June 30, 2010

Young Guns 2010

Have I mentioned before, my family's habit of quoting movie lines and song lyrics?  I know that many people share a fondness for throwing out a cinematic or musical reference, if for no other reason than to size up those around you, by seeing who 'gets' it.  Quite often, I throw out a movie line and then find myself digging out an old VHS or cranking up the YouTube to present the context to my kids. 

So, a little bit of context; we keep a supply of Costco boneless, skinless chicken breasts in our freezer.  They tend to be quite large.  Mr. Harper always comments on the size as he prepares to take the chicken out to the grill.  As he walks by, I usually say, "Did you see the size of that...chicken?" to one of the kids.  I laugh and they look at me cross-eyed.

I read on Politico about the National Republican Congressional Committee identifying the 39 candidates that they need to win, to take control of the house in November.  The NRCC has dubbed this the "Young Guns" program.  I hear 'Young Guns', I see peyote hallucination scene in my head.  I pulled up this clip and thought of all the parallels that can be drawn.  Trigger-happy clown, love struck sot, holier than thou sober person, guy who can't tell the front end of his horse from the back, etc. 

While I think that 39 seats is doable in November, I don't think anyone should be counting on the GOP's list. 

June 29, 2010

An accurate illustration

...of why I don't get much sleep at night.

June 28, 2010

FOD and Biden, too

I think most of us know the difference between 'banter' and a bitchy retort.  Just because you later say that you were joking, doesn't excuse the less-than-vice-presidential behavior.

June 27, 2010

I am quite sure he will bow

I read that BHO has invited the Chinese president for a state dinner.  What does one of those state dinner thingies cost?

Here is my issue - all of the other obvious issues aside - when you owe someone big bucks, you don't invite them over to a lavish social event.

Case in point: my stepsister is financially managementally challenged.  (Yes, I made up that phrase).  Just like many others who mismanage their money, the stepsis also lives well beyond her means, or at least gives the impression that she does.  Both the stepsis and niece dress only in designer duds.  It is not uncommon for my 11-year old niece to be wearing sunglasses that cost more than my entire outfit.  It is insulting to my parents, who have been the Family Bank & No-Repayment Loan, to constantly give, and then have the girls stroll through the door, each wearing an outfit that equates to a car payment.

If you were the Chinese prez, wouldn't you be mentally calculating the cost of the event...an event that his country essentially bankrolled?  Isn't it Budgeting 101, that if you don't have the money to pay your debts...that you don't go throwing big parties?

I think nearly any financial advisor worth a damn would take one look at the State Department's Office of Protocol budget and make a big red X through it.  To answer my own question, the average state dinner costs taxpayers around $500,000.  I realize that all presidents host state dinners...Reagan hosted 57! (Clinton 29, W 6)  But couldn't we host countries that like us?

June 26, 2010

Ugly Americans

Americans are obsessed with being the 'est' of something.  Biggest, smallest, smartest, dumbest, prettiest, ugliest, etc.  I have spent many days volunteering in school libraries and can report that the Guinness World Record books remain exceedingly popular.  I remeber having a copy as a kid.  Back then I was fascinated by the pictures of the woman with the smallest waist and the record for most people riding one bicycle. Rarely does a week go by that I don't read something in the news about an individual or group attempting some feat that will earn them a spot in the 'est' realm.  Last week my kids were watching a show called 'Mega Bites' wherein the world's largest Rice Krispie's treat was assembled.  
This morning I read about this year's title of 'Ugliest Dog' being awarded to a chihuahua whose physical 'quirks' are most likely due to inbreeding.  Leave it to Americans to celebrate ugly, inbred dogs.  But why stop there?  There isn't any shortage of unattractive people or personalities in the good ole U.S. of A.
Ugliest Dog 2010, "Princess Abby"
 

Ugliest First Lady
Ugliest Secretary of State
Ugliest Senate Majority Leader
Ugliest Committee Chair
Ugliest Former Press Corp Seat Warmer
Ugliest Junior Senator
Ugliest Movie Director

CenTexTim's submission. I confess that she came to my mind immediately, but I couldn't stomach the thought of looking for a suitable photo. Thanks for doing the ground work!

Fugliest Speaker of the House

June 25, 2010

The Dead Zone

Warning, dead animal photos below.  Maybe not for the squeamish.

Our town used to be out in the 'country'.  While the population has doubled over the past 15 years, we are still at the edge of suburbia and have a little wildlife to show for it.  Last year I managed to snap a photo of the bobcat that lives in the brush behind our house.

The coyotes are abundant and brave.  I was sitting on the porch steps with the kids, eating popsicles one night, when my son asked me what kind of dog that was trotting down the middle of the street.  It was a big old coyote, acting like he owned the road.  There are two that will sit at the fence down at my parent's place, right there in broad daylight, antagonizing their dog.

We haven't had the feral pig problem this year, but maybe that is more of a fall thing?

I had to look up what a group of moles is called.  It is a 'labor' which is dead accurate for those of us who try to rid our yard of them.  Destructive little stinkers.  The most effective method is poison.  The downside is that they often come to the surface as they die, and the dogs then try to eat the poisoned moles.  Score one for Harper earlier this week:


Then, this morning I went to pull some weeds and found this:

I think it is a skunk carcass, though there is no smell.  It doesn't have the head of a possum and there seems to be some long, white tipped hair along the spine.  Update: I have ventured a better look and think it is a possum.  I moved the leaf that was covering the very back and the tail is hairless.  It is in an advanced stage of decomposition, with mostly just skin, fur and bones left.  It looks like it just curled up and died there.  There were plenty of flies on it, so I am hoping for maggots that will pick the skeleton clean and leave a cool souvenir.

