Monday, December 29, 2008

Now don't be TOO jealous . . .

. . . but today, December 29, Carol walked over to our across-the-back-fence neighbors to ask them about—oh, it doesn't matter what. She just went to ask a question.

When she came back some 30 minutes or so later (and Carol doesn't tend to be chatty, so that tells you something about the neighbor) she was carrying a small paper sack. She put the sack on the kitchen counter.

Just now I walked into the kitchen and glanced inside the sack. There I saw four ripe (or nearly ripe) home-grown tomatoes.

No, our neighbors don't have a greenhouse or an indoor garden. The have a regular, run-of-the-mill back yard vegetable garden, and it's still producing.

Yes, we did have one light frost a few weeks ago, but the neighbors covered the plants with plastic and they (the plants) survived just fine. To those of you shoveling snow and fighting ice-slick roads on your daily commute, I apologize.

I know: it DOES get really hot here in the summer. No question about that. But there are some years when we don't have any winter at all.

All in all, I'd say things pretty much balance out.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Aftermath

Defined as: English class—at least during my last year of high school.

But before I go into details, let me first wish everyone a fantastic what's-left-of-the-holidays. Christmas Day here in South Texas was peaceful and warm. In fact, late in the afternoon Carol and I took a walk around the neighborhood wearing shorts and tee shirts. (Us, not the neighborhood.)

The closest thing we saw to "white" this Christmas was the puffy clouds in the otherwise hazy-clear sky.

But I digress . . .

The (awful-sounding) procedure described in the post immediately below this one was apparently successful. I am essentially pain free. I say "essentially" because there is still a tiny twinge every now and then on the right side, but compared to the way it had been for the preceding two weeks . . . well, there's no comparison.

From what I read on the Internet (so it HAS to be true!), relief gained from this epidural injection is rarely permanent, and sometimes only lasts a week or two. In longer cases relief is gained for from 6 months to a year. In some instances, a regimen of two or even three such injections is required.

Yeah, I'm hoping to be on the long end of that relief time scale.

For those of you who have suggested chiropractic treatment and/or just time (which heals all wounds . . . or brings them to a fatal conclusion), I'm generally inclined to use those treatments also. This time I let myself be talked into going to a neurologist, who looked at the MRI images and said, "Do NOT get your back 'adjusted!' It will NOT help, and it might do further damage." He was quite emphatic.

Well, I know that some doctors take a very dim view of chiropractic treatment. "Quackery" is a descriptive term often used. However, I know a lot of people (my wife among them) who have had considerable success with chiropractors. I've been to one myself in the past for what I call "traditional" lower back pain.

My problem this time is fear. This sciatic nerve problem is NOT my traditional back pain. It includes long-lingering numbness in my foot and ankle, causing doctors to wonder if I have permanent nerve damage from this alleged bulging disc. They measure strength and calf-muscle size to see if I'm atrophying. They are talking about the possibility of giving up (permanently) activities that I have enjoyed for decades.

So yeah, I got scared.

However I plan to take this one step at a time. If this one-to-three injection treatment is unsuccessful and my friendly neurologist tells me that my next and only other option is surgery, you can bet I'll first try some alternatives.

In the meantime, I'll revel in my pain free state for as long as it lasts!

I might even go back to English class, but it's not likely.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I got shot in the back yesterday!

(WARNING: This post will of absolutely no interest to anyone, except possibly my family.)

Ever had a bout of sciatica? I hope not. It ain’t no fun, I promise.

Facts: The sciatic nerves exit the spinal column way down in the lower back between vertebrae L5 and S1 (L is for lumbar, or lower back, and S is for Sacrum, which adjoins the pelvic bone.) The nerve at its root (an aside here: who knew that nerves had roots? Maybe its pre-Latin name was Kunta Kinte? I wonder if Alex Hailey had sciatica) is about as big around as one of your fingers. Which finger? I don’t know—how big are your fingers? Anyway, it’s a pretty big nerve.

This nerve extends all the way down each leg to your toes. When it becomes inflamed or irritated, the pain starts in your butt (yeah, I know, it’s a real pain in the a$$), extends down the back of your thigh and calf, all the way to the sole of your foot.

This is NOT your typical everyday lower back pain. I’ve been subject to those pains off and on for many years, usually on the left side. They last about two weeks and then subside. This sciatica is a burning aching throbbing mess, located more in the leg than in the back. In my case it has included persistent numbness in the sole and toes of my right foot.

Yes, I went to a family doctor. He sent me to a neurologist, who ordered an MRI and did some other tests better described in a Nazi torture spy novel than on this blog. Suffice it to say that the tests involved electrodes, needles, and a device I refer to (kindly) as a cattle prod. They SAY they are measuring the time an electric “impulse” can travel through your nerves to determine if there’s nerve damage. I say, “HA!!” They’re really seeing how far they can raise the voltage before your leg jerks high enough to kick the technician in the face, and your grunts turn to screams. Each time the doc hits you with another jolt he says, “Sorry.” But I can hear the sadistic sneering smile in his voice. (Great sibilance there, eh?)

Not satisfied with that infliction of pain, the Neurologist’s suggested treatment (following an MRI, which I guess was supposed to add some semblance of objective logic to his devious plan) was an ESI.

Sounds innocent, right? That acronym stands for Epidural Steroid Injection. What it means, in layman’s terms, is that a different sadist (excuse me, I mean “doctor”) gets to stick a big, long needle in your back. Using a fluoroscope to position the tip of the needle precisely, he tries to inject cortisone (the steroid) in just the right spot. Too “shallow” and the steroid does little good. Too “deep” and there could be damage or other problems.

Well, I underwent that procedure yesterday.

If you are currently cringing in sympathy, you don’t need to. Like a trip to the dentist, the anticipation is worse than the reality.

The good news is that I had an excellent doctor doing the injection. He first deadened the area with Novocain or something similar, just like the dentist does before drilling. He said that little injection would feel like a bee sting, but it was very mild. After that there was no pain at all.

Yes, when he told me he was guiding the needle to JUST the right spot (the most critical part of all this) I wanted to stop breathing so as not to move my abdomen. But all THAT does is make you want to take deeper breaths later! Fortunately, the entire procedure from the numbing injections until the big needle was out only took about 10 minutes. He slapped a little Band-Aid on my back and said we were finished! Music to my ears!

Then (and ONLY then) he showed me the needle! I thanked him for waiting. I think I would have fainted dead away at the thought of that telephone pole being shoved into my spine!

Now, as I type this some 20 hours after being “shot,” I think it all may have been worth it. It will take 2-3 days to determine if I get full relief based on just one shot (and if not I might have to face one or even two more!), but I can already tell that there has been some improvement.

Before the doctor shook my hand and left, I asked him if I would be able to play golf after this. He assured me I would. I then thanked him profusely, and admitted that I never really had been able to play before.

Somehow I think he’d heard that one already.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Laxative? Oh, yes!

Regular readers will remember that seven years ago Carol and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa. We traveled with Carol’s cousin Linda and her husband Les.

In fact, for a full, detailed journal of the trip complete with our hundreds of pictures of wildlife (some of them actually pretty good) and scenery, scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar for a link to my home page and you’ll find another link there to our Africa trip pics.

During that journey we spent a few days in the Serengeti. The topography was mostly flat (plains) with some gently rolling areas. But here and there dotting the landscape were rock outcroppings called “kopjes” (“kopje” in the singular – pronounced “copy”). Rather than take a thousand words to describe them, here’s a picture of a typical kopje.



On our first full-day game drive in the Serengeti we had packed a picnic lunch. At about noon our guide pulled up to a kopje near a shade tree and scouted around a bit to ensure no dangerous animals were lurking nearby before we got out of the vehicle for our meal. The men headed to the left around a rock while the women rounded a rock in the other direction for some privacy so we could relieve ourselves.

That experience was brought vividly to mind yesterday when I received the picture below in an email entitled “African laxative.”

Here is the email:

"Oh yes it is!

African Laxative; about to start working . . . "


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Do you remember Dave Barry?

Dave was a humor columnist for the Miami Herald, but was syndicated and in papers across the country. A couple of his trademark phrases were: “An alert reader sent me this report . . .” and “I am not making this up!”

Typically he would write about things like exploding toilets, fish that rained from the sky, and similar “extreme” topics; extending them to ridiculous levels and making me laugh out loud with great regularity.

