Saturday, July 26, 2008


While looking at the program guide this morning, I noticed they were running Popeye cartoons on the Boomerang network. The guide described the program as follows:
Popeye - The sailor courts Olive Oyl and gains strength through spinach.

Doesn't that description apply to every Popeye cartoon ever produced? Guess that covers them all.

Qantas . . . Still a Safe Airline

Yesterday, one of the world's safest airlines, Australia's Qantas, had a major explosive decompression event that tore a gaping hole in the side of the aircraft. Fortunately, the pilots were able to safely land at Manila, and not a single person was injured. I think I would have needed to make a purchase of clean underwear following such a frightening incident! It is a testament to human resiliency that the passengers remained fairly calm, as evidenced by the video below, taken on board the plane as it descended and landed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Old Street Sign

I have posted pictures of various types of street signs found around the city of Houston in the past. Still, there was one type that used to grace the curbs at many intersections that I haven't had the chance to photograph. Then, in a thread on the Houston Architecture Info Forum, I found that a member called "isuredid", placed one he had taken. So, here it is.

I don't know the history of these blue and white mosaic signs, but they must have had standard tile layouts for every letter and digit, as they always were very consistent. I cannot imagine road crews today taking the time for such curbside artistry, but I have always enjoyed these signs as a piece of how things used to be done. They are much more interesting than the standard signs you typically see nowadays.

Next time I get down to Houston, I hope to catch some of these on my own, but in the meantime, thanks to isuredid for this one.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Where Is This?

Map of the Denver area from Google Maps

I remember a game that used to appear in Readers Digest, where you got to see a little bit of a road map, and the object was to figure out where the place on the map was located. So let's play a little version of that right here.

Click on the map above to get a larger version, but notice that I have circled three town names in red. They are Thornton, Denver, and Aurora, three city names in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area. However, this is not a map of Colorado. There are a couple of good clues to get you started however if you look closely at the map.

Once you think you have it figured out, go the the comments for this post to see the answer. Don't peek until you have given a real effort at figuring it out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Horehound? Yep, I Got 'Em!

Okay, today I made good on my promise to buy some horehound drops to share with Kristin, Ryan, and my other pals at work (see this post from July 3). I found them for sale at Cost Plus World Market at Southlands. Here is the proof...a nice, fresh bag of horehound drops. I particularly like the subtext on the bag..."Brewed & steeped in copper kettles to enhance the horehound flavor" (emphasis mine).

I actually have not tasted a horehound drop since I was a child. Wouldn't it be funny if it turns out I actually like them now?

So Kristin, if you are reading this...get ready. The horehound drops are on the way. Or as Mister Burns on The Simpsons would say, "Release the hounds!"

Griff's Hamburgers

Today, I decided to try out a long time favorite of people I have talked to around town . . . Griff's Hamburgers on South Broadway in Denver. Griff's apparently was a chain that disappeared many years back, with a few remaining locations still in business on their own. The one in Denver is located on South Broadway, and while the building is typical of an old burger joint, the hamburgers have a wonderful taste that you don't get in your typical burger fare. From the article on Wikipedia linked above, it appears the largest concentration of remaining Griff's are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

So to start our Griff's experience today, we loaded up the Santa Fe with me, the lovely spouse, the oldest son and his wife, and the grandchildren and headed over to give Griff's a try. I have meant to do this for years, but for one reason or another, never got around to it.

The LS and I each had the Number 2 Combo (no, not THAT number 2), which was the cheeseburger, fries and Coke. Fast service, and while the burger was nothing special to look at, it definitely was a tasty treat.

I also have heard that there is a Griff's still operating in Arvada, Colorado just to the northwest of Denver, as well as others in various towns. If you want to give them a try, and there is one near you, I suggest you do so. Who knows how long some of them may be around.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Even Sweeter in Sugar Land

The Associated Press is reporting that 5,000 gallons of sticky, sweet molasses spilled from a tanker truck on to Texas Highway 6 at the Southwest Freeway (US 59) in Sugar Land yesterday afternoon. What could be a more perfect place for molasses to spill than a place named for sugar?

This particular intersection is one I have been through countless times. In fact, below is a photo of the intersection that I posted a while back on this very blog. I used to frequent a coffee shop at the corner to make use of their wi-fi connections while visiting my parents in nearby Houston. Sadly, The Coffee Groundz closed this location. I guess they, like many small businesses, just couldn't make a go of it.

Intersection of Texas Highway 6 and US 59 Southwest Freeway in Sugar Land

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oh Bee-have!

The Veronica flowers not only attract the Painted Lady I showed you in the last post, but also bees. I noticed that the butterfly had returned, but was being chased off by the bees collecting nectar from the blossoms.

Yet it isn't only butterflies that the bees chase away. They were also buzzing each other. I noticed two in particular that were continually at odds with one another.

