Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Google Earth

While waiting for the new year to arrive, I've been checking out what's new on Google Earth, and was surprised to see that the ground level camera car made a pass down our little country road in rural Lindale, TX. Our house can be seen in a couple of views, and in one, they even captured my van driving into the driveway. It looks like the photo was taken about three weeks ago, so they get them posted quickly.

They have also been busy taking photos in North Dakota, so I took a trip through the big cities of Stanley and New Town, and even the ghost town of Belden. It was another surprise to discover that my mother's old country grade school building is still standing.

If you don't yet have Google Earth downloaded on your computer, you're missing a wonderful program. The free version has all the features most people would want, so it won't cost you anything.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yearend Rant

America’s reputation for tough individualism is undergoing an evolution that’s becoming terribly worrisome if we are to survive as a nation. We are becoming spineless, soft and whiny to a degree I would never have predicted.

Every time there is a tragedy of some kind, the first thing you see is a perfectly coifed television reporter on the scene asking how the family, friends, or survivors “feel” about what happened. Instead of telling the idiot what he can do with the microphone, they sob and whine about how they are victims, and somebody in government should do something about it so they can find “closure”. Before the days of television, those people would have cried in private, dug in their heels and with the help of close friends, they would have worked around the tragedy.

Recently, a high school football star in a neighboring town was killed in a car accident. The next day the entire school shut down, a team of counselors rushed to the scene, and prayer and candle light vigils became the order of the day. Pictures of students hanging on each other and bawling, graced the front page of the local newspapers. Stacks of flowers, ribbons, cards, and teddy bears, littered the accident site. Yes, the loss of a young life is terribly sad, but really, what did such a display accomplish? All it did was condone and reward displays of weakness.

When I was a senior in high school, a sophomore was killed in a car accident and a freshman was crippled for life. This was in a high school with a total population of less than 150. Call our parents and teachers brutal and uncaring, but not a single class was delayed or cancelled, and only those involved in the funeral received unexcused absences on that day. There was no such thing as a counselor and we all dealt with the tragedy in our own way, as we were expected to do.

Ho Chi Minh said that America was a paper tiger, that we didn’t have the stomach to fight a protracted war, and that we would eventually tire and run. He was right. Vietnam is now a communist country, and over 50,000 of our finest died in vain.

Osama Bin Laden also said that our will is weak and that we can’t stand up to worldwide jihad. The election of Obama as a peace candidate was a sign sent to the world that Bin Laden will also be proven correct.

Americans need a serious helping of spinal stiffening...and that's especially true of our politicians.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winding Down the Old Year

No matter what I promise myself, it seems as if the holiday season gets more and more demanding every year, or maybe it's just because I'm getting older, and normal activities wear me out faster. That's probably it, since we didn't do anything this year that should have been a big deal.

The last of our company left today and now I'm going to just relax and enjoy the promised good weather until the new year arrives. Nothing like sitting on the patio watching the birds at the feeder and soaking up some sun. If there is any such thing as reincarnation, I'll likely come back as an old hound dog.

I have a couple of cabinet projects I should get back to, and I'm anxious to finish them, but not until I finally shed this cold. Every time I try to rush things, I regret it. I've put them off for a year, so I guess a few more days won't matter.

Seems like only yesterday that I put the Christmas lights up, but I'll try to get them down next week. Once they're down and packed away, it feels like spring is just around the corner. Our Flowering Quince already thinks it is.

I imagine we'll spend a quiet New Year's Eve with the dogs again. Unlike our previous neighborhood, where one guy always emptied his shotgun at midnight, this one is quiet. At least it was last year, and only two new families have moved in, so if it gets rowdy, we'll know who to blame. Come to think of it, one of those families had a move-in party that featured a twenty-minute fireworks display. Might need a double shot of sparkling cider if that happens again.

Speaking of New Year's Eve...If you like old time rock and roll as much as I do, tune in to KAAM radio from 6 until 12:30 on that night. Cruisin' Al Taylor will be playing pre-Beatles R&R for those of us too old to go out and party. Here's the link:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hey ATT!...Where is our DSL?

We've been trying to get DSL in our little development for over a year, and getting information out of ATT management as to when that will happen is impossible. According to the ATT technicians I've talked to, the only thing they have to do is install a piece of equipment in the shack that's located less than a half-mile down the road, but they have no idea when that will happen.

After reading the report in the link below, I'm embarrassed to even think about where the USA ranks against the world in high-speed Internet access today, and where it's going in the future.

We're on our way to becoming a third world country when we lag behind Estonia and the Isle of Man in one category, and behind China in total broadband hookups...behind a country that eats dogs and tills the soil with draft animals!

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 23, 1776

"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."

The new country was in crisis when these words were written by Thomas Paine just before Christmas, 1776. WE had decided to become a union of states, and it wasn't going well. Washington's army had been defeated in battle and the British fleet and Redcoat army seemed invincible, but in the end, we prevailed and the greatest nation on earth was formed from the wealth, sweat, and blood of patriots who knew what was good, and believed in the cause.

Today, it's not an army in red coats that attacks us on the field of battle, it's an army of red thought that invades our entertainment, our schools, our government, our labor organizations, and even our churches. They are using ignorance and the inherent goodness of people to deceitfully secure power and oppress individual freedoms in some trumped-up name of fairness and impartiality.

Once again the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot are being challenged to rise to the cause. Will we have the courage to speak out against the attacks from within? Will we risk unpopularity to expose the truth of what's happening in our country?

A new form of tyranny awaits those who go along to get along.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa and the Democrats

I checked the survivor list this morning and was surprised to find my name on it, so I suppose I better post something before the cobwebs take over this blog. Even though I’m a survivor of my worst cold ever, my disposition is still nasty, so I’m going to take a holiday shot at liberals…in the true spirit of Christmas, of course.

Did you ever notice that the legends of Santa and liberalism are pretty much one and the same?

When we’re young, we believe that Santa spends the entire year at the North Pole with his elves, making toys for kids who believe in him. Then on Christmas Eve, Santa climbs into a toy-filled sleigh, pulled by a small herd of reindeer, and delivers those toys to all of his loyal followers around the world.

Why do we believe the story? Because, everyone tells us it’s true, and when we’re kids, it’s easy to believe that a nice benevolent old man has nothing but our best interests at heart, and nothing better to do than to give us all the things we want. There is no reason to argue with a deal like that.

When we hit about eight, nine, or ten-years-old, we begin to suspect that there is no way old Santa can deliver on his promise of free goodies for everyone, even if he wanted to. We’re not freight transportation experts, but we’re smart enough to recognize that there is no way he can carry billions of toys in his sleigh and deliver them to billions of kids around the world. So, we begin to suspect that something in the story doesn’t ring true, but we continue to extend our faith when Christmas morning arrives and we find gifts under the tree signed by old Santa Claus himself.

Eventually we come to realize that our families pay for the toys that we thought we were getting for free from that jolly old elf. We learn that despite the charming legend, there is no such thing as a free lunch, or a free doll, or a free train set.

Most of us grow up and accept the fact that our parents can no longer give us everything we want, even if they dress up as Santa and tell heartwarming stories about the act of giving. Someone eventually has to pay the bill, and if we demand too many gifts, in time our families won’t be able to provide thing like food, shelter and protection from harm.

Yet some of us grow up learning to disbelieve one fairy tale, but continuing to believe the one that the federal government and many politicians spout. It’s the promise that a government bureaucrat is better qualified to take care of you than you are.

The Democrat candidate for President of the United States is a lot like Santa. He promises more than he can deliver, but he keeps trying to convince us that he will. He says he can do it by taxing the rich and giving to the poor and the middle class. Since the vast majority of us are poor or middle class, it’s easy to accept that concept. Stick it to the rich…it won’t affect me. We quickly learn that the prez can’t deliver everything he promised, but he says he really could if only he had a few more elves…the elves that can be found under the “D” column on the ballot.

Members of Congress are like elves in the toy factory. They do everything they can to deliver whatever we demand. They’ve learned that if we obtain even some of what was promised, the elves get rehired every two or six years. But they've also figured out to never give everything that was promised or you won’t have anything left to promise in the future. Elves are smarter than voters.

I began my voting life as a Democrat. Most Americans do. It’s easy to think like a Democrat. You don’t have to waste time following what the party is doing or understanding what effect their acts are having on society. You only have to spout the mantra, care a lot, and have good intentions. If your party makes dumb decisions, you just blame the Republicans, because, God knows the Republicans are too wimpy to defend themselves.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wedding Photos

Since I'm still feeling too puny to think or write, I'll share a link to some wedding photos that will bring tears to your eyes.

