Sunday, August 31, 2008

My day

This post will probably be in bits and pieces.

My day began very early this am when, after waking up from my extended nap at Beth's down in Pearland, I straightened out the bed and tiptoed around their house trying not to wake up everyone at the same time as I was attempting to locate my sunglasses and car keys, etc. and whatall, in the semi-darkness.

I say 'semi-darkness' because there are a number of night light thingees strategically placed throughout their home. Nice!

Their 'babies' (two dogs) were not the least bit fooled, however! In contrast to the last time I visited, I could hear that they were located just beyond the kitchen area behind a closed door ... and yes, I was going to have to go through that area to exit the house and make sure I had locked everything up again behind me.

Every now and again I would say, "Shhh, it's just me!", and they would be quiet. (Not that they were making a whole lot of noise in the first place ... they're little dogs! And just as cute as can be, I might add.)

My problem was that I couldn't remember whether or not I had originally brought my bifocals in with me from the car! I didn't want to lock the house up behind me only to find that I was going to have to call and wake up Beth and then have her re-open everything back up again. I certainly didn't want to do that!!

Another concern was that one (or both) of their babies would 'escape' to other rooms inside or -- worse yet -- outside! (I was going to have to use the outside door twice ... once to go out to the car and see if my bifocals were indeed there [and yes, they were!] ... and, if they were, to open that door yet once again to reset the lock. "Nervis Jervis," I want to tell you, but all was accomplished w/o either baby 'escaping', thank goodness!

[They were 'all over me' with doggie hugs and kisses and didn't want me to leave, actually. Sweet!]

When I got back home, I immediately went to the various tracking charts for Gustav. I then reported same (twice) in the way of comments on the post before last.

For those of you who have not been following either Gustav or Hanna, let me fill you in just a little bit.

Gustav is a major hurricane (now a cat 3 ... was a cat 4, but the decrease in his winds' intensity was expected once he got past a certain point) located in the Gulf of Mexico over extremely warm waters (quite normal, by the way, for this time of year) which serve, more than adequately, to 'feed' and nourish a hurricane's strength.

Initially last night (early this am, to be more precise), I thought that I saw more of a north and easterly trend to his movements.

That does not now appear to be the case. New Orleans is under a mandatory evacuation. Beaumont (TX -- approx. 80 miles east of Houston) is under a mandatory evacuation.

Pardon me a moment while I go back and recheck the most current prognosticative (Is that even a word??) maps ... I just did. Nothing's changed.

I'm really 'all set' on ice and water, etc. I'd like to go out in just a few minutes to get some more fruit from Randall's (specifically, I'll be looking for Bing cherries) and stop by Luby's cafeteria to see what they're offering for takeout today. (Strawberry shortcake is one of my "must haves".)

BTW, if any of you have clicked on the link, make sure that it says "My Tropical Tracker", OK? Have a little patience with this one. It takes maybe a minute or so to fully load, but then it's worth the wait. (AND, you can click the 'refresh' button every ten minutes or so to get a newer download.)

If you're trying to locate 'Houston' here, look at the rectangular 'ZOOM OUT' 'ZOOM IN' box ... ... immediately under the 'N' on 'IN', you will see a capital 'L' (stands for Louisiana, in this case) ... ... immediately under the 'L' for Louisiana, you will see 'usto' (what remains visible of "Houston"). Hope that helps you in re your orientation of what the devil you're looking at!!

Really DO have to get out of here, OK? The Astros are coming on in a little more than half an hour. I'll miss a little bit of the game, but then I'll be home and 'set' before every single station in my immediate universe switches to nonstop Gustav reporting.

I'll add more later.

In particular, before I close THIS initial posting out, however, I'd like to add a comment on the Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethon.

According to the "TV Listings" in my area, his telethon is supposed to air for only two hours or so this evening. Can that possibly be correct?!?

I distinctly remember that, for many many MANY years, about the only thing that was broadcast on Labor Day (that was, in my mind, worthwhile viewing) was his telethon.

I think that Jerry Lewis might be terribly ill. I hope that is not the case, but I fear that it is. Whatever will happen to his telethon? Whatever will happen to "His kids"?

I'm back. (Actually, I was back an hour and a half ago, and added several paragraphs to this post, which were all erased when I had to restart the computer. Something went very wrong. Don't know what it was, but it seems to be OK now. Will try this act again, and see what happens this time!)

BTW, Jerry Lewis is NOT 'terribly ill'. He looks better than he has in years, which is certainly wonderful news!

I might decide, by the way, to publish these next paragraphs as I write them. Wouldn't want that to happen again. I really dislike having to do things twice!

A lot of you are unfamiliar with hurricanes and predictions. The two terms are not very compatible. Although Gustav is currently predicted to strike land in Louisiana, until he actually does so all bets are 'off'. Even then, sighs of relief cannot really be taken until he continues on his inland course far enough to where he is so weakened as to be no longer newsworthy.

As soon as I wrote that last little bit, I thought I'd better add a comment or two about Fay. Remember her? Just within the last week or two? She actually made landfall in Florida four (4!) different times. Then, when she finally did make it up to the Carolinas she was still producing quite violent storms.

Does anyone recall my post, "Opening day", published on June 1st, where I wrote about Tropical Storm Allison? I just reread that post, and the link to the Houston Chronicle's extensive coverage of the storm still works just fine if you want to go back and read about it. Allison's name was retired even though she never did reach hurricane strength.

In "Canoeing ... (part two) ...", published March 11th, I wrote briefly about the backlash of a hurricane. We were in Algonquin Provincial Park (southeastern Ontario) during that trip, and if you Google it, you will probably be able to see how far away from the Atlantic Ocean we actually were.

Anyway, the best 'predictions' are really only educated guesses. In my case, it was simply a gut feeling. I will be glad if it is proven that my gut was wrong. I wish there were some way to allow all that massive energy to be equally dispersed without so much destruction and devastation, to bring beneficial rainfall instead. It seems so unfair that New Orleans might be singled out again. I pray that the levees that have been rebuilt will hold.

A couple of things about Gustav bother me ... his forward speed has slowed and there still is no well-defined eye. Both facts are strange, the latter more so than the former.

I know that all of you are concerned about those of us who live on the Gulf Coast. I thought you might be relieved to have some more information about what all has been happening here in the Houston area.

1) We are not in the 'receiving mode' for fleeing refugees that we were during Hurricane Katrina, when we had literally hundreds of thousands temporarily housed in the Astrodome, both convention centers, many apartments as well as private homes, churches, and most of our hotels. Houston was still providing 'temporary' shelter to all of these people when, just a few weeks later, it seemed a certainty that Hurricane Rita (a cat 5 storm) was going to strike Galveston directly and then roar on up Galveston Bay to Houston's east side. It would have been catastrophic, a 'worst case' scenario.

Millions of people panicked and tried to flee at the same time, creating massive traffic jams on all highways leading north, east, and west. Those unfortunate ones who chose to go east went directly into Rita's path. She changed her course almost at the last minute, sparing Houston and Galveston but causing massive damage in Beaumont and points north and western Louisiana.

2) Houston is one of the major staging areas for disaster relief personnel and equipment. Ellington Field, a few miles southeast of Hobby Airport, has been receiving for the past several days US Coast Guard helicopters and other transport from many other states.

3) Reliant Center is housing emergency response personnel (firefighters, paramedics, and the like) from all over as well as search and rescue dogs.

4) Hundreds of buses are at Tully stadium, about nine miles west and north of where I'm sitting, ready at a moment's notice if it appears that Gustav will be moving westward before he decides to make landfall and we need to evacuate quickly.

5) I don't, as a general rule, even consider evacuating. My house sits at 52', which might sound laughable to you, but that's significant when you're talking about a storm surge. I do not live anywhere near a major bayou. Electrical outages and wind damage, of course, would probably be widespread, but I guess I'd rather be here to try and deal with it if it happens.

Well, it's almost 4am on Monday morning. There'll be another update at the top of the hour. I'll listen to that, and then post it here if there is anything significant to tell you. After that, I'm going to hit the pillow.

Nothing new. IF Gustav maintains his present course, then we'll probably start seeing a few days of rainfall here beginning on Tuesday. How long the rains last and how much we'll get is unknown as of this writing. If you followed the very first link towards the beginning of this post, you might have noticed a very large 'cone of uncertainty' in re Gustav's path following landfall. The faster his remnants move through this area, the better we'll like it, I can guarantee you that!

OK. Finis!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cooking class

My granddaughter is taking 'Home-Ec' this year, and this past week was involved in a cookie-making project that involved no eggs! (How can a cookie-making project involve 'no eggs'?!?)

Well, it seems that there are a whole lot of people nowadays who are 'allergic' to eggs. Give me a break, OK? SO, anyhow, there you have it. They made cookies without using eggs.

Granddaughter came home and announced to her mother that she now understood why they use eggs. I just love that story!

DD (Darling Daughter) thought that was a lesson that her daughter (my granddaughter) would remember forever, and I'm sure she's right.

Meanwhile, back at my memory bank's ranch, I was reminded of my 'Home-Ec' class, 89 gazillion million years ago.

Those were the days when everyone had to wear a hairnet. That's WAY before all y'all were even born, I'll betcha!

Our teacher was an old maid -- really not trying to 'put her down' here, but she was, OK? -- who towered over us 7th and 8th graders, always with her hairnet on and pencil poised for use just above one of her ears (don't remember which ear).

Why was her pencil poised for use? To stir something? To point at someone to make a point or to answer a question? No, no. Her pencil was poised for use to scratch at (what I can only assume were) 'cooties' in her hair! I kid you not!!