When I saw the article excerpted below in my local paper this morning, I knew it was JUST the kind of thing Dave would have been able to use as fodder for one of his columns. You can Google “AP” or the writer’s name and find the entire article if you like (or click THIS LINK:)

Dec 5, 6:27 PM EST

Farmers target EPA report they say might tax cows

By BOB JOHNSON Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if the federal government decides to charge fees for air-polluting animals.

Farmers so far are turning their noses up at the notion, which they contend is a possible consequence of an Environmental Protection Agency report after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases from motor vehicles amounts to air pollution.

"This is one of the most ridiculous things the federal government has tried to do," said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, an outspoken opponent of the fees.



Now, Dave Barry would have focused on the flatulence issue. That was just his style! He probably would have written something like this:

An alert reader in Victoria, TX sent me an AP article in which is reported that an EPA study may result in a tax on flatulent farm animals. (I am NOT making this up.)

The claim is that the “emissions” of these animals should be considered a pollutant (no question there—in my mind, at least), and may contribute to Global Warming.

The article wasn’t clear if the contribution to warming came from the content of these emissions or the temperature of them. I suppose more study is needed on that issue, but I don’t think I’ll volunteer to help in the effort.

I question whether the emissions would be considered “greenhouse gasses” or not. I’ve been inside greenhouses before, and they never smelled particularly like cow flatulence. Well, except the ones that used cow manure for fertilizer.

Pigs and chickens were also mentioned as contributors to the flatulence problem and possibly subject to the proposed tax.

Now we all know that the EPA must have conducted scientific research to determine these findings, but one wonders just how they went about measuring the content and the quantity of flatulence produced by these animals. I picture white-coated scientists hovering around the back ends of cows, holding measuring devices designed to capture and analyze . . . well . . . gas. (The scientists holding the devices, not the cows.)

But doesn’t that sort of thing depend on diet? I know it does with me! You know; beans and cabbage? Isn't it the same with cows and pigs? I wonder if their studies concluded whether grass in cows produced the same quantity and quality of emissions as, maybe, slops in hogs?

And why do you suppose they limited their study to farm animals? Do they think that dogs and cats don’t produce digestive tract emissions?

I used to have a bulldog that could out-produce any other animal I know of when it came to flatulence. And he always chose to produce it, in copious quantities, when he was in the middle of the family as we all watched a movie on TV. That dog could clear a room in seconds flat! If the EPA ever found out about him, I’d likely have to pay a huge tax for pollution.

Farmers were quoted as saying that the whole effort to tax these animals smelled. You could almost say they felt the EPA was being chickensh__ about the whole business. The EPA’s response was that they never really proposed a specific tax, so the whole affair is bullsh__.

Further reports are almost certainly forthcoming. I’ll be waiting with bated breath (and a clothespin on my nose) to bring you any additional word on the subject.


(Actually Dave would have done a much better job with a topic like this, but I lack his flair for the absurd.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quick update on the post below

Yes, the one about 1-800-goog4411.

I've used it three or four times now, and it works seamlessly. Just yesterday Carol and I were leaving the golf course (go figure) heading home when she wondered if our local Wal Mart pharmacy had received a prescription her mother had been waiting for. She suggested we stop by on the way home and check.

Neither one of us was thrilled by the idea, since it would have been out of the way. But then she said, "Why don't you use that Google thing on your cell phone and call them?"

No, I don't just happen to have the number of the Wal Mart pharmacy in my phone book. But I called the Google number, said, "Victoria, Texas. Wal Mart Pharmacy."

I was automatically connected within less than 30 seconds. Pretty slick, especially if you're out of town!

Now the Google web site assures me that there is no charge for this service. But I guess I'll know for certain when I get my next month's cell phone bill.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Have you seen this?

Here's a number worth putting in your cell phone, or your home phone speed dial: 800-goog-411 (or, for the alpha-digitally challenged among us, 800-466-4411). This is an awesome service from Google, and it's free -- great when you are on the road.

Don't waste your money on information calls and don't waste your time manually dialing the number. I am driving along in my car and I need to call the golf course and I don't know the number. I hit the speed dial for the number above.

The voice at the other end says, "City & State." I say, " Garland , Texas." He says, "Business, Name or Type of Service." I say, Firewheel Golf Course." He says, "Connecting" and Firewheel answers the phone. How great is that? This is nationwide and it is absolutely free!

Click on the link below and watch the short clip for a quick demonstration.

http://www.google.com/goog411/

Tell all your friends you read it here first. Unless you read it somewhere else first, in which case . . . Aw, forget it.

Thanks, Hale!

Hale McKay, better known as the Pointmeister, sent me this cartoon in response (sort of) to my last post.

Since one of the points I made to the high school students concerned the need for brevity in a resume, (especially for an entry-level job, for which prior experience is not a requirement), I thought it was very appropriate.

Some folks seem to think that the impressiveness quotient of a resume or curriculum vitae increases in direct proportion to its weight and/or page count. (Kinda like that last sentence!) But in most cases, less is more.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I promised you a report

. . . about my presentations to the high school seniors on the topic of "Getting the Job."

They went very well. Most of my audience stayed awake through my entire spiel and I got a few laughs at some parts. Some were (naturally) more interested than others, and there were a fair number of questions.

Probably most gratifying was the reaction of the teachers who heard me, and one who didn't.

Those who did hear me all agreed that the information, although pretty fundamental, was important for the students to hear. And they were gracious enough to say that it was presented well.

I had put together a two-page (actually one piece of paper, front and back) bullet-point outline of the important points, dos and don'ts, etc., without the anecdotes that were in my talk. This was intended as a handout. Most of the students didn't take any, so I had a stack of them on the table at my company's booth that was set up in the large auditorium. A small number of those copies were picked up over the two-day program.

One teacher from a different high school (who had not heard my talk) picked up a handout and sent me an email today complimenting it and saying she intended to make copies and give them to all of her students because they needed to know those things. She felt it would have more impact coming from "someone in industry rather than a teacher, because students don't think teachers know anything about the real world."

I replied thanking her for her kind words, and offering to make my talk to her students. She was thrilled and we've set a date in early December.

So, yes; it was gratifying. And hopefully a few of the students might have learned something. That would be a real plus!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just good ol’ boys. Never meanin’ no harm . . .

As all you regular readers will no doubt remember, way back in the dark ages (Vietnam era) I used to fly F-4 Phantom jets off the USS Forrestal.

For a long time I didn’t really keep up with any of the other pilots from my squadron, but more recently contacts have been reestablished. You know how older men love to reminisce about the good old days. So now I exchange emails occasionally with some of the guys.

Probably my all-time favorite was my squadron Commanding Officer (CDR Ron Miller) during my second cruise to the Mediterranean. This was back during the old cold war, and the primary role of the sixth fleet in the Med was one of “showing the flag” and serving as an armed presence to deter any possible aggression by . . . whoever.

Why was Ron my favorite? As the skipper, he could choose any pilot he wanted to be his wingman, and he wanted me. Now each one of us thought KNEW we were personally the best pilot in the squadron. The ultimate measure (as in the movie “Top Gun”) was which pair of pilots could whip other pilots in dogfighting.

Oh, excuse me. We didn’t call it “dogfighting.” We called it “ACM,” an acronym for “Air Combat Maneuvering.” EVERY phrase had its acronym in those days, but it was still dogfighting.

Well, Ron and I just seemed to intuitively know what the other was going to do in advance. We worked so well as a team that the two of us in two-plane formation almost never lost a dogfight. Truth be told, I probably wasn’t a better pilot than any of the rest of them (although I’d have fought you if you said that in public back then). It was just one of those synergies where the two of us together were better than any other two, and even better than either one of us when paired with a different wingman.

Kinda like Simon and Garfunkel. Each was good, but together they were special and unlike any other duo.

Okay, all that to say this:

Last week Ron Miller cc’ed me on an email he sent to another of his friends who had served in the US Air Force on Crete during the time we were in the med. I am the “wingie” John he refers to. And yes, I remember the incident very well.


Here's a little story about one of my days on Crete. I was the CO of VF-11, the "World Famous Red Rippers" (oldest continuous fighter squadron in the Navy.) We were on USS Forrestal for a 7 month Med cruise. Ship dropped anchor on the W. end, S. side of the island late in the afternoon. We had sent about 6 of our birds (F4s) to the airfield just above us there on the West end.