After taking pictures of them, I think I see why. Althought I am not sure, I think they may be members of two varieties of bee. The one in the first photo has the yellow and black stripes we commonly associate with honeybees. Notice the bee in the second photo. It is black, with no yellow. Reminds me of the black suit that took over Spiderman in the last movie. Now I can't say for sure which one is the aggressor, or if both are a bit testy with each other. However, I thought this was an interesting observation.

All too often, I think people are so caught up in the issues of our own lives that we fail to notice some of the drama that nature provides on a smaller scale around us. Sometimes we have to slow down and look at the details, and only then do we get a glimpse into another existence.

Another Butterfly Flies In

Today is another beautiful day along the Colorado Front Range, and I am seeing more benefit from all the flowers we have planted. Butterflies, bees, birds, and other garden creatures continue to visit. Today, the lovely spouse called me out to the back garden to see a beautiful orange and brown butterfly that was enjoying the nectar from the Veronica flowers. These flowers, also known as Speedwell, must be very attractive, as when we bought them at the nursery, a bee was hovering on them, even as we pushed them around on our cart.

This time, I was able to grab the Olympus E-500 with a zoom lens on it, and got a few nice shots of this visitor to the garden. As usual, you can click on any of the pictures for a larger version that will let you see more detail.

This particular butterfly has different markings on the top and bottom of the lower wing set, and it was fluttering its wings occasionally. However, most of the time, it was just holding them together while enjoying the nectar from the Veronica blossoms.

As you can tell by comparing the Tiger Swallowtail photos in the last post, the Olympus does a much better job at capturing fine detail than the little Gateway camera can handle. I had hoped to get a good shot of the open wings on this guy, but when he opened them, it was only for a quick little flutter, and I only managed to get the open with some blurring. The third photo in this post is the best I got of the wing tops.

By doing a little research, I have identified this fellow as a variety of butterfly called a Painted Lady. These are one of the most ubiquitous butterflies in the world.

Above: Another crisp shot of this beautiful Painted Lady Butterfly

Below: View of wing tops on this butterfly

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly enjoying some of our flowers

This evening as the lovely spouse and I were in the car, backing out of the driveway, I spotted a butterfly on one of our flower baskets. Quickly stopping the car, grabbing my little Gateway point-and-shoot digicam, I approached this handsome specimen enjoying the blooms. I managed to get these pictures before he got the notion to leave. While I would have preferred the sharpness of my Olympus DSLR for such an occasion, I am still thrilled that I got these shots.

I have seen several of these large beauties flying around the yard, but never the chance to photograph them. At first, we thought it might be a monarch or a viceroy, but upon closer examination, it is clear that this gorgeous guy (or gal) is a tiger swallowtail. In the top picture, you can clearly see its legs and antennae, as one wing was almost edgewise to the camera. The second picture gives a view of both wings.

Our friend, the tiger swallowtail with both wings visible

These stunning creatures only live as adult butterflies for 10-to-14 days, but the joy and beauty that they add to the garden make their short lives very meaningful to those of us who enjoy watching them.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Chicken Fried Bacon

Americans are known around the world for a lot of things, but healthy food isn't one of them. We love our high fat, high sodium, high cholesterol food, and our poor hearts be damned. We will batter and deep fry anything at all. One restauranteur in Snook, Texas was noodling around in the kitchen, and came up with what has to be a quintessential Texas idea. Chicken Fried Bacon. Yep, take big strips of bacon, dip them in batter, and drop them into a vat of boiling fat. But of course, that isn't enough. You also have to have a big side of cream gravy to dip them in.

Truthfully, I'd like to try an order of these. But I also am slightly afraid of the consequences. Do they supply a defibrillator with each plate? And by the looks of the owner of the restaurant, he has probably had his share. If I want to try them, I may have to get down there before he drops dead!

I looked on Google Maps, and found that Snook is only about 14 miles southwest of College Station, a place I have gone through many times in the past. I guess that just one order wouldn't hurt, so maybe my next trip to Texas will have to include a stop in Snook. If I dare!

The video above is a segment from the television show Texas Country Reporter, which I saw on the RFD TV network.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Thoughts on the Birds

No, not the Byrds, who sang songs like Turn, Turn, Turn and Mister Tamborine Man back in the 1960s. No, the birds, the flying, feathered descendants of the dinosaurs. While sitting out on the front porch watching birds and bees flying about, I started thinking about how prior to the invention of the aeroplane 103 years ago, mankind could only dream of flying. Still birds and insects fly under their own power without the aid of devices, something we cannot do. How frustrated and yet driven must it have made people to strive to soar like the birds.

Yet, without their example, would people have even gotten the idea of flight? In a world where no creatures took to the sky, would it have occurred to human beings to aspire to become airborne? Similarly, if the nearby Moon did not appear in Earth's sky, would we have had a space program? The allure of a neighbor in space, so close yet so far, was a lofty goal for the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Even today, NASA is preparing to return to the Moon as a milestone toward a manned Mars mission. But without the Moon, would Mars be unattainable?

