Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Fe

The Muley family is heading out tomorrow on the second leg of our World Vacation Tour 2006. This time, we'll be seeing some sights in New Mexico -- Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque -- with the Muley grandparents. The crew that all rode together in a van last summer for a week in Branson is back on the road! I'll try to post about our crazy adventures when I return in a week or so. Ya'll take care.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Random Observations and Trivial Events

FAILURE TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL

Sometimes at work I pass by a room where they do training sessions for employees – you know, those sessions where they teach you things such as how to be more efficient on the job, how to manage your time and how to deal with psychopathic nut case bosses without involving the company health plan.

Maybe I’m just the cynic here, but I don’t think those training videos and teaching sessions really do what they’re supposed to do. Yes, the people who attend them might be fired up and full of new ideas while they’re sitting there missing work under the spell of a good instructor-motivator, but from what I’ve seen, about 99 percent of what they’ve learned never sticks with them for the long haul. Sure, sometimes they pick up a tip here or there that they end up using (“Big yellow sticky notes get seen easier than small ones do. USE THEM LIBERALLY!”) but I think most of the time, the trainees believe the trainers are just blowing smoke. And let’s face it, a person who has spent his lifetime being a messy, unorganized goof-off is not going to turn into an organized, trailblazing captain of industry after watching just one Stephen Covey video. When all the attempts at behavior modification are over, the driven perfectionists go back to nosing the grindstone, and the goof-offs go back to playing Internet poker and downloading photos of Uma Thurman.

CAN ANYONE FIX MY BROKEN BETAMAX? I NEED IT TO CHECK OUT THIS "LAW AND ORDER" SHOW

When sociologists discuss how different people affect or are affected by trends, some are the trendsetters, others are the “early adapters,” and then there are the sad people called something like the “clueless foot-draggers.” I’m in the last group. For example, I have just recently watched the first few episodes of the first season of “Alias” for the first time. I kept hearing how good the show was (like I incessantly keep hearing how good “24” is), so, courtesy of Netflix, I put my toe in the water. Now, I won’t say I’m absolutely hooked on “Alias,” but I think I could easily get there with a little more exposure.

DON'T WORRY, NO BLOG STUFF WAS ON IT

Speaking of how I adapt to technology, here’s how I can get smacked when I try to be too trendy. People here at work had told me I needed to have one of those little USB stick thingies to store my personal data on instead of the big, clunky Zip disks I’d been using. I kept resisting, but finally, I realized that since my PC at home doesn’t have a Zip drive (like my Mac at work does), I would need one of those stick thingies to transfer data back and forth from work to home.

So, I bought one, and loaded it up with all my stuff – my history research, my fiction writing, my essay ideas, my freelance journalism articles, even my haiku, which so far has never seen the light of day. The stick had a neat little hole to allow you to put it on your key ring, which I did. Well, the other day I looked at my key ring and found that the part of the stick that has the USB port and the memory was missing. I looked in a few obvious spaces, but I couldn’t find it.

I’m assuming that it popped of my key ring when I pulled my keys out somewhere to get in the car. So, it most likely was or is lying around some parking lot somewhere. I hope it gets crushed quickly, but if someone actually finds it and accesses the information inside, I have two competing fears. One is that they’ll think the writing inside is terrible, and hit me up for a ransom payment to prevent them from making it public. The other fear is that they’ll turn it over to a literary agent (with their name on it) and make big money as the newest star of the New Yorker. I’m expecting the first scenario, mind you.

I SEE DEAD PEOPLE (AT 30 FRAMES A SECOND)

Have you ever looked at an old movie or at old newsreel footage – maybe from the very early 1900s – and thought that all the people shown on the film, even the children, are almost certainly dead now, and that you’re watching something that doesn’t exist any more? Well, I have. Maybe I’m just morbid, but sometimes I get the idea that I'm watching the equivalent of theatre from beyond the grave.

NOW YOU KNOW...THE REST OF THE STORY

I was watching one of those reality shows on Animal Planet the other night – with a name like “Animal Cops” or something. Most of it was pretty routine stuff – ASPCA officers going after animal abusers or stray kittens caught in drainpipes. But then, the last segment surprised me. A police squad busted an illegal, high-stakes poker game, featuring those differing breed of dogs you see on the paintings everywhere smoking big cigars. Boy, that was exciting TV.

Friday, June 30, 2006

This Is Why Willie and Waylon Sing That Song


Cowboy Muley, about one year old. I hadn't started dipping snuff yet, but I could sure hogtie a mean diaper.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Smattering of Quotes

I've been sort of an ADHD kinda guy lately when it comes to my reading -- haphazardly looking through all sorts of volumes and pulling out items to make a very disparate gumbo that has probably not enlightened me much, but has left me with a few tasty quotes to share.

--------------------------------

I've seen a lot of references to the French writer-philosopher Jacques Barzun lately in books of conservative thought, and I finally decided to check out a book of his essays, The Culture We Deserve, to see what he's made of. This was a quote from an essay titled "Exeunt the Humanities." It deals with something I see more and more of these days -- people devoting enormous amounts of time becoming almost obsessive experts on narrow little topics and hobbies, while remaining ignorant of a lot of seemingly "big picture" things in the world around them.
"The danger is that we shall become a nation of pedants. I use the word literally and democratically to refer to the millions of people who are moved by a certain kind of passion in their pastimes as well as in their vocations. In both parts of their lives this passion comes out in shoptalk. I have in mind both the bird watchers and nature lovers: the young people who collect records and follow the lives of pop singers and movie stars; I mean the sort of knowledge possessed by "buffs" and "fans" of all species -- the baseball addicts and opera goers, the devotees of railroad trains and the collectors of objects, from first editions to netsuke. They are pedants not just because they know and recite an enormous quantity of facts -- if a school required them to learn as much they would scream against tyranny. It is not the extent of their information that appalls; it is the absence of any reflection upon it, any sense of relation between it and them and the world. Nothing is brought in from outside for contrast or comparison; no perspective is gained from the top of their monstrous factual pile; no generalities emerge to lighten the sameness of their endeavor."

--Jacques Barzun

If I am in danger of becoming one such obsessive pedant, it might be due to buying and collecting far too many old books. Here's another (more positive) way I found to look at my bibliophilia.
"Collecting books is like collecting other people's minds, like having people on the shelves -- only, you can just put them away when you want to."

--John Prizeman

There's probably as many definitions of creativity as there are people who claim to have that elusive gift in spades. Here's one description of what a creative person should look like that I found interesting.
"Creative people: 1, have their energy field accessible; 2, have the ability to tap and release unconscious and preconscious thought; 3, are able to withstand being thought of as abnormal or eccentric; 4, are more sensitive; 5, have a richer fantasy life and greater involvement in daydreaming; 6, are enthusiastic and impulsive; 7, show signs of synaesthesia (e.g., tasting color, seeing sound, hearing smells, etc.); 8, show different brain wave patterns than the less creative, especially during creative activity; 9, when confronted with novelty of design, music, or ideas, they get excitied and involved (less creative people get suspicious and hostile); 10, when given a new solution to a problem, they get enthused, suggest other ideas, overlook details and problems (less creative students analyze the defects rather than explore potentials."

--E. Paul Torrence and Laura K. Hall, Journal of Creative Behavior, 1980.

I must admit that in my focused daily trek to check off my "to do" list, too often I end up walking with my eyes watching my feet, intent on getting from point A to point B, and fail to see the divine light Thomas Merton talks about here.
"Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently. God shows Himself everywhere, in everything -- in people and in things and in nature and in events...we cannot be without Him. It's impossible. The only thing is, we don't see it."

--Thomas Merton, 20th century Catholic monk

Besides not making enough time for God, I find it difficult to make as much time as I'd like to spend enriching my mind. As I plan to cut my overgrown back yard this week, I ponder this quote and wonder if its author managed to sell it to his wife.
"A man who wants time to read and write must let the grass grow long."

--Sloan Wilson

Maybe all I really need to do is listen to this next bit of wisdom.
"I think people don't place a high enough value on how much they are nurtured by doing whatever it is that totally absorbs them."

--Jean Shinoda Bolen

I love the NIV translation of the Bible, but I've recently done a little reading in the English Standard Version (ESV) translation, and have become a fan of some of its simple but eloquent prose. Here's a familiar verse in the ESV that I think sums up a Christian's marching orders quite well.
"Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life."

--Philippians 2:14-16 (ESV)

This is one of the best definitions of faith I've come across.
"Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation."