Here's to the bride and groom!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Checking in...

My cold still has me by the throat. I don't get colds often, but when I do, I suffer in spades. Dad was the same way and though he was seldom grumpy, when he had a cold, grumpiness was a sure thing. I wish I had inherited all the good things about him instead of things like that.

Anyway, I might be gone for a couple more days as I'm having difficulty even thinking, much less writing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The weather is still foggy, misty, drizzly, and miserable. Only the temperature has improved, and now I've managed to catch a chest cold.

I had planned on getting so many things done before Christmas, but now I only want to sit around and feel sorry for myself as I cough and wheeze my way through the day.

I went shopping yesterday, and that was another exercise in futility. If the economy is so bad, why are the stores out of so many things? Even the card racks in the Hallmark store had empty spaces. Their comment?..."We didn't expect much business, so we didn't order enough cards."

I also tried buying some American made ammunition for my .223 caliber "2nd Amendment statement", but they were all out and didn't know when they would get more. Their comment?..."Ever since the election, we can't keep up with the demand for guns and ammo. Everything is back-ordered."

Even the grocery shelves at WalMart were out of many of the things I normally buy. Another common gift item at an upscale store, was completely out of stock. Their comment?..."We didn't expect such a big demand, so we didn't order enough."

I wish the media would just shut up and let the market work. They obviously have no idea what's actually going on out here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nothing but a Weather Report

Not much to write about today, and I don't even feel like criticizing politicians.It was one of those days that you’d like to stay in bed and pull the covers over your head. There was a cold drizzle falling when I got up, and it didn’t improve much as the day dragged on. The temperature was right at freezing, so some ice formed on the trees and wires, but the roads were only wet.

By afternoon, it was Seattle-ing…just a tad warmer than when I got up, with a misty look and feel to the air. Not quite raining, but everything stayed wet.

Our weather has been like a yo-yo the entire fall. One day it’s in the 70’s and the next, it’s freezing. By Thursday, it’s supposed to be near 70 again. It’s not unusual to have warm weather just before Christmas, but it is unusual to change so dramatically almost every other day.

The flowers are really confused, as the tulip and hyacinth leaves are already showing, and the mums are also sending out new growth. Boy, are they in for a surprise!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blizzard...Part II

Life on the prairie was a rugged experience and many little things we now take for granted were serious problems…or at least proved to be major discomforts.

The Rural Electric Cooperative had run power lines to most of the farms in 1948, but reliability was a problem. Power outages were common during storms and even though the repair crews got around in a snowmobile-like machine called a Weasel, they seldom ventured out in the midst of severe storms to repair lines. Even if they could find the downed line, it was dangerous to work outside for very long. Fortunately, most houses were not dependent on electricity for heat, but the task of pumping water to a hundred thirsty cows became an exhausting chore when the electricity was out and you had to pump by hand. Lighting was also an issue, since kerosene lamps and gas lantern light was an inefficient, smelly substitute for electric lights.

Our heat came from a coal-fired furnace that could function without electricity, so freezing to death wasn’t a worry. As I recall, my greatest discomfort came from the need to use the outhouse! By the time you dressed to make the 100-foot trek up and over snow banks, and then shoveled the snow away from the outhouse door so it could be opened, it was easy to forget the purpose of your visit!

Not everything about a blizzard was bad, at least for kids. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of crystal clear moonlit nights after the winds stopped, and the fresh snow lay untouched. On those nights, we loved playing outside, despite the intense cold that always followed a blizzard.

One year, a storm left us with a long sledding track behind our one-room school, which was located about a half-mile from our house. During the school day, we’d spend the entire lunch period sliding, and maybe downing a frigid jelly sandwich between runs. After school, we hauled water from melted snow to ice the track and make it faster.

One night when all the cousins got together, we decided to try night sledding on our new track. With hurricane lanterns spaced along the course lighting the way, we played in the snow for hours. The thermometer indicated well below zero, and the dry, cold snow creaked and groaned under our rubber overshoes as we trudged up the hill pulling our sleds behind. The exercise kept our bodies warm, but as we made our way back uphill, we’d stop and hold our hands over the kerosene-burning lamps to warm them. The smell of burning kerosene and singed wool mittens is one of those smells I can’t forget.

Even the wildlife appeared to celebrate the end of a storm by leaving the protection of brush and trees to play in the snow. Occasionally, light from a full moon and the billowing curtains of Northern Lights, lighted the prairie nearly as bright as mid-day. On those rare nights you would often see a dozen or more white-tailed jackrabbits playing tag on the frozen lake, slipping and sliding on the ice like a bunch of kids. For some reason, they seemed to lose their fear of humans at night, and we could get within a few yards of them before they ran from us.

Snow-blocked roads may have prevented our going into town for entertainment, but we did our best to compensate by spending time with neighbors and relatives. Families often got together during the evening to play cards and visit. Sometimes we took the tractor or a horse-drawn hay wagon when visiting more distant neighbors, but we could easily walk to my grandparent’s and uncle’s houses, despite deep snowdrifts across the road.

I especially enjoyed visiting my uncle’s farm because my cousins were there to play with, and they owned a hand-cranked ice cream maker! While the adults were visiting and playing bridge or whist, we kids would take turns cranking out delicious ice cream made with sweet cream fresh from the separator. It didn’t make any difference that it was below zero outside…we loved homemade ice cream! The kids had the job of keeping the outside tub of the machine filled with snow, and cranking the handle until the ice cream was done. Then the metal container had to sit in a snow bank for at least a half-hour to firm the ice cream. That was the hardest part…waiting for the ice cream to cure.

Blizzards still howl across the northern prairies, but life is infinitely easier, thanks to modern technology. Emergency generators, four-wheel drive trucks, snowmobiles, cell phones, better roads and efficient snowplows mitigate some of the danger, yet every year we hear of someone freezing to death in a storm. Nature has no mercy on fools and the unprepared. Even here in Texas, when winter weather arrives, I don’t travel unless I have a heavy coat, a cap and gloves in the car. Old habits die hard.

I wouldn’t trade the experience of growing up in that frigid country for anything. I still love the state, but now that I have a choice, I’ll take the more moderate winters of East Texas, thank you!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I’m sort of a weather fanatic and every day I check what the weather conditions are in other parts of the country, especially in places where I’ve lived. Today, my old home state of North Dakota is experiencing blizzard conditions which are expected to last into Sunday, and then the temperatures are predicted to plunge to 30 below zero by Monday night.

Seeing that reminded me of something I wrote quite some time ago. It seems to be an appropriate time to share it with you.

Blizzard! A rare occurrence in most of Texas, but those of us reared on the northern plains knew intimately what it meant. Adults feared the forecast of winter storms just as residents of tornado alley fear the sound of sirens in the spring. Tornadoes inflict severe damage to small areas in a short amount of time, but a blizzard can cut large areas off from the rest of the world for days and sometimes weeks. Farm animals can perish by the thousands if a blizzard is especially intense or long lasting, so the expected combination of snow and high winds was taken very seriously.

When radio stations sounded a blizzard warning and the first gray clouds began to build in the northwest, the weather became the sole object of attention for those of us living in rural areas. Animals were quickly watered, fed and herded into shelters. A supply of coal or firewood was hauled into the house, as was drinking water and lantern fuel. Farmers and ranchers worried if the electricity would stay on, and if the animals would survive, and if the family would stay healthy during the unpredictable period we might be snowed in. While there was usually some warning of impending storms, it was often difficult to predict when it would end, and once the snow fell, wind became the concern.

As a child, I always looked forward to the time when the merciless northwest winds would pile snow into drifts huge enough to dig tunnels into, and to create miniature white mountains to slide down on homemade skis, or riding an old grain shovel. Being at the mercy of nature was an exciting situation for us children, but we failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. We trusted our parents to take care of us no matter what Mother Nature threw our way.

One winter in the late forties, we were snowed in for three or four weeks, with snow and high winds nearly every day. The temperatures remained well below zero and no one dared attempt a trip to town. Roads were blocked with snowdrifts so there was no way to make the trip with a car or truck. Rural families are usually prepared with stockpiled food, but as days passed, supplies dwindled and my family made the difficult decision to attempt a trip to town.

Dad and my uncle cobbled together a box shaped platform on the rear hitch of a farm tractor, and with a neighbor they made the twenty-four mile round trip to town for food and mail. This was long before climate-controlled tractor cabs, so they rigged a tarp around the driver to provide some protection from the stinging wind-driven snow while the two other men clung to the side of the tractor, holding onto the muffler to keep their hands warm. Though the muffler would glow red hot in the heat of August, it became little more than a hand warmer at 40 below zero.

