This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Three Favorite Bands of All Time

I love music.  All kinds of music (with a few exceptions).  I appreciate the “Oldies” from the 50’s and early 60’s (my “formative” school years), the “Motown Sound” from the early to late 60’s (my university years), and “Classic Rock” from the late 60’s and 70’s (Army through post-Vietnam era).  I am also partial to Blues from the 50’s to the present (gotta' love the BB King Bluesville on XM channel 70), and a lot of Country music, especially the kind with a Texas (primarily Austin) flavor.  A little bit of classical music is also okay.  I just don’t know anything about it.  I do like “Ride of the Valkyries” and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  Those are about the only two pieces of classical music that I can identify when I hear it.

Because of my love for music I tend to collect it.  I still have a lot of vinyl LP’s boxed up plus a few hundred CD’s but have purchased very few in the last ten years when I began obtaining most of my music via the Internet.  Currently, I have around 12,000 tunes on my computer. 

I even have my own radio station!  It’s located somewhere in my brain and plays music for me when I’m not listening to iTunes, XM radio, or a CD.  It plays whether I want it to or not.  It also has a bad habit of playing over and over songs I don’t really like.  It’s a curse.  By the way, iTunes and XM radio are two of the best things to come about since sliced bread as far as I am concerned.

I would have a really tough time making a decision if someone asked me what my favorite songs were.  That’s kind of a fluid thing, depending upon my mood at the time.  However, if someone were to ask me to name my three favorite bands I would immediately comeback with, The Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and The Allman Brothers Band in no particular order.

Although the “Stones” have been around since 1962 when I was a freshman at the University of Georgia, they are not “ageless”.   They are well into their seventh decade but still going strong.  However, they have aged terribly and look like death warmed over (do you suppose it has anything to do with their lifestyle?).  No matter how they look, I still like their bluesy-boogie-rock style and their “don’t give a shit” attitude.  The members of the band (currently Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ron Wood) have changed very little since 1962.

Over the years they have released 77 albums (29 studio albums, 18 live albums, and 30 compilations) worldwide, selling over a total 250 million copies.  Their #1 selling US album (#75 highest of all album sales worldwide), “Hot Rocks 1964 - 1971”, sold 12 million copies while their #2 selling US album, “Some Girls”, sold 6 million copies.  They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.  They have toured the world for years and are even planning a tour for 2014!

The Eagles are much different from the Stones.  They first got together in 1971 when they backed up Linda Ronstadt on stage.  The group then included Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon.  Frey said they came up with the name Eagles (without a “The”) while the group was on a peyote and tequila outing in the Mojave Desert.

What I like best about the band would be their really great harmonies.  Their song lyrics, similar to country music, tell interesting stories, unlike those that simply attempt to make nonsensical words rhyme.  This is very different from the “Stones”, whose lyrics, when (or IF) understood, often don’t make a whole lot of sense.  Nor would I accuse the “Stones” of having great harmony!

The Eagles broke up in 1980 due to a spat between Frey and Don Felder who had joined the band early on.  Felder was fired by the band, sued, but eventually settled for a lot of money.  The Eagles managed to get back together in 1994 with Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmit (no Felder). 

Since 1972 the Eagles have released 18 albums (7 studio albums, 2 live albums, and 9 compilations).  Three of the Eagles albums together sold a total of 85 million copies worldwide (one-third of what the “Stones” 77 albums sold). 

Their #1 selling album, “Their Greatest Hits”, sold 42 million copies.  It is still the third highest of all album sales worldwide with only Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin being slightly ahead in first and second places.  Their #2 selling “Hotel California” sold 32 million copies and their #3 selling “Eagle’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2” sold 11 million copies.  The band was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Allman Brothers Band was formed in Jacksonville, FL in 1968 but moved to Macon, GA prior to releasing their first album.  The band was composed of Duane Allman (slide guitar), Gregg Allman (organ), Dickey Betts (lead guitar), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and “Jaimoe” Johanson (drums).  Butch Trucks is Derek Trucks (Derek Trucks Band) uncle.  Two drummers added to their signature-style.

Before forming the band, Duane Allman, recorded several songs with the likes of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Clarence Carter.

Their first album, “The Allman Brothers Band”, was released in 1969 while I was serving in Vietnam.  They didn’t get much radio play outside of the South until their second album, “Live at The Fillmore East”, was released.  One of the tracks from the Fillmore album was “Whippin’ Post”, which lasted for 22 minutes and included a 10 minute Dickey Betts guitar solo. 

After the Fillmore album release they were one of the biggest names in music.  Rolling Stone magazine proclaimed The Allman Brothers Band the best Rock and Roll band to come along in five years.

