Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve Roller Blading At Indian Village & Interlochen

I need new roller blade wheels. It is not easy to find the ones I like. Last time I found them on Ebay from a nice lady in Colorado.

It is not very warm today, below 50, when I left to go blading, slightly above now. Brrrr.

I overheated blading, despite the cold. It was windy. Blading into a wind is hard work. And fun when the wind is pushing you.

Today's blading was at Indian Village Natural Historical Area. Or is it Historical Natural Area? I can never remember. I scared a little armadillo today.

The trail through Indian Village eventually exits the Natural Historical Area and enters the Interlochen zone. Part of the trail is along side one of the Interlochen canals. I want to move to Interlochen. I won't put up Christmas lights if I do, though.

I am sure you are wondering what is on my t-shirt. It is Mickey Mouse. Years ago, I took my youngest nephews to Sea-Tac and put them on a plane bound for LA, to meet their Dad and Mom (my sister) and my Mom and Dad, to go to Disneyland. I got the shirt I was wearing today out of the deal. It's Mickey riding a mountain bike.

My pool is still closed. Unless it gets fixed today, I am not going to be able to make my Polar Bear swimming on the first day of the New Year video tomorrow morning. I'm thinking maybe I'll go up to Lake Grapevine to do my Polar Bear thing. Maybe.

The Day Before 2009 In Fort Worth Texas

2009 starts in a few hours. I'm probably not telling you something you didn't already know.

Tomorrow it will be 1 full year since I started this blog.

If you had told me a year ago that I would blog every single day of the new year, I would have said that was ridiculous.

If you had told me that not only would I blog every day, but that the total number of posts would be almost a thousand on this blog you're reading right now, I would have said that was ridiculous.

If you had told me that during 2008 I would create 3 other blogs, I would have said that was ridiculous.

If you had told me that the total number of postings on my 4 blogs would number over 1500, I would have quit listening to you, because that was so ridiculous.

If you had told me that the number of visitors to my blogs would greatly exceed the large number of visitors to my Eyes on Texas website, I would have said that was ridiculous.

If you had told me that by the end of 2008 my blogs would be generating the majority of my ad revenue, I would have told you that was ridiculous.

If you had told me that by the end of 2008 I would have over 200 subscribers to my blogs, I would have told you that was ridiculous.

If you had told me that there would be days in 2008 when my ad revenue would go over $50, I would have told you that was ridiculous. (I used to think it was doing well if it made $5, thinking $50 was not possible)

So, for me, in many ways, on many days, 2008 was the best of times. I made a lot of changes in 2008. All for the good.

I made some mistakes in 2008. Like I should never have gone up to Washington for a month. It took me a long time to recover.

But, even that lemon turned into lemonade, because one good result of being up north, this past summer, is I fixed a problem that had been nagging me for a long time. It has been 4 months since I've been rid of, what I know realize, was a negative toxic poison that had been assaulting my psyche for years, like a chronic illness that had gone on so long I didn't realize how badly dealing with it was affecting my well being.

I've set some new rules for myself. One is I will not willingly, ever again, allow myself to be subjected to the presence of negative, hostile beings. If a person turns ugly, I will quickly make myself absent.

I will never again associate with a hugely obese person. Obesity is a form of mental illness. An obese person is a self-indulgent, self-absorbed, self-loather. A self-loather, at their heart, in my opinion, hates those who are well. Jealousy is an obese person's overriding emotion.

I will never again associate with a person who is addicted to prescription mood-altering drugs. If a person requires a chemical intervention in order to stabilize their moods, this indicates they are inherently unstable. And despite the drugs, that instability can erupt into irrational, illogical temper tantrums that reflect the individuals seriously degraded thought processes and underlying neurosis. If the person is uneducated and ignorant, on top of neurotic, you've got yourself a time bomb that will tick off at any random time.

In the future, if I befriend a person who I later learn is a convicted felon, I will once again extend the chance for that person to show that they have mended their criminal ways. But if I get the slightest hint that that person is still a sociopath, still thinking they are above the law, still being irresponsible, I will immediately cut that person off.

But, I think the best policy is to steer clear of anyone who has done jail time for any reason. It is highly likely that they can not be trusted. Once a thief, always a thief.

Tomorrow, I start 2009 in "better shape," in every sense of the phrase, than I started 2008. And I started 2008 in good shape. I'm looking forward to the next year more than I did 2008. I don't recollect thinking in those terms a year ago. Despite the bad economy and other bad things going on in the world, I'm feeling sort of optimistic in a way I have not in a long long time. Why? I don't know.

Maybe it's because my Mom and Dad are visiting in about a week. Yeah, I'm sure that's what's causing my good mood.....I think I'll go roller blading in a bit under this fine blue Texas sky.

Eminent Dominance: The Denton Record-Chronicle's Excellent Look Behind The Barnett Shale

We have reached the final chapter of the Denton Record-Chronicle's Pulitizer Prize worthy look at the dirty dealings going on behind the Barnet Shale and how those dirty dealings are affecting the lives of Texans.

I'll link to the 5 Chapters below. Read the comments at the end of each chapter and note the embarrassing illiterateness of most of the Barnett Shale Shills. If you feel moved to counter those comments with one of your own, please do so.

Behind The Barnet Shale....

Chapter 1: Neighbors along Britt Drive are approached by land men eager to drill in the Barnett Shale. Some are wary of the impact on their quality of life and question whether the amount of money offered is worth it.

Chapter 2: Urban drilling means these rough-and-tumble workplaces are closer to homes than ever. But its boom-or-bust nature creates a psychosocial environment for the Britt Drive neighborhood that fosters distrust of both sides.

Chapter 3: Cities are trying to preserve their authority to make rules for health, safety and welfare, but the industry is pushing back. Britt Drive neighbors watch one such battle unfold in their backyard.

Chapter 4: A doctrine of exemption allows the industry to develop oil and gas resources without having to study the environmental or health impacts of their work. Britt Drive neighbors worry about how drilling would affect their environment.

Chapter 5: Industry insiders sometimes marginalize gas drilling opponents, but the conversation about where to draw the line in urban drilling persists. The Britt Drive neighbors’ quest to keep drillers away grows increasingly desperate.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Texas Value of a New Year's Eve Drink

Today is New Year's Eve Eve. In about another 32 hours, give or take an hour or two, a large number of Texans living in damp and wet zones will be downing unseemly quantities of alcoholic beverages as part of celebrating the start of 2009.

Meanwhile, Tee-Totalling Texans like me, and Texans living in a dry zone, will be bringing in the New Year free of any sinful libations. We will wake up January 1, 2009 with hangover free heads, starting the New Year bright, clear-headed and cheerful.

I've mentioned before that Alma, the Songbird of the Texas Gulf Coast, sends me a lot of very amusing emails. A couple days ago Alma sent me one titled "The Value of a Drink."

I think the day before New Year's Eve in Texas is a good day to share Alma's wise quotes about "The Value of a Drink."-----

'Sometimes when I reflect back on all the wine I drink I feel shame . Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the vineyards and all of their hopes and dreams .. If I didn't drink this wine, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, 'It is better that I drink this wine and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.'

~ Jack Handy

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may leave you wondering what the hell happened to your bra and panties.

'I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day. '

~Frank Sinatra

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster and better looking than most people.

'When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.'

~ Henny Youngman

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may lead you to think people are laughing WITH you.

'24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.'

~ Stephen Wright

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may cause you to think you can sing.

'When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let's all get drunk and go to heaven!'

~ Brian O'Rourke

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may cause pregnancy.

'Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.'

~ Benjamin Franklin

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol is a major factor in dancing like a retard.

'Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.'

~ Dave Barry

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.

To some it's a six-pack, to me it's a Support Group. Salvation in a can!

~ Dave Howell

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may make you think you can logically converse with members of the opposite sex without spitting.

And saving the best for last, as explained by Cliff Clavin, of Cheers. One afternoon at Cheers, Cliff Clavin was explaining the ' Buffalo Theory' to his buddy Norm. Here's how it went: 'Well ya see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest bra in cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers.'

~ Cliff Clavin

WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may make you think you are whispering when you are not.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Saddam Punked By Texan

If you don't have Google Earth on your computer, you really should. It's free. Just Google "Google Earth" and download it.

