Wednesday, April 30, 2008

News at Eleven

Here in Houston there was a police chase which lasted almost an hour, crossed several freeways and ended in the suspect being shot dead, apparently after reaching for one of several weapons in the vehicle. Any confrontation which leads to a police officer shooting is tragic and results in considerable scrutiny from both the internal mechanisms of the Department and the news media.

The shooting death of a man who, from all accounts, might have been some kind of Federal agent makes yesterday’s twisted turn of events the stuff which Hollywood makes movies out of. There is nothing to confirm Roland Vincent Carnaby was actually working as an operative, “The CIA told KHOU that Carnaby was not an employee of the intelligence agency.”

I watch lots of movies and the CIA never admits that one of their folks is actually employed; they were fired for this that or the other, may have acted in a temporary capacity or some other form of plausible deniability which would sever any official link to a member caught in an unfortunate situation. What’s that line used in every Mission Impossible, “…in the event of capture the agency will disavow your employ; this tape will self destruct in five seconds.”

If you see smoke coming out of your computer in the next second or so I would seriously consider a quick exit, never mind turning off the lights as they are wired to six pounds of C4. Heck, just sit there and enjoy the last ride; you never had a chance the moment you sat down and activated the switch located in the seat cushion.

My remarks may appear callous and somewhat irreverent; call it twenty years of working the street as a cop if you like; but I guarantee I’m not the only one scratching my head wondering why an alleged agent of the federal government wouldn’t have simply shown the officer his identification upon being stopped in the first place or, if the situation required, sat quietly and let the cop write him a ticket, taken him to jail if need be to lend credence to his under cover character.

There was a line near the end of the Houston Chronicle article which sums up my thoughts, “I can't fathom any reason why he would be running from the police because he is the police,” There has to be a lot more to this than came out in the initial investigation; news at eleven.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Environmental Speed Limits

I read where some folks are pushing for reduced speed limits on our freeways in order to mandate what they feel would improve gasoline consumption. I’ll try to explain this in terms even the idiots; my apologies, the “we know better than you elitist” folks at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will understand.

There was an article written by Tony Freemantle which I looked up in the Houston Chronicle Archives which included the following remarks:

“The 55 mph limit, which went into effect in May (2002), was initially part of the federally mandated plan to get the Houston-Galveston region into compliance with national air quality standards by 2007. The thinking, based on scientific models, was that driving slower meant less pollution.

The measure was vilified from the start and drew heated negative response from drivers in the eight-county area under the "environmental" speed limit. New scientific modeling later showed the reductions in pollution from the lower limit were not that significant, at least not significant enough to warrant the aggravation of driving 55 mph and the heat it was placing on politicians.” (emphasis added)
Having issued many traffic tickets over my twenty year stint with the Houston Police Department, I thought it difficult at best to justify writing anyone a speeding ticket simply to appease the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate aimed at cleaning up the air. It’s been a long time since I read the official wording which accompanied a traffic violation; but certain points of law had to be met in order to obtain a conviction in traffic court. Did the driver of a vehicle going faster than the posted speed limit pose a safety hazard to those around them?
I don’t think speeding tickets were ever intended to include any hypothesized theory regarding carbon emissions or their possible reduction into the atmosphere by folks driving at an otherwise reasonable rate of speed; that my friends is against the peace and dignity of average intelligence of the citizenry and has nothing to do with the peace and dignity of the State of Texas.

The problem with re-implementation of the same smoke and mirrors reduction of speed limits under the guise of saving gasoline, cleaning up the air or any of the illusions floating around in some whacko environmentalist’s mind is that such measures are in direct conflict with the American way of life. We have it in our genes to spend the money we earn on whatever it is that suits our desires and needs, that includes cranking up the A/C so that our homes are comfortable in the warm months or the heater in the cooler ones along with spending our dollars on gasoline for our vehicles in order to achieve a measure of independence at what ever speed is reasonable under the driving conditions of the moment.

It will be nearly impossible to justify a Federally imposed lowering of speed limits because the scientific data does not correlate to improved air quality nor does it translate into any significant reduction in the amount of gasoline consumed. I’ve tracked the miles per gallon rate in my work truck and found it to be more efficient between 65mph and 70mph; nearly a full mile per gallon better than driving between 50mph and 55mph.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s site,, “As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.” That’s all well and good; but it’s my vehicle, my money and my gasoline; who the hell are they to tell me how to use any of them, especially when it has been shown from their own scientific data to be nearly an insignificant measurable difference to either the air quality or the consumption of resources.

For my fellow citizens who think more governmental controls are the fix for what ails us, it’s time to wake up and smell what you’re shoveling; here’s a clue, it’s not rose petals. Lowering the speed limits on freeways and toll roads does accomplish something; it raises the anger levels in 95% of those using those roads; remember, these roads were constructed to accommodate traffic at an average speed of 90 mph as a built in safety feature, 70 mph being used simply because some older folks would have had heart failure just seeing a posted speed limit higher than 70mph.

Truth be known, the Interstates were constructed in such a way as to permit landing aircraft in the event of an emergency; not sure I want to push that issue, could be rather messy trying to mix air traffic with vehicular traffic. The point being made is that safe speeds for traffic are tied directly with the quality of the roadway and should have nothing to do with fuel consumption desires of a few well wishing leftists intent on managing other citizen’s lives; thank you very much!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Real Reason Sean Bell Died

The trial of three police officers charged with murdering Sean Bell is over and now the “race pimps” are getting up to speed as they attempt to justify their moments in front of the microphones and cameras. Not that anyone is paying attention; but why should it be a surprise to anyone that certain life style choices set Sean Bell’s tragedy in motion?

"What we saw in court today was not a miscarriage of justice," the Rev. Al Sharpton said on his radio program.

"Justice didn't miscarry," he said. "This was an abortion of justice. Justice was aborted."

"Sharpton, who has been advising Bell's family, had called for calm Wednesday."

That’s right Rev. Sharpton, lead your flock into believing that all this happened because there is no justice for the Black man in America, the police always get away with killing innocent Blacks; isn’t that the message you’re selling? Never mind teaching folks that staying out all night in a stripper club, drinking heavily, taking illegal drugs, acting a fool in public might cause issues which a smarter person would try to avoid.

