March 2014

It’s kind of bad to start so many posts with being tired, or busy, or in this case “still here”.  It’s just a side effect of my busyness.  The past three weeks at work were close to, and then over 50 hours each.  Throw in on-call and my time is pretty well taken.  I’m not complaining, mind you, just acknowledging reality.  One side effect of this reality is that we have made an additional payment on the house.  If we can keep it up, the house should be paid for in about 5 years.  That seems long when considering 50 hours per week, but it’s much better than 15 years, i guess.  On to what’s kept us out of trouble this last weekend.

Our front yard has been pathetic for the past year and a part, since we moved into this house which came with a landscaped slab of dirt.  The weeds were efficient and I spent my time mowing, when I did, to keep down the weeds.  We did grow a tuft of grass here and there, but mostly weeds and stickers.  Such joy for walking.  So much fun pulling those little burrs from the bottom of the sneakers.  Well, this past weekend, we started working on the yard in front and around the driveway.  This constituted planning the most reasonable path to the gate, and designing the walkway to match – out of stone and poured stepping stones.  Once it was decided, we obtained the material and put in the walkway.  I’m amazed how 5 hours of work can be reduced into a single sentence.  The expansion of the same would include pulling out the tiller, churning up the soil, shoveling out the topsoil, and tapering the edges.  We hauled the rock in the back of the pick-up which meant loading and unloading the stones, as well as obtained a 1/2 ton of sand to go underneath the rocks.  The 1/2 ton was so neatly dumped into the truck with a front loader, but had to be dug out by hand.  The roll of landscape fabric was then applied followed by the stepping stones and boarder with the river rock providing the finishing touch.  We continued this idea down both sides of the driveway finishing out a 12 hour day digging and pouring, and stomping.  The walkway ended up looking like this:

walkwayWe filled in the area between the boarder and the house and fence with mulch and plan to add a couple of large planters to that area.  So that’s what has kept me/us occupied recently.  May your day go pleasantly.


We received a package from siblinginbox.  It was an early gift.  I had not considered a smoker, so was quite pleased with the item.  It was well packaged including many zip ties.  The unit had multiple pieces for assembly or pans for sliding into rails.  Each was packaged with bubble wrap or boxed individually.  I inverted the unit and saw the adjustable feet mounted at the back of the unit.  These were simple bolts with large heads and an extra nut used to secure them in place once placed in the permanent site.  The first of these feet twisted out nicely, the second balked.  Saying it balked is putting it mildly.  Not being one to accept refusal quietly, I went to the garage and obtained an adjustable wrench.  The 8 inch wrench made a difference in the bolt’s attitude.  It came out, but not without removing the threads from the top half.  I guess the assembler cross-threaded the piece.  Oh well.  We have a tap and die set in the garage for such occasions.  This box joined our quartet out at the vice.  I put the cross-threaded foot in the vice and with assistance of spouseinbox, started to recut the threads in the bolt.  The procedure for this is to carefully twist the die on to the bolt, feeling for the resistance and getting the die to start cutting at the original thread location.  Remember to apply a drop of oil to lower the amount of friction on the die.  Turn the die forwards about half a turn, and then back about 90 degrees.  This cuts off the shavings that have been made by the initial twist.  Proceed in this fashion until the thread is completed.  Part way through this procedure, I noted that there were threads just above that nut and not much space available there, so I attempted to remove the nut to allow for more space to twist the die.  What I didn’t notice was that some time during our interaction with this piece of metal, a little shard had formed on the foot of the bolt.  This shard stuck up just slightly, just enough to say hi to the side of my finger.

One of our nursing procedures we perform multiple of times is an accucheck.  These are a poke of the finger to obtain a drop of blood, and then application of that blood on a testing strip to find out the concentration of sugar in the blood.  Insulin is adjusted and given according to the results.  Let’s just say I could have provided many strips worth of testing for the contribution this shard provided.  Hence the bandaid.

Today, we went to big box store and obtained some wood chips and ribs.  The wood chips are already in the smoker getting the unit ready to tantalize our taste buds this weekend.

Oh, yes, the die worked well, and we performed a similar task with the tap on the hole in the bottom of the smoker.  The foot turned in correctly – this time without an adjustable wrench.

I happily announce that the shed has a working knob and is now locked – for the first time.

