Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Fell For a Hoax

I'll be the first to admit I've done some pretty stupid things in my life. For example:

**When Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern chose Sargent Shriver as his running mate in 1972, I marveled at how a mere sergeant had been chosen for the VP slot. If they wanted a military guy, couldn't they at least find a qualified officer, like, say, a general? This is a true story. I was 12.

**For many years past the point I should have known better, I never figured out that the "Frontage Road"s I saw in cities all across the country were a special kind of road that existed for a purpose -- namely, to provide frontage. I just thought that was a popular name for some reason. Again, a true story.

**Well into middle age, when talking about that world famous medical clinic in Rochester, I would refer to the MY-oh Clinic, instead of the MAY-oh Clinic. This was first brought to my attention by Mrs. Muley, who became exasperated whenever she heard me again mangle the name. "It's MAY-oh!. MAY-oh!," she would implore.

**Once when I had to make a dinner business presentation in Corsicana, about an hour east of Waco, my brain for some reason confused that city with Waxahachie, about an hour north of Waco. I was halfway to Waxahachie when my brain realized my error, and it was only by breaking the sound barrier through a series of small farm roads, and even cutting through a few cow pastures, that I made it to Corsicana in time. I was stressed out, sweating, and had fragrant hay in my teeth when I arrived, but I made it.

I wish I could say that my days of making stupid errors in judgement are over, but they're not. Last week, I fell prey to an Internet hoax which doesn't even have the cachet of being a new, cutting-edge hoax. This one has apparently been around for some time now. It's old news, but I fell for it anyway.

I was on a blog site I'd never visited, supposedly dealing with marriages and relationships. In a post about marriages that are threatened by infidelity, there was a mention of a product called "Forget-Me-Not Panties." These women's panties supposedly carried small GPS tracking devices in them, undetectable by the wearer. This way, the post said, husbands could now keep track of cheating wives 24/7. The panties also let the person monitoring them know when the wearer's body temperature rose, which apparently was an indication of hanky panky (or maybe hanky panty).

This seemed just too wild to be true, so I went to the link provided by the post. Sure enough, there was a web page -- a very slick, professional-looking one -- for Forget-Me-Not Panties. It contained a page with a technical diagram explaining how the panties worked, an order page with sizes and prices and places to click for shipment, and even a testimonial page with comments from two satisfied customers.

One satisfied customer, supposedly a married man, told how putting the panties on his wife helped him prove she was cheating and paved the way for his successful divorce. The second testimonial (from a supposedly concerned father) told how he had made his teenaged daughter wear the panties so he and his wife could be sure she didn't get into trouble. He said in the testimonial he wished there was a way that a miniature video camera could be installed as well, but he was happy with what he got for his money.

Now, I want you to know that the entire time I was reading all of this, the bells of disbelief and suspicion were clanging like crazy in my head. IS THIS REAL? THIS CAN'T BE REAL! they rang. But then I looked again at the slick website, which seemed to have taken a lot of time and money to produce, and I thought, "In today's crazy, careening world, is this such a departure?"

I remembered reading about new, tiny cameras and recorders that had been developed, in part, to do things such as tape record abusive babysitters as they stayed home with children. I remembered the announcement of a new driving gadget a few years back -- some computer GPS gizmo that attached to a car's engine. With one of these on the car of a teenager, a parent could check the computer files at any time and see just where their kid had been driving, and how fast, and at what hours.

So were trackable panties for suspicious men all that inconceivable? I know there are desperate guys out there who would gladly buy such a product. And no, I don't mean me.

My mistake was that, even though I never got rid of the feeling I had that something was amiss, I decided the subject was too good to pass up commenting on, and I decided I would go ahead and write a post as if the product were real, even if down the road it turned out not to be. I did include a disclaimer which said that I didn't know whether the undergarments were legit or not, but I went ahead and attacked and made fun of the things. And when I finished spewing out my brilliant wit, I pressed "Publish Post" and waited to see if anyone would comment.

Luckily, Gentleman Farmer at Glib and Superficial replied quickly, with just the comment I was fearing:
Oh Muley, Muley, Muley: You done been had, boy. I'm layin' odds it's a hoax. If you go to the website, the "Order" page says that they're sold out, and the "ORDER" buttons take you nowhere. They do offer the opportunity to email for an "in stock" update to "," but I'm not brave enough to sign up.

And here's a story about the origin of the hoax. Apparently the name of the company on the website "Panchira Corp." is a word that, in Japanese, means "showing panties." Story here.
If you read that story he linked to, the author at Web Pro News (who was fooled just like me) said the fake panties company was "an entry of an online contest sponsored by Contagious Media to see whose site would generate the most traffic. Forget-Me-Not Panties was hands down the winner, generating 615,562 unique visitors and netting the creators a $2,000 grand prize."

I was visitor No. 615,563. I deleted my post immediately. I was stupid.

Stupid because I put too much faith in fancy packaging.

Stupid because I didn't do any checking with other sources before I wrote.

Stupid because I ignored my gut instincts and wrote and posted anyway.

That's my story, and may it be a cautionary tale for all of you bloggers like me who are having a lot of fun playing with this new toy called the World Wide Web. Just because we're commenting and reporting using amazing bells and whistles doesn't mean we can throw out the reporter's best friends -- hard work and the truth.

And that's really true about Sargent Shriver. I swear it.

Tigger and Piglet, R.I.P.

This might seem a strange post for a 44-year-old man to make, but...tough.

Two old friends (they seem like old friends) died over the weekend. Paul Winchell, who was the voice of Tigger in Disney's Winnie the Pooh cartoons and movies, and John Fiedler, who voiced Piglet in those same productions, died within a day of each other. I was a fan of the Pooh cartoons when they first started in the mid-60s, and I have good memories of watching the later Pooh cartoons with my daughters.

These two actors were in lots of other movies and shows, and Winchell was an accomplished inventor.

Here is a story on their deaths. They will truly be missed in the Muley household.

Religious Art Destroyed By Fire

A devastating fire at the Biblical Arts Center in Dallas has destroyed 90 percent of the religious-themed artwork inside. I'll be very interested to learn what caused this fire, which is still under investigation. Here's more on the story.

UPDATE: KSKY-AM News in Dallas just reported that police are looking to talk to a "person of interest" in connection with the fire. The man was seen hanging around the Arts Center the past few weeks, and they want to see if he had anything to do with the fire.

Meanwhile, today's Dallas Morning News says the temperature reached 1,500 degrees inside the windowless building, which didn't have any sprinklers. Among the artworks inside was a special exhibit featuring framed pictures of Pope John Paul II, but it's not clear from the article if those paintings were destroyed or not.

I'm sad to say that even though this museum was only 90 minutes away from me, I had never visited it. I hope they rebuild and restock, and you can be sure I will visit if and when they reopen.

Midweek Poem

The Shepherd's Hut
by Andrew Young

The smear of blue peat smoke
That staggered on the wind and broke,
The only sign of life,
Where was the shepherd's wife,
Who left those flapping clothes to dry,
Taking no thought for her family?
For, as they bellied out
And limbs took shape and waved about,
I thought, She little knows
That ghosts are trying on her children's clothes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

First Fiesta, Now Siesta

The Muley family got back today from a wonderful 4-day weekend, the highlight of which was our annual visit to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. It was hot (in the high 90s), but not as hot or humid as last year, and we went on a Monday, so the crowds were very small. We had no more than a 10-minute wait for any ride, and on some rides, there was no wait at all.

I knew the day was going to be interesting from the get-go. Waiting to enter the park, an unusual man was in line just ahead of us. He was middle-aged and scruffily dressed in somewhat worn clothes, which included a long sleeve shirt and long pants. He was also wearing one of those wide leather belts that weightlifters wear to keep their midsections from ripping apart when they're pumping iron. This was strange, since this guy probably didn't weigh 120 pounds wet.

My antenna first went up when I noticed him talking to himself while waiting in line, but then I saw what he was carrying with him. He had a rolling dolly loaded with -- no kidding -- two huge, bulging duffel bags, a few smaller duffel bags, a rolled-up sleeping bag, and assorted other smaller bags and pouches.

After we entered through the metal detectors, I saw that the man had been let through as well, but four Fiesta Texas security guards and a San Antonio cop met him and were watching as he unloaded each bag for them. The guy was haphazardly pulling out clothes, towels, and I don't know what else.

