Thursday, April 30, 2009

Easy Project - Antique chair planter

The fact that the second "Easy Project" I'm posting is a planter, as was the first one, is purely coincidental.

I swear, I don't have a compulsion to transform everything around me into a planter.

On a recent trip to Bonham, the Mrs and I found several diamonds in the rough. One of those, was an old School Desk Chair that was in really rough shape. I took a picture of it when we got home, but I had a dumb-ass moment and deleted the picture before I had a chance to upload it. It looked just as bad as the old phone ringer box that I worked on in the first Easy Project.

Trust me, it looked like a turd.

I stripped her down with some Formby's Refinisher and a Scotch Brite pad. Took less than 30 minutes to do the entire chair. I gave it a quick wipe down with Watco Danish Oil, and then let it sit overnight to dry. The next day, I took a plastic flower pot and set it on the seat upside down. I traced one pencil line lightly around the rim, then removed the pot and eyeballed another line about 3/8" inside the first circle.

I cut out the inner circle with a jigsaw, making a round hole in the seat of the chair just the right size for the pot to sit in while supported by its rim. I took the pot out and gave the chair 5 coats of Minwax Spar Urethane. Why 5 coats? Because that's how many coats I could get out of the can. After a year of exposure, I will probably have to recoat, but that can easily be done in the spring before I put fresh plants in the pot.

Here she is:

chairplanter 1

My chair planter will be on the deck in shade for part of the day, so I picked shade tolerant plants. The coleus will grow taller at the back, while the Torenia (summer wave blue) will trail nicely down from the seat with tubular blue flowers all summer. It should look really good when it fills in and the plants take off.

planter chair 3

You can use round pots, like I did, or you can use square "storage bin" type containers. I've seen lots of old chairs at flea markets that are missing the seat entirely, so you can do this type of project even if you don't have a jigsaw to cut out a hole. Chairs can be stained, like mine, or painted.

Hey Everybody... LET'S FREAK OUT!!

I keep waiting for something to prove me wrong about the overblown Swine Flu panic, but so far the public reaction continues to outrun the actual disease. I wasn't going to blog about it again, but the morning's news made me do it.


The ENTIRE Ft. Worth Independent School District has CLOSED ITS DOORS for an ENTIRE WEEK - That's a total of 144 schools containing 80,000 students.

All because:

"The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed Thursday night that a 12-year-old girl who attends McLean Middle School had swine flu."

That's ONE kid, diagnosed with a flu virus that has largely been a non-event except for the media frenzy.

"Each school in the district will be scrubbed with a bleached-based cleaner to ensure that all surfaces, walls and common areas are disinfected."

A worker disinfects the exterior of a school in Richardson, Texas.

In addition to closing the schools in Tarrant County, Cleburne, and probably a host of other schools who will continue the freak-out - the entire State of Texas has declared a Disaster and cancelled all UIL sporting events.

I'm all for being safe, especially when it comes to our kids. I'd rather do "too much" and be embarassed by over reacting, than do "too little" and regret not doing enough.

But there's a danger to this sort of wild over reaction, though. It dulls the senses for actual dangers, for one thing. It uses up valuable resources that might be needed elsewhere, for another. My Wife works in the medical field. Local emergency rooms are becoming over-run with every drama queen with a runny nose who is now convinced that they have the Swine Flu. Declarations of Statewide disasters do allow us access to federal funds to "combat the epidemic", but where does that money come from?

You and me, in the end.

There is one other interesting observation I've made so far throughout the unfolding of this panic-fest.

By ANYONES definition, this whole pandemic has been really weak in the US, so far, using any measure of actual health risk and danger. Mostly just mild flu symptoms, not requireing hospitalization in the vast majority of cases. Even with the low number of cases, and the almost non-existent mortality rate, it has shown just how vulnerable we are to an actual biological threat - either natural or manmade - should it ever visit our shores.

Imagine, for a moment, what people's reaction would be if a weaponized virus were let loose in a US city and people started dropping dead by the dozens? If this puny little swine bug is over-loading the CDC, as was reported on one TV show this week, what would happen then?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Media Panic and the Big Picture

I'm sure by now, everyone has heard about the Swine Flu outbreaks. To summarize, "Swine Flu" is a strain of influenza that is zoonotic - which means its a disease that starts in animals, but can be caught by people too. At some point, the disease can progress and change to the point that it is not only infectious between animals and people, but also from people to people.

That's what they believe has happened with this strain of flu, since many of the people who have come down with swine flu apparently had no contact with any infected swine.

There's lots of talk in the media about possible pandemics (which is an epidemic that is global rather than regional). Lots of talk about "killer strains of the virus", "deadly swine flu", etc.