Putting the action in those terms misses quite a bit of the weekend, though.  It started with the door itself.  We built the shed just slightly shorter than the average room height and as such the door was a bit shorter as well, but wider to accommodate whatever the spirit may move to take through that portal.  The door was about 43 inches wide.  This meant it had to be a custom deal.  To allow for placement of hardware and to provide a bit of heft, we utilized 2×6 for the door frame and a little insulation in the middle sandwiched between the siding similar to the shed and a piece of plywood.  I thought it was a rather substantial door, looked reasonable for the location and would be quite functional.  Then I started looking for a door handle as having a lock and hasp didn’t seem to fit the structure, so I prepared a door knob and discovered that they didn’t make them thick enough for the door construction leading to a couple of days looking and asking for something followed by my attempt to make an extension using a piece of steel tubing.  This job consisted of cutting 4 “v’s” in each end of a small tube and hammering the resulting pieces over to create a square in the end of the tubing that would match the square of the door handle.  I tried to weld the extension to a piece of the tubing I cut off the door knob and ended up melting the cut piece.  I never got the two welded together.  I now have a call into the Lowe’s to see if they can order an extender for a door knob to install.  This will replace the one we put on this evening.  I reasoned that the new one would fit in the same holes, so why not make use of the cut up one while we waited?  That led to the installation and completion of a door that will actually shut…just be sure no one is inside as the knob on that side of the door is inoperable – since the door is too thick.

I wrote our senator a bit ago with the announcement that I was posting the letter and the reply.  That reply has been received:

Thank you for contacting me regarding privacy, federal firearms laws, and the military detention and prosecution of terrorists.  I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on these important matters.
Privacy is an essential part of the freedom that makes America great.  Our Constitution protects privacy, including by securing our homes and property against unreasonable government searches and seizures.  It is the duty of Members of Congress to uphold this constitutional protection while also ensuring the safety and security of Americans.
Technological innovation has not only driven incredible economic growth in the United States, it has improved nearly every aspect of our lives.  But new technologies also make available a great deal more information about the lives of American citizens, and thus raise privacy concerns.  The same tools that enable our mobile phones to access the Internet from anywhere can be used to track those phones; unmanned aircraft systems can track terrorists and criminals, but also innocent citizens; and conducting more of our personal affairs through online tools gives companies an increasing amount of personal information.  Our laws must continue to foster technological growth, but must also respect the privacy rights of all Americans.  You may be sure that I will continue to work to ensure the privacy rights of American citizens are protected.
Secondly, as a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, I believe it is essential to safeguard the law-abiding citizen’s constitutional right to own and use firearms designed for legitimate purposes such as hunting, target shooting, collecting, and self-protection.  Restricting this right runs counter to the intent of our Founding Fathers, who expressly guaranteed that citizens would retain the right to keep and bear arms.
It is encouraging that the Supreme Court has upheld the will of our Founders and re-affirmed the ideals our country was established upon.  The Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller provides a greater guarantee that Americans’ Constitutional rights remain secure from federal government intrusion.  I was proud to sign an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in that case stating an individual’s right to bear arms is fundamental.  This historic ruling continues to have implications far beyond the District of Columbia.  In 2010, the Supreme Court decided in McDonald v. City of Chicago to strike down the arbitrary gun ban in Chicago—and thereby affirm that the Second Amendment safeguards against state and local encroachments on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.
As a former Texas Supreme Court Justice and Attorney General, I have firsthand knowledge of crime-fighting policies that work, and I believe that citizens’ Second Amendment rights should not be restricted because of the actions of criminals.  Rather, we must focus our attention on the source of violent crime: criminals who use firearms to commit crimes.  I believe that strictly enforcing the law—and meting out tougher sentences for career criminals and those who use firearms when committing crimes—will reduce crime more effectively than gun or equipment bans, which primarily serve to take firearms away from law-abiding citizens.
Finally, I do not believe terrorists should be brought to the United States and granted the same rights and privileges as American criminal defendants.  Terrorists should be kept at Guantanamo Bay and prosecuted through the military commissions established by Congress under the terms circumscribed by the United States Supreme Court.  Holding civilian trials in the United States for terrorists would do nothing more than place Americans at risk, while providing terrorists with a platform from which to spew their hate-filled ideology and recruit like-minded fanatics around the world to join them in violent jihad.  We must not forget that we are a nation at war against ruthless killers who wear no uniforms and deliberately target innocent civilians.  Treating these killers’ war crimes as ordinary criminal acts and trying them in a civilian court under the U.S. Constitution would simply be reverting to a dangerous, pre-9/11 mentality.
As you may know, Congress passed the Military Commissions Acts of 2006 and 2009, making a powerful statement that U.S. civilian courts are not the appropriate venue to bring terrorists to justice.  The military commissions were specifically designed to prevent damaging disclosures and to protect classified information, as well as sensitive sources and methods.  We know that these military commissions have a long history in our Republic—dating back from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, to World War II.  They are the most appropriate forum for terrorists to be tried for their crimes.  Furthermore, in its 2004 Hamdi v. Rumsfeld opinion, the Supreme Court recognized that, in accordance with longstanding principles under the law of war, an individual determined to be an enemy combatant, including a U.S. citizen, can be detained by the Executive Branch until the end of the military campaign against al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups.
Therefore, I supported amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY 2012 NDAA; P.L. 112-81) regarding terrorist detention practices.  It is important to note that these provisions do not extend any new legal authorities to detain U.S. citizens, rather they clarify existing authorities as utilized by the President and recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Section 1021 of the final version of the FY 2012 NDAA reaffirms the President’s indefinite detention authority under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF; P.L. 107—40).  Additionally, Section 1022 requires military detention for a certain subset of unprivileged enemy belligerents—members of al Qaeda and affiliated entities—pending their disposition under the law of war.  By its own terms, Section 1022 explicitly exempts U.S. citizens from the requirement for military detention.
Congress again revisited this issue during consideration of the FY 2013 NDAA (P.L. 112-239), which was signed into law on January 2, 2013.  Section 1029 of this legislation clarifies that nothing in the AUMF or the FY12 NDAA shall be construed to deny the writ of habeas corpus or any other constitutional rights to any person in the United States in a U.S. court.
I appreciate having the opportunity to represent Texas in the United States Senate.  Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856


