Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Day of November Swimming, Hiking, Texas Fire Danger

It has been very windy here in North Texas this last day of November. Due to the wind and the low humidity and overall dry conditions we are under a Red Flag Alert here, meaning, be careful not to start a wildfire. I'm careful not to do that, even without an Alert.

We are having gusts up to 33 mph. The overnight low was 45. I went swimming about 8am. I stayed in it longer than yesterday. At the start of November I made a video of me swimming and wondered if I'd still be able to do so come the start of December. I guess a video will need to document swimming on the first day of December tomorrow.

This afternoon I went hiking at the Tandy Hills again. I talked on the phone while I hiked. The gusts made that a bit difficult. And then towards the end of hiking I got an incoming second call and I was able, once more, to successfully answer the incoming call without disconnecting the first call. This skill has been years in the making. For a long time I did not even try to answer a second call. Then someone told me to hit the green button. That worked. The switching back to the first call can still vex me. Today it did not work.

Miss Puerto Rico called a bit ago, wanting me to go to Dillards with her to get a new outfit for Friday's Christmas party. Last year her 'new' outfit was wearing one of my shirts. I don't know why a new outfit is needed this year. What I do know is there was no way I was going clothes shopping with Miss Volatile Latina.

When Outrage Is Out To Lunch

Fort Worth's Foremost Activist, Don Young, is in the news again. This time in the Shreveport Times.

Don Young had this to say regarding the article and the controversy it covers....

Fort Worth has never been known a hot-bed of activism, but when the City of Fort Worth foolishly approved a High Impact drilling permit near Scott Avenue it was expected that area homeowners would be up in arms - that civil disobedience would take root - that the "tipping point" had been reached - that things might get ugly. Scott is a narrow street in an historic neighborhood next to an endangered prairie. This gas well pad-site would lead to the first UN-odorized gas pipeline in a neighborhood. Citizen outrage was a foregone conclusion.

Didn't happen. Why not?

Turns out, most had signed mineral leases with Chesapeake Energy and had cashed their "mailbox money" months before. They watched quietly from their front porches as giant Chesapeake trucks, assisted by the City of Fort Worth, rolled triumphantly down their street like Hitler's invading army.

C'est la vie.

Shreveport, Louisiana will likely be the next big city to allow urban drilling. People say that, the city and its residents will embrace drilling despite environmental and safety concerns. As we have learned in Fort Worth, money and false advertising blinds and deafens common sense on contact. Will Shreveportians gamble their future for mailbox money?

At least they've been warned. The message of common sense has been delivered by The Shreveport Times:

Fort Worth deals with shale environmental issues

FORT WORTH, Texas — Don Young, a Fort Worth resident, had a plan: He could park his van at the end of Scott Avenue. It's a public street, after all, and if enough neighbors joined him, they could legally block the trucks going to the natural gas drill site under construction.

But a funny thing happened. Almost no one came.

"You don't do it thinking you're going to win," Young said of his plan. "You do it to draw attention, to gauge reaction. I think I learned a lot from that too. I expected most of the people who live on the street to join me. But I discovered most of the people signed with Chesapeake (Energy Corporation) ... It was a bit of a letdown for me."


In the Land of the Stupid

No, I'm not talking about Texas. I'm talking about the country Texas is a part of. As in a report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute on America's civic literacy found that most Americans are too ignorant to vote.

1,800 of 2,500 randomly selected residents, college students and elected officials flunked the 33 question Civics Quiz. Even more scary, the elected officials scored 44% compared to the average of 49%.

I first learned of this Civics Quiz while reading Gar the Texan's fascinating Blog. I was not too shocked to read that Gar the Texan scored 77%. That boy's world revolves mostly around fiction. His understanding of politics and history seems quite limited. When I read that Gar the Texan scored 77% I thought that this was a bad score. And then this morning I read a column by the Washington Post's Katheen Parker all about the Civics Quiz. It was there I learned the average score was 49%. So, Gar the Texan's understanding of politics and history is far better than my judgemental rudeness gave him credit for.

When I took the Civics Quiz the questions seemed rather simple. I was surprised I got 3 of the 33 questions wrong, with a score of 90.91%.

You can go here and take the Civics Quiz and see if you are too stupid to vote.

A couple samples of how simple this quiz is...

In what document do the words "government of the people, by the people, for the people" appear?

Identify a right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. Only 27% of elected office holders got that one right. 43% did not know what the Electoral College does. 46% did not know that the Constitution give Congress war declaration powers.

I don't believe the majority of my acquaintances would do very well on this Civics Quiz. One thing I've long noticed, while living in the Land of the Stupid, is that the stupider they are the more defensive they are about being stupid. Saying things like "I'm not interested in subjects like that." Or, "I find that subject boring." Or, "Why does anyone need to know this stuff." Or, "I don't need to know history, I'm only interested in today and tomorrow." Or, "I have too much already in my brain, I can't add any more extra stuff."

I can't help but wonder how George W. would do on this test. I think we all have a pretty good idea. On an encouraging note, regarding people so stupid they should not be allowed to vote, one of the more stupid people I have ever known is banned from voting. Now if we could only get more of them banned.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Icy Swimming Again In Texas

As you can see quite clearly in the photo I am not the only person in the world who enjoys swimming when it is icy cold.

But this morning's frigid dip really tested my limits. It was cold all day yesterday, no sun. It was 40 this morning when I went to the pool. It felt colder. The water was warmer than the air, so it was easy to get in the water.

I lasted 5 minutes, tops, before it seemed like a good idea to get in the hot tub. I know I've mentioned it before, but it so strange to go from the cold water to the hot. It takes several minutes before I actually feel the heat. Instead it feels cold. It must have something to do with the way the skin's nerves transmit cold info to the brain. The switch from icy cold to hot must cause confusion in the internal information processing center.

It dripped all day yesterday and is still cloudy. Yet for some reason the Weather Service has issued a dire fire warning through tomorrow. I would think the tall grass would be too wet to easily burn. Maybe the rest of North Texas did not get dripped on like we did here in Fort Worth.

