Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fightin' Fires

Our church is about 20 miles south of town in a small west Texas town. On our way to service tonight as we were leaving town we were surprised to see a small grass fire in the ditch along the side of the road. A bunch of vehicles had stopped and people were out there stamping out the fire with their feet and pouring soda on it, or whatever they had in their vehicles. It wasn't a very big fire, maybe 10 foot by 10 foot and the situation looked pretty much under control. All the same, I still called the fire dept as we drove on.

About 10 minutes farther down the road I saw a Roman candle go off in the distance, maybe a mile or so ahead of us. This is very odd because we don't see fireworks often here. They're highly regulated because this part of the state is extremely dry. It's like a giant tinderbox. By the time we arrived where we saw the fireworks, there was a significant brush fire going. One pickup had pulled over. No one else was around, so we stopped to see if there was anything we could do.

I grabbed the big 4 foot floor mat from the back of the van while Anna dialed 911. The guys in the pickup had put the fire out on one side of the road, but it had jumped the road and had burned 50 - 75 feet of the opposite ditch. They told me they didn't think we'd be able to do much. The fire was spreading quickly to the fence line and a big stand of mesquite trees on the other side. I ran across the road and began to smother the fire with the floor mat. (It's the big heavy, rubber all weather type.) This worked surprisingly well, probably due to the fact that Anna was back in the van praying the fire would go out. It didn't take too long to stop the fire from spreading further south. The wind was blowing north pretty good, and the fire was still spreading that direction, with some pretty good sized flames licking the top of the fence posts. By this time the guys in the pickup realized that we might have a chance at putting it out and jumped in to help. It took us several more minutes to get the rest of it, and a few fence posts had been lit up really well. The mat got pretty hot and I think it's ruined, but we put out the fire, saved the fence, and kept it from spreading to some innocent rancher's pasture. That was a pretty good feeling.

After we had the fire mostly out, the guys told me that they had been driving down the road when some idiot in front of them tossed a roman candle out the window right in front of them and basically fire-bombed the ditch. About this time, the Sheriff pulled up and we told him what happened. He took off about 100 mph down the road and was soon followed by two deputies. I went back to the van and realized that we still had 6 minutes to make it to church on time. I wreaked pretty bad, but we went ahead and went. After we cracked a few jokes about being baptized with fire, we had a really good service.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Curious George

Tori just announced that she is getting married.

"Really?" I replied.

"Yes, in my dress."

"Who are you going to marry?"

Without missing a beat she fired back at me. "Curious George".

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hawk and Small Deer Commentary

So, yesterday morning I got up and went for a run. When I came home, I noticed a very large hawk perched in a mesquite tree across the alley. I grabbed the camera and tried to get close enough to get a good picture of him. Alas, I was unsuccessful in sneaking up on him, and he flew off before I got close enough to get a decent picture. I did get this one, from a distance:

When I came inside Hope asked to see the pictures I had taken. I showed her the picture of the hawk and explained what it was she looked up at me and said, "Did you kill that too, like the deer?"


Incidentally, Trevor gave me a hard time about my deer. I believe he said something like, "They can only get bigger in the future." Take a look at the picture above. That's typical central Texas country side. What do you see for the deer to eat? We don't have corn fields down here. Deer eat cactus, grass, mesquite trees, and pecans. They don't get very big. I'm proud of my deer, even if it is puny.

Friday, December 01, 2006

First Deer

I've wanted to go deer hunting on and off for several years, but I've never had the opportunity to do so. This year, I've been blessed with some folks who have invited me to come hunt with them. This afternoon, I took my first deer - a midsized doe. Here's a picture:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Honey Do List: Conquered.

This is a historic moment. My "Honey Do List" is officially empty for the first time in I can't remember when.

I completed the last two items on the list today which were:

1) Replace Furnace Filter
2) Fix Fridge Water line

The first one was easy. The second one was annoying. The water line to our Fridge is attached to the back via a 1/4 inch compression fitting. The copper tube was fixed to the back of the fridge with a clamp to keep it from recoiling against the fridge. However, the Fridge broke a few months ago. Yes, my less than one year old Amana had a compressor failure. So, we had a loaner for a while. When the appliance people returned our old Fridge they failed to hook the clamp back up to the back of the fridge. This became really annoying, because every time you filled up a glass of water when the water would stop the copper pipe would recoil and hit the back of the Fridge making a clunky sound. This also happened every time something happened to put back pressure on the line, like flushing a toilet. So, every time anyone flushed the toilet, the fridge would make a light "clunk". Annoying, but not the end of the world, so I put it off.

Today, when I went to fix this problem, I realized there was a side effect. Every time the pipe recoiled, it put additional pressure on the compression fitting at the wall valve. Over time, this loosened the fitting and it leaked a drop of water every time it recoiled. I took everything apart and discovered that the copper pipe was worn from all the recoil and also had been crimped. Finally, I noticed that the brilliant plumber hadn't bothered to put any pipe tape on the threads either. If he'd done this it probably wouldn't have leaked. Anyway, the good news is that there is a plastic catch basin in the wall and the floor is laminate, so there was no damage from the water. I went to Home Depot and got a reinforced plastic supply line with pre-installed valves for $7.50. Incidentally, buying the parts and using the el-cheapo plastic hose would have cost over $10.00. Go figure. Anyway, I got it installed (with pipe tape on the threads) and now it's fixed. No leaking and no more annoying noises coming from the Fridge when you flush the toilet in the middle of the night.

WOOO HOOO. No more Honey Do list for me!!!! Yeah!

Wait.... What's this??????? Anna is walking towards the Fridge with a pen.... No!!!

Don't do it honey!!!!


Guess I lied.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Every now and again, something happens that reminds me how small Brownwood really is. A few weeks ago, I woke up and I couldn't hear out of my right ear. This happens occasionally to me. Apparently, excessive ear wax production runs in my family. Go figure.

So, not wanting to wait several days for a normal doctor appointment, I grabbed the phone book and looked up "Urgent Care". They were able to get me right in.

When I showed up at the office I soon realized that the 80 something receptionist was the doctor's Mom. I thought it was nice of the Doc to employ her Mom. Besides, she was a nice lady and chit-chatted with me while I waited.

A few minutes later I was taken back to an exam room where the Doc looked at my ear briefly and declared, "Yup, you got a load of wax in there. I'll be right back."

I expected her to return in a few minutes with one of those Welch Allyen ear cleaner thingies that shoots water into your ear and also has a vacuum line so it simultaneously blasts the wax out and sucks it up. Instead, she return pushing a metal cart covered with a cloth. she pulled back the cloth and I stared in horror at a row of surgical tools. Things to poke you with, a small syringe, a medium syringe, and a syringe that was larger than my forearm.

What happened next is something I can't really even begin to describe. Water and hydrogen peroxide where loaded into the mega-syringe. This was thrust into my ear and a torrential burst of water was propelled into my ear canal. Then, another tool would be used to poke at the wax and scrape some away. This was fairly painful. The Doc was fairly sympathetic, but continued on. This went on for almost an hour until finally the last stubborn glob of wax relented and came out.

Meanwhile, during the hour torture session I learned all about the Doc's goat farm.

When the Doc rolled in the cart full midevil tools a part of me wanted to return to my primal Flight or Fight instincts. I should have listened to myself. It would have been morally and legally reprehensible to fight off a Doctor and her 80 + year old mother. Listen to your instincts when they tell you to FLEE!

