Archive for July, 2009

Texting AND Talking While Driving–Not a Good Idea

July 31, 2009

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (AP) – Police say a western New York tow truck driver was texting on one cell phone while talking on another when he slammed into a car and crashed into a swimming pool.

Niagara County sheriff’s deputies say 25-year-old Nicholas Sparks of Burt admitted he was texting and talking when his flatbed truck hit the car Wednesday morning in Lockport, which is outside Buffalo.

The truck then crashed through a fence and sideswiped a house before rolling into an in-ground pool.

Police say the 68-year-old woman driving the car suffered head injuries and was in good condition. Her 8-year-old niece suffered minor injuries.

Sparks was charged with reckless driving, talking on a cell phone and following too closely. It couldn’t be determined Thursday whether he has a lawyer.

I wonder if his cell phones were wrecked by the pool water.

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The Texas Adventure

July 29, 2009

We just returned from a great adventure to visit Stacy and James at their home in Richwood, Texas.  The weather cooperated by only being hot, not cooking hot like it had been for weeks before our visit.  It was usually pretty nice.

Stacy and James were great tour guides. Here is a list of some of the places that we visited:

We got to celebrate 2 birthdays–Wendy’s on Saturday and James’ on Sunday.

I got the chance to do some Texas geocaching–see the details here.

We had a great visit and enjoyed it very much.  Here are some photos of the adventure.

Mosquito Festival

Mosquito Festival

A nighttime visit the Surfside, TX

A nighttime visit the Surfside, TX

On the Road Again

On the Road Again

Outside Mission Control on the 40th Anniversay of this photo

Outside Mission Control on the 40th Anniversay of this photo

Touching the Moon

Touching the Moon

Saturn V Rocket

Saturn V Rocket

Joes Barbecue Co., Alvin

Joe's Barbecue Co., Alvin

Pulled Pork Plate

Pulled Pork Plate

Geocachingn on Galveston Island

Geocaching on Galveston Island

The Bishops Palace, Galveston

The Bishop's Palace, Galveston

Celebrate Happy Birthday with a Black Forest Cake

Celebrating Happy Birthday with a Black Forest Cake

Happy Birthday to James

Happy Birthday to James

Keeping the Water Away

Keeping the Water Away

A Classy Act

A Classy Act

Terra Cotta Warriors

Terra Cotta Warriors

Terra Cotta Warriors

Terra Cotta Warriors

Pi Approximation Day

July 22, 2009

July 22, or 22/7 for our European friends, is Pi Approximation Day. When a circle’s diameter is 1, its circumference is pi.

Archimedes (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC) was a Greek jack-of-all-scientific-trades.  As a great mathematician, he worked out the very accurate approximation of Pi of 22/7.

Others later expressed pi in decimal form that never ends or repeats: 3.1415926535897932384626433832795…

Things to Teach Your Grandchildren

July 22, 2009

We found a list of 100 things to teach our grandchildren on the Internet yesterday.  Since we will be visiting them in a few weeks, I figured I should review the list and see how I could  do as a sharing grandpa.

The original is here. My comments are in bold.

1.Whistle. This simple skill tops the wish list for preschoolers everywhere. If your grandchildren already know how to whistle, teach them to use their fingers to make it extra-loud.  Nope.  I’m not a very good whistler.

2. Spread icing on a cake. Show them how to spread icing smoothly on all sides to make it look just so. Get creative and pipe on some decorations, too. Don’t forget to lick your fingers — and the bowl!  This one I can do–if I don’t first eat the frosting.

3. Dive. It’s the coolest way to enter the pool. Help your grandchildren learn to use the proper technique and hit the water straight as an arrow. But remind them that diving is only for the deep end!  I could do this one.

4. Grow a plant from seed. Slam dunk.

5. Shoot a basketball like their idols. By middle school, many young cagers are ready and eager to shoot one-handed like their favorite players.  Nope.

6. Tie a necktie. Grandsons will feel grown-up when they ditch clip-on ties for the real thing. Watch them practice and give pointers. Older kids likely don’t know how to tie a real bow tie, a lost art and a classy touch — and one you’ll teach them.  I have several methods under my belt–or should I say around my neck.  My grandma actually taught me how to tie a tie.  I needed it for a Cub Scout requirement.

7. Paint fingernails and toenails. I don’t think so.

8. Write a thank-you note. This is a skill your grandchildren can use for the rest of their lives. The simple appreciative gesture is fading fast.  I can handle this one.  And I agree–a very good habit to have.

9. Discover the wonders of the local library. Show your grandchildren all the amazing free things the library has to offer. Search on the computer for books they love and teach them how to use call numbers to locate them.  I love the library–have since as long as I can remember.  And the grandkids already have the library habit.

10. Jump rope. Young children love the simple joy of mastering this healthy activity. Teach older children how to jump double-dutch.  I never mastered this one.  I had lousy coordination and balance when I was a kid, so rope jumping wasn’t my thing.

11. Make water defy gravity. Young grandchildren will be amazed by the simple trick of holding water in a straw by placing your thumb over the top. Or keeping water in any upside down cup.

