Sunday, December 31

Saying Goodbye

Life's twists and turns inevitably lead to the end of the journey. We say goodbye this week to my aunt, Judie Cockrell Elliott. Her long battle with MS and poor health is over.

We will remember Judie as a loving, generous, fun-filled and appreciative friend. We will remember her almost daily phone calls to us about soap operas, family, computer troubles, the latest and greatest health fads, John Hagee and Charles Stanley sermons, recipes, her dogs, the day's events, plans and hopes.

We will remember the last few years' struggle to reach for a word or thought, undergo three knee surgeries (among others), deal with seizures and trying to keep her balance. These were not good times by any calculation. Pain was her constant companion and nemesis.

So we close this year with a looming sadness and resolve to start the new year with a renewed commitment to hold family and friends a little tighter and longer.

May God so grace us in 2007 as we thank Him for the relationships that matter the most.

Monday, December 25

Christmas Trappings and Beyond

This yearly two-in-one celebration of Christ's birth and getting and giving stuff is wrapping up today here on the West Coast. After the biscuits and gravy, the chicken enchalada and tamales, the turkey and ham, the pizza and Pepsi, the myriad snacks, the cranberry jello salad, the yams and mashed potatoes, the green bean casseroles and desserts galore, there will be a few days respite before dieting is at the top of our wish list.

Most of us know the power of food. God created us to ENJOY it, but not be the proverbial glutton. The veil of guilt descends each holiday season during the year. It disappears into the sea of forgetfulness before long, but emerges as the Creature from the Food Lagoon by the next celebration event.

We've evolved from nibblers to gorgers. The piper must be paid sooner or later. Let's make it after those New Year parties!

Visit for Christmas Eve photos.

Wednesday, December 20

Flying the Friendly Skies

Let's get this straight --- Saudi Arabians can bring their Korans to America, demand places to pray in our airports, have the right to pray out loud during American airline flights, build places of worship in our country, preach their doctrines and try to convert others to their faith --- but a British airline flight attendant can't bring her Bible with her on flights to Saudi Arabia. They equate God's Word with heroin, pot and pork rinds.

May God have mercy on their souls.

Monday, December 11

Why There Won't Be Peace This Or Any Christmas

"You are the salt of the earth." --- Jesus' words from his Sermon on the Mount.

"Now that is not only a description of the Christian; it is a description by implication of the world in which he finds himself. It really stands for humanity at large . . . Here we come to what is, in many ways, the crucial problem of this twentieth century, undoubtedly one of the most interesting periods that the world has ever known. I do not hesitate to claim that there has never been a century which has so proved the truth of the biblical teaching as this one. It is a tragic century, and it is tragic very largely because its own life has completely disproved and demolished its own favourite philosophy.

"As you know, there never was a period of which so much was expected. It is indeed pathetic to read the prognostications of the thinkers (so-called), the philosophers and poets and leaders, towards the end of the last [19th] century. How sad to note that easy, confident optimism of theirs, the things they expected from the twentieth century, the golden era that was to come. It was all based upon the theory of evolution, not only in a biological sense, but still more in a philosophical sense. The controlling idea was that the whole of life was advancing, developing and going upwards. That was what we were told in a purely biological sense; ;man had risen out of the animal and had arrived at a certain stage of development. But still more was this advance emphasized in terms of the mind and the thought and the outlook of man. Wars were going to be abolished, diseases were being cured, suffering was going to be not only ameliorated but finally eradicated. It was to be an amazing century. Most of the problems were going to be solved, for man had at last really begun to think. The masses, through education, would cease giving themselves to drink and immorality and vice. And as all the nations were thus educated to think and to hold conferences instead of rushing to war, the whole world was very soon going to be Paradise. That is not caricaturing the situation; it was believed confidently. By Acts of Prliament, and by international conferences, all problems would be solved now that man had begun to use his mind.

"There are not many people living in the world today, however, who believe that. . . the fallacy of it all has by now been recognized by all serious thinkers. . .

"Now the Bible has always taught this, and it is put perfectly by our Lord when He says, 'You are the salt of the earth.' What does it imply? It clearly implies rottenness in the earth; it implies a tendency to pollution and to becoming foul and offensive. That is what the Bible has to say about this world. It is fallen, sinful and bad. Its tendency is to evil and to wars. It is like meat which has a tendency to putrefy and to become polluted. It is like something which can only be kept wholesome by means of a preservative or antiseptic. As the result of sin [starting with Adam and Eve] life in the world in general tends to get into a putrid state. . . the world left to itself is something that tends to fester. . .

"The question in the minds of so many people today is, What lies ahead of us? Clearly if we do not start by holding this biblical doctrine at the centre of our thinking, our prophesy must of necessity be false. The world is bad, sinful and evil; and any optimism with regard to it is not only thoroughly unscriptural but has actually been falsified by history itself."