Footnote: This really wasn't a completely terrible experience. Admittedly, it hurt, but I survived. And my ear is all better. I now use Debrox every two weeks to keep them all clean. Anyhow... if you thought this was funny..... just wait for Part II. Coming soon.... Ear Wax, Part Deux.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Riding the wind

I've heard about Texas wind and dust storms and all that stuff. I really don't think that Texas wind is any worse than the midwest. Until last night.

A cold front rushed in from the north at break-neck speed, moving 50 - 60 MPH. About 11:00 PM, just as I was getting into bed, the wind began to howl. A lot. This was made somewhat worse by the fact that our roof is in the process of being reshingled from the May baseball hail storm. A lot of stuff started blowing around, including my wife's plants. I decided to move the plants into the garage so they wouldn't tip over and get ruined. So, I opened the garage door and stepped outside to grab the plants, which are in pots about 5 feet from the door.

It felt like I was stepping into a sand blaster. Dust and stuff was blowing all over the place. I quickly grabbed the plants and let the wind blow me back into the garage. After closing the door my ear began to itch. I reached up to scratch it and realized that my left ear and canal where coated in dust and sand. I'd been outside for about 10 seconds.

The howling and blowing and fence creaking and stuff hitting the house kept me up until almost 2 AM. During this time, I had plenty of time to contemplate all sorts of things. I think I finally understand why Texans build predominantly brick and stone homes and often use heavy metal roofs.

This morning was fun too. Riding a motorcycle into 55 MPH winds is a bit like riding a bucking horse while someone else is trying to push you off from the front. What's interesting is that when you're going 70 MPH into a 55 MPH headwind the wind is so loud that you can't hear the roar of the engine beneath you. The bike wants to go everywhere except for where you want it to go, and the wind buffetting will make a man out of you. Yee haw!

Friday, November 03, 2006


If you are a Muslim, at some point in your life you must make a pilgrimage to Mecca, provided you have the financial means to do so. If you live in Texas, at some point, you must visit the Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR is nearly a religion here.

There happens to be a race at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, and our company sponsored NASCAR team was kind enough to bring a car to work today so we could all stare at it. I thought it was pretty neat to see. For some of my co-workers, it was nearly a religious experience.

The most interesting thing to me was how loud the car is. One of our safety engineers was outside measuring the noise level. At idle, it's 105 DB. When revving the engine, it's about 125 DB. It was loud enough that standing 15 ft from the car, you could feel the sound waves pulsing against your chest. To put that in perspective, the maximum volume of an iPOD is 115 DB. Each increase of 10DB represents a doubling of sound volume. So, 126 DB is a little more than TWICE the maximum volume that an iPOD can drive a set of earphones. Unreal.

After work I ran home and got Anna and the girls so they could see it too. Here's a picture of Hope with the car. Unfortunately, Tori refused to stop running around long enough to have her picture taken.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

New Sam's Club Catalog

ahhh... Sam's club. The place where we go to buy sugar in 50lb sacks, pickles in 5 gallon jugs, he-man sized bottles of ketchup, and batteries by the hundreds. Buy in Bulk! Huzzah!

Generally speaking, the people I see shopping at Sam's are in the "buy in bulk" crowd. Ranchers buying a bunch of food, people toting around 5-8 kids pushing two or three shopping carts, and parents of toddlers buying crates of batteries. In case you're wondering, I fall into the last category.

Today I got a new Sam's club holiday catalog. I browsed through it looking for Christmas ideas for my wife, but alas, most of the fare offered was ostensibly out of my price range. For example, the first page advertises a Cessna Citation Mustang... yup.. a private Jet. A tad bit pricey at $2,734,600 - but if you have the means, I'd highly recommend it. In case you're actually ready to buy, you have to wire a $275,000 down payment by noon on November 9, 2006, prove that you have the means to purchase the plane, and then wait until around Q4 2007 for delivery. On the plus side, there's no extra charge for leather. Oh... I almost forgot, you have to be 18 to purchase this item.

If that't out of your price range, you might consider this walk-in wine vault. It's only $33,000. Still too much? How about some new Jewelry instead? You can get this lovely Pear Shaped Tanzanite for a scant $27,560.

But who really wants all that stuff anyway? I'd much rather spend money on having an experience. You could go to the super bowl. That package will only run you $71,000, but does include an invitation to Dan Marino's private party.

Not a sport's fan? How about Tony Bennett? See him in concert, meet him backstage, and get his autograph for only $44,000.

Sheesh... and I thought I was part of the middle class. Hello.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I'm way behind on my blogging. Sigh. I've been real busy lately.

While we were in Branson, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to improve my golf game. I played 117 holes while I was there. I played an 18 hole course 6 times and a 9 hole course once. By the time I left, I was really feeling a lot better about my game.

Here's a shot of me making a difficult putt:

And the result?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Fly Swatter

So here we are getting ready for bed. I'm working on a presentation that I'm giving on Wednesday and talking to Anna. A noisy fly keeps buzzing around the room and driving us nuts.

"That thing is driving me crazy! Can you go kill it?"

So Anna sets down her tea, walks into the other room, and returns with the fly swatter in hand. She gracefully walks across the room and swings the fly swatter once, pegging the fly in mid-flight.

What a woman!

Ok, back to my presentation now.....

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cough Safe

It's the time of year again. Cold and Flu season are just around the corner. Now's probably a good time to brush up on your coughing and sneezing technique. If you have 5 minutes run over to and watch their video tutorial on the proper technique for coughing. Informative and absolutely hilarious. This one really made my day. Thanks Deb!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Team Hoyt

The other day, one of my sisters sent me the following email. It was really good, so I thought I'd post it on my blog. When you're done reading it, check out the video on YouTube. Also, you can check out their website at

Strongest Dad in the World From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars—all in the same day. Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right? And what has Rick done for his father? Not much—except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. “He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life,” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.” But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. “There's nothing going on in his brain.”

"Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!”

And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.” Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.” That day changed Rick's life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!'' And that sentence changed Dick's life.

He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon. “No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then; they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?” How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.
This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.” And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. “If you hadn't been in such great shape,” one doctor told him, “you probably would've died 15 years ago.” So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland,Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day. That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy. “The thing I'd most like,” Rick types, “is that my dad would sit in the chair and I would push him once.''

Here's the video....

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Potty Training

It's official. Tori has been potty trained. Best $20 I've ever spent. Here's what we did: (Ok, OK... Anna did it.)

Tori is really into Dora the Explorer these days. So, Anna took her to WalMart and bought a bag of candy and four Dora play figurines. She told Tori that every time she would pee in her potty chair, she'd get a piece of candy, and every time she pooped in the toilet she'd get one of the toys. She then placed all the goods on the back of the toilet where Tori could see them all the time:

And it worked marvelously. Tori went #1 on the potty 6 or 8 times the first day. On the second day, she worked up the courage to poop in the potty and earned Dora. She ran around the house yelling, "I did it! Yeah!" (That's what Dora says on her show.) Then she proceeded to run to the bathroom, pull down her pants and began to grunt and push on her tummy. "I have to get Diego!" she exclaimed.

So, she's been potty trained for almost a month and hasn't had any relapses. However, we are still working on perfecting some of the finer points of her potty technique, namely wiping.

A few days ago, I got Hope up for school and started working on getting her breakfast while she went off to the bathroom. A few seconds later she came running back into the kitchen yelling, "Dad, there's something in the toilet!"

