In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, they can be found by clicking the labels button "stuff I made up".

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Miley Cyrus and Mom Jeans

According to a news report, Miley Cyrus was caught in mom jeans. I know there must be some importance to this, so I'll assume she acquired the jeans through some criminal act, or while shopping at Walmart; whichever is considered more heinous.

* - Update: Miley has broken her tailbone, according to another new report. I'm thinking a new movie, or album is the reason for these news stories. More headlines; more sales, although breaking a tailbone seems to be a little extreme for publicity. Then again, it probably won't get as much attention as her smoking something or saying words that gets Micky's mouth washed with soap.

All It Takes...

...is thirty minutes each day, six days a week. That's all it takes to get six-pack abs, or huge arm muscles, or a tight butt. Of course, you have to be in perfect physical condition. If not, you'll die on the second day from a heart attack.

If that doesn't work, electricity is available to shock your muscles into a well toned condition. With this method, you can just sit in a chair and get six pack abs. I'm not sure what it does for your arms and butt - if anything - but it requires much less effort. I guess you can wear the belt wherever you want to improve, but it might present a problem if you're working on your butt and forgot you ate an extra spicy burrito for lunch. (I doubt the warranty covers that type of damage.)

If neither of those are enticing, they have a large girdle looking apparatus that makes it look like you exercise. The only drawback is when you take your clothes off. While you may not be disturbed, others might and I wouldn't recommend such a task without some type of warning, or disclaimer.

Of course, you can always buy one of those machines that are available for only three easy payments of $199.99 (That's $600 if you're challenged by math) plus shipping and handling. Chuck Norris has one, so it must be good. Right? Surely, Chuck Norris wouldn't be in business to make money on selling exercise equipment? The drawback of these machines is that you can spend substantially less on empty boxes to take up room in your closet, or garage.

I know people that have memberships to gyms. They pay a monthly fee to wait for their turn on some type of equipment. I think they get more exercise wiping the machines with antiseptic wipes than they do from using the machine. Considering the exposure, I think I'd forego six-pack abs if the trade is athletes foot, or Ebola.

I don't know what is the best way to exercise. In my past, I had plenty from building forms, or pouring concrete. I stayed in really good shape, although the hard exercise left aches and pains that are permanent. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think there's a point where the damages outweigh the benefits. If you don't believe this, find a current photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger without a shirt.

Enduring Losses

I've lost two brothers in the last 5 years. Nothing can prepare you for the event and you find a feeling that life became incomplete by the loss. So, Ambulance Driver's loss touched a lot of raw nerves; especially since I know how he feels.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Remembering a Birthday

Yesterday would have been my father-in-law's 95th birthday. I thought about him this morning and the few stories he told about his service during WW2. As told by him, he walked across Europe, starting in Sicily and ending on a transport ship to Great Britain.

As a radio operator, he saw, and heard, much of the war. If he was in combat, he never told, although from his rather low opinion of General Patton, he was well aware of the carnage of his campaigns. All in all, he never had much to say and I never asked.

One thing that always stuck in my thoughts was his adoption of a dachshund during his time in Europe. Although I don't know where he found "Fritz", he was almost in tears when he described leaving him with a family in France before leaving Europe for home. They were companions for a long time, but Fritz couldn't go home with my father-in-law, so he did what was best.

So, I sit here with my thoughts and wonder about the events of war that led a radio operator to caring for a dog. I can imagine him sharing his rations and fussing over the small dog like he fussed over other dogs later in his life. While it seemed like he was spoiling his pets, I think it was much more. He was remembering and missing a friend he knew he'd never see again.

