Fireworks & A Boat Parade . . .

After a very nice day doing pretty much nothing, Jan and I headed out about 3:45 to meet Chris, Linda, Brandi, Lowell, and Landon at Franca’s Italian Restaurant up in Clear Lake. Unfortunately Piper had to work, so she couldn’t join us.

We were getting together to have dinner and then park down on Clear Lake to watch the annual Clear Lake Boat Parade. Every year people decorate their boats and cruise around Clear Lake and then out into Galveston Bay and then back to the marina where prizes are awarded for the best looking boat in a number of different categories. We attended a number of times over the years and have always enjoyed it.

Franca’s was called Franco’s until a few years ago when the daughter took over the family restaurant from her father, Franco.

We first ate at Franco’s on December 17th, 1978. I remember the date so specifically because is was the first place we ate at after we moved here from Montgomery, AL when I went to work for NASA on the Space Shuttle.

When we first were there, Franca was just a little girl running around the restaurant. It doesn’t seem like long enough for her to have grown up and to be running things now.

But after all the buildup for going to Franca’s, Jan and I got there first and found they didn’t open until 5pm, which wouldn’t give up enough time to have a nice dinner and get to the boat parade by 6.

So I called an audible (by calling Chris and Brandi) and we moved things to Mom Alone’s Mexican Restaurant right next door. The food was good, and Landon was good (he really likes chips and salsa), so it was a very nice meal. We’ll save Franca’s for another time.

Leaving the restaurant and meeting back at Chris’, we all headed to the Lockheed building right next door where we could sit our chairs right out on the side of Clear Lake and watch the boat parade come by.

But this year they started out with a great fireworks show out over the lake that lasted for almost 10 minutes.

Boat Parade 1

Boat Parade 2

Boat Parade 3

Boat Parade 4

Boat Parade 5

Boat Parade 6

Boat Parade 7

Boat Parade 8


And like all good firework shows, this one had a great finale.

Boat Parade 9

Boat Parade 10

Boat Parade 11

Boat Parade 12


Then a few minutes later the boats started moving into position and headed our way. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a lot of good boat pics. The distance was too great, and the light was too low. But I did get a few good ones.

They had everything from sailboats,

Boat Parade 14]


to cabin cruisers,

Boat Parade 13


to speedboats, and more.

Boat Parade 18

Boat Parade 15

Boat Parade 19


One thing that was kind of interesting, at least for us, was that the sailboat shown before, the one with the tilted mast, got stuck in the mud. The channel is a little narrow there, and outside the channel it’s just a mud bottom, perfect to get your keel stuck in.

After the parade was over, several power boats converged and pulled him out of the mud.

Boat Parade 17

So after a really nice family evening (except for Piper) we all headed home for the night.

Looking at the weather report, it looks like winter is finally on its way. Tomorrow the high is supposed to be 81 with a low of 51. But then Monday the high is 53 with a low of 35. And that’s pretty much the way it’s supposed to stay for the next 10 days or so.


Thought for the Day:

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.


“A Date which will live in Infamy” – Never Forget !

Pearl Harbor Battleship

Jan’s sister Debbie sent over this latest photo of her new granddaughter (our grand niece), Annisten. She looks like a real cutie!


A little before 5 pm Jan and I headed over to Dickinson to have dinner at Monterey’s Little Mexico. Love their Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Then it was on down to Galveston to meet Brandi, Lowell, and Landon at Moody Gardens to take Landon through The Festival of Lights.

But since we had to go to the Aquarium building to pickup our tickets, we did a quick run-thru for Landon.

One of his favorites was the seals and sea lions, but the lighting was just too dark for any photos. But my favorite were these baby seahorses. This photo is a real close-up since in reality they’re only about a half inch long. Just amazing.

Baby Seahorses

Landon also really enjoyed the tunnel through the shark tank. His head was just spinning around as he watched the big sharks swim overhead, as he pointed and said, “Shark, Daddy. Shark”.

