Sunday, May 29, 2005


Right out of high school a friend of mine and I went on An Adventure. With a little bit of planning we set off in a car to circumnavigate the United States.

The short story is that we made it from Phoenix, heading east, all the way around to Seattle where we ran out of time and money. My friend drove home to Minnesota and I flew home to Phoenix, my first ride on a jet.

I'm sure you're riveted by this narrative.

The Adventure was without peril and we had a great time exploring, camping, meeting people and being on our own.

So, it is with out trepidation that when my daughter the Rocket Scientist announced that she had been selected as a counsellor at Space Camp Izmir, I said

"Izmar. Is that just west of Kansas City?"

Izmar, Turkey. The Great Adventure.

We'll be following the exploits of the two Space Camp counsellors, Sarah and Tom, as they boldly go where no Kansan as gone before. Follow the exploits at SpaceCampTurkey.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Bill: They all fell under her Hanzo sword.

Budd: She's got a Hanzo sword? I thought he swore a blood oath never to make another sword.

Bill: It appears he has broken it.

Budd: Well, you seem to have the ability to bring that out in people.


Budd: Guess what I'm holding in my hand right now?

Elle: What?

Budd: A genuine Hattori Hanzo sword and, man, that's what I call sharp.

That is dialog I recall from my favorite film, Kill Bill 2. There's a mythology built around Hattori Hanzo and his cutlery. It's the best. It's sharp.

I appreciate sharp knives in my cooking. With enough room in my kitchen I could see myself wielding a Samurai sword, like John Belushi, slicing carrots and onions. I might even sport an obi just for effect.

My main tools of creation are made by Chicago Cutlery. I like the rosewood handles because they grip well when your hands are wet or greasy. The heft of the blade makes slicing and chopping easy. The iron is soft, but takes a keen edge with a few swipes of my sharpening steel.

Recently, though, I bought some Japanese knives and I must say, man, that's what I call sharp. The steel is thinner than my Chicago knives, and harder. But the edge is not to be trifled with. The knives are shipped with a package of Band-Aids.

Tonight's fare is an invention. I will use my Hanzo knives to prepare it. I was asked to do something with shrimp and pasta. Here's what I have in mind. First, I'll peal and de-vein the shrimp and put them aside. Next, I'll saute some onions, red and orange bell pepper with some sliced Cajun andouille sausage. Toss in the shrimp. I'm not sure of the next step, whether I'll use fresh tomatoes or some canned chopped tomatoes, but in they will go along with some spices: red pepper flakes, garlic, fresh basil and some Worcestershire sauce. I'll toss the mixture with fresh pasta, garnish with basil leaves and serve.

I bought some ante-pasta fixings that I'll work into a salad with some feta cheese: olives, pickled this and that, and anchovies.

Liberal splashings of Chianti and it's dinner.


I used a box of chopped tomatoes having reduced a cup of white wine in the shrimp, sausage, onion, pepper mixture. I added fresh chopped basil and simmered a few minutes.

Rave reviews! Chianti in crystal was a nice touch.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Star Wars

We saw Star Wars III tonight and it raised as many questions as it answered.

First question: Who sleeps in pearl sleeves? Doesn't that lead to Denty Arms?

Second question: Why in an era of antigravity motorcycles would anyone ride a giant lizard?

Third question: Is there no Sith Dental Association? Apparently not.

I've been a fan of science fiction since I was a kid. When the bookmobile would come to our school I'd sneak into the adult section and pick out the science fiction books. The librarian eventually learned my tastes and would have a stack of sci-fi books waiting for me. I read all the space operas, voyages to Mars, aliens in Mayan ruins and trips to the Moon.

Here's a not-in-any-order list of my favorites:

Clifford Simak - especially Way Station. He wrote a lot about friendly aliens, idiot savants and cultural exchanges.
Frank Herbert - Dune
William Tenn - time travel and time travel paradoxes
John Wyndham - Chocky, Day of the Triffids, Midwich Cuckoos

Two films stand out from my childhood:

Forbidden Planet
The Day the Earth Stood Still

Gort! Klaatu barata niktu!

That hardly compares to Denty Arms.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Twinkie 1996-2005

Last night Twinkie was lying on his side in the tank breathing hard. It didn't look good. For some weeks now he had been upside down or right side up but listless, barely eating his fish chow. The side thing was new and we thought this might be the end.

