Friday, December 09, 2005

Acting My Age

Found a face-slapping quote today...

"Forty-five is the age of recklessness for many men, as if in defiance of the decay and death waiting with open arms at the sinister valley at the bottom of the inevitable hill."

--Joseph Conrad, Victory

Good morning, sunshine! Care to guess how old I am? Well, let's just say that after reading this, I'm inspired to drag my decaying carcass out into the middle of Interstate 35 and forget about waiting for the sinister valley. I'll just let a sinister Kenworth do me in.

Sheesh, now I see why this guy wrote a book called Heart of Darkness. I'll bet he was fun on a date.

And you know the funny thing? Old Joe lived to be 67 years old, so he had 22 years to mope around thinking he was a rotting bag of peat moss heading for Potter's Field.

I'm 45, and I'm here to say it's not bad, not bad at all.

POSTSCRIPT: Man, what was it with all of these turn-of-the-20th century writers? Couldn't they handle middle age with a little more grace?

Here's what one of my favorite humorists, Mark Twain, had to say on my desk calendar's daily quote today:

"The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity."

Gee, no wonder Huck left in the raft.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Is That Gouda in Your Pocket, Or Are You About to Whack Me?

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) –– In an unusual case of mistaken identity, a woman who thought a block of white cheese was cocaine is charged with trying to hire a hit man to rob and kill four men. The woman also was mistaken about the hit man. He turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, was arrested over the weekend and remains in jail with bond set at $1 million on four charges of attempted murder and four counts of soliciting a murder.

According to police, Booth was in the Memphis home of the four intended victims last week when she mistook a block of queso fresco cheese for cocaine — inspiring the idea to hire someone to break into the home, take the drugs, and kill the men.

An informant described the plot to police, who arranged a meeting between Booth and the undercover officer.

The undercover officer gave Booth some nonfunctioning handguns, bought ammunition for her because she was too young, and the two proceeded to the home under police surveillance.

Booth told the officer that any children inside the house old enough to testify would have to be killed, police said.

A search of the home with the permission of the occupants revealed no drugs — only the white, crumbly cheese common in Mexican cuisine.

"Four men were going to lose their lives over some cheese," said Lt. Jeff Clark, who heads Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Weird Web Photo Gallery

Anyone you know? Look closely.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Prep School Panhandler

I'm curious -- what do you readers think of this mom's attempt to help her daughter? I'm still undecided.

Mom Makes Teen Stand on Street With Sign

By Sean Murphy, Associated Press Writer

(EDMOND, Okla.) -- Tasha Henderson got tired of her 14-year-old daughter's poor grades, her chronic lateness to class and her talking back to her teachers, so she decided to teach the girl a lesson.

She made Coretha stand at a busy Oklahoma City intersection Nov. 4 with a cardboard sign that read: "I don't do my homework and I act up in school, so my parents are preparing me for my future. Will work for food."

"This may not work. I'm not a professional," said Henderson, a 34-year-old mother of three. "But I felt I owed it to my child to at least try."

In fact, Henderson has seen a turnaround in her daughter's behavior in the past week and a half. But the punishment prompted letters and calls to talk radio from people either praising the woman or blasting her for publicly humiliating her daughter.

"The parents of that girl need more education than she does if they can't see that the worst scenario in this case is to kill their daughter psychologically," Suzanne Ball said in a letter to The Oklahoman.

Marvin Lyle, 52, said in an interview: "I don't see anything wrong with it. I see the other extreme where parents don't care what the kids do, and at least she wants to help her kid."

Coretha has been getting C's and D's as a freshman at Edmond Memorial High in this well-to-do Oklahoma City suburb. Edmond Memorial is considered one of the top high schools in the state in academics.

While Henderson stood next to her daughter at the intersection, a passing motorist called police with a report of psychological abuse, and an Oklahoma City police officer took a report. Mother and daughter were asked to leave after about an hour, and no citation was issued. But the report was forwarded to the state Department of Human Services.

"There wasn't any criminal act involved that the officer could see that would require any criminal investigation," Master Sgt. Charles Phillips said. "DHS may follow up."

DHS spokesman Doug Doe would not comment on whether an investigation was opened, but suggested such a case would probably not be a high priority.

Tasha Henderson said her daughter's attendance has been perfect and her behavior has been better since the incident.

Coretha, a soft-spoken girl, acknowledged the punishment was humiliating but said it got her attention. "I won't talk back," she said quietly, hanging her head.

She already has been forced by her parents to give up basketball and track because of slipping grades, and said she hopes to improve in school so she can play next year.

Donald Wertlieb, a professor of child development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University, warned that such punishment could do extreme emotional damage. He said rewarding positive behavior is more effective.

"The trick is to catch them being good," he said. "It sounds like this mother has not had a chance to catch her child being good or is so upset over seeing her be bad, that's where the focus is."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Built For a Kilt

This past weekend, Mrs. Muley and I took our oldest daughter to the Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Salado. My daughter is very interested in and proud of her Scottish ancestry (on my wife's side of the family), and last year we went to the festival for the first time. My daughter loved it, and ended up getting us to give her a woman's kilt and a tartan tam as a Christmas present.

This was our second year to attend, and my daughter brought two friends along with her. A big highlight for her was that she got to taste haggis for the first time (she claims she LOVES it, and says it tastes like very seasoned hamburger, despite numerous reports that it tastes like something you'd find on the bottom of your shoe).

It's a somewhat surreal experience to be at a Scottish festival. Everywhere there are men in kilts walking around, and the sound of bagpipes, all playing different tunes on top of each other, is constant. Some might consider that to be one of Dante's circles of hell, but you get used to it after awhile, just like the noise of freight trains passing close to a house, or a pneumatic drill pounding away in a machine shop.

The most interesting thing about the festival for me was a piece of information I received from a genuine Scotsman that I haven't been able to verify yet. He said that there is an age-old feud between the clans of McDonald and Campbell. It's so bad, he said, that to this day in Scotland, people named Campbell will not eat in a McDonald's restaurant, and people named McDonald will not eat Campbell's soup. Even if he was pulling our legs about that, it's an interesting story.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Weird Web Photo Gallery

What happens when you cross the Cat in the Hat's hat, Big Bird and and a rainbow? Well, you get something that will certainly turn some heads when you wear it to church on Sunday.

When I see these weird fashion pictures, I always wonder what's going through the model's head when she's wearing contraptions such as this. Does she think she's being daring, or chic, or does she know that most of us will be laughing our rears off at her costume? Or does she even care what we plebians think?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Weird Web Photo Gallery

I'm not sure how to caption this.

"The Child is Father to the Man is Father to the"

"Mother and Child Reunion"

"The Ending of Kubrick's 2001 Finally Explained"

Any ideas?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Does anybody really care?

I ask this question after a revelation I had today on the university campus on which I work. For some unkown reason -- possibly I was worried in the back of my mind that my old-fashioned wristwatch was so old-fashioned as to be dorkily laughable, I don't know -- I used my walk across campus to look at students' arms to learn what types of wristwatches they are wearing nowadays.

What I found is, put simply, that they don't wear wristwatches.

Of course, I exaggerate a bit. But I saw a lot of students, and did a lot of mental noting, and I'd say only about a third of the guys wore wristwatches, while maybe (maybe) only five percent of the women wore them.

I know that if you did a watch survey of my post-college colleagues in the building where I work, you'd find every single one of us timebound serfs was wearing a watch. So I want to know -- what causes the discrepancy between our two groups?

Is this an age thing? A cultural difference? A difference in life philosophies? Can college students not scarf up $14.95 for a Timex at Wal-Mart? Please tell me, dear readers, what you think the answer might be. I appeal to Humor Girl and any other college students reading this -- what's the deal?

I have a few possibilities that might or might not be the answer at this university:

1. College students, being the free spirits they are, don't need to be tied down by materialistic, capitalistic tools of slavery like clocks and watches. Besides, TIVO will record Lost and The OC when it's supposed to.

2. Since all college students are melded to electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops at all times, and since most of these gadgets tell time as well, there's no need for superfluous wristwatches.

3. Since the clock on the administration building here chimes out the quarter hours, and can be heard across much of campus, wristwatches aren't needed, at least by students who haven't attended an excessive number of rock concerts.

4. By not wearing a watch, students can always have a foolproof excuse for being late to classes and other pesky obligations.

5. Maybe wearing a watch is secret code for "I have extensive comic book and Star Wars figurine collections and live at home with my parents. Wanna go out sometime?"

So -- tell me your ideas. I want to figure this one out.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Weird Web Photo Gallery

If Pablo Picasso had owned a dog, it probably would have looked like this:

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Latest from Waco


Yesterday I heard my first Christmas tune of the season piped in through a sound system while shopping. The place was Wal-Mart, the song was "Jingle Bell Rock." Start your engines.


