Saturday, March 31, 2007

A sleeper?

Last night a slow-moving line of heavy thunderstorms moved across my part of South Texas. I was shaken out of a fitful, dreaming sleep by the crash of thunder from somewhere nearby. I glanced at the bedside clock. 5:59 a.m. Lightning flickered almost continuously, and I thought about my desktop computer in the next room.

I had left it on overnight, as I customarily do. The rumbles and booms were increasing in both frequency and volume, so I got up and padded barefoot down the hall to protect my delicate machine.

The power had apparently already been off, at least momentarily. The computer had one light on, but was not responsive to mouse movement or taps on the keyboard. I reached behind the metal case, flipped off the power switch and unplugged the cord from the wall.

A couple of hours later the storms had passed and I plugged the cord back in and flipped on the switch. Nothing.

For the NEXT couple of hours I tried everything I could think of to get the computer to start up. I checked that the power cord had 117 volts at the point where it connected to the computer. I took off the front and side panels and looked in vain for any breaker or reset button on or around the power supply inside the case. I recycled the power switch umpteen times, and kept pressing the little “start” button on the front.

The only indication of life was a tiny green LED on the motherboard, labeled with a microscopic “CR6F1.” A trip through the manual revealed that when that particular light was on, the computer was in “sleep” mode. It would appear to be off, but there WAS current to the memory modules and the PCI bus connectors.

Ha! Okay then! Right! There you are!


I poked around. I prodded. I wiggled all manner of wires and cables and connections. I considered lighting a candle and chanting, “O wake, O wake, O computer,” but forbore.

I turned my back on the machine, leaving it looking naked and skeletal; half-disassembled on the desktop with most of the wires and cables unplugged from the back. Only the power cord, monitor cable, and parallel printer cable remained attached.

I called my I.T. (Information Technology) guys from work to ask their thoughts. Their succinct opinion was: it’s fried.

I turned to Carol’s laptop and navigated to the Dell web site to spec out my new machine, mentally relegating this old one to a recycle container AFTER I removed the hard drives with all my precious data. And yes, I had backed up most of that data on an EXTERNAL hard drive I bought last year for just that purpose. Because "stuff" happens!

I spent roughly 30 minutes alternating between lust for Dell’s “Ultimate Power and Gaming Machine,” and (later) acceptance of their more practical (cheaper) less-than-ultimate-but-still-not-bad desktop model.

I put my choices in a wish list, and yielded the laptop to Carol. Already missing my morning fix of emails and blogs, I trudged off to do something else for a while. Outside activities were precluded by the wet conditions – we had standing water all around, having had over 4 inches of rain during the night – so I picked up a book I’m in the middle of and read.

With no warning, and for absolutely no discernible reason, my computer in the other room sprang to life! Nobody touched it. There had been no input of any kind (all cables were still disconnected except the power cord). Its cooling fans just started whirring and it booted up. All by itself.

I heard the noise and went to see. The machine was happily running, hard drive clicking away like a clock on steroids. I plugged in the monitor's cable and pushed its power button. The screen lit up in time for me to see my “open on Windows startup” applications come online.

Carol and I looked at each other, mouths agape. She offered, “I guess it knew you were going to replace it, so it decided to run a while longer after all.”

I don’t know. It would be easy for me to just blame the “C” word and see what THAT stirs up. But I thought back to that little green LED, and I wonder if maybe the machine was, simply, asleep. It may have just decided to take a little nap. And when it was sufficiently rested, it awoke.

Regardless, it continues to run and I am typing this post on it. But I think I will leave that nice, new, fully spec-ed out Dell machine in my wish list for a week or two. Lest this older model tends to become complacent again... or just terminally tired. (decides to take the long sleep.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

My excuses

Busy at work, and busy at home.

The yuccas aren't quite ready for the next round of photos yet. Soon, though.

Carol's been doing spring projects and hasn't been using the camera.

I'm lazy.

Yeah, basically that's why I haven't been posting much anything for the last few days.

Most of those excuses will expire eventually.
The last one, though, is in doubt. Serious doubt!