Tonight I felt like doing some traveling so I went to Baghdad via Google Earth. I wanted to explore around town to see how it is looking. Well, Baghdad is looking pretty good. I saw no bombed out buildings.

It is fairly easy to find the Green Zone. Just follow the Tigris or Euphrates River as it winds through town. When you see an awful lot of blue dots you are likely in the Green Zone. The Blue dots indicate pictures. Or information.

There are many pictures of Saddam's former palaces. They were bombed early on. They appear to have been restored. You can check out the new U.S. Embassy. All over Baghdad there is interesting architecture.

Including several impressive bridges, including at least one suspension bridge.

In the Green Zone I did see something that was just a tad embarrassing to me, me being a Texan, with very thin skin, thus easily embarrassed.

A Texan had graffitied a poster of Saddam and put the Lone Star Flag over Saddam's face, writing, "Iraq Good. US Good. Saddam Donkey."

Eventually I tired of Iraq and Baghdad and decided to go to Iran to check out Tehran. I saw no Texas graffiti in Tehran. Or Lone Star Flags. But I did see a lot of impressive freeways and very cool buildings. I saw no Ayatollahs or nuclear bombs under construction. But I didn't look very hard.

Beautiful Downtown Fort Worth, Zorro's Buffet & Getting Hot

I'm having me a day. I've been up since a bit past 3 this morning. I slept well, woke well-rested and have been busy all day and am not tired. Why, I do not know.

I started in on a new project today, the details of which I don't want to talk about right now, except for the fact of starting a new project.

I blogged earlier today about my disdain for what I see as the bad design of the new Fort Worth Convention Center Omni Hotel. Little did I know, when I blogged about it, that I'd be up close to it again a few hours later.

I went hiking at the Tandy Hills today about noon. It was 29 degrees out when I got up this morning. It was almost 60 when I left for Tandy Hills Park. I wore long pants and a t-shirt. I was overdressed. I couldn't do anything about the long pants, unless I wanted another Naked Hiking episode, but the t-shirt had to go. I'd just photo documented hiking shirtless on Christmas and did not feel compelled to do so again 4 days later.

Hiking at the Tandy Hills today made me extra hungry. It's a short distance from the Tandy Hills to Zorro's Buffet. Today is Steak & Shrimp Day at Zorro's. But, along with several types of steak and shrimp, all my favorites from Mexican Day were there too. Plus some new good stuff, like Eggplant Salad.

The route to Zorro's from Tandy Hills is via Lancaster Avenue. You go under the downtown Fort Worth Mixmaster and take a left on to Interstate 35 and head south for a few miles, to Seminary Drive. Driving under the Fort Worth Mixmaster you can not help but admire what an incredible feat of highway engineering it is. Even if it took them over 12 years to build. It is almost like a giant sculpture.

And through that sculpture you can see the new Omni Hotel standing above the Sheraton Hotel with the Omni's goofy balconies clearly on display.

The picture at the top is the view west from a high point in the Tandy Hills, looking at the stunning skyline of beautiful downtown Fort Worth. In the picture you can see 4 of what look like skyscrapers. The skyscraper on the left is the new Omni Hotel. It really doesn't scrape to high into the sky. Nothing in downtown Fort Worth scrapes too high into the sky.

It is 73 right now, coming up on 5. I've got all the windows open. I don't recollect being able to have the windows open so much in December before. Maybe this Global Warming thing isn't a hoax.

Fort Worth Convention Center Omni Hotel's Bad Design

On the left, that's an artist's rendering of the new Fort Worth Convention Center Hotel. The new hotel is almost ready to open. The reality only bears a resemblance to the drawing.

I first saw the new Omni Hotel, up close, this past Thanksgiving. The building had puzzled me from a distance, due to what looked like a lot of scaffolding on the sides of the building.

Up close, I saw that the scaffolding was actually huge open air balconies, protruding from the sides of the building. I think there is a good reason I've never seen such a thing on a tall building.

Because it's a bad idea, both aesthetically and practically.

I predict it is only a matter of time before something bad happens on one of those balconies. Something blows off and kills someone at ground level. Or a person falls to their death.

Ironically, the new Omni Hotel overlooks the Fort Worth Water Gardens, where a few years ago the bad design of one of the pools caused 4 people to drown. My own pool is currently closed due to Fort Worth's over reaction to that easily avoided tragedy.

The balconies, that look like scaffolding, add a very odd-looking element to this building. I've not read or heard anyone else having an opinion about it. I don't think I can be the only one who thinks it looks real goofy.

The hotel came about after a lot of wrangling. No hotel builder felt the economics of Fort Worth's Convention Center warranted investing in a hotel. But, eventually, after a variety of tax breaks were offered, to the tune of about $50 million, and after it was agreed that Omni could sell condos in the upper part of the hotel, the deal was struck.

So, in addition to about 600 hotel rooms, there are 97 condos in the new Omni Hotel.

And now this very odd looking hotel is due to open. It will be interesting to see how people are going to react to seeing this hotel up close.

Below is some verbiage I found on a website touting the new Fort Worth Convention Center Omni Hotel. It's this type propaganda, rather than facts, that causes things to go a bit awry here at times.

"The 34-story, 604-room luxury hotel will boast a unique structural design and style that draw upon Fort Worth's strong cultural roots and bold Texas pride to create an unforgettable atmosphere. With artwork adorning the hotel walls, the unique life-as-gallery display will be part of the finishing touch to this new piece of Fort Worth magnificence. "


Above on the right is an up close look at the "balconies." Maybe they are what will create the "unforgettable atmosphere" referenced above...

Behind the Barnett Shale

Very good info from Don Young......

Starting Sunday in the Denton Record Chronicle:

"Editor's Note: Behind the Shale, is a five-part series exploring urban gas drilling and one Argyle-area neighborhood's struggle against it."

Denton is a mid-sized university town just north of Fort Worth. (Argyle is a nearby small town.) Gas drilling started in the Denton area about two years before Fort Worth. The DRC has been has been at the forefront in reporting on the many dangers associated with natural gas drilling. They were the first to report on the presence of NORM in drilling wastes. The next four parts of this series should equally as educational.

Click here to read the first part of the five-part series....

Below is an excerpt from the Denton Record Chronicle article...

Jennifer Cole stepped across the parched ground of a North Texas autumn, past her dirt-caked backyard swimming pool, inching closer to a roaring machine. She watched it force its way through the earth, pushing dirt from side to side in waves like an ocean’s tide. Day by day, the bulldozer was remaking the lot behind her home on Britt Drive near Argyle, changing a sloped meadow dotted with oak trees and cattle into a flat and lifeless expanse. She shivered when she thought about what would fill the void.

Since the dirt-moving process began, dust clouds became so thick that her boys couldn’t make sense of them. “Mom, look! A sandstorm,” one said. Her sons didn’t understand why she wouldn’t let them use the pool or play outside after school. She looked down at the pool where a layer of grime clung to the bottom like black frosting, then back to the rolling bulldozer on the other side of the barbed-wire fence.

Cole didn’t know that what was happening behind that fence would consume the next three years of her life. She did know what the bulldozer meant, though. A gas rig was coming. It was Dec. 4, 2005 — a Sunday.

“Sunday,” she said above the roar, “is no day of rest.”

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Sunny Texas Roller Blading at Quanah Parker Park

Tootsie Tonasket got me on the phone while I was on my way to Quanah Parker Park to roll on wheels. Tootsie had a lot of Tonasket Soap Opera to discuss. Tonasket is the Washington equivalent of Peyton Place.

Tonasket still has not exited being in a deep freeze, but at least they are above zero, which is a better spot to be than they were in last week.

Meanwhile, here in Texas, it is nearing 60, this fine Sunday afternoon. With the return of solid blue sky. My case of SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder) has pretty much gone away. For now.

I've got a pork roast in the oven that I got yesterday at Sprouts. I've no idea if I cooked it right. I probably should have consulted someone. I found a lot of broccoli in the fridge that looked like it needed to be cooked. And so I did. And then put an awful lot of cheese on the broccoli. And then there are sweet spuds roasting in the oven along with some weird skinny spuds that Miss Puerto Rico gave me.

If it sounds like I'm trying to put on weight, you probably guessed correctly. I need to eat more.

