Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Current reading: 1912

From time to time, like-minded people ask me what I'm reading.

Especially during the Summertime.

I mean, there's nothing better than setting yourself up under an umbrella on the beach or poolside with an ice-cold drink in one hand and good book in the other.

I plan to do some catching-up in that regard this weekend. And, since TV has become such a vast wasteland lately, I got a jump-start on things this evening with a new page-turner:

"1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs--The Election That Changed the Country," by James Chace. [ISBN 0-7432-0394-1]

Check it out for yourself, if you dare!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Washington the Warrior

Feeling quite patriotic this Memorial Day, thank you very much. That probably has a lot to do with just having watched The History Channel's latest special: "Washington the Warrior."

All I can say is, "Wow, George was da man!"

The show focuses on Washington's military career, from 1753 to 1783, and how it sculpted his character and public image.

If you missed tonight's airing, shame on you.

But, you have the opportunity to redeem yourself as a good American by tuning in for one of the replays, either this Saturday or Sunday.

Also, note The History Channel will be starting a 13-part series on The American Revolution on Sunday.

I wonder why they decided on 13 parts . . . hmmmm.

Anyway, I hope you all flew the Stars and Stripes with pride today, especially for those who fell so that you would be able to fly a flag at all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

I have to admit it. I'm a sucker for patriotic music. You know, parades and fireworks and such.

That's why I watch the National Memorial Day Concert up in DC every year. No, I don't drive up there. Are you kidding me?! I lived up there long enough to know it's better to tune in to the local PBS station and enjoy it in the AC. But, I digress.

This year, Colin Powell made a special appearance to mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force, and was followed-up with a great rendition of the U.S. Air Force Anthem.

Now, being an Air Force Brat, I had this anthem drilled into me as a child. But, I'm afraid I was a little rusty. I could still get the first two lines, the "helluva roar," and the last line. Nothing to be proud of, to be sure. I mean, most non-brat civvies could do that. So, I was sorely disappointed with myself about having to stumble over the rest of the lines, and decided to look up all the lyrics for a refresher course. You can join me, if you're up to it:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys,
Give 'er the gun!
Down we dive,
spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame.
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cousin Jessica's website

Stumbled across this website today:

It was put together by my cousin Jessica and her husband Brian, and has lots of good, fairly-recent family pictures.

Check it out.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors Database

As we approach Memorial Day, remember the roots of the holiday.

At its conception, it had nothing to do with three-day weekends, paid holidays for federal employees, or even backyard grills.

In fact, it wasn't even called "Memorial Day."

It was, instead, known as "Decoration Day," because folks were expected to traipse out to the nearest cemetery and do some clean-up . . . and especially around the tombstones of the Civil War dead.

So, as you chow-down on your hamburger or hot dog and enjoy an extra day off from work, at least remember why you have that privilege.

And, if you want to find out if some member of your family served in the Civil War, check out this handy website put together by the National Parks Service:

Oh, yeah, and Happy Birthday to David Key.

Let them eat steak!

Congratulations to Howard and Valda on their ten year anniversary!

They celebrated in a big way. He got her a new car. She got him a new grill.

Sounds fair to me.

Anyway, we HAD to break-in the new grill today, and yours truly even sprang for some steak.

Can't remember the last time I had a good steak.

Ok, I lie. The last good steak was the office Christmas party. But, that doesn't count.

Let me rephrase: I can't remember the last time I had a good steak from someone's new backyard grill.

Yeah, that's better.

Of course, the Beaujolais helps a lot to soften the critics. At least this critic.

Pass the A-1!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


John Burden forwarded the following link to the WallBuilders site:

It's a pretty nifty place to navigate if you're a history buff, and provides a much-needed reminder that our forebears had a lot more than economic motivations in building this country.

That perspective is often lost on modern "intellectuals." I prefer to substitute the term "soulless self-loathing cynics." But, that's just me.

If you're confused by the aspersions, just note how the tie-die and Birkenstock crowd focuses on "taxation without representation" as a root cause of the American Revolution. Or, how 'bout "the peculiar institution" as a root cause of The War Between the States?

I'm not saying that either of the above wasn't a root cause, but they were just a few among many. And, WallBuilders reminds us that a belief in Divine Providence also played a role. A very important role.