No doubt about it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Yuccas, updated

Here we have the original "Double Whammy" stalks, five days after the last photo. These are growing up nicely, but haven't spread out much yet.

In contrast, here is the original "Triple Whammy" plant with all three blooms spreading out in fine fashion and preparing to put out actual flowers.

Same "Triple Whammy plant but from a different angle.

Finally, here's the "Size Matters" duo. No longer resembling asparagus, they are standing straight and tall, ready to burst forth with white, uh... blossoms.
(More to come.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

A bit of doggerel

I thought I’d sit and write my post—
Might even take the time,
To type it out in metered lines
And try to make them rhyme.

I sometimes have good luck with this,
Sometimes it turns out well.
But then again, at other times,
You couldn’t even tell—

I’d tried to make it rhyme, because
The meter was so force-ed,
It sounded more like something that
A donkey, or a horse-said.

But not today! No, THIS will be
A poem for the ages.
I feel a groove. I think I might
Go on and on for pages!

My muse is here to spur me on.
I feel her gentle urging,
Like paregoric given to
A child, who’s sick and purging.

You see? With words and rhyme like that,
This simple little poem,
Might turn into an epic, huge,
That fills a mighty tome.

(But Carol read that verse above,
And said it made her seasick!
Her head began to throb with pain,
She took an analgesic.)

I guess my rhymes don’t always please
The folks who view their splendor.
These words might make some turn to drink,
And send them on a bender.

But though some see these lines as dreck,
(They love to laugh and mock)
To write them helps a hack like me
Get past my “Blogger’s Block!”

(I could have continued, but ran out of time. And I STILL don’t have any pictures to share. Won’t be long, though...)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Birds? Captions?

Since I am apparently somewhat renowned for writing captions to photos of birds, and since I am, sadly, lacking any new bird photographs because Carol FORGOT to take the camera to the golf course today—a fact that she now blames ME for (I mean, isn't THAT amazing, that she would blame ME for failing to remind HER to take the camera?), in spite of the fact that for the roughly thirty minutes we spent getting ready to play golf, including: preparing our lunch and our ice water, changing clothes, and getting all the gear in the car—when during that entire time she was relating to me a story—and I didn't DARE to interrupt her, break her train of thought as an interruption would certainly have done—in spite of ALL THAT she still thinks I was responsible for the lack of bird pictures. (DEEP breath!)

Because of all of the above, I have chosen to shamelessly plagiarize the snippet below from the Pointmeister's blog.


This Is AMAZING!!!

Until now I never fully understood how to tell the difference between male and female birds.

I always thought it had to be determined surgically.

Until now.

Which of the two birds is a female? Below are two birds; study them closely... See if you can spot which of the two is the female. It can be done. Even by one with limited bird watching skills.

(If I wasn't already in trouble with Carol for forgetting to remind her, I am NOW!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A challenge!

Karyn doesn't think I can write captions for pictures of yucca (NOT "yucky!") blooms.

We'll just see about that. First I have to get the pictures, though, and all we have so far is the beginnings of the bloom stalks protruding above the yucca leaves like... Well, like the yucca plant has become...uh... aroused.

Hey, guys! It's spring. Time to start thinking about reproducing, y'know?
After that long winter layoff, I'm ready to give it a DOUBLE-whammy!

Double whammy? With THOSE little stalks? HA!

You guys got nothin' on ME! I'm gonna give it a TRIPLE-whammy!

Triple...double...who cares? Everybody knows: SIZE MATTERS!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Yuccas, and my golf buddy

Stand by for some yucca bloom pictures. We've had lots of rain and the air is warm. Our four yuccas in the patio/swimming pool area are all putting up multiple bloom stalks.

The back yard promises to be picturesque this spring.

Maybe I can talk Carol into getting some more good shots of birds so I can write captions. Since both of you seem to appreciate those, it's the least I can do.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, I'll share with you something I wrote last year as an entry to a golf magazine's contest. The idea was to describe "your golf buddy" in 200 words or less. This was my attempt:

My Golf Buddy

The best thing I ever did was marry her. Smartest thing I’ve done since then was giving her six golf lessons one year for Christmas. She’d always said it looked like a dumb game. “Chasing a little white ball...” etc.

