Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I'll Be With My Family This Christmas

I went to my dentist's office, because something is wrong with my mouth. After a brief examination, the dentist exclaims, "Holy Smoke! That plate I installed in your mouth about six months ago has nearly completely corroded! What on earth have you been eating?"

"Well, my Bride made some asparagus about a week ago with Hollandaise sauce and doc, I'm talkin' DELICIOUS! I've never tasted anything like it, and ever since then I've been putting it on everything... meat, cereal, sausage, boudain... you name it!"

"That's probably it. Hollandaise sauce is made with lemon juice, which is acidic and highly corrosive. It seems as thought I'll have to install a new upper plate, but made out of chrome this time." "Why chrome?" I asked.

"Well, everyone knows that there's no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise!"
While Christmas shopping at the Mall, I came across a long line of people waiting for a promised shipment of dolls from Mattel. As I scanned the line, I noticed my friend and our Mayor, Stephen DonCarlos, waiting with all the others. Knowing that the Mayor had no daughters or young relatives, I figured he must be a Barbie doll collector.
"Mr. Mayor, I didn't know you were a collector!"
"I'm not," he calmly replied.
"Then why are you standing in this long line?"

"Well, I've never been able to resist a Barbie Queue!"
I have a lot of catching up to do after messing up last Christmas. Last year I was so busy I didn't have time to buy presents for family and friends, so I wrote out checks for all of them to put in their Christmas cards.

In each card I playfully scribbled, "Buy your own danged present!" and then sent them off to the Post Office.

After the Christmas festivities were over, I found the checks under a pile of papers on my desk!

*not a bit of this is totally original, but I am spending time with my family this holiday season, except I'll be at work. Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Greatest Gift - reposted from December 17, 2006

Every day at work, I wash down the bird droppings from the pigeons and dove that nest in my area. I’ve thought about ways to keep them out of the covered areas and really want to do it in a way that isn’t harmful to them. Their droppings are surely a health hazard and I get aggravated when each day, I drag out the water hose to flush it into the Plant sump.

Yesterday, I saw a pigeon all fluffed up, sitting on the ground and I instinctively knew it was sick. Instead of feeling justified, I felt nothing but pity. Under my breath I whispered a short prayer for its recovery. I guess I’m getting old, or mellow, or something. In my earlier days, I wouldn’t have given the poor bird much thought, as sad as that sounds.

Each day in the media and the online forums, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is tossed back and forth with a detachment that is as bad as my former aloofness concerning sick birds. We complain about the war and the way it’s being handled and all the while "our boys" are in the thick of it, facing another Christmas away from home.

We want it to go away, so we can resume our lives, shop for Christmas and attend a joyous New Years party. I truly wish it would go away and we could experience peace on earth and good will to all men.

The troops in Iraq and other war zones occasionally have access to the Internet and most of them have a MySpace account. Being the techno-geek guy that I am, I too have an account and I regularly read what my son and other soldiers write. What I’ve experienced in my own life as a G.I. overseas in wartime has brought depth to their casual remarks.

"Life isn’t supposed to be this bad when you’re still young".
"I figure I’ve been through the worst of it and I’m ready to start living again".
"This is the worst place on earth"…

Christmas is approaching and for many of us Christian people, it marks the greatest day of the year, both for the celebration of the birth of the Christ child Jesus, but also as a time of gathering together. We exchange gifts, eat a lot of fattening food, and generally indulge ourselves to the point we all go on diets beginning January one. As my daughter Melody loves to say: "Good times!" and it surely is.

As an Airman, I spent four Christmas’ away from home. One in Basic Training, another in freezing Malmstrom AFB, Montana and two at steamy Takhli RTAFB, Thailand. I lost something in those four years and those that are away serving our country will lose something also.

* "He went to fight wars, For his country and his king, Of his honor and his glory, The people would sing.
Ooooh, what a lucky man he was…"

The truth is just the opposite. Our boys and girls come back old men and women and some bear physical and mental scars they will carry for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the scars are not apparent and surface many years later. Sometimes the scars are too hard for loved ones to bear and a separation takes place while the Veteran sorts it all out.

My son will be returning to Fort Sill, Oklahoma on January 7th, if everything goes as planned and after 10 days of "reintegration", he will be able to come home on leave. I looked this Army term up, as I found it peculiar and this is what I found: "The automatic energetic process, whereby the projected double is reintegrated with its physical/etheric body". In plain old Texas talk, what this means is, these soldiers have to be eased back into society, a little bit at a time. It’s supposed to take 10 days.

The greatest gift I could possibly get this Christmas season is the boy is still alive inside the man. He left for Iraq, a Veteran of Korea and Kuwait, but after 82 combat missions, 15 IED attacks and a Purple Heart medal, I do not know who this man might be when he comes back. God willing, my "boy" is still in there somewhere.

Footnote: On April 16, 2009 I found my Army Veteran son dead on a friends couch, the victim of depression, VA prescribed anti-anxiety pills and alcohol. His Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) finally bought him a ticket to the peace he so desperately craved.

Nick's passing left an unexpected gift though and at first it was difficult to cipher out. Over 600 people gathered at this funeral and our home for days on end to comfort each other and those he had affected. It was his parting gift.

I do not blame God and am trying to make sense of it all. I do have as a gift this Christmas season the greatest of all gifts and that is my Faith, my church, my faithful friends and my wonderful family...and I share the belief that someday we'll be reunitied with my hero son, Nick.

* "Lucky Man" Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Do I Need My Head Examined – Beans Again?

I am back in the kitchen cooking beans.  Shocker, right?  And stuffed cornbread.  With jalapenos.

Look, it’s raining and fairly nasty out there and I needed comfort food stat and something that would stick to my colon - I mean ribs.

