Saturday, April 27, 2013

Living Vicariously Through My DVR...

I have lamented the fact that we are often tied to our DVR, zipping through the TV commercials and skimming through a standard half hour sitcom in about 20 minutes or so.  There are so many shows in the queue that Eva becomes nervous if we inadvertently watch 20 seconds of a commercial, lest that increase the time needed to watch a full show.  As the sun sets later in the evening, we have more time to enjoy the outdoors and do yard work, but of course, this increases the DVR backlog.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is what the youngsters call a 1st world problem.

So instead of whining, I’d like to update you on some of the shows that we do find time to watch.
First off, we are fast approaching season finales of The Americans and The Following.  I may have mentioned before, I am fascinated by The Americans, a Russian spy couple who live next door to an FBI agent who is currently unaware that he is chasing his neighbors.  I don’t know how realistic or accurate the tradecraft shown is or was, given that the show takes place during the 1980’s, but I just like it all.  Eva on the other hand hates both of the spies, not because they are spies but because she dislikes their personalities.  She politely watches me watch the show, and I appreciate that.  If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure they will show the entire season again.  Give it a shot.

Eva does like The Following and even if you have to suspend reality and accept the far reaching network of new disposable characters each week who conveniently show up just in time to wreak havoc on Kevin Bacon’s character, you may enjoy it too.  The show is violent and not nearly as predictable as I expected it to be.  People who seemed to be main characters in the pilot or first or second or third or fourth episode get knocked off just as easily as people who only have a five minute lifespan.  In a way, that pisses me off, but it certainly keeps you guessing.

A new show we started watching on CBS is called Golden Boy.  It is a cop show with sort of a twist.  7 years from now, the Golden Boy will be the Police Commissioner of NYC.  I’m sure Tom Selleck is amused.   So the beginning and end of each show is a flash-forward to the young PC giving advice to someone and the episode is him recounting what happened back in the old days (7 years ago) on what gave him such experience and wisdom.  If that was it, I’d just say I don’t like it.  I’d like to see Tom Selleck on Blue Bloods telling stories about what it was like 20 or 30 years ago when he was a cop (perhaps chasing The Americans in the 1980’s), but to suggest that in 7 years, a cop on the beat makes detective and becomes PC in NYC is just a bit much.  Anyway, there is a character actor who played on Boston Public and a few other shows who makes this one even palatable.  I gave up on the show after about the second or third episode but was lured back after my DVR continued to record it and Eva wanted to see it.  Check it out at your own risk. 

Oh - something that really upsets me about TV these days (besides the volume skyrocketing when a commercial comes on) is the constant use of little chiron logos on the bottom of the screen.  I don't mind so much when there is a weather warning or some breaking news, but when the local station covers the sub-titles in a show, that really pisses me off.  For example, the TV show The Mentalist uses little sub-titles to indicate the location of an investigation, say, "The Smedly Home, San Diego".  But if KENS-TV throws up some little station logo on top of that, you get "Home, San Diego."  I know, 1st world problems again, but you'd think that the guy putting up those advertisements could wait until after the sub-titles go away.

Good news:  Nurse Jackie is back on.  I suspect she’ll be on drugs before long.

More good news:  The Borgias is back in the full swing of things.  I’m frankly sort of freaked out about this incestuous flirtation between brother and sister, but apparently, this was a pretty common thing back in the day, so says my watching of The Gladiator and Joaquin Phoenix’s character.  All that aside, if you had any interest in The Sopranos, you’ll appreciate The Borgias.

We still have not made it past the first episode of season one of Game of Thrones.  If we would quit watching things like Swamp People and Ax Men, we might have some time to get into it.  I also have the first six episodes of Girls sitting in the queue.  I've heard that was good.

We did watch a movie recently called Django Unchained (the D is silent).  That was a good flick, though I must say, I am a Tarentino, DiCaprio, and Foxx fan so I was bound to enjoy it.  Danny Glover Samuel L. Jackson was also outstanding.  Brace yourself for non-stop use of the N-word, and enjoy the show.

 Eva and I are preparing for our anniversary coming up this week.  What do you get the woman who has me?  A projector, of course.  Since we've moved here, Eva has wanted to be able to sit outside and enjoy a movie in the evenings.  I've frankly put it off but finally pulled the trigger on Friday.
Here we are seeing how it would look with a sheet hanging over our shed.  No bueno.  Today I'll be scouring the Internet or local thrift shops for a real screen we can hang.  That is Archer on our shed.

Anyway, tell me what we're missing so we can load up the queue. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

UPDATE: A Horse Walks Into a Bar...

