Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Evening Random Ramblings

It's Sunday night, and the weekend is wrapping up. For some, it was a long holiday weekend, but my employer doesn't give us the Friday after Thanksgiving off, so it was a regular weekend for me. With the first significant snow storm of the season blowing through since Friday night, it was good timing that is was the weekend, even if it did screw up the lovely spouse's plans for me to put some Christmas lights up on the house. But I suppose that only delays the inevitable. So in keeping with this blog's theme of random ramblings, lets touch on a few things before we shuffle off to bed.

An Odd Show

This morning when I turned on the television, I saw something that struck me as somewhat bizarre. It was a program that apparently was broadcast earlier this month on NBC, but was being rerun on the Style network. It was called Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons - A Tribute on Ice. Now don't get me wrong, I have always been a fan of the unique sound of this group that sprang up from doo-wop music, but there were several things that just didn't seem right.

First of all, there was Frankie himself, singing a very listenable, if lifeless performance. He looked pretty old, but hey, it happens to all of us, doesn't it? But his new group of Seasons appeared to be in their late 20s to early 30s, young enough to be Frankie's kids. What the hell did he do with the other guys?

Then there was the fact that ice skaters were skating his songs as he sang them. For example, when Frankie and his new boys were singing Tell It To The Rain, a female skater was doing some skating with an umbrella. Now, ice skating is okay, pop music is fine, but putting them together seemed just a bit, twisted. Kind of like those Tropicana Twister commercials of years ago, talking about flavors Mother Nature never intended. It made me wonder what next? Perhaps "A Bullfighting Tribute to The Village People"? Maybe "The Monkees - A Shuffleboard Tribute".

Still, I never fail to enjoy a nice dose of Four Seasons music, be it the early stuff like Dawn Go Away or Mary Ann; to the later stuff like Grease or maybe Swearin' to God.

TV or Not TV, That is the Question

Everytime I go to Costco or Sam's Club, I see the deals getting better and better on new HDTV sets. Part of me really wants to get one, but after looking at them, I always walk away. Even the lovely spouse says to get one if I want it, but so far, I have resisted the siren call of HD. I probably will give in sooner or later, but several things hold me back. First, I hate to spend the money when my 36" regular TV still looks as beautiful as it did when brand new eight years ago. In some ways, you can't beat a direct view CRT. Second, it is the start of an entire series of upgrades. Upgrade my DISH Network setup, upgrade my DVD recorder to Blue Ray, upgrade my audio-video receiver to handle HD. Then I would have to figure out how to move the massively heavy old TV down to the basement. Plus, in these uncertain economic times, bargain or not, I am not too hot on buying much of anything.

Shivering, Hungry Squirrels

This morning, the LS and I were watching a couple of squirrels shivering up in the branches of a neighbors tree. They were eating what few leaves are clinging on, and trying to stay warm as the snow was coming down. I meant to get some squirrel peanuts or corn for them, but forgot as the day wore on. That is something I will still have to do. They can be pesky, but I don't want the bushy tailed little guys to starve during the cold weather. Here is one of them chewing on a leaf this morning.

Fox Broadcasting - Rotten to the Core?

Do you trust the news media to tell you the truth? Do you think it is fine that deregulation has concentrated America's media into just a few hands, such as News Corporation, Clear Channel, and a handful of others? Does it not trouble you that media magnate, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation owns The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Sky News, and a slew of local TV stations among others? Well, look at this video about Fox 13 in Florida, a Fox-owned outlet. Watch it, and tell me if you believe advertising dollars don't dictate what is passed off as this case, outright lies.

The media plays an important role in a society. By caving to threats of lawsuits and withdrawal of advertising revenue, they abdicate their responsibility to the public.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Funny Family Photo

Well, if anyone who knows me wonders why I am the wacky, crazy, fun kind of guy I am; one needs only to look a little further back down the family tree. This gem of a photo was taken many years ago. The man grimacing and the woman sitting on the running board of this old car and holding an ax are my paternal grandparents. The kids on the car are a combination of some of theirs and some are just neighbor kids getting in on the silliness. This picture is one of my favorites. It shows that even in hard times, there was time to cut up a little and let your hair down. And as you can see, given my genetic makeup, I never stood a chance! :-)

I am not quite sure if this was taken in Texas or Oklahoma, but it was one of the two. As usual, you can click on the photo for a larger version.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Ponderings

