30 November 2010

There's no place like home...

We're baaaaack!
It's a long ride from west Texas.  362 miles.  7 hours.  Survived another long road trip with my brother and we didn't kill each other. 
The ranch is very remote about 30-40 miles north of Del Rio.  No cell phone/blackberry reception (a blessing) but the ranch has satelite and internet connection, so we were able to watch some football games and keep up with the rest of the world.  Weather turned cold and windy for the weekend (~30), but at least it was dry and clear.  I like hunting in the west Texas back country - it's very rugged, sparse.  This is your typical west Texas landscape that you might picture from the old west.  Rocky, scrub brush, cacti, very dry. 
We did not see anything.  Too windy for the deer to be moving.  Despite the long drive and cold temps, I still enjoyed getting out to the sticks.  I guess that is due to the boy scout in me.  This was our last gig on this ranch.  I am bumming a ride off my brother and his company's lease and they are giving it up after this year.  Not sure if they will try to find some other place to set up shop or just let eveyone do their own thing.  In some ways, it was kinda sad.  We've been going to this ranch for about 6 years now and it has become a bit of a tradition.  The ranch manager runs cattle out there and there is always couple of dogs & cats up around the bunkhouse looking for a handout.  

Now I am enjoying the week off trying to put up the Christmas tree/lights and get some shopping done.

27 November 2010


I spotted something on the news this morning. It appears my favorite old stoner Willie Nelson was busted for about 6 oz of pot not far from where I am sitting. Appears his tour bus was stopped at one of the check points down near the border and ole Willie got popped for having some weed.

I have just two questions:
  1. What's an 80+ year old man doing with weed?
  2. Given Willie's background, is anyone surprised by this revelation?

26 November 2010


Was going to write something inspirational on Thursday, but Meleah pretty much covered most of me talking points. Good day. Ate too much. No turducken this year - just a smoked turkey and a really good sweet potato casarole made by our future nephew in law, Sherry. Cute girl. A real spitfire with a wicked sense of humor. She should fit right in with this family of nuts. Along with all of the standard thanksgiving fare, we had the typical assortment of pies (pumpkin, pecan, cobbler, and, of course, our family favorite/tradion, a butterscotch & chocolate merange pie. Both are old family recipies handed down for decades and kinda a running joke/thorn for most of the daughter-in-laws. My 87 year old mom still makes them from scratch and the recipie is mostly in her head. These kinds of merange pies are, not to be profane, a bitch to make. My wife has made several valiant attempts with good results (IMHO) but she thinks they are a pain in the ass and as refused to make them any more - even for special occasions (like her son's birthday or him coming home. I won't even tempt fate by asking for one. The fact that my mom still makes them amazes me - I won't ask for one but my brothers will. I will, however, enjoy a slice if offered. My mom, however, really doesn't eat much of them - after too many years of making them she has lost the taste for them.

Watched a great football game and team won, so life is good. Winter has finally showed up down here.  Temps dropped 40 degrees yesterday.  Was in the low 80s and we were seeing temps hovering around the mid 40s by 10 pm.  I am currently sitting on a ranch in west Texas about 30 miles from the Mexican border.  Hoping to have a go at some whitetail deer, but even if we don't see anything. It is good to get away from the office for a while.

Have a great Black Friday!

24 November 2010


There's an old saying at my school - do it more than once and it becomes a tradition. 

For the past few years, we've had Thanksgiving over here.  The wife goes all out to plan, prepare and execute a feast of ginormous proportions.  We wind up killing ourselves to make the meal and invite the entire family over to celebrate.  I am more low key on these kinds of affairs.  I would prefer to have some smaller venue, less food, less hoopla.  I was pushing for one year to go camping over the holidays (it is still warm down here at this time of year) and cook a small turkey in a charcoal oven (old Boy Scout trick).  Needless to say, that idea got voted down before I even made it to the 2nd round.  Typically, junior comes home this week, mom dotes over him (as a mom should), we get some massive bird that could feed a small country, we invite over both parents and brother & his family, eat until we are sick, drink and talk trash about the brother who is not there.  As the families have grown and the kids have gotten older, each has gone off and gotten married (how dare they?) and started their own families.  I've seen this coming for a while, but the list of attendees has dwindled each year.  That tradition is ending this year.     

