Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Third Circle of Hades

Saying Houston is hot in summer is like saying the Pope is Catholic, it's an observation so obvious that anyone you say it to has the right to shake their heads then ridicule you to no end. However, these past couple of weeks have been hotter than usual, and unfortunately bone dry. Grass is drying up all over the area, in some places there are water restrictions, (though unlike where I was in California construction of water storage reservoirs has actually made some attempt to keep up with the growing population). Fortunately my house has excellent insulation and air conditioning, so I've been able to stay comfortable. I do venture out from time to time, though doing something like running marathons during the middle of the day is not enticing.

Texans in general are a tough lot, so the main complainers about the heat are wussies from places like California. So I hold my tongue and only whine to the cats, who couldn't care less in the first place.

So what's causing the excessive heat? Well.... how about a high pressure system that's enjoyed Texas so much it hasn't realized it's worn out its welcome and moved on? Even when it does, it will still usually be well in the 90's almost every day for the rest of summer, so I'm trying to acclimate myself a bit more each day. Although air conditioning is no longer a luxury in life, it's a necessity.

As for global warming... oops, almost forgot, "climate change" having any bearing, it's nonsense. Heat waves have happened before and will happen again, just as the earth will cool off and will warm up again, and almost all due to (drum roll please), the unregulated activity of that dastardly defier of envirowackos and all others who want the government to control everything, the sun! And as a point of interest, it just ended a record 290 straight days without a single sunspot, which are an excellent indicator of solar activity. Sunspots mean the sun is getting frisky, so no sunspots mean in relative terms the sun has been taking a snooze. So less solar energy is reaching the earth.

However, climates are extremely complex and the reduced amount of solar energy reaching the earth does not mean polar bears will soon be invading Houston. But this hysteria over "fighting climate change" is not only ridiculous, it is going to be very expensive for all of us if the envirosheeple get their way. I'm all for energy independence for the U.S., but calm, rationale discussion and decisions will have to be made, something this country has sadly lost the will to do.

In the meantime I'll be trying to keep my cool. Literally.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers Day

I recently finished Clive Cussler's latest, "Blue Medusa," and as usual it was very entertaining. There are the dashing, wisecracking heroes, dastardly villains, beautiful yet smart and brave heroines, lots of hi tech, lots of chases, lots of explosions, lots of narrow escapes. Great art it isn't, but then again many of the classics are real snoozers favored only by high school English teachers who get sadistic delight out of assigning them to their students.

However, with this and any Cussler novel for the past ten years, I have bittersweet feelings when I'm done reading. My dad introduced me to his books when he thought I would enjoy "Raise The Titanic." I would say staying almost that entire night to read it counts as enjoyment. Afterwards, I could always count on Cussler coming out with a new book in time for either Dad's birthday or Fathers Day. Not only did that make present shopping a breeze, but afterwards Dad and I would spend several long phone calls or exchange letters discussing the book.

The ultimate was when I got Dad an autographed cupy of "Incas Gold." He was thrilled beyond words to say the least. After Dad passed away ten years ago, I kept buying every Cussler novel the moment it came out. But it was frustrating and saddening not being able to talk to Dad afterwards.

Beyond our love for the same adventure writer, Dad and I shared a lot of interests. He got me interested in auto mechanics, and how could I ever forget mailing him the carburetor from my 1974 Mazda to be rebuilt? We also had a love of sports, (and to maintain a father son relationship I'm so fortunate Cal never played Notre Dame in football, or even worse, played and beat them). He introduced me to airplanes, and as I noted in a previous blog even at the age of four I could recognize several types by sight.

But most of all he taught me honesty and integrity in all things, he tried hard to teach me patience, which is a lesson learned with mixed results over the years. He taught me tolerance and respect for all. He taught me good manners, and to never compromise my principles. He got me interested in history, science and astronomy. But try as he might, while I do very well with statistics, I never did get very far with higher math.

He would have supported me completely during my divorce, and would be delighted with my new English wife. I'm sure he would get along wonderfully with my new in-laws. Dad could spin a great yarn, as can my father-in-law. Getting them together would provide many hours of entertainment.

There are some hurts that are never meant to heal. Dad's absence is one of them. But that hurt is not a bad thing, it makes me appreciate more and more as time goes on what he did and who he was. It's the type of hurt that keeps memories fresh. I'll see him again someday, and I know the first thing we'll talk about is getting caught up on Clive Cussler's books.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Comfort Zone

In life we all have comfort zones, places and situations that make us feel secure, satisfied, and well... comfortable. These are created by growing familiarity with something we deal with on a regular basis. For example, the first visit to a new store often brings feelings of frustration from not knowing at once where to find anything, though there is the pleasure of then discovering a section that has products we like. Still there is the sense of time being wasted wandering around wondering where everything is. This sense is especially enhanced when roaming a Home Depot looking for something as mundane as velcro fasteners.

But on subsequent visits, scattered memories of previous ventures eventually start coming together and one can confidently go right to the aisle containing the desired goods, and pick out exactly what is needed. Do note if you go to Home Depot so often you start telling their employees where everything is located, then you do need to diversify your shopping experience. Still you can confidently say Home Depot is now a comfort zone for you.