What I like about the “Allmans” is their southern-bluesy-rock.  The guitar solos were some of the best ever heard.  Even Eric Clapton thought so.  He offered Duane a spot in his Derek and The Dominoes band but Duane wanted to stay with his new band in Macon.  However, little known to almost everybody, is that Duane did join Clapton in recording the “Layla” album and it is Duane, not Clapton, playing the slide guitar solo in the song “Layla”.  It was also Duane with the guitar solo at the end of “Key to the Highway”. 

Sadly, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971 in Macon, GA.  Then, in a tragic coincidence, Dickey Betts was killed a year later in a motorcycle accident, which happened only 3 blocks from the site of Duane’s death.  Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were probably 2 of the best solo guitarist in the history of Rock and Roll.

The band was never the same after the deaths of Duane and Dickey.  The band peaked in 1973 and broke up in 1976.  Since then it has been on-again, off-again with a lot of changes in the band’s members over the years.  Still, in their relatively short life span, The Allman Brothers Band released 18 albums, including five Platinum and eleven Gold Albums.

The band was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and presented a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

And there you have my three favorite bands.  This is the kind of music that I prefer to walk around with in my head.  Unfortunately, it is often the likes of Dionne Warwick or Pat Boone playing in my head.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I just made my very first 911 call and I feel like I have crossed some kind of invisible threshold.  It feels kind of weird.  Why did I call 911?  Call me paranoid, but as my wife and I were sitting in our family room (me on the computer and she working on a crossword puzzle) we heard a very loud and very definite gunshot.  It sounded like a handgun.  It was not a rifle or shotgun.  I know what they sound like.

We live in a very quiet and peaceful neighborhood where hearing a gunshot is probably a once in a lifetime experience.  This is not a neighborhood accustomed to drive-by shootings and gang warfare.  Because it was so unusual I thought to myself, “Should I call the police?”  I decided not to do so because, afterall, it was none of my business if someone was tired of his wife or a wife had caught her husband cheating on her.  I would rather not get involved. 

A minute later, perhaps two minutes at the most, we heard a second gunshot and my wife said, “Should we call the police?”  One gunshot I can ignore, but two gunshots can really get your attention, especially with all of the crazies running around shooting people these days.

I made my decision, picked up the phone, and dialed 911.  It rang three or four times before the operator answered.  I was expecting her to answer the same way that all of the 911 operators on TV answer.  That is, “911.  What is your emergency?”  Instead she said something like, “Hello, how can I help you?” I was a little disappointed that I did not hear the expected TV version, but I gave her my name and address anyway and reported that two shots had just been fired in my neighborhood.  She asked me to repeat my address and then asked for my phone number and my birthday (maybe the police are going to send me a card).

I could hear her police radio (it was quite loud) in the background and was hoping she would pick up her "mic" and say “Shots fired in the Briargrove neighborhood!”  Once again I was disappointed because she still was not following the TV script.  Instead of talking in police 10-codes, putting out APBs, or calling the SWAT team she said nothing and just listened to the incoming radio call.  Part of what l I heard on the radio was someone saying, “The shots were accidental.” 

I just couldn’t help myself.  I blurted out, “TWO accidental shots?  A couple of minutes apart?  I don’t THINK so.”  Her reply was, “We’ll send a car.  Thank you.”

Now I’ll have to read the police reports in Friday morning's paper (it’s too late to make tomorrow’s edition).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"No Hablo Inglés"

As everyone knows, Texas is home to an extremely large Hispanic population with Nacogdoches (where I live) being no exception.  At times, communications between Anglos and Hispanics can be problematic because most of those (me included) residing in Texas are not fluent in both the English and Spanish languages (I even know some Anglos that aren’t fluent in English!)

Due to this communications problem, it is not unusual to hear a remark such as, “They should learn our language!” (This can go either way!).  In an effort to help, ESL (English as a Second Language) is taught in the churches and community centers of many cities and towns throughout Texas.  As a matter of fact, there is just such a church in Nacogdoches.  On its front lawn stands a large sign that reads, “ENGLISH CLASSES FOR ADULTS.”  Every time I pass by that church and see the sign I get the same weird thought, “Shouldn’t the sign be in Spanish?”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Forward This Call To (Insert phone number here)

So far, what has caused me the most irritation as a result of the government shutdown has been the dramatic and almost exponential increase in the number of telemarketing calls I have received during the shutdown.  This is especially bothersome to me because I don’t really like telephones and the number of calls I am now receiving is turning me into a very unpleasant person.