I also need to get a new camera. I broke the battery cover of my current camera last week. My temporary solution has been a Totally Texas one. Duct Tape. But, that's getting old.

I've narrowed down my choices to a Canon Powershot SD 880 or 890. Or an Olympus 1050 SW. The Olympus one would be a cool one to have because it can go 10 feet underwater and survive a 5 foot drop and sub-freezing temperatures. But it's optical zoom is only 3X. The Canon 890's optical zoom is 5X. That would be good. The Canon 880 is 4x. But it has Digic 4, where the 890 is Digic 3. Digic 4 apparently is a good thing.

I hate shopping.

My Out Of Control Cingular AT & T Text Messaging

I hadn't bothered to look at my cell bill til this morning.

Before I get to that, I have to tell you I don't send text messages. I have gotten a text message or two. But I've never sent one. I don't know how to send one. I don't want to know how to send one.

So, when I looked at the bill I saw there were $3.05 in toll charges. What fresh hell is this, I wondered? Then I found the Toll Call Detail section of the bill. For Text Messages.

As you can see in the above scanned version of that part of the bill, on October 30, from 12:41pm until 1:10pm, the bill is alleging I sent or received 15 text messages. One of them International. Several were to the same number, some within the same minute, to the same number.

During the entire billing period it is only during this 29 minute time frame that text message tolls occur.

Clearly, something is wrong.

And then there's the Green Thing. Last month a new charge showed up on my bill, that being $1.79 for the "Mailed Bill Option." This was the first I'd heard of the "Mailed Bill Option." Supposedly there'd been messages telling customers to switch to electronic billing or they'd be charged to have a hard copy mailed to them.

So, I switched it to electronic bill pay, last month. But the bill still came via hard copy and still with the $1.79, "Mailed Bill Option," added on.

Another thing, my one longtime reader may remember that I go hiking regularly at the Tandy Hills. Unless it is raining, which it rarely is, I go there every Thursday, from around noon til past 1. The day those 15 text messages occurred was a Thursday, during the time frame where I would have been at the Tandy Hills. Apparently text messaging like a possessed teenager.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gas Price Falls and the Texas Wind Blows

I started the day with a heavy rain and tornado warning. By noon I was having lunch at Costco. After that I went to the Horseshoe Trails on Lake Grapevine to go on an 8 mile walk. My hiking boots do not make good walking shoes. I'm assuming that's why my feet hurt.

As you can see in the picture, Lake Grapevine is running a bit low. I don't remember the last time I saw this dock floating. This is the exact location where a snapping turtle disguised as a water moccasin tried to kill me in July of 2002. At that point in time the dock was floating.

I would have gone swimming in Lake Grapevine, today, if the dock were floating. And if it weren't so windy. It was so windy you had to lean into it at times to keep moving. As you can see, in the picture, I was having to hold my hat on at the lake's edge due to the wind being so much stronger there.

For the most part the leaves have totally left the trees, particularly the oaks have now been totally denuded of their foliage. I think the bare oak trees are very spectacular works of Mother Nature.

I don't know why the Grapevine Parks people have added street signs to the Horseshoe Trails intersections.

After walking way too many miles in way too strong wind, I went to Sprouts Farmers Market for my weekly stocking up on good stuff.

And then heading back here, south on Davis Boulevard, I think still in Southlake, I came upon a QT with the lowest gas price yet. On the way north, to Lake Grapevine, I saw a QT in Hurst with what was then the lowest I'd seen, at $1.31. But then the QT in Southlake broke that at $1.29. 20 bucks got over 16 gallons.

This is the lowest gas has been since 2001. I remember driving back here, from Washington, the week before 9/11. Gas had been $1.19 in Amarillo on the way north. A month later it was $1.42. More than what I paid today.

At this rate I'm expecting gas to go under 1 buck soon. Of course, like I always do when I get gas, I called my Mom in Phoenix. She's been ailing since before Christmas. She's still ailing. And still determined to head here on January 6.

Negative Fat Female Barber

Like I've said before, Alma, the Port Aransas Night Club Singer, sends me a lot of funny stuff. Like this one this morning....It struck me as amusing due to me having been acquainted with an extremely fat negative type person who sounds a lot like the extremely fat barber in this story....

This is something to think about when negative people are doing their best to rain on your parade. So, remember this story the next time someone, who knows nothing, and cares less, tries to make your life miserable.

I was at my extremely fat barber's, getting my hair cut for a trip to Rome. I mentioned the trip to my extremely fat barber, who responded; "Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It's crowded and dirty. You're crazy to go to Rome. So, how are you getting there?"

"We're taking Continental," was the reply. "We got a great rate!"

"Continental?" exclaimed my extremely fat barber." That's a terrible airline. Their planes are old, their flight attendants are ugly and they're always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?"

"We'll be at this exclusive little place over on the Tiber River called Teste."

"Don't go any further! I know that place. Everybody thinks its gonna be something special and exclusive, but it's really a dump, the worst hotel in the city! The rooms are small, the service is surly, and they're overpriced. So, whatcha' doing when you get there?"

"We're going to go to see the Vatican and we hope to see the Pope."

"That's rich," laughed my extremely fat barber. "You and a million other people trying to see him. He'll look the size of an ant. Boy, good luck on this lousy trip of yours. You're going to need it."

A month later, returned from Rome, I went to get another haircut. My extremely fat barber asked me about my trip to Rome.

"It was wonderful," I said, "not only were we on time in one of Continental's brand new planes, but it was overbooked, so they bumped us up to first class. The food and wine were wonderful, and I had a beautiful 21-year-old stewardess who waited on me hand and foot. And the hotel was great! They'd just finished a $5 million remodeling job, and now it's a jewel, the finest hotel in the city. They, too, were overbooked, so they apologized and gave us their owner's suite at no extra charge!"

"Well," muttered my extremely fat barber, "that's all well and good, but I know you didn't get to see the Pope."

"Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes to meet some of the visitors, and if I'd be so kind as to step into his private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me. Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and shook my hand! I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me."

"Oh, really! What'd he say?"

He said, "Where'd you get that horrible haircut?"

Recording Breaking Texas Temperatures & Tornadoes

We hit 83 degrees yesterday, breaking the temperature record here in Fort Worth. Overnight, a cold front blew in, chilling us down to a bit under 60, Saturday morning, at 10. With heavy rain, at times. That's my view of this morning's biggest downpour in the photo. The rain overwhelmed the gutters.

Earlier this morning the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Watch Warning for North Texas. So far I've heard no Tornado Sirens.

Much of the rest of the country is covered by snow. The Puget Sound zone is in thaw mode now, with the avalanche danger extremely high. Elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, specifically, Portland, had record breaking snow reaching almost 2 feet. Rain is more the norm for Portland in winter.

As far as I know, Snowzilla still stands in Anchorage. While in Seattle, it appears that a Seattle Snowzilla has grown in front of the Space Needle.

If it had remained balmy, my intention today was to go swimming in Lake Grapevine. Last week Lake Grapevine was being crystal clear. When that lake is not crystal clear I will not get into it, due to some of the things that lurk underwater. Like garfish and snapping turtles. I was attacked, in July of 2002, by a mad snapping turtle in Lake Grapevine. I think it was the closest I've ever come to a heart attack. I thought it was a water moccasin when the head popped up in front of me. It was only after I'd safely reached shore that I saw that it was a snapping turtle that was terrorizing me.

With this inclement weather I may have to somewhat alter my Saturday walking plans. Currently I intend to go to Southlake Costco for my regular Saturday lunch of free samples, then go walking at one of the Lake Grapevine parks, then go to Sprouts Farmers Market. These plans could be drastically altered should tornadoes make an appearance.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Day After Xmas With Texas Blowing Hard

All day long, this day after Christmas, it has been blowing hard, real hard. Windiest since the fringes of Hurricane Ike nicked Fort Worth, way back in September.

That is the view from Miss Puerto Rico's balcony at about 3 this afternoon. You can't tell it from the picture, but the trees are swaying heavily in the wind.

And litter is flowing freely. It's a mess of flying plastic bags out there. Somehow the "Don't Mess With Texas" plan has escaped the notice of way too many.

Meanwhile, Miss Puerto Rico is monitoring the storm on her computer while watching Grey's Anatomy.

Grey's Anatomy sure makes Seattle look nice. Not that that is difficult to do.

