Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Flying The Not So Friendly Skies

After an eight hour layover in Philly because of bad weather we were allowed to board our simulated World War I era crop duster that Southwest Airlines jokingly calls a 747. The legroom was minimal and we seemed to be surrounded by people whose seat backs and tray tops will NEVER be returned to their original and upright positions.

The worst of the lot was a middle aged woman dressed in a cheesy looking leopard print jacket and matching pants and her mother. They were seated across the aisle and just behind me. They fussed at each other in a high pitched nasally whine about anything and everything the entire trip. "Mother, look at this piece of junk - why did you buy this - are you crazy"? To which the mother responds to her whiney spawn "Well to hell with it then - I'll just give it away if it's not good enough!" Whiney Spawn then says "if your just going to give it away, can I have it?"

I could have taken the fighting and whining. It was the coughing, sneezing, wheezing and snorting that got to me. I had to rename Whiney Spawn and christined her "Coughing Woman". Her mother became "Snorty Mama." Giving total strangers native indian type names is a method of entertaining myself which I learned from my association with the Fukawee Indians. It helps to pass the time. But that's another story.

I tried to sleep. Coughing Woman coughed and sneezed, then shot me a mean, fierce look when I glanced at the source of the nimiety of noxious noise. Snorty Mama laughed, whined a little, snorted loudly then fell asleep. Coughing Woman fell asleep too but they both snored. They sounded like a freight train making a milk run across the top of the Rockies. "Woooo, snort, hack, hack hack, psssss, arrr, cough." I pretended to be studying my shoe laces.

We finally started our descent but the landing was a bit rough - how could it have been otherwise? I wasn't sure whether we had landed safely or were shot down. Coughing Woman and Snorty Mama missed the entire thing - they were no doubt exhausted. They slept right up to the time when we had taxied to the terminal. By the way, whoever came up with the bright idea to call a place you leave from and return to in an airplane a "terminal?" Anyway, a lady (Princess Eatitbeforeitgetsaway) sitting behind Coughing Woman and Snorty Mama obviously took great pleasure in shouting at them to "wake the hell up and get off the dam plane."

We gathered our wet luggage, which Southwest had apparently allowed to sit on the tarmac in Philly in the rain all day and headed for our car. By then it was about 2:00AM - we were tired and sleepy and just glad to be on solid ground again and away from CW and SM. As we were leaving the parking lot two large figures stepped off the curb into the street and I had to slam on my brakes. It was them! CW and SM throwing one more insult at the more organized rest of the world while they wondered around looking for their car.

I had come within two feet of running right over Snorty Mama and didn't miss Coughing Woman by much either. I backed up and tried to take another shot at Snorty Mama but by the time I spotted her and Coughing Lady again they were escaping in an bundo colored pick-up truck with a "Save The Whales" bumper sticker. Maybe next time.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Back From Philly

The BW and I took a whirlwind tour of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country from March 19 to March 23. We had a great time and I would highly recommend a visit to the area to anyone interested in our nation's history.

Listed below are some of highlights and lowlights of our trip.

Highlights:
1. Meeting our friends from Philly, Ala 71, 92Alpha, Justrose and their families. The first thing we did after arrivivng was meet Justrose, her husband S and little girl P at a beautiful little park in the Society Hill area within walking distance of our hotel. Justrose led us on an informal walking tour of Philly on our way to a restaurant where we met Ala 71 and her boys along with 92Alpha. These are truly fine people and we felt as though we were meeting up with old friends.

2. Independance Hall, The Liberty Bell and Independance National Park. Getting to actually be there, at the site of our nation's birth was important to us both.

3. Reading Terminal - What a place this is! Every kind of food imaginable under one city block long roof. There were Philly Cheesesteaks, seafood, Amish markets, cookies, candy, Italian food and even a Cajun food market. While I perused the food stalls the BW looked through the various shops located throughtout the mall. You could do about half a day in this place.

4. Maggiano's Little Italy Italian Restaurant - Great food and atmosphere in downtown Philly.

5. Christ Church and the cemetary where 5 signers of The Declaration of Independence, including Ben Franklin are buried.

6. A tour of Betsy Ross's house. Betsy sewed the country's first flag and outlived three husbands. I can hear her now: "not tonight dear, can't you see I'm busy sewing this flag?" The first husband died in the Revolutionary War but there is considerable doubt as to what killed the others.