---from Studies in The Sermon on the Mount, by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1959, London

Monday, December 4

"For Laughing Out Loud"

My grandfather died when I was about 4 1/2, so I can't remember him. I have to rely on pictures, first-hand accounts and imagination.

This picture (circa 1924 or so) betrays a wonderful sense of humor that passed to his two kids and to most of us grandkids as well. He must have been a practical joker who loved getting his better half upset just for fun. That's my dad in San Luis Obispo, ready to get a large dose of grease --- a scenario most likely choreographed by Grandpa. Good for him --- and us.

Have you made your kids laugh lately?

Wednesday, November 29

Have You Driven a Ford Lately?

Thankfully, we live in a country where freedom of speech is protected. We also enjoy a great many other freedoms that we take for granted, like freedom to travel, freedom of the press, freedom to choose a job and even worship whom and where you please.

There is also a corporate freedom of being able to write your own mission statement, create your own values and make your own business decisions. Business is free to advertise to their heart's content (albeit, within certain legal limits), to cater to whom they want and sell a unique product.

And there is the freedom to shop where you want.

Saturday, November 25

The Art of Sneering

"There was a laughing devil in his sneer," penned Lord Byron in 1814. King David also wrote about this inherited evil, saying he was bent on sinning even when he was conceived. (Psalm 51:5) The Apostle Paul penned similar thoughts in his letter to the Ephesian Christians: You and I were "by nature [birth] the children of wrath." (Ephesians 2:3).

So it's easy to see myself on that train, sneering at the funny-looking photographer.

Thursday, November 23

Bigger and Better Banana

Paso Robles' recent billing as the inevitably-to-be largest city in San Luis Obispo county has some old-timers shocked-and-awed. Its once nondescript and plain complexion has discovered make-up and face lifts on land east, west, north and south.

New industry and business bring more people to the area. More people in the area means a higher population. And a higher population means Top Banana status.

Pray for city government to stay in control of the herd and only ride on the best and fastest horses.

You can see a 1.3MB view of this Salinas River panorama here:

Thursday, November 16

Women and Memory

The latest news that gum-chewers have better memories should interest the fairer sex who claim to have better memories than men, whether they chew gum or not. Here is the reason: It is not the gum itself that produces the phenomenon -- it is the repeated mandibular motion of chewing. This rhythmic mastication increases heart rhythm and blood flow to the head and brain, thus delivering the extra chemicals necessary for recall and retrospection.

The argument follows that since women talk two to three times more than men during a given day, their constant flexing of the mandible increases heart rate and blood flow to the brain also, which is why . . . uh . . . I can't remember what I was going to say.

Until next time . . .

Monday, November 13

Amazon.bomb Part II

Still no shipped item from I waited and waited, giving them a chance to redeem their dropped ball, but my patience was 'rewarded' with today's e-mail, saying it will most likely arrive before December 6, which is more than 2 months after ordering!

The order was cancelled, an sour e-mail sent, and B&H will get my money.

Lesson learned. No more ordering from Amazon.bomb.

Thursday, November 9

One Windy Afternoon

Our Wednesday jaunt up Highway 1 met with about a 35 knot headwind and voracious waves. Zipping past Cambria and Hearst Castle, we headed toward the lighthouse at Piedras Blancas, only to find it closed. We stopped at Ragged Point and got some pictures before heading south again.

Allie, the windsurfer, was looking forward to raising her sail in the whipping winds like the other guys. She soon left the surf because her "sail was too big." --- Just couldn't hold on. Wildly blowing sand covered the wet shoreline as the pelicans and gulls huddled in large crowds, windward beaks grazing close to the sand. This was no place for hat wearing or kite flying, but it made for some great photography.

Friday, November 3


Order Date: October 4, 2006
Order #: 104-0559760-xxxxxxxx
Recipient: Dave Skinner c/o KP Corp
Items not yet shipped:
Delivery estimate: November 8, 2006 - November 17, 2006 1 of: Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Sold by:

Let's see: Order something from on October 4 and don't expect to receive it until November 8-17th. Sounds logical and forgivable if the loving, forgiving person I am. I could get mad and send another e-mail to customer service. But what would that get me but another canned answer.

There's a reason for all of life's glitches. You get a choice: Rule or be ruled.

Thursday, November 2

Sixty(een) Candles

My 16th birthday was on a Monday in 1962. No surprise party that I can remember. I think we lived on 16th Street in Paso with the Birk's. I'll guess this was the occasion I bought a new 10-speed from Sears. Bright yellow, lightweight, the perfect vehicle to zip up Vine Street to see one of the Mandella sisters that winter. Man, that was a great bike!

Today's surprise 60th celebration at work revealed the hard work and bravery of those who decorated after I left work yesterday. High hanging Happy Birthday signs, a 60 t-shirt hanging above my collator, big black balloons and crepe paper covering the collator and cutter, spinning purple 60 dangly things, three gag gifts and signed card --- all showed the affection and fun-loving nature of the gang at work. Special thanks goes to Debby, Jan, Roy, Roberta and anyone else who helped!