I wonder why no TV shows are ever set in Fort Worth? Maybe once the Trinity River Vision becomes clear Fort Worth will be deemed a worthy backdrop for a TV series.

I wouldn't want to be betting on that prospect, though.

Wal-Mart's Tattered Flag & Other Problems

It is very windy today in North Texas. The wind is coming from the south, blowing away the last remnants of the cold nastiness from the north we suffered from a few days ago.

It is humid today, the temperature right now is 78, with the Heat Index making it feel like 80.

I've got the windows open and am in comfortable Matthew McConaughey playing banjos mode.

It was warm yesterday and again today. That means my currently closed by the City of Fort Worth pool would have warmed up enough that I could have had a long swim this morning. If this heat wave continues that closed pool is going to start making me cranky.

Due to the wind, I ruled out a bike ride, blading or hiking today. I don't like trees or limbs falling on me.

So, I went walking in Wal-Mart.

As you can see in the picture, once more the U.S. flag at my neighborhood Wal-Mart Supercenter is tattered and hanging on to its pole by a shred.

I only bought a few items, and once more one of the items I intended to buy scanned incorrectly. Whenever I see "Price Rollback" I know there is a good chance that the price has not been rolled back.

Wal-Mart has these "Can't Find The Price? Scan Here" signs around the store. So, I scanned the Sharp Cheese that supposedly had its price rolled back from $2.68 to $1.50. What a shock. It scanned at $2.68.

I used to find it amusing to go ahead and buy the wrongly priced item and then go to the misnomered Customer Service and go through the hassle of getting my money back and the item for free. But, that is a lot of bother.

So, now I get my revenge by blogging about my experience.

Wal-Mart seems to be having some problems. Like running out of products. Empty spots on the shelves. And of late, this wrong price problem. Wal-Mart used to be the best at the price thing of any stores I shop at. I don't know if it just the 2 Wal-Marts I frequent, or if it is a system-wide meltdown.

One of the ugliest and fattest people I used to know made a rare visit to a Wal-Mart recently and pronounced the store "ugly." I don't know why that amused me. Maybe it was something to to with the idea that I would think an ugly person would tend to avoid using that word. A pot calling the kettle black type thing. Then again, this particular person is so addled and deluded, she may think she's beautiful. It wouldn't shock me.

Post Xmas Blues & The Dallas Morning News

It's the day after Christmas and my second day of getting The Dallas Morning News. I don't know if this is gonna work out. This morning the paper did not arrive until 7:30. That is too late to be of morning coffee drinking use to me.

And another problem is there is so much more content in the Dallas paper that it takes a long time to read, particularly compared to the content weak Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

I've only got 2 days to judge by, but so far one huge improvement over Fort Worth's failing paper is the physical quality is much better in the Dallas paper. The type is clearer, the contrast brighter, the color photos are high quality. The Star-Telegram often had blurred print problems. Or the paper would have a wrinkle. In a word, The Dallas Morning News is "slick." In a word, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is "sloppy."

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I am having myself a very Merry Christmas, so far, here in Texas, this year.

Blue sky has returned. Freezing temperatures are a distant chilly memory. Tomorrow it will be almost 80.

Today, it was so warm, whilst hiking the Tandy Hills, that it was necessary to shed my shirt. But I kept my Santa hat on.

I've got a chile relleno casserole baking right now, as I type. With a lot of extra cheese. The rice cooker just finished making the Mexican rice. The refried beans are ready in the microwave. A cherry pie sits ready to go into the oven.

From the above information you can figure out that, unlike Thanksgiving, when I pigged out at Zorro's Buffet, on Christmas, I decided to not go to a restaurant.

I'll be bringing Miss Puerto Rico her Christmas dinner a bit later. She thinks I'm a Top Chef. I'm not.

I called my Mom and Dad in Phoenix, this morning, to do the Merry Christmas thing. Dad answered. Mom is ailing. So, they won't be going to my Phoenix sister's for Christmas. I asked if this Mom ailing thing affected them coming to Texas in January. Dad said they're assuming Mom will quickly get feeling better.

Meanwhile, while we suffer with balmy warmth down here in Texas, my sister in Kent, Washington is so snowbound she can't make it the 20 miles to my sister in Tacoma for Christmas today. They are in Day 12 of ice and snow in the Puget Sound zone of the Pacific Northwest. With no end in sight. A new cold front blows in in a few days, knocking the temps possibly below the teens. More snow is expected.

So much for Global Warming. The Pacific Northwest winters are usually very mild. You can go year after year with no snow in the lowlands of the Puget Sound. What's happening up there right now is far from the norm.

Meanwhile, here in Texas, I hiked shirtless today on Christmas.

Galveston Police Beat and Arrest 12 Year Old Black Girl They Mistook For A White Hooker

Way too often something happens here in Texas that makes me feel sort of sick. Usually these turn into national or worldwide stories that makes the rest of the nation or the rest of the world feel sort of sick.

Around 2 years ago, at a little before 8 at night, Emily Milburn asked her 12 year old daughter, Dymond, to go outside their Galveston house to reset a breaker switch.

Unbeknownst to the Milburns 3 plain clothed Galveston police had been called to the area due to a call they'd received that 3 white prostitutes had been soliciting a white man and a black drug dealer.

However, the cops were in the wrong area, they were 2 blocks from the house they were looking for, when they saw a little girl outside her house who they thought was a hooker due to the so-called "tight shorts" she was wearing.

Just as Dymond reached for the breaker the cop's blue van pulled up and the 3 cops rushed out and grabbed her, saying, "You're a prostitue. You're coming with us." Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started yelling, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." One of the cops covered her mouth to shut her up. The other 2 beat her on the face and throat. Dymond's dad, Wilfred, came to her rescue.

After the beating, Dymond was hospitalized with black eyes and throat and ear drum injuries.

And now here's were it gets totally Texas weird. Three weeks later police went to Dymond's school, where she is a top student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant. Three grown men, not dressed as cops, assault a little girl, trying to take her away. She fights back. And she gets accused of a crime?

Not only did Dymond get arrested, so did her dad. Prosecutors actually had the gall to bring this to trial. Where the judge declared a mistrial on the first day. Even more sickening, a new trial is scheduled for February.

There is one smidgen of good news in this. The victims have filed a lawsuit in Galveston Federal Court against the officers. That these cops are still on the job is so obviously wrong. Why have they not been charged with assault? Tried, convicted and thrown in jail.

Dymond has constant nightmares where cops are raping and beating her and cutting off her fingers.

Regarding the lawsuit, the cop's lawyer had the raw gall to say, "Both the daughter and the father were arrested for assaulting a peace officer. The father basically attacked police officers as they were trying to take the daughter into custody after she ran off."

And, "The city has investigated the matter and found that the conduct of the police officers was appropriate under the circumstances," It's unfortunate that sometimes police officers have to use force against people who are using force against them. And the evidence will show that both these folks violated the law and forcefully resisted arrest.""

Even if these morons identified themselves as cops, before they began the assault, which they didn't, a little girl is going to be scared to death. We teach kids to fight back if this type thing happens.

If you hear your little girl screaming "Daddy" and you rush out to see 3 men beating your little girl what Dad wouldn't fight the perpetrators?

This latest Texas Outrageous Nonsense needs national exposure NOW. Sometimes the only way these people look in the mirror is if the rest of the nation shames them into looking.

Merry Christmas From The Dallas Morning News

This morning, sometime after 6, I got my first copy of The Dallas Morning News. My first Christmas present of the day.

It'd been a bit bumpy prior to the arrival of the first paper. I was thinking I'd likely be asking for my money back before I ever got a paper.

When I was convinced on Saturday to subscribe I was told delivery would start on Thursday, as in tomorrow. But then I got called by The Dallas Morning News customer service center on Tuesday and asked if I was getting my paper on time.

I told the caller that delivery wasn't supposed to start til Thursday. She told me, no, it was supposed to have started on Sunday.

I told her I've not seen any papers. She read me my address. They had it wrong. I gave her the correct address. She said delivery would start on Wednesday.

Wednesday came. No paper. So, I called the number I'd been given to call if a paper didn't show up. After going through a sophisticated phone tree I got a real person, explained the problem. And once more found they had the address wrong. Corrected it again. Was told delivery would start this morning and credit would be applied to the missing days.

