Thursday, June 29, 2006

Big Dog

Every once in a while I have a chance to work near or around dogs; not a big deal most of the time since I’ve got a couple myself. I’m aware that dogs are territorial by nature and so it makes a difference on whether the dog is on his own property or just roaming around loose.

I had to make keys to a Buick Regal this afternoon, one that had been towed in on a wrecker and parked in the field behind a small car dealership. No sooner had I parked my truck to begin work when another fellow drove his trunk up and pointed to a trailer that he wanted to hook up; I needed to move up and give him enough room and then get back to my own job.

I made the door key and it worked fine. The ignition used a double sided key with a VAT chip, something that would take a bit more time. Tim, the owner came walking back, happy that I’d made progress as he stood next to me, making small talk and trying to make some kind of point.

“Dogs don’t bother you do they.” He said, half way between a question and a statement of fact. “You parked much further back than I thought you would.” Tim had once been a police officer and he was trying to tell me something, his quiet manner not much different than usual as I looked around. I noticed a cable that lay on the ground that disappeared from view as it went under a truck parked off to the side.

“No, dogs and I get along most of the time.” I looked a little closer and saw the shape of a nose, a rather large nose in the shadows under the truck. His watch dog was content to let me work as he slept in the 90 degree mid day heat, tucked away in the cool shade provided by the truck.

“My Rottweiler is kind of picky about letting anyone back here.” I glanced at the length of cable and calculated that it would not have made any difference; the car I was working on was within reach regardless of where I’d parked. I continued working and kept an eye out for movement under the truck. I decided to back my truck up, mostly to make my friend Tim feel better.

“If he bites me it’ll show up in the final bill”, I joked knowing that I was already going to make a good bit on VAT key job.

The Rottweiler came over and wanted to see what was going on, giving my leg a sniff and taking note of some residual odor from my dogs worthy of a second sniff. Satisfied that I wasn’t a bad guy the dog returned to the shade and I completed the job, the only sweat produced was from the heat of the day, not from worrying about the dog.

I ended up having to remove and repair the ignition switch; there were a couple of bent wafers preventing it from working properly. Once those damaged parts were replaced it worked the way it was supposed to.

I remember having encountered big dogs while working as a police officer. One evening my regular partner and I were walking past one of the blue and whites parked on the hill behind the police station on our way up to the office. The back window was down, something which should have alerted us as we casually walked past. From the back seat all we could see was a dog with huge jaws snapping out a warning as our confidence level fell off the scale. “So that’s what the K-9 units look like!”

We made a burglary of an auto parts store one Sunday on the near East End of town. The bad guys had taken a parking meter and heaved it through the front window to gain entry. Upon arrival we made some quick observations, the first was that there was no way we were going to be able to enter the store; a black German Shepherd had taken up a position where the post lay inside the broken window. We tried to contact the owner; but he was unavailable. We ended up leaving the building, “Turned over to guard dog”.

While working night shift patrol I got a call on a residential alarm at the back of a subdivision. Another two man unit checked by and we noticed the tall fence with a sign, “Beware of Dog” as we carefully looked for signs of forced entry. We scanned the back yard with our flashlights but couldn’t see any dogs as we continued looking the house over for signs of entry. The two younger officers walked around the other side of the back yard while I took the side nearest the garage.

I stopped long enough to recognize a large rectangular “doggie door”. I saw something move in the darkness of the opening, a dog’s head about the size of a basketball. It was a Rottweiler trying to figure out who was in his back yard. He wasn’t sure if we were good guys or the bad guys, at least there was a puzzled look on his face, his head taking up most of the doggie door as he peered out at us.

“Big dog.”, I exclaimed in a carefully measured announcement to the officers who had already put themselves in a corner on the wrong side of the yard. I noticed their flashlights as they found the target I’d highlighted on the back of the garage. We all walked to the gate and exited without the dog ever leaving the safe confines of the garage.

The last dog story I’ll share happened on night shift in front of a nightclub that had caught on fire ( set on fire to collect on insurance as it later turned out ). Several police cars arrived before the fire department because it went out as an alarm. When the fire trucks needed to get closer we all moved our cars out of the way; all except the K-9 unit officer who was on the far side of the building.

One of the rookies noticed the keys were in the ignition switch and volunteered to move the car across the street. We all watched in amazement as he opened the door, cranked it up and completed the self imposed assignment; never once noticing the huge police dog in the back seat. The dog must have been as surprised as we were; he never growled or snapped those very efficient jaws. God must watch out for locksmiths, cops and especially for rookies..

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

O lny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.

A slpecal thnsak adn a tpi fo the hta fro Bircks Cronib

cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy,

it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot sl peling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs psas it on !!

Press Stiffs Limbaugh Over Viagra

How far into the cesspool of life does the news media want to go with their war against Rush Limbaugh? Regardless of your like or dislike for the popular radio talk show host’s positions on political issues; does anyone really believe that the public needs or wants to know about Rush having a bottle of Viagra in his suitcase?

“WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) -- Rush Limbaugh was detained for about 3 1/2 hours at Palm Beach International Airport after authorities said they found a bottle of Viagra in his possession without a prescription.”

{. . . }

“A doctor had prescribed the drug, but it was "labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes," Roy Black, Limbaugh's attorney, said in a statement.”

I’m aware of the recent drawn out prescription drug fiasco that Rush went through, something which would point a spotlight on any suspected violation; but really now, Viagra? This should give Jay Leno and the rest of the stand up comedians enough material to raise their ratings; what, maybe six inches. The drive by media doesn’t need Viagra; all they need is to hear the name Limbaugh. Isn’t there a warning, something like, “For erections lasting over 4 hours seek immediate medical help”? In the case of the drive by media, I’d say they have exceeded that 4 hours; Get Help! Let the puns begin…

Monday, June 26, 2006


I learned a new slang word a few minutes ago, a slang used in the UK. The word is Minger. So, what’s it mean?

The answer is too good not to share. A minger is someone who fell out of the ugly tree at birth and hit every branch on the way down. Here’s a picture that was found next to that definition; former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright.

(Click title bar for link to urban dictionary)

On a similar vein; did you hear about the couple who were having financial problems at home? They decided that they could cut back on some basic items and get through it. The wife suggested that the husband stop buying beer, something which would save them quite a bit.

A week went by and the husband saw a receipt for cosmetics and make up that totaled to over $ 65. He thought that was a lot of money that could be saved if she did without.

“I buy all that make up so I can look nice for you, dear.”

“That’s what the beer’s for!”

Needless to say that was not a good reply…
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What’s a hirabah – the answer

I wrote last week about the misuse of the Arabic language ( linked via title bar ), specifically the term hirabah.
I took this picture of a hairball my cat let loose of a while ago; as you can see, there’s not much difference between a hirabah and a hairball. The scuzball on the right had planned to become a suicide bomber, notice the vest of explosives strapped to his chest, but got taken out by one of our marksman; just a typical innocent civilian casualty murdered by our troops as John Murtha would say. I think the one on the left might be John Murtha.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Had to Shave Twice to Cross Texas

I’m constantly amused, possibly amazed at some of the interesting thoughts which are brought out in my church meetings. I should explain that I’m not referring to the regular worship service, although the same would apply there also; but to the smaller planning meetings held in the Bishop’s office. Be assured that I’m not planning to discuss the private nature of those meetings, something which would violate a sacred trust; simply some of the ideas which are expressed that indicate how human we all are.

We start each meeting with a prayer and a reading from the scriptures followed by a brief discussion of how that particular scripture came to mind. I’m the executive secretary for the Bishop so I’m the one who types up the agenda and so I’m the one who assigns who gives the opening prayer and assigns someone to pick a scripture. I try to make sure that everyone gets a turn as the meetings are held each week throughout the year.