So just to wrap up the whole horse situation.  We thought everything was over and a happy ending was had by all when Eva received a call from Jo and Val, the ladies from Wings and Reins horse rescue.

It turns out that the horses owners who live in San Antonio but keep the horses out here near Natalia tracked them down through the Medina Country Sheriff's office, who obviously were familiar with the horses given the number of calls received by concerned neighbors.  You would think that everybody would be happy when the rightful owners are reunited with their stray horses,  but the problem is, these horses did have some medical issues (worms and such) and in one case, something that is either abuse or at minimum, abusive negligence. 
Only one of the horses had a bridal on it, and it was clear once we were up close, that this bridal had been on for so long without any size adjustment that the horses head was growing around it.  When Jo finally got the thing off, you could clearly see the indention in the poor things face.

In addition to being out the expenses and time it took for the WAR team to come and get the horses, they had the concerns that these animals might not receive the care they need in order to get well.
As we drove out of our neighborhood, we actually saw where the horses came from (and where they are now).  As the crow flies, they are probably only a mile or so from our place, so it is easy to see how they made their way out here.  What is not easy to see is how they got out given that the property is completely fenced.  Ms. Belinda left a comment on the earlier post about how people often let the horses out to feed on other peoples property and then act like it was an accident.  I doubted that, but now I'm not so sure.

Regardless, I really do hope that these horses get the care they need and that we will continue to see them enjoying life in the pasture as we drive by.

If you would like to learn more about Wings and Reins, I hope you will take a minute to go by their web page and if you are so inclined, offer a donation.

Friday, April 19, 2013

One Cube or Two? None, Thanks...

Some years ago when I was probably in the 1st or 2nd grade, my parents took me with them to a dinner party at someone’s house.  The details have long since escaped me, but the one thing that stood out and remained a fixture in my mind was that this family had a full sized bar set-up, and behind the bar was a refrigerator filled with Cokes* of all varieties.   This wasn't the kitchen fridge, this was a totally dedicated area for drinks.  I always remembered how impressed I was with the idea of having a refrigerator with no food at all, just a bunch of sodas and beer.

I have never been much of a heavy soft drink consumer, but ever since Eva and I could afford a second refrigerator in our garage or laundry room, we have always had it stocked well with bottled water, Fresca, Coke and the like.  Okay, and beer, though that doesn’t seem to stay stocked very long.

Once our kids were older, we also began having decorative candy dishes around the house.  The dishes are decorative, the candy is real.  Generally, I was good for snagging one or maybe two pieces of candy every once in a while, but really, for the most part I could survive off my nightly bowl of ice cream and leave the candy alone.

Then something happened and around this past October, and I started eating more sweets.  My first inkling was to blame it on Halloween.   Eva bought a huge load of candy thinking we might have some trick-or-treaters, but I think instead, I ate most of it.  Then Christmas came.  Eva gave me a candy dish to take to work for my desk so people coming into my office could have a treat, though in truth, it was mostly me eating it.  In retrospect, and I'm not even sure this is it, but it could be that with my father passing, I had these memories that involved him and his sweet tooth.  Who knows?

Over a period of a month or two, I could feel the waistline of my pants getting tighter and tighter.  I’ve always been a chubby kid, but seriously, this was getting out of hand. 

Many people would be shocked to learn that I enjoy listening to a podcast called Here’s the Thing hosted by Alec Baldwin.  Yes, the guy from SNL and the Capital One commercials.  Regardless of what you or I think of his political views, the man is both funny and as I learned, one of the finest interviewers out there.  If he does ever get a shot at hosting one of the late night talk shows, I’d be inclined to DVR it.

Anyway, one day he interviewed Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco.  You can read the full transcript here.  Dr. Lustig explained his research into the obesity epidemic as well as a lot of the historical aspect of our sugar in our country.  Years ago, I survived life in the military and the need to maintain weight standards by using the Atkins diet as needed to drop quick weight, so I was already somewhat familiar with the evils of sugar-based carbs.  Dr. Atkins actually points to the beginning popularity of Coca-Cola as the beginning of our obesity epidemic.

While I was certainly one to scoff at the New York City mayor attempting to ban large sodas in his city, I have to remind myself of how I was against the San Antonio city council banning smoking in restaurants on principle, but am ultimately glad they did it.  I general, I am opposed to politicians regulating what should be personal decisions, but the real kicker here is,  there is an assumption that governmental agencies like the FDA are in place to make sure what we eat is generally not poisonous.  Mayor Bloomberg wouldn’t have to ban oversized soft drinks if they were safe in the first place, and since they are deemed legal (and foodstampable) by the FDA, you’d think they are.  Of course, everything in moderation.  I'm not here to advocate for Bloomberg or his tiny sized soda law.

