Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I’m not sure what happened; but the BMW decals that were on my Z-3 fell off and were on the ground this morning. I suppose you could say they were “de-decaled” if there is such a word. They both came off last night so I’m guessing there was some kind of combination of humidity and cool air that popped them off.

I could get out the semi-chrome polish left over from my motorcycle days and polish the chrome medallions, or would that be a violation of the BMW owner’s code of conduct? I remember spending hours twirling connected swirls in the aluminum cover of my Kawasaki like it was a piece of jewelry.
There’s a place on eBay where you can buy replacement parts; BMW medallions come in sets that I’ve seen listed. I’ll have to ask the seller if there’s a discount for buying three of them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gumbo for Diner

Last night we had a bowl of left over rice so I figured it would be a good move to have gumbo, a chance to use up the rice in style. We get this at Sam’s Club in the freezer section; no, this isn’t paid advertisement, just passing along a nice way to enjoy a meal.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Voices From the Dust

Lucy bought me a neat book for Christmas, Voices From the Dust , by David Calderwood; signed by the author who just happened to be hawking his work at our local LDS book store. The introduction explains how letters and books written by some of the original “chroniclers” of the American continents, letters and books which have been collecting dust in private libraries or collections, contain information of great worth for those seeking to know the history and customs of America’s inhabitants prior to and during the European conquests.

The author starts off by reminding the reader of a line in Isaiah , “And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.”

I wonder how much dust has collected on other important books, “Oh, I’ll get around to reading that, someday.” Turn off the television and get out the reading glasses; times a wasting! I’ve only gotten into the book a short way and have enjoyed the writing style and presentation of historical documents; can hardly wait for opportunities to pick it up and go ever further.

Some of the information brought to light in Voices From the Dust has been sitting around collecting dust for hundreds of years, not considered important enough to review; or worse, at odds with political or religious leaders of that time and put away into a dark closet so as not to rock the boat. Of course if you’d rather watch another episode of Survivor, the Simpsons or some of the other gobble-de-gook on television; well, this book probably wouldn’t interest you anyway.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa is Coming

I wanted to keep this short and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I found this photograph on the internet and thought it would bring some of the “older kids” a smile as they took a trip back in time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

EZ Cash Federal Bailout Form

My sister sent this to me via email and it was too good not to share. You’d better fill one out and send it in right away; the line appears to be growing rather quickly.

( Click on Image to enlarge to full size.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas and Priorities

Years ago I remember reading an interesting story about a Bishop who wanted to help one of the poorer families under his stewardship. He announced from the pulpit his intentions and asked everyone to consider how they might help.

One family went home and held a family council and determined that even though their budget was tight that by doing extra little bits here and there they could raise additional money. One of the boys raked leaves for their neighbors, the daughter did baby sitting jobs and the father took on an early morning paper route; anything to be able to join in the Bishop's desires to make one of the poorer family’s Christmas a little brighter.

A month later they presented the Bishop with an envelope containing almost a hundred dollars. The Bishop smiled as he accepted their offering, which nearly doubled what had been donated by the rest of the congregation. There was a slight pause as the Bishop thought about how to proceed, “ You see”, he said to them as he handed them the entire amount collected, “It was your family I was thinking about when I thought of hard working folks who needed a little help.” ( liberties taken on details as it’s been a while since I read this touching story )

Our Bishop put together a list of names, mostly children, who could use a little help this Christmas. Their names were left off; only a child’s age, clothing sizes and interests were placed on numbered strips of paper to be used in purchasing gifts. A couple of weeks ago Lucy took a few of the strips of paper as she enjoys being part of the “Secret Santa” network.

I figured there would be lots of “helpers”, perhaps even folks who didn’t get a slip of paper who might feel left out; I was wrong. Yesterday when the sign up list came around there were plenty of slips remaining. I took three more and knew there was enough in my wallet; but the thought occurred to me, “why are there still slips of paper, what happened to the Christmas Spirit that should be over flowing in our group?”

It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the folks who took slips of paper to help out the less fortunate are the very ones who will be on the receiving end as Christmas Day rolls around; nobody other than the Bishop knows the names that match up with the numbers. Opportunities to be of service will come and go, it’s up to each of us to jump in now.

“…And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God…” Mosiah 2:17

Getting There Is Half the Fun

Our church building has been going through upgrades and repairs for the last month or so. The plumbing was being completely done over which meant ripping up the concrete outside to uncover this that or the other. Some of the entry walkways have been closed along with alternate closing of different restrooms.

I noticed the ventilation screen on the men’s restroom had been removed leaving a modestly large rectangle opening down low on the door. Young boys being what they are found the new entrance a challenge which could not be turned down. I stood talking with a friend during the Sunday School hour and watched time after time as small bodies scooted through the hole in either direction, a smile of satisfaction on their faces for having found yet another way to have fun.

When I was in the 7th grade the classrooms had long horizontal windows which opened into the room two or three feet off the ground, similar to a secretary desk. I calculated how much time would be saved getting to my next class by slipping out the window rather than trudging all the way to the door and opted for adventure over mediocrity.

I was small framed and could easily hop over the edge, roll down the extended window and land on the ground running oblivious of the danger. The year passed without incident until one day my teacher happened to notice my method of escape. At the time, not being old enough to know about litigation or catastrophic injury, I wasn’t at all sure why he’d gone pale or why his words came out in muffled frenzy; but I was instructed to use the door from that day on.

I’m not sure there’s a lesson to be learned here other than to enjoy what life gives you and smile when children surprise you with imaginative ways of accomplishing daily tasks. It’s almost Christmas, have some fun.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blizzard of 2008

Last Wednesday I wrote of a cold blast of air going through the Houston area and mentioned there was little if any chance of snow; son of a gun, it snowed. Snow in Houston is a rare occurrence. The city grinds to a halt; not so much because the roads are impassable, everybody and their brother is on the phone calling everybody and their brother to have them look out the window or go outside to see a snowflake falling from the sky.

The pictures were taken around ten o’clock as the last flurries were falling. If you look above the garage you might be fooled into thinking two of those white dots are Venus and Jupiter since they’re in about the right place; okay so Jupiter is off the mark a bit, those are big wet snow flakes reflecting the camera’s flash.

The front yard got a dusting of snow; but nothing ever stuck to the driveway or streets. Little kids around the city were hoping to hear announcements of school closings, drifts of snow blocking school busses and snow ball fights; maybe some other century, it was all melted by morning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Was That a Snow Gopher?

Once again, David over at Never Yet Melted , has found a fun video. ( Note: I've noticed this video clip works fine with Firefox; but sometimes does not load with Internet Explorer. Try clicking on the title bar where an additional link is provided)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Gingerbread Cookie Tradition

My friend David, Third World County , ( link in title bar works ) posted a challenge to write and enter Christmas Carnival 2008. Sharing Christmas stories is just as important as any other gift and so I wanted to add just a little, maybe encourage someone with a smile as we enter the Christmas Season.

