Sunday, September 24, 2017


We went to the new Cinépolis movie theater in Euless the other night. This is the first Cinépolis in Texas. The chain has theaters in California, Florida, and the northeast. It is located in the Glade Parks shopping center close to Dave and Buster's. The complex has twelve screens, a concession stand with a varied menu, and a full bar. I'll get to the food/bar in a little bit.

Being brand new, the whole place is very clean and has that new car smell. The auditorium we were in had what has become a fairly standard configuration. There are a few rows close to the screen, a large aisle where you enter the auditorium then several rows on a steeper angle to the back. We usually choose seats in the second or third row above the large dividing aisle. It is all reserved seating. The seats are comfortable recliners with electronic controls to adjust the recline and footrest. I'm not sure if the seats are leather or faux leather. They are very comfortable and have a swinging tray and cup holders in the arms.  

The lobby is spacious but rather stark and cold with several ticket kiosks on one end. I did not see a traditional manned box office or counter. There may be one, maybe at the concession stand but I wasn't looking for it since I bought our tickets online at their website. They have their own ticket website and do not use another site like Fandango. One problem I see is that you get one barcode sent to your phone (or to print) for the whole order. In our case, that was not a problem since it was only for two tickets and we arrived together. I'm not sure how that would work for a party of four or more who maybe show up at slightly different times but are on one ticket purchase order. I guess the whole group would have to congregate in the lobby before proceeding to the screening auditoriums. Keep that in mind when going with a group.

On the other end of the lobby are the concession stand and bar. There are also several tables in this area. We didn't go to the concession stand, but it looked like there were several ordering/cashier stations. The bar is rather small, maybe 10 stools. There were about 1½ bartenders. That wasn't a problem when we first arrived, but when I went for refills, there was a significant wait to be served. 

Here's the problem, although they have a decent food selection and a full bar, there is no wait service in the auditoriums. You have to go out to the lobby to get your food or drink. That's damn inconvenient if you want something after your movie starts. Especially if it takes some time to get through the line. I'm also not sure how they will control access to the screening area. Do you have to remember to take your ticket or phone with you when you go for a popcorn refill?

This is a new establishment, so maybe they'll work out some of my concerns. It is a nice place to watch a movie. It will be interesting to see what first run movies Cinépolis shows. One of my gripes now is that the two closest theaters usually show the same movies while other hits are at more distant or crappier theaters.

Here is our conclusion for at least the time being. If the movie we want to see is playing at the Bedford Movie Tavern or the Colleyville Studio Movie Grill, we'll go there first. They both have in theater servers that bring the order right to your seat. No missing parts of the movie while you get a refill or completely new order. Prices are comparable, the facilities are at least as nice if not nicer, the food and drink selections are about the same and the seats are just as plush. All three cinemas have multiple dining choices close by if you want to eat before or after the movie.  

Cinépolis is a nice addition to the area and if they show different movies than our favorite places, I'm sure we'll go again. 


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Home Again

We went to see Home Again. For those who know me, you realize this was not my choice. It is officially a chick flick. All I knew going in is that Reese Witherspoon was the star and that it was about a single mom and kids moving from New York City to Los Angeles. 

It was probably best that is all I knew. I had no clue that the three twenty-something housemate guys were an integral part of the story. It was a nice twist on the usual recently separated couple saga.

Reese is the single mom, Candace Bergan is Reeses mom and grandmother to the kids,   

The three young guys were a writer, actor, and director/promoter trying to sell their short film as the basis for a full-length feature. After a wild 40th birthday night out for Reese, everybody crashes at her house. They wind up enchanting Candace who suggests that they stay in Reese's guest house while trying to get established in Hollywood. After initial objections, the three guys become part of the family. One becomes Reese's lover despite, or maybe because of, a 13 year age difference. They all bond with the kids. 

Eventually, the separated husband, Michael Sheen, shows up and the mayhem ensues. There are also a few other side stories. One includes a weird, self-absorbed Lake Bell which I'm sure was easy for her to play. 

Here is the trailer. Many of the best lines are contained in these 2½ minutes. 

This is not a bad film, but it certainly isn't a great film. I think the operative word would be cute. My companion liked it more than I did but she didn't think it was great either. In fact, she thought it was cute. I would give it a C+ grade. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bedford Blues & BBQ -2017

I spent the last two evenings at the Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival. I’ve been going to this festival for several years. Thankfully, I usually get to share it with great friends. The music is always great, top line acts and always good openers. This year turned out like most others. Sunday night is the climax of the three day Labor Day weekend festival and is supposed to be the biggest name. On Saturdays and Sundays, there are acts starting around 2:00 and continuing onto about 11:00. That will cost you whopping $10 at the gate, a couple of bucks less in advance online. No better music bargain around. The mild weather was a bonus this year.

This year, Buddy Guy was the Sunday headliner. Buddy is an icon of blues and guitarists. He has influenced many of the Rock/Blues era greats, including Clapton, Hendrix, Page, etc. As has been the case for several years, the Sunday headliner is not the best performance. Buddy is good, but he is old and has tricks to extend his performance. I think he may have had a few beverages or other substances prior to going on stage. He was pretty profane and spent much time rambling and talking about the who, what, where, and when of his career. When he decided to play, it was fine, although others in his band often led. At best a good, not great performance. I've seen Buddy several times and this was probably his worst. 