I’m not trying to convert anyone here, at all.  Live like you wanna live, I say.  But for me, I made a conscious effort to stop eating sugar about a month ago.  What does that mean?  No more candy, period.  No ice cream, no sodas, no donuts, nothing with visible sugar.  I stopped putting Splenda in my coffee and stopped ordering half-n-half iced tea, opting for unsweetened, all the way.
Of course Eva reminded me as I cracked open a beer on a Friday night that beer has sugar in it.  Well, I can’t save the world.  In fact, according to Dr. Lustig, 80 percent of the US food supply has some form of added sugar in it, so I’m pretty much screwed if we play the “gotcha” game with those things I do choose to eat.

Since I retired from the military, there is no need for me to jump on the scale everyday, but I can tell you this; in the month that I have cut out the candy and sugar and such, I’ve dropped about 15 pounds and my pants are fitting a whole lot better.  And frankly, I haven't missed the candy dish or the ice cream.

* To us, saying Coke is the same as saying soft drink or soda.  You might hear someone say, "What kind of Coke do you want?" and the response could be, "Dr. Pepper."    

Thursday, April 18, 2013

West, By Goddess, Texas...

That is how Jackiesue, often known as Yellowdog Granny, refers to her beloved small town of West.  If you haven't seen the news, you mustn't have a TV or the Internet.  Last night as we watched something unimportant, I had just left a comment on Jackie's Facebook page regarding a spectacular mustard meatloaf sandwich she had made herself.  Then, another friend from Dallas posted about the explosion in West.

Following several efforts to to reach Jackie via Facebook, Eva gave up and called her, and thankfully  learned she was safe but busy assisting people of her town.  

Now that her Internet is back up and she has had a chance to rest, you really should go read her account of the situation.  You can begin reading here

Your donations can go here:
P.O. BOX #279
WEST, TX 76691

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Update: Horsey Cam...

If you missed yesterday's installment, you'll want to check it out here, first.

If you are caught up, I'll keep it short by showing you this nice video of how the folks from Wings and Reins horse rescue came out, set-up a corral and after some sweet talking and alfalfa hay, walked them into the trailer.
 Really, a lot of patience and horse whispering took place.  These people are real pros.
And, you'll need to know that Panda got the treatment today! 
 Not to mention that it got a little sketchy for my son, briefly! Yikes!

All in all, an entertaining and enlightening experience.  I'm pretty sure we don't need a horse of our own, but it was nice to babysit for a day or two.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Horse Walks Into a Bar...

And that was how my morning started.  No, not at a bar, but as I turned onto the main road heading away from our house, I came upon a passel of horses nibbling weeds on the side of the road.
 I stopped to take a picture with my iPhone to capture the event for Eva (and Facebook), and after a second or two, one of them started to walk up to my truck.  These are not wild horses - and one of them even had a bridal.

These same guys have been around our neighborhood since at least the weekend when some folks down the street woke up to find them in their yard.  We also learned that several people had made calls to complain about the wandering animals.
I know, you have to be asking, how does this translate to me coming home from work to find a bunch of horses grazing in my yard?  
Turns out that when the Medina County Animal Control folks came by, one of the guys asked Eva she could let them stay in the yard until the Horse Rescue could come for them.  She has always wanted a pony, so this is sort of the same, right?
Interesting note:  Dogs love to roll around in horse shit.  Just ask Gracie.  Eva had to hose her down outside, and for the remainder of the visit, all dogs will be on leashes!
Another interesting note:  Cats are not afraid of horses until horses make a move as if to signify that they want to eat said cat. 
So as planned, a nice group of folks from Wings and Reins Horse Rescue in Devine pulled up to our second gate with horse trailers and lots of back-up.  Really nice folks and eager to help get these horses to a better place than our yard or wandering up and down the streets.

At some point, they decided to run the horses toward a trailer.  It didn't go so well for trying to catch the horses, but I loved watching them run.

After a few tries, it was decided that our yard offered too much running area and they would need to return tomorrow with some portable fencing, lure the horses into a corner, then get them in the trailers.  We'll see how that goes.
Bonus:  As the horses were grazing, a wild turkey walked into the back yard.  Eva thinks this is a sign from above, telling her she needs to start an animal farm.  I think it is a sign that we shouldn't what until November to eat turkey.

*The bartender says, "Hey buddy, why the long face?"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Just my 2 cents...

It might have been funny if I had posted this on the 1st of April (note the postmark), but like a lot of things, this check has been sitting around in my "to do" box for a while.

