Friday, December 30, 2011

Year-end Roundup

Another year behind us…and more uncertainty ahead. I wonder if I’ll even have an Internet site where I can post my thoughts at this time in 2012. The more I read and hear, the more I fear that the second Tuesday of November will be the tripwire for the future of our country. If we continue down the path of socialism I foresee attempts to split the country in two, or to change that path with social upheaval that could make the Arab Spring look like a family spat.

As I sat watching several chipping sparrows, goldfinches and one busy titmouse at my bird feeders this morning, I was thinking that instead of retiring I should have kept a job so I could get more done around the house. The more time I have off, the less I seem to get done. It’s hard to imagine how I managed to accomplish so much and still work a full-time job all those years. Without having to plan my day as I did when I worked, I now find it too easy to sit down with a good book or a crossword puzzle when I should be working on my honey-do list.

We should be breaking ground on our new house in a few weeks. Everything has ground to a halt during the holidays, but should start moving again when the world gets back to a normal schedule. The drawings have been reviewed and corrections are to be finished this week. Then we can get the permits and process the loan and insurance paperwork. The builder estimates it will take about three months to build, so we might be moved in by the first of May.

I was doing some research on the itty-bitty town of Ponder, where we are building. Not much history there, with the exception that Bonnie and Clyde once tried to hold up the town bank, but discovered that it had gone broke a week earlier. There are fewer than twenty businesses listed with a Ponder address, but the steakhouse boasts that it is a favorite eating establishment for the Hollywood-type known as Meatloaf, and his pictures on the wall speak to their honest claim. I wouldn’t know the guy if he walked in and stepped on my foot, but I guess you grab all the celebrity association you can find.

Weatherwise, the year is going out gently in this part of Texas and I’m not complaining. The temperature was near 70 today, and I actually worked up a sweat doing a few chores outside. You can’t beat that kind of weather at this time of the year, and the forecast is the same for tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Christmas Wish

I guess I’ll never understand some atheist’s rabid opposition to any religious sign or symbol being displayed on public property. You might have read about the dust-up over a manger scene on county property in the little town of Athens, TX, just a few miles down the road from here. There is talk of lawsuits, and last week several thousand people gathered for a demonstration in support of the display. No matter what happens, the only lasting result will be more bitterness, hatred and distrust.

Even if someone doesn’t share the beliefs of those who erected the display, why do they object to a symbol that represents goodness? Is there something threatening about joy, peace and love? It’s not as if the government is dictating that anyone must pray to a deity, or submit to any doctrine. I’ve never seen the three wise men carrying signs telling everyone to become a Baptist. A manger scene should be no more offensive than hanging a welcome home banner on public property proclaiming love for the community's high school football team. I know the Constitution doesn’t address sports teams, but here in Texas, a winning football coach is next thing to a god. Some folks might object to a banner like that, and I’m not a fan of football, but I’m certainly not offended by enthusiastic fans celebrating their excitement.

Religion is faith in something you believe to be true, but can’t be proven scientifically. It’s an individual’s unwavering trust that our presence on earth is not happenstance. If tenants of these scientifically debatable beliefs advocate honesty, respect for others, love, and helping those who can’t help themselves, why is advocating that belief so offensive?

My personal opinion is that Christians would be better served by being more humble about practicing their faith. They should accept the fact that there are millions of Deists, Jews, Agnostics, and others who don’t share their religious beliefs, but are tolerant and willing to coexist on this earth peacefully and respectfully.

Atheists would also be better served to practice their no-God beliefs a bit less stridently. I wonder if they even realize that their theory that a higher power doesn’t exist, is also not provable and is just as offensive to believers to have it constantly shoved in their face. Tolerance is a virtue we can all use more of.

No matter what you believe, or don’t believe, Christmas should be accepted as a beautiful story, and should offend no one.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Question 2011

Are you better off now than you were three years ago?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Surprise from the Garden

I didn't plant watermelons this year, since squash beetles ruined all my vine plants last year and I wasn't ready for another round of disappointment.

After I harvested the last of my meager crop of tomatoes and peppers in August, a volunteer watermelon plant sprouted next to the tomato plants. I decided to let it grow, but did nothing to help it survive.

