Saturday, September 24, 2005

Evacuation Plan “B”

Monday morning quarterbacking is easy and so I will not point my finger, shake it about and blame anyone in particular for the total fiasco which was called the evacuation of the Houston and areas to the south such as Galveston, and Freeport. Well, maybe I will do some finger pointing.

There were a few things that could have been handled better when asking for an orderly evacuation of roughly 1 – 3 million people. The problem was not that there was insufficient fuel; at least that should not have been an issue. Most of the folks who hit the roads leading out of the area had followed the advice to top off their tanks. The primary problem was the inability of those in a position to close down the inbound lanes of major limited access roads and to then use all lanes as outbound evacuation routes. It took 6 -12 hours for the realization to hit home; people were in gridlock and burning up precious time and fuel while not making forward progress.

I remember Theodore Roosevelt’s line about not having a perfect plan; action on an imperfect plan is better than waiting for a perfect one, so here’s my advice on how to handle a Future evacuation of the Houston area. It would help to have real leaders; those who have a backbone or testicles, either or both would be preferable to the babbling fools who kept stepping up to microphones and telling us that they had more planning meetings to go to. “I feel you’re frustration” is not what I want to hear from our elected officials when they should have the courage to do what is necessary.

It would not have taken but one hour to safely clear off all inbound traffic, blockade entry ramps and reverse the flow outbound. The trick is to have a fork lift or similar machine to lift a couple of the concrete safety median blocks to create a new exit ramp that feeds into the normally inbound lanes. While that is being accomplished an order would be given to have emergency vehicle with light bars enter and station themselves on the freeway inbound lanes so make sure that vehicles did not enter via illegal means such as driving over curbs and esplanades. It would only take a few emergency vehicles with light bars flashing to run out in front as a line formed behind them. Start off at a speed of 20 mph and increase it as soon as possible to normal freeway speeds. The flow of traffic behind would make it impossible for inbound traffic to even consider entry and thereby insure a steady flow outbound.

There would not have been very many stranded motorists, other than the calculated idiot who didn’t fill up to begin with or the disabled vehicle that would have broken down anyway. Those vehicles would not have created the massive gridlock and could easily have been factored in. The fact that most gas stations along the evacuation routes were either out of gas or closed should have been addressed by the private sector; this is, after all, a free market system. I cannot fathom any of the gas stations not seeing such a perfect opportunity to be of service, cash in and make a profit, from all those potential customers fleeing the coast.

I have to believe that those distribution centers for gasoline; Shell, Chevron, Exxon, Diamond Shamrock and all the others must have future mayors, city councilmen, state legislators or other potential elected officials in positions of gross incompetence. I don’t care if the sky was raining fire and brimstone; those tanker trucks would have been rolling around the clock until a tidal wave swept them off the road in order to keep pace with demand. There were several days of advance warnings as to the severity of the storm along with a measured chance that the entire region might be covered with tidal surge as far inland as 20 miles. What kind of marketing genius could not see that every available gas station along the evacuation corridors didn’t have a spare tanker truck parked where it could refill the underground tanks? It was not the job of local, state or federal officials to take charge of that responsibility, not then and not in the future either.

Maybe, just maybe, some of the profit minded gasoline distributors will come upon this same idea before all those evacuees start back toward the Houston area. They will figure out a way to facilitate a flow of needed gasoline products to the already in place service station outlets along those routes. They might even make a huge profit for having provided those products and at the same time done some good.

We do not have to invent the wheel, that’s already been done. What we need is for folks in a position to make things happen to show leadership by actually doing rather than talking about how much they would like to help. I love old sayings; unfortunately the one that comes to mind is rather crude. “Sh_t or get off the pot!”

Rita has left the building

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Houston came through the storm. Our power came back on about an hour ago, having been off for only a few hours. Only a few tree limbs in the yard. The storm was east of here and so we got very lucky. Winds are still gusting to tropical storm levels and so it is not safe to be outside. Thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers. I will get back to blogging when things get normalized around here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hurricane Rita Update Friday

I just talked with Justin, my son in law who is up in San Antonio. He let me know that Lucy and the ladies from church are safe and sleeping there now after having arrived late last night. The telephone lines are working better this morning; not quite as busy and overloaded as they were last night.

As a matter of record, yesterday was the first day of Fall and we set a record 100 degrees for the day. I hope we can avoid any more weather related records the rest of the week. I am on my daughter’s computer upstairs because I took the CPU of my computer and sent it off with Lucy on the outside chance that the house and all our stuff got destroyed by the hurricane; that way all our business records and files would be salvageable for tax purposes and ease of restoration. (how’s that for a morbid thought) The other reason I’m upstairs is because I figure my cell phone reception might be better up here; “Can you hear me now?”

I fell asleep watching the history channel on D-Day. I have no idea what other programs I slept through. Maybe it will be like when I was a student and expected to learn via osmosis. Some day I’ll be playing Trivial Pursuit or watching Ken Jennings on his 479th visit to Jeopardy; the topic will come up and instantly my brain will come up with an obscure answer derived from having heard the information while sleeping on the sofa.
It could happen…

The sun is coming through the mini-blinds up here on the second floor. Looks like a beautiful day; knowing that off to the south and east Rita is bearing down on us. I am still hoping that the weather forecasters are correct, at least those who put landfall off towards Beaumont or farther east. Either way it will be nasty. I will post later on.

