the O ring on the other one had to be replaced.  Not replacing them to begin with cost me an extra two quarts of hydraulic fluid and ruined a shirt.  Still, I guess it could have been worse.
The whole job cost me  less than $250.  
  • hydraulic cylinder  198.00
  • O ring                         1.00
  • hydraulic fluid          20.00
  • Gorilla tape                5.00
  • two old shirts            10.00
If I had paid to have the job done, the least it would have cost was the $500 deductible on our extended warranty, and I have the satisfaction of a job done right.
I did not add in time since I'm retired and didn't have anything better to do, and I didn't account for all the aches and pains.  Crawling around on the gravel under the trailer is rough on a 73-year-old body.  
Even so, I'm very pleased with the results.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Zica Eradicated

You may have never heard of Tata Motors, but they are the second largest manufacturer of automobiles (after Mahindra) in India.  
For several months now, they have been dropping hints about a new car, a sporty little hatchback powered by your choice of either a three-cylinder gas or a three-cylinder diesel engine.   
They named it the Zica, short for Zippy Car.  It was to be introduced to the public this week at New Delhi's Auto Expo.
Now, the company has announced that due to the similarity between Zica and Zika, the virus that is causing havoc in Central and South America, they are changing the name of the car.  
It will still carry the Zica identification at the auto show, but Tata will change the name before it hits the dealer showrooms.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cobra Event

I ran out of new stuff to read this week, so I went to the bookshelf and got out an old favorite, Cobra Event by Richard Preston.  Preston is a journalist/author who writes about what his website calls Dark Biology.  His first hit book was The Hot Zone.
Cobra Event  tells about a weaponized virus, created by gene splicing technology, and it is every bit as believable today - maybe more so - as it was when first published in 1999.  If you haven't read this book, you should.  It is still available on Amazon in both print and electronic versions.
What makes it so powerful is that every thing Preston describes in the book either has or could take place.  If that doesn't scare the bejeebers out of you, you're just not paying attention.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hydraulics Part Two

The new hydraulic cylinder for the slide on my 5th wheel arrived as promised on Monday, and I'm going to start installing it today.  
I held off because the weather has been too cool and windy until today, but we are expected to have several days of temps in the 70s beginning this afternoon.
It isn't just a matter of sticking the new cylinder in - that's the easy part.  To get the old one out, I had to drop the spare tire, remove the spare tire holder, and then cut and drop the Coreplast liner.  
When I dropped the liner I got soaked by a quart or more of spilled transmission fluid.  I was tempted to say a gallon, but even a quart of spilled liquid goes a long way.  It was enough to ruin my shirt, and even after a long shower, I still smelled like transmission fluid.  The liner has had plenty of time to drain and dry, but it's still stained.  I haven't decided whether to try to clean it any more, or what I should use if I do, before I reinstall it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

International Safer Internet Day

Today is International Safer Internet Day.  
That's a term that means different things to different people, but maybe we could all play our part by logging off for the next 24 hours.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Years ago, when I was a copier repairman for 3M Company, I also worked for the Industrial Tape division repairing box sealing equipment - machines that sat at the end of a production line where they folded boxes and taped them shut. 
Depending on the model, these machines were either electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic, or some combination of the three.  I was only called out to fix these machines when the client's plant maintenance people could not.
I have not worked on hydraulic equipment since, but this week I get my chance.  
Our 5th wheel trailer has four slide-outs, and the hydraulic cylinder that drives the biggest one has failed.  It has been leaking for some time, and it finally got bad enough to require replacement. I removed the bad cylinder a week or so ago, and ordered a replacement.  
Incidentally, I was only able to get the old cylinder off because I had a 1 1/16 inch box end wrench that I inherited from my dad.  I have no idea what he used it for, but this is the first time I have ever used it in forty years.
The new cylinder is due to arrive today via UPS.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


This morning, Honey got up, walked into the kitchen and announced, "Something's wrong."
"What?" I asked.
"I don't know.  Something about today just doesn't feel right."
Well, she is not a witch, or anything like that, but her intuition has been such over the years that I've learned to believe in her feelings. 
I'm going to be extra careful and observant today.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Willy Peter