Now let's get to the really good stuff. Prior to Buddy Guy on the main stage, was Marcia Ball. She is a born in Texas, raised in Louisiana musician, a solid Blues singer, and pianist. Her set was very good and probably my companion's favorite performance of the weekend. She had a solid backing band. I have seen Marcia before, as has my festival mate. She put on a great performance.

My favorite performance was the night before. Ronnie Earl was the co-headliner. His set was good. I'm not sure who she was, but the featured vocalist was great. She had a Janis Joplin quality on some songs, a little gospel on others. Good stuff.

My favorite of the weekend was Delbert McClintock. He wrapped up the Saturday lineup. As I wrote in a brief post, Delbert's voice was a little rough for the first couple of songs. Then he found his stride. His band was outstanding. A piano, two guitars, bass, drums, sax, and trumpet. Delbert added harmonica on some songs. The set was tight, very little if any talk between songs. This good ole Texas boy can still bring it. Glad I got to see this performance.

This year's BluesFest pretty much matched the other years I've been going. The Sunday night "headliner" has always been good, but never the best performance. Sometimes the highlight comes from the Saturday headliner, sometimes it comes from the Saturday of Sunday 7:00 act. 

There was one new wrinkle this year, around 8:30 on Sunday, the food vendors began to run out of food. Worse yet, a couple of the beer stands ran out of beer. That is serious. For our last round, I had to walk across the festival grounds for the only beer stand with product. It was a very good crowd on both Saturday and Sunday, but it didn't seem that much larger than other years when food and beer were not in short supply. Did I underestimate the crowd or did everybody just drink and eat more? Glad to see the vendors did well.

The Bedford Blues & BBQ Festival is always a great weekend. The music, food, and beer are always good. The crowd is friendly. Just don't only go see the Sunday headliner. Besides missing the best performances, you may have a limited choice of food and beverages.

Hope to see you there in 2018. 


Friday, September 1, 2017

Very Random Thoughts - August 2017

  • When a female gets a manicure, shouldn't it be called a womanicure?
  • Shouldn't local government office holders who pass and then defend unconstitutional laws be recalled or voted out of office? They cost their taxpaying constituents millions in legal fees and fines.
  • Are drummers mostly musicians or athletes?
  • "While supplies last", a BS marketing phrase. Believe me, they will make more if the item is selling.
  • Is it somewhat ironic that the president of Dick's is a woman?
  • Does everyone who has a terminal illness "fight a courageous battle"?
  • Appropriate for a Texas summer. In the words of the great Steven Wright - "If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?"
  • Two underused yet empowering phrases are "I don't know" and "I was wrong (or mistaken)".
  • Texas had their tax-free weekend in the middle of August. It's primarily for back to school stuff. Unfortunately, it doesn't apply to the liquor store. Don't the teachers need to stock up on booze for the school year?
  • I wonder how early in human evolution that we learned to lie? 
  • Remember when a long distance phone call was a big deal and expensive? All those family secret person-to-person codes too. Especially the one for "we made it home safely". 
  • I'm amazed at how many people apparently get most of their historical education and information from statues.
  • Many people are only for free speech when they agree with the speech.
  • Why is the call quality of an $800 2017 smartphone inferior to a 1957 rotary dial black bakelite phone? 
  • "Not available in stores", why is that? 
  • Everywhere Jim Cantore goes there is terrible weather. Keep him out of your community.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Drugs & Our (In)Justice System

I had a very enjoyable, informative, and uplifting afternoon today. Although in some ways it was frustrating because of what I heard. My podcast partner, Dennis Sherrard, and I recorded an episode today with an inspiring young woman. Her name is Sydney Friedrichs and she works for Pathfinders of Tarrant County. One of their programs is pre and post release counseling and assistance to those incarcerated for drug offenses. Sydney works with the female offenders, she has a co-worker who deals with the male offenders. 

The program is very successful. Compared to recidivism statistics for those not aided by Pathfinders, those in other states, jurisdictions or nationally, these folks rank at or near the top. Unfortunately, they can only reach a small number of those incarcerated primarily for drugs. You can hear more about the specifics of the program in Sydney's own words on the podcast. 

This post is about the stuff you didn't necessarily hear on the podcast. Dennis and I had a chance to talk with Sydney before the recording session and afterward over lunch. She has a diverse background and history, not always ideal. She is smart, articulate and most importantly, dedicated to helping others. 

For an old guy like me, this is very encouraging. We too often have only negative impressions of the younger generations. While I personally don't share those generalized views, it is nice to meet someone from those generations who truly is giving back.

I'm a Baby Boomer, one of the older ones, and overall I'm not happy with what my generation has done. We started out OK in the 1960's. We did change some social structures and norms. Unfortunately, many of us abandoned those ideals for financial security and conformity. But that's the subject for another post. 

Let's face it, drugs are a huge problem for our country. I think it is made much worse by the way we treat those who have addictions, especially how the criminal (in)justice system treats them. But again I stray from my main point.

As an old fart, I was truly inspired today. I know Sydney and her cohorts are making a valiant effort in spite of the overwhelming odds against them. We need more of these efforts which of course means more funding and acceptance by the penal and judicial systems. And of course by the public and our politicians.

