Monday, July 30, 2007

I Hope Keith Olbermann Reads the New York Times

July 30, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
A War We Just Might Win

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference...
And check out this quote from later in the article:
Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

That's just part of the op/ed piece by a couple of left of center types who actually went to Iraq themselves.

I sure hope that complete nut job Keith Olbermann reads the New York Times. And I wish I were a fly on the wall in the room when he reads it. I'll bet that big ol' vein in his forehead almost becomes a gusher. If not, I'd settle for air bag Chris Matthews.

And wait another minute.

Didn't Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently state before The Senate and the world's cameras that we have lost the war in Iraq, the surge is not working, and that we should pull out our troops now?

Hmmm. Who should I believe?

Do I believe the most ridiculously partisan man in all of the U.S. Legislature, or a couple of reporters who just got back from touring around Iraq, and as they said, "...strolled down the street without body armor."?

Methinks one of these is lying. And I'll bet you one shiny nickel that it ain't the guys who just got back from Iraq.

Heck, I'm still reeling from the fact that the Al Qaeda Times New York Times even printed this op/ed.

The opinions expressed by this blogger on this particular blog post are the opinions of this blogger only and not necessarily the opinions of any other bloggers or of this bloggers readers. (Say that ten times fast.)

But this blogger's pretty sure he's right.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yet Another Way I'm Weird

Inspired by Scribbit's post on how to make lime meringue pie.

There are certain things in life that all children should believe when they are young.

I think that all kids should believe that their Daddys are the strongest men in the world and could beat up ANYBODY.

I think that all kids should believe that their Mothers are the best cooks in the world.

Now, these things may or may not fall to the wayside as the kid becomes a sulky teen, but I firmly believe that little kids need to be able to look up to their parents. I think it's important to their mental development in ways not totally understood.

But, for me, there came a day when I realized that my own Dad was a fallible human who made mistakes, and probably couldn't have beat up John Wayne. I was old enough by then, and thankfully wise enough, that these realizations made me love him even more. Instead of being disillusioned or crushed, I was relieved, and truly loved him more and more from that day on.

Mom's cooking on the other hand, tends to be something approaching myth. Not every mother is a great cook, but mine was and still is, though she so rarely cooks for more than herself that cooking for a brood can be challenging for her.

When I was growing up, whenever any part of the family visited any other part of the family, a great feast is served.

It never mattered that everyone was broke, money was spent on good meat, gardens plucked of the ripest vegetables and after that magical kitchen work was finished, a meal truly fit for a king was the result.

Every time. Meals were ALWAYS good.

A bit about me. I love lemon. I like lemons, lemon pie, lemon cookies, lemonade (both regular and pink), Lemonheads. I just plain like lemon flavored food, whether natural or imitation flavored, I don't really care.

And Sainted Mother being the cook she was, had a special touch when it came to lemon meringue pie.

She loved her own lemon meringue pie, as did Don C. (my dad), and all the grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc.

Everyone raved about how good her lemon pie was, and that the meringue was the perfect touch to take the pie from tasty to dessert perfection.

My problem with all of this was that although I love and still love lemon pie, I hated and still hate meringue.

I know. I know. I'll pause while you catch your breath.

Who knows why some things taste bad to us? Something about the taste and the consistency of the meringue just completely ruined the pie for me. Any pie with meringue for that matter.

And my mother was an acknowledged expert on making a meringue that had everyone slowly closing their eyes with the first bite of pie and coffee after the meal.

And there was ol' John, carefully scraping off the meringue onto Don C.'s saucer, so that I could eat the luscious lemon pie.

This misunderstood hatred of mine for meringue was always the subject of conversation; how could it not be, with everyone sitting around the table with their slice of pie and I'm right there with them, scraping off my meringue to give to Don C.?

"What? What are you DOING? You don't like the MERINGUE?" Blah, blah, blah. I had to hear it every time we had lemon meringue pie.

I also got the treatment when Sainted Mother made pork roast, which, to misquote that great philosopher The Grinch, "Pork roast is a feast I can't stand in the least."

There I would be, eating everything but the pork roast, and the comments would start.

Thing is, my tastes in food have changed a lot over the years, and I might just love meringue on my pie or a big slab of Sainted Mother's pork roast.

I just don't know if I have the courage to try them.

Plus, my inexplicable dislike for meringue and pork roast still are points about which the members of my family can pick on me about.

I'd hate to upset years of being an easy target of good natured derision by all of a sudden LIKING meringue and pork roast.

Picture Post, Sunday July 29, 2007

I've never scuba dived, and I probably never will. But I can stand by the water of the Sebastian Inlet, about a 40 minute drive from our home, and see some nifty underwater life.

Thes first three photos, I was doing exactly that, standing there and looking a the neat stuff growing in there.

One problem, taking photos looking into the water from outside like this usually are robbed of color and contrast.

This first photo is pretty much how it came out of my camera. I punched up the contrast just a little and it helped "see through" some of the murkiness of the water. Interesting, but nothing to print, frame, and send to Sainted Mother, ya know?

This is the same photo as above, but I freely played with it in Photoshop Elements trying to create an interesting and more impacting photograph. I like the results a lot better than the top one.

This is almost a straight photo, but it had much better water and plant color, and I added a bit of simulated film grain, to make it appear as if I had used a high speed print or slide film to take the photo with. I liked this too, and it looks a bit old school, like some of my print and slide film scans, although it was taken on a digital camera.

There are basically two trains of thought on the upkeep of guitars. One is that the owner rubs and dings and intentionally wears off the finish of the guitar to give it that "rode hard and put away wet" look.

I'm not that kind of guy. I think that good workmanship on a guitar is beautiful, and I try to keep my guitars clean and avoid dings and dents. But that's just me. I enjoy just looking at the things, they're beautiful on their own.

When I get a new guitar (new to me, most of mine were bought used) I put something on the back of the guitar to help prevent belt buckle scratches and shirt button scratches. At crafts stores, you can usually find big sheets of thin plastic that is designed to stick to slick surfaces like windows via a static electricity like surface tension which adheres the sheet of plastic to the item. This works fine for guitars too, and I put a big American flag one on the backs of my guitars. No glues or anything, they can come right off, but will stick there not unlike how Saran Wrap sticks to itself.

This is one on the back of my Les Paul that I showed pics of earlier this week.

Hope y'all have a good Sunday.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I'm Sending You Away

Today's post is a pointer to Life Is RANTastic, where Jessica the Rock Chick is taking part in Blogathon 2007.

She's posting every 30 minutes for 24 hours to try to raise money for charity.

The charity she's supporting is VH1 Save The Music Foundation.

She's having a raffle with all the folks who donate at least $5 for some prizes she has to give out.

She's also having some guest bloggers to help share the load, and your's truly is one of them. I think my post is to be put up there around 6pm Central time.

Anyway, go over there and see what's going on and maybe throw in a few bucks to help buy musical instruments for some kids in American schools.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Borderline OCD (self-diagnosed), Part 2

Another frightening look inside my head.

This past Saturday, I wrote about the various perils of filling my car with gasoline.

Today, a different kind of problem that I didn't realize I had until a year or so ago.

It has no name, and can only be described by examples.

Example 1:

I'm one of those people who wash my hands about 30 times a day. (and that's way down from when I worked in the restaurant business, believe you me)

It's a good thing that skin replenishes and replaces itself.

So at work, in the bathrooms, we have those towel dispensers that you crank a handle up and down and with every down stroke it pushes out more of the rough, brown paper towels.

Assuming that there's some towel left in there, and I've just washed my hands and face (yet another compultion, I wash my face almost every time I wash my hands), I push the handle 11 times.

Not 9. Not 10. Not 12.


Because, while any of the above given numbers is a sufficient amount to dispense enough towel to dry both face and hands, 11 is the only prime number of the bunch.