Here's what I saw:

Tori got up in the middle of the night to go potty (Yes, she really does get up and go all by herself) and dutifully went to wipe herself. At the time, she hadn't quite mastered the art of tearing toilet paper off the roll. So, apparently in an effort to not make a mess, she proceeded to unwind the entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet. Thank God she forgot to flush!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Horseback Riding

Google has a great new version of their Picasa photo software out. It includes a new feature called Web Albums that's remarkably similar to the photocasting feature of iPhoto. Here's my first Web Album of the Kid's going on pony rides while we were at Big Cedar in Branson a few weeks ago: (Click on the picture below to see the entire album.)

Horseback Riding
Sep 9, 2006 - 16 Photos

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Brownwood Locomotion 5K Run

For the past 6-8 weeks I've been training for the Brownwood Reunion Locomotion 5K run. I haven't run as much as I'd like, but have put a fair bit of effort into it. I figured it was a good way to help me get into a little better shape and gave me a goal to work towards. When I started running, I couldn't make it through a mile and I was sore for about 4 days afterwards. Lately, I've been running at least 2 miles a few times a week and I try to take one day per week and run 3.2 miles (5 k). I no longer get sore and I'm really enjoying it.

Before the race today, my personal best time was just under 33 minutes. My goal was to complete the race in 30 minutes. I figured that would be a pretty respectable finish.

So, this morning I went on down to the newly constructed Historical Transportation Complex (in thriving downtown Brownwood) and met up with my other team mates from work. We agreed that our main objective would be to cross the finish line and have fun along the way. One of the guys mentioned that his goal was to beat his 29 minute best. I decided that I'd try to stick close to him.

I was really pleased with my performance. I was able to stick with my buddy about 2/3 of the way through the race until he started to pull away from me. I ended up finishing 10 minutes behind the leader with a chip time of 28:11. That beat my personal best and was enough to put me in 97th place overall and 8th place in my age group. You can see the race results online here.

It looks like I'll have to train harder for next year. One of the guys on my team from work completed the race in 23 minutes, and he's 48 years old.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Slappin' Grandma

The other night we were out and I tried someone's homemade salsa. It was really, really good. I said, "Man, this salsa is great!"

The guy sitting next to me replied, "Yup, it'll really make you want to slap your Grandma!"


"You know. It's a saying. It means it's really good."

At this point, I was laughing so hard I thought I was going to fall off my chair. He looked at me with a puzzled-what-did-I-say-that-was-so-funny sort of expression on his face. "You guys don't have sayings like that up north? Like, that will make you want to kick your dog? Kick a can? "

"Uh... no."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

They're for when I get Married

Hope came up to me tonight carrying her Strawberry Shortcake "jewelry box". She opened it and said, "Look at what Mom gave me Dad. She told me to keep them in here because they are for my wedding."

I'm starting to feel old......

Tonight's Grilling Masterpiece

Tonight's Grilling Masterpiece:

The journey continues. I'm working my way through Weber's Real Grilling and I've added two new items to my list of grilling accomplishments: Tequila Ham Steaks and Grill Roasted corn. Both were really good. The neat trick for the corn is to soften up half a stick of butter and rub it all over the corn before putting it directly on the grill (No husks, really) at about 350 degrees for 10 minutes, rotating it about every two minutes.

Anyway, I was going to have Anna take a picture of me holding the platter of buttered ears ready to put on the grill. However, as she went to take the picture, the corn started to fall off the platter.... I was able to catch the falling ears by shoving them forward with my chest. This did save the corn, but left a butter streak on my shirt. It was a cruel twist of irony that I was wearing the shirt that I was. Here's the picture of me saving dinner:

(Yup, the shirt really does say "Let me drop everything...." In spite of that, I still maintain that I didn't drop them; they fell from me.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hope Makes the Rules

Big sisters can be bossy, and Hope is no exception. This morning she took a piece of paper out and wrote down two rules:

1) Yes
2) No

She taped the paper to the wall. Every time Tori did something Hope didn't like, Hope would drag her over to the wall and point to the word "No" and say something like, "Tori, don't do that. See, the rule says "No" so we don't do that."

When she wanted Tori to do something, she'd drag her over to the wall and say, "See, you have to do it because the rules say "Yes", so you have to."

I love the logic of children. We tend to overcomplicate things. They keep things simple and straightforward. I asked Hope what gave her the authority to make the rules. Without batting an eye, Hope grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the wall and said, "See Dad. Hope makes the rules. It says so right here. See? It says "Yes". So I get to make the rules."

hehe. I think I could probably get her a job working for Kim Jong Il. She could teach the communists a few things about making rules.

Anyway, I couldn't let this little escapade go without a response. So, I grabbed a pen and wrote on the sheet: Dad makes the rules. I pointed it out to Hope and told her that Dad makes the rules and told her in no uncertain terms to stop picking on her little sister.

A few minutes later I came back and here's what I found:

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Father's Day

We celebrated Father's day while we were in Indiana. This was the first Father's day that Anna has been able to spend with her Dad since the year we were married. Anna got me some new grill tools and an apron. I made Kabobs for everyone for dinner.

Fishing with Paka

While we were in Indiana, Anna's Dad and I took Hope on her first fishing trip. She wasn't originally supposed to go with us. Anna's Dad and I got up fairly early, hooked up the boat, and headed for the local reservoir. We made it about two miles before we blew a tire on the trailer. We limped back to the house. Undaunted, we pulled the wheels off the trailer, and ran them out to a tire shop while we grabbed some breakfast. Hope came with us. At the restaurant, the cook made her a special Mickey Mouse pancake.

Over breakfast, Hope kept asking if she could go fishing with us. I figured, hey, why not? It's going to be afternoon by the time we make it out and we probably won't catch anything anyway. So, on the way home, we stopped by Meijer and bought her a Barbie fishing pole and life jacket. Hope could now go fishing in style!

A few things came up, and we didn't end up going fishing until about 5:30 in the afternoon. Hope was really excited and asked all sorts of questions as we launched the boat and drove out to the bay where we would be fishing. On the way, I took this picture:

It wasn't too long until she caught her first fish, which turned out to be the biggest catch of the day:

Here's my "lunker":

Here's Paka's fish. Don't be fooled. That's not his minnow. It's his big catch.

Hope did really well on our little fishing trip. At about 8:45 PM, she was starting to look a little tired. I asked her if she was sleepy. "Yes," she replied, "Can I take a little nap here in the boat?"

I explained to her that we didn't sleep in the boat and we'd just leave when she was tired. She thought for a minute and said, "Maybe I could just catch another big one and then we could go."

She's hooked and has been talking about going fishing again ever since.


I've pretty much burned myself out trying to beat Anna in Scrabble. So today we played Monopoly instead. This is a game that I normally do very well in. I lost.

So, tonight, we played again. The game started beautifully. I collected Baltic and Mediteranian and secured St. Charles, Virginia, and States within the first several turns. Great! Two sets! Then I secured almost one of every other color on the board. But I didn't get any railroads. This turned out to be tragic for me.

Because, even though Anna had no complete sets, and therefore, no houses or hotels, she had all 4 railroads. I landed on at least one railroad nearly every time around the board!

Eventually, I built my properties up to having hotels. I knew for sure that soon the game would be over and I'd be victorious. Well, Anna never really landed on my properties and kept hitting the Free Parking space and taking all of the money out of the pot (House Rules).

Even though I wasn't going bankrupt, I wasn't doing all that well and she was amasing a pile of cash that would have made Warren Buffet and Bill Gates proud. Things started to turn around for me later in the game, but I wasn't really draining Anna's cash. Finally, about 1:30 AM, the bank ran out of 500s, 100s, and 50s. We were tired. So, we decided to end the game.