He was cheerful and a nonstop talker, and from his spiel as he unloaded his bags, I heard him say that he was from Connecticut, that he was an attorney "certified in three states" (but not Texas), rode the bus out to the park, had been to Fiesta Texas the previous summer, and was riding around the country visiting amusement parks. A number of times he asked the officers, "You remember me from last year, don't you?" And then, he would start pulling out photos to show the officers the other amusement parks around the country he had visited.

I looked everywhere for this guy throughout the day, but never saw him again. I wonder if he got admitted, and what his story was. He was a little off, but he seemed harmless. I just wondered what the heck he did at an amusement park, assuming he got in. Did he pitch a tent and camp out by the railroad tracks? Follow Bugs Bunny and Tweety around all day and talk to them about his legal career? Or did he do something like pick one ride, and ride it nonstop, 37 times, from opening to closing?

None of the rest of the day was as strange as this, but we were put through a time of testing when we rode one of the most popular rides in the park, the Superman coaster:

This is one of those coasters that twirls around in corkscrews and upside down loops, like this:

My 12-year-old daughter was excited, because this was her first time to get up the courage to ride a coaster with loops and corckscrews. As we waited in line, I did a doubletake, then had to chuckle when I noticed how someone had altered the phrase "numerous hills" on the warning sign:

The ride was a blast, and my daughter loved it (she rode it 10 more times before the day was over), but on that first run we encountered problems. About halfway through, on a level section high above the ground, the emergency air brakes came on and our coaster screeched to a stop. We sat in the cloudless Texas sun for a full 30 minutes (and me without my hat or sunglesses for fear they'd fly off) before they were able to bring us back in. It turns out that the computer commanded a stop for some unexplained reason, even though no warnings were shown, and it took them all that time to figure out how to command the computer to release the brakes. We were all safe, but I was fried from the sun, and felt somewhat queasy the rest of the day.

The ride crew was great, though. They gave each of us free drink passes, as well as a pass to get on any ride immediately by going in the exit door instead of waiting in line:

Ever seen the dancing little bald guy that does the Six Flags commercials on TV? A somewhat surreal fact of our day was that we had to see this creature's smiling yet scary face grinning at us from seemingly every wall or window. I keep thinking this is what Paul Shaffer will look like in 20 years:

I mean, I like those commercials in moderation, but just looking at this guy's face over and over again got tiresome. I was very glad that when I went to the restroom, his bespectacled bald noggin was not leering at me over the urinal.

In short, the day was great -- the kids were in great spirits, nobody got sick, and the crowds were friendly and manageable. As I waited for kids to finish riding rides, I took my little digital camera and tried to capture shots of unusual things I saw. This carousel, for example, seemed beautiful and quite normal

until I noticed a jester sitting atop the backside of a pig, making what appeared to be a most disrespectful gesture at me:

I went to the big German beer hall to use the facilities, and noticed that the walls were filled with paintings of happy men and women in German costume, playing accordians, dancing to polkas and drinking foamy steins of beer. It seemed a family-friendly tableaux, which made me wonder why they had a character you might nickname "hooker frau" guarding the entrance to the women's restroom:

Across the street from the beer garden was a large game arcade, and inside I noticed to my dismay a game I found in bad taste -- the "Titanic," which includes a plastic replica of the doomed ship as it heads for Davy Jones' locker:

It's late and I must get to bed. One final question: do you know what the most loved ride at Six Flags is at the end of a long day at the park? The roller coasters? The water rides? The Ferris wheel? Nope. It's this:

Quote of the day:

"The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of the Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life."

--Robert MacIver

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Fiesta Time

The Muley family is leaving today with another family from our church for our annual trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. We'll bake in the heat, eat too much and spend too much on junk, but hopefully we'll have our usual great time. The fireworks show that ends the day -- very patriotic -- is almost worth the price of admission.

I won't be posting anything new till late Tuesday, but I've left a few items for your perusal today, including yesterday's post on Chapter 4 or Celebration of Discipline, which concerns fasting.

Ya'll have a great weekend!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Texas Postcard Gallery

If you live in Texas, you gotta be tough. None of that strained squash for our young-uns. We start 'em out on the strong stuff right away.

Blogging Celebration of Discipline: Chapter 4

I have joined a group of fellow Christians who are blogging through Richard Foster’s classic book Celebration of Discipline, one chapter at a time. Each Friday, we post our thoughts and questions about the chapter we’ve read that week. Here’s my post on Chapter 4, "The Discipline of Fasting."


"Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it."

--John Wesley

This quote from the great John Wesley opens Chapter 4 of Celebration of Discipline. Of the two extreme positions Wesley finds people taking regarding fasting, I know without a doubt I fall into the latter category. I might have fasted for 24 hours at some point in the past decade -- there seems to be a very murky memory floating around somewhere -- but I could not tell you for sure if I did it, or why, or with what result.

Why have I possibly never fasted, even though the practice is participated in and approved by Jesus and other heroes of the faith? If I'm honest with myself, there's two main reasons. First, I've thought fasting was either for tonsure-wearing monk types cloistered away from the world who make a habit of denying themselves things, or for God's people who were about to be brutally slaughtered by heathen enemies or punished significantly by God Himself, and who hoped something as drastic as fasting might save their skins.

The second reason I've never adopted fasting is, until I read Chapter 4 of this book, I never knew what the purpose of fasting was, and how we as Christians were supposed to make use of it.

Here's a bit of what Foster has to say about the purpose of fasting:
"Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained. Like the prophetess Anna, we need to be 'worshiping with fasting' (Luke 2:27). Every other purpose must be subservient to God. Like that apostolic band at Antioch, 'fasting' and 'worshiping the Lord' must be said in the same breath (Acts 13:2)...If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed."
In other words, if we fast for any other reason -- to get better focus, to help us pray with more intensity, to teach ourselves discipline or to help us lose weight -- all of these things can't be why we deny ourself food, at least if we want to fast as the Bible tells us to. The main reason must be to help us worship God better.

Foster says if we have that first purpose in mind and follow it, then we can realize a host of secondary benefits from fasting. I was surprised to read the following assertion, which I'd never heard anyone make before:
"More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David writes, 'I humbled my soul with fasting' (Ps. 69:10). Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear -- if they are within us, they will surface during fasting."
Foster goes on to talk about other benefits of fasting:

1. It reminds us that "we are sustained by every word that proceeds from the mouth of does not sustain us; God sustains us."

2. "Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives...Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels."

3. Fasting, Foster says, can also produce "increased effectiveness in intercessory prayer, guidance in decisions, increased concentration, deliverance for those in bondage, physical well-being [and] revelations."

Wow. What a package! Foster not only lists benefits, but shows how even though fasting isn't commanded by Jesus in the Bible, it nevertheless played a big part in early Christian life.

The author then spends a lot of time dealing with specifics -- why fasting is medically safe if done correctly, how to start fasting (slowly), how to build up the length of fasts, what to eat and not eat afterwards, how the body reacts to a fast (the toxins are cleaned out quite nicely, he says).

This was a long chapter, and again, I will have to read it at least once more before a lot of it sinks in. But it has opened my eyes to a Christian Discipline I hadn't thought much about before now. And that list of benefits has made me want to try this.

My big problem at first will be adhering to Foster's wise counsel of making worshiping God the primary motivator. I'm afraid I would spend most of my fasting time either mired in the daily grind, or lamenting my hunger pangs, or patting myself on the back for being so spiritual. The focus has to be on God, and that's the part of fasting I'm not sure I can pull off yet.

With prayer and a willing heart, I hope I can.

One final thought: I'm hoping other Celebration of Discipline bloggers (or commentors on any of the blog sites) who have successfully engaged in fasting will write about that experience. I'd love to hear from some pathfinders in this area.


Here's what some other bloggers had to say about Chapter 4:

Messy Christian
Baggas' Blog
The Village Muse
Inspirational Journal
Alexander Campbell
Spiritual Birdwatching
Listen In
DB on DB

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Lego church

A friend sent me these photos yesterday of a church made entirely out of Legos. I was quite impressed. The information that came with the photos said it took about a year-and-a-half of planning, building and photographing to finish the project.

It required more than 75,000 pieces of Lego to build this church, which measures about 7 feet by 5 1/2 feet by 30 inches. It can seat 1,372 Lego people.

The church has 3,976 windows, and includes a balcony, a lobby area, stairs to the balcony, restrooms, coat rooms, several mosaics, a nave, a baptistry, an altar, a crucifix, a pulpit and an elaborate pipe organ.

