Thursday, November 30, 2006

Enough, Already!

OK. That's it. The temperature outside just dipped below 40 degrees.

And before all your hearty northerners sneer about the thin-blooded Houstonians allow me to point out that it is currently 30 degrees at McMurdo Station, Antarctica!

Yes, it's only 9 degrees warmer in Houston than Antarctica!

That's it. I've had it with all this winter stuff!

I want my 72 degrees back.

I declare Winter over, so get with it, weather, and warm up.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Not even December…

…and Christmas is already blown.

Blown up, that is. Inflated. Infiltrated, I’d say.

In our neighborhood there’s a rule for everything. Your grass has to be a certain color. You can only have certain plants in your yard. Your trees have to be so high and so wide and so green. Your car tires have to be inflated properly.

Apparently, you can own a barky dog, but that’s another issue.

And, apparently, you can inflate giant, tacky, illuminated Christmas decorations!

Where did these come from?

Penguins and snowmen and elves, oh my!

(Pictures to follow.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Year for Chestnuts

Chestnuts are in good form this year. In previous years they have had paper thin shells and about half of them have been mouldy. This year, however, they are fantastic and we will make hay, er, roast chestnuts, while the sun shines.

Here's th blueprint.

First, score the chestnuts with an X. Otherwise the chestnuts may explode from expanding steam as they are roasted. (Yes, that is a specialized Chestnut Marking Knife made in Italy.)


Second, bake or broil the chestnuts for 20 or so minutes.


Third, let them cool a while.


Finally, peel and eat or crumble in a salad or mix with vegetables. Enjoy whatever!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Only a Week

This morning I went out. In the rain.

I came home. In the rain.

I went out again to get a new tire for the car. In the rain.

And came home again. In the rain.

Today it was warm, but grey and drizzly.

Last week I was here -

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cute as a Button Soup

“What’s for dinner?”

“I was thinking about making that soup that Rachael Ray did on the Food Channel the other day.”

“What kinda soup?”

“Don’t remember exactly. Sort of a chicken tortilla soup but with turkey. She chopped up a bunch of tomatillos.”

“We’ve got tomatillos. I bought some yesterday. What else?”

“Don’t remember exactly.”

“Well, think back, Einstein. Visualize what she did and you’ll have it.”

“OK. I’m thinking back. Back. Backkkkkkk. I getting a picture of, of…Jimmy Hendrix and what’s that you’re smoking? Hang on! Too far back! Far out, man.”

“Hey, I’m getting hungry and you’re being an idiot isn’t helping. What’s Rachael doing?”

“She’s going to the fridge and getting out leftovers. It was the Thanksgiving Leftover Show. She’s got turkey and celery and tomatillos and onions and garlic and jalapenos and corn.”

“And?”

“And she’s cooking the onions and garlic in oil and chopping stuff in the food processor and adding turkey stock. It all just dumps together and cooks. Simplicity itself. I can do it!”

“Now you’re cooking! Almost. You’ve got the ingredients and the method. Only one thing missing.”

“What’s that?”

“Rachael Ray is as cute as a button. What are you going to do about that?”

“Will you settle for perky?” I offered hopefully, in my best “perky” imitation.

After a pause, “Don’t forget the salt.”

Cute as a Button Turkey Soup

1-2 lbs roast turkey chunks
8-10 tomatillos, quartered
1 large onion
sufficient quantity of garlic
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 jalapenos
package frozen corn
4 cups turkey stock
cumin
fresh tortillas

Chop the onion and celery, smash the garlic and sauté in oil. Meanwhile, remove the seeds from the jalapenos and pulse them with the tomatillos in a food processor until chopped finely but with some texture. Add to the onions and cook for a few minutes. Combine with stock in a large pot and add the corn. (I also threw in some leftover red bell pepper, half a jar of pimentos and a couple of small potatoes that were lying around. Rachael would appreciate the inventiveness!) Season and simmer for 30 minutes or longer. Serve in large bowls with fresh, warmed tortillas.

Wave your arms around and smile a lot while you prepare this soup and, oh, yeah, don’t forget the salt.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Network Madness

With nothing better to do I renamed my home network. If nothing else, I wanted to prevent the folks on Barky Dog Network from enjoying our zillion megabit connection.

Little did I know it would affect my stereo system.

Long ago I abandoned my CD collection in favor of my laptop running iTunes. Connected to the Airport Express, I could transmit my entire CD library to my Klipschorn concert hall speakers wirelessly and effortlessly. My Sony 5-disc CD changer lies in rust.

However, I renamed my network and the stereo transmition function stopped working.

Apple to the rescue.

A quick query told me that there was a "reset" button on the Airport Express. Ah, ha!

Sure enough, performing a "hard reset" caused the Airport Express to seek out "new" networks and it discovered ********! Clicking on "join" was all it took for the Express to express itself to my amplifier and now we have Christmas music blasting out of the K-Horns.

"I reset an Express on Christmas Day
On Christmas Day in the morning!"

"I reset an Express on Christmas Day
On Christmas Day in the morning!"

I love Christmas. (Don't get me started on Macintosh!)

Hang on, where is that Manhattan Transfer CD...

The Season!

Welcome Everybody to the Third Annual Twelve Two Two Fondue!

