Friday, January 30, 2009

Things I Didn't Do

Listening to a friend talk about all the things they do when they travel got me to thinking about my aversion to partake in the usual tourist activities. I’ve never been a touristy person, preferring to see the countryside instead of the designated pay-to- view places.

Here are a few things I didn’t do in places with lots of things to see and do…though I suppose I should have done some of them.

I lived in Western Washington for 30 years and never once made a trip to the ocean, or rode a ferry boat. If not for carting visitors around, I might never have ridden the elevator to the top of the Space Needle, or cruised the Pike Place Market. Eating fish and chips at Ivar’s and feeding the gulls is far more fun than fighting crowds at those other places.

I lived in the Dallas area for ten years and never visited the Texas Book Depository. As best I can recall, I only entered downtown Dallas once, and that was one time too many. I like Fort Worth, but Dallas is not for me. Eating a chicken fried steak in the stockyards easily beats the heck out of dodging the nutty Dallas traffic.

I spent four days in Orlando a couple of years ago, and never saw Disney World or any of the other theme parks. Didn’t even drive by. Take that, Mickey!

Visited San Francisco and didn’t see either the Golden Gate Bridge, or Alcatraz, though I guess they were somewhere out there in the fog. A few minutes strolling among the fruits and nuts in cold, gloomy, foul-smelling, downtown San Francisco had me more than anxious to leave town.

I recently spent three days in Nashville and didn’t visit the Grand Old Opry, or even enter the downtown area. Forty-nine years ago, before the confusing freeways were built, I drove by the original Grand Old Opry in the middle of the night. I wasn’t impressed then, so I didn’t think I’d be impressed now.

Drove right by the Clinton Library in Little Rock and didn’t even take the van off cruise control. It was early afternoon, and there were two cars in the parking lot, so apparently I wasn’t the only one unimpressed by the monument to the lecherous felon from Arkansas.

Spent 30 months in Europe and never left Germany…but that was partly because my security clearance made travel difficult. I did get to the top of the highest mountain in Germany, from which you could see mountains in seven countries, and that was all I cared to see of them.

I suppose some folks would be terribly disappointed to have been to those places and not taken in all the sights, but I don’t feel I’ve missed anything. I guess I don’t hear the same tunes everyone else does, or if I do, I’m not in step.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tax Time is Around the Corner

Haven’t had much time to blog lately, as I’m trying to catch up on a bunch of long delayed projects around the house. Between building the last couple of kitchen cabinets and trying to organize the garage, I’m also getting our financial records ready to file income tax.

By this time next month, I’ll be chained to the computer, working with Tax Cut, and trying to figure out the confusing income tax rules. I’d really rather take a beating, but when I recall how an accountant overcharged us last time, I’ll do my best to struggle through it one more time. Since Judy retired from her Realtor career last year, it shouldn’t be quite as bad as it’s been in the past.

I guess I could be like our new Treasury Secretary and wing our financial benefit, of course. If a tax cheat can be in Obama’s cabinet, I shouldn’t have any problem. Yeah, right! A few years ago, I made a mistake on a return and the $75 I shorted the IRS had to be paid immediately, plus a penalty of $35. Obama’s guy owed thousands, but apparently got by just paying the overdue tax.

Last year I had a problem identifying where and how one source of income should be entered on the 1040, so I called the Fort Worth IRS office. The answer I got just didn’t sound right, so I called again and talked to another “expert”. He gave me a different answer, but something still didn’t seem right, so I called a third person and he gave me yet another answer. If the IRS employees can’t understand the tax code well enough to give good instructions, I don’t know how they can expect normal taxpayers to figure it out.

Monday, January 26, 2009


The only things missing tonight are the London Bridge and Jack the Ripper. It’s foggy, cold and eerily quiet. No wind, no moon and the lights in the houses across the street are a gloomy yellow and barely visible. I was outside earlier and the absolute stillness gave me the creeps. Wait!...did I just hear the fog-muffled sound of leather heels clicking on cobblestones? Why did the dogs just run for the house?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Short Civics Lesson

We often hear that the government of the United States referred to as a Democracy and then when you point out that it's a Republic, some will accuse you of nitpicking. They are not the same, and this little video does a great job of explaining the differences.

Our Government

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Aloe Vera is Croaking!

No,it’s not dying…seriously, it's actually croaking!

For several mornings, just at sunrise, I’ve heard a strange, squawking noise while I’m in the office surfing the Net. I attributed it to some unidentifiable bird in the big tree outside, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. This morning, I happened to be standing near the aloe plant that resides in a big pot on the dining room table when I heard a loud croak emanate from inside the plant. When I checked, I saw a medium sized toad crawl back under one of the leaves and attempt to hide.