We've thought this before with old Twinkie. One tough goldfish, he's been through a lot catching one disease after another, recovering then getting sick again. We thought he was going to pull through this latest bout, but we were wrong.

Twinkie the Goldfish died this morning. He was accorded a State Funeral in the back yard and buried in a velvet and satin jewelry box suitable for a king.

Twinkie came to our house as a gift from a birthday party in 1996. He was a little snip of a goldfish swimming around in a Ziploc bag of water. We went down to Walmart and bought a proper Goldfish Bowl. A few months later while wading through the debris on the floor of my daughter's room where Twinkie lived I noticed that half of his water had evaporated and what remained was thick and black. We moved Twinkie into the kitchen where he would receive more attention, not to mention light and water, and bought him a new bowl

Twinkie had grown. He was about an inch and a half long. However, a few months later it was obvious that he would soon outgrow bowl number 2, so we bought what was nearly a tank, outfitted it with some rocks, a castle and a sign that read "No Fishing" and that would be home for a few years.

During that time we moved to Houston and Twinkie rode down with me in the back seat of the car next to the cats. That was an interesting journey itself.

Twinkie loved Houston. The weather suited him greatly and over the years he moved to three larger tanks. In his prime he measured over 8 inches long and about an inch wide. He was a big fish.

Twinkie's Most Excellent Adventure happened about 4 years ago. I came into the kitchen in the morning around 6am to get breakfast, looked into the tank and said "Hi, Twinkie." like I do every day.

There was no Twinkie. I looked again. No Twinkie. Huh? This was not possible! The tank was only so big, there was no place to hide, but the tank was definitely empty.

My first thought was "cats!" But, as I rounded the breakfast bar, there on the floor, golden scales contrasting oatmeal Spanish tile, was Twinkie.

He wasn't moving. He looked parched. He had jumped out of his tank, flopped across the counter and fallen to the floor. Who knows when? Hours ago? Probably. I figured he was dead, but when I kneeled down to pick him up I saw his gills were still moving.

Good grief! Twinkie's alive!

I picked him up and plopped him back into his tank. He lay there for a few minutes doing the side stroke with one fin. Then, gradually, he righted himself and started swimming around like he owned the place, which he did.

One tough fish. He survived cats swiping at him, moves to multiple tanks, water changes and now this, a night on the kitchen floor.

We bought a screen lid for his tank that afternoon.

Twinkie was a real fighter. Every time we thought he was down for the count he would pick himself up and carry on. He had a real zest for life that we all admired.

So, here's to you, Twinkie, family member, surviver and inspiration to us all.

Twinkie the Goldfish. 1996-2005.

P.S. Claire provides some much needed accuracy.

Third Time's the Charm - Coffee

I have a great coffee machine. It's a Cuisinart and I don't mind giving it a plug. If this link works you can see a picture of it and read all the five-star reviews. Ignore the people who had bad experiences. What do they know?

It's great when I remember to set it up before I go to bed. Shortly after the alarm goes off I'll hear the grinder fire up and know that coffee is on the way.

On those days when I either don't remember to set it up, or I'm out of beans or just don't care, on those days I swing by my local Kroger's who recently installed a Starbucks.

My experiences in Starbucks have not been exactly great as chronicled in the February 21, 2005 blog entry "Coffee Coward", although I have improved. Somewhat. I still wish I could simply stride up to the counter and order a mug o' Joe, plunk down a dime and walk out. Yes, sonny, in my day coffee cost a dime and the cup had to walk up hill ten miles. In the snow.

A Starbucks day happened this week. I pulled into the Kroger's parking lot at the stroke of 6 in the morning and saw someone moving around in the store. The Starbucks door was still locked so the guy motioned me to use the main store entrance. Thanks, buddy, I thought. Usually they just leave you standing out there like you're invisible.

As I got closer to the counter I noticed something strange about the Starbucks guy. He was old. It looked like I was walking up to me. To be safe I turned around to make sure it wasn't me walking up to me. Whew, that was weird.

I got up to the counter and Starbucks guy spoke first.

"Looks like you could use a cup of coffee," he said.

I nodded.