Some people are all into even numbers. Most needing that approximate amount of towel dispensed might a.) choose 10, because it's a nice, even number, or b.) not count at all and just dispense towel until it "feels" right.

Many times I count things, I have no idea why, but in the case of the towels in the restrooms at work, I finally decided on 11 becasue prime numbers are cool. (I also usually count other things like the number of steps to and from my cubicle to where I park at work. It's usually between 150 and 160 steps; a few more when my back/leg are hurting and I take smaller steps.)

But at times, I can really be thrown off my game there.

When they first put a new one of those massive rolls of brown paper towels into the dispensing machine, they're so heavy that each ratcheting of the handle only produces a miniscule amount, and my carefully considered and arrived at prime number of 11 ratchets only gives me enough towel to dry maybe one hand.

In those cases I'm thrown into that pathetic, desperate class of hand/face washer who doesn't really care how many times he pumps the towel dispensing handle and just sit there and crank away like a mad man until what looks like enough towel to dry both hands and face is out and then I just dry off and leave. It's both exhausting and mentally frustrating.

I don't particularly like it when that happens, but I don't lose sleep over it either. A short attention span can be our friend at times like that.

Example 2:

Photoshop Elements slider numbers.

I have neither the guts to plunk down $600 for a legal copy of Photoshop CS3, nor the darkness of heart to search out and buy a cheaper but illegal copy of it.

Therefore I bought Photoshop Elements 4.0, and although it is a surprisingly powerful program, I've finally developed my skills to the point where I would like to have and use some of the real Photoshop's features.

But, I digress.

When I use Photoshop Elements and am adjusting say, brightness or contrast of a photograph, I'll watch the screen and the image I'm working with there and adjust the brightness or contrast slider until the photo looks as I envisioned it looking.

When I have it where I like the brightness and contrast, I'll then look at the numbers above the sliders.

Both contrast and brightness are at a default value of zero. So if I add contrast or brightness I might end up with a +5 or +10, or conversely, lowering contrast or brightness might result in -5 or -10. See?

So when I look at the number that came up in my slider work, remember I was watching the picture, not the slider or it's number, and see, say, -6 or +6, I'll move it to five. +11 or -11 is moved to +-10. (This even weirds ME out, because despite my preference of 11 ratchets worth of brown paper towels at work, I will move 11 to 10 on Photoshop Elements.)

What if I end up smack dab in the middle, like with a contrast of +8. For some strange reason I'll move it to a +7.

I tend to prefer odd numbers over even numbers.

I have absolutely no idea why I do this.

So part of my process of working with images in Photoshop Elements is to first adjust the slider controls to visually give me the look I want in the image, and then, without fail, I'll look at the resulting slider's number value and feel compelled to move it to a multiple of five, and if in the middle, I'll prefer the odd number over the even ones. 3 is better than 4 to me for reasons even I cannot fathom.

I know. I'm a freak. I'm all over the map with this stuff.

You probably all hate me now.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #48

13 More Stupid Questions and Answers About Me

Still stealing meme questions from other people's blogs to keep up with Thursday Thirteen.

1. If you were a bicycle, would you be a stingray or a mountain bike? Stingray. Because then, I would be the fondest childhood memories of some folks. The kind of memories you want to go back and relive. Who remembers their mountain bike fondly? I rest my case. (Here's a pic of me and my Sears Gremlin, Stingray style bike when I was a wee lad.)

2. What is your least favorite fruit? Do raisins count as fruit? My blog, my rules. I hereby declare, and do affirm, that raisins are my most hated fruit. (I would have said figs but I haven't seen a real fig in over twenty years, I'm ALWAYS on the lookout for raisins lurking in cookies, carrot cake, and Lord help us, cinnamon rolls.)

3. What kind of fruit have you never had? Horned melon, or Kiwano, that I've seen in the grocery stores here in Florida. Looks neato, but I've never eaten it.

4. If you won a $5,000 shopping spree to any store, which store would you pick? Suncoast Bicycles in Inverness, FL. It is the closest bicycle shop to where I live in Florida that is an authorized dealer for CO MOTION brand bicycles. I'd go there, be measured, sized up, and order myself a custom CO MOTION Americano touring bicycle.

5. What brand sports apparel do you wear the most? Nike I guess. I prefer Nike's shoes, but that's just the brand that works and looks best for me. No real zeal behind that choice, totally practicality.

6. Are/were you a good student? Overall I'd say yes. Definitely was when I went back to school for my engineering degree. I was much more mature, plus, if you fall behind in math or science, you're dead meat because they are linearly learned. Things like history you can just pick up wherever you come back to it. Math and sciences are built precept on precept so if you miss something, you won't understand the next thing that is built upon that previous thing.

7. Among your friends, who could you arm wrestle and beat? You continually surprise me. There you go, assuming I have friends. I have none. The question is moot.

8. If you had to choose, what branch of the military would you be in? Navy. My Dad was in the Navy and I always leaned toward it as my choice, but am now too old, fat, and broken down to be of any use to them.

9. Would you ever parachute out of a plane? In my younger days, yes. Now, no. I don't think my back or hips could take the landing.

10. What do you think is your best feature? These are the kinds of questions I really hate, because how could I possibly answer without sounding like a conceited moron? OK, here goes, my sexy legs my desire to improve myself, my health, my knowledge; I want to continually get better at everything I do.

11. If you were to win a grammy, what kind of music would it be for? Best Gospel-Rock album like Audio Adrenaline did with their final album, Until My Heart Caves In, earlier this year before disbanding.

12. What is your favorite season? Now, here in Florida, I'd say Fall. There are a handful of trees with color, the temperature is cooler but still plenty warm for doing things, and the sunsets get better in the fall than Spring or Summer. Yeah, Fall.

13. How many members do you have in your immediate family? I'll go with five. Actually, this isn't an easy question. It could be three because there are myself, Lovely Wife, and Number Two Daughter in the house right now. Number One Daughter moved in with Sis in Law after Mother in Law passed away, but that's only on the next street over. So I could say five too.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wordy Wednesday #2

I posted a couple of different photos of this guitar on my photography blog yesterday.
I haven't been taking many photos of late, but this past Sunday afternoon some incredible light was coming in through our home's skylights. (We have three)

I thought about what I could place there to take some photographs, and decided on one of my poor neglected guitars.

This is my Les Paul Studio that I bought used several years ago from a friend at work who had quit playing.

A brand new Les Paul Studio is the least expensive "real" Les Paul at $1400 brand new. It's basic, and has no binding or adornments, but it's a real mahogany/maple Les Paul guitar. All the tone and playability is there, just without the flashy looks, and a much lower price of $600 for me, used.
It's a tone machine, with a Seymour Duncan Jazz (SH-2) in the rhythm, or neck position and a Duncan Custom pickup (SH-5) in the treble, or bridge position.

This combination gives the guitar a smooth, mellow tone with the neck pickup through a clean amplifier, yet the hot pickup in the bridge will roar, literally roar, through a cranked up, distorted amplifier.

It's a pleasure to hold and play.
My friend Bret from whom I bought the guitar got a couple of dings in it, but that's ok, it gives it a little character, and lessened the price he wanted for it.

The wood you see in these photos is the maple cap on the whole front of the guitar. Maple is a hard wood that is very resonant and brings out the higher frequency notes better.

The wood on the back and the whole neck of the guitar is mahogany, a softer wood which enhances lower frequencies and lends and overall mellow tone to instruments.

You might think that since an electric guitar is, well, electric, that the wood would have no influence on the sound. You would be wrong. The mixture of the mahogany and the maple on a Les Paul, as well as the geometry of the angled neck on the guitar work together to add a whole lot of pleasing harmonic overtones to the sound of the vibrating strings.