June 24, 2010

Wake me up when the nightmare is over

I am so pissed about GEN McChrystal I can't even see straight.  I have friends and family in Afghanistan (and Iraq, UAE, South Korea, Germany, etc.).  This knee jerk reaction to a friggin' Rolling Stone Magazine article is as childish a display of cowardice as I have ever seen - and it places people I love in harm's way.   
And don't give me any of that "Obama is the Commander in Chief and deserves respect" shit.  There is not a single DIRECT QUOTE from McChrystal defaming the president, in the article.  The author, Michael Hastings, doesn't begin to frame the context in which any of the 'damaging' statements were made.  Hastings' girlfriend was also a journalist, who followed him to Iraq and was killed in a Sunni attack in January of 2007.  Within 15 months, Hastings had published a book about it, "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story".  Exploitation journalism or just opportunistic?  Not exactly the hallmark of a 'respected journalist'.
How's about the White House taking a stand for the general and calling out Rolling Stone for crappy journalism?  The innuendo and hearsay are what they had a problem with.  It never occurred to the administration to vilify the magazine and support the general.
Not to mention turning the issue into a public spectacle.  "McChrystal has been summoned to the White House", as if he was caught fighting on the playground and had to go to the principal's office.  There is not a single shred of integrity to be found in the West Wing.  Not a single person who deserves respect.  This administration revels in having command over the spotlight.  They are firm believers in the adage 'there is no such thing as bad publicity'.  If they had a collective I.Q. higher than the average kindergarten class, they might stop and realize that airing the presidential dirty laundry isn't such a good idea.  While they think they are 'handling' an officer who might have grumbled about his boss and his job to those he works with, what they actually did was act like petulant toddlers - seemingly not the least bit embarrassed to make a scene in public.  
When will it end?  What is most terrifying is what could happen between November 2012 and January 2013.  If we think BHO has made damaging decisions while he was in office, imagine the destructive acts in store for America once he is a lame duck.

June 23, 2010

A Score of 7

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest level of suckage.

Lowe's came through with the fridge delivery yesterday.  There were a few minor annoyances.  The sort of thing that normally would have only cost them a check mark for 'very good' rather than 'excellent' on a survey.  Unfortunately, the sum total of the experience sucked, and I still have not seen documentation of the additional 10% discount, hence the rating.

They scored high on the early morning call to tell me their delivery window.  I work from home and have a great deal of flexibility, so this method is acceptable, if not a bit presumptuous.  The scheduled time was between 1 and 3 pm, which was great for me since the only thing I had to do was pick up a kid from vacation Bible school at noon.  Imagine my surprise when the delivery driver called at 11:45 to say they were running early.  He asked if someone would be home 'in 20 minutes' to accept delivery.  I told them that would be fine, since it takes 15 minutes to run up the church and back.  I would have 5 minutes to spare.

I jumped in the car and met the Lowe's truck turning down the street.  Either they had no clue of how long it would take them to get to my house, or they were trying waaaay too hard to be early.  They said they would be there in 20 minutes and it had been 2, tops.  It was rather creepy to have them sitting in my driveway with my teenage daughter home alone.  But she had three large dogs and various weaponry at her disposal, so I didn't worry much.  She is a state champion archer - and recently acquired some wicked sharp hunting arrows she has been itching to shoot. 

The delivery and set up crew was efficient and personable, though one of them turned out to be the kid who was less than accommodating in one of my earlier calls to the store.  'Corey' of the "...you're one of the lucky ones if you get it in less than a month..." comment. 

They assembled and cleaned the fridge, then gave me a run down on the control panel.  Here's something they don't tell you at the store; the unit needs 12-24 hours to cool down and stabilize the temperature.  Since it came out of the back of a box truck in 100 degree Texas heat, they suggest waiting the full 24 hours before putting food in it.  Thank goodness we had decided to keep the old fridge! 

There are a couple of little nicks on part of the plastic edge of the shelf and I spent the better part of an hour removing little strips of strapping tape that the install crew missed.  Followed up with Goo Gone and a lot of elbow grease.  I have visions of an Asian person at the factory giggling hysterically as he applies each (unnecessary) piece of tape.

The fridge is all cooled off now and ready to load.  We have, as directed, emptied the first several batches of ice from both of the ice makers.  The bottom freezer ice maker is LOUD when it drops the ice.  I had heard of this complaint before I bought the freezer and was expecting it.  My dog who was sleeping on the cool tile floor in front of the new unit had not been warned and we had quite the laugh at the sudden leap and cartoonish scramble to his feet when a batch clattered into the bin last night. I hope that when the freezer is full, the sound won't be quite so pronounced.  

I am sure that this delivery had plenty of notes on how bitchy I had been and how nice they were to be to me.  I was sweet as pie the whole time they were here, so I imagine Corey thought that I didn't remember our two previous phone conversations.  You should have seen Corey's face as he thanked me and turned to leave.  He said, "Enjoy your new refrigerator."

I replied, "Oh, I will...I am one of the lucky ones."

June 22, 2010

Does Lowe's Suck?

I will, hopefully, render my final judgment this evening.  Currently, my sentiment leans heavily toward Lowe's sucking.

You may recall that I purchased a new refrigerator last month, May 29th.  Lowe's appliance marketing gimmick is that they provide NEXT DAY delivery on IN STOCK items, then there are different windows on various SPECIAL ORDER items.  What I have learned is that there are certain items that are stocked at the store location, certain items that are stocked at the distribution center and then those items that are ordered from the manufacturer.

The fridge we purchased is normally stocked at the distribution center.  The big red signage at the store promised delivery "WITHIN 7 DAYS".  We accepted a delivery window of '7-10 days' from the salesperson.  There begins the suckage.

I waited 11 days and then called Lowe's to inquire about my delivery.  I detected the customer service rep's hesitation when she pulled up the screen with my information.  She asked eyebrow raising questions like, "Does your receipt say 'delivery'?' and "What did they tell you when you bought it?".  Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she hung up on me accidentally.  I called back and was immediately transferred to the appliance department.  I explained why I was calling and the gentleman, clearly exasperated, said, "I told her to take a message from you.  I'm going to have to call you back."

