How I Spent My Birthday

Yeah, this was going to be a big day. And It was, but not the way I wished.

So, we have not had cable TV for over three years, and we get our entertainment by way of streaming video (and audio) over the Internet. Especially streaming video tends to put a strain on your home network, and Barbara Jean was complaining. But this was something we could fix. Best Buy to the rescue. See the above.

The image is from Amazon. We purchased the Linksys Velop home network, and it works like this. You plug one of the systems into your cable modem, or into your Google fiber optic outlet. The other unit will connect wirelessly to the first, and the idea is you place that unit in your house where you are getting poor connectivity.

Here is what we noticed after we got the system up and running. We do get better connectivity down stairs. Improvement is measurable by running an Internet speed test from near the remote unit.

Another thing we noticed quickly is several times a day Internet connectivity goes away completely for about a minute. Then everything comes up, and life goes on. This is annoying, and a Google search indicates others believe it is a firmware glitch that Linksys needs to address.

A few things:

  • If your house is single story of the kind in Prue Bend, you do not need the second unit.
  • The units are identical.
  • Each unit has an Ethernet jack for connecting to your cable modem (Google fiber port), and it has a single jack to connect to all your other Ethernet wired devices. If you have multiple printers and home security devices not having Wi-Fi connectivity, you will need to purchase an Ethernet switch.
  • Linksys has an app for your smart phone or pad. The app is a must for setting up the system. Once you get everything going, the app is most handy for managing the network.
  • A look at the network by way of the app shows that stuff downstairs sometimes uses the upstairs router, and vice versa. Yes, that is strange.

I already had an Ethernet switch with five ports, and I was about to go with that. However, Barbara reminded me that without the extra Ethernet ports on our old router we were going to need a bigger switch. So we got one with eight ports. Be advised, one of the switch ports needs to connect to your router, so you will have only seven left over for your devices. Hint: you can get Ethernet switches with bunches of ports.


Do not get a hub. An Ethernet hub costs less than a switch, but it does not prevent packet collisions. When the switch receives packets simultaneously from two or more ports, it absorbs and stores them all and sends them out to where they are needed. Bottom line: no dropped packets, and faster throughput.

But back to the problem of dropping Internet connectivity. On Monday before my birthday I got up early and watched ABC News on TV while I ate breakfast. Then I logged off to do other things. Truth is, I took a nap.

Up from my nap, and we were disconnected. I waited for the connection to come back. It never did. I tried my usual stuff, recycling power to the modem and the network devices. No good. The light on top of the Velop router went red and stayed there. Barbara made the decision. Box up this piece of shit and ship it back. I needed to phone Linksys and make use of the supposed warranty. This I did around noon on Wednesday. They were very helpful. Linksys did not want to take back a system that still worked.

So for two hours and 55 minutes I walked through an extensive analysis of the system with the nice and very knowledgeable Linksys support lady. It got to the point she needed a wired Ethernet (not Wi-Fi) connection to the modem. For this I had to turn my chair around and access Barbara’s Dell Vostro, which does not employ Wi-Fi. Eventually I set up a dummy MAC address so she could run tests on Barbara’s computer.

Long story short, after two hours and 55 minutes we got the Velop network up and running again. I took the remote router down stairs so the support gal could run a connectivity test. She ran it. Everything looked fine. Then the light on the remote unit turned red. She agreed she could see this from her desk at Linksys.

The analysis, and we both agreed, is this. When I put the pieces back together again for the trouble shooting, I switched the two units. They are identical in appearance, differing only in a built-in password. The one that was now the remote was previously the main unit—the one that connected directly to the modem. When it went down it took Internet connectivity down. Not only did Wi-Fi go away, but Barbara’s Vostro, connected to the main unit by wire, lost connectivity, as well.

We parted ways. I mentioned I would run the Velop system for a few more days, and if the problem showed up again I should be getting an exchange or a refund. And this was the morning and the evening of my birthday.

Je n’ai pas la clé

Now I really don’t have the key.

The correct key for the correct lock.

See the previous post:

OK, now I really do have the key. But it is an interesting story.

