Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Chicken Fried Goodness

Last July, I posted an entry about a place in Texas that makes Chicken Fried Bacon, a heart attack waiting to happen. But I admit a great fondness for Chicken Fried Steak smothered in white gravy and topped by a few dashes of Frank's Hot Sauce or Tabasco. Now, I know full well that it isn't very good for me, so I don't have it very often. In fact, that was the feature in our cafeteria at work today, but instead I ate the shrimp cocktail I brought from home.

But tonight while surfing around the web, I found a site dedicated to the chicken fried foods of Texas. Chicken Fried Texas is a fairly new blog by a guy who is a fan of Chicken Fried Steak, and writes about his visits to the establishments that serve this dish. So far, he has reviewed restaurants in the greater Houston and Dallas areas. Some of these, I have been to myself (e.g. Black-Eyed Pea, Cracker Barrel, Grandy's). Another he mentions, the Saltgrass Steak House is based in Houston, but has a location right here in Parker. I have tasted their CFS, and let me tell you, it is freakin' huge! If you go, it is best to plan on sharing it.

When I lived in Houston there was a place that to this day made what I considered to be the very best Chicken Fried Steak ever. It was called Dirty's, and apparently it burned to the ground at some point. Too bad.

Also here in Douglas County, Colorado in the county seat of Castle Rock is the Castle Cafe. This place not only has some wonderful CFS, but also boasts Chicken Fried Chicken, as well as the best pan fried chicken you'll find anywhere.

But as much as I love these, after seeing my dad go through an emergency triple bypass last year, I am ever the more aware of limiting these kinds of meals. Why does everything good have to be bad for you?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

If U Seek Not-So-Hidden Meanings

Every once in a while, a musician comes out with a song that causes trouble getting airplay on the radio because of questionable taste in lyrics. The Kingsmen song, Louie Louie, was one such song, even thought he published lyrics were quite innocent. As sung, they were a bit unintelligible, so many people thought they were risque, and many stations refused to play the record.

But it goes back further than that. Benny Bell, a Jewish-American comedian recorded songs with double entendre back in the 1940s, and had somewhat of a revival in the 1970s when Dr. Demento featured Bell's Shaving Cream on his show. The song took off, and was a hit all over again.

There was no hidden meanings in a few other I recall from my days in radio. Back when Elton John came out with the song, The Bitch is Back, Elton is belting out "I'm a bitch, I'm a bitch, oh the bitch is back", but the management at WCUM would not allow us DJs to announce the title of the song. If we wanted to, we could say "The Witch is Back".

Then there was the Pink Floyd song Money, which became a huge hit, but contained the words "bull shit". The record company issued a sanitized version for airplay that stretched out the syllable "bull" to fill the entire phrase. Of course, it no longer rhymed with the previous line "Money, it's a hit".

The most blatant song I recall was Star Star by The Rolling Stones from the album Goat's Head Soup. The song was about a groupie who, shall we say, was quite affectionate with the stars. The song repeated a version of the big, bad "f" word over and over in the chorus.

So now, we come to sweet, innocent Britney Spears (ha ha). Her album, Circus, has a song titled If U Seek Amy. Clear Channel Communications, one of the largest radio ownership groups, is playing a sanitized version of this song. What is wrong with it? Well, just say the lyrics out loud. The chorus has the line, "All of the boys, and all of the girls, are begging to if you seek Amy." Cute, huh?

This all is reminiscent of the false stories about Soupy Sales working dirty jokes into his children's television program in the 1960s.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Take Two

After Chief Justice John Roberts' high visibility flub of the Presidential Oath of Office at the Inaugural, President Obama summoned him to the White House last night to re-administer the oath. While not necessary, I guess the President wanted to silence any critics who would say he is not the legal president. Imagine that! After the nutty lawsuits alleging he was not born in Hawaii, I guess he wanted to be 100% accurate.

In actuality, while spelled out in the Constitution of the United States, the oath is a mere formality. The Twentieth Amendment means that Barack Obama became President of these United States at exactly noon on January 20th, oath or no oath.

Of course, there are now rightie blogs criticizing the President for not using a Bible in the retake. But the Bible is not a Constitutional requirement, nor is the phrase "So help me God". Nevermind that the Bible itself forbids swearing, stating that one should let their "yes be yes and their no be no".

I also briefly saw the swearing in of the White House staff by Vice President Biden yesterday. When they were supposed to "swear or affirm", rather than choosing one, they all said, "swear or affirm". It reminded me of the movie Animal House, where the pledges swore allegiance to the frat, and repeated verbatim, "I, state your name".

