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|Wednesday, September 10th, 2008|
|Happy Birthday, Pop
Today is my father’s birthday, who is hitting the three-quarter century mark. But this is a poignant stamp of time in my life, as well.
On this day in 1993, all of my family and a good collection of my dad’s friends, assembled from his various paths of life had gathered for a surprise 60th birthday party for him. I recall so well all of the special steps that had been orchestrated to make everything just right.
My brother and I took special care to move the cars of the party attendees, parking them around the corner from Mom and Pop’s house, so when he came home from work that afternoon, he didn’t know what was up. Everybody milled around the covered back porch and pool area, getting ready for him to come home. The icing on the cake was that two of his best friends had driven in from North Dakota just to be there and they would be the last to pop up and say “Surprise.”
It was also that day, fifteen years ago that I last saw Pop’s face. The good thing for him is that, to me, he looks the same today as he did that day when he received his assorted collection of black balloons and other “Over The Hill” items for his birthday. In my mind’s eye, he hasn’t aged a day since then, even though I personally know how much he has slowed since then.
I’m not wanting to get too reflective here, but just wanted to mark time and celebrate the growth we’ve both made in our lives since then. It was the events that followed on Oct. 9, almost one month to the day after his surprise party that all our lives took a wicked and unexpected twist, changing us forever. All of us in our family have come a long ways since then and that is what we should recognize, not any negative downsides of the aging process.
To that end, Pop, I wish you a happy 75th. And I’m very proud to be your son.
|Monday, August 18th, 2008|
|Looking for half sister
I’ve been on a search for a half sister for the past several months and the returns have been pretty fruitless to this point. So, I turn to the power of the internet in hopes of locating her.
Her name at the time of her birth was Deborah, or perhaps Debra Jones, born in late 1958 or early 1959. I believe that she was born in Leesville, Louisiana. Her mother’s name was Marie Jones.
She has a sister, perhaps half-sister, named Shirley, whose last name may or not be Jones.
The father’s name on Deborah’s birth certificate most likely is that of Marie’s husband, who was not around during the time Marie became pregnant and whose name is unknown to me.
Marie Jones and my father Bobby Graham met in Leesville, Louisiana. Marie worked at The Barn, a bar owned by J.L. and Margo O’Bannion.
I’ve looked over the birth records in the Leesville Leader from July 1958 to April 1959. The earlier date was the last time my father saw Marie, when he shipped out overseas with the U.S. Army. She was noticeably pregnant at that time, which is the reason I looked over birth records that far into 1959. There were no listings in the Leesville Leader showing that Marie Jones gave birth during that time. I don’t know what else to do, so I am posting here so that maybe the search engines pick this up and the right person reads it.
I would like to make contact with my half-sister, or find out where she is today. Anybody who can help in this matter can email me firstname.lastname@example.org
(Explanation: I live in Houston and psycho in that address references my field of study-- psychology. I'm not a psycho!)
|Thursday, October 18th, 2007|
|Hotel Review: Scottish Inns and Suites Memphis violates state and federal access law for guide dogs
On my recent trip to Pigeon Forge with my parents, we planned our way home to include overnight stops in Nashville and Memphis. As we arrived just outside of Memphis, we stopped at a burger restaurant to have lunch. While I ate lunch, I reflected on how good the trip had been as far as accessibility with my Seeing Eye Dog Boise. In the previous six days, I had not experienced even one question about my right to access any of the many hotels, shows, restaurants, and shops that we had visited.
Well, I spoke too soon.
When we got into Memphis, our sole destination was Graceland. We wanted a hotel that was nearby and found the Scottish Inns and Suites on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Initially, it seemed like a good idea. However, after my mom came back to the car, she told Pop and I how much the room had cost, “Plus $15 for Boise.” I was incredulous. Mom said she had told the woman who checked her in that he was a guide dog, but she was told that this didn‘t matter, it was the hotel’s policy. Mom had asked to speak to the owner, but was told he was out of the country. I made plans to go to the office and talk to the manager about this matter. While this may not have been discrimination, it was illegal.
It is illegal in all 50 states to charge a deposit or fee for a blind person who is traveling with a guide dog to have access to housing accommodations. I did a little research to find the specific state law regarding this matter and had Mom write it down for me.
I later went to the office and spoke to Ms. Patel, the manager on duty, who was the same woman who had charged Mom the fee. She was on the phone, talking in what appeared to be a personal conversation. I introduced myself, presenting my Seeing Eye identification card, and requested she refund the money. I handed her the piece of paper with the Tennessee state law regarding access and advised her that she was breaking the law. She seemed genuinely surprised and replied, “No, I’m not. It is the hotel’s policy, not mine.” She pointed to a sign on the desk as her point of reference. My dad was with me and read the sign aloud. It was the hotel’s pet policy, which stated that they were a “pet-friendly” hotel and gave the quoted rate of $15 per night for people to have their pets in their rooms.
I pointed out to Ms. Patel that Boise was a service dog, not a pet, and was covered in the state law I had just informed her about, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act. I advised her that she was breaking state and federal laws by charging this fee and again requested that she refund the $15 to my mother. I also advised her that as an official agent of the hotel, she would be personally named in any complaint I filed.
Ms. Patel said she would need to talk to somebody and to see her when we checked out in the morning. While I was still standing there, she then picked up the phone and went back to her conversation, ignoring anything else I had to say and apparently disregarding what I had just said.
When my father and I arrived in the office in the morning, the night manager was still on duty. She had no knowledge about what had transpired or that we were due a reply or the $15 fee. She pressed a button on the phone and then left out a side door. A few moments later, she reappeared and said, “I’m going to go ahead and refund you the money.” She did require that I write and sign a receipt for the money, which I did.
My complaint against this hotel is two-fold. First, the woman who is the manager should know the laws regarding service dog access. This is the 21st century and this is not a new concept. The Seeing Eye has been providing their dogs to American citizens for about 80 years.
Secondly, when informed of the law, she shouldn’t have acted so unconcerned and nonchalant. If informed that they are breaking the law, I would think most people would look into it immediately, not put it off without looking into it. She shouldn’t have charged the fee in the first place, but when she was advised by somebody who has an obvious reason to be more versed on access laws, she should give some credence to what they are saying.
One may ask why I didn’t file a complaint with the hotel. There was a sign inside our room that stated that each hotel is privately owned and operated. So, while it may appear that this is part of a national chain, it is only a privately owned franchise and the corporate headquarters are hard to find for Scottish Inns and Suites. On a previous trip, I encountered similar access problems at a national chain. A follow-up letter to the President of the company produced a very apologetic phone call from the affected hotel’s manager and a voucher for a free night’s stay at any of the hotel’s nation-wide locations. More than that, it caused that manager to train his staff on the law at what is traditionally a “No pets” hotel.
I had considered writing the owner of this hotel and air my complaints about this situation to him. However, being he was out of the country, and the night manager informed me that he “basically lives in Scotland,” I assumed that he would not be concerned what had transpired in what was only an apparent business investment for him.
While I achieved the resolution I was seeking in the refund, I shouldn’t have had to ask for it, much less fight for it. It is illegal for any hotel to do this and just because they give the money back doesn’t make it right that they did it in the first place. Anybody with a service or assistance dog should avoid this hotel at all costs. I have a feeling that the money was refunded to me only to get me to shut up and go away. Well, I went away, but I’m not being quiet about it.
|Thursday, October 11th, 2007|
|New blog for the 516th Engineer Company Reunion
A couple of weeks ago, I returned from my dad’s military reunion in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
One of the neatest things that happened there was that I came up with an idea to help the soldiers who had been in this company and wanted to find the reunion group. At first, my idea was to get a domain and put up a web site, but then I thought it might work better if we just got a blog. So, that’s the idea I pitched to the group. Of course, I had to explain what a blog is as some of them didn’t know what a web log was, but when I finished my pitch, everybody was all for the idea. So, there is now a blog for the516th Engineer Company Reunion.
Here is what the heading states:
The purpose of this web log is to act as an informational resource for the U.S. Army soldiers who served with the 516th Engineer Company on Pioneer Kaserne in Hanau, Germany, active 1942-1993.
So far, the blog has worked well. In just its first week of existence, there were three emails from soldiers inquiring about the group. Two of these had served with the 516th and the other with a sister company.