They left for town at first light, and I can still recall the sight of that old Farmall tractor slowly disappearing into the swirling snow. At 5 mph, we knew the trip would take at least five hours of travel, plus the time they needed to buy and load groceries in town, and daylight was in short supply in the dead of winter. As the time neared when they should be getting home, we all waited anxiously for the sound of the tractor above the howling winds. They didn’t return until nearly dark, but they brought enough food for us to hold out until the roads were cleared many days later.

The longest blizzard I can recall was really a six-week series of intense storms, with only a few hours, or maybe a day, between storms. Between two of the storms, we were surprised to see an airplane circle the farm, wag its wings, and then land on our frozen lake. The pilot was a man who was dating my Dad’s sister, so he had a chance to visit her and also to make points with the rest of the family.

His arrival was especially exciting to us kids as we watched the little ski-equipped Piper Cub circle to check the snow conditions and then bounce to a landing on the snow-drift covered lake. Before the prop had even stopped spinning, we had covered the distance from the house to where the airplane rested near the frozen, rocky shoreline. The gaudy-yellow airplane was a most welcome contrast to the blinding whiteness of freshly drifted snow, and the opportunity to see an “outsider” after weeks of enduring nature’s fury, was in itself exciting.

A Piper Cub is a small two-passenger airplane, so the quantity of supplies he carried was somewhat limited, but thankfully it included our mail. Life, Saturday Evening Post, Field & Stream, Sports Afield, Farm Journal, Dakota Farmer, Ladies Home Journal, and six week’s worth of the daily newspaper were our escape from cabin fever until the weather improved and the roads were cleared of snow.

Tomorrow, I’ll write a bit more about what winter was like when I was a kid.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Multiculturalism my ass!

A question about multiculturalism was asked on a writer’s website I frequent. The person wanted to know if there was a market for multicultural-specific stories. She liked writing about multi-race characters and under-represented ethnic groups. Fine...write about them, but don’t make it an issue by pointing it out! Let your story stand on the plot, not a sympathetic agenda.

Nothing irritates me more than people who insist on packaging our citizens into neat little categories with the intent of creating more groups to feel sorry for, or to use differences to further their agenda. It makes me want to grab them by the throat and inform them that we are all Americans, not hyphenated objects in need of sympathy, understanding, or special treatment.

Whenever I’m asked on a form to identify my race, I refuse to answer. I even refused to answer that question in the last census. The census takers didn’t like that one bit. They sent a couple of threatening letters and called on the phone, trying to get me to answer. I only told them where I lived and that I was an American citizen. They finally backed off.

The Constitution provides for counting citizens, but it doesn’t require the government to gather data that should not even be considered when laws are applied. Justice is wearing a blindfold for a reason and we’d all be better off if we did likewise when dealing with our fellow Americans. We will never resolve our racial, ethnic, cultural, or sexual issues as long as the professional scab-pickers insist on trying to split us into camps.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tar and Feathers?

Governors selling senate appointments. Financial executives and corporate CEO’s scamming stockholders and the public. Unions demanding pay for not working. Election officials fixing elections. Congressmen taking bribes. Politicians of all stripes involved in scandal after scandal. What in hell is happening to our country?

I’m convinced that we might as well forget about letting the law deal with this scum. They are seldom prosecuted, even more seldom convicted, and if convicted, they get a slap on the hand or a few weeks in a federal resort prison.

Maybe the time has come to resurrect the punishment of tar, feathers and a rail for these miscreants. Make it a new prime-time reality show. Let everyone watch them toppled from their towers of public trust and humiliated before the entire world.

God, I must be getting soft…instead of hot tar, make that Super Glue. Just as hard to get off, but without the burns.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This Will Test Your Gag Reflex

With the collection of corrupt politicians, unions and businessmen making the news this week, I’m too disgusted to even comment. Then I read this speech given by a Dutch citizen in New York. It should strike fear in the hearts of everyone.

There is another thread on this website about the movie he refers to in the speech.

While you’re at it, check out this website:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Let there be lights!

Finally got all the Christmas lights up, so I’ll post a photo of my efforts before the thunderstorms hit tonight.

I don’t know why the camera takes such fuzzy pictures. It used to take outstanding pictures, but something is amiss with either the camera or the operator…probably the operator.

I also got the bird feeders up today. I’ve seen quite a few Goldfinches around this week, so maybe we’ll attract some of them to the thistle feeder. They seem to be the only birds that like thistle seeds.

The other feeder has a mixture of sunflower seeds, cracked corn and millet, so there should be several bird species feeding from it.

There aren’t nearly as many Cardinals here as there were in Denton, so I don’t know if we’ll attract as many to our feeders. At the old house, we’d have as many as a dozen male Cardinals feeding at one time. There are loads of Titmice and Chickadees in the woods around us, so we should have a bunch of them hanging around. The Chickadees are my favorites, but they usually grab a single sunflower seed and fly off to eat it, so I can’t watch them as much as I’d like.

It will be interesting to see if we attract different birds in this part of the state.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fence is Up, and Christmas Lights are Going Up

The winds moderated today, so I managed to get most of the Christmas lights least the ones that require climbing a ladder. After a few dozen trips up and down the ladder, I'm totally worn out. I used to get all the lights up in one day, but this time it's going to take two. Getting old isn't fun, but I guess it beats the alternative.

They finished building the back fence today and it looks nice. Now I wish the neighbor would finish enclosing his back yard. Three of us have built fences on three sides of his house, so all he has to build is about 60'.

I know his old Yellow Lab, "Scooby-doo", would love having a big yard to roam in.
The poor dog is tied on a long cable all day long while the family is gone, and sometimes he's out there until late into the night. I feel sorry for the old guy. About a month ago, his leg became wrapped up in the cable and I had to go over there and untangle him. He couldn't move at all, and when I got him loose, he was limping really bad. I was worried that his circulation had been cut off for quite a while and that he might have seriously damaged his leg, but after a few days, he recovered.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why Can't Those Idiots Run a Car Company Efficiently?

Last night, I was assembling an artificial Christmas tree we recently purchased. As I was doing so, it reminded me of why the auto manufacturers are having a difficult time making money these days.

The photo shows the safety warning tags I removed from the tree and the associated wiring for the pre-installed lights. These are not all the tags that were attached; they are only the ones that would be visible when the tree is standing. Nearly as many more are tied out of sight inside the wire bundle. Each end of the wiring had five tags attached near the plug and receptacle.

If it takes this many tags to warn me about possible tree hazards, the number of government mandated features and standards on a car must be monumental. Just off the top of my head, I can think of enough to stagger the imagination: CAFÉ numbers, emissions numbers; bumper height, rollover standards, front, rear, and side crash protection, air bags, head and stoplight light intensity standards, seat belts, headrests, door locks, power window switches, shift lockout, anti-skid brake system, rollover prevention system, brake light location, inside trunk release, and even hood ornaments.

This does not include all the demands placed on the manufacturing facilities. OSHA and the EPA control things like stair heights, ventilation, painting facilities, parts and material storage, use of solvents and adhesives, clothing and safety equipment, and even how everything is labeled and how the records are maintained.

I just touched on the things required by the federal government, and you can add state and local demands to the mess, as well as the idiotic union work rules. It’s a damn miracle that cars don’t cost twice what they do, and it really ticks me off to watch those politicians bloviate about the stupidity of the auto industry CEOs.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Windy Wednesday

We had another one of those rare early winter days today. It hit 77F this afternoon, but the strong south wind was annoying. We've had four straight days of strong winds, so I still don't have our Christmas lights up. I have no interest in climbing a ladder with 35mph gusts trying to blow me over.

This will be the last year for our outdoor lighting with the big C9 bulbs. Clear replacement bulbs are becoming nearly impossible to find, so we're buying a few strings of LED lights when they go on sale after the holidays.

We had a fence building crew out yesterday. They're installing a wooden fence across the back of the lot, and up one side. The kids in back of us will be mad without a way to cross our lot to visit their friends across the street, but They can complain to their dad. I offered to install a gate if he paid for it, but he didn't seem inclined to do so, so they can walk around.

Next Saturday is the Lindale holiday parade, but rain is forecast and I already put the top up on my Valiant, so I won't be participating this time. Hope the rain holds off until the afternoon since there is a Special Olympics wheelchair event scheduled right after the parade. They're bringing in over 100 wheelchair-bound kids, so it's a pretty big event.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winding up the Week

It was a quiet, cool Sunday. The wind came up early this morning and gusted hard all day long, so instead of putting up Christmas lights, I stayed inside and updated financial stuff. I’m trying to get a head start on organizing records for our income tax returns so it won’t be such a grueling exercise next March. Famous last words.