So, there we were, diligently measuring, stirring, whatever it was we were doing at the time, and there SHE was, scratching at her cooties! Most of the time, it occurred directly over whatever it was that we were attempting to concoct!!

This one day we were trying to prepare 'Welsh rarebit'. It sounded really exotic to me, in spite of all the cooties floating around in the air, and I couldn't wait to taste it!

We were all on our own, and before we could leave the classroom, we had to eat what we had prepared.

Well, my mouth got the first taste of that concoction, and I thought I was going to throw up right there! Lawdy, lawdy! How was I going to get out of this one?

I waited until the teacher was out of the room and then quickly took the awful stuff and flushed it down the toilet! That's the God's honest truth!! It was horrible!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Being aware and preparing

I've been watching, off and on today, the latest predictions/projections/etc., of the various satellite views of Gustav and Hanna. It's really kind of interesting, particularly if you don't live on the Gulf Coast (which I do ... well, 50 or so miles inland from same!).

I projected just a couple of days ago ... a personal prediction, only, because I could by no means be considered a meteorologist ... that Gustav would hit the upper Texas coast.

I am not 'running scared' here and, to tell you the truth, I am going more by 'gut' feelings than anything scientific ... ... at the same time, I am telling you that I am now 'storing up' ice and will be going out later -- as soon as I finish this post -- to pick up some more cold stuff and maybe a can or two of 'other' stuff that can simply be opened with a can opener and then ingested (requiring no electrical elements to cook/heat/reheat).

I have no intention whatsoEVer to evacuate. In fact, tomorrow afternoon (after my bridge date), I intend to fill my gas tank and then head on down to Pearland to enjoy some food and visit with one of my very dearest friends.

Just checked back with various sites, and it looks like my 'gut' might have been correct. Well, forewarned is forearmed, right?

I will have kept my cell phone charged, so those of you who have my number should be able to reach me.

Later this evening, or sometime tomorrow, I will probably do a post to actually be published on Labor Day. It'll be a good one, I think, and will have to do with taxicab-driving.

Please pardon my 'scatteredness' in this post. I really DO need to get out of here and grab up some of Randall's cookies to take down to Pearland tomorrow! Luv all y'all, OK?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

POWS 'Catharsism'

Hopefully, this post will 'do it' for me ... getting rid of demons that still continue to haunt, and reveling in the glorious exploits of those determined and dedicated athletes who were so richly rewarded in the Olympic games which concluded just this past weekend.

I think I'll get to the 'demon' side first and then go on to more positive things, if that's OK with you.

I'd like to know whatever happened with the International Gymnastics Federation's investigation into the possible ineligibility of the Chinese women gymnasts? Supposedly as many as five (5!) were involved!! The last I heard, Bob Costas was interviewing the IOC chairman (this was Friday night, the 23rd), who said that the IGF had in their possesion all of the pertinent documents -- birth certificates, passports, family papers, etc. -- and was studying them.

I wrote in an e-mail to a friend of mine, "We should know something within another hour or two." (Actually, I was quoting what Bob Costas had said in his conclusion to that interview. Meanwhile, I have heard nothing further!?! Something's terribly wrong, and I do not have the vaguest idea what it might be.)

Did you ever participate in track and field? I did, in high school. I excelled (at the high school level only, understand?) in the 'hop skip and jump' and 50-yard dash events. Nothing to 'write home about', I can assure you.

I was fascinated to learn about this one fellow's changing history by going backwards over the pole vault. I think I had 'known' about that some time ago, but this time the information has (hopefully!) become more permanently-ingrained.

Don't you think that there should be a study made of the conditions/diet, etc., in Ethiopia and Kenya that allow/foster their athletes to excel in the marathon? I do! Congrats to all of them!!

I don't want to leave out the US athletes in basketball, water polo, or volleyball! (I'm almost positively sure I'm going to be leaving someone out here. I'm sorry, whomever you are!)

The Jamaican athlete (forget his name) who broke world records ... the first one by 'dogging it' across the finish line (kind of lost my support there -- sorry about that, fella!).

Watching those 'weirdos' (my term, only!) who participate in that insane 'sport' of TMX (am pretty sure that I don't have the name right!).

'Ping pong' as an Oympic sport?!? You have got to be kidding!! What'll we have next? Arm wrestling? What about hang-gliding?? Puhleez!!!

I very much enjoyed watching the little bit that I did of the 'synchronized swimming' events. (Shades of Esther Williams, right?)

Well, peoples, I am now yawning mightily, and am going to 'hit the pillow' for a bit.

PS. It is now going on 3:30pm my time. Have had my nap, and just reread this post. No comments yet (not that I expected that there necessarily would be). I wanted you, in particular, Tammy, to know that, if I didn't cover all of the bases that you thought should have been covered, you should feel free to be my guest and flail away all you want, all right? Later!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


What's that, you say? Well, it's Post Olympics Withdrawal Syndrome, and I have been afflicted with it for the past couple of days now. You might have heard it referred to as Post Olympics Depression, or POD.

So, what am I doing about it? For one thing, I'm complaining about it in this post ... always somewhat cathartic. I'm playing some bridge. I got my teeth cleaned this morning. My neighbor came over to look at some of my dead branches, first mentioned here, and he advised me to wait until spring. (Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow type of thing?)

Maybe Gustav will take care of some of them, whadaya think? This one I don't think is going to miss us. It looks like he'll be entering the Gulf of Mexico plenty early enough to easily become a Category 3 (or more) hurricane before he hits landfall again. My personal prediction -- and I'm not a meteorologist -- is that he will strike the Texas coast (upper, not lower, as Dolly did), perhaps on Labor Day, as a major Category 4 hurricane.

Meanwhile, the sun is shining. I actually did quite a bit of yardwork the other evening, and then took a long hot bubble bath afterwards to try and ward off future aching muscles. It worked!

I'm going to have to go back to smashing calcium pills with a hammer for a few days, and getting my supplements that way! This Viactiv that I've been taking for the past month or two has almost sworn me off forever from chocolate!!

There is absolutely NOTHING on major network television but the Democratic National Convention! Ick and yuk!! If you're enthralled with politics and the Democrat's presumptive nominee, you are in 'seventh heaven' with this week's programming. If you're not, like me, you're carping loudly.

Don't get me wrong here. I don't intend to watch all the political 'crap' that will be going on next week, either! In fact, this coming November will probably not see me in a voting booth for the first time since -- I really don't remember the last time I did not vote!! I'm not bragging. Actually, this makes me kind of sad. I'm just so sick of all the empty promises, the lies, innuendoes, slurs, etc., etc., etc.

I must admit that I was impressed that Ted Kennedy was able to show up. Isn't it fascinating how he is almost deified, now that he is very ill? Not wanting to put that illness down (and certainly would not have 'wished it' on him, no matter how much I might have disliked the man), by any means, but does anyone remember what happened many years ago? How that one incident, still lingering in many people's minds, permanently derailed any thoughts he might have had -- and indeed, he had them! --about becoming President of the United States?

Personally, I have a great deal of regard for Joe Liebermann. I see him as a man of integrity and personal conviction. Now, if McCain were to choose him as his running mate, I might get interested. But he won't -- and even if he did, I don't think Mr. Liebermann would accept.

So, what will I be doing the rest of today, this week, and the next? Well, I'll be watching "Fantasy Island" (coming up shortly), for one thing. Tomorrow night, I'll be watching my favorite 'hunk' in "Smallville". I'll be listening to the Astros try and play some good baseball, maybe even winning a game or two. AND, I'll probably be writing and publishing some more posts.

Hope none of you is suffering from POWS or POD -- but if you are, DO take some positive steps to try and get yourselves out of it, OK?

A couple of updates

Baseball ...

I don't want to definitively state that this will be my last update on baseball, but since the Astros -- while not mathematically out of a wildcard berth -- are now so far removed from plausibility, even, that I have almost stopped keeping track of what's going on elsewhere.

Patrick, I'm really sorry about your Braves' misfortunes. I think, tho, that you clobbered someone last night ... let me go back and double check ... well, I'll have to take that back, won't I? You didn't 'clobber' someone, but you ended up victorious! You and I both will be loudly rooting for our teams again next year, won't we?

Chuck, you're on your own with your Cubbies. What, did you play a football game last night or a baseball game? Which was it? Final score of 14-9 ... sounds like two touchdowns on one side and one on the other with a safety (points after all TD's good). Watch out for those Brewers!! Looks like they mean business. (BTW, don't you think for one split second that I'll be rooting for your team. You know that we have six games left against each other, right? Even tho we're not going anywhere, "Go, Astros!")

All personal comments aside, there are a couple or three pretty exciting races going into this final month of the regular season.

In particular, all y'all should pay attention to the American League East, where Tampa Bay has now lost two in a row and the Red Sox have won two in a row, leaving the Sox just 3.5 games out of first place. In the AL Central, the White Sox and Twins have been slugging it out since my last post, each vying for first place. However, most recently the Sox have won their last three while the Twins have lost four in a row, leaving a two game separation between 1st and 2nd place in that division.

In the National League East, the Phillies and Mets have been battling it out for first place. Last night their game (playing head to head) went 13 innings, with the Phillies winning and the Mets now 1/2 game back. Doesn't get any closer than that, folks! Have already made my comments about the Central. In the West, it doesn't seem like ANYone wants to 'take charge'. They're all 'losers', in my opinion.

Did you notice a glaring void in the AL West? That's cuz it's BOWring!!!