Christmas brings with it an overload of pleasant thoughts and memories; one in particular has been with me since my earliest recollections, gingerbread cookies. Mom would put all the ingredients together in a bowl, refrigerate the glob of brown dough for a day or so and then start rolling out cookies. When the thin sheet of dough wasn’t able to support cutting a full blown gingerbread man, the fragments of dough could be made into just the head; nothing was wasted. It should be noted that these fragments tended to make the gingerbread a little harder ( a lot harder), enough to break teeth; interestingly enough these rock hard gingerbread cookie heads became something of a prize to be had much like the brass ring on a carousel.

The tradition of making gingerbread cookies each Christmas time was handed down from my mother to Lucy about thirty years ago. I’m not exactly sure how the Federal Reserve secures the gold supply; however, it might not be as well guarded as the gingerbread recipe that mom reluctantly let go of. Think about the baked bean company with their Irish Setter commercial, the dog’s mouth forming words as he’s looking at the camera, “…and I’ll never tell.”

Yesterday Lucy had taken the dough out of the refrigerator early in the morning to let it soften up and planned to get most of the cookie baking done this week in order to put them in tins and off to family members who live far away. Lucy also bakes a mean oatmeal with cinnamon chip cookie, chewy and impossible to resist with a glass of milk. Then there’s the fudge, dipped pretzels in white chocolate and sheets of chocolate chip cookies cut into squares; is it any wonder I start to have a weight issue?

I called mom to give an update as to the progress of the gingerbread cookies, after all, it was a tradition which she’d started. I could hear the wheels in her head engage memories from many years back as if transported in time.

“Do you know how I picked gingerbread cookies?”, a pause of remembrance as I pictured her wiping away a tear or two streaming down her cheek. We were in Tulsa, living on a shoe string. “I wanted to bake something and I already had everything needed for that recipe; the spices, the butter, the molasses, and five cups of flour.” She knew the recipe well enough to list each item over the phone as if mixing ingredients as we spoke.

When my mother was a young girl going through the depression she wanted to bake cookies as a Christmas gift for her mother. With her own money she purchased the ingredients, times were tough and she knew better than to dip into the items stored in the pantry; she baked a batch of cookies while my grandmother was away at work. The lingering aroma of baked cookies was present when my grandmother came home late that evening. Rather than give up her secret, my mother lied and made up a story and said that she’d ruined a batch of cookies and had to throw them away.

The idea of waste in any form during the depression was more than could be accepted and my mother paid the price with a terrible spanking and scolding. On Christmas Day the truth came out as a small box of cookies was presented. The realization of what had been exchanged was, and still is, the cause of many tears of appreciation.

There are lessons to be gained as Christmas brings out the best in us. The thoughts and efforts used to express feelings for others; family or close friends, have little if anything to do with the cost of items exchanged. No, the true value of a gift comes from the sacrifice required by the giver and an appropriate appreciation expressed to acknowledge that sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if it’s a plate of gingerbread cookies prepared in the poorest kitchen with what ever ingredients happen to be available, a porcelain nutcracker ornament to hang from a tree in the living room or a brand new car parked in the driveway complete with a fancy red ribbon; with gratitude shown, gifts are elevated to a holier sphere.

Let us remember with appropriate appreciation the sacrifice made by our Savior, a gift which opens the doors of Heaven. May we join all the Who’s down in Whoville and sing with the Spirit of Christmas in our hearts as we celebrate the season with friends and family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cold Front Pushing Through Houston

A cold blast of air is on the way; started yesterday when the temperature was in the high 70’s and very humid. As evening fell the winds shifted and the rain kept falling along with temperatures, and kept dropping. It’s been raining off and on; not enough to cause flooding, just enough to make you want to stay inside.

We’ve been keeping an eye on our local radar; isn’t often we see blobs of pink or blue indicating snow or freezing rain, mostly we see large patches of green with the heavier thunderstorms in yellow, or even worse, reds and deep purple. There’s little chance, if any, of snow here in Houston; but we might see sleet if things stay the way they are. It’s 36 degrees with not much chance of it getting above the 40’s; I better wear something warm and hope to stay dry.

You guys up north are laughing, or is it “youse guys”; “You call that a cold front?”, hey, down here this is as close to a blizzard as I want to be. Around here frost on my neighbor’s roof is reason to call out the National Guard. You can keep your snow shovels, your cars buried at curbside and all that goes with solid water falling from the air. We have a joke, not too far from the truth, “Winter’s the second Sunday in December unless the sun comes out”.

Get Me This Or Else!

We’re on Overstock.com's mail list and they really do save us money. Lucy and I purchased a quilt for our bed and saved a nice chunk of change when compared to the price at our local department stores.

This morning I glanced at their newest promotions and found one a bit bizarre , quoting from the sale page:

“An alternative to boring kitchen cutlery, you're sure to raise a few eyebrows and get a few laughs with this The Ex 5-piece Knife Set.”

Guys, if your wife or significant other asks, or worse, demands you have this under the tree; start packing your bags. Write your will, have your final arrangements prepared and your finances in order because the only thing left will be a police report sitting on the desk of some homicide detective with a smirk on his face as he looks over pictures of the evidence.

For some reason the Jim Croce song Bad, Bad Leroy Brown came to mind. Other items you might want to avoid purchasing for Christmas; chain saws, tree limb chipping machines (the movie, Fargo), or other similar devices which can fold, spindle or mutilate.

Going back to the article I posted Monday about humor, “In the window of a Kentucky appliance store, Don’t kill your wife, Let our washing machine do the dirty work”. I hadn’t included this particular advertisement; must have been intended to go here, call it fate.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Fixing the Phonograph Player

I mentioned in my last article how I got to visit my folks this past weekend; even hinted about having a good laugh when they asked me to fix a broken phonograph player which they have strategically located in their “Florida Room” in what used to be a fireplace.

I took a quick glance, checked to see if it was plugged in; knowing my folks as I do, something simple like having electricity might have been the problem; not so this time. The turn table wouldn’t turn and I don’t claim to be much of an electronics expert. I explained how it might be less expensive to replace it with a new one rather than sink any money into fixing an old phonograph player.

“Where can we find a new one?” Mom wanted to get on the solution so she could listen to her collection of records, something she had missed for almost a year since finding out the phonograph wouldn’t play. What I wasn’t told, at least not right away, was that this phonograph player had been purchased about a year ago and had never worked.

I drove her to the local Radio Shack; but they only stocked the kind of phonograph players that were designed to be integrated with a stereo component system; Mom wanted a stand alone unit that had its own speaker, just like the one she had at home.

Our next stop was the pubic library where I wanted to introduce Mom to the internet and show her how to shop for anything without having to go to individual stores; it would open up a wonderful chance to use the convenience of the internet and all she need do was show her library card.

The library was thirty minutes from closing time, hardly time to get too involved; but enough to show her that a replacement phonograph , better than the one she had at a very reasonable price, one that had AM/FM radio, tape player, CD player and phonograph all in one package as a stand alone unit complete with its own speaker. There were several others and I suggested she look into other units to get the best price later in the week; the library was shutting down and we had to leave.

