October 31, 2009

How the Tax Assessor can stick it to you in Texas

Or, reasons to vote for Propositions 2, 3 & 5.
I could, and probably will, entertain several long winded rants about the real property tax appraisal and assessment system in Texas. It is the most convoluted and unjust taxing system one can imagine. It will take me at least three posts to get through a comprehensive discussion of the process, and there simply isn't time to make the BIG case prior to Tuesday. Here is the issue in a nutshell, with much more to come in future posts.
Texas is a non-disclosure state. There is no law requiring anyone to disclose the facts and/or amounts of any real estate transaction.
The tax appraisal system is based on what the tax assessor believes to be the 'fair market value' of property.
How in the world can you ever come to justifiable conclusions about fair market value if there is no legal requirement for anyone to disclose what they paid for a piece of property?
The answer is, you cannot. That is how tens of thousands of Texans either cheat the system or the system cheats them.  End of story.
Prop 2 authorizes the legislature to require that a residence be appraised only on the basis of the property’s value as a residence, regardless of what the highest and best use of the property may be.  This is the biggie, the one that has been sticking it to people in my town for the past several years.  Residence homesteads throughout the state have experienced increasing appraisal values, in some instances more than 200% in one year, especially if the property is not covered by zoning regulations, due to the appraisal practice known as “highest and best use”,  This method allows property to be valued on its potential use rather than the current use.
I live in a former agricultural community, where most of the land was farmed for decades.  As development encroaches, suddenly Mr. Strip Mall developer takes an interest in Farmer John's pasture near the highway.  Farmer John wants to retire, so he sells the family farm to Mr. Strip Mall and real estate comps go through the roof.  Poor Farmer Brown next door just wants to farm, but now his appraised value has increased 200% because of the potential value of his property, not the value as it is used by the tax payer today.  All of which is doubly ironic, because every developer will immediately begin to graze cattle on the land they are parceling together, in order to take the agricultural exemption.  This proposition is one of many potentially positive steps needed to correct our appraisal system.
My house sits on just over 3 acres.  It is in the middle of a neighborhood that has a 2.5 acre minimum lot size, so I can't sell off a piece of my land - it is simply my (big) yard.  Unfortunately, folks like Farmer John sold off their acreage for a pretty penny and those are the comps that the appraisal district uses for a 'per acre' land value assessment.  It is asinine to think that the land on my three acre plat, with an existing structure, should be valued the same as 3 acres of undeveloped, highway frontage land.  I can't portion it out and sell it off.  My land is worth $83,000 more than my house.  On paper you would assume I live in a 3,000 sf outhouse. Stupid system.
Prop 3 would allow direct state enforcement authority and oversight over local appraisals in order to attain uniformity and equity of appraisal processes throughout the state.  There is a possibility that this state-level oversight will result in negative situations due to ignorance of local conditions.  Honestly, I don't know how it could get much worse.  Even at the county level they are often out of touch with local municipalities and their market conditions.
Prop 5 would allow a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that want to consolidate their appraisal review process.  This is basically a case of some areas having too shallow of a pool of qualified people to serve on the board of equalization.  Having traversed our great state far and wide, I can see where places like Loving and Reeves counties would benefit from combining services.
If you are a Texan and haven't yet voted, make time on Tuesday and vote YES on Propositions 2, 3 & 5.

Happy Halloween


October 30, 2009

Correct use of resources or lazy?

I like to park and walk inside to order my Starbucks (*$'s is how I write it in my checkbook/debit card register).  I know, I know, 'Bucks  personifies all that is wrong with the world and blithering liberals hang out there trying to look cool with their MacBooks and hemp clothes.  I like strong freshly brewed coffee, not of the Folgers variety, so Starbucks it is.
Some days, I have kids in the car, the weather is bad, or I am in no mood to be in public.  Yesterday was a combination of all three.  It was spitting rain, I had a sleeping two-year-old in the car and a Wal-Mart employee had pissed me off royally earlier in the day.   I am still not quite over it, more on that in a few days.
I approached the Starbucks drive thru and there was a lady on her cell phone who had stopped short of the order-taking area, presumably so she could complete her phone conversation prior to ordering.  I waited patiently for about 16 seconds before pulling up close to her rear bumper.  Massive gas-guzzling Arlington, Texas-built SUV fills up an econo-box rearview in the most satisfying manner.  She glanced in the mirror and started to inch forward, rolling her window down and shouting an order before resuming her phone conversation.  I took my turn and then pulled forward to the window behind cell phone lady, just in time to see her pay for and receive her order.
She used the Starbucks drive thru to purchase a gift card.
I have to admit, it has never crossed my mind to purchase anything other than ready-to-consume items at the drive thru window, anywhere.  In retrospect, I seem to remember overhearing a lady send the Walgreens drive thru attendant after a box of Band-Aids or something.  That seemed a little more justified to me, not sure why. 
Of course, in this case, the barista had to display four or five different card designs for phone lady to choose from before completing the transaction.  I have been wanting a new travel mug, but it never occurred to me that I could shop from my car.  Maybe I am a bit too legalistic - I just think that the drive thru menu is the limit of what should be ordered in the drive thru line.  Latte and a triple chocolate brownie, check.  Cappuccino machines and ceramic mugs require you to get out of your car.  I like to go in and get the free iTunes Download of the Week.  Maybe I should start sending the barista to fetch them for me.
I can't decide if this was a correct use of resources, or if that lady was just lazy? 

