Monday, May 30, 2005

The Tao of Pool...

Ok, to fill you in on the story, last year we bought a 12-foot Easy-Set Intec pool from Wal-Mart. The pool was really cool, the Easy-set pool is basically a blivet, or a bladder, if you will, that is strong enough to hold the weight of the water you put in it. The water is captured in the pool by an inflatable vinyl ring on top of the pool. We had so much fun with the little pool, Deb and I decided to go up a notch or two in size. We finally decided on the 16 foot Easy-Set that was 36 inches deep. Turns out that 16 footer is a lot bigger than the 12 footer, by spades...

When Deb suggested we buy the 12-footer back in '04, I really didn't think much of it, because it only cost a hundred bucks. Well, let me tell you, we got our hundred bucks out of that pool, and then some. I also learned that the Easy-Set pools are not "kiddie pools", because they have a filter pump and require chlorination and the whole nine yards. I learned alot about caring for a pool, even if it was on a micro scale. Another important thing we learned was that the pool must reside on more-or-less level ground, or you will suffer from certain problems associated with hydraulics (water seeks the low ground). We had small problems with our 12 footer, but we figured we had learned and were ready to upgrade. This year, with the 16 footer (purchased for a paltry $218 complete with ladder, cover, ground cloth, pump,filter, skimmer, vacuum, dip-net) we were really going to have to prepare the ground to ensure perfect working order of the new pool.

Our 12 foot Easy-Set pool of 2004

We did a little prep work on the ground last year to prepare for the 12 footer, but it wasn't enough, and our pool ran downhill, so we could never really get it perfectly full (the uphill side had two or three inches of slack in the walls, see above photo). We were determined this year to get the pool set-up even better, so I trucked in some sand to help level the grade. Our yard has a two or three foot grade from foundation to property line, in about a fifty foot run.

We took down a fence panel for easy access. This load is of sand bags we bought from Lowe's after putting two tons of bulk sand down previously

I put at least 10,000 lbs of sand down, and that sounds like a lot, but it really wasn't that much. That was four buckets of sand from a Bobcat loader, and 18 bags @ 50 lbs each. The sand cost around $100 all told. It even made me think of a joke: "what do you buy that is sold by the cube but is all around you every day in billions of tons? Answer: Fill sand...".

Here was our first pad for the pool

Our first attempt failed. It was not because there wasn't enough elevation in the pad, it was because the pad wasn't wide enough, and this was detrimental to the way these pools fill with water. Because the pool is a bladder, it spreads out farther while filling than it actually does while full. If one side or another is low, the water will run right to that spot, and the pool will dump. I tried to prop it up with some bricks to see if I could coax it past that point, but I decided we might need to re-engineer our pad for the pool. We lost at least 500 gallons on that first dump, so my thinking was on the conservative side...let's make the pad wider all around so the pool has a good base to fill on.

The first failed fill. One can note how the sides of the pool splay about at the whims of the laws of physics while the bladder fills

So after a day or two (and some frustration on the part of the pool's users), I secured more fill sand to shore up the edges. I bought two whole bucket loads. I used some old landscaping bricks that we decomissioned when we got our curbing, and I made a wall to help hold the sand. It worked out great.

The "new and improved" pad. Landscaping bricks help bolster the highest parts

Here is the end result. All told, the pool cost around $350 to install, not including the cost of the water (4,000 gallons, about $15) and the chemicals and electricity I'll use to maintain it. As you can see, the 16 footer is much larger than the 12 footer, and a great place to jump into when it is 105 degrees and you've just mowed the lawn...

The second ladder is the ladder from the 12-foot pool...obviously too small!

I think these Easy-Set pools are an excellent bargain, and tons of fun. And, I think I'm becoming a chemist. I have to add:

Chlorine (don't forget the shock once a week)
Cyanuric acid to stabilize
Ph minus (sodium bisulphate) to get the Ph where it should be,
Clarifier, to capture sediment

You get the picture!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"I haven't been this happy since you agreed to be my wife" said Plankton

To quote Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants, while realizing that it is an obscure reference for many, seemed appropriate when I saw this picture of my darling bride and our now bespectacled daughter:

Of course, Plankton's computer wife, Karen, responded with, "I never agreed to that".

Luckily for me, my wife did!

As you can see, Deb is festooned in her formal military uniform, the mess dress (I'm not making this up). The mess dress equivocates, I'm sorry, it equivalates, wait... it equates to a tuxedo, or gown, or black-tie formal wear.