I dug out the picture matting tools yesterday and framed 3 photos for Judy. Except for breaking one glass, they turned out quite nice. It’s been a few years since I used the cutting tools, so I had to re-learn the procedure. The tools are high quality and made in the USA, so they’re a pleasure to work with.

On the flip side of the coin, I had another reminder that Chinese-made goods are total crap. A couple of months ago, our ancient, American made blender finally wore out, so I made a trip to WalMart and bought a new GE blender. I bought the best one they had, since I wanted it to last. At the same time, I bought a little electric single drink mixer for those times you don’t want to dirty the blender to mix a single milk shake. Naturally, both machines were made in China. Are you getting the drift?

Well, within days the blender began to ooze a black liquid from the bottom of the jar after each use, and it was a pain to clean up when the goop dripped on the countertop or the floor. Then last week, metal flakes started to show up in the mixture and it appears the bearing has failed. We searched the Internet for parts, but GE doesn’t offer replacement parts for that model…no surprise, since it’s made specifically for WalMart.

Judy wanted a chocolate shake for breakfast that day, but no problem since we have the little drink mixer for a backup. Well, it worked one time, and the next day it too was non-functional, and no amount of coaxing can get it to operate.

Tomorrow, both go back to WalMart, along with detailed instructions specifying what they can do with them. I don’t even want replacements if the damn things are made in China, so I suppose they are both a write-off.

We did a web search, and discovered that KitchenAid blenders are still made in the USA and are sold at Lowes. Since their store is right across the street from WalMart, that’s where I’ll be heading tomorrow after I return the two junked machines.

I only hope they are truly made in the USA, not assembled in the USA from parts manufactured in China.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Welcome to Lindale

I’ve been asked about the little town of Lindale, where we now live, so I’ll give it a whirl.

I could tell you that the population is about 5,000, if you stretch it a tad, and that it’s located half-way between Dallas and Shreveport, LA. I could also tell you that it used to be the blackberry capital of the country, and for a while cotton was king, and then the soil gave out. I could boast that they filmed a Randolph Scott movie here in the late 40’s, and that football star Earl Campbell was raised nearby, and that our latest claim to fame is a young Country Western star by the name of Miranda Lambert. However, that wouldn’t tell you much that wouldn’t fit a hundred other small towns in this part of the country.

As you’d expect, it has a Lowes, a WalMart, and the usual fast food places along with 51 churches, and no bars. We’re in a dry county. The old section of town was built in the 1800’s, while the new part of town, the bigger part, is still under construction and growing rapidly.

You’d learn a lot about Lindale if you’d visit Pop’s Cafe, where a dozen of us get together every morning to reminisce and resolve the world’s problems. The air is awash with the enticing aroma of bacon,sausage and peppery, white gravy. The music is old country...George Jones...Buck Owens...Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride. Farmers, truck drivers and construction workers kill time before work, drinking coffee and seeing who can tell the tallest tale, and who can laugh the loudest. Two real cowboys…spurs and all…sit quietly at a side table, sopping gravy and over-easy eggs with buttermilk biscuits. They enjoy a pinch of smokeless tobacco while they down several refills of strong, hot, brew before leaving to saddle up in the chilly morning air.

The regulars are a diverse bunch, drawn together by common values and common goals, not government edict, or gnawing guilt. Old-timers…newcomers….the mayor… farmers…ranchers…retired military…a plumber…a lawyer…civil servants…engineers…salesmen…business owners and a retired college professor. Sometimes we’re joined by the banker, a local author, and occasionally, the newspaper editor stops in to take the pulse of the “city”. Wealthy…middle class…and just getting by. Not a stiff shirt in the bunch.

Yes, Lindale is a friendly little town, but that’s pretty much all of Texas. If you need help felling that old oak tree that died last summer, or to fix a mower, or to build a fence, there’s no shortage of offers to help. Need a special tool?...somebody has one to loan you. Need a ride somewhere? problem, you’ll have lots of offers.

Oh, sometimes I hear a gripe or two about all the Yankees settling here, but it’s done with a teasing smile, and a gracious invite to join in some community event. They don’t really mind us newcomers, as long as we accept things as they are, and don’t try to turn Texas into California or New Jersey. We’re guests for a while, but if we mind our manners, we quickly become family. When they refer to you as “a good ol’ boy”, you’ve passed the test.

That’s what it’s like in our small Texas town, and it sure beats living in the city.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Favorite Holiday Foods

I suppose nearly every family has a traditional holiday dish that is passed down from generation to generation. My Norwegian heritage means that lefse is a favorite for Christmas, and it’s the only food I really miss if I don’t have some on Christmas Day. For you non-Scandinavians, lefse is potato based and looks like a slightly scorched flour tortilla. It’s delicious covered with butter and sugar, and then rolled into an easy-to-eat cigar shape.

My mother’s buns are another holiday favorite that I recall from my childhood. It’s been many years since I last had them, but after getting the recipe from my daughter, I decided to make my first batch for Thanksgiving...actually, a double batch. They don’t look exactly like the ones Mom made, but they taste the way I remember, so I must have done everything close to right.

Now I can see why the buns were a holiday special, since they are far more difficult to make than bread…at least the kind I make with the bread machine. I’m used to dumping all the ingredients into the machine and standing back while everything happens automatically, and 4 hours later a fresh-baked loaf sits on the rack to cool. My bread is also good, but no match for Mom’s buns.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day already, but at least this time I have a head start on the cooking. I deep fried a 14 lb turkey today; the first time I’ve cooked only one bird for a holiday, and the first time I cooked it the day before. Of course, nothing gets done without problems. I thought I had a nearly full tank of propane, but ran out with ten minutes of cooking time left. I had to put the turkey in the oven for a short time to finish cooking, but it should be okay.

It will be just the two of us and the dogs this year, so it should be quiet. At least there won’t be tons of leftovers to tempt us into days of gluttony, but the poor dogs will load up on oil-drenched skin and fat. I know we shouldn’t feed them that junk, but they love it, and seem to show no ill effects from years of indulging.

Wish I still enjoyed watching football, since the Dallas Cowboys always play on Thursday, but I'm fed up with professional sports of all kinds. Now that it looks like that dog-fighting quarterback is getting out of prison already, I have one more reason to hate the pros. I think the only group of people with more crooks in their midst is Congress.

No, that's not me in the video, but it shows the rookie mistake everyone seems to make the first time they try frying.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Indian Summer

I don't know if you can call it Indian Summer, but it was one of the Texas fall days that can only be described as perfect. Clear...70 degrees...a slight breeze...squirrels chattering as they hunt acorns...a woodpecker slowly tapping as he searches for bark beetles near the top of the dead post oak. It was a good day to sit on the patio with a cup of tea and a book, so after chopping leaves and sweet potato vines with the mower, and taking care of a few other chores, that's what I did.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Let them Declare Bankruptcy

Listening to the rhetoric about the auto company bailout is becoming frustrating. In my opinion, they should not be bailed out, but the ridiculous charges from the uneducated are as bad as the bailout plans.

I've heard several people say that Detroit should be making cars people want. Well, should they be making cars people want to drive today, or in 2011? Those are the cars they are designing at this very minute. It takes 30-36 months from the time a build decision is made, until the cars hit the showroom. It also costs 2-3 billion dollars to bring a new model to market. It's not chump change, and it doesn't happen quickly.

If you can tell me what the price of gas will be in late 2010, I can tell you what cars would probably sell at the time. If you can tell me what new government regulations will be written between now and then, it will also give me an idea which cars will sell. While you are at it, tell me the content of federal and state tax laws that will be written in the next three years, and don't forget to find out which fuels blends will be available. They all affect car sales.

Let the American companies declare bankruptcy so they can get rid of the anchors that weigh them down now. Like the Japanese, they can then move their factories to Podunk, Mississippi, and get tax abatements from the state, county and city. They can also hire a young, non-union workforce, so they can finally compete with the Japanese and Koreans on a level playing field.

One more thing...just for the record. Yes, private jets are expensive, but when a dozen people are traveling together, it's more cost effective to charter than to fly commercial. Besides, the GM and Ford boards of directors dictate that senior executives use private aircraft for security reasons.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22, 1963

Everyone says they know where they were and what they were doing when JFK was assassinated and I’m no exception. Dad and I were building a house and were installing ceiling tile on that particular day. The new homeowner and his brother were also there, cleaning up construction trash from around the house. As usual, we were all listening to music on Minot's ABC affiliate at the time, KCJB, when the bulletin came on. As you can hear from the video, the first report said only that shots were fired, but we never suspected the president had been hit, and even made light comments about how serious the Republicans were taking his visit to Dallas. The political tension had been constantly reported for days in advance of the visit, and while protests were expected, there was never a public concern about possible violence.