In the event that power is lost I will have my generator, the one in my work truck, to keep the refrigerator and freezer going. I have battery operated radio and television and plenty of food. It will be like camping only this way…I was going to say I have my own bed to sleep in except that our new bed won’t be delivered until next Thursday. I could sleep on the new carpet that we had installed in our bedroom. We sealed the bottom portions of the doors on the back side of the house with tape and plastic to keep out rising water; at least we hope it will. If the carpet gets wet; forget the hurricane, Lucy will be the one who kills me for not listening to her request to wait until after the hurricane has come and gone to have the carpet installed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Rita Preparations

I had planned to ride out Hurricane Rita when she first crossed into the Gulf as a category one storm. That quickly changed as the intensity level was raised to a category five and it appeared that it was headed toward Houston.

Lucy and I live in an older neighborhood with lots of big trees, the kind that have limbs that brake off and slam into houses. With the prospect of winds battering the area between a hundred and up for several hours I contemplated the fact that most homes will have substantial roof and window damage. A friend of mine is an engineer and he warned that most of the houses in our area don’t have some kind of strapping that holds the roof to the house and that they tend to lift like an airplanes wing at around 120mph. These thoughts put the idea in our heads that it was time to pack up my work truck and Lucy’s Solara and head for San Antonio where some friends of Bonnie from church had offered to put us up.

We did a bang up job of sealing the back side of the house with duct tape, caulking, plastic and even sandbagging the low corner where the water tends to gather. We stored all the projectiles; lawn bench, chairs, barbeque grill, hanging baskets and wind chimes. Anything not nailed down has been secured; I only hope my neighbors have done the same.

We invited a couple of the single sisters from church to join us in our travels away from the pending disaster. ( just as a note; I’m on my daughter’s computer and her keyboard is so much different from my own. Her whole set up is awkward for my slouch back style of placing the keyboard on my lap, leaning back in the chair with my feet propped at an off angle to the monitor. Bonnie likes to sit straight up in her chair; like the way they teach you to sit when typing. ) We planned to hit the road around noon time except that the freeways were in gridlock and it looked as if the department of transportation folks were about to open up the inbound lanes for outbound traffic so it would be better to wait.
I heard the newscaster explain that it had taken folks 10 to 12 hours to get from one side of town to the other, exhausting their gasoline with no hope of getting to another major city such as Dallas, San Antonio or Austin.

The lines at the gas stations, those that actually had gasoline, were two hour wait or longer with lines fading from view as the camera panned the area. I had topped off the tanks on all our vehicles in anticipation of the hurricane; all the same, it would do no good to hit the road on a 200 plus mile trip that would normally average 65mph and use only part of a tank of gas. Most of the frustrated drivers were pulling off to the side of the road on empty with no hope of finding a station with any fuel; stranded in Houston with a hurricane breathing down and little hope of getting to a safe location. These thoughts caused us to postpone leaving at noon.

The weather forecasters kept us informed of the slight directional changes of the storm, it tending to drift a bit towards the Texas Louisiana border which would put us on the “clean” side of the storm and give us a slight brake on the strength of winds we would be subjected to. Lucy and I decided to hold off leaving until around 6pm to see what the roads looked like and how much improvement had been made in the use of the contra-flow lanes. Justin and Jennifer had left around 1pm and called to say they were well on their way and how to make it around some of the trouble spots. Unfortunately my helicopter is in the shop for its routine maintenance and so we still have to use ground transportation. (That’s a joke, a joke. Ah say, it’s joke. I love the rooster cartoon)

Lucy was beginning to get a worried look on her each time the weather man pointed out the level of sustained wind, even with the storm going on a projected path off to the east by a hundred miles these winds would be around 80mph or more for several hours. Lucy was ready to mount up and ride. I, on the other hand had observed some of the local low life going down the middle of the street on a slow walk; as if they were taking inventory of which homes to come back to later on. There we were loading up our vehicles and they smiled as if we had been added to their list of places to shop with the five finger discount card. I took some of the items out of Lucy’s car and put them back in my truck; I was staying, hell or high water, maybe both.

Lucy and the ladies from church are 3 hours into the trip. She called me on the cell phone a few minutes ago to let me know that she had made it to Brookshire and was pleased with the use of gasoline enough to continue on to San Antonio. I’m listening to
Simon and Garfunkle; just a little louder since Lucy isn’t here to turn it down. I cleaned my pistol and have it hanging on my side; something I haven’t done since I retired. It would be a real shame to plant one of my neighbor’s kids for breaking into my house and have to clean it all over again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It’s Tough Being an Adult

"Put me in coach, I'm ready to play", Creadence Clearwater Revival.

Bonnie is up in Chicago this week on business and called Saturday to let me know she had two tickets to Wrigley Field to watch the Astros play the Cubs this Friday and would I like to fly up and enjoy the game. She has all kinds of sky miles and so getting a flight was not an issue. With one arm being leveraged behind my back I reluctantly agreed to force myself into having to attend a baseball game.

I also have a jury summons for this Thursday morning and will attend to that responsibility. There’s only a limited chance of being picked to actually sit on a jury; maybe it has to do with my attitude. I try to remain distanced while pulling on the starter cord of my chain saw every now and then while the lawyers ask questions relevant to being picked. “Guilty! Have they started the trial yet? I’m sorry, I thought you were pointing to me.”, the low idle of the chainsaw gurgles and sputters.