October 29, 2009

October 27, 2009

A dozen+ ways to say vomit

I originally wanted to title this post, "Little Johnny's College Fund", as a nod to the generous contribution made to our vet's bottom line. But, two years of cleaning upchuck out of the Berber and you learn to turn a colorful phrase.
This is Gus, our 4-year old yellow Labrador Retriever.

About two years ago, Gus became the poster dog for owning a Bissell Carpet Cleaner. Our previously healthy dog became a frequently puking dog. He is a large dog, so he eats and drinks more than you would  imagine.  To make matters more interesting, he would literally run FROM the easily cleaned tile or wood floor, TO the nearest patch of (newly installed) carpet to throw up.  This 'target ralphing' put a serious dent in any empathy shown to the (possibly sick) dog.
For nearly two years, we had episodes of Gus retching, interspersed with weeks of healthy dog. He didn't lose weight, so the vet wasn't terribly concerned and advised us to make dietary changes. Translation: buy the $50 sensitive stomach dog food and/or cook (!) chicken and rice for him. Barfing $50 food is no less insulting than heaving the cheap stuff, nor is there any difference in the difficulty level associated with removing it from the carpet.
"Vomiting Dog" became my most Googled phrase for months. Nearly every article I read stressed the importance of identifying whether the dog was 'vomiting' (forceful ejection of the contents of the stomach) or 'regurgitating' (passive expulsion of undigested food). Problem was, he seemed to be doing both. The really fun part was when he would drink copious amounts of water that he couldn't keep down. Nothing quite like the splattering sound of a gallon of liquid hitting your floor at 3 am.
I was at my breaking point by this past summer, and I think it showed as the vet demurred to doing some further tests, initially suspecting a condition called 'megaesophagus' (ME). Gus was trotted away to have a barium x-ray that ultimately showed a widening of the esophagus where food and water would gather to await the perfect opportunity for staining the carpet. We went home $287 dollars lighter, with our ME diagnosis and instructions to water down and smash the $50 dog food into a gruel to be fed from an elevated position, so gravity could help the food travel past the ME into the stomach and prevent a hurling episode. Some dogs with ME eat in a specially designed chair that keeps them in the correct position for up to 30 minutes after eating. Without such a contraption, we took turns holding our 104 pound dog upright for thirty minutes after every meal, for a week. It made no difference and the condition actually seemed to get worse, with Gus spewing every meal and every drink.
After further insistent calls to the vet, it was decided that a full barium study of the dog's digestive system was in order, from barium-laced food in to barium-laced poop out. In retrospect, I am intrigued and somewhat insulted that Gus didn't toss his (barium-laced) cookies during the tests.  Apparently, if there isn't carpet to ruin, it isn't worth the effort. By 10 am that morning, the vet called to tell me that there was a 'space occupying mass' in the stomach. It was round and had some structure in the middle that was showing up on the x-ray. I authorized the extra expenditure to have a veterinary radiologist read the x-rays and spent the rest of the afternoon Googling 'stomach cancer in dogs'. $319 later it was determined that the 'mass' was a foreign object (thankfully not a tumor) that needed to be surgically removed.
Let me back up at this point and remind you that Gus is a retriever. He loves to fetch and bring things to anyone that will pay attention. He is obsessed with balls (I have a theory about that related to him being neutered). Gus has all of our neighbors, the meter reader and the Fed Ex guy trained in ball playing. We also have a two year old human child. So, we employ a sensible measure of caution regarding the size of toys and balls we have around the house, to prevent a choking incident.  Caution for the human child, not necessarily the canine one.
In case you haven't guessed, the post surgical phone call from the vet revealed that the 'space occupying mass' was a ball. A rather large ball. This ball:

A ball that, prior to 18 months of stomach acid exposure, was transparent, bearing a corporate logo and containing a gizmo in the middle that would light up when you bounced it (this being the metal that showed up on the x-ray). A FREE ball that my husband brought home for the kids, from a conference he was attending. A ball too large for a toddler to swallow, yet apparently of a size that a large dog could swallow but not be able to expel or pass through the lower GI tract.
We left the vet that day with our recovered ball, an interesting array of veterinary pharmaceuticals, bland (yet $3 a can) dog food, and Gus, the dog version of David After Dentist, looking morose in his Elizabethan collar and woozy from the anesthesia.
Is there a moral to this story? Maybe the moral is; free balls are never really free (insert joke here). Our free ball cost over $6,000, carpet cleaning not included. Alas, we have no more technicolor yawns and our pet's well-being is worth every dime. Honestly, this story is more about the unconditional love we have for our pets. Sure, the story is usually told the other way, with pets overlooking any transgressions on our part and being constant, faithful companions. The things we humans do for our pets show our unwavering devotion to the four-footed, which is probably why they put up with us.

The Ant and the Grasshopper

OLD VERSION:
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.
________________________________________

MODERN VERSION:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

CBS, NBC , PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast.

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy Being Green.'

Acorn stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, 'We shall overcome.' Rev. Jeremiah Wright then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake.

Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it.

The ant has disappeared in the snow..

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.

October 25, 2009

Save the Moobs


It has been a sea of pink these past few weeks.  Friends and neighbors training for the 3-Day, the kids' school had a 'Pink Out' day and a 'Mr. Pink Pagaent, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders even wore pink at today's game in support of breast cancer research and treatment.
It should be noted that 12.7 women in the U.S. today will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Think of 13 women in your life; mom, sister, wife, daughter, grandmother, aunt, friend - at least one of them is likely to face a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Prior to 1970, the probability was generally quoted as a 10% rate, most likely because we didn't possess the diagnostic tools that we have today.  While the diagnostic rate has risen nearly 3%, the death rate has fallen 27% over the past twelve years.  That's progress.
While breast cancer is a predominately female condition, men get it too.  The ratio of female breast cancer diagnoses to male is 100 to 1 - but that means nearly 2,000 men will be diagnosed this year, with 450 dying of the disease.  Because of the size of the male breast, cancer spreads to the chest wall sooner and has a higher mortality rate than in women, necessitating early detection and treatment for a condition that many men don't even realize they can get.
Peter Criss, the former KISS 'Catman' drummer, underwent a mastectomy in 2008 and is now a one-year cancer survivor.  I applaud his health, but had a giggle picturing the KISS rocker getting a mammogram.  His comment:
"Whoever invented (mammogram machines) had to do it in the medieval days," he said, adding that it was nearly impossible to fit a small male breast into the machine. He called the pain "excruciating" but a worthwhile price to pay to be healthy."
So guys, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am asking all of my male friends to get in touch with their breasts -  I know it isn't as fun as getting in touch with ours, but you want to stick around, right?  Be aware of changes in appearance and the presence of lumps or masses - and for goodness sake - if you notice anything, see a doctor! 

My Fellow Texans...

