Friday, December 31, 2004

The Tsunami

I've been following the news about the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The devastation has been horrific. Whole cities are gone. Islands completely wiped out. Sumatra has lost one-third of it's population. One-freakin'-third of their population is gone. The death toll is approaching 150,000. Now that's something to think about this New Year's Day.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Great Pie Experiment Reloaded

I learned my lesson about adding chipotle powder to sweet potato pecan pie. I was going to redeem myself this time!

On Tuesday, I got out the recipe and made the dough. The recipe calls for half a beaten egg. The other half is used in the sweet taters. I didn't want to waste a whole egg, since I would be making the filling a day or so later, so I used Egg Beaters, which is an egg substitute using egg whites dyed yellow.

I tried rolling the dough, and it cracked and split. I folded it over, and managed to get a pretty nice dough. I tasted the trimmings, and thought it tasted a bit bland. No fat from the yolks, I guessed. Oh well.

On Wednesday, I made the pie. Since I had already used Egg Beaters for the dough, I thought I would use the rest in the pie. Mix, mix, mix. Bake, bake bake.

I checked the pie about halfway through the cooking time, and was reminded of that line in Jaws when Roy Scheider first sees the shark and says, "We're gonna need a bigger boat." (That is a catch phrase that we've been using around the house since we saw the movie in the theater in 1975.) The pie topping had risen at least an inch above the edge of the pan. Hmm.

When the pie was removed from the oven, some of the topping had spilled over the side. (I had the foresight to put the pie on a sheet pan covered with foil.) As Dad and I looked at it, I realized the problem. The Egg Beaters are all whites! I had made a sort of meringue!

So take a lesson from me. The sweet potato pecan pie is delicious. Just follow the recipe.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Miss Victory and Lady Liberty!

I should have raked the leaves. I should have cleaned off the back porch. But, no, I drew. And because you are such faithful readers, you get to share it with me! Think of it as an early Christmas!

This is an homage to a Jack Kirby cover on The Invaders #16. The main characters are mine, but the layout is Kirby's. For those of you who aren't aware of it, Jack Kirby created most of the Marvel heroes popular today: Captain America, Daredevil, Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, and the Silver Surfer.

Miss Victory and Lady Liberty are WWII heroes. Think of them as Batman and Robin with boobies. No need to tell me how much you like it. I know you'd be lying.

Friday, December 17, 2004

We Heard from Sean!

(17) We had news of Sean last night. Rodney called and said that Eunavae had called to tell him Sean was real sick. According to Rodney, he has a fever, sore throat and an enlarged liver. We were wondering if it was his hepatitis coming back. Anyway, Eunavae didn't have any more information and said we would have to wait until he calls us.

If it's not one thing it's another.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Lucy Moment

I was putting the ice cream into the pantry, after serving myself a bowl, when I came to my senses. A pantry isn't the proper place to store frozen goods, I know, and I quickly checked the room to see if anyone was watching.

That was a sitcom moment. You know, like a scene from "I Love Lucy," or "Three's Company." Something so silly, that it would generate a huge laugh from the studio audience.

Everyone has them. The other day Dad baked a pizza for me to have when I got home for lunch. When I cut into the pizza, I noticed he had left the cardboard circle on the pizza. As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmm, doughy." Fortunately, I didn't cut all the way through the cardboard, or we would have had a true sitcom moment when I tried to chew through the paper.

Some people call these senior moments, but I'm not a senior yet. But I think I have figured out the cause. (Hang on! There's not much transition here!)

When I was 18 (back when the legal drinking age was 18, natch) and up until I hit my 30s, it wasn't uncommon that on my days off I would start drinking at 10 or 11 am. I could drink all day, well into the night, and wouldn't have too much of a hangover. Nothing aspirin and an Bacon, Egg and Cheese biscuit from McDonalds, or a breakfast croissant from Jack in the Box, couldn't handle, anyway. Today, of course, my system has lost its resiliency, and if I start drinking too early (say before 4 or 5 pm), I'll be queasy the entire next day, no matter how much fast food I consume.

This happened Saturday. I raked the front yard in the morning, and by 1 pm, I figured Ideserved a beer. I had purchased a case of beer the day before to last me through the weekend. By 11 pm, I had all but finished the case and went to bed. ("24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence?" --Stephen Wright) Lord, was I nauseous all day Sunday. I spent the entire day in my recliner, sleeping it off. By 8 pm, I was feeling much better, thank you. On Monday, I put the ice cream in the pantry.

I understand the sitcom moment, now! It's the beer.

See, alcohol destroys brain cells. ("Alright brain, I don't like you and you don't like me, so just get me through this so I can go back to killing you slowly with beer." --Homer Simpson) Memories are stored in the brain cells. Therefore, it was all the beer I've ever had that caused me to forget that ice cream belongs in the freezer, and leaves me scratching my head as I stand in front of a closet wondering what the heck I was looking for.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A tribute to "Dimebag" Darrell Abbot

(12) In Columbus, Ohio, Nathan Gale went to a club shot and killed "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott while he and his band, Damageplan, was performing. As horrible as the crime was, I am not a fan of Abbot and his music. That's not to say I wouldn't like it--just that I am not familiar with it.

My cousin Steve, on the other hand, was very familiar with his music and was profoundly affected by his death. He sent me an email to express his feelings about it, and, with his permission, am reprinting it here. I thought it was very moving and wanted to share it.

Just so you guys now, I have been very upset over
what happened in Ohio and I think it is important that something positive
come from Dimebag, I loved his playing as much as Randy Rhoads! So in case
you didn't know.......


It is a Friday night and I am home alone drinking beer
(Coors lite, Dimebag's favorite) and I had to tell someone that could appreciate

this: the next generation of guitar players!

I loved Dimebag Darrell (Damageplan, Pantera), he was
one of the best guitar players I ever saw or heard! Cheers to him and I
want to introduce you to him, as the way I knew him. Don't believe the crap
you here, Dimebag was special and unfortunately for us as guitar players,
he is gone.

I saw Pantera about 4 times, I also bought and read
articles he posted in Guitar World since 1994, and Alex was 4 years old
at the time. He was an excellent guitar teacher and I am going to photocopy
those articles and send them to you. He knew how to explain things in a
cool way, how? By showing you fun stuff and explaining it in a simple way.

In 1994, an album came out by the name of Far Beyond
Driven. I had already heard their second album Vulgar Display of Power,
which was not doubt a classic like Back in Black, Paranoid and Van Halen,
the music punched you in the face as it portrayed on the album's cover (a
guy getting punched in the face!) DRIVEN was their third album and I, like
everyone else wanted to hear it...BAD! When I did, they literally made it
sound like someone was driven far beyond vulgar power! Sounds kooky but
that album ripped asshole! They were intense and super, super talented.

These guys were special like Metallica in the late
80's. Metallica was the best metal band around until they seemed to fade,
my friend and fellow guitar player Will Merkle handed me a copy of Vulgar
and said "I think these guys are better than Metallica!" Pantera
first released an album called Cowboys From Hell in 1991, Pantera fans refer
to this album, as CFH and Dimebag would sign autographs with those initials
even up until he died. When I first heard CFH I liked it, but the singer
was trying some Judas Priest screams and honestly NO ONE could really do
that except Judas Priest. But the guitar! The guy was a shredder! Jammed
his ass off, played loud and fast and the music began to form a METAL GROOVE
that became obvious on Vulgar Display of Power. He was playing solos when
no one else was in the time of Nirvana and grunge.

Dimebag was the one who not only was playing the best
rock, heavy metal guitar but he was like family, he said cool things in
interviews and I could really relate to his music, it was very aggressive
and I loved it! In a time where Seattle Grunge was popular, the only metal
albums I really bought in those days were Pantera.

As far as guitar players go he was very vocal about
whom he liked, he loved Ace Frehley/Kiss, Judas Priest (Glenn Tipton and
KK Downing), Black Sabbath and a guy by the name of Randy Rhoads. As you
can tell, we liked the same stuff; I felt a connection with the guy. Yeah,
yeah he played like Eddie Van Halen too, but who didn't? But that is the
point of this letter; EVERYONE copied Eddie in those days, now everyone
will copy Dimebag. This guy told the world his music was metal that is my
favorite style therefore I loved his open arms approach to heavy metal music!
I feel. ...very empty and sad when I heard about his death. He was kick
ass, and the guitar world is the only group that can really understand.

