Monday, September 29, 2008

Politics and me

I have published 282 times this year (this will be the 283rd), 12 of which are labeled, "Politics". This will be the 13th.

I've said, over and over again, how much I dislike thinking, talking or writing about -- in fact, even being involved in at this point in my life -- politics. So why am I about to publish another on this subject?

The answer lies in yesterday's post -- or rather, in the comment section to that post --, where I included (from Charles Osgood's report) the fact that "those poor weary congressmen" had finally come up with a tentative agreement. I meant the 'poor weary' phrase to be of a facetious nature.

I have precious little sympathy for how tired they might have been. It's about time they started working on some of the more important problems in our country. That's pretty much how I felt when I wrote it.

I could have linked Polimom's post of the 22nd, titled "Throw the bums out!", but I didn't. I didn't want the focus to be on politics any more than absolutely necessary.

However, one of my readers and regular commentors picked up on the tentative agreement reached between the two major parties in re the 'bailout' of the banking and mortgage industry and "went out on a limb" (her words) to express her opinions.

I could have treated her comment in a couple or three ways: 1) Not responded at all. 2) Found some way to make a light, offhand response and let it go at that. 3) Taken it seriously (as she meant it) and responded in kind.

I chose door #3. Took me a while to compose my remarks. She has since added an extensive comment to which I have yet to reply. I will, but not until after this post is completely finished.

First, tho, I thought I should probably review all that I had written and published under the "Politics" label, and so I did. Less than 5% of my posts relate directly to politics, and I found some that I didn't even remember writing!

All of them are linked below, in chronological order, with a note or two accompanying each link. Ready? Here we go ... ...

Presidential election campaign, 2008 ... 1/29/08 ... includes some discussion of Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama and Obama's subsequent 'welcome with open arms'.

Getting involved ... 2/14/08 ... first-hand knowledge. Texas as a "grass roots" state. Written as a direct result of my daughter's wanting to 'get involved' and one of her reader's comments.

A child ... is an adult ... 2/26/08 ... about DD's voting record, and some history of ex-husband and me getting involved in politics when we lived in Indiana.

Random thoughts ... 3/22/08 ... included a comment or two on the very brief discussion a couple of my old-timey taxicab customers and I had on the NY governor's office 'stink' and background checks on candidates for high-powered positions in general.

Polls ... 3/26/08 ... "listen to your heart" was the message I was trying to get across.

Another rant ... 5/06/08 ... on school board elections.

What's currently going on in my life ... 5/07/08 ... the second section of that post is where I commented on a PBS documentary that I had watched and thoroughly enjoyed ... my remarks included the Bush presidents (#s 1 and 2), Ross Perot, and Bill Clinton.

A microcosm ... 6/25/08 ... Although this post began with the gawdawful floods in Iowa, the crux of my point was in the comments section (elaborated on in the post itself) ... the term "microcosm" was meant to illustrate, at least in part, how quick we seem to be in this country to place "blame" on someone/something/somewhere else.

POWS ... 8/27/08 ... latter part of this post refers to the Democratic National Convention ... four pretty good paragraphs in there, including another zap at Ted Kennedy, and an honorable mention for Joe Liebermann.

Scattered thoughts and comments ... 9/06/08 ... I had a lot to say about lobbying and lobbyists, and threw in a couple of comments about pork barrel spending and rewards.

Cutting through the B.S. on Sarah ... 9/19/08 ... a verbatim account of an e-mail I received. I stated, in my response to a comment, "... IF McCain is elected President, she will almost completely disappear from the picture entirely!"

Yesterday's post was the 12th. I'll be adding a response somewhat later in the comment section to that post. Just now, tho, I'd like to take a little breather.

One added note before I finally finish and publish this post. If you have taken the time to follow any or all of the above links and read (or reread) them, you might have noticed that I said, more than once, I didn't think I would be voting this year.

I have changed my mind. I WILL be voting this year. I will be publishing, probably within the next week or two, my reasons.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday morning

It's early. I've been up for an hour or so, filing papers and checking out my "Favorites", making notes and comments, etc. Thought I'd start this before Charles Osgood comes on in another hour or so and then add to it later.

I imagine he'll be doing an extended feature on Paul Newman, whom we lost this past week. I'm looking forward to what all else he might want to include this morning. I hope he doesn't talk about the 'great debate' on Friday night -- or, if he does, I hope it's something interesting. I really don't like discussing politics.

Chuck, in his post of 9/26, talks about various things that Ellen and he are doing while in Fayetteville, AR.

Scroll down just a tad until you come to the second picture, which shows Ellen 'rescuing' a small turtle. I love stories like these!

I rescued a turtle once. It was while driving a taxicab. A Sunday morning. No traffic. I was in the Galleria area, driving down Post Oak Boulevard, when I noticed a fairly large object in the road ahead.

I stopped the car, set the brake, and put my flashers on before getting out of the car to see what it was. It was a humongous turtle, very much alive and unhurt, inching its way towards the busy freeway and away from the man-made ponds behind him. What could he have been thinking?!? What an idiot!!

I gingerly picked him by the sides of his shell -- he must have been 18" across -- and carried him over to near the edge of one of the ponds, where I set him down, pointed in the right direction. Last I saw, he was inching his way towards the pond.

Now that I look back on it, however, he may have been wanting to commit suicide. Well, mightn't he? What was I thinking?!? What an idiot!!

You know, turtles live for a long long time. I wonder if they have memories to equal their longevity. He might still be mad at me!

The next picture shows an armadillo that she was too late to rescue. So sad.

My father was quite intrigued by the armadillo. You do know that the armadillo is our state bird, don't you?

One Christmas I received a brass "Armadillo Crossing" sign on a little easel that currently sits in front of my fireplace alongside a stuffed armadillo that has seen much better days, same donor.

(Later, after Charles Osgood and a nap)

Well, he had quite a bit to say about Paul Newman, actually. Very nice. Two different segments ... one a commentary, with a quote that I'll include in a post down the road that I've been thinking of doing.

What's your favorite Paul Newman film? My all time favorite is The Sting. Good through and through. From Exodus, I love the part where he's asking Peter Lawford, who hates Jews -- "You can even smell them", to look closely into his eye to see what might possibly have lodged there.

And who could ever forget the "What we have here is a failure to communicate" line from Cool Hand Luke? Gorgeous hunk of a man! Sexy lips. (Down, Goldenrod, down!)

Let's get the politics over with right now, so I can end with something pleasant. How's that sound?

It seems like those poor weary congressmen had to stay up until the very wee hours this morning to finally reach a tentative agreement (not in writing yet, so we'll see) in re the $700 billion bailout.

The Republicans got their wish by including a clause that would force banks and other such institutions to buy insurance (from the gov't, natch!) against future defaults, and the Democrats theirs by limiting executive packages.

Actually, I like both stipulations. (Something's wrong here, self!)

I did not realize when I wrote my banking post yesterday that the federal government had first seized Washington Mutual and then sold it to JP Morgan Chase. Must not have been listening the first time around.

I don't recall ever hearing about Dewey, the cat who lived in a library in Spencer, Iowa. Had you?

He first appeared in the dead of winter. Somehow or another, he managed to climb up and then get into the book drop, where he was found the next morning, shivering and shaking. When people started oohing and aahing over him, this loud purr emerged. That did it!

Anyway, it seems that over the years Dewey (so-called as the result of a contest), inspired the "Library Cat Membership Society", and developed quite a following in the community and over the internet.

When he died on November 29, 2006, at the ripe old age of 19, lots and lots of obituaries -- 270 in all -- were written on various websites ... 89,400 'hits'. Rrvit!

I have no idea why Charles chose to include that segment in this morning's telecast, but I'm so glad he did.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bits & pieces

Went to bed last night before 10pm (and no, I did not watch the 'great debate', as I'd already said in another post) and woke up about 4:30 this morning. Six and a half delicious hours of sleep. May or may not have dreamed.

Got up and checked Milwaukee's score from last night. I knew that the Mets had lost, meaning we were still barely hanging on by a thread. However, the Cubs have decided that they can now coast to the end of the regular season, having secured their divisional first place finish recently. Milwaukee won. The Astros are out.

We did it to ourselves, really, but the 'godlike' commissioner of baseball didn't help. Right now I'm a little turned off by baseball in general. I don't foresee a post baseball season withdrawal coming, but one never knows, right?

Wrote my post on banking (not political -- personal), cruised through some of my "Favorites", and then went back to bed for a short nap. This nap, of one hour duration, produced a recurring dream with variations which I'll have to share with you another time.

It's kind of a weird combination of the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and my continuing to miss exits as a taxicab driver while transporting a family of three (He is here on business. His wife and mother-in-law [??] are accompanying him.) whom I have driven several times before.

At least one point during this dream, I woke myself up by talking out loud to one of my passengers!

Went into the other room to catch the tail end of the local news, where I heard a couple of updates about Ike's lingering effects.

1) There are a large number of baby squirrels being cared for currently by the SPCA. Boy, are they cute! The caretaker, in responding to a question about why the squirrels weren't scared, said, "Their hunger overcomes their fear." I have two squirrels in my back yard. If they had a baby or two that needed to be rescued, I didn't find it/them. (They are still here, by the way. They're continuing to throw acorns on my patio roof just as hard as they can to try and crack them!)