Bridge ...

Julian (one of my favorite bridge partners) unleashed a 'monster', it would seem, with his phone call to me of a week or two ago. Altho we are scheduled to play again this coming Saturday, I felt the 'urge' this afternoon to play tonight (well, last night, actually ... I keep forgetting what time it is!) and called John Zilic, one of our local directors, to see if anyone was looking for a game.

John called me back later, saying, "Come on! I think we've got somebody." And sure enuf, he did, and I had an absolute BLAST! Monster's been unleashed. Look out, everyone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I must confess that I am one, altho not as either my dictionary or Wiki primarily define the word. The closest definition that I can personally identify with describes this type of person as a 'prying observer'.

I even object to the word 'prying', which to me implies putting one's nose into something that is none of one's business.

Craig Peihopa, in his comment early yesterday morning, described my blog as "a little voyeuristic in style". I took that as simply a candid remark on how I allow others a personal glimpse into my own life and how I think.

He and I are on the same page, I think, with our definition of 'voyeur'. Having said all that, I believe that the term 'voyeur' should be further defined as one who keenly observes, or an extremely interested observer.

I might even suggest a close correlation to 'assimilator'. Assimilate = to take into the mind and thoroughly comprehend.

But enough already with the definitions! Immediately upon reading Craig's comment, I was reminded of a book I thought I had read, The Voyeur, some years ago and went looking back through my notebooks to see if I could find the author.

I did, but in the so doing uncovered some others that I thought you might like to know about (if you didn't already). Here they are, in alphabetical order by author ... ...

Maloney, Shane ... The Brush-Off '96 ... Australian ... a gazillion neat and original turns of phrase ... reminds me a little of Carl Hiaasen.

Martel, Yann ... Life of Pi '01 ... An incredible story (fiction) of a teenaged boy who survives a shipwreck with a tiger in the lifeboat ... an absolute MUST READ!

Moriarty, Michael ... yes, the actor ... The Voyeur '97 ... This is the only book of his that I've read, and there were no sexual overtones (at least, not that I can remember!) ... However, this was eleven years ago. Perhaps I was into sexual titillations at the time? I doubt it, but anything's possible, I suppose!

Olshaker, Mark ... Blood Race ... a fictionalized account of the 1936 Olympics in Munich. (Timely!)

Perry, Thomas ... This author is so near and dear to my heart! I've read all that he has written, but for purposes of this post, I'm going to recommend the first book, Vanishing Act '95, in his series featuring a Seneca woman (Jane Whitfield, I think her name is) who helps guide people on their way to disappearing. Almost always his main characters are crooks and bad guys, but they're 'lovable' crooks and bad guys, if you know what I mean.

Preston, Douglas (along with Lincoln Child) ... Mount Dragon '96 ... Do you like medical and computer science, cybernetics, and metaphysics? As a general rule I do not, altho I enjoyed this one!

Rendell, Ruth ... The Veiled One '88 (supposedly the 13th [!] in her Chief Inspector Wexford series) ... When I first read one of her books (this one, actually!) in 1997, I wrote in my notes, "I will NEVER be a writer! Es imposible!!" I'd like to share with you some of the other notations I made ... "exquisitely detailed story" ... "a young man sorely in need of therapy gets brutally ignored by the investigator after it's proven he is no longer a suspect in the murder of a blackmailing housewife" ... "every word is important" ... "the author has such insights into the human experience".

Sandford, John ... (pseudonym for the journalist John Camp) ... Mystery and intrigue, do you enjoy those? Try one of his featuring Lucas Davenport, a Minneapolis detective who is independently wealthy (sigh) due to his patented invention of a product that sold on the market. Most of the novels that feature Lucas Davenport include the word 'prey' in the title. If you have never read him before, I recommend that you begin with Certain Prey '99. Why? Because I gave it five stars, that's why!

Sherwood, Lyn A. ... Super Fan '01 ... I don't remember if the sport is football or baseball. I want to say football, but I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that I liked the book!

Singerman, Philip ... Proof Positive '01 ... A modern-day story which has its roots back in Austria during Hitler's regime.

Stockley, Grif ... His protagonist is Gideon Page, a lawyer ... Some of my notes include (from Religious Conviction '94) ... "took about 100 pages to get used to him writing in the present tense" ... "tremendous sense of humor and way with words" ... (from Expert Testimony '91) ... "What a human person!"

Thomson, Maynard F. ... Dreams of Gold '99 ... "A beautiful story," I wrote in my notes. Another timely recommendation! Japanese culture ... pairs/singles behind the scenes training, politics, love.

Turnbull, Peter ... The Killing Floor '94 ... In my notes I wrote -- yet once again -- of the famous line of Churchill's, whereupon he said (after being criticized for ending a sentence with a preposition), "... things up with which he would not put." (p. 129) I additionally noted that I found the book "satisfying". Not the most hearty of recommendations, I'll admit, BUT -- keep that quote in the back of your mind, OK? You might find it to be extremely handy one day!

Vaughn, Ellen ... The Strand '97 ... My notes include "a beautifully-written/integrated story of family/backgrounds/nastinesses ... has a lot to say for me!" (?? Cannot extrapolate upon that further. It's been a while since I read it.) ... ... (with Charles Colson) ... Gideon's Torch '95 ... extremely lengthy story of anti-/pro-abortion problems combined with abuses (aborting nearly term babies and draining brain matter [yuk!] for AIDS and other research) ... includes some pretty good-sized insights into "politics as usual" in Washington.

Vreeland, Susan ... Girl in Hyacinth Blue '99 ... story of a Vermeer painting ... "Interesting," I wrote, "Pages 82-102 hilarious!" (BTW, I have not the VAguest recollection of the hilarity!)

White, Gillian ... Mothertime ... Four (five?) children -- varying ages -- kidnap their "blottoed" mother and keep her locked up in the basement sauna ... not a terrible story ... quite intriguing, actually ... beautiful ending.

Wilhelm, Kate ... She's written quite a number of books, several of which I think are barely mediocre, but her series with Barbara Holloway as the protagonist is very good. The interaction between Barbara and her father (both lawyers) is wonderful to follow. I recommend that you begin with her first in this series, Best Defense '94.

Woods, Stuart ... Naughty, naughty! And almost all of his books are this way ... extremely fast-reading and a whole lot of fun, actually. Stone Barrington (who is the main character in many of Stuart's novels), ex-cop and now an attorney and investigator, had this said about him by the author: "I apologize to those few readers who have complained about his sexual nature, but he doesn't seem to be able to control himself." He's written a gazillion books featuring Stone Barrington. Pick one. You'll shake your head so often you'll find yourself wondering if your neck muscles are doing their job!

Palindrome '91 ... Atypical of Stuart Woods ... a fascinating story of identical twins, one of whom is dead and the other acts as both.

I wish you many delightful hours lost in the voyageuristic world of books!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Voyeur ... PLEASE delete/ignore

If you happened to come upon my post earlier today entitled "Voyeur" and it only consisted of four paragraphs, please ignore it. I have spent nearly six HOURS trying to put this post together. And, I can guarantee you that it was NOT limited to four paragraphs!! I just tried to "Save" the draft again and it could not be saved. (Aha! And another AHA!!) Unbeknownst to the blogger powersthatbe, I had made a copy -- aha, aha, aha, aha, aha, aha, aha, aha, aha!!!!!!!!!)

SO, I will try and come back atcha later with a pretty well thought out (my own opinion, of course!) post, entitled "Voyeur".

You know, as much as I dislike using the word 'hate', I hate it when stuff like this happens!

You know what? I may have to change the title of this post. Perhaps it was the title that got the blogger spammer's attention. I don't know! What say you? Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Creativity vs. intelligence vs. age

"Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young." W. Somerset Maugham

That is an intriguing statement, isn't it?

I have almost always thought of genuine creativity as being most readily available to the very young. See my post, "A child ... is an original ...", published June 30th, for some of my more extensive thoughts on this.

[To support that view, when I was studying for my Master's degree in education from Purdue University in the early 60's, I proposed for my thesis a creative writing study based on 6-yr. olds -- first grade. It was 'pooh-poohed' by everyone except my major professor (bless her heart), who told me to go for it!

I did, and was going to publish the results here. However, upon blowing all the cobwebs off of my thesis, I discovered that the results were much more complex than what I had remembered, SO ... unless you really want me to encapsulate and expound further on same in another post ... this will be the last word on that subject.

I should add that we had to do an analytical study on the correlation between creativity and intelligence as a result of this.]

Then, somewhat later (7/23), I published an Art Linkletter (ish) type post, which you might enjoy, if you didn't catch it earlier.

This one, published on the 18th of July ... 5th paragraph ... , is taken from Matthew East's telling of an outing with his 5-yr. old daughter.

Even more recently, another father posted about his very young daughter exclaiming, "Daddy, I was so happy this morning it felt like my heart was smiling."

From the mouths of children. Oh, how sweet!

And then we have these unique, one of a kind utterances, published just this past couple of days from a 43-year old 'youngster' in Australia ... ...

Is your "life painted in pastel shades ...", or is it "a growing piece of art in bold colors?"

"Is a nibble at the table of life sufficient to understand and appreciate the whole four courses?"

Folks, I have been told (and I thank all of you who have taken the time to comment now and then) that the way I put my words together in trying to recapture my thoughts and memories is unique ... I hope that it is. And, if it is, may it ever be so!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blondes and exams

Two more jokes for you ... another dumb blonde one (which is only so-so funny, I think), and an exam one which I find hilarious!