And Welcome to the Third Annual Fondue Party to be held on

December 22, 2006

Twelve Two Two Fondue!

Join in the celebration by hosting a fondue party at your home and posting pictures to Twelve Two Two Fondue!

There aren't enough exclamation points to express the joy and fellowship of readers from around the World joining in to celebrate the Holiday Season, in your own way, for all of us to enjoy!

Twelve Two Two is a celebration of the family, who we are and who we love. The annual fondue celebration is an opportunity for all of us to pull on those drawstrings that bind us and pull us closer together.

Celebrate with your family and friends on December 22 and, if you like, share your experience with the rest of the World!

Or, savour the privacy as is your tradition.

This family will be on the road but carrying a fondue pot, cheese and looking for an Internet connection.

Google me a Starbucks!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pumpkin Pie!

It's what's for breakfast.

Later that day...

Two minutes to go in the game and...interception!

It's a bad day in Austin, sunny skies and all.

Longhorns 7, Texas A&M 12

(I wrote too soon! Twelve seconds remaining and a second interception by the Aggies. Oh, the humanity!)

It's going to take a couple of margarita martinis at Trudy's to numb the pain.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Turkey is Roasting

The turkey is in the oven and Tampa is roasting the Cowboys.

I know how the turkey is going to come out: 20 minutes a pound plus a little bit.

For the Cowboys, Go Long! Go Long!

Later the same day...

The turkey is done!



And so is Tampa:

Dallas 38, Tampa 10

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bird Brain

If I ran Ford I’d be investing in R&D on the bird brain.

Seriously!

I had a chance while waiting for my car to get fixed to watch a flock of black birds wheeling through the skies around the dealership.

The birds cruised in and out of the air space in perfect formation. How do they do that? Up and down, left and right, in and out the birds wheeled over the buildings and roads and settled on the power lines spaced about 6-inches apart from each other.

Then, on a moment’s notice they leapt off the wire into the sky to perform another low altitude air show before settling back to the same wire.

Astounding.

No collisions. No feather benders. No rear-ending. No tail-gating.

Just precision flying for no apparent reason.

Meanwhile, on the freeway just yards from the bird roost was an an endless display of collisions, fender benders and rear ending. Obviously, the car drivers weren’t watching the birds.

Imagine if we could teach airplanes to fly like birds. Instead of lining up to land, stacked in the sky as we have all seen, the flights could swoop down on the airport landing one after another in a model of cooperation.

Like a startled flock, airplanes could all take off at once mindful of each others position.

When’s the last time you saw two birds collide in mid-air?

Now, there’s something to think about.

It could change the whole way we think about air travel.

“Flock 1003 to Colorado Springs is now departing from branch B-12.”

We’d all take off at once. That would be exciting!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Deep Freezer to Icebox



Returning to Houston from Leadville was like going to the icebox from the deep freezer; only 10 degrees of difference.

"We need to put the heat on tonight. It's going to get down to 40."

"Sorry. Not allowed. It's not February."

Sure, it's easy for me to make the rules. I'm sitting here with an Apple Core Duo MacBook Pro pumping out a nifty 130 degrees out its backside and into mine, so to speak. This is definitely a winter machine.

If I could learn to type with my toes I could keep my feet warm all winter long. Just plug it in and stick it under the covers at the end of the bed. Blog while you sleep.

In fact I'll try it tonight!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ariel's Good Idea

Ariel is the house cat here in Leadville. I've known Ariel for about 16 years. Yes, we're both that old. You can learn a lot from an old cat if you pay attention.

When Ariel was a young kitten she was feisty and temperamental, but not psychotic like our cat Nobbs. Although a cat person (they call me the Cat Whisperer), I couldn't get close to Ariel without her displaying a lot of back-hunching, spitting, hissing and yowling. I get that a lot so it didn't bother me too much.

Fast forward 16 years and Ariel is the Grand Matriarch of the house. Regal, even though displaying a lot of back-huching, spitting, hissing and yowling. That's Ariel.

Imagine my surprise this afternoon as the sun swung around to the back of the house and warmed up the comfy couch that Ariel hopped up next to me and settled down for a nap. Awwww, how nice. I thought about giving her a scratch on the head but she opened one eye and gave me The Look.

I retreated.

Happily bogging away next to a royal visit by Ariel we were both interrupted by a group of adventurous hikers planning an expedition into the wilds of the Valley.

"Hey, you lazy bum, get your coat and boots on. We're going for a walk."

I looked around for an escape or excuse but there was none. Ariel gave me that special cat look knowing that she didn't have either a coat or boots and would not be going for a hike into the Valley.

Did I mention "in the snow?" Ah, yes, that's what makes a hike into the Valley special. Snow.

I made to get up but Ariel was quick with her front claw and snagged my pants. I looked down, she looked up: don't go.

Seeing my chance I pounced! "Hey, uh, I can't go because Ariel snagged my pants and, you know, that's so cute, and Ariel's being nice for the first time in 16 years I sorta hate to spoil the moment...," but I was cut short.

"Here's your coat and boots. Meet us on the deck in 5 minutes." And that was that.

Sorry, Ariel. Duty calls. I stood up and before I could take a step to reach my coat Ariel stretched herself out into the sunny part of the couch where I had been sitting and exhaled a long self-satisfied sigh.