In the previous post I poked fun at business that do not really have a handle on day to day operations. The state of business-customer relations also came up. I noted that when my new house was completed in 2010 the builder gave me the keys to the garage door, said keys having been given to him by the company that installed the garage door. Said company being Parrish & Company, Inc., 26995 Highway 281 N, San Antonio, Texas, (830-980-9595). I also mentioned that Parrish and Company had provided a lock for the garage door and had provided keys to yet a different lock. I also mentioned that when I informed Parrish and Company of their error more than two and a half years after the fact they graciously offered to make good on their error. They, at no expense to me, offered to provide me with the correct key. They would hold the key for me at the front desk of their offices at 26995 Highway 281 N, San Antonio, Texas, and would exchange the correct key for the wrong keys when I arrived. It was the kind of customer outreach that traditionally warms the cockles of my heart. I guarantee you that on this occasion their generosity did just that.

And now the key is gone. Not only is the key gone, but the lock is gone, as well. And not only the lock, but the entire garage door. It happened this way.

On a Tuesday night last month came a terrible pounding on the roof. I was upstairs at the time, and I was sure it was the fist of God. Turned out to be only the fist of hail, but that was enough. The roof is history, according to my insurance adjuster. Likewise the garage door. Hail dimples reduced the door’s real estate value to zero, and today they replaced it.

But not the lock. And not the key. The new door came without a key lock—the man said they don’t do that anymore. I’m guessing they don’t do that anymore when the insurance company is paying for a new door and not me.

Hey! Mike phoned a little after nine this morning. Said the crew would be there within 15 minutes. Just time for me to park the cars down the street. They came. They had the door panels loaded on the truck, already the proper color. See the photo. And no lock. And no key. The key I drove twice on 281 to the northern limits of San Antonio is now surplus.

The good part is, these people appear to do this sort of thing for a living. In and out in 30 minutes while I watched. They’re Mission Overhead Door Service, contracted by Blackmon Mooring, contracted by USAA insurance.

And now I’m wondering what I’m going to lose when the contractors come next week to do the roof. Stay tuned.

Odd Moments


In college I didn’t go for a degree in electrical engineering, because I considered the EE equations to be very messy, dealing with various harmonics and such. But I did take one EE course and obtained a degree in Engineering Science. Eventually I got a job as a mechanical engineer for a company that made optical character recognition equipment and document processing systems.

This was about 40 years ago, and we hired this guy Bill. Bill was an ex-Air Force electronics technician, and he was a sharp guy. He didn’t have a college degree, but he knew how all that stuff worked. I talked to Bill a lot and picked up some good knowledge from him.

I had this team of engineers, and we were designing a system to go in banks and process checks that people brought to the counter. And there was this other guy, Bob, and he wasn’t in our group, but he was an EE, and he was really sharp. He worked on some of the cutting edge stuff the company was developing, and one of the things he was working on was ASICs. ASIC is just a short term for Application Specific Integrated Circuit, and the idea was that companies that made them had a set of prepared designs, and you told them what you wanted your circuit to do, and they would produce a photo mask for the die. They would then produce short production runs of the die. A die is the proper term for an integrated circuit chip, and these could be quite large and complex.

Anyhow, Bob was a real whiz, and he got a lot of respect wherever he went. When he walked through the area people tended to just step back and let him pass.

Anyhow, Bob was working on a new concept, and he stopped by my desk and asked me about the problem he was having. I listened to him for about a minute, and it dawned on me what the problem was. I explained it to Bob, and he said something like, “Oh, yeah.” And he went away happy.

Then I looked up, and some of the guys on my team were looking at me, and it was a kind of strange look. I got back to working on what I was supposed to be doing, but I thought I could feel eyes on my back. For a few minutes it was a weird situation, and I thought about it again earlier this week. It was one of those odd moments.

Death Explained


Have you ever gone to a big time sporting event of great importance, one that featured the top players, one that decided a critical championship? The competition was intense, and the outcome was in doubt. Interest was high.

