Monday, April 30, 2007

Medical Insurance Help For the Children

The Sunday Houston Chronicle ran an AP story, States Expand Children's Health Coverage. (linked via title bar)

“The goal of the states is to allow more middle-class families to participate in the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The states are raising income limits so families once shut out because of their earnings now can qualify.”

The goodness of our hearts tells us that taking care of those in need is the right thing to do; stepping out on a limb, “What would Jesus Do?”, comes to mind. My cynical mind sees little red flags anytime an article starts off with “Help the Children”; call me skeptical. Children need to be taken care of and I’m sure they will be; but let’s examine what is being proposed before we all start sobbing for the underprivileged little kid with his empty bowl asking, “More, please, Sir”.

“When the program began a decade ago, states could offer coverage to families whose income was not more than double the federal poverty level. Today, for example, that threshold is $41,300 for a family of four. A few states use a Medicaid-based formula that lets them insure more children than under the income limit.”

“Already, 18 states exceed the 200 percent level, with federal permission. Five more, plus the District of Columbia, could join the list this year, according to a survey by Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.”

I never considered myself poor back then, just prior to retiring from the police department with my family of five. I was making right about $40,000 from the City and never thought about asking the government for help, not ever. I had a portion of my income set aside for necessary expenses and lived on what was left; health insurance was part of the necessary expenses along with lots of other items that are not all that much fun.

Responsible folks build what’s called a budget and pay for the necessary items and then they consider extras like a fancy car, fancy clothing, a vacation and even what kind of food they plan to eat.

Now I know that the word budget is a four letter word in government, so they’ve used a “progressive dictionary” to alter its meaning, it now means nothing and so it doesn’t make them quite so uneasy when the numbers for money expected through taxation doesn’t come close to money promised in the form of entitlements. When that happens anything which comes up short or over can be passed on to some other generation who won’t mind.

Going back to that last quote, “Already, 18 states exceed the 200 percent level, with federal permission.” So why didn’t they just come out and say that in some states the poverty level is $82,600 a year for a family of four? I’m starting to wonder if we should start airlifting supplies for all those impoverished souls living from day to day with no hope of ever owning a new BMW.

“"State leaders are moving in a very different direction than the Bush administration is talking about," Guyer said. "They see that even moderate-income families increasingly find that coverage is simply unaffordable, and that it's appropriate to have some subsidy.””

Therein lies the problem with America, rather than take responsibility for managing and budgeting the funds available and acquired through individual efforts it has become increasingly more appropriate to have the government subsidize for the really important stuff like insurance for health care, prescription medicine or anything else that isn’t that much fun to pay for on your own. After all, if I can force my more wealthy neighbors, those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, those lucky ones who make way too much money and don’t deserve that much to begin with; if I can force them to help pay for my kids medical insurance then I might also be able to enjoy the good life.

The only way for a free people to remain free is to act responsibly. One of the rules of existence is approaching the breaking point; when a greater percentage of citizens line up looking for a hand out than the number of folks actively contributing to the public wallet then collapse is eminent. It’s time to shut off the free ride for those who are perfectly capable of carrying their own load; but they would prefer a lighter load at the expense of their neighbor.

There is Hope for Harry Reid

I read an AP article which explained that doctors are now taking advantage of the human body’s “natural openings” to undertake surgical procedures which in the past left the patient with scars and required long recuperative time. ( linked via title bar )

“A 4-year-old boy lay on an operating table in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago with a tumor that had eaten into his brain and the base of his skull. Standard surgery would involve cutting open his face, leaving an ugly scar and hindering his facial growth as he matured.”

“But doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center knew a way to avoid those devastating consequences. They removed much of the tumor through the boy's nose.”

I found the information especially promising as I contemplated the many opportunities for saving the life of Senator Harry Reid. They can now use Harry’s anus to remove that brain tumor, the one which has damaged his reasoning powers so badly as to make him believe that he is a patriotic American working to safe guard the country. In plain language, “Harry, pull your head out of your ass”; it would be so much easier for the doctors to work on you.

Laughable to the Point of Crying

I read Steve McVicker’s piece in this morning’s Houston Chronicle ( linked via title bar) where the U.S. Border Patrol is looking to hire 120 agents; not to guard against the influx of illegal aliens from Mexico and points south, no, they are being hired to guard the borders of Iraq. Did somebody slip drugs into the water or what?

We have 12 million illegal aliens who have infiltrated our sovereign soil and we are going to show another country how to prevent unwanted individuals from entering their country. Does anyone, other than Steve McVickers and myself, see something wrong with this picture?

Maybe next week we’ll invite Harry Reid to talk to the Iraqi troops to teach them how to win their war at the same time, you know, kill two countries at the same time. I’m sorry, that was supposed to be “kill two birds with one stone”.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

First Day on the Job

Lucy, her brother Donnie and I went to Minute Maid Park on Saturday to watch the Astros. As it turned out we actually won a game; after a seven game losing streak, a 10 – 1 blow out was plenty of fun for the 41,000 folks in the stands. That’s not what I’m writing about though; something else got my attention, I’ll eventually get to that.