--Elton Trueblood, Puritan minister

Now for some fun quotes to wrap things up. First, who do you think was the most famous person in this encounter?
"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph."

--Shirley Temple

Have you read or heard anything about Joe Simpson, the stage father of singer Jessica Simpson? Some people have said Jessica's dad is downright creepy, and this quote from Dad about his famous daughter's...um, assets...might be one reason they think that.
"She just is sexy. If you put her in a T-shirt or you put her in a bustier, she's sexy in both. She's got double D's! You can't cover those suckers up!"

--Joe Simpson, on daughter Jessica

Finally, you might not know that when country singer Willie Nelson was starting his career in the 1950s, he worked for a time as a country DJ at station KCNC in Fort Worth. Here's how Willie opened his radio show back then. I wish I could have heard this live coming over the car speakers at the drive-in.
"This is your ol' cotton pickin', snuff dippin', tobacco chewin', coffee pot dodgin', dumplin' eatin', frog giggin' hillbilly."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

No, I'm Not Dead, Or Even Rotting

I've just been away from the computer for awhile -- for a week, due to vacation, then since Monday snowed under with all the stuff you have to do at home and work when you commit the rash act of taking a week off from the rat race. I will try to get a decent post in here soon.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Random Observations and Trivial Events

EVER FORGOTTEN AN ANNIVERSARY?

I guess it's a sign of how little time I've been able to devote to this blog in the last few months, but my one-year blogging anniversary came and went and I didn't even notice it. I knew it was sometime in May (May 10), but by the time I checked for the date in late May it was too late. And here I am waiting until early June to even mention it.

Like most people, I didn't have much idea of what I was getting into when I started blogging. I started hot and heavy, writing at least one post a day for the first two or three months, then slowly began to slack off. Around Christmas 2005 I abruptly quit altogether for awhile, then slowly got back into it on a "when time is available" basis, which is I guess where I still am.

Despite some frustrations, I'm glad I began blogging. I've met some of the nicest, funniest, smartest and most interesting people. I run into a few wackos along the way as well, but that happens just about anywhere these days.

WILL THE TWINKLE LIGHTS BE OUT NEXT WEEK?

It just gets earlier and earlier. I was at Wal-Mart this evening and notice that they are already selling calendars for 2007. Last year it seemed that the new calendars came out around Independence Day, but now they're not even waiting until the present year is half over.

MISFORTUNE COOKIES

We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant today, and once again, all of the "fortunes" contained in the fortune cookies were lame as could be. They really aren't even fortunes, for one thing -- more like maxims or proverbs. "You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," "When opportunity knocks, make sure you're listening," gems like that. They apparently don't have the guts anymore to say things like "You will meet a dark and handsome stranger," or "You will come into a lot of money soon." Besides seeing some honest-to-goodness positive predictions thrown in, I'd really like to see some dramatic "mis"-fortunes thrown in as well, such as:

"You will soon lose bladder control"

"An expensive part on your car will malfunction by the end of the month"

"The meat you just ate was not quite cooked thoroughly"

and

"Your spouse is having an affair. Check their cell phone records"

I WANT MINE VOICED BY THAT GUY WITH THE DEEP, SERIOUS VOICE

I got to thinking the other day how wonderful movie trailers are. They take a two-hour movie, and skillfully condense the parts of most interest, bad and good, tragic and humorous, into a fast-paced 90-second production. A skillful editor can take a terrible, boring movie, pick out the few good parts, and make a trailer that will convince you you want to see the thing.

Why can't everyone on the planet have their own trailer? This would take your life, including your character traits, hobbies, interests and quirks, and do a 90-second overview that would be available for viewing by anyone else on the planet. Anytime you met someone new -- in church, at school, on the dating scene -- you could simply view their trailer soon afterward and get the story of their life in a dramatic, exciting yet condensed form. Next time you met them, you'd be better prepared, see? Anyone interested?

Friday, May 26, 2006

To Everything Turn, Turn, or Do the Hokey Pokey

It's a sad day in the Muley household today. Sad not because of anyone's death or injury, or because of any financial setback or career-related tragedy, but sad because today is the last day that we have a child in elementary school.

We've had two children in elementary school, and it's hard to remember a time when we haven't been there dropping off or picking up, or attending kindergarten graduations, Christmas programs, open houses and parent-teacher conferences. There's lots of memories of making our daughters' day by buying a special lunch and bringing it up to them as we ate with them and their friends at the small little chairs in the cafeteria. I can remember me and Mrs. Muley being room parents, bringing up cookies and drinks for classroom parties, and even one time I was persuaded to sit down in a rocking chair and read a story to the eager group of little first graders gathered around me on the floor.

What's strange is that our 10-year-old daughter is quite sad to be leaving elementary school. Now, when I was a kid, I was always happy on the last day of school, no matter what milestone might have been passed. But both my daughter and her best friend have been somber and even teary-eyed this week when the subject of the impending end of school -- and the farewell to their elementary school days -- came up. A good friend and classmate of theirs is moving to another town in a few days, so that makes it even worse.

Yesterday, Mrs. Muley and I volunteered to take time off of work and be chaperones for the fourth grade end-of-year field trip. All the students went rollerskating at the rink here in Waco and had a blast. I decided that I didn't want to spend two hours just watching kids skate, so I strapped on a battered pair of inline skates and got out onto the floor. I'm sure my daughter was probably a bit embarassed, but she'll get over it.

Looking around at all the fourth graders yesterday, it really hit me how similar, but how different, they are from my classmates when I was in fourth grade in the late 1960s. They are the same in that, well, they act like fourth graders. They boisterous and loud, and overall very happy. That world-weariness and cynicism that starts seeping in somewhere in junior high has not affected them yet. It's possibly the last pure, unadulterated spring of childhood for many of them.

However, how different these kids are from the ones I went to school with. I looked around and saw a rainbow of skin colors and backgrounds. There were black and white students, students from Hispanic, Asian and Indian backgrounds, and even three young Muslim girls who wore head coverings as they skated around the rink joyously. In my elementary school, meanwhile, located in a upper middle class suburb of Houston, we were an almost totally lily white student body. There were no blacks whatsoever, and only a few Hispanic students before anyone ever used the word "Hispanic." Our one example of true multiculturalism was a blond-headed, blue-eyed boy who had moved here from England with his parents. The only place we would have seen a group of young children as diverse as that at my daughter's school in the late 1960s would have been in a Coke commercial.

So, time passes. We'll get used to it, as we always do, but if you don't take the time and notice the changes, even if that involves a little mourning, they're likely to pass you by much too easily and quietly.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you ever happen to find yourself being with a large group of kids at a skating rink, make sure that when they are all told to take off their skates and return them to the desk that you don't happen to walk through them as they remove said skates. I did this, and the aroma of 120 kids airing their feet after two hours of intense exercise just about brought me down on the psychedelic carpet. A form of this airborne substance is probably among the biological weapons Saddam is suspected of once hiding.

Also, if you men out there want to take on a new and fairly unique physical challenge, try using a men's restroom while wearing a pair of inline skates. I have found that it's a bit of a challenge on a tile floor to navigate a urinal while eight wheels are where your ten toes normally are. You sort of end up just rolling slowly back and forth and hoping your aim is true.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

No Pain, No Brain, Again

As I am writing this, rivulets of hard-earned sweat are coursing down my ruddy face. No, I'm not being mugged, and I'm not listening to rap lyrics (sort of the same thing, don't you think?), but I've just completed a nice long jog around campus, and I'm trying to cool off here at the public computer terminals in the Student Center.

I have begun the folly I begin about this time every year. You see, about six or seven years ago, I was someone who managed to lose about 55 pounds through nothing more than eating a sensible diet and running and lifting weights every week. I was thrilled at my success and my theretofore missing self-discipline, and physically I felt better at 39 and 40 than I did at 22.

During the following years, I managed to stay on a maintenance program that kept my metabolism high enough that I could pig out every now and then and not worry about gaining weight. I was never quite as faithful to the regimen as I was at my time of lowest poundage, but every week I managed to run three or four times and lift weights at least once. I mean, I was not in fear of answering my doorbell and seeing Richard Simmons beckoning to me with a forklift.

In the past few years, however, something has happened. That resolve I had seven years ago started gradually to slip away. I ran and lifted weights less and less, and although I still ate fairly healthy, I pigged out like someone with only a higher metabolism should.