My church is less than halfway to its building expansion campaign goal. I'm going to suggest we switch to Legos instead of brick and stone, and spend the savings on a new gymnasium made out of Lincoln logs.

UPDATE: The Nightfly, helpful as always, informs me that these photos came from the Abston Church of Christ. Basically, this is a Lego church that a lady built in memory of her dead cat. As Johnny Carson always said, "I did not know this." Speaking of the Abston site, Nightfly says: "This site has the in-progress construction shots, explanations of the project (which seems to have required a fair bit of engineering talent), and the cat it's dedicated to. She's adorable."

Tripping On the Mound

What do you think would happen to a major league pitcher if he showed up for a baseball game after dropping acid and tried to pitch? What if I told you that this exact thing actually happened many years ago, and the flipped-out pitcher in question threw a no-hitter? Read this great story from the Dallas Observer here

Thanks to Boing Boing for the link and a great shot of the player in question's baseball card.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What Makes a Blog Christian?

A couple of times now in my short blogging career, I have come across lists of “Christian blogs” and have contemplated adding Muley’s World to the lineup. I have stopped short of doing so, however, because I have yet to fully answer the question in my mind, is this a “Christian blog?”

Sure, I am a Christian, and this is a blog. But does that automatically make it a “Christian blog?” It’s the same sort of question that a Christian who writes books might wrestle with. Do they consider themselves a “Christian writer,” a “writer of Christian books,” or “a writer who just happens to be a Christian?”

My problem with signing up for these lists is that when I look at the summary descriptions of the “Christian blogs” that are included, most of them have a definite Christian or at least spiritual slant. Many are overtly religious -- blogs that study the Bible day by day, or blogs from preachers with a weekly message and notes, or blogs from missionaries or other church workers discussing their daily challenges. Others, while not limiting themselves to church or worship-related topics, seem to deal with faith, spirituality and the Christian walk on quite a regular basis.

For example, here’s some blog site descriptions from the first few pages of a popular Christian weblog index:

“News, analysis and comment on Christian living”
“Exploring faith, God, passion [and] purpose”
“Exploring matters of faith in God”
“Reflections on my journey with God”
“Embarking on a spiritual journey toward Jesus”
“Mostly Catholic thought”
“My journey into Orthodoxy”
“Family living for Christ”
“Waiting, refined and prepared to be poured out for Jesus”
“A Christian blog”

I have two questions. First, does a guy who posts only one overtly “Christian” piece a week (my blogging group study of Celebration of Discipline) qualify as a “Christian blogger” in the company of the other folks on this index? What if they see my blog entry and visit me, and instead of getting my thoughts on Romans 3 or fasting or spiritual gifts, they see a funny photo of nuns, or a postcard of jackalopes, or goofy gift ideas for Fathers Day (all of which have been on my blog)? Does talk of Ted Nugent and grape-slathered apples and microwave pork rinds and Alien sequels have any right to be advertised on the same page as heartfelt discussions of grace and forgiveness and prayer and redemption?

I've stepped back a bit and noticed what a split personality my blog has. I can imagine the confusion of someone who, say, stumbles in on a Monday, reads fours days of posts that are 100 percent secular in content and approach, and then, out of the blue on Friday, they're hit with this long Bible study, written in a serious voice with lots of "churchy" language, followed by days of goofiness and secular content again. I can imagine them saying, "are there two guys writing this blog?"

For visitors who might be attracted in the beginning to check out a supposedly "Christian" website, am I damaging what testimony I have by, in effect, taking fellow seekers hungering after spiritual food and hitting them in the face with a cream pie?

Question two is the reverse of this. If I call myself a Christian (and I do), should I be writing about what I'm writing about at all? Should I be far less concerned with the frivolities of the material, fallen world, and instead be more concerned with topics of spiritual significance? Topics of eternal value, instead of such ephemeral subjects as pop culture and easy laughs?

And if I deal with topics concerning humor and pop culture, should I at least try to look at them through a "Christian lens" before I write? Even if the subject is not a spiritual one, should I try to "work in" something spiritual? If so, how do I use a Christian lens -- or work in something spiritual -- when discussing, say, the Three Stooges?

In short, can I truthfully call my blog “Christian” if it’s stuffed almost exclusively with things of the world?

I have lots of these questions and very few answers. That's exactly why I have refrained from putting Muley’s World on any Christian index. I don’t want to lead people astray and participate in false advertising, as well-meaning and unintentional as it might be. I want to be a good Christian, but I want to use my talents as I understand them, too, even if all that produces is a cogent analysis of Moe's use of head slappies.

If you've read down this far, I need some advice and Christian counsel. What do you think, fellow bloggers who are Christians? How do you see yourselves, and your blogs? Can you and I promote chuckling at jackalopes and comedy teams and fun-loving nuns and still be using our time and talents profitably for Him?

Governor John Hoeven, Meet Julie (Again...)

Being a former broadcast news reporter myself, I can sympathize with Julie Neidlinger right now. In a recent post on her blog, Lone Prairie, she details how North Dakota Governor John Hoeven failed to pretend he knew her, even though she as a reporter had met and covered him before:
He came up to Langdon just a few months back because of all the Main Street fires (Langdon seems to be a kind of Bermuda Triangle for crappy luck here in North Dakota), and I met him then. And I met him when I was at the capitol with my friend whose father is a representative. He even made the same silly joke then as he did this time, about how the paper I work for, the Cavalier County Republican, was a great name for a paper. Which, I suppose, should have been a sign he didn't remember me. The same joke. Twice. To the same person. In one year.

I'm not a memorable person. I'm kind of like the color gray, in appearance and personality...but still!!!

He almost didn't even shake my hand like he did the rest, so I shoved it out there. I was offering to give a handshake! AND YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I HATE SHAKING HANDS!

Someday, I thought, Governor John Hoeven is going to know my name, gosh darn it, he is.
Julie, who writes one of the best blogs around, wants to make sure Gov. Hoeven doesn't blow her off again, so she's asked her fellow bloggers to help fire a "Google bomb" (whatever that is) by making a post such as this one. I was happy to oblige, making rude politicians squirm being one of my pastimes.

Gov. Hoeven, I've learned one thing about blogging women during my short time in the blogosphere. They're smart, they're feisty, and they take names. Mess with them and risk the consequences, but treat them nice, and they'll give you the shirt off their back (well, maybe not the shirt, that would be about their shoes? Oh, for heaven's sakes, you couldn't ask a woman to give those up. Uh...their UMBRELLAS. On a RAINY DAY. Okay, we'll settle for that).

Top Movie Quotes

This just in – the American Film Institute has chosen what it says are the top 100 quotes from American movies. Here are the top 10 quotes:

1. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind.

2. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

3. The “I coulda been a contender” speech. Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.

4. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

5. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.

6. “Go ahead, make my day.” Clint Eastwood in Sudden Impact.

7. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

8. “May the Force be with you.” Harrison Ford in Star Wars.

9. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” Bette Davis in All About Eve.

10. “You talking to me?” Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver.

Can't really quibble with any of these, although I thought it was Alec Guinness who said that line in Star Wars, not Harrison Ford. Oh, well. I wonder how one of my favorite movie quotes -- "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life" from Animal House -- fared. I'll go to the AFI website to find out. [Looks at website] Nope, it didn't make it, although "Toga! Toga!" from the same movie made it at No. 82.

Also making the list: such classics as "There's no crying in baseball," "You had me at hello," "Bond. James Bond," "Rosebud," "I'm the king of the world!" and one of the stupidest lines ever, "Love is never having to say you're sorry."

If you're interested, here is a news article on the subject.

UPDATE: The Nightfly, as usual, has made some very intelligent observations on my post through a comment. I'll share his words with you here to give those of you interested in this topic additional fat to chew:

"The entire list of 400 nominees is in this pdf file. 'Fat, drunk, and stupid...' makes that list, as does 'Nothing's over until WE say it is!'

Overall, the nominee list was (to my mind) pretty weak - often the best lines from a particular movie don't make it. Examples - 'Game over, man! Game over!' from Aliens; the 'Cats and dogs living together' speech and 'Listen! Do you smell something?' from Ghostbusters; 'Who are these guys?' from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; 'My God! It's full of stars!' from 2001... Caddyshack and The Ten Commandments could have their own category here.

And the movies entirely omitted? A travesty. No 'Holy Grail.' No 'Chariots of Fire.' No 'Manchurian Candidate.' No 'Quiet Man.' No 'Man for All Seasons.'