In five I was on the deck, heading down the stairs into the snow and the Valley below. The snow was nearly two feet thick and we had to take giant steps to make progress. Mother may I? Yes, take two giant steps. Can we play Ministry of Silly Walks? By all means! As usual I lagged behind, following the footprints and holes in the snow.

We broke through the forest and walked through a dense thicket of willow. Hacking through the willows we made our way across the flats and up to the far side of the Valley. Yes, the view was spectacular. Yes, the snow was cold. Yes, I had lost feeling in my fingers and toes.

Noticing that the sun was setting fast and not wanting to be caught out in the forest as the temperature dropped we hastened back across the Valley, through the willow thicket and back up into the forest to the cabin.

I was cold, wet, snowy, somewhat numb and sweating from the exertion at high altitude. Dropping our gear off in the mud room we assembled in the main room for some water and a beer or three.

"Hey look at Ariel!" someone said, "She hasn't moved off the couch in 2 hours!"

Ariel looked at me and winked as if to say "And how was your afternoon?"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Leadville

We're at 10,000 feet here in Leadville you know.

Yep, I know that.

It's the middle of November.

I know that, too.

All that fluffy white stuff you're standing in is snow. Remember snow?

I've read about it.

What are you doing out here?

I'm trying to find a cell phone tower. I thought I saw one on that ridge over there, but it was only a tree.

You're freezing, aren't you.

How can you tell?

'Cause you're wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.

"You pack it, you wear it," is my motto.

Next time check out the Weather Channel.

Roger that. Let's go inside. I think my knees just went numb.

That's not all that's numb.

Say what?

Nothing, just muttering to myself.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Wireless World

How did I survive without cell phones?

I hear that question a lot, evesdropping on conversations in airports and hotel lobbies. I think the answer is that we did survive without cell phones as we are here to ask that question. Yes, for millions of years we were late to appointments, snarled up in traffic and wondering where the heck the kids were.

In a few short years we have become intricately connected and totally dependent on our wireless domain. Watch people in a hotel lobby and nearly every person has a cell phone; yakking away. Who needs that much talk?

As for me, this morning I was forced to sit on the patio and stare at the distant mountain range when I could have been on Google Earth examining the mountain from all angles in 3-D. Oh, yeah, I'm looking at the mountain in 3-D but only from one side. What's the fun in that?

Here in the fancy-dancy resort hotel, boasting wireless Internet Access, the wireless access is strong but the Internet part is spotty at best. Good signal, no Internet service provider. So there I was last night wandering around the parking lot with my laptop open looking for a hot spot. Like Diogenes looking for an honest connection.

Finally, on the sidewalk just outside the "business center" the screen snapped to Google! I'm in! Quickly I dashed off a two line blog entry and hit "publish."

Come on! Come on! Go, go, go!

I have truly gone insane. But, I'm trying to keep with the program of posting every day in November. With a few traveling days planned between now and December 1st, it's going to be touch and go, hopping between one access point and another.

What a world!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

In Transit

On the way to Colorado Springs.

Must. Find. Internet.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nobbs Sighting

Nobbs, our runaway cat, has been sighted no less than 100 yards from home.

Why our cat ran away is a mystery to us. We provided a warm, welcoming house to him. A cat door. Unlimited and varied Cat Chow. And the standard L&A (Love and Attention) that cats require. Of course, I did cut his tail off and he might still hold a grudge about that.

Sandy, by contrast, lives life to the fullest here at the Cat Spa and even has his cat food heated in the morning. If he could speak I'm sure his first sentence would be, "Bulah, peel me a grape."

Nobbs has always had the wanderlust, ranging as far away as 2 miles from his home base. He's an outdoors cat and would probably love living in a forest. Alas, he's stuck in a neighborhood with a golf course.

So, shock! Horror! After 6 months of being AWOL and possibly a coyote supper, there he was big as life strolling down the road like he owned the place, which he probably does. And to add to the shock he was wearing a collar.

Having been nearly disembowled by Nobbs trying to fasten a collar on him, I can't imagine who has taken him in or what their secret is. Perhaps not amputating his parts. Who knows.

Anyway, Nobbs let me get close enough for a scratch on the head (he scratched me, that is) and I saw that he had been renamed "Domino." Nobbs is strikingly marked in black and white, although his original name reflects a birth defect on his tail, which as I've already mention was amputated.

Well, good for Nobbs-Domino for growing up, learning a vocation (eating out of trash cans and murdering squirrels) and moving out of the house.

I guess I'm just suffering from the Empty Nest Syndrome. All the bird nests in our neighborhood are empty. Knowing my luck, though, when he's 40 he'll probably return home.

Yeah, the door will be open for him if that happens and the bowl will be filled with Cat Chow. Family, you know.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Breakthrough!

Although I had to violate a restraining order, I made a significant breakthrough with my addiction.

Let me explain.

The "restraining order" is self-imposed: I am forbidden to step across the threshold of an Apple Store while carrying a credit card or vast sums of cash.

History is very clear on this. I have visited Apple Stores exactly twice and on both occasions was unable to carry out what I bought. It's true. One of the Apple People, or whatever they're called, had to follow me to my vehicle with a dolly piled high with boxes. Each time. Twice.

