Monday, December 28, 2009

The Land Of Almost Right

When we take time to look back over our lives, we are often able to identify moments which influence the remainder of our time on this earth.  Having spent a considerable amount of time in the military, I was exposed to a variety of body art in the form of tattoos.  Even a couple of my children have gotten small and tasteful tattoos at various times over the years.  I figure they are all adults(chronologically at least) and if they can handle getting poked with needles thousands of times to be able to display their personal idea of art...power to them.

On occasion, usually while sitting and having something cool to drink, and finalizing solutions for all the world's problems, I am asked if I ever contemplated getting some body art of my own.  Surely, during all those years spent in the service, I had to have contemplated a tattoo to commemorate my exploits on foreign shores.  I will respond that, yes, I toyed with the idea of a tattoo occasionally, but was never able to decide what it would be or where it would be located that wouldn't cause terminal embarassment when displayed.  Then all thoughts of a tattoo came to a sudden halt while spending a year in Korea, known affectionately by the chamber of commerce as "The Land Of the Morning Calm".

Korea is, even today, a remote or unaccompanied tour for most soldiers.  This means being left to your own devices when it comes to finding entertainment, without the minimal supervision of family and friends.  Sitting in the Yongson video arcade one evening, I noticed a very sheepish soldier getting ribbed unmercifully by a couple of his buddies.  I finally asked why they were being so rough on him, and they laughingly told him to show me.  He gingerly raised his sleeve to reveal a very tender, fresh image of the seal of the United States Army.  The eagle was resplendent in the still bright colors, and it took a second look to see that emblazoned over the eagle was the caption;   

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yankee Chili & other Abominations

One of the great things about being in the Army or one of the other services, is that you get to move around this great country of ours and see how differently people live.  When my Lovely Bride and I first joined up, we stayed in San Antonio for the first three years, and the only thing different was the direction I drove to work.  So it was with some anticipation we made our first PCS move, with our first assignment outside Texas being to Fort Knox in Kentucky.  I had always heard of Kentucky being a Southern state, and in my naive mind imagined it would be much like East Texas.  After studying a highway atlas, I discovered that Kentucky was farther north than even Oklahoma, and that Fort Knox was just down the Ohio River from Cincinnati! 

After arriving and starting the settling in process, we drove up Dixie Highway to Louisville to scout out the lay of the land, and explore shopping opportunities.  While there we decided to try out a Mexican restaurant which had been highly recommended by my new co-workers.  In the past, I had occasionally encountered confused souls who claimed to not like Mexican food, and I had never understood them.  After all, how could anyone not like the greasy, spicy, cheesy delights of enchiladas, tamales and tacos?  After sampling what was described to us as the best Louisville had to offer, it became all too clear.  We learned to stock up whenever we made a trip south of the Red River, and the LB learned to scrounge for ingredients in the post comissary and to cook her own Tex-Mex.

My next gastronomic upset came soon after reporting to work in the post hospital.  There was a snack bar in the basement which had a pretty extensive short-order menu, and most of us ate there each day.  One day I walked in and noticed a new sign on the wall advertising Chili Dogs.  That sounded like just the thing to me and so ordered one.  I paid the cashier for lunch while the counter man was getting my order, and I glanced up just as he was ladling the chili onto the dog.  Only it looked like no chili I had ever seen in my life.  It had spaghetti noodles hanging off my hot dog for chrissakes!  I truly learned that day I was not in Texas anymore.  Later, I found that noodles was only one of many unnatural substances with which chili was adulterated in that region...cinnamon, cloves, cardomom and chocolate were routinely used as seasonings.  This was pretty unsettling for me, since I had only recently come to accept the possibility that beans could be added to chili and still be called chili.

 We discovered that each new duty station brought the opportunity to experience new foods and cultures, and happily, most of them were much better than that spurious chili.  In Korea - chop chae, kimbop, and yakimandoo became favorites which we still sample when the opportunity arises.  Raw ahi, shredded dried squid, charsiu bao, and lumpia all bring back fond memories of other assignments.  But clove flavored spaghetti sauce on my hot dog!

Our First Christmas Tree

Christmas is one of those times of the year which is guaranteed to cause old memories to resurface.  We remember those we loved who are no longer with us, and if we are lucky, we remember the happy times we shared while they were here.  It is also a time to look back at years past and remember those moments which we have carried into the present with us and incorporated into our lives and celebrations. 