Several hours later, he did call back, to tell me that my delivery date would be the 22nd or 23rd.  WTF happened to 7-10 days?  "I don't care what the salesman told you, you are one of the lucky ones if you get this item in less than a month,"  he told me.

Hmmmm.  I contacted Lowe's corporate customer service (Sue) who promised to have someone call me.  They did, but with the same delivery date and something resembling an apology, explaining that they had sold SO MANY refrigerators on tax free weekend that the distribution center was out of stock and they were waiting on shipments from the manufacturer.  Tony promised to keep me posted.

The next morning I was curious and logged on to the Lowe's website, as they (supposedly) have real time inventory information.  Curiously, the website was guaranteeing delivery by the 13th, ten days sooner than the store was telling me.  A couple of hours later, I received a message telling me that my delivery date was now July 2nd.

I contacted Corporate Sue again, livid with the latest delivery date and confused about the website's ability to deliver the item faster than the store.  Do web orders have priority over store purchases?  Sue promised to have the store manager call me within 24 hours.

30 hours later, no call from the manager.  I had some errands to run, so I stopped by the Lowe's where I purchased the fridge.  Me and the kids wandered around, looking at the fridges.  We feigned interest in the very fridge model that we had already purchased and asked the salesman if they had it in stock.  Lo and behold, they didn't have one in the store, but he pointed to his computer screen showing 27 on hand at the distribution center.  He could guarantee delivery within a week!  He documented the price, delivery time and model selection on his business card for me.  I marched my butt right up to the customer service counter.

Here is where the in-store service really shined.  I asked for the manager I had spoken with on the phone, 'Tony'.  "He's at lunch, come back in an hour."  My icy glare finally prompted one of the girls to ask if they could get another 'manager' for me.

"Good idea," I said.

The girl stuck her head into a door marked 'store manager' and then looked over her shoulder at me and asked me what my problem was.  I knew what she meant, but bad choice of words.  I don't remember exactly what I said in response, but a mousy little manager on duty girl materialized almost immediately.

I gave her the whole rundown and asked her to explain why her store employee could guarantee me an item that her co-manager-on-duty claimed was unavailable until July.  Long story short,  she was a blithering idiot who had no new information or assistance.  When I inquired about the procedure for getting a refund, should I decide I didn't want to wait three more weeks, she told me I should just 'call it in' and need not bother coming in to the store.

For fun, I had my husband pull the same ruse at another Lowe's location.  They gave him the same on hand count and guaranteed delivery within a week.  Another interesting note - the two stores and the website each had a different price for the same model.

Ball was back in Corporate Sue's court now.  At this point, I was seriously considering buying another fridge through the website and seeing which one arrived first.  I decided to wait to and see if the store manager called this time.  He didn't, but mentioning the words "FTC complaint for deceptive advertising" got Sue to promise a call from the district manager.

The district manager did call, first thing the next day.  Amazingly, he was quite interested in why the store level computer system gives false information and why he has three different prices in the same market.  Unfortunately, he can't shit me a refrigerator.  He can, 'knock another 10% off' of the price and guarantee that one of the two fridges that the distribution center is scheduled to receive (on 6/21) gets routed to me.

After his call, I was promptly called by an operations manager and the following day, I finally heard from the store manager who was on vacation - and apparently doesn't delegate his responsibilities to anyone when he is gone.  Every management type I spoke with promised to address the service 'opportunities' with their store employees.  Really?  The issues I have are with inaccurate information systems and crappy managers. 

So, today is the day.  Lowe's called at 6:47 this morning to schedule delivery between 1 and 3 pm.  I have visions of a huge dent or scratch, or brutish delivery men trashing my porch or shattering the glass door they have to come through.  Then there is the ice maker hook up.  I would rather do it myself, but the warranty hinges on 'professional installation'.  Sheesh, like I can't work a compression nut.  I get a bit nervous about twisting a water valve that hasn't been budged in four years. 

I haven't yet seen the additional 10% credit.  I am quite anxious to see if they took the discount off the original, sale or already discounted price.

The website now shows the fridge as 'temporarily unavailable' in my market.  At least some hapless consumer may have benefited from my experience.

Anyhoo, reserving final judgment until it is here, unscathed, working correctly, delivered by competent, polite employees.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

June 21, 2010

FOD

In celebration of mediocrity

The local fish wrap's leading story this morning is about the latest TAKS scores for local school districts.  TAKS stands for Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which is a standardized test and is the current method by which the Texas public school system determines how mediocre (or not) its student population is.

Texas is doing away with the TAKS test, reverting to end-of-course exams to measure command of the subject matter.  While I agree that this is a better approach to assessment of what a student is actually taught, implementation is proving to be a PITA.  Current high school students this year had to take both the TAKS test, as well as a prototype end of course exam.  Nothing like the gummint to assume my kid is their personal guinea pig. 

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.  Bearing in mind that the TAKS tests set the MINIMUM threshold for what students are expected to master, why would any self-respecting educator be proud of anything less than a 100% passing rate?  This isn't the SAT or ACT.  It is the state's tool of making sure that kids are learning the BASICS.  99% of districts take extreme measures to teach directly to the test, employing everything from daily repetition to bribes of prizes, money, teachers shaving their heads...all in the name of achieving the bare minimum.

I have a recently potty trained child.  So, for the past several months, going to the bathroom at the appropriate time was something we cheered for.  We prompted, urged, assisted and put in some extra hours towards the effort. There was praise and the occasional reward involved.  Potty training is one of the 'bare minimum' tasks that we master in life.  Shall I go stand outside the bathroom door and whoop it up as my husband emerges?   Offer to help him wipe?   

Funny visual, I know - but no more absurd than our schools crowing over a 94% TAKS passing rate.