Skeptical and a little apprehensive, she tried the lessons. By the end of the second one she was hooked. Unlike me, she learned proper techniques and habits from the start and thus has developed into a much better golfer than I am.

Now on Saturdays it’s, “What time are we going to the course today?” instead of, “You’re golfing AGAIN!?” Same on Sundays. Sometimes evenings after work for nine holes.

Our best golf trip? Well... Kapalua? Paradise! The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama? Wonderful! Scottsdale? Fantastic! But... maybe... it was that round at our home course when she watched me break 80 (just that once!) with a birdie on the 18th hole.

Yeah, she still shoots lower than me most rounds. And yeah, guys we get paired with sometimes ask me with a snicker, “Does your husband play?”

I just retort, “No, but I get to sleep with my golf buddy. Do you?”
(No, it didn't win a prize. I think it got a few snickers, though.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Did we have Pfun?

In Pflugerville?

In a word, yes. We also had pfun getting there. (Btw, "pfun" is pronounced "puh-fun," or "puffun" with the accent on the second syllable. That's for you purists out there.)

Carol was navigating while I drove. She had all the high-tech tools at her disposal: laptop computer plugged into the car's electrical system for power, a GPS antenna, and a copy of Microsoft MapPoint installed. The problem wasn't in not knowing where we were, but rather in thinking we knew where we were going.

You see, our first stop was to be at the Golfsmith store on the north side of Austin. It is just off I-35, about two miles north of a big spaghetti-bowl intersection of I-35 and US 183. Then we were to proceed to Pflugerville, which is east of Round Rock. That's about 8 miles farther north up I-35, and then turn east at another big spaghetti-bowl intersection at I-35 and Texas Toll 45.

Now Carol and I have become basic rural or small town Texans, to whom all of those big spaghetti-bowl intersections look pretty much alike. Carol, in planning our route and visualizing our destination, was directing me to the Pflugerville area first, thinking that was the same BS-BI (I'm getting tired ot typing out that whole phrase, so I'll abbreviate) as the one near Golfsmith.

From Victoria we headed north up US 77 toward Hallettsville. About half way to Hallettsville (y'know, that sounds like a good title for a book or movie... "Half Way to Hallettsville." ... Um, nah), I asked if we weren't going a bit out of our way? Carol gave me one of those looks and said, "No."

I thought about it a bit more and ventured again, "But the toll road is going to bring us out onto I-35 at Round Rock, isn't it? And that's well north of Golfsmith. I think..."

With a bit of a huff she went to the computer. Understanding dawned. She realized she had confused the two BS-BIs; actually thinking they were one and the same.

For the next 20 miles we discussed our options. They were many. Continue north to LaGrange, turn west on Texas 71 through Bastrop to Austin. Go even farther north to Giddings, turn west on US 290 to Austin. Or, at Hallettsville (just ahead now), turn northwest on Alt. 90, proceed through Yoakum to Gonzales, pick up US 183 and follow it to that BS-BI near Golfsmith.

She left the decision to me. I opted for the last choice above, simply because I hadn't been through Yoakum for years and had forgotten what that route looked like.

It worked out OK. The Texas wildflowers are beginning to bloom along the roadways, and it was a pretty day for a drive.

We arrived, shopped, had lunch, played golf, and made it back all in one piece. Well, not all of my golf balls made it back; a few of them seemed to feel the need to go swimming. But the new club is good, and RobotJam (comments on my last post) gave me some new excuses to use, which I appreciate. . . And will have many occasions to use, I fear.

So yes, pfun was had by all.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The radio newscaster this morning (during my morning commute) mentioned that winter was still alive and well in the Northeast, with wet heavy snow expected as far south as Maryland.

Here in my neighborhood in South Texas, spring has definitely sprung. The ash trees are in full leaf, the cottonwoods are turning green, and the redbuds are glorious!