This year my Lovely Bride and I are again preparing to celebrate Christmas.  We will have a couple of the girls and their significant others over, as well as my mother-in-law, for Christmas Day.  So far, decorations have been limited to a few outside lights and a tree.  A new artificial, pre-lighted tree has taken center stage, but as I sit and look at it twinkling, I can't help but think of the first tree we shared back before we ever talked about getting married.

We were both in college; she was studying Food Science at Sam Houston State, and I was deep in clinicals at HBU.  I was living in a ramshackle apartment building in Montrose, existing on 'mater and onion sandwiches since money was pretty tight.  She would come down to Houston on weekends to type my papers and cook real food for me.  Even then, she was taking care of me.  One weekend in December she arrived, finding me sitting staring at the walls in a funk.  She decided I needed to have some sort of Christmas decorations to help cheer me up, and keep me from focusing solely on my upcoming mid-terms.  There was no money for a tree, but I had an old stand and a few decorations.  We loaded up in my '69 Dodge Dart and headed for the country.

I had grown up northwest of Houston on a remote farm which was still in the family.  A decade or so before, I had helped my father plant a thousand or so pine seedlings to try to control erosion.  Most had survived and young trees had sprung up amongst the more mature trees.  These small trees were the perfect size, and price, for us.  The pasture was pretty soggy from recent rains, so we walked the 1/4 mile or so to look for the perfect tree.  Looking back, the only thing which was perfect was the pricetag!  They were the wrong kind of trees, had never been shaped, and each had a multitude of bugs living in them.  But it was what we could afford.

We eventually picked out and cut a tree, and started dragging it across the pasture to the car.  As we got closer, cold drops of rain starting falling, causing us to drop the tree and duck into the hay barn.  We sat in the doorway watching the rain, and immediately every cow on the place headed towards us.  After all, the only time that door was opened was when it was feeding time.  My LB-to-be was fascinated by the cows milling about just inches away.  For a city girl, she got to experience a lot of firsts that day, yet never panicked.  She learned why you wear boots when you work around cows, and I think her love affair with living in the country started at that point.

I don't remember what that tree looked like after it was decorated, and no pictures exist.  I couldn't tell you what I received for Christmas that year.  Thirty five years later, what I do remember is us going together to pick it out, and in the process, learning more about each other and about ourselves together.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Greetings from Ponca City.

Greetings from Ponca City. The Lovely Bride and I are gradually making our way homeward towards Naruna. While visiting our first-born and her family outside of Omaha, we learned there was to be a book signing in Ponca City by Ree Drummond to help promote her newly released cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. If you are not familiar with her, a visit to her website is in order. 

She is a former ballet dancer and vegetarian who found true love in the prairies of northern Oklahoma with a homegrown cowboy. She now lives on a humongous ranch populated by cows, wild horses, cowboys and wild children. Renouncing her vegan ways after discovering the glories of beef, she has gone on to start a food-oriented blog where she posts some of the most wonderful recipes known to man. My personal favorites are her Creamed Spinach and Apple Dumplings, although pretty much everything the LB has tried on me has been wonderful. In her spare time, she home schools her four kids, produces some professional quality photography, and takes care of all the usual chores of a ranch wife.

After following her life via the web for the past couple of years, a chance to meet her face-to-face could not be passed up.  Although we had never stopped in Ponca City, it is close to the route we usually take.  We drove from Omaha and found a room for the night.  We then went exploring the wonders of dining out in northern Oklahoma on a Friday night, finding some delightful looking, yet curiously under-seasoned Italian food.

The next morning found us at the bookstore where the signing was to occur. We picked up our line tickets, assuring us a place in the first group of signees. A few minutes before the appointed hour hordes of eager fans began to gather, waiting for their first glimpse of Ree. Sure enough, she walked in right on time accompanied by her oldest daughter, and started greeting her public and autographing books. The LB and I got to chat with them for a couple of minutes and pose for a picture before the line moved us along and out the door to our waiting chariot. All in all, a pleasant encounter. So I was taken by surprise when the LB proclaimed she was disappointed. When I asked why, she revealed she had really been hoping to see Ree’s husband, the infamous Marlboro Man, to see if he was as cute in person as online!

Have I mentioned before that being married to a woman for 34 years doesn’t mean you ever get to understand her?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A child again...