The plucked strings vibrate, which causes the wood itself to vibrate, and then a whole symbiotic thing takes over and the vibrating strings and vibrating wood influence one another, creating a more pleasing tone than if you went to Home Depot, bought some 2x4s and glued them together and carved out the exact same dimensions.

The Les Paul is my favorite sounding guitar, yet I also have cheap knockoff of two different Fender guitars as well, a Stratocaster copy, as well as a Telecaster copy.

They all sound different from one another and are like different types and colors of paints in an artists arsenal.

I'll shut up now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A First For Me

I like to write.

One of the reasons I started blogging was to get back into the groove of writing. I had flat-out stopped writing, yet had discovered blogs and a few of them had me hooked.

I thought, if I could just blog a little bit per day, it would help keep me in the writing game, even if it wasn't fiction like I wanted to write.

An undexpected blessing of blogging is that I no longer have to write fiction with pen on paper, I can now type it in as I go. Something I was never able to do before I started blogging.

With the possible exception of stretching the truth a bit on this blog to make a story here and there a little more interesting, I've never posted fiction on here.

But today, I find myself with nothing to say, nothing to post.

So, for the first time, I thought I would put a bit of my fiction on here.

What follows is part of the process of me developing a fictional character in my head. I might write something similar to this several times for any given fictional character until I feel that I know him or her and his / her traits a little better before beginning an actual story containing them.

This is how it comes out of me; rough, misspellings, and bad grammar, and little dialogue, because, hey, it's just character development here, not the story itself yet.

I already see things to change, names and other things, but I was trying to get a bit of a read on who the guy talking is.

Let me know what y'all think, whether you're bored to tears or like him or hate him; whatever.

It isn’t very hard to find a person these days, what with the internet and a bit of money judiciously placed here and there in the right hands. One can always find the information on simple things like where a certain person lives or works. After that, it’s another simple matter to spend some time ascertaining a person’s normal schedule.

Even people like Michael Mulligan who, in theory, know that people are out to get him if they can, eventually drop into a normal daily routine. It’s human nature. It isn’t very smart, but it’s still human nature.

Mulligan had killed my sister with his own two hands. I was here to return the favor. The most lasting image I have of my newly discovered sister is the snapshot in my mind of finding her in her room at my home. Raped, strangled to near death repeatedly, and finally a broken neck.

For thirty two years I was an only child. Then I received a phone call from Allison, and tentatively, a relationship that seemed impossible, proved to not only be true, but quickly became the lone source of joy in my life.

The only problem was that Allison had lived a life that brought her into contact with people who have no regard for lives other than their own.

To the police, who tried their best to pin the murder on me, the case was still open. I had been all evening on a gig at a club one hour from my home, with numerous proofs of my presence elsewhere in both the band and the audience. The police grudgingly decided that I hadn’t killed my sister.

What the police did not know was that I knew who had raped and murdered her.
I have had the ability to intuit things from the time I was a child. I was four when my father abandoned my mother and I, but I knew even at that young age that he was gone and that I would never see him again, even before my mother tried to explain what a four year old shouldn’t be able to understand.
I understood all too well.

My ability, if you want to call it that, had eventually created a man with more understanding of what is really going on around him than other’s could possibly want to know about their own lives. Solitude, an understanding mother, and a musical gift released on a guitar all conspired to help me become something approaching a normal human being.

The night I found my sister, when I checked her for a pulse, I saw the image of the man who had killed her. While the cops were busy trying to find physical evidence in the room and house on which to identify and arrest a killer, I was trying to find out who this person, known only to me as a picture in my head, was.

How could I possibly explain my ability to the police? That I could give them the details of the man’s face, body, and clothing so clearly as to create a very accurate sketch would have been too difficult to explain.

I did not know where he was, even if his face was provided to me by whatever it is that has done these impossible connections throughout my life.

All I know, is that I was back to being the only person left in the Kingston family, after it had briefly doubled. Alison was there, then taken away.

During her life, my mother had gently encouraged that my gift, which is what she called it, should be put to good use. She thought I should use my ability to help others somehow.

I was never convinced of this. Maybe she was right, but I was the wrong personality type to put on a cape and mask by night and try to single-handedly right the ills of the world.

To my credit, even as a kid I tried to learn things that I hoped would help if given the chance to make a difference for someone down the line. Mother had a boyfriend for many years, a former Army Special Forces guy, who taught me self defense, tracking, fitness, how to live off the land. Perfect for a kid and teen like I was; I was different and knew it, and learning these things was something no one else my age ever learned, so it seemed to help me be able to deal with my introverted life. It’s hard to feel alone or down when I’ve spent every waking hour on school, homework, and then physically demanding training meant for adults. I didn’t have time or the energy left to ponder my solitary life too much.

Barry, the Ranger, eventually died of cancer. He was as much a father as I ever knew, certainly more so than my biological father, and I miss him as much as I do my mother.

Allison showing up out of nowhere gave my life and psyche a jolt. I had developed a life of sorts for myself, revolving around playing guitar. I was in a local band of some regional appeal, but lived pretty much to myself otherwise.

It turned out that Allison had lived a life on the edge. Apparently our biological father wasn’t any more of a positive influence in her life than he was in mine. Her only problem was that her mother wasn’t anything like my own caring mother had been. Learning of Allison’s upbringing caused me to appreciate anew the dedication and love my own mother and Barry had shown me.

Allison was all front; she talked a good game, but was a lonely, love starved young woman. She seemed incapable of making good choices in her life. It was as if she had an inner compass that drove her to self destruction, and then she would step back and wonder why her life was a mess. She wanted what many women want, marriage, kids, a somewhat steady life, but was too bad at self analysis to realize she jinxed herself with almost every choice she made.

In short, Allison was a beautiful, sweetheart, train wreck, and I loved her with all of me within minutes of getting over the shock of having her show up unannounced in my life.

How she met Mulligan, I don’t guess I’ll ever know. Being the rather practical minded person I am I don’t much care to know. Whenever I thought of her, I saw his face. I found out who he was and eventually where to find him. That’s enough for me.

Heck, maybe Mom and Barry knew that one day I would get into a fix because of my ability to sense things, and that’s why Mom never said anything while Barry trained me over the years in all manner of destructive talents.

One thing that Barry could have never taught me because of his big heart, yet I had in plentiful amounts, was the capacity for coldness. I have loved my family and friends with much emotion, but when the time comes for hard choices and hard actions, I have nothing within me that allows me to inject feeling or sympathy into the job.

Michael Mulligan killed my sister; therefore Mulligan was a bug to me; a dangerous, murderous, raping bug in dire need of killing.

I believe that the sun will come up tomorrow, but Mike Mulligan won’t be alive to see it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Welcome to the Jungle

(Post inspired by Hammer, talking about having to mow his yard after his vacation.)

When Lovely Wife, the girls, and I moved into a rental house in Powder Springs, Ga in 1989, it sat on almost half an acre. I've never been afraid of cutting grass, that's how I made spending money while growing up. I've definitely mowed several lifetimes worth of grass, and except for extreme heat, kind of enjoyed it.

I had grown up in Louisiana, where the heat and humidity was way beyond anything I've experienced while living in the Florida panhandle, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas area, Central Florida, and yes, even way more than in the Atlanta area.

One thing that I like immediately about the Atlanta area was that not all of the houses were brick. On any given street, there were ranch style homes, maybe brick, maybe wood stained or painted a pleasing color, while other homes on the same street may be tri-level, two story, and so on. The result was a lot of differences and to me this was quite pleasing to drive around and look at.

Another immediate thing that this boy liked were the hills. Wow. Hills. Louisiana's highest point is Driskill "Mountain" at a whopping 535ft above sea level. But the Atlanta area had lots and lots of hills and hilly neighborhoods. I simply loved this.

Anyway, back to our rental house. It sat on about half an acre. The back yard was heavily wooded, but at one time you could tell that it had been cleaned out, but past renters of the home hadn't bothered in quite a while, so there were all manner of small trees trying to grow in addition to patches of thigh deep grass.