Here's a photo of our board: (Anna's on the left and I'm on the bottom - By all accounts, she actually won, even though we decided it was a draw. She's being nice to me. I think she wants me to play Scrabble with her tomorrow. Besides, she knows that losing twice in the same day on a game I'm supposed to be good at would be hard on my fragile ego.)

What's the moral of the story? Given enough time and money, men and women can figure out a way to coexist peacefully.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pretty in Pink

We went to Steve's wedding a few weeks ago and had a really great time. It was a real honor to be able to participate in the wedding.

On Thursday evening, I went with Steve, his Dad, and his brothers to pick up our tuxedos. Trevor picked his up separately. The tuxes were classic black with a silver/gray vest and tie. They looked pretty sharp.

While we were at the Tux shop, I noticed a pink tie and scarf hanging on one of the displays. I pointed it out to Steve and commented that it would be really fun to swap out Trevor's tie for a pink one and add a schnazzy pink scarf to boot as a gag. Steve got a good chuckle out of it and asked the clerk at the store how much she'd charge us to rent us the supplies for our gag. She overheard us talking about it, laughed, and said... "Just take it."

So, while at the bachelor party on Friday (which was conveniently hosted at Trevor's house), I snuck off and found Trevor's tux. I removed his silver tie and replaced it with a nice bright pink one and draped a pink scarf over his jacket. Perfect!

So, as it worked out, Trevor and I ended up getting to the wedding before Steve. We ran into the mother of the bride who suggested that we go ahead and put on our tuxes. Trevor stepped into the restroom and a few minutes later I heard him exclaim, "AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!" I reached for my camera. Nuts! I'd left it in the car.

I ran outside to grab my camera. When I got back to the building I ran into one of the usher's and the father of the bride. They asked me if we'd figured out what we were going to do about Trevor's tux. They told me that the mother of the bride was pretty upset about it.

GULP! I'd failed to let the mother of the bride in on the joke. hehe. Whoops!

While I was gone, Trevor had told the mother of the bride about his tux issues. He thought that perhaps they wanted him to wear pink since he was the best man and the matron of honor was wearing pink. She told Trevor that she had other things to worry about and didn't care if he wore silver, pink, purple, or whatever. It wasn't her fault that Trevor had failed to check his tux. hehe... this actually worked out better than if I'd let her in on the joke.

I explained what was going on to the father of the bride. Then, I went and looked for the mother of the bride to apologize. I know from past experience never to mess with the mother of the bride on the day of the wedding. It was as if I'd walked with hobnailed shoes where angels would fear to trod. (Actually, she was really cool about the whole thing, but that last sentence sounded way too good to omit from my story). At any rate, I couldn't find her.

I went back to the restroom and gave Trev a bad time for a few minutes and decided I'd better cut the joke a little short and make amends with the mother of the bride. We did get Trevor to put on his pink ensemble and pose for some pictures:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Funeral Weirdness

We just got home from a nice trip to Indiana to go to my friend Steve's wedding and visit with Anna's family. As it turns out, we also ended up going to a funeral.

It was an uncomfortable funeral. We went because Anna was related to the deceased, but she really didn't know her. I'd never met anyone from this part of the family, and the last time Anna had been around any of them was about 10 years ago. Have you ever been to a viewing like that? Where you just sit around and make idle conversation with people you've never met while standing next to a dead person you've never met? Awkward? Um.. yeah!

The deceased's adopted daughter's best friend put together a CD with music to play at the viewing. So, we're all siting there at the viewing chit-chatting uncomfortably while songs like Bette Midler's "Wind beneath my Wings" played in the background. Someone made a comment that the person who put the CD together had never arranged music for a funeral. This became more apparant as the CD went on. Some of the songs where a little iffy, but I really had a hard time not laughing out loud when the song changed to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"

Oh yeah... it was The Guns N' Roses version....

Monday, June 12, 2006

Wild Hogs

There are a lot of wild pigs in Texas. Javelinas, Feral hogs, and assorted other varieties. They were originally introduced to the area by Coronado and their spread and population has grown over the years. While there are normally a fair number of them about, there seems to be an unusually high number within about 50 miles of where we live. The story is that in the 1960s there was a hog farmer who had about 3000 pigs in San Saba, TX - about 50 miles from here. Apparently he got in to some sort of trouble with the IRS and was going to lose his farm and animals. Rather than lose all of his livestock to the IRS, he let them all loose. Yup... Better to let them live free then give them to the government. He cut some fence, opened some gates, and let 3000 of these critters loose. They bred like rabbits with the wild hogs that were already here. There are hogs everywhere now. Ranchers will often let you come out for free and shoot them just to get rid of them. They tear up pastures and make a mess and car/boar accidents are almost as common as car/deer wrecks.

Why am I telling you all of this? We had a guest minister in town at church this week, so we had some extra services. Well, on Friday night one family was on their way home and low and behold, 9 wild hogs ran across the road in front of them. They were able to brake and swerve out of the way.

On Saturday night they were on their way home and at the same spot, they saw a single hog by the side of the road. Someone had just hit it. It was still alive and was flopping around on the shoulder. It was just about dead and would have been dangerous for them to approach in it's frenzy. It looked to be a good sized young hog. He thought about taking it home, but he was driving his Mom's van and he thought if he loaded a dead pig in it that she was just as likely to roast him as she would be to roast the pig. He gave up on the idea.

He called another guy who had to drive home on the same road and told him about it and reminded him to be careful. About 30 minutes later the second guy called back the first guy and says, "Hey, I got that boar all gutted and cleaned. I'll bring it over in just a little bit."

We were over at their house on Sunday afternoon and he told us this story and then he brought out this pork roast for us to try. We thought it was a big joke - you know... Texas humor is a little different. Turns out he wasn't kidding. That was some mighty tasty boar. Weighed in at 125 pounds and had about 2 inch tusks so he was pretty young and tender.

Ever eat Road Kill Boar anyone? Check!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bloomin' Cactus

Did you know that Cactus bloom? I didn't. Texas amazes me sometimes. There really is a huge variety of flowers and other fauna that I find very interesting. There are cactus everywhere, but when they're not in bloom they blend in pretty good with the wild grasses and other greenery. Now that they are in bloom, they stand out in the ditches and pastures. Here's some pictures I took in the empty lot across the alley:

Scrabble - Round II

Anna asked me to play Scrabble with her the other day. We hadn't had a match in quite some time, so I agreed. She asked me why I never seem to want to play Scrabble with her. Ever since she started playing Scrabble on the Internet Scrabble Club (ISC), she's gotten really, really good. Her ranking on ISC is about 850.

So we played. I scored a respectable 253 points. Not my best showing, but OK. Anna plunked down four seven letter words to propel herself to a new personal record of 579 points. She had a single word that netted 185 points. Yikes! This woman knows how to strike fear into the heart of her opponents.

I wept. And she wonders why I never want to play this game with her? The sort of game that can make a grown man cry...

Friday, June 02, 2006

New Hat

Anna took me shopping tonight. I really don't like to shop, but I needed to. My diet continues to go well. Since November, I've lost 16 lbs, which is great. The bad part is that my jeans are a little too loose now. So, she took me out to find some new ones. While we were out, I spotted this hat and decided to buy it too. What do you think?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Eau de Toilette

I came home for lunch the other day and stepped inside the house. Tori walking out of my room, brushing her teeth. With my toothbrush.