Hopefully, this blog will help others find the group. It really is a lot of fun getting together with this bunch of guys. Even though I didn’t serve in the military and am associated only as an Army Brat, they took me as one of their own last year when I first attended with my dad.
|Sunday, August 5th, 2007|
|Underdog and advertising overlords
Never fear…you know who is here.”
Well, I’ve got to hand it to the marketing masterminds at Disney. They have a finely tuned and well funded promotional team at work for them.
My point of reference is the just-released movie Underdog. I’m in my mid-40s and remember this show on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. That was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since then, the only time I saw or heard of Underdog was an ad that used to run in the back of Rolling Stone or other similar publications featuring a rumpled Underdog character on the front of a t-shirt or sweatshirt.
Now, here we are in 2007 and I’ve got a 5-year old son who is leaping with his favorite stuffies, saying, “Underdog is here.” It isn’t just playing it once or twice, he does this several times during the day, or at least says that line. This isn’t even taking into account how animated he gets when those movie trailers come on television.
Where has he heard about Underdog if the cartoon hasn’t been running on the regular kid vid channels? That leaves only the heavy media blitz Disney has been using to promote this film. And, smartly, they have been running the ads on not only the kid channels like Disney and Nickelodeon, but also on about any other local outlet they could buy advertising space from, which means most of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the movie sounds like a fun romp and I want to make sure I’m with the little dude when he goes to see it. I’m just seeing how Disney has resurrected an old Saturday morning cartoon with a likeable character and given it a new and, most notably, live action representation to build a whole new following for Underdog.
I don’t know how much the advertising budget was for this movie, but it was no doubt in the millions, as they have really saturated the television channels with the various trailers of the movie. I also feel certain that they will see a big return for the advertisement investment. If this movie scores big at the box office, which I predict it will, I’d say we’re in for more Underdog movies. Who knows, they might already be filming the sequel as you read this, just banking on the success of the initial launch.
The bottom line is this, if you invest heavily to build a name and have the bucks to fund the onslaught of advertising it will take to do this, you can probably bank on success. Add to this that when you work to bring about loyalty fueled by the patronage of the parents with familiar ties to the character, then you could probably make and sell anything that strikes the nerve of fond, nostalgic reminiscence.
Underdog marketing is not alone. Austin can easily sing along with other familiar jingles that have bombared his young mind. One of his favorites is a Dodge truck ad that says, “Bigger in Texas, better in a Dodge.” When that ad’s opening sounds play, he will jump up and say, “Daddy, our song.” I don’t recall when that became our song, but it no doubt has become such. I have also noticed him chiming in with the “Thanks, By Owner” ads.
The above examples are just more proof of what advertisers know very well. Kids minds are like sponges. Throw something at them that appeals to them and they are going to remember it. And, when it comes down to it, these kids are going to grab mommy and daddy by the wallet and head out to find the product.
|Wednesday, July 25th, 2007|
|Much past due OGV update
A new OGV post is way past due. So much has been going on, so where do I begin?
Let me try to start by updating you on what is going on here at OGV house and see what rambles out of that.
The last post here was about the zoo at the beginning of May. Since that time, Austin has finished his pre-k school program and is ready for the fall, when he will begin kindergarten with his peers. That was our goal when he began school two years ago to catch him up on his language development. His progress is due to lots of hard work on his part, in addition to the great love and support of his teachers at both of his schools. Sure, Mrs. OGV and myself have had our end to hold up at home, but the real work was done by the little prince.
To demonstrate the advances in his language skills, I think back to that time when he began school back in Seabrook. He over generalized colors when asked what color things were, he told me everything was green. Yes, the grass was green and so were the leaves on the trees, but so was his yellow school bus and our raspberry colored SUV. Now, he loves looking at different colors and naming them. His counting has advanced so much more than the post I made so long ago, when he wanted me to count while I pushed him in the swing, to now, when he can not only count from one to twenty and beyond on his own, but he can also spell the words for the numbers one through six. He has so much drive to learn that he makes teaching him easy.
One of the best teaching tools for Austin has been his best friend Fatcat. To the uninformed, Fatcat is the stuffed cat Austin made on our Caribbeaen cruise last Thanksgiving. Okay, I confess, I am the voice of Fatcat, but Austin has been taken with this stuffie like he has been with nothing else. Not only would he want to go to sleep with Fatcat, but Austin would have Fatcat sit on the couch with him as he got ready for school in the mornings. Then, when he got home from school, we would walk in the door and Austin would announce, “Fatcat, I’m home.” He would run to the couch and give Fatcat a big hug. He talked to Fatcat regularly and I began to speak for Fatcat in a deep, gruff voice. The conversations Austin would have with his friend were similar to those a boy would have with another childhis own age. I quickly realized the opportunities this presented for helping Austin learn and worked to maximize this.
When Austin would get home from school, he would take off his backpack and yell to Fatcat, but when I asked him how his day was at school, his reply was only, “Good.” Nothing else was offered and to get any details, I had to query him like an attorney. Very often, his replies were cursory, one word answers. However, I realized his conversations with Fatcat were longer and more interactive than he would have with me.
Soon, Fatcat began to ask Austin about his day at school. The difference in answers were dramatic. He wanted to talk to Fatcat and would tell him much more than he told me. I ran with this idea and Fatcat was soon singing songs to teach Austin how to spell the stuffie’s name. After Austin caught onto that very quickly, Fatcat used the same tune to teach him to spell Austin, then Graham. Fatcat later taught him another song that was the phone number song, so that he could be prepared for starting kindergarten.
Now, just because Fatcat is his best friend, don’t think the old cat has the life of Riley. Austin likes to play pretty rough and one of his favorite past times is fighting Fatcat. He slams and hits that stuffed cat on a regular basis. Still, when Austin falls or does something else that hurts, guess what can bring him comfort like nothing else? Many times, he has been comforted by Fatcat and, he will say, “Fatcat, I love you.” Sure, Austin loves to be cuddled by his parents, but he generally manages to make sure his best friend is included in a group hug.
Anyhow, I could go on and on about Fatcat. He goes on many trips with Austin, whether it is to Oma and Pop’s house four hours away or just five minutes away to his Grammy’s house, he regularly takes his Fatcat. He’s even gotten the best of his parents a few times and got them to get Fatcat a few costumes. Let’s see… first there was the Houston Rockets jersey, followed by the football uniform. Then there were also Superman and Spiderman costumes. Out of all the toys he has, I don’t think there is another one that has given Austin the joy and play that Fatcat has.
Outside of life with Fatcat, we’ve maintained a busy schedule this summer. We began with a trip to Cancun for five days at the beginning of summer. Mrs. OGV got out of school on June 1 and early on the morning of June 3, we were flying south to kickstart our summer. It was a fun and sunny getaway that was a total de-stresser for all of us. We followed up the next weekend with a Graham family reunion where we all visited with my uncles and cousins.
The next weekend was my birthday and Father’s Day, for which the Mrs. Whisked me off to Lake Charles for a weekend of play. We grabbed a concert by the 1980s heart throb Rick Springfield. I thought the concert was going to be good, but thought it would hit me like sitting through Air Supply’s greatest hits. How wrong I was about that. Old Rick rocked a lot harder than I thought he would. He actually plays a really good rock guitar.
Since that time, we have gone out of town only once to visit my family for the 4th of July. Actually it was the weekend after the 4th, but who’s minding the details?! During the summer, Austin has been going to a day camp at a kid’s gym This has given him the one thing his teacher recommended we get him over the summer, interaction with kids his own age. Because he is an only child and his youngest cousin is three years older, the camp was also the perfect solution for us to give him this. He’s really enjoyed the play and structured activities the gym has provided. On top of that, he’s made a few more friends.
So, here we are almost at the end of July and still have a few weeks left of summer vacation. We are keeping our eyes peeled for maybe another quick getaway before school starts once again. I’m not sure what this might be, but feel we will definitely do something in another week or two. I’ll let you know when we figure out what it is.
Until then, this is
|Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007|
|Life is a zoo
The weather here this past weekend was warm and humid enough to tip towards the verge of being downright muggy. So, guess when we had a family outing to the Houston Zoo? Yep, we went there and got a feel of what is to come for summer weather. I’ve never been to the Houston Zoo before. Mrs. OGV has been there before, but that was about 19 or 20 years ago for her, and Austin went when he was very young, maybe 1 or 2, with the babysitter. Mendy figured the zoo had changed a good bit since she was last there and Austin doesn’t remember ever going.