Well, it's Thursday, Thanksgiving holiday, and a day off work. And now the madness known as the Christmas season kicks into gear, as lights start going up on houses and stores. Sadly, the Christmas message of "Peace on Earth" is nothing but an empty phrase, as it has been almost every year in history. With the terrorist attacks yesterday in Mumbai, India, we once again see that there are severely defective human beings capable of horrific acts of death and violence against others who have done them no wrong. The American occupation of Iraq continues, and the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. An attack on government officials in the South Ossetia region of the Republic of Georgia following the Russian invasion, along with Russia cozying up to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela threaten to further degrade world order. We even have pirates seizing merchant vessels off the coast of Somalia. So while "Peace on Earth" remains a wonderful ideal, there are people in the world who will not allow it to be.

Poor little Molly dog is probably going to need surgery on her foot, but as we try to see if she will heal without it, she is proving difficult to gain cooperation from. She ate the bandage they put on her at the emergency room, and when we put the Elizabethan dog collar on her, she broke the snaps and tore off the new bandage that the lovely spouse had made. I fear that we will be hard pressed to keep her from messing up any surgery, making healing even more difficult. It is a sad sight to see her limping around with a bandaged up foot.

Having owned a retail pack & ship business for 3 years, I am very glad to not be in that business this holiday season. With the suppliers (FedEx and UPS) competing with us by encouraging on-line shipping; plus buying Kinkos and Mail Boxes, Etc. respectively; business just kept declining. On top of that, our franchiser was all help and smiles before they get your money. After that, they were worthless. They live on turnover and selling new franchises rather than helping their existing ones succeed.

Now with this horrible economic situation, I fully expect to see more and more retail businesses shutting down right after Christmas & New Year's Day. After what the LS and I went through, I have great empathy for the Mom & Pop stores out there struggling to stay in business in an environment where even big box outfits like Linens & Things and Circuit City can't make it. Already, the new Circuit City store that opened six months ago here in Parker is going out of business. Several other businesses have gone down, even as new ones continue to pop up. This is not a good time to be a retailer. I can honestly say that nearly four years since we shut down our stores, I am so glad to not have that burden anymore. We paid dearly for the lesson.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Can you believe it?

Today, I had to get gasoline in my car. Just a few short weeks ago, it was about $4.25 per gallon, and over $60 to fill up. Today, I paid $1.53 and went from almost empty to full for about $20. Just two weeks ago, it was around $1.80. Now this could signal more of the underlying problems with the economy to see oil fall from its record highs, to this level so quickly. I imagine this cannot be good for the oil companies either. Still, at least this is one small bright spot for consumers.

The Weekend is Almost Done

It's Sunday night again, and what a rough Sunday it has been. Molly, the smartest dog in the world, is ailing today. We had noticed her starting to limp a bit, but today it was very pronounced. We took her to the emergency room after the Lovely Spouse noticed that Molly has a large, bloody looking knot on her left front paw, on the pads. To take X-Rays of the poor little thing, they had to give her major sedation, and she has been lethargic all day. She hasn't eaten, she won't take a drink of water, and we are very concerned about her. She has a bandage on her foot, and will likely require surgery if antibiotics don't help.

Now, my antibiotics typically are a $4 Target or Walmart buy, but doggie pills are still way overpriced. Today's visit was over $400, and we have yet to really do anything. I am worried about her not drinking. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for her.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have They Killed The Goose?

A fable attributed to Aesop, from the Sixth Century B.C.E. tells the story of a couple who had a goose that laid golden eggs. They decided to kill the goose to get all the eggs inside it out at once, rather than waiting for it to lay them, only to find no eggs inside the goose. Oh, if only the greedy captains of American industry had heeded the wisdom of this ancient Greek story teller.

First it was investment banks and bad mortgages. Now we find the so-called "Big Three Automakers" on the verge of collapse. Though decades of poor management, taking multiple givebacks by the United Autoworkers Union, building cars that were sub par, and shipping American jobs to foreign nations, these companies find themselves in serious trouble, and could be the the thing that tips us into a major financial depression.

The inept, greedy CEOs of General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford flew in their mulitimillion-dollar private jets to sit in front of our representatives in Congress with their hands out, asking we, the American people, to give them money we don't have, from the public coffers. We find ourselves in a quandry. If these companies collapse, who will build our tanks and other military vehicles? Toyota?