We got to the stadium plenty early because there was a give away promotion, Astros Blanket Day. The first 10,000 through the turn stiles got a free Astros Blanket to take home so, knowing it was going to be close to a sell out crowd we wanted to be there when they opened the gates. We’d purchased our tickets on line and had to pick them up at the Will Call window prior to the game.

There were lines at each gate that stretched pretty much around the block and so I had them get in line while I did my impersonation of a speed walker. Will Call was on the far side from where we started so I had to go clear on around the block, all the while noticing how many folks were standing in line, snaked into the street where several police officers where attempting to keep some sort of order.

The late afternoon sun had warmed things up into the mid 80’s; but with all my walking it felt more like the 90’s. I showed my ID and they handed me the tickets about the same time as the gates opened up. I put some extra step in my step, noticing that the lines were moving at a good clip and not wanting Lucy and Donnie to have to wait. I got back to where they were in plenty of time.

Lucy had her purse which had to be searched for hand grenades, machine guns and atomic bombs so Donnie and I went in, had our tickets scanned and were handed our free Astros Blankets. While we waited for Lucy, we noticed that the supply of free blankets was just about out. The lady handing out the blankets opened the last box of 30 as Lucy waved from just outside the turn stiles. I don’t know how many blankets were left in that box; but Lucy got her Astros Blanket and we made our way up to the nose bleed section where our seats were located. Actually, the view from up there is pretty good and we enjoyed every minute of the game. We were in section 422, row 6, seats 13,14 and 15 if you want to go over to the Minute Maid Park web site and take a digital peek at how it looks from up there. ( I’ll post a link in the title bar )

I inquired where I might purchase a canister of oxygen, jokingly, as we made it ever higher and the effects of my power walking tour began to take hold. Normally when we go to a game I hold off purchasing our soda until a couple of innings have been played; not so on Saturday.

It was Dr Pepper time as I asked for two large tourist trap specials in the fancy take home souvenir Astros/Coca Cola plastic cup. I’d called my banker prior to making the purchase and he wired me some cash as I waited in one of two lines to pay for the first mortgage payment on the fancy take home souvenir Astros/Coca Cola plastic cups.

The folks in front of me had handed the young woman at the cash register a plastic credit card; only thing was she couldn’t figure out how to slide the card through the magnetic reading device in order to complete the sale. After watching the ineptitude show for a couple of minutes I decided that I’d try my luck at the other cash register. There were three young women working the two registers, one of them was teaching the other two how to properly perform at what had to be their first day on the job.

I watched carefully as I explained that I wanted to pay cash for my two fancy take home souvenir Astros/Coca Cola plastic cups. The veteran cashier explained how to enter numbers, pointing to the keys on the cash register as if the other young woman had never seen such a contraption in all her years here on planet Earth. I kid you not:

“That’s one large drink, uh huh, now press it again”, “Hit total and look at how much it says to take.” A half minute or so went by as the young woman let the information given to her roll around in that empty head of hers. The blue lights showing the total amount of $9.50 flashed on the eye level display board.

“That will be $ 9.50.” I think she was waiting for her supervisor to pin an award on her lapel for having excelled on her first attempt at pushing the large drink button twice, the total button once and for being able to read the amount due display as an awkward smile appeared from out of the edge of despair.

I handed her a ten dollar bill, took my change and bit my tongue as I handed Lucy her Dr Pepper. I know there must be a reason why there is no “period” after the letters D and r in Dr Pepper; just like I wonder why they would hire some idiot who’d never used a cash register to work in an area where 41,000 hungry and thirsty folks were going to storm her position in the next few minutes. Maybe this is one of the mysteries of the universe that I will never understand. Am I being to hard on this next generation, the generation that will be voting in the next presidential election?

Gospel in a Nutshell

What if you had never heard about the Scriptures, never met anyone who could tell you about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all you had to go on was one page that had somehow fallen out of a bound book and been blown by the wind as to wind up at your feet. Upon picking it up, out of curiosity, having observed that it had been highlighted by whomever had at one time thought it worth making such notations, you read the typed information.
( Click on image to enlarge )

I like to go through the scriptures looking for short pieces, contained within the boundaries of a single page or even a single paragraph, looking for what I like to refer to as the “Gospel in a Nutshell”, a statement which would explain that Jesus Christ is the redeemer of mankind and that through His atonement we may return to our Father in Heaven. A single statement which would be sufficient, if that were the only surviving piece of the Gospel message left of all the other important messages that had been recorded, sufficient for you to understand what was important regarding your eternal soul.

This morning in our Bishopric meeting Ron Keller was called upon to pick a scripture to start our meeting. He opened his Book of Mormon and read from Helaman 5:12. While he read I opened my own book, well worn and marked from years of attempting to learn those lessons which will make me a better disciple of the Lord. I smiled as I recognized that on numerous occasions I had read and marked this same verse.

I also re-read the rest of that page, giving me a more rounded explanation as to why that particular verse was so important. This was a father’s heart felt prayer that his sons live a righteous life following the commandments of God in such a way as to be worthy of the names which they had been given.

Going back to my original “what if”, the supposition that this was the only available page for you to read, wondering where it might have come from; would it matter if this page had come from a history book, a novel or the Bible? The information contained in these few verses would be enough to understand the essential elements of the Gospel. I invite you to leave no stone unturned in your search to obtain the rest of this wonderful message, one that has been prepared for the salvation of all mankind.