Upon getting back to my folks house, Dad had the phonograph out of its nook in the fireplace and on a table ready to be worked on. They retrieved the original paper work, instructions on how to “get started”, information which they told me they had read; this is when I found out that the phonograph player was new, at least it was new a year ago and that it had never worked.

Some folks might have thought the unit was defective; I on the other hand had the sneaking suspicion that the “fault” might lie somewhere else, perhaps in my folks inability to tackle simple technology. I noticed something right off, the two anchor screws used to keep the turn table secure during shipping had never been turned down; that explained why the turn table wouldn’t spin properly, it was dragging against the base of the cabinet.

Once the packing screws were twisted, “How about that”, the rest of the packing material that was jammed under the turn table came out easily. “We’ve been tugging on that and it wouldn’t budge.” I shook my head and looked for other minor packing issues which may also have been over looked.

There was an old record which they had tried to play, one which seemed the logical choice to use, sitting where it had since the day they first tried to play it. I plugged the electrical cord in, the auto-play was activated, the swing arm with the record needle landed on the record; but only static came out of the speaker, something else was wrong.

I checked the module where the needle hooked up to the swing arm and it wasn’t in the correct position. The needle had been damaged, a plastic housing with the contact point bent out of alignment; gosh, I wonder how that could have happened?

“There are more of those in the box.” Mom handed me a tool designed to keep the surface of the record dust free; inside the “brush” were several more needle modules. It took a couple of attempts; but I finally figured out how it was supposed to fit the swing arm.

The “broken” record player had been repaired, music was coming out the speaker and I showed Mom and Dad how the various controls worked; what are the odds of them remembering how to work the thing after I’ve gone home? Mom wanted to listen to Eydie Gorme y Los Panchoswhile Dad wanted the Peter Gunn album ; they were happy I was so good with electronics; yea, right…

Orange Peel Gazette

I had a chance to visit my folks this past weekend. There was a small news letter at the place we had breakfast, Orange Peel Gazette; free for the taking with most of it being advertisements for local business with the insertion of comic relief here and there.

A perfect example was on the front page.

Safety at Work

Safety is a major concern at the manufacturing company where I work. So I’m constantly preaching caution to the workers I supervise.

“Does anyone know,” I asked a few guys, “what the speed limit is in our parking lot?”

There long silence that followed was interrupted when one of them piped up “That depends. Do you mean coming to work or leaving?”

I’ll include a few of the gems found within the pages; but the entire publication was a hoot to read.

Best About Me?

The other day I asked my wife what she liked best about me.

“Is it my firm, trim athletic, body? Or, rather, is it my astounding intellect?”

She replied, “Oh, it’s your sense of humor, dear.”

My favorite of all was on page three.

Law School

One day in Contract Law class, Professor Jepson asked one of his better students, “Now if you were to give someone an orange, how would you go about it?”

The student replied, “Here’s an orange.”

The professor was livid.

“No! No! Think like a lawyer!” the Professor instructed.

The student then recited, “Okay, I’d tell him I hereby give and convey to you all and singular, my estate and interests, rights, claims, title, claim and advantages of and in, said orange, together with all its rind, juice, pulp, and seeds, and all rights and advantages with full power to bite, cut, freeze, and otherwise eat, the same, or give the same away with and without the pulp, juice, rind and seeds, anything herein before or hereinafter or in any deed, or deeds, instruments of whatever nature or kind whatsoever to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding…”

I did find a small ad giving credit to the publisher of the Orange Peel Gazette of Indian River County, LLC. They’re located at 926 18th Street #2, Vero Beach, Fl. 32960; or on the web:
http://www.opgazette.com/ , email kevin@opgazette.com. Thank you for a mild distraction and a few laughs.

The real laughs came at my folks house when they asked if I could “fix” a broken phonograph player; but that will have to keep for another time. I had a great visit; all the same it’s great to be home and to sleep in my own bed.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Can you trust your eyes?

Dana over at Principled Discovery was under the weather today as she fiddled around with an eye test . How’s your vision today? Hope Dana gets to feeling better soon.

I should be careful about posting challenges like this, the last time was something called the Air Force Test ; a tasking of eye hand coordination which actually had folks lined up to play.

I took a test last week on civic literacy and missed two questions out of thirty three; but the two I missed were opinion based rather than historically true, never one to accept another’s opinion over my own. Al, at Old Whig’s Brain Dump has the link if you want to test yourself.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Life Liberty and Property Blog Roll?

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the Life Liberty and Property blog roll, that rather lengthy list that appears off to the side, is out of date. There are folks listed who haven’t posted an article in so long cob webs hang from their URL’s. There used to be regular updates showing the last time a member posted an article, a means of spotting new material; that hasn’t been updated since October.

Did I miss the death notice? I didn’t show up at the funeral or even send flowers; for this I sincerely apologize. I hope the person in charge of membership and maintenance was given a proper send off and thanks for all the effort expended in the PAST.

Maybe it’s time for something like a “re-up” if you were in the military. The New Year is only a month away; perhaps someone with time enough to do the job properly will “rise to the call”, take up the challenge of contacting bloggers who wish to remain active contributors while trimming the dead branches which serve only to elongate the list.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fire Extinguishers a Fire Hazard?

Give a tip of the hat to Neil Boortz for listing this on his “reading assignments” list. It turns out that some city officials in the UK have determined, “The life-saving devices encourage untrained people to fight a fire rather than leave the building…”

Gomer Pyle would have said, “Goooooooolly!” or “Shazam!”

Several years ago Lucy and I were out on our regular Saturday Night Date. We’d gone to Pappas Seafood Restaurant near Greenspoint Mall and were about finished eating when my cell phone rang. Normally I don’t answer while out on our date; only looking to see who it was and letting it go into voice mail. Caller ID showed it was coming from my home phone and I figured it must be important, one of the kids needed something.

“Dad, do we have another fire extinguisher?” Let me tell you, that’s one question you don’t want to hear when you’re out and about. William happened to be in the kitchen when he noticed smoke coming out from the space between the built in oven and the microwave. He had sense enough to run out to the garage, switch the power off to the house, run back inside where he grabbed the fire extinguisher that’s hung on the side of one of the kitchen cabinets and then empty the contents into the area where the billowing smoke was coming from.

“Check Please!” We left for home and it was still standing. The kitchen was a mess from the flames licking at the sides of the cabinet which held the built in oven and microwave and there was smoke throughout the house. Other than that everything was okay, the fire had been contained and not spread upwards.

The fireman told us that with the fire being inside the wall it would have taken only a couple of minutes and the whole house would have gone; a wire to the electric oven had gotten loose and ignited the fire at the base of the wall.

Maybe the folks over in the UK should be reading this account of how a fire extinguisher was used by someone with common sense to save a house from being consumed by fire. I forgot, the UK was the setting for Ray Bradury’s famous Sci-fi book, Fahrenheit 451, where firemen are called to set fires, not put them out.