Early voting is underway for the November 3rd Constitutional Amendment election.  I was at a conference for most of last week, so I am behind in my commentary on the eleven propositions before the people of Texas.  My blunt opinion of Prop 11 can be found here.  My take on some of the rest:
Proposition 1, would allow a municipality or county to issue bonds or notes, including tax increment bonds or notes, to finance the acquisition of land adjacent to a military base to provide a buffer zone or open space to prevent encroachment from development, or to fund the construction of roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure that promotes or protects the military installation.  A YES vote from me.  I can't think of any valid argument against.  This proposition doesn't say that a city's government has carte blanche to run up debt, it just gives them the ability to use financing tools that weren't previously available in this situation.  Local governments are still held accountable by and through their citizens, budgets and bond ratings.
Props 2, 3 and 5 go together, a separate post is forthcoming.
Prop 4, would establish a new National Research University Fund that would disperse the funds to emerging research institutions (Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Houston, and University of North Texas), to (try to) help them gain tier-one status as research universities.  The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University would not be eligible to receive money from this fund, as they are already considered top tier schools.  I am UNDECIDED, leaning toward NO on this one.  Seven schools seems like a (costly) stretch.  We might be better served by narrowing the number.  I am a little bothered that four of the seven universities are in the UT system.  It seems like they are just trying to skirt the rules.  There isn't a Sunset provision in the measure, to assess whether or not the Fund is furthering the tier-one goals of the schools receiving the money.  I am not one to promote more layers of government, just for the sake of checking on the layers of government - but we can't just dole out cash and hope for the best.
Prop 6, this amendment would allow the Veterans’ Land Board (VLB) to provide for, issue, and sell general obligation bonds for the purpose of selling land or home mortgages to Texas veterans.  The proposed amendment would reauthorize all previously authorized general obligation bonding authority in the Veterans Housing Assistance Fund, the Veterans’ Housing Assistance Fund II, and the Veterans’ Land Fund.  YES.
Prop 7, allow officers and enlisted members of the Texas State Guard (or other state militia or military force) to hold a public office simultaneously.  YES.  This simply corrects an oversight in our state constitution that overlooked the Texas State Guard.
Prop 8, would allow Texas to partner with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and local communities to establish additional health care facilities.  YES.  More health care facilities for veterans is a good thing.  I do hope that the powers that be will take great care to ensure that this measure doesn't cause additional red tape for veterans seeking care.
Prop 9, is a tough one for me.  I am still UNDECIDED.  It would establish the public’s unrestricted right to access public beaches as a permanent easement.  That sounds great on the surface, but we are talking about people that had private property/homes along the Texas Gulf Coast and then Hurricane Ike’s winds and storm surge changed the vegetation line and left them on the public beach.  They shouldn't be denied the right to live in their homes or to rebuild after storm damage.  Yikes!  I know that it is a known risk for those who build a beach house, but I personally don't know that I would want someone to lose their home just to preserve my right to access the public sand that used to be their private yard.   
Prop 10, would allow elected members of the governing boards of emergency service districts to serve terms not to exceed four years, instead of the two year terms they currently serve.  NONONO.  I live in an ESD that was voted into existence in 2006, with all of their publications stating a planned nickel of tax per $100 of valuation tax.   Three short years later, we are nearly at the 10 cent cap, with 9.2 cents per $100 of valuation.  No taxing entity's members should be given more than the constitutionally mandated two years of service before coming up for re-election.
Whether or not you agree with me, the one thing I know for certain is that you need to VOTE

October 23, 2009

Rob them, not me


October 22, 2009

Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

This video was emailed to me by at least a dozen people, they are paying much closer attention than I am. Took me a bit to find a version that didn't have some nut job NWO comments superimposed on it. This version is just the end of the speech. I read a brief bio of Monckton and latched on to this,
"...After U.S. Senators Rockefeller and Snowe wrote a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil asking him to stop funding scientists who reject global warming, Lord Monckton wrote a letter to the senators reminding them of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and calling on them to reverse their position or resign."
Gotta love a Briton who reminds American senators of our Constitutional rights.

Haven't had time to confirm/deny the contents of the proposed document or do any research as to the validity of Monckton's comments, but I'll post it anyway, because I like the gist:

October 21, 2009

Hang up and drive

I am attending a conference in downtown Fort Worth this week, which necessitates driving in morning rush hour traffic. This morning it was raining quite heavily and, even though there were no accidents, road construction or lane closures, the 25 mile drive took 1 hour 45 minutes. I don't know how people commute to work like that every day. I know people that live thirty miles north of me that commute south to downtown Dallas or Fort Worth. They spend nearly four hours a day driving to and from work.
Needless to say, the traffic and weather combo provided more than the average number of run-ins with idiotic drivers. Someone emailed me the photos below, with captions saying that the driver of the car was on a cell phone and pulled out in front of the motorcycle (which was traveling at a high rate of speed). I can't prove that the situation presented actually matches the photos, but after today's commute, I don't doubt the possibility!

October 20, 2009

Texts to make you laugh


(503): I am one bad relationship away from having 30 cats.

(979): I found a girl on our couch wearing lederhosen this morning... I don't know if I should be impressed or ashamed

(831): I puked off the balcony.
(1-831): Not horrible
(831): Into the hot tub. There were six people in it. I had eaten all their pizza.

(845): I was happy to be the center of attention..until i realized why everyone was staring

(540): she had condoms in her med. cabinet - magnums -I don't think I'm tall enough for this ride

(720): He is like that thing on the menu you would eat because nothing else looks remotely edible.

(302): Sometimes I kiss girls just to make them shut up.

God Bless Teachers





I don't speak French, but it isn't required to appreciate the message. 

October 18, 2009

Was Bush to 'blame' for your Nobel Prize?