Moody Fish Tunnel

Moody Garden’s Festival of Lights contains over one million lights and 100 animated scenes, complete with sound effects, and takes about an hour to walk through.

Moody Gardens = Overall

A lot of the fun was watching Landon as he ohh’ed and ahh’ed at everything. His head would keep moving back and forth like a bobblehead doll.

Festival of Lights 1

Festival of Lights 2

Festival of Lights 3

Festival of Lights 4

Landon - Festival of Lights 5

Festival of Lights 6

Festival of Lights 7

The big Christmas tree out over the lake was really something. A perfect end to the night.

Festival of Lights 8

Thought for the Day:

"In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these." — Paul Harvey


Sous-Vide and Cheesecake . . .

Jan and I headed out a little before 2 pm for couple of clients and dinner, with my first stop being at a client’s home office.

They’re out of  town until the end of the year, but I do so much work for them, I have access to a key. The problem was that while I was on the road this past year, the two-line phone system I had installed several years ago, had gotten zapped somehow.

Apparently they tried to replace it themselves, but just managed to screw up their phone lines, so they disconnected everything and left it for me to sort.

Oh, and even better, they lost the manual. But lucky for me, they have this thing called the Internet that let’s me just download another one.

Then it was on to another client for a few minutes to straighten out a printing problem. Turns out that someone had been playing with the network settings on the computer and it couldn’t see the remote printer anymore. But it’s fixed now.

Leaving the client’s, Jan and I headed over to the Cheesecake Factory to meet our friend’s Bob and Maria, and Connie, and her mother. We had decided to eat early, about 4pm, because just a little later they were on a wait.

Along with the good meal, we had such a good time talking and reminiscing, that we spent about two hours there before we finally left. We also made plans to meet again at King Food in two weeks for another get-together. We’re looking forward to it.

Next up was a quick stop by Brandi’s to pick up the mail and some Amazon packages that had come in. Then it was right down the road to the Sam’s Club to pick up some vitamins. And then finally back to the rig for the night.

I came across something interesting the other day. It’s how to cook meat in a Beer Cooler. Of course, in the world of haute cuisine, it has to have a fancy name. And in this case, it’s called “Sous-Vide”. Which, I think is French for “Cooking in a Beer Cooler”, but I could be wrong about that. Apparently restaurants have been doing this for years using a specialized appliance that cost around $500.

Basically the idea is to immerse your meat, packaged  in vacuum-sealed, or even ziplock,bags, in water held at the temperature you want meat to end up at.

For example, a rare steak should be cooked to an internal temperature of 125 degrees. So you immerse your steak in 130 degree water (to allow for a slight cool-down from adding the cold meat) and leave it in the closed cooler for about an hour.

Your meat will come up perfectly cooked, edge to edge, and moist and flavorful. And even better, because the meat cannot overcook, it can be held for several hours without losing quality or flavor. It’s for this that many high-end restaurants use their Sous-Vide cookers.

They can have five different ones, each set for the required temperatures for rare, medium rare, medium, etc. Steaks are held in the cookers all evening, perfectly cooked. As they’re needed, they’re pulled out of the cookers, thrown on a hot grill for 30 seconds on each side to char the outside, and off to your table it goes, perfectly done and delicious. According to the article, the process is also good for tenderizing tough cuts as well.

Vegetables also come out moist and flavorful, but since they require higher water temps and longer cooking times, you’ll probably need the real machine.

So if you’ve got a beer cooler and a steak, have at it. Just be sure to invite me over when dinner’s ready.

Thought for the Day:

Those of us who work for a living are almost outnumbered by those who vote for a living.


Ducks and a Dynasty . . .

Today was another nice, quiet stay-at-home day. It was overcast and never got out of the 60’s. Just perfect for sitting back with a large mug of hot coffee and enjoying life.