How our trip came about was very spontaneous. On Friday evening, Austin and I were watching the 5 o’clock news while we waited for the Mrs. to come home from work. The news had a story about two tiger brothers who were turning 8 and the zoo was having a party for them. Austin said he wanted to go to the zoo. I thought about our weekend schedule. There was nothing planned on Saturday, but Sunday we had church and then a friend’s son was having his 4th birthday. I told Austin we might be able to talk Mommy into going to the zoo, but he’d have to be really sweet to her. He delivered and the plan was set in place.
I can’t recall ever seeing Austin getting so excited about anything, then sustaining that excitement level. It reminded me of myself when I was a kid and we went to my great aunt’s house. I knew the next day we were going up to Six Flags in Dallas. I was about Austin’s age, 5 or 6, and was so excited, I had a hard time going to sleep thinking about our big adventure the next day.
On Saturday morning, Austin got up and walked out to me in the office, where I was finishing my coffee and reading the Chronicle. He crawled up in my lap and cuddled with me. This is something he used to do regularly, but in the last several months, he has preferred spending Saturday mornings staying in bed with Mommy. After he shifted a couple of times, he told me he wanted to take a bath. Again, this is something he usually prefers to do with Mommy, not by himself, especially on Saturday mornings.
I took him to the tub, passing by the still sleeping Mrs. While he was playing in the tub, I told him it was Saturday, something we do almost every day to help him put the days of the week in perspective. He just smiled and said, “Yes. Today is Saturday. We go to the zoo today!”
The fact that he could recall our planned trip was very significant for him. He usually doesn’t recall plans such as this without prompting, but he sure did that morning. I’ve got to admit it, our boy is growing up. Sigh!
It was a really good trip. We spent about two hours there, letting him see all the animals and taking as long as he wanted at each one. He stayed excited about each new animal we saw, even if he didn’t know exactly what each one was.
He began the voyage into the zoo by getting excited by a variety of birds. This was a far sight better than his reaction about a year and a half ago when he was scared of the parrots at one park we went to in Miami. Of course, he loved the big animals, like the elephants and giraffes. He even really liked the longhorn cattle that were on display. He was really looking forward to seeing some of the big cats, to which end, he wasn’t disappointed.
Even though we didn’t see the tiger brothers we had seen on the news, he did see a lion, a cougar and a jaguar. The lion was sleeping and I couldn’t help but do my best impersonation of the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I don’t think anybody truly appreciates my singing abilities. When he saw the jaguar, Austin was really interested, making the comparison to the Baby Jaguar character in the Diego cartoon he loves to watch.
Austin seemed to think it was interesting that there was a Speckled Bear there too. By far, his most entertaining part was the last thing we saw, the monkeys in the primate exhibit. As we strolled along, he excitedly pointed out the different monkeys he spotted.
All in all, it was a lot of fun. When we were heading towards the gift shop on our way out of the zoo, I heard somebody say, “Ron,” from behind me. I tapped Mendy on the shoulder to tell her and that person called out, “Mendy.” We turned around and it was a couple who we last saw maybe six years ago. That was when we attended their wedding near Dallas.
I had met Kim at a drug free youth camp the summer of the year I metMrs. OGV . She was an 18 year old high school senior who was also volunteering at the drug camp. Kim and I hit it off really well and stayed in touch for several years. We lost contact a few years ago while she was working at a Houston area school district as a teacher for visually impaired children. The last bit of news I remember us sharing was that we had gotten Austin home and Kim and John had each gotten a pet dog.
My, my, how things change. They got to meet Austin for the first time and he’s now 5. They have since gotten rid of both dogs, replacing them with a 2 year old daughter and 1 year old son. As if those two children weren’t enough, Kim’s also pregnant again. Oh, these kids grow up so fast!
At the Jimmy Buffett concert last week, my friend Susan had said something about the event being our mutual post-surgery coming out party last week. (Susan had hip replacement surgery late last year). I have to admit that I walked my tail off at the zoo Saturday, making last week’s concert in the ballpark nothing but a walk in the park, literally! On top of that, the day was hot and muggy. But, all that was a footnote. I was at the zoo with my darling wife and very excited son. It was a really great day, one that Austin is still talking about several days later.
|Wednesday, April 25th, 2007|
|Reflections on Jimmy Buffett concert
I want to share our experience this past weekend at the Jimmy Buffett concert. Maybe, the better word for that would be carnival, because his shows draw a crowd together that you’re not going to find anywhere else. The ages of concert-goers ranged from the late teens to somewhere in the 60s and 70s. It was truly a gathering of generations. And, many of those generational members donned the appropriate gear of Parrothead (as Buffet’s fans are affectionately known). This gear included Hawaiian shirts, leis, grass skirts, and coconut bras. The men were as prone to wear any or all of this stuff as the women. If you’re a Parrothead, you already know this, though.
An additional feature of this concert was the opening act, Robert Earl Keen. Just having an opening act is unique for Buffett, but having Texas’s own Robert Earl Keen was a real treat, especially for me as he is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I’ve been a fan of REK for about ten years now and have seen him at least three times before this one. The only difference in the past performances is that at those, he was the headliner, two of those being daylong concerts with many other Texas singer/songwriters, and the last time being a REK concert at the Historic 1892 Opera House in Galveston.
Never had I ever thought that Robert Earl would be an opening act. However, this was a great gathering for REK to put his music out to a whole bunch of music fans that would not usually otherwise hear him. Being the venue for this show was Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros play, gave REK the opportunity to share his down home musical philosophy with a whole lot more music fans than he might have ever had before him at any given time. Estimates of the gate said that attendance was about 40,000.
Our seats were on the floor, as were more than 8,000 of our closest friends. It was all assigned seating and the field of Minute Maid had an elevated flooring system that let us all get out there and also keep the field intact for the ‘Stros when they return for their next game.
The acoustics of a ball field are different than the standard concert hall. We had to adjust our listening, if that makes any sense. It was sort of like a filtering we had to adjust to, to compensate for the echo bouncing off the sides of the stadium. I had never been to the park, so I had no idea what to expect acoustically. When REK promptly took the stage at 7:30, though, it became clear that I had to tweak my listening.
While REK has a catalog of several albums behind him, including four live albums, and a fan base that is as loyal as a hunter’s favorite hound, he still lacks name recognition by many music fans. That’s a real shame, as he’s a fine musician and a great showman who loves to perform for these fans. The shortened stage time meant that he had to pick his songs carefully so he could present his best to this large mass of potential new fan base. For the REK faithful, though, it meant they got to hear choice live cuts of some of their favorite REK tunes.
He first jumped out with 1998’s Feeling good again, and quickly transitioned into the similarly rythmed Gringo Honeymoon. He then burned through songs spanning different periods of his career including Mr. Wolf and Mamabear, Merry Christmas from the Family, Corpus Christi Bay, and Amarillo Highway. Of course, as any die-hard REK fan knows, he finished with a fine presentation of his jamming, storytelling tune The Road Goes on Forever.
All in all, those who were REK fans before the night just got enough to hunger for more. For the uninitiated, though, they got a good sampling of what his regular shows give his fans. There are some concerts when I can take or leave the opening acts, but this one was a must see for me. And, I’m glad I was there for it! Like REK said when he led into Merry Christmas, “The next song is a slow song that we normally don’t play this time of year, but we usually don’t play at a ballpark in front of 40,000 people.” Good choice of both words and song, Robert Earl!
As for Mr. Buffett, I’ve been to one of his shows once before, about 11 years ago. It was at a smaller venue, the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas. Because of that, I had some idea about what a circus-like atmosphere the show can be. I had told Mrs. OGV and our friends Susan and John about the festivities that surround the show. I think my description was a good start, but still fell a little short in grasping the festive atmosphere that is a Jimmy Buffett show.
It was a special night for Houston Buffett fans. We haven’t had one of his concerts in the Bayou City in several years and he made up for it in grand style. We were the opening city of his Bama Breeze tour. (Bama Breeze is the country-tinged lead-off song on his latest album, Take the Weather With You.)
He started off the show with a nod to another Texas musical gem, Willie Nelson’s On the Road. He then hit all of his fan favoritesmaking sure to interact with his fans between songs. He played Fins early as well as Volcano, amid many other faves.
I have one gripe about his show that bugged me. During the second half of his show, which was presented without his usual mid-show intermission, he threw out a string of several new songs from the latest album. In a string of about six songs, there was only one that I recognized in the middle of it. I believe it would have been a better presentation to intersperse the new songs throughout the show instead of having a big chunk right together.