I used both of these recipes roughly, as I can’t even bring myself to follow my own directions.  I bring the beans to a boil and then drain and reboil in the large pot (it's 3 pounds for gawd sake), then in the 24 quart pot, I put everything else and get it cooking.  When the beans are 50% soft, I add them to the big pot.

The reason I make so much is to share with friends and family and freeze a bunch of it to take to work.

Baytown Bert’s Delicious Texas Great Northern Bean Soup and

BB’s Jalapeno and Sausage Cornbread.

Okay, let’s go over what I did different this time around and if all gets too confusing, just use your best judgment on quantities and ingredients.


2 lb Great Northern beans
1 lb Navy beans
1 lb bacon
5 lb ham and bones from two leftover Thanksgiving hams I froze.
2 Yellow sweet onions
3 bunches of green onion
8 stalks of Celery - diced
4 cans Hatch’s green chilies
4 cans chicken broth
4 tablespoons minced garlic (yes 4)
Slap Ya Mama™ Creole seasoning


4 - 8.5 oz boxes Jiffy corn muffin
6 - Large eggs (added 2 extra)
1 1/3 cups sweet milk (your choice)
1 - Yellow sweet onions - chopped
1 - Large can of drained and chopped small black olives
1 - Large can cream corn (yes, cream corn)
5 - Large chopped pickled jalapenos, seeds and all
1 lb Italian pan sausage of your choice
Liberal sprinkling of Slap Ya Mama™ Creole seasoning (to taste)
1 - Good-sized package of your favorite shredded cheese (I use 4 cheese mix)
2  Tablespoons minced garlic (yes 2)

*make sure you use Crisco™ to grease that glass pan, or bread will stick like a tick.
Big Ham, Bacon & Northern-Navy Beans & Stuffed Cornbread on Foodista
Navy Beans on Foodista

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Silent Side of Christmas

This Christmas Eve, many thousands of workers will stay up all night manning police, hospitals, chemical plants, security, fire stations and EMS across the Texas Gulf Coast. They are supporting the American way of life. Unfortunately, this is every holiday season for them. My hat is off.

While we enjoy opening presents, or a football game and drinks with our friends and family, a single Mom with tired feet is working a checkout stand, as Wal-Mart accommodates last minute shoppers, wishing for once she could be home with her kids. A city utility employee is shutting off a leaking water or sewer line on a wet dark road. His family wishes this didn't happen every Christmas, but it does. I am grateful.

Somewhere a tow truck driver is changing a flat tire in the bitter cold and a taxi is carrying a passenger to a destination so they can be with their family. The tow-truck driver doesn't make it home before they are called to another emergency and the taxi rolls on to find another passenger. Let me shake your hand.

In this city of thousands, there will sit many who are alone and feel forgotten. They heat up their TV dinner and wish it were all over. Christmas to them is a reminder of lost loved ones. Let me say a prayer of comfort for you.

At Minot AFB in barren North Dakota a 19-year old Airman spends her first Christmas away from home as she works the lone-shift position in the weather station - short straw on the rank scale. In South Korea, the tallest man in the unit, a 6'-5" "Dirty Bay" hometown soldier hunkers down against the cold as he pulls night guard duty beside his launcher. In Afghanistan more American freedom-loving men and women look out across the frigid and desolate wasteland and silently offer up a prayer for peace on earth. They do not ask for pity.

Let's remember all our troops both home and abroad. I salute you.

All these people sacrifice time away from their families to earn a living or keep us safe while we eat delicious meals, open presents, mix with our families and finally drift off to sleep.

Security guards Carroll Messer and Eddie Thurmond stand vigilance at one of the many Chemical Plants on the Texas Gulf Coast, like they do every holiday season.

Friday, December 04, 2009

My First Encounter with a Black Widow Spider By Shady Henry

It was a day full of frustrations. My high speed internet stopped working. This is close to the end of the world for me, as I am a student and my home phone works on the internet. I called the cable company and to make a long story shorter, it took them a long time and a lot of confusion to get the Tech at my house.

So we finally get started on troubleshooting the internet and there is a bit of a hostility in the air and he says that I have a weak signal. We go to the yard where the cable box is and proceed to test the signal coming in the box. He opens the box, fiddles around the wires a little, locates mine and disconnects it and connects his meter. He cut the end connection of the cable and threw it on the ground but it got caught in a spider web. Wait a minute; a spider web would catch a metal wire connection?! Are spider webs that strong?!

All of a sudden, he puts his hands up and says "Back up, Back up". I thought that I was stepping on some part of the wire and shorting it out or something. But he said "Black widow spider". Sure enough, there was this big black spider hanging between two vertical cable wires, with a clear bright red hour glass on her belly. I had never seen a black widow spider live before. I told him to stay right there, I had to catch it. I am very curious and I wasn't just about to kill that spider and move on. I grabbed a jar and managed to catch it.

The cable guy and I spent the next hour running the new cable and the venomous spider conversation served to break the tension that was there at the beginning. That spider is dangerous. There was a gnarly web nest in the bottom, which I never thought anything of. See, the night before, I had my hand in the box, trying to check out the connections. The cable guy was handling cables all over the place before he sees it too. Either of us could have been bitten by a black widow spider! Do you know what that bite does to people? Let's just say it is not pretty at all!

When I told my wife about it, she would not let me keep it in the house. So I had to keep it in the garage. I called Baytown Bert, he has been taking interesting insect pictures and seems to like nature and pays attention to it’s details. I looked up some information on-line about the black widow spider and learned how potent their venom is. I learned that this one is an immature female western black widow spider.

I also learned that it is critical for their livelihood that a certain moisture be in their environment, so I cracked the jar lid and put some wet dirt inside. I drilled some holes in the lid and tossed in a couple of twigs. The spider ignored me.