I’m not saying Sean Bell went to that strip club to feast on seductive women taking their clothing off to the beat of wild music, or that he ever took a sip of alcoholic beverage, that there was even the hint of illegal drugs or that getting up in someone’s face to pick a fight at four in the morning is a fool’s game; no, I’m sure none of that could be part of the reason for Sean Bell’s unfortunate exit from this planet. It’s those trigger happy cops fault.

"This case was not about justice," declared Leroy Gadsden, chair of the police/community relations committee of the Jamaica Branch NAACP. "This case was about the police having a right to be above the law. If the law was in effect here, if the judge had followed the law truly, these officers would have been found guilty.

"This court, unfortunately, is bankrupt when it comes to justice for people of color."

“Now there ya’ go again.”, as Sam McCloud would say in the television series. Playing the race card instead of looking at the real issue, life style choices; that’s right, life style choices killed Sean Bell. Not too long ago the Black community got all over Bill Cosby for telling folks, Black folks, to shape up and be better people; how dare a Black man take up against his own race?

What I’m saying has nothing to do with race; it has everything to do with character development and learning how to live in such a way as to be worthy of the title American citizen. It involves self control, morality and good judgment; things which are supposed to be taught at HOME; but have been turned over to the “village”, places like the public schools where any hint of religion and morals is against the law.

This ought to really make a few folks angry; but where’s the indignation from the grieving “almost Mrs. Bell”? She must have been thrilled to learn how her future husband spent the night before their wedding getting an eyeful at a strip club, staying up all hours drinking milk shakes and playing chess with his good friends. “But that’s just part of the ritual, the bachelor party thing”, sorry; but that just doesn’t cut it. My guess is that if the cops hadn’t shot Sean at four in the morning, Nicole Paultre Bell would have as soon as she found out where he’d been all night.

Last on my list of the real reason Sean Bell is dead would have to be the lame excuse from his surviving buddies, the part where they claim not to have heard the police warning them to stop. They claim they never heard police identify themselves. Hey, I wasn’t there that night; maybe men with badges and guns is a regular scam at the particular night club. How’s this for stupidity, yes, stupidity; when a police officer has a gun aimed at you and says, “Put your hands up”, or words to that regard, do like the nice man says or you might get shot.

Show me how these thoughts are racist on my part; you can’t because they apply to everyone regardless of the color of skin. You want to blame the corrupt police who you say are “above the law”, the “bankrupt court” system; go ahead and keep trying to convince yourselves it’s that way. Keep spreading that manure around the neighborhood so your young people will learn how to doubt the most basic foundations of our society; make sure they never learn to be responsible for their actions while you’re at it. This is working out just peachy, wouldn’t you agree?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Letter of the Law

I was on my way home last night and came up to the intersection which leads into my neighborhood. There’s a traffic light system with a designated left turn lane which works on the “bump” system; your front wheels have to drive over the actuator or the left turn light doesn’t acknowledge your presence, and even then you have to wait a full light sequence for it to kick in.

I drove up and waited for a few moments, noticing there was no traffic coming from the other direction for at least a quarter of a mile and made my left turn without waiting for the green light to “give me permission”. I violated the letter of the law; not that many police officers would have written me up. The time of day along with road conditions determine whether or not the “spirit of the law” was also violated; after all, traffic lights are intended to provide safe passage for drivers, not unnecessarily detain them.

This morning while on my way to a locksmith job at one of my car dealerships I noticed an 18 wheeler broke down in the left turn lane at a major intersection with nothing to let folks stacking up behind him know he was broke down. There was a woman in a mini-van directly behind the broken down 18 wheeler and her left turn blinker was flashing away. The other drivers figured it out and carefully extracted themselves from the left turn lane as they eased into the next lane; but not the woman in the mini-van, a determined law abiding citizen with no intention of violating any traffic law.

I finished my job and returned along the same route only to observe the same mini-van waiting for the broken down 18 wheeler to move up. The woman had her head pressed against the driver side window attempting to see what the problem with the light was, never once did it occur to her to go around. She must have been sitting there with her blinker on at least twenty minutes dutifully obeying the letter of the law; not changing lanes once she past the solid painted stripe on the road surface indicating the point of no return, she was permanently committed to the left turn lane.

You probably are wondering why this information was shared; to be honest, it never was intended as anything other than amusing. This is an election year and it would seem painfully obvious that some folks who committed themselves to a particular candidate might wish to take in new information which would cause a change of course. Being reminded that one particular candidate running has a track record for being unable to tell the truth might be important. Learning how one particular candidate has close associations with corruption and spent twenty years listening to a pastor who hates America and has ties to home grown terrorists might also be important.

I figure these folks are much the same as the woman sitting behind the broken down 18 wheeler in the left turn lane. They lack the rational ability to alter their course and, even when they know something is broken, they are determined to remain locked in.

I heard a friend of mine at church explain that the whole church could be run on two cents, “Common Sense and Horse Sense”. I sure hope more of the voters will have come to their senses by the time November comes around.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 Cell Phone Scam

I wrote a short article back in March, Okay, I admit I’m Not a Computer Geek, to explain my inability to add a neat music program to my blog. I never did figure out how to make it work here; but was able to add it to my Facebook page easily.
“I got as far as the Pin code, which I did receive on my cell phone; however, once I entered it on my computer it took me to a site which explained how my “free player” would only cost me $9.99 each month. You see, this is another example of how the English language is used differently by one generation to the next. My use of the word free doesn’t include a reoccurring bill at the end of the transaction each month.

I closed the site and decided I must have taken a wrong turn, that there really is a free player somewhere floating among the Ones and Zeroes; I’m just not geek enough to have seen the sign at the fork in the road.”

Yesterday Lucy went over to pay the cell phone bill and to question an added charge which showed up for $9.99 which would be on each months billing. The folks at the T-Mobile store explained how we were billed by Predicto Mobile for “games” signed up for on some kind of promotion. That made it more interesting since neither of us are into gaming, much less on our cell phones.