Then again, I’m just a fan, what do I know about the music business? He’s probably got mega-honcho types on staff who analyze this stuff and they’ve figured this is the best way to present new music that’s unfamiliar to those who don’t have the new album. After all, this is a tour promoting the new album, so he needs to sing a good selection of the new stuff.
Anyhow, following the slew of new material, he followed up with several more of his signature songs. I knew that the show wasn’t over before he played what is probably his best-known song Margaritaville. Once it played, though, I knew that the end could come at any time. And, so it did.
Like at any other concert, once Jimmy left the stage, the crowd kept clapping, calling for an encore. Like at any other concert, he gave them one. He came back out and played three more songs, leading off with his tropical version of the CSN song Southern Star. As that song finished, we made our way up the many steps from the floor. As I told Mrs. OGV, if he plays two more songs, we can be up the stairs and at the door exit before the main crowd converges on the stairway. He gave me what I needed and it was perfect timing.
I was at physical therapy yesterday and talked about the Buffett concert with John, my therapist. John is about 30-ish and had been a student of my brother in law several years ago back when he coached at the junior high level. John said he didn’t go to the show, but his father did. Ohmygosh! I think that’s another thing that is typical of Parrotheads, we’re an aging bunch.
Still, it was an event not to be missed. Like Mrs. OGV said, it was one of the best concerts we’ve been to. That about sums it up.
|Tuesday, March 13th, 2007|
|Surgery recovery update
It has been way too long since I’ve posted anything on OGV and I’m going to change that right now.
I am still progressing in my surgery recovery. I am now 7 weeks post surgery and had the walking cast removed one week ago. I had my first physical therapy session yesterday. I’ll undergo PT three times a week, for four weeks. The biggest trick is to train the nerve that usually pushed down my right foot to think differently. It now needs to understand that when a signal is sent to it, that I want it to pull the foot up, not push it down.
I’ve been made to understand that this will be slow work. However, after my first PT session, I am feeling encouraged. John, my therapist, did some light work with the foot and ankle yesterday. In one of these, he had me lie back on the elevated mat and he pushed the foot up, as if the foot were being normally raised. I tried to help, but that muscle isn’t working yet. When he had it raised, he slowly let go, letting the foot fall. My job was to try to hold the foot in the raised position. It felt futile as he repeated this exercise for about twenty reps. Finally, at the end, it felt like I was actually holding it up just a little bit. He could see my leg relax when I stopped trying. This is one of the main exercises that is going to help train that nerve to learn its new job. This felt like some real success on this first day of therapy.
There were several other exercises he had me do, some with the foot and others with the right leg. I was there for just at an hour, the last ten minutes of which included a cool wrap to help reduce the swelling in the ankle. That felt really soothing after doing the exercises.
The fact that the swelling is still present seven weeks post-op has really surprised me. It was really noticeable yesterday and John said we need to get the swelling to go away for proper healing to begin. He explained that when a joint is swollen, it sends a signal to the nervous system and brain that it is not ready to begin working and they respond accordingly by not providing the support they would otherwise have in place. It made sense when he told me, and I hope this does now when I’ve explained it here.
Today, the swelling seemed to be worse. I’m thinking that maybe the PT aggravated the ankle, more so than just walking on it has in previous days. I’m working on keeping the foot elevated and icing it down to get the swelling down. Hopefully this will work in short order. From the way it has been today, I’m worrying a bit about it. After getting up this morning with a noticeable reduction in the swelling, it was swollen bigger than ever three hours later. I have kep the foot elevated and iced down all afternoon, even missing out on going out with the MRS and little prince. While the swelling has gone down some this evening, it is still pretty large.
Yesterday, after going to PT, the three of us went to a girl’s soccer game at the local high school. The reason we went was two-fold. First, the opposing team was the school from where Mrs. OGV teaches and she knew several of the girls. The long-time girlfriend of one of our nephews was also playing for the home team.
While we watched the game, our nephew showed up and sat by us. His girlfriend’s parents also sat next to our small group. He introduced us and we made some small talk. I said something about having just left physical therapy following a recent surgical procedure. The mom seemed interested in the subject and I explained that it was to help me fix the foot drop and hopefully get out of the brace I’ve worn for 13 years.
The mom then surprised me. She asked me, “Oh, do you have an AFO?” The term AFO is not something that a lot of people know, so her bringing It up was what surprised me. (The term AFO is an abbreviation for the type of brace I have, an ankle foot orthesis.) I usually call mine a brace, because most folks don’t know what an AFO is. I figured she knew somebody else with one of these assistive devices and tried not to make too much about her comment.
However, she totally blew me away by her next question after I told her that it was an AFO. She asked, “Oh, did you have a tendon transfer?”
I can’t imagine my face when she asked this. I know my eyebrows raised noticeably and I think my jaw dropped. I believe that my head shook in disbelief as this woman I had never met asked me out of the blue about this obscure procedure that I had never heard about before a couple of months ago, and I only learned about it after doing research into a similar operation I had read about. Nobody that I’ve explained this procedure to had ever heard of it and these include some very knowledgeable folks.
I looked in the direction of this woman’s face. I acknowledged her question with an awestruck “Yes,” but had to ask her how she knew of this procedure.
She laughed, Oh, I’m a therapist. I know the language.” After a little more Q&A between us, I learned she has been a physical therapist for 26 years. That also explained her knowing about the AFO.
I should’ve known.
That is the long and short of what is going on with the surgery. Still not much evidence of the muscle working yet, but with time and dedication to the PT, I should hopefully report some positive news in the coming weeks.
As for the family, we’re all out on spring break this week. We’re not doing anything like a trip or something like that. One of us has physical therapy to go to! We’re hoping things will look a lot better trip-wise for the summer.
|Tuesday, February 13th, 2007|
|Texas governor's son hired by firm dad consulted
I usually don’t do politics on OGV, but when something isn’t smelling too good, I think it needs airing out.
So, let’s air some stuff out…
Governor Rick Perry, aka Governor Goodhair, of the great Lone Star State, is currently contemplating selling our state lottery. UBS, one of the large financial firms he has consulted about the sale, hired Governor Perry’s son
to work in its Dallas office two weeks ago.
Hmmm, do you smell that? Stinks doesn’t it?
Governor Perry and UBS can say all they want about there being no connection between these two actions, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test. I also find flaw in the governor’s son Griffin for poor taste in seeking employment with a firm that has a lot of business potentially in front of his father.
While there may not have been any impropriety done on anybody’s part, it just doesn’t look right.
So, let’s have a sensory review of this whole thing.
Smell. The odor of this deal is stinking up the joint.
Taste. The governor’s son has none.
Visual. This whole deal doesn’t look right.
Touch. Borrowing from randy Jackson of American Idol…I’m just not feeling it, dog!
Feel free to add your own thoughts on this.
|Thursday, February 1st, 2007|
|One week down, one to go
Good whatever time of the day it is,
Its been just over a week since I had my much-anticipated tendon transfer surgery. I’m recovering quite nicely and am eagerly looking forward to my return visit to the doctor’s office in five days. At that visit, the doc will check out the results of his handiwork and see what two weeks of no weight bearing has done to help the site heal. He’ll also replace the protective boot on my lower calf and foot with a walking cast. Then I’ll get to see how much I can bear on my healing foot and what level of activity I’ll be able to engage in.
I knew going into this procedure that the hardest part of my recovery would be the first two weeks. I learned early on after my accident just how difficult being immobile for me is. How much I prefer to be up walking on my own two feet rather than being confined to a chair has been highlighted to me all over again this past eight days. While others may not always see it, this has really shown to me where my impatience lies.
I’m getting around the house pretty well using a combination of crutches and my wheeled office chair. The crutches are used in the bedroom to get to the bathroom during the night and to get to the bedroom door in the morning. At the door, I get into the office chair and push myself around the main areas of the house. Thankfully, we have hardwood floors in the living room and dining areas and ceramic tile in the kitchen and hall leading to the front bathroom. I am able to get around all of these areas without any problems. When I want to get on the computer, I go to the entrance of my study on the far side of the living room and stand on one foot to slide the chair onto the carpet of the study. I then push the chair against the carpeted resistance to the mat by the desk.