Anyway, I brought it to show Bert - in the jar of course. A friend caught two bees for it and I put them in the jar using two pencils like chop-sticks. I left her alone for a little while, after which she ensnared both bees and lifted them up from the base of the jar to the top of her nest. This was the first time I saw her active. She was weaving and weaving. The next morning, she apparently ate the two bees; you can see her belly was much fatter. She also encapsulated them together and discarded them from the nest. Apparently, spiders clean up their nest!!

Baytown Bert has the spider now. He fed her one bee, but the second attempt wasn’t so successful…it got away and flew off to safety somewhere in the room.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Baytown still on edge, Sterling Library back to work

In the wake of convicted child molester Arcade Joseph Comeaux Jr.'s Nov. 30 escape in Baytown, many folks there are still a bit jittery.

"Nobody knows anything and everybody's speculating," Chronicle reader blogger Bert Marshall, aka Baytown Bert told me this afternoon. "People are looking over their shoulders but going about their business."  As he was out and about today, Marshall said he heard a lot of talk about the 49-year-old escapee who remains free.

Comeaux, who was being transported from the Estelle prison unit in Huntsville to the Stiles Unit in Beaumont, forced the two guards escorting him to drive him to Baytown.  "That tells me he has connections here," Marshall said.  Late this afternoon, investigators said there was no reason to believe Comeaux had left the Baytown area.

At one Baytown business, the clerk had Comeaux's photo on her cell phone and was keeping an eye out for him as customers came in the store, Marshall said.  When Marshall gave blood today at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center in Baytown, he said everyone he talked to there was aware of the escape.

"People were kind of jumpy," he said.

Meanwhile, over at Sterling Municipal Library, site of the police command center during Monday's intense search for Comeaux, the staff was too busy today to chat with patrons about Comaux's escape, said Library Director Katherine Brown.  "I haven't heard anybody talk about it today," Brown said. "We're moving on. We're so busy we don't have time to gossip about it. Everybody who wasn't here yesterday wanted to come today."

A police dispatcher telephoned Brown Monday to ask her to close the library a couple minutes after it had opened at 10 a.m. Even in that short time span, about 40 people had entered, she said.  "There are 30 or so waiting every day when we open our doors," Brown said of users who come for services ranging from e-mail access to children's story hour. "We're really busy."  When police escorted patrons out of the building and to their cars, library staff members settled down to a quiet day of work, Brown said.

I think I might have been a bit distracted by the presence of the Baytown Police Department SWAT team, or the helicopters overhead, or the search dogs, or police horses and horse trailers, or the officers from multiple law enforcement agencies coming in and out of the library to use the photocopier or restroom (before the porta-can arrived.)

Brown said she could see the prisoner transport van that was "10 feet from the back door," but didn't know details of how it ended up outside the library.  With the library locked down Monday, the evening staff couldn't get to work, so everyone went home about 4 p.m., Brown said. Before they got into their cars, officers checked vehicles, including the trunks, to make sure drivers could safely get inside, she said.
"It was nice to go home for food," Brown said. "They wouldn't let the pizza guy in."

Story by Carol Christian Houston Chronicle Reporter

Monday, November 30, 2009

BB’s Delicious 3 Onion Pinto Beans and Cornbread

I’m making a great big pot of beans because it’s a cold rainy day in Texas and I’m listing the ingredients, but not the quantities, for the most part (I don’t roll like that and can’t follow the rules). Adjust the quantities of each to suit your tastes. No one said it was going to be easy, but you will figure it out.


3 lbs pinto beans
3 lbs Ground chuck
1 lb bacon
Hatch’s Diced Tomatoes
Slap Ya Mama™ Cajun seasoning
Yellow onion
Purple onion
Green onion
Glory™ seasoned beef cooking base
1 container Pico de gallo pre-mixed (fresh)
1 container 3 chilies mixed (fresh)
3 cans chicken broth
Whole pickled jalapenos
2 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic


4 boxes Jiffy corn muffin (mix according to directions)
1 can creamed corn
2 extra eggs
1 can sliced-up small pitted black olives
Shredded cheese
Sliced pickled jalapenos
Butter slices on top of finished bread and melt
Sprinkle top with Slap Ya Mama™ Cajun seasoning before cooking

I boil the beans and then pour them into a colander, then reboil in fresh water, but you can soak them over-night if you like.  I fry the bacon, and then throw it in the big pot with all the Hatch’s tomatoes and fresh cut pico and chilies.  I fry the ground chuck in the bacon grease after pouring off the extra and sprinkle this with Slap Ya Mama™ Cajun seasoning.

When the ground chuck is fairly browned, I add the copious amount of onions to it and soften them up a bit.  Did you know that onions are so good for you that you should eat them with every meal?  It’s true.  Then I add the garlic.  Garlic is extra good for your heart too.

The beans steam away and I add the onions and ground chuck to the big pot.  When the beans are fairly soft, I crush a lot of them with a potato masher and then pour them into the big pot to begin the process of blending the flavors.

At this time I begin putting my cornbread together and as soon as its in the oven, I make 3 cups of rice to compliment my two delicious foods.  15 minutes after rice boils, I am ready to take my cornbread out and have a mess of beans.

Pinto Beans on Foodista

The Chinese Make a Lousy Gas Can

Yup, I said it – the Commies do not know how to make a gas can with a vent or a bendable spout which does not spill or burp gasoline every time you try to fill your lawn mower’s gas tank, or your weed trimmer’s fuel reservoir.  It’s pathetic and it’s environmentally disgraceful!