2) I've mentioned, a couple of times, about our problems due to traffic lights not yet having been restored. This morning's newscast stated that all traffic signals should be back to normal by November. (!?!)

Got my weekly "fix" when Gerald Treece came on for his 5-10 minute Saturday morning appearance where he starts off with a short monologue on the topic of the day -- in this case it was concerning the 150 e-mails he's been getting daily on problems concerning Ike -- and then takes questions from individual callers.

One of the callers had questions about insurance companies, what they cover/don't cover, how long must one wait for an adjustor to appear, etc.

I get a kick out of him. He cautioned that the caller must be prepared to wait. Settlements don't come right away, even if the adjustor is there within the hour.

Then he said that his insurance company hasn't shown up yet, but they've given him great hope that 'someday' they will!

He concluded by saying, "Don't get down, Astros fans. Spring training is only five months away. There's always next year!"

PS. I haven't seen a cockroach since Ike. (Knocking on wood like crazy.) Now there's a mixed blessing for you!

Another day, another bank

I thought this made the fourth name change for my bank since I first set up a checking account many years ago, but I can only find checks dating back to three.

A question for self, "Self, why are you keeping checks from 30 years ago?!?"

As soon as I finish this post, I think I'll go through them and start pitching. I intend to soothe myself while going through this thankless task by listening to wonderful music.

Then there's the question of how to get rid of them without allowing someone else the opportunity to steal my identity. I don't have a paper shredder. Do you? Oh well, I'll think of something. A bonfire would be nice, but then the police or fire department would be called, wouldn't they?

Never mind, I've just had a stroke of brilliance. I'll burn them in the fireplace! Problem solved.

The fact that I'll have to get new checks printed is a no-brainer. As soon as all the dust settles, I imagine I'll be receiving instructions in the mail for those.

My one real concern is that of the direct deposit of my Social Security check, which has been set up for quite some time now.

I don't know if JP Morgan Chase (my new bank name) automatically plugs those types of changes into their system or not. Tried to reach a real person a short while back to ask that question, but that option has been removed from their telephone menu.

I imagine that today the branch nearest me, if open, will be just flooded with customers asking questions, so I'll wait until Monday (maybe even Tuesday) and go over mid-morning. That ought to be good.

I don't like change. I understand all that about how change is inevitable, change is good, change means you're still alive and kicking, etc., and blah, but that doesn't mean I have to like it, does it?

Certainly am not fond of all of the changes that have been, are, and will continue to be occurring to my getting ever more ancient body!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Economic Summit

The post I published Wednesday made me think of the Economic Summit held here in Houston in 1990.

"The city and its suburbs have launched an all-out war on trash and blight to scrub up for the international visitors", one newspaper said.

And, indeed we had. I have not before or since seen our city so clean and sparkling, and not one street person to be found! I have no idea where they all went, but they weren't downtown. Nor were they in any other area where visitors might likely go.

Security was unbelievably tight. Sewers were walked through and then manhole covers permanently secured. Trees and flowers and shrubs were planted. Lawns were manicured to the nth degree.

Standards of the individual nations to be represented at the event were constructed and placed in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center, where the press corps was headquartered. (A few years later, when the international terminal at Intercontinental Airport was completed, the standards were moved there.)

After midnight one evening, a friend and I went downtown and watched them doing live news reports to Europe and other parts of the world. That was interesting!

Have you ever wondered what some of these reporters are wearing below the waist? I never did until after I watched that night.

There were all of these tremendously bright lights, of course, and people milling around in shorts, t-shirts, and tennies or flip flops. It was hot!! I found myself wondering where the person was who would be doing the broadcast, and starting looking for someone sweltering in a suit and tie. Not there.

Then, all of a sudden, someone produced an impeccable shirt, jacket, and tie. One of the 'millers around' put them on, quickly grabbed a microphone, and the broadcast was on! Ha!! Still wearing his shorts and flip flops.

SO, to this day, whenever I see a reporter sitting behind a desk or shown just from the waist up at an outside location, I wonder.

Each country's representatives were housed in a different hotel. I happened to acquire a regular customer just before the Summit was due to begin.

He was from Puerto Rico, with the Secret Service, and was here to guard members of the Italian delegation. When he wasn't on duty or sleeping, he wanted to go sight-seeing, and so off we went.

The last time I saw him was when I dropped him off at his terminal at Intercontinental Airport. He said he hoped that I could get to Puerto Rico sometime. Gave me his card (which I kept for years, but don't have the slightest idea where it is now!) and then said, "I'll do the driving."

I didn't know quite how to take that. Surely he wouldn't have used my services all those times if he didn't like the way I drove? But when I looked over at him, he had this impish grin on his face.

One other regular customer was obtained by picking up a 'flagger' downtown at around 10:30pm. He was in a hurry to get to the post office, he said. Could I give him directions?

Well, as it turned out I had just come from there and said, "Get in. I'll take you." It wasn't very far, but it was hot.

He was from Canada, one of the many hundreds of press here to cover the Summit. We didn't have as many trips together as Manuel and I did -- he was required to be at the GRB almost all of the time -- but those that we did have were enjoyable, including his trip back to the airport.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Scattered thoughts

I was going to do a follow-up to my last post ... this one in re the Economic Summit in Houston in 1990 ... but my newest regular customers called me just before noon, saying that they were ready to go back home (wonderful thing, "home"!), and could I possibly pick them up this afternoon?

Well, of course I could (and did!).

On the way, I was struck by how much more dangerous the (now) 4-way stops in lieu of traffic lights are. "Why is that?" you might well ask. Well, it's because so many of them are now working that people are not paying as much attention as they should be! (I really can't describe it any better than that.)

I had the radio on all the way over, tuned in to a local sports station, and was more than a little upset to hear a 'fantasy football expert' say, "I've seen him play in a lot more pain than he's in right now."

I thought that was a really ugly thing to say. I remember from years back watching Earl Campbell literally 'carry' countless defenders on his back as he struggled to gain ever more yardage for the Houston Oilers.

The very first house my first husband and I bought here in Houston was from an ex-Houston Oiler, a center, Bobby Maples. I remember thinking that when Maria Purdy, our realtor, first brought us to the house, "This absolutely has to be a football player!"

And, of course, he was!

These professional athletes bankrupt their physical health and well-being in the future, particularly if they're football players in the 'big leagues', where they play and give it their 'all'. Is it worth it? I don't know. You'd have to ask them.

Picked up my customers, and was almost afraid to ask them what the prognosis was.

It's still kind of 'up in the air'. All of the results are not yet in, but I'd like to share with you something that his doctor said to him ... ...

"I think we can help you."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Street people

Street people ... homeless ... disenfranchised ... crazy ... you name the adjective, I've heard it!

As a taxicab driver who "worked the streets", particularly as a Yellow Cab driver, I came to know many street people.

"Working the streets" means that you are looking/waiting for and accepting trips via computer or radio dispatch from people who call for a taxicab from their home/place of business/street corner telephone/whatnot -- as opposed to sitting at an airport or a hotel, for example. It is often considered by other cab drivers as somewhat dangerous.

As a Yellow Cab driver, I was required to "book into" a particular zone of the city. And, until they installed a GPS system throughout the fleet (poking yet one more unwanted hole into my vehicle), I could 'get away with' sitting somewhere close to the zone while still being allowed to book in.

I seldom worked the airports, unless I had a trip that took me out to one or the other late in the afternoon.

But I'm getting away from the main point of this post, which is "Street people".

In all of my nearly eighteen years of driving a taxicab, I had only one actual 'street person' in my car. He had called for a cab from a pay phone. When I got to the pickup site, there he was ... an obvious street person, raggedy clothing, and a smell that could be discerned from many feet away!

He started towards the car. I rolled the front passenger window down and said, "Sir? I'm waiting for a customer." He said, "I'm your customer", and proceeded to get in.

Dear Lord!! It was hot outside (this is Houston!), and I told him that I was sorry, but I'd have to leave the windows down. He said he understood, told me where he wanted to go (which wasn't very far, thank goodness!), and off we went.

I didn't think I'd ever get the stench out of my car!!

I came to know other 'street people' (By the way, I never saw the above-mentioned person again!) over the years. I'd like to share just a few of my observations, if I may.

Are they all crazy? Certainly not, altho there was one who lingered in 'The Montrose' near the corner of Alabama and Dunlavy for years, I was told, who carried a machete and was dangerous as all get out! I saw him, many times, and stayed way clear of that corner!! (Would never have accepted a dispatch to that corner, either -- kind of goes without saying.)

'The Montrose' ... an area of Houston that is just southwest of downtown. A really interesting community ... not far from the Medical Center, so there was a pretty good-sized group of doctors, nurses, medical students, and the like who lived there ... a humongous amount of "gay" residents, and they called for taxicab service a bunch (we had, unfortunately, experienced quite a number of gay-bashing incidents, including at least one homicide)! ... and a significant number of artists and musicians, in addition to your normal everyday Joe Blow average citizen-types.

ANYhoo, if I was to be working late at night, I would most often book into The Montrose, but would 'sit' at one of two places ... either the Stop and Go (zone 115, in The Montrose) or the parking garage at a Washington Mutual Bank (zone 122, just next door).

It was while I was sitting in the bank's garage over a period of time that I came to know "Danny", a street person who often slept in that garage at night.

I really didn't come to know Danny very well. He didn't allow that, but he did tell me that his brother was a dentist here in Houston, and that he would have preferred that Danny live with him. Danny said that he preferred to live on the streets.