This morning Roger Lyon had the responsibility as he picked a pair of verses from the Book of Mormon. He waited for us as we all turned to Mosiah, at the end of chapter 4 in verse 30 where he began to read:

“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”

Roger continued in the next chapter in verse 2:

“And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

I listened to an interesting story about the first time Roger had to drive across Texas, starting in El Paso as he’d traveled eastward toward Louisiana. “I had to shave when I left and then again before I got out of Texas.”, indicating just how big Texas is. The point being that just because he did the right thing in the morning, shaving, that didn’t mean he could kick back and say, “I did it”. Roger explained that he had to do the right thing each and every day, just like he had to shave every day.

I think he caught us all a little off guard as light laughter accompanied his wonderful explanation of the scriptural application for the verses he’d chosen. Our mortality is a string of pearls; each moment, each event, each day all put together until we reach immortality at the other side of the grave. We are obliged, having been given the truths found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are obligated to live those truths

I could have ended my thoughts right there and been satisfied; however, there were additional thoughts shared through out the day which added dimensionally to that original idea of having a mighty change wrought in our hearts and of doing good continually. Are you ready, here it comes. . .

Bricks Corbin was visiting, as he does once a month to check on my family’s spiritual and temporal needs. He brought with him a prepared lesson on “agency” as it related to the misunderstanding and application by a good number of well intentioned people.

“I have my agency, my free will”, many will say as they choose to indulge in “pleasures”, some of which, if not all of which are inherently bad choices. We got into a discussion of the nature of “agency” and agreed that without a firm grasp on the concept of pre-mortal existence, mortality and the promise of life in the eternities; that a limited understanding of that agency provided to each of us could be perverted.

I use the word perverted because working in conflict of God’s will is a perversion; to say that your “agency” permits or even promotes the notion that man can or should chose to do that which God has declared or made known as a poor choice, more especially, working against your own knowledge of what is right or wrong, having an understanding that the life of each of God’s spirit children from the pre-mortal, through mortality and on into that state of eternities which we all must surely achieve, that is not the intended meaning of agency.

I went back and read that last sentence; I think I said it right, I hope I said it right. We enter into covenants with our Father in Heaven, it is that way from our very beginning and will always be that way. In our pre-mortal existence we were in attendance at the “meeting” where various plans for mankind were placed on the table.

One plan, the plan that Satan pushed for, had Satan in charge of mankind to insure that each and every mortal soul would return to Father in Heaven; however, his plan did away with the agency of man to go astray, to “do as he pleased”. The other plan, the one that two thirds of the host of heaven agreed to go with was the one we have in place. It provided that man would enter mortality with all the pit falls, the poor decisions, the chance to get lost for all eternity. It also provide for a Savior, the means by which the fallen could be saved by the grace provided by an atonement, the perfect gift offered by a perfect being, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. One third of the hosts of heaven were thrown out for rebellion against God, Satan’s followers.

“And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power ; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; (
D&C 29: 36 )

I will include a block of reference material with links that provide a more inclusive overview:

Of every tree thou mayest freely eat,
Gen. 2: 16. Man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed, 2 Ne. 2: 15-16. Men are free to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and death, 2 Ne. 2: 27. Ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves, Hel. 14: 30. A third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away because of their agency, D&C 29: 36. It must needs be that the devil should tempt men, or they could not be agents, D&C 29: 39. Let every man choose for himself, D&C 37: 4. Every man may act according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, D&C 101: 78. Satan sought to destroy the agency of man, Moses 4: 3. The Lord gave unto man his agency, Moses 7: 32.

The agency described, while permitting wrong choices, did not place a stamp of approval on such wrong choices as being acceptable in the sight of the Lord, it merely acted as a means of separating those who would freely chose to follow the Lord from those who had the propensity to follow some other path, that same path which led a third of Father’s children away before they even achieved mortality. For man to achieve and to excel it also must be that man can fall or fail; without the opportunity to make those choices there can be no progression in the eternal scheme of things, that great plan of salvation which we all agreed to prior to mortality. Agency permits us to regain that association with our Father in Heaven through obedience, quite the contrary of that definition espoused by pseudo-intellectuals reluctant to embrace the truths taught in the Gospel of the Lord.

“And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Doctrine and Covenants 130:19-21

Mortality may seem like a very long trip, one which requires us to “shave” more than once to get through, as my friend Roger pointed out. We are here for the briefest of moments in the eternal sense. May we be engaged in doing good continually, may we apply the agency that God provided in such a way as to be in compliance with those covenants we made with Him, that we may achieve all that we are capable of and receive those eternal blessings which we are promised contingent on our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel is my humble prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Hurricane season - an exciting time to be in Houston

A tip of the hat goes to my friend Richard Sutton for sending this in my email.

To: ex-Houstonians, present Houstonians, and future Houstonians or those who know a Houstonian:

We're about to enter the peak of the hurricane season, which starts June 1 and ends November 30. Any day now, you're going to turn on the TV and see a weather person pointing to some radar blob out in the Gulf of Mexico and making two basic meteorological points:

(1) There is no need to panic.
(2) We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in Houston. If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the possibility that we'll get hit by "the big one.'' Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

STEP 1. Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days.

STEP 2. Put these supplies into your car.

STEP 3. Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this sensible plan. Most people will foolishly stay here in Houston.

We'll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:

HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE: If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home meets two basic requirements:

(1) It is reasonably well-built, and (2) It is located in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, if your home is located in Houston, or any other area that might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance business in the first place.

So you'll have to scrounge around for an insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to the replacement value of your house. At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss.

Since Hurricane Alicia, I have had an estimated 27 different home-insurance companies. This week, I'm covered by the Bob and Big Stan Insurance Company, under a policy which states that, in addition to my premium, Bob and Big Stan are entitled, on demand, to my kidneys.

SHUTTERS: Your house should have hurricane shutters on all the windows, all the doors, and -- if it's a major hurricane -- all the toilets. There are several types of shutters, with advantages and disadvantages:

Plywood shutters: The advantage is that, because you make them yourself, they're cheap. The disadvantage is that, because you make them yourself, they will fall off.

Sheet-metal shutters: The advantage is that these work well, once you get them all up. The disadvantage is that once you get them all up, your hands will be useless bleeding stumps, and it will be December.

Roll-down shutters: The advantages are that they're very easy to use, and will definitely protect your house. The disadvantage is that you will have to sell your house to pay for them.

"Hurricane-proof'' windows: These are the newest wrinkle in hurricane protection: They look like ordinary windows, but they can withstand hurricane winds! You can be sure of this, because the salesman says so. He lives in Nebraska.

"Hurricane Proofing Your Property: As the hurricane approaches, check your yard for movable objects like barbecue grills, planters, patio furniture, visiting relatives, etc.; you should, as a precaution, throw these items into your swimming pool (if you don't have a swimming pool, you should have one built immediately). Otherwise, the hurricane winds will turn these objects into deadly missiles.

EVACUATION ROUTE: If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying area, look at your driver's license; if it says "Houston" you live in a low-lying area.) The purpose of having an evacuation route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits.
Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees. So, as a bonus, you will not be lonely.

HURRICANE SUPPLIES: If you don't evacuate, you will need a mess of supplies. Do not buy them now! Houston tradition requires that you wait until the last possible minute, then go to the supermarket and get into vicious fights with strangers over who gets the last can of SPAM. In addition to food and water, you will need the following supplies:

23 flashlights. At least $167 worth of batteries that turn out, when the power goes out, to be the wrong size for the flashlights.