The Longing For Home

Case stared at the foliage on the trees and the birds as they flew about the courtyard. He recognized most, but they were unfamiliar and only added to the feeling of isolation that weighed heavily the last few days.  Although the courtyard was full of benches, he was alone with his thoughts as he sat and observed the things he knew would lead to questions. Though he tried to concentrate, his mind wandered back to familiar things and events of the past.
A voice brought him back to the present: “Case. It’s time for the middle meal. Don’t you want to eat?”
Case looked to find Serena, his mentor, standing to his side. He’d heard her when she came from the door behind where he sat. He knew it was her, when he recognized her familiar scent.  It was harshly chemical to his sensitive nose, but then most everyone had the odor of chemicals. It was part of his life now, so he was becoming more comfortable to what originally assailed his nose and almost caused nausea.
“I think so. I’m hungry.”
Serena had a worried look on her face, which was common when they spoke. Case spent a few minutes examining the tall, lithe woman that was now in charge of his education. Others in the dormitory commented on her beauty; Case found her to be spindly and ungainly; even though she moved gracefully.  
Rising to his feet, Case was reminded on how tall Serena was. At a little under two meters, she appeared unnaturally tall, but she was considered normal by most.  Case thought of the other adults he dealt with and realized it was probably so. Still, to Case, she was tall; as well as all adults.
“The doctors want to run some more tests after middle meal, Case.”  
Case didn’t say anything. He knew the next few hours would involve a series of physical and mental tests, which irritated but there was little he could do to change the afternoon. The doctors would explain the rationality for the tests, but still Case would rather be somewhere else.  Sometimes, he had the feeling they really didn’t care what he felt. They seemed obsessed by their tests and his discomfort was just something else to study.
After entering the cafeteria, Case spent a few seconds observing the occupants.  Immediately, he knew all that were there. Those he knew were immediately recognized. Those he didn’t were briefly analyzed and categorized. Nothing escaped his attention and if asked, he could tell how many seconds it would take to reach any exit and what weapons were available for use.
Serena pointed to a table and they sat down across from each other.  After they sat, the menu appeared above the center of the table for their review. Noting that little changed, Case passed his finger over the menu and chose his food. It was his favorites of food he detested.  He’d learned to act like he wasn’t revolted, which Serena would comment: “I see you’re starting to like your food.” Case would offer a smile and consume his food with pretended exuberance.
Serena examined Case as they ate.  At a 1.5 meters, he was shorter than he should be at 17 years of age, but what he didn’t have in height, he made up in width. Stocky didn’t describe the thick bundles of muscles. She remembered the photos taken when he arrived and was reminded of how Case was unusually muscled for his age. She knew the reason, but carefully avoided discussing this with Case. Her job was to help Case adjust to their society.  Pointing out differences was counterproductive.  
Case ignored the stares, and comments, as they left the cafeteria after their meal. He was accustomed to both and paid little attention.  Their next stop was the research building, which housed the equipment and rooms the doctors used for examining Case. 
Serena spoke as they walked to the research building “We have a few minutes, if you’d like to spend some more time in the courtyard” 
Case thought for a second and responded: “I think I would.”
They stopped and sat at a bench near the entrance to the research building. After a few moments of silence Case commented: “The weather will change tonight.”
“How do you know?” was Serena’s response; hoping he would tell her he’d used his information access and studied the current weather information.
“I just know, like I know many things.”
Serena hid her disappointment, but knew it would take time to help Case.  He’d endured a lot in the last six months and she needed to be patient. She hoped he could adjust and finally accept what was offered.
As they sat, Case thought of his parents and Carla. He remembered the first season they made the season trek together.  It seemed like yesterday, but it was over one year ago. His parents were proud of his transition to citizen and Carla had promised they would spend a long time together. He smiled for a moment, which wasn’t missed by Serena’s constant attention.
“Are you remembering?”
“Yes”
Serena waited for more, but Case was silent after his comment. She felt frustrated, but accepted it was all she would get for an answer. She knew little about Case, which was frustrating. The doctors had given her a wealth of physical information, but she knew very little about his past and Case provided little information. 
“Case, we need to go in. The doctors will be waiting.”
Case said nothing as they stood and proceeded to the research building. After entering, Serena left Case with the doctors and went to her office to update her records and suggestions.
Case spent the afternoon performing the tests the doctors prescribed. While they seemed enraptured by the results, Case was bored and constantly distracted by his thoughts. During one of the tests, he realized all was in place. It was time and his efforts would require concentration, without distraction.
Serena escorted Case back to his room in the dormitory after the tests. She reminded him of the time for evening meal and left to prepare for the meal that required everyone to dress accordingly and be on time.
After she left, Case started gathering his equipment and supplies. He had one hour to prepare and execute his plan. Carefully, he examined his plan one more time in his mind, pulled on his backpack and slipped through the ventilation vent to the equipment room. There, he climbed the short ladder to the access tunnel and was gone.
_________________________________________________________________________

“Doctor, I’ll expect a complete data record, but first we need to go over today once again.”
Serena stared at the director for a few moments, and explained everything she remembered happening over the last waking period.  As she spoke, she reexamined her thoughts, but still could not find any indication of Case’s actions.  After she finished, she quietly waited for the director to speak.
“From what we can determine, Case is on his way home.”
Serena was shocked for a moment. “How could he envision such a risky endeavor?” was her immediate thought.  She thought of the distance, and time, he would be traveling and wondered what he was thinking.
Serena paused for a moment before asking: “Is there anything we can do?”
The director shook her head and commented: “No.  He appeared at the ramp of the survey ship Pleiades requesting asylum, which was granted. The ship left with him on board”
Serena thought of Case’s home.  She’d seen videos and still photographs, but they were woefully incomplete to the experience of actually being there.  She admired the beauty, but knew a visit would be extremely unpleasant. 
The director continued: “As you know, we abandoned the Hawking System almost 400 years ago. The unstable star of the adjoining system was considered too dangerous, especially after we thought it destroyed the settlers on Hawking.  At one time, a return was considered, but the possibility of losing the precious resources for another portal was considered too great of a risk – until two years ago.”
Serena, noting the director’s pause asked: “What changed?”
The director continued: “To be blunt, we’ve depleted the available resources required for our technology. The Turner drives, and portals, require most of these minerals. If we don’t develop new sources, our entire civilization will be changed forever.  That is why the Outer Planet Coalition granted Case asylum. They need these resources as much as we do.”
“We can’t force them to return Case?”
“No. While we have trade and manufacturing agreements, we have no sovereign power. In fact, they filed an official protest for our deliberate efforts to not share our information about Case.”
Both sat quietly for a few moments before the director added: “I think this has turned out better than we originally thought. We can learn more from Case’s society than we can from Case. Within a year, we will have scientists on Hawking, if they should allow our visit. I would like you to be one of the first.”
For a moment, Serena was horrified. The thought of a planet with higher gravity and the drastic seasonal changes due to the tilt of the planet didn’t appeal to Serena at all. That, and the dangerous wildlife, would make every day unpleasant, at least.
“I’d be honored, Director.”
“You may leave now, doctor. Your new schedule will be presented tomorrow; after first meal.”
 Serena rose, thanked the director and made her way back to her room.  She laid thinking for hours before falling into a troubled sleep. Feeling as though she failed only added to the sorrow of not saying goodbye to the young man she wondered if she would see again.
While she tossed and turned, Case lay in his bunk on the survey ship and planned the rest of his return home. The first part fell in place when he heard the freighter land. He knew he only had three hours from that time to be onboard, or wait another three months.  As he thought, he remembered his surprise of finding the geological party. When they explained they were from Earth, he was even more surprised.  Earth was almost a legend. After the centuries without contact, they decided they were isolated forever.  After a few days with the party, Case contracted a virus. In a coma, and the party unwilling to leave Case, they left with him onboard. Although they were worried about his survival, they were more worried about their schedule and the possibility of creating a pandemic.
Case thought of Serena and her efforts to help him understand the laws that required his stay at the dormitory. He never thought the laws applied to him and grudgingly submitted to the examinations by the doctors that were fascinated by the genetic changes Case exhibited. Earth had assumed the settlers that were his ancestors had perished 20 generations before.  Finding Case was a scientific opportunity unparalleled in history.
The director, unable to sleep, returned to her office to continue her preparation and to spend a few minutes reviewing her directive on the screen:
It is imperative you prepare a team that best represents our interests. Our current situation mandates we make every effort to prevent any errors in arriving at an equitable solution to our resource problem. 
Our communication with the Outer Planet Coalition has ended with a meeting date to discuss how our current agreements apply to this new development. They, too, realize how precarious our situation has become and wish to be involved with developing communications with Hawking for developing trade.  Although they suggested force, if necessary, we’ve advised against this possibility, especially since our limited information indicates this may lead to disaster.  Research indicates the settlers are genetically and intellectually superior.  As an ally, they can only benefit our race. As an enemy, their efforts could lead to our destruction.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Paula Deen Has Diabetes