Lucy called me and asked had I signed up for anything lately and the only thing I could recall was the music player and how when it got to the part where they wanted $9.99 for the “free” player I declined. The folks at T-Mobile must be familiar with this because they told Lucy, “once they get your cell phone number, regardless of whether you sign up or not, they automatically start billing you. Lot’s of folks never notice the change and pay.”

Lucy had them deduct the $9.99 on the spot and wouldn’t you know, I got a text message telling me that Predicto had been cancelled. I don’t use the text message function and just delete them as they come in. If I wanted to email a message I have my computer; I got a telephone to talk to folks, how’s that for being unique? Here’s the trick, never type in your cell phone number on something that’s supposed to be “free”. The interesting part is the playlist on my Facebook page still works; wonder if the $9.99 will show up on next month’s bill?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Rant

It might take a few minutes to get myself into this Earth Day celebration thing; my bathroom is on the other side of the house and the trips back and forth to puke, clean up and return to the computer are wearing me down. Earth Day, kind of makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, something like the flu without a trip to the doctor’s office.

Matthew Tresaugue wrote a column in the Houston Chronicle addressing the issues we all face as we live in perpetual guilt here in the land of the free and home of the brave. I give us till the end of the week before the ground opens up and swallows the whole country. Matthew quotes from an interview with a true environmentally minded individual.

“"If we drive like a granny, basically, we can get 400 miles out of a tank of gas, instead of 300 miles," said Armentrout, who recently learned the value of easing off the accelerator. Her husband now goes at least a week between fill-ups of his Pontiac Vibe.”

Isn’t that wonderful? We need to drive like granny; block up the freeways which makes type A personalities boil the blood in their veins knowing that each minute wasted in traffic could have been used productively had it not been for the jerk weed driving ten miles an hour below the posted speed limit. Where’s my gun; I’ll let some air out of those perfectly aired up tires.

There was a list of suggestions, practical means whereby every day “Joe’s and Josie’s” could help reduce the carbon foot print, save money and appease the angry earth goddess. I went down the list and had to agree with the philosophy of saving money in order to purchase things I really do want; that makes sense. The trouble is I really don’t like the way the “government authorized light bulbs” make everyone look sickly; I prefer Edison’s incandescent bulbs. I enjoy my shower, hot with lots of pressure as the water pounds and massages my neck and back; I’ve no intention of taking a shorter shower and I removed the water conservation plug which limited the flow before it was installed.

I spend quite a bit of money on filling up the gas tank on my service truck, and at today’s ridiculously inflated price that comes to about $35 a day. I’ll swap that $35 dollars for the amount of return I get for being productive while I speed down the road picking up an extra job; it’s called capitalism and it beats the heck out of waiting around for a paycheck. You don’t like the way I drive; stay off the side walk.

I had a friend of mine tell me I was spending too much on gas and vehicle maintenance, that my locksmith business wouldn’t justify having to fill the tank each day. Rather than argue with him I smiled and let him continue working his hourly wage job. I never invited him to join me because he just didn’t understand how capitalism worked and my trying to explain that trading a tank of gas for several hundred dollars profit would have only served to confuse the boy.

I had another apprentice locksmith I’d been training tell me how I couldn’t make enough money charging wholesale prices on each car I made keys for. This was a long time ago, before electronic keys and before air bags when my car lot fee was $25 for American cars and $35 on foreign. If I only did one car an hour that was as much as I made an hour as a police officer working for the City of Houston. I could easily do four cars an hour; but you can’t make any money doing cars at that price so he decided not to waste his time.

What has that got to do with Earth Day? Americans are being told to cut back, curb their desires, their wants and get by. We are being encouraged to live with less than what we really want, take a shorter warm showers, drive slower in order to save half a tank of gas for later in the week, read our newspapers under the greenish yellow glow of fluorescent light bulbs while the house if either 5 degrees cooler or warmer than we really would prefer.

Here’s my answer to that garbage; make more money so you can have what you really want. I like to drive faster and don’t mind paying for the extra amount of gasoline required to take me there at a speed which is conducive to making my business flourish. If it takes the extra hind quarter of a long ago extinct dinosaur turned into an oil deposit to accomplish that; fine with me and I’d like the windshield clean so I can enjoy my burst of speed without endangering some idiot ahead of me driving below the posted speed limit just so he can feel good about his carbon foot print. I think I’m getting the feel of this Earth Day Rant now.

I have no issue with saving money through the use of sound purchasing and the reduction of waste; that’s part of budgeting and making each dollar go as far as possible. It would be even better if when it came time to spend those dollars that my own government wouldn’t print them so quickly as to devalue them to the point of my dollar having half its value every four to seven years. I’d like it even better if the environmental whacko community would respect the fact that living in America requires a little more than hoping to survive the day; it requires the desire to live life to the fullest and to conquer obstacles rather than run and hide from challenges.

It’s a shame I can’t drive my BMW Z as a locksmith vehicle, putting premium grade gasoline in the tank so I can whiz around town in style, changing lanes and cutting in and out of traffic on a whim to get around folks too absorbed in saving half a drop of precious petroleum than to get where they’re going in a timely manner and be productive. I did have to use my Z as a locksmith shop one afternoon while my service truck was having the brakes worked on; I drive hard and so my brakes get used up more quickly. I packed a few of the more productive locksmith tools and keys in the back after setting up a couple of high paying jobs which could easily be accomplished with those tools. I was able to pay for the brake job and even have a little left over to buy a set of tires which had been worn about half way. I like to have plenty of good rubber on the road surface while zipping around; wouldn’t do to loose traction while braking for some moron doing ten mile below the posted speed limit.

It’s Earth Day, and if nobody's told you what that means; it means America should quit showing off to the rest of the impoverished world, quit using capitalism to build wealth and provide food for the less productive countries which have all turned to socialism and have yet to figure out that socialism only makes everyone equally poor. That’s my Earth Day celebration, sit on it and rotate!