Here are the facts:

Dimebag Darrell Abott grew up in Pantego, Texas with his brother Vince,
aka Vinnie Paul, the drummer and certified bad ass that played drums for
him during Pantera and Damageplan years. "Riggs" was the nickname
Dime gave Vince. Incidentally, the name 'Dimebag' was Darrell's second stage
name. He originally listed himself as 'Diamond' Darell on CFH and Vulgar
Display of Power he officially became Dimebag after that.

When asked about it in a magazine I read, he said "Dime,
Dirtbag, Diamond, Dimebag whatever you want." He was very easy going
and his guitar world articles were called Riffer Madness. Ok obviously he
made several references to Pot, but he was a serious drinker, the rumor
in those days that there were two bands you wanted to avoid on the road,
Slayer and Pantera because they will make you drink and drink you under
the table!

They were boozers big time! They also like all dudes
shared a fondness for hot chicks and to this day they own a couple of strip
bars in Dallas Texas. Yes, unfortunately their favorite football team was
the Cowboys!

Back to the band, in the very beginning Pantera was
originally a glam band. Yup, Bon Jovi all the way, however, they released
an EP (mini album) called Power Metal. Don't let the spandex and big hair
fool you; these boys from Texas could play! Most bands were from Los Angeles
or New York and then Seattle, but not Texas! So they got signed by a major
record label and recorded a phenomenal record called COWBOYS FROM HELL!
Some people argue that it was Dimebag's best guitar playing to date.

The only brother guitar/drummer siblings before them
to have a #1(Far Beyond Driven) record were Edward and Alex Van Halen. Therefore
by family genes, with musician blood, the Abbotts (Darrell and Vince) were
destined for glory. Their father Jerry Abbott was a country music songwriter
who owned a rehearsal/recording studio his sons grew up in and learned everything
about music. That was the deal; if they learned music theory and the rules
that applied they could use the studio. Dimebag was the first to tell you
in his articles for Guitar World you need to know music theory and how do
you do that? YOU TAKE LESSONS!

Darrell, just like Hendrix made a guitar famous. He
won a guitar in a contest made by Dean a bad ass US made guitar that I had
seen Sammy Hagar use before. It was unique it had three points on the body
and a great pitchfork headstock. Dimebag was the one who made it special,
I don't know the name of the model, but I'll send a pic with the lessons.
He won it in a guitar contest growing up in Dallas or pigs knuckle Texas,
but he used that same instrument on most of the albums for Pantera until
he got a guitar endorsement from Washburn.

The guitar is significant, The Dean he played in question
was dark blue and had lighting bolts extended through the three points on
the body and had a picture of the band kiss in makeup on the end. Just like
Stevie Ray Vaughan another guitar player from Texas relied on a 1959 Fender
Statocaster, just like Angus Young used the Gibson SG exclusively Dimebag
used this one until they started making them for him at Washburn.

Let's put it this way: If a guitar company makes a guitar for you, then
you're really good!

In 1994 Far Beyond Driven debuted #1 in that year,
on billboard pop charts, an album Dimebag wrote probably 90% of! Vinnie
and Darrell were hands on musicians and unlike most musicians in this time
period they knew everything about recording music. They eventually built
their own studio at Dimebag's house and started recording Pantera albums

there after Driven. They recorded an album called The Great Southern Trendkill
and that one was by far my favorite Pantera album to this day! I mean, right
when you think they couldn't play anymore heavier or faster they fooled
you and jammed even harder! Dimebag was always trying to get better and
play as hard as they partied.

I had to see them, they headlined like in 1995 at a
place called Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. Sepultura blew them
off the stage back then, but in 1998? HOLY SHIT! I saw Pantera deliver the
craziest live show I had ever seen!!!!!!!!!! The CROWD! LITERALLY TORE THE
PLACE UP! At Nissan Pavilion, in Bristow, VA. I will never forget that,
besides the fact they jammed 10 times better than the first time I saw them!
They had the crowd tearing grass out of the ground! I mean it looked like
birds in the sky, because people were literally ripping sod out of the grown
and throwing it. The cops broke out the riot gear to stop it and to this
day I have never seen a show like that! They had the craziest mosh pit going
and I have been in hundreds of them, that one was the scariest by far!

Did I see them again? Yes and let's put it this way,
they were destroying something great after 1998, they lived hard, but it
was catching up with some members of the band and with all the metal egos,
the band by this time had side bands and projects and the singer took a
part time project and made it full time, he left. Pantera was no more! Just
like that, don't blink a music ass kicking' machine split up! They were
special, NO ONE delivered the goods like they did, and Pantera was without
a doubt one of the best Heavy Metal bands of all time! One of the best bands
ever that I paid money to see! I loved their live show so much I would work
out or lift weights in the late 90s to the same cd over and over, their
only live one called 101 Proof Live! I had the tape, wore it out! I have
the cd then I wore it out and it is all scratched up! I have never done
that with ANY other album, I have never wore out the tape AND cd of the
same album.

The break up happened because Phil Anselmo, the singer
a guy who is a HUGE Asshole, but he had just as much to do with Pantera
as Dimebag did, but if you ask me? IF someone wanted to blame for the breakup
of Pantera, BLAME PHIL! He plays in a band called Super Joint Ritual and
I know, I was at the Ozzfest in 2004, they sucked! But he left Pantera and
refused a reunion or talk of because he wanted to have Superjoint a very
angry, grungy, loud, but no where near the level of Pantera and here is
the truth: Superjoint has 2 guitar players and the two of them together
cannot play like DIMEBAG! Dime and Vinnie formed DAMAGEPLAN and played the
same super heavy, dynamic timing, angry, loud music they knew how to play.
The problem is DAMAGEPLAN would always be compared to Pantera and they were
just trying to do what they knew, but people had already heard it in Pantera.
However, Dimebag was still coming up with crazier guitar leads and when
I first asked a friend about what he thought of DAMAGEPLAN he said, "
I think they kick ass!" You could tell Dimebag was not ready to let
go and he wrote an article in guitar world about how he didn't know what
would happen to Pantera either but he and Vinnie Paul had to move on.

Dimebag always played loud, flawlessly, and wailed
guitar solos when no other punk ass band would! He had HUGE BALLS as a guitar
player and lived life the same. He drank Coors lite and a little secret
Pantera official drink called: BLACK TOOTH GRIN. Seagram's 7 whiskey with
a splash of coke, they drink it like shots. Funny thing, I would ask bartenders
if they knew what it was in other cities I went to and they actually did!

He was phenomenal. Great songwriter, exceptional lead
guitar player and a real energetic guy that I have no clue why someone would
want to hurt or kill. I idolized him, being married now, job, house payment
like the rest of America; I want to be like HIM! You ask me what I want
to do with my life? I want to play guitar like DIMEBAG!

He had a huge respect for other guitar players playing
the same type of music the same my current Metal hero Zakk Wylde of the

Black Label Society, Ozzy's right hand man. Ironically, they became really
good friends and I was happy because I felt like I knew both of these guys
and they actually hung out with each other. Zakk posted at 1am the night
HOW WE ALL FEEL TONIGHT" That was all I had to see and at 34 years
old, I started to cry like a 4 year old. He meant that much to me.

DIMEBAG was killed on stage Wednesday 12/8/2004 in
a club North or close to Columbus Ohio shortly after the band hit the stage,
the killer walked up and shot Dimebag 5 times in the head. For god sakes
how can anyone do that to someone else but especially DIMEBAG a living guitar
legend that loved everyone! He was killed on stage in front of his own brother
and there was nothing anyone could do.

The following websites listed memorial messages and
pictures they had of him: Black Label Society, Motorhead, Slipknot, Anthrax,
Kittie, Killswitch Engage, Drowning Pool,Washburn guitars, Randall Amplification,
Guitar World Magazine Online, Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Soulfly, Sepultura,
Kiss, VH-1 and Rolling Stone Magazine.

He was obviously real cool and I have been drinking
to him all night, VH-1 played their first video Cemetery Gates and I chugged
a beer when the guitar solo came up, swear to god I haven't done that in
years. I want you to know I was dying to tell someone about him, but no
one gives a crap because violence is the norm. People will make up shit
and say "just another metal burn out" they have no idea how wrong
they are and what a wonderful guitar player we lost. Dime represented aggressive,
loud, violent music. My mother used to always warn me about the consequences
of violent music, I never once listened to her about that until now. Pantera's
music was violent and I guess a crazed fan ended up killing the guy that
wrote most of it. Read this line twice if you have to: NEVER TAKE THE MUSIC
SERIOUSLY! It is supposed to be fun! Sure you can take your guitar playing
seriously, but don't believe the shit they spew out! Phil's new band Super
Joint Ritual has Pentagrams (signs of devil worship) and pot leafs all over
their cd cover and that is the wrong message to you guys. Don't believe
the hype those guys do that shit to sell cds and it all started when Kiss
dressed up like clowns! Don't believe the hype, but listen to the music
and learn from it.