Most of the young people I come in contact with are just fine. Sydney happens to be one of the outstanding ones. Give them a chance, they can't do much worse than the Boomers did.

Please, listen to the podcast. You will hear firsthand from someone on the front lines. As a society, we must do better. Please also check out the Pathfinders website to donate or help in other ways.

As always, the Two Old Guys Drinking Beer podcast is on iTunes and Google Play as well as our podcast archive website. This episode's direct link is


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Too Many Choices

I was doing a little research today to see if I can save some money by cutting my cable. It's fairly complicated to get just the right channels. Some are must haves and some are wants. But that's not specifically what this post is about. While sifting through the many TV options, I realized that we seem to have a million choices for just about everything. Let's look at some examples.

For TV viewing, we used to have three or four channels. You bought a TV, connected an antenna and turned it on. When the UHF channels came along, you may have had to get a tuner if the TV was old and maybe a different antenna but it was still basically the same deal. All the channels were free. When cable TV came along, you just disconnected the antenna and connected the cable but you had to pay the cable company. When the number of cable channels exploded plus premium channels like HBO, we needed some kind of set top box but it was still one cable connection for all the channels. The bad part was that most locations had only one cable provider, no competition and no incentive to do a good job. The original satellite dishes usually required an antenna too for local channels, that meant two connections to the TV but still only one paid provider. Now we have content providers that are only available through the internet, some free and some paid. Many people have to have a cable/satellite and an internet connection. To get the content from the internet to the TV, you need some kind of device(s) and/or a newer smart TV. That device may be a Roku, ChromeCast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, X-box, Android TV, etc. Some content is not available on all these devices so you may need more than one. You will also have to pay multiple content providers directly unless you are extremely lucky and can find one provider that bundles all the channels you want. Highly unlikely. You may also need to attach an antenna again for all the local channels. After all that, you may save a few dollars a month. It's more complicated than that in practice. We now have dozens of choices but it is not as simple as connecting one antenna or one cable provider. 

TVs and other technologies are not the only products that now have a multitude of choices. Look around the grocery store. There used to be one kind of Oreo cookie and one size package, now that website lists 178 products. There are dozens of different flavors, variations, and packaging options. The same with milk. I remember when milk came in quarts either white or chocolate. It was almost all whole milk. Now we have whole, skim, 2%, 1% and non-fat. There are almond, soy, rice, and other milks. There are various flavors and sizes for each of these. Almost any type of food now has some kind of diet or low-cal variety. There may also be an organic option and of course gluten-free and non-GMO. 

All laundry detergent used to come in a box and was loose powder. Now we have liquids, tablets, dissolvable packets, with or without bleach, numerous scents or unscented, for delicate fabrics, hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and many other choices.

Everyone used to pay for things with cash, checks, or store/company specific credit cards. Then general purpose credit cards like VISA, MasterCard, and others came along. Now we have multiple e-pay and money transfer methods, and automatic deposits in conjunction with those credit cards or bank accounts. Some don't require any line of credit or even a checking account.

Pick almost any category of product or service and there will be myriad choices and numerous ways to pay for them. Choice is usually good, but having to spend an inordinate amount of time or effort to pick the right choice is not. Having to have expert knowledge to make what should be a simple choice is troubling too. Some wrong choices can be extremely expensive, some could even be deadly. 

When choices become too complicated in an area, someone will come up with easier solutions. Take the entertainment content delivery. Up until a short time ago, the choices were limited but relatively easy. You hooked up an antenna or called the cable or satellite company. Now that streaming over the internet is available it is fragmented. If you decide to cancel your expensive cable or satellite service, you will almost certainly have to deal individually with numerous providers. New bundle options are emerging both from established delivery companies like Direct-TV and Comcast and new entries into the market like YouTube, Apple, Sling, and others. There will be more. It will remain confusing for awhile, but some providers will fall by the wayside or consolidate. I expect in the not too distant future there will be a service and/or website that you plug in your location and the channels you want and it will figure out the best options. Then we'll have to choose which of those services to pick.

On balance, more choice is usually good but do we really need nine flavors of Triscuits?

Now I'm not sure how to decide which kind of Oreos to get or what milk to dunk them in.

What products or services do you think have gone overboard?

Choices, ain't they great.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Football 2017 - Preseason

It's almost time for real football to start. The high schools and colleges are in full blown practice. The NFL is already playing pre-season games. Real games in all the categories are just a couple of weeks away. So what can we expect this season? Will your teams do well, disappoint or just be bad?

My teams are Florida, South Florida, and TCU in the college ranks. Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay in the NFL. I also keep track of the local high school, L.D. Bell and my alma mater, Bishop Kenny High School. I've been a Florida Gators fan since my youth, South Florida is my alma mater. TCU is the local college and I like that a little private school plays with the big boys. I grew up in Jacksonville and I still feel connected to the hometown. I moved to Atlanta a couple of years after the Falcons began playing. They were the first NFL games I saw in person. I also used to see the players around town, even talked with several. The attachment to the Buccaneers is because of my days living in Tampa while in college. I prefer college football over the pros. The Dallas Cowboys are the local NFL team. I feel no attachment to them although I'd just as soon see them win unless they are playing one of my favorites. A Dallas win makes many of my friends in particular and the whole area in general happy. 