Speaking of piped-in music, the HEB grocery store I frequent plays 1960s and 1970s rock and pop hits, which I usually enjoy a lot, except when they interrupt a great tune I haven't heard in years to tell me that chicken gizzards are now available in the deli section. While I like the music, the teenagers who work the cash register and haphazardly bag my groceries absolutely hate it.

I have had this happen more than once. I wheel up with my cart and start unloading items, only to hear the checker, usually a teenaged boy with pimples, muttering loudly to impress his teenage female co-worker: "I hate this music. This music sucks! How can I work here with this stuff playing? Why don't they get some decent music in here? This sucks. I hate this music."

Of course, I empathize. If I had worked at a supermarket back in the 70s, and all they had playing over the speakers was Muzak and stuff like the Four Freshmen and Pat Boone, I would have gone nutso. So I know where they're coming from, even if I firmly believe the songs I grew up on are way superior to the drooling ghetto thump that most of these kids listen to. Maybe they understand, or maybe they don't, that if HEB played the stuff they wanted to hear over the speakers, Coldplay and Green Day and Simple Plan and Razzy Daddy Super Pimp 50 Cent Ghetto Hood rap, all the customers over the age of 23 would head down the road to buy their bagels at the Super Wal-Mart.


This is not something your typical good Baptist boy does, but I occasionally pick up extra money dealing blackjack. My brother-in-law owns a sideline business here in Waco called Vegas to Go, and they provide casino games for parties. He does a lot of sorority and fraternity parties at Baylor, as well as company parties, family reunions and the like. There's no cash betting allowed. Usually what happens is that the players are given a certain amount of funny money, which they use to buy chips. They then either lose their chips or add to them by playing Texas Hold 'Em poker, blackjack, craps or roulette, and then trade them in at the end for tickets to a raffle of some sort.

Blackjack is fairly easy to deal, and the people who play are usually young and doing it for fun. So it's usually enjoyable, even though sitting there and dealing hands for two or three hours at a time can get tedious. Mrs. Muley (who deals as well) and I will be spending part of tomorrow night dealing at a sorority party on a riverboat here in Waco. Should be fun.


I've always wondered -- why do they call it a "Living" Bra? Are there bacteria or some other type of living organisms woven into the fabric? If so, ladies, can you feel those critters wriggling around? If you put one of these things in a microwave for a minute on HIGH, would it then be called a "Dead" Bra? And would it still support the merchandise?


I have so far said nothing about my Houston Astros since they won the National League pennant. As you know, they tanked in the World Series, losing every game to Chicago. What can I say? Even though the games were close (distressingly so), Chicago actually brought their offense along to the ballpark and deserved to win. I'm just glad that the 'Stros finally made it to the big show after 44 years. I hope it's not another 44 till they're back again.

And since the Astros didn't win the Series, no, the world will not end. At least not because of that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Yes, I'll Take a (Cashier's) Check

From surfing around, I see that this is the latest gimmick. So here I go.

My blog is worth $13,548.96.
How much is your blog worth?

Anyone want to purchase the biting wit, hard-hitting analysis and sheer irrelevance of Muley's World? The money would help pay for a bathroom remodel, a few nice reading chairs and a big box of Dots candy. Send me an e-mail if interested.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Don't Laugh, It's Coming

Now That's Realism

FREDERICA, Delaware –– The apparent suicide of a woman found hanging from a tree went unreported for hours because passers-by thought the body was a Halloween decoration, authorities said.

The 42-year-old woman used rope to hang herself across the street from some homes on a moderately busy road late Tuesday or early Wednesday, state police said.

The body, suspended about 15 feet above the ground, could be easily seen from passing vehicles.

State police spokesman Cpl. Jeff Oldham and neighbors said people noticed the body at breakfast time Wednesday but dismissed it as a holiday prank. Authorities were called to the scene more than three hours later.

"They thought it was a Halloween decoration," Fay Glanden, wife of Mayor William Glanden, told The (Wilmington) News Journal.

"It looked like something somebody would have rigged up," she said.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Musical Maxims

Have you ever thought how much great (and terrible) advice and life philosophies there are in pop songs? I sat around the other day and tried to recall all the pithy lines I could. Here's 10 off the top of my head. Maybe you can add your own to this list:

1. Every form of refuge has its price. (Lyin’ Eyes, Eagles)

2. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose (Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin).

3. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan)

4. All that glitters is gold (All Star, Smash Mouth)

5. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. (Watching the Wheels, John Lennon).

6. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. (Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell)

7. In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. (The End, Beatles)

8. All you need is love. (All You Need is Love, Beatles)

9. You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself. (Garden Party, Rick Nelson)

10. It’s what we do that makes us what we are. (One Less Set of Footsteps, Jim Croce)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What Happens in the Blogosphere Stays in the Blogosphere (Yeah, Right)

I’m sure by now, if you live in America and come within one linear mile of a television set now and then, you have seen the commercials hawking Las Vegas as a place where you can do things you normally wouldn’t do, with the knowledge that your dirty deeds (or at least your embarrassing ones) won’t become gossip fodder back home. You’ve no doubt heard the slogan that sums up the philosophy:


As it usually happens with catchy slogans, this one has caught on and is being copied and modified all over. The other day, I even saw a student on the campus of America’s largest Baptist university with a T-shirt that read


This got me to thinking (which is always a dangerous turn of events). What if this slogan concept had been available much earlier in world history? What kind of T-shirts would have been in evidence?

I think all the way back to the 1500s on the North Carolina coast, the site of England’s first North American colony. No doubt Virginia Dare and her fellow “lost” colonists were wearing clothing that said


In the same way, Amelia Earhart’s support team should have worried when they saw her step into her plane after refueling in Lae, bound for Howland Island, wearing a T-shirt that said


These types of shirts likely would have shown up at other points in history. Imagine the guards watching Tsar Nicholas II and his family in that cellar in 1918, wearing T-shirts with hammers and sickles that proclaimed


And what good Nazi anxious to impress Hitler and Himmler would have been caught dead in 1944 without a brown T-shirt that read


I think other criminals would have been attracted to the slogan concept as well. Too bad Scotland Yard didn't stop and question the surgeon’s assistant wearing the bloody smock that read


And people should have been a bit suspicious about Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski when he came into town for supplies wearing sunglasses and a smelly, torn sweatshirt that read


Politics would be a natural for these as well. In fact, I’ve learned that Deep Throat didn’t decide to reveal his identity because he wanted to. He was forced to, being outed by neighbors who saw him mowing the lawn in shirts that said


Speaking of Nixon, the T-shirts he and Bill Clinton had made didn’t work like they hoped:


Those guys should have learned from President Harding’s cabinet members back in the 1920s during the Teapot Dome Scandal, when they wore little pins on their starched white dress shirts that said


I see this slogan working on TV shows as well. Of course, there needs to be a bit of sex or other salaciousness to make it work right. For example, Aunt Bee wouldn’t have drawn in any more viewers wearing an apron that said


Surely one of the saddest, most frustrating T-shirts on television was the one worn by Gilligan and his friends that said


And we should have kept a better eye on Pee Wee Herman when he began wearing shirts that said


Finally, will we see this T-shirt on the Sopranos anytime soon?


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Will Jesus Return Now That the Astros Have Won?

Yes, that's the question I'm asking today. Are the end times here? First, all these hurricanes and earthquakes. Then the impossible -- Houston actually WINS a National League playoff.

I have been rooting for Houston almost since I was old enough to watch TV or listen to radio. So many times have I waited through the playoffs, only to be denied a trip to the World Series by some incredible mistake. My analogy was always that the Astros were Charlie Brown, and the World Series was the football that Lucy pulled away at the last moment every single time.

Now, I guess I'll have to take that blurb about "long-suffering Astros fan" out of my profile. At this point, I don't even care as much that they win the World Series than that they fought the odds and made it. I'll be watching Saturday some way, even though Mrs. Muley and I will be down in San Antonio celebrating our 17th anniversary. We've got a nice hotel on the Riverwalk, so we're going to be eating Mexican food, strolling around, and doing other things I won't discuss here.

Have a great weekend, guys. And root for the 'Stros!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Latest from Waco


It is squirrel season in Central Texas right now. On the campus where I work, the little things are scurrying back and forth, gathering nuts for the winter. This is a life-affirming activity, but there is at least one squirrel around here with a death wish. Twice now, as I have driven off the campus toward home at the end of a day, this little fella has waited for my approach, then has run straight in front of my vehicle at the last minute, hoping my wheels would crush him to a furry paste. I know it’s got to be the same squirrel, because the two episodes have occurred in exactly the same spot.