We're off to Austin tomorrow to shop at the Golfsmith super center headquarters location, and maybe play a round of golf in Pflugerville.

What's Pflugerville, you ask? It's a town just east of Austin. And yes, that's really how the name of the town is spelled. Pronounce it? Well, the "P" is silent. In fact, there used to be a billboard on Interstate 35 near Austin that said, "Have Pfun in Pflugerville!"

I thought it was cute, but my daughter who used to live near Austin said it drove her crazy. Whatever.

What are we shopping for at Golfsmith? Oh, I need a new 3-wood; the old one is developing cracks in the graphite shaft. I bought it used a long time ago anyway. I could always replace the shaft, but I'm lusting for a new model.

Trouble is, I've been using the old, cracked shaft as an excuse for bad shots. But once I get the new one, my only excuse will be that I'm not used to it yet. That will only stand up for a few weeks, if at all, and then I'm back to just saying the bad shots are due to a low skill level.


Oh, Carol wants to look at golf bags since the handle is literally falling off of hers.

Then on Sunday I'll probably do yard work, since the grass and weeds are growing apace. Why no golf on Sunday? Well, recent heavy rains have caused the Guadalupe river to rise, and part of our Riverside Golf Course is liable to be under water. It'll be soggy at best.

A good day for yard work. Spring having sprung, and all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

30,000 hits?

Sounds like a lot.

But compared to some it's not that many.

Still, I appreciate the friends I've made and the folks who drop by and comment.

(Clink!) Here's to 30,000 more!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm feeling juvenile, so...

1) King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates , the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan. Croesus said, "I'll give you 100,000 dinars for it." "But I paid a million dinars for it," the King protested. "Don't you know who I am? I am the king." Croesus replied, "When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are."

2) Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. However, all the Swiss league records were unfortunately destroyed in a fire, and we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

3) A man rushed into a busy doctor's office and shouted "Doctor! I think I'm shrinking!" The doctor calmly responded, "Now, settle down. You'll just have to be a little patient."

4) A marine biologist developed a race of genetically engineered dolphins that could live forever if they were fed a steady diet of seagulls. One day, his supply of the birds ran out so he had to go out and trap some more. On the way back, he spied two lions asleep on the road. Afraid to wake them, he gingerly stepped over them. Immediately, he was arrested and charged with transporting gulls across sedate lions for immortal porpoises.

5) Back in the 1800s the Tates Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted to produce other products and, since they already made the cases for watches, they used them to produce compasses. The new compasses were so bad that people often ended up in Canada or Mexico rather than California . This, of course, is the origin of the expression, "He who has a Tates is lost."

6) A thief broke into the local police station and stole all the toilets and urinals, leaving no clues. A spokesperson was quoted as saying, "We have absolutely nothing to go on."

7) An Indian chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the medicine man. After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk rawhide and gave it to the chief, telling him to bite off, chew, and swallow one inch of the leather every day. After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged and said, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."

8) A famous Viking explorer returned home from a voyage and found his name missing from the town register. His wife insisted on complaining to the local civic official who apologized profusely saying, "I must have taken Leif off my census."

9) There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant, and the first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This goes to prove that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

10) A skeptical anthropologist was cataloging South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal brujo who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the brujo looked him in the eye and said, "Let me tell you, with fronds like these, who needs enemas?"


OH! And for those of you who commented that you did NOT think I was never wrong (... how many double negatives does it take to make a positive?), thank you. I feel great relief. The burden of a reputation for continuous, inerrancy was getting to be a strain. (Uh huh. Believe THAT one too!)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Monopod

Okay, is WASN'T Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels who wrote of the Monopods. My daughter Christina corrected me. The most notable reference to the legend was from C.S. Lewis in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

But the picture above, "borrowed" from Wikipedia, is captioned, "A monopod. From the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)." So the legend has been around a long time. In fact I also found reference to the writings of Pliney in ancient Greece that are supposed to mention monopods.

