Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Little Wind

"Make sure your gear is stowed away properly, boys, because there are some storms rattling around and we might get a little wind."

I would rue those words but for now all was calm as a clam. Low clouds were moving around and there were some flashes of lightning on the horizon, but nothing unusual. No indication that we were camped in the center lane of Thunderstorm Highway, Tornado Alley or Sleet Street.

The Scouts shuffled off to their tents and soon all was still save for the ghostly green of flashlights being waved around in tents and low murmurs of kids in quiet conversation punctuated by the occasional exaggerated fart noise.

"Do you think we should take the tarp down?" someone asked.

"Nah. It's staked down well and, besides, we'd have to move all this gear somewhere. Let's pick up the loose stuff and the rest will be OK."

More famous last words.

I made one more circuit of the camp and all was quiet. I checked the weather. Dew was dropping out and the lightning had moved to the north. The storms were moving around us. Should be a quiet night.

I was just settling into my sleeping bag when a flash of lightning lit up the tent. I counted...5...10...15...rumble. OK, the storm's about 3 miles away. A few minutes later another flash. I counted...5...10...12...rumble. Hmmmm, it's moving closer. We'll probably get some rain.

On cue I heard the first drops of rain hit the tent. Minutes later the rain was becoming steady and the wind had picked up a little. I had never had my new tent in a decent storm. Mostly gentle rains or a little wind. It's name, Kelty Vortex Webforce, implied that it could take a beating and I secretly hoped for a little test.

Lightning flash. I counted...5...7...Ka BANG! I might get my wish. A storm was on top of us and moving in fast. The wind had picked up considerably and it felt as if someone was kicking the tent. Instinctively, I felt around the tent to double-check my gear: keys, cell phone, pants, light, socks. Yep, all in order. Maybe I'll get some sleep.

Lightning flash. I counted...KA POW!! Right overhead! I felt the force of the thunderclap as the side of my tent pushed in on me. This was a little more than I had counted on. The rain started coming down in a torrent. The wind buffeted the tent from side to side, trying to lift it. The stakes held. I reached for the cell phone and called home.

"Hey, it's me! What's the weather doing? We're getting battered out here!"

I could scarcely hear the reply through the storm. "Tornado warning...Brazoria County...Needville. Where...camping?"

Needville? Tornado? That's about four miles away! Too close.

About that moment I heard the roar. Normally storms don't roar, unless they're carrying a tornado. Uh, oh. This was not good. And with that thought there was a crash of wind and my tent frame broke. With a loud snap my tent had transformed itself from a shelter into a kite.

I had to get the hell out of here.

I grabbed my boots and did a quick lace; no socks, just the basics. I grabbed my keys, cell phone and rain jacket. I fumbled for the zipper pulls that would open the tent on the opposite side to the wind. Where's the zip? Where's the freaking zip? Just as I thought I'd make a new door with my Benchmark Gripzilla folding knife, I found the pull and was literally born into the storm. I tumbled out of the womb of my tent into a harrowing, hostile environment.

The rain was coming in horizontally, possibly with hail. In the black sky the clouds roiled. Vivid lightning flashes lit up the area in monochrome freezing the rain in a stroboscopic effect. The noise was deafening. There was a tornado nearby but I couldn't see it. A brilliant arc of lightning lit up the campground for several seconds, enough that I could get my bearings, and survey that all the tents were flattened, the main tarp a twisted wreck (but still staked down!), it's poles bent at bizarre angles.

The roaring of the storm was fading and it appeared that the main part of the storm had moved to the northeast. Still, it was a dangerous situation and all of the boy's tents had collapsed. I had to get them to shelter.

Using my rain jacket to shield my face from the stinging rain I moved from tent to tent, rousted everybody out and hustled everyone to the trucks and vans parked on the edge of the camp. The storm pounded us but the roaring was moving off into the distance. Within 30 minutes the storm had passed, the clouds cleared and we passed the night under a brilliant canopy of stars. The boys were safe but cold. The adults were shaken but relieved. We spent the night watching the creek rise 10 feet but not breach its banks.