Even when I have stopped and tried to drive around the squirrel, instead of running in the opposite direction he darts straight for my tires. He wants to be dead, dead, dead, and he wants me to kill him. He’s the Charlie Tuna of the treetops.

So far, I have resisted all his attempts to have me play the part of a mercy killer. But if he keeps it up, my patience might wear out. I keep wondering – what fuels his death wish? Is Mrs. Nutsy cheating with a bushier squirrel from the tree next door? Did some scavenging rodent steal the supply of pecans he’s painstakingly spent all summer amassing? Did some heartless frat boy spike an acorn with PCP and feed it to the little guy? I detect a series on Animal Planet here: “Suicide Squirrels.”


While browsing through the stacks in the library, I saw an anthology of stories collected by Alfred Hitchcock called Stories that Scared Even Me. Now, c’mon. Did these tales really terrify old Alfred?


The other day at the grocery store checkout, I noticed that the nametag of the high school girl who scanned my items said her name was “Marley.” And she didn’t have black skin or dreadlocks, or talk with a Jamaican accent. I said, “I know you probably get this all the time, but were you named after the singer?” She said, “You mean Bob Marley?” (as if maybe I thought the ghost in A Christmas Carol actually sang carols, I don’t know). I said “Yes,” and she then confirmed the fact that her parents were big Marley fans. “You know, there’s another girl who works here who’s named Marley as well,” she told me. I was a bit taken aback.

How did I miss this apparent trend –– little Millennial WASP girls named after the doobie king himself? Have any of you run into someone (not a Rastafarian vocalist) named Marley? Is there already a women’s perfume or a Bratz doll character named Marley?


Speaking of grocery stores, I notice that they have upgraded the special kiddie carts they provide for parents to push small kids around the aisles in. They used to have those extra-long carts with a few plastic seats just added on the back, but now they are using big enclosed plastic buggies, with fake steering wheels and flashing lights on the fake dashboard to keep the sugar-fueled little tykes occupied while mom tries to ignore them and shop. Some of the buggies at the HEB where I shop are even decorated with pictures of Barney and Baby Bop.

I’m wondering two things. First of all, since almost all consumer products evolve endlessly, what is the next step for these kiddie carts? Will they next have actual TV screens and DVD players in them, so kids can watch TV or DVDs while mommy shops? And will they then add X-Boxes or Playstations? I wouldn’t doubt it.

My second thought is this. If kids can have this opportunity to be entertained when faced with being forced to endure a boring shopping trip, why not adults? When men are forced to accompany their wives clothes shopping, why can’t they sit in an enclosed cart filled with munchies and beer, a TV tuned to sports and copies of Maxim and Stuff? And gals, when you have to accompany your husbands as they patrol the aisles at Home Depot or the neighborhood electronics store, why can’t you be pushed around in comfort in a buggy filled with snacks and video or your choice as you lounge on a seat with built-in massage devices? Hmmm?


A few weeks ago in the 4th grade Sunday school class Mrs. Muley and I teach, they had a Baylor baseball player come and give his testimony to the kids, and talk to them about his plans for life. He mentioned that after he finishes playing baseball, he might go to seminary. “Does anyone know what a seminary is?” he asked the class. One puzzled-looking little boy raised his hand.

“Isn’t that where they bury people?” he replied.

Quote of the week:

"If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there is a man on base."

--Dave Barry

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Deep Breath...Take Two

Okay, as the old phrase goes, it's time to &*$# or get off the pot.

I have been in a blogging limbo for three or four weeks, wondering what to do. The long story short is this. I got a great thrill out of blogging, but that was the problem. I was devoting WAY to much time to it, committing myself (in my own mind) to make at least one post a day, if not more. I was throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to do something every day, and try to keep an audience. At some point, the well ran dry.

Also, I became somewhat obsessed with the numbers game. How many visits did my site get today? How many comments did my last post get? None so far. (15 minutes later) Let me check back again and see if anyone's commented. Nobody? (20 minutes later) Surely someone's commented by now! No one? (I'll wait 10 minutes and check again...)

Between the time I was spending writing posts -- and rewriting posts -- and then checking back for hits and comments on my posts, not to mention checking other blogs I loved, commenting on THEM, then checking back those to see if THOSE comments had been commented on, I was using almost every available minute of "free" time blogging. And what's worse, more and more of that time wasn't truly free. I was stealing time away from things that should have been untouchables -- like family and work -- to fuel my blogging obsession.

So, no more of that insanity. I can't handle it anymore. Besides, I have some new projects -- two historical research writing projects and some family history stuff -- that's incredibly exciting to me, and that's taking up a lot of my free time now.

But, the undeniable fact is, I still enjoy blogging, and I enjoy interacting with the friends I've made through the blogosphere. So here's what I'm going to try to do -- a classic in the art of compromise. Like an addict trying to leave the halfway house for the first time, I'm going to start off by trying to do just one post a week -- maybe a "Week in Waco" wrapup -- and see how that goes. If that works, then maybe I can increase things slowly, if the mood hits me. I know this sounds incredibly self-indulgent and anal, and I know the main thought now from you probably is, "Do I care?" But for those few of you who might care, that's my plan. Please stick with me -- maybe Muley still has a few kicks left in him.

And besides, I can finally get that picture of Rita off the top of this site!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's Looking Like Rita's Moving East

It's 5 p.m. here in Waco, and the latest news reports make it sound as though Hurricane Rita is going to hit further east of where the experts once predicted. Mrs. Muley just told me that she heard the eye of the hurricane is now projected to hit Lake Charles, La., instead of Galveston. This means that the Houston-Galveston area would still get rain, but nothing like they would have gotten with a direct hit.

Of course, the people in Lake Charles can't be too happy, and I've got to think a Louisiana landfall will bring enough rain to New Orleans to endanger the repaired levees. There really isn't a good alternative at this point. The good alternative would have been if this thing would have headed south and hit in a remote section of Mexico, where only some goats and lizards would have been affected.

Now the questions in Waco are a bit different than they were this morning. No. 1 is, "Will we get any rain at all out of this?" A little rain would be welcome, since we've had 100-degree temperatures and no rain for weeks here. Question No. 2 is, "How many refugees will pour into town looking for shelter?" Already, I've heard that Interstate 35 here is one big traffic jam, with people trying to head north toward Dallas. Colleagues at Baylor were gathered this afternoon, trying to figure out the best alternate routes home so they wouldn't have to get on the highway.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow or Saturday, things have changed around here. Scads of events have been postponed or canceled, including a big balloon glow and Christian concert at Baylor, a Heart Walk Saturday for the American Heart Association, and a church conference at Truett Seminary. Lots of high school football teams decided against canceling their games, so they're having them tonight instead of tomorrow night. I even heard that Texas A&M University decided to have their game tonight instead of Saturday.

Both my parents and my relatives in the Houston area tried to leave this morning to come to Waco, but after hours sitting virtually still in traffic, they turned around and came home. It's not as though they want to wait the storm out, it's just that, lacking helicopters, they have no realistic way of leaving that won't leave them exposed on a highway somewhere when the rains and winds hit. The news this afternoon told of one woman from Houston who's been on the road an entire day -- 24 hours straight -- and she's traveled only 150 miles along the Interstate. That's how bad it is, folks. Other news reports I've heard say drivers have gotten out of their cars on the Interstate and have created impromptu tailgate parties, throwing frisbees and sitting in lawn chairs. If you're stuck and can't move, why not?

I'm glad for everyone in Waco that we seem to have been spared the brunt of Hurricane Rita (the forecast only calls for a 50 percent chance of rain now on Saturday), but I realize that the ol' girl could turn back west and hit us bad anytime she chooses. And I know many others won't be this lucky, so I will continue to pray for those in her path -- wherever that ends up being.

I'll check in tomorrow when I have more news. Hope all of you are safe.

We're Riding Out Rita

Here in Waco, Texas, we're getting a closer view of what those poor people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama suffered three weeks ago when Hurricane Katrina blew in. As I write this, Hurricane Rita is making a beeline for Galveston, and there's a decent chance that it will hit Waco on its way through Texas. Let me take a few moments to describe some goings on here.

First of all, speculation is rife. We've been hearing one disaster scenario after another for tbe past three days on local news. The latest scenarios have the main part of Rita going up through East Texas, which means that Waco would get only heavy rain and higher than usual winds. But no one really knows for sure except God.

If it wasn't so serious, some of the speculation would be hilarious. The other day, my wife and I were listening to the local morning news, and one excitable weather personality came on to describe what "might" happen to Waco if we got hit head on with Rita. He decribed an almost apocalyptic scene with water and power out, trees uprooted, food supplies cleaned out, and no help for days. I swear, I was expecting him to end the report with either an alien attack or Jesus coming again through the parting clouds.