On the Lighter Side

Thanks and a tip of the hat to my friend Judy Eckerle for sharing this through my email.

I won’t try to explain anything; just read and let it soak in.
(Click on the image to enlarge)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Guns, Police and Fantasy Land – A Rant in Progress

One any given day there are articles posted on the internet pointing out someone’s slanted belief that when certain police officers are called out, SWAT, that it will almost certainly mean the death of some poor individual who might have been saved had it not been for the military machine mentality of police departments. There are plenty of articles which point to the right of the individual to bear arms. I dare say that I’ve read plenty of blogs deriding the police state coming to take your weapons away without a warrant and on and on. Somehow there seems to be a flip flopping of thoughts expressed as to whether the police departments are at fault for not being intrusive enough to save helpless unarmed individuals or too intrusive when knocking down doors to kill mentally challenged folks who could have been talked out of being walking time bombs.

The sacred cows, those places where “children” might be found, all refuse to permit weapons except by the police departments which are employed by these places. Children are defined as anything from pre-school infants to post graduate students in their mid 40’s, a fairly wide definition to be sure. I would have to say that if I were a student working on obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree, my Masters or a PhD, anything past high school, I would consider it an encroachment on Constitutional rights to have any college or university attempt to prevent my right to defend myself by arming myself.

Those students and others who were slain in the Virginia Tech massacre were denied constitutional rights, no different than the right to speak their mind when they were denied the right to bear arms. The families of those slain should seek some form of restitution for wrongful death based on the SOP’s of the University which put such policies in place. I have read where some are complaining that the police took too long to jump through the door, that so many could have been saved if it weren’t for those overly cautious public servants, the police officers waiting for SWAT to arrive, following SOP’s which were in place (link provided in title bar). Wake up and take responsibility for you lives and quit putting it off on someone else.

If a criminal breaks into your home I hope you aren’t expecting a police officer to automatically arrive and save you; you aren’t are you? From what I’ve read, maybe some of you expect the police department already has an officer assigned, hiding in your closet spying on you while you type your anit-government articles to post on your blogs. (I must tell you about the off duty police officer I found working on the A/C unit located in my closet while I was going through the application process to join the Houston Police Department; if that wasn’t a coincidence which requires a good bit of consideration I don’t know what more to say.) If that’s your belief, then I hope you and your fantasy world do better than those at Virginia Tech.

“Paranoia strikes deep, into your mind it will creep…”, words from an old song, “step out of line the man comes and takes you away…What’s that sound everybody looks what’s going down…” Maybe the anit-war movement has prevailed to some extent, the flower children now run government, our universities, the news media and our public schools. Is it any wonder that the “sheeple” don’t understand it’s their responsibility to take up for themselves, not to wait for the police or anyone else?

Police Departments all over the place often use catchy phrases; “To Protect and Serve” is one. “Fresh Donuts Served Here”; maybe that’s going a little too far. I like to think that most officers will do a reasonable job of stopping violence when they come upon it; the key word is reasonable. Unfortunately we live in a world of litigation and micromanagement. Police officers are not one man armies permitted autonomous and complete destruction of the evil they encounter. Police officers are highly managed employees who have been carefully removed from engaging their respective departments and cities from litigation. Police officers have nearly been stripped of individual decision making through the multitude of civilian law suits, complaints and internal affairs findings which have proven to those employees that working outside of the departments SOP’s is fatal to any employment with those departments.

It’s a sad fact that as long as nothing goes wrong, that no complaints are generated, that nobody gets injured or killed and lastly and more importantly, no law suits are filed; then and only then did the police officers do a good job. If, on the other hand, any of those ugly opportunities avail themselves as a result of an individual officer’s actions, actions which fall outside parameters of the SOP’s which are written to protect the Department and the City, at that time the officer is the one who cuts off the only limb which provides support. It has come to the point where it is in the best interest of each individual officer to choose between employment or unemployment and to understand that venturing into the land of heroes also means leaving the safety net of the SOP’s.

The idea that it must be the police department’s job to defend the defenseless is pure poppy cock. It is the individual’s responsibility to defend himself/herself and to say otherwise demeans the spirit of America. Some of the articles and comments I’ve read sound more like the sort of nonsense I’d expect from those demanding that FEMA perpetuate the “victim” status for Katrina “evacuees” for yet another year, as if the government was responsible for any and all issues. Those kinds of escapes into fantasy land are why the socialist movement in our country has gained such a strong foothold.

For those wishing to leave a comment, those who might also be living off the free meal ticket supplied by FEMA or some other government assistance program which I am paying for but which you are enjoying; you must first obtain government form 1587-05b from your case worker. In the event that your case worker is not familiar with form 1587-05b, ask your case worker if he/she has any toilet paper. Sheryl Crowe has insisted that we curb excessive use of form 1587-05b to save the environment; but if you have a fair amount of BS ( I really intended to use the word poppy cock, really I did) to share, feel free to use an extra square or two. I’m a retired police officer so use simple words that I will be able to understand.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Guns Lost in the Police Property Room

I read in the Houston Chronicle this morning, HPD suspends 2 after 21 guns missing
( linked via title bar ). Basically, several pistols that had been tagged into the property room as evidence vanished and some of them have turned up in the hands of criminals on the street.