Then something unexpected came up, and you had to leave the game before it was over. And later you never could learn the outcome of the game. Maybe people you asked would not tell you, but more likely you could never find anybody who had attended the game or possibly anybody who ever heard of the game. And you never found out how the game ended, and it always remained a mystery to you.

Death is not like that.

The big time sporting event is the Universe and everything that happens in it from way before you were born until way after you are gone. All you can ever learn about the Universe, the world, is what happened right up until the time you die. And when you die, for all purposes, the Universe ceases to exist. What happens in the Universe after you die is of no consequence to you, because you no longer exist. In any form.

It’s not like this, either:

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

People get the wrong idea. They get many wrong ideas. “After you die you go to another place.” No. You don’t go to another place. Then, if you don’t go to another place, you spend the rest of eternity in complete darkness, devoid of any stimulus, any interaction with others or with any thing. No. You don’t.

So, what’s it like when you die? You ask that question, but you already know. You know the answer, because you’ve been dead before. You may ask me when was it you ever dead before. I respond, “Where were you in the year 1753?” You say you weren’t even born then. I say that’s true. You were dead. How did it feel? You don’t know, because you weren’t there then. I tell you it’s going to be like that again after you die.

Do you think I’m telling you that you should not fear death? Yes. Do you think I’m telling you that you should not respect your own life? No. You should not be careless with your life, and you should not forfeit it casually. Think of the consequences.

If you allow yourself to die needlessly, you will not suffer. Others will. You are part of a society of people. You have friends and family. You have other members of the community that may depend on having you around. Generally, if you die you will be sorely missed. If you give up your life for little profit you will disappoint people you care about.

But, you now conclude, once you are dead the effect on others will be of no concern to you. Nothing will be of any concern to you. You will be dead. You will not exist. You will not feel anguish for the pain of others.

Think again. Right up until the moment you die you have an empathy for others in your life. During this time you will feel concern for the consequences of your death, even if not after. Even if you carry rational thinking to the extreme, this concern will prevent you from deliberately moving toward your death.

Concerning suicide, the needless killing of yourself. Of what consequence is this? Those who care for you will be sorely disappointed in your action. They will fell hurt that you have chosen to reject their company and to leave it permanently. They may think bad thoughts of you. But you will not feel anguish over this, because you will be dead. In many instances it is the contemplation of these consequences that keeps many from ending their lives needlessly. It’s frightening to consider that faulty thinking is what’s keeping so many of us alive.

Concluding that all of the foregoing is true or even makes sense, what is it that keeps people alive? What installs in a person the desire to preserve his own life? There are a number of explanations, only one of them has any basis in fact.

The primal motivation to preserve life is that death is fearful. Burned into our brains is a dread of dying. Where does this come from? It comes from millions of years of biological evolution. Members of a population that have little regard for preserving their lives tend not to reproduce. This is often up to the point where the individual exits the gene pool. Consider the black widow spider. The male mates with the female at the sacrifice of his own life. Up until that point the male works to preserve his own life, avoiding predators to the best of his ability.

Animals, to the best of their ability, generally strive to avoid predation. See a bird pecking at seeds in your back yard feeder. Try to approach and grab the bird, and it will fly away. Birds lacking this reflex soon disappear from the gene pool. The converse is observed. Birds that evolved on remote islands, such as the Galapagos, do not suffer predation from other animals. There is nothing there that eats them. They have lost this reflex. Researchers studying the famous finches can reach out and pick one up to put a band on its leg.

So that explains our lust for life in terms of the natural Universe. What about in terms of the mystical Universe? People have made up explanations. Catholic priests will remind followers that suicide is a sin. If you kill yourself you will be damned to Hell. People who kill themselves are denied a Catholic funeral service. It works the other way around. Some religious followers believe that killing oneself to further a cause earns rewards in another life. Supposedly 72 virginal young women is one such prize. So, the religious view of death can cut both ways.

If death is inevitable and not all that unpleasant, then what’s the purpose of life? This may not be a Douglas Adams quote, but it should be: “Your job is to have a good time.” If you actually have a duty in life that duty is to enjoy it while you can. You’re not coming this way again.