The Greeks flew F-84s from there. My wingman and I were scheduled to fly first thing the next morning. So, early on, we gathered our flight gear and were hauled ashore in one of the ship's boats. I had a really good young pilot as my "wingie" so decided to act up a bit, and we planned it all out.

We were taking off to the South, which would take us nearly over the ship. I rolled first, to be followed by John just seconds later. It was gear up, leave her in afterburner, nose over crossing the bluff, then pull up into the first half of a huge loop. John intercepted me near the top, and joined up as we rolled out on heading. I don't remember, but I suspect that we were over 10,000 feet.

On return an hour or so later, we came into the "break" at 450 knots in tight formation, etc. Great fun.

Just after landing, my Ops officer found me and said: "Better lay low because the CAG (Commander, Air Group) is looking for you." The aircrew briefing on the ship (which we missed) said the Greeks had pretty strict air rules, so don't do anything out of the ordinary -- no aerobatics, no high speeds, etc.

So, what happened to me? Nothing at all. You see, the CAG was a bit of a cutup himself (but that's another story.)


Yep, that was us back in the glory days. Spending the taxpayers money having fun.

Just Good Ol’ Boys. Never Meanin’ No Harm.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Big Blue

The picture below was taken with a cell phone camera in poor light. But you can see what it is. It's the license plate on Carol's car.


In Texas it is possible to order specialty license tags with certain pictures on them. They cost about $30 extra, but the money goes to support the "cause" portrayed on the tag.
In this case, the $30 goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to support their many programs for the conservation and preservation of Texas wildlife. Hence the motto, "Keep Texas Wild."
The combination of letters and numbers on the tag is random. So a year ago, when Carol got herself a nice, new Ford Expedition to replace our 12-year-old Dodge van, she wanted a license tag that pictured a Texas Horned Lizard. These critters are better known locally as "horny toads." (I am NOT making that up!)
Anyway, when the tags arrived and Carol saw the number/letter combination, she said it looked to her like "Big Blue"
Well, okay. That's a good way to remember your tag number when you check in at a motel and they want to know which vehicle is yours. So for a year we've been referring to her tag number as "Big Blue."
Now if you'll scroll down a few posts you'll see that I also just got a new vehicle. And like my wonderful wife, I decided to support Texas wildlife by putting a horny toad on MY ride also! Last week I went to the county tax office to order mine. The receipt shows what MY number/letter combination will be.
I was really hoping for something like "LTL BL" which I could christen "Little Blue," since my car is smaller than hers and blue in color. But no such luck. What I got was "FJ 50P."
Carol looked at that and immediately said, "Oh, 'Fat John, 50 Plus!'"
Needless to say, despite having my very own horny toad license plates on their way, I am NOT pleased with the memory aid she has come up with! I mean, come on! There are LOTS of potentially complimentary (or at least neutral) memory aids she could have thought up using "FJ." "Fighter Jockey" comes to mind, recalling my days as a Navy F-4 Phantom pilot.
But alas, I fear that my car will forever be known to the two of us as "Fat John," for once spoken some words just can't be taken back or forgotten.
So I guess that the next time Carol makes some snide remark about a bit of "middle-age spread" appearing on or near my waistline I'll have to tell her, "I just trying to live up to my car's nickname."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

An opportunity

This week I get to address four groups of 30 local high school seniors.

The occasion is what the school district calls Career Days. Presentations are made to all four high school grades on various topics, to include:

· information about specific jobs that are available locally – what the job pays, what the duties are, what education and/or experience is required to get the jobs, etc.,
· information about further educational opportunities after high school – trade schools, community college, four-year universities, etc.,
· information about obtaining financial aid for further education, and
· “life skills” required to GET a job and to be successful in the workplace

My topic is called “Getting the Job.” I’m going to cover all the usual stuff about resumes, job applications and interview dos and don’ts. But I also plan to hit them with some life philosophy.

I plan to start out by telling them, “I’ve been a human resources manager longer than any of you have been alive. I may not have ‘seen it all,’ but I’ve seen a lot!”

My tips and advice are specific.

Examples:

“Do not even TAKE your cell phone to an interview, but if you do take it turn it OFF! Do not DARE answer it if it rings, unless you can tell me you’re expecting an emergency call.”

“Leave the cologne and after-shave at home. If I detect any odor during your visit, it should be the smell of soap.”

“Do not assume your Sunday best clothing is appropriate for an interview. If in doubt, call and ask what the interviewer would prefer you to wear.” (At my plant, if you came dressed in a coat and tie in the Texas summer I’d think you had a screw loose!)

“Fill in EVERY blank on an application. Use “N/A” if appropriate, but put something in there. Otherwise I'll think you're careless.”

“ALWAYS print ‘Open’ in the inevitable blank asking for ‘Salary Desired’.”

But before I talk to them about the actual interview I will ask for a show of hands of those who consider themselves shy. Then I plan a 2-minute lecture on the fact that they can CHOOSE not to be shy! No, it isn’t easy. Yes, it takes some practice and some work.

I used to be shy and scared to death to speak in front of a group. But in the Navy I was an instructor in the Flight Training Command, and had to give training lectures to student pilots. Sure, I stumbled and fumbled at first, but I quickly realized that was stupid! These younger students didn’t know as much as I did, and if they laughed at a gaffe, so what!? I didn’t get sick and die.

I watched others and learned both good and bad ways of handling awkward situations in front of a group. And in a fairly short while I became good at speaking in front of others, and proud of it! People would come up to me after a presentation and compliment me on my delivery.

And guess what? I haven’t been shy since. (Maybe a bit of an arrogant egotist, but hey, who’s perfect?)

So, you high school seniors, DON’T be shy. Shyness is NOT an endearing quality in the workplace or in life, and it can hold you back in your career. Get over it.

Rah! Rah!

Okay, end of lecture. I’m looking forward to what kind of reaction I get from the students. Each “talk” is only 25 minutes, so I don’t know if I’ll get everything in or not.

I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reality check

Did you ever have your self-imaged abruptly changed?

You know; you're going along minding your own business, thinking of yourself as you usually do (in my case, as a middle-aged man in pretty good shape and not all that bad-looking), and some stranger addresses you as "Gramps?"

No, it didn't happen to me quite that way. Let me explain.

On Halloween I had just picked up my brand new hybrid car (see post below). Sure, the salesman at the dealership showed us all the features including how to sync up my bluetooth-capable cell phone with the car's hands-free phone system (a pretty slick setup!) But I hadn't had time to really internalize or practice finding the different controls and using them. So I was busy checking out features while driving instead of paying attention to driving.

It was dark, and I was on the same stretch of road where I had hit the deer a few weeks ago. I didn't feel as if I was driving fast at all, and activated the cruise control while Carol and I played with the ambient lighting selector. Within a minute the red and blue lights of a highway patrol cruiser were flashing behind me. I immediately pulled over. The car was quiet, engine off.

The trooper approached on the passenger side and tapped on the window. I had been waiting for him to come to the driver side. I fumbled around for what seemed like forever trying to find the button to lower the electric window on Carol's side of the car.

He grinned patiently, and then introduced himself and asked if I had my driver's license and proof of insurance (a requirement in Texas). I told him I had JUST picked up the car, was still trying to figure out all the features, and confessed I hadn't been watching my speed. He politely explained that he'd clocked me at 62 in a 55 zone.

We discussed the fact that I DID have proof of insurance, but only because the dealer had asked me to phone my insurance company and request them to fax over a copy. In the middle of that discussion the car . . . Well, the car screeched at me!

This horrible, LOUD "R-R-R-R-E-E-E-E" noise made me jump, and the trooper jerked his head back from the window. Carol and I looked at each other in confusion. The car did it again; "R-R-R-R-E-E-E-E!" The trooper then said (a bit condescendingly, I thought), "THAT's your phone."

OH! YEAH! The salesman had synched it to the car, and now the whole CAR was ringing!

Well, I had no idea how to answer it! (I now know there's a button on the steering wheel, but at the time . . .) I grabbed at the phone itself and started pushing buttons. All I wanted was for the car to stop screeching. It did, and the trooper again waited patiently while I said, "It's my daughter."

I turned to the phone and said in haste, "I can't talk now. I'll call you back and explain." Then I hung up on her.