These Old Davy major milestones spur times of self-examination, perspective, and thanksgiving. Self-examination = you're getting older, but how much wiser? Perspective = not too many years to go, buddy. Thanksgiving = Lord, thank You for the love others show in this sin-infested world. Thank You for friends who care and show it.

Saturday, October 28

Election Galore

Little genius is required to know it's election November next month. Last minute feeding frenzy for candidates with a bit of money left.

We are so thankful for our system of government --- its freedom to vote for the candidate of our choice --- and are even more thankful when all of the rhetoric, misinformation and hype is over on the first Wednesday following the first Tuesday in November!

Saturday, October 21

Horrors and Heroes

Joe Rosenthal's chance picture of the second raising of the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima has given him legendary status, albeit unwanted in his humble opinion. Joe has died, along with John Bradley, one of the six men in the picture. Three of them later died on Iwo Jima; John and two other survived. Taken back to the states to help raise war bond money, these men accompanied the photo as they spoke to audiences around the country.

I think John is the one who hated doing it. He went on to work as an undertaker at a funeral home in Antigo, Wisconsin. A fellow who works at his 'establishment' commented on the movie and John today on the Nikon photo forum I frequent:

I just got back from seeing Flags of our Fathers. Its really amazing how powerful an image can become. The right picture at the right time can become an unstopable force.

Its a little strange seeing this book made into a movie. It was a little strange all the attention little old Antigo WI got when the book came out, and seeing John Bradley depicted on screen in the theature located one block from the funeral home he ran until his death in 1994... Just a little bit weird.

John never would have wanted that book written, much less a movie made about it. Two of his sons, Tom and Steve run the funeral home now. The original building was tore down ten or eleven years ago, and a new one built on the other side of town. I've worked for them for awhile now, doing memorial videos and a few other things around the funeral home. (they dont pay enough, LOL!) They have this little statue of the flag raising in an alcove off the main hallway. A couple of times people stopped in to get their picture taken by the statue. We would just kind of roll our eyes after they left.

But anyway, getting back to the subject at hand. I think the movie did a good job of showing how powerful an image can be. And how missunderstood.

And from Wikipedia:

Following his appearances at the last bond tour, John Bradley married his childhood sweetheart Betty Van Gorp, settled down in Antigo, and had eight children. He fulfilled his life-long dream by buying and managing his own funeral parlor, but was tormented by memories of the war; Betty says he wept in his sleep for several years and kept a large knife in a dresser drawer for "protection".

Memorial plaque placed by his family on the spot of the flag raisingHis son James Bradley (who wrote a book about the flag-raisers in 2000 titled Flags of Our Fathers) speculated that his father's determined silence and discomfort on the subject of his role in the Battle of Iwo Jima was largely due to memories of John's best friend, Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski. Ignatowski was captured, dragged into a tunnel by Japanese soldiers during the battle, and was later found with his eyes, ears, and fingernails removed, his teeth smashed, the back of his head caved in, multiple bayonet wounds to the abdomen, and his severed genitalia stuffed into his mouth. Bradley's recollections of discovering and taking care of Ignatowski's remains haunted him until his death.

Ordinary men doing the extaordinary with fear, trembling and an understanding that they might die in battle. It was a time lie face down in the sand, praying to God for mercy.

Thursday, October 19

One Cool Cat

There's little doubt that cats are cool. And they don't mind telling you so. Cool, but clueless. Kind of like some people.

Well, it's all tied up in the 4th inning of the 7th game between the Mets and Cards. I'm rooting for former A's manager. Looks like it will be the Mets and Tigers for the big series. No heart-throbbing here in California over either of them.

The world is going to hell and we get excited about swinging bats and perfect spirals.

Saturday, October 14

The Latest Reason for Global Warming

Whew! The latest word is that you don't have to trade that honkin' SUV in to help save the planet from global warming. We can now start blaming the Indian Ocean for the rise in temperature, at least out here in the western United States.

Maybe it's all those American jobs being exported to India and surrounding countries. That's an awful lot of cargo ships spewing their deadly VOC's into the atmosphere.

Monday, October 9

Happy Birthday, Mike

Mike's 21st birthday will be spent at his FOB in Afghanistan. He's an MP, drives a patrol Humvee that search and destroys Taliban. His mom is sending him two packages of Twinkees, a pack of beef jerky, some other stuff and a card signed by everyone where we work together. She hears from him (computer connection) regularly.

It's the waiting, praying, and trusting that take front row at the front lines and rear lines back home.

Happy birthday, Mike!

My brother, Marty's, birthday was yesterday, so "Happy Birthday, Mart!" You were in a war, too. Vietnam. We don't talk about it. I don't think you got shot at, chased Viet Cong, or drove a Humvee. But someone was praying for you, too.

Saturday, September 30

Is There a Reefer Ranch Near You?

