Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Keys to Living

I apologize for anyone tuning in to get info on how find meaning in their life. This is about the other kind of keys.

My problem is where/how to stash my keys on my person when I'm out and about. I really envy women (and strange guys) who carry a purse and therefore have a receptacle for their keys. Of course, sometimes Carole's keys get lost in her purse, mingling down in there with all the mints, makeup, and tire-changing equipment.

Part of my problem is that I can't stand to have anything in my front pockets. I have peripheral neuropathy in my legs and the slightest bit of strange pressure can send me through the roof. I remember pulling over the school bus one day just to get a quarter from my pocket; the relief was way more than 25 cents worth.

I can almost tolerate one key in my pocket. But if that's a car key, what about the house key and the other vehicle keys? I've dealt with this in the past by merely wearing a small hook over my belt and clipping a ring full of keys onto it. But I think that looks so gauche, so grade-school custodian-ish. You remember him, too, eh? When you're in the 3rd grade, you practically worshipped him because he could open anything. And he knew exactly which of his 143 keys went to what.

Also contributing to the gravity of this situation is the size of today's vehicle keys. My 1971 Cutlass had two flat, short keys...easy to deal with. Today's vehicle keys are Swiss Army knives. Not only can you start your car, you disable a nuclear weapon with them.

So if you're reading this and you're a guy, first of all, get a life. Secondly, tell me how you do your keys...what works for you. I won't leave the house until I get a viable solution.

Monday, June 29, 2009

One in Jesus

Here is a great website, full of thought-provoking discussion:
The man behind the thoughts is Jay Guin, an Alabama lawyer and a Church of Christ elder.

After you've clicked on the link, scroll down a bit to see a fascinating treatise on "ministers guilty of sexual sin".

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Why I Don't Own a TV and Rarely Go to Movies"

But I happen to endorse nearly everything he writes.

And we did get the truck. No more negotiating for a few years now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

So, I'll try again tomorrow...

It's extremely late on Thursday evening. I have found a couple more extremely attractive Honda Ridgelines via the 'net, one at John Eagle Honda, the other at Park Place Lexus. Either would look good in my garage. All I need is some cooperation on their part to lower their asking price a bit. Sigh...more negotiating upcoming.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Low Can You Go?

Of all the varied life experiences that come my way, I would rank negotiating with a car salesman right there with back surgery and weed-eating on a hot day (something I just did, btw). Of course, this is just about the only legitimate American arena where the fine art of give-and-take is still viable. I really like the idea of CarMax, where every car's price is posted and non-negotiable.

It seems that every six years or so, I'm sequestered in a tiny office trying to buy a vehicle from a salesman who smiles too much and is way too friendly. I emerge from these discussions feeling absolutely dirty, as though I had spent the evening in a tavern filled with drunks and lifelong Ranger fans. The core of the seediness is the premise on which the car dealer negotiates: "I'm giving you our final offer. We simply cannot go any lower. After all, we have to make a little profit, you know." The truth is that they CAN go lower and WILL go lower if you stare them down and try to make your face look like a bulldog's.

The other problem with buying a new or slightly used pre-owned car...stop right here. Whoever thought up "pre-owned" is forever enshrined in the Auto Dealer Hall of Fame, a lovely structure just across the street from the Funeral Directors Hall of Fame, a place with a bust of the person who came up with "pre-deceased" and acted like it was a real word. Anyway, my other problem with the buying process is simply the amount of money that it requires. How many vehicles have I bought that cost more than my first house? Seven? I keep thinking about how I live in the world's richest nation and how I get caught up in vehicle envy sometimes and how I should really just worry about getting something cheap that gets me to work and back.

Carole and I spent 2 hours at a local Honda dealer last night. Went in to buy a used Ridgeline pickup that their website showed as being in their inventory. Got there and found out it had been sold, probably days ago. The salesman said that it sometimes takes a week to update their website...hmmmm. So we test-drove another Ridgeline which was a great vehicle, but I wanted black or silver and this one was "Tafetta White" or somesuch. We decided to just check and see how much a new 2009 model would cost, and that led to the inevitable "what would it take to get you to buy a new one tonight" game, the one which makes me feel like I'd rather be weed-eating.