The GOC posted an Obama Scorecard graphic the other day.  Time to add another tick mark:
The Obama administration on Friday announced a staggering $1.4 trillion deficit for the 2009 fiscal year, the biggest deficit since 1945 as a percentage of gross domestic product, while government officials also credited themselves with achieving a smaller deficit than expected and blamed the past administration for the magnitude of losses.
I am trying to raise my children to be independent-minded, intelligent, conscientious, contributing members of society.  Personal responsibility is one of the character attributes that we place high importance on. Since they each have three siblings and two dogs to blame things on, accountability is sometimes a struggle and some days, there are hard lessons learned.  At least my kids have the good sense to be contrite and apologetic and the decency to look sheepish when they get caught.  Like this White House, they are so obviously transparent when telling a whopper of a lie, that all I can do is laugh.

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, the Blowhole said this:
"Nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and our actions. Anyone can do that. Responsibility and leadership in the 21st century demands more..."
Time to practice what you preach, exalted one.

October 17, 2009

Picture Day

Yesterday was school picture day for my kids.  Luckily for them, today's digital photography technology allows for the photographer to take several photos and, by checking the image as they shoot, know that they got one or two 'good' photos.  Due to time constraints, I am sure, they don't show the kids the pictures - so there is still the weeks-long wait to see how the picture turned out.  There is one more chance to get a decent photo on 'make up day'.  After that, they might end up in the yearbook looking like this:
from here.

Fortunately, that dork in the picture grew up to be George Clooney - so there is hope for those immortalized by the school photographer.

Remember what Calvin did for school pictures?


October 16, 2009

My 2nd favorite drunk guy video

The Criplets posted a funny drunk guy video, and they have previously posted my all-time favorite drunk guy video. Here is my second favorite:

Dallas ISD FAIL













This sweet boy is 14-year-old Robert Mota.

Robert has muscular dystrophy and is bound to his wheelchair.  He has always been an A-B student, until the elevator at his school broke down, three weeks ago, and he couldn't get to three of his classes on the second story.  He spends those class periods in a class room on the first floor, where he could be doing his work, albeit without the benefit of classroom instruction, hearing the lectures or  having his teacher available to answer his questions.  Problem is, one 'upstairs' teacher hasn't bothered to provide his assignments and others have been counting his absences as 'unexcused'.  His 'upstairs' English teacher, who couldn't be bothered to provide him with his assignments, gave him a 66 on his six-weeks report card.

The school's principal and the Dallas ISD have said that the grades will get 'fixed' and that they are waiting on the 'best' bid for elevator repair.  A school district with a facility maintenance and operations budget of over $153 million and dozens of multi-story buildings should have an elevator repair contract.  In the meantime, how about moving class down to the first floor for this kid?  How about some strapping young men to carry him and his chair up the stairs?  Surely there is a better way than letting this kid sit idle until the district gets around to fixing the elevator.  Here is a kid who wants to be at school, wants to learn, and the system is failing him. 

October 14, 2009

Whiner-in-Chief

Michael Goodwin writes in the NY Post,
"POOR President Obama. Everybody is picking on him. Some people don't understand how hard his job is.
Others are just mean and selfish.
That's the latest White House whine, as though the most powerful man in the world is a victim of sinister domestic forces beyond his reach."
 "Sinister domestic forces', would that be the same thing as the 'vast right-wing conspiracy'?
"The woe-is-me complaints suggest the occupant of the Oval Office, Nobel Prize and all, is feeling weak and small."
 Could he be feeling weak and small because he is, um, weak and small?
"Alas, the evidence is clear--doubts about Obama's backbone are spreading. The Financial Times says the view that he talks a good game but doesn't get anything done is no longer confined to conservatives.
"The danger for Mr. Obama is that you are beginning to hear echoes of these charges from people who should be the president's natural supporters," columnist Gideon Rachman writes. He cites a European politician -- part of a key Obama base -- who says the president often goes wobbly when challenged.
Examples are abundant, from succeeding in Afghanistan to reducing the deficit, but there is no sign the White House gets it. Instead, the president's team is in full attack mode against an enemies list of dissenters and critics."
I especially liked the part of the article where Goodwin points out that if Palestinians are losing faith in Obama, as has been reported, then BHO has gotten the Palestinians and Israelis to agree on something.

The article touches on BHO's sudden angst with the health insurance industry, Fox News and gay rights bloggers.  Goodwin forgets to mention the late night comics and SNL sketches that are curving to the middle, if not a little to the right.