So, I finally got a paper after way too much interaction, including, what I assume is my delivery guy, calling hours after I'd called customer service, to ask what my address was. At that point I sort of figured I was dealing with massive incompetence, worse than the Star-Telegram, and that I'd never see a paper.

Speaking of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I know I can't make any final conclusion based on reading one day, and that day being Christmas, about The Dallas Morning News. But, based on just this one day, The Dallas Morning News is HUGELY better than the Star-Telegram. It took me twice as long to read as the Star-Telegram's biggest day, that being Sunday. The Dallas Morning News has WAY more content. WAY more local stories. A lot more color pictures. More detailed Weather Page. The type on Doonesbury is big enough to read without squinting.

The Dallas Morning News, at least today, was like reading the Seattle P-I. It is a Big City newspaper. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is not Big City worthy. It's a small town paper. A bad small town paper. That I'm well rid of.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve: Texas Drunk, Post Office Clunk & No Snow

The last time I went to Oakland Park the trees were still being colorful. Now, a week later, there is little color to be seen. Killed by deep freezes. I went to Oakland Park after visiting my regional Post Office..

Why did I have to go there you ask? Well, for the 2nd time in 2 months, the mailman has put a card in my mailbox telling me he was sorry he was unable to deliver a package. That I could request re-delivery. Or pick it up myself.

Requesting re-delivery has never worked. I learned that last Christmas. Last month it was a frozen thing shipped from Houston. There is no excuse that makes any sense for not leaving a package. There are locked parcel boxes next to the mailroom. Many a time a package has been left there.

So, I called the regional Post Office to complain. I got the Postmaster. He sympathized with my pain. He said, "Can I be honest with you?" Sure, I said. He told me he was Old School, that he would never do such a thing, but the new mailmen cuts corners all the time, to make their jobs easier.

Long story short, I was on my way to my destination, I would be sort of in the area, so I dropped in at the regional Post Office and got the package.

I've always thought the Post Office gets a bum rap. I don't think I've ever had a letter lost. And it only cost 43 cents to mail an envelope thousands of miles. But you pay the Post Office a lot more than 43 cents to ship something and you don't know what's gonna happen to the package you carefully wrapped.

So, after the Post Office ordeal and after going on a walk at Oakland Lake Park I was driving down Randoll Mill Road and I saw the Holiday Liquor Depot. It has a big parking lot. The parking lot was totally full. People were parking on the sides of the entry driveways.

I'd never seen it like this. Was Christmas and all the bad economic news driving people to drink?

Holiday Liquor Depot sits on the border of a wet and dry zone. Just north of the border it is dry. This means there are 3 liquor stores at the first freeway exit to the wet zone, Holiday Liquor Depot, Majestic and Big Daddy's. The first 2 were very busy. Big Daddy's not so much.

Out of curiosity I felt I had to check out what the inside of Holiday Liquor Depot was like. It took awhile to find a parking spot, but people were coming and going fast, so it wasn't all that hard. I walked in to find the place packed. There were at least 10 cash registers working, each with long lines.

I had no idea Christmas drove so many people to drink so much. Christmas doesn't drive me to drink. The only thing that drives me to drink is being trapped with annoying people. It can put me in a better mood. And to sleep.

That's the Holiday Liquor Depot parking lot in the picture above. Under the Holiday Liquor Depot sign it says, in capital letters, "UNBEETABLE." Were they drunk? Or did they mean to make that mistake?

World's Biggest Butt At Wal-Mart Supercenter

I just finished blogging about Snowzilla up in Alaska. The giant Snowman put me in mind of something I saw yesterday, that being Christmas Eve Eve, at my local neighborhood Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The store was packed with so many unseemly looking characters it was like being on some sort of set for a science fiction movie. So many of the people seemed like caricatures. Some looking like they were trying out to be the poster person for White Trash of America.

One was a throwback to the 60s. Long hair, beard, tie-dyed shirt, looked dirty, a stereotypical Hippie. The only thing of this century about him was he was ranting into a cell phone.

Yesterday's Wal-Mart anthropological expedition saw the biggest concentration of Texas Big Hair that I've seen in a long long time. Texas Big Hair is often coupled with really bad, heavily done makeup that looks like you'd need a trowel to scrape it off.

One old lady looked like Bette Davis in her last years. Painted on eyebrows, garish makeup, Grand Canyonesque wrinkles, unnatural looking brown hair that must have been a wig.

But the thing I saw yesterday that will forever linger in the dark recesses of my mind, that being the location where things get stored that I wish I'd never seen, was what was the Biggest Butt I have ever seen in my long long life. This may have been the Biggest Butt in the World.

This Big Butt defies description. But I will try. The Big Butt was on a short woman, maybe 5 foot 2. I turned a corner and came face to butt to it. I'm sure my jaw dropped.

The Big Butt stuck way way out, like several feet from the woman's back. As the woman walked the Big Butt did this strange motion of bouncing up and down. Slowly. This created the illusion that her legs were very short.

I really do not understand how this Big Butted woman was able to walk. It appeared as if the weight of that humongous Big Butt should pull her backwards.

Looking at that Big Butt raised all sorts of questions. Like how did she get those stretchy looking pants on? How did she get in a car? That Big Butt was so Big you'd need a hole in the ceiling for your head. It'd be like sitting on a 5 foot tall cushion. It had to be a convertible. But it was so cold yesterday. Then again, with all that insulative adipose tissue it's likely impossible to get cold.

The Big Butt woman was with a man. A classic Jack Spratt. Skinny little guy. He was pushing the cart. If they'd not been moving so slow I would have kept them under surveillance til they left the store, so I could see how the Big Butt could get in a car.

Why does one let oneself get in this type condition? It's one of the more perplexing questions (for me) of our times. Almost as perplexing as where the hell did those billions of bailout dollars go? See, I've got my priorities in proper order. The economy comes first. Then Big Butts.

I need a real small spy type camera so I can photo-document it when I see something like the World's Biggest Butt. In the meantime, I may go to Wal-Mart again today. It's actually highly entertaining, in an Anthropological Expedition sort of way.

Snowzilla in Alaska

For days I've been reading about this giant snowman---up in the only state bigger than Texas, known as Alaska---that's been dubbed "Snowzilla". Supposedly appearing overnight, with no one taking credit for rolling the balls to make the man.

Snowzilla has appeared the last 3 years in the Anchorage front yard of a junk dealer named Billy Powers. Billy claims to know nothing about Snowzilla. However he seems quite smitten with this year's mystery Snowman, asking a reporter if he'd "seen him." And telling the reporter that "he's handsome." He being the Snowman, not the reporter. Maybe the reporter is also handsome, I don't know, that wasn't part of the story.

Each year, when Snowzilla appears, he's bigger, and apparently, more handsome, than the year before. This year he has grown to being 25 feet tall.

Due to all the Alaskans wanting a personal look at Snowzilla, it creates a serious traffic jam.

This year the city said Snowzilla was a public nuisance and a safety hazard, due to being so big he could become an avalanche. A cease and desist order was issued and tacked to Power's door.

City officials said Snowzilla increased traffic to the point of being dangerous and that Snowzilla, itself, was unsafe. Due that avalanche danger, I suppose.

Anchorage's Mayor, Mark Begich, issued a statement saying the city stands behind its moves to take down Snowzilla, saying, "This property owner has repeatedly ignored city attempts to find ways to accommodate his desire to build a giant snowman without affecting the quiet, residential quality of the neighborhood. This is a neighborhood of small homes on small lots connected by small streets. It can't support the volume of traffic and revelers that are interested in Snowzilla."

The mayor's office claims that for 13 years Powers has been running an illegal junk and salvage operation from his home in violation of land use codes. And that he owes Anchorage more than $100,000 in fines and other charges.

Powers claims it is the city that is the problem, not him. That he's jumped through every goofy hoop they've sent him, that he's never been confrontational, that some of the city's charges are unfounded and just plain outrageous.

The city says it will take no further action against Powers. Til after Christmas.

Meanwhile, here at my location in Fort Worth, no snow, not freezing and no chance of a White Christmas tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Home Zone Phone

I had very helpful, pleasant phone time with one of my favorite bright lights, from my old home zone, this morning.

