My Many Interests

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year 2021

As I peruse my Facebook memories from previous New Year's Eves, I look to writing this one in the time of Covid. I think back on the past months and look for a little perspective and I search for the silver lining.

But in the end, 2020 sucked. It took from us people who still had a future ahead of them. It took from us our freedom. It took from us our time and energy. I am ready for it to go. See ya, don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!

So, for 2021, I wish you health and happiness. We are all stronger for having gone through 2020 and yes, we are still struggling, but the new day and new year is another opportunity to try again. Stand up, dust off the dirt, and put up your dukes. Remember you life is in your control. Make good decisions. Make informed decisions. Live your life!

Most folks go out and make a long list of resolutions. You know what? Just pick one thing that will make you happy and knock it out of the park. Even if that thing is going to get a good hamburger from your favorite restaurant. Small happies make a happy life. It's cliche' but it's true, it's the little things. Happy New Year to you and yours and much love from me and the Kid.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – Write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. ~Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wreaths by Nicole Makes a Great Gift for a Service Member

I was just watching the news and saw this clip on a young woman who is making a craft that is a great idea for service members. Texas Air Force Staff Sergeant Nicole Pompei takes old uniforms and makes wreaths out of them. She has received such fanfare from folks after the video showed that she now has a one year waiting list. Here is her Facebook page and the clip that ran on CBS News.

Facebook - Wreaths by Nicole

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

What New Year's Traditions Do You Celebrate?

The best way to start off the New Year has many examples. Growing up in Louisiana, we always ate turnip greens, cabbage and black-eyed peas for good luck. If you throw a little pork in with any of them, it would increase your luck throughout the year. Mix it together in different combinations and you have Hoppin' John. The greens and cabbage, of course, represent green money and the black-eyed peas represent coins, and you can't go wrong with a little 'golden' cornbread.  Folks with deeper Louisiana roots had King Cake baked with a little baby in it. If you got the piece with the baby, you were assured luck for the new year. And let's not forget about some tamales celebrated in Hispanic culture and beyond!

Hoppin' John - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock
Hoppin' John - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock
There are plenty of food related traditions such as eating twelve grapes, one for each month of the year. You can't go wrong with food, though I had never heard of not eating lobster or chicken. According to the tradition, lobsters walk backwards thus reversing your luck and chickens have wings and your luck will fly away. I guess if you can believe in the greens and peas, you might as well believe in this, huh?

I've been halfway around the world but only experienced New Year's Eve in one foreign city and that was Naples, Italy. When I was their in the late 80's, we were warned to be off the streets at midnight as Italians believed in "out with the old." Amongst the sound of fireworks could be heard the thunder of furniture and appliances hitting the streets as the items were tossed off balconies and out doorways. What a way to celebrate though I've read that it's not as celebrated as it was then.

Below are links to some of the more prominent traditions around the world. Do you celebrate a tradition that isn't quite as mainstream?

Country Living - 15 Best New Years Superstitions That Could Bring You Good Luck in 2021

Are you sleeping enough?

Someone on my Facebook page asked how much sleep everyone usually got. The answers ranged from enough to not enough. You know, the general consensus you would expect.

I have to wrangle my sleep patterns to get enough. I feel like Dr. Frankenstein when it comes to piecing habits together to make sure that I get enough.

There are several things that contribute to my lack of healthy sleep. Some I've always had and some are brought on with weight gain and old age. I never lack of reasons.

According to the Sleep Foundation, my kid requires more sleep than I do and I can see that. She expends more energy in her day than I do. But, she also doesn't have any of the problems that I exhibit, so when she get 9-10 hours of sleep, it's a good 9-10 hours. I, on the other hand, according to the Foundation, only require 7-9, but that requires me to sleep a full 10 just to get it. Here's all of the factors that affect me.

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay 

Night owl - I have always been a night owl. From the earliest recollections, I've always been more wound up at night. That may have come from my father being a shift worker and me and my brothers staying up late for when he came home. It might also have been just a natural biorhythm that puts me out of sync with a majority of the world. I've never been a morning person. A good day for me is sleeping until 11am and then getting up and going by 1pm. I really hit my stride late in the afternoon and could stay up until 2am or 3am easily. This worked fine for the years that I was a club DJ, but doesn't work so well when you have a kid.