Monday, April 21, 2008

San Jacinto Day

Most Texans know that the 21st of April is celebrated as the day Santa Anna’s Mexican Army was defeated. Sam Houston’s military strategies worked out and those who died at the Alamo and places along the way have been immortalized for having “whopped their butts”. Those us you not fortunate enough to be Texans should also take note of the importance of that battle as I borrow information from The Tyler Morning Telegraph.

“The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Almost one third of the present area of the American nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty.”

Y’all can gripe and moan all you want; but if not for Texans taking care of business you’d be living in mud huts and speaking Spanish instead of English. Now with all the illegal aliens making their way here without much resistance we might have to do it all over again. Somebody has to take a stand; might as well be here in Texas, at least we got it right once before.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Some Calls Shouldn’t Require an Umpire

I was watching the Astros game a while ago and watched as the Rockies center fielder attempted to catch a fly ball; what should have been a lead off double by Blum turned into the first out.. Had he caught it “on the square” it would have been a great play; but the ball momentarily was dislodged from his glove, rolled on the grass and he was able to gather it back quickly. His back was to the infield and the umpire couldn’t see how the ball had gotten out and quickly retrieved.

The player held the ball high in the air to show the umpire, as if he’d caught it cleanly. The umpire signaled the out based on the fact that the player claimed to have caught the ball and, unfortunately no umpire had a clear view of the play. The center fielder lied deliberately. The camera crew caught it; but major league baseball doesn’t use the instant replay; all the same fans watching television saw the whole play.

This isn’t the same as a close call in which an umpire’s vantage point and unbiased opinion was used to determine the outcome of a sporting event; no, this was pure and simple dishonesty. The play was shown on instant replay several times and I’m hoping major league baseball has a procedure to protect the integrity of the game when it becomes clear that a ball player lacks such integrity.

This is no different than taking an item at the grocery store without paying for it; just because the store manager didn’t see you steal doesn’t alter the fact that you’re a thief. It would be just fine with me to see this jerk suspended for several games, fined an enormous amount of money and then benched for the remainder of the season. These ball players are supposed to be role models for our young people, heroes is you will. What kind of hero would intentionally lie in front of an entire stadium full of fans just to record a single out?

Aroma or Odor

Last night we were awakened by the strong odor of skunk. It was overpowering to the point of wondering if the dogs in our back yard might have cornered one and gotten sprayed. It was intense and long lasting and while I never arose from my partial slumbers the idea occurred to me that in the morning I might be faced with bathing the dogs. When the sun came up there wasn’t even a hint of skunk odor; something of a curiosity and welcome none the less.

The front which pushed through the night before bringing thunderstorms, wind and rain brought us clear blue skies and cooler temperatures. I decided to get the yard work done early while it was very comfortable. The edging and mowing came out great and the smell of freshly cut grass is something of an aphrodisiac which permits my mind to wander. Add to that Ligustum starting to bloom with its overpowering sweetness and some folks come up short for breath. I watched as bees took advantage of the pollen; flying more slowly, their bodies encumbered heavily in the yellow dust.

We pick up various smells, some we call odors while the more pleasant are aromas. Every now and then I’ll find myself in an old stairway; an office building, apartment or any place where dust and age have altered the air in such a way as to create a certain whiff of air, a memory triggered from long ago, a hint of something most pleasant. There I am, a young boy in my grandparent’s apartment building playing on the stairs or even just walking up to visit them. There was an odor of stale air mixed with years of accumulated dust which got magically transformed into an aroma, no longer stale air but a time machine mechanism which brings a quiet smile to my soul.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grant Woods Meets Henry Eyring

Grant Wood’s painting, American Gothic, gained him acclaim in 1930. It has been used and abused over the years by political cartoonists taking advantage of the icon embedded in our minds of how middle America is perceived.

I had a different thought pop into my nearly vacant mind, a wry smile formed as I noted the similarities, the painter’s dentist dressed up as an Iowa farmer with Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Who knows, maybe they were related, cousins or something?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Times Have Changed

I got an e-mail invitation to purchase tickets to an Astros promotional event where the first 10,000 fans are to receive a complimentary baseball cap. In the not too distant past, if memory serves, promotional events were geared toward most all fans who attended.

I don’t have the figures in front of me; but the Astros average above 30,000 per game. Lucy and I went to a game last year where the first 10,000 stood in a line that went all the way around the stadium to receive an orange throw blanket with the Astros logo. We watched them open the last box of give away blankets and were lucky enough to go home with our souvenirs; but those behind us didn’t get one and the impression I had was, “Those cheap sons of guns; if you’re gonna’ do somethin’, do it right!”

Yes, the stuff they hand out costs money; but are they getting good advertising results by irritating two thirds of those attending or are they crating the impression which I suggested a moment ago, “Those cheap sons of guns; if you’re gonna’ do somethin’, do it right!” There’s an old expression, “I’d rather have a hamburger served properly than a steak in the face.” There’s something insulting about intentionally ignoring two thirds of the fans, not because you didn’t know they were coming; but because you were unwilling to provide for them.

The way they used to do it everyone entering the ball park got an Astros baseball cap to wear all season long, a way to support the team and keep your head covered. The lines were just as long; but almost everyone got a baseball cap because the sponsors provided for a near sell out crowd, not just the first 10,000. I’d rather buy my own Astros baseball cap down at WalMart than stand in line for an hour.

I was at the game the night Craig Biggio reached the magic 3000th hit in his career. Every fan leaving the park was given a poster to commemorate the night, every fan; not just the first 10,000 who exited. My thanks to the Houston Chronicle for doing a promotion in the proper spirit, you did it right.

Here’s an idea, get more than one sponsor to go in halves or thirds on a promotional event in order to obtain enough advertising money to do it right. If they get in a pinch have them call T. F. Stern & Co. Locksmith; I’m sure we could spring for a few baseball caps as long as the fans knew where they came from.

“The first 10,000 caps were donated by AT&T, the second 10,000 were donated by Finger’s Furniture, then 10,000 were donated by Dr Pepper and those other 5 caps almost broke the bank; but T. F. Stern and Co. Locksmiths hope you enjoy your Astros Baseball Cap Day here at Minute Maid Park. The Astros thank you for attending.”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Visit to Minute Maid Park

Last night we went to watch the Astros play the Marlins, sitting in the nose bleed section right behind home plate. We had a good time, as did the Marlin hitters; knocking 6 home runs, one of which left the ball park and was last seen headed over the railroad tracks and into the parking lot.

