Wednesday, May 31, 2017


I had never been to New Braunfels when I met my wife, but she and her family had been going to Camp Warneke on the Comal every summer for as long as she could remember.  Longer, actually, I think she went the first time when she was eight months old.
I thought riding an inner tube 100 yards or so down a river - then getting out and doing it again - sounded about as dumb as anything I had ever heard.
Then, I tried it and I was hooked.  The tradition continued. 
We took several long vacations over the years - trips to the Colorado Rockies and Washington D. C. - but according to our daughters, we hadn't really been on vacation until we spent a few days in New Braunfels.
Camp Warneke is long gone, the property absorbed by Schlitterbahn, but the Comal still runs clear and cold.  It is still one of the best vacation spots in Texas.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

500 Minus One

Takuma Sato, a Japanese-born race car driver, won this year's Indy 500 this past weekend.
Denver Post columnist Terry Frei tweeted that he was "very uncomfortable" with a Japanese driver winning the race on Memorial Day weekend.  
Frei, whose father fought in WWII, apologized for his remarks, but it didn't save his job. The seven time Colorado Sportswriter of the year was fired for his "racist" comment. 
Columnists, by definition, are supposed to have and express opinions.  Newspapers used to regularly print disclaimers saying the opinions expressed were those of the writer and not necessarily those of the paper.  Now, apparently it is OK to fire someone for an on-line tweet that didn't even appear in his column.
Personally, I thought Sato's win was interesting, but not particularly disturbing. But, I also had a father who fought in WWII, so I can understand Frei's comment.  His firing bothers me a lot.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Buddy Poppies

While running errands yesterday, I saw folks buying shopping carts full of charcoal, brisket and ice - lots of ice.
Also, in front of a grocery store in New Caney, I saw an elderly lady selling Buddy Poppies.  
Whichever defines Memorial Day to you, I wish you a safe and happy holiday.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


When I was doing the brake job on our truck last weekend, my air compressor bit the dust.  It didn't die completely, it just wouldn't generate more than about 45 psi, which isn't enough for any of the things I need it for.
I took it apart, cleaned it up, and got the max pressure up to about 60 psi, but that's the best it could do.  The reed valves have lost tensile strength after flexing for years, and can't react fast enough to allow pressure to go any higher.
Today I went to Lowe's and bought the compressor pictured above. It was on sale at a very attractive price.  It is near the low end of the spectrum as far as compressors go, but should be more than adequate for my needs.  
I normally never buy warranties, but something told me that this time I should.  My premonition didn't predict that the compressor would fail, but it did tell me to spend the extra twelve bucks just in case.

Friday, May 26, 2017


Thanks to the Aggies for the picture above. 
Those pretty yellow wildflowers are an example of Western Bitterweed.  
Bitterweed can, and will take over a pasture, especially in times of drought.  It is toxic to livestock - particularly sheep - and even a small amount can turn a cow's milk into something that tastes too nasty to believe.  As a kid, I learned to never be the first to taste a new bottle of milk.
It is probably close to sixty years since I last tasted Bitterweed infused milk, and I don't know what made me think of it today, but just the thought of it makes my mouth feel nasty.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Don't Touch This Book

I've been a Greg Iles fan for years, and after reading Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree, was eagerly awaiting the final book of the trilogy.
Did it live up to expectations? Oh, yes, that and so much more.  As one reviewer stated after giving it five out of five stars, "I'd give it ten if I could."
I didn't read it in one sitting - it's 692 intense pages - but I was unable to get anything else accomplished until I had finished the final page.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ISIS vs Afsah