When they finally reported, first that the president had been hit, and soon after that he was dead, I can still see the shocked look on everyone’s face. We all stopped working for the rest of the day and sat around the radio as the news came in a constant stream. The emptiness I felt in response to such an evil deed is something else I’ll never forget. I couldn’t have concentrated on work for anything.

The country was a much different place in 1963. While my beliefs have always been mostly conservative, I was still a Democrat. But the people we were working for were Republicans and they were as crushed as we were. It was OUR president that had been killed, not a Democrat president. We often debated political issues, but we were all Americans and while our words might have been zealous, respect was always maintained.

Today, I look at the unwarranted bitterness and hatred shown George W. Bush, and I fear for the survival of the union. John Kennedy would have also been appalled by the state of politics and the attitude of people today. How soon our citizens have forgotten those inspiring words he spoke at his inauguration: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

While I will passionately criticize and debate the politics of our new president, and fight for his defeat, I will try to do so with respect for both the office and the person. It’s time to put some civility back in our disputes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Warning! Political Content

A post from a Norwegian citizen on an automotive forum took the USA to task for the usual charges…arrogance, war mongering, excessive consumption...the usual drivel from He also said that the Norwegian citizens were unhappy that Norwegian troops were involved in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that they blamed us. He assumed that because it’s my desire to leave the world to sort out their own problems, I had voted for Obama’s promise of change. As tired as I am of protecting the world while they use us, I'm even more tired of those who whine about us.

Here is my response to him:

No, I didn't vote for change, because the change most naive individuals think will happen, will not. The only thing that will change is the location of our troop deployments. Instead of the Middle East, they will be sent to Africa, because for every country that wants us to go home, there are a dozen that want us to come in and do their dirty work for them, all the while holding their hands out for money.

As for the World Bank, I think I know what would happen if we withdrew...the world would scream like banshees. The same for the UN. The world needs a whipping boy, a sugar daddy, and someone to hate. Personally, I wouldn't worry about removing all our bases and troops from around the world. The money we save could be put into an ABM program to defend this country, and improved ICBMs to destroy any country foolish enough to attack us. Let the rest of the world fend for themselves. We've done enough, and it's time to retire.

I also don't worry about our consumption. The market place takes care of that issue in a free society. We have enough energy...including run our country for 200 years. That should be enough time for technology to resolve that issue. We also have tens of millions of acres of forests and farm land that lies unused. We are not wanting for natural resources. I also did not say we should stop trade between nations. Let the market decide who sells, who buys, and who consumes.

No, Einar, we won't "just go and take it". No country in the history of the world has given so much, to so many people, and asked for so little in return…as the USA. Our only expectation is that they become free and peaceful nations. The lands we've conquered, we've returned. The damage we inflicted, we repaired. The economies we hurt, we improved. The friends who slapped our face were offered the other cheek…not the back of our hand.

Thank your troops for helping in Afghanistan, and Iraq, but I really wish they would have stayed home, because if the citizens of Norway are not behind the cause, we don't need a personal reason for them to hate us. I'd rather they remembered the 1940's when they think of America. It's much easier to remember who your friends are if you were living in Norway when Quisling was in charge, than when the tyranny is thousands of miles away and not directly affecting you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Shirt

As long as I’m in a rant mode, I might as well comment on another subject that drives me nuts….the incredible shrinking shirt.

With the advent of cooler weather, I switch from short-sleeved shirts to long sleeves, and every year it’s the same thing. The flannel shirts I bought last year have all shrunk. The sleeves and tails are at least two inches shorter than they were when I bought them. I’m beginning to think that they shrink just hanging in the closet.

When buying shirts with even some cotton material in them, I know there will be shrinkage, but why does it take a half-dozen washings before it shows up? If they’d shrink immediately, I’d buy a larger size and wash before wearing. I’ve even tried doing that a couple of times and it looks like I’m wearing a tent most of the season, with the shoulder seams 3” off my shoulder. Then they hang during the summer, and when it comes time to wear them in the fall, they fit like the shirts on the Incredible Hulk about the time he gets mad and begins to turn green.

With all our technical advancements, it seems odd that someone can’t come up with a soft, warm shirt material that doesn’t shrink.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chinese Junk

No, I don't mean the odd-looking little boat with the square's probably built to last, since it's not destined for the US market. However, all the rest of the junk manufactured in that country should be illegal to import.

Recently, I've had more than my share of their crap failing. Our year-old house was built with upgraded items in nearly every case, and apparently paying more meant nothing, because even so-called high-end items are now made in China.

Since we moved in, several light fixtures have either broken or burned out...two toilets have had bad valves...a switch in the microwave failed...a vent fan seized…the doorbell fell apart…nickel plating is coming off the door knobs...”top quality” cabinet hinges were defective when new, and ditto for the slides. The blinds don't work as advertised, nor do the door locks, and the HVAC system quit when a Chinese-made relay failed after three months.

A few weeks ago, I bought a new weed eater, and it didn't last a half-hour before it quit working. Last week, a sensor in Judy's car failed, and yes, it was another Chinese part. When two Chinese-made starter relays failed within days in my old restored truck, I put the corroded, 35-year-old American-made part back in, and it's working fine, so I guess I can live with ugly.

What really ticks me off is the number of items made in China that are probably never touched by human hands. Why can't we use those same robots and automated production lines to build things here so we can control the quality?

No wonder our industries are failing, and government is so screwed up…they’re both being run by certifiable idiots.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weather Report

As expected, we had frost the other night, but the light covering I put over the tomatoes and peppers saved them. I guess we'll be able to pick a few more ripe fruits before the next freeze hits. The frost did a number on the potato vines that covered much of a flower bed in front of the house. The foilage was bright green when I went to bed and black when I got up. Now I''ll have to rake the remains out of the flower bed so I can chop it up with the mower.

For those of you unfamiliar with Texas weather, this can be a strange time of year. One day it will be in the forties, and the next it can be in the eighties. I've often gone Christmas shopping in December with the air conditioning running in the car, but there are also days when you need a heavy coat.

However, the weather changes here can't compare with one fall I remember in North Dakota. It had been a long Indian Summer, with temperatures in the seventies until early November. Then one day the sky was filled with ducks and geese flying south as hard as their wings would carry them. It was clear, sunny and shirt-sleeve warm at midday, but that afternoon, a gray cloud began to move in from the northwest. By evening it was freezing and starting to snow. By the next morning, it was blizzarding and the temperature was around zero.

I don't care if I never see that again!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Winter is back

We’re getting our second blast of winter tonight. The wind has been blowing hard all day and leaves are drifted in banks outside the back door. We’re expecting a freeze that will probably kill our tomatoes and peppers…just when they were starting to bear fruit again. I covered them with plastic, but if it gets below 32F, I doubt it will help much.

I hope everyone has checked the Operation Migration website I linked over on the right side of the page. Every time I visit the site, I’m amazed by the dedication of those folks preserving the rare birds. This year is proving to be frustrating because of the weather that has slowed their progress.

Having lived in North Dakota, where the Wood Buffalo-Aransas birds pass through during both migrations, I’ve had the good fortune to see Whooping Cranes in the wild twice. I saw four flying overhead during their northward migration way back in the 1950’s. That’s when the entire population was less than 50 birds, so it was a memorable day.

In the early 60’s, I saw an adult pair and two juveniles resting in a slough near Belden during their southward migration. Several big Canadian Mallards were swimming around their legs, and the contrast in size clearly showed how tall they are.

While you are over there, take a look at the merchandise they sell to raise money for the program. Christmas is fast approaching and they have some good gift ideas that are refreshingly different from what you can find in WalMart. Best of all, the profits go to a good cause. The little stuffed bird in the photo is just a sample of what they offer.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Recalling another Hero

I was looking through some old photos today, and ran across this one of my old missile launch crew from 1961 or 1962.
The officer on the left is Capt. Clark Wingate, and next to my dad, he was the most influential man in my life. He was tough, demanding, always fair, and he tempered it with a wonderful sense of humor. He always taught by example, took care of his troops, and never asked you to do anything he wouldn’t do. A born leader, but never a politician.

He is a WWII vet, having been in the 10th Mountain Division from the time they were formed until the war was over. He was another of those combat vets who never bragged about his adventures, but told the most interesting stories. Some were sad, and some were hilarious, especially when he related the antics of the world’s intelligence services. He spent time with Air Force Intelligence, so he had inside knowledge of what he called the “sneaky-peeky” organizations.