So how does the upcoming season look? The Florida Gators are ranked #17 and the South Florida Bulls are # 19 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. It's unfortunate that they don't play each other this year. TCU falls just out of the Top 25 at #26. The Jaguars still look offensively challenged. The good news is that the AFC South is a weak division. The Falcons are coming off their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss and should repeat as NFC South winners. Can they shake off the disappointment and get back to the championship game? Tampa Bay should be a middle of the pack team again and on the playoff bubble. 

Overall, it looks like the same old teams at the top. Alabama, Ohio State, and FSU look to be the cream of the crop in the NCAA. New England is the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champs. 

The Gators will know what kind of team they have right off the bat. Their first game is against #11 Michigan at a neutral site, AT&T Stadium in Arlington,TX, on September 2nd. That game will be nationally televised on ABC. Their schedule also includes #13 LSU, #15 Georgia, and #3 FSU. It looks like Florida and Georgia will battle it out for the SEC East title. Maybe the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville will be the deciding game. Go Gators!
The Bulls look to have an easier time. They are the only ranked team in The American Athletic Conference (AAC). They also don't play any ranked teams in their non-conference games.
The Horned Frogs play in the Big 12 Conference, a conference with only 10 teams. They have to play #7 Oklahoma, #10 Oklahoma State, #20 Kansas State, #22 West Virginia, and #23 Texas. That's a tough schedule. 
Good luck to all my teams. Let the games begin.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Confederacy

The removal of Confederate statues and other symbols from public places, most recently in Charlottesville and New Orleans, has revived the controversy once again. It was a prominent topic a couple of years ago when South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. 

The Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations turned violent and deadly. Many white supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK members, and other troublemakers flooded the area. Most from out of town. 

I grew up in the South and have lived in the South for all but a few years of my life. I consider myself a Southerner. Still, I can not agree with those who defend having Confederate memorials on public property. At the same time, I am in full support of your right to have a Confederate flag bumper sticker, fly a confederate flag at your house or erect a statue of Robert E. Lee on private property. Even Confederate museums are worthwhile and someplace I would visit.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first. The Confederate States of America (CSA) lost the war. Those who fought for and supported the CSA were traitors to the USA. They were guilty of treason. They split from the USA to preserve slavery. South Carolina and the CSA started the war by attacking Fort Sumter. The states rights argument was only a minor factor that has been overblown to justify support of slavery. So, the CSA was on the wrong side of human rights, were traitors, and got beat. Why should we memorialize or celebrate that? 

I have read many books about the Confederacy and the Civil War. No, it was not the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression. The South started the war. It was a war by some states against the United States of America. I must admit, I was enthralled by the romance of the Civil War as a youth. It seemed like the underdog Southerners fought a brave and gallant fight against the stronger enemy. I wrote a high school term paper about Col. John S. Mosby, the Gray Ghost, the leader of the quasi-guerilla Mosby's Rangers. They were a small unit of cavalry who operated in Northern Virginia, often behind Union lines. Exciting and romantic. I was also surrounded by an atmosphere that constantly supported and propagated a view of the good Old South. Parks, streets, and schools were named after Confederate generals and statesmen. Rebels was a common school nickname and the Confederate battle flag was prominently displayed. It often felt more like the CSA won the war in many places. 

As I studied the Civil War more, my perceptions began to change. I realized that the states rights and northern aggression arguments were BS. The war was started to preserve slavery, pure and simple. Slavery is wrong. There is no way to argue your way out of that. 

The South miscalculated their strength and ability to defeat the more populous and industrialized North. Had they not started the war, slavery would have remained in effect for several more years. Except for the abolitionists, most people of the 1860's were willing to allow slavery to continue in those states it was already legal in. Their tempestuous actions actually accelerated the end of the exact thing they were trying to protect. Despite losing the war, the South tried to pretend that they won. After Reconstruction, laws were passed that came as close as possible to reinstating slavery. Segregation, poll taxes, and other laws relegated the Blacks to third class citizenship, just a couple of notches above slavery. That lasted about 100 years after the end of the Civil War. 

All those Confederate statues, parks, schools, flags, and other symbols continued to rub salt in the wounds of the Black descendants of those slaves. It's about time that the losing side in the Civil War admits that they lost. 

Do we have memorials to the British generals who lost the Revolutionary War? Would any of you Confederate flag wavers support a monument of a Nazi SS officer who killed several thousand Jews and hundreds US troops in WWII? Well, Lee and Beauregard are responsible for the death of thousands of US Troops, all under the direction of Davis. 

Put these statues, memorials and symbols on private property, document the deeds of these men in history books, historic sites, and museums. Let's not memorialize them in public places and continue to dismiss the feelings of those they sought to oppress.

What I find confusing and contradictory is that many who are ardent supporters of the Confederacy and its symbols also identify themselves as super American patriots. How does that square? The CSA was anti-American. It tried to break-up and defeat the USA. The CSA states decided that politics and discussion were not the way to make their point. Violence and war were. 

Let's never expunge the Civil War from our history. Let's also not continue to glamorize and misrepresent what the war and its aftermath were really about. What part of the Confederacy would people want to support today?