7. A drive through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, past Vally Forge on the way to the quaint and clevery named Amish Country towns of Bird-In-Hand, Blue Ball and my personal favorite, Intercourse.

8. A guided tour of the Amish Country, with stops at an Amish farm where quilts were made ($500 a pop!), a bakery, a re-sale shop and past blacksmith shops, one room school houses and one farm after another.

9. A swim in the indoor pool at our hotel in Bird-In-Hand followed by an hour or so in the hot tub.

10. A second vist to an Amish bakery.

11. A tour of the various commercial shops of Intercourse and Bird-In-Hand which included furnture, quilts and a winery. Be careful about what you purchase. Some of the merchandise we saw was actually made in China.

12. The various Smorgasborgs or as we call them in Texas, buffets.

13. A little homemade fudge shop.

Lowlights

1. Cold (39 degrees), rainey weather for two of the four days.

2. An 8 hour wait in the Philly Airport because of weather related delays.

3. Not having time to see other blogger friends in Philly.

4. Working off all that fudge, shoofly pie and gastronomical delights of my second favorite state - Pee Ay.

I'll post some pictures as soon as I learn how.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The first sign of the apocalypse

And no you smarty-pantses, it is not that JEN (moi) WROTE A BLOG POST!

The Houston Livestock show and rodeo ended last weekend. There's always lots of roping smelly animals and riding smelly animals, but most people just go for the great concerts.

A new attendance record was set this year by one of these acts.

Alicia Keyes
Kenny Chesney
Alan Jackson
Maroon 5
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Brooks and Dunn
Hillary Duff
Martina McBride
Duelo and El Grupo Mazz (Tejano music)
Pat Green
Rascal Flatts
Keith Urban
Jeff Foxworthy
Brooks and Dunn
Clint Black
Steve Miller

That's not all of the performers, but you get the idea. Mostly country, but with some rock and pop acts thrown in the mix. Who do you suppose was the BIGGEST SELLER. As in, the BIGGEST RECORD BREAKER of all time!?!?? Alicia Keyes? Clint Black? Maroon 5? Lynyrd Skynyrd?

Wrong.

72,843 at Hillary Duff.

I find myself suddenly overcome with the urge to horde water, batteries, non-perishable food items, and dig a bomb shelter in the back yard.....

Thursday, March 17, 2005

If You Can't Do The Time - What The Heck, Whack Her

Our criminal justice system was exposed once again for the flawed system it is when actor Robert Blake was found not guilty of killing his wife. Rich actors such as Blake and O.J. Simpson (OK, so maybe he wasn't a real actor) seem to have an advantage over the blue collar wife killers of the world like Scott Peterson. On the same day that Scott joins some 600 plus potential executes on San Quentin's death row, Blake gets a get out of jail pass.

Then again, women have done OK in some high profile cases, especially when they use the "battered wife" defense. Lorena Bobbitt had been abused by her husband John but - speaking of whack jobs - did she really have to perform on his anatomy what has popularly become known as a "Bobbittectomy?" To make matters worse, she left and took it with her! A couple of miles down the road she threw it out the window and it landed on the windshield of a minivan filled with girl scouts and brownies on their way to an overnight camp out at Camp Mini-hahahahawhatisdatang. Those poor girls were so traumatized, they'll never be the same. They lost all their cookies on the spot.

John got lucky. His detached member was retrieved by an alert rookie cop (so, anything interesting happen at work today dear?) who took it immediately to the hospital. On duty that night was a transgendered plastic surgeon who specializes in female to male sex changes operations - Dr. Petey Wantapecker. Dr. Wantapecker successfully reattached John's member, hooked up the plumbing, and dammed if it wasn't as good as new.

Lorena never served one day in jail. Her avoidance of personal responsibility has reportedly caused an increase in male battering cases committed by their angry wives. Just recently, a woman in Houston attempted to do the same thing to her husband that Lorena had done to poor John. This guy was luckier than John because he woke up just before she made her attempt and she missed. He escaped by running out the back door to the Johnson house next door.