“Look, there’s going to be a fire!” the little boy pointing to an elaborate fire truck speeding down the road headed toward a location which has been found to hide books or some other contraband.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Advertisement Placement Issue

Sometimes you find humor in the most unexpected places. I was reading a story on the Fox website, Cruise Ship Attacked by Somali Pirates , about how the ship was able to out run the attackers. There’s nothing funny about the article; however, if you look at the picture, off to the right is an advertisement, “The Secret to Getting Highly Discounted Cruise Tickets”.
Okay, so you have to duck small arms fire; but isn’t it worth it to save a few bucks while getting to see exotic ports? You get to keep any weapons you wrestle away from attacking pirates, I mean, what’s more exciting than face to face combat with blood thirsty pirates?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Photo

It has become something of a tradition to take a photograph of the kids on Thanksgiving Day. The only changes appear to be in the size of the grandchildren as they grow.

The house looks great; we cleaned up after everyone left, I didn’t want the drips of soda on the kitchen floor to get every where so that was first. Lucy put up all the food, and there was plenty left over. I vacuumed all the crumbs up from the rugs and so everything is in order; let’s see how long that lasts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Chance to Sing in a Choir

This past week during our shift meeting at the Houston Temple we were invited to sign up to be members of a choir that will supply the music for our Christmas devotional meeting. I chuckled to myself, very quietly; but a chuckle none the less, as I thought back to when I was asked to be a part of the dedicatory choir for the Houston North Stake building in 1978. I looked through my files knowing I’d written about this once before; but it wasn’t to be found; this will have to do.

I’d just become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in September when a week later I got a call from the Elder’s Quorum President, Steve Nielson. His cheerful invitation to rub shoulders and jump into the deep end of the pool was a reminder that I’d made a commitment to improve and to grow. Steve’s friendly approach to fellowshipping a brand new member made it impossible to turn down the request. I did explain that I wasn’t much into singing. “Never mind that, you’ll do fine!” I don't think Steve ever heard me sing.

I showed up the following Saturday for choir practice at the nearly completed building and stood around waiting for someone with a key to open the door. A few others waited outside as we got to know one another. Joseph Larkin, the Choirmaster arrived and greeted us warmly, opened the door and we followed.

Temporary signs had been taped to the first two doors in the hallway, Humble Bishop and Humble Clerk. I thought their sense of humor was going a bit far. I was unaware that the sign was for the geographical area off to our east, Humble, pronounced without the “H”, and the rooms were to be for the Humble Bishop, not that he wasn’t a man of quiet demeanor or anything.

Brother Larkin, who I learned was something of a perfectionist when it came to music, had us sit in the choir seats to get an idea of what he had to work with. He had us warm up our voices with some exercises, a chance to hear what kind of range we had. He then had us sing from the hymn book; at least for a few short moments.

I noticed Brother Larkin was looking at me with something of a scowl, not an angry scowl; more like a wince. He pointed in my direction and asked, “What are you singing?” I replied, “The same thing everyone else is.” He knew right away that I couldn’t read music.

“Try moving over there…”, pointing to an empty seat at the end of the row where the basses were grouped together, “…maybe you won’t do so much damage.” Had I been easily offended that might have caused feathers to get ruffled; but I knew I wasn’t much on singing so I smiled and learned how to fit in as best I could. I was happy to be sitting with these fine folks and they didn’t mind having a total amateur in their midst.

All the songs were new to me and I practiced each hymn during the week while alone in my car, even while in my police unit driving on duty. I grew in confidence and the day of the dedication went off just fine, nobody complained about my voice, at least that I’m aware of.

My singing skills haven’t improved over these thirty years. I’ll pass on the open invitation to become a part of the Christmas choir; but thanks for including me all the same.

Thankful to Know God

I was reading Thanksgiving Day quotes posted by Tony on Red Mind in a Blue State and found a couple that hit home runs.

““Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence. ~Erma Bombeck”

That one made me laugh, something about the humor of Erma Bombeck hits home with suburban America. She had a book out years ago, “The grass grows greener over the septic tank”; hope I got the title right, funny stuff.

Tony had several other quotes worth reading but one got me thinking about the spirit of gratitude expressed by those in dire circumstances, those who might otherwise curse God for having abandoned them to die.

“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. ~H.U. Westermayer”

I remember reading a talk given by Elder Robert L. Backman, “Faith in Every Footset” , as part of the 150th celebration of the Mormon pioneers trek to the Salt Lake valley. I should note that when I first began my own conversion process to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I knew next to nothing other than my less than perfect image of pioneers crossing the great wilderness in wagons.

Over the years I have come to appreciate the enormous tests and trials which the Mormon pioneers faced; both physical and spiritual. I first learned about the Martin Handcart group, poor immigrants unable to afford a wagon who crossed the entire distance pulling what could easily be compared to a wheel barrow. The Martin Handcart folks got trapped in a terrible winter storm; many of them froze to death, suffered loss of limb to frostbite, starvation and crushing blows that today would seem impossible to overcome.

We need to be stronger people this Thanksgiving, we need to be grateful, not only for the bounties provided; but for the challenges we face as well. The pilgrims faced death and had to dig graves at night so the natives wouldn’t know how many folks they were up against; “…nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” That reminded me of what Elder Backman had quoted from David O. McKay:

“In a Sunday School class there was sharp criticism of the ill-fated Martin and Willie Handcart Companies, which met with tragedy because of their late start on the trek to the Salt Lake Valley.

An elderly man arose and said: “I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts … give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife … too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but … we became acquainted with [God] in our extrem[i]ties.

“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. … I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company” (as quoted in David O. McKay, “Pioneer Women,” The Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, 8).”

So, don’t tell me how bad it is; be thankful for what you’ve been given. If things get really tough; your health fails, you have to bury a family member or they come to take your house and car, remember; these are opportunities to get to know God. We don’t grow in character when times are easy; no, growth comes from being tested. That is how we come to appreciate God and the mortality which He has provided for us. Maybe this is why hearing folks call it Turkey Day rubs me the wrong way.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Basket

Each year my folks send us a box of fresh citrus; oranges and grapefruit, to enjoy at the beginning of the holiday season. There’s some new rule prohibiting them from sending us Florida citrus from the Hale Indian River Grove which is just around the corner from them; so this year we got Texas citrus delivered to our door.

The mailman rang the door bell, holding a huge box from Harlingen and I shared a ruby red grapefruit for his efforts. I didn’t know there was a colorful basket in the box, seeing only the individually wrapped pieces which I started to enjoy right away. Lucy wanted the box for something and “wa-la”, a bushel basket to place in the center of our dinning room table as a center piece.

We’ve been cleaning and fixing things up for Thanksgiving Day, a bunch of work which is starting to show results. Lucy scrubbed the front entry way with Clorox and a brush until it sparkles; how about that, all this time we’ve had a WHITE terrazzo entry way. I replaced the light fixture in the alcove, another “round to it” which I finally got around to doing.

I got out an emery board and took each of the light bulbs from the chandelier, a little buff job on the contact solved the mystery of the “chandelier ghost”; that tricky little guy who we never could catch twisting one light bulb at a time so that one moment the lights were all working and then the next minute two, three or even four of them magically had gone off. We’d turn them a bit and they’d work okay; that is until the ghost returned and made them go off again. I think I’ve fixed that issue; they’ve been on for an hour or so now with all of the lights working steadily.