This year we are not having dinner at our place.  My son is out in California on a series of job interviews and is flying back to Austin today.  Talked with him last night and he is steeling himself to brave the airport on this day.  He gets in late and won't be home until some time tomorrow.  We have been invited to go over to my brother's house for dinner and to watch the football game.  My brother has always been a bit on the excessive side when it comes to these kinds of events, so I am expecting either a fried turkey or a turducken along with your normal Thanksgiving fare.  Lots of turkey/ham, sweet potatoes, corn bread dressing, green been casserole, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, pumpkin pie.  Honestly, I could do with a snack, but I've learned not to get in the way of the cooks.  So, this year, there won't be any leftovers to munch on at 0300 or feed to the dogs.  Probably better off for my (and the dog's) waistline.   

I'll be trying to keep up my running over the holidays to stave off the calorie demons.  Only 67 days until the marathon and I am woefully behind in my training. 

I hope everyone can enjoy the week and the holidays.  Remember, only 2 days until Black Friday!!!! 

21 November 2010

What's in a name?

Burning a few days off to burn before the holidays.  Took off Friday to take care of some chores, pick up groceries, finish up some electrical projects, drop the dog off at the vet.  No real agenda for the weekend, just trying to relax and get ready for the holidays.

Took Miss Claire in for a check up/grooming.  No issues with her, but it was her 6+ month check up since her heartworm treatment.  She's got a couple of lumps on her head (not from me) and I wanted to have them checked out.  Turns out they are normal for Goldens - kinda like skin tags or warts.  Shadow had a number of them and even Grayson has one on his shoulder.  They bother me more than they bother her (I keep thinking they are ticks).  While she was in the shop, I had them some blood work on her to check out her condition.  She is a bit heavier than I would like (like me) even though both of them are very active and they are eating the weight management (low cal) dog food.  She is not overeating but she is definitely not starving.  Grayson, on the other hand, is right where he should be for his age.  Claire has a couple of years on the boy, so she is not as limber/spry as he is, but she does keep him in his place.  While she was there, she also got a bath and grooming/new hair style (aka hair cut).  Michelle is the new groomer and loves both dogs and will cut them however we prefer.  I had Grayson done last month and really liked the style - not short, but not overly long (looks like a classic Golden).  However, momma prefers them with a shorter doo.  So, on this go around, momma's opinion won out and Claire is sporting a shorter, sassy coat.  Like most typical dogs, she doesn't seem to mind the hairstyle as long as there are treats/attention involved.  

Anyway, while Claire was out, it was just Grayson and I at home for most of the day doing "stuff".  While working on various chores, I would catch myself calling Grayson by Claire's name.  Even wound up with the mashup "ClaireGrayson" a few times.  Reminds me of my younger days when my mom would tend to run through her boys names "HapMikeJerry" on occasion whenever she needed my attention.  That was one of the drawbacks of being the third child.  First two got all the glory, I was (and still am) the youngest sibling.  Of course, by the time number 3 rolls around, mom & dad are pretty much used to the occasional crisis or trauma (aka Abby's saga).  I could regale you with stories of hot coffee, broken arm, car doors, fireworks mishaps, and even a severed finger, but I'll leave those for another posting.  Suffice it to say, life was interesting growing up with two older, loving brothers.  I almost pity Stephen being an only child missing out on the love and attention and excitement that comes from sharing with your siblings.  It is an experience you cannot buy on line or learn in school. 

Picked up Claire late in the day and she was happy to escape.  She's back home being underfoot, messing with Grayson, and generally enjoying the life of a dog. 

15 November 2010

Shopping while impared

No, I am no drinking & shopping.  Although, in the past there may have been one or two on-line acquisitions that I could claim were due to that last glass of Scotch. 

I normally shy away from the malls, avoid the chain stores, drive past the shopping centers.  I do hit wally world about every week or two, but that is for dog food & treats and a few odds & ends.  And Home Depot doesn't count.  I will definitely try to avoid the stores if I am not in the right frame of mind (like never go grocery shopping when you are hungry).  I was out making a few runs Saturday & Sunday.  I decided to hit wally world, Target, Home Depot for some items and, while I was out, I was going to pick up a few items off of the list for our unit we are sponsoring in Afghanistan.  The list is nothing fancy, just some plain simple ordinary every day things that you would never think about until you were lacking.  I got this list from the mother of one of the soldiers who is currently stationed somewhere out in the hills of Afghanistan.  It is off of a running list sent back to the families from the unit. 