"Let me guess. Grande Coffee o' the Day. Save room for milk or cream, but I'd say milk."

I nodded.

He poured my drink, swiped my Kroger card and told me that in three more visits I'd get a free coffee.

I stood there as in a trance. No mumbo jumbo. No figuring out what I wanted. No frapaccinowtfo. Just a hot cup of coffee and I was ready to rock and roll.

As I paid for my drink Starbucks Dad looked out over the parking lot as the sun began to spread pink across the horizon and mused,

"You know," he paused, "in my day that would have cost a dime. Those were the days, man."

Yeah, I thought, as I opened the door and strolled out into the early morning, I hear you.

I don't know why at that moment I turned around. Last look? But, I did. Starbucks Dad was gone and the lights were off. I walked back to the door and looked in but the place was empty. I checked the sign on the door and it read

Store Hours: Mon-Fri 7am to 10pm

I checked my watch. It read 6:15. I took a deep pull of coffee and thought, yeah, those were the days.

Monday, May 16, 2005

No Bones About It

"I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!"

"Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not an actor!"

"I'm just a little ole country physician, not a pole dancer!"

Leonard McCoy. Who could forget the country doctor of the 24th century? I think that in Rocky-Horror-Show fashion I could recite the dialog from every Star Trek. I saw the originals, you know. Well, not all the originals. Star Trek came on Friday nights at 8. Since I was the high school yearbook sports photographer, I was always at football or basketball games and rarely saw Star Trek "live." But, I caught up with the adventures of the Enterprise crew during the summer through re-runs. In the 70's when Star Trek entered syndication I was able to watch it every night and saw many episodes I had missed. Over and over.

My favorite original Star Trek episode was City on the Edge of Forever which starred a young Joan Collins. I always liked the time travel stories.

I was quite excited when Star Trek - The Next Generation, or TNG, aired and watched it religiously week after week. I must admit that I wasn't too keen on Jean Luc Picard at first, but I grew to appreciate his approach to leading the Enterprise from one galaxy-saving adventure to another.

My favorite TNG episode by far was The Inner Light where Picard lives a lifetime under the influence of an alien probe. I found that episode to be very touching and thought provoking.

When Deep Space 9 started on UPN, I had a hard time getting into the show. Although I grew to appreciate the characters, I eventually stopped watching, possibly because it was on at an inconvenient time, and missed several seasons. I don't even have a favorite episode.

I guess it goes downhill with Star Trek Voyager. Again, I missed so many episodes I never really developed an interest in the characters. Again, I don't have a favorite episode.

And, finally, the latest incarnation of Star Trek which I don't even know the title of, I confess, I've never seen. Not one episode. When I read that Scott Bakula was going to be the Captain I lost interest totally. Come on! He's the Quantum Leap guy. How can he follow, or precede, the footsteps of Kirk, Picard and Janeway? No way.

So, I didn't even give him a chance. I don't even know how many seasons they've had. Pitiful isn't it. Nearly 40 years of Star Trek devotion down the tubes.

Whoa, baby, maybe they're doing me a favor!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Snakes Alive

Camping in south Texas is an experience not to be missed. It's sort of like the opposite of climbing Mount Everest.

Snow? Nope. Elevation? Nope. Yetis? Nope.

On the other hand climbing Mount Everest lacks a certain je ne sais qois.

Mosquitoes? Nope. Mosquitoes? Nope. Mosquitoes? Nope.

There you have it in a nutshell. So, imagine our delight this weekend camping in south Texas and having no bugs. Yep, bug free.

Oh, yeah, there was the occasional spider and beetle but they don't fly at you with long pointed noses intent on sucking you dry of blood! The spiders, beetles and other multi-legged critters are quite happy to scuttle around on the forest floor, and they are very grateful if you don't step on them.

We had a great day of hiking in the woods, a tremendous water balloon fight and I cooked what had to be the Second Greatest Texas chili, second only to the Best Texas chili I ever cooked.

By some wicked twist of fate the weather cooperated and it was more like Mount Everest than south Texas with the temperature in the 60's. Perfect sleeping weather. No bugs. Too chilly for bugs. Like other cold-blooded creatures they kept warm as best they could.

I retired to my tent, shucked my camping gear and snuggled down to a long, peaceful slumber.

Or so I thought.