Okay. I know this isn't any earth shattering news, but considering how the press is trying to put a hypocritical spin on this, I feel Paula Deen is getting demonized by the narrow minded pinheads we call the mainstream media.

So, if you feel that someone with a probable genetic illness is a hypocrite because they have a skill to prepare wonderful dishes, can capitalize on a television show and you are judging because you can't comprehend the entire matter, then you are a narrow minded pinhead, too.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Local Shooting

A local sheriff deputy was shot while in the process of transporting a juvenile this morning. Somehow, the 16 year old prisoner took the officer's gun and shot him twice in the chest. After the shooting, a short standoff ended with the prisoner surrendering.

The officer is expected to survive, which is more than good. How the juvenile offender took the gun hasn't been explained, and how the other officers restrained their urge to shoot is beyond me. I don't think I'd been very patient, or had the willingness to allow the obviously "mad dog" young offender to surrender. Then again, I'm not a police officer. That's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union

Wouldn't it be refreshing if the President spoke with candor? I do; especially if they said something like: "We've spent money like drunken sailors chasing whores, and besides being broke, the entire country is now in debt to the tune of more money than it makes." Or: "I know I've spent a boat-load of money on vacations and dicking around, instead of working, but I'm the President and I really don't care what you think."

We'll never see that from any sitting President, even though that's exactly what they do. I think it has to do with most Presidents don't get the job because of their honesty, or integrity.  If they had either qualification, they'd know how to make the hard decisions, do their job and keep costs down.

Another thing: Every four years another group of Bozos is paraded in front of us and we're told this is the best they can come up with for a prospective President. What they really mean is that in all of the lying, thieving politicians they can find, this group can assemble the greatest number of PR people to put on a dog and pony show that even you might like. Meanwhile, the media and pundits put on their makeup, check their teeth and practice the lines they feel best show off their self-purported superior intellect and charisma. 

So. What is the state of the union? From my vantage point, we have about twice as many politicians, bureaucrats and media whores that any healthy society can tolerate. I think it's time for a big cut in this cancer on our society.

Monday, January 23, 2012

After Almost Six Months...

I'm still here. In a way, it's been an effort to see if there's a nitch for me on the internet; in another, it's been an experiment in what draws people to a blog site. All together, it's been interesting, and rewarding, so I'll keep plugging away.

I have to add it's, also, been like being in an aquarium at the mall. Lots of observers and few people to tap on the tank, although that may be good. I know how it irritates some fish.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Hand of Fate