And in the area between our house and the neighbor on one side was a big open area where the city of Powder Springs had once planned to put a connecting street. Our neighbor owned his home, so he mowed only to the edge of his property, meaning the big area there was mostly part of the property we were renting. Again past renters hadn't bothered to mow this in so long that the grass was waist to chest high on me, and very thick. It was out in the open and was a low area so when it rained it got plenty of water and then later plenty of sun.

In the beginning, I just mowed what had been mowed in the past, and kept eyeing the mess in both our back yard and side yard.

What worried me, was having come from Louisiana where there were lots of snakes, I thought that if I were a snake, these areas would be like heaven. And we had two small daughters who loved to play outside.

Our mower was a $100 Walmart push mower with a whopping 20inch wide cut and 3.5HP Briggs and Stratton engine. But then again, I was 26 years old with plenty of strength and stamina.

In the back yard I got some of those clippers that will snip through small branches and cut down all of the little trees trying to grow among the big trees. Then with my little Briggs and Stratton mower, began to whittle my way farther and farther into the mess, starting close to the back of the house and working toward the back of the property.

Each week when I mowed the yard, I would take on a little more of the mess behind the house, and after a few weeks, had the area under all the pines cleared out like a park. Grass started to grow again and it was a really pleasant and pretty place to sit and enjoy the cool evenings.

After making the back yard safe for the kids (and adults), I started the same process on that mess in the side yard. And it being grass and weeds, was 100 times thicker than the mess that had grown underneath the trees. I'd push that sad little mower forward one step, it would begin to bog down. I would press the handle down really fast to try to let the engine speed back up. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

This thick mess on the side was the really scary stuff, but if there were snakes in there, they had plenty of warning and decided to get away, and I ever so slowly started making inroads into the jungle. All the while, my neighbor would buzz around his yard on his nice riding mower and wave at me. It wasn't his problem.

It was such a frustrating job to work so hard with so little differenc to see, that I would work myself into near total exhaustion trying to hack that mess down. I at least wanted to be able to walk away after working on it and think, "Hey, I'm making progress" when I looked back, you know? If I had a dollar for every time I had to press on the handle to lift the blade to let the mower speed back up, and five dollars for every time I had to restart the thing because I was too slow at this and the engine stopped, I would be the third richest man in the world, behind that Mexican dude and Bill Gates.

Eventually the great day arrived where I mowed the yard as usual, and went over to the jungle and worked at it until I had completely finished it.

I was a happy man, let me tell you.

One of us might still be bitten by a snake, but it wouldn't be because I was too sorry to cut down the jungle that was so close to our house. It immediately looked SO much better that it was simply amazing. For a while, I would look out of a window just to see how good it looked to finally have that mess cut down.

Seeing how much better it looked, and how much safer I felt for us and the girls with regards to possible snakes having been hidden in the mess were the rewards I guess.

But the unforseen reward was that I now had almost a full half acre each week to mow, with my $100, 20inch cut, push mower. Fully twice the area I originally had to mow.

Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Picture Post, Sunday July 22, 2007

This is what we call The Rosie Nose. Our red poodle, Rosie, loves to get under the covers and that's one of her ways of moping in the morning and shows her displeasure at our impending departures for work. I think it's cute though.

Lovely Wife and I were out and about one day and she decided to stop for a Tropical Smoothie smoothie. I saw these neon signs and stepped out of the car and took a couple of pictures. Lovely Wife said that inside all the workers were like, "Hey! What's that Dude doing with the camera?" and "Is he taking pictures of us?" in scared tones. Lovely Wife just waved 'em off. "Nah, that's just my husband and his camera. They're harmless."

I liked this one of the neon signs though.

These next two photos are of some air plants that grow all through several of our trees. We were told the trees are myrtle, but I have no idea what these guys are called. You can see the rust colored blossoms on them though. I thought that was kinda neat.

This is a couple of trimmed fronds on some plants in front of one of our public libraries. I did a nice black and white conversion of it and posted it on my photography blog a few weeks ago, but I liked the deep greens of the color one too, so that's what yer gittin'.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Borderline OCD (self-diagnosed), Part 1

Warning: another frightening look inside my head.

I say borderline OCD, because at heart, I'm a slob. Some areas of life and my living spaces are a nightmare mess of stacked books and papers, and other areas I want clean and orderly.

Yet another dichotomy that is part of being me.

Like everyone else, I hate the high prices of gasoline.

Yes, I hate that it simply takes more money to drive a vehicle now, but that's not the only thing that bothers me about the high price of gas.

Example. Last week, I'm driving the van, Dodge Grand Caravan, 1998 vintage.

I happen to look down, and have one of my patented mini heart attacks. The fuel gauge is BELOW "E". As in, no part of the needle is even touching the thicker red line that indicates "E"; it's below that.

I pull into a Shell station, the first gas station after my miraculous recovery from the mini heart attack.

I get out, do the debit card thingy at the machine, because I'm a dedicated pay-at-the-pump kind of guy, and start gassing the van up.

Well, the van has a pretty huge tank, and after a while I tell myself, "if it hasn't filled up by $40, then I'll stop it there."

It hadn't filled all the way as I approached $40, so I slow down and... "Aargh!" I overshoot to $40.03.

That, dear reader, is just absolutely intolerable.

So I continue and try for $41. Whoops.

Try for $42. "Dangit!"

Here comes $43.

I'm focused like a laser beam. Total master of my eye hand coordination.

I'm praying.

Man, I'm using the force, just like ol' Obi Wan taught Luke...


Yes! $43.00 exactly!

(If at all possible, it's crucial that the amount be exactly on the dollar. The order of preference is thus: exact dollar, then half dollar, then quarter dollar, and finally tenth of a dollar.)

I carefully flip the handle down to ensure the pump doesn't jump forward a penny or two and throw me off my game again.

I breathe a sigh of relief, press the YES button for a receipt, and I'm back on the road.

And thus is the experience of buying a tank of gasoline with borderline OCD (self-diagnosed).

Related, But Different Gasoline Buying Stressor In My Life

We have one car out of three that has the gas fill door on the passenger side. Since we bought that car, no matter which car I'm in now, I cannot remember if IT is the one with the fuel door on the passenger side.

So as I pull any vehicle into a gas station, I have a minor panic attack while trying to quickly remember 1.) which side is the fuel door on in this car? 2.) scan the instrumentaion panel in whichever vehicle I'm in, because sometimes car manufacturers anticipate idiots like me getting into just such a panic and have a helpful "<-FUEL DOOR" or "FUEL DOOR->" written there to help us out of our jam by flat-out telling us where the dang fuel door is, and 3.) try to figure out the exact path I need to drive, turn, back up if necessary, to put the fuel door I've finally found nice and close to the gas pump without having a war / road rage with someone else trying to do the same thing.

Come to think of it, getting your car in the proper place for pumping gas at a station is JUST LIKE musical chairs when you were a kid.

And I'm not a very competitive person at heart, so I'm the one usually left waiting.

Note To Self: Ensure that all future automobile purchases also consider which side the fuel door is on. Or, write my Congressman to demand legislative action to have all fuel doors on all cars made on the entire planet be placed on the driver's side of the car.

Just for me.

Hey everybody. I've had a rather tough week, and haven't been making the rounds of everyone's blog to read and comment. I'm sorry about that, I'm hoping to catch up on my reading and commenting on your blogs this weekend.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Forget Names, Yes: Forget People: No

We all know that each human is different; unique from every other person on this planet.

One of the things that I finally realized as a teen, a true turning point within my own head, was when I realized that people in other parts of the world, other cultures have completely different views than, say, me, on almost any subject I could name.

For me, this realization was like becoming a Christian, being baptized, getting married; a true turning point in my life.