It really bothers me; I feel the rest of the world
doesn't care. They did the same when Layne from Alice In Chains died (friend
of Dime's) they gave more attention to the dumb chick in TLC and now? Layne's
music, Alice In Chains is in full rotation 24/7 in every major city in the
country, go do it, right now. I bet you $20 you can turn on a radio station
somewhere and find an Alice In Chains song. Dimebag will be the same, but
if you are a guitar player? I have more, I have some cool shit to show you,
the way he played his ass off and tried to teach it to us, as a guitar player....
I feel an obligation to share this with the next generation. By the way,
Pantera has recorded two Black Sabbath covers: Planet Caravan and Hole in
the Sky. When everyone else did Paranoid and War Pigs, these guys tried
to do the tough stuff, they could do it because they had Dimebag Darrell



"Stronger than All"

Far Beyond Driven

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Gray Hair?!

(8) I was trimming the beard the other day and noticed a few gray hairs! Bad enough that Sean turned 21 the other day, but now this?

Actually, I'm not too upset about the beard. I'm more upset about Sean turning 21.

Seriously, though, I have always thought salt and pepper beards looked good, so I'm looking forward to the progression. Here's a close up of all three gray hairs in my beard!

There are two on the right, and one on the left. Okay, so it's mostly pepper, and hint of salt. (I don't know why it looks like I have a skin rash in this photo.)

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Great Pie Experiment

Rodney said he would have Thanksgiving at his house. He said he would cook the turkey, and I could cook the sweet potato pecan pie. Ever since we went to Louisiana and ate at K-Pauls, the sweet potato pecan pie has been a staple at all of our holiday meals. However, Dad usually cooked it. He would let me buy the ingredients, and wait maybe 15 minutes before he would make the dough. As soon as the dough was done, he would start on the taters, and before you knew it we had pie!

This year, I was going to have to cook it. 'Kay.

The night before I made the pie I watched the "Good Eats" sweet potato episode. Alton Brown made smashed
sweet potatoes
using chipotle peppers.

The wheels in my head started turning. This, by the way, is usually never a good sign.

While making the sweet potato filling, my mind drifted to the cabinet above the stove, where I stored chipotle powder. Visions of that smoky flavor drifting through my mouth kept distracting me. Before I knew it, I had opened the cabinet, opened the chipotle seasoning and sprinkled in about 2 teaspoons. No one, I thought, will notice.

As I finished assembling the pie, I kept tasting the filling. Slowly I realized that my mouth was tingling.


The pie was hot!

Mom was gonna be pissed!

Anyway, I made the pie. One for Thanksgiving and one for us, since I made too much filling.

I had hoped the heat would have mellowed while the pie sat, but it didn't. The pie wasn't flaming hot, mind you. It was a heat that built and left a lingering sensation in the mouth. I warned Mom, who said the pie didn't taste anything like sweet potatoes. After that first bite, she never had another. I took the pie to work, and one of the girls said she couldn't decided if she liked it or not. She asked me if I had ever had hot pepper ice cream. I said I hadn't but I had tried Ed's Cave Creek Chili Beer and I knew what she meant.

Well, long story short, Rodney admitted the pie had a kick, but never said if he liked it. Come to think of it, I don't think I ever said if I liked it.

I guess I won't be making the pie next year.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Holt Arts and Craft Desk

Just so you don't get the wrong idea, I am not obsessed with my kilt, or my My desk ideacomic (That's Chasing the Sun. Chapter Nine will be up soon!). Over the weekend, I designed some furniture!

That's right!

I created the Holt Art and Craft Desk™, a contemporary piece that will fit in any home!

I have posted the design sketch here.

The drawing table portion tilts up to 30 degrees, and the drawers can be built on the right or on the left. (They are on the left in the drawing because that's the way my drawing table is set up now.

I originally thought the drawing top would be able to adjust from 30 degrees to 80 degrees, just in case I ever wanted to take up painting.

The desk top would be covered with a self-healing mat, available at most art supply houses.

If any Norm Abrams wannabes would like to build the desk, drop me an email and we can discuss licensing arrangements.

As long as you build me one!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Kilt Update

Well, my prototype kilt is almost finished. I haven't put pockets on it. in fact, I am rethinking the idea of a pocket on the kilt. I'll keep you posted.

So what do you think?

My next kilt will be in desert camoflage fabric, and the one after

Thanks to Photoshop, Here's what the kilts might look like:

How many people think I have too much time on my hands?

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Because someone demanded it!

Hundreds of you--

Well, dozens of you--

Okay, no one has asked me who I am going to vote for. I'm going to tell you anyway.

To explain my vote, allow me to paint a few word pictures for you.

First reason: Outsourcing.

Four years ago, Providian (one of my credit card companies) called me from the United States to complain about how frequently I paid my bill. Now they call from India. "Hi," they say in Apu's voice, "my name is Bob." They asked me if I want to make an instant payment on my card. "I'm not giving anyone in India my checking account number," I say. They never denied being in India.

I just saw an ad for Dell today. A guy called Tech Support from his bed. He spent the entire ad being assured that Dell would always answer the phone. The Dell dude wasn't from India, though, so the ad is entirely fiction, since Dell has outsourced their tech support.

So, all the people who used to work at Dell and Providian are out of work, because the cost of paying them was too much for their employers, and the cost of the long distance calls were cheaper.

This has happened since Bush took office. The man who said he was going to protect American jobs. The only thing he didn't tell us was the only American jobs he was going to protect were those of CEOs.

Second reason: Iraq.

We should have never gone to Iraq.

Today, we should be watching the trial of Osama Bin Laden. But no. We have to make sure the world is safe from Saddam Hussein's (nonexistant) weapons of mass destruction.

Yes, Steve, Saddam and his sons were evil.

But if our job is to eliminate the heads of states that are evil, we need to be in North Korea, Syria and Iran. But we're not.

Third reason: oil prices

Ain't it interesting that 4 years ago, gas was $1.19 a gallon. Today, it's $1.99. Bush is an oil man. He's got to be loving that. (This isn't exactly his fault. Gas prices went through the roof after 9/11.)

Those are the reasons I won't vote for Bush.

But I'm not voting for Kerry either.

First reason: Kerry voted for the war in Iraq and then against funding it. If you can't stand by your principles, you shouldn't be president

Second reason: Kerry called the Bush/Cheney administration a "Do what I say not what I do administration" when it was announced Cheney received a flu shot. Kerry didn't mention that all heart patients, including Bill Clinton, were prescribed the shot by their doctors.

Third reason: Theresa.

Theresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to the Heinz fortune, said that Laura Bush hadn't held a real job since she married Dubya, and didn't have enough of a clue as to what the middle class needed. Of course, Laura was was a school teacher and a librarian. Theresa has worked for the Heinz company--not on the production line, of course, but on the board. And she worked on the boards of other companies. That, I guess, qualifies her to know what the working class wants and needs.

Fourth reason: Kerry's war record.

Sorry. You can't claim to be a war hero and a war protestor at the same time. Choose either one or the other, and I'll be happy.

Those are the reasons I won't vote for Kerry.

So who will I vote for?

Michael Bednarik.

He's the Libertarian candidate for president. He was arrested (along with the Green party candidate) for trying to get into the debates a couple of months ago.

Yes, I know he won't win. But he ought to.

But since he won't--I am announcing a grassroots protest against both major parties!


More later!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Well, it's revenge of the Freedom Fries! Apparently, sales of top US brands, like Marlboro, Coca-Cola, MsDonald's, Ford and others are currently experiencing a decline on the European market, particularly in Germany in France.

"The decreasing popularity of American brands can be explained with growing anti-American sentiments in Europe, presumably caused with the US foreign policy. Jeans, Marlboro cigarettes and Coca-Cola used to symbolize the American dream - the country, where everything is possible. History changed such a perception: the USA and its world-famous brands are now associated with the war in Iraq, multi-billion war costs and scandals with Iraqi prisoners in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison," the article at Pravda says. It also adds that the worldwide trend to healthier lifestyles is also adding fuel to the fire.

The companies cite other reasons, of course. There was a tax increase on cigarettes, stagnation of the European economy, and high unemployment, which causes people to spend less.

