Wednesday 17 December 2014

A Question for Adullamite.

Some time ago, Adullamite posted a picture of an odd little red car he'd come across on his travels. I'm a car buff, so I usually am pretty good at identifying old cars. (Cars from the nineties onward I generally have no interest in).
This time I was stumped. But I think I may have found the answer, or would guess that if I could find the original pic.... But I've been unable to remember when it was or the post title....

So, Adullamite, did it look at all like this?

If so, it was a Lloyd... A Lloyd Alexander, built by Norddeutscher Lloyd, the shipping company...

As I can't find the post, it's possible it was nothing like these. If so.... Sigh.  I thought I might have solved a mystery.

Monday 10 November 2014

In just a few hours it will be Veterans Day in the United States,

Armistice Day.
The 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the time the guns were to fall silent, the end of the first world war. 
Who, I wonder, was shooting on that morning, and why? what did they hope to achieve?  A last kill before shooting season ends?

 Anyway, it was over, it marked the end of "The War to End All Wars",  at the end of which, humans kept on developing weapons and seeking wars in which to use them.

Nonetheless, we hold remembrances, we Brits wave our poppies, Americans their flags. Our neighbourhood is full of flags, very patriotic, these Americans. Veterans day is a holiday, and  retired service personnel will wear their medals, badges, uniform caps with pride, strangers will thank them for serving.  It's not all about the dead, the living are remembered here too.

The school does a yearly project, where each pupil is set to meet and interview a veteran of the forces, to photograph and make a poster featuring that person, on the back is the interview, dates served, nature of service etc. My step-son interviewed a man who's become a friend of mine , Troy is one of a group of friends who meet once a week  over lunch. They all have stories. I thought I'd post here some pictures I took outside the school.

So many are represented, from the humblest rank to the dizzying heights of gold braid, veterans from pre WWII to the present day. Some of these kids have dads, uncles, brothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, in the military, in harm's way, serving, prepared to give their lives if need be.
Whether or not I believe in the wars they are sent to fight, I have the greatest respect for them. The old guys I have lunch with on a thursday have so many stories, war cold and hot. And of tragedies too. 

Tomorrow, they are saluted. But here, as in Britain, there's another reality, of the veterans who failed to reintegrate, the PTSD, the alcoholics, the guys who hold up cardboard signs "Ex soldier, Hungry, Homeless", and I, like the other drivers, check my door is locked, try not to meet the gaze... And drive on by.

Friday 26 September 2014



Big big big day, the gears of the U.S.government grind exceedingly slowly, but this day brought a bunch of official papers to our mailbox.

I'm  an alien, I'm a LEGAL alien...... Green Card!!!!!!!!!!! Yayyyyyyyyyy!
Of course, it's not without conditions... Carry this card at all times. (and don't lose it?) Well, like my social security card I'll laminate a copy and carry that, keeping the original in a safe place.
And it's only valid to 2016. Before then I have to become a citizen or aply to get restrictions lifted. No, I have no idea what that means, so don't ask.

All should be well in the home of the brave and the land of the free. None of that: "Papieren, Bitte!" "Show your papers boy!" stuff.

Seriously though, everybody's been quite welcoming. Well, a lot of people think I come from New England, that's those who don't think I'm Australian.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Shoulder Surgery.

Cutting chopping and dicing set for tomorrow, Friday 29th August.
I'm so looking forward to it. The nurse told me not to expect to be able to sleep in a bed for some time... And told me the aftermath is notoriously painful. I replied that I have a good vocabulary of swear-words at the ready.
I also have a lot of books. At least half a week's worth.
After that Amazon gets my money or I watch all those rubbish movies I never got around to before.

And I confess I've been wasting time on Facebook, it has its uses,  but I hate to tell some of the people who pop up and try to friend me, that if we've not been in touch for years, I'm probably not going to want to see every little update....

Once, about twenty years ago I broke my left arm just below the shoulder. It was in a cast for a couple of months, set with a 90 degree elbow position. Never having bust a limb before, I glibly thought that the day the cast came off, life would resume as normal. What an idiot. The cast came off and I gazed at an arm so hairy I thought I was becoming a gorilla, and then... nothing. Elbow stayed at 90 degrees. Stuck there. Muscles disappeared tendons shrunk... No amount of force would straighten it out. And there was a bend where the bone was set.  Took another two months before it was moderately normal again.