Leaning back in his chair, Dr. Carlson wiped his eyes as he thought about the report he’d just signed. As a medical examiner, he’d signed many reports, but this one had been the result of some sobering events.   Leaning forward, he went back to examining the group of reports he’d placed on his desk for examination.
The first victim that ended on his table was a judge.  Besides being a judge, he was known for his paintings. Oil was his preferred medium. The slow drying paint allowed changes he couldn’t have with acrylics and he never felt satisfied with his effort with watercolors. So, he worked with oil and his paintings even were displayed in the local courthouse. Various criminal trials and local events were the subject. From his ringside seat, his perspective, and expert hand, the paintings were unique, and sought.
Dr. Carlson wondered what led to the unfortunate accident that claimed the Judge’s life. He was found in his studio with a blow dryer next to his side and a finished painting of a trial he’d presided over.  The theory was he was trying to accelerate the drying of the paint for some unknown reason.  Maybe there was a buyer, or he had somewhere to bring the newly finished painting, but the reason didn’t matter any longer. The blow dryer cord caught on the leg of a chair and the judge must have pulled the cord and bared the hot wire. When he continued to manipulate the cord, he contacted the wire and was electrocuted. Age probably was a factor. The judge died when his heart stopped.  He wasn’t found until the next morning.
Dr. Carlson knew the judge. His years as examiner led him to the judge’s courtroom on numerous occasions. Although he never particularly cared for the judge, he knew his dislike paled in comparison to many of those that passed through his courtroom. He was known as being arbitrary. Some decisions seemed ruthlessly cruel and others seemed like only a slap on the wrist for crimes that required stiffer punishment. Many thought his decisions were made by greed and nothing else. This was never proven and now the point was moot.
The next victim was another local legal figure.  His death started Dr. Carlson’s mind to wondering. Since he was the defense attorney in the trial the judge painted, the coincidence was remarkable. So was the tragedy that led to the death. The attorney was killed while fueling his late model Suburban. Some thought his cell phone caused the spark; others felt it was static electricity. The result was he panicked when the nozzle caught fire and he was hung in the hose as he tried to run. With gasoline pouring on the attorney as he struggled, nobody could get close and pull him away.  Witnesses only could watch as the attorney burned in fire that eventually burned the entire fueling island. His wife, who stepped into the store for a soft drink, was still in the hospital. A doctor friend said she required constant sedation. Without the medication, she’d scream in horror and fight the restraints that kept her from self mutilation.
The next two victims were what finally brought Dr. Carlson to his compulsion to review every case to see if he was missing something.  They were supposedly not friends, but while walking from a restaurant, they were struck by lightning.   Unlike some deaths of this type, they were all burned beyond recognition.  Dental records were required for identification.  Since the accident was an “act by God” there was no investigation, while Dr. Carlson had feelings there might be more. One was one of the jurors from the trial and the other was a local political agitator that was a constant presence at the murder trial that resulted in a hung jury.
Dr. Carlson stopped to think about the trial. The murder victim was an elderly woman that was murdered by a burglar. He was the medical examiner and was shocked by the brutality of the murder, even after over thirty years of observing mayhem. The woman had fought ferociously, but was eventually killed by the burglar; a powerful young man known by local law enforcement for his numerous previous arrests.  While they were confused by his variance from his typical crime, they assumed he was desperate for money. Maybe he’d lost his contacts for his usual strong arming and harassment. His typical crime was of violent enforcement for a local crime organization and his victims were usually those that made the unfortunate mistake of borrowing money.  The evidence seemed to be unimpeachable, but when the trial was over, the young man was still not convicted. The jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision and the prosecutor hadn’t made an effort for another trial.
Dr. Carlson remembered his testimony at the trial. He described the crime as the murder unfolded. The old woman had fought desperately, which was evident in the defensive wounds, but was eventually overcome, bound and tortured until she died. The open safe in her bedroom was empty, which led to the assumption that something of value, which was thought to be money, was removed by the murderer. Since the young man that was arrested flashed money right after the event, nobody went beyond the obvious and the trial was built on that evidence. Dr. Carlson had begun to wonder if there was more; especially after he researched the grandson of the woman. He was a local businessman that was vocal about the crime in the area.
Looking back at the last report, Dr. Carlson thought of the last person that was now refrigerated in the next room. She was the most bizarre victim. She’s died of massive blood loss. The event that led to the blood loss was what stuck in Dr. Carlson’s mind.  Her left arm was gory even to the doctor. The ends of her fingers were burned away and the rest of her arm was a multitude of open wounds and tattered flesh to her shoulder. Caught in a thunderstorm, she’d raced to her car to open the door when lightning struck the car. The heat burned away the ends of her fingers and the massive electrical shock caused such violent contractions in her arm, the muscle and tendon tore from the bone and whipped through the skin.  He was in the hospital signing papers when she arrived. Emergency professionals fought to save her life, but she’d lost too much blood. A conversation with one of the EMT’s that brought her in revealed she was delirious the entire trip to the hospital.  She’d screamed “No!” in terror until the loss of blood made her too weak to scream. The EMT was shaken and horrified by the event.
He remembered the young woman from the trial. Since the prosecutor was pushing for the death sentence, the local opposition to this practice was present in front of the court house for the entire trial. At the end, when the grandson of the murdered woman made a brief statement, this young woman had shouted through the entire statement and shook her sign. When the businessman told her she was wrong, she spit at him and laughed. His only reaction was to say. “May you all burn in Hell.”
Finishing his thoughts, Dr. Carlson returned the reports to the files and tidied his desk.  It was now dark outside, and he needed to get home while the rain had stopped. Walking to his car, he examined the sky to the west. Lightning laced the huge thunderstorms, which were forecast to move into the area overnight. Tomorrow was to be more of the same.
Driving away, Dr. Carlson wondered: “Is it over?" He doubted it and had the feeling he needed to get some rest.  Tomorrow promised to be busy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Orange Vests

Wearing orange vests started with highway work. First it was recommended and then mandated in contracts. It was a good thing, since it does make moving targets more visible; especially at night. (Yeah, I know that sounds cynical, but after hearing a driver tell a trooper he didn't see a crash truck with a bazillion flashing beacons, I don't see the real benefit.) This has expanded to other types of working folks, including workers at retail outlets.

Anyway, I've noticed convenience store workers wearing vests, so I asked a worker about the new apparel. They, too, are mandated to wear the vests, while working outside the store. So now, like me, they can be asked where the PVC glue is found, if they're wearing the vest, while shopping at Lowe's.

You might want to buy one just for kicks. The look on people's faces is priceless, when you tell them PVC glue purchases require a contractor's license, or they stopped selling 2 x 4's..

Monday, January 16, 2012

Laryngitis

I've had it for last few days. I sound like the old wrestlers from the 60's that were clotheslined so many times, they almost lost their voices. It makes me feel like Ivan Putsky, or Jose Lothario, or Paul Boesch. If you recognize those names, then you're older than dirt.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Sparrow