This one time I insisted that Danny accept a blanket from me (the weather was getting colder). He didn't want to. Later, as it turned out, the blanket that I had given him was stolen by another street person.

Danny's is only one story of many thousands, I'm sorry to say, of Houston's street persons.

Another street person I got to know but slightly, "Jeanie", was one I saw -- over and over again -- as I was sitting at the cab stand at the Doubletree (downtown).

She would come moseying up to the various cab drivers at the stand, looking for money. I never gave money ... never! If I had extra food, I offered it. Every once in a while, Jeannie accepted it.

We got to talking. I never found out one thing about her or her story or how she'd come to be on the streets. Nothing!

One time I gave her one of my old winter coats, I'm almost ashamed to say it! I'd been about to throw it away when I thought, "I bet Jeanie doesn't have a winter coat!"

She seemed to be really grateful. I absolutely MUST make a mental note to get downtown to see if she's still around, but I don't know where I'd 'sit' ... I'm no longer a cab driver.

One thing that has almost always turned me off or infuriated me is panhandlers who ask for money!

Just a couple or three stories here.

The first is one time when I was getting off of the freeway to go to Yellow Cab to pay my lease. Coming up the exit ramp, I saw a fellow carrying a sign that said, "Vet looking for enough money to get to _____ (I forget where his sign said he wanted to go)."

He looked madder than *******! I had never seen him before (and haven't seen him since!). If I'd had extra $$$ on me, I'd have stopped and given him some, but I didn't. I remember having the distinct feeling that this was no ordinary panhandler, and I'm pretty sure that I was right.

The second is a story that was aired locally involving a 'notorious' downtown panhandler that, somehow or another, got involved in a light rail accident. It was discovered, somewhat later, that he had many tens of thousands of dollars hidden in his socks and various pants and shirt pockets!

The third involves a time when I stopped at Gessner and I-10 to give some of my extra food to a street person who was advertising, "I will work for food."

There was absolutely nothing wrong with my food, OK? He refused it. He wanted money, probably to get his next drink. Disgusting!

We all have stories, don't we?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


These impressions are from yesterday. Hope you don't mind if they're reheated.

My day began with an early morning pickup to the airport, so I didn't get to sleep until I woke up. Then I had a couple of hours before I was due to pick up two more customers from the same airport, so I decided to drive through downtown and then go over to Memorial Park, park in the shade, and read some more of Michael Connelly's book, The Closers '05. It's been sitting on my kitchen counter, along with several others for more than a year now, silently pleading, "Read me, read me!"

Extremely unusual for me to have two sets of customers in a day now, much less in one morning! The early morning PU was a fellow that I hadn't heard from for a couple of years. Altho I had driven him only a few times, I remembered him distinctly. Well, not him so much as his house and the animals that were in his neighbor's back yard (goats).

His house is really interesting. He and his wife had moved it there from Kemah (a fishing town right on Galveston Bay that was TERribly damaged during Ike ... Marvis, one of my cab-driving friends, and I had intended to go over there for lunch between Christmas and New Year's, but I don't know if they can be rebuilt by then). He then added porches of varying lengths around the sides of the house (he's in the construction business) and painted the house a soft (but not too soft) yellow with a stark white trim. I'm not usually fond of yellow, but it's perfect for that house in that location.

There was a TON of traffic. You'd think that a ton of traffic might be aggravating, but I want to tell you that it was wonderful to see that small sign of normality return! I had taken the Beltway over to his house (along with hundreds of others -- tollways are still free*), and it was heartening to see convoy after convoy of telephone trucks on the way to their latest destinations.

The majority of traffic lights on the city's streets are still out, so when I got off the Beltway there were long lines of cars at each (what was now a) 4-way stop. At some of the major intersections, however, particularly as we got closer to the airport, policemen were directing traffic (sometimes they are actually helpful!).

The airport PU was a referral from one of my long-timey cancer patient customers who lives in Florida, a husband and wife team. He is here for extensive testing, which is beginning as I write this, to see whether or not he could benefit from an experimental drug treatment program or what some of his other options might be. I've been trying to send hopeful thoughts and prayers his way ever since he first called me a week or two ago.

We chatted about a number of different things. This is their first visit to Houston, and they knew absolutely nothing about the Medical Center or its immediate surroundings. As we were pulling into their hotel, I asked him what time his first appointment was. He said, "Not until tomorrow (today, now) morning."

I asked him if they might like to take just a little tour through the Medical Center, going by MD Anderson, the cancer center (of course!), to try and get just a little better oriented. He snapped the invitation up. (They couldn't officially check in to their hotel until around 1:30, anyway, as it turns out, so they were glad for the offer. Also, they were hungry, and wanted to stop for some lunch.)

So we took the tour, and I included some of Hermann Park, where we stopped at Miller Outdoor Theater to walk a bit and pick up current programs. I thought this might be a good thing for Lorraine to know about during her long waiting hours ... not the theater, necessarily, but the zoo and the park itself, just a short walk from MDA and safe enough during daylight hours.

I'm thinking about them this morning and hoping for the best.

One note here, before I go on to something else ... Hobby Airport seemed almost deserted to me. I mean, I know that it wasn't, but still! I've seen it when it was busy. It's not busy!! I wonder how these cab drivers are 'making it'? I didn't go over to the cab staging area in between trips, primarily because I didn't want to hear -- first hand -- their sad stories (and I know that they would not have been exaggerated, in this instance, because they would have been talking to someone who would have been able to see through their BS).

Along the way -- to the first PU, and then again going over to Memorial Park -- I had the radio on and heard a bunch of things that I hadn't known before, and so took some extensive notes (before I forgot the details) when I first arrived at the park to include in this post. And guess what? Not much of Michael's book got read. (You already guessed as much, didn't you?)

Some of the news included ... ... school reopening schedules (Katy, where DGD goes, reopened yesterday ... Alief and HISD today, although less than half of HISD's schools are -- power issues ... all others undetermined as yet ... ... Galveston's allowing west end residents (ONLY residents!) to come "look and leave" beginning tomorrow morning at 6am (until 6pm). They may not stay. They are asked to bring any food and water they need with them. Free tetanus shots are being given on the island, and returnees are advised to wear gloves and masks. (Snakes, rats, and other such varmints took shelter in whatever high ground was available during Ike.)

Paul Harvey's show was on, but it wasn't Paul Harvey. (I forget who the guest was. Hope Paul's OK.) ANYhoo, it seems that yesterday was an anniversary of when Johnny Cochran uttered those in/famous words, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

Stopped by Kroger's on the way back to Hobby and picked up some of that yummy grape salad. Even picked up a dinky container of same for my new customers. Figured that, if they didn't like it, I might somehow be able to 'force myself' to eat it!

We've had really gorgeous weather ever since Ike came through! The rainbow after the storm? It's warming up now, tho, little by little. Yesterday the AC came on several times. (At least, I think it did!) When I finally got back home, a little after 2pm, I collapsed onto the pillow and knew nothing else for several hours but sleep. Probably dreamed -- I almost always dream, but don't remember any of it/them from yesterday, if I did. Woke up just in time for "Wheel" to come on, and then spent the next couple of hours watching the premiere of "Dancing with the Stars".

The new season is here! Still no M*A*S*H, tho. Oh, well.

Hope all is wonderfully well with you.

*DSL insists that the only reason the toll roads are still free is because they don't have the power back up yet. Nothing to do with the goodness of their hearts. He may be right!

PS. Also heard, while I was listening to the radio, a partial interview with Alan Alda, who has a new book out. I like Alan Alda! Will definitely not buy the book, but will tuck it away in my memory banks as one I would probably like to read.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fun with word games ... #2

I'm between the Astros game (we won) and bridge (we're on!). Figure I have about an hour to post this. We'll see what I can get accomplished.

Word Games Puzzles* ...

A church congregation had struggled for years to get enough money to put in a needed elevator when a donor chipped in a sum that truly gave them a lift.

After a year long work trip, an archaeologist returned home and got settled in a condo. He couldn't wait to have his girlfriend over to show her his new digs.

Syllacrostics* ...

We are always the same age inside. __ Gertrude Stein

A learned man is an idler who kills time by study. __ George Bernard Shaw

The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention. __ S. Morris

One that would have the fruit must climb the tree. __ Fuller

Crostic Puzzles* ...

The moon is moving away from the earth at the rate of two inches a year because gravity is decreasing. This means that every year you weigh about one potato chip less than you weighed the year before. __ Robert Fulghum, It was on Fire

[Now there's a weight-loss program for you!]

In Canada we have enough to do keeping up with two spoken languages without trying to invent slang, so we just go right ahead and use English for literature, Scotch for sermons, and American for conversations. __ Stephen Leacock, How to Write

[Don't blame me for the title of his book/article/whatever, but what I want to know is, "Whatever happened to French?!?"]

I've argued that squirrels store nuts, but do they really think ahead to January or are they like people who fill attics with old National Geographics 'just in case we might need them someday'? __ Gladys Tabercove, Journal

*For a more detailed explanation of these various types of word games, please go here.

However, I can assure you that there is absolutely no need whatsoever for you to follow that link to enjoy the above quotes.

Am off now to take a shower and try and get ready to trounce the opponents in bridge. Wish me and my partner luck, OK?