The bottom line is, I'm now about 20 pounds above my "maintenance" weight, and about 33 pounds from where I was at my leanest, and where I'd love to get back to if I could. After a spring that saw me gradually exercising less and less, I've told myself (for about the 10th week in a row) that I've got to get back on the fitness schedule. No ifs, ands and butts.

Of course, I always end up doing these exercise comebacks the wrong way. It would be best to start a stepped-up exercise program in the winter, or at least in the early spring. That's when the weather is too cold to do a lot of yardwork (freeing up spare time), and on days when it's not actually freezing, the weather is so cool outside that it's a pleasure to go and run.

But do I take advantage of that, like an intelligent person would? No. In the winter and early spring, I'm indoors all the time, relaxing or working, and a bathing suit hardly ever gets put on. So, those extra pounds aren't as much of an embarrassment. Besides, I can hide out in nice wram sweaters, and no one seems to notice.

But when summer approaches, the sweaters come off, and I realize that in a matter of a few short weeks I will begin escorting my kids to beaches and pools and water parks. I WILL BE SEEN IN PUBLIC LOOKING LIKE LUMPY RUTHERFORD FROM 'LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.' So, I put on my shorts, run out into the humidity and heat of a late Texas spring, and begin huffing and puffing.

I know that I don't have the metabolism I did even a year ago. Then, I could run around this 500+ acre campus, and not have to stop even once. The only time I would stop was if I felt like it, or if I needed to remove a dog's teeth from my leg. Today, I must have stopped a dozen times. Instead of daydreaming and coming up with ideas for blog posts, stories and poems (which is what I used to do), my mind was focused instead on, Okay, I'll keep running to that big tree up there, and then I'll walk for a bit. No. No. I'm not going to make the big tree. Okay, I'll stop at the far side of the driveway. No. No. How about the near side of the driveway?"

But dang, it, I did it. More than 30 minutes, and this is my second day in a row. I feel good, especially since I also lifted weights at lunch. The only thing that is possibly a little troublesome is that the coeds I passed on the jogging trail, who normally are in iPod brain control mode and don't even notice me, seemed yesterday and today to be looking at me with a combination of shock and horror. I imagine they saw this 40-something guy, sucking in air like a broken bellows, and wondered if--eww, gross!--they were going to have to put to use their CPR training on a smelly heart attack victim. Of course, what they might really be thinking behind those horrified glances is

Rapist. Rapist! But thank goodness, an out-of-shape rapist I can easily outrun if it comes to that!

I've cooled off now, in body if not in mind, and it's time to go home. Maybe since I exercised today, I can eat a big dinner and have some of that cheesecake for dessert. Hmm...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Smattering of Quotes

In lieu of something original, here are some more quotes I've recently collected. Hope you enjoy them.

Since America's favorite pastime has begun again, here's one of my favorite movie quotes about baseball. It's said by an over-the-hill player remembering his short time in the major leagues.
"Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once -- the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains."

--Crash Davis, the minor league baseball player portrayed by Kevin Costner in "Bull Durham" (1988)


This quote from E.B. White (the author of Charlotte's Web and other classics, was bandied about a lot as an example of eerie prophecy in the days immediately following 9-11:
“A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate millions...Of all targets New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.”

––from E.B. White’s essay “Here is New York,” 1949

I will now reveal my secret:
"Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted."

--Jules Renard

The rich, they say, are different from you and me. Here's one example why:
"I go to Bloomingdale's, to the fourth floor, and I buy 2,000 of the black bras, 2,000 of the beige, 2,000 of the white. And I ship them around between the homes and the boat and that's the end of it for maybe half a year when I have to do it all over again."

--Ivana Trump

I'm reading more and more Wendell Berry these days, and he's making me think on a number of things.
"We are destroying our country -- I mean our country itself, our land...Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us."

--Wendell Berry

I continue to give away my secrets:
"Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed."

--Elbert Hubbard

Finally, every now and then Hollywood celebrities let down the facade:
"With my sunglasses on, I'm Jack Nicholson. Without them, I'm fat and 60."

--Jack Nicholson

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Wild Weather in Waco

Well pardners, last night was a fun one in Waco. We had the usual line of spring thunderstorms head to town, and we went to bed figuring on nothing more than some rain and thunder.

Well, the thunder got very loud and bad, and before long we had the entire Muley family -- two parents, two kids and two dogs -- all in our bedroom for the night. Before we got to sleep, our power went out, like it did for 22,000 other residents of the Waco area. We dug out some candles and called the power company.

I must mention that my youngest daughter, who is nine years old, is terribly afraid of bad weather. It's one of those intense, unreasoning fears where she gets terrified and can't help herself. Logical talk and explanation will not make the fear abate a whit. My wife and I were up many hours comforting her as each wave of thunderstorms rolled in. My daughter slept between us, which is a comfy fit on a queen-size bed.

The storm finally abated over our area of town, and we all managed to fall asleep. When we awoke in the morning, our power was still off. We tried calling around to see how friends and family were doing, and learned that much phone service and power was still out. Anxious to see for ourselves, and not wanting to sit around a dark house, we all got in the car and drove around. That's when we learned that the winds had wreaked havoc over a large part of Waco. There were hundreds of trees down, many in the roadways, as well as signs blown down or destroyed, porta-cans blown in the street, traffic lights out, and even some businesses with roofs blown off. Even Wal-Mart, a place you think would have their own backup generator, was dark and closed.

We drove to the home of my mother-in-law, who unfortunately had her big tree in her front yard blow down on her house:



The good thing was the tree didn't appear to have pierced her roof. The amazing thing was that my mother-in-law somehow managed to sleep through this entire storm, a storm which knocked her power out and blew a big tree on her roof. We are not really surprised by this, however. She also slept through the Texas City explosion of 1947, the Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Not really.

Anyway, we're fine, and our local weathercasters I'm sure are dubbing off those airchecks to send off to the Emmy Awards people. Tonight we have power, and my belly is full of chicken fajitas. Life is good.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Rejected Romance Novel Titles #7

Oh man, please tell me this one's fake.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Piled Higher and Deeper: The Citations

One of my jobs at the university I work for is to be the managing editor of the university's faculty/staff newsletter. This is a large, 8-12 page publication that contains lots of campus news of special importance to faculty and staff. It also contains a section that lists the recent academic accomplishments of faculty and staff, such as papers or books they've had published, lectures they've delivered or honors they've received.

This section is probably the most-read section of the newsletter. Faculty, who provide the large majority of the entries, apparently like to see their accomplishments in print, and everyone likes to look at what their colleagues are up to.

The hard thing for me is that I have to collect all the e-mails, departmental newsletters and scribbled notes sent to me by faculty and staff, then edit and assemble the information therein into readable form. The resulting entries can get quite dense and boring because, well, the subjects appear dense and boring to the layman. For example, here are some actual entries, altered only to protect the identity of the professors involved:

Dr. Richard Jones, professor of biology, had a co-authored article titled “Periphyton Nutrient Limitation and Nitrogen Fixation Potential Along a Wetland Nutrient-depletion Gradient” published in Wetlands (Vol. 16, pp. 439-448, 2005). Co-authors are Christopher Filstrup and J.Thad Scott, graduate students. He had a co-authored article titled “Recovery and Fractionation of Phosphorus Retained by Lightweight Expanded Shale and Masonry Sand Used as Media in Subsurface Flow Treatment Wetlands” published in Environmental Science and Technology (Vol. 42, pp. 4621-4627, 2005). There are multiple co-authors.

Dr. Frank Killen, professor emeritus of biology, had an article titled “Native Texas Avifauna Altered by Suburban Entrapment and Method for Easily Assessing Natural Avifaunal Value” published in Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society (Vol. 39, pp. 35-47, 2005).

Dr. Pamela G. Lawrence, assistant professor of English, had an article titled “The Worthwhile Life Heterodox Spinster: Frances Power Cobbe” published in A/B: Auto/Biography Studies (Vol. 21, pp. 1-18, 2005).

Dr. Brian P. Smith, professor of environmental studies, presented a lecture titled “Growth, Toxicity and Composition of Prymnesium parvum in Relation to Temperature, Light and Salinity” Oct. 15 at the Symposium on Harmful Marine Algae in the United States in Monterey, Calif.

Well, you get the idea.

One day last year, after editing and typing in what seemed like thousands of these entries, my always tenuous sanity broke its tether, and I began writing the kind of entries I would actually love to see in the academic section. Here's the alternate list I came up with. Notice I expanded the list to include the accomplishments of persons who are, shall we say, outside the academy.