Black Friday Wal-Mart Stampedes and Shootings

The day after Thanksgiving is a very dangerous day to shop. Unless you go to downtown Fort Worth where you'll find very few shoppers because there are very few stores.

Stampeding shoppers at a Long Island, New York Wal-Mart at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, knocked down a Wal-Mart worker and then trampled over him.

Police gave the trampled man CPR to no avail. He died a short time later. One cop said, "When the doors opened, all hell broke loose. The dead man had been trying to restrain the incoming onslaught when he was knocked to the ground at 5:03am.

I was at my nearby Super Wal-Mart yesterday around noon. It was very busy. But there were a lot of checkers, so there was no line to wait in. I saw no stampeding. I did hear some very loud chanting. Dozens of Wal-Mart workers were having some sort of pep rally. It sounded very chaotic.

I've never participated in the day after Thanksgiving shopping madness. However, my mom and sisters have been known to. For years a former friend of mine, known for her habitual lying, told me she'd seen my mom and little sister on a Seattle TV news report about the Black Friday shopping, in which my little sister said something like "every year on this day we go shopping to get our year's supply of socks." A couple years ago my little sister and the person who told me the socks news story were in the same room. My little sister confirmed that it was true, and not only that, she continues to get socks on the day after Thanksgiving.

And people wonder why I've had DNA testing done to see if there was any chance I'm not actually related to these people.

The video of a Wal-Mart Stampede, below, is not from yesterday's deadly Wal-Mart Stampede, it's from another Wal-Mart Stampede were shoppers got knocked to the ground and trampled. Christmas shoppers are such an unruly mob. What would Jesus say about this behaviour one can't help but wonder.

Texas Beauty Queen Felon Julie Steen

Yesterday I was a bit surprised to get the news that one of Big Ed's nephews, up in Washington, got himself a ton of newspaper notoriety when he was arrested for the 14th time in 16 years for driving under the influence. The nephew has previously spent a lot of time in jail. This time he is going to spend 2 years in a state prison, rather than the county jails he previously spent time in. And this time, due to a new law, his crime is a felony.

If this boy was caught driving drunk 14 times, you can't help but wonder how many times he drove drunk and didn't get caught.

In today's Texas News a former Miss Texas contestant, Julie Witt Steen is in jail preparing for her 3rd felony theft charge in 8 years. Her previous thefts include stealing blank checks from a bank where she worked and turning them into cash to the tune of around $9,000. Working as a paralegal Steen managed to steal over $35,000 from a young widow. She got sentenced to 10 years for the young widow theft. The jurors gave Steen the maximum penalty after hearing evidence she took $70,000 from another widow and $75,000 from another employer.

Steen's most recent theft occurred while working for Allen and Melody Shelton, booking weddings for their A & M Gardens business. It's not yet clear how much Steen got away with from the Shelton's. It's believed to be up to $100,000.

The things people do are so perplexing. I've only known one convicted felon. That was a money theft crime similar to Steen's. That particular felon's troubles came about due to a very warped sense of entitlement along with a sense of being impervious to consequences, combined with absolutely no money-sense, as in this person can not keep a bank account open due to chronic check bouncing. And just like Steen and Big Ed's nephew, this felon's behavior was not altered by getting caught and doing jail time. The same fiscal and personal lack of responsiblity and deluded thinking that brought about the BIG TROUBLE is still there, untreated. Likely only a matter of time til, like Steen and Big Ed's nephew, BIG TROUBLE with the law happens again.

Sad, the messes some people make of their simple lives.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kroger: Right Store Wrong Price

A Kroger is walking distance from where I live. Albertsons is across the street. Rock throwing distance away. Albertsons was the worst of the grocery stores when I lived in the northwest. I was appalled to move to Texas and have people tell me Albertsons was the best grocery store in the Dallas/Fort Worth zone.

I was also appalled to learn, a couple years ago, that Krogers bought Fred Meyers. Fred Meyers is/was a very good, huge department store, that also has/had a good grocery section. Fred's was based in Portland. The Fred Meyers I once knew is no more. It has been Krogerfied.

One of the reasons I do not like either Albertsons or Krogers is the frequency of price mistakes. Never in my favor. Krogers used to have a money back guarantee if the price rings up wrong sign prominently displayed. I don't see that sign anymore.

When the price was wrong I used to enjoy going to customer service and getting my money back and thus the item for free. But that is way too much bother. I get my satisfaction now by Blogging about the bad store.

So, this morning I went to my nearby Super Wal-Mart. I forgot to get popcorn. Air popped popcorn is my dinner most evenings. So, a few minutes ago, with evening rapidly approaching, I did what I don't like to do and went to my nearby Krogers to get popcorn. And cheese. Kroger is one of those annoying stores that has a "Reward" card. Krogers calls theirs "Krogers Plus Shopper's Card." Albertsons dropped the card idiocy, earning points with me. But I still don't shop there.

So, the popcorn had one of those "Krogers Plus" card signs saying that with your "Krogers Plus" card the popcorn was 2 for $3. Regularly $1.99. The cheese was 3 for $5 with the card.

So, I got only 2 items. The popcorn scanned at $1.99, not the expected $1.50. I pondered calling 911 to report the robbery. I've seen shoplifters arrested at this Krogers. I think the Kroger manager should do some hard time in the local pokey.

Ironically, just last week I was in the same Krogers, getting milk. The person with me saw something perceived to be a good buy due to the "Kroger Plus" thing saying it was a certain price. I said, you can't trust anything you see in Krogers, it's messed up half the time. Which tonight, turned out to be precisely accurate.

A Drippy Seattle Like Day in Fort Worth

No hiking or roller blading for me today. It's been dripping and gray all day, so far, today. This is not Texas type rain. This is a gentle dripping Pacific Northwest type of rainy day. Very rare here. In Texas when it rains the clouds mean business, as in heavy downpours that can last a long time.

That is my current view in the photo.

Everything, including the pool, was wet when I went swimming this morning. There was a dry spot under the Magnolia tree where my towel could stay dry.

It's 3pm now. I think I may be suffering from SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder), again. Today is causing me painful flashbacks to my month-long stay, last summer, in frigid Tacoma.