I'm not saying there's nothing to worry about. Its important to be aware of potential problems like this, as I firmly believe that something like this could rear up in the future and give us LOTS of grief. Particularly a strain of bug that has been weaponized in a lab specifically for that purpose. That's a very real risk, and something that I may write about in the future. Zoonotic Disease Control is one of the primary responsibilities I have professionally.

However, I AM saying that you should take all the press generated panic with a big old grain of salt until you look at the actual facts from reliable sources, and then view what's REALLY going on in the perspective of "the big picture". If you're worried a lot about stuff like swine flu, I encourage you to do your own research and evaluation.

Here's some things you may not be aware of:

Remember West Nile Virus?

Remember the "reporters" every night on the news leading off with stories about the "deadly strain" of virus that could pop up at any moment in YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?!! My office was barraged on a daily basis with panic filled reports every time someone found a dead bird in their yard. Long after the state lab stopped testing birds to track the progression of the virus - the news stations continued to encourage people to report any "suspicious" dead birds they would find... drove me up the fucking wall.

Ever wonder what happened with that?

According to a friend and colleague in the Texas Department of State Health Services - Zoonosis Control Division:

It's here now in my part of Texas. It has been here for a couple of years now. It will always be here. Most people in North Texas have been exposed to it, many have contracted the virus(whether they realize it or not), and all those people that are still walking around are now immune to it. A few people died, yes, but they were largely folks with severe immune system problems. People die every year from the regular old generic flu and pneumonia in the US.... about 63,000 people, to be exact, according to CDC data.

The VAST majority of people, though, that got West Nile suffered regular old flu-like symptoms for a week or so and then got over it.

So, why aren't you hearing about this non-story on the news?

Because you don't pack in the viewers and ad-revenue telling people that there's nothing to panic about. You just skip over the "West Nile turned out to be nothing" story, and move right along to the "Oh my GOD, here comes Swine Flu!" story.

You can repeat the above scenario over and over again, substituting "SARS", "Bird Flu", and any number of other diseases for "West Nile Virus" - and it would be the same story.

You're hearing a lot about Swine Flu victims in the US, now. Lots of talk about it being a "deadly strain". At the time that I'm writing this, did you know there are no reports of Swine flu related deaths in the US? Every confirmed "victim" of Swine Flu in this outbreak in the US has recovered fully. Even the kids that have caught it.

There are reports from Mexico of 81 deaths so far, related to Swine Flu. How many of those people had compromised immune systems? How many were really, really old? How many had access to even minimal health care? Criminy... the last time I checked you could die in Mexico just from drinking the f-ing water. 81 deaths from a new flu strain, while definitely not great news, is hardly and End of Days catastrophe.

There will probably be deaths in the US from Swine Flu, eventually.

Most likely, though, the fatalities will be limited to people who run a risk of dieing from colds and flu anyway (remember the 63000 cited before?). There is a slim chance that this could blow up into something that the population in general should be concerned about, but not much of a chance.

You'd sure never think that listening to the news, though. Seems like they want to scare the crap out of us over everything.

Want to worry about something REAL?... Next time you're in your car, think about the nearly 14,000 people that will die this year as a result of dickheads that can't resist the urge to get behind the wheel of a car after they drink alcohol.


As soon as I posted this, I trotted over to Yahoo news to see what else was going on in the world.

Apparently there's nothing else to worry about, because Swine Flu will kill us all.

The most recent story focuses on how New York City is dealing with the "Public Health threat". It seems that a bunch of kids went to Mexico on Spring Break a couple of weeks ago and caught Swine Flu. Some of them were sick with the swine flu for a couple of days, and then they all got better.


Nationwide, though, maybe the problem is more serious?...

"Federal health officials said Sunday that 20 swine flu cases have been reported so far in New York, Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California. Patients have ranged in age from 9 to over 50. At least two were hospitalized. All recovered or are recovering."

Ok... all recovered, and only two people in the entire US have been sick enough to even go into the hospital?

So, when people hear the press repeatedly bombard them with ominous stories of impending doom - how do they react?

This is how:

"Parent Jackie Casola said Sunday that her son Robert Arifo, a St. Francis sophomore, told her on Thursday that a number of children had been sent home because of illness. On Friday, he said hardly anyone was in school.

Casola said she expected to keep him home from school on Monday, even if it was open. He hasn't shown any symptoms, but some of his friends have, she said, and she has been extra vigilant about his health.

"I must have drove him crazy, I kept taking his temperature in the middle of the night," she said."