The next morning, a clear and sunny day, we picked up the camp, gathered all the broken gear and told our personal stories about the storm. On the way home we surveyed the storm damage along the road to Needville harboring a secret pride that we weathered the beast in tents. More or less.

Later we found out that an arc of thunderstorms had formed during the night delivering 60 mile per hour winds and a tornado that touched down four miles from our campsite. At home, spending the evening with Google, I found out that 60 miles per hour is about the limit for a Kelty Vortex Webforce tent. Or any tent, for that matter.

At least I got a little wind.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Buffalo Hunt

The other day I was late out of work. Nomally, I get out of there between 5 and 5:30. But, that fateful night I was late and it was nearly 7. I thought the ride home would be free of traffic and easy. Ah, how wrong I was!

As I cruised off I-10 onto the Beltway a pair of headlights burst into my rearview mirror.

OK, a truck. No big deal.

The lights got closer and closer until they were lighting up the whole car. Geeze Louize, close enough buddy?

I changed lanes to the left in anticipation of the toll booth a couple of miles up the road.

More lights.


Looking around, I was surrounded by enormous UPS trucks. Brown. Lights. Heading to the barn.

It dawned on me that the UPS depot was located down the road a few miles ahead. All these trucks were "heading to the barn." and I was in the way.,

Soon I was surrounded by Brown Trucks. Brown to the left. Brown to the right. Brown in front and Brown in the back.


As we motored on down the Beltway were I was eventually able to exit, I thought that next time, yeah, next time I'll bring a bow and arrow. Yeah, next time we'll hunt the buffalo and won't that be a surprise!

Bobby Flay

OK, I'll give some credit to Bobby Flay. In general, I'm not keen on Bobby. I think he's over-rated. But on ribs I'll give the Flaymeister his due.

KC Masterpiece. Pick a sauce and use it.

I've tried many, many recipes and I've created a few of my own: dry rubs, cooked stuff, mixed stuff and combinations of all three. Results have varied.

Then, I watched a show where Master Chef Bobby Flay extolled the virtues of a bottled concoction. Could it be true? All this work for nothing, that is, nothing spectacular?

My conclusion is, yes, the bottled stuff helps you create a memorable meal with no muss and no fuss. Yeah, I'll add a few things of my own just for style, but KC Masterpiece Spicy does the job.

Tonight there was much gnashing of teeth and yummy noises. Music to a gourmet's ears.


The ribs are cooking on the grill and I'm sitting out here on the deck with my laptop on my, er, lap. Where else?

Hmmm, the WiFi signal is stronger out here than in the Blogorium! That should be a big hint.

The kid is home from college (Go Longhorns! Whoo!) and requested "ribs." Pork ribs.

Here's the blueprint:

Kroger Pork Ribs soaked in BBQ sauce for a couple of hours.
Sealed on a hot fire.
Smoked gently on a moderate fire for an hour or so.
Meanwhile, prepare a potato salad, some garlic bread and LOTZ of red wine.
Kendal Jackson Pinot Noir was on special at 8-bucks a bottle which is why I've got to get this posting out before I wear out the Backspace key!

I'm sitting out here on the deck with my PowerBook on my lap. June bugs are flying around. Rib yummy smells are wafting around. A pinot noir (previously identified) is at my elbow. I think life is good. Nobbs is here sniffing around and that clinches it. The cat knows.

Ten Days!

Where does the time go? I can't believe I've been such a slacker for 10 days, but there you go. I will claim the following: business trip, camping trip and sloth. My favorite is sloth.

It's green.

That's my favorite line from Star Trek. The original Star Trek with William Shatner and crew. Aliens have hijacked the bodies of the crew and Spock has determined that "impared judgement" can lead to a resolution. So, Scotty takes it upon himself to get the bad alien drunk. They go through all his stuff until they come across a final bottle.

What's this, the alien inquires?

Dunno, says Scotty, it's green!

Tonight I had a bowl of "green." Wasabe peas.

Someone needs to write a poem about Wasabe Peas.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sushi Jin

I don't know her name. My blog vow is that next time I'll ask her.