Caffeine - I've always drank colas, starting at a very early age. I know, I know. The damage is done, no need to point fingers at my parents. It was I that continued to harm myself. I've tried curtailing my use and I've done pretty good, but if I drink anything with caffeine, it better be before 3 or 4pm or I'm up all night.

Sleep apnea - In 2017 I was put in the hospital for pulmonary embolisms, blood clots in both my lungs. I was told that if I had waited another 24 hours, I wouldn't be here. It was found that one of the culprits was sleep apnea. As I began to put on weight about my late 20's early 30's, sleep apnea affected not only the amount of sleep I was getting, but how much oxygen my body was getting. This worked hand in hand with other factors to give me blood clots which almost killed me. I did a sleep study shortly after my leaving the hospital and found that I was waking up 113 times an hour. Yep, I was impressed too. So, now I use a cpap and get much better sleep, but not the way I'd like as you'll find in the next paragraph.

Medication - I am on numerous medicines, one of which makes me go to the bathroom. A lot! It's for blood pressure and it's called Furosemide and it's a beast. I was contemplating a few months back about how I could get better sleep and then I wandered down the path of "what" was keeping me up. Though the VA put me on a cpap to help me sleep better, they gave me medicine that made me NOT sleep better. I researched my drugs and found that though they had me taking it once in the morning and once at bedtime, bedtime was not a good time to take it. Through online research and speaking with a neighbor who is a nurse, I found that I could take it at least six hours after the first dose, preferably in the afternoon and it should be out of my system by bedtime. This has worked to some degree. Since some of my drugs have to be taken with food, I tend to eat earlier in the evening between 4 and 5. At least I try. And then there is the remembering to take the medicine at this time, when I've been taking it at bedtime for almost three years. Working on those new habits.

Kid to school - And the last hurdle to getting good sleep is the fact that I have to wake up at 6:15 AM to make sure that the Kid hasn't overslept. As I said earlier, I'm a night owl and so this isn't really conducive to getting sleep. I have found though that if I go back to bed fairly quickly, I can be up by 9 AM with no repercussions.

My ideal schedule would be to get to the point where I could go to bed at 8 PM and sleep all the way through with maybe one pitstop and wake at 6 AM. Hopefully, this would give me enough energy to work the whole day through.

*** While writing this post, I came across this article that describes how pre-Industrial Europe had two sleeps. Not exactly like naps, mind you. Naps mean you sleep as you normally would and then take a short twenty minute to hour nap after lunch to get your energy back up. In the Navy, we usually skipped lunch and went straight to our rack (bed) and called them Nooners. In two sleeps, you go to bed at dusk, sleep about four hours, wake for two or three, and sleep another four hours. I've read where Thomas Edison, didn't necessarily sleep, he catnapped. He'd sleep an hour or two, work a few hours, sleep a few more hours and so on. But he also was able to flexible with his lifestyle, unlike most in the 21st century.

Or are we inflexible. With Covid showing us how we can work from home, we may be getting back to that ability to do things like second sleep. I might even try this since, aside from the Kid waking at 6 AM, I'm pretty flexible the rest of the day. Now to work on normalizing first breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Reflections on Veterans Day 2020

Child wearing a baseball cap
I'm a little overdue for getting this out, but it's been busy around here. I had a table at a comic book show the weekend after our little town parade and then boom! Thanksgiving was upon us, but here it goes.

I joined the Navy as a means to an end. I wanted to be a nuclear engineer but didn't have any idea how to accomplish it. Navy recruiters came to school showing a video about the Nuclear-Powered Navy and I was hooked.

I didn't end up getting my degree, but I finished out my six year service. I didn't have any desire to stay in at the time, but as the years went on, I would look back at my service with growing pride. I served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I didn't really understand everything that happened until I got back to the states and eventually got discharged in 1992. Even now, it's hard to find information on what we did, but thanks to Facebook groups, I've been able to find more and more info.