I was going to title my article, The More Things Change …; but decided that it would be totally neglected by those scanning for impact statements. There are plenty of folks who will stop by to read about possible police corruption, abuse or stupidity; wonder why that is? I should complete the thought, …The More They Remain the Same.

Going back to the early 70’s when I was a low seniority police officer working Central Patrol Evenings, I had the opportunity to become involved in a very exciting incident. I should explain the police work is pretty much a ho-hum job most of the time; it’s those “very exciting” moments that only last a few minutes that police train for, that movies and television action series are based upon. If it weren’t for those randomly dispersed moments of sheer adrenaline, police work could be done by book keepers or grocery store sackers; I’m exaggerating considerably.

I'd gotten back to work after having enjoyed a vacation up in the mountains of Colorado with my young wife; having low seniority meant that I had to pick my vacation schedule after the Summer peak and before the opening of Hunting Season. The last week of September and the first week of October were fine with me; all those fall colors up in the mountains were awesome and we had the national parks almost to our selves. Anyway, getting back to the police department, upon returning to work I got a call to “Report to Homicide”.

You have to understand the mindset of a low seniority police officer; I’m sure that it translates easily to other jobs, “What did I do wrong this time?”, as I made my way up the stairs to Homicide. A detective had me step into his office where he asked me several questions about a pistol which had turned up at a double homicide investigation; a very particular pistol that had my “mark” scratched into it under where the wooden hand grips would cover them, where police officers had been instructed to place that mark in order to be used in the judicial process later on.

The detective started to describe the pistol, a Colt 357, blue steel with ramped sites. I knew right away which pistol it had to be, having only tagged one like it into the property room in my short tenure with the department. I began nodding to let him know that I was familiar with it. “We’d like to know how that pistol had your mark on it.”

Flash back a few months to a soggy Sunday afternoon when I was riding patrol. My partner and I had finished lunch, so it had to be evening but not yet dark as we drove through our beat in the 3rd Ward, a predominantly Black neighborhood. We heard a couple of gun shots ring out close by and observed several folks bailing out of a small club called the Green Hornet Lounge. They were escaping out the back window and the front door as if it were the OK Corral scene in the movie. A light rain was falling as we positioned our patrol car safely in relation to the front door of the lounge. One rather agitated Black man stepped out the door and stood, looking in our direction, holding a huge honking pistol in his hand. We assumed the necessary defensive positions using the opened doors of our patrol car as cover and returned his “invitation” by aiming our equally huge honking pistols in his direction. I couldn’t say for sure what we told him at that time; what ever it was, he believed us as he put his hands up to surrender. We approached him cautiously, cuffed him and I took possession of the huge honking pistol.

On any other given day that would have been enough; cart the bad guy off to jail and smile; not so on this day. As the rain continued to fall, our suspect standing with us as we were about to march him back the short distance to our patrol car; a sudden burst of excitement erupted from within the darkened confines of the lounge as folks continued to hurriedly exit shouting, “He’s got a gun!”.

That didn’t sound right; we already had the gun and the guy, didn’t we? My partner and I peeked around the door frame and as we did the lone individual remaining in the joint saw the blue uniforms, our guns drawn and ready so he placed his little Saturday Night Special on the floor and gave up without a fight. We made our preliminary investigation; noting that nobody had been shot and that most of the damage had been done to a set of drums, not exactly what the drummer had in mind when making a rim shot.

Did I mention that being young and ignorant of our location in relation to the Black Panther Headquarters we had not considered the impact we had on the rest of the patrol officers when we radioed to the dispatcher that we had “shots fired” at our location. It looked like Christmas with all the police cars arriving with their emergency lights flashing away, all those knowledgeable officers getting to our location as fast as they could to save us from God only knows what. We had plenty of help securing the scene.

The forms and reports we filled out took the better part of the evening, about 4 hours of writing to explain what happened in just a few minutes. Both pistols had been reported stolen so we had to make supplement reports to their originals and we were glad that shift change matched up with the conclusion of our reports.

Okay, back to the October meeting in the Homicide Division office where the detective was inquiring about the huge honking Colt pistol with the fancy ramped sights. I explained that all he needed to do was look up the original report. I was told that no report existed in the Records Division, no call slip record to indicate that we had been where the incident occurred, no Property Room record of the pistol ever having been submitted; in other words, it never happened according to the HPD.

When I was a rookie cop one of my senior officers made it clear to me that any time I checked in evidence, turned in property or made a report that had the slightest chance of hitting the courtroom with me having to justify my actions; make a copy of anything related to those incidents and file them away in my own folder for future use, just in case.

That “just in case” had come to pass. I asked the detective to let me call home so that Lucy could go into my file folder. It only took her a few minutes to locate the report which had a copy of each and every “lost” record attached to it. There was a copy of the incident report, the booking slips, the call slip and the evidence submission forms for both pistols. I had not screwed up after all, a feeling of confidence filled my chest as I was once more able to breathe in and out normally. The detective asked me to drive home to retrieve those forms so he could have a copy to place in the department file.