Two melons developed, and before the frost hit I picked the biggest one. To my shock, it was ripe and is probably the tastiest watermelon I ever ate! It must have been a hybrid that reverted back to it's original form, because it has far more seeds than those typically sold today, but the exquisite flavor makes spitting out a few more seeds a minor problem.  

The bell pepper plants also decided to yield a fall crop, so despite the losses from the brutally hot summer, I did manage to harvest a few early Christmas presents.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Late Fall in East Texas

As long as I'm posting pictures of our late fall...this one was taken at a friend's rural home and it made the local television website. We don't often get to see displays this brilliant.

If The Weather Doesn't Cooperate, Just Wait a Minute

The hot, dry summer and fall created confusion for many of our plants. The trees turned brown and shed most of their leaves a month before their normal time to drop, but when the rains came last month, some trees began growing replacements. Those new leaves displayed far more fall colors than is normal for this part of the country. The are also more than a month late, and only now have the trees seriously begun shedding their leaves.

The shrubs and flowers are also perplexed. Our single rose bush has been totally ignored since I planted it under an oak tree three years ago. I'm not a rose fan and only planted it because it was given to us. It normally bears a few pathetic looking flowers in summer, but by November it didn't have a leaf left, and I was certain it was dead. It has never bloomed in the fall, but this is what it looks like today, after after several frosts last week.

It looks as if the Texas sage is also getting ready to bloom again. It loves hot summers, but it's awfully late for it to bloom.

The heat killed most of our encore azeleas, but one keeps trying despite being baked all summer and now frozen several times.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Maybe This Would Work

Dogs and Storms

As much as I appreciate the rain we've been receiving recently, I have also come to dread the thunder that goes along with it. Not because it bothers me, but the dog is driving me nuts!

She tries to get away from the noise, but doesn't know how to do it, or where to go. If I let her, she will climb on my lap when I'm in the chair, or stand on my head when I'm in bed. She's too big to fit under the bed, and she didn't like being alone in the closet, but I'll be darned if I'm going to spend the night in the closet with her!

I don't understand what makes one dog instinctively fear something that another dog totally ignores. Our sweet Belle, the big, loveable Shar Pei we lost last year, had no fear of thunder and could sleep right through a storm, but if she passed gas and it made a little noise, she would leap up and run out of the room in a panic.

Dogs are wonderful, but sometimes very puzzling.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New House Progress Report

It appears we are on schedule to begin building our new house sometime in January. We met with the builder yesterday and picked up the drawings. They had a few errors and omissions, so we'll have to mark them up and return to the draftsman. With everything drafted on computers in this day and age, he should have them ready within a day.

The cabinet distributor also sent their detailed kitchen cabinet drawing and a bid, so now we have numbers to compare to other sources. Except for their installation cost, the price actually came in below my estimate.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December Potpourri

Despite all my good intentions, I've been terribly guilty of not posting regularly, but the world situation has been such that about all I want to do is assume the fetal position and whine. However, that won't help anything, so I'm once again going to try being more diligent when it comes to blogging.

Winter finally arrived in East Texas. We had our first frost last week, so I had to pick the last of my tomatoes and green peppers. I also picked one volunteer watermelon that was almost full size. I haven't cut it open yet, but I doubt it will be ripe.

Our severe drought was also eased with a few good rains the past several weeks and even more forecast for the next week. The soil is well soaked, so now we need a few gulley-washers to help refill the lakes and ponds.

Some of you know that we'll be moving back to North Texas as soon as we get a house built. We closed on a two acre lot on the outskirts of the tiny town of Ponder, in Denton, County, about nine miles from the city of Denton. We got a call from the builder yesterday that the plans are ready for review, so we'll probably be breaking ground soon after the first of the new year. It will be smaller than the house we live in now, and will be even more energy efficient. It will also have a backup generator and will be wired to make it easy to install solar power at some later date. Since the current president boasted that his policies will make energy prices "necessarily skyrocket", I'd like to be prepared as much as possible.

I've been slowly restoring the old '56 Plymouth I bought over a year ago. Most of the chrome parts have been replated and the stainless steel polished. The body has been stripped and will be taken to have the rust removed by a chemical dip. I had planned on doing that by now, but since the shop doing the work is located near Fort Worth, I'll wait until we move so I won't have to haul it twice.