"Excuse me. I don't mean to be rude or forward, but we've been coming to this restaurant for three years. We know you. You know us. We don't know each other."

Today, we arrived at Sushi Jin with little time to spare. We had to be in and out by One in order to then drive to the airport for an afternoon flight. Good news: the restaurant was mostly empty. Better news: She Who We Don't Know waited on our table.

"Good to see you again!" Heartfelt, and true. "Have you decided?"

"Yes, we'd both like the special."

"Ah, so, it's very good today! Green tea?"


"And one order of ikura, two pieces?"


The constants in our lunch at Sushi Jin are green tea and ikura, our favorite sushi. Occasionally, we order a sushi platter and indulge in tuna, shrimp, eel, salmon and other delights, but ikura remains our favorite: salmon eggs on rice wrapped in nori (seaweed).

The salty, fishy salmon roe is an explosion of flavor in your mouth, the rice and seaweed wrapper serving as a textural counterpoint.

The green tea is hot and soothing. I have visions of Pei Mei (Kill Bill 2) savoring the vapors, relishing his steamed rice. The "special" is served with miso soup, and a green salad to start. The "special" itself, in this time, consisted of rice, a spicy seaweed salad and onion-fried scallops, tempura style.

As is always the case at Sushi Jin, the food was served with elegance and style, our waitress-friend placing each dish, bowl and plate carefully and precisely on the table to maximise it's impact and symmetry.

I always leave Sushi Jin a better person. I should go there every day.

Sushi Jin. Memorial and Dairy Ashford. Houston, Texas.

Tell ---- that Bill sent you. I promise to find out who ---- is soon.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Not My Tracks

No broken bones. That's good news! Also, for the third or fourth time straight, no falls.

I ski about once every two years. I'm not a candidate for the Olympic Team, although I should get some medal for not falling. Falling is a bad thing skiing. Falling is an indication that one is not in control. Controlled skiiers simply shush down the slopes without a care in the world. Bad skiiers spend most of their day picking up their hats, gloves, scarfs, poles and skis while the rest of the skiiing population renders judgement: Loser.

I did come close to falling this year and the near-earth experience taught me a lesson: follow your own tracks.

I was heading down the slopes following another skier and I decided to follow his tracks. He went left, I went left. He went right, I went right. And so on down the slope. Well, a few minutes into this exercise I found myself out of control. I didn't want to go left! The snow didn't feel right and my guidance told me to go straight a little more. Soon I found myself totally out of balance trying to go left when I should have gone right. I was microseconds from becoming a Loser!

Fortunately, I quit the game, got my groove back, and sailed to the bottom of the park in victory. No drips, no spills.

As I rode the lift back to the top of the mountain I reflected on the folly of trying to follow another person's tracks. It may look like a good idea or a cool thing to do, but in the end it will put you off balance.

You have to make your own tracks.

And that's the lesson from Leadville, Colorado in 2005.

Monday, March 07, 2005


Going on vacation for a week. Into the wilderness. No Internet access.

I hope I survive this.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

A road trip (!) always deserves an exclamation point. That's because you don't wake up on a Saturday morning and, over coffee, casually mention,

"By the way, my deah, we're going on a road trrrip today."

"Oh, jolly good, me love, I'll pack a hamper."

No, a real Road Trip is announced like a stoned rock festival DJ introducing Led Zeppelin.



Where to go, where to go? That's the question and answer with a road trip. The answer is that it doesn't matter WHERE you go it only matters THAT you go. Pick a place. Anyplace.

We picked Needville, Texas. Southwest of Houston down state highway 36. What's in Needville? Who knows? Probably a feed store and a couple of Exxon stations. That would be my guess. Also a restaruant or two advertising the Best Catfish in Texas. And a nail parlor called Dorothy's Beauty Spot.

Just a guess.

So, we loaded up on coffee at Starbucks, consulted the map and headed down the highway with Steppenwolf blasting on the car stereo. Head out on the highway...looking for adventure...

We approached the outskirts of Needville.

Hmmm, must be a holiday. No sign of life. Very quiet.

Dorothy's Nail Repair, Tire Center and International Airport was closed. "No Flights Today," the sign read.