We did the things that they recommended -- went to the store and stocked up on things we might need (like bottled water, which was cleaned out by Tuesday morning), contacted relatives in harm's way, and prayed.

My parents live in Friendswood, which is almost halfway between Houston and Galveston on I-45. Residents of Friendswood and surrounding towns are under a mandatory evacuation order to leave by noon today, so my parents are leaving this morning to try and make it to Waco, where they'll stay with us. I have no idea how long it will take them to get to us. Interstate 45 is pretty much jammed between Houston and Dallas, and I've heard that the trip from Houston to Waco, which normally takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours, is now taking as much as 12 hours to make. Cars are on the side of the Interstate, stranded, because they ran out of gas waiting in the unmoving traffic.

My brother, meanwhile, who still lives with my parents in an upstairs garage apartment, has decided for some reason to stay and wait it out. Maybe he thinks he'll be there to get started on any needed repairs after the storm hits, I don't know. He's a grown man, so there's little chance of persuading him to do what he doesn't want to do.

Meanwhile, my brother- and sister-in-law and their family live in Humble, which is a northern suburb of Houston. They have been battling traffic trying to get loaded up and leave town since yesterday. It took my brother-in-law four hours just to drive home from work across Houston yesterday, a trip that normally takes him just 45 minutes to make.

They must also head out north on I-45, which I hear that officials are about to make one-way most of the way to Dallas to get more lanes in use. I imagine the wait on that road will be maddening.

Their teenaged son -- my nephew -- works in the local HEB grocery store, and he described a scene of pandemonium a few days ago as people came in and quickly cleaned out much of the stock. (I'm not sure if the sauerkraut sold out -- does anyone ever really eat that?) The bottled water went first, but my nephew got to unload a truck delivering new bottles, so he was able to buy some for his family.

Here at Baylor, the university has cancelled classes tomorrow, but I'm not sure yet whether staffers such as myself will be required to come in. There's also a good chance that some of the university buildings could be used for refugee shelters, but I'll know more after an announcement they're making at noon today.

So, for now it's wait and see. I was at my childhood home in Friendswood when Alicia hit there in 1983, dropping more than 20 inches of rain in a very short time. Our house was in the 100-year floodplain, but it still managed to get about six inches of water. We did much better than the houses across the creek -- the water was up to the roofs. So, I've lived through this before, and know how vulnerable the Houston-Galveston area is to a hurricane and the flooding and destruction it causes.

Hopefully, everyone has had enough notice to allow them to get out of harm's way in time. The lessons taught by Katrina have been invaluable in this sense. I'll keep my eyes and ears open and let you know what happens in a later post (assuming that Jesus does not come. If he does, I won't be posting).

By the way, speaking of Jesus, I must throw in a joke I heard recently to introduce a little levity.

Two men, Harry and Fred, were ardent church choir members who often discussed whether there truly was a choir in heaven. The men made a pact that the first one of them to die would come back and somehow tell the other if a heavenly choir did indeed exist.

Well, as luck would have it, Harry died suddenly a few months later. The night after the funeral, Fred was awakened by the sight of his deceased friend hovering in his bedroom like an angel.

As soon as he recovered his senses, Fred said "Harry, it's good to see you! So tell me, is it true? Is there a choir in heaven?"

Harry said, "Fred, I have good and bad news. The good news is that there most definitely is a choir in heaven, and it's a doozy -- the most wonderful choir I've ever heard."

"What's the bad news?" Fred asked.

"You're scheduled to sing a solo in it tomorrow," Harry said.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

I've Lost That Blogging Feeling (Part Two)

In yesterday's post, I detailed how I backed into a place in the blogosphere. Today, I'll look at those heady first months at the helm of Muley's World, including a development that left me challenging some of my earliest assumptions about blogging.


After I had taken the plunge and started Muley’s World, I had to sit down and try to figure out how I wanted to use my new toy. Remember, I didn’t know much at all about the blogosphere, its characteristics or unwritten rules, so I was flying blind. Here are some of the things I resolved to do with my blog when I first began:

1. I decided to view my blog as my own personal online magazine. Forget trying to get some snooty magazine or literary journal to accept my stuff – I had my own! I was publisher, editor, writer, layout artist and circulation manager. I could print what I wanted, when I wanted.

2. As far as the content of my new magazine went, I decided I would concentrate almost exclusively on printing the essays, short stories and poetry I produced. Again, I viewed Muley’s World as my own literary journal. Or, if you like, it was my own free art gallery, open to the public 24/7, with endless wall space, allowing me to hang whatever pictures I wanted the public to see.

3. Knowing that one of my failings as a writer has always been the inability to write and produce finished works on a regular basis, I resolved to give my powers of self-discipline more muscle by committing to posting something every single day, with the exception of Sundays and times of illness, family emergency and vacations.

4. I would wait about a month or so to compile a “back catalog” before letting anyone else know about my blog (Mrs. Muley excepted, of course). When I did start getting the word out, I would begin with my closest friends, then include family, then -- maybe many months out -- include people I did not interact with every day, such as friends from church and kids’ sporting events. I thought that if any “strangers” ended up seeing my site, they would be friends of the friends I personally told about Muley’s World.

5. Because the place I work for doesn’t have a blog policy for employees, and because I was unwilling to have people I work with commenting on my daily posts, I decided to remain as anonymous as I could, without being too anal retentive about it.

6. I didn't really care how many people saw my blog site, as long as I could write the stuff I wanted and have a permanent home for it.

Alongside these early resolutions, I also had some early misconceptions about the blogosphere:

1. I pictured blogging as basically a one-way circuit. In other words, you put material out there, someone else read it, and that completed the circuit. The idea that as much time and effort would ever be spent in commenting on someone else’s blog -- or responding to comments someone else wrote on your blog – didn’t even enter my mind.

2. I thought that the blogosphere was a great home for all types of writing -- from the shortest quips to the longest, most detailed essays. I also thought it was most likely a great home for fictional work, where blog owners would post their short stories, poems and novellas for others to see.

3. I had no idea of whether the blogosphere was primarily liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. I didn’t know and I didn’t care, because getting into any kind of discussion online about politics was the last thing I felt like doing. I wanted to write and create and be whimsical and funny and lyrical.

It’s no surprise, then, that my first posts were either humorous essays I came up with on the fly, such as a piece where I imagined what the mystery element Retsyn might be, or pieces I had dreamed up years ago but had never written, such as an evaluation of great sleepers of the Bible. I was having great fun, but almost overnight I began spending a lot of time with my new hobby. I was combing through old notebooks, writing first drafts, editing, then tapping out finished versions. I would post long pieces sometimes twice a day, often written late into the night after everyone else had gone to bed.

I could tell at first that Mrs. Muley was unsure if my new mistress was going to take me away for good. Looking back now, I was so excited about finally having this creative outlet available that all I seemed to talk about to her was blogging – my previous posts, the posts I was working on now, the post I had planned for tomorrow. I started taking my lunch hour off at work to spend it either writing posts, or reading the posts of others.

I should have known it was bad when at least two or three people who read my earliest efforts said, “You sure have a lot of free time on your hands, don’t you?” To some extent I did, since May and June are very slow months for me, but in another way, no, because I was stealing time away from family and other important tasks to blog.

An entirely unexpected event happened less than a week after I had begun Muley’s World. The one blog I had discovered and become a faithful reader of prior to becoming a blogger was Dawn Eden’s “Dawn Patrol.” She was my cyber hero. I so admired her writing skill, her humor, and her passion for great causes such as the right to life. Well, lo and behold, one day that first week I was checking Dawn’s site, and there was a mention of Muley’s World! Not only a mention, but Dawn praised me and my site far more than I would ever deserve. I was flabbergasted for two reasons: one, that she would have such good things to say about what was clearly a neophyte’s attempt to blog, and two, that she knew about me at all.

I was thrilled and giddy as a schoolgirl, but a bit shook up as well. What did this mean? I had never contacted Dawn by e-mail or commented on her site, so how in the heck did she know about Muley’s World? I knew nothing about things like trackbacks and site meters, so unless you left some sort of message, I figured you remained anonymous when you looked at other people’s blogs. I didn’t know what the little “Next Blog” button at the top of Blogger sites would do if you punched it. How did Dawn find me? How?

This meant, of course, that my original planning about having no one look at my site until I’d had a month or so to tweak it and build up a library of postings was now useless. People – strangers to me – were looking at my site, now. My art gallery’s doors were opened, so I’d better have something for them to see.

I kept on writing furiously, but I also spent more and more time looking at new blogs, trying to see how others were doing things. I found indexes of conservative and Christian blogs and visited many of the sites listed. And it was these visits that started turning me away from my first plans for Muley’s World into something quite different.



Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I've Lost That Blogging Feeling (Part One)

Okay, let’s clear up a few things right away:

1. I am not dead. Really.

2. I am not, thank the Lord, a refugee from Hurricane Katrina who’s been without a computer for weeks.

3. I have not had extensive plastic surgery, requiring me to recuperate, swaddled in bandages, in a secluded spa somewhere.

4. I am not holed up in a love nest with Jennifer Aniston, trying to make her forget Brad Pitt.

5. I have not been abducted by aliens. Or if I have, they have a heckuva reality simulation room in their spaceship.

No, I have none of these exciting and nifty explanations available to explain why I have been AWOL from the blogosphere for more than two weeks. This was an unplanned vacation, I assure you. If you’re wondering if I’ve decided to abandon Muley’s World, the short answer is no, at least not now. But I find it hard to come up with an equally short answer to the question of why I have seemingly disappeared into the twilight -- at least a short answer that makes sense. So, I‘ve decided to treat you few regular visitors, my patient and supportive friends, with a long answer that will hopefully suffice.

For new visitors to this site, especially those new to the blogging scene, maybe this will serve as both an entertaining cautionary tale and a look behind the scenes at “the rise and fall” of an average American blog site, with all the embarrassing parts left in.

Since I feel the urge to ramble a bit, I’ll divide up this post into three or four sections, each posted on a different day. That way, it won’t be like asking you to swallow a bowling ball all at once. And maybe some of you will even manage to read the whole thing.


Maybe my story is a lot like yours. I got into blogging – became the owner and creator of a blog, in fact – before I truly knew what blogging really was. It was akin to learning how to swim by jumping off the high dive and seeing what happens next.

Of course, I had been hearing about the blogosphere for quite awhile before I joined it. About a year or so ago, I decided on a slow day to see what these “web logs” were all about. I typed in “blog” on a search engine, came up with a directory or two of blog sites, and started looking around.

Frankly, I was not impressed with what I found. Most of those first blogs I looked at were the type kept by whiny, self-obsessed teenagers (are there any other types, you ask?) who filled page after digital page with gossip, ruminations on what clothes they were buying and wearing, observations about friends and the opposite sex, cynical analyses of the latest hot shows on Fox and the WB, and minute-by-minute accounts of their seemingly boring and, like, you know, uh, tedious days. After reading a dozen or so of these, I jumped to the conclusion that blogs were simply online journals of the “Dear Diary” type, a new fad that bored teenagers had taken up after instant messaging was no longer cutting edge.

At the same time I was pooh-poohing the blogosphere, I was yearning for someplace to display my writing talents. I’ve been a writer ever since I learned how to put pencil to Big Chief tablet, and in the last five years or so I have filled about a notebook a year with poems, haiku, and detailed ideas for short stories, essays (both humorous and serious) and even a children’s book or two. A few essays I even managed to write, filing them away in a folder when I was through.

I knew very well what the fate of the average wannabe writer is when he decides he wants to be in print, and I realized I just didn’t have the heart or the stomach to send out 5,312 unsuccessful query letters before finally getting a small piece accepted by South Dakota Bovine Digest and Literary Journal for the grand sum of $10. I just wasn’t up to it, but I wanted to get at least some of the stuff I was writing (and could one day write) in front of a reader or two I wasn’t related to before I died.

The best idea I could come up with was a sort of “e-digest,” where I would ask close friends if I could e-mail them some sort of collection of prose and poetry every few weeks or so. But I knew this was problematic. It would put my friends on the spot –- how could they politely decline my offer if they weren’t interested? –- and, if they got the e-mails but soon grew tired of them, how would they ask me to take them off the mailing list without offending me?

So I was stuck. I did think about a blog, but I seriously thought that anyone with a blog site had designed it themselves, and that before you could get a blog you had to know Web programming well enough to some up with templates and headers and all that stuff, as well as being fully versed in html. Some day, I thought, when I have the time to take a Web design class, maybe I’ll get into that. But not now.

I told you I knew next to nothing about the blogosphere.

So, imagine my surprise when, in mid-May of 2005, a friend of mine here in Waco, someone who didn’t know Web design, sent me an e-mail saying “check out my new blog.” I did, and was amazed by what I saw. Here was a professional-looking web site, with daily entries and links and all sorts of wonderful things. I called this person and complimented her, saying I wished I could one day learn how to do that. “It’s easy,” she said. “Go to the Blogger web site. You choose a template, answer some questions, and push submit. It took me about five minutes to set mine up. And it’s totally free.”

That same night, after thinking more and more about this great new toy, I decided to jump off the high dive. I went to Blogger, chose a template, and came up with a name – Muley’s World – which was the name of a fake, satirical radio show I came up with and hosted during my radio station days, featuring me introducing songs and doing comedy bits with an accent that sounded quite rural Texan.

I didn’t know what to say in my first post – hadn’t thought about it, really – so I ended up tapping out a few sentences which basically announced “Here I am!” and pushed the submit button. Muley’s World was delivered kicking and screaming without the use of forceps.

Tune in tomorrow for


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Testimony in the Sand

Here's some amazing photos of Christian sand sculptures sent to me in an e-mail. They're done by Chuck Ritchey on the beach at Ocean City, Maryland.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Top Single: This Week in 1960

The No. 1 single 45 years ago today was "It's Now or Never" by Elvis Presley. I didn't know this until I looked it up, but "It's Now or Never" is Elvis's biggest-selling single, with total international sales topping 20 million. That paid for a lot of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches at Graceland.

This song had legs, as the saying goes. In America, it became No. 1 on August 15, 1960, and stayed at the top for five weeks in a row, finally getting knocked off by Chubby Checker's "The Twist." In Britain, "It's Now or Never" stayed at No. 1 for eight weeks.

The song had a more adult, operatic sound than anything Elvis had sung up to this point. It was based on "O Sole Mio," an Italian song written in 1901 and made popular by Mario Lanza. It was reported to be Elvis's personal favorite of all his songs, beating out even "Do the Clam."

What other songs were topping the chart at this time? He's the rest of the Top Five the week of August 15, 1960:

2. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini -- Brian Hyland
3. I'm Sorry -- Brenda Lee
4. Only the Lonely -- Roy Orbison
5. Walk, Don't Run -- Ventures

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. There have been some titanic grudge matches throughout history: God vs. Satan, Moses vs. Pharaoh, Yankees vs. Rebels, Hatfields vs. McCoys and Ali vs. Frazier, just to name a few. But I don’t think there is a hair-pullin’, groin-kickin’ feud today more annoying than that between cable TV companies and satellite TV companies. Every day, we are subjected to their grating and overblown televised ads. First a cable TV company comes on and tells us how unreliable and crappy and overpriced satellite TV is, and then a minute later, a satellite TV company comes on and tells us how unreliable and crappy and overpriced cable TV is. The cycle repeats, incessantly, endlessly. It’s almost enough to make you retrieve the rabbit ears from that pile of outdated technology in the corner of the garage and hook ‘em up again.

2. While the Muley family avoided going to Crawford over the weekend to see the big shoutfest between pro- and anti-Bush elements, we just couldn’t avoid our little neighbor to the south. Saturday morning, my daughter’s soccer team played its counterpart from Crawford in a game in Waco, and got soundly trounced. On my way to this game, I stopped in a convenience store to get a drink, and saw a middle-aged couple in black leather riding Harleys come in. They told the clerk they got separated from their group and asked for directions to Crawford. At first I thought they were going down to join the anti-Bush crowd, but the man said, “We’re coming to support the troops.” The tattooed woman he was with added, “Yeah, we’re going to kick some hippies’ butts!” I told them to put in my word of support for the troops and the President with theirs, and they assured me they would. Boy, that would have been something to be in Crawford on Saturday.

3. Speaking of soccer, I am now of the opinion that soccer is only exciting in two instances –- if you have a loved one playing whom you are rooting for, or if you are playing the game yourself. I finally got to see a “real” soccer game last night, meaning a game played by adults and not by 9-year-olds I am related to. This was a college game, and I was totally bored. There was 90 minutes of action, and for only about 2 minutes of combined time was the ball ever in serious contention for a goal. The rest of the time was spent watching the players kick the ball up and down and up and down and up and down the field. It was about as exciting as sitting at an interchange and watching the traffic go through the lights for an hour and a half. I am more puzzled than ever as to why this physically demanding but thoroughly monotonous game is such a rabid passion in most of the world. Oh, did I tell you the score of the game I saw? 1-0, and that one point was scored on a penalty kick. I was quivering with emotion.