What is it about certain places or activities which cause us to revert to those simpler ways of our youth?  Zoos are some of the places we visit which make us all feel like kids again.  When I was little and my parents first took me to the Houston Zoo, they expected me to focus in on the lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!).  If not the large carnivores, then they were sure I would be taken by the monkeys and their antics.  Instead, I apparently spent the entire day chasing pigeons, much to their amusement.

Fast forward fifty years and it is still the simpler side of zoos which bring out the kid in us all.  While visiting our grandkids and their parents who recently moved to a suburb of Omaha, we visited the Henry Doorly Zoo.  This is a really neat place, having some tremendous new venues for viewing animals in natural settings.  There is a Desert Dome, which actually contains biospheres from several different parts of the world, an IMAX theater, and new large cat and ape buildings. 

While strolling the grounds after seeing most of the exhibits, we happened up on a covered bridge leading back toward the exit.  The grandkids kept scampering back and forth across the picturesque structure, while the grandparents stopped in the middle to rest up a little.  The Lovely Bride discovered there were fish food dispensers, and sure enough, swarms of brightly colored koi in the waters below.  The adults spent 20 minutes watching over-fed carp climbing over each other in an attempt to grab the morsels falling from above.

Who says you can't recapture your youth?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Finally, a little Fall!

  It has been a busy month around Naruna, finally getting new floors installed and almost immediately having the oldest daughter and the three grand-girls arrive for a week-long visit.  Along with them came family friends & high school chums wanting to have a chance to catch up on all that has happened since Jennifer got married to her Aggie/Cornhusker, left Texas for points north, and got into the baby business. 

  Peace and tranquility has now returned, along with some cooler weather.  September was a rainy month, with Naruna receiving almost 4.3".  This caused everything to turn green, cooled things off, and persuaded the county to drop the burn ban for the time being.  Highs this weekend have been in the mid 70s, so the Lovely Bride and I embarked on a short road trip Saturday. 

  We headed down the highway to Johnson City, home of LBJ, 36th President of the United States, where we tried out a new breakfast spot.  The Silver K Cafe, , was new to us, and most of what they offered on their breakfast buffet was very good.  Eggs Benedict is not something I expect to find in Hill Country diners, and the Silver K's version was excellent.  The LB tried some blueberry pancakes with walnuts which were light, yet filling.  My only disappointment was when I made a second trip(I'll never learn) through the buffet to try their interpretation of biscuits and gravy.  The biscuits were excellent, but the alleged sausage gravy tasted like none I had ever tried.  Maybe in an attempt to make it "healthy" they used something other than standard pork sausage.  At any rate, it didn't agree with me, and I kept wishing I had gotten another of the wonderful Eggs Benedict instead.  Definitely worth a return trip.

  Heading west on Hwy 290, we passed the Johnson ranch, now a National Park, and motored along enjoying the beautiful day until we came to the Wildseed Farm between Stonewall and Fredericksburg.  This complex is a combination lunch counter, bierstube, and nursery specializing in plants either native to or well adapted to life in central Texas.  Their main claim to fame is that they grow wildflowers of all different persuasions on a grand scale, harvest the seeds, and offer them up for sale to all who want to beautify their corner of the world, wherever that may be.  This was my reason for getting out, and I quickly picked out a couple pounds of the mixtures deemed best for our neck of the woods.  However, the LB was more interested in the multitude of crafts and gift items which were available and so it took awhile before we made good our escape.

  Rather than retracing our steps, we turned west again and cruised down the main drag in Fredericksburg.  This interesting German town has become a huge tourist magnet in recent years, and with the perfect weather, there were no parking spots to be found anywhere.  Not being in the mood for crowds, we turned north and took the winding road toward Llano.  Another festival greeted us there, with the courthouse square being packed with BBQ pits, chuck wagons, and people trying to get close to them.  We slowed down, smelled the aroma of beef being cooked by folks who know what they are doing, and continued on our way. 