I had anticipated having my computer to help me pass the down time. However, that plan was complicated by a series of events. First, just two days after the surgery, my pc’s hard drive crashed. I had backed up my files onto the backup internal secondary hard drive a few weeks ago, so I wasn’t too panicked. Then the tech who came to the house said that it was my backup drive that had crashed and made the primary drive jam up. Gulp! She needed to reinstall Windows on the primary drive and removed the backup drive. With this, she was able to save all my files on the primary drive. WhooHoo!
However, she had installed Windows XP Pro, while I had been using XP Home. The difference was that my JAWS screen reader license was only good for XP Home. I had to run my repaired pc in the 40-minute demo mode of JAWS. What this means is that I had to reboot the computer every 40 minutes to run JAWS. If you’ve never done this, you have no idea how limiting and frustrating this can be.
My father in law was very generous and offered to buy me a new computer. He reasoned that if I was going to need to upgrade my JAWS license, then I should want to run it on a newer, more stable machine that ran the latest edition of XP. He asked me for the specs of what I would want on a new computer, then went out and bought one. The one thing I told him that was not a selling point to me was the then-soon-to-be-released Windows Vista operating system. I don’t like to be a guinea pig, working out bugs on compatibility concerns between new operating systems and JAWS, so I tend to be a slow adopter of these. Not only did he go out and buy it, he brought it to the house and set it up as well. The new computer had the latest incarnation of the Intel dual core processor, giving me blazing processing speed, and a full 2 Gigs of RAM, all combining to give me a smooth operating experience.
All went well on the new machine until the first time I tried to boot it up after it was set up. My Norton antivirus program encountered some problem when it was downloading updates and could not complete its scheduled mission. Then, as a result, the Norton program kept me from downloading any of my email and also barred me from doing some downloading from the web. I wasn’t planning on keeping Norton past the 60-day free trial period that it came with on my new machine, but hadn’t planned on terminating the program just two days into the initialization. However, that is just what I did. I uninstalled Norton and installed the AVG Internet Security package after reading up some recent notes on Wayne’s blog when he decided to get away from the resource hog called Norton.
Things are running much better now. AVG is easy to use and the whole package plays nice with JAWS. A day after I changed antivirus programs, I was able to download the upgrade for JAWS and didn’t have to do the 40-minutes at a time thing any longer. I also got all my files from the old pc off the portable hard drive I had backed them onto after the tech installed XP Pro the main hard drive. This included more than 60 megabytes of mp3 music files. Now, I’m flying with my new machine, running Windows Media Center, with dual hard drives with more than 600 Megabytes of combined storage capacity.
The only other thing I needed to change out was the Internet Explorer web browser. The new machine surprisingly came with version 6 of IE, not the latest, safer and easier to use, IE7. After piddling around for a couple of days with the older, clunky IE6, I got IE7 put in today and instantly loved having tab browsing and RSS feed in my web browser once again. I realize that I haven’t been using IE7 that long on the old machine, but I’ve really come to love the ease of use it offers. Instead of going through my favorites each time I wanted to check on my favorite blogs, I just hit one keystroke and check my RSS feeds in IE7. I missed that instantly once I lost the IE7 install on the old drive and this was again repeated on the new machine’s default browser.
Okay, so you don’t think I’m just griping and complaining, I do have some positive things to say. Mom is here and helping out around the house. She tends to Austin and Boise, as well as to myself. She’s cooked several days already and I still have nearly another week of being immobile, so who knows how much weight I’m gonna slap on while she’s here!
It really is going good and recovery is going as planned. It has just taken some turns in the boredom distraction department which I hadn’t planned on with the pc crash and subsequent installation of the new computer. Its nice to have Mom spend some quantity, as well as quality, time with Austin. I’m all for being pampered and taken care of. Why can’t get this treatment when I’m up and able?
Oh, yes, one more thing. Today is Feb. 1, 2007, the tenth anniversary of the day that Mrs. OGV and I first met at a youth leadership conference in San Antonio. Its been a sweet ride, hon. Here’s to many more!
|Tuesday, January 16th, 2007|
|Six Man, Texas: more than just a film
A unique aspect of the Friday Night Lights in Texas is the small stage, namely six man football.
If you’re like many and unfamiliar with six-man football, let me share a bit with you. In small communities where they don’t have the enrollment to sustain a typical team with 11 players on each side of the ball, there remains a designation that allows for a school to have a six-man squad. In Texas, there are more than 100 such schools. It is a unique slice of the pie where the play and rules vary from the norm. First, many of the kids play on both sides of the ball out of necessity. Secondly, these games are frequently very high-scoring events with final scores resembling basketball scores. Finally, the specificrule variations
are very different than what you are used to with conventional high school football.
Two rule variations that exist in six-man that stand out to me are: The field is typically 80 yards long instead of the standard 100; and, teams must advance the ball 15 yards in four downs to get a first down, instead of the usual 10 yards.
My reason for blogging about this today is that I just read about an upcoming movie, by Texas-based NEVERTOOLATE Films, about six-man football in Texas called, aptly enough,Six Man, Texas.
I’ve been to one six-man game in my life and I’ll never forget it, even though it happened more than 14 years ago. It was in Silverton, TX up in the panhandle, where I was visiting with a couple of good friends. It captured the spirit of what the game is all about, and from what the film’s web site leads me to believe, exactly what the film is depicting.
The movie’s web site offers the following two paragraphs to describe the film:
“Although there are many similarities among the more than 120 Texas towns whose small public high schools play Six Man Football, the film highlights the story of two schools, Three Way School in the far western region of the South Plains and Aquilla in Central Texas. Both schools are metaphors for Texas' shrinking rural economy.”
“The film focuses on public schools because they are such a vital part of small-town culture. At one time in America, public schools were the backbone of the educational system; in Six Man towns, they still are. The film highlights the many similarities among the towns whose small high schools play the game. Those similarities seem to create a community of towns united by their common priorities, the school and a passionate commitment to their children. It is as if there exists a state within a state, the state of Six Man, Texas.”
Oh, and if you need another reason to check out their web site, there is a link titled “Free Stuff” that will get you just that for the asking. I clicked on the email link to ask for mine and was surprised that it was for Alan Barber, the filmmaker responsible for the project. I quickly wrote out my request and included my memories of the game I had witnessed in Silverton and how the sense of community was as obvious as the smaller team size. An even bigger surprise in this day of impersonal, corporate dominance was that I had a reply later that day from Mr. Barber himself thanking me for sharing my personal reflections. He also said they were considering creating a blog about the film and passing along some people’s stories and memories about six-man football. So, check out the site, send in an email and share your story if you have one as well.
As a big fan of Texas high school football and with the warm memories of my one six-man game, I can’t wait to see what the film has to offer.
|Monday, January 15th, 2007|
|The things we do for our kids
Yesterday, the Mrs. and I took the little prince to see the stars of one of his favorite television shows from the Disney Channel, The DoodleBops. The show was in Beaumont, which is just over an hour and a half away. Yes, there was a Houston show, but when Mrs. OGV tried to buy tickets, the only ones available were nosebleed. Besides, to see the show in the Bayou City would have taken about an hour to get to the theater from our home, so the drive wasn’t that much of a difference. When that show had been virtually sold out, Mrs. OGV kept checking on the pending Beaumont date to jump on the best seats when they became available. We wound up having second row seats at center stage—not too shabby for the extra 30-minute drive.
When we got to the show, there was about 15 minutes before show time. Let me rephrase. That was after we got there and then spent a little while and several bucks in the line at the overpriced souvenir table. When we made it to our seats, she decided it was a great time to let Mr. Austin go to the bathroom, lest he decide in the middle of the show he had to go. The worst-case scenario would have been that he had to go during the show, but was having too much of a good time to notice and only told us when it was too late. Supermom wasn’t going to let that happen, so she took him for one last stop before the show.
In the restroom, she overheard some of the other moms talking. One of them had a bunch of souvenirs and commented, “Oh, the things we do for our kids.” Mrs. OGV thought to herself, “Tell me about it.” No, she wasn’t thinking about her efforts in trying to get the best tickets she could. She wasn’t thinking about driving that extra 30 minutes or so to get to this show. No, it was the extra effort we had made as a family.
The other women looked at her neon pink hair, sprayed to match the female singer Dee Dee Doodle. They then noticed Austin had orange hair like Moe Doodle, the break dancing drummer of the group. Being I was seated in our seat during the nature break, the women didn’t notice I had electric blue hair so I could complete our family group by having locks that matched Rooney, the guitarist of the bunch.
