Monday, June 30, 2008

A Slog Of A Barnett Shale Blog

I got an amusing comment today to a blogging titled "Barnett Shale Ruining Lives in Texas".

I suspect this commenter is a Barnett Shale shill, likely working for either Chesapeake Energy or Devon Energy. The commenter seemed to miss that the point of the blogging was about the misery being visited upon an Azle couple, courtesy of the good folks at Devon Energy.

The commenter seems to think I was trying to scare people using a bizarre ongoing gas fire in Turkmenistan. I don't believe I was suggesting this was going to happen here. Then again, there have been a few explosions during the course of drilling into the Barnett Shale. And there have been people killed. I don't think anyone died in the firehole in Turkmenistan.

Anyway, below is the comment. My favorite part is I'm Archie Bunker in need of more joy. Truer words where never written. And the phrase "live in the Barnett Shale." This person lives in the Barnett Shale?

"Who wrote this slog of a blog, Archie Bunker? After all, 1971 is the year “All in the Family” debuted on television.

You’re going to the old Soviet Union … all the way back to 1971 … as a warning for those of us who live in the Barnett Shale?

1971? That was 37 years ago!

Most of the people reading your slog-of-a-blog weren’t even born in 1971.

That was the year the voting age was lowered to 18, and the year President Nixon (yep, Nixon) opened up trade with China.

In 1971, Intel introduced the microprocessor to the world.

There was no internet, no email, no blogs. No high-tech.

1971 might as well of been the days of covered wagons, compared to technological and engineering advances of today. In case you forgot to turn your calendar from the 70’s, it’s a whole new CENTURY now!

The new technology of horizontal drilling, highly advanced and monitored drilling practices, and government safety oversight of this new century is, quite literally, decades beyond anything that existed 37 years ago.

I can understand how people may be frustrated by some of the temporary inconveniences of drilling activity … some noise and dust and traffic. But these are temporary. And, frankly, minor inconveniences when compared to the benefits of drilling in the Shale … tens of thousands of new jobs for local workers who might otherwise be out of work … millions of dollars in new tax revenues to benefit our schools and parks … and an economic boost for every small business owner, employee and citizen of the North Texas, even those who may oppose development of the Barnett Shale. That’s right. You benefit even if you don’t like it.

So at least be fair in your criticism. Because trying to scare people by going back to the Soviet Union of 1971 is as ridiculous as Archie Bunker.

By the way, the top song in 1971 was Three Dog Night’s, “Joy to the World.” Sounds like you need a bit more joy in your own."

Siblings & Lulu

My dear ol' friend Lulu, the Dumpster Diva of Tacoma, has no siblings. But, Lulu is not your stereotypical only child, in that she does not, always, insist on being the center of attention. And Lulu does not make a big deal over her birthday, which has been the case with every other only child I've known. And Lulu plays very well with others.

Lulu doesn't understand the concept of having siblings. None of her aunts or uncles reproduced, so Lulu has no cousins either. Sometimes I get the idea that Lulu is a bit jealous that I've got a brother and 3 sisters. Well, not so much over the brother. He was a classmate of Lulu's. Other times Lulu thinks she's blessed not to have brothers or sisters.

That's my baby sister, Michele, in the photo, standing in front of a strange looking blonde haired lady holding a pair of salmon. I took this photo, but I don't remember where it was taken.

The last time I was in Tacoma, Lulu came over for dinner at Michele's. I did the cooking. Lulu brought blackberry pie. Lulu was amused to watch my little sister, the lawyer, out argue me over some little point about something.

If I remember correctly I'd been told not to mention a certain subject (an insect invasion).

But, I'd been asked a question in which that insect invasion seemed to be able to be mentioned without somehow violating the prohibition I was under. But, apparently my thinking was flawed, which my little sister pointed out with some legalese.

I think my defense had been something along the lines of it was she who introduced a subject, about which I could not talk, unless I mentioned the insect invasion. Yeah, that's it. Michele brought up me talking at length to a stranger who knocked on her door to whom I ended up mentioning the insect invasion. He'd known the previous owners, so I asked if he knew if they had insect invasions.

Anyway, I've not seen my little sister in over 2 years. I've not seen any of my relatives, actually, in over 2 years. I suspect I will be seeing several of them in 3 weeks or so.

My Texas Favorites

Someone I will call anonymous made note of the fact that I seem to find a lot to whine about regarding Texas. Anonymous was curious if there is anything I like that I've seen in Texas.

Without putting a lot of thought into it, here goes with my list of my favorite things I've seen in Texas. Now, keep in mind, Texas is a huge state and there are large areas of the state I've not seen.

In no particular order.

Galveston. I liked everything about Galveston, Moody Gardens, the beach, the town itself, the smell of saltwater, the restaurants.

San Marcos. I loved the way the river ran through the town with its crystal clear water burbling from an underground spring. Aquarena Springs is pretty much the clearest water I recollect ever seeing. And the long shut down amusement park with its rides still in place, but covered with vegetation, was very eerie and interesting to walk through. San Marcos is a university town. It reminds me very much of Bellingham in Washington.

San Antonio. The Riverwalk is nice. San Antonio has a new look, shiny and clean. Reminds me of Seattle.

Fort Worth Stockyards. I always enjoy going to the Stockyards. As do visitors from up north.

Fair Park in Dallas. Great place to roller blade. I like the art deco buildings.

Granbury. A very scenic small Texas town that puts on the best festivals and parades. The Granbury 4th of July Parade is the best parade I've ever watched.

Dinosaur Valley State Park. Great hiking and mountain biking. And there are dinosaur remains. Well, dinosaur paw prints. Not exactly remains.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. This is near Dinosaur Valley. I think driving through Fossil Rim is the most fun I've had in Texas. I know it's the most I've laughed. Who knew zebras could be so funny?

Enchanted Rock State Park. Reminds me of Utah. It's a great, scenic hike to the top of the rock. Lots of people.

White Rock Lake in Dallas. It's like a bigger version of Green Lake in Seattle, but with fewer people hiking, biking and blading. And you can't swim in White Rock Lake. Why? I don't know. It's fun to bike the trail all around the lake.

Canton First Mondays. I'd been to flea market, craft show type things before, but nothing like what takes place in Canton each month. It's huge. As in enormous.

Waco. I like Waco's Cameron Park. Great mountain biking. Waco is a cool looking town with a river running through it with a suspension bridge built by the same guy who built the Brooklyn Bridge.

Lake Grapevine. Great parks, great mountain biking. And I used to like to swim there til I was attacked by a rampaging turtle.

River Legacy Park in Arlington. This may be the best park in the D/FW Metroplex. Miles of paved trails. Miles of mountain bike trails. Lots of people. Lots of wildlife, from snakes to bobcats to armadilloes to fireflies.

Tandy Hills Park in Fort Worth. My favorite place to hike, by far. It's Texas before civilization arrived, hilly native prairie with the most wildflowers I've seen.

The Parker County Peach Festival. I've been to this twice. Enjoyed it both times. Weatherford is another cool looking small Texas town with a courthouse square. Like Granbury and Waxahachie.

The State Fair of Texas. It can be exhausting. But fun. It's in Dallas at Fair Park.

The Dallas Farmers Market. Visitors from the Pacific Northwest never fail to say the Dallas Farmers Market reminds them of Pike Place in Seattle. It is very similar. But no flying fish, multiple restaurants, waterfront hillclimb or multiple levels. But a lot of really good fruits and vegetables, and more, in a colorful setting.

Seattle Weather Babies

This past weekend broke temperature records in the Puget Sound zone of the Pacific Northwest.

In the photo you're looking at heat escapers at Brackett's Landing Park, by the Edmonds Ferry Dock, north of Seattle.

The temps got into the low 90s. In the Puget Sound region 3 days in a row with temps in the high 70s to low 90s is considered a major heat wave. Heat waves there rarely last longer than 3 days due to the heat causing cooler air and fog to roll in from the Pacific.

A former Los Angeles native, now Seattleite, is quoted in today's Seattle P-I, saying "People in Seattle seem to wilt after it gets above 75."

That is so true. I've only been up there during the summer one time since I've been acclimated to the Texas Heat, that being the summer of 2004. It was mid-July. The temperature was 78. I was cold, real cold. But the locals were in full whine mode about the blistering heat. Five days later I was at my sister's in Kent. That's a Seattle suburb. The temps that day were predicted to possibly break 100 for the first time in, west of the Cascades, Washington history. It only got to 99. Few people have air-conditioning on the west side of the mountains. It was miserable.