I've often wondered what purpose is behind terror attacks like the one at the Manchester concert.  
Aside from acknowledging that Evil (with a capital E) exists, what does ISIS expect to gain?  
The best explanation I've seen says that they want to foment a full-scale war between Christianity and Islam.  Apparently, this Jihad is a war they expect to win.  
I find myself watching first hand one way that ISIS is winning, and I don't know any way to stop it.
I know a young woman that I'll call Afsah.  That isn't her name, but it fits.  I'm told it means most eloquent, best spoken, and was also the name of one of the wives of the Prophet.
Afsah grew up with my daughter and was one of her best friends.  She happened to be Muslim, but she was also a Texas girl to the bone. She was also one of the best, the kindest, most decent people I have had the privilege to know.  After studying at the University of Texas, where her politics veered slightly to the left, she went on to a career as an award winning journalist.
In the past few years, her writings have become first defensive and then recently more strident.  It was an unfortunate but normal reaction to the sort of verbal attacks on Muslims we see constantly in the news.  She is not about to strap on a suicide vest, or encourage anyone else to do so, but it is plain to see that she is hurting.
I want to tell her that she is stronger than all that.
I need to tell her that she is still the same wonderful person.
I need to assure her that she is loved.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Perfect Target

Ariana Grande is a cute little airhead who was filmed last summer licking donuts, putting them back on the shelf and declaring "I hate America."  She apologized a day later, and apparently that made everything OK with her fans.  
Her concert in Manchester, England was the perfect venue for the latest ISIS- inspired suicide bomber.  The demographic of her fan base is heavily weighted toward pre-teen girls, kids who have little or no grasp on politics outside of who's most popular at their middle school.  
If you're intent is to create terror, what better group to attack?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Well, Hail

We have had rain in the forecast for several days now, but practically none here at the old Boggy Thicket - just a couple of brief sprinkles that didn't even get the grass damp.
Today, at 7 a.m. Honey set out on her morning walk.  By 7:10, I was hearing thunder and went to get the truck keys so I would be ready to go get her.  
I hadn't heard from her by 7:15 and it was pouring, so I called her cell as I headed out the door.  Then I saw a car pulling out of our driveway, and Honey came out of the garage headed for the house.
A neighbor had stopped and gave her a ride home.
Honey said she tried to tell her she was already too wet to get in her car, but the good Samaritan told her that it was hailing just down the block and the hailstones were big.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Today marks the end of an era.  
The Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus is holding its final performance to a sold-out crowd in New York.  
It's another win for the animal rights activists, but I find that I don't really care.  I never liked the circus much, and I sure don't like clowns.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Grocery Encounter

I was in the produce section of my local HEB grocery store yesterday when I saw one of those things that help keep life interesting.  
A man had a young girl - 3 or 4 - in the baby seat of his shopping cart.  The main area of the cart contained a large cardboard box that he was filling with lettuce - all kinds of lettuce, iceberg, leafy, red top and romaine - and he was loading it up by the double handfuls.
I stood and watched, wondering if he was going to leave anything for me to buy.  When he finally backed away, I said, "Excuse me. I have to ask.  What kind of party are you throwing, anyway?"
He smiled, nodded to the little girl in the basket and said, "It's for her Tortoise."

Friday, May 19, 2017

So Long Bob

Under Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the City of New Orleans continues the desecration of its past.  The statue of Robert E. Lee is scheduled to come down today.
I want to say something about this, but you just can't communicate with the sort of people who would do this.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Coffee Paradox

I don't drink as much coffee as I used to, but I still have to have a cup or two in the morning to kick start my metabolism.  
For the past few years, we have used a Keurig coffee maker that makes a perfect cup.   The problem arises when I go for the second cup of coffee.  Depending on how much of the first cup is left, that second cup is often filled literally to the brim, making it very difficult to transport from the counter to the breakfast table.
I have learned something interesting about that.  
It may be just me, but if I look at the cup I will spill it. If I look at anything else - even just stare off into space - I can make it to the table without spilling a drop. That may seem counter-intuitive - how often have we all been told to "watch what you're doing." -  but it's a fact.
There may be some profound universal law in play here, but I have no idea what it might be.  I'm just glad I figured it out - it keeps the kitchen a lot cleaner.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I'm off to the Dodge dealer today for some warranty work.  They're replacing the passenger side airbag as part of the Takata recall.  They replaced the driver side bag about a year ago, and are just now replacing the one on the other side.
On the truck we owned before this one, the passenger side bag could be disabled by a switch operated with the ignition key, but this truck does not have that option.
For years before that, the driver acted as a safety device, throwing his arm across anyone in the passenger seat in an emergency.  I don't know if it worked, but it was probably as effective as a Takata air bag.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