Though I’ve never had the chance to meet him since I left his crew in 1963, I’m told he retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel, and then taught at the university level before retiring to Florida. Last I heard he had moved to Grand Junction, Colorado because he missed the skiing. Yes, though he is in his eighties, he’s still an avid skier.

The world would be a much better place if people were more like him.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Going to the Dogs IV

The rain we had yesterday knocked off our Internet connection, so I didn’t get to post anything. Our satellite Internet service is almost as slow as dial-up, and only half as reliable. Unfortunately, ATT doesn’t have DSL out here in the sticks yet.

You’re probably getting tired of seeing our furry kids, but this is the last one, so bear with me.

Lowest on the pack’s totem pole is Cricket, a 11-month-old Maltese. As you can see, she thinks “cute” trumps everything, but she has a lot to learn. Sassy tried that, and eventually learned that life was much better when you paid heed to your humans.

Like Sassy, Cricket is as stubborn as a rock when it comes to housebreaking. Well, I say it’s stubbornness, but I’m beginning to believe she’s mentally challenged. Heck, she’s a dog so I don’t have to be politically correct…I think she’s just dumb!

When you take her outside, she stands around and stares at you like she has no clue what to do. Then suddenly, her bladder tells her brain why she’s there, and everything is fine, she assumes the position and does what comes naturally. But in the meantime, you’ve both stood around for ten minutes getting cold, wet, bored and frustrated. About the time you feel like drop-kicking her over the fence, she looks at you with those big, black marble eyes, that black nose, and that little pink tongue, and she thinks: Gotcha!...cute wins again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Arachnophobia anyone?

This is Charlotte…well, she’s actually Charlotte 4 or 5, since we’ve had one like her near the house for the last several years.
She’s a Black and Yellow Garden Spider, and a welcome resident in our yard. Besides her beutiful coloration, she’s harmless to humans, bothers no one, doesn’t try to get in the house and does a fine job of catching garden insects, especially grasshoppers. These big spiders…about 3” toe to toe…usually live in our Cannas, but this one built her web across the garage window and has been there since May.

Recently, she attached three egg sacs to the glass, where they will stay until they hatch in spring. As thousands of tiny spiders leave the sac, they will spin a tiny web and disperse with the wind. With luck, a few will stick around.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Joe the Plumber

Here’s a great economics lesson that reminds me of the old “Grasshopper and the Ant” story. Thanks, “RaceBuicks”

Barack Obama discovers a leak under his sink, so he calls Joe the Plumber to come and fix it.Joe drives to Obama's house, which is located in a very nice neighborhood and where it's clear that all the residents make more than $250,000 per year.

Joe arrives and takes his tools into the house. Joe is led to the room that contains the leaky pipe under a sink. Joe assesses the problem and tells Obama, who is standing near the door, that it's an easy repair that will take less than 10 minutes.Obama asks Joe how much it will cost.Joe immediately says, "$9,500.""$9,500?" Obama asks, stunned. "But you said it's an easy repair!""Yes, but what I do is charge a lot more to my clients who make more than $250,000 per year so I can fix the plumbing of everybody who makes less than that for free," explains Joe. "It's always been my philosophy. As a matter of fact, I lobbied government to pass this philosophy as law, and it did pass earlier this year, so now all plumbers have to do business this way. It's known as 'Joe's Fair Plumbing Act of 2008.' Surprised you haven't heard of it, senator."

In spite of that, Obama tells Joe there's no way he's paying that much for a small plumbing repair, so Joe leaves.Obama spends the next hour flipping through the phone book looking for another plumber, but he finds that all other plumbing businesses listed have gone out of business. Not wanting to pay Joe's price, Obama does nothing.

The leak under Obama's sink goes unrepaired for the next several days. A week later the leak is so bad that Obama has had to put a bucket under the sink. The bucket fills up quickly and has to be emptied every hour, and there's a risk that the room will flood, so Obama calls Joe and pleads with him to return.

Joe goes back to Obama's house, looks at the leaky pipe, and says "Let's see – this will cost you about $21,000.""A few days ago you told me it would cost $9,500!" Obama quickly fires back.Joe explains the reason for the dramatic increase. "Well, because of the 'Joe's Fair Plumbing Act,' a lot of rich people are learning how to fix their own plumbing, so there are fewer of you paying for all the free plumbing I'm doing for the people who make less than $250,000. As a result, the rate I have to charge my wealthy paying customers rises every day."Not only that, but for some reason the demand for plumbing work from the group of people who get it for free has skyrocketed, and there's a long waiting list of those who need repairs. This has put a lot of my fellow plumbers out of business, and they're not being replaced – nobody is going into the plumbing business because they know they won't make any money. I'm hurting now too – all thanks to greedy rich people like you who won't pay their fair share."Obama tries to straighten out the plumber: "Of course you're hurting, Joe! Don't you get it? If all the rich people learn how to fix their own plumbing and you refuse to charge the poorer people for your services, you'll be broke, and then what will you do?"Joe immediately replies, "Run for president, apparently."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lost in the Fifties

We were sitting at our computers tonight and listening to oldies music Judy had recorded on her Windows Media Player. A song came on that I didn’t recognize, but she was singing along and knew all the words. Now, I love old music, and I pride myself on my ability to identify within a year or two when a song was recorded. However, that song drew a complete blank. When I asked what year it was recorded, she said it was 1968. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because while I can recall nearly every pop song written between 1955 and 1965, I remember almost nothing from the late 60’s and early 70’s. When the protest music came into vogue, I turned off the entire pop music world. That was also the time of the British bands, and I never could get into their music. I guess I’m one of the few people who can barely tolerate the Beatles. Some of their songs are good, but I prefer them done by someone else.

There was no talk radio during those years, so I’m not sure what I listened to. I suppose I might have switched to country music, since it was free of the drug-influenced anti-everything agenda.

Once they lost me, I never again developed an interest in pop music, and until a few oldies stations began playing 50’s stuff, my music listening was limited to cassettes by my favorite artists. Today, I mostly listen to talk radio, with Rush Limbaugh being my favorite. Thankfully, we have an oldies AM station in Dallas, and Sirius has a couple of channels that play my kind of music. The Dallas station call sign is KAAM, and they have a great Saturday night call-in show hosted by ‘Cruisin’ Al Taylor’. In winter, I have to listen on the Internet since they reduce their power after dark.

If anyone else enjoys American rock and roll from the pre-Beatles era, you can listen from 6PM until midnight central time on: They have a sister station in Colorado Springs that streams the same show on:, but they don’t broadcast the first hour of the show.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Going to the Dogs III

Our youngest Shar-Pei, and the pack’s alpha female, is Bonnie. She is three years old, and somewhat small for a Shar-Pei. I’ve never been around a dog that was so affectionate and so in need of affection. She wants to be touching her people all the time, and loves to “hold paws”, while getting her head petted. At night, she will hop on the bed and lay her head against you, as if saying goodnight.

She is also extremely gentle, and somewhat shy around strangers, but she runs a tight ship with the other dogs. If we scold one of them, she runs up and adds her two cents to the discussion, then comes to us to be praised for her efforts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank God the election is over!

In 1994, when Republicans swept into power by capturing both houses of Congress, Peter Jennings claimed that the voters were throwing a tantrum. What he really meant was the media had been politically defeated. This time, the media won. The reason the voters went along? Apparently it was a mass guilt trip that could only be cured by affirmative action at the highest level. It certainly wasn’t because they voted for the best candidate. Granted, McCain was a weak nominee, but his resume was so far superior to Obama, it wasn’t even a contest. It couldn’t have been policy, because in those two years, Obama changed nearly every position he originally held.

Obama could never have won without the full backing of the mainstream media. Not only did they promote everything he said, no matter which direction he swerved, but they failed to look into his life history and to report on his numerous, known, flaws. Their agenda was obvious when they eagerly jumped in and learned more about the lives of both Sarah Palin and Joe the plumber in 48 hours, than they did about Obama in two years.

We pretty much know who the winners are in this election, but the losers are numerous too. Besides McCain, the Republican Party is a big loser. The lack of conservative pre-election support, both financial and organizational, and the defection of party members at all levels, was a spit directly in the eye of the party leaders…all of them. Party leadership, from Bush on down, couldn’t comprehend the truth that it’s impossible to out-democrat the Democrats…but they kept trying.