It's a mind clearing thing to talk to someone who has observed the same phenomena, as I have, to find you both perceive the phenomena in the same way. This leads me to believe that others who have observed the same phenomena have likely come to similar conclusions.

People up in my old home zone are trying to dig out from the worst winter storm in a long long time. The old home zoner I talked to this morning is snowbound until the big thaw comes. The big thaw may start up there today. That's when it gets nasty.

I remember losing my downspouts during a big thaw. They came down with a huge crash. Awhile later, as the thaw progressed, there was an explosive noise followed by the sound of water. A pipe that I did not realize was frozen, with the freeze causing the pipe to crack, began spewing water at high velocity when it thawed.

This was inside the house, in the basement, but outside the heated part of the house, sort of an exercise room, storage room combo. It was fairly easy to get the water shut off and the pipe isolated. After the disaster passed, I put in a shut off valve in the ceiling so the water to those pipes could be cut off during a freeze.

By the way, that's a small part of the Skagit Valley in the photo. One of the most beautiful spots on the planet. If you've never seen it, make plans. But not in the winter. Aim for spring so you can see all the flowers, like tulips, in bloom.

Alan Young, GMC Dealer Closed Down

In the first instance, besides Washington Mutual failing, of myself actually seeing an example of the economic meltdown, today's news brought word of another business, with which I had done business, failing.

The Alan Young GMC dealership in North Richland Hills was shut down on Monday after General Motors Acceptance Corporation cut Alan Young's credit, stopping him from being able to buy and finance cars from GMC.

Alan Young is the first dealer in the Fort Worth, Tarrant County zone to go under since cars sales dropped hugely following the Wall Street Meltdown.

I feel a bit sorry for the 55 employees who have lost their jobs. But not all that badly. Because among those 55 are likely Alan Young mechanics who incompetently "fixed" my van on more than one occasion.

Alan Young had to replace the fan control switch for the heater/AC 3 times. Alan Young fixed something to do with the fuel pump, only to have it fail again within a short time, with Alan Young not assuming responsibility for making the repair. Alan Young messed up my transmission and then tried to claim it was already like that.

I complained to GMC about the Alan Young dealership. I do not believe it was an "honest" shop. An employee of Alan Young's told me that there were a lot of problems with repairs.

I really am not a fan of the auto maker bailout.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Freezing Rain Pain in Fort Worth & Wal-Mart Carolers

The photo is what the Tandy Hills will likely look like by morning. Freezing Rain is predicted to start falling after midnight, lasting til a couple hours past daybreak. By morning we could be totally ice-covered here.

It is my least favorite Texas weather thing. I experienced my first Texas Ice Storm within the first week of moving here. We had gone to the Stockyards for lunch, wearing no jackets because it was warm to us who were used to cold northwest type weather.

We came out of a restaurant, the now deceased Riscky Rita's, to find the temperature had plummeted by a lot of degrees. As in it felt like it was freezing. By early evening it was 15. We didn't know what to do with the pool, or the outside water valves.

By morning an ice storm had coated everything with several inches of ice. You went outside at great risk.

On a totally different note. I just got back from my Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. As soon as I opened my vehicle's door I heard loud Christmas music. As I got closer to the source I saw it was live carolers. A group of maybe 12. Led by an old Santa-looking guy. They had a pickup with hay in the back and some sort of keyboard. It was an all-white group of carolers singing in a mostly African-America neighborhood.

Somehow the scene evoked the new spirit in America, at least what I hope is the new spirit. That we are all one, all in it together and all here to help each other. Or maybe the carolers were simply lost. They were packing up and leaving by the time I left the store.

Second Day of Winter in Cold Fort Worth

The low today was 26. It is now almost 5 and 30. As in 5 the time, 30 the temp. The high today was 31. It's been another cold, gray day in Dirty Ol' Town.

That's the view from Miss Puerto Rico's balcony at about 3 this afternoon.

I forgot to mention, it's windy. Currently the Wind Chill Factor is making it feel like 20 out there.

I could have it worse. This morning I was writing a card to send my aunt up in Potholes, Washington. That's in eastern Washington near the Columbia River. I looked up her current temperature. It was 6 at 9 this morning. With a lot of snow.

Despite the frigid Arctic climate I did my usual hike around the Tandy Hills, today, a little after noon. I'd already been out and about and thought I was dressed warm enough. I wasn't. I didn't have a "hoodie" on, so there was some serious skin exposure in the neck zone. I did not hike as long as I usually do.

Tomorrow the sun is supposed to make a slight appearance with the high being 60. And no freezing. I hope I'm not disappointed by an incorrect forecast.

UPDATE: WeatherBug just went off with a National Weather Service Warning that freezing rain will start falling early Tuesday morning, continuing til 10am. That sounds like an Ice Storm. I don't like Ice Storms.

Leaving Texas To Go Houseboating on Lake Powell

That's me being the Captain of a Lake Powell Houseboat way back in 1994. I was not totally enamored of houseboating. But the scenery more than made up for being in a trailer that floats. Actually, it was more the being in close quarters with marginal personality types that wore on my nerves and made the boat float less pleasurable than it could have been.

You can read all about that ordeal, which I came to call Hell Houseboat, here.

I Captained another Lake Powell Houseboat expedition in 1998. Three of the crew were the same as the previous float. It was the same time of year, but everything seemed different. The boat was ready to be retired, the lake was like it was at flood stage. We took off from Bullfrog Basin Marina in a rainstorm that produced boat rocking squalls. That was fun. Rain is very rare there, so seeing waterfalls flowing over the canyon walls was cool.

On the 1998 float the water was murky. And cold. On the 1994 float the water was crystal clear and warm. And the lake was about 20 feet lower. Both floats occured in early October.

Why am I yapping about houseboating on Lake Powell you are sitting there wondering. Well, the subject came up this weekend with 7 potential floaters all gungho on the idea. I'd be the one planning this, like I always do, and I'm the least gungho. I'm the 8th floater. That's a lot on board.

The Lake Powell Houseboat fleet has been totally upgraded since I last was there. Many of the houseboats have satellite TV. I find this a negative. Lake Powell is so peaceful and quiet. Hearing a TV would be horrible.

Also on the plus side, it is closer to the launching marina, that being Bullfrog Basin, from here, than it was from Washington. It is under a 1000 miles from here to Bullfrog. If I remember right it was about 1,200 miles from my location in Washington to Bullfrog in Utah.

The price has gone up. If I remember right, 3 days of floating and houseboating, last time, cost something like $1,500 for a boat in the 40 foot range. Now it is $2,245 for 3 days on the least expensive boat. It is bigger than the ones we were on before, as in this boat, The Adventurer, sleeps 12 and is 54 feet long. Just the description of The Adventurer's details makes clear this boat has way more features than the ones we'd been on previously.

You can see The Adventurer by clicking here, as well as other houseboats and floating packages.

The Adventurer has 2 state rooms with double beds. 2 gauchos with pullout double beds, 2 lower berths with double beds, cd stereo, a water slide, 2 bathrooms, with showers, an RV size gas stove, 2- 8 cubic foot side by side refrigerator/freezers, an outdoor BBQ grill, a microwave and blender and forced air heat and conditioning.

On the previous houseboat floats we did not have A/C, no stereo, only 1 bathroom, no microwave or blender, no double beds, no separate state rooms. I had to sleep on this awful hard narrow cot like thing. No one else had it any better. I felt like this must be what prison is like.

So, the Lake Powell Houseboats may cost a bit more, now, but you get way more for your buck, or so it seems.

The floaters this time are all fully formed, fully functioning adults with no neurotic issues or temper management problems. As far as I know. You really don't know someone til you travel with them. Or are locked up with them on a houseboat. Or any other prison.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm Moving From Fort Worth To Dallas

I mentioned in a blogging, earlier today, that after I had lunch at Costco, went hiking at Lake Grapevine and checked out Gaylord Texan and the Big Balls of Grapevine, I went to Sprouts Farmers Market where something happened that will change my life.

My one longtime reader may remember me mentioning that I cancelled my longtime subscription to the Fort Wort Star-Telegram at the start of the month. I had a lot of issues with that paper. It was constantly shrinking. The ads were getting bigger and more numerous. They raised their rates and shrunk the paper.

When I experienced the Tacoma News Tribune, this past summer, with it also being a McClatchy paper, but one that had not gone bad, like the Star-Telegram had, the News Tribune still had a robust editorial page. Very few ads in the first section. No page after page of full page ads. Way more content.