Bleach. (No, I don't know what the bleach is for. NOBODY knows what the bleach is for. But it's traditional, so GET some!)

A 55-gallon drum of underarm deodorant.

A big knife that you can strap to your leg. (This will be useless in a hurricane, but it looks cool.)

A large quantity of raw chicken, to placate the alligators. (Ask anybody who went through Alicia; after the hurricane, there WILL be irate alligators.)

$35,000 in cash or diamonds so that, after the hurricane passes, you can buy a generator from a man with no discernible teeth.

Of course these are just basic precautions. As the hurricane draws near, it is vitally important that you keep abreast of the situation by turning on your television and watching TV reporters in rain slickers stand right next to the ocean and tell you over and over how vitally important it is for everybody to stay away from the ocean.

Good luck and remember: It's great living in paradise! Those of you who aren't here yet you should come. Really!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Walking Lightly

I was planning to mow the yard today, maybe later if it doesn’t rain anymore. The ground has been soaking up all the rain we’ve had this past week and I noticed when I picked up the morning newspaper my foot was sinking into the yard. If it dries out I will get the edger and lawn mower so the yard will look nice for the weekend, if not, it will keep ‘till Monday. This had nothing to do with gaining weight or anything; the ground is wet so I have to walk lightly.

I wrote earlier this week that I’d
purchased some music via the iTunes store; but some of the pieces I’d wanted were unavailable, at least through that venue. I have a Laser Disk version of the Tchaikovsky Gala in Leningrad, a celebration that would have marked his 150th birthday were he to have lived that long. There were some awesome performances, the kind that I’ve listened to over and over as the years have past. I thought it would be nice to have them on my computer/iPod and so I began my search only to find that iTunes didn’t have them. They didn’t have the Led Zeppelin single I wanted either; but that I can get later.

I went to and found the Tchaikovsky recording on CD, used but in excellent condition at a very reasonable price. It came today and I’ve added it to my MP3 collection. I have it playing on my main stereo in the den as I write, pushing the music all around the house loud enough to create the illusion that the orchestra is live while Lucy is out shopping and doing some errands. I have Yo-Yo Ma playing Variations on a Rococo Theme; possibly the finest single performance I ever watched or heard, truly hypnotizing as he nearly makes love to his cello.

One of the other great performances on that CD is the 1812 with a surprise near the end; something which would be missed had I not watched the performance. There were additional pieces added to the brass section, members of the Russian Military Band, waiting until just the right moment as they sat quietly in the alcove above the performing orchestra, as if they were simply observers. As the music bolted through to the ending sequence their added zeal was inspiring, the cannons outside the hall timed to go off with the music along with the church bells ringing from all across Leningrad.

When I went out to retrieve the mail and noticed that my copy of the CD had arrived, the ground was attempting to dry out, maybe by sundown I will get the chance to mow. I called my folks; my mother had returned from a trip to the local Walgreen’s, something which amused her no end. She found the isle, the one I call the Tourist Trap; T-shirts, pink flamingos, and all manner of novelty items that have “I went to Florida” stamped or painted across them. She spotted a pair of sandals, the kind you’d wear to the beach; wild pink and green flashes of color that she wanted.

“You don’t try on sandals at Walgreen’s”, she explained, the little plastic loop that hold the pair together along with its price tag make it awkward. She made her purchase and took the sandals home, keeping the receipt in case they didn’t fit. She walked across the tile floor and noticed, all of the sudden, that the sandals were emitting flashes of light with each step. Their cat, Max, got down low and was uneasy as the light show continued with each step. It seems that mom had purchased a pair of children’s sandals, the kind that illuminate as the weight of the child comes down on contact points in the heel so that they can be seen while walking at night. That tickled my mom’s fancy; to think that such things actually have been made, that she had never noticed light up sandals or sneakers before was an eye opener.

It’s getting close to the part in the 1812, almost there now, the part where the Russian Military Band comes in…oh that’s almost more than I can take; exquisite blending of the brass that powers down to the climax.

Lucy and I love to attend the 4th of July performances at the park. Many times they’ve played the 1812 as a closer for the show, fireworks going off with the timed cannon discharges. Maybe I’ll find me a pair of light up sandals to wear this year; "glow in the dark light up when I walk sandals" so I can see, or be seen, where I’m going, that would be interesting.

Boudreaux’s Conversion

I got this in my email from a good friend, Steve Sanders; a little humor might make somebody’s day go better.

Boudreaux, a Cajun highlander from Rapides Parish in central Louisiana, was an older, single gentleman, who was born and raised a Baptist, living in South Louisiana.Each Friday night after work, he would fire up his outdoor grill and cook a venison steak.

Now, all of Boudreaux's neighbors were Catholic... and since it was Lent, they were forbidden from eating meat on Fridays. The delicious aroma from the grilled venison steaks was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their priest.

The priest came to visit Boudreaux, and suggested that Boudreaux convert to Catholicism. After several classes and much study, Boudreaux attended Mass... and as the priest sprinkled holy water over him, he said, "You were born a Baptist and raised a Baptist, but now you are Catholic."

Boudreaux's neighbors were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived, and the wonderful aroma of grilled venison filled the neighborhood.

The priest was called immediately by the neighbors and, as he rushed into Boudreaux's yard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped in amazement and watched.

There stood Boudreaux, clutching a small bottle of water which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat, and chanted: "You wuz born a deer, and you wuz raised a deer, but now you a catfish."

Let it Rain

My locksmith business was under the weather this week, literally. It rained so hard on Monday that Houston made the national news, almost as if the pre-hurricane season needed a scoop to get the machinery lubricated. It happened again on Tuesday, buckets of rain mixed with plenty of lightning and thunder. A friend of mine’s house was struck by a lightning bolt that blew a 5 foot hole in the roof; fortunately the house didn’t catch fire. Another friend of mine had a huge tree blown over on top of his wife’s new car; that made the news while the lightning strike didn’t, go figure.

In between the rain drops I did manage to run a few calls for service. I made keys for a Ford Focus at one of my regular stops. The sun had come back out and turned the rain into steam; perspiration poured down my face so fast I had trouble keeping my glasses clean. Anyone who’s ever made keys for a Focus will admit, unless they lie a lot, that it can be a challenge getting the ignition cuts just right. I spent a little extra time to make sure the key was perfect prior to cutting the transponder keys and programming, no sense in wasting expensive keys. The fellow in charge of the small car dealership, Steve, signed off and I handed him the keys so I could get to my next job before the next set of thunder showers hit.

Steve called about twenty minutes later while I was finishing up a recode on a Tahoe door lock, “Hey, did you have any trouble opening the trunk on that Focus; maybe having to jiggle the key or bang on the trunk?”

“No, the keys worked fine and I opened the trunk and checked the keys in both doors; everything was fine”. It was still a Ford Focus, so maybe “fine” was a poor choice of words. Steve went on again that he was having trouble opening the trunk so I told him I’d swing by and see what the problem was; making sure I took care of my customer as if he were the only one I had.

Steve was at lunch when I visited so I had his second in command fetch the set of keys and try them. I still had the mechanical key I’d used to determine the final cuts and it worked the way it should. I had him try his keys and they also worked smoothly, no jiggling, no need to pound on the trunk deck lid or anything like that. We looked at each other and wondered how come Steve was having a hard time.

“You tell Steve that I had to work on the trunk lock for about an hour before I fixed it.”, grinning at the excessive lie when we both knew that there had been nothing wrong with the key to begin with.