The video above is strictly for reference.  If you've never seen white phosphorus munitions explode, you probably should watch it -  otherwise, just settle back and read:
My old friend Kirk Dabney is publishing a sort of a serialized memoir on  Facebook.  Something he wrote the other day reminded me of an event I witnessed at Ft. Hood back in 1966.
As the one-man radio and TV section of the 2nd Armored Division's Public Information Office, I often observed field training of the various line units that made up the division.  One day, I joined an infantry company as they began training on the use of the four-deuce mortar.
The company was seated in bleachers out on the range, and the training sergeant and his cadre started the lesson with a fire-for-effect  of six mortars firing white phosphorus.  Their timing was perfect - all fired at once at a group of old junk cars out on the tank range.  The result was a huge, roiling white cloud with sparkles shooting out of it that had all the soldiers in the stands cheering and hollering.  
Then from out of the smoke came an an old VW Beetle with a young couple inside.  She was desperately trying to get her blouse back on and he was just trying to maintain control of the car as they - as the training sergeant called it - unassed the area. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Kindred Spirits

In 1847, the Indians of the Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma, donated $170 to Ireland during the Great Famine that killed approximately one million people. It may seem like small change by today’s numbers, but back then the donation amounted to thousands of euro.
What makes this gift especially impressive is the fact that the Choctaw were having major problems of their own at that time. But the suffering of the Irish moved the tribe, and so the Choctaw, who firmly believe in charity, dug deep into their pockets to help a foreign nation across the sea.
The Irish continue to remember the Choctaw to this day. In 1992, Lord Mayor’s Mansion in Dublin unveiled a plaque reading, “Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty” to honor the tribe.
A monument honoring the Choctaw Nation called 'Kindred Spirits’ was unveiled in Cork in August of last year. The monument features nine steel eagle feathers towering 20 feet into the air arranged in the shape of a bowl.
On his website, the sculptor of the monument, Alex Pentek, wrote about the symbolism of the bowl of feathers, saying:
“By creating an empty bowl symbolic of the Great Irish Famine formed from the seemingly fragile and rounded shaped eagle feathers used in the Choctaw ceremonial dress, it is my aim to communicate the tenderness and warmth of the Choctaw Nation who provided food to the hungry when they themselves were still recovering from their own tragic recent past.”
The monument can be found in Bailic Park, Midleton, Cork.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

For the Birds

One of the things we enjoy most about living at the old Boggy Thicket is the presence of a large variety of birds - from Hawks to Doves, and everything in between.  We actually host  two species of Hawks, and at least three types of Woodpeckers.  A couple years ago we actually had the only Baltimore Oriole I've ever seen visit our Hummingbird feeder.  We are not ornithologists, not even amateur bird watchers, but we do enjoy seeing them.
Rather than list the variety of birds we do have, it might be easier to mention the ones we don't.  Two that come to mind immediately are Sparrows and Pigeons.  
Pigeons abound in downtown Houston - so much so that an umbrella could come in handy near City Hall.  Just 22 miles to the northeast of downtown as the crow flies (couldn't help myself - we are talking about birds)  we have never seen a single Pigeon here at the Boggy Thicket.
In the last couple months, our bird feeder has drawn the first Sparrows we've ever seen here.  They never seem to get in the feeder, but we often see them on the ground below, picking up whatever the other birds have spilled out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I have mentioned several times before that I spent my last years before retirement as a technical trainer, teaching maintenance procedures and trouble-shooting techniques to service technicians in the office equipment industry.  I don't think that I have ever mentioned my first experience as a teacher.
We had just moved to Alvin, Texas, and I was a junior in high school.  I signed up for a class in Solid Geometry, and I think I was the only junior in the class; everyone else was a senior.  Just before the start of the year, the math teacher suffered a mild stoke which had him out on sick leave for the semester.
Frank Leathers, the Alvin High School principal, took over the class, but quickly admitted that he really didn't have a head for math - he'd been an English major - and was in way over his head.  The subject came easy to me - it was almost intuitive.  There was one other student who "got it" as well, and he and I ended up teaching the class.
I prepared the lesson plans, wrote and graded the tests, and stood at the blackboard and lectured every day.  Mr Leathers sat at the teacher's desk and tried to follow along.
Needless to say, I got an A in the class.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I almost didn't post anything at all today. In fact, it looked last night like my old Toshiba laptop had died.
I came back to the computer yesterday afternoon to find the screen totally black, and nothing I could do would bring it back.  Restarting the computer would give the Toshiba log-on screen momentarily, and if I hit F2, the bios screen would flash on - but both screens were dark and the colors were off, and neither would stay on more than a couple seconds before going black.
This morning, I tried hooking the laptop up to a remote monitor and voila! the computer was working fine - it was just working in the dark.
This arrangement takes up a good half of the dining table, and there are wires running everywhere, so I'm pretty sure it is going to have to be temporary.  Still, things are better than I thought last night.