While Texas remained loyal to the GOP, effects of their spineless drifting were apparent here too. An extremely conservative friend voted a straight Democrat ticket because he wanted the Republican Party destroyed. He’d rather reorganize from the ashes than continue trying to influence the current rudderless leadership. I’ll also mention that he is a conservative atheist, and tired of so many Republicans wearing their religion on their sleeve, instead of in their hearts. Like me, he is also strict constitutionalist, and both parties have strayed too far from the Constitution to win our support. Yes, I voted a straight Republican ticket, but I had to hold my nose while doing so, since there wasn’t a viable alternative.

Another big loser is the mainstream media. Their customer base has dwindled for years, and their latest failure to live up to their constitutional responsibilities has only accelerated their demise. Unless Congress intervenes to prop up the liberal media with taxpayer funding, they will continue to slide until they become irrelevant.

The Constitution will be a loser once judges who believe it's a living document begin to twist and alter its words and meanings.

The biggest immediate loser will be the American taxpayer. All forms of taxation will increase when the Bush tax cuts end, and the Democrats will be quick to find new ways to get their fingers in your wallets. But, I guess that's the patriotic thing to do.

The Clintons are losers, unless BO made a deal to nominate Hillary to the Supreme Court, and maybe even push for Bill to head the UN. I hope he didn't, because it's time for the Clinton clan to leave with the Bush family.

I’d say it’s a relief to know that the incessant hammering of George W. Bush will begin to fade, but I know it won’t. In the minds of the Democrats and the mainstream media, Bush will continue to be the root of every problem in the world until the very last day of the Obama administration.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Elections or fall foliage?

I was tempted to write a scathing entry about the election tomorrow, but if you haven't made up your mind by now, there is nothing I can say that can have any effect. Besides, Texas will go for McCain in a landslide. I only hope people will vote with their common sense instead of their feelings.

Without further political pontification, I'll mention our rare autumn foliage spectacular. While our native oak and hickory trees will never match the sartorial splendor of some northern species in fall, when conditions are right we can enjoy a mini-display of color, and this is one of those years. We had some good rains this fall, and an early freeze, and that's caused some trees to turn a bright red, while others are taking on a soft yellow, or orange. One shrub variety I don't recognize has turned a deep red...almost purple. Our mild show might be laughed at in New England or the Rocky Mountains, but we'll take what we can get.

One more thing political...gas dropped to $1.98 a gallon in East Texas today. I wonder if Congress will investigate the obscene drop in prices? It must be price fixing, not the free market working.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hanging with heroes

I met a hero the other day. Normally, you’d expect to meet a hero at an awards presentation of some kind, with the media present and politicians vying for camera time, but I met him in the service waiting room at an East Texas car dealership.He stepped out of his pickup just like any normal person would, and left it with the service writer to have the oil changed.
He was a senior citizen, as we like to call them now. As he walked across the driveway, you could see that age had taken its toll. He was stooped and his skin was weathered by the Texas sun. He flashed a friendly smile as he headed my way.He was an unimposing guy…jeans, boots and a straw cowboy hat. The hat wasn’t big, fancy, or expensive like Hollywood cowboys wear. It was a working man’s hat, but it was his go-to-town hat, too. He looked average in every way…medium height, slender build, glasses, and…well, just average looking as Texans go. He wasn’t built like Arnold, but he appeared fit for his age.He sat down on the bench beside me and we exchanged greetings.
The warm, morning sun had just cleared the hills behind us, and we both commented on the beautiful morning.He carried a Max Brand novel in his hand, but after we exchanged greetings, he placed it on the bench beside him and we struck up a conversation. He had already caught my interest and I wasn’t going to let him read if I could indulge him in conversation.
We first talked about retirement, and the good old days, and cotton farming, and raising cows. He said he’d loved the idea of raising cattle since he was a kid in high school many decades earlier, but had to forego his plans to put some time in the Army.
It was then that I learned I was sitting beside a hero…a WWII vet.I asked him which unit he had been in…though I should have guessed. US Army Corporal Harold Fortenberry was a native Texan and he was part of the 36th Infantry Division…the Texas division…when they were sent first to Africa, and then to land on the Italian coast at Salerno in 1943.
After some general conversation about the military, he got this look in his eye. He was far away, in another time, and in his soft East Texas drawl, he took me along. I didn’t object.He said he had wanted to tell his children and grandchildren all about war, but despite the urgings of his family, he was slightly embarrassed to do so. I told him to heed his family’s request. They weren’t trying to humor an old man, they were truly interested. He said he had recorded part of his story on audio tapes, but hadn’t gone into the detail about many of the things that still filled his mind. One of his grandchildren had copied the tapes on a CD, but what he had recorded wasn’t everything he had to say...there was still so much to tell. All the little things.

He wanted to help them understand what it was really like to be scared every day, but to hide the fear with jokes and bravado, like young men in combat always do. He wanted to explain what it felt like to be exhausted, and hungry, and cold, and wet, for weeks on end. What it was like to look across an open field at the enemy whose job it was to defeat you by taking your life and knowing you would soon meet him eye to eye. He wanted people to understand what went on in your mind when you saw friends die in an instant, and what it was like to cheat injury or death by a turn of fate’s card. He wanted to tell them that the way you dealt with it was to get rip-roaring drunk when you could, or to find a private place to cry until you couldn’t cry anymore.He told me several stories about individual battles, and what had happened to him and members of his unit.
The stories were not boastful tales of triumph, but rather one man’s account of his tiny role in a brutal war fought between powerful countries. He never bragged that he had done anything more than what was expected of him as a member of a mortar squad. I don’t know if he was awarded any individual citations…he didn’t say, and I didn't ask, but he did say he was one of only two men in his original company not killed or wounded. He marveled at his good fortune, but mourned the loss of so many friends. He didn’t complain or speak ill of the government that sent him to war. It was something that had to be done and he was obliged to do his part. His pride was apparent, but his deeds were not demanding of praise or comment. And there was no anger in his voice, only the need to explain how it really was. I was eager to listen, and he was willing to talk about it.
You might wonder why, without medals and fanfare, I’ve referred to the Corporal from Texas as a hero, but that’s easy to explain. He belongs to a generation that’s rapidly disappearing; a generation we’ve selfishly taken for granted…and they’ve not complained. Not enough of us are cognizant of their personal sacrifice, nor appreciative of how they built the world we live in today. The young soldiers that went to war did what was asked and expected of them, and they did it to the best of their ability.Like so many veterans I’ve talked to, he didn’t come home with expectations of being treated special. He did his job, and then he came home to rejoin society and start a family. He could finally get back to Texas to raise cattle and to live the life he loved. When you are a real hero, that’s what you do. No demands. No whining. You quietly get on with life.I’m certain he’d be embarrassed at being called a hero, but in my eyes, he and his generation are all heroes. Their sacrifice allowed me all the comforts I now enjoy, and their labors have given the modern world a standard of living that couldn’t have even been envisioned when they were young.
All too soon, the mechanic returned with his truck and our conversation had to end. I could have listened to him for hours, but like anything good, a small amount makes you appreciate it even more. He apologized for bending my ear, but in my mind, he was passing on a personal record of history and I thank him for both the lesson and the pleasure of his company. We shook hands and I watched him walk away. It was time to do what modest heroes do. It was time to go home and check on the cows.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sick dog and frost on the pumpkin.

We had our first frost of the season last night. It was 3-4 weeks ahead of normal, and only a few days short of setting a record for early freezes. No, it wasn't a record, but it was the earliest freeze since 1925. I assume it's one more indication of global warming.

Sassy, our old Maltese, experienced an attack of extreme pain tonight. She began yelping and sprawled on the floor in agony. There was no indication that anything was wrong earlier, and after a minute or two, she relaxed as the pain apparently went away. We had no clue what might have caused it, but I suppose it was age-related in some way. I only hope that the next time it happens during the day when a vet is available. I hate not being able to better communicate with animals.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Going to the Dogs II

Our next oldest is Belle. She is a six-year-old Shar Pei and is truly a gentle giant. She weighs about 90 lb, but is shy, gentle, and as playful as a puppy.
When her best dog-friend, Dakota, died from cancer three years ago, Belle was devastated and mourned for months. When we got another Shar Pei puppy to keep her company, Belle could have taken over the alpha duties. Instead, she waited until the puppy grew up, and then she passed on the duties to her new pack mate.
Her health is not good, and she has to take pills daily for her inactive thyroid gland. Despite being active, she gains weight easily and has suffered numerous maladies and infections. She probably won't live to be very old, but her time with us has been a joy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Going to the Dogs

Since we are owned by four dogs, I might as well introduce them. This is Sassy, our oldest, a 15-year-old Maltese. The picture was taken a few years ago, and she is now rapidly deteriorating. She is totally blind, and nearly deaf, but still gets around surprisingly well.