This should not be construed as a prescription for launching upon a hedonistic lifestyle. To the contrary, I add naively, a hedonistic life may not be all that enjoyable. If it’s the admiration, respect and the good company of your fellow beings that you crave, your best fit will be as a cooperative member of society. Before this gets too far along the road, please be reminded that religion is not the answer. For affirmation take a few minutes today to switch on the television news.

Anyhow, you’re alive, which goes without saying. Where do you go from here? Allow me to be the most recent to inform you that you are going to die. What until then? Advice is free.

Be productive. Do good things for other people. Your life will be more enjoyable as a consequence. You regret not being able to live forever? You can to the next best thing. You can prolong your existence. Produce some lasting works. Have a child. Give good advice. Invent something. Post something on the Internet. Posting something on the Internet is like carving it in stone. Or at least writing it in ink:

Erica Albright: It didn’t stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.

In the mean time, stick around. The game’s not over yet.

Adventures in Car Shopping

I had this old car.


And that led to a blog post several months ago:

I don’t recall if the second man ever came back, but a third man, wearing a red shirt, came and explained they were having trouble locating the car. Gary later told me, and I firmly believe, a dealership always knows at all times the location of all its inventory. I remarked that if Barbara Jean were running this operation there would be a computer spread sheet and a relational database identifying the location and status of all high-priced inventory such as automobiles costing many thousands of dollars each. We were long past concluding the dealership no longer had the car or else never had the car to begin with. Their aim was to keep us around until some kind of business could be conducted.

As the story panned out, we ended up not replacing the old car. In the mean time we stopped by a dealership in Boerne, Texas. They didn’t have the car either. And they told us they didn’t have the car. I found that so refreshing. But we did consider getting a car for Barbara, instead. But first we drove down the road a ways to another dealership, just to see what they had. What they had was a better deal. Barbara came home with a new car:

So it was that Chambers and Barbara Jean arrived at our house shortly after me about 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Barbara Jean sat at the dining table and signed over her old car and gave Mr. Chambers a check for the new car.

All together, it was a very pleasant car shopping experience. People, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

And Barbara drove her new car, and we took a trip to Pflugerville and back. And she parked her new car in the garage. And we went on vacation for three weeks while her new car sat in the garage. And we came back. We still didn’t have a new car for me.

So we went again to San Marcos, Texas. We needed to replace the furniture upstairs we had gotten rid of. The place in San Marcos had a good deal, so we ordered the furniture. And we left. We went back to the dealership where the previous month we had gotten Barbara’s new car, which was still sitting in the garage back home.

Did they have the car I wanted? Not quite. But they did have these three models. Only new cars. We told them we did not want a white car. No white car. And no black car, either. Black cars tend to get hot when outside on summer days. At night on the freeway they tend to disappear. Most dangerous. We did not want a black car.

So Michael Chambers said he had three models to show us. We went to look.

The first was black. No way. He had a green one. Green was fine. We walked over and looked at it. It was dark dark green. May as well have been a black car. He had one more. We liked the color, and it was not too dark either.


Only, Barbara didn’t like the interior colors. Did it come in any other colors? Chambers said it didn’t. I said I liked the colors.


We got the car. I gave up the keys to my old car, and we drove home in the new car.

Let me tell you, since the last time I got a new car back in the previous century cars have gotten high tech. My old car was completely computer controlled. It had fuel injection, and the computer monitored fuel and air mixture and ensured the correct mixture all the time. The computer also monitored air temperature inside the car and maintained whatever temperature you wanted. Another computer monitored the brakes and made sure none of the wheels locked up while braking in the slick. The new car has all of that. And more.





Looking at the control panel (don’t call it a dashboard anymore) I got the impression of the cockpit of an F/A-18 Hornet. It has about everything a pilot, rather a driver, needs.

It has a CD player, just like the old car, but who needs that. I loaded up all our music on a 64 GB USB drive and plugged it in. The display shows me what’s on the drive and plays whatever I select. Not interested in what’s playing? Switch to the engine monitor. How fast are you going? What’s your average speed for the current trip? Fuel consumption in miles per gallon for the current trip? It’s all there. And more.