As I get older, I realize that though it wasn't my original intention, I did something that less than one half of one percent of Americans choose to do. I don't necessarily believe all conflicts are justified, but the folks that I met from Kuwait and surrounding countries during that time wanted us there. It makes me proud to have served and I support anyone who wants to join the military.

At first, I didn't feel comfortable having someone thank me for my service. I didn't know what to say to something that I didn't feel I deserved. To me, those service members who gave their lives or were in heavier combat than I ever saw were way more deserving than I. But I read an article from someone who put it in perspective. We can't all be on the frontline, but we support them by doing our jobs, like my ship, among a flotilla of ships, setting up warfare ops off the coast of Kuwait and drawing fire for main force attacking from the western desert.

When I heard of our little parade here in Winnsboro, I pulled out the old ball cap with my ship's emblem on it. With Covid, the veterans formed up out in front of the high school and listened to the high school band play the different military songs and afterwards drove off in procession to the other schools. Along the way, we got cheers and "we love you" from the kids and it felt awesome. There were several times when I thought I would tear up. My daughter and her friends were so excited to see us drive by and my heart was full seeing all of the kids.

I love this little town and it's American pride. I know America isn't perfect, but what truly makes America great is the fact that there are so many people working together to make it great. Do we still have racism, poverty, injustice and inequality? Yes, but it's our constant stride together to make it better that makes me proud of America and my service in the military.

Thank you to those that served and are still serving.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Danny Elfman Releases First Single in 36 Years

For the first time in thirty-six years, Danny Elfman releases a single called 'Happy'. More commonly known for being Tim Burton's go-to composer, Danny is responsible for the BATMAN (1989) theme, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE CORPSE BRIDE, and the theme to THE SIMPSONS. For many of his fans, they will know him from his original band Oingo Boingo who gave us 'Dead Man's Party' and many more.

After signing with Anti-/Epitaph, 'Happy' hits the streets with an ode to 2020 it would seem. Gruesome effects bely the lines that state he is "so happy." It's typical Elfman macabre and I'm glad to see him back. Check out the video below and also "Dead Man's Party."

***Warning*** There is foul language if you are concerned with that.

HAPPY - Danny Elfman

DEAD MAN'S PARTY - Oingo Boingo

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Autumn Trails Is Almost Over

Autumn Trails is something that's been happening in Winnsboro for sixty-two years. We visited for the first time last year and enjoyed the fun, but was really won over by the friendliness of the area's inhabitants. This is one of the reasons that we decided to leave the Dallas area and move out here, in addition to my parents both being within 35 miles of town, instead of two hours.

The many festivities included rodeos, arts & crafts, parades, trail rides and a flea market spread out over the weekends of October. The first weekend hosted barrel racing at the Winnsboro Rodeo Arena. The Kid would love to do this if we only had more room in the apartment for a horse. And barrels. The following weekend saw the Trail Ride parade and mule rodeo. See my previous post about the mule rodeo, which was tons of fun. 

This past weekend was packed with plenty for everyone. There was a Antique Car Parade, trail ride, and classic car show with old cars from just about every decade over the last one hundred years. The Bowery and other streets were blocked off for the Arts & Crafts fair while the Kid and I hosted a spot over at the city park for the Trades Day, Swap Meet, and Flea Market. We missed out on the Chili Cookoff and Pie Baking Contest, but we'll definitely make it next year. We suffered through with a little rain on Friday and cooler temps all weekend, but not enough to not have fun.

There is another event for the last weekend of the month. The Jack Cross Livestock & Dairy Show celebrates 50 years at the Jack Cross Pavilion at City Park Saturday October 31st. Though no where near as big as the Stock Show in Fort Worth, which is canceled by the way, this should entertain young and old alike.

Though not part of Autumn Trails, the downtown area will be hosting a trick or treat event for the kids at all downtown businesses from 4 to 6pm, so be sure and bring the little ones out for that.

Have a happy and safe end to Autumn Trails and a safe and happy Halloween!