The Civil War ended on May 9, 1865. That's 152 years ago. The old, slave owning, South will not rise again. Thankfully.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glen Campbell - RIP

On August 8, 2017, we lost Glen Campbell. RIP Glen, you were a consummate musician and performer. You entertained and brought joy to millions of fans. Most of us have a favorite song of his, there are a lot of choices. 

I will admit that I never bought a Glen Campbell album or record. He was never the coolest or hottest (funny they mean the same thing) singer or recording artist. His songs were most definitely popular but never cutting edge. That is unless you actually listened to the lyrics. Glen didn't write his most famous songs, but he certainly put his mark on them. 

I was always more impressed by Glen's ability as a virtuoso guitarist. That talent became somewhat obscured when he became a popular vocalist. Just to remind those who pay attention to real musical talent, I have one fact to remind you of how good Glen was. He was a member of The Wrecking Crew. They were the premier studio session musicians of the 1960's and 70's. They were the musicians on the recordings of everyone from Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to Phil Spector and the Beach Boys. If you ever have listened to a hit song from the 60's or 70's, the odds are very good that The Wrecking Crew were the musicians on the record. They recorded hundreds of songs each year. When Brian Wilson decided to stop touring with the Beach Boys, Glen was recruited to take his spot on the road. Glen played bass and sang some of Brian's vocal parts for about four months. My guess is that having Glen play bass was a waste of his talents since he most surely was the best guitarist of that touring group. He did play guitar on the iconic Beach Boys album Pet Sounds

In 1967, Glen had the breakout hit Gentle On My Mind. From then on, he was a successful solo artist. Campbell had great success on the Country charts although he never considered himself a Country singer. As evidenced by his time with The Wrecking Crew and the Beach Boys, he just loved music and good songs. He certainly recorded several good songs. 

I won't try to document his career and discography in detail. Those interested can look up all that. In summation, Glen was a consummate musician, a popular singer, a TV star, and a movie actor. He was around for several decades. 

He had a roller coaster personal life. He battled drugs, alcohol and had some less than harmonious relationships. He seemed to have found some solace since the 80's until the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease in 2011. 

I hope he didn't suffer and that he didn't remember the last few years. 

RIP Glen Campbell. You left your mark on the world and it is a joyful and musical mark.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Steve Perry & Journey

Another one of the recent PBS pledge drive shows was Journey In Concert: Houston 1981
The title says it all. I had two main takeaways from the program. First, Journey was a terrific live band. Second, I am pissed at Steve Perry for disappearing from the public stage.

Steve Perry

In 1981, Journey was at the top of their popularity. They had just released Don't Stop Believing which has become a Rock anthem and a required song for every Rock cover band. It's often sung by female singers because few males can sing like Steve. They had the #1 album, Escape. It was a riveting performance. One version of their Best of albums contains several cuts from the Houston live concert. I have that album.

The band was formed in 1973 but didn't become popular until they hired lead singer Steve Perry in late 1977. By 1987, the band had pretty much gone their separate ways. There was a brief reunion in 1995 but that didn't last long. 

Perry did a few solo ventures while still with Journey and after '87. Unfortunately, there has been no substantial output since the mid 1990's. He occasionally shows up at a Giants baseball game or at a performance by a band he likes. Still, no new music although he has promised a new album for several years. 

The Perry/Schon version of the band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Journey has sold almost 50 million albums and 90 million records. Most of those during the Perry era. They have been through several personnel changes, mostly at lead singer. 

So why am I pissed at Steve Perry? Well, because he has or at least had one of the greatest voices ever in the Rock genre. He has power, range, a unique tone, soaring high notes that are not a falsetto. He is also an accomplished songwriter, having co-written such hits as "Oh Sherrie" for his solo career that reached #3.  "Who's Crying Now" (#4), "Open Arms" (#2), "Separate Ways" (#8), "Don't Stop Believing" (#9), and others while with Journey. 

Founding member Neil Schon, lead guitarist, and songwriter, recently said publically that he thinks he will reconnect with Perry. There is some tension within the current Journey lineup, so maybe a Perry/Schon reunion is in the cards. They were the two drivers during Journey's most productive and popular years. Schon recently said “It’s mutual we will reconnect. I know without talking to him.” 

With or without Schon, I want Steve Perry back on the music scene. Until then, I still have my recordings of all the Journey hits.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Very Random Thoughts - July 2017

  • When old, old friends meet at 4:30, does that qualify as happy hour or the early bird special?
  • Why do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?
  • Remember Miss Cleo, the TV psychic, with the 900 call-in hotline? She's dead, but there is now a California Psychics Hotline commercial on late night TV. I'm sure it is totally legit and accurate.
  • Speaking of 900 telephone numbers, do they still exist?
  • I sometimes watch a very old TV show on one of the nostalgia channels. While I remember the TV series, I don't remember many of the individual episodes. Is that because I didn't watch a lot of the original episodes or because my memory is shot?
  • How many "senior moments" can be crammed into a single day? Apparently a very high number.
  • How long exactly is a moment?
  • Many (most?) local business owners really should not do their own TV commercials. Do not include family members either.
  • OK, those Facebook "quizzes" were tolerable for awhile. They seem to have exploded and now overrun some people's posts, and my newsfeed. I've never taken one, and never will. Complete BS and clickbait.
  • Isn't it time to just recall every air bag made by Takata? A new recall every few weeks. 
  • Did you ever notice how powerful lanterns and candles were on old TV shows? One candle could light up a whole room. 