Around 4am I awoke to the sensation of something crawling around my ankles. Now I'm pretty cool with spiders, crickets, beetles, ants and stuff like that and if they want to crawl around, that's fine, so long as they don't bite.

No Biting Zone on Bill's Ankles. That's the rule.

I wiggled my feet a little and felt a tightening around my ankles.

Although my heart saw the Start Flag to the Indy 500, the rest of me screamed "Don't move! It's a snake!"

Now, this is the dilemma to having a snake in your tent at 4am in the morning. First, you don't know what kind of snake it is. It could be a rattlesnake, which if polite would at least give out a few rattles.

Or it could be a copperhead, another poisionous snake common to south Texas, which would just as soon bite you as look at you.

Or it could be a water moccasin which is just plain mean and will bite you because the copperhead didn't bite you.

Or it could be one of the harmless snakes like the rat snake, bull snake, king snake, garter snake or just some kind of snake that you don't know anything about but is a snake nevertheless.

I didn't move.

I didn't move for a couple of hours.

Finally, I heard some people stirring and I knew that people were waking up.

"Hey, Louis."

"Yeah, Bill, morning, dude, what's up."

"Hey, Louis, I've got a snake in my tent and it's around my feet. Can you carefully, very carefully unzip the outer door and tell me what kind of snake it is?"

"Oh, geeze, man, snakes freak me out! What if it jumps at me?"

"It's not going to jump at you, it's going to bite me! So, look at the freaking snake and tell me what kind it is!"

I heard my tent zipper open and Louis was breathing hard.

"I brought a stick, man" he said, and he lifted part of my sleeping bag.

"Oh, man, I see it!" Louis was really agitated. "It's green!"

I thought, green, green, uh, a black mamba, a green mamba, a green bongo, geeze louise a GREEN SNAKE!

Then Louis, emboldened by not being attacked by the snake, prodded a little more and said...

"Hey, this ain't no snake! It's your belt, man! You got your belt wrapped around your feet!"

"OK." I said, "yeah, belt, yeah that's OK, uh huh, right, belt, yeah I knew that."

I got my boots on and emerged from the tent a few minutes later.

"Good job, Louis," I said confidently, "You passed the Snake Test with flying colors. But, wait until we do the Scorpion Drill. It's a lot tougher!"

Friday, May 13, 2005

Sleepless in Wherever

I woke up this morning and my arm was asleep.

Maybe my arm woke up the rest of me. I haven't figured out how all this works. Anyway, my arm was this dead piece of meat, although it was tingling like "Hey, I'm alseep!"

You know, I don't remember a time when I woke up my wife and said "Hey, I'm asleep!" Just doesn't happen.

So I pick up my arm because it can't pick itself up and I attempt - this is an important point to pay attention to - to bring it across my body so it can be in a more arm-conducive position, when I drop it.

Yep, my fingers just give up, go on strike, not my problem, going back to sleep themselves, drop the arm.

On my face.

Now, I don't know how many times you've dropped your arm on your face but you can do the experiment right now! Just hold your arm over your face, close your eyes and let your arm drop.

Aw, chicken? No wonder. Your arm weighs 3 pounds! Drop a frozen chicken on your face and you're talking about 3 pounds.

I dragged my arm off of my face. I'll cook you later, dude.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I have at least two serious addictions: camping equipment and Apple computers.

There is no question that I simply can't be trusted to go into a camping store, such as REI, or an Apple store with any chance of coming out with more than I can carry. For example, I have never been in a kayak but you wouldn't be able to tell that to hear me talking with the kayak specialist at REI about waterproof toe grommets and nylon shackle clips and dry bag floatation devices.

Boy, howdy, I'm splashing down the Columbia River whacking bears on the snout with one paddle and scooping up salmon with the other. In my dreams.

The Apple Store is just as bad. I get in there and my credit card floats out of my wallet, drifts across the showroom floor to the strains of snake charmer music and drains itself into the cash register.

"You don't need another 30-inch monitor," Helen says. Hell, I didn't "need" the first one!

So, as I struggled out of REI this afternoon with my "needs" (actually, I went in to purchase one teeny, weeny little thing and came out with five.) I had this great thought.

What if Apple and REI merged and created a store that sold computerized camping gear? How great would that be?