So, this weekend, on Saturday, the temperature, as measured at Sea-Tac Airport, tied the 1995 record at 91 degrees.

The weather service issued a heat advisory cautioning the elderly and children to drink a lot of water and avoid doing anything outdoors.

Meanwhile, in Texas, we've had a cold front blow in, with the low last night being 68 and the high today expected to only get to 95.

We are not weather babies in Texas.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back Ache In Texas

Years ago, every once in awhile, I'd put my back out. This has only happened once since I moved to Texas. Til today. The previous Texas back ache was caused by leaning forward to pull a lever while driving a riding lawnmower.

Today's Texas back ache is computer related. As in one of my computers refused to come on. It'd light up for a second or two and then go back to sleep.

I figured putting in a new power supply was the best bet. I'd not operated on computer innards in a couple years. I was easily able to disconnect all the connections. Except for the big one that powers the motherboard. It would not come loose.

I should have put the computer on a table, rather than kneel over it on the floor. At some point, when I was tugging on that last connector, my lower back started to hurt.

By the time I got the new power supply installed I was not easily able to get vertical, could not stand up straight.

So, the new power supply fixed the computer. Now I had to try and fix me. I laid on the floor til I got my back stabilized enough that I could walk. Put on a swimming suit and went to the pool. I figured swimming would be a good thing for a back ache.

And it was. I swam for about an hour. Got out of the pool. No pain. I laid down on a lounge chair and called my big sister. Big mistake. By the time that half hour talk was over and I went to stand up, I couldn't. The pain is excruciating and causes me to let out these yelps of pain.

So, I got back in the pool. At first I was only able to use my arms. I'd sorta become like FDR at Warm Springs. I could swim, with no use of my legs. But leg function quickly returned. After about 20 more minutes of swimming I got out and stayed vertical.

Then I decided going on a walk would be more good therapy. So, I went to Oakland Lake Park. Got there, got out of my vehicle and once more I could not get vertical and I was back letting out those yelps of pain.

I forced myself as vertical as possible and tried to walk. Gradually my walking function returned. By the end of walking at Oakland Lake Park I was pain free.

Driving back here my vehicle began to sputter. Gas gauge low. I got to a gas station and somehow managed to not notice I pulled up to a diesel pump. I'd already swiped the credit card through the reader when I realized I did not want diesel. Got that canceled and got to another pump. I then realized I'd gotten vertical with no problem.

I got the gas pumped and got back here and got out of my vehicle with no problem staying vertical. I have had no yelping in pain episodes since.

So, I'm hoping this is a very short-live back ache incident and not a multi-month one like my other Texas back ache. I'm under enough stress right now, I don't need to add a chronic back ache to the mix.

Barnett Shale Chesapeake Energy Overdose

I think I've mentioned before that I've never before been witness to a propaganda campaign of the scope underway here in North Texas, brought to us courtesy of the good folks at Chesapeake Energy.

It seems a day does not go by without me seeing Tommy Lee Jones' age worn craggy face shilling for Chesapeake Energy and Barnett Shale on my TV. And on billboards. And in the newspaper.

In this morning's Sunday Fort Worth Star-Telegram we were treated to yet one more full page Tommy Lee Jones Chesapeake Energy ad. This ad has Tommy saying "Texans can live with industry. We always have."


Tommy goes on to say, "We've been living with the Fort Worth Stockyards for a long time. If we weren't able to live with the stockyards there wouldn't be a Fort Worth."

Huh, again?

The rest of the ad is not Tommy's words, just basic Chesapeake Energy propaganda. Like, "Short-term costs include some increase in traffic, noise and water use." And, "because prosperity tends to spread throughout a community...the Barnett Shale will put money into every level of our society."

The ad forgot to mention some of the other short-term costs, like dust clouds that clog air filters, bright lights, trees removed, yards dug up for pipelines, that sort of stuff.

I can sure see one way Chesapeake is giving back to the community. All the propaganda must cost a lot. In addition to the full page ads, Chesapeake has plastered its message on park benches, buses, billboards, TV, radio and I recently learned Chesapeake published a thick magazine called The Barnett Shale, The Official Magazine of Thriving on the Shale, 72 pages on thick stock paper, 30 articles telling you everything you need to know about the wonders that Chesapeake is bringing to North Texas.

What I don't get is if drilling for gas in an urban zone, laying pipelines through people's yards, cutting down people's trees, covering cars with dust, making a lot of noise, keeping people awake at night, drying up water supplies, while polluting other water supplies and occasionally blowing up is so good for us, why do we need to be subjected to all this propaganda? Wouldn't we just intuitively know that the Barnett Shale is just about the best thing that ever happened.

Southwest Airlines Targets Fat People

Heavy duty participants in the National Strategic Fat Preserve, be warned, if you fly Southwest Airlines and if you appear unable to fit in a seat with the armrests down, you will likely be told that you need to buy an extra ticket if you want to fly.

Some people seem to think this is some form of discrimination.

What I think is I find airplane seats uncomfortable enough. I'd be miserable stuck next to someone for 4 hours who was oozing into my space, who made it difficult to get to the aisle en route to the restroom facility.

Why should a little person like me, a mere 172 pounds of me, pay the same as a person weighing 400 pounds? It takes way less airplane fuel to haul me 4000 miles than it takes to haul a 400 pounder. Why should I subsidize the airfare of a hugely obese person? How is it fair for a hugely obese person to fly for the same price as me?

I'm thinking the only fair thing would be to make all airfares based on poundage. Your personal weight plus whatever luggage you're dragging with you times a fixed amount per pound per mile.

For instance, if Southwest Airlines charged .0005087 per pound per mile, at 172 pounds, flying a roundtrip of 4000 miles it would cost me about $350. While the 400 pounder would pay $813.92.

Doesn't it makes good sense that your airfare be based on your share of the fuel consumed to haul your heft through the sky? And what a great incentive for some of our biggest fat banks to start drawing down on the National Strategic Fat Preserve.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Flying Geico Gekko

Today I was enjoying the peace and quiet, except for the cicada symphony, hiking at Tandy Hills Park, when a thumping, unnatural sound started growing louder.

I looked up to see a giant Geico Gekko flying above me, being pulled by an airplane. The banner said "Big Savings."

At least once a week I see an auto dealer named Huggins flying a banner for hours. This usually causes me to wonder why Huggins thinks this is a good way to market cars. It seems like this type eye pollution would be banned due to it being a bit of a distraction when you're driving.

At least I get the point of the flying Geico Gekko. Because it is true. You do save. I switched to Geico a couple months ago. I was paying Allstate $125 a month to insure 2 vehicles. With Geico it is only $33 a month. You hear bad stuff about Allstate. I've never heard a bad thing about Geico.

And see how effectively the flying Geico Gekko ad worked for them today? It caused me to blog about it and say nice things about Geico. For free.

Fat Matt Damon: Good Will Plumping

A couple days ago, when I mentioned that Matt Damon was doing his part in contributing to the National Strategic Fat Preserve, one of my acquaintances commented that I was being mean about fat people. That if I was fat I'd be more sensitive about the subject because I'd know how hard it is to lose weight.

I feel this person totally missed the point of what I was saying, that being that Americans have stored up this huge food bank on their bodies that gives us an advantage over all the other nations, except for Australia, which is even fatter than America.

With food prices skyrocketing all over the globe, Americans can now draw down on our collective fat bank, saving money, and driving down food prices as demand for food drops.

Now, my acquaintance, who thought I was being mean, has worked very hard to store food. I believe she is now about 300 pounds overweight. It takes about 2,500 calories above ones daily maintenance need, to gain 1 pound. 2,500 calories is about 4 McDonald's Big Macs. That means my acquaintance is contributing, what amounts to 1,200 Big Macs, as her part of the National Strategic Fat Preserve. That's impressive.

Now, regarding my acquaintance saying I'd be more sensitive regarding fat people if I'd ever been one and had to ever lose weight.

Well. In February of 2004 I had to fly up to Seattle and was locked in a room with all the chocolate I could eat for 10 days. When I was out of the chocolate room I was taken to buffets, burger joints and all you can eat cod at Anthony's Homeport. On the way back to Texas I spent 10 hours in Phoenix where I was forced to eat at an Applebee's Happy Hour and then drug to an In and Out for 2 of the best hamburgers I've ever had.