My TV Blog is continuing to go nuts. Due to those Real Atlanta Housewives. It's got to die down at some point, I would think. I need to watch more TV and find some more good controversies to write about. It's so bizarre, now I've got people making comments to the people making comments.

Like this one that just popped up....

To Anonymous.........You're an idiot. Way to let someone have their own opinion that doesn't agree w/yours. Very open minded...NOT! But since you like NeNe, it's not surprising that you think and act like her. Just the fact that you like her...well, that says it all about you now doesn't it?! You talk about all the ladies "faults". Like NeNe did nothing wrong? How 'bout bein jealous 'cause Kim made a new friend? How 'bout talkin trash about your friend? How 'bout gettin drunk and actin loud and obnioxious at someone else's b-day party? Oh yeah, she's a perfect angel. lol

And this one. This person seems to think I'm doing an investigation...

Hey, if you blast yourself on National TV and boast about money and the good life which money can bring you in Atlanta, then you should show for it. Obviously, whoever anonymous #6 might be a little bitter for some stupid reason? Good job on the investigation!!! For you anonymous #6 you get a job and leave this blog site alone if you are too hurt and bitter to read it. Now you have a good day!

Well. What can I say? I have no idea.

Al Hayne & the Texas Spring Palace Tragedy

My first year in Texas one afternoon I was exploring downtown Fort Worth. On the south side of downtown, at that time, an elevated section of Interstate 30 was above Lancaster Avenue, just south of the Fort Worth Convention Center and the Water Gardens.

I drove under the elevated freeway and saw what appeared to be some sort of statue. I was driving my van. I parked and got out to check out the statue. Suddenly I saw dozens of men running towards me. I did not know, at that time, that in Texas you can hire day laborers, likely illegals, who are desperate for work.

After the men figured out I wasn't hiring I proceeded to check out the statue. It appeared to be suffering from years of neglect, hidden away on the wrong side of the freeway. It quickly became obvious the statue was a memorial.

I was very pleased on Thanksgiving to discover that this memorial is now in a setting worthy of a memorial.

It's a memorial to a British man named Alfred S. Hayne. He was born in London, August 1, 1849 and died in Fort Worth on May 31, 1890. One of the messages on the memorial says, "In Honor of the Hero of the Spring Palace Fire Al Hayne who, unselfish as brave died that others might live." That message is one clunky sentence.

Spring Palace? Yes, I was curious too when I read that the first time. The Texas Spring Palace opened on May 29, 1889. It was sort of an agricultural fair. It was a huge success, attracting attention all over Texas, America and the World. Only the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. surpassed the Spring Palace's massive center dome.

The Spring Palace's second season began May 10, 1890. On May 30 several thousand people, including Al Hayne, were attending a dance in the palace. A flash fire swept through the building. Al Hayne helped dozens of women and children escape the burning building. Al Hayne did not make it out of the fire and became the only person who died in the Spring Palace fire.

The memorial to Al Hayne is near where the Spring Palace was located.

When we saw the memorial yesterday someone had placed flowers on it. I made the comment that there are likely quite a few descendants of those Al Hayne saved and one of them must have put those flowers there. The party to whom I said this got all weepy.

The memorial has some strange gargoyle like things on it. I've no idea what they are supposed to be.

Go to my Eyes on Texas website for a lot more about the Texas Spring Palace.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fort Worth Omni Hotel & Lancaster Avenue Renovation

It has been a long time since I've been to downtown Fort Worth. For months, when I've gone through the I-30/I-35 downtown Fort Worth Mixmaster (mixmaster is Texas-speak for a humongous freeway exchange), I've been wondering what was sticking out from the sides of the under construction Fort Worth Omni Hotel, looking like scaffolding.

Well, today on the way to Zorro's Buffet for my Thanksgiving pigout, I decided I was going to wonder no more. That I would go to downtown Fort Worth to look at that new hotel.

The scaffolding turned out to be huge, scary-looking cantilevered balconies. How in the world did this get past building codes? It gets very windy here. It wouldn't be safe to have much of anything, like a chair, or even a human, out on one of those high up balconies.

The last time I was downtown it was to take pictures of what an awful mess the area south of the Fort Worth Convention Center continued to be, along what is known as Lancaster Avenue. Years before, an elevated section of I-30 blighted the south side of downtown FW. It was removed and relocated, with I-30 moved a bit to the south. Lancaster then became an eyesore of weeds and garbage.

What bothered me the most on that visit was to see that the Haynes Memorial was surrounded by cyclone fence and weeds and litter and was in an even worse state than when the old overhead I-30 separated the memorial from downtown. This is an important memorial to a very significant moment in Fort Worth history. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

The first photo above is the view looking northwest from behind the Haynes Memorial, looking at the Omni Hotel.

I was happy to see that a lot of improvement has come to the formerly blighted section of Lancaster Avenue. It no longer will scare potential convention bookers away from using the seldom used Fort Worth Convention Center. I was very pleased to see that the Haynes Memorial now sits in a park-like setting with grass and benches and trees. The only piece of litter I saw today on Lancaster Avenue maybe was not even litter, it was a single high heel Liz Claiborne shoe. You can see it and the now much nicer looking Lancaster Avenue in the photo on the left.

For some reason there was no water in the Water Gardens today. I found that disturbing. Other than that, downtown Fort Worth was looking good today.

Hiking, Eating at Zorro's Buffet & Getting Gas

Like I said earlier, the plan for the day, that day being Thanksgiving, was to go hiking then eating at Zorro's Buffet, it being the biggest buffet in Texas, or so Zorro's claims.

The hike took place at Oakland Lake Park, which happens to be on the way to Zorro's, which is located south of downtown Fort Worth on the east side of Interstate 35.

That's Oakland Lake you see above. It was looking very much like a fall day there today. Before I did my pre-eating hike I needed gas so I went to the nearby Tandy Hills Gas Station. To my shocked mortification the price had gone up. It was $1.61 when I drove by there yesterday. Today it was $1.65.