The trooper said he would go back to his car and just write me a warning. I thanked him, feeling like a total idiot. But it wasn't over yet. As he walked back toward his car, my engine started! (Remember, this is a hybrid. When you stop, the gasoline engine stops. But if you have the air conditioning on, eventually the engine starts and will run a while to power the compressor for the A/C.)

I quickly shut it off and sat there, face burning. Carol was reminding me that when you are stopped by the police you are supposed to shut off your engine and leave it off, or else they are likely to think you're going to drive away. When the trooper came back with my warning we apologized for the engine starting and told hime we hadn't intended to start it, that it just started by itself because I'd forgotten to turn off the key, and . . .

He smiled and held up his hand. "I understand," he said. "It'll do that every time you stop at a light, too. That's the way they work. That's one of the ways they save gas."

At this point I REALLY felt like an idiot. And I knew HE thought I was an idiot, too.

He asked us where we were going. We told him straight home. He nodded and said, "Good. Please drive safe."

As he walked away I think I saw myself through his eyes. And what I saw was a gray-haired man approaching senility, with little command of anything the least bit technical or mechanical. An old fella who ought to be in bed once the sun went down.

Now that is NOT me! But it was an ugly reality check regardless, to realize that people might see me that way.

Getting old sucks, but it probably beats checking out early! (Hey, at least he took pity and only wrote me a warning!)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My new ride!

Dear readers (*sigh* . . . both of you),

As you saw in my last post, my poor old commute-to-work car met its demise in a close encounter with Bambi’s mom. One of you (Kenju) asked what I would be driving to work now.

The short-term answer was that I used a borrowed vehicle. Fortunately for us, Carol’s mother lives nearby, doesn’t drive any more, but has a Honda minivan. Periodically she asks me to drive it to work and back just to keep it in running condition. She was happy (she said) to let me use it for a few months until the car I had ordered last June was delivered.

What had I ordered that took so long? Well, I knew that my old Mazda (12 years old with 195,000 miles on it) wouldn’t last too many more years (months?), and I had begun lusting after the 2009 Ford Escape hybrid. It is Ford’s small SUV with better gas mileage than my little 4-cylinder, 5-speed Mazda, but with lots of room and hauling capacity. Seemed like a great compromise when gas was over $4 per gallon!

So, on the first day the ‘09 models could be ordered, I ordered one. That was June 4. They told me it would be October at the earliest before the car was ready; and more likely January! Well, okay. My Mazda was still running. I didn’t NEED a new car yet. January would be acceptable. You know, Merry Christmas and all!

What made the ’09 model more attractive than the ’08 was that the newer one came with stability control features lacking before. There were some other nice features, but that was the main reason.

Anyway, last Friday, October 31 (Halloween! Spooky, no?), I got a call at work from the Ford dealer.

My new car was in!

Since I know you’re just DYING to see it, here it is. Yesterday morning I sat in the car reading the manuals and trying to figure out all the features, hybrid charactaristics and nuances, while Carol walked around it snapping photos:


For you in the harsher climes, yes I live in South Texas. Yes, this shot was taken on November 1. Yes, it's still "late summer" here (we played golf yesterday with bright sunshine, temps in the mid 80s, and sweated in our shorts and short-sleeve shirts!)


Ford calls this color "light ice-blue metallic." It looks almost silver in these shots because I lightened them up a bit for detail. The first picture (up above this one) is pretty close to the real color, on my monitor at least.




I have another story to tell about my first driving experience in this car, but that will wait for another post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh deer. ME!?

(That's a takeoff on the POINTMEISTER'S post for today!)

On tuesday morning at about 6 a.m. I was merrily (well, maybe a better adverb would be "sleepily") driving to work.

I had just left the house. I wasn't even out of the city limits yet. But I WAS on a divided boulevard with a 55 mph speed limit (which I was actually obeying, Christina!) (. . . for once).

In the glare of the headlights of the oncoming traffic I saw a flicker of motion.

Gee, that looked like something moving between me and that car . . . Must have been an animal! Where there's one, there are usually more. Oh, SH---BAM!!

I had just the barest instant to flick the wheel to the left in reaction to the sight of the deer running straight across from right to left about two feet in front of my right headlight.

It happened so fast (plus it was pitch dark out there -- no street lights) that I never saw which way the body of the instantly-dead deer flew. I was now in the median, still going about 55, and fighting for control of the car.

Now, the experts will tell you that when you see an animal in front of you and can't stop, DON'T swerve. Likely you'll just lose control of the car and crash, doing MUCH worse damage to life and property than if you just hit the animal. They tell you to drive THROUGH the animal, let the car absorb the damage, and come to a controlled stop.

Yeah, right. I know all that.

But the experts don't tell you how to prevent that reflexive instinct to avoid a collision. I had swerved before I had a conscious thought about what to do.

Anyway, I did regain control, eased back onto the pavement, came to a controlled stop, and got out to inspect the damage. I didn't even have to clean out my pants! Must have been my fighter-pilot training and instincts. (Or something.) (Aside: They say that just before you really screw up a night carrier landing, first you say it, and then you DO it.)

Before I even looked at the front of the car I knew it was totalled. Why? Well, this was my commute-to-work car. It's a little Mazda Protege (great gas mileage!) that is 12 years old and has 196,000 miles on it. That means the current value of the car is about $1,900, if I'm REALLY lucky. Just replacing the hood, headlight and front fender would cost that much, or more.

Sure enough, all of those were mashed pretty thoroughly. In addition, when I struck the front shoulder of the deer, the back end slammed around into the passenger-side door denting it in and leaving a large smear of . . . well . . .deer poop right by the handle.

Believe it or not, the car was still drivable. So after ensuring that the deer carcass was not impeding traffic I decided there was no sense calling the police. They darn sure weren't going to ticket the deer! I drove on to work.

As of today, two things are official:

1. My car has had the damage estimated and has been declared a total loss. It will be driven away to some salvage yard tomorrow. It's epitaph ought to be, "I fought the deer, and I won."

2. My new nickname at work is "Deerslayer." That alternates with "Bambi Murderer," and a few other attempts at humor

I just told them to go open my passenger door, and then smell their hand.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Georgia golf course pics

Back to our September vacation trip. When we last visited this topic, Carol and I had just left Chicago.

From there we headed down to Georgia to play some golf. And believe it or not, I don't have a single picture of a golf course to show you.

But all of these pictures were taken on or at a golf course.

First, a walking stick. No, not the stick you use when you hike, the insect! Have you ever seen one? Very aptly named. This guy was resting on the front of our car when we finished a round in a brief shower.

Often we've seen smaller walking sticks, but this one was about 6 inches from tip to tip. Obviously their appearance provides excellent camouflage when they're in or near trees or bushes. On a white Ford Expedition it's questionable whether any predator would have been fooled.

But take a close look at this guy's body. Pretty good disguise, I'd say!


Next we found some pileated woodpeckers. We have additional pictures of these birds from other locations. They're very impressive at nearly a foot in height, and it's hard to miss that brilliant topknot.



The one below had just found something in a hole in a dead tree trunk and was working to get it out. I hope it was tasty.

Then we saw an even bigger bird beside a fairway. This gobbler seems to know that Thanksgiving is not that far away. He wouldn't let us get close at all.

Finally, here are some pictures containing evidence of an animal we DIDN'T see. Check out these trees. Notice anything?

Take a closer look at the second tree from the left . . .
Now take a REAL close look. Somehow I don't think a chain saw did that.

We never saw Bucky, but he must not live far away. Some of the other nearby trees had evidence of his "busy" work!
(Next installment: On to Florida!)
(Coming soon.)
(I hope.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An OLD joke I still think is funny

I know . . . I know! You've heard/read this before. So had I.

But when I saw it yesterday I laughed out loud at it. Again.

So I read it aloud to Carol, giving the dialogue of the old rabbi my impression of a Brooklyn Yiddish accent (horrible, of course, but she was tickled by it).

And now I offer it to you. I think it's cute. I hope it doesn't offend!

__________________________________________________


Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy.

There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He'd have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they'd have to convert or leave.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.

On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head. The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The rabbi pulled out an apple.

With that, the Pope stood up, declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.

Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened. The Pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs.

"Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us.

"I pulled out the bread and wine to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin.

"He bested me at every move and I could not continue."

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he'd won.

"I haven't a clue," the rabbi said. "First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger.

"Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here."

''And then what?" asked a woman.