I had planned to hop an airplane to Chicago later on Thursday where Bonnie would meet me at the airport and we could have a neat Father/Daughter date. The hotel she is doing work for has her in a suite and there would be no need for me to get a separate room. I even went out and bought an outrageous Astros jersey to wear to the game; something to endear me to all those Cubs fans, it’s in the washing machine now.

That all changed this morning when I turned on the news to watch the latest developments on Hurricane Rita, now a Level 4 storm with sustained winds clocked around 135mph. Rita is headed for the Texas coast, somewhere near Matagorda Bay, south and west of the Houston area by only a short distance. The severity of the storm, regardless of where it hits, will mean that travel in and around the Houston area will be limited at best by the weekend. The flight home was to have been Saturday morning; key word, “was”. I might have chanced leaving with a tropical storm or even a low grade hurricane; Lucy is pretty organized and could take care of things. I was home alone for one a couple of years back. It was no fun; the water lapping at the back of the house the storm dumped 24 inches of rain and refused to leave the area for two days. I had the towels in levee fashion all around the back door just in case, the wet dry vacuum in hand.

I called Bonnie a few minutes ago and it broke my heart to tell her that I could no longer consider the trip, dinner out and a ball game at Wrigley Field to watch my Astros beat the Cubs. The baseball season is winding down to these last few games and the Astros are contenders for a playoff spot, taking a slim 2 game margin for the Wild Card bid. I have to take care of things here at home as disaster looms off in the Gulf. I would feel awful were I to be sitting in my seat watching the game while Lucy had to take care of any emergencies that propped up as a result of the storm. I’d choke on one of those hot dogs, smothered in sweet onion relish, a long home run leaving the park onto Waveland Avenue, the ivy clad walls having no hold on Ensburg’s next swing of the bat. I wonder; is it too late to call Bonnie back, maybe she hasn’t canceled my flight yet. It’s tough being an adult.
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Saturday, September 17, 2005

If you have nothing better to do...

With all the serious stuff that needs to be taken care of, I thought you might enjoy something a little bit less intense. Have you ever wondered what goes on after you shut down for the night and your computer sits back in power saver mode? You do not need to be over 21 to click on this link. Thanks to Richard Sutton who sent this to me in my email.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Small World

I got a call yesterday afternoon from a City of Humble Police Officer, Walt Evans, a small town just north of Houston. He’d been referred by a car dealerships to duplicate and program some Ford keys for undercover cars they had in their fleet. I went out there this morning and as soon as we shook hands my mind started working on where I had met him before.

“I met you over at Pye’s Auto one day.”, he told me after I brought it up.

“I know; but before that, were you ever a police officer in Houston, say way back in the 70’s?” There was something about his name that had awakened a memory of a really bad day in Houston’s history.

“Yes, but only for a while.” I was right; I had met him a long time back.

“Was it was during the big ammonia truck disaster off of the Southwest Freeway and 610 loop?” I was fishing and the fish were all lined up.

“You sure have a good memory. That was the day my friend and I had gone down to the Academy and signed up. We’d asked, “What’s the best way to see Houston, being from out of town.” The Sergeant we’d talked to at the Academy told us that we could see more if we got on the 610 loop and drove around. That’s when we happened upon the turned over ammonia truck.”

My partner and I had been dispatched to work traffic; divert it from the area as a huge cloud of poisonous ammonia gas had spread out into the valley created where the Southwest Freeway went under the 610 loop. There were many folks who never made it, having their lungs eaten out while others spent months and even years recuperating from the damages they suffered. There were tales of real heroes, folks who happened to be passing by and, without concern for their own well being, they went down to help extract drivers from cars at the edge of the cloud. I can still remember seeing how all the leaves and grass had been destroyed, leaving a perfect line to show where the cloud had rested on the ground.

Officer Evans, who had called me to make duplicate keys, was one of those heroic individuals. He was not a police officer at the time; being an applicant to the Department, and yet he had the mindset of service. We talked about the memory of that day and I was reminded that his friend, O’Connor, the one who’d applied to be an officer with him, had sustained serious lung damage from the fumes and was unable to pursue a career with the Houston Police Department.

I completed the task of programming the keys and we talked some more, bringing up names from out of the past. “Do you remember Sergeant Wingo?”, he asked.

“J. C. Wingo, oh, yea, how could anyone who’d met him forget him.” Another memory flooded my mind as the years peeled away. “I had weekends off back then and every time the President (George Walker Bush) would come home for a visit our days off would get cancelled so that we could work traffic and security. I was Scoutmaster of our Boy Scout troop at church and we had planned to leave for Summer Camp on the same day the President was to come. I asked Sgt. Wingo if he could see his way to letting me go early, seeing as how there were always twenty or so positions that were not really all that necessary, at least not in my book.

“No, and don’t ask again.” Sgt. Wingo had other things to worry about and the scouts getting up to Summer Camp was not even on his list. I was assigned to drive one of the old Harley Three Wheeler motor cycles to an isolated spot several blocks from the Bush residence. I was to park it there and look at the concrete until further orders. Several hours ticked off and I was constantly looking at my watch and wondering how I was going to keep my promise to haul those scouts off to camp.