When I switch the transmission into reverse, the display goes to a rear view camera image that lets me know when I’m about to back over a skate board. That is so cheesy.

What Barbara Jean did not notice and what I did not point out to her until after we got the car home is that my new car has alloy wheels, just like the old car. Wahoo! It also has climate control, just like the old car and which Barbara Jean’s new car does not have. It may be a Corolla, but it’s not your grandfather’s Corolla.

When I first met Barbara Jean she was driving a 70s version of the Corolla, and it was a lift back, and it was a little box on wheels. The new Corolla is a century on down the line, but it is still compact, which was essential for me. My old car I could park in my garage in the spot that has the work bench with the radial arm saw up against the back wall. The new car fits just fine, which we verified by measuring before going off to buy it.

We are thinking this is the last car that we’re ever going to get. I kept the Infiniti for nearly 15 years. Fifteen years from now I may be thinking about a walker instead of a new car. This may be the last of the Adventures in Car Shopping.

Sloth, Inc.

Not too many posts recently. Blame it on laziness. Or something else:


In order to reduce my weekly mowing time I’ve decided to reduce the amount of grass to be mowed. Here’s for starters.


And I’m getting rid of the last bit of grass in that niche between the house and the fence on the north side.


And I’m (Barbara Jean and I) are planting plants where grass existed this time last year.

Finally, this morning I took delivery on six cubic yards of grass-be-gone.


Then I stopped by Home Depot and got 20 more patio stones. So, if I’ve not been posting much recently, I have my excuses.


If at first you don’t succeed

Obviously this was way back when. Way back before people like Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh spoiled it for the rest of us. This was in the spring 1958 when I could walk into a store and purchase a few pounds of potassium permanganate and not have the ATF knocking on my door before sundown.

My cousin and I and sometimes my brother and a school buddy built some neat rockets. Sometimes we had great success. Sometimes, not so much so. Anyhow, the statute of limitations has finally expired, and we can show the video.

Goodby, Old Paint

Yesterday was an important anniversary for me. A year ago I handed in my badge and headed back to San Antonio for the duration. Before I did that I made a video of my last trip out the front door. The song says it all.

Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.
Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.

Old Paint’s a good pony.
He runs when he can,
Good morning young lady,
My pony won’t stand.

Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.
Goodbye, old Paint,
I’m a-leaving Cheyenne.

Here’s the video: Goodby, Old Paint


Greetings, all. Here’s what we’ve been up to this year. Since I have my own blog these days, I’m going to start posting the yearly newsletters on the blog.

In December 2012 I quit my last job and came home to stay. The idea was to take some vacation, but not much happened until February. Then it was off to Florida on a road trip.

There’s not much to tell about our first stop, in Lafayette, LA, but New Orleans is worth talking about. Mardi Gras season was getting underway, and we took in some of the sights. Night was best. There were bands and other performances in the streets.

There was always something wild going on.

Dining in the French Quarter was especially good.

Cape Canaveral in Florida was an all-day tour. They have rockets and missiles I have not seen for 50 years.

When visiting Florida, you need to get out to Key West if you possibly can. It’s a different world out there.

It’s a tradition on the west shore to say goodbye to the sun each day.

Okaloosa Island was good for some scenics.

Back home I volunteered to review textbooks for the Texas Education Agency. First off they asked me to review high school physics texts, and this was done at home on my computer. Came summer and reviewers were invited to come to Austin for team reviews. The state of Texas put us up for five days in the airport Hilton.

Airport Hilton lobby

That was kind of fun, especially when I learned some creationists had been invited by the Texas Board of Education to review biology texts. I talked to two of them whom I had met previously. They are both educated men, but they do not have degrees in biology. Here are Walter Bradley and Ide Trotter.

Barbara has been busy this year, as well. I may not have mentioned before, but last year they had this thing called The Hill Country Yarn Crawl. If you are not familiar with the concept, a yarn crawl is sort of like a pub crawl, except without the alcohol. In a yarn crawl you go from yarn shop to yarn shop, the plan being to visit all shops on your itinerary.