Sigh........ Lord help these people when they actually have something REAL to worry about.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Girl Friday 04/24/2009 - Evelyn Nesbit

A day late, but better late than never - yes?

This week's Girl Friday is believed to be one of the inspirations for the "Gibson Girl" image, as created by Charles Dana Gibson. Here is a drawing by Mr. Gibson, for which she sat:

That's the quintisential "Gibson Girl" look, in my opinion. It's the look that engendered the classic look for a generation of women. A look that was only finally rooted out by the "flappers" of the 1920's.

The young model in question, was Miss Evelyn Nesbit - seen here when she first became popular as a model around 1900, in New York.

Evelyn Nesbit

She was a red haired 16 year old that supported her widowed mother by posing for artists and photographers. She also grew popular as a showgirl.

Evelyn Nesbit was the center of one of the most dramatic and convoluted court cases of the day, when her crazy husband, Harry Thaw, shot her first love - the famous architect Stanford White - three times in the face at point blank range in a restaurant, killing him. The newspapers of the day were filled with every lurid detail.

Its interesting to note that paparazi are not entirely a modern phenomenon. Here's a picture of Evelyn during the trial of her husband (1909), that would look right at home on TMZ or any other gossip site:

evelyn nesbit paparazi

That's Evelyn in the middle, holding up a newspaper to block the photographer from taking her picture as she walks to the courthouse. Her whole life is a fascinating story, and you can find out all about it via several internet sites.

For now, though, we'll just appreciate her beauty...

evelyn nesbit 5

Old Time British Farming Movie

I've posted links to BFI films on Youtube before. They have a fascinating repository of old films from the earliest days of hand cranked movies. I especially like when they post films from rural areas, or everyday scenes from Victorian/Edwardian England.

Here's a link to another good one, even though it doesn't go back that far. It's relatively new, in relation to the films that normally appeal to me. Its from 1938, and shows the common harvest activities on a British Farm in those days - featuring horse drawn reaper/binders, mid-day "ale breaks", and the traditional English tea-time provided in the fields by the farmer's Wives.

I dig the old style breeches worn by the farmers in the field, so if anyone knows a source in the US that makes this style (high waisted and notched for suspenders), let me know.

This film is reported to be shot in "Dufaycolor". I'm not sure what that entails, but it gives a color effect that reminds me of the soft hand-tint that you see on some photographs.

Pretty cool stuff to watch, if you ask me:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Girl Friday 04/17/2009 - Mix

I haven't made a "Girl Friday" post in quite a while, so here's a couple just to make up for lost time:

Going back to 1942, here's an unidentified airplane assembly worker from the Lockheed Vega Assembly plant. Picture is a 4x5 Kodachrome transparency taken by David Bransby for the Office of War Information.

1942 Lockheed vega

The subject matter of the picture is attractive enough on its own, but I really love the way the Kodachrome film processing handles colors. You just can't get the same effect with modern film, or digital - at least not that I've been able to find.

Next is an actess you've probably never heard of, Mary Brian:

mary brian

Ms. Brian was a Texas girl, being born in Corsicana, Texas. She became a silent film startlet after her family moved to California, and went on to make a successful transition to "talkies". That's something not every silent movie star was able to do.

And last, but certainly not least, is one of my personal favorites: Maude Fealy.

maude fealy

Ms. Fealy was an interesting woman. She first rose to fame as a broadway actress, and later went on to make silent films. As is often the case with actors/actresses, she had a very tempestuous love life. She was married and divorced several times to various men, and even had a reported lesbian relationship with another actress for a time. All very scandalous for 1906 :)

Maude Fealy lived to be 90 years old, and is one of the most beautiful women of that era, in my opinion.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Return of Green

Hayfever, thunderstorms, and irritating late frosts aside - I always look forward to spring.

Things get so brown and tired here at the end of summer, and winter is usually dreary in these parts. The explosion of lush green growth always fills my heart with optimism that things will work out OK.

Take this old house I photographed today. Even with its lovely decay, there's an air of hopefulness that wasn't there just a couple of weeks ago:

farmersville color

My garden is even showing signs of waking up, even with the recent unexpected bite of frost we struggled through. The iris patch on the side of our house is in full tilt:

iris 2009

And my oregano is growing so fast I'm about to make my first cutting.


Throughout the spring, summer, and into the fall, I mince up herbs on a regular basis. Usually a mixture of oregano, basil, and time. It takes just a few minutes with a chef's knife on a cutting board. While I chop up the herbs, I have a kettle of water coming to a boil on the stove. I fill ice cube trays with the minced herbs, and cover with boiling water. The ice cube trays go into the freezer, and the cubes get put into freezer bags when they are solid.

