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.


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?”)


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


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.