  One of the blessings of living where we do, is the abundance of interesting back roads which can be used to reach almost any destination.  So it was that we wandered through the villages of Cherokee, Chappel, Bend and Nix before turning toward Naruna.  Arriving home, I took my newly acquired seeds and went out to sow them in the ditches in front of our house.  Of course, it is impossible to perform any task without having assistance, here in the form of Ruby Jean.  You may remember she is a curious mixture of canine odds 'n ends, which my Lovely Bride and her veterinarians have decided is most likely chihuahua and yorkshire terrier.  The two choices of what to call her are either a "Chorkie" or the slightly more palatable "Yorkiehuahua".  This is the kind of world I get to live in!  At least the orphans the LB continues to drag home seem to be getting smaller.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Meetin' n eatin'

There is something special about small rural churches. Our church in Naruna has been around for more than 137 years, with ups and downs in attendance through the decades. Most of the members belong to the same families who settled the area and still reside on family ranches. There are more than a few state designated "Texas Family Heritage Ranches" in Naruna, meaning they have been in the same family and used in agriculture for more than a hundred years.

A church constant over the years is an overwhelming compulsion to eat anytime a group gets together. I think this is true of most churches, and have seen it over and over again as we moved around the world. Of course this eating compulsion works both ways, since attendance is usually the highest on Sundays when there is a "dinner on the grounds" after church services.

One variation of this at our church is to occasionally host a breakfast before Sunday School. Some of the men get up early and cook bacon, eggs, sausage and pancakes for however many people wander in. For some variety, we'll also fry tortillas, potatoes, peppers, & onions so folks can put together breakfast tacos. This is the kind of gathering popular with families since they don't have to feed the kids...all they have to do is get them up and dressed a little early.

The time spent preparing these breakfasts is some of the most productive in enjoying fellowship and getting church business conducted. Formal meetings have their place, but it's hard to stand on protocol when you are flipping pancakes or frying eggs. Of course, there are some problems that go along with feeding folks before church...will they be able to stay awake until the invitation?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Practical Defense against H1N1

Swine Flu! That's all you need to say to start people running for the exits. Our country, and indeed the world, has been teetering on the brink of panic, as gloomy predictions fly all about. Last spring was being forecast to be the worst year since the 1918 pandemic which killed more people than the Great War which was going on at the same time. Not much happened and the scare faded some during the summer months as kids dispersed and went their separate ways. Now that school is starting up, the rhetoric is heating up again. Every governmental agency worth anything has a plan. That none of these plans has been tested and probably won't work doesn't slow down the bureaucrats.

In an effort to inject a modicum of reason and sanity into our preparations for this impending plague, I vowed to conduct my own research. I began by searching the literature for historical methods which have been effective in preventing the spread and propagation of disease-causing organisms. Rather than resorting to high cost vaccines or ineffective antibiotics, I sought readily available natural products.

Sodium chloride, or salt, has been been used throughout history for preserving foods and preventing the growth of pathogens in foods. This has been accomplished through its ability to dehydrate and desiccate organisms, rendering them incapable of growth and reproduction.

Acids can be powerful antibacterial agents. Unfortunately, many acids cannot be used directly by humans because of the same caustic effects which make them so effective in killing microorganisms. I tried several types before hitting on citric acid as one which is strong enough to be effective while not harming the humans we are trying to protect.

Another agent which has proven bactericidal qualities is another well known and readily available product, ethanol. Ethanol is a powerful desiccant which has -cidal qualities when used in a variety of applications. I found through trial and error that ethanol distilled from certain varieties of the agave plant was most effective.

Unfortunately, none of these, by itself, had the desired effects. It was only through a fortuitous accidental combining of these three separate ingredients that the perfect anti-influenza agent was revealed. Even though it was thought by many to be too hazardous to be trialed outside a laboratory setting, I accepted the challenge. Throughout the summer months, I religiously tested this concoction, even knowing the risk was great.
When I survived with minimal ill effects, I expanded my trial, recruiting public spirited individuals who were willing to risk their personal well-being for the greater good of all.
As you can see from these photos of the actual clinical trials, these brave volunteers put the good of mankind ahead of their personal safety, and deserve our gratitude.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rain over Naruna

Some days in Naruna are more nearly perfect than others. This Saturday was going pretty good already...the LB had fixed something new for breakfast, an open-faced bacon, egg, onion, & goat cheese sandwich on a piece of nan bread. I got some more painting done on my project room, while the LB made a batch of snack mix which involved cashews, corn chex and homemade caramel sauce. That tired her out and she had headed upstairs to rest her eyes(just for 15 minutes or so) when the sky began to darken, and soon some thunder could be heard. The canine residents and I walked out on the front porch just as the skies opened and huge drops began to fall. It didn't last long, and we only measured 0.2", but it dropped the temperature from 102 to 78 in less than 10 minutes. As quickly as it came, it was gone, the sun came out again and all that was left were some rumbles and clouds headed south out of Naruna.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Birthday Weekend - part 3