4. I notice that car manufacturers keep extending these “employee discount” prices to customers over and over again, I assume because the tactic results in higher sales. But now that employees get no more of a discount than do members of the general public, is it harder for car dealers to hire people? Are these employees getting some sort of new benefit – say, higher salaries or free Koozies – to offset their loss of a reduced price on cars?

5. You can beat around the bush, and you can beat a dead horse, but is it possible to beat around a bush while there’s a dead horse lying, say, on top of it? Would this then be called “beating a dead horse around the bush?” And what would it imply, that you are taking issue with a resolved decision, but are very tentative about doing so?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Texas Postcard Gallery

This week's postcard is not exactly a Texas postcard, per se. This little jewel can be found all over the Southwest. I imagine it was designed by someone who didn't want any more Yankees or other non-residents moving down here, as it goes to great lengths to show just how many poisonous and otherwise nasty critters live in these parts. I imagine if you were out walking and ran into this exact layout, you'd just pour melted butter on yourself and surrender.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Man! I Feel Like an Animal

You can divide people into two categories -- those who think that humans were created by God as special beings with a soul, entrusted to have dominion over the animal kingdom, and those who think we're simply a more evolved (and more destructive and cruel and wasteful) member of that animal kingdom.

The latter group is having a field day this month at the London Zoo, with a unique exhibit called "The Human Zoo." Starting today and ending Monday, eight humans are on exhibit at the zoo, clothed in nothing more than fig leaves to cover their naughty bits.

Here's how the website of the London Zoo describes the exhibit:

"The August Bank holiday welcomes an extra special exhibit to London Zoo as a flock of Homo sapiens gather on the world famous Bear Mountain. Presented to the public with only fig leaves to protect their modesty, the humans will become an important feature of zoo life as they are cared for by our experienced keepers and kept entertained through various forms of enrichment. The four day event aims to demonstrate the basic nature of man as an animal and examine the impact that Homo sapiens have on the rest of the animal kingdom." (emphasis added)

There it is, folks. According to the London Zoo, we're not really any different from the monkeys who sit in their cages all day picking fleas off themselves. We're simply animals just lucky to be far up the evolutionary chain.

News reporters have visited the zoo to interview the eight intrepid people who will be on public display over the weekend. Here's what some of them said in one news report:

"I actually think the fig leaves will be enough to cover us up, it's no worse than a swimming pool," said volunteer Simon Spiro, 19, from New Malden, south of the British capital. Spiro, selected from dozens of hopefuls in an Internet competition, said he was excited by the prospect of monkeying around on the zoo's Bear Mountain.

"I'm a veterinary student so the idea of working for a zoo was something that appealed to me. I thought it would be fun and interesting because I'm an outdoorsy kind of person," he said.

Brendan Carr, 25, from Aylesbury, southern England, wrote a poem in his bid to get on the mountain.

"I'm funky like a monkey and as cool as a cat, talk more than a parrot, up all night like a bat," it went. "I got a laugh like a hyena but get the hump like a camel, so cover me in fig leaves as I'm the ultimate mammal."

The ultimate mammal. That's all we are, folks, at least according to the London Zoo. Let's all buy some bananas so we can go feed the monkeys this weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. My daughter Katelyn and a friend were at home the other day with my older daughter Rebecca babysitting. Katelyn and her friend decided they wanted to give each other facials, just like they’d seen done on TV. They didn’t have any cold cream, so they decided to use yogurt instead. And we didn’t have any cucumbers in the house they could slice and put over their eyes, so they figured, “Hey, pickles are just tiny cucumbers, right?” Luckily, before they got the chance to put pickle slices in their eyes, Rebecca caught wind of what was going on and stopped them. If she hadn’t, we’d still be hearing the pained howling now.

2. I saw a CD the other day titled “Irish Drinking Songs.” Isn’t that categorization a bit unnecessary? I mean, from what I’ve heard, you can play just about any song ever written and Irishmen will drink to it. Belt out an off-key rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and they’ll gladly get out the Guinness. Am I correct?

3. This is by no means authoritative, but based on observations I’ve made of college-age women (strictly a scientific study, I assure you), the almost total domination of straight hair styles among females is slowly coming to an end. I see more and more girls and young women who are letting their naturally wavy or curly hair come back, and if I had any doubts, the person who cuts my hair says she, too, has noticed that hairstyles with more body are again gaining acceptance. For a while there, I thought we’d never see a woman with anything but long, straight hair again. My position is: vive la difference.

4. Speaking of altering hair, my 20-something niece, who has absolutely gorgeous wavy hair, has been straightening her hair for probably two years or more. This involves basically ironing her hair with some newfangled device every single morning, a process that takes awhile and is surely not pleasant. Why is it that we so often want exactly the opposite of what we don’t have? If we have straight hair, we want hair with body, and if we have wavy or curly hair, we want it straight. If it’s brown, we want blonde; if it’s blonde, we want red or black.

5. Last weekend, we went to a Sunday school social at the new home of some church friends, which is located on 20 acres in a rural area outside of Waco. The property is gorgeous, with a big riding stable, a pool, pastures and trees. My envy for the rural life was tempered a bit, however, when the hostess told all of us how she has battled against scorpions ever since moving into the house. Even though they have sprayed three times, they still get the little terrors on a semi-regular basis.

She told us of incredible tales involving these nasty, poisonous little devils. One time, she awoke early in the morning to find a scorpion apparently asleep on her bathroom floor. She managed to put a large drinking glass over it, then left to go to work. When she came back home, the scorpion was still trapped, but there was another big scorpion sitting right beside it, possibly its mate.

Another event would have had me fleeing the house like those folks in The Amityville Horror. Our hostess said that one early morning she awoke in the dark to find that her cheek was in great pain. She finally figured out that a scorpion must have stung her. She got out of bed, flung back the covers, and there it was, making its way toward her soundly sleeping husband. She yelled at him that a scorpion was attacking, and he shot out of the bed like lightning.

My house is much smaller, and it doesn’t have a stable, but we so far have no scorpions, and I think I’m staying put.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Mindset of Today's College Freshman

Every year, the folks at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, release something called the "Beloit College Mindset List." What this does is try to paint a picture of what the mindset of students entering as freshmen in U.S. colleges and universities is like. The list points out things that the Class of 2009 is familiar with, and things they are mostly unaware of, because of when they were born and what things were or were not popular or in use at that time.

Here's this year's list, showing what is or isn't in the mindset of students who were born 18 years ago. Some of these are sad, such as 54 and 62. Others I would count as blessings, such as 10 and 58.



Most students entering college this fall were born in 1987.

1.  Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead.
2.  They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.
3.  Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
4.  Wayne Gretzky never played for Edmonton.
5.  Boston has been working on "The Big Dig" all their lives.
6.  With little need to practice, most of them do not know how to tie a tie.
7.  Pay-Per-View television has always been an option.
8.  They never had the fun of being thrown into the back of a station wagon with six others.
9.  Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other.
10.  They are more familiar with Greg Gumbel than with Bryant Gumbel.
11.  Philip Morris has always owned Kraft Foods.
12.  Al-Qaida has always existed with Osama bin Laden at its head.
13.  They learned to count with Lotus 1-2-3.
14.  Car stereos have always rivaled home component systems.
15.  Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker have never preached on television.
16.  Voice mail has always been available.
17.  "Whatever" is not part of a question but an expression of sullen rebuke.
18.  The federal budget has always been more than a trillion dollars.
19.  Condoms have always been advertised on television.
20. They may have fallen asleep playing with their Gameboys in the crib.
21.  They have always had the right to burn the flag.
22.  For daily caffeine emergencies, Starbucks has always been around the corner.
23.  Ferdinand Marcos has never been in charge of the Philippines.
24.  Money put in their savings account the year they were born earned almost 7% interest.
25.  Bill Gates has always been worth at least a billion dollars.
26.  Dirty dancing has always been acceptable.
27.  Southern fried chicken, prepared with a blend of 11 herbs and spices, has always been available in China.
28.  Michael Jackson has always been bad, and greed has always been good.
29.  The Starship Enterprise has always looked dated.
30.  Pixar has always existed.
31. There has never been a "fairness doctrine" at the FCC.
32.  Judicial appointments routinely have been "Borked."
33.  Aretha Franklin has always been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
34.  There have always been zebra mussels in the Great Lakes.
35.  Police have always been able to search garbage without a search warrant.
36.  It has always been possible to walk from England to mainland Europe on dry land.
37.  They have grown up in a single superpower world.
38.  They missed the oat bran diet craze.
39.  American Motors has never existed.
40.  Scientists have always been able to see supernovas.
41.  Les Miserables has always been on stage.
42.  Halogen lights have always been available at home, with a warning.
43.  "Baby M" may be a classmate, and contracts with surrogate mothers have always been legal.
44.  RU486, the "morning after pill," has always been on the market.
45.  There has always been a pyramid in front of the Louvre in Paris.
46.  British Airways has always been privately owned.
47.  Irradiated food has always been available but controversial.
48.  Snowboarding has always been a popular winter pastime.
49.  Libraries have always been the best centers for computer technology and access to good software.
50.  Biosphere 2 has always been trying to create a revolution in the life sciences.
51.  The Hubble Telescope has always been focused on new frontiers.
52.  Researchers have always been looking for stem cells.
53.  They do not remember "a kinder and gentler nation."
54.  They never saw the shuttle Challenger fly.
55.  The TV networks have always had cable partners.
56.  Airports have always had upscale shops and restaurants.
57.  Black Americans have always been known as African-Americans.
58.  They never saw Pat Sajak or Arsenio Hall host a late night television show.
59.  Matt Groening has always had a Life in Hell.
60.  Salman Rushdie has always been watching over his shoulder.
61.  Digital cameras have always existed.
62.  Tom Landry never coached the Cowboys.
63.  Time Life and Warner Communications have always been joined.
64.  CNBC has always been on the air.
65.  The Field of Dreams has always been drawing people to Iowa.
66.  They never saw a Howard Johnson's with 28 ice cream flavors.
67.  Reindeer at Christmas have always distinguished between secular and religious decorations.
68.  Entertainment Weekly has always been on the newsstand.
69.  Lyme Disease has always been a ticking concern in the woods.
70.  Jimmy Carter has always been an elder statesman.
71.  Miss Piggy and Kermit have always dwelt in Disneyland.
72.  America's Funniest Home Videos has always been on television.
73.  Their nervous new parents heard C. Everett Koop proclaim nicotine as addictive as heroin.
74.  Lever has always been looking for 2000 parts to clean.
75.  They have always been challenged to distinguish between news and entertainment on cable TV.