Last year the itinerary included shops in San Antonio, Austin, Paige, Comfort, and places in between. This year they added a couple more. Last year I was working (most of the time), but this year I didn’t have any excuse. I went along, visited the shops, ate the cookies and took some photos. Here’s a quaint shop in Comfort, Texas.

Wait, there’s more. Across the street was another shop, and we stopped in there. The woman running the place gave us a demonstration of spinning yarn. You think knitting is the ultimate craft for creating cloth, but first you need to make the yarn from raw fiber, and here is how that’s done. I made this video and posted it on YouTube.

Lest I forget, 2013 was the year we finally sold our house in Dallas. In case anybody is curious as to why we sold our house in Dallas and built a house in San Antonio, here is why. The first photo is our house in Dallas. It may be a little hard to see, but it’s there.

Here is the house in San Antonio:

See the difference?

Speaking of videos, I finally got around to actually using my YouTube account. I made a number of instructional videos and posted them. Here’s one that shows how to make real Texas style chili con carne.  If Jack Warner is by now not rolling over in his grave, he’s at least laughing.

Sadly, I also came to the realization that I have never actually owned a motion picture projector. So, what to do with all the home movies I made, starting back in the 1950s (be quiet, Jack Warner)? I am sending them off to have them copied to DVD, and, worse yet, I’m posting the videos on YouTube. Breaking news! Home movies of decades past almost never had sound. But YouTube has the solution. With a few clicks you can select some music (?) to go along with your video. Here’s a clip I made back in the 1970s. In those days I had this magazine-load 16mm movie camera, and I attached it to my motorcycle helmet with duct tape (what else) and got out on the race course at the Austin Aqua Festival to give viewers an idea how it appears to riders. John Frankenheimer I am not as evidenced by this massive fail.

All the film is not back from the video company, but I will be posting more as the DVDs roll in. Warning: Some scenes will be embarrassing not only to the photographer but to certain people who will be watching these videos.

Barbara and John


Long story about little.

My dad used to have this marvelous piece of firepower. It was a .22 Hornet, and it packed a real wallop. I always coveted that weapon, but quite early Dad traded it to my brother-in-law for an 8mm movie camera. Hence this story.

So, as a kid I wound up shooting a bunch of 8mm. Shortly I went to sea on an aircraft carrier, and I purchased an 8mm camera of my own and took a lot of movies aboard ship and later in civilian life at motorcycle races and other fun places.

But here’s the irony. All this time I never actually owned a movie projector. There was a family projector, but when the inheritance was distributed somebody else wound up with it. So I have all these great films I have not viewed in decades.

Along the way I also acquired a 16mm camera that used magazine load film. I was familiar with the concept, because that’s what was used in the navy for gun sight video and also to record flight operations. In the Navy there is a special rating, photographer’s mate, that does nothing but take photos and such. Aboard the aircraft carrier their job was to get up at the 07 level in the ship’s superstructure and shoot movies, takeoffs and landings. If something went wrong the Navy wanted it on film. I think I may once have seen aboard the Randolph a freezer chest packed with Kodak boxes of fresh film.

Came time to do a blog post, and I needed an old newspaper clipping. I knew right where it was. It was right here in this closet in one of these boxes. So I started pulling out boxes and searching. The result of that was I recorded to DVD and discarded a bunch of skeptical VHS tapes. In one box I came across the movie films. I decided they needed to meet the same fate as the VHS tapes.

It turns out it’s fairly easy to get the DVDs from the movies, but it’s not exactly cheap. Like $8 for a 50-foot reel of 8mm. $200 for a running hour of 16mm. For me it’s either pay and throw away the film or else throw away the film and not pay. In one case I would still have the movies, but in a more compact form.

I have sent off two reels of 8mm to a place in Longview, and this morning I drove down to the place in San Antonio and dropped off my reel of 16mm. In a few days I will begin to come into possession of DVDs containing video of a number of people, known to me, and obtained when these people were much younger than they are now and not nearly as circumspect. Here is my deal.