12. Identify a bird by its features and call. I only know a few.

13. Make a bird feeder. Whether or not you are a carpentry whiz who can make one of the little wooden houses or a bird lover who uses a plastic bottle, bird crafts are fun and educational.  That would be a fun one.

14. Shuffle cards the cool way. Every kid wants to learn the riffle shuffle.  That was my grandma’s thing, not mine.

15. Hit a baseball. If your grandchildren play T-ball, softball, or Little League, the fundamentals of hitting are the same. Watch their self-esteem grow with each base hit!  Only a semi-skill for me.

16. Blow on a dandelion and make a wish. I love spreading dandelions to the neighbor’s lawn.  I never have considered dandelions weeds.  I like them.

17. Swim all the strokes. Teach them the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and how to breathe as they swim freestyle.  Once upon a time, I was a certified swim instructor.

18. Hold their breath for a long time. Kids love to see how long they can stay underwater. Show them how to breathe quickly to expand their lungs for maximum oxygen.   A good skill to have.

19. Ride a two-wheel bicycle. This way they can have life-long memories connecting skinned knees with their grandpa.

20. Putt a golf ball. Whether your family is made up of Arnold Palmers or of mini-golf lovers, teach them the art of the pure stroke.   Golf isn’t, and never will be, my thing.

21. Tie their own shoelaces. Knots are a specialty of mine.

22. Do push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and other exercises. Make healthy physical exertion fun. The younger kids start, the better.  Fun?  Yep, when I think of sit-ups, I think FUN.

23. Discover the world from home. Explain what a globe is, then spin it. Have your grandchildren stop it with their finger, and tell them about the country they landed on, including time, climate, and cultural specifics.  I love maps and globes and all things geographic.  This one I can do well.

24. Make a hat out of newspaper. I never learned this one.

25. Set the table. Get out your fine china and show them what a full place setting looks like, complete with all the accoutrements, and teach them how to elegantly fold a napkin, too.  Yes, I do know how to set a table.  I don’t know how well I do the “accoutrements” though.

26. Use good table manners. Teach your grandchildren what each piece of silverware is for and how to use it politely. Make this fun with a tea party (real or imaginary).  Julie-note:  No belching allowed.

27. Shake hands firmly. Then hope they aren’t sent to France as missionaries.

28. Eat with chopsticks. I learned this skill in eighth grade science.

29. Play with the garden hose. Show them how to use their thumbs to make the hose spray a wide arc or squirt a focused stream. I think they have this one down already.  Watch out, Grandma!

30. Practice photography. For grandchildren, who don’t often get a chance to play with a real camera, share yours with them and point out which techniques make for good photosJacob is well on the way.

31. Shop for a discount. Show your grandchildren how to get more for less, whether you are buying fancy new shoes or just your weekly groceries.  I’ll leave this one for Grandma.

32. Snap their fingers. Sure, why not.
This list is getting too long.  I’ll edit it down, but please check the entire list at the link above.


34. Use all those tools in the garage. Your grandkids may have no idea what the tools are for. Let them help you with a simple home-improvement project. The best way to learn is hands-on, after all. I can do this one, but they will have to wait until I clean out the garage.

35. Tell time on an analog clock with hour-and-minute hands.Believe it or not, there are a lot of kids out there, including Grandma’s sixth graders, who can’t read an analog clock.


38. The basic movements of each piece on a chess board. I know the basics, but I don’t know chess very deeply.

39. Tell a good ghost story. I don’t like the scary ones.

40. Speak another language. Teach them all the different ways to say buenos dias and au revoir. After that, start them on colors and counting. I will need to get the dust off my French, but I can handle this one.

41. Throw a Frisbee. It’s all in the wrist. Once they get down the basic backhand toss, there are other cool throws like the forehand and the hammer. Later, teach them how to play Frisbee golfSure, this one would be fun.


48. Make an ice cream soda. I specialize it eating them

49. Share basics of sailing. Impart the special vocabulary (aft, starboard, come about), explain how a boat harnesses the wind, and let their imaginations run wild with thoughts of nautical adventure.  Nope, not me.  I’ve never been sailing.

51. Fold origami shapes. I can do a crane.  Another eighth-grade science skill.


53. Drive a car. Increase what the kids learn in drivers’ ed, take them to an empty parking lot and let them show their stuff. If you can teach them how to drive a stick shift, so much the better.  I think I’ll leave this one to their parents.

56. Tie different kinds of knots. If you’re a former sailor, eagle scout, or boy scout pass on your knowledge. Teach them how to tie a slipknot, a butterfly knot, or a figure eight.   A specialty of mine.


60. Bait a hook. When fishing with the grandkids, teach them how to bait a hook themselves.  I’m not a bait fisherman, but I do enjoy fishing.  This one I could do.

61. Braid a friend’s hair. Another one for Grandma.

62. Use a compass to find the way. Yep, and don’t forget the map.

63. Identify constellations in the night sky. I once knew quite a few.  After a quick review, I’m up for this one.

68. Build a campfire. And do s’mores.

69. Make a fire without matches or a lighter. Where’s the flint and steel.

70. Play a musical instrument. Teach them the basics of your favorite instrument and see if they take to it.   I know how to play the radio.