There. I was wrong. But I've set the record straight, I think.

For those of you who thought I was never wrong, that was just a test. (Ha!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gulliver, NOT Woody, more...

Remember Gulliver's Travels? More specifically, remember the Monopods? The Monopods were a race of people with one leg and one very large foot.

They hopped about on the one foot. The foot was so large that it was very buoyant and the Monopods were able to row about on a lake floating on just their foot... er, feet

Anyway, Carol just bought a monopod for her camera and it brought to mind those characters in Guliver's Travels.

What's a monopod, you ask? Well, it's a tripod with two legs missing. It's designed to hold the camera steady (especially when the photographer is using a long telephoto lens), but allows the photographer to rotate the camera and pivot it up and down.

Using her new monopod Carol captured the shots below of a woodpecker in a tree in our front yard.

I figured for sure this was a red-headed woodpecker, right? For obvious reasons. But no, that was wrong. Here's another view. . .

No, that one doesn't help much, does it? Well, how about this last shot. . .

It turns out that our handbook identifies this bird as a red-BELLIED woodpecker. Who knew?

But as I mentioned in the title, he/she doesn't look much like Woody.

Oh, and the monopod worked great!)

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Serious Post

Not funny at all.

Read this, if you wish. It may make you angry, or it may make you think. It makes sense to me, which makes me wonder what that says about me. On my monitor it's best viewed zoomed in to about 150% size.

This article gave me a new perspective on the mindset of the radical islamic terrorists. It's short, but insightful.

Come back tomorrow for humor or photos or my normal fare.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Not to raise B.B.'s Blood Pressure, but...

I just finished doing my other daughter's taxes with Turbo Tax.

This one lives in Chicago and thus has Illinois state taxes to file. Her husband had two jobs last year, plus a brief stint as a self-employed counsultant.

But, no problems! Both the federal and the state returns were finished in about 2 hours total -- and that included a couple of phone calls to her to ask questions.

The bad news is that, unlike the other daughter whose taxes I did on Monday, today's couple was under-withheld for both federal and state and will have to pony up a significant check for taxes due. As best I can figure, that is mostly the result of husband's multiple jobs and self-employment tax.

Well, I'm still a fan of the software.

I just like it better when the outcome is a refund!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


(For my overseas readers, this post may not make much sense. It's all about our American Income Tax system. Sorry.)

Each year I do my own federal taxes. I have done so ever since I started earning enough money that I was required to file a return. When children came along in our marriage, I started doing their taxes as well, so now I have three returns to prepare.

Although I've long been a computer enthusiast ("nut," Carol would say), I've preferred to do my taxes the old-fashioned manual way. Oh, I download forms and instructions from the IRS web site. But then I read through the instructions and fill out the forms with a pencil, review everything carefull to make sure it "looks" right, and then sign and mail in my return.

Until now I have avoided tax preparation software. Not any more!

I was talking with my company's accounting firm auditor a few weeks ago about a recent complication in my tax situation. He recommended that I buy Turbo Tax. He called it "idiot-proof." Told me all I had to do was answer questions on-screen, like an interview, and the program would offer explanations and then put all my data on the correct line of the correct form.

I thought, "Yeah. Right."

I loaded it onto my computer and started with my daughter's return (the simplest of the three I have to do.) Well, the accountant was right -- it's just about idiot-proof. The software steps you through the return line by line, but you never fill out a form. It starts with name, address and Social Security number. Soon you're at the part where it asks for W-2 information. Depending on whether or not your employer or their payroll company (ADP, Paychex, and others) subscribes to the service, the program CAN go to an internet site that will match up your Social Security number and import all your payroll W-2 data automatically! Now that's slick!

But it gets better. My daughter had a statement from an investment broker (1099-B) with a number of transactions that had to be reported on a Schedule D (capital gains). BUT, if I entered her username and password to that broker's web site, all that 1099-B data was also automatically imported to Schedule D. Date of purchase, dates of sale, proceeds of sale... everything!

Now THAT'S REALLY slick!