I've always had pretty strong reasoning skills. Yeah, as a boy and a teen, I lived in a fantasy world of "what ifs" and "could I possibly" type scenarios just as everyone else, but I also was one of the few people that I have ever known that like word problems in math for instance. Identify your givens, determine what your answer should be (ie, _____ Km/hr) and then the workings of the problems just seemed to fall into place for me.

I was put to the test on this quite literally and quite a lot in engineering school, but I survived.

All of that background leads me to this question: Why do I stink at remembering names?

I've said on here before that if were named numbers at birth instead of a word, I'd almost never forget a name. That's not the way it is, so I don't lose sleep over it. But numbers I can deal with much better than words.

Numbers stick. Numbers flow. Numbers "make sense" to me.

I know that not everyone is like this. Even siblings and close relatives have a complete horror of numbers.

To me, numbers are my friends.

On political things. To me, 99% of what I see and hear politician's say and act on, has absolutely zero basis in logic. Watching political machinations in our government, from stupid goings on at the local Palm Bay city, Brevard County, level up to the U.S. Congress and Sentate, Executive Branch, and Supreme Court always has me shaking my head in wonder at the lack of common sense and logic these people operate with.

Of course, this is my opinion. I watch, listen, read, then run it all through the little gray cells in my massive cranium and out come my own thoughts. If those very people read my blog for a while they very possibly would come to the conclusion that I'm as dumb as a box of rocks. That's life.

I seem to be able to make sense of some things while having to ability to make sense of other things that go on in the world.

That's an awfully dreary and heavy lead in to what I want to mention about myself today.

I HATE how I have forgotten people's names over the years.

I think back to the 80s and our time in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, working for Delta Air Lines, picture people and events that I worked with and knew and considered friends, but when I think of them now, I can remember every thing but their names.

Not everyone. I can remember the names of lots of folks from over the years because I make it a point to, as I look back to calmly not only remember events, but to also dredge up the people's names from the depths of my mind.

Many times I'm successful, but sometimes I'm not, and when I can remember working with a person or people day after day for months and months and now I can't remember their names, it really bothers me.

One of the things I hate most about myself is that I've had a life-long problem of not focusing when I meet someone new. We shake hands, they say their name, I say mine, say glad to meet ya, and if they were to stop right there and say, hey, what did I just tell you my name was? I would not be able to answer them.

If Lovely Wife is with me, as soon as possible, I'll whisper and ask her, "what did he/she say their name was?"

I've done this all my life.

I have what few credit cards we use number's memorized, expiration date, security codes, bills account numbers, Lovely Wife's social security number, all manner of phone numbers from my entire life, including some childhood friends from 35 years ago, but I cannot remember a person's name, ten seconds after being introduced, probably 9 out of 10 times.

Each and every one of us is a total jumble of discontinuities and contradictions.

And it grieves me that I cannot remember men and women's names from years ago, that I worked with, enjoyed working with and considered friends, although we rarely interacted with one another outside of work.

One last thing.

What good is wisdom, learned the hard way, when I tend to ignore her lessons anyway?

I look back at my life and say, boy, if I had only known then what I know now, I could have really made some changes in my life.

But the harder reality is, I'm only 44. I could still make enact those hard-learned lessons today, and change my future, yet I still ignore that wisdom and/or put off acting on it.

What's wrong with me? I know that I have "a lot on the ball" but seriously, why can't I do better yet in areas of my life where I have the knowledge and wisdom to change, yet ignore it at my own peril?

Now that I have y'all good and depressed, I'll quit here.

At least I haven't forgotten the people I talked about. I might not recall their names, but I remember them, even if I probably will never see them again.

Maybe I shouldn't let it bother me to forget names as long as I remember THEM.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #47

13 More Stupid Questions and Answers About Me

Still stealing meme questions from other people's blogs to keep up with Thursday Thirteen.

1. Have you ever gotten a truck driver to honk his horn? Oh yeah. When we were kids, way before seat belt laws, Big Brother and I knelt in the rear seat to pump our arms for many miles, hoping to get a trucker to honk his horn.

2. Which would you rather live with: a huge nose or crossed eyes? Hmmm. Jimmy Durante became famous despite having a huge nose. Karan Black became famous despite being cross-eyed. I flipped a coin. It came up "big nose" so I'll just go with that.

3. Would you hang out with someone your best friend didn't like? Yes, I think so. I've always been able to make friends from all over the human spectrum, so it's quite possible some of them might not like one another.

4. Would you hang out with someone your best friend liked, but you didn’t like? Assuming this is all three of us together and not just me and the one I don't like, yes. Otherwise no. I wouldn't hang out with someone I just flat-out couldn't get along with.

5. Have you ever returned a gift? Back to the person who gave it to me? No. At least I don't remember ever doing this.

6. Would you give someone else a gift that had been given to you? Not rewrapped. I might give someone something that was originally a gift to me if another person expressed a desire to have one. But I wouldn't try to pass it off as a new gift.

7. If you could attend an Olympic Event, what would it be? Weight lifting. I once loved to lift weights, although I was never in that class of lifting.

8. How many pairs of shoes do you own? Six, maybe seven, counting slippers and sandals.

9. If your grandmother gave you a gift that you already have, would you tell her? No.

10. Do you sing in the car? Yeah. It's a known fact that if a known bad singer is alone in the car and then sings, at those times, he's every bit as good as Pavaroti.

11. Would you rather jump into a dumpster or into a vat of honey? Honey. It tastes good, and I'm going to have to take a shower right after this anyway, so it might as well be a known substance instead of Lord only knows what from a dumpster.

12. What is your favorite breed of dog? I'd say poodle since we have four of them. They're cute, funny, playful 'til the day they die, and don't shed.

13. Would you donate money to feed starving animals in the winter? Yes.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wordy Wednesday (with Photos!) #1

Lots of folks do a thing called Wordless Wednesday, it's a meme thingy like the Thursday Thirteen I participate in. Most people put up one or two photos and no words, and go visit each other and comment.

The reason that I've never joined and started participating in Wordless Wednesday is that I can't seem to post a photograph without just a little bit of context, which requires words.

I've stopped putting very many photos on this blog, or at least not nearly as many as I once did because I started my second blog which is a photography one. But I thought I would try to start putting up a few pics in the middle of the week to kind of balance out the Sunday Picture Posts I've been doing on this blog every week for over a year now.

Plus, the Thursday Thirteen thing is by far the hardest post day of the week for me, trying to visit as many of my blog friend's blogs as I can during Thursdays. I don't need the added pressure of trying to visit a whole bunch of folks on Wednesdays too, so I'll keep mine informal. Words AND pictures.

Without further ado:

Sebastian Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean.

Another view of Sebastian Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean.

Two photos of a really nifty, custom painted VW Beetle. Not exactly my personal style, but stylish nonetheless.

These were all taken within the confines of Sebastian Inlet State Park. It's about a 35-45 minute drive from my home, because half the distance is driving either north or south from where I live to get to one causeway or another across the Indian River Lagoon, and then backtracking either north or south to the Inlet Park, depending on which way I feel like driving on any given day.

This is my favorite place to go to the beach even though it's a bit of a drive compared to the closer beaches. This is one place where you can have the beauty of both the Indian River Lagoon or the Atlantic Ocean in one, easy to walk, safe location.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Little Heart Attacks / Myelogram Update

(Post inspired by Hammer, when he mentioned his life-long paranoia of losing his keys and/or wallet.)

I have no idea how it started.
I don't remember ever losing my wallet or my keys, but I have definitely forgotten one or the other when I needed them.

So when I was a teen, I developed the habit of touching my front right pocket as I walk and my arm swings. Every so many swings, I'll intentionally touch that pocket to confirm that my keys are there.