Dr. Rusty Blade, hillbilly surgeon, had an article titled “Ooh-Wee! It’s A Biggun!: Memorable Goiters I Have Removed” published in Appalachian Medical Gazette and Seed Catalog (Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.18-23).

Chantay DeMilo, performance artist, presented a one-woman exhibition of underarm hair paintings titled “My Pits as Palette” Aug. 20-Sept. 24 at Barney’s House of Barf, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rama Lama Ding Dong, newly enlightened master and The Vram and Mehta Rastipnul Chair of Advanced Mysticism and Weird Stuff, channeled the incoherent ravings of Ibin Takin, a 14th century Mongol maintenance worker, Oct. 22 at a Psychic Hotline training session in Altoona, Pa.

Irving Feinberg, retired mucilage tester, presented “Color Photographs of My Recent Hernia and Hemorrhoid Operations” Sept. 4 at the Show and Tell Supper, Days O’ Rest Nursing Home, Boise, Idaho.

Gash, abdominal artist, had a tattoo and body piercing collage titled “The Naked Anna Nicole Smith Tortured by Zulu Warriors” displayed on the stomach of Dank Sellar, homeless person, in Los Angeles, Ca.

Dr. Chauncey Leezay, professor of postmodern art, had an exhibition titled “Klunk: Discarded Auto Mufflers as Found Art” Oct. 13-31 at the Hot Wheels Institute in Matchbox, Tennessee.

Stig McNasty, drummer for the Intestinal Worms, presented “How to Cop A Plea on a Charge of Indecency With a Minor” Sept. 27 to his AA support group in Leeds, England.

Juan D. Tenure, junior lecturer in English, had an article titled “Shakespeare’s Use of the Semicolon” published in Wasted Paper (Vol. 32, No. 8, pp. 6-7).

Whomp, Neanderthal chemist, presented “Rub Powders Together Go BOOM! Burn Hair Stink Bad” at the “Rock on Rock” demolition conference, second cave past the tar pits.

Brother Stuf Jam Yomamma, lead singer for Limp Weasel, had a song titled “Whack The Mutha in the Face Wit’ Yo @&*$*!” released as a single by Profane Records, Hollywood, Ca.

Numerous faculty members from various departments within the University made multiple presentations at the annual mid-winter conference titled “Very Important and Crucial Matters of the Highest Intellectual Import Which Defy Explanation to Untutored Laymen” held Jan. 2-27 at Buzz Tingler’s Nude Resort and Casino, Virgin Islands.
Today's quote:

"Midway on our life's journey I found myself in a dark wood."

--First line of Dante's Inferno

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. What do you think when you see a place of business sporting a sign that says “under new manage- ment?” Does it inspire a positive response in you? My feeling is that the only businesses that display such a sign are ones that have gained quite a bad reputation, either for bad service, bad products or both. I mean, if a successful business had built up a sterling reputation in the community, the last thing a smart new owner would want to do is to let people know the management had changed, for fear that they would begin to have doubts about whether the quality would continue. Right? In short, the only business owners wanting to advertise a change in management are the ones who sincerely hope those past unpleasant incidents with food poisoning or sexual misconduct or police raids will soon be forgotten.

2. Once a year, the City of Waco graciously holds something called a “Hazardous Waste Day,” where you can haul down all the stuff they deem hazardous – old paint cans, old batteries, unused lighter fluid, motor oil, etc. – and dump it for no charge. My question is, why do they only have these special days once a year? Yes, I imagine they cost the city money, but do they think people wait patiently for an entire year before throwing away things like old paint and oil? Sheesh, no. If there’s not an easy way of disposing of it safely, then we will likely toss it in the weekly garbage, where it will be taken to the landfill, and cost a lot more in the long run in terms of trash, cancer-causing agents and the underground creation of large, radioactive monsters that arise from the dump and wreak havoc on surrounding suburbs.

3. Here on campus I see all these college students looking bleary-eyed lately, and I know they are high on caffeine and going without sleep studying for finals. For all I know, it’s the first time they’ve studied all semester. I remember the stress and fear that came with finals, and I’m tempted to really feel sorry for the students, but then I remember that after a week of taking tests, they’ve got three months to basically sleep in late, party and do nothing they don’t want to do. Let ‘em suffer awhile, I say.

4. I know this probably sounds goofy, but I’ve seen the trailer for the new “Poseidon Adventure” movie (a re-make) that’s opening this month, and I want to see it. The original movie (the one where Shelley Winters constantly got stuck and Ernest Borgnine complained all the way through) was one of my favorites as a kid.

5. I was behind a college student at the convenience store the other day, and I noticed that she bought one item – a large bottled water – and paid for it with a credit card. I thought, this says something about modern society in a nutshell. We’re paying for things like water that we could easily get for free, and to do it, we’re in effect borrowing money from a bank at interest. I’ve done this before, too (with Dr Pepper, of course), so I’m not exempt.

6. I have been unable to finish a book, cover to cover, these last two or three months. Some books I have gotten almost all the way through, some I have gotten to the end of only by skipping big parts in the middle, and some I’ve abandoned after only a few chapters. But there's not one book I have read every word of. A lot of these were great books, classics, ones I was excited about reading, so I can’t blame the material. What is my problem?

7. On second thought, don't answer that.

Today’s quote:

”Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?”

--Actor Peter Lorre, to Vincent Price at Bela Lugosi’s funeral

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand posts

When movie directors don't have any gripping narrative or sparkling dialogue to offer, they film either a sex scene, a fight or a car chase. When movie stars don't have anything to talk to David Letterman about, they bring along clips of their upcoming movie.

When Muley desperately wants to put up a post but doesn't have anything to say that would captivate the attention even of lonely shut-ins, he displays some of the weird photos he's collected during his trips through cyberspace.

I've heard of someone being uncomfortable in their own skin, but this is ridiculous:


You might be interested to know I've been trying to play matchmaker lately. Maybe Fiddler on the Roof inspired me. Anyway, this woman was my first challenge:


I was having trouble finding a guy who not only wanted to talk science fiction 24/7, but who also loved dressing up in embarrassing sci-fi costumes in public. I knew it was true pung-phar, however, when I matched the Jedi princess with Mr. Tron:


For my next match, I wanted an even bigger challenge. On a recent trip I met this young woman, who for some reason was having trouble making it through the metal detectors at DFW Airport:


Here was my first proposed match, which I was sure was going to get her stapled flesh glowing:


However, the lady complained that the gentleman did not have enough piercings to whet her appetite. It took some time, but I was finally, with the aid of a large magnet, able to find a perfect match for her:


Please don't feel sorry for the rejected human pincushion first shown. I was able to introduce him to a woman who carried around even more iron and steel than he did:


Want the secret to family togetherness? One word: Mullets.


Father's Day is coming up in June. Still looking for the perfect gift for Dad or hubby? Consider some fine music for the CD player:


I don't know what to say about this except that I thought it was funny:


Finally, being a bit of a smartypants myself, this would probably be the kind of work I would turn out before getting fired at a sign company:

Friday, April 21, 2006

Out, Damned Spammers

Apologies to William Shakespeare for stealing and modifying his line for my title.

Awhile back, I got rid of word verifcation on Muley's World because, frankly, I myself hate having to try to decipher those melting, elongated letters on other blogs just to be able to comment, so I figured I'd do you readers a favor and save you that trouble when you are kind enough to comment on one of my posts.

However, today I have re-enabled word verification. Like a pesky form of bacteria, the spammers have not only returned to Muley's World, but they have mutated and are getting smarter.

The first blog spammers I got a year ago were pretty crude with their pitches. They would have easily identifiable names, like "BaldNoMore," and would start right in with their come-on: "I like your site. If you're losing what little hair you have left like the middle-aged frump you undoubtedly are, visit 'BaldNoMore' and learn about our incredible hair growth cream, available in three flavors."

Now, however, I've gotten comments which seem to be from actual people. I begin reading them with delight -- ah, a new visitor and possible blog buddy! -- and at first, the authors seem to have actually read the post they're commenting on. But it's soon apparent that their words of praise are very non-specific, and after I read down three or four sentences, they hit me with the pitch -- much less in-your-face than the old ones -- to come visit their site so I can learn how to buy the car wax the Space Shuttle astronauts took into space or purchase the latest in designer cow udder mittens or whatever else they are selling.