That was Wednesday, and then Thursday morning I got a call from Steve asking me to check the trunk lock on that Focus again. I explained that I’d dropped by while he was at lunch and could find nothing wrong; but that I had a job down the street and so it would be not trouble to stop by once more. I began to scratch my head, trying to figure out what he might be doing to have such a problem.

Upon arrival, sounds like one of my old police reports, I noticed the trunk deck lid was open on the Focus. I had also been asked to open up one of the “junkers” that was intended to go to the auction, one where both door locks had been destroyed and fixing them would have doubled the value of the car; that kind of “junker”.

The fellow washing cars on the line watched as I applied my skills in short order and remarked that I could be a heck of an auto thief. I asked him to keep quiet about that, “Please don’t tell my parole officer you saw me doing this.” I know, professional locksmiths aren’t supposed to taint the waters, get over it.

Steve happened to ask what was wrong with the trunk lock, one that he never could figure out how to open. His second in command reminded him that the keys to the burgundy Focus were different than the keys for the black Focus; trying hard to suppress a deep belly laugh. I hadn’t planned to charge him for the needless trip, call it public relations or any number of things. I make plenty enough from that account without having to worry about something simple getting in the way.

I did pretend to write up a work order, pausing to ask, “How do you spell IGNORANT?” as I let him know that I had stopped by, not once, but twice because he didn’t have sense enough to look at which set of keys went to that particular car.

I ran a few more calls before the afternoon storms hit. I made sure that the last call, a simple recode of a door lock for a Toyota 4-Runner, was at the end of my travels. I pulled my service truck inside their shop when the rain began to fall, occasional blasts of lightning all around with heavy wind.

The few miles home were exciting, if not hazardous. Water was flowing from off the side over the curb where a bunch of new homes were being constructed, as if it had breeched the top of a spillway, running down Kuykendahl like a river on my way toward FM 1960.

I read an interesting article by a fellow who goes by the name “Individ” where he went about explaining the term “Jup Pluvius”. I thought it would be a neat way to end my story, let it rain; and anyway, the Astros have a roof over their baseball field.

What’s a hirabah?

My cat was in distress the other day, heaving and convulsing until at long last she was able to cough up the offending mass. I had always called that mass of slime a hairball; something so putrid that even my cat’s intestines couldn’t tolerate it and that’s saying a lot. I now know that my ignorance of Arabic was to blame; it was a hirabah, must be my East Texas accent or something.

A tip of the hat goes to Dave at Dave’s Not Here for his article, “Read Carefully”. Rather than destroy it, I have posted it in its entirety. I know it would be too much to expect the “drive by media” to pick the proper terms for our enemies; heck, they still have a problem with the basics, like Terrorist-Good/Bush-Bad.

Read Carefully

Below the fold is an explanation of why we should not call al-Qaeda members jihadis or mujahid. This is a very important discussion, so read carefully.

Loosely Interpreted Arabic Terms Can Promote Enemy Ideology,
By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, June 22, 2006 – The pen is mightier than the sword, and sometimes in the war of words we unwittingly give the advantage to the enemy.

In dealing with Islamic extremists, the West may be giving them the advantage due to cultural ignorance, maintain Dr. Douglas E. Streusand and Army Lt. Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV. The men work at the National Defense University at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C.

The two believe the right words can help fight the global war on terror. "American leaders misuse language to such a degree that they unintentionally wind up promoting the ideology of the groups the United States is fighting," the men wrote in an article titled "Choosing Words Carefully: Language to Help Fight Islamic Terrorism."

A case in point is the term "jihadist." Many leaders use the term jihadist or jihadi as a synonym for Islamic extremist. Jihad has been commonly adapted in English as meaning "holy war." But to Muslims it means much more. In their article, Steusand and Tunnell said in Arabic - the language of the Koran - jihad "literally means striving and generally occurs as part of the expression 'jihad fi sabil illah,' striving in the path of God."

This is a good thing for all Muslims. "Calling our enemies jihadis and their movement a global jihad thus indicates that we recognize their doctrines and actions as being in the path of God and, for Muslims, legitimate," they wrote. By countering jihadis, the West and moderate Muslims are enemies of true Islam.

The men asked Muslim scholars what the correct term for Islamic extremists would be and they came up with "hirabah." This word specifically refers to those engaged in sinful warfare, warfare contrary to Islamic law. "We should describe the Islamic totalitarian movement as the global hirabah, not the global jihad," they wrote.

Another word constantly misused in the West is mujahdeen. Again, in American dictionaries this word refers to a holy warrior - again a good thing. So calling an al Qaeda terrorist a mujahid legitimizes him.

The correct term for these killers is "mufsidun," Streusand and Tunnell say. This refers to an evil or corrupt person. "There is no moral ambiguity and the specific denotation of corruption carries enormous weight in most of the Islamic world," they wrote.

People can apply other words instead. "Fitna/fattan: fitna literally means temptation or trial, but has come to refer to discord and strife among Muslims; a fattan is a tempter or subversive," they wrote. "Applying these terms to our enemies and their works condemns their current activities as divisive and harmful."

The men also want officials to stop using the term "caliphate" as the goal of al Qaeda and associated groups. The Caliphate came to refer to the successors of the Prophet Mohammed as the political leaders of the Muslim community. "Sunni Muslims traditionally regard the era of the first four caliphs (A.D. 632-661) as an era of just rule," the men wrote. "Accepting our enemies' description of their goal as the restoration of a historical caliphate again validates an aspect of their ideology." (emphisis added)

The men point out that an al Qaeda caliphate would not mean the establishment of just rule, but rather a global totalitarian state where women would be treated as chattel, music banned and any kind of difference severely punished. "Anyone who needs a preview of how such a state would act merely has to review the conduct of the Taliban in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, 2001," they wrote.The correct term for the al Qaeda goal is global totalitarian state - something no one in the world wants.

Finally, the men urge Westerners to translate Allah into God. Using Allah to refer to God would be like using Jehovah to refer to a Hebrew God. In fact, Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the God of Abraham. Using different names exaggerates the divisions among the religions, the authors say.

The men have launched an education effort. "Our work is an attempt to educate the interagency community about the challenges of communication with Islamic audiences," they wrote in answer to written questions. "Our particular effort is in its infancy, but is showing some level of success."
Scholars at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College use the essay in class, and the Marines are using an earlier version of the essay as part of their lessons-learned Web site. The final version of the essay is on the National Defense University's Center for Strategic Communications Web site.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New Tunes on the iPod

I bought some airline tickets on Continental and got 10 “Free” downloads from the iTune store. I don’t buy a lot of music, at least not via the iTune store; preferring to purchase them on CD and then transfer it to my computer/iPod. The last time I wrote about this was about a year ago ( linked via title bar) and I had only 4 songs that I’d bought through iTunes; I’m up to 20 now, counting the 10 I just added.

Here’s my Purchased Music Playlist:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Take Me On – Ah-ha
If You Go Away – Neil Diamond
Is That All There Is – Peggy Lee
Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers
Haven’t Got Time for the Pain – Carly Simon
Frankenstein – Edgar Winter Group
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin *
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence
I Like to Move It – Crazy Frog *
The Most Beautiful Girl – Charlie Rich
Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin
The Power Of Love – Huey Lewis and the News
I Want a New Drug - Huey Lewis and the News
The Heart of Rock & Roll - Huey Lewis and the News
Gloria – Laura Branigan
Every Breath You Take – The Police
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics
Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In – The 5th Dimension
The Lady In Red – Chris De Burgh

There were a couple of songs ( * ) that were picked by my daughter that would not have been on my list. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, by Dean Martin was okay; but not as good as my choice with Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence. Then there’s, “I Like to Move It”, from the kids movie, Madagascar, which my grandchildren think should be the all time number one hit recording of all time.