Bits & pieces

Well, Channel 11 is showing Ike relief and recovery efforts again this morning instead of Charles Osgood, so I thought I'd take a looksee through some of my "Favorites".

Do you all know what a "meme" is? ... ... Any idea or behavior that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation.

In my relatively short history of time spent in the blogosphere, I have seen many different memes of varying themes. Two days ago, Nancy posted "The Husband Meme" on her site. It's clever, and you would probably get a chuckle or two if you clicked on the link. It's dated Friday, September 19th. My link thingee isn't properly working for this one, so if she's posted another since then (and before you read this and hit the link -- she hasn't yet, but you never know, she could sneak another one in on us), just scroll down until you get the right post, OK?

She suggests that a man do "The Wife Meme". Perhaps someone will take her up on that?

Very early this morning, Tammy posted pix of her family going to the circus last night, and she includes a couple of YouTube dealies of the 3-motorcycle act inside a large ball and the human cannonball, in addition to a few photos of some of her family enjoying the festivities. Neat!

It reminded me of the last time I went to the circus. It was about ten years ago, during my cab-driving years.

One of the "up" sides of the taxicab business is that you get to meet so many different people. (It can also be one of the "down" sides ... depends on the people.)

Anyway, this one afternoon I picked up a gentleman at Hobby Airport who wanted to go where the circus was setting up. Well, uninformed me! I wasn't even aware that a circus was setting up!! So, he got on his cell phone (What did we ever do before cell phones??), talked with someone who was at the site, and away we went.

I've always loved the circus. Does anyone not? We had a fun time all the way there talking about his circus, whatall kinds of special acts it had to offer, etc. It was obvious that I was excited just talking about the circus, and he invited me to attend that evening as his guest! (Turns out he was the owner.)

Long story short, I did, and one of the special features was three motorcyclists doing the very same precision act that Tammy includes in her post.

Kind of a sad note ... M*A*S*H is nowhere to be found! This change in scheduling occurred about a week before Ike blew through. Two local channels -- 20 & 26, co-owned -- carried the reruns. I imagine this void will exist until the station/s receive enough requests/complaints to start showing it again. (I must make a mental note to call the station/s and make the request/complaint.)

Thought I'd post this one and #2 on "Fun with word games" this morning. Won't have time later. DSL's coming over to see if he can get my monitor back. Sure hope it wasn't 'fried' a week ago Friday night. Also, I think he's planning to get up on the roof and try to clean out my gutters. You can probably imagine the debris!

Also this afternoon, the Astros game (they're in Pittsburgh right now) will be televised. They lost again last night, and so their hopes for a 'wild card' berth are pretty much gone, but still -- they're my team. You'll probably notice me going into a post baseball season withdrawal in another week or two. If you do, and you think I'm not coming out of it like I should, give me a swift kick in the you-know-what in one of your comments, OK? I hereby give you permission to do so.

Later this evening, I'm scheduled to play bridge in a team game with Bob Johnson, but that one's kind of up in the air. It'll be at a new location -- just off the Beltway, and no more than 10 minutes from my house, how's that for convenience? -- but Bob didn't know for sure the other day when he called that it would take place, what with all of Houston's power problems. We'll see.

SO, there you have it! Hope your day is starting off well. See you later!!

PS. It's now 11am. DSL came over quite a bit sooner than expected. He's now gone over to WalMart to get me a new monitor ... old one "died" ... we said a few choice words over it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who's naming these tropical depressions/storms??!!

I'm having just a huge problem listening to the weather just now.

The local news is saying that "Kyle" would be the next name. Haven't we already had 'Karina' and 'Lowell', who subsequently disappeared into the netherlands??? Did no one notice them except me? What the devil?!?

Am I going crazy or WHAT??!!

Absolutely unbelievable!!!

Julian and I are going to be playing bridge this afternoon at the Bridge Studio of Houston.

We spoke earlier this morning and agreed that we were both sick and tired of hearing about Ike and dealing with the aftermaths of Ike. (Some neighborhood kids sprayed graffiti on his garage because his fence was down. They were not in school and were bored and it was accessible. I asked him if they'd caught the b********, and he answered in the negative.)

The next thing we had to do was ascertain whether or not the Bridge Studio would be open 'for business' today!

Julian was doubtful because, in his searches on the Internet, the Bridge Studio's website said that they would be open Friday morning, but closed Saturday and Sunday due to Ike.

I said, "Julian, that sounds like last week's post!" After a moment's thought, he agreed. I said, "Let's see what I can find out."

ANYhoo, a couple or three phone calls and e-mails later, I reached Terry Currie, someone whom I thought would know. Got her. She said, "Of course there will be a game today. We've been open since Tuesday night." (!?!?!)

Since Tuesday night?!?!? Not sure I believe her. I didn't get my power back (and I live less than three miles from the Studio) until Tuesday night and Julian didn't get his power back until Wednesday.

Reminds me a little bit of many years ago when I lived in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Shuckeydurn, did I ever have a bunch of energy then! Wonder where it all went??

I was scheduled to play with one of my regular bridge partners (and wasn't playing a whole lot of bridge then ... was too busy teaching school full-time, taking care of my young daughter, looking after our household, and trying to work on my Master's degree ... exhausts me, just thinking about what all I did!)

There was a 'ton' of rain that day and flooding everywhere. I called my partner (or she called me, I don't remember which) to ask, "Do you think there will be a game tonight?"

Long story short, there was a game. Everyone waded (literally) through high waters to get to the game site.

Fun with word games ...#1

There are lots of different kinds of word games available, and I thought I'd share with you a few of the ones I've completed recently.

Word Games Puzzles ...

The final answer, which is derived by using a combination of logic, unscrambling letters to make a longer word, solving analogies and plays on words, etc., is often in the form of a sort of nonsense poem ... the last phrase or word is sometimes a 'stinger'. Authors are anonymous.

We got a new dalmatian
At my fire station.

Not much of a barker, he's covered in spots.

Now and then
We get a yen

To grab a marker and connect the dots.

Don't you just pity mathematics teachers? They spend their days dealing with one problem after another!

A modest actress rejected a script when she discovered that a scene would require her to wear a bikini. It was more than she could bare.

Syllacrostics ...

This puzzle requires that you put as many as 60 or 70 given syllables together to create words of a specific length that fit the definitions given.

Literature is news that stays news. __ Ezra Pound

The best cure for an old grudge is a bad memory. __ D. Weinbaum

Assumption is the mother of mistakes. __ Donghia

Efficiency is intelligent laziness. __ D. Dunham

The wisest mind has something yet to learn. __ Santayana

Crostic Puzzles ...

Like most word games, these involve a lot of working back and forth between solving definitions and perceiving letter patterns. Here's one finished quote:

The term 'viking' was originally in a sense an action. One would 'go viking', which basically meant to take a seafaring voyage to trade. Over time, the people who did 'the viking' became "Vikings", but technically the vikings were not a people. __ Bernstein, Digging for the Truth

Which type do you like best? I don't have a favorite. I like them all. There's a tremendous sense of satisfaction when I finish one of these, and I often get a chuckle or two. Either that, or I learn something!

I'm creating a new label for my posts with this one ... "Word games" ... look for more entries down the road.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cutting through the B.S. on Sarah

I have to do something to take my mind off of Ike and the terrible aftermath of his visit through our area. Maybe this will help.

I received this e-mail last week from a friend who received it from her mother who received it from a friend of hers who received it from ... ... ... ... who originally received it from an old Air America buddy in Alaska.

It's verbatim, so be prepared to see some words I don't usually use in my posts.

And from an Alaska man who is a very serious cynic about all things political, here is my take on Sarah.

I first met and spoke with Sarah Palin about two years ago at our downtown Park Strip. It is a place for walking, carnivals, political outdoor things, and such. She was cooking hotdogs at a fund raiser and introducing herself to the public as a Governor hopeful.

She came by and said the usual, "Hi, I'm Sarah Palin and I am running for Governor." I expected her to keep on to the next person, but she asked me who I was and what I did in Alaska and we ended up talking for 15 minutes about me, Air America (she was all agog!) and my career in the Army and AAM. She is a pilot (Super Cub), I'm told, although all she told me about was that she loved flying.

As I watched her over the next six months as she successfully ran for Governor, I was really impressed. I was impressed greatly even before that after she resigned a good position (Alaska Gas and Oil Regulatory Commission) because a fellow Commission member (Chair of the Alaska Republican Party) misused their office and position. He was using the FAX, computers, printing room, and all to promote the Republican endeavors while in a State job. That is a huge no-no in any government employment position.

She resigned and made her point, and within weeks Randy Ruderich (the above bad guy) found his ass out on the street. A subsequent investigation found him guilty and he was fined $12,000. Small change, actually, but a giant point was made.

Next she went after our most horrible Governor ever, Governor Murkowski, and damned if she didn't beat him! All of us here in Alaska, except the Democrats, are sick of our State's corruption. That fact was shouted to the heavens after she was elected with an overwhelming point spread.

After she got into office she started after corrupt legislators and with the FBI's help we've put four of them in prison, indicted six more and the "Corrupt Bastard's Club", as they arrogantly called themselves (even had hats made with CBC on the front!), suddenly found it no fun anymore. Club membership is now in the toilet!

The current flap, which has cost her a ten point loss of popularity (she's still 82%!), was over firing a popular Commissioner of Public Safety who is responsible for our Alaska State Troopers. She fired him for no STATED reason which was her prerogative as the Governor. He served entirely at her option.