Being the crusty Master Sergeant that I am, I have owned but one of these uniforms, and it never fit quite right, because it was second-hand, and these uniforms must be tailored to fit the individual. They cost around three or four hundred dollars about the time you get all of the rank, decorations and accoutrements set up, along with all of the tailoring. Fortunately for me, this uniform is not a mandatory portion of my clothing bag, but unfortunately for Deb, it is hers. She is an officer, and officers have to own this thing. Officers also don't get a clothing allowance, like us impoversished enlisted folks. Still, I'm not complaining, I'll take the extra two or three hundred bucks they give me a year and buy a couple of blue shirts and spend the rest on some good running shoes!

Deb's mess dress looks really nice on her, and I'm very proud of her. The occasion tonight (MSO, or Mandatory Social Obligation) was the Non-commissioned Officer's Academy graduation ceremony, where one of Deb's troops was graduating. In true leader fashion, Debbie was there to support her troop, not bilking the responsibilty to attend something that may seem not-that-important to some people. The way I felt about it when I attended this training, after six weeks of "re-bluing", was that my supervisor better show up. My supervisor did, as well as my First Sergeant and my Commander. That really makes a difference. Some might suggest it does not, but I assure you, it does.

Debbie is learning alot about leading in her new job, and she's a natural.

And check out those glasses on that kid! What's up with that?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Who's flying over my house?

Living near Mathis field, San Angelo's premier regional hub (he he!), I'm treated with an airshow like no other. Actually, it is like no other because the action is pretty slow. Sometimes my Air Force brethren show up with bells on and shoot approaches on the field with T-41As, T-38s, C-130s, T-37s. Many times the pilots and students actually stop over at Mathis to dine. OK, I'm going to let you in on a secret here. Mathis field has a Chinese restaurant, an eating establishment that has a veritable cult following among the flight-suit clad pilot trainees from Randolph and Laughlin. I'm not kidding.

Still, let me tell you about flight food. If you can find a good place to eat within walking distance of where you park your airplane, that is where you will eat, and you'll probably be less picky then when you have ground transport. Example: at the fueling pits in Florala, Alabama (Sunshine Aero), we'd go in and enjoy hickory-smoked BBQ, hot dogs, freezing cold cokes, popcorn, you name it, all the while our helicopter sat in the hot pit and refueled (the unlucky pilot had to stay in the seat to hold the brake, but we always brought him a couple of hot dogs wrapped in foil). That little investment the proprietor made in food costs netted big profits, when we refueled our MH-53, the top-off would cost between $3-4,000! Of course the BBQ banquet was free, no charge. The smart fuel-baron would try and make you subliminally insert his fuel-stop in your pre-flight plan, and something to gnaw on always helped get your mind right!

OK, so what are these gallant young aviators flying tonight? Look no farther:

T-41A Jayhawk Multi-place Pilot Trainer out of Randolph AFB, TX

The T-41A. This is the bird the pilot trainees take up with when they get done with their T-37 training and are selected to go to heavies, or multi-place/multi-engine aircraft (where the real work gets done). Sure, fighters are sexy, and they are lethal, but who really moves the war-machine? Yup, the heavies. They carry fuel, troops, bombs, ammo, supplies of all types, and if you happen to be lucky enough to be a crew-dog on one, they can carry that rare, large car part you've been searching for and happen to find at your TDY location. Or you can bring back cooking implements, I bought a grill off a vendor on a street in Bogota and we had space to spare on our Hercules to bring it back. Everyone thought I was nuts. They're probably right. So, young multi-place pilot trainees, good luck to you, and S-A-L-U-T-E! Remember to always treat the "sweaties" with love and compassion.

Shipping and Handling

Because our town is a nice town, and a great town, and a town that is keeping its Air Force Base, we need air cargo transport, but it is a smaller town, so we don't get Fed-Ex large jet service. No, we get something quite a bit smaller, but no less reliable. If you take a package to pack-and-ship or one of those places for Fed-Ex, it's leaving on an airplane, but not on the one you'd usually think of for parcel transport. Two flights leave Angelo in the evening, I'm sure they are filled with all those E-bay purchases and other commerce, and they leave in this little bird:

Fed-Ex Cessna 208 Caravan single-engine turboprop. Notice the extended cargo bay beneath the fuselage.

Here's one of another company that flies a Cessna 208 out of Mathis field on a regular basis, perhaps a cargo contractor or someone who flies mail for the post office

Rotor Wash

Occasionally I'll see the Texas National Guard or Reserve guys flying their helicopters near the field, although I usually see UH-60s. Tonight this AH-64 Apache, a sight probably more common around Baghdad, flew towards Mathis on an unkown mission.