I don't believe we can afford to let these companies collapse, only because of the economic tsunami that would ensue. However, any aid should be predicated upon ousting these inept management teams, requiring the return of jobs to the United States, and a clear plan to bring these companies back to profitability and repay the American taxpayer.

It seems that the entire house of cards is falling apart rapidly. I not only fear for our long term future, but for our short term survival as well. I have never felt this pessimistic about the future of this nation and its people. Many people pointed to the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 as evidence of the flaws of the Communist economic system. I find it entirely feasible that we could see a similar collapse of the capitalist system of the U.S., and very rapidly also. This consumer-driven economy cannot forever sustain itself if people don't have jobs.

These clueless executives are more interested in getting free government money to sustain their own lavish lifestyles while changing nothing; rather than creating fundamental change in the way business is done in this country. Mr. Obama, I fear you have been dealt the biggest mess of any incoming president since Franklin Roosevelt, and perhaps since Abraham Lincoln. America is sending you to The White House to effect change. We have never needed it more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oklahoma, WTF?

I have written about some of the things I saw last week in Oklahoma. Now, I must say there are many things to like about The Sooner State, but their politics isn't one of them. Following the recent election, I was looking at state by state maps of how the counties went either for Obama or McCain. One thing became readily apparent; Oklahoma is the only state out of the fifty that did not have one single county that had a majority vote for Mr. Obama. Not one. Every county went red.

Now I can think of a number of reasons for this. The Oklahoma education system outside of the excellent OU and OSU is not the best. People tend to be less educated than the U.S. as a whole. Its two metropolitan areas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, are not among the largest in the country. This is a state that also re-elected James Inhofe to the Senate. Yes, the same Inhofe who questions whether or not Mr. Obama loves America; the same James Inhofe who thinks global warming is a scam perpetrated by The Weather Channel. This is the state where young student, Brandy Blackbear, was expelled for allegedly placing a curse on a teacher that put him in the hospital.

So now we clearly see that Oklahoma once again reinforces the stereotype that it is a backwards-thinking state. When America overwhelmingly went for historic change, Oklahomans decided to stick with the GOP. In browsing the web about this phenomenon, I also found that former Oklahoma governor David Walters wrote about this on his blog in an entry titled, What's The Matter With Oklahoma?

As a native Oklahoman, I would love to see the state of my birth become more progressive. However, I fear the culture of ignorance makes such a change unlikely for the near term. Okies are, for the most part, good, hard working, and honest folks, who have endured a lot of hardship. However the combination of lack of opportunities, inadequate public education, and the ever present influence of fundamentalist Christianity holds them in an intellectual death grip.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dobson At It Again

The hatemongers and bigots at Focus on the Family are at it again. Taking up the mantle of the so-called "War on Christmas", the Dobsonites have compiled a list of retailers who they consider to be either "Christmas Friendly", "Christmas Negligent", or "Christmas Offensive". In other words, if the retailers don't use the holiday shopping season to push Christianity on all of their customers, you get put on Dobson's naughty list.

First of all, these idiots don't know or care, that retailers are in business to serve all of their customers. Not all customers celebrate Christmas. What if offensive about wishing customers a happy holiday, regardless of which one they may or may not celebrate?

What is even more amazing is the irony that is lost on these people. Consider the following from their website:
Retailers will be presented with petitions — thanking those that embrace "Christmas," and alerting those that have purged or marginalized "Christmas" that you object to the secularization of Christmas. We hope you will "stand for Christmas" with us and encourage the continued acknowledgement of this historic Christian observance in our culture.
So, in other words, while you are out celebrating the birth of Jesus by running up the credit cards, be sure to piss and moan about stores "secularizing" Christmas. Whatever happened to "love thy neighbor"? In a retail season that promises to be the worst in decades, Dobson is out to throw his substantive weight around the economy, and in effect, punishing even the Christians working at stores on his Christmas Offensive list. Good job, numnuts.

So let's all be sure to support the businesses on Dobson's hit list:

Christmas Negligent
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Best Buy
  • Borders
  • Circuit City
  • Dick's Sporting Goods
  • The GAP
  • KB Toys
  • Kmart
  • Toys "R" Us
Christmas Offensive
  • American Eagle
  • Banana Republic
  • Bloomingdale's
  • Lane Bryant
  • Old Navy
Makes me proud that the Lovely Spouse just dropped a few bucks at Lane Bryant over the weekend!