A blonde finds herself in serious trouble. Her business has gone under, and she's in dire financial straits. She's so desperate that she decides to ask God for help. She begins to pray, "God, please help me. I've lost my business and, if I don't get some money, I'm going to lose my house. Please let me win the lottery."

The lottery night comes, and someone else wins.

She prays again, "God, please let me win the lottery! I've lost my business, my house, and I'm going to lose my car as well."

Lottery night comes, but again someone else wins.

Once again she prays, "Oh God, why have you forgotten me? I've lost my business, my house, and my car. My children are starving. I don't often ask you for help, and I've always been a good servant. PLEASE let me win the lottery just this one time so I can get my life back in order."

Suddenly, there is a blinding flash of light as the Heavens open. The blonde is overwhelmed as she hears God say, "I have heard your prayers and would like to help, but could you work with me on this one?? ... ... Buy a ticket!"

Two sophomores at Duke University were taking Organic Chemistry. They had done so well on all the midterms, quizzes, and labs, etc., that they both just knew they were 'Ace-ing' the course.

Even though the final exam was going to be on Monday, the weekend before they decided to go up to the University of Virginia and party with some friends.

They had a great time, but slept almost all day Sunday with bad hangovers and didn't make it back to Duke until Monday morning. Rather than go dragging in to take the exam, they went in to see the professor afterwards and explained about all the car problems they had had on the way back, how they'd had to wait a long time for help, then they'd had a flat tire and had to change it. Could they possibly come in the next day to take the final?

The professor thought it over and then agreed that they could come in the following day to make up the final. He told his two star pupils to study hard. They did.

The next day came, and they appeared at the time the professor had set. He placed them in separate rooms, handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin.

The first problem was something simple about free radical formation and worth five points. "Piece of cake," each one thought.

However, when they turned to the next page, each was completely unprepared for the next question (worth 95 points), which was in several parts: Which tire? What time was it? Who changed it? Where were you when the tire went flat? What caused the tire to go flat? Who was driving?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bridge stories and a recommendation

You don't have to know the first thing about bridge to appreciate these stories. Both happened to me, but I'd forgotten about them until this past week.

Recently, one of my second cousins was diagnosed with cancer and, while w/racking my brain trying to come up with something positive -- maybe even funny -- to say or share with him, I noticed that he had mentioned something in his e-mail about one of his bridge partners.

Well, I put together the words 'bridge' and 'doctor', and remembered a time when I had a urinary tract infection and went to see a urologist.

What a strange-looking man! Almost immediately, however, I forgot about his looks and my problem when he asked me what I liked to do for fun. Well, there are lots of things, bridge being only one of them, but the second I mentioned bridge (and the fact that I was a teacher) we were off and running!

It seems that he was a recent student of the game, and had questions about various hand configurations, point count, etc. What would I do with this holding? Would my bid change if I held thus and so, instead?

When I got back out to the cashier with a check in hand, she looked at me VERY suspiciously before she said, "No charge."

This next one I've remembered because, when I arrived at the site Tuesday night to play bridge, one of the other players came up to me and said, "I won't need a ride home tonight." We both just burst out laughing!

This story goes back a ways. Dolores and I had been partners this one evening. After the game, we were both standing out in the Bridge & Game Studio's parking lot, laughing and carrying on, when we noticed that one of the other bridge players was out there muttering to himself and saying how he was going to have to call a taxicab.

We asked, "What's wrong?" Well, it seems that -- running late (as per usual, actually) -- , in his haste to get into the B&GS and the game, he had inadvertently left his keys in the car after locking it. Not a new story, eh what? Think we've all done that a time or two!

"You don't have to call for a taxi," Dolores said, "you can take this one!" (Pointing to mine, of course.) "Oh, no!" he said. "That's Goldenrod's car."

At that point I chimed in by saying, "We can pretend that this is a taxi! (Which, indeed, it was!) You can get into the back seat and I'll turn the meter on. Then, when we get to your house you can pay me!"

All of which, of course, subsequently happened. To this very DAY, it's a deliciously funny story, don't you agree?

My recommendation?

I have been so enjoying the Olympics! I hope that you have, as well. I just last night 'discovered' this site, which has 54 wonderful photographs from the opening ceremonies. I have viewed only twelve thus far.

Last night, before hitting the pillow (and I didn't sit up nearly the whole night like I did the night before!), I watched a little bit of the Spanish-speaking TV stations. It was almost like being in another world!!

Soccer, taekwando (sp?), weight-lifting ... none of which is covered to any great extent by NBC! I'm really glad that I live in such a diverse city. You know, it makes me wonder what kind of coverage the Olympics are getting in Africa, for instance ... how about Canada? Australia? England? France? Germany? Russia? Of course they would be focusing on their own athletes. As are we, obviously.

What an absolutely wonderful world we live in!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A little of this, a little of that

I'm sitting here listening to the thunder roll in the near distance. Wonderful sound! Should get out to the store just around the corner while the getting's good, shouldn't I? Will continue this when I get back.

I'm back. That was close! Had a really great time playing bridge last night. Didn't disgrace myself like I thought I might. It was good to see some faces that I hadn't in a while, especially my partner's. We're scheduled to play again Saturday afternoon. It rained some while we were inside playing, but let up long enough when we were finished to allow us all to get to our vehicles without getting wet. Considerate, wouldn't you say?

The highest recorded temperature yesterday at IAH (our official site) was 81 degrees, if you can believe it! Today it's projected to be 85 with more scattered showers and thundershowers. We won't be getting back up to our 'average' of 94 again until Sunday or Monday. We're lovin' our electric bills!

I stayed up until the wee hours this morning, watching the day's Olympic events replay on NBC ... I'm so happy for that young man (Horton, is it?), the US gymnast who added levels of difficulty to his high bar routine almost at the last minute and aced it, getting a silver medal. He was just beaming with pride! And there his folks were, in the stands, hugging each other and laughing and crying all at the same time. Neat!

Anyway, as a result of being up so late/early, it's going on noon already and I have accomplished almost nothing -- except for starting this post, that is. I did, however, spend a few minutes on a fun game that reminds me a bit of Pacman. Did you ever play that? If you have a few moments to spare/luxuriate in a bit of frivolity, go here. (Courtesy of Whalechaser.) I played it several times. The first time, I think I lasted all of 1/100th of a second. Ha! Then, after playing it a few more times, I tucked it away amongst my list of rainy day favorite things to do. Enjoy!

Well, it seems like I just can't stay away from the Astros for very long. They do not have a chance in **** of overtaking the Cubs, who are now on a more consistent bent to winning the National League Central Division's championship. However, we have a slim chance of pulling off a wild card berth. As of now, I think we are something like seven and a half games back. Five teams are still ahead of us, but there's a chance. Where there's a chance, there's hope, right?

The Astros are playing the Brewers in Milwaukee this afternoon -- game will start in less than an hour, as a matter of fact -- to decide who will 'take' this 3-game series. Currently, they are tied at one and one. This will be the 20th day in a row that the Astros have played without a day off. That's the major league maximum, by the way!

In this twenty game stretch, the Astros will have played ten at home (record of 8 wins and 2 losses) and ten on the road (record of 6 wins and 3 losses, as of this writing -- today's result yet to be determined). Of the games thus far completed, the 'good guys' have a record of 14 and 5 ... a very nice record, and one that must be carried forward if our 'chance' to gain a wild card berth were to continue to survive.

Following this afternoon's game, the Astros will fly to New York. A four-game set with the Mets is scheduled there, beginning Friday evening, and you can betchur sweet bippy that the Mets will be looking for revenge of our sweep of them in our park just a couple of weeks ago.

The month of August will conclude with six games at home, three each against the Reds and Cardinals. How important the series with the Cardinals will be is very much contingent upon how well we do against the Mets. Will probably do a more full update on baseball this coming Tuesday.

Here's hoping that all y'all are having an absolutely fantabulous day!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A boring post ...

... this will be, no doubt. SO, if you don't want to be bored, skip on to your next "Favorite" and come back tomorrow and see what's happening then, OK?

I am feeling truly wonderful just now! I have finished reading all of my "Favorites" and making comments here and there, sending e-mails, etc. All is right with my world. Well, mostly!

The Olympics have been given somewhat short shrift in the last day or so, and I'm not going to get caught up tonight, either! I'll be playing bridge for the first time in a few months. Am really looking forward to the game! :)

I told my partner that I feared I would not be able to play very well, that I was kind of rusty. He said, "Don't worry. As long as you can put a card on the table, that's all that matters. We'll have a good time!"

I said, "How about if I just place a card on top of my big stomach?" His response? "YOUR big stomach!!?!!"

In just a bit, after publishing this nonentity, I'll be making some more potato salad -- yes, I'm still on that 'kick' -- and watching Fantasy Island. Then, I'll take a nap. (Are you having fun yet? If you are, please continue reading.)

We've had a bit more rain, thank goodness! (Pardon me while I go and check on Fay's status.) ... ... Heavens! When I first looked at the infrared satellite imagery, I thought that Fay was going to just lightly touch the western side of the Florida peninsula and then continue on westward through the Gulf of Mexico, gathering and then maintaining massive strength until she hit Texas!! What a 'downer' THAT would have been!!! After I put the satellite picture in motion, however, I thought I could discern a more northern (and perhaps even northeastern) movement. We'll see.

Meanwhile, back here on the Houston front, there's a lot of rain in this area. At the moment, it seems to be concentrated on the far north side. I'm going to have to try and locate my umbrella, because there's an 80% chance of showers and thundershowers this evening!