I almost bought one, but decided to sleep on it. I woke up this morning thinking that the dealership had been reasonable and that I would accept their lowest offer. But when I called them, turns out Carole and I had misinterpreted their final offer and that indeed, they wanted a couple thousand more and so...I declined. I hung up feeling glad the process was over. I can go about my normal routine today and not feel so pre-deceased.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Dad

Poor guy, he was part of that 40's-50's mentality which convinced men that honor as a father was achieved by putting food on the plates. The more you worked, indeed the harder you worked, the better you fit the mold of the ideal father. So my dad slugged away, pouring himself into his job at the post office, working nights and holidays because that meant more take-home pay.

All that work robbed me and my siblings of a lot of his time. So when we did get time with him, real quality alone-with-Dad time, it was rich. I have two favorite recollections in this vein. One is of playing catch with him. The other is rather weird: I was a Warner Bros. cartoon addict. Occasionally, Dad would plop down with a 30-minute set of 3 Roadrunner cartoons about to commence. He would laugh so hard that tears came to his eyes, and it somehow meant a lot to me that we shared an affinity for something so worthless.

He had integrity oozing from his pores. He was friends with everyone. He had old girlfriends stashed in multiple states and would even drop in on them unexpectedly during our family car trips, something my mom wasn't too keen on. And he buried in our collective noggins the notion to always do the right thing. Always.

I can't wait to see him again.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Well, shoot

It's a lovely Saturday, one that I had planned to spend on the lawn tractor, mowing down the surrounding fields. But alas, I've been levelled by a bug of some sort. I go from the recliner to the bed to the recliner to the bed...

This better be the 24-hour variety or I'll be one unhappy father on my day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

As seen on Oprah

I awoke from my usual afternoon nap on the couch today (ain't summer great?) in time to catch some of today's Oprah show. Now I know a lot of stuff on there is forgettable, but there was merit to the presentation today. It was a close look at what this economic situation is doing to middle-class families in these tough times.

I did not know that there are tent "cities" popping up outside some of our larger urban areas. The denizens of these tents aren't the typical homeless...they are folks who used to have good jobs and good benefits. There were college degrees on their walls. Now, they are jobless and homeless and the roof over their heads is made of canvas.

Also profiled was a company that goes to clean out houses that have been foreclosed on and vacated by the people who lived there. Many of these folks had literally left everything behind...big-screens, furniture, family pictures, birth certificates, etc. And the reason for that apparently is that when they left, they didn't know where they were going and didn't have the means to move these items anyway. And the mind-boggling part was where this company took all this stuff - to the landfill. All of the usual charitable collection places had taken all they could take.

Finally, Oprah focused on another economy-driven phenomenon: strangers moving in with strangers. A couple who is out of work but has a big house opens it up to a lady and her teenage daughter who need a place to stay and can pay some rent. In this particular situation, everyone was extremely happy with the arrangement, so much so that the homeowners are looking to rent out more of their rooms.

Carole and I immediately began talking about how blessed we are to be in good shape right now. And I am feeling a strong urge to do two things; give more to those in need, and save instead of spend. Not surprisingly, these are two concepts that my wonderful, sainted parents practiced non-stop. Since both of them had lived through the Depression, there was absolutely no urge toward materialism in either of them. As I've mentioned before, when we cleaned out Mom's house, I found that she had still been using cooking utensils that I remember as being in bad shape in the '50's!

So anyway, thanks Oprah for enlightening us today. Sure beats having some guy tell me how to do window treatments.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Strangely silent...

The flawed reasoning and outright naivete of Obama has been readily apparent in many ways lately. Here's the latest bungle. There is big trouble in Iran as the people who want something else besides an Ahmadinejad regime are taking to the streets...and the violence is escalating. These are folks who want real freedom and a chance for better relations with the U.S. and they want it now. Normally, a U.S. president would be very vocal in defending folks desperate for freedom, but there has been nary a word from Obama. I love what Gary Bauer (Campaign for Working Families of America) had to say today:

"The explanation for their silence is simple – and disgusting. The Obama Administration has spent the last 5 months reaching out to Ahmadinejad. The president publicly stated that he is not interested in regime change in Tehran and promised a policy toward Iran based on “mutual respect.” The thirst for freedom in Iran is a complication for an administration that has already committed itself to appeasing the tyrants in the current Iranian regime. As a result the United States’ moral authority has been absent during the Iranian election and the protests that have followed. Surely even this administration will eventually become embarrassed as they fail to find any words to defend the only people in Iran with whom we may have “shared values.” At a bare minimum we should immediately increase radio and satellite broadcasts into Iran and use whatever internet tools we have to reach its people."