"Who knows?" said the rabbi. "He took out his lunch so I took out mine."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

OOOOO! One more Chicago note!

(Insider Information Contained Here!)

I can't believe I forgot to include this experience in the last post. My excuse is: I have no pictures of it to show you. But still . . .

My Chicago-dwelling daughter had learned that if there's a (live) theater show you want to go see, but you don't want so spend hundreds of dollars for a good seat, there's a secret!!

The box office opens at 10:00 am sharp. If you happen to be one of the first ten people in line on the day of the performance, you can buy seats in the orchestra, FRONT ROW, CENTER, for $25 each! These seats would normally cost you $250.00 each! (Shhhh! You have to ask for "rush tickets.")

They don't sneer at you, or laugh at you. They smile and ask how many you want.

We got to the box office well before 10:00 am, but there were 14 people already in line. As I'm experiencing an instant a sinking feeling that we'd blown it, daughter pipes up with, "Don't worry. Some of these people probably are just here to buy regular tickets, or tickets for another day's performance. Very few people know about these "rush tickets."

We went to see "Jersey Boys," a superb musical telling the story of Franky Valli and the Four Seasons.

The cast was fantastic, and they performed all of the old Four Seasons' hits:
Sherry
Big Girls Don't Cry
C'mon Marianne
Dawn (Go Away)
Rag Doll
Workin' My Way Back to You
Can't take My Eyes Off of You
Stay

And lots more! I knew and could sing along with every one of them.
But let me tell you about the seats. Have you ever been front row center in a Broadway-type show? I never had!
The only downside was that the stage was about a foot higher than our heads, so when the action moved back towards the rear we had to hike ourselves up some to see it. But most of the action was near the front.
And WHEN the action was near the front it was right on top of us! I could have (literally) reached up and touched the shoes of the performers when they stood on the edge of the stage. Which they did frequently when they sang.
It was a thrilling, unique experience (unless you've got LOTS of money to spend at the theater), and one I won't soon forget.
So . . . Next time you're in Chicago and have time to take in a show, remember about "rush tickets."
It could save you a bundle, and provide you with a really exciting theater experience.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Vacation tales and pics

** SIGH **

Daughter Christina is back into blogging after a hiatus, and is bugging me to post something.

Okay . . . I guess. I had promised several of my many both of my my ONE faithful reader some pictures of my recent marathon driving trip as well, so here's a start.

We left Texas heading for Chicago and spent the long Labor Day weekend with my younger daughter and her husband in their high-rise apartment right on the Chicago river with a view of the lake.

Here's a shot from her "office" (and I'll never tire of this view!):

In Chicago we toured the Frank Lloyd Wright residence and studio, and took a walking tour of some of the homes he designed early in his career. I have some pictures, but unless you're REALLY into architecture and FLW they wouldn't be very exciting.

Our daughter and her husband have been taking ballroom dancing lessons, kind of like Badabing. She (not "they") decided to try a ballroom dancing competition, and although we didn't get to see it, we did see all of her pictures and videos.

Now part of the deal is, each female competitor has to have TWO dresses: one for "smooth" dances, and one for Latin. The "smooth" dress has to have a "float" (a panel of usually sheer fabric that attaches to one wrist, and from there to the skirt), and it absolutely MUST have rhinestones. LOTS of rhinestones.

How many rhinestones, you ask? Well, the bare MINIMUM (and nobody would be caught dead in a dress with this few!) is ten gross.

Do the math.

That's 1440 little sparklies that are HAND-GLUED to the dress!

My daughter's dress had 13 gross . . . But who's counting?

She bought the fabric and designed the dress herself. She hand-glued the 13 gross colored rhinestones in a pattern around the bodice designed to look like flames.

Yes, flames.

Okay, okay, here's a picture:

Now, get this! Many competitors buy their dresses (not having the time or the skill to MAKE them). My daughter says she spent a total of about $300 for materials for this dress.

She was told by a dress designer that had she bought that dress it would have cost $3,000. And that's without the rhinestones glued on!

Oh, and don't forget; competitors would NEVER wear a particular dress more than once in competition! NEVER!

In case you're wondering, she doesn't expect to compete in the future. "Been there, done that," is what I think she said.

Could she go into business making custom competition dresses for ballroom? And make a killing? Sure.

Does she want to? Nope. She's a graphic designer (manager) with bigger fish to fry. Am I proud? Hmmmm.

Oh, and one last shot. Carol and I were walking exactly one-half block from daughter's apartment in the heart of downtown Chicago, when a rabbit hopped across the sidewalk in front of us and headed for some landscape plantings in front of a huge high-rise building.

No, that is NOT a fake rabbit or a retouched photo. Here's a close-up, complete with red-eye:

More to come . . . Someday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You asked . . .

Actually Candace asked, as a comment to yesterday's post, "When was the last time your area was affected by hurricane, anyway?"

That would have been Hurricane Claudette in 2003.

Here's a picture (and no, Carol didn't take this one):

Claudette hit us as a category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 90-100 mph. Didn't sound like much, but those winds caused a lot of damage to trees and overhead power lines. We were without electricity for three days.

Compared to Ike, that's not much. I've heard that some folks in Texas along Ike's path have been told they may remain without electricity for 4-5 WEEKS!!

Not long after Claudette, I bought a generator and several 7-gallon gasoline containers. I haven't used it yet, thank goodness. It's still in the box.

Makes me wonder if it will run when I need it. Hopefully I'll never have to find out.

Another post!

Pictures to come -- soon, I hope. We've just returned home to find . . . absolutely NO damage of any kind from Ike. In fact, Victoria, TX, got NO rain at all from Ike. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Here's my tale: First Dolly roared in well south of us. Next, Edouard pummeled Beaumont to the north of us. When Gustav was taking dead aim at New Orleans, we headed north to Chicago and missed all contact with that storm.

Then, while Fay was dancing back and forth across Florida we drove to Maryland to visit my sister. The following days saw us driving south to Georgia just as Hanna was headed up the East Coast toward South Carolina. We (Hanna and I) crossed, but I was far enough west and the storm far enough east that we saw only the very edges of the highest clouds -- no rain and no wind.

Meanwhile Ike was taking aim at Florida and Georgia (the then-likely path of the storm), but zigged to the south and into the Gulf. For two days the center of the projected path cone was Matagorda Bay, TX, just 30 miles from Victoria. We envisioned coming home the following week to (at the very least) spoiled food in the fridge and freezer due to the inevitable power outage, not to mention probable damage from tree limbs and wind. At least Victoria is well inland and there are no fears of storm surge or rising water.

But, Ike decided to ease north just enough that we had on power outage and no wind to speak of. Not even any rain!

So . . . I'm thinking of hiring myself out as a hurricane repellent. When there's a storm in the Gulf I'll immediately travel to the location of the highest bidder. When the storm then goes elsewhere, THAT location will wish THEY had upped the ante a little!

Think it'll work?

Me neither.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A post!

To all my blog friends: Thanks! (For stopping by, and for caring!)

I didn't broadcast it this year, but Carol and I are today in South Georgia on our way to Tampa to visit daughter and grandson. We've been through Chicago to visit other daughter, then to Maryland to see my sister, and we managed to dodge Gustav and Hanna with nary a puff of wind nor a drop of rain.

We were worried about Ike disrupting our planned Georgia golf, but he decided to go into the Gulf and again we never saw any rain or wind. In fact, it's been hot, humid and still.

We won't be heading home to see what Ike has done until Tuesday. If all the food in our freezer is spoiled . . . Oh well!

So, don't worry about us -- we're far from Texas and quite safe.

Karyn, you'll probably get more rain than our town will -- maybe YOU'D better run. Viki, sorry I again passed through Chicago and didn't get to meet you -- maybe next year! And Goddess, be thankful for the rain and no cyclones!

Maybe I'll be better about posting once this vacation is over. I'll at least let you know if we had any damage from Ike.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No song this time

Sorry, but I don't know any songs about "Edouard."

Regardless, I'm glad he's bypassed my town and is giving some rain to those who needed it. We would have welcomed a few good showers, but no such luck. Just hot and dry here. Still.

Maybe I can come up with something about Edouard. . . How about, Edouard Scissorhands?

"Edouard Scissorhands, don't trim my trees,
with your violent winds and howling breeze."

Nah -- no ring to that one.

I guess I'll just water my lawn and be happy we haven't seen any destructive storms here for a while.