By the time I got on the plane I was a bloated mess. I didn't make it back here til 4 in the morning. When I woke up that day and saw my bloated self in the mirror I was appalled. When I got on the scale I was even more appalled. That scale said I weighed 217 pounds. 12 more pounds than when I'd left 11 days before.

It is now June 28, 2008, 4 years after I weighed 217. Today I weigh 172. That is a 45 pound weight loss. So, don't go telling me I don't know how hard it is to lose weight. It's real easy. You just eat less, eat good stuff and exercise. It took me about 2 months, after my 217 high, to get under 200. After that it's just slowly melted off.

I do feel a bit guilty about this, because I am contributing absolutely nothing to the National Strategic Fat Preserve. And I don't intend to.

Men's Health: Seattle Green / Fort Worth Fossil Fool

The current issue of Men's Health ranks American cities by how green they are, car-wise. Seattle came in #1. Arlington, Texas came in last place of the 100 city's ranked. Fort Worth is barely ahead of Arlington at #95. San Antonio is #94. The best in Texas is Lubbock at #32. Corpus Christi does pretty good at #34. Austin is #42. While Dallas is #67.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, in addition to Seattle being #1, Spokane is #8, Portland is #3, San Francisco is #9.

The rankings are determined by scores given in 7 categories.

"Fossil Fools" ranks the Biggest Gas-Guzzlers. Arlington is the #1 Gas Guzzler. Fort Worth is the #6 Gas Guzzling Fossil Fool.

"Fuel Wasted" ranks the least amount of extra fuel consumed due to stop and go traffic. Spokane is #1 on this list. Corpus Christi is # 3.

"Transit" ranks the greatest number of people using public transportation daily. No Texas or Pacific Northwest city shows up in the Top 10. San Francisco is #4,

"Ozone" ranks the lowest number of high ozone days. Portland ranks #2, Spokane is #4, Boise is #9.

"Pollution" ranks lowest daily particle pollution. Lubbock is #3, Corpus Christi is #4.

"Gas Consumed" ranks fewest gallons of gas consumed yearly. All but 2 of the cities on this list are in California. Which seems odd. Californians drive everywhere. The other 2 cities on this list are in New York, Buffalo and Rochester.

"Mileage" ranks fewest household miles driven yearly. No Texas or Pacific Northwest city shows up in the Top 10 on this list. Miami is #1.

"Greenest Drivers" is the over all score after combining all the categories to determine which cities are the most environmentally conscious. Like I already said, Seattle is #1. The rest of the Top 10 has Burlington, VT #2, Portland #3, Madison, WI #4, Fargo, ND #5, Rochester #6, Minneapolis #7, Spokane #8, San Francisco #9 and Norfolk, VA #10.

My conclusion from this? Well, Men's Health penchant for doing these type ranking things always seems a bit goofy to me.

I'll tell you this. I have driven in Seattle, Spokane, Portland and San Francisco. While each has many attributes that outshine anything in Texas, driving is not one of them.

Driving in Seattle is a nightmare. When I go back up there I feel like I've been spoiled by the ease of driving in Texas. Here if there is a traffic jam it is easy to get off the freeway and continue on surface streets. That option doesn't much work up in Seattle.

And it's not just Seattle, it's the whole I-5 corridor from Olympia to north of Everett. Just this morning Lulu told me it took her 2 hours to get 20 miles to Lacey. Lacey is between Tacoma and Olympia. The roads may be in much better shape up there, but driving on them is not in the best of shape. So, I don't know what in the world Men's Health was thinking, somehow ending up with Seattle having the Greenest Drivers.

Then again, I just remembered, when I am up there it is quite noticeable how much more prevalent small cars are than here, and how many fewer pickups and SUVs are on the road. I don't recollect ever seeing a Hummer up there. Having a Hummer in the Northwest would be like asking for some sort of social ostracism.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Obama and Clinton Unity

In a display of unity, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama met in Unity, New Hampshire today. Hillary urged her supporters to support Obama.

The former rivals spent hours together today. Their motorcades arrived at the same time at the airport in Washington. When they met up, they kissed each other, and then boarded a chartered plane. On the plane they sat next to each other, chatting all the way to New Hampshire, where they shared an hour long bus ride to Unity.

Hillary is in oodles of campaign debt, owing all sorts of money to all sorts of people. Everything from catereers to plane charterers.

Obama has offered to help Hillary pay down her debt. He has asked his big money supporters to send some money her way. At the same time Hillary is asking her money machine to give money to Obama. Obama even went so far as to write Hillary a personal check for $2,300.

Somehow this doesn't quite make sense to me.

On another note, regarding this newfound unity in Unity. Hillary and Barack color coordinated their outfits today. Hillary wore a light blue pant suit. Barack's tie matched the color of Hillary's pant suit. How did they manage that?

Texas Ant Invasion

We have ants here in Texas. Lots of ants. The two types with whom I've had close contact are fire ants and sugar ants. This morning I was greeted by an army of sugar ants that had invaded my kitchen, occupying one wall and one counter top.

Counter measures were immediately called for. I got out my can of Kitchen Safe Bug Spray and began the counter attack.

But my can of spray ran out before I'd finished killing all the ants that needed to die. So, I hurried out of here and made fast for Home Depot for a fresh can of extermination spray.

By the time I got back here the survivors of my first attack appeared to be in full retreat. Even so, I unleashed a fresh barrage on the remaining ants, killing all of them.

I then had to remove all the ant corpses and clean off all the contaminated surfaces. Grueling, nasty business.

Lulu told me her friend, Linda, now spending her first summer in Texas, having moved here from fire ant-free Washington, stepped on a fire ant mound a couple days ago and got stung severely. Apparently Linda was unaware of the fire ant danger we are constantly faced with in Texas.

I fear it's gonna be a really bad ant season this summer due to the new drought. Last summer there was a short plague of ants getting in the pool. That was not pleasant. They were big.

There are more ants on the planet than any other creature. Ants are estimated to make up 15 to 20% of Earth's total animal biomass. That's a lotta ants. I've done my part to reduce the ant population by a few ounces this morning.

I've had a few incidents where I've been woke up by ants crawling on me. That is very unpleasant. What if they decided to invade my bed like they did my kitchen? If the army of ants were big enough they'd have me eaten before I could wake up, like the ants do to the poor little gecko in the video below.

Largest in Texas: Zorro's Buffet in Fort Worth

UPDATE: I have now experienced Zorro's Buffet in person, July 18, 2008, for lunch. Read what I thought about it in today's Blogging.

For a couple weeks I've been seeing ads for a new restaurant in Fort Worth called Zorro's. Zorro's claims to be the largest buffet in Texas. They don't say by what criteria. Largest building? Largest buffet table? Largest selection?

Zorro's being in Fort Worth. And in Texas. Both known to greatly hyperbolize, I guess I'll have to check it out myself to see how large Zorro's Buffet is.

A few weeks ago I told you how shocked I was when former highly respected food critic, Lulu, declared that a Golden Corral restaurant in Spokane was the best buffet she'd ever been to. I'm sure Lulu would love Zorro's Buffet.

The info on Zorro's website is a bet worrisome. In that if you don't get your verbiage right on your website, how am I to trust that you will not overly salt your clam chowder? For example..."Zorro's is a haven for both carnivores and vegetarians, our homogenous gourmet salad bar..."

Homogenous? I'm guessing the word they were looking for is humongous. They didn't even spell homogeneous right, if that was the word they meant to use.

There are some missing spaces after some commas which cause me to worry about Zorro's quality control. As in, "...our wide variety of succulent meat dishes to include country cooking, Tex-Mex, BBQ, Seafood, Italian,steaks,ribs, to name a few..."

In addition to the missing spaces after commas, that phrase "to include" seems off too. Shouldn't it just be "includes"?

And then there is this, "Zorro's Legendary and Experienced management team Promises to make your visit a unique buffet adventure like no other."

Zorro's has only been open a short time. How did it get Legendary already??

In addition to the website errors that cause me to worry about Zorro's quality control, the restaurant is in a sort of seedy section of Fort Worth.

But, even though I have serious concerns, I'm sure I'll be trying out Zorro's Buffet at some point in time before it goes out of business. I'll be sure and let you know how much I liked it.