Or maybe, just maybe, they don't want our crap anymore.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I watched some of the lunar eclipse last night. The clouds covered the moon before it ended. I used my tiny digital camera to take photos of the eclipse. I later made a little montage of the images.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Kilt Update

I have not worked on the kilt too much lately. I got the waistband on, and Mom figured out a way to do the belt loops. I cut eight loops and tried sewing one on, and broke the needle! Mom said she would have to buy another needle. She's also going to look for snaps that will close the kilt.

Almost finished kilt, with half of a belt loop attached.  They I broke the needle on the sewing machine.
A broken need on the sewing machine,  Oops!

I just bought another bit of fabric, a desert storm camouflage, that should make an interesting kilt. but before I get to it, I want to make a second urban camouflage kilt, and see if I can do better. Then I'll work on the desert camo kilt.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dad's getting much better. He's doing his Aunt Audrey imitation (picking up dishes, pans, silverware, etc., scraping them across the counter, and dropping them from 1 inch back onto the counter) in the kitchen every morning an hour before I want to wake up.


I mentioned it to Gary, and he said, "Great for him, tough on you and the Z monster."

This morning, I got up to use the bathroom at 5:45 am. Dad was already up fixing his breakfast. (He had to be at the fairgrounds at 7am to get his flu shot. See below.) I went back to bed and he spent the next fifteen minutes moving dishes around the kitchen. As soon as I decided that I would get out of bed and get ready for work, about 6 am, he finished. Well, I was up already . . .

Speaking of flu shots, why is it that the flu vaccines we need are made in the UK? Could it be that the US pharmaceutical companies are too busy pumping out highly profitable male enhancement pills, eczema cures, asthma drugs and other things (with possible, sometimes fatal, side effects including nausea, dizzyness, drowsiness, high blood pressure, blindness, hearing loss, immune system problems, and savings account drainage. Please see your doctor if you have an erection that lasts for more than four hours.) that they can't be bothered with merely potentially life saving things like flu vaccine? Just a theory.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Moe on Chasing the Sun

Over the weekend, instead of sewing my kilt, I worked on this drawing. I originally sketched this in my Chasing the Sun sketchbook, and finally decided to try to draw it full size (17 inches x 22 inches).

"Kawamatsuri" means river festival.  In Isahaya Japan, way back in the 50s, the river flooded and killed a bunch of people.  Every August, they have a festival to  commemorate the event.

I drew this based on Isahaya's annual Kawamatsuri, or River Festival. Originally Lydia (in the lower right corner) was going to be on the bridge, which is why the guy in the background is waving. But I felt like the drawing needed something in the foreground to give it depth. (And just for the fun of it, I put Roy Harper into the picture--the guy with the beard at the tent on the right--Next to him is Akina Toriyama; and I put in Yoshi's brother--the guy in the black suit--from a story I wrote for the "Plainsight, Texas" strip I've had had at the back of my mind for twenty years. It's really tough when you have to explain the in jokes.)

Thursday, October 14, 2004


I am honestly confused about how to react to this story. It seems that Wal-Mart, the folks who don't have a problem paying minimum wage to their employees, who forces manufacturers to reduce their prices (forcing companies to outsource), has decided that CDs cost too much.

Now the country's largest record store, Wal-Mart wants the record companies to reduce prices or they won't be sold at Wal-Mart. According to the article, "Last winter, Wal-Mart asked the industry to supply it with choice albums -- from new releases from alternative rockers the Killers to perennial classics such as Beatles 1 -- at favorable prices. 'We're in such a competitive world, and you can't reach consumers if you're not in Wal-Mart,' admits another label executive. " And, "making sure Wal-Mart is happy remains one of the music industry's major priorities. That's because if Wal-Mart cut back on music, industry sales would suffer severely -- though Wal-Mart's shareholders would barely bat an eye. While Wal-Mart represents nearly twenty percent of major-label music sales, music represents only about two percent of Wal-Mart's total sales."

So, if Wal-Mart stops selling records, a long shot, to be sure, record industry sales will implode, forcing the RIAA to sue more 12 year olds for downloading music, and causing declining sales, right? (Bear in mind that the record industry lost a class action lawsuit recently that charged they had overcharged on CDs since the 80s. I even got $20 as part of the settlement.) And Wal-Mart still doesn't have to raise wages!


Who should I be upset about? Somebody help me!

Here's a photo I found on the Internet. I didn't create, but can't remember where I found it. So if you made it, drop me a line and I'll link to you.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Yes, Virginia, there is a media bias

For years, right leaning pundits have been complaining about the liberal bias of the media. The left has always said that any such bias is a myth, and we need to do something about Fox News because it is definitely biased.

Last month, Dan Rather proved that the liberal, or at the very least Democratic, bias does, in fact, exist. Rather aired a story about Bush's guard service during Vietnam, using documents his own research department thought to be fake. After being called on the report, Rather said he stood by his story. Shortly before the documents were debunked, he said that if the report turns out to be false he would take complete responsibility. After they proved to be false, Rather said he was sorry that the documents fooled "us."

I heard a commentator say that this whole fiasco took the C for "conscientious" and left BS to stand for the network. He also said that CBS and Dan Rather have had interviews or reports on almost every anti-Bush book that has been published since the beginning of the campaign, but not one pro-Bush book.

I still don't know who I'm going to vote for, but I know what network I won't be watching.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hot Damn! I'm on a roll now!

The kilt project proceeds apace. (I've always wanted to use that word.) I found the center point of the fabric, and began laying out the pleats, pinning the into place. I got all of that done this morning, so it was time to top stitch each pleat. But I had an Oktoberfest meeting this afternoon, and I had to run to the hospital to visit Dad. I got half the pleats stitched tonight. More tomorrow!

Speaking of Dad, he's doing a lot better. He has some fluid in his lungs, and they have to put in chest tubes to drain them. Otherwise, he's stronger and more alert than when he went in.

Yesterday, I posted a picture of Lydia (from my comic). Today, I am posting a picture of Natalie.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Wow, two days in a row!

Since there's a Renewable Energy Roundup going on in Fredericksburg right now, I have been thinking about energy and politics. What got me started on this was an announcement that International was releasing a new SUV called the CXT. According to the news report, they are making this truck because Soccer moms drive Hummers now. The Hummer gets about 10 miles per gallon. Not to be out done, the CXT gets 7 miles per gallon of diesel.

At about the same time as this announcement, the BBC printed a story on their web site about the depletion of the world's oil reserves, and CNN ran a story that said oil production would peak in 2010.

While driving to work one day, I was thinking about these stories and the current fighting in the Middle East, and thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be great if this country had an actual energy policy dedicated to reducing our dependence on foreign oil?"

California, under Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger, has made some impressive strides in this regard. First, they opened up the HOV lanes on the freeways to single occupant cars that get more than 40 MPG. Detroit was outraged. They said it showed an alarming preference for Japanese cars. Well, Duh! The only cars on the market that meet that criteria are Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid. Maybe if the Big Three made a car that got great gas mileage . . . Other states are following suit.

Next, the Governator signed a bill into law that could affect the entire country. If the regulations survive legal challenges from the auto industry, it would require the companies to reduce emissions by 30% by 2016. Detroit claims that there is no technology that can be put into place to meet these limits. However a recent study has found just the opposite.

Look, the long and short of it is, we are in Iraq to get oil. If we want to be free of the muddled Middle East tangle, we need to become independent from oil, and that means converting to alternative energy sources. In other words, vote for the candidate that promises to do just that. And don't think that Kerry will do it--he has already met with Detroit automakers to put their minds at ease about his presidency. (I wish I could find the article. It was in the Detroit Free Press a month or two ago.)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Year From Hell rolls on!

My promise keeps getting shattered more and more. We had to put Dad back into the hospital Thursday night. Apparently, sometimes after pancreatitis, the organ develops something like an abscess. He'd been getting weaker and weaker, and had lost 14 pounds in a week. So . . .

I did a drawing of Lydia (you know, from my comic, Chasing the Sun) and thought I would post it here. Let me know what you think.

Okay, to get the giggling out of the way, I need to tell you that I am going to try and make a kilt. Yes, I bought one, but Utilikilts no longer makes them in urban camouflage. And I want one in urban camouflage. So, I've started to work. Here's a photo of the first step:

I'm going to start with the bottom hem, and then, I want to find the center of the length, and start pleating. See this spot for updates.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Year From Hell

Well, I have broken my promise to my late Aunt Johnnie to update the site more regularly. I must say, though, it has been the Summer from Hell.