There I am, in my own backyard trying to pour a copious amount of petrol (time is money and I don’t have the time or patience to trickle it in) into my grass-cutting machine and gabloop chug – a gurgling squirt of precious and potentially grass-killing fossil fuel regurgitates onto the mower engine and deck. The gas can-designing genius who ignorantly designed this can, left off the vent.
It’s a travesty.  Just try to find a fuel container designed by the Japanese.  Good luck – as if luck has anything to do with it.  The industrious Japanese (thank you Dr. W. Edwards Deming) raised their standard of living to the point that they cannot compete with the Commies in the gas can arena anymore.  Of course, all red-blooded Americans hated “Jap-junk” as it was called, but now we know and realize their stuff was actually an improvement over what we had initially created.  They ingeniously copied our stuff and improved it.

This is evidentially not the case with Chinese imported products.  They discovered that all they had to do was flood our market with cheaper products, regardless of the quality of said products, and they could eliminate the competition – and, we deal-hungry Americans would buy it regardless of a drop in quality.  And they were right.

Heck, we didn’t even notice.

The day after Thanksgiving is named “Black Friday”.  The reason for this goes something like this.  Back in 1966 the good folks in the City of Brotherly Love (the city with the most murders per capita) were out of control buying selling and celebrating Capitalism (spending money on Christmas presents) and the cops called it a Black Friday.

Supposedly these days, business owners go from being in the red to being in the black, or a place where they pass the break-even point.  Us product-savvy lemmings call it Deal Day and we rush out in record numbers and charge our credit cards up to get the great deals, only to pay interest down the road and end up getting the deal for more than the original price – and then we repeat it next year.

Mercifully, the National Retail Federation’s marketing web site SHOP.org invented a way to extend this frenzy for cheap Chinese inferior imports by inventing Cyber Monday.  Whoosh – ka-ching!  Another credit card gets punched, but this time it’s online, so its an even better deal.

Almost everything we buy falls into the same category as the gas can.  It all comes from China, is cheaper than the competition and pushes its way to the top, leaving us with fewer choices for quality goods (if it says NIKE on it, it MUST be good stuff). 

Buy a lawn mower or dishwasher and in 3-5 years, they’re both junk – throwaways. If you opt to have them repaired, it’s often cheaper to just buy a new one – another Chinese made sub-quality piece of short term junk. 

My Chinese-made gas can has a straight semi-ridged spout, so when I try to bend it, as I pour gas into my mower’s tank, it squirts the gas over the top of the fill hole, then it burps because the plastic can does not have a vent.  I’m weary of this.  I’m going to take an awl and poke a hole the top of the can behind the handle and cap it with a pencil. 

That’s all the control we got left in this country over products.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baytown Bert’s Delicious Texas Great Northern Bean Soup

I’m making a great big pot of beans because there’s a Norther blowing in and I’m listing the ingredients, but not the quantities, for the most part (I don’t roll like that and can’t follow the rules). Adjust the quantities of each to suit your tastes. No one said it was going to be easy, but you will figure it out.

Big Pot – Everything goes in it.

2 lbs. Great Northern Beans - soak em or not (I boiled, then rinsed, then boiled again).
Yellow onion - diced
Green onion - diced
Celery - diced
Garlic, salt, pepper
Tony Chachere’s™ or Zatarain’s™ Creole seasoning
Hatch™ green chilies tomatoes
3# Ham

Boil all this until tender. Use a potato masher and mash the beans to the bottom of the pot until you make a nice gruel-like consistency. Serve with sweet cornbread.

Big Ham, Bacon & Northern-Navy Beans & Stuffed Cornbread on Foodista
Great Northern Beans on Foodista

Monday, November 23, 2009

What This Town Needs is a Good Cheap Donut!

This town needs a good dozen donuts that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

On a spur of the moment decision, I decided to whip into Shipley Donut Shop on Garth Road and West Baker for some plain cake donuts. I hadn’t had one in, like, forever (stupid Valley girl talk that’s ruining people’s vocabularies) and the time and traffic were right.

The lady behind the counter disconnected whoever she was communicating with on her personal talking device and lethargically asked what I wanted. I cheerfully replied I wanted a half dozen plain cake donuts.

Ka-ching! $3.99 please…

Four dollars, for six two and one half inch non-descript plain cake donuts? I mean, there’s no filling, sprinkles, or glaze on them, I thought, but handed over a fiver.

When I got home, I looked in the box and pulling one of these diamond encrusted and precious lumps of deep-friend dough out of the box, I measured the pastry to see how much acreage was going for these days…not much for my money.

The unadorned donut in my hand was a measly 2 1/2 inches across for about 70 cents. It tasted okay – that’s all, just okay.

So, picking up the land-line, I called the various shops in town to see what the going rate is. Here is what I came up with:

Shipley Donut Shop - Glaze/Doz $6.69 Cake $6.99  Most Expensive donut award

Doughnut Wheel - G $4.99 C $5.99
Snowflake - G $5.45 C $5.75
Donald Donuts - No Answer
Baytown Donuts - No Answer
West Coast Donut - G $5.99 C $5.99
Victoria’s Gourmet - G $5.99 C $5.99

Shipley won for being the most expensive overall in these two categories – glazed and cake. Doughnut wheel, which incidentally my sister-in-law, Tammy Tallant says has the most delicious cinnamon rolls, came in with the lowest price on glazed, but lost the cake donut title to Snowflake.

I apologize to the shops I did not poll, but if you will drop me a line, I’ll come over and check you out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Red lights, Cameras and Stops Signs

I have no problem with the red light cameras, because I made up my mind a long time ago to come to a complete stop before turning right or gauge the distance to the light to give myself time to stop before the yellow light changes.

Without the red light cameras it goes back to the free-for-all attitude we’ve witnessed for years and that is one thing I do not want to see return.