Radio Shack's Fort Worth Boondoggle

Yesterday I verbalized my amazement at the news that the new Tarrant County College being built on the banks of the Trinity River was to be scaled way way back and instead of having college classes in the new building, the classes would take place at buildings a short distance away, that being the former Radio Shack Corporate Headquarters, which Tarrant County College bought, barely 3 years after Radio Shack finished construction on their new headquarters, which is no longer Radio Shack's Headquarters.

It is rumored that Radio Shack now operates out of a former McDonald's restaurant in east Fort Worth.

Apparently I am not alone in thinking this Radio Shack/TCC "deal" is yet one more Fort Worth boondoggle, where supposedly well intentioned tax breaks and eminent domain abuse does not have the intended result.

Below is a letter to the editor from this morning's Fort Worth Star-Telegram from one of Fort Worth's reliable voices of reason, Clyde Picht.

FOCUS ON ...Who loses in TCC deal?

Before the ink is dry on the TCC purchase of RadioShack’s downtown campus, public officials like water district board member Jim Lane and Tarrant County Administrator G. K. Maenius are touting the deal as “brilliant,” “phenomenal” and “a good decision.”

One media outlet reported the cost would be about the same as the current estimate for a campus on both sides of the river connected by a footbridge. Oh, really? Let’s review the numbers. Maybe from the public’s standpoint this isn’t so brilliant or phenomenal and just maybe it is another unjustifiable move at public expense.

Recall that by selling the Ripley Arnold housing complex to RadioShack the city housing authority had to find accommodations for the displaced residents.

The authority bought an apartment complex in Tanglewood in which 20 percent of the apartments would be subsidized. The entire complex came off the tax rolls. The authority bought prime property on Overton Ridge Boulevard for another housing development. Again, it was taken off the tax rolls. RadioShack got a 20-year tax abatement and then sold the property to foreign investors. They did still pay tax to the Fort Worth school district.

Now as TCC pays $235 million for RadioShack’s real property and adds $80 million for renovation, we already have $315 million of new expense. Add in the $42 million TCC paid for land on the river bank and a probable $200 million for continuing construction, termination penalties and the like, and we’re talking about a half billion plus. A little pricey for a junior college campus.

Now, not only will the city never get any tax revenue from the property, the school district won’t either. More and more public funds because of the Trinity Uptown project. Yes they are linked. The cost of both TCC and Uptown will easily approach $2 billion. Who pays?

— Clyde Picht, Fort Worth

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Barnett Shale Ruining Lives in Texas

Way back in 1971, when there was still a Soviet Union, in the Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan, the Soviets were drilling for natural gas when the drilling zone collapsed and natural gas started to spew forth. Not wanting those vapors in the air, the Soviets set it on fire. It has been burning ever since, like a window into a mythical hell. I don't know why a way has not been found to harness this wasted energy.

Meanwhile, here in Texas, holes continue to be punched through the earth to reach Barnett Shale so that some water process, called fracturing, can release the natural gas.

This pleases many here in Texas. And greatly upsets others. Mostly those who have had their lives made miserable by having drillers suddenly show up on their property.

Last week Fort Worth Weekly had a sad story about a couple in the Fort Worth suburb of Azle who'd moved here from California to their dream ranch in a formerly bucolic setting. The distance from a residence rules that exist in Fort Worth don't exist in Azle. So, Devon Energy put up a drilling site 213 feet from Mike and Annette Daniel's house.

The drillers cut down a line of trees that gave the Daniel's privacy in their backyard and pool. And then the noise and light show began. And the dust. I've been through this myself. From over a 1000 foot distance. After a few months the worst was over.

You can read the entire story, "Paradise Lost" in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's nemesis known as FW Weekly.

Go to my Texas website for more about the Barnett Shale or what I call Fort Worth Flatulence.

And below you can watch a video of the ongoing glimpse into Hell in Turkmenistan.

Amtrak From Fort Worth To Tacoma

I'm pretty sure I'll be heading north to Tacoma next month. A pair of poodles await me. Among other things.

Years ago I rode Amtrak from Tacoma to Portland. It was awful. I've never been seasick or carsick. But I got trainsick. As in, by the time I got to Portland, I was totally nauseous, with a horrible headache that stayed with me all the way back to Tacoma, where barely a couple miles back driving on the freeway I had to exit and throw up.

So, I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to see if it was doable to take Amtrak from Fort Worth to Tacoma. It is doable. But totally, ridiculously bizarre.

First off it cost $418 one-way to Tacoma. And $414 to return to Fort Worth. That's $832 roundtrip. Flying is only about $350. Driving would even be cheaper. And funner, than Amtrak.

It's the convoluted route to get back and forth from Fort Worth to Tacoma that truly makes Amtrak bizarre.

I leave Fort Worth, July 16, on the Texas Eagle and 45 hours 30 minutes later I arrive in Los Angeles where I board a bus that takes me to Bakersfield where I get on another train, the San Joaquin and ride for 5 hours 10 minutes to Sacramento where I get on another train, the Coast Starlight and ride 19 hours 12 minutes to get to Tacoma, July 19, 4 days after I left Fort Worth.

And then the return to Fort Worth is even more bizarre. August 13 I get on the Coast Starlight, again, but this time it takes 19 hours 44 minutes to get to Sacramento (it's slower going south?) and then I get on the California Zephyr for a 48 hour 25 minute ride to Galesburg, Illinois, where I get on another train, the Southwest Chief and ride 4 hours 18 minutes to Kansas City where I get on another bus for an 8 hour ride to Oklahoma City to get on the Heartland Flyer for a 4 hour 14 minute ride back to Fort Worth for the end, on August 17, of a 5 day long return journey, where I would collapse and probably need to be hospitalized.

Well, it is now no longer a mystery to me why more people don't use Amtrak. One would think it would be feasible to run small passenger trains on a regular route, I dunno, like one heading through Fort Worth passing through Oklahoma City on its way to Denver and beyond.

There are train tracks all over this country. I've seen them. Why should it take way longer to take a train from Fort Worth to Tacoma than it takes to drive a car? I can drive there in 2 and half days. And that's with 2 motels stays. A train goes non-stop. It's 2200 miles when I drive to the Seattle zone. The routes Amtrak takes is thousands of extra miles.

The Farmer Got a Texas Wife

We are thrilled today in North Texas, thrilled I tell you. In yet one more example of what the Fort Worth Star-Telegram characterizes as Reality Shows love affair with Texas, spontaneous celebrations are likely breaking out all over North Texas, even more so in East Texas.

Why you ask?

Well, on some obscure TV cable station called, I think, CW, a farmer picked a wife. Bachelor farmers across the country are flooding the CW with applications to be the next farmer to get assistance in finding a wife.

The Farmer who so desperately wanted a wife is named Matt Neustadt. His fiance is named Brooke Ward. She is from somewhere in East Texas. The Star-Telegram has let us know countless times that Brooke Ward attended some college in Fort Worth. So, the celebrating will likely be quite big here in Fort Worth. I do not know, at this point in time, if there will be an official city wide celebration like there was the time a little known D.C. lobbying group put Fort Worth on some self-serving list of Most Livable Cities, or something like that. Most towns who got this bogus honor ignored it. But not Fort Worth, we had a celebration!

Radio Shack's Fort Worth Troubles

Last week a mouthpiece for Fort Worth's ruling junta objected to me suggesting Fort Worth's Trinity River Vision would likely turn into yet one more Fort Worth Boondoggle. Well, we had some prime Fort Worth Boondoggle material in the news today.

You are looking at what used to be Radio Shack's Corporate Headquarters in this photo, with what used to be Pier 1 Imports Corporate Headquarters in the background. Radio Shack's Headquarters was built with $86 million in tax breaks.

Radio Shack's Headquarters opened in 2005. To build their headquarters, Radio Shack used what was, to my mind, til the Dallas Cowboys out did them, the worst case of eminent domain abuse I'd witnessed.

Radio Shack booted hundreds of low income dwellers from their homes. Radio Shack also obliterated one of Fort Worth's few unique things, that being a free subway that ran from huge parking lots, also obliterated, to downtown. It used to be so easy to park downtown.

A short distance from Radio Shack, Tarrant County College was building a new campus. It's design was pretty interesting. I commented a couple weeks ago that this building might finally give Fort Worth an iconic structure that people in other parts of the world might recognize as being Fort Worth.

A powerful local, last name of Bass, a man with demonstrably bad taste when it comes to architecture, objected to the design of the new college, a design which included a pedestrian bridge across the Trinity River to more college buildings.