The software walked me through the entire return in about 2 hours. It wouldn’t have taken me that long if I hadn’t gone through every menu and sequence even though I knew they didn’t all pertain to this return.

So, I’m a fan of Turbo Tax.

Tomorrow I’ll start on the other daughter’s return – the one that also has STATE income tax and a more complex set of federal forms to deal with. We’ll see how long that one takes.

Then, when I’m REALLY sure I know what I’m doing, I’ll tackle my own taxes.

Hey, I've got MY priorities straight!

Sunday, March 04, 2007


As in the verb, not the noun.

That's what we're doing this weekend -- chillin'. Carol's fighting cold symptoms, and I'm fighting lethargy in general. Today the sun is shining in a clear blue sky and we could be out playing golf. But it just feels better to be sitting around the house with no ambition. There are lots of things I/we could be doing, but instead we're chillin'.

Here are a few random thoughts to brighten your Sunday, however:

1. Christina steered me to a blog authored by a 107 year old woman in Australia named Olive. It's actually typed by her helper Mike, but Olive is the source for most of the material. It's complete with lots of pictures, and is a treasure. Check it out here. When you do, scroll down to the first post (there are only 4 so far) and read them in sequence.

2. Can you believe that one week from today we (here in the United States) switch to Daylight Savings Time? It's true! it happens this year on March 11, two weeks earlier than usual. Get ready to lose that hour of sleep as we Spring Forward.

3. Finally, here's a picture of one of Ruth's creations. It's a groom's cake for a wedding. German chocolate. The groom works for... Well, guess!

Pretty slick, huh?

Meanwhile, Carol and I are still chillin'.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I am NOT political...

Yesterday I spent the day at our State Capital in Austin. I was part of a contingent of about 45 men and women sent by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce to "Victoria Day at the Capital."

Our task was to visit the offices of every single state senator and state representative handing out gifts (mementos of Victoria) and invitations to a reception that evening at the Austin Club.

Why me, you ask? Good question! The Chamber had requested a member of the local Workforce Development Board to go along, and I foolishly volunteered. I mean, how bad could it be, right? One day in the capital, listen to some briefings by people like our state comptroller, education commissioners, Department of Transportation (TXDOT) representative, etc., see the legislature in session, and have free food and drinks for 2 hours in the evening. Sounded OK.

And I could tell that some of the group were right in their element. They seemed to really "get off" on rubbing elbows with the power people (elected folks and their staff members), showing innocents like me around the buildings and offices, shaking hands and slapping backs, smiling and talking at the speed of an auctioneer the whole time.

I essentially did what I was asked to do, and otherwise just watched all the activity.

The entire capital area was awash with people. Many, like us, had large brightly-colored identity tags. It wasn't their names that were prominently displayed, but rather their organization.

Planned Parenthood was there. The Texas Association of Builders was there. The Texas Association of Interior Design was there. And literally dozens more groups. They came by the busload. Oh, and so did thousands of school kids.

All of these people and groups (except maybe the school kids) had an agenda, and were trying to get their voice heard regarding their agenda. At several of the legislator's offices I had to stand in line behind other groups as they made their pitch to the staffers in the office.

Why to the staffer? Because the representative or senator was out on the floor of the chamber, in session! The staffers were polite, listened, nodded, made vague noises about being sure that their boss got the message, and turned to the next group or person. That apparently went on ALL DAY LONG!

When my turn came, I told them I didn't have an agenda or a message, other than, "Come to our reception tonight if you can. The whole office is invited, including YOU." A few actually showed up!

One staffer told me at the reception that he could eat and drink free every night the legislature was in session if he wanted to, as there were receptions like ours every single working day!

Did we accomplish anything? I doubt it. Did we spend a bunch of money that various business and companies put up to sponsor all of this? You bet we did.

Was it fun?

Well, I told my Administrative assistant in the office this morning that if, two years from now (the next time our state legislature will be in session), I even mention that I might go again, to please SLAP ME IN THE FACE! It seemed to be fun for some, but...

I told you, I am NOT political!