After I got gas and drove back to Oakland Lake I called my Mom in Phoenix to tell her I got gas. My Dad answered so I told him instead. After talking to my Pa for a bit my Mom demanded the phone so she could tell me something.

They are coming to Texas. In January. I'll have a long list of chores for them and a few gallons of berries they can turn into jam. I can't wait.

The merciless hiking went on for about an hour. Then it was time to go to Zorro's. I expected it to be busy, but when we got there it obviously was not. As in there were plenty of parking spaces. Zorro's was good today, but I didn't like it as much as the previous 2 visits. And I didn't get stuffed.

As you can by peeking through the Zorro's covered walkway, the gas at the Zorro's Racetrack gas station is the lowest I've seen here in Fort Worth. $1.59. But I didn't need any.

X-Rated Happy Thanksgiving

Last night I was over at Miss Puerto Rico's, sitting out on her balcony, enjoying the view, when I looked up to see a giant X in the dark night sky. The contrails of 2 jets had intersected above me. I'd never seen that happen before. The photo does not do justice to how weird it looked.

I neglected to mention that I went swimming yesterday. It was not as cold as this morning's Thanksgiving swim.

I'm going to go hiking sometime around noon and then we're off to Zorro's Buffet for turkey.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's editorial page today consisted solely of people saying what they are thankful for. About half were in some way or the other thankful that God and Jesus had done some good thing for them, like fixing their health or getting them a job.

I'm sitting here trying to think of anything I'm thankful for. Well, I'm thankful I'm able to go swimming in November. I'm thankful I'm in good shape and healthy. I'm thankful I'm not obese and stupid. I'm thankful for all the people who are good to me. I'm thankful I'm not cooking Thanksgiving dinner today.

On a sort of thankful, but different note, my TV Blog continues to amaze and amuse me. There was a time when I thought I was doing well if this Blog you're reading now and my Eyes on Texas website got over 2000 visitors a day. I started the TV Blog a couple weeks ago. My TV Blog has been getting around 5000 visitors a day for over a week now. It is now, by far, my biggest ad revenue generator.

It's time to get ready to go hiking, so I can get really hungry and then go to Zorro's Buffet and eat a lot. I am thankful I am able to eat a lot. And not get fat.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Tomorrow Rhymes With Zorro

Last year I went through the extreme bother of cooking all the basic Thanksgiving stuff, everything from pumpkin pie to turkey. It's way too much bother for 20 minutes of eating. Even though the leftovers are a nice thing to have, they aren't really all that nice.

Some of the previous Thanksgivings, in relative-free, Texas I've gone to restaurants. Twice to one up on Eagle Mountain Lake, the name of which I can not remember. One memorable Thanksgiving was spent in a very crowded Truck Stop Iron Skillet Restaurant in Weatherford.

A couple years ago a nurse friend, who can not cook, invited me over for Thanksgiving. At one point I politely asked to have the platter of rolls passed to me. Rather than passing, her uncouth 13 year old daughter tossed a roll my way. Needless to say this was the last time I ate at that house. I recently learned the uncouth daughter is now 16 with a driver's license and recently ran into a wall in her mother's brand new car, rendering a door useless, among other bits of damage.

Tomorrow I am going to go to Zorro's Buffet for Thanksgiving. If Thanksgiving tomorrow is as tasty as the previous visits to Zorro's, it should be one good Thanksgiving. With no cooking. And no one throwing rolls at me. I hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Swimming, Roller Blading & Ballistic Missile Launches in Fort Worth

I'm sorry to bore you with my daily swimming reports, but there is one person, well, my one reader, who religiously tracks my swimming reports, who emails me when I forget. Which I did yesterday. Well, yesterday it was much colder than the day before. I only lasted about 3 minutes before I escaped the cold and climbed in the hot tub.

Now, this morning was very strange, as in it was freezing when I went to the pool, as in actually freezing, as in 32 degrees, with frost on the roofs and ice on the windshields. Because it was freezing the water actually felt somewhat warm. I was able to stay in it for about 15 minutes. My skin's heat sensors were so traumatized that the hot tub water felt cold, even though it was steaming. It took a couple minutes for the hot tub to feel hot.

By 8:30am I had to be at the regional Post Office on Rosedale to pick up a package that had not been successfully delivered. That was interesting. A very strange collection of people waiting for the Post Office to open.

About noon I was tired of looking at my computer screen so I went to Quanah Parker Park to go roller blading. The morning's freeze had turned to 67. Very pleasant. The pool should be quite a bit warmer in the morning.

As I was putting on my roller blades I looked up to see what looked like Ballistic Missiles being launched from southeast Fort Worth. I don't know what it was that was climbing almost vertical. That's the Ballistic Missiles in the first photo.

I don't believe I've mentioned before that Quanah Parker Park sits next to the Trinity River. The Trinity River runs through the D/FW Metroplex. It is one of the few things that Dallas and Fort Worth share. That's the Trinity River, as seen from Quanah Parker Park, in the photo on the right.

Citi-Mets Stadium Naming Scandal & The Federal $20 Billion Bailout

Last summer, when I was in Tacoma, I started questioning the sanity of just about everyone I had contact with. I got back here to Texas and all seemed sane again. But then about a month later I started to think that the world was going insane.

It's not so much the supposed ever-spreading economic meltdown, it's the things being done to supposedly stop the meltdown. Like yesterday the government came to the rescue of Citigroup to the tune of $20 billion.

Citigroup has cut over 53,000 jobs. While paying the New York Mets $400 million over 20 years for the naming rights for the Mets stadium.

Why would this not be one of the first things you cut back when things get tight? Here in Texas the Rangers played in The Ballpark in Arlington when I first moved here. Then a business that got in trouble long before the current troubles, paid to have the Ranger's home called Ameriquest Field. I forgot how much Ameriquest paid for this honor. But whatever it was, they quit paying and so now the place where the Rangers play is back being called The Ballpark in Arlington.

The first time I was in Houston I saw where the Houston baseball team plays. The name of the team escapes me, but the ballpark was Enron Field. Enron disappeared during an earlier meltdown. We sure have a lot of meltdowns. Enron Field is now Minute Maid Park.