These people, who can be easily identified in the video, even though they are now more advanced in age, will need to pay me a certain sum, or else these videos will be posted on YouTube. You know who you are. Do I need to elaborate?

Leaves of Grass

A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The San Antonio Library presented Bruce Alan Noll as Walt Whitman in a one-hour impersonation of 19th century America’s favorite poet.

Whitman claimed that after years of competing for “the usual rewards”, he determined to become a poet. He first experimented with a variety of popular literary genres which appealed to the cultural tastes of the period. As early as 1850, he began writing what would become Leaves of Grass, a collection of poetry which he would continue editing and revising until his death. Whitman intended to write a distinctly American epic and used free verse with a cadence based on the Bible. At the end of June 1855, Whitman surprised his brothers with the already-printed first edition of Leaves of Grass. George “didn’t think it worth reading”.

Noll says he has now retired. He taught at the University of New Mexico in the College of Education. In his presentation he is Whitman, close in dress and person. He says he was inspired to take on the role by actor James Whitmore, who voiced for Mark Twain in the Claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain. Noll’s performance closely parallels the performances as Mark Twain by actor Hal Holbrook.

The performance at the downtown library was free, but it was necessary to obtain tickets in advance. Barbara Jean instigated the festivities, and our friends Nancy and Gary joined us. After that it was dinner at Huhot to celebrate Gary’s birthday. It’s the kind of thing you do when you’re retired.

What Really Sucks

Slow day today. Here is some comment.

So, Barbara Jean and I were driving up to Pflugerville for movie night on Friday, and the traffic on Loop 1604 was bogged down for miles while a crew made some adjustments to a guardrail. Then we got to the I-35 junction, and the exit north was blocked because the Highway Department is in the process of reworking the intersection with new ramps and overpasses. Barbara was fed up with it all and commented, “This just sucks.”

I thought about this for about a second and decided maybe not quite. I responded, “No, this is not what sucks. What sucks is a mushroom cloud on the horizon and people running out on fire. That’s what sucks.”

And I though of one of my favorite Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson. What he shows here is that what sucks is really a matter of personal perspective.

Copyright Universal Press Syndicate

Moving Heaven and Earth

Being a mythical place, Heaven was a little hard to find. So this week I started with the Earth. Heaven can wait.

I had a similar project two years ago. I added a terrace planter bed alongside my patio, and we planted rosemary in it. Quite shortly my home improvement project showed up on the satellite view. Even the rosemary.

Getting ready to plant the rosemary

Came cooler weather this fall, and it was time for another home project. It was time to move Heaven and Earth. As before, this started with a slight shift in the Earth’s axis as I moved 98 concrete blocks from Home Depot on Loop 1604 to my back yard.

The first of the concrete block arrive

It was apparent a stretch of grass would need to be sacrificed. A good grubbing hoe did the job.

Grass, be gone. No, really, be gone.

Finally, by Wednesday it was all in place. Going to finish killing off the grass with Roundup and add some dirt, some mulch and some plants. Maybe also some irrigation piping. Then comes time to start checking the Google satellite view to see when it shows up.

Finished, if you don't count the grass, the dirt, the mulch and the plants

The Great Chili Cookoff

Threats met with counter threats. A showdown was inevitable. It finally came down to a time for action. On Sunday I made the chili.

Chili, it's what's for dinner.

Chili, of course, is short for chili con carne. That’s pepper with meat. Notice there is no mention of beans. That would be chili con carne y frijoles. That’s another dish. That’s another recipe. That’s another day and also another world. This is Texas.

Here’s the video.

Last Day of Summer

Comfort, Texas. It’s only a few miles up the interstate from our house, so this seemed an appropriate place to say goodbye to summer.

Comfort was established in 1854 by German immigrants, who were Freethinkers and abolitionists. Ernst Hermann Altgelt, at the age of 22, is credited with surveying and measuring the lots that would later be sold to the incoming German immigrants. He stayed and married Emma (Murck) Altgelt, and they raised their nine children in the township of Comfort. Fritz and Betty Holekamp built the first house in Comfort having started construction before Comfort’s official founding on September 3, 1854. The first churches were not established in Comfort until 1900. After some controversy, a cenotaph honoring “the Founding Freethinkers” was dedicated on November 2, 2002.