And, that's worth remembering.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In life there are winners and losers

Why don't they teach that in high school anymore?

I mean, I heard today that nearby Winter Park High School has 21 valedictorians this year.

That's right: TWENTY-ONE.

Almost two dozen.

This, of course, is because the panty-waists in the school administration business these days are afraid to make values judgements--be they quantitative or qualitative.

I mean, I'm not that old, but I do remember a day when the person with the highest GPA was named valedictorian.

That's right. THE person. One. Uno.

And, yes, there was a reward for coming in second. It was called "the Salutatorian."

I wonder how many of those they have at Winter Park High this year!!

Anyway, titles like valedictorian and salutatorian and panty-waist don't really amount to a hill of beans in the long run.

Case in point: Have I ever told you how the valedictorian turned-out from Frenship High School's Class of 1989?! There's a story!

Monday, May 22, 2006

What was old is new again?!

I think this may be somewhat akin to deja-vu, but tell me what you think.

I mean, I know deja-vu is that wierd feeling you get that you've experienced a situation while you're actually going thru it. And, yes, that is wierd.

But, the wierd feeling I'm talking about his when something comes back into your life after you thought you'd never see again, dead and gone, yesterday's news, kaput, etc, etc.

There's got to be some Frenchie foo foo phrase for that wierd feeling, too, right? I mean the French ARE masters at labeling wierd stuff . . .

Ah, well, nuff musing . . .

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Haplogroup "I"

I received an email this morning from distant-cousin Brett Morgan from Baltimore.

I say "distant-cousin" despite the fact that neither one of us has yet been able to document our specific kinship. But, we've both had our DNA analyzed and found an exact match, which means somewhere down the line we share a common Morgan ancestor.

Anyway, Brett had his DNA analyzed further and was informed by the folks at Family Tree DNA that we Morgans are part of Haplogroup "I."

Of course, now they want him to pony-up some more dough to figure out what "sub-clade" of the haplogoup we belong to . . . hmmmm.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Company Picnic

This is something we've never done before, and I guess you have to try things at least once.

We usually only get everybody together at Christmastime, and I'm beginning to see why.

Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. But, I did set the bar very low, so it didn't take much.

Anyway, I left my camera at home, so will have to wait til Monday to see if Cathy or Linda can get me any images to commemorate this momentous occasion.

Here's a teaser: Yours truly slipped on the plethora of oak leaves around the volleyball pit and landed flat on my back, much to everyone's amusement.

Friday, May 19, 2006

BBQ Feud Rages On

Although I cannot explain why, some folks just fail to understand the three fundamentals of the art of grilling meat:

1. It should be done over mesquite briquettes, not propane.

2. The meat in question should either be beef or turkey, not pig or yard-bird.

3. The sauce should be tomato-based and sweet, not mustard-based and tart.

I guess I'm not in Texas anymore . . . folks down here in the Deep South practice the reverse of each of these fundamentals. And, I fell victim to this insanity at lunch today.

Oh, well, at least they had some good sides . . . but, in Texas the cornbread would have been de rigeur instead of a side . . .

Paul got a job!

Here's some good news from Texas for a change!

Lisa Troupe just informed me that her husband Paul landed a job with Temple-Inland as a maintenance supervisor.

The only down side, at least as far as I can see, is that this will require the Troupe Troop to move to Crawfordsville, Indiana . . . about 35 miles west of Indianapolis.

Lisa's trying to see the silver lining to that cloud, pointing out that it is just about mid-way between her folks and Paul's. But, all I can think of is the wonderful Indiana winter!

Seriously, though, congrats go out to Paul and the gang. Just don't go turning into Peyton Manning fans. There are some things I just won't tolerate!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gators and other pests

If you've been reading the headlines out of Florida lately, you no doubt have come to the conclusion that we are either running from wildfires, dodging hurricanes, or becoming gator chow.

Actually, we've got a few more weeks til hurricane season officially begins . . . but, who's counting?!

The wildfires seem to have gotten themselves under control. The recent rains have helped a lot. Hopefully, they'll keep dumping water on us so we don't have to cancel Fourth of July celebrations as we had to do a few years ago . . . I mean, a man has to get his annual fill of fireworks, right?!

But, it's the gators who pose the greatest menace, apparently.

I mean, these critters are actually EATING PEOPLE!