Later in the morning Jan went out to feed the birds, and it’s amazing how quickly the word gets out. Within just a few minutes the ducks show up in a line from their pond about 100 yards. They can’t see the feeder from the pond so the only thing I can figure is that they post a lookout to keep an eye on things. But show up they do.

Duck Line 1

Pretty soon the feeder area is swarming with birds, and a lot of squawking, chirping, and tweeting commences.

Duck Line 2


About 6pm Jan and I headed out to meet Chris, Linda, and Piper at the Mario’s Flying Pizza up in Seabrook, one of our regular dining spots.

After a good meal, Jan and I followed them home so I could get their Epson printer installed on their new laptop.

While there I got shot of our beautiful granddaughter Piper. I fondly remember the good ole days when she would pose at the drop of a hat. Now she grew up and got shy.

Piper in A Blanket


I guess I’ll just have to repost this photo from a couple of years ago.

Piper at Chuys 5


When we got home we found that Lowell had sent over a photo of Landon’s visit with Santa Claus.

From the look on his face, I think Santa just told him he’s on Santa’s Naughty List.

Landon Christmas 2012

While we were up in Marble Falls over Thanksgiving, we stumbled upon Duck Dynasty, a reality program showing on the A&E cable channel, when they were running a show marathon.

It’s the story of the Robertson family, living in Monroe, Louisiana, who, 40 years ago, started a company called Duck Commander, and became millionaires making and selling duck calls.

Yes, duck calls!

Miss Kay, Phil, Willie, Korie, Jase and Si Robertson (from left)

The show is hilarious, and these guys who look like rejects from a ZZ Top look-a-like contest, make the show. Although it’s called a Reality Show, the family refers to it as “guided reality”. Every show had a theme and ends with a life lesson, usually centered on the family.

It’s funny, and well worth watching.

But wait, there’s more.

Phil Robertson

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, and the one who started the company, has another side. He’s a graduate of Louisiana Tech University, and actually has a Masters of Education degree.

And while he was at Louisiana Tech, he played football. And as the 1st string starting quarterback, he was very good. So good in fact that he had an offer from the Washington Redskins.

Even his 2nd string quarterback said Phil had the best arm he’d ever seen. He also said he knew Phil really liked to hunt because he would show at practice with squirrel tails hanging out of his jacket and covered in duck feathers. But since he was obviously a very good shot, no one complained.

But with a year of eligibility remaining Phil decided that as much as he loved football, he loved hunting better. So he gave up football to have more time for hunting, and a few years later started Duck Commander.

And the rest is history.

Oh yeah. The 2nd string quarterback who said Phil Robertson had the best arm he’d ever seen, and who didn’t get much playing time until Phil quit football … that would be Terry Bradshaw, top draft pick in 1970, who played 14 seasons with the Pittsburg Steelers, won 4 Super Bowls, and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

That Terry Bradshaw.

Thought for the Day:

“Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred.” – Jacques Barzun


Naked at Hooters . . .

For the first time since we got back to Houston, I did pretty much nothing today. No clients, no errands, no nothing. Just goofing off all day.

We did get a lot of rain off and on during the day which, along with the overcast skies, kept the temperature down which was nice.

Finally about 4:30 we headed up to the Hooters in Seabrook for supper. And luckily for me, it was Sexy Santa Tuesday, so the scenery was even better than normal. Gives a whole new meaning to who’s naughty or nice.

I always order my Hooters’ wings “naked”, which means there is no breading on the wings. Not only do I like the resulting crispy skin better, it saves a lot on calories. In this case, 10 “naked” wings have 660 calories, while regular wings have 1750 calories. A big difference!

I also order “all drums” instead of a mixture of drums and flappers. I just like them better.

Whenever we eat at Hooters I always remember my first visit to one. Somewhere around 2003, while I was working in Tech Support at the University of Houston – Clear Lake, we were eating at Floyd’s Cajun Seafood one night with Chris, Linda, and Piper. Piper, who was about 10 at the time, was eating onion rings, and holding one up, said, “These are good, but not as good as the ones at Hooters.”