We pushed on.

After what seemed like an eternity, minutes later, we hit the outskirts of West Columbia, a veritable metropolois. We spied a Sonic, pulled in and feasted on Tater Tots, Foot Long God Knows Whats and Something Sweet and Fizzy on Ice.

Sated, we turned around, headed back up the highway and finally to home.

"Man, these road trips are murder!", I announced upon returning. Whereupon I reflected on the day.

I took a nap.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


We have cats. Two cats. Nobbs and Sandy. Depending on the situation one is the Good Cat and one is the Bad Cat.

Consider this morning. Sandy, who racks up more Good Cat points than Nobbs was yowling at the bedroom window at 6am on a Saturday morning. That action alone transfers Sandy from Good to Bad cat category. I guess from Good to Bad Category. More succinct. In any case, Sandy is a Bad Cat for waking us up at 6am just because he's too lazy to murder a dove for breakfast. Go figure. I hauled my carcass out of bed, staggered to the back door and let the ungrateful wretch in. I then staggered back to bed and collapsed mumbling something incoherent. Cat. In. Sandy. Mistake.

Sandy came in and rattled around the house looking for someone to play. Of course, he got no takers. Quite the opposite. Most were ready to throw his furry butt out the door if only we could be motivated enough to get out of bed. At last, Sandy decided to occupy himself elsewhere and we slipped back to the Land of Nod.

Skreek! Skreek! Skreek!

That's Nobbs pawing at the window at 6:20. I think there's a Cat Union. Sandy clocks out and tells the boys he's going home to get the folks up. Nobbs says he's got some overtime to do and will be in about a half hour from now. Sandy saunters off to start the festivities.

Meanwhile, Nobbs has a coffee break, punches the time clock and heads off. He wets his paws in the pool then wanders over to the bedroom window and Skreeks on the glass like a new professor on a chalkboard. Skreek! Skreek! Skreek! Yeah, Nobbs, I get the message, I'm coming! Again, haul carcass, stagger, open door, stagger, plop carcass.

Bonus point is that Nobbs got Sandy's attention so he was ready to go out when Nobbs came in. Sandy exits the house, thank you very much, and we won't hear from him for a few hours.

Nobbs is the good cat because he comes in, has a quick snack, hustles himself to bed and sacks out for 10 hours. No muss. No fuss. He did just that.

Between weird dreams of being in a jungle chased by panthers I heard someone say, "Are the cats out?"

"Sort of."

Friday, March 04, 2005


Twinkie the Wonder Fish.

Mere words can't describe this animals tenacity to life. I admire Twinkie. He's a survior.

But, not for long.

Twinkie is dying. He's on his last legs, if he had any. Twinkie is hanging in there, though, and as long as his gills are flapping I'll tap on his tank and drop in a few flakes of his favorite chow.

Twinkie came to our house about nine years ago in a water-filled Zip Loc bag. A tiny snip of a goldfish, Twinkie was about the size of a Pepperidge Farm Goldfish; hardly a child's knuckle in length.

That day we went out to Walmart and bought an actual goldfish bowl, holding about 4 cups of water. Twinkie was plunked in and the bowl was placed on the dresser in Claire's room. Claire, after all, brought Twinkie home from the birthday party and named him. It seemed reasonable that she should keep him, feed him, and all that stuff.

We gave Twinkie odds on a week to live.

A month later I was in Claire's room doing something like putting away laundry or changing a light bulb or just walking throught the room because I felt like feeling disgusting wading through her toys, candy wrappers and who knows what, when I caught sight of a bowl full of black water.

What's that?

I peered into the gloom and a brief flash of gold caught my eye. Good grief, Twinkie is still alive! The water had evaporated down to about a cup of opaque, thick sludge, through which poor old Twinkie wiggled around.

Twinkie had grown. Twinkie was now a knuckle and a half in length.

I went out to Walmart and bought the next size up goldfish bowl. We put some colored rocks in the new bowl, added fresh water, put in some chemicals that do something to the water to make it "goldfish friendly" and transferred wiggly old Twinkie to new digs. He seemed pleased and darted around his new home. Also, we moved Twinkie from the Claire's Dungeon to the kitchen where he could get some light and look out a window.