Captain Higgins, in my immediate line of supervisors, came by in his car in an attempt to get closer to the President’s home. There was no way he was going to maneuver through all the Secret Service vehicles that took up the whole street as he eyed my three wheeler.
“Do you mind?”, not really asking as he mounted, cranked it up and drove off down the street.

Sgt. Wingo came by a few minutes later and wanted to know what happened as I explained that the Captain wanted to borrow my bike. I mentioned that I could still make it in time to help the scouts if he could see clear to getting me relieved. There was no answer as he looked over the roster of assignments.

Captain Higgins could be seen driving back around the curve toward us, a large piece of fiberglass fender hanging down on the one side. I don’t think Captain Higgins was ever checked out to ride a three wheeler and had discovered some of the handling features inherent in that monster machine. In a flash it came to me as I reached into my pocket and took out a dollar bill. Captain Higgins had an interesting look on his face as he silently tried to express what had happened to the fender.

“You were right; he did wreck it just like you said he would.” I handed Sgt. Wingo the dollar and waited for his reaction as he sucked air. I smiled and grinned as if we had actually had such a discussion, all the while Sgt. Wingo was waiting for Captain Higgins to explode. It never happened and Captain Higgins got into his car and drove off.

“Take that bike back to the motor pool and have them fix that fender; call it “old damage” and I’ll sign off on it. No need in picking up another as by the time you got back this will be about wrapped up. You might as well take off early; maybe even get home in time to do your Boy Scout thing.”

I read that Captain Higgins died not too long ago and I don’t suppose he’d be embarrassed by my having brought up the past. It was nice to have remembered so many things this morning, and all because of a couple of duplicate keys.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Who Do You Believe?

I have some knowledge of the way people react, especially to testimony or presented evidence. I also know that a good lawyer has the ability to structure questions in such a way as to elicit only that response which will aid his/her cause rather than some open ended question which might bring about the whole truth. That having been said I would make an attempt to unravel the thinking behind some of the reported “facts” as have been reported in the past week or so regarding the relief efforts along the Gulf coast.

I read Maureen Dowd’s piece (of trash) in the Houston Chronicle. It sounded more like a drug induced rant than an editorial; but what can you expect from Ms Dowd? It was interesting how she started off with a colorful description about the elderly who died in a New Orleans nursing home as a means of taking a swipe at President Bush. I was wondering, “How is this going to make the President of the United States look bad? Those who died from an “alleged” negligent act on the part of the owners and operators of that particular nursing home were not under the direct, or even indirect, line of authority springing from the White House.”

“You’re already vulnerable and alone when suddenly you’re beset by nature and betrayed by your government.”

I am not making this up as I go along, honestly, that’s the next line in Ms Dowd’s article. What kind of giant leap of logic, if logic can be applied, is required for the reader to get from, “34 in St. Rita’s nursing home”, to “betrayed by your government”? Go read the article and check to see if I accurately transferred the thought. She painted a picture of bloated corpses draped over wheel chairs waiting at the front door, waiting for help that never arrived. (waiting for George Bush to get off vacation while all those poor old people lay suffocating in putrid waters waiting to die a slow death all because he was too stupid or too lazy to do anything)

There’s a paragraph dedicated to the fact that the State of Louisiana has charged St. Regis owners with multiple counts of negligent homicide with a statement by Attorney General Charles Foti, “I think that their inactions resulted in the death of these people”. (emphasis added on inactions throughout)

In the very next breath Ms Dowd couples the inactions of a specific homicide with, “President Bush continued to try to spin his own inaction…” I now see how she has managed to manipulate words in such a way as to entangle one thought with another, one having nothing at all to do with the other unless you consider that; yes, there was a hurricane, people died and President Bush was in office all at the same time. With logic jumps like these, maybe we should just take George out back and knock the crap out of him. I mean; the heck with facts and stuff like that, my gut feeling is that his inactions must have had something to do with it so let’s just whoop the crap out of him.

I then read William Buckley’s article in which he highlighted several similar assaults on President Bush that were made by our European “friends” of the press there. I like the one by Howard Jacobson in the London Independent.

“No light of humanity in the eyes. No gravitas on the face.”
It sounded like a line from the Democratic Party’s campaign to get what’s his name, Al Gore, elected into the White House. I actually had to ask my wife for his name as I searched my memory, that’s how forgettable Al Gore must be. I remember hearing the experts from the Beltway crowd going on and on about “gravitas” and how George W. Bush didn’t have it, any, enough or whatever the proper proportion of gravitas is to “BS” as required to perform the duties of President of the United States.

Mr. Buckley did find the answers to some of my questions later in his article. He brought up some of the basic issues facing our nation, a nation that has some serious problems with communication.