These sneaky ads are seeping in more and more often, so I've finally decided to put the kibosh on them. I apologize that you faithful friends will once again have to squint and try to decode those kooky letters, but I hope we'll both enjoy life more not having to waste our time reading comments that are really ads.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pondering Podding

Since I have so much spare time in my life, and you can only write so many thousands of words a day on your blog before you get itchy for another challenge, I'm declaring myself certifiably crazy by admitting that I'm in the very early stages of considering whether or not to start doing a weekly Muley's World podcast.

For those of you who don't know what a podcast is (like me just a few months ago), it's sort of like a mini radio show, or maybe an audio monologue, that is accessed through a blog or web site. Someone basically hooks up a microphone to their computer using the appropriate software, records their voice on an MP3 or other type of audio file, then makes that file available to anyone who wants to access it.

Podcasting is all the rage nowadays, but, trendy old sod that I am, that's not why I'm contemplating starting one. I have a radio and TV broadcasting background, and I miss talking "on air" -- that's a minor reason. The major reason, however, is that when I think of a possible blog topic I'd like to do, I realize that to do it properly, I'd need to tell a long story, one that would require a lot of typing and editing. I'm somewhat lazy in that regard, so blabbing into a microphone would be so much easier, and allow me a lot more freedom.

In fact, I'm even thinking of calling it "Too Tired To Type: The Muley's World Podcast." I wouldn't give up the blog, but this way I could gear each topic to whether it would fit best as a print or audio production.

What would I talk about? A little bit of everything. I could do my usual goofy essays, tell stories from my life, review movies, talk about other blogs I like. The only things I probably wouldn't talk about would be politics, current events and quantum physics.

I've requested through Interlibrary Loan some "how-to" books on podcasting, to see how hard it would be to set up and maintain a podcast. From what I can see on Amazon.com, I'd have to buy about $100 worth of software to get me going, but I've already got all the microphones and other gear.

So, what do you think? Would any of my seven or eight faithful readers be interested in a podcast? Frankly, I'm not a big enough narcissist to do it if no one would be listening. I can always start a stamp collection or something to try to burn up my hours and hours of free time.

To get an idea of how good you have to be to put on a podcast, I visited one of the podcast directories on the web, www.podcast.net, to see what other casts are out there. Looking over the listings of the different journal-type entries, I found evidence for the theory that just about anyone can put together one of these things. There are podcasts about knitting, podcasts where people read their poetry and chapters from their novels in progress, and podcasts where what sounds like teenagers sniffing glue laugh loudly about not much at all. Some of the podcasts are interrupted by ringing phones, barking dogs, and in one, I thought I heard a sound like a malfunctioning sump pump chugging along as the host narrated a boring life story in a monotone. The sump pump was more interesting.

I quickly discovered that there are strange titles given to podcasts. I looked at (but didn't listen to) something called "The Baked Ziti Radio Hour." Someone took a nod from Seinfeld and came up with "The Podshow About Nothing" (enticing title, that). And in one podcast, the summary for the lone episode was "Women who want a shave leaving a message on an answering machine." Okay...

How do you keep up the quality with podcasts such as these? Maybe you should ask the guy whose podcast is called "Trucker Tom." The host, presumably a trucker,is a prolific son of a gun, I'll tell you that. He must record and file a new podcast every time he stops to gas up his rig. On the description page, he says that in Podcast #266, "I play an audio file I recorded of me opening up packages after getting home at 1:30 AM Saturday morning before heading to bed." I'm sure his listeners were bowled over by this, but before they could recover, Tom stopped in at a roadside diner and filed Podcast #267, in which "I play a clip of my GPS in action." Now, I'm sure you're wondering, what is he going to do for an encore? How in the world can he hope to top the sound of packages opening and a GPS beeping? The answer is in Podcast #268: "I talk about buying a new Gateway notebook computer from Best Buy in Lincoln, Nebraska." Can a reciting of the states and their capitals be next? Lash me to the mast, Starbuck.

Anyway, if these guys can do it, I figure Muley can do it. What do you think?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Easter

May your family have a happy and blessed Easter. Here's a few vintage postcards from Muley's collection.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Random Observations and Trivial Events

ORLANDOPHOBIA

While Mrs. Muley and I were getting ready for work this morning the Tony Orlando and Dawn song “Knock Three Times” came on the radio. If you remember, this is the song where Tony is in love with the woman who lives below him in an apartment complex. He instructs her to knock three times on her ceiling if she wants him (probably causing plaster dust to rain down in her eyes), or to knock “twice on the pipe” if she thinks he's a creepy stalker type and wants him to lay off. (I’m assuming “the pipe” here refers to a radiator and not a bong, but then again, it was the 1970s).

Mrs. Muley and I got to talking about how Tony apparently has a real hangup with having women tell him how they feel about him face-to-face. Remember his biggest hit, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon (‘Round the Old Oak Tree)”? Here, he was too chicken to face the woman he’d left behind when he went to prison for an undisclosed crime, in case she didn’t want his convict carcass around anymore. So, Tony came up with the yellow ribbon gimmick to save him any disappointment in person, leaving him to cry quietly like a proverbial schoolgirl in front of a busload of strangers if he was rebuffed. Or maybe he'd get mad and knock off another liquor store. Whatever.

Anyway, I’m surprised that Tony Orlando and Dawn never released a song later in their short career with a title like “Skywrite If I Am Right for You,” where Tony would require his love interest to hire a cropduster to compose a message in the sky if the girl he liked wanted to spend time with him.

Don't let my heart be lost
Let's see that plane exhaust
And skywrite if I am right for you


JUST IN TIME FOR EASTER

I was searching awhile back for a good “goofy” horror movie to watch sometime (because that's the kind of guy I am), and I think I might have found it. It’s a little flick from 1972 called “Night of the Lepus.” The tagline makes it sound oh so scary: “They were born that tragic moment when science made its great mistake... now from behind the shroud of night they come, a scuttling, shambling horde of creatures destroying all in their path.” Of course, the audience eventually learns that this bloodthirsty, scuttling horde is actually a horde of RABBITS (called “lepus” in Latin).

The plot description says a farmer was having trouble with rabbits eating his crops, so he hires some wacko scientist to help him get rid of them. The scientist, of course, injects the cute little bunnies with hormones and genetically altered blood, which goes bad, and the rabbits mutate into creatures the size of wolves who snack on cows, horses and…humans. Oh, the horror.

This movie sounds fun because it appears that they spent no more than $12.95 making it, even though they had to pay for the acting talents of past-their-prime stars such as Janet Leigh (shower girl from “Psycho”) and DeForrest Kelley (Bones from “Star Trek”). I wonder if there’s a character in the movie named Jim, so Kelley’s character could say the familiar “He’s dead, Jim” line as he views a body covered with bloody tufts of fur and the gnawed ends of carrots.

The top reason I want to see this, however, is a scene I just have to experience for myself. Some authority type supposedly runs to a drive-in movie theatre, shouts, “Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way!,” and everyone automatically believes him and runs away screaming. Oh man, call Netflix and pass the popcorn.

Today's quote:

"You can't get spoiled if you do your own ironing."

--Meryl Streep

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Smattering of Quotes

Like someone who walks down the corner, expecting just to buy a bottle of milk at the grocery store, and ends up days later hundreds of miles from home, wandering around the desert, I have taken an unplanned vacation from blogging this past week or so. Nothing tragic, mind you, just one of my occasional lapses. For those of you kind enough to continue to stop in here, I want to share with you some of my favorites from the quotes I've collected over the past week. I promise a regular post soon (yeah, right, we're on pins and needles, Muley...)
"Human language is like a cracked kettledrum on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when what we long to do is make music that will move the stars to pity."

--Gustave Flaubert
in Madame Bovary

(This has to be the lament of every writer, no matter how famous)
"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."

--Twyla Tharp

(So true)
"A gentleman is simply a patient wolf."

--Lana Turner

(I guess this is a somewhat understandable sentiment from a woman who was married seven times)
"Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings."

--Ed Gardner

(In Elvis movies, he would sing, play guitar and ride a motorcycle as well)
"Very nice, though there are dull stretches."

--Antoine de Rivarol

(His classic, snarky review of another writer's two-line poem)
"English was good enough for Jesus Christ and it's good enough for the children of Texas."

--Miriam "Ma" Ferguson
Texas governor, 1925-27 and 1933-35

(Hey Dixie Chicks, I'm proud of our governors here in Texas, even the dumb ones)

And, today's favorite...