Below you will see a few things that was sent to me this morning.

  • Other items that are always good to send:
  • Beef jerky, slim jims, protein bars, sunflower seeds and small pkg of mixed nuts
  • Gum and candy
  • Q-tips, baby wipes, toothbrush/paste, deodorant, **I am looking for some waterless shampoo...but have not had luck....let me know if you find this!!
  • Coffee
  • Coffee filters
  • campfire cooking utensils
  • mouse traps
  • pasta
  • little toys
  • beach balls
  • spices
  • sauces
  • canned veggies/fruit
  • Warm socks (its starting to get cold there)
  • *Basically simple ingredients to make meals*
  • Also, they killed a turkey..and they are so excited, because that's what they're going to have for Thanksgiving.

As I said, I should never go shopping if I am not sober or in a sane frame of mind.  I kinda went overboard.  I have a soft spot when it comes to the military.  To some extent, I've been there.  I've served in the field on holidays, had duty over Thanksgiving, missed Christmas while on maneuvers.  I sorta know how it sucks to be away from home & family and I am glad for the blessings we have.  That's one of the reasons I volunteered to help out this effort at the company.  It is not much, but I hope that what we send will give them some cheer.  I added a few things "off list" on the hopes it will make it there on time (small Xmas tree, Santa Hats, candy canes).  Mail service is slow, so we have to get everything out by tomorrow in order for it to be there by Christmas.   

11 November 2010

Veteran's Day

11 November

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

Once again, we take time to stop and remember all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces both past and present.  As a member of that fraternity, I am humbled and honored to have served with an elite group of people who stood on the wall to protect our liberties and freedoms. 

Even today, I am reminded of how blessed my life is.  I served back in the 80's in Germany.   While we were not in armed combat during that period, but we were tasked to stand as a line of defense in Europe during the later days of the cold war.  There were days & nights in the field, countless hours of drills, exercise, practice "just in case".  But at least we got to go back to the barracks to our families.  Our troops currently serving over in Afghanistan and Iraq don't enjoy a lot of those luxuries.  One of our design engineers has been with the company for about a year.  He is around 28, has a wife and three kids (one less than a year old) and he just got called up with his Marine unit in Houston.  He leaves for Afghanistan around the first of the year and will be gone for almost 12 months.  It is hard to remember the sacrifices that people make to serve.  At least when I was deployed back  in the 80's,  I got to take my family with me.  The company is banding together to sponsor him and his family while he serves.  As an old Army fart, I volunteered to help organize the effort to coordinate a drive to send stuff to him and his unit while they are deployed.  We have also identified several others from the company who have son/daughters/family members serving active duty.               

Take a moment to stop and reflect on the sacrifices made by our vets who have served and those who continue to stand in harms way today.

07 November 2010

Football weekend

Another superb weekend.

Weather was fantastic. Road trip went well. Got to attend an outstanding football game Saturday. We were playing a ranked team on TV and I was honestly expecting to get shellacked but the boys stepped up and played some seriously good ball. I love going to a home game at Kyle Field, but the way the guys have been playing, it can painful/exasperating. Attendance would have been higher at the game but this weekend was opening day of deer season down here and a lot of old Aggs were listening to the game out on the deer lease. We actually beat up on a #11 ranked team and there was pandemonium in the stadium.

Took my trailer up to the game. There are two RV parking lots for big rigs. Not your typical generator lot where someone pulls up with a rented trailer and a hot tub and runs the generator all night long. Ours is a quieter lot that has families who have been there for decades. It is very hard to get a slot in these lots. It is a very close knit group and the list of people who have first right of refusal on these slots has been established many years ago and the only way to get a slot is for someone to give it up or die. I know, it sounds a bit morbid, but there have been situations where someone passes away and the family will retain the slot for future generations. One of my friends has taken over a slot from a couple that the husband passed away last spring. People take these tailgating gigs seriously. Anyway, the deal is if you cannot make a game, there is a website you can post up your slot for sale. First come, first served. Typically, the powered slots don’t last more than 4 hours after they’ve been posted and that was the deal with my slot. I scored my pass from a guy across town right after he had posted it. Was a nice weekend outing. I took momma and the dogs for the weekend. Grayson has done one of these last year, but this was a new deal for Claire. My parents and brother have two slots up there and make it a regular party every home game. All you have to do is show up and you are welcomed like family. A lot of student relatives (cousins, nephews) have figured out this routine and will show up for good food and plenty of libations.