In 1981 a red-light runner slammed into my 1979 Pontiac Bonneville at Decker Drive and Bayway. He hit me broadside doing 60 mph as he flew through. He was in a smaller Pontiac station wagon and it totaled his car. My family was slammed sideways inside the much larger car, but basically okay. We never saw him coming due to a larger truck next to us.

This town has been subject to poor driving habits for years and when the Baytown Concerned Citizens first met at El Toro’s on Garth road, we asked the city to crack down on crime and do whatever it takes to bring law and order back. I stood before a very hostile crowd along with city officials and BPD and asked them to crack down on traffic problems.

As the spokesman for BCC, I plainly stated the well-known fact that the easiest way to catch a criminal is through moving vehicle violations. Criminals have no regard for the law and routinely break traffic laws. That explains why someone hauling 50 pounds of cocaine will get pulled over for speeding.

One of the ways the city responded was to install red light cameras and if there is a learning curve, then so be it. Speeding through red lights or turning on red without stopping first is a crime and guess what? - it has consequences. We are getting what we asked for - a return to law and order.

The reason there has been a slight increase in accidents related to the red light cameras is the character behind the one that decides to stop instead of risking a ticket, has every intention of going through the light and is going too fast and too close to stop.

Call it any way you want, but the fault lies in the second driver’s poor skills and habits, not the camera, the stopping motorist, the speed limit or the light’s timing.

If the speed limit is 40 or 45mph, the driver still has the responsibility to reduce their speed to accommodate the lights. That’s basic driving education and this fact has gone out the window with the advent of better brakes and more hemi-powered cars. It appears the accelerator trumps the brake pedal, doesn’t it?

A Baytonian has set up a website to force the city through petition to take down the red light cameras. It is located here. You decide.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hawks, Owls, Dogs and Cats

W took our three-pound Pomchi puppy, Bella to Dr. Cynthia Lipps office the other day for its parvovirus shot and observed an adult cat sleeping in the office. I commented that it probably slept all day after prowling all night and the Vet assistant informed me the cat was basically permanently helpless due to a near fatal hawk attack. All it did was eat and sleep and was actually content.

Now I’m not totally ignorant about predacious hawks and small animals and based on the large number of cats in my neighborhood, I never really worried too much about the flying predators. All that has changed in the last year. We own an eight-pound Shih Tzu and a three-pound Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix, called a Pomchi, plus we regularly are watching my daughter and son-in-law’s two dogs - a Yorkie (seven-pounds) and a rat terrier (twelve-pounds).

Behind our house is seventy acres of woods and swamp. Coyotes, feral hogs and even bobcats roam these woods, which tells me there is plenty of food for these predators. I’ve watched large raptors hover over the woods many times including Caracara (Mexican Eagle) and until recently; they were nothing more than a curiosity.

Not too long ago, to my surprise I watched a great horned owl land on the power line directly in my backyard. The giant bird had close to five feet of wingspan and it sat in the near darkness and turned its head slowly this way and that and that is when I realized how terrifying this bird of prey could be to small animals. I researched this owl species and found out they have a talon grip of over 500 pounds per square inch, as opposed to the average man’s 60 ppsi. A bird like this could snatch a full-grown raccoon or armadillo with no problem. What chance would a cat or small dog have?

My sister Connie lives out close to Dayton and she has lost a number of cats to hawks and has warned me repeatedly to watch my doggies. The whole situation has made me view these birds as a menace.

I decided to Google “hawks attacking dogs” and was surprised to see how many pet owners have lost their animals to hawks, including attacks on twenty and thirty pound dogs. Numerous people have lost their dogs while walking them on leashes and a number of folks report hawks swooping down on them while standing on their property.

My wife and I now grab our dogs any time we see a hawk hovering nearby, but our nightly visits to the backyard so our dogs can “potty” leave us almost helpless to stop an attack by an airborne predator. About fifteen years ago, I had a Pomeranian-Shih Tzu mix that ran off into the woods and we never saw her again. To this day I believe a coyote got her, or maybe a bobcat.

People who are not pet lovers won’t see this column as a big deal, but those of us who care for animals need to take note and as habitat disappears, watch for aerial predators when we have our pets in the yard. One lady suggested stepping on their wings when they pounce on your pet, as she warns they will not surrender your pet easily. I hope I never experience any of this, as my pets are like family and it would be too hard to bear.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Uniform Code of Military Justice - Malik Nadal Hasan

When a young man or woman raises their hand and are sworn into the US Military, they effectively and voluntarily surrender their Constitutional rights. They now belong to the US government, which has its own military constitution. This is known as the UCMJ or Uniform Code of Military Justice.

I was sworn into the United States Air Force November 23, 1970 and verbatim, my oath was this: "I, Gilbert S. Marshall Jr., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

As an 18 year old native son, I took this very seriously and still do to this day. As an 18 year old, even in my naivete state of immaturity and experience, I knew I was suspending my personal views to enforce the will and policies of the US Government, whether I agreed with the policies or not. Our military depends on this subservience. I want to say this again. Our Country’s stability and military depends on this subservience.

Now mind you, I was 18 years old when I raised my right hand and I understood my obligation with uncharacteristic clarity, for a teenager anyway. I was enlisting as an Airman Basic, not accepting a commission as college graduate into the ranks of leadership, which by definition is an officer and a gentleman (woman).

Officers have a different version when sworn in and held to higher standards. This is the oath our shooter took: "I, Malik Nadal Hasan (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

Major Malik Nadal Hasan has not only committed premeditated murder on his own soldiers, but voluntarily performed the most heinous form of treason known in the military. He has violated his oath of office with extreme prejudice. In civilian terms this is akin to a mother or father killing their own children – or (in a bizarre coincidence) a doctor killing his patients. The death toll now stands at 13 dead and 30 wounded and this at the bloody hand of a man who had never been in combat and was an expert at helping those suffering from the ghosts of war.