Likewise, I developed the habit with my left hand that as I walked and my arms would swing, I would let the side of my left hand touch my back left pocket to confirm that my wallet was there.

The result is that I might walk toward the front door without one or the other, but I won't make it to the car without feeling the empty pocket and going back inside to get whichever one I've forgotten.

I might forget things like my lanyard with my work IDs that I'm not in the habit of touching every thirty seconds, and I might misplace my wallet or keys at the house like everybody else, but I guarantee that I don’t get 15 steps without figuring out they're not in my pockets.

With the back problems and blown disks in my lower back, I have permanent nerve damage in a set of nerves that runs down my left leg.

A strange result of this is that my life-long habit of keeping my wallet in my left rear pocket began to aggravate the problem. Especially sitting in a car, and also especially when I had a truck with standard transmission.

I've long ago sold the truck, and will never buy a standard transmission vehicle again, because working a clutch pedal also aggravates my lower back and my gimpy left leg.

One of the most difficult things I've ever done was switching the habit of keeping my wallet from my left rear pocket to my right rear pocket to help with the leg pain.

For about three months, my years long habit of touching my wallet as I walked with my left hand would result in a half-second long heart attack. It was no longer there.

After about three months, I was finally in the habit of using my right hand to check for both my wallet and my keys as I walked. And even after years of doing this, I still sometimes have a mini heart attack because without thinking, I touch my back left pocket and there's no wallet there.

(How's that for most boring blog post since they were called web logs?

But hey, it's my blog, and it's all about ME, right? Right?)

Myelogram Update

Had I known exactly what I was in for yesterday, I might not have gone.

Due to four past surgeries, the radiologist had a tough time finding an opening through scar tissue to my spinal cord.

What normally would have been one set of shots to deaden the area, and one really tough one as he pressed the needle through the muscles to the spine for the tap, turned into 4 sets of shots and spinal taps. He couldn't get the dye to "flow" as he wanted it to until the fourth try.

The half hour procedure took one and a half hours because he had to do four complete procedures until he had the dye in my spinal column, with the dye flowing far enough up and down the column to see what they wanted to see.

After that was a CAT scan and then 4 hours of observation, which amounted to me laying there and the nursed coming in every 15 minutes for blood pressure and to ask if I was getting a headache.

He said I have a big bone spur pressing the nerve that gives feeling and strength in the outside half of my left leg, which is exactly where I hurt. Now it's up to the surgeon to decide what, if anything, he can do. I see the surgeon again in a couple of weeks.

It turns out that they want me (and anyone having this procedure) to be at rest for a minimum of 48 hours.

I'm doing ok, once the procedure was over and they left me alone, I've done pretty good. Just lots of muscle pain from the four places he put that honkin' big needle through my back muscles.

I should be back to work on Thursday, barring the headache they are hoping for me to avoid. The Dr. removes a bit of spinal fluid and then puts the dye in there, trying to avoid a drastic change in the pressure. If the dyes reaches and passes through the blood/brain barrier, one may get the grandaddy of all migraines, if he misjudged a bit, and the spinal column/fluid pressure changes the headache could come then as well. I'm hoping to avoid that more than they do.

Anyway, that's my sad story.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Myelogram Monday, and Joe Satriani Plays A Favorite

I'd appreciate your prayers today.

When I got home from work Friday, I had a message from University Center Imaging, reminding me that I have a myelogram Monday morning at 9am.

The procedure is basically like a spinal tap, but instead of withdrawing spinal fluid to check for viruses and whatnot, while they have the spinal cavity tapped, they inject dye into it and as the dye spreads, they look at the area on a fluoroscope. The fluoroscope is like an x-ray, but shows things real time on a monitor instead of having to develop film.

Once the radiologist does the tap, and looks to see what damage he can see on the fluoroscope, they then will put me on a CAT scan for the best imaging they can get.

Then I have to stay there under their observation for four hours to ensure the spinal tap area stops bleeding and that I don’t get a dye induced migraine.

I'm not so much worried about the procedure, but it IS a bit difficult going in knowing that it's gonna hurt. I hurt enough already, but if they can find a problem, then it will give me options to ease the daily pain.

So, I'm linking a You Tube video of Joe Satriani. It's a live video of him playing my all-time favorite song by him, Until We Say Goodbye. The song is incredibly beautiful, but at times it rocks too. The perfect combination of melody and power. It's instrumental.

If you don't know who Joe Satriani is, he's one of the greatest guitarists alive. He's a true student of the instrument as well as a gifted songwriter.

Hope y'all enjoy it. (You probably need broadband for this. It's about a 4 minute song.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Picture Post, Sunday July 15, 2007

All of these were taken at Sebastian Inlet State Park, a favorite place of mine to wander around with a camera.

Lots of surfing, fishing, sunbathing, and swimming going on here on a decently sunny day.

In this next photo, if you look at the water off the end of the jetty, you'll notice that it's kind of rough, a bit churned up where the waters of the Indian River Lagoon meet the Atlantic Ocean when the tide is going out as it is when I took these photos. That means there's lots of fish right there, to the folks on the jetty are trying to take advantage of this, as are folks out in boats (that aren't in the picture), and also sharks know this. Lots of people surf right there on good surfing days and times, and people on jet skis can get some serious air when the waves are rougher than what you see here. One thing you can be sure of folks, ol' John ain't gonna be surfing, swimming, or jet skiing out there anytime in this lifetime.

Sea grape leaves.

A young boy fishing in the waters of the inlet, but way over on the lagoon side, away from the Atlantic.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Major Award Winning Blog

When I was a kid, I always wondered what it meant when at the beginning of the Buggs Bunny / Road Runner Hour, the announcer would say "It's time for that Oscar winning rabbit!"

To my ten year old mind, I was all, "What's an Oscar? What's so great about winning one?"

Hey, I never said I was the sharpest pencil in the cup.

But later I learned that Buggs Bunny had won an Academy Award, the "Oscar", and that in some circles this is considered a good thing.

The Oscars have long since lost their luster by handing them out willy-nilly to knuckleheads like Sean Penn, Al Gore, and Michael Moore, not on the merits of their work, but on their tireless efforts to promote ultra-liberal values through their work.

But that's a dead horse to beat on a future post.

In the blog world, some folks can just flat-out write, and are funny, and most important of all, speak elloquently AND plainly enough for even a Louisiana public school product like myself to understand and appreciate.

One of the blogs I regularly visit is Scribbit: Motherhood in Alaska - How Could I Make This Stuff Up?.

The other day, she included me in a list of bloggers to whom she was bestowing the "Blogger Reflection Award".

Thank you Scribbit. I accept this award, with all associated rights, honors, and benefits (which, I understand, amounts to simply bragging rights).

I tend not to pass on these things, but I'm going to break with my own tradition and nominate Norma at Collecting My Thoughts.

She is as plain-spoken as a person can be, with much better grammar than I can muster.

I think her personal quote under the title of her blog pretty much says what you can expect:
Opinionated, strict, safe for children, honest and well researched blog with some slang, statistics and humor for pacing, and occasional prejudices and snipes tossed in for balance.
Give her a visit, and give her some comment love too. Oh yeah, she cranks out the posts on no less than ELEVEN (yes, ELEVEN) blogs that she authors or participates in, so there's almost always a new post or two when you visit.

She covers the political things that I care about way before and way better than I can, and is one of the main reasons I don't write many political posts any more.

Go visit Collecting My Thoughts right now. And no lurking. Comment, dag-nab-it!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the Thirteenth

Well folks, it's Friday the 13th.

Does that mean anything to any of you? It means nothing to me. Never has.

When I was a kid I didn't understand all of the hullabaloo over things like this. Why certain numbers are supposed to be unlucky and others blessed.

I thought I would try to look it up. I went to Wikipedia, admittedly not the most reliable or accurate source of information, but it should serve to see what Friday the 13th is all about.