Yes, I agree-- the things we do for our kids.
We heard several comments about our hair from the moment we stepped out of our Trailblazer in the Civic Center parking lot. Kids thought we were pretty cool. One mom at the show asked the Mrs. where we got this done, believing we had gotten our hair sprayed at some booth there at the show. She said she wanted to get her son’s sprayed like this, but I guess she had to do without as we didn’t bring the washable hairspray with us. Even when the show was over, people were commenting about our hair. It was a total hoot.
However, the truly coolest acknowledgement came at the very end of the show. The group was about to “Get on the Bus” (a signature song of theirs and also how they left the stage) and were saying their farewells to their adoring, young fans. While Dee Dee was bidding adieu, she looked the Mrs. right in the eyes and spoke into her microphone for the entire audience to hear, “Nice hair,” then winked at Mrs. OGV and hopped on the bus.
When we got home and got settled in, we realized we had beaten the cold front to Houston. Whew! We didn’t want to get into the wicked storms that were forecast to lead that front into town. We also realized we still had our colored hair and each of us went to wash it out. I must admit I was surprised how easily it came out in one shampooing. We’re all back to our normal hair colors.
In the past, we’ve taken Austin to a few different shows including two Sesame Street Live shows and the Ringling Bros. Circus, but this was, by far, the most he’s enjoyed himself at any of these. He was so excited when the show began. He was grinning from ear to ear, anxiously kicking the front/bottom of his seat when the Bops came out on stage. He sang along with many of the songs. (Admission: So did I! That’s what I get for listening to the DoodleBops CD with Austin many times over the past several months.) Austin danced and waved at the performers when they were right in front of us. It was a total blast for him.
Toward the end of the show, the Mrs. asked me if I was enjoying the show. My answer was simple. “They’ve made my son very happy, so I’m really enjoying it.”
On the way out of the Civic Center, Austin was walking about a step ahead of us. They had DoodleBops tunes loudly playing the songs without the vocal tracks over the loudspeakers throughout the arena, and the exiting crowd was talking, combining to create a din that made it hard to hear my son when he spoke to me. But, when he turned and proudly said, “I loved this show!” I heard him loud and clear. That’s what I needed to hear. I don’t know if Austin could see the huge, warm smile that came across my face when he said that. Those four little words made all the extra effort worthwhile.
This was one of those days that we’ll always have as a memory for our family. Thanks DoodleBops.
|Friday, January 12th, 2007|
|New year means new hope for OGV
Soon, I’ll be undergoing a surgical procedure that will affect the rest of my life in one of two ways. Ever since my life changing accident thirteen years ago, I have had to deal with a nerve condition called Foot Drop. From the injury I received in my right knee, I damaged the sciatic nerve and it no longer works to raise the foot. Whenever I take a step with that foot, I have to raise the leg higher than usual because the foot cannot raise itself-- hence, the condition’s name.
I have worn an assistive brace on this foot for the past thirteen years that helps raise the foot when I walk, but, while it helps me walk safely, it has its downside as well. The brace, called an ankle-foot orthesis or AFO, is L-shaped and hinged with springs to assist in lifting the foot when I walk. It is kept in place by a velcroed strap at the top of the device, which goes around the top of my calf, and another velcro strap that goes over the top of my foot. The straps have to be pulled very tight to keep the AFO in place and this means that it can get uncomfortable after a long period, especially the one that goes across the top of my foot.
One more thing is that the brace causes my shoe size to go up on that one foot. This translates into buying two pairs of shoes every time I buy new shoes, one a size 13 to accommodate the AFO and also a size 12 for the other foot. This always leaves me with a pair of shoes that don’t match and that I can’t wear.
A recent Houston Chronicle article told about a University of Texas lineman who had received a similar injury in an auto accident that left him with foot drop. The first prognosis was that he would be lucky to ever walk again, and they offered virtually no hope that he would ever play football again. He and his family would not take no for an answer and he was able to connect with another doctor who had pioneered a procedure where a tendon is transplanted from a cadaver. This young man underwent a tendon transplant to restore mobility to the leg with Foot Drop and he played his senior year at full tilt this past fall.
After reading this news story, I followed his medical trail by contacting the doctor who had performed his surgery. That doctor’s nurse told me that I was not a candidate for that surgery, as it had to be performed within six months of the injury. Being I was thirteen years out from my injury, I told her I understood. She did, however, recommend another surgery that may offer hope for me and referred me to a specialist who performed this procedure.
Before I called the doctor’s office, I figured I should do my homework and see what this doc was about. It turned out that he is an ankle/foot specialist who works with many of the Houston Rockets and Dynamo, our professional basketball and soccer teams respectively, as well as the Houston Ballet. I figured if these professionals can trust their million dollar feet to this man, then I should be able to do the same. So, I called a made my appointment.
On the phone, I asked his clerk if she knew of any time line within which the surgery had to be performed. She said she didn’t know of any and that the doctor had performed the operation on some people several years after their initial injury. I told her mine was thirteen years ago and she said, “Oh. I don’t think anybody has been that long after their injury. But, come on in and let’s see what the doctor says.”
I went in to see the doctor to see if I was actually a candidate for this procedure. He checked out the foot and asked about my medical history. He said the key is that the muscle tissue has not been damaged and mine appeared to be intact.
He also explained the procedure to me. He said the sciatic nerve comes down to the foot and splits into two tendons, one goes to the inside of the foot and the other to the outside. The inside tendon causes the muscles there to push the foot down and pullit inside. The outer tendon raises the foot and pulls the foot outward. He said my outer tendon is not working and that this procedure takes the good tendon and transfers it to the other side to work the muscles. This explains why the muscles must be intact. He also said that the inside has other muscles and nerves that will continue to work to support the muscles without the moved tendon so there will be no lapse in strength what has been the strong side of the foot.
He deemed me a good prospect for this surgery, but cautioned that this isn’t a guarantee. They are having an 80-85% success rate with this surgery. I reasoned that if I didn’t have the surgery, I would be wearing the AFO for the rest of my life. So, if I happen to be in the 15-20% of the cases where this doesn’t work, I’m no worse off than if I didn’t have it. I told the doc I had one question: “Where do I sign up?”
That was right after Thanksgiving. I had my pre-surgery physical this week and will have the operation in a week and a half. The doctor who performed my physical is also another one associated with professional athletes. According to his Methodist Hospital web site, he is the team physician to the Houston Texans, Rockets, and Astros. Borrowing a sports metaphor, I’m batting a thousand when it comes to lining up quality physicians.
The procedure will take about an hour and a half. I’ll go home in a cast that same day and cannot bear weight for two weeks. Following this, I will wear a cast for another six weeks. After that, I will still wear the AFO for another 12-18 months while the muscles in the foot build up. The doctor told me that these muscles strengthen very slowly, so to be patient. Wearing the AFO will protect the newly formed connections that will allow the nerve to innervate the muscle and make my foot operate as it is supposed to.
As you can probably guess, I’m excited about the prospect of what this can mean for me. I live with some moderate pain every day. Its just something I thought I’d have to live with and have learned to tolerate the discomfort. From the time I get up in the morning to the time I lie down at night, I deal with discomfort and am constantly repositioning my foot throughout the day so that I can find some level of comfort. I hadn’t even thought about how much I did this until I read that article.
When I discussed this procedure with my various family members, I told them that, due to the pain, this Foot Drop bothered me more than being blind. Think about it. Being blind doesn’t hurt…unless I run into something. The Foot Drop causes me a constant pain daily. Besides, having the ability to fully use my foot will give me stability I have not known since being blinded.
I’ve had three surgeries since I left the Lubbock hospital in January of 1994. Two of these were to repair bone/joint problems that occurred from the same knee injury that damaged the sciatic nerve and caused the Foot Drop. Perhaps I’m minimizing how much these surgeries meant when they took place, but I don’t think I was as excited about getting any of those like I am about this procedure. Maybe that has to do with the settling I’ve done with for so long just to walk.
And, don’t worry too much about me. Mom is coming down for a spell to help out while I’m at the non-weight bearing stage. I’ve got a ball of energy named Austin and an equally energetic hound that will need some things I won’t be able to give them for a little while. Maybe I’ll be able to play on her sympathies and talk her into cooking one or two of my favorite meals that she makes.
I’ll be back with more after the surgery and keep you up on how I’m progressing.