By the way, 'May the Force be with you' was said by almost everyone, including Han (it's the last thing he says before Luke takes off in the X-Wing to go blow up the Death Star). It was surprising, however, that they went with him instead of Alec Guinness. Nothing personal, but I'm just that age... I could pretty much write the script from memory right now.

Midweek Poem

The Termite
by Ogden Nash

Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Q: What's black and white and red all over?

A: These five nuns (and their faces) when they realize this photo is all over the Internet.

Storms Above and Below

You must read the two stories filed by Julie Neidlinger at Lone Prairie about the severe storm that hit her part of North Dakota on Father's Day. Luckily, she and her family are safe, but there was a lot of damage, brought to life by her wonderful writing and amazing photos. The original story is here, the followup story is here.

I went with Mrs. Muley and my 12-year-old daughter to see Star Wars Episode III this past weekend. (Yes, we are quite the envelope pushers, aren't we?) We all agreed it was much better than Episodes I and II, and having seen it will make watching the original three episodes (IV-VI) much more interesting now that we have a better idea exactly who is clunking and huffing around in that big black tin can.

However, despite our enjoyment of the movie, there was again some especially bad acting (especially on the part of Natalie Portman, whose rabid popularity and supposed goddess status I will never understand). The best catty review of the film, with a lot of points I agree with, I found here from Blonde Champagne.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Search (and Destroy?)

She doesn't know it yet, but one of my favorite bloggers, Not a Desperate Housewife, has given me what I think is a great idea. Okay, at least it's an idea.

In her latest post, the Housewife was lamenting the fact that even though she's a spunky yet tasteful Christian minding her own business and putting out intelligent posts, she never fails to attract, shall we say, the seedy element to her site. How? By searches said seedy types do that lead them to her:
"Without fail, when someone does a Google search for [she lists five provocative words here] I TURN UP!!!! I even recently came up close to the top in a [three-word drug-related phrase] search, all three of those words in different postings. So for all of you pervs maneuvering your mouse with hairy palms, GO AWAY!!! Or you can stay and perhaps I can convert you. I am a happily married woman of 19 years with 3 sons; Christian, conservative and mouthy. Geezzz!!!!"
This post of the Housewife's gave me an idea I may live to regret. For a week or two, I'm going to dangle some byte bait, and see what sort of strange species of Internet trollers I attract.

What I've decided to do is to place some nonsense phrases linking strings of buzzwords (hopefully PG-rated ones) together into new combinations. I'll put enough in here so that something is bound to attract someone searching for a related or even totally unrelated subject. I should be able to use the site tracking service I have to see what keywords they typed in, and what search engines they came from.

What is my motivation for doing this? Sheer curiosity. I know, I know, some of you are probably screaming at me to leave well enough alone, but I'm still very new at this blog thing, and I want to understand more of how it works, the good and the bad. Right now, I get very few hits via search engine-generated forwards. The last one I got was someone from Japan looking for "fish cast bridge pole father," in that order. Maybe they thought Muley's World was one of those geriatric fishing shows.

Anyway, since I've had very few queries from search engines so far, I should be able to easily detect a noticeable jump. I'll keep this post up for a week, maybe two, and then delete it. And I'll share the results with all of you.

Of course, if space aliens use this to start abducting my relatives -- the ones I like -- or clearing out my mutual funds, all bets are off and we'll abort the experiment.

Here, then, are the phrases on my line that I dip into the teeming waters:

Leaky ballpoint Pennsylvania camel cheese
Gelatinous pygmy treatments for gooey lumbago
Arizona diamond backstabber McAdam son
Flippery frugal fountainbleu moonmaid
Gristle-filled sac of curdled compromise
Apple pi gutless draperies and swags of swill
Gargling rabbits with hare implants
Corpulent trolls inside cash-rich caves of coconuts
Watusi-warped gimcrack dribblers eating muscled mucilage
Incandescent releases of microwaved vole breath
Triangulated tonsures of zipper-necked Whigs
Arf! Arf! To the herniated heliport, Hortense!
Corrobrated hives of hausfraus gesticulating via Desperanto
Corroded lisping snail bleats encased in Chateau de Crumbly
The final insult: You wiggling spackle-faced bag of blarney!

Let's see what happens.

UPDATE: The Housewife suggested that I throw in some sexual terms to see what will come up. I'm not sure I want to get too graphic, but let me add a few lines with some "multi-meaning" words and political hot buttons, and see how that changes the catch:

Strip search bottoms of chest-high underwear drawers
Gitmo Bush McCain Saddam Condi gay marriage abortion right to life macaroons

I just had to add macaroons, although I don't think that's a hot button issue.

Let's see if this addendum changes things. Sorry, but I just can't write the real graphic sex words in good conscience.

FINAL UPDATE: I repeat: Implants!

Quote of the day:

"There are two modes of establishing our reputation: to be praised by honest men, and to be abused by rogues. It is best, however, to secure the former, because it will invariably be accompanied by the latter."

--Charles Caleb Colton

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Talking Texan

If you’ve ever been to Texas or just watched enough movies or television shows, you’ve been able to figure out that we Texans talk a bit differently than our neighbors in the other 49 states. We use words and phrases that are unique to our part of the country, and while we’re not necessarily boastful about that, we don’t apologize for it, either.

But if you watch a lot of Hollywood movies or mainstream news media product, you’ll hear words and phrases attributed to Texans which are entirely in the minds of Yankee or Left Coast screen and news writers. As my effort to provide at least a palliative for this condition, here’s Muley’s short guide to a few Texas words and phrases to give you an idea of what really comes out of our mouths in the Lone Star State.

Y’ALL This one is the legitimate item. Its use is almost the prima facie proof of Texas citizenship, because “y’all” is used by just about everyone here, whether they are poor or rich, blue or white collar, college educated or not, Anglo or black or Hispanic. It’s a quicker, easier word than its uncontracted parent, “you all,” which I hear tell is the phrase used elsewhere. It just sounds stilted to us here -- “Do you all want to go to the movies?” I understand that up North, the preferred phrase is “you guys” -- “Do you guys want to go to the movies?” And I guess (movie stereotypes operating here), if I was in Brooklyn, I’d ask, “Does youse guys wants to go to the picture?”

Nope. We’re quite satisfied with “ya’ll” here, no matter if people elsewhere laugh at us or look down on us for it.

FIXIN’ TO This is another one that is so common in Texas it’s barely even noticed. What is the “proper” alternative, anyway? “I’m getting ready to proceed to the movies, James.” “I’m preparing to visit the car wash, Millicent.” Nah. Just say, “I’m fixin’ to go get some lunch. Ya’ll coming?”

COLORFUL PHRASES Dan Rather has harmed the image of Texans with things other than his biased, fact-starved reporting. Those colorful phrases he uses on TV newscasts (“If a frog had side pockets he’d carry a handgun,” “as thin as turnip soup,” “nasty enough to choke a buzzard,” “hot enough to peel the paint off houses”) might make people think that’s the way the average Texan talks all the time. Nope. Hate to burst your bubble.

Sure, if you watch an episode of “Walker, Texas Ranger” you’ll probably hear some phrases similar to those, but that’s the screenwriters talking again. I’d say about 95 percent of the colorful phrases attributed to Texans aren’t heard here in normal conversation, at least in places which have a nodding acquaintance with the 21st century.

However, we do use such phrases every now and then if we want to make a point, or just have fun. I have heard used (and used myself) such phrases as “the Devil’s beating his wife” (when it’s raining during sunshine), “cold as a welldigger’s ***,” “seven ways come Sunday,” "rode hard and put up wet," "I ain't worth killing" (when you're exhausted) and “nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” Mind you, these are normally not used in polite company or in professional settings ("Please welcome our guest speaker, who flew in late last night and isn't worth killing"), and usually are trotted out for effect, but I do hear them from time to time.

But “a frog with side pockets?” Get real.

MULEYISMS No, I haven’t invented any Texas phrases that have gone statewide. But this is a big, big state, and I’ve learned that there are words and phrases some Texans grow up with that are unknown in other parts of the state.

For example, one of my true rural Texanisms is the verb “tump.” This means “to turn over” or “to tip over,” as in, “He tumped over the bucket of water.” I grew up with my parents and playmates saying this all the time, but when I use it around Mrs. Muley, she says, “Where did you get that word? It’s ‘tipped’ over, not ‘tumped.’”