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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ever been to a mule rodeo?

We've lived in Winnsboro for eight months now and even though I've known about mule rodeos, I've never actually been to one. Well, tonight was the first and definitely not the last time we go to one.

In the time we've been here, we've become rodeo geeks. We don't ride, but we love to watch and experience rodeo culture. The July 4th Rodeo was really exciting and Lilly was set on wanting to be a barrel racer. After I explained how we lived in an apartment, horses were expensive, etc etc, she quit harping about it.

Then last night she decides that we should get a mule because she thought some of the events looked fun. I have to admit, I think they did too.

Below, you'll see some of the photos and some video that I took. Have you been to a mule rodeo before? If not, and you get the chance, do not miss out on a lot of fun!






Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Looking for Bigfoot and Other Haunts in East Texas

I grew up on the Arkansas line in Northeast Louisiana. Too far north to be chased by the Rougarou, we still had our share of haunts, haints, will-o-wisps, Bigfoot and a myriad of other supernatural encounters.

Morehouse Parish, where I lived, is home to the world's longest bayou, Bayou Bartholomew. It wanders 360+ miles through southern Arkansas into Northeast Louisiana to eventually feed into the Ouchita River, right outside of my hometown. Just an hour to an hour and a half east, you start to get into the Mississippi River flood plain that makes the soil great for growing cotton, soybeans and other crops. But the biggest export out of this area up to a decade or so back was lumber and paper products, until they started shutting down the paper mills. Yep, woods for miles and miles and you didn't know what was hiding in them.

In Morehouse Parish, we had reports of a Bigfoot roaming around. In fact, the local paper ran an article about a sighting on April Fool's Day. That didn't slow anyone down from believing it which shows how bad folks wanted it to be real.

In addition to Bigfoot, we had other weird places. One such place was a stretch of road called Girl Scout Road. I don't know where that name came from but there were always the rumors of devil worshippers to an old lady who was said to be a witch living out that way. We used to drive it late at night looking for anything out of the norm and the only time I saw any such malevolence was the night a friend and I took a short cut home from church. We witnessed a very large bonfire but didn't see anyone tending it. Of course that could have been because of the speedy departure when my friend gunned the engine of his '67 Cougar and got us out of there.

One thing that I did witness was in Southeast Arkansas. A girlfriend and I joined a couple that we knew and headed up to a spot that was simply referred to as the Light. The tale that was told is one that has been repeated all over the country. A long time ago, a train conductor was checking the track when he fell and somehow the train rolled over his neck freeing his head from his body. Through supernatural powers his body now walks that track, which has since all but disappeared, waving his lantern to and fro' looking for his head.

The male friend told us of his experience with it along with tales of his family who had seen it. We set up at a spot down the road a bit from where the light was supposed to appear. It was well after dark and nothing could be seen for about an hour. Then one of us noticed what looked less light a lantern but more along the lines of a patch dark that was not quite as dark as the rest of the night. A few more minutes and then, yes, it was a light that resembled the light source that a train conductor would use. Not a flashlight but an old-fashioned kerosene lamp. And it was coming towards us. It eventually died out and did not reappear, but it was enough for me. I will not say for certain that it is that doomed conductor, but something definitely did put on a show that night.

Where I live now in East Texas with the abundance of woodlands really reminds me of where I grew up. This makes me wonder what is roaming those areas, too. So what stories have you heard or actually witnessed yourself? Have you heard the calls of the Sasquatch or have you witnessed the will-o-wisps trying to lead wanderers deeper into the woods? Tell me your story, I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Musical Memories

 I don't listen to radio much anymore. Pretty much the only stations that gets played in the car is one of the Kid's Pop stations with the same ten songs on repeat. There are maybe two songs out of the bunch that don't irritate my ulcer. And that's saying a lot.

When I do get to listen to something I like, it's usually met with sullen silence from the progeny and I will eventually relent. You know how it goes; It's better for her to be happy and you suffer in silence than the other way around.