On one occasion the Apple Person helping me unload the dolly fell to the pavement, grabbed me by the ankles and sobbed, "Thank you! Thank you! Now I can afford to send my daughter to Baylor!" Geeze, how embarrassing. Now, if he had said UT I would have been cool with that. But, Baylor?

On the other occasion I told myself the big lie, hoping I'd believe it. We're only going in to look, I said to myself.

Just a quick look and out. No touching. Look and go. Look and go. No touching!

Myself gasped! Before we had even opened the tall, glass door we saw her. Sitting demurely on the beechwood counter, glowing but cool in her brushed aluminum skin; so smooth and warm. "Touch me," she invited. "I can't," I thought.

In a trance I drifted across the floor. An Apple Person asked if I needed assistance but his voice trailed off. Obviously, I was way beyond assistance. I settled in front of the G4 PowerBook and felt the heat rising from her crystal clear 15-inch display. Involuntarily my hands settled on her sides and I caressed her smooth exterior. Rounded edges. Recessed ports. She was sharp, but not pointy. Firm, but not flinty.

I had touched.

My heart began to pound. My throat constricted and in a croak I managed to utter, "Do you have this with a gig of memory?"

Secretly, I hoped the answer would be "No" and I could break the spell, yet deep down I hoped the answer would be "Yes" so I could break free of my repression!

"Yes," the Apple Person replied, "we certainly do. Shall I get the Parson?"

"No need," I said, nearly fainting, and I turned to the Apple Person, grabbed him by his shirt collar, pulled him close and disregarding any consideration of close-range garlic breath, whispered into his wincing face, "I have... needs!"

Pulling away the Apple Person staggered back a few steps, straightened his collar, coughed and said quietly, "I understand. Wait just a moment and we'll, uh, satisfy your, um, requirements."

That was a few years ago and we had a beautiful relationship until her "E" key wore out and, well, that was my fault and another story.

So, today I took a big breath, a breath mint and stepped across the threshold of the Apple Store and into Wonderland. My credit card started bouncing around like a ferret in a trash bag but I remained calm.

The iBooks, iMacs, iPods and PowerBooks were on display like the red light district in Amsterdam. Come hither, sailor, they beckoned. But, I calmly strode around like I owned the place, tapped a few keys, and after a few minutes departed the premises, sweating profusely. The ferret quieted down as I moved away from the Apple Store, although he gave a few tugs as we passed the Victoria's Secret store, and all was well.

I made the phone call.

"Hey, I went to the new Apple Store at the First Colony Mall!"

long pause

"Uh, huh. And how much did you blow?"

"Nothing. Nuh-THING! Zero. Nada. Zilch. I walked in. I walked out."

"You're sweating profusely and there's a ferret in your back pocket, right?"

"Details, details. But, yes. Guilty as charged, but no charge. So there."

"Well, who's a good boy? It's about time you showed some self-control. I'll be home in a couple of days. Meanwhile, you just go home and drink some gin or something, OK?"

"OK, I said. Hey, maybe I'll blog about it."

"Whatever. Later." click

I turned around to look back at the Apple Store. The silver apple was reflected in the Victoria's Secret Angels bra ad. Silver on pink with feathers.

"Don't you worry, me prettys, Uncle will return. With gifts." The ferret was positively giddy with anticipation.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Word

Two words: Crab and On Sale!

I'm in!

One pound of fresh picked crab and what to do what to do?

I have no apples so Crabby Appleton is out of the question. But not crab cakes, my favorite!

Deciding to "wing" this one I did not consult any cook books or the Internet. No, I went by instincts and the result was OK enough that I had seconds.

Crab cakes are not a mystery. An egg, mayo, Worcestershire Sauce, the Trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper; sauteed) and a bit of this, a bit of that, some Cajun spices and a French fried bat. Some chillin' in the ice box followed by skillet time.

And, viola, crab cakes!

I would have said "violin, crab cakes" but I was using blue point, not fiddler.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Halloween One Two - The Rest of the Story

It was a dark and stormy night. The moon played hide-and-seek behind a veil of dark clouds. A wolf howled a mournful lament in the distance.

The Major entered the study. It was dark. The storm had interrupted the power and all the lights in the mansion were off. The Major stuck a match and lit a hurricane lamp he kept in his sea chest for just such emergencies. As the light grew beyond a flicker the Major looked down and gasped!

"The bastards! They've killed Kenny!"

And there in a slowly spreading pool of tapioca pudding lay Kenny. Face down and quite dead.

Years of military service had taught the Major one thing above all else: CYA -- and that didn't stand for Crying Young A**hole. He looked around quickly to see if anyone else was in the vicinity, but saw nothing but the emotionless -- and motionless – dark. Donning a pair of driving gloves stowed years ago in a pocket of his tweed jacket, the Major poked a tentative finger into the tapioca pudding, no longer spreading as much as absorbing into the weathered hardwood floor. There seemed to be a bit of extra give in the boards, even accounting for the weight of a tapioca-laden corpse on top. He wedged his thumb into a worn gap and wrenched upward. With a creak and a rending report that was startling against the stillness of the room, the board came out of the floor completely, revealing the corner of a corroded metal container. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear that was Spam," mused the Major. He didn't know better. It was Spam.