I had a very young child sitting behind me at the start of the game. He must want to be a drummer as he steadily kicked the back of my chair with his feet. I turned to him and explained the rules of the game, “You can only kick the back of my chair when the Astros score a run. Is that understood?” Nobody had ever explained the rules to him and he was more than happy to go along with a crazy old coot; his mother smiled at the simple solution which she had tried and failed.

A lady with a camera came by and took our photograph, handed us a card which explained how we could obtain a copy by visiting the website. I thought the picture was okay; but I can think of better things to do with my money, thanks but no thanks. I like the snap shot taken by a total stranger waiting to leave the upper deck stairs who used Bonnie’s camera.

Around the fourth inning I bought a round of soda, only cost me $21; Lucy’s diet Dr Pepper, Bonnies Coke and William and I each had regular Dr Pepper. Just think how much a dog or burger would have cost. We’d purchased our own peanuts prior to going and snuck them into the stadium since importing your own food violates the concept of highway robbery at the hands of vendors.

Friday games have the added bonus of a fireworks display after the game, regardless of which team wins. There had been a cool front push through and the air was perfect for the roof to be open all during the game, half a moon shown above as they turned off the field lights.

One last observation, something I’d not seen before at any ballgame. We were about ready to head for the exit as the smoke from the fireworks cleared, just about the time this photograph was taken when I watched two young college age folks picking up the trash around their seats. They had a couple of cardboard trays with empty food wrappers and wanted to deposit them in the nearest trash bin. What a neat concept, cleaning up your own mess; don’t think it will catch on, all the same they get extra points for sticking out in the crowd.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Fine Mess with the FLDS Church

My wife, Lucy, and I have been listening to all the flap going on in the news regarding the polygamist mess and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Lucy thought some of comments which have been floating around needed to be addressed, a clarification if you will, regarding the fact that the FLDS group is not the same as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS); no more so than the Catholic Church would claim to be associated with, say, the Southern Baptists.

What’s in a name? If you call yourself a Christian it would be a natural assumption to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Then how come quite a few folks who claim to be Christians directly oppose those teachings in public, instead directing others down a path never intended by the Lord? I know there are a few out there, I won’t get down in the gutter with them; but they know who they are, who point their fingers at the Mormon Church and think that’s the problem. “Those Mormons aren’t Christians because they don’t worship “the same Jesus we do” and other moronic castigations intended to belittle that which they have no understanding of; but I don’t want to get down in the gutter so I’ll not go there.

No, the wool being pulled over your eyes comes from a different threat. The soothing voice which beckons good Christians away from the true teachings of the Gospel and down a path never intended by our Savior whispers in your ear that it’s okay to ignore the most important aspects of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. The teachings which Christians hold most sacred, that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God, the Saviour of mankind, that life is everlasting because of the Atonement; these are of no importance according to Oprah.

You heard right, Oprah would have you discard Christianity in favor of “feeling good about yourself” with no regard for the eternities. Don’t believe me, then I’ll let Oprah tell you in her own words and in her own voice.

This is the same Oprah who’s backed Obama for the Presidency of the United States of America. How long will America stand without God, without following the teachings of Jesus Christ, without the necessary element of faith in a majority of citizens? Ask yourself this, if what is being taught isn’t from God, then where are these new teachings from and who is it that teaches us not to believe in God and in Jesus Christ?

I wanted to let anyone reading this to know where I stand. I believe in God the Eternal Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost. I believe the Bible to be the word of God, accounting for the clerical and intentional errors contained therein. I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God as a second witness of the divinity of Jesus as the Christ. ( I’ll pause while some of you tear a piece of clothing ) I believe that each man, woman and child is a true child of God, having been made in the image of God. We are therefore heir to all that has been promised. May we all seek to obey His commandments that we may fully take advantage of the resurrection which provides us with life in the eternities. May we accept the atonement provided by Jesus Christ and return to our Father in Heaven is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I'm Not Worried, I'm Angry

This is a follow up to yesterday's rant ( linked via title bar ). I'm sending this via the Snail and it will also be faxed to the local office and the office in Austin.

April 9, 2008

Debbie Riddle
State Representative
3648 F.M. 1960 West Suite 106

Houston, TX 77068

Representative Riddle;

I wish to meet with you face to face to present ideas on changing current legislation, rules and regulations which have been imposed on the locksmith industry. The Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security Bureau (DPS/PSB), acts as if Texas is a police state in the manner in which they carry out their duties to enforce laws, rules and regulations designed to protect the locksmith industry and the public from unscrupulous or unskilled locksmiths.

I would like to alter the current methods which have been put in place, tyrannical measures which are unreasonable, burdensome and reckless in a free society governed by people of principle. I require the assistance of my duly elected representative to introduce needed changes which would benefit the greatest portion of the locksmith industry while continuing to uphold minimal standards intended to protect an unwary public from those who are not qualified to work as locksmiths or those who would take advantage of those skills on an unsuspecting public.

The DPS/PSB has shown a decided lack of common sense in their approach to the locksmith industry from the onset of locksmith licensing. I wrote my opinion on this in August of 2004 and sent a copy to the DPS/PSB; a complimentary copy was sent to your office as well. In that letter I outlined the many reasons why I was dissatisfied with the licensing procedures and the DPS/PSB as a whole.

In May of 2006 I wrote about my concerns for the manner in which mandatory continuing education was implemented; a complimentary copy was sent to your office. The purpose of such continuing education was poorly thought out, assuming any thought was applied to begin with when such mandates were tied directly with licensing, which is directly tied to making a living in a free market. No consideration or latitude was provided for those members of the locksmith industry who could be considered “veterans” or experienced sufficiently to forego remedial or redundant training to satisfy the demands of a bureaucracy run amok.