Her defense attorney claimed she shouldn't have charges brought against her because she was unsuccessful but they charged her with a missed-wiener.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Texas Brag

Our friend Ala71 of Blond Sagacity fame rightly referred to the many attributes of the great state of "Pee Ay". She's right about all that, of course. Compared to Texas, Pennsylvania is right in the heart of things.

We're not close to anything. We would have been close to lots of things but we went to war with the people who owned it, kicked their butts and took their stuff. Now, the only thing we're close to is ourselves.

We do have a border with Mexico but it's not enforced so we're thinking about taking it too. Mexico I mean. Their citizens use our hospitals for free, overcrowd our schools and now they want dual citizenship so they can vote in our elections. If they're going to do all that then we might as well own it. So when we take Mexico, I guess you could say that we'd be close to Guatemala - unless we take that too.

I'm going to "Pee Ay" next week. I'll report back and let you know whether or not I'm recommending that Texas annex it.

For now, I'll just brag that we have beautiful lakes, rivers, mountains, deserts and forests. We have moon rocks and cowboys. We also have the world's largest henway. I forget who we took that from.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Secret To A Long Happy Marriage

I don't deny that I got lucky. I was 20 years old and not the possessor of the most experience or the best judgment when I met my wife. I probably could have made the wrong choice very easily at that age, but I didn't.

She lived in the same dormitory as Sue, a friend of mine from high school. Sue had a car. She called and asked if my room-mate and I would like to go with her and two of her friends to get something to eat. We jumped at it.

My room-mate sat in the front seat with Sue and I climbed in the back seat with her two friends, not knowing that I was about to meet the love of my life. There was a girl in the middle between us but I paid no attention to her whatsoever. She kept leaning forward to block my view of the beauty on the other side of the car and to include herself in the conversation but it didn't matter. I was relentless in ignoring "girl in the middle" and on an important mission - to get a phone number.

That was 42 years ago. We've been married for 38. I'm asked sometimes what the secret is to such a long and happy marriage and I've got some answers.

First, make sure you're marrying a good, decent person who has the values and character you admire. Don't expect that you can change them if they don't. Second, remember that marriage doesn't end the courtship. Continue to do those things that made her want to marry you in the first place. Third, share a sense of humor. Laugh loud and often. I'm constantly trying to make her laugh and most of the time I can pull it off. Sometimes she tells me something I said or did wasn't funny and to knock it off. I do, right away. Last, try to go to romantic, candle-lit restaurants at least twice a week. We've been doing that for years. She goes on Fridays, I go on Saturdays.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

More - Things I Haven't Done Yet

1. Become a grandfather - I think I'd be really good at it.

2. Go back to the house I grew up in and look around.

3. Camp out in a place so far removed from civilization that you can't hear anything but the sounds of nature.

4. Join a commune with just me and 20 beautiful women and have a really rockin' good time staying high on pot, listening to rock and roll, smoking and cussing and drinking lots of beer.

5. Just kidding about #4.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Things I Haven't Done - Yet

I've started a list of things I haven't done yet. These are things I'm going to do soon - not just idle thought that I might not follow up on. I'll add to the list as the mood strikes me. If you have any that you'd like to add, go ahead. I might add your's to my list.

1. Build my cabin in the woods, complete with fish pond and covered deck - I'm working on this one - I have the land and I'm busy getting it ready;
2. See the Grand Canyon and the Everglades - maybe next year;
3. Take my boys to see baseball games at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Fenway Park in Boston and Yankee Stadium - I think I'll move this one ahead of the Grand Canyon;
4. Speaking of sports - watch a Texas High School 6 man football game - no kidding. I have an old friend who played for the Iredell Dragons against teams like Cransfills Gap and Walnut Springs - I don't even know if those schools play football anymore but Calvert, near Waco does and that's probably where I'll go next football season;

To be continued.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Death Penalty Follow-up - The Day After

I've had a chance to read the total idiocy of Justice Kennedy and the Supreme Court majority as expressed in his written opinion in ROPER v. SIMMONS, the juvenile death penalty case. In some of the most twisted logic I've ever seen in a majority opinion Judge Kennedy, joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer declared the legislative action of 18 states to be unconstitutional because:

1. We must recognize "the revolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society" to determine which punishments are so disproportionate as to be cruel and unusual;

2. "A national consensus has developed";

3. "Their own vulnerability and comparative lack of control over their immediate surroundings mean juveniles have a greater claim to be forgiven for failing to escape negative influences in their whole environment";

4. "When a juvenile commits a heinous crime, the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinquish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity".