No, wait! It was a Spam container hidden deep in the floorboards. Buried in dirt and dust by someone who didn't want it discovered. But the Major was too intrigued not to open it. Slowly he cracked open the rotted plastic lid and he couldn't believe what he found -- sapphires. Two perfect sapphires.

No wait! Not TWO, BUT MORE! LOTS MORE! The Major had found a can of the fabled SAPPHIRE SPAM, traditional creamy spam loaded with Minnesota Sapphire Baby Blues...I thought that flavor had been discontinued in the last century.

"Sapphires in Spam", mused the Major. He knew that Kenny had worked in the import business for many years and could always be relied upon to produce a perfect stone. But why had he secreted them away in the spam, and from whom? The Major heard a faint creaking and turned around. The door behind him was slowly closing.

"Aha!" said the Major. He knew the door led to the Library, and the culprit would be somewhere in the next room. The Major slowly pushed open the heavy mahogany door and entered the dimly lit room. He saw a movement in the corner and pointed his lamp towards the west end of the room. No one was there, in fact it looked like the room hadn't been touched in a century. And then the Major spotted something peculiar. A single red feather lay on the floor by the fireplace. "A feather.." he pondered. There was only one person he knew who could have left this feather. He started to sweat as he thought about the visit he was about to make.

Heather "The Feather" Scarlett. Skinnier than Kate Moss after a few dozen Ex-Lax martinis. More annoying than Tokyo Rose. More dangerous than standing between Kirstie Alley and dessert.

 It had been awhile since the Major's last confrontation with The Feather, but he recalled with a wince that precious stones had been involved that time as well.
 
"Memo to self," he muttered. "Turn away from the kick this time."
 
The Major retraced his steps to the discarded metal lid and picked it up. As he inserted it strategically into his trousers, faint footsteps in front of him announced the arrival of The Feather. 

"Is that tapioca or are you just glad to see me?"

“You..” the major uttered on a barely audible descending grunt. “Why don’t you go back to your hovel?!”


“After all these years, major, is that all the welcome you can summon? Cough, cough!!”


Her eyes kept darting down at the obvious outline of the SPAM can in right leg of his trousers.


“The last time I saw your miserably atrophied frame, you had me tied to my ship’s mast! The dynamite thankfully cut my bonds or I’d be at the bottom of the ocean with all the damn barrels of gemstones you sank that night!” the major grew angry.


“Major, is THAT what you think happened?” She asked as she coughed and delicately withdrew the coughed-up red feather from her mouth…


"Would you like something to drink?"


For weeks before discovering the body, the major had been trying to combat his alcoholism with chocolate ice cream and cinnamon hearts. Now back in an extreme situation for the first time in the months since his "retirement," hands shaking, thighs jiggling the SPAM can uncomfortably against his thigh, he forgot his usual wariness and agreed.


He did not see her empty the X-Lax into his drink.
A wolf howled in the distance.

The Feather turned to note the howling and said, "Pardon dearest, but my chariot awaits. And though they are wolves, they can just be jackals in regard to the fare."


As the Major felt a deep, unhealthy grumbling, she took her upchucked feather and gave the Major a pointed stare, "We can do this the easy and quick way, or it can be most gruesome."

“All right!” the Major shouted, “Have it your way!”

“And what way would that be?” The Feather taunted, knowing the answer.

“A trade,” the Major offered wryly, clenching his buttocks hard.

“Ah, a trade,” mused The Feather, “and might that entail sapphires?”

“Yes, yes!” the Major exclaimed, “You can have them all. All! But you must give me the Important Papers.”

Heather The Feather drew a gasp through pursed lips, “The Important Papers. Yes, only I have those but is the price high enough?”

She paused for dramatic effect, “I THINK NOT!”

The Major blanched and clenched his buttocks tighter. Drat that woman! But he knew she had won, only how high the price?

“OK,” the Major gasped, “OK, you win. You win. The sapphires plus my season tickets to the University of Austin Longhorn’s games for next year.”

Heather blanched. Be still my heart, she thought. As an Oklahoma University graduate her emotions were in turmoil. Yes, UT Austin had rejected her application as a freshman and she had been forced to select her Second Choice, OU, but she was a Longhorn at heart.

She composed herself.

“Very well, Major,” she hissed, “you drive a hard bargain, but so tempting. I’ll take your sapphires and your Longhorn tickets, and I’ll give you in return the Important Papers.”

The Major clenched his buttocks, as if it were possible to clinch any more, threw the sapphire laden SPAM across the room. Then, reaching into his breast pocket withdrew his season tickets, kissed them fondly, made the Longhorn sign with his right hand and handed over his legacy to The Feather.

“Now that you have what you want,” the Major rasped, “the Important Papers, please, and I’ll be on my way.”

The Feather opened her Gucci attaché case and withdrew a roll of Charmin Ultra-Absorbant, three ply bathroom tissue and tossed it to the Major.

“I hope it comes out well for you, Major,” she sneered sarcastically.

The Major caught the roll in mid-air and turning on his heels, running down the corridor, he glanced over his shoulder and shaking the Charmin at The Feather shouted, “Watch your step, Feather, you haven’t seen the end of me!”