After all, my younger daughter who lives in downtown Chicago just had a tornado pass nearly overhead and whoosh on out over Lake Michigan. She said it blew out some windows on the 40th floor of the John Hancock building not far up Michigan Avenue from her apartment building.

No, I don't need anything like that!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Goodbye, Dolly!

(With apologies to Jerry Herman . . . Sing it with me...)

Goodbye, Dolly,
Well goodbye, Dolly,
It's so nice to have you back where you belong.

(Anywhere but here!)

We needed rain, Dolly,
but you were a pain, Dolly,
With your blowin, and your growin',
You kept goin' strong.

We felt the room swayin'
With your storm’s sprayin’
But you didn’t bring the rain we needed then, so...

Take all your wind, Dolly
Take your counterclockwise spin, Dolly
Promise you'll never come this way again!


Total rainfall at our house in Victoria, Texas: barely over one inch. We're going to have to start watering the yard again this weekend, looks like.

There were times when the Weather Channel radar showed a wide swath of dark green rain right over us for fairly long periods of time, but not a drop hit the ground. Much of the past few days the sun has been shining brightly.

But now that I've complained, we'll probably get the next storm right through this area, category 4, and we'll all drown in the flooding. Some folks are never happy, right?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hello, Dolly!

Please go away, Dolly.

Although I guess we could use the rain.

How about . . . Stay weak, Dolly, but give us about 3-4 inches of rain over a tw0-day period. Is that too much to ask?

If so, then just go away.

Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pictures of a REALLY FOXY gal!

(With a title like that, who KNOWS how many hits I'll get!?)

Well, here she is:

TOLD ya she was foxy!

Over the July 4th weekend, Carol and I went to Alabama to play golf (go figure!) at one of the stops on Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The venue was Capitol Hills near Montgomery. That location has THREE full 18-hole courses, each of which is different in style and character.

One of those courses ("The Senator") is links style, meaning no trees but just mounds along both sides of most fairways. These mounds are covered with DEEP, thick, ball-eating rough.

That's where we saw the fox. Actually Carol spotted her trotting across a fairway and heading into the mounds where she stopped to enjoy the view, and then to hunt for breakfast.


This shot I like to call "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." If you've ever taken a typing course (keyboarding now?), you'll get the reference.

But then she goes into hunting mode!


Here she's looking left . . .


Looking up . . .


Looking down . . .


And looking right. Ever hear of a fox-tail brush? Now you know where the name came from.


Oooooh! She heard something!


She stalks . . .


She leaps again!


Takes a perfect point . . .


. . And comes away with the prize!


What did she get? You tell me!

What's that? You want to know how the golf was? Who CARES about the golf with views like this around the course.

(I wonder if I could hire the fox to help me find my golf balls that ended up in that rough . . .)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just found a great new blog

called "I work for lunatics."

Here's the link.

There's not much there yet, but it shows promise. Almost sounds like someone I used to read all the time who lived in Chicago.

Check it out. Tell the author John sent you!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I guess it HAD to happen.

My daughter Christina, her husband, and her son (my ONLY grandchild) came to visit from Tampa this week. We only get to see her about 2-3 times each year, and grandson is now three (and as cute as you can possibly imagine!), so we look forward to seeing them all.

There was only ONE problem. Christina had read my post of May 24 about the dreaded “C” (which shall remain unnamed in this post) and immediately began to experience its effects. Within a few days her car died (alternator failure), her toilet overflowed, and she dropped and broke a new, expensive pair of sunglasses.

All in all, I’d say she got off easy! A few days after she and her family arrived here in Texas, our home air conditioner failed.

Now it has only failed one other time in the last 9 years. So how would it “know” to fail when we have company staying here, AND when the daytime highs were in the low to mid 90s? How ELSE can you explain this except for the dreaded “C”? As is typical in these cases, the “C” tends to strike at the worst possible time.

Oh, the failure happened to be a $350 part, but NOT the compressor (which is still under warranty). Is that Convenient? No, it’s Crappy! And yes, BOTH begin with “C”.

So, we had to pay for the new part, plus labor to install the darn thing, plus a motel room for our visiting guests so they could get some sleep at night. And all of this when gasoline is approaching $4 a gallon! (Gasoline has nothing to do with our failed air conditioner, but I had to get my complaint in there about gas prices somehow.)

So stand by, dear readers. It appears another outbreak of the “C” is building up to full force. Just when we’ve gotten into hurricane season, too!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Kissing Frogs

The company I work for has 140 employees. By this time in 2010 I expect we’ll have 200. No recession here!

I’m the Human Resources Manager. That means that I’m responsible for all the recruiting, screening, selection, hiring, orientation and initial training for those new folks.

And, oh by the way, my little department also handles all the plant health and safety, security, benefits administration, payroll, training and recordkeeping, and general employee relations activities.

Not to mention the ISO 9001 quality program, and our participation in the OSHA VPP program as a STAR site. It seems I’m leaving something else out . . . Oh, yeah, I also sign all the payables checks, approve wire transfers, handle the uniform leasing and laundry service, and . . . I’m pretty sure there’s more.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’d rather be recruiting and hiring than laying people off! But many larger firms have a full-time recruiting group; that’s all they do. And there’s a reason for that. Recruiting—done properly—takes a lot of time, effort, and not a little skill.

You see, there are a whole lot of frogs that need to be kissed before a prince shows up. And every one of those frogs has to be treated like a potential prince until proven otherwise. Sometimes the frog/prince is only revealed in royal form after a certain style kiss. They don’t always respond immediately to a quick peck on the lips; some need a more probing, deeper kiss (in-depth interview) to reveal their hidden qualities.

On the flip side, some appear to be taking on a prince-like appearance only to have their true webbed feet and amphibian nature revealed later.

Even after an ineffective, unsuccessful buss many of those now-proven frogs keep coming back asking for another chance, another interview, etc. (Another kiss?!? BLEAH! I don’t THINK so!)

Part of the HR manager's job is to keep those frogs just happy enough that they don't claim they were somehow discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly. (By definition, if they don't get a job offer something MUST have been unfair, right? “Hey, I’m not really an amphibian! Kiss me again and I’ll show you! It’s YOUR fault—you didn’t give me the right kind of kiss!”)

The trap I NEVER want to fall into is to answer honestly the inevitable question, “What did I do wrong? Why didn’t you choose me?”

Why not be honest? Why not just say, “Well, you’re a FROG, fly-breath, and being a prince is a BFOQ.” (In case you didn’t know, that’s short for a Bona-Fide Occupational Qualification. It’s defined as a quality which on the surface might appear to be discriminatory but can be a legal requirement in certain circumstances.) The reason is: there is just no way that a focus on the negative (“Why NOT me?”) won’t possibly come back later to haunt you as an illegal act of discrimination. (“Well, you hired three other candidates who were just as green as me!”)

So what do I do? I tell the truth! I always stick with, “Gee, I only had two (or three or four) jobs to fill, and a whole bunch of well-qualified applicants. I couldn’t hire all the ones I wanted to”(well, that might be a slight stretch). “But I’ll certainly consider you for the next opening I have if it’s something you might be qualified for!” (And THAT might be a HUGE stretch! I rationalize it by the fact that although my “consideration” might be about 0.5 seconds long, I’ll consider them!)

All that puckering up, and gathering of paperwork (applications and resumes), and setting up interviews, and following up afterwards, and answering the same questions a bunch of times takes time. A LOT of time!

But when the real, true prince appears (the well-qualified applicant with the perfect personality), it makes all that kissing (and gargling with Scope) seem worthwhile.

Till the next amphibian hops up off the lilly pad with its tongue out!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A quick trip to Lowes

When I first moved to this house 22 years ago, there were no “home improvement warehouse” stores in this town.

Oh, we had several lumber stores. We had a few hardware stores. There were at least a couple of specialty stores where you could buy plumbing supplies, or maybe electrical wiring, outlet boxes and light fixtures. But if you wanted to buy all of those things you had to drive around town and it might take you all morning.

Well, not any more!

Now, within one mile of my house you can find a huge Lowes, a Home Depot, and a McCoys building supply center! And that’s only if the nearby Wal Mart Supercenter doesn’t have what you need.

Right?

Today is Memorial Day, and Lowes has a sale on. Carol has been hot to get our backyard blackberry bed cleaned out now that all the blackberries have been picked, and part of the project is to extend a little fence we made out of PVC pipe.