  • I was at the grocery store when a person with extremely strong and bad body odor walked by. Always the fear that the stink will linger and the next person you pass will think it is you who stinks. Same problem can happen on an elevator, BO or farts by a previous occupant who exits leaving you alone in the elevator. 
  • Do you get the impression that the people who design packaging never actually try to open it? Some require a power tool or explosives to open.
  • How come those special credit card bonus reward categories never include liquor stores? 
  • Every baseball player from Little League to the Majors looks at his glove after an error. Is it ever the glove's fault?
  • Same idea, if you play the infield, after looking at your glove you smooth out the dirt with your foot or pretend to pick up the pebble that caused the bad hop.
  • I keep hearing the expression so and so or something "broke the internet" but it always seems to be working when I check.
  • Is there such a thing as a non-practicing atheist or agnostic?  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How Do You Pronounce That?

I've lived in several places during my life. It seems every locale has a town or two that has a strange pronunciation. 

I lived in South Georgia for several years. There is a town close to the Georgia-Florida line named Cairo. Even though it is named after the capital of Egypt, it is not pronounced the same. The Georgia Cairo is pronounced kay-row, like Karo syrup. in fact, the local high school nickname is the Syrupmakers. 

Since moving to Texas, I have discovered numerous towns with what most people would consider either mispronounced or misspelled names. It's a big state with lots of counties, cities, and towns. Here are a few of them. 

  • Italy, TX - pronounced It-lee. Only two syllables.
  • Montague, TX - a county and a town, both pronounced mon-tag (long A). Again, only two syllables.
  • Waxahachie, TX - pronounced WOK-sə-HATCH-ee. There is no wax in Waxahachie.
  • Hico, TX - is pronounced with a long I. High-co. 
  • Gruene, TX - is pronounced green.
  • Boerne, TX - is pronounced burn-ee.
  • Palestine, TX - is pronounced Pal-e-steen.
I'm sure there are other pronunciation anomalies in Texas. Spanish pronunciation doesn't count. This is not the only state with mispronounced names. I have mostly lived in the southeast so those towns are what I am familiar with. 

I welcome your comments and contributions. Like surnames, there is no one correct pronunciation. 


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

No New Taxes?

I see every Republican and many Democratic office holders, politicians, and spokesmen constantly saying that we need to reduce taxes. This happens at the local, state, and federal level.

While social programs and the arts typically are the main targets of the reductions necessary to offset the reduced taxes, many other areas of government also must adapt to reduced budgets. Often these proponents of the tax reductions claim that reduction of waste and an improved economy will more than make up for the tax reductions.There will be increased real revenue from the larger, more affluent tax base. The improved efficiencies will also result in more meaningful spending.

If all that is true, why do we continue to have such huge shortfalls in revenue at every level of government? Our federal government needs to raise the country's authorized debt level every few months. That's the issue that causes all those threats to shut down the federal government. If your revenues exceed or match your spending, there is no need to assume more debt. Apparently, there is a constant revenue shortfall.

State and local governments often have balanced budget provisions in the state constitution or local charter. Yet, many still advocate lower taxes. If you can't run a deficit, what choices do you have? Either you reduce spending or you issue bonds. Those bonds come with interest rates so that the million dollars you borrow in bonds will cost well over a million dollars, maybe two or three times that original million depending on the interest rate and length. Why do state and local governments issue bonds? Mostly because they don't have enough revenue to pay for everything. There are valid reasons for bonds. Some locales are growing so fast that they need to build schools and infrastructure for all the new residents before the increased tax base is in place. Maybe to build an office, retail, or industrial park to lure a large employer and their taxes to the area.

The problem is that once the schools or infrastructure is built with bond money, the tax rates don't support the ongoing maintenance and improvements. So, the schools become overcrowded and run down, the roads don't get repaired, the water and sewer pipes rupture, the parks are not maintained. 

I continually see stories on the local news about potholes, decaying schools, fire and police equipment shortages, low teacher and government employee salaries, 50-year-old water and gas pipes bursting, and many other problems. Many profess their support for the police and firefighters yet will not vote for any tax increase to raise salaries and buy proper equipment. It's the same story at the state and federal level. There is never enough money to do the job.

Yet, during the next election cycle, many candidates will be advocating lower taxes. Our current president and GOP congress are trying to lower taxes, mostly for the rich, right now. The lower taxes, trickle down economic philosophy has been around since at least the Reagan years. That's over 30 years ago. It didn't work then and it won't work now. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the middle class becomes poorer and smaller, our deficit increases, and our infrastructure crumbles. Unless you are rich, what is good about that?

We owe it to ourselves and more importantly to our kids to fix this problem. It is selfish and unconscionable to leave the country and the world in worse shape than we inherited it in. Our parents, the Greatest Generation, passed on a much better nation and world to us. Somehow they managed to build the Interstate Highway system, build and repair other infrastructure, rebuild a robust consumer economy, fund the space program, etc. all within a fair tax structure.  