Anna came around another corner and said, "Oh geez, she got into that again? Take that away from her!"

"Why?" I asked, figuring that she'd already pretty much ruined my toothbrush.

"Here," she said as she grabbed the toothbrush out of Tori's iron clad grip. "Smell this," as she rammed the toothbrush under my nose.

I reeled back, expecting something nasty, as if Tori might have used water from the toilet or something. My initial assumption was pretty close. "Yikes, that smells like Aqua di Gio!"

"Daddy, smell. Smell good. haa.. haa... Me smell." There she was, grinning from ear to ear and wanting me to smell her good breath. Thankfully, she didn't get sick or anything. So, I now officially have a daughter who has brushed her teeth with "Eau de Toilette".

The next morning, when I got ready for work, I grabbed my toothbrush and began to brush. Ewww! Yuck! Spit! pllllt! What is that? Oh nuts! I forgot. Guess I've officially had the Aqua di Gio treatment too.

By the way, in my quest to make sure I spelled "Eau de Toilette" correctly in this post, I ran across a website that explains the difference between eau de toilette and eau de parfum. I didn't know there was a difference, so I thought I'd share the website with all of you for your own enlightenment: Click Here.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Trevor asked me the other day how my tomatoes fared in our hailstorm. Suprisingly, they did pretty well. They lost a lot of leaves and there was some scaring on some of the vines, but they survived. The pepper plant right next to them took some direct hits and only had about 3-4 leaves left on it. I wasn't sure it was going to make it, but it's also recovering. I think this is all in a large part due to the very hot weather we had for about a week after the storm. There wasn't anywhere for the water to go, so the air was very humid for a while as well. Now it's dry as a bone and we haven't had any rain since our storm, which was on May 5th.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Going to Grandma's

The other day Hope asked us why we had to buy a van. Anna told her that we bought the van so that it will be easier for us to drive to Grandma's house. That seemed to be the end of it and she scampered off to go play. About an hour later Hope came to me and told me she was all packed and ready to go to Grandma's. She wanted to know if I was ready to leave. I told her it would be several weeks before we went to Grandma's house. She seemed very disappointed and took me in the other room to show me that she was all ready to go:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Out of Focus and into a Mini.

"The best laid plans of mice and men," or so the saying goes.

Three years ago, I purchased a 2003 Ford Focus ZTW wagon. I thought it would be a great car with plenty of room for our family. It was good on gas and handled really well.

When I purchased the car I intended to drive it for 5 - 6 years. I didn't buy an extended warranty.

It looks like some of my assumptions weren't really that good. The little Focus served us pretty well, but it's a little cramped, especially on trips. The gas mileage hasn't been too bad, but I should have bought the extended warranty. The vehicle has 50,000 miles on it and so far I've replaced the tires twice. Yup, third set of tires. Yup.. that baby can burn up 60,000 mile tires in 20,000 miles. I've replaced the rear wheel bearings, rear lower control arms, front rotors (warped at 40,000 miles), and sway bar links. The size of the vehicle and the frequency of repairs was really starting to get to me. I got rid of it yesterday.

I decided that I needed something cooler. Something that would meet my family's needs. So, I bought a Mini.

ahem. I bought a Mini.

ahem.. cough... uh... I bought a Mini-van.

So, here it is. The vehicle that will officially take me from being a young man to a "Suburban-Mini-Van-Driving-30-something-kid-toting-Dad". It's a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with 7 yr/100,000 mile warranty. It doesn't have a HEMI, but it's got Stow'N'Go seating baby! Wooohoo! And a remote power liftgate! Watch out WalMart, here I come!

Saturday, May 06, 2006


It's been storming all week. Since Tuesday, it's been bright and sunny each morning, about 90 in the afternoon, and by 6 PM storms roll in. There's been a couple of good ones with magnificent lightning and strong winds. When I drove in to work on Friday, there were two empty Fedex semi trailers laying on their side in one of our parking lots. I don't know how strong the wind was on Thursday night, but it must have been pretty strong to tip over two semi trailers!

Well, last night we rented a couple of movies for the girls to watch: Felicity (American Girl) and Dreamer. (By the way, both were really good.) Anyway, we sat down to watch the movies, but it was begining to storm and there was an incredible amount of lightning. So, we decided to turn off all of the electronic stuff and unplug it. We made cookies and watched the storms roll in.

They really started to look nasty, so we turned on the radio and found out that there had been a tornado about 30 miles west of us and the same storm was headed our way shortly. As the storm approached the warnings got more severe. So, we grabbed a flashlight, radio and batteries, some drinks, snacks, and toys for the kids and headed to our walk-in closet to ride out the storm. We said a few prayers for us and our friends and then sat back and listened to the radio while the kids played.

The rain came down in buckets (5 inches in 90 minutes) and it started to hail. Having been through this experience when we lived in Wisconsin, it didn't seem so bad. There was some hail, but it didn't seem that there was too much and it didn't seem to be striking too hard.

SMACK! The wall shook behind us. Anna looked at me and I looked at her. What was that?

THUNK! It sounded liked someone was hitting our roof with a sledge hammer.

THUNK! BUNK! SMACK! Is that hail? It couldn't be... it would have to be huge to sound like that.

Over the radio we hear, "We're now receiving reports of tennis ball and baseball sized hail."

SMACK! THUNK! Now, our house doesn't really have any interior protected closets. All of the closets touch an outside wall. So, we elected to hang out in the one on the northeast corner of the house where two solid brick walls come together and the nearest window is in the next room. We were sitting on a cermaic tile floor over a concrete slab with our backs to a brick wall. When the hail struck the brick wall, it shook the floor. That was pretty impressive. We heard over the radio that the hail was forming at 41,000 feet. So, imagine a baseball sized hunk of ice propelling down from 41,000 feet and hitting your house. Yikes!

When the hail stopped, I waited a few minutes to make sure it was clear and dashed out to the yard to grab a sample to put in the freezer. It had already melted some because it was raining buckets and it was about 70 outside, but when I measured it with my caliper, it came in at 2.94". This is the biggest hail I've ever seen in my life. Here's a picture:

In my hand:

When these puppies hit the ground they make a little crater. Most of them were about 2 inches deep and 3 to 3.5 inches wide:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I planted some tomatoes in early March. This seemed really early to me, but they had them at WalMart, so it must be time to plant in Texas, right? The temperatures had been in the 80s for a few weeks and so I planted them. They started to take root and were really taking off when we got a late frost. They died.

I was at the barber shop a few days later getting my hair cut and getting the now customary shave with a straight razor. I told the Barber about my tomato growing woes. He stopped cutting, leaned back and said, "You know, the old timers say that you need to go out of town and find some old gnarly mesquite trees. When they start to bud, the frost is over and it's OK to plant."

I took the barber shop advice to heart, opened up the back gate and looked at the gnarly old mesquite trees the line the other side of the alley. No buds. I waited about a week and checked again. Buds!

Instead of buying Walmart tomatoes, this time I bought some starts from Sligers, a local produce store. I planted a Celebrity, which is a good slicing tomato, and a hybrid cherry tomato. I made a raised bed for them along the fence using pavers and filled it with Miracle Gro garden soil. The results have really been great. This picture was taken this evening.


Lately, we've been working on our landscaping and lawn. My neighbor lost his yard to grub worms. It was really sad actually. He had a beautiful yard last year, but the grubs settled in through the fall and destroyed the root system of his grass. Of course, grubs eat all of the root over the fall and winter, so you really don't know there is a problem until spring. The poor man was almost in tears when he told us (the neighbors) all about it. The rest of us all ran out to Home Depot and bought Spectracide to kill off any of the bugs that might have migrated to our yards. So far, mine looks ok.