Well, that Bass man has gotten his way, there will be no bridge across the Trinty, no campus on the other side of the river, no sunken plaza. In other words, all that made this building unique has been taken away.

But what about the college? Well, Radio Shack has been on hard times for a long time. It always seemed bizarre to me that they would build such a palace for their headquarters, structures that seemed totally at odds with the tacky, run-down, trashy look of Radio Shack stores.

Like I said, Radio Shack got $86 million in tax breaks from Fort Worth to obliterate those parking lots, get rid of the subway, evict all those people and build their headquarters.

And now, Radio Shack has sold its corporate headquarters to Tarrant County College for $238 million. TCC estimates they will spend another $80 million renovating the Radio Shack buildings into class rooms.

Meanwhile, back at the original new TCC construction site, the parts already under construction, will be finished and turned into mostly administration offices.

As for Pier 1 Imports, they also have been having troubles. Soon after opening their new headquarters they turned off a bright light that shot skyward, to save money. And now their headquarters has been taken over by Chesapeake Energy, which has enough energy to turn the light back on.

So, Radio Shack lasted less than 3 years in its new headquarters. It's estimated the taxpayers are out about $100 million.

Does all this sound boondogglish to any of you?

Soon, another Fort Worth tax break beneficiary will be completed, that being the Omni Convention Center Hotel. The thinking for subsidizing the hotel was that the lack of a good hotel near the convention center was the reason that not many conventions took place in Fort Worth's Convention Center. No hotel builder saw the economics as justifiable to build a hotel, hence the tax breaks. Other cities, like Seattle, that do get a lot of conventions, do not have to subsidize the construction of hotels near their convention centers.

So, I predict that soon after the Omni Hotel opens there will be noises that its losing money due to many many empty rooms. Two years later it will shut down. Fort Worth will then take it over and turn it into their new city hall.

Meanwhile in far north Fort Worth there sits another underperforming beneficiary of Fort Worth tax breaks, that being the customer shy sporting goods store called Cabelas. Now, when Cabelas decides it needs to shut down its underperforming store I'm thinking it'd be a great building to makeover into a north campus of Tarrant County College.

In the end the taxpayers do get something from these Fort Worth Boondoggles, besides getting it in the end.

Matt Damon's Fat

Way back in 1996 Matt Damon played a heroin addict in a movie called Courage Under Fire. He had to lose 40 pounds in 100 days for 2 days of filming for a movie that I don't think ever got released. Damon had to take meds for years after this, due to damage done to his adrenal gland.

And now, 12 years later, Matt Damon has gone the other direction, as you can see in the photo. While he appears nowhere near being obese, it is clearly obvious that Matt Damon has decided to contribute to the National Strategic Fat Preserve.

Matt Damon may be endangering his health, again, for a movie, this time one called The Informant.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Narcoleptic Poodle

My sister in Tacoma has a pair of poodles who think I'm their uncle. They are named Max & Blue. Max & Blue have a blog. This morning Max & Blue blogged about a Narcopleptic Poodle. And complained that my sister was also narcoleptic because she wouldn't get up and get them some grub. Max & Blue constantly crave McDonald's Cheeseburgers.

Go to Max & Blue's Blog and watch the video about the Narcoleptic Poodle. It is both funny and sort of sad.

Texas Insomnia & Saharan Dust Storms

I had a bad bout of insomnia last night, for the first time in a couple months. I'd been taking sleeping pills, but last night I didn't remember I'd run out of my supply of knock out pills.

Last night I was tired, I was yawning, I'd have no problem falling asleep, or so I thought. I watched Hell's Kitchen til 9. That may have been too stimulating. I was then at the computer til 10. Again, maybe too stimulating. Then I went to bed and read a book I've almost finished, "Voices From the Third Reich." Again, likely too stimulating.

I turned off the lights coming up on 11. At about 11:30 that idiot Puerto Rican I've mentioned before called. She knows I go to bed early. The phone ringing was too stimulating. Of course, I did not answer it when I saw who it was. And then a minute later the voice mail tone went off. Again, too stimulating.

I lay in bed, over-stimulated, wondering if the Puerto Rican had called, all angry, due to reading something I may have said about her in my Blog. So, I got up and listened to the voice mail. I quickly deleted it when I could tell she was drunk and was calling me at almost midnight to tell me she'd watched the finale of Desperate Housewives again. That it was real good. That I should watch it.

So, back in bed, any sleep impulse totally evaporated. I tossed. I turned. The overhead fan made me chilly, so I turned it off. Still not asleep, coming up on 3am, I turned off the A/C and turned the overhead fan back on.

Sometime just after 4am I feel asleep for about 15 minutes. During those 15 minutes I had a nightmare involving my deceased grandma and me trying to help my now shrunken grandma navigate the kitchen floor at the house I grew up in, in Burlington, Washington. I woke up overheated.

I fell asleep again sometime after 5am. This time the nightmare was a Nazi stabbing another Nazi and another Nazi telling him to stop and the stabbing Nazi then slicing his own throat. Of course I woke up instantly and then laid there pondering what the significance of this nightmare was. I'm still pondering.

Sometime about 6am I heard the Star-Telegram hit my front door. So, I got up, made coffee, laid on the floor drinking the coffee and read the paper, what little of it there was worth reading. Then I got on the computer, saw how much Google money I made yesterday and then proceeded to blog my grumpy disdain for that recurring Star-Telegram inanity of pointing out Texas connections to people in the news. No matter how trivial.

It's gonna be a very long day. I am constitutionally unable to take naps. My first chance of being able to sleep will come sometime past 9pm this evening. I will need to brave going to Wal-Mart today to get a fresh supply of knockout drugs. I'd rather be a drug addict than suffer through another night like last night.

This is the last WWII book I'm reading. I must cut down on the amount of stimulation I subject myself to.

And as if my personal misery weren't enough, today north Texas is being blighted by a dust storm that has blown in from the Sahara Desert. That's in Africa for those of you who didn't know when the American Civil War took place. I hate it when we get a Saharan Dust Storm here. It makes me sneeze.

Texas Under Represented on Reality Shows

Only a few days left in the month and the likely cancellation of my subscription to Fort Worth's #1 newspaper. I don't know what I'll do without it, it's like a gift that keeps on giving.

Today, in the first paragraph of an article titled "Area stylists on 'Shear Genius' cut to the chase for us" the Star-Telegram's TV writer, Robert Philpot, had this to say about a Bravo Reality Show about hairdressers, called Shear Genius.

"Reality TV's love affair with North Texas gets truly snippy tonight as Dallas area hairstylists Daniel Lewis and Matthew Tully are among the contestants on season two of Shear Genius, Bravo's haircutting competition."

Now, I'm thinking the above is just yet one more example of how the Star-Telegram repeats nonsense without questioning its premise. Like how over and over again the Star-Telegram trumpeted that a sporting goods store, being built in Fort Worth, would be the biggest tourist attraction in Texas. Or when the Star-Telegram over and over and over again trumpeted a lame little food court called the Sante Fe Market as being the first public market in Texas and being modeled after Seattle's Pike Place Market.

So, let's look at the Star-Telegram's bizarre premise that Reality TV has a love affair with Texas. First off there are almost 30 million Texans. There are about 300 million Americans. So, Texas makes up about 10% of America's population.

So, all things being proportional, Texans should make up about 10% of the people on Reality Shows.

Do Texans make up 10% of the people on Reality Shows? I don't think so. Anymore than Cabela's is the top tourist attraction in Texas or the now closed Sante Fe Rail Market ever in the slightest resembled either a public market or Pike Place Market.

I would say Texas is being under-represented. Maybe that's why the Star-Telegram makes such a big whoop-de-doo whenever anyone on any show has any remote connection to Fort Worth, North Texas or Texas.

On the main TV page Philpot repeats his obsession, again, in a blurb about Shear Genius, saying "North Texas is represented by Frisco's Daniel Lewis and Dallas' Matthew Tully." In case we missed it the first time we got this important information.

And then in another blurb, this one about Farmer Wants a Wife, we learn that "Texas Christian University grad Brooke Ward has made it to the final two...."

Like I mentioned yesterday, in response to an emailer who suggested this was indicative of a small town mentality. Yes, it is. You New Yorkers ever read this type verbiage in the Times? Seattleites? Ever see this type stuff in the P-I? Los Angelenos, ever see it in the LA Times? Chicagoites, ever in the Tribune? San Fransicsans, ever in the Chronicle? Portlanders, ever in the Oregonian? Anyone, anywhere?