Wait . . . A picture is worth a whole bunch of narrative. Here’s a shot of the end of that fence with the blackberry bushes behind it.

To extend that fence we needed six 10-foot joints of 1 ½ inch PVC, five tee fittings, five “cross” fittings, and some 5-inch nails to nail together some landscape timbers we’d already bought . I also wanted an extra-long 3/16-inch drill bit. Armed with that shopping list, we set out for Lowes at 9:00 am.

Lowes had no 5-inch nails; only 6-inch spikes. So we left and drove the half-mile to Home Depot. They ALSO had no 5-inch nails, and their 6-inch spikes were more expensive than the ones at Lowes. We decided to just get the ones at Lowes, along with everything else. After all, they were having a sale, right?

We drove back to Lowes and counted out the nails we needed. Then we learned that they were out of the long drill bit I wanted, and had NO joints of 1 ½ inch PVC pipe. But they DID have some (not all) of the fittings we needed. We bought nails and fittings, and headed for McCoy’s.

There we found 5-inch nails, but we had already bought the 6-inch ones at Lowes, so we opted to keep the ones we’d already bought. We checked the supply of PVC pipe and fittings. McCoy’s had only three joints of pipe and no fittings.

We drove back to Home Depot. There we bought the drill bit, the pipe and the remaining fittings. We were home by 11:10, having driven (it seemed) all over town and having spent most of the morning to buy the items on that short shopping list.

Progress. Ain’t it wonderful?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I apologize!

. . . For yesterday’s post. I can’t believe I wrote that just 24 hours ago. But of course I’ve now been back on my meds longer and my mind is much clearer.

I mean, all that stuff about my abduction and interrogation! Ha, ha! Let me tell you what REALLY happened.

If you’ll refer back to a PRIOR post (before the one about the Hateful, Discriminatory Nazi Porn King) you’ll see that I was having a problem with sciatica. Now I’ve had bouts with lower back pain before, but never with numbness and tingling all the way down to my foot. That scared me a bit, so I overcame my macho denial proclivity and went to see a family doctor.

His diagnosis: herniated disc L5-S1 pinching the right sciatic nerve. He referred me to a neurologist.

Neurologist’s diagnosis: herniated disc L5-S1 pinching the right sciatic nerve. He ordered an MRI to see the extent of the bulging disc.

The other tests the neurologist ran became, in my deranged mind, some of the interrogation techniques I mentioned yesterday. The doc wanted to see if there was any nerve damage or reduction of conductivity of brain signals, so he pounded on my knees and Achilles tendons to check reflexes. Then he attached small contacts to my lower leg and ankles and sent electrical impulses from other parts of my legs to measure the speed of travel of the impulse and the amount of current transmitted.

I called this test the “cattle prod” test. The doc and his assistant would tell me, “This will make your foot twitch,” and then zap me! Yeah, it “twitched” all right! I dang near kicked the assistant in her pretty mouth!

The worst part was when they hit me with a charge from under the soft, back side of the knee. She had to push the contacts in hard (and THEY were NOT soft!) and then ZAP! My whole leg jerked. I was ready to answer any question they asked me at that point if they’d promise to stop!

The final test involved inserting very thin needles into three different muscles and then having me flex those muscles. Actually, that wasn’t too painful until the following day when those muscles ached around the insertion point.

And after all that came the MRI. This was one of the “unspeakable acts” I mentioned yesterday. They put me into an “upright” MRI device, which meant I was able to sit instead of lying down. You’d think that would be more pleasant, right? But sitting is the one position that causes my leg to ache. Plus, the walls of the machine pressed in on my shoulders and arms, and they were hot! I was stuck in that thing for 45 minutes.

The results showed clearly, to everyone’s surprise, absolutely NO bulging discs! Evidently the “pinch” felt by the sciatic nerve is from arthritis in the lower spine, not a herniated disc.

And really, that’s good news. It means I’m likely NOT a candidate for surgery, and that twisting and turning is NOT likely to cause any further damage or injury.

So, after all of that whining and complaining, I’m not nearly as “bad off” as I had feared. Sometimes my macho denial proclivity isn’t off the mark!

The explanation offered here is what Carol tells me really happened over the last two weeks. She insists that I’ve been going to work every day, and that our lives have been pretty normal. The van with the dark windows is no longer parked in front of my home, so I guess she’s right. The memories (or was it a dream?) about the interrogation are fading.

But it still seems that I remember someone talking to me at length about the “conspiracy” thing and calling my description of it “paranormal.”

(Or was that “paranoia?”)

Hmmmm.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I’m back! (For now . . .)

My friends, it has been an unbelievable two weeks!

Right after that last post of mine, “they” must have figured out that I knew the van parked out front was for surveillance. The very next morning (Monday) when I was going to work, they grabbed me!

I was bound and blindfolded. They tossed me into the back of that van like a sack of potatoes (did I spell that right? Dan Quayle knows!) and drove me around for several hours. When they finally jerked the hood from my head I was in a small room with a single naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling providing dim illumination.

Then the interrogation began.

I was subjected to electric shocks! I was pierced with needles! I was denied access to my meds and held incommunicado! Unspeakable acts have been perpetrated upon my person! Oh, the pain of it all!

But did I tell them anything? HA!

They confiscated my computer and read ALL of my old blog posts. They asked me about each one of you, but I disclaimed any knowledge of you. Michelle, they wanted to know how I knew someone from South Africa! Karyn, they informed me that your name was really a pseudonym! Who knew?!

Then they found my posts about the . . . (shhhh!) “ycaripsnoc” and wanted more information. Well, I confess. I told them. I mean, how could I NOT tell them when all the details were spelled out in various blog posts? And besides, by then I’d been off my meds for over a week!

So be warned! Having been publically acknowledged after such a long period of silence, the ycaripsnoc is liable to be unleashed with terrible strength upon all of us! I only warn you for your own good, but be prepared for terrible “seeming coincidences” involving failures of mechanical, electrical, electronic and structural devices and entities.

In fact, I fear that the earthquake in China AND the cyclone that hit Myanmar may be only the first outbreak of forces. Who knows WHAT else might happen? Natural disasters are just the beginning.

Anyway, after I divulged everything about the ycaripsnoc the interrogators seemed to lose interest in me. They gave me a shot of something, and I next woke up in my own bed this morning. My computer is back. Everything SEEMS just as it used to be!

Carol claims I was never gone, but I know better! However, some of the more vivid memories of the interrogation are beginning to fade now that I’m back on my meds. But that’s probably all part of the drugs they used on me—likely they included an amnesia-inducing agent.

I’ll fool them though! This post will be written proof of what happened to me even after my memory of it is gone.

I guess.

I THINK I was gone.

But I’m beginning to wonder . . .

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Meet the hateful/discriminatory Nazi porn king

According to some, that would be, uh . . . me.

Several years ago my son-in-law downloaded some freeware utility program onto my computer. It did what it was suppose to do, but it also contained a worm that allowed its creator to send pornographic emails through my computer (and thus seen as coming from MY IP address!).

It took me a while to convince my ISP (Internet Service Provider) NOT to cancel my account once the complaints started coming in. I removed the nasty worm, and all was well again.

That explains the “porn king” part of my title.

As for the hateful and discriminatory Nazi part, that came yesterday. Here’s the story.

In 1974 I bought and moved into a small house in Corpus Christi. This dwelling had been built in the 1930s and had one electrical circuit (protected by a single 30-amp fuse) serving the entire place! The first thing we did was hire an electrician to have the place wired according to modern codes.

But in the attic (which I had entered to install insulation, since it had none!) I found a folded-up burlap bag. Pictures below.


Well, I thought that was interesting; an actual piece of WWII Nazi memorabilia! I decided I'd keep it, since someday it might be worth something.

But Carol has been saying for some time (several years, I think) that it's time to get rid of that old thing. So yesterday, since I still can't swing a golf club (see post below), I decided I would list the item on eBay and see what I could get for it.

After all, a quick Google search found a very similar bag which had sold on a different auction site recently for $60! Hey, that's a small tank of gas these days!

And although a search of eBay using the word "Nazi" resulted in well over 2,000 items (mostly coins and stamps) being auctioned, not one of them was a burlap bag! I figured I had a real find. A unique item! It might actually bring enough for TWO tanks of gas!