So, it is not unheard of for a failing business to get out of the ballpark naming thing. I don't believe either Enron or Ameriquest were given taxpayer's money to bail them out. It seems reasonable to me that Citigroup should not be spending money on such a thing after getting a Federal bailout.

On another note, except for my bank, Washington Mutual, failing, I've had no personal contact with this supposed economic meltdown. If it weren't for reading that bad things were happening, with worse to come, I would think everything was hunky dory. Gas prices are about a third of what they were a short time ago. I go in Wal-Mart and the store is packed with what looks like happy people with carts full of goods. By 5pm every weekday the freeway that goes by where I live is backed up with a traffic jam. I go to a park and see a lot of happy people having fun. I know a lot of people with new flat panel TVs. Every McDonald's I drive by is busy. Last night they were lined up 20 deep at my local Super Wal-Mart's McDonald's.

This just doesn't look like the Great Depression to me. It's perplexing.

Chesapeake Energy Stormtrooper Tactics

A City of Fort Worth public meeting was held at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens last Thursday, the purpose of which was to allow the citizens of Fort Worth to have input into a new ordinance which contains restrictions on noise and pipelines, along with a City Board that would hear cases involving Barnett Shale natural gas drilling sites near residential areas.

Chesapeake Energy did not like these changes, which were made without their usual stamp of permission. In other words, Fort Worth's Ruling Junta had gone rogue, to the great displeasure of Chesapeake Energy. Chesapeake sent out orders to its employees, contractors and anyone who was connected to the Chesapeake operation, telling them to show up at this meeting.

The Chesapeake people wore green badges that said things like, "I have a job thanks to the Barnett," and "I support the Barnett and I vote."

The Chesapeake Stormtrooper Brigade arrived well before the meeting's start time. So when citizens of Fort Worth arrived they found the parking lot full and the meeting room stuffed to the point that Fire Marshals had to clear openings by the time the meeting began at 7pm. Estimates range as high as 850 Chesapeakers participating in this Strongarm Tactic.

As the Fire Marshals tried to thin the crowd many decided to leave, saying they did not want to "be surrounded by a sea of green," referring to the Chesapeake badges.

There was a Letter to the Editor in this morning's Fort Worth Star-Telegram regarding this latest Chesapeake Energy Bad Behavior. Below is that letter....

When’s the public drilling hearing?

I am one of the few residents of Fort Worth who was able to get a seat at the Botanic Garden last Thursday for the public hearing on the city’s proposed gas drilling ordinance.

Witnessing the number of trucks and SUVs in the parking lot, I was encouraged. I was under the mistaken impression that Fort Worth residents were truly interested in an important issue affecting their lives. Imagine my surprise as I was approached outside the Botanic Garden by someone asking me if I was there to support the drilling and attempting to hand me a tag to wear! Entering the building I began to read those wearing the tags.

Then it dawned on me. These are Chesapeake people. But where were the residents of Fort Worth? You know, those civic-minded people who show up at public meetings with the desire to keep our city honest? I finally did see a few residents I knew but learned that several left due to the parking or the implied intimidation by Chesapeake employees.

Being naturally curious, seeing all this activism by Chesapeake, I had to stay to watch the show. I have never seen city officials so rattled by a public meeting. Neither have I heard so many Chesapeake employees making defiant statements to one another over the latest changes in the ordinance.

That leads me to believe that the city Gas Drilling Task Force has written a good ordinance. It was also comforting to see former Mayor Kenneth Barr called into the meeting to assess the PR damage caused by this Chesapeake tour de force.

Notwithstanding, I commend Sarah Fullenwider and Susan Alanis for a job well done under the circumstances. Now, when will we have a real public meeting on the ordinance so important to our community?

— Linda LaBeau, chair, Northcrest Gas Drilling Committee, Fort Worth

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chesapeake Energy's Thanksgiving Gift To Fort Worth

The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. The downtowns all over America are human gridlock.

Except for Fort Worth. The deadest downtown in America on the busiest shopping day of the year. Which is perfectly easy to understand due to the fact that Fort Worth is the only city in America with a population over 300,000 with not a single downtown department store. No Neiman Marcus. No Nordstroms. No Macy's. No Bon Marche. Not even a Sears or a Penneys.

Now, Fort Worth may be a ghost town during the day of the busiest shopping day of the year, but that night downtown Fort Worth gets really busy with a lot of people on the earlier deserted streets.

People stream into downtown Fort Worth for the annual Parade of Lights. I've been to the Parade of Lights once. It was a very well done, fun parade. Fort Worth does real good parades.

In fact, I've seen more good parades during my relatively short time in Texas than all my years in Washington. Granbury's 4th, Arlington's 4th, the Ennis National Polka Festival Parade, Fort Worth's Stock Show Parade, it being the world's biggest non-mechanized parade. Meaning it's all horses and cows and people. Nothing vehicular pulling anything.

The Official Name for Fort Worth's day after Thanksgiving event is the Chesapeake Parade of Lights, presented by Chase. I guess this means that Chesapeake put up some money for naming rights and Chase bank also paid for something? I don't know. Chesapeake must have made this investment before they fell on hard times with the price of natural gas collapsing and Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon losing a couple billion bucks.

Chesapeake Energy is still paying for billboards, like the one you see above. It is by the Tandy Hills Gas Station were I filled up today for $1.61 a gallon. Chesapeake Energy's propaganda messages are still plastered on Fort Worth buses. All this signage must have been pre-paid.

And, like I said, Chesapeake Energy is going to give Fort Worth a Parade of Lights in about 4 days. I wonder if they will be natural gas powered lights?

Start time? 6pm.
Where? Throckmorton and Belknap Street.
Theme? The Sights and Sounds of the Season.

North Richland Hills Little Bear Creek Park Under Gas Attack

I got email this morning from a North Richland Hills citizen named Barry Thompson. North Richland Hills is north of Richland Hills and is one of the dozens of small towns that make up the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Barry Thompson is fighting to stop yet one more natural gas drilling operation getting ready to do damage to yet one more D/FW park. Yesterday I showed you photos of the current state of the damage done to the Tandy Hills in east Fort Worth.