When I had my Google Pixel (original) I would listen to my 91X app through an audio plug into my dashboard. 91X is a station that's been around since 1983 starting on the Baja Peninsula and eventually moving stateside to San Diego. I was first introduced to them while I was stationed in San Diego for electronics training with the Navy. They played alternative which back then included my favorites The Cure, Oingo Boingo, and The Cult, just to mention a few. Unfortunately, since I've upgraded to a Pixel 4, I can't wire it to the dashboard because the Pixel 4 does not have a headphone jack. That's really the only problem I have with the phone though. Time to upgrade to a Bluetooth jack I guess.

I also listen to 91.7 KTX out of Denton, Texas. It's format is AAA (Adult Album Alternative). I've always been a fan of this format because it's playlist varies just like my tastes. This playlist is just a forty-five minute sample of what was played this morning. They also have shows that highlight World Music, Jazz, Blues and much much more. I can pick it up on the car radio on a good day, but if I drive down a hill I lose signal just a little. Fortunately, there's an app for that!

So, question of the day is this: Are you a radio listener? Apps? Or do you value your silence (there's a future blog post about this)? If you do listen to radio or apps, what are they? Inquiring minds want to know!

91X Alternative San Diego

91.7 KXT AAA Denton, Texas

Thursday, June 25, 2020

First Impressions

So, I met Carroll and we had a date or three before I had my next shift DJing at the bar. Walked in and my best friend Dave looks up at me as I walk through the front door. Typical bartender pose, smiling at me over the glass he was polishing. "She's the one, huh." It was just a response to the big grin that I had been wearing since the first night I met her. "Yeah, it's a little early to tell, but I think she might be." He puts the glass down still wearing that grin on his face and says, "Thank God! For a while there I thought you hated women!" That was in response to the many times I had come back from a first date shaking my head "Nope, nope, nope, nope!"

And to any of the ladies that I dated and am still friends with (and there are some of you here) this story is not about you. Trust me.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Ideas Behind The 'Defund The Police' Movement

I have to admit when I heard the call to defund police, I was like most and thinking that it was a crazy idea. Then I did a little homework and checked out some articles about the ideas behind the movement. 

The overall idea is to cut police department budgets and redistribute that money to outside agencies that would then handle certain areas that the police were handling before, but weren't qualified to do, such as mental health calls, homelessness, etc. Though there are calls to abolish police departments, I think that is very drastic.

It's crazy to think that the New York City police department's budget is $6 billion dollars. That's $2B more than the World Health Organization and greater than the GDP of 50 other countries.

Here are some links to mull over. Please read. Make your own judgement. Don't take someone else's opinion and make it your own without doing your due diligence.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Brain Work

Idiocracy (2006)
We've always had to deal with rumors. Hearsay. Opinions pushed off as facts. The internet allows for the faster propagation of ideas, both good and bad. Critical thinking must be applied to weed through the chaff and we fail miserably at that.

I posted on my Facebook page about an article pointing out how photographers can take pictures a certain way that skews perception. Photogs will take a picture of a beach that shows it overcrowded and people not complying with social distancing, but when you look at it from another angle, everyone is pretty much compliant. The same thing happens with news articles and opinion pieces by media agencies. They'll spin a story in one direction, omitting important context and you've got people wanting heads to roll.

In the age of the internet, we've gotten lazy with thinking and when looking for answers. We reach for the article at the top of the page that has been positioned there by an algorithm. News articles show up in our Facebook feeds, chosen by algorithms and most of the time these algorithms don't pick it because it's factual. It's picked because it may have key words that might fit your demographic or you might find it interesting, though most of the time I don't think Facebook even really knows me.

We don't look to experts for guidance anymore, we look to Hollywood celebrities, athletes and Youtube stars. Facts be damned!

To weed out the bad ideas, we have to learn to become critical thinkers. Of course, critical thinking was never formally taught in school, at least not mine, but we are taught some critical thinking tenets. They just aren't labeled as such. After you grow up and get out of school you get lazy. You've got a job, family, kids. Or a nightlife. Or some other stress. Thinking! Ain't got time for that. So we rely on websites like Facebook and Twitter to do our fact-checking for us. As a society, a community, or a responsible citizen we should put on our big pants and do what it takes to form our own opinions and make our own decisions. That means search and find relevant articles from reputable news services. Apply a little critical thinking and come up with our own results. But that's hard work and few people are willing to put in the time to do that. It's just easier to share something that we've seen online.