This past week I received an official letter from the DPS/PSB informing me that my business license was suspended; not because of any legitimate violation of law, rule or regulation, because they hadn’t bothered to open the certified letter which verified my having complied with insurance requirements. The documents were provided on time, were signed for and date stamped by the DPS/PSB; unfortunately their incompetence in office management, along with their thirst to wield power like a five year old with a loaded revolver prompted them to the conclusion that my business was a threat to the safety of the public. The DPS/PSB had the audacity to demand an additional $ 150 to reinstate our locksmith license and our ability to do business in the State of Texas; but also to include further proof of compliance with the law, rules and regulations which mandate liability insurance, something which had already been provided in a timely manner.

We attempted to call them yesterday immediately after receiving their threatening letter; but nobody was in the office of the DPS/PSB from 4:00pm until 5:00pm to answer the telephone, our having been put on hold until such time as we either gave up, began collecting unemployment or died. This morning we were able to talk with one of their employees and upon explaining our compliance and their inefficiency, we were told that a letter had been mailed advising us to disregard their already imposed license suspension. My wife said I shouldn’t have worried about it; I wasn’t worried, I was angry for their incompetence and unforgivable arrogance.

There should be a reduction in the cost of acquiring a renewal locksmith license, which is the State of Texas taxing industrious folks based on their ability to generate business rather than a tax on a realized increase; in other words theft by threat. There should be a relaxation of the rules and regulations imposed which require additional education based on the natural laws which govern enterprise; those who can get the job done get to stay in business, those who can’t go out of business. The State of Texas has no business insisting any individual improve on something which has already been proven to work; knowledge of new technologies is optional and has nothing to do with previously gained skills and should not be tied with the legal right to obtain a living. Lastly, the idea of applying strict adherence to deadlines on meaningless paper work for an already established company requires a much more relaxed window of enforcement; an area of efficiency which the DPS/PSB should avoid based on their inability to comply.

These 3 issues need to be properly worded to restore the credibility of the State of Texas as far as providing a safer environment for the locksmiths who use their skills in an honorable and fair manner for those citizens who require those services with the least amount of bureaucratic interference. Please contact me in order to arrange a face to face meeting to address these issues.

Thank you,

T. F. Stern

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Legislators Watched Too Much Disney

I read on the FoxNews site where hybrid cars are just too darn quiet and pose a danger to blind folks and other pedestrians ( who aren’t paying attention ).

“A bill intended to protect blind people and other pedestrians from the dangers posed by quiet cars will be introduced Wednesday in Congress.”


“The Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind has pushed for the legislation to protect those who rely on their hearing to know when to cross the street.”

“While the organization is not aware of people being struck by cars they couldn't hear, NFB President Marc Maurer has said he fears it's only a matter of time.”

The first thing I thought of was an old black and white movie, The Absent Minded Professor, with Fred McMurray. He discovered Flubber, an interesting substance with anti gravitation properties which could be bombarded with energy to make it float. Upon installing Flubber in an old Ford Model A the professor was able to make his car move as if it had a real motor; with a little extra energy aimed at the Flubber it even flew. He had to make it sound like a real Model A so he also gave it sound effects; clattering valves and such so that folks wouldn’t suspect.

I can see trial lawyers licking their chops and calculating their take; there has to be a money angle in there somewhere worth millions to the first poor sucker who steps in front of a quiet car. I think I just found a new business, “Stern’s Anti-Muffler Service”. I’ll work out the details later, I’ll even throw in some visible pollution at no extra charge; nothing that will hurt the ozone, maybe some green food coloring sprayed into the air to make the tree huggers happy.

P. T. Barnum has got to be laughing from where ever he is; there’s money to be made here; and as Marc Maurer has said, “It’s only a matter of time.”

State Thumb Pressing Down

Anyone having read my articles will know of my deep respect and admiration for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the License Section of the Private Security Bureau. These are the wonderful folks who pull the strings of my locksmith license and therefore control my business collecting license fees and mandating continuing education courses in order to remain in business.

Requirements for a locksmith license in the State of Texas are covered under Section 1702 of the Occupations Code; one of the requirements is to maintain liability insurance and furnish the DPS/PSB proof of that policy each year. I trust them so much that anything sent to them has a US Post Office form which requires them to sign upon receipt of the document. Lucy got that signed form back showing the DPS/PSB received my proof of mandatory liability insurance on March 31, 2008.

The DPS/PSB sent an official looking letter advising us that our license has been suspended for failure to maintain proof of liability insurance; dated four days after they signed showing they received that very same proof of liability insurance. My guess is any envelope that doesn’t contain a check to be deposited is tossed in a basket to be looked at later.

We tried for 45 minutes to contact anyone working in the DPS/PSB office by telephone only to find nobody was there, a continuous recording explained that we were to remain on hold right up until 5:00pm when their office hours end. Lucy let the phone sit on the kitchen counter on speaker mode while she prepared dinner. It’s just as well nobody picked up; I don’t think they would enjoy what I had to say anyway.

I’m supposed to send the DPS/PSB a check for $150, proof of liability insurance along with a form requesting my license be reinstated in order to conduct business here in the great State of Texas. I know, last week I posted an article which had a “Cuss O Meter” and it should bother me to close this particular piece in a crude and less than socially acceptable way, all the same I leave my sentiments with and for the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Private Security Bureau

Kiss My ASS!

Edit update July 7, 2008

This article was published in the July issue of the Greater Houston Locksmith Association newsletter as shown here without the graphics.

Trouble Right Here In River City

The Music Man made light of tell tale signs that the youth were on a path which could only lead to trouble, and that starts with “T” which rhymes with “P” and stands for pool. Oh, yes folks, we got trouble, right here in River City. Kids need to be in a band, complete with uniforms and instruments and I pass this way but once. Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble……

Professor Harold Hill may have been a huckster from the get go; but he nailed home a few points about kids, they need to be brought up with a firm grip around their spare time. Parents have a job to carefully supervise their children’s entertainment and constantly nurture these young people into adults worth having as neighbors.

A disturbing story out of Florida came to light this week, “Eight teenagers have been arrested in Lakeland, Fla., on charges that they allegedly beat another teen in an "animalistic attack" so they could make a videotape to post on YouTube.”