“The beginning of wisdom in accosting that question is: Do you believe it? Do you believe that a helicopter looking for men and women in desperation would give preferred treatment to someone whose hands flailed for help because those hands were white, not black? No doubt that consanguinity (what a great word and one I expect he didn’t have to look up. For the rest of you dummies too lazy to pick up a dictionary; it means to be of the same origin or blood) plays a role in human affinities (that’s why Ebony magazine features black models), but it is blasphemous to suppose that organized official aid discriminated in New Orleans against blacks.”
As surreal as that may sound I have heard far too many of my fellow citizens espouse that very thought, that George W. Bush, a Republican, intentionally ignored the black community because they, the black people voted for Democrats. Other than being patently offensive to my sense of humanity in general, I found such statements sorely lacking in fact as I observed the countless gestures of relief bestowed on ALL the citizens of that area in abundance and without regard for the color of anyone’s skin or without looking at anyone’s voter registration card.. I did see quite a few horse’s asses doing the reporting and so that may have something to do with why the information was slanted.

In the rest of Mr. Buckley’s article he went back to the OJ Simpson trial and the focus was placed squarely on the race card issue. The logic he used to explain the mistrust between white citizens and black citizens might also be used to explain the hedge between Liberals and Conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans; though the two should not be confused.

“Either we share a common language and a common rational apparatus or we do not. It is a very, very scary thing when three-quarters of one ethnic group flatly disagree with three-quarters of another ethnic group about the structure of rational arguments.”
I find it something of a miracle that we have not gotten down in the streets with guns and knives to settle it all. The expressed thoughts of a few journalistic reporters who claim to represent our society and who would portray the depravity necessary for gross negligence by a sitting President to exclude the safety and well being of any portion of citizenry are inflammatory and seditious. Maybe we should take them out back and whoop the crap out of them for their out right contempt of logic, the truth and rule of law. Their actions, over an extended period of time, right up to the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina have placed us at the edge of anarchy. How are we to survive as a nation if we cannot agree to portray reality with the same language; taking into consideration that it would be ever so helpful to have facts reported truthfully and without some hidden agenda? So, who do you believe?

This is also my entry for this weeks Carnival of Liberty ( linked via title bar ) Go check out some of the great articles that have been written.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Senator Kennedy, "You’re a small man"

What has this to do with the Senate confirmation hearings?

Click on the link, Witch Hunts and Senate Confirmation Hearings Posted by Picasa

A True Blond Joke

Here's one I got from a friend this morning that needed to be shared; maybe it will brighten someone's day and take the edge off. Thanks and a tip of the hat to Ronnie White.

I was sitting in Furrs cafeteria Sunday, next to a blonde who was engrossed in her newspaper. One of the headlines blared: "12 Brazilian Soldiers Killed."

She shook her head at the sad news. Then, turning to me, asked, "How many is a Brazilian?"

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Great Weekend

Sunrise over the Atlantic Coast

Lucy and I flew out to visit my folks for the weekend. It was our combined way of celebrating our anniversary from back in July and my birthday which was Friday. We bought our airfare far enough back to where they were very reasonable and my folks supplied us with a room at the local Holiday Inn as a gift.

I’m getting to be an old pro at flying, getting to do it once and sometimes even twice a year. Bonnie, my oldest daughter must be laughing right now since she gets to fly all the time with her job. I like to fly direct from Houston (IAH) into West Palm Beach (PBI) late in the afternoon on a Saturday and then return early Monday morning so that I don’t miss too much work. We had a rental car to take us the rest of the way; a nice drive going up I-95 to Vero. It makes for a short but very intense visit with little time wasted.

We talked baseball with some fellow travelers while waiting to board in Houston. They were big Cardinal Fans, sporting their team ball caps and jerseys. As a general rule of thumb, when I see someone wearing another team’s logo I try to have some fun, “So, did you lose a bet and have to wear that cap?”, or something to break the ice. You can get away with teasing a baseball fan; football fans and basketball fans tend to rile a bit. With St. Luis having such a good ball team this year I acknowledged their supremacy and probability that they were the best in the National League and we had a good time talking about the Wild Card run; something which the Astros have a chance to obtain.

About mid flight and while the cabin attendants were pushing the soda cart past my seat, I had a huge cramp in the back of my leg, the kind that has to be worked out. The poor folks sitting in the row behind me must have thought I was having a heart attack as they both started to run their fingers over their Rosary Beads, pleading that I might be alright.
The woman patted my hand and I assured her that it was only a leg cramp. Her husband had similar features to my long deceased grandfather and he was pleased that he had caused a pleasant thought to be remembered.

On Sunday we had lunch at my folk’s house, Salmon, long grain rice and “Granny Salad”. I have no way of explaining the importance of Granny Salad other than to say it has a unique flavor; having been handed down through the family, a special mix of herbs and spices blended into a tossed green salad. My children would rather have Granny Salad than just about any food item offered under the sun. Lucy was in the kitchen trying to glean the particulars of how it all goes together; grinding the Marjoram, Tarragon and Thyme into a fine powder to be added into the oil and vinegar base. This may sound strange; but, that was my special request as a birthday present, to have Granny Salad, enough to feed a party of 8. I managed to over indulge, leaving only a small portion for Dad to finish up after we’d left.

Lucy and I don’t take extended vacations and so we treasure up those moments when we can leave behind those everyday chores. We got up before the sun and walked the beach and took several shots of the sunrise over the Atlantic. Anyone who’s been near the ocean appreciates the soothing rhythms of wave after wave relentlessly pounding ashore. It has a peaceful and yet sobering reminder of how powerful the sea is compared to our frail human bodies.