First, my uncle Bob Turner had a heart attack and had heart bypass surgery. Then Johnnie died. Then, Dad comes down with a severe case of pancreatitis, and spent 21 days in intensive care in San Antonio. We've had him home for a few weeks, but he seems to take two steps forward and one step back.

Friday, Grandmother Wilson had a minor stroke, and was taken to the hospital by EMS called by my aunt Nelda. Saturday, Mom went to Brownwood to see what was going on, and discovered that Grandmother had lost her mind from Alzheimer's Disease. ('Course, we'd known that for a while.) So Mom's been in Brownwood for the last couple of days.

I had started smoking again back in December. I quit in August, but then Dad went back into the hospital four days later. So much for a non-smoking lifestyle. I had intended to quit again tomorrow. Then Mom tells me Grandmother is going to be living with us for a couple of weeks, after she spends a couple of weeks with Sue.

Looks like I picked the wrong month to quit smoking. Again. (Ten imaginary points for anyone who can tell me where that line came from!)

I am also trying to sew a kilt of my own. I found a pattern
online, but want to use an urban camouflage pattern (at $7/yard) to recreate the Utilikilt style I like. I think I have enough fabric to try a prototype and then one I might actually wear. If this works, I want to make another one in the official State of Texas tartan, Texas Bluebonnet (at $32/yard). That kilt will be a more traditional style kilt, the pleats depending on the width of the pattern. But since Mom's out of town, my sewing lessons can't begin.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

I hate Clear Channel Communications, too

Clear Channel Communications is flexing its deregulated muscles. It seems that a Tennessee radio station had trademarked the phrase "BUZZ" for its radio station, and is a bit perturbed by Clear Channel registering the domain name for a station in Dallas. The Tennessee station is demanding that Clear Channel release the domain name, while Clear Channel is counter charging that the Tennessee station was not entitled to the trademark and that they stop using it. Ain't deregulation wonderful?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Simpsons are Simp-tastic!

(18) Did anyone see "The Simpsons" tonight? What a great show!

Bart gets an inoculation and loses his hearing, and tries to moon a donkey at a donkey basketball game. However, he doesn't hear the national anthem and the flag drops between him and the donkey, and he is photographed mooning the flag. He's accused of being un-American, and Congress determines that December 25 is "Hate Springfield Day." Mayor Quimby renames the city Liberty-ville. When Lisa stands up in church and says that freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment, a SWAT team swings through the stained glass windows and arrests the family for violating "The Government know Better Act."

Welcome to Donald Rumsfeld's America!

The Simpsons wind up in prison and escape after a talent show. They go to France, where they "hate America, too!" They realize that they miss America, and immigrate home. The show ends on the song "Coming to America" by Neil Diamond, as their ship sails past the Statue of Liberty.

Who says satire is dead?

Friday, July 16, 2004

You can call me Al

(16) I am starting to feel like Al Bundy from "Married With Children." Everyday after work, Al would enter the living room and say, "A fat lady came into the shoe store today . . ."

On Wednesday, a guy calls the office to make a reservation for his wife and mother-in-law. I give him three choices, and he picks the cheapest one. Today, the wife comes in and looks at the pictures of the house and asks if she can move. One of the gals tells her that she is responsible for the reservation, so no, she can't move. She calls back shortly after arriving at the house saying it's dirty. The gal asks, "How is it dirty?" The lady says the tub is dirty. The gal argues for a second, then asks me. I tell her to let the lady come back and choose something else.

The lady comes in and I give her her choice (her husband had asked for something with two beds, and the most expensive choice I gave him had been booked). She asks for more options. So I give her four one bedroom guesthouse and one four bedroom cottage that was three times the price of the one she didn't like. She takes the only option, and I explain that it will cost $20 more per night. The Lady sighs loudly and says okay.

The lady's mom starts bitching. The house that her son-in-law booked provided coupons for a continental breakfast. I told that, yes, it did. I explained that to the lady's husband. So the lady pays the difference. The mom asks if we do math the same way she does. I ask her what she means and she says, "How can $260 become $290?" I explain taxes to her. The lady gets my name and the gals name and asks who she can talk to to complain. (She had muttered something about everyone being sarcastic.

So, let's see, she's mad at me because her husband picked something she doesn't like?

I hate customers.

[Note: The next day, I spoke to the homeowner whom I had called when the guest said they hated the house. She said that when she arrived to ask them what was wrong, the mom had picked up the two coupons left for breakfast, and tried to stealthily put them back where she found them. No wonder Mom was so interested in the taxes! She got busted trying to steal from a homeowner.]

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Open Office

I have been watching G4TechTV and subscribing to a few computer newsletters, and have collected a few free programs that I use and recommend. So every week or so, I will introduce you to some software that you cannot live without.

First, you need to get Open Office. Open Office is a free office suite of software that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software. It is a completely free alternative to Microsoft Office. It can open MS Office documents and you can save your work as MS Office documents.

I had some really big Office files, and Open Office has a bit of a problem opening them, but I love this program! If they would only come out with a Web design module, this would be a perfect suite.

It's a big download, but well worth it!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Blame Game

(11) I found an article on the Pravda web site that perfectly describes life in these United States. I did not write it, but am reprinting it here for your enjoyment. I have reformatted it to make it easier to read:

"If a woman puts a cup of hot coffee on the car seat between her legs when she is driving and talking on mobile phone at the same time, and the coffee gets spilt and burns her thighs, she blames the restaurant for this.

"If your son commits suicide, you blame rock-''-roll or his favorite musician.

"If you smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years and finally die of lung cancer, your family accuses the tobacco company.

"If your daughter gets pregnant from the captain of the school football team, you blame school for bad sexual education.

"If your neighbor crashed the car onto the tree when he was drunk and was driving home - the barman is guilty.

"If your relative got AIDS when he injected drugs to himself with the dirty syringe - the government is guilty as it did not provide him with the sterile syringe.

"If your grandchildren are bullies - television is guilty.

"If some psycho killed your friend - the weapons producer is guilty.

"If some other psycho breaks in the airplane cabin and tries to kill the pilot when the plane is high in the sky, and the passengers kill him instead, the mother of the killed guy accuses the air company.

"I have lived long enough to understand what the world is about. If I die when sitting at this computer, I want you to accuse Bill Gates."

Friday, July 09, 2004

I was surfing Fark this afternoon when I ran across this news story. McDonalds is being sued by a California woman for not replacing the oil they fry in with a healthier alternative, as they said they would do. The story dispassionately details the events leading up to the suit, including that McDonalds had announced earlier this year that the transition would be longer than they anticipated.

But it's the last paragraph that got me. I am reprinting here:

"Heart-clogging trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil — a process called hydrogenation."

Nowhere in the story did the Associated Press write in the article that trans fat clogged the heart. This sentence is unsubstantiated by the rest of the article! Gee, I wonder where the writer stands on the issue?

A better sentence would have begun, "Trans fat, which has been linked to heart disease, . . ." That way the article wouldn't sound so biased.

But, on the upside, at least they avoided the cliche "artery clogging" which seems to belong to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which with the phrase "equivalent to [some amount] of Big Macs" a common measure of how bad food is for you.

You want to eliminate trans fats? Stop using margarine and artificial oils! Use butter and olive oil, where possible.

That's just my two cents.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

My Uncle Bill, My Hero

(3)Our family moved to Fredericksburg when I was about four and my brother, Rodney, was about three. We moved into this house on Plum Street, just a couple of blocks from Main Street. Up until then, we had been living in Brady, close to all of our family in Coleman and Brownwood. (Actually, before that we lived in Santa Anna, even closer, but I was too young to remember anything about those days.)

One day, Rodney and I decided we would write a letter to our Uncle Bill. He had married my mom's second younger sister, Johnnie Belle (It wasn't until I was in my teens that I began to call her Johnnie, which she preferred over the more, shall we say, Southern-sounding name.) Rodney and I must have been afraid that Uncle Bill wouldn't find us after we moved, because we wrote to tell him that we missed him and hoped he would come to see us.

Now, a four year old has absolutely no clue how to send a letter, so we left our house, and walked up to Main Street, and into a gas station. We handed to letter to the guy behind a desk and asked him to mail it to our Uncle William. By the time we got home, Mom and Dad were, naturally, livid. We got the worst spanking of our lives that day.

Uncle Bill was our hero, and we wanted to make sure, I guess, that he wouldn't forget us.

Yesterday, we attended Johnnie's funeral. She died of cancer at 55 years of age. From the day she discovered that she had cancer to the end, William was by her side. And when she died at home last week, he was there. He worked from home so he wouldn't have to leave her side.