Another one is the adjective “caddy-wampus.” Have you ever seen someone park a car sideways where they take up two parking spaces instead of one? If so, they have parked “caddy-wampus” (pronounced “WOMP-us, the “wamp” like in “swamp”). Again, this is one I don’t hear everywhere, leading me to believe it’s a regional dialect word.

THE SOFT DRINK TEST Here’s one way to get a handle on whether someone grew up in Texas. If a Texan wants a soft drink, he says, “Let’s go get a Coke,” even if what he wants is a Pepsi or a Dr Pepper. I’ve been told that in other parts of the country, the equivalent phrase is, “Let’s go get a pop” or “Let’s go get a soda.”

PRONUNCIATION Finally, one of the easiest ways to tell if someone has grown up in Texas (as opposed to, say, in Pennsylvania or Boston) is how they pronounce common words. For example, what do you call those big brown and black nuts that fall from trees? In Texas, they are called puh-CAHNS, not PEE-cahns. Here in Texas, we eat puh-CAHN pie, not PEE-cahn pie. I enjoyed when Billy Crystal had fun with this one in the movie "When Harry Met Sally."

When Texans talk about a small creek, they don't say by-YOO, like Linda Ronstadt sang about in "Blue Bayou," but instead, we mention the BY-yoh, like Hank Williams sang about when he sang "Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou" in the song "Jambalaya."

One way to tell if a newscaster grew up in Texas is the way he pronounces city names. For example, if he pronounces the name of the city of Mexia as "MEX-ee-uh," he's an outsider or just plumb ignorant. If he correctly says "muh-HAY-uh," he's either a Texan or has taken the time to learn the language. Other surefire city tests are Refugio (for some strange reason it's pronounced 'ruh-FYUR-ee-oh') and Waxahachie (it's 'WOX-uh-hatch-ee,' not 'WHACKS-uh-hatch-ee').

I guess that's about all I have to say regarding talking Texan right now. I'm fixin' to go to bed and catch some shuteye. Ya'll come back now, hear?

Here's to You, Dad

Muley and his father, 1962

I heard a radio commentator the other day say that AT&T reports that a record number of collect telephone calls are made on Father's Day. I'll be calling you today, Dad, and paying for the call myself. Have a great Father's Day!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Texas Postcard Gallery

The jackalope, while not exclusive to Texas, thrives here in large numbers across the state. This antlered variation of rabbit can grow as large as a grizzly bear (as these two fine specimens in the postcard photo prove) and sometimes invade suburbs looking for carrots and small import cars to eat. Some jackalopes have been bred in captivity and used in circuses or petting zoos, although their sharp antlers often prove dangerous to inquisitive children. Most are apolitical.

If you live in Texas, you gotta be tough. None of that strained squash for our young-uns. We start 'em out on the strong stuff right away.

This is Frank's Restaurant in Schulenberg, Texas, as it appeared probably in the 1960s or early 1970s. It was located on Highway 90, the old highway that everyone going between Houston and San Antonio used before Interstate 10 was built.

Frank's was an old-time Texas restaurant, and I visited it often as a kid because relatives on both my mom's and dad's side of the family lived in Schulenberg. In fact, my dad's two cousins both worked as waitresses at Frank's for many years, assuredly around the time this postcard was sold.

I was too young to remember much about the old Frank's, but I've eaten in a number of places since then which have reminded me of it, such as the Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls. Lots of chrome and formica, big slabs of homemade pie, chicken fried steaks that would choke a horse -- if you live in Texas, you know the type of place. R.I.P. to old Frank's. Another victim of the Interstate

Friday, June 17, 2005

Cupid's Packing Heavy Artillery

I saw this for sale yesterday down at the mega-grocery store in my neighborhood. It's a fountain featuring that little imp of love, Cupid.

Apparently, since commitment is getting harder to coax into bloom these days with the sorry state of modern relationships, Cupid has ditched the cute little pygmy bow and arrow for a cannon, and is shown here hoisting a cannonball into position for loading. Ready, aim, romantic FIREworks!

By the way, if you'd like to purchase this little bubbler of love, it'll only set you back $529.99.

Blogging Celebration of Discipline: Chapter 3

I have joined a group of fellow Christians who are blogging through Richard Foster’s classic book Celebration of Discipline, one chapter at a time. Each Friday, we post our thoughts and questions about the chapter we’ve read that week. Here’s my post on Chapter 3, "The Discipline of Prayer."

If you’re interested in joining this group blog, go here.


Muley has been a bad, bad boy. I read through Chapter 2 last week on meditation, not understanding or connecting to much of what Richard Foster wrote about it, and I wrote in my post that I would read through the chapter again in an attempt to truly "get" it. Well, I haven't. No. 1, I've been busy, and No. 2, I guess the concept of being quiet and simply listening to God is still so foreign and difficult for me to wrap my brain around, it's akin to trying to learn Japanese on the flight over to Tokyo. I will re-read that chapter, but not now.

Chapter 3 is on prayer, and at least that I know something about. Granted, most of what I do know about prayer are things that I should be doing but aren't, but nevertheless it's something familiar that's been in my life since I was very young. So at least I have a frame of reference to deal with when I'm reading what Foster has to say.

On to the chapter itself. This one hit home for me, because it spoke to what I’m doing and not doing in my relationship with God right now, and what I can do to change.

Speaking of change, Foster says right off the bat that’s what prayer is all about:
“To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.”
By this formula, I have mostly been unwilling to change lately. I'd better listen closely.

Foster goes on to say that the end result of prayer shouldn’t be to make us feel good or to get our list of wants checked off, but to transform our passions:
In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills. Progressively, we are taught to see things from his point of view.”
One thing I like about this chapter is that Foster talks about a number of hindrances to, or hangups about, prayer, then lines them up and swats them down one by one:

PRAYER CAN’T CHANGE ANYTHING Foster points out the belief that since everything in the universe is already set, things can’t be changed, and if things can’t be changed, why pray? But he shows how Paul and other “Bible pray-ers prayed as if their prayers could and would make an objective difference,” and says Stoicism, not the Bible, teaches a closed universe. “We are to change the world by prayer,” Foster concludes. “What more motivation do we need to learn this loftiest human exercise?”

WE SHOULD JUST “KNOW” HOW TO PRAY Nope. Foster says “real prayer is something we learn.” Even the disciples, he says, had to learn how to pray, and we do, too:
“It was liberating to me to understand that prayer involved a learning process. I was set free to question, to experiment, even to fail, for I knew I was learning.”
WE CAN’T ACT TOO SURE ABOUT WHAT WE ASK FOR Since there are so many kinds of prayer, Foster uses this chapter to discuss only one kind: prayer for others. When he discusses prayers we make on others’ behalf, Foster attacks the kind of tentative prayer request I have made many times, the “If it be thy will” prayer. He says there’s not a single instance in the Bible -- except for prayers of guidance when we are seeking God’s will -- where Jesus or the disciples wrapped up a request for someone else with the caveat “If it be thy will”:
“They obviously believed that they knew what the will of God was before they prayed the prayer of faith. They were so immersed in the milieu of the Holy Spirit that when they encountered a specific situation, they knew what should be done...I saw that when praying for others there was evidently no room for indecisive, tentative, half-hoping, ‘If it be thy will’ prayers...I began praying for others with an expectation that a change should and would occur.”
PRAY BIG Foster says while big prayers are certainly important, praying small prayers for others will make prayer a daily habit for us. He says, “Success in the small corners of life gives us authority in the larger matters.”

I DON’T HAVE FAITH ENOUGH TO PRAY SUCCESSFULLY Foster reminds us that the Bible says great miracles are possible through faith the size of a mustard seed:
“Usually, the courage actually to go and pray for a person is a sign of sufficient faith. Frequently our lack is not faith but compassion. It seems that genuine empathy between the pray-er and the pray-ee often makes the difference.”
PRAYER TOO SIMPLE IS NOT EFFECTIVE OR CORRECT This, right here, is where I got my money’s worth from this chapter. My heart tells me prayer should be simple, a child talking to his Father, but I have read a few books by very popular Christian prayer “experts” (I won’t name names) that left me feeling so inadequate. To these authors, praying involves certain preliminary incantations, then attention paid to four or five areas of prayer request (in a certain order), followed by specific closing subjects one has to mention -- all done with zeal and sincerity and profound feeling, for at least 30 minutes a day.

Foster believes that prayer should instead be like what I’ve hoped it should be all along:
“We should never make prayer too complicated...Jesus taught us to come like children to a father. Openness, honesty and trust mark the communication of children with their father. The reason God answers prayer is because his children ask.”