No birthday celebration is complete without dinner at the birthday boy(or girl)'s choice of location. One place we had heard of and read about in San Antonio was The Silo. This is an up-scale, yet casual, spot which has garnered good reviews for both service & food. After spending most of Saturday afternoon napping in the cool of our hotel room, we saddled up and headed over to Austin Highway in search of vittles.
The dining room was smaller than I expected, but was still quiet enough to be able to carry on a conversation without straining to hear. Chicken-fried oysters on a bed of spinach, topped with an obviously homemade Hollandaise started our adventure. Angie went for a grilled tuna steak, while I opted for sauteed redfish on a bed of sauteed shrimp. Susan went off on a different tangent, getting a tasty piece of lamb (I stole a bite). A very nice Pinot Grigio helped wash everything down. None of us had room for dessert on our own, so we did a three-way split of a wonderful "White Chocolate & Fresh Berry Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Truffle Sauce", with an Espresso or coffee accompaniment.
After feasting for the better part of the evening, we felt the need to move around a bit, so headed back downtown to show Angie the Emily Morgan & the view. It turned out she didn't know anything about Emily(I swear the child slept through Texas History), so I was able to expound on the fabled Yellow Rose until she and her mother were both tired of listening. We went out to stretch our legs, strolling the Alamo grounds, and continuing on down to the Riverwalk. Quickly, we learned the masses of people we had encountered on Friday night were far exceeded by the Saturday night rowdies. At 11:00, everything was still in full swing and at full volume. As we struggled through the packed sidewalks, we saw areas which had been quiet and isolated on our last trip years ago, which were now lined with one overflowing drinking establishment after another. Maybe if I was twenty-something and looking for a good time, it would be okay. At 57 and tired of walking, it was just too crowded and too loud.
After ascending back to street level, we wandered past several downtown landmarks, including the Menger Hotel. The bar at the Menger is where Teddy (the good) Roosevelt recruited his Volunteers for a trip to Cuba from the cowboys and adventurers who were found in San Antonio. The Menger lies just across the alley from the Alamo, and this alley is where horse-drawn carriages line up to give visitors a tour of the downtown area. The carriages range from plain to gaudy, but all are adorned with a variety of lights to help make them more visible to automobile traffic. We went for a very pleasant trip with Jimmy(the driver) and Jack(the horse), and the slow trip into the past helped us to settle down and prepare ourselves for the end of our long day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Saturday - In the Park

Saturday morning in San Antonio! Our night had not been as restful as hoped, with the alarm clock going off repeatedly at midnite, playing very exciting Mexican music. Why do I never think to check those things before I crawl into bed?

After a quick breakfast, we swung by the youngest child's apartment, and with her in tow, headed to the San Antonio Zoo in Brackenridge Park. Getting there early was part of our plan to miss the hottest part of the day, yet we still managed to enjoy the 100+ temperatures. Lots of renovation and new construction are going on at the zoo, and eventually it will be beautiful, and a better place for the animals. Right now, S.A. is suffering along with the rest of Central Texas as the drought continues...and continues. Everything brown and dry. Even the rhino was hunting a spot of shade & the elephant was enjoying a cool shower. Someday I'll remember that summer is not the best season to visit a zoo, since the animals are just as hot and uncomfortable as the rest of us. Maybe between Christmas and New Year's next time.

We enjoyed visiting the Lorikeets in their aviary, and were able to feed them little cups of nectar while they sat on your shoulder. Unfortunately, what goes in has to come out, and I had one little bird poop in my shirt pocket while perched upon my hat. Fortunately, the L.B. had a ready supply of hand sanitizer to help clean me up. (She really does take care of me.)

Butterflies are pretty and didn't excrete anything on me, so we spent time wandering through their special abode. Rarely still for more than a second or two, pictures tend to be a bit blurry. As the day heated up, our enthusiasm dropped, and soon our thoughts turned to air conditioners and food. Angie knew of a local place which had a wide array of hotdogs & frankfurters. A large glass of cold lemonade made everything right for me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

As we grow older, and approach what some refer to as "maturity", birthdays are not so much celebrated as greeted with a sense of relief. My father died before he turned 52, so in many ways I view any time I get past that as a "bonus". I have made all the usual promises to myself; spend more time with family, travel to new places, etc. , yet find myself slipping back into spending too much time at work. Not a good way to stay on the good side of the Lovely Bride.