By all means, pursue efficiencies at all levels of government. Cut waste, eliminate programs that are ineffective, redundant or not needed. When that is done, fund what remains. If current tax levels don't do that, then raise taxes. 

This is not just a case of the politicians selling snake oil. The electorate must take a very big percentage of the blame. "There is no free lunch."  It was true the first time it was uttered and it is true today. Responsible, realistic fiscal policy is the only way out of the current mess.

Taxes are not evil. They fund all sorts of things we need. The military, first responders, roads, infrastructure, food safety, courts, and hundreds of other things and services we depend on every day. 

Let's stop passing the buck, or the 57¢ of the needed buck, to our future generations.


Some Assembly Required

I order a lot of stuff online. Not just Amazon but from many other sites. Most of it comes within a week or less and the prices are good. Amazon Prime is a real bargain. 

Recently, I almost met my match. The majority of stuff I buy comes fully assembled and ready to use. The biggest problem is opening the packaging, clamshells should be outlawed. Peanuts, bubble wrap, and styrofoam will swallow the earth. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a TV. All I had to do was put the feet on (four screws) and hook up the cable and a few other things. As I wrote back then, my old TV stand was too small. I ordered a new stand online. It came yesterday.

This was not my normal delivery from Amazon. First off, the UPS guy had to use a hand truck to deliver it to my door. It weighed about 90 lbs. Needless to say, some assembly required. In fact, all assembly was required. It only required a hammer and Phillips head screwdriver although, in retrospect, I would have used an electric screwdriver or drill with a Phillips bit. It took about a ½ hour to unpack and separate the parts. By my count, there were 92 parts, 40 screws, 47 nails, and 17 pages of instructions. 

After unpacking all the pieces parts, I figured I needed to at least glance at the instructions. I sometimes skip this step. I'm glad I looked this time. There were pieces that looked almost identical but weren't. It would have been easy to flip a part or two only to have had to take it apart a couple of steps further on. The assembly went fairly smoothly although it took some time. My biggest problems were age related. My knees got sore from crawling around on the floor and kneeling while assembling. My arthritic hands and broken but never properly healed elbow hurt after awhile. My thumbs are pretty much shot. As it turns out, I can not screw as much or as long as I once could. 

I got almost to the end without any real problems and then it was time to attach the doors. It was a combination of a tight fit, tight clearance and hand fatigue. Those final screws were tough to get in. It seems whenever you are sailing along and feeling confident on a project, there is always at least one gotcha at the end. The stand is now assembled and looks good. Tomorrow I will set up the TV and all the auxiliary components. Since this stand has a solid back with holes in it as opposed to an open back, I will have to disconnect all the components from their wires and cords, then thread them through the back holes and reattach. That part is easy for me. None of the stuff is heavy and I'm very comfortable with technology. It's the cabinet making that is a bit troublesome. 

A few words on delivery. I have good luck with UPS, USPS, and Amazon. The USPS guy delivers mail and packages by noon on most days. If it doesn't fit in my mailbox, there are larger package receptacles available and the mail carrier puts the key in my mailbox. Amazon almost always delivers in the morning. If I'm not here, they leave the package, most of the time on my patio which is hidden from sight. UPS usually gives me a four-hour delivery window and meets it. For example, this package was scheduled for between 1:00 and 5:00. It was delivered at 2:50. That's typical. On the other hand, FedEx gives me about an 11 or 12-hour delivery window and either miss it completely or shows up at the 11th or maybe the 13th hour. FedEx sux.

All is well except for some sore joints. The new TV and stand will be in place and any needed furniture rearrangements will be done. The finished product looks great. Again, this is not a rant or complaint, except about FedEx. It is only an observation about our impossible first world trials and tribulations.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Conspiracy?

I wrote about this recently. I had to buy a new TV and it didn't fit on my old TV stand. Yes, the new TV is bigger, but the real reason is that my old TV had a pedestal base and the new one had legs/feet near the edges of the unit. 

I went through the same scenario with a friend recently. We were able to move an old pedestal TV to a location where an even older and smaller TV had been with no problems. We had to make significant furniture changes to fit the new TV, with feet, into the vacated location. More changes will probably be coming, including the possibility of a wall mount.

In my case, I have ordered a new, larger, TV stand that will require a drastic rearrangement of my furniture in the living room/dining room area. 

Neither of us was able to find a new TV in the size we wanted with a pedestal base. Why? Even if my new TV had a pedestal twice as large as my old one, it would have fit on the old stand.

So, my question, is this a vast conspiracy between the TV and furniture manufacturers? Do the TV stand makers give the TV makers a kickback for making all their old stuff obsolete? Are pedestals being discriminated against? Probably.

I think this whole issue deserves a Congressional investigation at the minimum. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should probably be looking into anti-trust violations and collusion. Is there an anti-pedestal lobby at work?

It's too late for me and my friend. Hopefully, changes will come before you and your furniture are rendered obsolete. 

Stand up to this assault on our viewing areas. We must be strong.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Rangers at the Halfway Point - 2017

Here we are at the MLB All-Star break, the traditional halfway point of the season. It hasn’t been the greatest first half for the Rangers. The bad news is that they are two games under .500 with a 43-45 record and 16½ games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West. The good news is that they are only three games out in the wildcard race. 