I can't think of a worse way to go . . . unless of course we consider a shark attack, but you won't catch me out in the ocean anyway. Beach combing with a metal detector is about as close as I'll get to shark-infested waters.

But, back to the gators.

Would you believe the biggest gator ever found in Florida was actually found in my hometown of Apopka?

It's true. He was 17 feet & 6 inches long, and was over 70 years of age.

Of course, that was back in 1956. We don't have much need to fear gators around here anywmore. In fact, the last real animal threat we've experienced in this neck of the woods was the Great Mouse Attack of 1999.

But, I'll save that story for another day.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Antonio C. Banuelos (1936-2006)

Some sad news out of Texas. My high school friend Patty Banuelos lost her father to prostate cancer last Thursday.

He was born November 15, 1936, in Fresnillo Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Mexico, to the late Fidel Banuelos and Felicitas Castanon.

He was a retired welder of Rosales Welding Shop.

He married Juanita Lucio, November 19, 1960, in Lubbock, and was a member of St. Francis of the Assisi in Wolfforth.

Besides Patty and Mrs. Banuelos, he is survived by one son, Juan Antonio Banuelos of Lubbock; daughters, Felicitas Banuelos of Albuquerque, N.M., Nancy Banuelos of Austin, and Corina Lang of Temple; one granddaughter, Michelle Renee Murphy of Austin; three brothers, Agapito and Jose Banuelos of Chihuahua, Mexico, and Fidel Banuelos of Wolfforth; and two sisters, Luisa Valdes of Wolfforth and Margarita Armas of Puebla, Mexico.

My sincerest condolences to the family.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Survivor Exile Island - The Finale

After last week's cliffhanger, the finale picked-up with the fire-building face-off between Danielle and Cirie. Long story short: Danielle won.

The final three participated in a reward challenge that involved some wall-climbing. The pay-off was a big meal and a cot/pillow. Big deal.

Everyone knows the last immunity challenge always involves endurance. So, true to form, Probst made Danielle, Terry and Aras balance on some hexagonal floaties. Terry fell into the water after about half an hour. Almost immediately thereafter, Danielle gave Aras a nod and he took a dive.

The nod led Aras and everyone in the audience to believe that Danielle had agreed to take him to the final two instead of Terry. But, she didn't seem so sure of herself when they all got back to camp. So, we didn't know until Probst revealed her vote at tribal council.

She chose Aras.

After a brief intermission, the two remaining survivors faced a milktoast jury . . . well, except for Shane. He told Danielle that she was worthless, totally dependant on her daddy or boyfriend her whole life, etc., etc. And, he told Aras that he was a bum, jobless, homeless, who sponged off his father, etc., etc. Other than that, there wasn't as much drama as in past years.

Flash forward to a live studio audience in New York City, where Probst revealed the jury's votes: Aras won 4-2! Actually, he either won 5-2 or 4-3, but they never got around to reading the last vote, since it only took 4 to win.

The reunion show immediately followed. The highlights included Cirie getting a new car as America's choice. And, of course, the announcement of next season's location: The Cook Islands.

Until the Fall, the tribe has spoken.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

I hope you all remembered to call your mothers, or at least wished someone you know a Happy Mother's Day.

I got my mom a card, and enjoyed breakfast with her at the beach this morning. That, among other things, should keep me ahead of my lone rival in the favorite child competition.

Anyway, I got back to town to find a cool web link that will allow you to search past issues of the Florida Historical Quarterly. If you're a history freak like me, you may appreciate it:

Don't forget to tune into the Survivor finale and reunion show tonight!

St. Augustine Ghost Tour

If you've ever been to St. Augustine, you've probably seen all the Ghost Tours that traipse around the ancient streets. And, I've actually paid good money to be part of those tours in the past. So, I wasn't exactly overflowing with enthusiasm when a group of friends asked me to join them in such an expedition this evening.

But, I actually had a very good time. (And, I had some EXCELLENT grapefruit gellato afterwards.) So, I really can't complain.

The freaky thing is, when we got to looking at the photos taken by one member of the group, she had a few "unusual" images and orbs on them.

I'm hoping to get copies next week to post here so you can decide for yourselves if they contain anything from the beyond, or if my friend just needs a new camera!