Oh yeah, I can see the LA Times having a lead paragraph read "Reality TV's love affair with Southern California gets truly snippy tonight...."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pearls of Wisdom from Rush Limbaugh

I don't remember why, but I get an email every weekday from Rush Limbaugh. It's an email newsletter about that day's radio show.

I'd not listened to Rush Limbaugh for a week or so, til today, while pedaling my bike. I pedal pretty much everywhere these days. Keeping me fueled is cheaper than keeping fuel in my vehicle.

Mr. Limbaugh was being particularly amusing today. If only he'd tone down his ranting about liberals I would find him totally bearable. That particular ranting just seems way over the top, he so demonizes liberals, you'd think they were a scourge like Nazis.

An 80 something long time listener, first time caller, waited for over 2 hours to get to tell Rush that he looked good in that cowboy hat in the photo above. Rush Limbaugh has trouble accepting compliments. It can make him stammer. A stammering Rush Limbaugh is amusing.

One of the things I do agree with Limbaugh about is we share an aversion to whining doom and gloom mongers. They are almost always pretty much ignorant and so the world becomes voodoo nonsense to them as they stumble about in their empty little brains, being afraid of the world they live in. But not afraid to spout their nonsensical ignorance driven drivel.

Yes, I'm talking about you, you Latina Hothead.

So, here is one of Rush Limbaugh's Pearls of Wisdom from today's "Rush in a Hurry" newsletter.

Pearl of Wisdom: "I instinctively do not have a pessimistic view of the future of this country. I can find for you times in our recent past where gasoline prices have gone up identically in terms of percentage increase. Because of my advanced age of 57, I've been through these things and worse. The country is better today than at any time in my life, economically and with opportunity."

There have been times when gas has gone up by 50% in 6 months? I had no idea. Of course, Rush Limbaugh makes millions of bucks a year. He can afford to put gas in his tank. He doesn't even own a bicycle. Today he went on and on about his lifelong aversion to walking. He's hated it ever since he learned to do it. He estimates he walks no more than 10 feet a day. This came up when he questioned a statistic in some article he was quoting which said the average American walks over 900 miles a year. Rush figured that was over 2 miles a day and seemed unlikely.

Seemed unlikely to me too. Then again, I easily walk over 2 miles a day. Walking and biking are currently my only means of transport. I gave up on roller blades due to one bad fall too many.

George Carlin and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

My one long time reader may remember me making mention of an extremely weird oddity in my local inept newspaper of record. That being that if there is any remote connection between a person in the news and a location in north Texas, especially Fort Worth, the Star-Telegram will let you know that important fact, no matter how tenuous the connection may be. Like a person on American Idol may have visited Fort Worth at some point in time. This paper will let you know that important fact.

So, on Sunday George Carlin died. In an example of how hard it is for newspapers to compete with TV and the Internet, timeliness-wise, the George Carlin obit did not show up in the Star-Telegram til today.

That is understandable. What is not understandable is the Star-Telegram George Carlin obit's inclusion of the weirdest example yet of this paper's twisted need to make that all important Fort Worth connection.

Here's the Star-Telegram's front page George Carlin obit.....

"Comic George Carlin, who's being remembered as a counterculture hero, died Sunday of heart failure at age 71 after a long career on stage and in TV and film. But he had Fort Worth connections that predate his fame: He honed his act here in the late 1950s, when he was a DJ at the now defunct radio station KXOL."

He died. But he had Fort Worth connections? I am not making this up. The above paragraph is word for word what is on the front page of this failing newspaper. My longtime reader may remember that I heard from the guy who writes about TV for this paper. He told me the Star-Telegram does this type idiocy so as to give its readers a local connection to a story, unlike that evil paper in that evil town 30 miles to the east.

In reaction to one of my previous diatribes on this subject someone emailed me that "Fort Worth seems to have a small town mentality, which would seem to be like some sort of civic mental illness in a city of almost 700,000 population."

I couldn't have said it better.

Fort Worth Video

I've no clue as to what the point of this video is. The only thing about it that I do know is you get to see what some of Fort Worth looks like. From a hearse.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who Cares About the Civil War? Part 2

I'm not real certain why it so bothered me to read that the majority of American high school students have no idea when the Civil War took place. It just seems like this is something anyone with any small bit of intelligence would know. That this is just one of those essential bits of knowledge that any American, with cerebral function, would know.

I asked a few adults yesterday if they knew when the Civil War took place. 3 out of 5 did. That was encouraging. But the 2 out of the 5 who did not know, well, their rationalizations for their ignorance were quite bizarre.

I won't name names. But one of the ignorant ones is up in Tacoma. This person thought the Civil War took place in 1812. But, the disturbing part was her rationale for being ignorant about a key piece of her nation's history. She told me that history is my thing, not hers. That she has other interests. Like I would have no idea what a Wedermeyer Chest was. Is some people's thinking so degraded that they equate knowing about a piece of furniture to knowing about the worst calamity to befall their nation, a calamity that reverberates to this day?

And then the other, much more disturbing, adult who did not know when the Civil War took place. Now, when I asked her I told her it would be understandable if she did not know, because she did not grow up in the United States, she grew up in Puerto Rico.

Well. She got all mad and defensive, going on about how she learned that but had no reason to keep that memory because she had too much on her mind and had to think about the future, not the past.

Okay, so that was pretty weird. And then a few minutes later she started going on about something in Puerto Rico that was making her mad, that being something about Puerto Rico making some demand of Spain. Something made me think she could conceive of no possible reason why Puerto Rico might make a claim on Spain.

So. I thought to myself, she's seemed pretty ignorant before, let's see how ignorant she actually is. So, I asked her if she knew why it was that Puerto Rico was part of the United States. She said she did not. She said she didn't care. That it wasn't important.

I then asked if she knew when Puerto Rico became part of the United States. She seemed really proud of herself when she answered that one, thinking she had the answer. She said "1492."

I sat there flabbergasted. This is a person constantly spewing the most ridiculous of ill-informed opinions and now I was right at the Heart of her Ignorance. This was a Puerto Rican who did not know why she grew up speaking Spanish, why or when her island became part of the United States. This is a person who must have never wondered why there is all that old Spanish architecture on the island.

She got very mad when I suggested if she knew about what happened in the past she might better understand the present. She then went on, again, about having too much in her head to add the past, that the past isn't important, tomorrow and the future are all that matter.

How does one communicate to such ignorance I sat and wondered?

The Puerto Rican is always going on, in a Doomsday fashion, about how the world is in such bad shape and so dangerous, with so many nations wanting to hurt the United States, particularly South America. I've tried to explain to her that the present is much better than having Soviet missiles aimed at us and growing up afraid of the dangerous commies. She had no idea what I was talking about. To her Hugo Chavez poses a grave threat to America, rather than the buffoonish cartoon character he appears to be to most of us. On and on she can go about Hugo Chavez, as if he's a modern era Hitler, and an important public figure on the world stage.

And therein lies the danger of being ignorant. If you've never heard of the Great Depression, if you've no clue about the total global chaos of World War II. If you are ignorant of the Cold War and the era when missiles were aimed at the United States. If you don't know of the bubonic plague. If you've never learned of the horrible famines that used to plague the planet. If you know nothing about madmen like Hitler. If you are totally ignorant about that which has happened before you are easy prey to stupid demagoguery. You'll believe that terrorism is the worst thing the United States has ever faced. You'll believe that $4 a gallon gas is the worst economic disaster of all time. You'll fear that a Holocaust denying fool, in Iran, is a grave threat to the world. You'll believe we live in the worst of times, when in reality, in most ways on most days, the world is in the best shape its ever been.

40 years ago who would have ever thought that China and India would be food exporters? Who would have thought a place like Dubai would rise in the Arab desert? That the Berlin Wall would be gone, Germany united, the Cold War won, by US, the Soviet Union gone, the Vietnamese loving American tourists, a black guy with a good shot at being our next President, cancer rates way down. 40 years ago who would have thought that Central and South America would be doing as well as they are now, stable for the most part, democracies, for the most part. 40 years ago, during the Space Race, who would have thought that, these few short years later, that America and Russia now cooperate in space, working together. And China is having an Olympics. And has put a man in space and is aiming at the moon.

It's a wonderful world.

I wonder if George W. Bush knows when the Civil War took place?

Who Cares About the Civil War?