We will be heading to the dentist in an hour or so.  
Honey is having a tooth pulled, and she has been stressing over it for days.
I have been trying to be supportive, but she says I just don't understand how much she is dreading this.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Squirrel Update

About last Thursday's post - It only took the squirrels about a day and a half to figure out that I had swapped the bird seed feeder and the hummingbird feeder, and that they could climb that 3/8 inch rod with no trouble at all.
We are seeing squirrels in the bird feeder almost every time we go out, and yesterday there was one on the hummingbird feeder.  Not just on the hanger, on the feeder itself. I don't know if he was actually after a sip of nectar because he jumped down as soon as I came out the back door.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day

On this Mother's Day, I'm thinking about my wife, my mom and both my grandmothers, but mostly this morning I'm remembering the mother of my grandsons - missing her, and thinking about how much they missed growing up without her in their lives.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Magoo Moment

For a little over a year now, I have been singing the praises of the dishwasher detergent I found at a company called Worldwide Janitor.  It really is as good as I've said.  It does a remarkable job.
When it came time to reorder a couple months ago, I went to their website and clicked on what I  thought was the same stuff.  
When I  started using it about two weeks ago, I noticed that it had a mild lemon scent that the first bucket didn't have, but didn't think much about it. Then Honey noticed that our glasses were starting to look cloudy again.
I went out and took a closer look at the bucket.  It was the same 25 lb. blue bucket, from the same chemical company in South Louisiana, but instead of dish washing detergent, it said it was commercial-grade laundry detergent!
Maybe it won't be a total loss, the label says it is not only good for laundry, but is recommended for washing trucks and trailers.
I went back to their website and tried it again, and a bucket of the right stuff is on the way.  Meanwhile, we'll make do with Cascade.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cleaning Up

One of the disadvantages of owning a large trailer is that, when it comes time to clean it, it provides you with a humongous area that requires attention.
I had just started on ours yesterday, was up on the roof with a bucket and scrub brush, when it started to sprinkle.  Then I heard thunder, and decided the roof of the trailer was not the ideal place to experience a thunderstorm.  I got down, stowed the cleaning gear and went in the house.
By the time I did, the rain had stopped, and we didn't have any more until we caught a brief shower about 1:30 this morning. 
I'll be back up on the roof again in a few minutes.  A dirty roof looks bad enough - a partially clean one really looks terrible.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Smarter than Squirrels

The average squirrel's brain weighs about 6 grams, less than 2/3 of one percent of its body weight, and the average human brain weighs 1,400 grams and comprises a little over two percent of total body weight. I point this out because there is something sort of pitiful about bragging that I outsmarted a squirrel.
I'm going to do it anyway.
It wasn't even one of our old, wise squirrels.  
It was one or more of a new crop that is just approaching adulthood. They recently discovered our bird feeder, and every time we went outside, we would see a squirrel in the feeder and two or three of his compatriots on the ground below eating what he threw out.
 The feeder was on the pole in the center of the picture. (Apologies of the quality - I still haven't learned how to take a good picture with my cell phone.) The pole is 3/4 inch pipe, and squirrels run up and down it with no trouble at all.
Last night, I swapped the bird feeder and the hummingbird feeder that had been on the shepherd's crook in the left of the picture. I'm not claiming that the little tree rats can't climb that 3/8 inch metal rod, but so far they haven't.
This morning, I watched one squirrel sit at the bottom of the crook for several minutes, then hop away.  Another ran up the pipe, and stopped when he saw the hummingbird feeder.  He chattered something that was undoubtedly profane, jumped down and ran away.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