I did spend a couple of hours trying to figure out why one of our stereo speakers wasn’t working. I checked the wired connections at the back of the speaker; I’d had to move them when we put the polymer finish on the wood flooring, they looked fine so I wanted to look at the connections back behind the stereo unit. There was a mess of wires from all the components and it was impossible to tell what went where. I decided it was time to unplug everything and start from scratch; a risky option.

I never did find a loose wire; but with everything taken apart I had a chance to clean and dust, something that needed to be done. I got lucky and everything still worked; all except that one speaker. I re-checked the connections and this time looked at the fuse, which was in working order. It was then I noticed the snap in connection for the fuse was broken so the fuse wasn’t making good contact.

The fuse holder looked like it would come off with one small Phillips head screw; however, the bracket would not come off. I probably could have figured a way to install a new fuse bracket; but it was easier to simply connect the wires and bypass the fuse completely.

The rest of the evening we listened to Harry Chapin, Vaughn Williams, Samuel Barber and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet ( on now ) to test the sound. Surround sound with a center speaker in our den is like going to a music hall, totally awesome! I may have to review all our collection of music again to make sure they still sound as good, wow!

The San Francisco Herb order is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Rather than put it in the living room it will go into the garage until after Thanksgiving. Lucy had put up several hundred pounds of wheat, Pinto and Black Beans along with several sacks of rice. Then once the Mylar pouches had shrunk down, the oxygen having been reduced, Lucy boxed them up to be hauled upstairs. William and a couple of his buddies stopped by this evening so we tapped them into hauling it upstairs; great timing, and thanks for helping out guys!

We take the turkey from the outside freezer tomorrow so it will thaw and the rest of the kitchen duties I’ll leave to Lucy. With any luck we’ll do some locksmith work, enough to make it look like we’re serious about paying our bills; but historically the week of Thanksgiving has been brutal to the budget so I wouldn’t count on too much.

In case I forgot to mention it, Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the basket of oranges and grapefruit. We’re planning on dinner around three in the afternoon on Thursday if you decide to jump on a plane I’m sure we could figure out a way to pick you up at the airport.

Great Moves

I got this from my sister; gave me a chance to kick back for a few minutes while we’re getting the house cleaned up for this Thursday. (Note: I hope the video is still available; just after viewing it a while ago it wouldn’t reload)

Challenge - Gregory Hines & Sammy Davis

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More Gospel in a Nutshell

I’ve mentioned before how I enjoy finding passages in the scriptures which encapsulate the basic principles of the Gospel in such a way as to hold most everything you need to know in a very condensed form. I refer to them as the Gospel in a Nutshell and they are everywhere; but for today I’ll use one found in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:3-11. I used an older copy on the scanner because of the way it all fit on one page.

Perhaps with the Christmas season just around the corner, the introduction in verse 3 sparked my interest, “I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.” I think I’ll go back and read Isaiah and listen to Handle’s Messiah, “For unto us a child is born, a Son is given…” Can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Black Hole

Never Yet Melted posted this video , worth a couple of minutes of your time after having spent too many hours at the office.

Music to Choose From

There are two YouTube video clips below; hope you enjoy the selections of the day; but which of them inspires the soul toward heavenly thoughts and which toward more prurient interests? Don’t get me wrong, I take pleasure in a variety of music, these are both included on my iPod. Adjust your volume knobs accordingly.

Yesterday’s posting included a quote, one which should be on our minds as we start each day, goal oriented with an eye toward the eternities.

“The images to which our minds are exposed are held in store, seemingly forgotten, even for years. But at the crucial moment they re-present themselves to influence our thoughts and lives. And so it is with the music, literature, art, media, and other images to which we are exposed.” Douglas Callister, as quoted from his talk,
Your Refined Heavenly Home .

Pilar Lorengar "Dove sono" Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - I Love Rock N' Roll

I need to take a break, give Shakespeare a rest; pick up an old copy of Mad Magazine and chill.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two and two are four

There’s a children’s vocal in an old movie about Hans Christian Anderson, sweetly reminding us of the lessons life teaches. I included it when writing my book, Pecaw’s Gift , mostly because I’d always enjoyed how the children’s voices improved the lesson; but also because it helped move my story along a particular sequence with the numbers acting as an anchor.

Two and two are four,
Four and four are eight,
Eight and eight are sixteen,
Sixteen and sixteen are thirty two…

Added to the original verse; but mirrored behind the children’s part and sung solo by the lead character, Danny Kaye played Hans Christian Anderson.

Inchworm, Inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds
You and your arithmetic
Will probably go far. . .

Two and two are four,
Four and four are eight,

Inchworm, Inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds,

Eight and eight are sixteen,
Sixteen and sixteen are thirty two

Don’t you think you’d stop and see,
How beautiful they are…

All I could find was a salute to that particular scene as done on the Muppet Show; it will have to do. ( Note: I did find the original version and have linked to it via the title bar )

Simple lessons about the importance of learning coupled with the thought of adding a measure of gratitude for the beauty which surrounds us; sure beats most of the garbage being passed off as entertainment by today’s standards, or more accurately, lack of standards.

Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”

Britain’s Ben Jonson said: “Language most shows a man: Speak, that I may see thee.”

“The images to which our minds are exposed are held in store, seemingly forgotten, even for years. But at the crucial moment they re-present themselves to influence our thoughts and lives. And so it is with the music, literature, art, media, and other images to which we are exposed.” Douglas Callister, as quoted from his talk, Your Refined Heavenly Home .

I was going to include a video, something which made me wonder what our generation had to show for all our efforts to improve, to be knowledgeable and informed; it was too depressing so I’ll just include a link.

Stomping (time waster)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Houston Police Department’s Mixed Message

I posted my original impressions regarding an unfortunate event which ended in a police shooting back in April of this year, something right out of a Mission Impossible script. The fatal incident was naturally followed by considerable press along with the grieving widow’s wrongful death law suit; all this has been on the back burner since then.

I read in this morning’s Houston Chronicle, an article by Dale Lezon , where the two officers involved have been disciplined for, “…not trying to talk to the man before they approached his car after a high-speed chase…”. Almost in the same breath, “However, the investigation concluded that the officers were justified in shooting Roland Carnaby last April 29.”

I want that to sink in for a few moments; do any red flags pop up in your mind? What kind of message does this send to the public and to those who work for the Houston Police Department?

On the one hand it says, “You guys did what you had to do, under the circumstances, any reasonable person would agree that you were justified in the use of deadly force.” Then on the other hand the Department is saying, “There has to be some way of sawing off the limb you guys are standing on, a means of separating the City and Department from litigation so we had to find some nitpicking thing to show you were not following policy.”

Way back, sounds like a line from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, that little dog talking to Sherman, “Come Sherman, step into the Way Back Machine”, where was I; way back when I was working night shift I’d have the opportunity to train rookie police officers. I had a list of things each young police officer should understand; one was to recognize the fact that the spineless organization for which they wanted to work for would leave them hanging in the breeze if and when something ugly happened which might end up with a possible lawsuit. In other words, “You’re on your own, kid.”