Yesterday I was appalled to read that a recent survey discovered that a majority of American high school students did not know when the American Civil War occurred.

To me this spoke not to the sad state of our students, but instead to the sad state of our teachers. The college I graduated from was a big teacher's college. As in it is one where many grade and high school teachers got their credentials.

I remember a very telling incident. It was in a 300 level U.S. History class. The professor was passing out the graded results of our first test. Before he did so he said something like "I'm going to show you how well I read minds."

Before he'd handed a person their test results he'd say, "You're a future teacher, aren't you? And the person would answer yes. He'd give another their test and say, "You're not future teacher, are you?" And the answer would be no, I'm not.

I answered "no" when it was my turn.

When the professor was done he asked does anyone know how I knew the future teachers from those who aren't going to be teachers? I meekly raised by hand and suggested that "Since I got an A and I'm not a future teacher, I'm gonna guess that those you guessed were future teachers did not get A's."

"Not only did they not get A's, they did not get B's. All the future teachers got C's, D's and F's."

So, you've got C and D students teaching kids the essentials. But these are people who don't really have all that great a grasp on the essentials themselves. So, something as essential to understanding America as the Civil War is somehow not taught in a memorable way to a majority of students. That is appalling. If you don't understand what happened between 1861 and 1865 how can you understand the Civil Rights Movement that came along a century or so later?

More on this later, as in yesterday I asked several adults if they knew when the Civil War occurred. I was not universally appalled at the answers, but appalled nonetheless.

George Carlin Dead at 71

I've always found George Carlin very very amusing. I was surprised to learn, this morning, that he died Sunday. It doesn't seem a week goes by lately without some well known person dying, announcing they've got cancer or suffering a relapse requiring re-hab.

Below is a video of George Carlin taking on religion. In a very sacri-religious way. Is there any other way to take on religion?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fort Trinity Trail Again, Plus Video

About noon I slowly coasted to my nearest gas station and pumped half a gallon into my nearly dry van. And then for the 3rd Sunday in a row I burned up half that half gallon driving to Gateway Park to bike the Trinity Trail to the Stockyards zone.

It was not windy today. That was nice. I had a huge surprise this time on the Trinity Trail. I have never seen so many bikers on this trail as I saw today. And it was the hot part of the day. I'm talking dozens. Usually I see none. I even saw non-homeless people walking the trail. When I finished my ride I even had a couple drive up to me and ask how to get to the Trinity Trail. That's definitely never happened before. I showed them how to go the scenic route. Or the shortcut. They took the shortcut.

Of course, self-deluded person that I am, attribute this sudden increase in bikers to being caused by my having blogged about it, in addition to being so earnestly trying to get Fort Worthers off their collective butts and work on getting Fort Worth off the Top 20 of those Most Obese Cities Lists. I feel I am making progress. Slow, but steady.

Here are a pair of videos showing what it's like to bike on the Trinity Trail. In the first video we start about a mile north of downtown, heading south towards downtown. We cross under the Main Street Bridge, that I've mentioned before. And then we cross another bridge to get to the other side of the Trinity River. The second video continues from that point.

The second video goes through the busiest part of the Trinty Trail, that being the part that runs from downtown through Trinity Park.

Six Flags Over Texas Anyone?

Anyone in the mood to stomach the stomach churning roller coasters at Six Flags?

I've got 4 free passes and no strong urge to use them. Actually, they're not really free. The free passes don't cover the cost of getting to Six Flags or parking there.

I've only been to Six Flags twice, both times very very very hot. The first time I got soaking wet on some Wild Rapids ride that had killed someone the year before. I did not realize I was going to be going under a waterfall. You would think this would be refreshing to get all wet when it's 110 in the shade. But it's not.

When you get all wet and it's superhot the natural human response is to take off your shirt. But at Six Flags Over Texas there are signs forbidding this sensible practice. I cared more about my comfort, than a sign, and figured if being shirtless got me both comfy and kicked out of Six Flags, the way I was feeling right then, that would have been a win-win.

Sadly, no one told me to put my shirt back on. After an hour of sitting and drying I was good to go. With my shirt back on. Why does Six Flags Over Texas insist shirts be worn? While on the opposite side of the freeway at Six Flag's Hurricane Harbor shirts are not required? You don't even have to wear shoes at that park. It's perplexing and vexing.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Australia Overtakes America's #1 Position

I am in some sort of state of minor shock. For weeks I have been imploring Americans to draw down on our National Strategic Fat Preserve in order to cut food costs and shrink waist lines. And for aesthetic reasons.

I bragged about how we Americans have such an advantage over other nations in this strategic area, with us Americans collectively storing billions of dollars worth of food in our personal Fat Banks.

And, so, what do I learn on this last day of Spring? Australia, of all places, has passed us Americans as the fattest people on earth. How could this happen? I think of Aussies as being like west coasters, a fit and trim people with plenty of health nuts.

26% of Australians are obese. Only 25% of Americans are obese. With a population of 300 million, that's 75 million obese Americans. Australia's population is only about 20.5 million. That's even less people than Canada and California. With 20.5 million people, and 26% of them obese, Australia only has 5.33 million obese people compared to America's whopping 75 million.

So, though we may no longer be #1 in the percentage of our people who are obese, America is still proudly #1 in total number of obese people and in the amount of calories stored in our collective National Strategic Fat Preserve.

F**king an Austrian Village

Due to its name being the same as an infamous English language vulgarity, a town in Austria was so vexed at the expense of having to replace all the Fucking town signs over and over again, due to tourists wanting souvenirs, that, in 2004, the Fucking residents voted on whether to change the town's name from Fucking. They voted to keep Fucking. And anchor the signs in heavy cement.

I'm thinking, geez, why not just sell some Fucking signs in your town's souvenir stores. And if you don't have any souvenir stores, open some and sell the Fucking signs.

Now, I never use this particular vulgarity, or any vulgarity for that matter. So, please note my use of that word above was in its noun form, that being the name of that Fucking town in Austria.

From Wikipedia: "Fucking is an Austrian village in the municipality of Tarsdorf, in the Innviertel region of western Upper Austria. The village is located 33 kilometres north of Salzburg, four kilometres east of the German border and half an hour by car from the town of Petting, in Bavaria. The name of the village resembles a swear word in English, although it is pronounced differently ("Fook-ing")."

Now, with Wikipedia you can look up that same word and get details on its vulgar meaning, as well as its Austrian meaning.

If I ever visit Austria, I've no inclination to seek out a Fucking sign to take home.

Texas likes to name towns after European towns, like Paris and Athens. I wonder why there is no Fucking in Texas?

Texas Executions

I can think of only one or two things for which Texas is #1 in the nation. One is most litter generated per capita. With the other being that, by a large margin, Texas leads the nation in number of executions. Texas is working hard to become the most obese state in the nation, but has a ways to go to catch up with Mississippi.

There had been a moratorium on executions that was only lifted a few months ago. Since then the most recent person to have a date with the executioner, at the last minute, had his death postponed for at least a month.


Well, a man named Charles Dean Hood was given the death penalty for the murders of Ronald Williamson and Traice Lynn Wallace. That was 18 years ago when the murderer was only 20.

The prosecutor in the case was Tom O'Connell. The judge was Verla Sue Holland.

Turns out the judge and the prosecutor were doing some heavy duty hanky panky whoopee making during Charle Dean Hood's trial. Apparently this violates all sorts of ethical standards and undermines the integrity of the court.

That the judge and the prosecutor were having an affair was known by Hood's lawyers during the trial. They did not bring this up, back then, because they knew they had to argue other cases in front of the same judge and did not want to make her mad.

So, as the time ticked down for the lethal drip to begin flowing into Hood, legal maneuvering ran amok. Til the time designated by the death warrant ran out, giving Hood at least a 30 day reprieve, during which it will be argued, some more, that he did not get a fair trial before an impartial justice system. Which seems sort of true when the judge who makes the rulings is canoodling with one of the lawyers arguing a case before her.

Seems like a no-brainer. New trial, new conviction, 18 more years on death row. Then execute the guy. If he's guilty.

Texas has so many executions the state needs an execution information center. Go here to visit the Texas Execution Information Center.

Tattoo Granny

Okay. I will admit I am like a very stodgy old codger about some things. Like guys wearing pants hanging half way to their knees, showing off their underwear, or lack of underwear. I don't get why anyone would want to have their body pierced and stick metal through the hole, except for, maybe, one hole in each ear. And no holes in male ears.