Instead of setting up my tent I could push a button, listen to the "bonggggg" and the tent would boot up!

My meals would be cooked on iStove that would calculate the exact amount of fuel to use and compensate for wind.

At night, iLantern would turn on by voice control: "Let there be light!"

My iKnife would display a warning dialog box asking "Are sure you want to slice your finger? (yes)(no)"

I could Google the heads-up display in my iHat and query "tautline hitch" to have a Flash video display how to tie the knot and I could save common queries like "snake" and "bear!"

My iPad could have a plug-in for my iPod so I could fall asleep to the sound of the Beatles instead of the crickets.

Of course, I would expect there to be problems, like with the iFire lasting only 2 hours without recharging, or the Windows in my tent crashing, but in a pinch I could iRough it.

One stop shopping. Nothing like it!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Crab Redux

We should have known something was up when the waitress brought us a stack of napkins two feet tall.

Scanning the other diners as subtly as possible with a two-foot tall stack of napkins on our table, we had the only stack. All the other diners had the customary single serving.

Then came the nut crackers. Uh-oh. This was not shaping up well at all. Nope, not at all.

We had discovered a great Chinese restaurant with an extensive menu of dishes we'd never had. Exciting dim sum. Clay pots with this and that. Grouper head soup. *pass* And a lot of curry dishes.

I like what the Chinese do with curry. Definitely not the same as Indian or Indonesian. You don't find it everywhere.

"Let's have curried crab."

OK, I said, a little dubious. I've had lots of things in curry: chicken, lamb, vegetables, shrimp, fish, even mushrooms. Never crab. I tried to imagine what it would be like and in my fantasy I saw a thick, crab rich sauce over rice. Yeah, that might work.

"OK, crab curry for two!" I ordered cheerfully.

Fifteen minutes later the napkins arrived. Hmmmm. Five minutes after that the nut crackers arrived. Visions of a crab laden sauce over rice began to fade.

Finally, the waitress brought our dish: a platter of curry-drenched crabs. Whole. Barely dead. Sort of like bar-b-que ribs with the bone on the outside.

Let's don't talk about messy. All I'll say about the experience is that we had to ask for more napkins. After nearly an hour of hammering, picking, broken fingernails, cursing in several languages and flashbacks to a marina in Baltimore, we threw in the towel, several towels, actually, and just gave up.

In front of us was utter devastation. Crab shell everywhere. Legs. Feet. Parts I couldn't identify if I were a marine biologist. All covered in curry. Our fingers are yellow to this day. And after all that hacking and cracking and picking and scraping we had managed to get possibly, just possibly, about a teaspoon of crab meat.

OK, so I don't know how to eat a crab. It's not a crime in Texas, you know. Well, not yet at least.

We paid our bill, read our fortune cookie that said something like "You will soon lose weight" and set off for the car.

Once on the road I commented casually "Hey, I'm feeling a little peckish. How 'bout a taco or something?"

"Yeah, like a taco and a couple of enchiladas."

"Yeah, and a couple of tamales and a basket of chips and a few margaritas."

"OK, let's go, but we musn't eat too much. It will spoil our dinner."

"I know just what you mean."

Sunday, May 08, 2005


I've probably already written about this but I'm going to write about it again because it still pisses me off.


Stinking crabs, they irritate me. In fact, they make my downright crabby. I am one with the crab when it comes to being crabby.

OK, here's the beef, er, crab leg or whatever. Chesapeake Bay, late summer. Soft shell crabs are in season. Our friends say "Oh, you must have the soft shell crabs down at the marina. Rally you must!" OK, whatever, I say, and we set off for a day at the aquarium and marina.

About lunchtime we pull into a place on the water and there's a chalkboard sign out front that says "Fresh Soft Shell Crab Lunch Special." What a deal, just what the doctor ordered.

We go in.

The waiter comes by, Adrian, and says "Fresh soft shell crab is our lunch special." Great, I say, I'll have that. My very wise wife opts for the club sandwich. Coward, I think.

My lunch arrives and basically there's this fried crab on a piece of toast. OK, well, I've eaten crab before. You crack this and that and the meat's here and there and, yeah, it's a little work but well worth it in the end.