“Jesus taught us to pray for daily bread. Have you ever noticed that children ask for lunch in utter confidence that it will be provided? They have no need to stash away today’s sandwiches for fear none will be available tomorrow. As far as they are concerned, there is an endless supply of sandwiches. Children do not find it difficult or complicated to talk with their parents, nor do they feel embarrassed to bring the simplest need to their attention. Neither should we hesitate to bring the simplest requests confidently to the Father.”
This has given me new inspiration and enthusiasm for prayer. If prayer is indeed just a child talking simply and matter-of-factly to his father, I can do that. And I don’t need always to wait for “correct conditions” -- a quiet spot, 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, all my requests lined up like ducks in a row, the major ones first, the small ones only if time and energy allow. I can pray anytime, for anything, about anyone. And that is a wonderful blessing.


Here are some other bloggers' posts on Chapter 3:

Messy Christian
DB on DB

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Getting Dooced

There's an interesting (and a bit scary) story out now on the wires about getting fired because of what you wrote about your company on your personal blog. I'm usually the last to know most things, so I had not heard the word "dooced" before it was mentioned in this article. It is defined as "losing your job for something you wrote on your online blog."

May it never happen to any of us.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Weird, Whimsical and Wicked


Here's some more interesting and downright goofy stuff I found surfing the web recently.

Please shed many tears for those courageous persons who run porno websites. Apparently, they're having problems reconciling their careers with their new lives as responsible parents, PTA leaders and everyday community residents. As this story tells us:
"Despite the fact that online porn remains incredibly popular, plenty of stigma remains. Some blame it on the conservative federal government, and others on the actions of 'extreme' pornographers who embrace violence and attract prosecutors.

Then, of course, there are cultural constraints. 'Am I going to join the chamber of commerce in my city? No,' said 'Madam,' who runs the porn site ****** and lives in North Texas. 'With our present government, it's making it harder for us to say, 'Yeah, I'm a pornmaster.'"
Plenty of stigma remains? Harder to admit you're a "pornmaster"? Good.

Can someone who claims to understand and follow the Islamic faith please tell me how in the world anyone justifies this atrocity?

In other religious news, there's a debate raging in the entertainment world. Has sweet Katie Holmes, the former "devout" Catholic girl, who said her faith was "very important" to her, really followed boyfriend Tom Cruise's lead and become a Scientologist? This story says yes, the assimilation is almost complete. But this IMDB story isn't so sure.

And one more religion story: Billy Graham says his upcoming crusade in New York City might be his last. I want to be there!

Can media exposure be fatal in some cases? Remember the 105-year-old man the world press descended upon last week because he had just celebrated his 80th wedding anniversary, making him part of the world's longest marriage? Well, he's dead now.

Speaking of the media, it probably won't surprise you that a new study proves public confidence in the MSM is at an all-time low.

Scientists have successfully grown a plant from a 2,000-year-old seed. This will unfortunately bolster the resolve of the "Don't throw that out! -- I might use it some day" crowd.

For those of you who can't bear to part with your VCRs and are looking forward to being able to purchase "Mission Impossible VI" on VHS at Wal-Mart in 2019, here's comforting news.

Speaking of movies, Halliwell, the person (or computer?) who writes and sells those fat doorstop books containing reviews of every single movie every made, has come out with a list of the 100 best movies. According to Halliwell, the best movie that mankind has rallied to produce is Tokyo Story, a bleak little slice-of-life pic which unfortunately I had to abandon halfway through because I kept falling asleep and soaking the carpet with my drool.

Now, I have nothing against lists -- I enjoy them. Here's an interesting one: the fine folks at Human Events Online have put together a list of the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries. The usual suspects such as The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf made the list, but for some reason the entire Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell canon was left out.

In science news, a mystery of the oceans has been explained by the discovery of giant balls of snot swimming around out there in the briny deep. (So that's where it all ends up). Also, the Greenpeace/environmentalist crowd is all in a tizzy because of Disney's plans to serve up shark fin soup to its guests. It's my guess they got the idea from Nemo, who is still steamed about the way those sharks tricked his poor dad.

Don't you love stories where people seek to redress old wrongs through the American legal system? If so, you'll be glad to know that the Shinnecock tribe is suing for billions in damages and the return of tribal lands, which just happen to be located in posh Southampton on Long Island. The land at issue contains numerous pricey mansions, two golf courses and Southampton College. No word yet if Martha Stewart is part of the package.

Finally, any do-it-yourselfers out there? Check out these simple instructions to make an inexpensive homemade air conditioner, using a garbage can filled with ice water and a fan, or this red wine made by inmates in prison with few resources at their disposal. (WARNING: nasty photos of old dirty socks, moldy bread and toilet fermentation devices).

Quote of the day:

"It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion."

--W.R. Inge

Feedback: When Do You Get Your Best Ideas?

A few weeks ago, I did a post where I described the three activities which freed up my subconscious mind to give me my best ideas (jogging, mowing the yard and showering). I asked for feedback from readers about their best inspirations for ideas. I promised I would share the results, so here they are.

The Nightfly said his best ideas often come at inopportune times:
"I get my best ideas when I'm too bushed to actually bother with the work of writing them up. Or I get them at work, which is the same difference. I've gotten in the habit of carrying a pen and some 3x5 index cards all over the place, which means that I have a pile of them at home waiting for further action."
Katalina replied that she gets her best ideas "when I am asleep":
"Most of what I call my...“book” material comes from my dreams. There have been some nights...where I have had dreams and have woke up saying to myself, “ that is a great material for a short story or book!” I have rushed to my computer...and have typed everything (and I do mean every little detail from scenes to character descriptions) that I can recall from the dream...Other ideas have come to me when I am driving (alone)...[Also], walking...the thoughts just come to me and as soon as I return home, I enter the thoughts into the computer..."
Katalina said she also gets ideas when she is swimming (she's a native Hawaii girl, you know), and also, because she is an amateur bookbinder, she gets "a lot of ideas for pages and covers from magazines, books in the libraries [and] antique shows."

Kate could identify with Katalina's invigorating dunks as a source of good ideas:
"Swimming was always good for me too...also playing the piano (I don't play very well, but it does seem to help me transcend my conscious mind). Otherwise...I find I just have to start writing, or talking, and the thoughts just start flowing. My husband is a great sounding board, and my thoughts are always much more fleshed out when I've had a chance to talk them out with him."
So, there you have it. The way I see it, I have much more boring sources of inspiration than my fellow bloggers. I'd much rather be getting the idea for my next post swimming off Wakiki or playing Beethoven instead of cutting weeds, but God gives each of us what we need. And I guess boredom and routine will continue to fuel my creative fire, even if it's a bit...boring.

Quote of the day:

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

--Jack London

"Or a lawnmower."


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

At Loose Ends

This is not going to be one of those posts where I lay out points in a logical order, and then wrap up with a sweeping, all-knowing conclusion. I really just want to share my state of mind with you and see if any of you feel the same way.

More and more these days, I seem to be at loose ends. By that, I don’t mean that I am losing my mind or am unable to function. I simply mean that something -- the disordered state of my mind, the fast pace of my life, the demands of daily existence, whatever -- prevents me from experiencing many things straight through as a whole.

That doesn’t explain it very well. Let me take another tack by giving you a few examples. Last week, when I was at home recovering from oral surgery, I started watching the movie “Sleepy Hollow” for the first time. I watched a bit of it the first day, got sidetracked, watched a bit more the second day, watched maybe 10 minutes more of it on Sunday, and I still have probably the last half yet to watch. When I do finally go back, I’ll probably either have to backtrack to figure out again what happened before, or else go ahead without getting the full import of the next actions.

At the same time, I probably have four or five other DVDs or tapes at home where I started watching them and at some point had to stop, meaning to go back and finish “soon.” Will I ever finish these? I can’t say.

I usually read a couple or three books at the same time. Not every book I read every day, but usually, the only time available to me to read is at night when I’m in bed, ready to fall asleep. I usually only get 10-15 minutes read a night before I zonk out, so you can imagine it takes me awhile to read a book all the way through. I read The Mill on the Floss awhile back and it took me about three months to finish. I just finished one of my favorites, The Phantom Tollbooth, again, but it took me a week, in fits and starts, in settings including my home, a swimming pool, and a doctor’s office. My 9-year-old daughter could have read this one easily in an afternoon.