She and her whole family had a bad, bad experience with a rogue Trooper who was married to Sarah's sister. His name is Trooper Wooten. This dimwit Trooper had threatened Sarah's father (death threat!), threatened Sarah ("I'll get you, too"), tasered his 12-year-old stepson, drove drunk in his AST cruiser, got a pass by a fellow Trooper who stopped him for erratic driving a second time while in civvies and just a host of other things not yet released to the public. He got away with it and got another pass by the Commissioner's appointed AST Trooper Internal Affairs investigator with a tiny slap on the wrist. Five days off without pay to be exact!

This maverick Trooper is still on the payroll but only just. The Union intervening saved his malcontent ass. He'll yet get his I'm sure. Incredible heat is being heaped on the Troopers. Public heat, not the Governor's office.

The Democrats had the audacity to appoint an obviously biased investigator, Rep. "Gunny" French (so-called because he lied about being in the USMC while running for the Legislature), who is a staunch liberal and under the orders of Senate President Lyda Green who hates Sarah. She hates Sarah because after being elected Governor, Sarah told the whole Legislature in one of her first meetings with them that, quote: "All of you here need some Adult Supervision!"

Sarah was seriously pissed and not afraid of anyone there. That played wonderfully well with Alaskans after all of our corruption and after all of her successful battles against a seriously entrenched corrupt government here in Alaska. It pissed off the whole Legislature, though! They have stayed pissed but are also afraid of her because of her popularity.

She reminds me personally of our Alaska wolverine which will fight anything in its path if it sees fit to do so. No respect at all for size or position. Wife Cindy is in this category, too. Unfortunately.

In closing I must tell you that she is the best, most moral and most focused leader I've seen since President Reagan. I feel, really strongly, that like Alaska the rest of our country will love her within a few weeks.

Put simply, she represents middle America like NO leader we've ever had. I think McCain made a totally brilliant move in choosing her. She's a maverick who is probably tougher and more focused than McCain himself ... and she won't be a total "Yes Man" or more appropriately, woman. McCain will love her.

In 2012 she will be President.

My best to all of you in the hurricane belt. I hope you are all OK. We just had another mini Air America reunion here in beautiful Soldotna, Alaska along the Kenai river. We'll be doing this every year now, I guess. Like our Flying Tiger pals before us, there are not that many Air America guys left. I'm 71 myself this September 16. Where the hell did the years go so fast?

My best to you old buddy

Semper Fi,

George W. Murray

The title of the e-mail is the title of this post. I lay no claim as to the authenticity (or lack thereof) of any "facts" contained therein. Certainly it represents one man's opinion and perspective.

I include it now for a couple of reasons: 1) People (myself included) have been asking, "Who's Sarah Palin?" Well, this should give you at least a bit more info than you might have already had. 2) As I said, I wanted to try and get my mind off of Ike. Mission accomplished, however briefly.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bits & pieces

Anagrams ...

When I was out at DD's Tuesday and adding an extensive response to "Ike ... #7" in the comments section, my granddaughter came in and asked me if I'd be interested in playing a game of anagrams.

YHGTBSM!!!!! (I don't think you really want to know what those letters mean, OK?) "Yes!" The answer was yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes!!!!! I was almost finished with my VERY long response in that comments section, and tried to hurry through it.

I couldn't wait to play! (I've just tried to do a direct link here, but it failed. We're still having problems.) ANYhoo, if you'd like to read (if you haven't before) my history of playing anagrams and the rules of the game, as I was taught it by my father, see this post, "Anagrams ... a 'better' definition ...?", published August 18th.

Anyway, so there we were, the three of us ... DD, DGD (Darling GrandDaughter), and me ... out on their patio with all of these tiles upside down waiting to be drawn, when DGD said, "We each draw 21."

I said, "Whaat! I thought we were playing anagrams!!"

"No, we're playing bananagrams," she said. I said, "Whaat!"

Long story short, I learned a new game ... bananagrams ... and they learned how to play anagrams. DSL was even drawn in to play the last few games.

Truly, truly, truly, I was 'beside myself' (LOVE that expression!) with happiness! Man oh man, do I love word games!!

Astros ...

I don't want to say that they're in a freefall, like the Brewers were very recently, but their offense has most definitely gone into hibernation and the pitching has been less than wonderful.

They have now lost four in a row, two of which I can directly link to the commissioner, who decided in his ultimate wisdom to 'award' two of the Astros' home games against the Cubs (subsequently played in Milwaukee, a supposed neutral site where the Astros were loudly booed at every opportunity) to the Cubs.

There can be absolutely NO excuse for the Astros losing the next two!! Come on, guys! You have to snap out of it!! (I've been somewhat in a state of doldrums myself, so I kind of understand where you're coming from.)

We're now four games out of the wild card (does losing four in a row now make more sense to you non-baseball fans?) race.

We have ten games left in the regular season. An 11th will be played here, at Minute Maid park, against the Cubbies on September 29th if ultimate playoff standings require it. May the 'ultimate playoff standings require it'. Can you imAGine the decibel levels of sound in Minute Maid should that happen?!?

Bridge ...

I was supposed to play bridge Tuesday night in Pasadena. (Good luck to that! They don't have power yet.)

Also, I was supposed to play with Julian this past Saturday. (HA!)

One of my other regular bridge partners called me today -- actually, yesterday --, asking if I'd like to play Sunday night. I answered in the affirmative. We're both hoping there'll be a game. (Maybe not quite as good as anagrams, but close!

All for now. Hope all of you are OK. Will be checking your blogsites and making comments, I'm sure, shortly.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The aftermath

It's kind of hard to know exactly where to begin, or what all to say, so I'll just start.

Power ...

Almost all of Houston and surrounding areas were without power immediately preceding, during, and certainly following Ike, who struck as a Cat 1 "only". That's a huge blessing because he was so immense! In addition to that, he turned more east at the last minute and the REALLY devasting storm surges that had been feared did not occur. The destruction is bad enough as it is.

99% of us were without power from sometime Friday onward. 60% of Houston is still without power. Many hospitals, businesses, and homes have power only because they have generators.

My power was restored last night around 9:00, but I could not get onto the Internet. It's only been within the last half hour or so that I could. Everything seems to be working fine now except for my monitor. DSL will probably try to get "on" later to see if he can fix the problem remotely and avoid a trip over here.

His business has to be conducted via the Internet, and they were without it for four and a half days. Service was restored to them yesterday, and he really cannot afford the time to come over. I can live without the monitor until he has time. I'm having to use my bifocals to read what I'm writing. Ridiculous, huh?

[Had to take a little break. DSL came on, but still no monitor -- so, he'll be coming over tomorrow sometime to take a looksee. OK. Back to the bifocal ranch.]

It was interesting trying to get out of my garage. Double-wide, oversized doors, and a real beast to try and lift manually ... felt like I was a prisoner in my own house. Long story short, lots of help from DSL and neighborhood kids!

Damage ...

The areas of destruction are so wide that it's almost impossible to list them all.

Galveston, of course, has been extremely hard hit. The mayor politely asked the news media to leave the other day. (Don't know if any did or not.) Something like 15,000 of the vultures have been perched in various hotel rooms down there, trying to interview every paid or volunteer recovery and rescue worker in sight.

In one of her noon news conferences, the terribly weary mayor was taken to task for not allowing reporters to talk to recovery workers. That actually happened. I heard it. She said (and I paraphrase), "There's nothing here for you right now. Please leave. I'm asking you to leave."

[Johnny's arm has been severed in a farming accident. He's rushed to the hospital, where vultures are wanting to know which arm, can it be saved, how many stitches, how is his family holding up and where are they so that we can inundate them with a gazillion intrusive questions because "the public has a 'right to know'."]

Bodies are washing up on the shoreline as I write this, bodies of people who decided to stay and ride out the storm. I really don't want to see replay after replay after replay of that recovery.

I don't know how many of you read my Golden Triangle post of earlier this month -- at least I think it was earlier this month! -- but that part of Texas has sustained great and, in some cases, irreparable damage.

Me? I'm OK. Really! Certainly compared to everyone else!! I 'suffered' only the minor inconvenience of being without electricity, water (at times), and light (candlepower only goes so far). DSL brought me a battery-powered radio. (I used to have one! Wonder where it went?)

Had to throw out a bunch of foodstuffs. Gave me the opportunity to clean out the refrigerator and freezer. (Shouldn't have needed an excuse, but I did!)

I am not known as a woman who puts housekeeping at the top of her list. In fact, it's probably so far down the list that it cannot be found, I kid you not. So there you have it. The truth about Goldenrod, although -- if you've been following my posts for any period of time -- you already know that.

(Think I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that my idea of a perfect world includes a house that cleans itself.)

Irritating things ...

News media ... calling this a "worst case scenario" (This is bad, very bad, but by no means a 'worst case'.) ... continually trying to interfere with relief workers' attempts with their insatiable appetite for exclusive interviews ... clogging up important news conferences with their attempts to place 'blame' on perceived slights.

JQ Public's occasional outburst at a POD ... when there are hundreds more vehicles patiently waiting in line, "Is this all the ice, water, MRE's I get?" (POD=Point of Distribution ... 50/60 some sites throughout the area)

Good things ...