The Nation sums it up to a 'T':
"The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.
First, the president and his aides go to war with Fox News because the network maintains a generally anti-Obama slant.
Then, an anonymous administration aide attacks bloggers for failing to maintain a sufficiently pro-Obama slant.
These are not disconnected developments.
An administration that won the White House with an almost always on-message campaign and generally friendly coverage from old and new media is now frustrated by its inability to control the debate and get the coverage it wants.
But before the president and his inner circle go all Spiro Agnew on us, they might want to consider three fundamental facts regarding relations between the executive branch and the fourth estate:
1. Since the founding of the republic, media outlets (the founders dismissed them as "damnable periodicals") have been partisan.
2. Presidents are supposed to rise above their own partisanship and engage with a wide range of media -- even outlets that are hard on their administrations.
3. The worst mistake a president or his administration can make is to try and "whip" relatively like-minded writers and reporters into line."
"...go all Spiro Agnew on us..."  hee hee
"As for the Obama administration, whether the grumbling is about Republicans on Fox or bloggers in pajamas, there's a word for what the president and his aides are doing. That word is "whining." And nothing -- no attack by Glenn Beck, no blogger busting about Guantanamo -- does more damage to Obama's credibility or authority than the sense that a popular president is becoming the whiner-in-chief."   

October 13, 2009

Tuesday Texts 10.13.09

(516): All I know is it had something to do with a plunger and tuna salad. I'm done. I'm quitting my job.

(301): i just yelled "run, its godzirra!" to an asian kid who looked confused by the tornado alarm test

(270): She called it mighty mouse.. And from there it was down hill

(715): sorry about last night, I don't know what happened but I woke up this morning and looked strikingly similar to courtney love, it had to be bad.

(585): we saw you sitting at the door of the dorm trashed, wrapped in DANGER tape with a stolen balloon around your wrist

(440): Just dunked an oreo in a white russian. Trying to think of a better experience in my life and failing.

Still raining

It has been raining for the better part of two weeks now. I am a little tired of it.

October 12, 2009

Texas Proposition 11

The competing emails have really started flying this week, regarding the upcoming propositions on the November 3rd ballot.  There are eleven measures to be considered.  I am kicking off a couple of weeks of intermittent commentary with Proposition 11:
Proposition 11 (H.J.R. 14) - if passed, this proposition will amend the Texas Constitution to provide that no person’s property shall be taken, damaged, or destroyed for or applied to a “public use” without adequate compensation being made, unless by the consent of such person, and only if the taking, damage, or destruction is necessary for: (1) the ownership, use, and enjoyment of the property, notwithstanding an incidental use, by the state, a political subdivision of the state, or the public at large or an entity granted the power of eminent domain under law; or (2) the elimination of urban blight on a particular parcel of property. The proposition also provides that a “public use” does not include the taking of property for transfer to a private entity for the primary purpose of economic development or the enhancement of tax revenues, and that on or after January 1, 2010, the legislature may enact a law granting the power of eminent domain to an entity only with a two-thirds vote of all members elected to each house.
This one isn't rocket science, so I won't belabor the point.  Vote YES to help stop eminent domain abuse in Texas.

October 11, 2009

You can't judge a book by its cover

I don't know about you, but I had some scary school librarians growing up.  The old-fashioned, glasses on a chain, hair in a bun, stare a hole through you when you attempt to check out "Go Ask Alice" kind of scary.  Apparently times, they are a-changin'.  The Texas Library Association is selling a "Tattooed Ladies of TLA" calendar.  They got eighteen Texas librarians to pose for ink-baring photos.  Here is my local librarian (this is not her calendar picture):


They have already made about $13,000 for their organization's disaster relief fund. Check them out (pun intended) here.

October 10, 2009

Need a bumper sticker?

I have many opinions, but this guy has me beat. 


October 9, 2009

We've got a winner

Peeking through the haze of my Nyquil-induced stupor for a few minutes...

Just like the White House, MSM and all of the civilized world, it took me several minutes and much frantic Googling to figure out that Obama really did win a Nobel Prize. Wow. And the submission deadline was February 1st, less than two weeks after he was inaugurated. My favorite comment thus far:
"Was he, like, the tenth caller or something?"