AH-64 Apache. A wrecking machine. Don't get on the wrong side of this guy... S-A-L-U-T-E!


Cessna 172

What is interesting about this guy, is that on a whim I typed his tail number (N5757E) into Google and the FAA has an aircraft registration database that tells you what aircraft it is, who owns it, and much other data. A surprising amount of data, actually.

This little plane is a 1978 model Cessna 172, and is owned by an enterprise at Mathis field. I'm pretty sure they rent it out for people to use to take flight lessons. This 27 year-old is looking pretty good!

After seeing the FAA registration data, I looked at some other hits. This Cessna has a history! The aircraft was wrecked in 1980 by a pilot doing a solo cross-country, because of deteriorating visibility, he diverted. Upon his approach he overshot and tangled the airplane up in a fence. Damage: substantial. Still, airplanes cost lots of money, so it went to the repair shop and she's still flying. The guy that wrecked her had 13 hours of time. This happened in the Northeast, in Mifflintown, PA, the original destination was Lock Haven, PA, the flight originated in Manassas, VA.

So, if you get a good look at an aircraft's registration, and it is a US registration (US registration always starts with an "N") jot it down if you're interested, you can look it up on the internet. Pretty cool!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Paddler Hooks Fish, Update at 11

I figured I'd show you how I get my boat down to the river crossing, which is only a hundred yards or so away. I put it on this trailer and grab it by its handling handles that are factory mounted bow and stern. It is an easy chore with the inflatable tires, the boat just rolls along. Heck, it only weighs like sixty lbs. loaded.

Here's a trailer that you don't need to pay registration on, and a boat that you can drink beer on without getting rolled-up by the cops!

Alright, well, it wasn't the first time I took the Predator kayak out fishing, but the second, and I managed to hook a flat head catfish (go figure)! I was using extreme-super-duper-ultra light gear, so it was fun trying to get this critter to the boat. I was using a micro-diver with two wire trebles, four-lbs test, and an omega micro-reel and a four-foot Shakespeare rod. I chuckled to myself when the drag broke loose on my itsy-bitsy reel, because it sounded really small.

Lots of people don't know that a catfish will hit a lure every now and then. Leave the stinkbait at home!

OK, so bagging a catfish wasn't the best outcome, but it was better than getting skunked. I'm just getting started on this river fishing thing, so I'm sure I'll learn more as I get some experience.

Maybe one day I can catch one of those bass fish!

My Wife is a Hippie

As hard as Deb tries to hide it, she can't hide from the fact that she is actually a repressed hippie. This is evidenced by her interest in paddling. All people that paddle are hippies. At least that's what the powerboat crowd believes, and as a member of the powerboat crowd, I'm guilty by association, not just on count one, but on both counts.

The stereotypical paddler unloads the "yak" from a Volvo or Honda SUV, has the World Wildlife Federation sticker on the back glass, and eats vegan trail-mix for energy before the row. Their gear will be the good stuff, because they've got some cash, generally from a job, perhaps they are a medical doctor or a business consultant. These paddlers will head down to the water and pick up beer cans that are laying around the launch site like so much blue-collar detritus and deposit them in the proper receptacle before proceeding (I do that also). I always thought kayakers were snooty because they never wave. Then after I started paddling myself I realized that it takes two hands (blushing).

Now, I will admit that I've learned some things about the kayak, and I believe they are very fun and very good little craft. They are quiet so they make a nice stealthy fishing platform, they are relaxing and you can get around a lake or river pretty nicely on one if time is not a factor. They are a lot of fun, and since my wife was getting one, well then I was gonna get one, too! Kayaks are no-fuss, just haul them down to the water, plop it in and go. This makes them ideal for a quick afternoon trip.

Here's a shot of Deb in her Old Town Loon 111 in the cloud color scheme. Like I told you, she's a repressed hippie. She's probably wearing Birkenstock sandals in there.

Now, since I was going to get a kayak as well, and I really liked the Old Town Loon 111 (we tried one out a few weeks back), I needed to find one to match my persona. Let's see, how about an Old Town Loon 111, but in camo, with fishing rod holders, tackle holders, an anchor and most importantly a cup holder? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. No one will ever mistake my boat for a hippie's boat, no sir. I might even get a shotgun rack for the aft deck and perhaps add a couple of NASCAR stickers to the gunwales.