However, a comfort zone could be anything that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, such as:

Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream... definite comfort zone.
Applebee's Triple Chocolate Meltdown.... orgasmic zone.
Applebee's Triple Chocolate Meltdown after taking more than your portion from the plate you are sharing with your significant other and she's impaled your hand to the table with a spoon... not a comfort zone.
Driving in the redwood country in northern California... comfort zone.
Driving in Houston rush hour traffic at the end of a ten hour slog, missing your turnoff, and all the while being serenaded by a screaming Siamese cat who is tired of being in her carrier... not a comfort zone.
Watching Cal football... too nerve wracking to be a comfort zone.
My new house... comfort zone.
Summer weather at my new house... not a comfort zone.
Industrial strength air conditioning in my new house... serious comfort zone.
Keeping up with old friends... comfort zone.
Old Town Tomball... comfort zone.
Building models... comfort zone.
Cats "helping" me build models... not a comfort zone.
Clive Cussler novels... comfort zone.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Horse Is A Horse...

Come on, everyone can fill in the rest of the words for the theme to the Mr. Ed Show. You can't? Then you are either too young or too clueless. It was a show that on the premise was absurd, the foibles and adventures of a talking horse. The reality was a show that was quite clever and entertaining, much unlike what passes for sitcoms today. (Oh look, another dysfunctional family wanting us to laugh at their inanity). The star of course, was Mr. Ed, a cynical palomino who would only talk to Wilbur, and then get involved in antics that invariably got Wilbur into comedic trouble.

I loved the show, but for most of my life it was as close as I ever got to a horse. When I met my wife, she told me she had two horses, an elderly thoroughbred named Annapolis, and a younger Percheron named Star. On my second visit to Houston after we started dating, I was introduced to my new equine companions. To say I was nervous and intimidated was an understatement. While horses aren't carnivorous, they are BIG. The first time I was asked to give Annapolis a treat, I was afraid he'd take my hand off.

Then I watched my wife ride him, and was impressed at how she was able to control such a large animal. Star unfortunately has never been trained to be ridden, and is perfectly content to live her life as a pasture ornament. Still there is the hope that she can be trained one day.

As time went on, I got more and more comfortable being around the horses, though I never let my guard down since if one of them got spooked, I would only be a hoof print in the grass if I was in the way when the horse bolted.

The horses are stabled at a facility about 20 miles from the house. Currently they share a pasture with two other horses belonging to other owner. One of them, Donin, is an impressive Clydesdale. His nickname is "Lunch Bucket" because he's always eating. Whenever I'm near the pasture fence, he rumbles up to me expecting treats, which I oblige him with.

Annapolis is 30, which is equivalent to over 90 for a human. But don't expect him to act his age. He's in very good health and can still be ridden. He's also quite spirited. While he had the necessary equipment to reproduce removed many years ago, he's very attached to Star. One time my wife was grooming him when he saw Star along a fence on the other side of the pasture flirting with another male horse. Annapolis started getting antsy, and when he was finally released back into the pasture, he tore across, whinnied menacingly at the other male, then nudged Star until she moved away from the fence. I translated the whinnying to "Unhoof my woman you fiend!"

His nickname is Hef, after Hugh Hefner, since he still tries to act studly. Wednesday night my wife put a fly mask on his face to try and keep those noxious critters from being such a nuisance. He then raced around the pasture, whinnying up a storm, "Hey gang, check my new threads. Am I the hottest or what?"

So modesty isn't one of his virtues.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Don't Live There Anymore

I got a couple of pieces of mail today, one from the California State Automobile Association threatening to cancel my membership if I didn't renew in two weeks, the second from the California Department of Motor Vehicles saying the fees for renewing the registration on my car have shot up because they are overdue. In the case of CSAA, I can ignore them since I'm now a member of the Texas AAA. As for California DMV, one would think they'd have a clue that someone with a Texas address isn't likely to want to register their car in California. This is unless they think I get my mail in Texas, but actually commute by car about four thousand miles a day to and from California for work.

And one wonders why that state is so broke with not so sharp bureaucracies like this. I'm tempted to mail them my old license plates, after I use my drill to make them look like they have a few bullet holes, with a note stating, "This is what happens when you drive in Texas with these plates plus bumper stickers saying 'Same Sex Marriage Now,' 'Legalize Pot,' 'Ban Meat Eating Gun Owners Who Drive Big Trucks,' and the one that really gets folks riled down here, 'The Longhorns Suck.' "

And now for a Windows 7 update. I finally got the Internet to work with XP installed in VirtualBox, and lo and behold, I was able to activate XP, even though this is a previously used copy. It appears Microsoft could care less any more about XP. Unless of course, this is a ploy to lull me into a sense of false security and that the Microsoft Police are assembling a SWAT team as I type this. But I was able to download and install Service Pack 2 for XP, plus Zone Alarm and Avast anti virus. However, attempts to install PFS Works failed. It took over an hour just for the installation, then afterwards just calling up the program was so painfully slow I ended up giving up.

So I created a second virtual machine in Virtual Box, and installed Windows 2000. This time, PFS Works installed and ran perfectly. With a couple more tweaks I got 2000 to get on speaking terms with my printer. I then had a bout of serious geekdom, and got Win 7, 2000 and XP all running at the same time.

I need help...