Now I'm going to have to learn to live left handed.  It should keep me from boredom, but. Anyway, it's a minor problem compared to some, that others face. I'll try not to moan too much.

My blogreaders will barely notice the difference. I do mean to post stuff. just left handedly.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Humerus? Not so funny, really....

Today, I had an interesting experience.  Just before we moved from the old house, I had become aware of a shoulder injury, pain, ache, restriction of movement. so I treated it with ibuprofen, tried not to do the ouchy stuff, like lifting my arm high or rotating it outward, assuming whatever I'd done while shifting heavy boxes and furniture would heal on its own. 5+ months  later, I'm forced to admit that it won't.
So I went to see a doctor, and was referred to a sports medicine clinic, where after examination and x-rays, I was told I have a displaced shoulder joint, caused by a rotator-cuff injury.

So today I was having an MRI scan, to show the exact nature and extent of the damage.
First (well, after a clipboard worth of forms and an eye-watering financial transaction), I was
positioned under an x-ray machine, while a doctor pumped my shoulder joint full of a gadolinium contrast fluid. There was some anaesthesia too, so the needle sliding into the shoulder joint capsule was not too bad, but it's wearing off now and I'd like to bite somebody.
But the MRI.... Magnetic Resonance Imaging... Essentially, you're shoved into a very small hole in a large doughnut. And surrounded by a humongously powerful magnetic field It's certainly powerful enough to suck steel furniture in...

 Pictures via

You are carefully positioned, warned that it's noisy, given earplugs and industrial earmuffs, the operator leaves the room, and a noisy chaos begins. I was told that about ten percent of people are so claustrophobic they can't tolerate it. Well, I've been a plumber. I've gone through holes in floors, walls and ceilings, where there's no room to turn round or roll over.  And I've weaseled myself into tight spaces under vehicles and in engine bays, where despite not being able to move much, I've been trying to weld, or undo a gearbox's bolts. 
So, as the magnetic field oscillated my hydrogen atoms, for what seemed a long time, I was drowsing and comfortably musing about all manner of unimportant trivia.
This procedure was quite untroubling, if you're ever referred for one, it's not something to be scared of.

The scan results will go straight to my doctor, and in a couple of days I should get an appointment to find out what's next. But, he's already told me, it'll probably mean surgery. 


In the meantime, more ibuprofen and on with the painting of walls!

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Sirens of Titan.

"The Sirens of Titan" was the title of a science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut, first published in 1959... so are the days of future past.

Al Stewart

I was drawn by the sirens of Titan
Carried along by their call
Seeking for a way to enlighten
Searching for the sense of it all
Like a kiss on the wind I was thrown to the stars
Captured and ordered in the army of Mars
Marching to the sound of the drum in my head
I followed the call
Only to be Malachi Constant
I thought I came to this earth
Living in the heart of the moment
With the riches I gained at my birth
But here in the yellow and blue of my days
I wander the endless Mercurian caves
Watching for the signs the Harmonians make
The words on the walls

I was drawn by the sirens of Titan
And so I came in the end
Under the shadow of Saturn
With statues and birds for my friends
Finding a home at the end of my days
Looking around I've only to say
I was the victim of a series of accidents
As are we allI was drawn by the sirens of Titan (as are we all)
As are we all
I was drawn by the sirens of Titan (as are we all)
As are we all...

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Curses! Foiled again!

via Laughing Squid...

("Curses! Foiled Again!" was a catchphrase for Muttley's sidekick, 'Rick Rastardly' Hehehehehe!)

Saturday 21 June 2014

I Preferred The Older Minute.

 If you're not British, you'll probably be better advised not to bother reading this post. Just as I often don't get the references my american blogger friends make to things have been  part of everyday life in the U.S.,  you probably will frown and think it's not funny at all.

On my sidebar, there's a link to Adullamite's blog. Recently he was bemoaning the decay of the BBC Radio panel-game, "Just a Minute".
The idea is simple. A panel of four guests  are challenged to speak for 'just a minute' on some diverse subject, without 'Hesitation, Repetition, or Deviation'. It's harder than you might think. Back in the days when I regularly listened, regulars panellists were Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams.
Current ones, Paul Merton, Julian Clary....
I listen occasionally via the BBC's web app.

And I agree with Adullamite, I think the current crop of contributors are sadly lacking,  and would be pulverised if they were to play against their predecessors.

