Thursday, January 31, 2008

Learning the Hard Way

About a month ago, I was at a bit of a crossroads in the physical therapy for my shoulder. There's this guy, Larry, whose job it is to push, twist, and stretch my right arm in an unnatural direction and then hold it until election day. I had always heard that you should listen to what your body is telling you and trust it. Well, my body was screaming in my ear that Larry was a sadomasochistic fiend.

Conveniently for me, circumstances conspired to give me time to assess this opinion. My work schedule was altered due to semester exams, then there was the Kansas trip, and then I got sick for a week. I ended up skipping a bunch of therapy appointments. The pain that Larry had inflicted upon me subsided somewhat and I smugly thought that I was right about this deal. But then I noticed that I was losing some range of motion - not good, since this was part of the reason I had the shoulder scoped in the first place.

I returned to the rehab place on Tuesday and practically had to re-introduce myself. I went through the solo drills and noticed they were significantly more difficult than I remembered. Then, because Larry was off (yeah!), the owner of the joint, Randy, took over the job of manipulating the arm. Well, it didn't take long before Randy had me begging for a phone to call Larry and apologize. If Larry is a 747, Randy is the Concorde. I try not to show my pain, but trust me, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth...and Randy cared not one iota. The whole idea, he said, is to break through any scar tissue and also to keep any more scar tissue from forming.

When Randy finally tired of my whimpering and allowed me to leave, I noticed how much more free the shoulder was. I did my personal exercises at home that night and again last night. I returned to therapy today and got the usual torture, this time from Larry. Again, I walked out with a good looseness in the shoulder even though I had been in agony just minutes before on Larry's table.

So, I guess these folks know their craft. I've realized that P.T. may be one area where one shouldn't necessarily listen to one's body, but instead turn a deaf ear.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Super Bowl Week and other mistakes...

See that irate pilot? He feels the same as I about the week that is now upon us. To me, nothing better exemplifies our society's misplaced priorities than the over-blown garishness of this annual disappointment. This entire week will be devoted to parties and debauchery, meeting and greeting and out-of-control spending. It will be important years from now (they think) to be able to tell your minions that you were there for the '08 Super Bowl.

This much ado about so much nothing exactly parallels the blight of materialism that afflicts America. We're snookered into thinking that the car of our dreams (or house, TV, toupee, whatever) will escort us into happiness that we'll never lose. With the anticipatory buildup that longing for toys brings, we soon find that, even with the Lexus in the driveway for all to see, the unabashed joy we initially felt has vanished and we're back to life as usual with all its problems.

Advertisers and networks will spend this week breathlessly extolling next Sunday's game as the game to end all games. It's that way every year. But the results are all too familiar - usually a lopsided game that makes one wonder why there was all the hoopla in the first place.

Jesus told us the He was the way and the truth. Sadly, too many of us have detoured down the path of glitz and bling and have missed the way. Remember that this week as you turn down the volume on all the hype.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Story of One Photo

I took the above photo on Tuesday of last week. That plane belongs to the Navy and its mission is top secret. It hangars at Love Field, and I've asked numerous officials there about why it flies off each day from Dallas. I get the same answer every time: "That plane does not exist". Of course, they know it does, but the government wants them to act like nothing is going on. The rumor is that it is involved in drug interdiction along the Texas/Mexico border.

I posted the shot on "" and it quickly began to accumulate hits (or views). Within a few hours, it had 21,000 hits and had become the hottest photo for the previous 24 hours. What was causing this was the little phrase I put in the caption, "That plane does not exist". Several websites picked up the shot and posted it. Turns out those websites are frequented by thousands of folks daily. Some of the sites are devoted to conspiracy theories and are way out there. I've also gotten numerous emails asking me if there is anything else I know about the plane.

The last time I checked, the number of hits was approaching 70,000. The great thing about this hobby is that the unexpected happens with regularity. Totally random shots can generate a little income if some magazine wants a picture exactly like it. With this shot, I had no idea any of this was coming. Now I'm wondering what will happen next.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trip Notes

Well, it's back to daily routine. The wife and I didn't have a single unpleasant moment while staying with her brother and his family. We had a blast. In fact, such a blast that we promised them we would return at least once in '08, hopefully when the temp is above freezing.

There were good points and not so good points about Kansas City's airport. We got through security in record time - there was not even a line. But after we were on the other side, I noticed that all the shops were gone...they were on the pre-security check side. I wanted something to drink, so I had to exit the gate area, find a shop, buy a Sprite, return to security, take my shoes off again, and walk through the metal detector again. DFW has them beat big-time in this matter.