If I get very long e-mails from friends, I sometimes read only a part and then save the remainder for later, “when I have the time.” Occasionally I just forget to come back at all. My scrapbook is four months behind, I have scores of household projects I’d like to do but have never gotten off the boards, and the only way I keep up with this blog is to seemingly steal time from other things assuredly more deserving -- like my family or my “real” job.

I know, I know, time management is a great thing, and I’ve got the books on my shelves to prove it. But I’m not sure this is just a time management problem. I sense it goes deeper than that. I sometimes feel I am spread over two or three lives, in two or three time zones, and it’s all I can do to remember what’s going on in each of them. As a result, I find myself more often than not thinking about some other thing somewhere else. When I’m talking to someone, or listening to a sermon on Sunday morning, I’m trying to concentrate totally, but I too often find myself wandering to other thoughts about other projects and other concerns (and pure daydreams to boot).

This is what I mean by being at loose ends. And I’m still not sure I have described it very well at all.

I can remember earlier days, in childhood and even in college, when things seemed to be simpler, or at least more compact. When I was a kid, and I got a new toy, I could spend all afternoon doing nothing but playing with it, and feeling totally absorbed and happy. Even a month later, I could still kill an entire afternoon by playing with that same toy (especially if it was Hot Wheels).

When I was a kid, maybe because we only had four channels, it was easy to choose what show to watch, and once it was on, I happily watched all the way to its conclusion, with total concentration. Even if it was something wretched or boring, I was focused. There was no “channel surfing” because there were no other real channels to surf to.

When I was in college, I can still remember how I had the time and focus to be able to watch a movie or read a book at an entire sitting. I was a big John Irving fan then, and when The Hotel New Hampshire came out, I can remember buying it about 4 p.m., going to my apartment, fixing a snack and a drink, and then proceeding to read it straight through without a break. I finished at 5 something in the morning, and for those 13 hours I was totally absorbed into that world the book created. No distractions.

Again, I have no answers here -- I’m not even sure I really have a definable problem. It’s just a feeling I’ve had for some time now, of being able to only experience the banquet of life in fitful wolfing downs of snack bits on the run, inhaling quick whiffs of gossip and news as I go, instead of sitting down and spending unhurried evenings with life serving up a full banquet with good, deep conversation to go with it.

Can anyone relate to this? If so, I welcome your thoughts.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Some of you frequent readers might think that I spend my free time wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart, looking for new and unusual products. I assure you that's not the case (my social life is not quite that pathetic), but lately in the course of picking up household necessities, I keep running across strange stuff.

First, there was the puzzling discovery of microwave pork rinds, which I mentioned in an earlier post.

Now, I was shopping for apples (Cameos are my favorite) when I came across this interesting display:

As the slogan on the package says, a Grapple is something that "looks like an apple, tastes like a grape." I guess they combined the names of "grape" and "apple," in that order, to get the name. If they'd done it in the opposite order, the new product would have been "Ape," which is probably not something you want to encourage eating.

Now, how can a grape look like and feel like an apple? What exactly is a Grapple? To find out, I visited the Grapple web site as well as a few other sites talking about this amazing and exciting new concoction.

From these sites, I learned that this product is not pronounced like "Grapple" (the verb meaning to contend with), but like "GRAY-pull." And I also learned just what a Grapple is -- nothing more than a Washington apple, minding its business, which is suddenly violated by being soaked in grape juice.

Most of the sites I visited had the same question I did -- Why? Was there a big need for this product, or any need at all?

I picture a focus group somewhere inside the headquarters of a huge apple-growing conglomerate in Washington State. A nervous little man answering an interviewer's questions replies, "Well, you see, I like the size and texture of apples, but I'm not so hot on the taste. And I like the taste of grapes, but I have to eat lots of them to get filled up, and they're so soft and squishy I can't carry them around easily in my pockets. Can you please help?"

Go ahead, enjoy your Grapples. I'll stick with the original articles, thank you, but who am I to begrudge anyone a new food? And I'll wait with breathless anticipation to see what wonderful new products will fill the shelves at Wal-Mart soon.

Quote of the day:

"I never feel lonely in the kitchen. Food is very friendly."

--Julia Child

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Beautiful Cameron Park

What a beautiful Sunday God gave us in Central Texas! I was out with the digital camera today, shooting pictures all over Waco. On a whim I went to Waco's beautiful Cameron Park, one of the city's best-kept secrets (at least when it comes to people who don't live here). This is a photo I shot of the Brazos River as it passes under Lovers Leap in Cameron Park.

For all of you whose only exposure to Waco was through the Branch Davidian tragedy, and who therefore might have been operating under the misconception that Waco is nothing but flat prairie, here's proof that we have our nice elevated views as well.

Lovers Leap has a lot of old legends attached to it, some of them involving a pair of Indian lovers long ago who chose to jump from the high cliff together after parents prohibited them from marrying. Every now and then in the modern day, some overeager or under-cautious person starts climbing around on Lovers Leap, and either falls to a bad end or has to be rescued.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Wango Tango!

Guess who's playing the Waco Hippodrome on Muley's birthday? None other than a Michigan transplant who supposedly has a ranch not far from George W.'s in Crawford. And here I am, 15 minutes away, and neither one has invited me over yet.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Blogging Celebration of Discipline: Chapter 2

I have joined a group of fellow Christians who are blogging through Richard Foster’s classic book Celebration of Discipline, one chapter at a time. Each Friday, we post our thoughts and questions about the chapter we’ve read that week. Here’s my post on Chapter 2, "The Discipline of Meditation."

If you’re interested in joining this group blog, go here.


Just in case we are tempted to pick up a Christian book with a chapter titled "The Discipline of Meditation" and think that it's going to be chock full of instructions on seeking out a swami, learning to clear our mind of all thoughts, sitting bow-legged and then humming into the void, Richard Foster puts us straight in Chapter 2:

"Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God's voice and obey his word. It is that simple. I wish I could make it more complicated for those who like things difficult. It involves no hidden mysteries, no secret mantras, no mental gymnastics, no esoteric flights into cosmic consciousness. The truth of the matter is that the great God of the universe, the Creator of all things desires our fellowship."
I must admit that this was a hard chapter for me to take in fully all in one gulp. And even though Foster has written in a logical progession, and has spent 18 pages covering the topic of meditation from a variety of perspectives, I am still having trouble understanding its very core. In other words, how is meditation different from what we know as prayer?

I've always heard that after we "pray," which too many times for me has been the act of trotting out my lists of things to be thankful for and things to ask for from God, we should do something even more important, which is to listen to God giving us direction and understanding. It might illustrate how much of a "baby" Christian I truly am by admitting that receiving an unmistakeable answer from God has almost never happened to me during the times of quiet meditation Foster encourages.

Not that God never speaks to me. I know of some concrete examples, as when I prayed to get certain jobs "if it was God's will," then to be initially disappointed and even nursing a feeling of betrayal when I didn't get them, only to realize much later that the jobs were in fact wrong for me, and only would have resulted in my being miserable.

That indirect and circumstantial way God talks to me -- or even His direct way, when for example I hear about someone's urgent need and feel an overwhelming urge to respond -- I am familiar with. But the other way -- of being quiet and still and letting God speak to me from the ether, so to speak -- I can't say that ever really happens at all. When I try to be quiet and just "listen," I assure you I hear no voice, see no children's letter blocks arranging themselves into words without human assistance, do not find my finger floating and then magically landing on the correct passage in the Bible. More often than not, I instead find my quiet mind wandering into topics most mundane and unspiritual, like isn't that air conditioner rattling a little?

This elusive practice of taking time to be quiet and letting God lead us seems to be exactly what Foster is calling meditation, so maybe you can understand my feelings of inadequacy. The author seems to be talking to me, however, when he points out one of my big problems -- apparent failure to possess the true desire to hear a word from God:

"How do we receive the desire to hear his voice? 'This desire to turn is a gift of grace. Anyone who imagines he can simply begin meditating without praying for the desire and the grace to do so, will soon give up. But the desire to meditate, and the grace to begin meditating, should be taken as an implicit promise of futher graces.' Seeking and receiving that 'gift of grace' is the only thing that will keep us moving forward on the inward journey."
Foster goes on in this chapter to address some misconceptions about Christian meditation -- that it seeks detachment of the mind from God and the world, as Eastern meditation does; that it is by nature too difficult and complicated; that people who meditate frequently become too distant from life and are "no earthly good"; and that meditation somehow involves the trickery of psyching ourselves out. And the author also stresses the importance of letting imagination play a part.