Here's a little vintage British radio:

Sunday 15 June 2014


Every Saturday night, just north of Houston, Texas, there's a car gathering called 'Niftee 50ees', at the junction of Kuykendahl and Louetta.
It's open to any vehicle from before 1979, I think. Everything from an Oldsmobile Curved Dash of 1902 to the great muscle cars of the seventies, plus custom cruisers,  hot-rods, chopped and channeled sleds,  trucks, vans...

Having an old, square, Land Rover, of course, I like to take part, -though really the emphasis is on home-grown metal, there are a few foreign imports.
I open the bonnet....(hood, for my American readers), to show my non-chromed, non V8, non-hemi-headed, non 427 cubic inch, trivial 4 cylinder engine. I see it as a refreshing palate-cleanser, akin to a glass of cold home-made lemonade, for all those poor folk overdosed on detroit chromium.

 People think my Land Rover is a Jeep... No, these are Jeeps....

They raise money for charity, the local fire crew brings a truck for kids little and large to goggle at, the height of excitement for many a child is to be allowed to sound that big chromed bell.

Entry for the public to browse: Free!
To show a vehicle? $10:00.

I'm not there every week, because because even a knucklehead like me would get bored.  But the number and nature of cars there is ever varying.
Then there's 'Cars and Coffee', at Market Street in The Woodlands, every first Sunday of the month, from early o'clock to Eleven a.m.
I'm amazed at the number of people who own old cars here.

Thursday 5 June 2014

The Last Leviathan......

Siggy Stern, singing a beautiful song, by Andy Barnes, recorded and better known by the Dubliners, Siggy, to me, does a better job.

Not a recording artist, she has uploaded a few songs to YouTube.
This song came to mind when I was viewing a post by 'Nag on the Lake' about a dutch painting, that in restoration was found to have originally featured a beached whale.

The Lost Whale

Friday 23 May 2014

The Curtain Rises. And Billows.

The Scene: centre stage: darkness, a bedroom,  a bed.

3 a.m.
A sleeping couple.

Loud farts... Several. In quick succession. 

Him: I can't believe you did that!

Her: What?

Him: You just shattered the silence with a barrage of bottom-burps!

Her: Wasn't me!

Him: Who then?

Her: Sam Houston did it.

Him: Sam Houston was in our bedroom?

Her: Yes.

Him: And he got here how?

Her: In his buggy.

Him: So you're saying, Sam Houston, (first president of the Republic of Texas), who died in 1863, resurrected himself, and harnessed up his ghostly horses, drove in his buggy to our bedroom, where he let loose a trombone solo in the vicinity of your rear end, then got in the buggy, flicked the reins, and trotted off down the stairs and into the night?

Her: Yes. That's right.

Him: Oh.

They go back to sleep.
Outside, ghostly hooves and creaking of harness fading to the distance.

In the morning he asks her about Sam's visit. She has no recollection. And no shame at trying to pass off her farts as those of a hero of the Texas revolution.

From now on, mystery occurrences in this household, from trumps to empty ice cream cartons in the freezer, will be blamed on Sam Houston.

Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto

(When we first met, back in 2007, and she visited me in England, as we were carrying her compendious baggage into the house, somebody farted, and it wasn't me. She looked me in the eye, and with a straight face, said "did you hear that?" "I did, I heard a fart."
"No", she said. "A bark.  -it's the barking spiders."
She persisted in trying to tell me the sounds I kept hearing were made by barking spiders, a subset of arachnid I had never previously encountered. And they had followed her, from, she thought, the airport in Atlanta, Georgia, perhaps stowing away in her baggage.)

More from the bedroom: The Morning After.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Shock News!: Grit in the Gears Written by Robot!

Picture found by Red Dirt Girl on Pinterest, this is an assemblage by Brian Marshall.

As is this.

The author of this blog sometimes feels like he's a machine, and right now he's got a cramp in his left side rib actuators. He identifies with these fellows.
Un-grit my gears, gimme oil!

Saturday 3 May 2014

"Nothing is More Dangerous to Men Than a Sudden Change of Fortune". -Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (Quintilian).

Fortune Cookies

A Bakery Dough Mixer
I have never put my faith in Horoscopes. I don't believe the relative position of the stars in the sky, as viewed at and from the place of my birth, can realistically be said to predict my character, nor my fate.

I hold no truck with the Tarot, nor Gypsy Rose Lee, nor the lines on one's hand, nor the disposition of tea dregs, nor the entrails of a chicken as guides to the future.