The rage in Stockton is to see how many expensive houses you can buy, gut the interiors, put in elaborate growing systems, circumvent the electric meter and start growing California pot. Twenty homes have been discovered.

After a few weeks, the citizens are on the prowl for these homes and no suspicion is considered too trivial. Can't see in your neighbor's windows? Must be a pot house. Never see anyone home? Gotta be a weed farm. Only young Asian guys frequenting the place at odd hours? You guessed it --- a reefer ranch.

The rumor is that Spinach will be the next cash crop.

Tuesday, September 12

Better Blonde Than Dead

A recent study has determined that motorcyclists who don't wear helmets are less likely to be in an accident. The report states that drivers are extra cautious when they see someone without headgear and tend to drive farther away from them.

Well, now you can be doubly-safe by buying that wig you've always wanted and gluing it to your safe-and-sound-keep-your-brains-in-the-can helmet.

Paula's Wigs is a good place to start.

Saturday, September 2

No Pain, No Fame

Who woulda thunk it? More court drama this year as Andre Agassi wins the second round of the men's U.S. Open. Having received his third cortisone shot for back pain, the 36-year old fogey fought a 21-year young opponent. Hardly a fan or follower of tennis stars, any gutsy bravado is worth my applause, especially the David and Goliath kind.

Now, will he really retire his racket this year as promised and maybe start coaching like Jimmy Conners, or will he continue to destroy his body and crash in flames next season? I think he's wise enough to retire on the mountain.

Perseverance is one of lifes greatest virtues. St. Paul, writing his last letter before getting his head chopped off, told young pastor Timothy, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing." 2 Tim. 4:6-8

Saturday, August 26

Snake, Rattle and Soul

Having your first taste of rattlesnake isn't the hard part. In fact, it tastes pretty good. Something like jerkied chicken, with any type of spicy sauce or additive you'd want to flavor it with.

Roy's son had almost run over it, and went back to the same area later, found it and killed it. 3' 11 1/2", and spread to the edges of a 1x6 board for mounting, I'm told. Didn't really see it firsthand except in the cooked mode. A plastic bag full of it. You have to pull the meat away from the gristly whatsit first. Even so, you still get to spit a bit of gristle out here and there. Kinda like cheap hamburger in that respect.

The worse part of eating this ugly stick is its biblical reputation. Originally possessed by Satan himself. Cursed by God. Scarey stuff.

The taste test will not be repeated.

Not restricted to the form of a serpent, St. Peter says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." I Peter 5:8

Tuesday, August 22

Absolute Property and Degraded Sensualism

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."
-Sir Winston Churchill (The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages
248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

Yes, We Have No Lantana

We went to a birthday party Saturday -- next door -- the house with the $20,000 pool and the $10000 in landscaping and $5000 in patio additions. It makes my backyard look like a barnyard.

When it comes down to it, it's all about money. Impressing everyone and keeping up with the Jones' is about hard cash and the time it takes to do all the do-it-yourself projects to make you think you're saving big bucks.

I'm neither complaining nor drooling. The Oak Park days these ain't.

Saturday, August 12

That Third Path

After working the same company year after year, things tend to take one of two paths. They either get gradually worse, or they miraculously improve. Oh, yes, there's that third path --- some things improve while others start stinking.

My lot has fallen to the third scenario. Suffice it to say that personal relationships have never been better while corporate kinship has never been worse. Sorry, but no details, no verbal public complaints, especially when others are out of work or aren't compensated as much as I am. Besides, someone from the Big Office might read this.

It's just that these last few years have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Diet Pepsi helps.

Thursday, August 10

Shutter Speed

The miracle of eyesight (God created it) is awesome and awe-ful. When a still camera "stares" at something for more than an instant with a long shutter speed, the view is extremely blurry, like this picture. Thankfully, our eyes are wired to a continuously clicking brain that always gives us a 'still life' video view of the world, unless we move our heads a little too quickly.

I have to take identification badge portraits at work tomorrow. We're one of the last facilities in our company to do this, I think. When you're small and out in the back woods of California, we're pretty much the last to do everything. There will be a lot of kicking and screaming, especially from the older guys who will have to take their hats off and girls who will forget to put make-up on. These will be extreme close-ups. No hiding the creases here. That bald head will just have to be in the picture. I can hear it now.

You know, you'll never look any younger than you do today, so enjoy that youthful look while you can.

Sunday, August 6

Marlboro Men

In my more than 20 years of jogging and walking the city streets for exercise, I've noticed some of the more evident 'pattern' behavior of the common man. For one, if he owns a nice house, he takes care of his lawn and garden, he doesn't park dead cars in front of his house, and his man-eating dog is in the backyard. If the man makes little money, has to rent and or can't afford a gardener, the opposite is true. His house is in various stages of entropy and yardwork is abandoned. I know there are exceptions to this rule, of course.