After the service, they led the family out first. And when the friends left the church auditorium, William greeted every one of them, thanked them for coming, all without batting an eye. After the graveside service, we went back to William and Johnnie's house (it still seems odd to call it William's house). He spoke with everyone and played with his granddaughters. I don't know that I would have had his composure. I would probably have been curled into a little ball somewhere crying my eyes out.

Tonight, I realized that, after thirty-odd years, my Uncle Bill is still my hero.

My Aunt Johnnie was such a wonderful person. She would often email me and tell me to update this web site more often. In May, when I saw her for the last time, before she knew about the cancer that would kill her, she teased me about my kilt, and wondered why I didn't wear it. When my Dad's brother came to visit (after we heard the sad news) I wore it, and I forgot to have someone take a picture of me wearing the kilt. I wanted Mom to take it up to show her. (I have added a picture below, under the entry for June 17.) That's the only regret I have concerning Johnnie. I told her I loved her when we left the lake to come home, so I have that covered.

Well, actually, I have one other regret.

After the reunion at the lake, Johnnie had all the families get together for family photos. As everyone was leaving, Johnnie remembered that no one had taken a picture of her family. But the granddaughters were asleep, so we didn't get a picture of them all together. A week or so later, Johnnie sent everyone a picture of her family. I am posting it here.

From Left to right, and top to bottom: back row: Amy, Clay; middle row: Jana, Brianna, Lily, Tammy, Abby Grace, Johnnie; Front row: Uncle Bill and Ray.

From Left to right, and top to bottom: back row: Amy, Clay; middle row: Jana, Brianna, Lily, Tammy, Abby Grace, Johnnie; Front row: Uncle Bill and Ray.

I will update the site more regularly, as Johnnie requested. And if you can, please send a donation to The American Cancer Society in the name of Johnnie Thomas. My Uncle Bill and I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A Nearly Naked Girl!

(29) I have been working on my comic. The other day, I drew a picture from the climactic scene of the latest chapter. Here it is:

Yoshi giving Ray a birthday present

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Too Many Commercials

Well, this is interesting. Several Wall Street brokerages have downgraded the larger radio stocks (excluding Clear Channel Communications). The reason for the downgrade is the glut of advertising on commercial radio stations, up to 25 minutes per hour on some networks.

I'm sure that the RIAA will blame the music pirates for the devaluation of these radio stocks, and the resulting decrease in ad revenues.

When will advertising people realize that there is a limit to the number of ads we will listen to, or watch on TV?

Advertising companies revolted against the TiVo because it allowed people to skip over commercials, which was one of the selling points of the units. They made the same complaint about VCRs.

Last year, when the Hallmark cable network got the rights to broadcast M*A*S*H, they broadcast the entire series once with all deleted scenes (the scenes were deleted to create more time for ads), and those 30 minutes episodes lasted 45 minutes. When the Science Fiction Network broadcast the digitally remastered Star Trek episodes, the one hour shows from the 60s expanded to 90 minutes, and the network still interrupted the show in the middle of acts to sell commercials. The Original Series was done in four acts, but SciFi made the show an 8 act show. Now SciFi broadcast the Original Series with the same deleted scenes that were broadcast on the local stations. Same with Hallmark and M*A*S*H.

We don't want spam in our email inbox, and we don't want it on our TVs either.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A Holt mini-reunion

Donn and Ann came for a visit while Sean was here. Bob and Ann came down to wish our little leatherneck a good trip to Japan. We had barbecue, drank beer, and shot the shit. Here are the photos:

Jeanne's knees, Rodney and Sean

Mom, Ann and Donn

Rodney, Sean, Jeanne, Dad, Mom, Ann and Donn

A fat, drinking slob in a kilt

Sunday, June 13, 2004

I Hate the RIAA

(13) First there was AM radio. Then there was stereo FM radio. The next incarnation of terrestrial radio is Digital. Digital radio promises CD quality sound, and it will be free!

Naturally, the RIAA is pissed. They insist that there needs to be some sort of copy protection so that we can't record songs off the air on our digital radio/CD recorder set. We will be able to record a block of songs, but not an individual song.

It's hard enough to record an individual song off the radio, what with the DJs' inability to keep their mouths shut when a song starts and one song fading out when another fades in. What makes the RIAA think somebody is going to go to all that trouble?

Regardless, I don't think the RIAA will be happy until radio stations pay them every time a song is played. Currently, the record labels don't get money from radio stations. Radio stations pay royalties to the song publishers of every song they play. When Internet radio came along, Congress required that Internet broadcaster pay the record labels. When that law went into effect, thousands of radio stations, including my favorite, KFAN, stopped simulcasting their shows because they would lose money. Internet radio is now exclusively in the hands of large companies, and the small companies are shut out.

So, if you agree with me that the RIAA is overstepping its bounds, contact your favorite radio station. Ask them to consider "A Day Without Music." If enough stations participate, music publishers will see a drop in their income, and maybe they can pressure the labels to relax a bit.

And stop buying CDs from the companies that support the RIAA.

Thank you for listening to my rant. Please continue surfing.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Reagan's Funeral

I just finished watching Ronald Reagan's funeral. I don't know if it's because Aunt Audrey died from Alzheimer's Disease, but this presidential funeral was more moving than the other presidential funerals.

I started watching the ABC report, but Peter Jennings said something about no one is talking about "his relationship with the black community," and that his critics have largely been silent. I switched over to Fox news, who, at least, kept quiet until the funeral was over.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Wilson Girls Reunion

What a week!

Last weekend, Mom, Dad and I went to Gun Barrel City for a Wilson Girls' reunion. Practically everyone showed up at Johnnie and William's lake house. We spent all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday there, getting sunburned and visiting.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Spring Without Sun

(22) The Spring Without Sun continues into its third week. Every single day, the skies have been gray and dreary, broken only by occasional showers, and by 4 or 5 pm, the sun comes out long enough to set. During the night, the clouds come back for another round.

It wouldn't be so bad if we could get a day of sunshine once in a while. The forecast doesn't look too promising either. Maybe by the 29th we could have a day of sunshine. But the first back to back days of sunshine are in May.

Other than that, things are going well. Dad and I have been working in the garden, and we should have a pretty good crop of peppers this year. I think Dad's looking forward to a huge crop of okra. He said he's not sharing any of it this year.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Cyclists are assholes

(8) I got my kilt and I wore it to work today. Very comfortable.

But I have something else to say.

I would take up cycling, but apparently you have to be an asshole.

The last few weekends, cyclists have descended on Fredericksburg, and they all wanted guest houses. Today, five of them tried to check in before 2 pm. From their reactions, you would think they had never heard of a check-in time. All of them said, "But we have a 1 pm ride scheduled!" We explained that Easter, combined with wildflower time, is a busy time, and the homeowners hadn't had the time to clean after their previous guests. They sniffed in disgust and stormed out to start their bike rides. Another group arrived yesterday. Granted, they have stayed with us for the last several years, but this year, they negotiated a special rate with the homeowner for one night, and told us there would be 8 people for three nights. When they came in to pay, they told us that, no, there were four people tonight, six tomorrow and eight the next day. This required several minutes of recalculation. An hour later, the representative of the group arrived to ask us if they could check out at 1 pm or 2 pm (2-3 hours later than regular check out time). I referred them to the homeowner, and said that if she didn't mind, we didn't. Not an appropriate answer, I guess, since she sniffed and left the office.

I theorize that extensive cycling drives the spine into the part of the brain that controls polite behavior.

I explained my theory to the office. Then we had a guy who was staying at a country home who wanted us to deliver the key. He said he didn't want to come into town. I wanted to ask where the Hell he was going to eat, since there isn't a kitchen at the house, but I refrained. When he got to the office to pick up the key, he complained that since he was coming in from "that side of town" we should have delivered the key. We tried to explain that the homeowner asked us to distribute the keys, but he said that he would speak to the homeowner, because he didn't want to be bothered by it. I wanted to ask him if he brought his bicycle.

I suggested a $50 rural key delivery fee, and a $50 rural key retrieval fee, a $50 early check in fee, and a $50 late check-out fee, payable in cash, no receipt, to the others in the office. Someone said they would do it for $20, but they were roundly poo poo'ed.

The boss was in the office today and noticed that we had a larger than usual supply of assholes. But she wouldn't go so far as to authorize my fee idea.

So, if I ever tell you that I want to start cycling, remind me that they are all assholes.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Maybe today?