© 2005 Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin

Midweek Poem

Have you ever woken up one morning, with the sun shining, the birds singing, and your spouse nuzzled up next to you in a warm bed, and thought how delicious it would be to play hooky from the office or household chores and just enjoy the day together outdoors? And then, after you wake up a bit and the "dutiful mills of the brain" start alerting you to all the important responsibilities you have yet to attend to, you sadly put away that wild idea and start getting dressed for work? That's the instance this poem captures perfectly.


by John Crowe Ransom

Jane awoke Ralph so gently on one morning
That first, before the true householder Learning
Came back to tenant in the haunted head,
He lay upon his back and let his stare
Penetrate dazedly into the blue air
That swam all round his bed,
And in the blessed silence nothing was said.

Then his eyes travelled through the window
And lit, enchantedly, on such a meadow
Of wings and light and clover,
He would propose to Jane then to go walking
Through the green waves, and to be singing not talking;
Such imps were pranking over
Him helpless lying in bed beneath a cover.

Suddenly he remembered about himself,
His manliness returned entirely to Ralph;
The dutiful mills of the brain
Began to whir with their smooth-grinding wheels
And the sly visitors wriggled off like eels;
He rose and was himself again.
Simply another morning, and simply Jane.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Top Single: This Week in 1965

That's right, you guessed it. The No. 1 song in America 40 years ago this week was "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher. This was the first big hit for the married duo, and would be their only No. 1 record. After Cher went on to a solo career, she would land three songs at the top of the charts, including "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."

If you remember, "I Got You Babe" played a big part in one of Bill Murray's best movies. It was the song which woke him up every morning -- the same morning -- in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. The song was also the one Sonny and Cher sang when they had their television reunion on the David Letterman Show back in November 1987.

Strangely enough, Sonny and Cher's record company, Atco, didn't even want "I Got You Babe" as the A-side of the duo's single. They preferred a song called "It's Gonna Rain" as the A-side, with "Babe" as the B-side. Sonny, who wrote the song, decided to take matters into his own hands by taking "I Got You Babe" to radio station KHJ in Hollywood, and after the song proved to be an immediate smash with listeners, Atco changed their minds and released it as the A-side.

"I Got You Babe" grabbed the No. 1 spot on August 14, 1965, and stayed on top for three weeks. Here's the other songs which made up the Top 5 on August 14, 1965:

2. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction -- Rolling Stones
3. Save Your Heart For Me -- Gary Lewis and the Playboys
4. I'm Henry VIII, I Am -- Herman's Hermits
5. What's New Pussycat? -- Tom Jones

Monday, August 22, 2005

One of Those Mondays for Mrs. Muley

Guest blogger today is Mrs. Muley, who sent out this e-mail this morning to all of our Sunday School class:

I just wanted to let you know what a blessed Monday morning I've had! I don't usually use the words "blessed" and "Monday" in the same sentence, but I think today qualifies.

Today, with 12 minutes until the bell, my daughter Katelyn, her friend Heather, and I were distressed to find the van wouldn't start, but would merely "click." After being reminded by both girls that they couldn't be tardy because "they're taking tardies really serious this year," I jumped out of the car, ran into the house and called my next door neighbor, Barbara. Barbara, who I speak to maybe a couple of times a month, answered the phone with a sleepy "hello." I quickly explained our dilemma and asked her if I could borrow her new SUV to quickly drive the panicked kids to school -- only seven minutes till the bell! She graciously let me and we drove out of her driveway with five minutes to go. I dropped the girls off with three minutes until the bell and returned the car to Barbara. (Yes, we live very close to the school, but not close enough to walk).

It always seems that any time I run into Barbara, I'm in a hurry to get somewhere, but today I felt obligated to listen to her woes and patiently listened while she told me about her "deadbeat son-in-law and lazy grandkids," among other problems. It had been a stressful year and she couldn't understand why things had been going so badly for her family. I told her to keep praying and don't give up hope. Okay, gotta see about getting this van fixed.

That's when I called my brother Pete, whom I work with (only seven minutes away), and got him to come over to my aid. He jumped the battery and we were on our way to see about getting a new one. However, the van started acting up with the display flashing off and on and I realized a trip to Wal-Mart wasn't going to cut it. I called him on the cell and told him to head to the dealer's instead. I prayed us all the way to the intersection of Hwy 6 and Bagby. The van died at the light, first one in line and only one lane open due to construction. I got out of the van, looked pleadingly at my brother who was following in his truck, and tried to wave traffic over. Then a construction worker drove up out of nowhere onto the grass and asked if we needed help. He pulled his truck up and using my brother's cables, got my engine started again, and I made the short drive to the dealer's, where my van sits and I wait to hear the news.

All this to say, despite a bumpy start to a Monday, all this has made me appreciate my neighbor, my brother, and a stranger who all selflessly came to my aid today -- also cell phones! I really do feel blessed. It also blesses me to know that I can call on any of you and you would be there for me. Hope all of you have a blessed day -- minus the car trouble!


I'll keep everyone posted on how this turns out. I, too, am thankful both for good friends and that someone looking out for us from above.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Texas Postcard Gallery

When this happens, better have a big passel of carrots on hand.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. I came across a great blog title the other day that made me laugh out loud: I Moved Your Cheese, Moron. If you haven’t heard of the title of the popular book it refers to, however, that’s probably about as funny as dirt.

2. What are parents thinking when they buy their children provocative T-shirts to wear out in public? At a big mall recently, I saw two examples – both with fathers and daughters – of this phenomenon. First, I saw a teenage girl, fairly sweet and innocent-looking, walking around with a T-shirt that said something like, “I was NOT at Hooters with my dad when he bought me this T-shirt.” I guess it’s their version of, “My dad went to Hooters and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

The other example was a father walking with his somewhat goth-looking pre-teen daughter, who was wearing a T-shirt which read, “DV8.” Is Dad #1 glad that his daughter’s friends know she has a dad who goes to Hooters? Is Dad #2 proud that his young daughter is walking around in front of men advertising the fact that she is supposedly a sexual deviate? What are these bonehead dads thinking? Do they not care what messages their daughters advertise in public? Are they so afraid of being considered “uncool” by their kids that they won’t say no?

3. Snarky T-shirt slogan of the month: “Stupidity is Not a Crime, So You’re Free to Go.”

4. My 9-year-old daughter and her friend got tired of waiting for me to cut the backyard grass so they could play an unobstructed game of soccer, so the other day they went out with scissors to do it themselves. Yes, I felt guilty enough to cut the dang thing when I got home from work that evening.

5. I notice that there’s a number of big, extra-disc collectors DVDs coming out this fall for some true movie classics. Each set is filled with commentaries, documentaries and lots of other bonus goodies. To Kill a Mockingbird comes out in a new 2-disc set on Sept. 6; Ben-Hur will be released in a whopping four-disc set on Sept. 13; and an absolutely fabulous 3-disc version of Wizard of Oz debuts Oct. 25. And if you consider The Blues Brothers a cinematic classic, as I do, its 2-disc special edition DVD comes out Aug. 30.