And now this morning to learn of this latest local city government sneaky operation in cahoots with the drillers, doing their dirty dealings behind closed doors without public input. Shameful.

Below is the email from Barry Thompson....

I am a huge supporter of reforestation in the DFW area and have worked on tree grant programs when I lived in Fort Worth.I am very disturbed by the decision by the North Richland Hills city council to allow Natural Gas Drilling rigs on park property. There is a gas company currently surveying and staking out a very large section of Little Bear Creek Park in the northwest part of NRH. They have flagged many, many mature trees for clear cutting. Many of the trees are native breeds and a large part of them are evergreens planted by the city over ten years ago!

The decision was made with virtually no notice to the public other than what is required by law - posting a public hearing date in the paper. Therefore not one resident spoke when the issue came up to vote ... no one knew about it!

We are currently organizing, passing out flyers and getting petitions signed before a drilling permit gets signed. I have also been talking to John Pistick and members of the Parks and Recreation department for NRH but nobody seems too interested in stopping this activity. Is there anything you can do to help us? Is there anyone in this area that could be an advocate for our cause?

Thanks in advance for your consideration, if you have any suggestions that would help us fight this please let me know!

Barry Thompson

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Sky Of Texas is Red Tonight

On the coast you often heard "red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in morning, sailor takes warning." I don't know what a red sky at night means when you live in the prairie, plains zone of North Texas.

What I do know is, tonight's sunset was beautiful. It glowed pink, orange and red, with the blue of the sky filtering through. It's a balmy 66 out there at 6pm. By morning it is supposed to be 38. I suspect that will not happen and I will be happily paddling about in icy water sometime around 7am.

I got gas today at the Tandy Hills Gas Station. It was still $1.61, same as yesterday, when I showed you all a photo of the price. I run one fascinating blog. As my reader may remember, when I get gas I call my mom in Phoenix. And so I did. But I got the answering machine, so I left a gas message. I don't know why my mom was not home taking calls on a Sunday morning. Maybe she's started going to church again. No. That is unlikely.

Chesapeake Energy Disappears From Tandy Hills So I Went Roller Blading

As you can see in the photo of one of the trails at the Tandy Hills Natural Area, it is a cloudy, gray Sunday in North Texas.

Chesapeake Energy's Scott Avenue Rig #2999 has disappeared. All that remains, that I could see, were 2 big bulldozers and a lot of scraped earth.

Just 2 weeks ago this was a bustling operation with a tall drilling tower piercing the sky. The photo on the right is how this location looked 2 weeks ago.

And now, Sunday, November 23, 2 weeks later, all that equipment is gone. That is today's view of the destroyed section of the Tandy Hills on the left. The blue sky of 2 weeks ago is also gone.

When I went over to Scott Avenue I saw that the guard station was gone, with a locked gate in its place. I could see no spot that looked like a capped drill hole. There was something surrounded by orange temporary fencing out in the middle of the forever altered piece of the Tandy Hills. Maybe that's the drill hole, awaiting the next step in the project.

Mother Nature is still standing on Scott Avenue. She is not all that more worn than the last time I visited Her. Someone has added a companion to Mother Nature. It had been connected to the Chesapeake Energy sign. But had come loose. I propped it up again to take a photo. The new poster says, "Save Meadowbrook." Meadowbrook is the neighborhood the Tandy Hills is located in. Above before and after photos of the damaged area, it says "As If We Had A Choice."

After looking at all this environmental mayhem I had need of something aerobic to make myself feel better. It was being quite windy, but I decided to go roller blading anyway, a short distance away, at my regular blading location, Quanah Parker Park. While I was blading I got hit with a big powerful gust that threw me off balance and almost caused a crash.

Mother Nature can be a bitch sometimes.

Detroit Automaker Bailout: Just Say No

Count me as one of the majority who don't think the taxpayers should bailout the automakers. The taxpayers have been subsidizing the automakers for decades, paying high prices to buy cars made by workers with overly lucrative contracts in companies ran by overpaid badly performing executives.

My sympathy for Detroit disappeared when Detroit showed no sympathy for me. In 1999 General Motors made a piece of junk car called a Buick Century. I bought one of those pieces of junk.

In 2004, barely 5 years old, the driver's side window ceased to work. This seemed a serious problem that should be a recall type thing. As in it's a bit dangerous to be unable to roll down your window.

It did not take much Googling to learn this was a chronic problem with this make of car. I took the piece of junk to a Buick dealer. They wanted over $500 to fix the problem.

I then found a Mechanic on the Go guy who came to my place and fixed the window for $200.

A week later the passenger side window stopped working. A couple weeks after that the driver's side window quit working, again, followed shortly by both back seat windows. The Mechanic on the Go fixed a new problem with the driver's side window, for free, and it was working again. For a short time.

Prior to the windows no longer rolling down, the piece of junk had developed a bizarre chronic problem of periodically not starting. I'd turn the ignition key and nothing. It could go weeks without this happening. I'd sit for up to 5 minutes, give or take, and then it'd start up. You never knew when you were going to be struck by the random ignition problem.

I took it to a GM dealer for the ignition problem. They had no idea what would cause such a thing to happen, but, for I forget how much money, they could test the components and try and find the problem.

Then there was the piece of junk's problem with over and over again the turn signal light would go haywire.

Now, did GM bail me out of any of these problems that were caused due to GM's bad car engineering? No. I bailed myself out by selling that piece of junk car.

Late November Texas Heat Wave

Yesterday in the morning it was barely above freezing. This morning it was in the 50s. It's 10am now and we're in the 60s.

This morning's swim did not send me into an icy shock like it did yesterday. I lasted about 15 minutes before the hot tub heat therapy was needed.

With only one week to go in November I'm guessing I'm still going to be swimming when December starts. Unless it's snowing. Or we have an ice storm.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gas Hits New Low Of $1.61 In Fort Worth

The last time I bought gas I paid $1.74. That was about 5 days ago. Yesterday, when I went to my neighborhood Post Office the nearby QT was selling the stuff for $1.71. An hour later I drove by that QT again and it was $1.69.