Oh, and by the way, it will be a Christmas to remember for 202 Focus employees, as they are getting laid off by the Dobson machine, just in time for...yes, I'll say it...the holidays!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sights in the Arbuckles

Turner Falls in Oklahoma's Arbuckle Mountains

The Arbuckle Mountains are a very old range of mountains located between Davis and Ardmore, Oklahoma. This uplift is somewhere around 500-million years old. Today, Interstate 35 makes them almost unnoticeable, but old US 77 wound around for a few miles through these hills. They are so old and so worn that they are no longer mountains in the sense of the Rockies or even the Appalachian range. Still, they are quite beautiful, and home to the Arbuckle Wilderness and Turner Falls, pictured above. Turner Falls is a 77 foot drop of spring-fed Honey Creek, making it the highest waterfall in the state. At the time I stopped by, the water appeared to be at a low point in volume.

In the 1930s, a doctor decided to build a couple of castles beside the falls. Below is one of them.

One of the Turner Falls castles

When I was a child living in Houston, we used to travel the old US 77 to Oklahoma City to visit our grandparents. At the time, it was a bit scary to go through the Arbuckles and the hairpin curves, especially at night. We were always afraid of falling off the mountains. Had we seen the sign below, it would have made for even scarier stories!

Road monument in the Arbuckles

You see, it turns out that this old highway was built through the mountains in the mid 1920s by prisoners. The imagination can come up with all kinds of spooky stories about what could have transpired in the dark along this stretch of highway!

Close up of monument showing this road was built only 18 years after Oklahoma became a state

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Little Oklahoma Road Geekery

On Tuesday afternoon as I drove along I-35 from Oklahoma City toward Dallas, I saw many reassurance shields for I-35. Most of them are the typical ones you see everywhere. However, I saw two like the one below just north of the town of Ardmore.

Look closer...the shield is not cut out, but is painted on a white, squared blank. Interesting? Only to us road geeks!

Oklahoma's New Dome

Oklahoma became the 46th state of the United States in 1907, and while Guthrie was its first seat of government, the capitol was moved to Oklahoma City shortly thereafter. The state capitol building was distinguished by two things. First, it had working oil wells on the capitol grounds. Second, the capitol had no dome.

To celebrate the Oklahoma centennial, the state finally finished its capitol building by adding a dome which was dedicated in 2004. I had never seen the new dome in person, so as I left town on Tuesday, I made a stop to grab some photos. Since it was Veterans Day, the building was closed, so I could not get any pictures of the interior of the new dome, which I understand is spectacular. Maybe next time I get down to OKC I will be able to take a look inside the rotunda.

The dome was dedicated on statehood day, November 16, 2002. It is topped off by a statue of a native American, titled "The Guardian", which was designed by former state senator and Seminole Nation Chief, Enoch Kelly Haney.

I must say that I think the dome really gives the capitol a look of completeness that I never really noticed before. It certainly now fits the mental image that capitols should be topped by domes.

Below are some other shots of the Oklahoma Capitol I took on Tuesday. Click Here to see a photo of the building taken in 1999 prior to the construction of the dome. You may also click on my photos for a larger version.

Statue titled "As Long As The Waters Flow", which was how long Oklahoma was to have belonged to the Indians under a United States treaty with the Five Civilized Tribes.

Oklahoma's Capitol Building and its new dome

Full view of the south side of the Capitol

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

The bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City remains the worst act of domestic terrorism in United States history. On April 19, 1995, 168 people, including 19 children, were murdered by a bomber who parked a truck bomb by the building. The site of the Murrah building is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial site, containing a reflecting pool, chairs representing the victims, and other artifacts. I had not been to the site since before the memorial was completed, until I stopped by for a few moments last Tuesday.

The perimeter of the site still has sections of chain link fence where people brought tokens of remembrance of the victims to the site. The picture below is

Chain link fence and items left by mourners at the Murrah site

Each end of the memorial contains a large gateway with the time of 9:01 on one, and 9:03 on the other, representing the moments in time just before and after the blast occurred. The reflecting pool is between them, and the field of chairs to the south side of the pool. The chairs for the children are smaller in size than the ones for the adults killed by the blast.

The Field of Chairs

Another view of the chairs

In what became an iconic image of the tragedy, the picture below was taken by a worker downtown who saw Oklahoma City fireman Chris Fields cradling the little dying Baylee Almon on the day after her first birthday. Below that famous photo is the one I took of Baylee's chair.