This past week the L.B. announced we were going to San Antonio to celebrate my birthday, and she had already planned everything. She had gotten us out of our duties at church on Sunday and said we were just going to play tourist and take it easy for the weekend. Friday afternoon saw us on the road to S.A. after only a couple of minor misdirections, such as me having to rescue her at the Puppy Motel after her car battery died of a heat stroke.

We arrived in San Antonio with no further difficulties, and she cryptically directed me to our hotel, although she wouldn't tell me the name until she abruptly announced "There it is!" as I cruised past. She had gotten a room at the Emily Morgan Hotel, named after the famous "Yellow Rose of Texas", who supposedly distracted General Santa Ana at the battle of San Jacinto, allowing the Texicans to route the Mexican troops. Our room overlooked the grounds of the Alamo, and had a beautiful view of downtown S.A. The L.B. had connections to the hotel in its previous incarnation as the Medical Arts Building and used to go there for doctor appointments. The San Antonio Express-News building, where her Daddy used to work, was just one block down from the hotel, so it was like a homecoming for her.
Friday night we were tired out, and so just went strolling around the Alamo about dusk. Thinking it might be cooler down near the river, we took the stairs and headed down along the riverwalk. Lots of people made walking difficult and blocked what little breeze was moving, so we picked a restaurant, La Paloma, and managed to snag a table on the river's edge. A couple of really good margaritas helped us relax a bit and start to cool off. As we waited for dinner, we engaged in one of our favorite pastimes, people watching.

Hot plates arrived, bringing wonderful smells with them. We quickly dove in to our first, but not last, Tex-Mex fix of the weekend. Steak Tampiqueno, carne asada, and chicken enchiladas con poblanos were surrounded by the usual rice and beans. Guacamole, chips and salsa rounded out the fare.

With food out of the way, we sat and sipped our drinks while watching the crowds. We kept thinking that the riverwalk was certainly packed, and wondered if there were some convention or special event taking place. We finally managed to stand erect and waddled off toward our room. Alamo Plaza was much quieter, and the Emily Morgan loomed over the historic shrine in the moonlight. Once away from the crowds of the Riverwalk, it began to feel like we really had come home.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dave's little project

Inertia can be a powerful force to overcome. Little nudges are sometimes needed to start things in motion. For some of us, large explosive charges are required to get us moving. My Lovely Bride recently provided just such a gentle nudge.

She decided that the old, faded, nasty carpet which has survived numerous children and pets for more than twenty years had to go. Now. This came about when our second child's husband came home from Iraq, and embarked on a total redo of their house, including replacing all the flooring with tile & wood laminate. Then there was a minor water problem which forced them to rip it all out and do it again. The LB thought it looked good, and since her son-in-law had all that on the job experience, she wanted to put in wood finish laminate throughout the downstairs. All I had to do was pay the bills.

As the start of this project drew near, I decided there was one I needed to take care of. There is a small unfinished room just off the living room which the previous owners used to store firewood. (Yeah, inside the house!) I always thought it would make a nice little office space for me, but it has been too convenient a spot to store junk over the eleven years we have lived here. Plus there is that pesky inertia thing. The short version is that I decided to clean it out and finish it before the new floor goes in.

The photos here are of the current stage. I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of it before I started...think bare plywood walls, particle board sub floor, and stuff stacked 1/2 way up the walls. Just emptying it out made me feel better, and now there is visible progress with sheet rock in place. Next is paint, and I will try to keep up with some more fotos.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Think She Loves Me?

There are times when we wonder how our spouses feel toward us. At other moments, there is no doubt at all of their feelings, good or bad.

Friday afternoon I arrived home from work a bit early, and so had a chance to sit and visit with my Lovely Bride while I unwound from the long week. Soon she disappeared into the kitchen, and I began to smell wonderful smells escaping into the living room. Garlic and basil were two which I could identify, and there were a host of others. I managed to control my curiosity until I was summoned, and discovered her idea of a quick meal.