So, I crack and I peal and I split and I gnaw and I suck and mostly I suck because this is the most skinny-ass crab I ever had. It's like the Paris Hilton of crabs and I can tell you that I'm tired of crackin' and suckin'. Much like the Hilton video, so I'm led to believe.

In the end I have a plateful of scraps, not much to call "lunch" and my wife (kudos to the correct choice) is asking me if I can help her finish the club sandwich. I devour the turkey/ham/bacon morsel, eat the lettuce and parsley and lick the plate.

On our way out of the restaurant I observe a man being served the softshell crab special. This ought to be rich, I think, just as he slaps a piece of toast on top of the crab and proceeds to eat the whole thing.

You eat the whole thing? What? Just chomp it down soft shell and all?

Yep. That's the drill. They must have been killing themselves laughing as I pealed that crab inch by inch, cursing the whole time.

Well, that brings us to today and on the menu are crab cakes.

I made them with fresh crab, mayo, lemon, breadcrumbs, eggs and a little dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Chilled until firm then sauted in butter, they were the perfect Mother's Day treat. Champagne helped, but champagne always helps!

Not so crabby in the end.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I'll go out on a limb and say that grilled tuna is the best thing going. Bar none. Better than a filet mignon, better than ribs or chicken or tenderloin or anything else.

Dredged in soy sauce and sesame oil, grilled for 5 minutes a side. Served with rice or anything going.

Yep, give me a good cut of tuna, a hot grill and some chopsticks and I'm there.

Friday, May 06, 2005


I'm man enough to admit to everyone on the Internet that I'm in love. Yep, it's true.

You'd think that a guy my age would just fall into a routine and take things for granted. Passion is such a fleeting little bird, here for a moment, then gone. Come back! Come back!

But, I tell you I look forward to coming home from work every single day because I know she's waiting for me. That's quite an attractive force. I've got a good job, pleasant co-workers, a great company, and the HR department is actually run by human beings. It doesn't get much better.

Yet, around 4 in the afternoon when the sun swings over to the west, causing the windows to creak and groan with heat, and the shadows start to reach out, longing, a V of geese wings it's way across the azure sky, I begin to think of home and she who awaits. I tend to work a little quicker in the afternoon if only to make the time pass, and it does, and soon I'm on my way home; to her.

I don't mind traffic any more. I am One with the traffic. I know I'll get home eventually, so I clear my mind of the jackass who's cut across my bumper with a nanometer to spare in his mad attempt to dive across the verge, and I forgive the spotty teenager in a Nissan 350 who's flashing his lights at me because I'm only going 80, and I'll content myself with confounding my fellow travellers by using my turn signals and actually looking before changing lanes. I observe with mild amusement a stampede of UPS trucks.

But, I digress.

Soon enough I'm pulling into the driveway and moments later I'm crossing the threshold with a cheery "Honey, I'm home."


My beloved is being coy because she knows that heightens the anticipation. She waits for me like she does every night, quietly and just a little bit glowing.

I drop my PC bag next to the cat litter, walk into the kitchen and pour myself a G&T. Ah, juniper, where for art thou? I move to the living room where my beloved awaits patiently.

"Miss me?", I tease?


I glide to my favorite chair - Danish leather, soft and wide - and reach for her who is nearby. I pull her onto my lap and she nestles snugly and warm. I run my hands across her smooth skin. In all my years I've never gotten tired of doing that. There's something about a smooth, warm curve that is both relaxing and exciting. I'm beginning to feel anticipation.

We embrace briefly and I can feel her heat becoming more intense in my lap. I take a sip of my G&T and settle myself into the leather. Nothing quite like a large leather Danish chair for what I have in mind for tonight!

"Oh, baby, I missed you today. It was like waah, waah, waah all day long. But, I'm home now. And, I'm going to turn you on!"

With that I pop the lid of the PowerBook, press the power button and enter the rhapsody that is Macintosh. She springs to life and greets me with a cheerful "Bongggg!"

"Oh, baby, you are such a Tiger!"


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Finally Over...Not!

My daughter called tonight to tell me that next week is Finals and then it's Over.

"Yep, Dad-0, finals will be over and I won't have to go through that again."

"In your dreams," I thought, "In your dreams."

Tonight, I'm sure I'll have The Dream. I've had it or variations a thousand times. It's long and boring, but undoubtedly the best part is waking up.