His vicious and deliberate act of violence was of the most cowardly sort also, as soldiers are unarmed on Post, unless they are military police. He was like a man with a club in pen full of baby seals.

As a Vietnam Veteran, I personally would like to strangle this fellow with my bare hands.

Take note that I have not mentioned his religion, but if I were the Commander in Chief, I would order a mass security clearance reevaluation of every person in our military this day, which has the word(s) Muslim/Islam on their dog tags.

We as a country, especially in our military, cannot give every Muslim serving in the military the simple benefit of the doubt, when we have officers killing their own men as acts of faith. What chance of survival did Major Hasan think he would have at Fort Hood? I’ll answer that one – none. He saw himself as a suicide bomber or an IED. He was going for the 70 virgins…, but he survived.

Nope, we need to pull in every soldier, Marine, airman, sailor, etc (especially those serving in our Embassy’s) who has the word(s) Muslim/Islam on their dog tags and under the UCMJ, make them re-swear allegiance and fidelity to this country or resign their commission or general discharge their butts out of the service.

Enough is enough.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Baytown Dog Park, Mosquitoes and Fleas

View Cary Bayou Trail in a larger map

I communicated with Scott Johnson this morning.  He’s the head honcho over Baytown’s Parks Department and a good one, I might add.  A short note here on Baytown and it’s parks – they are managed very well and it’s obvious a high priority is placed on their maintenance.

The conversation went something like this: 

BB: “Mosquitoes and fleas Sir.  Help!  What exactly is being done to ensure the dog park doesn't become a breeding ground for fleas”?

Scott: “The Health Department sprays for mosquitoes on a regular schedule.  (The mosquitoes are winning)  As for the fleas, this is the first we have heard of a problem.  We will look into options and see what other cities are doing”.

At this point Mike Lister joined the conversation and added:

Mike: “The recent rains and moderate weather has ‘hatched’ a large crop of mosquitoes across the entire area.  We are larviciding and adulticiding (spraying) as best we can with weather permitting.  I will insure that the Jenkins Park area is sprayed during our routine spray efforts for that zone.  Thanks for the ‘heads up’ and we will do our best to knock them down”.

Mike is the Go To man at Health & EMS here and another mover and shaker (as opposed to a fatcat do-nothing).

BB: “Good deal.  Both of our dogs are on Advantage, which is a topical treatment that is systemic, but when we bring them home, they have fleas and they jump off in our house and Mike, good deal.  I’ll spread the word”.

So, there you have it fellow Baytown friends.  Never let anyone tell you that our city bigwigs are lazy, or don’t care about this city and its citizens.  Their jobs are pretty much thankless, but not from me.

If you haven’t been to Jenkins Park, the Cary Bayou Trail (see the map above), the Skate Park or the Dog Park you are shorting yourself.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Baytown Photo Club Meets Again!

This past Monday the Baytown Photo Club met for the second time since its inception in October. Everyone brought a buck for the Art League and a photo to display (and possibly sell) at the Art League during the month of November. The theme was “Multiples” and it was obvious from the many variations that photographers view that term in many different ways.

My entry was a photograph I took on the Fred Hartman Bridge last year and it features a silhouette of the two uprights and the many cables. As far as I know, the angle of this photograph would be impossible to take from a car, regardless of how you hung out the window or how slow you were moving, as I was physically walking over the bridge and was up close to the guardrail.

I’ve yet to learn everyone’s name, so I will refrain from mentioning anyone’s. One lady brought an interesting photo of an ashtray overflowing with ash and cigarette butts. I really liked it. Another photo was water reflecting the sky taken inside the rundown Brunson Theater. It was excellent. It could sell.

My brother TJ Bustem brought a Halloween themed photo taken at a “haunted house” in Houston. Admission was $35, so needless to say they had some very well done images inside the house to photograph. His featured an entrance lined with human skulls floor to ceiling.

Numerous people brought food themed photographs rich in detail and color and there were many photos presented that were taken while folks vacationed around the country. Personally and this is no reflection on anyone else, I like to keep my photos close to home and home is Baytown, but this is not a Baytown-photo only club, but a club for photography.

We are having a photo walk and shoot November 21st that is open to the public. We will meet at the Baytown Nature Center at 9am make our way down to the elevated pavilion. It costs 3 bucks to get in the gate and you can park there and walk, or drive in someplace and park. Bring a sack lunch and plenty of water and mosquito repellent.

If you would like to join our club, we will be meeting December 7th at 6:30pm at the Art League of Baytown on Texas Avenue. The only requirements are the $1 a month dues and a willingness to learn and share. Our next theme is “Red”. Red anything – you decide. Bring an 8X10 or 5X7, printed on paper or on photo paper.

We have a Flickr web site set up to display photos of members and it’s located HERE. We also have a Google Groups mailing list and if you would like to join, we will sign you up at the next meeting.

Grab your camera, regardless of what your skill level or equipment is and join us.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

BB’s Delicious Frickin Chickin Tortilla Soup

BB’s Delicious Frickin Chickin Tortilla Soup

I’m making a great big pot and I’m listing the ingredients, but not the quantities, for the most part (I don’t roll like that and can’t follow the rules). Adjust the quantities of each to suit your tastes. No one said it was going to be easy, but you will figure it out.

Small pot
Chicken breast – deboned

Big pot
Rotel™ tomatoes
Real limes or juice
Chopped green chilies
Chicken stock or broth
Green onions
Cilantro – fresh
Corn Oil – use more than you think you should
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Golden hominy
Black olives - small and pitted

Tony Chachere’s™ or Zatarain’s™ Creole seasoning
Black pepper
Salt – Coarse if you have it
Sriracha sauce - to taste

Tortilla chips
Shredded cheese

Get a monster pot if you are going to make a lot and believe me, you should. People will want seconds and A few will want thirds, plus it freezes well. Finely chop the green onions and the cilantro and throw it in the pot.