News media ... Local radio and television stations carrying round-the-clock coverage (and continuing, actually, as I write this post!) ... really, absolute life-savers!! As one local radio station put it, "A lot of people just want to talk to somebody."

Hundreds of relief trucks carrying workers ... quite literally, from all parts of the United States and Canada, many of them offering to sleep in their cabs if no accommodations were immediately at hand. (Haven't heard of any coming here from Mexico, or I'd be giving them credit.) Convoy after convoy of them. Thank you, wonderful friends!

I'm sure I have left a bunch of info out that some of you might like to know. If you will leave a comment with your question/s, I will try and address it/them.

I have been trying to 'edit' this post as I go, and have had to rewrite bunches of it as I have inadvertently hit one little teeny tiny key after another, deleting what might possibly have been the 'world's greatest utterances'!

I hope that you will take that last sentence for how it's meant. I'm trying to see these teeny tiny little keys through my bifocals. Every now and then I accidentally hit one that deletes half of what I just said in the last two paragraphs and then have to try and reconstruct where my 'mind' was when I wrote it.

I'm pretty sure that I have been by no means successful. I apologize in advance for errors which have been left undetected.

It has taken me over three hours (!!!) to complete this post, and I'm going to try and publish it before I accidentally hit another teeny tiny little key and delete the whole thing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike ... #7

8:00 pm ... Had no idea that I would be starting this post so soon, but there are some pretty good-sized wind gusts out there, and I know that some of you are watching my posts, hoping for the best, and really would like to be kept informed.

I promise you that I will add to this post every half hour from now on until either my electricity goes out or I hit the pillow (one or the other). If I'm going to hit the pillow, I'll let you know beforehand. If my electricity goes out, well, I won't know about that until it happens.

SO, if you haven't heard back from me in another (and subsequent) half hour or so, you can safely assume that I have lost power. Those of you who have my cell phone # might try and call ... if the cell phone towers aren't down, as well, you'll get me.

Keep those positive thoughts coming, please!

8:30 pm ... Think I'm a minute or two late with this, sorry! Was transferring a huge chunk of ice from the freezer to the refrigerator, and for a moment or two was stymied as I couldn't find a large enough container for it. Will see you again at 9, OK?

9 pm ... Just talked to DD. She laughed about the idea of my having to leave my car outside in inclement weather just to enjoy the 1 mph less sustained winds from Ike. (She hadn't thought about that.)

Anyhoo, she's supposed to call me back after finishing making and enjoying with her daughter and friends possibly our most favorite snack in this country, popcorn!

[Guys, I'm really sorry! I was just about to publish this latest edition when DD called me back and we talked for WAY too long!! Let me get this published, and then I'll come back at you at 9:30 with a more detailed explanation, OK?]

9:30 pm ... I just finished talking to Tammy. God bless her heart, her whole family has been following my blog and was worried when I didn't post right at 9 pm.

This is a really strange storm! I'll try and give some more updates at 10.

Meanwhile, I thought I should probably tell you (not to unnecessarily worry you, but just to give you some facts) that DD has been without cable and the internet for awhile now, that upwards of 200,000 homes in the Houston area are without electrical service, and that our whole area is under a 'tornado watch' until 10 am tomorrow.

'So far so good' my way ... more in twenty minutes, or so.

10 pm ... Well, it's actually a few minutes after. I'm going to post this just very brief segment, and then come right back. I'm hearing strange noises outside!

I'm back. The 'strange' noises were coming from the channel I had my television tuned into. I tuned into a different channel, and the 'strange' noises disappeared!

The official 10 pm update from the NHC, by the way, reported that Ike had dropped another two millibars in pressure, altho his winds were still holding steady at 110 mph, a very strong Cat 2, on the verge of a Cat 3. We, as in moi, should now be experiencing sustained tropical force winds at the very least. We are not! Jeez, I hope I'm not jinxing anything here by writing this. Maybe I should delete it?

10:30 pm ... I'm fading fast. I'm going to hit the pillow. When I wake up (and I won't be setting the alarm), I'll immediately come back here and post again if I have power, OK? Sorry about that. I just have to get some sleep!! It's been a fairly traumatic couple of days.

Ike ... #6

4 pm ... Ahhh! Three hours of solid, blessed sleep. (Don't think I'll be getting much tonight.)

Let's see. What's going on with Ike? Well, the pressure is currently at 955 mb, down a couple from 1:00. I'll check that wind pressure site, but I doubt if they have updated the figures from their last report. Hang on while I check, OK? ... Nope, not yet. They're still showing the 1:00 figures, which have my zip code experiencing maximum projected sustained winds of 83 mph and DD's at 82 mph.

Over 90 people have been 'rescued' from the Bolivar Peninsula! I said "some" residents in my last post. I should have said "many".

Nothing else of significance right now, except for the not unexpected news that several communities are now ordering curfews for at least tonight. Widespread power outages are expected and, unfortunately, criminal types abound even in the most dire circumstances.

I'm off to make some more ice cubes and watch the news to see what's going on. I'll keep you updated ... more later.

5 pm ... I just tried to get onto the site that projects the maximum sustained wind speeds for all zip codes in the immediate Houston area. I got the information that they were "unable to connect to server". I don't like the sound of that!!

Let me give you the URL address for that site. Maybe you can get on. (?) Here it is: ... ... if you can, perhaps you would check (by hovering over) zip codes 77099 (that's me, and I live on the southwest side of Houston, very close to the intersection of Highway 59 and Beltway 8) and 77450 (that's DD, who lives in Katy, which is north and west of me) ... and, if you would be so kind, post a comment on this post indicating projected maximum wind speeds for our zip codes as of the 4 pm NHC update.

6 pm ... The people across the street from me just boarded up their windows. Hurricane Ike is now classified as a Cat 3, altho his winds are currently at 'only' 110 mph.

6:40 pm ... Thank you, Steven, Chuck, and Whalechaser, for your warm thoughts and efforts to inform me of the maximum projected wind speeds for my zip code.

I was just now able to get back onto the site. They are still issuing projections as of 1 pm. According to that site, whose projections have changed since the last time I viewed it, zip code 77099 (me) will be receiving maximum projected sustained wind speeds of 77 mph (as both Steven and Whale said in their comments). Katy (zip code 77450, where my daughter lives, is -- according to the 1 pm 'now revised' projection -- due to receive maximum sustained wind speeds of 74 mph).

I'm having a humongous amount of trouble believing those figures, even tho I saw them for myself, but boy do I hope that they are correct!! If they are, we probably will not even lose electricity in this area. :) That would be a wonderfully-good thing!

To be continued ...

7:30 pm ... Just had a pretty good-sized wind gust here, and it sounded like something was coming loose out back. Went outside to see what was going on. (I have an awning/patio type of dealiebop that is attached to the house. It is not new, by any means, and that's been on my mind, for sure!) However, upon going out to look, everything seemed 'OK'. Sure didn't sound OK, but what do I know?

BTW, one of the biggest reasons I'm having trouble believing the 77/74 mph maximum wind speeds is that, just six hours ago -- when the hurricane was weaker -- the forecasts were for 83/82. I like the 77/74 projections ... just hope they're true!!

My next post will be #7. That's all for now. Going to fill up one of my bathtubs with water ... good for flushing the toilet, washing oneself, etc. Wishing all of you well.

Ike ... #5

11 am ... I know I said that I would probably start this post after the 1pm official update, but there have been a couple of developments that I thought you might want to know about.

Coastal communities are beginning to cut off their water supplies. All water supplies -- drinking, bath, sewer, etc. This is, of course, to protect their systems from contamination.

Although all coastal communities were under 'mandatory' evacuation orders, it seems that some residents decided to 'ride it out'. Rescues from rooftops are being made as we speak. It won't be long, however, before any such rescues will be simply impossible.

It now looks as tho the storm surge will be much greater than anyone could possibly have anticipated!!

Check back with me later, OK? I'll highlight the time in bold, as I did last post, to try and make it a touch easier for you. I promise to post as often as I can, and certainly when there is something of import to pass along.

11:30 am ... Hurricane-force winds are extending outward from Ike's center, particular on the northeast side, as many as 200 miles!!! They're now talking about a storm surge equaling that of a Cat 4 or a Cat 5. As per usual, I will not be evacuating, but I think it's going to be a very scary several hours tonight!

12:30 pm ... I'm sweatin' like a 'you know what' here. Still have the picnic table to take apart and put in the garage along with the chairs. But, before I did that, of course, 'neatness herself' (Ha!!!) had to first straighten up the garage and sweep it. Heavens to Betsy! Just had to sit down and take a break for a minute. Later ...

12:45 pm ... OK. I've moved everything into the garage from the back yard that I can physically move. Five things are left ... 1) a big old log that I man-handled into the corner where the fence meets the house; 2) the bottom of the bird bath (I just can't get it out of the ground. If Ike wants it, he can have it!); 3) another log (this one long and narrow than I'm just too tired to try and lift) that I was going to chop/saw up into firewood years ago, but I think it'll take a chain saw; 4) a steel or iron wood holder (huge!) that would be impossible for two of us to lift, I think ... then, even if we could, where would we put it?? 5) a large ceramic pot that, again, I'm too tired to try and lift. It's back by the fence and under a large shrub. It might be OK.

I'm going to go and watch the news now, give you the 1 pm update, and get settled in for a nice long bubble bath before I take an extended nap on my clean sheets. Boy, does that sound great!!