“Thankfully,” Heather thought as she closed her attaché case and headed out into the night, “Taxi!”

The cab slowed to a stop by the curb and the rear door opened. Feather got in and placed her attaché case on her knees.

“Where to, Lady?” the cabby inquired.

“Elm Street,” Feather instructed.

“No prob,” said the cabby as he turned around to grin at his passenger.

Feather gasped.

It was Kenny.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

Dad didn't talk much about the war, the big one, that is, WW2. I knew he was stationed in the South Pacific and that he skinned his nose playing basketball; that was his only story.

I found out later what it was really like in a war in the South Pacific.

Dad was Captain of an engineering corp tasked with building runways on small islands as the US forces pushed westward. They, my Dad and his men, built the runways by hand. Sure, they had some mechanical equipment like trucks and bulldozers, but they hauled 80-lb sacks of cement from landing craft, through waist deep water, by hand, one by one.

80 pound sacks of cement. Hauled through water. To shore. By men. One at a time.

Think about it.

They had some kind of rock breaker that made gravel and they got the sand from the beach to create concrete (a mixture of sand, gravel and cement) which they carried in wheelbarrows to the site where the runway was going to be built.

Now, a runway back then might have been 2000 feet long and 18 inches deep. That's a lot of wheelbarrow trips.

I can't imagine the amount of toil that went into building those runways, and in the South Pacific heat.

Skinned his nose playing basketball, so the story goes.

I found out later that the camp was bombed nightly. Damaged planes crash landed on the runway, tearing it up which necessitated immediate repair. Malaria and other diseases were rampant. Food was in short supply. It was hot, humid and uncomfortable even when not being bombed.

And through all this these engineers simply did the work that needed to be done. Back breaking, dangerous work, day by day. Hauling concrete and steel by hand. Working in shifts around the clock. For years.

After the war was over, the trip home was a 6-week voyage on the open deck of a troop carrier. In the rain. In the sun. But, at least they weren't getting bombed every night. Deep clover by comparison.

I salute the men of the 864th Army Engineering Battalion for their personal sacrifice and doing the work that most of us couldn't imagine.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Congressman Has Landed

"Sugar Land Airport, this is Charlie 12. Over."

"Charlie Oner-Twoer. Copy that. You are clear to land. Over."

"Roger, Sugar Land. Charlie 12 Over."

"Charlie 12, Sugar Land Airport. Ground security informs us that the Congressman will be transported in a US Mail Truck to destination. Over."

"Copy that. US Mail Truck. Over."

"Charlie 12, one more thing. The Congressman will be traveling incognito wearing a red balaclava. Over."

"Copy that, Sugar Land. Red baklava. Initiating radio silence. Over."

...much later...

Ladies, Gentlemen and Distinguished Guests. It is my pleasure to introduce Chuckles, the former Congressman. Doesn't he look fetching in that red balaclava?

No! Stop! I didn't mean to say "fetch." Hey, bring back that tennis ball, Congressman! Congressman? Here, Congressman!



Order your 2007 Chuckles, the Former Congressman calendar!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Guy Fawkes Update

Associated Press

LONDON - A 22-year-old man suffered internal injuries after lighting a small firecracker he had inserted into his buttocks, paramedics said today.

The incident took place Sunday, when Britain celebrated Bonfire Night, traditionally marked with fireworks to celebrate the Guy Fawkes' gunpowder plot to blow up Parliament in the 17th century.

The man suffered burns and other unspecified internal injuries in the incident in Sunderland, 275 miles north of London.

Several of the man's friends recorded the incident on a mobile phone camera. The blurry images show a man bent over with his pants down and a white flash as the firecracker explodes.

Analysis

I may be going out on a limb here, seeing as the article did not go into a lot of detail, but I'm going to suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, alcohol was involved at some point during the evening prior to the detonation. Furthermore, prior to and after the detonation the victim was feeling no pain.

Just a guess.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sprint

I went to Circuit City to buy a CD and ended up getting a new phone system that will shorten my Sprint around the house to get to a phone before the answering machine cuts in.

Three phones for the price of three. What a deal!



p.s. "Contact" is like the best film ever in the genre of sci-fi staring Jodie Foster.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Be a Cat Day

“Mommy, what’s that man doing over there in the flowerbed?”

“Well, sweetie, either he’s a totally deranged pervert or it’s Be a Cat Day!”

Mom was right. The answer was “B:” Be a Cat Day!

What is Be a Cat Day you’re afraid to ask?

Simple! You follow your feline friend around for a day and whatever the Cat does, you do. Oh, you scoff, that’s just an excuse for sleeping all day and dig in the flowerbed. That is so wrong. Nobody needs an excuse to sleep all day or dig in the flowerbed. In fact, being a cat is a demanding and exacting job.

I present my case.

5:30 A.M. Paw the bedroom window. Be a Cat Day starts early in the morning! Get on your knees and stretch way up. Come on, higher! Stretch those arms and tap your fingers against the window just hard enough to be annoying, but not strident. That’s it! Tappity-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tappity-tap.

5:40 A.M. Pre-breakfast snack. While the Cat chomps on cat chow you can have a handful or so of Cheerio’s. No milk. Dry crunching can be heard throughout the house adding to the sarcasm of “breakfast not ready yet!” After the snack wash carefully and exhale cat chow breath on anybody in the vicinity. Pace around loudly to indicate you’re ready for breakfast.