Until then . . . enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Survivor Exile Island - The Cliffhanger

Well, Terry finally got his hat handed to him by Aras. It was a long time coming, but boy was it worth it!

Aras won both the reward AND immunity challenges this week.

The reward was a cruise thru the Panama Canal on a private yacht. He chose Cirie to go with him, cementing their alliance and chowing down on some serious food. Meanwhile, Terry and Danielle got to spend a couple days on Exile Island, forming an alliance of their own.

Anyway, it was pretty clear going in to Tribal Council that the vote was going to split between the two women, and that's exactly what happened. Before it all went down, though, I have to give props to Cirie for a great speech about personal growth.

As all sesoned Survivor fans know, a tie vote means a head-to-head competition to break it. And, Probst set Cirie and Danielle up with a fire-making competition.

But, they didn't show us who won!!!

Just, "tune in on Sunday!"


I hate cliffhangers . . .

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Troupe Troop

Lisa Troupe sent this Easter picture of her three boys.

Pretty cool, huh?

And, ain't it great to live some place where you can run around in your bare feet in April?!?!

Eat your hearts out all you Yankees still trudging around in your overcoats!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Working late . . .

Wow . . . I had an 11 o'clock meeting that dragged-on til 2:30.

Ok, it didn't actually drag. There was a lunch in there somewhere.

But, the fact remains that I was out of the office for an inordinately long period of time.

And, that just means the work is going to pile-up.

Anyway, I sit here at my desk playing catch-up, wondering if it was all worth it . . .

Ah, well, at least it's nice and quiet around here. I should be able to get a lot done with no distractions, right?

Yeah, right . . . zzzzzzzzzzz

Stephen Decatur Miller

The name doesn't ring a bell?

Well, you can't feel too bad about that, he was only a minor figure in history.

But, since he's a relative, I've been doing a little research on this guy. (I descend from his uncle/namesake Stephen Miller, of York County, South Carolina.)

Anyway, Stephen Decatur Miller was a contemporary of Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun. He served in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was also Governor of South Carolina.

Unfortunately, most folks who recognize his name, only do so because they've heard of his daughter Mary Chestnut, the Civil War diarist. And, even they are a very, very small group.

It's really a shame. The more I find out about this guy, the more interesting he becomes. For instance, in 1825, he presented arguments in the last known witchcraft trial in the United States.

And, you thought only Yankees put people on trial for such nonsense as witchcraft!

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Office Staff

Our receptionist Yami got a new digicam recently, and took this picture of the office staff (L to R): Cathy, Yami, and Linda.

Thought you might like to see them smiling at work for a change!

Makes me think there was a liquid lunch involved . . .

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The regular weekend run-around

Forgot to mention that I picked up a poster at the festival yesterday, and was lucky enough to get it signed by the artist while we were there. Nice guy by the name of Michael Sullivan, in case you care.

Anyway, I got tired of all the posters, etc., that I collect and never get framed. So, decided to take them all up to the local frame shop.

I can't believe how expensive custom framing has gotten!

You know me, I cheaped-out in the end and bought the pre-fab stuff. I mean, after all, they're just posters, right?!

Oh, yeah, and I finally got my authentic Mexican food fix at Garibaldi's this evening. Had the enchiladas verdes. (Another "secret place" that I don't want anyone else to find out about!)

EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival

Went to the 2006 EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival today. I had to include this picture of the Lady and the Tramp topiaries, because as I was walking up behind them the wind was blowing so fiercely that Lady's ears looked like a lion's mane, and I was expecting to see Simba on the other side!

This picture was taken during a more sedate moment. But, suffice it to say, it was a "bad hair day" for folks who failed to throw a ball cap on their heads like I am wont to do!

Topped off the day with a dinnershow at the Moroccan pavillion.

I would highly recommend the latter, but don't want any more people to find out about that little "secret" of mine. It is by far the best food and entertainment in the park.

Of course, I might just be biased when it comes to belly dancers and shish kebab . . .

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

On the advice of Sabrina Martinez and other verdaderos Mexicanos, I decided to skip the dinner at Garibaldi's tonight.

After all, I don't want to look like a real gringo. All those years in Texas ought to account for something, right?

But, I'm still craving TexMex . . . and, these Patio burritos I picked up in the frozen food aisle at my local Winn Dixie just ain't cuttin' it!