Anyone up for a Toga Party?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change Has Come to America!

Congratulations President Obama and Vice President Biden!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hot & Refreshing

I have never been one to drink alcoholic beverages, not because of any moral aversion, but merely because I never cultivated a taste for them. One thing I do like though, is a plain, spicy Bloody Mary mix, sans booze. The problem is that the mix contains the evil high-fructose corn syrup that is making us all fat. There is no need to have that ingredient, and I don't know why they put it in. So here is what I do.

Take a tall glass and drop in a few ice cubes. Then take a bottle of Frank's Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce (preferably the XTRA HOT variety) and give about 6-to-8 shakes into the glass. Then pour in the V-8 vegetable juice and stir. If you like, give a couple of shakes of salt and add a the juice of a lemon slice. That is some good refreshment that gives your taste buds a real tingle as well. Plus, it is very healthy and good for you.

I love it! As you can see from the photos, I have already partaken from these containers, both of which were opened brand new just last night. MMMMmmmmm!!

Linux Broadcasts

As a big proponent of the GNU/Linux operating system, I thought I would recommend a few broadcasts you can listen to on the Internet that deal with this great alternative to Microsoft Windows. This is a good way to listen and learn about how to use Linux and the benefits you can derive from it.

The Gutsy Geeks (originally PC Chat) airs on KXAM, AM 1310 in Phoenix, and worldwide via the Internet. You can listen live, or listen to the podcast of the show on demand. The other show, Going Linux, is strictly a podcast. It includes show notes available for each program on their website, and covers a wide variety of topics related to Linux. Then there's the Linux Basement, which currently has 34 installments under its belt.

There's also a new one that I intend to check out, Linux Geekdom. They are just getting started, so I will be downloading and listening soon.

With all the issues with Windows Vista, Linux is a valuable (and free) upgrade for your PC. My Gateway MT-3705 laptop was slow as molasses in Alaska when Vista was installed. By replacing it with Linux, it boots quickly, responds quickly, and does everything I need it to do with speed and finesse. I also have found that the Gnome desktop environment is much faster than KDE. While I like both, I am finding that Gnome is much more responsive. I am still using the PCLinuxOS distribution and find that it is meeting my needs very well.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The R&R and A Giant Shiny Moose

This morning, the lovely spouse and I decided to make a quick run down to Black Forest, Colorado to have breakfast and coffee at the R&R Coffee Cafe, owned by my good online buddy, Ryan, a fellow road geek who has a terrific blog dedicated to this fascinating hobby. Ryan's new bride, known as "The Ring" on his blog was there, along with other family members who all work at the coffee shop.

First, let me just say that the food was delicious. I had a wonderful burrito with eggs, potatoes, ham, and other yummy ingredients, and had some of their great sausage gravy on top. The LS had basted eggs and potatoes. And of course, the hand crafted care of their home-roasted coffee was evident in the flavor. I highly recommend a stop at the R&R for some great food and conversation. Even Ryan's little 6-year old sister-in-law was there, and she seemed to be enjoying all the folks enjoying the food, coffee, and live classic guitarist. She pulled up a chair and sat with us, engaging us in some interesting stories. Ryan has a great family, a terrific business, and I wish him all the best of success. It appears he is well on his way.

The trip down took us through the scenic pine forest surrounding the Black Forest community. Using Colorado 83 is not only more aesthetically pleasing than the longer route of going down Interstate 25, but it is also much less stressful. Beautiful vistas of Pikes Peak greet the southbound motorist along the way.

On the trip back, I saw something I had missed on the way down. In the community of Franktown, at the crossroads of Colorado 83 and Colorado 86, there was a shiny silver moose of gigantic proportions. It was at a business that sells those chain-saw carvings. I knew I had to take its picture, particularly since my oldest sister and I have had this thing about calling each other "Moose" since the early 1970s. I knew I had to take a picture of it. As always, click on the photo for a larger version.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A WHAT-Cologist?

This is just a short entry, but I found it quite funny. The lovely spouse told me about a man that works at her office, for whom English is a second language. One of his female employees had an appointment with her gynecologist, and while I don't know why, this came up in conversation, it apparently did. This man said in all seriousness, that his employee had to go see her "vaginacologist". WHAT???!!?

Now that may be a descriptive part of the job, but I don't think I have ever heard a doctor who deals with the female reproductive system called by that term. But in a weird sort of way, it seems quite appropriate. :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Whooooo's There?