Well, that brought the conversation to a grinding halt. What was our 10 year old granddaughter doing at Hooters? Turns out that she and her father sometimes had lunch there. She also said they had really good chicken wings.

Now we had never been there, so about a week later we all met at Hooters for dinner. I was surprised to see how many other families were there with kids too.

We’d been there about 15 minutes when from across the dining room I hear “Greg!”, and then a few seconds later I was getting a big hug and a big kiss on the top of my bald head from a Hooters girl. Of course Jan was very interested in this, and I could feel the cold wind coming my way from her direction.

But before I could really react, the girl said, “Cindy, come here! It’s Greg”. And soon I was getting another hug and kiss. By now it was getting down right frigid.

So I figured my marriage was probably over. But then I finally figured out who the two young ladies were.

It was Jennifer, and of course, Cindy, both students at the university where I worked. Jennifer was finishing up her Masters Degree in Business, and a few weeks before she had come to me one night (I normally worked the night shift there) with a defective ZIP disk.

With tears in her eyes she told me it held the only final copy of her masters thesis that had to be handed in a couple of days from now. From her description, I told her it sounded like her disk was suffering from the infamous “Click of Death”, and said that I had a ZIP drive that I had modified that might be able to read her disk. I told her that I would have to take it home, and that she should check back with me the next night.

Luckily, I was able to recover the data and transfer it to a CD for more permanent storage. That got me a big hug and a tearful thank you for her the next night.

Cindy, on the other hand, was getting ready to take her CPA exam, and the hard drive in her Toshiba laptop had died, taking all of her study materials with it. And when her friend Jennifer heard about Cindy’s problem, she sent her to me.

I asked her the name of the folders she needed recovered and took the laptop home with me. I was able to recover the data from her dead drive by using the old “freezer” trick. This is where you place the bad drive in the freezer for about an hour and then plug it into the computer as a slave drive, and then power up.

If you’re lucky you will be able to get data off the drive until it warms up. After that, it’s rinse and repeat, until you’ve got everything you need. And luckily for Cindy, it worked this time too.

As the girts explained this to Jan, I could detect a distinct warming in the atmosphere.

Luckily for me.

So remember the next time you’re at Hooters, your “dumb blonde” waitress may be better educated than you.

But Jan still got some revenge. After we left Hooters, we stopped off at Kroger’s for a few things. As we were walking around the store, I noticed people looking at me and smiling.

Figuring it wasn’t my good looks and sparkling personality, I checked my zipper. By then I noticed that Jan had a sly smile too. Finally she told me to go to the restroom and check the mirror.

And there on the top of my gleaming, bald head was the reminder of my Hooters’ hello – two large, bright-red lipstick prints.

Thought for the Day:

"Every nation has the government that it deserves." – Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821)


A Tale Of Two Restaurants . . .

Recapping yesterday (Sunday), our away-from-the-rig time started in the early afternoon with me dropping Jan off at Brandi and Lowell’s so she could get some more Landon time while they ran some errands.

While she was doing this I spent the afternoon at two different clients upgrading software, cleaning the gunk out of a number of computers, and fixing some network problems. All things that are hard to do during the week when they’re open.

About 6pm, I met Jan, Brandi, Landon, Lowell, and Lowell’s sister Sherry, at King Food for our usual great meal. We like the fact that besides the delicious food, they have big round tables in the back that will seat everyone in the family, and also let us kind of corral Landon up. He’s at that point where he doesn’t like to sit in a high chair so this works out good.

We’ve been eating at King Food for 34 years now, and I like to tell people that we’re on our 4th owner. The present ones have been there the longest, and we’ve watched their kids grow up and head off to college, while our kids did the same.

When we started eating there, Chris was 10 and Brandi was only 5. And now they both have kids of their own.