We installed a dog door in the wall of our new house, and she goes in and out as if she can still see, but if we move anything on the patio, she gets confused, and has a hard time finding her way around.
At times, she will get too far away from the patio and get lost out on the lawn. One night, I woke up and checked on her, as I usually do. She wasn't in her bed, so I went outside to look for her. She was in the middle of the lawn going in circles. It was a cold night, with lots of dew on the grass, and she had apparently been out there for some time. She was soaking wet, exhausted and shaking with cold.
She was one happy puppy to get dried off with a towel and tucked into her bed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Investigate "Big Greeting Cards"

With several holidays just around the corner, I'd like to re-post a rant I did on a forum about this time last year.

I think it’s time to stop ranting against “Big Oil”, and to take up the cause against “Big Greeting Card”. If anything has gotten out of hand, price wise, it’s the greeting card business. It can’t be the amount of paper, because I can buy a pocket book at WalMart for less than the price of a typical card, and the book contains ten times the amount of paper.

It can’t be the earnings of the verse writers. I’ve read where they get mere pennies for writing verses, and there are only so many ways to write Merry Christmas, so you know there must be thousands of recycled verses.

I’m convinced it’s nothing but obscene profits for a few rich greeting card executives, and Congress ought to hold hearings to investigate Hallmark, Ambassador, et al. I’d like to see their CEOs squirming in the witness chair while they try to explain to the honorable congressman from Mississippi why thirteen cents worth of product costs $5.99 at the local drugstore. Even after the leftover cards hit the discount shops, they sell for ten times their raw product cost. I'm sure the original retailers can claim unsold cards as losses against their federal taxes, so we are being forced to pay Hallmark twice!

While they are at it, I think Congress should investigate the reason behind adding all those greeting card days to the original two or three we used to have. Somehow, Grandparents Day, Kwanza, and Earth Day don’t do it for me when it comes time to send greetings. If they dig deep enough, I'm betting they’d find some kind of illegal relationship between the card companies, the promoters of new holidays, and yes, maybe even the Bush administration.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm not ready for winter!

The dozens of hummingbirds that had been visiting our feeders left almost two weeks ago, and now birds we haven’t seen since spring are hopping around the yard and flitting through the trees as they travel south. Squirrels are busy harvesting acorns, hickory nuts are littering the lawn and the leaves are beginning to turn. With all the signs, you’d think I would have been ready for winter to sneak in the back door...but I wasn’t.

This afternoon, I was sitting on the patio reading a book and enjoying a cup of tea in beautiful 75 degree weather. Then, a dark cloud formed in the western sky, and in minutes, the first cold front of the season rolled through. A cold rain, driven by wind made the temperature drop twenty degrees in little more than an hour. With the forecast for temps in the high forties tonight, I might be up in the middle of the night changing the thermostat from A/C to heat mode.

You’d think that someone who grew up in North Dakota would walk around in short sleeves and sneer at such a mild cold front, but I’ll be the first to admit that living in Texas twelve years has spoiled me. Tomorrow morning, I’ll have to dig my jacket out of the closet before I head for the coffee shop. Life is tough.

C’mon spring!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moon of the millipedes

Seems like every year, it's an invasion of one critter or another. Last fall, it was scorpions, and they were everywhere. Then last summer it was black widow spiders. Over a period of a couple of months, I found 12 inside the mailbox, and dozens more around the yard. I finally bought a can of spider spray and spent much of an afternoon hunting spiders. I killed 15-20, and since then, I've not seen one. I think the increasing number of wasps also helped reduce their number.

The past few days we've been under attack from garden millipedes. They're harmless, but totally disgusting to find all over the house. Every evening, I spray dozens on the patio, but it doesn't seem to affect their number and several manage to find their way into the house overnight.

I'm almost looking forward to the first freeze, which should have an effect on the number of insects.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My plan for peace in the Middle East

Every weekday morning, several of us old-timers get together at the local coffee shop to drink coffee, eat sweets, and resolve the ills of the world.

Except for one guy, who admits he just loves to argue, there is little disagreement between us, since this part of Texas is pretty conservative. We tend to agree on things like taxes, drugs, government largess, personal responsibilities, etc. However, when the subject of foreign involvement comes up, we fuss a bit, and after all is said and done, the disagreement usually boils down to the Middle East. Problems in that part of the world just don’t seem to be resolvable.

If I remember history correctly, the USA was the first country to recognize the state of Israel, and we’ve now been their insurance policy for somewhere around sixty years. Based on the peace progress made between Israel and their adversaries in those sixty years, it appears we can plan on another sixty years playing protector, unless there are drastic changes.

I’ve been kicking around an idea that might work if we can sell it to the rest of the world. My idea is to move the United Nations headquarters to Israel. Pack up the whole damn bunch and put them on a fleet of ships to Haifa.

Conservatives in this country generally despise the UN, while the UN and our liberals constantly whine about everything the US does, so the move makes sense. Relocating to the most pestilent part of the world puts the Dudley do-right, world-fixers right next door to the action, and maybe motivate them to fix matters, instead of talking them to death. Looking out the window at the Golan Heights might be an education for some of those naïve bureaucrats.

A UN building, and all the world’s emissaries in the middle of Israel might discourage radical Jew haters from launching missiles into the country. Likewise, any acts of aggression would be pretty obvious if tanks…either Arab or Israeli…start rolling over the BMW’s and Mercedes limos in the ambassador’s parking lot.

I’ll have to ponder on that one for a while, but at first glance, it looks like a win-win situation.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Welcome to my blog.

I’m retired from 30-plus years in the aerospace industry. I’m also retired military, with 4-years active duty in the Air Force, and another 21-years in the Air Force Reserve.

I was born and raised on a wheat farm in the great state of North Dakota, but spent much of my life building airplanes and missiles in the Pacific Northwest. I retired to North Texas in 1996, and then last year built a new home in East Texas. I now live on a rural acre with my wife, four dogs, numerous wild critters and few neighbors.

My current interests include working on old Chrysler cars and writing fiction. I also like to work with wood, though I’m getting too old to do much of that anymore. My idea of ultimate relaxation is cruising in my ’64 Valiant convertible on a warm Texas night, with a cup of coffee in hand and listening to a CD of Golden Oldies. Mopar, Starbucks, and Roy Orbison. You can’t beat the combination.

My political bent is somewhat convoluted. First, I’m a flag-waving patriot of the first order and I love this country. I’m a strict, Constitutionalist/Conservative when it comes to taxes, government’s role in our lives, professional ethics, and personal responsibilities.

As far as social issues go, I’m more of a libertarian. I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your own home, but don’t make it my business by forcing your desires to become an issue for me to address. Keep your cultural and personal anomalies to yourself and don’t demand my acceptance, or try to change my mind about what I believe. I really don’t give a damn about your sexual proclivity, the reason for your latest inferiority complex, or your need for weed.

Unlike the stereotypical conservative, I’m not religious, but I’m not anti-religious either. I consider myself an agnostic because no one has been able to prove the existence of God to me, nor has anyone been able to prove He doesn’t exist. I find passionate people from both groups often tend to be a pain in the ass. I’ll happily bow my head and respect your faith while you say a prayer, but don’t try to convert me. I respect your need and will staunchly defend your right to believe as you wish, and to practice your faith without being hassled, but please return the favor and respect my opinion.

I mentioned that I like to write fiction, but I don’t consider myself a writer. That comes with time, learning, and dedication to the craft. At this point, I’m only putting on paper those stories that have been floating around in my head for ages.
I recently completed my first novel…In Dreams…a story about two older people trying to recapture the past. Someone said that your first novel is written from the heart and the rest from your brain. The heart seldom sells stories, and because I have no intentions to self-publish, my In Dreams manuscript is probably destined to wind up in a stack of old papers for my kids to sort through when I’m gone. They can throw it in the trash, but I don’t have the heart to do it. There’s that heart thing again.

My second novel is in work and is tentatively titled A Murder in Church. As the title suggests, it’s a mystery that takes place in the small, fictional town of Church, Montana. No CSI…no car chases…no insane serial killers…no studly, rule-breaking detectives with a bevy of gorgeous girlfriends. I hope to write the story in the vein of the old, traditional mystery, with believable characters and real life situations. It too, is probably destined to become a trunk novel.

As I did in a previous blog on an automotive website, I will probably write about whatever interests me on a particular day. Some days it will be a journal entry, while others might be a full page political diatribe. I don’t intend to write something every day, and the frequency depends on my fervor at the moment.