Now, to be fair, the Tacoma market is a bit, well, uh, more educated than the Fort Worth paper's market, with way more high school and college graduates and a way higher per capita number of book buyers and readers. So, maybe a town gets the paper that matches its readers. I don't know.

So, I walk into Sprouts and this guy started yammering at me, wanting me to sign up for a raffle. I hate being accosted in this manner when entering or leaving a store. It seemed very un-Sprouts-like. Then he said something that had me saying I cancelled my subscription to the Star-Telegram this month. Then I got confused and said, "uh, are you hawking Star-Telegram subscriptions?"

"No. I'm hawking Dallas Morning News subscriptions."

I told him I'd cancelled the Fort Worth paper years ago due to bad delivery, then got the Dallas paper and the delivery was worse, so I cancelled it and went back to the Star-Telegram when they got a new carrier.

So, the deal was, if you paid for a year's subscription you got a big discount plus $85 of Sprouts gift cards. I said, I would not want to pay a year in advance for a paper that might not get delivered on time. So, he then offered me 3 months for $47.25 plus a $20 Sprouts gift card and another $5 gift card just for giving them another chance.

Sounded like a good deal. So, starting Thursday I'm back in the paper reading business. I'm pretty sure it will get successfully delivered because one of my neighbors gets the Dallas paper.

The Dallas Morning News is more like a real newspaper than the Star-Telegram. It'll be like reading the Seattle P-I or Times or Tacoma Tribune again. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is more like my old hometown newspaper, that being the Skagit Valley Herald. Although the SV Herald has a better editorial page than the Star-Telegram. And way fewer embarrassingly dumb letters to the editor. But then again, once more, Mount Vernon is an area with a much higher educational level and number of readers than Fort Worth.

Unlike the Star-Telegram the SV Herald does not make note of anyone in the news or on TV's connection to Mount Vernon or the valley. When the SV Herald mentions Secretary of Defense Bob Gates it does not use verbiage like, "Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who has a home on Big Lake in east Mount Vernon, has been asked to stay on by President-elect Obama." Everytime the SV Herald mentions Jim Cavaziel they don't use verbiage like "Mount Vernon's Jim Cavaziel plays Jesus in the new Mel Gibson movie."

When Mount Vernon was named the Best Small Town in the USA by, I think it was Rand McNally, it was a legit award, CNN showed up. But Mount Vernon did not have a citywide celebration. Those of us who lived there wondered if a mistake had been made. Don't get me wrong, Mount Vernon is a great town, but best in the USA?

Fort Worth got named as one of the most Livable Communities in America by some lobbying group in D.C. who used the bogus awards to advance their agenda. Fort Worth acted like the ugly girl suddenly finding herself winning a beauty pageant. In other words we had a city-wide celebration. I told this to a Tacoma city official (Tacoma/Pierce County won the same "award") and he chuckled. I asked if Tacoma had a city-wide celebration. "No", he said, "we politely thanked them. And then ignored it."

So, anyway, come Thursday I'm reading the Dallas Morning News. Please please please let there not be anything in there like "Dallas native Jessica Simpson is rumored to be pregnant with Tony Romo's baby." Or "Dallas native Jessica Simpson being pregnant with Tony Roma's baby is making cities and towns far and wide green with envy over Dallas' good fortune."

Winter Starts with a Freeze in Fort Worth

I was stopped by the city of Fort Worth from making a video of me swimming on the first day of winter. It would have been very cold this morning making that video. I'm probably better off.

So, I went roller blading, instead of swimming, for something aerobic on the first day of winter. It was 30 degrees when I took off from here, around noon, to put on my blades. It's now a balmy 35. The sky is back to our norm here, nice and clear and blue.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I can see one advantage to being hugely obese. The most obese person I used to know was constantly getting heavy duty aerobic exercise. Just getting out the car involved using her arms in a sort of pull-up motion to get the heft swiveled towards the door and then lifted to a walking position.

In one extremely aerobic, sort of amusing and potentially tragic incident we were in a McDonald's and the Big One had it in her head that she wanted to sit on one of the tall stools at the tall table. But she could not get her bulk on that stool. I was mortified as I watched her huff and puff and try harder and harder, so determined to get on that stool.

And then she tried a new maneuver which rang alarm bells instantly. She tried to hold on to the table and use her thicker-than-my-legs arms to pull herself on to the stool in much the same manner in which she pulls herself out of her car. Well, the table quickly began to tremble under the pressure of all that weight pulling on it. I insisted she cease at once, before she pulled the table over on both of us. Would you not think, after such a humiliating moment, that one would not proceed to eat 2 Quarter Pounders with Cheese and a Chocolate Milkshake? And Fries?

How does such a person get on an airplane, I can not help but wonder? I know Southwest Airlines is making the Heftys buy two seats. But that does not get them on the plane. I mean, how do they get down the aisle? It's a balancing act for me, due to the carry-on and laptop. But I'm basically a skinny guy. How does someone with a 4 foot diameter get down an airplane aisle that doesn't seem wider than 3 feet? And how is it fair to the other passengers to have such a dangerous clot in the aisle? It perplexes me.

I wonder what would happen if an obese person tried to roller blade? Just getting on the skates would be a challenge. I had to help an obese person put on her shoes once. It was appalling.

Anyway, below is a very short video of me roller blading at Quanah Parker Park on the first day of winter.

Global Cooling Hits Fort Worth and the Rest of the West

Among my many bad habits is each morning I check the temperature in 5 places using a website called AccuWeather. The 5 temps I look at are Fort Worth, Mount Vernon (my old hometown), Chandler (Phoenix zone where Mom and Dad and Sister are), Tonasket, Washington (home of Tootsie Tonasket) and Tacoma (home of my poodle nephews, Blue and Max).

That's Max in the photo, frolicking in the snow in his backyard.

Yesterday, when I checked AccuWeather, Fort Worth was 60, Mount Vernon 15, Chandler 29, Tonasket -12 and Max's Tacoma town was 21.

Right now at 11, Sunday morning, Fort Worth is now the second coldest on my list, at 24. Brrrr. Mount Vernon has warmed up to 30, Chandler 37, Tonasket a balmy 5 and Mount Vernon is 30.

Here in Fort Worth we went from that high of being in the 60s Saturday morning, to an Arctic Blast coming in from the west, dropping us to 21 for the Sunday morning low. This is the same cold front that has brought record breaking temperatures and a lot of snow to the Pacific Northwest, leaving many people snowbound, including my sister and Blue and Max.

This is the same cold front that brought snow to Las Vegas on Wednesday. That does not happen very often. I have been to Vegas when it is raining. I have been to Vegas when it is 115. I have been to Vegas when it is freezing. But I have never seen snow in Vegas.

On their blog Blue and Max have documented the terror they have been going through courtesy of this storm. The long-suffering poodle's furnace igniter broke, leaving them with only a fireplace and one space heater to keep a big 3-level house warm.

Blue and Max photo documented what the thermometer was saying their inside temperature was. 52 degrees.

Well, my one longtime reader may remember I spent a month with Blue and Max in their house last summer. I believe that the first 2 levels of the house rarely got any warmer than the 50s during my entire stay. The only warm spot in that house was where I was incarcerated, up in the area they called The Tropics.

Anyway, we as a planet really need to start working hard to find a way to stop this Global Cooling Crisis before it's too late and we're all one big iceberg.

The Christmas Big Balls of Grapevine

Yesterday, that day being Saturday, I made my now regular weekly visit to Costco for a free sample lunch en route to going on a hike on one of the trails around Lake Grapevine.

This week the Costco samples weren't quite up to last week's cheese overload, but it was still good. The hike this week was once more the Northshore Trail starting at Rockledge Park. It was perfect mountain biking temperature, so there were a lot of bikers. Few hikers.

The day had started out in the 60s, but a cold front blew in throughout the day, making it in the 50s by noon at Lake Grapevine. And 22 this morning.

The town of Grapevine puts on quite a festive Christmas display. Including pairs of Giant Balls at several intersections along the Grapevine Highway. The pair of Giant Balls in the photo is in front of the Great Wolf Lodge, directly across the street from the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center.