2012 just can't get here quickly enough.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Moore 2010

Judge Roy Moore is back in the news. He is running for governor in Alabama, the election being in 2010. Of course, this is the brilliant jurist who, as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, led an unsuccessful attempt to keep a Ten Commandments monument in the state courthouse in 2003. Later that year, he was removed as Chief Justice by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

His likely opponent in 2010 is a guy who ardently supports Obama.

I've been reading Moore's autobiography, So Help Me God. It's a fascinating look at a man who came from being dirt-poor to go through West Point, on to Vietnam, and then back to Alabama to begin his life as a lawyer and judge. Throughout all of his life, Moore has stood for God with unmatched determination, eloquently defending the role of the Almighty in the founding of our country. His nemesis, of course, is the ACLU, an organization which wants God excluded from society as we know it. Even though it meant losing all he had worked for, Judge Moore never buckled in his defense of the importance of God in the formation of our government.

This guy has a chance to be a voice of reason and clarity if elected. If he wins in a landslide, the media will be forced to pay attention and a message will have been sent to those who seek to bludgeon Christianity out of existence. A sweeping victory would also, perhaps, give leverage to Moore as a candidate for president in 2012. I'm still in the dreaming stage here, but can you imagine an election with more disparity in character and philosophy than Obama and Judge Moore? It would be delicious stuff, and an opportunity to try and undo the incredible mess that our current president is making.

If you are a good conservative who is tired of the direction being taken by the forces of evil in our nation, and have a few bucks lying around just waiting for a positive use, you might want to contribute to the Moore campaign. Here's the link you need: https://www.moore2010.com/contribute

One more thing: his birth certificate shows him to be an American citizen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I'm getting braces. No, not for my knees. For those pearly whites. My wife, a grad of Baylor Dental School, has informed me that my crooked ways will lead to problems later on. Of course, there's not too much "later on" left, but I've started the process and met with an orthodontist.

I've got a narrow palate and the requisite number of teeth. They fought for territorial rights as they came in; the strong locked into position, the weak were forced to move. Someday, I'll confront my ancestors in heaven and sort this out...somebody has to have been responsible for the genetics that left me with this problem.

It is really weird to be sitting there in the dental chair at the orthodonist's. All along the walls are Polaroids of his patients and none of them are old enough to drive. I'm almost too old to be behind the wheel. I glanced at my chart as Dr. Miller was jotting down notes and in large letters he had written "ADULT" above my name. What an anomaly I must be. I haven't the courage to ask him if I'm his oldest patient. He must be wondering if the wires should be there to straighten the teeth or merely hold them in.

Anyway the wires come on in about 12 days. Should have the job completed in 12-15 months. At which time I'll immediately adopt a toothy grin.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Time's Person of the Year

It's a tad early to be speculating about Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2009, but I've already been culling through possible candidates. I don't think Obama will get it; he got it last year and, much as they'd probably like to, I don't think Time will go back-to-back with the guy. As I thought about it, the more I decided there is a dearth of world-changing folks right now. Of course, Time gives this award to the "man, woman, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that for better or for worse has done the most to influence the events of the year."

It seems a bit silly to name a machine or a place "Person of the Year", but after all, Time is a magazine run by liberals and they don't think clearly anyway. So after spending all of two minutes thinking about this, I'd like to suggest Capt. Chesley Sullenberger. It was just a few months ago that Sully and his co-pilot dropped their wounded plane into the Hudson River with the greatest of ease, and a hero was born. We are somewhat starved for heroes these days, what with the ease that the media can find skeletons in anybody's closet. War heroes? Even though there are literally hundreds of men and women who do heroic acts every day, the nature of combat today is a deterrent to producing a hero the likes of Audie Murphy. Sports heroes? Please. Too many scandals and too many millionaires.