Linguine formed the foundation of this dish, topped with a homemade-from-scratch alfredo sauce. Arranged artistically atop this mound of pasta perfection was a small school of sauteed shrimps which she had gotten from her "Shrimp Guy" who makes periodic runs to the Texas Gulf coast so his friends don't have to eat store-bought shrimp. Pesto was splashed freely over the shrimp, just in case further encouragement was needed.
Alongside, she had tossed together a beautiful salad with fresh strawberries, slivered almonds and feta cheese with the delicate greens. It was completed with just a quick splash of a vinaigrette dressing. All this was washed down with a glass of ice cold sweet tea. I know a meal such as this usually calls for more exotic beverages, such as a good sangiovese or a vernacchia, but I have discovered that the more wine I drink, the less I remember! Perhaps that is why much of our vacation last summer is a bit blurry.

Everything tasted as good as it looked, and even though the LB kept denying it was anything special, it certainly settled in my mind how she feels about me. No doubt!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Little Relief

Central Texas has been setting new records for the number of days over 100 degrees. Depending exactly on where you happen to be, this is somewhere on the high side of 41 days, and there is no end in sight. Naruna is a couple of days ahead of Austin I think, but it is hard to keep track when the temperature routinely hits anywhere from 101 to 111 every day.

This kind of record is not something to which I aspire. I was never the competitive type, and I would just as soon someone else be leading in this category. Nobody tries to fry eggs on sidewalks here like they do in New York when they have a warm day. Hot, dry weather is not something we like to joke about much. At least until after the floods have come and the drought has been pushed back for awhile.

Today was not the end of our drought by any means. But we were pleasantly surprised this afternoon when it began raining in Naruna. It only lasted about 15 minutes, and the sun never stopped shining. It stopped as suddenly as it started, and then it was hot and steamy rather than hot & dry. The surprise came when the LB went out to check how much we received...instead of the expected tenth or so in the rain gauge, we had 1.7". Not enough, but still very welcome...especially since it was not accompanied by any hail, high wind or tornados.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"We're here to help you."

Anyone who has spent time in the military knows that when someone utters the phrase, "We're here to help you", it means the IG has come to town to see what's hidden under all the rocks. It is understood they don't really mean what they say...after all, their job is to find things that can be blamed on the local commander and his staff. And they will find something.

In the world of civilian medicine, the counterpart of the IG is The Joint Commission. This is a private organization which has attained near mythic powers over the decades of its existence. Without its blessing and the small wall plaque which comes with successfully completing a survey, hospitals are severely limited in participation in Medicare and other government programs. Every three years, a small group appears without warning and throws the hospital into panic. Every aspect of the care provided to patients is scrutinized and compared against both TJC's constantly changing standards and the hospital's own policies and procedures.

Last week was our turn, with three surveyors appearing one morning at our front door. One was focused strictly on the physical structure and whether it was safe for patients and staff. One dedicated three days to looking at the Home Health and Hospice which are associated with the hospital. And the third was a nursing surveyor who was interested in everything. She wandered from the Emergency Room, through Radiology, to inpatient nursing areas. She talked with staff members, questioning how they took care of their patients. Documentation of that care was reviewed to see if it matched the staff's explanations as well as the hospital's policies and procedures. Patients were interviewed to find out what they knew about their own care and what was being planned for them. Personnel files were pulled to see if staff had documentation that they were competent to take care of the patients assigned to them.

Finally, she arrived at the most important part of the entire survey...the Operating Room! Okay, so maybe I'm slightly biased since it's mine, but it is still one of the core areas which incorporates all aspects of caring for the patient. How do you know your surgical instruments are really sterile? Do medications get labelled as they are placed on the sterile field? How are implants tracked? Are surgical sites always marked preoperatively by the surgeon to verify it is correct? What is the process for identifying your patient and the surgery to be performed? In the Recovery Room, how is pain assessed, and how is it documented? Throughout the surgical experience, is the patient's medical information kept safe and private? All these topics and more were raised, discussed and responses evaluated.

After three days of walking on eggshells, it was finally over. We survived as a hospital, once again making it through with no major problems. Of course, they did find some things, since that is their job. These opportunities for improvement will be studied, plans of correction drawn up and implemented, results evaluated and forwarded to the Joint. After a week or two of relaxing and recuperating, the cycle begins all over again. The job of making sure our patients are safe never ends. Three years isn't very long when you are preparing for your next survey.

Did I mention that we get to pay for the privilege of being examined by The Joint Commission?