I've been doing a bunch of other stuff to try to get the lawn well-established. We've been talking about putting out some shrubs or something, but haven't gotten to that just yet. We may not get that done this year. In the mean time, we felt like we needed some plants or flowers or something. So, off we went to Wal Mart and Home Depot in search of some plants. After looking around I told Anna that we should take advantage of the fact that we're living in Texas and get something cool that would be hard or impossible to grow up north. So, we bought some cool stuff:

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Turn about is fair play

All right.... For all of your up north who I've been calling and emailing and saying, "Hey, it's 75 today!" or "I hope you're enjoying the snow, it's warm and sunny here"... Now's your chance. It was 106 degrees here today. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 103. 101 for Tuesday. Looks like it's cool and 70s back in MN.

Even 106 isn't too bad down here, but, I wasn't at home this weekend. We were in Del Rio, TX which is right on the border across the Rio Grande from Cuidad Acuna, Mexico. We went there for some special Easter church services. Del Rio is known for Lake Amistad which is where the Rio Grande, Pecos River, and Devil's river all combine. In addition, there are a bunch of natural springs all over the area. This all combined with 106 degree temperature made it pretty hot and sticky. The Easter services were outside in a park pavilion. There was a gentle breeze blowing and we kept a big cooler full of ice and drinks on hand. Overall, I actually fared better in the heat than I thought I would. I took 2 or 3 showers every day because I was sweating like a pig, but other than that it was a good time.

Del Rio is actually a pretty nice little town of about 35,000 people. A lot of the people there are pretty poor, and many of the buildings are old, but most of them are clean; you can tell that most people there take pride in what little they do have. This is in stark contrast to Brownwood, where our poor areas are just plain dirty. Palm trees dot the landscaping in Del Rio and a bunch of natural springs flow through the city in man-made irrigation ditches. The water is extremely clean and the most beautiful aqua-blue / turquoise color. Very cool.

We met a number of people who really don't have much at all - but were very happy. This was really good for me because it reminded me a lot of the poverty I saw as a child in Costa Rica. Also, there were a bunch of people in the services from Mexico who only spoke Spanish, so the services were bilingual. The poor guy translating had to switch back and forth between translating Spanish to English and English to Spanish depending on who was speaking. It's been about 17 years since I was fluent in Spanish, and unfortunately, I can only recall very little. After being "immersed" for only 2 days, I was starting to remember my Spanish. I was amazed. I think we'll have to head down there some more so I can work on being bilingual again.

The folks in Del Rio were very gracious in many ways, not the least of which was keeping us fed. On Saturday and Sunday they provided food for everyone: Rice and Beans, home-made tamales (YUM! - no.. Double-YUM!), home-made Salsa, fajitas, banana pudding, fresh watermelon, etc. When you sit for a meal, they serve you. When you finish your plate, someone comes by and drops another plate in front of you. They are very proud of their food, and they get offended if you don't eat it. This is a bit of a challenge for Anna because, while she likes most Mexican food, there are certain things that she won't eat. She didn't want to offend anyone and prayed before we left, "Lord, help me to eat when I'm not hungry, when it doesn't look good, and when it doesn't taste good."

When we showed up on Saturday morning a bunch of the guys were standing around eating soup. The pastor from Del Rio saw us walk up and said, "Come try some of this good soup we have made. It's a Mexican delicacy."

"What's it called?"

"It's called Menudo. It's very good, just try a little bit, even just the juice."

Menudo. Menudo. My Spanish was coming back. There was something familiar about this name. I knew there was a reason I didn't want to try it, but I consented.

He dished up a little bit of the broth for me.

I tried it. It was flavorful, but ohh... it was greasy. I didn't care for it. He asked if I wanted more.

"No, I'm sorry, I don't care for it," I replied. I looked more closely at the kettle of soup and asked, "It's made from intestines, isn't it?"

"Yes, cow. I'm sorry you don't like it." He was grinning from ear to ear and I could tell he was enjoying every second of stretching our cultural boundaries. The 20 year old strapping kid next to me turned a bit pale when he realized what he was eating, but then continued on and seemed to like it. Maybe he was just trying to prove his manliness. He regretted it later.

I walked over to get a glass of water to get the taste out of my mouth and looked back over towards "the soup". I didn't know whether to laugh or fear when I saw the pastor dishing up a bowl of soup for Anna. Her reaction was about the same as mine.

- - - PAUSE - - - -

Can any of you imagine my wife eating cow intestine soup?

God still works miracles. OK, we can go on now.

- - - - END PAUSE - - -

Anyway, later on this Mexican fellow walks up to us and says, "You didn't eat that stuff did you? It's disgusting. I don't even eat it, and I'm a Mexican."

Later, as the song service ended and the minister came forward to speak, we saw the 20 year old eat-all macho guy quietly exit the service and make a mad dash for the bathroom. He was there for a while.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Burnt Offerings and Toasted Spaghetti

I'm sort of becoming a grilling guru. Ok, I'm trying to become a grilling guru. Most of the time, my grilled dishes turn out pretty good. Every once in a while I really make something great. And then, every once in a while I really mess something up. Really badly.

The other day I set out to make some hamburgers. Plain old ordinary burgers. And then, I decided that I should whip up some mushrooms on the side burner while steaming vegetables inside the house. So, there I was with 4 burgers cooking on the grill, a pan of mushrooms sizzling on the side burner, and a pot of steamed yellow squash on the pressure cooker. (It's really great with parmessean cheese, salt, and pepper).

Well, to make a long story short, everything turned out good, except I really burned the hamburgers. I mean bad. Black. Carcinogenic. Like Charcoal.

Later I was taking a shower while Anna was in the bathroom doing her hair. I chuckled to myself in the shower. She asked me what was so funny. I told her that I was trying to console myself by coming up with some sort of spiritual parrallel for my hamburgers.

She paused for a second and said, "Don't tell me you were trying to make a burnt offering."

"No," I replied, "All I could come up with was, 'This too shall pass.'"

Fast-forward a few today! I came home from work and I smelled something burning. The stove vent was blowing wide open. Two pots sat on the stove. The burners were off. My wife was no where to be found. I tip-toed into the kitchen and gingerly lifted the lid off of the pan. It took a moment to identify the carnage, but I soon figured out that it was supposed to be spaghetti sauce. Only, it wasn't very saucy. As a matter of fact, the bottom half-inch or so looked remarkably like the hamburgers that I had made just a few days ago: black, hard, and crusty.

I sauntered down the hall into the bedroom and there was Anna, under the covers, with a pillow over her head. I pulled back the pillow and she said:

"I don't want to talk about it."

What's a man to do in a situation like this?

"So, where do you want to go?"

Friday, March 17, 2006


I'm starting to get used to living in Texas.

Today, I put tobasco sauce on my goulash.

(Think elbow macaroni, hamburger, and tomatoes).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gillette Fusion

OK Guys... I know what you've been thinking. When you're out at Target or WalMart, you've no doubt seen the end-cap displays for the new Gillette Fusion razor. You've stared at them and thought, "Is it really a better razor? Is it worth it?"

Alas, curiousity finally caused me to buy one. I was leary, because a year or two ago I bought a Gillette Mach 3 MPower, which was a joke. It didn't shave as well as the Mach 3 Turbo and the blades are considerably more expensive. I ended up going back to the old razor.