6:00 A.M. Breakfast time! Make loud noises, purr and be generally appreciative. Yeah, it’s an act but it works every time and will generally speed up getting Breakfast delivered. Show more appreciation by scattering Breakfast around the kitchen floor. That way everybody can join in! Once Breakfast is over you can cut the act and get down to serious Cat business for the rest of the day. Wash carefully and exhale cat food breath on anybody in the vicinity.

6:30 A.M. Power Nap Number One. Find a comfortable place to curl up and go to sleep.

9:30 A.M. Stretch! Really get those arms and legs out there. Big yawn, come on, big! Roll over on the other side and go back to sleep.

12:30 P.M. Wake up from Power Nap Number One, stroll into the kitchen for a snack. Wash carefully and exhale cat snack breath on anybody in the vicinity. Go outside and dig in the garden for a few minutes being mindful to track dirt across the newly cleaned kitchen floor.

1:00 P.M. Power Nap Number Two. Seek out the couch or the big chair, curl up and go to sleep.

3:00 P.M. Stretch! Big yawn! Roll over and go back to sleep.

6:00 P.M Dinner time! Always remember to stretch carefully before starting any exercise. Ready, set, go! Run around the house and make as much noise as possible. Climbing the curtains always elicits a response. Continue this exercise until dinner appears, which will be shortly.

6:15 P.M. Sit by the back door and stare at the lower hinge. Empty the mind and concentrate on the Hinge. The Hinge. The Hinge. O, my knee, pad may Hinge. O, my knee, pad may Hinge. Contemplate the sound of one paw clawing.

6:45 P.M. Meditation is over. Time to party! Bat at the door stop spring until the door opens. Sproinggggggg! Sproingggggggg! Sproinggggg!

7:00 P.M Let’s get this party started! A night of games and excitement. There’s Annoy the Barky Dog, Claw the Trash Bag, Dig Up the Flowers, Torment the Mice, Leap at the Bugs and the all time favorite, Puke on the Doorstep. We’ll save that for last! Come on, the night is young!

(The following morning.)

5:15 A.M. OK, let’s do a quick evaluation of the night’s activities:

Annoyed the barky dog. Check.

Clawed the trash bags. Check.

Dug up flowers. Check.

Mouse count. Four, check.

Bug count. Twelve, check.

Puke on doorstep.

Puke on doorstep?

(hurk, hurk, hurk, hurrrrrrrrrrk) Check.

Alright, everybody, that was a good effort. Oh, look at the time! We’ve got to get going!

5:30 A.M. Paw the bedroom window.

And so ends Be a Cat Day and not a moment too soon. I’m exhausted! Power nap here I come.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rainy Dayzzz

Today started off with a line of thunderstorms moving through about 6am. A thunderclap directly over your house at 6am will get you going!

That would be a cool alarm clock to have.

Binford 3000 Thunderclap Alarm Clock

Hook it up to surround sound speakers and crank it up to Severe Storm. Yeah, I wouldn't sleep a wink just waiting for the thing to go off. Wake up and jump-start for the old heart in the same device.

The storms rattled around for hours then finally it got calm, but grey, in the early afternoon.

So, I was sitting on The Couch with greyness outside and intermittant dripping noises going on and I thought, you know, I could just stretch out here on the couch and "rest my eyes" for a few minutes, or I could have a cup of coffee and write a blog.

I took a vote and "rest my eyes" defeated "write a blog" by a narrow margin, but, hey, it's mid-term election time and majority rules.

Not going to sleep, though. Wouldn't be prudent. Just going to rest my eyez. Just close the eyezz for a moment.

Happy eyezzzz.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Guy Fawkes Day

Dateline November 5, 1605

Guy "Guido" Fawkes and co-conspirators are discovered beneath the Houses of Parliment with kegs of gunpowder, fuses and long matches.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Read more about Guy and his unfortunate demise at Wikipedia.

A penny for the Guy?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

4662 Déjà Vu

The local Kroger’s is remodeling because they want to provide the Ultimate Shopping experience to their customers, they are keen to give us more Variety, we deserve the Best, they love us and (cough, cough) WholeFoodsMarketIsComingToTown (cough, cough).

The Whole Foods pan-galactic battle cruiser will land next year about a mile away from the SS Minnow-Kroger.

Whole Foods with Gucci-designed shopping baskets and Versace vermicelli. Yes, that Whole Foods. The largest retailer of natural and organic foods in the World. Sorry, they don’t sell inorganic food; you’ll have to go to the Olive Garden for that.

Over the past couple of months we’ve seen major changes occurring seemingly by magic: new shelves, a new floor, new products and new produce.

New produce? Well, not like pink corn or dancing raisins but fruits and veggies not previously offered. Little squashes. Strange looking peppers. Peruvian Purple potatoes.

All this turmoil means that stuff is moving around in the store. Ketchup is now on Aisle 9 instead of Aisle 11. Apples are on the left side of the produce section rather than on the right. For the professional shopper, like myself, it’s a challenge, but exciting, to keep up with it all.

Today, I spent some time watching the re-labeling in the produce section, a massive undertaking by any standard. Off go all the old labels and on go the new, improved labels: product name, code and price.