Its a great way to keep "fresh" herbs available all the time. I just pop out a cube or two and drop them into stuff I'm cooking. You can defrost in the microwave, or just drop the frozen herb cubes into stews, sauces, etc.

Incoming Lie Alert-

For an administration that is supposed to be a "change" from the proclaimed dishonesty of the Bush years... there sure is a lot of persistent fact twisting.

First it was the repeated use of the mantra "worst economy since the great depression" - which was wrong by virtually every single measure you could come up with. Bad economy? Yes. Worst Economy? Nope. The economy facing Ronald Reagan when he took over after Jimmy "malaise" Carter was worse than the economy President Obama "inherited", by most measures.

Then there is the ever popular lie that those who oppose the President's plans "want to do nothing" to help the nation get out of the recession. Alternative plans were offered, only to be ignored. Still, I suppose it's easier just to get on TV and claim that your opponents don't have alternate suggestions, than it would be to actually compare the two plans and see which one is better.

And now, the President is in Mexico, and I GUARANTEE that he'll make at least one reference to a known lie, with the sole intent of forwarding his agenda. At some point, he or the President of Mexico will forward the claim that 90% of the guns used in Mexican Drug cartel violence are supplied by the US.


And what's worse, is they continue to use that fake statistic while KNOWING its not true. The truth of the matter is, an estimated 17% of the guns used in Mexican drug violence can be traced to the US - NOT 90%. The VAST majority most likely come from South America, China, Asia, and Mexico's own military. The complete story can be found at FoxNews HERE, with documentation from BATF, ICE, and other government statistics and sources.

The President will continue to push these and other lies, in a full out push to forward his agenda. An agenda that includes focused efforts to erode our Rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

This morning, I was reading Brigid's Blog at Home on the Range. She quoted a line from the old Dr. Who television programs from the 1970's, in an episode titled The Face of Evil. I thought it was right on the money, and I'll repeat it here:

"You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit the views, which can be uncomfortable, if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."

As long as the very powerful are allow to repeat their lies unchallenged, the very stupid will continue to buy it hook, line, and sinker.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Please let this be true....

When I heard about the crew of the US ship seizing control from the Somali Pirates the other day, I did a little happy dance. The only dark cloud was the fact that the Captain of the ship had been taken hostage by the pirates as they fled to a lifeboat.

This morning, I read
a news story that gives sketchy details on the rescue of the Captain by US forces. A rescue that resulted in the safe return of the Captain, and the death of three out of four pirates. The fourth pirate was injured and is in US custody. Apparently, the decision to take the Captain back by force was due to negotiations with the pirates "breaking down".

I sincerely hope this story is true. All of it.

My favorite quote from the story:

"The negotiations between the elders and American officials have broken down. The reason is American officials wanted to arrest the pirates in Puntland and elders refused the arrest of the pirates," said the commissioner, Abdi Aziz Aw Yusuf.

Here's a tip, to any pirates that happen to be reading this blog:

When you are adrift at sea in a lifeboat, and your enemy is the US Navy, the only negotiation on your part should be just how quickly you give up.

On the bright side, at least now the "elders" don't have to worry about the Pirates being arrested.


It is true!

"U.S. Navy snipers opened fire and killed three pirates holding an American captain at gunpoint in a lifeboat, delivering the skipper unharmed and ending a five-day high-seas hostage drama on Easter Sunday."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Road Trip 04/11/2009

Man... what a fabulous day.

We had intended to make a run over to the Flea Market in Bowie this weekend, but that whole area has been fighting wildfires for the past several days. Apparently, they got hit pretty hard and alot of people lost their homes. A huge area got burned over, and I'm sure it will be a while before things settle down and get back to normal.

As an alternative plan, we decided to check out the much smaller Flea Market in Bonham, Texas. It's a little closer, but the conflict of dates with Bowie Trade Days has meant that its been a couple of years since we've gone to Bonham.

I'm really glad we did! We had one of our best treasure hunting trips today. My wife bought several miscellaneous pieces of glassware, we picked up two old oak school chairs that should refinish out beautifully, and I found a couple of really nice Whitetail Deer racks (one with complete skull) that are destined for use/display in the room of our house that is decorated in a hunting/mountain theme.

My favorite find of the day, however, is this:

bungalow heater before

It's a "Pittsburgh Bungalo Heater" water heater. Last patent date is 1915. It has two brass nameplates, copper fittings on the side, an embossed castle, and an embossed lion face on the front.

Pretty freaking awesome!!