Chris Fields and Baylee Almon

Baylee's chair at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

It was a cool, calm day Tuesday, giving the reflecting pool a perfect image of its surroundings.

Reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

The 9:03 gate at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

A church across the street from the memorial site erected the statue below called "Jesus Wept". While I suppose it gives comfort to some, it only reinforces to me just how irrational religion can be. If Jesus is so powerful, why is he standing there, turned away, hiding his eyes and crying at the site of these needless deaths? Why didn't he cause McVeigh's bomb to simply not go off? Why did the truck just fail to start that fateful morning? No, instead, Jesus stands there doing nothing but hiding his eyes and crying at the place where he supposedly could have stopped this from ever happening in the first place.

Too late to cry now

Seen In North Texas

Yesterday, I was in the Dallas area on business, but still got to take a few interesting photos. My morning started before dawn, and I arrived at my company's offices in Arlington, Texas just as the sun was coming up. So here are a couple of things I saw near the office. As usual, click on any picture for a larger version.

First, I like how the moon was setting, yet still in the sky above Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, home of the American League Texas Rangers. So I pulled the car over to the side of the road, and snapped this picture through the open window.

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in the dawn's early light

Also nearby is the site of the new stadium being built as home to the Dallas Cowboys, and as the new venue for the annual Cotton Bowl game. Below is a photo I took of the stadium as it is now, followed by the architect's rendering of the finished stadium.

New home of the Cowboys under construction

New Cowboys stadium as it will look when completed (looks like a giant bicycle helmet)

Later in the day as I was heading to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, I stopped at a Kroger supermarket, where one of the famous Oscar Meyer Weinermobiles was parked in the lot. "Oh I'd love to be an Oscar Meyer Weiner!"

What's that guy doing hot-dogging all over the road?

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

This week I had the "pleasure" of flying twice on United Airlines. Well, the first flight was on a United Express partner regional jet from Denver to Oklahoma City. This was on Monday. On Thursday, I experienced what the marketing and executive geniuses at United implemented as their boarding policy that is sure to piss off most of their customers, and so needlessly. I saw it yesterday while boarding a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Denver.

This ridiculous excuse for an airline has decided to list a litany of customer classes who get United's "Special" treatment at boarding time. They have placed ropes beside the ticket taker at the gate, creating two for these elite classes, and the other for the rest of us, whose business United apparently no longer values. The difference? The elite groups board first, and in order of just how elite they are. The other difference is the red carpet treatment, and I kid you not. The lane for the elites have a red "United" rug for the people boarding first to walk across. No joke!

Now, as you can imagine, this only adds to the fiasco of getting everyone on board quickly. It is bad enough that this pathetically-managed air carrier has shot themselves in the foot by charging for every piece of checked baggage. That alone causes carry-on madness and overloading, which delays getting everyone on board and ready for departure. Now we have this little game. Every carrier treats its frequent fliers to perks, and that is fine. It is just that United has taken leave of their senses with this plan. Here is the boarding order:
  1. Premier Executive members
  2. Star Alliance Gold "guests"
  3. Global Services customers
  4. 1k customers
  5. United First customers
After all of these guys who obviously paid a lot more money to sit in the same cramped seats get on by walking over the red rug, the rest of us schmucks can finally start boarding to aircraft. And with all the carry on bags, a lot of the end up getting "gate checked" anyway.

Here is what United sent to its "most-valued guests" by email:
Beginning November 12, our Premier Executive members and Star Alliance Gold guests will board before Seating Area 1 customers through the Economy Lane.

The new boarding order will be as follows: Global Services, 1K and customers sitting in United First will continue to board first through the Red Carpet Lane, followed by our United Business customers.

Our Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold members will then be invited to board. After all of our most-valued guests are on board and getting settled, the regular boarding process of seating areas 1 through 4 will begin.

We strive to consistently reward you, our premium customers, for your loyalty. We hope that as a Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold customer, you enjoy this added benefit.
Yes, United has decided its other "guests" aren't so valued. It isn't that I care about walking on a silly little red rug in a roped-off lane. It isn't that I can't get on the plane first, as we all arrive at the same time anyway. It is the ridiculous delays that this new policy causes at the gate. United, your elitism is working against you in on-time departures and in public relations.