I found a common thread with most of the tunes, not all, but most are intended to be played loud. Maybe it’s because I’m half deaf or maybe that’s why I’m half deaf from playing loud music; doesn’t really matter. If I can get the sheet rock bending with the sub-woofer I have it just about right.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Really Bad Head On Crash

I read the CNN website coverage of a terrible accident ( linked via title bar) in Idaho.

“A man transporting his wife's severed head in a pickup truck collided with an oncoming car, killing a woman and her 4-year-old daughter, police said. The impact sent the head flying onto the road.”

According to the article a Boise police officer was following the suspect's vehicle and noticed “erratic driving” prior to the wreck. Maybe the suspect was having an argument with the severed wife’s head, maybe little voices were going off in his own head or he was on his way to go bowling and realized, “Hey, that’s not my bowling ball!”

Retired cops have a damaged sense of humor, not much different than when they were working the streets. It comes out as irreverent and cold hearted to an unsuspecting public. Off color jokes are part of the defensive mechanism that makes it possible for cops, regular human beings subjected to some horrendously ugly situations, to get past the ugliness long enough to get the job done.

The suspect, Alofa Time, was arrested and charged with 2 counts of second degree murder for the deaths in that accident; heads up police work and a job well done. An autopsy will be performed on the decapitated body of the suspect’s wife, Theresa Time, found at their residence inside the garage and sitting in her car.

Wouldn’t it have been something if Alfoa was on his way to Scarborough Fair to enter the Herbal Seasonings competition, a tray with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Time on the front seat of his vehicle; “She once was a true love of mine…”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Simple Proof

I had a conversation with my mom the other day after their maid service had been by. Once a week these folks dust, clean windows, vacuum and clean the bathroom making life for my parents so much easier. Mom was impressed when she went into the bathroom, noticing that the toilet paper had its last square carefully folded to a point much like you’d find it at a nice hotel.

I reminded her that after the maid service leaves that she has to go around leveling all the pictures in the house; another observation she’d brought up in previous conversations. I explained that it was the maid service making sure that their actions had been noticed; the pictures must have been dusted because they’ve been moved slightly, the windows were cleaned because there were fresh towels in the trash that smelled of ammonia and the bathroom was taken care of because they took the time to fold the toilet paper and so on.

If I were in charge of the cleaning crew I’d have to give them a passing grade for leaving so much proof that the job had been done thoroughly; enough for the paying customer to make such remarks. Mom listened, marveling at such a simple and yet convincing thought process, a means to an end.

Years ago while in police school I was taught how to take a suspect's statement and to have that statement typed up for the suspect to sign for the purpose of having it entered into a court of law as evidence. I was further instructed to include some typographical errors scattered in the middle of those typed statements so that while the suspect was reading, prior to signing it at the bottom, those errors could be pointed out and initialed by him/her. Often times a suspect or his lawyer would claim that he/she’d signed something without reading it; the suspect’s initials next to those typographical errors in the middle of the statement would be a clear indication that he/she had indeed read that statement, enough to have caught the errors; proof that it had been read.

When I’m working on an old GM steering column, one that has signs of abuse or damage I make sure the customer is present while I point out the damage, things that were broken or damaged prior to my working on it. This applies to taking apart door panels or just about any conceivable aspect of the locksmith business. I’ll ask questions that would remind the customer; causing them to exclaim that he/she knew that the horn hadn’t worked in years, the turn signal indicators hadn’t been self canceling in a while or that there was considerable “play” in the column due to some existing damage. After the completion of the job I’d list whatever damage I’d pointed out earlier and have the customer sign off, an acknowledgement, proof that he/she had been aware and to lessen the chances of false accusations later on.

This isn’t fool proof; but it does make for good habits. If you conduct yourself in a similar fashion, each job documented with the same eye to detail, the result will be a clear mind, one that, without hesitation, can state the conditions of each and every job without having to “wonder” or count on memory.

I had a young woman call me the other day claiming that the key I’d cut for her car didn’t work. It turned out that I’d worked on her car six or seven months earlier. I couldn’t help but laugh at the prospect of her sitting, cooped up in her house for all that time, not being able to go anywhere, to work or the store, without calling me right away, “Hey, come back, this key doesn’t work!”

It reminded me of the old story about the Crusades; maybe you’ve heard it before. The brave knight sitting on his horse all decked out and ready to leave in search of the Holy Grail; saying good byes to his family and friends as he heads down the long dusty path. He’d given his best friend the key to his wife’s chastity belt, to guard that prize which above all else he treasured. The brave knight had only gone a hundred yards when he heard his friend shouting, “Hey, this key doesn’t work!”

I explained to the young woman that the key I’d made, the key I’d handed her; worked just fine. I reminded her that prior to my accepting payment I’d made it a point, as I do with each and every job, to have her try the key herself. I use the line, “You’d better try it, I’m a magician”, or some other corny phrase to prompt the customer into testing my finished key. It’s a way to “close the deal” and put their stamp of approval on the job. I’m starting to suffer from CRS and this simple habit also makes sure that I don’t drive clear across town, only to discover that I never gave the key to the customer, sounds silly; I bet it never happened to anyone else either.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Which one’s Jesus?

My four year old grandson went to church with us this morning, reverently quiet while sitting on my knee and observing the proceedings. He folded his arms and bowed his head during the prayer, attentive to what was being said; including his, Amen, as the congregation added their own. We broke for our secondary meetings, Sunday School and Primary for the children; it was then that I discovered his keen interest had a purpose.

“Which one’s Jesus?”, he asked, having given a cursory glance at most everyone who might be considered possible candidates; our Bishop, his counselors and those sitting at the front of the building. We are, after all, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; so , “Which one’s Jesus” would be a reasonable question.

I love the simple logic children express as they strive to understand the complex, their simple expectations of how this world works. I marvel at the lessons I learn the older I get, the opportunity to understand the scriptures.

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.” Matthew 18:1-5

May we live our lives in such a way as to have some four year old consider the possibility, remote as it might be, that he might be in the presence of the Lord is my humble prayer. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Are We Fully Ripe With Iniquity?

We, as Americans, no longer pray in public gatherings; public schools and their associated sporting events, we no longer acknowledge the Ten Commandments in public places for fear of upsetting the godless, we no longer define morality in terms which might offend those who stand in open rebellion to that God who is the Author of our liberties; by definition, are we fully ripe with iniquity? I delight in the run on sentence; there must be a Welshman in my ancestry, my words flow as poetry, one after another without end, without interruption or ending punctuation, until the thought has run its course.

In an interview with Robert Bork published in Meridian Magazine last year, Maurine Proctor reminded everyone, “The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Tuesday that the state cannot deny gay couples the right to marry, which flies in the face of the gay marriage initiative defeated just last year by that state’s legislature. Once again the courts have snatched the voice of the people, overriding it for their own version of social progress.”

Later, while answering questions regarding the cultural war which has torn our nation apart, Robert Bork answered, “Antipathy toward religion. The biggest divide between so-called intellectuals and everybody else is on religion. They are indifferent to or very hostile toward religions. It is perfectly clear and has been spelled out in Philip Hamburger’s book Separation of Church and State. There is no possible ground for this wall of separation, but the court moves ahead obliterating religion from the public square.. Religion accounts for civility and self-restraint in our society, which is vanishing as religion has been marginalized and pushed to the sidelines of the debate. The Supreme Court has played a large role in doing this.”

This past week we have seen the Senate vote down a constitutional amendment on marriage; some claiming that it is not in the interest of our nation to deny individual rights to certain segments of our society (voters), or to impose morality on a diverse people (voters), to open the door to further constitutional amendments which would address topics such as divorce or military service.