I was not dissapointed by the Fusion. It's about the same size as the Mach 3 Turbo, but it has five blades instead of three. It's less uncomfortable to shave with, and seems to give a closer shave. The comfort guard on the front of the razor is larger and you can actually tell that it's doing something. In addition, the little Aloe strip thing doesn't wear out after 4 shavings. Finally, if you turn the razor over, there is a single blade on the back side that makes trimming your sideburns and under your nose really easy. Overall, I really like it so far.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Planting and Yard Work

Texas really is great this time of year. Yesterday, I built a garden bed with pavers / retaining wall stone in the back yard. Looks really pretty neat. There was just enough room to plant 4 tomato plants, 2 strawberry plants, and a banana pepper plant. Think about that.... I planted my garden on March 6th! Wow!

I also fertilized and watered the lawn, pulled weeds, and a few other odds and ends outside. It's going to be 90 here today.

It's all fun right now, but it has me a little worried. It was 82 yesterday and I got a real light sunburn because I was working in the backyard with my shirt off. (Gotta get my tan in, you know?). Anyway, if it's 90 in March, how stinking hot is it going to be in July / August?

Only time will tell. In the mean time I'm going to enjoy my motorcycle and my sun tan.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What a difference a little rain makes

As I've mentioned before, it's been really dry here. No doubt, you all heard about the grass fires up in Cross Plains and elsewhere in Texas and Oklahoma. I took this picture a couple weeks ago. This was taken in the empty lot next to our house. It's been so dry that the ground cracks. The cracks in this picture are almost an inch wide. There was an article in the paper advising people to water around their foundations to prevent heaving as a result of this type of movement and separation.

The good news is that we're finally starting to get some rain. About a week ago we had our first Texas thunderstorm. A few days later, I took this picture in roughly the same spot that I had taken the first image just a few weeks ago.

Amazing, isn't it?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Trip to Killeen

You'll remember from one of my previous posts that I had to take my motorcycle in to get a recall repair. I was originally scheduled to run it over to Abilene for an appointment at 9:00 in the morning. It's about an 80 mile ride....farther than I've ever been before. However, when I went to leave, it was cold... like 25 degrees. Now, 25 degrees isn't too cold, but when the wind is blowing at about 20 MPH and then you create an additional 70MPH of wind chill and ride for an hour and 15 minutes, that gets really cold. When you don't have the proper gear it can quickly lead to hypothermia.

I chickened out. I turned around and went back home before I made it across town. I called the dealer and tried to reschedule for later in the day. I was told that they were much too busy and I'd have to reschedule for almost two weeks out. This really made me mad because I had called them the day before and was told that "it only takes 20 minutes and you don't need an appointment".

I called other Suzuki dealerships in "the area". The only one I could get in to was in Killeen, which is about 115 miles away. I waited and left at 10:30. By then it had warmed up to 40, which is still chilly, especially for a 2 hour ride. So, I donned by Patagonia long underwear, a pair of jeans, a pair of windproof pants, a fleece pull over, a patagonia R4 jacket, my Mountain Hardwear windproof shell, my balaclava, skull cap, helmet, and windproof gloves. I really felt like Ralphie's little brother from The Christmas Story, but I was toasty.

The ride down was great. I stopped in Lampasas (that's about half-way) and shed a few layers since it had warmed up a bit more. Anyhoo... I got the bike fixed and I didn't freeze on the way down there.

The ride home was a different story. I've heard other cyclists complain about the factory seats on their motorcycles, but always thought mine was nice and comfy. Until I made it back to Lampasas. An hour and 15 minutes from home I felt like I was sitting on a 2 x 4. And talk about a wedgy... yikes!

For awhile I decided to grin and bear it. That strategy soon failed. Suddenly, I began to notice that there were a lot of historical markers along this highway. I'm currently taking US History since 1877 at Howard Payne University. The history of cental Texas become increasingly interesting. I stopped at every historical marker between Lampasas and home. This allowed me to get off the bike about every 10 minutes, stretch my legs, and get my undies out of a bunch. In addition, I learned a lot about several dried up towns like Goldthwaite (the H is silent, go figure) and the Farmer's Alliance. Very interesting indeed.


Somehow Hope got the idea in her head that she would get a pony when we moved to Texas. I'm not sure exactly how that happened, but anyway, she was pretty sure she would be getting a pony.

So, for her birthday we gave her a Cinderella castle. It's really neat. The clock even chimes when you turn the hands to midnight. Anna stayed up until the wee hours of the morning putting on all of the decals. Bless her.

We also bought her the accompanying carriage, which comes with a horse. After she opened all of her cards and other stuff, she was prancing the horse around on the floor. She looked at me and said, "Daddy, look! I got a pony."

"Yes," I replied. "Don't you remember you were going to get a pony when we moved to Texas? There you go."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bike Bummer

Wow... it's been forever since I've added anything to my blog. I guess it's because I've been crazy busy. Mom and Dad were here, and then Anna's grandma passed away, so she's been out of town with the girls to be with her family. And me? Well, I've been doing a bunch of extra stuff at work... and my taxes...

Speaking of taxes.. Have you ever done taxes when you've purchased a home, refinanced, sold a home, relocated, and bought a new home in 13 months? Well, it's kind of depressing really. Partial year taxes in one state. Figuring cost basis on the old house. Deducting points, interest, and other stuff for a plethora of mortgages. Figuring out what relocation expenses can be deducted, etc. It's a real chore. On the good side, I get to deduct points for 3 mortgages in one year. Still, it's never fun to put all of this together.

I'm also suffering from motorcycle withdrawl. There was a recall on my bike and they recommended not riding it until the issue has been repaired. So, tomorrow, I get to take it in to the dealer (80 miles away) to get it fixed. I'm really looking forward to being able to ride again. It's been two weeks now since I got the recall notice and the weather has been really beautiful down here.

On another note (for you techies), I've been working on playing around with Linux lately. When Dad was here, I was trying to help him get set up to run wireless on his linux laptop. I decided that I should give it a whirl again since it'd been years since I've really played around with it. But which Linux distribution should I use? I decided to try a bunch of different ones and compare them. I started out with Kubuntu, but didn't like it because there was a bug in the distribution that prevented you from doing several administrative tasks. I found this to be really annoying. I tried OpenSuse and I actually liked it fairly well. I think if I was going to run something for business, OpenSuse would be a front-runner for me. Doing the web install took like 9 hours because of all of the downloading. I didn't like that. All of the other distros I tried came on single CD iso images of 650 MB or less. I tried Mepis as well. I really liked Mepis. It just worked. The distribution includes everything you need to play MP3s and DVDs. I really liked that, but it uses KDE, and I'm not a big fan of KDE. Too busy. And ugly. Too much like Windows. It's supposed to be unix. Don't make it look like Windows. Finally, I tried ubuntu. Kubuntu is actually a spin-off of ubuntu, so I wasn't expecting a lot out of ubuntu, but I actually ended up liking it more than any other. The Gnome interface is simple and elegant. Everything worked, and the install was a breeze. However, it doesn't come with support for MP3s and DVDs. Still, I think I'm going to stick with ubuntu and just add the other things I need. Dad, if you're still looking for a good linux distro, I'd recommend that you use ubuntu.

OK, but here's my gripe with Linux. I keep hearing from everyone about how much easier it is to setup and maintain than windows. If you want to install an application, you open your package manager and download what you need. But, often the software you want isn't in the package manager, so you have to go get it from some other source, or download the code and compile it yourself. Most people don't have a clue about how to do this. Shoot... I'm a developer and I don't usually like to compile someone else's code. With a windows system, you simply go to the manufacturer's website, download the installer, and run it. I fail to see how apt-get and package managers are easier.