Big pot: Put in all the ingredients and start cooking it down.

Small pot: Boil, yes boil the chicken and sprinkle the Creole seasoning on it heavily. You can’t over-season it, so dump some in there. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, put it on a cutting board and using a big sharp knife like the one in the photo, chop it up and dump it in the soup pot.

Notes: Use a LOT of lime juice, like 4 ounces and in a big pot of soup like I made, use 2 CUPS of corn oil. It sounds like a lot and it is, but you won’t notice it. Sriracha sauce has a dynamite flavor, but is hotter than Hades if you get too much, so season to taste. Last, do NOT omit the garbanzos or the hominy. You will not notice it is in there, but the absence of it affects the final flavor and the texture is very pleasing to the palate. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weighing-In on legalizing Pot

The unwinnable war on marijuana usage may finally be coming to an end. As it stands, smoking, growing or possessing marijuana in any quantity is a federal crime and has imprisoned millions of people, whose only crime is smoking the weed; unless you add growing, transporting or buying the stuff to the list of crimes.

In my younger years I smoked a lot of pot - a lot. I’m not proud of that fact, but I chalk it up as a learning experience. I haven’t had a joint since 1975 and even if it is legalized, I will not smoke it again. It made me lazy and fuzzy-headed, not to mention I lost all motivation and was hungry all the time. 

Now, with that out of the way, I want to make a few points and those who have used Mary Jane can attest my points are valid. If you have never smoked “dope”, as it was at one time commonly referred to, then get a paper and pencil, as I am going to enlighten you.

Dope of any kind comes into our country by invitation. Invitation, not by invasion. Back when I was actively smoking the stuff, my friends and I were perfectly content to burn the offending weed only and would only resort to harder drugs when pot became scarce. It was the early 70’s and getting high was trendy and cool. We wanted to be cool and get high. Many of us have moved on and doping is not in our plans.

Drug cartels have choices on what they smuggle into our country. They can bring in 100 kilos of cocaine weighing in at 220 pounds and it fit in a trunk. Any idea how big of a trunk they would have to have to bring in 100 kilos of marijuana? So, by cracking down on marijuana we basically narrow the choice of what the drug cartels will send in. They will send in heroin and cocaine, etc., in lieu of bulkier marijuana and that is what will hit the streets, again by invitation.

People who are using marijuana are going to use it whether it’s legal or not, but instead of their money going towards our country’s economy and tax base or to drug lords will depend on it being legal, controlled and taxed or not. Personally, I think the medical marijuana issue is a no-brainer and should be embraced immediately by every state. If pot is a drug, what is the difference in it and any other prescription drug used to treat problems?

Fighting the war on drugs has become almost a bigger problem than the drugs themselves, with killings, violence and lawlessness associated with the trade. Crooked cops, lawmakers and politicians are being generated as fast as the dope and everyone is getting rich, especially lawyers. Dope is big business on both sides of the law, with people losing their houses, cars and property to the state for trafficking in pot.

If the United States Government would decriminalize marijuana entirely and allow the tobacco companies to package and sell marijuana cigarettes at, say, $20 per pack of twenty, with $15 tax (Est.) on each pack, we could balance the budget and have health care paid for in 5 years. Next, we would cripple the drug cartels and their network to the point of ruin. All of the money would funnel into the government coffers for a change instead of some Columbian or Mexican drug lord.

Another major consideration is quality and potency.  Tobacco companies could "market the brand" of each pack as to potency, allowing the consumer to know exactly what they were getting.  This is impossible on the street and leads to rip-offs, violence and death.  This is the way alcoholic beverages are marketed.  People do not buy 100% grain alcohol just because it is the strongest potency; they buy what they can safely ingest.

If a marijuana user were suspected of being high while operating a moving vehicle, it would be at the discrimination of the officer as whether they were intoxicated or not and if it were determined they were, they would be arrested for PI of DUI (Public intoxication or Driving under the influence).

Marijuana is here to stay. The government’s fruitless attempt to stop it has failed miserably, boosted organized crime and violence, turned many an honest public-servant into complicity and failed in almost every way. We must decriminalize and regulate it now. What do you think?

Read more here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Juvenile Cottonmouth in Baytown Texas

Our homestead in Baytown, Texas was pummeled with seven inches of rain the other day and as soon as it was over, we let our two doggies out to use the, well to relieve themselves.
I was picking up sticks on the ground and tossing them onto the compost pile when I heard my Bride shrieking. Running to her, she exclaimed that our 7-week-old Pom-Chi had walked very close to a coiled Cottonmouth.
Pointing it out, I, who will not tolerate or relocate a venomous snake, stabbed it once with a shovel, mortally wounding it. I almost always have one of my cameras handy, so I took this macro photograph to share.
As a note, any non-venomous snake is tolerated at my homestead albeit, I usually shoo them away. In the wild, I avoid all snakes and let them go about their business.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jumping spider photo in Baytown Texas

I saw this litty-bitty jumping spider on the wall at work just above a fire extinguisher and thought I would grab it's portrait and share.

I've noticed that even though there are an abundance of small jumping spiders, many of them are unique in the coloring, body build, size and appearance.

Macro photography is very facinating and enlightening and opens up a new world of observation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

BB’s Super-Delicious Taco Soup

BB’s Super-Delicious Taco Soup

I’m going to list the ingredients only, because how much of each you decide to use is up to you, sorry.