Another common man behavior is his willingness to trash the public thoroughfares. To him (or her), streets are nice, wide garbage cans. Maybe he doesn't mind when his taxes are raised to cover the cost of streetsweepers. So, litter is commonplace in one of the most common of places, the roads of our towns.

And to more sharply focus on this phenomenon, I've discovered that of all the cigarette packs tossed from car windows, the crush-proof Marlboro brand outnumbers the others by about 9 to 1. Now, why do you suppose this is the case? Do most people smoke this brand in its crush-proof box? Hardly. Is it a brand problem? Do most of those buying this particular brand try to maintain an image that militates against cleanliness, orderliness and common sense? Maybe it's the box itself. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe they just don't want to CRUSH it. Let a car run over it or someone walk on it, but never let them see you crush it. Or maybe it IS to crush it. Let your friends see how macho you are. You crush beer cans. Why not display even greater strength by showing that hardpack who's boss and then give it that ultimate sense of humiliation --- throw it out the window. What power!

I don't know that I have an answer. Do you?

Sunday, July 30

Living on the Edge

Having lived 'on the tracks' in Paso Robles, El Paso and now here in Stockton, there hasn't been too much concern about the Big One crashing through the backyard fence and into the bedroom or living room. But there has been a reasonable, non-stressing level of concern. We had heard the story from friends who live on the other side of the tracks about the derailment that happened about 30 years ago in the same area. We knew it might again, but like the inevitable earthquake, you pray you will be spared. Thankfully, we were!

Yesterday's 6 p.m. derailment across the fence took everyone by surprise. We had just left minutes before to attend a baby shower and heard the news later that night as people called wondering if we were okay. There were cars parked on the tracks behind us, but that wasn't unusual. I found out what happened this morning and walked over with my camera to see the damage. What a mess! No one was killed, thankfully, but some people saw it coming and had to run to get out of the way. One woman was working in her backyard when a box car broke through her back fence and landed yards from her, close to her house. Sixteen cars bit the dust. They'll be working into Monday to fix it.

My surmisings: the recent heat wave warped the track just enough to put a wheel over the edge. One of my pictures of the rails in back of the house shows a definite out-of-alignment stretch right where the train jumped the track, although they're using engines and cars on it today (south of the accident) to bring in more bed rock and railroad ties

You can see all the pictures here: Derailment

Guess I should mention that one of the crunched cars was full of sulfuric acid and another full of chlorine gas. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Psalm 46:1,2

Saturday, July 29

Riding the Monster

Okay . . . the 'heat' is now history (for a little while anyway) and we're enjoying a day in the 80's and 90's. What a difference! We Californians don't do well in this stuff. Over 150 have died in heat related deaths. But remember the tragedy in Europe a few years ago when 35,000 died.

I rode my first lawn mower this morning, helping out some friends. Tom was diagnosed with bone cancer and can't do ANYTHING, not even lift over 10 lbs. Wow. And this man was the chief maintenance guy for our big church, along with 2 other full timers. Been a real challenge to change his lifestyle.

Anyway, Tom gave me a few minutes 'training' his monster mower after I filled the gas tank. Then it was off to the races. This was a case in which I figured out the right way to do it after I was almost done! Ha! Next time I'll get logistical directions first! My last bit of grass to mow was by their patio. There were four benches to move, so I put the mower in neutral and hopped off, not expecting it to pop back into drive. Crash went the benches before the mower plowed into the table and pinned it against the house! Of course, this is redwood we're talking about, and it's like balsa wood, so two of the legs snapped off in fine fashion before I could yank it into neutral again.

I felt bad and made my apologies. Tom said, don't sweat it, my brother's going to be here this week and he always like to work on a project. This project will be fixing the two legs, among other things!

So at least I didn't run over their dog or a car or any kids or myself! Thank you, Lord, for providential mercies!

And anything exciting to report from your neck of the woods?

Thursday, July 27

Blurred Blessing

Hers is a non-stop world. Today's trip with her Day Camp friends ended at a waterpark about 60 miles from home. She brought back sunburned cheeks and waterslide memories. Not many details from this kid. Prodding helps. "Yeah, I liked the rubber slide that went all the way into the water." Okay.

A new Pac-Man game on the computer came next. Two games. Too hard. A bit blurry and scurry for both of us. The fingers can't navigate those cursor keys with much success. Poor P-Man!

Then it's having to sit still for a few pictures for grandpa. I tell her not to smile. She shares the frustration with her mother and stares at the t.v.

Then it's off to her house. The house without a cat. The house without a dog. But they do have frog and a turtle. Not much blurring going on over there.

Wednesday, July 26

Better Late Than Never

Paso Robles' new waterpark will be open for business in 2007 --- a full year after this summer's blistering heatwave fried Californians as never before. The big question: will it eclipse the glory days of old Resthaven Park? Granted, there were no watery serpentine trails to descend, but there was a trinitarian show-off factor that will never be equalled. The narrow slide, the diving board and twirling tub begged bravado and 'look-at-me'daredeviling.