It’s hard to believe that this morning I was in Vero listening to the waves crashing and now I’m here at home having put in a day’s work after all that traveling. My guess is I will have some neat dreams to work on tonight.
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Thirty Years and 5 Minutes

I got a call today from a fellow who’d broken a key off in his ignition switch. He spoke almost no English and I had a friend of mine talk to him on the phone to figure out what was wrong, what kind of car it was, where he was and finally what the probable charge would be to repair the damage and get him on his way. I explained, via the interpreter, that it would cost somewhere between $ 75 and $ 100; just in case he needed a new ignition switch. Once that had been agreed upon I headed in his direction; only a little over a mile from my house and in some apartments behind a strip mall where I get my hair cut.

I showed up and met with the owner who’d been working hard to take the car apart. The plastic clam shell that wraps around the working innards of the steering column was sitting on the floor board along with a hand full of tools he’d used to pry at the opening of the ignition switch to get at the broken key fragment. After studying the situation for a moment I determined that I might be able to snag the broken piece of key with some “screw wire”, a simple device that grabs into the soft brass milling of the key and can be yanked out when done properly. I was right and it jumped into my hand. It looked more like a house key than a Ford key which is why he’d had the problem to begin with. He pulled a ring of keys from his pocket and found that he still had the car key after all and it still worked.

He then balked at paying me since it had only taken five minutes from the time I arrived to the time I was done. Spanish or English the body language was the same; he didn’t think he owed me anything since I’d made it look so easy. It wasn’t worth making a big deal over, not to me anyway. I took the piece of broken key and pushed it back into the ignition switch, closed my tool box and left. If my talent wasn’t going to be appreciated then he could spend the time to learn the tricks of the trade; of course it only took me 30 years to make it look that easy, 30 years and 5 minutes.

Like the punch line that went with an off color joke, one my dad used to tell, “…and that goes for the horse you came in on!” I hope he has lots of Gatorade and another ride to work tomorrow and the next day and the next day and…

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Simple Reminder from a Wise Man

I got an email from a friend, Richard Sutton, who sends out interesting blurbs all the time. Sometimes he has a joke to share, an interesting picture, puns or some one liners. It’s like having a Dutch Uncle who cares enough to send simple reminders of his having had you in his thoughts. That alone has value, to be thought of by somebody with a busy schedule and yet has enough time to jot down your name and send you an email that he thought might cheer you up, turn a gray day into a sunny day or take your mind off of the cares of the world long enough to smile.

I got one a while ago, something I’d heard a couple of times and yet there is something captivating about it, a sincere desire from the heart. We should be thinking of unity and binding up wounds, helping those in distress from all the damage done by the Hurricane. We also need to remember other more destructive times, yes, more destructive than the damage done by Hurricane Katrina.

Do you remember the Spirit that was evident all across our country in the days following the attack on 911? There were no ACLU lawyers spouting off about how wrong it was for our civic leaders to invoke the help of our God to help mend those wounds. The use of prayer was prevalent and we took full advantage of it as we resolved to be better citizens and help those around us whose lives had been turned upside down. What happened to that Spirit, that Spirit which had laid dormant and then come to life out of necessity?

A destructive wedge has been applied to our Union, one that attempts to silence our uniquely American Spirit, a Spirit that says, “We can do it; with the help of God, we can do anything!” There is an under current tearing at the foundation of Liberty. It has the appearance of being for the collective good of the group while destroying the Liberty of each individual in that group; in other words, it’s a lie. They have lawyers to advance their cause, the ACLU. They attack each and every reference to God and Christianity in order to remove it from our active society. The goal is to turn a country once dependent upon the blessings from Heaven into a godless society in which government, not God, is the source of all benefits.

The link that my friend sent me is in the title bar; one that should remind us all of how something very simple, something that even a child can understand, helps to renew the American Spirit and to make us better individuals. May God continue to be the source of our Blessings and may we as a people be worthy to receive those blessings is my prayer in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cell Phone Use in 6% of ALL Accidents

I caught a blurb of information that might be of interest; six percent of all traffic accidents are reportedly linked to the use of cellular telephone use. Those dirty rotten…; but hey, wait a second. That means that 94% of the traffic accidents were caused by folks who were not on a cellular telephone.

Hummmm….let me think about that for a moment. If we made it mandatory that all drivers started to use cellular phones then, if we used the logic of the liberal left; wouldn’t that eliminate 94% of the traffic accidents?

Seriously folks, sounds like a standup comedy set up line, I was behind several vehicles as I had to run an early service call yesterday. I suppose I should preface that by explaining that most of my work comes in after 9am and so, early for me may not be that early for most of you. I was in the morning rush hour crowd, those accustomed to parking lot conditions on the main roads.

The woman in the car directly in front of mine had it down to an art. As soon as her vehicle came to a complete, or mostly complete stop when the light turned red, she had her sun visor pulled down; not to keep the sun out of her eyes, to make use of the mirror and apply eye liner, eye lash thickener and make-up. I was tempted to tap my horn to see if she would plow into the car in front of her since she had her mind on something other than driving.

The woman in the car next to me was doing the crossword puzzle, the paper folded in such a way as to permit it to lean on the steering wheel and provided a way for her to write on it without the pen pushing on through. In marked succession they all managed to move forward when the light changed. The slightest movement of fenders alerted them that it was time to temporarily postpone the rituals of preparation and attend to driving, at least for the next minute and a half when it would all be repeated.