6. In one of his latest posts, The Nightfly talks about the new combination printer and scanner he just bought. Sounds like he got a good deal, and bought a model which doesn’t use a lot of ink. Last summer, we bought an Epson Photo printer, which prints gorgeous stuff, but it has six separate color cartridges, and that baby drinks its ink like nothing you’ve ever seen. It seems as though every time I turn around, I’m off to Office Max to purchase another $15 cartridge. I got taken in by the manufacturer’s grand plan: sell the printers cheap, then price the ink high and watch the money just roll in.

The Nappy Diaries, Part 2

I don't know why, but it seems I have inherited the "Strange Diaper News" beat this week. Here's another wild tale, once again referred to me by Mrs. Muley. It illustrates how when it comes to protecting against terrorists, European postal workers just won't put up with any crap.

BERLIN (Reuters) -- An "electronic nappy" used to monitor wetness sparked a bomb alert in a German post office when it arrived in a parcel ticking suspiciously, police in the southwestern city of Heilbronn said Thursday.

"They suspected it was a bomb so they put the package into an empty room and called the police," said a police spokesman. "It was supposed to respond to wetness with bleeping sounds, but this one ticked."

Two squad cars rushed to the scene and immediately contacted the sender. Police gave the all clear after they contacted the woman who told them the intercepted package contained only a malfunctioning diaper.

(Too bad the "wet" substance making the diaper go off was some leaking Anthrax virus. Whoops! NOT REALLY).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

You BET These Cows Eat Grass

Some days you wonder if the Weekly World News has hijacked the AP News wire.

Today comes a story out of Russia. Some farmers there were confronted with a bit of a problem. The nice field they use to graze their cows in during the winter, filled with nourishing sunflowers and maize, was secretly infiltrated by people using it to grow illegal drugs. Marijuana, to be specific.

See, the drug guys came in and quietly seeded the peaceful pastures with marijuana seeds. By now, 40 tons of marijuana plants have grown up among the maize and sunflowers.

The Russian authorities seized the field, of course, but they faced a problem. If they simply burned the field up to get rid of the marijuana, all of the maize and sunflowers that the cows normally eat during the winter months would burn up as well, and the cows would starve to death.

So, the authorities have decided they'd rather have the cows eat a little wacky grass than starve. These bovines will be filling all four stomachs with fresh, grade A marijuana.

"There is simply no other way out," a Federal Drugs Control Service spokeswoman for the Urals region of Sverdlovsk said.

I'm glad that the cows are being given a chance to survive, but I wonder if authorities have had time to contemplate all of the possible ramifications of this unusual move, like I have:

1. Russian fraternity boys will find "cow tipping" much easier.
2. Cows suffering from glaucoma will begin migrating from all over Europe to the area, looking for a cure.
3. Russian butcher shops can market a new type of meat called "Reefer Beefer" to potheads worldwide.
4. Ads in Russian magazines will change slogan from "Got milk?" to "Got weed?"
5. I forsee an immediate surge of interest by students in local school milk programs.
6. Tokers will boost tourism when they come to score highs off Sverdlovskian cheesecake, yogurts and danishes.
7. Out: Maui Wowie. In: "Cowie Wowie"
8. We have finally cleared up an age-old mystery: why the cow jumped over the moon.

Hat Tip to Mrs. Muley

Midweek Poem

This is pretty much the story of my life, except I still go to parties occasionally. The only difference is that I don't go to seek a new lover. They're potluck Sunday School affairs, and we call them "socials." About the wildest thing we do is play board games.


Being Boring
by Wendy Cope

If you ask me "What's new?," I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it's better today.
I'm content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears and passion -- I've used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I'm thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you're after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don't go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don't need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I've found a safe mooring,
I've just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Nutcase in a Nappy

For all of you women who think today's men are becoming more infantile (and weirder to boot), here's some supporting evidence.

LONDON (Reuters) -- UK police said Monday they were searching for a man wearing just a diaper, who approaches women late at night and asks: "Are there any baby changing facilities around here?"

Cleveland police in northeast England said the latest incident occurred around 11 p.m. Sunday when he surprised a woman walking her dog in a play area in Eaglescliffe, near Middlesbrough. Police said no one had been assaulted by the man but described his behavior as bizarre and a cause for concern.

"There have been several reports of him having been seen in Eaglescliffe dressed only in a nappy and we are keen to trace him and speak to him," police said.

(I don't know about you, but I think those police are being pretty judgmental and intolerant of diversity in loin-covering culture. They're profiling this poor man, heaven forbid! Is every guy who walks around in a big Huggy looking for the nearest box of baby wipes a potential criminal? Free Baby Huey! Oh, the inhumanity. And it's all George W. Bush's fault, somehow).

Top Single: This Week in 1980

During this week in 1980, the nation's No. 1 single was "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John. The song hit No. 1 on August 2, 1980, and stayed at the top spot for four weeks. It was Olivia's third No. 1 single, and came from the movie "Xanadu," which was a box office dud, although the soundtrack did quite well. And Olivia did get to sing and dance with Gene Kelly.

Other songs in the Top Five 25 years ago today:

#2 It's Still Rock and Roll to Me -- Billy Joel
#3 Little Jeannie -- Elton John
#4 Cupid/I've Loved You For a Long Time -- Spinners
#5 Shining Star -- Manhattans

Monday, August 15, 2005

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. Why do we say a “pair” of pants? Pair implies two of something, right? Then what comprises the “pair” on my pants? The legs? If I went into a store and asked for a pant, would they just give me one leg covering and half a waistband?

2. Yesterday in the car, my 9-year-old daughter Katelyn asked out of the blue, “Have you ever stuck your tongue up above your teeth and tried to feel your nostrils?” None of us could say that we had, and what’s more, none of us had even thought of trying this experiment. The creativity of the young mind knows no bounds.

3. Speaking of nostrils, I learned during a visit to the ear, nose and throat doctor a few years ago that I have very narrow, small nostrils, which is one of the reasons my sense of smell is not as good as that of normal people. I find this highly ironic and unfair. Anyone with a schnozz as large as mine should have nostrils the size of a water main, enabling him to smell everything within a 100-yard radius. Alas, that is not the case. I can’t even smell strong perfume unless my nose is right up next to it, which is a bit awkward in social situations. Other guys don’t appreciate me with my nose on their wives’ necks, sniffing.

4. We went to the wedding Saturday of one of my second cousins, a guy who has one more semester to go before he graduates from college. His bride just graduated in May. It was a beautiful wedding, very traditional and solemn. Both the bride and groom are strong Christians who “waited” until marriage, and are both very shy and reserved people. It was so refreshing to see their obvious nervousness and even delicacy toward one another. I imagine their wedding night was indeed a new adventure. I contrast this to weddings I’ve seen where the couple has been shacking up together for months, sometimes years, and the ceremony is something they’re grudgingly dragged through to please fuddy-duddy traditional parents. It’s as though the whole thing is just another obligatory chore, like getting a driver’s license renewed. So I was glad to see the rare innocence of an old-fashioned wedding.

5. Speaking of weddings, why do they always take pains to mention in wedding announcements that it was a “double-ring” ceremony? Aren’t they all double ring affairs? Do they do this just to reassure readers that both participants did their duties and ponied up with rings? Are there such things as “single ring” ceremonies, where one person or the other drops the ball and decides not to give their mate a ring? Maybe the bride, for example, has rejected the simple ring her groom can afford now, and is holding out for a costlier rock down the road. Or maybe poor, toothless hillbilly couples can afford just one nice ring (Costco, $49.95), so they just share it – hubby wears it MWF, the wife on TThS, and then they trade off on Sunday-go-to-meetin' days.

6. I was in Wal-Mart’s restroom the other day, and when I went to wash my hands I found they had one of those newfangled motion-controlled faucet setups. The problem was, even though they had three faucets, I couldn’t get any of them to work, no matter how vigorously I moved my hands. I mean, I was just about doing The Dance of the Seven Veils in front of the sensors, and no water would come out. Finally, for some unexplained reason after I had given up, the water started bursting out. And, of course, before I could react and thrust my hands under the tap, the water just as quickly shut off again. I sure do miss the “old-fangled” days of faucet handles.

7. Buying a Dr Pepper at the convenience store over the weekend, I notice that Texas now offers a $1 Lotto game called “I Love Lucy,” which includes photos from the popular TV show. Is this a new trend with gambling? Will there be “All in the Family” slot machines soon? Beverly Hillbillies bingo?