It was all I could do to keep from starting the cleanup when we got home, but I've got several other projects already going - so she'll have to wait a bit. Not sure what I'll do with it, besides clean/paint. Possibly some type of lamp?

bungalo heater detail

After Trade Days, we stopped by the Willow Wild Cemetery in Bonham. Most of the cemetery is "current", but right as you enter the front gate there's a wonderful old section dating back to the late 1800's. It's full of beautiful headstones:

margret dress

You don't see detail like the lace on the little girl's dress too often. Especially in markers that date back over 100 years.

This next headstone was my favorite. It wasn't the prettiest, or the morst ornate. In fact, it's pretty plain. The sentinment inscribed at the bottom almost broke my heart, though.

step softly

See my flickr stream (link on the right) to see more headstones from Willow Wild cemetery.

From there, we drove toward Denison. We went the back roads (as usual). It was a pretty drive, and would have been nice on the bike - but then we couldn't have carried home all our crap :) Near Bells/Savoy, we passed a house that had an interesting yard ornament in the back yard:

What the hell is that all about??

We ended up at Huck's Catfish, which is a favorite spot of ours off Hiway 75 between Sherman & Denison. This is the "half order", with fries and fried okra:

When I was as big as a house, I could handle the full order. Now that I'm only the size of a garage, the half order is just right. Huck's gets my vote for BEST CATFISH in the history of EVER.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Oh... the humanity.....

Ok... I don't want to hear any whining about not having warned you about what you are about to witness, should you proceed to play the video below.


1. I have zero musical aptitude.
2. I picked up a banjo for the first time about three weeks ago.
3. I'm learning clawhammer (frailing) style banjo by reading about it and watching a couple of Youtube videos.
4. I pick up the banjo and "mess with it" (as opposed to actually practicing) 5 times a week for a total of about 15 minutes at a time.

On the plus side, is the fact that I really like playing - as bad as I am at it. It's alot of fun! I can play (more or less) a total of 5 songs now, and the cat no longer tries to knock himself unconscious when I play...

So that means I'm getting better.... right?

Tactical Aptitude

When evaluating both opponents and team-mates, its important to remember that appearances can be deceiving.

For example, when you look at my grandbaby the first impulse is to go "AWWwwww...", because she's clearly the cutest little baby you've ever seen.


As with anyone, though, there is often depth contained below the pleasant surface. This is "Trixie".... Bailey's rough-housing alter ego.

Fresh from an out of control bout of Easter debauchery, Trixie is obviously someone you would give a wide berth to, should you encounter her in a dark alley.

Now having a side that is less refined, and even a little "edgy", can be of benefit. Recently, I was witness to an exhibition of tactical planning and execution that leads me to believe that the apple of my eye has a flair for taking care of business.

Bailey/Trixie has been a little under the weather, with a virus. She visited the Dr. a couple of days ago for a visit, due to that illness, and was subjected to both an injection, a catheter (for urine collection), and having her temp taken via rectal thermometer. According to my Daughter, she protested all the above most vigorously, but has been feeling much better since.

Today, I was given the task of taking her in to the Dr. for a second shot, and a general evaluation.

Bailey was a perfect angel - right up until it was time to have her temperature taken. The nurse prepped the probe, and as she began Bailey didn't cry at all. Within seconds, however, she had managed to crap all over the nurse's hand, the probe, and the exam table.

bailey bunny 2 smallest

That's my girl :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Helpless sheep....

I'm about half way through reading a book called "One Second After", by William Forstchen. Its a great read, and might change the way you look at the physical threats that our nation faces every day - without you even knowing about it.

The fictional book deals with a scenario where some foreign power detonates a couple of nuclear warheads above the atmosphere over the United States. The result is an
EMP, or electro-magnetic pulse, that knocks out the power grid and virtually all modern electronic devices in the blink of an eye. The result is the entire population of the US being shoved back into the pre-industrial age.

One of the first things the character's realize, is that they lack many of the rudimentary skills necessary for survival in a pre-modern age. Some folks are better prepared, but an astounding number of people are completely at a loss.

I've realized this for a long time, and if you're reading this blog then you've probably realized it too. It's still stunning to see just how helpless and stupid some people have gotten though, when you see it in

From the Orlando Sentinel...

A 911 dispatcher had to tell a woman how to unlock her car on Sunday.

A woman called Kissimmee police to say she was locked inside her car at the Walgreen's on John Young Parkway near Poinciana.

"My car will not start. I'm locked inside my car," the unidentified woman said.

"Nothing electrical works. And it's getting very hot in here, and I'm not feeling well."

The dispatcher asked the woman if she was able to manually pull the lock up on the door.

The woman said she would try, and then, she said, "Yes, I got the door open."