It's a shame we can't publicize and honor real heroes like the men and women who are missionaries (religious variety) and missionaries (medical variety). They practically do their craft in a vacuum and most wouldn't want public praise anyway. There are also thousands who give their lives in selfless service to others, but who live in anonymity.

So let's go ahead and present the award to Sully. We like our heroes to be calm, cool, and steady, and he certainly fit that mold on that cold day in New York. We also prefer that they put others first, and we all know that he was the last one off the ship that day. It helps if they attempt to defer the attention to others, and Sully ceaselessly brings up his crew when a speaker mentions only him. This country knows a hero when it sees one, and we justifiably found one in this guy. I don't know if he's resumed flying again, but what a thrill it must be for the passengers to find out that their plane is being piloted by Captain Sullenberger.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Clocking out

Today I turned in my lovely Yellowhound and finished another year of school bus driving. In fact, it was my 25th year of doing this. Strange as it may be, last year was my 25th as well. I was informed in March that they had miscalculated my tenure and had mistakenly given me an extra year along the way. What's crazy about this is that I was presented a watch to honor my 25th year last June and guess what...I got another watch today to honor my 25th year.

It's been quite a year. Until this year, my route always stayed in the neighborhoods and didn't venture out onto the freeways. Of course, most years I simply picked up kids who were going to the school where I taught. But this year, I had a new route that took me to far parts of southwest Dallas, loading up with girls going to Rangel, DISD's all-girl school. I drove 84 miles every day, with 90% of the driving on interstate highways during rush hour. As of today, I had accumulated over 15,000 miles of driving this school year. And, the best thing is that every mile was a safe one. I never can forget that I'm carrying around somebody else's dearly-loved kids. I do a lot of praying about this responsibility.

By far the craziest day occurred in April. I had made my first pickup and was approaching a red light at Loop 12 and Marvin D. Love Fwy. We could see an ambulance up ahead and knew something was going on. I stopped at the light and saw that there had been a chain-reaction accident involving 5 or 6 cars. That's bad but that wasn't the story. On a little, grassy traffic island to our right was a guy who was either "mental" or high on something. He was a bull of a fellow, about 6 ft. and 230 lbs. He was wearing only trousers...and seemed to want to attack the folks who had been involved in this accident. Wisely, they were all in there cars, locked up, and staring wide-eyed at this wild man.

Keeping a lid on this volatile situation was an even larger guy, probably 6'5", 260 lbs. He was a mountain of a fellow and all involved were certainly glad he was there, except for, of course, the bull-man. Here is where the story gets extremely bizarre. Somehow, the larger brute had tied a thick, yellow rope around the ankle of the smaller guy. And every time the crazy man charged toward the autos, the bigger man would jerk the rope, sending the bull-man face-down onto the grass. The smaller fella would angrily get to his feet and go after the bigger man, but to no avail. He simply couldn't out-muscle the guy. Then he'd charge the cars again and again have his left foot jerked up in the air and again he would pancake on the ground. The ambulance was parked by the little island and the paramedics were leaning against the vehicle, wanting nothing to do with either of these men. I'm sure they had requested police back-up. Of course, everyone watching, from the paramedics to the folks in their cars to kids on my bus, had all kinds of questions. Who were these guys? Were they involved in the accident? What was the problem with the, uh, crazy guy? And for pete's sake, how did he come to have a large yellow rope around his ankle? Had the bigger man put it there as sort of a leash to control the smaller guy?Unfortunately...very unfortunately, the light turned green. The final act in the drama seen by my stunned-speechless students was the mental-man charging the bus with both hands raised in the air. He got about three steps headed our way when he was summarily flipped again. I...did...not...want...to...drive...off!! Pulling away from this scene was going to leave more unanswered questions than the end of an "All My Children" episode. But I had no choice. I rolled away, much to the consternation of the girls.

We pass that intersection every morning, and often, one of the kids will start talking about the day we saw a guy on a leash try to attack folks. It was both funny and a bit scary, and definitely sad. One can only hope that the poor guy is getting some help, regardless of what his problem was. Maybe some day soon, I can tell you about the morning (years ago) when the momma of one of my male riders drove off with him draped across the hood of the car. What a great job this is!