Anyway, whenever we get some sort of refund check in the mail, it is unexpected and in a way, it is like winning the lottery.  Well, a little lottery.
36 cents to send a check for $0.02.  That is not a very good business case, though in truth, I doubt Eva will spend the gas needed to go to the bank to cash it, so they got that going for them.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bluebonnets Are Gone, Adirondack Fail, Fire!

No need to be nervous about the fire - nothing burnt down.  I'll get to that in a bit.
We were pretty lucky this year in the Bluebonnet arena.  It seems as though my mom's visit to Texas could not have been timed any better.  Given the dismal production of Bluebonnets along many portions of the highways around here, it was so nice to simply look out into our yard and see such an abundant crop.  But that all came to pass this week.

Friday night, I got on the mower and knocked out the empty part of the property, taking with what remained of the Bluebonnets, the big weeds and such that were starting to get a little tall.  Since my Husqvarna is strictly residential, if I waited much longer, it would have probably been an ordeal involving multiple passes and such.  Hey, I love to mow the yard but, let's not make it a job.
 The end result was that the place doesn't look all that bad.  Some day, we may have actual grass as opposed to a nice blending of green weeds to make it look like a lawn, but until then, this works.
So I have had this idea stuck in my mind for a few years that when I retire, I'd like to sit outside all day long making Adirondack chairs.  I've always been fairly handy when it comes to building things; I can swing a hammer and and use a saw.  I've even built a few things like shelves and shadow boxes and fences and such.  Having said that, I've never been particularly good at it, in a craftsman sort to of way.  I don't have the patients to sand things or wait between coats of stain.  But, wouldn't it be nice to spend some quiet time building some Adirondack chairs to busy myself into retirement?

That was the thought I had when a) I found out how much quality Adirondack chairs cost.  I want a bunch of them - like 20 of them that I can have spread around the various sitting places on our property.  And b) a friend of mine from work posted pictures of his ranch on Facebook.  He has this really nice flagstone patio with a huge fire pit in the middle, surrounded by at least a dozen or more Adirondack chairs around it.  Why should I wait for retirement to do this, I thought to myself?  I'll just build one now to see how it goes.
I consulted YouTube to watch a video on how to build one.  During the video, the guy mentioned purchasing a set of plans with templates on-line.  I went to the web page and ordered a set of plans.
As you can see, in addition to the full size templates for everything you need to cut, the plans have a materials list and it even shows how to maximize the wood purchased when you start cutting things out.
So first off, I now understand why people charge so much for these chairs.  I bought #2 lumber, knowing that the first one will turn out crappy.  Between the lumber, the screws, and glue, I'm already $45 into it, and that doesn't include the cost of the plans I bout for close to $15.  I also had to go buy some carbon paper (or tracing paper as it is now called).  That was $4.00.  I remember when you could buy a box of 100 sheets of carbon paper for 50 cents or so.  Computers have ruined everything!
So just to get started, I took two 1 X 8's and traced out the first few items that need to be cut.  Proof that I'll never be an artist, I couldn't even trace the lines on the template accurately.  Perhaps instead of drinking coffee during this task, I should have had a beer!
I whipped out my trusty jig saw and commended to cutting when I realized, holy crap, either I need a new blade or this is going to be a long, sweaty process.  What you really need is a scroll saw to make the tight curves.  I'll be honest, after a few pieces, I gave up and went and cleaned out the hot tub.
One problem is, I need to make a 28 degree cut along the edge of a few of the pieces in order to make a good fit for the angle of the chair back.  I do have a table saw that I can adjust the blade to do that.  The problem is, the wood piece is rounded, so I am at a loss as to how to make that cut.  Back to YouTube.

Anyway, I had enough fun for an afternoon and decided to do a little more research.  I also think I may start looking on Craig's List for people selling old lumber.  That could reduce the cost of each chair.
Friday night, we had one of the guys from work out to the house to sit around and tell stories of the military around the fire pit on Stoney Island.  Eva set up the logs and got the flames raising up pretty high in the air.  The bad thing about his is, you can easily lose track of time.  As it started to get a little chilly, we were all moving closer to the fire pit to enjoy the heat.  Before long it was time to be done and we all smelled like we had been sitting around a fire for several hours.  That's the problem with fires.
Speaking of Eva, this is a self portrait - her watching Swamp People.  Yes, she's nuts.
Oh, this is Eva's view each morning as she plays solitaire and waits for little squirrels to come play in the yard and for the humming birds to come by for breakfast.  This is her version of retirement.  I'm thinking maybe she could at least cut a few Adirondack boards for me while I work, right?