"If it hadn't been for books we would have been entirely at the mercy of sex."

--Anatole Broyard

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Get Out Your Hymnals


Make your own church sign here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Escapist Dating

If you turn on your radio these days for longer than 15 minutes at a stretch, or watch at least one TV commercial break -- any hour, any channel -- then you've no doubt heard the ads for a dating service that supposedly makes you answer a 2,675-question "personality" test before you dip your toe in the rippling pool of romance. This incredibly thorough test, we are told, is why this certain company's matchups are so well-made.

Well, I can't argue with the company's success, but a little birdie told me something the other day. That big, fancy questionnaire is just a marketing gimmick. I don't know this as fact, but from what I hear, the real survey that potential customers are asked to fill out is much shorter, and is supposedly based on the lyrics of a popular 1970s love song.

In a plain brown envelope left under my doormat, I was provided with a purloined copy of these alternate questions. And even though I'm already married and not in the market for a date, I'll answer the questions as if I were, just to give you an idea of how this thing works.

Ready?

1. Do you like Pina Coladas? Haven't had one in 20 years, but I'd have to say...yes.

2. Do you like getting caught in the rain? First of all, please note that I have never dated waterfowl and don't intend to start now. Having said that, since "getting caught" implies being unprepared, I'd have to reply that it's all a question of logistics. Am I late for a meeting? Is it cold outside? Am I without a raincoat or umbrella? Is it during really bad weather, such as a lightning storm or hurricane? Am I buck naked? If the answer to any of those is "yes," then my answer is "no." Otherwise, sure, I'm game.

3. Are you not into yoga? Shouldn't that be, "Are you into yoga?" Awkward sentence structure. But, my answer is, yes and no. I think yoga's probably good for you, but the two or three yoga DVDs on my shelf remain unwatched.

4. Do you have half a brain? Whoa, the standards are high at this place. Half, as in 50 percent? I can answer without hesitation: I believe so.

5. Do you like making love at midnight? Time of day has never been a hindrance for me, unless I'm actually asleep at the time. ...in the dunes of the cape? Well now, this changes things a bit. You mean, like in the sand in the pitch dark, out in public? Hmmm. Let me think about this. Sand in places sand shouldn't be. Pieces of broken shells poking my skin. Hungry crabs eyeing me like a dead fish. Globs of beach tar. Elderly couples out late at night with a flashlight and a metal detector, discovering us and then clutching at their wildly beeping pacemakers. I think my answer is...heck no. Now, leave the time and general location the same, but move us inside to a nice master suite overlooking the ocean, and you're on.

6. Are you not much into health food? Who taught these guys grammar? Again, I need more details. Are we talking wheat bread, yogurt and granola? Well, sure. Or are we talking dried sea slime, pine cones and otter cheese for breakfast? Then, no.

7. Are you into champagne? Apparently, the guys who wrote this really like to knock back the hooch. Maybe it helps them numb their gluteus maximi after all those crab bites. My answer is a conditional yes. If I'm at a New Year's Eve party, and free champagne is available, and doesn't come out of a can, I will sip a glass to help ring in the new. Otherwise, it's not my favorite beverage.

So, there it is, folks. If you're looking for one of those boring, traditional dates where you go eat dinner and see a movie, then this place probably isn't for you. But, if you're looking for half-witted members of the opposite sex who pig out on junk food and wander drunk around the beach naked until they spot a flabby but willing partner flailing around in a downpour, then give them a buzz.

Quotes of the Day:

Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.

--Lynda Barry

I'm dating a woman now who, evidently, is unaware of it.

--Gary Shandling

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

From what I can tell, there are those of you out there who have a wonderful dream life. When you slip into the arms of Morpheus, you frolic in a playground of wonderful images, with storylines that see you winning the Nobel Prize, becoming the leader of the free world, running off to tropical islands with Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, vanquishing your enemies and fulfilling your wildest dreams.

Unfortunately, I am not one of you. For the most part, whatever dreams I have I never remember after I wake. And the few dreams I do remember are anything but voluptuous wish fulfillment.

Let me give you some examples. For some strange reason, I have been able to remember dreams I had the past two nights. I will give you the synopsis of each recent dream to let you judge where my brain goes while I’m at rest.

On Sunday night, the dream involved me and my best friend from high school. For some reason, we were to meet at an airport to pick up a mutual acquaintance of ours who was arriving on a plane. As I prepared to leave for the airport to meet my friend, I realized that my car had been stolen. A second car in my driveway turned out to be a rusted old junker that no longer ran. There was a third car, this one a luxurious sedan parked in my garage, but I learned that this car belonged to a door-to-door salesman who at the moment was inside the house trying to sell something to my parents. A time share, maybe. In short, I had no way to get to the airport in time.

I then decided to call my friend on his cell phone to tell him I wouldn’t be able to make it. But then I realized I didn’t know his cell phone number, and I spent untold minutes of my dream trying to track down the number – looking through phone books and address books, calling information, but having no luck. When I finally remembered that his cell phone number was programmed into my cell phone, I began to call it, and that’s when I woke up.

Last night, my dream began a little better. My wife, my daughters and I were sailing in a small sailboat on a beautiful body of water on a sunny, perfect day. This was great for a few minutes, but apparently my brain panicked when it realized that it was letting slip a perfectly wonderful dream scenario. Therefore, my family and I for some unexplained reason docked our sailboat, then went next door to another marina to rent a second sailboat on which to return to the water.

This second marina was the Marina from Hell. After waiting in long, slowly moving lines, I finally was served by a man who must have been in his 90s. He first had me sit down and watch a long video on boat safety, kind of the maritime version of those old driver’s ed films. During this video, the old man kept clutching his chest from apparent heart seizures, and we’d stop the video each time until he felt better.

After the video was over, the man insisted on teaching me how to tie some knots that I’d apparently need for the rigging of my sailboat. For some reason, I had an incredible amount of difficulty learning these knots, and the old man kept having to rest because of his frequent heart pains.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, I was able to get a boat rented, but once again I had to wait in a huge line until something became available. When my family and I finally got into a boat, there was another delay while some guy who looked like Grizzly Adams went over the safety features and took time to place us in different positions in the boat until he was satisfied.

As my family and I expectantly set sail onto the peaceful waters, I woke up.

When I told Mrs. Muley about my two dreams, and I asked her what she thought they meant, she told me, “Boy, you are one frustrated guy.” She knows that these are the kinds of dreams I have all the time.

Is she right? Am I secretly frustrated? Why is it that I never have dreams where things go right, where I am enjoying pleasures, licit or illicit, and where I reach goals and conquer enemies and doubts? And why is it that the minute my dreams do start to get good, my brain either introduces a disaster scenario, or wakes me up?

Maybe tonight I’ll dream that I win the Texas Lottery, but then realize that I left the ticket in the jeans that just got washed in the laundry. Yeah, that sounds like a good one.

Today's quote:

"Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives."

--William Dement

Monday, March 27, 2006

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. It is with some sadness that I report that one of my favorite bloggers, Marla Swoffer of Just Marla, is giving up her blog. She feels a calling from God to spend more time with her family, and in her final post she lists a number of other reasons in her usual eloquent and forthright fashion. I've always admired how Marla is willing to tackle even controversial issues in an honest and gracious way, and she also seemed like a person you could sit down with over coffee and spend a fascinating couple of hours talking about all kinds of subjects. I'll miss her on the blogosphere, but I'm glad that she will guest blog occasionally on Intellectuelle. I'll look forward to those posts.

UPDATE: Another blog bites the dust: Strand of Three.

2. Here's a complete change of tone. Remember the book Fahrenheit 451 by Robert Heinlein, where in a dystopian future, firemen go around burning up every book they can find, because it's against the law to possess them? In the final scene, a former fireman who has grown to love books escapes outside the city to a commune of sorts where other book-loving refugees live. Each one is assigned to memorize one entire book -- by Plato, Shakespeare, Austen, et. al -- so that its contents will survive throughout the ages. The other day, I had this thought (and it tells you a lot about my philosophical tendencies): if the commune grew big enough, would one poor soul eventually be forced to spend the rest of his life walking around with the text of Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants repeating endlessly in his head?