On-Line Again

One of the joys of living in a rural paradise is getting away from all the many ills and problems associated with our modern society. Unfortunately, you also are far from all the modern conveniences urban dwellers take for granted.

Almost three weeks ago, my Lovely Bride was trying to connect to the Internet using our usual dial up connection. She was unable to get past a chronically "busy" message, and told me I needed to call and investigate. After quietly checking to make sure I had remembered to pay the bill, I gave the ISP a call. The short version of their tale was that the company they had obtained access to most of the smaller hill country towns through had suddenly, and without any warning, gone out of business and no replacement was available.

A few calls and a check of the local yellow pages revealed few options for Internet service in our neck of the woods. The only way to have any sort of broadband access out where we reside is via satellite. Several neighbors reported having good luck with WildBlue, and so a visit was made to their local installer to review what would be needed to get connected to the rest of the world once again. Equipment was ordered and after a week, a couple of "professional installers" appeared and got us hooked up. If you are interested in how professional these installers were, you need to visit with the L.B.. I'm not sure she was terribly impressed, but everything seems to work okay. Not the fastest connection I've used, but a lot faster than our old dial up.

We managed to keep our old email address, so nobody has to learn anything new or make any changes to address books. It's good to be back.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!

I had a rare weekday off yesterday, and the Lovely Bride & I meandered into Austin and watched the latest Star Trek movie. She is not a Trekkie(or any kind of S-F fan), and even she liked it. It was in the form of a "prequel", revealing events which led up to the original tv series, and did a fair job of illustrating how some of the crew relationships began and developed. After the show, it was off to a little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese place for some really good noodles and such. I miss not having such things close by, but would still rather live in Naruna.

We have no plans for the actual 4th, but are just trying to not melt down. 105 at mid-afternoon, and I'm just waiting for a little shade to get on the, still new, above ground pool before I go float the afternoon away. Maybe a couple of cold Peroni bieres will help with fluid & electrolyte replacement.

My only semi-productive activity this holiday weekend is reading a new book. To those who know me , that hardly qualifies as startling news, but this is a little different from the usual novels I lose myself in. The book is by Giles Tremlett, "Ghosts of Spain", and is about the Civil War, its aftermath and its effects on current Spanish life and politics. In particular, he looks at the "pacto del olvido" or "pact of the forgetfulness" which existed throughout the reign of Franco and has only begun to crumble thirty years after El Caudillo's death. Not an easy read, but worth it in the long run, I hope.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What do they really think?

Have you ever wondered what people really think of you? I mean, everybody is nice to you, but what are their deep, dark thoughts when it comes to how they really feel? I recently had a chance to take a closer look when I received an email quiz. It only posed one question, "If you saw ME in a police car what would you think I got arrested for?" Of course, there was more to the email; such as admonitions to forward it to all your friends within 3.5 seconds or suffer a fate worse than death, etc. I ignored the warnings and gypsy curses, but decided to send the question to some friends and family members who have known me for quite some time to see what they came up with.

I picked out a few of the responses which were suitable for mixed company and wanted to share.
The first response came from one of my oldest friends. We ran together back in college and he was the best man in my one and only wedding. We have maintained contact over the years, but only get together every year or two. "Public Intoxication since it is an easy charge to bring. I am just remembering the old days." I'm glad Larry is able to remember the good old days, because I think I drowned more than a few brain cells back when we would skip afternoon classes and drink our lunch up on Lake Somerville. Unfortunately, my capacity for alcohol is now greatly diminished, and if I exceed my one margarita limit, I just go to sleep.

One of my sisters gave a very succinct analysis of how exciting she thinks my life is with her reply. "Sleepwalking." I wish! But even in Naruna, there is never enough sack time.

A co-worker I have worked with every day for the past 14 years gave one of the more unsettling answers, "embezzlement!!!!!!!!" What is there to embezzle?

Our middle child, who always was accused of being the Daddy's Girl while growing up, offered an interesting thought. "Poss Marijane, we always suspected you might have been a hippie back in the day. Maybe ‘cause of the long hair and mellow attitude…" Sad to say, the hair isn't nearly as long(or thick) and the mellow attitude has more to do with all the children being out from under foot.

My Lovely Bride gave an answer that shows how trusting she is and how much she loves me. "What?? Is this a trick question? My first instinct would be that you were an innocent by-stander to a crime, and were being taken in for questioning." After more than 34 years of marriage, she still thinks I can do no wrong! What a woman!