Quoting from an article written in The Hill, by Carrie Sheffield, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid protested against the amendment, “Will it next be to constitutionally dictate the cause of divorce or military service or even what America’s religion must be?” Reid said on the floor. “The reason for this debate is to divide our society, to pit one against another. This is another one of the president’s efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract and to confuse America.”

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Reid is a member, issued a statement of support for the amendment and urged its members to contact their senators about this week’s vote”, again, quoting from Carrie Sheffield’s article. Harry must have left his phone off the hook, or maybe he was out bar hopping with Ted Kennedy, another fine example of the Christian faith; a Catholic “in good standing”, as they exemplify their courageous stand on abortion and same sex marriage. If their holding to the teachings of their respective religions is any indicator of their honesty and diligence to serve the American public which elected them; then it’s no wonder why we are in the state we are, a sad empty husk that at one time resembled a Christian nation. Maybe I should start my antagonisms and direct your attention to the ACLU; no, wait just a little longer.

“I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Reid said on the Senate floor during debate on the amendment; that was just before he voted against the amendment. Wait a minute, that sounds exactly the same as another Senator, John Kerry, “ I voted for the military expenditures just before I voted against them…”; yup same waffling, different Senator.

I find it interesting that Harry still considers himself to be a member “in good standing”, speaking as a fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I would hope that we, collectively as Americans, are all a "bit frightened" as we come to the realization of how far we as a nation have fallen from what is expected of a God fearing people. The distortions Harry brought up regarding the amendment are from the Senate floor and from the activist judges intent on destroying the fabric of our nation, not from the President; at least when referring to the marriage amendment. The President and the Senate; working in combination to distort and confuse the public regarding the issue of illegal immigration and border security, maybe that was what Harry was talking about.

Is it any wonder that our leaders in Washington; the Supreme Court, the Senate and the House of Representatives reflect the path which we as a people, a people who have come to define our greatest legacy as “diversity” rather than our collective and united efforts to be, first and foremost, worthy to call ourselves children of our Father in Heaven, desirous to submit to His laws? Is it any wonder that such leadership cannot bear the thought of standing as a unified body politic to proclaim our desire to serve the Lord? Politically correct has replaced being correct; how unfortunate for us all.

One way I have found that is nearly fool proof, a litmus test if you will, is to look up the ACLU’s stance on important moral issues; whatever side they take will, as a rule, be in direct conflict with what the Lord would have us do. These are the folks who made sure that prayer was not to be found in public schools, that Nativity scenes are no longer permissible in public squares. These are the folks who fought hard to insure that abortion was a “woman’s individual right”; something which our Supreme Court claims they were able to pull from wording within the Constitution. These are the same folks who have organized all the gay and lesbians to oppose a constitutional amendment which would define marriage, clearly and definitively, as between a man and a woman only.

If you look up the purpose of the ACLU, you’ll find that its primary goal is to remove religion from America and to replace it with Communism. Hey, Harry, is that a temple recommend or your ACLU membership card? It looks like the ACLU, with the help of the Supreme Court and the Senate, have been successful on many of their agenda items.

Are we fully ripe with iniquity yet? Have we fallen so far from the level of Christian morality, once expected and now removed from view, that God will remove His blessings, blessings which have provided us with prosperity, enough that the world is envious and would have us loose at any cost? Have we gone past that point, instead being in open rebellion to God and worthy of being cursed, to have our enemies overtake and remove us from this land of promise? What, you’re not aware that America was set aside as a land of promise?

I am submitting this as my entry to the Carnival of Liberty, sponsored by Life, Liberty and Property. The remainder of this article will be direct references from the Book of Mormon. If I haven’t dented your thoughts up until now; you might as well leave, it only gets deeper.

“But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them” 2 Nep 1:10

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
2 Nep 2:27

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” 2 Nep 2:13

“Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law” How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man. Now, if there was no law given – if a man murdered he should die – would he be afraid he would die if he should murder? And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature? But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted
which repentance mercy claimeth: otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed and God would cease to be God.”

“But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement, and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.” Alma 42:17 – 23

“And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.” Ether 2:9

“And thus the Lord did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands; and he commanded that whoso should possess the land should possess it unto the Lord, or they should be destroyed when they were ripened in iniquity; for upon such, saith the Lord: I will pour out the fulness of my wrath.”

A Chance of Showers

My friend Jahn had something fun on his site, something worth borrowing so more folks could enjoy it.

This is the kind of stuff that should be at the Academy Awards under "short flicks".

Edited after posting:

When I was a little kid I would go to a small shopping center at the edge of my neighborhood to the candy store located at the end of what we would now call a strip center; passing the local tavern to get there. I only mention this because after having posted this wonderful short film I noticed that there are some rather crude links off to the side which I had not paid any attention to prior to posting. I knew that, as a little boy, it was okay for me to go into the candy store and to stay out of the tavern even though they were in close proximity; I would extend that lesson to apply here as well.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Time Outs

My grandson spent some time in the “time out” chair after he snuck into my room and devoured several pieces of candy that he knew he was not to touch. I called him over to look at the empty foil wrappers that he’d left on the floor; his eyes unwilling to meet with mine for having gone against my wishes. Fifteen minutes later he’d served his time and it was only by chance that his mother happened to call and ask what kind of day he was having. I thought it a bit unfair for him to relive the trauma by having to explain why he was sitting in the time out chair, his whole day shot to pieces twice in just a few minutes.

My daughter sent me some really neat looking pictures a while ago, a chance for me to take a “time out” from being an adult. I highly recommend that you click on the link I’ve provided in the title bar, put those tax forms or the balance sheets away or what ever it is that proves your old enough to smoke or drink or work long hours. It’s amazing what kind of an attitude adjustment can be brought about by just a few minutes in the time out chair. Do it now.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ownership Rights and Music

Dignan wrote an article ( linked via title bar), "The Music Industry is in its Death Throes", and explained that the entertainment industry is working to have a piece of legislation that would redefine ownership rights, quoting his opening lines:

“SIRA fundamentally redefines copyright and fair use in the digital world. It would require all incidental copies of music to be licensed separately from the originating copy. Even copies of songs that are cached in your computer's memory or buffered over a network would need yet another license.”

“The Betamax Case”, Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984) is a good reference point, one which is constantly being challenged. I had this particular decision explained, by a friend who happened to teach law to “eager young minds”, in the most basic language available, how that court case defined the lawful expectations of ownership as pertain to copyrighted materials such as books, music and movies that are distributed for sale.

As I was explaining, several years ago I learned quite a bit about the Betamax Case. I was visiting with my friend the law professor after church; excited about having been able to download an audio book from the internet for a very modest charge so that I could listen to an audio book. I thought it would be a neat way to expand my library. It was at that point my friend explained the finer points of “ownership”. I found that I really didn’t own the audio book in that particular form, that I only had permission to listen to that book as he began to unravel the intricacies between “permission to use” and true ownership.

He explained that if you purchase a book, you own that book; comparing the idea of checking a book out from the library as opposed to going into a book store. If you use the library’s copy of the book, it remains the property of the library whereas if you go to the book store and purchase the book it becomes your property. You can lend it to a friend by handing it to them, you can, if you so desire, sell it later on after you have enjoyed it.

He then added other forms of created and copyrighted items that were covered under that same thought process. If you purchase a CD which contains either a collection of music or an audio book, the same ownership rights exist as a result of “The Betamax Case”. You have the right to make a copy of that information for safe keeping, to guard against loss or damage to the original or even a copy to share with members of your immediate family in the lawful use of your ownership of that purchased recording.