One attribute I have developed over time is the sensitivity to things that are largely unnoticed by people rushing though life. Without this, you miss so much of the richness of life, the joy of little things. Last night is a case in point.

I was walking across the parking lot at work toward the garage where I had parked my car. It was fairly quiet, as most people had left, and the new fallen snow was muting the sounds in the air. Then I hear it...a gentle "whooo whooo whooo", repeating every little bit. It was a deeper voice than a dove, so I knew it must be an owl.

As I got closer to the garage, the sound got progressively louder. "Whooo whooo whooo". I start looking for where this is coming from, and I spied it. A large owl sitting on one of the parking lights on the top level of the garage. I walk up the stairs to the top tier and try to get a photo, with my small digital camera, but it is too dark and the parking light too bright to get a decent shot. I walked right up under the light pole with trepidation that the owl may not like my intrusion and decide to attack. But it didn't happen. I looked at the owl, he looked back down at me, but did not make any other moves. It was then I decided not to risk provoking him by staying to admire him too long. So I went down one level to my car.

As yesterday was the completion of my 56th journey around the sun, I was happy to receive this little birthday gift of an owl encounter from Mother Nature. So keep your eyes and ears open. You just never know what you will see next.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Scofflaw in Texas!

This is a photo I took last week of a Lexus driving east on Richmond Avenue in Houston. It drew my attention, as it was a European-style plate, but had a Texas flag on it. Now I know that Texas allows its drivers to order a wide variety of custom plates on myplates.com, but I have never seen one of these.

Well, as it turns out, a quick Google search yielded the site this was obviously purchased from. What is interesting is that these are novelty plates only, and are not to be used in place of the state-sanctioned plates. In fact, the site that manufactures these has a warning about this on one of their pages, seen here.

So, obviously we have a case of someone thinking they are above the law. But the way I see people driving in Houston, I doubt that is an infrequent feeling amongst the motorists there.

Presidents & Super Guys

In the news this week is the appearance of President-Elect Barack Obama in the new issue of The Amazing Spiderman. In the story, our hero, Spidey, saves the day at the inauguration by taking down an impostor Obama, and is thanked by the new President with an Obama fist bump.

Mr. Obama has said that he used to collect Spiderman comic books. So this tribute seems quite appropriate. A week from Tuesday, we will officially have a geek president. As a geek myself and former comic book collector, I must say this is a good thing.

As great as this is, Obama is not the first President of the United States to be paid homage in the comic books. Somewhere in my collection, I have an issue of Superman that contains a story that was planned for publication, but was put on hold after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The story finally saw the light of day when it was published in 1964 at the request of President Lyndon Johnson and the Kennedy Family as a tribute to the slain President. The story behind this issue, and the decision not to use Kennedy's image on the cover is documented very well on "Dial B for Blog".

There have been other instances of Presidents appearing in the comics as well, so this latest issue of Spiderman carries on the tradition. If I can find one, I will definitely have to pick up a copy.

President Kennedy was entrusted with Superman's Secret Identity

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Just Flying Around

Our routes to and from Houston

Last night, the lovely spouse and I made our return trip to Colorado from Houston. All in all, a good trip. We flew out of Denver International Airport on New Year's Eve, and our trip took us over Colorado, clipping the northeastern corner of New Mexico, and barely missing Oklahoma airspace as we entered the Texas Panhandle. Of course, as we left Denver, the Continental jet that crashed taking off for Houston was still sitting, cracked and burned up, in a ravine. As it was dark, we didn't see it.

As you can see from the map above, our trip took us right over the Dallas-Fort Worth area both coming and going. On the way down, I got this halfway decent picture of the Metroplex from over 39,000 feet as we cruised by. The camera is generally looking toward the northeast, and while it is not totally sharp because of the motion of the airplane, it isn't bad. On the full-sized version, you can actually see the semi-circular terminals at DFW International airport. To help you identify what you are looking at, I have added a few labels. Be sure to click on the picture for a large version to see them. You may have to scroll right and left to see it all.

Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas from 39,000 feet up! Click the picture to get a better view.

Then on the approach to Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, it was after ten o'clock PM local time. What was amazing was seeing the fireworks popping up all over the city! I have never flown on New Year's Eve or Independence Day evening before, so this was an unexpected treat.

What wasn't a treat was the 2 hours spent on the SuperShuttle van. There was one passenger who couldn't speak much English, and his destination was not on the GPS, so it took about half an hour to get that resolved. We greeted 2009 in the back seat of the SuperShuttle. We finally got to my parent's home at around 1 AM or so.