I have been reading in the Old Testament these past few months and am up to Ecclesiastes.  It’s an interesting book, though sounds depressing in certain areas.  I find it so true to life in others.  The first chapter ends up with this:

14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.

17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

How’s that for an opener?  I am further into the book and noted an interesting concept related to work:

22 For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

What struck me about this passage was the note that enjoyment of labor was from the hand of God.  This led me to another consideration.  There are healings listed in the Bible, and I will pick two of them for this idea.  Here and here.

Back in those days there was no OSHA or ADA, or SSI.  Those with physical disabilities were confined to the realm of beggar.  They had their hands out for whatever was supplied from the passers by.  Those with whole bodies were expected to use those bodies to produce for themselves and their families.  10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.  Those who could labor were expected to do so.  The gift of God was the ability to enjoy good from that labor, and that was the larger gift given to the paralytics when they were healed.  They were no longer in the category of beggar.  The were able to provide for themselves and experience the joy God gives for that activity.  This is the same joy removed by government when bureaucrats take from those who are working and give to those who don’t.  A classic situation demonstrating its folly was sent to me by siblinginbox:  (I have seen the story previously, but without the sentence analysis at the end.  I don’t know where it originated.  Here is the notation from Snopes. )

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equaliser.
The professor then said “Okay, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A… (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation

I decided to make a strawberry shake.  The available items utilized were 6 strawberries, sugar, milk, salt and vanilla icecream.

I put 3/4 cup sugar in a small sauce pan and added a shake of salt.

Next, I placed the strawberries in a magic bullet and put in about 1/3 cup milk and ran it until all the strawberries were pulverized.  Add this to the sugar and salt and bring to a boil.  Stir constantly.  Boil down a bit and then cool.  I boiled it like making fudge, just not quite as long.  Cool off a bit and then it is time to add to icecream.

Mominbox used this as a sauce over a scoop of icecream.  I utilized it with a mixer to make a shake.  The end result was a mild strawberry flavor that was rather pleasing.  I will probably do this again, just increase the strawberries to 8 or 10.

Enjoy what you do, because if you do it well, you have the opportunity to do it more.

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