Points to ponder on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, U.S.A.!

Two hundred and thirty two years ago, the timeless words of Thomas Jefferson laid out the case for American independence from the British crown, and declared "That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States". This breaking of allegiance to King George III, and ultimately the resulting Constitution of the United States in 1789, set the course for the democratic self-rule of what was to become the major superpower in the world. With all her faults, these United States are still the world's best example of what can be accomplished by a free people. On this day where we celebrate the birth of our nation, let us resolve to honor the bravery of the founders, and to keep their dream alive for ourselves and our posterity.

The text of the Declaration follows:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock
Button Gwinnett
Lyman hall
Geo Walton
Wm Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
Edward Rutledge
Thos Heyward, Junr.
Thomas Lynch, Junr.
Arthur Middleton
Samuel Chase
Thos. Stone
George Wythe
Charles Carrol of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Th Jefferson
Benja. Harrison
Thos Nelson, jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
Robt Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benj. Franklin
John Morton
Geo. Clymer Smith
Geo Taylor
James Wilson
Geo. Ross
Caesar Rodney
Geo. Read
Tho M: Kean
Wm. Floyd
Phil. Livingston
Frans. Lewis
Lewis Morris
Richd. Stockton
Fras. Hopkinson
John Hart
Abra. Clark
Josiah Bartlett
Wm. Whipple
Saml. Adams
John Adams
Robt. Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Step. Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Saml Huntington
Wm. Williams
Oliver Wolcott
Matthew Thorton

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Stack of Pots

Last Sunday, we had lunch at the famous White Fence Farm in Lakewood, Colorado. It is a really fantastic place, a former farm that is now a country store, home-style restaurant, garden, and petting zoo right in the city. One of the things they had there was a stack of flower pots that looked balanced. It drew the attention of the lovely spouse, who wanted that at our house. She has also been wanting something on the left side of the garage for balance with the flowers near the porch.

So tonight after work, we went to what Hank Hill on TV's King of the Hill would call the MegaLo Mart, but which we know as Wal-Mart. There we bought flowers, potting soil, four clay pots, and a yard torch. Why a yard torch? Well, the pot stack at White Fence Farm had a piece of steel rebar for the support up through the pots. Since I couldn't find any rebar, the torch had a metal pipe for its support. I took the torch off the top, drove the pipe into the ground, and presto, a pipe perfect for stacking flower pots!

Then the LS put the soil and flowers into the pots, watered them, and now we have this nice array of pots and flowers beside the garage. Simple, but it gives the illusion of a weird balancing act going on.

Old Man Candy, Indeed!

Today at work, I offered some Junior Mints to my young friend, Kristin. Now, as Cosmo Kramer would say, "Who wouldn't love a Junior Mint? They're chocolaty, they're minty, they're refreshing!" And although she indeed wanted some, she made some comment about them being "old man candy". What!! The famed Junior Mint, the perfect movie theater candy, being maligned? (Or maybe it was ME being maligned...whatever).

So we had a laugh about Junior Mints and Senior Mints, and other such nonsense. It did get me thinking about something though. What do I consider to be "old man candy"? Well my grandparents are long gone, but one memory I have of my paternal grandfather was that he always had a bag of horehound drops. He would offer us one, usually with, "Do you kids want a horehound drop?". We may have accepted the offer once, but no more.

The horehound drop is the brown, nasty member of the drop family. Lemon drops are great. Butterscotch drops, fine. But horehound drops...oh my gosh, were they ever awful!

Then there's the name . . . horehound. Of course, it always made us laugh once we were old enough to associate it with "whore hound". What is that? Some kind of dog that excels at sniffing out prostitutes?

So, I am making it my mission to get some horehound drops and bring them to the office, and introduce my young coworkers who have never heard of them, to the experience that is the horehound drop. I already warned Kristin they will be coming. I know they sell them at Cracker Barrel, so no problem there. I also told her there will be "no spitsie-outies" allowed!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

American Goldfinches

Male American Goldfinch in his Mating Plumage

One of the prettiest birds inhabiting our yard is the American Goldfinch. This brilliant yellow fellow was enjoying a drink from our front yard birdbath, then flew over to the big pine in the front yard. It was there that I got these pictures of him.

In the summer breeding season, these guys get really bright feathers as part of nature's attraction to the females. A male looking to breed displays the bright yellow, along with the black cap on his head. The female is a little more drab.

Another pose from the American Goldfinch

The above pictures I took today, but to get a look at a female, below is a photo I took a couple of summers ago in Wisconsin. This pair was enjoying a meal, and the female decided to keep her eye on me. You can see the touch of olive in her plumage, but even so, she is showing quite a bit of yellow. Also notice her lack of the male's black head feathers.

Pair of American Goldfinches in Madison, Wisconsin