I drove through the Gaylord Texan complex, hoping to get a picture of Santa in his powerboat pulling his Reindeer on skis. But the traffic did not cooperate. I did successfully get a picture of another Santa in a covered wagon being pulled by his Reindeer. I guess it makes sense to have multiple Santas, but the covered wagon Santa is right across the street from the boating Santa. I fear this might confuse small children. I saw no conventional Santas in a sleigh. But I could only see part of the Gaylord Texas complex. It is huge.

After leaving Santa I went to Sprouts Farmers Market for my weekly stocking up of good stuff. Something happened there that will change my life in about 4 days. I'll save that story for another blogging.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Going to Health Camp in Waco

The previous blogging was, in part, about Durango, Texas and a roadtrip I took to check out my namesake. Thinking about that put me in mind of something I saw along the way that seemed a tad odd.

To go to Durango you exit Interstate 35, in Waco, at Exit 333, to Highway 77. You head east and you'll soon come to a big traffic circle.

At that traffic circle, at 2601 Circle Road, is a greasy spoon type burger joint. That calls itself Health Camp. There were a lot of cars parked at Health Camp. If you click the photo, on the enlarged version you'll see "Malts", "Shakes", "Serving Super Burgers."

Health Camp opened in 1949. Making it older than McDonald's. One of the burgers on the menu is called the "Super Health Burger." With that you get a double-decker bun, 2 meat patties, lettuce, tomato, 2 slices of Old English cheese and "special sauce."

You can also get fries and onion rings at Health Camp.

I suppose you're wondering why this greasy spoon is called Health Camp. Well, seems the original owner, Jack Schivetz, had trouble coming up with a name for his new burger joint. All he could think of was Health Camp. Due to Health Camp being stamped on each egg his mom would buy from a nearby farm when he was a kid. Why couldn't he just call the place "Jack's Burger Joint" I couldn't help but wonder.

There's a guy in Texas calling himself Texas Burger Guy. TBG has a very good blog that's all about burger joints. He'd didn't care for the Health Camp burgers, but other stuff, like the shakes, he liked.

You can check out what the Texas Burger Guy thought about Health Camp by clicking here.

Durango Texas, the Town & the Person

Durango became my Internet Nickname way back in 1994. That year, or maybe 1995 my Durango named was tied to the name, Lulu, in a website Lulu's first husband made called Lulu & Durango In As The WWWeb Turns.

As The WWWeb Turns was soon Cool Site of the Day. Back when that meant something. As The WWWeb Turns was basically the email exchanges between myself and Lulu, with Lulu's first husband adding photos, most altered to give me a big forehead. As The WWWeb Turns may have been the world's first blog.

Lulu's husband soon tired of doing As The WWWeb Turns. One day I was summoned to his house and presented with the initial HTML for a new website, including a logo he'd made. The new website was called Dialing Doctor Durango. By then the Durango character had been established as being this sort of overbearing know-it-all. It wasn't a hard part to play.

Dialing Doctor Durango soon became a monster. I got questions from all over the world. Many of them not getting that it was a joke. When a German medical school listed Dialing Doctor Durango as one of the top 20 medical websites on the Internet, I decided the madness had to stop.

So, I started Durango World which continued after I moved to Texas. Around 1999 or 2000 I decided I wanted my own domain. I figured it'd be Durango something. Since I was in Texas I figured why not

When I chose that domain I did not know there was actually a town of Durango, Texas. Unfortunately for the real Durango, Texas, my webstuff sort of overwhelms searches for info about Durango, Texas.

Eventually I took a road trip to check out my namesake. It's a bit southeast of Waco. Durango, Texas has seen better days. It's pretty much off the beaten path these days.

You can go here and see what Durango, Texas, the town, looks like.

All you gotta do is look at this blog to see what Durango Texas, the person, looks like.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Zorro's Buffet and the Fort Worth Cops

Being deeply depressed due to my swimming pool being closed on a day so warm I've got my windows open and the ceiling fan spinning, I went to Zorro's Buffet, again, for lunch.

Friday is Seafood Day at Zorro's. I've decided Seafood Day is my favorite Zorro's day. I didn't care for Thanksgiving at Zorro's. Mexican Day is okay. But Seafood Day is more than okay, as in I liked it as much as my first visit to Zorro's, which was also on Seafood Day.

One thing about Zorro's, that I like, is there are always new things. Today I had a really good spring greens salad that had apples and walnuts mixed in with bleu cheese. There was a couscous type salad. You don't see couscous in many mainstream buffets. The grilled shrimp were prawn-sized, tasted like they'd been grilled in butter with garlic. Speaking of butter. Despite being told twice by commenters that the yeast rolls were excellent, I'd not had one til today. They are homemade, like mom's, well, actually better than mom's. And mom's are darn good. The Zorro's yeast rolls are very light and very buttery.

Anyway, good pigout at Zorro's today.

I like to take the backroads back here from Zorro's. It's like a drive through a 3rd World Country. I take visitors from up north on these type tours and jaws always drop. You just can't see this type scenery anywhere that I know of in the Pacific Northwest.

On the way back from Zorro's, last week, I came upon a long abandoned gas station which still had its gas prices on display. Gas prices which, ironically, match about what we are paying now. So, I wanted to take a picture of this to show you. And so I did.

I snapped several pictures, not realizing that there were 2 Fort Worth cop cars parked under the dead gas station's awning.

After taking the pictures I went down a side street, for a bit, due to seeing an odd scene of a kid on a horse in a fenced yard. These were little houses and little yards. The horse and rider looked way out of place.

I'd made it about a block when I saw a cop car behind me, lights flashing with one toot of the siren. I pulled over.

The cop got out, walked up, asked to see my license. I showed him. "What did I do wrong, officer?" I politely asked.

"Why were you taking pictures of us?" the cop asked.

"Huh? You mean just now?" I asked.


"I didn't see you. I was taking a picture of the gas price sign."

"Why would you take a picture of that sign? They don't sell gas anymore.

"It's for my blog," I said.

"Why would you put that on your blog?"

"Because I think it's ironic and sort of funny."

"I don't see anything funny about it," the cop said, starting to sound cranky.

"Well, you probably don't wanna be reading my blog then."

"Okay, I'm gonna let you go. Watch what you're taking pictures of next time."

"Thank you, officer, I will be more careful in the future."

So, that's been my day. First Fort Worth robs me of my pool. And now the Fort Worth police are harassing me for taking pictures. What's next I tremble to wonder?

Fort Worth Pools Closed Under Warm Blue Sky

We are seeing our first blue sky in days, here in Fort Worth. That's the view from Miss Puerto Rico's balcony at about an hour before noon.

It is almost 70 out there. That's good swimming temperatures. But I am unable to swim. Like I told you yesterday, the city of Fort Worth has shut down the pools in town.

Fort Worth has been overreacting to pool issues, mostly drain and pump issues, ever since Fort Worth was successfully sued for a large amount of money, due to 4 out of towners, attending one of the rare conventions to take place at Fort Worth's Convention Center, drowned in an overfilled whirlpool at the Water Gardens that are adjacent to the Convention Center.

Due to that tragedy my pool was drained and new pump safety devices and drain covers were installed. At great expense. The new thing that the city is insisting on has to be installed by a licensed technician. So it may take awhile to get one here due to all the pools in town needing whatever this fix is.

Meanwhile, in the big city to the east, that being Dallas, none of these supposed safety improvements have been mandated. I suspect incompetent boobery is what is at play regarding the pools here in Fort Worth.

I guess the good news for me today is my bad case of SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder) is temporarily abated by the return of blue sky and warm temperatures.

If I was still living in my old hometown of Mount Vernon, Washington, I would be snowbound today. They are having heavy snow and record breaking temperatures up there, with the ski areas finally able to open. But with severe avalanche danger. Avalanche danger is a danger we don't have here in Texas. My baby sister is stuck in Tacoma, snow and ice bound, unable to get to Olympia.

The lowlands of the Puget Sound zone can go years in a row with no snow. Where I lived we didn't get snow as often as further south, as in Seattle, or further north, due to being in a valley that was protected by mountains that caused what is called a convergence zone to occur south and north of us. But there was a snowstorm in the 1990s that was record breaking. I was snowbound for about a week. I cross country skied to the grocery store.

Click here and scroll down the page to see snow photos of my old abode in Washington.