I have an idea; put some kind of scrolling bar into the window systems of the newer cars. The information could be generated automatically to the rear and side windows much like the ticker information for the Stock Exchange. “Please honk when light turns green”, or, “My insurance company? New York Life, why do you ask?”, and so on down the line. There could be a chorus line mixed in, “My Cell Phone number is 555-1212”.

There could be a similar scroll bar system used by Type A drivers; one that would spew all the magical promptings toward other drivers. “Hey, you turkey, the gas is the one on the right!”, “I’m sorry I honked, I had no idea it was your first day to drive”, “I know you’ve got a license; but, from which planet did you get it?”. Yes, I can see there’s a need for such a product. “Hey, try doing your check book at home!”, “Green means go here, same as back home!”

So, there you have it, six percent of all accidents are related to cell phone use while all the rest have some other lapse of thought involved. “Try looking up once in a while. I know that’s a good book, I read it too, jerk face!”

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Here am I send me

"Here am I send me", the message on a young woman's T-shirt said so much.

We spent the evening at church putting together Hygiene Kits to be delivered to the Astrodome where the folks are being temporarily housed after having fled the floods of New Orleans. They are in need of so many of the basics that it’s hard to grasp the many needs being worked on. My heart swelled with pride to see so many of the young people in our church volunteer their time after school and well into the evening hours; opening boxes of tooth brushes, boxes of towels and unwrapping each bar of soap so that there would be little if any to discard once it arrived at the Astrodome.

I got lucky and remembered that my digital camera was in the car. I snapped a few pictures as the process was winding down. We had put together approximately 2000 individual kits, something which we had better get good at because this looks to be one of those kind of things that will be long term.

I have no way of expressing the good feeling that were shared as we stood around a table and unwrapped bar after bar of Ivory Soap, stacked and taken to the next table where each bar was wrapped in a small face towel to be then be placed into a zip lock bag with all the other items. We joked that we were looking for the one with the Willie Wonka Golden Ticket hidden in it; our fingers covered with soap film as we discarded the wrappers. I look forward to rubbing shoulders with these fine young people, the best examples of how the next generation will take on these great challenges of being ready to serve in times of need.

“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”. Mosiah 2:17
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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Eminent Domain - Update New Orleans

There is a rumor going around Hollywood that Kevin Costner has filed to have New Orleans classified as “condemned property” in order to purchase the entire city. It was all part of a film sequel, “Water World 2 – Kyoto’s Revenge”, set in the remnants of a once thriving metropolis left to ruin after green house gasses finally melted off the polar ice packs and flooded the world. Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco is scheduled to hold a press briefing regarding completion of the sale. Arlo Guthri is said to have filed a protest to that sale on the grounds, submerged as they may be, that he wrote a song about the demise of the City of New Orleans many years earlier and should have first dibs.

It couldn’t be any worse than the first one, the movie that is. Production is set to begin next week which is why so many extras will have the opportunity to be in the film. “We’re looking for the lowest forms of humanity, those who seem suited for living in squalor and their own excrement, some of these folks won’t require any acting skills, wardrobe changes or makeup.”

There is a source, possibly the one who used to call Dan Rather with trustworthy information, who said that the CIA has documented evidence that the breech of the New Orleans levee system was a direct result of militant Muslim terrorists. According to the information, a yet to be released video filmed by tourists who got lost looking for the French Quarter, filmed a large group of foul smelling men wearing sheets wrapped around their heads; all of them urinating on the same part of the levee just prior to its giving way. When asked why all of them had the letter “K” embroidered on their matching robes these visitors to the South had assumed that it meant something in Arabic.

A nice way to finish up the week

It’s been busy around our house this week as we get ready to redecorate our bedroom. We bought a fancy sleep number system bed to take the place of a waterbed and it will arrive in two weeks. We figured while we had the chance we would replace the carpet, paint the walls and put up some kind of new window covering. It took all of four hours to drain the waterbed so that it could be taken apart and hauled out so that my son could have it. Most of our bedroom furniture is now in the garage with the exception of one huge oak desk that will be moved out the double doors of our bedroom on the day the carpet gets installed. If it rains that day I’ll throw a tarp over it until the carpet is in.

Lucy and I bought window covering stuff, they used to be called curtains or even drapes; but these are layered and have specific names so I’ll just call them window covering stuff and let Lucy enjoy knowing more than I do. Saturday night dates are much different when you are in your 50’s than when you’re in your teens; a nice dinner and then off to the grocery store, Wal-Mart and home by nine.

I posted a couple of blogs over at Liberty Letters this week; mostly having to do with the aftermath of the hurricane. I find myself looking into the darker corners of my own warped mind in one I called “Is there a Mr. Hyde in You?”. My own sweet wife was wondering out loud if maybe, just maybe New Orleans could use a character like the one in the movie, Death Wish; a person who could wait in the shadows and take out the rift raft.

In another post, “Idle hands are the devils instruments”, I asked why those who have taken shelter here in Houston’s Astrodome, why can’t those that are able help with some of the more mundane tasks; food line service, cleaning or babysitting so that others could.
I only brought it up because of the never ending requests for help from our community, help which seems to have no limits, at least not yet.