What is the reason for the death penalty? Retribution, deterrence and protection of society from murderers. Does it accomplish its' objective? That's debatable. What is clear is that any debate should occur in the legislatures of the 18 states whose elected officials are more concerned with protecting society than whether a killer can attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.

The reasoning expressed by the 5 judges in the majority is pure rubbage.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Death Penalty

The United States Supreme Court has voted 5-4 to ban the death penalty for persons who committed their crimes when they were 16 or 17 years old. The Court had previously banned the death penalty for 15 year olds and the mentally ill or retarded.

I haven't read the decision yet but based upon what I've heard at this point, the Court apparently used the Eighth Amendment as justification as they had on several occasions in the past when dealing with the death penalty. The Eighth, of course , forbids cruel and unuual punishment. The authors of the Eighth Amendment obviously were referring to disembowelment, dismemberment, tarring and feathering and other forms of torture when addressing the issue of cruel and unusuual punishment. It's doubtful they would approve of this most recent pronouncement by the Court.

This seems to be yet another attempt to use the Supreme Court to reverse legislation of the 38 states which still have the death penalty. Whether the death penalty should be continued or not is an issue worthy of debate. That debate, however, should be reserved for the legislative chambers of the states themselves and not decided by 5 appointed members of the judiciary.

The Court put a moratorium on the death penalty on June 29, 1972, resulting in 152 Texas cases being commuted to life sentences. One of those former death row inmates, Kenneth McDuff was released from prison after serving only a portion of his "life" sentence. He killed again, was caught, tried , convicted and given the death penalty a second time. He wasn't so lucky after that one. He eventually was administered $86.08 worth of sodium thiopental and pencurim bromide (source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice) and by all accounts has refrained from committing any additional crimes since he was executed.

Texas has led the nation in several categories involving the implementation of the death penalty. Texas has executed 336 since The Texas Penal Code was revised in 1974 while some states like Tennessee, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho have executed only one each since that time. We were one of the first to use an electric chair ("old sparky") and used it on 361 convicted murderers from 1923 until 1964. We were one of the first to execute a woman - Karla Tucker, known as the "pick axe" murderer (if you haven't heard about that case don't ask -just go with it).

Texas has 446 on death row and according to TDCJ, they are costing us $61.58 per day. This is in addition to the one million dollar plus cost for each of their trials.

Here's my solution. The Astrodome, once the "Eighth Wonder of the World " sits mostly unused since Reliant Stadium was built. Why not put it to use, empty death row and not only save money but make a nice tidy little profit. You've no doubt seen "extreme fighting" on television, or at least heard of it. Why not have it in The Dome between evenly matched death row inmates?

The fighters would be strictly volunteers. No one would be forced to fight but if they did and did so honorably, they could become eligible for parole. The losers, of course would be dead. In any case, death row empties and we save millions.

Child molesters would be castrated during halftime. Don't go out for a hot dog - make that a hamburger, or you might miss Michael Jackson doing a really mean moon walk.

In the meantime, we charge admission at $50.00 a pop, $75.00 with dinner and sell the Dome out every Saturday night. The pay-per-view rights along with the DVD sales would be enormous. We could allow gambling on the outcome of each match and the state's share of that alone would be in the millions. Then there's the foreign market. Hell, we Texans would never have to work again!

Would the U.S. Supreme Court allow us to get away with that? Yes, if George W. gets to appoint two more justices, including Judge Rehquist's replacement. After that, all we need is for one of the five who voted in the majority to retire, resign or otherwise depart. One of the five, Judge Kennedy is rumored to be near retirement. Then we're ready for Saturday night at the Dome. To hell with Nascar and wrestling. Bring on the gladiators.