I have no idea what kind of secondary “investigation” was started to figure out how the criminal, the one I’d put in jail the first time, how he got his hands on that pistol which I’d checked into the property room pending the outcome of any court ruling. I’d have remembered going to court on that one; it never happened. The bad guy used that pistol, the same one he’d thought about pointing at me, he’d used it to murder two women and then he burned their bodies in an attempt to cover up the evidence. The solid link to him ended up being that huge honking Colt 357 Magnum pistol with my mark inside the grip. Some things you never forget; don’t think you’re supposed to forget them either.

Chief Hurtt wasn’t the man in charge back then so it would hardly be fair to throw all of this on his back to go along with the 21 pistols that are currently missing from the Police Property Room. I think there are some policy changes that need to be made, things that would require recording each and every submission of evidence digitally, with video back up and secondary systems which would include commissioned police officers to oversee the activities of civilian personnel who happen to work in classified areas. I would expect those new policies to include a section or paragraph requiring an authorization form to include a place notifying the original submitting officer (s), that activity was taking place on evidence which he/she had an interest in. I would also require a supplement incident report to accompany any removal or transfer of evidence or property from the Police Property Room. I’ve been in car dealerships that had more security than the Houston Police Department Property Room; yes, there is room for improvement.

Editing note: After reviewing the information I noticed that I had originally placed the location of the Green Hornet Lounge in the 5th Ward; I went back to correctly place it within the 3rd Ward for those who require accuracy, call it a "senior moment".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How to Murder a Socialist

I finished watching an old Jack Lemon movie a while ago, How to Murder Your Wife. In case you’ve never had the pleasure, it’s worth the effort. Near the end of the show there’s a court room scene in which Jack Lemon’s character decided to cut loose his attorney, an attorney who’d done everything except strap him into the electric chair through bungling inefficiency, and take over his own defense. ( link in title bar )

He puts his attorney; the brow beaten henpecked wimp of a middle aged man, in the witness chair and presents a bold option to him, one that would turn the law upside down. Drawing a small circle on the railing in front of the jury box with a piece of chalk, a jury box which consisted entirely of middle aged married men, Lemon explains that by pushing the imaginary button his wife and all the baggage that goes with it would vanish; nobody would know he did it and he would be free to do whatever he wanted.

The lawyer’s wife protested and promised to make his life a living hell; that is right up until the moment when he walked over to the jury box railing and pushed the button, exclaiming as his finger settled onto the white chalked circle, “Shut up you old bat!”, followed by, “Remove the woman, put her in the tank if necessary.” The judge immediately asked the jury for their finding, “Not Guilty!”

The scene closed with all the men in the courtroom celebrating their new found freedom from the bands of “slavery” associated with the now defunct establishment of marriage. The court room begins to clear as they exit carrying the acquitted victor on their shoulders leaving those women present sitting speechless and bewildered at the prospect of being relegated into obscurity at the whim of their masters.

I took a moment to contemplate what those women were experiencing, the fact that the law that had regulated life up until that moment no longer existed. I know, it’s only a movie; but that feeling couldn’t exist without some merit. I saved this in my file system under Government and History because I knew where this thought process was headed as soon as that feeling registered, that feeling that the laws that have regulated life here in these United States of America no longer can be counted upon.

I am one of those sitting in that now vacant courtroom, the jubilation of shouts and jeers from the hallway from a party out of control clamoring and celebrating the overthrow of foundational basics which have governed society but are now no longer relevant. I’m not sure what happened; one day things looked as they should and then the rug got pulled out from under.

I refer to so many things that I’m not sure where to begin; perhaps the idea that marriage is a sacred bond between a husband and a wife, at least it was a few days ago. Then there’s the idea that the money I earned is being taxed at better than 50% when you include user fees, sales taxes and income taxes; that money that is being redistributed to folks who are living it up on money I earned actually believe that they are “entitled” to a better standard of living and have elected socialist representatives to make it so. Then there’s the band of free market assassins who have hijacked the system and in its place have introduced governmental controls to, in their words, make it a safer place for the consumer. The legislature has given these monkeys control over business licensing, which is nothing more than turning citizens into serfs, servants of the manor, subjects who must beg permission to do that which at one time was within their individual dominion. Rights granted to individuals by God have been reviewed at the highest levels and been determined to be irrelevant, that the elite rulers, once our peers, are far more capable of determining what is best for the common man; but I’m rambling now.

Maybe I should get a piece of chalk and draw a circle, looking for a place here on my desk. I’ve found a spot here in front of my computer monitor that will do nicely except I don’t want the chalk to damage the beautiful wood so I cut out a circle from a scrap of paper. I want you to follow my lead, place an imaginary button there in front of you. Remember how good it felt when you read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; that feeling of being an American, how your chest would swell, head held high with a sense of pride in knowing that you lived in a country where every individual was empowered and responsible for his own success or failure. I want you to think about who it is that has robbed you of that, who it is that continues in their pursuit to strip you of any remaining vestige of that glorious heritage. I want you to push that button.

No one will know that it was you who pushed the button. Those who have perverted the American way of life will simply vanish as if they never had been. Your freedom will be restored and all that was fought for by our founding fathers will have been restored to its proper balance. Those who desire more will have to do more and those without will have the opportunity to improve based on desire, hard work and perseverance; just like anyone else, no entitlements based on supposed deficiencies caused by skin color, sexual orientation or religious involvement. Go ahead, Push the button!