Prior to my retirement I was riding as a one man unit and got an alarm call on a tire warehouse. I was so close that upon arrival the bad guys were just leaving, the stolen truck they were in was loaded with boxes of chrome rims they’d just stolen. I let the dispatcher know about the beginning of the chase and to have a unit stand by at the warehouse just in case anyone else was left inside and to secure the area.

We had been reminded of changes in the “chase policy”, changes which placed ALL liability on the police officer for loss of property or loss of life during participation in a chase. If it appeared that the circumstances were getting out of control and loss of property and/or life was eminent, the officer was to notify the dispatcher that the chase was being broken off rather than subject the suspects and the rest of the population to such danger.

My burglary suspects, the ones driving the stolen truck, were increasing speed as they ran stop signs and red lights; all the while two of the suspects were throwing boxes of stolen chrome rims out the back of the truck bed hoping to land a direct hit on my police unit following close behind. Even at such a late hour the possibility of having a really bad wreck while driving through red light after red light existed. The chase speeds had increased considerably and the likelihood of a really bad wreck had also increased.

Instead of staying focused on catching the bad guys, something I’d trained for my entire career; instead I saw a jury panel being seated with the intent of taking away every penny I’d saved because I was too foolish and believed the citizenry wanted law and order. I picked up the mike and advised the dispatcher that I was breaking off the chase. I turned off my emergency equipment and dropped back a bit.

The most interesting thing happened; the bad guys must have forgotten to look forward, wondering what the heck that cop behind them was doing as I faded from view. They had their wreck, colliding with a tree and totaling out the stolen truck. They did manage to disappear into the night and left the stolen chrome rims which all got returned to the original burglary scene.

I was no longer on the hook, officially, for the wreck which happened moments after I’d followed a rule written by chicken shit gutless department heads afraid of having to face reality, too concerned with avoiding litigation instead of doing the job the public expects of a police department; am I allowed to say chicken shit, I’ll repent later. The public and the Department suffer when spineless cowards initiate chicken shit policies, policies which serve only to destroy faith in a system intended to protect and serve the public.

Police officers are more like self employed vendors if you think about it. They all have to wear the same uniform; but let’s face facts, these men and women are out on the limb all alone if and when things go badly. Standard Operating Procedures were written, not so much to help the officer get the job done; no, they were written to protect the City and the Department from litigation. I felt like my badge or name tag should have had, “T. F. Stern & Company” printed on it somewhere instead of “City of Houston Police Department”. I made it to retirement and now they pay me not to show up; and some of you don’t believe in miracles!

The officers who recently received disciplinary insults, what else could you call a one day suspension or a written reprimand after all the “other stuff” involved in a high speed chase and shooting the suspect to death on the side of a freeway? These officers should have known the City would never stand behind them a hundred percent. They forgot that important lesson I used to teach, “You’re on your own, kid.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Liberalism Diagnosed as Medical Disorder

I read an article posted in World Net Daily where Dr. Lyle Rossiter, a board-certified clinical psychiatrist, “says the kind of liberalism being displayed by both Barack Obama
and his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton can only be understood as a psychological disorder.” Wow, that’s an interesting statement coming from someone with his credentials.

“Based on strikingly irrational beliefs and emotions, modern liberals relentlessly undermine the most important principles on which our freedoms were founded,” says Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of the new book,
“The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness.” “Like spoiled, angry children, they rebel against the normal responsibilities of adulthood and demand that a parental government meet their needs from cradle to grave.”

This makes me feel so much more secure knowing the future of our nation is in the hands of folks diagnosed as being irrational and emotionally unstable. I’d suspected as much; but having just fallen off the turnip truck my opinions didn’t hold much sway. Here we have a man with the letters MD verifying my observations with clinical terms.

Yes, give them the blank check and a pen so they can solve the economic issues; let them fill the vacancies on the Supreme Court as they will certainly put people of sound judgment into those positions. You don’t suppose I could repose on your couch for a half hour or so, let my mind wander and talk about things which trouble me? Never mind, I probably couldn’t afford it anyway.

Property Ownership and Debt

The news is filled with stories about government bail outs for the mortgage industry, the insurance industry and now even the automobile industry. I won’t bother to link to any of these stories as they are too numerous and too easily found. These bail outs are supposed to help the country; but will it help the country, really? ( If you listen to Paul Harvey’s show imagine his voice on that last line, “…but will it help the country, really?”)

How will absolving debt owed from one individual to another, the debt of one company or group of individuals owed to another individual or group of individuals; how will that be helpful? It would seem to undermine the foundations of society; that of being responsible for debts incurred.

I make keys for folks when their keys get lost, misplaced, stolen or for what ever reason the rightful owner of the property needs to have a key. Here in the State of Texas the law requires that I am provided with proof of ownership along with proper identification in the form of a driver’s license or other suitable identification. The rightful owner is the one I work for; crooks and bad guys need to try something else.

My work is in the automotive end of the locksmith industry. Once rightful ownership has been established, my job is to get a working key made, at which point the customer and I complete the transaction; I get paid and the customer gets the key. There are several ways to get the key made; the easiest would be to obtain a key code, either from the owner, who might have the information on a bill of sale, in the owner’s manual stored in the glove box or, if I’d worked on the vehicle previously, the information might be in my computer’s data base. I’ll not go into other ways to make the key as it is not my intent to train apprentice locksmiths in this article.

The folks who work at the car dealerships have known me for years. The companies they work for are my customers and have a copy of my locksmith license, insurance, bonding information along with my federal and state tax number for reporting purposes. I can go up to a parts counter and request a key code and they know I have the authority, by extension, for that information. They know I’m working as an agent for the rightful owner of the property.

I noticed something disturbing several years ago while working with GM; but I should explain more before getting into that. At one time registered locksmiths, such as myself, were listed with GM; if you were on their list you would be given key codes for any vehicle they had information on, if you were not on their list they wouldn’t give you the time of day because they only worked with established and trusted locksmiths. They understood the principle of ownership and the extension of agency given to locksmiths in working with the rightful owner of GM vehicles.

Something happened to change the policy of giving key code information to locksmiths. Key codes were given, either accidentally or intentionally, to someone other than an honest person which resulted in a lawsuit. GM had to change to protect itself. I’ve no idea who abused the open policy; but locksmiths were no longer given key codes in the same manner; they had to obtain them in person at a local GM dealership rather than calling the national convenience phone number.

One of the questions asked of the locksmith got my attention, a slight change regarding the nature or reason for requesting the key code. “Is this a repossession?” I caught a glimpse into the mindset of GM’s defensive posture, a result of litigation and GM’s attempt to avoid future legal entanglements. GM had determined a safer strategy for giving out information which would only benefit the “end user” rather than going into a deeper or more thorough set of requirements to define “rightful ownership”.

The vehicle got sold to a customer who couldn’t pay cash for the entire amount and the balance owed was picked up by a bank or other lending institution with the title of the car being used as collateral. This shouldn’t sound like a foreign language; however, this is how our society has worked for hundreds of years. The lending institution is the rightful owner of the vehicle until such time as the balance owed is paid in full. The “end user” gets to drive and maintain the vehicle; but the actual owner is the one holding the title.