Till I get back, stay safe and, with the coming cold front threatening to bring sleet and ice even to the Bayou City, stay warm out there!
|Wednesday, December 27th, 2006|
|Reflections on Christmas and fatherhood
The date is now two days beyond Christmas, but my stomach is still trying to put this year’s feasts and festivities behind it. We here at OGV house have had a most blessed and enjoyable Christmas with both sides of the family. We have literally eaten our way through a six-day road trip that included one quick overnight at OGV house followed by a speedy departure Christmas morning, enjoying fabulous foods all along the way.
With all that said, I hope that each of you have been able to appreciate the same joy of family that we have. The only thing that could have made this better would have been to have my sister and her family here. That would have capped everything off really well.
A couple of thoughts occurred to me while I was on this road trip that I want to share with you. Both of them revolved around being a father.
Just before Christmas, while we were visiting my parents and brother in Central Texas, my brother received a day planner from the local dry cleaners when he picked up his laundry. There was one particular sentence offered among the collection of quotes in the planner that stood out to me. This one was one that Bill Cosby offered in his book Fatherhood.
“Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap on a rope.”
I didn’t get soap on a rope this year, but I did get a gift from Austin that he picked out for me. He gave me a new coffee cup for Christmas that is emblazoned with the words “No. 1 Dad.” (He gets extra points in the sucking up to daddy department!) Contrary to Mr. Cosby’s words of wisdom, I don’t have to pretend. I have a new favorite coffee cup, even if it only holds half the amount of the larger mug I’ve used for several years. Even if it means I have to get up twice as much to drink the same amount of coffee each day, I’ll use this coffee cup every day. ..until he gets me another one that will, no doubt, become my new favorite.
The second thought involves something I’ve learned while trying to motivate a child. I have learned to used different techniques to get Austin to do tasks such as cleaning up, paying attention, or going to the potty. One of my tools is to say to him, in my most commanding and assertive Daddy voice, “Austin, I’m going to count to three and you better start (doing whatever the targeted task is) by the time I get to three.”
This technique worked well for a short while. Then Austin really began to love counting. Oftentimes, when I try to do this now, Austin will answer by saying, “No daddy. Count to ten.” He’s so happy that I want to play the counting game that he wants to count with me and go beyond the simple little one, two, three that has become so passe.
This was followed up with a final step last night, when I was putting him to bed. He didn’t want to hear any bed time stories. He wanted to count. He went up to 30, then told me he wanted to go on. I think we made it to 78. One of us fell asleep. I think it was him, but am not sure. I was pretty drowsy and that’s the last number I can remember saying with him.
Anyhow, these are some of my favorite memories from this year. I hope your Christmas was also very joyous and you have memories of your own to recall.
|Thursday, December 21st, 2006|
|Matilda Ziegler Magazine goes on-line
The latest offering of theMatilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind,
an on-line version of the publication, is a decision which is past due and notable, but the web verification process leaves me a bit curious.
I am personally very pleased with the magazine’s editors for embracing the advent of technology and the internet as accessible media, but their decision to produce an on-line version comes at a time when many blind people have been on-line for several years already. Perhaps I shouldn’t ding them for this as this decision may have been a hard fought and protracted legal battle to present copyrighted material on the internet.
However, given this potential premise, I would think the editors would ensure access is granted to only those who have some form of registration with the site, much like their other versions are mailed out. This would ensure that only verified blind readers are getting their material and cover any question legalaties, I would think. On-line, this could be easily achieved with a registration process where readers would log on using a user ID and password, much like thousands of other web sites already do. However, the Ziegler has curiously made their magazine accessible with only a single mouse click on a dialogue box stating, “ By clicking, I certify that I am legally blind.”
On the surface, this might meet the letter of the law for verification, but I would think that, given the historical tenacity of publisher’s to protect their printed works, the publishers of the magazine’s original copyrighted content would press diligently for tighter access controls.
A personal note: When I hit the escape key instead of the enter key on the dialogue box, the page of content loaded just as if I had clicked the verification that I was legally blind. Maybe this is a fluke in the web page’s development, but I would think that by pressing escape would cancel the requested page to load. Instead, it lets someone who basically says, “Oh, no. I’m not legally blind,” gain the very access the site is attempting to control.
I have been a subscriber and reader of the Ziegler for many years. With my personal love for the magazine, I’ve been surprised with the large number of blind people I’ve met that have never even heard of this fine publication. I personally believe that the magazine works hard to present articles that have broad appeal and are interesting to a broad scope of readers. There are always included humor pieces at the end and a reader’s forum.
With all this said, I hope my above comments don’t come across as negative of the publication. I think it is a fine magazine and applaud any efforts to maximize its readership. I am just scratching my head over their seemingly flawed access control to copyrighted material.
For the uninformed, The Ziegler, as it is commonly referred to by its readers, is a monthly magazine produced for the blind in an alternate format; braille, 4-track cassette, floppy disk, email, and, in the latest offering, an on-line version. The magazine began production in 1907 by its namesake matriarch and is a collection of recently published articles in popular magazines reviewed and gathered by the Ziegler editors, and then produced in an accessible format for the target audience.
According to the magazine’s web site:
“The magazine's peak circulation was reached in 1936, when its three editions went to 12,400 readers. Despite the many new channels of entertainment and information now accessible to blind people, circulation is as high as it has ever been since then. Almost 10,500 names are on the subscription list, with almost 4,500 taking the braille edition, and more than 6,000 taking the four-track cassette.
With the above referenced number of braille subscribers, the Ziegler Magazine claims to have the largest braille circulation of any secular publication, which makes it worth noting in its own right.
While tightening the access controls to the on-line material may initially cause some to grumble about setting up another on-line registration, it will show a good faith effort of the Ziegler to respect the copyrighted material. If changes occur, then both access to copyrighted works can be restricted and another accessible format can be offered blind readers.
|Wednesday, December 20th, 2006|
|Who would you be?
Monday night, Samuel L. Jackson was on the Tonight Show and told host Jay Leno something that caused me to think and I feel compelled to post it here. He said that if he could be anybody else, he would choose to be Tiger Woods and then went on to explain why.
This got me to thinking…given the opportunity, who would I want to be. More than who, I pondered why I would choose to be that person.
I thought this was an incredibly thought provoking subject and that’s why I wanted to post it here. I’ll explain whom I chose in a moment, but who would you want to be?
Don’t forget to say why.
I don’t know if that thought provoker has rules, like if the person has to be living or dead, or if you get to be that person for a particular moment in time or if you would just assume the rest of that person’s life. Or, can you be somebody for a particular moment in time? Or, does that person have to be somebody living today or could you go back in time and live in another period?
I discussed this topic with some family members while heading to dinner last night. My father in law thoughtfully said, “If I had to live the rest of the person’s life, then I’d pick a baby.” Mrs. OGV said she wouldn’t necessarily want to be Mother Theresa, but she would like to be somebody who gets to spend some time with the noted and renowned nun, just to understand her insight on life and people.
For me, when considering the subject, I let my mind run. I first thought that I would love to be Sammy Hagar, a rock singer I’ve been a fan of since I first heard him at a concert in my high school years. I used to think it would be so cool to be this guy who went from venue to venue, singing the songs I loved. This feeling was magnified when he joined the already monster rock group Van Halen, which was one of my favorite groups. When that first happened, I thought how cool it would be to get to hang out with that band. I’ve read a lot about Sammy and followed his career from his early days with Montrose, to a successful solo career, to VH front man, and then again to being a solo artist once more. Along the way, he also opened The Cabo Wabo Cantina, a restaurant/concert venue and popular destination in the tourist city Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I think his creative processes and business acumen would only be rivaled by the joy of performing his songs in concert, living out the mantra of discovering something you love to do and then finding a way to get paid for it.
However, after a few seconds of reflection, I discounted that selection as being very one dimensional and rooted in the rebellious and raucous male self from the days of my youth that has rumbled secretly inside of the calm and conservative me that everybody else has seen most of my life. I would need more depth for this venture.
Then I thought about Jimmy Buffett. His life presents a situation very similar to that of Sammy Hagar, but goes beyond it in many ways. Buffett is a musician who has crafted a unique cultural place and developed attributes that I think would be great to have in my own life. Aside from still being a top concert draw throughout a thirty-plus year career, regularly bringing out tens of thousands of ParrotHeads from coast to coast, he has also done so much more to transcend the musical landscape. He has authored several books, including a novel, a collection of short stories and an autobiography. He has co-written a Broadway musical, Stop the Carnival. He has successfully launched an international string of his Jimmy Buffett’ Margaritaville Cantina theme restaurants. Additionally, he has launched a line of frozen foods from these restaurants marketed under the Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville brand.