The new home will have a large heated and cooled workshop, so restoring cars won't require suffering from extreme summer heat or winter's chill. Yes, I'm getting soft in my old age, but why suffer if you don't have to.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ode to the Welfare State

If you think the welfare state is something new, this shows how old the political cancer is in this country.

I Must be on the List

Now that the Senate passed the bill that allows American citizens to be rounded up and held indefinitely without benefit of constitutional rights, I guess I'm automatically on the government's list...the list of potential terrorists. From what I've read, if you have more than two weeks worth of groceries stored, own more than one gun, have anti-government stickers on your vehicle, have posted comments criticizing the president, or have served in the military, you can make the list. Since I'm guilty of all of the above, I probably rank quite high on the list. Well, now you feds can add one more for insulting congress, because every senator who voted for that bill is a traitor to America. Yes, Texas' two senators voted for it and I will do everything I can to see them defeated for any elected office they seek in the future.
Edit: I'm reading conflicting reports that Rand Paul was successful in defeating the controversial part of the bill.

Speaking of those wonderful folks along the I received notice of the 3.6% increase in Social Secutity benefits and the insurance rate change that goes along with it. I will now be making $57 less net income per month after the raise. No, it won't require me to eat dog food, but I don't think I can stand another raise.

It's time to impeach Obama and the Supreme Court, recall Congress, fire every bureaucrat, and flush the moral and ethical pollution that permeates our goverment.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some Personal Veterans Day Thoughts

Another Veteran’s Day come and gone, but weekend events continue.

Am I the only veteran who is somewhat embarrassed by the fairly recent and seemingly expected desire to express love and respect for those who put time in the military? Most thanks are sincere, but sometimes I feel the words come from those who instinctively hate the military’s  guts, but don’t wish to be viewed negatively by their peers.

Fifty-two years and some months ago, I enlisted in the Air Force at age 17. It wasn’t wartime, but there was a draft in effect, and the only decision we young men had to make was if we preferred to serve three or four years on active duty, or if a part time hitch in a local National Guard or Reserve unit better suit life’s plans. Very few of my friends and acquaintances made conscious plans to avoid military service.

I didn’t enlist because of a burning desire to serve or to sacrifice. Military service was something expected of every young man, and we accepted it as such. It was also a rite of passage…one of the first items to cross off your adult bucket list, even though you didn’t yet realize such a mental list existed. Those who enjoyed formal education went off to college and joined ROTC, or perhaps a National Guard unit, while some enlisted after they received their degree, or they simply waited for the draft board to summon them for a shorter two-year tour of duty. Those of us, who were bored to tears in high school, raised our right hands and happily flew off to basic training. We were seeking adventure and excitement, and an opportunity to get away from home while getting paid a meager salary to do it.

I served my contractual four years on active duty, and while I mostly enjoyed that time, pay was low and promotions were slow, so I got out. Progressing from a scrawny pimply teen, who couldn’t be trusted to take out the garbage when asked, to an airman wearing the uniform of the United States and being trusted to help launch a nuclear missile was an awesome step. It helped you quickly grow up and learn the importance of accepting personal responsibility.

After a couple of years as a civilian, American involvement in the Southeast Asian conflicts began and I decided I wanted to rejoin the organization and the people that I had come to love and respect. I tried to reenlist in the regular Air Force, but they weren’t taking people with prior service. It took over nine years, and while I never could get back on active duty, I was eventually able to join the Air Force Reserve as an electrician on the C-141A Starlifter. I came to love the job and the camaraderie of working with others who wore the same blue suit and shared similar experiences.  Nineteen years later, I retired when it appeared that a sleazy draft dodger by the name of William Jefferson Clinton would be elected president and I decided I didn’t want his signature on my retirement papers.

That’s probably far more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I just wanted to explain how an old veteran became that veteran.

I don’t want to be thanked for my service. In my twenty-three years in the military, I never heard a shot fired in anger, I never saw a body bloodied by combat, and I never feared for my life. I babysat missiles during the cold war, and I fixed airplanes or pushed paper during the latter years of the Vietnam War. Yes, I saw the flag-draped aluminum coffins that arrived stateside on our airplanes, and I smelled the death they contained, but I don’t deserve thanks for doing something I loved while getting paid to do it. I was the far more typical airman/soldier/Marine/sailor for most of my career…the non-combat variety…not the dirty, sweating grunts that make the evening news because the viewing public finds pain and suffering more entertaining than anything done by the nine out of ten GIs who provide mission support for the combat troops.