"Looking out the window" was my idea although it is ridiculous that a fish would appreciate looking out a window, but he seemed happy so there he sat for a year or so.

One day during breakfast I noticed that Twinkie could barely turn around in his tank. He was now two and a bit knuckles in length.

I went out to Walmart and bought the next size up goldfish tank. Note we have gone from bowls to tanks. This trend would continue.

To shorten a long story, Twinkie continued to grow and thrive. We went from a 1 gallon tank to a 5 and ultimately to a 10 gallon tank. We also invested in a number of pumps, filters, bubblers, plants, fish toys and, ultimately, medicines as we discovered that goldfish could live for 30 years or more. Hell, Twinkie will outlive me!

Alas, that is not likely to be the case, although at one time I thought Twinkie was damned near invincible.

The Empty Tank

One day I got up for work and went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. I always passed by Twinkie's tank and would give him a pinch of goldfish food.

This day the tank was empty.

Now, an empty fish tank is something you really do a double take on. I looked in and no Twinkie. I was like "Huh?" I looked again and, sure enough, no Twinkie. I was like "Wha?" Helen was already in the kitchen and as I formed the sentence "The fish tank is empty. Where's Twinkie?", Helen let out a little yelp and I looked down on the floor. There stuck to the tiles was a dead fish. Twinkie had jumped out of the tank, flopped on the counter and fallen to the floor where he died in the air. A horrible death for a fish. There he was. Dried scales. Eyes fixed. Tail stuck to the floor. Gills flapping.

Gills flapping?

I reached down and picked up Twinkie. His gills were definitely flapping. Weakly, but moving. I broke his tail when I picked him up, but I placed him in his tank nevertheless and he floated there on his side, drifting to the current generated by the tank pump, his gills flapping ever so slightly.

After a few minutes he twitched a little, righted himself and started swimming around! I couldn't belive it. Twinkie the Wonder Fish survived who knows how many hours on the kithen floor only to be rescued and revived in his tank.

I went to PetSmart and bought a screen for the top of the tank to prevent him from jumping out again. Twinkie continued to thrive and grow for many years finally growing to six knuckles in length and two finger widths in thickness. People visiting us would remark on what a bodacious fish Twinkie had become. His most luxurious asset was his tail which was large and grand. In his prime Twinkie was a hansome fish, indeed.

The past year has been tough on Twinkie. He's had a series of diseases that would have killed lesser fish: septacemia, fin rot, ich and something we haven't been able to determine that has reduced many of his fins to black stumps.

Now, Twinkie the Wonder Fish is a shadow of his former self. His color is pale, his fins are in tatters and he hangs in the tank nearly lifeless. However, he responds to a tap on the tank and still forages for food.

Twinkie. He's not down yet. He's survived Claire's room, cats, a 600 mile journey when we moved, cats, jumping out of the tank, cats, diseases, water changes, tank changes, cats and cats.

Here's to you, Twinkie. Salute! Hang in there and do not go gentle into that good night.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


"Have you seen my Microsoft shirt?"

I'm catching a plane in a few hours, packing furiously as only a procrastinating packer like myself can do and I have this wild hair that I *need* my Microsoft shirt for the trip.

"Hey, I checked my closet, under the bed and behind the chair in the Blogorium, but I can't find it. Any ideas?"

"Oh, do you mean your very wrinkled Microsoft shirt?"

"I only have one Microsoft shirt, thank you very much, and I was luckier than a Texas Lotto winner to get it. Do you know where it is?"

"Yeah, it's wedged next to the ironing board in the cupboard under the stairs 'cause it needs ironing. The shirt, not the cupboard."

"OK, thanks, found it!"

So, here I am holding my very, very wrinkled Microsoft shirt in my hands minutes from leaving the house. Well, I'll iron it later. Surely the hotel will have an iron. Besides, in the state it's in right now, I can just cram it into my suitcase, don't even have to fold it and I'm good to go.

...much later at the hotel...