Anyway, for those of you history illiterates out there, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

It seems Emperor Napoleon was determined to install a puppet government down there while we Norteamericanos were distracted with our Civil War.

See, those Frenchie frog-eaters have been up to no good for a LONG time!

But, according to Sabrina and my other sources, this great victory is only celebrated by Mexicans who live in and around Puebla . . . and about 300,000,000 gringos.

Back to the burritos . . .

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Survivor Exile Island - The Final Four

Well, I got my wish. Shane got the boot at tribal council this week.

So, now we're down to the Final Four:

1. Terry - the arrogant pilot who keeps winning all the immunity challenges. He's actually guaranteed a spot in the Final Three, since he still hasn't used the immunity idol he uncovered on Exile Island. That's a shame, too, because his smugness is nauseating. The upside of that is, if he makes it to the Final Two, he will have alienated and/or disgusted everyone on the jury so much that they'll hand a million dollars to whoever is up there with him.

2. Aras - the yogi. He's Terry's biggest physical threat. If he fails to win immunity next week, I'm afraid he'll be eliminated.

3. Danielle - the pretty girl. She's been flirting with an alliance with Terry for weeks now. But, so far, she's just a tease. The promo for next week hints that she keeps teasing him. That's gotta get tired after awhile. No substance to this one. She needs to go.

4. Cirie - the nurse. She's the only one of the four who I actually LIKE at this point. But, they may work against her. I mean, who wants to be sitting next to Miss Popular at the final tribal council?!

Enough speculation. Until next week, the tribe has spoken.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Book update

Well, the book WAS supposed to be in print and on the shelves by late March, but we're still experiencing issues with the photos I wanted to include.

The text is done and ready for press, it's just the pictures that are holding me up.

Apparently, the publisher doesn't like the resolution/clarity of the images I sent them.

It's like talking to a brick wall when I try to explain that Civil War era photos weren't made in terms of dpi, jpg, or any other random triad of letters.

The originals are a little blurry. Thus, it only stands to reason that the digital images will be somewhat fuzzy.

I am almost ready to throw my hands in the air and say "ditch the pics!" But, I'm going to give it one last shot.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Lessons Learned

1. Wisdom does not always come with age. There are some incredibly stupid old people out there, and there are some amazingly wise kids.

2. You can't change people, they have to change themselves. And, if you can't accept that, you're going to experience incredible frustration.

3. Good things do happen to good people. Most of the time, it takes a lot of hard work to make these things happen. But, the most amazing things seem to happen all by themselves.

4. Try something new whenever you can. You might end up hating the results, but at least that will reinforce why you "always" do something else.


I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the film Capote, which arrived on DVD in my mailbox this afternoon. Thank you, Blockbuster.

I mean, it took a lot for me to get past the absurdities of the title character's persona. But, once I did, I found the storyline pretty compelling.

For those of you who aren't "in" to the world of the 1960's literatti, you probably won't even know if I spelled "literatti" correctly . . . much less who the heck Truman Capote was.

Well, don't feel too bad about that. I was in the same boat with you until I watched this movie.

Apparently, it's based on the true story of a flambouyant fiction writer who decides to switch gears and do a non-fiction book about a story he literally tore out of the newspaper . . . get it, "literally" tore out of the newspaper?!? I'm too funny for my own good.

Anyway, the story is about a quadruple homicide in rural Kansas, and he goes out there to interview the murderers. Yes, there are two of them, but only one that's really interesting. And, that's the one he focused on.

You see, it turns out that Capote and this murderer had very similar childhoods. Or, as he put it, as if they were raised in the same house, but one went out the front door and the other out the back door.

I'll leave it to you to decide who went which way . . . again, I'm too funny for my own good.

Well, the case drags on for years and years thru what seems like endless appeals. All of this is torture for Capote, who just wants to get an ending to the story so he can finish his book. Or, so he would have you believe.

I believe, he was really more anxious to see an end to his darker side, as personified by the murderer.

In the last scene, Capote is describing the murderer's execution to his friend Harper Lee. (She's the chick who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird . . .turns out they were next door neighbors in Alabama.) He despairingly tells her, "There was nothing I could do." Or, something to that effect. And, she knowingly replied, "As if you would." Or, something like that.

Well, watch it for yourself, and see if you think I'm totally off base.