And especially I don't believe in Fortune Cookies.

Not after this, anyway: A worker at the Wonton Company's factory in Houston, Texas, was recently found deceased, in the dough mixer used to make Fortune Cookie dough. Foul play not suspected, "Death by Misfortune"?

"The Wonton Food company operates facilities in New York, Texas and Tennessee, where it manufactures food products including noodles and wonton wrappers, and is one of the leading fortune cookie makers in the country, making around four million cookies a day in its New York headquarters and a smaller number in its Houston factory."

        If only there was some way a fortune-cookie maker could predict the future?

(It was NOT this machine, but probably something very similar.)

p.s...... I learned this not by local news, despite being fairly close to Houston, but Via "Nothing to do With Arbroath", a blog which has been a regular read for me for years, I recommend it, and if you don't know where Arbroath is, then don't worry, because the blog is NOTHING to do with Arbroath.

pps: I'm aware that the event is, in fact, a terrible tragedy. But I can't resist making quips about the situation. "He was a crazy mixed-up kid....."

I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.

Monday 14 April 2014

And So

Here in the U.S., it's tax-filing time. I'm blissfully ignorant, of course, as to the fineries, as she who is awesome did it all.
I remain in the endless limbo of being a legal alien. I was given the right to enter the United  States, in order to marry a U.S. citizen, within 90 days of my arrival, or leave again.
We married ten days after my feet touched the ground, at which point, or within the ninety days, the holder of a K-1 visa then must file for 'Adjustment of Status'.
In the period in which the adjustment is being processed, I have no automatic right of residence, no legal status, I can't vote, nor can I claim upon any of the rights of a citizen.
If I were to exit the U.S., for a holiday or any other reason, I would be refused re-entry. I couldn't enter on a tourist visa, nor a business visa....
I could get a 'letter of advanced parole', which in theory would persuade the guy on the desk to let me in, but it's not a guarantee.
Meanwhile, six months after I arrived, I'm not strictly speaking, a resident, nor am I a non-resident. I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien.

I'm not allowed to work, nor to earn money.
I have a Social Security number, but that's merely because all manner of activities, such as accessing my money in the bank, require it.
But it confers no security, social or otherwise. Should anything happen to me, then my wife is fully responsible. The Social Security administration would simply yawn, and look away.

Uncle Sam has the gall to demand taxes from me.

I earned $1.14 cents, on my bank balances, and I have just been taxed 29 cents on my earnings.

This is not my first, only, or greatest payment to the United States Government, we've paid up large lumps every time another form has to be filled in, but this is my first contribution in income tax.

The next time I see any sort of federal employee in uniform, I'll look closely at one of their buttons, and muse to myself.  "I might have bought that very button for the United States Of America!"

Or the flag being hoisted over the capitol..... No. Not the whole toggle, but maybe  a little of the varnish on the toggle on the up-haul rope, maybe I bought that.

Cue National Anthem.

Friday 4 April 2014

The World is Still Askew

But we're making progress.
Almost a month since moving day, and a lot's been happening, furniture moves and moves again, walls are patchworks of tester paints.
Our local big D.I.Y. shed's profits are up, from all our visits.The latest purchases I made there were not inconsiderable. In the world about us, it seems grass-cutting and gardening are inevitably the province of teams of mexicans.
I did not, as a kid, automatically get pocket money. My basic cash income from my parents was................ nothing, there were chores to be done, and, should I complete them all without having to be nagged, coerced, threatened or whipped, then my palm might be crossed with a tiny spot of silver.
Or brass. In Yorkshire, we say "Where there's muck, there's brass", which is all about the concept that people don't want to do their own dirty work, they'll pay others, less fastidious, or more desperate, to do it.
So in Texas. Mexicans do the dirty work. In England, I cut neighbours' lawns, trimmed hedges, raked leaves, tilled the earth, washed cars..... Until, of course, I reached the grown-up world. Actually, it never stopped. It still hasn't. So today I have been cutting grass. Weeding weeds.  Call me José.
Back in my youth, we had old Atco mowers, powered by single cylinder Villiers engines. Magneto ignition, kick-start (well, they were small motorbike engines, so kickstarts were the thing....) And usually, especially at the beginning of spring, they would not start. I would get mad and frustrated, juggling the controls, choke, mixture, slow running screw...
My dad would say, if it won't start, there's a reason. Find it. 
So began my introduction to mechanics. I would do  my diagnostics, was there fuel to the carburettor? was it primed? Was there a spark at the plug top?
if yes, then was a jet in the carburettor blocked? 