Have some bad news to report, I think. One of my more overgrown 'bushes' may be dying. (A wax leaf logustrum? [sp] What do I know? I am so ignorant in re the names of most things flora, I kid you not!) If DD is reading this post, I hope she will e-mail me the name of that tree doctor/trimmer she sent over a few years back to trim a bunch of stuff for me. The 'bunch of stuff' included the VERY large water oak tree in my back yard. And no, that is not the 'overgrown bush' that may be dying, thank goodness! (At least, not that I am aware of!) My neighbor is quite willing to lend me one of his saws, but I think that this particular job is beyond either of our capabilities. Barf!

Going back to check on Fay's progress and the local Houston rain forecast (pardon me while I do so, OK?) ... ... All right. I did so. Even stopped by Matthew East's blog. ... ... I think we're 'safe' from Fay. However, I'm pretty sure that I need to find my umbrella for use tonight!

Talk atcha tomorrow, OK? Hope all y'all are having a really good one!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Anagrams ... a 'better' definition ...?

In the section "Word games ..." in my last post, I tried to describe the game of anagrams as I was taught it by my father.

[I really hadn't intended to get into a detailed description of the game, but you know me. I take after my mother, who I once heard described as one who writes with the enthusiasm, zeal, and excess of laundry detergent gone mad!]

I confused Whalechaser utterly. Her comment on my post was, "I cannot count the hours I spent playing Scrabble ... but your rules sound like they were modified ... did you actually change the words after they were placed, by rearranging the letters (as in an anagram) ... ...?"

Since Whale made her comment, I have w/racked my brain trying to remember what, exACTly, our 'house rules' were! In addition, I have consulted various Wiki sources, and have come up with the following ... ... ...

Let's go first with one of my dictionary's definitions of 'anagram' ... ... ready?

A game in which words are formed by rearranging the letters of other words or by rearranging letters taken (as from a stack of cards or blocks) at random.

The phrase "as from a stack of cards" kind of leaves me at a loss. I don't know what to say about that one! We NEVER played anagrams with cards!!

Anagrams, the 'art' of rearranging letters in phrases or even sentences, goes back many hundreds of years! A really "fun" history of the word can be found here. Take your time and enjoy, OK?

Now, if you want to just read more about the game itself, go here. The one really intriguing (in my mind) statement that stands out is this: "The game has never been standardized and there exist a great many varieties of sets and rules."

Suggested numbers of tiles per letter also vary, as can be seen in this link. (By the way, I sure hope that all of your collective imaginations are working overtime here! I would dearly love to see a set of anagram tiles (not Boggle, Scrabble, or any other derivative!) available for purchase by the general public.

[But would 'JQ Public' be interested in purchasing same? Ah, now that is another subject entirely, isn't it? In this day of quick fixes and alternative choices, I would suggest not. More's the pity!]

All right. Here we go. The rules for 'anagrams', as my dad taught me a gazillion years ago. Ready? You need:

#1 ... A set of letter tiles ... each tile is on its own, with no specific numeric value other than its individual standing as an independent letter.

#2 ... A large container to hold all of the tiles ... it should have a lid so that the tiles can be sufficiently 'shaken up' preparatory to the start of each game.

#3 ... A flat playing surface.

Beginning the game ... ...

Each player 'draws' one tile from the large container (or 'pot') and places it face up on the flat surface. The player with the tile that has a letter which appears earliest in the alphabet goes first.

If he can form a word by playing his tile, he does so. If he cannot, his tile goes into a 'pool' in the middle of the table, face up. Immediately upon 'discarding' his tile into the pool, he 'draws' (sight unseen) another tile from the pot and awaits his next turn.

Each player in turn, moving clockwise around the table, must decide whether or not he can use his tile to form (or even change) a word. If he cannot, the tile gets added to the pool and he draws another.

The first word formed would often be by the third person to 'play', altho a first word could be formed by 'a' ("I" not allowed, as it is a capital letter).

[I've had some time to think about this now, and I can remember games where three or more player rotations have gone by with not a single word being formed and all of these consonants are sitting out there, face up, in the middle of the table just waiting for a vowel to join a couple of them together.]

Continuing the game ... ...

The goal is to form (I think we usually played to seven) as many words as have been previously agreed upon and then the game would end. (First person to reach that goal, of course, is the winner.) But, in between that first produced word and the final one the action is fast and furious, with brain cells working overtime -- particularly in the area of creative evolution.

While another person might be struggling to figure out whether or not he will be able to use his tile, YOU should be concentrating mightily on yours, those still face up in the pool, and any words that have already been made.

[Please ignore or negate entirely paragraphs four, five, and six of the "Word games ..." section in the previous post. They are incorrect and will only lead to confusion. I had allowed myself, yet once again, to get sidetracked from the original intention of the post and wrote something without giving it my full attention.]

Paragraph seven, which talks about 'stealing' words, among other things, is 'dead on' for accuracy. Focus on that one.

OK. Let's do a couple of 'pretend' scenarios. A couple or three rotations have gone by, and there are a bunch of consonants out there in the pool, just waiting to be snatched up by the first person to draw a tile that has a vowel on it. Each previous player, in his turn, has had to place his tile face up in the middle and draw another.

Bingo! One of the players draws one. He'll have to keep his excitement to himself, however, because you can only play when it's your turn.

Then it's his turn. He wraps one or two consonants around his vowel to make a word and draws another tile. It's still his turn because he has played the drawn tile. Another vowel! My goodness!! And so he continues drawing and playing until he can play no more. Before surrendering his last drawn tile to the pool, tho, he gives all of the words that he has formed one last final check to make sure that none of the letters already in the pool can be added to his words to form new ones.

While you can always change one (or more) of your own words, when it's your turn, it is eminently more satisfying to 'steal' one from one of your opponents, wouldn't you agree?

[A tile in the middle of the table could always be used to form a new word, but that player could not then immediately draw and continue to play unless he could play the tile that he had drawn initially. And, once said player has contributed his drawn tile into the pool, his turn is over.]

I don't mind telling you, folks, that my mouth is absolutely SAlivating to have a game of anagrams! Do I have any takers?

And, "Yes, Whale, we actually DID change the words after they were placed, by rearranging the letters, as in an 'anagram'." Because, after all, the game was 'anagrams'.

Twas my fault in the written explanation, not yours in the understanding, Whale.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Memories of my father ... (part two) ...

Today is my father's birth date. Actually, if he were still alive, this would be the first anniversary of his 100th birthday. I thought it might be kind of fun to share some tidbits about him.

Television ...

When we got our first television set, there were only one or two stations that we could get with any sort of clarity. The rest was 'snow' and a lot of noise. If you wanted to watch another channel, you had to walk over to the set and manually turn a knob.

Remote control gadgets came out while I was in college. Daddy thought those were the best things invented since Mom's cooking. One particular feature he just loved ... the mute button! He and Mom both hated commercials, so we always knew when one was on by the silence.

He was a football nut and followed the National Football Conference's Central Division voraciously. It didn't really matter which team was playing -- Bears, Lions, Packers, or Vikings -- if it was on TV, he was watching. And, he wasn't to be disturbed.

It was in the late fall of 1958, a Saturday morning. My boyfriend drove down from Michigan Tech to pick me up in Marquette, and then we had continued on to Munising. He had something very important he wanted to ask Dad.

However, Saturday had gone by without an opportunity presenting itself, and now it was Sunday. A football game was on. He knew the 'rules', but time was running out. We had to leave in less than two hours.

He said, "Sir?" No response. A little louder, after clearing his throat, "Sir?" Dad said, "Yes?" "I have something very important I want to talk to you about." Dad said, "Wait until the half."

[Where was the rest of the family? Well, Mom was in the kitchen making not the teeniest sound, ears straining to hear every word. I was sitting at the top of the stairs, ditto with the ears. Johnny was out playing with friends, and Peggy was in Spain.]

"Wait until the half!?!" Can you believe it? So anyway, there the two of them sat, watching the game and waiting for the half. Half-time FInally came, the mute button was applied, and boyfriend asked Dad for his permission to become part of the family.

Word games ...

I'd have to say, that of all the word games played in our family (and there were a bunch!), that anagrams was the all-time favorite.

Anagrams is probably one of the forerunners of Scrabble, the game with a board that has grey and pink squares authorizing 'double' and 'triple' letter and word scores and comes with 'x' number of tiles with numbers on them that are usually placed on a convenient little holder.

Mom and Dad had a set of letter tiles to be envied, I kid you not! They kept them in a large tin box. [After they were both 'gone', I tried very hard to locate and retrieve that magnificent set of wooden tiles. They were nowhere to be found.]

Anyway, the game begins with each player (minimum of two) drawing 'x' number of tiles from the box, sight unseen. I forget how many were in that initial draw, sorry. Probably seven, altho I'm not sure.

OK. Each player now has 'x' number of tiles. Who goes first? (Daddy always let everyone else go first. He was probably going to be the eventual winner, anyway, no es verdad?) Can a word be made? It had to be of at least three letters in length. (It could be of only two letters, but those words can so easily be changed and thereby 'stolen' that I think we changed the initial word length rule to three.)

If you held a 'q', 'x', 'v', or even 'w', you endeavored to incorporate those letters into one of your words as quickly as possible. Such words are often difficult to change (and thereby 'lose').