Just another reason I am a big fan of Southwest and Frontier. United, YOU SUCK! No wonder you keep losing gazillions of dollars, keep going bankrupt, and just can't seem to figure out how to run an airline. Stick that in your red rug and roll it! Hopefully a decently run airline will buy your remnants out of yet another bankruptcy...someone who knows how to run a business.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Arizona Still Loves 'Em Some Colors

Maybe its because with the exception of the beautiful blossoms, the desert is all sandy colored. But the state of Arizona has always had a thing for colored highway shields. Back in the 1950s, the state used various colors for their US Highway shields. (CLICK HERE to see a picture of these, including one of the old black on yellow stop signs.) Then they have more recently used colored shields for Arizona state highways.

When I was in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, I managed to grab these two shots with the cell phone camera. The blue shields are on US 60 as you approach Loop 101, the Agua Fria Freeway. Then at the point you turn onto the entry ramp, there is a white shield. THIS SITE says the blue ones are being phased out. In any case, I found this to be in interesting piece of road geekery.

Arizona also has the distinction of having once had a swastika on its state highway shields (CLICK HERE for an example). These were changed out during the 1940s and 1950s after the ancient symbol (used by the Hopi tribe of American Indians) was used by the Nazis in Germany under Adolph Hitler.

Curtsys and Childhood Games

This morning while watching an episode of the television classic, I Love Lucy, there was an episode where Little Ricky was supposed to perform on his drums, but got a bad case of stage fright. I noticed that the children coming in to play their instruments entered and did something you don't see much anymore. The boys would enter and bow, while the girls would enter and curtsy. It occurred to me that you don't see little girls do a curtsy anymore. Perhaps in certain contexts, such as the courts of royalty, a curtsy would still be done. However, it seems that even after artistic performances, the bow is now done by both genders.

This led me to think about other things that children used to do that you rarely, if ever, see happening. We didn't have Nintendo DS, iPods, and other gadgets that keep kids occupied today. We played simple games, such as Four Square, Jacks, Red Rover, Marbles, Spinning Tops, Duck Duck Goose, and Jumping Rope. Jumping Rope was mainly a girls' game, and the jumping cadence was accompanied by unique stories in the form of rhymes. The stories sometimes related to other girls jumping into, or out of, the rope, while each end of the rope was spun by another girl. I found a website with many of these games and lots of jump rope rhymes that you can visit by CLICKING HERE.

For boys, Marbles, Dodge Ball, and Kick Ball were favorites. Kick Ball was a game played with a big inflated ball that was much like baseball, except that you kicked the ball rather than batting. One of our favorites was playing with wooden tops that you would spin by wrapping a string around and tossing to the ground while pulling back on the string. Many tops had metal points, but the folks at Duncan, the yo-yo company, made a safer top that had replaceable nylon tips. These were a lot of fun.

The things kids have to play with today are pretty cool, but sometimes I wonder if they are missing out on the simple joys and toys of days gone by.

Sunday Morning Musings

As is typical, I awoke well before 5 AM this morning, and although I feel tired, I cannot sleep. So since I am awake and the house is quiet, this seems like a good time to reflect on various things.

Yesterday started out with the lovely spouse and I picking up two of the grandkids and heading to downtown Denver where I participated in a charity bowling event to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Sadly we learned from our daughter-in-law that one of my granddaughter's most beloved teachers succumbed to brain cancer. This teacher, "Miss Sue", was only in her 40s, but had loved her students, and obviously the feelings were mutual. It is a sad time for Nicole as she deals with the reality that death is part of life, and that losing is part of having loved.

When we got to the bowling venue, the lanes were all taken by participants in the project, but a couple of "no shows" opened a spot for the kids to bowl as well. The LS also played pool with our granddaughter, and toward the end, one of my other sons and his fiancée brought his little 4-year-old stepson who we were watching for the day. So here were grandma and grandpa with all three grandchildren of varying ages. We haven't had just us and three kids since our boys were all children, but we had a good time with them.