But the thing people do to themselves that vexes me the most is tattoos. Why anyone would want to do this to themselves I do not remotely understand. To me they don't look good in any way, they are like having a stain on your skin, like some sort of hideous birthmark.

So, there is this grandma who lives in Irving. Irving is where the Dallas Cowboys currently play football. This grandma is 62 years old. She prefers to go by the name of Miss Dixie. Miss Dixie got her first tattoo when she was 47. She got that first tattoo at the suggestion of a friend who told Miss Dixie it'd give her something to remind her of her mother who was dying from cancer. So, Miss Dixie got her first tattoo.

And now, 15 years later, Miss Dixie is covered with moons, suns, stars, angels, eyes and who knows what else. Miss Dixie goes to her tattoo parlor of choice about once a week for touch-ups or a new tattoo. Miss Dixie considers getting tattoos a form of therapy that works better for her than regular type therapy. Or meds.

Miss Dixie claims she's never heard a negative word about her tattoos, only compliments. And her grandkids think she is very cool with all her tattoos.

Like I said, I'm a stodgy codger. I don't think all those tattoos are cool. And I don't think this sets a very good example for Miss Dixie's grandkids. I think Miss Dixie should explore some new types of therapy and maybe try some different meds. Maybe Miss Dixie is addicted to pain. If needles are the thrill, perhaps acupuncture might fill the need, without all that nasty skin staining.

Destination Fort Worth Trinity Uptown Project

There were a couple of interesting, amusing letters to the editor in today's Saturday edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. One was from a reader who, like me, thinks there are some blind spots in Fort Worth's Trinity River Vision Project. The other letter is from a Fort Worth native who feels Fort Worth gets slighted by airports.

First the letter about the Trinity Uptown Project------

FOCUS ON ... The ‘losers’ in Trinity Uptown project

The Army Corps of Engineers can fix the Trinity River flood problem, beautify the river and make it more accessible for $10 million.

The $576 million plan pushed by U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, called the Trinity River Vision, displaces rightful landowners by using eminent domain in the name of private development.

This isn’t only unlimited government — it’s anti-conservative and anti-American. It does not matter if the streets are paved with gold and chocolate is in the water fountains. What’s wrong is wrong. It’s socialism on display.

Jim Oliver, general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District and head cheerleader for the “vision,” says: “It’s like in any other major public works project. You have a few losers and a lot of winners.” This coming from the guy who hired the congresswoman’s son without interviewing anyone.

If this project is about economic development, why should there be any “losers”? How many of the “partners” in the Trinity River Vision are taking that role at a loss?

This is a new, bold vision? I have to admit that they make it look pretty exciting! They thought of everything — except the rights and well-being of 89 “losers.”

And given the use of eminent domain, there’s nothing new or bold about this “public-private” partnership.

We should expect better from “visionaries.”

— Brad Williams, Omaha Surplus, Fort Worth

And then there was a letter from a guy in Grapevine------

Destination Fort Worth

As my wife and I were leaving Las Vegas recently to fly back to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the American Airlines gate agent announced four times that our destination was “Dallas.”

I told her that I was going to Fort Worth. The airport’s name contains “Fort Worth,” and the airline’s headquarters is in Fort Worth. I asked her if she could mention Fort Worth sometime.

The next announcement referred to “Dallas-Fort Worth.” A few minutes later, she slipped into her old routine and dropped “Fort Worth.” I asked her again, and she told me that in the past three years I was the only person to ask her about Fort Worth.

Fort Worth can’t seem to get the recognition it deserves.

— Ed Rhodes, Grapevine

Durango Texas talking---Well, regarding taking umbrage at Fort Worth's name not being mentioned during boarding gate announcements. I frequently fly up to Sea-Tac. That's the nickname for Seattle/Tacoma International Airport. Just like Fort Worth, Tacoma shares the airport's name with a bigger, more well known neighbor. Unlike Fort Worth, Tacoma does not evidence a civic inferiority complex regarding Seattle in the way Fort Worth does regarding Dallas. Sea-Tac is located in neither Seattle or Tacoma. When the plane lands, if memory serves, the pilot welcomes you to Seattle. I highly doubt any Tacomaite has ever taken umbrage over this. Or imagined it to be a slighting of Tacoma. Or evidence that Tacoma does not get the recognition it deserves. Go here to visit a webpage of mine where I have some examples of what I think of as Fort Worth's Dallas fixation and how this is particularly troubling due to the well known fact that Fort Worth makes the World Green With Envy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where the Hell is Matt?

Seattle Matt's latest YouTube video has only been up 12 hours and it's already a hit. 14 months in the making, 42 countries with a cast of thousands. I wanna be Matt..... You can watch this extremely well done video here, or go here and watch it in high defintion. Just choose the "watch in high quality" option and click the full screen button.

Fort Worth Woman Dead from Traffic Ticket

A piece of local news bothered me yesterday. A 35 year old Dallas woman, Adrienne Lemons, mother of a 3 year old boy, was thrown into a Fort Worth jail because she had a couple traffic tickets she'd not taken care of.

From what I read it seems she was thrown in jail prior to having a hearing in court. The hearing in court was pending, when on the 10th day of her incarceration over traffic tickets, Ms. Lemons died, due to a staph infection, for which jailer would not give her her antibiotics.

At some point during her 10 day incarceration, due to traffic tickets, the pain from her staph infection became so intense she threatened to kill herself rather than endure the pain. Rather than getting her the treatment she needed, she was thrown into a solitary cell in the downtown Fort Worth Jail.

In solitary, Ms. Lemons condition became so grave she was rushed to the locally notorious John Peter Smith Hospital, where doctors decided her condition was so far gone there was nothing they could do. She died a few hours later.

Her family is in shock. Her brother has been the family's spokesperson. I'm hoping they find a very very very good lawyer.

I know someone here in Fort Worth who currently has two warrants for his arrest due to getting a ticket for not having car inspection sticker up to date. When he realized his mistake he fixed it that day, went to the courthouse to show that it was fixed and was met with confusing language from persons for whom English was not their first language. He walked away thinking the matter was taken care of.

Then 4 years later the notifications of his pending arrest arrived in the mail, not by registered mail, so there is no record of him actually getting these notifications.

Now, I'm thinking, elsewhere in the country, it is unlikely you could be arrested and thrown in jail over this. But, here in Texas, it seems common sense does not always rule. Or fairness. Because, apparently you can be thrown in jail prior to being convicted of anything. Now, I know that's the case for serious crimes, like murder, or bank robbing. Of course you put the perp behind bars prior to trial.

But for a traffic ticket? That is nuts. Totally nuts.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blue & Max and the McDonald's Diet

My little sister, up in Tacoma, has a pair of poodles, named Blue and Max. Blue and Max have their own blog. Lately they have been blogging about how much they love McDonald's Cheeseburgers.

Today they blogged about a guy in Virginia who lost a lot of weight on what he calls "The McDonald's Diet."

Ironically, I just heard from my little sister, that, at this very moment, Blue is at the vet's, being X-Rayed, with an IV Drip dripping fluids into the little guy.

That is Blue on the left in the photo. That's Max & Blue waiting to get into their favorite McDonald's, that being the Chihuly Glass McDonald's in Tacoma.

Go here to go to the Blue and Max blog and read all about their McDonald's Diet.


I'd never heard of Juneteenth til I moved to Texas. It's now an annual holiday in 29 states. Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas. In Texas it is called "Emancipation Day in Texas." At least that's what it says on my calendar. For more than a century Texas was the main location for Juneteenth celebrations.

I just got back here and saw what must be a big Juneteenth celebration setup, at least I assume that's what it is, in the open field next to my neighborhood Home Depot. I saw a Channel 5 TV crew set up in the Kroger parking lot across the street.

It looks like a big deal. Why was I not informed?

I've not actually ever attended a Juneteenth celebration. From 1870 til 1980 Texas pretty much celebrated Juneteenth alone. Since 1980 it became an official holiday in Texas. After that other states jumped on the Juneteenth bandwagon, including my own home state of Washington. So, now Washingtonians know what Juneteenth is. As do Oregon, California and Alaska.

So, Juneteenth is now a holiday on the entire west coast. Except for British Columbia. But that's in Canada. Canadians are always behind the curve.

This Juneteenth thing is a classic example of how Texas is always ahead of the rest of the nation. Well, sometimes.