A more "masculine" version of the Loon 111, the Predator K111. What a great little boat. And no, I left my Birks at home, I'm wearing some Nike All-Conditions Gear sandals under there.

The river (South Concho) we are paddling is literally a hundred yards from our house, so Deb bought this cool aluminum frame thing with pnuematic tyres (brit spelling) that you lash the yak to and just walk it down to the water. Pretty low-stress. Now I need to devise a method to hang these guys from the ceiling of the garage.

We are looking forward to hauling the boats to a few different places if we can find the time this summer. Debbie bought a jumpseat for hers that allows Emily to ride in the forward cockpit. So its a another family activity, and a decent workout to boot!

Still, I aint no hippie...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Goodfellow Survives BRAC 2005!

Looks like Goodfellow avoided being named on the BRAC list altogether with this round of base closing proposals hitting the streets today. A collective sigh of relief was heard around our town and base. Our congressman called back to San Angelo the minute he found out, and it was only minutes later that the radio stations and other media ran with the story. San Angeloans are very pleased, to say the least.

This dosen't mean the base is out of the woods yet, because what has been forwarded to congress and the BRAC commission were simply the proposals of the Pentagon. I'm certain some others may point at Goodfellow in defense of their bases, but honestly, it is a lot tougher to get a new base on the list at this point than it is to get a listed base off the list. Getting a listed base off the list is not impossible, Goodfellow has been there twice before.

After I figured out the status of our base, I was immediately interested in what happened with the others. Most bases or activities on the list are small in scope, even smaller than Goodfellow, most were offices or associated with the reserves or guard. Still, there were a couple of standouts. A base similar in size and scope to ours, Cannon AFB in Clovis, NM (approx 32,000 residents) was listed. That was a bit of a shocker considering it is home to a fighter wing and tons of unrestricted airspace. I know this one is being taken hard by Clovis, a city similar to ours, and I hope the come out of this OK.

Ellsworth was another on the list, and that can't be good news for Rapid City (approx 60,000 residents). I don't know where they will move the B-1s, but it certainly is bad news for Rapid.

My heart goes out to both of these communities and I pray they can find some lemonade with the obviously bitter news about their airbases.

See the entire BRAC 2005 Pentagon recommendations on this DoD site.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Will my Base get the BRAC 2005?

Tensions ride high around San Angelo these days. The fate of the airbase that has been here since 1947 is again in jeaopardy. BRAC 2005 is on the very horizon, and it looks like it could go either way. I've not heard a good rumor, nor do I have a good source that knows anything about the fate of the base, but I think the chances are good that it will end up on the closing list.

Goodfellow is an airbase with lots of history, and ironically, much of that history is not from its flying days. It has been a few decades since Goodfellow's flightline has heard the roar of a piston-driven propeller. Goodfellow was a primary pilot training base for the B-25 Marauder at its inception, but somehow along the years morphed into a base for training intelligence AFSCs, now both enlisted and officer.

Many intelligence specialites train here, and here the DoD's fire training is conducted as well, in a modern, multi-million dollar facility. The fire training came to Goodfellow after the last BRAC, when it was uprooted from the now defunct Chanute AFB, IL. Goodfellow has its share of training that is not really talked about that much. The locals know that the base is an intelligence training base, but many have no details to the exact nature of the training offered here at the base. That's one of the benefits of having this sort of training at Goodfellow, the city is not the prying type. They appreciate the airmen and the staff at the base, and we are accepted into the community like no where else that I have been stationed.

Goodfellow's charms, being a small, close-knit base, may also be its undoing. The trend now is for Mega-bases, where many airmen and machines can be co-located, thus saving money on costs associated with maintaining infrastructure. Also, joint is in. If an installation hosts a joint environment (how we actually operate in theater now), then that is a plus. Of course, Goodfellow is a very "joint" base, with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines (and DoD civilians and other civilians) as well, I don't know if we have the scope to save the base from the axe.

It is true, the country saves lots of money by having Mega-bases, but one must also acknowledge a degredation in the quality-of-life for the troops, such as that which has been well documented at many locations in the country (think of a Mega-base, like Ft. Bragg, and think of the feedback, both from military and locals). Mega-bases degrade the quality-of-life for junior enlisted and officer alike, and they suffer from degraded infrastructure (they have difficulties maintaining that infrastructure for so many people), and other maladies.