The line in the sand which violates the ownership rights is crossed when you make additional copies and give them to friends for the purpose of avoiding additional purchases which would deprive the artist of his/her royalty interests. In that case you would be considered a thief for having stolen income which would have been achieved through that same market which permitted you to obtain your product copy.

There is an entire generation of people, young and old alike, who fail to comprehend; either through ignorance or willful neglect of an established moral code of ethics, the concept of artists having justified expectations to profit from their creative efforts; instead, believing that such creative efforts should be free to anyone capable of recording that creative effort, regardless of the source.

You might recall the brewha created by the Napster crowd, which promoted the premise that anyone hooked up to the internet could “borrow at no charge” copyrighted material because at least one person hooked up to the internet must have purchased the material or it would not be available. The abuse of “sharing” amounts to wholesale theft of copyrighted material because it clearly violates the limited ownership privileges which had been defined by the courts. In case you missed the point, creative people who invest their working hours and produce a definable work deserve to be recompensed for their efforts by those who enjoy the fruits of that labor.

It’s been over 20 years since the issue of copyright royalty ownership hit the courts. Regardless of how the legislation’s wording ends up in its final form, it will end up in the courts once more. This might be a good time to check the oil, clean the windows and check the air in our tires as we, a nation of individuals with varied considerations and expectations, consider what value should be placed on ownership; after all, the Supreme Court recently explained that ownership of land, once thought to be an individual right, has been turned over to local governmental agencies via the use of Eminent Domain. I look forward to our brave new world, don’t you comrade?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Wake Me Up From This Bad Dream

Saturday morning I attended some classes to comply with the “Regs, Rules & Records” which govern those who make a living as locksmiths here in the once great state of Texas. I must satisfy the arbitrarily derived compulsory continuing education provisions to maintain my occupational license which permits me to provide locksmith services to the public by completing a certain number of mandated hours of training, at least one hour of which is Ethics, taught by an authorized State instructor.

I signed up for the Ethics class, along with the “Regs, Rules and Records” class, to have a better understanding of the those folks who are a part of the Department of Public Safety called the Private Security Bureau (DPS/PSB) who hold all the strings to my livelihood, strings which did not exist until a couple of short years ago. I've linked (via the title bar) to an article I wrote and posted last year, "Business Licenses - Jump for Joy".

The instructor, Bonnie Brown Morse, was a pleasant person with hands on knowledge of both the locksmith industry, being a co-owner of a locksmith business, and the workings of the ever expanding bureaucracy which I have identified as the DPS/PSB. I might add that any anger which might seem to be generated here is not intended as an indication of her ability to explain the material in a professional manner; for the information presented I extend my thanks for a job well done. There were fourteen licensed locksmiths in attendance. While listening I noticed that we were given a revised history of how the DPS/PSB evolved; I say revised history because some information had been altered ever so slightly in order to give the impression that locksmiths welcomed the introduction of the legislation which now governs each and every facet of business.

I felt my blood pressure reach the boiling point when I was told that I should be glad to learn how the “Regs, Rules and Records” affected my business, that I was part of a group which had asked the State of Texas to become involved in the licensing of locksmiths, as if the law, as written, was the same piece of legislation that had been worked on and agreed upon. by the locksmith industry here in Texas. I know, I should have kept quiet, remained seated and bit my lip just once more; that’s just not my style, sorry.

I had remained silent as the scriptural account of “going the extra mile” was given, a chance for locksmiths to not only accept the shackles of servitude which had been placed on them by the State of Texas and the DPS/PSB; but to find ways to get along better, make life easier for everyone, be a happy family. Maybe that sticking point had something to do with my blood filling the veins in my neck. The hot button that was engaged is tied to the analogy, for the first mile, we are reminded that we have lost our agency, we are no longer equal citizens; but instead are no better than conquered subjects.

In case you’re not familiar with the biblical story; Roman soldiers had the power to enlist anyone to carry their pack as they marched through an occupied territory; crucial to understanding what has happened. Those enlisted would have to comply by carrying the soldier’s pack for the distance of one mile regardless of the inconvenience or disruption to his daily strivings to obtain a living. According to the scriptures a person who desired to have the proper spiritual attitude, a change of heart toward their enemies, as instructed by the Lord Himself; volunteered his servitude for an extra mile, even though such was not mandated. Where was I; oh yes, I was supposed to be glad that the State of Texas was now in control of each and every aspect of running my business.

It is true that many locksmiths, particularly in the Texas Locksmith Association, of which I was a member many years ago, had a committee which worked out a detailed piece of legislation addressing several important issues which would protect the locksmith industry and promote a more professional image to the public by dealing with unscrupulous “fly by night operators” who prey on an unsuspecting public. In order to do so it was agreed that some form of licensing would be necessary, a borderline insult to those locksmiths, the fierce individuals who operate independently within the free market system..

We were told by the Texas Locksmith Association legislative committee that it was an “acceptable” compromise of individual liberties and measures which would limit the public's exposure to criminals passing themselves off as locksmiths. That agreed upon piece of legislation was thrown in the trash at the “11th hour” in favor of a corrupted version put together by the Alarm and Security industry’s powerful political group, a tyrannical manipulation of words and intentions we now are shackled with. I refer to the Texas Occupation Code or, as it has come to be called, “1702”.

I went back and read the scriptural reference, not just the line about going the extra mile; but the next several lines. Quoting from the Bible, Book of Matthew, chapter 5 and starting with verse 39:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Maybe I’m a bit twisted; but the gist of that scripture along with the course instructor’s admonition to “go the extra mile” leads credence to my notion that I am dealing with the enemy, not some organization with friendly intentions. I have two issues to deal with now; the first would be on the temporal plain, of being able to continue in my locksmith business, to comply with whatever Lilliputian bureaucratic “Regs, Rules and Records” that the DPS/PSB decides to saddle me with. I am, after all, the bread winner of my family with the responsibility to obtain a satisfactory income, one that will provide for those necessary debts, items of indulgence and security that will last through our life here on earth.

The second issue is a little more complicated, one of those spiritual requirements found in that same grouping of thoughts provided in the scripture I quoted. If you read the last few lines I think you will see what I mean.

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

I know that the DPS/PSB are not my friends, they are in fact the enemy. I am aware that I have not entered into any arrangement with them voluntarily; having been forced into subservience through the actions of corruption in government by those seeking power. In case you haven’t been paying attention; we went from being citizens to subjects without one shot being fired. We have lost yet another small portion of those liberties which were granted to every citizen by the Founding Fathers of our nation when they declared to the world our inalienable rights, given to us by our Creator. Those who fought so long ago to obtain for their posterity a country which valued the grand concepts of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness never considered that freemen would yield to tyranny without a fight.

My mother had a saying that she’d use on us. It was reserved for those times when we were behaving at a level that did not meet with her approval. She’d make sure she had our attention, our faces within close proximity, “I’m smiling; but I’m not happy. . .”, letting her voice trail off to emphasize that in only a few short moments she was capable of lashing out with untold anger, anger that was currently under control.

To those playing with the strings which control my business, strings which rightfully belong to me and me alone, the folks who are the DPS/PSB, I will continue to comply, to jump when you say, “frog”, to balance myself upon the wire and last but not least, may we be clear on this one thought, “ I may be smiling; but I’m not happy.”