Some quotes from Wikipedia's Friday the 13th entry that I found interesting:
A Friday occurring on the 13th day of any month is considered to be a day of bad luck in English, German, Polish and Portuguese-speaking cultures around the globe. Similar superstitions exist in some other traditions. In Greece or Spain, for example, Tuesday the 13th takes the same role. In Russia, the unlucky day is Monday...

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia (a word that is derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Παρασκευή, δεκατρείς, and φοβία, meaning Friday, thirteen, and phobia respectively...

No historical date has been verifiably identified as the origin of the superstition. Before the 20th century, although there is evidence that the number 13 was considered unlucky, and Friday was considered unlucky, there was no link between them. The first documented mention of a "Friday the 13th" is generally listed as occurring in the early 1900s.

and finally,

"It's been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do."

Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they are simply unable to get out of bed when Friday the 13th rolls around. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute estimates that more than 17 million people are affected by a fear of this day. Despite that, representatives for both Delta and Continental Airlines say that their airlines don't suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.

A British Medical Journal study has shown that there is a significant increase in traffic-related accidents on Friday the 13ths.

Again, Wikipedia isn't known for it's accuracy, just it's convenience, but with such an unimportant subject as this, we'll just go with it, OK?

It seems that Friday the 13th is much ado about nothing. I felt this way, even as a kid. Seems I've been pretty much right all these years.

This was the first time I've tried to even look up more information on the subject.

Just for the record:

- I have no problem walking under a ladder either, unless it's a really small ladder. I'm a big guy and in those cases it's just easier to walk around them.

- I do not freak out, nay, I really don't care at all if a black cat walks across my path. I just hope the poor critters don't get run over when wandering about the streets.

- Spilled salt does not bother me in the least. I do not throw a pinch over my shoulder to ward off evil either.

- Most of all, I DO NOT believe that if your palm itches, money is coming your way. I would be insanely rich if this were true. As it is, the only money that has come my way were paychecks I earned, and loved ones giving me money on special occasions like Christmas, birthdays, and whatnot. If this one were even remotely true, I'd be in the news every year with That Rich Dude from Mexico, Bill Gates, and the Sultan of Brunei.

Most disappointing of all to me, are that many Christians are just as bad about things like this, having their own versions of phobias and numerology based fears.

Some think that the number 7 is a blessed number for various reasons, one being that God created life on earth in 7 days, and is therefore inherently a good number. But God created life on earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th, so that can't be the reason.

There are other uses in the Bible for all kinds of numbers, 7, 3 for the Holy Trinity, but as much as I've read the Bible over the years, I've never seen mention of US being directed to use numbers that are by their very nature, blessed.

You can go into Christian book stores and buy what I consider heretical works such as "Bible Code" books and such where numerologists have tried their hand at divining deeper meaning from the scriptures simply using the numbers of letters in words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, well, you get the picture.

For the record, I neither buy nor believe in this kind of thing, especially in regards to the Bible.

I believe that God said what he meant. Using Prophets and other men anointed to the task of writing the words God spoke into their spirit, for us to read and know.

Maybe my belief in this makes you roll your eyes and say, hey, you sit here and tell us numbers mean nothing other than to count with, yet your believe that God himself spoke through certain men to tell us what he wanted us to hear and learn and live?

Yep. That's exactly what I'm saying.

I'm a big boy now, and I make my own choices, what to do, and what to believe in.

As do we all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #46

13 More Stupid Questions and Answers About Me

I'm still stealing meme questions from other people's blogs to keep up with Thursday Thirteen.

1. Which do you think is more dangerous: an angry bear or a hungry white shark? Hungry great white shark. Pretty close call though. I just think that I might end up with some pretty hideous scars, but would survive a bear attack. I'm thinkin' a big ol' shark would take an arm or leg and I'd bleed to death in about two minutes.

2. Would you climb a very high tree to save a kitten? Nah. If I were young and really fit, yes. Not now though.

3. Can you tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator? No. I don't have eyes in the back of my head to look at and ponder the difference while I'm attempting to run away.

4. Do you drink pepsi or coke? Doesn't matter to me. My taste isn't discriminating enough to care for one over the other.

5. Whats your favorite number? I don't have a favorite number, as in feeling lucky or anything. But if pressed on the matter, I would say that pi is my favorite number. That 3.14159 is just SO darn useful. I kinda dig "e", the base of natural logarithms, which is also irrational, so I'll just call it 2.71828.

I'll bet you're sorry you asked that one now, aren't you?

6. If you were a car, would you be an SUV or a sports car? SUV. Before screwing up my back I was an EXCELLENT pack mule; definitely more SUV-like.

7. Have you ever accidentally taken something from a hotel? No. But I've accidentally left things at hotels. And I've never understood the fascination with hotel towels anyway.

8. Would you blow your nose at the dinner table? In general, no. But if it's just immediate family and it's that after-everyone-is-through-eating period when we're all just talking, yeah, I would. Not with visitors though.

9. Have you ever slipped in the bathtub? Yeah, but haven't broken anything or cut anything. Only bruises to show for it.

10. Do you use regular or deodorant soap? Deodorant. After my last back surgery I hallucinate smells, and no longer trust my nose. I'm a bit paranoid about how I smell and use deodorant soap to add a level of mental ease to my worries.

11. Have you ever locked yourself out of the house? No. Not that I recall. Car, yes, house, no.

12. Would you rather make your living as a singing cowboy or as one of the Simpsons voices? I've never watched the Simpsons. Can a person make a living doing one show's character voice? I've always wanted to sing, and I like cowboys, so on the surface, a singing cowboy sounds pretty cool. But then they probably only sing country music, which I hate (despise even). Ok, I'd do a Simpson's voice because I couldn't handle listening to myself sing country music all the time. That's my final answer.

13. If you could invite any movie star to your home for dinner, who would it be? This was actually kind of tough. As a politically conservative person, most movie stars and I would be in a fist fight within about 5 minutes. And if I said Mel Gibson or Tom Selleck, I'd never see my wife again, so I'll go with Bruce Willis. He seems like the kind of person who would be great to have over for a Bar-B-Q

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Politics as Usual and a Couple of Purdy Pictures

(If you don't want to read my whining about political things, just scroll to the bottom of the post for the pictures.)

I have really been holding back on political things lately. It’s as if, a while back, something snapped in me and I haven’t had the compulsion that I once used to get to write about political things.

One of the main reasons for this, the Republican party, which for the past x number of years has been the only reasonably conservative party in the country with any hope of winning and holding offices in national elections, has been behaving and voting much as the Democrats do, who are typically liberal.

Despite some of what passes for vehemence out of my mouth, or fingers as it were, I don’t hate Democrats or liberals. I disagree with many of their political positions, but who cares besides me? I’m one of 300 million citizens in America, I read, watch, and learn, and when the time comes I vote.

I agree with conservatives much of the time, so I tend to come down on the side of Republicans.

But the recent issues with the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” has taught many Americans, including me, that our Congress and Senate and current President don’t have a clue where the majority of Americans stand on what this bill meant.

I heard, time and again, Washington big-wigs shouting into microphones how this bill wasn’t amnesty. That just proved to those of us with half a brain that they have some sort of disease that happens inside the Washington, D.C. beltway, where the people there begin to truly believe what the lobbyists tell them.

It was really simple to about 250 million or so of the 300 million Americans that opening a path for illegal aliens to be granted full rights of citizenship which didn’t entail them getting out of here and getting to the back of the line behind those honest souls who are trying to be here and become citizens legally is nothing other than amnesty.

There’s simply no other way to view it with any credible reasoning.

But that’s the problem. That’s just the way I feel. That’s my reasoning. I do feel gratified that so many millions of other Americans felt this way and made so many phone calls and emails to their Congressmen and Senators that the phone system was overloaded, and enough people took notice of this to vote correctly on this immigration bill, but enough voted for it and castigated the people of America for being against it that I’m appalled and afraid something similar might be resurrected and slipped through the process without our awareness.