Another tradition with us and King Food is that for about the last 30 years we’ve always eaten Christmas Eve dinner there. I think it originally started because Jan was working on Christmas dinner for the next day and trying to fix another meal in between just didn’t work. And King Food was one of the few places that was actually open on Christmas Eve.

And we’ll all be right back there this Christmas Eve too.

Today started out with more client visits and stop-offs at Home Depot and Lowe’s for a replacement for my under-sink water filter. They keep discontinuing the one that my system is set up for, but I think I’ve found a new one that will fit, but a little more research is needed.

My last stop was Brandi’s to wait for the mail to be delivered, so I won’t be a scofflaw anymore. My South Dakota car tags (and rig tags) expired on Friday and I’ve been evading the law every since.

I ordered them online the 1st of November and they normally only take about two weeks. But they didn’t arrive at my South Dakota mail service until this past Saturday. But Terri at MyDakotaAddress put them right back in the mail via Priority, and the tracking number says they’ll be here today.

And they were. And I’m legal again.

Getting home, I picked up Jan and we headed right back out to try out a new restaurant in the area called The Herb Café & Market.

The Herb Cafe' & Market

The online reviews were great, and the place lived up to them. Pretty much every thing is homemade. They bake their own bread, make their own salad dressings, grow a lot of their own produce, BBQ their own pork, etc. What’s really nice is that it’s only a couple of miles from the park. We’ll be back.

Leaving the restaurant, we headed up to Chris’ to drop off the laptop and visit for a while with Chris, Linda, Piper, and meet Piper’s boyfriend, whose name I’ve suddenly blanked on. Sorry.

Then it was on to Wal-Mart for a few things before we finally headed home.

Another nice day.

Thought for the Day:

Someday our schools will teach the difference between "lose" and "loose", “accept” and “except”, and “to” and “too”. But don’t hold your breath.


No Blog Tonight

I’m working on a computer problem for my son.

Burning Chrome . . .

Our son Chris came over about 11 to fix my stuck tailpipe problem.

To recap, my rig’s chrome tailpipe extension rusted out and while we were at the Thousand Trails in Batesville, IN, back in September, I decide to install the new one that I had actually ordered while we were gate guarding. But I ran into a problem getting the old one off. It had been jammed into the muffler pipe so far that I was unable to get it out. I tried penetrating oil, banging on it, heating it with a torch, etc., all with no luck. So I decided to put it off until we got back to Houston.

And with the right tools it just took a few minutes. My son used a Sawzall reciprocating saw and a metal cutting blade to quickly cut the old extension off flush with the muffler extension. Then he put the saw blade into the muffler pipe and cut a slot into the remaining piece of the extension.

Tailpipe 1

After that it was easy to use a pair of pliers to twist and remove the old piece.

Tailpipe 2

Then it was just a few minutes to clamp the new extension into place and the job was done.

Tailpipe 3

By now it was time for lunch, so Jan, Chris, and I headed up to Bacliff to have lunch at Stomp’s Burger Joint, probably our favorite local burger place.

Stomps 5

Stomps 1

Stomp’s has some of the best burgers around, and is always crowded. And in addition, their onion rings are fantastic. I don’t know what they do different, but they’re like no place else.

Stomps 4

After lunch, and saying our goodbyes to Chris, Jan and I headed into Webster for a couple of errands.

First stop was to pick up some pants I had altered, and then it was on to Lowe’s to get a new toilet seat for the rig.

The old one had the finish coming off in a couple of places so we wanted to get a new one. Nick said the finish is coming off because of all the hot, spicy food I eat. And he might be right.

Our last stop before heading home was Half Price Books for Jan to look for a new calendar.

Then it was back to the rig for the night.

Thought for the Day:

Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway. – John Wayne


Getting My McRib Fix . . .

About 1pm I headed out to check in on a client and straighten out a couple of problems they were having. Turned out to be “Operator Error” with a new employee.