Once aboard our plane, I was deeply distressed because the lady in front of me wanted to sleep. (see picture below) And if you want to sleep on a plane, generally you lower your seatback. I'm a hair shy of 6'5" and this little maneuver effectively swallowed up what tiny space my knees had. I just think this is the height of selfishness. So I responded by making sure she felt my kneecaps for the next hour and a half. I was sure she would react to my bony knees by putting the seat in its original position. She kept sleeping. As we were leaving the plane, I saw her face and instead of having horns and pointed canines, she appeared to be a gentle and sweet sort...and I felt bad for what I had done.

Another problem was the 5 year-old girl who sat across the aisle. She had the whiniest voice I've ever heard (and this includes Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through the Tulips). And she whined without pausing for the entire flight. I told Carole that I felt like I was in auditory purgatory.

And finally, about halfway through the flight, the plane made a sudden turn. I happened to be looking out the window at that time and noticed another jet coming straight at us on a route perpendicular to our. I grabbed the camera and took the shot you see below. I had to act fast because it was closing on us at 500+ mph. It's hard to believe, but it passed just under us. I'm gonna assume that no FAA separation rules were violated, but mercy, it looked close.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Meanwhile, here in KC...

On our flight north yesterday, the pilot kept reporting that the current temperature in Kansas City was -1, as though he were performing some sort of public service. Then the flight attendant came on and said the temp in KC was a "balmy -1". We saw plenty of mini-icebergs floating in the Missouri River.

I think the lowest Fahrenheit I'd ever experienced prior to this trip was a +1. When we stepped outside the terminal, Carole and I were immediately taken aback by how sharp and invigorating the air was. But it was a good thing her brother quickly pulled up in his vehicle since I would guess "invigoration" would turn to frostbite and hypothermia rather quickly. You know it's cold when the natives up here are saying that it's really cold. Seems like if it's that arctic outside, we should be able to see the northern lights.

Doesn't look like I'll get to experience the blizzard I wanted. You know, the kind that causes the farmer to get lost when he tries to walk the 20 feet from his house to the barn. I just don't know how the early settlers to the Midwest dealt with all the weather. They had stifling heat in the summer, blizzards in the winter, tornadoes in the spring, plagues of grasshoppers every now and then, and no Weather Channel. I would have stayed in the covered wagon until we got to Santa Monica.

To this point, our little trip has been pure joy. Smooth flight up, nice snow-covered scenery, wonderful hosts, and twin 2 year-old nephews to play with. We went to the Overland Park Church of Christ this morning and enjoyed a very inspiring worship. Sure did have to step sprightly from the parking lot to the church building, though. Didn't want any more invigoration than necessary.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Off to K.C.

No eloquent, gripping blog today. But I've got some ideas ricocheting around the cavernous open spaces of my brain. One is an expose' of the street where my beautiful wife grew up. It will be thrilling stuff, methinks.

We are off to Kansas City tomorrow morning for a 3-day visit with Carole's brother, Joe, and his family. Temperature should be in the single digits when we touch down and will probably stay under 32 the entire time. Uh, I have no plans to do a lot of outdoor activities. I do admit that I was secretly hoping for a blizzard because I've never been in one. That's fairly stupid, like longing to be struck by lightning just to feel my fingertips tingle.

We are looking forward to this little excursion, if for no other reason than to get away from the daily routine a bit. Of course, anything involving flying is stimulating to me. The only drawback I see is the ever-humiliating interaction with the TSA screeners, whose job is apparently to reduce me to a mental midget, and a barefoot one at that.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


The first quarter of the Cowboy game just ended and I'm upset with myself for caring so much. This whole business of sports and the passion they stir up is hard for me to get a handle on. Even though I'm totally wrapped up in the game (the Cowboys just tied it up), I can no more explain why (oops, the Giants are challenging the score) than I can tell you why my Dad ate licorice.

I mean, other than a vague geographical connection (touchdown upheld!) to the Cowboys (isn't that a strange thing to call someone..."cow" "boy"?), why should I care? Those fellas are not my neighbors, they make far more money than I, and in most cases, their core values are light years different from mine. I have as much in common with Terrell Owens as I do a Chilean ocelot. And even given the local connection, why should I be so excited that some athletes who reside in the Metroplex can whup up on some other athletes who have New York addresses?

And I have always felt that the enormous importance society places on winning is curious. I remember (vaguely) my college days...and a bunch of us guys played a lot of tennis. On rare occasions, I would win a set. And I always felt a bit sorry for my opponent. I mean, had I rendered him suddenly inferior as a human being? Of course, he surely felt devastated after losing to a ridiculous excuse for a tennis player. But why should we draw joy from doing something better than someone else? Is that a Christian fruit of the spirit? (Marion Barber just got a big first down.) Maybe the attitude should be, how can I help my opponent win today? There's an interesting verse in Galatians 6: "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else."