June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Harper's Dad (& Mom) pictured with pipe used to build the Alyeska Pipeline in the early '70's.  Righteous fur hat!  Miss ya, dad.


This comic is for all you dads of daughters.  It has a permanent place on our fridge:

June 19, 2010

It was an accident, you nimrod

Bolstering my disgust of the compensation culture, nanny state, over-protective namby-pamby bunch of whiners that seem to run the world, I present the story of 'Mr Sniffles'.

Mr Sniffles is a little fluff ball of a dog who had the misfortune of losing an ear after getting it caught on a mechanism in his owner's fancy reclining chair.  Of course, Mr Sniffles' owner  immediately declared the product 'defective', though it seems to me that it was operating as intended.  In the resulting voluntary recall document issued by the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, Mr Sniffles is the only mammal that has reported any problem with the chair. 

When will it end?  I know a family that spent nearly $10,000 to have their home professionally baby proofed.  Good Gawd.  My grandparent's front closet held an arsenal of shotguns and riflery, right there within everyone's reach.  Ammo was on the shelves at the side.  Granddad's recliner would cleanly amputate a hand, if you were so unlucky as to have it amongst the metalworks supporting the footrest when he went to snap it shut.  Their house was heated from a basement furnace that stood under a large metal grate in the middle of the living room floor.  Every family member my age and older bears a scar somewhere from stepping barefoot on, or rolling onto that grate at some point in our youth. In my memories that old farm house is the safest, best place on Earth.

Who are these people that can't accept personal responsibility for their actions and the everyday events of life?  If nothing out of the ordinary ever happens to you, you have no stories to tell.  Nothing memorable to recall fondly in your golden years.
 
My 7-year old lost a significant clump of hair to one of those spinning lollipop holders.  Never occurred to me to alert the authorities and demand compensation.  It spins, hair wraps around it if you aren't careful.  Lesson learned.  End of story.  At least the sucker was still edible and when the tears dried, we had a good laugh.

June 18, 2010

Trampled


Our horse, Clara, is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur just above her left rear hoof.  This has required weeks of bandaging, with the last couple of bandage changes being rather challenging.  She was sick of the hassle and discomfort, and well enough to make her feelings about it known.  Earlier this week the vet determined that we could now remove the bandage and switch to hydrotherapy for the remainder of her convalescence.  This requires us to flush the site with water for 15 minutes each day before applying silver sulfadiazine cream and then fly spray, to keep those nasty buggers away from the wound.

She's not real fond of this procedure, either.

Clara is lacking in some basic manners, as she is a recently rescued horse without any prior training.  She tries to get away from the annoyance and generally pushes her shoulder into whoever is trying to hold her.  The common action to cure a pushy horse is to keep going the direction they pushed, making them think it was your idea all along.  You keep hold of the lead and turn toward their rear end, making them go in a circle.  Flushing the leg is a comical ballet of one of us holding the hose and spinning in circles to keep up with the horse's movement. 

My teenager is an expert horse handler.  She's been doing it all her life and plans a career built around horses.  Me, well, not so much.  Toward the end of yesterday's ministrations, I thought I could impose my will on the 1,100 pound animal.  I pushed and she pushed back, stepping on my left foot.  There is no doubt about two of my toes, anxious to see if the hoof-shaped bruising over the third, fourth and fifth metatarsals has matching fractures.

That'll learn me.

UPDATE: No visible metatarsal fractures (and ignoring the doc's caution that they are often hard to see until they start to calcify). I am not good at the 'rest' part of RICE. Buddy taped toes, compression wrapped foot, immobilizing boot and I am good to go.

June 17, 2010

Joe Barton is...

a weak, gutless, yellow turd of a pussy.   To paraphrase Natalie Maines, I'm ashamed he's from Texas.

If you are taking my comment at face value, it will not be misconstrued.  Nor will I be apologizing or retracting my comment.

That is all.

With age comes better taste

My kids had some Spaghettios for lunch the other day.  The smell makes my stomach turn, though that was one of my favorite teenage meals.  I liked to get a big steamy bowl of Spaghettios with Franks and then put a slice of American cheese on top.  Yuck.  That experience led me to reminisce about other things I used to partake of that don't hold any attraction for me now.  This is not to be confused with things that I loved as a kid that aren't available anymore.  I also didn't include things that I don't like anymore because of a bad drunk or stomach flu.  It doesn't seem fair to blacklist an item that I might still like, had I not spent hours hunched over a toilet looking at it!  Here is the beginning of a list of edible things that I enjoyed when I was younger but can't stand now:

Spaghettios and anything from Chef Boyardee
Fluffernutters

Scrambled eggs made from the leftover French Toast batter
A fried egg in the middle of my pancake stack
Ketchup on eggs
Cold Duck
Sloe Gin
Budweiser - any Pilsner type beer, really.
Totino's Party Pizza
Cheez Whiz/Easy Cheese
Twinkies & Zingers
Corn Dogs (except an authentic Fletcher's at the fair, once every three or four years)
Kool Aid
Milk Duds (I think this is a quality of the chocolate coating issue, they used to be better)
Whoppers (see above - my dad and I could polish off a milk carton of them in an evening)
Jolly Ranchers
Pixie Stix
Black Licorice
Icees
Spam
Deviled Ham
Vienna Sausage
Steak Umms
Taco Burgers
Sardines
Buttermilk with cornbread and onions in it (I can't imagine I ever liked it, but I always ate it with my dad)
Wax Candy - Lips, Coke Bottles, Whistles, Vampire Teeth
Grape & Peach Nehi

What did you enjoy in the good old days that you just can't stomach anymore?

June 16, 2010

Missed the Oval Orifice

I simply can't handle listening to the president make a speech. The tone of his voice and pattern of his speech just grate on my nerves.  I avoided the television last night, instead opting to read a transcript and then peruse the various 'fact checking' articles about the speech.
OBAMA: "We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused and we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy. ... Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party."