1 pm ... OK. The latest update. BTW, DD called while I must have been working either out in the back yard or garage, and left a message asking me if I was comfortable staying here. "You can always come out to our place," she said. "The maximum sustained winds are supposed to be one mph less than at yours!" Ha!! (What she forgot to mention, of course, was that my vehicle would have to be parked out in the open.)

OK (again!), the latest update. A teensy bit of possible 'good news'. The pressure has increased to 957 millibars. That's up from 954. Winds still at 105 mph. At present, Ike's center is located 168 miles southeast of Galveston.

Listen up, guys. I'll be posting later, for sure. Don't look for any more updates under this heading, tho ... just watch for a #6. I'm off to my bubble bath!

Ike ... #4

This post will probably be updated every hour or so, so keep checking back, OK? I'll highlight the time in bold to help orient you a little.

There's a tiny bit of good news about Ike (at least as of 7 am) ... his pressure has increased again. It's now at 956 millibars, up from 953. Although the NHC is still holding steady with his winds (105 mph), at this time it doesn't appear as tho he will be strengthening further.

It's almost a certainty that he will hit Galveston almost head on, the eye traveling up I-45 through Houston and then rapidly continuing north. He is still approximately 200 miles southeast of Galveston, but the waves down there are already crashing over the sea wall (which is about 16' high).

Now, if those projections hold true, the eye will pass 20+ miles east of my house. That's a good thing.

Current projected maximum sustained wind speeds at my house (zip code 77099 ... southwest side of Houston, very near the intersection of Beltway 8 and Highway 59) still show 75mph on this site. Even though the NHC's latest revised advisory came out over half an hour ago, their figures have still not been updated.

[I checked just a few minutes ago. Let me check it again, hitting the 'refresh' button, of course. ... ... Nope. Still showing the 4am figures.]

That's kind of a neat site. If you hover over any zip code for a fraction of a second, it will give you more info. Looks like they're updating every three hours.

Have sheets and clothes in the dryer. Did the dishes. Made some more ice cubes. Now, I have to get out in the backyard and tackle the grass. More later ... ...

10 am ... Latest info ... pressure has dropped again -- just a couple of millibars ... windspeed about the same (105 mph).

It looks like there's going to be just a humongous storm surge all along the upper Texas coast and throughout Galveston Bay. Altho the eye of the storm is not supposed to cross the coastline until 1 or 2 am tomorrow morning, the force of Ike's winds will be felt for 100 miles out from the center. He's huge!! I think I heard someone say that he covered 80% of the Gulf of Mexico at one point.

I know this is probably going to sound really silly to some of you, but it still is not certain where, exactly, he is going to make landfall. A definite turn to the north needs to begin pretty quickly if my house is going to be on the western side of this storm.

The best projections continue to be a direct hit on Galveston with the storm proceeding to the northwest, but as I said, he's still moving west.

That's it for now. I'll probably do another post at 1pm, after the next official update. Think I'll start #5 with that one. So, bye for now!

Ike ... #3

4am ... Just got the latest info in. It's not good. The pressure is dropping again, and sustained winds are now at 105 mph. At present, projections are that he will make landfall as a Cat 3 (111+ mph winds).

Not good. I'll probably do #s 4 and 5 later on today ... maybe even a #6, who knows?

Wish us luck, OK?

Oh! See "Ike ... #1" for a couple of links you might want to follow. The first link updates every 10 minutes, and the second one updates whenever the National Hurricane Center updates. (I just checked the second one. It hasn't gotten the latest figures plugged in yet. Still going by the 1am advisory. The 4am one is out. It's just a matter of time before their figures will reflect the change.)

5am ... the second link (wind data per zip code) still has not been updated. Hmmph!

6am ... the second link has now been updated. Projected winds for my zip code are now 75mph. Aargh!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Astros vs. Cubs

We had a 3-game set scheduled with the Cubbies beginning tomorrow night. They were scheduled to fly in here tonight. Instead, they will return to Chicago, work out at Wrigley Field on Saturday, and have their bags packed and waiting to see if they can fly in here Saturday night for a possible double-header Sunday and then play the third game of the series on Monday, both team's day off.

All of the italicized is subject to the whims of Ike. More later.

Ike ... #2

Well, it sure looks like a direct hit to me. A couple of good things ... the pressure is up about nine millibars, which means he probably won't strengthen any more ... the winds are holding at 100 mph. I would expect that, now that he is so close to making landfall, the winds will hold steady.

I just woke up from quite an extended 'nap', so I'll probably do another post (#3) before I hit the pillow again in a few hours.

Still making ice cubes. Will fill a couple of plastic containers later and place them in the freezer, as well. I've got stuff to eat. I expect the electricity to go out. I have plenty of reading material that I've been saving up for just such an occasion.

Not to worry, OK? It is what it is.

Ike ... #1

I hadn't intended to do a post on Ike until tomorrow, but that's ALL they're talking about on television right now, so I thought I'd better get this out there so all of you are up to date on what's really going on and what my preparations are.

A really good site for you to follow (and it updates every ten minutes or so) is this one. Make sure it says "My Tropical Tracker", OK? It takes perhaps thirty seconds to fully load, so you have to have a little bit of patience.

I don't think there's much debate on whether or not Houston will feel the effects of Ike. Not much doubt, really, that we're going to get a direct hit.

However, this will NOT be a 'worst case' scenario. At present, his sustained winds are at 100 mph, a category 2 hurricane. Category 3 kicks in at 111, 4 at 136. The pressure keeps falling (not good) and his eye is well-defined (again, not good).

A 'worst case' scenario would be a cat 5 coming in from the east (Ike will be coming in from the south, and I very much doubt that he will make landfall higher than a cat 3).

Mandatory evacuations have already been ordered for all coastal areas immediately south of Houston. Tolls have been eliminated on all toll roads (we have four) to try and make it just a touch easier for those folks who are trying to go north.

Another site that you might find of interest is this one. I live in zip code 77099. If you remember that I said I live on the southwest side, that'll help you find it. I should mention that if you hover over the zip code you will get additional information.

SO, what will I be doing the rest of today? Well, I'll be continuing my icecube-making, for sure. Later this morning I'll go to pick up my new glasses. Am kind of interested in seeing how that new prescription is. Supposed to be significant changes. Will let you know.

Then, I'll go over to Nielsen's deli (haven't been there in a year, I betcha) and get one of their scrumpdeliocious egg salad sandwiches (good for one meal, at least!). I'll probably check out their soups while I'm there, as well.

I might even head over to Krogers to see if they have any grape salad. We'll see.

Later today? There's some overgrown grass in my backyard that has been crying out for some attention. Think I might tackle that before the rains come.

That's about it for now. I've titled this post "#1" ... expect another later, OK?

I'm all right. Don't worry about me.

Where were you ... ...

... when FDR died?

We were living in Akron, Ohio. I was young, 7 or so, and didn't fully understand why everyone was so sad. There were tears on almost every face, including those of my parents. My goodness, but that was a long time ago! A different era.

... when you gave or received your first marriage proposal?

My soon-to-be fiance and I were sitting on a couch in a friend's home in Houghton, Michigan. In fact, I can remember the exact conversation! He said, "In a couple of weeks or so I might ask you to marry me. What would you say to that?" I answered, "Why don't you ask me and see?" After several seconds of absolute silence, he popped the question.

... when JFK was assassinated?

I was teaching 1st grade in Montmorenci, Indiana. The principal motioned me to come outside of the classroom. There he told me that the President had been shot, that it didn't look good. An hour or so later he came back and said that the President had died. It would be my discretion as to whether or not I should tell the children.

I did tell them. I don't remember exactly when, but it was before they went home for sure. This was on a Friday. They were sad, of course, to learn that someone had died.

A different era (and most certainly a different circumstance!) from that of FDR's death. Although I was probably a year or so older than they when FDR died, I was not subjected to the hour by hour day after day television images of Jackie weeping, 'John John' giving his mournful salute, Johnson being sworn in, the incessant replaying of both Connally and Kennedy actually getting shot, the caisson ... in fact, it was a very long weekend!

I still have, albeit somewhat frayed and barely staying together, artwork from when we all returned to the classroom ... the 'inside/outside' pictures that children of that age draw. Are you familiar with those? It's called, appropriately, "The Long Weekend."

... when the attacks on our country occurred?

I was driving one of my regular customers to the VA Hospital, where he worked. We had a regular routine that included listening to the radio. He liked certain stations, and so we were listening to one of his favorites when they broke in with the news that one of the World Trade Centers had been 'hit' by an airplane.

We were surprised. Initially, we thought, "What a terrible accident!" But then, before we got to the VA, the other World Trade Center building had been struck. We both knew then that it was no accident, but we were too much in a state of shock to register much else.

After dropping him off, I immediately drove to Hobby Airport, as per usual in those days. Everyone there was in a state of shock! The airport was a beehive of activity, and there wasn't much time to talk about what had happened. Taxicabs were being called up to the terminal to 'load' left and right ... not from passengers incoming, but from potential outgoing passengers who now had to be taken back to 'wherever' because their flights had been cancelled -- ALL flights had been cancelled, and those that were currently in the air were forced to land at the nearest airport. It was a nightmare!

My trip from the airport took me downtown, where I found people in an absolute state of panic. They were out in the streets frantically trying to flag down taxicabs to take them home. Would one of our tall buildings be next?