Back in the '90's, I would get absolutely livid about 4 times a year. Those were the occasions when Dallas Christian's basketball team would play against First Baptist. If you weren't cued into the situation, you might surmise that these would be polite affairs, filled with "excuse me's" and "how are things?". Nay, nay. Folks from both sides checked their Christianity at the door and spent the next two hours screaming at the refs and belittling mothers of the other side's players. I wanted to go to mid-court and scream, "THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING! IT MAY HAVE ETERNAL IMPLICATIONS!" (The Bovine-boys have a nice drive going.) I'm so proud of my son Blake because he maintains his Christianity even in his role as a coach. I'm so proud of both my sons because they refereed games during their college years as their part-time jobs. They both endured crazy fans without pulling a gun and teaching them a lesson.

Well, there's a minute left in the first half and the Calfboys have a 3rd down and goal. It's a critical time.

Or is it?

(Pssst. They scored!)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fun and Games

On Monday, I had the challenge of helping Carole babysit two of our grandkids, Maddie (age 3) and Macie (11 months). Macie is decidedly low maintenance most of the time and is the best baby I've ever seen. The tricky part would be entertaining Maddie, a smart, high-energy bundle of curiosity.

Lately I've been teaching Maddie how to use my camera - the same camera I use to take pics of airplanes. She is fascinated by it and I would love to have her someday become a serious photographer. Yes, I know it's risky to have a 3 year-old mess with something this expensive, but hey, I need an excuse to upgrade my equipment. Monday, I thought I would show her how to set the camera up for "delay" shooting, where you can focus the camera, push the shutter button, and run get in the picture before it fires away. Well, one thing led to another.

Soon, we had the camera resting on a coffee table. Maddie would push the shutter button...and at that point, there would be 10 seconds before the picture would be snapped. Then, she would run to the other side of the table and plop on the floor, where I was waiting. The game was, we would lie there on the floor pretending not to care about having our picture made. Then with about 2 seconds to go, I would yell out, "PICTURE!", and we would quickly pull up just in time to get in the shot. For some reason, we both found this enormously hilarious. It was certainly fun for this 59 year-old to act like a kid again. Here are some of the shots that resulted from this frolicking:

Friday, January 04, 2008

Tonight, there is hope...

Yeah, I know. Some of you saw the title to this blog entry and thought maybe our commander-in-chief had figured out how to pronounce "nuclear".

But no, this is about food. For the past few years, I have been on a quest that rivals the search for Noah's ark. Yes, friends, the art of restaurant-style home-cooking has become such a lost art that I've basically been depressed (not to mention under-fed) for the better part of two decades. I remember the first time I sampled a Black-eyed Pea, I thought a culinary zenith had been achieved and that my homestyle hankerin's had been assuaged forever. But then they got bought out and food quality dropped.

Actually, I had found chicken-fried nirvana as a college student in Abilene in the late '60's at a boarding house called "Ma Brown's". Miss Brown basically sold seats in her dining room to outsiders and baby, it was all you could eat for fifty cents. I and some of my buddies put her out of business. We wore black arm bands for a month.

But for a long time, the search has been on for someone, yea anyone, who could make decent mashed potatoes and chicken fried ________ (feel free to fill in the blank). And tonight, I'm proud to report the astoundingly good news, both to fans of southern cooking and cardiologists alike. The strange name of the place is "Cooppies". Carole and I found it in the Firewheel area of Garland this afternoon.

Fried chicken with the best crust ever. Mashed 'taters better than Fran Clift's, something I never thought I'd say. Macaroni and cheese better than Mom's. Sweet tea. I made such a fool of myself that there simply was no will left in me to sample their crumbly cobblers. And had Carole and I opted for water instead of tea, our check would have been around $17.

So for those of you in the Dallas area, check it out. Take a few friends. My number is 972-771-xxxx.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Update on Mom

Since Carole and I will be in the Baylor area tomorrow afternoon, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to pick up Mom's car and remove any temptation to take just one more trip. But I was worried that when she heard my plan, she might change her mind and put up a protest. But she didn't. She said that she briefly thought about trying to drive to the beauty shop again, but got scared. She said that, as a result of her "incident" the other day, she had lost all confidence behind the wheel.

My siblings and I can decide how best to dispose of the car during the next few days. The important thing is to get the car out of her garage. By the way, it's a 1997 Olds with a whopping 26K miles.

We are really blessed in that my bus lot is very close to Mom's house. It will be very convenient for me to run her errands and get her groceries as needed on my way home in the mornings.

I feel an overwhelming sense of relief at the moment.