Shallots, 4662, $1.69/lb

After a while I pulled myself away lest I became overwhelmed by the excitement, and I had a dinner to prepare at any rate. Time to go.

I parked my cart in a check-out line and zoned out on tabloid headlines while I waited for the checker.

“Queen Gives Birth to Alien”

Again, I thought? That royal family; they never learn.

My fantasy of royal alien abductions was punctured by a question being asked close by, I thought to me.

“What’s this?”

The checker from the other line was looking right at me and holding a bag of produce.

I looked at the bag and said, “Shallots.”

The checker narrowed his eyes and said, “What?”

“Shallots,” I repeated, “those are shallots.”

Agitated, the checker replied, “I know they’re shallots (you old doofus – implied) I’m asking her for the code.”

“4662,” I said not missing a beat.

“Right,” the checker smirked, trying to ignore me, “as if. Well, Doris, what’s the code for shallots?”

Doris delivered the coup de grace, “4662.”

The checker gave me a long look and appeared to be about to say something, but by that time I had paid my bill and was heading out the door. Behind me I heard someone say, “Who is that guy?”

After a brief pause the voice of the Old Hand replied quietly, “That, my young checker friend, that is the Sackmeister.”

As I walked to the truck I thought, “Some days you get the bear…”

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fired

"Yello, City Pound."

"Hey, cut the nonsense. I'm tired. It's late. I kicked my computer down the staircase and I'm hungry."

"OK, well I bought fish for dinner but since it's close to 9 already how about we call in a Pei Wei strike?"

"Yeah, that's a good idea. Get sesame chicken, edamame and lettuce wraps. But nothing spicy. I've been a little rumbly in the tumbly today if you get my drift."

I did not want to "get the drift" so I complied and made the phone call.

>ring< >ring<

"Yello, Pei Wei, may I take your order?"

"Yeah, we'd like Sesame Chicken, edamame and lettuce wraps, to pick up."

"OK, we don't do Sesame Chicken."

*Life flashes before eyes*

I. am. so. screwed.

"Uh, so what kind of chicken thing dish do you do?"

"We do Honey Chicken and Pei Wei Chicken."

Honey Chicken sounded too sweet and Pei Wei Chicken sounded Goldilocks Just Right.

"OK, I'll go with the Pei Wei Chicken."

"Right. Your order is edamame, lettuce wraps and Pei Wei Chicken Mongolian Ring of Fire. Ready in 20 minutes. Bye."

Ring of what?

...Later that evening...

"Hmmm, there seems to be some chicken amongst the pepper flakes."

"Quit complaining and pass the water. My chopsticks caught fire again."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lightly Squashed

Our local supermarket is undergoing a renovation: new shelves, more shelves, new floor and a massive rearrangement.

One of the benefits is the New and Improved produce section with lots of new veggies.

Take the cute, little squashes, for example, and I did. Three bags full. Green, yellow and greenie-yellow. About the size of a button mushroom I decided on the spot to create a dish with whole, cute, little squashes, mushrooms and red bell pepper for color.

Here's the blueprint:


cute little squashes
button mushrooms
cubed red bell pepper
sliced garlic
chopped onion
cream
butter
fettuccine

Saute lightly all the veggies in some butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add some cream, bring to a boil. Combine with the fettuccine and serve with grated parmesan.



I paid for the cream and butter at the gym the next morning with a series of Romanian dead lift lunges. Lunge, butter, cream, lunge! It hurt so good.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Wrap-up



If you’ve got a barky dog clap your hands!
If you’ve got a barky dog clap your hands!
If you’ve got a barky dog and you don’t care about your neighbor’s mental health,
If you’ve got a barky dog clap your hands!



Yes, we’ve got a barky dog, but it’s the neighbor’s dog.

Yes, we’re clapping our hands – over our ears.

Yap, yap, yap in the morning. Yap, yap, yap at night.

In desperation I read all the Harry Potters paying close attention to yapping dog spells.

Nothing. Not to mention the fact I don’t own a decent wand. Miserable hand-me-down of mine. I tap “béchamel” and what do I get nine times out of ten? Hollandaise! Never fails.

OK, now we have new neighbors and all we know about them is that they have a barky dog. The new neighbors and our paths don’t cross. Never met them. Hardly seen them. Only heard the barky dog – morning and night.

If I wait long enough they’ll move and maybe we’ll get a troupe of pole dancers or something moving in.

No wonder we don't have any friends. Not that I'm complaining.

Although we've only seen our new neighbors once, we hear their
damnable barky dog morning and night.

So, last night it was ding-dong, Trick or Treat, and Hi we're your
neighbors. Small woman with smaller girl child in tow

So, my first question was:

What's you dog's name?

Not, oh, nice to meet you. Or, hey, did you get settled OK? Or,
Welcome to the neighborhood, did you move here from Barkyville?

Nope, it was the dog.

The lady whose name I've already forgotten seemed taken aback, but managed to stammer "Melissa."

I said to nobody in particular, Ah, Melissa, now we can complete the spell! At this our neighbor blanched, turned and nearly ran down the sidewalk.

What's up with her, I wondered briefly, but then turned to matters at hand.

Now, where did I put that Eye of Newt?