I unpack the very, very wrinkled Microsoft shirt and it's about the size of a peanut. But more wrinkled. Checking the tag in the collar I find that it's 200% Extra Wrinkly Cotton. Great. Extra wrinky cotton.

Not to worry, the hotel room has a Steam Iron and Ironing Board. In a few minutes my treasured shirt will be good as new. Or, so I thought.

The latch on the ironing board was broken. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Finally gravity wins. Thanks Isaac Newton. Yeah, in 100 years they'll have antigravity ironing boards but that doesn't help me now. The best I could do was to lay the ironing board on the little coffee table in the room. OK, that's not so bad. A little low, but this is a 5 minute job. I can kneel. What's the big deal?

The big deal was the steam iron manufactured in Elbonia that could achieve a maximum temperature of 78 degrees. Water leaked out of the "steam" chamber, not that the water ever achieved steam. Each "pressing" produced a wrinkly smear of water. The more I pressed the wetter the shirt got.

I turned up the steam iron setting to Inferno. Blazing heat! Steel melting heat! Wrinkly shirt pressing heat!

82 degrees.

I gave up. My hand was 10 degrees hotter than the iron. So, I started banging on the shirt with my hand and, surprisingly, it was working. Yes! My hand the Iron. Iron Hand. I was One with the Iron.

Finally, with a lot of pressing and banging on the shirt I achieved a level of dewrinkle-ification that would work. At least the sleeves didn't look like bellows. I did one last smoothing with my Iron Hand, then struck a pose, the Crane position, from Karate Kid Two. Iron Crane. Yeah, thats me. Watch out, bad boy! Or, I'll be forced you.

Next time I'll plan ahead and iron at home.

Hmmm, I think I've said that before!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005



Click on "watch this movie" and you will never get this song out of your head!

I just wish I had a tenth of the talent shown here.

Yes, sad but true, I do.


Late home from work today. All the leftovers have been covered with cheese, baked, covered in salsa and devoured.


Dunno, eatit.


That's pretty much the mealtime conversation this week. That's pretty much the mealtime conversation every day, every week. Somewhere, I think it was Dear Abby, I read that dinnertime was an opportunity for a family to discuss events of the day. Bonding, and all that.

So, Christopher, my stalwart son, what's your take on Congressman DeLay's position on the separation of church and state?

Well, esteemed Father, the Congressman seems to embrace a literal interpretation of the Constitution, but he swims against the current of history which has favored, nay, embraced a more liberal interpretation of the concepts of our Founding Fathers.

Nope. That's a fantasy. Here's reality.

So, Christopher, my stalwart son, what's your take on Congressman DeLay's position on the separation of church and state?


Yeah, I'm comfortable with that.

Back to spag. Spag is our shorthand for Spaghetti Bolognaise, a tomato sauce with meat served on spaghetti. In the Dark Ages we called it Spag Bol, but after many years we realized that we never made any other kind of spaghetti sauce, so we shortened to Spag.

Spag, it is.

Here's the blueprint:

2 rashers bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 lb hamburger
1 box strained tomatoes (can of chopped tomatoes will work)
double handful mushrooms, sliced
red wine
Worcestershire Sauce
small can tomato paste
red wine
oregano, marjorum, thyme and a touch of nutmeg.
stock cube (Knorr beef, Bisto or your favorite)

In a big pot add tomatoes (can or box), herbs, some water, cup of red wine, Tabasco, W. Sauce, etc. OK, put everything into the big pot except the bacon, onion and hamburger which you are going to cook.
Fry the bacon, toss in the onion and saute until limp. Toss in big pot.
Brown the hamburger. Toss in big pot.
Simmer for a couple of hours.
Drink a couple of cups of red wine while waiting.

That's it. You can thicken the sauce with some cornstarch mixed with a little water, then blended in over a medium heat so the sauce is bubbling.

The basic spag. It's a standard dish at our house. We always have, more or less, the ingredients and it can be tossed together quickly.

Spag can be augmented with a whole range of ingredients: smoked sausage, bell pepper, dried onions, chicken, different hot sauces and mushroom varieties.