THE FACTS: An independent arbiter is no more bound to the government's wishes than an oil company's. In that sense, there is no certainty BP will be forced to make the Gulf economy whole again or that taxpayers are off the hook for the myriad costs associated with the spill or cleanup. The government can certainly press for that, using legislative and legal tools. But there are no guarantees and the past is not reassuring.

It took 20 years to sort through liability after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, and in the end, punitive damages were slashed by the courts to about $500 million from $2.5 billion. Many people who had lost their livelihoods in the spill died without ever seeing a check.
The whole 'compensation fund' mentality needs to stop. I remember the stern lectures given to all soldiers who drove a vehicle of any sort at Fort Hood about avoiding the cows at all cost. Civilian owners were allowed to lease grazing rights, and many of them did it with the hope that their livestock would perish from an errant driver or from getting hit by a round on the gunnery range. Why? Because there is some convoluted formula by which the government must compensate the loss of a cow to account for both the immediate loss and the potential future loss of that bovine's offspring...and their offspring. Ol' Bessie might be barren and on her last leg, but if her death is the cause of the Army, she is, literally, a cash cow.

Millions of dollars will be spent for a roomful of lawyers to argue over how to determine the formula for compensation. When did we lose the ability to acknowledge and accept that accidents happen and sometimes we lose?

___
OBAMA: "In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well."

THE FACTS: BP and the administration contend that if all goes as planned, they should be able to contain nearly 90 percent of the worst-case oil flow. But that's a big "if." So far, little has gone as planned in the various remedies attempted to shut off or contain the flow. Possibly as much as 60,000 barrels a day is escaping. BP would need to nearly triple its recovery rate to reach the target.
Well, he did say "should".
___
OBAMA: Temporary measures will capture leaking oil "until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely."

THE FACTS: That's the hope, but experts say the relief well runs the same risks that caused the original well to blow out. It potentially could create a worse spill if engineers were to accidentally damage the existing well or tear a hole in the undersea oil reservoir.
This time he said "will", but when it doesn't happen, he won't remember that he said it in absolute terms.  Sheesh.  Isn't the Golden Rule of Politics and Sales, "under promise and over deliver"?
___
OBAMA: "From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation's history."

THE FACTS: Early on, the government established a command center and put Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen in charge of coordinating the overall spill response. But officials also repeatedly have emphasized that BP was "responsible" and they have relied heavily on BP in making decisions from hiring cleanup workers to what oil dispersing chemicals to use. Local officials in the Gulf region have complained that often they don't know who's in charge — the government or BP.
Ummm, see the item below relating to how long state governments were begging for help and were put off.  Go here for a brief visual reminder of exactly what "in charge" on an oil spill means in the way of extra duties for the POTUS.  Hint: it's a lot of golf and hosting of sports teams.
___
OBAMA: "We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore."

THE FACTS: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and local officials pleaded for weeks with the Army Corps of Engineers and the spill response command for permission to build about 40 miles of sand berms along the barrier islands.

State officials applied for an emergency permit to build the berms May 11, but as days went by Jindal became increasingly angry at federal inaction. The White House finally agreed to a portion of the berm plan on June 2. BP then agreed to pay for the project.
The corps was worried that in some cases such a move would alter tides and drive oil into new areas and produce more harm than good.
Classic case of taking the credit were credit isn't due.  What a blowhole.
___
OBAMA: "Already, I have issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue."

THE FACTS: Obama issued a six-month moratorium on new permits for deepwater drilling but production continues from existing deepwater wells.
God Bless and Keep the people who have lost their lives in drilling related industrial accidents, but a moratorium for 'the sake of their safety' is knee-jerk, political B.S.  50,000 people die each year in motor vehicle accidents - why no moratorium on their production?  The second leading cause of accidental death is from falls.  Quick, Mr President, stop the walking!  This sort of logic never flies, it is simply an act to pacify a particular segment of the populous and to gain political favor. 


And yet the sheep keep following this tool.

June 15, 2010

Another reason to avoid the Chevy house

Joining the WTF category, there is a Chevy commercial in heavy rotation that is driving me crazy. The ad is for the Silverado Texas Edition truck. This is the same truck you can buy in New York, but with different wheels, different branding labels, and sometimes the Chevy emblem on the front is Texas flag themed. That's all well and good.

The problem is that the commercial playing here in north Texas is in English, but the narrator has a heavy Spanish accent. WTF? Who is the target demographic? If it is the Hispanic community, there are plenty of Chevy commercials playing on the various Spanish language channels. Is a man pronouncing it the "Silverrrrratho Tejas Eedeecion" on the CBS affiliate supposed to appeal to the gringo population? Well, it doesn't.

I appreciate pronouncing foreign language words correctly, as applicable. On Sunday I gently corrected our All-American server at a German restaurant in the correct pronunciation of 'spaetzle', after she repeatedly called it 'spetzil'. Ugh. I do NOT appreciate certain local newscasters that will breeze along in perfect English and then throw in an overzealously enunciated Spanish word. Usually it is Hispanic names, but we won't delve into why they are in the news so much.

Back to the Chevy ad. Why market an American product using an English speaking voice with a Spanish accent? It is like the polar opposite of why some products use a narrator with a British accent - because people equate the Queen's English with education and a refined lifestyle. What are they trying to accomplish with this Chevy ad? Seriously, WTF?

June 14, 2010

The Second Verse

In case you haven't seen this.  Rest assured that there are still patriots among us.