I didn't get my kilt on Friday. I should have known better. Our packages always go through San Antonio before arriving here. The information on the UPS web site changed, and my kilt spent sixteen (!) hours hanging out in Austin before leaving for San Antonio. It traveled an hour and 16 minutes and arrived at 10:50 pm.

So the question for today is: will the kilt arrive on time, as UPS hopes?

All our packages go from San Antonio to Kerrville, where they are distributed for delivery. Keep your fingers crossed.

Gary came down on Saturday and we played a perfectly dismal round of golf. The sky was gray and overcast, and a chilling breeze was blowing. I decided to wear jeans. We'd just teed off when the sun came out and the temperature soared! I was miserable. I should have just worn my shorts. I won't bore you with the scores, or embarrass myself for that matter. We did have a great time, though.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Maybe today?

My kilt continues is journey across the US. It spent 24 hours making its way from Commerce City , Colorado to Dallas, arriving there at 11:17 pm. It left Dallas for Austin at 1:16 am this morning. It arrived in Austin at 5:15 am (just an hour a 25 minutes ago as I write this.) Then twenty minutes ago it left Austin.

I might get my kilt today!

I'm celebrating by replacing the image on the front page. What do you think of me and my kilt?

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

My Kilt

(31) Well, I finally broke down and ordered a kilt from Utilikilts. I saw Patrick Norton wear one on The Screensavers a year or so ago and ordered a catalog. I hemmed and hawed about for a year. Then, last week, I ordered it. It was shipped from Seattle on Monday.

The folks at Utilikilts gave me a UPS tracking number for it, and I have been watching my kilt's progress across the country. It was given to UPS at 9:10 pm Monday, and left Seattle at 11:24 pm. On Tuesday at 5:05 am it arrived at Hermiston, Oregon, and left there at 7:42 am. It reached Salt Lake City at 12:23 am Wednesday, and at 3:48 am left for its next stop.

It arrived at Commerce City, Colorado at 1:23 pm, and spent 10 hours lounging around, and smoking cigarettes in the UPS waiting room before leaving at 11:49 pm.

I bring all this up because I am amazed that someone actually thought about where to put UPS shipping centers! Except for Seattle and Salt Lake City, and eventually San Antonio, the centers are in places I've never heard of. It's fun, in an insane kind of way, to watch your package make its way to you.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Lord, save us from the New Puritans!

(19) Time for Jeff to go ballistic! Here's the link.

The Colorado Legislature is considering a law that would make it a crime to show any material with sexual content to anyone under 18. The proposed bill -- House Bill 1078 -- will make it a criminal offense for any "play, dance or exhibition displaying pictures, drawings, video recordings, films, books or magazines to depict nudity or sexual activity to a person who is younger than eighteen years of age." The law requires establishments -- including bookstores, museums, libraries and theaters -- who sell or merely display any "real or perceived depictions of sexuality or sexual activity" to require identification before showing such materials to any patron, to ensure that the viewer is 18 or older.

Has anyone in the Colorado legislature read the bible?

Adam knew Eve. My pastor explained in church one Sunday morning what that sentence meant. For those who weren't in church that day, it means Adam and Eve had sexual intercourse. After Noah landed his ark, his daughters got him drunk and had their way with him and became pregnant. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have sex with the male angels who were visiting Lot. Lot offered them his virgin daughters. And should I even mention The Song of Solomon? That whole book is nothing but a hot love letter to Solomon's girlfriend. "Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies./ Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense." (chapter 4, verses 5-6.) (This is why the Old Testament is much more interesting than the New.)

High School students will not be taught about the Renaissance, or at the very least, will only be told it happened and shown the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci's nudes, and Michelangelo's David are illegal under this law. (Nudity.)

"National Lampoon's Animal House" will have to be sent to the back of the video stores. Any movie that makes a reference to sex is illegal. Say goodbye to "Look Who's Talking." And can you imagine what would happen should a child under 18 watch daytime TV? Not only would "Jerry Springer" be gone, so would any soap opera.

Sounds to me like someone in Colorado is deathly afraid that someone, somewhere might be having fun. But it fits right in with our nation's attorney general has ordered the statue of Justice, in the department of the same name, covered with drapes, so that we are not exposed to an errant breast.

Unless we're watching the Super Bowl.

Lord, save us from Puritans!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

More on Chasing the Sun

(11) I am currently working on chapter nine of Chasing the Sun. It is the part I have been looking forward to and dreading at the same time. It's the chapter about the Nagasaki Okunchi festival. I wasn't sure I would be able to draw the Dragon Dance which is the inspiration for the title. Here is a sample for you to judge how I did.

Saturday, February 14, 2004


(14) It has been cold here for a week or so, with gray overcast skies. We haven't seen the sun in so long, I swear I had forgotten what it looked like. Last night and early this morning, the temperature dropped and we got snow!

By the time I got up and thought about taking a picture, the snow was pretty much gone. But here's a photo of the cedar tree in the back yard.

Monday, February 09, 2004

It seems that the home of falling prices causes other prices to fall. In a UK study reported by the Guardian, large retailers are requiring their suppliers to cut prices. And to do that, suppliers are cutting wages, and increasing overtime, and causing. It seems that for every dollar spent in a Wal-Mart or Tesco, two of Britain's largest retailers, $42 is kept by the chain. Farmers are paid four cents and farm workers get five cents.

Here are some examples from the article:

-At one US-owned factory in Kenya where jeans are made for Wal-Mart, price pressure has led to hourly production targets that are almost impossible to reach. The factory rules allow unions, but in April 2003, when workers went on strike to demand decent pay, most union members were fired.

-In Chile 75% of women fruit-pickers worked 60 hours a week during the season but one in three was paid the minimum wage or less.

-In China, several factory managers admitted to researchers to using an array of tools to pass inspections even though they were violating the codes set by retailers. Factories supplying Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Tommy Hilfiger were found to have false documents on hours and wages and to coach workers on how to answer inspectors' questions.

Wal-Mart has gone on record saying they have a fair trade policy in place at every step of the trade chain. They also added that prices will continue to fall at their stores! (They didn't. I made that part up. But I saw it on an ad on TV.)

The American public hounded Cathy Lee Gifford to tears because her line was using sweatshop labor. When are they going to do it to Wal-Mart?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

You weren't indicted! You were sued! There's a difference!

I have now seen the latest Pepsi ad about fifty times. You know, the one where a girls tells you she was one of the kids "prosecuted" for downloading songs from the Internet. A point of clarification here, she was not prosecuted! She was sued by the RIAA! Only the State can prosecute. To date no one has been prosecuted for downloading songs of the Internet. Get it right, Pepsi.

Friday, February 06, 2004

It's just a boob!

The uproar over Janet Jackson's tit flash during the Super Bowl half time event is starting to irritate me.

The first lawsuit has been filed against Jackson, Justin Timberlake, CBS, Viacom, MTV, and the NFL because the "sexually explicit conduct" by the performers caused millions of people to "suffer outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury." It is a class action lawsuit which will no doubt ask for billions of dollars in damages, so we might all get a ten spot out of it. I'll look at a boobie for $10 any day!

CBS has instituted a five second delay in its upcoming broadcast of the Grammy Awards. In related news, Jackson has been uninvited, while Timberlake, who actually revealed the breast to the world, will still perform.

The NFL cancelled a half time appearance by Timberlake's 'N Sync bandmates, JC Chasez, planned for Sunday's Pro Bowl in Honolulu, because Chasez's song contained the words "horny" and "naughty." He'll be replaced by hula dancers and local singers.

ABC said it would add a delay for its Feb. 29 broadcast of the Academy Awards. TNT also said it was considering a delay for the entertainment portion of the NBA All-Star Game, featuring Beyonce, OutKast and Christina Aguilera.

NBC cut a scene from Thursday's "ER" that showed an elderly patient's breast, saying the current atmosphere made it too difficult for affiliates to air the segment.

AOL is rumored to be asking CBS for a refund of their $7.5 million they spent sponsoring the half time show.

The FCC is about to tighten broadcast standards and increase the fines for violating them.

All this over a one second boobie flash.

Don't get me wrong. It was a senseless, tasteless, and self serving act. And the boobie wasn't all that impressive. Janet's hot, and all, but it could have been bigger. (We might have gotten $20 out of the class action lawsuit then.) But was it that bad?