The security update/patching mechanisms are cryptic and difficult to use. Plus, half the time, they prompt you to update almost every package on your machine, which takes hours. And people say this is better than WindowsUpdate?

In addition, wireless support is a joke. It's difficult to configure, and only supports WEP. Everyone knows that WEP is easy to crack... that's why we all run WPA/AES or WPA/TKIP these days.

It's frustrating, because I want to run a unix O/S, but I just don't think Linux is ready for prime time. I guess I'm just going to have to get an iMac so I can run OS X. Ok, I'll stop spewing out technical gibberish now.

Good Night.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Maybe it was a fluke

Scrabble scores for game #2:

Anna - 255
Joe - 241
Mom - 139

The Scrabble Queen Arrives

OK, so Anna and I thought that we were the only Scrabble champions in our family. However, Mom just showed us both up. She whipped us soundly. The final score was 298 (Mom), 268 (Joe.. - at least I beat Anna!!!!), and 264 (Anna). The reason she won was her 7 letter word that traversed two Triple Word Scores for a total of 167 points for a single word. Anna and I fought back bravely laying words like PINITES (Joe - 90 points) and SPEEDOS (Anna - 78 points.)

Ah well. Now I'm showing my Mom how to write a blog entry gloating about our Scrabble prowess.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Would I Buy A Mac?

Would I buy a Mac?

Absolutely! Surprised?

Apple has really made a lot of strides over the last few years.

1) Their new Operating System (well, it's a few years old now) is based on FreeBSD, which is a unix-like operating system. This means that it is incredibly stable and secure. The problem with the unix-like operating systems (Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, etc) is that their user-interfaces leave a lot to be desired. They aren't something that most computer novices would be very comfortable with. Apple has taken their really, really good UI and put it on top of a unix system. This is great because it's easy to use, very robust, secure, and stable. Also, everything is now built pretty much on open standards like TCP/IP instead of old proprietary protocols like appletalk.

2) iPod. What else do I need to say? iPods rock. They are the very best music player on the market. But did you know that you can play video on them? Carry around your digital photo collection? Backup important files from your PC. With the new iLife (see below) I can add pictures to my Mac and have them automatically sent to my friend's iPods. How sweet is that? Add new pics of the kids to the Mac and they magically appear on grandma's mac and her iPod too.

3) iLife is a suite of applications for editing home videos, recording a podcast, creating webpages, sending email, etc. There are lots of options here for the PC as well. However, the Apple apps are really simple to use and are all integrated with one another. Not too mention the iPod integration.

4) The hardware. Apple recently announced a new iMac that uses an Intel processor. This is cool because it's much faster than the old machines, plus the new Macs are essentially running on the same type of hardware that you buy from Dell or HP or whoever. But the iMac is all inclusive. No wires required except for your power cable. Wireless ethernet, bluetooth, speakers, and monitor all built in. The monitor, by the way, is a 17" or 20" High Definition display. It blows most other PC displays out of the water.

Everything I've mentioned above is included in the price of the unit... $1299 for the 17 inch model or $1699 for the 20 inch model. OK, it doesn't include the iPod, but the integration is built in. It's really a good value for what you get.

Of course, then there is Aperture and Final Cut Pro. Aperture is probably the best photo editing software available today. It allows you to edit the raw image as seen by the ccd on yor camera. So, you can adjust lighting, exposure, etc AFTER you physically take the picture. It's spendy at $499, but if you are going to spend $1300 on a nice Nikon D70 (hint hint John and Jenn) why not spend another $500 and be able to really use the thing to it's potential. Final Cut Pro and Shake are Apple's professional video editing suite. If they were good enough to make "King Kong" they are probably good enough to edit your home movies.

Do I think you should throw away your PCs and jump ship for Apple? No. PCs are great. I love them. You can do just about anything you want to with them. However, if I were looking at a new PC today, I'd most likely buy a new iMac.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Grilling Experiments

When we got married, my pastor and his wife gave us a Char Broil grill as a wedding present. It was a thoughtful gift and one that we certainly used a lot! I only wish at the time that I had known more about grilling, because I really didn't have much of a clue about what I was doing. Well, the faithful little Char Broil survived being tossed across my deck in May 2002 during a fearful hail and wind storm. It made it through 3 moves, but alas, in 2004 it finally gave up the ghost. In the end, the burner element rusted out, the grates where shot, and it wobbled really bad.

I lived without a grill for almost two years (terrible, I know). I promised myself that rather than buy another cheap one (which I was certainly grateful to have) I'd save up my money and buy a nice one that would be more durable and produce better results. So, when I moved to Texas, I decided that the time was right and I purchased a Weber Genesis Silver C (With Side Burner). I started using it with OK results, but nothing too fantastic.

Then, my parents bought me a copy of Weber's Real Grilling for Christmas. This is a fantastic book with over 200 recipes and a ton of information about grilling techniques. A new flame started to burn in my grill and I've been turning out some really good food. I'm very pleased.

Here lately I've been trying more and more challenging recipes including various types of Rubs, Marinades, etc. Of course, not everything turns out perfectly. I remember running across one of Mom's old cookbooks as a kid and looking at her notes in the margins:

"Ron likes."

"Ron hates."

"I like, Ron doesn't."

I'm finding myself making similar annotations in my cookbook. Tonight, I tried to make Honey Lime Chicken Salad (With Tomatoes and Avocado). The marinade was awesome and the chicken turned out great. However, when I combined the rest of the ingredients the avocado mushed up (think guacamole) and the finished product didn't really look that great. The flavor of the chicken was great, but I didn't like it all together. My margin notes read, "Marinade is great, Salad is gross."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Kids and Driving

My friend Trevor recently made a post to his blog about his oldest kid being able to drive in 12 years. In order to fully appreciate this post, you should really take a minute and go and read his post. If you don't, you really won't understand what I'm talking about.

Ok, are you back now? Good. Here goes:


You think that's bad???? My kids are already driving. And to beat all, I had to re-arrange the garage so that we can all park in there:

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Have Arrived!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you think to yourself, "Man, as a parent.. I have ARRIVED!" ???? hmmm? I think we all have one of those moments now and again. You know, you're just going along and you see or do something that just strikes you. You stop and think "Wow. Now I understand why Mom or Dad said or did that".

Well, I had one of those moments last night at Wal Mart. My kids like ketchup. (Does anyone have kids that don't?) We go through a lot of the stuff. It goes on chicken nuggets, french fries, they'll even dip carrots in it. I always try to buy the big bottles because it's cheaper. There I was last night pushing my "buggy" down the aisle. Pause. Did you know that a shopping cart is called a "buggy" in Texas? Anyway, so I was pushing my buggy down the aisle and I spied this little gem sitting on the shelf:

I had to have it. I thought, wow, now that's a man-sized bottle of ketchup. The hunter-gatherer in me proclaimed that I had gotten a great prize for my family. HO! HO! HO!

And then it all came rushing back to me. This must be what Mom and Dad felt like when they bought 1 gallon jars of pickles, 50 pound bags of rice, and 10 pound tubes of Braunschweiger. (That stuff should be outlawed.) Anyway, yeah, I know now that it was really the hunter-gatherer pride in my parents that sent me to school with smoked liver sausage sandwiches for all those years.

I have arrived. Long live the hunter-gatherer instinct!