Goodfellow has a special, if not sacred, place in my heart. All of the intelligence professionals of my career field and several other specialties have trained here, among those many heroes, many lost in battle or in the line of duty. We all have this common thread. Interestingly, I don't have the same connection with the Presido of Monterey Defense Foreign Language Institute, because most of the locals around that place, as beautiful as it is, would rather see the GIs hit the road. 100 percent opposite is the case here, most San Angeloans would take it very hard if they lost their airbase.

The new 17 TRW HQ building (sorely needed) under contstruction, flanked by the WWII era hangars (now rehabilitated) that line the old flightline, the Carswell Fitness Center in the background, and the Vance Deployment Center in the foreground. Notice the FEMA tarps on the roof!

The old Chapparal offered hours of off-duty entertainment before everyone had cable in their rooms and high-speed internet. We didn't have any of those things, and we were probably better off for it.

I can think back and remember my footfalls on the troopwalks of Goodfellow almost two decades past. It was even smaller and seemingly more remote then. I loved every minute of being here back then, just as I do now.

I offer a prayer of hope for "my old airpatch", I pray we have what it takes to make the cut, again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Dangerous Microbes Wearing a Tutu

Sure, I could wax poetic on the questions of the day, war and peace, politics, junk-science and the like, but what fun would that be? Besides, there are thousands of bloggers with giant brains doing that very thing.

So let's just get down to the important stuff, shall we?

Tot Rides the Bouncy-Ball!

Holy cow, if you haven't seen this, it's a sight to behold. Tot, as you may remember, is Emily's constant companion and friend. Tot is of "diminuitive" build, so sometimes she gets lost (yes, Tot is a girl according to Emily). Tot is also running for president. I found her campaign material in the form of a brochure that Emily authored at school. Well I'll vote for her!

Tot balances on a bouncy-ball. How does she do that?!

An approving friend and mentor looks on as Tot rides the ball

The Flu wears a Tutu

This was the funniest thing I'd seen in a while. For those that don't know, my wife is a nurse. She was talking with a pharmaceutical rep who gave Deb a "giant microbe". First, you have to understand that pharmaceutical reps hand things out like candy, ink-pens, totes, pads of paper, and yes, giant stuffed microbes!. So this kind of phlegm green stuffed toy with two deep, black eyes shows up at the house, it is the flu-virus stuffed toy. Great. As if having the vaccine either stabbed into your arm or shot up your nose isn't enough, now we get the cuddly version.

My daughter, being who she is, brought the Flu into the fold, making it a classmate with the other stuffed toys that she teaches. Yes, my daughter is the teacher for a bunch of stuffed primates, felines, bovines, Equines, you get the picture. Well, the flu has shown up, and she's not pretty.

For those interested in buying your own stuffed deadly (or only irritating) microbes (Black Death, Ebola, bad-breath, athlete's foot, sleeping sickness) go no farther than here.

The Flu in a Tutu

Emily wants the Flu to fit in, so she swaddled her in a ballet tutu. Very nice! It almost makes me want to dance with the deadly virus (or a facsimile thereof!).

Something is Eating my Tomato Plants!

I was hoping that maybe something wasn't eating my tomatoes, but come on, if you plant a beauiful, succulent tomato plant, something is going to eat it. Whichever bug infestation I have, it is: a)very small, and, b)going to die.

Unkown pest eats Mark's tomatoes

If anyone has any advice, I'm all ears. I think I'll start with the soap wash-down and escalate from there. And, no, I'm not adverse to using some poison.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Outdoor Cooking

Seeing as how the weather is warming up, the cook's mind drifts outdoors where some real cooking can get done. As people learn more and more about different styles of outdoor cooking, and find different products to help them succeed at different methods (giant deep fryers and burners come to mind), you can find more varied types of cooking going on out-doors today than ever before.

Meet the Weber Gasser

A backyard Warhorse, 1998 model Weber Genesis Silver

To paraphrase Patton, this is the most lethal outdoor cooking battle implement ever devised... This is one junk-yard dog of a cooker, and a long-lasting cooker to boot. Don't skimp and buy a cheap one, pay up-front for a good unit that will offer lasting results. And the bonus is that you won't be replacing the burner every year or two, this one has stainless burners that last a decade or more.

It is so versatile, and so powerful, you'll use it three nights a week. Mine has cooked hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of meat and vegetables, and the occasional pizza.

Today I'm using the rotissiere to cook a couple of birds. One note: these chickens come from HEB, they are called "Smart Bids", they are organically raised, air packed (not packed into a tight cyrovac package with a cup of water) and pre-trussed, making them ideal to cook whole. They cost a buck or two more a bird, but they are wholly worth the extra expense, as they are more flavorful, less fuss and easier to cook.