The downtown area is possibly one of the most well-preserved historic business districts in Texas. There are well over 100 structures in the area dating back to the 1800s, and seven of them were designed by the noted architect Alfred Giles. Mr. Giles lived in San Antonio, and he would ride horses, the stagecoach, and later the train to check his building sites in Comfort. Most of the population today is composed of descendants of those original pioneer families of the 1850s and the 1860s.

Comfort is also known for a tragic event that took place during the Civil War. The Treue der Union Monument (“Loyalty to the Union”) was dedicated in honor of 35 men who died at the Battle of the Nueces, which took place because they opposed the state’s secession from the Union. The German settlers were killed on their way to Mexico during the Civil War. They were attacked by Confederate forces near Brackettville on August 10, 1862. The bodies were not buried and the bones were retrieved and placed here in 1865. The monument was erected in 1866.

A bit of Texas history

Comfort is a lot like my home town, but more so.

And it’s a place to buy one more skien of yarn for a winter project.

Lunch in Comfort with friends

All of this on the last day of summer

Outside Comfort, a visit to the winery. They make wine with their own grapes. We chose a bottle of their merlot, aged a year in oak.

This is how we unloaded the summer of 2013 at the Singing Springs Winery.

The Wells Fargo Wagon

Here are the lyrics (part of them):

O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
Oh please let it be for me!
O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
I wish, I wish I knew what it could be!

That was 1912. this is 2013. Some time has passed. Things have changed. Anticipation is now sugared with bountiful knowledge:

Date Time Location Event Details
September 5, 2013 09:55:00 AM San Antonio TX US Out for delivery
September 4, 2013 08:35:00 AM San Antonio TX US Package arrived at a carrier facility
September 3, 2013 10:51:29 PM Fedex Smartpost Houston TX US Package has left the carrier facility
September 3, 2013 10:51:00 PM Fedex Smartpost Houston TX US In transit to pickup location
September 1, 2013 01:38:00 PM Fedex Smartpost Houston TX US Package arrived at a carrier facility
August 30, 2013 02:35:56 PM Hebron KY US Package has left the carrier facility
August 30, 2013 06:05:57 AM Hebron KY US Package arrived at a carrier facility
August 29, 2013 01:43:00 AM US Package has left seller facility and is in transit to carrier

And, I know just exactly who it’s for and what exactly what it is. It’s for me. Wait. I just heard the Wells Fargo wagon (USPS truck) stop in front of my house. Could it be? Yes! Here it is.

Something very very special, just for me.

I do so much love the 21st century.

Refugee of the Year

( Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau / September 2, 2012 ) Diana Nyad arrives in Key West, Fla., after swimming 110 miles from Cuba.

Isn’t it great what the younger generation can accomplish these days? You really have to hand it to Diana Nyad. Apparently if you do not she will swim over and get it. Anyhow, it’s a heroic story:

In the end, emerging from the ocean wearing a blue cap and goggles — and having swum about 110 miles in 52 hours and 54 minutes — Diana Nyad still had enough strength to walk ashore Monday.

Failing four times over the years, on her fifth and final attempt this weekend, Nyad, 64, officially became the first swimmer to go the distance from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

Upon reaching shore at Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla., Nyad, a Los Angeles resident who has trained at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, had three things to tell the crowd of cheering onlookers who had watched her achieve a lifelong dream.

All was not without minor stumbles. Upon reaching Key West, Diana realized she had left her car keys in Cuba and had to go back to get them.

Of course I am only kidding about that. Also about the ICE. Most likely the first words Diana heard stepping onto the sand were, “Way to go, Diana!” The next word was, “Pasaporte?”

Anyhow, it was a great accomplishment, and there will likely be fallout in the near future. Now that we know there is such a desire to get from Cuba to Key West they are thinking of establishing a ferry service. Diana, you should have waited just a little longer.