Staring silently, the woman wondered about the small visitor that huddled on the small brick ledge outside her kitchen window. It appeared two days ago; a small brown bird that she only knew as a sparrow. Although she didn’t realize it, she had grown fond of the small bird that braved the elements outside her oasis of warmth. Concerned, and compassionate, she had placed a crumbled bread crust on the ledge. Although it scared the small tenant away, it soon returned to feast on what she normally threw in her garbage.
As she stared, she thought of her friend Beverly. She wouldn’t find anything strange about her behavior.  If fact, she’d applaud the effort. Although they were the same age, Beverly seemed to relish life with a vigor that was only a memory. Much had changed in the last ten years and the changes weighed heavily on the elderly woman that was feeling trapped in her home.
She despised the winter. The freezing winds, ice and snow wrapped her life in a depressing gray. The garden she loved was dead and covered with the remnants of the last snow. Heavy clouds forecast more of the same and the thought only deepened her gloom.  The short warming was over and tonight would bring heavy snow.
She thought of her children. Paul, after years of working, finally became a partner in a law firm in Miami. Rhonda was in Houston. Teaching at the university level was always her dream and now a reality. Both were successful and both mentioned her moving to be close. She always declined the invitation.  She loved her small home and few friends that remained.  She was determined to spend the rest of her life near her memories and be buried next to the husband she lost.
A strong gust of wind interrupted her thoughts. The whistle in the eaves brought her attention back to the small bird in the window. She watched for a few minutes and realized it wasn’t moving. Standing, which usually caused the bird to fly away, didn’t change the posture of the tiny tenant.  Slowly opening the window, caused a small movement, but the bird didn’t attempt to flee. Without hesitation, she reached, grasped the small bundle of feather and placed it on the counter.  She realized the tiny bird was alive but very weak. Going to her closet, she soon returned with a shoe box and some newspaper. She placed the bird on the newspaper, found some bread to crumble and filled a jar lid with water.
Over the evening, she constantly checked on the bird. She would see some signs of movement, but noted the bread and water remained untouched. Finally, it was time for bed. She thought of covering the shoe box but decided it would only frighten the bird.  She went to bed with the hope the bird was only stressed and would be better in the morning.
When she awoke the next morning, she realized the muffled wind was due to the heavy snow that fell outside. Feeling morose, she slowly got out of bed and looked through the edge of the curtains to see the snow was already heavily drifted against the houses in the neighborhood. The remains of her garden were completely covered.  Her spirits sank as she realized it would be another day of wondering if spring would ever arrive. Suddenly remembering the bird, she hurried to the kitchen to check on her patient.
Silently, she approached the counter. She didn’t want to surprise the sparrow; only to have it fluttering in panic around her kitchen. She had no idea what she would do if that happened. Maybe, if it did, she could just feed it until spring. Then, she could open the door and allow it to leave.
Quietly peering over the edge, she was immediately saddened.  The tiny bird was lying on its side.  She knew that all her efforts were futile and the bird had died during the night. She felt defeated and wondered why she had waited so long to check on the bird.
As she observed the tiny puddle of brown feathers, she remembered her husband.  He was a strong and determined man. A cabinet maker by trade, but his work was described, by more than one, as art. Always in demand, he wouldn’t bow to the schedules of architects and home builders. Only when he was satisfied with his work would the cabinets reach the customer.  Nobody ever complained, or regretted the wait. His efforts were beyond exceptional and the demand permitted him to work to the end.
She remembered the last set of cabinets. He’d seemed more preoccupied than usual, but she decided it had to do with his age. He had avoided lunch, which concerned her, since his appetite had fallen off during the last few weeks.  “I only have a few more hours and I’m finished” was his reply when she stuck her head in his shop at noon. When it became late, and she realized he hadn’t been in for hours, she went to his shop; only to find him doubled up in pain on the floor.  
The doctors were more than kind, but their diagnosis was unpleasant to report. Pancreatic cancer, which she now knew was incurable, had been ignored for much too long.  They assured her he wouldn’t suffer. Her questions of treatment were answered with warnings of suffering without any success. In a short month, her husband had faded away. He took his last breath while staring into her eyes. For a moment, she saw the old glimmer and smile, which faded as she watched.  Her son and daughter made it to the funeral, but she’d been alone at his last moments.
Years of grief suddenly overwhelmed. Staring at the small bird released a flood of sadness she denied for too long. Sobbing, she rocked in the chair and allowed the grief to finally come.  She, again, wondered why he never said anything about feeling sick. She, also, thought of the guilt she felt when she realized his quick passing was a blessing. Watching him suffer was devastating to her soul. If he had lingered, she didn’t think she would have survived; she knew it would have ruined her financially.  These thoughts filled her with more sadness and prolonged her tears.
After awhile, she stopped, wiped her tears and thought about the last few days. What little joy she could find had now ended and she wondered how something that seemed so insignificant could affect in her so profoundly. She thought of how she had slowly allowed the despair of age to wrap her in a suffocating blanket. She had given up and was waiting for death. For a second she was infuriated. How could she not notice how pathetic she had become?
Inspired, she thought: “I need a bird feeder”. In wonder of her thoughts, she said to herself: “I’ll call Beverly. She’s always telling me I need to get out more. She’ll know where to buy a bird feeder.”
Standing, she said the small bird. “Well, you deserve a proper burial, but it will have to wait until spring.”  Finding a small freezer bag, she wrapped the sparrow in a napkin and placed it in the freezer. “I’ll bury you in the lily bed.”
Determined, she started making plans. She had things to do and people to call. “I’ll call Paul and Rhonda. That will get their attention. They’re probably dreading a call.” Laughing at her treachery, she suddenly felt younger than she felt in years. Looking out the window, she noticed the snow had stopped and the sky was brightening. Thinking of the sparrow, she suddenly felt guilty. She carefully cut up half a loaf of bread and threw it out the kitchen window.  Feeling satisfied, she sat and looked in her book for phone numbers. She realized she’d forgotten them all. “Never again.” She whispered and smiled at the thought.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sometimes Courtesy Is Unnoticed

As I was driving, I noticed a car was trying to leave the side street on which I planned on turning. I had the feeling they were in a hurry because the nose of the car was almost in the intersection. Usually, this means a driver is pushing to get out and make the turn as soon as possible....but not this time.

I slowed to allow them to turn in either direction. There was plenty of room, so to be courteous, I gave them some more time to make their driving experience more pleasant. They didn't move, so I finally reached the intersection and was forced to either turn, or wait for a group of cars that had just left the traffic light down the road.

As I turned, I examined the car as I passed. The driver, who was huge by any standard was eating an ice cream sundae and chatting with her passengers. There she was, wedged between the steering wheel and seat, that was pushed as far back as possible; conversing and grazing. I wasn't a blip on her radar; ice cream was on her mind. A meteorite could have struck the middle of the hood and she wouldn't have noticed.

I guess I was a little amazed. I like ice cream, but not that much.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hiatal Hernia

I haz one. I didn't know it, until tests during a hospital visit, which revealed the hernia and explained heartburn that was becoming a problem. Medication for GERD stopped the heartburn, but either things have changed, or something new has developed.

For the last few days, it's felt as though I swallowed a large pill and it stuck in my throat. Added to this annoyance is occasional hiccups, which only aggravate the discomfort. So, I'll watch the symptoms, see if they disappear, or make plans to pursue treatment.