When this barrage of calls first began (right after the telemarketers realized that the "Do Not Call List" website was no longer operating due to the government shutdown) I politely answered my phone, just as I Would normally do.  I am no longer Mr. Nice Guy.  If I don’t recognize the number or If I suspect it to be a telemarketing call, I use one of the neat iPhone features, which I was unaware of before the telemarketers’ non-stop calling began to melt down my iPhone.  I discovered these features out of desperation.

The easiest thing to do, of course, is to simply ignore the call and not answer.  But that doesn’t decrease the number of incoming calls, nor does it stop the phone from ringing.  One of the iPhone features that should help keep the same telemarketers from calling back later (which they often do if you don't answer their first call) is to use the “Block” feature.  Just add the caller’s number to your iPhone's Blocked List (look up how to do that).  Of course, telemarketers usually have a multitude of available numbers from which to call.  Still, blocking the number will at least make you feel better.

However, it’s much more fun to tell these people where to go and what to do when they get there without actually having to speak with them.  How can you do that?  Use your iPhone's "Reply with Message” feature.  Then instead of answering the call you have your iPhone reply to the call with a text message, which you can create in the Phone Settings.  You could select one of the built-in replies such as “I’ll call you later” or “I’m on my way” but those are lame and kind of dumb.  What you really want to do is to use the “Custom Message” feature.  You can create your own text message and it can be anything you like such as, “If you are soliciting you can stick that phone where the sun don’t shine” or perhaps,  May the fleas of a thousand camels invade your telemarketing crotch and may your arms be too short to scratch.”

Once you have created your message (or messages) all you have to do is wait until you receive a call from a suspicious number (DO NOT ANSWER IT), then simply tap an icon (looks like a telephone handset), select “Respond with text”, and then select your message. 

The next iOS version should include another option for unwanted calls.  That option would be, “Forward this call to (enter phone #).”  I would enter (202) 225-0600, which is the telephone number for Speaker of the House, John Boehner.  If we could all forward our telemarketing calls to Mr. Boehner I believe this government would be back up and running tomorrow.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Four More US Troops Killed in Our Longest War

US troops are still being killed in an unpopular war in which it is impossible to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys” and where a large portion of the country’s population supports whatever group is predominant in their village on any given day.  Today (7 October 2013) marks the Afghanistan War’s 12th anniversary and the beginning of its 13th year.  It has replaced the Vietnam War as the longest war in which US troops have fought. 

In much the same way that the US government finally managed to extricate itself from the Vietnam debacle, US troop strength in Afghanistan is being slowing reduced while at the same time while responsibility for the war’s fighting is being handed over to a weak central government.

Fortunately, unlike the Vietnam War, which ended with over 58,000 US military personnel killed and more than 300,000 wounded, Afghanistan has claimed fewer casualties.  There have been 1,575 US military personnel killed and slightly more than 3,400 wounded.  Of course, the war in Afghanistan has not yet ended.

The following table is a comparison of military and civilian casualties from Vietnam and Afghanistan:

The People Affected
Afghanistan War
Vietnam War
US Military
Afghan Military

Afghan Civilians

Vietnamese Military

Vietnamese Civilians


In contrast to both of these lengthy wars, The US participation in WWII lasted slightly less than four years, yet claimed 400,000 US lives.  Germany lost 3.5 million, Japan 2 million, and the Soviet Union 10 million military personnel killed.  Apparently the length of a war is not directly proportional to the number of casualties that it produces.

When will the next war start?  Where will the next war be?  How many will die?  What will it prove?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

How Do You Feel About Blind Eunuchs?

The United States System of Law evolved from what is called English Common Law, which was used in the colonies before the American Revolution.  English Common Law has been around in some form or the other for more than 1,000 years, a long time before the American Colonies  But was there ever any significant foreign influence on the English Common Law?   Yes there was.  After the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066, William made a few changes in the English Common Law System.  These changes served to connect England more closely with continental Europe and lessen the Scandinavian influence.

William added a set of ten laws to the English system.  These laws went a long way towards establishing the English class system.  However, one of the ten Norman laws has vacillated greatly over the past 1,000 plus years and still causes huge debates throughout the United States today.  I guess you could say that William started it.  William was against capital punishment as evidenced by this tenth law, which read, "I also forbid that anyone shall be slain or hanged for any fault, but let his eyes be put out and let him be castrated."

I'm thinking that a little Norman law, particularly Number Ten, might not be a bad thing these days.  Poking out eyes and castrating someone wouldn't cost the people a fraction of what we now spend attempting to execute someone.  And wouldn't it be one hell of a crime deterrent!  I would also seriously doubt that a blind eunuch would constitute much of a threat to anyone after the sentence was carried out.