Those are an overview of his personal accomplishments, but he has always worked to redefine who he is. He began his life living near the Mississippi River and developed a love for boats and sailing. He incorporated that love into his music and launched the laidback Key West sound to pop music with his two chart hits in the 1970s, Come Monday and Margaritaville. Outside of those two songs he wasn’t known by a large part of the American public. Still, he persevered. He continued building his musical following to grow into the entertainment magnate he is today. Along the way, he took his love for boats and made the natural transition to a love for seaplanes that can both fly and land on water.
Then when all that had been done, he recreated his musical styling to fit a natural target, the contemporary country music fan. He partnered with some of the biggest names in Nashville and got his first professional award for his work, an ACM award for his song “Its Five O’clock Somewhere,” a duet he recorded with Alan Jackson.
Along the way, he has continued to put on the major production concerts his fans have come to love. Whether it is the banana-shaped air cannon shooting rolled up t-shirts into the cheering crowd, or the carnival atmosphere that his the Buffett show, or if it is the intermission featuring Buffett’s home movies of flying in his personal seaplane, he has continued to give his fans what they want. And they keep buying, which means he is doing it right.
All the while, he still gets to come out on stage wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops, singing the songs he loves and doing what he started more than three decades ago.
Yes, this is who I’d love to be. More for the life he has led, though, than where he is heading. He’s older than me and I’d much rather prefer to have my years ahead of me than his.
Now, that choice is made on the assumption of being one person for their life. That choice would be different for me if I chose one person to be at a particular moment in time. If that were the choice, I would love to have been Neil Armstrong when he first walked on the moon. What a wonderful and unique feeling that must have been. What an incredible place in history to hold. All that and he got paid to do it!
Now, what about you? Who would you be and why? Rules don’t exist. It could be somebody alive or dead, for a particular moment of time or for his or her entire life.
Please tell. As the old television ads used to say, “Inquiring minds want to know!”
And, if I don’t get to say it to you personally, Merry Christmas! I hope the spirit of the holidays bless each of you and your families.
|Tuesday, December 12th, 2006|
|Some bad news, but lots of good for Texas football
This past weekend was a sad one for Texas football fans, in one sense. I say this as a fan of both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys.
Vince Young, the rookie quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, handed the Texans their lunch when he capped a comeback by personally scrambling for a 39-yard touchdown in overtime. That last, best effort on VY’s part was somewhat of a signature thing he was known for in his years leading the Texas Longhorns to a national championship this past January. When the NFL draft came around, scores of Texans fans called for Vince as the obvious choice for the Texans #1
draft selection. Besides being the heralded champion hero of the Longhorns, Vince first got attention in the Houston area when he played QB at Houston’s Madison High. So, I’m sure it was a sweet thumb Vince got to stick in the Texan’s eye when it was his valiant scramble that was the difference maker in his homecoming game on Sunday.
Before the Texans were formed, I was raised a Cowboys fan. As a result, I’m always cheering on the Boys…unless it is that once every fourth year game where they play the Texans. I still feel their pain any time they lose and Sunday night was no different. After the Texans’ heartbreaking loss, I was hoping for solace from quarterback Tony Romo and the rest of the Pokes.
Their opponent was the feel-good team of the season, the New Orleans Saints. BTW, the Saints have the other much-ballyhooed rookie this year, Heisman winner Reggie Bush, who other Texans fans felt we should’ve drafted if we weren’t going to take Vince Young. The Saints were an impressive force, dismantling the usually stalwart Dallas defense, upending the Cowboys 42-17.
In the opening paragraph of this post, I said it was a sad weekend for Texas football. That one sense is for the two professional teams. In another sense, fans of Texas high school football really had many points to celebrate because some of our best young players are out there taking the national spotlight.
In the Monday sports section of the Houston Chronicle, three of the six featured sports articles on the news page were about NFL games of the previous day. Each of those three headlines prominently featured the name of a former Texas high school football standout. Aside from Vince Young, whom I’ve already said played at Houston Madison, there was also Drew Brees (QB for the Saints) and San Diego Charger’s star running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Brees led the Saints in the offensive field day at the Cowboys expense. He played his high school ball at Austin Westlake. Before Sunday’s game, he recalled the last time he played in the Cowboys’ home, Texas Stadium. It was when he quarterbacked the Westlake team to the state 5A championship.
Tomlinson, or LT, as he is commonly referred to, made headlines for breaking the record for the number of touchdowns scored in a single season by a player. He scored #29
on Sunday, surpassing the mark of 28 set last year by Sean Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks. What really gets my attention is that there are still three more weeks in the regular season and he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down. That means he will probably raise that bar a good bit higher before he’s done this year. LT played high school football in Waco. He still goes back there in the summers and runs a camp for teens to work on their football skills.
So, like I said, while it might have been a bad weekend for the Texas professional teams, our brand of football is all over the place in the professional league. Continuing that tradition, I will proudly brag on my hometown Copperas Cove Bulldawgs. For the first time in school history, they are playing for the state championship this Saturday in the Alamodome. It is the first year the Dawgs are playing in 4A, but I think it is more a proper fit for them than 5A. Like my sister commented when I told her how the team was doing, “See what they can do when placed in the right division.”
|Friday, December 1st, 2006|
|It is not one world
One of my favorite radio commentators for many years has been the one and only Paul Harvey. He has a phrase he likes to use when highlighting cultural differences in a news story. He likes to finish those stories with the phrase, “It is not one world.”
The implication is clear—just because we do things a certain way here in the U.S. or in what we think of as the civilized world doesn’t mean that this is the only point of view on a matter.
For instance, in a news article in today’s edition of the Houston Chronicle, anImporter wants to put cuy on a Houston restaurant’s menu.
I notice you scratching your head, wondering why this story makes me recall Mr. Harvey’s statement. The answer lies in understanding the language and eating habits of the people of Peru. Cuy is Peruvian for guinea pig. Yes, those little rodents that are synonomous with lab rats that get experimented upon are considered dining fare in Peru. Yes, those are the same kind of furry little critters so many American kids have for pets.
“According to the article:
In Peru, and a few other South American nations, a guinea pig is more a source of protein than a pet, especially for the poor who live in the highlands where the animals are raised. Cooks at humble restaurants often offer visitors a meal of fresh roasted guinea pig.”
“To many Americans, this dish may sound as unappetizing as eating grasshoppers in Mexico, snakes in some Asian countries or even blood pudding, or black pudding, in England.”
I can personally attest to trying some new things. I’ve previously dined at a Brazilian steakhouse a couple of times here in Houston and thought, while a bit pricey, the steaks they serve with fried plantain chips were very fine fare. You can call me closed minded if you wish, but I just don’t anticipate that I’ll ever want to try this other cuisine from their South American neighbor.
Key the mic and speak up Mr. Harvey…”It is not one world.”
|Thursday, November 30th, 2006|
|Winter is here!
BRRR…it sure got cold fast today.
This morning, I put Austin on the bus at 7:50 and it was a nice and balmy 71 degrees. It actually felt a little humid. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, which was normal. I knew the cold front, an actual Blue Norther, was coming in this morning, which is why he wasn’t wearing shorts to school. That’s also why his heavy jacket was stuffed in his backpack.
At 9:10, just an hour and twenty minutes after I had experienced the warmth of the last day of hurricane season, It was down to 45 degrees and a cold rain was falling.
What a drastically wicked change of weather. It will last for a few days, then get warmer again. That's winter in Houston, but then again, that's what I love about it. It gets rid of the heat and humidity for a little while, but it doesn't last long enough to make us really suffer.
It is supposed to get down to 33 overnight, which is pretty chilly for the Bayou City. I really shouldn’t complain, though. In Central Texas, where my folks live, it is supposed to be in the 20s and the local street departments have their sanding crews on standby in case there is any freezing precipitation. Additionally, Dallas is calling for up to three inches of snow and ice overnight. Further north, Tulsa is expecting up to a foot of snow. So, I guess we don’t have it too bad down here.
Still, it’s a great evening to make a pot of homemade chili. Heck, even store bought chili wouldn’t be bad. Its one of those evenings where you want to grab your loved one and cuddle up on the sofa. Sounds like a great idea.