It's hell getting old. It's definitely not for sissies.

Blah

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sometimes...

...there's no inspiration. Today is one of those days. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Bleh.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No

That's my name for a new political party. The party of "No". Here's how it works:

No, you can't have any more money for government. In fact, you spend too much, so your budget is cut by 50% for starters and taxpayers will get a 50% reduction in their taxes. If you don't like that, we'll go to 75%. It's up to you, but the answer is still no. No new taxes, no new entitlement funds, no raises, no inflation, no more borrowing, no more regulations, no more waste, no more vacations for any elected official, no more government intrusion and no more whining. This is the real world. If I have to cut, learn to live on less money and learn to adjust my budget for higher living costs then the government can too. In fact, since they're all public servant, they can make bigger cuts, learn to respect the people that generate their salaries and do so without so much as a whimper. If you don't like it, then quit. I wish you would.

Friday, January 6, 2012

First Beer

It was blistering hot. I was with my brother and a friend and we were planning on bow fishing in the borrow ditches along the oil field road that ran through the mostly dry salt water marsh. Only the channels and low spots held any water, which were full of alligator gar.

We were in the friend's '55 Chevy. It was 1973, so the car wasn't quite 20 years old. Built like a tank, and dependable, it was perfect for the task at hand. Our goal was to waste another summer afternoon doing things that held no real importance, but occupied our young minds with new adventure. We were searching for the larger gar that could reach lengths of over 7 feet. The limited amount of water was known to trap these monsters and we felt there was a chance today might bring one to skin and sell. The meat would sell for 25 cents a pound. The big gars could have more than 100 pounds of meat and $25 was a lot of money when gas sold for 20 cents a gallon.

The marsh was mostly miles of cracked mud with an occasional oasis of salt grass. Heat waves washed away the horizon in a rolling, oily ripple of distortion. Dust devils raced along the oyster shell roads. The dust, as we travelled, hung in a swirl as we travelled looking for our prize. Eventually we stopped at a favorable location. The heat rolled in as we opened the doors.

Nothing really prepares you for that type of heat. Within minutes, as the humidity prevents sweat from drying , everything you wear becomes soaked with sweat. A hat keeps the killer sun from burning your skin, but nothing prevents the sweat from running into your eyes. Eventually, you realize that wiping away the sweat, and dust, only chafes. The pain from the burning sweat becomes tolerable. It's better than the blisters from constantly wiping your eyes. 

The spot didn't reveal anything but a few small gar. We decided to move to another location, which proved to not have any large gar either. We were now really thirsty, but our young minds hadn't contemplated the necessity of water. We had nothing to drink.

We decide to head on home, but we'd drive slow and scan the ditches as we left. Since we were over three miles into the marsh, this would take some time. I was beginning to think of how good a cold drink of water would be. As time went on, I was ready to call it a day and forget about bow hunting. We had peppermints, which helped with thirst, but only made it tolerable.

We were about halfway back to the entrance, when our friend spotted a car on a side road that belonged to someone he knew. My vote of forgetting about the stop was ignored, so we pulled behind the car and approached an old man I'd never met.

He was sitting in a lawn chair, fishing pole in hand and an ice chest by his side. He exchanged pleasantries with our friend, introduced himself and then asked something that I'd never been asked before: "Would you boys like a cold beer?"

I'd tasted beer before. I didn't like the taste, but I was thirsty. When you added the fact I was only 16, desperate for liquid, and honored the old man would make such an offer, I accepted. My brother and friend - just as thirsty - didn't hesitate either. He handed us all a Schlitz from the cooler and took one for himself. I noticed the ice had rock salt on top to make the beer colder.

The old man tapped the top of the can and opened his beer. Following his example, I did the same and took a sip. The beer was cold; real cold; so cold, there was slushy ice in the first sip. It was nectar of the gods. I took a quick gulp and downed the rest. The old man eyeballed me for a moment, and then asked: "Would you like another beer?"

I hesitated. After all, I'd never drank anything in my life and here I was drinking beer.

"Sure. Thank you very much."

I savored the second beer. We all shot the breeze, talked about fishing and then it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes,  how it was to meet each other and we left. We only stopped for a few minutes to examine an alligator that was around 12 feet long. It looked dead as it lay on the bank. My brother opened the door to throw a rock and the alligator disappeared. I blinked and it was gone. Bubbles rose to the surface from the fresh stirred bottom My brother never stepped out. He closed the door and our friend pulled away.

The sun was extra bright as we travelled home. There was a buzz to the air and my mind examined the new feelings that beer could bring. I decided I really liked beer and have ever since.

Polls, the Media and Horse Manure

I listen to talk radio on the way home from work. Usually, if the host doesn't interest me within a minute, I'll switch to another show or listen to music. Today, one host inspired this post.

The host was explaining that some polling company had polled around 1000 supposed voters and asked the question: "Should anyone caught texting, while driving, lose their license for a period of time." Of the people polled, half felt they should and the other half felt they shouldn't. The demographics showed that age played a big part of the data. The majority of older folks felt they should and the younger felt the opposite. So, after the data was crunched, it was half and half.

My opinion is that this is horse manure. First, how can they determine if the respondent is actually a voter? The poll was by telephone, so the only thing they could depend on was the honesty of the person they talked to. The same goes for age. Otherwise, the data is horse manure, yet the host was using the data as if it was authoritative and correct.

Another thing that bothered me was the fact the issue of texting while driving was considered a subject that merited attention. While I'm sure there are people that are involved with accidents while texting and driving, I'm not convinced it's a big problem like the media would like me to believe. My personal experience in driving - and I have over a million miles behind the wheel - tells me that driving too fast and following too close is a much bigger problem. So, what are we going to do about this? Mandate governors on cars? Mandate radar detection systems that slow a vehicle down to prevent following too close to the car in front? Take away licences from those that drive this way? Lobotomy for repeat offenders?