It goes something like this. It's Finals Week. I wake up and I've got a test to take. Something strange like Sanskrit Quantum Mechanics. I get dressed, or not. Sometimes I'm wandering around campus in a bathrobe looking for the room to take my test. Sometimes I'm just wearing boxers...or briefs...or less. I'm always barefoot because I notice signs that say

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service, No Graduation

I look down and my shirt is gone, too.

The room for the test is always at the end of a long hallway. Let's say, for example, that the room number is 206. The hallway will end with room 205.

As I'm wandering around campus looking for the room it occurs to me that I only attended class on the first day. I meant to drop the class, but never got around to it. (Actually, this is closer to real life than I'd care to admit!) What the heck, I've already got a degree, several, in fact, I think. OK, well, why am I here at university taking another test? Oh, yeah, to get another degree.

At long last I find a skateboard and boogie down the freeway grinding along guardrails, leaping over cars and hanging ten. Remember, no shoes. I keep going down the freeway on my skateboard because I can't find the exit to take. I know it's exit 310 but after I pass exit 309 the freeway ends, I'm surrounded by blue fish and Lawrence Welk is asking me to dance, but when he sees my bare feet he shakes his head and says,

"No, you won't do at all! Why, you can't even read Sanskrit!"

I wake up in a sweat, very, very grateful.

Ah, yes, daughter of mine, I'm so glad Finals is Over for you. Sweet dreams.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


May 1st. Don't tell me it's May 1st! It can't be. What happened to January through April?

It doesn't even feel like May. I'm sitting out here on the deck grilling some pork ribs on the BBQ using Arthur Bryant's BBQ sauce (Thank you, KC Girl for the tip. I ordered some the same day you posted your comment.) , direct from the factory, from their doorstep to mine, and two things are downright weird.

First, it's cool. According to my Tiger Weather Widget that I just consulted it's 70 degrees, although it feels cooler. I don't mind the heat or the humidity, but I really appreciate cool in May. Cool, man!

Second, there are no bugs. That's probably connected to the cool thing, but sitting out here in May not drenched in sweat and bug spray is quite remarkable. Texas bugs seem attracted to bug spray. Unless you're glowing with the stuff the bugs are going to find the little patch you missed. I've had mosquitoes drill through my shirt and pants, through the webbing of chairs; they are relentless.

I think I'll sleep in the back yard tonight. I hate to pass up great camping weather here in south Texas; especially with no bugs!

I am not a bug person. Some people are and they become either entomologists or exterminators. I'm in the middle and would like to live my life bug free, thank you very much. Over the years, however, I've learned to co-exist with my 6 and 8-legged friends. Yes, I refer to spiders as "bugs", too, and I know they're not considered insects. So, sue me. Anyway, you can't live in Houston if you're wigged out by bugs. It's a losing proposition.

The true test of my resolve came a few years ago when I spent a week at a Scout camp west of Houston. No bugs west, I thought. Dry, hot, it's gonna be great.


We were assigned these large wall tents to sleep in. A wall tent is what you imagine an Army tent to be. it's huge. Supported on either end by 8-foot poles it's like a giant pup tent, with flaps on either end for entry and exit. Along the top is a ridge pole that gives the tent its classic "A" shape.

Well, I opened the flaps to my tent, walked in, looked around, and was greeted by what looked to me like a thousand scorpions.

I don't know about you, but to insect-challenged me, the scorpion is like the King of the Dreaded Insects. What could be worse? Six legs, armor plated, stinger. Oh, yeah, and a stinger. Did I mention the stinger? Let me confirm that...a stinger.

At my advance the scorpions beat a hasty retreat down the floorboards and up the sides of the canvas. The first night I think I slept a few minutes.

However, by Wednesday I had named all my scorpion pals and we had lengthy conversations into the night. So, cool stinger. Do you sharpen it much? I found that if I left them alone they left me alone. We did have that one discussion with the little critter who tried to hitch a ride on my shirt, but that was a case of miscommunication and we cleared that up right away.

Since that week I've been more tolerant of our 6 to 8-legged friends, although I still have some work to do with the mosquitoes.

The Weather Widget tells me that it's down to 64 degrees. Looks like I'll have to put an extra blanket on the bed.