It has been at best an inconsistent year. They have had both a 10 game winning streak and a 1-9 streak. There have been players who were expected to contribute who have failed. There have been surprises from young players and journeymen. 

Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Carlos Gomez, A.J. Griffin, Keone Kela, Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner, Mike Napoli, Jose Leclerc, Tyson Ross, and Jake Diekman have spent time on the Disabled List (DL). There have been few games when the best 25 players were on the active roster at the same time. Obviously, the Beltre and Hamels injuries were the most significant absences from the lineup. Beltre has played fewer than half of the games so far. Hamels missed several starts. Thankfully, they are both back to full strength now and contributing. In fact, the team is in fairly good shape on the injury front as we head into the break and the second half of the season. 

The closer coming into the season, Sam Dyson, was completely ineffective and was traded. After an outstanding 2016, Dyson started this season with 0 saves in 17 appearances, 4 blown saves, 6 losses, and a 10.80 ERA. His performances were pitiful, but it was comical to see a superstitious ballplayer try to break the jinx. He started the season with a full beard, trimmed it, turned it into a mustache and chin whiskers deal, and for his final Rangers appearance was completely clean shaven. Nothing worked.  He now plays for the Giants.

No one has been able to consistently fill the closer roll. In fact, the entire bullpen has had trouble holding and closing games. The Rangers could easily have between five and 10 more victories if the bullpen had performed at even an average level. Hopefully, the group or at least a couple of pitchers will step up in the second half. 

Almost all the starters have been inconsistent and most have spent time on the DL. Ten different pitchers have started games so far. The starting five is still in flux. One nice pitching story is Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a 32-year-old rookie who looks older, who has bounced around the minors for 12 years. He got his Major League debut and his first MLB start while here filling in for those on the DL. In 10 appearances, five starts, he had a 3-0 record and 4.04 ERA. He had a couple of quality starts when the team really needed them. He was sent down when a couple of guys came off the DL. Yoeman's work Austin.

On the offensive side, we have to use the word inconsistent again. The Rangers have gone stretches when they can't score runs and then stretches when they can't be stopped. They have scored 29 more runs than they have given up yet are still below .500. The disappointments include an overall .242 batting average which is actually way up from most of the first half. The disappointments include Jurickson Profar at .172. Profar was the #1 prospect in all of baseball a few years ago. After recovering from a shoulder injury, he has had several opportunities with the Rangers. He is an outstanding and versatile defensive player, he can play every position, except catcher and pitcher, and play it well. Even a .230 or .240 batting average and he could stick in the majors. For the umpteenth time in the past few years, Profar has been sent down to the AAA club. Ryan Rua is in the same boat. He gets a chance with the big club every year and fails to hit. This year he hit .202 and is now also at AAA Round Rock. Another young guy, Joey Gallo, is batting .194 but he gets to stay because he leads the club with 21 HRs, has 41 RBI and also hits majestic 450' HRs. He filled in admirably at 3rd for Beltre the first few weeks of the season. He now platoons at 1st with Mike Napoli. Napoli is our other power hitter who is batting .194. He has 18 HRs and 39 RBIs. Power is good, but a few more singles would also be welcomed. Rougned Odor, our young starting 2nd baseman, signed a big contract in the offseason. He has had an off year so far, batting only .240 with 17 HRs and 40 RBIs. His bat has shown some improvement in the last couple of weeks. Our other young star, Nomar Mazara, has been up and down. He was Player of the Week early in the season and sported a batting average well over .300. He has come back to earth with a .258 BA, 12 HRs, and a team-leading 56 RBIs for the first half. Delino DeShields has also forced his way into the starting lineup with .286 BA, .344 OBP, and 19 SBs. His speed is disruptive.

The left half of the infield has been solid with the veterans Beltre and Elvis Andrus. Since returning from the DL, Beltre's stats are .283 BA, 7 HRs, and 27 RBIs in only 35 games. Andrus is leading the team with a .300 BA, .318 BA with RISP. He also has 11 HRs, a career season high, 50 RBIs and 20 SBs. As usual, they are both superb defensively. I have said this many times in the past and will say it many times in the future, Adrian Beltre is a joy to watch. His field antics with Elvis Andrus makes it even more joyful. Watch them if you get a chance.
With a hopefully healthy second half, the Rangers have a chance to get into the playoffs as a wildcard. The AL West is out of reach. Houston enters the All-Star break with 60 wins, one of only 10 teams in history to do that. They are dominant this season, like the Cubs of 2016. 

In the AL West, the Angels and Rangers are tied for second place 16½ games behind the Astros, the Mariners are 17½ out in fourth place, and the A's are probably done at 21 games out.

All is not lost for the Rangers. It has been extremely frustrating to watch them this season. All the late-inning blown games, the stretches of futility at the plate, and the number of injuries especially to the pitching staff. Jon Daniels, the Rangers GM, has said that they will not be sellers this year. He also didn't say that they would be buyers. Hopefully, he adds at least a solid arm or two to the bullpen.

Regardless of the final season outcome, I will remain a dedicated fan. I invested too many years in very bad teams in a terrible stadium to let a poor half season deter me.