I learned to lay out an old newspaper, and then to strip, clean, and rebuild the carburettor, later, to strip and rebuild the whole machine. I learned that poor tools and ill-fitting spanners (wrenches) mean bloody knuckles, pain, rounded off nuts and more grief. 

Lever-operated dog-clutch, and look, it's got a fancy-pants rubber shock absorber in the drive-line. Positively space-age thinking.

This one's more modern than ours... Look! a plastic (nylon) chain-tensioner. New-fangled nonsense!)

My early teens taught me a whole lot about figuring out how things work without the aid of a manual, and that when something doesn't work, there's a reason. It's not fate, it's not that it's being stubborn, there's something that can be found and fixed. 
Valuable insights.....
So, back to the present. I bought the new lawnmower, the store offered me a 'home assembly service' Ha!  the handle was folded and about six bolts had to be inserted in various places, the engine had to be filled with oil to the correct level, then the fuel tank filled... child's play. 
A couple of slow priming pulls on the starter with the throttle closed, to prime it, then, "okay lawnmower, go with throttle up"! BRRRRRRRRRR!
Oh I love it, instant start. Auto choke. Fantastic!
Y'know, it does its thing well enough, but I'm a bit nostalgic for the old atco, and the pleasure of looking on a fresh-striped lawn, the satisfaction of a job well done, the smell of fresh cut grass and hot oil. mmmmmm

Of course, to get this effect, you have to use the grass-bucket. Which, on our lawn meant that the lawnmower was accompanied by the wheelbarrow, and the clippings had to be regularly  wheeled off to the compost heap, rolled up it on a plank, then tipped. Over the course of a summer, it became the compost mountain. And last-year's heap was to barrowed to the various flower and vegetable beds to be top-dressed in.  

Now, rotary mulching mowers just thrash it all to bits and drop it back. So much easier. Mind-bogglingly so.

Another garden-related purchase, the strimmer, which gets its name from 'string' and 'trimmer'.  Although in the U.S. it's known as a weed-whacker. 
Back in the old days etc... Oh my god, off he goes again.... Well, not so far back, the company I worked for had several, old Husqvarna and Flymo, and Stihl ones. 
They died because various people, most lately, our old labourer, Pete, were not very good at remembering that two-stroke engines need a fifty-to-one mix of fuel/oil to run. Just petrol (gasoline) will kill them, because the bearings are lubricated by the 1/50th oil in the fuel.
And that's why two-stroke (two-cycle) motors trail a cloud of stinky blue smoke. (which I quite like the smell of, it's nostalgic). They're also far noisier, but I won't go into the whole 2-stroke valve arrangement. 

So we got a newer Stihl, had a heap of those engines. The new ones are lean, clean burners, electronic ignition etc. Older ones can be a pig to start. Usually it's oiled plugs that are the culprit, and of course, over-oiled fuel can be a problem if the muppet who's supposed to use them tips half a bottle where a thimbleful should be, resulting in me having to strip and clean and adjust... And my nemesis, the nasty old pull-cord starter. 
There's a knack. And a required amount of vigour. Pulling it that bit too slow will NEVER start it. Oh I hated the Stihl-Saw,  with its stone/concrete-cutter disc. Set trigger to start and lock, press decompressor button, pump primer twice, set choke to full. Pull! Repeat Repeat Repeat....

So I bought a 4-stroke trimmer. No fuel mixing, no blue cloud.  It has a pull-cord. I don't use the pull-cord. I have a little red cylinder thing. Lithium batteried. Press it into the motorhead, click the trigger, BROOOM! - electric start!

Brave new world, eh?

Yesterday, I was talking to someone who was telling me about a discussion with a young teenager. And on how when he was younger, cell-phones were just little things that made calls, they weren't smart.
And the poor kid was asking how people found their way around. Because obviously, a dumb phone...... "So how did they get...." "They used maps"...... "But...... how? I mean, how would you USE google maps if you couldn't get them on your phone?".
The kid had no concept of paper maps. Or maps in your head.
We take our tech stuff so much for granted. 
I carry a computer, compass, camera, library, juke-box, memory, notebook, global navigator, in my pocket. And  most of the time I forget to be amazed by it.
Ten years ago, it was unthinkable.
Really. Twenty years ago? Oh my.

Enough for now. I have to grease some sprockets.