I brought this plant in from the patio before the first frost last November, so it’s been sitting on the table since then. I guess the toad hopped into the pot and burrowed into the soil while it was outside. Except for a few spiders and a lady bug or two, I haven’t seen any bugs in the house, so he must have been awfully hungry after two months inside.

There are a couple of huge flower pots on the patio that are empty except for dirt and a few leaves that have blown in since I took the flower bulbs out last fall. Well, that’s now his new home. Nothing much to protect him from above, but it’s the best I could do. The temperature reached 78F today, and there were a few bugs out and about, so he probably found lunch under the leaves.

Last summer, we discovered a chameleon in an artificial plant hanging on the wall. I have no idea how he got in the house, but I hope no other wild critters find a way to let themselves in. Two years ago, we had a copperhead in the house, so we’ve had our share of uninvited visitors.

A few years ago, I wrote a story about a toad that sat by our back door every night. The story was published in the local paper as a guest feature. I'll see if I can find it one of these days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not Everyone Loves a Parade

I didn’t watch the swearing-in today, but I did spend some time watching the parade. I actually felt sympathy for those in the reviewing stand who had to stick around in the cold for a parade that lasted about four times as long as it should have.

Forgive my insensibility, but fire trucks belong in a small town parade, not the inauguration parade. We’ve all seen them…many times. There must have been twenty of them today, and bleating air horns don’t excite me. Carpenters don't take their belt sanders to a parade, nor do loggers fire up their chain saws. Ban fire trucks and marching firefighters. Ditto for any group that plays the bagpipes.

High school bands desiring to attend should be judged by a panel of judges with the gall of Simon Cowell, and only the best five in the country get to enter the parade.

All college bands wearing oversized furry hats or gold lamé pants should be banned from attending. That would eliminate several of today’s participants, and give our eyes a rest from institutionalized bad taste in fashion.

The parade should have one band each from the president’s and vice-president’s home town, and the rest of the parade should be made up of the winning high school and college bands, plus marching units and bands from the five military branches.

That would reduce the parade to about the right size, and it would give the president time to go home and take a nap before making his appearance at all the inaugural balls.

One last thing. Any band director who makes his band play “We shall overcome”, as they pass the reviewing stand, should be neutered.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Suggestion for Obama

Now that we are about to swear in the first African American President of the United States, the fears, expectations and questions about what he wants to do, and what he can do, are running rampant. The Internet forums buzz with speculation, and everyone I talk to eventually gets around to discussing the issue.

I expect that President Obama and I will be diametrically opposite on nearly everything political, but I’m hopeful that we can walk arm in arm on a few social issues. He’s in a unique position to do wonderful things for the country if he can keep his ego controlled and his left wing supporters at bay. If he can set a positive example for young black men, and convince them to follow, it will do far more good for the country than any legislation he signs.

In a culture where more children are born to unmarried women than to married women, if his example of being a father to his two girls makes even a small percentage of young black men realize they have responsibilities to their children, imagine the effect it would have on generational welfare and the crime problem.

If dressing neatly becomes the fashion for young blacks to emulate, the entire country will benefit. How I’d love to see those baggy pants, unlaced shoes, and sloppy team jerseys disappear, to be replaced by clothing that fits. Maybe he could even wear a baseball cap now and then, to show that the way it’s designed to be worn is with the bill pointed forward.

If Obama continues his derision of rap and hip-hop, perhaps the gangsters will be purged from modern music and talent once again rewarded. Blacks have always set the country’s musical trends, but how could you ever compare the drivel they call music today with the work of Nat King Cole, The Platters, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Pride, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Ray Charles, and Marian Anderson, or hundreds of other talented black performers.

If Obama can convince black children that an education is the best path to success, what a difference it will make in our schools and our labor force.

Yes, the new president can do for his country something that no white president could ever do for minorities...he can lead by example. America proved that while racism might not be dead, it’s no longer able to prevent anyone from reaching the highest office in the land. Let’s hope he can rise to the challenge and focus on the good he can accomplish, and not waste time pandering to the extreme demands of the left.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

I hope this is an indication of an early spring. I don’t recall the tulips ever being this far along in the middle of January. The amount of growth is about normal for the first week of February. The Irises are also ahead of schedule, but only one variety of the four or five I planted is showing. I don’t know if it’s an earlier variety, or if it’s just dumb, because winter is far from over. The last freeze in this part of the state is normally around the first of April, but we seldom get a killing frost after early March.