My $0.02 is simply that if we did two things, we could empty this country of illegal aliens and halt future flows of them:

1. Take away the business licenses of companies the KNOWINGLY hire illegal aliens. Shut ‘em down.
2. Turn the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or whatever it’s called these days, loose to enforce current laws, and do the same with the U.S. Border Patrol, quit chopping them off at the knees and let them protect our borders.

Would there still be millions of problem situations? Sure, but it’s a start.

All I know is, if we keep on like we are, we’re eventually going to let in a suitcase atomic bomb that will be detonated and kill millions. Heck, it might already be here.

But we have to stop the unguarded flow of people into America across all of our borders, and we need to elect officials who agree that this needs to be done and that are willing to take this hard road to protect America’s future.

Just let the people who are theoretically hired to stop the influx of illegal aliens across our borders, all of the borders, and that will go a long way to making America safer.

America is built on the shoulders of people who were LEGAL immigrants, or descendants thereof. No one wants to stop immigration. No one hate immigrants.

We just want illegal immigration stopped before it causes the collapse of our government due to the weight they put onto government handout programs and medical programs for poor CITIZENS.

We want our borders sealed and protected to let in and out only legal immigrants and travelers, and to protect this country from the next 9/11 type attack.

Is this too tough a stance. Am I being too cruel here?

If so, lets first close the borders. Shut all of them down to just the legal commerce and immigration and travel that should be happening. Totally clamp down, absolutely as hard as possible on all illegal alien entry into the U.S.

Then once that is done, we can debate on what to do about the illegal aliens that are here now.

But the first priority HAS TO BE to stop the arterial hemorraging that are our borders.

And another thing...

Why are the liberals in America getting their panties in such a wad over President Bush commuting Scooter Libby's sentence. Actually, I'm not a fan of his, but like it or not, it's within the Presiden't power to do so. And I mean within powers that the original framers of our country like John Adams thought important enough to make sure the President had them at his disposal. President Clinton used his powers to pardon and conservatives cried like crack babies, now President Bush commutes a sentence and Bush Derangement Syndrome has the left leaners doing the same.

Come on. Really. Scooter Libby is nobody.

We all know that Richard Armitage was the person who told reporters that the non-covert Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.

By the most basic logic, if she was really a covert agent, and Richard Armitage admitted to telling reporters that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, then why didn't the special prosecutor go after Armitage?

I'll tell you why. Valerie Plame wasn't covert, at the VERY LEAST, not in a way that makes Armitage's exposure of her a crime. If she was legally considered covert, we know who outed her, and it wasn't Scooter Libby. It was Richard Armitage.

If laws were broken regarding Valerie Plame, then why hasn't Richard Armitage even been indicted and brought before a grand jury?

Again, because no crime was committed, because if there was, we know who did it. If there was a crime committed in this, then Richard Armitage, the admitted "leaker" would be under arrest and either in a trial or waiting on his trial to start.

And again, Scooter Libby is a nobody as far as the whole Valerie Plame brouhaha is concerned. Plus he's still facing a quarter of a million dollar fine. That would scare me personally just as bad as the thought of prison. Plus, as of now, the perjury conviction is still a felony on his record. That's heavy stuff folks.

Was I repetitious enough there to get my point across?

OK, OK, I’ll shut up now.

How about a couple of purdy pictures after all of that nastiness?

Both of these were taken at Sebastian Inlet State Park, about 25 miles south of where we live, and out on the barrier island we call beachside.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Strawberry Pie

Sometimes it only takes the smallest thing for my mind to make an association.

We bought a watermelon to eat on the Fourth of July, but ended up not even cutting it.

Lovely Wife cut it open this past weekend, and it was SO good.

I love how you can start eating a watermelon while feeling thirsty, yet the watermelon satisfies your thirst it's so juicy.

That's the way the one we bought was.

Anyway, I got to thinking about fruit and which ones I liked and have gone through periods of pigging out on over the years.

For instance, when we lived in the Dallas, Texas area, I ate honeydew melons in amazing amounts. It seemed as if I were always able to get fresh ones when we lived there, just ready to cut open and always perfectly ripe. Everywhere else we've lived it has been a gamble as to the readiness to eat of honeydews.

Growing up in Monroe, Louisiana, like many other places in the south, the availability of massive, tasty, fresh strawberries was commonplace.

Sainted Mother would buy a bunch of strawberries and we'd wash, slice, add sugar and eat them with angel food cake and Cool Whip.

I loved letting the strawberry juice soak into the angel food cake until it was a soggy mess before I began to eat it. Simple, fattening, and incredibly delicious.

Quite often though, Sainted Mother would make this strawberry glaze-like thing, and make three or four fresh strawberry pies.

I'm dying as I type this, slobberin' like Pavlov's dog.

So there's these three or four strawberry pies, freshly made at home, with fresh strawberries and that jello-like strawberry glaze gluing the whole thing together and they tasted so good, Mama HAD to make three or four of them, because the first one and a half or two would go pretty much instantaneously. Everybody would immediately eat two pieces. Then the other two might actually last us a couple of days further.

One of my best childhood / teen friends was a guy named Glenn, and he lived catty-cornered across the street from us.

Sainted Mother had learned over the years just how deep was Glenn's love for all things strawberry, so when she would make some strawberry pies, she would have me call him especially, to let him know there was fresh pie to be had.

We still laugh about this one time when Mama told me to call Glenn and tell him we had some strawberry pie if he wanted to come over and eat some.

Sainted Mother and Don C. were sitting in their recliners, and I on the couch in our den watching TV at the time.

I got up and walked over to the phone, called Glenn, and told him about the pies. He replied that he'd be right over.

Well. He must have slammed the phone down, and run at top speed across the street to our house, and as I hung up the phone, turned to my parents to tell them Glenn was going to come over, there was a knock on our storm (glass) door under the carport we all used for entry and exit to our house.

There was Glenn, already standing there, face pressed against the glass, with both hands up by his head and tapping on the glass.

It shocked all of us, because he was literally knocking on the door before I could even tell my parents he was coming.

There was this silent pause when we all looked in surprise at the door to see him standing there, impatiently knocking on the storm door, before we all three cracked up laughing.

I don't even remember sitting and eating the pie, I just remember the shock of it having been literally 5 seconds from the time he hung up the phone until he was knocking on the door.

I guess there must not have been a car coming down our street, because he couldn't have possibly gotten there that fast had he even paused to look for cars.

Glenn ended up getting a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology or some other sort of tongue twister like that from Purdue University in Indiana.

He called me out of the blue last fall, and I wrote a post about it; I had lost track of him, and he was able to track me down instead. I mentioned him in this post too.

I forgot to ask if he's still a strawberry nut.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Photo Repair With Photoshop Elements

This past weekend, I did very little writing, having decided to work on photographs some more.

That's on thing that's nice about having several interests. If the weather is too bad and I feel to bad to get outside, wander, and take photographs, then there are hundreds of photos that I have taken that can use touching up and/or experimenting with in Photoshop Elements to get exercise my artistic muscles.

I was in the mood to take some more of the photographs that I scanned on a flatbed scanner when Lovely Wife and I were in Louisiana this past December, and that had my interest when other things didn't. Each and every one of those photos I work on, repair, and archive makes me feel better. Like I'm saving some family history in the best way that I can.

The photo I want to show you today, is one of my parents when they were young newlyweds and the original needed lots of help. I've been putting off working on this one knowing it would be a tedious job.

Without further ado, here's the before and after of one of the photos I tried to repair and archive this weekend instead of writing.

The original photo had been cut to fit into an oval frame and I created a black vignette from the oval edge outward.

Give 'em a click and let me know what y'all think.