Today I went hiking at the Tandy Hills. The Tandy Hills Gas Station, once more, is the cheapest gas in my zone, at $1.61.

Why is this happening? How and why did gas go up so fast and now down so fast? Yes, I know the barrel price went high and is now low. But still, what causes QT to drop the price 2 cents in an hour? Just the day before QT was $1.74, by the next day it was down 3 cents to $1.71 and then an hour after that $1.69. What determines the drop? It perplexes me.

On a totally non-gas note. I forgot to report on my icy swimming yesterday. I was reminded of this by an emailer urgently wanting to know. Well, yesterday I could take it for maybe 3 minutes, then I got in the hot tub. This morning it was about 35, when I walked into the water it felt warmer than the air. So I quickly started swimming. And I just as quickly realized this was too cold.

The ice water had so numbed me that when I got in the hot tub I could not feel the heat. But it felt good. Eventually I thawed.

I knew we'd crossed a threshold when I opened the door this morning and realized the air temp outside was about the same as inside here. As in cold. So, I turned on the furnace for the first time this year. I don't like that thing running.

Three Month Anniversary Of My Tacoma Tribulation: You Can't Go Home Again

I realized this morning that 2 days ago it was 4 months since I flew up to Washington, leaving on a very hot July 20, arriving in a very cold northwest to begin a month of what I've come to think of as my Tacoma Tribulation.

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. Tilting more towards the former.

In the 3 months since I've been back to the relative, relative-free sanity of Texas I've talked to 3 people regarding the "You Can't Go Home Again" syndrome. One of the 3 moved to the South the month before I did, moving from the same county in Washington that I moved from. She moved back to Washington this past June.

It's been months and she's still not re-acclimated to the frigid northwest climate. Or being back "home." She too has experienced the "You Can't Go Home Again" feeling.

The trouble is, when you move away from where you've always lived and you go back, it's sort of like going to a class reunion. The people seem stuck in time. They aren't relating to the current you, but to someone who no longer exists. Like when I was up in Seattle some friends showed up, one dating back to high school. This guy has carried around baggage relating to me for decades. It did not take long for the old neurosis to rear its head. I found it very bizarre to experience.

In Texas all the people I know are real nice to me. It's a very positive, re-enforcing environment. And then I go back to the northwest and it's like being stuck in an insult machine. It was profoundly disturbing. I reacted to it with a hunker down mentality, just bear it, this too shall pass.

One of the worst is one of my relatives. You'd think when they haven't seen you in a couple years that there might be some ability to be pleasant for a short duration. The relative I'm talking about is a very unhappy person, sort of stuck in time, is an alcoholic, bossy, very thin-skinned, yet constantly making offensive, off-putting remarks. No adult ego state has ever formed, the poor thing is perpetually stuck in a very contaminated parental ego state. If I can help it, and I can, I intend to avoid this person for the rest of my life. I see no reason to expose myself to toxins, human or otherwise. Unless they grow up. Which won't happen.

In one of the good things that happened up in Tacoma I shed myself of some bad baggage. It'd been sort of bothering me for awhile, but I didn't quite know if I was right or not. I knew the party in question was toxic. My fear was that daily contact with this toxicity, via the telephone, might be having a deleterious effect on me, to an extent that might be unhealthy. And then, with a month of personal contact, while in Tacoma, it showed me, quite clearly, that this was not a person with whom it was healthy to have any sort of relationship. Mentally ill people really should be as purposefully avoided as any other type of sick person. You don't want to catch what they have. Catch their sickness, next thing you know you weigh half a ton.

The change in my mindset, free of the toxic exposure, in the past 3 months, tells me that my intuition had been correct all along.

In the past the mentally ill would be put in an institution. In modern times, more often than not, they are put on medication. I don't know for sure if this is progress. Unless the pills can totally stifle the illness, I'm thinking that locking them away from those of us who don't need pills might be a better plan. In mental institutions they have all sorts of fun arts and crafts things for the patients to play with.

Well, my little sister, Kristin and Max & Blue were nice to me, for the most part. I did have some poodle issues. My mom and dad were nice to see, what with their mammoth jam-making projects and other projects. Be warned, if you stay at my little sister's house you are made to work for your room and board. It's either that or eviction. I've never done so much vacuuming and dish washing in my life.

Speaking of dish washing, I very rarely get sick here. There seems to be a lot of getting ill at my little sister's house. I wash my dishes here in very hot water, likely killing anything bad. Up there they didn't have very hot water, so they relied on chemicals in the form of dish washing detergents to give them the false sense that their dishes were safely clean. It made me nervous, fearful of food poisoning, my entire month there. My fear caused me to politely decline dinner call at times. Or to go to McDonald's. And to consume just enough alcohol containing beverages a day to safely kill anything bad that didn't get washed off the dishes.

My method was successful. I did not get ill. I never even got a slight stomach ache. Max & Blue had some tummy troubles while I was there. I fear their food bowl isn't getting enough hot water and way too much dish detergent. Poodles should not have to suffer like this.

Gar The Texan's Wife Leaves Him With Kidney Stone

I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn this morning that Gar the Texan's latest wife has left him and returned to Germany.

Giddy at his latest bout of singleness Gar the Texan engaged in a wild night of barhopping with his pre-marriage drinking buddies.

After a night of too much imbibing Gar the Texan woke up to what he thought was miserable hangover pain.

But the pain persisted and got worse.

In my experiences with Gar the Texan about half the time he engaged in any activity that was not sitting he'd get a case of the vapors. But this post-wife leaving ailment was beyond a simple case of the vapors.

As the pain worsened Gar the Texan knew he needed medical help. In his state of failing cerebral function he called a hospital and asked to be picked up. He was told the hospital does not provide such a service and told him to call 911.

Gar the Texan resisted calling 911 because he didn't think his was a 911-worthy emergency. But then the pain got worse, so he called 911. The 911 operator told him help was on the way. Gar the Texan asked them to please be discrete.

Instead a firetruck and ambulance showed up. Gar the Texan was rolled into the ambulance where medics began working to stabilize him.