A little further down in the story, “Her parents blamed the Internet for the incident.”

“These Web sites are creating a space for criminal activity, beating, fights,” Patrick Lindsay said. “MySpace, MTV’s ‘Jackass,’ they are enticing our children and desensitizing out children. Now, if they create the best shock video, they are the heroes. They think it is top dollar.”

A blind eye has been turned toward an ever increasing amount of violence, a mire of “entertainment” which bombards our senses as “metallica” and “rap” music, reality television, movies and video games. The desensitizing of an entire society to that which is an abomination goes on and we wonder why our children turn on each other in such a way as to make civilized people physically sickened upon hearing of such episodes.

You have to wonder who would benefit by having the whole human race reduced to such levels? Oh, go ahead, take a guess.

“Remember my friends, listen to me, because I pass this way but once.”

Monday, April 07, 2008

Half of Brain Removed

I read on the FoxNews site where a young girl will undergo surgery to have half her brain removed. I recognize this as a serious and emotionally trying time for the family; but the first thing I thought of was how I’ve mentioned to potential police cadets that one of the requirements for becoming a police officer is to have half your brain removed. Later on, should you desire to transfer to motorcycle division they take the other half.

Arguments could be made that half of nothing isn’t all that much; which is why police officer brains are so expensive, takes a lot more work to collect a useable sample. You’d have to be just plain stupid to work for the Department; what’s that line from Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

I was sitting on a bench at the drug testing facility used by the Houston Police Department, part of the random drug testing program. I’d worked all night and had to drive across town a couple hours into what should have been “sleep mode”. The young woman handed me two large Styrofoam cups and I was instructed to fill them both; but was only able to fill one. I handed them back and I was told it was the same as if I’d not given any since there was insufficient sample to test.

She picked up the phone and called a number, waited for the other end to pick up and then handed me the handset. “This is Sgt. So-and-so with Internal Affairs. I understand you are unwilling to cooperate with the Department’s mandatory random drug testing program.”

“No, Sir. I was only able to provide half of their requested amount.”

“You will have to stay there until you can provide the amount required or it will be shown as a refusal to be tested. Is that understood?” I’m so glad that wasn’t a phone with a camera clicking away as I glared back at the jerk on the other end.

I did pick up a couple of hours overtime for the extra “effort”. I also asked if they wanted a “core sample”, something which could be used to determine my attitude; they didn’t even crack a smile.

While I was waiting for the third can of Dr Pepper to work its way through my system a couple of eager young fellows sat down on the bench. I recognized the application forms they had in their hands.

“So, you want to become police officers?” They nodded and smiled like a couple of idiots who’d fallen off the turnip truck.

“Yes, Sir!”, in stereo no less, as they acknowledged my uniform with a row of service stripes on one sleeve. I was completing the lines indicating the last time I’d taken a Vicodin and muscle relaxer pill.

“Have you gone out to the “Tub” ( Ben Taub Hospital ) yet to have half your brain removed?” They looked at me and figured they must have heard wrong. “Never mind, you’ll find out soon enough.”

I hope the little girl’s surgery goes well and that her family is rewarded with a lifetime worth of hugs and kisses. When she gets old enough to look for a job there’s always the police department; and she’ll already have the hard part out of the way.

The photograph is an attempt to salvage a badly damaged slide that was stored away in the garage. Humidity and dust did some damage; but the old Three Wheelers had just completed a Chief’s Inspection. Yours truly is on the front row, third from the right weighing in at 140 pounds.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Worst Video Worth Posting

After watching this I think you’ll agree, the camera work needs improvement; perhaps next time they’ll remember to put film in the camera. The saving grace comes from the fact that most folks close their eyes and meditate deeply as this piece of music attaches itself to the soul.

Please enjoy Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, performed by the Slovak Chamber Orchestra.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Creative Criminals

I can’t say I approve of the many and varied schemes which the State uses to appropriate money from the citizenry. Often times the “claimed” purpose of making the world a safer place is only a ruse to obtain additional money. I’ll use for my example, vehicle safety inspections.

I agree with the notion of having safe vehicles sharing the streets as a concept; each year having all my vehicles inspected to meet certain guidelines seems reasonable, at least on the surface. My brakes work, my windshield wipers actually have the ability to keep rain from obscuring my view, shock absorbers actually can keep the vehicle from bouncing, sufficient tread on the tires and things like that are within reason.

I’m not so sure about how tightly my gas cap fits which might let some vapors escape and destroy the ozone layer and other imposed standards which are directly tied to the ecological movement (similar to a bowel movement; but spelled differently). And I’m quite certain I don’t agree with the State taxing each of my vehicles an additional $10-15 dollars in order to help the “less fortunate”, those who for one reason or another, can’t maintain their vehicles. If they can’t afford to fix issues like brakes and shock absorbers these folks don’t need to be on the road to begin with. These are the same folks who don’t have money for liability insurance and so my insurance rates are increased to factor in the dead beats.

This takes us to the creative criminal artist, the folks who couldn’t get their vehicle to pass inspection and wish to get by anyway. There are several ways to produce a fake inspection sticker; one way is to steal a box of authentic State of Texas inspection stickers from a local inspection station; but that takes on a whole bunch of issues, jail time, probation officers, lawyer fees and time away from your drinking buddies. A more practical method involves making your own replica inspection sticker; either computer generated or individual pieces or art.

Back in the 70’s there were some folks who created a very good reproduction of the official state inspection sticker, mass produced hundreds of them and sold them at local bars, night clubs and shade tree mechanic garages. There was one problem, they didn’t know how to proof read and spelled “vehicle” wrong, “vhicle”; other than that the reflection off the window was a bit different which made them easier to pick off while on patrol.