[You could only 'steal' a word from another player by creating another word entirely. Simply adding an 's' would not work. For example, you could 'steal' the word 'are' by adding a 'c', making either 'care' or 'acre'... 'race', even. The word 'care' could be stolen by adding an 's' to 'acres', or vice versa for 'acre' and 'race'. And then, of course, any of those words could be stolen by adding another 's' to make 'caress'. How about adding a 't' to produce the word 'cater' or 'react'? Two different letters could be added at the same time in the steal, making either 'care' or 'acre' 'career', for example, 'careen', or even 'crater'. Many, many, many other examples could be used, but I hope you get the idea. You could even steal two words at once, combining them with the addition of another letter to form a third. ALWAYS, a letter had to be added and the meaning changed.]

Our games usually ended when one player had accumulated seven unchangeable words.

Silly songs ...

I scream for ice cream, we all scream for ice cream, rah, rah, rah, sis, boom, bah!

I don't think I'll forget that little ditty as long as I live! That was one of Dad's favorites.

Knock knock jokes ...

Mom always hated these, and with good reason. Two of Dad's favorites were, "Knock, knock." "Who's there?" "Ida." "Ida who?"

Mother's name was "Idabelle", OK?

The two possible responses to "Ida who?" that Dad used were "I da know" and "I'd -- or I've -- a bellyache."

Both responses, actually, were terribly unthinking and unkind. I really don't think that my father realized how badly he was hurting my mother's feelings when he kept repeating that joke. He was thinking only of himself and how much he loved word games, I truly believe.

Actually, my daughter is named after my mother, which caused almost no end of consternation, as you might imagine. See this post, fourth paragraph, if you would, for just a touch more detail.

Card games ...

Now THERE was something that could be played while we ate (after the invention of card holders, that is!).

Dad never wanted to stop playing a game ... ANY game! He would always say, "One more for the championship!"

ANYhoo, wherever you are now, Dad, I hope that you are playing 'One more for the championship!' Happy birth date.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Morgan Freeman ...

... said it best in the Visa commercial that aired almost immediately after Michael Phelps won his 8th gold medal. We need some new adjectives.

The only adjective that keeps coming to my mind, over and over again, is the word 'incredible'. That word, the sound "Hmmph!" (however one writes that), a huge smile, and a feeling of extreme well-being have been pretty much the extent of my utterances, facial expressions, and general mood for the past couple of hours.

I didn't think it could be done. I didn't see how anyone could do it! I know he did it, but I'm still having trouble believing it actually happened -- even tho I watched every race. Hmmph! Just incredible.

Impossible, unbelievable, and absolutely ridiculous headlines

In almost direct contrast in mood and tone to my last post, I invite you to read Whalechaser's latest.

It's called, "Huh?"

You know, "headlines" are supposed to 'grab your attention', kind of like 'teasers' in the news or previews of upcoming attractions, I guess. They make you want to read on, stay tuned, or go and see the movie.

Those that Whale posted earlier today are REALLY funny, I think! What say you?

I invite you all to share your comments/headlines/stories either on Whale's post or mine. We have different readerships (with some shared, obviously), and I'm sure that all of us would love to get an additional chuckle or two.

Close calls

I was doing some editing and proofreading a day or two ago, and came across a sentence where the author was describing his closest brush with death.

It reminded me of when I was 17 years old. I was driving my parents' car to Marquette, some 42 miles to the west. I don't recall my reason for going.

Traffic is normally very light in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I would say that it was not a bit unusual at that time to see no more than four vehicles in either direction the entire trip.

For the most part, the highway is flat and travels parallel to Lake Superior. There are a few places, however, where the road goes around curves and up and down pretty good-sized hills. Double yellow lines, indicating no passing zones, predominate in these areas.

I was coming around one of these curves, intending to continue on up a hill, when I saw a fully-loaded logging truck in my lane, passing another truck illegally and coming right at me at 60+ mph.

There was only one choice to make and a split second to actually do it. I went off of the road. It was either that or hit one or the other truck head-on. There were no nice broad shoulders in these spots, only steep embankments. Ten feet or so down the embankment was a wire fence that, supposedly, would prevent one's vehicle from continuing on downward into the ravine.

Well, the logging truck roared past me. Somehow or another, I was able to keep the car under control and not go so far as to hit the fence. I kept my foot off of the brake the whole time and concentrated, with both hands gripped tightly to the wheel, on maintaining control.

I did, got back on the road, and continued my journey. That was my closest call ever! I don't think I told my folks about it, either.

In all of my nearly eighteen years of taxicab driving, when I put 1,000 miles each week on the car and where I was witness to a lot of accidents, this one incident from 54 years ago stands out in my mind as potentially the most deadly.

You know, as soon as I make a statement like that, it seems, I think of another. Well, there was one other, and it occurred when I was driving a taxi.

I was sitting on Bellaire, heading west, stopped at a red light at Beltway 8 along with other vehicles. I was going home. Five lanes of traffic, the two farthest left for left-hand turns (I was in the 2nd from left) and three others for continuing straight.

I was first in my lane. There were vehicles behind me. There was a vehicle to my left that was first in his lane. The same to the right. Other vehicles behind them.

The light turned green. Nobody moved, which was strange enough in itself, but -- stranger still -- nobody honked, either! Another couple of seconds passed. Still no movement, no horn-honking, nothing!!

Then, going northbound on the feeder, came this huMONgous 18-wheeler just barreling through a light that had long since turned red. I don't know how fast he was actually going, but it had to have been well over 70mph!

After he had cleared the intersection, it took all of us a while to tentatively take our feet off of our collective brakes and inch ahead. I think that, if any one of us had tried to accelerate when the light initially turned green (or even a few seconds afterwards), that people would still be finding bits and pieces of body and car parts!

None of us stopped to exchange information or offer a prayer, but I swear by all that's Holy that the strong arm of God came down and saved us all that day!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A 'dumb blonde' joke

I'm a blonde, so I figure I can tell these, OK?

However, if you want to blame someone, blame Whalechaser ... she started it!

All right.

It seems that this blonde was having a really nice walk through the woods. She came to a river, and thought she might like to get to the other side.

So, she wandered alongside the river for a ways, looking for either a narrow spot where she might be able to jump across or a bridge.

Then she spotted a gal on the other side, who also happened to be a blonde.

"Hello!" she called. "How can I get to the other side?"

The other gal responded, "You are on the other side!"

Exploding watermelons (and 'chicken shit white woman') update

It is now 2:20 pm Houston time on Thursday, August 14th, 2008. I have just (within the last 2-3 minutes or so) 'cut into' the gargantuan beast.

It was HARD to cut into! (That's definitely a good thing!)

So far so good, right?

Man oh man, I think I came very close to talking/thinking/imagining myself right out of some delicious watermelon!

Baseball standings and the Olympics

We'll start with baseball. And boy, are there ever some exciting races going on!

(Except for the American League West, of course, which is BOring. However, the lowly Seahawks did beat the Angels last night!)

In the East, now, things have loosened up just a tad. Tampa Bay is still out in front, followed by the Red Sox at three games back. The Yankees, tho, have fallen on a bit of hard times and now trail the leader in their division by 9.5 games.

[I can't say this makes me sad. How many of you old-timers remember the movie Damn Yankees, with Tab Hunter? Wasn't it Gwen Verdon who sang "Whatever Lola Wants"? And Ray Walston as the devil? I'm not going to take the time to look it up. You can, if you want to. I cannot put my finger on whatever it is that makes me dislike the Yankees so much. Other than the fact that they spend MANY more $$$ than anyone else -- in effect, 'buying' championships -- I have no reason! I mean, there's no personal history there whatsoever.)

The Central, now, is another story entirely. One day the White Sox are in front, the next day the Twins, and so they keep on going, exchanging places every other day (it seems like). The Tigers are now 9.5 games back, having lost three in a row. Perhaps out of the picture, but who knows?

The National League doesn't have any sure-fire winners. Each division, in fact, is 'up for grabs'. Really tough and tight ... exciting!

In the East, the Mets and Phillies are now tied for first place with the Marlins 1.5 games back. The Braves, who just got steam-rolled by the marauding Cubs in two double-header shutouts yesterday, are trying to keep their hopes alive at 9.0 games back.

The Central division, perhaps the strongest overall in baseball (open to argument, certainly!), just keeps rolling along. The Cubs have found their stride, and are almost up to .500 on the road. (Their home record, BTW, is the equivalent of Tampa Bay's ... extraordinary!)

The Brewers, who have now won eight games in a row (obscene!) trail the Cubbies by 3.5 games. The Cardinals, who haven't been nearly as consistent as the Brewers, are now 7.5 games out of first place.

Where are 'my' Astros, you ask? Well, thank you for asking!

Truly, we're so far out of first place (12.0 games back) that that goal is almost unattainable. However, we have won seven games in a row, and are being so 'high in the pie sky' with our hopes as to entertain the possible notion of a 'Wild Card' berth in the playoffs.

There are six teams ahead of us in this 'race' -- we're 8 1/2 games 'out' as of this moment -- , five of whom we play (either at home or there) before the regular season ends on September 28th, at home against the Braves.

Carlos Lee, our regular left-fielder, sustained an almost-literally 'crushed' little finger on his left hand Saturday when he was hit by a pitch. Six bones in that finger were broken!!! He underwent surgery Monday. Supposedly successful, but he's 'out' for the remainder of this season, probably, unless -- by some miraculous happenstance -- we get into the playoffs.

Then, of course, wouldn't you know it? 'You know who's' name came up as a possible replacement. Says he will play for the major league minimum. Let's just not mention his name, OK?