I intend to use this article in the next Carnival of Liberty published through the blog association of Life, Liberty and Property. It is my hope my words ignites a spark of anger sufficient to be regarded by those who would trample on God given individual rights with impunity.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Locksmith Tricks

I used to enjoy watching the Johnny Carson Show and Ed McMan with his exaggerated style of introducing Karnak the Magnificient, his all inclusive impossible summary of abilities, “Everything you could ever want to know about. . .”, prior to handing off to Johnny, “Wrong,. . . Oh, Master of Metamucil”, rolling his eyes while hesitating a half moment as he flashed a boyish grin, pulling an extra laugh from the audience.

The State of Texas has mandated locksmith licensing along with mandatory continuing education to guarantee that Every Locksmith is Qualified to Handle Every Possible Situation that might arise. The public knows this and so it really doesn’t matter which locksmith they call. Every locksmith is just as good as the next. Yea, right…

I regularly get calls from potential customers explaining in a worried voice about a lost set of keys. I could silently nod my head, not that they would see, take down the necessary information, quote them a price to get them on their way; Or listen to what is being asked for; that takes a little more effort. They don’t just need a replacement key, they need somebody to help make them feel better about being such a dummy; to pull that off takes more than basic locksmith skills.

I like the way Jim Reed would respond when somebody told him they’d lost a key. “Great!”, sounding like Tony the Tiger, “Now I’ll be able to make my car payment this month!”, or some other outrageous remark catching them off guard. He wouldn’t give them time to dwell on what he’d said, following it with an apologetic laugh to let them know he was only trying to lighten up the moment with a joke.

Years ago I installed deadbolts, before I decided that working on cars was what I enjoyed the most. I would take all the measurements, drill the holes as the customer went about pretending that they weren’t interested in my drilling holes in their house. I’d stop suddenly, a panicked look on my face and blurt out, “Oh no, This Was the right door you wanted the deadbolt on, right?” The blood would drain from their face as their eyes bugged out. I’d laugh, a hushed “getting into trouble kind of laugh”, smile and wink at them so they’d know I was just messing with their brain. The air would return to their lungs as they remembered that I was indeed working on the right door. It’s called having fun, something that will provide future customers as they go about telling their friends what a great job and how professional you were. Did I mention that it’s important to do a great job too?

Most locksmiths can read a key’s profile to produce a working key. I do it all the time when opening a locked vehicle. ( As a side note; it’s important to make sure that the lock you are about to bypass actually belongs to the person asking you to apply your magic tricks. Get some proof, a driver’s license, an insurance card with a matching name along with the VIN to satisfy yourself prior to working. )

Sometimes the keys are hanging in plain sight and with a little effort the information can be had. I have one of those neat little ocular tools which permits me to magnify the image, a real help for my aging eyes.

I was reading the profile of a key inside an old Chevy truck, the customer and his friends keenly watching my activities; they’d expected me to use a Slim Jim or some similar opening tool. It dawned on me that I was on stage, “performing”, the spot light aimed, the audience hushed in eager anticipation. Maybe I should sell popcorn at intermission.

“What’s that thing do?”, he pointed to my fancy little magnifier. I was reading a rather worn original six cut GM door key at the time.

“Oh, on the side of original GM keys they’re imprinted with an invisible key code. This thing has infrared filters so I can read those codes.” You’ve got to have some fun and it extends the mystery of the locksmith profession.

The most fun I had on a lock out was on a similar set up. Upon arriving I was able to read the door key without making a big deal of it; the cuts were so clearly defined as to make it child’s play. I walked to the back of my truck, clipped a key and the thought occurred to me; have some fun, the job’s as good as done. I took a second key from the rack, a blank and showed it to the customer.

“These are made out of some kind of fancy alloy material designed by NASA. I got them at the locksmith convention last month and I’ve been waiting to try them out; you’re my first chance to see if they really do work. They’re supposed to cut themselves right there inside the lock.”

“No way!”,( I’ve intentionally omitted the all too common expletive between No and Way!”) an incredulous facial expression on his face, half believing it might be true while discounting such a possibility as totally unbelievable BS. I palmed the blank and in its place I inserted the already cut key.

“It takes a couple of minutes for the chemical reaction to work”, looking at the time and standing back away from the car, as if the heat might be too intense.

“That won’t damage my paint job or anything, will it?”

“No, at least that’s what they claim.” After a couple of minutes I went over and tapped on the key to “set the cuts”, I think that’s what I told him. “It should be done now”

“No sense in me doing all the work” as I guided his hand toward the key. He cautiously touched the key to make sure it wasn’t hot. The key turned effortlessly in the lock to his surprise. He withdrew it, studying the perfectly cut key in amazement.

“Damn! I hope only locksmiths can buy these fancy keys!”. I never did fess up to what I’d done; that guy could pass a lie detector test. I hope the next locksmith is up to the challenge, has a box of those self cutting NASA key blanks ready; a Slim Jim just won’t be near as professional.

Edited July 22, 2006

This article was published in ALOA's Keynotes, July/August edition; a little bit of a surprise when I opened my magazine this afternoon and saw it listed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


One of my favorite radio shows comes on each weekday afternoon at five minutes ‘till four, John Lienhard’s Engine’s of Our Ingenuity. Today’s show, CRYPTA NAPOLETANA, caught my attention as the subject of ancient tunnels and the imagery links them with dark subjects, the netherworld and the Devil. I’ve linked to the episode (via the title bar) which will also permit you to listen to the five minute reading.

At the end of the short presentation was something which I had not expected, even more riveting than all that had been brought out before:

“Whether we explore a cave or catch a subway train, we never do quite shut out the memory of Orpheus, or of the Sybil telling Aeneas,”

... The way to Avernus is easy;

Night and day lie open the gates of death's dark kingdom:
But to retrace your steps, to find the way back to daylight --
That is the task, the hard thing.

The poem written in ancient times is as true today as it ever was. While we are yet alive so many folks wonder about the state which must come to all mortals, death and the unknown land below the surface. There are those, in times past, who built coffins with a string attached to a bell above the ground, just in case they’d been buried alive or had come back to life, so they could alert those passing by of the situation; “to find the way back to daylight”.

How much different is that than those who have lost their way, spiritually? Those wretched souls who wander about, still living and yet emotionally dead, having lost a hope in themselves for having transgressed the laws of God, believing that they can in no wise be redeemed from their sins.

The Gospel teaches that Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, that he took upon himself the sins of the world and that if we will repent of our sins, that they will be washed away as if they had never happened, permitting us to return to our Father in Heaven, “to find the way back. . . That is the task, the hard thing”.

A special thanks to John Lienhard at the University of Houston for being interested in the way inventive minds work. It is my hope that those who are struggling with their demons, large or small, will find encouragement in these words, enough that they too may find the way back.

First Day of Hurricane Season

I never can remember the catchy little word play, “From April Showers, May Bring June Brides” or something like that. My guess is there should be a lot of soggy Brides this year. It’s been raining here since Sunday with a few breaks just so we can get out to the mailbox. I posted a picture of the most current radar image, courtesy of KPRC and their fancy machine. It looks much like yesterdays, which was a carbon copy of the day before.

We bought some inexpensive solar lights to line the walkway to our front door. They came two per box so we put three on each side, evenly positioned where they could collect the sunlight by day and highlight our home by night. I put them in on Memorial Day, right after I mowed and edged. There hasn’t been enough sun to charge up their batteries; maybe sometime in the Fall I’ll get to see what they look like when they’re on.

I got my latest copy of Keynotes in the mail; with all this down time from the rain I got to read it all in one sitting. They published another of my blog articles (linked via title bar); how about that, two months in a row.

I better get back on line; looking for a good price on a boat on eBay, one that will hold all of my family along with two of each animal and enough food to get us to the top of some mountain until the waters retreat. Those pesky Llamas are into the dog food; I better finish up.
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