Looks like trying to show off at this new venue will guarantee a trip to the nearest hospital or worse.

Saturday, July 22

1 O'Clock And Counting!

Everyone talks about the weather . . . especially the past few weeks when the temps have soared across the country and even here in the Golden State. I just talked to Jack in Paso Robles --- already 105 and it's only 1:00 in the afternoon. They suffered through a 112 degree high there yesterday. Thankfully, we're only supposed to hit 110 here in Stockton today.

It used to get this hot and hotter when I was a kid growing up in the Almond Capitol. Funny that no one called it Global Warming back then. Wow! If we had only known, we could have traded our Chryslers for horses and prevented this mess we're in today. Where were you when we needed you, Al?

I just checked the Wunderground Weather Site: At 1:15 p.m. the offical temp in Paso Robles was 108 degrees, with 106 in Stockton. Both cities are supposed to be 7 to 8 degrees hotter today than yesterday. Let's see, that's about a 119 degree high for Paso Robles and a 113 for Stockton. Guess it's too late the Al Team to help.

Now, if I can just get hold of an air-conditioned horse.

Wednesday, July 19

Ah! 1959

Those early picture taking days were a gift. We didn't have much in the way of money, but always had a camera and sometimes there was film in it. This particular roll was black and white, so I must have bought it myself at The Camera Corner. The camera (I'm guessing) was a Kodak Duaflex IV, a twin-lens relic that suited most families perfectly. Not much of a point and shoot, though. You had to open the viewfinder cover and look straight down to see your subject. I probably got hit in the head with Larry's football while taking this shot on Tucker Avenue! Hey, I wasn't too smart and had only just turned 13!

Moments frozen in time. Fragmented memories of faces, fun and festive occasions are plastered in our picture albums. We get them out once in awhile to strengthen that thread to our past, while calculating the few years in front of us. 1-2-3, Hike! --- and the game is just about over for some of us.

Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Neither in this life nor the next.

Friday, July 14

Still Dancing After 50 Years

Pat and Wilson's 50th wedding anniversary party was an event to remember. The band only played 40's and 50's music. The original wedding pictures, dress and accessories were on display. A pastel theme, great dinner and table talk rounded out the afternoon.

How old will you be when the Big Golden crosses your paths? What year will it be? Will there be a gala celebration or a ho-hum "Let's go out for Chinese?" Will there be old friends behind the microphone, telling the old stories about how you used to get away with the worst shenanigans?

This 50th celebration is in all truth, one of the rarest events on the planet. Fewer and fewer marriages survive that long. And the ones that do aren't guaranteed quiet waters during the voyage. Unspoken mutiny, unforgiven sins, unfulfilled dreams --- too many things can quench that spirit of loving 'no matter what.'

May God help us to renew our love for our spouse and make the last years better than the first.

Saturday, July 8

Ken Lay's Death: Primal, Human and Tragic

The pleasure in dispensing pain varies in each of us. We weigh any predicted anguish our conscience will dog us with and blast away accordingly. Those of us with low thresholds are the nice people. Peggy Noonan had this to say about Ken Lay's death and hurting others.

"Is this Shakespearian in the sense of being towering and tragic? I don't know. I think it's primal and human. And I think if we were more regularly conscious of the fact that death through sadness happens we'd be better to each other. I'm thinking here of a friend who reflected one day years ago, I cannot recall why, on how hard people are on each other, how we're all complicated little pirates and more sensitive, more breakable, than we know.

"He said--I paraphrase--"It's a dangerous thing to deliberately try to hurt someone because it's not possible to calibrate exactly how much hurt you're doing. You can't know in advance the extent of the damage. A snub can leave a wound that lasts a lifetime, a bop on the head with a two-by-four will be laughed off. One must be careful. We'll always hurt others by accident or in a passion but we mustn't do it with deliberation."

And God's Word reminds me: "In the multitude of words, there is no lack of sin: but he who refrains his lips is wise." Proverbs 10:19

"Complicated little pirates" quotes here.

Friday, July 7

Happy Birthday, Miss Angel

These six blinks of an eye --- these few hurried years --- and the little girl is growing into a little lady. She gets two parties --- the second tomorrow where she'll swim, play, eat and open presents.

I wonder what she'll remember from all of this attention and excitement. Her history has been amply recorded by yours truly. That helps jog the memory. But even with the pictures, your memory fails to recall most of your young and wonder-ful years. Mine, at least.

This current generation of kids will be the most photographed of any to this point. They will have a much more detailed link to their forgotten childhood than we had. Will they be more thankful for it?

More importantly, will they remember the loving direction we gave them? Will they remember to love others, to be truthful, to keep their word, to work hard? "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, July 4

4th of July Political Fireworks

Today's a good day to talk politics. We're going to hear from California State Assemblyman, Ray Haynes, who wrote this yesterday in his Monday Morning Memorandum:

Rules? What Rules?