When he got to the hospital Gar the Texan soon learned that he was not suffering from the hangover from HELL, but instead he was passing a very large kidney stone.

Gar the Texan is recovering at home. No wife to nurse him back to health.

Sad, true story.

JFK Assassination 45th Anniversary

The majority of Americans were not alive 45 years ago today when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. An event that shocked and saddened the entire world.

JFK's last night alive was spent in the city in which I now live, Fort Worth. JFK and First Lady Jackie spent the night in Suite 1530, on the 15th floor of what was then called the Texas Hotel. It is now Hilton Fort Worth.

You can spend the night in Suite 1530, also known as the JFK Suite. It's a 2,200 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath hotel room. There is memorabilia in the JFK Suite commemorating his stay in Fort Worth. It only costs $2,500 a night to stay in the JFK Suite. I was only able to afford one night. I guess it was worth it.

It's cheaper to visit the gravesite of JFK's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald is buried walking distance from where I live.

I don't know what is planned today at Dealey Plaza. There is always a crowd there on this date. The only time I've been at Dealey Plaza on November 22 was 5 years ago for the 40th Anniversary. That was a rather amazing event. You can see for yourself in the video below.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Texas Salvation Army Bell Ringers Accept Credit Cards

I don't like how Wal-Mart lets various charities, petition purveyors or even Fort Worth Star-Telegram subscription hawkers set up at their entrances, harassing shoppers as they come and go. It's very annoying.

For about 2 weeks ago now the Salvation Army has taken up their annual bell ringing positions outside stores all over America, including Wal-Mart.

Whenever I am held up by one of these type things, be it the Salvation Army or someone seeking money to help kids play soccer, I always say "I don't have any money, do you take credit cards?" Of course the person wanting money always says no to the credit card question.

Til now.

A dozen or so D/FW Metroplex Salvation Army bell ringers are now able to answer yes to my credit card question. Since I've no idea which of the 500 or so Metroplex bell ringers are able to accept credit cards I have to find a new way to say no.

If you do come across one of the Salvation Army credit card acceptors and you want to make a donation the minimum donation if you use a credit or debit card is $5. The ruthless, uncharitable credit card companies charge the Salvation Army 25 cents per transaction, plus 2.9% of the amount donated. Heartless bastards.

If you donate by card you'll get a receipt for tax purposes, it being a tax deductible donation.

Texas Executes Another Killer: Robert Hudson

Last night Texas extended its lead as America's #1 Executing State with the 18th killer put to death this year.

Bad car wrecks are bigger news than executions in Texas. Last night's Huntsville life termination was reported in a small article on page 9B of this morning's Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

In 1999 Robert Jean Hudson stabbed his ex-girl friend, Edith Kendrick, to death, after breaking into her Mesquite apartment. Mesquite is a suburb of Dallas. Hudson also seriously injured Kendrick's 8 year-old son.

Hudson's attorney appealed his case to the Supreme Court, faulting his trial lawyers for not presenting mitigating evidence that this was a crime of passion which significantly reduced Hudson's moral culpability. In his trial, jurors also did not hear about Hudson's unstable childhood, his dad's drug and alcohol problems, his mom's psychiatric problems or Hudson's own psychiatric treatment and medications taken to control his behavior and anger problem.

I used to know a nutcase who was on meds to control her behavior and anger problems. The meds can only do so much. The nutcase regularly lost control. If she killed someone during one of her fits I don't know if she should be put down for it. But I do think she should get a life sentence.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would have granted a reprieve. But Hudson didn't get one because the rest of the Supreme Court thought he'd gotten a fair trail and needed to die.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sizzled Turkey Rather Than Deep-Fried

Yesterday I blogged about Thanksgiving and Deep-Fried Turkey. This afternoon a current Seattle-ite calling himself "CB", who spent time in Dallas and Texas and who likes my blogging perspective about my exile in Texas, commented on Deep Frying Turkey and suggested a less troublesome solution.

"CB" also verbalized some concern regarding my roller blading attire. I appreciate it when someone cares enough to give me advice. Below is "CB's" comment, which is also posted at the posting he commented on....

You really ought to consider 'frying' that turkey in one of the new oil-less infrared fryers from Char-Broil. As a Seattle-ite who enjoys reading your posts. (I lived in Dallas and worked all over Texas during the 80's.) I get a kick out of your perspectives that seem to be a 'hybred' of where you've lived.

Anyway, I write the
web log called Sizzle on the Grill and we've been featuring this new cooker called "The Big Easy." and it's really pretty darn close to fried turkey. And you save that $45 + for the cost of the oil, not to mention the worries about having it too hot and potentially boiling over and burning the house down. Oh and now mess to clean-up. That's gotta be worth something in the world of Durango? Thanks. Happy Grilling! -


PS. uh, watchyoselfwiththerollerbladinginthebuffcuz

2008 Great American Smokeout

Today is the 41st annual Great American Smokeout. Starting in 1977, on the 3rd Thursday of November and every 3rd Thursday of November since then, the American Cancer Society has been trying to get smokers to stop smoking for one day. And hopefully, with help, turn it into two.

I can't believe it's been this many years I've been giving up cigarettes on this day.

This year the American Cancer Society has added a "Stay Quit Monday" followup day, hopefully to keep smokers off the evil weed.

I see a lot more smokers here in Texas than I do up in Washington. And way more butts on the ground here. But that may be partly due to the greater penchant for littering in Texas.

The Great American Smokeout came about 22 years after the U.S. Surgeon General's Report connected tobacco use to lung cancer, low birth weight and coronary disease.

I'm looking out my window right now and seeing 3 people with cigarettes dangling from their mouths with a 4th holding the cigarette while he coughs. Just a second, I need to go yell at these people that today is the Great American Smokeout.

The smoking rate of Americans has fallen constantly since the Surgeon General suggested people stop smoking. Down from 42% smoking in 1964 to only 19.8% smoking in 2007. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks the smoking statistics.

As recently as the 1980s smoking was allowed in hospitals and on commercial airplanes. Now it's banned in most public buildings and restaurants, even here in smokey Texas.