I had one of my “rambling rants” going as I asked, “What’s your mindset?”. I think I may have answered one too many spam phone calls, the last one came in the middle of a job that required all of my attention and then some. A couple of years ago I found that my answering service had been charging me for each and every spam call that came in; I can hang up on them just as easily.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Don’t get Scammed

I know there are some big hearts looking for a way to donate funds to help in the relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. Please remember that there are sharks in the Gulf waters and just as many on dry land.

I heard a reminder, something that would be well to remember, to donate to organizations that have a long track record of actually being responsible with the funds. Do not fall for door to door collections, telephone solicitations or e-mail solicitations from professional sharks intent on getting your money for their own personal use.

The legitimate organizations, The Red Cross being the largest that comes to mind and donations made through your local church are the best way to insure that donations actually are directed toward those in need.

In a related thought, each year around Christmas time when the shoppers downtown were eager and ready to spend I would make the same police report, and I mean every year. An older couple would walk into Foley’s, a large department store here in Houston, and walk around in the television department. They would be waited on by a salesman to purchase a large television that they had saved all year for, cash in hand because they didn’t believe in going into debt. The salesman would write up the sale, hand them a receipt and instruct them to head on down to the “Customer Pick Up Window” where they could have the television loaded into their vehicle.

A couple of hours of waiting for their name to be called; holding the receipt in hand they would walk up and request a manager to check on the progress and ask why it had taken so long. The manager would look up the deal, questions asked over the phone with the television department and finally it would be found out that no such transaction had ever taken place; at least not rung up on any of the registers. Every year a slick scam artist would show up looking like any other salesman; his ability to pick just the right target and his intestinal fortitude to pull it off as he pretended to be a member of the staff was all he needed to swindle hundreds of dollars in cash from the unsuspecting and disappear in a heart beat.

Make your donations out in the form of a check or use your credit card as you donate for these worthwhile charities. Cash is great to have around; just use a little common sense when handing anything over to someone you never met before.

Something to think about

Resourse Survey Form

My wife is the preparedness specialist around here and this would normally be something that she would post on her site. She was busy until late last night with some of our church leaders going over our local preparedness issues so that we, as a group of civic minded church going folks, might be able to tap into the resources already available to help those who desperately need help now and to update this information for future needs.

One of the forms that came across our computer via email last night is called the Ward Resource Survey, a form that is supposed to be filled out by each member of the Church so that our Ward leaders will have an idea of who to call on when the need arises and, who will have specific items without having to wait or purchase these items when in all probability such items will no longer be available due to conditions out of our control.

While I’m at it I need to thank Brother Beattie for taking the time last night to go through his files and locate this particular form.

My suggestion is to copy the form and fill in the blanks. The information could be shared with your local Civic Club, Neighborhood Watch Program or even local School Board. This would all depend on how large a community is involved. The idea being that the responsible members of the community are the ones who are already involved in planning and carrying out community service; how much better could they be of service were this information available in time of emergency.

I have a warning to go along with such information gathering so that the paranoid members of society know that I haven’t forgotten them. Some of the information on this form is sensitive and, in the wrong hands, could be used for evil purposes. “Ah, so old Bill down the street has a new chain saw; think I’ll wait till he’s off to work and relieve him of that.”, or, “I didn’t know good old Bill had any guns; thought he was a geek.” You can see the need to have this kind of information in the hands of Responsible folks.

I wonder how many of the blanks could be filled in by those standing around waiting to be helped, those who have lost all their material belongings may not be aware of the talents they take with them, the hidden talents that might be of service if only someone in a position of authority was aware and could tap into those talents without having to wait for help to arrive, if it ever does. I’ve given you something to think about; more importantly, something to do.

I have linked to a favorite LDS Hymn, "Have I Done Any Good" (via the title bar). I recommend listening to it under the option "words and music"; it sounds plain cheesy with just the music. Just in case you get the impression that all I do is think of nice and wonderful things to do for my fellow human beings, put a fresh table cloth on and dust furniture; here's a link to another piece I posted.

If you have trouble reading the information on this form, click on the picture and it will permit enlargement. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fish or Cut Bait

I watched as thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina stood around waiting to be rescued from New Orleans. They had nothing, no food, no water, no proper shelter and they were sitting around on the streets to be evacuated.

I think it would be much better to have the food, the water, temporary tent shelters with proper toilets, shower facilities brought in for these folks. Set it up as if it were a military operation and enlist those who are victims to help rebuild and assist those who cannot do for themselves. The quicker a person starts to help others the quicker he or she will shed the feeling of being a victim. I know that they have been through a terrible ordeal; but leaving New Orleans just so that someone else will come to take his/her place is not the answer.

These folks have to find the pride of community from within or they will be victims the rest of their lives, regardless of where they get shipped off as a temporary means to lighten their misery of the moment. Those who can work should be helping now; get them some food, some fresh clothing and start them back on the road to being part of the solution instead of being poor helpless victims with nothing to do but wait.

We have the means of providing military drops in war zones; I see no real difference in the logistics. Send in the advance personnel to receive these supplies, to prevent looting of them and to supervise the new found “troops” already on the ground and waiting to help. Those who don’t wish to help, fine, get to the end of the food line. Those who don’t want to help, fine, get to the end of the temporary shelter line. Those in need of immediate help should have already been identified; the infirm, the aged, the small children. It’s time to fish or cut bait.