71. Wash the car. This is one of life’s great activities for kids: They learn how to wash a car, you both get all wet and have fun outside, and you get a clean car out of the deal!  See #29.

72. Read music. Teach your future Mozarts the basics of how to read notes and measure time.

79. Show the steps to your favorite dance. If you are not exactly Fred Astaire, teach them something silly like the Hokey Pokey or the Chicken Dance!  This one is best left to their aunt and uncle.

82. Cook eggs. There are a number of fun and easy tricks that grandkids can learn: crack the shell on the counter, separate the yolk from the white, make an omelet and fold it.   How about a Five-Fifty Special.

83. Make a star with a rubber band. I have no idea what this skill could be.

84. Catch fireflies. Catching these enchanting little creatures is one of those magical childhood memories that the grandkids should not miss. No fireflies in our states.

85. Walk along the curb like it’s a balance beam. And pretend you are 100 feet above a roaring river.


91. Shoot a rubber band across the room. Don’t you know you can put your eye out doing this!

95. Fly a kite. Show your grandchildren how to run it out, give it slack, pull it taut, and manage the spool.   I do enjoy kites.

97. Play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Kids love the simplicity of this game and will use it to settle almost any dispute.  I heard that I judge made a divorcing couple settle their property distribution this way.

98. Skip a rock across calm waters. How many skips can you do?

100. Make guacamole. This delicious dip involves a little bit of seasoning and a lot of messy squishing. Let them use their hands (washed, of course).  Where are the chips?

Is “In God We Trust” An Imposition?

July 20, 2009

By publicly declaring the Nation’s motto, “In God We Trust,” is the government imposing religion on non-believers?  The group Freedom From Religion Foundation thinks so and is suing to block these words from being included on the walls of the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington.

This is another attempt to remove God from the public square.  The same group is objecting to the Pledge of Allegiance to be engraved on the walls because of the “one nation under God” clause.  The group believes these pronouncements are endorsing religion.

Our nation, from the very beginning, was founded on the belief that all men have God’s given rights.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . . “

Like it or not, public expressions about God have been part of our public discourse from the beginning, and hopefully will continue.  Those who feel imposed upon need to take a second look.  Our nation is the home of liberty, including the freedom to belief and to practice religion.  Or, if one chooses, not to belief or not to practice religion.  The liberty to not practice is a by product of a religious tolerance that exists because of our religious liberties.

If those aligned with the Freedom From Religion Foundation want to be completely free of the rights that exist because of our religious liberties, they will actually lose rights.  One example is the conditions one encounters in countries ruled by Islamic law.  There are no minority rights.  In fact, it’s a captial crime to even leave the religion.  The “freedom from religion” there could mean a death sentence.

Our country is great because of our liberties and our public expression that our rights as free men come from a Creator.  To deny this would make us less of a nation.

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

July 20, 2009

Forty years ago today, man landed on the Moon.  NASA has a good story about the landing. Read it here.

It’s hard to believe that the first Moon landing was that long ago.  Neil Armstrong was the first and Buzz Aldrin was the second.  In all, 12 men have walked on the moon.  Do you know who was the last man to leave the Moon?  Find out here.

Click here to see some photos of that mission. QuickTime is required.

Why are We Rushing to Make the Nation’s Finances Just Like California?

July 17, 2009

My home state of California is in serious financial trouble.  For years, we have been busy spending money that we didn’t have.  And now we have run out of places to borrow money.  We are deep in debt, with no easy way out.

On a federal level, we are heading in the same direction.  Busy spending money that we don’t have.  And what is the vice president’s solution:  spend even more money.

If you are in a hole and want to get out, digging the hole deeper and deeper will rarely get you out of the hole.

The President wants to rush and to hurry into more trouble by passing a bill that will drastically change the way health care is handled.  The cost is staggering and the result will most probably lead to inferior health care for most Americans.   Less care for more money.  Doesn’t sound like a very good deal.

Why the rush?  Why not a deliberate, thoughtful approach, especially for something so complex as health care?

To All Dodger Fans

July 16, 2009

Today, Manny Ramirez will make his first appearance in Dodger Stadium since his suspension.  To everyone who will attend tonight’s game:  Please don’t cheer him on his return.  Boos would be more appropriate.

Manny Ramirez cheated.  The Dodgers should be embarassed to welcome him back.  The appropriate action would have been to tell Manny, “Thanks, but no thanks.  It’s been nice knowing you.  Good bye.”

Happy Birthday, Jacob

July 14, 2009

jacob5

Have a nice birthday!

Easing Back From Vacation

July 12, 2009

Not wanting to return too fast from vacation, Wendy and I went to the Hollywood Bowl yesterday.  It was a special Henry Mancini night.  Everything was his music.  The night ended with a nice firework show.

Earlier in the day, we attended the funeral of a friend–John Neal.  His family–the Phelps Family Musicians–provided the music for the services.  It was part funeral, part concert.  John would have loved it.

A nice day–with nice music on both ends–a good way to re-enter from vacationing.