Anyway, took both dogs just to get them out of the house. For a brief moment, I was worried if the activity and action would overwhelm them. HA! They were in doggie heaven. Lots of food, new smells/sights, people to meet, lots of attention. Both dogs were well behaved in the crowd and did not cause any many problems. Ok, if sitting at your feet with mournful eyes and licking your hand is a problem, then they were incorrigible. These two quickly figured out how to work the crowd and get a morsel and a head scratch. You could not tell this was their first time. Both dogs were the hit of the party and momma and I surmised that we were just there as the support crew.  

I took the opportunity to run both dogs over the weekend through the adjacent fields/woods in the morning. Grayson loves open field work and will run until his legs fall off. Claire is a bit more restrained and will typically stay closer to me, but she roaming a bit flushing some dove & quail. Both mutts came back thoroughly exhausted, dirty, smelly, and full of thistles but loved every minute. Good weekend for all.

Hope ya'll remembered to set your clocks back.

05 November 2010

Offt again

Wazup homes?  'Ere it be Friday and I be sitting again with some brain juice and hanging out with the dawgs.  Another Friday off and starting out on a 3 day weekend.  Will probably head north to catch the football game tomorrow.  Weather looks to be promising.  Been raining for the last few days, but it broke yesterday and turned clear and cold (~40s).  Should be a cooler, but dryer weekend.  Hello Fall. 

After some casual observation, I am beginning to think these dogs of mine got it pretty easy.  Indoor dogs, plenty of food & water, walked 2x per day, unlimited belly rubs, 1 hour of frenzied activity, 23 hours of sleep.  Not sure who is in charge around here.  It's a dog's life...   

Happy Guy Fawke's Day and have a great weekend!

04 November 2010

The look

Ok.  We've all gotten "the look".

It's a natural phenominum.  Try being married for more than a couple of years and you'll become familiar with "the look".  After 30 years of wedded bliss, I've seen "the look" more than once.

In even in the most hardened troopers, "the look" can send chills down your spine.  The look can stop a full grown bear in its tracks.  A smart man will recognize the look and know things are amiss (Danger, Will Robinson!  Danger!).  Some will foolishly try to ignore the situation and carry on with whatever activity or conversation that earned the look (typically, those are the ones who walk with a limp).  Others will dive for cover.  Some will try to make amends to avoid further exposure.  Still others will try to appease their partner on the sliver of hope that they can get back into good graces.  

As I said earlier, I've gotten the look a few times over the course of my married life.  I  dare say that I have earned it more than once.  Aw, heck, as with a lot of the calamities or excitement I've experienced in my life, I can say I probably earned it.  One of my favorite quotes has been:  "We've all got it coming, kid".   

Anyway, I "earned" the look this week.  Great weekend.  Weather superb.  Drove up to College Station and got to see a great game.  We beat a rival that been stomping us for years and this year was our time.  We never know which team will show up on the field, so we celebrate wins when they happen.  This weekend we play Oklahoma (ranked #11) so it could get ugly.  Drove back late Saturday night so I can get some things done on Sunday.       

Sunday, while working on a report, Momma and I were having our typical ping pong converstation (no fixed topic) - parents, car repair, son, DWTS, brother, politics.  I was making lite of something (sister and her horde of cats, the son's plans, DWTS, etc.) when I earned "the look" (Duh Duh DAAAA).  The only thing that save me from the full blast was Claire.  Note:  Having a cute, affectionate, licking dog between you and your advisary sometimes deflect some of the impact, but it will only provide you with some temporary cover.  Unless you make amends with your partner or leave the residence, you are in for some stormy seas ahead.  Fortuneately for me, it was Halloween and I was able to bribe my way out with Chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.