"I have tried on many occasions to explain to people exactly what happens in the legislative process, that is, how committees are organized, how they vote, who influences those committee outcomes, and how the legislative rules actually work. Usually, by the time I am finished explaining how the Legislature really works, most people look at me with a dull, blank stare, and say “that can’t be happening, you must be lying. You are just a partisan hack.”

"I may be a partisan hack, but that doesn’t change reality, and this week demonstrated just how badly the Legislature can use the rules to subvert the will of the majority.

"SB 1437, by Senator Sheila Kuehl, prohibits schools from using textbooks that “discriminate” against homosexuals, and requires that these textbooks “include age-appropriate study of the role and contributions of … people who are [homosexual]…” The bill was referred to both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Education Committee, both of which passed it out. It passed the Senate Floor on a 22-15 votes (all Senate Republicans voting no).

"The bill came to the Assembly, and was similarly referred to the Assembly Education Committee and the Judiciary Committee. The Assembly Education committee passed the bill out on June 15, and sent it on to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which set a June 20 hearing. That June 20 hearing was inexplicably cancelled by Senator Kuehl, and on June 26, the Assembly waived its rules requiring a policy hearing in Judiciary, and sent the bill straight to the floor.

"How unusual is this? It has never happened before in my entire 14 years in the Legislature. A bill referred to a committee is heard by that committee before the floor votes on it. If the committee votes against the bill, it dies, no matter how popular it is with the public. In fact, the committees are designed by the Speaker to kill bills popular with the public, but not popular with Democrat constituency groups, like the trial lawyers. My “red license plate for drunk drivers” was hated by the criminal defense lawyers and the ACLU, so it died.

"SB 1437 did not. It was never heard by the Judiciary committee. Why? The rules require it, but it did not happen, because the Democrat majority just waived the rules. They didn’t waive the rules for anyone else. They don’t do that for Republicans. Only Democrats. In the Legislature, we call it the rule of 41, meaning the party with 41 votes makes the rules up as they go along, mostly to benefit their legislative agenda, and to thwart the Republican agenda.

"I have heard more than one person say they would not vote for this or that Republican candidate because the candidate disagrees with them on one or two issues. However, the power to appoint the committees and to waive the rules determines the outcome of thousands of bills each year. If I am pro-life, or pro-gun, or pro-property rights, or anti-tax, my vote for a Republican Speaker of the Assembly guarantees that I have a fighting chance to promote that agenda. A Democrat Speaker, however, will set up the committees to kill those issues in committee, and, if a bill they want is going to die in committee, as the Kuehl bill was about to do, the majority just waives the rules. The bill will be heard on the floor, not because a majority of Californians agree with the bill, but because the Legislature has a Democrat majority willing to violate its own rules without shame.

"The rule of 41 is an important rule to remember next time you vote. Even if you disagree with a candidate on one or two issues, your failure to vote for that candidate could result in a lot of good bills with which you agree being killed in committee. Like it or not, that is the way it works."

As a follow-up, friend Tom Birks says:

"California is a perfect example of a State out of control. This [Haynes' comments] explains why. The media backs the Democrat's so you will never hear the other side. I am a Registered Independent. New York used to vote the same way as California. Where do people from New York retire? In a Conservative State like Florida because they can't afford to retire in their own State. All of the retirees that moved from California to Oregon and Washington because they couldn't afford to retire in California now find themselves in the same situation because they continued to vote Party Line. Gridlock is good for a government. There is no comparison to my freedom as a young kid and the freedom young people have today. Every new law takes away someone's freedom. Taxes also take away freedom."

Friday, June 30

1969 A.D.

"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." --- from a plaque marking the spot on the moon where the historic event took place.

Sorry, but no one (or alien) is going to know what "A.D." means when they read this in the distant future. In fact, they will most likely not know English, what a 'foot' is nor be able to guess the meaning of 'peace.' Especially if they're from the far side of the moon.

Note one man's disenchantment: "Astronauts . . . submit to the severest bodily ordeals in order to satisfy the ritual demands for space travel to distant parts of the solar system. To a certain degree, vicarious participation in these rites by the earthbound inhabitants of the planet, made possible through film, television and radio, restores the waning sense of high adventure; and the ever present possiblity of death in a cosmic stting augments, as in motor racing, the daily dose of untrammeled gladiatorial violence faithfully provided by the mass media." Lewis Mumford in The Pentagon of Power: The Myth of the Machine, 1970.

The antiquated shuttle program has reached its final frontier and paid dearly for it. America doesn't need any more dead heroes at the moment.

Monday, June 26

Iron Majesty

These old and burly locomotives roamed the countryside and rumbled through cities in the 19th century. Their black smoke and piercing whistle invaded nature's peaceful home and helped supply an ever-changing landscape with everything from lumber to livestock. They transported travelers and troops. They built an expanding America.