Leaving Houston last night, we left the gate, and then the plane stopped out on the taxiway for quite a while. Then it moves again, and we end up back at the gate. It turns out that a passenger was feeling ill, so they had to let her and her baggage off the aircraft. Leaving Houston about a half hour or so later than scheduled, we ended up in Denver only about 5 minutes late, thanks to making up time in the air.

Coming back we flew through Texas twice, Oklahoma twice, clipped the southwest corner of Kansas, and flew past Lamar and Limon, Colorado before landing at Denver. Over Wichita Falls, you could clearly see Oklahoma City. At that altitude, the horizon is about 250 miles away, and even though it was about 150 to OKC, it looked closer than that.

It is always good to see my parents, and it is always good to get back home!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Always Low Prices? Wow!

We all know that Walmart (formerly Wal-Mart) advertises low prices. However, if this isn't a mistaken sign posting, it has finally gotten to the point of being free. This was an end cap display of plastic bins for storing holiday decorations that I saw today at the Stafford, Texas store. What next? Maybe negative prices, meaning they pay you to take merchandise? Well, probably not.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 Resolutions

I have never been one to make New Year's resolutions. After all, a calendar is very arbitrary. One can make a fresh start on anything at anytime, without the benefit of a new number on the calendar. Still, 2009 seems like it will be a milestone year in a number of ways.

Shortly into the new year, we will see the United States, a nation that the current Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said was “born with the birth defect of slavery”; inaugurate its first African-American President, proving that this is the land of opportunity and that we have made great strides in getting past the history of both slavery and racial discrimination. Hopefully we are a lot closer to the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King of an America where people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

We are in the throes of an economic disaster that is the worst one in the lifetime of most Americans, and the deepest recession since the days of The Great Depression. We are finding out that the wisdom of living below one's means is always a good policy, and that saving for a rainy day isn't a bad idea. While we are still a long way from the type of economy that gripped the world during the 1930s, no one really knows how bad it will get, or how long it will last.

As people lose their jobs, they lose not only their income, but also their heath care. The new President and Congress must finally figure out a way to address the failings of our current system, which ends up being more expensive than it should, since we truly have not health care, but sick care. People cannot afford preventive measures, and end up in emergency rooms when things become dire. All of us end up paying the tab. Surely there is a better way to “promote the general welfare” of our citizens.

The spectre of global terrorism still is with us over seven years after the September 11 attacks; maybe more so than ever before. Horrific acts perpetrated by human beings upon other human beings because of some offense to their idea of a god threatens to bring untold misery to millions. This nation, despite all its military and economic might, cannot unilaterally impose its will upon the rest of the world, nor should it be our policy to attempt to do so. We must find a way to begin the arduous and lengthy process of trying to bring rational thought to irrational people.

This is doubly difficult when irrational thought still runs so rampant in America. As we saw in the Presidential primary debates, questions about whether a candidate believes literally in the Genesis mythology were asked. The office of President of the United States is a political office in a secular republic, not a pastoral position. The question is irrelevant and in fact flies in the face of the fact that there is no religious test for public office.

So knowing that there is little to nothing I can do in the face of these immense issues facing the nation and the world, I can only effect change in small ways; in ways that have a much more individual impact on me and those around me. With that, here are some New Year's resolutions for me for 2009.

  1. Lose a few pounds - This is probably the most common one for many people, but let's just get it out of the way.

  2. Keep my job – In this challenging economy, there are few things I can control. I cannot even control if my employer continues to keep me around. What I can control is to continue to give my best effort every day, give them a day's work for a day's pay; and hopefully my bosses will realize that I am a valuable asset to the business.

  3. Feed the hungry – While the lovely spouse and I do occasionally get items for the food bank,we can do more.

  4. Provide warmth – Get blankets and coats to some of those who have no home, and suffer the cold of the Colorado's winter.

  5. Make more visits to my parents and the lovely spouse's parents – If employment remains stable in this horrific economy, I have reached the point where I finally get 3 weeks of vacation. Rather than one trip a year to each set of parents, more frequent trips of shorter duration will be the routine.

  6. Explore alternate income sources – With the uncertainty of our economy, it is incumbent upon each of us to figure out ways to survive should the worst case scenario come to pass.

  7. Change the world by contact – I am a compassionate person who tries to keep everything in perspective. I was not always this way, years ago being quick to anger over things that don't really matter. So I want to continue to reach out to people with grace, respect, and a calm demeanor, even in the midst of crises.

  8. To be there for my family – I believe this is the case today. I want to continue this, whatever the situation.

I wish to all, peace, joy, love, and prosperity in 2009!