Upon leaving the bowling alley, the little guy started crying for his mom. I felt really bad for him, because he really doesn't know us that well yet. But when he saw a little stuffed toy in a store window, grandpa and grandma bought it and he was good to go! We then went for hamburgers at Johnny Rocket's on the 16th Street Mall. The 4-year-old grandson made sure we knew he wanted his burger plain and with no bun. The granddaughter, who is 10, also wanted hers plain, but with the bun, while the 13-year-old grandson wanted his plain with a bun, but with cheese on it. Of course, to be fair, grandpa also has one special request for his burger also...hold the mayonaisse. Mayo on a burger is an abomination to me. I like cheese and all the veggies, but the only condiment that rightfully belongs on a burger is mustard. To go with our fries, the waitress used the ketchup squirter to make us each a little smiley face in small paper bowls. That was a definite hit with the kids.

During lunch, my granddaughter decided she wanted a stuffed toy too, so we went back to the store on our way back to the car and let her pick one out. The kids hadn't had enough bowling, so we headed toward The Brunswick Zone near Park Meadows Mall. However, we didn't get to bowl, because the kids decided they would rather play laser tag. So they played a couple of rounds, hit the crane machines, and then we went home. All in all, a good day!

It is getting colder as we progress into Autumn, and a rain/snow mix is moving into the area tonight, just in time for me to have to fly out through a mess on a business trip that will take me to Oklahoma City and Dallas. Oklahoma City is always a bittersweet place for me, as it was where we spent many Christmases during my childhood, regardless of where we lived at the time. It was where my Grandparents lived and the place I was born, so it was the one constant during my young life. Despite living in different states from coast to coast, OKC was always a place where we returned to every year. Now, all four of my grandparents are buried in the Oklahoma City area, and although I have various cousins who reside around the city, I have not kept up with them.

Of course this year is a big sports year for Oklahoma City, as the NBA's Thunder started playing there after relocating from Seattle where they were known as the Supersonics. OKC hosted the New Orleans Hornets for a couple of years following Hurricane Katrina, and proved that an NBA team could do well there. So now Oklahoma has its very first major league sports team to call its own. While I favor the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets, I may have to pile onto the Thunder's bandwagon too!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Barack Obama in 2004

While watching the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I first saw a young state senator from Illinois, who was running for the United States Senate. He was selected to give the keynote address to the convention, and did a masterful job. While I never expected it to happen quite this fast, immediately after the address, I told the lovely spouse, "I think we just heard from the first black President of the United States." Sure enough, here we are just a bit over four years later, and Barack Obama is President-Elect of the United States. So let's take a look back at that speech from four years ago. Click below to see the future President's first major national address.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Over!

In victory, President-Elect Obama gave an inclusive and forward looking speech. In defeat, Senator McCain looked like the John McCain of old that most of us admired and missed during the campaign. If THIS John McCain had not disappeared during the campaign, and had he not chosen a bimbo for his running mate, he may have fared better. But ultimately, those were just add-ons. The economy and voter discontent where Republican rule has led us, are likely the reason for the landslide win by Obama.

Whether or not you voted for him, it's time for all of us to wish him the best, because if our President does well, our nation does well. I hope that as we see the new President in action, those who vilified him will give way to the realization that their fears and concerns were unfounded. This great country needs a reboot with fresh leadership. We have overwhelmingly voted for that change. Mr. Obama inherits a nation with an economy in extreme duress and two wars in progress. He has a big job ahead, and I am hopeful he will provide the new direction we need.

An Historic Day

Today will be an historic day in America, as one of two firsts will take place. We will either have elected our first African-American President, or we will have elected our first female Vice President. This is a day that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will study in school.

I predict a victory of landslide proportions for the Democratic ticket, as well as Democratic gains in both houses of Congress. While I don't think there will be a filibuster-proof majority, President Obama will have a legislature who will help him push his agenda.

That's my projection. I could be wrong. We should know in a few hours.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Tomorrow is election day in the United States, and all of the disgusting, lying, mudslinging ads come to an end...for a while. It's about time!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Gettin' all Mavericky One Last Time

I won't miss the smarmy and lying attack ads after Tuesday, but I surely will miss all the great stuff on Saturday Night Live this political season. It has arguably been the best political season on SNL since Chevy Chase portrayed a bumbling Gerald Ford. Here is last night's appearance by John McCain and Tina Fey, portraying John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

States To Which I Have Been

I have enjoyed traveling to many parts of the United States, and find something I like everywhere I go. So for grins, I decided to color code a map of our fifty United States of America. The code is as follows:

Green - States where I have lived for at least a year
Purple - States where I have lived for less than a year
Blue - States I have been to
Yellow - States I have flown over, but not been to on the ground
Red - States I have yet to visit or traverse by air