If the “end user” stops paying off the debt then the title holder has every right to recover the vehicle and do with it as seems fit. If the rightful owner, individual or lending institution, finds the “end user” is unwilling to voluntarily surrender the vehicle then other means are used such as contacting a repossession outfit with either a wrecker or other means of collecting the vehicle. The obvious comes to mine; obtain a copy of a working key and drive the vehicle to a safe location where the title holder, the rightful owner of the vehicle may take possession.

Going back a few paragraphs, GM didn’t want to get into a legal battle over the concept of “rightful ownership” and decided to limit litigation liability when giving out sensitive information, key codes being included as sensitive information. “Is this a repossession?”, became a stumbling block in obtaining key codes for banks attempting to recover lost investments along with repossession companies working for such lending institutions. This also became awkward for locksmiths working for the “rightful owner”, or by extension, agents of the rightful owner.

My skills in originating keys go beyond obtaining a key code and, one way or another, the rightful owner will get the necessary key; this isn’t why I’ve gone to these lengths to explain today’s message.

Our society has shifted away from a clear definition of ownership in order to avoid litigation and in so doing have accepted a much broader and dangerous philosophy which ignores rightful ownership and the inclusion of current user as an equal substitute. You can now add to the list of avoiding un-pleasantries, mortgage foreclosures, since it would be cruel to expect folks to give up “their” houses even though they can’t afford to pay the rightful owners of those houses.

Our leaders in Washington are expanding the dangerous philosophy further with alarming long term consequences. The recent emergency bailout of the mortgage industry, more specifically Fannie and Freddie, point to a relaxation of the concept of responsibility for debts incurred and toward forgiveness of such debts based on a false concept of extending kindness and hope for those with smaller incomes.

Our government has no authority to cancel privately incurred debt through the use of taxpayer money or through legislative means which deny the rightful owner of that debt from being paid. To do so puts our society into chaos by claiming that it’s okay to steal as long as you steal from someone who can afford the loss or, on the other hand, that it’s okay to steal from those who are powerless to stop the thief.

It would be easy to take a pot shot at the President Elect, Barack Obama as he stood before the nation and said he would do “whatever it takes” to stabilize the economy and restore consumer confidence. The current congress and administration are the ones responsible for this mess and I would hope for a correction of some of those mistakes; if the sun comes up in the west tomorrow then you can expect such changes, until then get used to more of the same.

The economy will not stabilize and there can be no restoration of consumer confidence when at the same time those who sell products or services are not reasonably certain of being paid in full for those products and services or that those who enter into debt will not be expected to either pay for such goods and services or surrender to the seller the value with the full backing of the courts, the congress and society in general. We have fallen into a dreamlike state which temporarily permits us to believe in the false notion that we can have something for nothing, that the lottery winning number is about to be ours if only we wait just a little longer and that Santa will leave it under the tree.

Lending institutions must be supported thorough the long held principles which we call the “rule of law” .

“For much of human history, rulers and law were synonymous -- law was simply the will of the ruler. A first step away from such tyranny was the notion of rule by law, including the notion that even a ruler is under the law and should rule by virtue of legal means. Democracies went further by establishing the rule of law. Although no society or government system is problem-free, rule of law protects fundamental political, social, and economic rights and reminds us that tyranny and lawlessness are not the only alternatives.”

Society as a whole must ascribe to the rule of law and support these basic concepts; by the courts, by congress and the president in their long standing assumption that debts are to be paid in full by those who incur such debts or the property bargained for is to be forfeit as per the terms of the agreements entered into. Without the most basic understanding of this principle our society, our nation and our way of life will vanish “as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly…and to all a good-night!"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ronald Reagan Reminds Us From the Grave

I found this over at Stop the ACLU , and wanted to share it. I’ve often heard the term “slippery slope” used to explain the difficulties of getting back to level ground once you’ve entered into dangerous territory. Well America, how much further down that slope are we going before we put on the brakes and hope we can recover from the fall?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cell Phone Probe

The Texas Department of Corrections found several inmates had been making calls within the walls of maximum security prisons, over 2,800 from one death row inmate’s phone alone. Who would have guessed, really, just because they’re called “cell” phones; so what should we call those phones out on parole?

The most recent find explains why some cell phone service providers suffer from crappy connections. Peggy Fikac, writing for the Houston Chronicle explained some of the problems .

“Prison staff conducting a shakedown of the row Friday found a cell phone secreted in the rectum of convicted murderer Henry Skinner at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.”

“They first found two SIM cards, or memory chips, in Skinner's Bible, she said. Because they suspected he also had a cell phone, they took him to the infirmary, did an X-ray and found the cell phone.”

I guess it begs the question, what kind of ring tone did the phone have? I know, something from Blink 182. Aw, come on, use your imagination; there are an endless supply of jokes hidden in there. ( * go read the comments to the original Houston Chronicle article for curb level humor )

The scary part came a little further down in the article, “…Before the latest discoveries, the lockdown had yielded on death row alone 12 cell phones, nine chargers, three cell phone batteries, seven SIM cards and two weapons…”. You might say the problem with contraband is out the kazoo; no mention was made about what was found in the other areas of the prison system where there would have been “less security”.

Lucy posted an article recently, Is Your Cell Phone Safe ; I don’t think this “aspect” of safety was brought up. Lucy’s sister accidentally dropped a flashlight into the park facility out house in the middle of the night while they were on vacation in the mountains of Colorado. The idea of retrieving the flashlight, still turned on by the way, never entered their minds. You might wonder, just as a passing thought, what the next camper thought about the improvements made by the forestry service, “lighted out houses?”; never mind.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Getting the House Granny Ready

Each year we do our level best to have the house ready for Thanksgiving; we used to call it “Granny ready” for when my grandmother would visit. We dust in places that collect dust, polish furniture, clean windows and mirrors, get the bathrooms disinfected and spotless and what ever else we can think of to make the house look nice.

This year we decided to do something with the wood flooring in the den, flooring we had installed back in 1992 just after we bought the house. Originally the house had an off white carpet throughout; something which almost turned us away from buying the house. I promised Lucy that when it came time, we’d replace the most heavily used area, the den, with oak flooring. We have enjoyed them all these years without having to do much other than sweep or clean up after a spill when the grandkids are over.

I wrote about putting hard wood flooring into the living room and dining room a couple of years ago; they still look brand new so they don’t need anything other than a dust mop for now. If you visit that article I included links at the bottom to show the progress from start to finish.

It was time to “Rejuvenate” the finish; that’s a free plug for the makers of the product that goes by that very same name. Rather than move all the furniture out of the room it was decided to do a third of the room at a time, moving the sofa, love seat, coffee table across the room until each section dried. That has worked well and the den is nearly finished; the last section being the pass through to our bedroom which I will get this evening.

The next project will be cleaning the crystals on the chandelier, an all day job. The mirrored wall in the dining room along with cleaning the windows will happen soon thereafter.