Their massive size, ear-splitting horns and smell of burned fuel have enlisted the love of many a young boy. Commanding fear and respect, these vintage rail roadsters still roar across our fading memories --- if we're old enough to remember them. Most of us aren't. So we visit the museums where some of them have found their last resting place. Or we find them here and there, reminding us of the limits of early technology, like this one northeast of Hollister at Casa de Fruta.

It is now a work of art, a masterpiece in the book called The Way Things Used To Be, But Will Never Be Again.

Thursday, June 15

Making Memories

Life's special ramblings include indelible memories of childhood. These kids will remember our neighbor, Wendy, leading them around the cul-de-sac on her new bicycle. It was a perfect afternoon to play.

For a lot of us, the old bike memories linger. It was one of our first tastes of freedom --- riding around the neighborhood and beyond, enjoying the rush of wind in our face, racing with your buddies. But there was a price to pay --- being chased by mean dogs, getting a flat tire miles from home, crashing in front of your friends.

We have a thing about freedom and wind in our face. "They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall rise up with wings as eagles." Isaiah 40:31

Sunday, June 11

Too Busy

This past week's study for teaching a class today kept me from piddling on the Internet much, but I have some 'free' time and will drop you a note.

I'm sick of thinking about politics right now, so that's out. It's good to see what God is doing in the world or presidents, monarchs and dictators, but He doesn't need my comments.

The next door neighbor is tearing out most of his backyard grass and tree roots to make way for a concrete replacement, costing him $4000. I figured, at $3.50 per square foot that they're charging him, it would cost me about $21,000 to do mine. I won't be doing it anytime soon, that's for sure.

Our friend, Tom, has been diagnosed with a type of leukemia that's eating away his spine and bones in general. He's being treated right now. He and his wife, Linda, need your prayers for strength, wisdom and courage as they face this. Thanks. His daughter created a website for them that you can visit at:

Barbara is frying hamburger and talking to Aunt Judie on the phone. No comment necessary.

The weather has been BEAUTIFUL!

Life goes on. Thanks for listening.

Oh, that's Sleeping Jack in the picture.

Tuesday, June 6

The Return Trip

Yosemite's shock value was greatest when our young hearts scanned the craggy edges above the valley for the first time. At least the first time you really SAW them. There is seeing and there is being awestruck.

We haven't visited the old place in quite awhile. Time to renew the friendship and suck in some fresh air with the nostalgia and wonder at this God-given gift called beauty.

Saturday, June 3

Garage Snailing

A most perfect morning found us prepared and willing to tackle the hoards of shoppers in our cul-de-sac. People complained that our advertised 'block sale' only amounted to two houses. I don't blame them. The third and fourth houses had their sellers working today. Bad timing, but all the more for us, I guess. Liz'z clothes were the big seller, as usual. No big items like next door.

People were VERY friendly and talkative. They liked the deals and weren't complaining. A pastor appreciated the deal I made him: Two new boxes of #10 envelopes for $2.00. And the woman who got the 4 free collectible Coca-Cola Christmas bottles from '95, '96. She said she collected them, so I pulled out another 8 or so and sold them to her for $3.00.

We are just SO glad to get rid of this stuff. A long bow. A swimming pool with pump and extras. Car seat. Stroller. Free stuff. They really liked the free stuff. A lot of buyers are low income Latinos and fixed income people. Nobody touched the 'antiques and collectible' items. I've been trying to sell these things at garage sales for about 20 years with no success. So if I ever get an eBay account, they'll find a home that way.

Unfortunately, our fallen nature is bent on filling our homes with STUFF that has a short shelf-life. It would be much better to rent than buy, then just take it back when you don't use it any more. But you can't, so there's Goodwill and Salvation Army thrift stores to ease our consciences and reduce the clutter.

Wednesday, May 31

Old is Good

I bought my first SLR camera in 1970. The little brother of the Nikon F, my Nikkormat fit the bill at the time and continues to work well. Instead of buying a normal lens way back then, I opted for the 55mm MicroNikkor to satisfy a strong and lasting urge to enlarge all things small.

Well, when the digital bug bit a lot of us a few years ago, most point-and-shoot cameras had a Macro capability. My Canon A70 has been a wonderful addition, especially when it comes to close-up work. But then the digital SLR bug bit and I didn't have a good Macro lens anymore. Or so I thought for a few months. According to the owner's manual, I'm not supposed to be able to use my oldest lenses with the new camera. I learned otherwise today.

If I pop on my M-2 extension tube with my old MicroNikkor, presto! - it works in manual mode with no problems whatsoever. I couldn't believe it. This little red-eyed whatever-it-is is a bit blurry due to no tripod, a breeze and 30th of a second shutter speed. Sorry.

Life has a few surprises. Some of our old tricks can still be used in the twilight years.

Sunday, May 28

Life, Liberty and Pursuit

Our little worlds collide
With colored lines and streaks.
We don't like the green and purple theme
And quickly grab the nearest brush.
There, that's better.
We stand back and admire awhile
Before another artist returns the scene
To a glorious purple and gorgeous green.