Yesterday, one of my old coffee drinking buddies said he’s been preparing his garden to plant peas, so I’ll have to follow his lead since I always plant too late. I’m used to the Western Washington schedule, and that’s too late if you want your plants to survive the summer heat.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pillars of Light

Rita sent me this beautiful picture, and here's a link where you can see more pictures and read about this natural phenomenon that looks like it belongs in a science fiction movie.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Whooping Crane News

Don’t know if you’ve been following the saga of the Whooping Crane chicks migration that I link to, but if not, I'll tell you that progress has been slow this year. They began the migration from Wisconsin in the middle of October and still haven’t reached Florida. The team took a break over the holidays, and since then have had many no-fly days due to bad weather.

They had one bad boy in the group that was constantly fighting with his flock mates, and even killed another chick. To minimize the chance of that happening again, the Operation Migration team turned him loose on the refuge in Wisconsin, hoping he would join up with the older birds and follow them. He did. He arrived in Florida in December, having followed the older birds and apparently minding his manners around those that could whip his feathery butt if he got out of line. Makes you wonder if they might do that with more chicks next year. If it works well, it sure beats leading them with trikes.

They had better hurry to their wintering area so they can rest a few weeks before they turn around and head back. The Purple Martin scouts have already arrived in Florida, Louisiana and South Texas on their way back north, so the spring migration has begun. They're a week or two ahead of schedule, so maybe that means we’ll have an early spring this year. I'm ready.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Music on a Saturday night

Saturday night is my weekly opportunity to escape to another time and another place, and the KAAM radio link over in the right column, is the means I use. I seldom watch television, but my radio is on nearly all the time, and I always make an effort to be free to listen to Crusin’ Al Taylor’s oldies show that runs from 6 PM until midnight Central time, on Saturday.

Late Spring and Summer are great as they seldom have a reason to pre-empt the show, but in Winter, the show takes a back seat to SMU basketball and that’s why I have time to post tonight. SMU is playing UTEP.

My guess is that far more people listen to Cruisin’ Al playing Elvis and Buddy Holly, than listen to the ball game, but I suppose the ball game pays the bills.

When I bought my new van, it came with a one year subscription to Sirius satellite radio, and it has only one good oldies channel plus over 100 channels that I never listen to. Their meager offering of oldies music might be a reason satellite radio is in trouble. If they offered an ala carte menu so I could get my conservative talk shows along with a couple of golden oldies channels for a reduced price, I’d happily renew my subscription. What they offer now isn't worth $12 a month.

Well, the ball game is over, so it’s time to escape again….

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'll Save it for the Next Time

Did you ever get the feeling that you buy some things just so you can throw them away? I guess I have a short memory, because it seems like the same things get thrown out almost every time I buy them.

Fresh herbs. That’s number one on the list. We’ll pick out a recipe that absolutely has to have three or four different fresh herbs, but only a sprig or two of each is needed. Then six weeks later, I look in the refrigerator drawer and there are those little plastic boxes with a few withered and moldy remnants of the herbs we just had to have for that recipe that wasn’t nearly as tasty as it looked in the cook book.

Another item is lemon juice. No matter if I buy one of those little yellow, lemon-shaped containers or a big bottle, at least 90% has to be thrown out when it turns brown and rancid. And of course, then I have to make a special trip to Wal-Mart to get another container of lemon it too can die a slow death in the refrigerator. Ditto for Louisiana hot sauce. Use a dab…store it on the shelf for a few months…throw it out…buy another bottle. The cycle never ends.

Then there are apples. With good intentions of improving our diets by eating more fresh fruit, I buy a half-dozen apples. We eat one or two, but the rest always remain in the drawer until they look like one of those wrinkly-faced granny dolls you see in the craft magazines.

Oranges are nearly as bad. I buy two, and they're as sweet as honey, so I buy several more from the same bin. Naturally, they are as sour as persimmons, which means those that are left are banished to the back of the drawer to shrivel up until the next refrigerator purge banishes them to the compost pile.

In the non-food category it’s paint. No matter which project I buy paint for, I always have too much left over to throw away, so it winds up on the shelf with a dozen other cans. However, the day always arrives when I need a little bit of that exact color I saved. I’m so brilliant and frugal! Then I open the gallon can and find a quart of rubberized paint, flecked with rust.

I can’t forget nails either. I’ll buy a pound of bright finish nails and use half of them. Instead of just throwing the rest away at the time, I store them in one of my little plastic bins for a few months, and when rust has finally taken over completely, I throw out the nails and now I get to clean rust stains from the plastic drawer.

There are many more things I could add to the list, but I don’t want to embarrass myself any more than I already have.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dog Days

The traveling vet came by today to give shots to all the dogs, and to check Belle’s thyroid condition. Yes, our vet makes house calls, but she charges extra for the house call plus a fuel surcharge because we live over 20 miles from her base of operations.

The reason we have the vet come to the house is because Belle will not lead with a leash, and since she weighs over100 lbs, you can’t carry her. Naturally, it couldn’t be one of the small dogs that needs a checkup every three months, it has to be the biggest oaf in the house. She also gets car sick, so unless you want to break your back and have your car to smell like dog puke and excrement, you ask the vet to make a house call.