Anyway, I'm tired of the talking heads of the media, pollsters and the horse manure they peddle daily. If they really want to talk about something important,  talk about the fact that inflation, sorry fiscal policies and lying politicians have just about ruined this country. Expand this subject to include the millions of derelicts that milk the public tit and are never punished for their complete disrespect for law and lack of decency.  That's important, in my opinion. The rest is mostly fluff and an obvious effort by the media, pundits and politicians to bask in their self-importance.

Blech!

Dear Gina:

I know we've never met, and I'm sure you really get into the Facebook social networking stuff, but I don't want to hookup with you. I hope you don't take this personally, and by no means do I want you to think I'm trying to embarass you on a public blog, but this really needs to stop. I'm tired of clicking delete in my spam file. It's one of those time things: you're wasting my time and I find such things irritating and rude.

Sincerely,

Jess

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Some Days Work Out Better Than You Know

The highway I usually travel to work was the scene of a 40 car pile-up this morning. Bits and pieces are being reported about what happened, but it looks as though heavy fog and smoke reduced visibility to nothing, which led to the accident. So far, four serious injuries are part of the 24 reported injuries. The photos starting to appear show mayhem.

On a good day, that section of highway is complete madness. Due to a large refinery expansion, thousands of extra workers travel the highway every morning and evening. The speed limit is 65 at night, but that's only for those willing to be run off the road. It's not unusual for traffic to travel at 80 mph and higher. Weaving in out of traffic is common and the safe distance to travel behind another vehicle is ignored by many. So, it's dangerous on the good days and treacherous on the bad. Today was bad and I'm glad I took a different route. From the time the accident was reported, there was a good possibility I might have been involved.

Final tally as of this evening: 79 vehicles involved, 54 sent to the hospital, 4 critical patients and 18 moving violations. To add insult to injury, I barely made an exit due to stopped traffic I could see ahead on my way home. It was bumper cars on an overpass, with part of the railing in the outside lane on the cross street below. Traffic, as usual, was gridlocked in an intersection because people just couldn't wait, or find another route.

An Electrical Question

I've read some articles over the years about how electrical suppliers were required to buy back any excess electricity you happened to have left over after your windmill, or whatever, generated more than you required. I can see the rational thought in this process, but haven't quite figured out the mechanics.

My house has a 200 amp service, which is supplied from a transformer that is attached to a pole. The electricity supplying the transformer is of a substantially higher voltage than my house can use, but the higher voltage is necessary to tranport the amount of electricity to more than one customer. This is the standard procedure, since the higher voltage allows smaller wire to "push" the electricity over further distances. Still the wire size is fairly large compared to all wiring in my house, except for the main feed. To add insult to injury, anything I'd generate for my house would be of the wrong voltage, so I'd have to use a tranformer to convert the voltage to the correct voltage for the grid and tie into the higher voltage cables, which are inaccessible to me as a consumer.

A windmill is an expensive critter to own and operate. Besides the subsstantial cost for construction, the additional wiring, converters and maintenance are well beyond what I'd be able to tackle. On a still day, or during downtime for maintenance, I'd have to be able to use the grid for electricity, so what I have would still be necessary. Otherwise, much of my electrical system would be repetitive and this would be expensive and there's no way I could justify the expense due to the fact I would lose money.

Generators are handy. They can supply everything I need for electricity, but since I've dealt with them before, there's no way I can use one at a cost that's less expensive than what I buy from the electrical supplier. I've done the math, so buying a large generator, making the necessary connection to the grid and selling it back to the supplier would be a huge loss over time. 

Solar might be an option, but I don't think I have enough acreage, or money, to justify the expenditure to gamble on the possibility of selling electricity back to the supplier; especially if I consider nothing could be sold at night.

Hydroelectric is out of the question. I have no water source.

So, now to my question: Has anyone ever actually sold electricity back to the supplier?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seven Left to Go

This cat survived two attempts of euthanization by an animal shelter, so they decided not to go for a third attempt. I'd say the cat earned its life after the first attempt, but then again, I don't run an animal shelter. I don't think I could.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Spreadsheets

I use spreadsheets at work. Some are simple; some are full of macros, elaborate formulas and multiple sheets. When they work as they should, they're more than handy. When they don't, and need careful scrutiny to determine where the problem is hidden, the final effect may be feeling like my brain has turned to mush.

I think I should wear earplugs this evening. That way my brains won't leak out on the drive home.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mini Meme

Lee Ann is responsible for this post. It's a meme with the first sentence of the first post of each month for 2011. Since I started in August, I don't have a full year

August -I was told by a friend, a few months ago, that I needed to write more.
September -I've used computers since the mid '80's.
October - This is a view from the cab of a 60 ton rough terrain crane.
November - I was in a lumber store this afternoon and was a little surprised by the ignorance of one of the clerks.
December - The newest news reports have reports of rape, robbery, assaults and other activities in the OWS locations throughout the country.