I saw a couple of articles this week saying that Houston is now the most ethnically diverse city in the US.
That's probably a good thing for my home town.  I really don't have an opinion one way or the other, but I am amazed at how completely the city's makeup has changed in my lifetime.
When I was a child, about 2/3 of the population was white.  Now the majority of the population is Hispanic, with another quarter of the population describing themselves as Black, and a rapidly growing Asian population.
One of the articles pointed out that although tribalism still exists - various ethnic groups tend to live in enclaves - the children seem to consider themselves American and often ignore ethnicity when dating.  This is leading toward a boom in multiracial babies - Houston may actually be on the way to becoming the definition of the American melting pot.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

More About Mortality

A report out this morning in the Journal of the American Medical Association says where you live has a lot to do with how long you stick around. At 85 years, residents of Summit County, Colorado are expected to live 18 years longer than folks from Oglala Lakota country on the South Dakota/Nebraska border.  Other than some obvious correlations between poverty and life expectancy, the report draws no particular conclusions.
The article did include an interactive MAP you can use to check your own area.  
We live in the northeast corner of Harris County, Texas, where our life expectancy of 78 3/4 years is just a couple months under the national average of 79.08.  Our odds are a little better than our Montgomery County neighbors 78 1/2, and significantly longer than our Liberty County brethren who come in at just over 74. 
The report says nothing at all about quality of life.  How you choose to live your life is at least as important as where.  Some places may let you live longer, and some may just feel that way.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Pups and Longevity

Those are our two miniature dachshunds, Tinker and Dusty.  
We still call them puppies although they will turn 13 this summer, pushing the average lifespan of dachshunds of 12 to 14 years.
The picture is several years old, and doesn't show the changes that they have undergone.  Both now have muzzles that have turned almost completely white, and there are several other changes as well.
Once they both weighed in at about 10 pounds.  Dusty, always the smaller of the two, now weighs over 11, and Tinker now weighs less than 9.  The weight change doesn't seem to bother either one of them, but I can't help but be concerned.
Even more troubling is that Dusty is slowly going blind.  One eye started getting milky several years ago, and now the same cloudiness is creeping in on her other eye.  She stills sees motion, but it does seem to have altered her depth perception.
I suppose all of these symptoms are more-or-less normal for their age, harbingers of  things still to come.  I wish they didn't make me think about losing them, and about my own mortality.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cotton Picker

My old pal Dave Szostek is moving to Corpus Christi.  I'd wish him luck, but I know he is going to love it. Today's column is in Dave's honor.
We moved to Corpus Christi when I left the Army in 1968, and I still have many fond memories - and a few, like Hurricane Celia, that are not so great - of living there.  I moved there to take a job as program director of KTOD, and until we moved our studios  to the Driscoll Hotel in town, I drove each morning to our AM transmitter between Sinton and Taft to sign the station on the air.
About a mile east of the station was an old hole-in-the-wall cafe where I would stop each morning for coffee.  At that time of the morning, the only people there were the cook and a table with four old farmers who were there every morning.  I thought those guys were older than dirt, but they were probably a few years younger than I am now. You couldn't tell from looking, but between them those fellows owned a large portion of Nueces and San Patricio Counties - huge spreads devoted to cattle and cotton.
Eventually, I was accepted as a regular and allowed to join their early morning conversations.
One day, one of the old men was complaining that he was going broke.  I asked what was wrong and he said he had a cotton picker broken down right at the peak of harvest. It had thrown a rod, and there were none available to rent.  A new one cost about a half million dollars. (I checked - a USED John Deer today sells for about $750,000) He said that broke down cotton picker was costing him $40,000 a day.
I had never made anywhere near 40k a year, so I didn't know what to say. 
I mumbled something about how that was really tough, and he replied, "Years ago, when I was your age, if I threw a rod in a cotton picker, it wouldn't cost more than two hundred dollars - and it wouldn't cost that unless I got her pregnant!" 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Oh, the Humanity