At least they now have all their required shots, ears have been cleaned, heartworm tests have been run and we have another three months to save up a small fortune for Belle’s next exam.

Thank goodness dogs don’t go to college!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Your Government at Work.

Combine ignorance, zealousness and good intentions, and you have the typical government edict. I can hardly wait until they’re running health care and the auto industry. If the government seriously wants to protect us, they should just slam the door on Chinese junk, not bankrupt a bunch of legitimate American businesses.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

CIA Joke

Leon Panetta as head of the CIA? That is absolutely insane! Was that pick because Capt. Kangaroo was dead? Hell, at least Capt. Kangaroo was a former combat Marine, while Panetta was a two-year Army 1Lt who's sole decoration is a commendation medal. Even I have one of those, and I'm certainly not qualified to lead a spy agency, though I'm probably better qualified than Panetta.

There are some jobs where political correctness must not figure in the equation, and Central Intelligence is one of them. When Carter took away the tools the CIA needed to do their job, we wound up with 9-11, and putting a wimp like Panetta in that job guarantees we'll have another major intelligence screw up before he's done destroying an already wounded organization.

If the number of ads being played around here are any idication, the CIA is in desperate need of people. I imagine the same thing is happening that happened to the military when Clinton was elected. There was a mass exodus to leave the service before he got into office.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Our Leaders Should be Proud

Judicial Watch recently came out with their list of the top ten corrupt politicians. It was no surprise to learn that seven of them were Democrats and three were Republicans. The sleaze ratio has been about the same for as long as I can remember despite the mainstream media’s efforts to protect Democrats at every opportunity. Now that Bill Richardson has apparently been caught up in a pay for play scandal, Judicial Watch may want to increase the number of corrupt politicians on their list. It shouldn't be difficult to reach the twenty mark.

Clearing corruption within the party is where the Republicans should begin to rebuild if they hope to regain the House and Senate. They need to purge the sleazy few who always manage to drag the party through the mud once they are discovered. Drum them out of the party so that no R’s show up on lists like this one. No matter how senior they might be in Congress, or how important a job they might hold, Republicans have to make it clear that they will not tolerate anyone who violates the public trust.

Once the party gets its act together, they’ll have the right to take the high road into elections, but until they do, they can only say they are half as bad as the Democrats, and that’s nothing to brag about.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sunny, Sad, Summer Saturday

Yep, the weather yo-yo was on the upswing again today. It was 76 degrees when I went shopping and WalMart was filled with short shorts, tank tops and sandals. several convertibles had their tops down and if there were leaves on the trees, you'd swear it was May, not January.

Sassy, the oldest of our furry pack is not doing well. Some days she has trouble walking and now she often forgets where she is and what she's doing. She's had several accidents on the floor when she apparently thinks she is outside. It's reached the point that I've been taking her out in the middle of the night so she doesn't have to struggle to find the doggy door.

I gave her a haircut today, and while she looks better, her fur still looks dull, yellow and unhealthy. Even a bath fails to make it shiny.

The mobile vet will be coming next week to give the other dogs their shots and to check Belle's thyroid condition. We've been debating whether to have her put Sassy down, but just about the time I think we should, Sassy struggles up to me, sticks her nose against my leg to verify that it's me, and then wags her tail with happiness. Her dark, silent world must be lonely, but as long as she knows we're still here, she seems happy. Dogs bring so much happiness...and heartbreak. I just wish she would go to sleep tonight and not wake up in the morning.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year...and don't forget the cabbage!

Ready or not, it’s here. 2009. We welcomed the new year by watching a movie on television, and then listening to KAAM play golden oldies until midnight. A glass of sparkling cider and a handful of crème brulee almonds was the extent of celebratory indulgence, and then it was off to bed.

Yesterday, I managed to get all the Christmas decorations down and packed away, so that was a relief. Ours were the last decorations up in the neighborhood this year, and the first down, but Southern, or maybe it’s Texas tradition that dictates they should be down before January 1st. I sure don’t want to violate Texas tradition, especially since I hail from north of the Mason-Dixon line, and want to retain my “good ol’ boy” standing in the community.

There are lots of New Years traditions, and I think I managed to comply with most of them, so hopefully we’ll avoid bad luck. The house was clean, so it wouldn’t be a mess for the rest of the year. Then, today, we ate black-eyed peas and cabbage, and those are “musts” on the first day of the year. I think you’re also supposed to eat tamales, but maybe that’s only the Latinos. In any case, I’m not a tamale fan, so I’ll risk a tiny bit of bad luck and pass on their mandatory consumption.