June 13, 2010

Wish they still made Cowboys like this one

     To Roger Staubach, still Captain America -- Recently, my brother was sitting in first class on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Colorado Springs when a couple boarded and sat in front of him. He immediately recognized the man as Roger Staubach. They exchanged greetings, and Staubach said he was headed to Colorado Springs for the inaugural Warrior Games.
     After 60 or 70 percent of the plane was boarded, a female Army soldier who had lost her leg boarded. Staubach insisted she sit in his seat; she said, "no, thanks," but he insisted. He took her place in a middle seat way in the back. After a few minutes, the young girl got tears in her eyes and said she wanted to go to her seat and have Staubach return to his.
     The flight attendant overheard, and, as the female soldier headed to retrieve Staubach, the attendant said she had a no-show and both could sit in first class.
     The flight attendant returned with the female soldier, but Staubach sent a double amputee Army soldier to sit in his seat. Staubach remained in coach the entire flight and disembarked last. My brother waited and asked for an autograph for my birthday; Staubach said certainly. It's a great gift, but the greater gift is knowing Roger Staubach is still Captain America.


Drew Werner, Addison

From the Dallas Morning News' Three Cheers Blog

June 12, 2010

Something less than a helicopter parent but more than this...

Now that Abby Sunderland is safe on a rescue ship, I will comment.

I can't imagine letting a 16-year old child of mine do anything that would put them in harm's way, in the way that the Sunderland family did.  And they did it twice.  Zac Sunderland successfully solo-circumnavigated the globe when he was 16.

I get it, they are accomplished sailors and supremely responsible for their age.  Isn't there some healthier outlet for their talents?  Something not involving the possibility of pirates, hurricanes, sharks or getting lost in the middle of the ocean?

Is there anything in the 'solo circumnavigation' rulebook that prohibits another boat from following them?      

The rescue time for Abby highlights my point.  No CHILD should ever be knowingly and willingly put in a situation where the nearest potential rescue vessel is 400 miles away.  The Qantas Airbus that flew over her position was at the limits of its fuel capacity, making the 5,700 mile journey!  

Who gets the bill for the rescue costs?

Additionally, I think it is unsavory, to have a child attempt this sort of feat with a corporate sponsor attached to the vessel and every bit of equipment on board.  We were following Abby's progress well before the emergency situation, and there were times that her blog read like a Nascar winner's victory lane speech.

I'm glad she's safe, I hope this family learns a lesson from this scare and encourage the rest of their kids (they have 7!) toward less dangerous adventures.

June 11, 2010

Bye Bye Big 12

...or how money, politics and the media get in the middle of things they shouldn't.

It sucks to be Baylor today. On the flip side, the Horned Frogs may benefit from the demise of the Big 12.

I'm betting that none of the division-change conversations ever made mention of how academic programs would be affected. And let's not get crazy and assume that any sports other than football and basketball were even considered when school admins started the scheming.

Our youngest daughter's best friend's dad (still with me?) is a football coach at a current Big 12 school, one said to be moving to the Pac 10 16. The kids have plans together next week, so I am anxious to pick his brain and hear the untold stories of how the student athletes and programs are truly affected.

June 10, 2010

Time for a party

Ahhhh, the glory days of hair bands.  These gentlemen also count as one hit wonders, to the best of my knowledge.  Many happy memories of the kitchen crew cranking this up as we would shut down the restaurant back in my Chilihead days.  First server cut took orders and made a run to the beer store, then we would sit out back and drink 'til....well, until the beer was gone.  Good times.

June 9, 2010

38 MPG and a Lobotomy

Our little burg has only a handful of retail establishments; a convenience store/gas station, two dry cleaners and a couple of foo-foo home decor/rhinestone cross T-shirt shops.  The latter is the result of local rich, bored housewives who go to Canton and bring back all the shiny and feathered crap they can fit in their Suburban and resell it at a considerable mark up to the other rich, bored housewives who absolutely fawn over the junk.

Any grocery buying or hardware supplying requires a trip 7 miles south, 10 miles north or 12 miles east.  Often we sit at the crossroads near our house literally flipping a coin to decide which direction to go.  It is funny/sad how little distinction there is from one city to another.

I chose to go south yesterday, needing a couple of carriage bolts and a length of chain from the orange big box store.  To reach the Depot requires that I cut through the Wal-Mart parking area.  This particular trip left me wondering if they are handing out lobotomies with the purchase of a Town & Country minivan.

I almost got hit by errant minivan drivers not once, not twice, but three times in one trip across the Wal-Mart lot.  The first bimbo rolled through TWO stop signs in rapid succession, making a quick left and then a quick right, never looking to either side as she blew by.  The next lady was using the fast lane - cutting across the lot perpendicular to the duly marked roadways.  The last woman was chatting away on her cell phone and almost T-boned me.

I am an excellent (and fast) driver.  I realize that I am one, but seriously, the majority of female drivers SUCK.   I don't know why, as most women can multi-task well.  Maybe it is lack of effective education or practice.  Yesterday reminded me that I really want to perfect some vehicle to vehicle communication method, so the drivers know exactly how I feel about their lack of skills.  I have thought about one of those scrolling message boards - kind of like what buses have on the front to list their next destination.  I also dream about some sort of radio transmission device that would break into their stereo system and broadcast my message to them inside of their car.  My kids shouldn't be the only ones who hear my colorful phrases about crappy drivers.

June 8, 2010

I want my $30 back, Witch.

Back in mid-April I suffered through the modern day phenomenon known as Teacher Appreciation Week.  I say suffered, because it is one of those things that has gone from a time period set aside for kids and parents to voluntarily display their admiration and thanks, to a room mother mandated parade of gifts.  Some years it is a manageable list of tasks, such as having each day dedicated to a simple gesture like wearing the teacher's favorite color or each child bringing a single flower to make a class bouquet.  Other times it is a ridiculous list of daily demands.

This year was a mid-range pain in the ass, with the sixth grader's room mother asking for daily volunteers to bring lunch to the teachers and asking each kid to write a note of appreciation.  The first grader's class was slightly more demanding with a day for flowers, a day for sweet treats, volunteers to cover lunch and recess duty, a day for cards and pictures and a donation request for the flower vase and a meal.