October 8, 2009

Self-Proclaimed Winner of Whited's Contest

Head over to my friend Whited's blog, The Whited Sepulchre, and try to beat my entry in his semi-regular caption contest.  Whited has called me smart at least twice on his blog, which makes him one of my favorite, and most astute, blogging brethren.  I cheated went above and beyond and created this:

October 7, 2009

Conversation with Jesus

Many times when I am troubled or confused, I find comfort in sitting in my back yard and having a scotch and soda along with a quiet conversation with Jesus. This happened to me again after a particularly difficult day.
I said "Jesus, why do I work so hard?"
And I heard the reply: "Men find many ways to demonstrate the love they have for their family. You work hard to have a peaceful, beautiful place for your friends and family to gather."
I said: "I thought that money was the root of all evil." And the reply was: "No, the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Money is a tool; it can be used for good or bad".
I was starting to feel better, but I still had that one burning question, so I asked it. "Jesus," I said, "what is the meaning of life? Why am I here?"
He replied, "That is a question many men ask. The answer is in your heart and is different for everyone".
Then Jesus said, "I would love to chat with you some more, SeƱor, but now, I have to finish your lawn."

October 6, 2009

SNL was funny...

...and I missed it.  Actually, this actor/sketch comedian has no apparent impersonation skills.  He looks, sounds and acts nothing like the exalted One.  Rather disappointing considering the great presidential impersonations from the past; Chevy Chase as Ford, Dana Carvey as GHW Bush, Phil Hartman as Clinton and, two honorary mentions that weren't presidents - Will Ferrell as Janet Reno and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin.  It was all in the delivery.  Spot on. 

So, this one doesn't have that, but the material is entertaining.  Thanks to the writers -

Stinging caterpillars and drunk cats

I frequently say that my life would make a good sitcom.  Yesterday's episode was a fun-filled day of animal encounters.
Murphy's Law of house-sitting must be that once the homeowners leave town, something will go wrong.  In this case, my parents left Thursday morning and a violent storm blew through Thursday evening.  The one positive is that allows me a whole week to clean things up so they don't come home to a disaster.  Thursday night, Friday and Saturday we were able to dry out the wet stuff, pick up the broken stuff, gather the things that had blown across the property and clean up the muddy bits.  Sunday it rained again, so yesterday was the day to start cutting down the tree that was toppled in the storm.
For reasons passing understanding, my kids were out of school yesterday (as opposed to next Monday which is a minor holiday), so I had "help".  Upon arriving at my parent's house we noticed that the roving pool vacuum was not roving.  Closer inspection revealed that a clew of worms had met an untimely demise in the pool.  There were a couple dozen that were bloated and resting on the bottom of the pool, and the pool vacuum wasn't moving because the bag was so weighted down with the worms it had already sucked up.  First animal world interlude of the day, emptying a bag full of worms and assorted pool gunk.  Blech.
Eldest Daughter and I set to work on the felled tree.  We made good progress, limbing over half of the canopy, cutting and splitting it to firewood size before the chainsaw threw the chain.  It was near lunchtime by now, so we decided to wrap things up as the other three kids were clamoring for food.  We weren't sure if the 'rents would prefer to haul off the excess brush or burn it, so we elected to stack it in their trailer.  Due to the muddy conditions, using a vehicle to move the trailer down to the house was out of the question, so we had to use the trailer dolly and brute force.  You would have thought the nimrod working in the pasture next door would have at least offered to help on the uphill part.  I am sure it was much more entertaining to watch us back it up and get a running start three times.
We begin stacking the brush in the trailer, and for several minutes I kept feeling  what I thought was a twig or leaf stuck in my collar.  I took a few swipes at it, but the feeling persisted and escalated to a burning sensation.  I asked Eldest Daughter if there is something on my neck.  In typical teenage fashion, she didn't address the situation immediately, instead stopping to examine it and say, "EEWWW.  What is that?"  Finally, she brushes one of these off of my back:

The burning/stinging escalated rapidly over the next several minutes, as several welts raised on my neck.  I would discover sometime later that this is a PUSS MOTH CATERPILLAR, and they are one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America!  Second (disgusting) animal world interlude of the day.  It appears that there are six different spots on my neck that suffered from the embedding of venomous spines.  Let's just say it ruined my night.  Throbbing headache, neck pain and the stinging sensation.
We got the rest of the tree branches cleaned up, I felt like crap; my neck was on fire and the kids were starving.  We loaded up with the intention of stopping by our house to grab some Benadryl cream for my neck and then heading to Whataburger to grab some lunch.  As we approached our house, there was a cat in the street walking in circles.  We stopped and watched it for a minute.  It circled one way, took a few drunken steps and then circled the other way.  It finally moved enough that I could pull in the driveway and park.  I got out and called to it, but it didn't react at all, just drunken circles.  When it faced me, I noticed that it kind of looked cross-eyed, and didn't seem to be focusing.  It didn't have a collar, we had never seen it before and it looked malnourished. I called our local "animal guy".  We don't have animal control out here in the sticks, just a nice man who contracts with several small towns to handle these sort of issues.  Of course, he was in another town and couldn't come right away, so we had to herd the cat into a crate, skip our Whataburger plans and hang out waiting on him to come.  After some observation it seems likely that either the cat got into some sort of poison, had distemper or end stage of some disease.  Regardless, someone should have been taking better care of that poor fella.  Skipping a burger was worth not having a flattened cat in the street, or having the cat become bobcat snack  Animal world encounter three.
Waiting on the animal guy, I get the kids fed and have time to Google the neck biting creature.  Armed with knowledge, we apply tape to my neck to pull out any remaining venomous spines and the stinging diminishes slightly.  By this time, I am due at another function - a tour of an operating gas well drilling rig.  In this part of the world, we live on top of the Barnett Shale and gas wells are a major concern of local citizenry.  This site  is somewhat special due to the type of platform and machinery it uses.  In simple terms, it is smaller and quieter than any other being used.  
So, with my neck on fire, I am standing in a pasture in front of a gas rig, wearing a hardhat and posing for a photograph with the landowner, the drilling company and assorted dignitaries.  I, apparently, was the only person who chose to stand on a fire ant mound.  If you are from the south, you get it.  Left foot and leg under attack, removing shoe while stomping, brushing, cussing - hoping around on one foot - the 'fire ant dance'.  This is such a frequent occurrence in Texas, that no one really offers to help, they just pause in the picture taking until I get my shoe back on.  Animal world encounter four on the day.
My final animal encounter was with one of our dogs.  (Soon I will post the $2,000 free ball story).  Anyway, one of our yellow labs, 'Woody',  is rather old, and has calloused elbows and a hygroma.  Occasionally they get irritated and he will lick them until they bleed.  The topper of my day was bandaging a dog elbow in such a manner as to prevent him from being able to remove it and then crawling around the house on my hands and knees finding the blood stains on the carpet.  It is a cruel irony that these conditions are supposedly the result of laying on hard surfaces, but he always chooses to lay on the soft surface of the carpet when they are bleeding.
Today is a new day, but sure to be just as exciting.  It's raining again, so there is likely to be another worm situtation in the pool.  My neck is sore today, but not stinging, but there is half a tree remaining to be dealt with.  I have a nice ring of fire ant bites around my ankle and I just watched Gus (our other lab) and Jake (my parents lab/chow mix) help Woody remove his elbow bandage.  I have a couple of 5 inch Ace wraps from my knee surgery.  I think I will mummify the mutt and see how long it takes him to get out of that. 

October 5, 2009

A qualified health care rant

I realize that there are healthcare professionals on all sides of the reform debate, but I have taken the opportunity to speak with all of the ones I know and see and none of them support single payer. Stands to reason that the people I entrust with my family's health are the ones whose opinions mean the most to me.

An excellent health care reform rant, written by a doctor, to be read at M.D.O.D.   911Doc points out that a certain Dr Hinson and some friends, characterized as "this self-important Douche and some of his like-minded herbalists" support,

"...a bill which will nationalize 1/6th of the economy, create a giant new class of bureaucratic gentry, and hamstring both physicians and patients in ways only dreamed of by the Marquis de Sade."

October 4, 2009

Sunday Buffet



Still cleaning up storm damage, with more rain coming in. Eight hours of chainsaw has left my arms feeling like Jello, hard to type!

October 2, 2009

We raise 'em up right in Texas

A mighty wind
















Vicious storm blew through last evening.  I will be spending my day, and most of the weekend, manning a chainsaw.  On the bright side of things, apparently my driveway (what's left of it after the torrential downpour) is at the end of the rainbow.  Still looking for that pot of gold.


October 1, 2009

This mom's got a pair

Home-alone mom flings billiard balls at prowlers

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 30, 2009
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — A couple of burglars caught a bad break.

Standing on her roof, a 27-year-old woman thwarted an attempted burglary Wednesday afternoon when she pelted two men at the front of her home with billiard balls.

"I made it to the back door, climbed a tree and onto the roof," Paula Ollie said. "I went to the front of the house and yelled 'Death from above’ and started throwing the pool [table] balls."

Ollie said she was accurate.

"I nailed him in the back," Ollie said, referring to one man who was near a bedroom window. "I then started throwing at the one at the front door and got him, but I don’t know where I hit him. I did miss once because there’s a dent in the front door."

The rest of the story (and a video of this, um, interesting lady) here.

Not everyone