Two "caged" birds. Use a pliers to tighten the screws or your birds will be on the fire!

The rotisserie is a wonderful way to cook chickens. It is primeval, in a sense, turning a bird on a stick over a flaming heat source. Good thing about today is the technology of stainless steel and an electric motor turning at a blazing 2 RPM gets the job done without hardly any work from you. The turning action of the spit slowly bastes the birds in their own juices as they cook. Yummy.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Mayday, I say again, Mayday!

Supersquad Me
Saturday morning started out with a Supersquad event. Supersquad, for the uninformed, is a an elementary school aged cheerleading outfit of which my daughter is a member. Supersquad is famous around these parts, and they cheer at just about anything. Ribbon cuttings, high school football games, highway construction completion, you get the picture. On this day the Supersquaders were cheering at a "Kids in Motion" rally at San Angelo stadium (a stadium shared by both San Angelo high school football teams and the ASU Rams football team, and was featured in a 1958 issue of Architectural Digest for its earthen bleacher construction).

A shot of Madison(L) and Emily (R), who are like Simon and Garfunkel. Dahhling, they must be together, OK?

The Supersquaders didn't disappoint with their cheers. They rocked steady.

They are nearly in synch, much more so now than when they first picked up the pom-poms!

Check out that air!

Peacocks in the Road

Why do peacocks cross the road?

Why did I draw the neighborhood with the peacocks in the road? These individuals are some jay-walking fools, peacocking along wherever they feel like. At night they roost in the trees at the Pecan Creek pavilion on the shores of lovely lake Nasworthy. They also call out any time Debbie speaks loudly enough when she's on our back porch. It is pretty hilarious.

Outboard Angst

Since I'm not willing to spend $85 an hour on outboard motor mechanic labor, I'm now doing it myself. Since I have air tools, I can really tear stuff up, and even though I have the service manual for my outboard, wrenching on it can be an "adventure". You may have seen in an earlier post that I rebuilt my water pump assembly. In this installment, we tear off the carburetors (they need cleaning from sitting up for a year). What fun!

Here you can see the throats of the three hungry fuel/air mixers

Here you can see I've taken them off. Am I crazy?!

Weapons of Mass Consumption. They may look bright and shiny, but it is what's inside that counts!

So I cleaned them out. Still, the year-old gas and other things has the motor running at about 85%. I'm gonna need to get rid of the old gas, and maybe re-clean the carbs before this episode is over. Still, she runs!

This picture is proof that, a: there is water in West Texas and, b: I can pilot a boat (with Emily's navigation skills)

I've definitely got the water pump working... Look at that telltale!


My friends Tom and Angie are building a garage. I've not really helped Tom and Co. with the project that much except for giving him a hand or two on a couple of occasions. These guys built this thing themselves, which is very impressive. Even though Tom is relatively young (my age), he's from the old Iowa stock and he just gets things done. I admire his tenacity. I also admire Angie's brass, she gets right in there and does it all.

Garage-mahal in its eternal glory

Still, for all their strengths, and their two great kids, Tom and Angie have their weaknesses. Here they are, their pair of continually skunk-chasing, egg-sucking and stump carrying Belgian Shepherds:

I believe this scoundrel is Rascal. He likes to chew on stinky pig's hooves, one of which he has laid right before him. He's so black, he barely shows up in pictures. Forget about seeing him sneaking up on you at night.

This is Rebel, who likes to eat wood and rocks. Here you can see him eating a piece of a stump. Rebel is the elder of the pair.

Why my wife should not BBQ

I am usually handling all outdoor (and most indoor) cooking details around these parts, but today I was extra-busy with trying to get the boat going and doing other things. Debbie mercifully offered to help with dinner, so she did most of the prep herself. We were having some ribs and vegetables. While I was putting my boat up on the side of our house I heard this loud "pop", but I thought maybe a yard tool had fallen over in the garage or something like that. It turns out it was the very grill lighting flame stick exploding!

Debbie came around the corner laughing and asked if I heard that. I told her I did, and asked what it was. She was holding a handful of the shrapnel from the exploding scripto lighter. I was relieved to hear no one was injured (our neighbor and her two kids were out back as well). Still, I had to photograph the whole thing, or you all would never believe me.

I guess that grill gets pretty hot, and if you put the Scripto lighter close enough to it, it might explode like a Kia in downtown Ramadi!