All in all, I'd say it looks like a conversation with someone with severe ADD or Rain Man.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In the Garden

 
The night insects were almost deafening in the cool, still night air of the Texas Hill Country.  With no moon, the stars were a blanket of jewels in the clear sky over the single frame house that stood in the middle of acres of open pasture. A small cattle pond sat in one corner of the pasture. Unused by cattle for years, the grassy banks held hundreds of frogs that chirped their mating calls into the night.
Arthur slept on the screened porch of the house he inherited from his grandfather. After an ugly divorce, he moved in with the aging father of his father to “get back on his feet”. After a few months and the loss of his parents to an automobile accident, he realized fate had led him there for a reason.  After a year, he couldn’t think of leaving. His love for the old man, and the strong self-imposed obligation to see him pass with dignity created a bond that only death would break. He still grieved.  He wished he‘d spent more time with him during his youth.  
A low growl instantly woke Arthur from his sleep. Reaching down, he put his hand on the head of Blossom and quietly shushed the black Labrador. She was quiet for a moment, but soon startled growling again as she stood to look toward the yard outside the screened porch.   Art raised his head and looked through the screen. As he looked, Blossom stopped growling and returned to her spot on the floor next to Arthur’s cot.
Arthur continued to stare, but nothing was moving. He enjoyed the cool night air. As night fell, the dry Hill Country air lost heat rapidly and would eventually migrate to the south. Towards dawn, the breeze could almost feel cold. Until then, the slow movement of air wouldn’t even move a leaf.  
After a minute, he placed his head back on the pillow and looked out towards the sky.  He found Scorpio to the south. He thought for a moment and determined it was around midnight.  Reaching over, he scratched Blossom behind the ears and thought of the day she appeared on his steps. She was thin with tender paws; her ears were laced with scratches from briars she encountered while running through the underbrush. A trip to the vet and an inquiry in the local paper led nowhere.  For whatever reason, she was to be part of his life and had been so for the last eight years.
As he drifted off to sleep again, Blossom alerted him with a low growl. At that moment, it became completely silent. No insect; no frogs and the eerie silence made the hair stand on the back of his neck. Slowly, he rose up in the cot, sat on the edge and peered into the darkness.  A brief flash of light lit the sky towards the south. A nocturnal thunderstorm towards the coast was building at the boundary between cool and warm air. The silence was deafening, until the screech of a night hawk broke the stillness. As though by signal, the night filled with sounds once again.
Arthur reached and found his night vision goggles on the floor. He’d always wanted a pair, but never felt he could justify the expenditure – until the last few days. Blossom had barked for the last few nights from her place on the porch. His efforts to find the cause were futile, but somebody was out there.  The ripest of vegetables were disappearing from his garden during the night.
Peering into the dark brought a new world to Arthur. Across the pasture was a small herd of deer. They were as clear as in the day, although the green light made the appearance surreal. He scanned the pastures, looked to the drive for a vehicle and ended his scan observing his garden.
At first, Arthur saw nothing, but a slow movement caught his attention. It looked like somebody stooping in one of the rows of tomatoes, but after a moment, he realized it was too small. At that point it rose and stood on two legs. Arthur’s initial reaction was that it was a really big raccoon, but that was impossible; raccoons never grew that large. Further examination revealed a small bag. Whatever it was held a small bag and was filling it as it moved down the rows of Arthur’s garden.
Silently, the harvester continued with its task. Every choice was scrutinized before being picked. Occasionally, it would pause and look around; only to continue with removing vegetables from Arthur’s garden.  There was a purpose to the harvester. Arthur silently stared as it worked.
Arthur jumped when the freezer on his porch started. In the still night, the sound seemed deafening. Fearing it would cause Blossom to start barking, he turned to find her asleep. She stirred for a moment and turned her back to the warm air from the bottom of the freezer. Turning back towards the garden, he found the harvester staring toward the house.  Arthur froze.
The harvester spent minutes staring at the house. Arthur, who now was a little frightened, silently observed the creature in the night.  What he was observing was bizarre; an easily rattled person would believe they were hallucinating.  The thought had crossed Arthur’s mind, but he felt there was something logical about what he was seeing and could easily be explained.
After a few minutes, the harvester continued with its task. Arthur watched as it continued through his entire garden. Much was being explained; the loss of only select vegetables now made sense, although the “sense” was far beyond what he expected. He began to wonder how he would handle the situation.
After almost an hour, and the addition of more bags for the harvest, the harvester stood, grabbed all the bags and tapped the side of its head. Within moments, it rose and accelerated from the ground. Arthur looked up, but there was nothing to see. For a moment, he felt he saw a shadow. Removing his goggles, he stared into the night sky.   The stars were brilliant, but nothing moved, or seemed unusual.  The freezer stopped running and Arthur realized the night was silent once again. The chirp of a cricket broke the silence and the night sounds returned.
Disturbed, Arthur didn’t fall asleep until the eastern sky started lightening from the approaching dawn. His mind raced until that time. He was trying to decide what he’d tell his girlfriend Karen before she arrived in the afternoon. Their relationship seemed firm, but he didn’t feel comfortable with telling her of what she saw.
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Karen found Arthur leaning on the fence to his garden the next afternoon; a bag of green tomatoes on the ground at his side.  Their plan was to fry the tomatoes with the catfish fillets Arthur had frozen in the spring. He turned and smiled as she approached.
“Hey, I thought you were going to let me pick the tomatoes?”
 “I know. I felt like working in the garden, so I went ahead and picked the best tomatoes. I didn’t want you to be tired when you helped me cook.”
Karen smiled and stared at Arthur’s eyes.
 “You look tired”
Arthur paused for a moment and answered: “I am. I didn’t sleep well last night. I had a lot on my mind.”
Karen became a little worried: “Are you okay?”
Arthur reached and hugged Karen: “I’m fine and I’ll be finer if you’ll stay tonight.”
Karen laughed and replied: “But, you have to make breakfast.”
Arthur hugged Karen tighter and said: “I think I’ll grow a late season garden this year.”
Karen was a little surprised by the comment. Arthur never seemed that interested in gardening. It was more of her passion and she relished the moments they spent in the garden together.
“Okay. So what are you going to plant?”
Realizing he had no idea what to plant, Arthur replied: “I don’t know, but I have the feeling you have some ideas.”
Karen just smiled and grabbed his arm. “C’mon. We need to go get busy.”
As they walked to the house, Arthur felt as though they were being watched. Glancing up revealed an empty blue sky.  Suddenly, he felt as when he decided to stay until his grandfather passed. It was a feeling of peace and purpose; a feeling of determination with the goal of doing something kind and important.  He glanced at the sky one more time before they entered the house. He thoughts were on tonight. Would they return? What would he do?