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 I’ve only gotten into the book a short way and have enjoyed the writing style and presentation of historical documents; can hardly wait for opportunities to pick it up and go ever further.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?