In my movie, How to Murder a Socialist, at the end of the courtroom scene, the only ones sitting quietly in their chairs, a blank expression as if hit by a two by four, will be those who have been sponging off their neighbors for so long that they thought the free ride would last forever. Push the button!

Bird of Prey

Lucy called to me a few minutes ago, “Come Look!”, pointing excitedly as she washed the morning dishes in the sink. There outside our kitchen window, on my next door neighbor’s rook was a bird of prey, I think it’s some kind of Falcon.

The Mockingbirds were making life miserable, dive bombing and pecking the Falcon’s head unceasingly as it had wandered into their territory. I took several pictures with my digital camera, never once catching a mocking bird in harassment mode. Lucy suggested I go outside and get a little closer, a chance to capture the Falcon in all its splendor. The moment I moved around the hedge at the corner of my house where it meets with the driveway the Falcon made its escape into a tall pine on the next street behind us. It happened quicker than I could snap off a picture of the wings stretched out, Mockingbirds in hot pursuit.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I got this in my email, just another “forward” to toss in the cyber trash can, or so I thought. Thanks and a tip of the hat to my friend Andy Ricker.

The Son

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art." The young man held out this package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.The man died a few months later.

There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence.

Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."

But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting?, Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"

Another voice angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Gogh's, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"

But still the auctioneer continued. "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford."

We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10.

Let's see the masters." The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"

The crowd applauded. A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about all of the other paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: "The son, the son, who'll take the son?"

Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.


You may forward this, if you wish. Do whatever you like, but remember that maybe "one" of the people you might have taken the time to send this to, may be just the person who needs to hear this message. You have a choice to make." God Bless.

Check out the link in the title bar, something I posted a couple of years ago. When I was learning the tricks of blogging, at that time I had not learned how to properly link to other articles. Instead of pinpointing the chapter intended, the secondary link was too general. Here is where it should have gone:

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I get a kick out of being with my grandchildren. They have the ability to let go with their expressions of joy without fear of ridicule. JJ was with me on a couple of locksmith jobs this past week to keep me company. We went past Hook’s Airport on the Stuebner-Airline side and he got to see several small airplanes taking off and landings, almost as if they’d known he was coming. They were practicing take offs and landing, making a circle and coming back for more as we did a dog leg left around the small airfield on our way up toward Tomball on FM 2920 and JJ could see these small airplanes as they came over the top of a stand of trees and lined up for landings. ( In case you’re wondering, FM stands for Farm to Market, an antiquated reference to roads which used to be out in the “sticks”; but are now major thoroughfares in the urban sprawl of Houston and neighboring suburbs )

When the first locksmith job was completed another job came in that would take us past the big airport, IAH. JJ had been there a couple of times and had seen the big passenger jets take off from a distance; he’d even got to fly on one on a trip to see his great grand parents in Florida. The lock job happened to be at Robbin’s Chevy dealership on the Eastex Freeway just east of the airport between the two most used runways as planes lined up on final approach out of the East on their way in. JJ got to sit in the front seat of my work truck with the windows down watching planes on either side of him while I finished up. I cleaned the finger prints off the mirrors; I have no idea what he was drawing, perhaps he was keeping count of the number of jets he watched pass by.

I decided to go back home via FM 1960, basically the same way we’d come in order to avoid some of the places on the freeways that back up during evening rush hour. This route would give JJ yet another chance to watch airplanes land as 1960 runs along the northern airport boundary. We were sitting at a red light with the windows down when JJ noticed the sound of a large jet, very close; so close that the truck shook. JJ looked leaned forward as far as the seat belt would permit as the 737 crossed 1960 directly over our vehicle to land. For many unsuspecting drivers unfamiliar with how the runway is aligned, it might appear that a large jet is making an emergency landing on 1960 because of the angle of approach. We got to experience a jet coming up from behind us and all we could see was its belly with the landing gear locked down as it glided over the boundary fence. All JJ could say was “Wow!”; that’s about all I could say too.

That would be enough for what I wanted to say except that I was relaxing in my easy chair letting my back freeze with an ice pack positioned on my lumbar section. I had the Yankee/Red Sox game on ESPN’s Sunday Night Game of the Week. I watched as the inning started, the Yanks were ahead 3 to zip when all of the sudden Manny Ramirez ripped one over and out of the park to put the Sox on the board with their first run. A couple of pitches later the next JD Drew dropped one into the right field bleachers, the next batter, Mike Lowell drilled one over the fence and out onto the street and then Jason Variteck, the next batter, followed with yet another home run. “Four home runs in a row!”, “Back to back to back to back, Wow!” All four were hit off the same pitcher and it was the first time in Red Sox history that had ever happened. I’m not certain; but I think it’s only the 6th time, possibly the 8th; I’m hoping that the announcers will look that up in the books, that 4 home runs have been hit back to back in all of baseball history. “Wow!”