3. If you've ever had to watch some of the cartoons now popular on Nick Jr., Toon Disney or Cartoon Network (as I have), and have lamented the disappearance of most artistic and intelligent animation, go out immediately and rent the DVD of "Howl's Moving Castle," released just a few weeks ago. Another masterpiece by director Hayao Miyazaki, the master of Japanese animation, it has some of the most beautiful and inventive animation sequences I've ever seen. And unlike many "cartoon movies," it's got characters that you actually feel for by the end of the tale. Muley gives it two floppy ears up.

4. As long as I'm making product endorsements, let me put in one for The Teaching Company. What this company does is find some of the best professors in the world, and then tape them delivering lectures on their subjects of expertise. The result is a number of fascinating courses, broken into 30- or 45-minute chunks, that you can listen to at your leisure. I listen to them in the car going back and forth from work, and just driving around town. The "normal" prices for the courses are pretty steep, but there are at least five or six titles at any point in time that are on sale at drastically reduced prices. Just keep looking, and at some point during the year the course you're interested in will go on sale. After waiting a year or so, I just bought possibly my favorite course, Victorian Britain, on sale in cassette form. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I've also bought courses on C.S. Lewis, science fiction, American authors, famous Romans and the Aenid from the company. I recommend the products for anyone with an interest in lifelong learning.

5. Finally, let me impart an interesting fact of history I just learned from the course on Victorian Britain I've been listening to. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert after she'd been on the throne just a few years, and after they were married, he was the love of her life for 20 years. After he died, Victoria was so distraught that she wore black mourning clothes the rest of her life (some 40 years). She rarely went out in public, and insisted on keeping up certain routines as if Albert were still alive. For example, every morning she had servants lay out his shaving utensils and his robe, she had a place set for him at the table, and at night in her bed, she had a cast of his hand which she held as she went to sleep.

Today's Quote:

"I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all."

--Queen Victoria

Friday, March 24, 2006

Some Things About Me (part four)

76. I have bounced a check or two (or three) in my time. It’s not something I’m proud of. For what it's worth, it was due to poor recordkeeping on my part, not a desire to defraud anyone.

77. Our family had a CB radio in the car back in the 1970s when it was all the rage. My handle was “Texas Tornado.” Copy that, good buddy? 10-4.

78. The stupidest, worst comedy I remember seeing is “Anchorman” with Will Ferrell. It’s one of the few movies in my life I’ve felt like walking out of.

79. I took oil painting lessons in 6th grade, and was getting much better when I had to quit because we moved to another town.

80. When I was in elementary school, my mother made me and my younger brother take etiquette lessons. We were taught how to introduce ourselves and others (“Mr. Jones, may I introduce Mr. Muley.”) We learned which fork was which, how to use napkins, how to insert cufflinks, what to do with finger bowls, and how to bow, among other things. I have forgotten most of what they taught, although I do remember that elbows on the table are a big no-no. Feet on the table, too, as far as that goes.

81. I think O.J., Michael Jackson, Robert Blake and Lizzie Borden are guilty, UFOs and the Bermuda Triangle are bogus, Elvis is dead and Paul McCartney is quite alive. However, I believe there could have been a second gunman in the JFK assassination, and that there are supernatural occurrences that defy human explanation. And the check sometimes is in the mail.

82. I spend more money than I’d like to admit each year at Half Price Books. I have been a customer since my college days, and I can easily spend two or three hours browsing without blinking an eye. My family has learned to drop me off and just arrange a time to meet me later.

83. I also try to periodically sell back books I’ll never read again (or have grown tired of) to Half Price Books. If I was rich and had rows of empty bookshelves I’d probably keep them all, but I have a finite amount of space, so I must purge every now and then to permit me to bring new treasures home.

84. I love to fish, although I don’t end up doing it much.

85. I don’t think there’s a sexier screen performance than that of Grace Kelly in either “It Takes a Thief” or “Rear Window.”

86. The first girl I ever had a crush on was Lisa Counts in the third grade. She was a beautiful Southern belle, and I knew she was something special when she invited me to her birthday party and I learned that she had invited only boys.

87. I have never watched a complete episode of the following TV shows: Alias, 24, Desperate Housewives, Lost, The OC, CSI (any variety), Stargate, The Man Show, Sex in the City, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Joey, Grey’s Anatomy, South Park, Greatest Race, Survivor...Maybe it would be easier if I just listed the current shows I have watched.

88. I’m jealous of people such as my daughter Rebecca and fellow blogger Jenn who are natural artists and can draw whatever they want so well. I am in awe of people who can draw or paint well.

89. I’m a huge fan of the comedy team of Bob and Ray. They are the kings of dry humor and wit, in my opinion.

90. I prefer books with a straight-on narrative style, and a good, event-filled plot if it’s a work of fiction or autobiography. Books where the author talks for pages about his memories of the smells of pickles and alfalfa on his grandma’s farm drain the life out of me and make me reach for the TV clicker.

91. I’ve had to dig holes to bury two dogs (they were dead at the time) as well as take one cat to the vet to be put to sleep.

92. Based on which TV show makes me laugh out loud the most, the Beverly Hillbillies is the funniest thing on the tube. I knew my wife and I would get along well when I learned she loved both the Beverly Hillbillies and Star Trek.

93. One of my literary goals is to read every book Charles Dickens ever wrote.

94. I accepted Christ as my Saviour during elementary school, although it wasn’t until college that I was baptized.

95. Two historical periods that interest me greatly are the Victorian Age in Britain and the 1920s, the “Jazz Age,” in America.

96. I always wanted to learn how to fly a plane, but my poor eyesight prevented me. Now that I’ve had RK surgery, my eyesight would probably be okay, but I have neither the money nor the time to learn. My dad learned to fly small planes when I was a kid, and he would take me flying with him across Texas. We used to touch down in small rural airports where you had to make sure the cows were off the runway before landing. I'm not kidding.

97. I am doing research for three eventual books right now, all nonfiction books about local history.

98. I celebrated the American Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, by watching a huge fireworks show over Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans.

99. As I’ve grown older, I have learned the value and wisdom of speaking less and listening more.

100. This last fact does not explain why I feel the need to keep a blog.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Twelve Flags, Seven Days, One Hearse

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Muley family took some time off over Spring Break to do a little traveling around Texas. We went with another family from our church we're good friends with and who have girls around the same age as our two daughters.

We made the daring, possibly insane, decision to visit both of the Six Flags Over Texas parks in the state within seven days of each other. We began with a one-day trip to Six Flags in Arlington, where we had to go to pick up our new season passes. Six Flags must be in need of some quick cash, because they have a deal now where you can buy a season pass for the price of a one-day admission. Consequently, there were a bajillion people at the park, most of them new season pass holders like us.

The funniest sight I saw in the Arlington park was one of the musical acts. This was during spring break, and apparently someone in park management figured, "Hey, we'll have oodles of head-bangin' college and high school kids here on Spring Break. We need a band they'll like." So, they hired an aging baby boomer heavy metal band that played songs such as "White Wedding" at a volume that almost jammed the radar at nearby DFW Airport. Here is the band in their full rockin' glory:


Actually, they weren't all that bad. The big problem was that the park officials apparently decided it was okay to place this 100 decibel gang of bangers onstage at the edge of the young kiddie section of the park, right between the log flume ride and the Spongebob Squarepants 3-D Theatre. As a result, there weren't too many screaming college chicks around rushing the stage, but there were a lot of deaf old people and exhausted moms with baby buggies, glad for a chance to sit on a bench, who made up the crowd. Don't they look as though they might form a mosh pit and start tearing off their clothes any minute?


Have you gotten "fed up" with the high prices they charge for food at amusement parks? We have, so we were looking for culinary bargains at Six Flags. We finally found a great deal on some incredibly inexpensive food near the koi pond.


We returned home, and after a few days back in Waco we took off again, this time to Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. This is the best Six Flags park in Texas, in our opinion, because the rides are better and it's usually less crowded. There was nothing weird to report at Fiesta Texas, except that they asked me to join their latest publicity campaign. (Uh, I'm the one on the left...)


I did get one final laugh out of the trip, although it wasn't at Fiesta Texas. I was doing some browsing at a Borders bookstore while the rest of the crew was out clothes shopping, and when I left and got in my car, I noticed an old hearse across from me in the parking lot.


Now, a retired hearse being put to use as personal transport is not all that uncommon, but what got me to laughing was the vanity license plate attached to the front:


Today's quote:

"It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off."

--Woody Allen

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Smattering of Quotes

The Muley family is getting ready to embark on a long-anticipated Spring Break trip, so I won't be around to check my blog for awhile. And since I've been so busy this week trying to "get ahead" at work, I've not allowed the contemplative, goofy part of my brain to have much of a chance to mull over something that could be crafted into a well-written, witty post.