Then it was back to Lowe’s to double-check a price I saw yesterday. I was confused because they had the price of an 8 foot 1” x 6” listed as $6.97 and a 10 foot piece of 1 x 6 was $5.97.


Turns out that the price difference is due to the fact that the 10 foot pieces are slow sellers, so they’re priced cheaper. Great for me.

Then it was off to the bank to make a deposit. I keep meaning to stop off and get a replacement debit card, but never seem to remember it until I’ve left the bank. My old one is getting kind of flakey and some machines won’t read it. Maybe next time.

Next I went across the parking lot to the Kroger’s to pick up a few things, and while I was there I decided to get a coffee at the Starbuck’s located in the store. And that was a big mistake.

I go to Starbuck’s regularly, but in all those years I’ve never actually had their coffee. Not once. Actually I normally get a latte of some sort, usually a Cinnamon Dolce Latte. But this time I decided to have a coffee.

You ever go into a diner about 4 in the afternoon and get a coffee that tastes like it was brewed up at lunch and then sat there on the hotplate cooking down to a sludge with the flavor and consistency of burnt crankcase oil.

Unfortunately this wasn’t that good.

I can only assume that this was an anomaly, because otherwise I’m going to start selling the coffee I make and run them out of business.

Getting back home about 4pm, Jan and I headed back out to a nearby McDonald’s so I could get my McRib fix, before they disappear again.

As far as McRib trivia, the sandwich was developed in the early 80’s as a Chicken McNugget replacement. McNuggets were so popular that McDonald’s ran into a chicken shortage for several years. They just couldn’t buy enough to keep all their franchisees supplied. So the McRib was offered to take up some of the slack.

I’ve also heard that McDonald’s waits to bring the McRib back each time for when pork prices are at their lowest, at least that’s the way it’s worked since 2005. Then when prices rise too much due to the demand, they discontinue it for the year.

Hmmm! McRib!

On another note, I put out Jan’s birdfeeder the other day and it didn’t take long for the birds to find it. But this year the feeder has some new visitors.

Birdfeeder Ducks 1


Lots and lots of ducks.

Birdfeeder Ducks 2

Knowing the way ducks eat, it’s going to be fun? to try and keep them all fed.

Thought for the Day:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and hence clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." — H. L. Mencken


My nose was running and my head was sweating . . .

After our usual morning routine, Jan and I decided to have lunch today at King Food, our favorite local Chinese place, and they really did it up right today.

We always order the Chicken in Hot Garlic Sauce with Jalapenos, and get it XXXXX spicy. And the cook was on his best game today. Readers know how much Jan and I like spicy food, and me more than Jan.

And when a dish is really spicy, my nose starts running and the top of my bald head starts sweating. And my head was sweating so much today I would swear I was back on the gate when it was 116 degrees.

After toweling off, we headed off to a client’s so I could drop off my monthly bill and double check that they had received the online orders that I had faxed over.

Then it was on to Lowe’s to check out their lumber prices for my upcoming trim project. And it looks like I’ll be getting it here as they have a better quality of lumber at a cheaper price. You can’ t beat that.

Our next stop was Wal-Mart to get some Wal-Mart stuff, and then next door to Sam’s Club to pick up Jan’s prescriptions. Ended up having to wait for about 20 minutes because they had trouble getting one of them transferred up from the Wal-Mart in Pleasanton, TX that was last filled while we were on the gate.

Then after a stop by Brandi’s to pick up our mail, we headed home for the day.

Yesterday I listed the network shows we watch, so Jan said I should also list the non-networks. So here goes.

Shows we both watch:



Warehouse 13

Dr. Who


Rizzoli & Isles

And these are shows that just Jan watches.

Sister Wives

Pioneer Woman

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s

Trisha’s Southern Kitchen


Rachel Ray

Paula Deen

Not My Mama’s Meals

Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen

Thought for the Day:

You don’t notice it’s a police state until the police come for you.