In a large skillet, combine and cook until done:
Ground chuck
Taco Seasoning (only)
Diced garlic
Fresh yellow onion

In a large kettle, combine and cook until hot, then add ingredients above:
Pinto beans w/jalapeno
Kidney beans
Diced green chilis
Chicken broth
Rotel™ tomatoes
Canned golden hominy
Canned corn
Hunt’s fire roasted tomatoes
Black olives
Fresh zucchini
Fresh cilantro
Ranch Salad mix

-------------Top with:
Shredded cheese
Tortilla chips
Sour cream

You just served up a steaming hot bowl of BB’s Super-Delicious Taco Soup!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doctors report 400-pound boy to Nanny state workers

"An Orlando mother fears the state will take custody of her 13-year-old, 400-pound son after doctors called authorities about his condition. Doctors contacted the Department of Children and Families after Josiah Lewis missed a few appointments, saying his condition is life threatening. DCF officials said the agency has begun an investigation. The boy's mother, Brenda Lewis, said she's trying to help her son lose weight, but he refuses to take medicine and will not stop overeating" as reported by the Orland Sentinel.

I guess it's a crime now to over feed your kid in what’s left of this here free country. Of course the mother could beat the kid with a belt or cherry paddle like we were as kids and make him take his medicine and stop over-eating, but then the doctors would recommend the state take the kid from her.

I remember steering a tractor in Utah as a nine year old while my Dad and his friends threw hay bales onto the trailer I was dragging. I was pretty scared at first since I wasn't "properly trained", not to mention there was no seat belt and the tractor had a real loud exhaust that was probably damaging my sensitive hearing.
The men, being men without female supervision, were most likely using "swear words" or making references to things a kid shouldn't hear. I remember being real thirsty, but none of the adults offered me water. All of these things today would be viewed as grounds to give me away to the benevolence of someone other than my parents.

As a matter of record, I was as happy as a kid could be on that tractor and wishing I had a cigarette. You see, I had already been smoking every chance I could get for the last two years, but that is another story and a different time.

What in the world is next? A parent loses "custody" of their own kid because "Doctors" (anonymous Doctors?) decide they are over-feeding their kid, not that they are starving their child, but letting them eat too much. I can see it now - "Teachers report boy, whose parents force him to practice piano against his will, to state family workers" or "Doctors report 14 year old boy to state family workers whose parents made him clean out the garage, causing severe depression".

I’ll tell you what is sure to be on the horizon in this nanny state country of ours; a whole bunch of us could be arrested down the road simply because we are obese and pose a threat to the overall health of the country.

How about that batch of lard-coated and bacon-wrapped bologna?

"Police arrest family for refusing to eat their veggies and for failure to comply with a court order to put down the chicken-fried steak with cream gravy and suffered the public outcry to get with the new program (God bless our President) and find their beefy selves remanded to local pea farm for reconditioning and exercise"
We need to realize all this meddling in our everyday affairs by well-meaning professionals and politicians will lead to a never-ending and narrowing stranglehold on our liberties.

“Man arrested for smoking”. Poof. Or should I say Puff? Puff-there goes another liberty. Sure, you may not mind the banning of smoking for the good of the many and (big tree hug here), the Earth, but what about when someone decides what you are doing or how you are raising your kid should be stopped and they call CPS on you?

“Honest to gawd, Judge, that woman steadily smoked up the house with those filthy nasty cigs and her poor chirens had to sit there and huff it like tobacco-junkies”. Slam goes the gavel! “Take her away bailiff! Thirty years!”!

Pass me a *smoke and some bacon, will you friend?

*I do not and will not smoke again, but it isn’t against the law – yet and we need to be very careful what we rubber stamp as unacceptable behavior, as our own freedom and liberty may be the next thing we agree to outlaw.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BB’s Jalapeno & Sausage Cornbread

BB’s Jalapeno & Sausage Cornbread

4 - 8.5 oz boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
4 – Large eggs
1 1/3 cups sweet milk (your choice)
½ chopped yellow onion
1 – Large can of drained and chopped black olives
1 – Large can cream corn (yes, cream corn)
5 – Large chopped pickled jalapenos, seeds and all
1 pound maple flavored pan sausage of your choice
Liberal sprinkling of *Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s Creole seasoning (to taste)
1 – Good-sized package of your favorite shredded cheese (I use 4 cheese mix)

10X15X2 oven safe cooking dish
Large mixing bowl – you will need it.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook the sausage in a skillet with the onions until they are close to being done.  Mix all other ingredients together and add the cooked sausage and onions.  Stir it all up, but don’t get carried away.  Use Crisco to grease your pan so the cornbread doesn’t stick when you slice it.  Bake without covering at 400 degrees F. for 25 minutes and then start watching the top to make sure it doesn’t get too brown.  Use a table knife to determine if the center is cooked completely.  If it is clean, then the cornbread mix is done.  If the top is getting too brown, lower the heat to 350 and cook another 5 minutes until it is done.

If you like, add a pat of butter on top and enjoy.

* I don’t want to start a war here, but I can’t tell the difference and Zatarain’s is much cheaper at my local Food Town here in beautiful Baytown, Texas.

Cornbread on Foodista

Monday, October 12, 2009

Baytown Bert's Beans!

2-lbs pinto beans, 2 yellow onions, 2 cans stewed tomaters, 1 can Rotel, 1 cup jalapeno juice from a large can of pickled jalapenos, 1-lb bacon, 2-lbs cooked brisket and 1-lb hickory smoked link sausage. BB's Beans! Makin' cornbread and rice next and just thought I would take time to share the photo.

Pinto Beans on Foodista

The real poop on the Ukraine

Mitt Romney’s top adviser, Joseph Cofer Black, joined the board of the Ukraine energy firm, Burisma, while Hunter Biden was also serving on ...