The ones I liked the best were made by free spirited artists, the impressionist era misdemeanor element. They would use color, shape and inspiration to create a rectangular image which vaguely resembled an inspection sticker and affix their masterpiece to the windshield. I would confiscate the artwork and issue them a traffic ticket with my compliments for being industrious. I still run across these rare finds while working on “cream puffs” during my efforts to generate keys on small car lots.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

What are you doing this weekend? Why not turn your attention to something which will elevate your spirit. This week is the 178th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The times of each session are listed via the link and provide any number of ways to enjoy conference; either through cable, satellite, radio or the internet. If you use the internet you can have the sessions streamed through the BYU site or through the Church site; I recommend the BYU channel if you plan to both watch and listen. This year, at least in the Houston area, Comcast is supposed to have these on channel 567 and more than likely it is available on Dish or Direct TV as well.

If you are unable to schedule your time then there is always the opportunity to visit these talks in the archives which usually are posted within a matter of days, even hours depending on technical challenges. Think of the archives, which go back many years, as an encyclopedia on spiritual matters; topics can be researched to your hearts content through the search engines provided.

Cuss O Meter

I ran across something peculiar this morning while visiting The Last Amazon. Kateland wanted to see how much cussing would be found on her site; I wonder, does that include the comment sections since some of the folks who stop by are down right vulgar. I make no excuses for my own occasional trips to the gutter; being a locksmith requires special technical vocabulary, which by the way, transferred easily from my twenty years as a police officer.

“Gosh dern it, show me your hands or I will be forced to apply take down tactics during your apprehension!” I’ll let you figure out a more common phrase which would get a third grade mentality bad guy’s attention. While less than one percent is a lot better than most of the blogs out there, as my report cards would indicate all through my youth, “Needs Improvement”.

I wonder how many of us take the time to clean up our act before sharing it. I have no desire to pollute clean running rivers or streams and I carry my trash in my work truck around all day until there’s a garbage can to place it in; I see this as an extension, a reminder to clean up our thoughts and to discard unacceptable language. I put a link in the title bar or just click on the graphic.

I’ll have to refrain from quoting most of Hollywood, Dick Chaney’s now famous one liner and most of the jokes some of my friends shares. If you can’t repeat a joke in Sunday School it probably isn’t worth sharing anywhere; at least that’s the advice my parents gave me. There really isn’t any reason to trash the language so this is a good challenge for me and those I regularly exchange ideas with.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What has this to do with Drunk Driving?

I was driving down the freeway and caught this billboard out of the corner of my eye; at first not able to make out the images. Upon recognizing a revolver and what appeared to be blood splatters I then read the message, “When will your luck run out? Drive Responsibly.”

I honestly thought the warning had to do with road rage or something to do with gang violence since this is the time of year when new gang members are challenged during their initiation process. If that doesn’t scare the begeebers out of you nothing will.

I went back with my digital camera and took the picture while out working on some locksmith jobs just before the rains quieted my work down to zilch. Upon getting back to my computer I did some research on the billboard; turns out it’s a joint effort by CBS, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and our local law enforcement organizations.

“The law agencies and MADD held a "Fatality Crash Reduction Campaign" news conference Friday at the Beth Yeshurun cemetery. The campaign will include unmarked police vehicles equipped with radar and video to aggressively search for drunk drivers.”

Maybe the message is a little fuzzy; either that or policy has changed on how the Department gets DWI suspects off the road, “Hey you, yea you, the one in the car weaving all over the road; your luck’s run out!” Kablam! Kablam!” I guess I retired way too soon to join in this new enforcement technique for removing problem drivers. Don’t get even, get MADD!

April Fools Day

I’m not a big fan of pulling pranks on folks; having had a few pulled on me taught me that most times these pranks do nothing to improve relations. There have been a few April Fool’s pranks which have brought a smile and even a laugh. There’s an article on CNN’s website listing the Top 10; maybe they are and maybe they’re not.

When I was working downtown with the Houston Police Department; now this was way back because we had a main radio channel and a back channel only. The official radio channel was used by the dispatcher’s office to assign police calls while the back channel was for officer use only to keep what ever was said from being shared with the news media.

Someone got the great idea of sending a rookie ( wasn’t me, if that’s what you were thinking) on a bogus bomb threat call to evacuate One Shell Plaza, which at the time was one of the tallest buildings in town. This was accomplished by switching his radio to the back channel without his knowledge and other officers playing along; one pretending to be the dispatcher while others volunteered to check by. This all happened just after reporting to shift and the innocent rookie was instructed to start at the top floor and work his way down. I’m not sure how many floors he attempted to evacuate before word got back to him of the prank via the supervisors at Shell. The rest of the co-conspirators, those who had volunteered to help were all waiting at street level when he came down.

I’m aware, first hand, of a prank which used to be pulled on officers recently transferred to a police substation on night shift. I was in the officer’s locker room, quietly sitting on the throne when someone rolled a rather large piece of firework into the stall. There isn’t much you can do given the short fuse other than place the bottom of your shoe against it to deflect the shock. I’m surprised I could hear all the laughter from the other side of the door after it went off.

There was an officer on one of the other shifts who actually thought the city had issued one particular police car to him and to him alone. He would place a large chain around the steering wheel and pad lock it to the brake pedal. I was asked to pick the lock on more than one occasion. I grew tired of the nightly “free locksmith job” and brought a pair of huge bolt cutters to work. I chopped each link of the chain along with the shackle of the pad lock. I then placed the remains in the middle of the front seat. That was fun and he didn’t invest in a second chain or lock after that. While this may not fit the April Fool’s Day criteria, it still makes me smile.

The best practical joke which I witnessed was the time someone slipped an official memo to the sergeant’s clip board to be read at roll call. At the beginning of each shift memo’s from “above” were read aloud to officers beginning their shift, and, since it was official police business or related, these memos had to be initialed by the sergeant reading them as these signed articles became documents of record. Memos had to be read three consecutive days to account for officers who might have been absent during scheduled regular days off.

The memo which started an official investigation appeared to have been issued by our Captain; alleged is the term only used when they pin it on someone after finding that it had not been generated by our Captain, far as I know the case remains open. For three days we were read a memo inviting everyone in our division to the Captain’s house for a bar-b-que, bring your family and plan for a whole day of relaxation. I understand several folks showed up that day only to find the Captain and his wife returning from their vacation and hadn’t been aware of the bar-b-que invitation.