Let's see, we had a flatulent horse burn the hair of a woman. (Someone told me, "A horse doesn't have a conscience,"
when I brought this up. Apparently neither do advertisers.) We saw a chimpanzee ask a woman to go to the bed room for a little "ooo ooo ooo, aaa aaa aaa, eee, eee, eee." We saw a kid start to say "Holy Sh--!" We saw ads for erectile dysfunction. We saw Kid Rock wearing a flag as a poncho. And we saw the Panthers squib kick a ball to the Patriots with seconds left in the game, setting up the winning field goal! (Can you tell I was rooting for the Panthers?) Out of all of that, the only thing people seem to be worked up about is a boobie? Our kids can ask us "What is erectile dysfunction?" but they can't ask "What did I just see?"

Sheesh. Sounds like the only winners are all the TiVo owners, and Michael Jackson, who now can bask in obscurity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Mars Needs Women

We're going to Mars! Not just robots, but men! President Bush has set out a plan to get us there. I encourage everyone to support this plan, regardless of politics. I believe we need to go to Mars, and beyond.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

My Two Cents

What with the current attention on the current presidential campaign, I thought it would be my turn to rant.

I have long said that there isn't a lot of difference between our two political parties. I found a site that agreed with me!

John Ashcroft scares me. But nothing Ashcroft has done, yet, compares to FDR. This Democrat signed the order that sent thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent to prison camps during WWII. Not one citizen of German descent was imprisoned in the same way.

Truman, a Democrat, used the Bomb on Japan. Reagan was castigated for joking about using the bomb.

JFK started to invade Cuba. LBJ sent troops into Vietnam. It took a Republican to get us out, yet every Republican since Johnson has been accused of trying to create another Vietnam.

Carter denied Haitian refugees entry to the United States, while he escalated the violence in East Timor. Carter also earned his Nobel Prize for his work in Southeast Asia while he helped prop up the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Even though the Khmer Rouge has dropped off the media's radar, their legacy still affects Cambodia to this day. It was Carter's administration the recruited Osama Bin Laden to combat communists in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

Texas' congresswoman, the celebrated Barbara Jordan, came out in favor of a national ID card.

Clinton abandoned his pledge to allow Haitian refugees (and his promise of a tax cut) almost as soon as he completed his inaugural address. He reneged on his promise to allow gays in the military (which he should have followed through on), his health care plan (which was a bit scary). He bombed Iraq and the Balkans, invaded Haiti, tightened restrictions against Cuba (as well as Iran and Libya), and signed a Welfare repeal bill. He also signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act that laid the ground work for the Patriot Act. He also began dismantling environmental laws that, today, we lay at Bush's doorstep.

As Gore Vidal said, "Our only political party has two right wings, one called Republican, the other Democratic." And as Rush Limbaugh said, "Hold your nose and vote."

Me? I'll be supporting the Libertarian party.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Wal-Mart Stories

I have been hearing a lot about Wal-Mart lately that is disturbing.

One of the first things I read was that seven cents out of every dollar spent in the US goes to Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Wal-Mart. That's a staggering figure! Take my weekly paycheck, say, about $250. That means about $17 a week of my hard earned dough goes to Wal-mart. (I'm thinking that's low! There the only place in Fredericksburg that sells video games. :)

Then I read about the folks at Vlasic, the pickle people, have had to create a special package for Wal-Mart, a gallon jar. Vlasic had never put pickles into a gallon jar until Wal-Mart demanded it a year or so ago. Then, because Wal-Mart requires its suppliers to reduce prices every year, it had to make the product cheaper than smaller jars available in the supermarket down the street.

For years, Vlasic has been advertising heavily to get consumers to spend more for their pickles that other brands. In one fell swoop, Wal-Mart has undercut decades of brand building. Vlasic is now a "bargain" brand in Wal-Mart.

Also as a result of their "Falling Prices" program, more and more suppliers are having to move their production facilities overseas to keep lowering their prices. Wal-Mart used to be the home of the "Made in America" items. Now, very little of what they sell is made here. While Congress complains about the exportation of jobs from this country, Wal-Mart keeps slashing their prices!

I have heard stories about how Wal-Mart treats its employees. For instance, I had heard that Wal-Mart did not have any full time employees, apart from the store managers. I had even heard about one Wal-Mart manager instructing his employees how to apply for food stamps rather than giving them a raise. I had always taken these stories with a couple of grains of salt. Lately, though, news stories have come out that have made me reconsider.

On January 9, Wal-Mart settled a lawsuit over its practice of taking out life insurance on employees and making itself the beneficiary. Wal-Mart never told workers about the life insurance policies. According the the Associated Press article, "Wal-Mart is one of many large U.S. companies in recent years that have taken out policies on the lives of employees, ranging from executives to workers on the bottom rungs of the pay ladder, with the goal of collecting benefits when the employees die. Companies term the policies corporate-owned life insurance, or COLIs. Critics call them dead-peasant policies. Wal-Mart set up a trust in 1993 and named itself as beneficiary on policies for 355,000 employees." In 2000, the IRS took away tax advantages of the program and Wal-Mart discontinued the program.

On January 13, Reuters ran a story that revealed Wal-Mart had conducted an internal audit of their labor policies. The report indicated that employee records at 128 stores showed extensive violations of child-labor laws and state regulations. According to the story, "The audit -- now under court seal [my emphasis] -- of one week's time-clock records for about 25,000 employees found 1,371 instances in which minors worked too late at night, worked during school hours or worked too many hours in a day, the paper said. It also found 60,767 apparent instances of workers not taking breaks, and 15,705 apparent instances of employees working through meal times." There are currently 40 lawsuits charging Wal-Mart with making employees work without pay through lunch and rest breaks.

Just this week, I read about another group of employees suing Wal-Mart for locking them inside the stores at night while they stock. The only way the employees can leave are through the emergency fire doors, and unless there is a fire, they can be reprimanded or dismissed for using them. Wal-mart instituted this policy to reduce shrink. (Shrink is a retailing term for losses as a result of employee theft.) In one instance, a worker was pinned under some fallen machinery, and had to wait three hours for someone with a key to come down and let EMS in. (I wish I could find that article.) A Wal-Mart spokesman did say that it was common practice in high crime areas, but blamed most of the excesses on "rogue managers."

Before Christmas of 2002, one of these rogue managers removed all the donated toys from a "Toys for Tots" bin in the lobby of his store because it was full. He put the toys back on the shelves for resale. (That means that the store is going to sell some of the toys twice!) When the organization arrived to collect the toys, there were none, even though the organizer of the event had been in the store a couple of days earlier and seen the overflowing bin. The manager explained that he thought the bin was too full and he didn't know when they were going to be picked up. The organizer explained that a full bin makes people donate more, and that the pick up date was on the "freakin' sign, for crying out loud!" (Actually, I made that quote up. She had spoken to one of the minimum wage slaves at the customer service counter and told them she would be back in a couple of days.)

In a related story, Wal-Mart is being sued by a group of illegal aliens arrested at 60 Wal-Marts in 21 states. They were not Wal-Mart employees, but worked for outside cleaning contractors hired by Wal-Mart. The aliens claim they worked for below minimum wage (imagine my surprise at illegal aliens being paid below minimum wage) and worked up to 56 hours a week and did not receive any overtime pay (ditto). They are suing Wal-Mart because they say Wal-Mart had to know that they were illegals and that they were being paid below minimum wage. Wal-Mart says that they hired a contractor to do the work, and he was the lowest bidder. (In Wal-Mart's defense, they are not required to check the work status of contractors' employees. But it wouldn't surprise me if Wal-Mart knew, and actually looked for, these contractors.)

As Wal-Mart continues is inexorable spread across the retailing landscape, destroying countless mom and pop stores, smaller chains and entire downtowns and Main Streets, we'll see more of these stories. With's help (That's where I found links to these stories.), I'll bring as many of them to you as I can.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Turners Came a'calling

Bob and Ann stopped by for a visit yesterday. Bob had a presentation to a contractors convention, so Ann stayed with us to visit. We chatted about the families and agreed we were all excited about Gary coming home soon.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

The Miniature White House

Happy New Year!

Today, Mom, Dad and I went to Austin to see the much ballyhooed White House in Miniature at the LBJ library at the University of Texas. We arrived about 10:30 am, and spent about an hour in line, then about twenty minutes looking at the model.

'Kay. The model is at a 1 inch equals one foot scale. It measures over 60 feet long, and, on its display table, is about six feet tall. The display location at the library did not allow us to look at both sides of the model, which is a disservice, I imagine.

After the museum, we stopped at Matt's Famous El Rancho Cafe, home of the "Best Mexican Food in the World." Trust me. It is. Go there!