I carried a weapon only during training or while on alert status. The rest of the time I carried a tool box or a briefcase. Oh, I too suffered the jeers and insults from a generation that hated anyone who wore a uniform…and the critics didn’t care if your job was to drop a tank of napalm, or count C-rations. The hate bothered me, but suffering insults is nothing compared to humping a pack in a stinking, vermin ridden jungle, or up the side of a mountain in 100+ degree heat.

I have a baseball cap that declares I’m retired Air Force. I often wore it at certain gatherings to send a message to others who wore the uniforms of the United States. It was an invitation to share stories and reminisce about our youth. However, when it became the norm for people to begin thanking me for my service, I quit wearing the cap in most venues. For similar reasons, I have begun avoiding such public events as Veterans Day parades, and Memorial Day services. I’m simply not comfortable sharing praise with those who earned it by risking life and limb, and especially those who died.

Perhaps I would feel differently if I had experienced war up close and personal, but I didn’t, so please don’t thank me for doing something I chose to do without expectation of anything more than a warm feeling and a big enough paycheck to make it financially worthwhile.

If I had my druthers, people would show veterans their thanks by doing everything in their power to rid our political system of those who violate their oath to defend and protect this country against all enemies, foreign or domestic. I swore that oath six times during my military career, and even though I no longer wear a uniform, I will continue to honor the oath I took. When we have accomplished that mission, we can thank each other…and I won’t be embarrassed to hear it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rain at Last

When I lived in Western Washington, I never thought I would welcome rain as much as I did today. We've had a few light showers in the past three weeks, but today we were treated to two hours of a nice steady rain that produced nearly an inch of the wet stuff. That should dampen the forest floor enough to lessen the chance of wildfires.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It Works!

...the emergency generator, that is. Last winter I bought a 20kw, propane powered generator and had it wired to start by itself when the power goes off. About 10PM last night, a car hit a transformer about a half-mile down the road. Less than a minute after the power died, the generator started and everything worked as advertised.

Only problem was that I felt guilty sitting in my chair and reading a book while the neighbors wandered around with flashlights and candles. I did offer to run extension cords if it turned into a long outage, but thank goodness repairs were made by 2AM.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Legal Tender not so Legal

Louisiana recently passed a law that purchases for second hand items cannot be made in cash. Checks and money orders are fine, but “legal tender” is not. The reason given is that authorities want a paper trail to discourage thieves from reselling at thrift stores, pawn shops, garage sales, etc. As if another law will discourage someone who already broke the law that created the situation.

All they've done is create yet another law that honest people will ignore. Seems like the more laws that are written, the fewer are being enforced and the more irrelevant the authorities become.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Where are the Hummingbirds?

Every year we have been treated to the sight of hundreds of migrating hummingbirds stopping at our house to refuel and rest. We have six feeders that had to be refilled every day and at the peak of migration, more than once a day. A dozen birds would hover a few feet away while I refilled an empty feeder, and would begin feeding as soon as I stepped away. Our next door neighbor also had several feeders to catch the overflow from us.

This year there are no migratory birds...none! When I first put up a feeder in early September, it was visited by what I believe was one local family of Ruby-throats. We never had more than four birds visit, and that number has dwindled to one regular visitor. Typically, they are gone by the second week in October, so I imagine our one little bird will be gone any day now.

It must be the drought that's altered their migration route. Louisiana has had more rain, so they might have shifted their flight path a few miles to the east. Whatever the cause, I sure miss the entertaining little critters.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Live Free or Die

Every politician should watch and heed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee

So near, and yet so far. Tropical storm Lee was spinning a mere 40 miles from here and drenching the area with the rain we so badly need, but its westward progress stalled between the towns of Nacogdoches and Jacksonville. Nearly two feet of rain fell in parts of Louisiana, but all we got to see was a heavy cloud bank hanging on the horizon off to the southeast. At least, the hundred degree days might have ended for the year.

This dry, hot year, combined with the turmoil in the world reminds me of the lyrics in the old Kingston Trio song from the 50’s.

They're rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain.
There's hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don't like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil, and thankful, and proud,
For mans' been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away.