Granny would be happy to see our house; what I’d do to have her here, to be able to call her on the phone and give her a hard time. I should mention how Granny had watched the technological changes march across time from the advent of telephones, television and all the other gadgets we take for granted. Granny thought it nothing short of a miracle for me to call her on my cell phone while driving down the road.

I would honk my horn and pretend to yell at folks to get off the sidewalk while talking and wait for Granny to get her breath back as she worried for the safety of her grandson. With Thanksgiving around the corner, Granny would be the perfect example of someone with gratitude in her heart for any and all blessings directed toward her family.

I’m glad to have the floor’s glossy again; the beautiful wood finish is part of the warmth that invites me and any who enter to enjoy my home. Two weeks to go, hope there’s a pumpkin pie at the end of the rainbow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baptism by Proxy for Holocaust Victims

Every now and again I read an article containing an inflamed rebuke of the Mormon’s; lately it would seem to be more often, gosh and oh by golly we Mormons are a popular target these days .

This morning there was a lengthy hissy fit on the Fox News website from the AP where Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, had his undies in a bind because, as he claims, the Church of Jesus Christ hasn’t shown the millions of Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust respect and continues to baptize these individuals vicariously. He claims that such a practice helps to validate “Holocaust deniers” by making Holocaust victims something other than Jews.

“"Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable," said Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz. He spoke on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews.”

I should point out rather quickly, I am not speaking on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I am not in a position of authority and my opinions are mine and probably should be kept to myself; but that’s not my style, so if you don’t like what I have to say go cry in the corner and get on with your life.

“Michel said talks with Mormon leaders, held as recently as last week, have ended. He said his group will not sue, and that "the only thing left, therefore, is to turn to the court of public opinion."”

I once saw a blog article written a few years ago where a hand drawn picture showed Mormon missionaries going through a graveyard digging up decomposed corpses with a short explanation of how that individual thought baptisms for the dead were done. I suppose the image was intended to be shocking and a rallying for anti-Mormon sentiment. I took the time to comment, giving a brief account of the purpose and practice of baptism for the dead and hoped it clarified some of the misunderstandings.

I started with a simple analogy which I will use here. “Just suppose…”, don’t you just love the way that starts, …you wanted to do something nice for a friend. You knew their budget was running thin and at the same time the friend wanted to visit his/her father, something which would require transit beyond their means. Wouldn’t it be a nice gesture to leave a pre-paid ticket at the airport with their name on it? There would be no obligation for them to show up, no strings attached. If they decided not to go the ticket wouldn’t be used and that would be the end of it. If, on the other hand, the ticket was used and your friend got to visit his/her father, a reunion of extraordinary emotional highs made possible because someone had the foresight to include a pre-paid travel ticket; wouldn’t that be counted as a wonderful expression of human kindness?

In the simplest terms I’ve explained the practice of baptisms for the dead. Those who have gone to their mortal rest without having been baptized are limited in their progression in the eternities, they may not return to the presence of the Father without the ordinance of baptism . I could go on at some length regarding the various Christian doctrines concerning the different beliefs espoused; but that is not the purpose of my thoughts today.

I performed the ordinance of baptism for my grandfather, a man I loved beyond my ability to express all those emotions. He died without having received the ordinance of baptism by one in authority and it was my responsibility to provide my grandfather with the “ticket” to get back to our Father in Heaven. What kind of ungrateful grandchild would I be to ignore the eternal destiny of one I love? On the other hand, my grandfather was a hard head, it runs in the family, and he might not wish to return to our Father in Heaven.

Remember when Curly died in the movie, City Slickers? They had a simple funeral out in the middle of nowhere and said a few words as they put his body in the ground. Someone said, “Dear Lord, we give you Curly; try not to piss him off.” It was a comic line intended to draw a laugh; but with my grandfather, that line might just fit.

My grandfather was something of a character during his short time on earth. I know he was raised a Christian and baptized in his youth; not sure what denomination since I never knew him to be a church going kind of guy. He wasn’t a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to assure his baptism was performed by someone with authority I had it done for him after he died. I went to the temple and stood in for my grandfather, was buried in the water while his name was recorded. I then had other ordinances performed which would provide passage back to our Father in Heaven; none of which are binding as they must be accepted by my grandfather to have any effect.

Those who do not recognize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as the authorized agent of the Lord, Jesus Christ, must flip coins regularly to determine what they believe or don’t believe. I say this with a huge grin on my face knowing how some are tearing the edges of their clothing and covering themselves in ashes.

Think about it; if the Mormons are not the authorized agents of the Lord, Jesus Christ, then we have no powers and no authority, either here in mortality and certainly not in the eternities. Why bother to give us the time of day much less get your undies in a bunch over an ordinance you claim has no bearing on anything? We can’t make you a Mormon, we can’t make your ancestors Mormons either; there’s this thing called “agency” and it’s strictly an individual’s choice on anything, to include membership in God’s kingdom .

If, on the other hand ( I love The Fiddler on the Roof ), “on the other hand”, the LDS Church does have the authority to act in God’s name , then maybe it would be wise to go along with our foolish practices and humor us in our taking care of those who cannot do for themselves.

If you’d like to have the “authorized” explanation of the ordinances performed in the temple, by those more capable than myself, I recommend visiting the link provided here .

A Different Sort of Veteran’s Day Story

We watched a wonderful children’s movie last night set in WWII Scotland near Loch Ness. It’s a fanciful tale from a young boy’s view as his father’s away in the military, a way of coping with the loneliness and fear.

The young boy found an odd looking item along the edge of the loch and, according to the tale, as told by the grown up version of that boy, the legend of the Loch Ness Monster is told as the Water Horse developed from nearly a tad pole sized creature into a full blown wonder to behold. The story is of the relationships garnered with all around him; but mostly between the boy and his Water Horse friend.

Instead of growing up with a father, the young boy grew up with the help of the Water Horse more commonly known as the Loch Ness Monster; taking him past his fears and into an acceptance of how things are with the war going on. Near the end of the movie the young boy accepts the likely hood that his father might not return, all those thoughts being tied with the escape of the Water Horse from the loch and out to sea while the shore guns fired on thinking it to be a German submarine. “He might not come back” and if you’re not paying attention you might think he was simply referring to the Water Horse making it to the open sea.

There was a talk given in General Conference a couple of years back, which I cannot find, having exhausted the search engines at LDS.org for hours, where at the end of WWII the father of the house returns home. The older children all shout with joy, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” and the youngest boy who had never known his father since the war separated them soon after being born was shouting along with his older brothers and sisters, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home! What’s a Daddy?” I hope my memory of those lines is close enough, not having the talk in front of me.

I had to wonder in my own heart as the words came to my ears, how it must have been growing up without the constant care and love of a father, one who was serving his country in time of war. I was lucky, my dad served and came home, then I was born. I still get to talk with him on the telephone; that is, when he’s not out bowling with his buddies. “Bowl a hundred!”; that’s my way of saying, “I love you”.

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day take a moment to appreciate the sacrifices made which might otherwise slide under the radar, time spent away from young children who miss their Daddy.