Back to the sixth grade room mother.  She sent a couple of emails detailing how incredibly busy her life was and passing the buck to anyone else willing to exert a little effort.  She did manage to get people to commit to delivering lunch each day to the teachers.  I felt rather homely having actually prepared a meal for the two teachers, as it became clear that the other meal volunteers were specializing in take out.  But, the rarity of a home cooked meal was appreciated and devoured to my delight.

Lazy room mother suggested that everyone send in donations for a couple of gift cards for the teachers - but she couldn't possibly find the time to collect the money, purchase and present them herself, so another mother volunteered - we'll call her 'Witch'.  I dutifully sent in a check for $30.  The following week I received an email from Witch saying that no one else had stepped up to contribute and that she would be sending my check back to school through her kid to mine.

Well, school ended last Thursday and my son swore he was never given the check.  I thought that maybe the other kid forgot or something and figured the Witch would destroy or mail the check to me - I had a mental note to send her an email this week.

Yesterday, I logged on to my bank to balance my check book...and you guessed it, the check has been cashed!  I double checked the image, and it clearly says 'teacher appreciation' on the memo line (so no excuses about finding a check and not knowing what it was for) and it is clearly endorsed by Witch.  I have sent an email and left a phone message, inquiring as to her plan for refunding my money, but I get the feeling that this will end badly.

June 7, 2010

Bomb Pop Summer

I spent all of this weekend working outside.  On Saturday, we had our first 'official' 100 degree day of the year. It's only official if the temperature is recorded at the airport, despite the wide range of weather conditions between here and there.  Heck, the other night we had about 3 sprinkles of rain - not enough to wet the sidewalk, yet just over a mile to the west they had 4 inches!

What is it, scientifically, physically, psychologically, that has changed to make us so dependent on air conditioning? When I was a kid, I can remember summer nights, lying in bed in a pool of sweat, with every window in the house open and oscillating fans running on high speed. Our house had air conditioning, but it did not get turned on until it was impossible to sleep and breathe - a threshold that would be met much sooner today, I think.

Our cars didn't have A/C when I was young, either.  I remember some saying about it, something akin to it had a '455 air conditioner' - 4 windows down at 55 miles per hour.

Is it simply an acclimation thing? Are people who work outside in the heat all day not as likely to turn their A/C on or down, in comparison to people who are inside, in a cool environment each day? I think so, as I worked out in the heat all day and came in to the house and thought that 78 degrees felt too chilly.  I was turning the A/C up while the rest of the family was complaining about how hot it was in the house.  Wussies.

I do realize that much has been lost in the design and placement of modern homes.  Today it is all about maximizing the lots in a subdivision or following building codes that were written by some guy in a high rise somewhere. I lived in a grand old Fort Leavenworth historical-era home once, that was designed properly, and hope to one day build such a house. It is amazing the difference orientation and window placement make, to capture prevailing winds and use sunlight as a passive method of climate control.

In the meantime, I am thinking that I can cut down on my summer electricity bill by making my kids relive my childhood.  Turning off the A/C and stocking up on bomb pops...

June 6, 2010

Operation Neptune

I made the somewhat dimwitted choice to visit Normandy and the landing beaches in the month of November. Another of my dimwitted choices was to select a hotel right on the water. On paper it was a lovely suite above a restaurant in Grandcamp-Maisy. In reality, my entire family ended up huddled in one room of the suite - the front, ocean-facing room was glacial. I believe the radiators were still WWII era and the wind was howling in through leaky windows. I am sure it would have been lovely in June...

This morning, on the beaches of Normandy, you would have probably seen a few soldiers splashing through the surf, recreating the landing day scene. (The Army Cavalry unit we were attached to did it each year. They call such activities 'Spur Rides', a sort of military-themed field trip). It was an amazing feat; once you are standing on the beaches, in the surviving tank fortifications or atop Point du Hoc, you realize the enormity of the task faced by those brave men.

Let's never forget them.

June 5, 2010

Smokin'

I know there is some scientific word that describes the link our brains make with music and memories, I just can't recall it. Most of my distinct memories have a song attached to them. Little pieces of my life that I can generally describe, but some more detailed part of them is frozen in time and attached to a song. Whatever it is about that connection allows near perfect recall - instant clarity of time, place and circumstance.

One such memory is of playing Frisbee in the Alco parking lot on Sante Fe Street in Olathe, Kansas, where I lived until 1985. Back in the day, everyone in cars 'cruised the Fe', with a designated path and different places where people stopped to hang out. Alco, as I recall it, was something between a five and dime, a drugstore and the modern discount retailer. It was in a strip center that had a large parking lot that fronted the main drag. In the summer, we would park there and hang out. The car with the best (loudest) stereo would open all the doors and blast the tunes. I learned to bounce a Frisbee off the pavement to this song:

June 4, 2010

One of Dallas' Shining Moments

It was a free-for-all on a Dallas freeway: People flocked to a busy intersection Friday morning to scoop up boxes of graham crackers spilled in an accident Thursday night.

Dallas County Sheriff's Department is trying to determine what caused an 18-wheeler to overturn in the northbound lanes of Interstate 35E at Colorado Boulevard. The wreck snarled traffic for hours overnight last night.

After the sun came up Friday, rubberneckers turned into cracker collectors.
Deputies had their hands full trying to prevent motorists from rushing in to collect hundreds of packages of Honey Maid graham crackers that had been dislodged from the semi-trailer when it turned over.

"I got enough for all my grandkids and my house," said Dora Richards, one of the snack-seekers. Just out of the hospital, she was all smiles after spotting the mountain of graham crackers on her way home.

Like so many others, she instantly pulled over and loaded up.
This is Dora:


"This is what I give my kids for snacks, because they have ADHD and bipolar, and I don't give them no real sweet stuff, so it's a blessing for me," Richards said.
Oh, well then, if they have the bipolar, it is okay to steal a semi's spilled load from the side of the highway.
By 7:30 a.m., the free-for-all had triggered a traffic jam on I-35 headed into downtown Dallas, the same place where the 18-wheeler had crashed on its side on Thursday evening, spilling its cargo of tasty treats.