They're rioting in Africa, there's strife in Iran.
What nature doesn't do to us, will be done by our fellow man.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No Words to Describe

Perry Isn't Ready for Prime Time

"If Rick Perry wants to be president of the United States, he should start acting more like a president and less like a second-string radio talk-show host"...Democrat Strategist Susan Estrich

I think he should act more like dope-smoking pimp, since that seems to work.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Long Texas Winter

This is the longest it has gone with below freezing temperatures during my fifteen years in Texas. It's been three days since the temp climbed above 32, but is expected to grudgingly reach into the low 40's today. However, the reprieve is short, as the forecast is for snow and colder weather again next week. Hope the 4" we now have on the ground melts before we get more. Al Gore, you are nuts...

Lots of birds taking advantage of our feeders recently, as the snow really makes it tough for the little ground feeders to find a spot to forage.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Goodbye Spring...Hello Winter!

When I lived in North Dakota, we used to joke about the weather, saying if you didn't like it, just wait a minute and it will change. While that was somewhat true, I learned that Texas does it in spades.

From a balmy 73F the past two days, we are expecting heavy thunderstorms be followed by possible snow, before temperatures drop into the high teens Tuesday night.

The gas company came out this morning to hook up the propane line to my new generator, so I now have fuel to burn. The electrician was supposed to call me last week to set up an appointment to install the wiring, but so far I haven't heard anything from him. I suppose the coming storm will cause a power outage and the backup system won't be ready for use. I can run an extention cord from the generator to the house, but that will only power lights and a few other things. Better than nothing, but it would be nice to have the full system on line.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gloomy Day

It looked like the Pacific Northwest outside today. Temps in the mid-40's and moderately heavy rain most of the day. I woke up with some kind of stomach bug this morning, and the weather isn't helping my disposition. Attitudes will improve when it to begins to warm up again.

I wonder if we're going to have an early spring. The Goldfinches at the feeder have more color than I've ever seen at this time of the year. One little male is almost entirely yellow already. They also have a ravenous appetite and manage to empty a tube feeder of thistle seeds in less than two days.

The Purple Martins must also be planning on an early migration. Many scouts have been spotted, with some as far north as Atlanta and the San Antonio area. They are about a week earlier than normal.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Unchained Melody

Has any song been recorded by more artists than Unchained Melody? This Floyd Cramer version is my favorite.

Ego Buster

Billions of mysteries to solve, and our president wants NASA's new mission to be Muslim outreach, not exploration. So much to learn, and we get all wrapped up in political correctness and social agendas.

Somehow I think life on our tiny planet would be a bit more livable if every time we became a little full of ourselves we'd stop and consider the immensity of the universe.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What it Means

I don't often keep track of famous quotes, or who they might be attributed to, but I think it was Churchill who said that America and England were two countries divided by a common language. Modern political correctness has further extended that humorous truism to the thought processes that influence the American language differences between the left coast and flyover country.

For your daily chuckle....I can't get the link to work, so you'll have to copy and paste.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jury Duty Again

This is the third time I've been called in the three years I've lived in East Texas. I was called twice during the 10 years I lived in North Texas, and six times while living in Washington.

I've more than done my share of jury duty, and my attitude is such that any lawyer with half a brain will recognize it and excuse me from the panel. The last time I was called in Washington, I was asked by the judge during voir dire questioning if I had ever served on a jury. When I told him I had been on several, he asked if I enjoyed the experience. I said no, and when he asked me why not, I told him that I had seen lots of law being practiced, but not much justice being dispensed. I was excused.

What really burns me is the low number of Hispanics summoned. The Hispanic population is approximately 25% in Smith County, yet out of 300 citizens summoned the last time I served, during roll call I counted less than a dozen with Hispanic surnames. If jury duty was to represent a cross section of society, there should have been over seventy, so I have to conclude that either most Hispanics in the county are illegals and ineligible to serve, or they are not doing their civic duty.

If there isn't a somewhat representative Hispanic turnout tomorrow, I'm going to contact the paper and ask them to do some investigative reporting. After all, since almost half of those charged with crimes are Hispanic, they should have a jury of their peers deciding their guilt or innocence.

Just remember, if you are ever charged with a crime, your fate will be decided by 12 people who weren't smart enough to figure a way to get out of jury duty!