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster.  
The German zeppelin was coming in to land at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey when it exploded into flames.  Hours afterward, an official announcement listed as having survived 24 of 39 passengers aboard and 42 out of the 61 members of the crew, thus leaving a total of 34 presumed dead. The intense heat from burning hydrogen left most of the dead and injured severely burned, many beyond recognition.
The fact that the arrival was being broadcast live on the radio probably had a lot to do with the crash becoming one of the most famous in history and effectively put an end to commercial blimps as a means of transportation.  
In terms of the severity of the disaster, it doesn't even come close to being the worst.  The top ten leads off with 9-11 and its 3000 plus casualties, and the worst single-plane disaster was a Japan Airlines 747 that suffered a sudden decompression in August of 1985 and crashed killing all 520 aboard.

Friday, May 5, 2017

5 de 5

Today is May 5th - Cinco de Mayo - a day celebrated by Mexicans, and more recently by just about everybody.
Celebrations are marked by parades, traditional Mexican dancing and the three Ts - Tecate, tequila and tacos.  But I would bet that not one in five people know what they are celebrating.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the day in 1862 when a small force of Mexicans defeated a much larger force of French invaders at the Battle of Puebla.  In the overall scheme of things, it was a relatively insignificant victory - the French went on to win the war and install Maxmilian I as the Emperor of Mexico.  The French weren't actually thrown out of Mexico until 1866, and the Mexicans didn't have a Mexican president until June 5, 1867.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Quatro de Mayo

Today, for obvious reasons if you enjoy a good pun, is Star Wars Day.  
Here in the United States, it is also (coincidentally?) National Day of Prayer.
There's got to be a clever line in there somewhere, but I can't think of one that wouldn't be terribly offensive.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Nine Minutes

I still have an alarm clock beside my bed, but one of the nicest things about retirement is that I only set the alarm three or four nights a year.  I am no longer forced to make that early morning decision about whether I have to have another nine minutes of sleep.
There has been a lot of speculation about why the snooze feature is set for nine minutes, and some of the theories are pretty bizarre.  The one that seems most likely goes back to the 50s and the very first clocks to offer a snooze button.  These  electromechanical  clocks used the existing gears standard in analog clocks to achieve something near a ten minute delay, and designers decided nine minutes and a couple seconds was close enough.  
When digital clocks came along, engineers assumed that nine minutes was the standard for a reason, and the nine minute delay has continued - even into today's I-Phones.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


There are a lot of very good places to eat in the Crosby, Huffman, Atascosita area, and if you add in Highway 59 (I-69) between New Caney and Humble, the number increases exponentially.  It hasn't always been that way - it wasn't that long ago that the fare was limited to a few hamburger joints and some questionable Mexican food, with one or two barbecue places thrown in.
With our good neighbors, the Graffs, we have been taking advantage of that variety with a monthly dinner date.  
This time, we chose something a little different.
Alesha had been telling us that Pete's in Porter had the best burgers around, so we decided to give it a try.  They picked us up in Ernest's new truck, a 3/4 ton Chevy with a Duramax engine and Allison transmission, and we rode to the restaurant surrounded by that wonderful new car smell.
Once there, we were seated in unmatched wooden chairs at a table that was shaped and painted to look like a colorful tropical fish.  I thought that was interesting because Pete's has no fish on the menu.
We got there around 7:00, and closed the place down.  We were still outside, still locked in conversation, when the waitress came around collecting ashtrays from the patio tables. 
The burgers were fine, but the camaraderie was even better.  It underscored the fact that the success of a meal has much less to do with what you're eating, and much more to do with who you're eating it with.

Monday, May 1, 2017