In place of said well-written post, I'd like to offer you a few quotations to ponder. As I've said before, I collect quotations and enjoy reading them. Here's a few of the ones I've collected in the past few weeks I'd like to share:
"There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!'"

--Abraham Kuyper
"Unless we can bring men back to enjoying the daily life which moderns call a dull life, our whole civilization will be in ruins in about 15 years...Unless we can make daybreak and daily bread and the creative secrets of labor interesting in themselves, there will fall on our civilization a fatigue which is the one disease from which civilizations do not recover."

--G.K. Chesterton
"An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way."

--Charles Bukowski
"The world is changing. Those of us who automatically deal out politeness words in suitable contexts are becoming uncomfortably aware that we earn less credit for it than we used to. It is becoming obvious that we are the exception rather than the rule, and that our beautiful manners fall on stony ground. People who serve the public are becoming impervious to rudeness, either because they are young and don't care, or because they are older and have learned to toughen up or suffer a nervous breakdown. Either way, if you attempt to sympathise with a shop-worker who has just served a rude customer, the response is rarely the one you expect. Mainly you will get a blank shrug, which carries the worrying implication: this person doesn't care whether customers are polite or not. This makes it quite hard to go through the ensuing politeness display without feeling self-conscious, or even quaint."

--Lynne Truss
in Talk to the Hand
"I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it."

--Edith Sitwell
"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"

--Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rejected Romance Novel Titles #6

Any of you ladies interested?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Another "Four" Meme

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. I've been tagged with that same ol' "four" meme that's going around the blogosphere now. Here's my answers.

Four things I've never stuck up my nose (all the way):
1. Potting soil
2. Catnip
3. Postage stamps
4. Rodents

Four nicknames I had in grade school:
1. Hey, fathead
2. Yeah, you
3. Boar Hog
4. Goiter Boy

Four mistakes I still regret:
1. Attending junior high
2. Feeding laxatives to seagulls
3. Standing underneath laxative-fed seagulls
4. Wearing Donny Osmond pajamas

Four of my favorite numbers:
1. 87
2. 369
3. -5
4. 87 (I mean, I really like this one)

Four of my pet phrases:
1. Are you gonna eat that?
2. No, really, it's only a fever blister
3. I'm free, and well worth it
4. Yes, dear

Four careers I once considered pursuing:
1. Zoological spoor redistributor
2. Hamster sexer
3. Tanning bed lightbulb installer
4. Archduke of a small East European country noted for exports of phlegm

Four of my worst habits:
1. Biting my fingernails
2. Biting other people's fingernails
3. Collecting Q-Tips used by famous people
4. Wearing fake parrot on my shoulder while at Long John Silver's

Friday, March 10, 2006

More Reasons to Be Happy

I'm stil working on trying to write a few movie reviews, and since I have nothing new to offer today, I've decided to update and re-run a post I did soon after I started blogging last year. Hope it gives you a few laughs.

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Sixteen years ago, a short but squat little book titled 14,000 Things to Be Happy About hit bookstores. In the book's opening pages, author Barbara Ann Kipfer said that the work was the fruit of a 20-year effort to write down the "little things" that made her happy.

The compact, simple volume has proven to be quite a welcome counterpoint to the public flow of information over the years, seeing as how just about every newspaper and TV news program nowadays could be subtitled 14,000 Things to Feel Crappy About.

I have passed by this book many times in the bookstore, but I finally decided to take it off the shelf and have a look. The way I figured it, if push came to shove I could only name maybe 2,000 things to be happy about, and I thought, why am I missing out on 12,000 others?

I found a lot to agree with in Kipfer's choices. Who among us doesn't have happy thoughts about making love, music, nature walks, rereading a good book, singing old hymns in church, small at-home dinners, opportunity, doing something against all odds, and "this thing called love?" For my personal taste, I was glad to see that Kipfer included such favorites as the Hallelujah Chorus, the Art Institute of Chicago, Bob and Ray and KahlĂșa chocolate torte.

Of course, we aren't all made happy by the same things. I guess Kipfer is a different sort of person, or maybe she was running out of obvious ideas and had to stretch, but I find it hard to hop on the Happy Bus for salespeople, the ring of the telephone, loud radios, "morning mouth," listening to the news, cold hands, "food debris under a high chair after an attempted feeding," planning your future with the help of an Ouija board, grass stains, spittoons, Spam, sour milk, seeing a grown man cry, or Gene Shalit's mustache. Especially Gene Shalit's mustache.

A few entries just had me puzzled. Are we supposed to feel emotional one way or the other about brake fluid, isosceles triangles, dial tones, Naugahyde or "the suck of a pump?" And aren't a few of the items a bit dated? Is anyone truly made happy anymore on a consistent basis by mood rings, the Senate Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker, Polaroid Land cameras, shower microphone soap, Montgomery Ward, Tab soda commercials, 3 1/2" computer diskettes, AMC Pacers or "boogie dancing?"

In case Ms. Kipfer ever wants to release an updated and expanded version of the book titled 14,030 Things to Be Happy About, I offer her these potential additions free of charge:

* No TV series planned starring Pillsbury Doughboy
* Pouring hot oil on enemy combatants from high atop castle walls outlawed by Geneva Convention
* Barney show no longer inserted between features on U.S. to Asia flights
* Despite rumors to contrary, Jerry Mathers, Paul McCartney and Abe Vigoda still alive and well
* Euell Gibbons televised appeals to begin eating pine trees fell on deaf ears
* Scurvy eliminated in most North American fishing fleets
* Only 70 years until U.S. Tricentennial
* Proposed leisure suit revival killed because of high oil prices
* Treaty of Oregon setting U.S.-Canada boundary still preventing bloodshed after 160 years
* Country singers dying slow, lyrical deaths from TB a thing of the past
* Metric system and Esperanto never caught on in U.S.
* Thanks to commentary translation track by marine biologist on DVD set, Flipper's words now understandable
* Last insurance claims from Krakatoa eruption finally settled
* Despite decades of wobbling, Weebles still do not fall down
* "Dark Side of the Moon" now distributed to all world people groups, including prehistoric tribes in Asia
* Haggis still banned from most U.S. restaurants
* Cloning of zoo pandas will prevent embarrassing public ridicule over mating failures
* Widespread notoriety of classic "pull my finger" prank has greatly decreased its use
* Constitutional ammendment to add Millard Fillmore to Mount Rushmore failed
* Charlie Tuna's death wish still unrequited
* Lakehurst, N.Y., relatively free of fatal blimp accidents since 1936
* William Shatner finally has decent hairpiece
* Slow tectonic forces still centuries away from ripping Florida from U.S. mainland
* Goofus' behavior still considered bad example in "Goofus and Gallant" cartoons
* Reverse of Colorado commemorative quarter will not feature John Denver in granny glasses
* Cancerous test mice denied legal standing by lower courts
* General Francisco Franco still dead
* Banana Splits reunion postponed indefinitely
* Loss of U.S. control of Panama Canal has not prevented timely shipments of Yu-Gi-Oh cards to East Coast
* New series "Star Trek: Shore Leave Tiki Lounge" killed at pilot stage

Today's Quote:

"Once, craftsmen of all kinds were referred to as artisans, people who considered their work to be an art. There's no reason we can't create a life that allows us to approach our work and our lives in this way, as artisans –– people who, in the words of George Bellows, 'make life more interesting or beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or probably in the best sense, more wonderful.'"

--Paul and Sarah Edwards
from The Practical Dreamer's Handbook

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Abortion Steals a Waving Flag

Once again, there's evidence that pro-abortion forces can't stand to be competitive in the marketplace of ideas.

Earlier this week, a pro-life group at Baylor University here in Waco, Texas, planted 3,500 pink and blue flags. Near the flags they posted a sign which read, "In Loving Memory of the 3,500 Children Aborted Daily in the United States." The students, who call themselves Bears for Life, had permission from the administration to put up both the flags and the sign and keep them up through Wednesday.

However, some pro-abortion types snuck out Tuesday night, and in typical fashion (under the cover of darkness) removed all 3,500 flags, replacing them with a sign which read, "Abortion Saves 7,000 Adult Lives Every Day." I guess seeing all those thousands of little flags waving across Fountain Mall for the aborted babies was just too much for them.

In case you're interested, here's the full story from the Baylor student newspaper, the Lariat.