I went to the game Monday night (as I wrote in an earlier post). It was a lot of fun! However, I was NOT at the game last night when the Astros scored 6 runs in an inning, and won the game by a score of 6-2. I think a major league record must have been set ... four walks and three hit batsmen, all in one inning. If we'd been able to put a hit or two around a couple of those, who knows how many runs might have scored in that inning?!?

Moving on to the West, where the Diamondbacks and Dodgers are now tied for first place. Folks, it doesn't get any closer than that!! Rockies are still 8.0 games back.

On to the Olympics ... ... have you been watching? I guess a better question might be, "Has anyone not been watching?"

For sure, we've all been caught up in the Michael Phelps saga. NBC's coverage, for the most part without blemish (my opinion), fell just a touch short last night when the last man to swim that first relay and, in the process, overtake the loud-mouthed Frenchman, was (incredibly!) asked, "Did you do it for Michael?"

[Of course he didn't do it 'for Michael'. He said that he was really tired of losing -- and, you know what? I believe him!]

I was watching last night as those terrible falls occurred from the high bar and rings. I didn't want to look as NBC showed replay after replay of each fall. (Why do they 'insist' on doing that??)

I gloried in the US guy's program on the 'horse' ... no one else in the whole world can equal, much less even attempt (again, my opinion) what he did.

[A most abject apology here. I've been trying to remember his name, but I cannot. He was 'out of the running' for a medal, but ALL in attendance at the stadium were oohing and aahing at his performance! I had the privilege, courtesy of NBC, to watch it many, many, many times over.]

Have you been following soccer? We have two Spanish-speaking television stations here in Houston, one of which has been showing soccer games from the Olympics almost 'round the clock!

How about volleyball? Have you been following that? I have, off and on. In particular, the patch on Kerri's shoulder is intriguing.

Let's see, what else?

Oh yeah, the ladies' all-around gymnastics competition will be airing tonight. I have high hopes for the US in this one.

Track and field will be coming up shortly. I don't, personally, have as much interest in that, altho I'm sure my attention will become more and more riveted as events unfold.

Hope you're all having just a fantabulous day, and I'll talk atcha later, OK?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The safari dog, the leopard, and the monkey

A wealthy man decided to go on a safari in Africa. He took his faithful pet dog along for company.

One day the dog starts chasing butterflies, and before long he discovers that he is lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the obvious intention of having lunch.

The dog thinks, "Oh, boy, I'm in big trouble now!"

But then he notices some bones on the ground close by and immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the leopard is about to leap, the dog exclaims loudly, "Man, that was one delicious leopard! I wonder if there are any more cats around here?"

Hearing this, a look of terror comes over the leopard. He halts his attack in mid-stride and slinks away into the trees. "Whew," he says. "That was close! That dog nearly had me!!"

A monkey, who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use. He decides to trade news of the deception for protection from the leopard. Off goes the monkey in hot pursuit.

The dog hears the commotion and notices the monkey heading after the leopard with great speed. He figures something must be up and begins to analyze the possibilities.

Meanwhile, the monkey soon catches up with the leopard and reveals how the dog tricked the cat. Then he strikes a deal for himself with the leopard.

The cat is furious at being made a fool of and wants revenge. He says, "Here, monkey, hop on my back and come with me to watch what's going to happen to that conniving canine!"

Angry and impatient, the leopard doesn't bother with stealth. He just goes roaring through the jungle with the finesse of an elephant.

The dog hears the leopard coming. He has decided on his plan. Instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers and pretends he hasn't a clue as to their presence.

Just when they get close enough to hear, the dog growls, "Where is that damn monkey?!? I am so HUNGRY! He takes too long. I sent him off half an hour ago to bring me another leopard and he's still not back!!"

'Gotcha' concept of God

My post yesterday about the exploding watermelon reminded me, in some obscure way, of a story I hadn't thought of in years.

It seems that a preacher and another fellow were out on the golf course. This would be their first time playing together.

The fellow asked the preacher how many strokes he wanted for his handicap. The preacher replied that he didn't need any strokes, but he'd take three 'Gotcha's'.

The fellow didn't know what a 'Gotcha' was, and asked the preacher to explain. The preacher replied, "You'll see."

On the second or third hole, just as the fellow was about to strike the ball on a very important swing, the preacher snuck up behind him, dug him in the ribs, and said, "Gotcha!"

Shocked, the fellow turned around. The preacher winked and said, "That's one."

Guess who had the lower score?

I think I must have heard this story originally as part of a sermon. Makes sense. The preacher was probably trying to illustrate the 'Gotcha' concept of God, how some people seem to always be looking over their shoulders in anticipation of someone sneaking up behind them or something going wrong ... maybe even a distant relative of "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong and at the worst possible moment".

My reluctance to cut into my brand-spanking-new-hand-picked watermelon strikes me as a bit similar. "Once bitten twice shy" is another old saw that fits.

Well, I'll probably have a 'stare down' with the gigantic beast later today. Will have to let you know if "Goldenrod, the magnificent watermelon slayer" is successful or not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Exploding watermelons

I am 71 years old, OK?

NEVER before in my life have I cut into a watermelon and had it explode all over me, the kitchen, the floor, the dishwasher, the rug, the counter, my clothes and shoes ...and, if I had had my mouth open in the line of 'fire', down my gullet, no doubt.

Disgusting! Infuriating! Maddening! (Not to mention a horRENdous mess!)

I have just returned back home with another watermelon, 'hand-picked,' per Randall's grocery personnel, and hand-carried out to my car.

I'm almost afraid to go out to the car and retrieve the ****** thing!!

Hang on while I try and do so, OK?

OK. Deed accomplished. Hot damn, they're heavy, aren't they?

I only hit my head twice on the freezer while trying to insert the durned thing into a large-enough drawer!

All right. It's 'inserted'. Can I be excused now? "No, you may not!" shouts Mother, loudly.

(To be continued, no doubt.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The barbecue cookoff ...

... is (or was) probably the second largest annual event in Houston, certainly taxicab-driving-wise.

The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo ... our biggest (bar none) event each year. EVerybody's a cowboy/cowgirl! Lots and lots of excitement leading up to and continuing throughout the show's duration (a touch over two weeks) at the end of February and beginning of March.

Both the barbecue cookoff and the parade with all of the wagons and horses, where city workers follow along with shovels, occur the weekend prior to the Show & Rodeo and are widely attended.

For YEARS, this was one of my most favorite events to work. (This was all before the new stadium was built, you must understand. The 'rules' changed for taxicab drivers, most dramatically, afterwards!)

[I must apologize here. I have just received a phone call from one of my very favorite customers. It seems that he wants me to pick him up at IAH tonight, and then -- on the way back in to town -- he intends to take me to see the Astros playing San Francisco at the ballpark. I am SO excited! Let's see if I can get my mind wrapped back around the original intention of this post. Give me a sec, OK?]

OK. I think I'm 'back'. There was (still is, actually!) a hotel located adjacent to the parking lot where the cookoff was held, talked about just a tad in this post ... think it might be a Holiday Inn. (?)

You could see the smoke and smell the fumes from the broilers miles away. Awesome smells!

The Holiday Inn was a great spot to 'sit' and wait for customers. There are a LOT of stories I could share with you. Here are only three:

1) It was somewhat late. A 'sweet young thing' came out of the hotel wanting a cab, and there was 'you know who'. She got in the car. I asked her where she was going. She told me the address of her destination. We got there. I turned the meter off and waited for payment. It was not forthcoming. Something went "Dingaling" in my mind, and I followed her into the store. At that point, I was confronted with a couple of 'little gangstas', who -- when I told them that the police were on their way -- quickly disappeared. Upshot? Police DID appear. Turns out that the 'sweet young thing' was a runaway. Her parents arrived, and I got my $$.

2) Mid to late afternoon. Fellow walks up to my cab. Wants to go to River Oaks. No problem. On the way there I learned that he is going to have to break into his home, as his wife has the keys. Seems that they had both driven in the same car to the barbecue and parked it, the understanding being that they would 'meet up' at a certain time later to go back home. If one didn't show up, the other was to 'get home the best way possible'. Well!! When we got to his home, my survival instincts kicked in. (It's not that I wasn't being paid. Oh, no! I just wasn't the least bit interested in being arrested for a possible 'breaking and entering' charge!) I asked my customer to give me five minutes to exit the area before he 'broke into' his own home and set off the burglar alarm. He did. End of story.

3) Again, mid to late afternoon. A gal comes out from the hotel with her luggage. I pull on up to get her. She's going to Hobby Airport. She's very excited! In fact, one might say that she was almost 'bubbling over'!! It turns out that her booth had won first place for "Grits".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dreams and fun stuff

I am having really weird dreams. This morning's very early dream I'll share in part with you, mostly because I remember only parts of it. Rrvit!

At first it has only to do with taxi-driving. I've driven my blue Buick LeSabre, for almost a year now (!) a personal vehicle, over to a hotel stand to 'visit' with a couple of long-timey friends. A fellow comes out of the hotel with his luggage and says he wants to go to IAH. My friends want ME to drive him! He looks and says, "But it's not a taxicab." They say, "That's OK. She's a friend of ours. She knows what the rates are. Go ahead!" He gets in, I turn the meter on (??), and then the scene switches back to ...

... the same hotel, where I am now picking up a complete stranger, who says that he wants to go downtown. We're a pretty good ways off from downtown, but before we can even take off another potential passenger flags us down. Now, SHE I recognize as a long-time previous customer. They're both going to the same general area, so off we go. (No meter this time, at least not in my conscious memory banks!)