Foster then gives some tips (not "laws," he stresses) on the mechanics of meditatiing -- the best places, times and ways to do it. But he lets the air out of my tires a bit when he stresses that
"It is impossible to learn how to meditate from a book. We learn to meditate by meditating."
And with that, in some ways I'm back to square one. I must admit that I'm far from understanding this chapter as I should. I will have to read it again and again, prayerfully, and try to put what it teaches me into practice. As a place to begin, I think I might end up practicing one of the "forms" of meditation Foster discusses -- that of meditating on Scripture:
"This is not a time for technical studies, or analysis, or even the gathering of material to share with others. Set aside all tendencies toward arrogance and with a humble heart receive the word addresed to you. Often I find kneeling especially appropriate for this particular time. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, '...just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.'"
Okay. I'll give that a try.


Check out these other responses to Chapter 2:

Alexander Campbell
Listen In
Steveybabe's Blog
Messy Christian

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Worth Four Thousand Words

WIth nothing else to do while I am cooped up healing from the removal of three wisdom teeth, I got a little advice (thanks to the always helpful Happy Homemaker) and figured out how to import photos onto my blog using Hello. Hooray!

Here's a few photos picked at random from my files to serve as a test. First, here's two gravestone angels I photographed at Waco's beautiful Oakwood Cemetery:

Next, here's the Ten Commandments, still proudly gracing the lawn of the Texas Capitol:

Finally, here's Muley at a young age posing with the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet. (The name of the red flower in the background is a source of unresolved dispute between my parents to this day. One calls them "Indian paintbrushes," the other maintains the proper name is "red blankets"):

Doped Up and Feeling Fine

I just got back from the oral surgeon's about two hours ago. I went there to have three wisdom teeth removed, and I'm glad to report that everything is fine. As I write this, I am on numbing medication, but it appears I can still work the keyboard and not end up typing things that look like dvmbvhhguhjndjnvjkanv.

The first extraction was taken in the billing office, where they removed $775 from my bank account. After that, I was led to the relatively less painful surgery room. When I sat in the chair (attired in a natty little monogrammed smock shirt I got "free"), I soon realized this was serious business. They started attaching elctrodes to my arms, put some sort of spit-up shroud over my torso, and then put a big needle in my arm full of sedative. Luckily, they didn't try to shave me anywhere, because once I was under the influence of the sedative I would have probably agreed to anything, even a Mohawk.

That sedative is amazing, scary stuff. It keeps you awake during the surgery, but you remember virtually nothing, and the passage of 30 minutes feels like seconds. I was told later the doctor asked me during surgery if I'd be able to relax today, and I supposedly told him I was "a master at that." I have absolutely no recollection of this conversation.

After the surgery, they put me in a big recovery room, where I noticed a large tool box sitting on the counter, the kind mechanics get at Sears. Is this for big emergencies? And there was a painting on the wall of cowboys in the Old West. Why wasn't it a painting of oral surgery in the Old West? -- you know, some guy on a pool table with two or three empty whisky bottles nearby, and five guys holding him down while he wrestles and screams bloody murder.

Gotta go put on my ice packs. Back in 20 minutes.

Okay. As I said, they put me in the recovery room, and hooked some sort of monitor to one of my fingertips which gave them my heartbeat. It would beep periodically, but once when a nurse left the room, the beeps changed into a solid "beeeeeeeeeeep..." I figured if the next person I saw enter the room had wings, something had gone wrong.

Now I'm at home, with my entire mouth numb. My tongue feels like a big beefsteak crammed between my teeth, but it's tolerable. Mrs. Muley is at the pharmacy right now getting my pain medication, so I wanted to write this before I spent the next few days probably sleeping it off.

By the way, in the recovery room, the cheerful nurse said, "Well, you'll have to excuse us, we've gone and taken all of your wisdom. Hope you don't mind." I first thought, how many times a day does she repeat that?, but then I thought, OK, now I have no one to blame but myself for being a smartmouth.

UPDATE Two-and-a-half hours later. I feel as though I've been kicked in the teeth by Seabiscuit, I'm drooling like a baby, and my lips are like some collagen experiment gone hideously wrong. But other than that, I'm okay. Watching "The Life Aquatic" for the first time and eating pudding very slowly.

ANOTHER UPDATE The pain medication the surgeon prescribed has done wonders in keeping away any pain, and my mouth has now been reduced almost to normal size and flexibility. However, the pain meds have produced an unfortunate side effect: It is 6:15 the next morning and I am still wide awake. After tossing and turning for four hours with no luck, I decided to give up and come try to write my post for Chapter 2 of Celebration of Discipline. I'm predicting a huge nap later today...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Surprise Dad This Father's Day

Father's Day is fast approaching, and I know that all of you wives and kiddies out there in Muley's World would appreciate a little advice on what to get ol' Dad for the event. I'm here to help.

Now, I know that you're not looking for the same old tired gifts -- if you want to buy a tie, a pair of Dockers or a George Foreman grill, your local mall will surely suffice. But no, your husband or father, being a discriminating man of sophisticated taste like me, demands not only quality in his gift, but originality. Here goes.

REV UP THE ROMANCE Take advantage of Father's Day to get hubby something to start the sparks flying again (with you, I mean). Here's Dr. Muley's prescription: have him put on one of these and then grab his new Love Gun. Need a little make-believe to help stir the romantic pot? Have him take on a sexy new persona by wearing this or this. If things go as I expect, you might need to renew your vows in one of these. And the two of you might even be so in love that you'll get one of these made.

A LITTLE TOUCH-UP You can use Father's Day to subtly help your husband or father overcome those quirky little habits or shortcomings that drive you bonkers. Does Dad snore? Have him try sleeping with one of these. If that doesn't work, try using a few of these after he starts sawing the lumber. Maybe he doesn't snore, but just has trouble getting to sleep. Have him read this at bedtime.

Is Dad a timid mouse of a man, afraid of his own shadow? Give him new confidence with one of these. And if he's a truck driving man with low self esteem, this will get his manly pride going, as well as attract local livestock.

Is dad a wreck in the bathroom when it comes to cleanliness and decorum? Start with one of these (you'll thank me), and then add one of these to prevent those middle-of-the-night telemetry accidents.

Is hubby going a bit bald upstairs? This nifty product might help. Do his feet have a peculiar fecund odor you've grown to loathe? Have him slip on some of these (remember, they're not real, ladies). Does he embarrass you by scratching inappropriate nether regions in public? Whip this out. And is Dad spending the family vacation money and college savings seeking answers from a high-priced shrink? Cancel the appointments and give him one of these.

SPORTS STUFF Is Dad a sports or outdoors buff? Here are a few suggestions. For a golfer, why not one of these to wear on the links? What bowler would not turn heads on league night wearing this? And what hunter would be caught dead without one of these in the field? Maybe your husband wants to hunt, but he's just a little intimidated by real firepower. Get him this or this.

KITCHEN MAGICIAN For the dad who wants to learn how to cook, here's a few suggestions. Wearing one of these will get his confidence up. Have him start with an easy dish -- like microwave popcorn. This will make it more fun. Speaking of fun, what guy wouldn't want to serve guests something he made in this? And if Dad is truly gastronomically challenged (or lazy as a ditch), even he can work this.

FUN, FUN, FUN After all that time spent working, a good dad likes to play and play hard. Here's some ideas. If Dad is the easily entertained sort, this classic will almost never fail to help him pass the time. To make things more interesting, buy him a pack of these to use with it. For the prankster dad, great news: the classic whoopee cushion has gone both high tech and cute and cuddly. Does Dad like to gross out friends and colleagues? Here's a corker.

SPACE IN SPACE Forget having a star named after Dad for Father's Day. That's so yesterday, and what does he get out of it, anyway? What Dad wants is something tangible, like real estate. So buy him a full acre, rocks and all, on either the Moon or Mars. If some future space expedition lands on his plot, imagine the fat landing fees he can collect!

OKAY, I GIVE UP I hear some of you saying, "It just isn't Father's Day without a tie." For those sentimentalists out there, I offer four tie patterns: for the animal lover dad, for the art lover dad, for dads who love the movie Psycho, and for all the dictator-loving Commie dads out there.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST Finally, if all else fails, and you just can't figure out what to get Dad, break the emergency glass and reach for this. And if you figure out just what the heck it's for, I probably don't want to know.

Quote of the day:

"[My father] didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."

--Clarence Budington Kelland