Friday, April 20, 2007

CT and MRI Scans

This past month has given me a chance to experience first hand some of the modern technological tools used by the medical field. I went through a CT scan; a fascinating machine that took a series of pictures of my body, similar to an x-ray machine. The MRI machine was similar; but much more noise involved. I thought I’d put my thoughts down and possibly make it easier for somebody else, a chance to preview the procedure which, I’m told, is a major worry for folks who are claustrophobic or afraid of the unknown. I’ve also provided a link in the title bar for a web site which I found very informative.

The CT scan machine, sometimes called a CAT scan, looked almost identical to the MRI machine; a large donut looking device with a table which moves back and forth in order to position the patient so pictures can be taken. The technician talked about what the machine would do, how there would be instructions on when to breathe and hold it, when to remain motionless and that the table would move slowly and that my arms needed to be held over my head in order to facilitate going through a rather small opening through the “donut hole”. She also explained that there would be a contrast agent, iodine, introduced into my veins and that I would feel something like a heat wave as it circulated through my body; that it might fool me into thinking that I was urinating on myself even though no such thing had occurred. I was asked if I was claustrophobic and I mentioned that I have experienced Vertigo; but that it was almost a pleasant experience.

I should explain my thoughts regarding Vertigo. I first learned about this when I was at the chiropractor’s office. They had a fancy table which I stepped onto and then leaned into as it was hydraulically lowered from its vertical position into a completely horizontal working position to accommodate treatments. They would attach TENS unit patches on my back to massage the muscles electrically; cold packs or heat packs depending on how bad my back was. I would then be left to relax, my eyes closed as if I were going off to sleep, with the lights dimmed as the TENS unit hummed for about 15 minutes. I thought that the fancy table upon which I was lying was set up to gently rock back and forth, sort of like a see-saw, as the sensation of rocking matched my measured breathing. I later found out, having mentioned to the chiropractor how much I enjoyed the gentle rocking of the table, that the table had been flat the whole time, that I’d imagined or more accurately, that my inner ear had experienced Vertigo.

I experienced something similar with the CT machine. When I closed my eyes to relax I imagined that the table was moving back and forth, even when it wasn’t. I also imagined that it was being elevated and lowered on a horizontal plain, sometimes straight up and then down, other times as if being moved toward a ten o’clock or eleven o’clock position relative to the opening of the “donut hole”. I took in the experience, cognizant of my past “imaginations”, opening my eyes only to find that I was stationary and that it was all inside my head, the sensation of movement and the near euphoria that accompanied the dream like state I was in. I mention this because I’ve been told that many folks are more than a little anxious, afraid to lie still and endure the procedure. In contrast, I found it totally relaxing, similar to a pleasant “flying dream” where I’m able to violate the laws of gravity and physics while gliding effortlessly in nocturnal bliss.

The MRI machine was quite noisy; almost nerve rattling at times when I was in the middle of the “donut hole”; which is more like an elongated tube, similar to something you’d find on a submarine that would be used to shoot out torpedoes. I could see how being in such a cramped space might be disconcerting, your nose nearly touching the top surface of the tube while your arms hugged the sides. The machine’s built in voice instructions would explain when to remain motionless, when to breathe in and how long to hold it. What they didn’t explain was that right in the middle of having to be still a loud mechanical thumping, more like crashing of a sledge hammer on a piece of sheet metal, would pierce the already grating sound of the rotary imaging device. That clunking would sound off unexpectedly; most un-nerving even when I knew it was going to happen.

I found that some of the images taken were not clear enough or for some reason did not satisfy my doctor’s desire to understand what my insides look like. I had to go through a second CT scan the other day and those results were not satisfactory either. I will get to go through yet another MRI as soon as a slot becomes available. There’s a hint of worry in the back of my mind as I know that these tests are extremely expensive and that the only reason for going through them again implies the probability that something nasty showed up; just not enough to figure out what it might be.

I’m glad I have insurance to cover most of the expense; the CT scan, MRI, blood work and x-rays taken last month when I was in the ER came to a little over $ 9800, of which I paid only $ 150. I am more than a bit concerned with what the future might hold depending on what those additional tests show. That imagination that has me floating or rocking back and forth, even when no such movement is actually happening, also reaches into the dark side where nasty ailments and illness eat living tissue and dissolve confidence.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Legend of 1900 Revisited

The Astros game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field was postponed due to “inclement weather”; imagine that, precipitation and 24 degrees holding up a baseball game. I had a rough day pain wise and was going to tough it out in bed anyway. Lucy began flipping channels and I heard some familiar music as I recognized the movie, The Legend of 1900.

The first time I saw it several years ago was flipping channels and I caught it already in progress. A young trumpet player on his first trans-Atlantic trip was being treated to a sea sickness remedy courtesy of 1900. The tuxedoed piano player had the trumpet player release the brakes of the grand piano in the empty ballroom during the middle of a lightning storm. The rolling of the ship created a dance of sorts as the piano, its two passengers along for the ride, made circles on the floor and eventually crashed through a stained glass partition, down a corridor and smashed into the captain’s quarters. “Care for a ride?”, oblivious to the circumstance as he smiled toward the captain. The two of them spent some time shoveling coal as part of their penance in the bowels of the ship. That was my introduction to this particular movie, a movie that probably is on the “do not watch” list due to some vulgar language; language which I shouldn’t have laughed at but did anyway.