These "Where were you when's?" have been presented here in chronological order.

The 'marriage proposal' one I felt I had to include because that event produced my wonderful daughter.

We all remember where we were when certain profound events occurred in our lives, don't we?

I am not trying to dredge up bad memories of 9/11 with this post. Truly I'm not. However, there could not be a more appropriate date to publish these personal memoirs, would you not agree?

"Lest we forget."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Equipment failure

Steven, in his post this past Monday titled "Zoe Keating's Celloscapes" -- which was quite wonderful, by the way, but I can't directly link it because, somehow or another, his accompanying pictures and such 'bleed over' (the only way I have to describe it) and my 'direct link thingamabop' just won't work -- talks about a cellist who has quite clearly integrated and assimilated 'modern' technology into her performances and recordings.

BTW, here's the link to Steven's site. You'll have to scroll down to his September 8th post, OK? Sorry about that. (And, please do listen to the recordings -- in particular, the first one, which jogged my memory banks from 'way back when', when I was performing and had an 'equipment failure'.)

This was in Columbus, Ohio. It was a Saturday afternoon. I was scheduled to play a concert that evening on my Bb clarinet.

Everything was all set to go. My gown was all picked out, my hair was washed and at the ready, and I decided to take out the Bb and play a few notes.

Much to my horror, I discovered that the entire lower register was missing! (For those of you who know absolutely nothing about 'registers', let me just tell you that this is a most serious circumstance! There is absolutely no way that a concert can be played missing an entire register!!)

What to do? What to do? What to do? FInally (darned near a miracle, in my opinion!), we located a high school band director who was willing to come over and take a look at my instrument. He adjusted a few things here and there, and got all but one or two keys back.

I played the concert (missing the one or two keys) and no one seemed (or, if they did, they didn't say anything!) to notice the difference.

Getting back, tho, to Steven's post and the cellist ... ... I really am quite fond of the cello's sound. Played well, it "sings" with a poignancy that is rarely equaled.

I kept listening for that in Zoe's music, but I didn't hear it. Nevertheless, I greatly admire her proficiency with the medium that she has chosen both to perform and record her original works.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Basketball and me

This past weekend, my granddaughter and some of her friends decided to extend their 'sleepover' by attending a soccer game in which one of the other gals would be playing.

When I inquired of DD later how the soccer game had gone, she responded by saying, "Not very well. She (the playing gal) accidentally kicked in the winning goal for the opponents." I said, "Oh, no! How did that happen?"

DD told me that there was a huge melee very near the opponent's goal line (I probably don't have the correct terminology here. ['goal line'?] I am almost completely soccer-illiterate. Please forgive my descriptive ignorance.) and, in the ensuing confusion, she (the playing gal) accidentally kicked in the winning goal for the opponents.

How embarrassing that must have been for her! I can only imagine what she must have been feeling.

This story reminded me of when I was playing basketball in high school. I hated the sport. Literally! Nevertheless, it was required that we participate as a part of PE (Physical Education).

Those were the days when there were separate rules for 'women' and 'men' ... we (or at least some of us, depending on the position we were playing) were not allowed to dribble, could take a maximum of two steps before passing off the ball, and my mind just refuses to remember the rest of the awful rules.

The game came down to the last final seconds. We were down by one point. I had the ball. I kept looking around for someone to pass to who could make the winning shot. There was no one.

People (in the back of my conscious mind) were screaming, "Shoot! Shoot!!" I didn't listen to them. The game ended as I was still frantically looking around for someone to pass to who could shoot and score the winning basket for our side.

My 'love affair' with basketball continued in college. I was a music major. As such, I can distinctly remember being part of a 'pep' band that had to play a little pep-like ditty immediately at the start of every timeout (and it seemed to me like it was every other second or so).

Otherwise, the basketball just traveled up and down the court, up and down the court, and up and down the court some more. I'm exaggerating here, I'm pretty sure, but if you were at all prone to dizziness (or your neck muscles were unused to such frequent gyrations), you might be tempted to faint or even throw up.

All that said, at heart I am a "homer". I've lived in Houston going on 40 years now, and always cheer (albeit from a far-distant sideline) for the Rockets. If the Rockets are not in it, then my attention vaguely turns to the Spurs or Mavericks.

I promise to write at least one more entry on basketball, one of which will be taxi-related, but don't ever ask me to attend a basketball game, OK?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Did you know ...

... that today is National Grandparent's Day?

... that the name 'Uncle Sam' was first coined on this date in 1813?

... that the word 'blog' is shortened from 'weblog'? In particular, I like the part of Wiktionary's definition that says ... "... especially as dealing with reflections or opinion, and typically incorporating links to other articles." Well, shuckeydurn! That's mine in a nutshell. Whodathunk it?

I hope mine is not a 'blahg' (dull and uninteresting)! I wonder if I'm a 'blogoholic' (a person addicted to blogging)? Or a 'blogophile' (a person who is fond of or obsessed with blogs or blogging)? I'm probably a blogophile. Certainly I enjoy the 'blogosphere'! Mine is not a 'gophlog', 'photoblog', or 'vlog', and most definitely not a 'splog' (a fake blog used to generate link spam)!!

... that the word 'y'all' is currently in a transition phase? All y'all know that that phrase is how I like to use the plural form. In other words, I like to say that 'y'all' is singular, and 'all y'all' is plural.

At the present time, of course, my usage is incorrect. Ask me if I care.

... that I cannot find a reference for the phrase 'fixin' to', which is in common usage in the South, particularly here in Texas. It means 'getting ready to' or 'about to', such as ... It's fixin' to rain. (or) I'm fixin' to go to the store.

If you find a reference, please let me know where, OK? I've been in Texas going on 40 years now, and have heard it commonly used ever since I first got here.

I hope all y'all are planning just a wonderful day!

By the way, if you have a local expression or phrase that is in common use in your area, I hope you will share it with us!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Scattered thoughts and comments

Astros ...

We lost last night to the Rockies, our first loss in nine games. It was a combination of Moeller (starting pitcher) not being at his best and a lack of timely hitting with runners (and there weren't that many) in scoring position.

Everyone else above us in the wild card race lost, as well, except for the Brewers, who pulled their game out in the 11th inning. So, we didn't lose any ground, but time is of the essence.

Lobbying ...

(Definition ... to promote or secure the passage of [as legislation] by influencing public officials; to attempt to influence or sway [as a public official] toward a desired action.)

I guess the first time I was even vaguely aware of such a concept was when I was in undergraduate school at Northern Michigan University in the late 1950's. Dr. Hardin was appointed as the new President of the University. He was appointed over other candidates because it was thought that he could influence the state legislature to appropriate significantly more monies Northern's way. 'They' were correct. He did.

One of the main problems I have with lobbyists is that they have to be paid, and their paycheck comes out of whatever funds they have been lobbying for! Kind of defeats the purpose, it seems to me.

Then we get into 'agents' and 'special interest groups' ... all synonyms for lobbyists, I think.

How about 'pork barrel' spending? These are nothing but bribes, in my opinion, to get a specific legislator to vote a certain way on a bill. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" type of thinking.

What about federal subsidies to farmers to 'reward' them for not growing corn, to cite just one example? I shudder to think of the millions (billions?) being 'thrown around' here!

And speaking of 'lobbying', how about all of the amateur lobbyists who cried out for various school closings because Gustav might strike their area?!?

When I was teaching in the far north, we had 'x' days of classes scheduled during the school year, 'x' number of which allowed for 'snow days'. Anything beyond that, we had to extend the school year.

You'll have to keep in mind, now, that we never actually even started school until the day after Labor Day. So, the last day of school, depending on how many 'snow days' we'd had, could have been well into the third week of June if not later!

Politics ...

Both conventions are now history. (Thank you, Lord, for all -- even the littlest -- blessings!)

However, there is now, undoubtedly, added interest in this year's presidential election. An 'unknown' has been thrown into the fray. If this weren't so terribly serious, I'd be falling onto the floor and roaring with incessant laughter!

Sarah Palin in a bikini? (If she can still wear a bikini and look good all at the same time, more power to her, I say!) I wonder if Joe Biden would deign to appear in a like pose? (Actually, to my mind, any of such pix are completely irrelevant and should have no application whatsoever to a presidential campaign. Accordingly, they should be summarily dismissed and even disregarded for the sexism that they portray!)

My granddaughter's comment, upon realizing that there were some problems in Mrs. Palin's family, said (something like), "Well, I guess that's not a 'cookie cutter' family." Out of the mouths of babes, right? (This is a 12-yr-old 'babe'.)

Of course that's not a cookie cutter family! (And you know what? Even if it were, the powers that be would still be looking for **** to fuel their vitiocity.)

All of you who have been reading my posts for any period of time know how much I enjoy originality in phrasing of words, and I'd like to share with you this one, posted as a comment within the past week or so on another blogsite.

Somewhat encapsulated, it goes, " ... the epidemic of foot-in-mouth-after-stepping-in-cowpile disease ... still plagues our political discourse ... "

Taken entirely out of context, of course, but I wanted that quote to stand on its own. That man needs an agent/lobbyist!

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody ...

Can you believe that these two very cute kids have their own website? (Or perhaps their agents/lobbyists have.)

I found it 'cruising the net', what else? However, I just tried to update it, and it remained the same. Anyhoo, for what it's worth, here's the link.

Good luck!