I prepared the listing, entitling it "Nazi burlap bag." I arranged the pictures, went through all the details of figuring shipping costs and payment options, and submitted entire thing for auction.

Several hour later I received the following email:

Dear tx_duke_of_earle,

You recently listed the following auction-style listing:

280225922979 - Nazi burlap bag

The was removed because it violated the eBay Hateful or Discriminatory policy. We notified members who placed bids on the item that the listing has been canceled.

In order to ensure that all listings are consistent with the spirit of the worldwide community, eBay members are not allowed to sell items that may be viewed as promoting or glorifying hatred, violence, and racial or religious intolerance. Items that promote organizations with these views are also prohibited.

Accordingly, members are not allowed to sell items (such as helmets, daggers, and medals) that bear the Nazi, Neo-Nazi, or Aryan Nation symbols. Even if members block, crop, or simply don't show the organization's symbol in their listing, the items are still not permitted on eBay. Members are also not allowed to sell items that were owned by or affiliated with Nazi leaders.


Okay then! I somehow failed to realize that I was promoting any organization that "glorified hatred, violence, and racial or religious intolerance." I just wanted to sell an old burlap bag!

Now, if half of what I read about the FBI, NSA, and Office of Homeland Security is accurate, I am probably now on at least a dozen lists of possible terrorists or hate criminals. Likely the next time I try to fly on a commercial airline I will be detained, strip-searched, and subjected to all kinds of indignities and accusations before (IF) I'm allowed to board the plane.

In fact, this morning there's been a strange van with blacked-out windows parked in front of my house, and I think someone has rifled through my garbage cans.

I'm going to check with the State Department to see if my passport is still valid. And if you don't see any blog posts from me for several weeks, you'll know they've got me in an interrogation room somewhere beating out of me everyhing I know.

Come to think of it, you might want to reformat your hard drive to erase any evidence that you've ever read this blog, or YOU may be up for interrogation next!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sciatica

I’m like a lot of guys – or people of both genders, I guess. I’m subject to occasional lower back pain.

Sometimes it’s brought on by an event; like lifting and twisting, or jerking hard on the starter rope of a chain saw. Other times I just wake up, roll out of bed, and go to my knees in sudden pain.

Carol takes apparent pleasure in telling people about my “bad back.” For example, when the neighbors ask her why she does all the heavy lifting during a yard project she’ll tell them, “Oh, I don’t want John getting near these concrete blocks – he’ll throw his back out.”

Which could be true. And which I don’t mind, because she can seemingly lift several times her own (rather slight) weight and never have a twinge.

When I have these bouts, the pain is almost always centered in the same spot on my left side. This made one doctor think that maybe I had a bone problem rather than just muscle pain, but we never pursued that theory.

Anyway, what I have now is different from anything I’ve experienced before. It has all the classic symptoms of sciatica.

It began on Sunday at (you guessed it), the golf course. I had noticed a little soreness on my right side for several days, but nothing severe. We played golf on Saturday (scroll down for the picture!) with no problems. I walked all 18 holes.

But on Sunday, on the second tee, I took a swing and felt that “take your breath away” sharp pain that told me immediately, “Your golf is finished for today!”

The stabbing, pulsing nastiness was centered right about where they typically give you a shot in the buttocks. This was different from my normal back pain. I could bend just fine, but certain motions sent a searing flame down the back of my right thigh.

By Monday morning my thigh was aching and the soreness was descending into my calf. By Monday afternoon the whole right leg ached, and the sole of my foot was almost numb, but with that “pins and needles” tingling that signals either a loss of circulation or a nerve problem.

Classic sciatica.

The sciatic nerve extends from the lower spine all the way down the back of each leg. Any inflammation of that nerve causes exactly what I’m experiencing.

The internet tells me that this pain usually moderates and goes away within a few weeks. To maybe a year!

I’m counting on a lot less than that.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Gorgeous day at the golf course!

And look what we saw:



This little guy was so tiny, I'd guess he was just "dropped" last night.

How tiny was he?

Well, here's a shot of him with me just a few feet away. All curled up like that, he was about the size of a football.



Yes, that's what I look like in my golfing togs. Ain't he cute?

(No, the fawn!)

A Recent Editorial

. . . in our local paper. See what you think. My comments are below.


In the minds of many, the "zero" in the term Zero Tolerance is clear and unequivocal.

In street vernacular, the concept is expressed thusly: If you do the crime, you gotta do the time.

But recent events involving the discovery of a gun on school grounds in Port Lavaca have others questioning whether a Zero Tolerance policy flies in the face of common sense.

Here are the facts: On Monday, a K-9 unit conducting a routine drill found an unloaded gun in a truck driven by a 16-year-old student at Hope High School in Port Lavaca.

School officials, following strict Zero Toler­ance school policy regarding guns on campus, expelled the student.

On first glance, this appears to be an appropriate use of the school policy of Zero Toler­ance. After all, recent tragedies at schools and universities around the country have made it painfully clear that guns have no place in our educational institutions.

Zero Tolerance proponents argue forcefully that the policy is necessary to prevent future tragedies. The unambiguous nature of this policy, proponents say, is a powerful tool to keep weapons away from our schools.

But there are important mitigating facts about this particular case.

First, all parties agree that the student was unaware that a pistol was in the vehicle.

Second, no one on campus was ever threatened by the weapon.

And, finally, the vehicle the gun was found in was the pickup truck of the student's father, who works for the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department.

We have spoken out many times in this space about school officials' right and respon­sibility to ensure safe campuses. Calhoun County ISD officials acted within the scope of the zero tolerance policy by expelling the student.

But, we maintain, in this particular instance, the "crime" doesn't fit the punishment. We wonder if, in cases where there are clear mit­igating facts, Zero Tolerance does more harm to the student than the good it is designed to do in promoting school safety.

We wonder, in this case, if a rational review of the facts shouldn't lead to the student be­ing reinstated.

We wonder if zero tolerance in this case goes just a bit too far.


My comment: Excuse me!?! You “wonder?”

I wonder too. But what I wonder is: What the HELL are you “wondering” about? At least you had the good sense to put the word “crime” in quotation marks.

Any rational person would be able to see immediately several things:

1. There was no crime committed. Period.
2. Therefore no “punishment” (to the student) was appropriate.

Given the fact and circumstances of the discovery of the gun, the student should have been taken from the school and the incident investigated. Absent any knowledge on her part (the sudent WAS a girl, by the way) of the presence of the gun, or of any intent to do harm (both of which, in my opinion, shouldn’t be too hard to ascertain), then the focus should be placed on the careless father – the irresponsible party in this case.

(Further comment):

This case illustrates a common principle that has been expressed from Biblical times (or before) to today. To paraphrase from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “the letter (of the law) kills, but the spirit gives life.”

Yeah, I know. In context Paul is talking about the letter of the Old Covenant law, and that the Holy Spirit gives life. But in another context, and often today, we can find laws and rules that are intended for good (the “spirit” of the law), but which, if enforced strictly to their letter with no ifs, ands or buts, end up being (take your pick): stupid, unjust, cruel, harmful, counterproductive, etc., (i.e.: they “kill”).

I’ve got lots of examples. But this post is already way too long, and I don’t usually take a political stance or “preach” on this blog, so I’ll close.

For now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The power of a badge and a gun

Last night one of our temporary contract employees put down some tools and left the area for a few minutes. When he returned, the tools were gone.

He was unhappy, which is understandable.

But things progressed from looking around and asking questions, to raised voices, to aggressive body language, to threats and pure unbridled belligerence. A few swings were taken. Luckily, none landed.

The on-site contract supervisor asked for some backup from our off-duty sheriff’s deputy who was moonlighting for us. The law officer came to the scene, and all belligerence stopped immediately. There’s just something about that badge and gun that often takes the fight right out of a man.

The unhappy employee was escorted off the plant site, relieved of his entrance pass, and sent home to cool off.

It turned out that they weren’t his personal tools anyway, but some he was using that belonged to the plant. All he’d needed to do was go over to the warehouse and check out some more. We would then have either found the tools, or been watching for them trying to walk out the gate at shift change; but he would have been cleared and still on the job.

Sure, getting a replacement set would have required him to go (in a golf cart, by the way) some distance away and request it, but that would have been easier than working. But long hours and many days with no time off bring about short fuses.

We decided that our temporary security force (the deputy) was certainly worth what we’re paying to have them there.