There’s a line in the movie, “He had America stamped on his eyes”, a reference to the observed fact that one passenger on each of the crossings could be counted on to be the first to see America, to alert the other passengers of their arrival in the promised land, the land of opportunity, the pot of gold at the other side of the rainbow. I have to wonder, in a cynical sort of way, has that stamp of American been removed, if it ever was there, from some of our own citizens? Are they so caught up pointing out the flaws in the system as to over look the beauty offered in America’s basic structure?

Maybe it’s time to watch another show, South Pacific. They say the human race is falling on its face and hasn’t very far to go…but every whippoorwill is selling me a bill and telling me it just ain’t so… They call me a cock eyed optimist immature and incredibly green… No, I looked in the mirror a few minutes ago and I’ve still got it stamped there; America! America!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

X-Rays got switched by mistake

Yesterday I posted an X-ray of what I thought was from my packet. A close examination of the film with that of a well known celebrity’s has uncovered the possibility that the hospital accidentally switched my X-ray with those of Kermit the Frog, the famous Muppet Host. Kermit was unavailable for comment and calls to his agent have not been returned.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Say Ahhhhhh…

The folks at the place where I’m getting my physical therapy were having some difficulty in obtaining the lab reports associated with the all the fancy tests that I had taken at the hospital. Lucy called and found the right person who was more than happy to make a CD of all the tests along with those reports that summarized what those pictures, MRI’s and X-rays showed. Lucy then took that CD over to the physical therapy clinic and kept a copy for our files.

I figured out how to follow the simple instructions and spent the last half hour or so looking at my innards here on my computer. There were hundreds of pictures that showed what I looked like as if sliced and diced and then stacked and packed. I used to look over the ER doctor’s shoulders when they were examining a gun shot victim’s X-rays when I was a cop. I got to see some interesting “shots” complete with shattered bones, arteries spewing and filling voids that shouldn’t be spewed and filled. These pictures were a little different, these were mine.

I hope they figure out what’s pinching and how to make it right soon. I’ll share this one, a standard view of my crooked spine. If there are any medical students out there, have fun and stop laughing.

The Jiggle Bed

Lucy and I saved up and bought one of those fancy “Sleep Number Beds” about a year ago; I’m a “35”. We spent a few extra bucks to have some extra features; the mattress that lets you lift the head or the legs to conform to comfort along with a vibrator built in that soothes away a rough day. This past week I was hurting pretty good and just wanted to find a way to get comfortable and catch some shut eye. Lucy pushed the wrong button and the next thing I knew the bed had me folded like a taco. The improbable part was that it felt better so we modified it only a little and set the vibrator going until I dozed off into a light sleep. The vibrator mode has a secondary button which makes it feel like a wave moving back and forth until it times out after twenty minutes.

Many years ago Lucy and I drove from Houston to see my folks in Florida. The first leg of the trip took as far as Tallahassee where we wanted to get a good night’s sleep before pushing on the rest of the way the next day. They had one of those “jiggle beds”, the kind where you drop a quarter in the slot and get 15 minutes worth of vibration to help you get off to sleep. The only problem was that the mechanism that’s supposed to be affixed to the bed in order to transfer the vibrations was no longer affixed. I dropped the quarter in and the box began jumping around inside the box spring mattress; thumping and bumping and making all manner of racket but nothing that would be relaxing. I’d wasted a quarter and could only hope that racket would stop so I could get some sleep.

We noticed, after a few minutes, that the folks in the adjacent room had taken notice of the thumping and bumping that must have amused their imagination as they began to marvel at our “stamina”. I popped another quarter in the device and was prepared to continue until I ran out of quarters as the gasps and laughter continued from the other side of the wall. “They must be newlyweds” and related amazement mixed with laughter applauded our presumed horizontal performance.

The next morning as we exited the room and headed down to our car to finish the second leg of the trip I made it a point to give a “thumbs up” high sign to the curious fellow watching from the adjoining room, a broad smile on his face as he nodded back. I wonder what he wrote in his journal that night.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Appreciation for my health

I’ve been struggling these past two weeks tying to get back to top form. There's a bundle of nerves pinching in my back that has made it painful to move and has affected the way my right arm works. I still can’t feel part of my right hand and that makes working a challenge.

I went to physical therapy this morning and was reminded of how blessed I really am; noting that the fellow next to me had suffered through a couple of major strokes and was severely limited in what he could do. I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining, recognizing that I am able to work, to enjoy my family and continue pursuing that elusive "happiness" afforded by our unalienable rights.

It could have been much worse, not being able to get the job done and having to watch as the competition walked away with the prize; a little like the Astro’s relief pitching staff choking away the first two games of this young season (linked via title bar). Maybe I can get my arm back in time to fill a slot in the bullpen; put me in coach, I’m ready to play.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It’s Never Too Late

If you listen to Satan he’d tell you that you’ve already gone too far, you’re past saving so why even bother trying; but then again, he’s the father of lies. This weekend was the 177th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I hope you had a chance to listen to or watch each of the sessions; but if you didn’t, it’s never too late. You can catch them as recorded in the archives section either by individual talks or by session break downs. The archival process takes a day or so to be completed and Saturday’s sessions were just now posted. Click on the title bar for a link.