"They were stopping, literally, 10 to 15 at a time, causing not only a traffic hazard, but people were crossing the highway here and could have gotten hit," said sheriff's department spokeswoman Kimberly Leach.
What's a box of graham crackers run?  $2 or $3? Certainly not worth playing chicken with Friday morning rush hour traffic.
The graham cracker-grab came to an abrupt halt at 10 a.m., when county health officials ruled that the snacks had spent too much time in the sun and were no longer safe for consumption.

Richards appeared to be unconcerned about whether the boxes she grabbed had been tainted. "I'm going to make a graham cracker pie," she said.
But...but...she don't give those kids 'no real sweet stuff'!

If it wasn't enough that law enforcement couldn't control them and local media was interviewing them...there is fairly good photographic evidence of the looting:  


Good grief, you would think I lived in Detroit.

All info and photos from WFAA-TV.

The Great Pate Sell Off

A few years ago the Pate Transportation Museum south of Fort Worth closed its doors.  They had an awesome collection of all things wheeled.  What is left of the collection is being auctioned off this Saturday.

Crap!  I just shelled out several thousand bucks for a new fridge, summer camp fees, some vacation related expenses and my teenager's knee surgery...if I had known this was happening, some of those things could have waited.


There is no reserve on any of the items in the auction catalog, but I am sure they are still well out of my reach.  Damn.

June 3, 2010

Chevy's can fly!

If you are in the Dallas area, you have probably seen this.  Video, photos and info courtesy of the Dallas Observer.  This is how you avoid paying the toll at DFW airport:



The driver (suspected of inebriation) cleared the toll booth and a car, landed, got out of her car and made a call on her cell phone as the car burst into flames.  She had only minor injuries and no other vehicle or person was involved.

Baby Bluebirds and the Three Amigos!

4 of the 5 of our bluebird eggs have hatched, during the night - I think.  The fifth egg appears to have cracks, but daddy bird is being pretty protective of the nest, so I am not sure if it is a late-hatcher or a dud.  Tried to get a quick picture, they are so fresh that it seems like a Herculean effort for them to hold their heads up, so I didn't force the cute little mouths-wide-open shot.  This is the best I have so far, one fuzzy little newborn with the last egg in the foreground.  Updated photo:


Our resident duck trio wondered what all the fuss was about and waddled over for some corn.  The largest duck got that way by being a bully around the food.  Every time I told him to share, he cocked his head at me like a dog:


Update - just snapped this photo of dad feeding the young 'uns:

June 2, 2010

Morbid much?

I like to read the local medical examiner's website.  As I have mentioned before, I am an avid obituary reader.  This, coupled with my affinity for 'news', means that I often have unanswered questions about deaths.  Many times it is the media's lack of follow up.  Too many times the media will say that the cause of death is undetermined or they are waiting on the medical examiners report - then they never run another word about it.  Sometimes there is a horrific motorcycle versus semi accident that doesn't make the news, but I need to know - and, unfortunately, often the answer is found on the ME's site. 
The blunt details of a death are often educational.  All of those Medicare-funded  mobility scooter commercials don't seem to have the appropriate disclaimers, as I have learned that 'personal scooters' can be deathly dangerous.   I have learned that the affects of premature birth can be listed as the COD for a 37-year old person.  I guess it is a location thing, but there are a higher-than-expected number of fall from a horse-related deaths around here.  Alcohol poisoning is described as 'acute ethanol intoxication'.  It seems that more old people than young people commit suicide.  Sometimes it is the little details like 'place of death' that tell an interesting story.  Recently a gentleman apparently had a heart attack at the airport.  Terminal B Gate 12 bridge, to be precise.

No worries fellas, I have yet to see 'death due to complications of a pharmaceutically enhanced erection that lasted more than four hours' as a COD.
It's a little sobering to know that if my death requires that the medical examiner conduct a report, my bidness will be right there for the world to see.  If/when that day comes, I want something spectacular, entertaining and smile worthy on my death certificate.  I've never seen it on the website, but 'in delicato flagranto morto' immediately comes to mind.       

June 1, 2010

More room for Shiners

Having missed the ability to secure an Obamanomics funded appliance rebate back in April,  I had been planning on making a Major Purchase this weekend, Texas' tax free weekend for Energy Star appliances.  I did manage to pay for a new refrigerator on Saturday, though I am not yet in possession of it or have any knowledge of a delivery date.
My current fridge is 16 years and 5 months old.  I realize that the new one probably won't last half as long - which is frustrating, but what can I do?  I am in heaven at the thought of the new model, with all of its parts intact.  Our 'dairy' door broke off sometime ago, so whenever the door gets jerked open, sticks of butter go flying.  The tracks for the produce drawer broke just after that, and the ice dispenser in the door makes moaning noises for 15 seconds after each use.  The outside of the new fridge is the exact same size as the old, but has 5 more cubic feet of storage space!  Ain't technology grand? 
In the end, I had to pay taxes on the new fridge as someone, somewhere determined that only refrigerators priced under $2,000 were exempt.  I missed the cut off by $79.  I have spent months researching manufacturers, models, repair histories and have been tracking prices and retailers about as long - this was the model that I was going home with and I was at the store that had the best price.  I tried to get the salesman to charge me $79 for the 'free' delivery and lower the fridge price to meet the threshold, but no luck.  It wasn't his fault really, nor the manager's.  The computer system simply won't let them do such a thing.  I could have bought a different color and lowered the price accordingly, but decided $160 wasn't worth the compromise.  
In anticipation of delivery day, I need to go pull the old fridge out and clean behind and underneath it, so my grandmother isn't rolling over in her grave in embarrassment at my lack of domestic dedication.  On the flip side, I did spend most of yesterday in chain saw versus thorny brush mode - doing my granddad proud.