I remember sitting across from a gentleman a few tables away at a restaurant recently and listening to him repeat pretty much everything I've seen on Facebook already. Not a single idea that was his own. Of course, he was a little liquored up but I'm sure it wouldn't have been any different if he was sober. We've become meme repeaters and we as a society are turning into the movie Idiocracy.

All I ask is that when faced with an article of news, just take a second to ask yourself a few questions. First of all, who published this? There are so many fake news sites that sometimes it's hard to distinguish them from the real news and it seems that some real news sites have an agenda. If it's a meme and it's touting that someone did something, then for Pete's sake, search and see if anyone else is reporting it. The first big clue is just that statement, "No one else is reporting on this!" Well, that's probably because it's not factual. Check it!

This has kind of turned into a rant, which was not my intention, but times have changed over the years and especially now, we need to embrace critical thinking and work our brains a little more. Below are a few articles to help you in this endeavor. One is a sort of cheat sheet and the other is for instilling critical thinking in kids. In fact, that one is just as good for adults as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Murder Hornets Ain't Got Nothing On The Murder Frogs

Movie Poster for Frogs (1972)
Just look whose in this movie!
My daughter and I took a walk right after sunset. I've got a bad back and so when she decided she wanted to take the long way, I reminded her that I needed to take the short route.

"Honey, we need to go this way so if Daddy's back gives out I don't have to crawl so far. Plus, in that direction you can hear the Murder Frogs and they will eat you one leg at a time. Just like we do them."

No argument over direction.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Staying in Touch!

White square highlights my camera
used as a webcam with the
DroidCamPro app for Android.
With everyone staying home because of the present situation we find ourselves in, most people are either using their computers and webcams to do work from home, staying in touch with co-workers, or keeping in touch with family and friends.

Below are two articles that I came across that I think could benefit all parties. The first is from the Dropbox Blog and is about how to rock the conference video meeting, but can be of benefit to anyone using webcams for staying in touch.

A BBC reporter on how to be a video conference rock star

This next link is how to use an old cell phone as a camera. I have two webcams and a DLSR that I use as cameras, but that camera on my phone is pretty sweet, too. I use the free version of DroidCamPro and it works great.

Zoom, Google Meet, Teams: Can't get a webcam? That old phone in a drawer can help.

Hope this helps you when you are communicating with work or friends and family.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes . . . Again

Aside from major events like marriage and the birth of the Kid, we made a really big change last month. We moved out of the Dallas area, but stayed in East Texas. Kind of like shouting distance from DFW. We couldn't move any further than that, otherwise the grandparents, and the Girl Scout troop leader would have had my hide. We're still close enough that we can visit and not take a day to travel to do it.

But we're even closer to my parents now. Mom is just down the road about 10 miles and Daddy is about 35 minutes away, half the distance that he was. Hopefully, as they get older, I'll be close enough to help out around the house for them.

There were several benefits that we looked to capitalize on by moving to the country and a smaller town. The cost of living is way down. My apartment that I'm in now is about $500 cheaper and just as nice, if not nicer than the one in Dallas. We are approximately five blocks from downtown Winnsboro, Texas. I can get out and walk without having to cross hazardous streets. There are trees everywhere! No traffic! Lilly can ride her bike all over creation and I'm looking to get one for me and then we'll start our own bike gang. The stars at night are gorgeous and I'm preparing my telescope as the evenings warm up. There are several lakes in the area. Plus,  there is just something about the country. Yes, there is a train about five-hundred yards away and it passes at three or four in the morning, but it's a train. I love trains. The church down the street chimes every half hour or so. I love that sound. It's just a whole different world and I missed it and I'm glad that I'm back in it!

As the days go on, I'll start introducing you to my new town and maybe you'll want to come and visit yourself.