We're traveling east on I-10 towards downtown. Good. I exit three times incorrectly. Not good. The first time I do so, I try and get right back on the interstate, only to discover that we're now heading west instead of east. Customers don't seem to notice. They haven't been paying any attention.

A couple more wrong exits later, we're still not downtown. In the interim, somehow or another, I have dropped off the female customer where she wanted to go (thought she wanted to go 'downtown'?) and male customer (who, as it now turns out, is one of my cancer patient customers from Florida) and I have continued onward, where the scene switches to ...

... the residence of a bridge acquaintance of mine, who is at home doing some paperwork.

Other bits and pieces (fragmented at the very best!) from this most convoluted dream include a bridge tournament that Butch conducted all by himself, my being absolutely chagrined at not being dressed properly to drive a taxicab, and a teddy bear singing chipmunk songs! (You'd have to have been there!!)

Moving on to "fun things", this part of the post is taken from Tish, who took it from Margie, who took it from 'who knows where'. It's called, "And then the fight started...". Ready? Are you sure??

When I got home last night, my wife demanded that I take her someplace expensive, so I took her to a gas station. Attfs...

After retiring, I went to the Social Security office to apply for Social Security. The woman behind the counter asked me for my driver's license to verify my age. I looked in my pockets and realized that I had left my wallet at home. I told the woman I was very sorry, but I would have to go home and come back later. The woman said, "Unbutton your shirt." So I opened my shirt revealing my curly silver hair. She said, "That silver hair on your chest is proof enough for me," and processed my Social Security application. When I got home, I excitedly told my wife about my experience at the Social Security office. She said, "You should have dropped your pants. You might have gotten disability, too." Attfs...

My wife and I were sitting at a table at my high school reunion, and I kept staring at a drunken lady swigging her drink as she sat alone at a nearby table. My wife asked, "Do you know her?" "Yes," I sighed, "She's my old girlfriend. I understand she took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear she hasn't been sober since." "My God!" says my wife, "Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?" Attfs...

I rear-ended a car this morning. So, there we were alongside the road and the other driver, who happened to be a little person, got out of his car. You know how sometimes you get soooo stressed and, right or wrong, some things just seem funny? Well, this was one of those times. He stormed over to my car, looked up at me and said, "I AM NOT HAPPY!!!" So, I looked down at him and said, "Well then, which one are you?" Attfs...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Opening ceremonies

Magic, pure magic. My cheek muscles are just a tad sore. I think I smiled throughout the whole four hours. My goodness!

Even the commercials, which were especially created for these games, were interesting to watch, didn't you think so?

Did you recognize the names of all the countries? I didn't. Of course, I haven't kept up with all of the name changes over the years, either. When I was working with my stamp collection on a regular basis years ago, I knew the name of every country and its history. So much has been forgotten. So many differences now. The world is much smaller, yet vastly more complex.

Some of my very favorite moments included seeing Yao Ming with the little 9-year old boy who was such a hero immediately following the recent earthquake; watching Laura Bush looking so pleasant, composed, and cool in the sweltering heat; marveling at the last Chinese athlete to carry the torch running on air around the top of the stadium; being in awe at the 2,000-some drummers who opened the festivities with their precision countdown routine; and enjoying the waving undulations of the typeset keys.

A very special evening. I'll try and keep these memories fresh in my mind for a long time. I'm so glad I watched.

Memories of my father ... (part one) ...

Like those of my mother, these posts will normally not be chronological. They might even be few and far between. Having said all that, here's the first installment.

We were living in Akron, Ohio. The year was 1940-something. Grandma (Dad's mom) had been down visiting from Frederic, Wisconsin. She had arrived by train.

[I remember Grandma having an 'odor'. I can't really put a name to it. Mothballs? No. Denture adhesive? Maybe. Uncleaniness? No. But, an odor nevertheless. What an odd thing to write, it occurs to me. Well, what can I tell you? The memory came to me, and I wrote about it.]

Anyway, Dad was going to be driving Grandma back to the train station, and we all had one of those typical tear-jerking, hugging, kissing, etc. sessions seeing Grandma off into Daddy's car. He'd be back in a couple of hours, he said.

Three hours went by. No Daddy. Four hours went by. Still nothing. A few hours later, madder than **** and swearing like a trooper, he was back.

What had happened?

Well, he and Grandma had arrived at the train station on time. No problem. Her luggage was unloaded and given to the redcap. No problem. Daddy accompanied her onto the train. No problem.

They were still getting her all situated when the train began to pull away from the station. Problem.

Daddy shouted at the engineer to stop the train and let him off. Engineer refused. Big problem!

Then the conductor came through, wanting Daddy to pay for a ticket to Chicago. Bigger problem!!

I can only imagine the scene (s) that must have ensued. All I know for SURE is that he got a 'free' round trip train ride from Akron to Chicago and back!

My father never flew if he could avoid it. He drove everywhere, except the one time that he and Mom went to Hawaii. I'm being serious here!

In later years, this became a problem. At least, I thought so! He developed a stiffness in his neck that prevented him from swiveling his head around enough to get a good visual of his entire surroundings, and would depend upon passengers to inform him. Not good enough. Nowhere near!

I wouldn't go so far as to say that he had a "fear of flying". No. Rather, I suggest that he really preferred to be as close to the ground as possible, 'just in case'.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Shocking Void

The year was 1982. July 19th, actually. I was working as Marketing Manager for a prominent metal building manufacturer here in Houston when the news spread like wildfire throughout the building that my boss, the Vice President of Marketing, had been fired.

It happened as soon as he came in to work. He was told to clear out his desk and leave the premises. That's how it's done in the business world. Nasty. Very nasty!

I found myself deeply affected by this, and composed the following poem. I was able to finish and hand-deliver it before he left.

Throughout our lives we come to know
Different kinds of losses. They show

Us how to deal with pain ...
How to renew when, once again

Fate deals its swift blow.

This time, tho, I feel a great concern.
It's because of a man who must yearn

For the words to express what he now feels.
First comes shock, then anger, then he reels

Back to see what he can learn

From this latest episode in his life.

His next visit must be to his wife,

To be with his family, then out to see
What the availability in Houston will be,

To make some sense out of all this strife.

What happens to those who have worked around him,
Who feel that they have become surrounded

By a glaring myriad of colors, bad dreams & words?
Will they be able to get rid of this scourge

Of ill-feeling and awe they now find themselves in?

My feeling is one of a tremendous sense of loss ...
You are no longer, & perhaps never again, my boss.

We had a hard time learning to communicate
With each other. I hope it is not now too late

To tell you how much I appreciate what you tried to do.
You never minced any words ... you were only -- you.

Truth is a quality I appreciate & greatly admire.
(If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the fire!)

I don't mind heat, Bob ... and, if we are ever to meet again,
Please don't hesitate to consider me ... a friend.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bad news, good news

Wow, what a day!

I found myself going to bed to take a nap during the third inning of the Astros/Cubs game today. For the second day in a row, our pitchers -- let's face it, there's just no better descriptive word -- sucked!

You want to talk about a downer? There it was. The final score was 11-4, in favor of the bad guys. A real 'pitcher's duel'.

Then, for some reason or another, my incoming e-mails were not getting through. That was fun! Got that problem straightened out. At least, I think so!

Took another nap. Woke up in time to watch "Wheel of Fortune", one of my favorites. Immediately after that, the PBS special came on in re the Olympics.

Hope you've had a chance to read my prior post. It took me half an hour or better to find the poem I'd written in 1989. Meanwhile, I came across a bunch of others that I've written over the years. Will no doubt be boring you with some -- perhaps even many -- of them down the road.

Do you like poetry? Mine isn't very good, I don't think. I'm probably more of a 'jinglist', but I really can't be the judge. All I know for sure is that they were all inspired by whatever emotion was overtaking me at the time.

There are some love poems in there. Forewarned is forearmed, right?

Then, to make my mood even brighter after the PBS special presentation, I read Whalechaser's latest post.

If you go to her site and click on the link, you'll be presented with this 'test'. I did it, three times, and laughed merrily each time. Go ahead and try it, I DARE you!


I just saw a PBS special on the preparations for the upcoming Olympics to be held in Beijing.

I learned that the national stadium's nickname is "The Bird Cage", and was fascinated with the "water cube" with its translucent bubbles made of plastic that is self-cleaning and durable.

I watched many in-depth interviews with athletes and their families. I learned about wu shu; how it's not going to be included as an Olympic sport in this year's games, but yet the Olympic committee relaxed its rules to allow a prestigious wu shu competition to take place in Beijing at the same time as the Olympic games.

The official symbol is of a stylized running athlete stretching his arms out wide as he races across the finish line. It was suggested that Beijing and, indeed, the whole of China are represented in this symbol as the outstretched arms also indicate a 'welcome' to the world. A universal gesture of friendliness and hospitality.

It's a beautiful thought.

My mind couldn't help going back, as it has many times before, to June of 1989, when my heart was aching for those brave people who were forced to retreat when the tanks advanced ... all of which was covered on television while a tune from "Les Miserables" could be heard in the background.

I had a date to play bridge that evening, but I just couldn't leave the house until I had composed the following poem. I felt such a terrible sense of loss and sadness. The poem helped a little bit. It's untitled.

Bei-jing! Bei-jing!
Hear us! Hear our cries!

Remember what you've seen & heard,
Remember their lies!

A fight to the death --

Of what?

A man? A dream?


The number 'eight' is regarded as a lucky number, I've been told. SO, 08/08/08 has to be particularly magical for them!

What will you be doing Friday night? I'll be watching the opening ceremonies -- in awe, I'm sure.